Saturday, December 27, 2008

Canon camera Hacks

I was watching System on Revision3 (bunch of TechTV folks). The latest episode describes a simple method to hack into your Canon camera with some simple free files and scripts.

Why? So you have more control over everything your camera does...for example motion capture...or auto exposure bracketing. Stuff you would expect on a high end camera now available on your cheap camera.

The software is CHDK and simply installs onto a flash memory card you stick in your camera. The most simple hack I have ever isn't even permanent, remove the card/delete the software, and it is back to normal.

All you need to look at is the FAQ, it shows what cameras are included, where the software is for what camera, how to use it etc. The only even remotely technical part is you need to create a blank text file named "ver.req" put it into your SD card, start up the camera in view (not camera) mode, do a button sequence and view the firmware of your camera. There was only only one firmware listed for my A530 and that is the firmware version I had.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Europe cellphone and internet access

I recently made a quick trip to Spain. Internet was available at my hotel, ethernet, wifi, or they even had computers for business people to use. I didn't spend any time in the hotel so I didn't use those services.

But, I did buy an unlocked Quad-band cellphone from that I found at I got the Motorola V235. It was $80. I wanted something with basic internet capabilities and a camera. If my US cellphone carrier used SIM cards I would have gotten a better phone, but if you have read the rest of this blog, you know I am happy with my Sprint Touch.

Quad-band cellphones will work everywhere. (but maybe Japan?)...well everwhere I will be going.

Now to get a SIM card. I wanted it to be cheap to use, no monthly fee, and it had to roam everywhere I go.

I did a lot of searching...there are numerous European websites that discuss this, but it is hard to buy a European SIM card in the US. In addition, many of them use an Estonia phone number.

I found the SIM through I assume it is the same company...since they link to each other. I bought the Passport SIM card. They sell Passport lite, Passport, Passport PLUS, and the Explorer SIM card. The Passport cards initial price depends on the roaming and outgoing calls price, but they all have UK phone numbers. The Explorer has an Estonia phone number.

You may wonder why I keep mentioning the Estonia phone number cellphone provider Sprint has an international calling package for $4 a month and $0.05 a minute $0.05 PLUS $0.34 mobile charge per minute to the UK (outgoing calls on Ekit are $0.49 a minute) is about $1 to Estonia. The Passport SIM card has free incoming calls if they call the UK number (there is also an 800 number that can be used, but it charges your sim card).

So while I sat in a cafe on La Rambla having an espresso and a beer, my wife called me from the states...we chatted for about 5 minutes. My SIM card was charged nothing, her cell phone was charged a quarter $2.00. If I had called here using some other service that call would be around $5. You can see how it quickly adds up.

I am still working out some bugs. Apparently I can't text to a Sprint phone...I don't know why, but it is in the documentation. Also I apparently didn't set up the APN info correctly since I couldn't get the cellphone (or laptop) to access the internet.

As far as internet goes. This card included a data plan for $20 per megabyte in Spain you won't be surfing the web all afternoon.

You can get better deals if you get a SIM card that only works in that country with no just depends on your needs.

As a side note, the WWAN card/software I installed in my Dell blocked my tethering capability to my Sprint for now it is removed...but I am looking at getting a T-mobile or At&t data plan for my laptop.

UPDATE: Worked great in Milan Italy, but again I couldn't get the internet part to work in Italy, although it did work in the US. Now explain why I can receive a call in an Milan subway car running down the track, but I get a dropouts in my house in the middle of town in the US?
UPDATE: Got the bill from Sprint and realized I had misread the pricing...but still cheaper than the alternate and more convenient.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dell 5520 WWAN Card

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I bought a Dell 5520 Mobile Broadband card to fill that empty space in my M1330's belly.

So I got it, and popped it in. The Dell site had a few choices of drivers etc. for it...I chose the generic didn't work. So I looked at the device info and it said it was a Cingular version.

So I use the Cingular branded software. Now I figure it won't work for my purpose. I stuck in a Boost Mobile SIM card, but it wouldn't log into the network. So I picked up a throwaway T-Mobile phone and tried that (BTW you have to shut down the computer to change SIMs or they won't be recognized...that is probably why the card holder is behind the battery). It saw the card, but I needed to figure out what APN to use...
So the internets had the list. I set the account up for Sidekick (due to the data plan) and it connected but I couldn't get on the internet. Then I changed the account to Pay by day...changed the APN also. But still can't really surf the only wants to visit wap sites and show that data (I guess). I now have a European SIM card with a data plan...I will see how that works next week.

The following pictures show the various settings and connections I got. Overall it is a success because the WWAN card is not locked, and setting it up and connecting was straight forward...however I don't have an actual internet plan, so I couldn't surf.

Note...Create NEW or EDIT one you already have...but not the AT&T one.

