All posts by Wayne

How To: Run Call of Duty 4 (COD4): Modern Combat in Linux

Here in the city I affectionately call Salt Lake Shitty, Utah – it’s about as cold as a witch wearing an iron cupped bra doing push ups in the snow.

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To offset this chilly weather, my best friend in the entire world* Yahtzee, who does a little piece for Escapist Magazine every Wednesday called Zero Punctuation warmed up to Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat, calling it a “Pretty Excellent Gun Wank” which in my book means it’s a 5-star title, and worth playing – but only if it runs in Wine.

*I am not actually friends with Yahtzee.

The Wine Application DB website says the compatibility rating of the game is Silver, which means it works excellently for ‘normal’ use. In less generalized color coded terms, this means that it works near perfectly after recompiling Wine.

I can hear the groaning and murmurs in the background – stop it!!! All this requires is a little bit of brainless copy and paste from this page into a terminal.

I spent a significant amount of time getting this to work on my own, and apparently I *did not* quote the source of most of what I posted here, for which I apologize. As far as I can recall, I had gone though the process of recompiling Wine with the 3dmark patch, downloading the D3D DLL and found a guide on Ubuntu Forums by ahaslam that had all my work plus more already posted.

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While I’m waiting on Direct2Drive to Download 6GB of Data for COD4

…it is probably going to take all night… I just HAD to try out COD4 after Yahtzee’s most excellent quote of being “a pretty excellent gun wank.” Sigh. I watched that review and immediately headed over to the WineHQ to check the status of the game, and it seems to play very well under Wine. I’d be able to write an article AND play an excellent gun wank at the same time, so that’d be a win-win. So I went ahead and purchased it immediately.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of my most recent “computer” upgrade… the most excellent Mirra Chair by Herman Miller. Since the ~24 hours after owning this chair most of my dull and nagging lower-back pain have completely disappeared.

I highly recommend the chair and there’s not much more I can say about the Mirra other than the fact that it’s marginally more comfortable than the Aeron I used 40 hours a week for 2 years when I worked for a company that spoiled all of it’s employees with Aeron-goodness during the DotCom Bubble. Also, the aesthetics of the non-mesh back appeal to me, which is a side-bonus. I don’t care if the chair looks like it’s 45 years old, and has sagging nockers that have been used to breastfeed a baker’s dozen of really, really thirsty babies, as long as it makes my back more comfortable, that is all that matters.
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Exporting From WebMail into Gmail/IMAP Using Thunderbird

Most of you have heard the news, as each day goes by, Yahoo will likely succumb to Microsoft’s advances. As such, I’ve decided that now is a good time as any to migrate all of my email from Yahoo and MSN accounts into a Google-Apps-Powered fsckin.com account.

The easiest to use tool I’ve found so far is a plugin for Mozilla’s Thunderbird called WebMail. This extension is so slick, it sets up a local POP3, IMAP, and SMTP server that proxies requests from the mail client to the web interface for a ton of different webmail sites, like Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, and more.

So I had several thousand emails loaded into both an old Yahoo mail account, as well as an MSN.com email address I’ve been wanting to get rid of forever. The problem with both of these services is that you have to pay around $20 apeice to get POP3 or Office Outlook Connector access, respectively.

I’m not willing to pay money for something that their biggest competetor (GMail) provides for free. This is MY email, MY correspondance, and MY time invested. Similar to the problem Robert Scoble had with Facebook and a beta version of Plaxo, I did get temporarily banned from Yahoo for accessing their webmail with a third party program, and got a nasty error 999 message, and absolutely ZERO support from Yahoo until it cleared itself up – took a few hours and the IP-address-ban was gone.

The most upsetting part is that they provide a “free” service to switch to Yahoo! Mail, including importing all your contacts, mail, etc and pulling it all into a walled garden that you’re not allowed to remove anything from after it’s in there. Vendor lock-in is a crutch, and thanks to the WebMail extension for Thunderbird, it’s a weak crutch now.

How well does it work? Let’s just say that as of today I’ve got some emails in my Gmail account that go back to 1998!!! Hot damn!

The method is pretty easy. Install Thunderbird, then pickup the WebMail Extension plus add-ons for each webmail service you’ll use, configure the plugin to use whatever ports you like, then add your webmail accounts into Thunderbird.

