Linux Job Spam

As president and founder of Mid-Hudson Valley Linux Users Group, my name is associated with the group in many directories in which MHVLUG is listed. As we all know, having your email address all over the interweb is how you get spam.

I'm getting an average of 1 email per week of people looking for qualified Linux professionals in the greater New York area. Usually the jobs are sys admin related, though from time to time they are programming positions. The part that bothers me about these emails is that most of them specifically say don't send them on to the mailing list, but are basically looking for me to give an active referral.

There are 150 people on the MHVLUG mailing list, 30ish people come to each meeting (about 15 solid regulars, then a rotating mix of another 40 people that come to many meetings but don't make it to all). I'm in a position where I actually know the skills of about 10 of those people, and all of them are very gainfully employed at the moment (and doubtful they want to move to Long Island anyway, as this latest request would like). I will happily forward along emails to the list about jobs, and anyone is allowed to post them there, as it is a good audience to try to get qualified people. However I am not a head hunter, and don't really have the time to play one on TV either.

I'm trying to figure out which of the following is the right response:

  • bitbucket - which is the current policy. If the email doesn't specifically state that it can be sent on to the group, it dies on the vine.
  • form letter - that I could bounce back immediately saying "we encourage posting of job opportunities to our mailing list, please resend in the following format and I'll forward it on"
  • web form for job submissions to the list - which either means bitbucket on the emails, or form letter pointing to the web form

Any opinions from the Lazy Web? Feel free to email or comment below.

Also, in the long standing debate that seems to pop up in various circles, I'm seeing lots of evidence that there are plenty of tech jobs for qualified, motivated individuals. This Linux Job Spam has seriously upticked in the last year, as has the rate of job posts I've seen on the NYLUG and Perl Jobs lists. No, jobs aren't falling off trees like overripe coconuts as they were in 2000, but they are out there if you spend some time looking and know what you are doing.

OpenWRT upgrade

I upgraded my OpenWRT firewall/router/wap last night, as traffic shaping broke on my previous build a couple weeks ago. I learned a couple of things in the process:

  • While ipkg looks like apt-get, openwrt isn't really set up to do a full system update in the same way as debian. To upgrade from where I was to RC6, I needed to reflash my base image.
  • Flashing an image is a lot less scary now. The inband mtd tool is very nice.
  • OpenWRT does a really nice overlay between a squashfs ro and jffs rw filesystem now. What that means to the layman is the base image never is modified, just changes on top of it are tracked, so you can easily revert a disruptive change to the base. I was using an old jffs only image, so this is a nice change. It also looks like a future update of the squashfs image will leave my overlay alone (not tested). I'll do the backup later to ensure I can recover after another backup.
  • There is a traffic shaper built in now (via the qos-scripts package) which is a Layer 7 classifier (so it doesn't matter if bittorent / http / anything uses different ports, as it is doing classification by examining the packets for content). One of the big reasons for me doing the upgrade is wondershaper on my old image broke for me after an update. The shaping by qos-scripts are quite good from all my tests last night.
  • The web configuration interface for OpenWRT is a lot better, and doesn't seem to break things horribly (which is what happened the last time I used it).

Upgrading firmware on any device is always a scary thing, however I'm really happy with what the openwrt team has done so far. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on an Aruba AP70 to play with kamakaze (openwrt-unstable) on. Moving up to a current 2.6 kernel would be a nice thing. 🙂

MHVLUG December Meeting Notes

Debugging Hardware/Software on Linux

Joe Appuzo presented the topic. There was an initial discussion about wants vs. needs when it came to a Linux system, followed by a lot of discussion on partitioning a system for success when it comes to system updates and upgrades. One of Joe's themes when it came to debugging hardware solutions was "value your time". If a piece of hardware costs $100 to get a Linux friendly version, and you spend weeks trying to get the non Linux friendly version working, you've come out behind in your wasted time.

Ed brought up the fact that Turbo Tax is a must have application, which still doesn't run on Linux. We discussed solutions around that, including using VMWare Server for that class of Windows Apps that you need from time to time. Many people in the room have a single machine on their home network whose job is to run windows, often headless with VNC. The benefits of virtualization here is power savings.

On the hardware point, there was much discussion on old hardware, and about when it's power costs exceed it's usefulness. Many folks in the room end up in that "collector camp" and do still have 486s running at home (as a router or such).

On the software debugging front, Joe didn't get quite as deep in that as I was hoping. Some very basic tips were provided including where to start looking by looking in /var/log, and dmesg output, as well as thinking logically about isolation. "Did this ever work?" "What changed?"

