TurnKey Linux Virtual Appliance Library

Smart cache expiration with Drupal Rules

I've been exploring Drupal Rules some more since last week.

We were already using it before to automate the various repetitive tasks involved in creating a new appliance (e.g., creating aliases for the feeds).

Intelligent caching

Now we're also using Rules in conjuction with the Cache Actions module to expire the cache page intelligently so that adding or removing published content expires related page caches immediately.

A practical intelligence amplification hack that really works: how to use your phone's TTS engine to give your brain a boost

The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed. 

- William Gibson

Today I decided it was time I shared a unique, literally mind bending experience I've been having. If I could only get one idea out into the wider world this would be it. It's the best piece of technology advice I have to give.

Try it and it could change your life. Tell your friends and we might change the world. It's changed mine more than any other technological innovation since I got my first modem back in 1993 and discovered the Internet a year later.

A practical brain machine interface you can use right now

Back in the mid 1990s, when I was  teenager I remember spending a lot of time speculating whether the technological singularity Vernor Vinge predicted would be driven by human IA (Intelligence Amplification), non-human AI (Artificial Intelligence) or both.

As a lifelong fan of the human race I preferred the IA route and dreamed of a day when we would have William Gibsonesque brain machine interfaces (e.g., ala Count Zero) that would augment our brains, make us smarter and let us gobble up all the knowledge we wanted at superhuman speed.

Well, it turns out you can use speech synthesis technology (AKA TTS or Text-to-Speech) to hack the equivalent of a USB port for your brain, right now. No neurosurgery required!

Hacking your brain in 3 unintuitive steps

StdTrap: a magical Pythonic mechanism for intercepting console output

As a programmer I believe less is more. Good code is small, simple and elegant and many times favorable to larger, noisier code that does the same. It's not just about aesthetics either. Making code small and beautiful makes it easier to read, and easier to understand. Which is guaranteed to make it work better. Trust me on this.

A Universe from nothing? Lawrence Krauss

I highly recommend watching the following lecture when you have about an hour of spare time:

How is this related to TurnKey? Good question. Well, the origins of the Universe relate to everything in the Universe right? TurnKey is in the universe, hence the relation. QED.

No Juju for you! Ubuntu's Not Invented Here syndrome

Today Brian emailed me to share his enthusiasm for the Ubuntu Juju project, developed by Canonical, the company that makes Ubuntu.

Brian is a good friend that has been advising us on all matters TurnKey practically since the project began. His advice and feedback is always well informed and insightful so even when I already have my own opinions on the matter, I still take the time to look into his suggestions carefully. Thanks Brian!

Audio video codecs: a video editor's tutorial introduction to codecs

What's a codec?

Raw uncompressed digital video contain a huge amount of information: 3 bytes per pixel translates into roughly 240Mbit/s for standard definition video, 504Mbit for standard HD video (720p), and 1136Mbit/s for full HD video (1080p).

Even at just standard definition (DVD) you'd need over 200GB to store a two hour uncompressed movie which isn't practical for most applications.

Video editing with avidemux and audacity

Not too long ago I explored free software video editing tools for a video demo production I was working on. I was finding it impossible to shoot the whole video in one take without major goofs in a reasonable amount of time while also narrating what I was doing. As usual, I was having trouble because I was trying to do too many things at once, without willing to compromise on quality. When I realized this I decided to be practical and break down my production into bite sized chunks.

tmux is a superior alternative to screen

Today was the first day I stopped using screen and started using tmux, which is a superior alternative which supports a more complex range of splits and has a nicer interface. It's a bit different from screen in that it has this concept of windows and panes. A tmux pane is a window (e.g., shell session) in screen terminology. A tmux window is a layout of panes (e.g., two windows side by side). A tmux window could have only one pane, or it could have an arbitrarily complex configuration of panes.

Chromebook Acer C720 review: the browser is the operating system and it doesn't suck

It's 2014 and the present is not my grandfather's future. There's no race to colonize the moon and we are most assuredly not zipping around in jetpacks and flying cars. Most predictions fail, but some ghosts of future past are alive and well.

20 years ago I had my first run in with a web browser. I was browsing the NASA website at an Internet conference and and it was a revelation! The BBS community I had grown up in was dead in the water. This would change everything. A couple of years later, the developer of Mosaic, Marc Anderseen, now heading Netscape made a prescient prediction:

In the future - the browser will be the operating system.

Unsurprisingly, this mobilized Microsoft to crush Netscape in what would become known by some as the browser wars, and the start of the end for Microsoft's reign of terror by others.

Netscape didn't stick around long enough to see Anderseen's prediction come to pass, but some technology trends are seemingly inexorable, or perhaps self fulfilling? 20 years after trying my first browser, I tried my first computer in which Anderseen's "the browser will be the operating system" vision has been fully realized. By Google, who supplanted Microsoft as the world's leading tech empire, in the form of a refurbished (never used) Acer C720 Chromebook which I picked up for a ridiculously low $180.

To my surprise... it's pretty good, and apparently I'm not the only one that thinks so because these things are flying off the shelves. The model I picked up is currently the most popular netbook on Amazon and is a steal even at the original price of $220.

chromebook acer c720

Backdoor in my Medialink router

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to getcha.

Here's another example of why we need free software running the Internet. When I bought my Medialink router it was the most popular brand of wireless router on Amazon.com. It is created by a Chinese corporation called Tenda.

And it comes with a root shell backdoor, which I just tested: