Shape of things to come

Some of the people involved with linuxbasix in the past wonder if there’s interest in reviving the community. kwisher has a poll up in the forums here. If you think reviving the community is worthwhile, you can add a comment to the forums post.

There’s also the #linuxbasix channel on, where you can have real time interaction to discuss this. Use your favorite irc client or freenode’s web interface to their irc network here.

Bye, all

Got an email today from knuckle that he (as the domain owner) decided to archive the web site. Thanks for reading, thanks for contributing and hope y’all think what was done with was valuable.

til about ulatencyd

In irc a little while ago someone was having trouble with ftp’d files to a lighthttp server and mentioned apache had been taking up too much ram on the system, and I made a comment that ‘cgroups will solve that problem (ram usage), I’m told’. Someone else chimed saying ‘ulatencyd’, which I had never heard of, and frankly when I first read the word, thought it was a typo.

But no, lo and behold, ‘ apt-cache search ulatencyd ‘ on this debian testing machine returned two packages:

ulatency – scriptable latency regulator using cgroups (client)
ulatencyd – scriptable latency regulator using cgroups (server)

Jessie’s ulatencyd page has links to the maintainer’s page, bug reports and the popularity context statistics for ulatencyd. Pretty popular, afaict.

Poking around the ‘net for introductory information about ulatencyd, I cam across Linux Performance Improvements a blog post by Frederik Himpe, a 30-year-old Linux system administrator from Ghent, Belgium, working at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Much good stuff in that blog post, well worth a read.

Remember those 20 lines of code from a few years ago which were going to super-turbo-warp-drive everyone’s desktop? Tongue in cheek, ulatencyd is the Next Generation of that code:

ulatencyd is a daemon which uses cgroups to give hints to the kernel’s process scheduler CFS to improve desktop latency and make applications feel more responsive. It will prevent individual applications from hogging the system, slowing down other applications . This is somewhat simpler than the much hyped (but controversial) autogroup kernel patch but this solution is much more extensive in that ulatencyd knows different applications and desktops and knows how to configure the scheduler to improve responsiveness.

(from the blog post)

I don’t do the kind of fiddling involved in switching desktops, distro hopping and trying new applications anymore, but ulatencyd looks like it’s worth a try.

When you get a grub rescue> prompt and don’t have bootable media or printed documentation

A day or three ago, we lost power here. I was able to halt the system before the battery backup ran out, but when the electric company restored power, booting up threw me into a grub rescue> prompt along with ‘file not found’ or ‘no such file’ I forget which. No other machine available to get on the ‘net for instructions, and what I thought were bootable usb sticks would not boot (even after poking around in the bios settings for this Asus M4A89GTD-PRO/USB3 motherboard). No cd|dvd drive in the machine. I’m an ignoramus about what grub rescue> means and about how to boot from that prompt.

So, pulled off the case’s side panel to check the power and data cabling for the boot drive (and the other two drives while I was at it). Too much work to get access to the cables, so took a close look at the switches on the motherboard, maybe something’s in the ‘wrong’ position? This board has an AMD Phenom II X2 B55 Processor, but I’ve unlocked the cpu so it’s an X4. I noticed that the led’s next to the core unlocker switch and the turbo switch were not lit. Unplugged the power cable to the machine, flipped both those switches to the other position, reconnected the power cable and the system booted without a problem. No more grub rescue>.

Moral, print out grub rescue> how to’s, print out that motherboard pdf manual and have tested bootable media on hand.

Transparent decision making in Debian; the ongoing init discussion by the Technical Committee

The Debian project’s Technical Committee (TC) is showing us how to deal with an issue like sysvinit vs. systemd vs. upstart: an issue where positions are frequently presented in ways almost deliberately or gratuitously meant to provoke anger and retaliation. The TC is discussing the issue transparently, in public and without personal attacks. (And, since the discussion takes place on a mailing list, people do not top post, instead they post replies inline or at the bottom of the reply. With a mailing list, you also can have threaded sub-discussions.) Right now, the TC has 8 members. Debian’s Organizational Structure

The TC ‘makes the final decision on technical disputes in the Debian project’ and resolves disagreements, both technical and non-technical, including offering advice or overruling a Developer. See the section Technical Committee in the Debian Constitution. ‘Discussion, draft resolutions and amendments, and votes by members of the committee, are made public on the TC public discussion list.’ . Anyone can subscribe to the mailing list, and the TC mailing list archives are publicly available.

This discussion had begun months earlier on the debian-devel mailing list/ and on many other places on the ‘net. A resolution couldn’t be reached on -devel. Discussion of the relative characteristics of the alternatives on -devel had been going on for quite a while and didn’t seem to be getting any closer to a resolution. (When I say characteristics I don’t mean advantages since often people’s contributions to the discussion didn’t address the advantages, instead comments expressed opinions about motives and contained unbalanced remarks, like the PHB does in the 2014-01-03 Dilbert strip: ‘You are terrific but everything you do is exactly what a moron would do.’)

