Archive for August, 2009

Netflix Customer Service Thumbs Up

It’s Saturday night and I go to put in Pirate of the Carribean: At the World’s End so we can put an end to this trilogy once and for all. The disc won’t load and I notice it has a crack in it. Darn! Well, I pop on the Netflix website today and let them know the disc is damaged. They promise to send out another copy the next business day and ask I return the damaged disc as soon as possible. I then receive an email apologizing for the inconvience and promising to send another copy out right away.

Now that is nice. No hassles about the damaged disc, no blame, nothing; no questions asks. Another disc is on the way, please return the damaged one and have a great day. I like that. Thumbs up to Netflix.

Jaunty, Arch and Alsa

So the main workstation has been a bit fritzy again. I blew out the dust, resat the cpu fan and such and fired it up. Worked like a charm for a day or so until my youngest, Avery, called attention to the fact that sound was not working. Sure enough, she was correct. Everything looked fine, sound appeared to be working but there was no audio. I messed with the connections, the mixer, everything, but no sound. It was very odd. Then I fired up audacity, pulled in an audio file and it played just fine. That is when I noticed the device in audacity was set to hw:0,1 for playback. HW:0,0 would not play back any sound and that is what most devices will go to by default. So why was subdevice 1 working and not 0 for audio playback?

This was at midnight last night and I did not want to invest too much time. So I plugged in the old sblive usb sound card and let her have at it. No problem there.

To my surprise at work today my friend Aja had finally brough in her laptop with a request to install Ubuntu on it. She had been complaining about having to use Vista Home edition and wanted me to hook her up. I set to it and the install was pretty painless. I resized her Vista partition using the vista tools and then install Juanty. Painless as it was I did have some issue to content with.

First, this is a pretty new laptop and the wireless card was not supported by the stock kernel supplied with Jaunty. I had to do the update to get the latest kernel and use the Jaunty module back ports. Easy as this is to do normally that means I have to connect to our internal network through the cisco clean access client. I needed java. So I used aptitude to pull down sun’s java 6 and the few dependencies and threw them onto a flash card. Did a dpkg install of the packages (have to make sure you have the dependencies for sun-java6-common and then have sun-java6-common, sun-java6-bin and sun-java6-jre all in one spot or you end of in this circular dependency if you try to install them individually). Never-the-less, once done I was able to hook up to the guest network, do an update and on to the wireless it was, easy peasy!

But, I hit another snag, no audio. Everything seemed fine, seemed to play, but no audio. I tried everything I could think of and saw note that it was going to require an updated version of alsa. Jaunty has 1.18, I needed at least 1.20. I was loath to install alsa by source on another person’s machine, I’d rather a package but I was not finding any. I thought I might just upgrade to Koala as that is about a month away.

So using the comman line way noted to me by Popey: do-release-upgrade. That went smooth as butter but then I had issue with it starting X afterwards. Not wanting to waste too much of the work day on this I went back to Jaunty and did an install of alsa by source.

That did not fix the problem. So I dug some more and found out that while the driver works someone had mentioned they had success using hda_analyzer to turn on EAPD on device 0×1c. I found out hda_analyzer is a tool from alsa (not in the repositories) and once I had that and set EAPD on dev 0×1c to on audio played perfectly. Now how was I going to make the permanent? It did not survive a reboot and I was not going to have her fire up this tool and enable that checkbox each time she wanted to use her system.

Someone had posted a script that could be run out of rc.local and another post indicated an unstable release of alsa fixed the problem. I went with the unstable release of alsa driver and bam, perfect audio.

I installed some more software for her and handed over the laptop. She was ecstatic. The thrill was all over her face and she dug right into it. It’s cool to see someone excited over a Linux system.

Back home I set to fixing my own alsa problems. I pulled out the sb live usb card and did a system restart to get things back to clean. Fiddle with aplay and noticed that audio seemed to be working fine. For some reason all was in working order. I think maybe I had something screwed up in the alsamixer. That was nice revelation. I tweaked settings on both the internal and the new external sound card, test some recording then stored the mixer settings. I hope all is even better for Wednesday night.

10 Reasons why Identica is cooler/better than Twitter

  • Identica doesn’t have spam. Spam from companies. Spam from posters being forced to spam their contacts for some stupid contest
  • Identica can survive a denial of service attack. During a recent attack on the internet Identica kept humming along while Twitter and Facebook ground to a halt. Identica follows a distributed model
  • Identica is completely open. Anybody can download an install the software to run their own Identica (Laconica) server. Twitter is closed software
  • All the cool people are on Identica. I’m a member of the F/OSS community and like to communicate with my peers. Do I really care about what book Oprah is recommending this week? Do I really care what Ashton Kutcher has to say? No, not really
  • Identica is licensed under AGPL and all the user content is under Creative Commons attribution
  • Identica won’t sell your user information to third parties. Twitter openly sells your information to whoever they please
  • Twitter has suffered from some major security vulnerabilities (user accounts being compromised)
  • Identica supports tagging within posts
  • Identica allows you to follow a conversation on a single page. No other service currently supports this
  • Identica supports bookmarklets
  • Check out this comparison of Identica and other micro-blogging services.