All I had to edit was the APN code...every company uses a different European one uses "mobiledata"

Finally, note the connection, and the data in/out...I have no idea what was coming in...never saw anything.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You have to play a little bit....

I don't have an XBox 360 or a PS3...but I do like to relax with a bit of Guitar Hero or RockBand.

So when I am not mooching off friends...I get a bit of practice in at home...

For those doing the math on this, you may ask how?

On the side I have had a link for Frets On Fire, an open source GH replica. Within the forums you can find links to GH type song data.

There are also a ton of different mods to the basic software...and the original is so beta, some of the mods actually fix it.

My personal favorite mod is called Alarian (2.963 is the version I am using). It takes the basic FoF software, fixes, cleans, adds more visuals AND head to head with drums or base. (no vocals, and so far only head to head). Well now there are plenty of RB type song data out there so you have plenty to choose from...BTW you don't need to install anything else, this mod includes a well worked over version of FoF.

Of course now that you can play head to head with guitar against do you play the drums. I guess you could buy a set of RB drums...but at that point it might be easier just to get the XB360 and RB to have all the toys.

I happen to have a set of Roland electronic drums...that obviously are a billion times better than the RB or GHWT drums...but how can I use them?

That was my question ever since I first played RB at a friends house (I sucketh much on RB drums).

Of course some folks solved that problem...there are some hacked ways to use your real electronic drums with the Xbox/PS3 and RB...but I will be using my Rolands with my PC playing FoF.

This first thread looked like the answer...then I read a bit more and read this thread...which linked to this forum (Lord of the Rings online?) where some folks needed to use midi devices for something in the game...Well the Roland has MIDI out...and I had a standard USB to MIDI converter (mine is listed as E-MU XMidi 1X1).

So I downloaded the MIDI2Key linked in that last forum topic and unzipped it (v so far). No installation required, but you do need to modify the MIDI2Key.ini file in the folder (if none then rename one of the others in the folder to that).

That is really the only hard point...I took one of the example files and simply assigned a different key to each entry, ran the software, opened up Notepad on top and started hitting the drum heads. From that I could tell which entry matched which drum head...I then put letters to match the key commands already assigned in the fretsonfire.ini file...for example...

;tom2 -blue
;HH -green
;tom1 -yellow

player_2_key_drum1a = K_a
player_2_key_drum2a = K_e
player_2_key_drum3a = K_t
player_2_key_drum4a = K_u

It seems more complicated than it is.

But it works perfectly.

Obviously the FoF software is not a replacement for GH or RB...but the price is right.

There are screen shots available everywhere, and videos on Youtube.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Touch phone GPS

I found this piece of GPS software to run on my Touch phone that very nice. Uses google maps, has nice viewing angles, and has turn directions.

Also this thread seems to solve the problem of my phone not wanting to turn the GPS on after a while.
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Comm\ConnMgr\Providers\{7C4B7A3 8-5FF7-4bc1-80F6-5DA7870BB1AA}\Connections\Phone as Modem]

Change the value to 0, and soft reset.
But for my phone it isn't "Phone as Modem" it is "Data Network"

(soft reset is accomplished by pushing the recessed button at the bottom of the phone)

This is not a permanent fix...after I get the GPS running, then I have to view the internet settings to get that working again...but after that it all works...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

M1330 and SIM cards

I found out by accident (like many M1330 owners) that behind the battery is a SIM card slot.

Apparently if you buy their laptop with the mobile broadband option, then that SIM card reader is actually attached to something...but I didn't go for that option.
(note the empty spot...and 3 antenna connectors (maybe one is for a "N" wifi card, cuz the other two are too short to reach)

It seems the only choices here are for standard provider modems (like Sprint etc). I have had a difficult time finding any more info than that...i.e. does someone make a 'universal' modem that can cover all the frequencies.

Well after a not very informative chat with the Dell tech support (out of India?) I figured out that I could search the Europe Dell sites...of course they are in their home language, but when I searched for WWAN on all but one site I found cards...either listed as Dell 5520 or Dell 3G Vodafone. (ebay from Europe for $150)

I am still looking to see if they all come unlocked, or if I have to buy a self described 'unlocked' one...

So then I found out that an option was to use the ExpressCard slot. I found one 'universal' modem (4 frequency). On Amazon it was $300 on sale.

$300 buys you a lot of after you buy the still have to buy minutes.

I sure hope wifi is available everywhere I visit...I don't want to buy a $300 card.

Found some more info on that Dell 5520. Some posts here say that this card is unlocked you just choose the SIM card and manually add the phone info.

Edit--> Profile Manager

Make a new profile with the APN
Someone else suggesting using this generic (unbranded) but official Dell driver.

This link is to newer Dell Vodafone software.

This is probably the same software. Or may be Vodafone specific.

Some more discussion with the same questions I had (have).

I found the Dell 5520 being sold on Ebay as used (pulled) for $95. (I guess I will have to locate some screws) I have to give it a shot...a refurbished card from Dell costs $230.

