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ITX Media PC Case

ITX Media PC Case

First, the setup:  For my entertainment center, I built a small media PC, which runs Fedora Linux.

Hardware:

Missing from this list was Arctic Silver thermal compound, which I had to apply to keep the processor from overheating.  Also missing: the HDMI cable, which carries the audio & video to a Sony digital tuner.

And also missing:  a Blu-ray/DVD  drive would be nice, but I have a Sony Blu-Ray player that handles the playback chores separately from the media PC.  Eventually it will have a drive, but I don’t need one at the moment…and in a pinch, you can use a DVD drive from another computer over NFS.

So I installed Fedora Linux on the unit from a “live” image on a USB flash drive.  Once that was installed, I added the Livna and Rpmfusion yum repositories with commands similar to the following (run as root):


# rpm -ivh http://rpm.livna.org/livna-release.rpm
# rpm -ivh http://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-stable.noarch.rpm http://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-stable.noarch.rpm
# yum update

Once all that is up-to-date, you’ll probably want to install some extras off the repositories that make media handling much easier…

# yum install akmod-nvidia # drivers for Nvidia chipsets only
# yum install mplayer # media player/converter with massive capabilities
# yum install vlc # videolan client -- video player/converter w/gui controls
# yum install pavucontrol # pulseaudio advanced control application
# yum install pulseaudio-utils # needed for pasuspender, if using AC3 passthrough to a digital tuner
# yum install compiz-fusion ccsm emerald # needed for GPU-enabled zoom and other desirable features

Since wordpress takes issue with my formatting above, I’ve put the commands into a script, which should be run as root.

The latter package is a matter of personal preference.  I like the flexibility of compiz’s zoom feature, but all the video clients I use can be fullscreened.

One package I’ve left out is Adobe Flash — something I’ll address in another post.  But!  There is 64-bit Adobe Flash for Linux, found here.

Share and enjoy!

Mini Remote Keyboard/Mouse

Mini Remote Keyboard/Mouse

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Google has their ups & downs when it comes to human rights — but at least, in the latest news about China, they seem to be trying.

Human rights are for everybody, and perhaps the broadest expression of a “Bill of Rights” is the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

With that said:  I will be blogging more about tech for a while, but underpinning those posts is the philosophy that information shouldn’t be censored…or for that matter, distored with FUD from megacorps.

Regarding the latter, I audited the liveblog of Balmer’s discussion of Win7 the other evening (at CES2010), and paid special attention to his claims for SM media center.  My take on this coming right up…

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No More Bono-Babble

No More Bono-Babble

In this morning’s New York Times, “Bono” gaffed.

He wrote:

A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us — and the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.

To be fair, when “Bono” says “rich service providers”, he’s probably talking about the Comcasts and ATT’s of our fine nation…not the thousands of other ISP’s that are struggling with FCC-sanctioned duopolies in most markets.  So maybe Mr. Bono might take a look at the regulatory landscape and actually understand what he is talking about before shooting his mouth off.

But who am I kidding?  “Bono” lives in the dwindling world of music superstars, a testament to the corporate edifices that infest the music industry in the U.S.

Want to know more about “Bono”?  And “Edge”? And all these one-name wonders that say they’re in this for art…but are nothing but money-grubbing bastards who are pissed that nobody is buying their buggy-whips? Then try this on for size:

http://www.negativland.com/news/?page_id=19

And unlike what “Bono” implies: most folks getting music online are buying it from iTunes, Amazon, or a host of other online venues that cater to the varied music tastes of their patrons.  And those of us who have opted-out of the megacorp music crap that pervades the media in our fine nation really don’t have much time for market-propped corpostars like this “Bono”.  The alternative and indy scenes are thriving, no thanks to people like “Bono” who continue to support the antiquated label system.

Hell, I can’t even listen to FM radio anymore without suffering through some craptastic megacorps idea of what music they want to push.  The best I can stomach nowadays is a local “HotAC” station…which is more about nostalgia than any merits to the music.

So when “Bono” sees his dwindling sales, he blames file-sharing, instead of the reality: after Joshua Tree, his music hasn’t been worth buying.  Only the label system keeps him afloat, through their various means, such as marketing propaganda.

Indeed:  if “Bono” were to actually peer down from his ivory and read this, he might think I’ve interjected personalities into the mix…then act all shocked that his sniping at a few fat cat duopolistic ISP’s managed be offensive to all the independents that continue to hang on in this market despite the Bushco-esque regulatory capture that we all deal with every day.  But that would require this “thought” stuff, much of which I’m not seeing in Bono’s Babble.

So for now, “Daft Punk is Playing at My House”…which is to say, LCD Soundsystem.  “Bono” can suck my bono.

