Archive for the 'English' Category

PostgreSQL conference Europe in Amsterdam

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

PostgreSQL Conference Europe 2011 starts 2 weeks from today in the beautiful city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. This is the fourth annual conference hosted by PostgreSQL Europe, following on from extremely successful events in Prato (Italy), Paris and Stuttgart, and is aimed at developers, DBAs, technologists and decision makers either using, or considering using the world’s most advanced Open Source database.

This year we have four days on the schedule, with a kick-off day of training sessions hosted by respected PostgreSQL developers such as Greg Smith, Bruce Momjian, Magnus Hagander, Guillaume Lelarge and more. Topics will cover performance tuning, application development, database administration, replication & high availability and geospatial. The training sessions are available on their own, or as part of a regular conference attendance at additional – but very reasonable – cost.

We had a record number of talk proposals submitted this year but we’ve resisted the urge to host even more sessions in parallel – in fact we’ve reduced the number of parallel sessions to three as we all know how frustrating it can be when more than one that you want to see are at the same time. Instead we’ve extended the conference by a day to accomodate over 40 different sessions, which has the added bonus of allowing an additional night of social activities – always a great way to discuss the latest technologies, trends and ideas with other Postgres users over a beer or two.

We’ve got a great range of topics for this year, covering new features in PostgreSQL 9.1 and beyond, developing applications, running Postgres in the cloud, hacking PostgreSQL internals, tools and add-on products and managing large databases, presented by a wide cross-section of users and developers, including a number of this year’s Google Summer of Code students who will talk about their work. You can view the complete schedule on the conference website: http://www.postgresql.eu/events/schedule/pgconfeu2011/

Our opening keynote this year will be presented by Ram Mohan, EVP and CTO of Afilias who manage the .info, .org and .mobi top level domains using Postgres. Ram will be discussing the business decisions and strategy around their use of PostgreSQL. Our closing keynote will be presented by Ed Boyajian, President and CEO of EnterpriseDB who will discuss PostgreSQL’s role in the post-Oracle era.

So, if you haven’t done so already, head on over to the website at http://2011.pgconf.eu/registration/ to register as an attendee to avoid missing out on what promises to be an outstanding conference in an fantastic location. See you in Amsterdam!

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Queer Geeks

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Recently at the Chaos Communication Camp I sat down with a group of ‘queer geeks’. We shared, with the world, our experience with and our feelings surrounding being queer in the hacker-scene. We convened in the middle of a rainy night in a make-shift studio in a tent and had a very profound discussion on the camp radio Binary Voice. I have not really expressed myself in that session a lot, but listening back to the recording I can not help but wanting to elaborate.

At the end of the show I say I think it is fantastic to be queer. While that sounds like an easy thing to proclaim, I have not always thought so. In fact, up until around 20 I really hated myself for being gay. My environment constantly gave me a lot of signals that being gay is somehow wrong, and although I never had to endure the physical violence that, for example, Mitch Altman had to endure it did scar me psychologically.

I denied that part of myself until I ended up with suicidal tendencies with a psychiatrist. During those sessions I first explored this part of my identity. By then, I had reverted to substance abuse (alcohol, weed, xtc, hallucinogens, you name it) to aid in the impossible task of pretending I had no sexual preference for boys. I mean, sexuality is such an integral part of our being, to deny that is like to deny that one breathes.

Imagine the constant struggle, fantasizing about boys and falling in love with your male classmates while at the same time strongly believing it is wrong and must never surface. That’s hard. Really hard. I don’t think I can aptly describe what that did to me to anyone who has not gone through the same struggle.

When I came out to friends and family and labelled myself gay, I thought I was there. I partied like mad in the local gay scene, thought I was complete. Yet, the years of denial and coping mechanisms were not easily dismissed. Somehow, the feeling it was somehow wrong persisted. It was hard for me to assimilate within a new group and tell them I am queer. It really felt like an obstacle, I feared I would not be accepted for who I am.

The way the world was treating me still lead to a lot of frustration. The Dutch word ‘homo’ was (and still is) being used as a derogate term. It is a word some reserve for their worst enemies, for the people they deject the most. I got really angry about that, but instead of using that anger to change things in a positive way I let it build up inside me like a cancer.

