Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A stick figure guide to AES!

If you've ever been interested in cryptography, this blog post by Jeff Moser is right up your alley. It explains the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) using a series of stick figure drawings!
It is informative and funny at the same time! Be warned, it goes pretty heavy into the mathematics as the slides go on. I've included a slide here to show you what it looks like:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

VirtualBox TV!

A neat item that I stumbled upon while reading about the most recent VirtualBox maintenance update is that the VirtualBox wiki page now contains some sweet little video tutorials that are called VirtualBox TV (or, alternatively, The Fat Bloke's Shorts). A variety of videos are available, and I will include one of them in this post. It involves enabling 3D acceleration in an Ubuntu guest session.

There are also links to live product webinars which are longer, but filled with good information.
I'm embedding the most recent webinar from August of 2009 discussing new features from the 3.0 release.

VirtualBox 3.0.6 released!

Hooray! A new version of VirtualBox is out! Version 3.0.6

The changelog is listed here:
  • VMM: fixed IO-APIC overhead for 32 bits Windows NT, 2000, XP and 2003 guests (AMD-V only; bug #4392)
  • VMM: fixed a Guru meditation under certain circumstances when enabling a disabled device (bug Fixed in ... (closed)">#4510)
  • VMM: fixed a Guru meditation when booting certain Arch Linux guests (software virtualization only; bug VM assertion (pVM->patm.s.pGCStateHC->fPIF == 1) -> fixed in ... (closed)">#2149)
  • VMM: fixed hangs with 64 bits Solaris & OpenSolaris guests (bug #2258)
  • VMM: fixed decreasing rdtsc values (AMD-V & VT-x only; bug fixed in SVN/3.0.6 (closed)">#2869)
  • VMM: small Solaris/OpenSolaris performance improvements (VT-x only)
  • VMM: cpuid change to correct reported virtual CPU id in Linux
  • VMM: NetBSD 5.0.1 CD hangs during boot (VT-x only; bug Fixed in SVN/3.0.6 (closed)">#3947)
  • Solaris hosts: worked around an issue that caused the host to hang (bug #4486)
  • Solaris hosts: fixed a rare host system deadlock when using bridged networking
  • Solaris hosts: fixed a potential host system deadlock when CPUs were onlined or offlined
  • Solaris hosts installer: added missing dependency for UTF-8 package (bug fixed in SVN (closed)">#4899)
  • Linux hosts: don't crash on Linux PAE kernels < class="closed ticket" href="" title="" vm =""> Fixed in ... (closed)">#1842)
  • Linux/Solaris hosts: correctly detect keyboards with fewer keys than usual (bug fixed in SVN (closed)">#4799)
  • Mac OS X hosts: prevent password dialogs in 32 bits Snow Leopard
  • Python WS: fixed issue with certain enumerations constants having wrong values in Python webservices bindings
  • Python API: several threading and platform issues fixed
  • Python shell: added exportVM command
  • Python shell: various improvements and bugfixes
  • Python shell: corrected detection of home directory in remote case
  • OVF: fixed XML comment handling that could lead to parser errors
  • Main: fixed a rare parsing problem with port numbers of USB device filters in machine settings XML
  • Main: restrict guest RAM size to 1.5 GB (32 bits Windows hosts only)
  • Main: fixed possible hang during guest reboot (bug Fixed in SVN/3.0.6 (reopened)">#3792)
  • GUI: fixed rare crash when removing the last disk from the media manager (bug Fixed in SVN/3.0.6 (closed)">#4795)
  • VBoxManage: fixed guestproperty for Mac OS X hosts (bug Fixed in SVN (closed)">#3806)
  • VBoxManage: fixed setting guest properties with --flags or -flags
  • Webservice: fixed a severe memory leak, at least on platforms using XPCOM
  • Serial: fixed host mode (Solaris, Linux and Mac OS X hosts; bug Fixed in SVN (closed)">#4672)
  • VRDP: Remote USB Protocol version 3
  • SATA: fixed hangs and BSODs introduced with 3.0.4 (bugs fixed in svn (closed)">#4695, fixed in svn (closed)">#4739, Fixed in SVN/3.0.6 (closed)">#4710)
  • SATA: fixed a bug which prevented Windows 7 from detecting more than one hard disk
  • SATA/SCSI: fixed rare random guest crashes and hangs
  • SCSI: fixed problem with Fedora 11 refusing to boot after kernel update
  • iSCSI: fix logging out when the target has dropped the connection, fix negotiation of simparameters, fix command resend when the connection was dropped, fix processing SCSI status for targets which do not use phase collapse
  • BIOS: fixed a bug that caused the OS/2 boot manager to fail (2.1.0 regression, bug ... (closed)">#3911)
  • PulseAudio: don't hang during VM termination if the connection to the server was unexpectedly terminated (bug Fixed in SVN (closed)">#3100)
  • Mouse: fixed weird mouse behaviour with SMP (Solaris) guests (bug fixed in 3.0.6 (closed)">#4538)
  • HostOnly Network: fixed failure in CreateHostOnlyNetworkInterface() on Linux (no GUID)
  • HostOnly Network: fixed wrong DHCP server startup while hostonly interface bringup on Linux
  • HostOnly Network: fixed incorrect factory and default MAC address on Solaris
  • HostOnly Network: fixed the problem with listing host-only interfaces on Mac OS X when all physical interfaces are down (bugs Fixed in ... (closed)">#4698, #4790)
  • DHCP: fixed a bug in the DHCP server where it allocated one IP address less than the configured range
  • E1000: fixed receiving of multicast packets
  • E1000: fixed up/down link notification after resuming a VM
  • NAT: fixed ethernet address corruptions (bug Fixed in SVN (closed)">#4839)
  • NAT: fixed hangs, dropped packets and retransmission problems (bug Fixed in SVN (closed)">#4343)
  • Bridged Network: fixed packet queue issue which might cause DRIVER_POWER_STATE_FAILURE BSOD for Windows hosts (bug #4821)
  • Windows Additions: fixed a bug in VBoxGINA which prevented selecting the right domain when logging in the first time
  • Windows host installer: should now also work on unicode systems (like Korean, bug Account name contains special ... (closed)">#3707)
  • Windows host installer: check for sufficient disk space
  • Shared clipboard: do not send zero-terminated text to X11 guests and hosts (bug fixed in SVN/upcoming 3.0.6 (closed)">#4712)
  • Shared clipboard: use a less CPU intensive way of checking for new data on X11 guests and hosts (bug fixed in 3.0.6 (closed)">#4092)
  • Guest Additions: do not hide the host mouse cursor when restoring a saved state (bug fixed in SVN (closed)">#4700)
  • Windows guests: fixed issues with the display of the mouse cursor image (bugs #2603, fixed in SVN/upcoming 3.0.6 (closed)">#2660 and fixed in SVN/upcoming ... (closed)">#4817)
  • SUSE 11 guests: fixed Guest Additions installation (bug fixed in SVN/upcoming ... (closed)">#4506)
  • Guest Additions: support Fedora 12 Alpha guests (bugs applied in SVN (closed)">#4731, applied in SVN (closed)">#4733 and applied in SVN (closed)">#4734)
Even though it's only a maintenance release, get downloading!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Customize your distro, make it "-Look" pretty!