The WebMail extension works as a proxy between your email client and the website that has your email on it. When you click “Get Mail” in Thunderbird, the addon actually goes to www.yahoo.com (as an example), logs in as you, and clicks on Inbox, then reports back to Thunderbird what it sees in the language Thunderbird understands, IMAP, POP3, or SMTP.

It’s really non-techie friendly too, there’s no major configuration needed or anything really technical to figure out.

The best part is once you have the email inside Thunderbird, you can drag and drop or cut and paste emails from one account into another at will. I was able to move several thousand emails from my Yahoo! and MSN accounts into my Google Apps account very quickly. Sometimes it chokes on emails without a subject or very large (10MB+) emails, but those are easily forwarded manually.

Big thumbs up to the WebMail folks, this extension is hot and works like a charm! So what’s stopping you from importing email from your old accounts? You could be find some pictures from Argentina that your friend Rick sent you two years ago. :-)

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For those of you who aren’t into the whole Valentine’s Day thing, if I don’t see you until tomorrow, Happy Ubuntu Bug Hug Day!

Browse Anonymously In Thirty Seconds and Three Easy Steps in Ubuntu

Here’s a quick little how-to guide on setting up Tor and Privoxy in Ubuntu and installing the Torbutton for Firefox add-on to surf anonymously in about 30 seconds.

1. Installation:
First we need Privoxy and Tor, then start the services:
sudo apt-get install privoxy tor && sudo /etc/init.d/privoxy restart && sudo /etc/init.d/tor restart

Then we need to install the Torbutton for Firefox to toggle the proxy on and off in the browser.

2. Configure:
Save the contents of this Configuration File to /etc/privoxy/config, overwriting the entire file.

3. Use:
Startup Firefox, go into the View > Toolbars > Customize menu and add in the Tor button. Click the button to enable anonymous traffic. Tada! You’re anonymous.

Microsoft to Yahoo – “We Will Add Your Biological And Technological Distinctiveness To Our Own.”

I’ve gotta give Steve Ballmer and crew a pat on the back. The Microsoft acquisition offer for Yahoo is the most fantastic idea they have come up with since the release of Vista. Unfortunately, Microhoo is not going to topple the top player Google anytime soon in the online advertising world.

You can’t take Microsoft, add Yahoo juice and get something magically better. Microsoft and Yahoo have relatively poor search results when compared to Google. Combined, they also do not have anywhere near the online advertising inventory that Google has available. Google dominates the online office suite (at the moment) with Google Docs, which is what I think got Microsoft on their case.

According to the WSJ, Yahoo is going to reject the offer on Monday. I speculate that Microsoft would raise their offer to $40 a share, they’ll do anything to be second best.

The Giants Didn’t Win Super Bowl XLII – The Website Wars

The New York Giants did not win Super Bowl XLII in my book. I’m not much of a sports fan myself, but I certainly can enjoy having a few beers with friends and family to sit down and watch the Super Bowl. I’ve never lived in a city that has gone into the post-season so that might explain things.

As such, I was rooting for the commercials, which until the 4th quarter were winning, although not by much. What I want to know after watching all these commercials is who won – Microsoft and IIS or *nix and Apache.

What would an inquisitive person do? They would probably visit each company website and keep score using a Firefox extension called Live HTTP Headers which makes it “easy” to determine what operating system a web server is using. They also might utilize Netcraft to lookup their server information along with historical data and finally probably check out NMAP for a though-and-through analysis.

That’s exactly what I did. I watched 65 commercials all over again, lasting more than 30 minutes of advertisements. Am I a consumer whore? You bet! *wink*

There are few technicalities that need to be addressed before getting an accurate score. For example, many companies are using web-acceleration platforms which may skew results. One such company that provides a caching platform is Akamai who claim they serve various media (video, advertising, etc) for over 50% of the companies in the Super Bowl. So at least 50% of company websites use Linux, right? Not quite so fast.

If a company uses Microsoft IIS and Akamai caching which is a fairly common technique, using both Microsoft and Linux – what should get counted? One? Both? Count .5 for each? Furthermore, how should the number of companies be counted? Even Microsoft’s own website serves up content using the Akamai caching network that consists of tens of thousands of Linux servers located around the globe running Linux.

