I get to install a lot of software at OpenAdvantage, but a recent request about dating agency software is also one of the wierdest I've received. I started testing Friends & Love this morning, which is one of the most popular SourceForge dating agency software projects. It kind of works, though the English translations of some of the text strings are a bit odd (once you've signed up, you get a message which congratulates you "Now your are such a new member" and invites you to "Now let search your match"), the forms are a bit clunky, and the really important bit (finding people) doesn't work at all. The last one is a bit of a negative, I'd say. Plus the whole "storing personal data" thing is probably fraught with danger, which I'll be advising my client about.
Anyway, what is amusing is that this is the first time I have received a sexually-explicit PHP error message (WARNING: adult content follows):
Warning: You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near 'out, dick_size, circumcision, body_hair, orientation, role, safe_sex, smoke, dri' at line 1 in /opt/lampp_axlegrease_0.6.4/htdocs/friendnlove/includes/ez_sql_mysql.php on line 206
"dick_size" and "circumcision"?! I actually feel embarassed testing this stuff. What kind of people use dating sites that want this information? Oh dear, it's bringing out the Puritan in me.
Once it's up and running, the "Edit Adult Profile" for members allows you to select from every fetish ("Frottage", "Kilts", "Waders", "Chaps"), inclination ("Bears", "Chubbies"), and sexual activity ("Electro" and "Verbal" are two I can actually list, as I don't know what they mean) known to man or beast. It is hilarious.
I have to take a scientific standpoint on this kind of stuff, I feel: test dispassionately and not worry about how it's going to be used. I'm not really in a position to take the moral high ground. It would be like a builders' merchant refusing to sell bricks to someone who's planning to build a brothel.
By the way, if you're looking for slightly less tawdry and more professional-looking dating software, osDate is a much better bet. It has more functionality, looks slicker, is coded more cleanly, and appears to have a small team behind it, doing regular updates. Still open source (LGPL), too.
I love acid house. I think I've made that perfectly clear over the years. I discovered today that LadyAda has kits for making a clone of the Roland TB303 (the acid bassline generation synth/sequencer) called the x0xb0x (pronounced "zocksbox"). There's also a selection of great acid music written using it, available for free download. It sounds exactly like the real thing ("because it is the real thing", as they say on the website).
I've toyed with electronics in the past, but never got beyond making a circuit with a piezo buzzer and potentiometer that made an adjustable-pitch whine. For some reason, I just never got electricity. But the possibility of owning a 303 may be too much to resist. When's the 808 kit coming out, I wonder? Perhaps I'll get round to it when I retire.
I took a look at Flickrlilli today and noticed that the tmp/sessions directory was absolutely full, chock full in fact, of ruby_sess (Rails session) files. So many in fact that when I tried to clear them out with the rm command, I got this:
[bart]$ rm * -bash: /bin/rm: Argument list too long
Yikes! Just how many files were in there? In 13 years of using Unix, I've never seen rm refuse to process a set of files! I suppose this demonstrates the issues with storing sessions on the filesystem. I'm sure Flickrlilli isn't used that much, so I'm not sure where all these session files are coming from. Do AJAX calls generate Set-Cookie headers in the response or something?
I ended up clearing them out a few at a time with:
rm ruby_sess.a* rm ruby_sess.b* ... etc. ...
Scary. Maybe Rails is trying to take over my hosting company's hard disk. Maybe DHH is secretly a Borg or something.
At OpenAdvantage, we keep running across West Midlands organisations using open source all the time. There are probably hundreds, maybe 5% (or less) of which we've had any interaction with. I'd like to uncover these hidden open source users, as it's great to hear about organisations successfully using open source.
So I suggested we host a "showcase" event, where those companies get to do lightning (10 minute) talks about what they've done with open source. I've just put up a flyer describing the showcase, which includes instructions about how speakers (we're looking for 10) can get involved. Unfortunately, we can't pay anyone for attending, but hopefully it will be great fun and a good opportunity for networking.
If you're interested, and you're based in the West Midlands, please get in touch, as we'd love to hear from you.
I'm joining Jono's quest for people to request Linux to be installed and supported by Dell on laptops and desktops. More importantly for me, I'd like to see Dell supplying Linux drivers (preferably open source) for its own hardware and insisting on the same from their supply chain. That would be something.
I bet you're wondering, why oh why would you want to compile Subversion? Can't you just install it with apt-get or Synaptic?
