The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for July, 2005

Improved war-driving

Posted by Deliverator on 30th July 2005

Purchased a 7 db omni with a 10′ cable for the car-puter on Ebay. It should be here in about a week. The three 5.5 db omni’s that I own (MMCX, MC-Card and N-connector) all have cables that are too short to reach from the center of the roof to under the seat. This wasn’t a problem in the past, because with the USB Orinoco adapter, I could move the radio closer to the antenna connector. For now, I am mounting the 5.5 db omni closer to the roof edge in order to allow the existing cable to reach. I took a brief jaunt around Bellevue this evening to beat the heat and war-drove along the way. The Senao definitely picks up a lot more than the Orinoco ever did. I logged 542 AP’s in about 30 minutes of driving.

Posted in General, Tech Stuff, Wireless | No Comments »

The Day…Not Quite Today

Posted by Deliverator on 29th July 2005

Yesterday I:

  • Ordered pizza online for the first time. It took 1:05 to arrive, but was oh so delicious. Very Soon Now (TM), I should be able to do this from within Second Life, as Firefox is being added in 1.7 and 1.6.9 just came out. I aim to be the first person to order a real world pizza from within SL :)
  • Finished Cory Doctorow’s SL edition of his new novel, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. I attended Cory’s in-world appearance/booksigning the other day and it was a lot of fun. You can see my AV in this picture. I am the nebulous inky black energy being on the left side. I will post some pictures of the event on Imob‘s Second Life Gallery, shortly.
  • Spent ~7 hours upgrading the carputer. The carputer is now running on a Via Epia MII motherboard clocked at 1.2 GHZ. It is considerably faster than the previous board, an Epia M 6000. The main reason I did the upgrade was not because of speed, but because of the MII’s Cardbus and CF slots. I have ditched the USB Orinoco adapter and am now using a Senao 200 MW pcmcia card for wifi access. In the near future, I plan on upgrading to an EVDO card so that the carputer has always on internet access. I will probably also add a CF bluetooth adapter. I was very displeased with the flakiness of the Dlink bluetooth dongle I had been using. Anyone have any recommendations for a replacement?
  • Stopped in at the hardware store to try and find a off-the-shelf solution to couple the mounting shafts of our two ROV motors together. I found plenty of stuff that would work in the plumbing and electrical conduit sections, save for the fact that the mounting shafts are a very non-standard 1″ in diameter. You see, in the plumbing world, everything seems to be measured to the inner diameter…
  • I posted to the HPC Factor forums regarding auto-launching applications from CF and got some helpful responses. After a little more searching, trial and error and reading between the lines of other forum posts, I was able to get autolaunching working and shave off another 500 KB. Read my post at HPC Factor for more info.

Posted in Books, General, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff, Windows CE | No Comments »

Trimming Jornada’s Memory Footprint

Posted by Deliverator on 27th July 2005

In my experience with my J720 ( which only has 32 MB of ram – split between being used for application storage and execution), almost all applications are happy to run from compact flash. Although many need to be installed to ram to begin with, most can be moved/migrated over to flash afterwards with little or no tweaking. I have managed to get my allocated ram storage down to a little over 4 MB, so even leaving a little wiggle room, I have 25+ MB of ram for running programs. With that much ram free, why do I care? Firstly, I do a lot of multitasking and secondly, it looks like Minimo will take up 20+ MB if it ever gets backported to HPC. I was looking at ways of shaving off a bit more space and have hit a few barriers:

– Background images takes up ~450 KB, due to support for only bmp format.
– Applications that you want to automatically start after a soft reset need to be located in ram. If you try to use shortcuts pointing to CF, inconsistent results will occur, as it tends to take a few seconds after a soft reset for the CF to be initialized/mounted. Thus, sometimes the shortcut will be run before the target it is pointing at is available to the system.

I tried addressing the first problem by using a poorly documented/translated japanese program called SQ. This program does let you use jpeg images (if you install the right program plugin and can extract the stupid lzh archive) for backgrounds, but only if you use their desktop/shell replacement mode. You can switch back and forth between the SQ desktop/shell and the original one very easily, but the jpeg image will only appear on the SQ desktop. There are enough deficiencies in the SQ desktop/shell that it pains me to use it just to get jpeg background support.

The second problem could be addressed with a simple application launcher program, but I haven’t found one that does what I want. The application launcher would be a small stub of an executable (no more than 5-10 KB) whose sole function would be to wait 5 or so seconds after it is launched, execute a list of programs (located on CF) and then terminate itself. This is such a simple program, yet it would help me free up at least another 500 KB. I could easily write it, but it would mean going through the whole process of setting up a build environment. I wonder if HPC batch files could be used for the same purpose?

