Ubuntu Studio . . . instructional install.

..if some want to try Ubuntu, but wants to jump right in to video editiing, audio recording and high end graphics work, there’s a version of it called Ubuntu Studio, which scripts a lot of the things one often has to do once Linux is installed. I personally would not use this edition of Ubuntu, but I think it’s helpful to those trying to get into it. Ubuntu Studio is specifically for Video & Graphics enthusiasts.


Ubuntu Studio 8.04 Desktop:

Ubuntu Studio 8.04 Server:

Ubuntu Studio homepage:

Dell to come out with its own the Mini Inspiron to compete with the EEE PC

I wonder if it will also run Linux? I hope so. The unit looks quite slick, I might even consider getting one myself — but only if it runs Linux, of course. The unit specifications are expected to be as follows: Atom 1.6 GHz, 3 USB ports, Ethernet, Card reader, Kensington lock, Adapter socket, Mic/line-out, VGA port, screen resolution at 1280×800. The unit is expected to price at less than $500. Yay!

Source: Gizmodo.

Imaginary Friends . . .

Imaginary Friends

Source: Not From Concentrate.

[[Reality and mathematics are truly one and the same.]]

ASUS to embed instant-on Linux into their motherboards…

After good feedback from customers in 2007, ASUS (large motherboard manufacturer, also maker of the EEE PC) is going to embed Splashtop Linux in a chip onto a million motherboards and more soon. When turning on the PC you are presented with an option to boot into the embedded OS, which takes all of 5 seconds. You’re presented with a rudimentary desktop OS capable of running Firefox and SKYPE and a few other utilities ………….. Bill Gates ought to be VERY worried.

I expect the concept of the on-chip OS to catch on quickly, and if they ultimately offer package management (such as APT) and allow a /home partition on a hard disk (or even a solid state drive!) this could become extremely popular.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

ASUS has branded Splashtop “Express Gate”. It will run off a chip, and will be an instant-on OS. At any time you can click a reset button on screen and boot up to a “traditional” OS off a hard disk. It even recognizes wireless interfaces!

If they’d allow for a VNC/RDP client — then this would be a an amazing offering as a base OS on a mini laptop to compete with the likes of the EEE PC.

Source: Splashtop (manufacturer blog article).

WPA / WPA2 … as insecure as I expected

Wireless encryption stinks. It always has. Generally, the way I secure my wireless is first to engage MAC filtering (not at all secure, but at least filters out the newbies), then I engage an SSH tunnel to a trusted box @ home with the dynamic application-level port forwarding which allows the SSH server to act as a SOCKS proxy (ssh -D 1655 validusername@ssh-server.com, where “1655” is any port #), allowing all traffic on the configured applications (Firefox, Pidgin, Mail Clients, etc) to be proxied through the tunneled SSH session, offering a secure and encrypted tunnel over a wireless signal. Here’s a cute summary on how to do this for those that need it.

One caveat: All your DNS lookups will be unencrypted, an easy way to correct this in Firefox is to go to the about:config page (just type about:config in Firefox’s address bar) and go down to network.proxy.socks_remote_dns = false and change “false” to “true”, which will force Firefox to use the SSH server (via the encrypted tunnel) for all DNS lookups.

A simple article on how easy it is to hack WPA / WPA2, also known as ROT-26 security.

Hans Reiser convicted of murder

The creator of ReiserFS, the famous and robust Linux journaled file system was convicted of murdering his wife after 2 years of court wrangling. I don’t know enough about the case to know if he was truly guilty or innocent, but it seems for at least the next 25 years (minimum for his murder conviction) his life will be become very difficult.

Technically speaking, ReiserFS is an amazing file system, my preferred file system for all my external drives and internal systems. While Reiser4 was being worked on, it’s not ready for primetime and likely never will be ready. It appears other large distros like SuSE have switched back to ext3 since ReiserFS may become a dead filesystem now.

I feel that ReiserFS is itself a tried and tested file system, though I do have great concern about this development. I never cared for the performance of ext3 and while ext4 is in development, it will be some time before it’s ready.

For my own systems I plan to stick with ReiserFS for now (not reiser4) and perhaps consider XFS or JFS (my research shows XFS to be one of the better file systems, but I have not yet personally tested it.)

Here are a few good artciles on the possible fate of ReiserFS due to Hans Reiser’s current real life issues.

1. ZD Blogs

2. IT News.au

3. Daily Tech

4. CNN

VNC Thumbnail viewing

Excellent program, allows for monitoring multiple VNC sessions in 1 window (as thumbnails), then double-click to interact with any one sesison.

Quite helpful for monitoring multiple systems at once. Runs on Windows, OS X and Linux via Java Jar (for linux, just execute as …)

java -jar ./VncThumbnailViewer

You can then specify hosts/ports/passwords in command line, or save them to a host file for future loading as plaintext or encrypted.


VNC Thumbnail Viewer.

Linux.com Article on the subject.

A little break . . .

Taking a little break, will be back in about (2) weeks.

SUN to certify more of its servers for Ubuntu

Having recently acquired MySQL and Innotek (makers of VirtualBox, the open source VMware) SUN is clearly reading the tea leaves and can see the trends. SUN has been a friend to the open source community for years, having forged Star Office, the forebearer of OpenOffice and releasing the source code for Solaris OS. They’re also co-sponsoring Ubuntu Live which will debut in July 2008.

SUN announced that they’re going to further certify their servers with Ubuntu Linux. At this time there’s no plans to release Hardy Heron (8.04) for the SPARC processor, though SUN will be certifying their x86 line of servers with Ubuntu, and their more of their SPARC servers with earlier versions of Ubuntu which have been released for SPARC processors.

At Ubuntu Live, expect SUN to announce how MySQL, OpenOffice and Ubuntu will evolve with SUN to meet customers’ needs.

Sources: One, Two.

Linus Torvalds posts a (funny) bug to Fedora’s Bugzilla

This is a very amusing bug report submission, and not and April Fool’s joke. The number of posts that follows to help him is rather remarkable in 24hrs, and I’m still following the thread.

Here’s his initial post:

Linus Torvalds on 2008-03-31 15:37 EST

Description of problem:

youtube no workee – fedora 9 not usable for wife

Version-Release number of selected component (if applicable):

swfdec.x86_64 0.6.2-1.fc9
swfdec-gtk.x86_64 0.6.2-1.fc9
swfdec-mozilla.x86_64 0.6.0-1.fc9

How reproducible:

I didn’t try a lot of videos, but I couldn’t find a single one that actually
worked. And what’s the internet without the rick-roll?

Some just show a light gray background, some give the play buttons etc, but show only a black screen even when the red ball at the bottom moves along..

Steps to Reproduce:
1. Install current Fedora 9
2. Rick-roll!
3. No profit!

Actual results:

Some videos just show a light gray background, some give the play buttons etc, but in the latter case show only a black screen even when the red ball at the bottom seems to moves along..

Expected results:

Rick Astley in all his glory! People have reported that youtube videos are supposed to work with swfdec, so I presume they have worked at some point and have been broken recently.

Just to test that this isn’t just a anti-rick-roll security feature, I also tested some other videos, but let’s face it – we do need Rick for the “Full Internet Experience”.

Additional info:

This is “high” priority because the wife will kill me if she doesn’t have her videos. And the adobe player won’t install on current rawhide due to some library issues.

“Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope”

I can imagine his wife standing there, arms crossed, “You wrote the Linux Kernel, and you can’t get my YouTube videos to play!!! (Actually he only wrote about 2% of what is now the current Linux Kernel, but that wouldn’t make it any funnier).

The rest of the forum thread can be read here.

The mental sophistication of elephants.

Elephants are known to be highly intelligent animals. They’re known to have very tight family structures and exhibit particularly advanced abilities such as grief, altruism, problem-solving abilities and unbelievably, artisitic capabilities.

Wikipedia article on the subject.

Elephant Painting

FreeNAS: Bring NAS to your home with this 46megabyte ISO

FreeNAS will take any computer with some storage attached (say, a few hard drives) and will allow them to be addressable devices on a network. The ISO is only 46 megs in size, the OS installed on a hard drive takes up a mere 32megabytes!

