Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Amazon Kindle, Subsonic and MusicBrainz

Kindle 3
   Early last week I had another burst of reading activity on my Kindle 3. Reading for me tends to come in spurts when the rest of my life doesn’t interfere and it had been a while. I loaded up the Kindle with some new goodies (Sh*t my dad says is hilarious, btw) and started peeling through not only the books but also the menus, setting things up just the way I like them.

RANT: As a side note here, why the heck are collections so freaking difficult to setup? I mean come on Amazon. Make them work by directory structure or something easy, or at least fix it so that when you add to collection, you are only shown books not already in another collection by default. OK, rant done 🙂

   Anyhow, as I was reading and setting up different collections, etc. I noticed a familiar recurring problem. The short history is when I got my Kindle 3 I noticed every so often the e-ink would not fully display, but only display VERY faintly. I called Amazon and they had me update the firmware but ut was really hard to tell if that fixed it as it was not a constant thing. Queue up last week and I notice this a LOT more. Not only while reading the books, but now in the menus, etc.. So, I called Amazon right up as they instructed me to do the last time I noticed this. They IMMEDIATELY sent me out a replacement. I mean I had it the NEXT day, during a snowstorm. There was no arguing, no listening to some low end tech worker flip pages on the other end of the phone, no shipping or return costs, no hassle whatsoever. THIS is what customer service is all about and it’s easy to see that Amazon stands behind it’s products. This is why I will always recommend the Kindle. I don’t know what the other guys service is like, but Amazon is absolutely tops every time I have had to deal with them.

Subsonic

   Shortly after I got my new Kindle (read hours) I got horribly sick (sinus infection) and have been that way for 4 or 5 days now. During my occasional bouts of lucidity and while waiting for the NyQuil to kick in again I was reading through my facebook posts and noticed Tom Higgins mentioning that he was enjoying using Subsonic, which is a new (to me anyway) software that manages your music collection for you. It’s a server side app with some seriously nifty clients you can run on you android phone, which made it catch my eye. I have (and still do for now) been using Kplaylist for quite some time and I really like it, but, hey, nothing wrong with checking out new things, right?

MusicBrainz

   Well, the thought of me trying out some new music collection software got me looking at my music collection. You know what this is like. I have been hanging on to my music in digital form for better than 10 years, so, it’s substantial / sizable, in different formats, mixed up, formatted and named badly, bad mp3 and ogg tags, etc.. What’s a guy to do? Well, I searched around a bit and found a whole lot of programs for Linux that will let you manually fix tags. Ick. With thousands to do I kept searching. I found a bunch of programs for windows and mac that will help you reorganize and fix your collection, and, eventually, I found ONE that will do the same on a Linux box. It’s name is MusicBrainz Picard I have been using it here and there (still sick) for a couple days now, sicking it on a directory of my music collection here and there. It sure beats doing this all by hand! It’s not perfect software by any means, but it sure will be a timesaver compared to the alternative and the more people that use it and update those databases, the better it’ll work. Check it ut, I think you’ll like it!

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Epson Workforce 520

Epson Workforce 520

Epson Workforce 520


Some days things just go right. It’s been a while since that happened to me, hence the lack of posts lately. Well, that changed tonight…

I decided it was high time to get a new printer. I have been using used HP LaserJets for years and my last, a LaserJet 5 was finally starting to show some wear, not to mention hogging enough electricity to power a small city. I have also endured about 4 years of complaints that we didn’t have a color printer.

I checked out the stock of some local electronic stores online and spent an hour or two googling whether this or that model printer wold work under Linux. I actually wanted to grab the same printer Dann bought, just because I knew that one would work, however, I couldn’t find a local source. I settled on buying an Epson Workforce 520 from the local BesyBuy.

Setup was an absolute breeze. I unpacked it, followed the setup instructions to add it to my local wireless connection via the printer’s control panel. Then I headed to openprinting.org to grab the driver and installed it. It’s just a deb (or rpm) package so it was a click or two to install. After that I headed to Linux Mint’s printer config utility, told it to search for network printers and it was found and installed automatically with no fuss, no muss whatsoever.

