Powersurge is a hit!

A few months ago I found a computer on the sidewalk and installed PC-BSD on it. Once I got over the novelty of having done an install, installed something sufficiently “different” from that to which I’m accustomed, etc. etc. etc., the computer languished on my floor beside my home server with no purpose. I never bothered trying other linux distros (partly due to what proved to be the spaghetti wiring inside making my original install seem like a fluke, as it turned out, since I subsequently had trouble booting in and getting the CD players to work), and finally offered it to my brother, who said it’s been a while since he’s had a home server.

To recap, it’s an AMD 1000MHz with 512megs of memory, and to my surprise, an 80gig hard drive (I seem to recall having gotten about 36Gigs out of it with the PC-BSD setup.)

Last weekend we installed Fedora 13 on it after figuring out the spaghetti wiring inside. He brought it home from the cottage, did the updates and started doing his custom setup. Since it’s been a little while since he’s used Fedora — using CentOS on his production servers and having converted to Ubuntu on his desktop, he was impressed at how peppy the Gnome desktop is, and how polished and stable overall the distro is.

And finally, it seems that the problem of it not booting up a few months ago at the cottage has been solved: it seems that it was a defective power cord. The machine worked everywhere else, and when we went through my set of power cords, one didn’t work, so we figured out that any possibility that the previous owner thought it had been fried in a power surge — hence the name of the computer — was due to a faulty wire, that probably came with the computer on the side of the street.

Thank you CNBC!

I noticed something this afternoon on CNBC. A listing was “To Be Announced”. It didn’t do much other than to grab enough attention so as to get filed in the back of my mind. Right now at 22:00 Sunday August 22 2010 EST the show is “House of Cards”, about the recent credit crunch and foreclosures, and the schedule says “To Be Announced”.

There are three more such one hour slots announced as “to be announced” tonight. I have just checked the schedule as far as there’s data; these are the only four such slots.

In the past week or so my impression of the CNBC schedule is that the accuracy rate of the announced schedule vs. the actually broadcast show has shot up.

I bet they got around to finally reading at least my first post, and possibly the others.

It’s about time.

Thank you, CNBC.

(I hope. As in, I hope I’m not taking credit where it’s not due.)

Oreo uses linux?

There’s an Oreo commercial with a father and son eating Oreo cookies together at son’s bedtime via the internet while Dad is on a business trip somewhere it’s morning already. I’ve seen this commercial a few times over the past I don’t know how long.

A quick glimpse at the boy’s laptop screen makes me wonder for the umpteenth time — is that a Gnome desktop with a Fedora blue?

Obviously as usual it’s a quick, oblique view of a screen whose resolution is just fuzzy enough that it’s hard to tell. The basis of my hope is, as stated, the Fedora blue background, plus the white taskbar at the top of the screen and what appears to be the Gnome menus.

Anyway, yet another entry in the “I hope I’m not disappointed again but it probably isn’t linux use” in commercials game.

News Flash — Linux spotted in the wilds of Montreal — again!

Back in January I mentioned a chance meeting with someone on a commuter train using Fedora on their laptop. Well this afternoon, I had another such chance meeting in a pub.

At a 5 à 7 (Quebec speak for “Happy Hour”) at Hurley’s Irish Pub on Crescent Street this afternoon, I walked by someone with a laptop listening to the Irish musicians, and almost walked by, the Ubuntu icon in the corner of the screen was so familiar (despite being a die-hard Fedora user). I realized my error and exclained “Wow Ubuntu in the wild!

I got a quick look at Ubuntu Netbook Remix using Chrome. Dan, the user, said that though he uses Firefox at home on his desktop, he finds that Chrome is way faster at least on his netbook. He said that the machine came with another Linux distro when he bought it, which he didn’t much like, so he reformatted.

Well, Dan, you made my day!

CNBC, why can’t you just say “Programming To Be Determined”?

Well, it’s time to collectively put on our tin foil hats again. I’m not sure if there’s a Mea Culpa here from me, or if this merely firms up my idea that CNBC should “Announce what they’ll be broadcasting, and broadcast what they announce.” Or perhaps at least announce “Programming To Be Determined”.

