Why TheSystem and bloggers have a problem

Glyn Moody pointed me to this article:

‘Bloggers’ vs ‘Audience’ is over? or, Will the word ‘blogger’ disappear?

and it lead me to jot down why I think the term writer, author, reader in such discussions really miss the point.

TheSystem, which means the copyright system of publishers, news agencies etc. have a vested interest in keeping us in two worlds. Either you are a producer or a consumer. This makes the media world go round and has been their source of revenue. It all works because in the past it was costly to distribute your product. You had to print books, newspapers, transport them to book stores, little kiosks etc. And so it was natural that the consumer had to pay for it.

Fast forward to the Web Age. With distribution costs close to zero, this old value chain is struggling. And as if that isn’t enough, the consumer does stuff he is not allowed to do – he distributes his own content by using this new system of zero-cost distribution.

So we nowadays have not only a simple top-down market, from producer to consumer, we now have a system with three levels.

We still have producers, stuck in their old value chain, and we still have consumers – willing to pay for the work of the producers, but we now also have ProSumers, people that consume AND produce.

Bloggers are ProSumers. They live in networks of other ProSumers, and they also consume from producers. And this is where the problem starts for the old-.school producers.

As ProSumers remix content they gather, deem interesting, create themselves and distribute that under the same principles – knowing that other ProSumers will remix, the old value chain of Consumer-pays-Producer is under attack.

The old system defends itself with DRM (Digital Restriction Management), putting ProSumers in the same group as pirates and add to that that only real producers (journalists etc.) should be allowed to deliver content to consumers.

And slowly but surely the ProSumers distance themselves from this dying system. With Creative Commons, with Open Source and simply by ignoring the old value chain, they create a parallel system of content creation and distribution.

And this is the real problem. It is as simple as that. It is the value chain

Producer –> Consumer


Producer <--> Prosumer <--> Consumer.

And as long as you try to defend the old chain while combining it with the new system you will fail. Funny thing is that quite some bloggers still see themselves more a producers where they effectively are prosumers.

And the so-called producers of the past have always been prosumers themselves. So as soon as TheSystem accepts the new flow, we will see more creativity and less restriction. If TheSystem fails to adapt, it will die.

A short HOWTO to get laconi.ca running on Fedora 10

Simple, if you know how to do it 🙂


  • Up and running Fedora 10 with web server and mysql server installed (httpd, mysql-server RPM)

1. Get the tarball from http://www.laconi.ca

2. You need to install some RPMs, I ended up with adding these (you might already have most of them installed)

# yum install php-gd t1lib php-mbstring php-xml php-xmpphp \
php-oauth php-pear-Net-SMTP php-pear-Mail php-pear-DB-DataObject \
php-pear-Auth-SASL php-pear-MDB2 php-pear-DB \
php-pear-Net-Socket php-pear-Auth-OpenID php-pear-Net-Curl \
php-pear-Validate php-pear-Date php-pgsql php-bcmath php-pear \

3. You might also need markdown.php which unfortunately doesn’t yet exist as RPM. So get it from http://michelf.com/projects/php-markdown/ while it is hot 😉 The normal version is sufficient. Unzip the file and place markdown.php in your PHP search path (mine lives in /usr/share/php)

4. I placed my laconica installation in /var/www/html/laconica, so just untar the tarball in that directory, rename the directory if needed/wanted.

5. Create the database, database user and set the rights accordingly:

# mysql -uroot -p -e 'create database laconica';
# mysql -uroot -p -e "grant all privileges on laconica.* to laconica@localhost identified by 'PASSWORD'";

6. Now call http://localhost/laconica/install.php and finish the installation.

Done. Have fun with microblogging.

Short encrypted SD Card HOWTO for Fedora 10

Just in case you also want to use encryption and you have a SD card. Here’s what I did, step-by-step, to create a simple setup with:

  • 16 GB SD Card
  • 2 partitions, one unencrypted for simpla data exchange, one encrypted for secure storage

So here we go. Insert the SD Card. It probably is preformatted with FAT. Unmount it the usual way and open a root shell. Using fdisk, create two partitions, save the new partition table.

First thing is simple. Assuming your SD-Card is recognized as mmcblk1, format the first partition with either VFAT or ext2 – I use ext2, since I have no Microsoft boxes to exchange data with anyway:

# mke2fs /dev/mmcblk1p1

Cool. Now we need to make the second partition an encrypted block device with:

# cryptsetup luksFormat /dev/mmcblk1p2

However, this only creates the container. Next we need to open it with the password we just gave it to be able to put a filesystem in there:

# cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/mmcbkl1p2 NAME

This creates a device mapper entry using NAME, so now we can finally format the encrypted partition with:

# mke2fs /dev/mapper/NAME

Now we shutdown the LUKS entry as we will take the card out:

# cryptsetup remove NAME

Done. Remove the card, insert it again. A password dialog should pop up and when you enter the correct password, you can access the device. The final step is to change the permissions on the filesystem to make sure you can always write to it.

