March 25, 2010 at 9:34 pm (English, Linux) ()


# Etienne Goyer <etienne.goyer@xxxxxx.com>,
# (but really Marc Tardif; credits where due)
# March 25th 2010

# The LDIF format have this annoying feature that line continue
# if the next one start with a space. Bleh. That makes the work
# of standard Unix command-line text filter terribly complicated,
# and make parsing the output of ldapsearch very unreliable.
# Piping the LDIF through this first should fix it.

awk '/^ / { l=l substr($0, 2); next }; { print l; l=$0 }; END { print l }'

# Yep, that's it!

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I want to send money to Microsoft. I really do!

October 30, 2009 at 7:05 pm (Consumer affairs, English, Linux, Ubuntu)

That does not happen very often, but I want to buy something from Microsoft. In fact, I really, honestly, do. Namely, a Technet subscription that I need to test some Windows/Ubuntu interoperability stuff I am working on these days.

Unfortunately, it seems Microsoft really isn’t interested in my money at all. I guess they have enough already. Otherwise, why would they purposefully break their online order form for non-IE user?

Technet order form is borked

You know what they say: do not attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence. But I mean, really, it has been years since I had to deal with stupid rendering issue on non-IE browsers. Only at Microsoft, I guess :(

Let’s see how well IEs4Linux works …

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Oddities in Amazon Associates Operating Agreement

August 27, 2009 at 3:21 am (Consumer affairs, English)

I am thinking of signing up to be an Amazon Associates. Basically, I would link products (mainly, books) that I talk about in my blog posts to corresponding Amazon offerings. If someone clicks the link and end up buying the product in question from Amazon, I get a small referral fee. I get very little traffic on this blog, and I do not plan on pimping stuff very hard or very often, so I doubt I will ever earn more than a couple dollars with this scheme. Mostly, I want to link to books that are mentioned in my post. I actually think Amazon is a pretty useful resource to look up books, particularly the Look Inside feature and customer’s reviews. In fact, I use Amazon extensively to scout books I then borrow from the library. How subversive! :)

Amazon Associates program require that you create an account, and of course, signing up for that account requires that you agree with their Operating Agreement. While reading the Operating Agreement (yep, I have read it, I must be very bored tonight), I notice this specific clause that jump at me as being completely out of whack:

You also acknowledge that we (and our corporate affiliates, such as Alexa Internet, Inc.) may crawl or otherwise monitor your site for the purpose of ensuring the quality and reliability of Special Links on your site (for example, to detect links that are broken or non-functional, links to products that are out of stock or otherwise unavailable, etc.). Therefore, you agree that we and our corporate affiliates may take such actions and that you will not seek to block or otherwise interfere with such crawling or monitoring (and that we and our corporate affiliates may use technical means to overcome any methods used on your site to block or interfere with such crawling or monitoring).

Wow. I mean, just wow. I am floored. There are such gems in these “agreements”, it never cease to amaze me. If they only wants to ignore robots.txt, they could flatly say so and be done with it, but no, they had to make it as broad as possible. These Evil Faceless Corporations really think they can get away with anything, don’t they? Or am I reading too much into it?

Whatever, I will probably end up joining the program anyway. I am such a sheeple.

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Pimp my VPS, linode.com

August 6, 2009 at 5:19 pm (English, Linux) (, , , , )

etienne@sigil:~$ uptime
11:27:25 up 276 days, 23:46, 1 user, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00

Ok, ok, I know: uptime pissing match are lame and juvenile. Plus 276 days isn’t anything to write home about. I just couldn’t think of a better way to introduce this post, sorry.

sigil is my VPS hosted on Linode. Its main job is to host email for my personal domain, outlands.ca. It’s not a very hard job, it moves only a few hundreds email per day (the vast majority being spam, sadly). It also host my personal web space, which gets only a few hits once in a blue moon. All in all, the load average rarely ever get above 0.10.

However, email being my lifeline, it’s a very critical job. I used to host my mail on a real physical server co-located by a friend of mine. But last October, I had to move it fast as the machine had to be decommissioned pronto. Too bad, it worked like a charm for 3.5 years. Thanks a lot for that, Régis!

At first, when looking at my options, I was not too hot about VPS. The usual concerns about performance and security, you know them. But after some shopping around, it became clear that I could only afford a VPS, or tethering a server to my cable modem at home. I went with the former, being somewhat doubtful of my ISP reliability and not wanting to host a humming server in my basement.

Back then, the choice boiled down to either Slicehost or Linode. Slicehost was the better known option, but they just got acquired by Rackspace, a much larger (albeit respectable) company. I had read very good feedback about Linode on the intarweb, and decided to give a chance to the smaller guys.

