From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Byobu Featured in Linux Identity Magazine

I wrote an article on Byobu for the Ubuntu 9.10 issue of Linux Identity Magazine.

The article is in full color, with lots of screenshots. If you're interested in Byobu, or generally in Ubuntu 9.10, I suggest you pick up a copy! There are several other interesting articles, and also comes with Ubuntu 9.10 DVDs.

Linux Identity Starter; Ubuntu 9.10; issue: 4; pages: 52; DVDs attached: 2; price (US): $14.99, table of contents
  • DVD contents
  • 9.10 vs. 9.04
  • Installing Ubuntu 9.10
  • Your first steps after a fresh installation
  • Compiz, the Linux eye candy project
  • Ubuntu directory structure
  • Virtualization under Ubuntu
  • Security in Ubuntu
  • From carrier Pidgin to Telepathy
  • Setting up your first site with Drupal
  • Byobu – the Ubuntu Server Window Manager

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


We finished UDS-Dallas last month in the usual way ... with an Ubuntu All Stars Jam.

Being in Texas, we had to play a Willie Nelson song. On the Road Again strikes a particular chord for me, as I think it perfectly applies to our life in the Ubuntu Community. Since I've joined Canonical I've traveled on business to: Boston (twice), Prague, London, Montreal, Paris, San Francisco (twice), Berlin, Barcelona, Santa Barbara, Dublin, Portland (twice), and Dallas.

You can check out our live jam here (mp3, ogg), with Tony Espy on guitar and vocals, Matthew Helmke on lead guitar, Jamu Kakar on drums, and your author here on bass. Our apologies, Willie, our hearts were in the right place ;-)


On the road again -
Just can't wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is making Ubuntu with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

On the road again -
Goin' places that I've never been.
Seein' things that I may never see again
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

On the road again -
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends.
Insisting that the world keep turning our way
And our way ... is

On the road again -
Just can't wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is makin' Kernels with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

On the road again -
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way.
And our way ... is

On the road again.
Just can't wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is makin' Ubuntu with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the road again.
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

-- Willie Nelson

P.S. While searching for a Willie Nelson image, I ran across Joey Stanford's blog post -- seems he had a similar idea:


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Tux

My darling wife, Kim, hand crafted me my very own Tux :-) He's sitting quite prominently next to my monitor, keeping me company. I'm very proud of my crafty, crocheting wife. Thanks, Sweetheart! He's even cuter than our groom's cake...

You might notice in the background the leaves have finally changed colors here in Austin. It makes for a very beautiful view on the Canyon Edge.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'm Running Ubuntu (2009-11-24)


My dad and I ran the Baton Rouge Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving Day, benefiting the March of Dimes. I'm very proud of my dad, as it was his first race ever, and he beat his goal time.

Of course, we ran it in our I'm Running Ubuntu t-shirts, which was a lot of fun. We had a few conversations after the race with other curious Ubuntu users/runners. Ubuntu seems live and well in Louisiana!

I actually ran my personal-best in the 5K distance, finishing in 22:15, which is a 7:17 minutes/mi pace (4:27 minutes/km for my non-American readers), so I was quite excited, considering my Marathon Goal Pace is 9:00 minutes/mile (5:38 minutes/km).

A big thanks to my wife, Kim, and my Mom, Donna for being out there in the crowd on a chilly morning, cheering us on, and cooking that fine Thanksgiving feast we had right after the race ;-)


Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm Running Ubuntu (2009-11-08)

I'm training for next year's Austin Marathon, on February 14, 2010. This will be my fourth marathon, having previously completed Motorola Austin/2004 (4:12:15), Freescale Austin/2006 (4:08:27), Marine Corps WashingtonDC/2007 (4:49:26 -- with ankle sprain). Since I didn't have a blog at the time, I never posted a race report. I did write one for each of those races. I'll post a retrospective on each of those races here. If you're interested, you might subscribe to my running tag, as I probably won't post those to Planet Ubuntu.

In preparation for that race, I ran Austin's Race for the Water 10 miler. I thought some of you might enjoy the custom tailored technical t-shirt, which proudly states:

i'm running ubuntu

The back of the shirt asks:


If you're interested in the results, I completed the 10 miles in 01:28:40 (that's an 8:52/mi average). I was shooting for a 9:00/mi average, so clearly I was pleased with the result!


Friday, November 13, 2009

Results of the Ubuntu Virtualization Survey

A big thanks to everyone that participated in the Ubuntu Virtualization Survey. I am pleased to share the results with you now.
I will provide a few of my own observations, but we are very interested in your own conclusions!
  • There were a total of 354 responses -- excellent feedback!
  • Nearly 2/3 of all responders use virtualization on Ubuntu every day -- wow!
  • Over 3/4 of responders have VT acceleration -- that's overwhelming, I think, and it supports our focus on KVM.
  • Still, there's 21% of responders who cannot use KVM. kqemu has been deprecated by upstream QEMU, so I think VirtualBox represents the best option at this point for non-accelerated virtualization.
  • 36.7% of responders most use VirtualBox, 22.6% most use KVM. VirtualBox is in Universe and essentially unmaintained by Canonical (though some community individuals are doing an excellent job maintaining it!). I don't know what the business opportunity is around VirtualBox. But it is clear that it's popular among Ubuntu users. People really like the interface and the usability. And we could probably really improve the experience for a large number of Ubuntu virtualization users with some dedicated Canonical effort to clean up the VirtualBox bug backlog.
  • My survey design was evidently flawed on Question #3, as a large number of people "wrote in" an "EC2" answer there. This is an interesting approach, as it diminishes the importances of having VT on the local system.
  • In terms of interfaces, virt-manager and virsh are both lagging behind kvm-from-the-command-line and VirtualBox. I don't know if this means that we should, or should not invest more in the libvirt-based tools. Is the lack of a good GUI for KVM hindering its adoption? I think this data says so...
  • Finally, the overwhelming majority suggests that better documentation is simply required for Ubuntu virtualization. I wonder how we should approach solving this? Is this something that we as engineers should be able to just crank out ourselves? Or should we tap into the Ubuntu-Documentation-Team, and attempt to rally a virt-documentation blitz from some more skilled tech writers?
In summary, I think the most important observations are that:
  • The overwhelming number of respondents have access to VT hardware.
  • VirtualBox is quite popular in the wild, despite a lack of Canonical investment.
  • The lack of a better user-interface is hindering KVM's adoption.
  • Better documentation is undoubtedly requested.
Are there other observations you'd like to share or conclusions you can draw?

We will be in Dallas next week for the Lucid Ubuntu Developer Summit, discussing the future of Virtualization on Ubuntu. Thank you so much for your feedback!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Introducing Testdrive!

