Arch Linux

I’ve been using Linux for close to 20 years now, ever since I had a programming class in college and I was too lazy to go to the lab, and instead learned to install an unix system at home so I could o my programming assignments.

The two first years or so I used Redhat Linux, but I soon switched to Debian after the debacle of upgrading from Redhat 5.1 to 6.0 (with the change of rpm format, if I remember correctly), and have been on a debian like system ever since. I spent some time dabbling in Ubuntu/Kubuntu for awhile, mostly because of the more up-to-date packing, but I soon came back because of the freedom of choosing my own packages (Ubuntu really expect whatever is in the live CD to always be there or the upgrade to the next version fails spectacularly).

I recently decided to try Arch Linux, slowly at first by installing it in a Virtualbox environment, but also moving slowly with my workstation. Part of the impetuous to move to Arch was to get a working KDE/Plasma 5 system working. I’ve been a KDE user since the beginning, and currently, KDE in Debian, even in Sid, is somewhat at a flux. Testing KDE in Arch seemed to hint at a more stable environment.

I was a little worried about moving to a non-debian distribution. Except for my brief start on Redhat, I’ve consistently kept myself on a debian-environment, and know the system well. I wasn’t too worried about the rolling release aspect, since I’ve been running in a Debian sid environment since forever. This, coupled with the fact that anytime I’ve been stuck or had a question about Linux, I had almost always ended up reading up on the subject in the arch wiki.

Arch Linux has really impressed me. Installation was somewhat of a pain, and I’m not sure I buy the idea that you know your system anymore by following a recipe any more than other people who just answers some installer questions.


  • Rolling release means latest software
  • The software is as the author(s) intended instead of the patch version distros like Debian and Redhat will give you
  • Wiki is probably the best of breed when it comes to documentation

Don’t like

  • Installation is unnecessary complicated and boilerplate
  • Unlike Debian, the kernels are tagged with version number, so you can only install one at a time (might break stuff)

Overall, I really like it and have decided to test it out on a media server (mostly because I’m also testing out btrfs and need the latest version available).

      -osssssso.      :ssssssso.
     :osssssss/        osssso+++.
    /ossssssss/        +ssssooo/-
  `/ossssso+/:-        -:/+osssso+-
 `+sso+:-`                 `.-/+oso:
`++:.                           `-/+/
.`                                 `

Using Cloud Services – part 3

Choosing the correct hosting platform is an ever changing task. Some of it is because your needs change, others because the offered services also change.

When I started looking into hosting, it was because I wanted to run my own mailserver. At first, the server was just a system I had in my living room, but after losing some mail because the server was down (blackouts during CA electricity crisis), I decided to move it to a dedicated hosting. Since I wanted to have control over my server (mostly because I had plans for running a blog and maybe subversion/git service too), and it needed to run Debian Linux, I decided to go for a dedicated server solution.

10 years later, I decided to move to a PaaS solution.

Couple of reasons for that:

  • I recently moved my mailserver to google/gmail.
  • The rise of services like Google Drive/Dropbox and github made it unnecessary to have a dedicated fileserver.
  • Maintaining the server was somewhat a pain in butt.
  • Having a server that was idle 95% of the time started getting more and more costly.

I’m currently testing out PaaS offering: Google App Engine, and so far I’m pretty impressed. It was relatively easy to migrate the wordpress instance over. SSL and administration was easy to setup. Prices seem pretty decent for low traffic platforms. So far I’m pretty happy with my choice.

Using Cloud Services – part 2

Some time ago, I decided to move my journal to Evernote. Although I was happy using emacs and org-mode to journal, I also wanted to be able to journal when I was travelling. These days, when I travel, I don’t bring a laptop with me, but rather a tablet (with bluetooth keyboard). The problem is, most tablet have horrible support for org-mode/Emacs. So, I wanted to try to journal with Evernote.

After a year of trying, I’m almost ready to go back. Part of the problem is that Evernote cost money. You can get the free version, but then you can’t use it offline. The editor in Evernote is bad, compared to Emacs. It’s adequate for most task, but I find myself more effective with Emacs and just keyboard use. Also, no matter how much I try, tablets are really bad productive systems. Even with a keyboard, I don’t feel as productive as on a laptop.

