(This post probably is not useful to anyone outside of the US)

I’ve been without cable for a few years now, using a combination of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and an HD Homerun. This past week Aereo launched in Detroit and after 30 seconds of using it I stumbled over backwards to pay for it.

Here’s the part that Aereo fills in. Right now here is what each service provides:

  • Netflix - The archive of movies and TV shows.
  • Amazon Prime - Same as Netflix, but also has first run shows available immediately if you want to pay for them (which I can’t do on Netflix)
  • HD Homerun - Local television.

The problem with my HD Homerun is that all it does is take OTA cable signals and put them on my network. This is handy, except it’s not integrated nicely on my Roku nor my Plex/XBMC setup. And at the end of the day, it basically is a retransmitter. Aereo is much more. And since I don’t have a dedicated PC in my living room (Just a Roku), if I want to watch the Lions game this Thanksgiving I need to hook up a PC to my computer, toss the URL in VLC and then fullscreen it.

With Aereo I don’t need hardware other than my Roku, PCs, or phones – and it does more than retransmit, it also provides a DVR-like service to my shows. That means I get the equivalent of a Tivo for my OTA broadcasts. Now, combine that with Netflix and Amazon Prime and all my bases are covered, one ONE DEVICE (the Roku). That means I can just record all the Lions games and watch them from anywhere. Now I can have people come over without them flipping out that I don’t have sports or local news.

Ah, my trifecta is now complete. $27 a month for all three, not bad!

The one complaint I have is that these services still force you into the “channel” model. That is, the channel is a first class thing in the UI. I think this is backwards; ideally I wish to have all the TV shows be available as an aggregate from every “channel”, and then I browse/search by grammer/content. When I pick “The X-Files”, then tell me my backend options. Of course, this model will likely never fly with the content providers, alas only my old Boxee Box ever got that right.

All in all, a great deal at $7 a month (I got the multiple antenna provider and more space for an extra 4 bucks) – and as a bonus the service is so innovative that the incumbents don’t even know what to do other than sue. Gotta love it.

Now that everyone is talking about SteamOS and Steam Machines I thought I’d blog about my “Faux Steam Machine”. SteamOS is basically a Linux-based OS, and we know that the SteamBox is basically a PC. And while people are guessing that the announcement on Friday will be a controller, I went ahead and assembled my own with my own stuff.

Certainly not “Steam Certified”, but it’ll tide me over until I can buy the real hardware, and it’ll let me follow along with development of Steam at the “Big Picture” level. This is all pretty straightforward and there’s nothing new in this post that you haven’t been able to do before. It’s just now that Valve is committed to this direction I want to follow along – especially as the number of titles coming out continues to increase.

For this tutorial you need:

  • An Ubuntu machine with good video performance. I have an Nvidia based machine. You need to install Steam on this machine.
  • This wireless receiver which enables you to reuse your Xbox 360 controller on your PC.
  • An Xbox 360 controller or some other wireless gamepad.

First you need to get the controller working in Ubuntu:

And now, make a Steam session:

  • Can I run Steam as its own standalone session? - this is great because it allows us to just login to the machine and then Steam fires up automatically in big picture mode. Kudos to you thor27 (the author of this little integration bit).

And finally, turn on auto login in LightDM so that our machine just boots right into Steam with no user input:

Steam updates itself at the client level so there’s no need to worry about that, the final step for a console-like experience is to enable automatic updates and you should be good to go!

TODO

  • There’s certainly some work we can do in Ubuntu to make configuring gamepads suck less.
  • There’s a Steam repository that has some goodies like a Steam Plymouth theme, this would make first boot look real slick.
  • Does anyone know if there’s a similar cable for PS3 controllers?
  • Performance: I assumed that loading Steam in a dedicated session would lead to better performance but it’s actually slower than running it in Unity. I think it has something to do with Steam running in the stripped down XFCE window manager that doesn’t have compositing? Need to investigate.
  • Someone on reddit mentioned that SteamGuard/login in could be a problem but I haven’t run into those issues yet.

