It's Just this Little Chromium Switch Here

Weblogging and commentary by Chip Rosenthal

Get Social

A note, primarily to my readers (both of them) who follow this blog by RSS.

I've added a bunch of social network badges to the sidebar of my site. If you know me, feel free to friend me or stalk me or whatever it is you kids do these days.

FAIL: Album Cover Guesser

screenshoot of music album cover guesserI was using the Amarok "Album Cover Manager" tool to fill in the missing cover artwork in my music collection.

It has a "Fetch Missing Covers" button, which goes to Amazon and retrieves the artwork it needs. The lookup often makes mistakes, particularly because I tagged artists in a discouraged "Lastname, Firstname" form. Still, it's easier to fetch them all, then go back and manually fixup the ones it got wrong.

I ran it over several hundred albums. It made a lot of mistakes, but none quite so hilarious as the one to the right. The album cover you see is what it selected for London Calling by The Clash.

Media Center Network Control

My media center PC is an ASUS bookshelf computer running Ubuntu Linux and KDE desktop. I use it primarily for music, running the Amarok music player.

Our house is pretty small and open. I can see the entire living room from my desk. I often play music on the media system while I'm working. The annoying bit is that I have to get up from my desk and walk over to the living room anytime I want to fiddle the controls.

I wish I had a good way to control the music from my desk. I've been puzzling over this for a whilte. I've tried various ways to control Amarok remotely and none were satisfactory. Then it dawned on me that I was missing the obvious: I didn't want to control just the media player but the whole desktop. I can do that using something like Virtual Network Computing (VNC).

Best Breakfast...All Made in Austin

I had the most phenomenal breakfast this morning. It occurred to me afterwards that it was completely made of foods from local Austin sellers.

First, there was the migas quiche by The Soup Peddler. I've had a few things from them, and everything has been extremely flavorful and delicious. Past favorites include chicken corn chowder and chicken pot pie. I'll add the migas quiche to the list. The crust was very tasty and flaky, a little worse for the microwave reheating but still quite good. The filling was light and tasty, and not the "you've got 20 eggs in your mouth" feel I've had with some other quiches.

The quiche was topped with mild salsa from Hill Country Homestyle Canning. I was already a fan of their pickles. Their plain dill pickles are a favorite. The salsa is remarkably fresh and tasty.

Bar Camp Austin III

Bar Camp Austin III logoJust got home from Bar Camp Austin III. I had a phenomenally good time.

You usually hear at gatherings like this that the interesting stuff happens in the hallways, and the sessions just fill the time between. Well, not here. The sessions were excellent. I didn't have to suffer a single product demo. Every session was well facilitated, the participants engaged, and nobody boorishly hogged the discussion.

One of my favorite sessions was titled something "Weblog Vanity Sites and Thought Leaders". No, I don't know what that means either. The organizer never showed up. So a bunch of us just talked about blogging, circling the topic back to how to make a difference (and be noticed) with our blogging. The group conclusion seemed to be that being "A List" (or noticed by the "A List") is becoming less important to getting ideas recognized. What's most important is becoming a respected authority in a niche area--which may involve an offline presence in addition to your blogging.

Congratulations to whurley and all the organizers on a job well done.

Thanks to GSD&M for hosting the event. One of the things that made the day so great was the large number (five) of session rooms, and plenty of room to mill about between.

Community Media Weekend

This has been my weekend of community media.

Saturday, I attended the Texas Community Media Summit. There were several highlights of the event for me. For instance, it was nice to see Debbie Austin from The Texas Observer give a shout-out to Austin Bloggers, a site I manage.

I also enjoyed finally meeting U.T. R.T.F. Professor Laura Stein who seems to have a good earthy handle on community media issues. She lead a session on media convergence. It got me thinking about funding for projects such as open source tools. One effect of Texas SB 5 is that many cities will find their PEG (access television) budgets cash rich for capital equipment, but starved for operating funds. Maybe some of those funds can be used for servers and other infrastructure for community media projects.

I had a blast chatting with public policy superstar Charles Benton. He got me thinking about the impacts the digital television transition will have on community media, and what opportunities there may be.

Then, on Sunday, I went to see the new Michel Gondry movie Be Kind Rewind.

"Wait! Wait!" you say. "What's that got to do with community media?"

I don't want to give too much away, but if you've seen the trailer you already know it's about a couple of guys who end up creating their own movies. What I enjoyed was seeing how the process of creating their own media ultimately affects their neighborhood and the people around them.

The movie was sweet and had a lot of heart. I enjoyed it a lot.

The embedded video is Michel Gondry's own sweded version of the movie trailer. (I'll also recommend the sweded trailer by these guys, with its inspired Big Lebowski bit.)

Sun's McNealy Gets It Backwards

According to a Network World article posted today:

Telecommunication companies need to go beyond just providing bandwidth and look into acquiring Internet destination sites that are heavily trafficked, Sun Chairman Scott McNealy said on Friday.

McNealy gets it precisely backwards. What the net needs is a complete separation between bandwidth and application.

When the bandwidth provider is also the service provider, they don't have an incentive to make the network work well for anything but their applications. Want to watch a movie on Comcast cable television service? No problem! Want to watch the same movie on a peer-to-peer service across your Comcast broadband connection? Whups, that's being throttled.

McNealy's vision is good for Sun: it would boost demand for their equipment. But it's very bad telecom policy.

Read the full article here: McNealy: Telcos falling behind in Internet race

Comcast Thwarts Public at Net Neutrality Hearing

The FCC held a recent public hearing on network neutrality, and a lot of scrutiny was placed on Comcast's degredation of peer-to-peer applications on their broadband network. This, for instance, hampers video applications and discourages Comcast subscribers from using alternatives to their cable TV services.

The Save the Internet Coalition discovered that Comcast (or one of their supporters) bussed in people to fill chairs, so the public would be blocked from participating.

Comcast — or someone who really, really likes Comcast — evidently bused in its own crowd. These seat-warmers, were paid to fill the room, a move that kept others from taking part.

This is despicable. Comcast really needs a lesson in open communication.

Full article here: Comcast Blocking: First the Internet — Now the Public

Hiccups in the Linux RAID

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In December, I made a RAID 1 network storage server by adding a cheap SATA controller and a couple of 500GB hard disks to chinacat. For the most part, it has worked great, but there is one hiccup.

First the good news: the network storage server is working every bit as well as I had hoped and everything that I'd hope to do is falling into place. All of our media files are now consolidated in one place. All of our desktop systems are (finally!) being backed up. Plus, there are all the other groovy benefits of having a shared storage server in the house.

I started the benchmark series because I was concerned with the performance of Linux software RAID. My test results suggested that performance would be acceptable. My real world results underscore that. For a while, I even moved my home directory off of the primary hard drive onto the slower RAID 1 device. I ended up moving it back not because of performance, but to build a more reliable backup architecture.

Sample Ballots for March 4 Primaries

I've several people asking on various mailing lists for sample ballots for the upcoming election. Here is the scoop for Travis County residents.

The web page for the Travis County Clerk, Elections Division is here:
http://www.co.travis.tx.us/county_clerk/election/default.asp

The sample ballots for the March 4 primaries are here:
http://www.co.travis.tx.us/county_clerk/election/20080304/sample.asp

You'll want to have your voter registration card in hand, so you can lookup your districts and see which items apply to you. Or, you can lookup your registration info here:
http://www.traviscountytax.org/showVoterNameSearch.do