Sunday, December 28, 2008


Apparently there's a version of Ubuntu Server specifically built for VMWARE appliances. Pretty fucking slick. Wish I had known about this a couple months ago when I was building all my VMs. Looks like it's basically just a small foot print version + a "specialized kernel" plus some nice management tools for automating VM builds.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Great film. I can't wait to see Part Two. The depth of the story telling is really refreshing for a modern "bio-pic" I'm always disappointed by the very casual entertainment oriented approach of most of these films. The truth is, history is actually complex, sometimes mundane, and almost always a spider web of related events that requires the viewer to have some clue. It's very hard to simplify a movement, revolution, war or lifetime into a 2 hour movie and do the topic any justice at all. I understand the point of most films is entertainment but given that fact I wonder why bother making this type of film a all if you're not going to take it seriously? Just make Batman Part 8 and everyone will be happy. Leave the real serious films to people who are willing to approach the topic properly even if it means not being a commercial success.

Anyway I can't really review a movie in detail so I won't bother trying. All I can say is the acting, direction, screenplay -- everything is fantastic. The pacing of the movie really stood out to me. Nothing feels too rushed or simplified. Everything seems to play out in some scale model of real time. It's a film that takes its time when it needs to but moves the story forward also. I'm interested in watching it again already which is a rarity. Usually I don't need to see even a good movie more than once every 4 or 5 years. It would be very interesting to que up the Motorcycle Diaries before watching Part One. I haven't seen it in many years but I seem to remember it being an excellent film also.
First of all, as a disclaimer I don't own any gaming consoles. I just follow the industry because I'm interested in the strategy behind it and I hope someday gaming will mature & develop enough to really interest me. Right now it feels a bit too much like being 6 years old and playing with action heros in the bathtub. The stories are bland repetitive grinds to the next check point. The voice acting is universally terrible. There's just nothing there to keep me interested. Occasionally something new and interesting comes along and I can be drawn in for a while but I've never had any ability to grind away at every new video game for hours chasing a carrot on a stick like some people. I admire them for it because I assume it is a lot of fun (to them) and it's certainly more constructive than watching TV or any other passive entertainment source.

When I do play games I tend to like something quick & simple. It seems contradictory based on my critique of modern games as not being interesting enough but a straight forward puzzle game or shooter at least has nothing to be ashamed of. It is what it is. You can't have a bad story and bad voice acting if you don't bother to fake either. There's a lot to be said for accessibility & brevity in entertainment. I'm an extremist -- either give me no-substance or give me more substance than I can take. The middle-ground is just too mediocre.

Anyway, the point of this entry is to look at why the Wii is so successful. Without any official numbers yet it looks like the Wii dominated x-mas sales. I consistently see people bitching about how this toy that doesn't even do HD can be dominating the 360/PS3. The important thing to remember is this is coming from people who absolutely despise the idea of a quick & fun game. They crave the 15 minute tutorial, memorizing & mastering a dozen button combos, memorizing & mastering points on a map, etc. They don't want 30 minutes of fun gameplay, they want 30 hours of gameplay. They'll figure out how to make it fun (somehow) It seems to me it's a hold over from the early days of video games where selection was more limited and games were expected to be longer, harder, and more of a grind. These people seem to have developed more of an enjoyment of the physical process of pressing buttons and sitting on a couch for 6 hour spans. The actual quality of the game itself is largely irrelevant to them. It simply has to satisfy some basic elements of traditional gameplay and offer a comforting and familiar experience.

The success of the Wii is purely based on the fact that most people don't feel this way. They don't have the time to spend 4 hours doing "missions" so they can get a new item and be rewarded with 4 more hours of "missions" It's simply a different mindset. I think it's possibly a generational thing -- not age per say but experience. Anyone who missed the period of gaming between the late 80's to late 90's has a different standard for what makes a game fun. Hardcore vs. casual perhaps -- although it's hard to say some Nintendo fanatics aren't hardcore. It's maybe more of a time management issue. It's no secret there is a serious lack of good third party software for the Wii but it seems to be irrelevant towards sales. Why? Because the average Wii owner probably only wants 2 or 3 games a year. If Nintendo can provide that directly the need for a healthy third party ecosystem is diminished. Unlike Sony & Microsoft, the Wii hardware itself is profitable. Nintendo is a very profitable software company independent of Wii hardware revenue. The average 360/PS3 owner are probably more interested in buying 10 games a year and it's unlikely either Sony or Microsoft could deliver enough games first-party to satisfy them. So the model for Sony & Microsoft is far more dependent on third parties.

So in the long term it's going to be interesting to see how sustainable the blockbuster & hardcore gamer market is versus the smaller, more accessible, casual game market. It seems the blockbuster game market is showing some signs of slowing down, or even collapsing entirely. While there are many high profile games that make a huge profit there are increasingly more and more very expensive games falling flat on their face. It's very similar to the movie industry where only known properties tend to be developed into blockbusters -- either remakes, sequels, or derivative works of literature & comic books. However there are many cheaper movies made that can turn a profit without being #1 at the box office or dominating DVD sales. They are able to do this by finding a very specific style or sub-genre and executing it very well.

So to wrap it up, there are 5 specific things the hardcore/blockbuster game market should do to become more relevant to the masses or, in time, they are going to become marginalized niche players:

1) Shorter, cheaper, more episodic content. (downloadable)
2) More exploration into less mainstream titles. Spend less to develop it, appeal to a smaller audience & sell less copies, but make more money in the end.
3) Stop puking out bad sequels or you'll destroy your cash cow. They have to show some restraint here. You can only go back to the well so many times.
4) Cheaper consoles. Subsidize it with a a subscription model if you must (xbox style) but the days of $400+ consoles has come and gone. You can only get away with that when you don't have any real competition.
5) Start moving away from buttons & joysticks. This model is 30 years old now. It still has some life left in it but the success of the Wii and games like Rockband/Guitar Hero show people are very interested in alternative control systems.

Monday, December 22, 2008

iPhone Nano

There is some pretty credible evidence out there now Apple is working on a lower end iPhone model for 2009. True or not I'm willing to speculate:

Just as the Shuffle isn't really an iPod in any classic sense I would expect any lower end iPhone model to not really be an iPhone in any classic sense. (no touchscreen, no app store, no wifi etc)

There's no practical way to cut the current cost of the iPhone 3G by $100. Reducing storage only saves you maybe $20. Reducing the size of the touchscreen makes a touch keyboard impossible and breaks existing apps. You simply couldn't use most app store apps on a screen even 70% as big as the current iPhone. (too small, not enough DPI for accurate input) Downgrading to EDGE saves you almost nothing. Downgrading the processor power is pointless. (breaks third party apps) So there is basically no way in hell Apple can reduce the current price of the iPhone in any significant way without producing a product that no one would want anyway.

So based on all that I would bet the iPhone Nano would be just what it says. A Nano with a phone built in. No bells & whistles. The UI would be engineering to have an iPhone look & feel but the device would probably continue to run either the classic iPod OS (vxworks I think?) or perhaps it would be the first iPod using Darwin but it would retain the simplicity of the iPod line and any connection to full blown iPhone/Touch OS would be purely cosmetic.

