Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ok, I'm officially evil.

I bought a Mac. This is worse than buying a windows machine. Why? Because if I buy a windows machine, I pay my M$ tax, then blow it away and return to Linux. Now, I have bought a mac. Granted, I could setup a dual-boot setup and run all those great Linux apps in a separate partition. I don't want to.

I am very very happy with my MacBook, and it is treating me very well. I have not hit a single dependency problem. I have not had any hardware conflicts. I've been able to install most of my favorite GNU programs, and I'll be installing a few more today.

Beyond being able to install the open source programs I love, I am able to do what I want without having to worry about it. Granted, one of the first things I've done was to get rid of Safari and install Firefox, but I still love this computer.

Ok, So I'm a Mac Fanboy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go download some back editions of Mac podcasts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pet Peeve

One of my biggest pet peeves is the scrolly button on the mouse. Ok, so it's not one of my biggest, but it is my newest peeve.

When I'm working in windows, I expect the scrolly button to just work. I expect that, if I spin the scrolly button, something should scroll (if it is indeed scrollable). This does not always happen. It makes me grumpy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Open Letter to Apple

Ok Apple, Listen up, because I think you need to hear this.

I love the iPhone. My brother loves the iPhone. My wife and sister-in-law both love the iPhone. I would have purchased an iPhone long ago, but for one simple reason: AT&T is crap.

I cannot begin to understand the reasons for the decisions that AT&T has restricted some of the basic functionality of the iPhone. I am sure that there is some big-and-corporate reason for their decisions, but I really do not care. I don't want to have to worry about what I can and cannot do with my phone because of crazy restrictions and goofy protocols.

It is more and more clear to me that AT&T is like an elderly person who needs to be put in a home for her own good. You know, like when Grandma left the oven on for three days and almost burned down the neighborhood? AT&T is like that. They are trying to push the FCC to restrict more and push more regulation onto the Internet. Let us say that the *do* manage to accomplish this absurd goal. The only thing that I think will happen is more Google functionality will be restricted in the US, and the rest of the planet will get the gooey goodness.

In the worst case scenario, Google will say, "Fine, you want to side with AT&T on this and restrict us? We'll move out of the country. Bye!" I'm sure that this will not happen instantly, but why would a company not move out of an expensive, high-restriction country, to a country with fewer restrictions? It's the eternal problem of the Internet -- how do you restrict something you have no jurisdiction over?

Apple, dump your elderly grandmother in the retirement home. Please.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

why I hate World of Warcraft.

There are two reasons I can see that one would play World of Warcraft. First, it's a game that puts you into natural surroundings where trees still have some value. Second, it's an RPG. I value both of these things, but I hate World of Warcraft.

Hate might not be the right word, but it will do.

If you want to participate in nature, the fix is easy. Go outside. Please.

If you want to play an RPG, get some friends, get together and Play an RPG. They're better when you play pen-and-paper. Trust me.

Go outside.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Toddler World

My son has entered the whine everything phase of life. As I understand it, this phase lasts until around 23, then it gets worse.

He is sitting at the table this morning with my wife and I, asking for sugar. I did not realize that the phrase, "Sugar please," could have such a whine to it when it comes from the lips of a two-year-old.

Daddy came to the rescue and did the "Magical Cool-down" of the "tea." I swirled the cup and blew on it and somehow, that process made the boy's drink cooler.

Immediately more palatable, the drink needed to be poured into a treat holder that he got out of the drawer.

"No," his mother says. Whining commences. Request to put dice in the treat cup? "Sure," mommy says. Crisis averted.

Pleasant beverage still sits on the table.

Friday, September 18, 2009

RE: It's time...

I'm home sick for the North. I have lived in a lot of places, but only a few have made me homesick for another one.

This is one of those places.

We've been here a year, are well integrated into our faith community, but have few friends. When we lived in Butler, we could not help but run into people we knew when we went for walks. We used to walk every week for many hours, just chatting about the community we saw and what was going on.

We don't walk much any more. When we DO walk, we are looking around corners and waiting for someone to overhear our conversation and take it the wrong way.

The leaves are still green. I want colors. I want a threat of snow in September and a thunderstorm because it's Friday. I want wind so violent and full of ice that school is delayed because of the cold.

I do not want a hurricane. Hurricanes are not like northern storms. Northern storms are predictable and odd. Hurricanes can soak you, then leave you standing only to knock you back down.

I want a thunder boomer that rattles the floor boards.

I want a basement.

I want home.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Shaklee Post number one.


Some of you may know that I've been involved with Shaklee for some time now. Shaklee, as you may or may not know, is the largest all-natural nutritional company in the world. There are larger nutritional companies, but they do synthetics & the like. Shaklee is all about the cold-processed all-natural approach.

They also do a lot of health and beauty kinds of things. The combination of the two is what I wish to share with you today.

If you look here:

You will see one of their newest products. It's amazing how well it works, and there have been a lot of testimonial kinds of reports about it, but here you see the results of a double-blind study they just completed. The study is not referenced in this article explicitly, this is just some marketing material they printed (they wanted it to look pretty, not formal and scientific).

Read the article. If you have any questions about it, drop me a line.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Flash Cards

Are you fracking Kidding me? Flash Cards? Why the HECK would you encourage flashcards.

Yes, I hate flashcards.

A Lot.

