fallenpegasus: amazon (Default)
I was given a box of MySQL PS swag. One of the items is a 256MB USB storage thingeee. I just tried mounting it for the first time today, it's got some interesting quirks.

  • It doesnt have a MBR or a partition table, instead just formatted like a floppy disk, with a msdos boot sector at the start. This is different from all the other storage thingees I own, which are all formatted like HDs, and have a partition table. This difference sometimes confused the hald automounter.
  • It has no MSDOS filesystem label. Thus it got mounted as "/media/disk". That I consider a weakness in the hald automounter. If there is no disklabel, there are lots of good things to fallback to. Maybe I should dig into hald and see how hard this would be to add and how welcomeing they would be to the patch.
    • MSDOS fs serialnumber: "A018-E668"
    • SCSI device serialnumber: "4CD98788"
    • USB device serialnumber: "4CD98788"
    • SCSI bus,channel,id,lun,vendor,model: "05000000 Generic Storage Alcor Flash Disk"
    • USB bus,port,dev,mfgr,prod: "040317 Generic Mass Storage"
  • And when I dump out the raw sector blocks, most of the them are just strings of "FF", but occationally there is a 32bit value at the beginning or end of a sector. Maybe the remains of the factory qualification tests?


I'm thinking of reformatting it, and then keeping my MySQL SSH key on it.
fallenpegasus: amazon (Default)
Well, what they really should do is open source it and/or publish their protocol, but barring that.

Rip the existing GUI off of it. Completely.

Instead make it a pure background daemon process, that uses system IPC, local sockets and/or DBUS. Receive dialing commands and configuration commands via a command socket. And do all its user multimedia via the now standard linux desktop multimedia framework, and/or dynamicly created local domain sockets. And publish "interesting" events over the DBUS.

That way people can write different and different kinds of UIs on it. Simple little command line tools, complex GUIs, pidgin plugins, Asterix plugins. Apache plugins, etc.

This way Skype still gets to control their protocol and their network, but at the same time reap most of the advantages of having lots of other people develop on them, and build Skype into things.

What are the odds they would do something that makes so much sense?
fallenpegasus: amazon (Default)
I think I may have found the computer I would have recommended for my grandmother. In fact, I think it would recommend it for my parents.

I would have to play with it some before expanding my recommedation, but I think that I would recommend it for most anyone who wants a home desktop machine, who's not doing heavy software development, heavy video editing, or playing super-graphics-cards games.

The no-moving parts, if it breaks, they ship you another one and you've lost nothing, is pretty cool.

And literally cool is that it's silent, and only draws 10 watts. The annual power bill for a desktop machine can easily be greater than the purchase price.

http://www.zonbu.com/home/index.htm
fallenpegasus: amazon (Default)
I just unpacked and started setting up the Kysoh Tux toy that I got at OScon. The lucky folks with a press badge were given a free one. I had to pay for mine.

The good:

Physically, it feels to be well and solidly made. It didn't feel like they were being cheap with the fabrication. It weighs just over half a kilogram.

Physical setup is straightforward. Unstrap the parts from the box. Click in the US power module into the internationalized power cord. Plug in the penguin unit, to charge it up. It can operate both plugged in, and on internal batteries, which it charges itself. Plug the fish unit into your computer with the included USB cord. It uses a mini-usb plug.

The firmware running in the "Penguin" main unit, and the firmware running in the "Fish" USB/wireless transmitter unit, and the interface library and control software on the host are all written in C and in Python, and licensed under the GPLv2.

There is a programmer friendly website, with a community wiki, a blog, a SVN repository, some mailing lists, a public bug database, and the software packages, which contains both the official software, and community contributions. They also have a freenode channel, #tuxdroid. Included in the box is a programming cable, for reflashing both the penguin and the fish.

The "Needs Improvement":

The instructions in the box are not very good at "what to do next". They consist mainly of "go to our website". However, the website itself isn't very good at "what to do next". They should have a big noticeable link saying "Just get a Tux? Click here" which would lead to step-by-steps on downloading and installing the software.

Their website, tuxisalive.com, is very slow. Maybe lots of other people just got one at OScon as well, but those "lots" number in the dozens instead of the thousands. Kysoh needs to scale up their site, and increase their bandwidth.

Their registration isn't OpenID enabled.

Their software isn't distribution-oriented. They need to release Fedora and Ubuntu packages.

Instead, it was a flashback to the bad old days of UNIX software installs. Download and unpack a tarball, read a README file, then run an install script as root. Said script creates and the copyfills a couple of directories under /opt and then makes some symlinks into /usr/local/bin.

That script failed the first time, it was unable to install the Atmel USB device programmer stuff. Instead it just gave me a link to the dfu-programmer project on SourceForge, and quit. Fortunately, I was able to just download the tarball from that project, and do a standard "configure && make && sudo make install", and then go back and rerun the tux install script.

None of this stuff was hard for me, but it's an unnecessary challenge that would frustrate and stop most people.

The "How to use it as an audio device" information on their website is confusing and incomplete. If I didn't have a decent grasp of how my system was set up, and how Linux audio works, I would have ended up switching over from ALSA to OSS, borked it all, and still not got audio working.

The Text-to-Speech software is closed source. And it installs a license manager daemon! The only thing that makes this moderately forgivable is that TTS on this thing is darncool, and there is no acceptable open source TTS software. Yet.

The audio isn't exactly first rate. Which isn't really surprising, since the audio has to go thru the USB, then thru their custom wireless protocol. The D/As in the penguin unit are unlikely to be pro-grade. And the speaker/mike in penguin unit are, after all, buried inside a heavy plastic doll. (There are speaker and mike jacks in the back of the unit.)

The actuators that move the eyelids, beak, and flippers are somewhat noisy and slow. It really needs room to flap it's flippers. I discovered this, because it makes a really scary clicking grinding sound if you don't.

You can only control one droid. You can't have several fish units plugged into a USB hub, and thus control several penguin units at once. This is a known issue that should crack by virtue of the open source of the comm software and comm protocols.


But to counter all those "needs to be improved":

Kysoh feels to me as a not very large company. They've probably been spending their time working on the difficulties with firmware programming, and with dealing with fabrication contracts with contractors in China. Now that they are actually shipping, some effort can be spent upgrading the website bandwidth, and in fixing the software packaging and documentation. This last bit can be fixed by an open source developer community.

As for complaining about loud actuators, this is a sub hundred dollar toy made of plastic. If I wanted brass gears and precise motion-coded servos, it would have instead cost a thousand dollars, and I wouldn't have one at all.
fallenpegasus: amazon (Default)
If you are running a Linux laptop that uses NetworkManager, you can get a list of every wireless network that NetworkManager knows about by doing

gconftool-2 --all-dirs /system/networking/wireless/networks

If you want to delete one, do

gconftool-2 --recursive-unset /system/networking/wireless/networks/BADNETWORKNAME

I find this useful when I'm in a venue, such as a tech conference, where there is both a free conference wireless network, and a paid wireless network run by the convention center. If you ever accidentally associate with the paid network, then whenever the signal strength of the paid network is higher, NetworkManager will prefer it to the free one. The fix is to delete the paid network data from the gconf database.
fallenpegasus: amazon (Default)
Just so other people can find this in Google when they have the same problem

In Fedora Core 5, net-snmp-devel has an undeclared dependency on lm_sensors-devel and an unnecessary dependency on lm_sensors.

This is discovered the hard way, when you encounter the compile link error /usr/bin/ld: cannot find -lsensors when trying to any net-snmp development. The solution is to do a yum install lm_sensors-devel.

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fallenpegasus: amazon (Default)
Mark Atwood

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