Having spent a (very) little time over the last month fiddling with an existing FAI setup (which is used to install Debian machines) one amazingly insightful feature of Kickstart (a provisioning tool for Redhat and Fedora) has earned a place in my heart - /root/anaconda-ks.cfg. It might not seem like much, but by having the interactive installer produce a working config that can be reused, the barrier to entry is seriously lowered and makes experimentation much easier. Read on →

Over the last couple of years (apart from this year oddly enough) I’ve been to a fair few tech conferences and one of the most annoying things about them (especially YAPCs) are the opening talks. If you’re lucky you get a good keynote. Otherwise you get either a bad sponsor session or even, don’t be afraid - you don’t have to attend, a “Getting the most out of a YAPC” talk. Read on →

While paging through reddit programming recently (seems only fair since they linked to me ;)) I stumbled on to the very nifty Randexp gem, a library that uses regular expression patterns to generate data that would satisfy the pattern. Or in less tech terms - a really good test data generator. # install randexp $ irb require "rubygems" require "randexp" # simple fake phone number - /020(7|8) \d{3} \d{4}/.gen # build a reusable class. Read on →

I’ve been a happy Amazon UK DVD rental customer for the last couple of years. They’ve got a wide selection, the DVDs ship fast, come in separate envelopes and in nice sturdy plastic cases. In nearly 200 DVDs I’ve had three that were unplayable and only one that got lost in transit - a replacement for which was sent the same day. ‘Luckily’ for me Amazons DVD rentals are now handled by LoveFilm. Read on →

When it comes to config files the Debian people and I agree on basic principles - we’re both keen on applications having a directory where you drop multiple config files to allow for easier deployment and management. Even if they do sometimes seem a little… over zealous (Debian developers? Never!) and you end up with the split Exim4 configs. So one of the little quirks that I’d like an answer to is, why does Debian have a single big interfaces file and no support for a directory of files? Read on →

The title pretty much says it all, I’d like a command line version of YSlow! (what is it with Yahoo and !s) that I can run from cron and import in to a nice spreadsheet for trending and site comparisons. I don’t have XUL on my list of things to play with so I’ll give it a couple of months and watch someone else implement it. Hopefully.

My recent bugbear is - servers with inaccessible memory. You go and spec a nice new server with say 8Gb of RAM (a little box), you install Debian, you start adding applications to the machine and then a couple of months later some anal sysadmin comes along, does a `free -m` and mutters about under-specced virtualization servers when he sees total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 3287 225 3062 0 24 149 For those of you not paying attention - the machine isn’t using over half of it’s memory. Read on →

It’s been a while since I posted anything here but now seems like as good a time as any to get back in to the wider world of tech. Where’s a good place to start? Since this years YAPC::EU only has two or three talks I want to see I’ve decided to use the cash (and holiday time) and invest them in to PyCon UK instead.

I’ve had a couple of people mail asking about my “frigging apt” comment in a previous post (the last paragraph). It’s actually as simple as the comment implies. Here’s an example - wget http://ftp.dk.debian.org/debian/pool/contrib/v/vmware-package/vmware-package_0.22_i386.deb dpkg -i vmware-package_0.22_i386.deb apt-get install -f # get prompted about installing lots of packages I don’t have any really well thought out reasons to not like this approach - in the few cases I’ve tried it I’ve found it to work; it just feels a little… icky.

Ever wanted a Debian package to be just a -little- bit different? Here’s how. While most of the software we’re pulling in from Debian is fine for our uses there are a couple of applications that we’d like to be a little different than the stock versions. Rather than go away and package them ourselves (which would require a lot more packing skills and time than I currently have - improving those skills is one of the reasons I’m doing this series) it’s possible to download a source version of a Debian package, make a small amendment and then repackage it for personal use. Read on →