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Personal blog of Mark Wallis, Newcastle, Australia

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[Holidays]Received 05/03/2009 19:58

Back from WA

Hi everyone,

Sar and I are back from Western Australia where we have been on holidays for the past week (did you miss us ? didn't even notice we were gone huh).

Spent most of the time wandering around the Margaret River wineries, spending money, drinking wine, eating food and just generally relaxing. Also spent a couple of days in Perth wandering around the Zoo and Frementle. Lots of photos up on Facebook, especially of the zoo.

Best winery: Cullen Estate. Not only top-notch wine, but fantastic service. They even shipped back a case of wine for us that was made up 4 of their own bottles plus 8 other random single bottles we picked up at other wineries. Tops !

Best accomodation: Windmills Break. Newly refurbished hotel at the top end of Margaret River, near Dunsborough. Small number of rooms and excellent staff. We stayed in a suite and couldn't be happier.

Best attraction: Perth Zoo. I'm probably biased here as this is the first zoo I've ever been too. Sun Bears rock.

Anyway, back to work tomorrow. Time to start working through the email backlog.

Received 04/20/2009 23:17

What's Mark currently hacking around on

At LOGIN tonight it was brought up that we don't have a centralised repository of 'hacks' that we are all currently playing with. Such a list could potentially stimulate interest within the group and drive future presentation topics.

As a start, here is a high-level list of things that are currently of interest to me (as of this week), either due to work, research or just general hacking.

  • Arduino and microprocessor programming for serial communication and high-metric digital channel control
  • Layer-3 and up network and application load balancing
  • Amateur Astronomy, specifically with Celestron SC scopes
  • Cloud Computing and Component-based Networks and Operating Systems
  • Security auditing and pen-testing, specifically with OpenVAS and OWASP
  • Open Source SSL VPN solutions

If anyone is playing in the same area's, let me know :-)

[Linux]Received 04/20/2009 22:48

LOGIN presentation - VOIP

I managed to throw some last-minute slides together for a presentation at LOGIN [1] tonight on VOIP (voice-over-IP). The slides can be found on the LOGIN website [2].

VOIP is an interesting topic due to the level of complexity you can get into when you start combining multiple providers, ATA's and PBX software like Asterisk [3]. I hope that the talk generated some interest as I'm keen to talk more about setting up community or group- level PBX's for cheap communication in the cloud (sick of that term yet ?).

[1] - Newcastle Linux Users Group
[2] - VOIP presentation slides
[3] - Asterisk - Open Source PBX

Received 02/04/2009 09:48

Upcoming F5 ASM Techspresso presentation

Hi everyone,

Later this month I'm going to be presenting a 'customers viewpoint' on web application firewalls in partnership with Dimension Data and F5 [1]. I use F5's BigIP ASM product fairly heavily during my day job as a way of providing an additional layer of security that directly addresses some of the items raised by PCI.

If your interested check out this URL - https://techspresso.didata.com.au/Techspresso/Sydney/ SYD_2009_2_26.htm

[1] - F5

Received 01/31/2009 14:50

eeePC 1000h + Ubuntu +Low Volume

OK, so after getting the Microphone working the only problem was that the volume was way too soft. I have NO IDEA how this fix works, but it does. Check out the link below.

http://forum.eeebuntu.org/viewtopic.php?p=3541#p3541

Decent volume now. Just don't forgot to select PCM from the preferences list before closing the window.

Received 01/26/2009 16:37

eeePC 1000h + Ubuntu + Skype + full sound/mic

Hi everyone,

Just before LCA we purchased an eeePC 1000h [1] running Windows XP. Needless to say, Windows lasted approx 30 minutes before we installed Ubuntu. Unfortunately, under Ubuntu I've never been able to get full sound + microphone working with Skype, until now. Below is a very rough list of the steps I've taken to get Skype fully working with full duplex video and sound. These steps were performed using EasyPeasy 1.0 [2] - which I believe is based on Ubuntu 8.10.

1. Install a 2.6.28 kernel. The distro's haven't quite caught up with the latest kernel offering yet so I had to download and compile this external to apt. This version of the kernel is important as it includes the latest Alsa 1.0.18 which includes specific fixes for the Intel chipset used in the 1000h.
2. Once you have the new kernel up and running add the following line to your /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base

options snd-hda-intel model=3stack-dig

3. Start alsamixer and insure that the 'capture' recording device isn't muted and has its volume at maximum.

4. Install Skype and add a launcher icon to your dock. Edit the properties of the launcher icon and change the command from 'skype' to 'esddsp skype'. This lauches Skype using the esddsp utility which redirects Skype's attempts to directly access the sound device through the Alsa layer instead.

