Tag Archives: Linux

OggCamp approaches!

I’m getting quite ridiculously excited about an upcoming event…

I’m good friends with the team from the Ubuntu UK Podcast and have been privileged to be invited onto the show as a guest host twice now. They’ve partnered with the Linux Outlaws to create OggCamp for the past three years and this year, finally, I’m able to attend. I admit that it helps that the venue this year is reasonably local for me! I’ve also volunteered to assist as official Crew for the event, so I’ll either be very visible, or barely visible at all 🙂

I’ve blogged fairly frequently about my OSS, Linux, podcasting and social passions so I imagine it’s not a huge surprise to regular readers that I’m excited to finally have an opportunity to be involved. Laura has written about the rapid run-up to the event, and I hear that tickets may be becoming available from returns at the moment, so if you are interested it is worth checking back. I’ve also set up the OggCamp 11 page on Lanyrd if you want to add the event feed to your calendar. I’m also fairly certain that a good gaggle of MQTT geeks will be in attendance (the mosquitto project was born from the first OggCamp in 2009), so I’m looking forward to meeting folks!


Lightweight Messaging and Linux #lca2011

I’ve just delivered my talk at LinuxConf Australia 2011Lightweight Messaging for a Connected Planet. Unlike any of the other “spins” of the MQTT overview talk I’ve delivered before, this one really talks in more detail about the coding side, with shout outs to many of the members of the MQTT community and their projects. Special mentions here to Roger Light and the mosquitto project, and Nick O’Leary and the Arduino client. There has been a huge amount of discussion of Arduino and home automation (and sending Tux to the edge of space with an Arduino on a balloon… unrelated to MQTT but awesome) at LCA 2011 so these aspects turned out to fit really well.

Do let me know if you start to play around with MQTT as I believe there are some really funky things happening (some of which are highlighted in the slides). I’ve had some particularly great conversations with Andy Gelme who helped to run the Arduino Miniconf at LCA2011 and I hope to see things moving forward on his open hardware router project, too.

First impressions of LinuxConf Australia #lca2011

Beautiful morning at #lca2011

Well now. Here I am on my first visit to Australia, primarily in order to speak this week at LinuxConf Australia 2011 (a session on Lightweight Messaging for smarter devices on Friday, for those interested).

Given the serious disruption to Brisbane over the past two weeks, the organisers have done a superb job of re-jigging the entire event: changing venues, sorting out accommodation, reorganising the transport plans, catering, etc etc. Stunning. Although we may not be in the location that was originally intended, I’m really impressed by the way things have come together, so a huge thanks to the whole team.


After a lengthy flight and visiting some different parts of Brisbane with some family in the area on Sunday, I hit the conference proper on Sunday evening with registration followed by a talk for newbies by Rusty Russell. Useful advice: “don’t be a fanboy”…. tricky when you’re a techie Linux geek at a conference with Ted T’so, Linus Torvalds, Jeff Waugh and too many others to mention… but, I’m doing my best 🙂

Some brief early impressions:

  • there is simply too much to do / see / hear! I spent all of day one at the Arduino miniconf, which was great… although I’ve played around with Arduinos before, I’d never built one from scratch. It worked!
  • Brisbane is a lovely city. The weather has been just about OK for me so far, although when I left the UK on Friday it was 0C and now it’s in the high 20s! The flood water has receded and the clearup is ongoing but the city is getting on with things.
  • there has been great wifi coverage… by far the best I’ve ever encountered at a conference. Spread between the conference venues, the accommodation (several km away), and enough for many geeks with multiple wireless devices! Why can’t every conference manage this?
  • are a lot of photos hitting Flickr…. the only thing that frustrates me is that most are not open for tagging / people tagging. Please open your pictures, particularly those from events, for tagging.
  • I’m also hoping that more people will start to use Lanyrd for aggregating write-ups, slides, photos etc.

Follow more from the conference via Twitter, check out my photos… a live stream of some of the sessions should arrive soon.

