Go go gadget multiarch

May 28, 2012 / 0 comments

Multiarch has been coming RSN for an extremely lengthy meaning of the word “soon”. I remember watching Tollef give a presentation about it at DebConf4 and I’m pretty sure it’s been talked about at every DebConf since then as well. Deemed the “correct” answer to the issue of running i386 binaries on x86_64 machines, or old ARM ABI programs on more modern hardware, it’s always seemed to be at least another Debian release away.

Not so anymore. Through foolishness I ended up buying a Brother HL3040CN when I first moved to the US. It was a cheap networked laser printer and it touted Linux support. Quality wise it’s been fine. I don’t use it a lot, but unlike an inkjet I don’t have to worry about not using it for a month and then needing to print something in a hurry and having to clean print heads etc. Where it falls down is that I failed to check that “Linux support” involved source. No. Instead it involves an i386 binary (at least packaged as a .deb, but in a horrible fashion). Up until now I’ve mostly been printing from my laptop, so all the drivers are installed there. I’ve got some guests this week and they needed to print their boarding passes, so I decided it was time to make the house server act as a print server too. It’s an AMD64 box and before now I haven’t had any need to run i386 code on it, so when I installed the driver deb it failed to work. Normally I’d just install ia32-libs, but this time I decided to try multiarch. So I did:

# dpkg --add-architecture i386
# apt-get update
# apt-get install libc6:i386

and magically I was now able to run the printer driver binary. I know there’s a lot more work still to be done (I need to check if I can ditch ia32-libs on my laptop which runs a few more i386 only apps), but this is pretty cool - thanks to all those involved in making it happen!

Update: I tried to install all the multiarch bits required for Skype on my laptop but hit an issue with libqtgui4:i386 which ends up pulling in liblcms1:i386 which isn’t yet multiarch enabled. There was already a bug, #637732 filed by vorlon, and mhy did the appropriate NMU a week ago, so it should hopefully hit testing in the next week. Thanks guys.

6 months of GNOME Shell

May 19, 2012 / 0 comments

Back in November I ranted about the migration of Gnome Shell to Debian/Testing. Plenty of other people did the same thing (or have done the same thing about Unity).

I’d just like to say sorry to any of the GNOME people who felt unappreciated; I know you work hard to try and produce a useful user experience out of the box. I ended up doing the dist-upgrade on my work laptop only a week or so after my home machine, and in the process discovered that the nouveau Mesa driver now supports my machine pretty well. It’s taken me a while to get used to it, but my frustrations with the change have diminished and I haven’t felt the need to move to something different. So, a belated thanks for all your hard work.

Going to DebConf 12

May 12, 2012 / 0 comments


Meant to post this a while ago when I booked the tickets, but life has a habit of being busy at present. I’m pleased to say I’m going to DebConf 12 in Managua. In the off-chance someone else might be on some of the same flights as me, here’s what I’ve booked:


2012-07-07 00:15 SFO -> 08:12 CLT US466
2012-07-07 11:40 CLT -> 13:44 MIA US1831
2012-07-07 16:07 MIA -> 16:45 MGA US4925


2012-07-14 21:15 MGA -> 01:50 MIA US4944
2012-07-15 06:15 MIA -> 08:19 CLT US1800
2012-07-15 09:40 CLT -> 12:08 SFO US1485

There were some single stop options but the timings didn’t them any quicker, they weren’t any cheaper, and these times worked better for me anyway.

The future is here again

Apr 24, 2012 / 0 comments

Back in 2004 when Simon and I went full time with Black Cat one of the first things I did was sort out an ADSL offering, including native IPv6. We were one of the first UK ISPs to offer this (possibly the first; I know A&A had been doing tunneled IPv6 for a lot longer, but I’m not sure exactly when they enabled IPv6 on the PPP session. Also Bogons were fairly quick to enable it as well). By the middle of 2004 I was fully IPv6 enabled; my colo box had a native connection, my entire home network (a /64 for the wired, a /64 for the wireless) was configured, BCN had multiple native IPv6 connections to other ISPs (such as peering over LoNAP). By and large it just worked; I remember at one point looking at a traffic graph link from someone in Australia and them indicating surprise that I’d come in over v6. I hadn’t noticed anything different than normal, which is exactly how it should be.