So why would Apple do it? Simple.. To offer an iPod AT&T can give away to people for free with a contract. (or a minimal fee) Apple got into the phone business knowing that phones would completely replace stand alone MP3 players someday. This is just the next logical step. They can ensure the iPod and iTunes Store stay relevant in a post-PMP, cell-centric world. It's interesting to note the new Nano is easily the most cell-phone looking iPod Apple has ever sold. It actually looks more like a cell phone than the iPhone does. Just add a mic & speaker, update the software, and you're all set. As long as Apple does 3 core things well it will satisfy a huge market:

1) Play music & video as well as existing iPod models (check)
2) Make phone calls as well as existing iPhones with a similar UI experience (pretty easy to pull off, check)
3) Be something you can walk out of an AT&T store with for $49 or $99 depending on storage. (check)

As an extra cost cutting measure I would expect there to be no requirement for a data plan.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Recent things of interest

Destroyer: People have been telling me about this band for years but the name always turned me off. Sounds like bad death metal (I guess that's a redundant term) Turns out they're fantastic. Not at all what you'd expect from the name. I really like the Destroyer's Rubies album the most so far. I have all the albums but I'm kinda slowly digesting them. It may take me at least a year to actually process these.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy: Fucking bleak stuff. I haven't read a book in a while that made me uncomfortable like this one did. The writing style is very engaging for this type of story. Very much a first person type of feel to me. Not much (if any) wasted time on information that's not important to the story. I'm a fan of these type of books in general. I'm suddenly motivated to re-read The Earth Abides which is another end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it type of story. Those two, plus Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and probably The Stand by Stephen King are definitely the best of the genre.

Frost/Nixon: I liked it but I was definitely hung up over the actor who plays Nixon. It sounded like he was suppressing a British accent. Nixon, being such an iconic character, is pretty hard to pull off. I don't think anyone will be able to beat Hopkins at it. I totally bought him as Nixon 100%. Going back to Frost/Nixon, I think the actual raw footage of the interviews would be more interesting to me.

Milk: Pretty good but overrated. It's a solid political bio pic. Nothing more, nothing less. I did like how they mixed vintage footage into the film at various points. My biggest problem with this film would be how casual and rushed the murders are. I wanted to know more about that character and his motivations. I guess I'm probably bias against all bio pics because I'm constantly frustrated by the lack of detail and scope. Clearly these movies are intended to be a brief entertaining story but I'm naturally interested in getting the whole story.

My Name is Bruce: I'm a fan of Bruce Campbell so I downloaded it. Had a few funny lines. Definitely not what you'd call a good movie but I'm glad I downloaded it anyway.

Indiana Jones 4: I saw this with the aide of the wonderful RiffTrax project by Mike Nelson, Bill Corbin, and Kevin Murphy (among others) and I have to say -- this movie is just as cheesy as the previous 3. I'm not sure why people were so upset over it. Yeah it's campy, the story is forced and has huge logical holes, so what? Did you SEE the other 3? I feel the same way about the new Star Wars movies too. They're really no better or worse than the originals but everyone remembers the first time they saw Star Wars so they view it with equal parts nostalgia and fact. The truth is, they're not very good movies. Out of all 6 I'd say 3 & 5 are the only films I think stand out as being good movies.

New Star Trek movie: I have no problem with them rebooting the series for basically the same reasons listed above. The original wasn't that good. They can hardly do worse. My only problem with what I've seen from the trailer so far is they turned Kirk into an emo kid. A single blog post that covers both Star Wars & Star Trek? I don't know how to explain it. The winter kinda makes me crazy. Nothing to do. Hostile universe outside. I really try to spend the period between October & March catching up on entertainment stuff I didn't have time for over the previous year(s) At this very moment the idea of re-watching some Star Trek DS9 sounds appealing. Sad really.

Starship Titanic by Terry Jones: Somehow I never read this one even though I've owned a paperback of it for about a decade. Good book. It would make a fun movie if handled right.

Since it's freezing fucking cold and I have nothing better to do I think I might re-read the Dark Tower books this winter. It's an epic amount of material but luckily I've forgot most of the details now so I can enjoy it from a fresh perspective. I ended up listening to 5-7 in audio book form but I've never heard 1-4 in audio. The audiobook versions are amazing. Excellent voice acting. Really immersive stuff. I'm looking forward to hearing 1-4 in this format.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Someone tell this machine I'm not a machine

I realized I haven't posted anything on this blog in a while. Been busy with work and personal stuff. Also the "i" part of my iPhone touchscreen wasn't working for a long time so writing a blog post was not all that easy. I usually do rough drafts on the iPhone in my spare time and edit them later. Without the rough drafts I can't be motivated to do it. Anyway:

After the vicious never ending election cycle I always like to check out between election day and inauguration day. Fatigue becomes a factor. So far the transition seems to be going very well. It seems both extreme liberals and extreme conservatives are upset at Obama right now so we must be getting this thing just about perfect. Neither one of those groups has much business setting policy in this country anymore. I consider myself a liberal but the extreme left is just as dangerous and disgusting as the extreme right in most cases.

Clinton at State is obviously a good move. She knows how to play hardball. She proved in the general she was willing to be loyal to Obama and be a good solider. Since there was enough disagreement between Obama & Clinton on health policy I think it probably makes a lot of sense to keep her away from that business.

Keeping Gates on is a brilliant move. It's dangerous to replace a guy who has actually managed some level of success in Iraq with someone (anyone) who might be wanting to shake things up. We can't really just wash our hands of Iraq at this point. We're involved, the exit strategy has to work. The most important thing is we have a President elect who actually wants to leave. Gates can figure out the details.

I'm a big fan of Richardson so I'm happy to see he's on board. We've got the Democratic all-star team going here.

I wanted to see Kerry involved in this administration but we've got a lot of battles to fight in the Senate and we definitely need him there right now. His experience in actually getting laws pasted is going to be hugely helpful.

On the auto bail out: Pretty much gotta do it. We've bailed out other economies before (Mexico, Japan) and it worked out in the long run. We just can't lose all those jobs. I intensely dislike American cars so I have no interest in seeing the US auto industry continue to exist from a sentimental standpoint. I just think at this time we can't afford to see them go under. If we really push modern designs, electric, hybrid, hydro, etc we might even be able to see the US auto industry really rebound in the next decade. This deal could actually end up making the country some good money. The alternative is to print a fucking ton of unemployment checks and, eventually, welfare checks for all these people who lose their jobs. If we're going to be spending the money anyway I would rather see them stay at work and at least try to get the US auto industry back on track.

Not much happening in the world of technology lately. I've been reading about this interesting Google project to make x86 native code run as a browser plugin. It's still very early but it really opens a lot of doors. We don't really have anything right now that could deliver processing intensive applications locally. I'm not really sold x86 is the ultimate solution but it's a really good intermediate step. I can imagine a world where a site like YouTube might have a x86 VM plugin that boots a minimal Linux install and does all your video encoding locally using ffmpeg with absolutely no porting required by developers. The options are really endless. Security is a concern but hypervisors are fundamentally sound in terms of security. I think if they're doing it right the security concerns are probably not a huge factor. No matter what it can hardly be any more destructive than Active X or even malicious JavaScript.

Message to RIM: Stick with what you do best. The iPhone has you guys beat. The BBOS is ancient. Your core customers are happy with the product you're offering. What are you really going to gain making all these lame iPhone like devices? Either do it right or don't do it at all. There's a huge market of people happy with traditional BBs. Don't under estimate their loyalty.

That is all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Amp

Sounds pretty fucking nice with my Les Paul. I think I'll move my Peavy to the drum kit and the Marshall to my keyboard. My neighbors probably want to murder me now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Solaris + Ubuntu

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's nice to be a Mac user

I got a new (used) laptop today from a friend of a friend. I did a quick OSX install to start fresh. So I started installing stuff. In about 30 minutes I was done. I just didn't have to do much to get it to a functional state.

1) All the hardware worked. Didn't have to go hunt down drivers on HP or Dell's website.
2) Didn't come with any adware or spyware pre-installed.
3) Didn't need to install an SSH client (my primary work tool)
4) Didn't have to install disk burning software (it burns ISOs & data disks, that's all that matters to me)
5) Didn't have to install unzipping utilities. It supports just about everything out of the box.
6) Didn't have to install a VNC or SSH server. Just had to click a checkmark.
7) Logged into MobileMe, all my bookmarks & keychains and Mail settings synced up automatically.
8) Didn't have to put in a CD key or activate

So basically all I need to do on a new Mac is:

-Install Adium
-Install Perian
-Login to MobileME and wait a few minutes
-Run Software Update a few times
-Drag the contents of my Applications folder from another Mac


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ubuntu simplified firewall

I'm liking the simplicity of ufw so far. I have done some pretty hardcore ipfw & ip filter in the past but anytime I go more than 6 months without using it I completely forget all the syntax and have to start over from square one. ufw is incredibly simple to use:

$ ufw enable

$ ufw default deny

$ ufw allow 22/tcp

$ ufw allow proto udp port 67 to port 67

See your ruleset with:

$ ufw status

That's about it. Quick and easy way to harden an install with about 45 seconds of work. You can use gufw for GUI management.