I'm pleased to introduce a new package I have created for Ubuntu called testdrive!

Testdrive makes it simple to run any Ubuntu release in a virtual machine, safely, and without affecting your current Ubuntu installation.

This is a great way to "try out" the Ubuntu release beyond your current version, before upgrading. For example, if you're still running Ubuntu 9.04, you could testdrive Ubuntu 9.10 before committing to the upgrade.

You could also testdrive a different flavor of Ubuntu, such as Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Netbook Remix, or the Ubuntu Server. This is great way of learning more about the Ubuntu galaxy, as well as introducing yourself, to the wide world of virtualization in Ubuntu.

I expect that testdrive will be very useful to Ubuntu developers, testers, and bug triagers during the Lucid development cycle, as these people will be able to test Lucid's daily ISOs throughout the cycle, and in particular at the release milestones for ISO-acceptance-testing.


Testdrive can use either KVM or VirtualBox to host the virtual machine. You should have either one of these installed on your system. If you're using KVM, you need to have at least kvm-84, which is available in hardy-backports, intrepid-backports, jaunty, and karmic.

You should also have enough disk space available in your home directory to store one or more ISOs, roughly a 1 GB or so.

Installing Testdrive

To install testdrive:

Running Testdrive

To run testdrive from the command line, you just need to provide the URL to an ISO that you want to test. This can be an http, ftp, rsync, or file style URL. The ISO itself will be cached in your ~/.cache/testdrive directory, such that subsequent runs will only need to perform incremental downloads.

From the command line you could do something like the following:

testdrive -u rsync://
testdrive -u

You can also add some other configuration details in your own ~/.testdriverc file. Simply copy /etc/testdriverc to ~/.testdriverc and edit as you like. Once you have done so, you can simply launch testdrive from the menu, with:
  • Applications -> System Tools -> Test Drive and Ubuntu ISO


Rick Spencer, Manager of the Ubuntu Desktop Team, has used quickly to draft a GTK front-end for testdrive. Hopefully, testdrive-gtk will make it into the archive for Lucid soon, and provide a nice, pointy/clicky way of choosing the Ubuntu release you'd like to testdrive.


I'm giving a plenary talk at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Dallas, Texas next week, where I plan to demo testdrive, as one example of what we can do with KVM and Virtualization in Ubuntu. If you have been reluctant to try Ubuntu Virtualization, testdrive is a really easy way to get started!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Register Bloodied by Lack of Research

Typically, I read and respect The Register. They usually run intriguing technology articles that make me think.

I'm quite disappointed with today's carelessly researched piece:
Specifically, these paragraphs regarding eCryptfs:

Encryption proved a hurdle for Ubuntu forum member XXXX, who decried the lack of automation on encrypting his home partition.

"I had chosen to encrypt the home partition when installing 9.04 and then wasn't able to get the passphrase command to complete the encryption process to work properly," XXXX wrote.

Finally, after a late night and getting some advice online, XXXX wrote: "I certainly wish the encryption mounting process was more automated like everything else is!!"

Lack of automation? In Ubuntu 9.10, encrypting your home directory is a matter of selecting a check box in the installer:

That's it. 9.04 Encrypted Home upgrading users simply run update-manager and upgrade all packages to 9.10. Their home directory encryption is not affected by this.

The author of this article found one post in the Ubuntu Forums poorly articulating an issue with home directory encryption and suddenly Ubuntu 9.10 users are getting "bloodied" by encryption in Ubuntu? Seriously?

The Register, we are expecting more from you...


Monday, November 2, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 Byobu and OpenWeek Session

I thought I would provide a brief set of highlights about Byobu accomplishments during the Karmic development cycle, now that we have released Ubuntu 9.10.
Also, I'd like to promote my Ubuntu Open Week Presentation on Byobu, which is scheduled for 18:00 UTC, tomorrow, Tuesday November 3, 2009. It will included a live demonstration, in Amazon EC2. Be prepared to join us in #ubuntu-classroom on, and SSH into a guest session and participate in the presentation and discussion!

  • Renamed the project, from screen-profiles to byobu
  • Uploaded about 43 times
  • Fixed approximately 74 bugs
  • Contributions from 9 different people

  • Tremendous performance improvements across the board -- all status scripts
  • Better timings for status script run frequency reducing overall load on system
  • Cache files in /var/run/screen ramdisk for better performance
  • Check updates immediately, and only when package lists are updated
  • Dynamically reload profiles on byobu-config changes
  • Interpret ESC as "cancel" in the byobu-config menu
  • Dynamic keybinding updating on changed escape sequence
  • Support dynamic enabling and disabling of keybinding sets
  • Better default window handling
  • Show the MOTD on first launch
  • Update ssh authentication socket on re-connection to an existing session
  • Design improvements, per review with the Ubuntu Design Team
  • Enable 256 color support
  • Color coding, vim folding, and formatting the detailed status output
  • Improve colors of status notifications, use bold for numbers, non-bold for units
  • New distro logos
  • Set the window title appropriately
  • Improved support for non-bourne shells, busybox environments, non-x86 architectures, and non-Ubuntu operating systems
  • RPM packaging spec file
  • Comprehensive documentation
  • Internationalization
  • Use UTF8 where possible
  • Make status monitoring more configurable (ie, watch a different ethernet interface or disk partition)
  • New status scripts (ip address, disk availability, cpu temperature, cpu fan speed, mail, reload required)
  • Dropped nasty /usr/bin/screen diversion
  • Created a byobu-janitor utility that collects all migration hacks to a single place, and runs on a profile refresh
Hope to hear from you tomorrow during the Open Week session!


Ubuntu Karmic Release Party in Austin

30+ Ubuntu enthusiasts, free software developers, hackers, beer drinkers, and spouses attended Austin's Karmic Release Party on Thursday, October 29, 2009, celebrating the spectacular Ubuntu 9.10 release.

We filled half of the dining space at Aussie's, an Australian-themed volleyball beach bar--in honor of our Koala mascot and the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) powered by Eucalyptus.

I got there about 3 hours early, and setup a UEC instance in the corner, using:
  • Linksys 310N wireless router and gigabit switch, flashed with DD-WRT, wirelessly bridged to Aussie's free WiFi and the Internet
  • 1 Thinkpad X61 (dual 2.0GHz, 4GB, 250GB), Ubuntu 9.10 amd64, running the Eucalyptus Cloud/CC/SC/Walrus services; i.e., the cloud front end
  • 2 Dell Vostro (dual 2.4GHz, 4GB, 320GB), Ubuntu 9.10 amd64, running the Eucalyptus NC services; i.e., the cloud nodes
Over the course of the party (6pm - Midnight), I did roughly 4 demonstrations of UEC on the local installation, showing the web interface, command line EC2-compatible tools, running instances, deploying appliances, terminating instances, and answering a number of excellent questions from our party goers. I also brought a Watt-meter and demonstrated PowerNap -- the unique feature of UEC that enables it to be the most energy efficient private cloud deployment around. Oooh...aaaaah :-)

Unfortunately, I was too busy talking and doing demonstrations, so I didn't take any good pictures this time. Sorry!


