As Christmas was rapidly approaching, I decided to get off my butt and make a calendar of African animals to give out to the family.
With a bit of research (albeit not too much), what appeared to be a reasonable option was Vistaprint (who – as I found out later – have no aussie presence despite the misleading http://www.vistaprint.com.au/ url). I paid the premium to get the 9 days delivery and stumbled across it on the 10th day. The parcel was sitting in the hallway – not outside (or even that close to) my door – so it may have been sitting there for days.
With mild anticipation I opened the parcel and was pretty disapointed with what I found.
1. Many of the corners were curled up
2. The colours were not consistent across copies
3. Nearly 1/2 of them have a stain on the front
See the comparison below:
I know I should have tested out various printers but I really didn’t give myself the time I should have. Maybe Vistaprint was rushing through holiday orders and uncharacteristically dropped the ball, all I know is they quality as bad as this wont be getting my business anymore.
Ahh – gotta love those crazy guys from The Pirate Bay!
In an attempt to put (financial) pressure on the law firm which opposed them in their recent court case, co-founder of TPB Gottfrid Svartholm Warg has recommended a strategy he is calling Distributed Denial of Dollars attack (DDo$).
After discovering the bank being used to faciliate online payments will charge (after an initial free 1000 transactions) 2 Swedish kronors (about 25c US) per transaction, Gottfrid is recommending everyone pay them 1 SEK online which should result in them owing the bank 1 SEK instead of receiving 1 SEK for each transaction.
Additionally the overhead incurred due to each transaction having to be handled by hand (due to the small size of the firm) will have the added bonus of costing time and productivity.
Maybe not something I’d recommend – but full marks for thinking outside the box!
Forewarned is forearmed. Here’s 10 things to be aware of before you take a holiday – particularly apropos if you are to end up on a relatively deserted island.
1. Even if there is a “premium beer” category on the drinks menu, you shouldn’t expect anything better than Crown Lager. Unless you are flying Qantas, where you can get a bottle of James Squire (golden – not amber) for $6. This is a necessity as getting tanked is the only way to survive the 65 year old woman sitting next to you who only stops her nails-down-chalkboard sounding emery board action is to laugh in a booming voice at the hilarity that is Confessions of a Shopaholic.
2. Just because the steak costs $45, if there is only 1 restaurant to get dinner from, it’s not going to be better than what you can get for $25 at home. And It’s not going to miraculously get better the second time.
3. Unless you buy your shit at K-Mart, you should bring your own gear wherever possible and avoid suffering the (possibly diseased) crap that passes for hire equipment at the dive store.
4. Just because getting up before 10:00am sounds very un-holiday-ish to you – don’t expect breakfast to wait.
5. If you leave at 5:30am and are dressed appropriately and are travelling 6 degrees longitude or more (particularly in the “hot” direction) don’t expect your outfit to be suitable when you arrive in mid-afternoon.
6. Just because you get a bed, a bath, and a minibar doesn’t mean there’s mobile reception. Or this new thing kids today call the Internet.
7. It’s always good to pace yourself and try not to get a 3rd degree sunburn on the first day. Peeling gets old pretty quick (unless you are peeling someone else – which is fun for hours)
8. You can expect a fine selection of toiletries in your room (normally your bathroom) to cater for your needs. Unless you want to shave, that is.
9. If you are a bit of a reader, factor in (and pack for) reading a book a day. And If one of them is by Douglas Coupland, be sure to allocate enough time to periodically stand up and declare “fuck you’re a wanker!” If you are stuck for reading material, I recommend your camera user guide, you usually get a wide selection of languages to learn.
10. Unless you are trying to impress someone by showing them how flush you are, bring your own Pringles to save paying $4 for a 43g can.
But it’s not all bad – maybe you get to see something like this every night:
Everyone seems to be getting into time-lapse as a means of creating video from photographs, but because the scene is fundamentally static, there needs to be significant activity/action in order for it not to be boring.