# chmod -R 777 /media/disk-1

Happy hacking with secure storage!

Working Dual Screen for my Aspire One with Fedora 10

OK, so I wanted to use my Aspire One to do presentations. However – getting dual screen to work was quite a lot of work.

I found a simple solution, which I am going to outline step-by-step for your convenience. This is all based on Fedora 10, 32bit, fully updated.

Result will be:

  • External VGA runs with 1024×768 @ 60 Hz, good enough for most projectors out there, with a single click
  • The display of the Aspire stays fully usable
  • The GNOME panels stay on the laptop

So step by step.

First – open a root shell because we will do some evil hacks.

We need to create an xorg.conf file, which normally doesn’t exist. so type

# Xorg -configure :1

Don’t be surprised. Your screen will flicker around. After a few seconds you will find a new file in your directory called xorg.conf.new. Copy tis file to the X11 directory:

# cp xorg.conf.new /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Now we need to make a few changes. First we need to switch down to 16 bit colors, due to the limited graphic memory of my Aspire One. Second we need to create a bigger virtual screen.

So find the section called

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Screen0"
Device     "Card0"
Monitor    "Monitor0"

Right there add a line with

Default Depth 16

This forces X to use 16bit colors, making sure the extended display will fit in the 8 MB of graphic memory.

Now go down in xorg.conf and find the section

SubSection "Display"
Viewport   0 0
Depth     16

And add a line with

Virtual 2048 2048

so the whole section looks like this:

SubSection "Display"
Viewport   0 0
Depth     16
Virtual 2048 2048

OK. Done with that part. Now the next part. We want to make sure that we can switch the layout in a very simple way. I am pragmatic. So no fancy GUI or stuff. What I need is to be able to present. So when I hook up a projector, I want to switch the VGA to a fixed 1024×768 resolution at 60 Hertz. This is compatible with most projectors. So I wrote a little shellscript that also makes sure that the top and bottom panels are at the right place – on my laptop.

I stored this under /usr/local/bin/vgaswitch:

/usr/bin/xrandr | grep "VGA connected"
if [ $? = 0 ] ; then
echo "VGA connected, setting VGA to 1024x768 @ 60 Hz"
/usr/bin/xrandr --output LVDS --auto --output VGA --mode 1024x768 --rate 60 --right-of LVDS
# Now move the panels back to the laptop screen
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/bottom_panel/monitor" --type integer "1"
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel/monitor" --type integer "1"
echo "No VGA connected, back to single screen"
/usr/bin/xrandr --output LVDS --auto --output VGA --off
# Now move the panels back to the laptop screen
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/bottom_panel/monitor" --type integer "0"
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel/monitor" --type integer "0"

Make the script executable with a chmod a+x /usr/local/bin/vgaswitch

The final step is to add a new panel launcher that calls the script. Done.

So now when I hook up a projector, I click on the icon that calls the script and – TADAAA! Remove the VGA cable, click it again, all back to normal. I am happy now 🙂

NetworkManager “Connection Established” annoyance SOLVED

So when you are running a GNOME Desktop and you frequently change locations/network connections, you might get annoyed by the “Connection Established” popup/balloon tip.

I did 🙂

So I solved it. At least with Fedora 10. Shoudl work the same with Ubuntu etc.

For the graphical guys:

  • Start Applications -> System Tools -> Configuration Editor (which really is gconf-editor)
  • Find the Entry /apps/nm-applet/
  • Add a new key called  disable-connected-notifications, type boolean and set it to TRUE
  • Restart NetworkManager (open a root shell, type service NetworkManager restart)
  • DONE

Whenever your network changes, the applet will show its cool anomations but will not bother you with popups.

Me, Fedora 10 and my Acer Aspire One A110L – Happy

So I did it. I took 199 € and got myself a Netbook. I went shopping in the Munich Bermuda Triangle, where you find something like 10 shops, all fighting with eachother over the lowest price.

Walking thorugh all shops, comparing price, performance, design, I finally settled on the Acer Aspire One A110L – 512 MB RAM, 1024×600 screen, 8 GB of SSD, in white.

It gets delivered with Linpus, a Fedora derivative. Ofcourse I didn’t like it. So I put a standard Fedora 10 on the box. With the help of some pages across the internet, some studying and some use of my own knowledge, I am now quite happy with the setup.

Suspend/resume is a snap out of the box. Close the lid – sleep. Open the lid, press the power button, login after three seconds. I like it. I tweaked the font size and some other stuff, but in fact I did nothing special.

Upcoming mods:

  • RAM upgrade to 1.5 GB
  • Bigger battery
  • Find a cool sleeve
  • Mythtv and Totem, so I can watch my recordings

I am happy, finally a cool netbook that is mine and I can take everywhere 🙂