New Ubuntu = awesome!

I just rebooted my work desktop into Karmic Koala, the new release of Ubuntu, my preferred distribution of GNU/Linux.  I don’t have much substantive to say, but the qualitative experience has so far been pretty amazing.

Not only did I get to work all day while the upgrade was downloading, only having to reboot at the very end, but everything worked as I expected when I rebooted – which is to say that the only thing which didn’t work was VMWare, which I expected to not work as with every kernel upgrade.  I might even take this as an opportunity to give Virtualbox a proper try (it was less than amazing last time I did).

Let me make that really clear – I only had about twenty minutes of downtime for the entire upgrade, and it would have been less if the installer had left upgrading Firefox until the end, as that was the only thing which broke (and even then, only partly – no new urls, but clicking through links was fine) while the upgrade was going on.  Try that with Windows 🙂

Things feel just a little snappier, just a little shinier.  I’m really impressed so far.  The new theme and icon set is lovely.

If you’ve been putting off trying out Ubuntu or Linux in general, now’s a great time to start!


No-context-needed IRC log time!

-!- zfe [n=Gianluca@] has joined #ubuntu-women
<zfe> is this the kitchen?
<zfe> who would make me a sammich?
<redacted> zfe: No this is not the kitchen
<zfe> aren’t you women?
<redacted> zfe: you are welcome to go into your own kitchen and make yourself a sandwich.
<redacted> zfe: please read the channel guidelines in the topic
-!- mode/#ubuntu-women [+o hypa7ia] by ChanServ
<zfe> ok i will while you make me a sammich
-!- mode/#ubuntu-women [+b *!*=Gianluca@88.252.29.*] by hypa7ia
-!- zfe was kicked from #ubuntu-women by hypa7ia []

Nicknames redacted to protect the innocent.

Living in the Future, or, HackLab Buys a Cupcake

On September 1st, I sent an email to the HackLab discussion list asking for folks to commit. Less than 24 hours later, members and non-members alike stepped up and pledged $700 in addition to my initial commitment of $200. Our MakerBot Batch 7 CupCake CNC will ship in early October, hopefully in time for MiniSoOnCon!

3D printing is so amazing. This is the MITS Altair of a DIY revolution whose shape I’m not at all certain of. I couldn’t be more exited to see what the hacklabbers make and how we improve the machine, too.

In alphabetical order, the donors were:

3ric Johanson
Alex Leitch
Byron Sonne
Chad Mounteny
Cheryl Mok
Chris Pilkington
Dale Babiy
Dan Kaminsky
Eric from NYC Resistor
Kate Raynes-Goldie
Sergio Martns
Seth Hardy

Welcome to the future, folks.


Python Open Mike

One of the early results from the dialog the Python community is having about diversity issues is a new blog – Python Open Mike.  The idea is that there are folks out there who have something to say that’s relevant to the Python community, but who don’t necessarily keep a blog themselves.  Open Mike is a venue for their posts.    It’s moderated, but easy to post to via email, and syndicated on Planet Python.  Though it came out of the diversity mailing list, it’s not intended to be restricted to diversity issues.  So if you have something to say about Python and are disinclined for whatever reason to set up your own, feel free to step up to the Mike!


Xelerance Google Summer of Code

I’m pleased to announce that I’m working with Xelerance this summer to mentor students participating in the Google Summer of Code program.  We have a bunch of interesting ideas up and have been talking with potential participants on IRC (#xelerance-gsoc on  We are mentoring three sets of projects, related to openswan, DNSSEC tools, and Off-The-Record Messaging.   If you’re interested in participating as either a student or mentor in any of these, I’m reachable at leigh at hypatia dot ca, and of course on freenode under the username hypa7ia.

This is the first year Xelerance (and I) have participated in the program.  I’ve been reading lots of the collected wisdom from previous years on the mentor email list and around the web.  I’ve really enjoyed talking with students so far and can’t wait to read the applications as they come in.


Exporting cookies from Firefox 3.x into cookies.txt format

I’ve been searching for a while for a way to extract cookies from Firefox 3.x in order to use them with stuff like wget and Perl’s libwwwperl, which I have been using for a bunch of scripting.  Firefox 3.x uses sqlite to store cookies, whereas apps which let you load cookies files are looking for IE or Netscape formatted ones.  The latter were used up to Firefox 2, but I’ve had trouble keeping FF2 and 3 happy on the same machine… And going back to FF2 feels really painful without the magical search bar of awesomeness.

There’s now a beta extension up to save your FF3 cookies to the right format, which makes me a very happy camper!  It’s on the official site but you need to sign in to the site to download it here as it’s still experimental.  Super useful though!

Also very useful and something I’d forgotten about until yesterday is this list of bookmarklets (snippets of javascript which you save as bookmarks) to manipulate form properties before submitting them, which lets you save passwords in your browser in forms where that function has been disabled, among other things.


CSC491 Capstone Design Class Notes and Status

For CSC491, the Capstone Design Project class I’m taking at the University of Toronto, I’m working with a project called InfoTrace.  The Citizen Lab, who run the project, are interested in global network reachability, particularly under adverse conditions such as DDoS attacks, BGP prefix hijacking, movement of server resources, etc.

Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far:

  • Tracked down U of T’s Principal Investigators for the Planet-Lab network and asked for access for the project
  • Set up this blog
  • Set up a GitHub account
  • Found some similar research
  • Read up on BGP
  • Explored several tools for doing traceroutes and related network tracing: hping3, nmap’s –traceroute, 0trace, and scapy.

A few links promised to my classmates, which are interesting on their own:

Miles Thibault is working on a business plan for a “Wikimovies” web site.  I think he’d get a lot out of some Long Tail reading:  Chris Anderson’s original article, and Kevin Kelly’s riff on it titled “1,000 True Fans“.

Denis Pankratov and Jennifer Ruttan are working on a really nifty-looking project to do accurate indoor localization with CDMA (that “other” cell phone protocol), and (blah) Ian Goldber’s paper on “Three Protocols for Location Privacy” from last year’s Privacy Enhancing Technologies symposium.

My goals, which were originally for the next two weeks but have been pushed back only one as I’ve fallen a bit behind on the “getting stuff up and running” side of things are:

  • Coming up with a database schema for storing connectivity information.
  • Getting a basic web interface up and running in django.

I’m working on these first rather than the network underpinnings as we don’t yet have access to the Planet-Lab infrastructure, so the constraints there aren’t entirely clear.  The front-end stuff will likely run on a server at Citizen Lab, so I can get that up and running right away.