June 2007 Archives

Trixbox 2.2

There are some nagging projects that I have neglected to complete, due in part to coursework and other distractions. One such excursion is installing a home PBX. In truth, I have not owned a landline for nearly four years. When I purchased my home, I made a conscious effort to go strictly wireless. That is use my cell as the primary means of contact. In my mind, it makes no sense to pay for services twice. Simply wasteful. Besides, the landline phone would only serve as a spam filter for unsolicited telemarketing.

Another impetus for installing Asterisk, was the idea of conducting more robust netcasts. Currently when show guests opt to use a telephone, we end up using some free conference calling software. The end result is that the audio file is left on the foreign server. Though, I can easily download the file to my LAN, I would prefer to have more control over this process. Another benefit is that I would like to setup IVR and voicemail for my home office and I have no desire to use Vonage(soon to be defunct).

I understand that Mark Spencer, founder the Asterisk project has made great angst to simplify the installation. There have been a couple of live-cd installations floating around (ie AsteriskNOW and Trixbox -previously Asterisk@Home).

For whatever reason, I was not able to install AsteriskNOW. It simply would not write to my hard disk. It seemed to bomb when it could not find a raid array.

Anyway, I grabbed Trixbox and quickly discovered that it was based upon CentOS 4.4.
While I typically avoid RPM based distros (actually I have been using SmoothWall firewall/gateway for years without issue and it's essentially a minimalist Red Hat distro), I decided to proceed.

The installation was fairly painless, despite the repeated reboots after grabbing the required files from the yum repositories. Not sure why the automatic reboots were necessary. It seems that the installation requires a larger portion of the base CentOS
package. Stuff like bluetooth, kerberos, libselinux, cups, etc. I was a bit surprised about the need for all these packages for a PBX install. Nonetheless, the install took place without any problems after the base Asterisk install was completed.

The GUI, contains a collection of options. An explanation of all of these is beyond the scope here, so I'll just mention that I chose FreePBX.

There are a number of tutorials which will step you through a Trixbox install.
I used these trixbox without tears and Linux Journal article. In truth, there is still a fair amount of configuration that I still must complete. I do want a high level of customization. As with most projects, this will be a work in progress.

Anatomy of Hack (Revisited)

It appears that a box that I administer for a friend was compromised. Seems that the some script kiddies launched a dictionary attack against the ssh daemon. Yep, I was careless and stupid. Luckily, these crackers only wanted to run an IRC relay. After using a brute force method of gaining root access, they simply installed the script in /root. It seemed odd that running 'ifconfig -a' would yield eth0:1 ... eth0:295. Not good.

I told my friend to shutdown the box immediately and pull the hard drive. We later reinstalled the OS (it was previously running unstable/testing sarge). Once Debian Etch was installed, I immediately modifed /etc/ssh/sshd_config to _not_ allow root login and to listen on a port other than 22. I also disabled password authentication, now only approved keys can be used to gain access. Problem solved.

Quest for $100 laptop ended..

I have ended my search for the cheap notebook computer. In truth, if Negroponte offered me the sugar OLPC machine, I would grab it with the quickness. However, I am actually talking about my hodgepodge of barely usable and antiquated laptops. At one point I had a Thinkpad 600e and Dell Latitude Cpia. Both machines were roughly 5 and 6 yrs old respectively. Now I am running a very peppy Acer Aspire 5100. The Turion 64 is a pretty impressive CPU. Though I would have preferred the 64x2 (dual core), I really cannot complain, as the price point was superb.

My only gripe was that the machine came installed with Vista Basic. I wonder if I can have Redmond refund my cash as I simply blasted the OS away after two days, so that I could install Debian Etch 64?

Some initial thoughts on Vista-Basic. It was painfully slow with 512MB 4200 DDR RAM. Seems that M$ really isn't offering any software that people can use. Evaluation anti-virus, no viable office suite (ie M$ Works). Constant reminders that you can upgrade to Vista Ultimate or Platinum. Each time you access system level controls, you are asked by the OS "Do you really want to do that?" Very annoying.