I still feel hurt when people use the word ‘gay’ as a derogate term. Within certain subcultures of the hacker scene, especially those where kids measure their hacking abilities bragging about their conquests in some sort of nerdy masochism, it is socially acceptable to use language that hurts people. It is encouraged even. Bashing queers is, unfortunately, an easy way to get accepted within certain peer groups.

Usually the usage of the word gay as a way of dismissing someone is out of carelessness though. I have rarely found anyone who really has problems with queerness. It is habitual use of language, no conscious speech act. I tend to say something when I observe this. I try to explain how that same careless use of words almost drove me to end my life, kill myself.

I hope that will make people think. I know it has made people think. And I hope that with that I can contribute in making it easier for young kids out there who have similar issues as I did have.

For myself, I have found peace in that regard. I am openly queer, and will take every opportunity I can to let the world know. I love my life as such, and while I am still struggling with the psychological scars and addictive behaviour left from that time I do celebrate my queerness every opportunity I get.

It really makes me cry when I think of those young ones out there who might be gay, bisexual or whatever and are going through what I went through. I want to help them become themselves. I am glad that The Netherlands has the COC, an organisation that furthers queer emancipation but also supports anyone who is going through the process of coming out of the closet. I know some of my friends take issues with their political ways, but for me the real value of the COC is the sheer support one gets from being safe among peers who have had similar issues. When I finally acknowledged my homosexuality at 20, it helped me so much just to be able to go there and talk, listen and make friends with like-minded people. I have deep respect for the volunteers going into the classrooms, educating adolescents about the rich tapestry of queerness.

A few years after I came out, I had a profound experience. A friend whom I knew from the hardcore scene (gabber, speed, happy is for homos) called me, and started talking about how he heard about my coming out. To my surprise, he told me he was gay too. I had never expected this to come from that particular peer group, yet just by being openly queer it all of a sudden became acceptable for others as well. And that, for me, acknowledges the fact that just by being myself I can help.

I am therefore very proud of the show we did at CCC. We had a unique gathering of queer geeks at the table, openly talking about their deepest feelings, most horrible experiences and also the joy of being who you are. I really hope kids (and adults!) out there who struggle with their own sexual identity listen to it and can find support in the wise words spoken. Already a day after the show, Mitch told me about people coming out right there and then.

As a final thought, I want to emphasize that just putting the label ‘gay’ on myself is not the end but merely the beginning of the exploration of my own sexuality. Yes, I really like guys. And for a while I even went to the other extreme: I would deny every feeling I could possibly have for someone of the female (or whatever other) sex. I am slowly coming around, and realize things aren’t binary.

I have several friends who also do not tend to fit in the dominant social paradigm (to quote Mitch from the aforementioned show) of the monogamous heterosexual relationship, and are finding ways to deal with that while still existing within that dominating model. It is hard sometimes, but it is a lot of fun as well. And true hapiness, I believe, can only be found by following ones heart without regarding what others might think or judge you by.

Anyway, I encourage each and everyone (also if you do not consider yourself to be queer) to go and download that recording. And most of all, I encourage everyone out there to be themselves. And if that is hard somehow, know that there are a whole bunch of persons that have gone through it already and that are more than willing to talk. To listen. Do not hesitate to contact any of us on the panel (me, Mitch, Jimmy, Maha, Socialhack, Willow, Fabien and Tomate).

Be excellent!

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Reverse tethering for android

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Since I’m on a road-trip and don’t have a SIM-card with data for every country I’m visiting (I’m fine in Germany and Belgium, but did not get a SIM-card for the Czech republic where i’m just for 24 hours) and never connect with my phone to an untrusted wifi network, I thought i’d do the reverse of tethering: connect my phone to my laptop (which has a tunnel to my server-rack in the datacenter) and surf through that. So mostly as a note for myself, here’s what I did:

Connected the USB between phone and laptop, then enabled tethering (this is Cyanogen 2.2 on a G1, rooted). This brings up the usb0 nic on both ends with some default ip’s. Then went into the terminal on the phone (probably can do this with adb shell as well) and checked I could ping:

# ifconfig usb0
usb0: ip 192.168.42.129 mask 255.255.255.0 flags [up broadcast running multicast]
# ping 192.168.42.137
PING 192.168.42.137 (192.168.42.137) 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from 192.168.42.137: icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.519ms

