Posted by Deliverator on 24th June 2007
Archive for June, 2007
Posted by Deliverator on 24th June 2007
The whole “sleeping at normal hours” bit has been particularly not working for me of late. Around 3am this morning/night, while laying in bed and failing at the whole sleep thing, my body decided what it really need were some deep fried cheese sticks. I figured as long as I was awake, I might as well try and kill two birds with one stone and try to wear myself out while pursuing cheesy goodness. I got dressed, downloaded some Podcasts onto my N800, put on my jacket and filled its pockets with my vast array of gadgets and walked down to Jack in the Box on Old Main in downtown Bellevue. By the time I made it to Jack in the Box, my feet were feeling a bit tired, but I was confident I could make it back home. I felt I had earned my cheese sticks. For confirmation, I had Maemo Mapper calculate my trip distance thus far; 3.15 miles. I went ahead and ordered a small coke and a chicken burger as well. I hadn’t really earned those yet, but hey, I had the whole way back to work them off. Shortly after swashing down the last drop of Atlanta’s finest, the heavens chose that convenient moment to let forth The Deluge and the yellow taxi cab that had been loitering in the parking lot the entire time I was there, decided it had better places to be.
I went outside and stood in the shelter of the building’s awning for a while, hoping the cab would come back. It didn’t. I stood for a while longer hoping the rain would stop or at least diminish. It didn’t. I finally said to myself “Whats a little rain?” and proceeded on foot towards home. A couple blocks later, I was what I casually refer to as “soaked”. Up until now, I have considered being soaked to be a binary condition, either you are or you aren’t. On my way home, I discovered that there are many degrees of being soaked and will have to invent a new vocabulary of soakedness, kinda like Eskimos having many words to describe the types/qualities of snow. This is very much in line with Seattle’s reputation as a particularly rainy place. I am sure there is a t-shirt design in there somewhere, but I digress.
Needless to say, the way home was not fun. My clothes and shoes got seriously water-logged and began to chafe in uncomfortable places (what is a comfortable place to chafe?) and I am sure to get a few blisters from wet socks which I would not have had walking in dry socks. Additionally, wet clothes weigh a lot which is adding insult to injury given that the way home is up the side of a steep hill. I finally got home, stripped off my wet clothes, took a very hot shower and slipped into bed, exhausted. I still can’t get to sleep, which is why I am writing this entry at 6:33 am. I walked 6.44 miles in all. I did get my cheese sticks though…
This entry is also my way of noting that my cousin Carolyn is today swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 as part of Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Carolyn Graham, you are a Masochist (and a Ironman to boot) and I am a just a whiny bitch with a belly full of cheese sticks. Go Carolyn!
P.S. Carolyn finished her Ironman with an overall time of 12:45:35. Sounds like the weather was bad for her too.
Posted by Deliverator on 18th June 2007
My Holux M-1000 Bluetooth GPS arrived today, mere hours after mentioning it in a post earlier today. The eBay seller GPS4Evyone, from whom I have purchased four GPS devices has consistently had fast shipping. I was, however, displeased when I opened the package and discovered that it did not include a wall charger and usb charging cables, as described and pictured in the auction, but simply a car charger. The manufacturer’s packing list doesn’t list these as shipping standard with this model, but the seller’s auction does both in “included in the package” and by pictures. I have sent two emails today asking to be shipped the promised wall charger and usb cable. So far I have not got a response back. I don’t particularly need either, as I have plenty of USB cables and the Holux appears to charge just fine using a standard USB mini cable, but it is the principle of the thing. If I don’t get a response back within a few days I will be forced to leave bad feedback for the first time in my eBay history.
eBay recently added an interesting and much needed new addition to the feedback system which lets you leave anonymous numeric ratings on various aspects of a transaction without fear of reprisal. Future buyers can see the average rating of a seller, but the seller has no way of seeing individual ratings and thus cannot engage in “mutually assured destruction” type behavior. A very interesting twist on ye olde Prisoner’s Dilemma.
I left the Holux charging this afternoon using the cigarette lighter adapter and a 12v bench power supply. This evening, I took the Holux out for a walk around my hill. Before I had even left my yard, the Holux already had a solid fix on my position. This was by far the fastest “cold start” or “time to first fix” which I have experienced with a GPS. The Evermore DL200BT on the other hand took several minutes to get an initial fix, by which I was several blocks away from my starting position. Also unlike the Evermore DL200BT, which required careful hand holding (to keep the integral patch antenna facing skyward) just to keep a useable number of satellites locked, the Holux unit quickly locked onto 8 satellites from within the breast pocket of my jacket. The unit kept between 7 and 9 satellites locked throughout my entire walk, which impressed me greatly, as my usual walking path takes me through several areas where I am surrounded by tall pine trees and other substantial obstructions to line of sight. Equally impressive was the unit’s accuracy. While the DL200BT struggled to simply show me walking on the street and not through someone’s backyard, the Holux unit consistently showed me not just what side of the street I was on, but that I was walking alongside of the street/on the sidewalk. It was easy to identify when I crossed a street to the other side as well.
