Saturday, December 31, 2005

Starting A New Year Off Right!

Congratulations to Creative Commons on this New Year's Eve! They have succeeded in not only reaching their fund-raising goal but generously surpassed it:

Certainly nice to see this support from the community at large--all of us who benefit the most from their worthwhile efforts. Now, hopefully the IRS will leave them alone...

Wishing a Happy & Safe New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

TurboCASH For Linux?

A popular Windows accounting package looks to move into the Linux space. This is an excellent move since it appears that there is currently no real alternative option (maybe GNUCash?) available for SME Linux users at the moment...
Software developer, Philip Copeman, is looking for programmers to build a Linux version of the popular windows-based open source accounting software, Turbocash... The Linux version of Turbocash will have to be re-developed from the ground up... "The database will most likely be Firebird or MySQL," says Copeman. [He] says there are no real Linux competitors in the SME (small to medium-sized enterprise) end of the [accounting software] market... "We estimate that a million users would change to a Linux system if they had the choice." --TECTONIC
Comparison chart can be found here.
Find screenshots of TurboCASH here.
Download TurboCASH for Win32 here.


How Google Does It

Google's Newsletter for Librarians for December 2005 provides answers to the query, 'How does Google collect and rank results?'
One of the most common questions... is "How does Google decide what result goes at the top of the list?" Here, from quality engineer Matt Cutts, is a quick primer on how we crawl and index the web and then rank search results...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Linux: rBuilder Online

You can use rBuilder Online to create a Linux distribution that meets your specific needs, or to find an existing distribution that is just right for you.
Found this on Digg today. I haven't tried it yet but it's definitely on the TO-DO list! If it lives up to it's claims this is going to be one popular utility!
Use rBuilder Online's collaborative development environment to package open source software and produce complete distributions.

Check it out at rBuilder Online or use the CoralCDN link as the main site seems to be a little busy at the moment.

I can just see it! My own fully customized Linux Audio Workstation distro! :-)


A Myth Unintentionally Busted

One of my favorite shows when we (briefly) had DishTV was Discovery channel's MythBusters. Very cool. If you have never seen it, basically it's two guys and their team who put together experiments to test against historical & urban legends (i.e. could a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building kill a pedestrian below?)

Slashdot featured the shows two stars answering readers/viewers questions recently. I think they unintentionally & eloquently busted a myth right in that post:
Bittorrent? by boatboy
Your show is available on bittorrent networks to download and watch when/where it's more convenient. Some users, however, could download the show without paying for it via cable service. How do you personally feel about this? (Cheated\Angry\Flattered\What's A Bittorrent?)

JAMIE HYNEMAN -- There will likely always be a certain amount of this kind of opportunism, and I suppose it will be self regulating to some degree. If there is too much, then quality programming will be reduced, and there will be nothing to steal. Other similar ways of avoiding commercials are also having this effect, and companies like mine are going to go out of business because the advertising revenues are being cut. Somebody has to pay for good programming, and if you cut out all the ads, and cut out the cable revenues, then you will end up with nothing but the kind of programming that is on public access stations, which is fine if that is what you happen to like, but limiting and a bit of a waste for a medium that is as powerful as TV.

ADAM SAVAGE -- Personally, I cannot condone the downloading of copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holder. That being said, I look forward to a future where such a thing will be possible, and encouraged, and conducted in such a way that properly takes care of the needs of the artists, the distributors, AND the end users. We're not there yet, but Creative Commons is a step in the right direction to be sure.
Piracy via P2P fileswapping is going to kill off quality media productions. Those who engage in such activities really are ruining it for the rest of us. The myth that this illegal activity is somehow a victimless crime has been busted...

I particularly liked Savage's response. When moderate voices prevail and P2P technology can be employed so that the consumer has on-demand access to media, AND the production companies can still get paid--we will all win.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Creative Commons: Last Call 2005

Lessig: 'We’ve got 10 days, and we need $100,000. Please help'


Bittorrent: At The End Of The Day 2.0.1 has been released. As soon as I found out, I discontinued seeding the older 2.0 torrent in favor of the new one. Interestingly, yesterday I was up to #5 in the seeding rank for the 2.0 torrent. Pretty cool, FWIW...

164 "copies" of the best Open Source Office Suite available distributed from my lowly cablemodem connection. Bittorrent is a 'good thing'. Everybody should join in...


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Windows: Sun Java Application Display Problems

Java applications under Windows 2000 would only display blank windows. Even the Sun Java Control Panel was just a blank box. No tabs, no text, no controls, nothing!

Updated video drivers

The Story:
As you can see from the problem listed above, Java applications were giving me fits. Arachnophilia (which I use for text editing) was not working, other Java applications wouldn't work either. However, Azureus (Java bittorrent client) has been working just fine the whole time. Displaying everything properly, etc. Where did the problem lie? I didn't bother with Google this time around. First I verified I had the latest Sun Java JRE installed, next I went straight to and found the root of the problem in no time--"The cause of this problem is an incompatibility between the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and certain video cards."

I currently have an XFX NVIDIA GeForce FX 5500 w/ 256MB RAM installed. I checked and found they have a new "Forceware" unified graphics driver out for Windows 2000/XP as of December 9th.
  1. Verify you have the latest Sun Java JRE installed--if not, get it and install it
  2. Downloaded the NVIDIA driver
  3. Uninstalled the old driver from the Start --> Settings --> Control Panel --> Add/Remove Programs
  4. Restarted the system
  5. Installed the latest NVIDIA graphics drivers
  6. Tested it against the Java Console, Start --> Settings --> Control Panel --> Java: OK
  7. Tested it against Arachnophilia: OK
Back in business... Hope this saves someone, somewhere a little aggravation...


Saturday, December 17, 2005

CD Audio Archiving With FLAC & CDex

This is a follow-up from yesterday's post. I thought I would do some test runs using FLAC through CDex to create lossless archives of my audio CD's. From what I have seen thus far, I estimate it will take approximately 0.4GB per album to encode them to FLAC files. I have already media-shifted about 110 CD's to OGG Vorbis files with CDex--hence, it will take about 44GB of disk space to losslessly encode those same albums into FLAC files. By comparison, the same amount of audio only takes up about 6.6GB in the lossy Vorbis format (most at a quality 6 setting). Pretty dramatic variance in filesize with little difference in audio quality--in my opinion. Still, I am in agreement with the proponents of lossless archiving. With today's cheap HDD space you could easily fit a large collection of CD's in FLAC format on a 250GB HDD (approximately 625 CD's by my estimates). FLAC being a free codec, you accomplish a couple of things by media-shifting your audio CD's into this format:
  1. Archiving & backup. Build a small Linux RAID1 or RAID5 server with 2 or 3 of these big IDE drives and protect your investment.
  2. "Future proofing" your audio. You will easily be able to batch convert the FLAC files into whatever codec you may need in the future for your Portable Audio Devices and/or other equipment. No need to physically rip the CD's again each time something new comes along.
  3. Streaming. You can stream the lossless, pristine audio files throughout your house over you home network.
I have been media-shifting our CD's into Vorbis with CDex and entering the metadata for the tracks manually which is stored locally in CDDB. This it turns out is great for me because I can simply drop in a CD I have previously encoded and I am ready to media-shift to FLAC: with all the metadata (artist, album, song title, year, etc.) intact! Re-encoding the CD audio in FLAC is actually quicker & easier then ripping them the first time around.

