Small announcement

I return from my blogging hiatus to announce the public launch of  Stack Overflow, a programming Q & A site designed by Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood.  It’s a wonderful idea implemented well, and I am excited to see how it evolves as time goes on.

(Please, please God, let it replace all those experts-exchange links in Google…)

On mice and men

That Logitech Revolution mouse I said I liked a couple months ago?

I take it all back. The problems started up again not long after that, and I ended up switching to the Razer Deathadder, an absurdly comfortable gaming mouse, and I’m having absolutely zero regrets on the matter. It’s the best mouse I’ve ever used, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Netflix, OSS, and me

So after much prodding from friends, I signed up for Netflix. It wasn’t the great turnaround on the DVD delivery, or the excellent customer service that drove me over; it was the rave reviews of their “Watch Instantly” movie streaming service. For $8.99 a month, you get unlimited hours of movies streamed, plus 1 DVD out at a time. Sounded like a deal, plus, 2 week free trial – how can you go wrong?

I logged in, selected a movie, and hit play. And that’s when things went all wrong.

It required Internet Explorer. As you all should know by now, I’m a Linux guy, deep down. Reluctantly I switched over to Windows to give it a shot, but IE wasn’t enough – no sir, it wanted Windows Media Player 11 and the latest version of Windows Genuine Advantage. Seeing as I regard both these “services” as little more than particularly invasive spyware, I decided it wasn’t really worth my time and hit the big red “cancel my account” link in the My Account page. It asked a lot of questions about the streaming service, and I answered honestly and as fully as I could. It also said to call if I had questions or comments, so I did. The guy was nice and understood what I said, said he would note it. (As an aside, while on the phones, I hate people like me.)

It’s really irritating that people do that. Netflix are not the only ones, either – Yahoo’s Launch music service did this for years. There’s really absolutely no (good) reason to use WMP/Windows-only formats over, say, Ogg Theora. Who really needs DRM? DRM is useless, every form of it that gets developed gets broken almost immediately. You don’t have to break your product with proprietary obfuscation tactics and secret rootkits to make it successful – in fact, people backlash against you for it. Hasn’t the market proven this already, time and time again? I mean, who knew that a lot of people don’t like being screwed? Look at Launch – when was the last time someone was telling you about that service? Yet we see universally friendly platforms like Last.fm and Pandora (my personal favorite) exploding onto the scene.

Netflix, Theora is a better container, open source, and universally supported. That means it’s also cheaper since you don’t have to license anything from anyone.  And the really nerdy crowd – the ones that are really likely to be on Linux – and the really trendy crowd – the ones that like to use Macs – are both going to have problems using this new, nerdy, trendy tech as long as you stick with this software model. So! Open your eyes and hearts to the joys of open source software, people. Microsoft is old and busted, OSS is the new hotness. Can ya dig it?

It’s Monday and I’m sane again

So on Saturday I contracted my first virus in 4+ years of Windows computing. I obviously wasn’t careful enough and have no one to blame for myself. That said, these things have gotten REALLY annoying to remove.

The main infection was a Vundo Trojan – not particularly dangerous, just extremely annoying. Dialog boxes and pop-up windows everywhere. My first step was to pull up the Task Manager and do a quick scan of running processes. Any I didn’t immediately recognize, I Googled – most were new programs running because of my little Logitech/Bluetooth adventure from a couple days ago – but one I got zero results for: C:\Windows\System32\nyyyutbm.exe. Looks like a typical spyware file name, but since I hadn’t gotten anything, I figured I’d do a full sweep.

Now since system files can’t be removed in a normal instance of Windows, first I had to boot into safe mode in Windows, and cruise over to TrendMicro’s HouseCall. Running that determined I had Vundo and removed part of the infection, along with some other miscellaneous stuff. I followed that up by a full system scan with AdAware and Spybot, and returned to a Windows desktop free of nasties. Still not sure why Google came up with no results – maybe I just got lucky enough to find a new mutation of the bug.

Anyway, that got me thinking about the fact that I was still using Windows for most things when I told myself I wouldn’t after my last installation of Ubuntu Linux. So I switched over and started playing around with it. I’d left it because of some little bugs that I didn’t feel like messing with at the time, but I was a little bit more determined now. First thing to solve was my issue with Ventrilo in Linux. It’s buggy at best, but I found a suggestion to manually replace Wine’s sound card driver with a version used in Windows, msgsm32.acm. This fixed everything. Three cheers for community support.

Next up was making it look the way I wanted it to. I enabled the Compiz and Beryl effects (now run jointly under the name Compiz Fusion) and downloaded ccsm, the effects configuration tool. After that I installed Emerald, a themes manager for CF, and downloaded the WhiteMod theme. It was still missing something, though. After some Googling, I came across AWN and it’s sexy twin, AWN-Curves. This walkthrough, again from the Ubuntu community, got me up and running with that. So I ended up with really a very nice-looking desktop that ran WoW and Ventrilo, and gives me all the wonderful functionality and power of Linux in a too-sexy-for-my-shirt package:

Desktop

Not too shabby. Hopefully I last this time!