Quite simply, the Holux M-1000 is the most impressive GPS I have used to date and is an absolute bargain at around $50.
Posted by Deliverator on 18th June 2007
* Hurricane Cafe now has free wifi. I will be camping out here quite a bit more from now on.
* Got my 18-135mm Nikon lens repaired. The ultrasonic motor started making weird noises and autofocus was malfunctioning. All started day of ROV competition. I honestly wonder if the lens had issues with the high humidity around the pool. I simply took the lens back to Glazers Camera and they handled all the paperwork and processing for me. Glazers even offered me a free loaner lens for the duration my lens was out for repair. Yet another reason to buy local.
* Bought a 4 GB Sandisk SDHC card for my D80 for a mere $30. It can hold over 1000 jpeg images at 10 megapixels. I might pick up a couple 8 GB cards for my Nokia N800 and use it as my mobile media player as soon as Nokia provides official SDHC support. The N800 has two SDHC card slots, but the kernel they use doesn’t support it currently. Without a supported kernel, those slots can only use 2GB SD cards officially. A few 4GB SD cards (non SDHC) are known to work, but 4GB cards are outside the SD card spec as I understand it and I have heard countless reports of problems with these cards. It is pretty easy to swap in a kernel that does have SDHC support and many people in the community have done so, but I can wait. The two Sandisk 2 GB SD cards in the device currently are filling my Maemo Mapper map and podcast storage needs quite nicely at the moment.
* Bought a Holux M 1000 Bluetooth GPS off eBay. The DL200BT datalogger was fun, but just isn’t sensitive enough for urban navigation needs. This new Holux uses the MT3318 chipset from MTK. This chipset is supposed to be on par with the Sirf III in terms of overall performance and uses significantly less power.
* Ordered a Xenarc 7″ touchscreen for my car from mp3car.com. The monitor mount for my Lilliput 7″ broke a few weeks back and the touchscreen has been “off” for quite a while. Xenarc’s LCDs are generally considered to have better overall build quality than the Lilliputs. The Xenarc LCDs have brighter backlights and use a 5 wire resistive panel instead of a 4 wire on the Lilliput. I now have two 7″ Lilliput displays with dubious touchscreens in need of a worthy project.
* SIFF is over and somehow has left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied. I saw a couple truly excellent films which I hope to recap/rave about here in the next week, but overall I felt the selection was kinda meh. My brother and I are discussing doing the Toronto Film Festival in September.
* Been playing far too much Desktop Tower Defense. Despite coming up with a half dozen fiendish map designs/strategies, I seem to consistently stall out at around level 78 or so in the 100 level challenge mode. I came up with my latest map design literally in a dream and am now at the point where I can close my eyes and play games in my mind with a high degree of accuracy. Crazy.
* Read Neil Gaiman’s early novel Stardust. Despite having swallowed whole Neil’s entire cannon of literary works, somehow never got around to Stardust and forgot that it existed until I learned it was being made into a movie . I enjoyed the book, although it is somewhat of a departure from Gaiman’s usual storytelling styles/influences. The movie’s trailer looks wicked and the cast is replete with well known stars and starlets (pun intended). Look for it in theaters this August. In other Gaiman related news, it looks like he just won the Locus award for best short story for How To Talk To Girls at Parties and also for best collection! In addition to Stardust, it looks like a number of Gaiman’s stories have been optioned and are at various stages of production. Go Neil!
Some of Gaiman’s previous movie forays have not met with the degree of success they deserved. In particular, Mirrormask, with its amazing visual flair courtesy of Dave McKean and the Jim Henson Company, didn’t get nearly the promotion or support it deserved to have a strong showing at the box office. Despite amazingly low production costs of ~$4 million for such a visually stunning film, it earned something like a quarter that much in box office receipts, although it made enough in DVD and VHS sales to put it in the black. I look forward to seeing more of Neil Gaiman’s work on the silver screen in the near future.
