The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for August, 2005

Square Peg into Round Hole? Yes!

Posted by Deliverator on 12th August 2005

I ordered a compact flash to pcmcia adapter last week from eXpansys, a company that specializes in PDAs and the oddball accessories that tend to go with them. It arrived today. Although I wasn’t expecting it, the adapter is quite flexible, which is useful for keeping the card out of the way of anything that might be in an adjacent slot. I tried the adapter out in the carputer’s VIA Epia MII motherboard and am pleased to say it works just fine with my Senao 200 MW card. I was worried that the Senao might only operate on a 5 volt bus (CF only supplies 3.3), but it works just fine. So, the carputer can now accomodate a 16 bit PCMCIA card using the CF->PCMCIA adapter, as well as a 32 bit Cardbus card. This is great news, as I should be able to run both WiFi and a cellular access card simultaneously!

Posted in CarPuter, General | No Comments »

Exercise while Ubuntu

Posted by Deliverator on 12th August 2005

Azureus, my BitTorrent client of choice finished downloading the DVD .ISO for Ubuntu Linux this evening. Although it was getting rather late, I blasted the image to a dvd-r using my new Plextor 12x SATA burner at full speed. I don’t normally burn at the faster speeds, as I have found that disks burned at slower speeds have better archival life and wear resistance. I attribute this to the burner being able to create more well-defined pits at slower speeds. Anyways, the Plextor handled the high-speed burn like a champ and a few scant minutes later, I had a Ubuntu installation DVD. I set up a VM in VMware with which to play around with it and popped in the disk. Installation went smoothly, although Ubuntu seems to be one of the last major distros still using a ascii text based installation wizard by default. The only hitch in the installation process came when after booting into the Gnome Desktop, I tried to get all available package updates. It popped up a dialogue saying I had to be logged in as root to do the updates. So, I logged out and proceeded to try and log back in as root. I typed in the password I normally use for super user level accounts and was presented with a bad password error message. I was sure I was asked for a password during the install, so I tried a couple minor variations, but to no avail. So, I was left to reinstall the OS from scratch. I did so, only to encounter the same problem. I googled for a solution. It turns out Ubuntu disables the root account by default and gives the user account you create during the install process super user status. It is easy to enable the root account, and I did so promptly. I really dislike having to use the sudo command every time I try and do something of substance. Anyways, outside of this minor issue, so far I really like Ubunto.

In other news, I am trying to get back into some semblance of shape that well…resembles a shape. I have been biking 15+ miles almost every day on my Lifefitness Lifecycle these last few weeks. I recently mounted a compact keyboard and a handheld trackball to the handlebars. This, coupled with my newly improved media center pc (Thanks go out to Colin for the mini-itx case!) makes for a decent web browsing, email and media platform while biking. I composed this entire entry while biking, although I will probably go back and edit in some links afterwards on my main pc. Using a keyboard as a text entry solution is not ideal for biking, as it requires me to take both hands off the handlebars and move into a more upright position. I might invest in an alternative text entry/pointing device like a Twiddler if I persist in exercising while I blog. I would also like to pick one up for eventual incorporation into a wearable computer rig.

Posted in Emulation and Virtualization, General, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

Lines in the sand

Posted by Deliverator on 10th August 2005

After a conversation with Matt Westervelt yesterday at hacknight, I have decided to try out Ubuntu Linux. I have been playing around with Fedora for a while now in VMware, and have been running OS X Tiger pretty regularly in PearPC. This is all part of an effort to become more proficient in non-microsoft OSes in anticipation of an eventual switch.

