The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for October, 2005

ROV Project Update

Posted by Deliverator on 31st October 2005

The TRC ROV project had its first real meeting of the year last Friday. We started off by creating a list of what we had accomplished and what we still need to do/get. We will be meeting this coming Friday at Larry Barello’s to resume construction. Larry has been restocking his garage with parts/tools in anticipation of the upcoming First Robotics Competition season. We spoke with him by phone during Friday’s meeting and while on the line, UPS delivered a number of parts we needed for the pressure vessel. Among the parts he received was an oversized tap with wich we will be attempting to create the large threaded holes needed for our waterproof electrical connectors. We will also be doing some welding, if he has enough shielding gas on hand. I am really excited to get the ball rolling on this project again. Here is our progress/to do list:

What we got:

-Frame
-Motors
-2 Motor Mounts
-2 Cameras
-Waterproof Enclosure
-Control boards + basic program
-Batteries
-Pressure proofed lights

What we need (to do):

-3rd motor mount
-fill motors with oil/water proof them
-hacksaws motor mount bolts
-plug mounted platform for electronics
-Distance signaling
-Solid core wiring
-Pelican case for battery
-Call lumileds
-RS 485/Fiberoptics
-Monitor w VCR for surface
-Stainless steel gridwork
-Taps for electronic connectors

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

Lazzyweb, please solve my dilema so that I might kick butt in DoD: S tonight

Posted by Deliverator on 31st October 2005

In the spirit of JWZ –

Dear Lazzyweb,

Might you have some advice as to how best create wordpress blog entries by email? I have found a number of pugins to do the job, and indeed WordPress has rudimentray post by mail support built in. All of them seem to rely on creating a “secret” email account and then anything that gets sent to the account gets posted – with no additional authentication. This might be acceptable if you ran your own mailserver and could truly keep and email address private, but I have never found a isp provided email account that receives no spam or other notices, even unused. Spammers will go to great lengths to enumerate email accounts through brute force, buy databases off crooked employees, etc. Even in the lack of any external malfeasance, most isps will send out periodic notifications to their users. Maybe I could set up a server side filter that only accepts email from a given address or with some tag in the subject line? So, anyone got any bright ideas? I am particularly interested in any solutions which would be equally adaptable to moblog type entries.

Posted in Blogging, General | 2 Comments »

First Jornada hardware issue – I hope to have many more

Posted by Deliverator on 31st October 2005

I have always been hard on my mobile computing gadgets. I, as some of you may have noticed, am not a delicate person. I have destroyed a number of laptops (including my beloved Libretto) and have done so with enough frequency that I no longer want to even own one. Survivor’s guilt is the worst sort. It looks like my Jornada 720 may be my latest victim. Thankfully, it looks like I will be able to fix it. For the past few weeks, while typing, spaces having been inserting themselves with increasing frequency. It looks like the Microswitch under the left side of the spacebar is broken and is being activated if I so much as brush the spacebar. I can still use the keyboard just fine, but it has lead to an inordinate number of backspacing while typing. It looks like I can replace the keyboard with only minimal disassembly, although it will result in a hard reset of the machine. Restoring the ram contents from a backup is trivial, though, so I won’t be out of commision for more than a few minutes. Being able to reset back to a know good snapshot nearly instantaneously is one of the Jornada’s high points, imo. While a virus or general winrot can leave a laptop user helpless, I can tinker with the Jornada’s OS internals to my heart’s content and if I break something – so what. It looks like I should be able to use a keyboard from a Jornda 680 to replace the one on my 720. The internet explorer and email hotkeys are reversed on the 680, but I can live with that. 680’s can be had very cheap on eBay these days. The 680 is near physically identical to the Jornada and most peripheral (batteries, stylus, etc.) are compatible. The 680 has a slower SH3 processor, less ram, and runs an earlier version of Win CE. For those reasons, the 680 is a much less desireable machine to most and can be had cheaply on ebay. Unless I indulge myself and buy a Netbook Pro, I intend to be using my Jornada 720 for a long time to come. I have never found another machine that so closely fits the way I want to compute while mobile. I may have to pick up a few dead Jornada units on eBay for parts.

Posted in General, Windows CE | No Comments »

Mindcamp and Linksys Bait and Switch

Posted by Deliverator on 30th October 2005

I am getting very excited about Mind Camp, which is now a scant week away. The guest list is locked and looks to be a great bunch of people. I noticed a few names from my Microsoft days, including Donte Parks, and am looking forward to chatting with them again. Ryan is going to be showing off Microvision’s Nomad wearable computer. The tech in these is uber-cool in that instead of using LCD goggles or some other form of HUD, it uses a laser to “draw” the screen directly on the back of your eyeball. Ryan is going to be getting the demo unit a few days in advance, so I hope to have a chance to play with it a few days in advance. Rob and Matt have put together a very slick demo of OLSR based mesh wireless networking. They have it running on Macs, PCs, Metrix boxes and the venerable Linksys WRT54G.

