Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Part II of the Gervais Principle

I discussed the first part of Venkatesh Rao's essay on the Gervais Principle here. He has since released part II, entitled "Posturetalk, Powertalk, Babytalk and Gametalk." Just as insightful as his first part, I highly recommend reading it over.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

FOSS drivers for Broadcom Crystal HD creates a lot of potential for low-cost HTPCs

Broadcom's Crystal HD is a new technology that for most of us AV nerds that is as revolutionary as is evolutionary. Usually those are mutually exclusive, but bear with me. Anand argues that the available platforms don't make sense for what most people are trying to do. Intel's graphics platforms, while reasonable for the real-time decoding of most content, are simply too underpowered to handle 1080p. NVIDIA's ION platform, on the other hand, is just too expensive; I believe the phrase he used was "not retrofittable." This allows you to take an existing system that may just not have to juice to stream 1080p content and imbue it with that magical power, in the form of a mini-PCIE card. In the future, it should also be available in ExpressCard and 1x PCI-E form factors.

What makes this release revolutionary is a result of both Broadcom's strategy and the software ecosystem into which it will inevitably end up. First, Broadcom has released the driver under the (L)GPL for both Linux and OS X, and if you know me at all you should know how warm that makes me feel inside. This obviously has its own inherent benefits, such as a rapid update cycle, quick bugfixing, greater compatibility, etc. In combination with existing software for Mac/Linux, though, this is a no brainer. He uses XBMC as an example of one such media center because it has already incorporated the userspace support for the Crystal HD libraries, but I can easily see this being taken up by other projects such as ffmpeg, vlc, mplayer, and MythTV -- just look at how quick those projects were to adopt NVIDIA's VDPAU library!

I don't have any 1080p content currently, but that was based on my hardware limitations. Once I was able to move up from SD to 720p streaming my video library quickly upgraded. I don't think this is something I'll tinker with in the coming months, but certainly something I will follow as it combines three of my favorite things: media streaming, open source, and HD!

[via AnandTech]

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Full text search indexing in sqlite3

I guess I'm a little behind the curve, but I just discovered that sqlite3 has full text search capabilities (appropriately dubbed "FTS3") a la Google. FTS3-enabled tables are actually built atop virtual tables, about which I also just found out.

Anyway, there's a great write-up about it and how to use it here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Using ext4 when compiling your own kernel

My parents finally upgraded to a new computer this past weekend so I took their old one (PIII, 384MB SDRAM) and turned it into a file server. I used gentoo to build it and was surprised how little time it took to actually configure (compiling was a different story...). I had an old 120 GB PATA hard drive lying around so I partitioned it as follows:
  • /dev/sda1 | ext2 | 100MB (/boot)
  • /dev/sda2 | ext4 | 15GB (root)
  • /dev/sda3 | swap | 1GB
  • /dev/sda4 | ext4 | 104GB (/mnt/whatever)
It was all pretty standard: upgrade to sys-devel/gcc-4.4.2 and sys-libs/glibc-2.11-r1, `make menuconfig`'d sys-kernel/hardened-sources-2.6.28-r9, made sure I included baked-in support for ext4, and compiled. After waiting half an hour (literally -- `time make` took ~32 mins!), I rebooted and was welcomed by an unfamiliar message in my system log:
EXT4-fs: dm-5: Filesystem with huge files cannot be mounted read-write without CONFIG_LSF.
Fortunately, my root partition mounted cleanly and the error only applied to /dev/sda4. Googling around*, I discovered that the "huge_file" feature is implicit when running mkfs.ext4. I saw 'CONFIG_LSF' in the kernel config and the documentation said it was only necessary for files 2TB or larger -- clearly nothing I'd need to worry about -- so I didn't include it in the kernel.

Instead of recompiling my kernel, I figured I'd just reformat the partition without huge_file support. Yes, recompiling the kernel would've been a pain, but reformatting seemed like the more ideal/elegant solution -- especially considering this partition was barely 100GB. The default behavior for mke2fs.ext* can be found in /etc/mke2fs.conf (on gentoo, at least), and the culprit looks like this under the ext4 block:
features = has_journal,extents,huge_file,flex_bg,uninit_bg,dir_nlink,extra_isize


Monday, December 21, 2009

Secretly updated version of MidpSSH for BlackBerry

If you've used MidpSSH for Blackberry, you'll find that the most recent version available from the website it hopelessly out of date (last updated March 2008). If you've never heard of it, shame on you! Its the only BlackBerry SSH client of which I'm aware, and if you have a BlackBerry and use *nix, then you'll most certainly find it useful.

Anyway, while I was researching which of the myriad versions of the application to install on my new Curve 8900, I stumbled upon an old BerryReview article that links to an updated version not listed on! It's listed at version "1.7.4 beta 2" and has a timestamp of Oct 2008 -- so its now just plain out-of-date (not hopelessly).

The big features added to this release (according to the article) include:

  • BIS-B support (depends on carrier on which ports you might be able to work, IE on mine they block port 22, but I just changed my sshd port of linux box to a higher port,). When configuring the host, just add :PORT (so it would be IP.OF.SERVER:PORT)
  • WIFI support
  • Application is signed in order to gain access to some RIM protected APIs
I was appropriately skeptical but I figured I'd give it a shot and the changelog given is very accurate! I was able to connect to my home linux server over both WiFi and BIS (T-Mobile EDGE) whereas previously I had to be connected to a WiFi network; said server's SSH server is also open to a port other than 22, and specifying that in the connection preferences allowed me to connect; and I wasn't presented with the "untrusted application rah rah" warning when I downloaded and installed it. It also seems noticeably faster, but then that's probably just because I'm coming from an old Pearl 8120.

