Wednesday 14 November 2007

Strange bookshops

(For the record, the following does not relate to anything in the real world - not IT, not operating systems, and it's not even remotely related to installation procedures for software. The metaphors are completely fair and accurate, thus they do not necessarily reflect my personal opinion; I'm not making any subjective statements or suggestions.)

Shop 1

D: Hi Gene, can you get a book for me, please?
G: Hold on.

[Ten minutes later.]

G: Yes?
D: Oh, you know my style. You take a pick.
G: Moment...

[One minute later.]

G: OK. Maybe the one over there?
D: Great. I take it then.
G: Actually, the pages are blank. I need to fill them in first.
D: Uhhhhh, OK...

[One hour later.]

G: Here you are.
D: There's only one chapter here!
G: Oh, I'm sorry, I got confused. Try the other one in the shelf, it's a mass-produced copy.
D: Why didn't you just tell me?!
G: You didn't ask!

Shop 2

D: Uberto! Hi, I need the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
U: I'm sorry, I'm not in the mood.
D: I don't understand what you're saying, but I really need it.
U: OK, whatever.


U: Yeah, well, you know, I was getting some other books for you right now, and I would just mix everything up.
D: So do it after that!
U: I don't know what you mean.
D: ...


D: Are you getting the book or not?
U: Oh, I just finished with the other stuff. Sure thing, man.

Shop 3

D: Good morning, Winnie. How do I go about finding some books?
W: I have no idea.
D: What?!
W: Find them yourself!
D: Hmpf!

[Some time later...]

D: Here it is - YOU & NICK'S HATERS Handbook.
W: Oh, I like that one! It'll be 50 Euros.
D: What?!
W: Per year.
D: ...
W: Well?
D: I could get a very similar book for free elsewhere.
W: No, no, they're no good. You must use this one.
D: Mrrff... Bah, I don't care anymore, it's not me who'd pay anyway...
W: Good. But any book can be dangerous, you know? Are you sure you want it?
D: I just paid for it!
W: Right. Here's a few pages of rules about using this book.
D: OK, but I know nothing about this. Why are you showing this to me NOW? I already gave you some money, just let me read it!
W: I'm sorry, you need to study this thing closely before reading the book.
D: There, I put it in the tr... I mean, I got it.
W: Right. In which room do you want to read it? In the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom...?
D: Are you nuts?!
W: What do you mean?
D: Just. Give. Me. The. Book.
W: I guess you're OK with having it in the living room then?
W: Fine. Do you want some bookmarks with it?
D: NO!!
W: Here you go. See you soon!

Friday 9 November 2007

NX - Linux from a distance

I finally got around to testing NX (remote desktop, see "background" below) for Linux.

After doing a "stress-test" from an "impressive" distance of 5 kilometres, I'd say it's quite responsive, and otherwise appears to work as advertised. I especially like the resume functionality (suspend one or more login sessions), and resize-on-demand (i.e. toggling full-screen mode, or changing the resolution with the desktop adjusting).

As for the rest (sound etc.), it appears to behave properly, but then again, I've only just started using this. Graphically intense (e.g. 3D) applications don't work smoothly - no surprise there - on the other hand, neither does glxgears (20 FPS). Maybe by default, no frames are skipped.


Getting the (freeware) NX system up and running roughly means to:
  • Install nxclient, nxnode and nxserver on the host.
  • Generate DSA public key, and private key (without a passphrase) for the "nx" user.
  • Install nxclient on other machines; use the private key to authenticate as "nx", then use your login for the host.
Apparently it's a little more complicated than this, but for instance you can use an existing SSH server configuration which allows only public key authentication (hint, hint). That would only get you past the first security layer, though (the "nx" user), or I didn't see how to specify the user's private key in the client. A workaround I use is to use NX's own password database for authenticating users. (I could live with that, but is there a way to avoid this duplication? I guess it could also be a problem with other authentication methods.)

NoMachine's documentation covers many things, so I'm not sure what else to address for now. However, I could mention that - lacking suitable free software packages - I've tried instead to compile some stuff (see the repository) into an NX client on Debian stable/etch (on a G4 machine). After working around a configuration bug, I seem to be able to login and so on, but get stuck on a "Launching session" dialog. If I get this to work, I should be presenting some documentation soon after.


NX is a technology for remote access (similar to that of rdesktop) to Linux or Solaris systems. It's based on SSH and X, but offers significant improvements in terms of security (as compared to (e.g.) some VNC solutions) as well as latency and bandwidth requirements (ssh -X, anyone?).

Sadly, the official package from NoMachine is freeware, but there doesn't seem to be a free software equivalent yet. While - strictly speaking - there is such code available for building a server or a client, only some server code (FreeNX) seems to be reasonably up to speed so far (but I hope this will change soon).

GNOME oddities?

I've hit on some bugs when running GNOME on the host, but it could be unrelated to NX. More specifically, I've experienced that gnome-terminal can get confused and open a terminal on the host; trying to logout in XFCE can close the remote GNOME session... :-) Given that, I try not to login with GNOME-ish stuff when it's already running on the host. (Instead, I use something like fluxbox, but that now fails to logout at all in an NX session, weird...)

Friday 2 November 2007

Sweden outsources its coin production

DN (newspaper in Swedish) writes that domestic AB Myntverket has lost to the competition - and their owner - Rahapaja OY in Finland; the Riksbank (Swedish national bank) are required by law to make public inquiries to see which organizations are suited for the coin production, and setup contracts for some years at a time. Apparently AB Myntverket wasn't seen as conforming to requirements of an ISO-compliant environmental policy.

Naturally, the matter is disputed. Still, Agneta Rönström of The Riksbank doesn't expect an appeal. After all, Sweden has only been in this business for 1012 years straight. Who said there couldn't be more "drama" before switching to the Euro here? :-)

Thursday 1 November 2007

ISO for breakfast, OSI for lunch, EU for dinner, FLOSS for dessert?

(Sorry about the headline, couldn't resist.1)

Glyn Moody Gets It. In Linux Journal, he writes about OOXML and Microsoft's successes with OSI and EU antitrust: Is Microsoft Hijacking Open Source?

1 (Also familiar from snail-mailing the "sorry that I forgot to use a stamp" excuse.)