Saturday, December 31, 2005

Slackware Linux

Dear readers,

It's obvious thing to say that I really like Slackware Linux. Why? that's because of its stablity and simplicity. You know KISS? Keep It Simple Stupid!. You want to know Linux, learn Slackware. You want to get headache, you learn Slackware. :D . But once you master it, nothing beats it. For rock-solid stability of Linux, I gotta switch to Slackware. Mandrake could not fit the requirement. It has something to do with apic thing that got conflict with power management feature. This results in a hanging server . The solution always to hard reboot (by pressing the reset button). Don't get me wrong. Mandrake is a good distribution too but sometimes it contains unnecessary bells and whistles. For some reasons, it fails to run properly on certain machines.

To fix this problem (and after it gave me a lot of headaches and stomachache :P), I gave Slackware a go. Now after 3 days, I never notice a single hang and no slow whatsoever. This brings to happy users and the most important a happy system admin :-) . You can try access my webmail here.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mannheim - The Open Source city

The technology decision makers have already moved the majority of Mannheim's 120 servers to the open-source operating system. Next, they plan to shift its 3,500 desktops to the open-source productivity application, running on Linux. The migration should help the city with its aim of using programs that support open standards, which can be used by any software, whether closed source or open source. Some U.S. states--notably Massachusetts and local and national governments have been embracing standard file formats such as the OpenDocument format used by OpenOffice, a move that ensures that public documents won't be beholden to a particular proprietary program.

"We want to decide our IT strategy in Mannheim, and not have Microsoft make the decision for Mannheim," said Gerd Armbruster, the IT infrastructure manager at the German city.

"We want to decide our IT strategy in Mannheim, and not have Microsoft make the decision for Mannheim."

The city's IT department changed from Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 to Oracle Collaboration Suite because ODS supports open standards, even though it is proprietary software, Armbruster said. The switch to Linux was predominantly driven by the department's wish to use OpenLDAP, an open-source software package, rather than Microsoft's proprietary Active Directory, he added. On the desktop, the planned migration to OpenOffice was similarly driven by the city's desire to use OpenDocument, which Microsoft has said it will not support in its Office application. In September, the state of Massachusetts decided to standardize on desktop applications with OpenDocument, a move that has attracted controversy. The decision has come under fire from state officials. Last week, the Massachusetts governor's office said that it is "optimistic" that Microsoft's Office formats, once standardized, will meet the state guidelines for open formats.

In contrast to many other large-scale moves, the cost of the Linux shift was largely irrelevant in Mannheim's decision, Armbruster said. The city recently paid approximately 1 million euros (about $1.18 million) to Microsoft to migrate from Office 2000 to the 2003 version, but that was not important in internal discussions, Armbruster said.

"We never said to our mayor that if we switch to Linux, we won't need to pay 1 million euros to Microsoft," he said.

Although the city will save some money by switching to open-source desktops, it is likely to have to spend a considerable sum migrating desktop applications from Windows to Linux.

"We need to change 145 applications so they will work on Linux. This will cost millions of euros," Armbruster said.

Migrating those applications will not only take money, it will take time. Because of this, Mannheim's shift to Linux on the desktop is not due to start for five or six years. However, the move to OpenOffice on Microsoft Windows will begin next year, with the aim of putting the open-source productivity application on 3,500 desktops across 40 departments by 2009.

"The migration to OpenOffice has to end when support for Office 2003 ends, so we have about four or five years to complete the migration," Armbruster said.

Talk to customersThe infrastructure manager believes that one of the most important factors for a successful migration is acceptance by the people who actually use the software.

"It is important for me to have no resistance from users," he said.

It is so important that the Mannheim IT department is providing every city employee with copies of OpenOffice and Linux for their home PC and will even provide support for home users. The department is attempting to include those employees in the desktop migration project by arranging meetings where they can discuss their concerns. Armbruster thinks that the lack of user engagement is one of the main problems causing a delay in Munich's migration to open-source desktops.
"Most of the problems in Munich are due to resistance from users--they don't want to change to Linux," Armbruster said.

"It's important for an open-source project that you inform your users. You need to talk with users and speak about their problems."

In September, the city of Munich said that its switch to Linux for desktop computing would not get going until next year--one year later than planned and three years after it first announced its move to the open-source operating system. The IT department there is expecting to move 14,000 desktops from Windows NT 4.0 to Linux and from Microsoft Office 97 and 2000 to OpenOffice. Armbruster is confident that these kinds of delays won't happen with his city's migration.

