License to View – BBC Television License

http://www.turnoffyourtv.com/international/bbc.html

I have heard this before, but I had never really read into it till now. What most people take for granted around the world is a liberty that most Britain’s don’t have. Free TV.

You see, whilst I adore the BBC media coverage and documentaries, there has been a governmental clause from day dot that the public pay for a license to contribute to the cost of running a radio/TV station.

Fair enough, the pay for use system does have its advantages. Less ads, arguably better content and less skew from the interests of big business are some examples. But the problem is what happens if you don’t watch TV, or rather you choose not to watch the BBC related programming.

TV Licenses in Britain earn a great deal of revenue for the BBC. In order to enforce the collection of licenses, a TV Licensing agency manages the collection of annual dues and uses various techniques to tell whether the occupier of a house is using a Television set or not. There are large fines for not owning up to having a TV & much like car registration, when a television changes hands, be it from a dealer or the 2nd hand market, then the change must also be noted and the new owners must get a license also.

The problem seems to be that if you don’t own a TV, or choose not to watch it, you are consistently asked every 2 years, to prove your non-use of the TV. It appears that simply stating that you don’t like TV isn’t enough, rather if you have a TV just for watching DVD’s for arguments sake, you must get the set neutered by an electrician such that it cannot pick up TV signals.

I have not heard of such a thing anywhere else in the ‘free’ world. Whilst most governments seem to be concerned about censorship to the media as a whole, the UK appear to be forcing you to watch their censored view.

My view of the BBC to date has been that their news is much less biased than most local news so that is one plus, but the fact that you are suspected of TV watching until proven innocent seems rather strange. Mainly because Britains have let their government get away with it for so long shows what can happen when leadership is let to go unchecked and unquestioned.

That song in the TV Advert

http://www.bravia-advert.com/

This TV ad has been on for a week or so now. Thousands of coloured balls bouncing down a hilly street. At first you don’t know what its for, something techy looking and I thought it was a printer commercial. As it turns out Sony has an ad for their newest TV. But while all these balls are bouncing down the street, there is this an acoustic soundtrack in the background and its very catchy…. I’ll say again, that amazing soundtrack in the background is extremely amazing. Metaphorically something inside me wants to say, “the song resonates across many planes of existence, drawing upon a common purpose we are all trying to rise up to.”

So with my new found fanaticism, some web research brings that Sony has dedicated a website to this commercial, which explains the making of it and most importantly, the track that’s played in the background.

If finding the website almost instantly wasn’t co-incidental enough, finding the artist Jose Gonzalez web presence, shows he is playing a show in my city in 10 days time.

After listening to Jose Gonzalez’s Myspace site with Dee, it is unanimously decided that we go to the Northcote Social Club, Nov 29. Here is hoping for a hot night out with a few drinks chilling out to this guys tunes.

Can’t capture enough the feeling that this guy has left. For myself, who is normally into metal, this acoustic act is a unique unexplainable deviance. But I know that I’m good at overtalking things up, lets see how he actually performs. 😉

Choosing a Desktop Search Tool

Trying to make room for my ever growing google index, I wondered when the growing would end.

According to this
Google Desktop Help Center question, Google needs a 1GB minimum and will keep going till it reaches 4GB.

Currently my index is at 2.2GB and its time to evaluate whether or not I want to free up the extra room. The sidebar (and all the config I’ve done on it to date) along with GDS’ plugin nature is difficult to part with. Do I just make the extra room or try something else?

I’ve used MSN Desktop Search and its support for filetypes was impressive (one note and visual studio out of the box). The customiseable search bar commands were useful too. I believe I uninstalled due to speed concerns – a tiny bit more resource hungry & loading up IE each time to bring up the results took a bit longer than loading Firefox to do the same in Google Desktop Search.

So I see my options as follows

  • Drop my web-history and everything collected to date (only a measely 330,000 which for 2GB of storage isn’t really too hot), uninstall Google Desktop and find something else.
  • Make the extra room for GDS, suffer without being able to keep some more mp3’s on the laptop and other static files locally.

That something else will have its own clinks and issues. A quick summary of the options is here

Copernic Desktop Search – claims to be faster, lighter on the hard drive and less resource hungry. It probably benefits from the experience and length the product has been around for. I’m not too sure about file support for one note, but it does support plugins, a ‘while on batteries’ mode and you can elect to have non-standard files indexed simply as text.

