Archive for February, 2008

Filed Under (Business, Rants, Technology) by Sean on February-21-2008

Seriously, get a life, SCO and SNCP. In case you haven’t heard, SCO filed chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year as a result of its failed lawsuits against Linux vendors and customers. Now it has courted a new suitor, Stephen Norris Capital Partners, to the tune of $100 million to continue it’s nonsensical war against open source and Linux.

At least companies that put out crappy software and/or fall seriously short in the ethics department still actually try to innovate and compete (e.g., Microsoft – though conspiracy theories abound that say they’re behind all this nonsense). This cause, however, is only about greed, opportunism, desperation, and psychopathy, pure and simple. Perhaps these guys ought to try to better life on the planet with their “largesse.” Perhaps someone could actually innovate with that money. You know, find a cure for cancer, or develop social programs to eliminate poverty. I certainly hope the bankruptcy court sees this for the extortionist fraud it is and severs it off at the head.

Even if their case has some merit (which it certainly doesn’t appear to given what’s transpired and SCO’s own tactics of declaring bankruptcy weeks before going to trial), from a moral perspective what they’re doing is simply wrong. With all that’s at stake, with users and governments around the world benefiting from the spread of free software, this is analogous to a rogue enterprise waging a trillion dollar intellectual property battle to blot out the use of antibiotics. It doesn’t make economic sense, legal sense, or business sense, and smacks of moral turpitude.

Filed Under (Geekstuff) by Sean on February-21-2008

“Ooh, sexy title,” is what you’re thinking, I know. Anyway, with my compulsive habit these days of installing WordPress plugins, I downloaded Social Bookmarks Reloaded. A great start, mind you, but lacking in a couple of areas. The great thing about open source is you don’t have to sit around griping about software not doing what you want. You can go in and fix it to make it do what you want! In this case, my complaints were really nit picks. I didn’t like the fact that the mouse over text (i.e., the alt text) for each bookmark was hard-coded and basically said the same thing for each site (e.g., “Add this to Digg” “Add this to D…e.l.i.c..i..o.u….s…”). I wanted the Digg bookmark to say, “Digg this,” for example. So I added an extra parameter to the xml file that described the bookmarking sites which allows you to put in your own alt text if you wish. Then I invoked the mighty Vi and made code changes to the plugin to incorporate the new parameter and dynamically create the new alt text for each image. Voila! I’ve got lots more changes I want to make to the plugin, such as adding this description interface to the plugin options interface, and a way to edit the bookmarking sites dynamically, among other things. Once I’m done I’ll re-release the plugin so others can take it and add even more functionality. Vive la Open Source!

Filed Under (Life) by Sean on February-21-2008

Well we had some definitively crappy weather here in Houston (METAR below) so no eclipse. Nada. Perhaps getting in a plane and flying around above the clouds would have yielded a better view. BUT, that would require I pull myself away from blogging, twittering or such other worldly endeavors. Maybe I’ll have all the CSS refactored by the next one in 2010. Hell maybe I’ll be twittering from the moon in 2010. :)

METAR as promised (you know you love it):

KHOU 210618Z 11003KT 8SM FEW003 OVC009 19/18 A2991 RMK AO2 CIG 006V012

Filed Under (Life, Technology) by Sean on February-20-2008

I just read Christina’s post about her new phone with T-Mobile and must agree. As my comment states there:

I must agree – t-mobile rocks. I’ve had literally ten (I mean, literally, ten. Really.) cell phone providers and have enjoyed my stay with t-mobile for the last 3 years. When I call, someone answers, chit chats if necessary while solving the problem (i.e., not reading from a script somewhere in India) and fixes it to my satisfaction. No 3 hour hold times (cingular), no arrogant jackass posturing (sprint), nor ineptitude of any kind. I plan on sticking with them for a while!

Filed Under (Stuff) by Sean on February-20-2008

After seeing this incredibly bizarre, but very well done, animation, I had to post it here. Enough said.

Filed Under (Geekstuff) by Sean on February-19-2008

Since I’ve moved completely away from the evil empire (I’ve felt I’ve already gained a few extra years from abandoning Outlook), I’ve been looking at various ways to synchronize my Treo, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Task lists, etc., so they all agree with one another. I was using a daemon for this purpose which used web services to keep things together, but it wasn’t as full featured in the Treo department as I would have liked. I came across this post and think I’m going to give it a shot. It is very thorough and has pretty pictures. What more can you ask for?

Filed Under (Geekstuff, My Music) by Sean on February-19-2008

Wow . . . I certainly didn’t anticipate the difficulty I was going to face trying to get all the software set up and configured on my shiny new Digital Audio Workstation.

You see, it’s all about real time computing. Since normal, every day Linux is based on a voluntary preemptive kernel (as are all other regular OS-es), it is not suited to the demands of a professional DAW. The various software components of the DAW have to sync perfectly and in real time. The sequencers, synthesizers, mastering software, loops, keyboards connected though MIDI and audio, all have to exactly sync up with near zero latency if you’re going to have anything that sounds worth a crap come out the other end.