OK, on to the technical details...
  1. Get CDex (it's free) and install it
  2. Get FLAC (it's free too) and install it (note: some AV programs think it's got a trojan in it but it doesn't)
  3. Configure your directories, filename formatting, etc. in CDex
    1. Open CDex
    2. Click Options --> Settings
    3. Select the Filenames tab
    4. Enter a directory in the WAV -> MP3 & Recorded Tracks fields. I have mine currently set to Z:\flac\ for both.
    5. Enter your desired Filename Format (for option information click the ? button to the right of this input field). For example, I have set my format to %1\%2\%2-%7-%4. This saves my audio files in the following format: Z:\flac\Band\Album\Album-Track Number-Track Title.flac
  4. Configure Local or Remote CDDB as you wish with those tabs under Options --> Settings. I have mine configured locally (which means I have to input all the artist, album, track data manually). This data is stored at I:\My Documents\My Music\cddb\
  5. Once you have the basics configured above, it's time to set up CDex to use FLAC encoding.
    1. From the main CDex screen click the Options --> Settings --> Encoder tab
    2. I set Thread Priority to Above Normal
    3. In the Encoder drop-down field select External Encoder
    4. Click on the ... button to input the Encoder Path for the FLAC application. If you have used the FLAC installer downloaded from the link above it will most likely be found at: C:\Program Files\FLAC\flac.exe
    5. Enter the following in the Parameter String field (all one line of course):
      -6 -o %2 -T "artist=%a" -T "title=%t" -T "album=%b" -T "date=%y" -T "tracknumber=%tn" -T "genre=%g" -
    6. Bitrate: any value (it doesn't matter)
    7. File Extension: flac
    8. Check all of the boxes:
    • Hide DOS box window
    • On-the-fly Encoding
    • Send WAV header to stdin

  6. Click OK and you are ready to start encoding your CD's into FLAC!
Easy, right? Soon (relatively speaking & depending on your hardware) you will have your entire CD collection archived into pristine lossless audio files on your hard drive--ready to media-shift into whatever other format you may wish without ever needing to physically rip the discs again.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Audio: CODEC/Bitrate Wars

I am in the midst of an interesting conversation (IMO) on Slashdot regarding codecs and bitrates for audio files. One salient point is that several folks have indicated that they rip their CD audio discs to FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) files (a lossless compression format--you end up with larger files but they are perfect quality audio). Once they have them in FLAC they can easily and quickly convert them to other lossy formats like MP3 or Vorbis for use in their Portable Audio Devices, etc. I think this is are a really good idea! You will never find yourself stuck (like I might) with a lossy file format that is no longer supported. You can always convert your original FLAC files into the 'codec de jour', and you only have to physically rip your CD collection once. Since I have been dumping everything to Vorbis I would need to go back and do it all over again (in FLAC) should Vorbis become obsolete. Not an impossible task, but I really don't want to spend all the time doing them over again--maybe someday when I have no choice! LOL

My initial point was that FLAC is useful for archiving purposes since the filesizes generated are really too much for use in iPods, etc. (if they even support the format to begin with). That will probably become a non-issue at some point in the future, when virtually unlimited storage fits in the size of these tiny devices. Vorbis & MP3 are much more practical for general daily use, and IMO a Q6 Vorbis file rivals CD audio on my equipment.

I made the following comment regarding lower bitrate MP3s, I think the point is quite valid:
> I never really understood what the big deal was when everyone was downloading 128k MP3's. How could media companies have ever felt threatened by that noise?

Because most people aren't pretentious audiophiles, and are quite happy to listen to 128kbps MP3s through the crappy speakers that came with their Gateway box.

Cool! I've always wanted to be a pretentious audiophile! This is a great day! I just wish I had the gear to go along with such an ostentatious title. [sigh]

The treble washout at 128kbps is often times just too much. Have you ever tried to make an audio CD from 128k MP3s? It will generally turn out to be hideous. That's not always the case. I made one from the Brad Sucks: I Don't Know What I'm Doing album and it rocks! Guess I'm not as picky as you would imply--though others would be, for sure. Still you don't have to have a golden ear to be disturbed with lower bitrate MP3s, even on crappy Gateway speakers...

Listening to low quality MP3s can be kind of comparable to the Uncanny Valley effect some people experience when they see photorealistic CG images of humans . They can look really cool but still creep you out at the same time...

At any rate, I would suggest following the procedure above. If you have the HDD space: rip your CDs to FLAC first and then use command-line tools to batch convert those FLAC files into whatever lossy format you need for your devices. Here is a shell script that looks like it would do the trick quite well (but I haven't tried it myself yet)...

PS The Brad Sucks album
really does rock!! You should check it out...


Monday, December 12, 2005

Linux: Drop In AD & Exchange Replacement?

Am I missing something?

I check DistroWatch every day or so and I see new GNU/Linux distributions coming out all the time. It seems to me the majority of these new distros really don't add much value over what is already available. That's not always the case, some new distros bring functionality to the table that either wasn't readily available previously or wasn't easily implemented before. A lot of these distros come as LiveCDs (a la Knoppix) with options to install to HDD. That's fine, let them keep coming. Choice is a great thing, but (community) support is also a great thing. Dilute the pool too much and the soup gets pretty bland I would think...

That's not really my gripe or whatever. No, my desire is for some innovative group(s) to come up with the drop in distro (a la LiveCD + HDD install option with support & updates) that employs OpenLDAP directory & authentication with Samba functionality in an easy-to-administer all in one distribution (See Idealx). Add to that calendaring and Exchange-like functionality (again, with easy to use, easy to administer abilities) and you win the day. Where is this product? All of these pieces are available separately, why haven't they come together into a powerhouse server distribution?

Maybe it is already out there and I just don't know it? If it is, please let me and the rest of the world in on the secret. Thanks! :-)


Thursday, December 08, 2005

PS3 Cell Processor

Xbox360? Forget about it! I can't wait until the PS3 hits! Games? Hardly. My interest in gaming ranks from little to none. No, my interest in the PS3 is the Cell processor architecture:

Cell is an architecture for high performance distributed computing... According to IBM the Cell performs 10x faster than existing CPUs on many applications... The Cell architecture can go further though, there's no reason why your system can't distribute software Cells over a network or even all over the world. The Cell is designed to fit into everything from (eventually) PDAs up to servers so you can make an ad-hoc Cell computer out of completely different systems.