Friday, October 30, 2009

Solar Installation - Part 5

As of 11am today, my PV system generated its first Megawatt-Hour of electricity

Current date/time: 30-Oct-2009 16:00:09

Daily Energy = 27.766 KWh
Weekly Energy = 123.155 KWh
Monthly Energy = 634.408 KWh
Yearly Energy = 1025.502 KWh
Total Energy = 1025.683 KWh
Partial Energy = 935.313 KWh

Fri Oct 30 16:01:29 CDT 2009

Current date/time: 30-Oct-2009 16:01:25

Input 1 Voltage = 300.503571 V
Input 1 Current = 9.931437 A
Input 1 Power = 2984.432373 W

Input 2 Voltage = 293.223511 V
Input 2 Current = 4.005443 A
Input 2 Power = 1174.490112 W

Grid Voltage Reading = 244.775589 V
Grid Current Reading = 16.397514 A
Grid Power Reading = 3985.880371 W
Frequency Reading = 60.003841 Hz.

DC/AC Coversion Efficiency = 95.8 %
Inverter Temperature = 49.636932 C
Booster Temperature = 42.354176 C

I owe a big thanks to Curt Blank, who wrote aurora, a GPL program that communicates with my Aurora Solar Inverter and generates the statistics shown above. We have been talking over email through the last few weeks, trying to debug a few issues with my inverter, which is a newer model than the one he developed his software against. I have a cronjob that polls my inverter every 15 minutes, logging statistics about my solar power generation. And I will be packaging aurora for Ubuntu Lucid shortly. Thanks for all your help, Curt!

The system has been running now for almost 50 days. I have averaged about 20.6 KW-hours of generated energy per day over the last month-and-a-half, with a maximum of 36.2 KW-hours in a given day. Now the days are getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, and we're in the rainy season here in Austin. So I'm looking forward to the long, sunny days next summer.

My PV system saved about $80 on my October 2009 electricity bill, which is really close to my predicted target.

Stay tuned for one more installment in this series, regarding the actual solar rebate!

For other articles in this series, see:


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Birds of Prey

I was on a conference call this morning when I spotted these two gorgeous birds of prey in the canyon below my house.

In this picture, you might see two tiny dots right in the center of the frame. This is about 500m away, with no zoom.

In the next frame, you can see the birds a bit more clearly, at 12x zoom.

With digital enhancement to 36x, you can see these are truly huge, beautiful birds.

Can anyone identify what type of bird they are? This is in Austin, Texas, for what it's worth. Perhaps a little too white to be an eagle or an osprey. A hawk or a falcon of some kind?

I think this was solved in the comments below... A red-tailed hawk, it must be!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Palm Pre (WebOS) vs. HTC G1 (Android)

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about my new Palm Pre. I've been using it for over a month now, and I have a few more thoughts to share. But also, I won an HTC G1 from Qualcomm at the Linux Plumbers Conference in Portland. This was fortuitous, as I was quite interested in this device too.

I thought I would provide a comparison of the two devices, based on my experiences...


Originally, I bought the Palm Pre because the G1 was not available on the Sprint network. While Sprint has disappointed and frustrated me more than once in the past 10 years that I have been a customer, their coverage in the USA is pretty good, and the unlimited data plans have served me well. I have not been under a contract in over 9 years, and don't intend on getting into a contract again with Sprint or any other carrier. I can use the Palm Pre in most of the USA, Canada, Mexico, and South America. But on the down side, I cannot use it in Europe or Asia.

The G1, on the other hand, takes a SIM card, and can be used on most any GSM network. I won a developer version of the G1, so it was unlocked by default. I simply borrowed a SIM card from a friend for 2 minutes, long enough to access the data network to login to my Google account and register the phone. After doing this, I gave Ted his SIM back, and my phone was functional as a stand alone "computer".

As it turns out, I do actually have a pre-paid SIM card from, which I use in an ancient Siemens C60 phone when I'm traveling in Europe. While I have to use a second cell phone, I do prefer the prepaid route, as it's just too easy to spend several hundred dollars on your native carrier when traveling. So I was able to pop my eKit SIM card into my G1, and place and receive calls. I don't have a data plan on that SIM yet, so I wasn't able to test that.

HINT: To place a call using the eKit SIM on the G1, I needed to prepend *126* on the number I want to dial, and append #.


Both phones have WiFi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, which is quite nice for large downloads. This, of course, absolutely drains the battery.

I mostly use the G1 as a WiFi device right now, since it's not connected to a cell service. It's great for browsing the web or using the various applications available on the platform (more about that below).

Most importantly, though, I have been able to make and receive calls over WiFi. There are many other blog posts floating around explaining how to do this. But basically I needed to:
  1. Apply for and receive a Google Voice account
  2. Register and activate a Gizmo5 account
  3. Add my Gizmo5 number to my Google Voice account
  4. Download and install SIP Droid on my G1
  5. Enter Gizmo5 username/password, and as the server
  6. Enable WiFi, and wait for SIP Droid to authenticate (this part is buggy, as far as I can tell)
I have been able to do this well, from my home WiFi network. I'm looking forward to trying this abroad.


The Palm Pre is a dream come true for anyone interested in tethering (though Sprint may apply additional charges to your account). With great pain, I have managed to tether using my last 3 Palm Treo's. With the Palm Pre and Ubuntu, however, it's ridiculously easy. I simply needed to root the device, and install My Tether. When I enable USB tethering, Ubuntu's Network Manager detects a new usb0 device, and grabs an address over DHCP. My practical download rate is an extremely respectable 150KB/s. I was able to maintain connectivity while riding passenger in a car over 7 hours and 450 miles between Austin, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana last Thursday.

I have not been able to test the same operation on the G1 yet.

Console Access

I love that I can get a Linux shell on both of these devices. They both have small terminal applications accessible through the phone interface, but, of course, these keyboards are tiny and clumsy to do anything serious. Using vi, for instance, is a nightmare. But it's trivial to access either device through a terminal application from my Ubuntu desktop over the USB connection, and use a real keyboard.

I was able to install an SSH server on the Palm Pre, which is really nice, because I can now SSH directly to it, when it's connected on my WiFi network. No need to deal with cables or special terminal applications on my desktop.

