Sunday, December 27, 2009

Avatar and the Apple tablet computer

Screen shot 2009-12-28 at 5.53.54 PM.pngSaw Avatar in 3D at iMax yesterday. Recommended. I don't think it will stand the test of time, in that the story was so derivative that it will fade into memory pretty quickly but the lush visuals reappeared in my dreams which is always a good sign.

Like Minority Report, the film demonstrated some interesting ideas about future computer interfaces.

As CES and Apple's January 26th announcement draw near, I'm thinking about tablet computers a great deal at the moment.

If my hands are on the keyboard a mouse is a very convenient tools for pointing at things, it's close to the keyboard after all. Holding my arms up to a screen at head height is not going to work.

If a tablet was held in one hand then touching the screen to manipulate objects with the other seems to be the natural way to interact. I'm definitely looking forward to that.

The iPhone 3Gs 'oleophobic' screen coating shows that it's possible to have a capacitive touch screen that doesn't end up covered in grease smear - so that's an important technology.

The screens in Avatar were touch controlled, the only silly thing was that they were see through, presumably to enhance the movie scene. Aside from heads up displays, I can't imagine why you'd make screens transparent.

Here's my guesses/wishes on the Apple Tablet.

  • Will run Cocoa Touch - like the iPhone/iPod touch

  • The existing 90,000 iPhone apps will run out of the box in little gadget like windows

  • XCode will be updated with a new way to go full screen if required

  • The App store will be more like the iTunes store and include movie rental, and periodical subscriptions

  • Device will have WiFi, Bluetooth (to link to Magic mouse and keyboard), and 3G (mininum) data. After all, Apple knows how to do all this from the iPhone

  • Screen will be 1280x720 so that HD movies look awesome

  • Video hardware will decode H.264 at 30fps without using too much battery

  • Solid state disk - or at least an option

  • Will be jailbroken within 24 hours of shipping

  • Called iPad or iSlate - it's got to be i + one syllable so not iTablet



People criticise the iPhone for not multi-tasking but poor battery life complaints hurt much more. I wouldn't be surprised if the iPad only uses power for the frontmost app and sleeps everything else. The notification system is the right answer for this in my view.

The big unknown is the screen technology. If we are to replace newspapers and magazines then this device needs to be readable in daylight. When the iPhone screen debuted it was way ahead of any other phone screen, it wouldn't be a shock if they had something ready to go again.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

WSPR is hot tonight

Amazing amount of activity tonight. Here's my station.

Screen shot 2009-12-26 at 8.28.51 PM.png


And here's the world.

Screen shot 2009-12-26 at 8.34.49 PM.png


40m is going crazy!

Screen shot 2009-12-27 at 7.59.05 AM.png


The fact that my 5W signal can be heard 16,000 Km away is incredible to me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

How to build WSPR on MacOS X Snow Leopard

First, the bad news, it doesn't get very far, but I'm working on that.
Screen shot 2009-12-25 at 8.42.12 AM.png

Using MacPorts:
port install portaudio
port install fftw-3-single +g95
port install g95
port install py26-numpy
port install py26-scipy


Using easy_install or pip or whatever:

pip install f2py


There is a python patch I needed:

crackfortran.py in numpy line 1586 has a variable named 'as' that causes a syntax error in python 2.6. I renamed it asx.

To build:

./configure --with-portaudio-lib-dir=/opt/local/lib \
--with-portaudio-include-dir=/opt/local/include
make

Screen shot 2009-12-25 at 8.42.34 AM.pngIf I run the program is crashes shortly after the UI comes up.

I hadn't found what I needed to get this far anywhere so wanted to share. Please let me know if you're got WSPR running on MacOS.

My sincere thanks to the MacPorts users mailing lists for help last night. And thanks of course to Jo Taylor. I'll update when I have some progress to report.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thoughts on digital photography at Xmas time

Did a spot this morning with James Carelton on ABC Radio national where we discussed digital photography and showed a wonderful book about the Golden Lotus Chinese Restaurant in Killarney heights.



For those who've wondered what the guy who does "what the papers say", here's James in the radio studio that's gradually turning into a TV studio.

James Carelton.jpg


(He didn't really want to be photographed in that shirt but seeing as I was forced to wear a cardigan..)

Thanks to Roi for the filming and post production.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Telstra Bigpond guilty of DNS Hijacking

Just noticed that if I take a web browser to a non-existent domain name, instead of correctly returning an error as it should Bigpond now directs me to a web page with a Yahoo search.

Screen shot 2009-12-22 at 10.46.36 AM.png

This is called DNS Hijacking and it's very annoying.

As a programmer, I rely on receiving error messages when appropriate and being able to do the right thing in response. These days a lot of software works by sending HTTP requests and if these requests, to perhaps an internal domain, succeed when really they should fail all sorts of bad things can happen.

