Category Archives: Personal

Changes ahead

Lebanon Evangelical School

I’ve been working at the Lebanon Evangelical School for over fifteen years, and it has been an amazing experience. During that time we’ve switched to Linux on both servers and desktops, setup an open-source infrastructure that’s both powerful and user-friendly, and created an IT curriculum that pushes our students well beyond the local standards.

More importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to invest in students’ lives and watch them grow. One of the students I taught in the early 2000s is now teaching my daughter! Our school really is “lighting the fires that burn for eternity.”

Having said all that, the time has come for a change, and this school year will be our family’s last in Lebanon. I will be spending this school year simplifying and documenting our system to make sure that the school is in good shape for my departure, while also working to train up those under me.

Next summer, we will be leaving Lebanon, but our next step is still up in the air. Ireland and the US are the obvious choices, but we’d definitely be open to opportunities elsewhere. For now, our focus is on making sure we finish the school year strong.


On vacation

Irish sunshine

Irish sunshine

So we’ve managed to make it to Ireland to visit my wife’s family for the summer. It took only a few hours of flying and the kids were great, and now we get to enjoy the beautiful Irish weather.

There are a lot of family things and a few technical things I’d like to get done this summer. Based on last summer’s record, I’ll probably accomplish most of the family stuff, but I’m not too hopeful that I’ll actually get to any of the tech stuff. And that’s probably for the best.

On Vacation

Longview, Washington

The rain in Washington

On Thursday, my family and I departed beautiful Lebanon and started the long trek (at least as far as sitting in an airplane can be considered trekking) back home to Washington State. We were greeted with some rain when we arrived, which was definitely proof that we were home.

We’ll be here until the beginning of September, and then it’s back to sunny Beirut. I’m looking forward to the kids getting to celebrate the 4th of July for the first time.

I’m also hoping to get some time to look into making applydeltarpm more efficient. If you’ve been following the conversation on the fedora-devel list, you’ll have noticed that, oddly enough, some people don’t like deltarpms, and the reasons given are definitely valid.

At the moment, recreating an rpm from a deltarpm includes recompressing it so that signatures match, and that recompression is *very* expensive in terms of CPU time. If you’re on a slow computer with decent storage, it might make more sense to rebuild uncompressed rpms, but if we did this, then signatures would no longer match. I’d like to see if there’s some way that we can reasonably store the signature of the uncompressed payload as well as the compressed payload in the rpm. Ideally, this will be done in such a way so as to require minimal (if any) changes to the buildsystem.

If I can manage a proof-of-concept that works without too much trouble for the infrastructure guys, then we might just be able to pull off much faster deltarpm rebuilds.

Cillian James Dieter

Cillian James Dieter

Cillian James Dieter

At 7:45AM on April 14, 2014, Cillian (KILL-ee-an) James Dieter was born. He was 9 lbs, 4 oz (4.2 kg).

This was a very quick delivery, and I was still able to be at a class trip that started two hours after he was born. Easter break started two days after he was born, and Naomi’s parents are here now to spend some time with us all, so life has been pretty relaxed for the last week and a half.

Saoirse, Ailíse and Eoin are very excited that they have a little brother, but I think it will take Eoin a little while to grasp that he’s no longer the baby in the family.

The Dieter Family

Saoirse, Ailíse, Eoin, Jonathan, Naomi and Cillian

Eoin Kelly Dieter

Naomi and Eoin

At 12:30PM on June 5, 2012, Eoin (pronounced the same as “Owen” for those who unreasonably expect the Irish spelling to have some relationship to how the name is pronounced) Kelly Dieter was born. He’s 7 lbs, 12 oz (3.53 kg).

Naomi made this delivery look like a piece of cake (again), and Eoin went a full six hours between feeds last night, so we’re hoping that he’ll do as well as his sisters did at sleeping through the night.

Saoirse and Ailíse are very excited that they have a little brother, though it’s taken a bit of work to convince Ailíse that Eoin shouldn’t be treated like a doll.

In the meantime, I don’t think I’ll be very productive over the next few weeks.