Also, I like that I have root on the Palm Pre, and that it's possible to install packages from the command line. I have not yet obtained root on the G1. It looks slightly more difficult. I'll give that a shot soon.

Physical Device

The Pre is significantly smaller than the G1. It's easily the smallest cell phone I have ever owned, which is truly remarkable when you consider how powerful the device actually is.

I'm not a big fan of the little curve on the G1 toward the bottom. I think a completely flat device would be a bit more sleek.

However, the G1 feels like a very well made device. I like that you rotate the device sideways, when using the keyboard. The QWERTY keyboard is huge compared to any of the Palm or Blackberry devices. It's actually quite usable. Big keys, decent spacing. The hinge mechanism feels very sturdy, solid. I like the way it snaps into place, with no wiggle or play. I also really like the roller ball. There's some times I just don't want to touch my screen. Or I don't want someone else touching my screen. The roller ball, with the ability to go up/down/left/right and select is an excellent design feature.

Unfortunately, I think the physical design of the Palm Pre is its weakest point. The hinge feels very flimsy. It wiggles and has way too much play. It feels like it's about to break pretty much any time you're opening or closing it. It slides vertically, so, the screen is in portrait mode if you're using the keyboard. Most web pages and applications, it seems, perform better in landscape mode. The keyboard is also very small. The buttons don't rise as much as on the older Treos, and it takes a little while to get used to. I also very much hate that there is no up/down/left/right/select button. Everything has to be done with the keyboard and on screen gestures. This can be very painful for some applications, in my opinion. I'm really hoping the Pre is a "preview" of better hardware to come...


I love the fact that the G1's charging/syncing port is a very standard mini USB connection. I probably have 10 of these cables floating around, and it's fairly likely that if I don't, someone near me does, that I can borrow for a few minutes of juice.

The Palm Pre uses a strange little micro USB connector. Of course, I didn't have any of these cables, and one cable isn't going to cut it. So yes, I had to buy an extra cable or two (at $25 each). Disappointing. But, still, it's USB, and can charge nearly anywhere these days.

On the flip side, the Palm Pre has a standard 1/8" stereo jack. I can use my Palm Pre to play my MP3s or stream Pandora or internet radio stations directly to my stereo receiver, or to the auxiliary input in the car. I actually streamed 4 hours of the Saints/Dolphins football game on Sunday, driving back to Austin from New Orleans, pulling internet radio over the cell network and output to the car stereo. That was really cool ;-) And the Saints put together an amazing come-from-behind victory!

But the G1 uses the USB port to output sound too, which is odd. It came with a pair of stereo headphones, but I'll presumably need some sort of an adapter to send this signal to the car stereo.

It's disappointing that neither device quite gets the connection ports right. I want the Palm Pre's 1/8" audio jack, and the G1's standard micro USB jack in the same device. Is that too much to ask?


The Palm Pre ships with 8GB of storage built-in, but no expansion slot. The G1, on the other hand, has a microSD expansion slot. It was able to read my 16GB microSD card.

Seriously, Palm... This is really disappointing. The card and card reader are tiny. This omission is so obvious I conclude that this design decision is to ensure that Pre owners must upgrade their hardware to obtain more storage in the near future. I'm afraid this might well backfire on Palm, though.

My music collection has been under 80GB for almost 5 years now. At the rate that microSD cards are growing, I expect to buy a 128GB microSD card in the near future, and would hope to be able to carry my entire music collection on my mobile device. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that the Pre will be that device...

Operating System

I'll probably devote an entire post to WebOS vs. Android, so I'll just hit the highlights here...

Both are Linux, Linux, Linux. That's just pure awesome. I've said it before... We have been hearing about Linux cell phones in the USA for years now, and that day is finally here.

Terminals on both--that's great. Both OSes are very stable and responsive. They both take a long time to boot, but the uptime has been excellent. I rarely need to reboot either of them.

The icons and effects on WebOS are perhaps a little sexier, but that's among the least of my concerns. I do find WebOS far more intuitive than Android. Finding applications, menus, settings, etc., is easier on WebOS.

Multi-tasking on WebOS is simply amazing. Launch program after program, moving it to the side, and bringing it back when you need it. It's ALT-TAB for your phone. I love it.

I see a lot of promise in both operating systems.


I have managed to upgrade the OS on both devices. The Palm Pre was very simple. Much like Ubuntu, I just checked for updates available, and applied those. I did so over the WiFi which was a bit quicker than over the cell network. Unlike Ubuntu, I couldn't easily see what was being updated. I'd like to find the equivalent of the ubuntu-changes mailing lists for WebOS...

Since I have the developer version of the G1, I was able to upgrade my OS to Android 1.5 (and I see that 1.6 is now available too). The upgrade procedure was straightforward, though definitely intended for developers, as you had to use the SDK to upload a new binary to the phone, and reboot into a special mode with an odd key combination. That said, this is fun for me, so I'm enjoying the G1 from the developer angle.


Android has been around a bit longer, and it seems, at least at this point, to have a larger developer community. The Android "Market" has more applications than the WebOS "App Catalog", just from a numbers perspective. But there are a lot of duplicates. I have found almost all of the key applications I need for my Pre (with the notable exception of a SIP client, though it appears that one is under development).

It's clear that Apple's iPhone has a tremendous advantage on the App Store front. I think the rest of the cell phone OS market would do well to converge a bit, and confront Apple together.

That said, I would really, really love to have access to Ubuntu's archive of 20,000+ applications on my Linux devices. It seems like such a rich resource to tap into. Most of these devices have ARM processors, and we're actively working on Ubuntu's ARM story. With the 8GB of space on my Palm Pre, I could easily apt-get install most of the applications I carry around on my desktop. I'd like to think we're not too, too far away from that day...


I don't collect a lot of accessories. Actually, I don't have any accessories for the G1.

I did buy 2 Palm Touchstones, on the premise that this technology was pretty cool. It's a little hockey puck sized "wireless charger". It uses magnetic induction to charge the Pre. When it works, anyway. I've run into a number of problems, most of which seem to be software. It seems that the software side doesn't always detect that the phone is sitting on the Touchstone. More importantly, it seems that if the software doesn't detect that it's on the charger, it doesn't start charging. I have run my Pre completely out of battery more than once now, and when this happens, the Touchstone won't do you any good. You have to plug into the USB. This creates a vicious cycle, if you put the Pre on the Touchstone, but it doesn't charge, it runs out of battery, and then you have to plug into the USB to get it usable again. I must say that I'm extremely disappointed with the Touchstone. I think I'm going to try and return them. This issues might be fixed in a software update, I suppose, but right now, the Touchstone is not worth the already-overpriced $70 tag.


I'm definitely enjoying both devices. Linux on the phone has a promising future. WiFi, QWERTY keyboards, App Stores, these are all great things.

