MythTV – Success!


“It’s really unstable”
“It’s painful to set up”
“Good luck with all the yak-shaving!”
Poppycock! I come to you happily reporting on the successful installation, configuration, and implementation of MythTV.
For those not in the know, MythTV is an opensource (aka Free) system that mimics much of the behaviour normally attributed to a Tivo. At it’s very root, it is a Linux-based Personal Video Recorder (or PVR) that allows cable (and DVD and other mediums) to be stored, displayed, and manipulated in realtime, effectively turning an ordinary PC into a home video component.emotes.
Alas, MythTV has a long history of being INCREDIBLY complicated to get running. Starting with a baseline Linux install, people have talked of months of twiddling network drivers, card configurations, database problems, and video drivers all to get the system into perfect ‘balance’, at which point the system would work fine, but the process would ultimately leave a bad taste in the mouth of the implementor. Hardly a glowing recommendation.
Recently though, some bright folks have built up KnoppMyth, a MythTV installation wrapped into the well-known cd-based distribution, Knoppix. Knoppmyth allows you to go from a powered off ‘blank’ machine to the MythTV main menu – system installed, configured, and drivers ready to be enabled, in less than 10 minutes.
It wasn’t without a few hiccups – mostly due to the smoothness of the installation, it was easy to try and go right into viewing online video without actually configuring the image capture boards. The system has an enormous array of configuration options which can easily baffle a newcomer, but in the end I was happily watching Comcast cable on my VGA monitor, and able to tune around the entire spectrum, complete with on screen programming guide.
For reference, here’s my configuration:

  • Athlon 1400
  • 512 meg RAM
  • 80gig ATA-100 drive
  • Hauppage PVR-150 video encoder card
  • nVidia NV3 video

I’ll be exploring this system more over the next week or two, but so far, I’m exceptionally impressed with what the KnoppMyth folks have done in bringing a previously complex and potentially painful installation into something mere mortals can attempt.

K3B. Polished, useful, clean software for Linux

In my ongoing quest for “Really Good Software”, I tend to get grumbly about the vast quantity of software around for Microsoft platforms that ‘just plain works’. It’s polished, clean, and looks great. Occasionally though, I come across gems under Linux that are just as good.
In this case, we’re not talking just as good as Windows. We’re talking “Far better than 90% of the crud out there”. I’m talking about K3B the KDE CD/DVD Kreator.
Anyone who has done CD burning under Linux knows that there’s tons of tools for command line manipulation of volumes, but woefully few that run in GUI space, let alone do it well. K3B has the benefit of an outstandingly complete, polished, and well-designed interface, on top of the fact that ‘it just plain works’.
I recently used K3B to burn a copy of KnoppMyth to a CD on my T40 Laptop. I originally grimaced at the thoughts of what this might entail, but a quick ‘apt-get install k3b’, plus another install of ‘cdrtao’ (which K3B thoughtfully told me I needed – not in a crash and text output, but in a dialog saying ‘You’re going to need this’), and I was off. Speed was high, the interface was intuitive, and in 15 minutes I had my burned CD. And it worked.
K3B embodies what CAN be done if developers take the time to complete and polish their apps. There’s nothing like this in the Windows world – all the ‘tools’ I’ve seen for Windows (that are proprietary and usually cost money) are pale shadows compared to K3B. Bravo!

‘Woot’ defined!

I try to make it a habit to go to woot.com every day to see what spiffy things they have available (and have frequently gone ‘yes! I do want one of those turnip twaddlers!’, much to my chagrine.
Anyway, today they have an interesting tidbit on the origin of the term ‘woot’…

Several times a day, I find myself explaining “woot” to grandmas, probation officers, and disinterested bartenders at the local dives. “Double-you oh oh tee, like ‘loot’ with a W instead of an L.” It’s actually so rare that someone knows the term that as I repeatedly try to explain it, I just end up feeling foolish and tired…so very tired…

Read the entire entry.

