One url Apache-style 301 redirects in nginx

Note: this post is outdated. Use at your own risk.

In Apache, you can create an .htaccess file to house 301 Redirect statements, or you can do it in the main config file. It is easy, and common. To change the url that appears in a client browser, as well as tell it where to find something that is no longer located in an original place, you would write something like this for :

Redirect 301 /original_location/

where is where the client is looking for the file, but would not find it, and is what you want used when the original is requested as well as in the future.

Easy, right?

I searched and searched for good documentation on how to do this with nginx. I found great documentation for doing it with a regex, such as this sample code you could put in your site-specific vhost file at /etc/nginx/sites-available/mysampledomain.com for forcing browsers to use the domain name without www.

server {
listen 80;
server_name www.mysampledomain.com;
rewrite ^/(.*) permanent;
}

What I couldn’t find was a simple way to do static redirects, like in my sample above. So, tonight I did some experimenting and figured it out. I hope this helps someone else. Put something like this in your /etc/nginx/sites-available/mysampledomain.com file, in the main server section (see second example following this one).

location /original_location/ {
rewrite /original_location/ permanent;
}

That would fit in a file like the one I used in my previous post like this.

server {
listen 80;
server_name www.matthewhelmke.net;
rewrite ^/(.*) http://matthewhelmke.net/$1 permanent;
}

server {
listen 80;
server_name matthewhelmke.net;

access_log /home/myusername/public_html/matthewhelmke.net/log/access.log;
error_log /home/myusername/public_html/matthewhelmke.net/log/error.log;

location /original_location/ {
rewrite /original_location/ permanent;
}

location / {
root /home/myusername/public_html/matthewhelmke.net/public;
index index.html index.htm index.php;

# this serves static files that exist without running other rewrite tests
if (-f $request_filename) {
expires 30d;
break;
}

# this sends all non-existing file or directory requests to index.php
if (!-e $request_filename) {
rewrite ^(.+)$ /index.php?q=$1 last;
}

}

# pass the PHP scripts to FastCGI server listening on 127.0.0.1:9000
#
location ~ \.php$ {
fastcgi_pass 127.0.0.1:9000;
fastcgi_index index.php;
fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME /home/myusername/public_html/matthewhelmke.net/public$fastcgi_script_name;
include fastcgi_params;
}
}

Have fun! You now have one less reason to give why a person shouldn’t use ngnix instead of Apache.

A short how-to for switching from Apache to nginx

Note: this post is outdated. Use at your own risk.

I am running my sites on a VPS from Slicehost and have had a very good experience. When I started, I set everything up using Apache 2, since that is what I am most familiar and adept with using. Apache works well, but likes more memory than I have in my server. This caused me to use my swap far too much.

I worked with the Apache configuration, finally coming up with the changes below for my /etc/apache2/apache2.conf file, which minimized the swapping, but wasn’t quite enough for me to be happy. Also, if more than one or two people were browsing the site at a time, it forced everything to go much more slowly, because it now got backed up in a queue instead of being served quickly (this was by design, to save memory and prevent swapping). That was not acceptable. Here you can see the changes I had made to get it to run without swapping all the time in a lean-memory environment. I have removed everything but the necessary changes I had made, just to save space here. Apache is so well documented, you should be able to figure the file out as needed using readily available info, if you need to.

Timeout 30
KeepAlive On
MaxMemFree 262144
MaxKeepAliveRequests 2
KeepAliveTimeout 1
<IfModule mpm_prefork_module>
StartServers 2
MinSpareServers 1
MaxSpareServers 3
MaxClients 4
MaxRequestsPerChild 5
</IfModule>
<IfModule mpm_worker_module>
StartServers 2
MaxClients 5
MinSpareThreads 2
MaxSpareThreads 5
ThreadsPerChild 2
MaxRequestsPerChild 3
</IfModule>
HostnameLookups Off

I did some reading and decided to try nginx as a replacement for httpd. The Slicehost folks also have some great how-tos (not only on nginx) and helpful people in their forums, and my friend, Ryan, has a helpful post as well.

There are lots of how-tos around for installing from scratch on a server. Most are good. I am focusing on migrating from Apache2 to nginx. For that, I will assume you have your site set up and running on Apache, your DNS is set properly and pointing to the server, etc.

First, make sure your system is up to date, especially with all security updates. Then, install nginx, either from source or from your Linux distribution’s package repositories. I chose the latter. You also want to install the cgi version of php5. On my Ubuntu 8.10 server, I did this:

sudo aptitude update && sudo aptitude safe-upgrade

followed by:

sudo aptitude install nginx php5-cgi

I made a couple of modifications to my /etc/nginx/nginx.conf file. Here is what I have. My server has two dual core processors, hence the 4 worker processes. I lowered the keep-alive timeout, added the gzip config, and made a couple more simple changes.

user www-data;
worker_processes 4;

error_log /var/log/nginx/error.log;
pid /var/run/nginx.pid;

events {
worker_connections 1024;
}

http {
include /etc/nginx/mime.types;
default_type application/octet-stream;

access_log /var/log/nginx/access.log;

sendfile on;
tcp_nopush on;

#keepalive_timeout 0;
keepalive_timeout 3;
tcp_nodelay off;

gzip on;
gzip_comp_level 2;
gzip_proxied any;
gzip_types text/plain text/html text/css application/x-javascript text/xml application/xml
application/xml+rss text/javascript;

include /etc/nginx/conf.d/*.conf;
include /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/*;
}

After that, I used the php-fastcgi script I found here and put it in /etc/init.d/php-fastcgi.