One solution is to use Google's new public DNS.

Screen shot 2009-12-22 at 10.58.33 AM.png


Dear Bigpond, please don't mess with my internet connection, or at least let me know about the setting and allow me to opt in or out as I wish.

Friday, December 11, 2009

SDR to WSPR from Ross T61AA

Old friend Ross, (who needs to start his own blog), sent me some progress notes on how he's going trying to combine a SoftRock with WSPR software. He writes:

"I have found that the SoftRocks are not very stable when left to themselves. I have attached a screen dump of WSPR and SpecJT and also the list of spots on the site. You will see that the received spots are a lot more stable than the off-air reception by SoftRock Xtall+USB V9.0 Rx. Next that I will do is find the Kuhne crystal ovens that I have somewhere in Kabul, when I am up there in a week or so and attach to the Si570 local oscillator to keep at a steady 40 deg C and see how that affects the stability.

At least though I have got WSPR working through the Virtual Audio Cable OK and managed decodes."

20m SoftRock test stability.JPG

Later:

"Have spent the entire night on 40m and, while the SDR is not as sensitive as the Icom, I have many spots on 40m overnight, including PY8ELO and an LX from South America. My fix for the drift will be a crystal heater such as Kuhne Electronics QH-40A - I have two sitting in my junk in Kabul and must find them. Next issue is to get a program that provides I and Q out for Txing on WSPR."

20m spots as on WSPR.org to compare with SoftRock.png

Ross tried various software to patch the audio but in the end:

"You know what, I had the solution already and did not see it because Rocky did not want to work with the el-cheapo USB sound card.

When I was home I found that WSPR just did not work properly with the in-built sound card in the MSI U100+ netbook that I got for WSPR and WSJT. I got a really cheap USB sound card and found that WSPR worked quite well with that. When I first tried Rocky the SDR prog I found that it did not like the el-cheapo USB but would only work with the in-built Realtek HD Soundcard and was stuffing around trying to get rid of all the associated drivers that did all the Dolby-surround and other tailoring on the sound - I wanted it barn-door-wide.

I also subsequently found a simpler SDR Rx prog called SDRadio by I2PHD which, strangely enough, will not work with the Realtek in-built but works fine with the el-cheapo USB - problem solved two USBs and an actaul hard cable cross-connected and Voila! Simple."

Putting a solid state drive in a MacBook Pro

This week I ordered a Corsair P128 128Mb Solid State drive and it's now in my MacBook Pro 2009.

macbookpro.jpg

Purchased on ebay at AU$520 (the buy it now price), it arrived within a few days. I tried to find a store that stocked them but all the places I called had them at higher prices and had no stock - so there's no point in not ordering on line.

I'd only used 100GB of space on the existing drive so I wasn't too concerned about a smaller drive and these days I'm storing a lot on line any way.

Disassembling the MacBook Pro 2009 is surprisingly straight forward, no scary keyboard prising or any of the things I've faced with other models. Just a bunch of Philips 0 screws in the back and the whole rear plate lifts off as you see in the picture above.

A Torx T6 driver is needed to take the mounting pegs out of the drive and while I probably have one, I couldn't find it and had to go and buy one.

The result? "Bong" to login prompt used to take about 40 seconds now it's 14, but I rarely shutdown so that's not much of a gain. Application launch time is noticeably snappy, with the Safari window up half way through the first bounce. Tools like Eclipse start much faster and I know I'll enjoy that.

Here it is launching Apple Pages:



Normally, Pages takes about 7 bounces plus a second to launch so this is an amazing improvement. You can't read it but I type "that was quick!".

I hear mixed reviews in battery life, some say it will be better, some say it won't. I'll update when I have some impressions.

While it's certainly a luxury option the biggest thing is that it's more robust than a spinning disk in a laptop. I would often hear the drive's heads retract if I moved the laptop too quickly.

Update

After using this for a week I'm pleased to report that it was worth it. The snappy application launch performance makes it feel like a new machine and will certainly extend the life of this one. Battery life does not seem to be longer in any noticeable amount. It might be that I'm using the laptop more due to the novelty.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Wonderful ham shack tour by VK3ASE

Dave, VK3ASE, just posted this video of his visit to Herb VK3JOs shack. Inspirational, for me anyhow.



Dallas does an excellent interview with Herb in the latter part.

Thanks Dave.

Getting the scientific analysis on climate change

Screen shot 2009-12-05 at 7.20.19 PM.pngThis week I started a lunchtime discussion at work to find out what people thought about the failure of our democracy to act on reducing the "man" made impact on climate change.

It was amazing to find that many regard it all as "just another tax", some sort of plot by government to raise revenue. Indeed one of my colleages sent me a brochure full of wild claims presented in bullet form.

Despite having seen An Inconvenient Truth, and listened to a lot of debate in parliament, I realised that the facts are not at my fingertips.