It will take a few weeks before I am able to test it (I might be stateside or in Europe at the time...don't know yet).

One weak point...

Wow having remote access, skype, etc is just wonderful...

...however one small catch...

So lets say your IPCop router is scheduled to reboot once a week (cable modem gets flaky after a few weeks connected).

Lets also say that said router has successfully done this for years.

Now lets say you are out of town and are planning to use remote access and Skype to the home computer.

What are the chances the router will fail to successfully reboot when you are out of town?

What are the chances your wife will be willing to dig through your cables to hit the reset button while you coach her over the phone?

I give 100% for the first one and 0% for the second.

Maybe I should rig up one of those EASY buttons to do a hard reboot...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Notes about Skype and Dell M1330 and PS3eye cam

I have used video teleconference (is that what it is called?) software since the first days of Netmeeting. Back then (1998) I used it to talk to the wife literally from the other side of the planet. We were on dial up both ends. The home end had a AMD i386 type CPU (probably 200mhz), and my end was a IBM 486 DX50 laptop. Mostly due to my laptop I had too much lag in the audio...and neither computer could run video back I typed and the wife talked. It worked and was way cheaper than a phone call.

A year later, with a bit faster machine (but still dial up) I was able to send video to my family for Christmas from halfway across the US...still using Netmeeting...until it crashed.

I really hadn't tried it again when on the road...especially since cellphone to cellphone calls in the US were free.

But after I got the N800 and played with that a bit I thought that maybe it was time to see if the Video teleconference stuff had improved that much.

I tried is still too raw, in tests I could use the N800 to send and receive video...but trying to call someone was a pain.

So last week I (on a lark) installed Skype on my fast windows computer, and purely coinidentially found a neat camera to use. (Disclaimer...although Skype runs on the N800 there is no video send or receive capability support for that platform...probably never will be.)

About the camera. Apparently the Sony folks built a USB camera for the PS3 (and a earlier version for the PS2) called the PS3Eye. It is a very high quality imager with microphones for a fairly cheap price...but no drivers.

I read someone made some drivers from ps3fanboy (apparently) via Hackaday via Crunchgear (why can't anyone ever put the direct link) that was posted on the NUI Group website (Natural User Interface see the wiki or...look at the site)

So this someone...Alex Popovich created some great drivers for this camera. The version at the link is the latest one, and seems to work perfectly. (to be honest, he created the drivers for use in the NUI Group's project...but I had a different need)

So PS3Eye camera is on home computer, and on the road I have the Dell M1330 that has a built in camera. Once I installed Skype on both, created a Skype login for both, and had one computer dial the other one...I had instant video teleconference.

I was using the hotel free wifi, with a weak signal, and saw a nice picture...sure, obviously compressed, but at about the same quality as a youtube video if not better.

For audio, both of us were using the external speakers and microphone (no headphones) the audio was fine, occasionally we would cut each other out (same thing on a cell phone) but I had not adjusted audio on either computer...Skype was using the PS3Eye's built in microphone...(apparently...I didn't set anything up except for the video input to use)

I will start traveling overseas for work in a month or two, so we shall see how it does with that kind of latency. (I want to sit outside of a Paris coffee shop with the Eiffel Tower as a think the wife will be pissed?)

(as a test while I was writing this, I started up Skype on my tethered laptop to see how it did...not bad...slower frame rate, more pixelated...but acceptable...but that was just a quick test.)

I am more tempted now to get one of the ASUS rather than lugging my laptop around. Like this...
...perhaps using this SIM enabled one.

OpenVPN IPCop and Vista

Long story works...pretty well.

Actually fairly simply.

Ok for those scratching their heads...By having IPCop as my router on my home network, and OpenVPN running on my laptop, I am able to create a secure tunnel between my laptop anywhere in the world, and my home network. I can browse files, etc. through a secure tube.

First I followed this instruction. (and the info in these 5 pages)
...the IPCop setup matched what I had done previously but had not worked...
...The OpenVPN GUI looked like the I installed logged into my IPCop router...but I couldn't connect to the network...
...Log entry={ERROR: Windows route add command failed [adaptive]: returned error code 1}

Second, I found this post that said I just needed to install the latest version of OpenVPN...
...ah...the latest version of OpenVPN INCLUDES the GUI now...
...and I made sure I ran the program as administrator...
...but I still couldn't connect to my network...
...Log entry={ROUTE: route addition failed using CreateIpForwardEntry:}

Third, I found this other post that added two lines to the end of the {VPN-TO-IPCop.ovpn} file generated during the first instruction.
route-method exe
route-delay 2
Those two lines fixed my problem.

So using my laptop tethered to my HTC Touch, I was able to access my home network.

Note at the top I said it does...but I cannot browse the is probably normal, but unexpected...however I can map a network drive by adding the IP address {192.168.1.x} and browse the shares there and connect to then...from that point they are like any mapped network shares.