Well, now I have Debian - Etch64 installed and I am quite pleased.
I did learn that the proprietary ATI drivers will not work with Beryl. So I'll have to settle for the older FOSS fglrx drivers. I haven't yet figured out how to get the onboard wireless working. So for now, I'm tethered to my gigabit switch. I have installed madwifi, but have not yet got it to play nice with the Atheros chipset.

Later, I'll add some links to these places where I found helpful hints. More on this exercise in the next few days.

links for 2007-06-22

  • Peer-to-peer software applications are a network administrator's worst nightmare. To exchange packets as directly as possible they use subtle tricks to punch holes in firewalls, which shouldn't be letting in outside world packets.

Resurrection of Season

It looks as though the demise of the Bx Bombers was highly exaggerated. Although, the team is only a few games above .500 (certainly not the goal set by the most storied franchise in baseball). There is still a great deal of baseball left to play. The team has too much talent to struggle the entire season. Abreau and Cano are beginning to drive the ball with authority and the pitching rotation seems to have stabalized. Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter have been very consistent all season. All three could potentially carry the team offensively. Nonetheless, contributions from the bottom of the order will be necessary for the team to make a run at the division.

There also seemed to be much talk of the struggles of the overworked bullpen. Now that the starters are going deeper into the game, the bullpen can get much needed rest. On the other hand, Mariano Rivera is seeing more regular action and that translates into better outings. I really got tired of hearing that he was ineffective and that he was a cause of concern. In fact, I had planned to collect some meaningful data and prepare some statistical evidence to prove the contrary. It is not unusual for Rivera to struggle in April and May. Take a look at his career numbers.
When you compare his stats to his peers, nobody comes close to matching his ability. Even veteran relievers like Trevor Hoffman, Padres relief pitcher who has 500 career saves, does not have career saves, ERA or strikeouts that can match Mo.
Besides, how many championship rings does Hoffman own?

If the season ended today (but it does not end today) the Yankees would miss the postseason. They have not missed the postseason in nearly 20 yrs. If I know anything about statistics, I would not expect that aberration to occur this year.
Lastly, General Manager, Brian Cashman will need to bring in reinforcements for the bench, first base, and bullpen.

Is wider better? - Reply to James McGovern

James asked a fair question.
Before I respond, I'll have to preface it with the following drivel disclaimer. My reply does not represent the thoughts of my employer, nor is this piece of real estate endorsed by my current employer.

To be clear, my expertise is actually Powertrain subsystems, not Body Interior. The irony, is that recently I spent a short 4month stint, working within the Seat organization. These days I fancy myself as a 6-Sigma Black Belt, within the Body Organization. Clearly, I am not the most qualified individual to answer McGovern's question.

However, I would venture to guess that the seats have well-defined constraints (ie H-point, bolster, etc.) Some of the contraints are driven by government and package requirements. For instance, the center console is designed to outfit cupholders (yes the dreaded cupholders), CDs, ladies accessories. The center console also doubles as an armrest in most vehicles. Imagine that many Americans want to cram as much junk in the center console. It would seem logical the center console has increased in size of the years. Hence you have a design or package constraint.

As mentioned earlier, seats must meet rigorous government safety requirements. Restraints (ie seat belts, head restraints-help prevent nasty whiplash) is serious business. Making the seats substantially wider to satisfice obese occupants would be an egregious departure from sound engineering principles. Let's call it Intelligent Design.

The general rule of thumb is that we design for the 5% - 95% percentile human.
Typically that 5% percentile represents the 6'.x male and the 5'.x female. I would imagine these requirements do consider weight too. I am not clear about the weight constraints.

