4 10 2012

I have recently signed up for and canceled from and I want to let you (and audible) know why. These are in the order of problems, not the ranking of the problem.

I have been watching a bunch of Revision3 shows recently and I have been enjoying many of them. One of the ways R3 makes any money is through advertisers (duh!) and so I have been signing up for and using a few of the services that seem to fit my needs. I have been using the R3 codes just so that the sponsors know I approve of them sponsoring R3. One advertisement I had seen before but never quite made sense to me was I don’t find myself with a ton of time to just listen to audiobooks (on the other side, music I listen to frequently as background ambiance) except when I take a road trip in which audiobooks are awesome! The last few months have been rather crazy and I have found myself driving ~10 hours a week or more. I got my hands on a box set of audiobooks and ripped through them much faster then I thought I would. The problem with scouring bookstores these days for audiobooks is that they frequently have 1) teenie-bopper crap-o-the-week and 2) are way too expensive.

A week or so ago, those two merged together when I was watching an R3 show and the light finally dawned on me. totally makes sense now! I browsed online for a bit and they had several book series I was really excited about and had been meaning to read (whenever I get that mystical free time). I signed up right away…or at least I tried to.

Problem 1) I found the site very difficult to sign up and had to contact customer support to do so.

For no particular reason, the site would either just hang when I tried to sign up, or it would complain I was missing a field which clearly had text data in it! Fine, they have the option to tie into my Amazon account, I will try that way. Nope. Every time it complained that I needed to input a password that was clearly there. Just to make sure, I logged in and out of Amazon multiple times. I thought ‘Maybe it is the browser!’. Nope. Firefox (two different releases), Chrome, and Epiphany all failed. At this point I contacted the help chat line. They eventually got it working and they got me signed up, however, I couldn’t log in. So I reset my password. Then Amazon stopped working. So I reset my Amazon account. I had now completely wasted HOURS dealing with tech support and these log in issues and I needed to go. I went on another road trip _without_ the audio books I had been so excited for. I suspected the problem but it wasn’t until this morning that I actually tested and confirmed the problem.

Problem 2) Audible’s password log in is broken.

My Amazon account password is very complex, but Audible would never let me log in. I eventually figured out that my complex special character passwords were the reason. If I remove my special characters, Audible lets me log in. I have a 88* character password with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and a variety of special characters (I use an open source complex password generator called Universally Unique Password Generator it can be found on github). Amazon works just fine with the password. Audible does not. I am not going to change my password scheme for a broken website when Amazon works just fine. Changing my password every time to log into Audible then changing it back when I was done was an annoying process that I wasn’t going to put up with for long. Another hour wasted. At this point I had already decided that I probably wasn’t going to renew my membership with Audible. However, I still hadn’t had the chance to try their audiobooks and I had a free download credit. Maybe that would change my mind.

*[EDIT] I initially wrote this as 65. Sorry.

Problem 3) Linux support.

I don’t run anything but Linux. I have no need to do so. In this day and age, I so rarely encounter a problem under Linux that I almost forget there are still companies that don’t support Linux. The first audiobook I downloaded came in a format that I could not get to play. An Audible Audiobooks .aa format. They list multiple formats supported so I kept trying with the different options. Same problem. Nothing worked. Not even VLC or XBMC! Those two seemingly play everything I throw at them…except these stupid aa files. Fine, I will try another audiobook. Nope same problem. It is something on Audibles end.

I got no relevant results searching on Audible’s help section so I turned to the internet. Researching online and all I see is people with problems with Audible audiobooks under Linux. The suggestions that pop up the most are to run wine -or- copy to a mp3 player. Wine doesn’t help me on the road in my car and I am not very interested in burning hundreds of CD’s either. VERY ANNOYED I copied the files over to my iPod 5th gen (which I have managed through Linux for over 4 years and, thank God, I have not had to use iTunes in almost 5 years). The audio files /still/ do not play. At this point, this is the BIGGEST offender from Audible. I WILL NOT support a company that doesn’t support Linux and the end user. I returned the audiobook and canceled my membership.

DRM and proprietary formats just lost Audible a customer.

