Skip to content

Adding IR to Xbian

For Christmas one of the gifts-to-myself was a Logitech Harmony Smart Control. This was to replace an aging Harmony 550 with some button issues. In the course of setting things up I wanted to get IR working with my Xbian installation on the Raspberry Pi. I needed to get an IR receiver and found that this SANOXY remote for ~$15 (at the time of this writing) came with a USB receiver that fit the bill. The smart control uses the Ortek VRC-1100 from the Logitech database for the controls.

Largely this is doubling a set of notes for my own future reference if I have to recreate what I did to get IR working with my Xbian install on a RPi. Conveniently, I hope it helps someone set this up for themselves. The code for the solution came from responses by CurlyMoo in the bug report Vrc-1100 usb remote not working on Github.

I replaced the default /etc/lirc/hardware.conf file with the following:

# /etc/lirc/hardware.conf
# Arguments which will be used when launching lircd

#Don’t start lircmd even if there seems to be a good config file

#Don’t start irexec, even if a good config file seems to exist.

#Try to load appropriate kernel modules

# Run “lircd –driver=help” for a list of supported drivers.
# usually /dev/lirc0 is the correct setting for systems using udev
MODULES=”evdev uinput”

# Default configuration files for your hardware if any

And ran the following command after running ‘sudo su’:

sed -i '$d' /etc/rc.local && echo -e "chmod 0644 /dev/tty0\nexit 0" >> /etc/rc.local

After that, it was just a matter of configuring the buttons on the remote to do what I wanted. I’m not sure that the last commadn was really needed, but its working and I don’t see a down side to leaving it in place.

NASCAR, make me want to be a fan again

This post has been in the outline stage for nearly a year. It was started over the summer before the MWR incident at Richmond this year (2013) which brought it back to mind for me to complete.

TL;DR NASCAR needs to overhaul the points system to make the weekends more competitive to make me a fan again.

As I see it, the problem with watching NASCAR races in this era is that there is such a focus on Big Picture Racing by the drivers and teams. Racing to accumulate the most points to be in the Chase for the Championship and then become the Sprint Cup champion for the year and all that goes with the title. That is an important goal and quite an achievement for any driver.

However, the weekly racing seems to suffer because the drivers settle in to a pace that keeps them in their positions to reach the end of the race when the points are won. There’s no incentive for drivers to fight for many positions, much less the lead, mid-race. Why try to get another two positions now and possibly get involved in a wreck when the driver can settle in and make a move with 25 or less to go. “My car is a 10th place car, I’m not going to risk running harder until the last 15 laps and then I’ll make my move”. I think it is this rationale that has allowed Jimmie to consistently finish so well every year. And as we’ve seen recently with the apparent team orders from MWR, there’s also incentive for drivers and teams to go to extremes helping teammates when they are in positions to get into the Chase field. This happens all season as one driver will let another lead a lap for a bonus point, then swap the spots back. Other things can happen to affect the points positions throughout the year that is not noticed because no one was looking for such things.

With this attitude from the drivers, reality or my perception, as a [former] hardcore fan I’m left wondering Why spend 4 hours watching when only the first and last 20 minutes are exciting or even matter? I’ve stopped watching on a regular basis and with more races being broadcast on cable only, I will miss even more races. I’ve dropped cable, as it was only good for me to watch races recently and I’ve lost interest in that. I haven’t been to a live race in almost four years, when before it was 2-3 a year. Its not due to “the economy” because I’m still taking the same number of vacations. I’m just not going to the track. I get bored in the middle 3/4 of the race watching the drivers essentially log laps. Sure there’s the occasional race with excitement throughout, but how to predict those few in advance when planning my time? And again, with the MWR episode bring it to the forefront, I have even less reasons to spend my money and time at races if the races are fixed by the participants to any degree.

So what can be done to solve this problem as I see it? Make the entire weekend count towards the championship points chase. Add in points for qualifying and in-race performance. Drivers that qualify well are rewarded even if their race finish is not always the best. It dings the drivers who don’t qualify well but run well during the races. Throw in points during the race and you reward the drivers willing to push their limits and penalize those that settle in and ride around. It pushes the drivers to do their best all weekend long and causes team orders to hurt the individual driver’s chances getting to the Chase. Then during the Chase team orders can be seen easier if drivers changes their habits during the last 10 races.