Expanding on what I was writing about last night... it looks like ANDROID has also been ported to run as a general purpose OS on ARM. It wouldn't surprise me to see some netbooks shipping with ANDROID by the end of next year. The calling features could be presented as VOIP or they could simply embed 3G and/or EVDO chips. There's a development board called the BeagleBoard that looks interesting. I might pick one up.

dovecot + getmail

I finally got around to setting up my personal IMAP server. I followed a couple different HOWTOs -- unfortunately like most things related to Linux each one was just a little inaccurate or out of date so I had to pool them all together to figure it out. For some strange reason Mail didn't want to see the folder structure correctly until I turned off the private namespace feature -- which another conflicting HOWTO told me to turn on. Whatever, it works now at least.

Next step is to get this VM on the work ESX server, give it an IP and I should be all set.

Microsoft's netbook problem

The whole situation with Microsoft & Intel over the 915 video chipset and Vista is really a lot more than just another class action lawsuit. It illustrates the major problem Microsoft is facing with the race to the bottom of PC OEMs.

Technology may evolve but people's buying habits don't. A lot of people go out and buy low end machines because they're cheap. These days that means people are buying up netbooks that are slower than most desktops/laptops being sold 4 or 5 years ago. Maybe they'll splurge and go for the $600 laptop which is probably short on RAM, has slow disk IO, and uses integrated graphics.

Microsoft needs to be able to figure out how to make Windows scalable enough that it can run on a $300 netbook or a $3000 high end workstation. If they can't, they're in trouble. As it stands now these OEMs are definitely not happy giving Microsoft 20-30% of the sticker price for a Windows license. They're not going to give up their narrow profit margin to meet higher specs. They will use Linux instead and offer Windows only for the higher end models. (as HP and others are doing now)

As I see it they have 5 major netbook related problems:

1) Intel's ATOM is faster than the Via C3 but it's more expensive. Not by much but when you're selling a $300-$400 machine every penny counts. Via will remain competitive in netbooks simply because they are willing to undercut Intel on pricing. If a cheaper option exists, some OEM will use it and get a competitive advantage.

2) GPU. None of these netbooks, even ATOM ones, are really adequate in terms of GPU. This isn't going to change anytime soon. NVIDIA doesn't have an x86 CPU yet (they will, but that's another story) and AMD/ATI are uninterested in the market. (because they're apparently just as stupid as Apple re: netbooks) So that leaves you with Via & Intel. If you were going to pick two companies to NOT design a decent GPU they would probably be #1 & #2 respectively. Intel's next-gen GPU design, the one brought to you by the environmentally friendly team that designed the P4) is a power hog. It won't get anywhere near a netbook. The newer GMA designs are OK but they're not finding their way into netbooks yet probably due primarily to price.

3) x86 CPUs are just not as power efficient as newer ARM designs that offer power saving features Intel currently only offers at the highest end. This matters because NVIDIA has decided to use ARM for their netbook processor. (for now at least) If you're using ARM then you're using Linux. Another problem for Microsoft.

4) Probably the single most concerning thing for Microsoft... the nettops are coming. The explosion of the netbook market is about to hit the desktop too. Without as many space limitations it's entirely possible we're going to see $100-$200 nettops at retail in the next year. At that price point it's simply impossible to use Windows.

5) Linux just makes a lot more sense on these devices. It's slimmer, more customizable, more portable, cheaper (free) and is completely capable of doing the tasks people want from netbooks. I'm not sure there's anyway Microsoft can compete unless they want to bite the bullet and just make Windows for netbooks free. I don't think the management at Microsoft is forward thinking enough to understand they have to take that radical step to compete.

If I had to offer Microsoft a solution I would tell them to focus on Windows Mobile. It's just inconceivable that they'll ever be able to make Vista/W7 run well on extremely low end hardware or ARM. WM though can do both. Unfortunately, it's quite a terrible operating system so that's another problem to deal with. It's probably more salvageable than NT though.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nice SATA enclosure

I've been looking for a good multi-bay enclosure for a while. Most of them are just way too expensive. I've used a few Rosewill ATX cases in the past... their build quality is acceptable for the price you're paying.

If you combined this with 8x500GB ($52 each right now on you could be a nice 4TB (in RAID5) file serve for well under $1k



Thursday, November 13, 2008


It's not quite SecureCRT but it's definitely better than the old PuTTY GUI. Too bad it's .NET based.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two way sync

So I've been wanting to figure out a way to sync two folders, both ways, so basically files can be added on either machine and end up in both places. There's an app called ChronoSync that does exactly what I'm looking for. I was going to tinker around with rsync but this seems like a much easier solution.

Basically the problem I am running into is I have two desktop Macs and a file server and I tend to have files floating around on each machine. For iTunes I am also using Syncopation to sync the iTunes libraries. The added advantage of this is I will also have 3 independent backups of my music. So if I need to take down my file server for whatever reason there should be no interruptions. iTunes is flakey with libraries on network shares anyway. If you happen to not have the share connected it will sometimes flag your entire library with a ! which, as far as I know, is basically fatal. When that happens I have to re-create my entire library.

Once I'm sure this actually works I'll probably write-up some details. I think I'm not the only person running into this problem. It takes 2 or 3 different apps to get everything glued together but it's pretty easy to setup.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Automatic Encoder design idea

I'm not sure the front ends really should talk directly to the individual components but I could see some cases where the automatic encoder fails for some reason and it might be necessary to have manual tools available that don't have to go through the flow of the daemon process.

I wish I knew some good programmers. The coding part of these things is what I am least interested in doing myself.

How did RIM fall so far behind?

First of all, their web browser is terrible. It really doesn't even classify as a modern web browser. Probably 80 to 90% of the sites I frequent are basically unusable on it. Opera isn't much better. Too slow & buggy. I haven't used any of their newest models but it doesn't sound like they've made any massive improvements. Even if they do there is a considerable perception problem to deal with. There are ALOT of BBs out there and probably 99% of them have awful web browsers. Even if they were to release something now that was very good it would be an uphill battle. Mobile web is now the real killer app for smart phones. RIM is years behind.

Second, they've really fallen behind on e-mail. Setting up a BES server for Exchange support is weak. It needs to be built into the phone's mail client. Attachment viewing is clunky at best. Needs to support more file types and do a much better job supporting existing file types.

Third, no wifi? That would have been understandable in 1998 maybe. In the year 2008 not having wifi as a standard feature is basically suicidal.

Fourth, they seem to be fragmenting their market. 100% touch vs. touch + keyboard, no touch, flip phones(??) QWERTY vs. non-QWERTY. Different screen sizes/resolutions. Not a good idea.

My suggestion to RIM is to just give up and adopt Android. History has shown (in the case of Palm, Windows Mobile) that once you fall behind it's very hard to ever catch-up. Even if you do catch-up technically you're fighting perception vs. reality. You can have the best current-gen product out there but people will always judge your products by whatever model they have used in the past. It's not really fair but that's just how it goes. A big move to a new platform at least draws a clear line in the sand to differentiate your new product line.

Since Android's SDK is all Java based porting apps would be pretty easy. Although there's really no single BBOS app I can think of that I would actually want to see ported. Even the most basic apps are in need of a major GUI overhaul anyway. They'd probably be better off just adopting the standard Android apps.

