Archive for January, 2010

In the market for a 40-42″ HDTV

It’s been too long since I posted last. I got the approval from the boss (aka the wife) to start shopping for a new HDTV for the family room. I’ve checked out some HDTVs yesterday at one of the electronics stores near my office. Honestly I was most blown away by the Plasmas from Panasonic. I know they consume more power than LCDs but the difference in picture quality compared to 60 & 120 Hz LCDs were very noticeable. I was impressed by the latest 240 Hz LCDs but they tend to be a couple hundred dollars more in price than their 60 & 120 Hz brethren. Speaking to several people I hear that if you go with an LCD Samsung and Sony are currently the way to go. Plasma TVs seem to be only pushed by Panasonic and have some sort of stigma attached to them by the tree huggers because they’re “less green”. Honestly I’m not opposed to Plasmas. I want the best bang for the buck and I’m open to all options. Right now I’m leaning towards getting a plasma tv. I was very impressed with the OLED TVs they had. Ultra thin and with an excellent picture. Unfortunately they’re still relatively expensive as any newer technology tends to be in it’s infancy. I can see OLEDs becoming the norm in the near future. They didn’t have any 3D tvs on display yet. Honestly I can’t see myself sitting in my living room watching the big game sporting 3D glasses. It just seems too gimicky. But hell, I’m all for it if it drives down the prices of 2D televisions. More to come.


Plasma vs LCD HDTVs energy consumption costs

Here’s a good breakdown of the energy costs associated with HDTVs. Plasma eat more energy but it’s not as drastic as some make it out to be:
Cnet HDTV Energy Consumption breakdown

It’s definitely worth a read if you’re in the market for a new HDTV.


Boxee FTW

Boxee

Boxee

Long ago, I believe it was, my buddy Joel turned me on to Boxee. Then, it was still in alpha – way alpha in fact. I thought it was a pretty neat idea, but it was rough, for sure, and I could only get it to work on my desktop at the time, and my desktop had dual monitors, so it looked like hell spread across them. I also recall it being slightly difficult to use.

Boxee

Boxee Works!


Fast forward to last night. While on the TechShow, someone mentioned Boxee and I remembered that I had used it long ago and decided to check it out again. This time I tried to install it on my laptop (the same one I had tried it on originally) and it installed just fine on top of Mint 7 (even though the .deb was for Ubuntu 9.10).

WOW. It sure has come a log way baby. The interface is slick, smooth, quick and very attractive. The keyboard use, although it could be more intuitive, is very easy to figure out, and the same for mouse usage (or touchpad in my case). I pointed Boxee at my media folders on my NAS and within an hour (I have a LOT of media) it had scanned through all my stuff. But that’s not the best part…. To my amazement, it looked up all kinds of cover art and information on the files it found. I have to say it was pretty cool scrolling through my tv shows, movies and music with a nice graphical interface.

I haven’t had a great deal of time to play with it yet, just an hour or so last night, but my intention is to fire this sucker up over the weekend with a big old playlist and hook it to my new TV and see what happens. Perhaps between then and now I can get my wife to put the music portion through it’s paces too. I also still need to check out some other features on there as well, like RSS feeds and trying to play an actual dvd. From what I have see so far, I am sure it will perform admirably.

Running Hot Not a Good Idea

Running the server without the fans is probably not a good idea since I could cook an egg on the box. Well. that has prompted me to only run the workstation when needed and rely more on the other systems I have. The biggest detriment was to my email filtering as I was relying on Thunderbird to shuffle my emails into their proper folders. It was finally time to get off my lazy butt and learn procmail. This was pretty darn easy to do and now my email gets filtered properly without the need of a client.

What am I going to do with my workstation now?

Another One Bites the Dust

Say goodbye to my faithful workstation that has served me for a good 5 or so years. About a year ago it started giving me boot issues, would lock up with some regularity and was just ornary. Well, today was the final straw. I ripped it out of my rack and removed the hard drive. Slapped that in my the spare rack server I had over here for backup purposes and went at it.