All in all people had a pretty good time, the crowd was chuckling quite often.

At the end of the meeting I gave away 4 books for review, and announced the fact that meetings are moving to first Wednesdays starting in January.

Vital Stats
Attendees: 29
Start Time: 6:10
End Time: 7:55
Dinner Crew: 14

Attempting to Study... badly

I'm attempting to study for my Automata final, which is going slowly, and not something I'm able to keep enthusiasm up about.

  • I only need a 51 on the final to get the requisite B in the class, and given that every exam prior had a 15 point curve, I probably only really need a 36. A 57 or better (pre curve) translates into an A-.
  • The PDA and Turing Machine portions of the exam are well in hand. I feel comfortable converting back and forth between them and a language definition. I personally find generating Turing Machines a lot of fun, and really interesting ways to make your brain work. They just take time, and I've had no issue on time in previous exams.
  • Chomsky hierarchy of language is pretty much just a table and a vend diagram to remember. Pretty confident in that.
  • Pumping lemma for PDAs. I'm sure this is going to be the part of the exam I blow, but it will probably only be one question. The pumping lemma proof on the last exam accounted for the majority of points I lost for that test.
  • Halting problem proof. I ran through this prior to class the other day without notes, and I think I can reproduce it at will. About to go attempt to do that now again.
  • Life of Alan Turing bonus question (a staple of Prof. Hayes' final exams), I've got enough fun facts memorized to do ok on that.
  • Computability. We did a bit on the partial recursive functions for the last class. I'm not sure which portions are actually askable. Possibly an enumeration of the 3 basis functions (Z, S, P), or the 3 operations (composition, primitive recursion, unbounded minimalization). We were already told we weren't going to have to actually do the mechanics of these, given their level of horridness, and being introduced on the last day of class.

Guess it's time to start playing with proofs from memory, and reread Alan Turing's life synopsis a few more times.

Code Monkey on NPR

Listening to NPR's Weekend Edition this morning, and there was an interview with Jonathan Coulton who wrote and performed the song Code Monkey as part of his Thing-a-week blog this past year. had brought up Code Monkey during the past couple of weeks, and I hadn't gotten around to finding it yet.

If you are a software person, listen to the song. It will make you crack a smile, if not laugh out loud. Jonathan Coulton also has other songs which I would link here, except it appears that his site has been cratered temporarily by the NPR story. Hopefully it will be back soon.

End of an Era

8.5 years ago, I was about to graduate from Wesleyan University with my bachelors degrees in physics. I was starting at IBM a month later, and it was now finally time to get a car. As I had never owned a car before, I asked my big brother (who worked at TI) for opinions. Toyota and Honda we top of his list. After doing a bunch of research on the internet, I decided that a new, 1998 Honda Civic LX Sedan was the most car I could afford, and the best investment for the money. It was the end of the model year for Honda, and they were running a special financing deal for new college graduates, so it turned out to be a pretty reasonable deal. 4 years ago I stopped having car payments, and used that money to pay off student loans, then save up for a down payment on the house.

I am still driving that car today, though today will be the last day I do drive it. While I know I shouldn't be all that sentimental for something like a 9 yr old Civic, the fact that it's given me 109,000 miles over 8.5 years, has driven all over new england, and the mid atlantic states, and required very little investment in it in the mean time (exhaust, tires, and just recently a ball joint), has made me a little nostalgic for the car already. That nostalgia is tempered by the fact that there is a little whine in the wheel base from time to time, and the engine is not nearly as smooth as it once was (especially in the cold). And that, after 8.5 years, I'm starting to actually have to spend some money on it for repairs.

Tonight at 5pm I'm picking up my new car.... a new 2007 Honda Civic EX Sedan with Nav System. It is probably the most boring car upgrade in the history of upgrades, but in 2006 Honda redesigned the Civic completely, gave it a new interior and exterior look, and a bigger engine. It's still a good small commuting car (getting 30 / 40 mpg city / highway), with a better use of interior space, and lots of fun gadgets (like an AUX jack for the stereo, a Factory CD player that plays mp3s, and a slot behind the nav system to take CF cards full of mp3s.) At 40 mpg, my Civic will be doing nearly as well as Susan's Prius (which gets highway of mid 40s after the new tires on it) for long trips, like those to Vermont and Delaware that we do a few times a year to visit family.

I'm not sure that I'll keep this new car for 9 years or not, but it is exciting to finally be getting a new car after all these years.