How to make sudo use your login name

This is being tossed out there as a handy reference to sysadmins around the world.
Sudo is a magnificient tool for Unix / Linux based systems that allows a single command to be executed as the root / privileged user. The advantage is that the command is logged to the syslog, and access to sudo-managed tools can be tightly controlled via /etc/sudoers.
One problem that comes up a lot is that logged activities on a host will show up as ‘root’ when sudo is used to invoke them, when what you really want is to know who initiated the command.
The sudoers file can include an option that tells sudo to not reset the users login name when escalating priveleges. The option is:

Defaults        !set_logname 

Putting this option in sudoers will make it so RCS checkins and other tasks will log as the user who invoked the sudo, not root.

Fun with Server Uptimes

At ${dayjob}, we were doing a system audit when an alarm came up on a pair of servers we rarely had any interraction with. One of our new monitoring tools was showing these servers were not answering correctly, and should be investigated.
Investigate I did, and found… four machines in a full sized rack that were doing absolutely nothing.
It turns out these were used for 3 customers we no longer supported. The applications were still there, the appservers were running, just… no one had connected to them in almost a year and a half.
What’s more entertaining is the uptime on these boxes:

09:23:08 up 992 days, 19:15,  1 user,  load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00

The current plan is to let them roll over to 1000 days, throw a little party for them, and shut ’em down.
(For the true geeks, these are dual opteron Rackable servers with 8gig RAM running CentOS 4.4)
Update – Just found the database servers these machines have been using. Also idle, but the uptime is even more impressive:

 09:43:08 up 1304 days, 19:49,  1 user,  load average: 0.22, 0.09, 0.02

Vox is Dead. Long live Vox!

As little as 5 years ago, Six Apart was the undisputed gold leader of blogging platforms. Movable Type was the largest and best known blogging platform, and corporate entities were making moves to acquire competing services.
During this time, SixApart launched Vox. The idea was to blend blogging with social networking. Shared questions and trends, bring the whole blogger community together into one big happy family.
It never worked.
Bloggers are individuals. They want their own sandbox, their own domains, their own content. Not only from an individualistic stance, but also when it comes to money. It’s hard to make a buck when your blog is buried in with a thousands other bloggers.
Vox lurched along for a few years, but never got any traction. Perhaps due to its muddled target audience. Were they targeting bloggers? Facebook folks? The then-dominant MySpace crew? It wasn’t clear.
I had a Vox account, and I posted perhaps 3-4 things on it, and lost interest. There was no draw or anchor. I never went back.

Quicken Online Shutting Down – One Guy in Mattawan Surprised

Quicken® Free Personal Finance Software, Money Management, Budgeting, Personal Finances

Well THIS will come as a shock to absolutely no one:
>Dear Valued Customer,
> For the past several months, we’ve been working hard to combine the best features of Quicken Online and Mint.com into a single online personal finance solution–Mint.com. With the improved Mint.com, you can enjoy the features you love in Quicken Online, plus new benefits such as connecting to over 16,000 financial institutions, including Canadian banks–as well as tracking your investment and retirement accounts. There is also a new Goals feature that takes the tool you enjoyed in Quicken Online to the next level.
> As a result of these changes, Quicken Online will no longer be available as of August 29, 2010. Creating a new Mint.com account is easy, but for reasons of security and accuracy, we cannot create one for you. Once you’re signed in, you can add your accounts and see your financial picture in just a few minutes.
Color me shocked. NOT.
It was obvious from the beginning that Intuit was never going to make anything serious out of Quicken.com – they’re far more interested in Quickbooks. When they announced the aquisition of Mint.com, the writing was on the wall.
I recently switched my online accounting over to Mint.com, and I have to admit it’s a helluva good system. Fast, very well designed interface, and good integration with my other finances.
So, there ya have it folks. If you can’t code it, acquire it.

