Volume 21, Number 12 - December 2005
|CACTUS December Chat
Presented by the CACTUS Officers
Thursday, December 15, 7:00 PM
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As has been typical of past December meetings, CACTUS will have an open forum meeting this year as well. You're welcome to bring your laptop and some cookies and have a mini-holiday-celebration with your fellow CACTUS members.
Chris Boyd of Midas Networks has unofficially offered to speak about Win4Win, a terminal services application for Linux.
The next CACTUS meeting will be held on Thursday, December 15, 2005 at 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM for pizza and informal discussion), in the auditorium of UT Applied Research Laboratories. (See end of newsletter for directions to the facility).
President Randy Zagar opened the meeting by describing an article in Wired by Bruce Schneider about Sony's efforts in digital rights management. When you put one of Sony's music CDROMs into your computer, it asks if it can install some software. If you say no, it installs the software anyway. Lindsay Haisley pointed out that the Italian government was suing Sony about this. Randy noted that California was too. [Since then, even the Texas Attorney General has initiated legal proceedings.] The software hides itself by naming itself $$XXX. Sony has created a removal tool that's probably worse than the original software. The copy protection software is actually a rootkit. Anyone can send instructions to this tool. On November 14th, Sony announced that it was pulling its copy protected CDs from store shelves and offering to replace customer's infected CDs for free.
Committee reports were brief; still have members and cash. Randy noted that since the December meeting will be on the 15th, we should have a decent turnout since it's a full ten days prior to Christmas. Chris Boyd has tentatively signed up to talk about Win4Win, a terminal services application for Linux. Someone has ported the Windows 2000 API to run under Linux.
Lenny Tropiano told us about the MIT funded project to provide $100 laptops for African youths that get power from a hand crank. It's loaded with LinSpire (previously known as LinDows) and lots of feel good stuff for windows refugees. Brian Sinclair mentioned that Fry's was offering a similar laptop for about $159.
In system news, Randy pointed out that despite having some problems with SquierrelMail, Bubba now has web mail up:
Lindsay Haisley asked for a volunteer to take over the administration for linux.cactus.org.
The discussion turned to internet radio broadcasts for a while.
Gil Kloepfer organized the install fest that was the evening program. He had machine hosted as mirrors.cactus.org with over 60 gigabytes of ISO images and software for people to download. He thanked ARL for providing a Cisco switch and a Dell server that he used to set it all up. The server was actually only an Optiplex GX110 workstation. [Editor's note(Gil): Those GX110s are built like tanks and, well, why can't a server be in a desktop cabinet as long as it's fast enough to be a server? A 1 GHz Pentium III is surely enough to run FreeBSD!] Lenny Tropiano brought some esoteric distributions such as, XEN, a Debian variant with VMware like capabilities.
Gil confessed that he was considering abandoning FreeBSD for Debian. He also commented that he read the emerge/portage system that Gentoo uses is actually loosely based on FreeBSD's ports system. The guy who designed Gentoo's portage system was a FreeBSD refugee.
Some of the distributions available included Gentoo, Ubuantoo, CentOS, and a MacOS X for the X86 architecture, as well as FreeBSD and Asterisk. Johnny Long brought four laptops with him in case anybody needed an extra victim.
Thanks again to Gil and everybody who brought CD's and computers to the festival.
Other than acting as Chair of the yearly Officers meeting, the one duty of the President that affects members every single month is the Pizza. The last time I spoke with our Treasurer about this, it looked like our pizza donation program has helped stem the flow of red ink in our budget. I haven't heard any complaints about the program since its inception, so this is a good thing.
I also haven't heard many comments one way or another about the kinds of pizza we've been having this year. Since we are going to have elections for new officers in January, I figured now would be a good time to ask each of you to think about a question near and dear to everyone's heart, ummm stomach:
These aren't earth-shattering questions, but hey, when was the last time you saw a President asking the people what they want?
Over the years there have been several projects I've wanted to pursue that I wouldn't get permission to do at work. It's nice to have a place where you can experiment with things without risking ill-will from your employer. That's one of the things I like about CACTUS, we have everything we need to develop interesting projects: the people, the equipment, and support from the community and local businesses like
One of the special projects I have managed to complete since joining CACTUS is learning how to implement Dynamic DNS. Linux.cactus.org can support DDNS and any member can have his own permanent cactus.org domain name just for the asking.
Lately there have been some other projects on my mind that might be of interest to a few of you:
What are your special projects? What things do you want to learn that CACTUS could help with? To borrow a phrase from Microsoft, where do you want to go in 2006?
There's been lots of interesting stuff happening on the digital frontier lately, and some of it actually got mentioned during a CACTUS meeting. I thought I'd take some time and review them:
Sony-BMG has stirred up a hornet's nest of activity with some of the software they bundle with their music cds. So far, they've been sued by:
If Sony is to become the poster-child for Digital Rights Management Gone Wrong, then Diebold is the poster-child for E-Voting Incompetence. In North Carolina, as in Texas, there is an Escrow requirement in the Election Code. This means that each voting machine vendor is supposed to "escrow" copies of the code with the State. Presumably this allows the State to do independent evaulations of the software, and to assure that the State has "pristine" copies of the software that's been certified for use in State and Federal Elections...
North Carolina goes a little farther than Texas and actually requires that vendors also escrow copies of all the third-party source code used in their machines... and not just the software written by the vendor.
NC also requires that vendors identify the software developers who wrote the code.
In Diebold's case, this would mean that they would also have to escrow the version of Windows they use in their systems.
Well, Diebold filed suit in North Carolina claiming that they could not meet the State's escrow requirement and requested an exemption from the judge. Fortunately, the judge dismissed their case and they are still legally required to escrow ALL software used in their voting machines.
But wait, with every silver lining you must have a dark cloud...
Despite the fact that Diebold could not meet the States' escrow requirement, the North Carolina Board of Elections chose to ignore state law and certified Diebold's systems anyway. 
That's about it for now
We wish to thank Michael Cheselka for renewing his CACTUS membership.
To renew your membership, please send check or money order payable to CACTUS ($30/yr for regular membership and $100/yr for corporate sponsorship):
PO BOX 9786
Austin, TX 78766-9786
You can also pay in person at the general meetings. Please direct any inquiries or address changes to membership [at] cactus <dot> org.
CACTUS meets on the third Thursday of each month at the Applied Research Laboratories (ARL) in the JJ Pickle Research Campus (JJ PRC). We'll meet in the main auditorium located directly behind the guard's desk and main lobby.
Please do not show up earlier than 6:20 PM on the specified day. Enter through the main entrance at 10000 Burnet Road for ARL. Tell the guard that you are here for the CACTUS meeting. You will be required to sign a log book, but not required to wear a badge. The guards will direct you to the auditorium entrance. Limited parking in the front of the building is available, but more extensive parking is available in the large parking lot just north of the ARL building. After 6:30 pm, all entrances to JJ PRC, except for the Burnet Road entrance, are closed and locked. You can still enter the parking lot in front of the ARL building. No parking tags are necessary after 6:00 PM (but you will need to inform the guard in the booth that you are attending a meeting at ARL). See map for further details.
Online maps are available at:
As always, please leave the facility as you saw it when you arrived.