The Palm Pre would be the perfect device if it had:
  • roller ball for up/down/left/right/select
  • removable microSD card slot
  • sturdier sliding mechanism
  • standard mini USB connector
  • decent SIP client for VOIP calls
  • longer battery life
The G1 would be the perfect device if it:
  • were slightly smaller, lighter
  • were available on the Sprint network
  • had a stereo audio output
  • had longer battery life


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Austin's Karmic Release Party!

Thanks to everyone who joined us at Austin's Jaunty Release Party in April 2009, which we held at 6th's Jackalope Bar -- oh so perfectly named!

I had hoped to follow up our synchronicity with the Karmic Release Party at a bar called Karma in downtown Austin. Unfortunately, it doesn't open until 9pm, which is probably a bit late for our crowd. So I needed to find another interesting, appropriate venue.

Join us between
6pm - 9pm on Thursday, October 29, 2009 at Aussie's Grill and Beach Bar, at 306 Barton Springs Road, just east of the corner of Riverside and Barton Springs Road, south of the river. I figured an Australian-themed bar would have to work, in honor of the home of our lovely mascot, the Karmic Koala!

Burning CD's is so '90s... If you'd like a bootable/installable copy of Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala, bring an empty USB stick, 1GB or bigger, and we'll gladly burn an image for you. There should be a couple of laptops demoing the new release. I'm planning on bringing two, to demo the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC), powered by Eucalyptus, which I've been working on for the last few months.

Also, leave a note in the comments below, if you plan on joining us, so I'll have some idea of how much space to reserve. Look for us outdoors, on the patio (weather permitting). And perhaps we'll do a little after party at Karma, just to say we did! :-)


Linux Magazine: Ubuntu Encrypted Home

Back in April, Linux Magazine ran what I considered to be an inaccurate account of the OS-level security provided by our Ubuntu Distribution. Your Distro is Insecure: Ubuntu.

Frustrated with the piece, I blogged this in return: Your Article is Incorrect: Linux Magazine.

Following that post, I had a very constructive, private email conversation with Linux Magazine editor, Bryan Richard. We discussed a number of different ways that Canonical/Ubuntu might be able to respond to their previous article, which caused quite a stir on Ubuntu's public mailing lists.

I'm very pleased with Bryan's response. He invited me to author an article focusing on the security features that are available in Ubuntu. The result was published earlier today, focusing on Ubuntu's Encrypted Home Directory feature, which is rather unique among Linux distributions: Ubuntu's Encrypted Home Directory: A Canonical Approach to Data Privacy


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ubuntu Virtualization Poll - Your Feedback Requested!

We're still a week away from releasing Ubuntu 9.10, which I'm sure will be a phenomenal server release, with huge strides in virtualization and cloud hosting. The Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud should be the most complete open source cloud hosting solution in the industry.

But we're also beginning to prepare for the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Dallas, Texas next month. At this summit, we will discuss our plans for Ubuntu Lucid Lynx, which will release in April 2010 as Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. This being an LTS release, UDS is incredibly important, as these decisions will affect the Ubuntu landscape for at least 5 years.

As your maintainer of Ubuntu's virtualization stack supported by Canonical, I'm pleased to invite you to provide feedback on virtualization in Ubuntu in this simple, brief, 6-question survey:

We are eager to hear your feedback on a few particular questions about KVM, QEMU, Virsh, Virt-Manager, Xen, VirtualBox, OpenVZ, VMWare, Parallels, Amazon EC2, Eucalyptus, and other virtualization technologies.

Note: Nick Barcet will be conducting a much more comprehensive Ubuntu Server Survey in the near future. Stay tuned!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Really Enjoying Pandora

So I tried Pandora a few years ago, but initially wasn't that impressed. And besides, I had developed Musica, a web application for browsing and streaming my own music over the web.

In May, I received a Chumby as a gift from Canonical. Five months later, I use it almost exclusively as a Pandora front end, attached to a nice set of powered Klipsch speakers.

It took a few minutes, but I entered about 40 of my favorite artists, and now use a QuickMix of those artists plus other similar artists.

They've done a great job creating applications for lots of platforms. I can stream Pandora now through my:
  • Ubuntu computers
  • Chumby
  • Palm Pre
  • G1
  • Samsung Blu-ray
I finally decided to shell out the $36 for PandoraOne, and I've been very satisfied. The extra bitrate, lack of commercials, and unlimited play time have been very nice.

I still use Musica when I want to listen to something very specific. But Pandora has been really nice for an eclectic mix.

On the down side, it appears that Pandora is only available to IP addresses in the USA. Apologies to readers outside of the USA :-(


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

libcgroup in Ubuntu Karmic

Earlier in the Karmic cycle, I worked with Jon Bernard to sponsor his packaging of libcgroup, an open source library from IBM that provides tools for controlling and monitoring control groups.

In this post, Jon teaches you how to use libcgroup to your advantage. He has a work station that is his primary desktop, but also running Apache2, as well as a valid system user named kirkland that's chewing up his CPU cycles. Jon's solution is to put kirkland and all processes created by that yahoo into his own cgroup, and only receive CPU cycles when no other processes are in need. While this is a simple, silly demonstration, Ubuntu Server administrators should find this feature useful in Ubuntu 9.10!



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Developer's Drive Across Scotland

In August 2008, I spent a week in London for an Ubuntu Sprint, and then took a week of vacation to hike nearly 70 miles across Scotland, along the Speyside Way. Before I had even left Scotland, I was already planning my next trip!

To my good fortune, the Ubuntu Platform Sprint was held in Dublin in August 2009, and I found myself once again on the East side of the Atlantic. Now Dublin is a positively lovely city. Wonderful people, very walkable, safe, old, and beautiful. Guinness does in fact taste better in on the Emerald Isle. And the cool days and cooler nights are a welcome relief from the blazing August heat in Austin. We got quite a bit of work done, polishing up some of Ubuntu's Karmic Koala Server features (and saving some others for what will likely be a photo finish!). We toured the Guinness Factory (of course), and had a few pints in the Gravity Bar overlooking all of Dublin. The movie Once is easily one of my favorites of all time, and it was great to see so many of the settings from the film. I met up with my friends Josh and Erin for a tour of their neighborhood and visited their apartment and rooftop views. On the recommendation of my very Irish buddy, Eddie, I visited Gogarty's in Temple Bar, and sampled a few Irish whiskeys, including Green Spot and Powers Gold Label.

Ah, but the Irish whiskeys would only whet my appetite for what would soon come...

So I set out early on a Saturday morning, hopping a short flight from Dublin to Edinburgh, where I was meeting my wife, Kimberly, and would spend the next 7 days touring Scotland. We both landed at about 9am, and met at our rendezvous point.