iPhone Game Chatter – geoDefense Swarm Rocks my world

I admit it. I’ve been a fan of the geoDefense games for quite a while (even during geoDefense’s Freak Out period). When Critical Thought Games released geoDefense Swarm, I jumped at it. The new game layout (free form, etc) took a little getting used to, but after a bit, I was hooked.
geoDefense SwarmFor those not familiar with it, these are classic “tower defense” games. geoDefense used a fixed track for the ‘creeps’, while Swarm uses a free form layout. The game play is virtually identical between the versions (Swarm introduces ‘thumper’ towers, while de-emphasizing ‘vortex’ towers. Which is sad, cuz I do love me the vortexes).
The games have a strong ‘retro’ color-vector look to them. That coupled with some smooth, stunning animation makes the play experience pretty exciting. As the towers get more powerful, and more dramatic action is happening, the visuals really ratchet up. The endgame for an endless level is constant nuke-explosions from the missile towers and plasma lasers firing every which way. Kaboom!
Lately I’ve been rerunning Swarm levels and shooting for higher scores. This involves a huge amount of trial and error at the beginning, particularly on the ‘endless’ levels (which I adore).
The trick is to get the score multiplier up as high as possible in the first 10 levels. My best is around 900x by level 10. That particularly run resulted in my best score ever in the Crazy 88 level (‘hard’ ‘endless’). The screenshot here shows the very end of that game, which took about 3 hours to play beginning to end. Naturally, toward the end, it was just a matter of watching the game run it’s course.
Thanks @nsxdavid for making such an awesome game. Can we have some more endless levels please?

Beating the Heat – How I Did It

Sounds more grandiose than it is, really.
We’re going through a heck of a heat wave here on the east coast. The last 2-3 days have been 90+ degrees with high humidity, and it’s showing no signs of really letting up until at least next week.
I don’t react well to heat – I mean, I can deal with it during the day while puttering around, but sleeping? Bad things happen when Mr. Geek doesn’t get his beauty sleep.
With our super efficient buildings, we really don’t need to air condition an entire building just to make it habitable. But I’ve found that even with proper ‘behaviour’ (closing windows during the day, opening at night, using fans if necessary), I still need to cool the space down when I sleep.
Here’s how I set up my bedroom to use the minimal amount of cooling necessary for me to get a good nights sleep.
A few months ago I built a loft in my bedroom so Zach could have a place to sleep when he was over. I found that on super-hot-humid days (like this week), the upper part of the loft got too stuffy, even with the room AC turned on. I was also uncomfortable ‘turning up’ the AC just so my upper space could get cool. “The rest of the room is fine, it’s just this spot. Hmm.”
So last night I moved the room AC under the loft, turned it on LOW, and dangled one of my sheets over the end of the loft. With that loose enclosure, the low-power AC was easily enough to keep the space cool. I flopped on what is normally Zach’s bed, and slept like the dead for almost 8 hours.
I’m able to cool that space down in about a half an hour. I can turn off the AC when I leave, so in the end, I run the AC only about 9 hours a day on lower power. Just enough for me to get a good nights sleep.
Works for me!

CONGO Available for Download

Well, I said it and said it, and promised I’d do it, now it’s really here.
You’ve heard me chatter on about CONGO, my Event Management System for running conventions, meetings, and the like – well, now you can download and run it yourself.
Details are available on the CONGO home page. If you’re a fandom or gaming event, and you’re looking for a tried and trued registration system for your con, this is the place to go.
Enjoy!

StarCraft II – Release date of July 27

Well, guess I’ll be booking my PTO early. According to Slashdot :

Blizzard announced today that StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the first game in a series of three, will be released on July 27. The game will contain the Terran campaign (29 missions), the full multiplayer experience, and “several challenge-mode mini-games,” with “focused goals designed to ease players into the basics of multiplayer strategies.” It will launch alongside the revamped Battle.net, which we’ve previously discussed. Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said, “We’ve been looking forward to revisiting the StarCraft universe for many years, and we’re excited that the time for that is almost here. Thanks to our beta testers, we’re making great progress on the final stages of development, and we’ll be ready to welcome players all over the world to StarCraft II and the new Battle.net in just a few months.”

