Category Archives: tech

Penn State MacAdmin 2013 Conference

This past week was the Penn State MacAdmin Conference over at the Penn Stater Conference Center, and I had a really good time. I would say about 10% of what I do is Mac based, but we have some heavy Mac users that could really use some improvements in their level of service, so this conference was very useful.

I have been to several conferences over at the Nittany Lion Inn, but I think this might have been my first actual conference at the Penn Stater (although I do find myself over there frequently because of a leadership training program I’m participating in this year). The food at the Penn State was really pretty good, with a lot of options. We had breakfast and lunch there all three days of the conference and I couldn’t complain about any of it. They also always have a bunch of snacks between sessions. In general, you don’t go more than about an hour between feedings lol. The only bad thing about the facilities there was poor wireless connections. I don’t think most of the crowds that hit up the Penn Stater for conferences put as much pressure on the wifi than a big tech conference, so hopefully AT&T will be a little better prepared to handle it next year.

There were many good sessions about software packaging, deployment, management systems etc. I thought the talks by Allister Banks were very interesting and entertaining. He’s got to be the most eccentric person in a room full of Mac users, which is saying something.  I also liked the talk I attended from Rusty Myers about bash, and the one I took a little earlier that day about python.  If only they could find some grizzled old sysadmin to talk about perl!

My workflow evolved throughout the conference. I brought in a work iPad on the first day but found myself not using it to keep notes or anything really, but rather just to check work emails. (I really hate the anxiety of knowing work emails are piling up but not being able to really knock them out, so even when I’m at an event like this I tend to try to keep up with them.) On the second and third days I brought in an old macbook from home and fired up evernote to keep notes. This was much better… I could still keep my email open (in those rare moments when I had working wifi) but I could also take notes, pull up URLs of things the speakers were talking about, and keep the conference hashtag up in Twitter.

Unlike some conferences I’ve been to where the hashtags were used by like 1 or two people, here the #psumacconf tag really brought together a big chunk of the community. It really helped me (who lives 2 minutes away from the Penn Stater) from following along with the shenanigans that took place in the after-hours with the people staying at the hotel.  I did attend the after-event on Wednesday, which was at Medlar Field. They had the outfield food place opened up and had a cash bar. It was pretty fun although the wind and rain sort of pushed everyone under the concourse. Even so, it was a good place to network, and I met colleagues from across the country who came in for the conference.

The schedule for the conference was on http://sched.org which I thought worked really well, especially on day 2 when they changed up some of the events.  It also seemed to tie into Eventbrite, which was how we registered e-tickets for the evening event at the baseball stadium.

Overall I gained a lot from the conference, and am looking forward to next year!

The Last Shuttle Flight

Today was the last flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and with it the end of the Shuttle program. It’s pretty sad, if you ask me, and definitely the end of an era. Here’s hoping that, despite constant budget questions, human spaceflight will continue to progress.

see you space cowboy...

Crossposting

shock

I’ve got a few different blogs out there and they should all be syncing the same posts.  The reasoning behind that is if my own site (scotttopic.com) goes down some day, my posts (although perhaps not all of my images) would be stored somewhere at least.  This is a post to test this stuff out.  And perhaps my favorite GIF of all time.

 

Twitter’s Growing Role

The scandalous Iranian elections are just the latest chapter in the growing multitude of uses people are finding to connect with twitter. I’ve used twitter for a while now and have truly believe it to be a revolutionary tool for gaining insight into the world’s collective mind. I’ve had plenty of friends sign up, post something along the lines of “I don’t get it.” and then never post again. Last week Slashdot covered the topic of these “One Tweet Wonders”, who sign up for the service and then leave it behind.

But it’s those who have embraced it that truly understand its potential. Sure, there’s plenty of meaningless crap (eg. anything i post, hehe), but the true power lies with two features: search, and trending topics.

Search, as it pertains to Twitter, doesn’t give you results that you could compare with, say Google. While the twitter search page [http://search.twitter.com] may vaguely resemble Google’s simple interface, a search won’t link you to sites about your topic, or the wikipedia entry. Instead, you find what human beings are thinking about that topic. Even the mundane details of everyday life, when organized through search, can give insight into what people are thinking. The Trending Topics (shown on the main search page) show you the most talked about topics across the system right then. Click on the links and you have instant response and commentary.