Posted by Deliverator on 15th June 2007
The WRT54GL has long been a staple for low cost, custom use wireless projects. Some of the chief factors for its popularity were its low cost, widespread availability and robust functionality provided by 3rd party firmware projects like DD-WRT and OpenWRT. Previously, these 3rd party firmwares were targeted at the WRT54G/GS, but Linksys drastically crippled these devices as of about hardware revision 5, introducing externally identical models by the same name but with drastically decreased internal flash and ram. Linksys kept the price on these new, less capable WRT54G’s and GS’s the same and shortly thereafter introduced a new model, the WRT54GL. The WRT54GL is essentially hardware identical to a pre-nerf WRT54G version 4. Unfortunately, the WRT54GL has not been as widely stocked as the pre-nerf WRT54G’s. Also, Linksys decided to raise the price on what they used to sell for around $50 to more like $70. I currently know of 3 stores in the greater Seattle area which stock the WRT54GL: Fry’s in Renton, Computer Stop and Amazon. These stores usually only keep 3-6 of these on hand, so a single person coming in with a “project” in mind can wipe out their stock for weeks on end. These factors have caused many people to look for a replacement for the WRT54GL.
A recent post on the DD-WRT announcements page reveals that a possible sucessor may have been found in the Buffalo WHR-G125. This model is just coming onto the market as a replacement for Buffalo’s previous WHR-G54 series and should be widely available via mainstream retail channels soon. The WHR-G125 has a lot going for it. It is inexpensive at a mere $46, contains 4 MB of flash and 16 MB of ram like the WRT54GL and features both a faster processor and a more modern, more sensitive WiFi chipset. There will also be a high power version of the product for $20-30 more, which contains an amplifier and detachable antenna, but is otherwise identical.
I managed to pick one of these up at Fry’s the other day and have been putting it through its paces, since. The WHR-G125 has been supported by a new beta build of DD-WRT for about a month. Flashing DD-WRT onto a Buffalo WHR-G125 involves a different flash procedure than the WRT54GL. I initially tried simply uploading the dd-wrt firmware through the web interface, but apparently the web interface rejects non-certified firmware uploads. I had a hard time finding instructions on flashing the WHR-G125 specifically, but eventually found some generic flashing instructions for Buffalo devices on the DD-WRT wiki which proved successful. Essentially, you need to tftp the firmware image to the device immediately after applying power. There is a pretty narrow window during which the device will accept a tftp upload. I found the timing which worked for me to be “connect ethernet to a LAN port > pull the power plug > press and hold the reset (“INIT”) button > start the TFTP > plug the power back in > let go of the reset button.”
I am not quite ready to substitute this new router for my tried and true WRT54GL, but even with beta code, it has proven stable to about as much abuse as I could throw at it. This will hopefully prove to be a new device to add to the bag of tricks.
Posted by Deliverator on 13th June 2007
Touchscreen techologies have been around since the early days of desktop computing and unlike virtually every other basic computer building block, have advanced little. There still remain 3 basic technologies widely deployed in consumer oriented devices:
* Resistive panels
* Capacitive panels
* Active Digitzers (Wacom style techology found in Tablet PCs, mainly)
All three of these technologies suck equally and differently. Resistive panels are relatively cheap and are perhaps the most commonly found in consumer devices. In my experience, they suffer the following issues:
-Heat variant calibration issues. Sun shining, recalibrate. Sun goes down, recalibrate. Stiff breeze, recalibrate.
-Low transmissivity to light, meaning your LCD appears dimmer and somewhat less sharp when a touch panel is placed over it.
-Panels are easily damaged, scratched. I have personally noticed convex dead zones develop on the borders of many such screens with no visible damage to the touchscreen apparent.
-Much clearer and brighter than resistive panels
-Only works with a finger press or another charge conducting instrument. Can’t just use any old stylus.
-Fragile two layer approach
-Have to use a special pen. Can’t just poke with your finger. Can’t use just any pen either, it has to be a $50 special model that they will stop making the day that you finally lose yours despite constant nagging attention to keeping it safe.
-Pen can enable gradations of touch (i.e. measure a light touch or firm touch and act accordingly), making it a popular technology for artists.
In this era of nano-this and nano-that, could someone please come up with a decent touchscreen, preferably one where the touch matrix is embedded in the screen itself and not added on as a dirty window pane on top? Oh, and anyone who uses this post to mention the iphone should get a life.
Posted by Deliverator on 7th June 2007
My Holux GR-213 GPS “mouse” and Evermore DL-200BT Bluetooth Gps & Data Logger arrived today and after wrapping up the day with an un-fun data recovery project (thankfully someone else’s for $ and not my own) I gleefully got down to the ritual unboxing and ignoring of manuals.