When we sold BCN in 2007 unfortunately one of the casualties was the v6 support. The ISP that took over the ADSL wasn’t setup to be able to continue the v6 support, nor were RapidSwitch, who took over most of the hosting (I note with sadness that RapidSwitch still don’t seem to be offering v6, though they keep saying it’s a work in progress). So I stopped having any v6 for some time, refusing to slum it with a tunnel.

This changed at the start of last year, when I sought out new hosting for the. I ended up selecting Bytemark, partly because I knew of their commitment to v6. I’d chosen Sonic as my US access ISP, again partly because they offered an IPv6 tunnel service (while not as nice as native v6 over the DSL I felt that a tunnel provided by the DSL ISP was acceptable for access). However a combination of not having a machine that was always on at home, and a dynamic IP on my connection, meant that I never got round to configuring anything permanent up.

Recently I got around to buying a little low powered box to be always-on and this week I finally looked at configuring it up as the tunnel endpoint, planning to do some sort of screen scraping of the web interface to automatically update the tunnel broker information for the rare occurrences when my IP changes. The first nice surprise was that Sonic are now doing static IPs for free (previously you could only have a block of 8 for $20/month extra). That makes things a lot easier. So tonight I configured up the little server as the tunnel endpoint, installing radvd and some basic v6 firewalling. As expected my laptop sees the RAs, automatically configures everything up and my ssh sessions start to go over IPv6 instead. Looks like my phone also does the same. I’m not entirely sure what the NAT on the ADSL router is doing and if inbound connections will fail if there’s nothing outbound holding the translation entry active, but I’m sure I can work around that if it turns out to be a problem. I care more about access than hosting anything on the end of my DSL anyway.

This means I’m finally almost back to where I was nearly 8 years ago, just in time for World IPv6 Launch day.

On arranging meetings

Feb 11, 2012 / 0 comments

I’ve been spending a lot more time recently in meetings. Mostly things I should actually be at. And in general if it’s something I think is reasonable I’ll try to be there. In an effort to help with this I actually keep my work calendar up to date. Given that I’m running Linux on my laptop and the corporate standard is Exchange this requires a little bit of effort on my part (the Thunderbird Provider for Microsoft Exchange and Android support for talking to Exchange are helpful with this).

Sometimes it seems like I shouldn’t bother. I spent this week at a conference, and marked my calendar to indicate I was out of the office. I think I had at least 3 meeting requests, all for things that would actually have been appropriate for me to go to. Last week I managed to be booked for 7 hours of meetings from 7am until noon. That included a 30 minute window where I was triple booked.

The thing is, I’m really not that busy in terms of meetings - you can usually find a spot when I’m free on any given day unless I’m actually not in the office. If you bother to check my calendar, that is.

Another problem I have is the times people like to book meetings at. Booking a technical meeting at 9am isn’t going to get me at my best. Equally doing so at 5pm is likely to have me clock watching to make sure I don’t miss my bus and/or train. Also I seem to work with far too many people who don’t eat lunch and book hour long meetings at midday or 1pm.

I understand sometimes that’s the only time you can get everyone into a room together, but at least bloody ask and explain the need rather than just sending out a meeting invite.

Finally, book meetings of a realistic length. There are some people who invite me to things and cause me to add another 30 minutes on the end, because I know it always overruns.

It’s not all bad. I have a VP who always runs a meeting to time, and never seems to call one for spurious reasons. I’ve also worked with a program manager who will organize the meeting so that if you’re only there for one point on the agenda that’ll get dealt with near the beginning so it doesn’t take up more of your time that it needs to. Funnily enough I’m much more likely to go to things both of these people arrange.

Disclaimer: In the unlikely event anyone I work with who invites me to meetings is reading this, I might be talking about you, but everything I mention has been done by more than one person, so I’m not thinking about anyone in particular for each point.

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