buildscc | 06 Oct 2010 | | projects


Currently, the only way to achieve automatic, reliable configuration of Linux machines for BU networks and services is BU Linux. While BU Linux is effective in this sense, it has shortcomings, mainly that it is CentOS-based (which some people don’t like), and that it requires installing a completely new operating system, instead of just being able to install the config on top of an existing setup. To address these concerns, I propose an alternate system, tentatively entitled “debDog”, which is a collection of debian packages that install and/or configure essential software for use on the Boston University network. It is modular, allows for deeper customization, and is installable on top of an existing debian-based distro.

The System

Let’s get this out of the way right here: the inspiration for this project is MIT’s Project Debathena ( While using debathena on the MIT campus, I was amazed at how easy it was to install, configure, and use. If you poke around their site, you’ll notice that their system was so solid that MIT IS&T started using it on all the public clusters.

But I digress. The packages are currently using CDBS (Common Debian Build System) along with Config-Package-Dev (MIT-developed system for using divert commands to install configs on a machine).

The Packages Have a Home

Current packages live in Using git is easy…github has directions if you’re not familiar (you’re also welcome to email Kyle).

When we have a set of packages that we have tested individually, it will be time to test them as a group. For this, I can use my PPA on Launchpad.

Also, the BU Linux Users Group expressed interest in hosting a PPA for us to use for this when we go into more of an open beta/release mode. (They’re pretty awesome).

List of Packages Written (Ready for testing)

  • bu-printing-config
    • adds all myprint printers to the machine to facilitate easy printing.
  • bu-kerberos-config
    • modifies krb5.conf so that you can pull tickets from the bu kerberos realm.
  • bu-afs-config
    • configures afs to allow access to BU afs cell(s), allowing you to run site-licensed software, among other things.

List of Packages Currently Being Worked On (help welcome)

  • bu-nss-config
    • configures nsswitch.conf so that BU databases (LDAP) can be used to obtain information (
    • may be problematic, due to how BU’s Active Directory servers store indexID as part of the cn, and not as a separate field.
  • bu-pam-config
    • configures pam so that requests to log in/ssh/su/etc can be done with kerberos credentials
    • if anyone knows more than Kyle about dealing with pam, especially from a security standpoint (he doesn’t know much), help would be appreciated.
  • bu-login
    • metapackage to allow logging into the local computer with kerberos accounts. Will include bu-nss-config and bu-pam-config, among others.
  • add-bu-user
    • shameless re-package of a utility written for BU Linux :)


  • Put feature/package requests here.

Interested Parties

This project is gaining momentum. Since p = mv, we should add more packages and keep accelerating -_- Add your name below if this interests you.

  1. Kyle Brogle
  2. John-Nicholas Furst
  3. Jeff Crowell
  4. Kenny Kalenderian
  5. Russell Shomberg
  6. Mikhail Andreev

Boston Society of Spontaneity

buildscc | 02 Oct 2010 | | projects

The Boston Society of Spontaneity is not an ACM made group. Rather it is a Boston Urban Playground group, modeled after NYC’s Improv Everywhere. BSOS: Improv Everywhere:

Those joining this “project” will probably just get emails about meeting up to go to Boston Society of Spontaneity Event/Pranks.

Urban Playgrounding is happening on 10/10!!!

This is the facebook event for the MP3 experiment. You download a mp3 but don’t listen to it until everyone arrives at the undisclosed location. Everyone listens and follows the instructions at exactly 3:30pm. Expect to make a spectacle of yourself, simultaneously as others are making spectacles of themselves.

Replica Portal Gun

buildscc | 29 Sep 2010 | | projects

The aim of this project is to create a model of the “Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device” featured in the video game Portal.

Awesome replicas that other people have made:

Meeting Minutes for 2010-09-29

buildscc | 29 Sep 2010 | | meeting-minutes

BUILDS Meeting

9/29/2010 6:30pm

John-Nicholas Furst

  • Welcoming newcomers to BUILDS
  • Introduce yourselves!

Kyle Brogle

  • Yearbook Photographer coming to BUILDS
    • next meeting 10/6, the photographer will be taking a membership photo

Valerie Young

  • Cleaning up the room
    • We’re completely ok with people eating in the room, but please clean up after yourselves
  • Musical Stairs
  • There are now 3 key parts to the project:
    • electronic music synth
    • arduino interface
    • mounting issues
  • Meetings are still being held every sunday at 5pm.

