baavgai: (Default)
( Oct. 25th, 2005 06:18 pm)
Actually, I suppose it's an iTunes annoyance. I'm sure quicktime is the bee's knees on the fruity computers, but it's always sucked rocks on Windows. I've yet to find any commercial product that gets a Windows PC more bent than the resource hogging, alien cobbled crap known as quicktime. Sadly, iTunes uses quicktime, so it's also fruit feces.

One solution offered itself up a few months ago. Winamp, the venerable but still viable music player for Windows has an iPod plugin. I don't intend to download iTunes. They're rife with DRM and I hate that, but that's another rant. More download sources are popping up, and they use DRM-free mp3s, some even use ogg. iTunes has left the PC.

If you just use winamp as your primary music manager, you're probably fine. I used it for months without any problems. Then I discovered another toy, GNUpod.

GNUpod is a collection of perl scrips that lets me move stuff to my iPod without mucking about with a GUI that won't show me the files I want, anyway. It's not real user friendly, but if you like Linux and the command line, it's a dream come true.

Here's a brief example of my perly happiness: find /mnt/tunes -ctime -3 -name *.mp3 -exec -m /mnt/ipod {} \; If that's Greek to you, fear not; it's actually geek.

Alas, winamp doesn't like the state that GNUpod leaves the iPod in. The iPod itself has no problems and happily plays away. However, winamp has corrupted the TunesDB file twice now, leaving me without tunes for the long drive home.

So, now I know and I offer the warning. Winamp and GNUpod are not friends!

I'm also strongly considering writing a GUI for GNUpod that will hook into external players. I've needed a decent ID3v2 cataloger for a bit, and they all have quirks I don't like. I think it's time to write something I like for my toys. I've been meaning to learn Mono and GTK...
baavgai: (Default)
( Jul. 10th, 2005 02:53 pm)
Quick Linux rant. WTF is up with Nautilus?!?

Linux systems are often touted as rock solid, far more stable than their Windows counter parts. In server application a reasonable case can be made for this. For Desktop GUI, however, it seems to be mostly wishful thinking.

I currently use Ubuntu. It is the absolutely most user friendly free OS I've used yet. It is focused and stable in almost all respects. It chooses one version of software for each task, one desktop, browser, word processor, etc. No developer drek, developers know how to manually mess with their systems.

The desktop is Gnome, which I've grown to like. The heart of Gnome is Nautilus, a file manager and sort of resource browser jack of all trades. Nautilus is a beaten dog with a bladder control problem.

Nautilus is the single most bug ridden piece of software I've used in a Linux graphics environment. If my system is acting odd, it's Nautilus. If processes start hogging cpu cycles, it's Nautilus.

Does anyone remove Nautilus from Gnome? In favor of what? Really, I want to know.
Exactly one week ago, we had a brief power outage. The kind of thing that reminds you how many little gizmos in your life rely on a constant power feed (as they blink 12:00 at you upon your return home.) Not everything blinked 12:00. One PC acted odd until the CD was ejected that it was attempting to boot from. One file server, a little headless Linux box, never recovered at all.

Headless is geekese for a computer that has no human type I/O devices attached. Particularly, no monitor (thus the headless). but also, no keyboard or mouse. Such machines live on networks and are controlled by other computers through a wide range of programs. Most commonly programs that allow the network attached user to pretend they are really are sitting at the machine and it really has a "head."

And what do you do when a headless server goes belly up? Well, you generally have to move a ton of wires, or the box itself, to give it head. After doing the wire dance I booted up my buggered box and got to "LI." LILO was what I wanted; this puppy's hosed. So, after digging up a shinny new LiveCD ( Knoppix, from a magazine promo ), I boot from that.

Debian, the heralded stable golden child of Linux devotes, ate a boot file during its unplanned shutdown. Particularly annoying, said file lives in mount point which is theoretically safe and unmounted after the boot process completes. Good news is that the data looks fine and I should be able fix the OS, bad news is I have to leave the head on and I really don't want to. Thus begins the quest for a LiveCD to fix an headless server with.

This is what I need to fix my headless box. I need a basic Linux OS with an SSH server and FTP server. It will need to boot into to a usable state with no keyboard interaction. It'll have to use DHCP. I don't need any X crap, the leaner and meaner the better. Samba would be cool. There are a ton of livecds in the world, I shouldn't have a problem finding one to do this...

Wrong. After a long and annoying hunt I determined that a livecd with my particular requirements is a gaping black hole in the distro universe. Even the rescue CDs don't think to fire up servers, the router CDs are eccentric, the rest want to wow me with an X desktop big enough to make even the newest PCs creek a little under the weight. "If you want it done right..."

Time to roll my own livecd. I could just make a minimal Linux install and burn it on a CD, but what would be the fun in that? There are lots of livecd projects out there, more than I expected. There's one from Debian; I couldn't get it to work. A few that allow you to add stuff to Knoppix and clones; too bloated. Morphix showed promise, but wanted X. Eventually, I looked at Slax.

Slax is a very cleaver design, using modules and built in compression. For me (being spoilt by APT), Slackware is a little too hands on when it comes to package management, but it's well suited to this project. It's got a really fast boot and little cruft. Like all these kind of projects, the learning curve can be a little steep, but I ultimately made the CD I wanted; a week later!

Now I have more to do. I've dubbed my livecd THRALL ( The Headless Remote Administration Linux LiveCD ). Yes, the name was a significant part of the development process. It will feature SSH, an ftp server that encrypts the password handshake, PHP and a number of custom web based tools. The big one is being able to change the password via an https page. The webserver will be, get this, Nanoweb, an HTTP server written entirely in PHP.

Have I rescued my files from the dead server yet? Nope. Am I having fun perfecting my livecd project? Yep.


baavgai: (Default)



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