Blinkx I know for their video search, but I also found they do a desktop search. This I would expect would have some good stuff for indexing multimedia ahead of text documents which a quick look at their website reveals is true. They seem to offer not much flexibility in file types – you can have any colour as long as its black type thing.

Copernic seems to get the best reviews and is looking the goods. I’ve just updated to the latest version of GDS (did that the last time I was considering giving them the flick) so I will rebuild the index and if things still get bloated, then I’ll know where to turn.

Other paid products exist: X1, dtSearch (with Linux support) but for what I’ve seen, I think the free versions do give these guys a good enough run for their money.

Time to get a new laptop

http://www.ageofempires3.com/

Age of Empires III has a demo out

Reading through the requirements, I almost had everything, bar the 64MB graphics card.

Knowing MS, the game would run like crap on the ‘base’ system reqs anyhow, but being able to shoot a character and have the force of the blow push them off a cliff was the clinker that got me to a thinking… time for an upgrade.

Whilst on the topic of addictive megalomaniac games, I liked the marketing ploy for Civ 4. They’ve created civanon.org, a site ala insert name of your addiction here) anonymous with tips for people trying to avoid that ‘one more turn’. The video on the site has the classic stereotype addicts at a civ 4 anonymous meeting, along with swearing grandmothers, an infamous political leader discovering the joys of the Latin language used by the Ancient Romans and some guy called Sid ;-). Go check it out if you’ve played the game.

Its worth noting that Civ 4 *does* run on this little icarus of mine.

C64 Emulator in Java

http://www.dreamfabric.com/c64

It’s True! A C64 based emulator in Java. The link contains a few games you can play, my only gripe is that the keyboard mapping doesn’t seem to be too laptop friendly (or is it that the way a laptop keyboard tries to overlay a numpad isn’t friendly to begin with?)

Paradroid, Wizard of War and a few other classics available when you want a quick C64 fix 🙂

Found via Holy Shmoly!

Great Blogs from nerds just like me

I’ve found some great links recently of people willing to share tips & advice about their linux experiences.

Because I don’t have a proper multi-platform setup yet (ie don’t have a firefox profile that will work under both windows and linux) I’ll post the sites up here.

Not only that but peoples side interests on their blogs really make me happy too.

First one I found was http://www.lifehacker.com/ which has awesome stuff, covering both linux and windows — time management and lifestyle advice — and just other all round geeky stuff *(build your own record player anyone?)

Next is Holy Shmoly! which has many categories but the linux tips and the c64 talk are what bought me there.

Diary of the Trials and Tribulations of Suse 10 on a Toshiba M30

Installation
The Eval DVD I used to install Suse didn’t want to read properly in the Toshiba M30’s combo CD-RW/DVD drive. I would get to various stages of the install and be told that the installation media couldn’t be found or the installer would start but not allow me to select software packages (due to suddenly not being able to access the cd media.) I suspect that this was due to the flakiness of the drive with reading burnt DVD’s, I’ve found in the past reducing the dma/bus speed helps. I didn’t investigate in finding settings to change this since the CD would not always hit the installer anyway.

Given the MD5SUM checked out, and two DVD’s I burnt had no reported errors when error checking via Windows, I decided to install using a samba source on my desktop.

Setting up a windows share as described in the Suse reference manual with ntfs hard links pointing to the required folders on the DVD was relatively quick. Starting an install from the Toshiba with the 2nd DVD, I pressed F3 (Other Options), then F4 to change the installation media to Samba/CIFS. In the boot options I entered vnc=1 vncpassword=8characterminimum and then selected the regular install option.

The installer booted on the Toshiba, and gave me an error about not finding the installer and returned me to the linux-rc app I was now becoming very accustomed to. When starting the installation through here, you are able to choose Network as the installation source and configure the SMB settings. After a few attempts at getting this right (no useful error messages, just returning you to the select install source prompt if it couldn’t access the share) the installer began downloading via the Ethernet link. Its a matter of getting the share name and the folder name correct. Just use productname/CD1 as the directory and it should sort itself out.

The laptop then produced a prompt showing a URL for the desktop server to connect to. This launches a java based TightVNC client that allows you to control the install process from the desktop. The catch is the size (800 x 600) but otherwise I found it quite nifty way of installing an OS. You dont have to install TightVNC for Windows thanks to the Java client.

