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Configure your gaming mouse on Linux

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Or: Configure XInput properties for USB devices on Linux dynamically
Using gamer mice with Linux occasionally turns out to be problematic, because their high resolution combined with the default X server settings makes the mouse pointer incredibly fast to a point where it is unusable. I am using a Razer Taipan mouse at 4000 DPI, a good speed for gaming, but not for work.

USB devices on Linux are of course configured dynamically. Their X windows properties like mouse pointer acceleration are managed through the XInput tool. The basic desktop settings tools allow configuring the mouse pointer speed, but not much more. This is insufficient when using multiple devices (in this case, the built-in laptop trackpoint and an external mouse) that require different settings. Also, there is no way to disable mouse pointer acceleration, the most useless default setting ever invented :-) One solution which is described below is to script configuring the settings using XInput and Python. There is an open question at the end in case anybody is able to help.

The basic task is to examine the input devices known to the X server (for example by using xinput --list on the command line), determine the device ids from the listing, and then applying specific properties to known devices. While xinput supports device names as selectors when setting properties, this approach turned out not to work reliably, probably because the devices are listed more than ones and names occur multiple times because of that. What did work was setting the device properties using the device ids. So the script first determines the device id for a device name, and then applies properties to it:

#!env /usr/bin/python
import sh, re

def configure_device(device_name, properties):
    for line in sh.xinput("list"):
        match = re.match('.*{0}.*id=(\w+).*'.format(device_name), line)
        if match:
            device_id = match.group(1)
            for property in properties:
                sh.xinput("set-prop", device_id, property, properties[property])
            print("{0} (device id {1}) configured.".format(device_name, device_id))
            return
    print("Device named {0} not found!".format(device_name))

This works reliably as long as the device names are detected in xinput --list. If a device cannot be found, the script continues. This is not an error, it happens for example in case a USB mouse is not connected.

Note

There are other ways to configure mouse pointer settings, as for example described in the ArchLinux Wiki. These approaches failed in the described case because they assume that the device id is known or does not change, or have to be configured by the super user.

The next step is to determine the specific properties to set. This requires some experimentation to match personal preferences. The trick to get rid of mouse pointer acceleration is to set Device Accel Velocity Scaling to 1. The mouse pointer speed can be influenced with Device Accel Constant Deceleration. The following snippet configures separate speeds for the trackpoint and the Razer mouse, and disables acceleration:

configure_device('IBM TrackPoint',
                 { 'Device Accel Velocity Scaling': 1,
                   'Device Accel Constant Deceleration': 1 } )
configure_device('Razer Taipan',
                 { 'Device Accel Velocity Scaling': 1,
                   'Device Accel Constant Deceleration': 0.5 } )

The rest is up to some trial-and-error fiddling to find the right settings. The script uses the Python sh module. A common way to make that available is to install it using pip. Assuming sudo accepts pip invocations without asking for a password, wrapping the configuration script in this shell batch takes care of it:

#!/bin/sh
#
sudo pip -q install sh && \
    python $HOME/bin/Setup-Mouse-Pointer-Acceleration.py

The remaining question is how to automatically invoke the configuration script whenever a X input device is connected. If anybody knows how to get this done, please leave a comment.


Filed under: Coding, CreativeDestruction, English, FLOSS, OSS Tagged: FLOSS
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Objekt: "Ratchet"

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It's probably safe to assume that "ratchet", as used by the Berlin producer Objekt, has little to do with its American vernacular meaning—a wild-card-like connotation that shifts according to context—and more to do with tools, cranks, and tension.

One of the rare uptempo cuts on Objekt's spellbinding debut, Flatland, "Ratchet" and its snapping syncopations are firmly rooted in an electro tradition stretching through Kraftwerk, Drexciya, I-F, Soul Oddity, and even Autechre. Indeed, the way it rolls up influences from throughout that history is a little like a snowball gathering mass as it goes hurtling down the mountainside, bouncing from crag to crag.  

Given its white-knuckled momentum, it's one of the few cuts from the album you might expect to hear in a DJ set. But it also has a snowball effect within the context of the album, embedded with sounds that occur throughout—glassy drones, shards of white noise, metal crunch—like so many chunks of gravel.

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fabuloso
17 days ago
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Miami Beach, FL

Permissions: Beyond owner, group, and everyone else

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 ITworld: The setfacl (set file access control lists) and getfacl (get file access control list) commands were designed to allow more than the traditional limited assignment of privileges.

