Mar 08 2008

Read the fine print. Again. And again. And again…

Tags: , , , , Filed under: Written in Englishhugo @ 4:17

As if people usually read terms of service and privacy policy, here’s an email I received today:

Re: Notice of Changes to Scripps Network’s Policies

In the past you have provided your email address and other personally identifiable information ("PII") to Scripps Networks and its affiliates (e.g., LIST). As part of our ongoing development of our sites, we have made changes to our Privacy Policies and Terms of Use of these sites. PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO CLICK THROUGH AND REVIEW THE NEW PRIVACY POLICIES AND TERMS OF USE as the changes affect the way we will use and share your PII and the terms and conditions for the continued use of our sites.


DIYNetwork.com: Privacy Policy
http://www.diynetwork.com/diy/press/article/0,2019,DIY_13703_2291323,00.html

DIYNetwork.com: Terms of Use
http://www.diynetwork.com/diy/press/article/0,2019,DIY_13703_2291309,00.html

FineLiving.com: Privacy Policy
http://www.fineliving.com/fine/about_the_site/article/0,1663,FINE_1459_974467,00.html

FineLiving.com: Terms of Use
http://www.fineliving.com/fine/about_the_site/article/0,1663,FINE_1459_974465,00.html

FoodNetwork.com: Privacy Policy
http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/privacy_policy/

FoodNetwork.com: Terms of Use
http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/legal_information/

GACTV.com: Privacy Policy
http://www.gactv.com/gac/about_us/article/0,,GAC_26085_4700542,00.html

GACTV.com: Terms of Use
http://www.gactv.com/gac/about_us/article/0,,GAC_26085_4709297,00.html

HGTV.com: Privacy Policy
http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/about_us/article/0,1783,HGTV_3080_1424715,00.html

HGTV.com: Terms of Use
http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/about_us/article/0,1783,HGTV_3080_1424672,00.html

HGTVPro.com: Privacy Policy
http://www.hgtvpro.com/hpro/about_us/article/0,2616,HPRO_20139_3386704,00.html

HGTVPro.com: Terms of Use
http://www.hgtvpro.com/hpro/about_us/article/0,2616,HPRO_20139_3386705,00.html

Recipezaar.com: Privacy Policy
http://www.recipezaar.com/about/privacy.zsp

Recipezaar.com: Terms of Use
http://www.recipezaar.com/about/tos.zsp

If you do not agree to the new terms of use, do not continue to use our sites. Continued use constitutes acceptance. If you object to the changes to our privacy policies, you can opt out of the new policy below with respect to your PII collected under the old policy. However, any new PII you supply us will be governed by the new policy.

I love the If you do not agree to the new terms of use, do not continue to use our sites.

Fascinating.


Mar 05 2008

OpenWRT, mt-daapd and Roku SoundBridge

Tags: , , , , , , Filed under: Written in Englishhugo @ 7:28

A little more work on the Slug’s front… It took me a while to figure out why iTunes could talk to my Slug, and my Roku SoundBridge could not. And the answer is: the default firewall.

I didn’t try to understand what exact rule was the culprit, but the following fixes the issue:

iptables -P INPUT ACCEPT
iptables -P FORWARD ACCEPT
iptables -P OUTPUT ACCEPT
iptables -F
iptables -X

Since the Slug is behind my NAT anyway, I don’t really need a firewall. I wish I could actually disable the iptables support from the kernel altogether, but it’s not compiled as a module.


Mar 04 2008

Using the Slug as a music server

Tags: , , , , , , Filed under: Written in Englishhugo @ 6:09

Our Mac Mini finally died. It turned out that the random crashes I was seeing were due to hardware issues, namely the hard disk.

Its sole purpose was to share music, and act as a storage server. I looked at a number of options to replace it, including buying a new Mac Mini, or a low-end PC. I ruled the latter out because of form factor: I wanted a small box to hide in a corner. Mini PCs exist, but they are pretty expensive, and a new Mac Mini is about $600. It seemed wasteful to invest into so much horsepower to have it sit doing nothing most of the time, and streaming audio files once in a while.

