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?

Super Bowl thoughts

That was the best game I have seen in years.

As much as I dislike Eli Manning, I can’t say a bad thing about him after tonight. That was amazing execution, especially for such a young guy playing in the Super Bowl for the first time. And the Giants’ defensive line – Michael Strahan, anyone? – was just phenomenal. To shut down one of the best offenses that football has ever seen and hold them to 14 points, hurting Brady every time he stepped back, that was really something impressive. Hats off to them, they really earned it.

Brady I think just did not handle the pressure well. We’ve seen him throw right through the pressure but tonight he just couldn’t do it.  Their defensive line was doing well but just couldn’t do to Manning what the Giants did to Brady. The game was run entirely by the defense on both sides right up until the 4th and … well, like I said, best game I have seen in years. Very good stuff.

So, grats Giants, sorry Pats, maybe next year.

Also, how bad does Connor Manning have to be feeling right now? “You know, both of your brothers have won a Super Bowl. What have you done?” “Dad, I don’t play footba–” “Get out of my house!”

Pre-Super Bowl rambling!

Sorry for no update yesterday. Been a rough couple of days, but life goes on.

Funny note: Rambo came out and had a bad return at the box office. Yet their commercials make it sound like they’re doing great. I hadn’t heard a single good review, so I looked to see what source the commercials took their props from – turns out its some horror movie review site I’d never heard of. Here’s the link. I think that says a bit about the movie, but maybe that’s just me.

Also, I got a couple requests for a source on my wallpaper from the other day. That, and many other fine photos, wallpapers, etc are from Volk Studio.

So! Super Bowl this Sunday. I’m pulling for the Patriots, for a couple reasons: One, it would be really cool to see a team complete a perfect 19-0 season. With the way they’ve been playing, it’s really very cool to see them this close. If anyone deserves it, it’s them. Second, I want to see the Giants lose because they beat Green Bay and I hate Eli Manning. Both Mannings, actually, but especially Eli. It should be a good game, either way. The Giants have really kicked it up a notch so they should give New England a run for their money.

Every source I’ve seen says the commercials are gonna suck this year. I know GoDaddy’s big plan is to air a “teaser” for a commercial they’ll have online that was too risqué to broadcast, which is just them pushing the line even further. Bob’s a great guy and all but sometimes I wonder. It’s really too bad about the commercials in general though, watching some of the old commercials from the pre-Janet Super Bowls brought back some awesome memories and smiles. We used to have big Super Bowl parties at my old church, and they’d broadcast the game onto the big projection screen in the main room. Everyone would pitch in chips and soda and hot dogs and hamburgers and have a grand old time of it. I’ll never forget Pastor Jay putting on his Broncos cap and explaining, with a big grin, that Jesus was going to be riding back on a white bronco, not a “packer,” and so obviously Denver was the team Jesus was rooting for. He must have – I can’t think of any other way to explain Terrell Davis’ performance that game. Also, watching for the Budweiser frogs while sitting in church always seemed somehow fitting in an ironic way.

Don’t really have much else to say, except that John Stewart has been awesome lately. I’ll save my political rambling, though, for a post later tonight, or perhaps tomorrow.

Sex, Violence, and Politics

So Obama got endorsed by the Kennedys, I see. Pretty much puts the kiss of death on any conservative appeal he had because of his charisma, but the guy’s really just another new-school socialist anyway. Having him in the White House would be a nightmare, but I suppose it’d be less bad than Hillary…

Via Kim comes the reminder that Mardis Gras is child’s play:

Five days of frenzied festivities kick off on Friday, with the biggest parties in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Recife.

Latin America’s largest country stops work and indulges in a riot of drinking, dancing and parades accompanied by often licentious behavior.

The Health Ministry launched its annual safe sex campaign on Sunday under the slogan “Good in bed means wearing a condom.”

I find it just bizarre in general that these festivals exist, but never underestimate the stupidity of large groups of people. And there are people genuinely confused about the wildfire spread of STDs? I know I’m not anything remotely close to normal, and maybe my logic is just too abstract for most people, but if anonymous sex has all these negative consequences why not just… not do it?

Also from Kim is this heartwarming tragic tale of neighborly love senseless violence:

A father of three was murdered after going to a neighbour’s house to retrieve his son’s football. David Martin was allegedly stabbed with a samurai sword and a knife then bludgeoned round the head with a golf club. His wife and two youngest children watched in horror as an argument broke out and Mr Martin collapsed in agony.

Emphasis mine. “Hey guys, I was just wondering if I could get my son’s football back…” gets you beaten to death? What kind of insane world are we living in? What makes it even worse is that Mr. Martin’s father died in the exact same way – beaten to death trying to save his son from a group of misunderstood youth gang that should have been hung on the spot all those years ago. But they can’t do that, and with no death penalty to worry about, it’s pretty obvious that people aren’t worried too much about the repercussions – especially when the repercussions for said crimes are 6 years in juvenile for one offender while the others walk away.

This where I have to refer to LawDog’s excellent post on self defense. It’s becoming increasingly the case that criminals don’t fear the repercussions of what happens AFTER the crime, which I can easily attribute to our sluggish and ultimately ineffective justice system. This leaves you to provide him with fear on the spot. As LawDog points out,

Joe Critter does his first mugging. He is probably almost as scared as his victim, he’s not sure he wants to do this — but … hey! He got ten dollars (or sex, or a feeling of power, or whatever) but more importantly: he didn’t get hurt.

The next time, he’s a little less scared. He’s a little more sure. He gets five dollars (or sex, power, whatever) — and he’s not hurt. He feels his activities present less risk to him each time he has a successful (he didn’t get hurt) attack.

Twenty or a hundred victims later, Joe Critter not only doesn’t think mugging is risky, but the lack of risk has caused him to consider other, more violent actions. Because these actions don’t get him hurt.

On the other paw, suppose Joe Critter is in a place where self-defence is expected and encouraged. He figures the reward of wallet money is worth the risk of Rehabilitation Through Reincarnation, or Bodily Injury and attempts a mugging. The victim defends him or her self, and let us postulate that Joe scrambles away with powder burns and a bloody furrow along the ribs.

In contrast to the above example, for mugging number 2, the Risk part of Joe’s Risk/Reward assessment climbs, rather than lowers. Death — instead of being a philosophical possibility of his actions, is now a very real, concrete fact.

Go read the rest.

In happier news, new episode of House tonight. Holy crap, I’m actually excited about a TV show.

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!