I suppose if obese drivers are looking for comfortable rides, they should consider a large SUV. This would be there best chance at comfort. The problem with this particular choice is sky-rocketing fuel prices. So it would appear that more obese people are sacrificing comfort for cost savings.. Can't please everyone.

links for 2007-06-16

Microblogging

Finally wilted under the pressure..
Tried my hand at Twitter. We'll see how long the thrill lasts..

Content AutoDiscovery - Blogging 101

Had a great conversation with an old friend. He is new to the idea of community within blogosphere. One of his objectives is to drive traffic to his site, so that people could benefit from his very compelling story of Brand You.

The discussion brought me back to the days when I began to blog. Hmm. I suppose my path was very much like many others. Cut my teeth on Blogger, outgrew it after roughly 100 entries. Essentially, I wanted more control over my content, and there was no good reason to be lazy. So I migrated to the Movable Type publishing engine. I have been using MT for awhile, and since I am a creature of habit I have resisted the move to WordPress. I also like to occasionally beat on my chest and speak my clout. Since certain tasks require some thought on the MT platform. Heh, I am ok with that, after all I am Linux user ;)
What is interesting though.. Many of my geek friends moved to WP roughly two-years ago. Most of them left due to the licensing issues associated with MT. So it was likely altruism not a technical shortcoming.

Is it wisdom of the crowds? Not sure, in fairness to Six-Apart I believe their organization grew very large too quickly. Perhaps they focused too much attention on lowering the barrier to entry for new bloggers, that they unknowingly neglected their core constituency. It seems that MT 4.0 will be a convergence or sharing of the goodness of all of the 6A tools (ie TypePad, Vox, LiveJournal). All of these will finally trickle into MT. So says Anil ;) Better support rich content management, themes, etc..

What is the price of fame?

Recently the George Foreman (aka Big George), alleged that he was drugged before his heavyweight title bout against Muhammad Ali. The irony is that the fight took place 30 years ago and the statements come on the heels of Foreman's new book.

Unfortunately, Ali is afflicted with Parkinson's disease and cannot defend himself. Perhaps his daughter could knock some sense into Foreman? Although, not really big news, it does serve as an under handed means of diminishing the greatness of the Ali. This is descpicable, as Foreman has made a good fortune from his health conscious grill. Why take shots at a man who cannot fight back? Clearly, the only drug which affected George was the rope-a-dope and flurry of well placed left-hooks and uppercuts.

links for 2007-06-02

Close Followers and the proverbial cash cow

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Thought provoking dialogue on Dare's space. I suppose you can find meaningful bits there on a occasion. It appears that the common "Innovators Dilemma" argument is even more pervasive and can be easily applied to the digital realm. In fact, we have several contemporary examples from which to choose.

  • USPS vs. Email
  • Napster vs. Recording Industry
  • Microsoft vs. FOSS

You could also add the US auto industry to that mix as well. At its premise, most would agree that you innovate only when necessary. At least this what I have studied in all of my product development text books. The conundrum is that the longer you milk that cash cow or the product which your business owns tremendous market share, eventually you run the risk of losing a competitive advantage in other scarce markets. Although, the sector which your cash cow dominates has limited competition, it is unlikely that your edge will be eternal. The moment innovators enter that space, they will eat your lunch.

There are many reasons for limited competitors in a particular market space:

a) Minimal growth opportunities
b) Technology cruft
c) Monopolistic practices

Although, I discovered the Napster phenomenon quite late, it was arguably the most disruptive technology to surface in quite sometime. It essentially, spawned several other P2P networks and destroyed a very flawed music industry cost and distribution model. The whole copyright argument annoys me. There is more discussion here.
Regarding digital media and copyright. I would highly recommend Dr. Lessig's, "Free Culture" text to anyone who wants to understand the impact of P2P filesharing and it relationship or lack thereof to decreased CD music sales.

Clearly, software patents and copyright have the potential to stifle technology innovation. Worse yet, it can be used a FUD tool to coerce. It seems that Redmond has been rattling their patent sabre a great deal lately. I am still waiting to see the source code. I'll save that discussion for another time.

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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