The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for May, 2007

Biggest Time Suck Since God Invented Black Holes

Posted by Deliverator on 29th May 2007

I present Desktop Tower Defense. Do not click on this link if you need to be productive sometime in the next decade or so…

Posted in Gaming | No Comments »

My Eyeballs Record EVERYTHING and you can’t have them!

Posted by Deliverator on 26th May 2007

SIFF is in full swing and I have already seen 4 movies this past week. I was scheduled to see “Knocked Up” this evening, but decided to return my tickets and watch something else instead. Why? I received the following by email from SIFF Programming Manager Beth Barrett (significantly post sale):

Thank you for your purchase of a ticket for KNOCKED UP on May 26, Egyptian Theatre, 7:00pm. Please be aware that the film studio supplying this film will be checking for recording devices as part of their anti-piracy efforts. This is a secure screening, and all bags and/or purses are subject to search. Absolutely no cameras or recording devices of any kind will be allowed in the theater. The theater will be subject to security surveillance. A camera cell phone is classified as a recording device and cannot be taken into the screening. We highly recommend l eaving cameras, camera cell phones and recording devices in your car or at home as there will be no place to check them at the theater.

I have a lot of choices on where to spend my money. I spend a lot more going to the movies than almost anyone I know, but I am not willing to undergo an Anal Probe and pay for the priviledge. This is perhaps the most important lesson that entertainment industries need to beat into their thick skulls. There are a huge number of ways to be entertained in the modern era. Many of them are free or very cheap. There are those who will steal content for which you would charge and history has thus far shown there is no effectual way to prevent this, but there are even more who will decide to find another way to entertain themselves if you both charge and disrespect those who would willingly hand over thier hard earned $. Given that I was not supplied with these terms at time of sale and had to make a trip that cost me both time and money to swap the tickets, it is very unlikely that I will see Knocked Up when it comes to theaters. I will be spending my evening and my money watching Rescue Dawn from director Werner Herzog instead.

Posted in Media, Movies, Rants and Raves | No Comments »

Holux 210 Dead

Posted by Deliverator on 26th May 2007

My Holux 210 USB GPS “mouse” has been acting oddly of late. On several occasions, after resuming the carputer from hibernation, I’ve had to “cold start” the gps to get it to lock on. On other occasions, I haven’t been able to get it to work at all and its usb->serial com port has been missing. Usually, power cycling the carputer or replugging the gps has been enough to solve the problem, but problems came to a head Yesterday.

Yesterday, I took a trip with my father and grandmother (driving seperate cars) down to Tacoma to deliver a car to a shipping company, which is going to haul my grandmother’s old Camry across the country and deliver it to my brother in Cleveland. His car finally bit the dust as a result of a bad head gasket/cracked head and he has been trying to muddle through life by biking everywhere for the past few weeks. My grandma was kind enough to donate her 10 year old, well maintained, low mileage Camry and used it as an excuse to buy a very swanky 2007 Camry XLE with all the trimmings (including GPS). Anyways, the GPS in MY car managed to get me to the dropoff location, but on the way back, it kept conking out and I kept hearing Window’s “new hardware inserted” noise over the speaker system. When I got home (thankfully we were close to I-5 and I know the way back from there), I started looking into the problem.

I unhooked the GPS from the car and first tested it on another computer. It exhibited the same problem of being detected for a while and then going dead. I cracked open the plastic shell to examine the GPS itself. The 210 is comprised of a double sided circuit board with metal rf shielding covering the circuitry on both sides and a little patch antenna attached to the top of one of the shields and an LED indicator light poking through a hole in the plastic. A couple little dabs of solder around the edge holds the shielding in place. The shielding was pretty heavily corroded with rust and it was obvious the water had gotten in through the area around the indicator light. I find this to be a particularly poor design given that this unit is designed to be magnetically mounted to the exterior of a vehicle where it is exposed to the elements. Once water is inside the plastic enclosure, it has no difficulty getting to the actual electronics, given that the RF shielding is only held in place by a few small dabs of solder instead of properly soldered around the whole periphery. I desoldered the RF shielding and sure enough, moisture had obviously gotten in and dried in the past (you could see residue markings on the board). I found that one of the surface mount capacitors on the board, mounted in a residue discolored area had cracked in half and I believe this to be the source of my problems.