    Pukwudgie roars into life

    Last night I finally finished cutting all my server services to their new residence on Pukwudgie (my spectacular CentOS 5.3 based server VM). I turned off my old Thinkpad server, which has been doing the job reliably for over 2 years, rebooted pukwudgie just to make sure everything starts up correctly unattended and that was that. My first impressions are that everything seems to run faster. I really expected that, though, because there are a lot more resources available to Pukwudgie than there were to the old server. I am loving it so far and it sure is nice to have an up-to-date server. The old server was running Ubuntu 6.10, which was so old I couldn’t even get security patches for it anymore and this new CentOS server is completely current.

    Hopefully this is a move for the better, and I can probably offer the old lappy/server on FreeLinuxBox.org too!

    Tivo goes apeshit and sues everyone in sight

    After successfully suing Dish Network for $104 million last year Tivo is now suing Verizon and AT&T over alleged DVR patent infringements. While I am no patent attorney I find this development pretty disturbing. Tivo was an early innovator in the digital recording device market but now has much stiffer competition. Satellite and cable companies offer integrated devices for monthly fees. Software based commercial solutions like SageTV, BeyondTV and Windows Media Center require their users to install the software themselves on the hardware of their choice. Then there are F/OSS projects like MythTV and Freevo which are geared towards the real hardcore do-it-yourself type. How far Tivo takes these lawsuits is the big question. Will they eventually go after end users or just stick to companies with deep pockets? Will they even bother with F/OSS projects if their lawsuits are successful? Interesting enough Tivo lost 146,000 subscribers during the last quarter. This downward trend started in January 2006 and has just accelerated in poor economic times. Perhaps the product life cycle theory should be changed to include suing the competition over patents to extend it’s profitability? Regardless this case just emphasizes the need for patent reform in this country. The technology to record a tv show has been commercially available since 1965. Just because the recording sits on a hard drive instead of an analog tape is not that “innovative”. Troubling to say the least.

    On Server Migrations

    new-servers
    Lately, I have been slowly migrating my server services from my ancient Thinkpad server to a VM on some real server hardware. This has been an arduous process, mostly because this is my own personal server, which means I am #1 strapped for time, #2 deprived of ambition when home and #3 insanely paranoid about screwing up any of my data.

    I mentioned recently about how to set up a fakie mail server, which is what I have used for a long time. Well, oddly enough, the *new* portion of the server setup is quick, easy and works great. The hard part of that, which I didn’t mention on the previous post was data migration. You see, on the old server I used UW-IMAP and on the new one am using Dovecot IMAP. They both are set to use Maildir, so I just copied the folders from one machine to the other. Somewhere in there there is something funny in how each uses the folder structure. I noticed the problem immediately when using Alpine to get email from the server that it couldn’t find the previously configured folders. It turns out that I had to rename them to INBOX.foldername on the new system instead of just foldername and then things would mostly jive. I still had to make a few mail client tweaks, which were irritating, but hey, I got mail!

    Once mail was running, I set out to get my webdav share working. That’s a pretty easy process and you can find a good instructable at http://www.cyberciti.biz/faq/rhel-fedora-linux-apache-enable-webdav/. I have used webdav fileshares for quite some time now and really dig them despite the fact that it’s a crap shoot if such-and-such version of nautilus will work with them (/me grates teeth at nautilus). It still makes for good document portability.

    I set up subversion (dav) as well. This is a must have for any coder of any kind and a great tutorial for this is at http://wiki.centos.org/HowTos/Subversion. Once again, I pretty much copied my repo files from one machine to the other, and I even renamed the base repo on the way. Everything just worked and retained my logs and revision history, etc. Good stuff!

    I installed LAMP on the server and moved over my intranet php code and databases and set up ntpd (a time server).

    Lastly I installed bind on the new server so I can keep my dns going. That was a little bit more of a pain as the installs are *way* different between Ubuntu (old server) and CentOS (new one). CentOS uses a jailed instance, a different directory structure and a slightly different config setup as well. The tutorial at http://www.sanhom.com/?p=83 was invaluable at getting things going.