#! /bin/sh
### BEGIN INIT INFO
# Provides:          php-fastcgi
# Required-Start:    $all
# Required-Stop:     $all
# Default-Start:     2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop:      0 1 6
# Short-Description: Start and stop php-cgi in external FASTCGI mode
# Description:       Start and stop php-cgi in external FASTCGI mode
### END INIT INFO

# Author: Kurt Zankl <kz@xon.uni.cc>

# Do NOT "set -e"

PATH=/sbin:/usr/sbin:/bin:/usr/bin
DESC="php-cgi in external FASTCGI mode"
NAME=php-fastcgi
DAEMON=/usr/bin/php-cgi
PIDFILE=/var/run/$NAME.pid
SCRIPTNAME=/etc/init.d/$NAME

# Exit if the package is not installed
[ -x "$DAEMON" ] || exit 0

# Read configuration variable file if it is present
[ -r /etc/default/$NAME ] && . /etc/default/$NAME

# Load the VERBOSE setting and other rcS variables
. /lib/init/vars.sh

# Define LSB log_* functions.
# Depend on lsb-base (>= 3.0-6) to ensure that this file is present.
. /lib/lsb/init-functions

# If the daemon is not enabled, give the user a warning and then exit,
# unless we are stopping the daemon
if [ "$START" != "yes" -a "$1" != "stop" ]; then
log_warning_msg "To enable $NAME, edit /etc/default/$NAME and set START=yes"
exit 0
fi

# Process configuration
export PHP_FCGI_CHILDREN PHP_FCGI_MAX_REQUESTS
DAEMON_ARGS="-q -b $FCGI_HOST:$FCGI_PORT"

do_start()
{
# Return
#   0 if daemon has been started
#   1 if daemon was already running
#   2 if daemon could not be started
start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --pidfile $PIDFILE --exec $DAEMON --test > /dev/null || return 1
start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --pidfile $PIDFILE --exec $DAEMON --background --make-pidfile --chuid $EXEC_AS_USER --startas $DAEMON -- $DAEMON_ARGS || return 2
}

do_stop()
{
# Return
#   0 if daemon has been stopped
#   1 if daemon was already stopped
#   2 if daemon could not be stopped
#   other if a failure occurred
start-stop-daemon --stop --quiet --retry=TERM/30/KILL/5 --pidfile $PIDFILE > /dev/null # --name $DAEMON
RETVAL="$?"
[ "$RETVAL" = 2 ] && return 2
# Wait for children to finish too if this is a daemon that forks
# and if the daemon is only ever run from this initscript.
# If the above conditions are not satisfied then add some other code
# that waits for the process to drop all resources that could be
# needed by services started subsequently.  A last resort is to
# sleep for some time.
start-stop-daemon --stop --quiet --oknodo --retry=0/30/KILL/5 --exec $DAEMON
[ "$?" = 2 ] && return 2
# Many daemons don't delete their pidfiles when they exit.
rm -f $PIDFILE
return "$RETVAL"
}

case "$1" in
start)
[ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_daemon_msg "Starting $DESC" "$NAME"
do_start
case "$?" in
0|1) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 0 ;;
2) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 1 ;;
esac
;;
stop)
[ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_daemon_msg "Stopping $DESC" "$NAME"
do_stop
case "$?" in
0|1) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 0 ;;
2) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 1 ;;
esac
;;
restart|force-reload)
log_daemon_msg "Restarting $DESC" "$NAME"
do_stop
case "$?" in
0|1)
do_start
case "$?" in
0) log_end_msg 0 ;;
1) log_end_msg 1 ;; # Old process is still running
*) log_end_msg 1 ;; # Failed to start
esac
;;
*)
# Failed to stop
log_end_msg 1
;;
esac
;;
*)
echo "Usage: $SCRIPTNAME {start|stop|restart|force-reload}" >&2
exit 3
;;
esac

Then, I set the ownership and permissions appropriately.

sudo chmod u+x /etc/init.d/php-fastcgi

and

sudo chown 0.0 /etc/init.d/php-fastcgi

and set it to run at boot

sudo update-rc.d php-fastcgi defaults 21 23

Most how-to articles tell you here to create the directories to hold your website(s). Since I am doing this on a site that was already running Apache, my sites already existed in /home/myusername/public_html/sitename/public. Note where yours is, because you will need that info.

Ngnix works similarly to Apache for multiple domains. With each you can set up more than one domain on an IP address using virtual domains. If you only have one domain, the setup is easier, but outside the scope of this article. Apache2 puts the sites in directories in /etc/apache2/sites-available for setup, with symbolic links to there for active sites from /etc/apache2/sites-enabled. Nginx can do the same, using /etc/nginx/sites-available and /etc/nginx/sites-enabled.

