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Google Releases Android 5.0 Lollipop SDK and Nexus Preview Images

rwa2 Re:Just make it fast (77 comments)

Yes it's faster, since they're migrating from the Dalvik JIT runtime to the new ART precompiled app runtime.
But actually, you don't really have to wait for Android 5 to hit your device, it's been buried in the developer options dialog since 4.2.2 http://www.cultofandroid.com/5...

Hit our Nexus 4 and 5 with this yesterday after reading about it in an arstechnica comment... they're much snappier opening and switching between apps now.

3 days ago
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New Music Discovered In Donkey Kong For Arcade

rwa2 Re:Using a Java plugin to play audio files... (74 comments)

Eh, the <embed> audio tag has been around since nearly the beginning of HTML, it seems apropos to be using the old arcane tools to do this bit of audio archaeology.

3 days ago
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Favorite clickbait hook?

rwa2 Re:15 Reasons Ron Klain Will Be The Best Ebola Cza (203 comments)

I built up a resistance to "Top X lists" as crappy journalism a long time ago.

But the clickbait that always gets to me is the addon: "(Number Y is the best!!)"

Fortunately, resistance is not futile.

4 days ago
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Tesla Teardown Reveals Driver-facing Electronics Built By iPhone 6 Suppliers

rwa2 two or three Tegras? (155 comments)

"powered by two 3, 1.4Ghz, quad-core NVIDIA Tegra processors"

Couldn't find those details in TFA, but from (the much more readable) article at: http://recode.net/2014/10/14/w...

seems to imply that should read:

"powered by two 1.4Ghz, quad-core NVIDIA Tegra processors"

4 days ago
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How English Beat German As the Language of Science

rwa2 Re:WWII proably didn't help much either (323 comments)

There are a lot of interesting citations coming back from a search for "von Braun surrender Christian", and there seems to be a fair amount of revisionist history efforts to color him one way or the other, ranging from " von Braun was Lutheran but never talked about it or practiced it and didn't go to church" to "von Braun was a devout Creationist with many published treatises on the matter". But yeah, can't discount the practical considerations over the ideological ones.

Another entertaining tangent is whether Hitler's invasion of Russia was just his attempt at saving the Russians from Stalin, who did a remarkable job offing his own citizens. We actually met some white Russians (the Russian Orthodox tsarists who fled their homeland to the US after the Bolshevik revolution) who were actually on Hitler's side of the conflict, reasoning that if he freed the Russians from communism they might be able to return home.

about a week ago
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How English Beat German As the Language of Science

rwa2 Re:WWII proably didn't help much either (323 comments)

And yet the funny / ironic thing is the Werner von Braun orchestrated a surrender of his team to the US instead of the rapidly advancing Russian forces due to religious reasons... he would prefer the German rocket scientists fall into the hands of Christians instead of atheists.

The ensuing space race / cold war could have turned out much differently.

about a week ago
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When will the first successful manned Mars mission happen?

rwa2 Re: Missing option (218 comments)

The US may be transitioning to an intellectual property based economy, but for now, most of our international policy is tied to oil. This guy makes a good case for how that has been driving our military actions : http://scgnews.com/the-geopoli...

about a week ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Can't Google Block Spam In Gmail?

rwa2 Re:Juggle multiple gmail accounts (261 comments)

er, can those come with semi-disposable google voice phone numbers too? That said, I haven't had the need to dispose of any of them yet... I only see 2-3 mails going into the SPAM folder per day (though some of them are false positives).

One of my coworkers does use GV for dating sites, though, so it's easier for him to disappear if one of his hookups doesn't work out or turns out to be crazy.

about a week ago
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Password Security: Why the Horse Battery Staple Is Not Correct

rwa2 Re:Oh great (546 comments)

"Love is beautiful, like birds that sing." is more secure than "Lib,lbts". Why are you making your password less secure?

Er, you made my password less secure, Mr. Insightful... it was: L15b,lb+s.Lin|_|,lriapo\/ . Just keep going through the poem until you have as few or as many entropy bytes as you need/like, and/or spell out as much of each word in each verse as you want (though the less it looks like something you'd read the better). But thanks for leading everyone down a tangent anyways ;-)

about a week ago
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Password Security: Why the Horse Battery Staple Is Not Correct

rwa2 Re:Oh great (546 comments)

This. Yes, merely changing the word "password" to "passphrase" already gets people to use better options.