Interesting note...since I can access all the IP addresses on my network...all my IP devices (cameras, printer, NAS) can my administered using the same stored URLs I would use at fact, I can print on the home printer this way. (as long as you use the IP address to access the computer...and not the automatic printer install I originally used)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Some FONera links

I will put all the useful links here...there is a lot of info out there. Hopefully this can be a bit organized.

For equipment, I used my WinXP laptop with a wifi card AND plugged a standard ethernet cable into the FONera.

Darren Kitchen's how-to (good example for gaining SSH access)...(stop after that if you aren't installing jasager...I am installing DD-WRT) has this basic info to enable SSH...with the exact VI commands required.

My Fon Blog (not MINE but that is the name of it) (this is what I followed to flash mine)

Of course a ton of stuff on DD-WRT...but specifically...this tutorial. (basically same as previous one)

I am attempting to install DD-WRT from here. (v24-sp1/Consumer/Fon/Fonera/...I can't direct link to the folder). To get older ones....sometimes the Fonera folder is under the chipset name.

BTW I actually just got it running. DD-WRT that is...I was stuck and realized that I hadn't put in "exec" in the scripts to it wouldn't complete the read the directions.

...BTW I recommend connecting via ethernet...and realize that you will have to change the IP of your computer (the laptop in my case) at various times through the process...why? Because each bit sets a different default IP address.

Sure...after I finish I find a video walkthrough...(realize they are using an older version of a slightly different procedure)

Next step is setting it up as a wireless bridge? Maybe this will help.

...time passes...

This DD-WRT wiki entry is how I set up the wireless bridge...but it missed a couple of important was my WPA setpu was listed as WPA Personal (not WPA2 Personal or etc) second was in the SETUP>ADVANDED ROUTING tab I needed to set mine to "Router" (default is Gateway).

Right now I have my laptop conneted to the world through the ethernet tether to the FON wifi bridge.

La FONera hacked

I happened into this little project because of a show on and his notes.

My brother would ask me..."ok, so why are you going to do this"?

I decided that actually I wanted to use the FONera as a WIFI link for some IP cameras.

I have a couple of Panasonic BL-C10A IP cameras...they are pretty nice (about $40 on ebay)...but they are ethernet only. I looked at the BL-C30 wifi cam (about $100 or so on ebay) but it does not have WPA encryption I would have to run my wifi naked with it...Panasonic does have the BL-C131 which HAS WPA...but I can't find one under $180 on ebay...$300 retail. So to me $20 for FON (or cheaper if you are lucky) plus $40 for camera...and a couple of hours of waiting around (can't call it work) is a much better deal than $180.

I was stuck because the FON company automatically upgrades their routers whenever they are connected to the internet...and mine was used and had version 0.7.2 r2. (the hackable ones are 0.7.1 r2 and earlier).

Well I fell upon this little blurb on how to hack into the Fonera 2200 (mine is a 2100) but the STEP 1 worked perfect...the reset part. I won't quote it here for the sake of room, but I had to do the hard reset (push the button and hold) about 4 times. When I was done my Fonera showed it was now 0.7.0 r4, a hackable version.

...note...after using that, I found this thread...and a much shorter reset procedure...I will try that on the next one.

Now that it is hackable...I can follow any set of instructions for unlocking SSH, telneting in...installing software etc (it runs linux of course).

To be continued...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Benefits of car GPS nav systems

If you go back through the recent history of in-car GPS systems, you will note that largely they were gadgets for fun. For the most part they consisted of software running on a laptop and a serial GPS device. Somewhat simultaniously they were incorporated into the dashes of the more expensive cars-as an expensive option.

Now of course they are everywhere...all types, at all price ranges. So now nobody has an excuse for getting lost...but what else can we make them do.

I have the Garmin 7200 installed in my truck.

-it has a video input triggered off the reverse gear I now have a backup camera.

-it has an option for an XM antenna to receive weather and traffic after a cheap ebay auction...I have that now. (but the XM radio audio that comes with the package sounds like cheap AM...I don't know if it is the Garmin unit, the XM 'puck' or the actual stations broadcast.)

-it (and many other devices) will allow you to load your own "Points of Intrest"... that opens up a big area...

Trapster maintains an open database of user input info...specifically where Redlight cameras are...and where speed traps are normally located. Thanks to a quick download...I now have THAT info on my Garmin.

Ok that is pretty cool...but what if you are like my brother and need to know where the nearest $tarbuck$ is?

Enter POI-Factory. There are probably hundreds of websites that have a collection of "Points of Interest"...but this one has all the ones I have needed. Again a collection of user created data...but it is a huge collection...getting to the point where it may be hard to find what you are looking for. And of course in addion to the points, there are also a ton of icons to associate with your machine.