Linksys NSLU2

I therefore decided to go with a more exotic solution: a Linksys NSLU2, which is a network box running Linux in which you can plug USB hard drives. There’s a lot of hacking going on on this device, and it is cheap: $60 on Amazon.

I was faced with the dilemma of choosing which firmware to install, out of the 9 flavors available. As a matter of fact, I experienced more than the dilemma, since I experimented with quite a few of them.

I wanted the following features:

  • Ability to run the firmware without a flash drive: flash drives are pretty slow, and not really designed to have repeated reads and writes that a root partition will get.
  • Media server available: this is the primary purpose of this box.
  • Multi-user support: I want to use it as a storage server for different servers.
  • Ability to spin down the hard drives attached to it: most of the time, the box is idle, so I don’t need to have the disks spin.
  • HFS+ support: I have some disks that were formatted on a Mac.

I ended up settling with OpenWRT, which has all those features:

  • Self-contained: It is very small and fits on the 5MB root partition of the Slug.
  • Media server: mt-daapd is installable via Optware.
  • Multi-user: adduser is available via Optware to help setup user accounts (though you could obviously do it by hand).
  • Spinning down drives: using the shell script from NSLU2-Linux with sg_start from Optware’s sg3-utils works beautifully.
  • HFS+ support: OpenWRT has a modern (2.6.21.6), well packaged kernel, that allows to install exotic modules as needed.

Amazingly, the 32MB of RAM are enough for the Web server used for configuration, the SSH server for login, the FTP server for file transfer, the media server for iTunes streaming, without the need of a swap device.

I did try alternative firmwares. DebianSlug is a fully-fledged Debian distribution, but it’s much bigger, and requires installation on an attached drive; it actually took me 3 tries to manage to install it, and for some reason, it broke after a few hours (I couldn’t log into the box any more!). SlugOS/BE would probably have worked, but it didn’t feel as polished as OpenWRT.

All in all, I’m happy about the solution that I ended up with: the NSLU2 with OpenWRT is a low-cost, low-energy solution, which works really well.


Feb 10 2008

My afternoon at the beach in a few photos

Tags: , , , , Filed under: Written in Englishhugo @ 6:59

Playing with the dog:

Photo 0 - © 2008 Dan Brickley

Running next to the water:

Photo 1 - © 2008 Dan Brickley

Oh oh:

Photo 2 - © 2008 Dan Brickley

The following is pretty much the exact moment when the dog hits my right leg:

Photo 3 - © 2008 Dan Brickley

70 pounds in your leg result in a loss of balance:

Photo 4 - © 2008 Dan Brickley

As illustrated pretty clearly below:

Photo 5 - © 2008 Dan Brickley

The dog, of course, immediately fleed the crime scene:

Photo 6 - © 2008 Dan Brickley

Leaving me wet:

Photo 7 - © 2008 Dan Brickley

And surprised:

Photo 8 - © 2008 Dan Brickley Photo 9 - © 2008 Dan Brickley

My first thoughts were for the electronics in my pockets, but my Treo survived its little bath – I thought it was going to be my excuse to get an iPhone, but it looks like it’ll have to wait.

Thanks to Dan for capturing this, and getting wet while doing it.

Update: Dan put together, in a very 1990’s way, an animated GIF of this.


Jan 28 2008

Getting paid for job interviews?

Tags: , , , Filed under: Written in Englishhugo @ 6:50

NotchUp logo

I received a number of invites to join NotchUp, a site similar to LinkedIn, but with one big difference: you, as a participant, set a price company should pay to talk to you about a professional opportunity. I joined to check what it was like and I invited a couple of people who might be interested in this. But about five minutes later, I realized that it doesn’t make any sense.