According to my brain, the Holux 210 lasted ~2 years. With a little more care in the design of this unit or some additional waterproofing efforts on the part of the owner, I have no doubt that this unit could have seen several more years of productive use. Perhaps the 2 year design lifetime is exactly as intended by Holux. After I confirmed that my unit was dead, I threw it in the trash, spent a half second mourning and then jumped on eBay and purchased a new Holux from the same vendor. Yes, I purchased a Holux again, with no qualms.

I purchased a Holux model 213 which uses a new SiRFstar 3 chip. The SiRFstar 3 supposedly has a much faster “time to first fix,” can track more satellites simultaneously and works better in Urban Canyons. GPS, that multi-billion dollar miracle of late 70’s technology is now officially disposable technology. I think I might vacuum pack the new unit to give it a bit better protection, but if I get two years of reliable use out of it, I will be happy. I also went ahead and purchased a small battery powered Bluetooth GPS unit with integrated data logging for use with my Nokia N800 and Maemo Mapper. I will probably also buy the latest iGuidance for my carputer when it come out next month.

Posted in CarPuter, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

The (almost) $100 computer

Posted by Deliverator on 22nd May 2007

At recent SWN Hacknights, the NorhTec Microclient Jr. has come up quite frequently in conversation. The Microclient Jr is an extremely small PC with a 200mhz x86 processor, 128 MB of ram, sound, usb, vga, ps2 and all the typical ports one would expect on a PC and is capable of booting from a variety of devices including CF, USB devices, hard disk and even PXE network boot. The small size of this device (it can even attach directly to a VESA standard mounting bracket like…the back of a monitor), good connectivity options and rock bottom price make it a very attractive platform for embedded projects, thin clients and other assorted hijinx.

Norhtec Microclient JR Interior

The Microclient Jr is available in a couple different configurations, including one with a wifi card and/or two serial ports. The Microclient in its most basic version sells for $120 in small quantities, but supposedly this shrinks to $90-100 in sufficiently large quantities. Given that NorhTec ships their units from Thailand, the $40-50 shipping cost for small orders really eats into the platform’s attractiveness. Thankfully, I found out that the Microclient JR is also sold rebranded as the eBox 2300 and is available via a couple US distributors. Not only does this cut the shipping cost and time down significantly, but most of the distributors are selling it even cheaper than Norhtec. I ordered mine from WDL Systems with two serial ports and an open mini-pci slot (for self installed wifi) for $150 with two day shipping. Both Northtec and WDL Systems sell the Norhtec in a configuration with WiFi preinstalled, but their solution is based on a VT6655 chipset, which has poor compatibility with Linux 2.6 series kernels, so I chose to leave the slot open and add something with better support.

I look forward to receiving my Microclient JR soon. I have a number of projects in mind for which I believe it should prove suitable. If so, I will probably be purchasing a few more.

Addendum – Ordered a Ubiquiti XR2 mini-pci card and pigtail from Matt’s company, Metrix.

600mw Ubiquiti XR2

Amusingly, these two items cost more than the computer itself. The card is rather expensive at $130, but it has a lot of novel and even unique features including:

-600mw transmit power. Most previous generation “best of breed” cards like those from Senao maxed out at about 200mw. By contrast a lot of the solutions integrated by OEM’s into laptops are in the 30-80mw range. This card is the current reigning Border Blaster of 802.11.
-Excellent receive sensitivity…just because you are blasting 600mw out to the AP doesn’t mean it is blasting 600mw at you :)
-Uses a more robust mmcx connector. Most mini pci wireless cards use a much smaller Hirose/U.FL connector which isn’t as mechanically robust. In fact, the manufacturer only rates U.FL as good for 30 couplings, and that is assuming you don’t break the connector by tweaking the cable to which it is connected. I would prefer cards used something even more mechanically secure, like some variant of SMA. I saw this option advertised for the Ubiquiti cards at Linux Devices, but Matt has never seen it actually sold that way.
-The card is supported by the excellent MadWifi driver under Linux. This driver lets one do some pretty spiffy things with this card, such as creating multiple virtual access points and adjusting channel size (allowing one to have more non-interfering channels or alternatively use up more of the band for more throughput potential).

I look forward to playing with the eBox 2300/Microclient JR and the Ubiquiti XR2 card next week at hacknight. I hope they play well with each other. My main concern is whether the eBox will supply the card with adequate power for its 600mw transmitter.

Posted in Portable Computing/Gadgets, SWN Hacknight, Tech Stuff, Wireless | 7 Comments »

Kickoff SIFF with Pirates!

