Category Archives: Tech

Technology related stuff

Logitech Revue With Google TV

When Google TV was announced last year, I was giddy with anticipation for what that might mean.  I had been looking for a way to never have cable service again, and to blast into the world of on-demand and streaming media.  I COMPLETELY despised Comcast and sought every possible means to sever ties to them.

Hulu, Netflix, and other web content portals offer services that are real and legitimate competitors to the all-encompassing in home services like Comcast has to offer.  But there always seemed to be one key component missing.  That ONE show that I have to watch that doesn’t make it to Hulu, or the Redwings playoff game, or the Lions defeating the Packers for the first time in 5 years – There was always something missing from the equation.

The Logitech Revue was not really the device to bridge this gap.  It cost a lofty 300 dollars.  At that price point, there was zero chance of me purchasing one.

Not to mention that it only really shines when connected to a set-top box from your favorite TV provider; allowing you to search across your guide for your favorite shows, as well as find, schedule and play recordings, and finally access streaming content offered by your provider.  It certainly compliments rather than replaces.

Fast Forward 12 months.  I successfully ditched Comcast and am a happy and year-long Dish Network customer.  I have a pretty solid home theater with a 50 inch plasma, an Xbox 360, and surround sound.  To ice the cake, the Logitech Revue drops to $99.99 right at my birthday.

At that price, with a great service to integrate into, I was ready to make the jump.

The Good

  • Super easy to set up.  Power, HDMI in from my Dish DVR, HDMI out to my TV.  Done
  • Universal keyboard acts as remote control by just entering the model numbers of my existing equipment
  • Google Chrome web browsing, flash enabled and is very accurately rendered 
  • Clean interface, easy to navigate
  • Media streaming app instantly picked up my TVersity install (Which I use to stream to my Xbox)
The Bad

  • Lack of Android market
  • Lack of Hulu (Can’t even play it via Chrome browser)
  • Some application redundancies with things like Netflix, Pandora already accessible to me via Xbox, my TV
  • Keyboard size makes the $100 plus “mini controller” almost a necessity
Overall
The forthcoming Android 3.1 update will leap this device into potential greatness. According to Logitech, that is supposed to happen later this month.  Bringing with it a newly designed interface, and access to the Android market.  I’m very much looking forward to those new features.  I’ll post an update as to my thoughts on the device at that time.
Until then, I am just “ok” with this device, but at the $99 price it is definitely worth it solely to be able to have the search interface to find my media, and to quick check my email and facebook during commercials via a nice PiP interface.

The HP Discover Experience

Earlier this month, I attended the HP Discover tech forum held in Las Vegas.  With about 10,000 attendees, this is one of the larger technical conventions in the industry.  It covered new products, industry trends, and sprinkled in some top notch entertainment.  I thought I’d take some time to document my thoughts on the experience.

The Entertainment
Leading into several of the keynotes was comedian Jake Johannsen.  Jake did awesome, plain and simple.  He adapted his comedy to the techie crowd amazingly well.  I had never heard of him before HP Discover, but he was a total hit.  He’s apparently been on the David Letterman show more times than any other stand up comic.  I recommend queuing up his special “Jake Johannsen: I Love You” immediately.

In the closing keynote, the comedy kept rolling via Dana Carvey.  The chance to see comedy legend Dana Carvey in a private keynote ceremony do an hour of stand up is something I’m grateful to have been a part of.  While I would say he did not adapt to the techie crowd nearly as well as Jake did, he certainly did comedy justice.  He mixed his impressions (Hanz/Franz, George Bush(s), Church lady, etc.) well while focusing on current news and topics, and he did well to get the crowd involved.  Between Dana Carvey and Jake Johannsen, I laughed a lot more than I had expected to at such a techie conference.  Kudos to HP for booking these two!

Finally the entertainment festivities were capped off with a private concert by Paul McCartney at the MGM Grand.  Now, I’ve not previously been a big fan of Paul or the Beatles (I know, right?) – but the chance to see him in a private showing in Vegas is an opportunity I had to capitalize on.  While some others may have skipped due to early flights or [other Vegas activities] I made sure to take in his entire show.  Paul certainly didn’t disappoint – he played for 2 solid hours with plenty of energy.  The pinnacle of the show was “Live and Let Die” – It got the place jamming and embodied a full rock and roll spirit.  Paul certainly gained a new fan here.