Make a virtual host (vhost) file for each domain/site you plan to use in /etc/nginx/sites-available. Here’s a sample, based on this domain, but with sensitive info changed:

/etc/nginx/sites-available/matthewhelmke.net

server {
listen  80;
server_name  www.matthewhelmke.net;
rewrite ^/(.*) http://matthewhelmke.net/$1 permanent;
}

server {
listen  80;
server_name  matthewhelmke.net;

access_log  /home/myusername/public_html/matthewhelmke.net/log/access.log;
error_log   /home/myusername/public_html/matthewhelmke.net/log/error.log;

location / {
root   /home/myusername/public_html/matthewhelmke.net/public;
index  index.html index.htm index.php;

# this serves static files that exist without running other rewrite tests
if (-f $request_filename) {
expires 30d;
break;
}

# this sends all non-existing file or directory requests to index.php
if (!-e $request_filename) {
rewrite ^(.+)$ /index.php?q=$1 last;
}

}

# pass the PHP scripts to FastCGI server listening on 127.0.0.1:9000
#
location ~ \.php$ {
fastcgi_pass   127.0.0.1:9000;
fastcgi_index  index.php;
fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME  /home/myusername/public_html/matthewhelmke.net/public$fastcgi_script_name;
include fastcgi_params;
}
}

The first server section rewrites all requests for the domain that use www in front to the same url without the www. The second server section is where all the fun happens. Both are listening on port 80, the standard for http. The second tells nginx where to put the log files (in a special log directory I created for each domain, in each domain’s directory in my /home directory).

The location section is especially important. It tells where to find the root directory for my site, in my case, in a special directory called public. Then, I have two special rewrites. These allow you to use permalinks aka clean urls aka pretty urls aka SEO urls with your site. Once these lines are in the vhost file, you will discover that both WordPress and Drupal allow you to adjust the settings in their admin panels to use them as you would like. I haven’t tried it with other types of content management systems, but I think it would probably work. Without these lines, you have to use the standard url formats.

The other incredibly important bit is that last section. It tells nginx to send all php files to the fastcgi script to be interpreted. Without this, you won’t get php to work.

Once you get your vhost file set up, create a link to it from the sites-enabled directory so that nginx will know to use it.

cd /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/ && sudo ln -s ../sites-available/yourdomain.com

Then, to test it out, start the fast-cgi script, turn off Apache, and start nginx.

/etc/init.d/php-fastcgi start

/etc/init.d/apache2 stop

/etc/init.d/nginx start

If everything is set correctly, you should now be able to view your site using nginx. If it isn’t, you can always stop nginx and start apache2 again to keep your site up while you try to figure out the problem. Once it is up, tested thoroughly, and you are happy, you can remove Apache if you like.

Note: I had some trouble with the fast-cgi script at first, having copied one that had special characters put in it. That happens sometimes when you post code with WordPress. I’m trying to prevent it here by using code tags, but they reset any time there is a blank line, so you may need to cut/paste in sections. If you have problems, and all you did was cut & paste, look at this first as the likely cause.

My experience with System76

I recently bought a new computer from System76 with Ubuntu pre-installed, because I want to support companies who are supportive of Free and Open Source Software. This was my experience.

Before I ordered the machine, I spent some time reading several pages of questions and answers from their support forum, housed at the official Ubuntu Forums. A quick disclaimer: I am an administrator for the Ubuntu Forums.

Later, I emailed their support team with several questions. They responded quickly and answered every one to my satisfaction.

I also compared configurations and prices with several other Linux pre-installed retailers such as Dell, ZaReason, Los Alamos, and R Cubed, each of whom offer products I think look good. In the end, I liked the price and performance specs of System76’s Pangolin Performance best, and decided to order it.

Of course, I was not content with the default configuration, even though it looked quite nice, so I bumped up the specs a bit. Here are the details, including the price paid.

System76 Pangolin Performance (PAN-P4) = $1,049.00
Bluetooth
Display Resolution 15.4″ WSXGA+ Super Clear Glossy LCD (1680 x 1050)
Video Card nVidia GeForce 9300M GS 256MB DDR2
Hard Drive 320 GB 7200 RPM SATA II
Hardware Warranty 1 Yr. Ltd. Warranty and Technical Support
Memory 4 GB – DDR2 800 MHz – 2 DIMMs
Operating System Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) 64 Bit Linux
Optical Drive CD-RW / DVD-RW
Processor Core 2 Duo T5800 2.0 GHz 800 MHz FSB 2 MB L2 (35 Watt)
Gigabit LAN (10/100/1000)
Wireless Intel Wi-Fi Link 5100 – 802.11A/B/G/N Up to 300 Mbps
Built-In Webcam

The computer was delayed a little. I emailed to ask what was going on and was answered within the hour with details. After a few days, I was given an apology for further delay and a free shipping upgrade to the next quicker option. That was nice, and the communication was very well appreciated.

When the system arrived, it was well packaged and everything arrived in perfect condition. All the cables and such were there. In all, the shipment included the laptop itself, with battery, an AC adapter, a telephone/modem cord, a Windows-focused manual that came from the whitebox manufacturer (Clevo, I believe), two nicely produced documentation sheets from System76 for getting things up and running and learning how to use the laptop’s features within Ubuntu, and a nifty polishing cloth for cleaning the glossy screen and shell.

System76 Pangolin Performance

The colorful sheet to the right of the picture includes a simple three step process for getting started. First, you plug the system in and turn it on. Second, once the computer boots into an OEM install of Ubuntu, you create your main user account. Third, you enjoy your system. The back side of the sheet includes instructions for installing a special driver package that System76 provides to ensure that you get the full hardware capability of your laptop. The process was quick and painless.

