Ubuntu Linux

“Ubuntu”:http://www.ubuntu.com/ is cool; a Debian-based linux distribution that is more up-to-date than debian-stable (which is getting quite long in the tooth), but not as cutting edge as debian-unstable. I upgraded my hybrid stable / backports.org box earlier this week; the upgrade was completely painless, other than some confusion over which modules needed to be loaded at startup. Even my bizarre printer setup (I have a USB- based HP photosmart printer) survived the upgrade!

The new box is current enough to run Azureus without having to jump through hoops to upgrade the graphics libraries to the minumum required by SWT.

I was about to throw in the towel and go back to the RedHat (well, Fedora Core) distribution. I’m glad I didn’t have to :-)

posted at 9:59 pm on Friday, November 19, 2004 in Personal, Science and Technology | Comments Off on Ubuntu Linux

mythtv update

chk@mythtv:~ $ uptime
20:46:42 up 22 days, 11:29, 2 users, load average: 0.69, 0.71, 0.75

I’m very happy with the box so far. It’s nice not having to change VCR tapes all the time; it’s really nice being able to watch one program while taping another. The P933 in combination with the PCR-250 is more than enough horsepower, except when I want to convert a file to XviD for archival purposes, and I can just leave that running overnight…

Our refurbished computer outlet has some nicely configured 1GHz mini-tower PCs for cheap; I think I’ll pick one of those up to build the permanent MythTV box, so that I can have my Windows desktop back. After Andrew’s party, though; I don’t have time before then :-)

(update) I was just over at a friends weblog, and saw a mention of Chef!, a Lenny Henry sitcom from the early ’90s. A couple of clicks later, and I’m recording upcoming episodes!

At this rate, I’m going to need a larger harddrive…

posted at 9:52 pm on Friday, November 19, 2004 in Personal, Science and Technology | Comments (2)
  1. Reid says:

    How does the quality of the recordings rate? Especially in comparison with (a) (S-)VHS tape, and (b) BitTorrent downloads. I would expect it to be about halfway between.

    Of course, if you get one of those HDTV video capture cards, then you would get better than BitTorrent, since they are all only 640 pixels wide. :-)

  2. Harald says:

    I used to tape at LP on my VCR, so the image quality is quite a bit better. TV quality is worse than the XviD’s I’ve downloaded, but they usually start from digital satellite HDTV, as compared to my crappy analog cable signal.

    The convenience is much more of an issue than the quality, for me. Besides, it’s NTSC; how much _worse_ can it get? (grin)

Cote d’Ivoire

Scary statistics from the CIA world factbook. The 45% of the population is under 14; the median age is 17; the average life expectancy is 42.5. Why?


posted at 9:43 pm on Friday, November 19, 2004 in Current Events | Comments Off on Cote d’Ivoire

I wish

Damien Katz: I wish

posted at 3:50 pm on Wednesday, November 17, 2004 in Links | Comments Off on I wish

Bluetooth Star Trek Communicator

For the Star Trek Geeks in the crowd:

Gizmodo : Bluetooth Star Trek Communicator

posted at 3:50 pm on Wednesday, November 17, 2004 in Links, Science and Technology, TV | Comments (1)
  1. More for the star trek geeks, Star Trek Barbie is now a bluetooth device that works with your mobile phone.

Spinning rims? WTF?

Some guy pulled out of a parking lot in front of me today with ridiculously bright chromed wheels; they were very distracting, especially in the early morning sun. It took me a while to figure out why, though. It turns out the rims had a second piece attached, on a free-wheeling hub. As he drives, the outer part of the rim spins up; when he stops — they keep spinning!

