Rough Book

random musings of just another computer nerd

Tag: linux

How to stop YouTube sucking on Ubuntu/Linux

Recently I’ve noticed that YouTube’s performance on my machines have been terrible. It’s constantly buffering, or it will stop randomly in the middle of a video. I’ll get a few seconds of playback and then 10-30 seconds of buffering. It’s pretty terrible. On Windows I have been able to use the helpful workaround from here and performance has definitely increased. On top of that, I’m also using the SmartVideo plugin on Chrome (it’s also available for FireFox). But on my Linux boxes, I’m still having the same problem in spite of having the SmartVideo plugin. There is a Linux alternative to guide from above, but it uses ipfw program which is not natively available on Ubuntu/Linux (at least from my understanding) due to it being a BSD program. I didn’t want to compile it and install it from source, so I decided to use ufw instead, which is the “Uncomplicated Firewall” that comes with Ubuntu. It was pretty simple to convert the rules over. But first you will need to enable it (if you haven’t already). You can do that with:

sudo ufw enable

Then you can enable logging also, if you want:

sudo ufw logging on

If you SSH into your machine or if you use your machine as a webserver, you will need to enable a few more rules:

sudo ufw allow ssh/tcp
sudo ufw allow http/tcp
sudo ufw allow 8080/tcp

And of course, you can add the rules that will prevent your ISP from caching YouTube:

sudo ufw deny from
sudo ufw deny from

You can then use ufw status to verify that your rules are in place:

 ~ ⮀ $ ⮀sudo ufw status
Status: active

To                         Action      From
--                         ------      ----
22/tcp                     ALLOW       Anywhere
80/tcp                     ALLOW       Anywhere
8080/tcp                   ALLOW       Anywhere
Anywhere                   DENY
Anywhere                   DENY
22/tcp                     ALLOW       Anywhere (v6)
80/tcp                     ALLOW       Anywhere (v6)
8080/tcp                   ALLOW       Anywhere (v6)

Rooting the G2

As some of you may already be aware, it appears that the G2 has some sort of “magic restore” (it’s not a rootkit) function that causes all changes to /system to be reverted. This means that you cannot remove any bundled bloatware. Even more troubling, it looks like the phone will perform the restore while it is running (i.e, you don’t need a reset). I haven’t turned on my G2, so this is what I’ve heard from people at XDA Developers. You can get temporary root on the devices, but after a little while (some people say minutes, others say hours; experiences seem to vary) root is lost. So it is possible that something is performing the restore while the phone is running.

Helpful folks on XDA Developers have posted the datasheet to the eMMC and another kind soul (damnoregonian) was able to get the value of the CSD register (the register that seems to control the behavior of the MMC): d00f00320f5903fffffffdff924040c8.

WP_GRP_SIZE[36:32] and WP_GRP_ENABLE[31:31] seem to be the bits that control the write-protect (per the datasheet). Currently these seem to be set to the default values per the data sheet (11111b and 1b). Clearing the bits should (theoretically) turn off the write protection. The value to do that would be d00f00320f5903fffffffde0124040c8. The CSD node is R/O and so you cannot echo to it directly. The only way to do it would be to write a kernel module/driver that writes to the register. Apparently the kernel exports a function called mmc_send_csd, and so one should be able to write to this register.

I’m tempted to write a kernel module that does just that. But since working at Intel I haven’t written any kernel drivers. Also while I did write drivers at Intel, I pretty much made modifications to what others before me had written, and so I never wrote one from scratch. I’m going to see if I can start on something this weekend… wish I was still in college… I had a lot more time then!

If this works (and that’s a big if), there’s still the issue of restores being done while the phone is in operation. That could cause a lot of inconsistency. So this might be a partial solution.

Either way, I’m sure someone will come up with a way to root the phone. But if there’s nothing by next Friday, I’m going to return the phone.


