Archive for May 2012

Delayed by a business trip, my review of My Clockwork Muse by D.R. Erickson is now up:

Next up is Glowgems For Profit by Bruce Davis.

I have a printer on my CentOS machine, running CUPS, which I could print to from any machine in the house, be it Linux or Windows. It all just magically worked, but that machine is only used as a workstation so it’s turned off when not in use.

I wanted to move the printer to one of my servers running Ubuntu which is available 24/7, so I don’t have to turn on the workstation to print things.

You’d think it would be easy; after all, both run CUPS and one of them just works. So I’ve configured the printer on Ubuntu and… nothing works. Every time I try to print it asks for some kind of password.

I’ve been through cupsd.conf trying to figure out how to tell it ‘just print any damn thing we send you’, but the file is arcane gibberish. Even copying the cupsd.conf file from the CentOS machine to the Ubuntu machine doesn’t solve the problem. I understand that people running this in a business with thousands of users want a lot of control, but how can they make a simple configuration where it just prints so difficult to set up?

The best thing is that every time it fails to print I have to tell it to cancel the print job, I have to tell it that yes, I really did mean to cancel the print job and then I have to re-enable the printer and then I have to ‘apply’ the changes, even though I didn’t have to apply the change that automatically disabled it even though I’m trying to get the damn thing to work. I can hardly imagine a worse user experience.

I think this demonstrates one of the big problems with modern sofware: massive overconfigurability. If you can’t decide how something should work, allow users to configure it to work in any way they want. The end result is that only an expert can get it to work at all.

IPSEC is a glowing example. There is typically one way to configure it to connect properly and roughly ten trillion ways to configure it not to work; and when it doesn’t work there’s generally no way determine why it doesn’t. The end result is that when you magically find a combination which does work you stick to it, even if that’s a less secure configuration than just giving the users a choice of half a dozen options selected by the developers.

Firefox is annoying me. It was a great alternative to Internet Explorer over the last few years but since they decided they were going to force new releases on users, remove useful UI elements and/or move menu options around with every new release it’s really been going downhill. I used 3.6 at work for years until it was recently flagged obsolete and every version since has been worse.

Somewhere in the last month or two it’s developed an annoying habit of jumping to the end of a web page when I load it, which is about as stupid as you can get when reading a web forum or similar site where all the posts are at the top and just some advertising crap at the bottom. I can’t see any reason why it does this or any way to stop it.

About the only reason I continue to use Firefox is because of the ‘no script’ addon. While away on business recently I was using Chrome and I couldn’t imagine dealing daily with the amount of advertising and other junk on the web today.

Both Take The Plunge and The One That Got Away have now collected a rejection from the big SF mags; the funny part is that years ago I used to dread rejection letters, now I just hope that they hurry up and reject stories quickly so I can self-publish them.

I’ll send Take The Plunge off to the next market, not sure about The One That Got Away.

I just received my 666th spam comment on this blog. I hope that doesn’t bode ill for the site.

I saw a post on a web forum recently asking about optimising Linux to run on an SSD. One problem with SSDs is that they don’t like being written to repeatedly, so I’ve worked around that by pushing most commonly updated files into /tmp, which is mounted as a RAM drive. I have an rc.local script which creates a file tree in /tmp for each user and then I created links in the user’s home directory which point to the relevant directory in /tmp.

In /etc/fstab:

tmpfs /tmp tmpfs defaults,noatime,nodev 0 0

Unfortunately Ubuntu seems unable to run with noexec turned on in /tmp.

In rc.local:

# Create user directories in /tmp
cd /home
for i in *
grep "/home/$i" /etc/passwd > /dev/null
if [ "$?" -eq "0" ]
if [ ! -d /tmp/$DIRNAME/$i ]
mkdir -p /tmp/$DIRNAME/$i/mozilla-cache
mkdir -p /tmp/$DIRNAME/$i/thunderbird-cache
mkdir -p /tmp/$DIRNAME/$i/cache
mkdir -p /tmp/$DIRNAME/$i/thumbnails
mkdir -p /tmp/$DIRNAME/$i/adobe
mkdir -p /tmp/$DIRNAME/$i/macromedia
chmod -R go= /tmp/$DIRNAME/$i
chown -R $i:$i /tmp/$DIRNAME/$i
chmod a+rx /tmp/$DIRNAME