I've read indications that Linux has been ported for the architecture. :-)

See also:


64 Studio 0.6.0 Torrent

DistroWatch announced the release of 64 Studio 0.6.0 today:

64 Studio is a collection of software for digital content creation on x86_64 hardware (that's AMD's 64-bit CPUs and Intel's EM64T chips). It's based on the pure 64 port of Debian GNU/Linux, but with a specialised package selection and lots of other customisations. It will be marketed to hardware OEMs in the creative workstation and laptop markets as an alternative to the 64-bit version of Windows XP, or OS X on Apple hardware.

You can download the ISO via http here.

Better yet spare their server and use bittorrent. LinuxTracker has a torrent available for this iso. Check here for more details.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Music: October

Early U2...

I Threw A Brick Through A Window

Who said they could make an album? Let alone two (and beyond)? What made them better then the rest? How did they succeed where others had failed? I mean c'mon, by production standards today U2 wouldn't have made it into the lobby of a real studio let alone accomplish what they have over the course of the last 20 (going on 30) years!

I will admit, Boy & October are, for the most part, albums (opps now I am dated huh?) only fans could really appreciate. War? Probably a little more of a breakthrough for them... The clincher has to be Under A Blood Red Sky. I had it practically the moment I heard about it I'm sure. I taped the whole show off of Nickelodeon back in the day. Yeah, that's right, U2: Under A Blood Red Sky broadcasted on Nick or whatever it's called today. Collector's plates commercials and all...

Why was that pivotal? It showed their power and emotion in a live setting to a lot of us who wouldn't have ever been able to see the tours for the first three albums. That was it, if we weren't hooked before we sure were then...

U2 has (obviously) gone through a lot of changes since those early days, no doubt. I finally got to see them live in Austin during the Joshua Tree tour--it was one of the most intense concerts I have ever seen to this day...

Sadly though, I kind of stopped paying attention to them around their Rattle & Hum days. It was too much of a departure for me at the time.

I didn't totally lose interest in them over the years though, and that interest was recently fueled by their appearance on the Conan O'Brien show a month or so ago. They seemed altogether "real" (whatever that means) and the covers (of more recent material) that they played were interesting. Interesting enough in fact for me to purchase their last two releases...

Maybe we've all grown up after all. Maybe they have at the least...


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Building An Ubuntu 5.10 Server

Chronicling the tale of building out a simple Linux Samba server.

I had the week off so I decided to throw together some of the parts I had lying about to make into a fileserver. Based on an eMachines T2080 sporting an AMD 2000+ XP (Model 6) CPU and ECS L7VMM mainboard; 512MB DDR (PC2100); 75GB HDD; DVD-ROM & CD-RW drives. The case and power supply are a joke. I replaced the 250w PS with a 300w Antec PP303X I had in another system. The case has no system fan, and no place to mount one. This posed a problem when I added a second drive to build the RAID1 [Mirroring] device for the fileserver data--heat. The only place to secure a second drive in the case is right next to the first (unless I could scrounge up some mounting rails and put it in one of the optical drive slots). This was not going to work. The heat coming off of these two drives was bad. Until I can find a suitable replacement case, I rigged a fan to blow air in the gap between the two drives. It seems to be working well, but it's definitely an ugly hack especially since I have to leave the cover off. The drives however went from blazing hot to barely warm. The sensors command was returning some way out voltages so I quickly swapped out the PS with the Antec. It's still showing high on the 3.3v rail but it might be something in the config, I don't know yet. I have every peripheral unplugged in the box. No FDD, no optical drives--the PS is running the two HDDs, the system board, a generic RealTek-based PCI 10/100 NIC and the fan for the drives. That's it. The image shown here is an earlier shot, changes have been made:
  • I have moved the front drive's IDE cable out of the way so more air gets through the gap between the drives.
  • The PS is replaced, with no power going to any devices other then as mentioned above.
  • The Promise Ultra100 TX2 IDE controller has been removed (a very useful card to have in your collction. I find it never stays in one place very long. Useful for your optical drive(s) when you are going to use all of the available onboard IDE interfaces for Linux software RAID or if I needed another HDD connection for RAID5--which is a possibility in the future).
At any rate enough about the hardware. Basically it boils down to scraps employed for a useful purpose. Can I use my old tag line here? "Try doing that with Windows!"

Based on my experiences with Ubuntu as a desktop platform I decided I would go with an installation of Ubuntu 5.10 Sever, or as they say, Ubuntu "optimised for server installation." I am not exactly sure what that means, aside from the fact that it installs a very minimal set of applications. Very minimal. You need to have some knowledge of running things from the command line or you will not get very far I believe. That's OK though, a minimal base is generally what you want to use to build a reliable/secure server system. If you have ever done an Ubuntu install previously, you know it's accomplished via a text based interface. No frills but simple & easy enough to navigate (I actually prefer it in some cases to the oft-times bloated GUI installs of other distros). The only daunting part you may come up against if you are new to this sort of thing is partitioning. However if you are familiar with the filesystems used in Linux it should not really be an issue. I don't recall any options for choosing packages during the initial install, perhaps because all you really are getting at first is the base system & tools. Choosing apps was done afterwards via the CLI command, apt-get. No problems there. I love APT!

Initially I started with the following layout: one 120GB Maxtor 6Y120L0 [115GB] HDD with 7.4GB for the root filesystem (ReiserFS--a robust journaling filesystem), 2GB swap partition, and the remaining disk space for the /data partition (also ReiserFS). If I was really going to store "important" data on this thing I quickly determined that redundancy was in order. If I had two more larger capacity drives available, I would have left the Promise IDE card in the box and set up a RAID5 array [Striped w/parity]. Alas, I only had one additional drive to use for the project (the original drive from the eMachine, an 80GB Samsung SV8004H [75GB]). It would have to be RAID1 (Mirrored) for today. I added the Samsung drive and restructured the partitions as follows:
Maxtor 120GB (hda)
hda1 / 7.4GB ReiserFS
hda2 ext'd (remaining drive space)
hda5 swap 2GB
hda6 /dev/md0 75GB
hda7 /data2 31GB ReiserFS