Someone posted updated specs. It looks like those bits are read-only. Bummer. Also, this from T-Mobile’s website:

Bellevue, Wash. — Oct. 7, 2010

As pioneers in Android-powered mobile devices, T-Mobile and HTC strive to support innovation. The T-Mobile G2 is a powerful and highly customizable Android-powered smartphone, which customers can personalize and make their own, from the look of their home screen to adding their favorite applications and more.

The HTC software implementation on the G2 stores some components in read-only memory as a security measure to prevent key operating system software from becoming corrupted and rendering the device inoperable. There is a small subset of highly technical users who may want to modify and re-engineer their devices at the code level, known as “rooting,” but a side effect of HTC’s security measure is that these modifications are temporary and cannot be saved to permanent memory. As a result the original code is restored.

Well, T-Mobile. How about you provide us technical users a way to root our devices? What you’re doing is stupid. You’re going against everything Android stands for. If I can’t root it, I think I will return my phone and get a Vibrant instead. I would have expected this from Apple or Verizon. But not from you. Very disappointing.

Trying out ChromeOS from a VMWare image

I was pretty excited when I saw the VMWare image for ChromeOS up for download. I immediately downloaded it to try it out. The zip file I got from gdgt has a vmdk file but no vmx file. I created one from scratch to try ChromeOS out (I’ve made a new zip with the vmdk and the vmx. The link is at the end of this post.). It’s not too bad. The OS boots up really quick. The login screen is pretty spartan (look at the screenshots I have). You login with your Google/Gmail username and password. When you login, it opens up the Chrome browser. I wasn’t able to get anything else running other than the browser. Also, when I first logged in, Chrome complained that the security certificate for Gmail had been revoked. But I was able to login when I typed in the address for Gmail in again. The default tabs seem to be GMail and Google Calendar. I’m assuming that because it’s such an early build, you’re not able to try out the other stuff. Maybe there’s a way; I didn’t play around with it too much. There is a Date and Time settings menu that’s available from the browser, where you can set a few other options, like your proxy, SSL options, home page, and a few other advanced settings.
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Flu shot and bizarre network issues

This last weekend I had drill and the medics gave us the seasonal-flu mist-vaccine. It’s the one where they squirt gooey, inactive virus up your nose. I’ve had the vaccine before without any adverse side-effects. Yeah, not this time. I got the shot on Saturday and I was fine on Sunday. Not so on Monday. I woke up a few times in the middle of the night with a bit of a fever, but I figured that it would just go away. Yeah, didn’t happen. On Monday morning I felt like I had been run over by a semi. My throat felt like I had swallowed bits of broken glass. Needless to say, I didn’t go to work. I was bedridden most of the day, but towards the end I felt a little better. I tried to get a little work done but I wasn’t too successful since I had a hard time concentrating.
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Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) and Windows 7 dual-boot

In my previous post I talked about the problems I had while installing Ubuntu and Windows 7 on my Alienware m7700 laptop. It took me about three days of hair-pulling before I was finally able to get it to work. First, I burnt a new copy of the ISO for Ubuntu 9.04. Then, I enabled RAID on my system. I put the disks into stripe mode (the FastTrak Promise 378 does not support JBOD). This time, I got past the COMRESET error (ata3: COMRESET failed (errno=-16)) and was able to boot into the LiveCD. However, my joy was short-lived. The install would terminate (around the 40% mark) with the following message:

[Errno 5] Input/output error

This is often due to a faulty CD/DVD disk or drive, or a faulty hard disk. It may help to clean the CD/DVD, to burn the CD/DVD at a lower speed, to clean the CD/DVD drive lens (cleaning kits are often available from electronics suppliers), to check whether the hard disk is old and in need of replacement, or to move the system to a cooler environment.