Everything works, and I mean everything. This is one of those multifunction printers that not only prints, but faxes (actually I haven’t tried that and probably won’t), copies AND SCANS! After my initial test print, I fired up Mint’s “Simple Scan” which scanned a document I had on the printer easily and perfectly. I was amazed!

I believe I may have found the perfect wireless printer/copier/scanner to run under Linux Mint (yes, it’s wireless too, did I mention that). I know Linux printing has come a long long way, but this was trivially easy. If you are looking for a great new printer addition to your Linux setup, this is it!

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

What’s with the Lemur?

System 76 Lemur

System 76 Lemur


Nope, I am not talking about the curious little Madagascan primate, I am talking about the one from System 76!

It has been a while since I have done a review, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working one up 🙂 At this past years Ohio Linux Fest I got to rub elbows with Carl Richell from System 76 who promised me the opportunity to review one of their masterpieces. After some killer anticipation, the unit arrived on my doorstep and it turned out to be their Lemur Ultra Thin laptop.

This lappy has a GORGEOUS 13″ display, a core-i3 proc, and the all the assorted (and working) ports, wifi, ethernet, sound, SUSPEND, etc., that you would come to expect. I did say working didn’t I? That’s important because, as retailer of Linux computers, it’s important to make the distinction that there is NO guesswork as to whether or not Linux will run on perfectly on it. It does 🙂

System 76 was nice enough to let me demo this thing for a long time, so it’s safe to say that I tested this thing out really well. I used it extensively at home to do my normal web surfing, video watching and music playing. I also used it for work where it was my portal for a bunch of system administration work, rdesktop and ssh sessions galore, plenty of terminals open with configuration scripts and php programming, connected through every kind of free and paid wifi you can think of, not to mention my work vpn. And a lot of that was all at the same time! This system performed more than admirably. I even used it at a work conference where I did splunk installs and testing without issue.

I am not sure what kinds of proprietary things that System 76 provides in its own packages, however everything in Ubuntu, the Linux distribution that System 76 ships with by default, runs perfectly. Then again, so did Mint 10, the other Linux distribution I installed and tested with. This left me with, literally, nothing whatsoever that didn’t meet my personal satisfaction 🙂

This laptop is very light, perfectly functional, very good looking and stunningly well designed and put together. It feels to me like a MacBook Air with a warp drive, and at literally half the price. In short, this is the laptop that I want to carry around (did I mention it’s light too)? I am hoping that Mrs. LincolnClaus is reading this. It would look great under the tree this year! I would gladly get rid of most of the rest of my laptop entourage to be able to carry one of these.

Hey, anyone want to buy a pristine condition used netbook? Or two? 🙂

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Excessive?

laptops

laptops


How many is too many? Is this excessive or have I just been watching too many episodes of Hoarders?

  • Top – Dell Inspiron 15 – My “desktop” machine.
  • Far left – Macbook 5,2 – Use when I am relaxing in bed with my feet propped up. Pisses me off that I cannot get Linux shoehorned on this properly yet.
  • 2nd left – Acer Aspire One – netbook I use for TLLTS work.
  • Bottom middle – Acer Aspire 3680 – my main livingroom machine – always tethered to the power cord because I have had it so long the battery only lasts 11 seconds.
  • 2nd right – HP Mini 110 – new netbook and daily carry.
  • Far right – Thinkpad X31 – dev/test/slush box.

And, of course, these are not *all* my computers. I also have a couple ESXi boxes which run a few virtual servers and an old G3 (upgraded to G4) Blue and White that mostly is a nightstand.

So, what computers do you all have kicking around?

Monday, June 7th, 2010

New NAS

WD 1Tb MyBook World Edition

WD 1Tb MyBook World Edition


Wow! Long time no post! I didn’t realize it had been so long. Lots of things have happened since I last wrote here. I had a little vacation time where I did pretty much nothing, I had a great belated birthday party that many of my friends attended, and I finally got my new NAS.

I really needed a new NAS. I keep running out of room on my old 500Gb NAS, which holds all my backups and media files and such. I have been putting off getting a new one for a long long time (I am a great procrastinator). Finally I broke down and picked up a Western Digital 1TB MyBook World Edition. I quite like it!