I don't think RIM has to worry about becoming "just another Android phone maker" because they do make some of the best phone hardware out there. They're going to have a big advantage over the competition. They have more brand recognition too -- it may be a little tarnished but it's not too late to save it. The key is not holding onto the past until the hole is too deep.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hey Apple...

How about Keychain syncing for the iPhone? If it's already there, how about making it work right?

Also, it's definitely worth looking into copying RIM's unified Messages app. Basically it collects together all incoming SMS, e-mail, IM, etc. Make it accessible to third party apps also.

I think I've mentioned this before but it's worth repeating; let me use the iPhone as a remote speaker.

Thank you in advance,

Thursday, November 6, 2008


So I've been at this course on Cisco CMTSs this week so I was thinking about how the typical DOCSIS setup might look in 5 or 10 years.

Everything will be DOCSIS. It seems to me the industry is really wasting a lot of money on SDV & VOD. It would make a lot more sense to just do everything via DOCSIS with IP video to the set top. So your typical cable system in the future might be something like 85 DOCSIS channels as one huge pipe to each node -- able to dynamically be used for a combination of voice, data & video. Building a tuner that can handle 85 channels at once might be a little too expensive even in 10 years so perhaps you'd do them in groups of 8 or 10 channels per service type. Video = 400mbit, Data & voice = 400mbit. Narrowcast video = 400mbit. That's only 30 channels.

Another advantage to this is building an IP aware network makes your delivery medium far less important. RFoG or FFTH, where needed, would work just as well as coax. It would make a smooth transition in the future.

Reflecting on the Bush administration

I've wanted to take the time to write about Bush's legacy but it is a very difficult subject to approach for many reasons. For one thing, in the last 8 years everything that could be said about Bush, good or bad, has been well represented online and offline. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion about him, mostly bad, so escaping a partisan slant is mostly impossible. Most importantly there was no hope. It was a depressing subject to talk about. I think only now we can start to look objectively at Bush's legacy.

For context I should say I did not particularly care who won the 2000 election. I used it as an opportunity to cast a protest vote for Ralph Nader. Let there be no mistake -- I would never want to see Ralph Nader be President but I want to see strong third parties in this country. At the time I felt like voting for Nader was the best option. I've gained a lot of respect for Al Gore in the years since the 2000 election but at the time I was deeply disappointed in the way he ran his campaign and I was skeptical of his liberal credentials. As an extension to this I felt like Gore's campaign completely dropped the ball in FL when contesting the election.

So going in to Bush's Presidency I think I was not strongly opposed to him. I was certainly wiling to give him a chance. It may seem odd a liberal such as myself would be coming from that perspective but I believe in healthy power sharing. After 8 years of Clinton I was not completely opposed to someone who was supposedly a moderate Republican able to cross party lines.

Going back to 2000 it's important to remember Bush did run as a moderate. He talked a lot about fair immigration policies, improving the education system, and non-interventionist foreign policy. He talked about making the military more efficient and embracing our technical advantages. Most importantly he sold himself as being bi-partisan and willing to compromise.

All this is important to remember if you want to judge Bush's legacy. The platform he ran on in 2000 is very important in understanding the incredible disappointment at his administration. There is simply no easy way to reconcile Bush the candidate vs. Bush the President without coming to the conclusion that Bush and his handlers lied to the American people and misrepresented their candidate's true agenda. We know now that even before 2001 they were actively planning an attack on Iraq, actively pursing weapons systems that broke treaties with Russia, and planning massive tax cuts and dangerous deregulation. The war simply made Bush's true agenda easier to implement but it did not change the fact that his entire Presidency was built on a massive fraud. A carefully planned narrative of a fictitious person with no relationship to the man President Bush actually is or was.

It's probably not too surprising a liberal such as myself would be upset but what if you approach the Bush legacy as a Republican?

Do we have smaller government? Absolutely not. The government today is larger and more invasive than ever.

Did Bush do anything to stop abortion? Not at all. It's actually arguable that Bush's SC appointees are slaves to the system. I'm not sure they'll be so quick to vote against an over turning of Roe v. Wade when the courts have upheld it consistently for the last 30 years. It would certainly be a hypocritical act by those who represent themselves as having respect for the courts that came before them.

Immigration? Nothing has changed. Bush's own stance on immigration has been hugely inconsistent over the last 10 years.

Terrorism? We would have been better off fighting terrorism covertly where we could operate outside the law without a global spotlight on us. Bush overacted to 9/11 and gave the radical extremists exactly what they wanted. The whole point of terrorism is to make people fearful, paranoid, and willing to engage you. A covert war on terrorism would have been better for us all. Let me make it clear, I'm sure it would have included assassinations, torture, murdering civilians, spying, etc, etc. I just think we would have been wiser to do that stuff in dark alleys where maybe we could have made the terrorists look marginalized instead of empowering them through attention and recognition.

Economy: I don't know enough about it to comment at length but I think it's pretty clear Bush deserves the blame. Even if it were true that Democratic regulation of the mortgage industry may have created the problem it would have been Bush, and the Republican congress, who were tasked to fix the problem. His massive expansion of government spending certainly isn't something any Republican should be proud of.

Taxes: Besides cutting taxes Bush did nothing to really reform the tax code as he promised in 2000. All of his changes were temporary. 8 years later the Republican party has walked away with almost nothing of value being done on taxes in the Bush administration.

Guns: Again... what did he do for the Republican party on gun rights? I don't recall seeing any of Clinton's gun laws getting repealed under Bush.

Education: What happened to school vouchers? He ran hard on it and just never did it. I'm not a big believer in it myself but, if I were a Republican, I'd be wondering why nothing was ever done. No Child Left Behind has certainly not been much of a success either.

We probably won't understand the true scope of the damage Bush has done to this country for decades to come. Ultimately all we can hope for is this amazingly unique moment in history might set the stage for Obama to be one of the truly great Presidents. Sometimes you just have to hit rock bottom before anything will change. As the decades go on I would be willing to accept Bush's legacy of failure as a horrible, but ultimately beneficial, thing to this country. Maybe we had to be pushed to the brink before we could actually stop and re-evaluate where we are heading as a country. It took Hitler's extremism to bring Germany back from their history of militarism and aggression in Europe. Maybe we'll look back on the Bush Presidency as a similar moment where we all had to suffer so that we could wash our hands of the past and move in a new direction.

GoogleTechTalk: Adium

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Getting back to technology

I saw someone on a random internet forum suggesting Apple should buy Yahoo. No...

What does Yahoo really have?

Search? They've pretty much given up on that haven't they?

Flickr? Nice site but it's impossible to make money off it.

Delicious? The single most overrated site on the Internet.

Buzz? Just buy Digg if that's what you're looking for.

Mail? Probably their only big asset but if Apple wanted to they could open mail to free users. You'd be assured almost every iPhone & Mac user would sign-up. Not quite to the level of Yahoo mail's user base but not a bad start either.

Yahoo Personals? Yeah... nevermind

Yahoo Messenger? Meh

If they wanted to take advantage of the slumping economy they should look at Sun:

-Good developers, good technology, lots of IP.
-Extremely solid UNIX based platform. It could easily power OSX down the road when mach has finally died of equal parts old age & neglect.
-They know how to build top notch computers.
-OSX Server is a great product. Apple could sell a lot of servers if they really got serious about it.

Ultimately they'd be buying Sun for personal, not product. Apple has zero use for UltraSPARC 4i but those engineers could end up working with the PA Semi guys on whatever Apple is cooking up. They might have some use for their Grid & cluster stuff as an infrastructure for hardcore highly scalable FinalCut setups (Final Cut Server) Logic Nodes, etc.

Plus, they could just sell high end boxes. There's a small, but loyal, following of X-Serve/XSan especially in content production, education & science. Apple knows how to produce good hardware, OSX Server is fantastic. Plus they can just sell Windows Server boxes or virtualization platforms.

I've been advocating Apple buy Sun for like 4 years. Now would definitely be the time for it. Good long term investment to sure up the fundamentals of the company.