There are essentially two cases, if a company wants to talk to you:

  1. This is a job that you would like to take: in this case, you really want to talk to them, and you don’t want them to wonder whether they want to spend some money just to get your email address; what you want is the job, not money for the interview.
  2. This is a job that isn’t of interest to you: you’re not going to start moonlighting for a new company, Interviews With John Smith LLC, whose business model is to do interviews with companies you know you’re not interested in.

The main attraction is that they promise you a 10% cut on the money that your referees will make. So if you want to try to get rich by doing interviews, and make me rich by the same token, leave a comment below and I’ll send you an invite (it looks like the service is still invite-only).


Jan 25 2008

Sometimes, Macs need to be reinstalled too

Tags: , , , , Filed under: Written in Englishhugo @ 5:54

Mac mini slot loading SuperDrive by Richard Thomas

For the past three weeks, our Mac mini, whose sole purpose in life is to run iTunes – to share music in the house – and Vine Server – because it’s headless –, had been crashing after less than 24 hours of being up. It would just stop responding to anything except to pings, and I would not be able to SSH nor VNC into it.

Nothing was showing up in the logs, and plugging in a monitor and a keyboard did not help getting more information. I didn’t remember doing any change to the system except applying the software upgrades from Apple.

As it’s a first generation one (as a matter of fact, bought on 22 January 2005, the day they were released), I wondered if it was time to invest into a new computer.

After running a full hardware test that turned up nothing abnormal, I decided to give it a last chance by reinstalling it. So I took my Panther CD (yes, remember, before Leopard, there was Tiger, and before Tiger, there was Leopard), and spent a couple of hours reinstalling the system from scratch.

The result is a much faster system, and it’s been up for almost 3 days now!

mini:~ hugo$ uptime
21:28 up 2 days, 22:42, 2 users, load averages: 0.07 0.02 0.01

So, just like Windows, OS X needs to be reinstalled, sometimes. But it’s not every few months, it’s about every 3 years.


Jan 05 2008

Making Amazon Associates’ Product Preview link enhancer leave my server alone

Tags: , , , , , Filed under: Written in Englishhugo @ 21:47

I started writing music reviews in a new blog, as a way to fulfill my desire to discover new CDs and talk about them. I used to do this with Max, but now that we don’t meet regularly anymore, I’ve been missing it.

As I started doing this, I started playing with Amazon Associates, and discover their product preview link enhancer, which gives a nice little pop-up with Amazon info on a link to their site.

It shows up if you read a review and hover your mouse pointer over the shopping cart link of the album cover, and looks like this:

Amazon Product Preview screenshot

However, I noticed a huge slow down of my site as soon as I posted the 3 lines of JavaScript given by Amazon. Looking at what is happening with Firebug, a lot of bogus requests are done to my site, such as:

http://larve.net/2007/mublog/function%20(start,%20length)%20%7B%20%20%20%20start%20=%20start%20||%200;%20%20%20%20if%20(start%20%3C%200)%20{%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20start%20=%20this.length%20+%20start;%20%20%20%20}%20%20%20%20length%20=%20length%20||%20this.length%20-%20start;%20%20%20%20var%20newArray%20=%20[];%20%20%20%20for%20(var%20i%20=%200;%20i%20%3C%20length;%20i++)%20{%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20newArray[i]%20=%20this[start++];%20%20%20%20}%20%20%20%20return%20newArray;}

It looks like a typo somewhere. I wasn’t able to locate it, though. I looked around for hints, but couldn’t find anything. The issue is that each of those (and there are more than 10 on the front page) triggers WordPress processing, which takes quite a while and costs a lot of CPU cycles. It doesn’t look like an error on my end, since the instructions are pretty simple:

To put Product Previews on your site, paste the following link enhancer script at the end of pages on which you have image only or text only product links.

There’s little chance that I messed this up, so I ended up installing a work-around the hard way, by blocking all those requests with mod_rewrite:

# Blocking Amazon errors
RewriteRule ^(|.*/)function\ .*\( - [F,L]

That means that the pages are still causing bogus requests back to my server, but they are now processed in a much cheaper way and with a clear error.

