Thursday, November 20, 2008

Assortment of Updates

I've been busy. That's the usual excuse that people use when they haven't posted to their blogs. Yes, I've been busy, but more importantly I haven't been able to come up with a good topic in a while. So, here's a collection of updates (sort of like a sitcom clip show).
  • Fedora 10 is done. Mirrors are syncing up and users will soon be able to get the 10th release of Fedora Linux from their favorite and/or fastest mirror. A lot has gone in to Fedora 10 and I am pleased to say that it looks really good. I hope users find it nice as well. It's quite nice knowing that we finally reached the end of F-10 development. Of course, F-11 development is right around the corner, but it's nice to give users something new to use.
  • The revenue product is also nearing a point release in the v5 series. It's also looking nice as well. My team (installer) had a lot of work to, as usual, but I think for each point release we are converging on stability. That is, the number of bugs reported continues to decrease with each point release. To me that means we are doing right somewhere.
  • Chris and I are busy working on new Python bindings for libparted. There have been several iterations of Python bindings for libparted in the past, but we are doing a complete rewrite from scratch and implementing everything available in libparted and adding things that we can benefit from in Python (e.g., exceptions). It's a really fun project because it's totally new code for once. Expect a Trac page on fedorahosted.org for this project once we get to a dot zero release. For now, you can get the code from here.
  • I was nominated for the Fedora Board.
Those are all work updates, what about non-work?
  • I think I posted about this, but what the hell. I saved a ton of money by switching to GEICO.
  • Speaking of GEICO, a gecko got in to our condo the other day. We haven't found him.
  • I got a refill for my prescription today and noticed they gave me a generic medication. This alarmed me as I know my particular medication has a patent protecting Big Giant DrugCo and ensuring their massive profits until at least 2010. If they gave me a generic, that means they didn't give me what I needed. Going back to the pharmacy, I was told by the pharmacist that there is, in fact, a generic for my medication and it became available within the past few weeks. Preferring to talk to my doctor first, I asked for the actual brand. Changing seizure disorder drugs midstream is not trivial. It's probably not a generic, but a reasonable substitute for most people (since my medication is patented). Reasonable substitute means jack when you talk about seizure disorder drugs.
  • I broke a handle on one of our jalousie windows a few days ago and got the part to repair it today. $8.49 at City Mill.
  • Speaking of breaking things, I was trying to rebuild Karen's mom's Windows desktop computer. Upgraded the RAM to make Windows drag along a little faster, but during the course of working on it, the NIC died (rust in the RJ-45 port) and the power supply exploded. Parts are on the way from the mainland.
  • I've decided to let the Dutch manage some of my money. The web interface for ING Direct accounts works with Firefox, which is a plus in my book. DCU, make your site work correctly with Firefox and I'll consider using my accounts more.
Tomorrow evening, Karen and I head to the mainland for a crazy road tour. Starting in Washington, DC and including New York and Pennsylvania. We will probably eat turkey in there somewhere.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Christopher Butler, you suck.

November 18, 2008

Dear Christopher Butler,

[To all Christopher Butlers in the world, I speak only of the one who had my cell phone number before it was assigned to me. You know who you are. The number is a US number in the 808 area code.]

You had my cell phone number assigned to you before me and apparently you spent a lot of money and decided not to pay your bills. I take it you failed to pay your cell phone bill too, which probably explains how the number ended up back in the random assignment pool and how I got it.

At any rate, would you please start paying your damn bills? I am tired of the collections agencies calling me at all hours of the day and night trying to find your sorry ass. Seriously dude, how much shit do you have to buy on credit?

Maybe I should give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it's something like identity theft. But I can't really believe that, because it looks like the first things you defaulted on were utility bills and loans and now you're using credit cards and not paying them.

You know what, if you want to keep doing that, fine. Maybe you'll get a bailout bill passed in your name. Could you just do one favor for me? STOP GIVING THEM MY PHONE NUMBER WHEN YOU APPLY FOR A NEW CARD! You might still have the phone you got from AT&T, but you sure don't have the number. Ever notice it doesn't ring? Yeah, I have the number now.

Sincerely,

The current assignee of 808-2XX-7XXX

Monday, November 10, 2008

Attaching Things To Bugzilla Entries

This is meant as helpful information for people reporting bugs.

When attaching files to a bug that you file at http://bugzilla.redhat.com, take care to watch the type that the attachment is assigned. Bugzilla seems to do a pretty bad job at figuring out file types. The most common problem I see is application/octet-stream when people attach log files.

If you are attaching anything that can be viewed with more, less, most, or your favorite text editor, make sure the type is set to text/plain, please. It's also helpful if you do not tar up or compress log files and then attach them to bugs. Just attach the log files and set the type to text/plain. Makes viewing them easier.

For patches that you want to attach, here are a couple of suggestions. Make sure you are creating unified diffs with diff -u. When you attach the file to the bug, check the box marked Patch so that it's flagged as a patch in Bugzilla. This makes viewing and saving the patch a little easier.

I have seen a number of odd attachments show up in Bugzilla. People turning log files in to OpenOffice documents (and sometimes even presentations), for example. Or taking photos of a log file they are viewing with more, one photo for each screen of text (yes, that was around 20 photos attached to the bug report).

If the person handling the bug requests some information from you in the form of a log file or something similar, but you don't know how to get it, ask. Don't assume you are on your own for collecting the requested information.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Automator

I discovered a problem recently on my MacBook (MacOS X 10.5) where the default browser and default RSS reader would get reset to Safari each time I'd reboot. It was getting a bit annoying, so I dug around online to see if other people were having the problem. To my surprise, I saw a lot of people having this problem.

