Flickr screensaver for Linux

The TV in the kitchen is wired up to the MythTV box (which sits in a closet in another room).  If the TV is left on after a recorded show ends, the MythTV menus are not so pretty to look at.   The standard “Pictures folder” screensaver is nice, but I got tired of manually copying and managing pictures on the Myth box.  Why not use Flickr as the automated source of the pictures?

I poked around for “flickr screensaver linux” on Google and was a bit disappointed. Most of the results a) discuss Mac- or Windows-only solutions, b) link to programs that no longer exist, or c) are more complicated than what I need.

Well, it is Linux … time to roll my own. Maybe this solution is so obvious that no one bothered to document it, but this is what I came up with.  Maybe it will save time for someone else.  Besides, I need a new post to break in the new theme on this blog. 😉

The basic formula: RSS feed from Flickr + podcast downloader + cron +  “Pictures folder” screensaver.
Read on for the details …

Continue reading “Flickr screensaver for Linux”


Just finished reading a book for a class, and it made me realize my parents’ house had a “usability bug” when they bought it. The front entrance is a set of double doors. On the inside, there were two doorknobs. Only the right of the two doors opened, so only righthand doorknob would let you out if you turned it. And this knob only worked if you turned it clockwise. Didn’t confuse us expert users who lived there, but it took some explaining to guests (“try the other one. No, turn it the other way.”). Anyway, just had to capture this example somewhere. ‘Bout time I took down the Christmas decorations on this blog, too.

So I’m in my second semester studying information. Classes this semester are

About those “links” links: for fun (and reference) I’ve been tagging class-related links on with the course number. Which brings me to my other point: if you get bored watching this space and its non-updated-ness, try the super-duper feedburner feed which includes those delicious links and my flickr photos, as well as the main nonsense here. But wait there’s more! I threw together a Yahoo! Pipes feed that comes with all that, plus the amazing Twitter feed!

That is all. See you in May?

 update 2/22/2008: a)The title of this post was inspired by this OK/Cancel comic from 2004. b) This post is now the 3rd google hit for the term “usamajility.”

Christmas Music (3/n)

Today’s Christmas music isn’t a home recording … it’s just ridiculous. I got this tape sometime in high school, at a white elephant gift exchange. Just checked Amazon to see if it’s available anymore — seems it’s out of print, but two sellers are both offering the album on CD for about $60. Is this thing some sort of cow collector’s item?
The “album” in question is It’s a Cow Christmas. Two sample tracks follow:

  • First sample is the first two tracks. Posting this one mostly for the spoof of Handel, even if it is a bit short. Also, I’m planning on posting a minidisc recording of the real Hallelujah chorus next. Hallemoojah Chorus & Angus We Have Heard on High.
  • As for the other track I’m posting …. well, if you had a specific type of illness (a fever, perhaps) and this illness had only one cure, and if you had this illness around the holidays, your physician would likely prescribe this song, as it does indeed contain “more cowbell” than most songs. By my estimate, the following mp3 is approximately 99% cowbell. Carol of the Cowbells.

Christmas Music (2/n)

Continuing with this “amateur minidisc recordings of Christmas music” series, here are a couple more from the archives (that is, Christmas two years ago). The Round Rock Caregivers (who I gather are now called “Faith In Action Caregivers – Round Rock“) hold a benefit choral concert every year at Christmas time, where the choirs from the sponsoring churches each perform a few songs. These two were sung by our church‘s choir (of which Natalie is a member).

Again, the recording quality isn’t the best, but it’s better than no recording at all.

Christmas music (1/n)

So, here we are at T minus 8 days to Christmas and almost T plus 3 months since last posting maybe it’s time to break radio silence again — literally, this time! At my parents’ church every year at Christmas, as his gift to the congregation one of the priests plays Silent Night on the harmonica. Two years ago, I brought my minidisc recorder and cheap, homemade stereo mic to church and recorded it. Then I didn’t transfer it to a PC until after the new year, so I didn’t post it (who wants to listen to Christmas music after Christmas?). So here it is, finally.

Silent Night – Harmonica: Fr. Henry Petter; Vocals: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton congregation

The quality is what you’d expect from the equipment and the “microphone placement” (on my lap in the pew), but I think it’s still listenable. Might be slightly better with headphones. I cleaned it up a little in Audacity: added fade in and out, and a high-pass filter to lessen some of the pretty serious thumps in the first half (doors closing, possibly?).

Expect more bootleg Christmas music postings in the next few days …

Shrink-wrap agreements for people!

First,I’ll post in full the text of a certain policy/license agreement:

This is your 3-day wristband for 2007 ACL Music Festival. Wristband must be worn all three days for entry into the Festival. The wristband will be scanned at Festival entrance to allow entry. It is your responsibility to keep wristband secure and in-tact and to ensure no attempts of duplication are made. Subsequent and/or multiple presentations of a counterfeited wristband are VOID and will be seized by Festival security staff. Wristband must fit securely on wrist and cannot be slipped on and off. Wristbands are non-transferable, non-exchangeable and cannot be replaced. Do not remove, stretch or tamper with your wristband in any way or you will not be allowed entry. If the wristband is tampered with or mangled it can not be replaced. Lost or stolen wristbands cannot be replaced. Event takes place rain or shine. THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS WRISTBAND POLICY.