To put these POIs on your GPS unit is going to vary...but for Garmin, they have a free POI loader available for download. It is pretty much foolproof, but if you want to add an needs to be in the same folder as your POIs and named exactly the same .bmp. When the icon is named the same as the POI file, then the Garmin POI loader will associate the two.

I can't speak for all units, but I put ALL the POIs and Icons I want to upload into one folder and send the bunch...I am not sure if you can just add on...or if it overwrites every time.

Of course your GPS unit should allow you to decide when the icons should show...or else if you are zoomed way out...all you will see is a sea of Starbucks.

With my GPS unit, when I go to the 'find' menu, under Extras (with a picture of a golf green?) there is a button called custom POIs...they are ALL there.

I could select the Starbucks one, and it would give me the list of all the closest shops rank ordered by distance, with an arrow to the relative direction.

What more could you ask for.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Video Chat using Gizmo5

...BTW I was sick for a couple of weeks with pneumonia...I can see why old people and those with damaged immune systems can die from sucks...

But anyway...

I used Netmeeting way back in the win95 days for Video chat. It worked ok, but there were always issues with cameras, drivers, etc...there have been many video conferencing systems since then.

One I just started playing with is called Gizmo5 (verson 4.0). It is beta (ok almost alpha) but works. There is a version for your PC (tried it) your Nokia N800, N810, or 770 (tried it on the N800), Mac, Linux, and one for your mobile phone (not tried).

I will say the setup is easy...however there are some odd things.

All I have are ICQ accounts, so I used that to log then pulled my contacts from ICQ. Fine.

I click the chat works like you would expect.

However if all you have is ICQ numbers...I couldn't figure out a way to add contacts...there was no ICQ option in the "Add Contact" I have to start up Trillian to add a contact...then run a chat script on Gizmo5 to re-import contacts...yes very clumsy.

Now I tried to call the computer from the N800...just rings on the sending end...hmmm.

I will cut to the chase. When you set up your account it automatically creates a SIP number

(SIP is used in all sorts of VOIP type things...I guess it is a standard)

However it does not tell you that, or post it anywhere important...nor do they tell you that you need the SIP number to make calls to your contacts.

So after messing around with that for hours...days...I realized that was missing. The SIP number is listed in the Gizmo5 "My Profile" under the "Edit" menu.

Now to use the Video chat you will have to send your entire SIP number to your buddy, and they have to place it into your contact info...yes it is just as clumsy as it sounds.

However once you have jumped through those hoops, (and assuming you have a camera attached) Video chat now works.

Of course dialing is still clumsy...probably because Gizmo5 seems to be more setup for they can make money off you...

To do a Voice or Video chat, you have to click on the contact in the list, (assuming they are online),...on the N800 software, you then click on the (blue) SIP number to the right of the entry.

...on the PC, click on their picture, then over in the "Profile" window that will open on your contact...there you click the (blue) SIP number.

Once you have done that, if you have a camera will start sending video (or if not, then click the camera Icon.

The N800 will send video if the camera is M1330 with built in camera will send video if you select video.

Is it the best...don't know, but it works. The other IM clients seem to have dropped video...especally for the N800...if you use the Nokia to call anything other than a Nokia, this seems to be the only way to send video.

If you want to see it in action, there are a number of YouTube videos on the subject...mostly from the N800 point of view it seems.

I said in the beginning it seems to be an early beta, but it does work. I haven't/won't try the mobile phone version...because my camera is on the opposite side of the screen...what good would that do?

(Screenshot on the PC...the lower right is the PC's camera...the Video on the N800 was better for some reason...)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Video of flight

I have hovered etc with the Helicommand equipped Blade 400, here is a video of the first out of hover flight I have made, including landing on an object (hot tub...covered). I fly it up to rooftop level.

I was kind of chicken, I didn't know how long the battery would last, so I minimized my time up there...also I still have some adjusting to do on the collective/throttle settings, I have too much throttle in to get it to climb. (so I use the battery faster)

But I am happy with the results...

The video was recorded with my camcorder connected to the 2.4Ghz video receiver. (it is located in the corner of the house the helicopter is facing). The Blade 400 uses the Spektrum DX6i RC transmitter which ALSO uses the 2.4Ghz frequency. I set the video transmitter to the lower end, and the Spektrum decides where to best put its transmissions (they go from about 2.35 to 2.45 Ghz).

Notice I only get one slight drop out and some video artifacts. The oscillations are from the Helicommand over correcting for my inputs.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Yes that is a camera

Yes under the middle part of the body there is a wireless video camera.

I plug the receiver to my camcorder and record video. (that is why I need the stabilizing system)

It operates on 2.4 Ghz and is very low powered...the RC transmitter/receiver is ALSO 2.4 Ghz. So I put the camera at its lowest frequency (within the 2.4 spectrum) and the RC system gets out of the way. If the RC transmitter is between the video transmitter and receiver, then I get some noise or drop outs.