Once installed (takes about 3 minutes), you can do a basic setup with it’s text-based interface by setting up it’s IP address, subnet mask and gateway. Once that’s completed, you can address the server via the web interface which is simple & robust.

From their About page:

FreeNAS is a free NAS (Network-Attached Storage) server, supporting: CIFS (samba), FTP, NFS, AFP, RSYNC, iSCSI protocols, S.M.A.R.T., local user authentication, Software RAID (0,1,5) with a Full WEB configuration interface. FreeNAS takes less than 32MB once installed on Compact Flash, hard drive or USB key.

The minimal FreeBSD distribution, Web interface, PHP scripts and documentation are based on M0n0wall.

One of my older servers now runs FreeNAS with a 250gig internal drive, and (2) 250 gig external drives, seamlessly detected by FreeNAS and made available now as NFS shares to my other computers or laptop from outside the network via encrypted tunnel (SSHFS). It is also capable of using wireless interfaces! It also integrates with Active Directory and LDAP servers and gives live feeds on bandwidth & CPU usage. It also supports Rsync, SNMP messaging and SSH tunneling.

Click for full resolution

Here’s a great review on the benefits of FreeNAS from (2) years ago, that is very well-written. In fact, much more functionality has been added since this review, such as drive-encryption and iSCSI, but the review is worth reading nonetheless.

The woman with (21) different accents.

Amazing, she could be a great voice actor, especially for animated work.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Open & Save Microsoft Office 2007 documents in OpenOffice

This plugin to OpenOffice allows you to open and save Microsoft Office 2007 (.docx) files.

Source: Lifehacker.

Direct Link to OpenXML Translator.

Run Ubuntu Linux seamlessly ontop of Windows

I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that, in the age of live-cd distros and dual-booting options, but some people running high end boxes may enjoy the best of both worlds, running a full Ubuntu distro ontop of windows. This unique distro is called andLinux.

From the andLinux site:

andLinux is a complete Ubuntu Linux system running seamlessly in Windows 2000 based systems (2000, XP, 2003, Vista [32-bit only]). This project was started for Dynamism for the GP2X community, but its userbase far exceeds its original design. andLinux is free and will remain so, but donations are greatly needed.

andLinux uses CoLinux as its core which is confusing for many people. CoLinux is a port of the Linux kernel to Windows. Although this technology is like VMware or Virtual PC, CoLinux differs itself by being more of a merger of Windows and the Linux kernel and not an emulated PC, making it more efficient. Xming is used as X server and PulseAudio as sound server.

andLinux is not just for development and runs almost all Linux applications without modification.

Click here for a sample screenshot.

Also, an excellent article on the subject from Lifehacker.

Android: The Operating System for the Google Phone

For an example of a phone developed on Google’s Android OS, check out the W.E. Phone (Works Everywhere) from Koolu. Koolu is the brainchild of the great Jon “maddog” Hall.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Seamless RDP:

For those times, when you need to run a windows application (don’t you hate it when that happens?) … there’s seamless RDP.

Essentially, it strips away the need to run a whole RDP desktop (via Rdesktop in Linux). Instead, you can execute an automated login to a windows box via RDP, then the will quickly collapse, running the single-application you actually need to run, with just that window showing up on your Gnome or KDE desktop; similar to what citrix does when stripping applications to have a “seamless” overlay on a desktop. This would be scripted in a shell command . . .

rdesktop -A -s "c:\seamlessrdp\seamlessrdpshell.exe notepad" -u username -p password

(You could also leave the password blank, but then you’d have to type it manually).

Click here for SeamlessRDP.

Here is also an interesting article in Linux.com explaining how one could strip the whole desktop leaving just the windows start menu to draw on your Linux desktop, rather interesting possibilities when you absolutely must play with Bill’s OS.

One important tip: Make sure the user you’re using to log into the windows box has its RDP default session set to END the session after a disconnect! SeamlessRDP can sometimes end an RDP session abruptly when closing an application, leaving the session open. If the specific user used to login to the RDP session is not set to auto-end the session, you could lock yourself out of a subsequent session.