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Dragoş Mănac: Cum functioneaza capitalismul. Ghid pentru oameni, nu...

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Cum functioneaza capitalismul. Ghid pentru oameni, nu clase.

Cuvantul care ne sperie

Capitalism – un cuvant care trezeste sentimente negative romanului de rand. Nu stim sa-i dam o definitie exacta. Stim ca vine cu bune si rele. Stim ca trebuie tinut in frau. Cumva, capitalismul este un rau necesar. Cei care au prins comunismul in floare au si o expresie asociata capitalismului: exploatarea omului de catre om.

La orice protest violent o sa apara cei care spun hotarat: Jos Capitalismul! Cand viata politica e agitata, ies propagandistii comunismului de tip nou. Deghizati in filozofi sau jurnalisti ei ne spun ce prosti suntem cand mergem catre capitalism. Aceste tipete alimenteaza sentimentul negativ de fond. In mintea oamenilor se construieste si se accentueaza indoiala. Multi gandesc asa: Se pare ca de la capitalism ni se trag toate problemele. Trebuie sa facem ceva cu acest capitalism. Comunismul era rau, dar avea si multe parti bune. Unde e viata demna pe care ne-au promis-o toti?

Inainte sa ajungem la concluzii bazate pe sentimente induse de altii, sa ne intrebam: Stim ce este capitalismul? Sunt convins ca 90% din populatia Romaniei nu are habar ce este capitalismul. Ceilalti 10% cred ca stiu ce este capitalismul. Mare parte din ei au o conceptie falsa. Avem de a face cu un concept esential pentru bunastarea noastra, care se ascunde in vazul tuturor. Il folosim, dar nu il cunoastem si nu il intelegem.

Capetele vorbitoare de la televizor, jurnalistii sau intelectualii auto-suficienti nu sunt cei care sa-ti explice cum functioneaza capitalismul. Unii dintre ei nu il inteleg. Altii, il inteleg si il urasc din toata inima. Din fericire, eu nu sunt intelectual si nu apar la televizor. Sunt antreprenor si am avut privilegiul de a intelege cum functioneaza capitalismul in colturi diferite ale lumii. Nu o sa va plictisesc cu definitii savante, si nici cu detalii complexe. O sa ramanem in zona practica si utila intelegerii acestui termen-umbrela.

Actorii capitalismului

Capitalismul este un sistem economic bazat pe proprietatea privata si oportunitatea de a castiga din oferirea de produse si servicii catre consumatori, pe o piata libera.

Noi toti suntem consumatorii. Consumam mancare, electricitate, masini, internet, distractii, haine, carti, vin, mobila s.a.m.d. Toate acestea sunt bunuri economice – au un cost exprimat in bani. Rolul capitalismului este sa produca orice bunuri isi doresc consumatorii: mai mult, mai bun, mai ieftin, mai eficient.

Exista si bunuri neeconomice: aerul de afara, apa de ploaie, retetele de mancare sau poeziile. Desi sunt valoroase, ele sunt disponibile pentru oricine, permanent. Asa ca nu au valoare economica, nu costa bani, sunt in afara capitalismului sau a oricarui alt sistem economic.

In capitalism, oamenii au roluri. Sa luam un exemplu practic: Popescu vrea sa-si faca o brutarie in satul natal. E nevoie de o investitie pentru construirea brutariei (bani, teren). Mai apoi, e nevoie de o investitie in materie prima (faina, drojdie etc). Exista costuri cu angajatii, cu chiria, cu vanzarea painii intr-un magazin – alti bani care trebuie investiti. Rolurile sunt urmatoarele:

  1. Capitalistul — este cel care a economisit bani si acum ii investeste. Vom considera ca parintii domnului Popescu sunt cei care vin cu banii in afacere. Ei sunt capitalistii. Fara ei, nu ar exista afacere, locuri de munca, paine. Risc mediu, castig mediu.
  2. Antreprenorul – este cel care isi asuma un risc si creeaza o afacere. Popescu este in acest caz antreprenorul. El are ideea unei brutarii si munceste pentru a o pune pe picioare. Riscul sau este foarte mare: daca ii merge afacere, Popescu va castiga bine. Daca nu ii merge, va pierde tot ce a investit: munca, timp si bani. Risc mare, castig mare.
  3. Muncitorul – este angajatul, care isi vinde munca. Alaturi de restul utilajelor si ingredientelor, munca sa este considerata un factor de productie. Fara munca nu iese painea. Cu cat pregatirea muncitorului este mai inalta, cu atat munca sa e mai scumpa, salariul e mai mare. Un brutar experimentat va castiga mai mult decat vanzatorul de paine. Risc mic, castig mic.
  4. Consumatorul – este clientul care isi cumpara painea produsa de brutarie. El nu risca nimic, dar are un cost, banii dati pe paine.