Samsung 80GB (hdc)
hdc1 /dev/md0 75GB

RAID1 Array
md0 /data1 75GB ReiserFS
I have manually built Linux software RAID arrays previously, but these days there is no need to do this (thankfully!). You could set it up initially during the installation or run base-config afterwards. Even easier, use apt-get to install Webmin (along with Samba, SWAT, SSH) and use the Partitions on Local Disks & Linux RAID modules under the Hardware tab to configure it. The following are packages I installed (you won't want the first one if you are not using a 32-bit AMD processor):

apt-get install linux-image-k7 linux-restricted-modules-k7
apt-get install samba
apt-get install webmin-core
apt-get install webmin-samba
apt-get install webmin-software
apt-get install webmin-smart-status
apt-get install webmin-cpan
apt-get install lvm-common
apt-get install ssh
apt-get install swat
apt-get install sensord
apt-get install mondo

Of course all of these packages do not apply to working with partitions and RAID arrays but several of them are useful.
  • linux-image-k7 linux-restricted-modules-k7 are specific for my CPU
  • Samba is the (ubiquitous) fileserver that I am using
  • ssh provides Secure Shell services (I have no monitor, keyboard, mouse or other input peripheral attached to this box--I do it all through webmin and SSH CLI)
  • lvm-common is needed for the RAID module
  • SWAT is a web-browser based tool for configuring Samba (I don't have it working yet, it is not responding to http://fileservername:901 as it should. I actually like it better then working through the Webmin Samba module. Either that or edit it by hand. nano is your friend.)
  • sensord provides hardware monitoring capabilities
  • mondo provides the Mondorescue backup functionality, very powerful, easy to use
  • webmin-modulename provides the various webmin modules that I required
  • Note: I used the Upgrade Webmin module in Webmin to upgrade to the latest/greatest version from the official site. Whether or not this is something you wish to do, well that is totally up to you of course--I have seen no adverse effects from upgrading the Ubuntu server in this manner thus far.
    • Open Webmin in your favorite browser (i.e. https://myserver:10000)
    • Select the Webmin Tab
    • Click Webmin Configuration
    • Click Upgrade Webmin
    • Select the Latest version from radio button
    • Select the Check GnuPG signature on package? check button
    • Click the Upgrade Webmin button
Note: You may need to modify /etc/apt/sources.list to include the Universe repositories to obtain some of these packages. Use nano /etc/apt/sources.list and simply remove the hash mark '#' in front of the repository lines you wish to include. My sources.list looks something like this:

# deb cdrom:[Ubuntu-Server 5.10 _Breezy Badger_ - Release i386 (20051013)]/ breezy main restricted

deb breezy main restricted
deb-src breezy main restricted

deb breezy-updates main restricted
deb-src breezy-updates main restricted

## The Universe repository is ENTIRELY UNSUPPORTED by the Ubuntu
## team, and may not be under a free licence.
deb breezy universe
deb-src breezy universe

deb breezy-security main restricted
deb-src breezy-security main restricted

deb breezy-security universe
deb-src breezy-security universe

Between SSH command line admin and Webmin configuring Ubuntu 5.10 Server was, well, Breezy! With basically throw-away hardware I have built a central repository for my family's data that combines a stable, proven operating system, hardware failure redundancy with a robust journaling filesystem and a powerful backup solution (via Mondorescue which I can easily script to run from cron). The Samba configuration is quite basic1 at the moment but I plan on implementing a more complex model for better permissions controls so my kids don't accidently delete my data and vice-versa. I have plenty of experience in this area so I suspect I will end up with a Samba PDC before too many days pass...

All in all, aside from the HDD heat problem I initially encountered building out the Ubuntu 5.10 server has proved to be incredibly simple. Configuration and adminstration are a snap. Command line familiarity is helpful, but for the GUI inclined Webmin provides excellent support tools. And, the Ubuntu APT repositories provide you with virtually limitless opportunities to apply whatever applications to your server that you might want or need.

Resources for Ubuntu:
Resources for Samba:
Resources for Webmin:

1Simple smb.conf example:

# Sample configuration file for the Samba suite for Debian GNU/Linux.
#=============== Global Settings ===============

log file = /var/log/samba/log.%m
passwd chat = *Enter\snew\sUNIX\spassword:* %n\n *Retype\snew\sUNIX\spassword:* %n\n .
obey pam restrictions = yes
socket options = TCP_NODELAY
encrypt passwords = true
passwd program = /usr/bin/passwd %u
passdb backend = tdbsam guest
dns proxy = no
netbios name = MARSHALL
server string = %h server (Samba, Ubuntu)
invalid users = root
workgroup = WORKGROUP
os level = 20
syslog = 0
security = share
panic action = /usr/share/samba/panic-action %d
max log size = 1000

create mask = 0775
comment = Home Directories
directory mask = 0775
browseable = no
writeable = yes
only user = yes

comment = RAID1 Share
writeable = yes
public = yes
user = username
path = /data1/share

comment = Non-RAID Share
writeable = yes
public = yes
user = username
path = /data2/zeta


Updated 21 December 2005: Added step-by-step Webmin upgrade instructions.
Updated 22 December 2005: Added sample Samba config info.
Updated 27 December 2005: Added links on scheduling Mondorescue backup jobs via
Updated 08 January 2006: Added link to a howtoforge article to Samba Resources.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

You Win Some...

Cool! At least it will be shortly...

I was walking around in an office supply store and came across an Antec 80mm SmartCool fan for $10.39. Double-ball bearing, variable speed, perfect! My joy turned to dismay when it rang up for $20. It turned out they were mislabled on the rack. That $10.39 was for something totally different. I wasn't going to make anything of it but the manager had the cashier sell it to me for the $10. Very nice! How often does that ever happen? Well... for me, not very often at all.

This is ideal since the system fan in the audio workstation sounds like it is dying. This will make an excellent replacement.

You know you're a geek when you post a blog entry because you got a good deal on a case fan! ;-)

(Hey! They also had some good deals on CD & DVD media. Man, I wish DL/DVD+R media would drop in price! 3 discs for $20?! No thanks...)


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Gone In A Crash

Oh how I despise it! Can I just say it?

I spent close to nearly an hour recording stuff in Audacity, only to have the application crash when I hit the stop button. When a riff hits me, I have to get Audacity (or another recording application) started ASAP. So there I am clicking the mouse while I am still playing. Have to, or I lose the feel of the riff forever...

That's how it started tonight. I was practicing a piece at 220bpm until I couldn't keep up with the pace anymore. I quit that piece and started noodling around to see what I would come up with tonight. I hit on something that caught my ear on the A string near the 12th fret. Quick! To Audacity with you. Of course the PC happened to be booted in Windows 2000 at the time. [sigh]

Anyway, I got the riff down to some degree but the feel wasn't exactly right so I kept playing... and playing... and playing. When I was done and clicked stop, it was instantly and forever gone. Nothing to show for it. Nothing at all...

Application error, blah blah blah...

I should have known...

What a waste!

I should just learn to boot up in Linux when I start practicing and start the recording application from the start. That way I won't end up losing inspriation when it strikes. Not that I haven't had my troubles in Linux before (it's usually user error), however troubles are much more rare when recording in Linux than with the other OS mentioned above...