Now this trip would be considerably different from my backpacking the previous year. Rather than traveling alone, humping 40 pounds of gear by foot through the Scottish countryside (which is invigorating in its own way), this year I'm accompanied by my lovely wife. Kim is a pretty good sport about the backpacking thing... In fact, I managed to get her to spend 4 of our 14 nights of our honeymoon in 2006 in a tent in Yosemite National Park, including 2 days spent in the back-country dodging bears and bathing in icy streams (Chilnualna Falls, for those familiar with Yosemite).

But we're doing Scotland by car, this time around, which is a dangerous, exciting adventure of a different kind. It starts by piling into a sub-sub-compact rental car and driving on the wrong side of the road. Just to make sure you're paying complete and total attention, 2 short minutes into the adventure, you're testing your nerves against 3 concentric circles of cars swirling about, choosing any one of the 6 different directions their inclination takes them. Yes, the round-about. You see, I only known of one such round-about in all of Austin, and it's in shopping mall parking lot. Luckily, we survived that first one. And got lots and lots of practice with the hundreds of others that we deftly navigated over the next few days.

It took a few hours, but eventually our nerves settled, and driving came more naturally. However, getting into the car was disorienting every single time. I swear, I approached the wrong car door 75% of the time :-)

We drove out of Edinburgh, toward Speyside, crossing the Forth Bridge on the A9--what a marvelous structure! We dipped off the freeway (aka, dual carriageway) as soon as we could, and hit the back roads. Let me tell you, this is the best way to drive across Scotland! We stopped at a couple of small ruined castles by the roadside (Balvaird Castle, for one), and had breakfast and coffee at a little fair. I had been in Ireland for 7 days already, so I had long past the jet lag. This was Kim's first day over, though, so she needed coffee and a big breakfast to reset her circadian rhythm. Refreshed, we headed to St. Andrew's, birthplace of golf.

I'm not much of a golfer, played putt-putt a few times as a kid and been to the driving range one disastrous time as an adult. But St. Andrew's is a site to see. It's absolutely gorgeous, pristine, perfect grass and rolling hills. We kept driving through the heart of the town of St. Andrew's and over to the ruined castle and cathedral. It's a coastal town, with lapping waves, constant wind, and a crystal blue sea. The castle was a fortress itself, overlooking the water, and very near the abbey and cathedral. The original cathedral is well over 1000 years old, and what's left of it is pretty magnificent. This was the center of Scotland church for a few hundred years.

We left St. Andrew's and continued heading up into the Highlands, and the landscape changed entirely. We had left the bustling city of Edinburgh that morning, and saw a bit of the coast at St. Andrew's in the afternoon, and were now just getting into the foothills of the Scottish Highlands. The roads get a bit more narrow and the scenery more spectacular. We past a sign for the Dalwhinnie distillery and pull over for a stop. My bar is generally stocked with the Dalwhinnie 15yr, so I was looking forward to a dram, but alas the tasting room had just closed. Bummer. We took a few pictures and continued our trip up to Aviemore.

Last year, I finished my hike, which started in Buckie, at the Aviemore train station, so I had seen a little bit of the town last year, enough to know that Kim would love it. We parked for a bit, and walked around Aviemore, dipping into a few shops. I have only been to Aviemore in summer time, but it looks very much like a ski town, surrounded by mountains and having sports outfitters on every corner. Next time I hike the Speyside Way, I might just start in Aviemore and buy my gear there, rather than hauling it over on the plane.

Evening approached, and Kim's jet lag started catching up with her, so we made the short drive to Boat-o-Garten, where we had 1 night's reservation at the Boat Hotel. Now Kim had never been there, but it was already famous in her mind. I stopped at the Boat for a short break on the last day of my hike the previous year. I had a cappuccino and an enormous stack of shortbread cookies, heaven in your mouth for a weary hiker. Having taken one bite of one cookie, I thought, hmm, I should take a picture of this :-) The dark wooden table, indirect natural sunlight, and perfect cup of coffee and cookies made for an outstanding shot (if I do say so myself). When I got back to Austin, I had that picture (as well as a couple of others) printed on canvas by Pounds Lab, for wall hangings. So this perfect cup of coffee hangs in our kitchen, and Kim has been dying to have a taste!

So we checked into a nice, sort of Victorian room at the Boat, and headed downstairs for dinner. I'm quite a sucker for Scottish salmon and cask conditioned ales, which I had in one form or another almost every day that week. It was an exhausting day, so we retired quite early, excited about our week of site seeing ahead.

If I've learned one thing having traveled extensively across North America, the Carri bean, and Europe with my wife, it's this... It doesn't matter where we are, or what we're doing. Kim's favorite part of vacation is inevitably the same thing, without fail. And that's breakfast. It's a little hard for me to comprehend, because I don't care much for breakfast. I'll have a bucket of coffee, or a cappuccino, or an ice latte, or some liquid concoction of caffeine. If I've gone for a run earlier in the morning, I might have a little oatmeal or granola to bridge me to lunch. But this gal loves her breakfast. And she really likes it when we stay at a bed-and-breakfast (instead of a tent or Hilton--my two preferences) because she knows that she's going to get her breakfast :-) And on this trip, Kim would have her big breakfast every morning. Not the French or Italian sweet pastry kind. But the full Scottish kind -- two eggs, sausage toast, muffins, cereal, and the freshest milk and butter you can imagine.

She she had her breakfast, and she would need it. This would be the one day that we were going to hike part of the Speyside Way, my favorite part of the hike, and I knew she would love it. The Boat Hotel adjoins with the train station, which runs old fashioned steam locomotives to Aviemore and a few other little towns. After a short wait in the 1920s style waiting room, we took the half hour, slow moving train through the mountains back to Aviemore, with just enough time for tea and shortbread.

It was a perfectly gorgeous Scottish summer day with sunshine and partly cloudy skies. We wandered around Aviemore for a bit, visiting the open air market and a 4000 year old Pictish stone circle, and then made our way onto the Speyside Way for about a 6 mile hike.

As I said above, this was my favorite part of the hike last year. But this time around, it would prove to be even more enjoyable. With no heavy backpack, a short 6 miles to go with only a bottle of water and a camera, and best of all, Kim's company, it was a lovely afternoon. We walked past a hillside that had literally dozens of rabbits popping in and out of holes, practically a scene out of Watership Down. The trail is quiet, the first part under shady canopy of Scottish pines. Eventually, the trail emerges from the woods and out onto a huge, open, heather-laden moor, with 360 degree views of the Cairngorm Mountains. This, too, could be a scene out of the Hobbit. Eventually, we saw the steam locomotive chugging past on its way back to Boat-o-Garten. We hiked lazily, taking lots of pictures, talking about what else we might do on our trip.

