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Investigation: Apple Failing To Protect Chinese Factory Workers

rwa2 Re:Fix it teechnically. (191 comments)

Hey apple, use your own products to fix this mess.

They did... all of their products are completely sealed and unserviceable. Otherwise you'd be opening them up and finding all of the "Help! I'm trapped in a Chinese iPhone factory!" messages inside.

2 days ago

Quantum Physics Just Got Less Complicated

rwa2 Re:Isn't that obvious? (192 comments)

I'm not sure I see what you did there...

Oh, now I do. Not sure where you're going with this, though..

2 days ago

what is best way to build a site for course content dissemination?

rwa2 Moodle (2 comments)

I've set up these moodle sites for my wife for her classes:

It's a snap to set up, and can be as simple or featureful as you're comfortable with. She says it's a lot easier to use than the commercial options like Blackboard as well, so she would use our own Moodle site even when her schools had some other thing paid for and available.

As for my own volunteer classes, I just rock it old school with an html page on my server in emacs in a persistent screen session.

3 days ago

Top Five Theaters Won't Show "The Interview" Sony Cancels Release

rwa2 Re:... or a brilliant PR move. (580 comments)

So the irony is that I actually worked for Disney for a few years. So yes, I did go to the theater to see some of their stuff in the past decade, but only because the company gave us tickets for lack of any other perks in our area. And yes, I do get caught up by watching movies on long airplane trips every so often, so I did see parts of Gravity and Elysium and Transformers and the thing with Smaug. But the discount airline we fly has a really crappy DVR system that apparently can't handle VBR streams very well, so it would just start stuttering and skipping over any action sequences with lots of motion.

Yeah, I don't have a TV either, so the other irony is that I worked on designing and building multi-million dollar AV systems for distributed Command and Control theaters.

But whatever, it doesn't count since we spent plenty of time binge-watching serials back when we had Netflix, so just forget I said anything that might have obliquely supported the bit about the PR move :P

3 days ago

Top Five Theaters Won't Show "The Interview" Sony Cancels Release

rwa2 ... or a brilliant PR move. (580 comments)

I don't know what this movie is, and I don't follow or watch movies in general, but I suddenly almost want to find out more about this movie is all about now.


4 days ago

NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities For Venus Exploration

rwa2 Re:As with all space missions: (198 comments)

I hate to bring politics into a science discussion, but unfortunately politics is what determines funding. And politics is what put humans on the moon.

Yes, putting humans anywhere in space (or anywhere hostile to biological habitation) is basically a super-expensive camping trip. That never stopped us in the past from building capsules that can take humans to the bottom of the oceans or hurtling across the skies or stationed at the south pole and other places where robots could do the job just as well or better.

Politically, will countries / corporations be able to "own" the resources (or even just the science / IP) discovered in space without a human presence to plant a flag and occupy? I mean, we're not to that level of competition yet, but say sometime in the future when we're mining asteroids and there's a really valuable asteroid that everyone's trying to claim. Would we consider it legal for the first mining robot to arrive to claim the entire thing? Or is it fair game for whichever robot gets there first to take their fill? Is it an act of war for a robot to knock out / disable a competing country's robot? It obviously is if you're knocking out a human-inhabited space colony, but otherwise you're just squabbling over money.

Anyway, I'm glad that NASA is doing the math on what is at this point just a proposal / thought exercise. No harm in having thought things through, in the off-chance that Venus was suddenly struck with a strong case of unobtanium-fever.

4 days ago

Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

rwa2 Re: This is not the problem (658 comments)

Huh, well, I learned something... I always thought they were getting their "checks" for free. ... I'm still working on building up that minimum average daily balance so I qualify for free or reduced orders on checkbooks... must be nice to have enough to go platinum and not have to worry about that.

4 days ago

In IT, Beware of Fad Versus Functional

rwa2 Re:Some practical examples (153 comments)

Ugh. Never played with Rails, but I've had to convert a lot of bash / python cluster management work into Chef / Ruby and it's been awful. I easily spend 10x longer doing trivial tasks, and in the end, I have to write a bash ssh job to verify that chef did the right thing anyway.

To be fair, there's a lot in the framework that I do like... the somewhat built-in unit and integration testing (which, for some reason, is surprisingly absent in production where you'd most want it). I sort of like the RuboCop coding convention watchdog, mostly due to the irony of it making ruby even more sensitive to whitespace formatting than python ever was. But for the most part, all this stuff just adds more pieces that randomly breaks things every 3 months, and most people trying to get actual work done end up disabling and ignoring all of it, which is a shame because doing things in The Chef Way(TM) also balloons every little 10-line bash/sed script into a monstrosity spanning multiple overlapping files, attributes, templates, and data bags. It's also dog slow and wasteful to nuke-n-pave for every little change, and/or inconsistent about deploying rolling updates and giving you no mechanism to roll back (OK, so it does provide some backup of some configuration files it touches, whooop-dee-doo).

