LDAP performance is poor..

Todays rant of the day:In a popular LDAP directory management tool, not to be named, there is a message indicating that the performance of the LDAP server is poor. While this might still be true: Honestly, building LDAP filters like you and then complaining about the LDAP server is like, lets say, searching papers in the whole city, while you know they are certainly located within a single drawer, in a single closet, in a single room of your apartment and blaming the city council because your search took so damn long.What a mockery.

Getting the mp3 mess into control

I have some mp3 files in my collection. Some years ago, back in the times, when I was a Windows-User, I used „The Godfather„, to keep the chaos under control. This software, although not Open Source, is really good at what it does. And it does almost everything to organize mp3s. From (mass-)tagging to auto-renaming to auto-sorting your mp3s. But this wouldn’t be a blog entry by me if this became… a praise to a windows software so..

When I became a daily Linux User I searched for alternatives. With GUI or without a GUI, but I did not really find an application that suited my needs. As far as tagging and renaming was concerned it wasn’t that hard. There are really excellent command line tools (lltag, id3, etc.) and rumours have been heard that there are also GUI tools.
But what I still did not find is a simple, yet flexible, tool to sort a huge collection of mp3s into a flexible structure on the filesystem like „The Godfather“ was able to do since.. ehh.. a lot of years.

So the day before yesterday I finally decided to write one on my own and came up with an ~ 280 lines perl script (POD-documentation included) which does exactly what I want and is simple.
It does no tagging.
It does no renaming.
All it does is sorting mp3s into a given template-based directory hierarchy based on their ID3 tag.

At this point a warning is due. I’m sharing that script with you under the terms of the GPL. BUT it still needs testing and therefore you probably do not want to use it without its safety measures (e.g. dry-run or copy instead of move) to avoid data loss. And notice that although it has been written with portability in mind, it has only been tested on a Debian GNU/Linux system.

The script is hosted at github. Here (or raw to download it directly).

After I’ve talked to a co-worker about the script, he told me that arename would do what I want. So you probably don’t want to use my script, because arename is probably more tested and much more sophisticated. But on the other hand I had a quick look at the arename manpage and its so utterly feature-loaded, that it cannot avoid a certain complexicity. My tool is simple.
And there is another advantage. If you want arename to handle a certain amount of mp3s you have to use your shell magic to find the files and pipe it to arename. My script finds all mp3s recursively from where you let it start (default is $PWD so be careful) and will happily move it into a hierarchy under a directory you ask it to. For the simple job of sorting mp3s its probably easier to use.

(Oh and if its worth nothing, it might still be of use as a simple programming example, how one could solve this problem in Perl)

Facebook aggressively advertising dubious features

Yesterday some confusion arised on my side when I saw a new facebook advertising campaign in my facebook account (yes, I am a member of facebook, although I’m aware of the privacy concerns). Basically it was saying that I should try the friends finder and that some of my friends (showing and naming me three of them) would have used it already.

Some background:
The friends finder feature of facebook is a feature that asks for the password of your e-mail account. It will then crawl through your emails to find contacts that might already be on facebook but not connected to you (in a facebook sense).

My first feeling was: Oh my god. How can it be that friends (and family) of mine are so naive? Especially since there were people included which I consider to be quiet clever. But honestly: Who would be so naive to give an unknown company direct unsupervised (you can’t tell what they really do) access to your mail account? Would you give it to your friend? Your husband? Your father? I guess the answer will be „No“ in the most cases and these people are most likely people you trust. Well, I know, you could state similar things for Googlemail who crawl your mails to show you personalized advertising. And in fact you are right. But if one decides to use gmail for your email hosting you have to trust them anyway. Like you have to trust anybody else you retain to host your mails (who could do the same but just don’t tell you). But in this case its a third party, Facebook.

But if you now think that this becomes a rant against my friends: You are wrong. Over the day I found out that it basically shows up all my friends in a rotation. Every time I open the start page it randomly picks three people from my friend list and shows them to me, telling the same lie to me all over again.

So what do we have here? Facebook tries to advertise the most dubious feature they have in the most aggressive way one could imagine. By pretending wrong facts. Wouldn’t that even be an element of crime in Germany („Irreführung“ §5 UWG or maybe also §4 UWG, „unsachliche Beeinflussung“)?