I'm not a fan of Power Point, but that's a different story. But Flash Cards, I hate 'em.

Flash Cards encourage a style of education that does not necessarily increase learning, and I cannot believe that in today's culture, so many people like flash cards.

Well, that's a lie. I understand it. I think it's dumb, but I understand it. Students like them because they are simple, and teachers like them because they require little prep work for the teachers. Flash cards do not require teacher creativity in any way shape or form, but that is not why I hate them.

This is why I hate them. I teach AVID. In AVID, I teach students how to learn, asking them to avoid lower levels of reasoning.

In Costa's hierarchy of questions, the lower level is level 1. This level has questions like, "What is the name of the book?" "What is 'dog' in French?" "Where is France on a Map?" These are basic 'look it up' level questions. They are questions that you get the answer for and move on quickly.

In Bloom's Taxonomy, These questions are typically Knowledge or Comprehension. Do you know where Bob is? Do you understand 4+2? All of these questions have a place in pedagogy, but they are not the end-goal.

More appropriately, we can say, "Use the word for "Dog" in a French Sentence." or "How does the name of the book relate to the plot of the first three chapters?"

Both of these questions are intentionally open-ended and require the student to USE the information (Higher levels on Costa and Bloom).

We are reasonably certain that the more a student uses the information, the more likely that student will be to be able to recall the information later. If we are pushing students to a level where they should be able to utilize information in a variety of settings, why then are we only requiring extremely basic knowledge? Why are we not pushing their knowledge higher?

Flashcards are the evidence that teachers are not moving forward with their pedagogical methods.



Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy or Sad?

Should I be happy or sad? I just did a search for Sidux and Webcams and the top hit below the sidux homepage was my blog. If I wanted to do a search for my blog, I would already know where it was! So, is it good that my blog comes up for this? I mean, I don't answer the question that I had, so it's probably not a very good idea to have my blog be in the top ten.

But I'm happy that my blog is apparently deemed relevant by digital brains.

So I'm conflicted. Maybe people will start reading my blog, thus giving me a feeling of self worth, and pushing me upward to global domination.

Or more likely, people will hit that little "down" arrow next to the search results, thus relegating me to a life of complete obscurity.

Oh well. Read the netflix post, it has meaning.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Open Letter to Netflix And Networks

Dear Visual Media Moguls.

First of all, to be perfectly clear, we don't really care about you. There will always be media, there will always be things we can watch. If you fail, someone else will be willing to work within our constraints and will be willing to play fair.

What do I mean by "play fair?" It is simple. We want to watch our shows. We don't want to be harrassed by your petty protection of rights. We are happy with commericals, and will frequently enjoy watching them, but we are not very pleased with jumping through hoops to view our content.

This world has changed, yet you seem to believe that business should continue as it always has. You no longer control the media. If we want to get it, we will. You cannot control the information. There are thousands of ways to 'steal' media with more coming.

That is not to say that I want to steal media. I do not. I pay for what I want to watch, or I watch commericals that pay for what I want to watch. I am happy with this arrangment. This is not what should change.

The attitude is what should change. The silly petty competition between networks should change. You do not argue about what television set is allowed to attach to which providers, do not incure the same restrictions online.

I am, of course, talking about Boxee and Hulu. Hulu has affiliations, I understand, with NBC and Fox, where Boxee has affiliations with CBS. Whoo-de-friggin-doo. Who cares? If I like NCIS and McGyver, I will watch those shows. If I like Heros, I will watch that show. The commercials are traced the same way, do not force me to endure your petty squabbles. I want a single interface and I want it to be open source.

Why Open Source? So it can be the best possible solution. You seem to think that the open source community is bent on stealing media. Really, if something is easily downloadable, it is not worth anything on the market of theivery. Just accept that, make your content available and stop the complaining.

I'm going to go watch some ST:TOS on Boxee now.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The future of linux.

The future of linux is in change. We need to fix our image of being a difficult operating system to use, but we need to also distance ourselves from the traditional models of operating systems. Some of you might have already read my Sidux page, so you know that I'm grumpy about Ubuntu right now. Canonical has a good thing going, and I really like what they are doing. I just don't agree with the bloatware.

Why do you need all the zings and doo-dads? I would argue that the Linux niche should be in forwarding the Open Source movement, instead of being a result of it.

Jelki, what the heck! You're nuts. You don't even make sense!

I know, which is why this is a blog and you are still reading.

In the open source movement, we know that there is GREAT software out there that enables you to do wonderful things. But most of these things are either Linux dependent or Linux afterthought. That is, you have to already have bought-in to the Linux idea or you have to have already been in the community for a long while.

We need to be offering solutions that the commercial groups cannot because they do not see a profit in doing so.

This is easier than you might think.

First, project management is too convoluted for this solution, but it's the answer. Massive corporations spend millions of dollars on complex e-mail systems to increase cooperation of staff. This is stupid. E-mail is a lousy collaborative tool as any group of more than two gets muddled and confused as to what is going where, when and how.

Enter SVN, CVS or Git. These tools are setup with concurrent versioning already. Beyond being hoplessly confusing to use, they are perfect for building proposals or developing research. Why are no corporations using this as a tool? Why are universities not using it? The answer is in another question: Have YOU managed to install a working and simply CVS implementation? What? No you say?