I left my old job largely because the new tech manager wanted to introduce Chef as the silver bullet that would launch them into the next phase of their career, and forced hundreds of prod machines to start using it while they were still figuring out all of its vagaries. Of course the final straw was that we weren't allowed to in any way blame Chef on any outages or project delays, since the execs were already breathing down his neck for the ham-fisted migration.

Got another job still doing Chef-based work, but at least now I have support from management to take as much time as it needs to maintain things properly. Still spend way more time maintaining the tool instead of plying our trade, but whatever, it pays the bills. OpsCode has really got a little cottage industry going in maintaining DevOps job security, and I get a lot of coffee breaks while "waiting for my ruby scripts to converge in test-kitchen".

5 days ago

Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

rwa2 Re:been there, done that (279 comments)

Mod parent AC up.

Some of the best IT workers I've known were originally English majors. A STEM worker that doesn't communicate well can be just as bad or worse than a less-technical worker with some decent collaboration skills.

So you have a BA degree... Use it to get a technical writing or training job in some field you would enjoy. Then use the tuition benefits / training provided by your employer to get a BS / MS in something. From there you'll be able land a whole bunch more jobs that require a technical degree.

The hardest part is getting your foot in the door... unfortunately, it's usually easier to have the BS / STEM degree first, and then using your employer's continuing education benefits to study whatever the hell you like. But it can work the other way around too.

5 days ago

Virtual Reality Experiment Wants To Put White People In Black Bodies

rwa2 Re:I played GTA: San Andreas years ago (447 comments)

EDIT: *couldn't* pull off a convincing accent. It was like listening to Borat make a fool of himself, except without any humor.

5 days ago

Virtual Reality Experiment Wants To Put White People In Black Bodies

rwa2 Re:I played GTA: San Andreas years ago (447 comments)

Seriously, GTA III:SA did an awesome job putting you in the shoes of a black kid from the hood. Character development was amazing, as you start out on bikes doing jobs for your moms, dealing with corrupt cops (both white and black), getting trapped in drug & gang wars, losing everything, rebuilding yourself as a lackey for a gangsta rapper and the CIA... it really makes you want to rage.

GTA IV, OTOH, was pretty lame in comparison... zero character development (certainly didn't help that the main voice actor was the only one who could pull off a convincing Russian immigrant accent, esp. compared to the "extras" like the Thai prostitute in the opening sequence). It just didn't make me feel anything for his plight or his family, and when bad things happened to him I was like "good!".

5 days ago

Why Didn't Sidecar's Flex Pricing Work?

rwa2 Re:MOD DOWN Supply and also MOD DOWN PARENT POST (190 comments)

Heh, I lol'd .

But anyway, to go off on a tangent, where was the /. coverage of the Car2Go outage from Friday? The one caused by the meltdown of their "German-based" mobile carrier due to some network roaming bug? I assume they're trying to deflect the blame to T-mobile without directly impacting their stock price...

about a week ago

Small Bank In Kansas Creates the Bank Account of the Future

rwa2 Re:Unless it has support for Bitcoin... (156 comments)

Eh, you're not on the hook for paying taxes with a babysitter if it's under $1900/yr. or $1000 per quarter
So I guess if you have a pool of different babysitters, you're all set.

Though more likely what will happen is that we'll go back to the dark ages and live with family members who can take care of our kids for us instead of entrusting them to near-total strangers, and, like, maybe learn how to get along while living in close proximity of our in-laws and stuff. You know, like the way things work in the third world.

Nah, I'm probably expecting too much from US society.

about a week ago

Why Didn't Sidecar's Flex Pricing Work?

rwa2 Re:Supply and demand (190 comments)

Plus, there's plenty of alternatives in the Seattle area. Most tech workers get a monthly bus pass for free through their work. Since Seattle doesn't really have a "major" mass transit network yet, the bus service it actually pretty good (as long as you're commuting to/from Seattle -- good luck if you're trying to commute between suburbs). The city of Seattle paid for everyone to get Car2Go memberships, and ZipCar has a pretty good presence here too. The airport shuttles are great if I have more luggage than I care to lug on transit, and they're cheaper than cabs since you can share the ride with others on the van. I have and use all of these things, but never used a cab or any of these new unlicensed / unregulated cab-like services. That's just not how I roll.

Having lived in the third world, I think the only way taxi (and taxi-like services) will get cheaper is through a glut of competition through the right amount of regulation/deregulation (like the licensed taxis in Thailand, which are everywhere and you can summon them in minutes with a wave of your hand, yet metered so they don't rip off tourists as much as they used to), and shared jeepney services (like those used in Puerto Rico and the Philippines) which essentially work like airport shuttles. Both of these could be much improved and optimized with information technology, and large employers like Microsoft and Google already run their own intelligent taxi/vanpool services for their commuters and on campus, so it's likely just a matter of time before they start offering some of that publicly... if there wasn't so much competition from public transit.

about a week ago

Apple and Samsung Already Working On A9 Processor

rwa2 Re:Really.. (114 comments)

Huh interesting points... I would have guessed that this might be a ploy for Apple to grab some of the military-industrial complex work. I've never seen apple junk in the defense sector before, but if they can get security officers to begin insisting on using US-sourced electronics, then Apple has a honey pot of high margin contracts to reap.

about a week ago

Congress Passes Bill Allowing Warrantless Forfeiture of Private Communications

rwa2 Re:Over to you, SCOTUS (379 comments)

Still looking for a political solution? Look for the silver lining... if everyone KNOWS that the government is mining your communications for whatever ends they see fit, then that's all the more reason to apply technical solutions to the problem. We've been trying forever to get people to start encrypting their emails and stuff, this might be the thing that finally gets everyone to accept real technological measures for achieving encryption and anonymization on the internet.

