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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in ewtroan's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
8:53 pm
Moving from google reader to google reader
If you've been following my shared posts through google reader, I've switched to using google reader at my personal (google app hosted) email address. If you'd like to keep seeing what I've been interested in, feel free to add me to one of your google + circles!
Thursday, September 15th, 2011
9:53 pm
Two blogs in one day. Being a consumer sucks.

So about two years ago I bought my wife a phone on T-Mobile. When I bought it, they verbally assured me I could change the rate plan without entering a new two year contract. So this June, I did change it.

Can you see the punchline coming? Apparently when I did this I signed a new contract. I thought I checked to make sure I didn't, but I can hardly document that. In any case, my original contract was signed with the understanding I could change my rate plan later on. Which, apparently, I couldn't. Why? According a T-Mobile CSR:

~XXXX X: You are not able to make a rate plan change without renewing your contract.
~XXXX X: I do understand where you are coming from Erik, this was a recent change made at the corporate level this summer.

Does this seem like fraud to anyone else? Changing the terms of my original contract signed ages ago. Wish there was a mobile compaany with decent coverage who isn't entirely evil.
11:28 am
HP and Brother Printers
Been a while since I posted, but I had to share this.

My old HP multifunction at home finally gave up the ghost. After five years or so of service I don't have a lot to complain about really. Printing hasn't worked since I tried use generic print cartridges, but it made a fine scanner until it's networking just got really flaky, and then it stopped turning on.

I bought an HP8500A with high expectations. Rather than the cobbled together, hplip dependent scripts I hacked together for scanning to a PDF from the command line, this one had a web UI which would let you scan from the feeder (and was the major selling point). 24 hours later, UPS brought it from Amazon to my doorstep.

I set it up last night, and had nothing but problems. The web interface gave me blank PDFs (no matter which way I turned the paper!) and the document feeder realized it was loaded less than half the time. It wouldn't recognize an 8g USB stick (which has only been in a Windows machine, so Linux didn't mess it up!), and when I finally got the ADF to scan to an SD card the pages went all over the floor as it scanned. Google showed that the ADF and web UI problems are quite common, and have been for a year. Needless to say, I packed it up and dropped it off at the UPS store this morning thinking nice things about Amazon's return policy.

On the way though, I stopped at Staples and picked up a Brother MFC-J825dw. Without touching a Windows box, it's now sitting behind me and will happily scan documents directly to my google docs account as pdfs. It's supposed to connect to evernote, dropbox, picasa... probably others. It really just worked as advertised and was a lot quicker to set up and initialize than the HP was. It also turns on faster, and takes up less space. I haven't tried printing yet (I have a Color LaserJet for that so I really don't care much about printing except for photos, which my wife does from Windows) but so far, kudos to Brother. It would take a lot for me to buy another HP printer after this.
Sunday, April 24th, 2011
8:38 am
Time Warner Wideband
While I was away for spring break, Time Warner sent me a mailing about 50 megabit "wideband" home internet service. I noticed it and tossed it into the recycling with most of the rest of the postal service's efforts.

A couple days later I called them about a DVR box that had given up the ghost (individual segments of the front clock feebly flickering green). While I was on the phone I asked about the service, and was told "oh yes, you're eligible; it'll be $20/month over your current RoadRunner Turbo and gives you 5mbit up as well". When I said that sounded good, but not $240/year good, he told me about an "Extreme" pricing for $10 less which was 30/5. $10/month extra for 5 up sounded awfully good, so I scheduled that along with the DVR replacement.

The service tech showed up 15 minutes early (I showed up 10 minutes early for the appointment, but he waiting patiently!). We swapped the cable modem for a Ubee cable router, with 4 ports and wireless N. He asked me if I was a techie, gave me the password, and stepped back while I made sure it worked. It did, gave about the speeds promised, and he was on his way.

After I reconfigured everything to use the Ubee instead of my D-Link, the only problem I've had has been with the bind DNS server I run locally. Responses were just really, really slow. Often timed out in fact. I tried sticking my DNS box in the Ubee's DMZ, which didn't help at all. Using the Ubee as a DNS forwarder worked just fine, whether the forwarding was from bind or from a client.

Finally I decided this might have something to do with the source port. This was part intuition, part wondering if the router was trying to protect me, and part guess. I fixed the source port to a randomish port number in the bind config, and all was happy. In case anyone else has this happen, make sure you're not binding your source port to port 53. I don't really know why I was, but once I stopped everythihng worked fine.