Twitter search gives you organic search. But it also gives you only a snapshot, and the most recent snapshot at that. While I’m sure there are ways out there to search through older moments in time, twitter’s search by default is telling you the results that are happening right now. It is instant, unfiltered, unedited content from regular people (with it’s own fair amount of spam included, of course).

This has become threatening to those who would like to control the flow of information. During terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the Indian government plead to its people to stop posting to twitter. In the past few days, with Iran expelling many foreign press with their election coming, people have turned to Twitter to communicate and organize their outrage at the perceived corrupt election. Twitter founder Biz Stone posted today that they will reschedule planned maintenance on the site because of the importance the site has in Iran right now.

Twitter gives people a platform to speak on. While individually it might seem small and meaningless, collectively it gives people a voice.

Ubuntu 9.04 Still Not Ready for Primetime

I’m a big Linux fan.  I’ve been using in some way or another since 1999 and wouldn’t consider myself a novice.  But despite all my efforts over the years, Linux is still unable to meet my needs as a desktop OS.  Now, I do use Linux regularly as a server at work, and it’s a rock solid beast.  But when it comes to the desktop, I find it wanting.

Take today’s release of Ubuntu 9.04 – Jaunty Jackelope.  I’ve been using it since beta, and it’s got a lot of good stuff going for it.  Boot time is excellent… around 26 seconds on my desktop.  After installing a few fonts from other sources (such as my beloved Futura, and my new favorite coding font, Droid Sans Mono from Google’s Android platform), it is simply gorgeous to look at.  Ubuntu has finally learned exactly how to properly display fonts.

But apart from the shiny exterior, and the admitedly stable structure that frames any UNIX based OS, is a slew of problems that prevent Ubuntu from taking over my desktop.  Multimedia support is a big problem.  After a few commands, I had all the gstreamer codecs installed from Medibuntu, vlc player and skype.  But everything is still such a cobbled-together mess.

Xvid files drop frames in vlc, even though I’ve got a system that should easily handle this type of stuff.  I can double-click the vlc window to make it full screen… but I must wait for 5-10 seconds as it slowly chugs away at this simple procedure.  (Simple in terms of how Windows and osx86 handle it the exact same procedure, on the exact same hardware, with the exact same version of VLC.)  If I open the same files in Totem, it’s hit or miss whether it will display anything at all, or will just be a black window.  I once full-screened the Totem window to have my entire X session hang.

Support for things such as webcams is also dreadfuly inept.  My Logitech webcam was detected immediately and “worked” to some extent.  Skype recongized a generic usb camera, and was able to display video.  However it only displayed a fraction of the actual camera image, a zoomed in corner of the view.  Skype, nor cheese, nor camorama, nor any other camera app I could find have any actual settings for this.    So unless I only wish to show a corner of my head, or mount my webcam 10 feet behind my monitor, this webcam is useless.

Media streaming?  Sorry there’s no orb support, nor any built-in media streaming ala Windows Media Center.  You can try Jinzora (which requires you to run a web server with MySQL databases on your PC [no thanks, I deal with that enough at work]) or open up the troubled VLC to stream.

I really want to love Ubuntu.  And I do have it installed on two old laptops here where I fuck around with perl and c++.  But as it stands, unfortunately it just does not meet my needs.  It’s sad that XP is still the best OS option I have.

My Poor, Poor Xbox

After putting up with the unbearable buzzing the DVD-ROM drive in my 360 produced whenever it spun a disc for probably a year, I finally caved and sent it in for service. They were pretty fast about sending me the coffin to mail it in.. and I’m hopeful that they’ll fix her up and have it back soon. So, I dropped it off at UPS today, Monday.. We’ll have to see how long until it’s back to me.

What a Day

I woke up last night in throbbing pain from one of my teeth. Dang did it hurt. I called up the dentist and they squeezed me in, and they gave me some Novocain till I could see a specialist in the afternoon for a root canal. Annoying as hell, and way expensive even with insurance, but at least I’ll hopefully be fixed. And this was supposed to be a day off…

So now I’m chilling at home and watching some really bad movies. Not going out tonight.. maybe tomorrow.

In other news, I got a new phone on eBay. Unsurprisingly, when it arrived it had neither a battery or a functional keyboard, even though the listing was that it was in Mint condition. The guy seems to be handling this decently though, he should be sending me a replacement phone shortly. My current phone still works fine, but I’m just looking to upgrade to something with a bit more in the way of internet capabilities.