RHCE Links

As part of prepping my next “career move”, I was looking into getting a RedHat Certified Engineer certificate to match what my resume says I know. I found a site that has quite a number of useful links.

Having a fine art degree in computer art, worked in a (practically failed) education technology start up with a diversified (but not professional) knowledge in a bunch of stuff don’t really prepare me for any kind of position really. Everywhere I looked, people are looking for hardcore specialty expertise in one area or another, especially in Silicon Valley. Maybe our luck will soon run out as everything in the bank will be depleted in no time.

Everybody dreams of a beaufiful American Dream. But sometimes it’s holding on to the illusion of such dreams that’s hard to let go.

Original Unix Lab Dismantled

The original lab that invented Unix at AT&T has officially been shut down. This very team started it all: FreeBSD, OpenBSD, HP HP-UX, Compaq Tru64, Linux (RedHat, Debian, Slackware, Gentoo… etc), SCO Unix, IBM AIX, Sun Microsystems Solaris, SGI IRIX and then of course, Mac OSX, all of which derived from the original Unix conceived at the Bell Labs.

And then there is Microsoft, DOS and then Windows (3.1 through XP), the legacy Mac OS, and let’s not forget OS/2. There are others that never made it to the mainstream, but who cares.

After looking at this large list of Unix operating systems v.s. the rest, it’s a no brainer that Apple decided to go with a Unix-based strategy to capitalize on its maturity and stability.

Discover Your Roots

Linode logo Kyung got me hooked on Linode a while ago. The company offers a virtual private server (aka virtual dedicated server) service that’s actually pretty amazing. It basically takes a server, divide it up into multiple mini-servers and provides root access to its customers within the perimeter of the VPS. Unfortunately I only know of services that provide Linux-based VPS for public use. Linode stood out for me because it offers a good variety of Linux flavors to choose from. For Windows, I believe VMWare or Microsoft’s newly acquired VirtualPC do similar tricks for enterprise level operations.

Linode is probably the best way for to really have a stab at Linux. Its installation process takes literally minutes. So that means, if I ever screw up the server, I can simply reinstall everything within minutes instead of hours usually associated with home-built machines.

Another unique thing about Linode is that it’s based on User Mode Linux (open source) as opposed to Virtuozzo, which is a more popular (but not free) platform.

There are several companies that offer VPS. However, a few were getting a lot of buzz when I was researching for a good VPS service:

I believe the above services are Virtuozzo based and do not have as many variety of Linux installs to choose from. I am sure there are at least a dozen more companies out there. But based on what I’ve read at the time, the above companies came highly recommended via several forums.

I eventually had to stop using Linode because of resource issues. The plan I was able to afford didn’t come with enough resources for me to sustain a fairly high load. But otherwise, Linode was great. If anyone ever wants to build a home-grown “Linode”, tutorials can be found here and here.

I wish there was a company that offered VPS for Mac OSX though. This is one of those times when being a Mac user sucks.

Exposé for the Non-Macs

Apple’s Exposé (more info here) was probably one of the most important windows management breakthroughs since “Alt + Tab”. Not too long after Apple released it along with Panther, developers soon found ways to simulate the effects in Windows.

Case in point:

On the Opensource side, developers haven’t been standing idle. They also have come up with remarkable apps with similar tricks.

Before we jump the gun and accuse everyone else for stealing introducing Apple’s innovations in other platforms, I must confess that I first saw an Expos%uFFFD-like functionality on a Linux system even before the introduction of Panther. And according to this document at Microsoft’s very own UI Research lab, a similar functionality had been in existence long before Mac OSX. Unfortunately the project just never made it to various releases of Windows.

Fold n' Drop windows

Now let’s take it a step further and examine some up and coming technologies. First up is Fold n’ Drop project from a French lab. The idea is to treat windows as pieces of paper. A user can fold, flip and leaf through them. There’s demo video and a Java demo app you can test it out. Very neat. And someone’s already made it work on a Windows Machine.

Project Looking Glass

Another pretty cool application is from Sun Microsystems. Porject Looking Glass manipulates the Desktop and its windows each as 3D objects. It has features even a Mac user will envy. I was hoping to see some of them to be implemented in Tiger.

A demo is available for playback.

Other emerging implementations:

I am sure there are plenty more advanced UI projects in the labs. If anyone knows any that’s not here, please do share them with me.

Speaking of emerging technologies, IBM’s “alphaWorks: Emerging technologies” website has been in my bookmarks for the longest time. It’s a site that features the latest technologies at IBM labs that are available for licensing.

Xmail Hard Drive.com

Xmail Hard Drive logoWhen Gmail first came out, there were a couple of hacks that allowed users to make their Gmail accounts as remote drives. But of course they didn’t really catch on. Found this today: Xmail Hard Drive.com. It effectively makes your Gmail account a remote storage. But it requires that you provide your login name/passowrd to a third party… I am not so sure about that…

via [LifeHacker]

MythTV — Part IV — If It Works on Windows…

I finally got my replacement PVR-150 card from Buy.com a couple of days ago. Immediately I put it back into the Dell Precision 410 box where I have Windows 2000 installed from the last exercise. Fingers crossed.

At first Windows complained about drivers not being properly loaded and other related usual crap that is normal for a Windows operating system. The only way to really “fix” this was to uninstall all the drivers and related apps and reinstall them from scratch. So I did; and that did the trick.

Half an hour after I got everything installed; I got the DVR app that came with Hauppauge working. It receives signals, captures, pauses and does everything else. Even the remote worked flawlessly. So hardware is fine.

Then I downloaded and installed BeyondTV from SnapStream since I am already running Windows and have been told that BeyondTV is very easy to work with.

And sure enough, BeyondTV worked like advertised except that features allowed in the demo version were so limiting that there was no way for me to truly evaluate the package. And SnapStream is asking for $80 for the package. That’s $80 too much for me. And besides, I am determined to have a Windows-free home computing environment.

I think I will go back to trying on Fedora Core 3 again when I get more time. Between running errands in preparation for the new baby, my freelance job, classes and all the miscellaneous stuff that’s going on, time is getting more and more scarce. So whatever happens, I’ve got to get it to work before the baby arrives or else I might never get to it anytime soon… 🙁

GizmoProject — Threat to Skype?

ProjectGizmo Logo
While hopping about the Internet, some people said GizmoProject is to be a good contender to Skype‘s world domination plan.

Given that it supports as many platforms (less Windows CE, which nobody really cares anyway) as Skype (and is already available for Mac OSX), it’s probably the most attractively designed VoIP client based on the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) technology, which is pretty much the standard in the VoIP industry. Skype uses its own proprietary protocol; and seeing how successful Skype is in the market, there’s no reason to believe Skype will provide its API to developers anytime soon.

However, since nobody is using this yet, I will hold out until enough people bug me to install it.

ProjectGizmo call-out screenshot

MythTV — Part III — It Must Be the Hardware

I give up. It’s got to be the hardware. So long, PVR-150.

After my last two posts (here and here), I decided maybe my Linux skills are still too rough. Perhaps I should stick to something I know more about: MS Windows 2000.

Just to make sure that Linux was not the problem, I put Windows 2000 back on to my PC box. After getting all the updates and installing the drivers for PVR-150, still nothing! Now this got me thinking. Maybe it’s the hardware! The hardware must’ve been screwed up.

So off it went in UPS return box (paid for by Buy.com’s online auto-RMA and UPS shipping label generation software). I will get a new card in a week or so. And we’ll see.

OS X 10.4 Tiger Boots from External Hard Drive

It’s so easy to install Apple’s OS X 10.4 Tiger on to an external Firewire drive that you can use as an emergency drive to boot from.

OSX Tiger installation image Finally I got around to upgrade Grace’s Mac to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger today.

But before I started with the upgrade, I wanted to make sure Tiger could run smoothly on the aging PowerMac (AGP) running at a meager 450Mhz, about half the speed of my Titanium PowerBook G4 (DVI).

Test install on the second 60GB hard drive went well. Speed was acceptable — no noticeable slow down or hiccups compared to Panther.

Then just out of couriosity, having read that booting OS X from external Firewire drives was possible, I installed Tiger on my spare 6GB Firewire/USB drive just to KNOW it’s possible. Not surprisingly, it booted like it should (a bit slow though).

If I am not mistaken, I don’t believe this can be done on a Windows OS since hardware information is inserted into OS’s registry, thus making a boot on a different machine impossible. In fact, just booting FROM an external drive can prove to be difficult without thorough knowledge about PC hardware and Microsoft Windows OS.

