LIRC

LIRC is a software package under linux which allows you interface with remote control/controlled devices. LIRC is pretty much a must for any 1/2 decent MythTV configuration.

For my Myth setup I use LIRC both to change the channels on the cable-set-top- box and as a way to control the mythtv interface from the couch. Although this is a quite common configuration its annoying to get working.

The first thing you have to decide when setting up LIRC is what hardware you want to use. You can build your own receivers/transmitters but the simple plans make for quite crappy and unreliable devices; for something more sophisticated the cost of parts adds up to exceed the cost of kits/ready-to- use devices.

I had a (X10 based) RF serial receiver and remote (that I got a while back with my Nvidia PC cinema card). It worked with better LIRC than it ever did under windows. To control the set-top-box I first got an iguanaworks USB transceiver but it would not work since it only transmits at 36khz (It can be flashed to transmit at 58khz with a non-existing utility) and all the devices I needed to control only worked at 58khz. Money down the drain. So I decided to try again, this time I got the Serial Iguanaworks transceiver this one interfaces with LIRC more like the home-made transceivers except it has greater range (thanks to a .3f capacitor (think battery) which stores energy for transmissions).

Alright so I'm thinking I have the hardware configuring should be a breeze. I already had the controlling software installed, all I needed was to compile the drivers. I downloaded the debian driver source package it looked all very nice and neat, it allowed me to select the drivers I want and even attempted to compile the drivers automagically.. except it failed. The sources it provides are too old and were no longer compatible with my kernel. No big deal, I'll compile the vanilla drivers from LIRC -- wrong.

LIRC can't be compiled with just any combination of drivers you want, the configuration scripts compile either any ONE driver or all of them. No big deal, I thought, I'll compile all and install only the onces I need.. except all the drivers don't compile. Compilation broke on some driver that I didn't need. So I decided to hack the config scripts a bit. I downloaded the CVS version of LIRC opened the configure.in file and around line 1207

if test "$lirc_driver" = "all"; then lirc_driver="lirc_dev \ lirc_atiusb \ lirc_serial"

Trimmed down the list of drivers to only the ones that I needed. I then ran autoconf to generate all the needed Makefiles and ran ./configure --with- driver=all --with-port=0x3f8 --with-irq=4 --with-timer=65536 --with-x --with- transmitter && make && make install and things built correctly with only the drivers I wanted.

From then on configuring LIRC was a breeze, I modified the debian /etc/init.d/lirc script to use start 2 lirc daemons, one for each driver and configured them to talk to each other.

Finally I made my lircd.conf and lircmd.conf using irecord and configured MythTV, xorg and channel changing script. YAY, working mythbox.

Brief overview of all the programs and devices that make up my mythbox
A/V Hardware: Nvidia MX440 (vga/svideo out), Happauge150 (rca audio/svideo in), CHAINTECH AV-710 (optical audio out), RCA dvd/audio system
Remote controlled devices: RCA TV, Scientific Atlanta Explorer 4200 (cable box), Nvidia branded X10 RF remote

The last problem I had was the cable box being off while mythtv was trying to record, Its a nasty one. But it turns out the cable box has this nice feature where it will turn on when any numerical key is pressed on the remote (can be enabled in the settings menu). So when mythtv changes channels the cable box is either already on or is turned on auto-magically.

More of my config files.

Debian  LILUG  MythTV  Software  2007-06-29T00:04:25
Chimei 22" Nvidia

I thought the days of modelines in xorg (and linux in general) were over but I guess I'm wrong. The last 2 monitors I configured I had really difficult time with. One needed needed just a modeline but the other needed nasty config hacks. The first configuration was a Dell 21" monitor with a i945 graphics card and the other a 22" Chimei CMV-221D/A with an nvida GeForce FX 5200 card.

The Chimei monitor autodected just fine over VGA but was fuzzy and wavy, and hooking it up over DVI, the nvidia card did not want to drive it over 800x600 (instead of native 1680x1050). So I had to get down and dirty with the X configs.

