Netflix: Slaves of the Industry

posted in: Free Software, Technology | 0

Netflix envelopeI’ve recently received word that Netflix will start offering a “watch it now” feature, which will stream movies to subscribers’ computers. You can watch a demonstration of it at Hacking Netflix.

Being a 4-DVD Netflix subscriber myself, I decided to investigate. In their FAQ, they already list the system requirements as “Windows XP or later” and “Internet Explorer 6 or later.” In other words, no Linux or Mac OS’s allowed.

Even if you are naive enough to have a computer that runs windows, you still won’t be able to watch the movie on your TV, thanks to Windows Media DRM. You won’t be able to burn it to a DVD (even temporarily) or transfer it to another computer (if you happen to have an HTPC). If you HTPC is running MythTV, Freevo, Geexbox, or even AppleTV, you’re out of luck.

I don’t blame Netflix for setting the standard. That was undoubtedly set by the MPAA. They don’t want people doing “whatever they want” with their movies (even though people do anyway). So, they place ridiculous restrictions on any legal services, causing many people to rely on the illegal channels (which are much more user-friendly and platform independent).

Until Netflix does something more revolutionary, instead of being subservient to the movie industry, you can expect many people, especially the increasing number of non-windows users, to turn to file-sharing, such as BitTorrent.

Dear Netflix, thanks for nothing.

SuSE 10.1, Geexbox, and Xandros

posted in: Free Software, Technology | 2

Mozart Media PCI finally ordered some SuSE 10.1 CDs and upgraded (read completely wiped out and reinstalled) the patron stations, and I truly upgraded the circ desk. It was just easier to wipe the other workstations clean. I mean, who knows what kids have downloaded on them?

I also installed Xubuntu Dapper release on my iMac G3. It’s so sweet and lightning fast.

Unfortunately, I’ve lost the ability to print at the circ desk. I only partially had it to begin with. I could print a few pages, but anything big (like overdue notices) would kill the printer. It’s a horrible HP LaserJet 1020 (and yes, the HP worker who designed it should be dragged out into the street and beaten — I hope it’s not someone I know). It is probably one of four laser printers in the world that doesn’t work well with Linux (and I had to get one — not my choice).
EDIT: I got the 1020 working simply by installing the latest foo2zjs drivers. I guess I was just being lazy. I’m so used to not having to install drivers for anything. It felt so windows-like to have to install one. 🙂

Anyway, I usually print the big stuff on our $10,000 mega-copier-printer-thingamajig (i.e. a Toshiba E-Studio 450). But, it’s out of toner, and apparently, only one person is allowed to refill it…and she is taking her sweet time.

On the home front, I’m in the process of building a home theater system. I found a really hot case (pictured above) and the mother of all media operating systems (no, not Windows Media Center). It’s called Geexbox. It’s only 8MB on disk, and it can be run as either a LiveCD (the CD pops out after it boots so that you can insert a CD or DVD) or installed on a partition on your hard drive.

It boots very fast (about as fast as the average DVD player) and shuts down instantly, just like a normal electronic appliance. It is preconfigured to work with tv-out cards and with remote controls. In fact, almost everything is preconfigured. I really haven’t touched the config files.

On the other partition of the hard drive, I installed Xandros, so that any guests we have, who will inevitably wish to check their email (read Mother-in-Law) can do so without disturbing any of my computers. 🙂

DRM = CRAP

posted in: Technology | 0

According to this article (somewhat dated), unsolicited commercial email once carried the initials UCE. That, however, just didn’t instill in people the awful picture of what UCE actually is. Someone came up with SPAM, and the world (except for those who send it) now detests it and fights it harder than the “war on terror.”

Similarly, DRM (Digital Rights Management — their words, not mine) is evil…perhaps much more evil than SPAM because people are actually paying to use it. Whenever they buy one of those MP3 players or download music that won’t allow them to, well, do whatever they want with the product they bought with their own money, DRM is probably in effect. But if it were only about music, I wouldn’t care. What scares me is that it has spread to movies, software, hardware, and electronics.

Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation has proposed an acronym that would more appropriately describe DRM: Cancellation, Restriction And Punishment or CRAP. Now, let us join hands and flush the CRAP down the toilet.

Exploding iPods

posted in: Technology | 1

This could have all kinds of implications. I can just see Bush concluding that Apple might have links with al-Qa’eda.

Apparently, some poor fellow tried to self-repair his dead iPod, and it exploded in his face. The lesson: don’t try this at home or on a crowded bus.

