Galleon fun

June 29, 2006 | 1 Comment

Here’s a google oddity. Google for “galleon” , a few results down, it will give you results for “Galleon Tivo”. Not sure why it does that, since I haven’t seen similar results at any other point in time. I digress.

After I got the TiVo happily onto the lan, I resumed poking around with the TiVo HME stuff. On their site I found a link to Galleon as a very popular HME app. I downloaded it and was very impressed with it. It reads the iTunes data file in as a source for serving music (it has other modes, like reading raw directories). This provided a much simpler and more maintanable solution than the iTunes/TiVoServer proxy I had hacked together. It gives access to content I hadn’t been making available previously, such as podcasts. The UI for the galleon config leaves something to be desired, but isn’t too painful once you get the idea. Some of the apps I really like are the weather, the movie listings, and RSS reader.

If someone with some UI sense would give the config UI a good whack, I think it’d be a really compelling use of HME. I also found AudioFaucet interesting as well. I had to file some support requests because I couldn’t get it working right at first but Kyle was very quick answering my questions. I had moved my iTunes library and AudioFaucet expects to find it in the ‘MyMusic’ folder.

The Anna Show

June 5, 2006 | Comments Off

The grandparents want a way to “visit” with Anna. I was originally going to do it with a cheap webcam, but Leigha got me a nice digital camcorder for Christmas. So I figured, why not give them good quality video?

I consulted with my streaming video guru, Eric, and he suggested Windows Media Encoder. This caused about as much hesitation as you probably think. It turns out WME is free, and it’s freaking awesome. I also tried to toe the company line on this one. I wanted to use NSV to stream the video and I wanted the viewers to use WinAMP. I figured that’d be a nice, free, open-source way to get this accomplished. The problem is that not a whole many people are doing this, especially not using a windows desktop (there seemed to be *SOME* documentation for doing this on Linux). So after a few failed attempts with NSVCap/Icecast/Winamp, I decided to go with path of least resistance.

The only downside to the WME solution is that I’m limited to five connections/viewers. This is probably reasonably close to the amount of bandwidth I can push anyway. So anything above 5 viewers and I’ll need to find some Windows Media Server out there that’s willing to let me stream 30-60 minutes of live video to handful of people once a week.

If you haven’t played with WME, give it a shot. The UI is fairly good, but broadcasting is a fairly complex operation, so it’s pretty close to as good as it could be. If you play with it for a while, you’ll definately feel like you’re a hotshot live TV producer.

I *heart* Outlook

May 19, 2006 | Comments Off

In my quest to further degrade myself in the eyes of other technical people, I’ve decided to come clean: I love Outlook. Feel better? I don’t. As we proceeded into pregnancy, our schedules became less possible to handle by memory alone. Leigha kept a schedule on her desk but it wasn’t always complete and not very accessible when we weren’t home. A similar thing was occurring with our contact information. What we needed was a shared calendar, and Outlook seemed like the easiest way to go.

I definately didn’t want to be running an Exchange server at home, so first I looked at some synchronization options. There’s a good resource list at I initially went with a free trial of OfficeCalendar. To be honest, it worked relatively well. It just wasn’t *great*. And there were some glitches and it required my desktop to be on. It just felt like a dirty hack (which it was).

The last resort (before actually running Exchange) was to look for Exchange-compatible servers. It turns out there are a couple. Zimbra had a lot of potential. It was very pretty, but the Outlook plugin was vaporware. I also tried some other solution (Samsumg Contact?) that was a really bad hackjob on HP Openmail. Finally I ended up with Scalix. Pros: Free Outlook plugin, runs on Linux, came with RPMs. Cons: Only supports RHEL 3/4, Fedora Core 4. These weren’t awful cons.

First I setup an RHEL AS4 box to play around with it, and it worked REALLY nicely. Eventually I got tired of having a whole computer just for Scalix so I managed to move it onto the Debian box with a lot of imaginative symlinking. That’s pretty much it: We run Outlook on the desktops; we have a shared calendar and contact folder; the permissions all work nicely; it has offline synchronization; we have web access remotely; it all runs on the Debian server.


May 14, 2006 | Comments Off

Leigha went home for over a week which left me with a lot of time on my hands (although it didn’t feel like much). I had big plans for my time alone. I was going to set up asterisk, set up MythTV, work on a new website project. Alas it’s Sunday, fully 9 days since Leigha left and I only accomplished setting up MythTV. I used KnoppMyth for the installation, and most of the problems I had were hardware problems that weren’t KnoppMyth fault. Others were understanding what exactly MythTV was trying to do as it flailed about. In all I probably reinstalled MythTV about 4 times on the box before all was said and done.
The three hardware issues I had:

  • Bad harddrive caused PAINFULLY slow install – much time wasted this way
  • Crashing due to bizarre SMP/SCSI driver problem – I wasn’t using a SCSI drive so disabling the controller was good enough
  • Swapping video cards – Once I was sure it would work, I had to install a video card that had TV-out

I spent a lot of time trying to get the TV display to look right (nvtv, nvidia-settings, X modelines, the works) with no satisfactory resolution. I finally gave up because I temporarily connected it to the bedroom TV, if all goes well, it would more likely live in the living room.

I’m fairly impressed with it. Somethings work better than others, that’s for sure, but so far the core functionality looks really good. I haven’t had much luck with the commercial detection/skipping. And I had some problems with guide data during the 3rd install. One feature I like (or will like, once the screen is large enough to read) is the NetFlix integration. That is really smart and not something I would have thought of on my own.