5. Start Skype and in the audio properties untick 'Allow Skype to alter my mixer levels'.

Now, I haven't run these steps on a clean install so I MAY have missed something that I did early on during my random attempts to resolve the issue. If the steps above don't work for you please let me know via email and I'll update this post. These steps also fixed my headphone issue where the device continued to play out of the speakers even if headphones were plugged in. The only problem left is that the max volume still seems quite low. I'm going to experiment some more with this.

[1] eeePC 1000h
[2] EasyPeasy 1.0

Received 01/23/2009 17:30

LCA09 - Friday/leaving

Last day at LCA09 for me. Quick blog-post from the airport over Bigpond wireless (yay for working under Linux).

Lots of think about from the LCA presentations, but I can't help but feel I got more out of last years. Maybe all the information was falling out of my ears as I trecked up/and/down that hill.

Catching up with Sarah in Melbourne who should almost be on the plane now for the weekend before getting back to Newcastle on Sunday night.

More posts once I've had time to digest the conference.

Received 01/23/2009 09:48

LCA09 - Wednesday/Thursday

Well, time flies at LCA as always. Its been a very hectic couple of days and I'll try and pick the highlights.

James Turnbull gave a talk on Puppet on the first day which was very interesting. I'm keen to investigate it further in an application configuration context at the office. I would love to be able to turn application installations into a 5 minute press-a-button job. Mind you, their Windows support is 'in BETA' at the moment so there may be abit of work still required for a feasible implementation.

The Mozilla talk unfortunately wasn't quite what I was expecting. I had to leave early so perhaps in the last 20 minutes there was some more insight into how to start low-level Mozilla hacking. Waiting for the video to be released for this talk.

That night was the penguin dinner. There have been plenty of blog-posts on what occured here, including the auction and all the funds raised for the save-the-Tasmanian-Devil foundation. Fun night. Food was OK.

The next morning after another early jog and a quick breakfast had me at talks on Perl and Webkit. I probably should do more investigation into Webkit ........... but I just can't get as excited as I do about Mozilla.

As in previous years I've spent a fair bit of time in Rusty's tutorial on lguest. I was able to clear the easy and medium tasks (helped alot by my participation in last years tutorial) but came unstuck on the first advanced step. As always, I'll pledge to continue investigation, but most likely not find as much time as I would like.

KSplice probably takes my 'huh, thats interesting' award for the conference so far. Real-time-live kernel patching sounds great, but all the 'yeah, we handled that' and 'oh, that required us to mess with this' leaves me feeling uneasy about using it anywhere in production. Of course, this type of system is built for using in production so perhaps I'll go read the research paper to try and put my mind at ease. Interesting from a security aspect on the ramifications of this research as well (KSplice worms anyone ?).

So, last day today. I fly out at 6:30pm tonight to meet Sarah in Melbourne for the weekend. Looking forward to a weekend of real accommodation and real food :-)

Received 01/20/2009 22:09

LCA09 - hectic first day

Well, pretty sure I was in the last batch of people to turn up today. Conference officially starts tomorrow but there were two days of tutorials on the Monday/Tuesday which the majority attended. I managed to make it to the latter-half of the security tutorial which was good. I still need someone to explain to my how SELinux isn't completely overkill in real-world situations.

New netbook (eeePC 1000h) is going well - except the microphone refuses to work under Ubuntu. I've had to resort to dual-booting back into XP to get my Skype fix. Hopefully I'll be inspired by all the geekyness here this weekend to fix it.

Tomorrow the conference sessions start and I'm hoping to get an early rise happening with a walk around campus before breakfast. Hopefully it will make up for all the squash I'm missing out on back home. University of Tasmania has to be the hilly-est University I've ever seen so its a decent workout just getting from A-to-B.

Talk soon.

Received 01/20/2009 13:29

On my way to Hobart

Currently sitting on a Virgin Blue flight on my way to Hobart for Linux.conf.au [1]. People that know me know that I'm not generally an angry person (sic), but air travel is really starting to get to me. I've been unlucky enough to see the effect that cheap-airfares have had on the industry over the past 8 years, and as such, I'm going to list my 5 pet-peeves of modern day cheaper-than-a-decent-meal air travel.

1. Unrealistic expectations - "What do you mean you won't let me check in, I still have 5 minutes before the plane leaves !"

2. Backpackers - "I have 17 separate plastic bags of luggage. Please check them all in separately"

3. Transfers - The combined cost of two taxis and my train fare added up to more than the flight itself.

4. People that don't read - You are in the domestic terminal, you are standing under the sign that says "Domestic Checkin". No, you cannot checkin to your international flight here. Don't act surprised.

5. Inconsiderate tools - You are using your mobile phone, on the plane, during the safety demonstration, after already being asked to hang up by the attendants. If the plane crashed on a desert island, I vote we eat you first.

Now, time to enjoy the conference :-)

[1] Linux.conf.au - http://www.linux.conf.au