Open source software activity usually bumps up quite a lot before and during Christmas.  This time around I am waiting for:

What are your waiting for this year?

On remote logging with syslog

We’ve been doing some interesting things at work, as always, with yet more people and Linux boxes.  And of the side effects of mixing people, Linux boxes, and several locations is this need for some sort of centralized logging.  Luckily we have either syslog-ng or rsyslog daemons installed on each machine, so the only two issues seemed to be reconfiguration of syslog services for remote logging and setup of some log reading/searching tool for everyone to enjoy.

As for log reading and searching, there seems to be no end of tools.  We picked php-syslog-ng, which has web interface, MySQL back-end, access control, and more.  There were a few minor issues during setup and configuration, but overall it seemed to be OK.  I also patched the source code a bit in a few places, just to make it work nicer with our setup and our needs  (both numerical and symbolic priorities, preference for include masks over excludes, and full functionality with disabled caching).  In case you are interested, here is a patch against php-syslog-ng 2.9.8f tarball.

Once everything was up and running and we started looking through logs from all our hosts in the same place, there was one thing that surprised me a lot.  Either I don’t understand the syslog facilities and priorites fully (and I don’t claim that I do), or there is just too many software authors who don’t care much.  Most of our logs are coming in at priority critical.  Even if there isn’t much critical about them.  Emergency is also used way too much.  And there is hardly anything at debug or info or notice levels.  (RT, SpamAssassin, and many other applications seem to be using critical as their default log level).  Luckily, that  almost always is trivial to fix using either the configuration files or applications’ source code directly.

Pafos airport reborn

Famagusta Gazzette reported on November 16th:

The new Paphos International Airport will be fully operational from midnight tonight, marking the end of flights to the old terminal.

Hermes, which manages the airports in Cyprus, announced that the new building covers 18,500 square metres and has the capacity to serve about 2.7 million passengers per year.

It has 28 check in counters, three luggage conveyor belts, four security arches, a VIP lounge and specially equipped lounges for businesspeople, information systems for passengers and parking places with a capacity of 800 vehicles. It is estimated that around 1,800 people will be employed.

I’ve been to the upgraded airport a couple of month before it was officially launched and I have to say that I was really impressed.  It’s bigger, cleaner, better organized and equipped, and feels like a real airport.  The one that was there before was more like a village utility building for accidental landings.

It’ll be interesting to see how the flight schedules and distribution will change, especially with Larnaca airport undergoing upgrade as well.

Quantum of Solace

Some days ago I went to see “Quantum of Solace” in the cinema.  This is the continuation of the James Bond agent 007 series.

It ended up being a pretty good action film, with car chases, boat and airlane fights, shootings, and explosions, etc.  But, on the other hand, it has the least to do with James Bond series from all the episodes that I ever saw.  Bond movies always had plenty of style, spy gadgets, sexy ladies, and English accent.  In the one, most are either totally absent or overminimized.

However I still enjoyed the action and all the special effects – well suited for the big screen.  I’ll give it an overall 6 out of 10.

WhiteSnake in Nicosia, Cyprus

The other day I went together with a few friends to the WhiteSnake rock band concert in Nicosia.  It was the same venue and more or less the same setup as for the concert of the legendary Deep Purple back in 2005.  Except that:

  • the sound was really crap this time
  • WhiteSnake is not Deep Purple by any means – much more commercial, less passionate
  • both video and photo cameras were not allowed, so no pictures
  • there was much more advertising for the event, and the place was crowded
  • there was a warm-up band, which actually performed better than WhiteSnake at certain times

A few things that I was thinking about during the concert:

  • we need more beers
  • “F*ck this” and “F*ck that” in between the songs doesn’t suit the romantic mood of many songs.  Like, “Is this love?”
  • we need more beers
  • like we have SEO – Search Engine Optimization on the web, some over-commercialized bands probably have CCO – Concert Crowd Optimization.  Pointing fingers to random people in the crowd, waving, shouting “Let’s make some f*cking noise!”, and other attempst to engage the audience strongly suggest that.  Plus a few other things.
  • we need more beers
  • “Ozzy!  Bring back Ozzy!  Ozzy rocks!”
  • “Smoooooke on the water!  Fire in the sky!”
  • we need more beers

Overall, I did have a good time with all the noise, beers, and fooling around.  But I won’t be going to the next WhiteSnake event.  One is just enough.

P.S.: If you want to see pictures, Flickr can help you out – thanks to small size of modern cameras and huge disregard to rules by rockers all over the world.

On healthy lifestyle

Reading Linus Torvalds’ blog I came across this paragraph:

Not that I actually ever really minded wearing glasses, but I could not recognize my own kids when in a swimming pool and they were more than six feet away. And let’s face it. swimming after other peoples kids and tickling them is not socially acceptable. At least in the US.