I *promise* you that /if/ I was the type to download a pirated copy of these books (which I am not going to do for my own personal reasons), the pirated copy would play when I want, how I want, where I want and on the device I want. I can also *promise* you that the pirated copy would NOT eat up hours of my life trying to get them to work. just screwed over a legit, honest customer and promoted piracy as an easier alternative. Great job Audible.

Problem 4) They don’t even want to know why you canceled.

When I canceled, it took several clicks and drop down menus to tell them I was cancelling. The drop downs were pathetic pre-canned responses that didn’t fit my reasons hardly at all. Finally, on the last screen there was an option to explain why I canceled. Great. I honestly wanted to let audible know why I was canceling so I started to write out a brief summary of what I have posted here. Wait a minute…a 200 character limit on additional comments? Really? You won’t even give me the space to type out my complaints? Yet another fail. It is because of rubbish like this. A terrible terrible customer experience where Audible completely fails to live up to the expectations.

I was recommended to Audible through a promotion of a Revision3 series that I really like. I am glad Audible supports Revision3 and I wanted to support Audible because of that. However, I simply can’t. When *I buy* music, I expect those audio files to play when *I* want, where *I* want, how *I* want, and on the device *I* want. Give me an audio format I can listen to on *my* own terms, and I will probably come back.

Until then, I will buy the audiobook CD’s, rip them to *my* music player to listen to when *I* want, where *I* want, however *I* want, on the device *I* (Remember, the legit BUYER here!) want.

Now Audible has wasted another 3 hours of my life…


Empathy for Karmic Koala

24 06 2009

If you have not heard, Pidgin is being dropped in favor of Empathy. Just because I know I am going to get people calling me over it, I decided to try it out now so that I can figure out how to do things before the switch. Overall, it is OK. There was only one thing that impressed me and most everything else has met expectations.

What impressed me? The fact that the first time I ran the program it picked up my Pidgin install and imported all my accounts without me having to do anything but verify that those were ones I wanted to import.

On the flip side of the coin, there are three things that bother me.
1) Colors. The color scheme for names / links is pretty bad. A Google search told me that these were colors from the Gnome Theme, but I like my Gnome theme and not these. I wish I could change them.

2) File transfer. I have not found a way to transfer files. This isn’t a huge problem for me as I use woof for sending files most of the time, but this will be a big problem for a lot of people I know.

3) Log import. As most people do now these days, I live my life online. IM is one of the best methods for me to keep in touch. I have /YEARS/ of back history in Pidgin/GAIM log files. Not only did Empathy not import them when it imported the rest of my information, but the log file went from plain text to..err…ummm… this:
[message time='20090624T01:36:14' cm_id='0' id='me' name='Me' token='' isuser='true' type='normal ']Empathy has some weird tags in its log file now...[/ message]
(replace square brackets with angle brackets; wordpress tries to interpret them as html tags )

I am 99% certain that I can write a decent shell script to import the log file, I just need the time to do it.

Anyway, if anyone has any thoughts or comments please post.

Update: Found another problem. Can’t find an way to set an away message after a certain amount of idle time. Found how I can do it manually though (PITA). I REALLY like Pidgin’s ability to set idle time as when I was last active on Pidgin. That way I don’t have a flood of messages from people thinking I am around when someone bumps my mouse or I VNC in to grab something, or while I am watching a movie, ect ect ect.

Also, since I am editing I thought it might be nice to note that I just pulled Empathy from the Repo’s for Ubuntu 9.04. At this time it is: Empathy 2.26.1.

Linux Security

12 05 2009

Someone recently told me that the only reason why Linux was thought to be more secure was because it was so unpopular that no one ever bothered finding security holes. I believe this statement to be completely false and these are a just a few reasons why I believe Linux is more secure then the other OS’s out there. This isn’t some silly top 10 list, just 4 simple reasons.

1) Linux is attacked everyday.

It isn’t hard to find out what security updates are out there. Most distros provide the security updates for their users to follow. Some are mailing lists, some are RSS feeds, and some (like Debian) are both! [1] The reason why Linux is better at security is because the community responds and fixes the problems long before they become a problem for the users. I have admin’d many Linux boxes across /many/ distros. I watch security updates like a hawk and I can verify that most big security problems are fixed within days. Compare that to a certain major OS which measures patch times in months! Don’t believe me? Check it out yourself. Visit Debian’s security list [1] and pick out a bug. Now find the reported time and when it was fixed. There are exceptions, but the vast majority of the patches are under a week turn around time. Check which ever distro you want and I am certain you will find the same results there as well.

