Time to update the ol’ blog

It’s not like I don’t have a plethora of perfectly valid excuses for not writing in my blog. It’s just not something that comes easily or naturally to me. But since I’ve updated a few things on my server (including the software that powers this blog), I might as well at least post something to make sure ye ol’ blog is working as it should.

In other news, it’s been a very crazy spring. I’ve been doing entirely too much travel for work, and I’m a bit road weary. I thoroughly enjoy what I do (and love interacting with open source enthusiasts all around the world!), but it takes me away from my family too much. And when I finally roll into bed at yet another hotel after a long day of teaching class or speaking at conferences, the last thing I feel like doing is tooting my own horn on my blog.

OK, time to stop complaining! Here’s to a happy (and hopefully less stressful) summer!

The Little Things You Find Along the Way

I’m constantly amazed by the little tips and tricks I stumble upon as I’m working to solve problems.  Earlier today, I found this little gem.

Apparently, there is a setting in OpenSSH 5.1 and later for visual remote host fingerprinting.  The basic concept is that it’s much easier for the human brain to notice a change in a visual pattern than in a string of hex digits.  To turn it on, simply add a line that says
VisualHostKey yes to your ~/.ssh/config file. Then, when you go to SSH into a server, you’ll see a visual representation of the remote host fingerprint, in addition to the regular fingerprint, as shown below:

[jsmith@hockey ~]$ ssh fedorapeople.org
Host key fingerprint is 07:d4:02:db:9f:70:d5:2d:7f:1b:6a:df:83:73:95:1d
+--[ RSA 2048]----+
|      ....  .. . |
|       +. ..  o .|
|      . +..    o |
|         = .   Eo|
|        S +   . B|
|         .   o oo|
|            . o o|
|             o +.|
|              o .|

See, now isn’t that handy?

Documentation (or the lack thereof)

Check out the yellow labels -- what do the rest of the buttons do?I’m in Seoul, Korea this week teaching one of the ever-popular Asterisk Bootcamp classes.  As luck would have it, my hotel room has the most amazing remote control in the world!  Not only does it control the big ol’ LCD TV and the DVD player, but it also controls the air conditioner and all the lights in the room (including both lights in the bathroom!)

In trying to actually use the remote control, however, I was given a stark reminder of how important documentation can be.  As you probably already know, I try to take an active role in the documentation teams for both Asterisk and the Fedora Project, but never seem to make the time to write as much as I’d like.  As such, I can only hope our documentation efforts are more effective than the yellow labels on my remote control — just documenting the bare minimum and forcing the user to experiment to do anything useful (and very likely getting lost in the process).

(It’s my own personal opinion that this is one of the ways that free/open source software often fails to keep up with it’s commercial rivals; Many open source projects can’t afford to hire technical writers, and if they’re lucky enough to have volunteers do the work, there often isn’t much praise for the hard work and effort that goes into it.)

If this reminder has you feeling the same way I am, why not step up to the plate and help out on the documentation front?  After all, the fearless leader and the rest of the docs crew needs your help!  As the old adage goes… many hands makes light work!  We’d be glad to have you join our ranks.

My first thoughts on Publican

So as part of my work with the Fedora Documentation team, I’ve started playing around with Publican. For those of you who aren’t aware, Publican is a documentation tool chain that started out being used internally at Red Hat (where it was called documentation-devel), and is now being opened up and hosted by Fedora. I won’t bore you with all the details yet, but needless to say it makes it easy to get started with writing documentation in DocBook format and getting that documentation packaged up correctly. Continue reading below if you’d like to know more. (If you could care less about documentation, just be on your toes — the docs team is gonna be a lot more efficient in the near future!)

Continue reading My first thoughts on Publican

Alas, it’s about time I got this going…

So, it’s been about three years since I last blogged on my personal blog. Why, you might ask? I don’t really have any wonderful excuses… it all boils down to the fact that I let other things take priority in my life. (And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing — haven’t you got anything better to do that read my random ramblings?) Anyhoo — the blog is back up and running, so with any luck I’ll post some thoughts here from time to time.