Hmmm... I've not fiddled with these tools. I've fiddled with their very basic cousins, the Wiki page. Wiki pages are frequently used for collaborative efforts. Why not concurrent versioning tools?

Take the tools we use every day, make them just a little easier to use, and Linux will take off like mad. There I said it... Maybe in a few years I can be as eccentric and odd as RMS...



I love Sidux. Really. A lot. It's nice. So far I have only had two problems, both of which were problems I've had previously and don't have nice solutions. They both seem to stem form Kernel issues in 2.6.27+ kernels. It just seems that being where I'm at in the Kernel dev schedule, my stuff isn't fully supported. Namely, NVIDIA drivers and GSPCA USB camera drivers.

No big deal, I'm not all that concerned about snazzy graphics and USB Cameras.

Beyond that, Sidux is fast. It's got KDE on it, but it doesn't bog down at all. My previous experiences with KDE have been Ubuntu based, and they really like to bloat it down with extra apps and such. Here, it's a really nice usable desktop environment.

It's also madly configurable. I can get Sidux to do just about anything that I want it to without it telling me that I have to remove this or that package, and that it's not recommended or some such.

Finally, I'll never have to upgrade again! Yay! Just running regular upgrades will keep me up to date with everything that I need to do!

Did I mention it was fast? Blazingly fast?


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Update: 8.10

Well, I have updated to Ubuntu 8.10. Some of you may already know this, if you're on IRC with me, or if you've been following my twitter feed.

The Good:

The Pulse Audio Support is much better in this release. I'm still not sold on the idea that pulse is the way to go, but at least I have (or rather had) Lives running, sort of had Cinelerra running, and Audacity is going fine.

Lives was running, then started crashing, not sure what I did there. Cinelerra is still not happy with the Ubuntu way of doing things. I'm not sure if it's something I'm doing wrong in my configuration or if it's just a compatibility issue.

The Bad:

Upgrading releases of Ubuntu has never (EVER) worked correctly for me. I've been running Ubuntu since the very early days. It was perhaps my fourth distro. (I started off with FC3, then 4, Mandriva, Debian then Ubuntu.) This trip around was no different. Lost my GUI and had to reinstall the nvidia drivers. Pain in the rear!

8.10 is loading slowly. I know I can probably fix this, but I don't want to HAVE to fix it.


Ubuntu continues to be a very nice distro, but still falls down on the upgrade level. But the good news is that most people will NEVER need to really upgrade it. My parents are still running 7.04 on their home computer. It doesn't crash, it's stable and does what they need.


Ok, So I was driving home from the park with my wife and little boy. Driving, quite happily, just watching cars and trees and all those road-ish kind of things. An there, out of the blue, a bumper sticker.

Let me back up in my thinking. According to the wags and pundits, the people who supported George Bush as president were the conservative Christians. I generally found this to be true, as being a somewhat liberal Christian, I have many conservative Christian friends.

According to the same wags and pundits, it was the Liberal non-believers who were most against the Bush Regime. Which sounds about right to me.

Now, I would assume that this model is following; that the Conservative Christians are against Obama and the Liberals are in favor of Obama.

So when I saw the bumper sticker, "Hate Obama" I was surprised! I can understand "Impeach Obama," "Export Obama," and even, "Obama is Evil," even if I disagree with all those statements. But the imperative, "Hate Obama?" That's just strange.

Why would you encourage more hatred? Assuming that you are a conservative Christian, why are you hating at all? Or have you removed yourself so far from Christ that hate has become second nature to you? Or are you just some moron who can't feel anything other than hatred?

It's a sad commentary on the world that such a sentiment exists towards our President. Like him or not, we should at least give him a few weeks before declaring our undying hatred of the man!

Personally, I think that he'll do just a fine job. He doesn't seem to have any ulterior motives, and seems to be doing the best he can for the country. He doesn't seem to be overly concerned about formalities or other mostly trivial concepts, so let us see if he's got what it takes to make America a nice place to live again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why I love bashpodder.

Ok, Bashpodder is not pretty. It's sexy in a linux kinda way, but it's not pretty.

Bashpodder is about 20 lines of code written to do one thing: Drag down podcasts and put them on your machine.

It does this very simply by using wget and a couple other tools. It reads a list of podcasts from a .conf file, again, a simple list of podcast sites. Elegant.

There is almost no overhead for this, it's not running any gui, no extra code, no extra counters.

The best part about it? You can pick the whole thing up, dump it in a new directory, and it'll happily work away! Can you say that about amorok? Rhythmbox? I-Tunes? NOPE! Bashpodder is the ultimate in linux podcast portability.

I actually have it running on my USB HDD right now!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I have been working with my students to complete a project. The details of the project are insignificant beyond the fact that I have asked the students to write a folder to CD-Rom.


Let me say that all of our students have passed the computer competency exam required by our state.

I would say that about half of the students in my class were clueless about how to write to a CD-Rom in windows XP. Beyond that, they were fairly uncertain as to how to copy a file to begin with!

I am amazed that our students are up to the "standard," but cannot complete two such basic tasks! Are the standards that low?

Again, I am amazed that I had to spend class time teaching my 9th graders how to complete basic tasks. wow.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Things to do.

When you install a Debian system, by default, you do not have admin rights. Coming from a Microsoft system, you might say, "What? That's stupid. I hate it... That's annoying... Gimme admin... I'll run as root!"