The answer is: yes, you can install it with apt. But my problem: if you set up a project with the latest EasyEclipse, the Subversion client version in EasyEclipse is different from the Ubuntu Subversion client version. This means any projects you create with EasyEclipse and link to a Subversion repository are unusable with the command line svn client in Ubuntu Dapper. You get this message if you try:
$ svn stat svn: This client is too old to work with working copy '.'; please get a newer Subversion client
(By the way, I also get this error if I try to use script/plugin for a Rails application inside a project created with EasyEclipse. Presumably because the Ruby Subversion client library isn't up to date as a consequence of the C client library being out of date. This makes it difficult to use the plugin script, so I've been manually adding svn:externals to my plugins directory.)
First, download Subversion itself (I got the tarball) from the Subversion site. I'm using Subversion 1.4.3.
Next, install all the pre-requisites for compiling. I cribbed this list from http://packages.debian.org/stable/source/subversion:
sudo apt-get install m4 debhelper libneon24-dev libapr0-dev libdb4.3-dev libtool \ libexpat1-dev zlib1g-dev bison patch autotools-dev autoconf swig libsasl2-dev \ perl libperl-dev libkrb5-dev
Just for good measure (and because I don't really know what I'm doing :) I installed all the dependencies listed at http://packages.debian.org/stable/devel/subversion, plus all the -dev versions too:
sudo apt-get install db4.3-util libapr0 libapr0-dev libc6 libc6-dev libdb4.3 \ libexpat1 libexpat1-dev libldap2 libldap2-dev libneon24 libneon24-dev \ libssl0.9.7 libxml2 libxml2-dev patch zlib1g zlib1g-dev
Next, connect to the unpacked Subversion source directory and run these commands:
./configure --prefix=<path_to_install_directory>/subversion-1.4.3 --disable-nls make make install
Replacing <path_to_install_directory> with the path to the install directory. The --disable-nls turns off gettext support (for internationalisation) which otherwise causes problems.
Now try running:
<path_to_install_directory>/subversion-1.4.3/bin/svn --version svn, version 1.4.3 (r23084) compiled Mar 12 2007, 23:33:51
It works for me. It could be there are other dependencies I've missed or not listed, but you can get what the Debian developers think the dependencies are from the links in the text above.
By the way, it took me about two hours of debugging wierd error messages to get this working, so there's a chance you might get the same, of course. Here are a few examples of what I ended up googling:
I'm pretty sure these were caused by problems with OpenSSL and Neon, but I'm not 100% sure.
I like this exchange (from http://news.zdnet.co.uk/internet/0,1000000097,39286135,00.htm), where Tim Berners-Lee discusses removal of DRM from electronic media in favour of ownership tracking, with Mary Bono (ex-wife of Sonny), a member of Congress:
Berners-Lee said a better approach would be to devise software capable of tracking whether a person owns a particular file. "It won't stop you, but it will let you know if you're playing music you shouldn't listen to because you backed up someone else's machine and you got access to it," he said.
"Is that not the equivalent of having the speed limit but no enforcement of the speed limit?" Bono replied.
Berners-Lee suggested closed DRM regimes were akin to enforcing a speed limit by requiring the offending car to "grind to a halt" and added, "I am inclined to try to make software that allows you to do the right thing first."
I recently heard about Streamburst, a UK company implementing this type of approach. You can't get much info from the website, but the approach centres around two types of ID embedded in video files:
I have to say that if we have to have DRM, then this approach seems much fairer than the ridiculous restrictions of current DRM: "naming and shaming" rather than incarceration.
If you have your own coupon codes, good luck to you. But be warned I'll delete your comments if they are just blatant plugs for your own codes. I'm sure you can see my point.
Dreamhost have new options for coupons, which mean that you can set up discount codes which give people extra disk space, extra free domain names, more bandwidth, or a unique IP address. It's a pretty nice idea. I've set one up which will give you double disk space for any of the yearly or two-yearly payment plans, with an additional $4 discount on the price. The coupon is:
This means you can get hosting for 2 years at a cost of around $185 (if you go for the Crazy Domain Insane plan), with all the features they usually include; but on top of that, you will also get 340 Gb of disk space (100% more than a usual sign up). Yes, you read that right, 340Gb. They are lowering disk space in an attempt to get customers to sign up while it's still high; they also add disk space every month once you're signed up. I basically use Dreamhost as a big "disk in the sky" and rsync to it over SSH: works great for me, and at those prices, is a cheap backup solution for any small business or individual.
Alternatively, you could use my other coupon:
and get their normal hosting with $90 off any plan (e.g. two years pre-payment for their lowest level hosting works out at $100; or you can get one year for a measly $29).