Consensus was that it's a known bug and happens when you are using the built-in disk encryption in OS X. I'm using that because I wanted to know that if someone ripped off my laptop, I'd at least make it more difficult for them to get in to it.

Apple users tend to be different sorts of problem solvers than Linux users. As a Linux user, I expect to find a patch or be able to make a patch myself and recompile the software. Apple users don't really do that, they tend to find workarounds in other ways.

The recommended workaround was to use Automator to open Safari (which controls the default browser and rss reader settings), open the Preferences window, select Firefox for the browser, and NetNewsWire for the RSS reader. Save the resulting script from Automator and have it run when you log in.

While this solution is clunky, it does work (it's also amusing to watch the script launch when I log in. It's like someone else is controlling my system for a minute). What was more interesting to me is using Automator. It's a drag and drop scripting environment for the GUI. I was able to script mouse actions using this system. I think this is pretty cool. It hides everything from me and just lets me graphically put together a script.

My question for Linux users is do we have anything like Automator for GNOME? Or really any desktop environment?

Monday, November 3, 2008

IP Phone Finally Working

It's taken me weeks, but I finally have a working IP phone. I have my Red Hat extension configured as line 1 and my Fedora extension configured as line 2.

There was a post somewhat recently from someone who purchased a Grandstream GXP-2000 IP phone and got it working with talk.fedoraproject.org. Having had no luck with my Cisco 7960G, I decided to go with the Grandstream phone.

Configuration of the GXP-2000 is certainly easier, but getting an IP phone to work on your LAN behind whatever you're using for a firewall is a royal PITA.

I tried STUN since the phone can do that. The phone was able to register itself and I could make and receive calls, but you'd never hear anything. Someone pointed out that I needed to forward tens of thousands of ports for the RTP traffic. I found some iptables PREROUTING and FORWARD rules that seemed to be correct. Still didn't help.

I fooled around with NAT settings, but nothing ever worked. Other people I talked to suggested running Asterisk locally or running siproxd or some other stack of software that would let the phone connect. The whole point of having the physical IP phone was to avoid any sort of software on my workstations and servers to make the phone work. Running siproxd wasn't really an option because I use OpenWRT on a WHR-G54-HP for my router/firewall/vpnc box. Not enough space to store siproxd.

Digging around online pointed me to an iptables kernel patch. It added the ip_conntrack_sip.o and ip_nat_sip.o modules. I'm using OpenWRT 0.9, the last whiterussian release. One thing that I find irritating is when I mention OpenWRT people, I am immediately told to change to DD-WRT or to upgrade to Kamikaze or something else. Why? I don't care and 0.9 works fine for me. Unless there is something I really can't get working under 0.9, I don't want to change or upgrade.

However, these kernel modules almost caused me to look in to DD-WRT, but I couldn't find any evidence that DD-WRT would make my SIP situation any easier. OpenWRT runs 2.4.30. My device is MIPS, so compiling these modules for 2.4.30 for MIPS was going to be annoying and/or impossible.

Finding the patch was the first trick. The OpenWRT dev team removed the iptables SIP patch about 3 years ago due to licensing concerns. I found that svn revision 3289 was the last time they had the SIP patch. I checked that out from svn.openwrt.org and proceeded to build for my router. It took a little while, but I eventually got the two modules and copied them to the router.

With the modules loaded and the following iptables rules in place:
iptables -A INPUT -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT
iptables -A INPUT -p udp --dport 5060 -j ACCEPT
iptables -A FORWARD -o vlan1 -p udp --dport 5060 -j ACCEPT
iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o vlan1 -j SNAT --to-source [public IP]

The phone finally works. The kernel modules are making life easier for me because I don't need a lot of iptables rules to get the phone working.

For details on my OpenWRT configuration, go here.

My talk.fedoraproject.org extension is 5100345.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Government Employees Insurance Company

Some of the commercials are amusing. I decided to see what my quote would actually be. I've been a Progressive customer for more than 5 years and have been pleased with their rates and service. Hawaii is the third state where I've used Progressive. The rates were lowest for me in Georgia and New Hampshire and I assumed they would be lowest for me in Hawaii. My thought was if Progressive charged me more in Hawaii, I'd look elsewhere. My six month premium in Hawaii with Progressive was $819. That's lower than what I paid in New Hampshire, but higher than Georgia. As long as it wasn't more than what I was paying most recently, I was happy.

I checked GEICO today and come to find out that the same coverage with them would cost me $356 every six months. In other words, it's $463 cheaper.

So I changed to GEICO today. I started the new policy and set up EFT for payment. I was paying $137 per month with Progressive. With GEICO, it comes out to around $59 per month. Each carrier adds in payment fees or processing fees and nonsense like that, but $59 per month is way less than what I am paying with Progressive.

I called up Progressive to cancel and they asked why I was changing and I told them what GEICO had quoted me. Progressive's attitude has always been very helpful and understanding when they are not necessarily the lowest for you in a particular market. The representative I spoke too was a little disbelieving that $356 was my quote. She went on to say that in her experience, most Progressive customers who change to GEICO end up coming back after the first 6 month policy renews. Apparently the rates go up after the fact. I'm not really sure if that's the case or not. Even if it is, I can always go back to Progressive if they are cheaper.

I now get to say what they say in the commercials:

I just saved hundreds of dollars on my car insurance by switching to GEICO!

Now to go work on my voip phone setup and call people to test out the connection and ask, "can you hear me now?"