I think people complain too much in blogs. I need to cut it out. I much prefer to see positive posts and useful/usable information. My rant pages get little notice. My computer fixes pages get all the attention. LOL


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Music: The Police Live!

I finally did it after all these years... well, ten anyway.

I purchased The Police Live! 2-disc CD set. Why is this a big deal? It's not... not in the grand scheme of things. It is kind of cool for me though. I've wanted to see this band live since junior high (now commonly referred to as "middle school"” where I currently reside). Trust me, that's been a good while now. All of the members are still alive (as far as I know) but I highly doubt a reunion tour will ever materialize. As far as I can ascertain the last two shows they played together were the 1986 Amnesty International concert (which I recall seeing & taping) and Sting's wedding in 1992 (which I do not recall seeing or taping). Aside from the Amnesty show, I saw the Synchronicity concert video and I suppose that is as close as I will ever get...

So now I have this two disc set that was released ten years ago. It's recordings from two shows. The first in Boston in 1979. This must have been the Reggatta de Blanc tour, as Sting mentions "Walking On The Moon" as being from the "new album." It's a blast! Blast from the past. LOL This stuff is great! The band is full of energy and confidence. Stewart Copeland is one of my favorite drummers ever and he definitely soars on this set! Andy Summers guitar is energetic & warm. The really nice thing about this show is you can hear the guitar and the bass. They aren't competing for the same frequencies which you find in some recordings where the lines between guitar and bass are blurred--particularly today where guitar based music is usually much heavier, even in pop songs. This power trio shines in these live renditions of their early classics particularly considering the archaic equipment used in putting it to tape.

The second show was taped in Atlanta, 1983, the last tour. Synchronicity. The sound is fuller and perhaps a bit more polished but the essence & energy is still there. Sting's voice sounds better. More control? Mature. I remember a quote from one of them, something about how you really learn to play from touring (or was that a U2 quote? I don't recall at the moment). I believe it. This show has the classic Police guitar tones in there (Summers' signature chorus sound), but it's definitely edgier which is really cool. The drumming as always is impeccable. The mix is well done. One thing I have always enjoyed about Summers style on guitar was his ability to create atmosphere without overwhelming the mix. The songs could still breathe. That carries over live as well. I think it's useful for building tension and anticipation in a piece. The folks producing the solid walls of over-compressed ultra-distorted guitars that you find in a lot music today could take some queues from these guys. Dynamics matter in a well arranged piece of music. I find that lacking a lot today, but I also see that trend somewhat dissipating as time moves on. One can only hope. Overdoing any one thing in your playing can invite boredom in the listener...

Dynamics in music. Man I wish more producers would remember that concept. You don't have to peg the meters all the time, but what do I know?

Well, let's just say I shouldn't have waited ten years to get around to this one. Good thing those "buy one get 12 free CDs"” clubs are still around! ;-)

My favorite Police album? Ghost In The Machine


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Music: Jam Sessions

My friend AD and I try to jam about once a week. We both play guitar. Our musical influences are quite varied and while we have some things in common, there are a lot of differences in out preferences. I think this generally equates to positive sessions, our diversity provides creative tension. Regardless of our differences in musical tastes, one positive aspect that we bring to our sessions is a willingness to listen to what the other has to say. A willingness to try something new even if we would generally be inclined to resist going in an unknown direction.

AD uses Audacity to lay down his idea tracks. I use Audacity (for quick idea takes) & Ardour (for multitrack ideas, when the creative vibe is really in gear and I have more time to work with it). We bounce these tracks off of each other and have quite a collection of original material to work with at this point, and we are reaching an interesting convergence. He has wanted to explore playing live, whereas I have been less inclined and even resistant to doing that. My focus has been on putting together original material and recording it which I think is less interesting to him due to the technicalities involved.

The convergence I see is that with our original material coming together, AD wants to get it recorded and onto CD, while I am more confident with each jam session that we could easily play live performances with our material.

Tonight we jammed on some new ideas that each of us had and it seemed to flow quite naturally. I am really at the point where I want to get this stuff down "to tape" which leads to some interesting challenges.
  • Drums. I appreciate drum machines but I love a real live, talented drummer. Neither of us plays drums or has access to a kit anyway, and to program a drum machine for realism you have to be able to think like a drummer. I'm afraid this is going to be a big issue. Drums can make or break a song for me. Lame drumming leads to quick disinterest in a song for me.
  • Bass and/or keyboard. Not a big challenge. I can take care of that.
  • Vocals. Now there's a real challenge. I doubt either of us want to ruin our recordings trying to do lead vocals. Which leads to the next challenge...
  • Lyrics. We would definitely want control of lyrics. If we brought in a permanent vocalist for the project it would be interesting to see how that would play out...
  • Arrangement. I want control of arrangements, I don't think AD would disapprove. The problem would be knowing when a piece is done. I am a very improvisational player. I like to go off on an idea and see where it leads, but that has to be reined in if were ever going to get anything finalized...
  • Fun. This stuff has to remain fun because that is why we do it. If it becomes a hassle or otherwise annoying it wouldn't take long for us to just say forget it. I think as longing as we're coming up with new ideas and learning as we go it should keep our interests.
  • Time. AD has more time on his hands then I do and it will be a real challenge if we want to get anything done. If you add a drummer and/or vocalist it could get really interesting really quickly...
Hmm, I suppose I would also have to invest in some more gear as well. At the least a real mic if we are going to get vocals--which I think we need. I don't think either of us want a CD full of instrumentals, although... who knows? If we find a drummer, then we need a mixer a set of mics for the kit. Lacking funds makes that unrealistic. Maybe we can find a drummer who's already set with that gear. I'm sure we could. Maybe he or she would have pity on us and not charge us a mint to lay down some kickin' tracks for us? One can hope, right?

Ah, the evolution of the recording hobbyist...

Too bad I can't post some samples here for family & friends. Feedback would be nice...


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ideas Are NOT Things

This is a concept that really needs to be promoted and understood throughout the populace, particularly among lawmakers. There is a very informative article regarding the topic via Guardian Unlimited entitled Owning Ideas by Andrew Brown:
The difference between ideas and things is obvious as soon as someone hits you over the head with an idea - so obvious that until recently it was entirely clear to the law. Things could have owners and ideas could not. Yet this simple distinction is being changed all around us. Ideas are increasingly treated as property - as things that have owners who may decide who gets to use them and on what terms...

