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Thu, 09 Apr 2009

Squid on Windows

No, this is not an exotic seafood/glass recipe.

Yesterday (well, Tuesday evening) I was sent down to Poole to set up a caching proxy server for a customer... on Windows. Working with a Microsoft operating system is a little bit unusual in my open source support job, but hey, it pays the bills.

It turned out to be surprisingly easy (or rather, my preparation had been sufficiently thorough). We'd budgeted the entire day to set things up - but I had Squid running by 9:20am, and was authenticating against Active Directory by 10am (with a choice of methods; single-sign on with NTLM or prompting the user for credentials). So we had coffee. By 11am there was log rotation and we had tweaked the config file, and by 12pm there were HTML reports of all the accesses (which was originally going to be the optional bonus if-we-had-time feature). So we had some more coffee, and I caught an early train home.

We should add Windows to our squid commercial support page. I wonder how many more potential enterprise business customers there are - Squid is of course an excellent replacement for Microsoft ISA Server.

Posted: 09 Apr 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , , ,

Wed, 25 Mar 2009


Apparently today was Document Freedom Day. Next year we shall have to actually celebrate it.

At work, one of the company's key objectives is to promote open standards like ODF. We are lucky to have an OpenOffice.org developer in-house (a rare commodity, especially outside of Sun or Novell), and I've had the opportunity to work on supporting openoffice.org from time to time. The biggest difficulty is the sheer size - the built source tree needs 15GB, so it's pretty difficult to search through, for instance.

Then there's the long compile times; if you're writing a patch for OO.o, it is important to get your debug cycle as short as possible. If you can limit the patch to just one module, then that can be rebuilt individually... and then you can symlink the relevant libraries from your installed copy to point directly into your build tree. If it sounds ugly, that's because it is - but you can get the compile/testing phase down to a minute or so.

My most memorable encounter with OO.o so far has been tracking down an issue with hidden text - it turns out OO.o 2.x writes the opposite value to the ODF standard for the hidden text property. A conversion routine had been put into OO.o 3.0 to import documents written by 2.x correctly, but passing documents from 3.x (or AbiWord, or KOffice) users to OO.o 2.x users is prone to trouble. Last I checked, we were trying to persuade Sun that a 2.4.3 release would be a good idea.

Posted: 25 Mar 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , , , ,

Thu, 19 Mar 2009


Suddenly I am very organized - a series of tedious tasks seem to have completed themselves, and I'm teetering on the brink of productivity. But that way lies madness.

Today at work we finally deployed the new django-based website. It uses the same HTML and styling as the old website, but reduces the URL duplication, which will help with optimizing for search engines. We now need to add better content, and then perhaps work on the style. (I am now able to link directly to a page about PostgreSQL training, but the content is not yet too informative. And we still have nothing on Nagios.)

Next tedious task: the last of the Debian NM questions.

Posted: 19 Mar 2009 00:00 | Tags: ,

Mon, 19 Jan 2009


  • On Saturday I went to Birmingham for the Friends of the Earth West Midlands regional meeting. We learnt about campaign planning, and got an overview of the main national campaigns for the next year. FoE Birmingham use Edubuntu.
  • On Sunday I went swimming again. Not so tiring - still need to get some prescription goggles.
  • Today at work we were delivering a PostgreSQL database training course for a company in Leicester. BigG happened to be one of the tutees.

Posted: 19 Jan 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , , , ,

Tue, 10 Jun 2008

It's all very technical, you know...

Increasingly I am asked how things are going at work. Unfortunately, I struggle to give a meaningful answer in conversations with "normal" people - I don't know how to begin to explain that this afternoon I set up a pbuilder environment that lets me build Debian packages for our customised etch-with-backports i386 distribution using my amd64 machine running Debian sid. Or that this morning I ran into some interesting problems with dpkg-shlibdeps and symbol versioning in lenny when trying to downgrade some dependencies to 'Suggests'. "Er, yeah, it's going fine."

One recent big project has been a real bonus in this regard, because I can explain it even to the hairdresser - it's "like a mobile phone that you can put in your computer". Fantastic. "And we do the software that runs it." Everyone can understand that. "We make it talk to the internet." No way! You're so cool, Tim, tell me more.

What else do I do? "Well, sometimes I filter people's email and web traffic for spam and viruses. And sometimes I make databases run faster. And sometimes we set up systems that monitor other systems." But phone calls are the best.

Posted: 10 Jun 2008 00:00 | Tags: , ,

Thu, 03 Apr 2008

PostgreSQL UK 2008

Yesterday, I was at the first ever PostgreSQL UK conference, in Birmingham. The venue was familiar from various events last year, such as GUADEC and PyCon UK - the Conservatoire is becoming quite established as a relatively cheap, central UK venue for technical events.

I gave a talk about monitoring PostgreSQL databases on behalf of credativ. (Slides for all the talks are available on the PostgreSQL wiki.) I got a reasonable level of comments and feedback afterwards, and perhaps those will help with the development of some better monitoring solutions. The act of preparing the talk also let me discover a few different monitoring tools that look useful - perhaps I'll get the chance to look at them at some point.

As for the conference itself, there were some interesting talks about PostGIS, full text searching, and analysis of EXPLAIN output. I think it was worth attending just for those; but we also got to meet a bit more of the PostgreSQL developer community in the UK. We also got in on the beginnings of the new UK user group - hopefully they will be organising more meetings over the coming months.

Posted: 03 Apr 2008 00:00 | Tags: , , , ,

Thu, 11 Oct 2007


This week, I have mostly been in Mönchengladbach, at the German office of credativ GmbH. It's a completely different experience working here, compared to Rugby. For one, the building is a lot bigger - several stories, compared to the tiny room we have at the moment in England (soon to change, hopefully). I've been meeting a lot of people, and trying to remember their names.

It's been a while since I was last in Germany - exactly seven years, in fact. This time round, I get to visit German pubs, and try Kölsch and Pils. I discovered yesterday that I share a birthday with another credativ employee, Bernd.

I haven't had much to say, for a week or two - I've been busy with work, and don't yet have an internet connection at home. Also, I can see my evening computer usage starting to dwindle, what with spending eight hours in front of a monitor during the day.

Posted: 11 Oct 2007 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Mon, 17 Sep 2007

First day at credativ

My first day at credativ went well. In the morning I updated some RHEL packages on a couple of test servers. I suspect the live systems will be next.

In the afternoon I copied over some PostgreSQL configuration tuning for an upgrade from 7.x to 8.x. I'm getting up to speed with the various systems - there's even the threat of fixing bugs in Java code, in the future.

Posted: 17 Sep 2007 00:00 | Tags: , ,

Fri, 07 Sep 2007

First post

I've accepted a job at credativ, in Rugby - I start on the 17th. This means I'm preparing to move back to the Coventry area. (I just can't get away.) It's very exciting, and all that. :)

I celebrated today by getting an overpriced lunch at Starbucks. The other thing I've splashed out on has been a bunch of German reference books - I want to brush up for communicating with the German branch. I believe I'm going to be sent to Germany for a few days to meet the rest of the company, soon.

I'm still planning to go to PyCon UK this weekend.

Posted: 07 Sep 2007 00:00 | Tags: , ,


Tim Retout tim@retout.co.uk
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