Thanks to everyone who showed up to the OhioLinuxFest. It was fun, well, other than getting that cold from Ian and Jono. evil glare

A friend of mine let me play around with Ghost, the new simplified blogging engine.

It’s still missing some features, but for me it’s about 90% there. The Markdown editor is excellent, it’s really all about no-frills content and publishing, which I like. There’s no content importing from Octopress (yet), so I’m going to not move (yet); but when it’s out for the public it should be a nice alternative for those of us who prefer simple blogging. And I must admit after hosting a static blog for so cheap it gets kind of weird moving back to something that needs a working web server (First world problems I know.)

I think it would be nice to have a hosted service like this that would just let me dump the rendered html into an S3 bucket.

Also check out Lee Hutchinson’s review of Ghost on Ars Technica.

General Info:

Highlights

  • Juju talk at the Ohio Linuxfest!
  • Charm tools 1.0 released

Azure Support!

  • Charm Tools, Juju client available for Windows 7 and 8
  • Microsoft Windows Azure support (you can now deploy to Azure!)
    • OSX is in homebrew (but you knew that already)

The initial blogs are at:

Docs

  • Docs up to date to reflect charm-tools, Azure configuration, and windows installation.
  • Two branches out that provide more info on the GUI and Charm Author
    • New “How To” based on Juju GUI
    • Charm Author section being worked on
  • UX testing on Charm User section
  • Integrate charm-tools into “writing a charm” section

Tools/Helpers

Tools

  • 1.0 release (rewrite to Python) - this lets us be more crossplatform and make the code testable
    • Packaging is being sorted now, will be available on all three platforms by the end of the week.
    • 1.1 release later this month.
    • Hopefully more reliable release schedule moving forward.
  • Template for charm create’s boilerplat hooks are much better.
  • Marco to add more language-specific best practice to make the boilerplate more useful.
  • Need to figure out how to get 1.0 into Ubuntu properly
  • Perhaps work with Rodrigo on Brew, but it will be in pip at a minimum

Helpers

  • No changes …
  • Feature branches out there, no pending merges yet.

Amulet

  • Now that charm tools is 1.0 Marco can finish the Amulet release.
  • Release 1.0 next week.
  • “How to write tests for your charm” resources to be written.
  • 2 Weeks until a charm school specifically just for this.

Charm Updates

  • Recent Changes
  • New icons! Thanks webteam! Varnish, Squid, couch, node, redis…
  • Shiny Docker charm - not in the store.
  • ~50 changes in the charm store this week.

Events

  • OhioLinuxFest Juju talk! 14 September - DONE!
  • Marco @ Gluster FS Community Days, part of Linux Conf in New Orleans (Sept 19) - In Progress!
  • Updated events page (https://juju.ubuntu.com/events/)
  • Charm School this Friday with Jorge and Mims!
  • OpenStack conference sneaking up!
  • SCaLE CFP is open!

Charm Championship!!! \o/

  • 6 categories: Media, telco, continuous deployment, high availability, monitoring, and Data Science!
  • $60k more in prizes for new categories
  • Deadline extended to October 22 to accomodate new categories
  • http://juju.ubuntu.com/charm-championship

Other Topics

GOALS

  • [pavel] email list on continuous deployment story using Rails charm: INPROGRESS
  • [evilnick] Charm Author docs structure: INPROGRESS
  • [pavel] Work on amulet integration testing: TODO
  • [marco] Release/Mail list on Amulet instructions, and general information: INPROGRESS
  • [jorge] To identify draft pages in docs: DONE
    • Jorge did confirm with core team that the remaining drafts are not applicable from thumper (Tim P.)
  • [jorge] Openstack bundle deployment thing from jamespage: INPROGRESS
    • Talked to Adam_g, I am going to test this this week.
  • [arosales] Update Gluster and Ohio events on juju.u.c/events: DONE
  • [utlemming] Schedule in rails doc testing: TODO
  • [m_3] mapR charm review: INPROGRESS
  • [marco] Releasing charm-tools 1.0 to stable PPA: TODO
  • [marco] Get 1.0 charm-tools into saucy/precise: TODO

Another week, another Juju Charm Meeting!

