Posts tagged #tech

I Made This: Introducing Seevooplay

screenshot of Seevooplay in action

screenshot of Seevooplay in action (unthemed)

Today I'm officially introducing a bit of software I crafted earlier this year. Seevooplay is a web app for online invitations and RSVPs, geared toward self-hosters. Throwing a party? Don't give all your friends' email addresses to Evite. Don't expect your friends to be on Facebook. Embrace the indieweb, kick the corporate middleman to the curb, and let your copy of Seevooplay (running on your own website) send email invitations and collect responses for you! That's the pitch, anyway.

Seevooplay is written in Python on the Django framework. It can be easily integrated into any existing Django site or project, but can also run as a standalone app.

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How to Enable Remote Desktop Logins on Ubuntu 20.04 When You Can Only Reach the Host Via SSH

Problem: You want to log in to a Gnome desktop on a remote Ubuntu 20.04 host.

Complication: You can only reach the host via SSH.

Further complication: A bug in Gnome currently makes it impossible to enable Gnome's built-in screen sharing if you connect via SSH. ☹

Solution: Use TigerVNC and an SSH tunnel, and log into that desktop! Here's how, minus the 2+ hours of head-scratching and swearing that accompanied my long trip down this short path today.

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Facebook Without Facebook

JWZ‘s Christmas present to the whole interwebs is a post detailing how to get all your Facebook updates without logging in to Facebook. Yep, all those notes, links, and status updates can flow into your feed reader of choice, where you can read up without the lunacy of The Facebook Experience. Perfect.

[What’s that, you say? You like logging in to Facebook, spending time there? I see. You and I are not wired up similarly. You also like going to the mall this time of year, yes?]

Fix Screwy Fonts in Firefox 3.1 on Ubuntu

Firefox 3.1 beta 3 is expected to arrive this week. If you’re running the current version of Ubuntu Linux, this new Firefox edition (codenamed ‘Shiretoko‘) is already easily installable via an unofficial package repository.

However, due to an oddity in Ubuntu’s default font settings, the fonts in Firefox 3.1 look spindly and kinda bizarre (though in no way unreadable) on Ubuntu Intrepid (8.10) machines. (The same apparently happens in the nascent Jaunty (9.04) version of Ubuntu; it’s being treated as a bug.) This issue has been noticed over at Ubuntu Forums but no simple solution was forthcoming. Until now.

Here is a simple fix for the spindly, messed-up fonts you see in Firefox 3.1 if you install it under Ubuntu Intrepid (8.10). In a Terminal window, issue these commands:

sudo mkdir /etc/fonts/conf.disabled
sudo mv /etc/fonts/conf.d/10-* /etc/fonts/conf.disabled
sudo mv /etc/fonts/conf.d/53-* /etc/fonts/conf.disabled
You’ll need to restart X (press Control-Alt-Backspace after … read full post »

Geek Alert: Matthew Gets A New E-mail Client

The Great Pine, by CezanneI’ve written before about Pine, the e-mail client I’ve been using for more than a decade. My love for Pine is hard to describe. I cannot think of another software application (of any type) that so perfectly lets me do exactly what I want to do, quickly and efficiently, no more, no less, never crashing, never surprising me in any way even as it has slowly evolved and sprouted new features. Pine is very easy to learn and use for geeks and non-geeks alike. No, it does not look modern. It does not need to. E-mail is a text medium.* A text-based app can handle things just fine. Pine does better than that. Pine kicks ass.

And now even moreso. Earlier tonight, the Free Software ecosystem grew a bit richer with the first public release of Alpine, the successor to Pine. Alpine looks and works just like Pine always … read full post »

The iPod’s Rosetta Stone?

One of the main reasons I am not an iPod owner: I can’t stand the way iPods store their files with scrambled filenames, in a pathetic and half-hearted attempt to curb music piracy. I simply don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of a device that can’t speak to a computer unless that computer is running iTunes (or some Linux-based program that speak iPodese, like Rhythmbox, Amarok, Banshee, or Exaile). A hard-drive based MP3 player should just behave like a damned hard drive.

Enter YamiPod, which seems cool enough to perhaps make me an iPod owner someday. This app lives on your iPod, and runs under OS X, Windows, and Linux. It seems to let you freely copy music to and from your iPod to any computer. Can one of my iPod-using homies give this a look-see and tell me if it’s as cool as I think it is?

The Best Toy I’ve Bought In Quite Some Time

Aux2CarPROBLEM: You want to play the music on your iPod (or other digital jukebox) in the car, where you have a factory head unit with an AUX that only talks to CD changers — and you live in an urban area where all FM frequencies are taken, so those stupid FM transmitter solutions simply don’t work at all.

SOLUTION: The Aux2Car from Peripheral Electronics. You purchase this sucker, plus a customized harness that connects it to the head unit in your particular vehicle. As far as your car stereo is concerned, this sucker is a CD changer, but of course, it’s not. It just talks to whatever device you plug into it.

The whole shebang cost me about a hundred bucks (great prices on eBay…), and it took about an hour to install. The installation procedure includes the setting of DIP switches, which I hadn’t encountered for … read full post »

Drop Frustrations. Take Flight.

There’s a nice little piece over at the WSJ Online (the free part of their online presence) about interactive fiction (or IF—sometimes referred to as text adventures). The 11th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition has just come to a close, and there are a clutch of new games to be played. Color me excited. Sure, modern games are great, but to a wordsmith like me, there is something special about interactive fiction. Beautiful prose that responds to the “reader’s” impulses may seem quaint by today’s gaming standards, but I find something restful and unique about a largely blank screen, a few magical words, and a blinking cursor. (As I have said before.)

