Search

I just did a new install on my primary work desktop. I went from Fedora 16 to Fedora 18. Some of the issues with this release of Fedora are pretty well documented so I’m not going to go into that.

There were some pretty fundamental changes between those two releases. So I did a full install rather than an upgrade. Plus I think going that route has some good side effects. Crud builds up in systems over time and this lets me get rid of some of it. I back up what I’ll need but then I just go ahead and reset things from scratch, pulling stuff out of the backup as I need it. Stuff that I don’t need doesn’t come back and the system is cleaner.

Today I ran into one thing I forgot about though and so I’m documenting it here. When I reinstall browsers and search from their search bars I get localized results. Google sees that I’m in Hungary and gives me stuff in Hungarian – which I can’t read. Then I had to look again to fix it. Here’s the url that makes life better

http://www.google.com/search?&q=%s

This is also handy when travelling. I will be in Thailand in March and search results in Thai don’t really help me either. It is possible to keep the normal search string and add the hl=e parameter – which will keep using the local search site but give English results (or whatever language you tell it to use).

systemd for Administrators

I’ve written before about the Fedora switch to systemd. I don’t follow things like that too closely so I first noticed it when my system started telling me. Then I quickly brushed up on the new way I’d start and stop my db and web servers and moved on. I wasn’t crazy about the change but with a little help and by taking the time to learn more I’m starting to see the value. This is primarily due to the efforts of Lennart Poettering.

He has been writing a series of posts about systemd for Administrators. There are 18 entries so far. Unfortunately navigating them via his blog is not all that easy. He may fix that but for now I’m going to post this list of links to each post with the title. If I remember I’ll keep it up to date as more are added.

    Verifying Bootup
    Which Service Owns Which Processes?
    How Do I Convert A SysV Init Script Into A systemd Service File?
    Killing Services
    The Three Levels of “Off”
    Changing Roots
    The Blame Game
    The New Configuration Files
    On /etc/sysconfig and /etc/default
    Instantiated Services
    Converting inetd Services
    Securing Your Services
    Log and Service Status
    The Self-Explanatory Boot
    Watchdogs
    Gettys on Serial Consoles (and Elsewhere)
    Using the Journal
    Managing Resources

T-Mobile Trials

While I was in Arizona I picked up a new Galaxy S3. I got it at a tmobile store and the conversation was along the lines of,

“I want to purchase an S3 with no contract, unlocked.”
“No problem.”

I paid full price and left with what I think is a rather nice phone. When I got back to Hungary I opened up my old Galaxy S and my new S3 to swap sim cards and found out they changed the size of the card. Not sure why – this phone makes my old Galaxy S feel rather small and the new sim card is smaller. But I found out it was a rather trivial matter to cut down a larger card – so I did and that was fine.

I booted up the phone, put in my pin for the sim card and then I was asked to provide the unlock code.

I got on the tmobile web site. There is no email address there. The options are to call on the phone, send a letter or do live chat. I went with chat. I told them my issue and they opened a ticket. That got me an email from them telling me to fax my receipt to them to prove I had paid full price for the phone. So – just to sum up where we are – I need to prove to the other party that I paid them for what I bought. Apparently they don’t keep track of what they sell. And I have to prove it with a fax; in 2012.

Fortunately my office has a fax machine so I went down there, made a cover page per their directions and faxed it all in. The email said it could take up to a week for them to process my request.

I waited and yesterday I got an email from them letting me know that since they never got the fax, they were closing the ticket. SO – I got back on chat and opened it with the statement “I faxed you what you requested in your email and just got an email back saying you didn’t get the fax.” The person on the other end said they would look into it and asked me to give them a few minutes. I thought this was reasonable. They came back and said, “The problem is they never received the fax.” That is what I had just put into statement of my issue. The next step was asking me what phone number I used for the fax. I put it in, in the exact format they had given me in the email – 813-353-6557 and the response I got back was “The correct number is 1-813-353-6557. Did you dial the 1?” I about popped a vein. (I’m now relatively sure I was not talking to a live person but software.)

The resolution, once I assured them I properly dialed the number – was to open another ticket and to ask me to fax the receipt again.

So to restate – I walked into a tmobile store and bought some equipment from them. I was told it was unlocked and I paid the full, no contract price. Now I’m fighting with them over a fax (in 2012!) about whether or not that transaction actually took place. They lied to me and now they are intentionally trying to keep me from using what I bought from them.

The kicker is that when I get it unlocked it will be so I can use the phone on the t-mobile network here in Hungary.

I could root and unlock it via other means – but I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to pay someone, or go to sketchy sites and download stuff that I’m not sure about. My property should work as designed. As of right now, in my opinion, T-Mobile is failing grievously at providing the service they should be providing. I know that isn’t shocking news to anyone but getting the word out is, I think, part of my civic duty in this case. I want to make sure others are aware that if they find themselves in a purchasing situation, thinking about buying a phone to take outside the US from t-mobile, that they are going to suck at helping you do so.

Got a New Computer Today

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new Raspberry Pi and today it came. I was showing it to a co-worker and she was impressed that this little board is a computer. I really look forward to experimenting with it and seeing just what kind of creative uses we can come up with. I’m hoping it wont be long until they have them readily available and anyone who has a great idea for how to use them can get them in bulk.

New Code Posting Plugin

Edit – 6 April 2015 I switched to WP-GeSHi-Highlight

Edit – CodeColorer hasn’t been updated in forever. So I’ve switched to Crayon Syntax Highlighter.