I, for one, am kinda glad that this type of thing is out in the open so we can deal with it more effectively with technological measures... vs. before where we would say "well, I'll just conduct all of my communications out in the open since the Constitution said the government guarantees our privacy without their fingers crossed behind their backs"

about two weeks ago

U.S. Passenger Vehicle Fleet Dirtier After 2008 Recession

rwa2 Re:Cash for Klunkers? (176 comments)

Yeah, that was my first thought too... TFA is behind a paywall, so can't really scan for it, but I bet they included the Cash for Clunkers program as a mitigating factor... maybe even projections on how things could have been much worse.

about two weeks ago

Seeking Coders, Tech Titans Turn To K-12 Schools

rwa2 Re:The first few comments are awfully pessimistic (105 comments)

I live in Redmond. Microsoft has enough coders. They just laid a bunch of them off. What they want are cheaper coders to throw at their projects. That's why they're working so hard to bring in lots of H1Bs. Many of the H1Bs are not earnestly brought here to do the work. They're just here to flood the market with tech workers to reduce tech wages for everyone.

Many of the MS H1Bs do end up leaving/escaping MS and working elsewhere in the region. Still, it isn't enough to get Seattle Tech wages down low enough (though they certainly are competitive vs. Silicon Valley wages). A big reason why Boeing has pushed hard to leave the Puget Sound region is because their engineering wages simply can't compete with the relatively high MS and Amazon wages for tech work.

OTOH, MS has done much to improve the quality of life here in Seattle, investing in infrastructure and museums and businesses and other perks to attract top programmers. Boeing has always sorta taken the opposite approach, opening their factories in the crappiest, drug-infested neighborhoods in a effort to keep costs down and making their quality-of-living investments elsewhere if possible.

about two weeks ago

Preferred Type of Game?

rwa2 Re:Video games of physical games. (171 comments)

I think by "Physical Games" they meant something more like sports.

But yes, my favorite video games often remind me of they physical games I used to play in grade school. Particularly Left4Dead (which was like some of the monster tag games) and perhaps some of the base capture modes in Tribes and Unreal Tournament.

Some of my favorite games:

  1. Rabbit - variant of team tag where the person who's "it" has to hop on one leg and tag the other people, who are confined to a relatively small space.
  2. Balloon - a good game for alleys, where one team is trying to get as many players through the alley while the other team tries to block them while only being allowed to move back on forth on successive lines across the alley.
  3. Base - another variant of tag with two teams. The person who left their base last can capture an opposing player (this gets hairy to keep track of, but we somehow did it). The captured players can get freed if one of their teammates can touch them. The captured players can daisy chain themselves to reach out from the enemy base, so it's easier to free them the more that are captured.
  4. Tee - teams have separate arenas, and take turns having one person be "it" and going in to the enemy arena to try to tag as many people as possible while audibly chanting: "teeeeeeeee......". If they run out of breath (or get tackled/wrestled by the enemy mob) before they can run back into the neutral zone, they get captured instead. They captured people are stored at the back of the enemy arena, but can be freed if tagged by their "it" guy.
  5. Monkey in the middle - sort of like musical chairs, where everyone gets a base (a tree or column or whatever) except for one homeless monkey. They try to score points by trying to trade bases, but if the monkey manages to grab an empty base the loser becomes the new homeless monkey.

We played these games every lunch and milk break back when I was in an international school in southeast asia. Around 8th grade I moved back to the US, and was struck by how lunch was just for lunch, and no one really played anymore anyways. I always hated team sports in the US, because it always involved a lot of boring waiting for something to happen, or arguing about what just happened.

If there are any video games that are more like this, let me know... The closest I've really seen were things like Radar Rat Race (which was more or less a larger version of Pac-man). Even multiplayer Pac-man would be more interesting. In the Android world, the neatest thing I've seen was "Zombie, Run!" which lets you use your GPS to navigate around hordes of imaginary zombies.

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Making a 'Wife Friendly' Gaming PC?

rwa2 Re:Maybe she needs her space (720 comments)

Yeah, we have one of those too. She has the reading root / guest room right next to the man cave. And she does go nuts every time I turn up the bass.

about three weeks ago


rwa2 hasn't submitted any stories.



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
  • 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.


Running commands on many remote hosts using ssh and xargs

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 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\""


Using readahead to speed up disk loading times of any application

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 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:

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)


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.


Palm T5 - TX touchscreen transplant

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  about 5 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.


Mirrored RAID read performance, where art thou?

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 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:



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.


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



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.



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.


Nokia 6021 resurrected

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  about 8 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.


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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