Flying out to (and back from) Boston last June, I played For a Change and Galatea, two award-winning, free works of IF. Neither will drive you nuts with insane puzzles, and both contain some … read full post »

Let the Music Play

You like your iPod? You dig that part of 21st Century life is a neverending stream of new and exciting gadgets? Salon’s Andrew Leonard has a fantastic piece up about why the Grokster case — argued before the Supreme Court yesterday — is so damned important. Edward Felten, a Princeton prof who’s no stranger to this and related issues, notes a brief real-world example of the future that awaits us if this decision goes the wrong way. If the court fails to, uh, grok what’s at stake here, you can kiss certain kinds of innovation good-bye, and you’ll have the big entertainment companies to thank.

It’s interesting to note that in arguments yesterday, one idea that got kicked around was that business models might be useful in determining whether a new technology is legal. If that’s the way the court goes, what will it mean for new technologies … read full post »

Fiona, Freed

Many of my geek friends chastise me for my love of certain pat phrases about technology, like “the Internet changes everything” and “information wants to be free.” Thing of it is, these two in particular keep proving themselves true over and over again.

Case in point: Fiona Apple‘s new album, Extraordinary Machine. Or perhaps I shouldn’t call it “new,” since work on it apparently wrapped up more than two years ago. But then Fiona’s label, Sony, decided that none of her new work was radio-friendly, and thus they refused to spend money publishing and promoting the work. So Extraordinary Machine has sat collecting dust.

Some Fiona fans have been working on a grassroots effort to get Sony to release the material, but in the past week, something else has happened. All the music in question has been leaked — a lot of it going out over the airwaves … read full post »

Misbehaving Mouse Mended

If you use a KVM switch to move between a PC running Windows and a PC running Linux, you’ve probably encountered Drunken Mouse Syndrome, in which, upon returning to the Linux box, you find your mouse pointer freaks out and behaves wildly, unpredictably, and angrily when you so much as breathe in the direction of your input device. For a long time I assumed that Drunken Mouse Syndrome was the fault of my KVM. Turns out, (1) that’s not true, and (2) there’s a fix.

Drunken Mouse Syndrome only occurs if the mouse that’s connected to the KVM switch is a PS/2 style mouse and there’s a Windows box in the mix. If you’re switching between Linux boxen, you’ll have no case of DMS. The source of the problem, according to some information I found via a particularly grueling session with Google, is the Windows implementation of … read full post » Unclear on the Concept

I have two long, narrow rugs adorning the hardwood floor in my hall at Chez Newton (The Global House of Chillage). Until recently, said rugs were held in place by these nifty sorta-sticky things that IKEA makes that go under rugs. The IKEA name for this sorta-sticky thing is Patrull, a strange name to be sure, even for IKEA. And I’m pretty certain that the plural of Patrull is Patrull. But I digress.

The problem with Patrull is that over time, they lose their grip and you need new ones. Not wanting to deal with the traffic and parking nightmare that is modern-day Emeryville, I decided to stay away from IKEA’s brick-and-mortar store and instead head to to order myself a new pack o’ Patrull.

I successfully located the Patrull I wanted and placed an order. soon sent me an e-mail that read, … read full post »

User-Friendly Software

A Spanish-language version of Windows XP, destined for Latin American markets, asked users to select their gender between “not specified,” “male,” or “bitch,” because of an unfortunate error in translation.

Pine Is Newmark’s Emailer

Pine: the best e-mail app everThere has been a lot of online coverage about eBay now owning 25% of Craigslist, the Web site and indispensable tool (for Bayareans, anyway) where I found my current job, my current apartment, and even a couple of dates. But in this piece in the Chron, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark says something that makes my Pine-lovin’ heart sing:
I sometimes use an Apple PowerBook, but for my purposes the Linux systems are snappier. Frankly, I do most of my work in e-mail, and I use a fairly old e-mail tool called Pine (a free e-mail program administered by the University of Washington).
So now I am aware of two other people who use Pine. Neat!

[Thanks to Spike for the link.]

Greetings, Fellow Pirates! Arrrrr!”

EFF employee/activist and science-fiction author Cory Doctorow gave a talk at Microsoft Research about why he thinks Bill & Co. should quit building digital rights management into their software. He manages to tie together cryptography, the invention of radio, e-books, Flowbees, the way AT&T used to own every phone in the country, player pianos, Apple iTunes, Ringo, the Luther Bible, DVD region encoding, and cellphone ringtones as he explains why DRM will never work and can only inhibit innovation and incredible business opportunities.

If you’ve rolled your eyes at me during my DVD region encoding rant (or my iPods-are-evil rant), GO READ THIS DAMMIT. It’s also required reading for geeks and artists of all flavors.

(By the way, on the subject of ringtones, if you’ve chosen a cellphone that requires you to pay for ringtones, you’re on crack. One of the greatest things about my Treo 600 … read full post »


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It’s About Freedom.”

When building this site, I chose Blosxom to power this blog, in part because it is Free Software. I also evaluated Movable Type, because I was told that it was Open Source. It turned out that wasn’t true — despite the source code being available.

If that last sentence made you blink (and you want to know more), alphablogger Mark Pilgrim has a great post you should read.

Images. Information. Anyone. Anywhere. Instantly. Always.

This short blog post by tech guru Clay Shirky makes me think about where cameraphones and the Internet are taking us. Part of me laughs gleefully. Part of me dreams about writing a book about it in twenty years titled The Slow Revolution.* Part of me feels scared.

(Tell me this is not some amazing new form of distributed journalism. History books almost writing themselves.)

[*Hands off that title, bitch! Sucka’s mine!]