The Dieter family

The phone is dead, long live the phone

Nokia N900

The phone is dead
I bought my first smartphone, a Nokia N900, just before Christmas, 2009. Chosen because its OS was the closest thing to a stock Linux distro I could find, the N900 has stood me in good stead for the last almost two years. I’ve used it to ssh into servers and restart failed services, stream video from a LEGO robot to my laptop, and Skype my family in the States while I was in Lebanon (if I remember correctly, it was the first smartphone to include Skype, though I may be wrong).

So fast-forward to a few weeks ago, with me sitting at my home in southwest Washington, enjoying my sabbatical. I glanced down at my phone and noticed something strange: The phone signal bar was gone, and in its place was a funky symbol that I finally realized was a SIM card with a red line through it. Restarting the phone fixed the problem. But over the next few days, the red SIM of death (RSOD) appeared more and more often and I finally reached the end of my rope.

Some research on the web, and a dmesg or two later revealed that the phone’s modem was constantly resetting, and, given the reset rate, was probably going bad. As I bought the phone in the US, it only had a one year warranty… and I was screwed. Bummer. Less than two years after buying it, my $550 phone had become an expensive unimpressive tablet. Thanks, Nokia. And now I had to replace it.

Long live the phone
During the HP Touchpad firesale, I managed to get ahold of one, and was really impressed by its ease of use, especially when it comes to multitasking. So I went to see what kind of WebOS phone I could get for cheap, and came up with the HP Veer. I managed to get it and a touchstone for just over $100, including shipping.

So far, I’ve been fairly impressed with it. Like Android, WebOS uses the Linux kernel, but not much of the higher stack. It doesn’t use X or any of the other standard applications that make up a normal Linux distro. Having said that, WebOS has strengths of its own. The N900 was great at multitasking, but the Veer takes it to a new level. WebOS’s card interface is not only easy to use, but also quite fun. There’s community-created software available from, and I’ve managed to overclock both the Touchpad and the Veer.

My main annoyance with the Veer is that it can sometimes be a bit unresponsive; I’ll tap the hang up button and it will flash, I’ll tap it again and it will flash again, but it won’t hang up until the third or fourth tap. I can understand that it may be thinking, but I find it a bit annoying to have the phone act like it received the event and then ignore it.

The most common complaint you’ll hear about the Veer is that it’s too small. And it is small, very small. But I’ve got small hands, so I don’t find the keyboard hard to use, and they do make good use of the space they’ve got on the display. And, after carrying around the brick that is the N900, it’s nice to have something so light that I can barely feel it in my pocket.

All in all, I find the Veer to be more fun and more intuitive than my wife’s new Android phone (which she is rapidly falling in love with).

So now I get to work out whether to try to get a few bucks by putting my N900 on ebay (but who would buy what’s essentially a two-year-old 5 inch tablet when there’s far better available), or keep it as a remote control for my media center in Lebanon.

And I get to see whether I can do the same kind of cool things with the Veer that I could do with the N900. Unfortunately the Veer doesn’t seem to come with gstreamer, so the LEGO robot idea might be out. But, I have hopes that the Veer will be at least somewhat as hackable as the N900 was.

For those who have been following along, Naomi (my wife) and I are currently on sabbatical in the States, following a month in Ireland. I was hoping for more time to work on Fedora stuff, but the last couple of months have been a bit crazy and I can’t realisticly expect the next few to be much different. I should be able to continue fixing the bugs that have popped up in yum-presto, but not much more than that.

I would love to meet any Fedora people in the area (I’m about an hour north of Portland on I-5), but haven’t had the time to track down if anyone’s actually in the area. I’d also love to do a conference, but, again, don’t know what’s in the area.

For those in Lebanon, we will be back at the end of this year, and I’m already looking forward to seeing you again.


My family and I will be going on a six-month sabbatical from Lebanon. I’ve been working seven years as a teacher and system administrator for the Lebanon Evangelical School and haven’t been back to see my extended family for three years.

We will be in Ireland for most of July, and then in the States (southwest Washington State) from early August until the end of December. We will be back in Beirut on New Year’s Eve and ready for a new term in school when Christmas break finishes.

I have no idea how this sabbatical will affect the time I spend on Fedora. I suspect that I will have more time available, but it’s entirely possible that the opposite may occur. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing family and friends, and I can’t wait to watch my daughters play with their cousins for the first time.