Here we are, up and running. I like to put clear adhesive backed plastic (that’s shelf paper, for you Americans) on either side of the touchpad on my laptops, as I have been known to wear through the finish on them in the past. This also gives me a place to put my Ubuntu business card with my contact info.

Keyboard and screen view of System76 Pangolin Performance

I am pleased to report that following these instructions results in a computer that “just works.” The 3D graphics, including Ubuntu’s fun Compiz visual effects, the video camera, Bluetooth, wireless internet, suspend, hibernate… In fact, everything I have tested works with no configuration needed, other than to personalize the experience! Now, I haven’t used the fingerprint reader, and have no plan to do so, so I should caution readers that I don’t know whether it works or not.

*EDIT: I just discovered that the System76 driver bundle includes everything necessary for the fingerprint reader to work, tested it, and can confirm it works beautifully. Wow!

I was concerned at first since the computer came with the 64-bit version of Ubuntu, and I have only used the 32-bit version in the past after having trouble with the 64-bit version in a much earlier release a couple years ago. I have had no problems doing anything with it that I wanted to do.

In short, I have built my own computers in the past, bought Windows computers pre-built and installed Ubuntu over or alongside that OS, and bought an Ubuntu pre-installed computer from Dell for my wife. Each method has its benefits. However, I have to say that this was the easiest and most enjoyable experience I have had.

An interview with vor

Shawn Dennie, known as vor on the Ubuntu Forums, is one of our moderating staff. He is a programmer with a long technical history and being hired at 18 years old did wonders for his already-strong geek credibility. He is a world traveler, and an all-around interesting and good guy, and the subject of our latest in the community interview series.

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real” life – name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

My name is Shaun Dennie, I’m inching closer to 30 every day and can generally be found in Buenos Aires, Argentina (though, sometimes in Denver, Colorado or London, England).  I’m a self-proclaimed Techno-Hippie Semi-Buddhist and so don’t own anything that I can’t fit in my backpack.

I began attending (and almost graduated from) the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology at the age of 16 and was hired by Sun Microsystems at the age of 18 to work in their High Performance Libraries and Tools Group. Over the last 10 years I’ve worked various other software engineering jobs but, have spent a lot of time travelling in Europe, South America and Asia.

Over the last few years I’ve been moving away from writing proprietary software and now work in a hostel while dedicating most of my time to helping people with Ubuntu.  My hobbies include Ubuntu, going to watch my fúbol team (Club Atletico San Lorenzo de Almagro), relaxing with my friends and pretending to be a bartender at my favorite bar in Argentina (The Spot).

2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

Like many people my age, I got interested in computers after watching movies like War Games and Weird Science.  My mother is an author so we had an 8086 machine fairly early (2 5.25 floppies and no hard drive). I learned how to use it and then one day a friend told me about this cool thing called a “BBS”.  I got a modem for Christmas and then figured out how to do ASCII art in exchange for membership for the for-pay BBSs because at the age of 12, I had no income to pay for them.

I started programming at 13 when a friend said, “It would be great to have the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Compendium on the computer and have it auto-generate loot”.  I figured out how to do just such a thing using GW-BASIC and then sold it to my friends for US$10 a copy and thus began my software engineering career.  Before starting at Sun, this career would also consist of taking bribes to ensure proper matches in a match-making program I wrote for a high-school Valentines Day fundraiser and writing a full casino software suite for the TI-85 calculator (and selling it for US$15 an install).

I got interested in Linux in 1997 when I built my first computer and, following in True Nerd Tradition, installed a copy of Slackware that I got out of the back of a Unix book.  I went on to learn more about Unix at Sun and found Ubuntu in 2005 when I wanted a Linux distro that worked on my new laptop without much hassle (and Ubuntu did!).

3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?

I started reading the forums in 2005 but I’d always been a lurker. I got brave one day in 2007 and started answering questions.  I enjoyed it and so just kept doing it.  I eventually joined the beginners team and was later invited to become a moderator for the forums.

4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

I’m not currently an Ubuntu member, no. I plan to apply in the near future but, until recently my contributions have only been via the forums and I wanted to get involved more with the community here in Buenos Aires before applying.

5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

I only run Ubuntu 8.04 on my laptop.  I have virtual machines setup for many popular distros and even Windows but, I run Ubuntu as the primary OS.

My favorite tools are vim and perl.  I once wrote a full featured mp3 player in vim (using mpg123) and generally get confused when using something that doesn’t have vi key bindings.

6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

Every time I’m able to help someone on the forums, I enjoy it.

My worst memory (though, now it’s funny to me) is when I hesitantly joined the IRC channel #ubuntu-meeting before a membership meeting to see how some friends did and the first thing I saw was, ” * vorian peers at vor-ubuntu”.  Since then, vorian has been peering/scowling/growling at me on a regular basis but, I find it less disconcerting now.

7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

Most of my friends and family use Ubuntu now.  The key seems to be configuring it properly for them and then teaching them a few basic things.  The ones that are computer savvy to begin with quickly take the initiative to become Ubuntu experts and the ones who didn’t know much about computers in the first place have a very low barrier to entry and so quickly acclimate themselves to the new OS and sometimes even get excited about how easy it is to use.