Prototyping – Arduino and Ubuntu


My Arduino Uno board, via instagr.am and iPhone, on Flickr

One of those things I’ve been meaning to getting around to doing for ages is to explore this exciting new world of prototyping and hacking my own hardware devices together. A lot of my fellow eightbars and of course many of the HomeCamp community are big fans of the Arduino platform. I’ve also been dying to have a go with the MQTT client for Arduino that Nick has created (although I’ve recently also come across another platform called mbed, and MQTT has been ported to it, of which more to come soon). In fact, I’ve had one of the lovely Arduino starter kits from ::oomlout:: sitting on my desk for a while now, tempting me with its gadgetry and neatly-arranged components in a funky partitioned box… but life has been so hectic that it has taken me until today to finally crack it open!

I’m not going to spend long talking about the Arduino today, except to mention that it was unexpectedly tricky to get working under my OS of choice, Ubuntu 10.10. I’d read on Anton’s blog recently that the new UNO board (which I have) needed a firmware update in order to avoid some weirdness on the serial port, so I thought I’d go ahead and fix that first – his instructions were very clear, and the device seemed to report something, well, expected as I ran the commands. All good, or so I thought!

PortuguĂŞs: Logotipo Arduino Uno.

PortuguĂŞs: Logotipo Arduino Uno. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I installed the Arduino IDE from the Ubuntu repository and attempted to start it from the new Electronics submenu. Nothing happened. At that point I decided to try running “arduino” from the command line, and got back a Java stack trace containing java.lang.UnsatisfiedLinkError: rxtxSerial indicating an issue with some of the libraries. At that point a quick DuckDuckGo search (yes, I’m not using Google much these days) led me to an Ubuntu PPA which contained a fixed version of the IDE.

I was then able to fire up the toolkit and excitedly started looking at the Basic samples. However, as soon as I tried to upload one to the board, I got an error avrdude: stk500_recv(): programmer is not responding which suggested that the board was not being “seen” by the IDE. The only interface the toolkit recognised was ttyS0 and I knew the Arduino wasn’t there… looking in /var/log/messages I could see that it created an interface /dev/ttyACM0 when I plugged it in, but the toolkit wasn’t seeing that. I then tried creating a symlink from /dev/ttyUSB0 (where the wikis and documentation were telling me to expect the Arduino) to /dev/ttyACM0 – and presto, it worked.

Creating static symbolic links in /dev is a bit hokey these days, of course, so I moved across to udev and created a new rule for the UNO in a file called /etc/udev/rules.d/80-arduino-uno.rule

KERNEL=="ttyACM*", ATTRS{product}=="Arduino*", SYMLINK+="ttyUSB%n"

dead simple: if a new device pops up in the kernel named ttyACMsomething, and it has a USB product ID string starting Arduino (which mine does, I checked using the command usb-devices), add another symlink to it at ttyUSBsomething, thanks. Result:

Dec 21 19:18:50 agrippa kernel: [21501.209012] usb 1-1.1: new full 
speed USB device using ehci_hcd and address 17
Dec 21 19:18:50 agrippa kernel: [21501.303198] cdc_acm 1-1.1:1.0: 
ttyACM0: USB ACM device
andyp@agrippa:/etc/udev/rules.d$ ls -l /dev/ttyU*
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 7 2010-12-21 19:18 /dev/ttyUSB0 -> ttyACM0

That all seems to have done the trick. I’m just waiting on a couple of shields for the board, not least something that will let me connect it to a network, and then the experiments will continue! Weather-permitting the next lot of electronics should appear in the next day or so. More to come, on both Arduino and mbed hackery…

Podcasting with UUPC (and podcats)

On Monday I was surprised and delighted to be asked to join the team from the Ubuntu UK Podcast (aka @uupc) as a guest presenter. I’ve been a listener and friend of the show for a long time, I knew several of the regular team, and since I work not far from “Studio A” it was fairly straightforward to jump in at short notice.

