Monday, 14 December 2009

X-Factor over... let the CD purchasing begin!

As I mentioned before, I haven't really been a fan of the show "X Factor" but this year I've actually watched the last few shows. Last night, the show ended. About two to three hours later, I had pre-ordered two CDs from the winner. I'm not sure how many more people did the same thing, but sounds like it's going to be a profitable end of year.


Saturday, 12 December 2009

X-Factor ...

What happened? I've never been interested in watching these shows. Idol in the US, X Factor and any of those show; I would avoid watching as I always thought they were boring. I never really cared, but tonight I'm actually watching.

The three contestants on tonight's show are actually VERY talented. They have really good voices and I know I've actually made up my mind as to who should win. Some how the personalities don't really lend themselves to stardom since all three singers are very down to earth.

The truth is that all 3 of them have won. The publicity they've gotten so far and their talent will make them famous and they'll have great professional careers.

All I can say is that I think I'll have to buy 3 CDs whenever they come out.


Friday, 11 December 2009

Simply rails...

No, I'm not going to talk about Ruby-on-Rails or Perl-on-rails or python-on-rails or train rails. I'm talking about server, switch, router mounting rails.

One of the things that I have to do for work is mount equipment. I've had to mount equipment from several manufacturers and of different types. Some are just mounting brackets where it doesn't reach the full length of the rack, some are longer and go from to back and some "meet in the middle."

I'm not going to name manufacturers, but I can tell you the these are the things that ALL manufacturers have at one time done wrong and sometimes get right after several tries. One of them makes such wonderful rails that they can be mounted with one hand. This particular company has gone through different iteration of "rapid mount" rails. (Which usually cost extra, but they're worth the cost.)

See, the thing that most manufacturers don't take into account (or maybe they do, but they don't care) is that at times, there's only ONE person mounting the equipment. And depending on the weight of the equipment and WHERE the equipment is going (bottom of rack or top!) this can be really painful to do if the rails don't slide property or are hard to mount.

Anyway, I've emailed one of the manufacturers that we use and who's rails aren't easy to use and asked if this can be "revised."

I'm trying to do something positive for that company and at the same time avoid back pain.


Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Food glorious food!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been using a service (My Home Personal Assistant) to delegate tasks (ironing) off to someone. It's great to get back the kids uniforms and my shirts and trousers all nicely ironed and taken care of; something that my wife and I have had trouble getting right and spend far too much time trying to do.

I was a beta tester of sorts for the latest service that they provide which is home cooked meals. They've finalized the menu and include several dishes that are really good. There are a few things to note:

  1. Most of the dishes are meant to be the main course where you still have to (well, you don't have to) add something to make it a full meal. It could be rice or a baked potato or maybe some vegetables.

  2. The portions are single portions. That's to say, what you see on the menu is meant for a single person, but you can order a family meal if you contact them before hand and explain. I think there's even a discount if you were to order for a family meal.

  3. It was explained to me that the dishes that have been picked were picked because there are many dishes already that you can buy pre-made at the local stores (frozen but ready to cook) and these dishes are all made fresh. These dishes are also dishes you're less likely to find at the local store. Makes sense.

We have tried two of those at home. One from the menu and one was a test dish that might get added to the menu later.

The Spanish Chicken and New Potatoes - which was pretty much a full meal, was amazing. It had chorizo, chicken and vegetables and all we had to add was some rice which took another 15 minutes to prepare while we heated the dish.

The other dish was Salmon wrapped in Parma Ham and New Potatoes. The kids usually leave something - i.e. not all food gets eaten, but in both these cases the plates were practically clean.


I may not be able to afford to completely stop cooking, but for a once a month (or even once a week) thing, I might be able to survive off of this menu.


Saturday, 5 December 2009

Firefox on Ubuntu oddness

I started noticing that Firefox would come up after a restart and any saved sessions would load, but... it looked like it never finished. I then realized that resizing the window would then actually display the contents in FF properly.

Very odd...

I'll have to take a look and see where the problem lies. I've updated to the latest version of everything to see if it fixes the problem but so far no go. It may be something that's not yet documented elsewhere, so I'll have to post it when I find out what the solution is.

Keep an eye out.


Thursday, 3 December 2009

Stem cell donation?