Here are some additional things I’d like try if MythTV works out:

  • Adding additional tuners to MythTV
  • Putting the backend in the basement, building thinner/quieter frontends for the viewing areas
  • Taping over-the-air content in the hopes of ditching cable entirely
  • iTunes integration like I have with TiVo


April 30, 2006 | Comments Off

Historically I’ve never been a very big fan of PHP (granted, I haven’t looked at PHP5 yet). This is not a hastily formed opinion based on superficial experience. The website you are now reading was (and continues to be) PHP based. I had a good mind to rewrite it in Mason (or heck, even Ruby) just to move away from it. But when I was setting up Anna’s site I decided to try WordPress and they’ve managed to build a very nice platform on top of a steaming pile of poo; so my hat is off to them.

I liked it enough that I decided to move Leigha’s site to WordPress (from MoveableType *ptoo*). I even liked it enough to move my own site from being somewhat-blogger based to WordPress and here we find the impetus for this entry.

WordPress has done an impressive job of easing migration of the content. I had to migrate the template painstakingly by hand. And I had to back-fill my pre-Blogger entries (flat HTML files) into the system. They didn’t have titles at the time, so if you look at any entries from 2003 and earlier they probably have Smallvile-style one-word titles. I have to say it was interesting travelling back in time to make those entries. I had forgotten many of those events.

So we find ourselves here. Gleefully in WordPress land. Candy for everyone!

mdns proxying

April 17, 2006 | 2 Comments

One thing I didn’t mention in previous posts is the absolute FUN I had getting multicast-DNS (mdns/rendezvous) to propogate across the VPN tunnel to the living room. This is necessary for TiVo to discover the Galleon server running on my desktop.

I played with various solutions – after the mildly tedious process of getting the toolchain set up. I played with various programs called things like mdnsproxy or mdnsresponder. Not much luck with either of those two. What did work was something I wouldn’t have thought to search for: xboxproxy. It was originally designed to proxy xbox broadcasts messages but it does all kinds of broadcast messages really well. I set one process running on the main wrt54g listening on the LAN, and relaying to the livingroom. The livingroom instance listens on its LAN, and relays to the main wrt54g. They both repeat anything the counterpart received. It works absolutely beautifully.

Real Alternative

March 14, 2006 | Comments Off

I don’t know a single person who has any fondness for Real Media/Player, and that’s putting it pretty kindly. Unfortunately, NPR still does a great deal with Real, especially old shows before they saw the light. I was very pleased to find a program called “Real Alternative” which is an independent player to play Real music/video files. I used it to listen to an episode of Diane Rehm and it worked perfectly.

My life up to Anna

March 12, 2006 | Comments Off

I won’t trouble you with sentimental gushing over my daughter. Similar sentiments have been expressed elsewhere and with flair with which I cannot compete. Suffice it to say that life has been good to me. But that is not what I’m writing about.

In the past 10 days or so it occurred to me how much of everything I’ve done has come together on this occasion. Projects that many people considered a frivolous or idiotic use of time or money. Don’t get me wrong, these are not all essential skills, per se, but nevertheless in a way I feel that life has been leading up to this. It’s difficult to enumerate but I’ll give it a shot:

  • Nocturnal habits
  • Photography skills honed in camera club
  • Video editing/publishing
  • The 1TB NAS storage device holding all the video/pictures I’ve captured since her birth
  • Bulk mailings (snail mail)

Ok, you called my bluff. I don’t really have an idea what I’m talking about but there is definately a disquieting sensation that life has reached an apex (in a good way).

Anna Caroline Averbuj

March 1, 2006 | Comments Off

Anna Caroline Averbuj – 9.02 pm – 8 lbs 4.5 oz – 20.5 inches. Leigha was incredible. Mom and baby are great.
Update (3/2): I uploaded pictures to Leigha’s Gallery.
Update (3/6): There’s now a Meet Anna video (~10 minutes/24mb) available for watching.
Update (3/12): Anna’s website is now online!.

Yahoo UI Libraries

February 25, 2006 | Comments Off

I’ve been a little reluctant to jump onto this newfangled DHTML/Ajax bandwagon. Sure it sounds fancy and looks nice, but you can’t fool me. I used to write web applications and making things look the same in IE and Netscape was hellish. After playing with the Yahoo UI Libraries, I have an update. The bad news: It’s almost but not entirely like before, it can still be painful. The good news: The UI libraries are very good, and they help a bit.

By this point, I’ve probably spent somewhere around 20 hours playing with the Yahoo stuff. I’ve had a lot of problems with making things happy in both IE and Mozilla/Firefox, none of which are Yahoo’s fault. I was able to make a fancy floating navigation bar that can be dragged to either the left or the right side of the screen; it can be hidden (and hides differently depending on which side); the user can pick between two levels of opacity; it remembers what side you left it on, whether you left it showing, and what zipcode you entered into the weather search. All this required me to write about 300 lines of javascript, and spend much more time with IE than I am accustomed.

Here are the bugs that consumed the greatest amount of my time:
1: the way that YAHOO.util.Dom.getClientWidth() works, IE returns a width that includes the vertical scrollbar, this making my navbar appear about 20px too far to the right (and making the horizontal scroll bar appear). Solution: I added document.body.clientWidth to the set of attributes explored.

2: Mozilla/Firefox has a bug with opacity = 1 that makes the element blink. Solution: I set my maximum opacity to 0.98 instead of 1. This is really an absurd bug.

There were more CSS incompatibilities that drove me really nuts. The state of browser compatibility is *better* but not entirely resolved. The Yahoo UI libraries and design patterns are excellent, I highly recommend them.