I had a blast recording with Tony, Laura and Mark! The amount of work and polish that goes into each show is fantastic, I can tell you. I was also very impressed with their studio setup. My own podcast is recorded using Skype, and although I do own a small mixer, it’s really nothing compared to Tony’s much larger desk. Each of us had a proper mic, too. Oh, and there was a Very Large Clock. There was also a small experiment in streaming to a small audience (the magic-fu was served up on Twitter and in the #ubuntu-uk-podcast IRC channel, so you should hang out in those places in case it happens again!).

Most importantly, we were supported by the UUPC PODCATS.

I gave a brief intro to myself at the start of the show. If you’ve just discovered me via my guest appearance on UUPC then feel free to follow me on Twitter or read more about me here on my site.

Below, I’ll just recap and expand on my Linux credentials, because it’s not something I’ve really blogged about before.

My Linux experience

I started out using Linux with some early SuSE version in the late 90s just after leaving university. Then I switched to RedHat, which was in the phase of spinning out the Fedora project, and I did some packaging for a few projects there for a while. I helped out on a bunch of projects around that time, like OpenUT (the initial Unreal Tournament port to Linux – there’s a special thanks to me in the credits for the Linux version!), the brilliant Anjuta IDE, and the Bible software GnomeSword (which is now known as Xiphos). I spent a lot of time helping to do things like triage bugs, coordinate releases, polish the UI for GNOME apps like Anjuta, and basically to some extent “project managing” alongside the actual project leaders, freeing them up to code on their projects while I took on a more technical coordination role communicating to different developers, helping with test, etc.. At the time I was a middleware developer for a large company so I had an appreciation of how things like CVS worked, how to do releases and release notes, working with users etc. – things that are sometimes missed on OSS projects, although all of these things have become better over time. It was a great way for me to deepen my UNIX skills and hone my development abilities too. Plus, I built some great relationships and friendships from working with the community.

Times change, and I had to take a step back from all of that for quite a long time. Although I had a Linux box at home as a server (on dial-up for a long time… yikes!), I otherwise wandered the wastelands of Windows XP and then got a Mac. Fundamentally I believe I see the good and bad aspects in most systems; I believe it’s important to at least try something, and not dismiss it; I did go through a strongly anti-Microsoft phase but with things like XBox 360 Live, a few items in the “Live” family of software, and their new phone operating system, I do have respect for what they’ve done. I struggle a little on the whole “openness” thing – my tendency and first preference is absolutely towards open standards, open source and free collaboration, but then along comes Apple with stuff that just… works… and is so… shiny… and… I’m almost willing to suspend that view. And then I smell coffee and come back to my senses 🙂

So what am I doing now? Well, last year I switched to Ubuntu on my work laptop, a Lenovo Thinkpad, and I’ve been through Jaunty, Karmic, Lucid and now Maverick. I do NOT have a Windows partition, I run my whole work life in Ubuntu. I’ve got a Viglen MPC-L (previously featured on UUPC, of course!) running home and weather monitoring with some software called MQTT which I’m involved with as part of my job. I run Linux on my “set-top box”, an Acer Aspire Revo inspired by Popey, with Boxee and other bits. I have a netbook, a first-gen Acer Aspire One running UNE Lucid until they sort out Unity to a point where I feel it’s usable. And, as I mentioned on the show, I’ve recently picked up a cheap (actually, total bargain) Android handset as a development platform- my main phone is one of the Apple devices, sorry! The new phone is an Orange San Francisco, which is a rebadged ZTE Blade – I’ve flashed it to run Android 2.2 and moved a bunch of apps into SD storage, and it’s a lovely little device. Apart from that, I help to do a few things for internal Linux apps we use at work on Ubuntu, and I buzz around Launchpad largely helping to improve quality via bug reports etc. Oh, and I’m lined up to speak at LinuxConf AU in January! (very excited about that!)

So that’s me. I do Linux, I do Ubuntu, and I do a whole bunch of other stuff. Thanks again to the UUPC gang for not throwing me out of the studio! And thank you, dear reader, for listening…