Alternatively I’ve been looking at creating video using stop-motion. Before you see my example below, here are my steps (and settings):
1. Take pics
* ISO 100
* AV Mode; Aperture f/11
* Manual focus on infinity
* Burst mode
Use mogrify (from the ImageMagick suite)
$ mogrify -resize 640×480 *.JPG
3. Convert to flash video
Use avidemux (or simply ffmpeg if you are hardcore)
NOTE: Image files should be alphabetically/numerically sequential
* File -> Open : Select first jpeg
* Video -> Frame Rate : Specifiy desired frame rate (such as 15 fps)
* From Video dropdown : Select FLV1 (lavc)
* From Format dropdown : Select FLV
- optional add audio -
* Audio -> Main Track
+ Audio Source : External WAV/MP3
+ External File : Browse to MP3
* From Audio dropdown : Select MP3 (LAME)
- generate video -
* File -> Save -> Save Video (Ctrl-S) : Give it a name
And then you can end up with something like (or hopefully better than) this:
As Moonlight 2.0 enters it’s preview release stage, the dream of Linux being able to enjoy the rich user experience and multimedia functionality (not to mention the cool eye candy) that was previously excluded from such 2nd-class citizens as us is looking suspiciously like becoming a reality.
Unfortunately we still can’t actually create a photosynth, but at least we can view them, take advantage of adaptive video streaming, and finally enjoy the deepzoom glory of sites like Hard Rock Cafe Memorabilia and (more importantly) the Playboy Archive.
While the team was at it, they thought they may as well throw in a couple of the 3.0 features so you can also expect (amongst other things) out-of-browser support and the pluggable media pipeline.
Are you like me and don’t know (or can’t remember) the difference between tungsten, fluorescent, and incandescent (is that the same as tungsten?).
Do you find your cameras auto white balance setting never seems to be right (particularly indoors)?
A quick way of choosing the best setting is to switch on your cameras live view and cycle through the white balance options.
If your camera doesn’t have live view, I guess you can take a quick shot using each of the presets or adjust in post – but I’m just stoked to find a use for my cameras live view
Are you like me? I have hobbies. I have things I like to do. I have things that I know I will appreciate having done. But somehow it’s easier to not.
I think for me it’s a lot about my perception of completeness. I think about things and think about the effort required to get them to a state where they can be considered “finished” and it never seems like something that can be achieved without considerable effort. But how complete is complete? How good is good enough? I don’t really know but are beginning to realise that while “pretty good” is far from “perfect” – it is way better than nothing at all.
So I’m not talking about getting things done – I’m talking about getting things out. Procrastination and perfectionist pretences make it all too easy to start things and never complete them, but if you have to publish, you will either work your ass off or take a more pragmatic approach and rationalise the appropriate effort for the underlying value.
I’ve come to the conclusion that without an internal commitment/schedule (and possibly the fear of ridicule), I will more often than not adopt the “I’ll do that later” attitude (also known as the “I’d rather watch TV” attitude).
Well that all ends today (wow – them’s fighting words!)
As I’m nether industrious nor delusional, but am committed, I intend to adopt the 1-a-week policy.
1 photo taken and published to flickr a week
1 blog post written and published a week
Hell – I might even throw in “wash the dishes at least once a week” too – just for the fun of it!
Well – I guess I’ve done my blog post. And have published this weeks photo to flickr (see my 1 a week set on flickr). I better go do the dishes.
I wonder how long it will last – wish me luck!
With my move to virtualisation and seemingly non-stop addition of net-enabled appliances, the hosts file I have on all machines has grown to over 20 entries. I thought it was about time I centralised this configuration and ran a local DNS server.
You always hear how the most common DNS server – bind - is a monolithic beast, but if you have reasonably moderate requirements, the implementation is quite simple.
The setup I wanted to achieve was probably very common for a home network. All machines/devices have static IP addresses and are all part of the same class C subnet. All DNS requests (for both local and remote addresses) should be cached by the local DNS server to improve lookup performance. All external DNS requests should be forwarded to my ISP’s DNS server(s). Adding a machine or changing an IP address should require no more the an update on the actual device holding the IP address in question, and an update to the local DNS server. All other machines should then be able to resolve the new hostname.
The next obvious step would be to run a DHCP server too, but that is a story for another day.
It seems that everyone is jumping on the virtualisation bandwagon. Reasons such as server consolidation and improved management seem to be pretty compelling to system administrators, and features such as live migration could be the icing on the cake. Can virtualisation save me too?