Here are my previous entries on the subject: CNBC, take a lesson from the March Hare: Announce what you’ll be broadcasting, and broadcast what you announce and More on the CNBC schedule.

The base of my argument is that for a significant number of time slots, outside North America’s Eastern Time Zone’s business hours Monday to Friday, CNBC’s announced schedule isn’t particularly reliable. Possibly, in Canada only (since I get the Canadian feed, not the American feed.)

My argument isn’t with what is announced, or what is broadcast; in fact, on weekends, often while there are a lot of timeslots announced to be infomercials, the actual broadcasts are shows that are far more interesting (at least to me, and I suspect to the target CNBC viewers), such as “American Greed” or another one of CNBC’s excellent documentaries on businesses, products, and business people, or investigative reports. At other times, the shows that are broadcast instead of the announced shows are of equally high calibre. Finally, at other times, live market shows are shown instead of the announced shows, such as Squawk Box from the Pacific Region (Australia, Japan, China, etc.).

My argument is with the fact that the announced schedule and the actual broadcast schedule don’t match. In a chronically rampant fashion (and yes, the differences continue to this day; I’ve been watching different shows on CNBC from what was announced all this weekend.) Virtually all other channels and networks seem able to do a competent job of making the two almost always identical. Sure there are the very occasional errors, be they clerical errors about the show to be broadcast, or the episode summary. Occasionally, breaking news or other such time-sensitive programming (emergency alerts, last-minute press conferences from authorities, “Town Hall” style meetings with local leaders, etc.) relevant to the station’s or network’s mandate get put in instead of the announced broadcast. But never such that I can even say “but never so flagrantly as what I’ve seen with CNBC’s schedule.”

This weekend, amusing myself, I have been doing some surfing about CNBC. I came across this piece on Wikipedia on the subject of CNBC’s regional programming, particularly here in Canada (June 06, 2010):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CNBC#International_channels (here’s my archive)

“In Canada, CNBC can be seen with most of the programming identical to the US counterpart. However, due to Canadian programming rights, the 9pm slot which shows television programming such as Deal Or No Deal, The Apprentice, 1 vs. 100 and Heads Up Poker, as well as any and all Olympic Games coverage, are replaced by CNBC World programming. However, documentaries are shown in Canada. This had the making of a major problem, as a highlight episode of The Apprentice 5 that aired April 23, 2006, was assumed to not be available anywhere for Canadians due to these blackouts. While the first airing at 9:00pm ET was blacked out, the second airing at 12:00am ET was accidentally shown. Blackouts on episodes that originally air on NBC and Global are likely to continue. However, occasionally, the television shows are shown and are not blacked out, possibly due to a mistake in transmission.”

This confirms the notion that occasionally there are clerks from either CNBC’s or Shaw’s (a Canadian satellite TV supplier) programming departments who take too many coffee breaks and make mistakes juggling the schedules and differences between the two countries. This happens anywhere and everywhere, and is understandable.

I also don’t have an issue with the notion that there are replacements and substitutions in the programming (see previous paragraph); in any case, c’est la vie.

It also confirms the occasional blackout situation to which I indirectly but not expressly alluded in one of my previous posts when I talk about the flicker at the beginning of some of the programs: Sometimes there are broadcasting rights issues here in Canada, such as:

– the copyright owner does not allow the distribution outside of the US, or within Canada;
– the copyright owner wants an extra fee for broadcasting rights outside the US, or within Canada, which CNBC is unwilling to pay;
– a separate Canadian affiliate of the copyright owner, or another network, or someone else, holds the distribution rights for given shows here in Canada;
– etc.

And except in the cases where another network in Canada holds the distribution rights, maybe CNBC doesn’t want the bother of a new set of negotiations or fees; this is CNBC’s prerogative. Certainly defining the conditions of distribution is the prerogative of the copyright holder(s).