Rob revealed something rather disturbing about the new WRT54G routers hitting the store shelves. Linksys has once again pulled a major bait and switch. The version 5 hardware is a totally different beast from all the WRT54Gs that have gone before. These new units don’t appear to be Linux based (VXworks is likely) and have greatly reduced hardware capacities. These new units appear to have only 2 MB of ram vs 16-32 MB for recent WRT54Gs. Many people have bought the WRT54Gs because of it being a widely available, extensible open hardware platform. Though Linksys may save a few dollars in manufacturing costs, they can expect a lot of returned hardware, especially as they don’t note hardware revision information on the box.

I am very disappointed with these actions, which reflect certain consumer-unfriendly practices that I thought were years in Linksys’s past. Linksys used to have a very bad habit. They would put out internally different pieces of hardware with identical physical packaging, boxes, etc all under a common model name. The only drivers available for these devices were the ones of the cd, which were often buggy beyond belief. That different hardware revisions existed was hardly ever noted on the still poor Linksys website, so it was perfectly possible to download the wrong firmware and hose an access point or install the wrong driver. I can hardly count the number of clients that have had difficulties with Linksys’s early wireless USB adapters, for instance. Initial purchases sometimes come down to the bottom line of which is cheaper, but long term brand loyalty is built on experiences after the box is opened, and at that Linksys is failing miserably.

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

WordPress – Plugins Galore

Posted by Deliverator on 28th October 2005

I decided to solve my lack of care in backing up my blog by installing two plugins. The first is a backup plugin which I have set up to back up all my critical tables and email them to my google email account. The second plugin is a pseudo cron job that allows wordpress to trigger events at specified intervals/times. Combine the two and I am now getting automated backups of my database once a day. It should be pretty easy to use the cron plugin to allow submission of blog entries by email, including picture oriented entries from my cell phone. I might be able to use my K7 account to do audio blogging as well, although that one isn’t too high on my list. Without the ability to influence the name of the file sent via email by K7, any voicemail would get turned into an entry. I do occasionally get wrong number calls on K7. Given how fun prank phone calls can be, I can just imagine how bad prank blog entries could be.

Posted in Blogging, General | 1 Comment »

WordPress 1.5.2 – Now fortified with Iron and Ginseng!

Posted by Deliverator on 28th October 2005

Upgraded WordPress from version 1.2 to 1.5.2. I tempted fate a little bit by only backing up my wordpress files and not my database before upgrading. I know that Ryan backs up the databases regularly, so I wasn’t too worried. Please tell me I am right, Ryan! Anyways, the upgrade went smoothly and I edited my old wordpress files to make it a theme in the new version. I know my sense of aesthetics is far from perfect, but this is what looks good to my colorblind eyes. I am, after all, the one who has to look at it the most. I might play around with off-the-shelf templates, now that wordpress makes it easy to change themes.

Posted in Blogging, General | 1 Comment »

Never show em how you make sausages…

Posted by Deliverator on 27th October 2005

So far I have been very happy with Gallery. I started uploading pictures using Gallery Remote. I am getting some inconsistencies between the image rotation displayed in Gallery Remote’s preview and Gallery itself. I can rotate them once they are on the site, but it takes on average 15-30 seconds per picture to do it after the fact. I wish Gallery Remote had a bandwidth throttling feature, as it saturates my upstream pipe, making it difficult to do anything else while it is uploading. It does have the ability to cancel an upload midway through and resume at a later point, but it is no substitute. Another thing I noticed is that if you que a bunch of pictures for upload and exit the program, it wipes the slate clean. Gallery makes the process of creating web galleries much less painful, but the overall experience could be a bit more polished.

Played around with Blog Torrent last night. Blog Torrent is a bit-torrent tracker system that relies only on PHP and python. This makes it extremely easy to set up a tracker on almost any web server. Having a bit-torrent tracker allows web sites to offer large files for download without totally killing their bandwidth limits, especially if one of those files incurs the wrath of slashdot. The best part of Blog Torrent (in theory, ymmv) are the included plugins for Windows and Mac that makes the downloading files as simple as any other link. It’s all the power of p2p file sharing, without requiring the user to be a geek. Again, this is the theory. My contents most definitely settled in shipping. I was able to set up Blog Torrent easily enough and the software’s built in idiot checks all passed, but when it came to downloading the 2.3 MB pluggin, every machine I tried it on haulted after 1.9 and attempts to run the exe resulted in a failed integrity check. I tried reinstalling the software from scratch several times, redownloaded the set up files, checked md5’s, etc all to no avail. I am really not sure what the problem was. I even went so far as to download and install Broadcast Machine, a similar platform for content publication oriented for video, derived from Blog Torrent. I ended up having the same result with Broadcast Machine as Blog Torrent, busted plugin downloads. Sigh…