Should we even consider counting all the Fox/News Corporation ads (who runs a Microsoft-only ship), or just count them once? Undoubtedly if a different TV network such as NBC or CBS were televising the Super Bowl, they would undoubtedly tip the scales the other way with ads for their own TV shows and movies towards Linux or FreeBSD, respectively.

Similarly, Budweiser ran 6 commercials – should they get counted six times? Probably not. I must raise the question of if “Joe Sixpack” will ever visit budweiser.com to figure out what kind of beer to buy. Mr. Sixpack will hit up the nearest convenience store and never even use the computer to find out about micro brews available in his locale.

Would Joe Trader visit etrade.com? If they’re in the market (pun intended) they might. Should they get counted twice, once for each appearance of the puking baby?

I think the best way to count is by looking up every company or product website that was advertised in the Super Bowl, regardless of if the domain name was mentioned in the advertisement, then figure out what’s running the server. That decision thins the crowd a bit. Instead of 65 websites with duplicates included, we’re down to 41 domains. I’m not even going to count NFL.com which is completely powered by Akamai/Linux.

There were some interesting bits found in my research. etrade.com runs Ubuntu. They’re actually the only server that replied with an OS by name in the HTTP Header. Everyone else had generic responses like “Apache”, “Apache (Unix)”, “Microsoft-IIS/6.0″, or “Sun-ONE-Web-Server”. Victoria‘s Secret replies with a simple “Webserver” which is a front for Akamai. Kudos to E*Trade for pimping Ubuntu.

The last check I ran was using nmap with an input file containing the list of domains to scan. It took about 20 minutes since a few servers decided to slow down the scan, undoubtedly after an IDS identified the scan attempt.

One such domain that had EVERY PORT OPEN and delayed a response on each port was www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov. They were in the list for the commercial about the out-of-work drug dealer because kids are scoring from their parents’ bathroom cabinets. Oops, I wasn’t expecting to port scan a government website. Nmap did not give any additional insight into the operating system running on any server. Netcraft is pretty good. :)

In the end, the best option is to score on what is reported by the HTTP headers. In this case we have two sites that report Akamai and are indeterminable – Life Cant Wait (Sunsilk) and Victoria’s Secret. Otherwise, the major players are Apache, IIS, Sun, and finally IBM – which is actually based on Apache.

So who actually wins?

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(click to enlarge)

At the end of regulation time, it’s a tie! Both Apache and Microsoft are powering 17 servers! If we were to count IBM which is Apache based, then Apache wins. Add in Akamai which uses Linux, and I think it’s a safe bet to say that Apache and *nix win by a hair.

These results are impressive. Who thinks we can round up enough people and/or vendor support to advertise a Linux product in the Super Bowl next year?

Using Mozilla Prism To Run Web Apps Seamlessly

Prism is a new side project by the Mozilla team. It’s a nifty way to run specific web applications in an embedded browser of sorts.

If you haven’t seen it yet, imagine a letterboxed web browser – all you see is the content. There is nothing else showing in the window – back/forward navigation buttons, location bar, status bar, all gone.

I’ve found a dozen uses for it, but I think my two favorites are embedded videos (like Chris Pirillo) and Google Reader.

Prism is available for all major platforms – Linux, Mac and Windows. It’s really simple, just install it (or unzip it) and open up the Prism progam, and fill out the information it asks for, like URL or Name.

Prism does not share cookies or any other settings with Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari. This is nice if you have separate accounts and don’t want to mix things up.

In Ubuntu 7.10, I setup a Widget Layer rule in Advanced Desktop Effects Settings (ccsm) to match all windows set to be “Always On Top” using the following rule: state=above This setting lets me easily toggle windows to be set as a widget (or not) by simply setting the window as “Always On Top” after right clicking the title bar. Really simple to setup, then just F9 by default to view the widget layer.

Here’s a screenshot of my current setup:
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Do you use Prism or Widget Layer rules in a creative way? Let me know in the comments.

Is It Just Me, Or Does Sun Comes Off As A Creepy Uncle?

I got an email from a professor today asking for some input on Java and Solaris… 15-20 minutes of my time is not asking much… but it seems like Sun is the type of guy who is offering some candy from the sliding door of a panel van…

We are inviting you to provide feedback and input by participating in this survey. We are offering a chance to win one of 4 American Express gift cards, each in the amount of US$50. We anticipate you allocating fifteen to twenty minutes to complete the relevant sections. The deadline for completion is February 5th.

