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.)

DG834G + OpenWRT + IPv6 love

Mar 29, 2008 / 0 comments

As I type this my internet connection is being once again powered by my DG834G. It's also very dark, but that's because I'm observing Earthhour (I don't think it'll change the world, but I don't mind sitting in the dark that much and there's only me in the house).

After my last OpenWRT/AR7 experiment I thought I'd bricked the Netgear. I ended up using my BT Home Hub as a stop gap solution and wondered how to proceed. I bought a Conexant Accessrunner USB modem and tried it with the WGT634U. This proved more stable than the USB Speedtouch, but still resulted in a couple of line drops a day at least. AR7 still seemed the way forward. I picked up a D-Link DSL-502T off eBay. This has a USB port, an ethernet port and no wireless. However it's AR7 based and has 4MB of flash and 16MB of RAM; the same as the Netgear. It also has a serial header already soldered on, so it was easy to connect my level shifter up and have a play. I built up a recent OpenWRT and managed to install it successfully and then hook it up to my ADSL. All seemed quite stable and I was feeling pretty happy.

In parallel with this I'd picked up a cheap D-Link G604T off eBay - this has a 4 port switch and wireless and is basically the same hardware as the Netgear. It was listed as faulty, but I was hoping to be able to use it for parts or at the very least for testing. As it turned out it worked perfectly; didn't need to reflash it or anything to get it going. I put the image I had working on the 502T on it and hooked it up. Again, everything seemed stable. I managed to get the wireless detected ok, but the driver doesn't seem to support AP mode that well - there are big warnings in dmesg when you enable it. It's an acx111 chipset and unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a lot of upstream activity - there's some work on a version using the in kernel 802.11 stack, but it doesn't currently compile with 2.6.24 AFAICT.

Anyway. I had working ADSL with OpenWRT, albeit without wireless (having the switch was useful though, as the router lives beside the media box but also needs to be connected to the switch upstairs in the study). I'd chased Enta a week ago about IPv6 but still not heard anything, so I gave them another prod. This time I got a speedy response indicated my account was now enabled for IPv6 and providing me with a /64. I added +ipv6 to /etc/ppp/options and restarted PPP and it all just started working. In addition I've configured up radvd on the box so everything on the ethernet autoconfigs.

Flush with the success of all this I thought I'd try my Netgear again and see if it was really dead or if I could get the original firmware back on it. For some reason that worked first time and the router booted fine. So I thought I'd try OpenWRT again, given that I had an image I knew worked fine on another AR7 router - if it didn't work on the Netgear I'd know there was some sort of hardware difference or problem rather than a build issue. And it worked. My DG834G is now running OpenWRT SVN r10685, doing IPv6 and generally everything I need except for wireless. I've updated my DG834G page a little bit, including a link to the OpenWRT config I'm using. Hopefully the wireless will get there; certainly most chipsets seem to be getting much improved upstream support these days and I'm sure it must be possible for the ACX guys to make use of the in kernel stack to reduce their work.

Archos 705 media player

Mar 29, 2008 / 0 comments

El Reg reviewed the Archos 705 yesterday. They only gave it 50%, which I think is a little harsh. I bought one of these back in November when they first came out, as something to help easy my daily commute by train. I have to say I don't regret the purchase; while there are various niggles that annoy me it basically does what I want.

My main drive was the size of the screen. There are plenty of options available if you want in the region of 4", but I wanted something bigger that could still be shoved in a bag without any hassle. The 705's 7" screen is great. I can sit it on the tray table on the train and it gives a clear viewable image that doesn't leave me squinting trying to see it. The second concern was the battery life. At 7" you start to get into the UMPC area. However there didn't seem to be anything around that both offered enough battery life and had the grunt to decode DivX. I need a guaranteed 2hrs (ideally a bit longer) so I can watch something without being interrupted. I've certainly had over 3hrs on the Archos and various reviews claim it'll do 5hr for video without problems.

Archos call the 705 a DVR. I've no idea why; I certainly wouldn't consider it one. I have the DVR station, but I've only used it to connect the Archos up to a hotel room TV and never for actually recording anything. There's no tuner (neither analog nor digital), so you need a Freeview/cable/satellite or similar box to provide a signal. Plus it seems pointless to convert a digital TV signal to analog and then for the Archos to have to re-encode it. Much more sane to record TV on your PVR and pull the file off that and onto the 705. Except there you hit a bit of a problem. By default the Archos supports DivX and WMV. To get MPEG2 or H.264 support, or indeed AC3 audio, you need to pay extra for a license that will enable the appropriate codec. This is annoying and I've ended up just using mencoder to convert Freeview records to an Archos friendly format rather than shelling out more for the codecs. Archos do seem to have dropped the ball here. The MPEG2 license fee seems to be $2.50 per device. The TI licensing seems to be about $2 for MPEG2 + AC3. Archos sell the plugin for €19.99. I doubt AC3 licensing is over $15, which rules out Archos merely keeping the cost down for customers by allowing them to pick and chose which codecs they want to avoid paying license fees.

The 705 also comes with a web browser. Which, of course, you have to pay for. I ended up getting this thrown in with my 705 + DVR station bundle. It's powered by Opera and reasonable enough. The only time I've really made use of it is while staying in a hotel; it was quite nifty to have the 705 hooked up to the TV and be able to lie on the bed with the keyboard remote control and lookup film times or interesting places to go. Internet access is provided by wifi; if it had bluetooth as well then I might make use of it on the train, but as it is it's not really something I use much.

As I said at the start I'm still happy with my purchase. It's not a cheap item, but it has the screen size and battery life I wanted and there wasn't a lot else out that offered both. Having to pay for codecs is a bad move on Archos' part, but I've avoided doing so by re-encoding. If you want something that's a decent media player of this size then the 705 is definitely worth considering; if you're not sure about the size aspect you may be better off with a 605 (the 4.3" screen version) or even something from Cowon (who unfortunately don't seem to have anything in the 7" range).

Finally, if you already own a generation 5 Archos device, you might be interested to know that shell access has been obtained. The device is pretty locked down (signed kernel modules, no /dev/mem, signed root cramfs filesystem), but there's an arcwelder exploit to get an ssh login over wifi and an Archos Hacking forum on Archosfans.

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