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Monday, 23 October 2006

Penguin? What penguin?

Well, I got around to wiping OpenBSD from my formerly main computer earlier than I thought. (See this previous post.)

Saturday evening I installed Ubuntu 6.06LTS on to my dual P3-450 system which, until April, had been my main computer since 1999.

After getting home from church and lunch at my Mom's place today, my day, and evening, has been spent fiddling around with Ubuntu, learning how Linux is different from BSD and installing packages that I would like to have but weren't part of the Ubuntu base system. Almost the first package I installed (after Firefox and Thunderbird) was the 686-class kernel for SMP capabilities. The default 386-class kernel ran rather sluggishly and (obviously) only used one of the P3-450s. The difference after rebooting was immediately noticeable! I've also decided that I like Gnome (which comes default with Ubuntu) better than KDE for my X11 window manager.

The only major problem I have had so far was with network setup, specifically the file /etc/network/interfaces and the loopback device. I was trying to get the SSH daemon to accept IPv6 connections, since everything on my home LAN is almost all IPv6. Suddenly, after a reboot, I was getting the X login screen supplied by gdm, but after typing in my userid and password the screen would go blank with just a mouse cursor. Nor were any of the character terminals present — just a blinking cursor in the upper right corner in all Ctrl+Alt+F? screens.

The thing is, in *BSD, the loopback interface is called “lo0”, consistent with all other devices — a few letters identifying the hardware and the a number for the Nth device of that type. In Linux, however, it's just called “lo”. If you accidentally turn lo into lo0, like I did, or just remove the setup lines for the loopback device from the interfaces file, the loopback device never gets configure and the entire network subsystem is FUBARed, which in turn FUBARs the entire operating system. In OpenBSD, the loopback device is always there if you have networking compiled into your kernel. Not having a /etc/hostname.lo0 file won't prevent the loopback device from being configured and it won't bring your operating system to it's knees. Indeed, even if you delete all your /etc/hostname.* files, all your server daemons will still start unless you've specifically configured them to bind to a specific address or fail. Technically, your system still works and you don't have to go into single user “safe” mode to fix things because you can't login in normal mode.

Now part if this was my own fault for mixing up what I thought the loopback device's name was. However, I cannot believe that Linux has such a potentially major problem creator in it's network configuration method. I did find a webpage that describes a fail-over and load-balancing network architecture using something called Ultramonkey where you configure additional loopback interfaces with non-127.0.0.0/8 addresses, but I think that OpenBSD's carp is the more elegant situation. No futzing around with carp will prevent your computer from booting properly.

At any rate, we'll just have to see what the future holds and how strongly I maintain my pro-BSD bias as I become more familiar with Linux.

Friday, 20 October 2006

Of course that's not a penguin on my desktop...

Having had OpenBSD for a number of years on my second computer acting as my firewall, when I got my third computer back in April the idea was to turn my formerly main computer from a Windows maching into a un*x desktop.

My experiences with OpenBSD have shown me that while it makes an excellent firewall or server operating system, because it lags behind in certain key areas (like third party applications support), it's not really the best OS to have for a workstation. This meant that I would have to choose between FreeBSD and some Linux distro, with perhaps Darwin x86 from Apple as a minor contender. Using one of those three operating systems, I would be able to get things like a Flash player, a decent office software system and many other things I could not get on OpenBSD.

Well, as it happened, shortly after converting that formerly main computer from Windows XP to OpenBSD as an interim step, my brand-new Xeon behemoth stopped working. The motehrboard had ba capacitors and had to be RMA'ad back to Asus and that took forever. The first replacement motherboard they sent back, which took 6 weeks, simply would not POST so a second one had to be sent, and that one also took 6 weeks. After talkign to the guy at the computer store I usually shop from, I found out that Asus's support has been slipping dramatically. The 1-800 number they used to phone for RMA info and the like simply no longer worked and they no longer were getting responses back in 24 hurs to email inquiries like they used to. Needless to say, I doubt my next computer will be Asus-based after all this.

So in the mean time, I wasn't about to do a whole 'nother OS installation my once-again-main computer until the Xeon behemoth came back. But never expecting 3 months without it, I got kind of comfortable with the formerly main computer as an OpenBSD workstatin, in spite of what I feel it lacks.