I also contacted their customer support, hoping that they fix it soon.

Update: their customer support was not useful, but I figured out the root of the issue, thanks to the archive of the wp-hackers mailing list. It looks like Amazon’s Link Enhancer conflicts with ShareThis. Essentially, this is due to a JavaScript flaw, and Amazon’s code should be fixed. However, considering my first interaction with Amazon’s support and that this bug first showed up a year ago, I’m not too hopeful. As a work-around, I disabled ShareThis.


Dec 16 2007

Comparing book covers around the world

Tags: , Filed under: Written in Englishhugo @ 19:25

I’ve always noticed that book covers in France always look more serious than in the US; maybe French publishers try to make books look more noble than American ones.

For example, here’s the US covers for the Harry Potter books:

Harry Potter (US 1) Harry Potter (US 2) Harry Potter (US 3) Harry Potter (US 4) Harry Potter (US 5) Harry Potter (US 6) Harry Potter (US 7)

Here are the French ones, in comparison:

Harry Potter (France 1) Harry Potter (France 2) Harry Potter (France 3) Harry Potter (France 4) Harry Potter (France 5) Harry Potter (France 6) Harry Potter (France 7)

As I was looking through NPR’s reading recommendations, I saw this book mentioned, How to talk about a book you haven’t read?:

How to talk about a book you haven't read? (US cover)

I decided to look up what French readers were thinking about it, and saw that the cover in France was as usual very sober:

Comment parler des livres que l'on n'a pas lus ?

The difference is pretty striking.

Interestingly, the Canadian version is somewhat in the middle, with drawings, but very few colors:

How to talk about a book you haven't read? (Canadian cover)

Maybe that’s reflecting the struggle of both French and American cultures in Canada.

The UK edition is in also somewhat in the middle:

How to talk about a book you haven't read? (UK cover)

Finally, the US audiobook echoes the US cover. It’s actually interesting to see the difference with the book cover, with the same design but less colorful:

How to talk about a book you haven't read? (US audiobook cover)

And this is how you can talk about books you haven’t read. Or about their cover, at least.


Oct 13 2007

My week in concerts: The Sadies, Genesis and The Tragically Hip

Tags: , , , , Filed under: Written in Englishhugo @ 17:01

The Sadies at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival on 2007-10-06

The Sadies

On Sunday, I went to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to watch The Sadies play. I unfortunately missed a good chuck of their show due to a major traffic jam, but I really dig them. Ever since I saw them opening for The Tragically hip back in March, I’ve liked this band and I was glad to see them.

I saw a number of other bands as well, though I paid less attention to them.

The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is pretty cool: good music (even if not all of it is what I would usually listen to), nice venue, well organized, free. I’ll be going again next year.

Genesis at HP Pavilion on 2007-10-09

Every time I saw an old band get back together, I have been tempted to go see them. I feel like it’s like going to see an old painting in a museum, being able to witness some musical history live. Though sometimes the rendition of songs may have faded a little, or the band isn’t quite the same. Anyway, I always stopped myself from doing it when I saw the price of tickets: I’m always wondering how much they do reunions to have fun and make fans happy versus making insane amounts of money, and the latter seems to be the main motivation. Fans are older, they have more money, hence they can pay hundreds of dollars (plus proportional TicketBastards fees) to relive a piece of their childhood.

Genesis at HP Pavilion

Genesis‘s reunion is no different, but for some reason I was interested enough to make the jump. A significant jump for me, as I hate large venues, and of course they don’t play in small places. So I bought some outrageously expensive, only after joining the fan club ($35 more) to ensure that I could have access to pre-sales in order to have my outrageously expensive ticket not suck too much in this huge venue.