Despite being a long time advocate of Microsoft based solutions (and having worked there for 3 years), I have become more and more displeased of late with Microsoft’s heavy handedness towards consumers. In particular, I greatly dislike Windows Genuine Advantage, Paladium related initiatives and a general trend I see within Microsoft of not looking at what individuals actually want, but instead treating consumers as “The Product.” This is much in the same vein as media companies, where individuals are seen as “The Product” to be sold to advertisers, and not the reverse. A number of previously *Rock of Gibraltar* stable XP machines (and yes, they are legal licensed copies) have started bluescreening and displaying other distressing behaviour since the forcible installation of Windows Genuine Advantage a few weeks back. To prove that WGA was indeed the cause of these problems, I restored several of these boxes to disk images (I image the OS partitions of my most crucial machines regularly) taken prior to WGA and immediately turned off windows update, even going so far as to disable the service entirely. Unsurprisingly, these boxes returned to their previous high level of stability. I have just about had it with XP. Microsoft’s increasing attempts to exert control over users (DRM, Paladium, Windows Genuine Advantage, etc.) and post-sale crippling of features (like raw sockets support in SP2) has lost them my support as a user and more importantly, as an advocate. I am in the process of migrating several boxes back to W2K Server in the interim, but my longterm plan is for a much less Microsoft-centric infrastructure.

Microsoft still has time to regain my trust, but as it stands, I will not be purchasing Longhorn (recently rechristened Windows Vista) or any other Microsoft products that dares to disrespect the customer. This will be a difficult transition for me. One can tolerate a little malfeasance, but when push comes to shove, I vote with my wallet and am vocal about it. If a business does something you dislike, call them on it. Make sure the decision makers know the reason for you ire. Equally, make sure to let them know what you value about their business/product/service. All institutional power ultimately stems from the consent/acquiescence of individuals. It is often easier to let things slide and let some small portion of your life be governed/controlled by others, but at some point you have to fight for what you believe. To not do so is inhuman.

Posted in Emulation and Virtualization, General, Tech Stuff | 4 Comments »

Videolan

Posted by Deliverator on 4th August 2005

I have been playing around with Videolan, an open source video streaming program with versions available for a wide variety of popular operating systems (and some embedded devices too). Videolan lets you stream almost any video source (avi’s, mpeg’s 1-2-4, DVD & VCD, analog capture cards, webcams, etc) to other computers on a network via a variety of protocols including UDP, UDP Multicast, HTTP, RTSP and a number of others and supports VOD (video on demand) type functionality. Doesn’t sound like much…why is this just about the coolest thing on earth? To start:

  • SMB is a bad protocol for moving video around a network
  • Not all platforms have the codecs available to playback all those oddball video files you have collected over the years. Plus, managing all those codecs and keeping them up to date is a pain.
  • Videolan can transcode video on the fly to a variety of codecs, in particular ones that take less system resources to decode. Thus, you can make use of those old crusty boxes you have sitting around. And who doesn’t have a closet full of old computers? There are also clients available for a variety of PDA platforms allowing for all sorts of evilness :)
  • One can specify the bitrate to be used, thus allowing video to be streamed over lower bandwidth links (such as WiFi).
  • Videolan can stream DVDs and more importantly, images of DVDs. Now, you can digitize that huge collection and never hunt for a disk again (or risk scratching them).

Posted in General, Media, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

Simultaneous Wifi and EVDO on Via MII motherboard

Posted by Deliverator on 3rd August 2005

My new MII motherboard has both a Cardbus slot and a Compact Flash slot. I currently have a Senao 200mw card in the cardbus slot. The Senao is one of the best wireless cards around, so I would like to continue using it, but I would also like to get an EVDO access card as well. All the ones I have seen require a cardbus slot, so I have to figure out a way to use the CF for wireless or go back to using my USB Orinoco adapter. One possible solution is the use of a CF->PCMCIA expander. These devices allow you to plug a PCMCIA card into a CF slot. CF and PCMCIA are essentially the same animal in different form factors, the only significant difference seems to be that CF only supports 3.3v card, whereas most pcmcia slots support both 3.3 and 5v devices. I will have to see if my Senao card will run off a 3.3v bus, or whether I will need one of the more expensive, fugly adapters that supports boosting the voltage.

