Technology

Nokia N900 – with Maemo

Despite becoming the sole owners of Symbian, Nokia have gone ahead and announced the N900. The N900 is the next in the 770/N800/N810 line of devices based on the Debian-derived Maemo platform. Unlike it’s predecessors however, the N900 is in fact a phone.

One of the best things about the previous Maemo devices is the lack of restrictions on what you could do. Enabling root access to the underlying Linux system was possible (and easy) allowing a lot of access. Even updating it with unsigned firmware images was allowed. In theory this will all be possible with the N900, but in practice, things might not be so open. I remember a quote from someone at Nokia some time ago along the lines of “As soon as you put a sim in it, the operators want a piece of it”. Although you can get a sim-free unlocked N900 (the UK price is advertised as £499.99) I’d guess any operator subsidised N900 will have restrictions.

Computers, Entertainment, Technology

Back to vanilla MythTV – Part 2: Fiddling

After installing MythDora, there were a few extra things I had to do that took a while to figure out.

Upgrade to mythtv-trunk from ATrpms

I figured I just enable the “bleeding” repository and then do yum install mythtv. This worked fine. But nothing was different. It seems that “mythtv” is a meta package that just says you have Myth installed without actually containing anything. So then I tried yum install mythtv-frontend mythtv-backend mythtv-setup mythweb mythplugins. This worked up until a point bu then failed a transaction test. The actual failure was a mismatch between themes that different parts provided. I decided this was unimportant but couldn’t force yum to install. So I installed apt (yum install apt) and used that (apt-get install mythtv-frontend mythtv-backend mythtv-setup mythweb mythplugins and it all went fine.

Import old recordings

This was easy than I expected. Simply replace the database with your old one (make sure you stop mythbackend before you do). I had previously copied all my old recordings to my FreeNAS box and dumped the database (mysqldump -u username -p mythconverg > mythconverg.sql). So I deleted the mythconverg database and imported the SQL file (mysql -u username -p < mythconverg.sql. You could also just copy the mythconverg directory in the MySQL data directory directly.

The next time you start mythbackend it will update the database schema (if necessary) and everything will work. Apparently if you had slave backends on your old system you might have problems but I didn’t so I’m not entirely sure what they are…

Automatically mount a remote file system

To get MythTV to save on my FreeNAS server I obviously needed to mount it at start up. This was simpler than I expected (although I did it using a terminal). Open the file /etc/fstab and add the line:
server:/share mount_point cifs defaults 0 0.
server is the IP address of the FreeNAS server, /share is the folder on the server mount_point is the name you want to access it with locally (this directory should already exist – you normally make a sub directory of /mnt. After adding this run the command mount -a to force the system to mount all the file systems (it does this automatically at start up).

Then run MythTV Setup, select storage groups and add the mount point you chose as a directory.

Computers, Entertainment, Technology

Back to vanilla MythTV – Part 1: MythDora Rocks

Well I tried LinuxMCE but didn’t really get very far. After deciding everything was too much of a hassle, I downloaded MythDora 4.0 and installed it.

I have to say that unless you have a specific reason otherwise, MythDora is definitely the way to go for a MythTV installation. It was really easy and actually worked (something that seems not to have happened a lot when I’ve tried Linux).

One of the big advantages of using MythDora is since it’s Fedora based you can update (usually) painlessly from ATrpms. It has MythTV packages based on regular SVN checkouts. Importantly for me it also has packages from from mythtv-trunk (the latest version). Although they’re marked as “bleeding” they are usually stable.

The reason I needed the latest version is for storage group support. Without storage groups MythTV is limited to storing recordings in a single directory, storage groups allows you to specify multiple storage groups, each containing several directories. MythTV then use some clever load balancing to spread things out across available drives. This is important for me since I was planning on keeping most of my recordings on my new FreeNAS server, at least in the long term. The recordings aren’t tied to a specific storage group by the way – you can move them around freely (so I record to the local hard drive and then move them to the FreeNAS server later).

Once it was installed I did have to do a bit of fiddling, and it’s the sort of fiddling other people may have to do, so I’ll explain in part 2.

Computers, Entertainment, Technology

LinuxMCE 0704

A new version of LinuxMCE is out. And from what I’ve read (I haven’t installed it yet) it looks like a big improvement.

The biggest factor is improved MythTV support (which to be honest I feel is the most important part of it). They also claim the DVD quick install only requires three keypresses (but that’s only for the install, no setup). There is thankfully a new video as well that is considerably less annoying than the previous one – complete with disclaimers about things that may only work on specific hardware.

On the subject of specific hardware, there is a company called Fiire offering some pretty affordable computers with LinuxMCE already installed. Personally I’d build the core myself but maybe buy their thin clients.. They also a do a cool remote with built in gyro (like a remote/gyro-mouse combo) but it’s a $150…

Computers, Entertainment, Games, Technology

Cross platform games on the PS3 and the Xbox 360

In case you didn’t know, the PS3 can run Linux. Not only that but it’s officially supported by Sony. You can download (for free) a utility to put a boot loader on to some media (most likely a hard-drive but memory cards, memory sticks and anything else the PS3 can read (and can hold 10Mb) are supported) and set it to boot “Other OS” (that’s what the menu says).

There are already videos on the Internet of it running Fedora. Zac Bowling already has one running Mono, a task simplified by the fact that the cell processor appears as a PPC.

So where does the Xbox 360 come into this? Well Microsoft are releasing something called XNA, a modified/extended version of the the .NET 2.0 run-time with emphasis on Managed DirectX that is available for Windows and the Xbox 360. A version of XNA called Mono.Xna that is built on top of the Tao framework is in development. The end result is that in theory, games developed using XNA will run on Windows, Linux, Macs, PS3’s and Xbox 360’s.

A few problems still exist. The processor that the PS3 uses is rather strictly an in-order processor so most stuff that isn’t written specifically for that will run slowly (although video playback will be pretty zippy) and so far there is no hardware 3D support for an “Other OS” so XNA (if it were available now) would run slowly.

Computers, Entertainment, Ruby on Rails, Technology

Nokia 770

My recently ordered Nokia 770 has arrived :o) For those that don’t know, it isn’t a phone – Nokia market it as an “Internet Tablet”. Basically it’s a PDA running Linux with WLAN, Bluetooth and an 800×480 touchscreen display. There’s too much about it that’s cool for me to go into right now, so I’ll leave you with the picture 🙂

Apparently the term “UMPC” is being used by a few people to describe the 770 (and similar devices) – “Ultra Mobile PC”.

Computers, Technology, Windows

Microsoft playing nice?

Well it seems despite the massive market share (approaching monopoly status in certain markets), Microsoft are realising that working with other companies can actually be a good thing. Windows Live Messenger’s interoperability with Yahoo! Messenger is a small step, their latest announcement is much bigger.

Ron Hovsepian and Steve Ballmer take the stage together to announce a new collaborative relationship between Novell and Microsoft.

Apparently the deal involves some patent sharing, setting up a research team to work on improved virtualization and Microsoft indirectly selling Novell support to it’s customers who also have Linux servers.

Read about the whole deal on Novell’s website.