Unfortunately, I did not see this policy until the Festival was over and I had removed my wristband … because it was printed on the inside of the wristband, which was firmly attached to my wrist by Festival staff when I entered the gates on Friday. The outside of the wristband does bear a similar warning in much shorter form:


Silly legal statements aside, this year’s ACL Fest was (musically) great .. off the top of my head, my top 10 would probably be:

  • Gotan Project
  • Arcade Fire
  • Wilco
  • Yo La Tengo
  • Bjork
  • Regina Spektor
  • Andrew Bird
  • Ghostland Observatory
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  • Ocote Soul Sounds (joint thinger between Grupo Fantasma and Antibalas)

So the music was awesome. The weather was hot, no surprises there. The parking wasn’t too bad, got plenty of exercises walking to and from. The crowds though … maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, but it seems ridiculous to have to fight your way to a stage, and still be a quarter-mile away, and then when you sit down, to have to arrange chairs and everything to keep people from creating a pathway right in front of you. And the pathways are there, it seems, because about 1/2 the crowd shows up late because they were watching another band, and the other 1/2 leaves early to go find a spot at another stage for another band.

Alright, I think that’s about enough ranting … I will say that at this point I’m disinclined to go to ACL Fest next year, especially if ticket prices go up yet again. But I probably said the same thing last year. 😉

update (9/26/2007): Tickets for next year’s ACL Festival just went on sale (already!). The super low Earlybird Ticket Price is $135 (compare with $120 this year). Meh.

back to school

Howdy, faithful blog readers and random web wanderers!
You have not been forgotten or abandoned!

figured I should post a quick update to let the internets know that I’ve taken a leave from my full-time paying gig and gone back to school. I’m now officially a graduate student at the School of Information at UT. Fascinating stuff so far. I’m finally getting to explore and learn about all kinds of stuff I’ve found interesting but “didn’t have time for.” But this is a “quick update” so I won’t go into that now — I’ll save it for another post, assuming I can write something before another 3 months go by.

Also, I had to post something so that the title of the top post didn’t contain the words “bloated vienna sausage.”

We’ve secretly replaced Larry’s regular finger with a bloated vienna sausage .. let’s see if he notices.

Following the theme of “trouble with critters” this blog seems to be taking on, I was stung by a wasp this past Sunday. I was out on the deck after checking on some meats grilling on the grill .. I think he lives under the railing. It happened so fast that I was yelling and shaking it off before my brain had a chance to process the sentence “wasp stung me!” Didn’t actually see the bug(ger).

But the “vienna sausage” bit is true .. it didn’t actually swell a whole lot until the next morning, but now I can’t bend the finger very well. And it looks even sillier when I straighten it because the knuckle sticks up like a camel hump.

So this is the excitement in my life right now — random animal invasions and attacks. More intersting blogginess will soon return, I promise.

In other non-wildlife news, I did get a new laptop recently, as an early birthday present. It’s a ThinkPad X60 tablet. Very nifty so far, except for Windows Vista, which seems a bit of step backwards from XP in terms of speed and annoyingness. However, speed issues (time-to-hibernate, -boot, -sleep, switch users, etc) have improved a bit with the latest updates. The Annoyingness mainly shows up when installing new software (“Cancel or Allow” ad nauseum). I will eventually install Ubuntu and dual boot it, but I’m afraid I’ll lose some of the nifty tablet stuff that Vista does well. Like handwriting recognition, which is nifty.

I should get back to work … but now someone down the hall is playing guitar … ?!?

*update*: re-reading the previous post, I noticed I said “check back in another two months” … so I was only 3 days off that prediction, totally by accident.

in the belfry?

Well, not exactly … bats in our bedroom though. Alright, just one bat.

So, Natalie’s already asleep, I’m in bed but still awake, watching the tube. Then I hear this scritching noise. Probably one of the cats, I think at first. But it’s different than a cat-trying-to-wake-up-the-humans noise .. and it seems to be coming from overhead. So I pick up my cell phone, turn it on, and shine the screen upwards, and there’s this odd, lumpy shadow on one side of the beam that runs the along the peak of the ceiling. So I get a brighter light, and there’s definitely something there. I wake up Natalie and turn on the overhead light, and it’s apparent that a small furry-ish lump with limbs is attached to our bedroom ceiling. The million-candle-power spotlight leaves no doubt — it is a bat.

So we’re both wide awake now, but extremely tired. Googled a bit on “bats in houses”, and we’ve decided to follow the CDC’s advice and try to get the poor thing tested for rabies somehow. It’s locked up alone in the bedroom, we’re in the guest room. We still have no idea how long it’s been in the house, or how it got inside.

The City of Austin’s website says to call 311, so we did that .. said they’d send someone out tonight to catch it and have it tested.

Update: so I called “city wide information” (311) at 2am, animal control called back at 7:30am, showed up at our door a little after 9am, Bruce Wayne was gone by 9:30. The officer took down some information, including home phone number, so after they run tests they can let us know if we have rabies.

Or you could just wait and see if this blog starts foaming at the mouth.

Need more sleep now. Check back in another two months, maybe I’ll post something else. 😉

the randomness of iPods

This was too freaky not to blog about: the iPod just played the same song twice in a row, by different artists. First it played Led Zeppelin’s original “Trampled Underfoot,” immediately followed by the same as performed by Benevento/Russo Duo, recording available on Good stuff.

In other news … work! I am busy and getting busier all the time. I am learning quite a bit though, and not just technical knowledge. 😉

Also, we’ve had some serious weather here this week. In Texas, the slightest bit of ice on the roads will shut everything down. They put sand on the roads (not salt), and since it only happens once a year, no one remembers how to drive in this weather. And this time we got enough ice to shut down Austin for three days. But thanks to marvelous technological advancements such as VPN’s and toll-free conference call lines, I was able to work from home Monday through Wednesday.

Wow, last post was in October .. better give some more updates then: Thanksgiving was good, Christmas was good. For more details, you might check out Natalie’s blog.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled radio silence, already in progress.