So how was it? It was actually pretty good. Phil Collins is an excellent showman and makes your forget that you’re in a large venue far away from him. Their performance was good, mixing some recent songs with some old material for 3 hours:

  • Behind The Lines / Duke’s End
  • Turn It On Again
  • No Son Of Mine
  • Land Of Confusion
  • In The Cage / The Cinema Show / Duke’s Travels
  • Afterglow
  • Hold On My Heart
  • Home By The Sea / Second Home By The Sea
  • Follow You Follow Me
  • Firth Of Fifth / I Know What I Like
  • Mama
  • Ripples
  • Throwing It All Away
  • Domino
  • Drum Duet
  • Los Endos
  • Tonight Tonight Tonight
  • Invisible Touch
  • I Can’t Dance
  • The Carpet Crawlers

One thing which struck me is how much Tony Banks never smiles. You really wonder how he feels being on stage.

Anyway, I had a good time. I’m glad I went, but I think that I’m not going to go to a reunion tour show or a large venue anytime soon.

I almost forgot to mention that the best part of this whole experience was actually my neighbor: he was obviously a dedicated Genesis fan, early post-Peter Gabriel period. Every time a song he liked came up, he was becoming completetly ecstatic, grabbing the rail in front of us and vibrating from head to toe, playing air drums with Phil Collins. Fun!

The Tragically Hip at The Warfield on 2007-10-10

I saw The Tragically Hip only a few months ago, but it was such a great experience that I had to go again when I saw that they were playing again in San Francisco. And it was awesome, even better than the great performance at the Fillmore.

The Tragically Hip at The Warfield

The Warfield is a smaller venue, and at the very front of the pit. Gord Downie was on fire, and show they played was amazing, with a great version of Hundredth Meridien for which Gord came on the rail right in front of me. This allowed me to take great pictures with the crappy camera in my Treo. Some bands give guitar picks to the crowd, Gord Downie gives his cloth tissues covered in sweat, and he gave his microphone to the girl in front of me. He likes to play with microphones.

The set list was great, and a little unconventional (e.g. Put It Off that they had not played live since 1997 according to HipBase):

  • The Lonely End Of The Rink
  • Grace, Too
  • My Music At Work
  • Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park
  • Family Band
  • Ahead By A Century
  • Gift Shop
  • In View
  • Poets
  • Pretend
  • Fireworks
  • At The Hundredth Meridien
  • Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin’ Man
  • Fiddler’s Green
  • Yer Not The Ocean
  • Locked In The Trunk Of A Car
  • Fire In The Hole
  • Put It Off
  • Mr. Soul (Neil Young cover)
  • New Orleans Is Sinking

Update: here’s the video of Put It Off at the Warfield:

I have a short video (I removed the sound because it was horrible):

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

I’m looking forward to my next Hip concert!


Sep 14 2007

Impressed with Adobe

Tags: , , , Filed under: Written in Englishhugo @ 3:13

People (and that includes myself) often write to complain about stuff, and rarely praise people who do well.

I feel like I need to do the latter here. I have been frustrated by Flash not playing certain MP3s right. Investigating the problem, I found that MP3s with a bit rate of 48kHz were the ones causing problems, and looked into documentation on the Web, only to find out the following:

It may interest you to know that I was using MP3s that were encoded in iTunes at a 48kHz sample rate. Flash MX resamples all audio down to bit rates in increments of 11 (11, 22, 44, etc.). That resampling caused the percieved slow-down in pitch.

Here, I had the source of my problem. I only have a low number of MP3s encoded as such, so I thought about reencoding them. But I thought that I should report the bug to Adobe, just in case it may lead to a fix. So I found a Web form to do so. Coming to think of it, I actually didn’t use the right form, I should have used this one instead.

Anyway, I tersely described my problem, not having too high hopes as I usually feel like feedback forms are black holes. Exactly 8 minutes and 11 seconds later, I received an email from an Adobe engineer sent from his Treo, pointing me to the latest beta of Flash and instructing me to test the latest beta version and write back if it didn’t fix my problem. Impressive.

So I’m happy to report that version 9.0.60 is perfectly playing my 48kHz MP3s as I write this.


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