Evident, Popescu poate sa fie si capitalist si antreprenor si muncitor in acelasi timp. Muncitorii pot fi si investitori/capitalisti. Rolurile nu sunt fixe, iar interesele celor implicati sunt variabile.

Investitor = Capitalist. Tin sa subliniez asta. Cand cititi sau auziti la televizor “Vrem investitii, vrem investitori!” de fapt se spune“Vrem capitalism, vrem capitalisti!”.

Ca afacerea sa mearga, avem nevoie de conditii capitaliste:

  • Piata libera. E necesar ca statul sa te lase sa iti vinzi painea.
  • Consumatori liberi. E necesar sa nu fie interzis accesul la sistemul capitalist, cu ajutorul caruia pot obtine un venit.
  • Proprietate privata. E necesar ca investitorul sa stie ca are sens sa economiseasca. E nevoie ca antreprenorul sa stie ca afacerea lui va ramane a lui, nu va fi confiscata de stat.

In mod evident, intr-un sistem capitalist, consumatorul conduce. Consumatorul voteaza cu banii sai cand cumpara produse sau servicii. El ii spune producatorului: Esti cea mai buna optiune pentru mine in acest moment. Iti cumpar produsul azi, ca tu sa cresti maine. Pe viitor vreau ceva la fel bun, sau chiar mai bun de la tine.

Ce NU face capitalismul

Exista un arsenal nelimitat de acuze impotriva capitalismului. Cand nu iti convine, gasesti mii de moduri prin care sa le demonstrezi cum capitalismul nu functioneaza. Mai mult, este responsabil de orice: de la asasinatele din timpul razboaielor pana la punctele negre pe nas.

Capitalismul nu rasplateste strict inteligenta. Poti fi un inventator extraordinar, poti sa ai un flux de idei geniale, asta nu iti va aduce bani. Ai nevoie de inteligenta, dar ai nevoie si de actiune, de capital si de clienti. Doar cand reusesti sa transformi o idee geniala intr-un produs genial vandut genial catre omul de rand care isi doreste sa-l cumpere, vei castiga in jocul capitalist.

Capitalismului nu-i pasa de intelectuali. Majoritatea oamenilor cu o inteligenta peste medie, cu diplome, cu titluri, cu articole publicate pretind, prosteste, sa fie rasplatiti economic pentru capacitatea lor intelectuala. Cata vreme capacitatea lor nu se traduce printr-un produs sau un serviciu cumparat de ceilalti oameni, ea este un bun neeconomic, nu valoreaza bani. Intelectualul cu pretentii este tratat ca oricine altcineva – in mod corect! Practic, pe mine ma ajuta mult mai tare brutarul de la colt sau instalatorul sau inginerul de la service-ul auto decat o face vreun studios adormit in studiu.

Capitalismul nu impune valorile unora in detrimentul altora. In fata unei piete libere si a proprietatii private, e imposibil sa ii obligi pe toti sa-ti respecte valorile sau credintele proprii. Capitalismul nu te face mai crestin si nici mai ateu, nu te face mai roman si nici mai anti-roman, nu te face mai familist si nici mai singuratic, nu e biserica si nici partid. Cand este lasat sa functioneze, capitalismul impune moralitatea generala, deoarece respecta libertatea si alegerile fiecarei persoane si ofera ocazia tuturor sa-si castige cinstit un trai mai bun.

Capitalismul nu ne face pe toti egali. Ambitia nebuneasca de a face toti oamenii egali defineste socialismul. In mod evident, oamenii nu sunt egali, ci unici. Fiecare om e unic, deci diferit ca fizic, ca optiuni, ca idei, ca pasiuni, ca aspiratii. Societatea in care toti suntem facuti egali cu forta este una anti-umana. Capitalismul in schimb este cea mai mare forta de omogenizare economica, a oportunitatilor si a accesului la o viata mai buna pentru toti. Comparati SUA, Elvetia si Singapore cu Venezuela, Coreea de Nord sau Cuba. E o comparatie a societatilor profund capitaliste cu cele profund comuniste, in care se predica egalitatea.

