Atom-based Media Center: Part 1

I elected to give myself a little project this weekend and it started with this small mountain of boxes:

Boxes, boxes, boxes.

Don’t worry, there’s a method to my madness. It isn’t often my crazy ideas have a purpose, so this time I’m making an exception. I also promised to share some of my experiences with a friend of mine who was interested in the project so he could freeload some information share in the learning experience.

The idea started about two weeks ago when I was mulling over some way of providing my mother with an entertainment system that could replace a few aging devices. Since she’ll be having back surgery next week, I figured it would be much easier for her to contend with a single device than to muck about with several. Plus, she has an old video cassette recorder that is on the verge of going wherever it is electronics go when they pass on into the afterlife, and it occurred to me that bringing her kicking and screaming into the digital age might not be such a bad idea. She’s in desperate need for a video recorder of sorts and being as I inherited her frugal nature, I wasn’t about to purchase a TiVo unit for her. TiVos are too limited anyway. She needs a relatively decent computer to sub-in for the period of time she won’t be able to sit at an actual desk. Plus, with her “real” computer being in an upstairs room and her refusal to let us bring it downstairs, I started mulling over a solution.

So far, I’m fairly impressed. There have been some teething problems–the project is still a work-in-progress–hence I’ll be posting this DIY walk-through in multiple parts.

Read more…

2 comments.
***

Soft Box GiMP Tutorial: How to Build a “Soft” Box in GiMP

No doubt you’ve seen many blogs and other sites that use rounded boxes with soft gradients and drop shadows. Creating one doesn’t have to be difficult, and you don’t even need to use the gradient tool to achieve an effect that looks very similar to this:

Soft Box Example

Read more…

No comments.
***

Links of the Week: October 9th

Here’s something to kick off your weekend. Enjoy.

Archaeology

Mesoamerican pyramids are just plain awesome. No, really, they are. Take a look at some of them. They even used mortar to hold rocks of varying shapes and sized together!

Astronomy

Ever lay awake at night worrying about some big rock falling out of the sky and blowing our entire civilization to bits? I’m not saying you should, but here’s some food for thought.

The universe may have more entropy than we originally thought.

Climate

Captain Bligh’s logs are apparently now a source of inspection for paleoclimatology. Cue global warming debate in 5…4…3…

Graphics

Get ready for a change of pants. GiMP will be sporting a unified interface soon. That means: one window GiMP. It’ll look a lot more like Photoshop in future versions.

Health

Maybe pandemics aren’t so bad. There’s speculation now that the 1918 flu might be responsible, if indirectly, for making this year’s variation of H1N1 mostly harmless.

Here’s a list of 10 foods that are most likely to make you sick. Scary scaremongering!

Apparently, the ability to count your heartbeat can be tied to better decision making. Here I thought it was just something called “panic!”

Legal Crap

Looks like someone else is getting sued over a patent that really ought to have prior art. This time, it’s a certain popular social networking site. Honestly, if Phoenix Media was so worried that their dear patent was so profitable, why didn’t they do something about it earlier? They’ve owned it since 2001. Eight years later, they decide to sue someone for “infringement.” I hope you idiots lose. 8 years is a long time; I wish there were some statute of limitations on patents. This trolling has got to stop, because it is destroying innovation.

Speaking of lawsuits. Toyota is slated to be sued by some small company in Florida (Floriduh?) over something that I’m not so sure the latter has even really produced. I’ve got a link to the patent and while it seems legitimate, it still makes me wonder why patent law hasn’t been revised to ensure that if you’re going to file something, you darn well better be ready to manufacture it. Instead, there’s far too many firms that spend most of their time filing for odd and unusual patents in the hopes that they can win a sort of lottery. All it takes is for one big firm to step slightly within the bounds of their patent nets and BOOM! Instant retirement.

More lawsuits. This time, if you use AJAX, you might be screwed. Honestly… Head… Desk.

Linux/Gentoo

If you’ve ever needed to get UPnP working with a Gentoo box (or any Linux distro for that matter), here’s a good place to start.

News

Rupert Murdoch is an idiot.

Office Stuff

Sooner or later, if you’re in school, they’ll probably make you use a spreadsheet to do something unusual. For starters, here is a reference for Excel that might be helpful. If you need an example of the sort of use case I have in mind, here’s one. Basically, it boils down to doing something (like counting rows) that contain a specific string.

