Kicou's blog

Random thoughts and ramblings

#JitsiMeet #Videoconferencing

When using the tile view in a Jitsi Meet video-conference, I find it annoying that you cannot see people's names unless you hover over the person's tile with the mouse cursor.

I mean, it is OK for a 5-person conference where you know everybody, but when communicating with 20 people at once it is nice to be able to tell who is who at a glance. Hovering over thumbnails is not very practical.

I don't understand why Jitsi Meet does not make names visible at all times. It would be nice if it was at least a server setting. Alas it is not.

But all hope is not lost: there is an easy way to enable permanent name display without having to rebuild Jitsi Meet. All it takes is a couple of CSS file edits on the server:


#Tech #3dPrinting

With the prospect of being stuck at home during the Winter, and probably longer if the Covid-19 pandemic keeps progressing the way it does, this may be the opportunity to become more than just a button pusher, and maybe learn to make new things. Actual things.

I am envious of Mrs. Kicou who can operate a metal lathe or mill, and is transforming the garage into her woodworking shop, but I only use power tools when doing work around the house: I can build a kitchen, lay ceramic tile, create an opening in a wall, install hardwood floor, build a deck, a garden shed, and more. I learned it all out of necessity, because this is what home ownership does to you. But I have no particular interest in the construction trades (next year our house projects include building a thermosyphon heating system for the garage, a pergola for the deck, and a greenhouse — not sure how much of it will become reality but they are all very doable).

But if I make something I'd rather enjoy it, so I'm looking for something that would be more fun.


#Tech #Internet

A list of software products and services I use both for personal and professional use. I self-host whenever I can, but not always.

When I host, I do so on remote Linux VMs. I don't run anything from home anymore, except for the home automation system (duh!) which runs on a Raspberry Pi.

My database engine of choice is PostgreSQL. My go-to web server/reverse proxy is Nginx. I also host my own DNS servers running ISC BIND9. I backup all my systems and data with Restic, to remote Object Storage with a local replica on a NAS device.

I am naturally drawn toward free and open-source software first, but I recognise the fact that sometimes proprietary/paid software can be more efficient. I'd rather use the software than waste all my time maintaining it.

So here is a list of the main tools and services I use on a daily basis.


#Linux #Tech #RemoteAssistance

I have tried various remote assistance solutions and so far none had completely met our expecations.

We purchased Zoho Assist because its web-based control centre is ideal for a small team of independent Linux consultants like us, all the while having the features you'd expect from an enterprise-grade product. We were happy to purchase endpoint licence packages for paying customers, and fall back to DWS for less critical systems as well as personal machines.

While I have nothing against Zoho and am supportive of DWS, both solutions have a huge drawback in my opinion: we are relying on a third party to manage traffic to our customers, and we have no control over the data we put on their servers. Not that I believe that they are ill-intentioned, but we have to admit that we are also at the mercy of their technical and business choices: they may decide to suddenly change their pricing structure (this has happened with competing products like Logmein or Teamviewer), or they could change the product, remove features, move them to different tier, etc. and we wouldn't have much of choice, would we?


#Work #Covid19

The COVID-19 pandemic has struck a terrible blow to local and global economies. Many companies are struggling, a lot of them have gone belly up.

About two weeks ago, most of Ontario went into phase 3 of recovery. This means that employers who had temporarily laid off their staff are now able to call them back.

However, a three-month shutdown has not left companies unscathed, and in many cases business has almost ground to a halt. In the case of Mrs. Kicou's shop things are currently running very slow and there are no new customer contracts. Business with US-based clients is now nil.

They could barely call back 30% of their workforce and they made the remaining employees an offer: either 1. they remain on temporary lay-off in the hope that business will pick up and they will eventually be called back, or 2. they accept a termination offer along with a severance package.


#P2V #SCO #Unix #VMware #Tech

The client from the previous post had a successful migration of his RHEL5 and Windows 2000 physical servers to ESXi so that they could last forever. He is happy with the results.

Now he wants to do the same for a SCO Unix server.

His infrastructure is starting to look like a Computer History Museum.

#Linux #VMware #P2V #V2V #Windows2000 #Tech

A client of mine has a customer of his who runs a Windows 2000 Terminal Server because their antique ERP client will only run on Windows XP-level machines.

I already converted the ERP server last week: a Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 server running Oracle 10g that I had to turn into CentOS because its RHN subscription had run out and I needed a newer kernel + headers for vmware-guest tools. The RHEL P2V worked well, and now it is the W2K TS's turn.

The Hypervisor I am moving this to is ESXi 6.5 and it turns out VMware Converter 6 will not migrate a Windows 2000 system: for this you need Vmware Converter 4. But Converter 4 will not migrate to ESXi higher than V4.

So how do we do?

Well, here is what I am in the middle of doing:

  • install ESXi 4 in ESXi 6 (yes, you can nest ESX installations)
  • convert the Win2k system to ESXi 4 (you can do this on the live system) with VMware Converter 4
  • DO NOT start the newly converted VM in ESXi 4!
  • fire up a Windows system that has access to both the ESXi 4 virtual OS and the ESXi 6 infrastructure
  • install VMware converter 6 onto the Windows machine, and perform a V2V offline conversion of the intermediate W2K VM to ESXi 6

I have not finished migration yet (I have to upload Win10 ISO to have my Windows system) but as crazy as it sounds, I think it should work.

Update: it actually did work. I had to install an old version of the VMware Tools that is compatible with Windows 2000 to have proper display drivers and in order for networking to work. Everything is working now.

#Linux #Hardware #Lenovo

When daughter started university two years ago, she got a used Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen2 (2014) running Ubuntu (kids grew up on recycled machines using Linux), and she was very happy to have a good computer she didn't have to pay for. However this summer she started to have problems with it. I suspect these are mostly software problems, but she also had two missing keys on the keyboard. Sourcing a replacement keyboard and replacing it with the risk of it not working at all was a problem as she cannot afford much downtime, with all her schoolwork and two volunteering positions as a crisis line responder.

I know how she treats electronic devices (i.e. badly) so I did not want to invest into something too expensive, but I still wanted the best bang for the bucks.

So for the first time in many, many years, I decided to purchase a new computer. I know how she treats electronic devices (i.e. badly) so I did not want to invest into something too expensive, but I still wanted the best bang for the bucks. Daughter had also expressed the wish to get a 2-in-1 that she can convert into a tablet for displaying music sheet when playing the piano.

I got her a Lenovo Ideapad Flex5 14 aka 14ARE05 (awkward name), a budget-friendly 2-in-1 notebook computer with a 14” display, AMD Ryzen 4500U processor, 16 GB or RAM and 512 GB or SDD storage, 10+ hours of battery life. For $950 CAD (around $700 USD) it is a reasonably priced considering how Canadians usually get an unfavourable exchange rate.


#Blog #Fediverse

This is a test post, to see if Mastodon picks it up.

Edit: it did work :)


When I'm feeling anxious, I grab my pencil crayons and my colouring book.

Colouring sheet

I'm no artist, but it calms me down.

Oh, and this post was an excuse to open a account so that I could host the pictures for this blog.