Is this plan for a points revamp a bit much to keep track of, particularly for casual fans? Yes it is. Will these proposed changes put off a casual fan, I don’t think so. A casual fan is, almost by definition, not going to care about how the overall season championship turns out. A casual fan wants to see action on the track. They want to tune into, or go to, the race to see drivers competing for the lead more than they are competing to get a good finish and have a good points day even if we didn’t win the race day. The casual fan may not be back as things stand today for the next four or five races or ever because its all about having a good points day now. We’re seeing fewer casual fans tuning into the broadcasts much less going to the tracks. Long time fans are doing other things on Sunday afternoon and checking in on Monday to see who won and watch the highlights on Youtube.

Here’s my plan.

Adding in points for qualifying well gives drivers an incentive to always do well and the fans a reason to be interested in the event. Additionally, use qualifying to set the marks for in-race points to make those points a random amount each week. This limits the long term planning for extra points going forward.

The first part is basic and straight forward. The top 31 qualifiers get one point for each qualifying position in a descending order. The pole winner gets 31 points, second place gets 30, and down to 1 point for 31st place.

For 32nd to 36th place qualifiers, these drivers set the lap numbers for in-race points. So if car numbers 32,60,12,99, and 17 are qualifiers 32-36 their car numbers set the lap, per 100, that gets drivers points during the race. With the example of the 12 car, there would be three opportunities to gain points in a 237 lap race; lap 12, 112, and 212. There would only be two opportunities against the 99 car, on laps 99 and 199. This sets a variable amount of points every race as the car numbers qualifying in those positions and the number of laps per race are different.

Qualifiers from 37th on back are in the race. As they are potentially there on just a provisional or because of a poor qualifying effort for whatever reason, there are no points given. As the provisional system stands today I don’t see it as being anything but a renaming of the top 35 rule which was one of the first indicators as a fan that competition in NASCAR was leaving the sport.

In the event the qualifying is not run and the field is set by points, qualifying points are not awarded. The in-race points laps are still set by the drivers starting 32nd through 36th. Again, adding randomness to the total points available to a driver during a season.

The in-race points are given out up to five times per 100 laps. The point laps are determined by the car numbers of the 32nd through 36th qualifiers. On each of the points laps, the the top five get between 5 and 1 points in descending order from 1st to 5th place. 5 points for 1st, 4 points for 2nd, and so on to 5th place. Should the driver who set the lap number lead “their” lap or a driver from 37th or less lead a points qualifying lap, the driver gets an extra point.

Currently if a driver leads a single lap, they get a point. Forget that. Going forward a driver must lead three consecutive laps under green to qualify for a bonus point for leading. The driver who leads the most laps in a race gets a bonus point. Win the race, you get two bonus points.

To seed the Chase championship points, the top ten get two extra points for each race win. Additionally, a driver in the top 10 gets one extra point for each weekend in which they garnered the most points throughout the weekend. This helps emphasize that the entire weekend matters.

A championship driver will have to be aggressive throughout the weekend. They will have to consistently qualify strong at each type of race track. They will have to be among the race leaders multiple times and consistently.

With the above changes, I believe that the best overall racer will win the season championship. The casual fans will be more interested in watching the racing week to week increasing the chances of making more hardcore fans. The hardcore race fans will appreciate the increased effort throughout the weekend and understand the work needed by a driver and team to call themselves the NASCAR Championship Team for the year.

I want to be a hardcore fan again. Others I know want to be hardcore fans again. Does NASCAR want us back?

What makes a good tutorial?

Recently I came across a Google+ discussion about a post that was in the tutorial section of a community. The problem was the post itself wasn’t, to many, a tutorial at all. It was more of a ‘look what I did’ post. Sure it described what it was, what it was used for, and the name of the software and a link to get it that was used to create the end result. The part that was missing was any description of how to use the software to get from the starting point to the end result.

So the question becomes, what makes a good tutorial?