I remember being completely addicted to StarCraft when it first came out. We recently tried getting it running on Zach’s Windows XP setup, but we weren’t successful (Starcraft ran on Windows 95… that was 15 years ago. Sheesh!).
I wonder if we could have a release / lan party. Hmmmm 🙂

iPhone Development Guidelines – Do’s and Don’ts

First, a disclaimer. I am not an iPhone developer. I am what used to be termed a ‘power user’ – gamer, tool user, critic, yes – but I don’t write iCode. (I do develop, just not on the iphone).
Having gotten that out of the way, I’d like to propose a list of Do’s and Don’ts that every iPhone app developer on the planet should adhere to. This is a list from a USERS perspective – things that irk me to no end.
Onward…
* DO : Obey the Mute switch! – How hard can this be? If the mute switch is on, then SHADDUP! There’s a REASON it’s called a mute switch! I don’t know how many games I’ve powered up that leave me scrambling for the volume-down buttons when the mute switch was IN THE MUTE POSITION.
* DO : Incremental saves – again, primarily on the gaming front. That little device in your hand? it’s a TELEPHONE. That means people can call you at any time, and interrupt the application. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent 3 hours getting Sir Grinsalot to the top of Mount Bigahonkin and you’re about to kill the Great Gizbo of Durn – grandma will STILL call you at that point, interrupting the game. Save!
* DO : Provide status that you’re doing something. Okay, older platforms are slow, so sometimes it takes time for things to load. Provide some animation or indication that something is going on – a load bar would be best (gives an idea how much longer it’ll take), but even a spinner will do.
* DO NOT : assume that just because you’re on an iPhone, the easiest device on the planet to use, you don’t need to provide directions. Apps are NOT self explanatory, and a link to a web page is not enough. “This button does that, this button does that. Got it? Go forth and enjoy.”
* DO NOT : Link out to a web site without informing the user you’re about to do so! Nothing is more painful than tapping on a “view the high scores list” and have that exit the damned app to start Safari. That app may have taken you 4 minutes just to get to that screen. Now you have to do it all again.
* DO : Provide a rotation lock. Some of us like to read or do games while going to sleep, which does not necessarily mean I’ll be in an upright position. Having the app auto-rotate to what it THINKS is the right orientation is irritating when you have no option to disable this.
I’m sure this list will grow, and I’m open to suggestions as to what to add to it. These are things that have come up in my adventures.
What bits have YOU seen that developers seem to miss?

CONGO – Motivation is Good!

I’ve been pretty lax on CONGO lately. Other Life stuff as well as being worn after Arisia has put coding on the back burner.

SystemUIServer

But in the last week or two, several folks have asked for updates and new installations, and my “I should get coding again!” bits have been tingling.
This week I had a great meeting with the Arisia registration head, and she and I hammered out a schedule of updates for the next release. I have about a month to implement a bunch of new features – most of which have been burbling in my head for a while, but it’s time to get them coded and released.
There’s been some nice input from other events (some far away, some local) interested in using CONGO, and my path to general release is pretty well established. Having said that, the current code is pretty solid, with documentation, installation instructions, and support available. Want to run it? Let me know, I love testers.
Anyway – code is being checked in and features are slowly getting done. It feels good.

The Age of the Smartphone

A post by my friend Jim made me think about how much smartphones have changed my personal day to day tasks and interractions. This, coupld with another convo I had with one of my cohousing neighbors before a pingpong match (“Hey, you have an iPhone, right? So, what do you do with it?”) gave grist for this posting…
So, it’s a phone, right? What do you do with it?
I…
* Have my entire contact list, email, phone, picture, address, AIM etc information with me all the time. It’s backed up, organized, and constantly updated.
* Am available to my family and friends whenever they wish to reach me, or I wish to reach them. If I don’t want that, I can mute the the phone.
* Am constantly charmed at getting and sending txt messages to my 11yr old son.
* Always have 20-30 books with me that I’m very comfortable reading, even on the smaller screen. (this has been one of the BIGGEST benefits to going with a modern smartphone)
* Have easy access to my email (both work and home) without requiring magic steps of connecting and signing in to the data network
* Have a hundred or so hours of music that is also synced and backed up.
* Very easy access to the 15 or so calendars that I need to be able to see for my duties as a parent, a business owner, an employee, and a community member.
* Able to respond to meeting invites, requests, or suggestions instantly (I get notified as soon as I’m invited to a meeting at work)
* Have a vast array of games to play – some simplistic, some maddeningly addictive.
* Able to keep track of a variety of ‘life’ programs such as calorie / weight tracking, habit trends, etc.
* Be able to look at, audit, and interract with all my bank accounts, including making payments or sending money to folks.
* Easy access to Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge, anytime, anywhere.
* Have a relatively functional camera with me at all times, and the ability to immediately upload / share / post the pictures where people can see them.
This all in a device roughly the size of a pack of playing cards.
The future is here, folks. And it’s pretty damned cool.