Don't do that.

When you are running as root, you open yourself up for all kinds of vulnerabilities. This is why some OS's are so easily hacked. Since people are running everything as root, then worms and viruses have total write access to system files. These little nasties can get into the system and really mess things up.

In other OS's, it's really hard to do something as admin for one command. At least, I don't know of how to do it.

In linux, you are given the option to run something as root by typing, "sudo" in front of it. For all intents and purposes, you are root for that command.

If you're running Debian from a net_inst, you do not have any sudoer privileges at all. Now this is a repeat of what I typed in a previous post, but it does bear repeating. You can add yourself to the sudoers list by typing the following commands:

(type root password)


This will put you into the root user and you will be editing the sudoers file.

scroll down the file until you see:

"root ALL=(ALL) ALL"

Under that, type:

"username ALL=(ALL) ALL"

Where username == the name that you log in under.

My recommendation is to only do this for one user. If you are working on another user account, you can always drop to terminal and change users with:

su username

You can even switch to root as you did previously, but don't. It's a bad idea. The more you do as root, the more likely you are to make a mess of things.

Enjoy Linux!

Being Dumb.

I was helping a good friend of mine with his fresh Linux install and my brain went all Microsoft on me.

What do I mean? Well, it's simple. Living in a Microsoft world, you have to either be a complete genius, or ignore error codes. I remember working at a bookstore and the error codes we got were pure gibberish. We would be cashing out a customer and get a message that was something like:

Cobalt Error # FF3E2.
Please Contact the company who wrote this program to resolve this issue.

Well, since we bought the program through a third party, we had no direct contact with them. The Third party just told us to reboot the server.

Currently, I'll get an error while at work, and I can look at the details, but they're still meaningless. I also start getting the, "Do you want to report this error to Microsoft?" I hate that message. It's like saying, "Do you want to tattle on this open source project that Windows barfed on?" I always hit don't send.

Fast forward to the future where everyone is running Linux because Windows 7 is worse than Vista (my supposition alone, no valid opinion here). Vague error messages are a thing of the past. All of the sudden you can understand, or at least learn to understand, what an error message means. Creepy stack errors have associated with them different sources that can be tracked down and corrected.

Let me say this. If you are new to Linux, do not fear the error message! Read it! Most of the time you will be able to decipher something to put into a search engine. You can visit your distro's forums and ask about your problem there. Forget your Microsoft programming and use the error messages to problem solve. Take back the joy of using your computer!

Now, if you've gotten a couple of common error messages, you might have a difficult time resolving them because they're too basic to show up in a lot of searches. I don't know why some of these basic things don't show up, but I had a hard time finding them.

If you are told that apt-get didn't finish running, or there are errors in your database, type into your terminal (as root or sudo)

apt-get install -f

If you are trying to compile something from source, and you are told that you do not have the correct libraries, do not install those libraries from source. Instead check the repositories for the -dev package. So, you might get the error, GTK 2.0-+ not found, this simply means that you should install the "GTK_2.0-dev" package. Being armed with this knowledge alone should enable you to solve a lot of errors.

Finally, the error I'm calling myself an idiot for. When running synaptic in Debian, do not, ever, type,

sudo killall synaptic


It's stupid.

You will break something. Instead make sure you click that little arrow that allows you to view details about the output. More than likely, if you're seeing a stall in synaptic, something is asking you for input in that little window that is currently hidden.

Above all, do not ignore a Linux Error message unless a dev tell you, "You're going to see this error message, we know about it, don't worry, it's not important."

Enjoy Linux!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Linux Day!

My friend finally installed Linux on something. It was an old box he had that Best Lie told him was totally non-fixable. Turns out they were half-right. As long as you wanted to run Windows, the box was trashed. We threw Debian Linux on there with a net_inst disc. Whoops! HDD runs fine!

It was somewhat humorous because of the preconceived notions. I'll put my observations here.

1) MS users assume that there will be more to do to be able to run the system after install.
2) MS users assume that Linux will be really really (really) hard to get used to
3) MS users believe that everything will be harder to get working in Linux

This is a non-complete list, but it seems to be the trend with people I've helped convert. My parents, a student, and several friends have all had similar reactions.

After I did a quick demo of Synaptic, my friend said, "Wow! It's that easy and fast? Why doesn't everyone do this?"

I think that we're fighting a battle of perceptions. Done correctly, almost all non-hardware related difficulties can be resolved in Linux quite quickly. At least, I guess I should say the difficulties I've come across. Well, I should say that this is with the obvious exception of installing unstable software. I installed some stuff from source (CVS tree) that is fairly difficult.

Anyway, congratulations you new Linux users out there! Stick with it! You'll find that most things you want to do will be easier!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

So it's January 20th. Wow.

Four Years ago, Mr. Bush was inaugurated for the second time. Eight years ago, it happened for the first time. This is not designed to be a commentary on Mr. Bush or Mr. Obama. This is just some observations regarding where Mr. Bush's supporters are and where Mr. Obama's supporters are. I know, not grammatically correct, but...

It's Jan 20th, 2009. Inauguration day for Mr. O. There is a complete article about today on Wikipedia. By complete, I mean, holy cow! There is information about every aspect of the celebrations today already on the wikipedia. I'm sure there are a few people just updating the wiki's right now.