Funny post

Let me summarize:

1) Americans are dumb and therefore accept socialism: I would argue that as the world gets smaller thanks to advances in communication technology and more accessibility to travel what we're actually seeing is most of the industrialized countries returning to a type of social responsibility that small towns and villages have had for thousands of years. It's harder to ignore people's suffering when it's so accessible to you. It's hard not to empathize. Most importantly when the economy is bad it's hard not to believe you could be in that situation yourself someday. I think most people are willing to make a small sacrifice to help others.

2) Bi-partisanship is a waste of time: Erm yeah... just keep thinking that guys. The thing about bi-partisanship isn't that you're going to actually get any significant number of votes from the other party but you will get votes from the independents who find bi-partisanship extremely important. One of the reasons McCain lost this election was how obvious it was that, if he had won, nothing would have got done because of the ugly, offensive, and insulting way he treated President Elect Obama and the sizable population in this country who considers themselves democrats by extension. Obama's bi-partisanship wasn't even really based on policy. It was having a positive attitude and respectful way of addressing the issues.

3) Image matters: You guys did attend High School right? Of course it matters. I don't really think Sen. McCain is an angry, racist, disrespectful, absent minded, erratic Bush clone but it sure did look it at times. It's hard to win elections when you're running on a negative message all the time. It makes you look ghoulish.

4) You have to fight everyday: Factual disagreements aside I think the Republican party suffers from the "boy who cried wolf" syndrome. I think the Democrats have a problem with that too -- especially from 2000 to 2005. If you want to fight everyday you have to pick your fights wisely and make them matter. That means you can't say in 2004 that Bin Laden wants Kerry to win (suggesting Kerry is a terrorist sympathizer) then come out in 2008 an say Obama pals around with terrorists. Oh and, of course, in 2001 we had to hear Clinton & Gore let Bin Laden get away. You can't just keep running on the same tired and disgusting political tactics again and again and expect anyone to take you seriously. Especially not these days where YouTube and casual voter interest is a huge factor.

5) Social conservatism is a losing issue: I absolutely 100% agree. Keep it in the churches where it belongs. I understand things like abortion and gay marriage are very important issues to 25-30% of the voters in this country but you guys have to accept it's a personal choice. Your tools are the churches, not the government. You can't legislate this stuff. All you can do is try to change people's minds at the most grass root level. This country is too diverse to keep pushing extreme born again Christian religious law on people. It's perfectly fine if people choose to live their own life that way but it's not the job of the government to make laws for you.

6) Wah wah mainstream media is so liberal: You've got a huge advantage on talk radio. You have access to the same Internet we do. You've got Fox News. We all have NPR, PBS, BBC who are extremely objective. Just about every news stand carries a wide variety of papers from both political ideologies. Blaming the media is just a joke at this point. Look at 2004... the media hated Bush and he still won. People might be influenced by the media but they know how to spot bias reporting.

7) Fighting fair is for losers: Yep. We learned it from watching you.

8) 2nd amendment: I pretty much agree on this too but it goes back to the "boy who cried wolf" thing. Republicans have been saying for years the Democrats want to take away all your guns and it just hasn't happened and never will. We don't want to take away all your guns. We want to have some reasonable restrictions. Criminals shouldn't be able to buy guns. Background checks and waiting periods work. Some types of guns are just too dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands. So overall I don't think it's that people don't understand the issue or care about the issue but rather another example of how the Republican party has just lost their credibility on the issue.

As for his solutions... the only one I care to comment on is "winning their hearts and minds" Well, here's an idea... stop insulting us. Stop telling me I'm a bad person because I am not an extreme radical christian. Stop telling me I hate the troops because I don't support the war. Stop telling me there's a "real America" that I am apparently not a part of. Stop suggesting anyone going through some hard times who needs help is a welfare leech. Stop telling me if I want to protect the environment I'm a "crazy moonbat" (whatever that means) If you ever want to get back to having some mass political appeal you guys have to really cool it on the hate. I don't know what it is making you guys so angry but you just can't insult people and expect them to vote for you. Pandering to your own extremist base is a bad thing.

Raiting the polls

I was only off by 1% on my popular vote prediction. Not too bad on EV but not that good either. OH is the state that really threw my numbers off.

Probably the biggest single surprise of this election is IN. Even though the polls showed a fairly tight race I figured we'd see basically the same thing that did happen in GA. I just didn't think Obama could be close enough in the rural counties for the urban/suburb vote to push him over the edge.

NC isn't too shocking since Dole was in trouble too. That was a clear sign the Republicans had bigger problems down there than just Obama. It also goes back to demographics with NC. It's another state that is shedding it's hill billy reputation.

OH was a true toss-up. I don't think anyone could have really predicted it as anything more than a complete guess.

I was very confident about FL. It just seemed like everything was breaking in our favor there.. The margin of victory was much larger than I expected though.

Overall I think the polls were very accurate this year. There were single days here and there where the numbers got skewed one way or another but doing an average shows very consistent results. I suspect they were trying to be conservative on voter turnout. It's extremely hard to predict that type of thing. You knew it'd be high but new voters have to prove they can actually show up and vote so it's probably safe to under estimate their impact.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Good exit poll data....

38% think Palin is qualified to be President.

50% think Obama is qualified to be President

57% say Obama is in touch with "people like them"

40% say McCain is in touch with "people like them"

51% think Obama's policies are "just right" (not too liberal or conservative)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Eve

Obama 318EV, popular McCain 45%, Obama 52%

The Senate won't be as much of a bloodbath as some people are speculating. 60+ was always a long shot. I think maybe the right was talking the potential up to scare some Republicans back towards McCain.
The House... if you've ever seen the end of Peter Jackson's movie "Dead Alive" I think that visually represents what will happen in the House.

Keep an eye on IN. Polls close early there.

If Obama loses PA just remember there are still many ways to win this election

No matter what happens Obama ran a fantastic campaign. You can't really look at any missed opportunities or major blunders. The thing with democracy is people sometimes just make really bad choices. No matter what the polls say everyone has to be prepared for that chance.


A little over 4 years ago I watched President Elect Obama give a speech to the Democratic convention. It was one of the only truly inspiring modern political speeches I've heard.

He was intelligent but not condescending.
He was hopeful but not naive.
He was optimistic without indulging in blind optimism.
He was someone who could captivate an audience with his message. Not with fear but with constructive, froward thinking, policies.
He was someone who could mix good old fashion political rhetoric with substance.

The bitter disappointment of the 2004 election was a stark reminder of how incompetent the democratic party can be. At the time I felt like the front runner for 08, Hilliary Clinton, was just as flawed of a candidate as John Kerry. Both of whom I admire as Senators but both of whom I believe had far too much political baggage and perhaps far too much confidence in their own self importance to do what it took to win an election.

What makes Obama interesting as a politician and a leader is his ability to shift gears from rhetoric to policy. He is someone from the first moment you hear him speak it is clear his mind is working away at a topic on multiple levels. Obama the politician is racing Obama the intellectual to meet a common goal. Obama the pragmatist follows behind taking his time to get there, double checking his facts, challenging himself on the details of policy. Ultimately they all meet somewhere to become the Obama we all know. A man who seems to effortlessly approach a problem from a dozen different angles. Carefully surveying every detail and calculating the best solutions always remembering to strike a balance between politics and policy.

I've heard people ask what has Obama done to prove he is ready for the Presidency? I can only point to his history of always exceeding expectations. Always being among the smartest guys in the room. And, of course, his brilliant campaign -- perhaps the best ever run. Beating not only the ugly political machine in Chicago but taking on the even bigger and more powerful political machine of Hilliary Clinton and ultimately taking great care to defeat an aging war hero who was just too many years past his prime. All this while organizing one of the best ground games in the history of politics. He understood Howard Dean's 50-state strategy. He understood his message was universally appealing if only voters could stop and see him as more than the candidate who was "Not George W Bush" or "Not the guy who hates George W. Bush" All this with a persistent backdrop of racism and dangerous radical right wing hatred. The simple fact that Obama has been able to consistently step up and get the job done is all the proof anyone should need to feel comfortable with him as President.

