Category Archives: Rant

The GPLv3 in Plain English – The Parts Microsoft Worries About

Awhile back I read the small print about Microsoft’s Moonlight software distribution. It specifically mentions the stuff they don’t like about the GPLv3. Interesting. Let’s see what they are worried about.

“Any other license or contract that includes terms similar to the terms in paragraphs 6 or 7 of Section 11 of the GNU General Public License version 3.

How bad could it be? Continue reading

Fedora 8 : At This Pace, Linux On The Desktop Is Going Nowhere Fast

Fedora, in their infinite wisdom, decided it would be a great idea to make it difficult to install proprietary codecs, drivers, and much more due to vague licensing issues that may exist. Let’s talk about what doesn’t work by default in the latest version of Fedora.

WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE AND OFFENSIVE SEXIST ALLITERATION AHEAD

Fedora helpfully provides a list of “Forbidden Items” that are not included with the distribution, nor are they easily obtained for a Linux neophyte. I’ll list them here:

  • MP3 Support (In any application)
  • nVidia Graphics Driver
  • ATI Graphics Driver
  • NDISwrapper network driver
  • Real Media (and Player)
  • DVD Playback
  • Cryptography
  • Sun’s Java
  • VMware
  • Flash Player
  • Acrobat Reader

If that wasn’t enough, on that same website, the fine chaps at Fedora attempt to insult our intelligence by offering ridiculous alternatives, here’s the best example:

fuck-fedora-up-their-stupid-ass.png

Are they serious? Who in their right mind would suggest using the Ogg Theora codec to watch a DVD?

I think the suggestion is taken out of context. This is what it should actually say:

Fedora Suggests: Use a broomstick dipped in Icy Hot to sodomize yourself.

The new “Codec Buddy” in Fedora 8 (aka Codeina) appears to be a get rich quick scheme hatched by Fluendo, the 3rd party vendor behind the program. Hmm… the name of the company sounds like the word “innuendo” – that’s catch! Their motto should be something like this:

“We snatch your cash when you wanna watch some snatch.”

The total price of all the codecs provided: WMA, WMV, ASF, MPEG2, MPEG4, MP3, AC3… all for low, low price of somewhere around or near $50 US Dollars after exchange fees. Buy the Complete Set of Playback Plugins for the i386 architecture now, and you only pay two easy payments of fuck right the hell off, and feel free to eat some shit pie if you decide to switch to 64-bit, because you’ll need to buy them all over again.

Codeina Screenshots:

codec-installer.pngscreenshot-codeina.pngscreenshot-codec-installer.pngscreenshot-getting-plugins.png

What is the solution? Glad you asked. Thankfully someone who doesn’t have their head firmly lodged up their ass over at Livna.org decided to build a most excellent package repository. This collection of useful software provides things like fglrx, gstreamer-ffmpeg, gstreamer-plugins-bad, gstreamer-plugins-ugly, lame, libdvdcss, madwifi, ndiswrapper, ntfs, and nvidia just to name a few.

Unless you’re intimately familiar with these names of things that “just work” in other Linux distributions, it’s everything that Fedora wants to charge you $50 for, plus dozens more codecs and drivers that makes your system be able to do things with your computer. You can’t do small things like oh…. connect to the internet, browse the web, play DVDs or music, or even play some video games.

Fedora isn’t all bad, by the way.

review-time-640.pngI believe a quick review is in order to restore my karma. Time to get the testbeds ready!

For a Linux enthusiast like myself, I’m not gonna lie, Fedora is an excellent distribution. Installing is a simple affair, configuring all the junk that they leave out is relatively simple (once you find it), and it’s got some really sweet features that are just icing on the cake. The small things are what matters most. If you’re familiar with any Gnome-based distribution, you’ll be right at home on Fedora.

The bonus feature that many reviewers may gloss over is the fact that Redhat Enterprise Linux (RHEL for short) is based on Fedora Core 6. Familiarity with RHEL can be a determining factor in hiring for a job. In fact, I think I’m going to run Fedora 8 until CentOS 5.1 is released and give that a try. CentOS is the free version of RHEL.

Without more from me, let’s see tons of screenshots of the installation:

Two things stand out to begin with. First, dictionary word password warning – not a bad idea. Then, the desktop changes colors based on what time it is.

Neat! Notice the system time in each of those screenshots… morning, noon, evening, night. The colors change in incremental values, but that gives you a pretty good idea of how it works. I love it. Whoever thought of this is worthy of a pat on the back… and certainly worthwhile for people who don’t get out much.

The package manager is useful, but generally I prefer a command line.

screenshot-package-manager.png

Firefox dies a slow death and requires manual installation of Adobe Flash Player:

screenshot-plugin-finder-service-failed.png

A built-in firewall and SELinux policies are pretty smart to keep around if you’re operating in a DMZ or with hacker-magnet ports open to the world.

screenshot-firewall-configuration.pngscreenshot-firewall-configuration-startup.png

Other than previously discussed above, Fedora is a very solid distribution. Once it’s up and running, it’s great. It’s stable, feels faster and snappier than Ubuntu (especially in Firefox), and has nifty little things like PulseAudio installed by default which is pretty snazzy. Another thing – if you’re looking for pre-built proprietary software packages, RPM is pretty much the standard for companies to provide.
screenshot-pulseaudio-volume-control.pngscreenshot-pulseaudio-volume-control-1.pngscreenshot-pulseaudio-volume-control-2.png

PulseAudio is a very welcome inclusion, but I’m not quite sure how Fedora expects people to be listening to multiple audio streams at the same time without any audio codecs – nevertheless, a very nice addition.