Posted in CarPuter, General, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

More Fedora

Posted by Deliverator on 3rd August 2005

The updating of all packages went relatively smoothly, and Fedora is now running off a 2.6.12 series kernel. It had no trouble figuring out which packages needed updating and downloading them all, but timed out when trying to figure out package dependencies with such a large ammount of packages selected. All I needed to do to work around the problem was to select a smaller number of packages to install at a time. Thankfully, the update program (up2date) cached all the RPM install files, so I didn’t have to re-download them. This would have been annoying not just because of the size of the updates, but also because the update program warns about the updates not being GPG signed and requires you to click an “install anyways y/n” box after downloading each update before proceeding to download the next one.

I took some time and installed some packages from the Fedora Extras project via YUM, the new package management tool that is very remniscent of APT on Debian based systems. There are some noteable applications that seem to be missing from both the “Fedora Core” and “Fedora Extras” set of applications, most likely due to licensing issues, so I will have to figure out where I can get packages for those. I would prefer to use prebuilt binaries rather than compile from scratch, at least until I get a little more used to the file system structure.

Fedora is working fine in VMware as is, but the automated install of the VMware tools (which provide graphics accelerating, better cursor handling, etc.) into Fedora does’t seem to be working. I am using an older version of VMware, so an update to 5.0 might be in order. VMware Workstation 5 supports some very cool features, such as multiple point in time snapshots per VM, ability to “team” VMs together – specifying a group of vms to start up together in a certain order – allowing you to create whole network infrastructures, broader OS support for both host and client oses, and the list just goes on and on. I just wish it wasn’t soo expensive. I’ll have to look into upgrade pricing.

Posted in Emulation and Virtualization, General, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

not quite red hat

Posted by Deliverator on 2nd August 2005

I spent this evening playing around with Fedora in a VM. Fedora is a distribution that is closely related to Red Hat Linux, one of the most successful Linux distributions. Red Hat decided to concentrate their development and support efforts towards enterprise users and created Red Hat Enterprise Linux towards that end. Red Hat (the company) will only support RHEL. Fedora was originally spawned off Red Hat and most of the active development seems to go on in Fedora, with new releases every 6 months or so. A lot of these changes get rolled into RHEL eventually, but RHEL is designed to have a longer time between release (as Red Hat is now primarily a support company and needs time to create documentation, certification programs, etc.). Anyways, Fedora is the first Red Hat distribution that I have played with in many years. I think the last version of Red Hat that I seriously used was 5.2, so I am eager to see how Red Hat has changed in all these years.

If nothing else, it was a great deal easier to install, with all (virtual hardware) being properly detected during the install process. The last time I touched Red Hat, it took me the greater part of a week to enable proper suppport for my video and sound cards (X has always been a biotch). After about two hours of install process and almost no fuss, I am happily typing this from within Firefox, running on Fedora. I am going to play around with the update system (which still uses RPMs) and see how it handles an update of every installed package (including kernel). If something goes awry, since I am running it in a VM, I can just revert back to the last point in time snapshot , so I am feeling daring :)

Posted in Emulation and Virtualization, General | No Comments »

Media Center Upgrade

Posted by Deliverator on 1st August 2005

Upgraded the box that I have been using as my media center to XP. It was running 98 for a long time, due to the lack of a decent video driver (with support for the card’s tv-out capabilities) for other operating systems. For some reason, Intel finally decided to add tv-out support to their 2k/XP driver recently, which is rather strange, as the chipset is long defunct. I was planning on swapping in my newly liberated Epia board at the same time, but the case on my media center has a fixed, non-compatible backplane. I may purchase a nice small form-factor case and do the upgrade at some point in the future, but I don’t relish the idea of spending another $90 for what would be a fairly marginal upgrade. So anyone have any *evil* ideas of how I could put this Epia to use in the meantime?

Posted in General | No Comments »