Archive for the 'Tech' Category

Mobile Google Maps

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

Here’s what I’ve been wanting ever since google maps launched - a version for my phone: Mobile GMaps


Monday, June 13th, 2005

High Energy Magic’s spotcode mobile phone barcode system has grown up and turned into ShotCodes. About a year ago I wrote about their demo at NotCon.

Readers seem to be available for many more phones, so this may be something to look at and play with again.


Thursday, June 9th, 2005

I’ve just finished my annual ritual of updating the software on my venerable Sony Picturebook and getting it ready for the holiday season. It’s always been a slow old dog, but the quad size battery I have for it still lasts over five hours between charges, so it’s extremely useful for picking up mail and playing old lucasarts games. It’s now set up and working nicely with my new phone and a new wireless 802.11g card.

The rest of this post will be in a heavy dialect of geekese. If you don’t care about the details skip to the end and look at the screenshot. You will finally see the Unicode Jolly Roger as I intended it to appear on Friday.

I’ve upgraded the Vaio from Debian to Ubuntu Linux. The upgrade procedure is pretty simple as Ubuntu is based on Debian, and anything Debian based is rightfully famous for allowing itself to be upgraded in place without ever re-installing from scratch. Since I hadn’t updated any packages for around a year a few simple

apt-get dist-upgrade

s left me with a shiny Ubuntu


login. There were a few hours of waiting involved while everything downloaded and unpacked itself onto the Vaio’s slow old disk drive, but very little supervision was necessary.

Ubuntu is really delivering fast on its “Linux for Human Beings” tag line. It’s definitely the first distribution I’d be happy to recommend to someone without a willingness to grub around configuring text files. I hadn’t realized how much work they’d done on laptop power management and ACPI support, but without any configuration on my part the Vaio now automatically suspends to memory when you close the lid and recovers as soon as you open it.

The 802.11g card I’m using is a Netgear WG511T , which works out of the box with Ubuntu. As soon as I plugged it in and typed in the WEP key I was on the network. I’m not convinced it’s working at the full 108Mbps speed, but it’s more than enough to max out our ADSL connection at home.

The Linux GPRS instructions I used last year to connect to my Nokia 6600 still apply to my Nokia 6630. These days you can skip all the sections on kernel configuration for bluetooth, and all I had to do to change from one phone to the next was to update the bluetooth id in


. Maybe Ubuntu gives a nice dialog for configuring a phone, but I didn’t bother looking as I’d already travelled the geeky low road before.

The down side of the Vaio is its 666 Mhz Crusoe processor, sluggish Hitachi hard disk and


screen size. Running a full Gnome desktop is like stirring syrup through a letterbox, so in the past I’ve always ended up running something much quicker like the extremely minimalist ion window manager, which keeps applications maximized at all times. This year there is a rather nice new development in the form of matchbox - the window manager in the maemo development platform built for the Nokia 770 internet tablet. Based on my experiences so far, it seems to be very nice and friendly. Here’s what it looks like:

Arr! My piratical Matchbox Vaio!

Update: *cough*. What I thought was suspend-to-memory was actually rather more mundane screen blanking. To get suspend-to-memory going you have to uncomment a line in


and edit


to make it trigger when the lid shuts. Hopefully a gui to configure this will appear soon.

Quartzification of Linux

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Of interest to Linux weenies only - K00l Luminocity OpenGL Videos.

OpenGL accelerated OSX Quartz-style visuals are on their way to Linux, along with a healthy side order of SVG.

Finding the porn you thought you’d deleted, in front of your boss.

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

For anyone vaguely curious about what happened to the pre-alpha Gnome/Mono search technology Dashboard, a lot of it has gone into a live desktop search project called Beagle.

There are some nice beagle demos here, captured with vnc2swf.

I, Cringely - The New Mac Mini is All About Movies

Friday, January 21st, 2005

This weeks “I, Cringely” column is pretty interesting, hypothesizing that Apple is silently positioning the Mac Mini as an HDTV download service. If there’s any truth in this, by the time Blockbuster decides on an HDTV capable optical disc format then Apple could have shiny iTunes-store boxes sitting next to brand new Sony TVs all over America.

I, Cringely - The New Mac Mini is All About Movies

IFlix anyone?