It also indirectly allows for why an announced infomercial such as “Get Ripped in 90 Days” and “Insane Sexy Bodies” is replaced by another show, such as “American Greed” or another one of CNBC’s excellent documentaries on businesses, products, and business people, or investagative reports: The sponsor isn’t interested in selling to Canadian markets (which is their prerogative) or can’t sell their product or service in Canadian markets (let’s say it’s a product that doesn’t meet Canadian Regulatory Standards, or has never been submitted for regulatory review in Canada.)

But so far I haven’t seen anything that explains why the CNBC’s schedule is so out of whack: If CNBC has to modify its broadcast schedule here in Canada for whatever reason, and it seems — let’s presume — that CNBC’s programming department is doing its job right and all broadcast rights are being respected, then why can’t they also send the corrected schedule, which they’ve managed to figure out, to the programming departments of Shaw and other cable companies, and to TV Guide?

I doubt that at 59 minutes and 59 seconds before the hour, as they’re about to put in the next tape, they flip a coin. Or, that a week in advance when they send the schedule to Shaw, other cable companies, and TV Guide, it’s easier to plug in all sorts of programming in the announced schedule that they have no clue whether or not will actually be broadcast, than to just say “Programming To Be Determined”.

I wonder about the new machine

I brought the “new to me” 1GHz AMD to the cottage last weekend, and funny enough it didn’t power up at all. My brother declared the power supply fried, and that that was the likely reason why I found it on the side of the road.

Today I got around to plugging it in, forlorn that a perfectly good computer was suffering from “no power”.

Go figure. I’m typing this from the PC-BSD setup.

I had tried two or three outlets and three power cords. It likely isn’t circuit overload since the current circuit it’s on is also likely overloaded, and I’m using one of the same power cords.

As for the screen, I had difficulty getting it work here too last week but am still holding off until I get a proper cable, since the “cottage test” doesn’t seem to have been valid.

Found a ‘puter, it seems useful, installed P-CBSD!

(yes, I know it’s really PC-BSD. I was trying to sing “Found a Peanut” to the tune of Clementine.)

Today I found an old computer AND a 19″ flatscreen on the street, and as per my wont I picked them up, hoping that they would be vaguely useful.

The flatscreen should hopefully prove useful, once I get myself a cable for it.

And the winner is … it’s an AMD 1.0GHz with 512megs of RAM and a hard drive that the windows install said was about 35-ish gigs; I remember the PC-BSD install seemed to only mention about 18 ish but I could be wrong, or it could have done a partition … I don’t know what I’m talking about right now, so I’ll look things up.

The point is, the computer isn’t a clunker, and I’m typing this on the PC-BSD setup (somewhat frustratedly: I’m accustomed to a French-Canadian keyboard, and despite having specified one during setup it’s still acting like an US-English keyboard — I have the same problem with Fedora, funny enough, the installation ignores the designation and even occasionally “forgets”.)

So now I have to decide what to do with it:
– Have a second server (I barely if at all need the first, it certainly does little that my desktop does beyond a few technicalities which could be resolved by switching things around, and of course generate heat);
– Offer it to my brother, but he’s already declined on the basis of claiming to not need another computer in his life at the moment;
– Bring it to the cottage — not much use since I have a laptop, although I suppose that there could always be an argument for it;
– Or, do what I’m planning: Test out various distros with it. I figure I should give each one a couple of weeks or so and try to put things through their paces. One of these days, I’m going to have to try Slackware. Just to annoy my brother, who has always worked on the warning from a friend along the lines of “steer clear of slack, it almost cost me my business.” (In 1995-ish, I should point out.)

I’m going virtual, and hitting a real brick wall

This week after reading the June 2010 issue of Linux Format I decided to do what the cover article was about, which was “Try any Distro!” “Luckily enough” I use the base distro that they recommend, Fedora, “because it has the best implementation of Virt-Manager”.

Certainly the setup of Virt Manager was easy (yum install kvm virt-manager libvirt). And the next part was as easy: I downloaded the PC-BSD net install ISO. PC-BSD because I’ve been wanting to try BSD for a while, and PC-BSD because the same issue of Linux Format happened to review it.