Google Bush's inauguration, 2004. Go ahead. I'll wait.

I just did it too... I could not find any single web site that covered the inauguration like this. I could not find a single comprehensive listing of the day's events. I wanted to compare music selections, speeches, etc., but I'm far too lazy to sift through all the amalgam of various pages to find what I'm looking for.

It's amazing to me that the country is so supportive of this new president. I am overall content with what is going on, but I will wait to see what happens next!


If you're in IRC, you can easily .wik Scite and find out quickly what it is. As a matter of fact, it looks like "SciTE or SCIntilla based Text Editor is a cross-platform text editor written by Neil Hodgson using the Scintilla editing component." -

Wow. What a gross understatement. Scite is somewhere between a text editor, as our fine IRC bot let us know, and a full-fledged IDE. Scite is really a programming tool that helps someone to be able to identify programming errors due to syntax issues. This program can complete commands, but it doesn't do it perfectly, nor does it do it like the Java NetBeans IDE. If you're looking for a full-fledged IDE, look elsewhere.

Scite excels because it offers formatting support for a very wide variety of programming languages including HTML, JavaScript, C, C++, Perl, PHP and Python. There are many more in the default list, but you'll have to check for yourself to see if your language of choice is included.

BUT WAIT! There's more! You, given enough time and boredom, can write the interface for your favorite non-included programming language. You can edit the way the language is interfaced for your language (turning word completion on or off, for example). You can change the formatting colors, you can change the function formatting and so forth.

If you are a programmer, or pretend to be a programmer like me, check out Scite. I think you'll enjoy it!


I'm watching the inauguration on TV and programming in Python. Python is a real joy to program. Rather, I should say that running python with this book is a real joy. I think that if more languages had instructions written like this, then there would be many more talented programmers around.

There are people who CAN think like a computer. These are people who have a talent that is left undeveloped because the bar has been raised so high for entrance into the "world" of computer programming that students give up and quit very quickly.

Sure, there are excellent programs like Alice from Carnegie Melon University, but Alie only teaches principles. It doesn't really teach programming.

This python book, developed, if I'm not mistaken, through open source channels, is an absolutely excellent introductory book for python and computer science. I'm not sure what the future of computer science holds, but I am sure that python with wxWidgets will be a part of it. More on that as I learn it!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Recent News.

Due to insomnia and a teething one-year-old, I have been missing a little bit of sleep. Well, luckily, I finally found a little bit of it! Yay!

Back to regular blogging. This week brought our awards banquet, which was quite nice. It did, however, remind me of a gripe I had years ago about You will remember that I love oo.o. It's a great program, and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a Office Productivity Suite.

On to my complaint. OpenOffice has a .PDF exportation feature, which is really nice! Nice, that is, as long as you are printing something completely text-based. It does horribly with graphics. OpenOffice Draw allows you to make some stunning publications, but it can be difficult to get those publications to print professionally because print shops don't like to support OO.o. Now, I'm only speaking of the print shops here in Rural No-Where, your shop might gladly support OpenOffice.

If you are interested in printing a lot of documents with these great tools, ask your shop if they support the Open Office Suite. If they tell you that they do not, talk to a manager and let him or her know that they can easily support it by downloading it from Sun! Make sure you mention that it's (I believe) the fasted growing office productivity suite! (Ok, so there is not much competition for growth!)

Upcoming blogs include my efforts to turn my linux box into a multimedia productivity station by installing a dynebolic partition (not any time soon, probably). You will also get to read about regular expressions as I write some lessons regarding this powerful tool.

If you're anxious for more Jelkimantis stuff, head on over to, or follow me on twitter!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Building A Server / MySQL backup

I'm just listening to Chad W @t linuxbasement --dot-- com discuss server issues and establishment.

All I have to say is that, wow, Mr. W. is a very knowledgeable individual when it comes to server administration. In this episode, he's discussing a variety of different subjects including running one's own web server. I miss running my own web server. I think I lamented on this in my last post (which is dated the same day as this post, but was written earlier).

Anyway, I am reminded, by this episode, to make sure to backup my mysql files. I am essentially administering the local Moodle server. (Tech guy, when you read this, I need to get you up to speed! I'm starting to get panic attacks about the upcoming release party of our site!) Luckily enough, there is a great tool which allows you to easily run a backup of Mysql data. Today's tutorial will go step-by-step on how to do this.

Step 1: Log in to your linux Distribution and fire up your package manager. (Debian has mysqladmin right in the repo, so easy enough!) Select and install mysqladmin and all the dependencies. If you need to, you can find some more information about mysqladmin at its sourceforge page.

Step 2: Log in to mysqladmin (Ubuntu has it in Applications --> Programming)

Step 3: Select "Backup" from the menu.

Step 4: Select the databases (I do one at a time) and hit the Right Arrow to move them to the Backup Content Window. You should also name your project at this time in the Project Name box. Make sure you give this a meaningful name.

Step 5: Select Advanced Options -- If your running a Moodle Server you want to select Lock All Tables -- this will prevent anything from being written to the database while you're backing up. This means that there won't be any lost data. As an aside, this also means that no one will be allowed to write while you're processing this backup.

Step 6: Schedule Backup. You want to run this backup one time per week. Why not more? Well, there is no real need. If you want, you can follow some optional steps Listed Later.