Linux Reality

EDIT: As of March 26, 2008 the Linux Reality podcast had its 100th and final episode. The series is really great and any user new to Linux will enjoy nearly every episode in the series. The IRC Channel (#linuxreality on irc.freenode.net) and the forums are still quite active. Cheers Chess, you were great and it’s great to chat with you on the IRC!

A great podcast show for those interested in Linux topics. The production quality is good and Chess Griffin is a talented host. Many of the topics are geared towards half-newbies, though some are more in depth. There’s a very large library of prior podcasts discussing a large variety of topics and some very interesting interviews, so there’s plenty to load up on your mp3 or ogg player of choice to enjoy.

Free Online File Format Conversions: Zamzar

Recently, I received an MS Office 2007 Excel file — the file extension is .xlsx. Apparently Open Office does not support this format yet, and neither does older versions of MS Office.

Luckily I stumbled on a site that performs free file format conversions, from almost any format to any other format, including music, video, photo, .tar, .cab and .rar files up to 100megs. From .xls to .pdf, or .csv (comma separated value) to .jpg, just about anything; very helpful.


GET LAMP: A documentary on text-based adventures

Computer games in the early 1980s depended more on imagination than graphics cards. In the early days of computer gaming, PC’s offered text based adventures, the most famous of which were the Infocom adventures of ZORK. Text-based adventures started in the late 1970s and were popular well into the 90s. They were a great blend of story and interactive RPG and I remember spending hours going n, n, s, se, sw, look at mailbox, open mailbox, take leaflet, read leaflet, n, open door, etc.

Well, my favorite computer documentarian, Jason Scott (who directed and produced the awesome documentary BBS, which every geek/nerd should purchase) is starting a documentary on the history of the Text-based Adventures. I was fortunate enough to meet Jason Scott at an IT convention in NY City. He’s a very approachable, intelligent fellow and I’m really happy to see him working on another documentary. By the way, if you’re old enough to remember local-dialup BBS’ing, the BBS Documentary will be a trip down memory lane and is very much worth buying.

But for this new documentary, he’s calling it Get Lamp, which brings back memories if you’ve ever played these classic text-based adventures. Filming continued into December, 2007. I expect he’ll be posting new info to the site soon, meanwhile, click on the thumbnails of the interviews, some of the pictures offer short biographies of those interviewed.

Click here for the trailers.

The wikipedia link for ZORK has many links at the bottom, where many of the original games have been ported to web-based versions, for all to enjoy.

Also, I’ve had in my 8-bit nostalgia section a link to the original Zork, web-based:

The Death of High Fidelity Music

I thought it was just me. I thought so much of today’s music is trashy bass-beaten backbeats with a simplistic three chord tune that slipstreams rehashed remixes of good songs from the 60s and 70s into overdubbed and exceedingly loud tracks that leave you flat and uninspired. Well, I’m not alone!

An amazing article in Rolling Stone magazine takes great pains to explain what is happening to the music industry, and why for me, I tend to be stuck in 60s and 70s (and 80s), but begin to step back in the 90s and beyond.

An excerpt from the six page article:

Over the past decade and a half, a revolution in recording technology has changed the way albums are produced, mixed and mastered — almost always for the worse. “They make it loud to get [listeners’] attention,” Bendeth says. Engineers do that by applying dynamic range compression, which reduces the difference between the loudest and softest sounds in a song. Like many of his peers, Bendeth believes that relying too much on this effect can obscure sonic detail, rob music of its emotional power and leave listeners with what engineers call ear fatigue.

Too much compression can be heard as musical clutter; on the Arctic Monkeys’ debut, the band never seems to pause to catch its breath. By maintaining constant intensity, the album flattens out the emotional peaks that usually stand out in a song. “You lose the power of the chorus, because it’s not louder than the verses,” Bendeth says. “You lose emotion.”

