Monday, October 9, 2017

AOL Instant Messenger Shutting Down

After 20 years or so, AOL Instant Messenger is shutting down.  Not really a surprise.  A lot of instant messaging services have come and gone.  I still have an AIM account that is named after an FCC callsign I was granted in 2000 but no longer have.  At the time it was easy to communicate with less techy friends and family and it was easy to use on Linux with programs like gaim.

I currently use it through a program called bitlbee and then interact with that through irssi.

While AIM is shutting down, I still have Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, and regular IRC on FreeNode.  I also use email.

Remember ICQ?  It's apparently still running and I think people are using it.  Implementations come and go but there will always be a way to do instant messaging in some capacity.  People seem to like that.  Right now I am working on a more integrated and reliable setup for my Facebook Messenger+Google Hangouts+IRC setup so I can move between computers and networks and have everything move between clients.  Yeah, that'll totally work.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Hold On Let Me Start the Recording

"Hold on, let me just start the recording...ok, you're good."

During meetings and conference calls, I find it common for large meetings to have someone insist on recording the call.  Or in the case of video conferencing, recording the session as a movie.  But why?

I assume the thought process is that those who can't make the meeting will listen to or watch the recording later.  I can say with 100% certainty that I have never done that.  Has anyone?  If you didn't have time for a 1 hour meeting, what makes anyone think that I will somehow have a separate hour somewhere to listen to the recording?

If the recordings are being kept for logging purposes...ugh, there are better ways.  How much of the call will be people asking if they can be heard, for others to go on mute, and nonsense chatter while waiting for the moderator to join?  ALL CALLS!  The recording is unedited, so the later listener fortunately has an opportunity to relive this hour of unproductivity.

Stop recording calls.  If you're trying to catch people up later, write up minutes.  It's far more effective.  If you're recording it because someone is giving a demo or presentation, have them make an edited webinar recording elsewhere and pass that around.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Encrypted /home Volumes

On my laptops and workstations, I keep my /home volume encrypted using LUKS (Linux Unified Key Setup).  This is the sort of thing that you should do, regardless of your operating system.  I set up my systems to carry a separate /home volume from the rest of the filesystem.  I leave everything else on the system on unencrypted volumes because I see no value in keeping executables, libraries, and system configuration files encrypted.  For configuration files I do care about, I put them in /home/etc and link them back to the expected path.

Recently I upgraded the kernel on my laptop to a newer version.  I build and install my own kernels because I'm a Linux greybeard and that's what I've always done.  I also like to stay moderately up to date on happenings in the kernel.  I used to read LKML, but I just don't have the time anymore.

When I build a new kernel, I start with the configuration file for the one I am currently running.  I do make olddefconfig and then run make menuconfig to look through any new things.  Occasionally this process will cause existing configuration options to be lost.  The defconfig step isn't flawless, but that's ok.

My recent upgrade had this happen specifically with regard to the AES-NI modules in the kernel.  Intel processors come with CPU instructions for AES encryption functionality and software using these instructions significantly speeds up encryption operations.  It's instructions like this that help LUKS volume encryption work transparently and not impact overall system performance.  If you lack these instructions, the kernel will continue to function for LUKS support just fine, but you will notice things move more slowly.

When I rebooted and entered my passphrase to unlock /home, the system just waited.  And waited and waited and waited.  I had never had this happen to me before, so my first thought was the filesystem was damaged or the LUKS header was damaged or something like that.  I was able to boot from USB media and unlock everything and ultimately tracked it down to the missing AES-NI modules.

So, today's lesson is when using LUKS volume encryption on Linux on an x86_64 system, you want CONFIG_CRYPTO_AES_NI_INTEL set to either y or m depending on how you run your system.  Setting this option in the kernel config will bring in more things, but that's fine.