Video Game Dorkery

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004

I’ve slackened my Free Software ethics a notch or two and installed a Windows 2000 dual boot on my new computer so I can play a few games while my new graphics card is in it’s prime. It would be nice if Dawn of War and Homeworld 2 had Linux clients, but it isn’t going to happen.

Last night I played a little Doom 3 for the first time - it scared the crap out of me just like the original did. It definitely is the same game that I played to death ten years ago, but the spooky lighting manages to bring back the fear and suspense and makes you feel like you’re in Alien. One very nice touch - after dispatching bloodthirsty Zombies you get to laugh at their old emails and office politics on abandoned Palm Pilots.

Since I really don’t trust a Windows installation further than a glorified games console bios the bulk of my disk space is going toward my current linux distro of choice - Ubuntu Linux. It’s a brand new Debian based distribution with up to the minute desktop software, and all of it available compiled for my Athlon 64. Anyone entertained by Linux geekery can laugh at my attempts to get my onboard gigabit ethernet working in Ubuntu Bugzilla.

MSN Search — More Useful Everyday?

Thursday, July 1st, 2004

Looks like there are still a few days to go before the new MSN Search demo overtakes Google on usefulness.

At the moment, searching for “Scientology” doesn’t even bring up Operation Clambake on the first page of results. Until it does, I won’t consider it a “useful search engine”.

That said, it looks like a big improvement on the current MSN search page. I wonder if they’ll be able to keep the minimalist thing going once they’re rolled into the MSN portal page.

Phil’s RSS feed

Tuesday, June 8th, 2004

Yay - Phil has fixed his RSS feed so it contains full post contents and not just excerpts:

the terrible beauty Helter Skelter

Also, WordPress supports PingBack, which should mean this post gets automatically added as a comment on Phil’s blog as well as a post on mine.

I wonder if any of the Brighton bloggers could be convinced to follow and fix their RSS feeds - it looks like the default Movable Type behaviour is for articles to get trunc…

NotCon ‘04

Monday, June 7th, 2004

I made it to the first half of NotCon ‘04 this morning before fleeing back up to Barnet to spend some of Sunday with Sarah. I hadn’t been to Imperial College Union before, so was impressed to see it was right next door to this fairly impressive building:


Before the talks kicked off there was a screening of the pilot, and only, episode of Heat Vision and Jack - after which the LCD projector decided not to work in full colour for the rest of the morning. I sat in for two talk sessions:

Life Hacks

Owing to technical difficulties this was a partially monochrome retelling of Danny O’Brien’s talk from the Emerging Technology Conference in February. For those who won’t recognize the name, Danny is the one who writes the top half of weekly email bulletin NTK.

I won’t bother writing much about this session as it has already been comprehensively covered and Danny has made promises to put some meaningful content on once he has given his third and final version of the talk some time next week.

Hardware - 6 mini talks

  • As advertised, James Larsson managed to move a solenoid controlled clock to within an hour or two of the current time by measuring the capacitance of a decaying prawn and comparing it to prawns he had known in the past. Cute, but not terribly useful.
  • Matt West had both compact flash and ide interfaces for his ZX Spectrum and impressed everybody by playing some video with it.
  • Stephen Goodwin talked about communicating with mencoder and X10 appliances via email - nothing too thrilling for people who already run TivoWeb
  • The villainous Reverend Rat soldered a 10 kilowatt powered antenna onto a usb bluetooth dongle, and muttered a bit about “penetration testing” and other nefarious plans for making money by finding security flaws.
  • George Wright from the Beeb gave a short presentation about how they were starting to get some things right with interactive tv, apparently they are now World Leaders in the area. Most interesting point was that all itv content has to be vetted by platform owners, as nobody wants to be financially responsible for knocking over a million sky boxes before a pay per view cup final.
  • Most interesting for me was the short presentation by of Anil Madhavapeddy of High Energy Magic who have been doing some very insteresting stuff with small 2d barcodes and using them to control user interfaces - watch the videos on the site to get a good idea how it works. Their freely downloadable (but no source…) BangoSpot demo works on my nokia 6600 and is the first realtime barcode identification I’ve seen working on a camera phone.

The event was a little over-capacity so by leaving I let someone else get into the building. Hopefully selling some tickets twice should give good odds of financial success, and maybe we’ll see more of this kind of thing in the future.