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Date Sun 27 January 2008

I’m trying to get around to updating my blog on a regular basis. I have a lot of links that I wanted to mention, but I might just post a list of them with short descriptions.

I’ve finished most of my HOWTO on installing OpenSuSE on an external SDHC card on the eeePC. It’s not 100% complete yet - I still haven’t gotten ACPI working, so I don’t have 100% accurate battery-level readings. But if you get an SD card larger than 4GB, or don’t fill up your root partition to 99% like I did, you shouldn’t have a problem installing the kernel headers and GCC and building the kernel module from source.

I also added a page to my wiki on monitoring Solaris hardware through Nagios.

As always, I have a lot of projects that I’m working on. I also am going to be doing a lot of work for Sun this semester as Campus Ambassador, including a survey of classes and computer labs to determine what Sun software is in use (you’d be amazed how many Java classes don’t even mention that NetBeans exists!) I’ll also be giving some technical demos this semester, which I’m really looking forward to.

Most importantly, though, I’m starting classes again. This semester, I have five on tap - “War, Peace and Military in US” for my history minor, and four classes for my ITI major: Social Informatics, Management of Technological Organizations, Network and Internet Technology with Bruce Rights, a SysAdmin here at Rutgers, and Web Design with Steve Garwood. While I’m really psyched about classes - specifically the latter two, which really appeal to someone technical like me (and also the MTO class, as I know I could use some experience with “management” beyond Dilbert and my sarcastic view of workplace dynamics), this brings me to a quite painful realization. While my two programming classes at the Rutgers CS Department met in Linux labs, the usual lab for classes at SCILS is a Windows lab.

This isn’t just a problem because of moral reasons, but more because of practical ones - I know Linux. I like it. I’m used to Linux. I do tens of hours of development and admin work every week (maybe hundreds if I’m being bad, or in a prolific period), and I’m most productive in the environment I’m used to. I remember when I took my Java classes, trying to explain to the TA’s that I wasn’t cheating, but I had to bring a CD-ROM to the on-computer programming exam - “there’s no way you can make me program without my .emacs!”

I’ve considered that I could just bring my eeePC to class and do everything on that over wireless. I guess that could work for most of the class, though I can’t say how my professors will react to that. In preparation for an averse reaction, I’ve looked into how to deal with using Windows in a way that’s usable for me. After doing a little research, I found PortableApps.com which provides versions of Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, Pidgin, and other apps (even including WinSCP, a Windows SCP/SFTP client) as Windows executables that will run entirely from a USB flash drive. Most importantly, I even found instructions (and also here) to run the Windows version of GNU Emacs from a flash drive. Granted, I always preferred the CLI version of Emacs over the graphical one, but I guess it’s a small price to pay. So, once I can find a working USB flash drive (or an SD card to use with an adapter), I’ll setup what I need to be able to work.

One side note - on the first day of my Management of Technological Organizations class (painfully meeting 9:50-12:50 Friday mornings) the professor announced that we’ll be using Microsoft Excel, Access, Project, etc. After class I spoke with the lecturer, Cathy Smith, and explained the situation (that I can’t use those) and asked whether other software that did the same thing would be acceptable. Amazingly, not only did she tell me that’s ok, but she also said that she’s a big fan of OpenOffice, and went so far as to say that in place of Access, she’d be happy to accept SQL files. Maybe it’s because she’s a doctoral candidate and not a Ph. D. full professor, but I was very happy to find such enlightenment at Rutgers (for the first time).

On one side note - one of the classes that I had thought of registering for distributed the syllabus as a .docx MS Office XML file. I was dumbfounded. I know that few professors take the time to think that some students may be using Linux or Unix, but do they really think that everyone’s already upgraded to Word 2007? I know most professors - even in an IT program - probably don’t know about the flaws with OOXML or the current issues surrounding it, but I thought that the old .doc was pretty well established as the default document format in the Windows world. More importantly… do these people know nothing about standards and best practices and cross-platform usability? If I were distributing a static document, PDF is the first thing that would pop into my mind…

On a side note, a few links for the day:
Photos of great data center cabling, almost art.
Designing PDF forms with Scribus.
A wonderful Craigslist ad: Help me keep the shell people alive.


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