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18 things I did after installing Fedora 20, the Xfce spin

Fedora with Xfce Dis-preference for Gnome 3 and un-necessity of KDE is the reason why I mostly choose the Xfce desktop when working on or trying out newer or unknown distros. And when working at length, I always choose to tune the desktop to my whims. Xfce is perfect when productivity is high on priority but not at the cost of functionality or looks either. And this post compiles a list of better-ments I...
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CentOS / RHEL: Yum Lock Package Version At a Particular Version

yum-plugin-versionlock plugin takes a set of name/versions for packages and excludes all other versions of those packages (including optionally following obsoletes). This allows you to protect packages from being updated by newer versions, for example. This quick tutorial explains how to install and use yum versionlock to prevent package update using yum on a CentOS or RHEL based server.

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My Nerd Story: What You Say to Young Girls Matters

Leslie Hawthorn is an internationally known community manager, speaker and author, who has spent the past decade creating, cultivating and enabling open source communities. She created the world’s first initiative to involve pre-university students in open source software development, launched Google’s #2 Developer Blog, received an O’Reilly Open Source Award in 2010 and gave a few great talks on many things open source. In August 2013, she joined Elasticsearch as Community Manager, where she looks forward to getting things done, facilitating user happiness and moving to Europe.

Tiny Geekdom

“Mom, the computer is talking to me.”

I was sitting at a VT100 in a cold office building, far from home and missing Saturday morning cartoons. My mother, a UNIX programmer at a large telco, brought me with her to the company’s San Francisco, California office that weekend since my father was out of town. It was an hour’s drive each way and 7 year old me was a bit out of sorts from the long ride and the early hour at which I’d awakened. Mom, though, knew the best way to soothe me was to park me in front of a terminal window and let me have at it with Adventure.

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Steps to Install Wine 1.7.11 on CentOS, RHEL and Fedora

Wine is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API and will always be free software. Approximately half of source code is written by its volunteers, and remaining effort sponsored by commercial interests, especially CodeWeavers.


Read complete article at Install Wine 1.7.11 on CentOS, RHEL and Fedora. This article will help you to install Wine 1.7.11 using source code by compiling it.


Unleashing the Best Open Source Social Networking Software

The open source community plays an important role in the social networking space. It helps individuals create their own social network easily. With the software featured in this article, users can take more control of their site, and help establish and maintain a connection between users of the site.

New social networking platforms keep appearing from every corner. Unlike newcomers, all of the mature software packages featured here are professional, have a good feature set, and are easy to install and configure.

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Using preload to Speed up Linux

Preload is an ‘Adaptive Read-ahead Damon’, which is the equivalent to Windows Vista’s Superfetch. Effectively what it does is speeds up application load time by monitoring the software that is loaded and used day to day, the software used most often, and cache them in memory. If you have a lot of memory, you will notice things will improve – for example, my work machine has 20gb of RAM, 7gb of it is used by caches and everything runs nice and smooth. If your computer needs the memory, space is made, so you will not lose out if you have the average 4-8gb. The difference is certainly measurable – from 20% to 60% improvement in startup times.

Installation is simple – its supported on most platforms, and can be installed through your repository, for example, Debian and Ubuntu people can use the simple apt-get install preload to install the software. For the more adventurous, you can grab the source code from

Configuration wise, the defaults will work happily enough, but for the people who like to tinker, configuration can be found in /etc/preload.conf.

Information on configuring preload can be found within the documentation the author has written. This can be found at


My Nerd Story: Class, queerness and the transformative nature of technology and open source.

Beth 'pidge' Flanagan is a Senior Software Engineer for Intel and spends most of her time working on Open Embedded Core and the Yocto Project, mainly as the release engineer and maintainer of the yocto-autobuilder. She is also a geek, a queer trans woman, a motorcyclist, and a practitioner of random bits of general purpose geekery. She has been working in IT/software engineering now for the past 23 years.

I was born and raised right outside of Newark, NJ. My family was working class and I grew up in a working class neighborhood full of first and second generation immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, Brazil, Italy, Peurto Rico, etc. Basically, a neighborhood that most people wouldn't think of as a fertile bed for nerds. I tell people to basically imagine some of the more gritty scenes from The Sopranos and they'd get an accurate idea of where I grew up.


The Sopranos - Satriale's Pork Store

I realized at a very young age that I was a trans woman and that without a well thought out plan, I wouldn't be able survive the conservative confines of that world. This concept of needing to escape was further compounded by the fact that I was on the bottom of the social rung at school. I was bookish, had a serious lisp and a severe femoral torsion which caused to walk pigeon toed (hence the nickname I carry to this day) and a classroom full of boys and some of the girls who marked me as "different" from my first day at school and did not let up in their abuse for the entirety of my elementary school career.