Eventually, we made it back to the Boat Hotel, checked out, and sat down in the pub for one more cup of coffee and shortbread. Let me tell you... If you're in Speyside, these are not to be missed! So we packed up the car and headed to a farm a few miles away for what would be one of the highlights of our entire trip!

Let's step back a few years, to Christmas of 2007. Three adorable puppies were abandoned on our neighbor's doorstep one icy night in Austin. Kim and I adopted two of them, and gave the third to a friend-of-a-friend. Kim and I had lightly discussed getting a dog a few times, but never seriously. And suddenly, we were dog owners. Check that, "dogs" owners.

These puppies were barely a few weeks old. We had no idea of their breed, or disposition or anything. Kim's dad is a veterinarian, and he gave them a clean bill of health and identified them simply as "farm dogs". As they grew (and grew, and grew, and grew!), they came to look more and more like Australian Shepherds, or Border Collies. And, of course, we grew to love them :-) So Tiger and Aggie became such an important part of our lives. Now, as some form of sheep dogs, they're extremely smart, and obedient. I have taught them dozens of commands, and they are among the best behaved dogs I've ever seen.

And for these reasons, Kim and I decided to attend a Border Collie Sheep Dog demonstration at a farm in Speyside. Let me start by saying the sheep dog is a remarkable creature. The intelligence and obedience of these dogs are incredible. You've probably seen this video (which borders ridiculousness). But to see a sheep dog in its element, herding, working, and obeying is really awesome. So we spent an hour, with the shepherd introducing us to his 12 working dogs, each by name and a unique whistle that he uses to individually identify the dog to which his command is addressed. He sends these dogs out, one at a time, to herd the sheep scattered across the hillside. He can bark or whistle a command at a dog 1000m away, and the dog will stop dead in its tracks and obey. Wow. A quarter of a mile away, he whistles for the dog to lay down, or slow down, or go right, or left, and it immediately and perfectly complies. I couldn't help but thinking about SSH + Bash :-)

So the dogs reign in the 50 or so sheep scattered across the farm. He also selected one of the sheep for shearing. Kim helped a bit, and described the wool as very "oily". Finally, he showed us how he trains the dogs...using ducks nonetheless. He starts training the dogs at merely 10 weeks old, having them herd ducks, directing them between cones and into a cage. Finally, he brings out the newest litter, 6 puppies barely 3 weeks ago. Adorable :-)

After our official tour was over, we hung around for a bit and talked with the shepherd and his wife. They directed us over the hill where there were a set of "sheep dog trials" currently underway. Thirty-five of the local farmer were engaged in a sort of ancient competition. Each shepherd had one dog, and a huge field below. Three sheep are released at the far end of the field. The shepherd would direct his dog to herd the 3 sheep and drive them through three sets of cones in a sort of "infinity" shape, concluding with driving the sheep into a pin, where the shepherd would separate one and shear it. The competition consists of a set of points and a timer for accomplishing the task. We watched for about a half hour or so, and then needed to make our way to our next hotel.

So we left the farm, and headed toward my favorite hamlet in all of Speyside--Craigellachie. I spent two nights the previous year at the Highlander Inn in Craigellachie, which were my two favorite nights of my hike. I couldn't wait to get back, and particularly to share it with Kim this time. Craigellachie is absolutely in the heart of the single malt Scotch Whisky country. The Highlander Inn is "the perfect hotel in the world", as far as I'm concerned.

It has 5 comfortable rooms above the pub, free wireless Internet, and views of the mountains over the Speyside River. If that's not enough, you can sample over 500 bottles of Scotch Whisky, or 6 different cask conditioned hand drawn Scottish ales. The food is excellent (of course the salmon, but also try the haggis-stuffed chicken). But the best part is absolutely the company. I spent a good 10 hours in the pub last year, cavorting with the locals, telling stories of Texas and Louisiana, and listening to their stories of the Highlands and Speyside. Duncan, the proprietor, is an outstanding gentleman. And without surprise, I ran into many of the same people I met the previous year in the very pub, including my friend Roy (local tour guide, see Kim and I sat at the bar for several hours, enjoying the accents and the conversations of the vivacious locales. I took quite a bit of advice on their favorite whiskies, sampling drams of Mortach 16yr and Ben Riach 16yr between each pint of ale.

Kim sprung out of bed the next morning, ready for her next round of breakfast in the charming dining area on the second floor. Duncan answered some logistics questions for us on our touring options, and in fact, called in a favor with the Aberlour Distillery and booked us on a 10am tour. The Aberlour 12yr is another of my stock single malts--double barrel aged in port wood, smooth, almost sweet finish. Kim isn't much of a hard liquor drinker, but she loves a good tour. We often visit the 20-or-so wineries in the Hill Country near Austin, and love to do so in Napa, Sonoma, and Italy too. So she kept an open mind, and thought that if she learned more about it, she'd enjoy it more. The tour was very thorough, and informative. We saw all stages of the whisky making process, and learned the story behind the Aberlour Abundah, and St. Drosdan's well. The tour completed with a tasting of 6 different whiskey's (well, 5 really--one was just raw spirit straight off the still--yuck!). And, alas, Kim still hated the taste of whisky :-) Oh, well... I have my designated driver, then.

So we walked a few miles down a trail behind the distillery, and eventually made our way back to the car. Kim, breakfast. Dustin, whisky. Kim's turn... So we headed to Ballindalloch Castle. Ballindalloch Castle is a still-lived-in monstrosity of a castle, owned by the family that developed Aberdeen Angus beef (which is quite tasty, by the way). We toured this lavish castle, seeing some old, ornate furniture, lots of gold, crystal, and tapestries that wouldn't even fit in our house. The watchtower was my favorite part, which included a hole that guards could use to dump sewage on invaders. Take that! We had lunch at the cafe near the castle, where I had an Aberdeen Angus roast beef sandwich. Yum. We also stopped at another ancient stone circle, which is in the middle of a pasture.

Next, we drove way up the mountain to the hilltop town of Tomintoul (another excellent single malt). Just outside of town is an abandoned quarry, with a little path to the top and spectacular views of the valley. We got some really nice pictures. From there, we drove through the Glenlivet Estate (which is owned by the Crown). We stopped in a little town hall where we had some coffee and Kim perused the homemade crafts for sale. Also nearby is an ancient bridge dating from the 9th century. We drove by the Glenlivet distillery, but since I had toured it last year, we skipped it.

There are plenty of pastures around, most of which have Highland cattle, which look something like a hippie version of the Texas longhorn!