If it was true that Linux wasn’t ever targeted, then people could assume that there were only a few reported security incidents. But it isn’t true. Linux is always being targeted and that is why there are many security reports every week. Subscribe to Security Space’s audits [2]. It is not uncommon for them to list hundreds of vulnerabilities every week! Another great source is Linux Compatible [3]. All of these sources cover the major distros but they also cover different distros and projects too. Yes, there is overlap sometimes but I would rather have seen a security warning several times then not at all.

The point is that there are plenty of security warnings issued but the Linux community tends to fix them long before the vulnerability is ever a problem. It is proof that Linus’s Law works [4]. Yet another strength of Open Source.


[2] and scroll down to “New Vulnerability Tests”; at the bottom is a subscribe link.



2) File Permissions.
I won’t go into great detail here because there are many others who do a better job explaining them [1]. However, I think it is important to mention that how Linux handles file permissions is greatly superior to some other OS’s out there. If an attacker doesn’t have permissions to do bad things, then he can’t do bad things! Pretty simple concept. Meanwhile, other OS’s tend to either run the user as root/admin or bug them so much that the user clicks “allow all” and gives the attacker all the permissions he wants to do what he wants.


3) Very few Distros are alike.

I tend to run Debian for the majority of my needs at work and home but I am also a fan of Ubuntu for work and home as well. Last but not least, I use CentOS quite often at work as we have several vendors who prefer the Red Hat/CentOS experience. Between three distros, there are eight variations (Debian Etch, Debian Lenny, Debian Squeeze, Ubuntu 8.04, Ubuntu 8.10, Ubuntu 9.04, CentOS 4.7, and CentOS 5.3). The chances of a single vulnerability taking out all eight variations across three distros is /highly/ unlikely. Now add in all the other distros that people use (Mint, SuSE, Fedora, ect) and the chance of a virus/worm/vulnerability spreading drops even more.

4) Very few installs are alike

Lets just take one version of one distro from the above list. Debian Lenny. I probably have more running installs of this version then any of the others. I have a 32bit firewall at home ( based on Debian Lenny. I have a 64bit home computer that is my primary system (web browsing, movies, music, games). I have a 32bit mythtv frontend at home (fluxbox as a GUI instead of Gnome). I have a 64bit install at work (lots of office applications). I have both 32bit and 64bit servers that handle various packages needed at work (one runs MySQL while another runs Apache, neither have a GUI).

There are a lot of differences and these are not all of the Debian Lenny installs that I manage. Some are 32bit while others are 64bit. Not all have GUI’s while others have different GUI’s. Some have office applications while others have games. The only thing common in all of these boxes are the very basic core-functions of Debian.

I am going to do a little experiment. I am going to take 4 boxes; my home system, my work system, one server, and one development desktop. I am going to gather all of the packages installed on each (dpkg –get-selections > box.out) and compare them (sort * | uniq | wc -l). There are 1485 uniq packages.

We can’t just ‘sort|uniq -d’ all of them together as some packages (like vim) are installed on two but not on all four. Plus it will be interesting to see the count as we move through all the boxes one at a time.

The first two systems (sort OfficeSystem.out DevBox.out | uniq -d | wc -l) have 877 duplicate packages.

Add a third system (Home.out) to that and the duplicate packages drop to 815.

Add the last system (Server.out) and we get a final count of 197.

197/1485=13.27% of the packages are the same on all four boxes. This alone proves that the target range for a virus is already really low.

If all the other OS’s disappeared over night and were all replaced with versions of Linux (not saying they will; just /IF/) I absolutely can’t imagine having a virus/worm/trojan spreading as fast or doing as much damage as other OS’s have already experienced.

“But. But. But! This just means Linux is harder to work with! After all, none of the distros are the same and Linux will never gain popularity because it is not cookie-cutter clone. It is too difficult to learn! Programmers will never write for it because it is too different and they can’ account for all the variations. Companies will never support Linux because there are too many versions and they can’t deal with all of them. blah blah blah blah….”