When I was about 9 or so, I had a pretty good idea that all the praying in the world wouldn't make me not trans and that I should probably spend some time figuring out what to do about it. So, I petitioned my father for an adult library card (remember a time when 'looking stuff up' included a trip to an actual library?). I remember asking him if he would sign the papers for my library card and he handed me the largest book on the bookshelf he could fine,'The Crusades' by Zoe Oldenbourg. He told me "Read this and do a book report and I'll sign the permission slip". I read it in about a month or so and that signed permission slip opened up a world I could never have dreamt of.

That library was my salvation. In its stacks I learned, in carefully hidden books, that I could do something about being trans. For the first time I could remember, the serious depression I had been in since age 6 when I figured out that I wouldn't grow up to be a woman, not at least without a little bit of help, abated somewhat. The library became my second home. It was where I spent my  days, hiding from the world. I went into full on reading mode, devouring anything I could get my hands on, but always ending up back in the science row with it's miniscule amount of books on computer science. But, they did have an entire set of "The Art of Computer Programming". I flipped through it somewhere around age 10 and didn't understand one bit of it! Somehow though, I was strangely enamored with the idea that language could be turned into something that made machines do work.

I mentioned before that people generally don't think of working class people as a hotbed of nerdism. If anything, I think that the reality is the  exact opposite. When you grow up without a lot of money you end up learning how to make things last and fix things that need repair. My family was no different. My father was a fairly decent carpenter who tried, bless him, to teach me with absolutely no success. His mechanical skills were impressive, something I ended up being able to learn much later in life. My grandmother however taught me how to crochet. In crocheting I saw math and patterns and it taught me how patterns could create beauty.

When you're the kind of strange effeminite kid in a working class world that I was, you end up spending a lot of time alone and learn to quickly entertain yourself. One summer I spent a full week alone in my backyard with a roll of tin foil, a magnifying glass and a thermometer seeing what the highest temperature I could achieve was. That was also the year I built a boobytrapped for the backdoor to the house. (I was afraid of burglers). I forgot to unset it and it almost knocked my mother out when she opened it and a few of my brothers baseball bats came flying out, full speed, towards her face.

1982 came around and something happened that would change my life forever. It all started with two lines.

20 GOTO 10

I still remember those first two lines of code I ever wrote. It was a 10 year old kid's 'Hello World'. The Catholic school I attended had invited this computer education company in to do an optional computer class. I  begged my parents to let me take it. I remember the first day I stepped into that class. About a dozen or so Commodore PETs, with the ever so high tech audio cassette storage devices.



After the first few classes, you just stopped trying to load your prior work from tape at the start of class as it took forever to load. You got really good at remembering what you did the week before and learned to type quicker than the audio tape could load. I ended up
falling asleep at night listening to those tapes (SkreeeetchWoooooSkreeeeeeetch!); in love with the idea that you could store STUFF on tape other than music!

So, here I was, this kid who was absolutely on the bottom of the social ladder. I was despised by the kids at school and my ability to have control over my life was greatly impacted by overly protective parents, my age and obvious gendered behavour difference, but... for those 45 minutes a week in 1982, I had, for the first time in my life, actual agency. I could sit there and tell a machine to do whatever I wanted it to and the results were up to me. It wouldn't beat me up. It wouldn't make fun of me for the way I walked, or held my books. It wouldn't call me awful things. It would just do what I told it to do. (This generally entailed new and more complex ways of spitting out how much I hated school, to be perfectly honest.)

Those little two lines of code turned into a much larger program that year and my parents ended up trying to nurture the one thing I had shown an actual interest in. I'm still unsure of how my father afforded it, but one day he came home with a Timex Sinclair 1000, literally
the cheapest computer there was. I actually recall using it quite a bit, but, as the concept of needing to store things was a bit beyond my dad, who was a truck driver, he had neglected to buy the audio tape drive. I would have to leave it on for weeks with a note on it, telling people not to shut it off or I'd lose my program.



But, no matter how much computers could act as an escape for me, there was still this huge thing I had to deal with and as I got older and the effects of puberty started to hit, my depression worstened. I stopped writing code in my Junior year of highschool and just focused on trying to make it through the day. By the time I hit university I was an absolute wreck from trying to deal with being trans. So, after the first year, I made the best decision ever. I quit and moved to Washington DC and was able to have space to figure out what my plan was.

I moved back home after about a year because I had gotten fairly sick. By this time, my mother had gone from being a secretary to getting a degree  in accounting to being a VP at a small software company. Behind my mothers back, I finagled a job there. I will always remember the engineering manager who risked her wrath to give her weird, green mohawk having kid a job. So, my lucky break came in 1991, at age 19, writing insurance software in MagicPC for 5 dollars an hour.