Russell Shomberg

  • SpiderVac
    • We have acquired a vacuum for the project
    • Next key step is attaching the vacuum to a test pad and getting some diagnostics
    • Contact Rusty for more info, meeting times

John-Nicholas Furst

  • Videogame Collective
    • Meetings are tuesday nights ~9pm
      • So far there have been lectures on displaying images, etc
      • Next meeting will be concerned with platformers
  • BUILDS vegetable oil car
    • BUILDS will being getting its hands on a diesel engine car and converting it to run on vegetable oil
    • The project is great for engineers, helps connect BUILDS with Sustainability@BU, as well as getting the BUILDS name out there
    • Ideally, the idea is to have a beautiful project proposal BEFORE we pitch it

Sophia Valkenburg

  • Portal Gun
  • If you’re interested, join the project page on
  • Answer the doodle, and check your email regularly

Valerie Young / Keisuke Nakayama

  • Woman in Technology Poster
    • BUILDS is in need of a slogan for women in technology poster!
    • Tell keisuke/officers about your suggestions

Kyle Brogle

  • Project Gutenbach
    • Virtual printer that you can “print” music to
    • So far, it works best on OSX and Linux, but Windows support exists
    • Talk to Kyle for dev questions, configuring your comp. to use it, etc

Additional topics

  • Patrick Ehrlicher
    • Tesla coil
  • Ian Felder
    • Building a steady-cam
  • Ranjit Chacko
    • Engineers without borders
    • Meeting is 1230pm sunday @CAS 313
    • October 13th, MIT ideas (contact Kyle/John/Ranjit)

Meeting ended 7:03pm

Meeting Minutes for 2010-09-22

buildscc | 22 Sep 2010 | | meeting-minutes

Builds Meeting 3

9/22/2010 6:30PM

John-Nicholas Furst

  • Talk to Val for project funding. We have some funds available, and will be glad to help you in any way we can.

Kyle Brogle

  • Reminder: CS Connections event with Liberty Mutual coming up.

John-Nicholas Furst

  • Videogame collective
    • first meeting was on 9/21
    • first project proposal: creating a 2D maze game
    • programming in C++, using OpenGL
    • going to be developed and run on Linux
    • next meeting will be held 9/26 at 5:00pm in BUILDS

Russell Shomberg

  • SpiderVac
    • attempt to make a suction-powered vacuum backpack that allows one to climb up walls
    • designs are in the works; the math has already been done
    • rock on engineers!

John-Nicholas Furst/Kyle Brogle

  • Unix/Linux workshop
    • delayed due to awesomeness, great offers from the linux community to help
    • in the mean time, just come in and find Kyle/John for all your linux needs
  • Majordomo web interface
    • major progress being made
    • trying for a working demo by the end of the month

Valerie Young

  • Musical stairs
    • temp problem adding people to the mailing list
    • if you’re still interested and have not received emails, come and talk to Val to be put on the list.

John-Nicholas Furst

- poke the officers' brains
- come in whenever and just talk to us!

Ian Felder

  • BUILDS vegetable oil car
    • converting a car engine to run on vegetable oil
    • great for getting the BUILDS name out there
    • great for making friends with the environmental groups around Boston
    • really isn’t that hard to make, contact Ian for info
    • Brendan has tons of experience on working with Bio Diesel, talk to him for workshops.

Ranjit Chacko

  • Engineers without Borders
    • working on large, durable can-tennas for cell phones
    • in general, they work on projects to improve rural areas and 3rd world countries.

meeting ended at 7:02 PM

Arduino Mega

buildscc | 22 Sep 2010 | | projects


The Arduino Mega is a microcontroller board used in the [[Musical Stairs]]

Project to input the signal from the IR receivers and send out a MIDI signal to the computer interface.

{   [[Image:ArduinoMega2560.jpg thumb upright Arduino Mega 2560 Front Board.]] }

Additional information can be found on:


The current problem with the Arduino is that its op-amp becomes extremely hot when the Arduino is plugged into either the USB port or into the direct power. The part number is MV3581 06K CBXXG4. One potential reason for this problem is that the op-amp is short circuiting and has to be replaced. There is also the possibility that this has nothing to do with the problem, which may be located in a different part of the system.

Potential Solutions

People Working on this Problem

Mikhail Andreev - I will be taking the Mega to my lab where I may have spare parts.

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