Some Linux distributions put a lot of time into making sure that their default desktop looks pretty. Others do not. Either way, you don't have to settle for the included artwork in a distribution! Plenty of options exist on the Internet to find more icons and backgrounds for your computer. Here, I will focus on finding Linux specific content, as well as how to participate in the online community of artwork content creation.

Linux Artwork Repositories:
For years, I have enjoyed looking at the different artwork available for making Linux beautiful. The first site I visited was, which focuses on creation of eyecandy for the KDE desktop, in the form of wallpapers, themes, icons, screensavers, and other desktop related content. Even though I don't currently use the KDE desktop environment, I still peruse the fine wallpapers available here.
Little did I realize at the time that is actually a part of the larger project, which provides many opportunities including creating and sharing applications as well as artwork.

The artwork-related websites under the umbrella include:

Artwork (non distro specific): Artwork for the KDE-Desktop Artwork for the GNOME-Desktop Artwork for the Xfce-Desktop Artwork for your Windowmanager Artwork for Enlightenment Artwork for the Beryl Windowmanager Artwork for the Compiz Windowmanager Themes for your EDE Desktop

Artwork (distro-specific): Stuff for Debian Artwork for Gentoo Linux Artwork for openSUSE Artwork for Ubuntu Artwork for Kubuntu Artwork for Linux Mint Artwork for Frugalware Linux Artwork and Stuff for Arch Linux

There are also a variety of websites pertaining to open source apps, as well, but that does not pertain to this topic. Check out for more info on that.

So, you've found cool desktops, downloaded them, and set them as your personal wallpaper. Like the image, but hate the color? Change it! Many of the images and artwork that are released on these content sites are released under permissive licensing agreements that allow you to modify or create existing content for your own uses. For example, all of the artwork in this post has been either created or modified by me, and posted to,, or -- I used the GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation program, to create and modify the images, then created an account on the site, and posted the images. Make sure you respect the license of the original poster. My user name is zooot if you wanted to search for my posted work.