Note: I don't use Dreamhost to host this blog (it's currently hosted on Site5), but given their decent record so far, I've been considering moving it over to Dreamhost.
The launch of the National Open Centre happened last Monday at the House of Commons. The speakers made some interesting points about the need for wider knowledge of and acceptance of open source, particularly in the public sector; and how the EU is keen for open source to be used more widely. Bill Thompson wrote up the launch, and makes some good points. I think he's right that what the NOC will be involved in is maybe not as prominent on the website as it could be; but there is a link which describes the subject panels the NOC will be running, which gives some idea. Plus the minutes from the first advisory board meeting are on the site, as well as minutes of the first Management Committee meeting. The idea is for the NOC to be as inclusive and transparent as possible, so we value feedback like Bill's.
Anyway, my main point here is that some of the feedback was less than positive. For example, ZDNet's coverage has an anonymous comment which is particularly scathing. I'm not in a position to argue about the points made about the NOC and its partners (I'm not the NOC press officer) but I did find the comments about OpenAdvantage (where I've worked since August 2005) particularly hurtful. I quote:
OpenAdvantage - funded by the same regional development agency behind Noc, OpenAdvantage's impact on the adoption of open source in the region has been limited to distributing branded merchandise at Linux World and running Joomla! courses.
(It's worth correcting an inaccuracy here for starters: the NOC is not funded by Advantage West Midlands, who fund OpenAdvantage. They contributed funds for the launch event, but that's the extent of their involvement so far.)
The above comment belittles the commitment and achievements of myself and my colleagues at OpenAdvantage. Without our intervention, open source would undoubtedly be used in the West Midlands. But I know for a fact we have had an influence on the take up of open source, and have exposed many more companies to its benefits than would have occurred without our help. How do I know this? First, some figures:
I should mention that, because we're funded, we do all of this for free. So, you can see we do a bit more than Joomla! training. We do do a lot of training, because that's what people want. At the bottom of this entry, I've attached a PDF which I wrote in August 2005, which covers the rationale behind why we decided to do courses. Initially, we just offered consultancy; however, this was too amorphous and unattractive, so we changed tack after we realised people really like training. Training is the first step into open source for many people: several of the companies we've worked with have gone on to use PHP, Drupal, Joomla! etc. who might not have picked up those technologies without our initial "shove". For proof, take a look at our website, where we have a range of testimonials and case studies. A few examples of the latter:
There are lots of others, but case studies take time to write, and we have to spend most of our time actually assisting people. So we only have a handful written up. But we've also done things like got involved in Smethwick Youth and Community Centre, plowing a lot of time into helping them setup their networking with open source; worked with Aston Pride on installing PC labs with open source; given numerous bits of advice about CMSs, CRMs, programming etc.. to countless people; helped local companies mix open source into their portfolio of offerings; referred potential customers to companies we know that work with particular open source technologies; and so on.
What else have I/we done beyond training and consultancy?
To give even more of an idea of what we typically do, I thought I'd share my log of activities for the past week:
Outside of OpenAdvantage, I use lots of open source myself, write a blog largely about open source, have run open source projects, have contributed to Rails and Drupal, written Creative Commons licenced training materials, and do bug reporting etc. as all good open source citizens do.
Maybe I'm protesting too much, but it really gets my goat when people insinuate that we don't work hard, or don't care about open source, or haven't done anything constructive. I am very proud of our achievements at OpenAdvantage, so hopefully this blog entry will go some way towards making our work more transparent and redress the balance.
Update: turns out the link_to code has also changed, so that if you don't select any licence conditions, you get an application error. I fixed this by explicitly removing the conditions parameter from the URLs if no conditions are selected, which seems to work. Probably something to do with the massive routing rewrite in the latest Rails.
I knew Flickrlilli was having some problems, but I hadn't had time to fix them until today (when I needed to use it again). Turns out the problems were caused by a Rails upgrade on Dreamhost. It appears the new version of Rails insists on loading every part of the framework unless you have frozen it into the vendor directory. As Flickrlilli doesn't use a database or mailer, I'd turned those components off. This made the whole thing break. The solution was to turn those bits back on, then create a dummy SQLite database to connect to. This made everything all right again. This seems a bit of an unfortunate change in how Rails works: several of my applications don't have or need databases, so I often turn ActiveRecord off. If anyone can shed any light on this (or if I've misunderstood the comments in the environment.rb file), please let me know.