Partial fail for the Ubee -- the DMZ should be the DMZ and not filtered at all. Overall a win for TWC, who is giving me 20mbit down and 5mbit up over their network pretty reliably. Netflix and Amazon video streams start noticeably faster; I think they look better too, though that's likely the techie equivalent of beer goggles.
Tuesday, January 4th, 2011
8:10 pm
Over the summer two things happened at the same time -- my wife disappeared into book studying for her boards in Veterinary Pathology (which she passed!), and I got an Android phone. Since I suddenly found myself free every evening, I started to play with Android development.

As these things tend to go, it went well for a while, then I started doing real work, then came back to it and got it a little further. Five months later I finally have something ready, and I just posted my first app in the Android marketplace!

It's a dialer app which is supposed to make it much faster to select contacts. It's modeled after the Finger Friendly Friends app for Windows Mobile 6, though I've extended it quite a bit. If you use Android, give it a try and let me know what you think.
Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
1:05 pm
Buiding multiple versions of an android app

I've been playing with Android development a bit, and I had an app I wanted to build two slightly different versions of. I found a few methods for doing this, none of which I really liked. After some hotel room fiddling, I found a relatively clean way of adding an ant task which would build a second version of my app. I'm using a different manifest and activity (which is derived from the normal activity class) for my second version rather than any resource changes. It's small and I don't care much about a few wasted bits here. It would be quite easy to change the method to build an entirely different resource set into the second version if that's more interesting.

A couple of things to note -- this block goes after the in build.xml. One of the reasons I like my approach better than some of the others I've found is it doesn't involve copying build logic from the android platform ant tasks into this build.xml. The whole thing adds a demo target, so running "ant demo" will build the second version of the app. It will recompile the java as needed. This isn't tied into ant clean unfortunately, so detritus will be left standing. Finally, you need to place the apps in different packages to be simultaneously installable. Make sure the second manifest (demo/AndroidManifest.xml here) is correct for the new version. Improvements and suggestions are welcome! This is the first time I've ever touched ant, and as such I gave up before doing things like using the apkbuilder task.

    <target name="demo" depends="-dex">
        <echo>Packaging demo resources</echo>

        <aaptexec executable="${aapt}"
            <res path="${resource.absolute.dir}" />

        <echo>Building bin/SampleAppDemo-unaligned-debug.apk</echo>
        <exec executable="${sdk.dir}/tools/apkbuilder">
            <arg value="${out.dir}/SampleAppDemo-unaligned-debug.apk"/>
            <arg value="-u"/>
            <arg value="-z"/>
            <arg value="${out.dir}/SampleAppDemo.ap_"/>
            <arg value="-f"/>
            <arg value="${out.dir}/classes.dex"/>
        <echo>Signing demo with debug key</echo>
        <exec executable="jarsigner">
            <arg value="-storepass"/>
            <arg value="android"/>
            <arg value="-keystore"/>
            <arg value="../../.android/debug.keystore"/>
            <arg value="${out.dir}/SampleAppDemo-unaligned-debug.apk"/>
            <arg value="androiddebugkey"/>
        <echo>Aligning demo package</echo>
        <exec executable="${zipalign}">
            <arg value="-f"/>
            <arg value="4"/>
            <arg value="${out.dir}/SampleAppDemo-unaligned-debug.apk"/>
            <arg value="${out.dir}/SampleAppDemo-debug.apk"/>

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
9:19 am
Security doghouse
Really? I mean, really?

I was just on the phone with Starwood hotels, and to verify my identity they wanted my web password. He clearly typed it in on the other end to make sure it was right. I've never been asked for a password over the phone. Giving it out just felt plain wrong.

Of course, I use the same junk password on piles of web sites I don't care about. It was my password at Red Hat when we had open telnet access. Hard to believe.

Guess I'll go change a few dozen web passwords today though. Thanks Starwood.
Monday, April 12th, 2010
2:47 pm
New blog
I've long used this space for random personal stuff as well as the occasional work related post. I've been "encouraged" to stop doing that and now have a separate blog for rPath. If you want to follow it, look here.

I can now be offensive here. Which is good, because we all know strong offense beats strong defense in TV ratings. Though normally not in super bowls.
Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
1:34 pm
Meth Study
While I was driving around the bay today I heard an ad looking for people who want to kick the meth habit. The first thing was "shouldn't have any trouble finding some meth heads in San Francisco". Free medication, free counseling, etc. Anyway, I was mildly amused to hear it given the locale.

The kicker was at the end when they said, basically as fast as they could, that compensation was available for study participants. The idea of giving cash to a bunch of druggies who say they want to kick the habit struck me as hilarious. Wonder what they'll spend the money on?
Thursday, February 4th, 2010
11:39 am
Addicted to Kindle
My name is Erik and I have am addicted to my Kindle.