"We haven't seen any resistance from users in the city of Mannheim. We have talked with department managers and power users and they accept our strategy to slowly move to Linux," he said.

"Most of the problems in Munich are due to resistance from users--they don't want to change to Linux."

The problems with Munich's switch encouraged Armbruster to publicize Mannheim's process, to show that an open-source migration can go more smoothly.

"Microsoft is probably very happy about the project in Munich because of its problems," he said. "One year ago, I didn't want to go public about our migration. I have now gone public because the project in Munich is not a success, but our project is. I wanted to say, 'Here is a city with about 6,000 employees where open source and open standards work already.'"

The OpenOffice migrationThe first stage in Mannheim's migration to OpenOffice, the evaluation of its Microsoft Office documents, started earlier this month. It is using a migration analysis tool called SCAI MAS to scan 500,000 administration documents and so identify which files cannot be automatically converted to OpenOffice.

"We expect that maybe 10 or 20 percent of documents will have problems when we move from Word to," Armbruster said.

Some of the macros contained within the Microsoft Office documents can be automatically converted into OpenOffice macros, but some will need to be reengineered. The evaluation project is due to be finished in mid-January, after which the IT department will start migrating the first departments to OpenOffice. It plans to switch over only two departments in the first year, one of which will be the IT department. Although some Mannheim employees will not have access to for a few years, they have already been using at least one open-source application for almost two years--the Firefox browser. Armbruster says the city has been using the Mozilla browser since version 0.8 came out in February 2004. Microsoft's Internet Explorer is not used for Internet access for "security reasons," he said.

"We want to move to Linux on the desktop when it has the same look and feel as Windows."

When Mannheim has finished its move to OpenOffice, it will start its migration to desktop Linux. This delay will not only give the city time to replace its 145 Windows-specific applications with programs that will run on Linux, but it should also ensure that the Linux desktop environment is more mature by the time Mannheim adopts it.

"In every new Linux version we see more Windows functionality," Armbruster said. "We want to move to Linux on the desktop when it has the same look and feel as Windows."

Armbruster did not say what version of Linux it plans on installing in the future, but he is a fan of Ubuntu, a free Linux distribution based on Debian. Ubuntu is the distribution that will be offered to city employees to try out at home, Armbruster said.

"I think Ubuntu is very interesting, more interesting than SuSE or Red Hat's desktop products," he said. "I have friends who wanted to try Linux at home, and when they installed SuSE or Red Hat, they had 500 or 800 programs. You don't need 800 programs; with Ubuntu you get fewer applications,"

Although other German cities echo Mannheim's view on the importance of open standards, many are reluctant to change, as they have only recently moved to proprietary technologies such as Active Directory, Armbruster said. There are other reasons why government agencies may find it hard to follow Mannheim's lead in adopting open standards. Mannheim is a long-term user of Unix, which has meant that the migration to Linux is easier for it than for bodies that predominantly use Microsoft software.

Cost is also likely to be a prohibitive factor for many government agencies. Mannheim's migration to Linux is expected to cost millions of euros. That short-term cost could be difficult to justify to senior management executives, who are unlikely to fully understand the need for open standards.
-- source : ZDnet

Sunday, December 25, 2005

dbmail - How to

First of all I would like to share with you all my experience setting up a *testing* mailserver using dbmail as the imap and postfix as the smtp server and of course on Linux. This time I used Slackware Linux 10.2 and this server is actually behind a firewall. For overview what is dbmail, please visit or read previous posting.

You need all of these:

  1. mysql server ( I used 4.1.14. This version supports InnoDB)*
  2. dbmail package ( i used version 2.0.7 )
  3. Postfix ( I used version 2.2.7 )
  4. DBMail source (get the latest from
* Since some DBMail tables can get VERY large (depending on your mailusage) we advise using InnoDB as database storage backend.

Let's get dirty!
Make sure mysql is running. First you'll need to create the DBMail database in MYSQL. You can do this by issueing the following command. This step is only necessary when you do not have a database for DBMail yet. Note that you will be prompted for the MySQL root password.

mysqladmin create dbmail -u root -p

This creates a database with the name "dbmail". Now you have to give a non-root user access to this database. Start the MySQL command-line client as root:

mysql -u root -p

and enter the following command:

GRANT ALL ON dbmail.* to dbmail@localhost identified by ''

Where should be replaced with the password you want for the dbmail user. After this step, the database is ready to be used by the dbmail user. The next step is the creation of the database tables used by DBMail. Log out of the MySQL client and run the following command from the command line. You will have to enter the password you set in the previous step.

mysql -u dbmail dbmail -p <>Copy the dbmail.conf file to /etc and edit the dbmail.conf file and set everything in there to your likeings. Make sure to set your database name, user and host are configured in dbmail.conf. Other options in the configuration file are documented there.