My brother who lives in Belgium told me about this campaign that the Belgian Red Cross (Rode Kruis) is promoting. They're requesting that people donate stem cells since these can be used to (possibly) find curses for terminally ill people. They even have a Facebook app that you can use and send to your friends. (They ask "Who are your real friends".)

I don't know if the Red Cross in other countries do that or if that data can even be shared across borders with another country that allows stem cell research. I wonder if that is considered illegal?

I definitely would like to see what else they can do with stem cell (stamcel) research.


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

OmniGraffle to SVG

Lately you'd think I'm obsessed with SVG, but the truth is I'm just trying to cope with all the different diagramming tools out there and see if I can find a common format between all of them that is a standard. SVG is it. Anyway, working with Macs and all the wonderful software that they have, I've had to start looking at converting Graffle files created with OmniGraffle to SVG. The easiest way is again, converting to PDF and importing the PDF in Inkscape.

The interesting thing is that once you break out the PDF, you get all the objects and you can then fiddle around with the page. The fonts have been the one issue, as I do ask Inkscape to try to find a font similar to the one in the document, and it's not really good at doing that.

Anyway, doing a quick search on google I found graffle2svg. A pair of python scripts that will try to convert the graffle file into an SVG. In my case it didn't work since OnmiGraffle seems to have changed the format of their file format. Well, it use to be a zip file, now it's a directory.

Still, this is a good start and I look forward to trying this out and maybe helping out the developer to get it working. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one that loves his SVG.


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Frustrations of the MegaCli tool

If you have ever used the command line tool for Dell PERC controllers, you'll know that MegaCli can be a powerful tool.

The frustrating bit is that the output of MegaCli -h means you're stuck guessing for what each parameter does. Some you can guess, but wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to guess?

I found a post about the exact same frustration and someone posted the following link to the LSI MegaRAID SAS User's Guide

This is exactly what I was looking for - particularly starting on page 126.


Monday, 30 November 2009

MythTV "streaming"

I was amazed to see how well the MythTV backend could stream to the MythTV frontend via wifi.

The setup doesn't seem to lag and it even seems to play better than streaming a file directly from the backend into VLC or mplayer.


Thursday, 26 November 2009

Cisco SVG

Guess what? So I have a post where I converted the Cisco Networking Icons in EPS files into SVG. I recently noticed that Cisco was offering them in SVG format.

After downloading them to try out I had noticed that although they were in SVG, they were odd in that they basically where a small icon in the middle of the full page. They have a feedback link at the bottom so I proceeded to ask if I could make the changes to the SVGs to resize them as well as add metadata for the SVGs.

Well, Cisco got back to me. I managed to explain how I converted the files and what did I find today? Cisco had updated the SVGs and now they're right. Thank you Cisco.

I'd like to thank the person that responded, but I don't know if they want their name floating around the web, so I won't mention them. However, thank you!

Now, to draw some network diagrams.


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

What's the difference between a bank and a swing band?

I was reading a new article today on the Telegraph which I find absolutely crazy.

It's about a swing band called Wills Fargo being harassed by the bank Wells Fargo.

I don't know about you, but unless the band starts asking for deposits and gives you a cash machine, it starts using the same red box with yellow letters and includes the stage coach as part of their logo, then WTF!

I hate this type of stuff. There is absolutely no overlap in ANY way. Next we'll get sued for using the letters W and F because they're part of the name.

I can understand brand dilution (Wills Fargo Bank), I can understand fraudulent use, I can understand a lot of stuff, but this goes beyond what should be allowed.



Thursday, 12 November 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 issues and solutions

One of the major issues I have had with my Macbook Pro and Ubuntu 9.10 relates to virtual machines and Virtualbox. My virtual machines would freeze for a few seconds (10-15 seconds) then do some more work, then freeze again for 20-30 seconds, then some more, then freeze, then go, then freeze...

This drove me nuts! I run XP every once in a while and it was so quick on Virtualbox prior to the upgrade that I thought VB was the culprit.

I messed around with the settings, I turned things on and off; all to no avail.

Then I remembered a post somewhere that mentioned the video drivers. Not the virtual machine's virtual video driver, but the actual driver of the host machine.

So I looked at what I was running.

Nvidia's driver version 183 - which was suggested and recommended by Ubuntu 9.10 after the upgrade. It worked fine with everything I did... could it be the culprit?

