AstraNOS for the stars

So I have not written any update on my web desktop for a while. That was for good reason, as I was busy doing a batch of other things the past months.

However I have never give up on it and I am still using it heavily all the time to store pics, ideas, notes, videos and other things.

I recently fixed my AWS instance and re-enabled Conference, my WebRTC based video conferencing tool. Also since I always have a multitude of windows open I added a virtual desktop feature to the mix.

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The number of virtual desktops is currently hardcoded to 4 however I believe that this will be plenty.

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Zotac MiniPC IE751 setup

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have replaced my aging Zotac miniPC ID41 with a newer version, the Zotac MiniPC EI751.

The ID41  has an Intel Atom D525 1.8 GHz Dual Core with 4 processing units, I gave it a 128GB SSD and 8GB of RAM.

My new power horse, the EI751 comes with Intel Core i7-5775R Quad Core CPU at 3.3GHz, the Iris Pro 6200 GPU chipset. I added a 500GB mSATA SSD, 16GB of 1600MHz RAM. For good measure I plugged my old 128GB SSD into the case as well so that I do now have 628 GB of HD space.

zbox-ei751-be-image

I encountered one issue though during the installation process. The spec for the Zotact for video read like this : “2 x DisplayPort 1.2: 3840×2160 @ 60Hz;
DVI-D: 1920×1080 @ 60Hz;”

While this is straight forward I did not realize the limitation of the DVI-D output to 1920×1080 until after I connected the system to my Dual link DVI monitor and found myself unable to scale to the full native resolution of 2560×1600.

So I had to spend some more $ to get an active converter from DisplayPort to Dual link DVI-D.

395845_742064_01_product_zoom

My OS of Choice is still OpenSuSE, and I am now off and running the latest version 42.2. which is a big upgrade, coming from my previous OpenSuSE version 13.2.

p1

At this time I am now up and running and slowly converting my previous home directory over to the new system. The migration is very easy as the old SSD is internal, I do mostly just copy the files and directories over.

In my next blog post I will talk a bit about the performance of my new setup, and how it compares against the ‘not so weak’ ID41 dual core machine.

 

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What is going on with Amazon

So I have been working on my Zotac ID41 box for the past 5 years and have been very happy with the hardware.

zbox-id41_image5-800x600_0

At the core this box has an Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU D525 @ 1.80GHz. Since this was a bare bones system I went all out and gave it a nice 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD.

Well that was then and by now this system is starting to show its age. So I thought I may want to update to the lighting-fast and still ultra-compact Zotac EI751 model.

71gj13qxiel-_sx425_

Also a barebones system, It comes with a Intel Core i7-E775R Quad core CPU @ 3.3GHz and Iris Pro 6200 integrated graphics chip. The Dual DVI port allows me to hook it up to my 32″ screen and the 16GB RAM plus 512GB HD I have bought along would make for a great system for development, and Ai.

Note that I said ‘would’. Well it turns out I ordered from Amazon, twice, the same model from different vendors. Both times I have received a dud.

The first time around my order, which was a opened box, tested by an IT professional did not even power on. It seems the professional may be overpaid or a marketing illusion by “BuyVPC“.

The second time I was smarter and ordered from a larger company. Turns out “Amazon  Warehouse Deals” sent me the right box, the right computer cover but the wrong hardware.

I received an old Dual Core version of an old Zotac computer wrapped in the new box. Someone took the time to replace the cover on that machine with the EI751 and re-packaged it and sent it out.

I wonder how often those crooks get away with this, when you order a present and you send it to say your mom, will she note the difference ?

So now I am left with 16GB of SODIMM I can’t use, and 512GB HD I can’t use and have to wait for the refund to be send back ( again ) before I can search again for a i7 MiniPC.

Update:

After a lot of time searching around for comparable offers or machines, I ended up looking back to Amazon Warehouse Deals. I found that it is part of Amazon itself which improved my confidence to the point that I ordered the same part again ( they had two left ).

I received the PC on Thursday and it booted straight up in all of its 4 core ( 8 processing units with Hyper-threading ) beauty at 3.3GHz with 16GB RAM.

I now believe that there was a customer of Amazon who ordered the PC and then replaced the actual hardware and sent it back for a refund. Amazon then checked if it is in working condition but the tech guys did not validate the hardware specs wrapped it and offered it for a re-sale. I just hope that Amazon can get its money back from that person and give him/her a good slap on the wrist.

 

 

 

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Gradle the cry-baby

So when I started this journey I was excited to learn new environments and to get my hands dirty with the Android studio 2.1.

I made fair progress until the point where I wanted to add support for native libraries to my project. 

Cross compiling the ffmpeg libraries took a bit of fiddeling, but I eventually got it to compile for all android architectures. The next small step though turned out to be mission impossible.

Adding ndk support for jni in android studio using the experimental plugin for Gradle. Quite a mouth full and honestly I would have preferred to not needing to learn all of the intrinsic details of the build system. I would have preferred to do serious programming instead.