Single Signon for RT using Active Directory

Over on Blah Blah Blog, Nathan has come up with what he describes as the “Holy Grail” of RT authentication in a Windows environment:

A lot of people use RT to track helpdesk requests, problem reports and other incident data at their jobs. An even larger number of people use or are forced to use Microsoft Active Directory as the central repository of username and password information at their jobs. As a result, probably the single most-asked question on the rt-users mailing list is “how do I unify logins between RT and ActiveDirectory?” Following close on behind that is “how do I get RT to use Windows authentication so people don’t have to type in their password twice?” Strangely, these are questions that seemed to lack any authoritative answers.
Until now.

Link to article on Blah Blah Blog

Fall in New England

I spent some time yesterday walking an abandoned rail line in Sudbury, MA. I’d been there once before and remembered the bridge. I didn’t however count on the runoff from all the rain we’ve had lately, so the water was very high (the big I-beams that support the bridge were half submerged). Also, late summer growth made the trail a lot harder to walk.
Regardless, there were some beautiful scenes…
  

Whodathunkit?

A bunch of geek work-at-home updates.

  1. Thanks to a little help from my #geekery friends, I have a new kernel running on ‘hunter’ (my T40 Thinkpad). I’m now running 2.6.13.
  2. It’s amazing how much better a 1.4gighz laptop works when it’s actually RUNNING at 1.4gighz. The old kernel was was forcing my CPU into ‘speedstep’ battery save mode fulltime. So I’ve been running at about 595mghz for the last 6 months. Everything is a lot faster now.
  3. Aeron chairs are very comfortable.
  4. A woot.com supplied monitor stand and keyboard drawer are an excellent addition to any desktop.

Now all I have to do is produce! 🙂

JBother – A Java Jabber client


I’m always on the lookout for new Jabber clients to work with. I’ve been using Psi for the most part over hte last year or two, but the ETERNAL wait for an upgrade is driving me bonkers. Not that I just want more features, but there’s a bug in 0.9.3 that screws up adding new people to your roster. So I have to switch to Gnome-Jabber to add / modify my roster list. Yuck.
I came across JBother about 8 months ago, and gave it a quick try. It was good – a full Swing-based client that seemed to have a lot going for it, but it wasn’t quite stable yet.
Now JBother is up to v0.8.9b, and so far, it looks like a winner. The configuration screens are clean and easy to figure out, the client is snappy and complete, and the addition of a ‘plugins’ function, where I found a workable ‘systray’ tool pretty much nailed it for me. I now have a working systray-docked client that lets me do everything Psi and gnome-jabber did, plus MUCH more.
JBother supports freefloating or docked windows with tabs, similar to Exodus. Conferencing, transport management, debugging windows, logging, adjustable themes – they’re all in there.
If you use Jabber, give this one a try.

Size Does Matter

So I finally received the replacement keyboard for my IBM t40 keyboard. After taking everything apart, the new keyboard wouldn’t fit. Things were slightly off. I looked back on the original eBay posting, “Yup, T40”, and fired off a piece of mail to the seller.
He wrote back “Are you sure you have a 15″ model? The auction clearly states ’15″‘.
One tape-measure later, nope. 14”.
Back to the drawing board.
Other problems continue to plague my aging laptop as well. The wireless interface will go dark with ‘Fatal interrupt. Scheduling firmware restart’ – which sometimes will in fact restart, but regularly just shuts down the interface entirely. Reboot time! This, coupled with the oddity of the IBM video regarding the external video port (which took me AGES to figure out, but at least is consistent. You can use the external VGA port on the laptop -completely- (as in, change resolutions and the like) ONLY if there is nothing attached to it upon boot AND you are not in the IBM dock. Once booted, dock the laptop, and restart the X-server WITH the video attached (/etc/init.d/gdm restart). It’ll come up in maxi-high resolution ( the internal screen will pan ), THEN you can use desktop settings to resize to any resolution you want (my flat screen uses 1280×1024). So, reboots are tedious.
I’m ready for my new machine.