    Whew, we are almost there! The only things I have left to do is setup my music server (GnuMP3d) and dhcp server, bothl of which are pretty much a piece of cake. After that I am ready for the momentous unplugging of the old machine :-)

    I wonder how Dann managed all this in just one night?! :-)

    MythTV 0.22 tentatively scheduled for release (last week of September)

    Big news coming from the MythTV developer mailing list. MythTV 0.22 will be released the last week of September unless something major gets in the way. The developers will be going into a feature freeze on Sept. 7 and working on bug fixes prior to the official release. I have to say I’m very excited about this. MythTV 0.22 has some very major changes/improvements. Let me list the really important ones:

  • Migrating to Qt4 as the underlying graphical widget toolkit. Some people have criticized the MythTV developers for not keeping up with the visual bling of other projects (Boxee, XBMC). You will see massive improvements by the migration to Qt4. New fancy themes/skins will be coming to the forefront
  • VDPAU supported out of the box. This is huge. Being able to play 1080p HD h264 videos on underpowered machines is amazing. Trust me on this one.
  • Hauppauge HD-PVR (1212) capture device supported out of the box. Finally a stable MythTV release to support this next generation HD capture device. Expect sales of this box to get a major bump as MythTV users migrate to it as their primary capture method.
  • Improved channel scanning for digital capture devices. With the digital tv transition complete (in the U.S.) and other countries doing the same more and more people are going all digital for their TV. Improved support and performance is very important
  • You can read more about MythTV 0.22 in the release notes. Now I’m curious which of the MythTV specific Linux distributions (Mythbuntu, LinHES, Mythdora) will be the first to integrate 0.22 into an official release?

    Personal IMAP mail server

    What is a personal IMAP mail server and why would you want one? Well, such a server is, like it sounds, your very own mail server that you can access via IMAP. You might want such a thing because, like me, you have a lot of different email accounts in different places and you want to collect them all into one central and easy to manage location. I also like having more direct control over my access to my email. For example, if your email account at somewhere.com stops working because their server is down and you need to reference an email stored there, you are out of luck, unless you store your somewhere.com email on your own email server where you can still access it even though their server is inaccessible.

    Since I am doing some personal server upgrades and migration, I thought it would be great to share just how to get this kind of server up and running with the most minimal hassle.

    For starters, my new mail server is going to be a 32 bit server install of CentOS 5.3. This OS is not at all difficult to install at all and it’s enterprise ready, so it’s plenty reliable.

    When you have a machine ready with CentOS running on it, you will need to install Dovecot to handle your IMAP mail access. This is just an yum install away:

    yum -y install dovecot

    You will need to configure Dovecot after the install. Edit the /etc/dovecot.conf file and make sure the following is set and uncommented:

    protocols = imap imaps
    mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir

    CentOS uses a sendmail/procmail mail combo by default, so in order to make sure your server and IMAP are both using Maildir (so your email gets delivered to you locally) you’ll need to create a file called /etc/procmailrc and in it put:

    DEFAULT=$HOME/Maildir/

    And then restart your mail service (just to make sure):

    service sendmail restart

    Once that is set, you will need to turn on Dovecot!

    chkconfig dovecot on
    service dovecot start

    At this point, you should be able to (firewall issues not withstanding) connect to your new mail server via IMAP and see that you have no mail. I am assuming that you have set up mail clients before, the only difference now is you will point to “YourNewMailServerName” and set it up for IMAP mail and use your account name and password from “YourNewMailServerName”.

    For example, I created a new server called “Pukwudgie.linc.lan” and created an account on it called linc and made a supersecret password. When I set up my mail client to test the mailserver setup, I set it up to point to Pukwudgie.linc.lan using my username of linc and my password of supersecret via the IMAP protocol. I was able to log directly into my new mail account, which was completely empty.

    At some point, you will want to SEND some mail from this account. Since this personal IMAP server is just a place to HOLD your emails, you will need to configure your email client to use your ISP’s smtp address to send through. Follow their instructions for doing this. Most ISP’s do not allow you to use any smtp server other than their own these days.

    Now for the fun part. You wan to collect your mail from other places and store it here. This is accomplished through the use of fetchmail. You will need to place a “~/.fetchmailrc” file in your home directory. Please refer to the fetchmailrc man page for full details, but in essence mine looks a lot like this:

    poll lincisgreat.org user "linc" there with password "itsasecret"

    And you can have as many of those lines in that file as you have email accounts. After creating the rc file, you can run fetchmail to get your mail and have it delivered locally on your new server, where you can access it via IMAP. There are several methods of running fetchmail. You can run it by itself and watch the output as it goes each time, you can run it in daemon mode by starting it with the -d command line switch and specifying a time interval:

    fetchmail -d 60

    Will check for and grab your email every 60 seconds. Or you could put fetchmail in your crontab and have cron manage getting your mail like so:

    */5 * * * * /usr/bin/fetchmail &> /dev/null

    Which would check your email every 5 minutes.

    New Planet TLLTS

    As previously mentioned, the Planet TLLTS website at http://tllts.org/planet is now up. Please adjust your rss feeds settings if necessary.

    Firefox 3.5 on Mint 7

    Linux Mint

    Linux Mint


    Just a quick note on how to get Firefox 3.5 running on Linux Mint 7.


    sudo apt-get install firefox-3.5
    sudo rm /usr/bin/firefox
    sudo ln -s /usr/bin/firefox-3.5 /usr/bin/firefox

    Pretty easy a?

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