I have literally spent a whole working week fighting build issues, and mind you I did make a lot of progress however every single approach I tried, every route I took ended in failure.

Each possible route costing me between 4h and two days. 

Cry baby

For example the refusal of the build system to build a module without test cases. Then the constant complaining about duplicate entries when trying to assemble the apk. Why is the linker/assembler unable to resolve the basic task of NOT including the same library more than once?

Add to this frustration a bewildering set of ever changing keywords and structs in/for the Gradle build system and you will understand why it takes weeks to get basic operations to work. Trying to google any information requires to pay close attention on the post date of the answer to avoid outdated information

I am a big believer in tools which support the developer. It seems though that you must study the Gradle system and know all of the thousands little details an keywords and their meaning before you can actually use it.

Why this pain for a basic use-case which goes just beyond the brim of Java is just mind boggling.

Fallback to progress.

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360Tube

After spending a long time on many different things I have decided that it is time again to learn new tech and start a new project

360Tube came about after I purchased a 360 hemi spherical camera and found that it was quiet cumbersome to handle uploads to YouTube’s new immersive 360 experience.

The first step for me was to find a possible solution to convert the video from the circular shape to the required equi-rectangular format using Linux.

After some quality time searching I came up empty and decided to roll my own ffmpeg filter to convert the input appropriately.

After I had completed the filter I found myself playing a lot with the parameters yaw, roll, and pitch for every individual video.

What was missing was an easy and intuitive way to set the proper values using a GUI and most importanty I wanted this to work on my smartphone.

So the idea of 360Tube was born.

Since I have never written a mobile app before and since I am also new to Java it took a bit longer to get the initial set of GUIs working, mainly because they required custom controls to be integrated into the app.

Thought there is a lot I still don’t know I am now able to create almost all required interfaces. The integration of a custom media player which uses hardware acceleration to morph the input video will come in a later release

I am currently porting the spatialmedia Python scripts provided by Google to C++. These scripts will inject  appropriate meta data into the mp4 container to enable YouTube to recognize the video as a 360 immersive video.

Once completed what’s left are only two things

1) finish up the GUI to achieve a MVP. This includes the real-time display of the roll and pitch settings.

2) integrate FFMPEG into the overall app as the rendering engine.

Of course there are tons of improvements that can follow, like the integration and handling of multiple lens, rendering of the preview in hardware using OpenGL, and an addition of a backend rendering farm and/or a cloud based service. 

Also I want to enable the export to Facebook’s 360 box-format.

I guess once I cross the initial MVP stage I can gather some data on the order of building out the next set of features.

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Python on Cloud 9

This past weekend I have been working on some issues with the creation of a kickstart image for RedHat and spent all of Saturday working.

In between the different test cycles I had also had the time to look a bit deeper into the integration of Cloud 9 with Python as I wanted to see if Cloud 9 can be a web based productivity suite.

As I don’t want to use the online version of Cloud 9, I installed the offline version on my computer at home.

I started by cloning the github repository:

bash> git clone https://github.com/c9/core sdk
bash> cd sdk; ./scripts/install-sdk.sh
bash> node server.js -p 8080 -l 0.0.0.0 -a : -w /ide/workspace

… and next you have to do ….

PyCloud9

Well that was easy …

I have been talking about the cloud for years now CloudStack, StackOps, OpenStack, and RDO and it has gotten to the point where I want to get much more active in this area again.

Having setup a mixed environment for my pet project AstraNOS

AstraNOS2

I want to see if I can auto-scale the backend if I ever need to be able to scale out. This will help me build up my cloud admin muscles as well as giving me an opportunity to learn a bit more about Python.

Up until now I have been able to get all my scripts done using bash, NodeJS, or C++ ( CINT, or cling )

Now however I wanted to get more in touch with a more streamline scripting language. I have gotten to the point where I used Perl enough to know that the tools are awful and debugging is usually done through tons of logging and print statements.

Python seems to come with a much larger set of debugging tools and IDE support from almost every possible editor ( Including Cloud 9 )

There are a few trademarks a good scripting language must have
1) A real good packet management system.
2) A huge amount of tutorials.
3) A huge amount of available third party packages.

As I love LLVM I have also been looking for something similar to PySton … all marks are set😉

Now I need to find the killer app I want to hook my teeth in.

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Personalities disorder

I write this post to sort through the thicket of my thoughts on success.

While working out the other day I had a slew of thoughts crossing my mind. Namely what is the evolution of success and how do successful people achieve their results.

SweatPushup

Sure there are those who get lucky, those who are at the right time at the right place. There are others who grow up in riches and those who are so mind-boggling stupid, they become an immediate internet sensation and earn millions.

Most of us though don’t want to eat a ghost pepper to get a shot on retirement. We are hard working professionals captured in a system which exploits the fact that most people stand by their obligations and family. Which of course is a very positive thing.

I started this stroll-of-the-mind by trying to figure out why it is that I seem to work so much harder than others of my peers and yet I have not been able to advance in any measurable sense. Actually I have found that becoming the best in your field of work can be a hindrance to your professional career in corporate america.

