Introducing YippieMove '09. Easy email transfers. Now open for all destinations.

A while back I became responsible for the IT infrastructure for another company. Fortunately, these type of companies tend to be easy to manage with the right software and hardware. However, this time I thought about trying something new. For many, many years I’ve been running Linux on the server for a variety of companies, but now I’m thinking about taking things one step further; migrating the desktops. I already did some initial research about what applications the company is using, and it appears as the few ‘Windows only’ applications they’re using can be run through Wine.

With the impressive improvements Ubuntu done to Linux on the desktop, it might be about time to give it a shot. Ubuntu Desktop comes with all softwares needed for the business (word-processing, spread sheet, web-browser, e-mail etc.), which makes it convenient to install and maintain.

At the moment this other company is in really bad shape in terms of their IT infrastructure. They have no server, and use one of their workstations to ‘share’ files used for critical business application. Obviously this needs to change.

If we start with the server, I’m considering using either Ubuntu Server (which goes well with Ubuntu Desktop), or CentOS, which is a clone of RedHat Enterprise Linux for the operating system. As for the hardware, I’m considering some cheap Dell or HP server, with 2 extra SATA hard drives to run on a RAID 1 array for the critical files. Furthermore, the server needs to have a UPS attached to ensure good uptime.

So now we have both our server and desktops running Linux, and we get that good feeling in our chest. Now what? The next (and final thing) is to set up file-sharing and central-user administration. The problem with this step is that there are many different paths to choose. However, I chose tree different options to consider.

    Samba PDC login with Samba file-sharing

  • Benefit: Works well even in a mixed environment with Windows Machines.
  • Drawback: No native UNIX filesystem, hence no support for UNIX privileges on files.
    Kerberos with NFS file-sharing

  • Benefit: Been around for quite some time. Fully compatible UNIX filesystem. Recommended by FreeBSD’s handbook.
  • Drawback: More complicated to setup. A 2nd slave server strongly recommended.
    NIS with NFS file-sharing

  • Benefit: Also been around for quite some time. Fully compatible UNIX filesystem. Easy to setup.
  • Drawback: Old. Not as secure as Kerberos.

All of these solutions may be run with OpenLDAP as a back-end, which makes administration and integration of other application easier later on. In one way the flexibility of Linux/Unix may become somewhat of a disadvantage. Since there are almost infinitely many ways to approach this problem, it involves a great amount of research.

In my research, I posted first a post at Ubuntu’s forum, and then later a post at Gentoo’s forum. However, none of them really gave me a good answer. Right now I’m leaning toward Kerberos, since it appears to be more secure and robust.

Since this project is scheduled for the summer, I haven’t started implementing this yet. However, I’m curious about what you readers think. How would you approach this problem?

Author: Tags: ,
Introducing YippieMove '09. Easy email transfers. Now open for all destinations.
Comments Off
Category: Other

Once again, I’m sorry for letting you wait for a new article for so long, but I really couldn’t find any time in my schedule to write anything of value. This does not mean that we don’t have anything to write about. We have tons of ideas, but just not the time to write the actual articles.

Now I want to introduce a new section here on the blog. It is called “Ask PlayingWithWire.” This section is really just an experiment inspired by Ask Slashdot. The Ask PWW section is for you readers to write in to us and ask questions, which we hopefully can provide good answer to.

If you have any questions that you want us to answer, please drop us an e-mail at

Introducing YippieMove '09. Easy email transfers. Now open for all destinations.
Comments Off
Category: Business

Both Alex and I have been very busy lately, and therefore we failed to find the time to write on the blog. However, this doesn’t mean that we’re not working. This passed weekend we added two job ads on Craigslist; one web-designer and one PHP developer.

For each ad, Craigslist charges $75, which must be considered quite low, considering the number of people you’ll reach and what the competitors charge.

Just a few minutes after we posted the ad the applications started to come in. Below you’ll find the distribution of applications we have received so far.

Craigslist Applicants

Next week, Alex and I are going to sit down and go through all the applicants in the ‘To Be Considered’-section to find the best applicants. When that process is done, we will contact the best applicants in order to set up an in-person interview.

Author: Tags: ,
Introducing YippieMove '09. Easy email transfers. Now open for all destinations.

Until a couple of days ago, my bookshelf was filled with binders with old lecture notes from school. The truth is that I don’t think I ever opened one of these binders after I finished the final for the class. Yet, I didn’t want to throw it all away, since it might come handy some day when I want to refresh my memory.

On the other hand these binders really bothered me. They took up space in the bookshelf that I could use for something more useful. So I thought, why don’t I digitalize these papers?

This solution includes:

  • A scanner (preferably with ADF)
  • A software called PDFLab
  • A staple remover
  • Quite a bit of time

You may want to use this guide for the archiving of old:

  • Bills
  • Financial documents
  • Lecture notes
  • Receipts

1. Preparing your documents

Prepare the documents you want to scan. That means figuring out how you want to group your documents and removing the staples. Since I was scanning lecture notes, the grouping was quite simple. Removing the staples is a boring job, but it needs to be done.

In the process of scanning…

2. Scanning your documents

Finder: Jpegs This is the time consuming part. Depending on your hardware, the time the scanning takes varies a lot. With the scanner I was using (HP Scanjet 5590), one paper (front and back) probably took about 35 seconds in 150 DPI. If you have a scanner with ADF, it doesn’t really matter that much if it takes 10 or 40 minutes to scan a pile of papers, since you can go and do something else in the meantime.

Depending on the software you’re using, the file-output might differ. In the software I was using, the name ‘bus-law_0_0.jpg’ turned out to be working quite well. The first ‘0’ is for the sequence. If for some reason the scanning aborts, you can just continue with ‘bus-law_1_0.jpg’, and the files will still sort in order.

