Monthly Archives: January 2006

forget security patches, give me bugfixes!

One reason I absolutely adore open source projects and programs is that all the nitty little bugs that annoy me usually go away pretty quickly within the release cycle. Especially so if the program has a GUI.

Microsoft, on the other hand (a prime example of a proprietary software vendor) just lets their bugs sit in there for years, and they never get fixed. Instead, the only time they revisit a project is if it has a security flaw that might affect everyone.

And so I’m left to wonder … if this program I’m using has so many bugs that are visible (in the GUI), who knows how many are in the backend! It doesn’t exactly inspire my confidence.

Case in point. If you change the name of a stored procedure in MS SQL Server 2000, the actual properties of the name in the sp won’t change as well. It’s not a frustrating bug, but it’s one that gives me the impression their developers are somewhat lazy.

To illustrate, here’s how the bug works: When you create a stored procedure, either through the GUI in Enterprise Manager or just as a normal SQL statement, they all start with a line like this: “CREATE procedure fooBar() AS ….” When you finish running the query or creating the sp, it will save it as fooBar. Now, in Enterprise Manager if you right-click on the newly created sp and select ‘Rename’, and change the name, it won’t update the “CREATE procedure …” line in the function.

That’s just one small example, I know, but Windows is riddled with them. Again, its not a really big deal, but when you add up all these small little bugs that will likely never be fixed, you have to train yourself to work around them and hopefully remember them next time your stored procedure doesn’t work.

Yes, security is extremely important, much more so than my whining about small errors. And bugs are a part of all software programs. I’m sure the MS apologist would just tell me to upgrade to the latest and greatest version of SQL Server. To that, I reply, didn’t I pay enough already?

Let’s hear it for incremental bugfix upgrades. Not just security fixes.

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rhapsody thinks i'm a country fan

I signed up for Rhapsody today, because I remember hearing that they had support for a Linux player. I’m always pretty skeptical when I hear stuff like this, but I decided to check it out anyway. Sure enough, they have a plugin that works in Firefox 1.0.x.

Amazingly (and I can’t stress that enough) it worked without a hitch on my Gentoo desktop at home. I signed up okay, and I’m listening to some music right now. I tried it at work though, and it was a no go… everything I did with my Firefox settings wouldn’t take it. Bah. Oh well.

Anyway, I think its a cool little thing. It gives me a chance to check out some new music that I might like, and listen to some soundtracks that I’d never buy myself, but I hear they are good (Star Wars and Close Encounters, for examples).

There’s just one tiny little problem … they don’t have a rating system. That really surprises me, since almost all of these things like this have. So, their recommendation engine is naturally a little flawed.

The first track I played was Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5′. Believe me when I say I didn’t hunt this down (not that I object to it, I like the song and love the movie), but I was just testing it, and it was in one of the links on the frontpage where they were featuring 1980s country music or something.

So, now, my preferences are filled with George Winston, John Williams and Alabama. Lovely. :)

Aside from that, I really can’t rip on the service at all. In fact, I’m impressed and enjoying it already. Ever since Real turned things around (their act and their software) with version 10 of their player, I’ve really liked it. And the fact that they are the only of the big three commercial media player providers (QuickTime and Windows Media Player being the other two) to offer a linux client to natively play (just about) all their streams and codecs, I’m darn impressed. It’s obvious that a licensed WMP for Linux will never see the light of day, and don’t even get me started on Apple’s cold shoulder to giving back to OSS. You’d think one fringe market would appreciate another one, but oh well.

So, that’s that. Right now it’s playing some nice piano solo from some album I can’t even pronounce, and an artist I’ve never heard of. I just might have to check it out. Go Real. :)

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dvd2mkv magic

My little dvd2mkv script is coming along. You can actually pop in a DVD, run the script and come back a few hours later and you’ll have a nice shiny Matroska file complete with chapters and all. I’m actually pretty proud of it, even though there is still a lot of bugs, and you can’t do the main feature I wanted yet, which is to queue movies.

The good thing though is that it’s down to mostly fixing bugs and fixing code far more than it is adding features and just plain getting it to work. That’s a good milestone, I’d say.

