News about Nathan and Heather Straz

Sunday, 29 March, 2009
by heather

I've been taking painting lessons off and on since November. I have started many projects, but this is the first on that I finished!! I'm really enjoying the class. Mom and I are going to AC Moore for our class on Friday evenings. Its a fun way to spend time with Mom and create some artwork!

17:50 | Tags: Projects | 5 Comments

Saturday, 2 February, 2008
Now with a static IP
So I don't annoy Mark
by nate

With all the connection problems on Fairpoint and our IP address changing three times in two months, I decided to pay for a static IP. This way I won't have to ask Mark to update our DNS entry for a long time. Our email should continue working without interruption and our web site should never disappear for a few days at a time. I think that's certainly worth $5 per month.

9:28 | Tags: Projects | 0 Comments

Wednesday, 27 June, 2007
Was your comment meant to be private?
by nate

It turns out that the "Comment Publicly" question wasn't working the way it was supposed to. When your comments got to us for moderation, everything was marked as wanting to be public. Oops. I tried to figure out why, but I don't understand that part of Django well enough. I did make it so your choice is now saved correctly.

If anyone posted a comment that they wanted to be private, please post another comment telling us to make it so. I'm very sorry if your private comment was made public against your wishes. I'll test my software thoroughly next time.

0:18 | Tags: Projects Django | 1 Comment

Saturday, 23 June, 2007
Optiplex 320 boots with Grub
by nate

Back in March I bought myself a Dell Optiplex 320n to replace my desktop computer. There were two tricks to the install. One was a kernel option which wasn't a big deal and the other was that GRUB would not work. GRUB replaced LILO as the standard Linux boot loader quite a while ago. I don't think Fedora even includes LILO anymore. Luckily I'm still running Debian at home. :)

While in New York I stumbled across Debian bug 419766 which covers the problem for Debian. It states that the default version of GRUB installed is GRUB Legacy and that GRUB 2 is now in the tree, please try that. Just this weekend I found the time to try it out. It works! But there is a catch. Don't configure the graphical terminal or load the font, it'll leave your Optiplex 320 in a reboot loop.

So I'm happily booting with GRUB again, it's just not the same GRUB that other distributions are using.

16:53 | Tags: Projects | 2 Comments

Monday, 23 April, 2007
MinneBar 07
by nate

This weekend I spent Saturday at MinneBar, a technology and design un-conference. I've never been to one of these before and it was an interesting experience. It's a free conference where anyone can sign up to attend and present. Over 380 people signed up. I'm not sure that many actually attended, but the space was packed and got really hot. I went up to the roof a few times to cool off.

The conference started out with some opening remarks and a demo/talk by William Gurstelle, a writer and tech enthusiast. He was drawing comparisons between BarCamp and the "technology underground" which he writes about. He was also pushing his latest book, Whoosh Boom Splat.

The first session I went to was Does the world need more storage?. Since storage is my day job, I couldn't not attend this session. I've spent most of my career working with the shared file systems CXFS and GFS. It was good to see what else was going on in the industry.

Next I attended You can do that? Selling agile to the enterprise. I felt that the presentation was missing an overview of what agile development was all about. I got the sense that it was a most flexible and reactive method of developing software. I certainly want to read more about it.

For the last session before lunch I headed downstairs to Designing for Use. I've seen some really aweful interfaces since I joined Red Hat. We've started design discussions for some major internal infrastructure for the QE department. I was hoping to get some ideas on how to avoid another design disaster. Instead of a talk on the fundamentals of design it was more of a group theray session. I didn't get as much out of it as I was hoping to.

After lunch there were two slots for demos. I think the best one was for Crash Plan, a backup tool with an interesting twist. Instead of backing up to tape or CD, it lets you back up to other people who use Crash Plan. What happens is that you and your friends and family buy the software. Then you allow each other to backup each other's data. I think that's innovative.