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Ubuntu and Win7 problems

Yesterday I decided to reformat my Alienware m7700 Area-51 machine. It’s supposedly a laptop, but it’s actually a beast and it has a power supply that emits as much power as a small nuclear plant. Anyway, I put in a 500Gb and a 120Gb drive, with the 120Gb as a slave. The machine comes with a RAID controller (Promise SATA 378 TX2), but I have it turned off and in ATA mode. Win7 installed fine; the only problem I have is with the sound. My front speakers in my quadraphonic setup refuse to work. It’s strange. I even have the latest drivers from Creative for my Audigy2 ZS Notebook. It used to work fine before.

I figured I’d solve that problem later and decided to install Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty) on the 500Gb drive. The LiveCD boots up fine, but when I try to actually try out the LiveCD or even try to install Ubuntu, it fails. Everything hangs after this message:

ata3: COMRESET failed (errno=-16)

After searching on the internets, it seems to be a RAID controller issue and a fix exists in the kernel. So I don’t know why I still have the problem. If anyone knows of a solution, please let me know! I’m going to keep working on the problem and see if I can solve it.

Running the JavaFX 1.1 SDK on Linux

This is an update to my instructions on running the JavaFX 1.0 SDK on Linux. Those instructions do not work on the dmg image for the 1.1 version of the SDK.

Mike (thanks Mike!) posted a comment on that blog mentioning a small change that needed to be made. To get JavaFX 1.1 on Linux, first follow the steps in the original guide. When you need to mount the dmg, you need to provide an offset. So instead of the original command, do the following:

vivin@dauntless ~
$; sudo mount -o loop,offset=$((1024*17)) -t hfsplus javafx_sdk-1_0-macosx-universal.dmg.out javafx

The dmg should be mounted now.

Apache2 and .htaccess with mod_rewrite on Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron)

Apparently the default settings for .htaccess files and URL rewrites in Ubuntu (8.04 anyway) is kinda jacked. Apache wasn’t seeing my .htaccess files, and even after setting up the configuration correctly, I was getting Internal Server (500) errors from .htaccess files.

The default setting for Apache2 on Ubuntu for .htaccess is “ignore it”. You need to enable it by going to /etc/apache2/sites-available/default and changing the AllowOverride directive, which you can find inside the <Directory> … </Directory> tags:

AllowOverride ALL

If you want to enable URL rewrites, you need to enable the mod_rewrite module as it is not enabled by default:

[11:31:14] vivin@dauntless ~/Projects/www/skyblue
$ sudo a2enmod rewrite
Module rewrite installed; run /etc/init.d/apache2 force-reload to enable.

[11:31:20] vivin@dauntless ~/Projects/www/skyblue
$ sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 force-reload
 * Reloading web server config apache2     

Apple: Blurring the Line Between Hackers and Hipsters

Yesterday, while wrestling with my Windows XP machine to make it do dual-monitor display properly (I can’t get it to set my LCD as primary display), I ended up hosing the registry completely. It took me about two more hours to fix the system and get it back to where it was. During this whole ordeal, there were long periods of waiting when drivers were installing or when chkdsk was running. I took this time to surf the web and ended up landing on a digital copy of In the Beginning was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson. While skimming through the book (I have read the book before; I own the hard copy), I realized a few things. The book is definitely outdated; it was written before Mac OS X came out. However, a lot of points were still valid. I was mainly struck by the changing character of the Mac, and also in some sense, the changing character of (some) hackers:

Hackers like to hack. This is not a bad thing. In fact, “hack” originally did not mean “break into goverment/financial systems and do bad things”, and a “hacker” was not an unsavoury individual who did the aforementioned “bad things”. A “hack” originally meant “an elegant and clever solution to a problem” (although, it paradoxically also means “crude and ugly solution to a problem”), and a “hacker” is a person who comes up with such solutions. Most programmers call themselves “hackers”. The media term “hacker” is actually described by the term “cracker”. Hackers are constantly tinkering with things. Usually they are trying to make things better, but more often than not, they end up breaking it. However, in the process they learn very valuable lessons about how not to break something, and then immediately find another way to break it again. In all seriousness though, what we learn are the limits of the system, and how the system works. Hackers don’t like unknowns and black boxes. They want to know what makes things tick.

