neat things for fc6

October 20, 2006

So fc6 is just about here, finally. There are a couple of things that are nice to see make it to a release.

First, it’ll be nice to see yum-updatesd and the puplet get used in wide production. I’m sure there will be bugs but it is still a good step. Yum-updatesd is a background daemon that downloads and updates the metadata for package updates and emits a nice little dbus message, syslog output or an email message to tell you that updates are available. Puplet picks up the dbus emissions and informs you of the updates from an applet in your panel.

Next, I’m glad to see that the mirror-checking mechanism that I and Mike McGrath worked on will be used by the default yum repo files. This is a different script but based on the idea the centos people did. All it does it take our ‘official mirrors list’, run through each of them every hour and make sure that they have a matching repodata dir for each repository they claim to have when compared to the mirror master. Those that do not match will not be used. The next part is that yum has a cgi which has access to the above vetted list as the ‘mirrorlist=’ option in each repo. Then yum(or pirut or pup) will connect to the mirrorlist cgi and pass it info on which repo it is connecting for and what version and arch you want mirrors for. Then it gets back the urls for the mirrors closest to the client’s ip based on the GeoIP results of them.

The combination of the two should result in:

1. people only getting current mirrors

2. people getting mirrors that should be (by some measure) closer to where you are.

It’s not a perfect mechanism but it’s a good bit closer than where we were.

For a long time the linux@duke admins (who used to be more than just me) ran
an irc daemon on It was used by mostly internal folks to
duke as an informal location for staff/students/etc to talk and kinda geek
out. It was occasionally used for emergency collaboration when lots of
things went wrong at the same time at duke. 🙂

there was one main channel: #dhg. DHG was an abbreviation of ‘Duke Hackers
Guild’ which was an idea dreamed up by some [under]grad students who wanted
to get people together to work on open source projects. That never really
materialized but the name stuck. We evolved a number of tools as a result of
that channel. A quote-retaining irc bot named at first dhgbot then kibot
which had a nearly unlimited number of funny comments from almost 7 years of
people being odd on #dhg.

In the last 8 months, for reasons I’d rather not get into, it was not being
used. #dhg moved to be called #dhg-ng or something like that on another irc
network/daemon. I think it’s on somewhere but I was
specifically not invited and I’m fairly sure I know why. Oddly I don’t
regret or resent that. If I felt bad about something I did I would have
apologized. But I didn’t feel bad nor apologize. So that must mean

As it became obvious that the irc channel was no longer being used I set a
couple of timeouts and I finally shut down the daemon and closed the port on
that hosts firewall.

In an odd way it’s something that was neat about the first 7 years of my
time at duke that was turned off when I shutdown that daemon, today. I
didn’t always enjoy being on #dhg and I know that some of the time other
people didn’t enjoy my being there, either. Despite that, there were years
of amusement and discussion that I remember fairly positively.

odd things

October 20, 2006

I was in cambridge on wednesday for some misc reasons. I was on the T headed
to the airport to fly home and I was getting tired and kinda headachy which is
a good sign my blood sugar is getting low. I had a chocolate bar with me in my
bag so I took it out, cracked off a piece and ate it. While I did that a man
sitting next to me looked at me, smiled as a I cracked the piece of chocolate
off and then asked ‘Is it fair trade?’. I inspected the wrapper. It was not,
in fact, fair trade. It was scharffenberger(sp?) chocolate that the girl had gotten
me for my birthday from hell. I told him it wasn’t but that we get a lot of the fair
trade chocolate like green and black and dagoba when we do buy chocolate. Then I
mentioned Padgett Station in Carborro that only sells fair trade everything. Coffee,
chocolate, other drinks, the whole shooting match. We go there fairly frequently
for dessert or coffee-ish things after dinner. He said that sounded great.

Then he said – “hmm, the triangle, so you have
counter culture coffee?” I explained
that yes, we do. That counter culture is seriously ubiquitous in this area but not
because it is fair trade but because it is the best coffee around. Then we talked
about 3 cups in chapel hill and the adjacent restaurant
sandwhich (link not available). I mentioned that sandwhich gets a great deal of their
food from local farms and dairies.

He mentions michael pollan and the whole ‘local food’
movement. He said he’s worried about that b/c of the impact it has on small farmer’s
all over the world if americans are encouraged to buy more food from places nearby them.
And how does that impact the availability of things like Bananas and chocolate since
those things cannot as easily be grown in a lot of places. I explained that I think
some of that has to do with an interest in not only self sufficiency in your
local area but also in decreasing the carbon and energy costs associated with
transporting food hundreds of miles away. That I agreed that globalization was
probably in the best benefit of a lot of people but that globalization seemed to
hinge on access to cheap energy and that tends to mean fossil fuels which create a
problem in terms of carbon dioxide production. Then I mentioned the book I’ve been
reading recently:
The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs. I said
that I was hopeful for some of the goals that Sachs wants and thinks are achievable especially as
they impact sustainability of not only our economy but also the economies of developing nations.
He mentioned Joseph Stiglitz’s books on the impacts of Globalization and some of the problems
associated with it. He also said he wasn’t sure what ‘Sachs’ was doing right now. At this moment
I realized I had no idea who I was talking to and that I might be shoving my foot firmly in my mouth.

Then we shifted into what we were both doing in Cambridge. He was up there for a
meeting of a board about fair trade products. He showed me a lapel pin he had on that I hadn’t
seen yet that was the fair trade logo then he told me that he worked for transfair helping to establish
the policies for determining things as fair trade or not.

That explains why he was so well versed in the subject matter.

Then it was suddenly my stop and I had to get off the train. He introduced himself as
Paul Rice and he thanked
me for the conversation. I did the same and went on my way.

I got home and I looked up who he was b/c I figured he had to have been mentioned
somewhere on line.

He doesn’t ‘work with transfair’ he’s the president and ceo of transfair. He also spoke at the
World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last year and the year before. I was just a wee bit humbled when
I read this. Here I was a horribly undereducated sysadmin from Virginia talking to someone who had given
talks to the leaders of the world.

I quickly thought back to the things I had said and I realized I hadn’t
horribly embarassed myself. In fact, I felt like I had been

This is something of the difference between Durham and Cambridge. Between
Duke and Harvard. I wouldn’t expect something like that to happen in