And for all of the silly ways to come up with half-decent passphrases that are both easy to remember and hard to attack with both dictionary and brute-force attacks, I like the nursery rhyme / song lyric approach. So think of some poetry you like, and assemble your passphrase from bits and pieces of it like so:

"Love is beautiful, like birds that sing.
Love is not ugly, like rats in a puddle of vomit." - John S. Hall
=> Lib,lbts.Linu,lriapov

Bam, a half-decent passphrase that's easy to remember. Maybe you'd even 133+ify it a bit to add as many "special" characters and numbers as you need:
L15b,lb+s.Lin|_|,lriapo\/

And the best part, is when you need to rotate passphrases every 90 days or so, you can just go on to the next verse. Also, it helps put you in a good mood when you start at work, depending on how much you like your choice in poetry.

Of course, the hardest part is not to start singing as you log in.

about a week ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Can't Google Block Spam In Gmail?

rwa2 Juggle multiple gmail accounts (261 comments)

GMail makes it ridiculously easy to set up and use multiple email accounts for different purposes. Here's my setup:

Initials.UniqueChars@gmail.com - this is the account I use to sign up for random internet things. It's fairly anonymous and disposable.

Initials.MoreUniqueChars@gmail.com - an account for "important" internet things, like online stores, internet banking, purchasing apps, and other stuff that is a bit more sensitive than what's good for the throwaway account. Also might use this for various mailing lists.

Real.Name@gmail.com - I only use this to talk to actual people. This is also tied with my Google+ account that I use to share photos. If you're well-disciplined (and have almost no friends like me), then this hardly gets any blather at all.

As a side bonus, I pretty much turn off notifications for everything except the Real.Name account, so my phone isn't "pinging" all of the time unless some human is really trying to reach me.

The second hardest part is just keeping up the discipline of using the right account for the right purpose.
The hardest part is dealing with all of the people who have completely abandoned email due to their inability to keep their email sorted, and figuring out whether to reach them via Skype/HipChat/IRC/Facebook/Twitter/SMS instead.

about a week ago
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FBI Says It Will Hire No One Who Lies About Illegal Downloading

rwa2 Re:Ok, but (578 comments)

eh, even spies are OK, as long as they don't get caught. Or if they do get caught, the FBI isn't blamed for letting them in. It's government. The most important tenet is CYA. It's valuable to have people who can convince others that they've done everything right "by the book" and have done no wrong.

about two weeks ago
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FBI Says It Will Hire No One Who Lies About Illegal Downloading

rwa2 Re:Ok, but (578 comments)

Just means the FBI will only be hiring people who are good at lying about wrongdoing. Which is probably really more useful and what they want in the long run.

about two weeks ago
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Accurate broadband speed test?

rwa2 speedtest.net ? (2 comments)

What's wrong with http://speedtest.net/ ?

Also http://broadbandreports.com/ seemed like a pretty impartial site for comparing ISPs, at least back in the day when I was shopping.

You could also roll your own using AWS to run netpipe to get fairly comprehensive results using different ports and types of traffic.

about two weeks ago
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Robotic Taster Will Judge 'Real Thai Food'

rwa2 Re:I measure taste like a food critic (103 comments)

Thanks to Dahan for the link to a good thai dictionary! Maybe the phrase I used was just a colloquialism my family uses in Bangkok... I know I've used it to ask for the condiments carousel in many Thai restaurants all over, though. And yes, sriracha isn't common in Thai restaurants, I couldn't remember the name of the "red stuff" at the time, I guess it's just called "garlic chili sauce"

The engine/ingredients part wasn't as interesting as the "fillup" part, though... it makes it sound like the dish isn't complete without it.
http://www.thai-language.com/i...

Contrasting that with the western thought that additional seasoning is entirely optional, or that you'd even insult the chef by using it.

about three weeks ago
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Robotic Taster Will Judge 'Real Thai Food'

rwa2 Re:I measure taste like a food critic (103 comments)

Real Thai food has a strong balance of all flavors. I've never seen a good use of radar charts in engineering, but I think they'd be perfectly suited for assessing good Thai food which would have components to fill out the entire spectrum of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy, savory, crunchy, chewy, etc. in a similar way that good Japanese food tries to throw in something of each primary color when arranging a dish.