New Video (Laila and Zahra)

posted in: Free Software, Technology | 0

Zahra and Laila togetherI forgot to mention that I posted a new video of Zahra and Laila together at our house. They are very cute in the way they interact with one another. By the way, the woman in the video is not my wife. She’s her sister, who looks just like her. Even I get confused sometimes. 🙂

Umm Zahra filmed the video with our new Samsung SCD-353 DVC camera. It’s a pretty nice, mid-range digital camcorder that only cost me $160 (Amazon has it listed for $311.99 — I got it refurbished). Anyway, I had to use Mac OS X to do the video editing. Yes, sad but true. But iMovie (the Apple program I used) doesn’t export to any usable format besides Quicktime. So, I then had to use FFMPEG to convert it to mpeg format, which is what you’ll see. Unfortunately, there is no working video editing software for Linux PPC (Kino has some powerpc bugs), and I only have a firewire port on the laptop.

I ordered a $10 firewire card for MotherBrain (my desktop), that should be powerful enough to run Cinelerra, which is much more powerful than iMovie.

I might be a geek

posted in: Technology | 3

Ah, another 2-week vacation. Time for a silly post:

I think I might be a geek. Tell me what you think. Be honest.

1. We have 5 computers and only one television.
2. My toddler has an iMac.
3. I name my computers.
4. I have a server (in some remote location) hosting this web site and about 50 others.
5. All of my computers have Linux on them, even my wife’s and daughter’s.
6. My wife and I sometimes chat with each other online (while we’re sitting right next to each other on our computers).
7. When I want to take something upstairs, I type “fish://192.168.254.102” and click and drag it.
8. Sometimes, in the middle of web designing or writing, I forget to eat.
9. The phrase, “httpd dead but pid file exists” actually means something to me.
10. My daughter cannot read but she can open Xine, start Dora the Explorer, maximize it to full screen, and turn up the volume.
11. When I go over someone’s house I ask for their WEP key.
12. If someone asks me if I’ve caught the latest virus that’s been going around, I reply, “No, I run Linux.”
13. Apple is not food. A thread is not a piece of string. A child process has nothing to do with kids. And I can assure you that fsck is actually good and is not a cute way to write a curse word.

So, does that make me a geek?

TV Culture

posted in: Technology | 2

My name is Abu Zahra, and I have been TV-sober for 3 years. Alhamdulillah! Yes, three years ago (also the time when I got married), my wife and I decided to ditch the tube. Before you ask, yes we can still find out if a tornado is coming. Ever heard of the Internet? (or radio for that matter).

Let me clarify in saying that we do own a television and a DVD player, but we do not have cable or an antenna. We get zero TV channels. I cannot tell you how liberating it has been these past three years. I used to be one of those people who complained about not having time to do things, never realizing that it was the TV taking up that time. Even watching the news is unnecessarily time consuming. They repeat the same 5 stories over and over. I used to be a channel surfer. Now, I’m a writer, a storyteller, and so much more. My wife and I have time to read books together.

I’m not even going to get into all of the haram things on TV, because it is possible to avoid them, but it takes a lot of effort. The advertising is also very intrusive. If we want to watch something, we just get a DVD. Yes, Dora the Explorer without commercials! And the DVD just keeps looping over and over…*sigh* So, like I said, the TV is used, but it is used the way we want it to be used. We are in full control, by the grace of Allah.

Whenever I am over someone’s house now and they inevitable have the TV on, I get so irritated with the constant commercial interruptions. It is like living in the country with fresh air and beautiful trees for years and to then visit the city with all of its noise, congestion, and pollution.

Alhamdulillah, I just got my three-year chip, and I could not be happier. Now pass the popcorn, my favorite book is on.

Lubing My Fans

posted in: Technology | 0

I haven’t been using MotherBrain for the past few days. It had a really awful noise coming from its power supply fan. It sounded kind of like a lawnmower revving up. I was afraid it would overheat and explode or something. So, I turned it off for a couple of days until I had a solution.

I really didn’t know what to do at first, but then I decided that it probably needed some oil. Enter Joann fabric store and their magical sewing machine oil (which was 40% off). A couple of drops on the bottom where the thingamajig that the fan spins around is located (you have to take apart your power supply to do this — please remember where all the parts go. Don’t e-mail me and expect me to be able to tell you), and poof! It’s now purring like a kitty…a cute kitty.

It’s so nice to be back on MotherBrain, and back with XGL. Long live MotherBrain…inshaAllah.

Note: You must use high grade sewing machine oil or something that can handle high-speed fans. WD-40 will not work. Happy lubing 🙂