I don't have any demo's yet...I only recently installed it on this helicopter (I originally had it on another smaller helicopter).

I flew it

And is still in one piece.

I still have some adjustments to do, but it makes the helicopter much more controllable and predictable.

Here are some pics...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another way to throw away money

No, I am not talking about the iPhone...I personally don't want to switch to AT&T...but it is tempting.

No I am talking about Radio Controlled Helicopters. (not the little ones in the grocery store) By themselves they have some cost involved...especially when a gust of wind throws it into a tree, and you have to buy a few new parts.

But now you can buy an 'autopilot'...well actually an auto leveling/position holding system.

There are a few different styles on the market...but this is the one I am installing, getting ready to try out...

The Helicommand apparently has three axis of gyros giving input to the 'brain'. In addition it has a camera on the bottom to view tell if the vehicle is moving (drifting) or holding position. It took a week or so to install and set up (so the helicopter doesn't crash on the first try).

More later when I actually fly it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sprint Tethering again

So far with the Tethering lately with my Vista laptop, it either works very well, or doesn't work at all with no reason why.

What I have learned so far...

If the cellphone battery has less than 2 bars (out of 4) it will not tether...

If PDAnet won't recognize the phone is connected, yet the phone is sync'd with the computer...reboot both of them

Sometimes the cellphone is trying to access the internet through the laptop..rather than the laptop through the cellphone...disconnect the cellphone from the laptop, get the cellphone to access the internet (will probably need to reboot it) close whatever was accessing the internet, then reconnect to the laptop.

If after fooling around trying to tether and now your phone won't sync at all...reboot everything and start over.

I can't tell if it is a Vista issue, or my hacked WM6.1...the issues occurred simultaneously.

But once it is connected, unless I am actively downloading something, my calls come through. But I will usually have to command PDAnet to reconnect to the internet (still connected to the phone...just disconnected from the internet).

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sprint Touch with GPS and REV A.

The walkthrough is here at PPC Geeks!

After much fear and trepidation, I went ahead and tempted fate (bricking) by hacking my Sprint Touch.

It went as planned. I had already made a backup of the system using SPB Backup. I am still working through how to restore stuff, but I did restore my contacts and calendar.

The GPS works pretty good. Here is a photo of the Touch in my office surrounded by electronic gear, picking up 2 satellites (5 right now)...zoomed out for privacy thank you.

Part of the hack involves an upgrade to WM6.1, so you have that going for you...which is nice.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Futuremark (3Dmark) scores

Using the free version of Futuremark (you cannot change the settings), here are some relative benchmarks of the systems I own.

1165 =desktop 2.2Ghz Celeron Radeon X1600 WinXP DX9 (my beater system)
1421 =M1330 2.0Ghz Core2Duo E4400 - GeForce 8400MGS - Vista DX10
1574 =M1330 (etc) with new drivers from
1866 =desktop 1.7Ghz AthlonXP - Radeon X850 - WinXP DX9 (recently deceased)
8853 =desktop 2.4Ghz Core2Duo E6700 - Radeon HD2900Pro - WinXP DX9 (my gaming rig)

What I don't know is if the 3D mark penalizes DX10 systems...when you install the software, it installs a few DX9 things...

So far the M1330 runs Team Fortress2 and Portal just fine, full resolution etc. Haven't tried Bioshock yet (note:apparently you need updated drivers to run Bioshock)...and Crysis makes even my fast gaming rig cry at the end.

M1330 arrived!

I don't go into that whole unboxing photos thing...there are websites that already do that.

But I will say that I bought a Refurbished laptop from Dell. From what I could tell, the things that were not brand new sealed were the laptop (it has a sticker underneath to prove it is not new) and the power brick. (everything came in a standard Dell laptop box)

New software, a nice new folder thing to hold the software and documentation (actual hard copy users manual), a nice new sleeve for the laptop, New BT mouse and batteries, new remote control and battery.

This M1330 replaces my C800 that I bought off ebay...this one weighs less than half as much, longer battery life, and quiet (the C800 sounded like a hairdryer when being worked).

It came with Vista Home Premium...usability is yet to be tested, but it looks sleek and so far is a nice OS to work with. That window that pops up when you install software to make sure you really mean to do that does not seem to be an annoyance, it pops up on top right away...rather than hiding underneath your windows and you wonder why it isn't going.

For networking it is very shows EVERY device on my network that has an IP address. (i.e. cameras) It also shows my media servers (a PC running ORB, and the ReadyNAS) as media servers ready to connect to WMPlayer.

I am now going to run 3DMark (Futuremark) and benchmark this baby.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Short note about laptop comparisons

While I was researching my laptop buy, I read a lot of reviews, and even the comments after the reviews.

The common problem is it becomes very difficult to get a straight comparison of light/ultraportable/etc computers.