The Conference
Moving on to the techie side of the trip…

HP used this conference to announce new products, new strategies, and new ways of thinking about I.T.  Most of the keynotes focused on having adaptive and scalable systems (read: cloud / private cloud) and using some cool new infrastructure enhancements to achieve that goal.  I learned about some new areas such as the benefits of 3PAR storage, HP’s Cloud Matrix management suite, and the basis of HP’s converged infrastructure.

Equally as interesting as the main keynotes were the breakout sessions.  There were hundreds of sessions to choose from.  From hands on labs, to deep dive keynotes, and new product announcements.  With my job, I focused on sessions related to storage, VMware, and HP Blade systems when scheduling.  Some of the sessions were refreshers while others enforced best practices that our team has already designed systems around.

I had one gem of a session that hit me out of the blue:  “Get hands on with Intel, mobile devices, and social networking”.  This was a session that I simply used as filler where I couldn’t find anything else relevant in my time slot.  It ended up really being my favorite breakout session of the trip.  I blogged about it in further detail here: https://www.ericvb.com/archives/an-awesome-tool-meshcentral-com if interested in an in-depth.  Short version:  A lab session focusing on remote access, P2P administrative meshing, and social network integration.  Very very cool.

Overall, HP Discover for me was a fantastic experience.  I had never been to Vegas, so it was fun to take in a little bit of Sin-City.  As far as Vegas was concerned, I got to check out the Hoover dam, walk the strip a couple times, and have some awesome food!  And overall, I met some great people and had a really great time…

An Awesome Tool: MeshCentral.com

I learned about this site: www.meshcentral.com while attending the HP Discover tech conference in Las Vegas.  As an R & D developer with Intel, Ylian Saint-Hilaire has created a very unique and powerful toolset (and made much of it open-source)

With MeshCentral.com, users can do all kinds of very impressive things remotely from almost any web-connected device.

  • Create an administrative P2P mesh between all your computers/devices
  • Access your computers remotely (via KB/mouse/desktop or just the command prompt)
  • Access your files remotely from any computer
  • Synchronize files between computers
  • Power on/off, sleep, hibernate, or simply reboot computers remotely
  • Send messages to the screen remotely
  • Connect with your twitter account to allow for twitter based commands! (for example:  Tweet “@MeshCentral reboot computer computername” would restart my computer.  Still can’t get over how awesome that is.
  • Various mobile device inter-operabilities.

Here’s a screenshot of me accessing my home server via the MeshCentral.com website.  It’s amazingly functional.

If you have a web-enabled smartphone, your options even get better.  I was able to do a fair amount even just using Opera Mini on my blackberry.  I restarted my computer using my blackberry several times just because “I could”…  But you can even do a lot more if you’ve got an Android device (sync your photos, etc)

Using MeshCentral did feel a bit daunting at first because of how powerful it is – but it’s actually quite the opposite.  You visit the site, create an account, skim the tutorial quickly which will walk you through creating your first “Mesh”, and finally you download the Meshing agent (Available on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, even DD-WRT for routers) and you’re ready to go!

It’s an innovative framework, and it was one of the coolest things I took away from my trip to Vegas for HP Discover.

Certainly worth checking out if you’re a techie who wants to access his/her things remotely, or even help out family/friends with computer issues.  It certainly gets my seal of approval

The Best Possible RickRoll Method

The phenomenon known as “RickRolling” is certainly nothing new. Millions have been duped into watching Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”. And many, like myself, have had it done multiple times.

Some strategies to Rickrolling a would be victim might include

  • Non-specific Youtube link
  • Use of URL shorteners like Bit.ly or Goo.gl
  • URL re-direction

I’d like to take the URL re-direction bullet, make it a bit overly technical, and unleash what I am convinced is an undetectable rick roll method. Prerequisites include an apache web server with mod rewrite (probably do-able with IIS as well, but I am unaware of rewriting URLs in IIS).

  • Create a folder in the root of your web directory. Name the folder something like “index.html”.
  • Inside that folder, create a file named .htaccess (note the leading dot. Required in the name)
  • Put the following text inside that .htaccess file:

    Options +FollowSymLinks
    RewriteEngine on
    RewriteRule (.*) "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0" [R=301,L]

  • Now, you can link somebody to http://www.yoursite.com/index.html and they will immediately be forwarded to Rick Astley.