And I personally prefer to buy movies, if only to save drive space…but when it comes time to use them — lawfully and legally — in a project (such as mentioned in my previous blog post), it’s sometimes easier to download them, rather than fight with some studio’s lame-brained ideas about “copy-protection”.  Ancient, ivory-towered cats like “Bono” don’t get that, and are more about protecting their own crew’s bottom line, rather than any semblance of consumer protections…or artists’ protections.

http://www.negativland.com/news/?page_id=19

Finally:  If you haven’t seen the South Park episode that sends-up Bono for being “number 2″…it’s absolutely hilarious.

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So I’ve built a media pc from a Zotac itx mobo, and it lives in my entertainment center.  An HDMI cable carries the video AND audio from the Nvidia video and audio chipsets to my Sony digital tuner, which is capable of decoding and playing back all manner of digital audio formats.

The media pc doesn’t have an optical drive, though — if I want to play a Blu-Ray or DVD disc, I just use the Sony Blu-Ray player.  The media pc, instead, is for those times I want to play youtube videos, hulu, or other such online formats.

The new pulseaudio system in Fedora 12 handles the audio beautifully… just as long as I don’t try to play back a file with digital audio.  An example situation would be my .avi file of Star Trek IX with 5.1 audio, which I ripped from the dvd for playback alongside the rifftrax .mp3 companion audio.

But to play the movie with the 5.1 soundtrack, I have to suspend pulseaudio and use alsa’s ac3 passthrough capability.

Here’s how to do that:

First, install the pulseaudio-utils package:

# yum install pulseaudio-utils

This gives you the “pasuspender” program…with that, you can run your playback application with pulseaudio suspended, giving you direct access to the alsa device itself.  The command line looks like this:

$ pasuspender — mplayer -ac hwac3 -ao alsa:device=hw=0.3 yourfilehere.avi

Note the double dash right after the pasuspender command — this tells pasuspender to stop interpreting switches, so that the switches only have meaning to mplayer.

You’d use the same command to play a dvd (if your media pc has a dvd drive — mine doesn’t, I was trying to keep moving parts to a minimum).  For instance, after inserting the Star Trek dvd, you’d use the following:

$ pasuspender — mplayer -ac hwac3 -ao alsa:device=hw=0.3 dvdnav://21

BTW, most dvd’s will let you playback with “dvd://21″ — but the Star Trek dvd tries to get in your way, if you try to play back the content that you’ve bought.  “dvdnav:” gets around such idiocy.

And finally, you might be wondering why I’m fiddling around with the legacy DVD, when I could be using the HD video content of a Blu-Ray.  I do own the Blu-Ray, but a) I can’t play it from Linux yet, and b) I’m not ramped-up on ripping Blu-Ray just yet…and I wanted to put together a Star Trek/rifftrax viewing party relatively soon.

But this particular issue — as well as today’s nonsensical balderdash from “Bono” regarding ISP’s and digital content — only serve to underline that there are a lot of folks out there that really don’t understand the digital landscape.  But suffice to say that the content providers are so wound-up about possible unlawful use of their content, they screw-up one-off, lawful, and legal, uses of the content for folks who have these capabilities.

And I see a great need for another post about this.  Coming soon…

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Title really says it all: Software engineers are the best logicians.

In a debate, someone might get away with a logical fallacy…but such a thing won’t work when programming a computer.

So if you ask me, said software engineers have the most experience of anyone in thinking with precise logic.

Maybe that’s why the greatest logic FAQ _evah(!)_ came from Usenet…specifically, alt.atheism. It’s current incarnation can be found here:

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mathew/logic.html

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A recent 30 Rock episode had a great send-up of social media, as found with the website “Youface”.

On Youface, we learned, participants “fingertagged” each other…which is funny for this old-school Unix guy, since we used to “finger” each other from a Unix command line.  This would display info about you, as well as anything in your .plan file.

In fact, some folks used their .plan files as ways to publish information — gamers may remember fingering id Software for updates about Doom and Quake, for example.

It’s fairly easy to set up a finger server on Linux using xinetd.  For security’s sake, though, I suggest anyone wanting to do this not accept any input from the network, unless they know what they’re doing.  Finger servers have been a classic vector for remote attacks on hosts, including remote-root attacks.  Caveat Emptor.

Since I don’t know any better, I decided to set one up myself:  Sample files can be found here:

http://tech.ponzo.net/fingerfiles/

If you have a finger client:  finger @tech.ponzo.net to try it out.

And for another network protocol that nobody uses anymore, try:

gopher://gopher.sonic.net/

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I used to use Palm, from my Palm Treo 600p to my final Palm device, a Palm Treo 755p.

I loved the flexibility and the open architecture — anybody could write a Palm OS app, and anybody else could install it.

But now, I bought a Droid.  Droid’s are much more modern than that creaky old Palm OS — they are tiny embedded Linux boxes running Java applications.

By default, the Droid won’t install arbitrary applications — but this can be enabled in the settings.  Indeed, one can also enable communications between the Droid and the Android SDK via the USB cable.  This includes the ability to capture screenshots, such as this one:

Settings > Applications > Development

And Java developers can write their own apps for the Droid…as indeed, many have.

Settings > Applications > Development

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