Facebook, you can do better.

Update: Stefano raised a good point. I didn’t actually make clear that it has been verified that those people actually did not use the „feature“:

1. I asked some of them. They said, they didn’t use it and were in fact surprised that I asked.
2. Others told me they saw that ad stating that I used the feature. I definitely did not use this „feature“.
3. Probably weak: IMHO its highly unlikely that all of my friends used that feature and at the point I’ve written this it had already shown my whole friend list.

What an „Intel atom inside“ sticker could make of you

So I’ve got this cool Intel Atom-Board Intel Essential Series D945GSEJT, which is the first Atom-ITX-board that doesn’t feature a 25W chipset for a 2W CPU. Its pretty cool, but one thing made me laugh.
Today I saw that there came a „Intel atom inside“ sticker with the board. I thought: Well, nice, now I could – if I wanted – put this on my Mini-ITX-system. But then I saw whats been written next to this: „Use of the enclosed Intel Atom logo label is unauthorized and constitutes infringement of Intel’s exclusive trademark rights unless you have signed the Intel Atom logo trademark license„.

Isn’t it nice of Intel to supply me with a sticker which would make me a criminal if I’d use it?

Learning NEO

Back a while I heard about the NEO keyboard layout, because a co-worker is using it. Learning another keyboard layout sounded like an interesting challenge. And so I gave it a try. I started by going through the ktouch lectures for NEO, about 2 weeks before I went to vacation. Since then its been 2 weeks and a few days and I did not practice during the vacacation. So at present I have been practicing for four weeks about 30-45 minutes a day.

Parts of this blog entry has been written with NEO, but till now I’m much to slow in typing it on my own (writing the few words above took 10 minutes ;), so I decided to go on in qwertz with the rest of the blog entry from now on.

Well, learning another keyboard layout is indeed an interesting and funny challenge, because people who do it, have to fight with themselves beeing used to write in their previous layout. And it is a significant adjustment, because NEO is really very different. Second: Until now I didn’t type in a 10-finger-system. So its a double adjustment, which is hard in itself.
From my perspective I’m not yet sure if I’ll stay with NEO once my type speed is acceptable. But its definitive interesting in many aspects, although few things really suck IMHO. For example typing the ‚j‘, which is next to the right shift key feels like a major pain. And I really often use that character when I write in german. But I’ll see.

Arcor EasyBox A801

Recently, my girl friend and I decided to get Arcor DigitalTV. So we got some hardware from Arcor (and unfortunately we needed to „upgrade“ our real-ISDN-connection to a SIP-based-one):

  • Pirelli Settop Box
  • Arcor EasyBox A801 WLAN/ISDN

That second piece of hardware is kinda interesting, because it is an ADSL2+-Modem, (WLAN-)Router, SIP-Gateway and file-/printserver (it has one USB port which can be used to connect an USB hub and up to 4 disks or 1 printer) and 4-Port Switch in one (I think it doesn’t include whats called a ‚Splitter‘, because with this kind of connection there is no ISDN signal to be splitted from the internet signal).

Unfortunately not all is well about this (or about my provider). This piece of hardware can be configured with a modem installation code. Which is good for an average user, because he does not need to care about anything. With this process the hardware configures itself by receiving configuration data from a configuration server of the provider. Regardless about other implications this might have: What disturbed me about this is, that I loose control about my router, if I use this. Because when configured this way some sites in the router are grayed out. If you click them you get a message that this setting is controlled by your provider. Uarg. Well, unfortunately IPTV from arcor does not simply use the same internet connection as I usually do (more about this later), so I were suffering from missing informations about how to configure the router manually.
Arcor wasn’t particular helpful in this, because they told us „Der Router kann nicht manuell konfiguriert werden.“ (which means in Englisch: „The router cannot be configured manually.“). Although this brought me to laugh, I were also disappointed and worried about this. So I decided to find it out myself. I won’t tell what I tried after all, but in the end I found out that the modem installation code-installation does configure:

  • 2 PPPOE-Links (1 for the Internet Connection and 1 with private IP-addresses)
  • 1MAC Encapsulation Routing (which uses DHCP to get settings from tv.arcor.de)

With this knowledge (and some good guessing, e.g. that both PPPoE links eventually use the same user data) I were able to configure the router fully myself, which also enables me to set QoS settings how I want them (which is why I went through the whole torture at all, because SSH was extremely laggish when watching TV). One thing is notable however, how I got the information:

The manufacturer of the router seems to do some things to protect the settings from the user. For example: The page for configuring the WAN is called wan_main.stm, it can be called without trouble if you are configureing the router manually, but the system would block access when you use the modem installation code. BUT and thats how I got the info that the third link is a MAC Encapsulation Link: The status page (where it shows that you are connected etc.) includes javascript vars for nearly everything you ever wanted to know about your router configuration. Not obfuscated after all. You just have to look at the source of the status frame. Thats real professional, Arcor.

Re: Gentoo destroying earth?

I fully agree that working with Gentoo is no fun at all, as Julian points out in his post
My impression, when I tried Gentoo for the first (and last) time is the same. Thats not because it is made bad. In fact things in Gentoo aren’t made that bad. There is good documentation, portage is quiet nice (with its USE flags and alike), but in the end I’m not really satisfied.
After all Gentoo uses a copied concept, which itself is good. The concept is derived from the BSD-world and is just the concept of source-based systems. This concept has its advantages over binary distributions, because it allows a flexibility that is not really possible with a binary distribution. That really is the only appreciable advantage of these systems. Users of these systems (including FreeBSD and alike) tend to give other arguments as well: Newest Software, Highest Performance and even Security is a point they give.

Usually the „newest software“ argument is brought up with a rant against Debian. I keep hearing statements like „Debian Etch is totally outdated and Testing is broken“. That statement in itself is just wrong, but the important thing is: What do you need such new software for? On a server its preferrable not to upgrade to each and every major release, for certain reasons. Its also a bad thing to build on production systems, so you need to take further measures to administer systems like that. On a desktop I can understand the logic, but then again: No. Why would I want a system I have to compile from scratch and on each upgrade (wasting a lot of time, power etc.) which changes often?

The performance argument is the dumbest of all. Binary distributions usually build binaries for various platforms. And while they can’t be optimized for a very specific processor or a very specific feature set (=reduces binary size) they usually perform well enough that a difference between the self-compiled Gentoo system and a foreign-compiled Debian is not noticed by the user and sometimes not even measurable. So the time you save during the lifetime of your builds (which is not very long on a Desktop, is it?) because of the enhanced performance is used up a hundred times, by the time you waste for compiling the whole software only for yourself. Even if some of the software performs noticable better (e.g. video processing is said to benefit a lot from an optimized platform).

What about the security argument? It has been said, that you get your updates earlier then users of binary distributions. That is partly true, because in a binary distribution the update needs to be built first, before it gets to the end user (however, everything before is the same for a binary or a source distribution). But do you really follow security issues that close, that you benefit a lot from this? If you do, indeed, you save some hours. If (and only if) both distributions have a solution for a security issue at the same time.

Anyway. The flexibility argument can’t get discussed away. Its the argument that makes Ports in BSD-systems attractive. You can have exactly the features you want, with the build-time options you want. In a comfortable manner. That is in contrast to binary distributions where we package developers need to guess which features might be needed (/wanted) by the users with mixed results. Good if they can decide for themselves. Still, I don’t see the reason for compiling the whole system, if I need one or two customized components. So I go with Debian and customize packages if I really need/want to. The only difference is that it takes a lot of more effort.

I would love to see something done in Debian to reach a compromise. Making rebuilding of packages with different options very comfortable. We have DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS, maybe we should enhance it to support a lot more options then noopt,nostrip or nodoc. Possibly it would be a good thing to standardize on some use flags (e.g. [no]ssl, [no]ldap, etc.) and support them in the debian/rules file. This way building customized packages would be as easy as setting sensible DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS and run dpkg-buildpackage on the source. This could be eased further by providing a tool to download the source and build a given package (IIRC such a tool already exists). How does that sound?