Getting an Eye-Fi X2 Pro Card Working on Linux vs. Mac

I recently had the pleasure of figuring out how to get a new gift for Alisa working in my technology environment.  The hoops I had to jump through are documented here for later reading, but also as a demonstration of what I mean when I say Linux will only be ready for the masses when the hardware supports it.

The Eye-Fi card is an SD Card that also contains a wireless adapter.  It has the ability to connect to wireless networks and upload the pictures on the camera to some other storage like a computer or server.  Great concept!  It is supported on Windows and Mac, so let’s see what that really means.

Continue reading Getting an Eye-Fi X2 Pro Card Working on Linux vs. Mac

Sometimes hours of reading results in 4 simple actions

I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to figure out how to setup my Postfix installation to allow secure connections. Postfix is an SMTP mail program that allows one to send email. I wanted it to be secure so that I could open my firewall and allow my devices to send email through my self-hosted mail server securely and in a manner that didn’t result in me being an open relay.

I started by looking at Ubuntu documentation as I typically find it helpful. In this case it felt like it was a couple of years old and the configuration files seemed to have changed since it was updated. So I ventured into Google and found all sorts of HOWTOs and tutorials that kinda of were doing the same thing. Kind of.

I also decided that I should just bite the bullet and create new SSL keys as my current mail one had expired. That took some reading again until I found this article which was very helpful, giving specific commands to get a 10 year certificate.

Anyhow I spent many hours reading different articles, manuals, software documentation – quite tiring and frustrating. In the end I found the Postfix and Dovecot documentation to be most helpful (including one article with some sample commands to look at the details of the SSL certificate).  In the end it took just a couple of steps:

  • Ensure Dovecot was creating a socket that could be used by Postfix to authenticate (that’s the /var/spool/postfix/private/auth thingy and required config changes to Dovecot in 10-master.cnf beyond what was there already – adding user/group info as per Postfix documentation)
  • Ensure Postfix was configured to authenticate via Dovecot (postconf -a checks what is configured and active)
  • Ensure there are SSL keys for both Dovecot and Postfix.
  • Ensure Postfix is configured to use those keys and enable SASL authentication.  The trick was finding the “auth” section in conf.d/10-master.cnf

I think that was about it.  In the end 5-6 hours of time were spent issuing 10 commands or so that took 1 minute to actually do.  Nice!

Note to Self – Subsonic Jukebox

Right now the Subsonic Jukebox feature relies on manually specifying the java-recognized soundcard listing in the subsonic script itself.  This means that after an upgrade the jukebox will stop working.  Here’s what I need to do to get it working again:

  1. Confirm that the hardware works using aplay

java /var/tmp/subsonic/audioDevList

aplay -D plughw:0,0 /usr/share/sounds/alsa/Front_Center.wav

  1. Edit /usr/bin/subsonic and add the correct line near the end of the script

-Djava.awt.headless=true \
‘-Djavax.sound.sampled.SourceDataLine=#Intel [plughw:0,0]’ \
-verbose:gc \
-jar subsonic-booter-jar-with-dependencies.jar > ${LOG} 2>&1 &

  1. Restart subsonic, and test using iSub or something

Open Source as a Requirement, You Say?

Love to hear how the idea of Open Source software is starting to trickle down into politics.  Asking a private company to create a proprietary product that is used to collect health information is like asking a private company to create a proprietary product that collects votes – and we all know how well that went (and continues to go).

When are people going to wise up?  Just because the code is available doesn’t mean it is inherently worthless.

Of course I understand that there are many other factors to take into consider, including pockets to be lined, palsm to be greased, jobs to be saved 9and lost), etc.  Ain’t capitalism grand?!

Windows 7 Desktop Usability Process Overview

A nice presentation at MIX09 that lets us peek into the usability process that was undertaken in introducing new features in WIndows 7, such as Aero Peek.

I’d like to appropriate some of their ideas and use it for looking at the GNOME shell project and how they’re trying to rework the desktop.  It would be interesting to write a little script that people could run that would take a screenshot of their taskbars so data could be gathered as to what exactly people put on their taskbars – much like the Windows 7 team did (at least according to this presentation).  Other ideas include checking some gconf settings to see how many workspaces a person has setup, how many panels, what applets, how many windows open typically, maximally, etc.

Next step – write up a little email to the GNOME usability mail list, see if they have any other ideas.  There has recently been a new screenshot app making press – Shutter – that perhaps could grab a screenshot of just the panels, rather than the entire desktop, just to reduce noise.

A New Year, A New Gadget – Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet

Welcome to 2009 – the year I began by setting myself free  I’m free!  At long last I’m free from the ‘i’ overlords, be they iPods, iTunes, or iDon’t care anymores!