I then swapped the driver to version 173 which I was running previously (that reminded me I tried 180 and had problems with virtual machines then too) and my XP virtual machine was happy once again.

I did experience an issue or two with my machine freezing (the whole thing, not the VMs) after doing this and thought it was the Nvidia drivers again.

However I noticed something interesting. The freezes occurred only when I had Firefox running. If FF wasn't running, everything ran smoothly.

So I went into the FF add-ons and thought about how a "new" add-on I had installed and almost never used would actually use cool 3D effects. I'm talking about FoxTab. I disabled that after 20 minutes and guess what?

My virtual machines are happy, my Macbook runs smooth as silk!

Now to troubleshoot something else... OpenVPN on NetworkManager.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Mythbuntu 9.10

I finally managed to update my MythTV server up to 9.10 of Ubuntu. Although I didn't install it from a Mythbuntu CD when I did the first install - it's now a Mythbuntu installation.

What can I say about this?

MythTV 0.22 (the normal app is 0.22RC2, I think in ubuntu it's 0.22+svn fixes)

The new MythTV is NICE! I still have some issues. I'll document them here and any solutions that I find. There are several things that I need to do to get them working right according to the MythTV wiki.

For now, I'm updating the graphics of the videos and I'm trying to tune all the different settings that you can use.

All in all, I think it's great!


Monday, 2 November 2009

Visio and Linux or what I call "Want SVG, use PDF"

I tend to get Visio diagrams from people every once in a while. Most of the time it's the vsd type, not even the xvsd (or xml based) version. Even if I had the xvsd, I'm not sure what exactly I could do with it.

Visio does have the capabilities of exporting to SVG (at least the latest release does) but I find that they don't import properly into Inkscape. It's strange but they seem to display properly elsewhere.

The answer to this issue? Another intermediate step -- use PDF. Visio can also export to PDF directly. (Or maybe you need a plugin?)

This PDF renders correctly and when you import it into Inkscape it shows up correctly too.

Now to test another file type... Visio can export into Autocad format!!!

I just recently discovered that you can convert DWG to SVG. I haven't tried the Cad2SVG tool yet, but I'm hopeful it will also provide an SVG that's usable in Inkscape.

By the way, if you're wondering why I'm so eager to go with SVG? It's simple -- it looks good and you can zoom without losing detail (very handy with an iPhone!) And if you don't believe that there's a lot of SVG out there, check out


Saturday, 31 October 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 on MacBook Pro

So Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) is out and in the usual way, I went ahead and did the upgrade from 9.04. Did I have any issues? Not really, the servers were a little slower than I'm use to which I'd expect.

After the upgrade I discovered that my O2 USB data card (a Novatel Ovation) wouldn't work. However, I manged to get it working after a reboot. (Not sure why.)

Wifi works, keyboard + multitouch pad worked, bluetooth keyboard + mouse worked, sound worked. What seems to not work? Well, when I put the machine to sleep and it comes up, I ALWAYS get a crash report which says that there was a kernel crash of sorts and that the system would be unstable.

Does this annoy me? Yes. Does it stop me from still using the system (i.e. is it really unstable?) No.

I haven't finished trying out all the usual apps that I use, but so far, I'm happy with the result.

Now, I can't wait to upgrade my Myth Server at home! I have seen there are a LOT of really cool things in that arena!


Organising when you don't have time...

Do you seem to not have enough time in the day to do everything you need? I know I do and it's a pain to try to juggle everything, prioritize, and then do the things you CAN do and leaving those things you can't for another day.

That's one reason I wish I could have a clone... or a mini-me! :-)

But, it seems that there's another way.

You can use a service like My Home Personal Assistant to help you do the tasks you don't have time to do. It may sound lazy, but I've started with the ironing. I also know my car needs to get serviced soon and that means I don't have to take a day to do that too. What else is there?


P.S. Cloning myself would be a bad idea, I'd probably argue over which one of me would get to do what! We'd fight over going on vacation, and we all would have to eat too, imagine the food bill.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Amazing headphones; amazing service

As a requirement for work we wanted to get some headphones.

After looking around we found some: Sennheiser PC166.

They seemed decent, had good review and so the search for a reseller began. I look at the usual places, Amazon, Froogle, etc. and ended going to

The order was placed for 1 to test and to my amazement, we had them the next day!

We then "tested" them and found the headphones to be really good. Excellent!