Updated Gnome 2.2 features like leaving a message for someone when a PC is locked are pretty groovy as well…

locked-leave-a-msg.pngleave-a-msg-type-in.pngmsg-recd.png

In the end, Fedora is great for a geek like me, but quite possibly the least favorable choice for someone who isn’t very familiar with Linux.

If you’re ever up Fedora creek without a codec, make sure you bookmark this page.

I feel so much better now.

The Email Gabe Newell From Valve Software Never Responded To

I wrote a letter to Gabe Newell about a month back, a few days after I published an article about running the Orange Box using WINE. He personally requested feedback during the Developer Commentary within the game, and as I expected – received no response.

It’s not something I take personally, as I figure he’s pretty busy. However, when I wrote a similar letter after the release of Half Life 2, I received an immediate reply in less than a few minutes – pretty astonishing. Here’s the unanswered letter that mentions the “L” word – Linux.

Since I wrote this letter, that article has received over 27,000 views – at a rate of more than 500 hits per day after the initial spike of hitting the front page of Digg.

Here is a picture of the stats:

orange-box-stats.png

________________________________
Subject: This Is Not Your Average Email
From: [email protected]
Date: Wed, October 17, 2007 2:45 pm
To: [email protected]

Gabe,

With the amount of email you likely receive, I really hope you have a good handle on GTD. :)

I love your games, and please allow me to extend a huge pat on the back to everyone who works for Valve on finally shipping Team Fortress 2. I’ve been waiting as many years as you have. I really enjoyed the Developer Commentary, and hope that future games that you publish include that feature.

You probably don’t enjoy hearing the “L word” mentioned over and over via email, forums, news, etc, however, I’d like to let you know that I have written a how to on playing all of the games in the Orange Box on Linux. Since it was published just 3 days ago, it has received well over 13,000 unique visitors. I’ve written dozens of articles, and most simply do not see this level of attention.

http://www.fsckin.com/2007/10/15/how-to-run-team-fortress-2-half-life-2-hl2-ep-12-in-ubuntu-using-wine/

It is easily understood that providing a Linux client simply makes your rendering engine and tool chain a little bit more attractive to those who wish to license your engine. In the same vein, trying to keep a licensed, secured, up to date Windows installation around just for your games is also an inefficient usage of my resources.

Add my voice to the growing number of people who have switched from Windows and crossed over to using Linux “on the desktop.”

I’d like to propose a toast: Here’s to dreaming of the day when we can run your _fantastic_ video games in Linux.

Best Regards,
Wayne Richardson

________________________________

Still nothing to say Gabe?

Comcast Responds To The Million Dollar Question… And Lies Again!

I received an email from a reader who did a little social engineering and was able to obtain a bulletin sent out to Comcast employees.  It has a FAQ section which answers for people who specifically read the AP article, which answers some of the million dollar questions I asked during my chat with them.

This Comcast BitTorrent filtering issue is getting more and more attention in traditional media, congress, etc.  We’ve got to keep blogging about it, keep the negative buzz going and tell Comcast to take it and shove it.  If you want to save some money and still stick it to the man, read down below for my tip on saving $50 or more with a 10 minute phone call.

the read, it’s misleading, confusing and infuriates me as a customer who have a legitimate problem.

—————————————————————— 
Customer Account Executive Talking Points
Peer to Peer
Comcast High-Speed Internet Customer Access to Peer to Peer

Summary/ Overview of Topic
* An in-depth AP story ran on Friday, October 19, 2007 that suggests Comcast is hindering its customers’ ability to use BitTorrent, a peer to peer file sharing application.

Specifics

  1. Comcast is committed to providing all of our customers with an excellent Internet experience.
    We do not block access to any Web site or applications, including peer-to-peer (P2P) services like BitTorrent.
  2. We never prevent P2P activity, or block access to any P2P applications, but rather manage the network in such a way that this activity does not degrade the broadband experience for other users.
  3. Network management is absolutely essential to provide a good Internet experience for our customers. All major ISPs manage their traffic in some way and many use similar tools.
  4. Network management helps us perform critical work that protects our customers from things like spam, viruses, the negative effects of network congestion, or attacks to their PCs. As threats on the Internet continue to grow, our network management tools will continue to evolve and keep pace so that we can maintain a good, reliable online experience for all of our customers. 
  5. We have posted a new FAQ on our website making clear to our customers the steps we are taking to protect the customer experience for all of our customers. (Note: FAQs are located in the “Connection” category of Comcast.net)

Impact to Comcast
* Due to this article, customers may call in to inquire about limited or blocked access to BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer applications.