Posted in Blogging, General | 1 Comment »

The Gravity of Book Stores

Posted by Deliverator on 27th October 2005

My mind has been a little more addled then usual, lately, so I sought out some clear thinkers at Bailey Coy books this evening. I picked up “The Mismeasure of Man” by Stephen Jay Gould, Oliver Sacks’ “Oaxaca Journal” and “The Pearl” by John Steinbeck. I read Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley on my recent trip and thoroughly enjoyed it. A number of his books were required reading in HS. I enjoyed them at the time, but would have enjoyed them more had they not been required. I am of the strong belief that education is much more effective when it is a guided, but self-directed process of discovery and exploration and not just a literary canon to be forced down the throats of each generation by the last – in retribution for the same treatment having been applied to them…

Although I know it doesn’t suit my mind’s present need for clarity, I also picked up “The Electric Kool-Air Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe. Alex has recommended it to me on a number of occasions, and if I don’t read it, I fear he may do so in the future. Alex and I are both voracious readers and know well each other’s prefered tastes. Our tastes have a large intersection, but we each sample from far outside our comfort zone from time to time. Doing so from time to time has a wonderful way of exposing one to all that the world has to offer while simultaneously making one more appreciative of the comforts of home.

My dad and I may take a weekend roar trip to Ashland, OR in a few weeks to coincide with my mother’s visit to my brother in Cleveland. Books are getting knocked off their shelves with increasing regularity, but I find it very difficult to pass through Oregon without stopping at Powell’s City of Books. I can seldom pass a book store without going in, and I can seldom go in without coming out with a basket full of books. Powell’s is like a black hole for me. I have killed whole days inside. God, I hate being a book addict sometimes…

Posted in Books, General | 1 Comment »

Sitting at Cap Hill Cafe, not using their internet

Posted by Deliverator on 27th October 2005

My Socket Bluetooth card arrived the other day and I was able to get it working on my Jornada 720 pretty easily. The most recent driver release for socket’s cards does not support older Win CE devices, but version 120g (only two minor revisions back) does. Socket doesn’t provide links to past driver releases on their website, but thankfully keeps them all on their ftp server (or are just too lazy to delete them). The socket software supports a good range of bluetooth profiles, and I had no difficulty discovering other bluetooth devices, including my phone and desktop. They have additional software for supporting obex and for dialing phone numbers from your PC or PDA’s address book. I downloaded the extra software on the off-chance that I will use it in the future or if they remove it from their site and someone else in the HPC community needs it. Pairing with my phone was a simple enough process, but as feared (and expected), I couldn’t get online as easily as with my SE T610. The chief limitation seems to be that Nokia requires an extra init string in order to serve up internet connectivity to an external device, such as a PDA / Laptop.

For t-mobile, this string is +CGDCONT=1,”IP”,”internet2.voicestream.com”
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, all Win CE devices have an arbitrary limitation that this string be 40 characters long, or less. Palm OS based devices do not have this limitation. Most providers seem to be clued into this fact and keep their APN (that thing that looks like a domain at the end of the string) names short. Supposedly, hacking the registry to enter a longer APN name works on the newest Win CE version, but you have to convert the APN into hex in order to enter it. I will see if the hack works on older Win CE devices when I get a chance. In the meantime, I am connecting through wap.voicestream.com, which is short enough to fit. This is the APN used for t-zones, which means I am sharing this connection with a horde of teenage girls doing teenage girl things with their phones. As a result, the connection is kinda slow. I did a couple speed tests and got an average of 60-80kbps. Not bad, but could certainly be better. I am going to try to find a way to get internet2 a nd internet3 (their gateway which supports VPN connections) working.

Posted in General, Tech Stuff | 1 Comment »

New Blog Addition

Posted by Deliverator on 26th October 2005

I have been meaning to make some technical changes to my blog for a while now. I think I will upgrade to the most recent version of WordPress in the near future. There are a lot of neat plugins I would like to use that are only available for the most recent release. In the meantime, I installed Gallery 1.5 to ease creation of image galleries and thumbnails for use on the site. Installation was pretty straightforward, although it took a bit longer than expected due to some ftp hijinx. I chose to install Gallery 1.5 rather than the current 2.0 release based largely on Ryan’s mixed experiences with version 2. There isn’t much up there yet, but I have been using the excellent Java based Gallery Remote to provide drag and drop gallery creation. So far, I have found Gallery extremely easy to work with and it makes posting images much less of a chore. The Nokia 6620 that I bought has a decent camera, so I may do some “moblogging” in the near future.

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