HTC Touch cellphone (WM): +light, inexpensive; - onscreen keyboard, micro SD storage. ok battery life

iPhone(OSX): heavier, twice the price, external storage?, good battery life

The Nokia N810(Debian) same as iPhone, slightly larger, real keyboard. ok battery life

The Asus eeePC (Slackware?) much larger and heavier, same price as iPhone, looks like laptop...shorter battery life

Macbook Air (OSX). Most expensive, about the same weight as optical drive, good battery life, but internal only.

Dell M1330 (WVP). Less $ than Air. Half a # heavier than Air. Battery life between eeePC and Air. Other than that out performs air. has optical drive...external battery

Dell Vostro (WXP?). cheap, fast, heavy, ugly. other than that, about the same as the M1330

I think the point was made...there are a billion choices out there. Size, Performance, 3-D performance, battery life, Operating system, features.

It is pointless to argue which one is only matters if it is better for your purpose.

Time for a new Laptop

Every few years, it is time to get a new laptop, and donate your old one to the my case, my wife gets it.

I had been putting off the upgrade, my Dell C800 worked ok, I bought it used off ebay in early replace my old Micron(that I bought refurbished in 1997). It worked OK, but was weighed a ton...cost me 450 bucks...I subsequently bought a video card, some ram, two DVD drives, and two batteries for get almost 3.5 hours of play time out of it, and play Battlefield 1942 (total investment was around $900).

I needed a mobile computer I could throw in a suitcase, and have good battery life.

I was strongly tempted to buy the new ASUS eeePC. First I was tempted by the original version...with the possibility of many hacks to it...then the (not released yet in the US) 900 tempted me with its larger screen etc...small, I wouldn't be too sad if I broke it...slow.

But I went with the Dell M1330. I priced the new ones...with discounts, I could get a fully optioned one (with a small battery) for $1500. It was very tempting. But I took a look at the Refurbished ones at the Dell Outlet, and found exactly what I was looking for for only $1100 out the door. Best display, best video card, remote, 2gig ram, biggest battery, etc(every option I planned on getting). I will put the $400 I saved to anything I want to.

When I get it, I will post a Futuremark benchmark, to put things in perspective.

Monday, April 7, 2008

"Bulging Capacitors"

This is now the third confirmed mobo I have owned that has had bad capacitors...The first one was actually covered under a recall (can't remember the maker) I still have that one in a box (P1), it was so bad the electrolyte from the caps were leaking all over the mobo.

The second bad mobo was a EPIA M10000. It was acting flakey...random crashes etc. I had Chris at replace the Caps (Sep 06,$55). Nice work, everything done exactly as he said it would be...worked fine after that until it was stolen (Sep 07)...(truck computer)

This Soyo Dragon+ was bought in 2002. It is an Athlon mobo and the power capacitors are in a row next to the CPU. The entire row of caps (8 in a row and 1 at the end) are bulging at the top.

Hopefully it is the last one to die of bad caps.

(yes I know it is was clean a year ago)

(edit: I found that the chipset fan was sticking, so I put some WD-40 on it...I don't know if that contributed to the problem, but I am sending the mobo in anyway)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Gigabit LANs...are they?


I don't know if they are worth it yet...I have never been close to half that speed...and that was using some benchmark software (NetIQ Qcheck).

Currently (and there are a lot of factors speed...RAID5 write speed etc) Win XP says I am using 8% of the capabilities of my Gigabit Ethernet card. (Gigabit card to Gigabit switch to ReadyNAS Gigabit port)

I will caveat this by saying, I just cobbled this mess together...however...I still expected more.

I do know that the mobo that died, using the same ethernet card was faster than this the limfac may be this mobo.

Well upon further fast computer without an onboard raid...running through different wires the exact same speed...seems like the weakness may be the RAID 5 write speed of the ReadyNAS.

Is it possible to move my RAID to a different computer?

Luckily, the answer is YES.

So in my dead Soyo Dragon+, I had a Promise TX4310 SATA RAID5 PCI card. I had that card for a couple of if the card went bad, I should be able to buy another one and be back in business, two: if the mobo goes bad, I should be able to move everything onto a new mobo.

Well I am currently demonstrating the second one...When I built my most recent computer, I changed all the cases (three) to Thermaltake Tsunami cases (btw, they are nice)...they feature an easily removable 5 drive disk cage (with a big fan to cool them).

In my dead computer I mounted the 4 raid drives AND the OS drive in that disk cage...I swapped the cage out to a different computer, threw in the RAID PCI card (never unhooked any SATA wires between the PCI card and the drives) and booted.

Anyone who has played with Windows very much knows that the chances of it booting correctly (different mobo, chipset, cpu etc) were slim and none. But I did boot it off the XP install cd, got to the install menu, said "repair" and it chugged away removing and replacing. Within an hour I booted up into XP again...RAID intact...and I am now moving files from this RAID to the ReadyNAS as I type this...thats one for the good guys.