I’m always surprised at how easily people figure out how to use Ubuntu. My mother knows nothing about computers but, she showed *me* how to sync an ipod on Ubuntu.  I installed Ubuntu on my fathers laptop and 10 minutes later he’d downloaded some games from the repos and was thoroughly enjoying himself.  I think when you give someone a non-mainstream OS, it challenges them prove their intelligence and they go out of their way figure out how things work.  I always find it funny when non-technical people say, “Well, I just use Ubuntu.” in sort of a bragging way.

8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

I’d like to see launchpad bug #1 fixed.

9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

“Don’t Panic.”

The forums are a very friendly place and, if google isn’t giving you the answer you need, the forums probably will.

An interview with Nicolas Valcárcel

Today’s interviewee volunteered to participate in the Ubuntu Community Interviews series some time ago. He is involved in some of the more technical aspects of the community, helping maintain and place packages in the repositories, working to keep Ubuntu up to date with security, and lots more. Enjoy!

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real” life – name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

I’m Nicolas Valcárcel Scerpella. I am a 24 years old male Peruvian student living in Lima – Perú with my parents, 2 sisters and a rotweiler. I’m coursing the 7th-8th period of systems engineering at the University “de lima”, working as Security Engineer in the OEM Solutions Group for Canonical. Before that i was Senior consultant in Aureal Systems, doing mainly sysadmin work on the client’s server (primary in Linux, but here was some other *nix like ones). I love adventure sports and outsides, i used to surf, skate and also played rugby at the university. While i was still at school i also used to row at the “Club de Regatas Lima” from 1998 until 2001.

2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu? In computers?

Since i remember. When i was really young (4 years or so) my mother used to bring me to her work and sit me on a computer to play games all day long, i can’t remember any time of my life without a computer (well, only when i travel to outsides). With Linux i started late, in summer 2004 IIRC when read about this “OS for hackers” while i
was on the underground world of internet :P, then i tested a lot of distros until i found debian, after using it for a while Warty Warthog showed and i started using Ubuntu since then.

3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?

I’m not involved in the forums, but i started involving myself in the Ubuntu community on May 2007 when i sent my first patch ). Then it was a non stop road, slow at the beginning, until now that i’m a MOTU. Also i am part of the Peruvian LoCo team council, where we do a lot of advocacy. Now i’m focusing myself on bringing more people to the packaging world.

4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

Yes i am! I contribute in the Server Team primarily.

5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite? Distros?

Now only ubuntu, but on my previous work i use CentOS on servers for the clients due a company policy which i couldn’t change. For software i mostly use Firefox as a web browser, Evolution as mail client, Terminator as terminal emulator, Pidgin as msn messenger, Empathy as jabber client, python as programming language and a LOT of console tools.

6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

Well that would be my lovely mentors and sponsors. I have so much to thank them. When i give a talk i always remark how wonderful developers the ubuntu community have and how norsetto, persia and ScottK help me at
the very beginning. Also some people i admire (and always talk about them) are TheMuso and heno, who having real problems are so good at what they do, it’s just amazing, i really admire them. The worst? I don’t have any bad moment in mind (i haven’t had one or i have just forget them).

7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

Really good, with the LoCo team we do a lot of advocacy and we have a lot of happy new ubuntu users.

8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

I really want to see more companies stop seeing linux as a hippies thing (or insignificant OS). I want to see more Hw manufacturers writing drivers for Linux, and more software being developed for it (as in propietary software migrating to linux [To think on them open his source is just craziness]).

9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

Don’t quit, there is a wonderful world of amazing people and communities working behind the scenes for you to have this amazing product on hands. It’s hard at the beginning but really wonderful once you catch it.

Linux Identity and Ubuntu 8.10

I had the privilege of contributing several articles to the Ubuntu 8.10 edition of Linux Identity magazine, along with one I co-wrote with a friend, Ryan Troy (aka ubuntu-geek in the Ubuntu Forums). I even got to write the editorial at the beginning of the issue.

Now, with a little bit of fear and no small amount of intimidation, owing to how incredibly much I respect so many of you in the overall Linux and FOSS developer and Ubuntu communities, I am letting you all know about the issue while I hope I got all of my facts and details correct in the articles.

An interview with Nathan Grubb

In this series, we have had the privilege of including a number of adults. In today’s installment, we are highlighting one of our younger forum members. Nathan Grubb (forum username: nathangrubb) is also a comparatively new Linux user, having joined the fun just over a year ago. He has a blog that you are invited to check out, and included a couple of screenshots with his interview, in which you will discover he uses wmii, which I have inserted below.

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real” life – name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

Well, to start out – my name is Nathan Grubb, I am a 15 year old male residing in eastern Washington state (Chewelah, Washington to be specific). I live with my 2 parents and I have 1 sibling. I am a freshman in high school, some of my hobbies include Linux, computers, reading, writing, and badminton.

2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

I’ve been interested in computers since I was about 7, though back then it was mostly in gaming. My mother used to repair computers, which is likely the reason I became interested (and fluent) in them. I first became intrigued by Linux around July 20th, 2007. It was nice that I could check my email without worry of malware. The first Linux distribution I used was Damn Small Linux, Originally I wanted to download Ubuntu, but I was turned off by the 700 MB download size, which was quite a pain on 256 KiB/s ADSL.

Yeah, it’s blank.

3. When did you become involved in the forums? What’s your role there?

I joined the Ubuntu Forums on August 4th, 2007. At first I was primarily asking support questions, though I was quite interested in the cafe and cafe games for a couple of months. I haven’t given as much Linux support as some members on the forums. Though, if you want to count it as support, I help out at forum feedback and help.