UbuntuStudio was created with this in mind. It has the real time kernel included, all the DAW software and components that tie it all together (the zero latency plumbing is called Jack). I had already installed Ubuntu Desktop (Gutsy Gibbon to be precise) so I followed the instructions to upgrade. Well something definitely went awry with that process. For some reason, the install of the rt kernel totally futzed up my initrd image to the point where it didn’t detect my hard drive. Suffice it to say that makes it difficult to start mastering any recordings!

I first attempted the usual fixes, including yaird, initrd, initramfs tools, to no avail. I went back to my default kernel and went ahead and launched all my DAW software anyway, setting up Jack with options so it would ignore the latency problems. I just wanted to see how the applications worked in general. Everything ran, albeit not synced in real time.

So, I decided to roll my own kernel from scratch, pulling it from, patching it with the realtime kernel patch, choosing the appropriate kernel options, and compiling. After a few false starts (didn’t quite get all the correct options in the menuconfig the first couple of times) and a few hours, I had a kernel that finally booted! Finally my optimized, preemptive realtime kernel:

$uname -ar
Linux sean-desktop-home 2.6.24-rt1-rtsbs #1 SMP PREEMPT RT Mon Feb 18 22:25:02 CST 2008 i686 GNU/Linux

Of course now that I was no longer using the restricted mode NVidia drivers to get hardware acceleration (i.e., the restricted module doesn’t match the kernel version; I’ll have to download and compile module from NVidia), I didn’t have a working X server. A simple dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg later and I was off and running. Click on the image below to see it in action.

My DAW on Ubuntu

I still was getting xruns on Jack, but my SBLive card has issues anyway. Sometimes the synthesis or even regular sound files sound like ass; it is a 4 year old card that cost $20 so I can’t complain. I guess I’m going to have to shell out for the E-mu 1212M I’ve been eying and get down to business. I suspect that will solve a lot of my problems. Who knows, I may even finally get some of my music uploaded as promised. Stay tuned for more updates (and more late nights) soon!

Filed Under (Business, Technology) by Sean on February-18-2008

I thought this post was very interesting, especially given the fact I told my dad he should think about using a blog for his university classes that he teaches. The thought was he could put his syllabi, curriculum, assignments, learning material, tips and much more in a well-suited environment. And he wouldn’t even need to learn HTML (to date he has created online content in MS Word and uploaded the file after saved as HTML; we know what that markup looks like)! It makes perfect sense to me.

I co-founded an online backup company a couple of years ago which targets schools throughout the country to back up their data. As I traveled around to all the big trade shows to see the latest technology tools available to teachers and the education marketplace, I left feeling much of it was the same old, rehashed stuff. In fact I was actually involved several years ago in funding and launching an e-learning company that had a different twist to address this void. Unfortunately our timing was really bad (though there were certainly other issues as well) and it closed its doors. I really think OpenCourseWare built around the WordPress core makes tons of sense. It’s extensible, scalable, and easy to use. I will be keeping an eye on their progress . . .

Filed Under (Geekstuff, My Music) by Sean on February-17-2008

So now that I’ve decided I’m going to get serious about releasing the music I’ve composed for the better part of the last 25 years (and still write), I’ve been going through the process of learning as much as I can about Digital Audio Workstations (DAW). I’ve certainly played around with ProTools and other DAW software over the years but I really wanted to move everything to 100% open source running under Linux (see my previous article about moving exclusively to Ubuntu on all my systems). It appears the time has come for that to become a reality. I’ll be writing here about my experience in getting my DAW set up so others will gain from it. Here is the very rough list of the components of my DAW:

I still need to purchase either a good full-size electric piano or steal my mother’s Steinway Grand I had the privilege playing growing up. :) Another idea is to get a good, 88-key, weighted midi controller and use sampled sounds. I have written and arranged lots of multi-timbred works but much of my continuing composition these days is solo piano.

I will keep you posted on my continuing efforts. Also stay tuned for some initial recordings coming very soon!

(UPDATE) See for the follow up to this post.

Filed Under (Gastronomy) by Sean on February-17-2008

So many hours at the piano makes a guy hungry. For tonight’s meal it was chicken breast in a tomato vodka cream sauce accompanied by sauteed broccoli. Yummy and fast. Take a boneless, skinless chicken breast, season with salt and pepper and saute in a saucepan with olive oil over medium high heat. After cooking on both sides for a few minutes, pull the chicken out of the pan and throw in some chopped shallots and chopped garlic. Saute for a minute or two and deglaze pan with a cup of vodka. Reduce for 2 minutes and add can of chopped tomatoes along with 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Simmer for 5 minutes for flavor to meld and add the chicken back in until cooked through. Add in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream to taste and check for seasoning. Depending on the sauce’s consistency, I’ll typically add a beurre manie to pan sauces. You should taste the tomato, vodka and cream all together, balanced in harmony. Yum.