After that things went well: I follow the setup — 10 gigs virtual hard drive, “1” processor of two (my machine only has one, but I guess the hyperthreading is up and running, so the system identifies two processors) 512 megs of ram, etc. And I go through the easy setup. The whole things takes about 3 hours to download all the packages and do the setup. Bedtime comes around, and it’s ready to reboot. Darn, I have to go to bed on an error message: “No /boot/kernel/kernel”.

So the next evening, I decide to try OpenSolaris and OpenSuSE, the latter in the netinstall option. Things fare worse: OpenSolaris says that there’s “No bootable device”. Huh? Isn’t it supposed to boot off of the ISO so that I can go through either the install process or see the live-CD? OpenSuSE gives me the same result.

I’ll have to look into this … the second two experiences make me wonder if the PC-BSD problem is not coincidence, but I think that it coincidentally tells me that there is a problem with reading the virtual hard drives, but the problem with the second and third cases is just getting them to properly boot the ISOs …

More on the CNBC schedule

In my last post, I followed the correspondence of CNBC’s actual programming to what was announced on the electronic guide supplied on Shaw’s satellite service in Canada over the period of a long weekend. I found enough time slots whose actually broadcast programme did not correspond to the announced schedule over the weekend to make me conclude “CNBC, announce what you’ll be broadcasting, and broadcast what you announce”.

I figured that for my own edification and to actually see whether what I’d found was a fluke, just how flagrant it was, and to just get a larger sample size, I’d actually do some more in-depth “research” and gather a whole lot more data, which I present here in PDF format.

Basically the conclusion I came to from this larger data set was “Outside North America’s Eastern Time Zone’s business hours Monday to Friday, CNBC’s announced schedule isn’t particularly reliable.” (Count the number of instances that they don’t correspond.) That’s the polite, reserved conclusion, partly tempered by the fact that I really don’t know what CNBC thinks about schedule accuracy — I did send the contents of my last blog to CNBC, and was told that it was passed on to the programming department — partly tempered by the fact that often enough, while it still doesn’t trump the announced schedule, the actually broadcast shows were much more relevant to CNBC’s apparent mandate of broadcasting business news, partly tempered by the fact that during said business hours, I’m also out earning a living (and don’t watch TV during those hours), and partly tempered by a nagging feeling that something is afoot.

/side note on:

My suspicion that something may be afoot comes from the following:

In Canada, the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission has rules about “Canadian Content” to protect “Canadian Culture”. (Since for the moment I’m not interested in tackling that issue, I won’t. 🙂 ) One of the consequences of this is that on cable / satellite / etc. when a Canadian channel is showing an American show at the same time as an American channel that can be viewed by the same person on the same TV — let’s say the Super Bowl is being broadcast, obviously on an American channel, and a Canadian channel carries it — the cable company must substitute the American feed on the American channel with the Canadian feed from the Canadian channel. So for instance, during the Super Bowl, while we get to watch the same game live, we don’t get to see the American commercials, not even on the American channels; these days at least we can go to YouTube the following day to see them.

As a result, in such a case, at the beginning of the broadcast on the American channel, we sometimes will see a flicker when the feed is being switched from the American feed to the Canadian feed. Over the course of the past couple of weeks, one of the things that I have occasionally though not always noticed and didn’t document, at the beginning of some of the broadcasts that weren’t as announced was this flicker, making me wonder if it’s a fluke, or if the feed is being switched for one reason or another, regardless of who’s doing it and whether or not the CRTC is involved.