...This is madness. Ideas aren't things. They're much more valuable than that. Intellectual property - treating some ideas as if they were in some circumstances things that can be owned and traded - is itself no more than an idea that can be copied, modified and improved. It is this process of freely copying them and changing them that has given us the world of material abundance in which we live. If our ideas of intellectual property are wrong, we must change them, improve them and return them to their original purpose. When intellectual property rules diminish the supply of new ideas, they steal from all of us.
Recent news stories inform us that with pending legislation it is quite apparent that there is much confusion over this issue. Confusion that could lead to furthering bad law, stifling innovation, and further restrictions against consumers.

Even the established doctrine of 'fair use' is being called criminal by some lawmakers. Copyright law (PDF, 290 pages worth) is as strong as it has ever been--it's too strong in fact with the life+70 years term. And patent law is virtually screaming for reform--particularly so-called software patents. It is my firmly held belief that copyright is sufficiently strong to protect code and that software SHOULD NOT be patented at all. Total reform in this area is wanted, I daresay required if technology is to continue tremendous pace of growth. As the article mentioned above points out, Microsoft became unbelievably prosperous when there was no such thing as software patents. That says volumes...

What is it in society, particularly government that compels us towards killing innovation & ever increasing restrictions? That is, of course, rhetorical but I certainly wish that lawmakers would take a step back for a moment and remember what it was like when they weren't politicians--if that's possible. Just take a moment to think about what it was like to be a regular person (enjoying legally acquired books, music, video, software at home) and then judge imposing further restrictions on the population in that light. Would they like it if their Fair Use rights were further diminished? Would they like someone telling them what they can and cannot do with their property? Didn't they ever tinker with a gadget to make it work better or differently or simply to find out 'what makes it tick'? When did reverse engineering become a 'bad thing'? One of the points of issuing patents is to have a source of ideas to build upon. Now they are simply used as a club to steal your company and/or lock up ideas as the article linked suggests. How can this possibly be good for the governmental mandate to 'promote the general welfare' (that they so often use as an excuse to touch every aspect of our lives even when there is no provision to do so in the Constitution. It makes you wonder how Article X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. is actually applied, if at all in the Federal government these days)?

I would just conclude by saying that enough is enough!
  • Repeal software patents.
  • Stop the Patent Office from issuing patents for the obvious.
  • Reform Copyright law.
  • Repeal the DMCA, or at the very least reform it in favor of the consumer!
Balance in the so-called intellectual property field is what's needed if technological progress and advances in our culture are to continue their march forward.

Treating ideas as things and locking them away is extremely bad policy.


Magnatunes: Pick Your Battles

I couldn't believe what I was reading today on NewsForge. A pathetic rant against Magnatune entitled, Magnatune: We're not as evil as we could be by Matthew Davidson.

He's bent out of shape because the MP3 encoded songs that you can freely download & freely redistribute from Magnatune (under a CC License) have a synthesized voice message tacked on the end of them with track/artist information and the notice 'from' The unmitigated gall of this ungracious article is truly unbelievable!

My response in full:
You are *totally* blowing this issue out of proportion and mischaracterizing what is 'free' on Magnatune and what's not.

First, you better check again because you certainly ARE free to redistribute the music you purchase from Maganatune under the specified CC license. There is NO separate license for the WAV, OGG, or FLAC files as opposed to the MP3/streaming license. It's one and the same.

The only difference beside bitrate quality between the streamed MP3 files & a purchased set is simply that the 'nagware' message is gone after the purchase.
But as you stated, even with the MP3s (that ARE freely & immediately downloadable) you ARE free to strip out the track/artist/title message, use them (non-commercially) & redistribute them according to the terms of the license. What REALLY is the problem? You should have taken this time and space to write about something TRULY threatening like software patents...

As to the 'nagware' in the streamed/freely downloadable MP3s, so what? It provides us complete track information: the artist, the album & what track we are listening to. Unless something has changed in the message since the last time I listened to a stream there is NOTHING in there to suggest that you are stealing or a freeloader.

In fact, I actually bought an album BECAUSE of the information in the 'nagware'. I was listening to a compilation set of various artists in a genre and heard an interesting song. Without the 'nagware' message I would not have known who it was that was performing. With the information provided, I listened to more from the particular artist that intrigued me, and I ended up buying one of his albums!

Gee, instead of being evil perhaps this is actually beneficial to all: artist, consumer, and distributor...

Pick your battles. This article amounts to little more then a poorly conceived rant about a total non-issue.

Updated 22 November 2005, 12:39am: It appears from lengthy discussions regarding this article on NewsForge that it is highly likely that WAV, FLAC, OGG, etc. files that you purchase from Magnatune are not sold to you under the same by-nc-sa 1.0 Creative Commons License that cover the freely downloadable MP3 files. My apologies to Matthew Davidson for the statements above that I have rendered with strike-thru. If you follow this thread you will find the basis for my original position on the issue, and why I now believe I was mistaken. Contact Magnatune for further clarification if needed. I am not a lawyer and aside from being a repeat customer, I am not affiliated in any way with Magnatune.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I LOVE Not-Summer

We get two seasons here, summer & not-summer. It feels like not-summer right now. The house is nice and chilly. The Athlon XP box is cranking away at 100% CPU load but only hitting 40ºC. The cat thinks she's freezing so she's sitting on top of the UPS for warmth...

Yeah... life is good! :-)


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Planet Sony! CD Phone Home

This is soooo cool! Unfortunate, but cool.

The kind folks at DoxPara Research have provided us with a visual demonstration of just how widespread the Sony audio CD rootkit has become.

Download --> Extract --> Run planetsony.bat and spin the world 'round.

Anyone who thought the Sony rootkit issue was just a lot of noise would find the images quite compelling I think. Find out how they did it at

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bittorrent: Share The Wealth!

It's pretty amazing what you can do without even trying.

For example, I was looking at Azureus today--it's running all the time, I don't even notice it unless I am trying to use VPN and then I need to pause it, other then that I don't even think about it. Anyway, I was looking at the Azureus stats for the torrents I am seeding and saw something interesting. Without doing a thing, I have "given away":
Those are my share ratios. That is nearly 43GB of software uploaded. Now I'm not pointing this out to brag or anything pointless like that at all. I was just thinking how cool this technology is, how useful. Remember when you had to get your Linux ISOs via FTP. It would take forever, maybe even days, even with broadband to get the latest greatest distro--but we were happy the resources were their, thankful for those mirrors indeed! Without the mirrors I seriously doubt GNU/Linux and all the other innovative FOSS (Free/Open Source Software) projects would have advanced as rapidly as they have. Today, we not only get to download super-large files like ISOs much faster, but with BitTorrent we get to share the wealth when we seed the torrent--no longer draining & straining resources but actually becoming a resource for others. I think this opportunity strengthens free software even further.

Of course, as always, there are those among us who abuse the rights of others and create torrents that distribute materials when they have no right to do so. I'm certain when the MPAA folks hear the word 'bittorrent' they immediately have images flashing through their collective minds of movies being distributed far & wide across the internet at blazing speeds... before they even hit the theatres! I am not surprised that they fight these new P2P technologies tooth & nail. I don't agree with their methods, but I understand their motives.

