MUUG Monthly Meetings for 2006-07


Please note our meeting location: The IBM offices, at 400 Ellice Ave. (between Edmonton and Kennedy). When you arrive, you will have to sign in at the reception desk, and then wait for someone to take you (in groups) to the meeting room. Please try to arrive by about 7:15pm, so the meeting can start promptly at 7:30pm. Don't be late, or you may not get in. (But don't come too early either, since security may not be there to let you in before 7:15 or so.) Non-members are welcome, but may be required to show photo ID at the security desk.

Limited parking is available for free on the street, either on Ellice Ave. or on some of the intersecting streets. Indoor parking is also available nearby, at Portage Place, for $3.00 for the evening. Bicycle parking is available in a bike rack under video surveillance located behind the building on Webb Place.

September 12, 2006: Surviving with a Non-UNIX Desktop

A few months ago, Gilbert Detillieux, a die-hard UNIX user since around 1980, did the unthinkable: he switched to using a Windows-based system as his primary desktop at work! Has he lost his mind? Or were there mitigating factors that affected his decision? How can a UNIX user survive in a Windows environment? Are there tools available that can ease the pain, and allow one to work effectively in a heterogeneous environment, without going through UNIX withdrawal?

In this presentation, Gilbert explained how he did it. This was a fairly informal, interactive presentation, that lead to some lively discussion on alternative desktop solutions, and the pros and cons of each.

Gilbert's presentation slides are available online, in PowerPoint source and PDF formats. Gilbert has also provided a set of bookmarks (which you can save to a local file and import into Firefox) to the various open source and freeware utilities mentioned in his talk, as well as the various extensions for Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird.

October 10, 2006: PKI: Public Key Infrastructure - What it can do for you

This month, Adam Thompson gave us an introduction to public-key infrastructure. PKI is the technology that enables secure web browsing (SSL) and secure e-mail (S/MIME) - you might know what an SSL Certificate is, but did you know you can enable single-sign-on by running your own PKI? That you don't have to pay for expensive SSL certificates? That you can use PKI to secure password-less SSH authentication? The discussion covered uses of SSL certificates, and a high-level overview of the OpenSSL and OpenCA toolkits. There was also a brief mention of the new, free CAcert service.

Adam's presentation slides are available online, in PowerPoint source and PDF formats.

November 14, 2006: SUSE Linux Enterprise 10

"The platform for your Open Enterprise needs." That's how Novell describes SUSE Linux 10. Since it's purchase of SUSE, Novell has been positioning SUSE Linux as the one product line that will work from the desktop to the enterprise server. With this goal in mind, Novell has taken steps to provide greater power and security as well as to increase the "user friendliness" of SUSE Linux.

In this presentation by Wayne Billing, of the University of Manitoba, we saw a brief overview of some of the things (AutoYAST, 3D desktop, AppArmor, XEN) that Novell is counting on to make SUSE Linux a viable choice for enterprise desktops and servers.

December 12, 2006: Round-table and Holiday Mingle

As the year wound down, it was time for MUUG to take things at a more relaxed pace. So, we let the round-table discussion go a bit longer (rather than cutting it short as we sometimes have to), then instead of a very short coffee break, we had a more laid-back mingler with some holiday treats and more time for informal discussion.

Although the fat guy in red didn't show up, there were some gifts given out: A better-than-average selection of door prizes were up for grabs to those who held the winning tickets, whether they'd been naughty or nice this year.

January 9, 2007: IBM Server Virtualization with VMware ESX

Scott Jordan, IBM's Technical Support for the Prairies System x Sales Team, talked about IBM blade server technology, and demoed VMware ESX. Larger disk arrays, faster processors, and more dense memory packaging are making virtualization a very attractive solution for running multiple operating systems on one hardware platform. Add to this the centralized management, redundancy, and high availability features of VMware and you have a powerful business solution. Scott brought his pet "rack" along and put it through its paces.

February 13, 2007: Syslog to a Database

Kevin McGregor had a common problem: He could generate lots of interesting system logging data and direct it to a common logging system to be recorded, but he wanted to perform more sophisticated analysis than could be done with text files and grep. Also, managing log rotations and old data was a concern, as was automatic report generation for management. This month, Kevin explained how he put together the combination of syslog-ng and PostgreSQL to solve this problem.

Kevin's presentation slides are available online, in PowerPoint source and PDF formats.

March 13, 2007: Sun's Zettabyte File System

Shawn Wallbridge presented on ZFS, a new filesystem that was introduced with Solaris 10 update 2. Some have called it the most advanced file system ever; it certainly has a lot of very advanced features. Shawn discussed ZFS, its features and benefits, and how it has changed how Frantic Films looks at storage. The presentation also featured a live demo, using OpenSolaris running under Parallels on a Mac OS X system.

Shawn's presentation slides are available online, in PDF format.

April 10, 2007: Things you can do with 'Embedded' Devices

The Linksys WRT54G is probably one of the most popular consumer routers around, but for unlikely reasons. Linksys had decided to use Linux as the operating system inside. Linux and hardware hackers around the world started poking around inside.

Shawn Wallbridge talked about various embedded devices that can be used in interesting ways, for both good and evil.

May 8, 2007: Gordon Meyer's Smart Home Hacks

Attendees learned how to put their computer to work around the house. Gordon's presentation was meant to get people started with the basics of do-it-yourself home automation, covering the most practical, fun, and interesting techniques culled from around the globe. Drawn from the best of Smart Home Hacks, the talk contained advice to get novices on the fast track to the most useful methods, and lots of tips, inspiration, and lively discussion to keep even the pros interested.

Gordon Meyer is a Chicago-based writer and speaker who has authored dozens of software manuals, numerous articles for computer users and technical writers, and O'Reilly's Smart Home Hacks, a leading book on do-it-yourself home automation techniques. Gordon, an amateur magician and a frequent speaker at technical conferences, touts a practical, lighthearted, and humanized approach to integrating technology with daily life. Gordon has provided links to useful home automation resources through his web site.

For this special meeting, a larger-than-usual venue was chosen, which allowed room for many non-members to attend as well. MUUG member Brock Wolfe, a home-automation veteran himself, also provided lots of useful tips, both at the meeting and later via this posting.

June 12, 2007: LAMP Performance Tuning

LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl) applications are popular for many reasons. As a site grows, some work has to go into maintaining the various components of the architecture so that bottlenecks are eliminated. This presentation by Sean Walberg went over many of the things to look for in the LAMP components of high volume websites, based on his experiences with b5media.com.

Sean's presentation slides are available online, in PDF format. John Lange provided some useful follow-up tips on MySQL tuning, via this posting to the "roundtable" mailing list.

July 2007: No meeting this month

August 2007: No meeting this month

Please note our meeting location: The IBM offices, at 400 Ellice Ave. (between Edmonton and Kennedy). When you arrive, you will have to sign in at the reception desk, and then wait for someone to take you (in groups) to the meeting room. Please try to arrive by about 7:15pm, so the meeting can start promptly at 7:30pm. Don't be late, or you may not get in. (But don't come too early either, since security may not be there to let you in before 7:15 or so.) Non-members are welcome, but may be required to show photo ID at the security desk.

Limited parking is available for free on the street, either on Ellice Ave. or on some of the intersecting streets. Indoor parking is also available nearby, at Portage Place, for $3.00 for the evening. Bicycle parking is available in a bike rack under video surveillance located behind the building on Webb Place.