Another approach might be to create a compressed, self extracting executable and leave the result in ram. There would be some overhead by including the extractor code in each and every program, which would hopefully be much smaller than the ammount by which the executable could be compressed. I have tried zipping a number of exe files, just to get a rough idea of to what extent they could be compressed and the results look good, at least for larger executable (probably not worth it for smaller ones, due to overhead). This would be a much bigger coding project than the previously mentioned solution, but would have the benefit of working on applications that can only run from main system ram. There is also the downside that the CPU would be hit pretty heavily during initial decompression, resulting in a slower system startup.

Posted in General, Tech Stuff, Windows CE | No Comments »

More Tivo to Go

Posted by Deliverator on 13th July 2005

Transfers from my Tivo to computer are now working smoothly and the directshow filtergraph hack does indeed still work. Once the DRM ladden .TIVO video file was on my computer, it only took a few minutes to turn it into a nice standard mpeg 2 file. I couldn’t get Virtualdub (which I prefer for simple linear video operations) to work with the file directly, but Adobe Premiere imported the file just fine. I will have to play around with automating the conversion process and maybe do a lossless conversion to Huffyuv so that I can get the file into Virtualdub where I can deinterlace the video, adjust brightness, clip out commercials, etc. I ultimately want to use the Tivo as a capture device only, and do time-shifted viewing on my media center (Not XP Media Center Edition) and long term archival on my fileserver. I may consolidate the two roles into one machine and move it next to the Tivo so that I can more quickly transfer files between the two. The wireless bridge system works, but is a bit slow.

Posted in General, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

Tivo to Go (GO ALREADY *#&$%*!!!)

Posted by Deliverator on 12th July 2005

I bought my original Tivo for a rather large wad of $ back when they were first introduced, and unlike many of the early units that quickly burned out modems, my Philips unit has been a real workhorse. Still, it was getting rather long in the tooth compared to some of the newer Tivo units. My cousin David was sent me his newer Humax Series 2 Tivo for a modest fee and I have been playing around with it for the last few days. All in all, I really like the unit. It is far more responsive to button presses than my Philips unit, is physically somewhat smaller and has an improved version of the “peanut” remote found on my original unit.

Most important to me, this new unit features two USB ports, to which can be hooked up a variety of wired and wireless network adapters. Tivo has had a feature for some time now called “Tivo to Go” which allows you to transfer shows from one Tivo to another over the network, or to a computer. The files do include DRM, which makes them difficult to much with (other than view), but through the use of some DirectShow filter-graph trickery, you can get around this minor annoyance.

After scrounging through my collection of wired/wireless adapters, I found one that worked, a Linksys USB200M wired USB ethernet adapter. I didn’t want to have to run an ethernet cable to the Tivo, so I plugged the USB ethernet adapter into my WET11 wireless bridge and set it to associate with an old Orinoco RG1000 AP (that is running firmware that makes it into a transparent bridge) which is in turn hooked into the back of the router to which my main media box is connected. After a little fooling with the Tivo, I got it an IP address and set it up to get all its program guide updates via the network. No more 50 foot phone cord, yay! I installed the Tivo Desktop application on my media box and set it up with the Tivo’s “Media Key” and it was able to see the Tivo on the network. I tried to get it to transfer a show over to the computer, but the application kept puking after transferring over anywhere from 1 to 40 MB of a show. I consulted the Tivo Community and found out that there are two likely causes of this weird behavior. One is due to DHCP and the other has to do with an unknown conflict with the onboard NIC controller found in the Nforce chipset that my media box uses. I moved the interface over to a dedicated PCI NIC and set the Tivo up with a static address and I have now transfered over 400 MB of data without a hitch. Transfer rates look to be about 50% greater than realtime for max quality video, but what can you expect from a USB 1.1 NIC hooked into a 802.11b bridge hooked into a long defunct Orinoco AP running alternate firmware? :)

I am going to try the de-DRM trick tomorrow and see if it still works the way I believe.

Posted in General, Tech Stuff, The Boob Tube | No Comments »

More ROV project news

Posted by Deliverator on 12th July 2005

Last night’s ROV build meeting went well. Larry Barello fabricated a couple of motor mounts. A little more work needs to be done on them, but I have a feeling that they are pretty close to what we will eventually use. We still need to figure out a mounting scheme for the top motor. We could mount it very easily now, but we want to come up with a mounting scheme that lets us easily adjust the motor’s position along the frame.

In other ROV project news, Lumileds has agreed to donate some Luxeon LED modules to the project. This is great news, as it removes the need to create further pressure housings. These Luxeon modules are the brightest LEDs I have been able to find and put out something on the order of 3 watts per module. A single one of these LEDs should put out more light than the total output of our current 36 LED clusters!

