From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

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!