I went ahead and implimented this for display purposes here: https://www.ericvb.com/yeah.html

The Best Tabbed SSH Solution in Windows 7

PuTTY has been the standard SSH utility for all of my Windows based workstations since approximately 2002.  It is a clean, easy to use, lightweight utility that reliably allows various SSH/SSL functionality from a Windows client.   However, PuTTY has grown to become a very strange and atypical application.  The last version published was in April of 2007 (that is LITERALLY 4 years ago). It has a gigantic list of feature requests and bug fixes.  Yet, it is still unexplainably the mainstay and flagship SSH client… And I really just don’t understand why that is.  I mean really… 4 years?  There are two Microsoft OS releases in that time that a developer should be considering features and usability within.  I simply don’t get it.

Well, I’m initiating a changing of the fucking guard.

Vast amounts of Google research has yielded me a very sufficient and actively developed fork of PuTTY called “KiTTY“.   KiTTY is obviously based on PuTTY’s source, so it retains all the reliable and usability – but it also adds a slew of new and highly requested features that seem to be destined to never reach a build of PuTTY. Some of the biggest for me are:

  • Session based username/password saving
  • Send to tray functionality
  • Transparency (not the “real” transparency… it overlays the wallpaper.  But at least it’s trying!)

Sadly, even in it’s actively maintained state, KiTTY does not support a tabbed interface.  I MUST have a tabbed interface.  I have searched the ends of the internet for a GOOD and FREE client for SSH that can support a tabbed interface.  This simply does not exist in a single package.  You can fork out some cash for something like SecureCRT; or you can use something sub-par like Poderosa.  But meh, who wants to do either of those things??

One has to resort to a connection manager software, such as Putty Connection Manager, Super Putty, or (by far the best) mRemoteNG.  I strongly recommend mRemoteNG.  It has a vast amount of configurability, supports VNC, RDP, and other protocols on top of the SSH capabilities; and it runs very well and seemingly bug free on a Windows 7 installation.  The other two certainly cannot say that.

mRemoteNG even allows you to choose a custom path for your PuTTY executable (so, browse to kitty.exe)  😛

I followed these steps for an awesome tabbed SSH experience like no other; with support of multiple protocols, high amount of configurability, and even transparency!  I recommend every sysadmin do the same thing.  I’m sick of PuTTY being the undeserved king of this realm.

  1. Download KiTTY and save it wherever you like
  2. Download mRemoteNG installer, install it
  3. Open mRemoteNG and then click on Tools, Options.  Click the “Advanced” button on the bottom right.
  4. Set your custom PuTTY executable path to your KiTTY executable
  5. Create some sessions, set the protocols, even save the usernames and passwords if you like
  6. Triumphantly raise your hands in the air, as you have the best possible SSH setup known to man.  Here’s a screenie of my setup at home.  I disabled transparency because my laptop doesn’t perform very well with it enabled.

Windows 7 Right Click Lag on Desktop Shortcuts

I’ve had a nagging issue lately that has really been bugging me.  Whenever I right click on a shortcut on my desktop, I get a 1-2 second lag before the context menu will pop out.  It wasn’t a “huge” deal so I put it off for a rainy day.  When I finally started trying to figure the problem out, I naturally resorted to Googling.  This is a case where Google couldn’t help.  There are too many results talking about generic right-click lag; or lag when you right click just on the desktop area.  My issue was a bit more specific; in that I was right clicking specifically on a shortcut.

I used procmon to determine that the nVidia drivers were making wild registry/file calls (big suprise, it’s nVidia’s driver).

I then started searching through context menu entries in the registry trying to make sense of how to resolve the issue.  I could fairly easily see how the layout worked, and that each file type had it’s own context menu entry set.  After some trial and error, needless reboots, and co-worker confirmation: These steps are confirmed to resolve the issue.  NOTE:  if you are not comfortable editing a system registry; make sure you take steps necessary to have appropriate backups (A good idea even if you are comfortable with regedit).

  • Start, run/search, and type “regedit” minus the quotes
  • Delete the key named “OpenGLShExt” from the relevant locations (I chose lnkfile and exefile respectively
    1. HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\lnkfile\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers\OpenGLShExt
    2. HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers\OpenGLShExt
    3. Make sure you delete the entire key; not just the default value within the key.
  • If you notice right click lag on any other filetypes, as I did notice .bat, .msc, and a couple others; just repeat the same steps at that section of the registry. Maybe even get rid of ALL the references to this horrible key.
    1. HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers\OpenGLShExt

These keys were certainly causing the 1-2 second lag when I right clicked on shortcuts.  Once they were deleted, I instantly saw the lag disappear without even needing to reboot. Now hopefully Google can index this and try to help some other people out.  Since it took me about 5 hours total to get to this point.  🙂