So, Paul Tagliamonte opened bug #727708 on the Bug Tracking System and while -devel continued their discussion, the TC began theirs. The second paragraph of Paul’s email says in part ‘it’s clear no consensus is coming out of the discussion.’ Way back on 31 Jan 2013, before a lot of this happened, Russ Allbery (a TC member then and now) wrote a blog post ‘Consensus Failure’.

Here’s a quote relevant to the init system debate:

toxic flaws at the heart of a consensus-based process completely destroyed [Usenet newsgroup creation] and, as a side effect, destroyed the community of people who had formed around it. I will never again invest my time and energy in a community that operates solely via a consensus process unless that community is small enough that consensus can actually work (which means not much more than twenty people). Consensus decision-making in large groups destroys communities and hurts people. … [O]n the surface, it may look like Debian also uses a consensus-based decision-making process. But while Debian decision-making has some problems, it’s much healthier for a few reasons that are useful to examine: … Debian operates less by mass consensus and more as a federation of semi-autonomous fiefdoms … there are several people in Debian who are perceived as having clear authority to make timely and relatively final decisions, who are almost never overruled, and who can therefore effectively end arguments … There is a well-established ultimate appeal (a General Resolution), the ultimate appeal process is very specific and concrete, there is little or no ambiguity or human interpretation involved in analyzing the results, it is time-limited, and it’s almost universally respected.

A project as large as Debian is cannot hammer out a consensus to reach a decision: if a consensus is required, ‘it’s impossible to ever end an argument, and there is no incentive for anyone to shut up. As a result, it is nearly impossible to get the decision-making to cohere into something that is timely, consistent, unambiguous, and final.’ Allbery believes maybe twenty people is the maximum for a workable consensus-based group. Twenty or less, fine, use consensus, more than twenty, use something else.

At this time, the TC votes look to be 3 for upstart and 2 for systemd. (upstart: Steve Langasek, Colin Watson, Ian Jackson; systemd: Bdale Garbee and Russ Allbery) Three TC members haven’t announced their decision, afaict.

If you aren’t subscribed to the debian-ctte mailing list, and you don’t want to read the bug thread via web mail you can download the thread in mbox format and use your favorite mail client to read the thread ( ‘ mutt -f bug_727708.mbox ‘ is what I do).

As to other projects, I’m an ignoramus about if a decision whether to move from sysvinit to something else was discussed transparently (publicly and with the opportunity for anyone to participate), who in the project decided, and how the decision was announced. If readers have information about other projects. please make a comment. Of course, if I’m wrong (especially if I’m hilariously wrong) about anything here, please correct me.

Merry Christmas and something to look forward to on Friday Dec 27, 2013

Well, let’s see how this works. Maybe someday I can figure out how to correctly put a title on this.

This is in the nature of a test post. I have some access now and (here it comes) intend to post maybe once or twice a week.

First thing to throw out is: coming up starting Fri Dec 27 2013 is 30c3, the Chaos Computing Club’s 30th congress|conference.

Violet Blue’s post on links to the page where the schedule is available in various formats.
Glenn Greenwald to deliver keynote at 30C3 hacker conference for her article, and Schedule 30C3 for, yes, the schedule.  If you use korganizer, as I do, grab the .ics file (iCalendar on the linked page), and import the .ics into korganizer.

tbh, most times I find video a waste for things like keynotes, and I try to get an audio file instead of video. If there’s only video and no audio, it’s trivial to create one with avconv.

Another reason I listen instead of watching is what I’ve mentioned from time to time: I work 3rd shift and have hours available when I can listen. I don’t have any way I can watch.

I don’t know if I can enable comments to this post. I know when some of us were posting before, comments were off. Personally, I want comments on. Comments off on a blog seems to me like typing something in irc and having everyone in the channel on /ignore, but maybe I can’t change that, maybe it’s whoever controls the site controls commenting. I do see that I can’t add a category for this post (I’d like to categorize this as ‘worthalisten’), all I can do is select Podcast, Shownotes, or Uncategorized. I did ask a while ago about changing the footer ‘© 2013 LinuxBasix. All rights reserved’ to ‘cc-by-sa’  but nothing’s changed yet.

Merry Christmas.

If I can’t turn comments on, catch me in irc in #linuxbasix on (nick chattr). I’m not one for forums, so I don’t have a forums account on

I previewed this and comments are off. I don’t see any way in the Add New Post page to turn them on. Not what I’d prefer, since comments off makes the blog ‘here are my thoughts, and you don’t get a chance to tell me what you think, so don’t even try’.

— chattr (who will try not to use the first person singular so much next time)

So, you’ve decided to run linux….