The realization hit me this morning. I've been reading a pulpy 12 book or so sci fi series. My wife suggested it when I had strep throat as an easy read, and the books are fun, quick to read, and mindless enough to work well when I've been traveling. Oh, and they're all available on the Kindle.

Now, my wife owns most of these as trade paperbacks. That didn't stop me from buying them for the Kindle though. I could finish a book, turn on the wireless, and start the next one from the comfort (hah!) of an airport chair. I didn't have to shove a couple of paperbacks into my laptop bag, just the Kindle. Nevertheless, I now see that buying books we already owned was the first sign of addiction.

This morning I discovered that only the first 7 (or so) books are available on the Kindle. The rest of the series is not. Now, my wife does indeed own the rest. The true sign of my addiction is that I strongly suspect I won't read them. It's just too much trouble to read an actual book.

Now understand that we have piles of bookshelves full of dead trees. When we finished our attice, we lined a room with bookshelves and we've almost filled those up.

But jeez reading that way seems like a lot of trouble.
Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009
8:40 am
36" of snow
I spent the weekend, and Monday, and some of Tuesday, in the Virginia mountains. It's only about 3500' above sea level and really doesn't get that much snow. This weeks storm was a complete exception though. We made it up after a harrowing drive through driving snow (plows and salt were no match for it), and woke up to about two feet of snow on the ground. The snow kept falling until the early evening, for a total of around three feet. That is a lot of snow.

The driving wind kept up for a few more hours, and we woke up to clear skies on Sunday morning. We also woke up to massive snow drifts. Think six foot high snow drifts about four feet thick. My driveway was completely drifted in (which mattered very little given the condition of the roads). Fortunately, most of the people I was with were skiers and had easy slope access (where easy means trudging through waist high drifts for about ten feet).

Eventually we had to get to work on the driveway though. The driveway is heated, so the parts which weren't covered by drifts stayed somewhat clear. Here's a picture of what the rest looked like (the angle makes the drifts look a little smaller than they were; the tops were easily above my Mom's head).

Friday, December 11th, 2009
1:37 pm
Amazon mp3 downloader, redu
A little while ago I built the amazon mp3 downloader for Foresight. Well, amazon decided to have some more free albums today, and my wife (and kids) like Christmas music, so I went to grab them. Doing so made it blindingly obvious that my wrapper script should have passed the command line arguments onto the application itself.

A "conary update amazonmp3" will get you a version which is better integrated with firefox, and a "conary update amazonmp3=oot.rpath.org@fl:2" will get it for you if you haven't already installed it.
Monday, November 30th, 2009
9:33 am
Conary Capsules

Today is a pretty big day for us here at rPath. We've just announced support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux in our release management product offering. For the past year we've gotten significant interest from large organizations who want to use Conary's version control capabilities to manage their system deployment. Red Hat's incredible success has made their enterprise offerings a requirement for those businesses though, so they've been trying to find a way to get the best of Red Hat along with the best of rPath.

After scratching our heads for a while, we realized that what those folks want out of Conary isn't package installation, it's version control. They're looking for a way to organize sets of RPMs, define systems using versioned groups, and reliably update those systems once they're deployed. While we have previously imported operating systems (such as Novell SLES, CentOS, and Scientific Linux) we changed the packaging as part of that; doing that would (understandably) concern this set up of users who really do want RPM. But RPM does package installation, not version control, so why not marry Conary version control with RPM package installation to get the best of both worlds?

This line of thought led to capsules in Conary. They're really just a way of delegating the physical package management to another packaging system (RPM in this case) while using Conary to do the high level version orchestration. So Conary decides what gets installed, and RPM does the installation.

The packages themselves are represented as normal Conary components (rpmname:rpm), but the RPM itself gets stored in the repository instead of the contents of the individual files. When a changeset is generated, the entire RPM is sent down the wire and the conary client then passes the RPM package to RPM itself to do the install. If there are multiple RPMs they all go off to RPM simultaneously to make sure RPM can order everything properly.

What's this all mean to Red Hat Enterprise Linux users? It means that you can use Conary to define groups, rBuilder to build images, and Conary to apply updates. Strong version control, package repositories, and our deep dependency resolution are all preserved. It also means you can use RPM to query the system, install packages outside of Conary, and perform RPM system verifications. After all the installation path is identical to anaconda's, with a single RPM transaction installing the entire system for you. It's not a system that looks like Red Hat Enterprise Linux, it is Red Hat Enterprise Linux. After the system is installed the only difference is a Conary binary which can be used for package version orchestration.

Saturday, November 7th, 2009
9:10 am
Amazon MP3 downloader

I spent a bit of time this morning packaging up the amazon mp3 downloader for Foresight systems. It's a binary only (amazon doesn't release sources), and I mined Fedora 6 and Fedora 10 to get the dependencies right.