On Barack Obama win

I haven’t been following the US presidential race closely.  I remember watching a few speeches by Ron Paul, and thinking that he is a really nice guy.  But somehow I doubted that he could win.  Barack Obama’s speeches were the next best thing, even though I saw just a few of them.  Here is a quote from Slashdot discussion on the subject, that I particularly enjoyed:

The thing that absolutely amazes me is the international reaction to Obama’s win. I knew that the reputation of America and Americans had been battered over the past few years, but I never suspected that it was as bad as it was. I watched the results last night, said a little “huzzah!” when Obama was declared, listened as McCain gave a warm, dignified, and gentlemanly concession speech, and then went to bed thinking I’d seen it all. I woke up at about 4:45 this morning and I’ve been flipping between news stations ever since. I got a little emotional last night during the speeches, but I’m absolutely devastated by the number of non-Americans who are dancing in the streets over Obama’s win. I never thought I’d see video of a few hundred Chinese people jumping around and chanting “Obama! Obama!” A reporter in France walked up to a woman and simply said “Obama?” Her face lit up and she simply said “C’est formidable!” Kenyans are throwing feasts in his honor. Arab and Persian states are happy. Israel is happy. Pakistan is happy. Australians are losing their damned minds over it. Russia is… well, they’re kinda grumpy, but they’re not having a good year.

(read the rest of the comment)

Well, I guess I am in the happy and joyful crowd.  It feels like something big happened.  But we are yet to see if this feeling has any substance.

On laptops in the classrooms

I came across an interesting opinion by David Cole regarding the use of Internet connected laptops in the classrooms, during lectures.

study found that laptop use was significantly and negatively related to class performance

While I was reading the article, I kept nodding my head a lot.  Yes, if I was back in college and I could have an Internet connected laptop on my desk, I’d be even worse of a student than I was.  YouTube, forums, emails, Twitter, and a whole lot of other attention grabbers would not leave much for plain old college education.  At least in my case.  I know.

But then, I started thinking if that was true for other people I know.  And I couldn’t be so sure anymore.  A few guys I know literally can’t stay for too much long wihtout a computer and some sort of Internet connection.  It’s like food or oxygen – they just have to have it.  And when they have access to a computer, it’s often amazing to see them use it.  Lots of interesting, topic related stuff coming up.  Fact checking.  Exploring the topic deeper and wider.  With quotes and all.

And that got me into this idea of a new generation.   Younger people, who grew up online.  Web is in their blood.  A desktop computer as an ugly concept, and an offline computer as a useless box.  This kind of people.  I don’t think they would be much distracted.  In fact, quite the opposite – I think their grades would go up with better Internet connection and laptop-friendlier environment.

And that’s where I started worrying a little bit about the studies that were mentioned in the article.  These studies may be very accurate now.  And they are performed by bigger universities and colleges.  The results of these studies will take a few years of propagating into smaller colleges and universities.  And that’s where the problem will arise.  By that time, most new students will of the web native generation, but their alma maters will be choosing to disconnect them and ban their laptops.  Even though it probably won’t be too relative by then.

But then again, isn’t it like this most of the time?  I think it is.

On software testing

The software is checked very carefully in a bottom-up fashion. First, each new line of code is checked, then sections of code or modules with special functions are verified. The scope is increased step by step until the new changes are incorporated into a complete system and checked. This complete output is considered the final product, newly released. But completely independently there is an independent verification group, that takes an adversary attitude to the software development group, and tests and verifies the software as if it were a customer of the delivered product. There is additional verification in using the new programs in simulators, etc. A discovery of an error during verification testing is considered very serious, and its origin studied very carefully to avoid such mistakes in the future. Such unexpected errors have been found only about six times in all the programming and program changing (for new or altered payloads) that has been done. The principle that is followed is that all the verification is not an aspect of program safety, it is merely a test of that safety, in a non-catastrophic verification. Flight safety is to be judged solely on how well the programs do in the verification tests. A failure here generates considerable concern.

The above was written by R. P. Feynman, in Feynman’s Appendix to the Rogers Commission Report on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, 1986. More than 20 years ago. Much recommended reading.

Found via Richard Feynman, the Challenger Disaster, and Software Engineering.

It’s not the move, it’s the “after” life

There is a lot of noise going about these news:

The Foreign Ministry is migrating all of its 11.000 desktops to GNU/Linux and other Open source applications.

That’s good.  Both the noise and the news.  But it’s not the first time that we hear about this or that government office moving to Linux desktops.  It happened before.  What I am more interested in hearing is the “after” life.  Something along the lines of “Look, we moved to Linux desktops one year ago and we are doing better than ever.  We are happier and we also spend less money”.  How many of those moved roll back to what they had before?  Why did they roll back? How many stay?  How many of those who stay are more satisfied?  How much cheaper it is for them?

That’s what I’d like to hear.