With that running, it is time to enable forwarding on my linux laptop:

sysctl -w net.ipv4.ip_forward=1

And enable some firewall rules to have traffic from the phone get NATTED on the outgoing tunnel endpoint on my laptop (tap0, remember usb0 is the usb nic that connects to my phone):

iptables -A FORWARD -i tap0 -o usb0 -m state --state RELATED,ESTABLISHED -j ACCEPT
iptables -A POSTROUTING -t nat -o tap0 -j MASQUERADE
iptables -A INPUT -i usb0 -j ACCEPT
iptables -A FORWARD -i usb0 -o tap0 -j ACCEPT

Then I set the default route:

route add default gw 192.168.42.137

And finally, I need to tell the android that my nameservers are 194.109.6.66 and 194.109.9.99:

# setprop net.dns1 194.109.6.66
# setprop net.dns2 194.109.9.99

And we’re done!

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The Last Ninja Tour is on the road

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

One of the things I have always wanted to do is visit Vienna and attend Ninjacon (previously known as Plumbercon). So when I learned that this years Ninjacon is actually going to be the last one (it will continue as B-sides Vienna, you know, B-sides, the next hippest thing since sliced bread), I had a crazy idea: let’s just drive down to Vienna, stop at some hackerspaces along the way and attend!

As it is with me and crazy ideas, I then stopped thinking and just did it. So here I am writing from a comfy couch in Das Labor. This hackerspace in Bochum (Germany) is my first stop on the way to Vienna, and I must say: not a bad choice at all. But more on that later.

In about an hour, I will be heading out to Kassel where there is Flipdot. From there on to Weimar (Maschinenraum) and Prague (brmlab). And then I will hit Vienna just in time to unload and set-up the audio gear for Ninjacon. Yes, the audiogear. You know how these things go. You plan a quiet vacation, but before you know it your car is full of equipment or fiber or what-have-you. So in this case, the crew at Ninjacon asked if I could bring some audio gear, since that was one of the things they had not covered yet.

So with all the audio gear of the Signal studio (graciously sponsored by Hxx of course) and some borrowed PA speakers I will do the audio at Ninjacon. Great, I won’t get bored then! Luckily, i’m staying an extra day to leave on Monday again. Of course I want to check out Metalab and the city and whatever else Socialhack is going to show me!

From Vienna, it is on to Munich (I hope, haven’t yet heard back from then) and then Stuttgart, where I will revisit Shackspace. Well, that is, visit their new location because they have moved since my first (and also last) visit there about 6 months ago. And then it’s Luxembourg, for that long-due visit to syn2cat. En passant, I will join celebrations of the duke’s birthday (sort of like queensday back home, but with dukes and duchesses instead of queens and princes).

If that’s not enough, after a day of recovery, I’m heading to Charleroi in Belgium to arrive in time for the opening weekend of a fresh new hackerspace by the name of Wolfplex.

So yeah, quite the trip. I haven’t planned much, just announced my arrival at certain dates in certain cities and hope I will be able to find a place to crash. I mean to spend the days contemplating and reflecting. I’m due for a re-evaluation of all my projects, priorites and life. What better way to do so than lounging at all those hackerspaces!

Looking forward to all of it. And I hope I will find a 74HC125N along the way somewhere to complete my USBTinyISP. Stay tuned for updates.

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How I got seduced by the dark side and failed to resist (and a sparkle of hope?)

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

I am not the biggest fan of google. Never was.  I loathe their hunger for information, any information, about individuals. I loathe the fact that they provide a single point of entry to a wealth of mineable information to the us government. I loathe how they have become a synonym for the internet. I was a strong opponent of anything google, and laughed at my friends when they got a google account to personalize their search results. Yet, by now I have become fully integrated in the google network. I have joined the borg. And I am even kinda happy about it.

Just try one for free

It started like so many addictions. You try one of their samplings. In my case, it started with google docs. I don’t remember what my first google doc was. I was participating in some project or the other and someone offered to share a document with me (and the rest of the team). Relucantly, I created a google account (with some feigned name and custom email address to keep up the pretence of anonymity) and went into the document. All went well, we shared information, changed the document collaboratively and that was it.

Yet, after a while, someone on another project wanted to share a document. So I created a new account, went in, and did the rest. Well, after a while I had 20 google accounts for as many documents. It became a nuisance, I had to log out and log in again to get to another document. So I crossed a line. I merged all the documents into one account.