I switched the window manager from WindowMaker to KDE, installed both Firefox and Thunderbird because I disliked KDE's konquereor and kmail apps. I set up NFS shares so that all my MP3s were available to the firewall where I set up two different multimedia servers so I could listen to my MP3s when not at home. The firewall had also been a Samba server and had hosted the home directories for the users with accounts under Windows XP on the formerly main computer, so I moved them over, shut down the firewall's Samba daemon and NFS'ed /home back to it. All in all lots of modifications over the three-plus months I was waiting for the Xeon behemoth to return.

When that day finally came, I just re-integereted it into my home network, started Samba daemon on the former main computer so /home would be available to the Xeon behemoth running Windows XP. And that's how it has been for the last few months.

So today I decided to install the Ubuntu distro of Linux since a number of people I know on-line had recommended it. But where did I install it? Not on the formerly main machine which stil hasp OpenBSD, but onto the Xeon behemoth into the partition which had held Windows Vista RC1 for the past month. :-) I almost feel like a traitor to BSD, installing a Linux distro.

Ubuntu seems nice, and eventually I will wipe the formerly main machine and install it there, but knowing me that will take a few months. Mostly because of all the data which will have to be copied off of the *BSD-type FFS file systems in order to be able to set up proper Linux-type EXT3 partitions for everything. Also, doing all the system administration tasks on Linux rather than on BSD is a little like being dropped in the Scottish hinterlands — you know that they're all speaking English but you can't understand half of it. On the bright side, by the time I do ge around to it, I should know enough about Ubuntu specifically and Linux in general to make the switch over go smoothly in a single day.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Am I supposed to laugh or what...?

Normally I'm a pretty irreverent person. I'm able to laugh at not only my own goofs but also at my own sacred cows. Partially, this is because I knoow my own failings, but mostly it is because I cannot comprehend a God without a sense of humour. After all, look how counter-culture Jesus was — you just know God had to have seen the humour in overturning so much of what the Jews expected the Messiah to be.

But today I came across this video. I couldn't decide whether to laugh at its irreverence or to be shocked at how it trivializes the tragedy of terrorism and all those deaths. I guess I'll let you decide for yourself.

Monday, 16 October 2006

I got the dancing Kame!

Well, as it turns out, I won't have to risk turning my wi-fi router into a brick just to get IPv6 connectivity again!

I'd like to call it a stroke of genius, but somebody else has probably already figure this one out:

  1. Let the Freenet6 tunnel client log in and set up the tunnel normally with my 'Net-visible DHCP IPv4 address from my ISP
  2. Wait about 20 to 30 seconds for gif0 to be completely setup and then redo the `ifconfig gif0 tunnel...` command with my internal NAT-ified address
Voila! One working IPv6 over IPv4 tunnel! I can ping IPv6 hosts on the 'Net, I can surf to the KAME Projet's website and get the dancing kame logo. In short, as long as the program I am using supports IPv6, I can do it on line an dnot just in my own little sandbox. Woohoo!

Friday, 13 October 2006

IPv6 and me

For several years I have had an IPv6 prefix to allocate from for my home network and virtually all internal traffic has been IPv6 rather than traditional IPv4. Lately, however, I haven't had access to the IPv6 universe because my tunnel client doesn't like the fact that the OpenBSD host it runs on is behind a wi-fi router and on an IPv4 NAT.

Unfortunately, my apartment is in an older building and I only have one telephone jack and it's right near my front door. Tiny as my apartment is, it still meant cables stretching from there to my desk where my computers live. I got so tired of tripping over the cables that I went and got a Linksys WRT54G router.

The wi-fi router runs wonderfully. I can use my PocketPC with it, and with the router set to DMZ mode and forwarding all ports to my firewall machine there is no difference, IPv4-wise, as when the DSL modem was hooked directly the firewall.

Alas, no such luck with IPv6 connectivity. So while googling for brands of IPv6-enabled wi-fi routers, I find that there are open-source firmware updates for my router. It seems that the WRT54G uses an embedded Linux to run itself and people have made their own versions with expanded functionality. I even found a client specifically for my IPv6 tunnel broker, Freenet6.

So now I have to figure out whether I want to:

  1. risk turning my router into a brick to see if I can get IPv6 connectivity again
  2. run the cables across my floor and trip over them to regain IPv6, or
  3. leave things as they are with no IPv6 link to the outside world

Decisions, decisions...

Monday, 9 October 2006

There can be only one!

Come on, I know you do it. We all do it - googled our own name to see how close to the #1 result we are. And I know that we've all wondered how common our name is, even if it isn't “John Smith”. Well, now you can find out how many people in the USA have the same first and last name as you over at How Many of Me.

HowManyOfMe.com
LogoThere are:
6
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?