This NAS, priced around $170 depending on where you buy it, is actually pretty featureful. It offers cifs, afs and nfs filesharing, has optional ssh login ability and serves an itunes share and streaming media share. This NAS uses green technology, so not only does it automatically go into powersaving mode when not in use, but it uses a low power drive as well, so very little heat, no fan noise, and very low power draw. The gigabit ethernet affords decent speed on data transfers and the built in software is easy to setup and use and will let you get things like individual user accounts running quickly.

All in all, not a bad NAS for the price. In fact, this is probably the most inexpensive NAS I looked at with the featureset I needed. I have never yet been disappointed by Western Digital and that holds true on this purchase as well.

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Wireless anyone?

Belkin-G

Belkin-G


A while back I was talking about wireless problems with my wife’s Compaq laptop. That laptop’s wireless card has never worked well and I mentioned that I was now in the market for a USB wireless dongle for it as I couldn’t find a replacement mini pci-e wireless card that would work.

This weekend while laptop shopping I ran across a Belkin Wireless G USB Dongle at a Target store. I decided to bring it home and try it and it works perfectly. The only issue I had is I needed to remove the old wireless pci-e card because network manager kept switching between the two randomly.

If you are looking for a wireless USB dongle that works, at least, on Mint 8, this is it and it was only $30 at Target. Honestly, I should have just went this route long ago and forgone the hassle of trying different mini pci-e cards.

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

LackRack

lackrack

lackrack


So you have some servers at home like I do. What do you put them on? Where do you put them? Well, for quite a while I had them sitting on a table, out in the open, right at ear level. Obviously this is not an optimum placement. In fact, it can get downright annoying with the noise and all. Servers really should be in a rack, but what if you dont have the space or can’t afford one? Enter the LackRack.

This website is a great resource for the LackRack, but essentially, it’s an Ikea “Lack” endtable, which just happens to be the correct size to fit rack-mountable equipment between the legs of the table.

lackrack

lackrack


In my case, my servers were a little longer than would fit inside the endtable version. Luckily enough, Ikea makes a “Lack” coffeetable too! This is what the LackRack people refer to as a LackRack Enterprise Edition 🙂 As you can see, the Enterprise Edition has a middle rack drawer board that comes in handy for your first couple U worth of servers. It’s surprisingly sturdy too! For the grand sum of $20, I purchased my LackRack and set it up in just a few minutes and I think the results speak for themselves. The look is stunning in comparison to what it was before (wish I had pictures of the ugly mess to show) and the new rack cuts down on the noise considerably. I think having the servers closer to the floor and having a surface above them to deflect the sound helps quite a bit.

All in all, this is a wonderful way to inexpensively rack some equipment. Do check it out and if you get a LackRack for your house, share some pics!

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Droid

Droid

Droid


Oh My.

Finally, after carrying around cellphones for over 10 years, *I* got a decent one.

It was time for me to re-up my contract with Verizon and high time I got a good cellphone, so I picked the Droid, at the behest and recommendation of several of my friends. To be honest, this thing kicks butt and takes names.
The best comparison I can give is that of it to an iPhone. I use an iPhone at work on my on-call rotation. Up until this point, I thought it was *very* cool and fast. Now I know different. The Droid whoops it without batting an eye. The Droid has a huge, bright lcd touch screen, it’s ultra thin and hides a full querty keyboard. It plays all your non DRM encumbered media – and beautifully I might add. It browses, it emails, it texts, it takes notes, it plays games, it has HUNDREDS of other apps and, hell, it even makes and takes phone calls if you can imagine. This thing is even better than the other android phones I have seen, being faster by an order of magnitude with a bigger screen and more storage (16Gb by default). The best praise I could give it it what I told Dann about it earlier, and that is this is what the Nokia N series Linux handhelds could have and should have been if Nokia had pulled their heads out of the sand. And did I mention that it’s fast, because it is. Stop reading this and just go buy one! You’ll thank me later – from the gmail account on your Droid.

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

iPad Excitement!

iPad

iPad


Yes, the news is out. Apple is releasing the iPad, to start shipping in 60 days. There has been much discussion amongst the peanut gallery on this one, but I, for one, am exceedingly happy about the release, although maybe not for the reasons you may think.