As for Sen. McCain... I would like to be as respectful and humble to him as President Elect Obama has been but I will never forgive him or his party for the terrorism thing. It's unacceptable. It's un-American. It's worse than anything Joe McCarthy ever did, worse than anything Richard Nixon ever did. The story of Sen. McCain is incredibly depressing. He should have known better. He should have found a way to control the radical extremists in his party. If anything happens to President Elect Obama, you have blood on your hands Sen. McCain. The only thing you could do to redeem yourself in my eyes is to resign from the Republican party and try to build a moderate conservative party in this country. If say 5-10 GOP senators renounced their membership to the Republican party I think it would create a tidal wave effect. We need some true choices in this country. 3, 4 maybe half a dozen major political parties. The dangerous right wing extremists should be a lunatic fringe group who gets no support from any legitimate political candidate in this country.

Congratulations to President Elect Obama... I didn't think I'd see this in my lifetime. It's a wonderful day to be an American.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Remarks of Senator Robert F. Kennedy to the Cleveland City Club, Cleveland, Ohio, April 5, 1968

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity to speak briefly to you about this mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by his assassin’s bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.

Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily – whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence – whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

"Among free men,” said Abraham Lincoln, “there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs.”

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some looks for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man’s spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we known what must be done. “When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies – to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our bothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear – only a common desire to retreat from each other – only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is now what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of human purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children’s future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember – even if only for a time – that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek – as we do – nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

Exit Polls and Early Voting

Apparently they do take early voting into consideration for exit polling on election day:


"The illusion of freedom [in America] will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater." -- Frank Zappa

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." -- Sinclair Lewis"

"It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning." -- Henry Ford

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What to look for, election night 2008

7PM: VA & GA
Two solid red states. This will be a big test for Obama. The big question here is if we can trust the polling & turnout expectations that are causing traditionally red states to go blue. If McCain were to win either of these states by comfortable margins it might be the first sign of trouble for Obama. If Obama wins VA and GA is too close to call it's very good news for him.

7:30: OH, NC
First big traditional battleground state. The big thing to look for here is if the polls actually close at 7:30 or not. If they are held open later it would suggest huge voter turnout which would undoubtably help Obama. I expect McCain to win OH however, again, it should not be by a huge margin. If the margin is big enough for the networks to call OH before 9PM we might be looking at a very close election.

This is the big test for McCain. PA, FL, IN, MO are must-wins for him. If these states remain too close to call until 9:30PM or later it would be a sign McCain is in big trouble. It's very doubtful he could win all these battlegrounds by razor thin margins. If he is going to make a stand and win --he will probably do so with comfortable margins in at least FL, IN and MO. Perhaps the most important state here is MO. Even if McCain wins PA he still needs MO.

Important but probably not as much so as we thought 3 months ago. The election will be largely decided by the time these states are called one way or another. The 9PM mark is more important simply because we'll be getting states closing at 8PM getting called by the networks.

So as I've been saying for the last 2 weeks... PA is the state to watch. Obama can win without PA but it's certainly more difficult. McCain simply cannot win without PA.


Interesting stuff:

Future iPhone firmware / SDK wishlist

1) Framework for integration with iTunes for syncing content & data.

2) Ability for developers to submit their apps to a more strenuous review process to get true background app functionality.

3) Theme support (sounds, icons, etc) I'd have no problem with this being a paid first party Apple app.

4) Folder support for sorting applications. Maybe something like Smart Folders that looks at the AppStore category to automatically sort things.

5) A2DP, Bluetooth keyboard support, bluetooth file transfers

6) Native support for OSX Screen Sharing & integration with Back To My Mac

7) Ascending ringtone volume level option.

8) Text-to-Speech options. For example, on an incoming e-mail text-to-speech who it's from and the subject.

9) More dock space (scale the icons down as more items are added)

10) Ability to use the iPhone itself as a remote speaker.

Obama's aunt is a NEGRO

I guess it's time to introduce my dear friend; MAXX POWER. He has agreed to contribute some articles for my blog. Maxx is my dearest Republican friend. I don't want to be bias or anything so I thought it would be nice to represent what the extreme right thinks. Maxx sent me this late last night:

BREAKING NEWS: Obama has a BLACK(!!OMG!!!) Aunt living in the US illegally. It's also rumored that Obama in fact spend time with her in Keyna learning the ways of voodoo while listening to an awful lot of African (BLACK OMG!) tribal music. My sources tell me this is where he met, and fell in love, with Osama Bin Laden. If he wins Tuesday he will make gay marriage legal, divorce Michelle, and re-unite with his long lost lover. (who has been living with his Aunt illegally in the US)

--Maxx Power.


It looks like someone has already made a really solid iPod convertor script. I think I'll just work off this one instead of re-inventing the wheel. Now I can focus a bit more on the automation angle.

Friday, October 31, 2008

FFMPEG: All Devices

Finally found what I think VisualHub uses for its "all devices" preset:

ffmpeg -i in.avi -s 640x368 -aspect 640:368 -r pal -vcodec h264 -g 150 -qmin 25 -b 1000k -level 30 -loop 1 -sc_threshold 40 -partp4x4 1 -rc_eq 'blurCplx^(1-qComp)' -refs 2 -qmax 51 -maxrate 1450k -keyint_min 40 -async 50 -acodec aac -ar 48000 -ac 2 -ab 128k out.mp4

This preset is really good for SD content. Looks fine when I play it on my 20" iMac and looks fantastic on the iPhone too. Very little, if any, transcoding artifacts. I think for HD I will include some logic to determine if the file is indeed HD and, in that case, offer an option to encode to 720P and create an all devices version.

2008 Electoral Predictions

It's probably a little early to do these but I'm not sure I'll have time before the election. I started doing these back in 2000 and so far I've been pretty good at it. In 2000 I missed 3 states. (TN, FL, NM) In 2004 I missed only one state (OH) This year with all the battlegrounds in play I couldn't really come up with one map so I made 4. I guess that's kind of cheating so officially I will go with #2, Most Likely, as my official prediction. I would love to be wrong and see #1, Best Case of course,

Best Case Scenario: Landslide - BO 379 - JM 159

Most Likely: BO 318 - JM 220

Worst Case: BO 278 - JM 260

Racist Scum bag model: JM 281 - BO 257

Automated h264/AAC encoding on OSX

I think I've finally figured out the ffmpeg piece of my automated video encoder project. I cheated and used the Google to find some ffmpeg examples. I created a bash script front end to the command and attached it to a cron job. That works for now but it has some pretty serious problems. Mostly it can't que so if it monitors my downloads folder it just loads up a ton of processes trying to encode all the files it finds. I need to figure out a simple que system so you can set a global limit of encodes. I also want to setup an option to encode only between certain hours.

This could all be done via conf files but I'm thinking if I want an actual GUI for this app I'd rather do it on OSX. I made a quick mockup in Interface Builder for it:

I'll need to brush up on my Objective C before I can start coding anything. I know the basics but I haven't played around with it in probably 2 years. Specifically I need to know how to run external shell processes. The rest is just basic stuff, conditional checking, reading/writing preferences, etc. The other issue is how to include ffmpeg. I don't want the end user to have to install and build it themselves. VisualHub just included ffmpeg inside the app. I guess I'll do that but I'm not sure how to set that type of thing up in XCode.

Future plans might include some very basic distributed processing. Probably just something like computer 1 encodes file A, computer 2 encodes file B, etc. I think that should be pretty easy to setup with XGrid. I'm also interested in automating some meta data stuff. No clue how that would work. I would at least want to set the right type of file for iTunes (Movie/TV) and automatically insert art if a folder.jpg or cover.jpg exists.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

OSX Terminal + Wallsaver

I spend too much time in Terminal... anything to make it more exciting is like robot cocaine to me.