The three biggest headaches I have are resource management (e.g. continuously running out of disk space on /), service immobility, and keeping the system current. Regarding the last point, there’s a primal urge to respond when your system status script notifies you that your tar-1.16.r1 has be superseded with 1.16.r2. Who can resist this call to action? Not I! But every time I update installed components I find myself backing up all the configuration files (despite the fact that they haven’t changed since the last update and are included and backed up in my configuration file subversion repository), silently crossing my fingers, and hoping for the best. In addition, my experience/paranoia with hard disks compel me to run the system in a RAID-1 configuration (backup? bah!) which results in the system incurring a non-trivial overhead – particularly with regard to write performance.
Dynamic disk allocation could be achieved with LVM, or – you guessed it – virtualisation.
System portability is by definition a feature of virtualisation, so service separation into different VMs seems to be a reasonable solution to start uncoupling services from physical machines.
With the ability to checkpoint and clone VMs, virtualisation can be used to perform “test updates” – item 3: check!
Now that my spare room has appeared to morph into a data centre, what virtualisation technology is right for me?
There’s Virtual Machines (VMware, Microsoft Virtual Server, Parallels) which emulate all the hardware. It is the most flexible option as you can “pretend” to be running any hardware as far as the guest VMs are concerned, but it’s also most resource intensive. In addition to being isolated from each other, the VMs are isolated from the host machine.
Then there’s Paravirtualisation (Xen) which uses a hypervisor to manage and isolate the VMs either by hardware (using Intel’s VT-x or AMD’s SVM CPU level virtualisation found in recent chipsets) or by loading customised versions of the host OS which has been modified to be aware and behave for the hypervisor. The guest VMs are executing their code natively (albeit under the control of the hypervisor), which means you can only run software targeted for the hardware you are running it on, and if you don’t have a new whiz bang CPU, this limits your guest OS choices to pretty much Linux only. This performs considerably better than the previous option.
Finally there is OS level virtualisation (Solaris Zones, Linux-VServer, Virtuozzo/OpenVZ) which adds a virtualisation layer to the host OS. This is the most limited option, as all your guest VMs need to be the same as your host (although in the case of Linux, not the same distro), but also has the smallest overhead (only 1-2% of resources are spent on virtualisation). Each VM is essentially a chrooted/jailed full file system that is mounted by the host and share the (patched) host kernel (gross simplification – but it is essentially the how it appears to the administrator). What this gives you is full access to the file system of each VM from the host, regardless if it’s running or not.
So where does this leave me? On account of me only running Linux (on the server at least), OS flexibility (or inflexibility) was not a factor. More important was performance – particularly on older hardware, and price. The choice looked between Xen and OpenVZ. When ever I’m faced with a choice, I invariably choose the simplest option (at least initially) and in this case it clearly seemed to be OpenVZ.
Two weeks on and I’m loving it! I can run a debian-based webserver, MySQL under centos, and all my custom services from a gentoo server. I can bind a mount point to each VM (or VE – Virtual Environment – in OpenVZ-speak) to allow the virtual machines share disk which is great both for general storage and things like a portage tree. From the host (or HN – Hardware Node) I can monitor and tune a multitude of resource allocations for each VE which are reflected immediately.
The only area lacking in this solution would appear to be a good monitoring/management interface – but I’m working on it. Stay tuned for further virtual adventures!
With the latest beta release (6.0.0 beta 3) of CodeWeaver’s CrossOver Linux (formally CrossOver Office) I am finally able to install and run World of Warcraft flawlessly on Linux. In fact, it seems to run better than under Windows XP on my laptop! I tried Cedega and Wine, but neither was as simple and functional as cxlinux.
Although I haven’t used either in quite a while, I’m still concerned about being able to run Adobe Photoshop and Premier, so this may not be the silver bullet to allow me to fully get rid of Windows – but I am definitely getting close. And one 10GB partition out of 4 PC’s and 1.5 TB of disk is a manageable ratio.
People seem to have positive experiences running Photoshop under cxlinux and I’ll be sure to try it out when the need arises.
It it worth the asking US$39.95? HELL YES! Even though I believe pretty much all the code updates are passed upstream to the Wine group, and generally I’m more a DIY person (computer-wise that is), the simplicity of the pre-configured settings for specific applications can not be undervalued.
I can’t wait for the official release!