Posted by Deliverator on 20th May 2007

In past years, I have tried to kickoff SIFF with the first of the summer blockbusters. I realized that I was lacking a proper kickoff film for this year, so I took a look at what was coming out around opening day. Turns out Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is coming out this Friday, but Cinerama is having a special sneak preview the night before at 8pm and midnight. Cinerama is definitely THE place in Seattle to see a blockbuster. I scored 3 tickets for the 8pm showing. If you are up some swashbuckling this Thursday, contact me.

In other Pirate related news, in case you haven’t noticed I have tickets to see Captain Blood, the quintessential pirate film and one of my favorite Errol Flynn movies, as part of SIFF as well. I have spare tickets for that one too…You know the routine.

Posted in Media, Movies | No Comments »

2007 SIFF Schedule

Posted by Deliverator on 18th May 2007

Finally got enough free time in my schedule to head down to the SIFF Box Office and get my tickets purchased for SIFF. Although one can purchase tickets online, I tend to like to go to the Box Office and make a ritual of it. The volunteers there are usually pretty clued into what is going on with the festival and what are thought to be good films. I will be seeing the following films for sure:

Dan's 2007 SIFF Schedule

I have spare tickets for a number of the films I am seeing, so if you are interested in seeing one of the films with me, contact me first. You can check out a brief synopsis of each film along with director and actor deals by searching for the title.

Posted in Media, Movies | No Comments »

2nd Annual PNW MATE ROV Competition

Posted by Deliverator on 15th May 2007

As Ryan noted in this entry, I did indeed spend part of my weekend watching underwater robots built by high school students. It was a lot of fun and next year I hope to be able to stay the whole day. I don’t have time for an extensive entry, but click the picture below to see my photo gallery for the event.

MATE ROV

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

Harold Lloyd at Paramount Theater

Posted by Deliverator on 15th May 2007

I have mentioned Harold Lloyd on this blog in the past and have greatly enjoyed watching the 7 Disc Boxed set of his films which I received as a gift. Harold remains perhaps my favorite silent film star. This coming Monday (May 21st), movie lovers have a great chance to see one of his best films, The Kid Brother, the way it was meant to be seen, on the silver screen accompanied by a professional organist on The Mighty Wurlitzer. If that wasn’t enough, for the low, low price of admission, a mere $12, you get to see another of Harold’s great films, Speedy. To sweeten the deal still further, Trader Joe’s is even providing free munchies. I know where I am going to be next Monday at 7.

Posted in Media, Movies | No Comments »

SIFF Schedule Released Tomorrow!

Posted by Deliverator on 9th May 2007

The Seattle International Film Festival has snuck up on me once again this year. The schedule is being released tomorrow (Thursday May 10th) online and will be published in the Seattle Times and in The Stranger within the next few days, should you desire a print copy. I am going to try and get my tickets early this year, as I have in the past not always been able to get tickets for some of the movies I have desired to see. If you are interested in seeing some movies with me during SIFF (May 24 – June 17th), I would recommend checking this site regularly (or subscribing to the RSS feed) during the next couple days as my SIFF Spreadsheet of Doom will likely be posted and finalized in short order.

Posted in Media, Movies | No Comments »

OLSR now available for DD-WRT!

Posted by Deliverator on 2nd May 2007

Brainslayer, the one man band behind DD-WRT, an alternative firmware project for wireless router, recently announced some pretty cool news. As of today, he is integrating OLSR into DD-WRT and making it available for all devices capable of running it. OLSR is a mesh routing protocol that allows one to easily deploy large wireless networks with a minimum of fuss. A (greatly) simplified explanation is that you can throw out a bunch of wireless access points and they find each other and figure out how to route traffic on their own so that everyone can talk to each other and the internet, regardless of whether a particular node has its own individual DSL connection. OLSR has been used successfully to build some very large networks, perhaps most notably the Freifunk community wireless network in Leipzig, Germany. This network currently has over 500 nodes connected to the internet and each other using a standardized platform of inexpensive Linksys WiFi routers (available for $50-60) running OLSR using their own custom firmware, based on OpenWRT. The node map for their network is REALLY impressive and I so want to have it as a poster!

Freifunk Node Map

I greatly prefer DD-WRT to OpenWRT, so it is nice to see that OLSR is being integrated into DD-WRT as a standard option and made easy to configure with its own configuration page in the web page based admin tool. DD-WRT is available for a wide number of inexpensive and even FREE devices and I can’t help but think that this is going to make it much easier for neighborhood and community wireless network to succeed.

Posted in SWN Hacknight, Wireless | No Comments »