Run configure & make
Run the configure script. This script uses pg_config or mysql_config (depending on --with-mysql or --with-pgsql) to detect where the libraries and include files for these databases are. e.g. when working with PostgreSQL, this is the configure command:

./configure --with-pgsql

For MySQL,

./configure --with-mysql

After running configure, 'make all' will build the executables. Running 'make install' will install the executables in /usr/local/sbin.

Next you will need to create some users into the dbmail mailing sytem. Currently this can be done in two ways. One way is using the dbmail-users utility. The other way is doing it in the database itself. To do it using the dbmail-users utility and do the following:

dbmail-users -a -w -g -m [-s aliases]

clientid can be left 0 (this is if you want certain mailadministrators administer specific groups of mailusers). maxmail is the maximum number of bytes this user may have in his/her mailboxes. 0 is unlimited. Add K or M for kilobytes and megabytes. Aliases are a number of aliases for this user. @domain are domain aliases.

A user always needs to have at least one alias to receive mail, unless the users username is something like, where is a domain the mailserver deliveres to.


./dbmail-users -a zamri -w puttycat -g mail -m 25M -s

This will create a user zamri, with a password puttycat. It will set zamri's maillimit 25 Mb and all mail for, and will be sent to john. The is a fallback alias. This means that all mail that cannot be delivered to an existing alias for a address will sent to zamri.

Now for the postfix, i have to add this line in /etc/postfix/

dbmail-lmtp unix - - n - - lmtp

If you want verbose output in the mail log, add -v to lmtp, like this:

dbmail-lmtp unix - - n - - lmtp -v

Note : This is good for troubleshooting. Don't underestimate it but please note that you get a LOT of output in your logs when using this setting.

Now edit and add / change the mailbox_transport directive to:

mailbox_transport = dbmail-lmtp:localhost:24 ^
local_transport = dbmail-lmtp:localhost:24 *

*Note: This one to make sure local mail delivery to dbmail.
^Note: This is the step to make sure the mails use dbmail's transport but not including local delivery.

And then set this :

local_recipient_maps =

Note : This step is *VERY* important or mails from outside can not reach your mailbox. See INSTALL.postfix in source for more info.

Afterthat run this commands:

postmap /etc/postfix/transport
postfix reload

Run the dbmail's servers:


Make sure postfix and MySQL (or PostgreSQL) are running. Try sending and replying to local users first and if successful, you can then try the same to outside users.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

dbmail - The high performance mail server

DBMail is a mail system that stores mails into a database including attachments. I really like this idea when I first read about it on the net. The first thing came into my mind was speed. Traditional filesystem can't beat the speed of SQL query especially when we deal with thousands of users accessing millions of mails. That said, the time of retrieving, storing and searching of mails can be reduced significantly. One system that can compete with this is Cyrus. Cyrus is also conceptually the same as DBMail but it uses different database backend.

I am now struggling setting up my mail server based on DBMail and I use SquirrelMail as the frontend to login and access mails. Things go wrong somewhere and it's been 2 days now. I just can't receive mails for now. Login works ok. I hope I can complete it by next week.

Don't you think learning new technology is fun?

Sunday, December 4, 2005

How to setup USB Scroll Mouse in Linux

This is my experience in setting up my mouse (USB, scroll mouse) in my new Slackware Linux box. On standard installation, Slack installer did a good job of detecting my USB mouse but did not properly configure it for the scroll wheel. So, I just couldn't use the wheel to scroll down. On my Mandrake system, it did detect my USB mouse and the configured the scroll wheel automagically. This is what I need to add in my /etc/X11/xorg.conf in inputdevice section:

option "Protocol" "IMPS/2"
option "ZAxisMapping" "4 5"
option "Buttons" "5"

Make sure the Protocol is IMPS/2 because protocol PS/2 does not support scroll wheel. Happy scrolling!...