4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

I am not currently a Ubuntu member, and I do not have an interest in pursuing membership unless others urge me to. I do not believe I have contributed anything significant to Ubuntu.

5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

As of now my distro of choice is Ubuntu. I’d be using Arch if I wasn’t having problems with Kernel panics and segfaults. I use 4 applications on a regular basis: Opera, Konversation, Gajim, and Pidgin. Of the 4, I have to say my favourite is Opera. My least favourite application would have to be gnome-terminal or Evolution. I’ve never actually gotten into using Evolution and have no use for it. I find Gnome-terminal to be slow.

With some apps open.

6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

I’d have to say my fondest memory from the forums is the “Finish the story thread” in Cafe games. It is what originally convinced me to stay for the long hall, and I met some of my best (internet) friends through that thread. I’d have to say my worst memory from Ubuntu Forums happened when I narrowly avoided an infraction, though that was within my first month of membership, I believe.

7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

Besides introducing my younger sister to Ubuntu – none, really. I’ve been asked about it twice before, though each time I failed to introduce it onto said person’s desktop. I don’t feel a need to introduce others, though, unless they ask. I’d be a hypocrite if I started imposing on people.

8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

It’d be great if more manufacters made Linux drivers and/or supported Linux. Though I doubt it will happen, I’d approve if Ubuntu changed their release cycle to once every 8 months – it’d give 2 more months of bug testing, stability excersise, etc.

9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

Linux is not all it’s cut out to be. If you can locate a Local LUG (Linux Users group), please do. Linux is much more pleasant to use for beginners when it is pre-setup for them by experts, as is Windows.

An interview with Joeb454

The Ubuntu Forums are blessed with an amazing and wonderful group of staff members. This time around, we have the privilege of hearing from one of the younger and newer additions, a wonderful guy named Joeb454. Be sure to check out his personal blog as well.

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real” life – name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

Well my name is Joe, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find my last name too 😉 I’m 19, from Leicester UK where I go to University (Software Engineering) which is great, as I recently found out one of my lecturers uses Ubuntu too! Hobbies are basically, computers, music & Xbox 360.

I’ll also provide a Desktop (well…laptop) screenshot of what my Desktop currently looks like (I’m using the DustTheme):

Joeb454's desktop on October 9, 2008

Joeb454's desktop

2) When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

I became interested in computers somewhere around 2003, I’m not too sure. We got our first PC in 1997, a Win95 machine with 16MB RAM, a 133Mhz Pentium & a 1.9GB HDD 😀 We then didn’t get another PC until around 2003, which is when I really got into them. Ubuntu came about around Hoary (5.04?), I have no idea how I found it, but it looked good even then, but I couldn’t get it to run. I finally got around to installing Feisty (7.04) around May 2007, and have been running Ubuntu ever since 🙂

3) When did you become involved in the forums? What’s your role there?

I joined the forums August 2007 (the 31st if you want specifics), and I didn’t post too much at first, except when I started University in September, when I had long breaks (2-3 hours) I used to browse the forums. It was then I started to realise “hey, I think I know how to fix that” so I started helping. In December, I joined the Ubuntu Forums Beginners Team, who are a great group of people, we just generally try and help out the new guys.

By the beginning of March, I’d accumulated 1,000 posts, which I thought was quite good, however the next thing I knew, I’d got 2,000, then 3,000 and it was only May. I guess that may have helped to decide whether or not I got asked to be Forum Staff in July, which I was offered, and gladly accepted. I enjoy doing it, though it’s not all fun and games.

4) Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

I am indeed, I got accepted around the middle of August this year. I contribute mainly to the forums, as I mentioned above, however I also recommend Ubuntu to people within the community, and make it known that no – I don’t often use Windows. This usually raises some questions which allows me to talk about it a little. I’ve had some luck with getting other people looking at it too. Sometime soon I may be going to a LUG meeting, as recommended by the lecturer I mentioned earlier 🙂 Hopefully I’ll enjoy it!

5) What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

I only use Ubuntu. I do have Windows Vista installed, but it rarely sees the light, I just think it’s a good idea to remember how to use Windows while all my family still use it (I’m the go-to guy). I use Firefox, Xchat, Thunderbird & Amarok quite a lot, they all work just as I want them too. I don’t think I have a favourite application, though my least favourite is definitely Ekiga…It’s the first thing I do on a clean install (apt-get purge ekiga)…I mean, who uses it?!?!

6) What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

There’s been so many fond memories, I can’t even choose, I liked the fact that I got a thread made about whether I was a human or a dog, that was rather funny (my avatar is normally Brian Griffin from Family Guy). The worst memory I have, is probably when I banned a member of the doc team, who made 17 duplicate threads, which I deleted all but 1. I then received a PM which basically declared war on the forums… :p

7) What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

Some, I’ve got a friend running an Ubuntu dual boot on his desktop. He also bought an Eee PC from a forum user (I acted as the middle man, my friend isn’t registered). I’ve also got some people looking at it just by mentioning things it can do – the Live CD is a good example, I recovered all of somebody’s documents using the Live CD 🙂

8) What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

I’m not sure whether I’d like to see it become overly popular, I kind of like being 1337 😉 On a more serious note – it’s great to see it spreading, I’ve noticed a lot of people at University using Linux in some form. I hope Ubuntu (and Linux in general) both continue to grow and improve – I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

9) If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

Don’t be shy, ask questions! There’s IRC for instant support (it can get crowded in there though, the Beginners Team have an IRC group to help too), there’s also the forums, they’re a great place for support, often with quick replies too.

