Selmys’ Weblog

Using Linux at Seneca College in Toronto

A Christmas Gift

Posted by selmys on January 3, 2012

Every Christmas my son and his wife surprise me with an original home made gift they crafted themselves. The theme is always the same: Linux, Open Source, Free Software, and this year was no exception. What they made for me was an open source version of the classic Monopoly board game. They call it Openopoly. I made a youtube video. Unfortunately the video ends rather abruptly because my little Olympus camera ran out of memory as I was recording and I was too lazy to do a second take.

Anyway thanks Chris and Melinda. You’ve really outdone yourselves this time.

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Tackling the Android

Posted by selmys on September 20, 2011

This past summer I overcame the inertia of the couch and plowed my way into programming on Android. I wrote a little app, called “The Devil’s Dictionary”, which I published on the Android market last Friday. You can download the Android package and source code from my home server at or you can install it onto your Android phone or tablet directly from the Android market; just do a search for my name.

Google’s Android API is not difficult to learn if you already know some Java and there are lots of examples on their developer web site. I developed my app using Eclipse so that’s another hurdle you need to overcome but persistence will pay off if you work at it a little each day.

Last week I started the Android Programmers Klub (APK) for Seneca students and staff. We meet every Wednesday (fall 2011) starting at 5:10pm in room S2149. I also set up an email list, Email me if you want your name added to the list or better still come to our next meeting on Wednesday.

Posted in opensource, Seneca | 5 Comments »

Remembrance Day

Posted by selmys on November 11, 2010

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada, a day to remember the sacrifices made by our citizens in current and past wars. Here at Seneca we’ll all be observing two minutes of silence at 11am. A very somber day indeed.

But this day is special in another sense and I don’t mean to be frivolous – it’s just that by nature I’m a curious fellow and often get sidetracked by sometimes very trivial ideas. Case in point, today is Remembrance Day but it’s also Seneca’s employee pay day. So why is this special? Well, it turns out that banks in Canada are closed on Remembrance Day so Seneca deposited our pay into our bank accounts yesterday – one day early. Ok, so big deal. Well for me it is a big deal because I couldn’t remember this happening in the past – and I’ve been here a long time. So I started thinking. When was the last time Remembrance Day fell on Seneca’s pay day? And when will it happen again?

It turns out that these questions can be answered with a simple BASH script. For example, to find out when this collision of dates happened in the past I wrote this script:

echo Hit CTRL-C to quit
while :
 d=$(date -d"$x weeks ago")
 echo $d | grep "Thu Nov 11"

Now, when I ran this script, here’s what I got:

Hit CTRL-C to quit
Thu Nov 11 05:47:25 EST 1999
Thu Nov 11 05:47:27 EST 1976
Thu Nov 11 05:47:27 EST 1965
Thu Nov 11 05:47:28 EST 1954
Thu Nov 11 06:47:29 EWT 1943
Thu Nov 11 05:47:30 EST 1920
Thu Nov 11 05:47:31 EST 1909
Thu Nov 11 05:47:32 EST 1897
Thu Nov 11 05:47:32 LMT 1886
Thu Nov 11 05:47:33 LMT 1875

So, it seems the last time our pay day fell on Remembrance Day was in 1999. Before that it happened in 1976.

Looking into the future, I ran this script:

echo Hit CTRL-C to quit
while :
 d=$(date -d"$x week")
 echo $d | grep "Thu Nov 11"

And the output I got was

Hit CTRL-C to quit
Thu Nov 11 06:24:00 EST 2021
Thu Nov 11 06:24:00 EST 2032
Thu Nov 11 06:24:02 EST 2055
Thu Nov 11 06:24:03 EST 2066
Thu Nov 11 06:24:03 EST 2077
Thu Nov 11 06:24:04 EST 2088
Thu Nov 11 06:24:05 EST 2100
Thu Nov 11 06:24:07 EST 2123
Thu Nov 11 06:24:07 EST 2134

So the next time Remembrance Day will collide with Seneca’s pay day will be in the year 2021. Of course I’ll be retired by then … I hope.

Anyway, take some time today to reflect on the fact that the freedom we enjoy in Canada today is due in no small measure to the sacrifices of those who came before us, and when you go home tonight – practice your shell programming.


Posted in opensource | 1 Comment »

Tick Toc, Tick Toc

Posted by selmys on October 10, 2010

Ever try to solve a problem by looking at log file records with wrong time stamps? Ever submit a cron job only to find it crashed because it didn’t run when you expected it to?

If you’re like me, and you have, then it’s time to set up your own stratum-1 time server.

Here’s how.

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Anything C can do, BASH can do better!