I'll tell you exactly what my position is on this problem. You guys (you know who you are) who post/join pirate torrents or P2P shares of non-redistributable copyrighted software, movies, music whatever: YOU are the ones who are ruining it for the rest of us! Don't you get that? You may think you're "sticking it to the man", but you're hurting the rest of us in the process! It is utterly aggravating!

I may not agree with current copyright law but that doesn't give me the right to break it. Bittorrent is an awesome technology for all of us. One of many, but it is viewed in some circles as simply a tool for criminals. I don't enjoy it when the existence of technologies that I find useful (for perfectly legal activities) are becoming threatened because they get branded as 'evil'. It just gives (for example) people like the Sony execs an illegitimate excuse to add spy/malware to audio CDs. And, it gives other companies & legislators the impetus to call for more control over what WE can do with the products WE bought and WE own. They don't need any encouragement. So stop!

If you like a movie you saw, don't be so freakin' cheap, buy a copy! If you like some music you heard when you were driving down the road, buy the CD or hit iTunes and buy the songs you want. Whatever it takes. Please stop ruining it for the rest of us.

Sorry for the rant but I just don't think a lot of people care about these issues because they don't feel the negative & chilling impact they have on innovation. They may think they are not hurting anyone by downloading a few thousand of song--but in the end the media moguls will fight back and slowly & insidiously what we can do with the products we paid good money for, products we own (i.e. our computers, TVs, DVRs, etc.) is going to become more & more limited. Eventually to the point that they become useless to us (all the while being billed as the latest & greatest in tech) or we will become desensitized to the point that we just think, "that's just the way it is", and the way it should be. That will be a sad day. How lame will it be to say to your kids or grandkids, "I remember when we could buy music and listen to it as many times as we wanted. These media subscription fees today are putting me in the poor house..."

News flash, there really is more to life then movies and music put out by the giant media companies. Honest...

So do something useful with the technology we have. Share the wealth of Free/Open Source Software, and Creative Commons-type licensed redistributable media via P2P & Bittorrent. We will ALL benefit and just maybe we can keep playing with our toys the way we want to and not how some mega-media-funded legislator tells us to.

One can only hope...


Identify An AMD Athlon XP CPU

I wanted to verify the maximum die temperature for the Athlon XP 2000+ I have in the audio PC (see my previous post). I did NOT want to have to remove the heatsink/fan to get the OPN (the AMD Ordering Part Number) off the chip. A laborious search turned up a utility called Central Brain Identifier. This app looks very similar to the CPU-Z utility, except CBI returned the OPN whereas CPU-Z did not.

CBI identified the OPN of my processor as AXDA2000DUT3C. The AMD Processor Recognition PDF decodes this information for us. The third character from the right (the 'T') indicates the maximum die temperature for the CPU in question. And, it is in fact 90ºC as I had determined last night from other documents.

With the Central Brain Identifier utility & the AMD document, it should be quite simple to accurately identify your Athlon XP processor should the need arise.

Other utilities of interest along these lines can be found at AMD and Major Geeks. This Techspot thread was helpful in locating the correct combination of documentation & software.

Athlon XP: Inexplicable Shutdowns

Original Post (HDD Dying): 10 November 2005, 11:00pm
I know which one it is. I have two hard drives in the "audio workstation" box. It's the Fujitsu. Every one of these that I have ever used has died. Maybe that's why they stopped making IDE drives? You think??

This Athlon XP box dual-boots between Win98 and Linux. Windows 98 serves a dual role. The boys can play games on it, draw, write stories, etc. AND I can mess around with the free version of ProTools (which apparently only runs under Win98, not NT or beyond for some unknown reason) and Kristal on it. The Linux partition is for the serious audio apps.

I started to notice it yesterday. One moment this box was running along in Win98... walk by it later and it would be completely shut off. At first I thought someone might simply be shutting it down more frequently then usual, but no, this was happening far too often. I run Folding@Home on it, so I try to keep it running non-stop anyway (even though the boys always like to shut down when they are done using the box).

I was starting to get suspicious, so tonight I kept my eye on it while we were watching TV. I thought it might be CPU thermal shutdown (I don't overclock and I have the automatic shutdown level set to the lowest temperature setting in the BIOS). I decided I would test my theory, and found a free system monitor/configuration app for Windows, SpeedFan 4.25. I installed it and set it to logging. A decent little application if I might say so, but it did not get much of a chance to run. I sat there watching the sensor readings fluctuate when all of a sudden I heard it, "ka-chunk" from one of the HDDs and poof! The box was off...

Well, now I know. I just hope the drive lasts long enough for me to clone the partition onto it's replacement. I'll just have to make sure no one turns it on until I can get to it. Man! I do not want to reload the dang thing from scratch again! It's such a waste of time. I can't complain though, I knew this day was coming when I put that drive in the box...

Update: 12 November 2005, 12:42am
Upon further investigation this evening I find that my initial impression on the cause of the shutdowns was correct after all: CPU temperature exceeding the thermal shutdown threshold set in the BIOS.

I gave the CPU heat sink/fan a thorough dusting with some canned air. The processor has been running at 100% (courtesy of Folding@Home) for quite a while, and right now it is sitting right around 57ºC. This is acceptable as the (Athlon XP 2000+) has a maximum die temperature of 90ºC. I currently have the BIOS shutdown threshold set at 75ºC. I will let the system run all night, and check the SpeedFan logs in the morning. I doubt it will go much above 60ºC based on what I am seeing now.

Looks like my Fujitsu drive will live to see another day. Still, a snapshot of the current partition image for backup purposes is definitely in order. That drive will fail sooner rather then later, I can count on it...

Update: 13 November 2005, 9:31pm
Thank goodness for automatic thermal shutdowns & warnings. I did some more testing and had the shutdown disabled but I had the warning set at 75ºC. The beeping started and I checked the temperature 80ºC! Shutdown and fast. Long story short(er), it was the CPU heatsink fan. I removed it, took the back cover sticker off, verified it was a ball bearing fan, cleaned it with DeoxIT, replaced the sticker, reinstalled the fan, and have been running it at 100% load ever since (again, courtesy of Folding@Home).

Fan Speed Avg. 5700RPM
CPU Die Temp. Avg. 47ºC

Oh so much better then the numbers I saw previously. If the fan holds up after this cleaning it should be good to go. If not, thermal shutdown is on and ready to kick in. Case closed...


