Saturday, November 27, 2010

WiFi cellphone, Boingo, and WMWifirouter

Boingo has a mobile device plan for $8 a month (world wide coverage). I travel a LOT so a cheap data plan is very useful. Their mobile laptop plan is a couple more $ a month.

My cellphone does wifi, and there is a Boingo plugin for it...there is an app for my iPod, but that one doesn't see the same networks my phone sees for some reason.

Well there is another program for my windows wifi phone...WMWifirouter. This program allows my phone to share wifi over USB (and other combinations). $20 (15 EUR)

So right now I am in Brussles, using my Boingo account, tethering my laptop via my phone battery charges. The hotel I am staying in (that Boingo works through) charges 10 EUR a day for this connection...more than paid for my monthly fee with this one connection.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ubuntu update oddness.

I do the usual updates with Ubuntu...but for some reason a recent update deleted my printers.

I tried to reinstall the Brother HL-2070N (which is a great cheap laser printer!) the way I always did...find it on the network, and install a earlier printer driver that Ubuntu already had.

Well that didn't work this time, so I had to search the internets...but luckily the fix was easy...relative for Linux...

First found this Tutorial (FAQ/Wiki?) at

That directed me to the Brother website, that I still had to wade through a bit to find this page, which directed me to these drivers and this page of directions.

The Ubuntu site's directions were the same as Brother's site...but Brother added a test command to make sure the drivers installed properly.

So now that the drivers (lpr and cups) were installed, I now had to go the the list of printers, and point the 2070N to the actual network location (properties).

And it works again...but I would like to know why it failed to begin with.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some interesting Amateur radio links.

Doing some more SDR (Software Defined Radio) research and found some interesting links.

First is A list of SDR systems online...i.e. you can use via internet. The first one I went to is pretty amazing. seems to give full control of the radio to a nice Java interface...waterfall displays have to see it to believe it.

Next I found the SDR Monitoring System...listing the status of online SDR sets displayed on a Google map...I don't know if it has ever been updated, but the concept is neat.

Next is the VHF Propagation Maps, where APRS data is used to determine the propagation (range) of VHF and some HF sets...displayed on a map.

Texas VHF is a site of info and links for Texas based, and other Amateur radio.

Ham Radio University is an event on Long Island in January...I will have to see if my schedule will let me attend.

The SDR radio sites make me REALLY want to invest in this technology...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

HTPC - Home Theater PC

I have been running two modified XBoxes (original ones) as HTPCs for quite a few years now. It required a hardware hack that has been thoroughly documented on the Internets.

For the software part of the HTPCs I was (am) running XBMC - XBox Media Center. Let me just say that it works great, nice interface (that uses the XBox remote) and runs pretty much all media files (even DVDs as .ISO files) as well as most online media sources (YouTube, internet radio).

There are only a couple of drawbacks right now, no Hulu or Netflix support, and no ability to play Blu-ray disks, or files, or .ISOs.

Right now most of my most played media is stored in a NAS (or two). But recently I have been playing with Blu-ray disks. My BD player takes (it seems) forever to boot and load a disk, so if I want to watch a BD disk, I had better plan on putting in the time. And although the BD player has online media access (youtube) it is slow and clumsy.

So I started ripping BD disks. I am still experimenting with file type, so I use AnyDVD (hd) to rip an ISO, and I use MakeMKV to rip into both MKV files, and to rip the disk into a backup. I have the files (because I save the ISOs and other files, about 100gigs a BD disk) on a Buffalo Linkstation with a 2TB USB drive plugged in. I needed the space, and I wondered if this setup had enough throughput to stream the HD video.

First test was on my main gaming Win7 machine...VLC played the MKV files just fine...but not the ISO.

My Linux machine would not play anything back, even with VLC.

Meanwhile I had picked up a Dell Optiplex GX280 SFF (small form factor) computer (3Ghz P4), and put in a ATI HD 4550 SFF video card. (has the HDMI out). So I thought I would see if this little machine could play back the BD files.

The answer is yes...although at first I had a lot of trouble...VLC on that machine (winXP) stuttered on I installed Media Player Classic HD (MPC-HD) and that played better but at 100% CPU and still a bit of stutter at times...then I looked at task manager to see what was running...

The person I got the PC from had installed Windows Security Center (or something like that) an all inclusive antivirus, firewall, malware etc blocker...unfortunately it used a ton of processor power any time you did anything else with the I turned it off, and suddenly BD playback was just fine. I uninstalled that, and installed Avast! antivirus (regular windows firewall was still there).

So ok I can play back these files on a windows machine...but was there a better interface?

That brought me back to XBMC. Now they have versions for all the OS platforms and a Live CD version. So I tried out the Live CD.

I had to boot the Optiplex hooked up to the PC monitor and the HDTV and use the ATI software to correctly use the HDTV as output device on windows...but after that it worked fine on windows.

Booting from the Live CD was fairly quick. Once XBMC had booted, I had to go into the settings and put the audio outputs to HDMI...and I had to play with the video rendering option...autodetect did not work on any media playback.

But BD playback was a no go using the Live CD.

So I installed the windows version. Again I had to set the audio output, but some of the other options were different than the Live CD. This version could play back the BD files...but it was choppy.

So I needed to be able to use MPC-HD to play back the BD files...and I needed XBMC to use that program to do the job.

A workaround that is pretty good is this on

Create a file named playercorefactory.xml and place it in your [user]appdata/XBMC directory.
The location depends on what version of Windows you are using, and the location of the "mpc-hc.exe" file also depends on version.

I personally removed the -filename=".*1080p.*" rule...because none of my BD files have that in the title.

It now works pretty well, XBMC starts mpc-hc when it finds the MKV files (BD) and pops back up when playback is over.

Only weird part is, if I stop the BD playback...I have to tell mpc-hc to exit.

So until I find a better option...this setup will be my new HTPC.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

APRS and the Kenwood TH-D7A(G)

The Kenwood TH-D7A(G) was the last release of their TNC/APRS loaded dual-band HT (handheld).

I will have to go into my notes to see if I wrote about using it for APRS...but the summary is, I have the D7A hooked up through a Argent GTrans cable to a Garmin Nuvi350. It works great...but the Nuvi has to be plugged in for it to work in this setup.

For some reason I had thought that the Nuvi and StreetPilot GPS units were the only Garmin units that could not only send GPS position to the Kenwood radio, but receive position information of other APRS units.

I was mistaken...looking at this capability table, you can see than a lot of Garmin units have the two way capability (in/out on the chart).

Now there are some advantages to the Nuvi 350...but it I want to use it strictly as a portable APRS unit...I will have to include an external battery...which will increase the weight and clumsiness of the unit.

I would like to have a GPS unit ON the HT so I can see the other positions right there, without any other wires and things.

I noted on that list that my Garmin GPS V (that is in a box in a closet) has the two way capability...but it is a bulky unit, and doesn't really fit my needs.

Then I found this web page from Steven Smith (WA8LMF) where he uses a wrist mountable Garmin ForeTrex 201 hooked up to a D7A.

So I am in the process of acquiring one, and will make some kind of mount so that it is part of the radio.

One caveat...after I found the 201 which uses a rechargeable battery and a snap on connector for the serial port...I found out that the 101 uses replaceable batteries, and has a serial connector on the side. So that one may be a better product for my purpose...but I will soon find out.