Diggin' technology every day

August 17, 2013

Happy Birthday Debian: 20 years old

Filed under: linux — Tags: — Nate @ 4:10 pm
Debian Powered

Techopsguys is Debian Powered

The big 2-0. Debian was the 2nd Linux I cut my teeth on, the first being Slackware 3.x. I switched to Debian 2.0 (hamm) in 1998 when it first came out. This was before apt existed (I think that was Debian 2.2 but not sure). I still remember the torture that was dselect, and much to my own horror dselect apparently still lives. Though I had to apt-get install it. It was torture because I literally spent 4-6 hours going through the packages selecting them one at a time. There may of been an easier way to do it back then I’m not sure, I was still new to the system.

I have been with Debian ever since, hard to believe it’s been about 15 years since I first installed it. I have, with only one exception stuck to stable the entire time. The exception I think was in between 2.2 and 3.0, I think that delay was quite large so I spent some time on the testing distribution. Unlike my early days running Linux I no longer care about the bleeding edge. Perhaps because the bleeding edge isn’t as important as it once was(to get basic functionality out of the system for example).

Debian has never failed me during a software update, or even major software upgrade. Some of the upgrades were painful (not Debian’s fault – for example going from Cyrus IMAP 1.x to 2.x was really painful). I do not have any systems that have lasted long enough to traverse more than one or two major system upgrades, hardware always gets retired. But unlike some other distributions major upgrades were fully supported and worked quite well.

I intentionally avoided Red Hat in my early days specifically because it was deemed easier to use. I started with Slackware, and then Debian. I spent hours compiling things whether it was X11, KDE 0.x, QT, GTK, Gnome, GIMP.. I built my own kernels from source, even with some custom patches(haven’t seriously done this since Linux 2.2). I learned a lot, I guess you could say the hard way. Which is why in part I do struggle on advising people who want to learn Linux what the best way is(books, training etc). I don’t know since I did it another way, a way that takes many years. Most people don’t have that kind of patience. At the time of course I really didn’t realize those skills would become so valuable later in life it was more of a personal challenge for myself I suppose.

I have used a few variants/forks of Debian over the years, most recently of course being Ubuntu. I have used Ubuntu exclusively on my laptops going back several years(perhaps even to 2006 I don’t remember). I have supported Ubuntu in server environments for the past roughly three years. I mainly chose Ubuntu for the laptops and desktops for the obvious reason – hardware compatibility. Debian (stable) of course tends to lag behind hardware support. Though these days I’m still happy running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS desktop .. which is EOL now. Haven’t decided what my next move is, not really thinking about it since what I have works fine still. Probably think more whenever I get my next hardware refresh.

I also briefly used Corel Linux, of which I still have the inflatable Corel penguin sitting on my desk at work it has followed me to every job for the past 13 years, still keeps it’s air. I don’t know why I have kept it for so long. Corel Linux was interesting in that they ported some of their own windows apps over to Linux with Wine, their office suite and some graphics programs. They made a custom KDE file manager if I recall right(with built in CIFS/SMB support if I recall right). Other than that it wasn’t much to write home about. Like most things on Linux the desktop apps were very fragile, obviously closed source and so did not last long(compatibility wise could not run them on other systems) after Corel Linux folded. My early Debian systems that I used as desktops at least got butchered by me installing custom stuff on top of them. Linux works best when you stick with the OS packages, and that’s something I did not do in the early days. These days I go to semi extreme lengths to make sure everything (within my abilities) is packaged in a Debian package before installation.

I used to participate a lot in the debian-user mailing list eons ago, though haven’t since due to lack of time. At the time at least that list had massive volume, it was just insane the amount of email I got from it. Looking now, comparing August 2013 roughly 1,300 messages, vs August 2001 almost 6,000! Even more so the spam I got long after I unsubscribed. It persisted for years until I terminated the email address associated with that list. I credit one job offer a bit over ten years ago now to my participation on that(and other) mailing lists at the time, as I specifically called them out in my references.