I slapped the Holux on the trunk of my car (it has an integral magnet to hold it in place) and plugged it into a USB extension cable and thus into my carputer. I fired up the carputer and it was instantly recognized and assigned a serial/com port. There is an included driver cd, but I didn’t need to use it, probably because the carputer already had the necessary usb->serial driver installed from the previous Holux GPS. I did a milk run down to Factoria as an excuse to test the new Holux out. It got a fix impressively quickly and maintained a connection with at least 7 satellites at all times, except for one brief drop to 5 while driving under the super wide I-90 overpass. This impressed me greatly as the previous Holux GPS rarely maintained more than 4-5 on the my hill, likely due to the large number of very tall trees. I guess all the good things I have been hearing about the SiRF III chipset are true.
The DL-200BT I tested later in the evening after giving its lithium ion battery a few hours to charge from my computer’s USB port (with the included USB->power adapter). In addition to the unit itself and battery, it came with a non-slip mat for mounting on a car dashboard, car charger and a CD with tools and drivers on it. Sadly missing from the box was a USB data cable to plug into the unit’s proprietary ps2 like USB connector. As I hate pointless proprietary connectors (and companies looking to “Nickle and Dime” their customers by selling overpriced cables), I might do some soldering work and add a standard USB mini port at some time. I will post the pin out when I get around to it.
I painlessly paired the unit with my computer at home and played around with the included software for a few minutes just to make sure it was working. I picked up the DL-200BT and my Nokia N800, put on my coat and went for a walk. As I walked out the door, I downloaded a few podcasts onto my N800 using gPodder to listen to while I walked. I then went into the control panel and paired the DL-200BT with my N800. I then fired up Maemo Mapper, went into the settings menu and had it scan for my GPS. It added the GPS’s MAC immediately and within a couple minutes Maemo Mapper auto centered onto my position. I’d downloaded fairly detailed maps of Washington onto a SD card a while back, but just for fun I decided to fire up the EDGE connection on my phone and let Maemo Mapper download maps on the fly. The connection was fast enough to keep up with my walking pace, but I am unsure whether this connection speed would be adequate for on the fly downloading of maps at highway speeds. Maemo Mapper has a nice built in display showing the number of locked satellites and signal strength of each. I kept glancing at it while walking around the hill. Unfortunately, the GPS used in the DL-200BT is nowhere near as good as the one in the Holux. Over most of the hill, the GPS ping-ponged between 2 and 3 solid locks and fairly often lost lock entirely. Only rarely did it have four satellites locked, which is necessary for vertical positioning. I also noticed several occasions when the map showed me walking through the middle of someone’s back yard when I was walking in the middle of the street or showing me on the wrong side of the street. Both of my Holux GPS units have exhibited far better positional accuracy and higher number of locked satellites than this Evermore unit. If you need a robust GPS data logger for some fairly critical application, I would suggest looking elsewhere.
When I got home, I launched the included data logger application and easily exported my logged routes and exported it to Google Earth with the click of a button. The data logger application is easy to work with and can export to a wide variety of common data formats including OziExplorer, .gps, Waypoint+, NMEA0183, GPS Exchange and the KML format used by the various Google mapping apps. For visualization with Google Earth, there is a single button export option which will launch Google Earth and zoom to show your route. The software is definitely this unit’s strong suit.
Here is a screencap of my route from within Maemo Mapper and a cropped screenshot from Google Earth. I purposefully started my logging from several blocks from my home to avoid all you crazy internet stalkers :)
Posted by Deliverator on 5th June 2007
I have been playing Desktop Tower Defense quite a bit *ahem* this week. I have experimented with a number of map layouts of my own design and have hit on one which seems to work quite well. I managed to get 9929 points and get to wave 78 in “The 100” gameplay mode. I still think there is some room for improvement with this map, especially with regards to ensuring that the lower areas of the map are better used and can come under effective firepower. The map still has some difficulty with the “spawn” type of creature splitting across rows and escaping the most effective areas of fire. Here are a couple of pics you can use to replicate the design should you care to fool around with it.
Posted by Deliverator on 1st June 2007
According to one popular misinterpretation of the definition, we were treated to a rare astrological occurrence last night, a Blue Moon. A Blue Moon is by all definitions a type of Full Moon, but beyond that it depends on whom you ask. The term “Blue Moon” is very old in western cultures, with literary evidence in English going back 500 years. I heard about the event a couple days ago while listening to NPR and was interested enough to ask people what they thought it meant while waiting in line for SIFF films. What the term means varies widely depending on whom you ask and I have personally heard answers ranging from having to do with being of blueish hue, harvest cycles, number of full moons in a season or having two full moons in a single month. The use of the term has gotten decidedly muddled over the centuries and now only universally connotes an event which is particularly rare. Whatever its meaning, the moon sure was purdy tonight, so I snapped a picture.
Here is a hand held shot from my Nikon D80 using a 300mm zoom. At 300mm, the moon still only filled a small portion of the resulting image, so the cropping is pretty severe. Levels have been adjusted for better contrast.