This week, Hulu announced that their “content partners” have told them to stop cooperating with the Internet video service Boxee. Boxee is a piece of software designed for nerds like me who have a computer (or Apple TV) connected to their HDTV that allows them to access video content through an interface designed for using a remote control.

Boxee and Hulu were perfect together. Hulu provided tons of network content in high definition for free. The ads on Hulu videos were unobtrusive, only 30 seconds or so in length. It was the perfect wife-friendly way to get video onto the TV without going through our satellite provider. It was so good I was even thinking of dropping satellite altogether, getting all of my content through Hulu or iTunes. It felt nice to be entertained legally for a change.

But network executives apparently hadn’t figured out that computers can be connected to large HDTVs these days. I’m sure they viewed Hulu as a way for nerds to get content on their computers, since all those losers do is sit in front of their computers all day. When they found out that we could, horror of horrors, watch Hulu and its limited commercial interruptions on our TVs, they were apoplectic.

But what I can’t figure out is why they’re like this. They make their money off of ad revenue, right? On broadcast TV, all they know about the person viewing the ads is when they’re watching, and maybe the region they’re watching it from.

But with Hulu, they know where they’re watching down to the city level. They know what time the person is watching the show, not when they recorded it. They know the other shows the person has watched, and what things people who like those shows like. Combine this with the limited commercial interruptions, and you get an ad space that’s worth orders of magnitude more than a broadcast advertisement.

To put it bluntly: I actually *watched* the ads on Hulu, rather than fumbling for the remote to skip over them. Or pausing live TV long enough to get through a commercial break.

But beyond that, I was exposed to more TV shows through Hulu on Boxee than I’d ever have seen on TV. The fantastic Fox drama “Lie to Me” runs Wednesdays at 9PM, opposite ABC’s “Lost.” Having watched Lost since its inception, we tuned in for it, oblivious to Lie to Me. We only found out about it because one of my Boxee friends recommended it to us. And now we love it.

The same goes for back episodes. My wife was skeptical of this whole AppleTV thing until I showed her that we could get the entirety of The Twilight Zone on it. Emphasis on the word “could.”

But I’m still hopeful. As always, the Internet will see a limitation and route around it. Right now there are dozens of people working on Boxee and plugins for Boxee that will access Hulu through their web interface. There’s an open source project on Google Code called Understudy that lets you watch Hulu on Frontrow, though it’s not really mature.

The point is that people want their content the way Hulu and Boxee provided it: Freely available any time on their TVs. We’re willing to sit through reasonable amounts of ads for it. And since there’s enough of us out there, we’ll find a way to get the content we want. Networks don’t seem to understand that there are more of us than there are of them.

Not to mention we’re way smarter.

I’ve been noodling with SSH to make my life easier at work. One thing I found out about was how to make host aliases in your SSH config file. (It’s usually located at ~/.ssh/config). And it’s pretty easy to do. Here’s an example:

Host webhost
   User host_user
   HostName example.com
   IdentityFile ~/.ssh/some_id_dsa

The reason this is better than your hosts file (/private/etc/hosts) is because you can do things like scp ~/somefile.txt webhost:~/upload.txt and scp, since it uses ssh, will realize you want to do this: scp -i ~/.ssh/some_id_dsa ~/somefile.txt host_user@example.com:~/upload.txt

If you do a lot of sshing and scping like I do, you’ll find this extremely convenient. And if you use ssh keys, it makes working on multiple machines as easy as working on a local machine.

I just had a problem to solve: Compare two server config files on two servers to make sure they’re the same. Rather than using scp to copy the file from one machine to another, I used ssh’s ability to run commands remotely to get the contents of the file and piped it into diff. Here’s an example:

ssh user@server1 'cat /path/to/config/file.conf' | diff /path/to/other/config/file.conf -

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the user to write a shell script that will do this automatically, though it should be fairly easy to do.

A while back I had to set up Movable Type on a system where the Perl binary wasn’t in the usual location. So I wrote a quick and dirty shell script that you can run on a directory to replace the perl call (usually /usr/bin/perl) with whatever you want, as long as it’s an executable.

Note: This code comes with the usual caveats. Don’t come crying to me when you run it on a production instance of your blog and you lose your job and your wife leaves you and you end up in a van down by the river. Read the script and check your work.

Replace Perl Bin

At work I’ve got a bunch of SSH logins across multiple systems. Now, I’ve got my password generator, and that’s been a big help, but I don’t want to have to go around entering passwords every time I want to log into a system, so I decided to set up SSH keys.

The only problem is that most of the tutorials out there only show you how to set up one identification key, which isn’t what I wanted to do. So I wrote a script that’ll generate the keys, copy it to your server, add the public key to your .ssh directory (or wherever you want to put it) and add the appropriate lines to the .ssh/config file.

All you need to run it is the username, server address and password. Then look forward to many happy years of not entering your password anymore. It’s licensed under the GPLv3, so feel free to change it how you want.