As a case study, I present a common northern Thai appetizer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... , which illustrates this simply and perfectly, and is even presented like a radar chart. You combine each of the fresh and basic ingredients in roughly equal proportions to contribute to the package:
* sweet tamarind sauce for tang and to provide moisture
* sliced bird's eye peppers for sharp heat
* lime wedges (with rinds) for sour and bitter
* peanuts and fried coconuts to provide just enough crunch and crisp
* onion for some tear-inducing fumes
* ginger for some zing
* shrimp for chewy
* leaf to hold it all together

So I think a the tasting robot is a great start at characterizing the spectrum of flavor and texture and coming out with a signature of what kind of foods is more "Thai-like" than others, similar to how Pandora or whatever creates musical signatures to categorize sounds. Won't replace a human, but will help codify the process and bring you "close enough" to finding more of what you want.

Tourists focus on the spicy stuff, probably because that's the flavor they're least accustomed to. When Thai restaurants open in the US, they tone down the spice and everything else, and crank up the sugar and syrup, because, well, that's what americans are most dull to. Pad Thai, the staple of americanized thai cooking, is rarely eaten by natives in Thailand.

Another interesting cultural point... Western cooking expects the chef to have seasoned the dish to taste, and the cook would tend to get offended if you drown their dishes in salt / pepper or condiments like ketchup. In Thailand, however, the condiments are referred to as "krueng therm" (literally "engine fillup") and come with a wide variety of fixins... salt , pepper, sugar, sriracha, soy sauce, "orange" sauce with peppers, peppers in lime juice, crushed peanuts, etc. (GIS for "Thai condiments caddy). So back to the radar chart, the condiments are provided to help you push each spectrum and "fill out" the chart to as wide as you can handle.

about three weeks ago
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Small Restaurant Out-Maneuvers Yelp In Reviews War

rwa2 Re:The review ecosystem is good and truly broken.. (249 comments)

Pretty neat... I thought the online reviewing space was going the "reputation" route, becoming more "social" by allowing more highly weighting reviews from people in your group of friends (as well as entries in your "feeds" when friends visit a place). This seems to be the route of stuff like Foursquare... and... well, other similar services that I ignore because I don't have a very extensive network of friends who dine at the same sorts of places I go to.

The other route is to just have a place with reputable journalistic integrity do the reviews, which works OK in big cities. But then you pretty much have to know which journal to use in each major metro area, and deal with the reviews possibly being a year or two out of date. And, of course, probably little to no app integration with your favorite map search engine. http://www.washingtonian.com/s... is a great example for the DC area; we'd pretty much cycle through the entire "Cheap Eats" and "Dirt Cheap Eats" section for nearby neighborhoods, and maybe a few of the "100 best" for special occasions.

Other than that, I really do like Yelp for local recommendations, and have had great experiences using it. So much so that I downloaded the app when Google Maps switched from Yelp to Zagat for local search.

As an aside, I tried to like Zagat, even paid for a subscription back in the PalmOS days. But ultimately, Zagat reviews and ratings always seemed to be biased too much towards decor and not at all enough towards food quality, authenticity, and "interestingness", which Yelp excels in.

So it does suck to hear that Yelp is starting to extort business owners for listing good reviews, since I do make go/no-go decisions based on relative rankings. I dunno, maybe Yelp could start charging users extra for "journalistic integrity" mode that turns off some of their extortion effects, while the "free tier" of user gets rankings based more on advertising.

Anyway, articles like this do make me upset with Yelp. But a lot of places do seem to have yelp sticker on their window, so perhaps it's just part of the cost of doing business these days. I applaud this italian joint for lashing out against it in an entertaining way, and I'll start searching for some of the lowest reviewed places too, since I mostly use Yelp to find the exceptional places anyways.

about a month ago
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Is It Time To Split Linux Distros In Two?

rwa2 Re:Already Happened (282 comments)

Not only has this already happened, but the server-side of Linux looked at the new features introduced by Android / ChromeOS and decided they wanted some of that too.

So now you have CoreOS formed based on the features of ChromeOS as a nice way to run and maintain Docker containers in a server cluster. So much for forking desktop and server Linux.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...