My dad got me my first computer in 1990. I didn’t do much on it at first other than play games. I actually started writing code in 1992, and I haven’t stopped. I’ve been hacking around since then, and in the process I’ve learnt a lot of many cool things. Over the years I’ve experimented with various OSes and programming langauges, and in the process broken and hosed many computers. But each time I learnt something valuable from them… mostly. One of the cooler things (I didn’t learn anything from this really, it was just a bug) I did was writing a self-replicating Perl script that kinda ran wild on ASU’s Solaris server. There were so many scripts running around that it brought the server to a crawl. I eventually figured out what was happening and managed to kill all the processes. Anyway, my point is that people like me like to tinker around. We don’t mind if we break stuff while doing it, because we’ll figure out a way to fix it. It’s the “figuring out” part that makes us happy. So what does all of this have to do with Apple, Hipsters, and Hackers? Well, in Neal Stephenson’s book he describes two kinds of people: Eloi and Morlocks. An Eloi is your average internet user; they view computers as appliances and tools and nothing more. A Morlock, on the other hand, is your average hacker. The computer is definitely a tool, but it is a tool that can be used to create other tools. The workings of a computer are usually a mystery to an Eloi, but not so for the Morlock. Before Mac OS X, most users of Macs were of the Eloi variety. The Mac was a beautiful and stylish magic-box that did wonderful things. The inner workings were a mystery. You couldn’t easily get inside and tinker with it, but that wasn’t really an issue because Eloi don’t care about things like that. Morlocks gravitated more towards the PC world. Sure, PC’s were clunky and definitely not as stylish as a Mac. Plus, a lot of them ran Windows which many Mac fans claimed was a clunky and cheap copy of the Mac OS (in truth, everyone basically copied Xerox PARC). However, they could be opened up and tinkered with. At this point in time, there was also this thing called Linux, which was an interesting piece of software (at the time). Linux is basically just an operating system. What most people mean when they say they “run Linux”, is that they run a distribution of Linux. A distribution consists of the kernel (Linux), in addition to a bunch of userland tools (programs that actually let you do something). The cool thing about Linux was that it was free. You could go download it and install it on your computer and it would run. What was even more interesting was that it was made by volunteers. People actually took the time to sit down and write code to improve and enhance the operating system. Running Linux in those days was a chore. Most distributions came with a GUI (X with a window manager), but sometimes things didn’t work quite right if you had an obscure monitor and video card. Getting things to work meant going to the command-line and writing strange, arcane incantations and if the Gods were pleased, your hardware might work. But that didn’t bother the hackers, because it was fun trying to get things to work. In addition there was also a certain elitism about it. Running a Linux box meant that you had the time, patience, and above all, intelligence required to go through the mental contortions required to get a working system. But intellectual elitism is nothing new for hackers since all hackers have a bit (ok, a lot) of hubris.

