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.

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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.

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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 It is created by a Chinese corporation called Tenda.

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

The closest you can get to perfectly secure Bitcoin transactions (without doing them in your head)

@pa2013 helpfully posted Alon's BitKey announcement from last week to the Bitcoin Reddit, which sparked an interesting discussion regarding whether or not you can safely trust BitKey to perform air-gapped transactions. I started responding there but my comment got so long I decided to turn it into a blog post.

Creating a screencast on Linux with xvidcap: a free open source screencasting tool

Yesterday I wrote about my screencast production adventures. For a screencast demo I was working on I explored all the FLOSS screencasting tools I could find including RecordMyDesktop, and Istanbul. They all suck by varying degrees but xvidcap, though it doesn't look like much, definitely sucked the least.

If the binary package for your distribution crashes and burns try building xvidcap from the sources on Sourceforge (not the same as the *.orig tarball from the Ubuntu package for some reason). That usually produces something usable.

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My TTS sleep hack: a hi-tech cure for insomnia

For as long as I can remember myself I've had trouble falling asleep. I think there might be a genetic component to it because there seems to be a history of insomnia on my mother's side of the family. If you've never had this problem, consider yourself lucky. Even mild insomnia can royally screw with your quality of life. Actually I think that's an understatement considering the incompatibility insomnia can induce with the normal rhythms of society.

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Screencast production: Lessons learned from the making of my first screencasting


The following post summarizes the lessons I learned from my first serious Linux screencasting attempt, which was also my first foray into the world of open source audio video editing.

The first thing you need to know about screencast production, is that like pretty much anything worth doing, doing at a high level of quality is harder than it looks.

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