One thing I like a lot about it is I’m just plain learning to write some better code. This is my first really interactive php shell script, and writing the backend, I keep finding better ways to clean it up and make the code tighter.

Just running an interactive script by itself is very cool. I was really surprised when I found out how easy it was.

The hardest part in all of this has been the transcode arguments. Actually, the first 85% or so of it was really simple, using dvd::rip as a reference and then reading up on the excellent transcode man pages. Transcode comes with some really good tools, and I still prefer it over MEncoder even though it (mplayer) would make things generally *so* much simpler. For instance, I already prefer tcprobe to midentify as getting me some really good valid data. That’s not a fair comparison, I know, since they both return different types of data. I’ll probably end up using them both. Right now I rely heavily on them both. Mplayer to rip the VOB, transcode to encode it to an XviD, and in the future tcprobe to make sure I’m doing things right. :)

Good stuff.

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here's a good feed

if you like pretty nature backgrounds, thats mostly what I grep from it.

Gnome Art

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TV overscans and CD soundtracks

What do overscans and soundtracks have to do with each other? Not a thing, really. But, they are two good things that happened to me on Sunday.

The first one was a bug that I’ve been having with my PVR ever since day one, and it’s been slightly annoying. Basically, the picture on my TV was slighly bowed in on the sides on the top half. Not too bad, but it bothered me because I’m so visually picky. Well, the nvidia module has some settings for X you can put in there (TVOverscan) which I’d played with before, but never enough, I suppose. What I did before was set the variable to “1.0” which, according to the documentation, means to overscan as much as possible. I figured that would stretch the picture and fill in those blank gaps, but it didn’t. Turns out the only numbers that worked were between 0.5 and 1.0. I think I eventually ended up with 0.7, and it looks absolutely fabulous. Of course, now I’m *missing* some of the picture because it’s getting pushed slightly off the screen, but its still much much better.

The second great thing that happened to me yesterday is I won an auction on ebay. That isn’t too exciting in itself, but the fact is that I netted a soundtrack that I’ve been trying to find for years. It’s been out of print and it’s extremely hard to find — so hard, in fact, that this was the first time in as many years as I can recall that I’ve actually seen it for sale. I collect a lot of soundtracks — not so much to have them, but to actually listen to and enjoy them — and this was one of the very last ones to add to my collection. I’m pretty excited. Oh, and the score in question is Patrick Doyle’s Shipwrecked. I tell you whot. :)

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gotta love gentoo

I was listening to some music I was streaming from my box at home to here at work as I setup some stuff, and while I was compiling an upgrade in the background, my Beep Media Player stops randomly. At first I couldnt figure out why, then I remembered that it tends to do that when CPU usage is running high.

So, I goto the BMP webpage to see if there have been any recent bugfix releases. Nope, but someone has forked it to a new project called audacious. That’s cool, let’s go look at that website. Seems like they’ve already put out a few bugfix releases since the fork. Wow, that’s even cooler. Now, let’s *really* push our luck and see if its in portage. Hot crap, it is.

Man, I love Gentoo. :) Those corndogs that make those ebuilds are so on top of things, it’s amazing. I wish I could program that stuff.

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ghosts in the machine

I was talking to my friend tonight about my random problems with the database at work. There are just random things that happen to it, that we cannot figure out for the life of us. We’re planning on switching to PostgreSQL but it’s slow goings. In the meantime, we deal with it best we can.

Anyway, here’s what I was yammering about to him on IM:

“The thing is, theres two types of problems.

Problems you can track down. They are logical. You can see them break. Something you did, something you changed, or flipped, or activated, or deactivated or turned off or ran or installed or uninstalled or clicked will have made something else happen.

I can handle those problems. I might go bald pulling my hair out figuring out where it comes from, but usually you can find them okay by applying common sense, _patience_, logic and perseverance.

The second type of problem is ghosts in the machine.

When nothing has changed, everything is green lighted to be okay, things have been stable for days / weeks on end, everyone is happy, there are no odd logs, warnings, errors, red flags, bad signs, omens, instincts.

And something breaks.

Windows is haunted.”

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