Another small contribution to RadioParadise

Recently Radio Paradise got hacked (the full story is on their home page). Bill has been working diligently restoring the site and fixing the code, but I had noticed that one little aspect hadn’t been fixed it (and in fact, was outdated).
So last week I spent some time with The Gimp and created a new ‘favicon’ for the site, and mailed it off to Bill.
He put it online last night. *preen*
(For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, a site ‘favicon’ is the little graphic that appears in a browsers toolbar next to the URL, or in the bookmarks folder next to the sitename. Also, in Firefox, it’s in the window tab. If you’re looking at RP, and don’t see it, then you have a cached version. Hit shift-reload, and it should appear)

Adobe Acrobat Reader for Linux

Occasionally I find myself on the rougher side of situations while sticking to my guns regarding not using Microsoft products. Anyone who has had to interract with offices running only Redmondware are all too painfully reminded that Outlook users love sending PDF and Word and Excel attachments, frequently as the entire message, with the Word doc containing something like “Busy for lunch?”
Many of the issues facing “LINUX OR DIE” users like myself have been addressed by the fantastic work going on with OpenOffice, which lets a user open and view and manipulate Microsoft-based documents pretty handily. Couple that with a good GUI mail client like Evolution, and you’ve pretty much got what any Redmondware user has.
One thing has been missing, though… a decent PDF viewer. There are several opensource viewers that use various incarnations of GhostView to render the documents, but these tools are prone to twitches in the format that cause failed renderings, or just won’t run at all.
I recently received a PDF that KPDF and GPDF simply would not open. It was generated by an architect, and contained a diagram I absolutely had to view. Ready to post a scathing commentary to the blog about how Adobe was not supporting Linux, I went to their site, and tried to download Acrobat 7.0 PDF viewer for Linux.
And succeeded.
It was right there on the download page. A single RPM or .tar.gz file, that installed via an simple shell script. I was able to specify a subdir in my home dir (no root requirement), and it is now running happily on my desktop.
This is not a skimmed down ‘bone’ thrown to the Linux community. This is the full fledged Adobe Acrobat 7 reader, complete with tweaks specific to the Linux environment (like a configuration screen that asks what mailer do you want to use – and lists various well-known Linux clients, including Evolution).
The tool allowed me to navigate, browse, zoom in and out, and fiddle with the PDF I needed to view without any problems. I was somewhat amused to note that the viewer was running some sort of ad display engine in the upper right corner of the window, but it was easy to ignore.
The reader was not specific to any particular Linux version. I’m personally running Debian Sarge, which is generally not supported by the ‘big business’ folks, but as I said it installed and ran perfectly.
Glad to see some companies are getting the hint.

Which Thinkpad?

So I’ve been given the Okie Dokey to upgrade my laptop (featured here) to something with more memory and a faster CPU. The current machine is a T40 (1.2ghz, 768meg, 40gig). (although, for some mysterious reason, /proc/cpuinfo -always- says:

model name      : Intel(R) Pentium(R) M processor 1400MHz
stepping        : 5
cpu MHz         : 598.174

even though I’ve disabled all speedstep stuff in the bios.

ANYWAY. I need More. Running eclipse, jboss, firefox, evolution, and apache, plus most likely an Oracle instance means I need at least 2 gig of memory on the machine.

I’m totally confused by the Thinkpad lineup nowadays. I think what I want is a T43 maxed out on memory, but maybe I’m wrong? The only other thing I definately need is 1400×1200 on the laptop screen. I do enough work on the machine itself that 1024×768 is -right- out as a workable resolution.

Anyone care to untangle the mess that is the Thinkpad line for me? My requirements are:

  • 1.8ghz or faster
  • 2 gig of memory (I can start with 1 gig and upgrade later)
  • at least 40 gig of disk
  • 15″ display
  • On-screen resolution of 1400×1050

Help?

UberCon VI is coming up!