Basically, what I’m saying is – “Don’t give up, just because there are obstacles in the way…stop and think if Windows has never caused you problems, but you want to stick with that??” 😉

An interview with John Crawford

Welcome to the next installment of Ubuntu Community Interviews. Today we are highlighting John Crawford, an Ubuntu Member, a leader in the Arizona LoCo Team, one of the co-editors of the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter, and the editor for the Ubuntu Fridge.

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real” life – name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

I’m John Crawford (johnc4510), a 55 year old male, living in Arizona. I was once married, but I have been single for so long now that I really don’t even remember it. 🙂 I grew up in Missouri which accounts for what I call my “hick” accent. I’ve had several hobbies over the years, but Ubuntu seems to have replaced them all.

2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

I got my first computer experiences in the work place, but didn’t have one for home use until 1985. It was a basic machine and didn’t have a very fast processor. I used it mostly for web surfing, email, etc. I became interested in Linux sometime in early 2005. I was just looking for a better alternative to Windows, and happened upon the DistroWatch website. I tried a few different flavors of Linux but settled on Ubuntu for several reasons. It seemed to work with my hardware well, anything that didn’t work right off I was able to make work with help from the forums. I was also very impressed with the community, no rants, or telling you how stupid you were.

3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?

My transition to helping on the forums was kind of a natural thing. It was where I learned about our operating system, and I felt I might be able to give back some of the great tips and help I had received. I’m not as active on the forums as I used to be, but I do moderate the Arizona thread, the US Teams thread, and the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter thread. I wish I had more time to devote to the forums but other Ubuntu tasks have pulled me in other directions.

4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

I am an Ubuntu Member, and very proud of that fact. In addition to the moderating of forum threads I listed above, I’m a founding member and team leader of the Arizona LoCo team, a co-editor of the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter, and an editor for the Fridge. I’m not the most technical Linux user around, so I try to find other places that I can do something to contribute back to the community.

5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

Ubuntu is my #1 distro! I have a partition on my desktop box that I use to play around with other distros, or alpha versions of Ubuntu, but I have never found another distro that I like as much as Ubuntu. My favorite software applications are: irssi, screen, Liferea(news reader), Deluge BitTorrent, Exaile music player, Htop, ssh, Synaptic Package Mgr. and GDebi Package Mgr. My least favorite software application is probably Thunderbird. Now, before I get flamed, you should know that I use it everyday and it works great. So why is it my least favorite, it’s because I hate email.

6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

My best memories on the forums, or with Ubuntu, are centered around the great friendships I have made. I don’t think I have ever been associated with a better group of people than the Ubuntu/Forums community. I have only had one bad experience during my 3+ year association with Ubuntu, and I won’t go into it. Let’s just say you can’t always milk the cow without getting kicked, and I figure one problem is a drop in the bucket so to speak.

7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

The Arizona LoCo has been a very active group, so I’d have to say I’ve been lucky at introducing new computer users to Ubuntu. Our release parties, installfests, and conferences have enabled not only myself, but our team to introduce new people to Ubuntu. We have helped users from 14-65, and even a hearing impaired gentleman to experience what we all believe to be the best operating system available today.

8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

I would hope that not only Ubuntu, but Linux continue to make headway in the desktop/server markets. Ubuntu has a great product, a fantastic community, and a bright future. I would love to see less arguing over who has the best operating system, and better coordination between the many Linux distributions. I try very hard to get the point across to people that “it’s not what operating system you use, it’s that you use Linux, the free operating system.”

9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

I use this phrase a lot with new users: “Don’t be afraid to get in there a try new things you’re not sure about.” I tend to find that most people are a little scared of Ubuntu, or Linux at first, but once they start experimenting with it, well you can almost see the joy on their face when they accomplish something they never thought they could do. It’s a very satisfying thing to me.

An interview with Alan Pope

Well, it’s that time again folks–time for another Ubuntu Community Interviews. We have a special interview this time around. Alan Pope, sometimes known as Popey, is a systems administrator, an Ubuntu Member, a member of the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Membership Council (as am I…). Departing from our tradition in these interviews, he is someone who does not enjoy using web forums. He is smart, opinionated, a wonderful member of the overall Ubuntu community, and a good addition to our interview series. Enjoy!

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real” life – name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

I’m a British 36 year old atheist married father of two, living in the South East of England. For the last 13 years I’ve been working as a system admin on some evil proprietary software. In my spare time I do what I can for Ubuntu and Linux.

2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81 which I got for Christmas back in ~1981. I managed to get hold of an old black and white TV which was setup on a bench in the kitchen. I spent pretty much all of my spare time glued to the ’81, either writing my own games, typing them in out of magazines, or trying to keep the RAM-Pack from falling off and crashing the machine.

Later computers include the Sinclair Spectrum 16K (which I upgraded to 48K), a Sinclair Spectrum 128K +2, Amstrad CPC 464, and a few consoles. I eventually made the switch to PCs with an Epson 286 PC with a 10MB
hard disk and mono text only display! I later upgraded it to Hercules (720×576) mono graphics.