These arguments are complete rubbish. In my above example, since it is all Debian Lenny it is trivial to bring any and all of these systems up to the exact same package install (sort OfficeSystem.out DevBox.out Home.out Server.out | uniq > /tmp/1; dpkg-set-selections < /tmp/1). This is NOT a weakness; this is a strength. I can, and have, customized each of these systems to do the exact job that they are assigned. Nothing more and nothing less. This means they are more efficient and a harder target for attackers.

As for the multiple distros, it is quite uncommon for me to find programs that install on one distro but can not be installed on another. If you are really worried about it (from a programmer/company/user point of view) then just stick with the major distros and you will be fine. I know a LOT of companies that certify on Red Hat and Novell. Even better news is that many companies I work with are beginning to certify on Ubuntu. Once again, this point is completely mute and should have died back in the 90’s when it was actually a concern.

That’s all I got for now. I welcome comments/suggestions.

Just like a basketball team of mutant atomic supermen

1 05 2009

My 64bit Mythbuntu 8.04.2 install has been having some crazy time drifting. It is really weird that the 32bit version keeps perfect time and the 64bit Debian Lenny version keeps perfect time yet the 64bit Mythbuntu 8.04.2 doesn’t. The drift can be upto 10 minutes a day. This means that the NTPd program stops trying to adjust the time so the drift is worse the next day. Not exactly the desired response when trying to make sure “Dirty Jobs” and anything on HGTV are recorded on time (I do not like missing my shows but I would rather mine be missed then have the WAF drop).

At first I thought I found a bug, but the same install disc on a different 64bit system keeps perfect time. I installed openntpd and got rid of ntpd; it seems to have been a good choice. Openntpd sure prints out a lot of details in my syslog (as frequent as once a minute) but my time is usually within half a second (worse I saw over the last few days was -1.8 off).

Someone on the Debian users email list suggested chrony. I might install that on one of the test boxes and see how well it works there before tinkering with my Myth box again (yes, I am a bit afraid to mess with it; it has a /very/ high WAF and I am not risking that at the moment 🙂 ).

Little things in life.

1 05 2009

Isn’t it funny how a trivial event can make you appreciate what you have?

I just spent a bunch of time having to copy links out of an email from within Outlook and pasting them into another application one at a time (long boring story but I couldn’t copy them all at once). When you right click on a link inside Outlook you get Cut (greyed out), Copy (greyed out), Paste (greyed out), Clear (greyed out), Select all (the entire email), Look up, and Translate. This means I have one of two possible methods: 1) clicking each link and letting Firefox open up a tab for me to copy the link or 2) highlighting the entire link and Ctrl+F. The big problem with these is that I either have to bring up each and every webpage or I have to deal with Windows/Outlook doing retarded things with selective sense (AKA within an email in Outlook try highlighting and copying ‘bsolute’ from ‘absolute’; by the time the mouse gets to the end of the word the selection now includes the ‘a’ whether you wanted it or not. PITA!).

So I spent a bunch of time highlighting, copying, pasting, trimming out the random letters that Windows/Outlook decided were part of a word that I somehow failed to realize I need, adding the descriptions of the link, saving, new page, and restart the whole process over.

Then a friend sent me a msg on Pidgin on my Debian Lenny box; A msg with a link in it. I began to highlight the link when I thought “What am I doing? This is Pidgin running in Linux!” So I right clicked the link, selected “Copy Link Location”, and now had the link in a position to paste anywhere I pleased!

Yes, I could have and should have just clicked the link for it to open Iceweasel/Firefox for me. However, after having copied so many links I was kinda already in the thought process of highlight/copy/paste the link. I just think it is funny how such a little and trivial difference can make such an impact. It is just so trivial to right click a link and copy that I never thought I would miss it so dearly later on. It is to me like trying to twist out a screw from a board with pliers. Sure it can be done and I am certain someone will say that it isn’t that much more difficult to do, but a simple tool like a screwdriver will make the task oh so much easier.

On another note: This process was so boring and time consuming that I wrote a Bash script to do it for me. Now when I get these emails (at least on this Outlook client) that need to be catagorized, sorted, and saved all I have to do is copy the email over to a file and run my script. It sorts out the links properly for me so that all I have left to do is just add the description.

I love Linux. 🙂

Well time to get back to work slowly replacing the entire Windows experience with a Bash Shell script.