These are a visual distraction, especially for magpies like me (Ooooh! Shiny!). But I can’t see how they’d be considered safe either; in an accident, these things would become lethal “Frisbees of Death”…

Are they legal? Or like so many after market auto parts, are they in that grey area: legal to sell, illegal to put on your car, but not worth pulling you over to prosecute?

posted at 10:31 am on Tuesday, November 16, 2004 in Rants | Comments (5)
  1. jessie turner says:

    the rims if are illegal should not be its a way of expressing your self which every one desreves to do if a loser wants to look at them intead of the road in fornt of them its there fault not the owner of the rims “a owner of a pair on my car it should not be illegal and thats final”

  2. Harald says:

    Your right to express yourself with your fist stops at my nose…

    Safety is a shared responsibility. Searching the net for a photo, I saw lots of flashy spinning rims that _were_ built safely; the ones _I_ saw on the road were dangerous.

  3. leigh says:

    Spinners should be illegal. Too many people get veer out of the way from a stopped car simply because it looks like the car is still in motion. You see wheels turning what does that mean? In a short instant you may think you see a car run a light or turning into your lane. It causes accidents Ive seen them myself. Everyone has the right to express themselves but safety is still important above all. The spinners are a little much.

  4. I think you must be pretty stupid to fall for that. Yes,I have gotten the same motion from cars moving back from a parking stall. If you get into an accident because of ‘spinners’ maybe you shouldn’t be on the road. Before one accelerates one should look ahead for pedestrians, other cars, green light etc. that give you the ‘real’ signal to get moving. This definately must happen with novice drivers, or people over 40. Just because the car beside me seems to move, or does move, doesn’t allow me to punch the accelerator without making sure I can do so first.

  5. chk says:

    I think you must be pretty stupid to leave insulting comments on someone else’s weblog, especailly after comment #2 above. Ah well; this page seems to attract the weirdos. Kinda fun, actually, which is why I’ve been allowing these comments!

Nigerian Fraud Countries

Amateur radio operators keep track of all of the countries they’ve had contact with.

I’m going to start keeping a list of all the countries I’ve received Nigerian fraud (aka 419 spam) messages from.

* Nigeria
* Liberia
* Senegal
* Mauritius
* UK (London)
* Hong Kong (China) (20041110)
* Sierra Leone (20041110)
* Cote d’Ivoire (20041119)
* South Africa (20041120)
* Burkina Faso (20041124)
* Togo (20041124)
* Benin Republic (20041124)
* Korea (20041125)
* Brazil (20041231) (wow, that was a long gap!)
* South Africa (20050113)
* Russia (!!!) (20050114)
* Dubai (20050117)
* Senegal (20070717) (after another long gap…)
* Iran (!!!) (20080212)

I’m slowly collecting most of that part of Africa…

Update: it appears that these fraudsters are the only ones left trolling web pages for email addresses. My active campaign against bandwidth abusing spiders appears to be cutting down on the spam at the same time…

posted at 12:52 pm on Sunday, November 07, 2004 in Personal, Security | Comments Off on Nigerian Fraud Countries


I’m going to (briefly) break a “long standing trend”:http://blog.cfrq.net/chk/archives/2003/01/16/blogging-politics/.

I find myself completely apathetic about the events of Tuesday. In fact, I didn’t even know what was going on until Wednesday morning when I arrived at work and my cow-orkers were chatting. But I know several people who are majorly bummed about the results. Is this simply part of my whole “If there’s nothing I can do, there’s no point getting worked up” philosophy, or am I missing something fundamental about what it means to have “W” back in power for another four years?

I think the coming crisis for the US (and therefore world) economies has little to do with which president is in power; it has more to do with greedy multinational corporations and lax regulation (which isn’t going to change anytime soon), and with the impending energy crisis; neither of which is going to be affected by any US president…

posted at 10:44 am on Thursday, November 04, 2004 in Current Events, Politics | Comments (1)
  1. David Brake says:

    If Bush’s doctrine turns the Middle East into more of a cauldron of hatred than it is already then it’s bad news for us all. If he stops stem cell research it’s bad news for us all – to take but two issues. And of course while Kerry would not have solved the problems of greedy multinational corporations, lax regulation and the impending energy crisis he was at least on the right side of those issues while Bush will be doing what he can to make things worse on all three of those issues.

