Posts Tagged linux

The Netflix debacle

I received an email list night that I found rather humorous. Below is an excerpt:

“It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.
This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster.
While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.”

I have been a Netflix customer for the past 6 years and I have enjoyed it. I was pleasantly surprised when, 3 years ago, they unexpectedly lowered our monthly cost for a reason that escapes me now. I thought I was with a pretty cool company that would actually lower their customer costs as the company did better. When the price hikes came about I begrudgingly accepted them as the price of Netflix’s rising popularity. I knew the movie industry fat-cats would want a piece of the expanding Netflix pie, and licensing is a highly subjective pricing scheme so I knew there were going to be repercussions that would radiate down to us, the consumer.

When Netflix CEO Reed Hastings came out and said that DVD’s would be handled by a new company ‘Qwikster’, I had a major WTF moment. No really, there is nothing I want more than another website login, and an entirely separate queue for my movies. Really!? But then, they tantalized me the prospect of renting games with this new split. Hmm, I might be able to warm to this, maybe.

Now, the intrepid Netflix CEO made a blog post that says Quickster is dead before it ever started and game rentals are a possibility. Oh wow, so you are taking away something I didn’t like and something I did like. I guess the status quo is maintained, I love them but I don’t exactly hate them either.

At least there have been some positive rumblings for a native Linux Netflix client.

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The Windows 95 paradox

Unknown to most (sarcasm), I am an avid Linux user. I know a great many other Linux users. As Linux users I feel we have a certain free spirit that comes with using our free OS. But I am finding a disturbing paradigm in regard to the response to the Gnome 3/Unity desktop environments that have surfaced recently. The number one rant I have read about online has been about how hard the new interfaces are to use. People want their program button with its flyout menus back.

Now I realize that many of the reviews were knee jerk reactions to the new interfaces. I had much the same reaction, when I upgraded to Natty. I couldn’t figure out how to use it, and I just wanted my familiar interface back. But wait, at some point inmy life, the familiar had to have been unfamiliar. When was that.. lets see, when was a little button in the bottom left corner of the screen for accessing programs and settings introduced… oh yes, Windows 95!! People want their Windows 95 like desktops back! For gods sake, that OS has been setting the desktop top standard for the past 16 years. This is almost the EXACT same reaction I get from people when I try to introduce LibreOffice to people that are used to MS Office.

Them: “This sucks, I can’t find anything.”
Me: “But what about the functionality, how does it compare to Office?”
Them: “Oh that, its fine, I just can’t find anything”
Me: “What options are you having trouble finding precisely?”
Them: “I have found everything I was looking for, it just sucks that I had to look for them.”

The problem isn’t the interface, you can teach old dogs new tricks. Its the fact that people don’t like new things. But wait, what about when MS changed the Office menu bar to the ribbon? Well, people were forced to use it, so they bitched, then got over it. And started to realize, maybe it isn’t so bad after all, they just needed to retrain their brains a little. You never know, you might find that your better with the new interface.

I for one love the Unity interface. There are quirks that annoy me, but what doesn’t have annoying quirks? Usage note with Unity; people love to complain about how hard it is to launch programs. If you have ever used Launchy, or Gnome Do, then this will be easy. Hit the super key, type in the first couple letters of the program you want, hit tab when it shows up, then hit enter, your done. I can launch a program in under a second, try that with a fly out menu and a mouse. Learn the keyboard short cuts, or stop complaining about using your mouse so much.

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PlayonLinux FTW!

This is just cool. I was messing around trying to get an old Windows game to work with Wine on Linux. I wasn’t making a lot of progress, I kept having to start the setup, crash, tweak something in Wineconfig, try setup again, crash, tweak something more. Finally the game installed, but then I had issues playing it. More tweaking Wine. Well, I think you can see where this is going.

Most of the information I was getting on tweaking Wine was from the winehq.com forum. For the most part the advice was good but there was a learning curve to figure out what the people were talking about when they say you need to use certain libraries, and override this or that and install this from winetricks. Anyway, the whole process was long, convoluted, and error prone. Then someone mentioned playonlinux. I had never heard of this, so being the naturally curious person I am I Google it and found their website. Hmm, it looks like simple wrapper script for Wine. WTH, I will give it a try and see if it simplifies my life at all.

I added the Ubu repo’s and installed it. So far so good. I found my game in the list and hit ‘install.’ Wow, the installer went without a hitch, that was easy. There is no way the game is just going to work, after-all, I couldn’t get it running under vanilla Wine. So I double clicked the icon it put on the desktop and..it crashed.. heh, of course.. Not being the most intelligent person on the planet, I thought I would just give it another try. Double click, and… it worked. I was on the main screen, well… there is no way the game is going to work. So I hit play..and..I..can’t..believe..it, it worked..and it worked really well. I bumped the resolution up to native res for my LCD, and…that worked too!

So there you go. PlayOnLinux.com. Check it out, it works for more than just games too.

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UbuntuOne now with more of the GB

UbuntuOne, the service that integrates seamlessly with your Ubuntu desktop to store your files online, now offers 5GB of storage with their free account. The question is, how long will it take the likes of Sugarsync and Dropbox to follow suit? I have been syncing with Dropbox at work and home for so long now, I probably won’t be in a huge hurry to move. But it will most likely happen, probably on my servers first.

One of the things that prevented me from using UbuntuOne was the fact that they didn’t offer the simplicity of Dropbox’s public download URL’s. I use this so much I can’t even count. No work if UbuntuOne has pushed this out, or is still working on it (most likely).

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Google+ for me

So I received an invite from a friend to join Google+ this week and I spared no time getting logged in and setup.