In Romania, dorinta de egalitate este exprimata popular prin expresia:„Sa moara si capra vecinului.” Adica, mai bine sa fim egali in saracie, decat inegali in bogatie. Sa zicem ca ti-a murit capra. Cel mai bun lucru pentru tine care i se poate intampla vecinului este sa aiba doua capre, sau trei capre sau mii de capre! Cu cat el are mai mult, cu atat tie iti va fi mai bine. Poti sa ii vinzi nutret pentru capre. Poti sa te angajezi la el. Poti sa incepi sa produci branza in asociere cu vecinul. Apar mii de posibilitati ca tu sa o duci mai bine, vecinul sa o duca mai bine si toata lumea din jurul vostru sa o duca mai bine. Si daca esti lenes si invidios, tot e mai bine – va avea de unde sa-ti dea de pomana. Si ce isi doreste romanul? Sa moara si capra vecinului…

image

Capra prospera careia nimeni nu ii doreste moartea.

Cui ii este frica de capitalism?

Avem cateva categorii de oameni care sunt puternic afectati de sistemul capitalist. Direct, sau prin interpusi, unii din ei sunt in permanenta in atac, intoxicand dezbaterile publice cu mesaje anti-capitaliste.

In urmatoarele categorii de oameni ii vom gasi pe cei carora le este frica de capitalism:

1. Castele. Ordinea sociala curenta ii avantajeaza pe cei care au privilegii politice. De cate ori nu ai vazut oameni incapabili pusi in pozitii cheie intr-un sistem inutil? Ei incaseaza niste bani de pe urma ta. Intr-un sistem capitalist in care ai avea optiunea de a spune „Nu am nevoie de tine” ei ar disparea. Altii, ca de exemplu notarii, ar fi mult mai ieftini si mai eficienti in lipsa privilegiilor.

2. Pretinsii intelectuali. E in firea omului ca atunci cand crede ca stie ceva mai mult sa se umfle in pene si sa se considere superior si important. Vorbim de o boala de care toti suferim, inclusiv persoana mea. Orice manager mediu, orice functionar care sta la un birou, oricine are cateva certificari, incepe usor sa creada ca valoarea sa e data de titlu si pretentii, nu de realizari.

Fiind oameni inteligenti, ei reusesc sa se minta elaborat si sa pretinda ca cei din jurul lor le datoreaza recunoastere morala si materiala. Asa ajungem la: „De ce castiga antreprenorul mai mult decat mine? Eu sunt mai prost? Suntem egali!” Frica de lumea reala si de performanta economica este paralizanta pentru acesti oameni. Solutia este retragerea intr-o lume inventata, in care ei sunt superiori, capitalismul e gresit, iar prostii nu trebuie scapati de sub controlul si autoritatea iluminatilor.

Acestor oameni inteligenti le recunosc meritele si le admir capacitatea intelectuala, insa nu cred ca le datoram mai mult de atat. Exista vacari sau macelari in Romania care au o situatie materiala mai buna ca a mea. Nu ii consider inferiori, nici superiori si nici egali. Din nou, le recunosc meritele. Ii consider mai buni ca mine in anumite domenii, iar eu ma consider mai bun ca ei in altele. Nu stramb din nas. Stiu cat de greu este sa faci orice afacere sanatoasa si sa ai clienti multumiti. Nu le explic de sus teorii politice sau sociologice, pentru ca nu sunt atat de mic ca om incat sa-mi folosesc vreun avantaj punctual pentru a imi demonstra pretinsa superioritate.

3. Asistatii. Cei care sunt asistati social astazi se impart in: cei care nu pot sa munceasca si cei care nu vor sa munceasca. Asistatii sunt foarte importanti intr-o societate democratica, deoarece ei pot decide alegerile.

Cei care nu vor sa munceasca, intr-o societate capitalista vor fi fortati sa munceasca. Ei considera ca e mai bine sa traiasca azi cu putinul luat de la oamenii care produc ceva, profitand de pe urma sistemului socialist.

Cei care nu pot sa munceasca la randul lor sunt de doua feluri: cei care nu pot fizic sa munceasca (bolnavi, invalizi) si cei care nu au unde sa munceasca, desi isi doresc. Cei din urma reprezinta drama societatii romanesti. Intr-o societate capitalista locurile de munca nu sunt o problema. In societatea romanesca, ei sunt masa de manevra, deoarece e mult mai usor sa ii izolezi si sa te folosesti de ei decat sa ii ajuti sa-si rezolve problema.