The inner ear automatically compresses blasts of high volume to protect itself, so we associate compression with loudness, says Daniel Levitin, a professor of music and neuroscience at McGill University and author of This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. Human brains have evolved to pay particular attention to loud noises, so compressed sounds initially seem more exciting. But the effect doesn’t last. “The excitement in music comes from variation in rhythm, timbre, pitch and loudness,” Levitin says. “If you hold one of those constant, it can seem monotonous.” After a few minutes, research shows, constant loudness grows fatiguing to the brain. Though few listeners realize this consciously, many feel an urge to skip to another song.

Click here for the full article link.

A great explanation on YouTube why we end up the losers in the record industry’s “Loudness War”.

Thoughtful who have passed, this year 2007.

Some of the inventors and creators that died in 2007 who leave behind something for us to remember them by . . .

David H. Shepard (Optical Readers, Farrington B numeric font), J. Robert Cade (Gatorade), Herbert Saffir (The Hurricane Scale), George Rieveschl (beta-dimethylaminoethylbenzhydryl ether hydrochloride — a.k.a. Benadryl), Arthur Jones (Nautilus machines), Jack Odell (Matchbox Cars), Raymond Douglas (Color in the NY Times), George Kovacs (The ubiquitous halogen torchiere lamp), Martin J. Weber (The Posterization technique), Ed Yost (Modern Hot-Air Ballooning), Theodore Maiman (The Laser), John Billings (The Rhythm Method), Paul C. Lauterbur (The M.R.I.), John W. Backus (Fortran), Florence Z. Melton (Slippers), James Hillier (The Electron Microscope), Iwao Takamoto (“Scooby-Doo”), and Momofuku Ando (Instant Ramen). So it goes. 🙁

Source: NY Times.

Another major company moves to Linux

Paypal believes a Linux grid can replace the mainframe. Just as I posted in a previous post, many major companies in various industries are embracing the strength, versatility and stability of Linux for their core applications.

From the article:

Thompson supervises a payment system that operates on about 4,000 servers running Red Hat Linux in the same manner that eBay and Google conduct their business on top of a grid of Linux servers. “I have been pleasantly surprised at how much we’ve been able to do with this approach. It operates like a mainframe,” he said.

PayPal takes Red Hat Enterprise Linux and strips out all features unnecessary to its business, then adds proprietary extensions around security. Another virtue of the grid is that PayPal’s 800 engineers can all get a copy of that customized system on their development desktops, run tests on their raw software as they work, and develop to PayPal’s needs faster because they’re working in the target environment. That’s harder to do when the core of the data center consists of large Unix symmetrical multiprocessing boxes or mainframes. In neither case is it cheap to install duplicates for developers, he said.

PayPal “pays very close attention to the Linux kernel development process” lead by Linus Torvalds and the kernel maintainers because future capabilities are being debated and resolved through the process, he said.

PayPal has experimented with virtualization and is watching carefully developments in open source virtualization, still a young field. “One place we see the kernel process at work is in virtualization,” Thompson said. VMware’s ESX Server can run Linux, as can the open source Xen hypervisor; both work outside the Linux kernel but can be linked to its internal operations. A year ago, Torvalds approved the addition of a contributed Kernel Virtual Machine, which runs inside the kernel and makes use of the kernel’s own memory management and other functions.

“If we could fully virtualize our middle tier, that would be another step of cost advantage,” said Thompson. More fully virtualized data centers also would allow him to shift workloads across the grid, depending on time of day and traffic volumes, which would lead to additional savings.

Source: Information Week.

IP Global Positioning

This site will tell you from exactly where an IP originates and offers the ISP Vendor as well.

IP Global Positioning

Using TimeVault to create automated snapshots of directory trees

TimeVault is a simple front-end for making snapshots of a set of directories. Snapshots are a copy of a directory structure or file at a certain point in time. Restore functionality is integrated into Nautilus – previous versions of a file or directory that has a snapshot can be accessed by examining the properties and selecting the ‘Previous Versions’ tab.

These instructions are Ubuntu-specific (7.10).

Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. TimeVault FAQ. [[Source: HowToForge.com ]]

Active forum posts about TimeVault, with suggestions that it be included in Ubuntu going forward. A worthwhile read.

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