That being said, despite my devotion to Debian on my home systems (servers at least, this blog runs on Debian 7), I still do prefer Red Hat for commercial/larger scale stuff. Even with the past three years supporting Ubuntu the experience has been ok, I still like RH more. At the same time I do not like RH for my own personal use. It basically comes down to how the system is managed. I was going to go into reasons why I like RH more for this or that, but decided not to since it is off topic for this post.

I’ve never seen Toy Story – the movie characters Debian has used to name it’s releases after since at least 2.0 perhaps longer. Not really my kind of flick, have no intention of ever seeing it really.

Here’s a really old screen shot from my system back in the day. I don’t remember if this is Slackware or Debian, the kernel being compiled 2.1.121 came out in September 1998, so right about the time I made the switch. Looks like I am compiling Gimp 1.01, some version of XFree86, and downloading a KDE snapshot (I think all of that was pre 1.0 KDE). And look, xfishtank in the background! I miss that. These days Gnome and KDE take over the root window making things like xfishtank not visible when using them (last I tried at least). xpenguins is another cool one that does still work with GNOME.

REALLY Old Screenshot

So, happy 20th birthday Debian, it has been interesting to watch you grow up, and it’s nice to see your still going strong.

Yahoo! yanks! website! of! person! who! documented! his! suicide!

Filed under: Random Thought — Tags: — Nate @ 3:39 pm

The only thing technical related to this is the fact that Yahoo! yanked the guy’s site. I suppose I can understand why, but I am very glad that the site(at least for the moment) lives on at a mirror.

I just came across this on slashdot. The discussion wasn’t all that interesting but I have been reading a mirror of the website, and have to say it is quite an amazing write up.

I felt this guy took the time to think and write about his thoughts and did the world a favor in showing his state of mind. So the least I could do is read it – and perhaps comment on it a bit (with whatever respect I can give).

From what I can tell he committed suicide because he felt his mind was going, he was no longer (as) productive to society as he wanted to be, and he had a very negative outlook on near term civilization as we know it.

He took his life two days ago, on his 60th birthday in a police parking lot with a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

I have no idea who Martin Manley was but it was very interesting to see his line of thinking.

Some good quotes

I began seeing the problems that come with aging some time ago. I was sick of leaving the garage door open overnight. I was sick of forgetting to zip up when I put on my pants. I was sick of forgetting the names of my best friends. I was sick of going downstairs and having no idea why. I was sick of watching a movie, going to my account on IMDB to type up a review and realizing I’ve already seen it and, worse, already written a review! I was sick of having to dig through the trash to find an envelope that was sent to me so I could remember my own address – especially since I lived in the same place for the last nine years!


I didn’t want to die alone. I didn’t want to die of old age. I didn’t want to die after years of unproductivity. I didn’t want to die having my chin and my butt wiped by someone who might forget which cloth they used for which. I didn’t want to die of a stroke or cancer or heart attack or Alzheimer’s. I decided I was gettin’ out while the gettin’ was good and while I could still produce this website!

He does mention a life insurance policy that expires next year, and he wouldn’t of been able to afford to renew it.  So that money can go to the folks he cares about.  Though I thought most, if not all such policies excluded suicide. I am not sure though, never looked into it. He seems intelligent enough that he would of known the details of the policy he had.

I felt pretty good about being prepared for economic collapse – the primary reason being all the gold and silver I owned. But, then one day I realized that all the gold and silver and guns and ammo and dried food and toilet paper in the world wouldn’t prevent me from seeing the calamity with my own eyes – either ignoring other’s plight or succumbing to it. And, that’s something I decided I simply was not willing to live through.

Right with him there, except for the fact about being prepared. I acknowledged a long time ago that there’s no point in trying to prepare for such an event, the resources required would be pretty enormous. My best friend(who is reading this, HI!!!)  has told me on a couple of occasions to go live with him in a cabin in the woods, live off the land(in the event of total collapse).. Not feasible for various reasons I don’t want to get into here.