You can compile and run GNU utilities on Android (and likely ChromeOS as well).
https://play.google.com/store/...

granted, it's in a chroot environment, but whatever. Have the best of both worlds, but only when you want it.

about a month and a half ago

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Android 4.0 ICS on ViewSonic G-Tablet using TeamDRH

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 2 years ago So VeganTab 7.1.0 (Android 2.3 Gingerbread) still appears to provide better app compatibility and performance, but it looks like the Android 4.0-based TeamDRH ROM is getting close in functionality!
I just installed the Beta 1.1 release, and it's making my G-Tablet run real nice. They ship with a 1.2 Ghz overclock option, and the Quadrant scores are better now, in between the Samsung Nexus and Samsung Galaxy. (The VeganTab ROM blew away both of them with a 1.4Ghz overclock).
Still a few issues I've reported:

  • Had to kill DSPManager to get audio working:
    mount -o remount,rw /system
    mv /system/app/DSPManager.apk /system/app/DSPManager.disabled
    reboot
  • Had to uninstall a bunch of background apps / widgets to free up enough RAM for everything to run smoothly. ICS really expects to have 1GB of RAM, so need to lose some weight to get good performance on 512MB :-/ Use an app like "OS Monitor" to see what's running and sort by memory usage.
  • My main goal is to get one of the full Linux distros installed in a chroot, but the TeamDRH kernel doesn't have loop block devices enabled.
  • A few apps don't run yet, like "Leo's RC Simulator", but I suspect they haven't ported to ICS yet.
  • ICS changed the way the internal sdcard can be shared with the PC, and I can't get the new way working :-P So now it's kinda a pain to transfer large files / backups.

But aside from that, I'm rocking out.

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Running commands on many remote hosts using ssh and xargs

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  about 4 years ago

There are a few different ways to run commands on groups or clusters of remote nodes, depending upon how complex the command.

Assuming your machines are named "node01" - "node10" :

# Run a command in parallel on all remote nodes
# results come back in random order as they are received.
pdsh â"w "node[01-22]" df

# pdsh allows some more complex listings of hosts
pdsh â"w "node04,node[06-09]" reboot

# Run a command sequentially on all remote nodes
# slow, but results come back in order
seq â"w 1 22 | xargs â"I '{}' ssh node'{}' df

# Run a command in parallel on all remote nodes without pdsh
seq â"w 1 22 | xargs â"P 22 â"I '{}' ssh node'{}' df

# Run a command in parallel needing pipes on the remote host
# Otherwise, pipes are processed locally
seq â"w 1 22 | xargs â"P 22 â"I '{}' ssh node'{}' \
"ps afx > \`hostname\`.txt"

# Run a command in parallel needing root
# sudo requires a tty, hence we pop up xterm windows
seq â"w 1 22 | xargs â"P 22 â"I '{}' xterm â"e \
"ssh -t node'{}' sudo gdm-restart"

# Run a command in parallel needing root and pipes on the remote host
seq â"w 1 22 | xargs â"P 22 â"I '{}' xterm â"e \
"ssh -t node'{}' sudo bash â"c \"echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches\""

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Using readahead to speed up disk loading times of any application

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  about 4 years ago

Here's a way to get a list of files read by any application, so you can use readahead to preload those files optimally from disk:

CMD=firefox
strace -fe open $CMD 2>&1 | sed 's/.*open("\(.*\)".*/\1/' > $CMD.preload

# you can sift through that $CMD.preload file to look for things that don't belong

readahead $CMD.preload # preloads all those files into cache

time $CMD # should now start quite a bit faster, without much disk activity

## to clear disk cache as root (useful for testing / benchmarking)
echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

If it works, you might want to append the contents of the .preload files for your commonly-used apps to /etc/readahead.d/default.later , so they are automatically loaded on startup (RAM size permitting)

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tangoGPS - alternative to Google Maps Mobile on Linux devices

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

So back when I had a Blackberry for work, the one app I really got addicted to was Google Maps Mobile. I basically stopped ever planning for travels. I would hop in the car or get off an airplane, think "now what?" and whip out the device and within a minute or two have directions to some place I've never been to before or a list of the nearest restaurants with a smattering of reviews.

Unfortunately, gmm only supports a handful of devices, most of which I'm not interested in. It won't install on my lousy Samsung t629 phone (which I hate, but Opera Mini helps me tolerate). I have a really old version of gmm on my Palm TX which works great, but doesn't support GPS. I almost bought a Nokia N900 to replace my various gadgets, but then I accidentally my old car and had to buy a new one, so took myself out of the preorder queue.