After the demos was a special session, an interview with David Heinemeier Hansson from 37 signals and Ruby on Rails fame. Interviews with founders of open source projects are always good and this was no execption. It's great to hear how they and their projects got started. Hopefully the audio or video will be posted on the MinneBar web site.

A fellow TCZPUG member, Gary Berosik, co-presented the session Introduction to natural language processing. This was certainly the most technical presentation I went to. They didn't explain the math behind the techniques, but they did have the equations on their slides. One technique they highlighted, naive Bayes, is one that was once popular in spam fighting. I can see how it would work really well in categorizing non-hostile content. It also brought a different idea applying it to spam fighting. If you could train the network on the blog posts, it might make a good decision on comments for the post. I get a lot of spam comments that aren't at all related to the blog, let alone each post. Being able to toss them out automatically would be great.

The final session I attened, I actually organized. One of the organizers, Luke Francl, sent an email to the TCZPUG mailing list about doing a Web Frameworks Panel. After some thought I decided to do it. I volunteered to support Django. Jack Ungerleider volunteered to speak on behalf of Zope. I left an open invitation in the session description so other attendees could join the panel. We ended up with five including David Heinemeier Hansson. I was pretty nervious going into the panel as I was the only hobbyist on the panel and everyone else did web development professionally. I think I did okay. There were a bunch of times I wanted to answer a question from the audience but by the time someone else finished answering the question, the topic had headed somewhere else. Oh well. I'm still glad I did it.

Overall, I'm glad I went to MinneBar. Next time I won't bother taking a laptop with me. I should also try to present something Linux related. The un-conference was heavily dominated by web specific topics so I felt a little out-of-place. I also think the sessions felt really short. I would have loved another 10-20 minutes because the discussions could have easily gone that much longer and hit more important points.

9:36 | Tags: Happenings Projects Django | 2 Comments

Saturday, 10 March, 2007
Ordered a new PC
by nate

We started moving the furniture in the office and that started me really wanting a new PC. I've been using the same desktop computer that I built just before the end of my Junior year in college, 1999. I've upgraded some parts of the system since I built it, but it's still using the same mid-tower case and slot 1 motherboard. The CPU is now a 700MHz Pentium III, up from a 433MHz Celeron. I now have 768MB of RAM, up from 256MB. I have a DVD burner, which I rarely use. The video card is now an ATI with digital out. That replaced my Diamond Viper v770 (an nVidia TNT2 chipset) about a year ago.

I started looking around at PC parts. I haven't kept up on CPU sockets or chipsets so I had no idea what to get. I don't really have a budget for anything either. I'd like to build a small form factor computer like I intended to when I built my current desktop. The Shuttle XPC computers interest me a little, but they seem expensive. I looked in CompUSA which is closing a few stores in Minnesota, but didn't find anything interesting. Nor did I find anything inspiring at MicroCenter. Most of their cases were big, flashy, gaming rigs. I want something small and quiet that will fit nicely on my desk, under or next to my Dell 19" LCD.

I've gotten a lot of good deals from Dell Small Business so I started checking there. They now have a line of Open Source Desktops in the Small Business section which doesn't include the Windows tax. I found they have a deal on an OptiPlex 320n which I couldn't pass up. It's only $357+tax for a 3GHz Celeron and 512MB of RAM. I can upgrade the memory and processor later if need be. The case is 3.65" x 12.45" x 13.40". That's pretty small compared to most build-it-yourself kits I found.

So with Heather's blessing I ordered one. We'll take advantage of our tax refund. The estimated ship date is March 21st.

11:28 | Tags: Projects | 1 Comment

Thursday, 28 September, 2006
I didn't realize
by nate

... how broken our site looks through Internet Explorer. Heather and I use Firefox all the time so it wasn't until I tried going to our site from a friend's house that I realized how bad it looked. Please, if you're still using Internet Explorer, go download Firefox and use it. The popup blocking and tabbed browsing is well worth the change. Not to mention that our site will look right. :)

20:46 | Tags: Projects | 0 Comments

Monday, 21 August, 2006
Now Open Source
by nate

One of the benefits of moving away from a pure Zope site is that it's really easy to integrate other apps. Tonight I added ViewVC and Subversion, two ways to look at my source code. The first is good for browsing my source code, the second allows you to check out your own copy. There isn't a whole lot there at the moment. I was tracking COREBlog development for a while and I have some changes in there. There is a TiVo project I started, but didn't get far on. And finally there is the source code for the new web site.

