MythTV – Success!

29 10 2005

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

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

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

K3B. Polished, useful, clean software for Linux

28 10 2005

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

‘Woot’ defined!

27 10 2005

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

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

Read the entire entry.

Single Signon for RT using Active Directory

25 10 2005

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

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

Link to article on Blah Blah Blog

Fall in New England

18 10 2005

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


18 10 2005

A bunch of geek work-at-home updates.

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

Now all I have to do is produce! 🙂

JBother – A Java Jabber client

17 10 2005

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