But, if you plan to stick around, then you better plan to watch an economic collapse that will be worse than anything you can imagine.

It’s frustrating to me to see all of our leaders, whether it is in corporations or government show such, I’m not sure what the words are other than to call it something like false confidence.  Hiding the truth because sentiment is such an important factor of the economy. It’s everywhere, the more I see folks talk the more I see in most cases they really have no idea what they are doing, they are just hoping it works out.

The more I learn the more I realize how young of a civilization we really are and how little we actually know.

What pisses me off more than anything is the system in place that tries to educate us so we think we know. So we have faith in those that are making the decisions.

I’m the first one to admit I don’t know what the answers are(macro global economic/political type things) — but I’m also (one of)the first ones to admit that uncertainty in the first place, which would probably make me a bad leader. I can’t portray confidence because I don’t have confidence(in that stuff anyway, I believe I do portray confidence when it comes to the tech things I work with), I do have honesty, which is what this Martin fellow seems to have a lot of as well. Most people don’t want the truth, they just want to feel good.

One of the only videos I ever uploaded to Youtube was this, which is a good illustration from the corporate side of things. There is another bit (haven’t been able to find it last I checked) which showed the same sort of thing from our previous president where they walked through his various descriptions of the impending economic downfall. From storm clouds to whatever it was in the end.

I’m in complete agreement with this Martin guy though, what we experienced in 2008-2010 or whatever is nothing compared to what is coming. When that is exactly I’m not sure, it seems folks like the Fed etc seem to be able to pull rabbits out of their hats to drove the ponzi scheme just a bit further. My general expectation is within the next two decades, and I think that is probably a conservative estimate.

It is unfortunate that the topic of suicide is amongst those topics that are considered taboo. People don’t talk about it. The common theme is often mention the word and your deemed crazy and they want to lock you up in a padded room, fill you with meds until you conform, or die in the process.

There was a news report on NBC that I saw last year about a facility(hospital) where they assist people and their families to prepare for when that day will come. People perhaps like Martin who don’t want to live out their lives as a burden to others, unable to mentally and/or physically perform things. I thought it was pretty amazing to see. They go through tons of questions with the patient about scenarios and what do do with those scenarios. So when the time comes there is no doubt. There won’t be some random family member saying KEEP THEM ALIVE I DON’T CARE IF IT COSTS A MILLION $.

As with many topics, there was (in retrospect, it really didn’t hit me until a few years ago) an excellent Star Trek: The Next Generation episode on this very topic. It was called Half a Life from Season 4 (1991). At the time when I saw it, I suppose you could say I didn’t understand it, as I found the episode quite boring (well the special effects in the beginning were pretty neat). But as the health care debate picked up a few years ago I realized that episode told an interesting story that I never bothered to realize until that time.

Martin lists reasons he considered not to commit suicide (paraphrasing(?) them briefly, see the site for more details):

  1. Loved ones – obvious, people will miss you. More importantly perhaps is if you are in a situation where you are supporting someone else and they are dependent upon you. Martin was not in this situation
  2. Want to see the future. Live out retirement, travel the world perhaps, read books, play backgammon, look at granny porn (my grandfather did this a lot in the years before he died, honestly I did not know such porn existed until my sister+mother told me)
  3. People want to accomplish as much as they can in their lives and they don’t want to run out of time before they do it. Of course, for people who think that way, they never fulfill all those accomplishments anyway and they never will. So, the only thing to do is keep chasing them until you die.
  4. The last major reason I thought of for why people want to live indefinitely is the whole notion of leaving a legacy.

More quotes..

I once had a quasi bucket list when I was about 22 – things to accomplish by the time I was 30. When 30 came around and I hadn’t accomplish them, I decided the bucket list idea was stupid.