/side note off

Another conclusion I came to was a confirmation of my original conclusion that the switches — with one exception — were usually not of the type where there was breaking news or some other reason that obviously would trump the announced schedule, despite the fact that sometimes what was broadcast actually seemed more relevant to CNBC’s mandate than what was announced; think of broadcasting Squawk Box, a live business news programme, instead of one of the announced aforementioned excellent business documentaries. I also found it interesting that over weekends there were a number of half-hour slots that were either “Paid Programming” or named paid programming along the lines of “Get Sexier in 90 Days”, “Insane Sexy Bodies”, or “Relieve Back Pain”, while very respectable CNBC documentaries or international financial news programmes were actually broadcast. Given that normally there would be two such half hour programs announced — usually “Paid Programming” THEN a named infomercial — and that a one hour program would be broadcast, be it a one-time documentary or an episode of “American Greed”, a combination investigative journalism / documentary program, and that such shows would often be directly announced at other times, it was obvious to me that sponsors don’t call up CNBC and say that they’d like to buy a block of time only to pay for one of these shows.

So enjoy the data. Of course I’m also sending it off to CNBC.

CNBC, take a lesson from the March Hare: Announce what you’ll be broadcasting, and broadcast what you announce

When I got satellite TV last year from Shaw, one of the channels to which I got access in the package to which I subscribe is CNBC. CNBC has some very interesting programming and documentaries. Some remind me of why I got hooked on cable channels over the traditional network channels in the early nineties, and are comparable to series such as the (excellent) Bill Kurtis’ American Justice on A&E and take your pick of any the mainstays on The Discovery Channel like Frontiers of Construction, Mega Ships, Ultimate Engineering, and the like.

One of the features of Shaw Satellite is that there is a “Guide” screen that shows the current programming as well as future programming; so far — for the purposes of this entry, in fact — the furthest into the future I have ever checked is a touch over 24 hours.

What I am wondering is how much CNBC actually cares to accurately report their schedule in advance to the cable carriers who arguably are their bread and butter, put aside of course their advertisers. I am obviously aware that I am perhaps at best on the fringes of CNBC’s prime target audience, since I’m not a stock broker or a financial analyst.

Of course a small part of me is wondering about how much effort Shaw puts into requiring accurate reporting of scheduling from the stations that they broadcast, at least to the extent that they have power over such matters and wish to try to exert such power over the stations they broadcast. I am aware that Shaw is but one player in the Canadian market, and that CNBC is a player in the much larger Amercian market.

But in researching this post I have come to the conclusion that Shaw probably has little to do with the issue at hand.

Over the last few months, I have occasionally wandered over to CNBC because of a scheduled show that sounds interesting, usually as a result of channel surfing. And what do I find but a substitution program, however interesting it may be. I can count at least four such times prior to this past weekend that the actual program is different from the announced program. This phenomenon caught my attention again this past Thursday, April 01 2010, after 10:00pm when I “wandered” over to CNBC, interested by the announcement of “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”; what was in fact being broadcast was a one hour documentary called “Ultimate Fighting — Fistful of Dollars”. Note that from now on I am referring to times in Eastern Daylight Time.

My conclusion was a presumption that the occurrence was no doubt a semi-regular occurrence given the sporadic nature of my noticing this at random intervals over time; the perceived regular occurrences seemed a bit beyond the usual occasional errors due to technical difficulties such as:

– transcription errors due to a clerk for either party entering the wrong information into the schedule;
– the station expecting to secure the appropriate broadcast rights in time to a given show or episode but not managing to, hence the switch;
– the station losing a last-minute scuffle with the show’s copyright holder(s) and having to show something else as a result;
– the station realizing, after sending off the planned schedule, that there was an accounting error and they had used up their broadcast rights for the show or particular episode, or neglected to renew it;
– a major news event making a last-minute substitution appropriate, such as a market crash or the sudden arrest of the CEO of a major multinational;
– etc.

In this case I’m usually discussing a repeat of, say, their Wal-Mart documentary instead of their Marijuana production in the US documentary, both being otherwise very interesting documentaries, but neither being of particular greater value or time-sensitive interest over the other. However in a couple of cases live market shows have been actually shown, which I am aware are CNBC staples.

So for the past few days I have been, without going much out of my way, noticing the schedule versus the actual show being broadcast on CNBC. (I of course won’t bother mentioning the times that I checked and the schedule was accurate, or could have but didn’t check.)