Later, I bought my android phone (the HTC Dream aka G1) directly from the pusher. I created another google account to activate it, thinking I would miss out if I would use the phone without. I know that if you don’t use any of googles services, it is fine not to use a google account on your phone (after some hackery). But I was curious, ok??

So all went fine. I had my google docs account. I had my android phone account. I tried to take care and not leave any traces that would link the two together. I would never log in to google from my desktop with the android account and vice versa.

Meanwhile, I was running some web-based groupware suite to keep track of my appointments. This had some disadvantages though: it was clunky to use on my phone. Also, it was a nuisance to have yet another tool to maintain, keep track of security updates and what have you. I mean, an agenda should increase producitivty, right, not get in the way of productivity.

So I made a next big step, I decided I wanted to try google calendar. It came integrated on my phone by default and had a usable interface on the web so I could use it on my desktop as well. So after a few tentative test-runs I switched and decommisioned the groupware suite.

From there, it all went down-hill for me.  I started using google latitude to share my location on my blog during my trip through the US, used google voice to make cheap international calls from the us back home, started using google tasks to keep track of my todo items, initiated new google docs myself and even had a short period where I (unwillingly) experimented with google wave.

Antagonizing realization

But all this time I had stayed far from the one google service that symbolizes, for me at least, the summum of giving up any privacy one has: google contacts. I would not, never, share my contacts with google! But then  I wanted to upgrade my phone to cyanogen mod. Well, I actually had to flash the device because I broke the dalvik cache and it would not execute any app anymore. I had somehow deleted all the permission definitions. I could not even install new apps anymore. With no sensible way to backup my contacts, I started to contemplate the uncontemplateable: google contacts! Because of course, google apps still had all the permissions they needed.

So I broke. Synced my contacts, flashed the device and restored them again. And discovered how convenient google contacts actually is. I am now even looking into integrating google contacts into mutt.

And there you have it. That is the story of how I turned from a decent google opponent into a fully integrated cell of the great google information collection agency. I use google services to organize my life. And I like it.

Healing

Now, some people, when they hear I am addicted to google services, sigh “Oh you fool, I can do without just fine!”. Yeah well, that’s nice for them. But those are either the people that are impossible to work with because they always forget what they promised to do by when and need constant reminders to get even the silliest little thing done. Or they are the people with nice unconvoluted lives who generally are not that full of initiative or commitment.

For the rest of us, the people who operate on the same high level of energy as myself, tools like described above are essential to keep track of the many things going without keeping it all in your head and going insane. Some use apple’s crap but most are also on google.

I would love to kick this habit!

But their applications are so damn easy to use. They do what I want, without getting in the way. They are not overly complex. They don’t require me to maintain a server, keep track of security issues with the zillion of dependencies and keep an eye on the hardware. I can access them from wherever I want, on whatever device I want. I get reminders on the desktop and on the phone, so that whatever I’m doing I’m not going to miss an appointment.

Now, I can see a few ways out here. The first would be to reverse-engineeer some of their protocols. This should not be too hard, as it all works browser-based. It just takes time.

Another thing I could imagine to prevent google from looking at your contacts and tasks would be to write custom applications to access those but store everything encrypted. Looking at google tasks for example, I could simply write a desktop application and an android application that both use the same encryption algorithm and key to store each individual task encrypted. I could build an android contacts store to store my contacts encrypted, or on another server. It just takes time.

And oh, I could try and implement the google calendar backend protocol in a relatively simple daemon that would not require lots of dependencies and thus would be easy to maintain. Then redirect calendar traffic from my phone to my own backend server, and use sunbird as a frontend. It just takes time.

And there you have it. Google’s services are there. There is no open alternative for any of those services that is as easy to use, as integrated as googles services, cross-platform and without the hassle of maintaining dozens of packages.

Who knows. Now that I am aware of my problematic addiction, I might work up the energy to start a project to provide a more open alternative with privacy and encryption as the driving design forces, instead of data-mining and dollar signs. A suite where you have a choice to host it yourself, or on community-operated servers. Or perhaps even a non-profit that you pay a little amount towards keeping the software and hardware running for you.

I could see this kick off. Now all I need is a little time (or money so I don’t have to worry about making a living while making this work).

Addendum

By the way, in case you are wondering: I’m not entirely stupid. I do make my own backups of everything I stuff in their cloud.

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