I discovered a small company selling shareware, and regularly bought floppy disks full of public domain, shareware and freeware. I recall getting a cheap Pascal compiler and taught myself the language by writing simple games and utilities for DOS.

My first encounter with Linux was when I worked at a local College back in the mid 1990s. One of the students mentioned it to me, and how it was going to be the next big thing. At the time I’d only used DOS and early versions of Windows. I wasn’t convinced about this Linux thing so didn’t really pay it any attention and dismissed his claims out of hand 🙂

Some years later I started playing with Linux using CD’s in books. I think the first Linux distro I tried was Corel, but my memory is not what it was :). I eventually used Linux semi-permanently with a server in my garage running my website (popey.com) on Red Hat. I also tried Red Hat on my desktop PC and used it through various releases up until version 7.

Around this time I started getting involved with my local Linux User Group in Hampshire, UK. One guy had mentioned a few times that Debian was a good distro, so I thought I’d give it a go. Once I got my head
around apt I wondered what the hell I’d been doing for years on Red Hat!

I switched to Debian on the desktop and server until Ubuntu Warty came out. Once I switched to Ubuntu that was it, no going back. Since then I’ve used every release since Warty on my desktop and laptop. I’ve also converted my Xen virtual server(s) to Ubuntu.

3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?

I’ll be honest here and say outright, I really hate forums 🙂 It’s not the people, it’s the technology. And it’s not specific to Ubuntu forums. I like mailing lists because the content comes to me. I can wake up in the morning, open my mail client and go through thousands of threads over 100 mailing lists very quickly. The combination of keyboard shortcuts and locally hosted mail on my server make for a very quick way to navigate around my mail.

With forums being a “pull” system rather than “push” (as with email) I find it incredibly time consuming to get up to date with forums, despite the RSS capability. In addition I can easily reply to mailing lists offline which I can’t do with a forum.

The other thing that frustrates me is finding how-tos in the forums. I personally think that how-tos and instructions should be in a place that is collaboratively editable – the community wiki. That way if they need updating or fixing its possible for people to do that. As a great example I started a basic page about VirtualBox with a bunch of screenshots and some simple details. Since then many other people have taken it and modified
it with extra info. I haven’t really touched it since, yet other people have made it what it is. It seems the right way to go in my opinion.

4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

I got my Ubuntu membership in November 2006. I’m the contact person for the UK LoCo team, a member of the LoCo Council who approve and assist LoCo teams, and a member of the EMEA Membership Council who approve new members of Ubuntu.

I started the Screencasts team, and made a few screencasts. More recently I’ve been heavily involved in the Ubuntu UK Podcast. I helped start a new team to transcribe audio content like podcasts.

I also try to get involved in Software Freedom Day each year, to help promote the use of
Free Software. I am also one of the sponsors of the UK LUG project – providing hosting and other services to Linux User Groups in the UK.

I’ve attended the Ubuntu Developer Summit a few times where it’s been great to discuss what goes into the next release of Ubuntu. It’s a great way to get more involved and also see how the distro is put together.

I’ve answered quite a few questions on the launchpad answer system, and on IRC, and via around 100 LUG mailing lists in the UK.

Unfortunately I can’t really code, but the good news is that there are so many other ways in which to contribute, which works for me!

5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

I use Ubuntu 8.04 on most of my desktops and laptops. I have a few Asus EEE PCs which all run the stock Xandros install. I have tried Ubuntu on them but found it slower and a bit flawed compared to Xandros. I’ve got
Ubuntu Studio on one machine which I use for audio and video editing. Recently I switched from 32-bit to 64-bit Ubuntu on the two machines I have that support the 64-bit O/S.

As far as favorite applications, that’s a really tricky one. The apps I use all day every day are screen and irssi for being on IRC all day, it’s great, but not sure it’s “favorite”.

Other apps I really like are Liferea (news reader), gnome-do (launcher) and Evolution (mail client that everyone else seems to hate) & mutt (mail client).

My least favorite thing is the lack of a decent video editor on Linux, we have quite a few that are nearly there, or new, but none that are really comparable with iMovie on the Mac or other similar apps on Windows. After meeting the guy behind Pitivi at LUGRadio Live 2008, I am confident things are getting better though.

6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

Fondest memory of Ubuntu has to be at the most recent Ubuntu Developer Summit in Prague. The Canonical All-Stars (a band made up of Canonical employees) played in a night club to an audience made up of Ubuntu
developers and community members. There was a great atmosphere which really captured the feel of that UDS. Oh and free beer too.

The best thing overall about Ubuntu is the people. We have some fantastic people in the community who are highly motivated, bright and co-operative to the extreme! Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.

It’s also the worst thing. The people who feel it is okay to attack others online in blog posts is sad, and we’ve seen a lot of that recently. The people who feel they are somehow ‘better’ than others because they wrote some app, manage some part of the community, or have control over some aspect of Ubuntu is quite disappointing.

7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

I’ve had numerous mails from people who have watched the Ubuntu Screencasts and have decided to switch to Ubuntu as a direct result.

8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

Hardware vendors taking Linux seriously ensuring there is driver support for all models in their range, and then selling every model of their computers with Ubuntu pre-installed. More support companies providing professional quality support for Ubuntu. More computer professionals realising that there is a world outside Windows.

9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

“Free does not equal crap”.

Cheers,
Al.