I'm thinking since I am going to be stuck in a hotel room most of next week I might checkout the HellaNZB source code and try to close a few active tickets for .14 I'm not much of a coder but Python is pretty damn easy. Specifically I want 7zip support and multiple growl clients. Someone already did most of the work on growl -- it just needs a couple things fixed apparently.

I also want to see how feasible it is to automatically connect hellanzb with ffmpeg. There is already post-processing support for audio so I can pretty much use the same idea. I just need to account for:

1) Known video file extensions
2) Look inside the video cointainer to find out what type of video it is
3) parse hellanzb.conf for encoder settings
4) start encoding process & send growl notification
5) check to see if the original file should be deleted
6) send final growl notification

Windows 7 UI changes

It's nice to see Microsoft has finally caught up with the NeXT GUI circa 1986. In all fairness it took Apple another 14-ish years to really get the Dock right with OSX. Still, 22 years to finally accept the Dock is a bit on the extreme side. Better late than never I guess. I've always really hated the Chicago style taskbar. As it got more and more cluttered over the years it became even less useful. This is one of those cases where Microsoft is clearly copying but you can't hold it against them. Windows users shouldn't be stuck with a outdated broken UI just because NeXT/Apple were the first company to make it mainstream. Clearly NeXT lifted elements of the Dock design from other places too. I'm just glad I can get a consistent UI experience moving from all the major platforms now.

The most interesting thing I saw out of PDC was the concept of Libraries. It sounds a lot like what I was advocating Apple do in future OSX releases. The whole file/folder/tree concept has to go. It's becoming impossible to really manage a file system on such a granular level. I don't think people are quite ready for a 100% meta-data interface but that's going to be the next step.

Overall I think they're heading in the right direction with the Windows 7 UI. The big question is if they can break all the bad habits of Windows developers and really enforce a new GUI design policy that is consistent. Right now with Vista you can see the whole range of Windows UI elements from Windows 3.11 (try to install a font via control panel if you don't believe me) all the way up to the newest .NET/Windows Forums style -- plus the various proprietary controls mixed in. It's a complete mess. At some point Microsoft just has to punish developers who don't try to buy into the consistency of a unified GUI or things will never get better.

UUID Mounting

If you've ever dealt with a significant number of hard drives in a Linux environment inevitably you reach the point where you need to move to a new motherboard or disk controller which will most likely result in something like this:

/dev/sdb becomes /dev/sde
/dev/sdc becomes /dev/sdf

If you use static device IDs in fstab this is going to reverse your drive mounts. In a server environment it could be more than an inconvenience if say your /private share is suddenly mounted on /public

There's pretty much no good reason to mount by a static device ID anymore. The best solution is UUID. Disk labels (e2label for example) would also be a possible solution however I've had mixed results with them personally so I stick with UUID now.

First, get the UUID of the volume: (for example) (also try blkid to get them all at once)
# vol_id --uuid /dev/sda

You'll get something like this: 5a4dea83-53a6-4189-8c6d-240ee7402d2d

In /etc/fstab mount it by UUID:
UUID=5a4dea83-53a6-4189-8c6d-240ee7402d2d /mnt/mountpoint ext3 defaults 0 0

# mount -a

That's about it. Not much to it. The hardest part is just breaking the habit of doing it the wrong way. It's easier up front but harder later on.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What would an Apple Home Server look like?

No one has really be able to bring the home server concept to the masses yet. Microsoft's product is probably the best offering so far but it's completely useless if you don't run Windows (of course, what did you expect?) I've always wanted to see Apple start connecting the dots between the cloud and multiple computers. It's a challenge that is primarily user interface based. The technology is easy -- making it understandable is the real problem.

If you haven't used OSX Server before it's basically OSX with some added functionality but with massively improved management utilities. The GUI setup tools are fantastic -- there's nothing else like it. It even includes a Dashboard widget for monitoring your OSX Server. It has the same attention to detail you'd expect from Apple. The problem is... very few people use it. It's a product targeted towards business but business runs Windows and, increasingly, Linux. I can't imagine Apple sells many OSX Server boxes. There just isn't a market for it.

Since Apple is primarily a consumer oriented company it makes a lot of sense to do a home server. More Macs being sold mean more multi-Mac households. Unless you want to manually move files there's really no good solution to keep all your data synced and backed up. It's even worse when you put an iPod or iPhone into the mix. Apple needs a solution for this problem.

Here's what I'd want from an Apple Home Server:
  • Centralized iTunes & iPhoto libraries.
  • Centralized mailboxes in Mail.
  • Multi-user support
  • TimeMachine server
  • Full Networkable home folder support as an option. (most people would be better off with syncing probably)
  • OSX network install. (excellent for MacBook Airs, forth coming Apple netbook, tablet, etc)
  • Drobo-ish setup -- easy to add, redundant, storage.
  • 802.11N + GigE + integrated router.
  • Integrate with MobileMe -- it acts as a sort of localized version of MM. It would be accessible via the internet as an iDisk/WebDAV share. MM could act as a cache -- your most recently & commonly accessed files, and as a fall-back if your home server was offline.
  • Bundle free MobileMe subscription with it.
  • Different SKUs. 2 bays, 4 bays, 8 bays, hard drives, no hard drives.
  • New feature in iTunes to connect to remote home server -- so you could be using your work computer for example and quickly sync to your home computer and grab a couple albums you forgot to sync earlier.
  • AFP, SMB, FTP, NFS (it's all built into OSX already so why not?)
  • Full web UI so you can use the device without installing extra software.
  • Reasonably priced cloud storage so the average person could backup everything to the locally and to the cloud.
  • ScreenSharing -- with iPhone support. So you could run legit OSX apps on the home server.
  • Full access to it as a regular Mac. If I want to install EyeTV and a tuner it would become a pretty slick networked DVR device.
So basically you're looking at something which is like a Mac Mini in terms or processing power with a larger case to accommodate more storage and a customized version of OSX Server to go along with it. Probably in the $800 to $2000 price range depending on storage.


So there's this utility, Syncopation, that is designed to sync multiple iTunes libraries. That's a major problem for me since I routinely use more than one Mac and iTunes is too ignorant to auto-monitor folders. Seems to be working well besides some crashing. Kinda slow but that's to be expected.

This is something Apple should do in OSX natively. Bonjour sorta does it but not really. I want to sync the actual data -- not just view what else is on my network at the time. Some sort of peer-to-peer home folder sharing would be ideal. You can do network home folders with OSX server but that's going to be overkill for most people unless Apple does a home server.

netatalk on Ubuntu

Good guide on how to get netatalk (AFTP) working on Ubuntu:

Very annoying that netatalk is still broken by default. Anytime I do an apt-get upgrade it stops working and I have to remember how I fixed it. Since I don't really have any Windows machines I don't see much reason in using SMB. The Samba team has done an amazing job but they cant change the fact that SMB/CFIS is just an ugly/slow protocol. I see an extra 10MB/sec using AFTP on the same hardware/network.

Exit Polls

Just a random thought, election day exit polling is going to be super fucked up this year. It was pretty bad in 2004 but with the huge increase in early voting it's going to be pretty much worthless this time around.

-In some battleground states a third of all votes will be made early. Combined with military votes and other absentee voting I could see the exit polling showing McCain up 15% OR Obama up 15% -- it's just going to be too inaccurate to make any real sense of.
-In 2004, for whatever reason, Kerry was hugely over represented in exit polling. A lot of Bush voters either didn't stop and answer and/or they lied because they were ashamed of voting for him. The racism angle might play out the same this year. I've noticed that racists are often really ashamed of their views and try very hard to over compensate when they feel like they are being scrutinized.