We're now going to purchase 8 more. ;-)

It's nice when things go smoothly.


Thursday, 24 September 2009

New TV Season starting

The new TV Season has started and with it there's a lot of shows continuing (Yay, Heroes!) and some new ones that I'll have to check out.

Ah, if I only had enough time in a day.

However, I'm thinking of getting the episodes for my iphone and watch it while travelling.



Restarting a Polycom (and others) from within Asterisk

It's been a while...

Useful tidbit in Asterisk to reload a phone without going to it to restart it manually.

sip notify polycom-check-cfg user1 [user2 ...]

This allows you to make any changes to the phone system and then have the phones pick up that change after hours or anything like that.



Friday, 19 June 2009

IPhone OS 3.5?

The iPhone OS 3.0 came out and I managed to upgrade within 30 minutes of the release. I'm happy with the extra functionality, but there's some stuff I wish would have been included.

So what are the things that should be included in the next release?

How about RSS feed subscription and updates? I don't want to sync with iTunes just to get podcast updates! I want to be able to download them by just clicking on "Refresh" in the podcast window instead of having to go to the "iTunes Store."

How about uploading your pictures to Flickr or Picassa from the photo app?

Anything else you can think of?

Yes, I know you can buy separate apps for these but it would be nice if it were all included.

I guess someone has to make a living by making things people want or need?


Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Geeks: Star Wars, Star Trek, Matrix, Firefly, oh why?

I'm a geek. I love technology and the possibilities that it opens. As a geek, I love movies that have tech theme. My wife doesn't understand why I (and other geeks) love watching these movies over and over. She doesn't understand what we find so fascinating. Well, let me try to explain.

Star Wars: Knights with swords, rescuing damsels in distress, fighting evil and a force that unites all living creatures. Oh, and everything wrapped with technology.

Star Trek: Explorers searching for things that will help better humanity, meeting creatures and beings. The adventure spirit at it's best.

Matrix: People obsessed with technology also tend to be people that don't like things to stand still. We don't usually believe in fate and think that we make our own luck, etc. If we can't control it, then maybe there's an external reason.

Firefly: Cowboys, guns and the old west but with spaceships.



Dovecot migration error

We migrated IMAP servers at work and for some reason I was the only one that was affected by a small problem. I couldn't get my email! The error that would show in the maillog was:

dovecot: IMAP(user): FETCH for mailbox INBOX UID 176705 failed to read message input: Is a directory
dovecot: IMAP(user): Disconnected: BUG: Unknown internal error bytes=473/4475

After looking at several things I eventually saw that my cur directory had some subdirecties named like emails. They were empty, so I went ahead and deleted it and that fixed it!

Just thought I'd let other people know since it's one of those things that Googling didn't really give any answers. (Imagine that!)


Thursday, 7 May 2009


Wow it's been a while since I've update this!

I have several images that I got from Cisco that are in EPS format and I wanted to use them in Inkscape for diagrams, etc. They're public domain, so I wanted to see if I could give them back to the Open Clip Art Library once I was done.

I got them from the Cisco site but couldn't find anything that could easily convert them on the command line. The ways I found involved converting to PDF and importing in Inkscape. The best way was loading them in Scribus and exporting as SVG, which worked fine, but do that with 300+ files!

In the end I found that I could use pstoedit to convert to another format and then from that format to svg. This worked flawlessly and I didn't even encounter any problems on the final svg file like the website claimed there would be.

This is what I did:

for EPS in *.eps ; do FIG=`echo "$EPS" | sed -e s/eps$/fig/` ; SVG=`echo "$EPS" | sed -e s/eps$/svg/` ; echo "Converting ... $EPS" ; pstoedit "$EPS" -f fig "$FIG" ; fig2dev -L svg "$FIG" cisco_svg/"$SVG" ; rm -f "$FIG" ; done
It worked like a charm.


(Note: I've fixed the script. Thanks to Nelnik pointing out in the comments that my sed for /eps/fig/ would convert steps.eps into stfig.eps. This is due to me not being specific enough. Adding the $ at the end of the /eps/ makes it look specifically for something ending in eps. This would match the extension only in steps.eps.)

Thursday, 15 January 2009

2009 is here.

Where did it come from? I was only now just getting use to 2008.

So I found an interesting Bash tutorial and I've linked to it because you can never have too many interesting Bash tutorials.