One word of warning about these sites: There is no content filtering on these sites, so you may find pictures of ladies in various states of undress from time to time. Avoid that if you find it offensive or inappropriate. The sites do allow you to rate the artwork that is posted, and filter out any results that are under a particular score (usually 30%) if you desire.


In conclusion, a vast array of artwork is available for you to use to beautify your Linux distribution of choice. Take advantage of it! Better yet, make artwork and share it with others!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Linuxcon keynotes- streamed for free!

As some of you may already know, Linuxcon will be holding its first annual conference in Portland, Oregon from September 21-23, 2009. For those of you that cannot afford to travel to Portland, pay for a hotel room, and pay to attend Linuxcon, listen up: The keynote addresses at Linuxcon will be streamed over the web, free of charge. It looks like this video streaming is being offered in conjunction with Linux Pro magazine. The program for the Linuxcon stream is here. If you are looking to experience more of Linuxcon than just the keynote speakers, some of the other conference sessions will be streamed live (including live chat with other virtual participants), then archived for later perusal. The additional sessions will not be free, though. Virtual attendance of the entire event will set you back 99 dollars. That cost also includes access to the archive of all saved conference sessions in addition to the ability to see them live. If you don't need to watch the sessions live, access to the archive after Linuxcon has completed will only set you back 49 dollars. Linux Magazine and Linux Pro Magazine subscribers are apparently entitled to a 20 percent discount on this live streaming fee. No discount for Linux Journal subscribers, sadly.

Linux geeks, take advantage of these free keynotes! Listen to influential members of Linux projects, and increase your knowledge!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Netbooting with

Have you ever been interested in PXE or netbooting but was afraid to ask? You're probably not the only one. Luckily, help is on the way. makes the network booting process quite a bit less daunting, hopefully making you more confident and familiar with the process along the way.
What is I'm glad you asked. This answer can be found on's help page: is a service that allows you to boot nearly any operating system or tool on any computer with a wired internet connection - without having to know ahead of time what tools you need. Once you can, you never need to update your tools again! works through the magic of netbooting. There are a number of ways to boot a computer with The simplest is to download a bootable image and burn it to a CD, USB memory stick, or floppy disk. Boot off it on any networked computer, and it will automatically fetch the latest boot options from and let you choose from dozens of installation, recovery, testing, portable desktop and other tools. You can also start from any computer running gPXE, or from any netbootable computer with some simple tweaks to your DHCP server.

Why use instead of rolling your own PXE server? Well, allow me to borrow from's Help page again to answer that question: is useful in a number of situations. You can use it as an installer for any number of operating systems and distros, as a rescue disk for a wide variety of setups, as a testing and diagnostic utility for memory, disk, CPU and other components, or even as an instant desktop environment!

The most important advantage of is that you don't have to plan ahead in order to take advantage of it. Often, you don't know you're going to need a diagnostic tool until you do - at which point it may be too late to download it! You can download the bootloader once, keep it with you when you might need it, and never have to worry about updates again.

Another advantage of is for performing OS installations. When you download a distribution of Linux or another OSS operating system, much of the software on it is already obsolete, requiring you to upgrade it as soon as you finish installing. With netboot installations, however, the downloaded packages are always the latest, eliminating the need for an update and reducing the total amount you have to download.

Also, check out this cool video that describes in video form. I like the girl's accent.

Currently, there are quite a few options available for netbootable installers from They are:

Debian (both 5.0 and testing, for both x86 and amd64 architectures)
Fedora 11 (for both x86 and amd64 architectures)
OpenSUSE 11.1 (for both x86 and amd64 architectures)
Ubuntu 9.04 and 9.10 (for both x86 and amd64 architectures)
FreeBSD 7.2 (for both x86 and amd64 architectures)

In addition to netbootable installers, some netbootable live environments are available:

MirOS bsd4me
Tiny Core Linux 2.2
Micro Core Linux 2.2 (an even smaller version of Tiny Core)

Several tools are also integrated into the distro, including:
Memtest86 and Memtest86+
Gparted Live
Parted Magic
Smart Boot Manager

This project reminds me of a cool remix of Billix, though the projects are not related. If you have a fast Internet connection and love installing different distributions of Linux, this would be an excellent addition to your collection. You can even create your own TFTP server to run -- how cool is that? Either way, it's a way to boot Linux (as well as several diagnostic utilities) with a minimum of effort!