I also found a few articles (1, 2, 3) on installing an external boot drive using Linux. But even with Linux’s flexibility, it still requires some fiddling with MBR (master boot record). No plug & play there. One article, written by an IBM engineer, suggested booting from a USB 2.0 drive arguing USB 2.0’s popularity on standard PC hardware.

In any case, the upgrade was a success. Everything was mrigrated without major issues, though StuffIt Delux had some issues, that went away after patching a 9.0.2 updater.

I can’t imagine doing anything Windows now that I’ve had it so easy and simple on the Macs.

MythTV — Part II — Giving KnoppMyth A Try

My battle continues with MythTV installation and configuration.

There’s no question in my mind as to why MythTV is MythTV. I just can’t get the stupid thing to run right.

Just earlier I wrote about my troubles with MythTV under Fedora Core 3. So I said I’d give KnoppMyth a shot. I couldn’t wait for a couple of days, so I forged on with the saga.

10PM, sitting there thinking this KnoppMyth should work. It’s an auto-install wonder.

Think again. Stupid KnoppMyth got stuck with trouble writing to the disks a few times. I had to use Fedora’s partition/format utility from the boot disc to reformat the disks before KnoppMyth would even run properly. So that took me about an hour to resolve.

To be fair, KnoppMyth installed and auto-dected a good majority of everything right away. And the install went relatively smoothly — everything from the OS, MySQL database, MythTV and almost everything else. ALMOST: PVR 150, audio card and ethernet cards got left out.

So before I invest more time on KnoppMyth, I decided I’ll try it on Kyung’s old Optiplex GX110. Maybe I’ll have better luck on his machine. If all else fails, I will go back to Fedora and deal with problems I already am familiar with.

Those guys at Systm definitely oversimplified KnoppMyth’s ability to solve everyday-man’s problems. But then again, I do have a pretty old system to boot (Dell Precision 410; circa 1999).

Better luck next time.

MythTV — Part I — Struggle Begins

My battle with MythTV installation and configuration.

In light of my newfound cable service, I decided to put one of my spare Dell boxes to work in doing a home-grown TiVo. So a few days ago, I ordered a Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 150 capture card to give it a shot. It’s a relatively new card with decent performance for the price (after a Buy.com 10% off coupon — roughly $85).

I spent most of the weekend tinkering with Mythtv running on Fedora (Core 3). I got most of the information from Jarod Wilson’s site (excellent documentation). But last night at 3AM, I finally gave in to Mythtv and called it a defeat (for now).

There are a few problems concerning my set up; one of them being that Fedora Core 3 is not particularly happy about the onboard Crystal sound card (it worked in Core 2 though). Topping that off, WinTV-PVR 150 seems a bit too new to get a stable driver. I spent a lot of time just getting the module to load into the Kernel during my first install. It turned out that the latest Linux Kernel doesn’t like the module. I had to roll back to the older 2.6.11-1.27FC3smp to get the damn thing to just load.

Then there’s the problem with the IR transmitter and receiver. Apparently lirc 0.7.0 doesn’t support PVR 150. Though I’d installed the new lirc 0.7.1 (which supposedly does support PVR 150), the receiver still did not produce any output despite hours of Googling and trying out new settings.

Frustrated, I finally completely erased the setup and started fresh again on Sunday. But this time, something happened to the partitions which Kernel 2.6.11-1.27FC3smp didn’t like and freaks out at boot. Does it have anything to do with the fact that I installed VMWare 4.5.2 (thanks, Kyung!) prior to the reboot? Speaking of VMWare, it runs beautifully smooth under Fedora Core 3 with Windows 2000 on it. Very very nice.

In the coming few days, I might give it a shot again. Last night just right after I gave up, I found a clip from Systm that demonstrated a clean install using KnoppMyth — a ONE disc install wonder. The only problem, again, is that its lirc driver is still at 0.7.0 and won’t like my PVR 150 card. But on KnoppMyth’s discussion forum, someone posted a patch that’s claimed to have made it work. Hopefully it’ll finally work so I can finall grow fat and old on Simpsons episodes.

Stupid MythTV… Stupid PVR 150 card… Stupid Fedora Core 3 and its new Kernel…