A Different Kind of Linkrot

I’ve increasingly noticed that searching the web for answers to various technical questions gets me a lot of dead-ends or infinite loops. For example, when searching recently for information on libnss-ldap and libnss-compat, I found this forum thread:¬†http://www.linuxforums.org/forum/miscellaneous/172807-name-service-switch-file-nsswitch-conf-what-compat.html. It conveniently doesn’t answer the question — instead referring the reader to search Google. I ended up using different query terms and finding what I was looking for but as I said, this is happening more and more.

I find it interesting and somewhat bothersome that these types of responses — typically snarky to boot — are becoming more prevalent in search results and I hope it doesn’t get too out of hand.

Battlefield 3: Post Patch Woes

In short, the game won’t launch post-patch (the Nov 22 patch). I’ve tried installing the latest AMD video drivers, and all of the current windows updates, to no avail. Now I’m going to try leaving it in this state (trying to launch) overnight to see what happens.

FusionPBX Provisioning

I got FusionPBX Provisioning to work on my beta HomePBX system. Turns out that you must specify only one of TFTP or FTP provisioning directory, or else the system will not be able to write out all of the files. This is because it unsets one of the variables ($file_name) after writing out the file once, but will still try to write out the file a second time in the FTP directory anyways (with an empty filename). Fun times. Because the system writes out all of the files to this directory, I was able to cobble together an nginx config that allows my Polycom phone to provision and push logs to the provisioning directory. Still no luck getting it to register though.


One thing I feel I’ve learned in the world of systems administration is that although there is such a thing as good documentation, it’s much like good food. It’s only good right after you make it, or if you take very good care of it. Depending on how you made it, it might not keep very well. All this to say, FreeSWITCH’s documentation left me lost and confused. The documentation seemed to me to be very fragmented, in that the valuable parts were scattered amongst various wiki articles and blog posts about how someone got FreeSWITCH working with specific hardware for specific purposes. It would have been nice to have seen an overview about some general conventions and a thorough description of what happens when you turn up FreeSWITCH out-of-the-box.

Compare this to Elastix (which is really just FreePBX + addons) where you can dig around in the GUI and get most of the configuration figured out fairly quickly. It’s not an apt comparison or a very fair one, but it describes my predicament. I am attempting to use FusionPBX with FreeSWITCH but it seems like FusionPBX doesn’t really take the bumps out of FreeSWITCH, rather just simplifies access to the configs.

In any case, here’s what I have on FreeSWITCH so far:

  • It’s very important to understand that the XML configuration files are all interpolated into a single file at runtime. This file is located at /var/log/freeswitch/freeswitch.xml.fsxml on FreeBSD. I had problems with redundant tags and nesting that were happening because documentation and HOWTO snippets weren’t explicit in how to specifically apply each example. (in other words Copy & Paste fail.)
  • When configuring POTS hardware, it’s important to note that DAHDI drivers instruct you to configure your analog ports with the signalling you expect to see from the far endpoint (on an FXO port, you would configure FXS signalling, as the CO side will use that signalling.) FreeTDM does the opposite — you configure the port with the signalling that the port will use. (On and FXO port, you would configure FXO signalling.) I didn’t see this in any of the documentation until after I found it mentioned in an e-mail to the freeswitch-users mailing list. I then found it on an FAQ/troubleshooting page. I lost two days to figuring this out. Mostly because I was doing this at 3am those days.
  • Internally, FreeSWITCH seems to refer to endpoints using a nomenclature like this: module/instance/counter. For example, (FreeTDM/trunk/1) or (sofia/internal/1000@example.com). There also seems to be an alternative nomenclature which causes some sort of internal resolver process to be used to identify the specific endpoint: “extension dialplan_type dialplan_context“. For example “1000 XML default”.¬†Examples in the documentation didn’t appear to explain this at all. I had lots of trouble getting my FreeTDM extensions to work properly, to an extent that I began to believe that I wouldn’t be able to use my hardware under FreeBSD. It turned out that I was putting them in the configuration wrong. I had “FreeTDM/1/2” or “FreeTDM/exten/1/2” (meaning module/span_number/channel_number” or “module/span_name/span_number/channel_number” instead of the correct nomenclature above.

I’m sure there’s more, but I’m more interested in getting this posted for now, and getting something more formalized up later. I’ve been working with FreeSwitch more over the past few days since I started writing this post on the 30th and things are coming along, slowly. I at least have the PSTN stuff fairly well down, and got voicemail and SIP registrations partially working as well. The next steps are to smooth eveything out and get some better logging and UI in place (e.g. error reports when lines are busy, etc.)

Update Nagging: Getting out of Hand

These days it seems I have less and less time to use my machine, let alone maintain things. At the same time I’ve noticed that software has become increasingly whiny and nagging when “new versions” become available. WordPress, Firefox, SumatraPDF, FileZilla, Notepad++ are just a few that come to mind that more often than not demand that an update get installed close to every time I use them. (Maybe not so much with Firefox.)