The Apple iPad (I keep wanting to type POD) is basically a 10 inch version of their iPod Touch, with some really nice new features. The iPad does all the standard web browsing, games, iPod Touch / iPhone apps (minus the phone part of course), and games that you would expect but it also includes iBook, a really slick looking ebook reader program and iWork Spreadsheets/Presentation/Document software, etc.. What I was most impressed with was the 3G access. For $15 a month you can get 250meg of 3G access from AT&T with NO CONTRACT! That alone almost makes it worth buying for me as Verizon wants to soak me for a 2 year contract and an extra $30 a month…

Do I want one of these myself? Well, I probably wouldn’t turn it down as I think Apple makes some good lookin’ hardware that does what _they_ want it to do well. There are a few problems I see with it though. It does not multitask. That’s right, want to play music while you are editing that spreadsheet or reading that ebook? Nope. No camera on there either. Would have been a killer app for them to have a built in camera for an iChat, or Skype or what have you. It needs a fold out keyboard. I don’t care how slick the touch screen keyboard is, it’s fundamentally flawed as you suck up screen realestate by using it. Lastly, no real OS on there. For most people this isn’t really a problem, but I would like something a little more than an appliance….

So why am I happy about the release? Well, in a word, competition. Now that Apple has set a “standard”, other manufacturers have something to aim for and above for their own product releases. I see manufacturers turning to Linux for this because it’s developer friendly, easier to shoehorn into embedded or strange / smaller devices, and the price is right. I hope to see a multitouch tablet with a full functioning and/or upgradeable/replaceable Linux distribution on it. I want it to have a rollout/foldout keyboard. I want it to have 802.11n and 3G available, and I want to see the price point at or below what the iPad is. Think this sounds too goo to be true? I think we are all going to be surprised. At least I hope so. And just to get things going, check out the TouchBook, which by the way was available BEFORE the iPad. I think we are headed in the right direction and I, for one, am eager to see what happens!

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Kudos Amazon!

Amazon

Amazon

Quite a while back, in September in fact, I ordered a big honkin battery for my Acer Aspire One. I bought the 9 cell version through Amazon from a place called NewMP3Technology. The battery came, I charged it right up and used it on the upcoming Ohio Linux Fest. My only note on it was that Allan bought a similar battery, obviously from a different place and seemed to get a bit more battery time out of it, but all in all, I was happy with it.

Fast forward to Christmas time. I took the family to my parents house for Christmas this year and brought a couple laptops with me for some recreational surfing while there. They live in upstate NY where there is little else to do 🙂 While using my AAO there, I let the new battery completely drain. When I plugged it back in, it would not charge. I googled around for similar problems and found that there was a bios update that fixed some of these, so I updated the bios and, you guessed it, that didn’t work either. After I got back home, I checked the original battery which charged fine.

I checked my paperwork for the new battery and found that the original listing on Amazon had a 1 year warranty on the battery. Elated, I wrote the seller through Amazon’s contact form and asked them how I would go about getting a replacement. Well, long story short, I wrote them 5 times over 3 weeks or so and never received a response other than a form email stating that the exchange time limit on the purchase had expired (30 days). Now Amazon has an A-Z guarantee that is 30 days as well, but I had passed that too. I looked the seller up in the Better Business Bureau’s website and it said they were probably out of business. Frustrated, I sent off an email to Amazon anyhow, explaining the saga and telling them that these guys were still listed as active sellers on Amazon’s site. I figured I had done my good deed for the general populace and that Amazon would remove the seller and at least nobody else would get bit. To my complete surprise, Amazon, *extended* their A-Z guarantee for me and completely refunded my money (including the shipping!) I, of course, ordered another replacement battery from a different seller through Amazon.

It’s just so uncommon these days to find a person or a business with some integrity that I just had to pass the story along. And especially so with the anonymity that the web provides. Many thanks and kudos go to Amazon. I know I’ll keep buying from them. If you are going to buy things online, you can’t find a better place to do so.

Oh, and stay away from NewMP3Technology.

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010