3. Preview and delete blanks

When you’ve scanned in one entire group of documents, select them all and drag them to Preview. Use the arrow-keys to browse through all the documents to make sure they look good. You might want to rotate some documents, or delete some blank pages. I found the shortcut ‘Apple + Delete’ very handy in Preview, since then I can delete the file from Preview, without having to go out in Finder.

4. Convert your documents to a PDF

Screenshot of PDFLab

Up to this point you just have a bunch of jpeg files in a folder somewhere. Since this is not very convenient when you browse notes, I wanted to convert every group to a single PDF-file. When doing my research I found a very handy software called PDFLab. The software is a freeware and works really well.

Download PDFLab and fire it up. Now go to the folder where you saved all those jpeg files. Select them all, and drag them to PDFLab. This might take a couple of minutes, depending on your hardware.

When the files are imported into PDFLab, sort them by name by clicking ‘Name’. Now look through the list. If you have file names that go above 100 (‘bus-law_0_0100.jpg’), the sorting might not be done properly, since the file ‘bus-law_0_0103,jpg’ is sorted before ‘bus-law_0_013.jpg’. If you experience this, you need to move around the files manually until they are in the proper sequence.

When you’re happy with the sorting, hit ‘Create PDF,’ and enter an output file-name in the dialog which appears. If the PDF was generated without any errors, you’re all set.

pdf.png If you get an error message when generating the PDF, just hit OK, and try to create it again. If this doesn’t work, try to restart the software.

5. Delete/Backup the image-files

When you’ve made sure that your PDF is working fine, you can either delete you jpeg files or burn them to a CD just to be safe.

That’s it. You can now throw away all those papers into the recycle bin. The best thing is that you’re never more than a couple of clicks away from your documents.

Empty binders

6. Drawbacks

This solution is not perfect, but it’s sure better than having all those binders in the bookshelf or in a box somewhere. The main drawback of this is that the documents are not searchable. This could possibly be solved with OCR, but according to my experience, OCR is still not powerful enough to recognize all handwriting. OCR also tend to mess up documents which mix text and images. However, if I was able to scan these documents into a PDF with OCR recognition, this would be the optimal solution, since it would both be searchable and consume less space.

Author: Tags:
Introducing YippieMove '09. Easy email transfers. Now open for all destinations.

Spotplex Front PageSpotplex is a new service that launched a few days ago. It is squarely positioned to be a kind of digg competitor. The spin is that instead of working with user voting, they let people vote with their feet. If a lot of people view a certain article in a day, then that article is deemed ‘popular.’ Simply put, popular articles end up on their front page precisely because they’re popular.

While there isn’t much material on the site detailing their intentions, the idea is presumably that the visitor count method will prevent rigging the game as what may happen with digg. (Kevin Rose and the digg team is fiercely fighting cheaters though.) On digg, supposedly people sell their vote, or work together in teams to promote certain articles to the front page. On Spotplex this is meant to be more difficult. On digg it may be sufficient to get 40 willing people with digg accounts to end up the front page. But to do the same thing on Spotplex, you would need to get thousands of people with unique IP addresses to surf to your page.

There will probably be some way to trick Spotplex too – someone with access to a lot of zombie computers could do it perhaps. But in general it should be harder. Spotplex has a lot more data to go on – they can check IP numbers, referrer addresses, browsers and so on and look for patterns among the thousands of views an article needs to get on the front page. They should be able to prevent at least all basic forms of cheating with much less effort than digg.

Another distinguishing characteristic of Spotplex is that they use AJAX like there’s no tomorrow. The front page is nothing but a frame with little windows and the javascript necessary to fill those windows with dynamically sourced data. The first thing you see when you come to the front page is in fact nothing of interest at all. Instead there will be three major panes which all have a subtle little ‘loading’ tag in the background.

Spotplex Shows ‘Loading…’Spotplex doing its thing: ‘Loading…’

Apparently this dynamic design is putting quite a strain on the servers Spotplex invested in initially. Although not a very scientific test, we’ve been checking in on the front page of Spotplex once in a while for the last couple of days and we have usually been greeted only with lots of spinning ‘please wait’ indicators. Most of the time these last for several long seconds and that’s after the actual page took a few seconds to load too. The site feels tired just loading the front page.

Unfortunately Spotplex seems to be having more trouble than that. When Playing With Wire was invited to join the first 1,000 blogs to be on Spotplex, we received an invitation code. That invitation code could be used on the Spotplex page to get a code number. Supposedly the same page was to provide HTML code meant to go on the actual blog pages, but there was some kind of issue and we didn’t get any. No matter, we contacted Spotplex support who gave us the code promptly. Next, we inserted the code on our pages – you might have noticed the Spotplex image in the side bar.

This seemed to work well initially, and the page for our code started registering both a little bit of our page views and what articles were currently popular. Alas, about two days into the test Spotplex ceased to count our views and our number of views for the last 24 hours steadily declined to 0 on the Spotplex site.

At the time of this writing the Spotplex front page is loading as slow as ever, the Spotplex ‘get the code for your blog’ page is still not producing any actual code, and a search for “” on Spotplex returns no results. So apparently Spotplex is still struggling with the basics of their service. They will need get on top of this quickly, because the greater problem demands attention: can they really prevent people from generating fake ‘views’ for their blogs? Before they can compete with digg at all, they will have to prove that spam won’t rule their front page.

Update 1: We contacted Spotplex and they let us know that they are working on a potential database problem affecting Playing With Wire.

Author: Tags:

© 2006-2009 WireLoad, LLC.
Logo photo by William Picard. Theme based on BlueMod © 2005 - 2009, based on blueblog_DE by Oliver Wunder.