Ubercon is a gaming convention specializing in desktop gaming, miniatures, and RPG type events. It also includes a well run LAN gaming room (thanks to NJ Lan Party), where we have some total kick-ass UT2004 matches. 8)
It’s next weekend (October 14-16th) in the Meadowlands, NJ. If folks are going to be in the area, and want to stop by, cmon in! I could also use help running Registration. My usual cohort will be helping out, but can’t get there until late Friday, so I could use a hand on Thursday and Friday.
Anyway, the event is a lot of fun, good people all around. Cmon down and roll the dice some!

Return O The Dave

An incredibly busy couple days has rendered my posts almost non-existent. There’s several reasons for this, I’ll try and enumerate some of my own realizations and other influences…

  • It appears I do a ton of my blogging directly on my laptop. Perhaps while waiting for Z to go to sleep, or while sitting around at places other than my desk. When my keyboard on the laptop broke, I lost the ability to make (intelligent) posts while undocked. So I basically stopped posting. Interesting.
  • It is possible to get less than 24 hours notice for a meeting down in NJ – rearrange schedules, get a hotel room, drive down, get almost no sleep (not sure why), get up for a meeting, drive back to Boston in time for practice, get dinner, and be home, and NOT go completely insane. I think.
  • On the geekier side, I think I have finally outgrown my laptop. Eclipse is a total memory hog, and running it, plus my appserver, and what will most likely require an instance of a small database, is more than my little 1.4mghz 768meg laptop can handle, and still run my desktop, mail, and all the other stuff I do. Options are actually including looking to get a high end desktop machine for primary development. Eek!
  • This weekend Cat goes out of town, and on Saturday, we go to Maine to close down the maine house, and Sunday, we go to the circus! (Okay, so what’s the best way to take the T to the thing-formerly-known-as-the-fleet-center?).
  • My direct ownership of my little golf is coming to an end. Cat is selling the Subaru and taking the Golf as her primary vehicle. We have aquired a new van which will be my car when I need to use it (usually to pick up Z at school. Since I don’t commute, my daily drive is less than 10 miles total usually. Having this much cargo space, people capacity, and towing capacity is going to be ENORMOUSLY helpful for events, general work, and going on trips. I’ve already hauled a bed in it, as well as moved a vanload of lumber. Yay.
  • Rebuilding steps when the landlord refuses to is a very therapeutic process. The old steps were a single 2×6 nailed across the tread, leaving a huge gap behind the tread. Very scary to walk on. I removed all the treads and replaced them with full-depth treads and put kickboards on the risers. Of course, the risers are DIFFERENT HEIGHTS on the 2 sections of the steps. Grumble. Kudos once again to the enormously wonderful 18v Ryobi cordless drill. I wonder if the circular saw version works as well? I used a standard skilsaw to cut my boards, but I could see the benefit of a cordless. More on this later.
  • All the parts for my MythTV projects have arrived, but problems with the host machine have cropped up. Curses!
  • My contract with the folks in NJ is extended basically indefinately. This is… very very good.

I think that should be enough for one life update.

Retrocomputing

I admit I spent a lot of time working with older computers. But there was a time when there were no ‘older computers’ that I could get my hands on, and I was working with state of the art machinery.
Like Tandy / Radio Shack TRS-80’s.
Yes, that’s what I learned on. BASIC, Z80 assembler, the whole schlamiel back in high school. Occasionally I get a hankering to go back and noodle with these fossils. Fortunately, some folks have written some cute little apps that let me go back and tinker, just like it were 1982.
Mocha is a dead on copy of the original COCO, aka the Color Computer. Radio Shacks first real foray into ‘color’ ‘home’ systems (this was built in direct competition with the Commodore VIC-20 and the Apple II). I never really got into the Coco – it came out after I had moved on to different machines.
However, the TRS-80’s, starting with the Model 1 and through to the Model III – these were my bread and butter. I owned a Mod I and a Mod III at different times, and took ribbing from the Apple crew all the time. But the machine was solid, fast, and even though it had abysmal black and white graphics, those graphics were _FAST_. The best TRS80 emulatir I could find is this one on Jeff Vavasours site. It’s a re-creation of the Model I BASIC environment which, quite frankly, sucked, but it was nice noodling around on the READY prompt again.