That was *camp

I’m now sitting in Arniston, on a horribly slow GPRS connection, after *camp, which was this weekend, at AIMS. It was a BarCamp-like “unconference”, organised by the geekdinner crowd. I put off having the weekend at Arniston for *camp, and for me, I think that was worth it.

The event was really good. I haven’t been very involved in the organising, and didn’t come prepared with a talk (just equipment). At the start, it felt like there were never going to be enough talks to keep us going, but as soon as it started, it began rolling, and continued for 2 days. The talks were varied, from technical, to psychological, to practical. I was really impressed. The quality of the talks was quite high - I was rarely bored (although I did have IRC distractions).

As usual, I had Jonathan Carter’s camera, and videoed everything. I’m going to go home to around 8 hours of video that needs editing, synchronizing, encoding, and uploading to It’ll take a while, guys, be patient.

Today, I got involved with setting up the lab for practical demos. We had 9 PCs lent, and needed Ubuntu on them. Of course, the natural approach is netinstall - I’m familiar with netinstalling Ubuntu, and it is a great way to set up a pile of computers. However, we ran into problem after problem.

  1. We were using dnsmasq (on my laptop) for DHCP and TFTP, but it wasn’t the router. So I set the router DHCP option. This seemed to break dnsmasq - PCs stopped accepting leases and DHCPDECLINED them. I’ve never seen that before. So I had to route through my laptop - no biggie.
  2. AIMS is behind a 400kbps connection, and while thy have an apt-cacher, it seemed badly seeded, and it looked like it was going to take us hours to install, so I went to my car and collected a set of Ubuntu archive DVDs that I happened to have on hand, and loaded them via a cluster of laptops and rsync ;-)
  3. Of course those DVDs didn’t have udebs on them (the debian-installer bits and pieces), so I had to quickly write a script to download all the udebs, and their necessary support structure.
  4. Now the machines netboot installed really fast, but at the very end of the install, it failed, due to some package signature problem.
  5. I ran debmirror, to ensure that my mirror was up to date, and it was. I ran the md5 sum checks, and they passed. I have no idea what the problem was.
  6. Eventually, the lab was installed with 3 install CDs, and then clubbed into shape with clusterssh. 5hrs or so after starting - what a waste of time, we should have started with CDs…

So, lesson for next time, test your netboot setup in advance, don’t assume that a mirror will be in working shape. We should have set up the lab on day one, for use on day 2.

The upshot of this is that I didn’t see any talks today (excepting a practical in the lab, on scribus, once it was up). I’ll have to watch the videos later.

Now, I’m going to enjoy a few days in Arniston, and then come home to graduate.

Wiki work on GPRS/3G

I’ve touched up the CLUG wiki GPRS/3G page today. It’s now a complete dump of my knowledge on the subject - a page I wish had existed when I started mucking with mobile data.

Now I’m just waiting for the 3G card that I bought on eBay to turn up, so I can get a slightly more usable connection than asthmatic GPRS when I’m on the run.

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