The Matrix Loaded

So, the school year is picking up again.

My last one.

Couldn’t help but think of that when I was setting up The Matrix over the weekend… Which reminds me, The Matrix. Last year a student at my school setup a 2×6 grid of monitors, and bolted them to the wall. Trouble was that each one was connected to it’s own machine, and multi-head X is a pain. So over the summer this grid of monitors and the twelve machines that run them sat there collecting dust.

Three of us came in the week before school started, and made it happen.

After three days of blood, sweat, and manpages, the three of us deployed 12 copies of Ubuntu, each with a specially configured X server.

It’s amazing what GIMP’s smudge tool will do to pimples.

In the background you can see the array. The computer that’s doing the processing is my laptop, which is off screen.

For the Layman

Yes, the mouse really does move between them all. And yes, a window really can be dragged between all twelve monitors.

For the Geek

Each of the 12 monitors is connected to it’s own computer, which is running a X server. We had to do some fiddling, since Ubuntu’s lightdm won’t let xhost work, so we had to uninstall that and reinstall xhost. All of the computers are will soon be on their own subnet, so security isn’t much of a concern.

From there, it’s a simple matter of running Xdmx with xinerama. Xdmx will connect to each of the twelve X servers and, using xinerama, stitch them together into a single X display. See where I’m going with this? Then it’s a simple matter of running a window manager on that X display. We chose twm, since it works.

One of our next projects is to run this using something fancier, like GNOME or KDM or LXDE or something. But until then, we’re just using twm.

On a personal note, despite the issues I’ve had in the past, one of my next projects is to convert the bukkit MC server to ramfs. Sure, I lose all of my data once in a while, but it’s blazing fast. As long as I keep good backups.

03/20/2012, Underground bunker, somewhere in Ohio.

“Sir. Adams just picked this up.” The lieutenant passed a folder to the General, saluting as was appropriate.

“Thank you.” The general opened the folder and glanced at the synopsis. He glanced over his spectacles at the document, then out of his bulletproof-glass office at the desk where Adams say.

“Bring Adams here.”

“Yessir.” The lieutenant made a slight bow and left.

NSA Report #846-HTU-9756: Suspected Network Trace between denvercoder29 and Analee Robinson.

“Sir? You called?” Lt. Adams stood in front of the General’s desk, staring properly into the middle distance. The secretarial lieutenant turned and left.

“Yes, I did. Take a seat. This report contains only a synopsis sheet.”

The lieutenant broke his thousand mile stare to look at the general “Sir?”

“You heard me. There’s only this sheet.”

Adams stood up “Sir, my apologies, sir. I’ll go print the rest right away, sir.”

“No, no. Stay. Tell me what you found.”

Adams reluctantly sat down, trying not to visualize the General’s desk as the end of his career. “Sir. Well, sir, at 0132 hours, our time, Analee Robinson, otherwise known as bunnygirl42, successfully took down the entire Amazon computing infrastructure for 30 minutes.” He wiped his brow.

“Go on.”

“Yes sir. Anyway, at that time we intercepted an unencrypted packet that was inserted into the datastream. denvercoder29 is apparently willing to stick his neck out in the open to… Keep her out of jail, or something.”

“Did you trace the -” The General’s computer screen blanked, cutting him off mid sentence. On it blinked a single line: “Am not.”

The General paused for a moment “What the…”

The text changed “You heard me. I have no particular fondness for Analee.”


The words disappeared, leaving the general with a blank screen. The general turned to the lieutenant across his desk “Track that message. Go over every log. Detach us from the network. Scan every computer in this building for backdoors.” With that, the general slammed his palm on an inconspicuous red button on his desk. The lights dimmed to pulsating red, and a klaxon sounded general quarters.

“Attention all employees. A network breach has been detected. No one is to leave or enter this building. We are entering DEFCON level 4…”

“Oh, and lieutenant. Bring Analee here. Now.” With that the general shooed the lieutenant out of his office, who was quick to step out.

Minutes later, 2:00 AM, 03/20/2012, Federal Prison, somewhere in Illinois.

“Agent three-two-two-bravo-lima-mike checking in, prisoner #1934685 Analee Robinson.” An older man leaned out of his two ton truck, holding a binder over his head in an attempt to keep the rain off of him.

Inside the kiosk, the guard leaned forward in his chair to make an attempt at light conversation while he keyed in the data “Hey Jimbo, how’s it going?”

“I’m doing pretty good, Frank. How’s the family?”

“They’re pretty good. My youngest took her first steps two days – maybe three days – ago.”

“Congratulations! I still remember when my oldest son took his first steps… Twenty eight years ago, I think. Maybe twenty nine.” The driver retreated a few inches from the rain.

“Hang on. That’s prisoner number 1934685?”


“Okay. Five minutes ago she got re-routed to the Ohio NSA base.”

“Really? On whose authority?”

“Confidential. She must really be something.”

“I wouldn’t know. I’m just a driver. Say hi to the kids for me…” The driver rolled up his window, and picked up the truck intercom “We just go re-routed to Ohio. It’ll be another hour to the airport.”

One of the guards keyed the mike “Okay boss.”

Analee looked at the guards “See? Told you guys we’d have time for another few rounds.” She picked up the deck of cards and continued shuffling.


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