On the other hand, if you don’t use Excel, here’s a good reference for OpenOffice.org Calc. They’re roughly the same, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble switching between Calc and Excel, however!

Politics

The comments on Slashdot surrounding Obama’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize (what a joke!) entertain me. I’m surprised there are individuals who are actually defending it! Besides the posts made by Shakrai, whose commentary I really appreciate and enjoy, here’s another one I especially like.

Programming

If you wanted to know more about optimizing PHP, look no further. Giorgio has a great (and delightfully concise!) post on how to do precisely that. Ignore the comments; there are some complainers who posted to his blog in regards to how they feel the title he picked is misleading. I don’t know about you, but “Optimizing a PHP application in 5 minutes” sounds good to me. If anyone disagrees, they can go write their own damn posts. Giorgio: Good job, man! Don’t let those posters get you down. Your title does exactly what Jakob Nielsen suggests, and I like it!

Debugging can be painful. Here’s an interesting article on using ltrace with Python, PHP, and a few other languages.

I’ve never understood people who would work at a job doing something they don’t like, particularly when it’s tech related. Imagine writing code from 9am to 5pm and then never turning a computer on on the evening. Would you hire that person? Of course not. Now, aside from the obvious reasons that might make someone who codes as a hobby more desirable (they think it’s fun, and if they think it’s fun, they might do a better job), here’s a couple more to think about.

Drupy: Drupal meets Python (Django-based). I’m still not sure what to think. Maybe it’ll be interesting.

Programming an application may be part of the design phase NOT implementation. It’s curious to think about!

If you’ve ever had trouble understanding *args and **kwargs in Python start here. The layout is a little messy, but it’s one of the more practical guides I’ve seen that should be helpful for newcomers to the language. Surprisingly, they even cover one of the common “gotchas” that are likely to bite you.

Science

Meet the periodic table of the elements reloaded. Blech.

Technology

What impact can a single article have on the behavior of a company? You’d be surprised. There’s a wired article that appears to have Google doing something. While I agree that Usenet may have had its uses, I’m not so sure I’d refer to it as an “abandoned library.” Maybe a cesspool of years of mindless drivel with a few tasty morsels hidden inside. Outside of comp.lang, I can’t think of any other reason to preserve Usenet. Am I biased? No, of course not.

So over at the LHC (that’s the Doomsday device for those of you who don’t know), they’re thinking about testing a new form of propulsion. Slashdot mistakenly calls it a “hyperdrive” device when it instead reads like some sort of repulsive drive. Nevertheless, if it works, that’d be really cool!

Did Microsoft accidentally leak details about a new 128-bit version of Windows? Maybe so.

I love it when Apple zealots cry such sweet tears over the change in something that I think is largely unimportant. Oh no, now I have to actually use the filename extension and what the OS thinks I should use! Newsflash: Most other OSes have done the same thing for years, and having a “creator code” embedded in the file metadata seems a bit… silly. Frankly, I’ve never worried about these sorts of things. I’ve always used window managers with extensible interfaces that let me choose the application I want to open something in, and under Windows, I’ve always added shortcuts to interesting programs to my SendTo menu. Who the hell cares about what default application the OS thinks a particular file should be opened with? I don’t. Whaaa.

Consistent hashing, they call it. While most of us probably won’t have much of a use for it, if you’re designing scalable applications (on the order of magnitude of hundreds to thousands of servers), it might be important!

What happens when a bunch of geeks have entirely too much free time? This.

A long time former NASA employee and 7 time astronaut has decided to put his money where his mouth is (plus some private investors) and start working on refining plasma propulsion. Don’t read the comments, though. They make me sad. I can’t believe how many people think that this is a waste…

Unix

So I came across an interesting commentary on why ls *.c could be considered dangerous. While there are good reasons for it (see the comments on Hacker News), I think the solution is a bit… ridiculous. For one, I really don’t like Perl. Finally, why would I want to invoke another interpreter just to do something “properly” that the shell interpreter isn’t? I should think it’d be better to understand the limitations and idiosyncrasies of the shell than dare attempting to chain basic tasks together with Perl. (Disclaimer: I love Python.)

* is Unix. Okay, I think this “mini-meme” is kinda dumb, but I had to link to a list of links Jacob Kaplan-Moss has been collecting presumably to track the meme and its progress.

No comments.
***