I’m starting to think a smallish, ultrabook might be a better solution for me.

Fresh Off the Boat Selfies

When I grew up in Norway in the early 80s, there weren’t a lot of other Asian immigrants in my area. If my mom wanted to cook dinner, we went to a Norwegian store to buy the food. And since the classes were organized after where you lived, I ended up in a class with a bunch of Norwegians and some Turkish students. Which is what I had been used to, since my daycare center was also all Norwegian. Being different? I was just another Norwegian students.

I don’t think I really paid attention what it meant to be an Asian until I went to the US to study. For some reason, Asian students in the US were more aware of their ethnicity than I ever thought of. I just couldn’t understand why I would join a Asian Student Union, and not a Norwegian Student Union. Do I feel like I lost something? Not really. I am who I am, not only because of my heritage, but also my environment. Why should one part be more important than the other?

One thing about growing up in Norway was, there were no Asians on TV or movies. But since I felt Norwegian, it really didn’t bother me. So, a blonde guy was the main character on TV. My friends had brown hair, I could still relate, big whop.

As I grew older, however, I did notice how Asians were being portrayed in the media. Maybe because of my years in the US had made me more aware, I’m not sure. What bugged me more was the way they were portrayed when they did show up, more than the lack of representation. So, Friends having no Asian characters while living in New York, bothered me less than the was Han Lee is portrayed in 2 Broke Girls. What started to bother me was that the discussion in the US in regards to people of colour was that you were either white or black, and everybody else were others that really didn’t have a say in the matter. But why couldn’t an Asian guy who was born by American parents be portrayed like an American? Why did he always have to be an immigrant with the funny accent and the mannerism? It wasn’t how I felt I was.

So, it was interesting that in the fall of 2014, a new show called Selfie arrived on American TV starring Karen Gillan and John Cho. Selfie is based on the old George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. But, the part of professor Higgins was played by John Cho, and Korean-American. Because, why not? I never realized how refreshing it was to have someone like Cho play Higgins. There were nothing in the role of Higgins that made him one ethnicity or another. Why should a role with no ethnic characteristic have to be played by a white actor? Doesn’t that imply that an Asian like Cho is somehow not really an American? That he can only play Asian characters?

And Cho was great in the role. I don’t know if the plan was always to make Higgs a romantic interest for Dooley in the show, but the chemistry between Cho and Gillan made it impossible to ignore. And the audience loved it. And I loved it, because the emphasis wasn’t on Higgs being different because he was Asian. He was different because he wasn’t connected in the new Social Media obsessed world. It was so refreshing.

Unfortunately, the show never found its audience, and the network decided to cancel the show after 7 episodes (which was bizarre since the back 8 were some of the funniest and best episodes ever produced). Whether an outfit like Netflix will pick the show up, is still up in the air.

Around the time Selfie got cancelled, I was made aware of another show starring Asians called Fresh Off the Boat. Inspired by Eddie Huang’s memoir Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, it was the story about a Taiwanese immigrant family moving to Florida in the 90s.

I can’t say I was happy about it. It seemed to me that going from character like Higgs to Jessica with her accent, and her other status, was a huge setback. So, Asians were no longer part of the American experience. Back to immigrant status, the other, the different. The people who don’t really belong. Oh, joy.

But the reviews were good. Em Liu over at Fiction Diversity wrote a review of it. Eddie Huang wrote a really good article about his experience developing the show. And some of the trailers for the show looked really funny.

So, I tried it out. And it was good. It was funny. It’s not exactly my type, since I’m personally into workplace comedies these days, but it’s still very good. And not just good, in the sense of being Asian, so I need to support it otherwise there will be no Asian representation on TV. It was good in its own right.

I’m still stung by the cancellation of Selfie. I liked the portrayal of Asian as part of society without being portrayed as an Other. That said, Fresh Off the Boat is also a story that needs to be told. I just wish there were room for both.

