Monthly Archives: February 2008

FOSDEM ’08, Brussels

Less than 24 hours ago, we arrived home from a great weekend in Brussels at FOSDEM (see the photos).
FOSDEM is an annual 2-day conference for free and open source software developers (or users, in many cases) in Brussels, Belgium. The conference programme describes the event as:

 4000+  GEEKS
  200+  LECTURES
     2  DAYS
     0  €

Yep, 0 €. That’s free and gratis! Which is rather impressive for such a big event.

My other half has been to FOSDEM a few times but this was only my second experience of Brussels geekery. Last year, I remember enjoying the weekend (we went with a lovely group of people) but apart from some specific talks (inc Jim Gettys on the OLPC, and a talk about the KDE documentation project), I wasn’t so blown away by the conference itself; my general memory is of being cold and tired.

So I wasn’t sure about going this year but in the end I did – if nothing else, it’d be a weekend in Brussels (which is a really lovely city) and good food and company. Which it was. *And* I enjoyed the conference itself!

As ever, I’m planning to write up some of the talks that I went to. As ever, I probably won’t (though I will try!). In the meantime, here’s what I saw:

As Tony says, none of the keynotes were that great; the Tux in Shades one, which I thought would be interesting, was particularly disappointing (though the guy seemed to know his stuff).

So, what was cool and uncool for me?

Cool Not so cool
Knut Yrvin, who did the OSS in Education talk in the CrossDesktop developer room. Best presenter I saw. Having two presenters for the Linux in Hollywood keynote. Unnecessary, pointless, and annoying.
Lots of OLPC laptops around! 🙂 Mine’s not arrived yet. 🙁
The green OLPC hand-crank. Not being able to find the guy to get a closer look at the green hand-crank.
Good presentation on accessibility issues (Debian and accessibility talk) with explanation of how Braille output works. Developers who don’t realise thatCommand Line != GUI with your eyes closed.
Yummy dinner and beer in the evenings. Yucky burger and crappy coffee during the day.
Chatting to lovely Josette at the O’Reilly stand. Impulse buying at the O’Reilly stand – as usual!
Tony’s phone worked abroad! Vodafone website not updating my unbilled usage for 72 hours – still don’t know what it’s cost me!
Getting there and back in a group of about 12 people and losing only 1 of them. Arguing over directions – as usual. 🙂

Using the ‘service’ command on Ubuntu (and other handy tools)

Here’s how to get handy equivalents of the RedHat service and chkconfig commands on Ubuntu.

I’ve been using Ubuntu as my main desktop on my T41p Thinkpad for – what seems like – ever but is actually only since sometime last Summer. Before that, I used RedHat Enterprise Workstation for a time and, as RH isn’t (or, at least, wasn’t) quite so user-friendly as Ubuntu, and I’d recently been on a Linux Networking course, I quickly got used to using the service command to restart networking or whatever, and, occasionally, the chkconfig command to set which services started/stopped at boot. My main use of the chkconfig command was to stop the vmware service from starting at boot because the extra networking interfaces confused my VPN connection (IIRC).

When I moved to Ubuntu, I soon forgot the existence of such commands with the arrival of the lovely (but, unfortunately, slightly buggy) Network Manager GUI. Yesterday, I wanted to stop the vmware service from starting at boot as I used to (not for any particular reason but just because it seemed silly to be starting when I’m not always needing it). So I started to hunt it down…

System > Administration > Services seemed the obvious way to go…and, indeed, it did reveal a GUI listing some services. I’m not sure, however, how that particular GUI decides which services to list. Maybe it’s a lucky dip? Whatever. They’re certainly not all there. I’ve not yet found that GUI at all useful (unlike the GUI it replaced, which was probably daunting for new users but much more useful than the current one).

I started to google and found some useful tools. I never actually found the vmware service listed anywhere – if anyone knows how on earth I can prevent it starting at boot, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, here are the handy utilities that I did find…

Boot-Up Manager (BUM)

It’s childish, I know, but apt-get install bum makes me smirk. So, I installed BUM – it doesn’t seem to get added to the Applications menu but you can just type sudo bum in a terminal to start the BUM GUI:

Screenshot of BUM GUI

It seems to be a more useful alternative to the Services GUI that comes in Ubuntu.


This is fairly close to chkconfig (but in a terminal-based GUI) or the GUI that you used to get in Gnome that listed all the services and the runlevels at which they’d start on your system. Less pretty than BUM but looks okay:

Screenshot of sysv-rc-conf

sysvconfig (provides the service command)

And finally, this is just a package you install which contains the service command. Once you’ve installed the package, you can type things like sudo service vmware restart to restart the vmware service (which did work, btw, despite not being able to actually *see* the vmware service listed anywhere).

So, there you go! All of these are available in the Ubuntu Gutsy repository.

Four Months in the Making (or…My Pottery Project)

Tonight I finally brought home my completed sunflower planter from my pottery class.

In case my examiner is reading this: the sunflower design was inspired by Gaudi’s tiles on a house I saw in Northern Spain once; the triple planter idea was my own; the idea to do a slab pot planter was inspired by another student’s single slab pot planter last term. Also, dear examiner, I did a couple of sketched designs, made some changes to the design along the way, and did lots of test tiles to investigate the best way to glaze the pots, and, finally but mostly importantly, I recorded all my investigations, findings, and decisions in my notebook like a good little potter.

And here’s the end result:

Photo of my pots

At this point I must make a confession of sorts…

I had promised the finished article to my parents as part of their Christmas present….

Having worked on it weekly for the last 4 months, however, I’ve become rather attached to it… :-/