Customer Q&A
Listed below are some anticipated Customer Questions with suggested responses. Use Verbatim Use as Guidance

IF Customers asks…  THEN respond…

Do you block access to peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent?
* No. We do not block access to any Web site or applications, including BitTorrent. Our customers use the Internet for downloading and uploading files, watching movies and videos, streaming music, sharing digital photos, accessing numerous peer-to-peer sites, VOIP applications like Vonage, and thousands of other applications online.

Is my peer-to-peer activity going to be impacted by Comcast?
* We never prevent P2P activity, or block access to any P2P applications, but rather manage the network in such a way that this activity does not degrade the broadband experience for other users.

* We have a responsibility to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience and we use the latest technologies to manage our network so that you can continue to enjoy these applications. Peer-to-peer activity consumes a disproportionately large amount of network resources, and therefore poses the biggest challenge to maintaining a good broadband experience for all users – including the overwhelming majority of our customers who don’t use P2P applications.

What do you mean when you say you manage your network?
* Network management is absolutely essential to provide a good Internet experience for our customers. All major ISPs manage their traffic in some way and many use similar tools.

* Network management helps us perform critical work that protects our customers from things like spam, viruses, the negative effects of network congestion, or attacks to their PCs. As threats on the Internet continue to grow, our network management tools will continue to evolve and keep pace so that we can maintain an excellent, reliable online experience for all of our customers.

Do you discriminate against particular types of online content?
* No. There is no discrimination based on the type of content. Our customers enjoy unfettered access to all the content, services, and applications that the Internet has to offer. We respect our customers’ privacy and we don’t monitor specific customer activities on the Internet or track individual online behavior, such as which Web sites they visit. Therefore, we do not know whether any individual user is visiting BitTorrent or any other site.

—————————————————————— 
Thanks to cizzop, your social engineering skills are pretty amazing.  That said, that’s one hell of a response from Comcast.  Technical support is going to be following this document to the letter and will never admit that anything is wrong.

Now, here’s my tip to save some money, don’t even bother talking to Technical Support, you’re just wasting your (and secondly their) time.

Instead, call their cancellation department.  This always works!  I’ve never had them deny me a credit or reduction in price when I had a problem and complained about it.  Thankfully, cancellations is far more helpful than technical support.

  1. Call their cancellations department.
  2. Remember the name of the person who answers.
  3. The conversation should be something like this:
    1. I’ve read the Associated Press article on filtering and have a problem with it.
    2. I’ve gotten a quote from another ISP and it would save me <number> dollars a year to switch.
    3. I enjoy the service and would like to keep it, but….
    4. Is there is anything Comcast can do to make up for the inconvenience?
    5. If they refuse, insist on speaking to a supervisor.
  4. When they give you a huge discount for the next few months or even a month free…
    Thank the person by name and tell them you appreciate their time and personal attention.
  5. Feel free to buy me a beer.

Remember:  The Cancellations Department for Comcast is like any other large company, and we can exploit this very easily.  Comcast pays people to do whatever you want to retain you as a customer.

By allowing them to ‘save’ the account, you’re actually helping out the cancellations agent get better stats and maybe even get a bonus.  They’ll be happy to talk to you as long as you’re courteous, and above all, don’t yell or use profanity.  Be assertive, not aggressive.

Trying out Gutsy Gibbon Part 2

I ran the following commands (again)

sudo sed -e ‘s/\sfeisty/ gutsy/g’ -i /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

12:12 AM Started downloading.

12:30 Installing all the packages.  Downloading from the Gutsy repositories at 6MB/sec didn’t take a long time.

12:42AM I’m concurrently downloading Linux Mint while all the packages continue to install.

12:46AM DONE.  Reboot.

2:45AM Ohsh!t… Houston we have a problem.  I’m gonna rant here for a second.  When I use the brand new awesome thing that smells of a combination of fresh horse manure and burning hair called “Screens and Graphics Preferences” and I select my monitor as shown:

screenshot-choose-screen.png

Notice the little description text that shows that I’m choosing an LCD screen that ONLY displays in a native resolution of  1680 by 1050?

Now, see the list of available resolutions once I save that setting:

showmetheresultion.png

Where the hell is the 1680 by 1050 option?  NOT THERE!

Now, I know somebody is going to say ‘oh well just go and edit the xorg.conf file and you should be all set.’  Here is my preemptive response:

When is the last time you had to edit the registry in Windows to add a resolution option?

I rest my case.

Now I see why people like Ubuntu.

Well I tried ArchLinux for all of the amount of time it took to install the distribution.

It’s not fantastic.  Seems like the community-developed package directory is by FAR more superior to Portage, and silly things like adding repository URLs to apt-get or yum.

I gave Fedora 7 a try and… I’m writing this to you right now in their wonderful Gnome environment.  I have the same problem I did with it about a year ago, which is no mp3/etc support out of the box, nor an easy solution like Ubuntu has with a waiver of responsibility.

I also attempted to get the nVidia binary driver working in Fedora just now with a very easy guide… that failed miserably.

I think from now on I’m just going to work towards having a dual-boot setup.  Windows for when I need to get things done (or blow people up), and Ubuntu when I feel like a challenge and learning something new.