Step 7: Set this backup to run at a specific time, I would say 03:00 would be a good time because most students will be asleep. Midnight can be a fairly active time for students, so a little later is usually better.

Step 8: Set the time and location of this backup. Make sure you keep it out of your main data directory unless you do not have any better options.

Step 9: Set the configuration for the backup. Ideally, you want a connection that is specifically given backup privileges without other privileges. This process will be running automatically, so it presents itself as a security vulnerability if you do not have a specific backup mysql user.

(Optional step 10: Daily backup. Start a new backup task. Backup everything the same as before, but you will not be selecting "LOCK Tables," you will be selecting the unstable Normal option. This is more unstable, but quick and dirty. If you're running both backups, you'll have a shot at getting an up-to-date backup or a totally stable, possibly older, backup)

I hope that this gives some insight on how to do MySQL backup the easy way. Let me know if you need any help!


Well, is back online. My server went down in July, and I didn't bother updating the DNS information, or redirecting any traffic to, well, anything. So was completely defunct. I finally have time to get back to some web development and the google apps allow me to have complete control over the website as far as javascript and html go anyway.

If you decide to visit the page, don't just yet. I think there is a welcome statement telling you that it's back up, but I've not done anything more with it. Right now I'm looking to see if I can put some generated content from drupal (or drupal itself) up there. This is why I liked running my own web server. I could say, “Hey, I want Drupal” and there it goes.

Which leads us into my new hobby. Learning Drupal. Why, you ask, do I care to learn drupal (as well as Python and all the other stuff I teach myself)? I figure that if I can learn drupal, I can always use it as a fall back or secondary job. I know how to build a web server, I know how to administer web services, and most small businesses want a low-cost web site that can do what they want. I figure I can pick up some extra cash and maybe do some web pages for some businesses if I can build a really snazzy website.

Drupal is an amazing tool that lets you do that, if you care to anyway. I would encourage anyone who is interested in web dev to go to and check it out!

Saturday, January 10, 2009 3

The project recently (in October of 2009), released their 3.0 edition. I usually wait a little while before I install new software, just to give them a bit to work out any bugs. Rarely do I say, "wow" when I install new software, but... wow.

They increased the modularity of the program. For you who are not familiar with the "linux philosophy," they like to keep things simple. One program for one tool, or in the instance of oo.o, one interface for one task. Here the oo.o team added a bunch of great things. There is a new interface just for math. You can make up those great (and complex) equations that I've never understood. You can also add in some great extensions that increase the power of beyond the coolness that it already is.

I've not yet fiddled with the oo.o printer manager, but it seems to just be a printer interface for the local CUPS server. Not sure why it's there, but ok, whatever.

Well, the moral of the story is this. If you need a word processing tool, and you're just not feeling the love with the MS 2007 "ribbon" interface, is a great GNU alternative. At least, I think that the program is GNU, it might be a different license, but it's still open source and being built by a community of users.

Podcast coming -- HPR

Yesterdays tutorial will be coming at you so you can listen to how I set everything up instead of reading through it. This is, of course, an attempt at differentiation.

For those of you faithful readers who do not know pedagogical principles, differentiation is the idea that people learn differently, and that information should be presented in different ways. Two broad categories of differentiation are visual and auditory. Obviously, a visual person would be much more comfortable reading through instructions while an auditory person would prefer to listen to instructions.

If you are familiar with pedagogical principles, you will know that this is a gross oversimplification. I only mention this concept to help some understand that people learn differently and that you should evaluate how you learn in order to increase your learning potential.

So, the podcast should be coming sometime soon from Hacker Public Radio. Now, a word of clarification. Hacker Public Radio plays more to the hacker mentality than it does to being an evil villainous computer person. A Hacker is someone who wants to know. The modern renaissance man, if you will.

You can find hacker public radio at:

While my installation of HPR might not show up for a few days, you can head on over there and check out the neat kinds of things that they have going.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Zoneminder, Debian and a USB webcam

So here at the home front (our office), we've been having some strange goings on. Apparently students hold grudges against teachers that award grades fairly (that is, you get the grade you earn). So someone has been doing heinous things to teachers belongings and helping those things to go periodically missing, forcefully adjusted, etc.

Knowing that we can video record here in the USA without a warrant or legal cause to do so, we decided to setup a zoneminder system. For those of you who do not know, Zoneminder is a Linux based, open source CCTV system. One can setup a camera on the computer, set up Zoneminder, setup the camera in Zoneminder and VOILA! A Closed-Circuit TV system is up and running at a whim!

Unfortunately, ZoneMinder (ZM) doesn't really have all that cohesive of a tutorial system. People have just assumed several steps in what needs to happen, which causes problems. I'm going to put up a quick tutorial here that shows you some things that you need to know to be able to run ZM with little difficulty.

First, you need linux. I highly recommend debian for this install as you can run a debian netinst and really parse down your install. I don't like having too much more than I need on an install, so there is less to go wrong.

Download debian netinst from here. Burn it to a Disc, and boot from that disk. (I am, of course, assuming that you're building a computer purely for zoneminder.)

When you install, install only the core system and web server. To do this you'll need to unselect the desktop environment, you won't need it anyway, and select the web server. You can do this step later if you forget.

After that's done running, you'll need to do some fun stuff.