Posted in General, ROV Project, Titan Robotics Club | No Comments »

ROV Motors

Posted by Deliverator on 10th July 2005

Work on the ROV is continuing, albeit at a slower pace than I would prefer. It took us over a month from time of order to get our motors, but they have finally arrived. Ian and Erik showed up Friday and we worked on them for about three hours. We filled a garbage can with water and mounted one of the motors to it, We then co nnected the motor to one of our batteries and set it to run unattended on low speed in order to get a rough estimate of ROV runtime. While waiting for the motor to drain the battery, we set to work disassembling the other two motors. We were able to strip the motors down to just the torpedo shaped motor pod, screw and mounting shaft very easily, but we somewhat confused by a couple of small gauge wires running to the motor besides the heavy gauge red/black power lines. We made a call to Fredi Lajverdi, one of Carl-Hayden HS’s mentors, who had previously worked with the exact same motors. He said we could safely ignore them. We chatted a bit about how their (now famous) team has been doing. They managed to place third in this year’s MATE competition, so while they didn’t walk away with the grand prize, they have proven themselves to be a very strong contender to watch in the future, and not just as single season fluke. I look forward to fielding an e ntry in next year’s competition and competing alongside them. By the time we got done chatting, I was sure the battery would be dead, but it was still running strong. It was getting a little late by then, so we decided to shut it off and disassemble it as well. We spent the remaining time figuring out a mounting scheme for the two side motors. I am headed over to Larry Barello’s now to run our scheme by him. If the design checks with his sensibilities, we will try and do the required machining & welding tomorrow night!

Posted in General, ROV Project, Titan Robotics Club | No Comments »

Cars

Posted by Deliverator on 9th July 2005

My dad and I went to the vintage car races down in Auburn this last weekend. We have gone to them the last 3 years in a row, now, and always have a lot of fun. This year, we spent more time in the pits and the display ground than actually watching the races (I think we watched 5-6 total races). We spent some time speaking with mid-60’s Mustang owners, as my dad has a tennis budy who may sell us a 1965 Mustang that he was given by an uncle. It sounds like it is a good choice of car to restore, as parts are readily available and the engine seems very straightforward to work on.

One of the things that has struck me about modern engines is not only how complex they have gotten (due to emissions control among other factors), but also how poorly designed they are for doing even common maintenance tasks. After returning home, my dad and I felt motivated to get a little greasy, so we changed the oil, replaced oil and air filters, checked fluid levels, etc. I realized I had never changed the spark plugs on my car, so we decided to do that as well. I went out and bought 7 plugs (just in case in messed one up) and consulted my Chilton shop manual for the procedure. It turns out that the rear 3 plugs are covered by a huge air intake housing that is like a 15 step process to remove and then requires a large rubber gasket to be replaced when you put it back on. So, only the front 3 plugs are easily accessed. I replaced two of them (neither of the plugs replaced were fouled, just getting a little old), but the third proved too difficult to remove. The plug wire for the third was soo short that you couldn’t remove the plug straight up. I might have been able to get it out, but it could have knocked something into the ignition chamber or something might have broken off in the process. It was just too much of a risk. It would have been easy to do if I could have taken off the plug wire at the distributor end of things, but it is hidden quite out of sight and would have required more disassembly than even the rear plugs necessitated. One of the things that I really enjoyed watching at the races this year was the sight of these two guys jacking up the rear end of their vehicle and lowering the Porsche Super 90 engine out of the car and then working on the whole engine out in the open. The engine was soo straight forward and cleanly designed. All the major parts were recognizable. It took them all of about 10 minutes for the whole process…

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

Silverfir Saga Over?

Posted by Deliverator on 5th July 2005

It sounds like the problems that silverfir has been experiencing of late are related to file corruption induced by the box being repeatedly rebooted at random at the whims of the contractors (who need to turn off the electrical every once in a while) doing remodelling at Ryan’s home while he is away on his bike (now train/bus) trip back east. I think serious thought needs to go into co-locating Silverfir at an ISP, or at the very least, a heavy duty UPS and redundant hardware.

From what I have just heard from Theo, WordPress may have a very nasty exploit that will mean a quick patch to the latest version. I would ask him more about it, but he is busy preparing to ship out to South Korea tomorrow. South Korea is a very wired place, so I expect to hear from him soon. I hope he gets a VOIP phone so that we can chat as well. We have had some interesting conversations of late and I hate to think that our correspondence will slow to the sluggish pace of email/im just because of a minor detail like the other party being halfway across the world….

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