Politicienii (culmea, socialisti!) ii cumpara cu ajutoare sociale acordate din imprumuturi luate de statul roman, pe care tot asistatii sau urmasii lor le vor plati. Trebuie recunoscut geniul din a cumpara pe cineva cu un credit pe care tot el il plateste. E o marsavie desavarsita, imbracata in hainele omeniei socialiste si prezentata ca salvare.

4. Cei neinformati. Si aici intram aproape toti, din pacate. Propaganda socialista inca ne face sa ne temem de conceptul de capitalism. Natura umana este usor impresionabila si crede in idealuri.Muncitorii uniti care detin totul impreuna – un ideal frumos, dar profund utopic, care a omorat sute de milioane de oameni si a condamnat la saracie si supunere miliarde.

Capitalismul nu ne face complet buni, peste noapte. Ne slefuieste, ne da mediul economic sanatos in care sa crestem ca oameni. Cel mai important – nu ne forteaza sa ne pierdem reperele, sa devenim animale.

Oamenii sunt in general buni atunci cand au conditii bune de viata. Dupa ce isi acopera necesarul de baza devin darnici si plin de compasiune. De aceea, intr-o societate bogata nu se moare de foame, nici daca esti incapabil fizic sa-ti asiguri mancarea.

Bunatatea este inlocuita de supravietuire ca prim instinct atunci cand viata devine foarte grea. Instinctul de supravieturie te impinge la orice pentru a ramane in viata. De aceea, intr-o societate saraca, patura de jos este condamnata la moarte si toata lumea ajunge in patura de jos. Muncitorii nu sunt beneficiarii, ei sunt primele victime.

Vor exista mereu conflicte intre muncitori, intre muncitori si antreprenori, intre investitori si antreprenori s.a.m.d. Majoritatea afacerilor esueaza. Sigur se ajunge in situatii tensionate, triste sau chiar dramatice. La fel ca intr-o familie, aceste conflicte sunt omenesti, inevitabile. Niciun membru nu poate rezista sau prospera singur. Toti depindem de ceilalti. Conflictele sunt temporare, insa colaborarea permanenta este in avantajul tuturor.

Asadar, avem nevoie de un sistem care sa ne permita prosperitatea pentru a putea evolua ca oameni. Avem nevoie de capitalism.

Alternativa socialista si capitalismul de cumetrie

Spuneam la inceput: Capitalismul este un sistem economic bazat pe proprietatea privata si oportunitatea de a castiga din oferirea de produse si servicii catre consumatori, pe o piata libera.

Comunismul este sistemul in care proprietatea este comuna (a statului) si toti oamenii muncesc (la stat) pentru a produce intr-o piata controlata (de stat) pentru ceilalti consumatori, fara profit sau castig personal. Este vorba de un sistem economic si politic.

Socialismul este pasul intermediar, puntea dintre capitalism si comunism. In socialism, statul intervine si redistribuie castigurile, detine o buna parte din mijloacele de productie si le foloseste (teoretic) pentru a creste binele public.

Anii de socialism si comunism ne-au invatat ca aceste teorii sunt niste minciuni crunte. In comunism exista o clasa privilegiata care o duce foarte bine pe spinarea celor pe care declara ca ii serveste si salveaza, oamenii de rand. Revenind la Coreea de Nord, avem un exemplu vizual – intr-o tara in care oamenii sufera de „egalitate alimentara” si mor de foame la propriu, liderul lor este obez. O victorie a socialismului.

Noul socialism, promovat in Romania astazi, arata cu degetul spre diferentele sociale si a gasit si responsabilul pentru acestea. Nu veti crede! Tot capitalismul. Promotorii socialismului sunt unii din intelectualii amintiti mai sus. Ei sunt capabili sa educe si sa convinga oamenii de rand in spiritul socialist. In schimb, clasa conducatoare le ofera recunoastere publica, cate un post linistit si bine platit, totul foarte departe de nevoia de a produce ceva cerut si util societatii. E un targ pe care unii il cauta. Altii sunt atat de imbatati cu propria lor importanta incat isi indeplinesc misiunea „salvatoare” din pura convingere.

Socialismul se bazeaza pe un stat opresiv. Cei care sunt productivi si eficienti, cei care au economisit si au investit trebuie deposedati si facuti sa taca. Stiti povestile din timpul colectivizarii in Romania? Asa se impunea socialismul, in forma lui bruta. Socialismul este un sistem economic, dar si unul politic. Socialismul pe scara larga nu poate exista fara un stat violent. De aceea, intelectualul socialist vrea legi si reglementari, in timp ce capitalistul vrea sa fie lasat in pace sa-si opereze afacerea.