Anyway here are the appropriate sections from my xorg.conf file for the Chimei (I'll post the Dell ones later)

Section "Monitor"

   Identifier      "Generic Monitor"
   HorizSync       30-83
   VertRefresh     60
   Option          "DPMS"
   UseModes        "16:10"

EndSection

Section "Device"

   Identifier      "nVidia Corporation NV34 [GeForce FX 5200]"
   Driver          "nvidia"
   Option          "NoLogo"    "true"
   #NOTE this is probably dangerous only use this line with appropriate Modeline
   Option          "UseEdidFreqs"  "false"
   Option          "ModeValidation"    "NoMaxPClkCheck,AllowNon60HzDFPModes,NoVesaModes,NoXServerModes,NoPredefinedModes"

EndSection

Section "Screen"

   Identifier      "Default Screen"
   Device          "nVidia Corporation NV34 [GeForce FX 5200]"
   Monitor         "Generic Monitor"
   DefaultDepth    24
   SubSection      "Display"
       Depth       16
       Modes       "1680x1050" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"
   EndSubSection
   SubSection      "Display"
       Depth       24
       Modes       "1680x1050" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"
   EndSubSection

EndSection

Section "Modes"

   Identifier  "16:10"
   Modeline    "1680x1050 (GTF)" 154.20 1680 1712 2296 2328 1050 1071 1081 1103

EndSection

Enjoy

Debian  LILUG  Software  2007-06-27T23:18:46
Browsers -- I hate them

I hate browsers every single one that I've used. Every browser out there is a pathetic failure when it comes to user interface. Right now my favourite browser is iceweasel/firefox but in my book it doesn't have much going for it.

Dialogues

The browsers have a love for pop-up-dialogues. It's getting a little better but not good enough. I remember when in firefox if you mistyped a URL it would pop a dialog box "Server not found." So you'd have to take your hands of the keyboard and hit OK and then put the cursor back to the address bar and try again. Why does the browser need to confirm with me that I mistyped something? Now this is no longer a problem; when you go to non-existing page you'll get a message insider your browser pane saying that server cannot be found. This is great but I believe that NOTHING should pop-up without the users intent

Say, for example to search for something on google and you get a link to a mailing list. I've seen a few mail-list archives where they use self-sign signatures (https) so you get a pop-up dialogue saying that the page is not kosher. WHY?! Its not a page I care about for security; in fact most pages I visit I don't care much if the anyone spies in on what I read. I think this warning should be brought up where it can be ignored without any user interaction. For example a drop down bar with a message (like those pop-up blocked notice). Heck you can even turn the whole browser panels and things RED so even the most senile users will notice something strange is up. And maybe the first time the user comes across this error it should pop a dialogue explaining why the browser miraculously turned red.

Users hate dialogues if it has more than 200 or so characters in the message a majority of the users won't even read it, they will in a robotic-type fashion click on some button until the dialogue will disappear. So, just stop with the pop-up dialogue boxes they are annoying and not useful. If your program needs to constantly pop things up for user to select then you have failed user interface design.

Fonts

Iceweasel/Firefox has this awesome feature where you can scale the page fonts. Its incredibly handy when you come across a web 2.0 website with 2 point font (fucking web designers, readability first style second!! STOP IT!!). Now this is all fine but I am tired of always manually adjusting the fonts per website. Fortunately there is other great feature (Edit>preferences>content>font&color>advanced>minimum font size) where you can set the minimum font size. Well you'd think this is the best thing since sliced bread (figure of speech, I hate sliced bread too but thats for another day) but there is a tremendous flaw with this feature. When you select a minimum for of size, say, 8 every font thats less than size 8 will be turned to 8 all larger fonts will not be affected. This sounds great in theory but horrible in practice, if you got to some heavily stylized graphics your setting will send a lot of fonts out of boundaries. So you'll get overflowing menus, notices and all that other jazz. Its so annoying its that its not usable. What the browser should do instead is scale all the fonts on the page. Say the smallest font on the page is of size 5 then 8-5=3 so increase EVERY font on the page by 3 points, kind of like what happens when you use manually adjust font size (view>text size>increase).

Menu bars

Stupid menu-bars. Every browser is full of them. You have the status bar on the bottom the menu bar, search bar, tab bar and bookmark bar on the top, WTF?! When I use the browser I want to see the webpage not the static content of the browser. STOP stealing my real estate. So I suggest you disable the bookmark and the status bar. And you'll scream BUT I want the functionality of my status bar; "I want to know where the link points that I am about to visit." Well so do I, I hate the bar but like the functionality it provies, but there is nothing to say that the functionality can't be moved. Say when you move your mouse over a link your address bar displays the address of the link, and as soon as you move away from the link the address bar goes back to displaying the address. As for the load status, I've found this great plugin called fision which takes from a safari feature, shows the progress of the loading in the background of the status bar.