Saturday April 03 2010 at 11:30am, the schedule announced the half-hour “Sexy Beach Bodies” (I’ll presume it was a show about Beach Culture, Suntan Lotion, and possibly Skin Cancer. Or an infomercial on how to get ripped in 28 days or less 🙂 ) The actual show was “Cruise Inc.”, a documentary about the cruise industry, which, being an hour-long documentary, began at 11:00am.

Saturday April 03 2010 at 10:00pm and 10:30pm, the schedule said “Till Debt Do Us Part”, a Canadian personal finance reality TV series about various couples’ train wreck spending habits heading straight for more debt after bad, and how to get out of it. The actual show was a one hour documentary called “Game Changers” about innovative entrepreneurs who were very influential in their field.

As I was writing this post on Sunday afternoon, I checked CNBC again, for my amusement and to add to the case either way:

Sunday April 04 2010 at 5:00pm was announced as “Paid Programming”, while the announced show for 5:30pm was “Relieve Back Pain”. The actual show from 5:00pm to 6:00pm was a one hour documentary called “The Money Chase: Inside Harvard Business School”.

As I was editing this post on Monday evening at about 9:45pm, I happened upon CNBC and decided to amuse myself again:

Monday April 05 beginning before 9:30pm and ending at 10:30pm, the schedule said “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” followed by “Till Debt Do Us Part” at 10:30pm. “Squawk Box” was at 9:45pm. At 10:00pm, “Cash Flow” came on.

Now in the defense of either party, strictly speaking — and I mean, during the same period I only noticed the following example in the course of my TV consumption, and at the same time do not recall in the past several months noticing another such occurrence outside of CNBC — the phenomenon isn’t just limited to CNBC: On Saturday, April 03, 2010 at 9:00pm, I was watching KCTS PBS Seattle and was watching “As Time Goes By” (Yes, I am a boring person with nothing better to do on a Saturday evening!) The schedule was accurate about the show and time, but the episode description was off, so it’s not strictly speaking limited to CNBC. However for the moment I’m willing to classify this occurrence within one of the excuses listed above, and in any case I don’t recall observing the phenomenon for other stations, which generally have been accurate within my experience.

But here’s the clincher: At about 8:30pm on Saturday, April 03 2010, CNBC had a commercial announcing “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” for Sunday, April 04 at 9:00pm to 11:00pm, so at that time I checked the Shaw schedule for Sunday evening, and sure enough the schedule listed the Enron documentary. At about 9:57pm on Sunday, April 04, finishing another show on another channel, I checked CNBC: It seemed as though “Squawk Box” was finishing, although I held judgement for five minutes, never having watched said show and figuring that maybe it could be a business update during an end-of-the-hour commercial break. Funny enough, at 10:00pm, they had a show called “The Run Down”, a live news show providing daily reporting on Asian markets, which are twelve to fourteen hours ahead of the New York Markets. Despite the currency of the live information, it seems to me that such a show would not trump the former in a last-minute showdown, certainly not from what they seemed to be showing in the first few minutes. However, to look at the opposite side of the same coin, this is the kind of show that, being another component of the station’s bread and butter, would be a matter of “Well duhhh, we always have those shows on, why is the programming guy announcing in the Enron documentary?” making me wonder why the Enron documentary would be listed at that time; but no matter, whether CNBC intended to show one then quickly changed its mind, or didn’t bother to check whether the “listings announcement” guy is doing their job properly, the problem is the same: There seems to be a rampant problem with the concordance between the Announced Broadcast Schedule, and the Actual Broadcast Schedule.

Come On, CNBC, what’s up with your programming? You’ve proven that at least not all the inconsistencies belong to Shaw’s clerks taking too many coffee breaks! In fact, it seems to be that were it not so blatantly obviously due to a case of laissez-faire on your part, I dare say there could be a bit of “Bait and Switch” going on.

So my message for you CNBC, is a paraphrase of the March Hare’s message to Alice: “Announce what you’ll be broadcasting, and broadcast what you announce.”

The Enron documentary schedule as announced on the CNBC website on April 06, 2010 at about 8:00pm EST