Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Podcast Review: The Knightcast

Belgian by birth, geek by the grace of heaven. Knightwise is the star of the KnightCast. He's just a regular guy, working IT in Belgium. He has a nice mix of practicality and cleverness in the topics he covers. His mantra is "Make technology work for you.". And with a combination of audio, video and screencasts he covers his material pretty well, using real world examples (usually in his own home) and showing step-by-step next to the the rationale of the tech he is covering.

Knightwise is very engaged with his audience, appreciates and responds to feedback directly. He is human, and has slumps where real life interupts his podcasting from time to time. But I find that when he releases his podcast it's about an hour of real, practical howto and very informative.

I would strongly recommend this podcast for anyone who prefers the conversation to be about Linux or Mac. He usually does his Ubuntu work or server setup in virtual machines running on Mac hardware. With his funny little belgian accent, he's enjoyable to listen to and talks about what he knows. If you are a windows fan, you may not find this podcast has much (if anything) of interest to you.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Podcast Review: This Week in Tech (TWiT)

This Week in Tech is the flagship podcast of Leo Laporte's personal little network of podcast shows. Leo Laporte, love him or hate him, must be admired for the sheer volume of content that he generates every week. This show is usually from 1 to 1 1/2 hours long. They do a week in review at the title implies. The show is recorded on Sundays and only the once a week.

Leo is very charismatic and usually has a panel of guests which are fairly regular and always interesting. Due to the nature of the show if there are not a lot of glaring topics, the panel usually has enough activity of their own to follow any tangent and fill the time with still entertaining banter. Leo has had recent unfavorable critiques about the frequency with which Twitter is mentioned on his shows. I feel however, that it is much more the fact that Twitter is becoming more relevant in the way tech circles communicate and is being voiced fairly in respect to the real world on his shows.

Leo has finally made it prime-time with some serious sponsors. I feel based on the transparent conversations he has had with his audience about sponsorship that he has worked very hard to gain sponsors that don't compromise his commentary or might in any way affect the reporting on technology that is his mainstay. Most of these ads are worked into the conversation of the show. If I had any negative comments to say about the addition of the ads is that sometimes, due to the confidence in the products, they run a little long.

The TWiT Network has a whole host of other podcast available which are on much more narrow technology topics which I won't go into on this post since a great deal of them are going to be in my podcast reviews later. But please, feel free based on these links to check out is offerings and compare notes with what I have to say about them.


Ubuntu 9.04 release - countdown

Truth be told, I downloaded the Alpha 6 version of 9.04 a few weeks ago and installed it on 2 laptops and one desktop. For me it was a simple update to get the beta version which is now available. I have to say that this is the cleanest version of Ubuntu I've seen so far and if for no other reason that some more serious themes being installed that are quite clean and crisp.

I have been of the opinion for some time that Linux was ready for the prime time desktop since so much (if not all) of the functionality has been in Ubuntu for year. I personally felt that a lot was in the presentation. That Ubuntu was fighting an uphill battle against Apple's "spit-and-polish" approach and Windows legacy stronghold on the desktop space.

I have to say with the 2 clicks needed after the default install to a different theme and I was hooked more than ever. The Dust Sand theme is quite impressive. Again, offering if even the appearance of something better. Windows is evidence that you can make things look ok and not work at all, and that won't affect acceptance.

I've added the badge from Ubuntu on my blog in support. If you aren't using linux at all, I highly recommend getting Ubuntu 9.04 beta + a 1Gig USB stick + Unetbootin = very responsive trial of the operating system without forcing an install or loosing any data.

Geek on!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Podcast Review: Buzz Out Loud

Flagship podcast from CNET. Buzz out Loud (a.k.a. BOL) is an awesome daily show covering the top stories in tech of the day. The hosts are knowledgeable, excited and interact very well. The show lasts on average from 30 - 45 minutes.

This crew is very well organized, stay on task and cover the proper topics of the day. If there is any criticism of what they cover it is solely to be blamed on the news of the day. These guys do not "wing it" and manage to fill a show card for every day. Professional reporting, with each of the team and guests all voicing their points of view on a topic which offers a very good "point - counterpoint" matter of banter which covers topics deeply as well. Stories of substance get more attention and the silly stories only get the mention.

BOL has managed to set up video and audio feeds (recently all fixed) and you can choose which one you prefer to take in. If you can manage, you may also see the video feed live while they do the show at Watch BOL. This may be the first audio only podcast that I've seen make the transition while maintaining the audio version just the same.