General Info:

Highlights

  • Juju manual provisioning first cut!
  • juju.ubuntu.com facelift, looking good!
    • New docs formatting
  • manage.jujucharms.com facelift.

Docs

  • Tons happening right now
    • Still going through submissions from the sprint.
    • Docs have been redesigned to match juju.ubuntu.com
    • Creating a new page added to contributing to the docs section: https://juju.ubuntu.com/docs/contributing.html
      • Creating a new page in the docs now easy! No more excuses!
  • Author pages getting reviews.
  • New section: Tools
    • This will cover charm-tools and other convenience tools around Juju.
  • MAAS instructions need a redo next to catch up to latest versions.

Tools/Helpers

Tools

  • Port to Python completed, 1.0 release pending
  • Features and fixes for 1.1 started

Helpers

  • Had charm school last friday, here’s the video
  • No new changes since 2013-08-28
  • Several feature branches being worked on, better OpenStack and APT support
  • No CLI updates

Amulet

  • Version 1.0 nearing release, will be released shortly after charm-tools update
  • Whirlwind of documentation, examples, and blog posts planned
  • “Blocking” charm quality review

Charm Updates

  • http://manage.jujucharms.com/recently-changed
  • Queue needs some work
    • ntpserver charm needed
  • MapR charm ready for a 2nd pass
  • New charm for vpnendpoint
  • Bip ready for 2nd pass
  • Richard’s already tossed in a patch to add a config option remotely administer the charm remotely.

Events

  • OhioLinuxFest Juju talk! 14 September
  • Marco @ Gluster FS Community Days, part of Linux Conf in New Orleans (Sept 19)
  • Update events page

## Charm Championship!!! \o/

Other Topics

GOALS

  • [marco] upgrades video (I missed another a million trillion weeks): INPROGRESS?
  • [pavel] email list on continuous deployment story using Rails charm: INPROGRESS
  • [arosales, m_3] To get feedback to pavel: DONE
  • [evilnick] Charm Author docs structure: INPROGRESS
  • [nick] Add local provider getting started docs: DONE
  • [pavel] Work on amulet integration testing: TODO
  • [marco] Mail list on Amulet instructions, and general information: TODO
  • [jorge] To identify draft pages in docs: INPROGRESS
  • [m_3] Confirm ruby conf submission: DONE
  • [jorge] Openstack bundle deployment thing from jamespage: INPROGRESS
    • Ping adam_g.
  • [arosales] Update Gluster and Ohio events on juju.u.c/events: TODO
  • [utlemming] Schedule in rails doc testing: TODO
  • [m_3] mapR charm review: TODO

I must warn you, I’m a keyboard snob. Not even the kind of keyboard snob people like, I’m a mechnical keyboard snob. To me a good day is spent mashing away at the pinnacle of human achievement, the IBM Model M. When I worked at Oakland University I had an opportunity to run into these all the time. Your local university probably has a ton of these, and you can find people like myself and Kyle Rankin trudging through garage sales looking for these gems. Whilst others hated these mechanical monstrosities they appealed to those of us who love to type. Over time I just started owning a bunch of them.

However as they run down and start to break I started to find that replacing them was becoming more costly as the market went up, and to be honest, even the latest crappy keyboards were starting to get good enough. One of my current favorites is the Dell USB Enhanced Keyboard which is a great keyboard for about 12 bucks. I know right.

Over time some of my friends like Rick Harding had moved on to Filcos or the Unicomp brand; which acquired the Model M patents for crunchiness and started shipping a modern version of the keyboard. I myself moved on to a Happy Hacking 2 which is a great keyboard but not a proper mechanical one. When I was rebuilding my work area I needed something wireless and ended up with a Logitech K360, which is not a bad chiclet keyboard, and the ability for it to share a dongle with my wireless trackball made for a nice clean desk. Good Enough(tm).