The installer went through the general motions of selecting base settings, partioning, software selection and post install settings. I had 4.2 GB (including swap) for linux on my drive and although I was toying with the idea of LVM, I realistically didn’t have enough space to make it totally worth my while. After some time of using Linux I’ll determine the folder sizes (root – usr, local, opt and friends) so I can set this up adequately. Its important to note that you cant have /boot in an LVM and they recommend you place root and swap on a non LVM partition also.

Display
Once installed, the VNC client screen presented me with a login to my laptop (KDE). There was a shell based login prompt on the laptops LCD. I decided to disconnect the VNC session and reboot the laptop with the three finger salute.

On return, I was still presented with a shell based prompt. Attempts to start X would fail, saying that it couldn’t find a driver called ChangeMe. Looking into the xorg.conf showed a setup that resembled VNC modes and a range of mouse devices I didn’t expect. I assumed that the VNC service was still running and thus not configured to find my screen.

Using the desktop again, I managed to VNC back into the laptop and get a graphical interface. From there I launched SaX2 which had somehow picked up a display resolution of 1280 x 800. Using it to “re-configure” my preferred desktop resolution and test – the test screen displayed on the LCD display?! – I saved the settings and compared my newly generated xorg.conf with the old one.

This one was right on par (many other distros have trouble picking up the unique resolution) which I was very happy with. Attempts to launch X still referenced the old file though – kept getting (EE) messages about that ChangeMe device, no longer in the new xorg.conf file. I made sure the xorg.conf with the new settings was in the /etc/X11 directory and rebooted. The system restarted and I had a glistening new Suse Lizard backdrop and one of the coolest desktop login sounds greet my entry to the newest Suse distro.

First Impressions
The desktop felt a bit faster than Suse 9.2 on the same machine. It seemed more laptop friendly with icons for power management appearing in the tray. KPowerSave had a lot more accessible features and the Toshiba controls package was installed allowing the Fn+F6/F7 controls change the LCD brightness.

More Puzzles
There are still many things that puzzle me (as does every new distro install) about config. Mainly due to setting up the wireless config but also due to power management
Samba (Partially Solved)
The firewall was conflicting with my ability to browse windows shares. “Check your firewall” was one of the messages, but there is a Samba Server firewall rule, there is no Samba Client rule. Switching off the firewall allowed me to browse the share anyway.
Wireless
I didn’t have the wireless (Intel 2100) switched on during install but the hardware was still picked up. I found the Kinternet tools wireless config a bit difficult to use as it would ask me to keep entering the key on connect to a network. KwiFiManager is included in the distro too which stores the WEP keys and other settings in Profiles. Using KwiFi to initialise the connection to the access point was slightly easier.

There are still a few issues to resolve though.

  1. The network connection only seems to work at boot, trying to assign an ip address with ifup-dhcp doesn’t seem to grap onesurfer
  2. The network connection works very intermittently. Perhaps there are firewall issues

So that said, I’ve been reading Chapter 38.5 of the Suse Linux Reference Documentation “Configuring a Network Connection Manually” which is a great resource on explaining all the configuartion files involved with setting up a connection. Most useful, has been identifying the following folders:

The device configurations are located in /etc/sysconfig/hardware/hwcfg-*. The interface configurations are located in /etc/sysconfig/network/ifcfg-*.

You can use chkcfg-interface <the pci bus name that follows hwcfg your interested in> to identify which hardware interface belongs to which network interface.

Basically I need to find a way to get an IPV4 address assigned via DHCP – this also affected me after I bought down my Ethernet and tried to bring it up again.

Waking Up

After a sleep, the display doesn’t want to wake up. No input would bring the display back

Fn F6/7 would sometimes resume if the sleep time had been short (around 5 mins)
At one stage Fn F5 took me to a login prompt
I then remember Ctrl + Alt + F(1-6) to go to various shells (text based)
And F7 would go to the notorious black screen. (which would go brighter and dimmer with Fn+F6/7 but nothing else appearing.
Ctrl Alt F1 bought me back to the X windows session and after a mouse movement and a short pause the screen returned.
Another time Ctrl Alt F7 bought me back there.
Maybe there are some logs for X that will show errors or maybe the powersaving apps that are restricting my ability to do this.