If you are very good at what you are doing, there is a lot of pressure to keep things going, when things are going good. If you are good and you are promoted away there will be a negative impact on your group and most likely on your manager as well.

moving-up-corporate-ladder

I have seen a lot of people moving up the ladder of success all-the-while lacking an in-depth understanding of our products and the technology. It does not suffice to know the buzzwords, you have to actually understand why and what it does and whom it helps.

So back to this deep path of thoughts I realized that I was focused on trying to compare myself to the average working person who is doing their 8 hours daily and then go home, watch a reality show and get drunk. This bottom-up comparison is indeed a problem because the bar is set so low, just going for a walk seems like an accomplishment.

Instead I will now try to focus on the top-to-bottom approach and will seek those who went before me, down the path of success and personal freedom. The first part is finding one or multiple mentors. Successful people willing to share their knowledge and more importantly their experiences.

Looking at where I am currently at, where I want to be, and what it will take to get there, I realized that I have to know whom and where to look for.

I continued with my physical exercise and my thoughts continued to flow like a warm stream of magma from the top of my head to the sea of knowledge.

lava_mountain

I came to the conclusion that there are four fundamental stages to success.

The Believe Stage
This level is where the vast majority spends their living days. The following bullet points capture the attributes

  • Work ( Income to support the below points )
  • Family
  • Pleasure / Eat
  • Relax / Sleep
  • Religion
  • Save Money
  • Complain / Shift the Blame
  • Drugs / Alcohol / Smoke
  • Avoid the Pain
  • Being led

I would like you to look through this list and identify which are good and which are bad attributes to have, as well as trying to find out how they have affected your career and your life.

The Opinion Stage

  • Food / Drinks
  • Shelter
  • Recreation / Exploration
  • Games / Fun / Pleasure
  • Competition
  • Money
  • Passively Invest
  • Having Stuff
  • Ignore the Pain
  • Managing

These are attributes I’d call those of the aspiring middle-class. They love the competition for competitions sake. They like to earn big bucks and spend big bucks. They manage their lives with the knowledge they accumulated early on and are content with this. A strong opinion helps them to make up for the lack of knowledge.

The Adoption Stage

  • Improvements / Learning
  • Competition / Winning
  • Influence / Power
  • Actively Invest
  • Embrace the Pain
  • Becoming a Leader

Now this is a level where a lot of people spend a lot of time, energy, and money. Continuous learning and adopting to the changing circumstances will allow them to stay ahead by enough to remain on top of their game. Winning has become a habit and a major driver in their lives and they will go to extreme lengths to capture the next flag.

You are rich because you embody the above attributes.

The Giving Stage

  • Teaching
  • Philanthropy
  • Heritage / Leaving a mark in history
  • Leader

Finally the last stage is to give back. To lead people into a better future. Leaving a mark on history is the ultimate success. Think of Henry Ford or Elon Musk. From the affordable car for everyone to Spaceship One and the first trip to Mars.

I will know you if you made it here. Actually billions of people will know you.

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Linking up

Hot off the press, you are now able to create some links in your folders.

NewLink

I have also found and fixed an issue with linking your box account to AstraNOS.

So if you want to add a program to your folder, you can now pick and choose for a list of apps or you can specify a link to a web page such as youtube.

I have also added a menu item to the Folder object which now allows you to upload files easier than to go and open the ContentBrowser first.

Finally if you would like to take a little survey to help me add some real value to AstraNOS for you.
Survey

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Leap ahead

While playing with the Leap motion controller the past day or two I have found that the available computer controller software is quite raw. It does not allow for a enhanced user interaction but it seems to get in its way.

If this does not change then the Leap or similar controller will never become common interfaces for computers.

I believe that this would be a great loss and I know that this does not have to happen, as there are interactions which will absolutely enable the Leap to become an integral part of the end user experience.

OpenSuSE and Leap:
Unfortunately the Leap motion software is currently only available as a deb package. However it is fairly simple to extract the data and manually install it on your Linux system.


ar vx Leap-2.3.1+31549-x64.deb
tar -xf data.tar.xz
cp lib /lib -rf
cp usr /usr -rf

Following the above steps ( not you have to extract the proper deb package for your system ( 32bit or 64bit ) you can start leapd as root, and then run LeapControlPanel as a user in the background

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XP-Way back machine

I have been tinkering with the TaskBar a little ( or a lot ) as of lately and have now three options for you to chose from.

1) The Original
OldTaskBar1

2) The refreshed
NewTaskBar1

3) The XP
winxpbar

I like the all for various reasons. The first one is original and matches well with bright background themes and a playful personality.

The second is cleaner and and combines a common layout and usability while maintaining its own personality.

The XP Bar lastly will allow you to fool with people’s mind into thinking they are actually using Win XP ( just press F11 )

I am also working on a better way to copy files between Dropbox, and box, which will display the progress on the backend so that you are not left in the dark as to the current state.

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