Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Linux Home Web Browser

Ok, so there's apparently a big reason why my father-in-law was about ready to throw out this machine. I've succeeded in getting kubuntu 7.04 installed on this lovely work of art but I think I'm going to stop there. Attempts to do anything creative with the video card have not been successful and frankly it's a bit of a miracle I managed to boot off the CD-ROM drive at all. (it essentially ate my first copy of the install disk by marking it up a ton--almost as if a hamster were inside the machine trying to scratch a line on it as it rotated). So kubuntu linux is running great but that's as far as I'm going for now. My father-in-law did ask me to spec out a box to do something more interesting, so I'll keep you posted if anything comes of that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Linux Home Media Center

I was at my in-laws this past weekend and my father-in-law was all set to discard a 1.6 Mhz 512 RAM Dell Optiplex machine (it even has a firewire card he added on). Putting aside for one moment that these specs are almost on par with my work laptop--and realizing that in retrospect I should have just calmly packed it into the van and said goodbye, I decided to follow up on an ambition I've had for the last couple of years--a home media center that uses Linux. Unfortunately, if it works I'll be giving it back to him because I opened my pie whole a bit too early. Not to mention something like this at our house, with our "TV" and our "stereo" would be a bit like putting a fresh coat of paint on a pig.

So far I'm just at the stage where I'm reading, and Jen is giving me weird looks about the conspicuous box parked in our living room, but I'm starting to get optimistic (when I see videos about people popping in a DVD and having it automagically work right out of the box) and at the same time a bit nervous overall (when I read about a 30 minute project turning into an hours long nightmare). But hey--the hardware (so far) is free right? I'll keep you all posted on just how well this works out.

Right now, the plan is pretty simple (which should help):
  • No TV in (they get HD and I don't think this machine could take that kind of heat).
  • Simple DVD playback
  • .mp3 playback
  • web browsing
  • arcade emulation (when is the last time you played a nice game of space invaders--or the game that could have funded my first year of college: cyberball). This, incidently is the other reason why we can't have something like this in our house.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Large Scale Wireless

So, I pulled this from search engine watch. Apparently Google is part of a coalition of companies petitioning the FCC for some of the airspace that will be vacated by broadcast television when the move to digital TV takes place in a couple of years.

Personally, I like this idea. I currently have one viable option for high-speed: cable through Comcast, and I'll just say that as an ISP they leave a whole lot to be desired. We generally have a couple of down times a month.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Look whose making edits now

This BBC story discusses a tool called Wikipedia Scanner, which harvests some of the traffic on the site and sources edits by their IP address. Of course, there are ways around leaving these kinds of tracks (e.g. spoofing) but I'm willing to be there's a fair amount of accurate data out there.

So my favorite highlight was that an entry on Rush Limbaugh's audience reads
Most of them are legally retarted

I think this story is interesting on a couple of levels. For one, it's probable that CIA employees, someone in the Vatican, and folks in the private sector have edited Wikipedia entries that do things like impact their public image or relate to their work (with notable exceptions like CIA-sourced edits on Oprah Winfrey, unless . . . . nah couldn't be). So if there were any doubts before about the quality, importance, and relevance of Wikipedia then they've got to be diminishing by now.

The other thing that's interesting is peer review for topics that are steeped in controversy. Who do you pick to manage the page on Rush Limbaugh for instance? Clearly I would be a poor choice, as I do tune into the show sometimes (in spite of my mediocre mental faculties) for the comedic value--but I don't tend to laugh with Rush, more at him. At the same time I can think of several friends who would be an equally poor choice for the opposite reason, they love the show and nod right along with him when he talks about the environment being "just a political issue". And let me tell you he's spot on because Ralph Nader has ridden that horse all the way to the White House.