Still, there’s nothing like a real mechanical keyboard. I had discovered WASD keyboards via Rick Harding and I used their customizer to make an “Ubuntu keyboard”. It had an orange escape key, and aubergine keycaps for the Unity shortcut keys, and of course, used the Ubuntu font. But the price was steep, and though I bounced some ideas with Paul Sladen on how it would look I never followed through on actually getting one made. Then a few weeks ago Jeff Atwood announced the CODE Keyboard. A clean redo of a mechanical keyboard. Ok, I can dig this; so I ordered one.

What’s to love

  • Very clean design; there’s no logos or any kind of badging on it.
  • The Cherry Clear switches “feel” really good. Subjective I know. It took me this blog post to get used to it.
  • The backlighting is absolutely gorgeous. I leave it on even when it’s not dark, it looks great.
  • Thanks for making the Super Key OS-agnostic!
  • The Insert/Home/Delete/End/PgUp/PgDown cluster is also your media keys. This allows me to control my media player with the keyboard shortcuts and adjust volume without taking my right hand off the keyboard, as the Fn key is the bottom right “menu key”. This is configurable via a DIP switch.
  • There is a DIP switch to make the Caps lock key be a Ctrl. This is vitally important for UNIX-like operating systems as it’s the proper placement for the Ctrl key. Of course you can set this option at the OS level, but it’s nice to not only have it an option to be configured that way, but to have the key not labeled as Caps Lock.

  • I like that the keyboard cable is just a mini-USB cable, which means I have a ton of them around already.

Thoughts on improvements.

  • The keys feel “narrower” than a Model M, and a bit too narrow for my fat fingers, however since they’re “scooped” keys I don’t miss the key, it just takes some getting used to.
  • I’d like to see WASD expand their custom keycaps to support this keyboard (Hopefully there will be enough demand to justify this).
  • The backlighting doesn’t work on the lower side of the keycaps, so the labels for pause/play, fwd, stop, and volume are not lit up at night. This is a nitpick as it’ll be easy to memorize their location.

Things I’d like to see in version 2.0

  • Built in USB Ports for things like a YubiKey or whatever.
  • A wireless option for those of us who want a cleaner desk.
  • Jo Shields mentioned that there’s no option for a UK layout, for those of you on that side of the pond.

What about the noise?

I think it’s worth noting that this keyboard is considerably quieter than a Model M. Notice that I said it’s quieter than a Model M, but this is not exactly a quiet keyboard. It’s not really loud either, but if you’re in the middle of flame war on the internet your cube mate might notice.

I work from home so this isn’t an issue for me, however I have worked in an office with Model M fans and it can get pretty loud in there so I think it’s worth pointing out that the CODE is not particularly loud. As far as how it stacks up noise-wise against other mechanical keyboards I’ve used, this one is relatively quiet, but I don’t have science handy to back this up.

Sean David O’Connor was quick to point out that WASD sells sets of rubber switch dampeners in three different configurations to soften the noise if this is an issue for you. I can confirm that the CODE as shipped to me does not include these dampeners.

Final Thoughts

So overall, it’s a nice keyboard, it has a very “Dark Knight” or “Monolith” feel to it. It’s a little heavy, but not Model M heavy, it certainly is not sliding around on you. The real test will be in a month or two when I start to clean it regularly. The “art” of cleaning a mechanical keyboard is something I’m experienced with, and I’m hoping that this modern keyboard will be easier to maintain than a Model M. Hopefully the spacebar isn’t as easy to break during maintenance as it is on a Model M.

In the original comments on Hacker News people were complaining about the price, $150. If you’re looking around at mechanical keyboards with proper cherry switches and so on, this is about the price range, so compared to the competition, it’s similarly priced; keyboards like this are not cheap and people who buy these kind of keyboards do for the same reason that Geddy Lee doesn’t play a $500 bass. For comparison the Unicomp Model M style with the original buckling spring is about $80.

