Posted by Brian @ 5:44 pm on November 12th 2009

How to install Gargoyle on Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala amd64

Gargoyle allows you to play almost every kind of interactive fiction under the sun. It’s a little tricky to get running since there is no package for it under Karmic for amd64. (But if you’re running 32 bit Karmic go here for the 32 bit package).

First download the Gargoyle source code from the Gargoyle repo. As of this posting the current version is

Unzip the file to a directory.

Now get the dependencies:
sudo apt-get install jam libsdl-mixer1.2-dev libgtk2.0-dev libfreetype6-dev libpng12-dev

And finally compile:
jam install

You’ll find the executable under the build/dist directory. The INSTALL text file has more details. Happy IF’ing!

Posted by Brian @ 9:48 am on October 3rd 2009

How to fix the crontab: no changes made to crontab error using VIM in Linux

I recently upgraded vi to vim on one of my servers and was puzzled why changes weren’t being saved when I edited my crontab file using crontab -e. I would make changes to the file, save them, but still get this error:

crontab: no changes made to crontab

I found a lot of unhelpful advice from checking permissions on the files and directories, to using different editors, to checking cron.allow and cron.deny. None of those worked.

It turns out that .vimrc needs to have a one line configuration option set. You’ll find .vimrc in your home directory (/root for superuser). Just add this line:

set backupcopy=yes

and you’re on your way.

Posted by Brian @ 9:54 pm on September 3rd 2009

How Microsoft Silverlight ruined Netflix Instant Viewing

I’ve been a Netflix customer for over a decade, and for years I’ve been using an old Compaq laptop to watch high quality streaming video from Netflix. And despite being old, the laptop was more than fast enough for the highest bitrate streaming Netflix offered. Once it a while I’d have a buffering issue, but the playback was always smooth at 1024×768 resolution.

Until tonight, when Netflix required me to install Microsoft Silverlight in order to watch streaming video. With Microsoft Silverlight installed, the video is unwatchably choppy at 1024×768 resolution – I get maybe 12 frames per second. At 800×600 it’s still choppy. And the video quality is substantially worse. I’ve gone from near-DVD quality to what looks like a badly copied VHS tape. There’s no excuse for it – this is shoddy programming from Microsoft. The old player worked fine, and other high quality streaming video works great as well.

I’ve got no problem upgrading to new technology when something better or faster comes along. I bought an iPhone 3gs recently because of the improvements from the prior models. I can’t stomach wasting money because Microsoft can’t be bothered to write quality software. My choice now seems to be, give up instant viewing, or waste hundreds of dollars on another laptop. Looks like I’m giving up instant viewing. Way to go, Microsoft. Fantastic move, Netflix.

Oh, wait. YouTube just announced they’re going to offer pay per view. And their high quality video streams great using Flash Player! Looks like Google just won over a customer.

Posted by Brian @ 11:24 am on August 5th 2009

A visual joke for my friends in the UK

Posted by Brian @ 6:03 pm on July 14th 2009

Cat in the hat

“I do not like this Sam-I-am.”

Posted by Brian @ 1:07 pm on June 20th 2009

FooBar industries

Spotted on the garden train tour

Posted by Brian @ 10:34 pm on May 1st 2009

Stress: easy, quick, effective load testing under Linux

I recently had the pleasure of installing Monit on one of my personal servers. At OpenSourcery we use more complex tools like Nagios + Munin, but I needed a simpler utility for monitoring services, and Monit also allowed me to easily restart a service that may have died. Thumbs up all around.

And while I was able to install and configure Monit in just a few minutes, I didn’t have an easy way to test different loads on the system. Enter stress, which was equally painless to configure and set up, giving me a number of ways to controllably test load on the server in question.

Once again the power of open source proves itself. Total time invested, less than one hour. I didn’t have to pay for a thing, and everything just worked.

Posted by Brian @ 10:45 pm on April 21st 2009

My cat seems to have had a bad day

Posted by Brian @ 12:35 pm on March 22nd 2009

Trimet bus powered by… Bidieselo?

I think they meant “biodiesel”

Posted by Brian @ 1:26 pm on March 7th 2009

Howto escalate a comcast call

I’ve been having intermittent issues with my comcast setup, mostly doing netflix instant viewing. I called in today and quickly became frustrated with the run around. After I politely asked to be connected to billing to cancel my account (and sitting on hold for 10m) my issue was magically escalated.

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