Back in March 2005 I bought my first personal music player – an iPod.  At the time I thought the 40GB would be more than enough.  I honestly don’t think I expected it to last almost 3 years.  And it is still ticking along quite nicely – the battery has held up well as I typically have it charging via the FM radio attachment or the dock.  But my library … she has grown too large!  And so I cast about for alternatives, and came to settle on two devices: a 120GB iPod Classic or an Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet.

This was back in September, planning for a certain gift-giving holiday in the months to come.  At that time the Archos did not support ogg or Flac encoded files, and thus it had no real advantage over the iPod Classic.  It was more expensive, and it didn’t come with a lot of the things the iPod did, like a dock or AC charger.  Sure it could connect to the Internet via a wireless connection, but that was just a gimmick.

Then I abandoned my search, as nothing really pleased me.  Why didn’t I want to stay with an iPod?  Here’s a partial list:

  • Apple continues to use DRM to support their business model.  I don’t want to support anything that relies on DRM.
  • Apple continues to make changes to their players in each generation, ensuring that anyone not running their “free” iTunes software could not use their device.  I did not want any part of this software lock in.  I also can’t run iTunes as I do not run Windows.  This meant that I had to wait for hackers to reverse engineer each new device as they came out, to add support for the device in Linux.  Why would I want to give money to a company that obviously does not want to listen to my needs?
  • The iPod continues to not support anything but the tired old MP3 standard and the Apple DRM’d files.  I want to support a manufacturer that looks to open standards rather than software lock in.

As you can see, most of the reasons are quite ideeological in nature.  But there were some dark, distasteful reasons to buy the 120 GB iPod:

  • I already have spent $70.00 on an FM transmitter/charger that only works with iPods.  I could continue to see a return on that investment if I again bought Apple.  Yes, I know this is a classic sunk cost falacy, but I’ve never claimed to be a rational thinking person, have I?
  • Apple stole my idea of providing a guided playlist maker for their newest generation, calling it the “Music Genius”.  Whatever, I’m not bitter, but the feature is a serious draw for me.  A dynamically built playlist based on recommendations is a great way to just load up music and listen.  No other hardware device offers that functionality right now.

So I decided to just let it sit.  I had a few gigabytes of space left on my iPod and I could delete some of the podcasts to make space if needed …

Then Archos updated their player to support ogg and flac.  And then I started to drool, as the devices were on sale for boxing day.  And then I decided to splurge, to trust my gut, and to put my money where my mouth was.

Man am I happy I did!  I don’t want to gush, I don’t want to sound materialistic.  BUT THIS THING IS AWESOME!

I had no idea that having a wireless connection to the Internet, and also my internal network, would actually open so many interesting doors for me with this device.  I’ve spent a lot of my free time the past week just figuring out how this thing can integrate with my existing devices.  I’ve figured out how to have any of the television shows I’ve recorded get automatically transcoded into a format the device supports.  I’ve figured out how to manage my server using the web connection.  I sit on my couch and browse the most recent photos I’ve uploaded to my long term storage space from my camera.  It’s just an entirely new way of working with my network systems.  And frankly, I’m geeking out here!

I plan on posting a few tidbits I’ve gathered through research on how to best set things up, so I don’t have to keep it all on paper around my office.  If you’re interested in the device look for that.

So I’m starting 2009 with a new gadget, a new zeal for technology and “convergence”, and a spring in my step.

Yes, I’m ashamed of my carnal attachment to a technology gadget.  Yes, I’m embarrased by just how excited I am about it all.  And no, I don’t regret it for a second.

Open Source Can Help You Too

Here’s a great example of how Open Source software can be leveraged, even in the health care field, to provide a quality product.  This breast ultrasound device uses a modified version of Ubuntu to provide an interface for the user.  The team even sent an email to the development team to thank them for their work – nice touch (and great advertising – I immediately went to the career section of their website).

My question now is did they choose to release any modifications or enhancements they’ve written back into the community?  Taking is only part of the equation (the easiest part, but still only part of it).

I Sense … Something Libre …..

As an advocate for Open Source software it is always nice to see headlines around how Open Source software is beginning to see some inroads into the corporate computing space.  I think that arena is where the real battle royale will be held, and Linux and other Open Source projects are just starting to sink their toes into the chilly waters.

As Michael Geist nicely summarizes:

FACIL, a Quebec-based open source software advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit against the Quebec government for failing to consider open source software alternatives.  FACIL argues in its filing [unofficial English translation] that the government spends millions on proprietary software without objectively evaluating open source alternatives that could enhance the local economy and provincial technology companies.  It cites legal regulation that require contracts be placed for tender, yet notes many Microsoft contracts that were never subject to the process.  The group also notes that it has tried to develop a dialog with government officials without success and therefore resorted to the lawsuit.

Here’s a link to the story on the CBC, with additional entertaining commentary.