Using mutt on Linux to transfer your old mbox mail folders onto GMail

Unlike many webmail providers, Google don’t allow you to upload your folders from your old mail system in mbox format and import them. This is a pretty basic feature if you ask me, they really should.

There are a number of alternative ways. GMail does support fetching from other mail servers via POP3 (but not IMAP, another strange omission), so if your mail is all in your inbox at the old place that might work, but mine is organised into several folders, and I want to keep that organisation damnit!

Needless to say, someone has written a nice piece of software to do the job; in this case Mark Lyon’s GML. I was about to give this a whirl, but while I was waiting for the requisite Python lib to install, I found a much simpler way… click to read on…

Continue reading Using mutt on Linux to transfer your old mbox mail folders onto GMail

M-Audio Xponent + Linux + mixxx

Updated: 2007/07/27 – New section on LEDs. Update on mixxx SVN.

In case any of you who have read my review of the M-Audio Xponent are thinking of getting one and wondering “but will it work under Linux?”, the short answer is a resounding Yes!… except for the LEDs, so far. More on that later.

I use Debian unstable with a hand-rolled kernel. YMMV, of course, but the chances are that if you’re using any modern distro you’ll be fine. In fact you may not even have to manually insert the kernel modules if you have a working udev setup, you might just be able to plug’n’play.

Full details below the cut, as they say…

Continue reading M-Audio Xponent + Linux + mixxx

Backuppc woe

I’ve been using BackupPC to take offsite backups of all my machines over the network for over a year. It seemed to work well enough and, it seemed, would always email me if it hadn’t been able to backup a certain machine for a few days.

Yesterday I discovered that it has not done a successful backup of one of my machines since March! I just suddenly noticed on the status screen that instead of a table of 8 backups (2 full and 6 incr), only 3 were shown — 2 full, both dating back to March, and 1 “partial” from the day before yesterday. Looking at the logs I see this:

2006-07-24 06:00:05 full backup started for directory /data/work; updating partial 678
2006-07-24 06:20:28 full backup started for directory /home; updating partial 678
2006-07-24 06:20:34 Got fatal error during xfer (fileListReceive failed)
2006-07-24 06:20:39 Backup aborted (fileListReceive failed)
2006-07-24 06:20:39 Saved partial dump 678

Exactly the same thing has been happening every day for the past 4 months. Backuppc didn’t email to tell me. It’s email system was definitely working because during that time it did mail me about a machine that was offline for a while. So it appears it doesn’t bother to send mail to notify you of a failed backup!

I had no idea what might be causing this. It just started out of the blue, having worked flawlessly before March. It only affected one machine. The configuration had not changed. It always failed on /home but was apparently ok with /data/work.

Something weird in /home? To find out, I set tar loose on it:

$ cd /home; tar cf - . >/dev/null
tar: ./jammin/.gxine/socket: socket ignored
tar: ./jammin/.kde/kdeinit-\:0: socket ignored
tar: ./sarah/.totem.sarah: socket ignored
tar: ./sarah/.xine/session.0: socket ignored

Surely not. Surely it couldn’t be something as trivial as a couple of stale socket files causing my backup to fail? Well, I’m not using any of those programs, so I deleted the sockets, and told backuppc to start a full backup. What do you know — it worked.

So is it that it doesn’t like sockets? Or has the poor thing got confused by the funny characters in the filename of that KDE one? I’ll test this out at a later date when my backups have recovered.

There are three major failings by BackupPC here. One, failing over a simple socket or dodgy filename, and not giving much clue why. The second, not bothering to email when a backup fails halfway through. But most concerning of all is that it kept trying to add to the same partial backup, instead of starting a new one — so I no longer have 2 weeks’ worth of incrementals even for the part of the backup that succeeded. Every day, yesterday’s backup was being overwritten by today’s. If I needed to recover a version of a file in /data/work from 2 days ago, I couldn’t. That sucks.

This has made me realise something. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?. Why am I relying on *one* backup solution? It’s a SPOF, and it has quite spectacularly F’d. I still want to find out why, and ideally fix it, but I’m also going to start setting up something else alongside. Since backuppc is server-driven, the alternative should be client-driven. All recommendations welcome. The two major requirements are that it must support ssh, and be bandwidth-efficient because I’m backing up over ADSL.
All the client machines run Linux.

Sony Ericsson K750i and Linux

I just had a very strange experience. I hooked up my new Sony Ericsson K750i mobile phone via USB to my PC (running Linux 2.6.11 Debian unstable). And it just worked. I didn’t have to faff around with the USB driver as I’d had to for my Treo 600 a year ago. It just thought for a while, dumped several KB of its thoughts into syslog (I probably selected a debugging option when I built the kernel), and *ping* the memory stick in the phone appeared as /dev/sda. I just had to mount /dev/sda1 (vfat), and there it was.

Almost disappointing.

The phone is very nice, btw. Screen is good, mp3 playback is very good (even with the supplied earbuds — even through the speaker is not bad), camera is alright (for a phone). Organiser is rubbish: you can’t set up events without a time, or recurring events like birthdays, and the bold font used to identify dates with appointments in calendar view is barely different from the normal font. Sometimes I think I should just go back to a paper diary…