Which lead to my long protracted search for some kind of mobile mapping software for our eeePC 901 running eeebuntu. GPSdrive looked promising, but I couldn't quite get it to work with my iBT bluetooth GPS, or to even scroll out of Germany for that matter. Google Earth sort of worked, but the fonts and Z-buffer were wonky, and my previous experience hooking Google Earth Plus to a GPS wasn't actually all that stellar. I even tried running the Android SDK so I could try installing GMM in the emulator, and also installed androidx86, but alas, gmm wasn't an option in their stripped-down app repositories.

Finally after many google searches, I found tangogps while simply mucking around in aptitude. I was very impressed with both the simplicity of the user interface and the power of all of the features... In addition to supporting several different map sets out of the box (including an "for testing only" google satellite maps scraper), it also has a friend-finder database similar to Google Latitude, and better yet some of the trip meter features I missed from Garmin devices. Plus the inclusion of sources such as the opencyclemap db makes it more useful to me than GMM was. It's also possible to download tiles over a region in advance for offline viewing.

I now have my eeePC linked via bluetooth to both the iBT GPS and my Samsung t629 phone to download tiles from T-mobile's network using my $10/mo. web2go plan. Unfortunately, it doesn't support search yet, but does have rudimentary routing and directions. But it does give me just what I've really wanted -- an overhead moving map display.

Someday I hope Google will make GMM available for "real" computing devices, maybe on ChromeOS or Androidx86 or better yet just as a standard java app (yes, I also looked into installing the Sun Java micro development environment and generic phone emulator, but it looked like a real mess to get things installed and then somehow connected to a real GPS). Or at least porting to the Maemo platform so it would run on the N900 and friends. But barring that, I think I can make do with tangoGPS until I maybe succumb to one of the newer Android 2 devices due out this year.

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Palm T5 - TX touchscreen transplant

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

I don't know why I hadn't thought of this sooner. My Palm TX had a pretty broken touchscreen, with large unresponsive areas in the middle of the screen and in the graffiti area. I had been coping with this for years... writing really small and frustrated graffiti in the corners, and creatively using various combinations of presses around the edges to activate buttons in the middle with touchscreen averaging.

But after replacing the broken screen in my wife's eeePC a few weeks ago (it was only $50 for a beautiful new glossy screen) I thought I might try buying a replacement Palm touchscreen (which go for about $20-$30 and include the special * screwdriver). Then I remembered that I had my old broken Palm T5 lying around, which still had a nice working touchscreen. I don't know why I assumed they wouldn't be compatible earlier...

Anyway, the small bit on my leatherman fits the Palm T* screws fine, and after a bit of drunken internal surgery, the transplant was complete. My Palm TX has a new lease on life, with a nicely calibrated touchscreen and hard buttons on the front that work consistently now.

Of course, now I have to invest in some better protective gear to keep it that way... my jacket pocket just contributes too much lint.

Unfortunately, the power button still doesn't work, but there are apps to compensate for that, like PowerBtn or OffStroke.

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Mirrored RAID read performance, where art thou?

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  about 5 years ago

Back before mdadm (in the days of mkraid), the Linux RAID1 driver used to give you a performance boost when reading from a mirrored array. Essentially, from 2 mirrored disks, it would read half the data from each disk and give you the whole thing almost twice as fast. At some point, they decided to change that behavior so reads would only be performed from one drive at a time. There was still some small performance boost... it would decrease average seek latency a bit by reading from the hard disk spindle that was physically closer to the sector to be read. And maybe it allowed concurrent reads, so one process could read a file from one disk while another process read a file from the secondary disk... but for some reason, that doesn't seem to increase your overall throughput by anywhere close to a factor of 2... more like 1.3 from my brief testing (and I suspect most of that gain was probably due to disk cache rather than parallel reads).

But after reading a few different Linux RAID sites today, it looks like that you can get that kind of performance boost again out of mirrored arrays by using RAID10,f2 ( --profile far=2 )! And even though it's called RAID10, it even works on arrays as small at 2 disks. It basically works by striping your data across the first half of your drives, and then striping the mirror of that data across the second half. This appears to decrease write performance by about 5% compared to RAID1 or RAID10 near=2 (the default), but the read performance finally increases again not only due to striping, but also because your disk heads now stay near the faster outer rings of your disk drives, and only has to dive down to the inner rings for mirroring writes.