What’s the point? I’m not really sure. A quick search on the WordPress nag indicates that it’s some kind of nudge towards “don’t come crying in the forums if some nifty ajax thingy doesn’t work in your ancient browser”. Like that’s going to work. Congratulations, now folks will barge into your forums and complain about the nagging pop-ups.

I do know one thing: Each and every one of those programs is up for review to be replaced with something less needy. I need a bit more longevity out of my software. WordPress and Firefox are at the top of that list. I’ve been planning a Django migration for some time now, and I’ve been exploring alternate browsers as well.

Brave New Worlds

I’ve been doing a lot of exciting things lately — too many to go into great detail right now.

  • FreeSwitch / FusionPBX as a replacement for Elastix. This is allowing me to roll all of the services provided by the Elastix box into another already built system.
  • URL Shortener. Still in progress, but hopefully coming soon.
  • Anti-Spam stuff — site-wide SpamAssassin with Spam-folder support.
  • XMPP Server with Conferencing

Additionally, I have been pipe-dreaming up more projects to keep me busy.

  • ClamAV for the anti-spam stuff, plus a web-based quarantine manager
  • Debating breaking down and installing a IMAP-backed webmail package
  • Diaspora seeds
  • lighttpd or nginx as reverse proxy / static host to replace Apache
  • Django as a replacement for WordPress and gateway to many more things for the site.

I have been forced to budget my time somethin’ fierce, but here and there I’ve made some great progress. Hopefully I’ll be able to document it all here at some point.


I’ve made some progress on my MicroStorage project. Some day I’ll have to document it in a page here. I managed to get the storage server and my XP workstation log in using Kerberos credentials and be able to talk to each other. The downside is that Windows 7 is not cooperating. I’ve taken a quick peek at having my Mac talk to the storage server but that may prove to be troublesome as well.

The Windows 7 issue seems to be related to intricacies of the newer MS kerberos implementation.


Been playing Brink a good amount since the release date. Don’t really have too much to say about it other than I like it. I wish they had linux server files for it so I could run it on my box here. In the meantime I’m examining the option of running it under wine.

Handyman Bill

I came up with this crazy idea related to politics. I need to start writing stuff down about it, so I’m starting by putting something out here. The inspiration came from my vague understanding of a couple of aspects of the complex structure of politics in the US, specifically:

  1. Individuals and households largely do no participate in governance or politics, sometimes even in their own communities.
  2. Many pieces of legislation are not generated by legislators, instead they are provided to legislators by interested parties.
  3. Individuals can become deeply invested in governance and politics when it come to specific issues that are important to them.

I had the idea to apply some principles I’ve seen applied in other fields to the “problem” of disinterest in governance and politics. I mention governance separately and distinctly from politics because while I believe it is important for citizens to be engaged in issues and questions of governance, I don’t believe that should necessary entail involvement in politics in general. I suppose I might have to elaborate on that further at some point, but I digress.

So my idea is this: Create a system/framework/template that can be used to essentially “crowdsource” support for particular issues of governance so that individuals can have the same effect in politics as a larger interest group — but on the scale of individual issues. Initially I had the idea for a single website, named something akin to “Handyman Bill” which would allow for individuals to submit a request — like a helpdesk trouble ticket — for a specific issue and have that reviewed and contributed to by the public at large, and ultimately to have that followed through by the network of individuals who participate in the site. It is not necessarily a novel idea but I feel it’s important to get it out there. I will continue to work on it and polish it.

Fixing a Firebird

My sister owns a 1990 Pontiac Firebird with the 3.1L v6 motor. It had been sitting for a few months because rather suddenly it couldn’t hold an idle. It would crank and fire immediately but run really rough, and stall both if you let it run or if you gave it any throttle. I managed to pull two codes from the computer: 33 (MAP sensor high) and 35 (IAC valve failed).

The first code to show up was the MAP sensor code. I checked the sensor and the lines figuring that it could be those rather than the sensor itself. The vacuum line was in fact broken and so I replaced it. No dice. I then replaced the sensor. Still no dice. I replaced the MAP sensor. That caused code 35 to show up.

I pulled the IAC valve off and it looked bad. It was all caked up with carbon and I figured that maybe it just needed to be cleaned. Didn’t help. I decided I wasn’t going to dump any more cash into the project at the time so I let the car sit a few more months. After finally replacing the IAC valve there was still no progress. At this point I grew anxious. I was out of ideas. After scouring the ‘net for a few hours I decided to pull the manifold off and check the injectors. Bingo. 4 of the 6 injectors had a resistance of 12 ohms, One had 6 ohms, and one had 8 ohms.

After a trip to two different Advance Auto Parts, I replaced the injectors and put the car back together. Initially the engine loped between racing and a rough idle — but it ran. Eventually it stabilized and I was able to drive the car around the block. At which point it blew the O2 sensor out of the fitting on the exhaust pipe.