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April 14, 2007

Convert .bin + .cue -> .iso on Mac OSX

I had a need recently to convert a .bin/.cue CD Image pair to .iso for mounting on OSX. I was considering writing a quick utility to handle the task, but in the process of researching the file formats, I found BinChunker, a GPL-licensed piece of code that does exactly what I need, simply and directly. The official site has the source code and RedHat RPM's, but if you are on OSX, I did a quick compile of the latest version which you can download here.

Once you download the utility, issue this command from a shell prompt in the directory where you downloaded the file:

sudo cp bchunk /usr/bin/

This will copy the file into a location where the system can find it at will (a.k.a. the path). Then, to convert a .bin/.cue pair to a .iso, you can issue this command:

bchunk myinputfile.bin myinputfile.cue myoutputfile

Short, sweet, and simple — and lightweight too, weighing in at only 20k.

UPDATE: As commenter Frederik has pointed out, this can give a permission denied error if your user account does not have execute permissions on the file. Execute this command after copying the file to /usr/bin/ to solve this problem:

sudo chmod a+x /usr/bin/bchunk

If you are getting a not found error, make sure that /usr/bin/ is in your path. To check this, type echo $PATH and look for /usr/bin/ in the result. If it isn't there, type sudo nano /etc/profile and add /usr/bin; to the PATH=... line. Then press CTRL+x followed by Y to confirm and the enter key to verify the filename to save and exit nano. Then execute source /etc/profile to refresh the path.

March 19, 2007

Vista on the MacBook Pro

I recently came across a gifted copy of Windows Vista Ultimate. As it turns out, I needed a copy of Windows for some CAD work on my MacBook Pro, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Vista isn't officially supported by Apple's Boot Camp, but after a bit of Googling, it seemed relatively safe, so I continued.

Installation was flawless. I inserted the Vista CD when Boot Camp asked for XP, and everything proceeded smoothly. It is a big installation though, consuming almost half of the 20GB I allotted to it. I followed these instructions to get the Apple drivers installed (not seamless, but it works) and everything is up and running.

I've only been using it for a few days, but all in all, I'm rather impressed. As a relatively recent Windows to OSX convert, the interface isn't so bad. I still prefer the Mac in terms of usability, but I have to admit, Vista is sort of pretty. It is hard though to miss the tail chasing that's going on here by Microsoft. The new Windows menu file system layout is oddly reminiscent of Finder. Even one of the bundled screensavers is a pretty apparent clone of the default OSX saver. The new desktop modules basically put Dashboard on the desktop, and the new Aero window management features add some 3D eye candy to Expose, albeit at the expense of hot corners — not a good tradeoff for my habits, but admittedly pretty. It almost makes me wonder, do the Windows designers run OSX at home? Either way, to me, a little more Apple flavor in Windows is a welcome addition, but not necessarily a source of honor and pride for Microsoft.

IE7 also copies its killer app from Safari: both are best used to download FireFox. IE7 does have one nice feature that I've noticed in the few minutes I've used it though: you can spawn a new tab by clicking a little stub button on the tab bar. A nice feature, although this Firefox extension does the trick as well.

Performance-wise, I'm satisfied. The new visual effects run smoothly on the MBP, although it should — the Pro has an ATI Radeon X1600 GPU with 256MB of dedicated graphics RAM. CAD apps possibly marginally less snappy than with a barren XP install, but all in all very usable, even in cases where the apps aren't officially Vista-rated.

I first installed Vista under Parallels in Mac OSX. This worked, but in the interest of saving space and not having redundant installs, I deleted the image to install it in a separate Boot Camp partition. After doing this, I found that the current version of Parallels doesn't support booting from a Vista Boot Camp partition. I'm looking forward to this feature, as it's nice to be able to quickly jump into Windows, but have the option for a full boot for more demanding apps like 3D CAD.

Would I pay $400 for Vista Ultimate? Probably not, unless I absolutely had to use a Windows-only application. It's nice, but so is OSX and for that matter Ubuntu, given enough patience and skill in setup and configuration. That leads to what is, for me, really the biggest problem with Windows these days: I miss the UNIX console. Having to download a separate ssh client and install my own scp seems completely unreasonable, especially considering the 9GB+ install footprint with everything but the kitchen sink (and UNIX terminal standards) thrown in.

I look forward to the day when Ubuntu and other Linux distros truly reach consumer-ready status, and that day is coming. Even today though, it blows my mind to see kiosks proudly displaying the blue screen of death. I would never pay thousands of dollars for Windows licenses for something like subway car displays or even Times Square signage when the simple GUI and configuration arguments should realistically be thrown out the window, much like they are in most of the web servers of the world, in favor of reduced cost and increased stability.

To continue to thumb its nose at the Linux community's technology is Microsoft's mistake, and recently I've started to think it would be a fatal one. Vista continues Microsoft's commitment to this grand mistake, but also shows that they still have some fight to bring to the ring.

March 6, 2007

Everything old is new again

Maybe there's a correlation to the fact that I'm not a big Twitter fan and the fact that never in my life have I used wall. And that, on the other hand, find / | grep is always right at my fingertips.

From 'sfearthquakes' on Twitter: By Marc Hedlund

One of my favorite business model suggestions for entrepreneurs is, find an old UNIX command that hasn't yet been implemented on the web, and fix that. talk and finger became ICQ, LISTSERV became Yahoo! Groups, ls became (the original) Yahoo!, find and grep became Google, rn became Bloglines, pine became Gmail, mount is becoming S3, and bash is becoming Yahoo! Pipes. I didn't get until tonight that Twitter is wall for the web. I love that.

(Via O'Reilly Radar.)

February 17, 2007

climateprediction.net

Tired of burning extra CPU cycles by folding proteins and looking for E.T.? Try climateprediction.net, brought to you on BOINC, the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing and the same platform that backs SETI@Home. From the official site:

What is climateprediction.net?

Climateprediction.net is the largest experiment to try and produce a forecast of the climate in the 21st century. To do this, we need people around the world to give us time on their computers - time when they have their computers switched on, but are not using them to their full capacity.

[read more about the experiment]

Why?

Climate change, and our response to it, are issues of global importance, affecting food production, water resources, ecosystems, energy demand, insurance costs and much else. There is a broad scientific consensus that the Earth will probably warm over the coming century; climateprediction.net should, for the first time, tell us what is most likely to happen.

[read more about climate science]

How do I participate?

Windows and Linux users can get started here. Mac OSX users will have to use the beta for now (I've been running it and it seems solid so far). I created an ITP team both for the regular version and the beta. The team names are both ITP and the team IDs are 6006 and 35, respectively.

Here are some captures of the rendered screensaver graphics:

February 14, 2007

The Future is Open

February 6, 2007

How to compress video for iPod on Ubuntu

Here are some good resources on how to get Ubuntu to compress videos for the 5G iPod using ffmpeg:

UPDATE: Upon further review, playback of these files is poor on the iPod. They will play for a few seconds and then stop until you seek a few seconds forward. It appears that a format adjustment is in order. I'll update again as soon as I find a solution.

Installing ffmpeg took a combination of this post and this post, which discusses compiling x264 from source.

As it turned out though, I compressed the video with xvid as discussed here.

Here's a quick script to compress all the .avi files in a directory, naming the output files with a .mov extension tacked on the end. It does check to see if the output file exists, so as you add files to the folder and rerun the script, it won't recompress files.

NOTE: I've also clipped out the relevant sections from the articles and placed them into a collection on Clipmarks.com, a new service I'm trying (although unfortunately they appear in reverse order). It seems like a straightforward and potentially useful service based around a pretty nice Firefox extension.

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