As CNET was recently aquired by CBS Interactive, their production value across the board has improved, presumably with more resources available. This is most pronounced in their video productions more so than their audio only offers. Thus far, there have been some changes in the sponsorship ads they place around their products, but the content has not, thus far through the transition, been slanted or objectively changed. My point of view on this point is that having listened to the podcast now for over 2 years that the change so far has only meant that my favorite CNET crew have gotten much more visiblity as they appear as tech resources on other CBS assets.

I have to admit, this show is just the right length to fill my drive time to the office. Which makes it great since it's a daily podcast. After I speak about how I manage to digest a lot of this content later but, frequency and average length has a lot to do with my current podcast selections. I'll cover the "diet" after I cover the podcasts themselves.


Geek love for podcasts

I've decided to share some of my geek media love. I don't see this come up as a regular topic on many of the blogs that I follow, so I thought I'd take a few moments to share. I plan on posting during the coming week on the podcasts that I follow. I'll be adding for the first time labels with "podcast" so that they might be easy to sort and look at.

In preparation I wanted to share that I use a freedom-hating iPhone for my podcast player. I have mac where I manage all of my podcasts as well. I don't plan on going into the millions of ways someone can receive their favorite podcasts, or the devices on which they may listen to them. I might cover that at the end of my podcast review series.

You will see the podcast reviews come in bursts. Some of them I'm very passionate about so they may be reviewed singularly, while others might be written together in a little cluster. I'm not going to force myself to a review template but felt like anyone who might be following this blog might be currious to know "Why does CafeNinja always walk around with his earbuds in?". Of this sin, I am completely guilty. I'll be sure to include links to the home pages of each of the podcasts I review so that if it sounds interesting it wont' be difficult for you to find.

I do want to say now that I could honestly find enough video and audio content to completely fill every waking moment that I have. I try to keep it at a modest volume so that I might sneak in the occasional audiobook since my lifestyle doesn't allow much time to sit down and read uninterupted.

I highly recommend anyone who reads this to look into the content available via podcasts. There is a wide range of content subjects out there to be had. I'll be the first to say that for some the quality of the recording environment may be a bit low, almost all of them are people who are passionate about what they are talking about. Find your topic, play the field and just when you think you have the right amount of content on the right subjects, make sure you check back for anything new or curious so you don't miss out.

Podcasts can range from the commercial driven to the basement personal project, from being recorded in a proper studio to being recorded in the car. If you have never heard of podcasts or you have refused to even look since you don't own an iPod, I would suggest that you are denying yourself an amazing amount of content that is widely available and in most situations quite easy to obtain and play back without any special equipment. If you are able to read this blog, in fact, you already have at your disposal the tools needed to properly enjoy a podcast.

I hope you enjoy this next series of posts and that it might brighten, enlighten or even inspire someone to try something new. If you can't tell yet, I really dig on podcasts. Keep coming back to find out which ones are my personal favorites.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mutt patched in Ubuntu (a.k.a. mutt-ng)

I had spent months in Ubuntu 7.04 trying to figure out how to patch mutt to produce the then famed mutt-ng.  Now it seems that it is included in the mutt-patched package.  It can be installed with a simple:

sudo apt-get install mutt-patched

The output looks like this:

I grabbed the following snip of the .muttrc file that supports the new "folders" view.  Notice also that even that portion of the view may be activated/deactivated with the "b" key when in index or pager view.  This means that the "b" for bouncing an email now works only when you are actually viewing the message.  I grabbed this information from the original maintainer's website.  I have put it here out of fear that it might go away.

# set up the sidebar, default not visible<br />set sidebar_width=12<br />set sidebar_visible=no<br /><br /># which mailboxes to list in the sidebar<br />mailboxes =inbox =ml<br /><br /># color of folders with new mail<br />color sidebar_new yellow default<br /><br /># ctrl-n, ctrl-p to select next, prev folder<br /># ctrl-o to open selected folder<br />bind index \CP sidebar-prev<br />bind index \CN sidebar-next<br />bind index \CO sidebar-open<br />bind pager \CP sidebar-prev<br />bind pager \CN sidebar-next<br />bind pager \CO sidebar-open<br /><br /># I don't need these.  just for documentation purposes.  See below.<br /># sidebar-scroll-up<br /># sidebar-scroll-down<br /><br /># b toggles sidebar visibility<br />macro index b '<enter-command>toggle sidebar_visible<enter>'<br />macro pager b '<enter-command>toggle sidebar_visible<enter>'<br />#<br /># Mario Holbe suggests:<br /># macro index b '<enter-command>toggle sidebar_visible<enter><refresh>'<br /># macro pager b '<enter-command>toggle sidebar_visible<enter><redraw-screen>'<br />#<br />

sidebar_width (number)
Width of the sidebar.

sidebar_visible (boolean)
Whether or not the sidebar is visible.

color sidebar_new [fg] [bg]
The foreground (fg) and background (bg) color of folders that contain new mail.