22:05 | Tags: Projects Django Zope | 1 Comment

Sunday, 20 August, 2006
Welcome to the new site
it's not done yet.
by nate

I decided to switch over to the new site even though it's not completely done. If there are things that are broken, please leave a comment. If comments are broken, please email me. I still have some styling to do on the comment form and the "Our Photos' link off the homepage doesn't actually go to anything. Let me know what you think of the new style too.

0:17 | Tags: Projects | 1 Comment

Friday, 24 February, 2006
Now running digital and accelerated
by nate

After upgrading to the latest Debian Sid I found that it only supported the latest nVidia driver. Unfortunately I found that the latest nVidia driver no longer supports my aging TNT2 video card. So for the last few weeks I was running the nv driver which locked up several times (SIGALRM storm) or the vesa driver which was really slow. :(

I'm running an old slot 1 motherboard that only supports AGP 2x. After doing some research I didn't think any of the recent 8x AGP cards would work so I asked if anyone in the TCLUG had an old video card that I could have. Samir came through with an ATI Radeon 9200. I didn't think it would work since it had 8x stamped on the board, but my machine is happy with it and I have it running with accelerated open source drivers. :) As a bonus, this card has DVI and it looks GREAT!

0:13 | Tags: Projects | 1 Comment

Sunday, 12 February, 2006
Finally using greylisting
by nate

I installed postgrey shortly after I switched over to Postfix, but it was only this week that I hooked it up. In the month of Janurary I received over 700 spams and more and more were making it past Spamassassin. Since I started using postgrey Friday morning, only one piece of spam has made it to my spam folder and none are in my inbox.

9:39 | Tags: Projects | 0 Comments

Friday, 3 February, 2006
by heather

I've been meaning to take more pictures (and post any that come out half-way-decent). So, tonight I took a few pictures of Baxter. He's a pretty good model! The light wasn't very good since we were inside after the sun set so I changed the tones for a different effect since there wasn't much color anyway. Hope you like the pictures!


22:33 | Tags: Projects | 0 Comments

Sunday, 29 January, 2006
Created a comments tab
by nate

After getting hit again with comment spam I took a few hours this morning to create a new management tab for COREBlog. I now have a nice new "Comments" tab which lists all of the comments in the blog and allows me to moderate and delete them.

11:01 | Tags: Projects | 0 Comments

Wednesday, 25 January, 2006
Really getting hammered by spam comments
by nate

Wow, I haven't seen a spamming like this in a while. In the last hour I've seen 81 spam comments from 62 different IP addresses. They are all the same text, links to buying perscription drugs. Oh, make that 83 comments from 64 different IP addresses.

22:50 | Tags: Projects | 3 Comments

Friday, 9 September, 2005
Struggling with Galleon
a.k.a. javahmo
by nate

Now that I have a TiVo Series 2 (Humax DRT-800) and TiVo Software version 7.2, I can start playing with HME apps. The most popular apps is Galleon, an HME server and collection of apps all written in Java. After a lot of tinkering and beating my head on the desk, was able to get Galleon to run and use the GUI management tool. I was not able to get my TiVo to see it. Then I saw this post in the Galleon forums. It turns out the beacon is only turned on when Galleon is running on Windows. I was curious to find out why that was so I dug into Huh? CLSID? COMException? jawin?

The Java/Win32 integration project (Jawin) is a free, open source architecture for interoperation between Java and components exposed through Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM) or through Win32 Dynamic Link Libraries (DLLs).