Arch did not want to boot because it could not find the hard drive. Luckily there was a failsafe image on there. I suspect the regular arch image was tailored to the old hardware so the initrd system did not have the proper modules. Couple this with some knowledge of grub and I was golden.

This system has an ATI Rage XL and getting that configured and using something other than 800×600 was a chore. It made me realize I have no desire to use ati cards in the near future. While people may complain about nvidia, and I used the open nv driver, they work a hell of a lot better than any ATI card I have ever tried.

The biggest problem, though, were the four fans in this thing. The old Compaq server I had sounded like a jet taking off. This damn box sounds like a whole squadron. Did they have to make the fans so loud?

The horror, the horror.

Well Arch is running and I am back into my fluxbox. Hooray!

Kudos Amazon!

Amazon

Amazon

Quite a while back, in September in fact, I ordered a big honkin battery for my Acer Aspire One. I bought the 9 cell version through Amazon from a place called NewMP3Technology. The battery came, I charged it right up and used it on the upcoming Ohio Linux Fest. My only note on it was that Allan bought a similar battery, obviously from a different place and seemed to get a bit more battery time out of it, but all in all, I was happy with it.

Fast forward to Christmas time. I took the family to my parents house for Christmas this year and brought a couple laptops with me for some recreational surfing while there. They live in upstate NY where there is little else to do :-) While using my AAO there, I let the new battery completely drain. When I plugged it back in, it would not charge. I googled around for similar problems and found that there was a bios update that fixed some of these, so I updated the bios and, you guessed it, that didn’t work either. After I got back home, I checked the original battery which charged fine.

I checked my paperwork for the new battery and found that the original listing on Amazon had a 1 year warranty on the battery. Elated, I wrote the seller through Amazon’s contact form and asked them how I would go about getting a replacement. Well, long story short, I wrote them 5 times over 3 weeks or so and never received a response other than a form email stating that the exchange time limit on the purchase had expired (30 days). Now Amazon has an A-Z guarantee that is 30 days as well, but I had passed that too. I looked the seller up in the Better Business Bureau’s website and it said they were probably out of business. Frustrated, I sent off an email to Amazon anyhow, explaining the saga and telling them that these guys were still listed as active sellers on Amazon’s site. I figured I had done my good deed for the general populace and that Amazon would remove the seller and at least nobody else would get bit. To my complete surprise, Amazon, *extended* their A-Z guarantee for me and completely refunded my money (including the shipping!) I, of course, ordered another replacement battery from a different seller through Amazon.

It’s just so uncommon these days to find a person or a business with some integrity that I just had to pass the story along. And especially so with the anonymity that the web provides. Many thanks and kudos go to Amazon. I know I’ll keep buying from them. If you are going to buy things online, you can’t find a better place to do so.

Oh, and stay away from NewMP3Technology.

Updates

Updates, updates everywhere. I pushed a bunch of updates to FreeLinuxBox.org, my Blog, LinuxPlanet Casts and Blogs, LinuxForChristians, TLLTS Planet and the Lincware forums. Everything looks ok right now, but please let me know if you see anything strange happening (or not happening as the case may be). Thanks and you may now return to your previously scheduled rss feed.

Prey

Prey is a lightweight application that will help you track and find your laptop if it ever gets stolen. It works in all operating systems and not only is it Open Source but also completely free.

That’s what their website says anyway.

You have to admit that it sounds quite intriguing. There are a lot of utilities around that you can *pay* for that offer some reasonable facsimile of helping you track your stolen laptop and get it back, but this is the first open source one I have come across.

Further inspection shows this to be “the real deal”. At least as far as I am concerned. I cannot yet comment on the mac/win versions of the software, but the Linux version is pretty slick.

Essentially, Prey runs through cron every 10 minutes by default, completely in the background, hidden from view. It checks for the existence of a specific website and if it doesn’t find this website (gets a 404 message), it starts grabbing information from your machine like ip addresses, screenshots, pics from your webcam, etc., and sends them either to Prey’s website for you to view, or directly to your email account. This is all information designed to help you track down where your laptop is, and identify who might have it.