Set up was very straightforward. I chose the smallest plan available at 20$/month and created an account. I chose their Ubuntu 8.04 LTS disk image, as I do not want to upgrade in the foreseeable future (it’s painful enough once every three years!). I was up and running in no time. Their VPS management toolchain is decent, with a pretty complete web UI (including DNS configuration), an AJAX console, configurable email alerts and an out-of-band ssh-based management console called Lish, which I do not use. All in all, pretty much everything I may ever need.

Now that I have used their service for nine months, I can really say I recommend these guys. My opinion is not fully enlightened, as I never used another VPS provider in the past and cannot make a useful comparison as such. But as Linode have been rock solid since I signed (hence the uptime), and never been down even once (that I noticed!), I am a happy camper. The network was a tiny tad laggy at time in the first couple months, but it have been very snappy ever since. Well, the IMAP server have been as snappy as IMAP can be, and the ssh keystrokes are appearing right away. What more can you ask for? :)

Now, on to the real purpose of this blog: pimping my referral code:


If this post was convincing enough that you decide to use Linode’s excellent VPS service, I kindly suggest you use the above ref code; I will get a 20$ credit if you keep the service three months. That’s what I call win-win-win (as there is three parties). So please do use it, and the karma shall be returned. Somehow. I promise.

If you wonder why I go to the trouble of hosting my own mail server when Gmail would be pleased to do it for free, that’s because I am a real email geek. And a tad too paranoid for my own good. But that’s for another blog post. :)

27/10/2009 Update: Linode just had their worst downtime ever. My VPS was down 6 hours today, and just got back up very recently :( Overall, I am still satisfied with the service, but this just goes on to say that it is not all peaches and cream either …

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Dear Organic Gardening magazine …

August 2, 2009 at 5:28 pm (Consumer affairs, English, Gardening)

Back in the late 90s, I was a real sucker for “free trial issue” offers from computer magazine. I got tons of them, some good, most not so. I would never end up subscribing to the magazine, and would simply throw the endless “credit notices” into the recycling bin. I must be permanently blacklisted at Ziff Davis.

To be entirely honest, this was a bit abusive on my part. I grew out of the habit, mostly because none of the really good magazines I would have actually been interested to read (Dr. Dobb’s, Linux Journal, etc) had these free trial issue offers in the first place. Plus, content on the web getting increasingly good and varied, what’s the point in wasting paper?

Being an aspiring market gardener, I recently went for a splurge and got a subscription to Growing for Market and HortIdeas Online, both of which being highly recommended and worth every single pennies in my opinion. I vaguely heard about Organic Gardening, which is published by Rodale, a well renowned publisher in organic gardening circles. I went to their web site, and took advantage of their free trial issue, something I had not done in over a decade.

Turns out Organic Gardening wasn’t so hot after all, and not worth the money. I assumed not sending payment would be enough to signify my lack of interest in getting the magazine past the free trial issue. But no, I started receiving a series of bill, about once a month, then reminders, and now credit department notice. Of course, these are bogus and I doubt they will go as far as actually reporting these to an actual credit rating agency. Nonetheless, it is a waste of paper and should stop already. So I sent the following email to their customer service department earlier today:

Hello Organic Gardening,

I have taken advantage of your “Free trial issue” offer online on your web site. Your magazine is very fine indeed, but not my cup of tea. It is too “lifestyle”, and not enough hard core gardening, for my taste.

I have received the free issue and accompanying guide. I have not received any more issue of your magazine, which is perfectly fine. I have, however, received increasingly threatening letter from your “credit department”. Just stop already. I do not wish to receive any more issue, and I am not going to pay you a dime. Normally, I would just ignore notices coming from you, but after having received five or six already, this is getting ridiculous. Spare yourself the expense of mailing these notices, they will get you nowhere and reflect badly on your otherwise fine publication.

Thank you,

Etienne Goyer

I guess that will teach me once and for all: free trial issue are not worth the trouble. There. I definitely deserve it, considering my past karma with printed magazines. Next time, I will get my “free trial issue” from the local library, thank you.

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July 8, 2009 at 10:24 pm (English, Social issues and politics)

The coolest neologism I have heard in a long time …

Teodor Shanin is a sociologist who studies the contemporary Russian peasantry, and more specifically the informal economy on which a huge proportion of the world population get by on a daily basis. Choice quotes from a New Scientist article on the topic:

[In the former S.U.] there are no signs of mass hunger and the services by and large have not collapsed. Considering the chaos of
the formal economy, this is remarkable. Teachers still go to teach and scientists go to their laboratories even though they may not have been paid for six months. Under normal economic rules, there is no explanation for this.

Later on, he goes on to say:

Sociologists can understand this, economists cannot.

This is easily one of the most thought-provoking piece I have read on the web lately. Most definitely worth the 20 minutes to read it! :)

As an aside, I stumbled on that article through Planet Debian, thanks to Joey Hess. I love Planet Debian, it’s the most eclectic software-related planet I read.

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