That sure kills the benefit of using Java, eh?

0:53 | Tags: Projects TiVo | 1 Comment

Wednesday, 6 April, 2005
Upgrade complete
by nate is now running on a Dell PowerEdge SC420. Did anyone notice the three hours of downtime? Hopefully you'll notice how much faster responds. I know I sure will. Read on for detail of the upgrade. was running on a Pentium 233 MMX with 256MB of RAM. I had a 2GB root drive and a 20GB home directory drive. I replaced it with a new Dell with a 2.53GHz Celeron with 256MB of RAM and a 160 GB hard drive. Here is the procedure I used.

  1. First I wanted to make sure I could get anything running on the Dell, so I booted up the Debian installer and did a test install. The default 2.4 kernel couldn't see the Serial ATA drive. I tried the 2.6 kernel on the installer and that worked fine.
  2. I proceeded to do another install, this time partitioning the drive like so:
    • /boot on /dev/sda2
    • swap on /dev/sda3
    • /realroot on /dev/sda5
      This is where / will end up when I'm done
    • / on /dev/sda6
      This is a temporary root for upgrade purposes only
  3. Once the system is running, I installed a few utilities like dump and xfsdump.
  4. Power down the Dell and the old server. Replace the CD in the Dell with the 2 GB root disk from the old server.
  5. Boot the Dell from the SATA drive.
  6. Mount the old root drive and dump it to /realroot
  7. chroot to /realroot to install kernel-image-2.6.8-2-686.
  8. Fix up config files in /realroot so it's mounting /dev/sda instead of /dev/hda and using the tg3 network driver instead of 3c59x.
  9. Reboot using /realroot as root to make sure that worked.
  10. Power down everything again and plug in the 20 GB drive.
  11. Remove the temporary root partition and repartition the drive to use LVM on the 153 GB that wasn't allocated yet. Then I made a 80GB logical volume for /home.
  12. Copy everything from the 20 GB drive to the new 80 GB volume with xfsdump.
  13. Power down, plug the CD drive back in, and boot back up.
  14. Check that email works, then go to bed.

0:17 | Tags: Projects | 0 Comments

Monday, 4 April, 2005
New Server Arriving
by nate
According to UPS, my new server should arrive today. I'll try to enjoy the 70 degree weather today, but as soon as the sun sets, I'm ripping open the box. Expect some down time this week as I move things over. Tuesday should be rainy, maybe I can get it done that night.

9:30 | Tags: Projects | 0 Comments

Friday, 25 March, 2005
Failed upgrade
by nate
Last night I tried to upgrade a hard drive in candle, my web/file/dns/mail server. Candle is a Pentium 233 MMX that I've been using since 1998. The 20 GB drive with my home directories is 95% full and I have an 80 GB drive I can replace it with. I installed the 80 GB drive, booted the system and copied everything from the 20 to the 80. Then I removed the 20 and couldn't get the system to recognize the 80 anymore. I tried for several hours last night and this morning to get it to work with no success. Candle is back in service with the original 20 GB drive. My next attempt at an upgrade will probably replace the entire system.

11:32 | Tags: Projects | 2 Comments

Saturday, 5 February, 2005
Easy calendar sharing with Sunbird
by nate

MozillaZine announced today that Sunbird made its first official release, version 0.2. I've always been interested in calendar products. Unfortunately, I never got around to using them or working on them. If found a tutorial that shows how easy it is to publish and share calendars with Sunbird. Try it out, subscribe to my birthdays calendar.

16:55 | Tags: Projects | 0 Comments

Thursday, 30 December, 2004
Good bye Qmail
by nate

I've been using Qmail since Mark registered for me. I set it up several times in college, emulated the structure for a mailing list project, and really liked the ability to create throw away email addresses. Push has come to shove and I'm sick of spam slipping through. I decided to migrate over to *gasp* Postfix. After much reading I took the dive and in less than an hour I had converted most things.

17:26 | Tags: Projects | 0 Comments