If you're interested:

conary update amazonmp3=oot.rpath.org@fl:2
Monday, October 26th, 2009
4:33 pm

Saw this at the local children's museum yesterday.

Pearls from clams. Who knew?

Saturday, September 19th, 2009
2:21 am
hfield wi-fire adapter
A couple of weeks ago I was killing some time while watching a long commit run by browsing either Engadget or Gizmodo. They mentioned a device called the Wi-Fire from hfield, which is an external USB wifi adapter which was supposed to work at long distances. They were incredibly skeptical about the lightweight, cheap feeling adapter until they tried it. Once they gave it a run they couldn't say enough good things about the $59 gizmo.

I immediately thought about my mountain house. There is no connectivity where I am despite ample connectivity in the resort's buildings. I could see a connection (most of the time) but never get an address, and there are no broadband providers. I figured for $59, what the heck.

Got it, it worked under Linux, and it definitely showed more networks at my primary house than the built in Intel stuff did. It even let me connect to the one unsecured network I saw (other than my own!). Not bad, so I put it aside until my next mountain weekend.

Well, it's the weekend now and I'm in the mountains. The first thing I did (much to my wife's annoyance!) was turn on the laptop, plug in the Wi-fire, and point it toward to log. To my pleasure I got an IP address and I'm writing this blog post through the device. I'm happy to say this is one inexpensive device the works as advertised. Nice job hfield! I'm only getting 700kbps, but I'm almost positive that's the fault of the lodge's wifi, not the Wi-Fire. I'll try and test in the lodge sometime to verify that, but it's never been all that quick.

Oh, between getting the device and getting to the house to try it Verizon sent me a bulk mailing saying that broadband is now available at the mountain house. 1Mb for $20/month. Oh well.
Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
3:38 pm
Stupid. Stupid.
In a fundraising appeal titled "Hillarycare revisited," the RNC warned about "Obamacare" and said the government "already runs car companies, banks and mortgage companies. Republicans believe that the last thing the American people want is government telling them when and where — or even whether — they can get medical treatment for their families."

The American people much prefer their credit card companies telling them whether they can get medical treatment for their families.

All this argument is about how to ration, not whether to ration. Like every other good in our economy, health care. Today it's rationed by ability to pay; that may or may not be fair. Arguing that it shouldn't be rationed is either utopian, idiotic, or duplicitous.
Monday, July 6th, 2009
10:09 am
Clouds as terrorist targets?
As a rule I don't repost from other blogs; I figure there isn't much of a need to just parrot at a distance. I can't help myself this time though.

Thanks Bruce.
Saturday, July 4th, 2009
9:02 am
Conary 2.0.44
Yesterday we released Conary 2.0.44 with a rather dry change list. Hidden in there are some significant performance improvements for update, updateall, migrate, and group cooks.

For the various forms of update, the time before Conary has built it's update plan is much shorter, especially if multiple passes of dependency resolution are required. For updateall --info on my laptop, the time went from twelve minutes to four thanks to a whole bunch of changes. Some of those changes were in the client side dependency solver, whose iterative resolving is significantly more efficient. So much more so that those changes were enough to speed up the build time of the Foresight groups by about 30%.

Now you know what I do on airplanes!
Friday, June 5th, 2009
3:33 pm
Amazon On Demand
I've spent the last couple of weeks upgrading my home theater set up. One of those things where one failure (a subwoofer) cause another (the receiver) and the to do list just snowballed (switch to hdmi [finally], use the RF feature on the harmony remote, and so on). One of the items was to hook my TV up to an ethernet cable now that Panasonic VIERAcast has support for Amazon On Demand.

It all seems to work really well, but here's the rub: I haven't bought anything. The shows on there are just too expensive. One of the most egregious example I've found is Jimmy Neutron season one (can you tell I have kids?). They charge $1.99 for a 30 minute episode. That's $4/hour, or about the same as a first run movie at the theater! For further comparison, the "best of season one" DVD is $27 for 17 episodes, one of which is double length. So 9 hours of "entertainment" for $27, or $3/hour. Why would I pay 33% more for on demand, which I can't watch in my car, on a plane, or during a vacation. I can even get the DVD two days for free later thanks to Amazon on demand. Not even my six year old thought Jimmy Neutron was worth $4/hour.

There is a similar oddity if you compare HD shows to DVD purchases. They tend to cost more than the DVD (though the on demand for standard def costs less than the DVD). Given that it's not real HD (due to the reduced bitstream and bandwidth) it's hardly a compelling purchase. So much for Amazon on demand.

Don't get me started on the pricing for current episodes compared to Hulu.
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