Download my SSH Setup ScriptĀ 

I really, really, really want a tattoo. Here’s what I’m thinking of getting:

09 F9 11 02
9D 74 E3 5B
D8 41 56 C5
63 56 88 C0

Problem is that we don’t have the cash to spare on a tattoo. So I’m going to have a PayPal donation button up soon so everybody can help me get this tattoo. I’ve got a Paypal button below, so donate what you can! If I can get $50, I’ll head downtown and get it on my left chest, and anything over that I’ll donate to the EFF, for reasons obvious only to those in the know.





So apparently Microsoft is developing a suite of web development tools to compete with Adobe Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator. According to International Business Times, something I never thought I’d be writing on my blog, the suite is supposed to woo developers who have been turned off my Frontpage, which they’ve put out of our misery.

But, really, the best web apps I’ve ever made have been with a simple text editor and a brain full of knowledge. And some of the worst I’ve seen have been Flash or table-ridden Dreamweaver templates. If Microsoft really wanted to woo developers, they’d do better by simply making IE just followed web standards. Most of my time developing apps and designs goes into working around all of IE’s idiosyncracies bugs. And this is only because most of the people on the Internet don’t seem to think it’s more than a blue E on their desktop.

And the absolute last thing we need on the net is more freaking Flash. It’s good for two things: video and animation, and the former is only good because it makes content providers think people can’t download their content. (Horror of horrors.) Beyond that everyone should leave well enough alone and go back to HTML and Javascript/AJAX, which only gets a bad rap because IE makes it so hard to do good, standards-based programming.

I am always amazed at how much technology is improving our lives. My dishwasher is currently churning away at my dishes. My washer and dryer are working in tandem to clean my sheets, and my Dyson vacuum cleaner makes having a large dog a less hairy endeavor.

And thanks to the magic of the Internet, I’m able to see the brand new episode of Dr. Who less than an hour after it was broadcast in the UK. Without things like BitTorrent or the Internet, I might never have heard of this amazing show, let alone seen it uncut. (Sci Fi rebroadcasts these shows, but has to edit out about ten minutes of content to make room for selling my eyeballs to pay the rent. And it’s about two seasons behind.)

And, yes, I’m aware that this is, well, naughty. I’d buy the show if I could, but because of ridiculous, antiquated distribution agreements, I can’t. Let me put it another way: By making agreements for other people to make money off of their shows, the BBC is making sure that they don’t see a dime of money I’d gladly pay them.

And it’s not just the BBC that’s losing out. People in Australia are in the same predicament as I am when it comes to Battlestar Galactica. They’re years behind, but they’re “stealing” from the very network who’s making the product, simply because Sci Fi is too chicken shit to break those agreements and go directly to the people.

I’ve become a pretty big fan of Leo LaPorte’s various podcasts. They’re funny and informative and make me feel like I’m not surrounded by people for whom light bulbs are a sinful decadence.

But when it comes time for their recommendations, I feel like a country bumpkin. Recent Leo and Steve Gibson were talking about the new Sony Reader and Leo said that it only costs $349. Only $349? That’s half my weekly salary!

I think that a lot of the folks out in Silicon Valley and, to a lesser extent, New York City have a distorted perspective as to what is affordable. In a place where a house like mine can cost five times what I paid for it, the idea that $349 for a version 1.0 eBook reader is a good deal is probably correct. If you’re paying $2500 a month or more for your mortgage, that probably is a good deal. (And if you’re making, as you should be, four times your mortgage payment every month, it’s definitely a good deal.) And judging by what the folks on MacBreak Weekly or TWiT are saying, they’ve got tons of money to throw around, buying Quad Core Mac Pros with dual 30″ monitors and $600 BluRay players and $400 gaming systems to go with their $2,000 HDTVs. (And if it sounds like I’m jealous, you’re right. You wouldn’t like to be able to afford things like that?)

But for most of the rest of the country, where the cost of living is significantly lower, $349 is a pretty big chunk of change. I’d have to spend a few months saving to be able to afford a Sony eBook reader, so I don’t want to buy one until it’s compelling enough to make it worth it. And before that, there’s a bunch of other things I’d rather buy. I still haven’t picked up a 250GB hard drive to do backups, and my Powerbook is starting to feel its age. (And it also doesn’t stay closed.) So I don’t think I’ll ever have an eBook reader, at least not Sony’s.

So to any tech columnist who might read this; I understand that you’ve got tons of money because you’re a super duper tech writer. But realize that not everybody is a super duper tech writer or a Web 2.0 millionaire. Some of us are still poor schlubs pounding keyboards and paying mortgages.

(Hey, maybe there’s a niche out there for a “Penniless Geek” column. I’m not going to say that would make a good domain name, because I want to avoid the quantum domain name effect.)

I signed up for Twitter, cause I’m totally Web 2.0 and because I didn’t want anyone to take my handle. As I was adding all the celebrities that are on Twitter, I got a couple errors.

They. Use. Cat. Pictures.

Nothing makes an error better than a little kitty feeling bad for losing my files. Or fiddling with some RCA jacks.

I suppose this makes up for their use of that dreadful “-er” in their name. What Web 2.0 company doesn’t call themselves Twittr?