USB/Serial converters

May 21, 2008 / 0 comments

My last laptop had a serial port, but only when it was inserted into its bulking docking station. My laptop of the past 2.5 years doesn't have one. I used to spend a lot of time in datacenters wanting to configure devices over a serial console, so as a result I've been using USB to serial converters for some time. And I've never really been that happy with them.

My first device was a Belkin, using the belkin_sa driver under Linux. It was free (always a plus) and was fine for basic 9600 8N1, but didn't work with my eTrex GPS or my smartcard reader. I just assumed they were picky about what they wanted to talk to - I didn't need to use them often with my laptop and my desktop has plenty of serial ports thanks to a 4 port Moxa card.

I then bought a cypress_m8 device, as Simon had one and claimed to be happy with it. While again it was mostly ok for datacentre usage it didn't work with the GPS/smartcard reader. Also I'd sometimes see dropped characters especially when driving it at 115,200.

I just assumed this was all a limitation of the devices; I'd have said it was the fact they were cheap and nasty but I know the retail price of the Belkin wasn't that cheap. I asked around on IRC and people said they'd had no issues with pl2303 based devices. So I bought one from DealExtreme for a bargain price, figuring it was worth a try. And it was. It works with my smartcard reader and my GPS. It doesn't drop characters anywhere near as readily, even at high speeds. And it was cheap as chips. I've seen others complain about the pl2303, but it's definitely the best of the 3 USB to serial chipsets I've tried.

Best bluetooth GPS for walking?

May 18, 2008 / 0 comments

Dear Lazyweb,

What is currently the best GPS chipset suitable for walking? Something I can pair up with my E70 to get tracks for importing to OpenStreetMap is the sort of thing I'm looking for. I can find various reviews that suggest the SirfStar III is best for the low speeds associated with walking, but they're all at least a year old. Has nothing better come along since? What about the SkyTraq Venus 5?

I'm totally Rick Moranis

May 16, 2008 / 0 comments

I mentioned on my switch to Movable Type post that there were a few things that were hopefully going to happen RSN and that I'd talk about them if they did.

Well, one of them did, and Steve helpfully dropped me in it earlier in the week - I was granted write access to the debian-keyring. It's worth pointing out that while Steve did some prodding around this the process started quite some time ago; back in November James Troup (the other current keyring maintainer, and at the time the only one) contacted me regarding an offer I'd made to help out in whatever way I could. As a result I got involved in the keyring RT queue and did some basic triage and trying to point people in the right direction, where such help didn't require any keyring privileges. I also started thinking about how keyring maintenance could be shared in a trackable fashion. I made some suggestions to James and he was largely in favour with a few suggestions and wishlists.

I'll get into discussing exactly how it goes at a later point in time, but for the moment I want to get a better feel for the process and procedures to fine tune things. To that end I've been working my way through the keyring RT queue, and have removed quite a few keys of retired developers, as well as doing a handful of replacements for developers who'd lost or had their key compromised. There's still a few more tickets in progress and I'm trying my best to work through them in a timely manner - if you have an outstanding ticket and haven't heard from me then please do feel to ping it.

RIP John Magirr

May 5, 2008 / 0 comments

My grandfather (my last living grandparent) was found dead in his flat today at 11am. He lived alone in Liverpool (his choice; my mother had offered to help him move to Newry in the past but he hadn't wanted to) and when my uncle failed to get hold of him yesterday for his weekly phone call he became worried. When there was still no response this morning my mother called the police who ended up breaking down the door of his flat. He was apparently found in bed, which hopefully means it was quick and without suffering.

It's been a while since I was close to him; when I was much younger he would take me into the centre of Belfast when he visited and we would wander round, always ending up with a trip to the Electronics Centre, where I would disappear into large boxes of pruck, and Anderson & MacCauley's for lunch. More recently I haven't known what to say to him, which was a bit of a shame.

He died aged 81, with all his own hair and possession of his mental faculties, which doesn't seem like bad going. I think he would have found it very difficult to have had to rely on others to live his life, so perhaps in some ways this was better. *sigh*

Switching to Movable Type

May 4, 2008 / 0 comments

Since I noticed the Movable Type Open Source release I've been considering switching over to it; my Blosxom install is just a tad crufty and I wanted something that wasn't going to require a lot of effort (it's hard enough to get round to posting these days without having to worry about the underlying system). Dom's packaging of MT and Ganneff's switch gave me some confidence it might be a sane move, so here we are.

Of course the style now completely conflicts with the rest of my site (I should probably update it all, but I don't really do HTML/CSS so it can wait for now), there's still no real content and I've no doubt broken a whole bunch of links (which I'll try to fix up as I notice any that are used a lot), but I've kept putting this off and the longer I do so the worse it'll get.

(I might have some real life things to blog about, but they all seem to be in the RSN category and there's no point talking about them unless they actually happen.)

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