Mac Sales ChartOk, so where am I going with this again? Seriously, I have a point. Things changed when Mac OS X came out; it had a command line. The command line is very important to us hackers because it lets us look “under the hood” of the GUI. True hackers always go to the command line to do serious work. The command line is a place where a pithy one-liner can replace a series of windows and buttons. To the uninitiated, the command line is a scary place where confusing and dangerous things happen. Just like a magic spell, you had to write obscure words and symbols to the computer, in the correct sequence. If you were lucky, the computer would derisively spit out an error. If you weren’t you probably broke your computer. If you were really lucky, the computer accepted your commands and did what you told it to do. The point of the commandline is that you get God-like power (mostly; to truly be God you had to be root). While this power enables you to be extremely efficient, it also enables you to do destructive things equally efficiently. The GUI shields you from the hard edges of the underlying OS. The cryptic command line is replaced by friendly windows and buttons. When the Mac OS got a commandline in Mac OS X, hacker types were suddenly interested in it. You now got the legendary stability and the “it just works” attributes of a Mac OS with the power of a commandline, and that too, a UNIX commandline (OS X’s kernel is essentially based on BSD, which is a direct descendant of the original UNIX). Which brings me to the main point. What I’ve noticed over the last few years, especially after graduating from college, is that even though I love to hack around and test the limits of a system, most times I simply want a system to work. I want to spend less time fixing the system, and more time fixing my own code. I have also noticed that I’m not the only one with these sentiments. Many of my fellow nerd and hacker friends own Macs and develop on them now. I considered getting a Mac as well, but it was a little over budget for me and I couldn’t justify the cost at the time. Macs provide a very good mix of power and stability, and that is extremely attractive to a developer. You can still hack around on the Mac (and you could probably break it), but most of the time you know it’s something you did that broke the system, than just a quirk with the system. In my personal opinion, I think Apple’s decision to include the command line in OS X was brilliant (their other good move was moving over to the ubiquitous x86 architecture). In fact, if you look over the sales chart (courtesy of the Mac from 1997 to 2008, you can see how their sales remained more or less constant from ’97 to ’02, after which it really started taking off. OS X was released in 2001.

In the old days, Mac users were a tight-knit, elitist bunch who sneered at their less-fortunate Windows-using cousins. Most times, it was with good reason. The Mac OS was stable and polished, while Windows was a clunky GUI bolted on top of a command line. To be fair to Microsoft though, Apple didn’t have to put up with exotic hardware since they had complete control over it. The demographic that Macs attracted was mostly the artistic or hipster bunch. In recent years, the demographic has increased to include some people who also liked the supposed “coolness” of the Mac. If you owned a Mac, you were different. You were part of a “cool”, “hip”, and “artistic” minority. Apple played this up, marketing the Mac as not only a stable alternative to a PC, but a cooler alternative too. Today you have more people than ever using Macs. From a sorority chick who uses it because “OMG it’s like so pretty!” to a programmer who likes it because “OMG d00d it’s lyk teh UNIX!!11!” Apple has successfully bridged the gap between two extremes. In future years, I think Apple will continue to grow stronger, and the sales of Macs will continue to rise, providing a viable, proprietary alternative to Windows. I’m not an Apple fanboi; I like FreeBSD (perhaps why I have a soft spot for OS X) and Linux more, but I think Apple deserves respect for making an excellent OS that’s friendly to hackers and hipsters alike.

There is no Windows 7

Here is a first look at the Windows 7 beta. All I could really get from the review was that “it’s done”, and that it “feels snappier” and that it is “more responsive”. In the screenshots it still looks like Vista. The taskbar reminds me of KDE. A bunch of torrent sites have the beta up for download. Microsoft is expected to announce the build’s public availability in January. So you can get a copy of it and try it out, but to do so might be “breaking the law”. But that hasn’t deterred a bunch of people who’re out downloading it. Right now, piratebay‘s torrent for the beta is showing 2,503 seeds and 8,137 peers.

On another note though. People seem to think that this is a new operating system from Microsoft. It isn’t. It’s just Vista Service Pack 3, in my opinion. I mean, how long did it take Microsoft to come up with Vista after XP? I seriously doubt they got a brand new operating system out in about a year and a half. The name is just a PR campaign to bury the name “Vista”. There is so much bad press and publicity surrounding the name that Microsoft has to get away from it, if they want the Vista codebase to be successful.

I had Vista on my laptop. It was alright; I didn’t use it long enough to run into too many issues. The UAC prompts were pretty annoying though. Also, compiling anything on it took forever. I’m running Ubuntu on it now, and it’s way faster. My sister and my dad both run Vista, but I haven’t heard of them having any problems. If Windows 7 really is good, then I might actually consider running it. I currently have only one Windows machine and that’s running XP. Everything else is either running FreeBSD or Linux.

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