The answer for me, regarding software, is I want to see a summary of why I want to follow the steps to begin with. Some information on what feature is gained or problem is solved by using the software. For the steps in the process, I want to see what is needed to be performed. What software needs to be installed and does it matter the order? How do I configure the software to get it to a working state? What is the most common thing(s) that go wrong during configuration and usage? What is a quick and easy thing to do at the end of the process to prove that it is working at at least a minimal level of expectation? If a command line is given, explain the command and switches used in order. Finally, where can I go for more in-depth information? A good tutorial tells me enough to get what I want up and running, but without the deeper explanations of why it works.

What do you like to see in a tutorial for software?


Providence, RI Tree Planting

From my Sister-in-law:

Call for volunteers- especially West Siders !!! I know tomorrow is an extremely busy day for everyone and I know you all have neighborhood cleanups to attend, But, we (PNPP) need additional able bodied tree planters for our tree planting between Westminster St and Broadway tomorrow (Saturday 4/20/13) morning from 10:30 am to 12:30pm. We will meet at 10:30 am at 75 Carpenter St (UCap school near Service Road) You will be rewarded with an Earth Day T shirt and button which will get you into free lunch and entertainment at the Temple to Music at Roger Williams Park, free RIPTA service all day, and free admission to the Zoo next week. Plus, I will show you how to plant a tree and I will be forever grateful. Come on West Side, plant a few trees with your old friend, Liz. Pretty please. Big smile.

Learn by Lecturing

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

It seems that there should be a third option; Those who know, introduce others to the topic.

As some readers know, I run the monthly meetings for the Columbia Area Linux Users Group located in Maryland. I want to share with you the most difficult part of my job, and that of most of the leaders of other such SIGs, computer and otherwise. That is of finding speakers for the meetings.

Sometimes the meetings are open discussion and those are fun and a good way to socialize. However, LUG meetings tend to be more interesting when there is a central topic to discuss at the meeting. This normally comes in the form of a speaker speaking on a topic of interest to the group. These are not always Linux specific, but can be topics of interest to those who are IT inclined and attend such meetings.

All of us know something of interest to the rest of the group. Be willing to share that information with your friends at the meetings. Volunteer to speak to the group. You will find it a rewarding experience as the groups are not judgmental on presentation skills and are willing to help novice speakers improve their skills.

Have you been learning a new program? Teach the group about it, some members might even have knowledge of it that expands your use of it. Do you want to practice a talk you are giving at a conference? Contact your local LUG, they’ll be happy to listen to your draft. (Side benefit: You won’t be cramming the hours before the conference presentation creating your slides, just you’ll just be modifying them!) Did your talk proposal get rejected for a conference? Come give it to the LUG and we’ll let you know what you might do to improve your chances at getting accepted next time!

So take the initiative and contact the coordinator of your meetings and volunteer to give a talk. They tend not to be too picky about the topic as long as it will be of interest to most of the group (i.e., a LUG is not the best place to give a presentation about knitting). Not a member of a LUG? Contact the one closest to you, they all welcome newcomers, even if you just attend!

If you’re in my area, our meetings are the second Wednesday of the month and I have the next few months open and will welcome any relevant speaker volunteers.

Leaving Ubuntu

After some consideration of both recent and historical decisions by Canonical in regards to the Ubuntu project and distribution, the lack of any noticeable dissension by the community leadership, I’ll be deleting my Launchpad account, along with all memberships to Ubuntu groups, this Saturday, March 2nd. The date represents the six year anniversary of my creating the account, so it seems somehow appropriate to delete it on this day. Additionally, this will give me a few days to [hopefully] make sure that I’m out of my commitments cleanly and things are turned over to the new Ubuntu Maryland contact properly. If you know of something that is needed to do before this date, please contact me.

Ron Swift is planning to have a local bug jam event this Saturday. Please RSVP to him if you are interested in participating.

Ubuntu Maryland New Contact

I want to let everyone know that the Ubuntu Maryland Loco Team has a new contact. Ron Swift has stepped in to take over the reigns. Those who have been involved with the team know that he has been an invaluable part of the team since its earliest days. Whenever help was needed he has stepped up to find a way to contribute. He is a long time supporter and user both personally and in his business of F/OSS software. I know that the team is in good hands going forward.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I hope that the day was wonderful for everyone, and if not then you made the best of it!