Off-site file storage

It is important to have backups...everything we seem to do now is electronically created.

I have tried sneakerlan storage (use a portable drive and carry it around with you)...actually I still do that at work, due to they fact they didn't want to store my work email on the work servers.

Sneakerlan doesn't seem to work at home for me, because I just forget to plug the drive in...and I can't just have it automatically synchronize (or maybe I can, but just don't know how).

Off-site storage always appealed to me...mostly because if a disaster devastated both my house and the off-site storage place simultaneously, I would in fact be the most unlucky person in the world.

HOWEVER, there is a giant problem with off-site storage...if you don't have a T-1 line to your desk...yup bandwidth.

At home my Cable ISP gives (ha) me incredible download speeds...not the fastest in the world, but about 10 times the download speed as my brother's DSL.

But the upload is like at 56k modem at times.

So just imagine how long it takes to back up a couple of gigs of important documents and photos (not even .mp3s or video)...yes, days.

The obvious answer is...only back up off-site once every couple of months or something, because during the 3 days it took to overall connection speed dropped off dramatically.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Netgear ReadyNAS NV+

I already mentioned the dead computers...I have made backups...I have a backup system already in use for the important stuff (to my tornado proof closet) addition I recently uploaded the most important files to a hosting site I use. (yes encrypted etc).

But I still need to get my RAID back up and running...and I wanted to do this just happened earlier than I planned.

I bought this unit, because I needed a small all-in-one unit with a flashed small OS etc. I didn't want to build another large computer and install/upgrade an os.

My other backup system uses a NSLU2 from Linksys with two USB main, and one copy. It has worked mostly very well (except for the one time an outlook .pst file got corrupted and shrunk...then the backup system overwrote the correct one with the corrupted one...and made a dupe)

This unit is small enough to go into the storm closet...recognizes my APC UPSs, has built in backup software, has filesystem capability with Linux, OSX and Windows.

And a bunch of other bells and whistles you would want on a online file server.

More to follow.

There it is in the storm shelter (closet) with a NSLU2 with 2 USB HD attached. (and night you don't get scared)

BTW, a great resource for NAS reviews etc is No, I am not associated with them in any way...other than I used their reviews to help decide on a NAS.

Blew up two computers...

First one was a Soyo Dragon + that I had been using since it was new...I knew it was dying, but I put a raid on it seems the mobo voltage regulator went completely now.

I hope the raid can be transported intact to another computer and used as has a Promise PCI SATA card doing the dirty work.

The second computer has a graphics board cooling fan going out (I think) I can't easily access it yet, so I don't know for sure...but something is causing the graphics board to shut down while it is being used.

(edit: The video card issue, was due to the second fan giving out..the first one on this video card literally melted...I took one off another video card...6 months or so later the new fan needed some WD-40 on the bearing)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bluetooth Keyboard and Password protected Windows shares

I just got the Think Outside Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard. Worked great with my phone and N800. Not as nice as having a full size keyboard, but typing on it is ok...numbers are a pain, but it beats a stylus on the screen.

Apparently NOBODY can access shared windows drives with the Nokia devices UNLESS they are not password protected. Well mine are. So I guess I don't get access.

Luckily they are not all are password protected (apparently) because I can browse them and access files using the Filemanager on the N800. Hopefully there will be a decent solution for that soon.

Whats next? Not much, I am pretty content with the N800, good web browser, good file browser, good video player (with mplayer installed). The N770 I had to modify quite a bit to get things done, the N800 is pretty effortless at the same tasks.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nokia N800 arrived today!

Ok, this is a sexy beast! But pretty much the same as the N770 just newer...and it has a camera...and the software is better.

First thing I did was connect it to my Wifi network...ok I lie, I TRIED to connect, but am failing...probably typing the WPA key in wrong or something. (DUH, nevermind...yes the wrong WPA key)

Second thing I did was tether it to my Sprint Touch phone via bluetooth. I used the exact same steps as below...and it worked. Not the first try though...I didn't follow the steps the first two times...but the first time I actually followed the steps...THEN it worked.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

New links

Some new links in particular is my OLD website where I detailed the creation and installation of a indash computer to my truck.

It is old...because that particular computer was upgraded...and in Sep07 the upgraded computer and screen were now I have no indash computer.

But I do have a Pioneer HU that you can plug a USB drive into and it will play all the mp3s etc...and show the titles on the screen...And I have now the Garmin StreetPilot 7200, the plan is to stick that in the dash...when it warms up here.

n770 WSOD

Apparently the Nokia n770 ALL have a White Screen of Death failure. The characteristics are the machine boots up with normal sounds, but the screen is white with faint vertical lines.

I just had that with was on the charger in New Orleans at night, the next morning WSOD.

I logged into the Nokia support site, and there is a chance it is under warrantee...but in reading up on the subject...even after a fix they sometimes crash again.

So even though I may get that one back and working...I bought a N800. More on that later.