I’m trying out the CodeColorer plugin – to add color to my code snippets. I like it so far, a little python example is below.

def find_files(self,topdir):
        file_list = []
        for root, dirs, files in os.walk(topdir):
            for f in files:
                if f[-3:] == 'pdf' and f.find("Journal") == -1:
                    fulp = os.path.join(root,f)
                    file_list.append(fulp)
        return file_list

Code Year / Codecademy (Edited)

A quick note – as Mike McGee points out in the comments – it is not Code Academy – it is Codecademy. My brain fixed the “error” without letting me know. It appears the Codecademy folks couldn’t get the name they wanted so went for something close. I apologize for any confusion my post may have created. — JR


The tldr – Very promising platform with a lot of potential, a bit rough around the edges right now.

Via TechCrunch, I found Codecademy. They are behind Code Year.

I’m not sure if the two are different at all. I guess I’ll figure it out when I get an email from Code Year. I’ve already done all the courses/lessons available at Codecademy.

Right now there is just some basic stuff on JavaScript. It’s not anything earth shattering – but I really like the approach and the platform they’ve built. All the lessons take place at their site. The lesson pages have instructions, an editor and a shell. Everything that one does happens in the editor or shell and it lets the student move on when each exercise is successfully completed.

There are some rough edges. Sometimes it’s necessary to read comments and instructions in the editor. The editor can’t be re-sized and a few times the comments were too long, so I had to scroll sideways to see the whole thing. That’s a pretty easy fix I think.

And sometimes I couldn’t get past an exercise but the feedback in the shell wouldn’t tell me why. I had one exercise where my solution was technically correct, but I’m guessing that the steps I took violated some threshold so it wouldn’t let me pass that section until I guessed just how they wanted it done. That was the most frustrating time so far. I could have skipped it and moved on but I wanted to get 100% completion.

They track how many lessons the student has passed. This leads to achievements that give students little badges on their profile. I really dig this kind of ‘gaming’ educational materials. I’m sure to certain people they are stupid or pointless – but to someone with a brain like mine they are incredibly motivating.

The Code Year piece is supposed to email out a new lesson each week. My guess is the first few weeks will be the lessons I’ve already done. I may blow off the code year thing and just keep checking code academy for new courses.

Performance as the Codecademy site has been less than stellar. I’m hoping they get that fixed. Sometimes I had to reload pages and pretty much always it was a long wait. Sometimes I’d finish a piece, it would show that I had completed it but then back at my profile it would show pieces not finished. I had to go back and click through the end again.

On an interesting side note – the Codecademy site says they are hiring. They are looking for a few people. What made me chuckle was the section on developers:
Our stack:

Backbone.js
Ruby/Rails
mongoDB
We love macs, but we’re not allergic to Linux systems

I laughed because I saw the Ruby on Rails bit and thought, “I wonder how that will scale.” They’ve been mentioned on TechCrunch and Hacker News already. I’m surprised if it hasn’t been submitted to Reddit. I expect to see it pop up on the slashdot front page at some point. I’m guessing they are going to see a lot of traffic.

Heroica

Lego, quite a while back, came out with games. I’ve been interested in them since I first saw them, but never had a chance to play them myself. That changed today, as my son received one of the Heroica games as a Christmas present. It is the Waldurk Forest set.

If you don’t want to read all I have to say, I’ll sum it up like this, I think the game is incredible.

Like any other lego set, the first step is to build it. The game “board” is made up of small plates, and on each are different pieces to build the setting of the overall game. There are also some small pieces to put together to keep track of stats and inventory for characters. And there are little microfigures to represent the heros and monsters. These are smaller than the normal lego mini-figs and they don’t have arms or legs that move. The head is also fixed on. They are just a single piece. In this set there are spiders, which are also a single molded piece.

This is a very basic role playing game. Included in this set, are a Ranger, Druid and Barbarian. They represent different classes of characters. They each have a special ability. The set also comes with a number of weapons that can be purchased and when a player uses them, it grants that player a single use of the special ability of a different character.

The plates that make up the board can be connected in different ways. The set came with two different “mission maps” that show different ways to lay out the game. It incorporates the monsters, potions, gold and treasure chests which can turn out to be gold or the loss of health. The end goal can be killing a certain monster or reaching a certain point on the mission map. The mechanics are very easy and my kids (ages 8-12) picked up on how the game works quickly.

If there is such a thing as a gateway RPG, this is it. What has me really excited is that it’s all pretty much standard lego parts. We can take pieces from other kits that the kids already have, and build larger boards. The instructions encourage kids to try changing up the rules and seeing how that impacts the game. It’s a game that follows the basic lego philosophy. Not only is the board configurable, the rules are as well. My son and I have already talked about creating our own potions and modifying other aspects of the game.

I’m extremely excited about the potential of this whole platform. There is so much here that I think is going to be a lot of fun for me and the kids.

Lego is great about making sure kits have all the pieces. But somehow in this one, the core of our die was left out. It’s a 6d and there are square pieces to afix to each side. We have the square pieces, just not the part they connect onto. I wanted the kids to play with the images they’d see rolling the proper die with the kit, so I wrote a little javascript page to allow them to “roll” the dice. It’s at http://geeksinaction.org/roll. It has worked very well for the games we’ve played so far. Of course Lego customer service is awesome and they say we’ll have the missing piece within a week. Ordering it was dead easy.

I’m a huge fan of lego. Their normal set, mindstorm and now Heroica. They are a great company, offering some really amazing products.