We made our way to Dufftown next, which calls itself the "Whisky Capital of the World". Here we visited Mortlach Kirk, the 3rd oldest church in Scotland, founded in 566. In the cemetery, you can see the ancient Pictish standing stone, called the Battlestone. Legend has it that King Duncan (as in Macbeth) prayed here before defeating the Viking invaders. There are graves in the cemetery that are over a 1000 years old. Creepily enough, many of them didn't use coffins, or the wooden coffins have deteriorated, and if you look closely, there are bone and teeth fragments through the gravel you walk upon!

We also stopped at Drumin Castle, another spectacular ruin. After that, we drove past the Glenfiddich distillery, and walked around the ruined Balvienie castle. As it was getting late, we headed back to Craigellachie for a pint in the bar, and some of that golden conversation with the locals.

So this particular day of the vacation was special for me, as it was my birthday. I turned 30 years old. It was a wonderful way to spend it, though. Soaking in the Scottish culture, indulging the senses, enjoying the vacation of a lifetime with my adorable wife. We capped the day off with a five-star meal at the Cragellachie Inn. It, too, has remarkable selection of 600+ Whiskies on the wall. As an aperitif, I had a 30yr Tamdhu. And for dessert, the most remarkable whisky I've ever tasted--a 40yr Strathisla. Wow. Buttery, creamy, perfectly smooth, and indulgent. Kim bought me a bottle as a belated birthday present once we got back home. We called it a night, and made our way back to the Highlander (literally across the street).

Up until this point, we had reservations booked in advance for all of our accommodation. However, the next two nights were totally open. We could really go where the wind took us, which is a really cool feeling. After breakfast (of course), we took a quick look at Thomas Telaford's gorgeous Craigellachie Bridge. We then made the short drive over to the Speyside Cooperage, where we took an education tour of the process by which whisky barrels are made (or reconditioned). Really, interesting, sort of a different kind of a tour. We both enjoyed it very much.

So we took a look at a map and then made our plans for the next two days. We decided to drive to the Isle of Skye, and see the west coast of Scotland. So we drove up toward Inverness, stopping for a dram at the Macallan distillery (outstanding, the Rolls Royce of whisky, if you have any respect for Scotch, you must have at least a bottle of Macallan 12yr on your shelf), and passed by the Strathisla distillery near Rothes.

We passed through Elgin, and Inverness, and made our way to Loch Ness. We drove the full length of Loch Ness (didn't see Nessie but saw plenty of Nessie-related crap for sale). We did stop for a long tour around Urquhart Castle. This castle must have been one of the most incredible castles/forts of Scottish history. It's on a prominent point, guarding the length of Loch Ness. An entire city flourished within its walls, and it protected inner Scotland from numerous Viking invasions. I'd highly recommend this castle to drivers by.

From here, we drove along some very small roads, winding between mountains and lakes, making our way all the way over to the east coast to the islands. The mountains were considerable larger than those in Speyside, and the landscape far more stark. Heavy fog, and clouds rolled all around us (compared to the relatively sunny Speyside area). Of far more concern, though, was the relatively few B&B's we saw with vacancy. Oh, don't get me wrong, there were plenty of B&B's. But most were sporting their "No Vacancy" signs. Kim was getting more than a little worried. We were still a long way from Skye, and were starting to wonder if we'd even be able to find a place at all, without reservations. And while I have no problem sleeping in the car (or on the ground, for that matter), that isn't exactly Kim's cup of tea. So we stopped at the next B&B that had vacancy. The price reflected the quality. Merely 30 pounds, Kim went in to check it out. Yikes. Trinkets everywhere, and the proprietor gave off the "creepy old man" vibe. We had no interest in the Bates Motel. We also stopped at a ranch which had vacancy. I like the idea of a horseback ride through the mountains. But the only accommodation they had was bunk beds, dormitory style, shared with others. Again, not exactly Kim's bag.

We kept driving, past the site of the final stand of the Jacobite Rebellion (and the last shots fired on mainland Britain). In the worst case, if we couldn't get a room near Skye, we would just skip it and drive to Fort William, where there seemed to be much more vacancy. We ended up staying at a *picture perfect* B&B just past Glen Shiel in Inverinate. A cute, sweet little old lady with a gorgeous cottage on the loch, for merely 50 pounds/night. We went to a pub (The Claggan) that night and hung out with the locals, including a very friendly chap named Ian who worked at the Eilean Donan Castle. We saw him the next morning and he actually let us in for free! We drove all over Skye with the rest of our day, stopping at the Talisker distillery for a tasting, and touring Dunvegan Castle. We found a couple of neat, old cemeteries and a standing stone. The roads are absolutely tiny, mostly single lane. When you encounter another car, you have to pull the side, and only one goes past at a time. The mountains and sea are spectacular.

We spent two nights at the very cozy bed and breakfast. As usual, the breakfast was outstanding, but more impressive was the view of the glassy lake in the front yard. This place isn't far from heaven ;-)

Even though Skye was rather touristy, we had a great time. Next time, though, we'll probably head a bit further North, toward Ullapool and some of the less traveled islands. We drove back through Fort William, where we stopped at the Ben Nevis distillery for a taste (probably the only one that I haven't been impressed with). As usual, Ben Nevis itself was shrouded in clouds and fog, so we couldn't even really see it. We hit a couple more ruined castle roadside stops. Oh, and also Rob Roy's grave was prety cool, in a beautiful little cemetery. We drove through Stirling, and could see the castle on the top of the hill, but we didn't.

We did, however, stop at the Falkirk Wheel, which amazing beyond words! I said that there were two real highlights of our trip--the sheep dog demonstration, and absolutely the Falkirk Wheel. Simply breathtaking. I watched it for nearly an hour. This machine simultaneously lifts and lowers a boat the equivalent of 13 traditional locks, without loosing a drop of water, and is powered by a series of small electric motors for less than 10 pounds of electricity per day! This thing is a marvel of the modern world. If you're an engineer living on the isle of Britain and you haven't been to the Falkirk Wheel yet, you should make plans to do so immediately!

After Falkirk, we made our way back to Edinburgh, where we'd spend our final two nights at the Edinburgh Hilton. Little did we know, we had just immersed ourselves in the middle of the Fringe Festival. We caught several comedy shows and theatrical performances--all for free. That was a nice surprise, as we weren't expecting that. The Rowan Caves are really neat, which is where we spent most of our time. We also toured the Edinburgh Castle, though the weather was very, very poor (rained the entire time).

And that's about it for our trip across Scotland! We drove several hundred miles, covering so much of Speyside, the Highlands, Skye, and Edinburgh. And already I have the itch to go back--maybe winter next time. A snowy Speyside, perhaps? Some skiing in the Cairngorms? Ah, that sounds nice!