PVR-250 and MythTV

So I bought the “PVR-250”:http://www.hauppauge.com/html/wintvpvr250_datasheet.htm (on sale at “Best Buy”:http://www.bestbuy.ca/” :-), and slapped it into my P933 to play. The install was easy, and the hardware looks nicely designed. But the software that comes with the card sucks. I don’t know how hardware guys manage so consistently to ship their products with truly crappy software. Simple stuff like you can’t tab between fields, if you set a record time before you change the date the time quietly resets itself (because you can’t record in the past, I guess), and so on. It’s very _pretty_ though; if they had put all that skinning effort into usability…

Anyway, that’s not important, since I also downloaded “KnoppMyth”:http://www.mysettopbox.tv/knoppmyth.html in order to try out “MythTV”:http://www.mythtv.org/. I picked KnoppMyth figuring that I could find out if it worked and I liked the system, and then I could build from scratch if necessary later on. I’m glad I did; building a MythTV system from scratch is not for the faint of heart (and this from me, who likes tinkering with Linux :-).

First problem was getting the “TV-Out on my Matrox G400 to work properly”:http://www.gossamer-threads.com/lists/mythtv/dev/2993#2993. After several tries with various different X drivers and configurations, I finally discovered the real problem: the KnoppMyth kernel comes with the vesafb framebuffer driver compiled in, so my Matrox G400 modules were never getting loaded. One kernel rebuild (and several hours) later, I had TV out.

The next problem was the network. My on-the-motherboard, Intel-based network interface (from the 82801 chipset?) kept “freezing”, with a timeout: “eth0: wait_for_cmd_done timeout!”. Lots of googling revealed that this is a known problem that apparently still hasn’t been fixed. Fortunately, There is an “Intel provided e100 driver”:http://downloadfinder.intel.com/scripts-df/Detail_Desc.asp?ProductID=61&DwnldID=2896 that supports this chipset, and _that_ one works. Download, build the module, and install.

Next was sound. After every reboot, the audio out would be muted, and I would have to login remotely and use alsamixer to manually unmute the Headphone audio out and then pump the volume up. Again, it turns out that this a known problem, and that the usual fix (alsactl save/alsactl restore) doesn’t work, because the ALSA software doesn’t save information about the Headphone output? Strange, but one again I found a workaround. Running

/usr/bin/amixer sset Headphone unmute 100

would unmute the Headphone output and set the volume to max; I stuck this in /etc/init.d/local so that it would run on every reboot.

Finally, the machine kept crashing with out-of-memory errors. I never did figure this one out, because I made two changes at the same time. I downloaded and installed the “latest ivtv drivers”:, and I also discovered that the MythTV cache file I had configured was larger than the cache filesystem (this would cause mmap() based access to fail with the aforementioned out of memory errors :-). I’m not sure which fixed the problem, but the box has been up and recording for a week now with no problems.

Now to figure out all of this transcoding stuff…

(Oh ya, and Richard Dean Anderson was very young when MacGyver was produced :-)

posted at 10:04 am on Tuesday, November 02, 2004 in Personal, TV | Comments (2)
  1. john says:

    Most of the popular new PVR cards sold for Windows XP MC, known as “Blackbird”, haven’t hard drivers to use with Linux/Myth.

    We have been working on these drivers and released an alpha version at http://plutohome.com. Pluto even has a self-booting kick-start CD that will automatically install & configure everything for you, including a ready-to-go Myth system. It’s the fastest and easiest way to get a MythTV PVR up and running, and also installs Xine, Asterisk and our own software to give you the most advanced media & entertainment, home automation, security, telecom & computing system, controllable with your Symbian Bluetooth mobile phone, as well as PDA’s and Webpads.

    We’re working hard to harden the drivers as quickly as possible and would like as much feedback as possible. These 2nd generation cards are lower in price and offer better picture quality than the current models supported in IVTV, so be sure to check them out. A list of all the compatible cards, known as “Blackbird” cards, is found on our website.

    visit: plutohome.com, click ‘support’, ‘support site’, and choose “CX88 Blackbird Drivers” from the projects menu

  2. […] Recompile the kernel without the vesafb driver (which I remembered thanks to my old posting: PVR 250 and MythTV) […]