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    Creative Commons License
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    Mon, 15 Jun 2009


    /Education: Free Online Courses at MIT

    While reading about Open Source Courseware[1], I stumbled across the fact that there is a lot of free courses offered online. Including some 1900 courses at MIT[2]!! And quite a list of computer science related courses[3].

    [1] http://www.linux.com/news/software/applications/17742-a-class-on-open-source-courseware
    [2] http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/courses/visits/index.htm
    [3] http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Electrical-Engineering-and-Computer-Science/

    posted at: 04:34 | path: /Education | permanent link to this entry

    Sat, 13 Jun 2009


    /Hosting/NearlyFreeSpeech: BackupPC and nearlyfreespeech.net

    Just in case anyone else has the bright idea of trying to use their existing BackupPC backup server to backup websites on nearlyfreespeech.net, let me save you some time: it will not work.

    nearlyfreespeech.net assigns different IP addresses to different web services. So you can ping your web host, for example, at xxxx.nfshost.com, but the SSH server you connect to in order to gain SSH access to your hosting directory is on a different IP at ssh.phx.nearlyfreespeech.net. If you try to ping ssh.phx.nearlyfreespeech.net you will get no response.

    For better or worse, BackupPC insists on a backup client being pingable before it will attempt a backup.

    If anyone has a bright idea, I am all ears....

    In the meantime, rdiff-backup[1] works nicely.

    [1] http://blog.langex.net/index.cgi/Admin/backups/rdiff-backup/

    posted at: 05:30 | path: /Hosting/NearlyFreeSpeech | permanent link to this entry

    Mon, 08 Jun 2009


    /Admin/backups/backuppc: Backuppc Server

    I have chosen backuppc[1] as my backup server software. It is powerful, flexible, has a web-based GUI, and yes, it does take a little bit of study to get it working. And documentation seems to be missing our favorite section: the "Quick Start". I will try to provide enough of a tutorial for a "Quick Start" here. Note that a more verbose tutorial exists here www.debianhelp.co.uk/backuppc.htm.

    First, when you install backuppc, make sure that you also install libfile-rsyncp-perl. On my Debian box, this lib is "suggested" so it does not get installed automatically. You probably need to note your GUI login id (backuppc?) and password generated during the install. And another item that may also be Debian-specific is that it installs by default already setup to backup your localhost /etc directory.

    Once installed, if you are sitting at the machine to which backuppc has been installed, point your web browser to localhost/backuppc/ then enter the userid and password noted above at the prompt. Choose "localhost" from the host drop down menu, then click the "Start Full Backup". A couple minutes later your /etc should be backed up. Then click the "Browse Backups" link on the upper left. That should give a general idea of useage.

    You can modify your backuppc password by running the following command: "htpasswd /etc/backuppc/htpasswd backuppc"

    To setup backup for another machine, you need to go to /etc/backuppc/. The main config file is config.pl, which I am trying really hard not to change so as to preserve default behavior through future upgrades. That may not work for you if you have a lot of machines to backup and want to do a lot of customization.

    To add another backup machine, first create a name.pl file, where "name" is the name of the machine in your /etc/hosts file. Sample content to use rsyncd to backup /etc/ and /home on the remote machine might be the following:

    $Conf{XferMethod} = 'rsyncd';
    $Conf{RsyncdUserName} = 'userid';
    $Conf{RsyncdPasswd} = 'password';
    $Conf{RsyncShareName} = ['etc', 'home'];
    Note that you might want to add something like
    $Conf{BackupFilesExclude} = ['/sys', '/proc', '/dev', '/cdrom', '/media', '/floppy', '/mnt', '/var/lib/backuppc', '/lost+found'];

    to the above config if you are backing up the root partition of an entire Linux system, for instance.

    Then edit /etc/backuppc/hosts to contain the following two lines:

    localhost 0 backuppc
    nameOfMachineToBeBackedUp 0 backuppc
    where "nameOfMachineToBeBackedUp" is the same as "name" from name.pl.

    [1] http://backuppc.sourceforge.net/

    posted at: 04:48 | path: /Admin/backups/backuppc | permanent link to this entry


    /TechWriting: Advice for Chinese Writers of English Documents

    In the course of editing, I have found some common mistakes which should be given some attention by writers:

    1. Never use "not" contractions, as in ????n't, in formal documents:
      • "didn't" should be "did not",
      • "isn't" should be "is not",
      • "can't" should be "cannot", etc.

    2. Always capitalize the first letter of the names of people and places. 中国 should always be written as "China", not "china".

    3. Refer to names consistently throughout a document, preferably using the same form as the owner / originator. Check their website if necessary.
      • ".NET", not ".Net" or ".net".
      • "Microsoft", not "MicroSoft"

    4. Try to use the word "the" more often before nouns. This is not necessary for the meaning, but a lot of "the"s are necessary for a formal document to sound right.

    5. Do not confuse "a" and "the". "A" is for general references, "the" is for specific references. Suppose the CEO needs to fly to London for a business meeting, and the company owns one private jet. He might say to his secretary:
      • I am going to take a commercial flight ("a" refers to any flight that is convenient, he is not being specific)
      • I am going to take the company plane (he is saying exactly which plane he is going to use) -or-
      • I am going to take the 5:00PM British Air flight (he is saying exactly which flight he is going to take)

    6. Use the words "should" and "better" less, I am seeing these much too often. After your first draft, go back and find better alternatives for most instances of "should" and "better".

    7. Avoid "and so on", make proper use of "etc.":
      • right: "item1, item2, item3, item4, etc."
      • wrong: "item1, item2, item3, item4 and etc."
      • wrong: "item1, item2, item3, item4 etc."

    8. Avoid word repetition:
      • right: "we did this on both A and B projects".
      • wrong: "we did this on A project and on B project".
      • in bulleted lists, if every item begins with the same word, delete that word from all items.

    9. Be mindful of punctuation:
      • Do not use punctuation from Chinese character sets. Do not use (,。!?) use (,.!?)
      • generally speaking, there should be no space between a punctuation mark and the preceding word, and one, maybe two spaces between the punctuation mark and the following word.

    10. When expressing Chinese names in pinyin, the convention is to to have no spaces between syllables, or for very long names to group syllables together logically, and capitalize only the first letters. No mid-word capitals, no spaces between every syllable:
      • right: "Shenzhen", wrong: "ShenZhen"
      • right: "Beixincun Houjie", wrong: "Bei Xin Cun Hou Jie"

    11. Bad grammar habits:
      • weak: "each other", better: "one another"
      • weak: "content of document", better: "document content"
      • weak: "the database is queried by the module", better: "the module queries the database"

    12. Multi-word names, especially of books or other documents, are often italicized (italics font) and / or bolded and / or quoted to make the document easier on the eye. This is particularly useful if the name contains very ordinary words, like the "I Can Quit" program, for instance.

    13. Finally, after I have reviewed your document, take the time to look over the things that I have changed and try to extract at least one grammar or vocabulary lesson to remember for the next document. Especially if I had to edit a lot.

    posted at: 04:16 | path: /TechWriting | permanent link to this entry