To SSL or not to SSL, that is the question

I’ve been playing with forcing ssl on this site for some time now. I tried it for a while, but I decided to not force it on the regular pages (still available by using the https protocol).

The main reason is because I don’t really want to pay for a ssl certificate, and since I’m using the free cacert, all the browser will give a huge warning when visiting the site. The site isn’t important enough to force privacy, so I decided to not enforce it.

Time will tell if I change my mind

Using cloud services

After 10+ years of running my own email server, I finally broke down and moved my email domain to Google Apps. In the time I ran my own server, I went from qmail to postfix.

Part of reason was that I was getting tired of maintaining the server. Although, update the software is somewhat easy, it started to annoy me when an update would break the server software (the final straw when sasl server started failing, and I was unable send mail through the mail server).

The second reason was that I had been using gmail as a backup email address, and I started looking at the functionality that google offered, like integrated contact list, calendar and email.

Now, I tried setting up my own ldap server, but the problem was to get it to seamlesly work with all my devices and other software. Never got that to work properly. Probably never look too much into it. And I never looked at how to make my own calendar system.

Having moved my email domain over to Google Apps, I must say it’s been a pleasant experience. Not having to maintain the system myself, makes it possible to focus on other stuff. The calendar and contact list integration make it possible to maintain a master list of contacts and appointments, All in all, it’s been a pretty good experience. And since Google have an imap interface to the mailserver, I can always download my emails and start up my own server again if I want to without losing any mail.

I think the only thing I have been missing is the control over the server itself. I had few problems setting up DKIM and SPF. I still haven’t been able to set up DKIM in Google. (yes, I followed the instructions, Google just don’t want to pick it up for some reason). But for now, that’s a minor issue, and I probably going to continue with this for now…

gtd – in practice

I finally caved in and bought David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Although I’ve been using the system for a couple of years now, I didn’t feel like I’ve been using it effectively. Mostly this was because it was my understanding of the system based on the summaries I’ve read about it on the ‘net (wikipedia, google etc). I felt like I was missing something fundamental.

Instead of writing my own summary of the book, I recommend people just buy it and read it. Instead, I will be focusing on how I use it in practice using emacs + orgmode + mobileorg (for iPad). I recently organized a birthday party using gtd and I must say, it was very successful.


One of the fundamental stages of gtd is collecting everything you need. One of my problem was that I tried to collect and process at the same time. The problem is, I then got stuck in a stage in-between collecting and processing, unable to move forward. What priority does this item go into? Is it in the right order? Don’t do this.

Instead, collect. That is, write down everything that’s on your mind, no matter how insignificant it is.

Mobileorg on the iPad (also available for android) was a godsent, although you could probably use a normal pen-and-paper too. The point is, have something to write your thoughts down at any time. I could be reading a book or just zooming out on the train, and suddenly I had this thought about something regarding the party. Just write it down. Doesn’t matter if I have written it down before, or it doesn’t make sense, or has nothing to do with any of your current projects. Just write it down. It’s the collecting phase.

Once I get home, sync the mobilorg app with my desktop system, and go to the next phase.


In the process phase, I go through each of the items I have collected in the previous phase. Is it part of a project (say the birthday dinner)? File it under the project. Is it just something I need to know, file it under Reference. Is it just some random thought, trash it if not useful, file it if potentially useful.

Once everything is files away, I go through the projects I have going and organize it. Are there actionable items? What is the next step for the project? Do I need to retrieve more information from somewhere (creating a new action item).


Unfortunately, this is one stage I’m still not very good at. I try to review my projects at least once a week to see if there are any progress, but I know I could get better at this.

Still, by using gtd, I feel I have much better control over my projects. By taking something like the birthday dinner and organize it like a project, I never felt like I was not in control at any point. I could always go back to my list to check out where I was and what I needed to do next. And even when things changed at the last moment, it still didn’t spin out of control.

Is gtd for everybody? Probably not. It works for me given the tools I have, and it does make my life a little less stressful. I do miss something like a mobileorg for the phone, but that’s a minor issue. In general, I highly recommend the book and system that everybody should at least try.