So I'm pretty excited about this since I've kinda been annoyed by it for the past few year. Except that of course I now have to rebuild all my RAID1 and RAID10 arrays to use the far=2 profile :P

Here are links to some of the more useful sites with data:
http://linux-raid.osdl.org/index.php/Performance
http://blog.jamponi.net/2007/12/some-raid10-performance-numbers.html
http://home.comcast.net/~jpiszcz/raid/20080528/raid-levels.html

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SwiftWeasel

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 5 years ago

I am liking Swiftweasel, it is noticeably faster than Iceweasel / Firefox on Linux, especially on netbooks like my eeepc 901 running eeebuntu.

Unfortunately, the deb repository for it is somewhat old (v3.0.3), and current .tgz builds from sourceforge are somewhat old as well (v3.0.5 for x86, and v3.0.6 for x86-64, whereas the current iceweasel / firefox is at v3.0.7). I kinda wish SticKK of the SwiftWeasel Project would post more instructions on how to build swiftweasel from current iceweasel sources.

Until then, I've seen that "about:buildconfig" can be used to identify the compiler and options used. When I get a chance, I'd like to try grabbing the iceweasel deb-src and modifying the build options to match. Don't see anything in there about how to enable Profile Guided Optimization (PGO) which is necessary to make *nix builds of firefox javascript run as fast as Windows builds, as mentioned at this firefox benchmarking site.

Oddly enough, I ran the SunSpider javascript benchmarking suite under both Swiftweasel and Iceweasel, and Swiftweasel actually took a tad longer. I feels much snappier in day-to-day use though, probably because of some of the FasterFox extension options. The default vanilla Iceweasel on the eeepc typically pauses for a second or two on new page loads.

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Web 2.0 Micro blogging howto

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 5 years ago Facebook seems to have suddenly hit critical mass in my friends-and-acquaintances sphere of influence. I don't really like Facebook... social engines like OKCupid and Orkut seem more fun, relevant, and informative. While Facebook seems cold and quite pointless for the most part (most of the activities involve "pokes"... exchange of vampire bites? water fights?). But it does seem to have the largest networked community going for it at the moment. It's filling the gap created by Classmates, allowing people to connect with their long-lost school peers in ways that other countries with more successful implementations of "classmates" services have enjoyed for years (such as the Russian Odnaklassniki.ru)

Anyway, I found this Mashup guide very useful in setting up Facebook and Livejournal and Twitter so they all kinda cross-post to each other. Now if only there was a way to plug my slashdot journal into the fray as well.... hmmmm

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Eee PC 901 FTW FWIW

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Picked up the black Asus Eee PC 901 20GB for my wife Sofia, to replace her 700Mhz Apple iBook. She's always been a Mac person since working for Yearbook in high school, but I finally broke her of it by buying one of her own after we got married. She's really liking the Eee PC, both for the form factor and their Linux OS. She's never been a Windows person, and on the Mac all she used was Firefox and NeoOffice to work on her MS and PhD coursework in education, so the transition to Linux has been pretty straightforward.

We still have a few quirks with their custom install of Xandros Linux to figure out, which I'll try to record here as I go along.

I'd like to replace the AsusLauncher desktop with a straight IceWM desktop + menu at some point. But since it's for my wife, I don't really want to go too overboard with customizing it.

Also need to figure out the best way to expand the root dir so we can install more software. We're getting the Grad Student edition of SPSS 16 for one of her courses this year, thankfully they sell a Linux port.

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Keyboard

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Just picked up a Casio WK-110 keyboard for my kids' piano lessons. Toy 'R' Us has them on clearance for $130, down from $200. They must be making way for the new WK-120 model. Hopefully this can tide us over for a while until we can get a nicer digital piano with pedals and hammer action, which usually run in the $500 - $800 range.

My old Yamaha PortaSound that we had been using finally broke... or at least it's at the point where it can only play drums while on battery power. I've had it with me for the better part of two decades. But the keys were small and didn't have any kind of touch response.

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Nokia 6021 resurrected

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

My Nokia 6021 died the other day. Of course my wife blamed me for swapping my battery with the nearly dead one in her phone so I could use her camera to take some snaps of a family gathering.

I originally picked up an unlocked Nokia 6021 in particular because it was the only tri-band international GSM phone that supported EDGE & bluetooth, but had no built-in camera so I could take it to work. I wish the american GSM providers would figure out that there's a market for this beyond those blackberry devices. I prefer keeping my PDAs and cell phones separate so I could upgrade them independently, thank you. Plus, I typically get a better overall feature set out of $200 cell phone + a $200 PDA compared to the leading $600 "smartphone" of the time.