First, log in as root and run:

apt-get install sudo

(this will install sudo on your system.)
Then you'll need to run:


edit your sudoers file to add in your primary user name.

(usernamer) ALL = (ALL) ALL

CRTL-X will get you out of this, save it without the .old or .tmp extension

This will allow you as the primary user to run commands through SUDO. This is preferred over running everything as root. A Little harder to totally mess things up, and a little more secure.

Great, now that your primary user is a SUDOER, log out of root (CRTL-D) and log back in as your primary user.

Ok, you're going to edit your sources.list like this:

sudo vim /etc/apt/sources.list
if you're not familiar with vim, you need to hit 'i' in order to edit the text.

change every "etch" reference to "lenny" and add "contrib non-free" to the end of every line that you edit.

hit ESC, then the colon key (:) then type "wq" at the prompt and hit enter. This will close you out of vim, and get you going.

now type:

sudo apt-get update

This will take a little bit, so hit ALT-F2 to go to a different terminal "window," and log in there.

In this window, you'll want to download the .deb file for zoneminder. Unfortunately zoneminder is not supported in lenny, so you'll have to get the sid version. This worked just fine when I did it and turned out a fairly stable system.

Here's how to download from the command prompt.

First, on another computer (easiest) go to the zoneminder package mirror page which can be found here.

Select a mirror that you want to use and type:


That's just an example, you can use any of the mirrors from the main debian page.

Back to terminal 1 while that's downloading (ALT-F1)

If it's done downloading the repository indicies, good, otherwise just wait a moment. Then type:

sudo apt-get upgrade

wait a while

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

It's annoying and time consuming, but really worth your while. While that's running, go have a cup of tea, or something. Come back and reboot your computer. It'll be stable and ready to go!

Next, you'll need to install a lot of stuff, so hold on to your shorts and get ready to apt-get your way into bliss!

Run the following commands:

sudo apt-get install mysql-client mysql-server php5

sudo apt-get install php5-mysql libapache2-mod-php5 libapache2-mod-auth-mysql

sudo apt-get install ffmpeg

Running those commands will get you on your way. Most of what you need would be picked up by dependencies in the zoneminder package, but that's no big deal for now. Just let it run.

Now, while that's running, check on your second terminal. ALT-F2!

If your zoneminder package has successfully downloaded, just go have another cup of tea. Otherwise try re-typing the url or try a different mirror.

When it's downloaded, exit out of that terminal, you'll not need it anymore.

When apt-get has finished it's jovial run through the trenches, you'll need to run:

sudo dpkg -i zoneminder_1.23.3-3_i386.deb

It will complain about being broken, but just tell it to stop complaining in your favorite vernacular and run:

sudo apt-get install -f

It'll install a whole pile more of packages, and you'll get to watch apt-get do its magic one more time.

Now, make sure apache knows what it's suppose to be doing by typing the commands:

sudo ln -s /etc/zm/apache.conf /etc/apache2/conf.d/zoneminder.conf

this will let your web server know where to find the information about zoneminder.

Relax, you're almost done! (Doesn't it feel great?)


sudo apt-get install module-assisstant

That'll install the Kernel module assistant, which is a really snazzy piece of work!

Next run:

sudo m-a prepare
sudo m-a update

It'll download and install some stuff to get you rolling. Rolling downhill that is!

sudo m-a a-i gspca
sudo modprobe gspca

That will install the drivers (most likely) for your webcam. If your webcam is not supported by these drivers... uhm... get a different webcam. (sorry!)

Reboot your computer. You can restart all the services manually, but rebooting is easier.

Ok, the moment of truth. Run:

sudo zmu -d /dev/video0 -q -v |less

What this will do is let you know what the statistics are for your webcam. This is probably one of the most important steps of getting all things running. You'll need some of these numbers, or you'll have a hard time getting that camera to show up. Piping this through "less" will allow you to scroll up or down while you're reading the info.

Now, log into zoneminder with your other computer. Type in the ip address of the zm machine and type /zm.


This will bring up (hopefully) the zm console for you. Click "add monitor"

Using the information you gathered from zmu -d, tell zoneminder what your camera is expecting to send out to the world. If you don't tell zoneminder what the camera is expecting, it will not work.

Make sure you set the camera to monitor and make sure it's activated.

I'm sorry not to have gone into more detail after you have zm up, but I think that the final stages are probably the most documented of all the steps. If you need any help with this, post a comment and I'll try to help you out if I can!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Time to pimp others!

Ok, so I'm catching up on my back posts of the linux link tech show (tllts). I was listening to (I think?) was the Halloween episode where the guys chatted with Chad Whallenburg (Sorry if I butchered your name Chad). Chad has a podcast called the Linux Basement. He is also working to increase the level of awareness of FOSS / GNU software in his school district. You can follow along with their progress documenting this project at the sponsored website.

This is a great project where Chad and others are working to provide tutorials and guides on how to integrate Open Source solutions into a proprietary world. FOSS can really save a lot of money as well as provide wonderful solutions to companies who do not want to pay expensive licensing fees.

If you are hankering for another great podcast, check out Lotta Linux Links, I am sure you'll enjoy Mr. Yates commentaries and interviews.