Palm’s Deathspiral Continues

According to [this article on money.cnn.com](http://money.cnn.com/2010/03/19/technology/palm_target_price_zero/index.htm?hpt=T2) :
> Morgan Joseph & Co. analyst Ilya Grozovsky, one of the two analysts to cut its price target on Palm shares to $0, said “Palm is essentially an accelerating death spiral.”
It’s not hard to see where Palm lost out. The [Palm Pre](http://www.palm.com/us/products/phones/pre/) is an excellent device. It has wonderful potential, a great form factor, runs Linux. On the feature list, it looks quite good.
It simply appeared two years too late.
Palm’s failures regarding the timeliness of it’s products [has been commented on by me before](https://planet-geek.com/archives/2008/08/iphone-over-pal.html) so I won’t go into them again. But it’s quite obvious by the time they got the Pre out the door, Apple, Rim, Google, and heck even Microsoft had filled up the smartphone market. The market is shaking platforms out and narrowing down the focus – not expanding onto new platforms.
We’ll see if the Pre, and by extension, Palm survives – they’ve weathered bad storms before, but unless the Pre sales level off and hold their own – something I don’t see them doing – I don’t see Palm around in two years.

Paypal is driving me nuts.

Why is Paypal so disorganized?
If you’re a developer, there are something like 6 different sites that are for use by developers. x.com, paypal-community.com, something called custhelp.com (which I was referred to, and sure as hell looks like a phishing site. Or something written by a 12 yr old).
All I want is an answer to why I’m having a problem posting an invoice to their ExpressCheckout, and I’m getting attitude and BS back.
Unbefrigginlievable.

Snake Oil? Visualization of Science vs Health Supplements

Once again InformationIsBeautiful hits one out of the park.
Today’s fun is an interactive page ranking the scientific evidence proving a certain health supplement is effective vs it’s popularity.
Some surprises: Fish oil, folic acid, St Johns Wort, and green tea are well established with proveable scientific evidence to their benefits.
At the other end of the spectrum, Green tea, anti-oxidants, vitamin A and vitamin E have very little evidence as to their effectiveness.

Windows7 – So close!

I’ve been using Windows 7 on my laptop at work for a few months now, and I have to admit, grudgingly, that Microsoft has removed 95% of the irritating problems that make WIndows nigh on impossible to use. The new GUI is smooth, clean, has some very smart behaviours (things that the Linux desktops have been doing for years), and for the most part, it just works.
But.
There’s tidbits that drive me absolutely up a tree, and I’m flat out boggled that Microsoft could make mistakes that I’d expect from a junior hacker whipping up their first app.
Here’s a few highlights.
* One of the BEST enhancements is the ability to grab and drag a window that is maximized. In WinXP, you would have to un-zoom it, move it, then re-zoom it to move it to another monitor. In Win7, a zoomed window can be grabbed and moved. When a window is pushed to the top of the screen, it automatically maximizes. Fantastic. BUT. This behaviour… wait for it… does not work in Office 2007 applications. That’s right, kids, Microsoft’s flagship office suite takes so many shortcuts in their innovative (COUGH HACK) menu and window designs, that it breaks Windows7 default behavior. Stellar work there, guys.
* It’s a universal pattern. A scrollwheel on a mouse will scroll the window or component you’re hovering over. Browser, document, or spreadsheet, move the mouse to a pane, scroll the wheel, and the view scrolls. Except in the Windows 7 explorer (or whatever they call the filesystem browser). Open up the explorer, and resize the window so you have scrollbars on both the left and the right pane. Now scrollwheel on the right – it scrolls. Move the mouse to the left pane, and scrollwheel again. The right pane continues to take the scroll actions. This wouldn’t be a major problem if it weren’t for the next oddity…
* This one isn’t a Windows7 issue in particular, but something that irritates me about Windows in general. Having been using my Macbook Pro for the last 6 months or so, oddities in UIs jump out at me. On a mac, if you click on a non-focused window, the window becomes focused, but the mouse event does not get transferred to the new window. All the click does is make the window active. On windows, the click event does get applied to the window. This is particularly problematic when trying to raise a browse window back to focus, since so many websites have that irritating “click anywhere and I’ll pop up an ad!” – or other javascript idiocy in place.
For the most part, I have to agree with the Penny Arcade folks. “Windows 7. It’s less bad than you expected.”