Going to FUDCon!

FUDCon Blacksburg Jan 13-15
Yup, I’ll be heading to Blacksburg, VA for the Fedora FUDCon 2012!

I’m looking forward to going to this event. I’ve recently switched a couple of machines over to Fedora and been happy with the results so far.

It’ll be interesting to see how one of these events works for someone fresh to the Fedora community. I’m hoping to learn a bit of how the people and project fit together. I’ve started hanging out in a couple of the IRC channels to get a feel for the discussions leading up to the event.

If you have any advice for a newbie to the event, please post a comment!


Resolve To Talk To Your Group!

So I’ve been doing the whole reflecting on the last year and goal setting and planning for the next year thing.

As part of the process I look at the schedules for the various groups that I am a part of and those that I run. In particular I want to talk about the Columbia Area Linux Users Group(CALUG) and Open Source Maryland group (OSMD) that I help to run.

One of the things that I do in both groups is to line up speakers each month. This is generally done by emailing various people that I am aware of in the area that I imagine would be interested in giving talks to the groups. Also I read my email or talk to a person when someone approaches me and says ‘I want to talk about [TOPIC] for the group sometime’.

OSMD is a group that came out of of the Ubuntu Maryland team. The group is geared towards the end users of Free and Open Source software. Our typical meeting topics cover an application or a concept around FOSS. While many of our members use Ubuntu Linux and our presentations are given on a Linux distribution(even when the application being discussed is multiplatform), we welcome interest and demos of FOSS on all platforms including Windows, Mac, and Linux.

The CALUG group is a more technically oriented group with a focus on the Linux kernel and applications that run on the various distributions. There is also a strong interest in IT security as a whole. While the choices of FOSS tools are preferred as a whole by the group, presentations are not limited to FOSS products.

What I would like you to do is resolve to give a talk to your local User Group. I can talk from experience here from various points of view.

As the speaker organizer for two groups, I can say I am looking for presenters of two different types. One type of presenter I want is  someone who is known in the field of interest for the topic being discussed. This has a dual benefit for our group in that we get a noted speaker and we bring in new people to the meetings for that topic from the speakers followers. For instance in early 2011 I thought a talk on Ham Radio for Linux would be of interest to the CALUG group. So I looked around and found that David A. Lane (KG4GIY) was relatively local to our group. I dropped him an email requesting him to give us a talk and I received a prompt response that he was willing and able to do so! I scheduled him in and my April meeting was covered. We had several new people attend who discovered us via his announcements of the talk.

Another type of presenter I am looking for are the amateurs that come to me. These are the people who have knowledge they want to share. They are the ones who want to start on the lecture circuit but need some groups to put on their list of experiences. My group gets the benefit of a talk on an interesting topic and the speaker gets the experience talking to a group. We all win!

The last (but by no means least) type of speaker I like to get are from our own groups. These are the attendees who have knowledge on a topic that will be of interest to the group and wants to share the knowledge. Being a member of the group its nice to discover what what your peers know and what knowledge they can add to your own. Topics for the talks can be based on what you know or a gateway to discussion on something that you would like to learn more about. Present on something that you are learning about and want to implement, but need more info that the group can provide to fill in the blanks of what you’re missing.

From the perspective of a person thinking about giving a talk to the group, remember that if you’ve never given a talk to a public group or are nervous about it, your local user group is a great way to break the ice. The groups are friendly and easy going. No one jumps up and points a finger to laugh at you for trying when you’re a new or nervous speaker. The group helps you along and gives advice for the next time you talk if you want that type of feedback. We’re not your co-workers or boss so we can’t make a note of it in that way. (And these groups are good practice if you have to present at work)  I’ve compared giving a talk at a LUG to speakers who talk at their Toastmasters group, but without the evaluation at the end (unless you want one).

Now, go find your local user group and offer to give a talk, the group will enjoy learning what you have to share and the coordinator will appreciate not having to find a topic for that month!