Eventually, I left to take a job at the local university. Here is where I encountered the second thing to change my life. Windows 95.

It was 1994 and we were previewing the beta of Windows 95 for a migration from Windows 3.11. I absolutely loathed it. There was no integrated TCP/IP stack. I was use to the Solaris command line by that point and it was still the clunky DOS shell. It was nothing I wanted and while it was an improvement, I wanted something more so I went searching for a better solution and found it in Slackware.

I don't remember the exact version of Slackware I finally got to install, but I know the kernel was around 0.99 (before loadable modules and ELF binaries!). It was like a dream and a nightmare rolled into one. When you got it working it went like clockwork, but it was an absolute TERROR to set up. Package management? Nope, tar.gz and make was your friends. I got really good at debugging makefiles.

But, I was hardly bored. I spent way too much time getting kernels recompiled, fighting with X11 settings on my Diamond video card, wondering why the NE2000 card in my box, when the box was the end node  of a token ring would blue screen all the Windows 95 boxes on the ring. Bored? I was too busy tearing apart this amazing thing that people had put together, in part, just for something cool to do.

It was magic. Here was this thing that didn't work out of the box! I had to actually sit there and figure it all out. That year and a half I spent learning the operating system inside and out gave me a sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride and a sense that if I could survive a Slackware install and make it out on the other end, a gender transition should be a piece of cake, right?

I had finally figured out the logistics of my transition and set a date. To put it mildly, the concept was sound, but the exectution went poorly. I lost my job, my family and the entire situation created a rift in my family that will probably never, unfortunately heal. So, here I was, age 24, with a brand new gender presentation, a high school diploma, a job history I couldn't use because it was under a different name. I had moved to Philadelphia and was living on a friends couch because I was kicked out of home. Things were not looking very positive.

But, there were a few things I did have.

I knew how to write code.

I knew Unix and Linux.

I was too damn subborn to take "No".

And I was left with no other choice.

I'm not sure how I got hired, I'm sure in part it was a bit of desperation on their part, but within the month, I ended up getting hired as a sysadmin, administering 250 AT&T BSD boxes that ran a computer based testing suite. I ended up working on porting the program over to Linux which got me hired into writing the next generation of that software.

From there it was on to trying my hand at UI design with stops in animation, power grid, control systems. And then, eventually, to my current home in the embedded world.

I look over the past 30 years since I first sat down at that old Commodore PET and am thankful. I had a mother who, despite our differences, firmly instilled in me the idea that women, even women like me, could do anything. I had a work ethic that instilled in me that as long as I could do the job, nothing else mattered. I had the stubborness to not believe the people who were telling me "NO!". I had the curiosity and the drive to figure it out for myself because I knew that no one was going to tell me how to do it.

My nerdcred doesn't come to me from a piece of paper, but by sheer force of will.  I know a lot of my collegues came to where they're at by the "traditional" route, university, internships, etc. I'm glad for them but I do not envy them a bit. While my route was the hard, tough slog, I would never trade it for the world.

I firmly believe that my past gives me a perspective in geekdom that is relatively unique. It has made me a better engineer than I think I would have been had I gone that traditional route. It has defined who I am and has made me a better person because of it. I can look at people from non-traditional nerd backgrounds and see their inner engineer. I've learned that sometimes, you find the most brilliant of people in the least likely of places. I approach new experiences, be they personal or technological without one iota of fear.

And lastly I always know that the first program I write whenever I learn a new language is going to be my own, special, personal version of the first two line program I ever wrote.


Configuring Apache2 to run Python Scripts

This is meant as a simple writeup to fill a gap in various "HOWTO"'s that I read when trying to setup my Apache2 server to process python scripts as CGI, though it would apply to any cgi scripts (perl scripts, compiled binaries...).
I've been developing for years (C, C++, PHP), but had never delved into python before, and I wanted to be able to have my scripts have a web interface.

The first step is getting Apache2 to recognize that my .py files were to be executed and not spit out as text files. has some nice HOWTOs ( on how to think about python and the web, and has mountains of documentation ( relating to running CGIs. What I didn't find was a simple guide on how to set it up. I'm a developer, not a sys-admin, and while I like knowing how to configure Apache and tune my linux boxes, sometimes I just want to get my webserver up and running and start coding.

So, in case anyone was going through the same situation as me, here is my quick and dirty setup.

For reference, this setup was done on Ubuntu 13.10, using ubuntu's default apache2 installation, and python3.
I'm also assuming you know how to configure apache for a basic html site. There are lots of HOWTO's for that.