So, you’ve installed linux and you’ve run into a problem. What do you do? Where do you go? There are plenty of resources and a myriad of websites to visit. Sometimes the search for help can be both frustrating and overwhelming. So here are some suggestions. I’m not going to tell you to read the f’ing manual. There is some important info in them make no mistake but most of us are impatient and to tell you the truth I’ve only read the manual maybe, MAYBE twice. Depending on the distro, I would suggest checking out the distros official forums. Most major distros have really good forums. I use centos and they have a very active forum. Two of the most popular distros LinuxMint and Ubuntu have very good forums and you can usually find your answers there. Next if you are unable to find what you are looking for there, check the wiki. Again a lot of real useful info there. Another avenue is web search. Lastly, when the above fail, head over to IRC for some real time help. When looking for help either on IRC or web search or any search be sure to include at very minimum – distro, hardware and problem item. More info always makes helping you solve your problem easier and quicker. Say for example the Banshee music player does not work you need to provide the following info:

What distro are you running? Ubuntu 12.04, Slackware 14, Fedora 18, etc
What version of the app are you using? You can find this info by choosing Help in the application menu and looking for the About Banshee
Because this is a music player people will want to know are you using Pulse audio or Alsa?
You may also have to provide some hardware info too. Laptop, Desktop, Tablet? Speakers – internal, external?

The above is not an exhaustive list, it is just a start but hopefully you get the idea. Provide as much info as you can.

Lastly when going on IRC and asking for help, please, please, please be patient. Some IRC sites have over 20+ people, not everyone is paying attention to the main “room”, it may take a few moments for someone to see a question has been asked. Be assured someone will eventually take the ball and run with it.

There are so many other avenues you can go when seeking help if you have some of your own, feel free to share and I’ll post it on this site.

I do want to pimp out one help site worth checking out and has been a great source for answers over the years and that is the grand daddy of all forums, that is This is possibly the oldest help forum out there for linux. If you run into a problem you can most likely find the answer there.

OpenStack from Scratch

If you are in the Boston area, tomorrow is the monthly gathering of the Boston Linux Unix group. Details from the website below:

OpenStack from Scratch

Date and Time

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm


MIT Building E-51, Room 335


Federico Lucifredi – flucifredi acm org


Federico talks about OpenStack


Details to follow

About Federico Lucifredi

Federico Lucifredi is the maintainer of the man suite, the primary documentation-delivery tool under Linux, a graduate of Boston College and Harvard University, and the Ubuntu Advantage Product Manager at Canonical. As a software engineer-turned-manager at the Novell corporation, Federico was part of the SUSE Linux team for five years, overseeing the update stack of a 150 million dollar maintenance business. Previously, Federico has been a CIO and a network software architect at technology and embedded Linux startups, and he has spent two years teaching in Boston University’s graduate and undergraduate programs, while simultaneously consulting for MIT. He is a frequent speaker at user group and conference events, notably the Linux Foundation’s LinuxCon, LinuxWorld, the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, and the IMPlanet conferences, where he was a panelist representing the Jabber community. Federico is a recognized expert in computing performance issues, and consults pro-bono with Standard and Poor’s clients interested in Free/Open Source Software technical and strategic issues. He participated in the GPL v3 drafting process in the large-corporation panel.

CentOS 6.4 that is my final answer!

I can’t believe we’re already at the tail end of August! This past Summer has been eye opening for many reasons. I will elaborate in future posts. First up, CentOS. I have been mulling over this question for quite some time. A couple years back I set up some friends with Linux Mint 10. Over the years it has been a fine distro but only recently we’ve had to start considering alternatives. At first I was hoping to stick with Linux Mint it is a really solid distro and I really liked the Mint community. What I had to really focus on was this. People who use computers casually do not like change. They also don’t understand why operating systems need to change. We’ve seen the fallout from Window 8, even when Windows 7 first came on the scene a few years back, the change was very minimal but for basic computer users it was a huge change. I guess what I’m getting at is, after much consideration, I will be suggesting CentOS for new users from here on out. The most compelling reasons are 1. Current release is supported until 2020. 2. The desktop is the venerable gnome 2.3 Those are the two largest reasons. The beauty of linux is that you can make the distro as exciting as you want but with CentOS you start with a very basic desktop with only the apps you need to get going. You are not paralyzed by the vast application options on a default install. The only criticism I’ve heard about using CentOS is that you are using an older linux kernel but I have to tell you, I have not heard a good arguement of why this is a problem. The other reason why I am choosing CentOS is that this is still an enterprise OS and what this means is that you don’t necessarily get the latest and greatest. In terms of the constantly changing world of Firefox updates/upgrade things tend to break, in CentOS, you don’t get the upgrade until it has been thoroughly tested. Currently I am running 6.4 with Firefox at version 17. This distro is rock solid and I urge you to heavily consider making this your new distro.

Linux for the rest of us…


For most of the long time listeners of Linuxbasix, we are well aware of Linux for the rest of us. I would like to take a moment to urge all of the folks who have supported and listened to Linuxbasix to make the migration over to Linux for the rest of us. Why? The upcoming shows will be very, very basic. I want to stress basic. This is largely in response to a demo I attended last week. The demo was for a linux distro and when the day was done, the folks who were shown what a linux distro could do, were largely impressed but the drawback here, it might as well have been a magic show. While explanations were given in very laymans terms, the audience was far from computer literate. Not a criticism, just a fact. So while our listeners are more than welcome to continue listening to the show, our content is going to be from the start. I have been wrestling with the format of the current show and I have segments still yet to air (soon). I think our long time listeners will be better served by the Linux for the rest of us show. On a side note, if you can support the ACF please consider doing so –