So the symptoms of my Nokia mobile's demise was a crash on bootup... I'd hit the power button and the screen would just flash white and then shut off again. Once in a blue moon, I could get the thing to boot up a little past the bootup screen, but it would crash again while building the menu. I could also convince the battery to charge to full, so it wasn't a low battery problem.

I pried the thing open and removed the 6 screws holding it together. Inspecting the circuitboard near the main battery contacts, I noticed a tiny little XH414X battery cell that showed signs of corrosion. Nokia had welded it to its battery contacts, so with nothing to lose (I never bother with warranties, esp. with my ~$200 price cap on most of my personal electronics), I simply twisted it out with a pair of needlenose pliers. Afterwards, the phone booted up and worked fine, and remembered all of my memory settings... everything except for the time!

So this little permanently-attached watch battery is apparently a little time bomb waiting to incapacitate your Nokia phone. I suppose mine died early due to the corrosion... I'd be the first to admit that my children and my pocket provide a pretty rough operating environment for my gear. But it's still a bit unnerving that they expect you to upgrade your phone after however many years that battery would last. But since the phone works with the internal clock battery dead, I'm not sure what to think. It's not much of an inconvenience, and my phone offers to set the time from the network on bootup anyway, so it would only be a problem if my main battery died and got replaced while I was stuck in a cave. Perhaps I just hit a weird failure mode where the corroded battery was feeding back some strange voltage that the Nokia engineers didn't expect from a normally dying watch cell.

Anyway, it has vaguely inconvenienced me for a few days while I was on international travel, but here's hoping someone will find this information useful in debugging their related Nokia phone troubles.

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opie on an iPaq h5450

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 10 years ago I suppose I should use this space to write about technology.

I got an iPaq h5450 from work, and after toying with PocketPC 2002 for a while (didn't want to shell out the 30 bucks or whatever to upgrade to PocketPC 2003, even if it would make the built-in wifi & bluetooth work), I immediately got around to the task of installing the Linux distributions from handhelds.org on it.

It took a few weeks to play with all of the options, however, because the documentation is in shambles. I finally got the bootloader installed from an Win2k machine, and got the bootloader to install the gtk 'lite' over X 'lite' -based GPE through the RS-232 serial cradle using minicom on a Linux machine.

GPE was neat, but had a few usability issues, so I eventually backed it up (using rsync over a ppp connection) and went to the embedded Qt -based opie. I'm pretty happy with Opie. I tend to be biased towards the more idealistic gnome/gtk/gnu guys than the more pragmatic kde/qt people, but the opie app software was visibly better engineered from the user perspective.

First thing I noticed about each project was that I had to update from the unstable sources to get any decent functionality. Mostly because my hardware is relatively new, but also because the unstable apps just worked better. No big surprise there, esp. with projects under heavy development.

Though OPIE won't just run any minimally-ported X application like GPE will, the application set it does have serves my needs well, with things to handle web browsing (a stripped-down konqueror), a nice terminal with multiple session management and shortcuts to common commands, and VNC.

Just about all of the hardware works, except maybe that fingerprint reader. Most needed manual configuration, though. I have to configure the wifi card using ifconfig and wconfig on each boot and wake from sleep. Many of the FAQs are pretty dated. For the longest time I was led to believe that SD cards didn't work, but I finally stumbled across the right module to load buried in /lib/modules. But I am happy enough that the hardware support is there, even if I have to launch a script to get it to work every time. Looks like the OPIE GUI autoconfig tools are changing rapidly, though, so this will hopefully be behind us in a few months.

Still have some annoying problems. Every few weeks, it locks up hard, and I have to do several hard resets, removing the battery and everything to get it to boot. Fortunately, nothing permanent is stored in volatile memory (unlike in MS PocketPC), so this doesn't result in data loss.

I still end up primarily using my aging Visor Pro, since there's still a lot more useful/indispensible PalmOS software out there (HandyShopper, Progect, Mapopolis, etc.), but I'm hoping to get POSE working on the iPaq eventually. Also need to get multisync working enough to migrate my PIM info over. As for offline web browsing, it looks like JPluck + OPIEReader will fit the bill for what I had been using Avantgo & Plucker for. After that, I should finally be ready to ditch my Visor, but don't hold your breath :P

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