I tried it on my Ubuntu work laptop and the client is literally a drop-in dmg package. It installed and asked me to run a control panel applet for configuration. This only really asked me for 2 pieces of identifying information, the API key and the device key, both of which were available to me after I registered (for free) on Prey’s website at http://preyproject.com.

Once you are registered and get your device (laptop) listed on the website, you can tell Prey, via the website anytime, that your laptop is missing by going to http://control.preyproject.com (and after logging in) clicking on the appropriate device listing (they let you have 3 for free btw), changing the “Missing” slide switch to “on” and hitting the update button at the bottom of the page. There are other options in there you can change as well to suit your needs. The next time your laptop can find an internet connection and check in, Prey will have it sending reports out so you can find it. I was pretty happy and impressed with how well it worked actually.

The only con I can think of with this program is the fact that I run Linux. Not that people won’t steal laptops with Linux on them, but that I imagine that anyone who would steal one of my laptops would immediately install windows on it, thus rendering Prey useless. If I were to employ the use of that auto-login stuff, that could perhaps stave off a would be thief long enough for Prey to do it’s job, but I do like having to log in to my machines (just makes me feel more secure). It’s something to think about, and I will look into what other people have to say on the subject in Prey’s forums. That being said, however, I am still putting the software on my laptops. Hey, it can’t hurt right?

Chrono Trigger DS

Wow! I’ve heard a bit about how good this game is for some time but man, am I blown away. This has got to be one of the most involving and exciting games I have played in a long time. Orginally released on the Super Nintendo, Chrono Trigger is an epic quest across time that has fantastic role playing elements combined with a terrific storyline. I cannot believe how awesome this game is.

Your main character starts off the morning with plans to visit the centennial festival. There you play some games and complete some mini-quests which actually alter the storyline a bit later on down the line depending on the choices you make. You meet up with you friend, a female mechanic who has created a teleporter. You are the first brave sole to take a try. Success compells another female companion who you hook up with to jump on in there but she gets kicked out of time and you have to go rescue her. Your quest continues through about 5 different eras in history each with links to one another. How this all ties together is just utterly fascinating. The character development is top notch.

There are so many twists and turns in this games and events that happen which just floor me. I don’t want to give any of the surprises away so I will say little more. Suffice to add that when it feels like the game might be reaching a climax you learn that you still have a long way to go.

The combat system is really cool. From the start you have the choice to use traditional turn based combat or ongoing combat. The latter has you making choices and attacking while the enemy is doing the same with no pause and no break, so you have to be on your toes. I suspect it was unique for its time and I have not played many other games that utilize this type of system. It’s almost Balder’s Gate in some ways, but you cannot pause the flow.

This game is an absolute must have for the DS. You can pick it up just about anywhere that sells older or used games. I recommend trying to find it new, but don’t pay more than $20. I saw it at Kmart for $19.99 unopened.

You can also find the rom on line for the snes emulator, but come on, you know you want to get it legitimately.

You hear so much about Zelda and Final Fantasy, it’s a shame a game like this never received the mainstream recongnition it deserved. Chrono Trigger is truly a treasure.

There is a sequel, Chrono Cross, for the Playstation.

Upgrading Mythbuntu packages (post installation)

During the last MythTVCast one of our listeners asked about getting updated MythTV packages post installation on his Mythbuntu system. I commented that “if it works for you don’t fix it”. Robert McNamara (one of the Myth devs) immediately commented that I should enable the nightly autobuilds as described here. You download a package that enables the repos. It will ask you if you want stable and/or testing. Select stable (0.22) and then select your local mirror. I then did an ’sudo apt-get update’ which immediately triggered the update manager. I then upgraded 33 packages (majority of them MythTV related). I rebooted and everything seems to functioning fine. I then did the same for my Ion based frontend and haven’t had any problems. So Rob, thanks for the information. I’ll mention this during the next MythTVCast recording. Robert pointed out that Mythbutnu 9.10 shipped with a pre-release version of MythTV 0.22 and these autobuilds contain many important fixes that are now considered ’stable’. If that’s the case shouldn’t these packages be included in the Ubuntu repositories of 9.10 by default? Maybe I’m missing something here. Regardless I can recommend this method to getting the fixes in your Mythbuntu 9.10 system.

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