Va aduceti aminte documentarul „Kapitalism, reteta noastra secreta”? Prezinta toti oamenii de afaceri romani care s-au imbogatit dupa ‘89. Multi sunt tentati sa creada ca asa arata capitalismul in practica. Nimic mai fals. E vorba de crony capitalism sau capitalismul de cumetrie. Vorbim de mecanismele castelor, interesele unui grup de oameni protejate de stat, pe o piata controlata.

Revenind la brutaria lui Popescu. Sa zicem ca primarul are puterea legala de a le interzice altora sa produca, sa vanda sau sa cumpere paine. Popescu are singura brutarie de la care este legal sa cumperi.Vorbim de capitalism? Nu! Desi Popescu va avea o afacere de succes, aceasta fi sustinuta de ajutorul imoral dat de primarie si va incalca libertatea clientilor. Asa arata capitalismul de cumetrie. Asa s-au privatizat, vandut sau exploatat majoritatea resurselor tarii. Vina nu este a capitalismului, este a celor care au denaturat legile pentru a-si ingrosa punga. Intr-o piata libera ei ar fi fost mancati de concurenta, in interesul cetateanului, consumatorul final.

Tarile lumii au astazi sisteme politice si economice hibride.Unele profund capitaliste, altele profund socialiste. Majoritatea au un amestec. Sistemul socialist e falimentar economic, de aceea are nevoie de capitalism, ca sponsor al utopiei egalitatii. China este exemplul perfect: comunism la nivel politic, capitalism partial in sistemul economic. Uniunea Europeana, in mod tragic, este o constructie grav socialista.

Oricine e adanc implicat in economie sau politica are o teorie despre care e solutia cea mai buna. Personal, eu cred in cea cu zero socialism, altii sunt mai rezervati. Capitalismul este singura sansa reala pe care o are Romania la bunastare si dezvoltare. Pentru a putea fi eficienti, avem nevoie de proprietate privata, libertate si piete libere. Avem nevoie ca statul sa devina minimal, sa se ocupe cu garantarea proprietatii si a libertatii, nu cu interventii si sufocari prin taxe. Va rog ca atunci cand alegeti in sistemul democratic sa nu uitati ca, fara capitalism, societatea romaneasca va intra in colaps.

Viitorul intr-o societate bazata pe „sa ni se dea” este falimentul. Statul, guvernul, politicienii, ei nu produc economic, doar administreaza, ingradesc, redistribuie. Capitalistii sunt cei care produc, de aceea avem nevoie de ei.

Inchei prin a recomanda un interviu excelent cu H.R. Patapievici, un domn intelectual treaz, cel putin in privinta capitalismului. Marturisesc ca nu sunt vreun mare fan in rest, dar in interviul de fata are cateva observatii magistrale. Preferata mea este: “Socialismul nu e decat boala a carei vindecare pretinde ca este”.

Intelegeti si imbratisati capitalismul! Este calea naturala spre o viata mai buna. Nu vorbim de o constructie artificiala, ci de modul intiparit in oameni de a-si construi viitorul.

PS: Sunt convins ca vor aparea tot felul de reactii roze-spumant la acest articol. Textul nu se adreseaza oamenilor mari, ancorati in certitudini. Va rog nu insistati in a-mi „corecta” opinia. Ma declar incorigibil.

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One Big Flat Network

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There is a natural movement of networks to become unnecessarily complicated.  But there is great value in keeping networks clean and simple.  Simple networks are easier to manage, more performant and more reliable while being generally less expensive.  Every network needs a different level of complexity and large networks will certainly need an extensive level of it, but small businesses can often keep networks extremely simple which is part of what makes smaller businesses more agile and less expensive, giving them an edge over their larger counterparts.  This is an edge that they must leverage because they lack the enterprise advantage of scale.

There are two ways to look at network complexity.  The first is the physical network – the actual setup of the switches and routers that make up the network.  The second is the logical network – how IP address ranges are segmented, where routing barriers exist, etc.  Both are important to consider when looking at the complexity of your network.

It should be the goal of any network to be as simple as possible while still meeting all of the goals and requirements of the network.  