The first thing we tried as a hangout, basically a netmeeting, only with the ugly MS requirement. After installing the plugin (they actually have a Linux plugin!!) and a little snafu with my mic (which was totally my own fault) we were video chatting with each other and sharing YouTube videos. You can chat with a bunch of people all at once so I see this being a contender to all the WebEx and DimDim clones out there. [ BTW, if you miss DimDim, try BuddyMeeting, it is a fork of the open source DimDim code ] Actually on second thought, I am not sure if it will compete with those sort of products, its contingent on everyone having a Google+ account, so that right there is a big strike against its viability as a WebEx contender. But still, all in all, very cool.Google+ screenshot

Next are circles, or groups, for friends. A novel idea on groups, but nothing terrible new here. The act of adding friends to circles is sort of fun with the animation, but other than that I haven’t seen a lot of difference there. There is one thing worth pointing out about about how Google+ uses these circles however. When you post to your stream, or your microblog of sorts, you can choose which circles get to see the post. This is huge for me. One of the things that really turned me off to Facebook was the fact that when ever I posted anything, ALL my friends would see it. So all those stupid YouTube videos or slight NSFW links that I wanted to share with my friends, yeah, my parents could see them too. The only alternative would be to unfriend my parents, not really an options when I want to share pics and videos of the kids with the extended family.

Other than that there aren’t a ton of differences from Facebook. You can share your videos and photos, nothing new there, and having an android phone makes it even easier. Its intriguing enough to bring be back from a self-imposed exile on social media, but if it will keep me remains to be seen.

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How to do less

The title is a little misleading, but appropriate for the subject. I am a huge user of ‘less’ to view logs files. While most of the users in my office are chemically addicted to ‘tail -f’. They just can’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea of a basic text viewer that can tail (follow), search, mark, and insert line numbers if you want. If you want a full run-down on what you can do with less go here: http://linuxaria.com/howto/bash-linux-less?lang=en. It pretty much outlines all the really useful options for less.

If you aren’t using less, you should be.

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Online man pages

Yes, online man pages is nothing new, but Dustin Kirkland has taken them a step simpler, by shortening the url and making it more like the actual command. So now you can enter ‘man grep‘ on the command line, or you can enter ‘manpg.es/grep‘ in your browser. I likee.. 😛

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Ubunutu 11.04 initial impressions

So I intstalled Natty over the weekend, I am usually able to hold off for a total of 24 hours after a new release comes out before I really want to upgrade something.

Well I have been using Natty for 24 hours with the new Unity desktop and all. Well I can officially weigh in on Unity now. and the word is…meh.. Yeah, talk about anti-climactic. I switched back to Gnome classic after about 4 hours with Unity because it was just taking too long to do things in my mind. It was driving me crazy. Its not a bad design, not at all, but its such a divergence from what I am used to using that there was A LOT of overhead where I was just staring at the screen trying to figure out how to do something. Rather than provide an exhaustive list of things I wasn’t able to do let me just point out a couple.

Custom launchers. Yeah, in web development, the browser version matters. So I had to manually install FF3 in /opt and point to a special profile that I have all tuned for testing websites. Natty uses FF4, which not a lot of people are using yet. So I am flummoxed trying to figure out how to create a custom launcher for FF3 that is installed in a non-standard place.

Notification applets. They just don’t work in Unity. There are some that they custom build to work in Unity, but the standard Gnome applets and icons in the notification area don’t work, at all. You can’t click them and they are replicated when you have two screens. They just don’t seem very well thought out. There seems to be a lot of ‘not invented here’ syndrome going on.

I thought about trying Gnome 3 but I hear it totally breaks Unity. So I will probably hold off until a bit later, I will probably try Unity again at a later time. I needed to actually get some work done. 😉

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Robbinsweb lives…again

Yeah, ok, so I know I already wrote about this, but the ole’ boy died again. This time I lost a drive. For once in my life i was glad I had mirrored drives on a home server. The down time was rather epic considering my complete lack of motivation to rebuild it, and its difficult to find an 80 GB drive any more. For the interested here are the steps I followed to restore the array:

1) Install the drive in place of the dead drive (like I needed to tell you that)

2) Boot the degraded array and go start up fdisk indicating the new drive (something to the effect of ‘fdisk /dev/sdb’) The reason I used fdisk rather than the far sexier cfdisk, is that cfdisk was having fits about the drive having an incorrect block count or something that made no sense on a new drive. Fdisk handled it perfectly.

3) Partition the drive EXACTLY like the current drive (size, order on disk, etc.)

4) Add the partitions back into the array one by one. So if you have three partitions in the array, say root, swap and home as sdb1, sdb2, and sdb3 respectively, add them into the array like this:

mdadm –add /dev/md0 /dev/sdb1
mdadm –add /dev/md1 /dev/sdb2
mdadm –add /dev/md2 /dev/sdb3

That is assuming your array partitions line up to your disk partitions that way.. Then you can watch the rsync updating the partitions by doing a ‘cat /proc/mdstat’

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To alias or not to alias, that is the question

I have a good number of servers I have to keep track of at work, and they all have rather long domain names, and I really haven’t gotten used to the subnetting at my job yet. So what is one to do? Well, I did what any concerned Linux user would do, I aliased all of then in my hosts file. Sort of like this:

192.168.125.133 dev1
192.168.125.137 dev2
10.6.8.201     uat1
10.6.8.202     uat2

I can hear you say already, “Jeff, just memorize them, there are only 4!”, yeah, ok, this is only about 1/16 of the aliases I have, so that becomes a bit more difficult. So here is my conundrum, do I continue with the aliases, or do I go cold-turkey and try to memorize them. The upside of aliasing is that I can fly when I am at my machine, its a no brainer to scp or ssh to a machine, but then I look like a total retard when I am at someone else’s computer, “What do you mean you don’t know the IP or domain name of your dev server!?”.

So therein lies the subject of my pondering..

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