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sony's Killer Audio CDs

It used to be (in the not too distant past) that when you bought an audio CD, it was yours to do with as you pleased aside from certain restrictions afforded the copyright holder:
First, a baseline. When you buy a regular CD, you own it. You do not "license" it. You own it outright. You're allowed to do anything with it you like, so long as you don't violate one of the exclusive rights reserved to the copyright owner. So you can play the CD at your next dinner party (copyright owners get no rights over private performances), you can loan it to a friend (thanks to the "first sale" doctrine), or make a copy for use on your iPod (thanks to "fair use"). Every use that falls outside the limited exclusive rights of the copyright owner belongs to you, the owner of the CD. [Now the Legalese Rootkit: Sony-BMG's EULA]
Pretty much what we're used to. Nothing scary, nothing dramatic. You bought it, you get to use it. Well, times they are a changin'...

By now I'm sure that virtually everyone who enjoys audio CD's has heard of the Sony-BMG DRM debacle. If not, here it is in the most simple of terms as I understand it. If you happen upon a Sony-BMG audio CD encumbered with their DRM rootkit and you attempt to play it in your Windows-based computer, you get the added 'bonus' of having a secret bit of software installed on your PC using common techniques employed by spy/malware coders. This is done without your knowledge, it leaves your computer vulnerable to exploits, and it is difficult to remove--possibly damaging your OS in the process.

This is completely unacceptable in my opinion, worse, it certainly must be against the law. The Sony-BMG response to criticisms raised against this overtly intrusive scheme has been ludicrous & condescending at best.

Finally compare what fair use rights owning the audio CD you purchased affords you (from the quote above) to what a Sony-BMG "licensed" audio CD takes away from you [Now the Legalese Rootkit: Sony-BMG's EULA]:
  1. If your house gets burgled, you have to delete all your music from your laptop when you get home. That's because the EULA says that your rights to any copies terminate as soon as you no longer possess the original CD.

  2. You can't keep your music on any computers at work. The EULA only gives you the right to put copies on a "personal home computer system owned by you."

  3. If you move out of the country, you have to delete all your music. The EULA specifically forbids "export" outside the country where you reside.

  4. You must install any and all updates, or else lose the music on your computer. The EULA immediately terminates if you fail to install any update. No more holding out on those hobble-ware downgrades masquerading as updates.

  5. Sony-BMG can install and use backdoors in the copy protection software or media player to "enforce their rights" against you, at any time, without notice. And Sony-BMG disclaims any liability if this "self help" crashes your computer, exposes you to security risks, or any other harm.

  6. The EULA says Sony-BMG will never be liable to you for more than $5.00. That's right, no matter what happens, you can't even get back what you paid for the CD.

  7. If you file for bankruptcy, you have to delete all the music on your computer. Seriously.

  8. You have no right to transfer the music on your computer, even along with the original CD.

  9. Forget about using the music as a soundtrack for your latest family photo slideshow, or mash-ups, or sampling. The EULA forbids changing, altering, or make derivative works from the music on your computer.
Can you believe this?! It just seems such an egregious affront to consumers, you'd think it was a joke. But no, this is all for real. I am (always) reminded of the CueCat debacle--they got all bent out of shape because people were using their product in manners other then what they wished. It was just the beginning and it looks like there is no end in sight to this line of thinking...

Just say NO to Digitally Restricted audio CDs!

Update: 12 November 2005, 12:54am.
EFF has posted a list of (known) audio CDs that employ the Sony-BMG XCP rootkit. Check the post, Are You Infected by Sony-BMG's Rootkit? see if any of your CDs are on the list. Sony has (without apology) decided to "suspend" the use of this spy/malware style software in their audio CDs for now--that doesn't necessarily mean they won't try this crap again...


CC Fundrasing Update

Do you get the feeling that I think this is an important issue? Yes, you better believe it!

Current status as of November 9, 2005 12:53 PM:
$ 47,836 Donated
$225,000 Goal (by Dec 31, 2005)

A long way to go towards reaching the goal. Bloggers can help. Mr. Lessig reports on the addition of new web buttons we can use to further the cause. Cut & Paste the HTML for the button of your choice. Easy & worthwhile too...

I chose the "$5 for the Commons" button myself because it takes the user right to PayPal to donate. Quick, simple, effective, IMO.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dvorak Gets Creative Commons After All

Back in July John Dvorak blasted the Creative Commons concept calling it 'Eye-rolling dumb...' His cristicisms regarding CC were themselves quickly & soundly obliterated by the community at large. Recently, (as we learn from the blog Corante) Dvorak has had a change of heart regarding Creative Commons work and apparently now he gets it.

Note, he's not admitting that his original piece was wrong however, in fact he states:
My column was never wrong, my column was questioning...I was saying, "I don't get it, will somebody explain it to me, please?" Yeah, [Larry Lessig] explained it. I finally got my explanation. Sometimes you've got to go public with bafflement, which I do...He's doing fine. You don't need my help.
Funny, he sounded pretty certain about his conclusions when I read his original opinion piece on the matter. Judge for yourself...

As the Corante post points out, the Creative Commons organization needs our individual support (see the Corante post and you will find out why this is necessary). Please consider a donation if you find their work useful as a consumer or content producer.



Why are the simplest things always the most difficult to do? Why do we procrastinate when we know it will come back to haunt us sooner or later (usually sooner)?

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." --John Lennon

I think often times we get lost in our distractions. This isn't a problem for the utterly impoverished whose sole goal in life is subsistance from day to day. No, this is a 'disease' of the affluent, the rest of us. (I'm certain the utterly impoverished would gladly take on this burden with us, but that is a topic for another day.)

There are so many good things in the world that we can be doing at any given time that it's easy to become blinded to the better things in life--the things that really matter. That's the real trick isn't it? For most of us (I believe) what we generally refer to as our conscience keeps us out of trouble--we don't have a problem avoiding the bad/evil things of the world. No, the real trick is choosing between the good & the better, right? There is only so much time in the day, we only live so long. Wouldn't learning to discern between the two, and actually choosing the better part be a really important skill & action on our parts?

Well, that's rhetorical you say, of course we want to do that. No one wants to waste their time when you look at it like that. The problem is I am easily distracted away from the better things by the good things. I daresay I'm probably not the only one...

There are a million examples we could think of where this is true, but I'll pick just one. In the time it took me to write this blog entry (which I view as being a 'good' thing, sharing my thoughts with others and all that, although some might disagree on placing it in this category) couldn't I have spent time with my family, furthering those ties & relationships? No... actually they are all out at the moment at my mother-in-law's house, so there! But, are there other more important things that I could be doing at this very moment? Of course there is! There always will be in this case. While blogging may be a good thing, there are always going to be infinitely better things that I could be doing with my time. The point is not that I should stop blogging, the point is that I should actively choose to be aware of those 'infinitely better things' in my life and make a concious effort to choose them more often then not. The only way to apply this is to practice it--to actually do it. To stop procrastinating, stop being distracted and take action...