Unfortunately, I doubt we'll be seeing many updates to this application anymore, but this should certainly hold me over until someone else decides to pick up the ball. Besides, its not like SSH standards change very often. The source code is available to anyone enterprising enough to tackle such a huge project for the BlackBerry community.

Site hosting the application for OTA install:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Gervais Principle of Mangement

A very eye-opening piece. Great idea using the Office as an example. Its almost scary how realistic this is at times. Obviously the Peter and Scott Adams Principles to which he refers are almost laughable, and were probably designed more to be narrow glimpses into an otherwise complex system, but I believe Rao may be on to something.

[via Slashdot]

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Japanese are so novel

Another example of a combining existing technologies to make something very novel. The nerd in me had his jaw drop and head shake at how freakin' cool this is.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Steve Wiebe

If you've seen The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, then you'll know (and most likely sympathize with) Steve Wiebe, the venerable subject of said documentary. At E3 today, he's had a Donkey Kong booth set up for him in another attempt to break that other guy's record. The best part is that G4TV has a live webcast and screencast of his attempts! He started at 11am EST and has played twice so far. He's been resting for a few minutes between breaks and its funny to watch other people sit down at the arcade unknowingly trying to play and getting kicked out within seconds. The twitter chat is also keeping me pretty entertained.

I'm definitely pulling for him, but if he's this time-committed to DK, I'd hate to see him play Warcraft.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Indian Americans: model minorities perhaps, but not necessarily a byproduct of anything inherent

In response to: Indian Americans: The New Model Minority

The way Richwine is arguing it has some very racist undertones. By comparing Indian Americans within a pool of just minorities, he's implying a difference between whites and everyone else that needs to be delineated; by buying into them being a "model minority," they're validating themselves by the gauge of White people. "It values communities -- and their right to be in the U.S. -- based on economic success. It suggests that only immigrants with college degrees or high IQs can contribute to society, when in reality, industriousness knows no boundaries" [1].

Furthermore, he's also using stereotypes and correlations to imply causation. The reason there are so many Indian doctors/engineers/
professionals might not be because they're naturally smarter. For example, a large proportion of Indian doctors in America now are here because they came here after leaving India. There was a mass expatriation during the second half of the 20th century that saw 10.1% of the 592,215 physicians registered by the Medical Council of India emigrate to the US, UK, Canada, and Australia [2]. As nice as it seems ostensibly to have such a high proportion of Indian doctors in the Western world, I think the skeleton in the closet is that they left India because it had sub-par residency training and practice positions. The same can be said of engineers who leave India because of its wretched working conditions. I think the Germans, for example, are equally intelligent and industrious; but they don't leave Germany in droves the way Indian professionals did. Even if they did, they wouldn't even be considered a minority because of the color of their skin.

Even Richwine admits his arguments are cursory, despite trying to present them as substantive evidence: "Given the small sample size, the rough IQ measure and the lack of corroborating data sets, this finding of lofty Indian-American intelligence must be taken cautiously. Nevertheless, it is entirely consistent with their observed achievement." He argues that, in contrast, Mexicans "are much less wealthy and educated than U.S. natives, even after many years in the country." This is unfortunately attributed to the Mexican culture as a whole and clearly shouldn't be. First, Mexican emigrants tend to be of the non-educated variety when they come here, looking for new opportunities that they can't get in Mexico. [sarcasm] Second, its not like structural racism, redlining, negative stereotypes and media portrayal (impacting employment), etc. hinder their successes at all [/sarcasm].

At best, this is poor journalism and, at worst, a glimpse into the reason cultural divides still exist in modern society.


See also:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Water-powered Jet Pack

This seriously looks so fun I want it to be warm out that much more now. I can't believe no one's thought of this before (the patent was from 2007, according to the article).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Indexed is one of my favorite "comics"

I use the term "comic" loosely as indexed is not what you'd typically think of when referring to one. If you can consider xkcd a comic (and I'm sure most people can), however, then I think indexed deserves just as much consideration for its humor; isn't that what makes a comic a comic, after all? Sure, the drawings in other popular comics such as Penny Arcade and Ctrl-Alt-Del allow them to create characters with which the readers can more closely sympathize, but that's their artistic prerogative. I think comics like xkcd, abstruse goose, and indexed convey their messages, however insightful or humorous they may be, equally well without the need for characters that are consistent across comics.

Today's comic hit especially close to home for personal reasons. In fact, its this type of attention to the ordinary and mundane that makes you step back and realize how overcomplicated we make things sometimes.

Sorry if that sounded really artsy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rails ActiveRecord validation

For something so simple, you'd think there'd be a decent amount of documentation out there for it, but you'd be wrong.

I was trying to write a validation on a model to ensure a certain condition was met, in this case that one object attribute was never larger than another for the same object before it was saved. Turns out it was as simple as this (sorry for the formatting, not sure how to post code snippets yet):
_def validate
__errors.add_to_base('x cannot be greater than y') if self.x > self.y
Apparently, Rails looks for a validate method and will call it during the validation process. No need for callbacks here (i.e. before_update, after_validation, etc.). The corresponding test is fairly easy to deduce:
it "should have not have more x than y" do
_@obj.y = 0
_@obj.x = 1
_@obj.should_not be_valid

Friday, January 9, 2009

From ESPN Page 2's the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons

The Todd Marinovich Award for "Worst performance by a rookie QB"
Put it this way, Matty Ice: When the Cards are jumping the snap for four quarters, then one of them goes on a radio show saying they jumped every snap count because you called every play on "one," then you probably should enroll in a "How to vary your snap counts" class at Steve DeBerg College this summer. Although I love the potential of a Boston College product not being able to count to two.
Yea, I realize this isn't a very good first post, but deal with it.