Overall I like it; this is my first WASD keyboard and I can see where they get their good reputation from, I’m hoping to get some long life out of this keyboard and it seems off to a great start. Jo Shields pointed out that there’s really nothing on this keyboard that you can’t get in other ones, and that’s true to a certain extent. I think anyone who is into mechanical keyboards has their own (strong) opinions on what right feels like. I think people who swear by Cherry Reds will always get that switch and be fine. Where I think this keyboard shines is that it’s an “opinionated default” that works out of the box and gets you started about typing quickly and efficiently without getting all Linux-user on you with a ton of options on switches and stuff.

In case you’ve missed it on Insights we’ve made some updates to the Juju Charm Championship.

First off we’ve added three new categories, Continuous Deployment, Media, and Telco. That brings the total amount of categories up to six, for a total of USD $60,0000 in prizes, with bonus prizes to charm maintainers whose charms are used in winning bundles.

Here’s all the categories

  • NEW! Continuous deployment – a bundle of charms that allows startups to be immediately productive, continually launch new features, and scale effortlessly
  • NEW! Media – a bundle of charms that brings value to media content providers, distributors, and associated mass medium technologies
  • NEW! Telco – a bundle of charms that brings value to telecommunications service providers and telecommunications infrastructure
  • High Availability – a bundle of charms for HA-enabled services to accomplish a task
  • Data science/mining – a bundle of charms for data mining and “big data” analysis
  • Monitoring – a bundle of charms that enables new monitoring solutions for existing services

And here’s what we’re looking for

In each category, we’re looking for a charm bundle that really innovates, bringing simplicity and speed to an otherwise complex task. A high quality bundle will reflect best practices of services that run in production and solve “infrastructure gunk” and solve real world problems. The great thing about a charm bundle is that it can then be shared with the community and re-used anywhere, by anyone. That means the smallest start-up can benefit from the same easy deployment as the biggest companies. It’s out-of-the-box infrastructure deployment.

Here’s what a simple bundle looks like. In this example of a Rails application we’ve connected Logstash logging and Nagios monitoring to the application and added a PostgreSQL database.

This is an exciting time in the cloud, we’re moving beyond “here’s a box of Legos, Good luck!” to prebuilt “kits” from shared sophisticated devops to the rest of the community. We believe that raising the high water mark for infrastructure is something that is useful for everyone, from startups to well established enterprises.

Over the next few weeks we’ll announce more of our judges in each category, we’re looking forward to seeing how people solve infrastructure problems.

It’s been a few months since I made the call to fight for our watercooler, to be in charge of our own discussion platform on the web.

Since then there’s been a ton of changes, and about a month since Mark asked what’s keeping the site from being official. Well, we’re getting there, tonight we upgraded to the latest version of Discourse, fresh from trunk, and we had a very productive session at UDS about Discourse.

We’ve decided to push for launching what has been known as “ubuntu-discourse.org” as “discuss.ubuntu.com”. Now, we’re not there yet, but the charm is coming along, and we’re getting close to being able to hand off the charm off to Canonical IS for deployment. Of course, there will be vigorous peer review and gnashing of teeth, but hey, that’s life in the big city.

In the meantime, the site is getting quite awesome. I encourage you to continue to provide content and give us feedback:

Over the next 2 months we’ll be working to make the site go live, and the WordPress and mailing list features will enable us to integrate with other parts of the project like we’ve never been able to before (YAY FREE SOFTWARE).

I’m also looking for volunteers. I’m looking for people to help out with the charm, and I’m looking for people who know Rails and Ruby to help tighten up our plugins and oneboxes. Please let me know if you want to help out.

You can see the full maintenance report here, tomorrow I will post on how we used Juju to make this window smaller than it’s ever been, and how the maturity of the charm will now allow us to stay closer to upstream with nearly zero downtime.