There will always be reasons to want to stay alive another year or five years or 10 years. It wouldn’t have mattered how long I lived, there would have been hundreds or thousands of itches to scratch!


I could take pride in the fact that I wasn’t going to be sucking on the nipple of the federal debt by taking social security and medicare. When the US economy collapses, it won’t have been me that contributed to taking it down.

Here he touches on life insurance again, I guess they do pay out for suicide –

Another reason why age 60 is ideal is that my life insurance expires next year and I would not be able to afford to get new insurance without paying a ton. And, it requires two years of waiting – once you get insurance – before you can commit suicide and still have the beneficiaries receive the death benefit.

Holy sh*t, he even brings up the aforementioned Half a Life episode of TNG. He devotes several paragraphs to it!

Then he goes into how he did it – a gun

One of the problems with shooting oneself is the obvious mess. I thought about that a lot. I didn’t want anyone I knew discovering my body and I didn’t want to make a mess in the house – something my sister or my landlord would have to deal with. No way.


I finally decided the best way to do it would be at 5AM on August 15, 2013 at the far southeast end of the parking lot at the Overland Park Police Station. If everything worked out right – and I’m sure it did, I called 911 at 5AM. I told them “I want to report a suicide at the south end of the parking lot of the Overland Park Police Station at 123rd and Metcalf. Bang.”

He left a note on himself which in part read

“I committed suicide of my own free will. I am not under the influence of any drugs. I am sorry for your inconvenience! You will be contacted within a matter of hours by my sister. She will find out about this by an overnight letter and/or email I sent to her which she will get this morning. In it, I explain the exact location where I shot myself and gave her your phone number. At that time, she will tell you who I am. If you discover who I am prior to her call, please do not contact her. I do not want her (or anyone else I sent letters to overnight) to find out about it from you. I want them to find out about it from me. Thank you!

Another quote

The act of suicide can be horrible for those left behind. I couldn’t control the fact of the matter, but I could control the circumstances. I believe the way I did it, coupled with the overnight letters/emails and this web site, is the best I can do to mitigate the hurt.

He wrote a bunch more but the most interesting stuff I suspect was in the first few pages that I read (up until the “Gun Control” topic which is only semi related).

It is fascinating to me to see the level of thought and analysis that went into his decision. Whether you agree with the decision or not is up to you, but to me I think the point is it was his decision. Call him greedy, or selfish or crazy or whatever, but I firmly believe that having the “freedom” (though I think it is illegal(hence the quotes), which is crazy) to make this decision and follow through on it is an important right to have.

Now if you cause major harm as a result of your action (say perhaps drive down the wrong direction on a freeway) then that’s a different scenario.  Martin was incredibly thoughtful in how he handled the whole situation, and for that I ..well I don’t really know how to put that into words.

If you are someone who would want to rob someone else of this right then I’d say it is you who are greedy, selfish or crazy. The only exception would be again if you were somehow economically dependent upon them.

While I understand Yahoo! decision to yank the site, as it probably was against their TOS – I only wish Martin would of chosen a better place to host the site! Fortunately there is a mirror, I’ll probably snag a copy of it myself just in case.

I don’t consider myself a very emotional person, reading his writing really did not evoke any emotional response. I went to my first(thus far, only) funeral almost two years ago now for a cousin of mine who also committed suicide(also via self inflicted gunshot). I hadn’t seen him since the late 80s, I had no emotional response for that either. I did feel bad for not “feeling” bad though, as strange as that may sound to write. I sat through the funeral as his loved ones and friends told stories about him and stuff for a few hours. It was an interesting experience. I’m sorry he is gone but from what I knew of the broader situations the family had experienced over the past few decades I can totally understand his decision. Anyway that is sort of off topic.

I hope the folks that where closest to Martin understand, accept, and most importantly support his decision.

I suppose the obvious thing to say here is may he rest in peace.

Any further discussion on the topic I am more than happy to talk about off line.

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