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[SLUG-ANNOUNCE] Meeting Report - Friday, 25th May, 2001


                Meeting Report - Friday, 25th May, 2001

[ My apologies for not having this out on Monday as I had said... I ah,
wanted to get it just right. Or something. Yeah. :) ] 

The Usual Suspects

   Unfortunately, I was only available for a short time during Q&A
   this month ("XFS rocks!"), and wasn't able to find anyone who
   remembered enough of it to do a review (hardly surprising given
   the post-meeting hijinks).
   
   However, I have been alerted to Chris Collins' claim that he would
   "shave his head if he couldn't fix the MIPS kernel bug that stops
   Qt/Embedded running on the Agenda by next meeting." The challenge
   is on.
   
Agenda Hacking

   Catie Flick gave us overview of the Agenda, a new Linux and Free
   Software-based PDA. Without beating around the bush, Catie treated
   us to a cat /proc/cpuinfo; not something expect to see running on
   the average PDA... but this is not your average PDA! It has a
   fairly full complement of interfaces, including serial, parallel
   and IrDA, lots of memory, and a much nicer screen than the black
   and white Palms. It runs Linux 2.4.0.
   
   Alan Cox said that it was, "Very neat, but a little slow" at
   linux.conf.au in January. Catie showed us that recent kernel
   updates had fixed the speed issues to a large extent, and even
   some hardware operational issues. Try that on your Palm!
   
   One of the most important aspects of a PDA is its integration with
   your desktop PC. Not only does the Agenda support PPP connections
   and the soon-to-be-released QuickSync... You can run rsync! This
   puts the Agenda into the "Useful Computer" category according to
   Tridge.
   
   A whole host of applications and languages have been ported to the
   Agenda, but the most interesting projects are the ones our fellow
   SLUGgers have undertaken. Chris Collins made a port of Qt/Embedded
   to the Agenda, but has been thwarted by an XIP kernel bug. Given
   that the Agenda is based on the X Window System and FLTK, this may
   be quite a useful hack. Meanwhile, Catie has ported dadadodo
   (Jamie Zawinski's Markov chains plaything).
   
   There were many SLUGgers interested in purchasing the Agenda, both
   for hackery and the geek value of having a Linux palmtop. Awesome
   stuff.
   
   Catie's Agenda information can be found on her website at
   http://liedra.net/programming/agenda.php
   
   Jamie Honan's Review: Catie Flick's presentation on the Agenda was
   a great 'heads up'. Her honest assessment of the device being
   Linux-type-ideas- bouncing-not-for-consumer-use in no way
   detracted from the essentially interesting and potentially useful
   ideas behind it.
   
Free Software Email Dream Team (aka Pants Free Email)

   Catie Flick's Review: Jeff Waugh gave a surprisingly fully dressed
   talk on console-based email clients (read: mutt), fetchmail,
   isync, procmail and other little nifty utilities. I am not a mutt
   fan, I use primarily TkRat and Pine; but I must say that after
   having heard this talk I am quite intrigued by its configurability
   and usefulness.
   
   Beginning with the configuration of fetchmail (POP) mail
   retrieval, Jeff followed on by intimately describing his mutt
   configuration along with various amusing crackmonkey exploits for
   Outlook users. "Crazy!" he noted. Procmail filter rules followed,
   showing some interesting commands that would pop up annoying
   little alert windows when certain mail came through. (He has also
   since patched a small "exploit" in that particular rule :-)
   
   Finally, he showed us a classy utility called isync, "Like rsync
   for IMAP mailboxes!" and discussed the finer points of maildir vs.
   mbox formats. Just wait till I get my hands on those config files;
   I'm wearing skirts.
   
   Jamie Honan's Review (cont'd from above): Jeff's mutt-evanglist
   mode was also inspiring. It wasn't just about mutt, however, and
   included procmail, mutt spam rules and the address database
   builder thingy (lbdb) which integrates well with both mutt and
   procmail.
   
   Jeff skipped down various amusing side streets, with amusing
   Outlook exploits, discussion on mbox and Maildirs, and of course,
   the exhortation on 'Mutt fingers'. There were some objections,
   with some merit, but overall very impressive. Jeff had those
   piercing 'Mona-Lisa looking at everybody at once eyes' when he
   pointed out Pine wasn't free. Ok, Jeff : Read my Headers!
   
   Jeff's various mail configuration files can be found on his
   website at http://perkypants.org/email-dream-team/
   
Dinner & BEEEER!!!!111

   Massive turnout for dinner at The Amazing* House of Boiled
   Television Entrails this month. We managed to fill four large
   tables; quite a bit more than the usual two - a result of a
   well-timed wind up and high turnout at the meeting.
   
   A large group then trundled off to the Century, but found
   themselves "liberating" many Tux cousins from the bargain basement
   bookshop on George St. By the time we left, there were no Tuxes
   living in captivity, all saved (mostly in Pia's pockets).
   
   On reaching the pub, we took over our favourite corner, drank
   beer, and played pool. (In that order, but not quite so
   precisely.) Pete Ryland and Horms managed to own the table for
   most of the night, and brought Jeff Waugh and Raster dangerously
   close to losing their pants. For the sake of humanity, Pete made a
   calculated mistake to stop this from eventuating.
   
   ...'til next month!
   
   * Note that the Boiled Television Entrails may not actually amaze.
   
                                - --- -
                                    
              Next SLUG Meeting - Friday, 29th June, 2001
                                    
   Please note: We will be attempting to start and finish the meeting
   earlier from now on, so dinner doesn't run so late. Talks will
   start at 7pm, with the usual suspects beforehand.
   
The Usual Suspects

     * Q&A - "What has Linux done for/to me lately?"
     * Linux News & Discussion
       
Amtel AVR Hacking

   One of the bug-bears of running a PC that is basically unattended
   is that you usually require a keyboard to boot. For servers in
   machine rooms, this is no problem. Often a kayboard / mouse /
   monitor switch is used. For home use, or remote situations, e.g.
   data logging, routers / firewalls, the keyboard is more of an
   annoyance.
   
   Jamie has come accross some remarkable micro-controllers, the
   Atmel AVR range. These devices are cheap, easy to connect and easy
   to program. Replacing the keyboard will require one DIN plug and
   one chip. What is even better is that all the software tools to
   program the beastie are available for free under Linux. This
   includes gcc, gdb, and download software.
   
   The keyboard connector is also of interest, because it provides a
   fair amount of power (unlike the printer port or the serial port)
   and because it is actually bi-directional. It should be possible
   to have a small LCD display connected to this device, and a couple
   of momentary press switches. This allows a PC to be controlled
   without a keyboard or monitor. Such applications could include:
   data logging, remote web cam, MP3 player.
   
...and surely more!

- Jeff

-- 
       "A rest with a fermata is the moral opposite of the fast food        
           restaurant with express lane." - James Gleick, Faster