Mutt's name for the operation that selects the previous folder.

Mutt's name for the operation that selects the next folder.

Mutt's name for the operation that opens the currently selected folder.

Only useful if you have more folders than lines in your terminal: scrolls one page up through the list of folders.

Only useful if you have more folders than lines in your terminal: scrolls one page down through the list of folders.

More power to the users of mutt.  Even to wintellect, who's simple glee in his windows day is to use mutt in putty.


American's need to grow up, really.

America, grow up.  Last week, President Obama was on the Late Show with Jay Leno.  In an article at Newsday.com they covered the statement that the President made about himself in regards to the Special Olympics.  There seemed to be such an outcry that the President needed to make an official apology and even call the Director of the Special Olympics directly.

I really am disappointed that now in the 21st century the President who in a moment of honesty and humility is condemned for making a reference that any one of us would have made at the water cooler, speaking with our friends.  Anyone who is not the parent or participant of the Special Olympics would make the same comment without a second thought and not fear being stoned for having said it.

Are we as a nation so hypersensitive that casual conversation is potentially a huge political offense?  If we berate the President for having said something in a human moment, you must expect the reaction...that he will not do that anymore.  I don't think, that even the parent of a handicapped child, could in good concience think for one moment that what the President said was in any way an attack on the Special Olympics.  He was being critical of himself in the comment if you pay attention.  I just wish that we would pay attention to the value of that candid moment of our nation's leader and take away from it, that he is human, and humble. 

If you wish the reward of a President who will no longer share with you the side of himself that you would most like to know about, please, just bite his head off one more time for something so trivial as a comment that normally would not be given a second thought.

Just grow up. 


P.S. Sorry for the political comment post.  When I saw this, it made me want to vomit, and I had to say my two cents worth.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

New command line fu

Ok,  I've been a command line junkie for a little while.  I just got a recent injection of new toys for my command line experience.  Some are new, some are old but recently discovered and some are just plain fun.  Let me show you how I've done a little mix-and-match session and had a grand old time with things. 

So, let's just give the list of tools and the links to where I learned of them (in order to give props).  The first would be screen, then this screen profile thing I heard about on Lottalinuxlinks podcast.  Simply put screen is a simulated tab browsing experience over a single ssh session.  Then I add to the mix terminator, this program I met during the last year and honestly don't remember where I heard about this one first.  Then the Ubuntu super package bsd-games.  This is quite a bit older, but now with the screen experience I don't feel like I'm wasting my single good session to have a moment of bliss.

Implementation of these tools offer some really cool results.  Today, my normal startup consists of opening terminator, splitting it vertically.  Since mutt+mailcap over an "ssh -X host" will launch a supporting graphical viewer application exporting the X session over the ssh tunnel, I use one of the splits dedicated for my mail (it also is visible for new incoming mail that way).  Then I use the other vertical split to connect to the same server where I have a screen session always running. That screen session has my persistent irc connection, a shell with my ssh key loaded by adding the commands "ssh-agent $SHELL" followed by "ssh-add" so that my ssh-key pass is cached for the session.  Now I have a few extra screen "windows" sitting at a bash prompt ready for any file management, text file edits/writes or general purpose.

Here is a screenshot of what my primary workspace looks like when I'm doing my command line fu:

The trick to all of these tools isn't that they are there, or there is THE way for them to work together, it has been and always will be more important how you put them together to make them work the best for you.  By the way, you can tell your a command line junkie when it's easier for you to teach a windows user to use mutt than it is to figure out the setting in Thunderbird to deactivate an email account without deleting it.  Man, I've been migrating this way for so long now that even the general windows support questions are becoming a challenge for me just because I don't use them often enough myself.

Geek on!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Crazy about Little Brother

So, I've read Cory Doctorow's book "Little Brother".  I have so many things to say about this book and author that this post may seem like a rant.  Please, if you are discouraged by rants, avert your eyes.  This post will be long, wordy and passionate.