Posted by selmys on April 13, 2010

Every now and then I like to take a peek at what our first year C programming students are up to. This semester I discovered that one of their assignments is to code a Sudoku puzzle. Obviously this was too tempting to resist, so here’s my solution written in BASH 4.

Posted in opensource | 8 Comments »

Fedora 11 Saves the Day!

Posted by selmys on September 3, 2009

Every summer I enjoy getting my hands dirty working on a project involving Linux. This summer was no different.

My 2009 goal was to build and configure my very own PVR similar to TiVo. Well, I tried Ubuntu and OpenSUSE without success. Then along came Fedora 11 and everything worked “out of the box”. Hats off to the Fedora Project Team.

You can read all the ugly details on my summer projects homepage at Seneca College in Toronto.

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Another Semester Bites the Dust!

Posted by selmys on May 4, 2009

More importantly, it was Rose’s 40th birthday.


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I’m Naming Names!

Posted by selmys on April 25, 2009

Patrick Lam, Stephen Carter, Chinmay Patel, Patricia Constantino, Ezadkiel Marbella, Kezhong Liang, Jesse Valianes, Varinder Singh Jhand, John Ford, Nino D’Aversa, Milton Paiva, Tony Lai, Nestor Chan, Joshua Doodnauth, Mohak Vyas, Sid Kalra, Gregory Masseau and Anthony Hughes. These are just some of Seneca’s brightest students who have spent the last one or two semesters working on Open Source projects. And yesterday, each gave a brief presentation of their work. WOW! Impressive stuff. Details of their efforts are documented on Seneca’s Planet.

Attending the presentations were people from Red Hat, Mozilla and OCE. It should be noted that each of these organizations contributed, with hard cash, to the Open Source work being done at Seneca. A big thanks to them for their generous support.

Here’s several photos of the event.


Mozilla and Fedora Project Posters


Students Preparing for their Talks


Chris doing Intro


More Posters

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Posted by selmys on January 15, 2009

My New Year’s resolution (one of them) is to try harder to be connected with my current crop of students. In this day and age this means blogging more, using IRC more, emailing more and updating course wiki’s more often. For an old guy who would much prefer to sit and chat face to face beside a warm fireplace this is a difficult paradigm to get used to. But the fact is that, “being connected is not the same thing as communicating” so says Chilean philosopher Jaime Antúnez speaking at the 6th World Meeting of Families underway in Mexico City. From a report on,  his address took a look at what values really are, considering on what basis we can affirm that a certain human act is good or evil, that a certain behavior is just or unjust, that a certain activity is correct or not.

 "Consider," he said," just the increasing dependence that youth live
 today on a whole variety of electronic media, which technology is offering
 every day. It's clear that -- besides the useful benefit that the good use of
 many of these can obviously generate -- the mental habit of living
 'connected' is spreading. This is a worrying situation because of the marked
 dehumanizing implication this has, which displaces the natural and personal
 [state of] living 'communicated,' a quality that characterizes a society of
 human persons."

So, is my New Year’s resolution a good one? Time will tell.

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3 BarCamp Sessions at FUDCon 11

Posted by selmys on January 13, 2009

Dave Jones talks about Dracut

Dave Jones talks about Dracut

Dave Jones gave a short talk on Dracut which is a shell script tool that creates initial ram disk (initrd) files. Currently every distro has its own tools that do this. Dracut will be distro neutral. This is hard to achieve because of the way distros are put together – some have SELinux turned on, others off, some compile modules into the kernel while others do not. The goal is to make it part of the kernel build process. One advantage of Dracut is that if the boot up fails Dracut will drop you into a shell where you can fix things manually. More info on Dracut can be found at

Paul Frields Talks GIT

Paul Frields Talks GIT

Paul Frields gave a presentation titled: “Git For Dummies, by Dummies”. I love this name and since I’ve only started with Git last November I thought it would be just my speed. Git is a distributed source code revision control system written initially by Linus himself. Paul did a great job explaining the basics of Git for us beginners. However, the room was filled with “git masters” who, on occasion, pushed Paul off track into some of the more esoteric features (uses) of git. Of course this totally confused us beginners. Nevertheless, I wrote down all the commands Paul demonstrated with a brief explaination of each. Hopefully I’ll have more time to practice this semester.

 Jared Smith Talks Asterisk

Jared Smith Talks Asterisk

Jared Smith gave a nice talk and demo of Asterisk – An Open Source PBX Telephony Platform. Jared is a co-author of “Asterisk: The Future of Telephony” an O’Reilly book.

What impressed me the most was how easily Jared wrote some code to add functionality to an Asterisk server. The Asterisk language he used reminded me of early BASIC and FORTRAN. With just a few lines he set up a simple telephone menu. It’s amazing how versatile Asterisk is. This is something I’m sure our students would love to sink their teeth into.

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