The first aspect we will address is the physically flat network.   Reducing a physical network to be flat can have a truly astounding effect on the performance and reliability of  that network.  In a very small network this could mean working from a single switch for all connections.  Typically this is only available for the very smallest networks as switches rarely are available above forty-eight or possibly fifty-two ports.  But for many small businesses this is completely possible.  It may require additional cabling for a building, in order to bring all connections back to a central location, but can often be attained – at least on a site by site basis.  Many businesses today have multiple locations or staff working from home and this can make the network challenges much greater, although each location can strive for its own simplicity in those cases.

As a network grows the concept of the single switch can be grown as well using the concept of switch stacking.  Stacked switches share a single switching fabric or backplane.  When stacked they behave as a single switch but with more ports.  (Some switches do true backplane sharing and some mimic this with very high speed uplink ports with shared management via that port.)  A switch stack is managed as a single switch making network management no more difficult, complex or time consuming for a stack than for a single switch.  It is common for a switch stack to grow to at least three hundred ports if not more.  This allows for much larger physical site growth before needing to leave the single switch approach.

In some cases, some large module single switch chassis will grow even larger than this allowing for four hundred or more ports in a single switch but in a “blade like” enterprise switching chassis.

By being creative and looking at simple, elegant solutions it is entirely possible to keep even a moderately large network contained to a single switching fabric allowing all network connections to share a single backplane.

The second area that we have to investigate is the logical complexity of the network.  Even in physically simple networks it is common to find small businesses investing a significant amount of time and energy into implementing unnecessary subnets or VLANs and all of the overhead that comes with those.

Subnetting is rarely necessary in a small or even a smaller medium-sized business.  Traditionally, going back to the 1990s, it was very common to want to keep subnets to a maximum of 256 devices (or a /24 subnet) because of packet collision, broadcasts and other practical issues.  This made a lot of sense in that era when hubs were used instead of switches and broadcasts were common and network bandwidth was lucky if it was 10Mb/s on a shared bus.  Today’s broadcast light, collision free, 1Gb/s dedicated channel networks experience network load in a completely different manner.  Where 256 devices on a subnet was an extremely large network then, having more than 1,000 devices on a single subnet is a non-issue today.

These changes in how networks behave mean that small and medium businesses almost never need to subnet for reasons of scale and can comfortably use a single subnet for their entire business reducing complexity and easing network management.  More than a single subnet may be necessary to support specific network segmentation like separating production and guest networks, but scale, the reason traditionally given for subnetting networks, becomes an issue solely of larger businesses.

It is tempting to want to implement VLANs on every small business environment as well.  Subnetting and VLANs are often related and often confused, but subnets often exist without VLANs, while VLANs do not exist without subnets.

In large environments VLANs are a foregone conclusion and it is simply assumed that they will exist.  This mentality often filters down to smaller organizations who are often tempted to apply this to businesses which lack the scale that makes VLAN management make sense.  VLANs should be relatively uncommon in a small business network.

The most common place where I see VLANs used when they are not needed is in Voice over IP or VoIP networks.  It is a common assumption that VoIP has special needs that require VLAN support.  This is not true.  VoIP and the QoS that it sometimes needs are available without VLANs and often will work better without them.

VLANs really only become important when either management is needed at large scale (where scale is larger than a single subnet can provision) and cannot be physically segregated or when specific network-layer security is needed which is relatively rare in the SMB market.  VLANs are very useful and do have their place.  VLANs are often used if a dedicated guest network is needed but generally in a small business guest access is provided via a direct guest connection to the Internet rather than a quarantined network for guests.

The most common practical use of a VLAN in an SMB is likely to be a walled garden DMZ designed for quarantined BYOD remote access where BYOD devices connect much like guests but have the ability to access remote access resources like RDP, ICA or PCoIP protocols.  VLANs would also be popular for building traditional DMZs for externally facing public services such as web and email servers – except that these services are not commonly kept on the local network for hosting in today’s SMBs so this classic use of VLANs in the SMB is rapidly fading.

Another use case where VLANs are often used inappropriately is for a Storage Area Network or SAN.  It is best practice that a SAN be a completely independent (air gapped), physically unique network unrelated to the regular switching infrastructure.  It is generally not advised that a SAN be created using VLANs or subnets but instead be on dedicated switches.

It is tempting to add complex switching setups, additional subnets and VLANs because we hear about these things from larger environments, they are fun and exciting, and they appear to add job security by making the network more difficult to maintain.  Complex networks require higher end skills and can seem like a great way to use that networking certificate.  But in the long run, this is a bad career and IT strategy.  Network complexity should be added in a lab for learning purposes, not in production networks.  Production networks should be run as simply, elegantly and cost effectively as possible.