First about the author.  Cory Doctorow is a very creative cat.  This guy is all over and has had the experience to have some authority of the subject of the book.  I only want to say that while I was reading the book, my first idea was "who is this guy".  After Google and I had a chat about him, I kept reading with a new found respect and perspective of the person who wrote the words.  Highest accolades, for Mr. Doctorow.  I'll leave it at those understated words since anything more would just sound like I was kissing butt, which I'm not.  And in the effort to save a few bits, I'm going to refer to Mr. Doctorow as Cory for the rest of this article.

Second, the book.  Ok, so the book was released in digital format free to download.  This is the first big shift in the concepts of selling books.  I could just imagine in my head some stuffy boardroom where stuffy men called publishers would hear the words of the author, that he wanted to give away free digital copies of the book, where he would quickly be escorted from the room.  But it turns out that Cory was SO right on.  I mean to say that I downloaded it, I read it.  I liked it so much that I felt it would be a great have for my two boys 15 and 9 in the coming years.  So I bought it.  Yes, I had a free digital copy and had already read it, still I purchased a dead-tree version of the book.  Cory, thanks for proving them all wrong on this point.  That giving a copy for free doesn't mean you won't sell books.

Third, the content.  I, like Cory, am of the generation that were raised in the final decades of the cold war era while living in North America.  Which means we were both in school when the book 1984 by George Orwell would have been shoved down our throats for about 3 years of our education.  I remember that when they were making us read this book in the United States, they were really pushing the simile of Big Brother to the communist USSR of old.  I also remember at the time that the Orwell novel did not impress me nearly as much as it probably should have.  Cory's story is a thousand time better.  It is also spoken in the voice of the participate rather than someone recording the events from the 3rd person.  I was touched by Cory's book, really touched in a way that hasn't happened for a long time.

Fourth, the after.  Ok, I know what Cory wrote was fiction.  There was a lot of true stuff, but a healthy dose of fiction too.  I personally think that some of his fictional ideas in this book are worth seriously looking into.  I admire his creativeness with the concepts of the unreal stuff he made in the book.  But I think they are noteworthy and quite honestly quite possible to do.  I am not sure how, but Cory's book has inspired me to at least have the motivation of trying to work on my first open source project.  I really don't want to get into huge descriptions since that might ruin the book if you haven't read it.  But if Cory is guilty of nothing else, he is guilty of inspiring another member of his generation to possibly create, organize or at the very least dream of doing something.  Causes as they are have not been the forte' of our generation.  That was what "hippies" did for nukes and equal rights.  I really think that Cory may have identified the single cause of our generation that can get me excited.

Cory, thanks for your work, this book is great.  I'll also be happy to now join whatever "Cory Doctorow fanboy" club or status board is required to show that I am a full paid-up member.


Jaunty is coming

With the impending arrival of the latest version of the Ubuntu zoo, Jaunty Jackalope has an anticipated release date of April, 2009.  I've only had a chance to look at one of the very first alpha verisons in the first weeks of December 2008.  I didn't then, nor do I want to now offer any kind of a review since that very early alpha would have been still mostly Intrepid under the hood.  They really hadn't had a chance to make any difference.

I'm going to be blazing all of my systems with the first jaunty beta that I hear is reasonably stable.  I may only wait for upgrade of my netbooks.  I have a full Interpid install there and I would like to be sure that the transition there will go smoothly.  But, since I noticed that almost none of my other systems in the house are running the same versions of Ubuntu, I'm going to take the time to make the house "pure" and do clean installs accross the board with exception of my mac.

I hope to have all the systems installed before the end of the beta period so that I can participate with feedback and any bug reports.  I realize that as a non-coder in the linux community that my "product" as contribution to the community does not come in the form of improved code.  I have taken it upon myself to work harder at those things which I am capable of doing.  That is to triage bug reports on Launchpad, run beta versions of software and submit bugs so they may be fixed.  I'm also doing the very silly task of offering even just plain old feedback to the teams/developers who support my favorite applciations.

I think as the open source community grows and we have more and more software projects each year that the unsung heros of our time (the community developer) may not get much notice.  I know he is usually commended by his peers and he has the emotional satisfaction of the software he created that supports hundreds or thousands of users.  I just wanted to take this moment in my personal space to salute those people.  They all deserve a big round of applause, a pat on the back and a big "atta' boy".  All of you have my respect and my personal thanks for making your contribution to the community that I and my family consider ourselves a part of.