Things that need to be invented

Sep 6, 2005 / 0 comments

I'm a keen believer that we need some more interesting applications for pie-in-the-sky technology. My favourite example is the time machine fridge. What better use for the idea of time travel? Every time you need an ingredient from the fridge, not only do you have it - it's fresh! I was explaining this idea at TFM's BBQ on Saturday and Ian Snell came up with a potentially better idea; the stasis fridge. Want things to stay as fresh as the moment you put them into the fridge? No problem. What to keep your hot pizza beside your cold beer? Done.

My other neat idea is the wormhole router; get round that pesky speed of light limitation of packets crossing the Atlantic by having paired routers with a wormhole between them. Loadsa bandwidth, tiny latency. No danger of a trawler cutting your fibre!

The problem, of course, is that no one's actually got round to inventing time travel, stasis or wormholes yet. Bah.

Gadgets Galore #2: Toshiba Portégé R200

Sep 5, 2005 / 0 comments

My second gadget in the past week was a new laptop. I've discussed this before and ended up with the R200. Built in bluetooth + wireless and 512MB RAM; more than my old N200. I'd seen Chris Walker's R100 at Steve's annual August BBQ and he said he was happy with build quality, so that convinced me. It's very nice; light, looks good, even came with a little cloth to put between the screen and keyboard when it's shut (numerous people have told me they put a piece of paper in or similar for their laptops to avoid finger muck getting on the screen, so I thought it was a nice touch by Toshiba).

Installation was fun (in a sick, I like fiddling sort of way). No removable drives. And the in built ethernet isn't supported by a stock kernel. Hmmm. So I ended up booting from an SD card that happens to have GRUB on it in my SD/USB convertor, and then reading the mini install ISO off my iAudio, and then doing the rest of the install over the network using a PCMCIA 8139too based card I had lying around. If I'd had a big enough SD card or USB memory stick the easy solution would have just to do a full install off that, but I don't.

The whole thing is patchtastic. The internal GigE ethernet isn't supported by 2.6.13, but you can download a patch from Marvell. The internal wireless is Atheros, which needs the non-free madwifi driver (though I must try the Free ath-driver at some point). Bluetooth appears as a normal USB device, supported by hci_usb. However it doesn't appear on the bus without an ACPI patch to allow toshset to enable it (I possibly could have enabled /dev/toshiba support as well). The video is an i915 chipset, which isn't supported by the XFree86 in Etch, so I'm waiting for xorg to propagate from Sid before installing X. Good job I'm a text mode junkie, eh?

That sounds like a bad review, but I'm really happy with it. Everthing is actually supported (well, except the SD slot and the fingerprint reader), just not in the default kernel. It's light, it looks cool, I'm easily getting 3+ hrs battery life out of it and that's before I've looked at doing stuff like laptop-mode or auto cpufreq.

Oh, and although I'm running Debian on it, the Ubuntu R200 wiki page was really useful as a starting point.

Gadgets Galore #1: Sony Ericsson v600i

Sep 2, 2005 / 0 comments

This past week has been a week of gadgets. My Orange contract ran out a couple of weeks ago, so I was due an upgrade from my SPV E200 (more on that monstrosity later). I've been with Orange for 6 years now and although I've found them fine for voice their data performance has been patchy. I'm not a heavy user, but it's annoying to not be able to rely on it at all. People Who Know seem to rate Vodafone as the best UK data network so I went looking to see what they could offer. At first the Nokia 6230i looked like the best option, but then I noticed the Sony Ericsson v600i (which I think is just a Vodafone branded K800i). This is a 3G phone that isn't a lot bigger than the 6230i and still manages to be smaller than the SPV.

So it arrived Tuesday week ago, but unfortunately as I was porting my number from Orange it only became active this Tuesday. Bit odd as at first it worked for outgoing calls but incoming were still going to Orange, but it sorted itself out within a few hours. Whole process was reasonably smooth except for a complete inability to order online if you want to port a number; I ended up having to ring up. How retro.

Anyway. Kathy disappeared off to her parents yesterday, so I made my first video call last night (she has a phone on 3 as mentioned previously). It's actually pretty neat; jerky, but enough to tell facial expressions that are held for longer than a moment. I dread to think how much it cost and I doubt I'd use it in general, but it's Pretty Cool.

Then, while fiddling with it on the way to London today (a joyous day in the datacentre) I discovered it does IMAPS. And actually checks the cert. I'm impressed. Now I'm on my way home I had a fiddle with getting dialup over Bluetooth working and that seemed relatively straightforward too.

So far the downsides I've found are that it really doesn't want to talk OBEX to the telecom/ directory, which I understand to be how you pull the phonebook and things off the phone. I don't know if this is something I'm doing or if I'll have more luck with SyncML. The other problem is a lack of decent games on it. I want something simple and addictive to pass the time on trains. There are a couple of demo games, but both a bit too complicated for instant addiction. Brett tells me sending Java apps should be a simple matter of an OBEX upload, so I'll try that later and see what I can find.

All in all I'm happy with it so far. We'll see how I feel after the first month I guess, when the bill's hit. :)


Aug 31, 2005 / 0 comments

So, after 4 years of hard work (honestly, and not several trips to New York, Madrid, Athens, Nice and more) Kathy finally submitted her PhD yesterday. It's a weighty tome (and I confess I still haven't read all of it), and she's glad to have got rid of it I think. Now we just need to wait for her supervisor to sort out a viva for her; last we heard he was having difficulty with getting an external examiner. :(

Which leads nicely onto TFM, who took nearly a year from submission to viva I believe. This happened yesterday as well (is there something in the air?) and he passed with minor corrections. Yay!

Congratulations to both Kathy and TFM!

New windows!

Aug 26, 2005 / 0 comments

I got a phone call just before 5 yesterday afternoon from the window man, saying he had slot free today and as luck would had it my windows had arrived and was I free and if so could they come and fit them today. I'd originally been planning to take the day off when they came to do the fitting, but at such short notice and with Dom on a RIPE course today and Simon in London for an install I didn't really feel I could do that. However it worked out ok; I spent the morning working in the kitchen (after realising that a) I have a laptop, b) I have a wireless card and c) I have a wireless network in my house. Doh!) while they worked upstairs, and then I moved upstairs after lunch. All in all the process was pretty painless, aside from having to make sure I was up and dressed before they arrived. And now I have nice new windows at the back of the house rather than old wooden ones I'm worried about falling out.

And all that means that soon I get to buy a new laptop so time to do some more research and talk to Matthew the God of Laptops about what's likely to be hassle free under Linux. I shall corner him at the Debian UK BBQ tomorrow.

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