So anyway, no one should get too excited or too depressed over exit polls this year. I suppose, given the choice, I'd rather see Obama lagging in exit polling to motivate the get out of the vote effort. The first leaks tend to happen mid-day so you've got 4-6 hours of east coast voting and 6-9 hours of west coast voting. A big Obama surge in the exit polls would probably be really bad. I don't think it will come down to winning NV but I'd definitely like to seal the deal there too just in case.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Got the last remaining bits today (heatsinks) Assembly took longer than I expected. It was tricky getting the board properly supported in a non-CEB case. These copper heatsinks are very heavy and they were causing the board to sag. I had to prop up some plastic motherboard standoffs for a temporary fix. I definitely need a CEB case. That will have to wait till I get back from Boston.

Speed is pretty incredible. I just did a VisualHub encode on "Go Nuts" h264 on a 350MB file and it took about 5 minutes. Haven't had time to fuck around with Logic much. I turned up 4 channels, threw on a directional mixer & compressor and the CPU bar was barely moving. Friday the fake-band is coming over so we can do some serious testing.

These CPUs run incredibly cool. Even after a full load the heatsink is actually cool to the touch. I'm proud of my super ghetto fan. I tried using 80mm fans but they were just too loud. I took a 120mm fan and mounted it diagonally using two woodscrews that just kinda jammed inbetween the heatsink fins. I added a few bolts and a rubber washer to raise the fan up above the CPUs enough to force out the hot hair. (it's blowing down onto the CPUs) Totally ghetto but it works amazingly well.

I'm giving up on the idea of doing VMWare ESX at home for now. Just doesn't make much sense for me. It's a really neat platform but I have one to play around with at work now.

Speaking of which... I think we're pretty much all set with it. Rob figured out how to make VLAN trunking work. We're using an NV chipset and I suspect VMWARE doesn't see the PCI-X bridge so we can't easily add more network interfaces. We're going to try a PCI-E but, again, VMWARE probably won't see it. Not a huge problem but it's a limiting factor down the road to some degree.

OpenFiler + iSCSI is working well. Need to figure out HA eventually and, next year, we'll have $4k to spend on another SAN and another octo-core ESX box.


XBench: iSCSI

iSCSI on OpenFiler, on a u320 controller/drive, over GigE:
Results 13.04
System Info
Xbench Version 1.3
System Version 10.5.5 (9F33)
Physical RAM 3072 MB
Model MacBookPro4,1
Disk Test 13.04
Sequential 7.57
Uncached Write 51.02 31.33 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 47.33 26.78 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 2.20 0.64 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 30.68 15.42 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 47.08
Uncached Write 18.08 1.91 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 87.45 28.00 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 130.51 0.92 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 94.66 17.56 MB/sec [256K blocks]

That's with an MTU of 1500. I can't seem to turn on jumbo frames on the OpenFiler box. I would speculate that jumbo frames would help out with sequential reads/writes significantly. I think perhaps there's a BIOS setting to enable/disable jumbo support but it's too late to fuck around with it much more.

Monday, October 27, 2008

NAS things

So I got iSCSI working with the GlobalSAN iSCSI initiator. It wasn't entirely obvious that you had to "Map LUN" in OpenFiler to make things work. In fact, nothing in OpenFiler is very obvious. I'm not digging it so much. I think it would be OK if you were starting fresh but it's just not designed to pickup existing volumes. Everything has to be LVM based. I suspect FreeNAS is setup in a similar way. The installer kept hanging on my hardware so I don't know. I'm not too keen on using any software I have to fight with so it's not really an option.

iSCSI is definitely neat. I'm thinking of lots of different ways to use it already. If I actually want to use OpenFiler though I'm going to need to invest in some new storage and start fresh with LVM. still has those $50 500GB drivers so I'm thinking:

6x500GB in RAID5 = 2.5TB (maybe a hot spare too)

And I can setup the existing drives in RAID mirrors.

250GB for audio
300GB RAID stripe for Logic -- although I don't know if iSCSI is going to increase disk IO latency too much. Need to research that.

Plus whatever other left overs I have for TimeMachine backups, document backups, etc.

Redistribution of wealth

Here's why the "redistribution of wealth" attack doesn't work: Most people don't make over $250k a year. Most people feel like the rich cheat their way out of paying their fair share of taxes anyway. People making under $250k a year will get a tax cut. People who are really upset about taxes, especially the ones making more than $250k a year, were already voting for McCain. 95% of all small businesses don't make over $250k a year of taxable income. Cutting taxes for the poor & middle-class end up helping small business anyway.
Companies have been moving overseas and laundering money through off-shore accounts even while Bush was cutting their taxes. There's little or no proof more tax cuts for the wealthy would stop that trend.
The same attack was used against Bill Clinton and things worked out just swimmingly for the poor & middle-class.

Most Americans are smart enough to realize we're paying for 2 wars and a huge financial bailout. They understand someone has to pay the bill. People who got rich off oil futures, war profiteering, and cut throat lending are the ones we want to pay for it. Not us.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Final Week

State Level: Even more competitive states in the picture now. GA, IN, maybe even AZ. I would consider all 3 of those long shots at this point but it really wouldn't surprise me to see at least one go blue. The Obama campaign seems to be focusing on NC & VA right now after recently completing a final trip out west to sure up CO & NM. NV I think is still a very competitive race. This is another state that simply doesn't fall into line behind a more national political trend.

McCain continues to focus on PA, IA , FL & OH. No indication of movement in PA or IA. The race remains more or less tied in OH & FL and those are must-wins for McCain. Given the closeness of the race I do think it's possible McCain could still win both FL & OH -- in which case he would probably win NC, GA, IN, etc. (if undecideds or leaners break back towards McCain)

The difficultly for McCain, even if he wins OH & FL, is losing VA's 15EV. It would be absolutely crucial for him to fight back in VA or PA this week to win the election. Alternatively he could focus on winning WI, MO, NH & NV but that's a tough logistical battle to fight this late in the game. There just isn't enough time to be moving chess pieces all over the map.

National: Nothing new at all. McCain's attacks have been ineffective in terms of national polling. Probably too late in the game to stage another strong attack. He would need one huge, opinion changing event, to have a chance now. Too many states, not enough time for him.

Election Night: The results from VA & NC should give us a pretty good idea how this thing is going early in the night. By 10PM it will be pretty clear who won the election. If I had to predict I'd say Obama get to 270 before midnight.


You'd think with the names being so similar it would work. Apparently VMWARE won't support any regular ole' SATA controllers -- only SAS & SCSI.

I guess that forces my hand. I'll have to do a FreeNAS or OpenFiler NAS and a separate ESX server. I'll probably use a GigE crossover cable between the two boxes for a dedicated SAN backbone.

I think this is definitely a better way to do things but I have a deep hatred for artificial software limitations. I know my 3WARE card works in Linux. I know SATA is reliable enough for what I'm doing here. I should be able to make it work. It's my stuff, I decide to take the "risk"

Anyway, that means I need to buy that Lian Li case now. Probably won't get to finish this project up until after my trip to Boston now.


Random thoughts & notes about VMWare ESXi:

  • Installation is very straight forward although the installer itself is incredibly slow. It took a good 5-10 minutes to start it and the actual install took maybe 2 minutes at most.
  • VMWare Convertor will let you convert a standard workstation/player VM to Infrastructure and automatically upload it to your ESX server. Nice feature.
  • You can create a datastore to hold all your ISO images of operating systems so setting up new VMs through the Infrastructure client is super easy and quick.
  • Unfortunately most of these tools are Windows or Linux only. I don't think OSX Fusion can interface much, if at all, with ESX.
  • I can't seem to pass through a local drive for the VM to access natively. I think I'm doing something wrong but I'm not really sure. Perhaps it's just not detecting my 3Ware card in which case I'm going to need to build a separate NAS -- which is probably a good idea anyway.
  • The whole datastore concept makes a lot of sense. A big RAID10 setup would probably be ideal for this. Overkill for my personal needs of course but I think we'll end up doing that at work. Perhaps two OpenFiler boxes in HA mode, each with a RAID10.