The great menu bar, its immune from any customization. I just sits there, does nothing most of the time, face it how often do you use it? While its very useful its not needed all that often (maybe once a week) so why is there not a feature where it can collapse into a expandable menu (kind of like the start button on windows or kmenu in kde) And when you click this monster it would just appear. Now allow this menu button to be place into any other panel and forget about. What a real estate saver.

Cookies

I love cookies just not the internet kind. I think cookies are a sign of a lazy developer. Yes in some instances cookies are the only way to go (such as persistent user tracking) but they are often misused and where plain in-URL session tracking would suffice developers still use cookies (SHAME SHAME SHAME ON YOU). Now I have cookies disabled by default and use a cool plugin called cookie button which allows me with one click to enable cookies for a particular page, such as my banking web page or a forum which I regularly visit. Its a great approach to cookie management, with one exception. I wish firefox had a feature where you could accept any cookies for some length of time, for those truly stupid websites like ebay. When you login to ebay you get forwarded through a lot of pages each with their own third level domain name. The cookie management in firefox does not have any features to help you deal with this dilemma. This is where "accept all cookies for next 30 seconds.. and add pages to white-list" would come in extremely handy, for the more advanced users there should be a way to add cookie exceptions with wildcards for example *.ebay.com. If the cookie management features are properly implemented then the firefox developers should consider disabling cookies by default and thus weaning web developers from using cookies as much.

LILUG  Software  WWTS  2007-06-03T11:58:03
Who Wrote This Shit

Portmap by default listens to all IP addresses. However, if you are not providing network RPC services to remote clients (you are if you are setting up a NFS or NIS server) you can safely bind it to the loopback IP address (127.0.0.1)
<Yes> OR <No>

Maybe I'm slow or something but I really hate this prompt in debian. Which is accompanied by the installation of portmap. Seems like you need a degree in english logic to figure out what you need to select. If you run NFS and NIS and are Confused the hell out by this prompt just select NO.

UPDATE: Just because you select NO doesn't mean that debian will actually not bind RPC to portmap. You might want to run dpkg-reconfigure portmap again and make sure it did the right thing.. I got a nasty surprise the day after .. when 2 of the NFS servers stopped mounting. Filed bug report

Debian  LILUG  Software  WWTS  2007-05-25T21:21:52
qmail, a love - hate relationship

After years of procratination I finally got around to whipping my mail system back into shape. Its quite common qmail+vpopmail+courier-imap+courier setup. What I really wanted was spamassassin and some more features in the web based front end (ilohamail).

I've tried to setup spamassassin a couple time already but each time as I started reading howtos all the vigor would dwindle away. The whole qmail configuration and philosophy is great, take all the pieces you need arrange them together (with some help from duct tape and wd-40) -- and voila a full- fledged mail server! Except one day you'll pass a point where you can barely keep track of all the pieces that keep your mail together.

So as I was reading how to get spamassassin integrated into qmail I thought, "Qmail sucks I hate qmail.. its way too complicated." A little later (think HOURS) I had broken the delicate chain of apps and inserted qmail-scanner and spammassassin (spamd and spac) into the mix. Amazing things still worked and now my email had special X-Spam-Status tag (YAY!).

Qmail and me have a true love-hate relationship. When it works and you don't need anything extra from it, then, its great. But as soon as you get this nagging feeling "I wish I had feature X" you start slowly hating qmail -- untill you fix it up and make it all pretty again.

As a sidenote -- pay no attention to the fact that ilohamail 9.X is a beta version. It works great and the new features are way worth the migration from 8.X. Email filters, imap over SSL, gpg, public calendar... the list goes on and on.

So once again -- with the help of bind9 (SPF), spamassasin, qmail scanner, ilohamail 9.X -- my mail system is modern!

LILUG  Software  2007-05-15T23:08:31
RTFM

I guess I in some kind of "documentation" mood. I've written up 2 linux how- tos one for using PPTP under linux and the other is an article for tuxmobile.org about installing Debian on a Dell XPS M1210.

LILUG  News  2006-09-20T20:40:26

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