With relatively little effort, a small business network can likely be designed to be both physically and logically very simple.  The goal, of course, is to come as close as possible to creating single, flat network structure where all devices are physical and logical peers with no unnecessary bottlenecks or protocol escalations.  This improves performance and reliability, reduces costs and frees IT resources to focus on more important tasks.

Originally posted on the StorageCraft Blog.

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Mother Hydra
28 days ago
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"It is generally not advised that a SAN be created using VLANs or subnets but instead be on dedicated switches." Word. Wish someone would tell this to a certain person I work with.
Beneath Innsmouth

Four open source invoicing tools for freelancers and small businesses

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invoice, delicious invoiceNote: This post was originally published on September 2, 2014 at Opensource.com.

Small business owners and freelancers put a lot of work into their businesses. They do that not only because they’re passionate about what they do, but they also have the goal of getting paid.

That’s no small part of the job, either.

Getting paid usually means sending a client an invoice. It’s easy enough to whip up an invoice using a word processor or a spreadsheet, but sometimes you need a bit more. A more professional look. A way of keeping track of your invoices. Reminders about when to follow up on the invoices that you’ve sent.

There’s a wide range of commercial and closed-source invoicing tools out there. But the offerings on the open source side of the fence are just as good, and maybe even more flexible than their closed source counterparts.

Let’s take a look at four open source invoicing tools that are great choices for freelancers and small businesses on a tight budget.

What to look for in an invoicing tool

Not all invoicing tools are created equally. Some, depending on their developers and their maturity, may have more or fewer features than most. But at its core, a good invoicing application has all or several of these features:

It should be accessible on the web. That can be on your own website or, if you lack the technical chops to install and maintain the tool, then it should have a hosted version.

It should also let you easily customize invoice templates to get the look and feel that you want. On top of that, the tool should have a either a reporting feature or the ability to save your records to a spreadsheet.

The tool should support multiple currencies and allow you to configure your local tax rates. Supporting multiple languages is a bonus.

Finally, the tool should be able to accept payments via PayPal or a payment service like Stripe. If it doesn’t so that out of the box, it should be easy to add that integration.

Simple Invoices

While it’s name contains the word simple, Simple Invoices isn’t a barebones application. Far from it. Simple Invoices is easy to set up and use, but packs a number of useful features. Not only does it accept payment from PayPal but you can also hook Simple Invoices into a payment gateway called eWAY.

Simple Invoices goes beyond invoicing. It can also track your inventory, create receipts, estimates, and quotes. You can save your invoices as PDF, Word, Excel, or text files.

Before you download and install Simple Invoices, you can give it a try. You can also use one of the hosted versions from $4 a month and up.

Invoice Ninja

Invoice Ninja melds a simple interface with a powerful set of features that lets you create, manage, and send invoices to clients and customers. You can easily configure multiple clients, track payments and outstanding invoices, generate quotes, and email invoices.

What sets Invoice Ninja part from its competitors is that it supports over 20 popular internet payment processors, including PayPal and Google Wallet.

Download a version that you can install on your own server, or get an account with the hosted version of the tool. There’s a free version and one that will set you back $50 a year.

siwapp

It’s not the slickest looking tool, but siwapp compensates for that by making it easy to create professional-looking invoices. Just enter information into a few fields and, when you’re done, click a button to email the invoice.

siwapp also comes with a trio of modules that let you create and manage customer records, estimates, and products. On the other hand, out of the box siwapp doesn’t come with integration with a payment processor. If you’re a dab hand with PHP, you might be able to hack siwapp and include a payment link, as one user did for PayPal.

You can test drive siwapp before you decide to install it.

Open Source Billing

Described by its developer as Beautifully simple billing software, Open Source Billing does live up to the description. It has one of the cleanest interfaces you’ve seen, which makes configuring and using the tool a breeze.

Open Source Billing stands out because of its dashboard, which tracks your current and past invoices, as well as any outstanding amounts. That information is broken up in to graphs and tables, which makes it easy to follow.

You do much of the configuration on the invoice for itself. You can add items, tax rates, clients, and even payment terms with a click and a few keystrokes. Open Source Billing saves that information across all of your invoices, both new and old.

As with some of the other tools we’ve looked at, Open Source Billing has a demo that you can try.

Photo credit: neiltron via PhotoRee

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