In general, I've been working on getting a Linux report put together to maybe present it or publish it. I think I mentioned that already. That means that I have been doing some research related to Linux in Education and trying to find out what hurdles need to be addressed directly by the open source community. The software is solid, but there seem to be those horrid and persistent perceptions of instability. Is it something that we're doing inherently? Hmmm..

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tutor session I

Wow! It's been almost a day since I last posted anything on my blog. I am beginning to feel completely remiss in my duties to no one (since at last check almost no one reads this).

Anyway, Tutor Session number one went off today without a hitch! Yay! The students were generally engaged in the process and interested in learning how the new tutoring model will take place. I'm glad to see that the students are so engaged after one two days of being back at school! I had anticipated an uphill battle of bad memories and negative attitudes, but it seems most of the students are willing to work!

We covered some new classroom procedures (such as bell work and being "on-time"). We also reviewed student expectations for being in and AVID tutoring session. I hope that the students will buy into the official model more than the model I half-created half-inherited. The previous model is by no means a bad model, and it is a model that will serve the students well in the future, but the students were not giving the tutoring model any credence in the setting.

Computer club also went very well. We've divided the club up into two groups. The first group is an Object Oriented Programming group using ALICE to learn Object Oriented Principles. The second group is a group who will be learning how to operate Blender 3d. All the students were able to install their respective programs as well as begin their respective tutorials.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Programming Fun!

Well, tomorrow marks the first day of teaching a random amalgam of students how to use their computers. I'm not referring to the turning on and off of machines, nor even the utilization of software. I'm hoping to get these students working on some programming skills and concepts! (what was I thinking when I decided to do this?)

In an effort to stay ahead of the curve (which will hopefully be a challenge), I am looking through some code for a new program. The program is called Lumiera, and it's a non-linear video editing tool.

I just go it to compile.

So there.

You might think, "So what? No big deal?" But I would then know you've never tried to compile something from a different system.

So here we go! This ought to be fun! :-)

AVID Tutorology

So I just designed my lesson plan for day 1 of Tutoring for semester 2 of AVID. When I started last semester, I was not exactly given much guidance for doing Tutoring sessions. This is not the fault of my district, and the problem has since been ameliorated. I started late in the year and had missed previous opportunities to receive the correct training.

I'm fairly happy with my lesson for tomorrow. I was able to successfully avoid requiring paper to be used by all students, although I will need to make 5 copies for students whose computers are not yet working. I have four parts to my lesson and have been able to cover a good deal of information in a very thorough manner.

Tuesday (tomorrow) will be an overview of Tutoring and how it looks from the student perspective. Thursday, the next tutoring session, will be an implementation of how tutoring show feel and how students should engage in the learning session. Next Monday (a week from today) I should be meeting with all of my Tutors to begin training them in the manners in which they will conduct themselves in class. I have a wide range of Tutors. Some of my Tutors are freshman peer tutors and some of my tutors are upperclassmen.

I'm interested in seeing how these students take to the new tutoring regimen. I think that the students will buy in a little more than usual because some of their peers will be engaged in the process of tutoring.

Next blog post will be regarding my computer club.

South East Linux Festival

Well folks, you knew it would happen. (As if you knew anything that would happen relating to this blog.) I have decided to submit a paper to the South East Linux Festival. I just listened to one of Dave Yates' podcasts where he was pimping SELF again. (If you are unfamiliar with Dave Yates and LLL, go to: Lotta Linux Links.)

I think that Linux and Education go very well together. Unfortunately there is a barrier preventing Linux from becoming a relevant part of pedagogy. There are several arguments that I have heard from various people. I think what I'll do it address those arguments and approach Linux from a Bentham philosophical point of view. That is, I'll weigh the pros and cons of a Linux implementation in pedagogy, and hopefully put a good amount of research into it so I can attempt to have it published in a Journal as well.

Sadly enough, I don't believe there is enough research regarding Linux in education to support what I hope to accomplish, but perhaps I can develop my ideas through specific examples. I know that Linux can help people to easily become integrated into a digital world. This integration can referred to as "New Literacy," meaning technological or digital literacy. I wonder if there is any research supporting the idea that Literacy is a cross-platform skill?

Anyway, Linux in Education, look for more here folks!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Years Resolution

I have resolved to become a blogger. I can assume, based on what I know about educational principles, that I will become a somewhat better writer by writing regularly. My goal is to write 360 Blog postings this year. While that MIGHT seem like I'm cheating the daily thing or writing one a day, I assure you that is not my intention. I intend to keep my blog postings frequent and informative. Some days will most assuredly have two (or more) postings, and summer might find that there are not many postings at all.

Primarily I hope to be writing about my two favorite subjects, computers and education. With respect to computers, I might tend to lean towards Linux. With respect to education, I will lean towards innovation and what I am attempting to do in my classroom.

If my article does not get approved by the Journal I have submitted it to, then I'll post the article here. Otherwise, I'll simply comment and direct readers to that journal if it gets published. -- note 1/10/09: It's not only my article. There was another guy... We'll call him Bob for anonymity. We wrote the article together, and without his help I would never have gotten it finished. If we do get published, I will definitely buy the man a beer. Or three.

As always, my son will figure into several of my blog posts. He's cool and 16 months old right now. Currently running around the house being quacked at by my wife. He likes to suck on wet rags so we try to keep him in supply of clean wet rags. It seems to really sooth his teeth, which happen to be coming all at once. (I think he's working on 10+ teeth.)