Our objective is to better understand the following:

* What is your experience so far with Java and Solaris courses?
* What is your opinion of the books and other courseware available?
* Do you plan to work in a field using Java or Solaris after graduation?
* What do you know about professional certification?

http://bookdev.com/Sun/student_survey/

*shivers*

HowTo: Help Prevent RSI (The Silent Killer) – With Workrave

When most people think of repetitive stress injuries (RSI for short) they probably think about ergonomic keyboards, comfortable chairs, good posture and workspace positioning. In addition to those common cures (which are sometimes really expensive) there is a tool called Workrave that assists you in avoiding RSI by reminding you to just take a break.

It’s available in the Ubuntu and Debian repositories by default, and can be found pre-packaged for other distributions as well. For those of you forced to run Windows at work (You do run Linux at home, don’t you?) there is a version for that as well, available on the Workrave website.

Even if we have a perfectly ergonomic environment (that undoubtedly cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to setup) using a computer for extended periods of time can wreak havok on our body. According to Wikipedia, the following symtoms indicate an increased risk for repetitive stress injuries.

Recurring pain or soreness in neck, shoulders, upper back, wrists or hands.
Tingling, numbness, coldness or loss of sensation.
Loss of grip strength, lack of endurance, weakness.
Muscles in the arms and shoulders feel hard and wiry when palpated.
Pain or numbness while lying in bed. Often early stage RSI sufferers mistakenly think they are lying on their arms in an awkward position cutting off circulation.

I’ve had a few of those symptoms which prompted me to write this article, as well as investigate various options outfitting my home office with ergonomic products. Plus, Workrave has the added bonus of being completely free, whereas a new task chair I’m looking at is far from it.

Let’s take a look at the program.

We can easily install it on an apt-based distribution with this one liner:
apt-get install workrave

After we’ve got it installed, the next step should be to add it into the startup programs, so you’ll always have it running to be reminded to take a break.

Gnome users would point to System > Preferences > Sessions. Then on the startup tab, click the add button. Simply type the following into the Edit Startup Program dialog box:

Name: Workrave
Command: /usr/bin/workrave
Comment: Workrave is a program that assists in the recovery and prevention of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Just in case you forget.

Then we can start it up by pressing Alt+F2 and type in /usr/bin/workrave and bang on the return key.

Boom there we have it, sitting pretty in the Gnome menu.

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There are three timers showing by default, here’s what each of the icons stand for:

Hand: Microbreak
Cup: Rest Break
Door: Self-Suggested Time Limit for the Day

Microbreaks are just that – a very short break (typically 30 seconds or less) that encourages you to let off the keyboard, sit back and relax, and refocus your eyes at an object other than your monitor.

Rest Breaks are intended to be a 5 minute-ish break, where you can hopefully get up and stretch your muscles and if you’re still at the computer, helpful 3D renderings of a woman (who may or may not need a breast reduction to avoid future back trouble) showing you how to stretch your fingers, arms, neck and back muscles, etc.

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If you’ve never had any problems, the Workrave website suggests the following schedule: “10 seconds micropause every 10 minutes, and a 5 minute restbreak every hour.” To me, that sounds about right – approximately 6 minutes of break time scheduled throughout the hour.

They’ve added a few nice touches to the program that make the application just about perfect:

1. Skipping or postponing a break is an option if you’re busy, or right click on the timer status bar to suspend the program entirely.

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2. When you stop activity on the computer for about 30 seconds, the program identifies the inactivity and will reset microbreak timers – it assumes you’re not using the computer.

3. Ability to run the program on multiple computers while synchronizing times on each system – if you take a rest break and then come back to sit down at another computer, it doesn’t prompt you for another rest break until the time has run out again.

4. Crazy stats… going back on a calendar you can see how much time you spent moving the mouse, how far you moved it, how many times you clicked, as well as total number of keystrokes – and more!

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5. And finally, if you really want to enforce a “get tough” attitude on yourself, you can set the program to block the entire screen when a break is scheduled to occur.

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I really like this program, and if you’ve had any of the symptoms above, I urge you to try it. What’s the worst that can happen?

….

Don’t answer that just yet, I’m taking a break.