Starting the basics:

  • apache install: sudo apt-get install apache2
  • python install: sudo apt-get install python


  • python3 install: sudo apt-get install python3

The first step, which in my PHP experience I never had to do, is not mentionned in the guides above is to enable CGI processing in apache.

sudo a2enmod cgi

This will automatically enable mod_cgid if your server is configured with a multi-threaded MPM, which was the case for me.

Then you can either make a folder in your site's path where your cgi files will live, or configure certain directories to handle certain file types as cgi scripts.
This is described well in the apache2 doc above, but essentially you to make all files in a cgi folder be executed, you would use this conf:

<Directory /srv/www/yoursite/public_html/cgi-bin>
        Options ExecCGI
        SetHandler cgi-script

and to allow .py files to be executed as scripts in a particular folder you would use this conf:

    <Directory /srv/www/yoursite/public_html>
        Options +ExecCGI
        AddHandler cgi-script .py

Once you have that, if you're running python 3, you can make a python script like this one, and stick it in whichever folder is configured for cgi:

    #!/usr/bin/env python
    # -*- coding: UTF-8 -*-# enable debugging
    import cgitb
    print("Content-Type: text/html;charset=utf-8")
    print("Hello World!")

You can change the first line from

#!/usr/bin/env python



such as


in case the default is python and you want this script to be parsed by python3


Going against the grain

For me, I have been an advocate of Linux from the first day I set eyes on Redhat 4.2 at the age of 14. I had my new PC for less than 6 months when I decided to wipe Windows95 from the disk, and install RedHat with its awesome NeXTSTEP window manager.

That was the first day I started to argue the point about the difference between Windows and Linux. Sure, Windows had loads of software, but Linux had so much potential, but still living with my parents meant that they wanted to use Windows if they needed to use a computer, they could not possibly use Linux.

It continues like this from thereonin. At school, I was the odd one, the teachers concerned that I may do something which in their eyes would be the equivalent of digital armageddon.

For me, Linux really took off when I discovered Usenet, where I started to discover more and more applications, scripts and more distributions of Linux, where I quickly moved onto Debian.

When I went to college, I found myself doing a course in IT in which the IT lecturers, and the IT support staff had not ever used anything other than Windows. They were stuck in their ways, only teaching and supporting Windows and Microsoft technologies.

Despite arguing my advocacy for Linux for several months, and requesting that I used an alternative to Windows, I was alway shunned to the point where I was warned that if I didn't conform, I would be kicked off the course.

Being restricted like this wasn't good for me, I soon dropped out, wanting to find a way to stretch my wings, and teach myself what I wanted to learn. I felt that Linux was certainly the way to go.

It was certainly the right thing to do. In every job I have had, I have brought in Linux. Each time, it has been the same. I promote, people seem me as being a bit odd, suggesting time after time that we should use Linux for X. Eventually wearing them down to the point that I get to do it, and every time, I have managed to deliver and beyond, whether its because it was more forgiving with some questionable hardware, or whether it was that it 'just worked'.

For me, my biggest win was working at an eduational establishment where the majority of the infrastructure was apple-based, with their 'crashproof technology', and their 'it just works' motto, I loved the fact that over six years I took critical services away from OSX Server to linux, seeing server uptimes over a year on Linux hardware, compared to the weekly reboots required by their fruity counterparts.

I found however, attitudes change when I became a developer. Once I start working with people who embrace technology, and don't sit on the rigid rails of Microsoft brand software, it was easy to convince people to use Linux servers, and also the benefits of using it day-to-day as a desktop, a staging system, and the basis of every new project I develop. Now, I am Senior Developer for a multi-million pound company, one of the fastest growing tech companies in the UK, and one of the top growing 200 tech companies in the EMEA. I put a lot of faith in the tools I use, and they have never let me down.

Even after 16 years, I still get strange looks, my wife still refuses to use Linux, and I can easily empty a room just by showing my passion. Despite all this, I continue on, promoting Linux, promoting Opensource technology, and always being there if anyone wanted help making the same change too.


My Nerd Story: Learn By Doing

My nerd story started in the winter of 2007, when I was 13 years old. And it all started from a simple challenge from a friend to look at some HTML tutorials, which I did. And I was captivated from the first second. I started doing very simple things like writing text and changing the background colour of a page, you know, beginner's HTML stuff, but I found it a lot of fun. For some reason, this stuff was second nature for me from day one.
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Collectl is a powerful tool to monitor system resources on Linux

Monitoring system resources Linux system admins often need to monitor system resources like cpu, memory, disk, network etc to make sure that the system is in a good condition. And there are plenty of commands like iotop, top, free, htop, sar etc to do the task. Today we shall take a look at a tool called collectl that can be used to measure, monitor and analyse system performance on linux. Collectl is a nifty little program that does a lot more than most other tools. It comes with a...

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