Friday, December 2, 2005

Gmail now with antivirus scanner

Gmail just launched its new feature for gmail users : virus scanner for attachment. The feature works this way:
  1. Each time we send and receive attachments , gmail will scan them for viruses.
  2. If it is found in an attachment we've received, the system will attempt to remove it, or clean the file, so we can still access the information it contains.
  3. If the virus can't be removed from the file, we won't be able to download it.
  4. If a virus is found in an attachment we're trying to send, we won't be able to send the message until we remove the attachment.
Although I never encountered any viruses attached to emails sent to my gmail's account (maybe they were running some sort of virus scanner before to filter attachments to /dev/null :) ), I still think this is important feature for gmail's users because some users don't know that their files has been infected by virus(es) and then they send it to their friends without knowing it.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

WiMax - The next generation of wireless technology

Wireless techology has become common these days. In Malaysia, ISPs has been introducing this technlogy for many years now. TMNet's HotSpot, JARING's wireless broadband and TIME's webbit and TIMEZONE. I've never bother about this technology since I don't have the equipment and i don't involve in setting up one. But when my company decided to buy ISDN line (one year ago before changing back to TMNet's Streamyx), the vendor gave us a free wireless access point (AP). Then, my involvement in setting up and learning this technology began. The most important point for me was "to get the idea how it works, know the system and how to implement it" . Then I realized many things and threw lots of "000000 I see" words. :)

Recently I've read about WiFi technology and its history. Many people think that wireless is WiFi. This is not true. There are many types of wireless network connection. Commonly used are :
  1. 802.11a (speed - 54 Mbps, FQ band - 5 GHz)
  2. 802.11b (speed - 11 Mbps, FQ band - 2.4 GHz) -- known as WiFi
  3. 802.11g (speed - 54 Mbps, FQ band - 2.4 Ghz)
As you can see above, the 802.11b type wireless network connection is the one known as WiFi. We usually use certain words loosely. For many of us, 802.11 is WiFi. :) Ok. Let's take a look at the next generation of wireless connection.

One of the most talked about developments for next generation wireless broadband deployment is a technology commonly referred to as WiMAX. A recent report issued to Congress by the Federal Communications Commission concluded that WiMAX “has the potential to alter and further accelerate the evolution of broadband services.”

As the next evolutionary step of its WiFi predecessor, WiMAX is being touted as an easily deployable “third pipe” that will deliver both flexible and affordable last-mile broadband access to millions. Many believe that WiMAX will do for broadband access what cellular phones did for telephones: connect users directly to the Internet from anywhere within a major metropolitan area.

What is WiMAX anyway?

WiMAX, short for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is a wireless standard developed by a working group of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The standards developed by the IEEE form the foundation for nearly all data communication systems and apply to coaxial, copper and fiber optic cables.

The IEEE sought to establish a more robust broadband wireless access (BWA) technology through its 802.16/WiMAX standard. It released its first 802.16 standard in December 2001 which addressed systems operating between 10 GHz and 66 GHz.

IEEE 802.16 addresses the "first-mile/last-mile" connection in wireless metropolitan area networks. It focuses on the efficient use of bandwidth between 10 and 66 GHz (the 2 to 11 GHz region with PMP and optional Mesh topologies by the end of 2002) and defines a medium access control (MAC) layer that supports multiple physical layer specifications customized for the frequency band of use.

WiMAX is a wireless metropolitan area network (MAN) technology that can connect IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi) hotspots with each other and to other parts of the Internet and provide a wireless alternative to cable and DSL for last mile (last km) broadband access. IEEE 802.16 provides up to 50 km (31 miles) of linear service area range and allows connectivity between users without a direct line of sight. Note that this should not be taken to mean that users 50 km (31 miles) away without line of sight will have connectivity. Practical limits from real world tests seem to be around "3 to 5 miles" (5 to 8 kilometers). The technology has been claimed to provide shared data rates up to 70 Mbit/s, which, according to WiMAX proponents, is enough bandwidth to simultaneously support more than 60 businesses with T1-type connectivity and well over a thousand homes at 1Mbit/s DSL-level connectivity. Real world tests, however, show practical maximum data rates between 500kbit/s and 2 Mbit/s, depending on conditions at a given site.

WiMAX in Malaysia

In my country, a company named AirZed is the pioneer in this new territory. According to Paul Tan, as of June 2005, AirZed’s WiMAX service covers Mid Valley, Damansara, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam. I don't know which area they have covered lately but for people in Kuala Lumpur and nearby, they don't have to worry because "all the latest and greatest technology will reach you sooner before others" :P. Prices start at RM188 a month for the Home package which offers 1Mbps download and 128kbps upload with a dynamic IP. The SOHO package is RM288 a month and it offers 1Mbps download and 384kbps upload, but with dynamic IP as well. The Business package is RM468 a month offering 1Mbps download and 512kbps upload. It also comes with a fixed IP and 6 free Airzed Wi-fi Hotspot accounts. As usual, once pioneer has started, others will follow sooner or later. Other companies especially big ISPs are eyeing this new technology.