Thursday, June 24, 2010

I for one would like to welcome our new overlord

If you haven't heard, Australia has just replaced our Prime Minister, with a lady. Well done to Julia Gillard for becoming the first women PM in the country's history. Hopefully she has a better technology policy than her predecessor. Nothing would make me - a voter in the next election, happier than for Conroy to be fired and the whole censorship thing dropped.

UPDATE: Kate Lundy looks awesome for Conroy's role Thanks to @brucejcooper

UPDATE: Conroy stays on. Shame that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Continuing saga of Google's WiFi collection

Another article on the investigation of Google's WiFi adventures. There are two paragraphs that brought me great joy.

The Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis, has embarrassed Communications Minister Stephen Conroy by playing down the seriousness of Google's Wi-Fi spying bungle.


Curtis rejected Senator Conroy's claims that banking transactions were captured, while also noting that Google did not collect personal information transmitted over encrypted Wi-Fi networks.

“Australian banks use secure internet connections and my Office is not aware of any instances where banking information has been collected,” she said.

Curtis (or someone on her staff) obviously got what Conroy didn't/doesn't.

The data may have been collected (who says you can't write encrypted data to a hard drive), but Curtis understands that it wouldn't be of much use to Google.

Good on her. Keep up the good work Curtis!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Restarting XBMC via remote

I have this problem where XBMC can chew up to ~30% of a CPU. So when I'm doing CPU intensive things (mainly remotely) I like to kill XBMC. However when my wife turns on the TV, there's no XBMC for her to use. Rather than have complaints directed my way, I came up with a simple script that allows XBMC to be restarted when the power button on the remote is pressed. As mentioned previously my HTPC autologins on startup. Now instead of starting X, it runs a script which contains:

while [ 1 ] ; do
# starts X with required parameters

# poll for button press
irw | grep -q "Power mceusb" && killall irw

irw allows you to read off the socket that the remote is connected to. So the script greps for the string that indicates the power button is pressed, kills irw and restarts XBMC.

The nice bit is that this script uses ~0.2% of CPU :D.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Progress on Evergreen open source drivers

In my HTPC I'm using a Radeon 5450; but since the 5450 is based on the Evergreen chipset I've been using the propriety drivers (x11-drivers/ati-drivers). Not a fan.

However since the Linux Kernel 2.6.34 release, it appears that progress is really coming along on the open source drivers (see point 1.11 in the link). I look forward to ditching flgrx soon. :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More evidence that the Minister for Communications doesn't know how we communicate

I read an article in today's Age entitled Australia denies targeting Google over web filter. I find this comment by our glorious Communications Overlord to quite informative.

"It is possible that as Google drove past your home, if you didn't have the password protection and you were typing, you were doing your online banking, passing personal information in a transaction, as they drove past they could have captured that," Conroy said.

Informative that Conroy yet again has shown he doesn't get the internet. He's talking about the protection that your wireless router has. WPA or WEP or whatever else you're using. Which is fine to stop my neighbour downloading his pr0n off my network, but Mr Conroy that doesn't stop anybody else reading it when it goes down the pipe to the wider web.

"Oh no, my banking details - if only there was a scheme to prevent people reading my passwords". Enter the saviour of the piece - HTTPS. You see Mr Conroy when data of a sensitive nature is exchanged between two parties they encrypt it. Yes that's right, no bank in the world sends data in clear text. So even if Google harvests an exchange between you and your bank Senator - it's meaningless noise to them; they can't read it (at least without extensive effort/time/money). I dare you to find me the name of a bank that doesn't use HTTPS. I double dare you [insert line from Pulp Fiction] .....

On a philosophical note, if Google harvests data off a unsecured network then the person deserves to have Google exploit their location. People will only learn when they suffer.

Update: Check this out - /sigh

Friday, June 4, 2010

Linux Firefox 3.6.3 Tab Behaviour fixed

Something that's been annoying me for a while is how Firefox 3.6.3 on Linux now opens tabs next to the current tab you are in, instead of the far right.

This guy fixed it


Thursday, June 3, 2010

HTPC tweaking

I fixed my XBMC problems

  1. My XBMC hanging/screen issue is fixed by turning System->Video->Playback Sync playback to OFF.

  2. My sound popping issues were fixed by turning the System->Video->Video Blank Sync to ON.

I discovered how to use a handy little util called ddcprobe which is part of the xresprobe project. It helps figure out what modes, refresh rates, etc, your monitor/card supports. Great for filling out your Xorg.conf :)

For some reason the ddcprobe as part of Xorgautoconfig doesn't work properly (I kept getting segfaults), so get the source and build it yourself.

Some TV tweaks, and I'm done. If only the TV wasn't busted. My next step is to put a capture card in, because my wife hates missing her soaps :p

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

To boldly go where ....

It's been a while since I wrote anything HTPC related. The reason is that I set up the HTPC as best I could, but I didn't own a HDTV. Until last Saturday (29/05/2010) when I got a Samsung 40" LCD. However after 6 hours out of the box, it breaks. :( :( :( One of the panels started distorting the picture. I'm in the process of sorting out a replacement.

However it does give me something to try out the HTPC on. Boot it up, and lovely XBMC appears. Some config tweaking and voila, full HD playback.

All is not well though.

I did a portage upgrade and amongst other packages the ati-drivers got upgraded to 10.5. Now I have a problem with XBMC hanging when I push stop on the remote. I've posted to the XBMC forums if anyone has any ideas. I tried downgrading to 10.2 but got blocked (see this forum post)

While investigating the above issue, I also found (IMO) a borked ebuild for XBMC for xbmc-9.11-r4. I had 9.11-r3 installed and I thought upgrading to 9.11-r4 might fix my blank screen problem. Seems 9.11-r4 has a dependency on Python 2.4, when the rest of Gentoo (at least on my boxes) is using 2.6 Looking into this it's because the XBMC scripting engine is 2.4 based. There's a Gentoo forum post on the matter. Why the ebuild is borked is because (from the associated bug report)

If I understand the problem correctly, than its not a matter of the python-version. Xbmc has made a few patches/additions to python, which aren't upstream. The included python has this patches, python as an external library misses this features.

So putting a dependency on an external 2.4 python interpreter WONT EVEN FIX THE PROBLEM

What should be done is to incorporate the suggestion made by comment 12 in the bug report into the ebuild. As comment 15 pointed out, having an external python 2.4 interpreter will fix somethings, but not everything, where as using the bundled interpreter with XBMC will ensure all plugins working (as far as the infrastructure is concerned).

I updated my xbmc-9.11-r4 ebuild and it built fine. Doesn't fix my XBMC hanging problem though.