Two sources stand out, The Copenhagen Diagnosis, and the Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change. The Copenhagen document is rather fluffy and full of pretty pictures while the IPCC reports, available here, are really excellent.

Full of careful language, extensive peer review, and a range of interpretations.

I highly recommend this. I fear, as my friend Jonathan suggests, perhaps democracy is unable to deal with things like this until we are in crisis.

Update: reactions

I've had some interesting direct responses to this little post so far. If I can summarise:

  • Everyone, so far, seems to feel that the evidence is convincing that we are experiencing warming at the moment

  • Having said that, one correspondent claimed that the shipping lane in the arctic that is reported to have opened up in September 2009 has, in fact been open to the Russians for a long time

  • "Man" made climate warming, is a tiny effect compared to the effects of natural processes, such as us coming out of a cyclic ice age

  • The whole push to have developed nations intervene on climate change is a conspiracy by the socialists to re-distribute wealth from rich nations to poor, slow development, or simply gather extra tax revenue for government purposes

  • The whole push to have developed nations intervene on climate change is a conspiracy by the capitalists to make huge profits from carbon credits, which are a derivative that will let them build value out of nothing

  • Many people have said "it's just another tax"

  • All sorts of allegations about reports such as the IPCC report, which, to my reading is very solid, are claimed to be full of holes, deliberate distortion of data, and witheld raw data

  • Finally, there is said to be a media and scientific publication conspiracy to silence doubters and take away their right of argument


Perhaps what is needed is an alternative paper, with the thoroughness of the IPCC paper, then we could weigh one up against the other by comparing their data and analysis. I'd be most grateful if someone can point me to it.

Right now I'm completely boggled by this mix of politics, science, religion and economics - what a weird conjunction!

Update 2

Just noticed this on the "conspiracy of the century"...



Update 3

I've done a lot of reading in the past few days and while there are a few dubious graphs about most of the criticisms are unreferenced or come from dubious organisations.

Science isn't a democracy, but Wikipedia has a great list of well known scientific organisations that have given a view. I do not see any substantial evidence to contradict the statement that "human actions are "very likely" the cause of global warming, meaning a 90% or greater probability". There are limits to scepticism.

If it isn't linked, then I think we should live sustainably any way.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Installing Ubuntu 9.10 on an iMac

Fired up after the Open Source Developer's conference in Brisbane, I decided to try dual booting my recent iMac with Ubuntu 9.10 and MacOS X.

Boot camp assistant lets you resize the Mac partition down a bit to make way for a "Windows" partition.

boot camp partitioner.png

Then I inserted the Ubuntu installer CD and rebooted. Up comes the familiar Ubuntu installer.

ubuntu on imac.jpg

The partitioner knows about MacOS and the only glitch was that the partition slider acts a little strangely. Nothing bad happened though.

partitioner.jpg

As with my last install, it took a long time downloading language files for Australia but in the end it finished and my first reboot ended in a pretty crash.

crash.jpg

In the end all is well and I can boot into either MacOS or Ubuntu by holding the Option key at boot. Choosing "Windows" gives me the Grub boot menu which I notice offers MacOS X (haven't tried booting that way yet).

Normally I run Linux on a netbook where it works nicely thankyou. Switching between MacOS and Ubuntu on the same hardware makes me appreciate what a polished OS MacOS is. It's silly, I know, but the fonts are just better on the Mac and that makes a difference to me.

Ubuntu on iMac for me doesn't reboot cleanly for some reason but otherwise things work, including my Bluetooth Magic Mouse (although no right-click or scroll).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

OSDC 2009 Thursday

Brisbane producer.jpgAll credit to Microsoft for sponsoring the conference (second only to Google) but guys... the Asure presentation/demonstration was enough to put me off. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Again, incidental conversations at breakfast and lunch were more enlightening than many of the talks except a wonderful session on GeoExt which is a toolkit combining Ext JS and OpenLayers to provide really impressive geospatial features. I was totally blown away and am re-thinking much of the work I've been doing in recent months to speed up mapping in the browser.

A theme of the conference is how hard it is to get laptops to talk to projectors. We had one that didn't like Mini DVI Macs yesterday but today there were problems across the board. In a five minute lightning talk, this can easily eat half the time.

lightningvert.jpgOne speaker who didn't have any trouble with the projector was a four year old who demonstrated great skill with her linux netbook.

Dinner tonight is sponsored by Google but it's been a long day and I'm not sure I'll last 'till midnight.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Open Source Developer's Conference 2009

Linux.jpgDay one of the OSDC has been stimulating. As with all conferences I attend, the most interesting parts tend to be incidental remarks in presentations or break time conversations.

There was a fair bit of Django love today and for me the best bit was a demo of Pinax which I've heard of but not looked into before. It's a collection of pluggable applications to add common functionality to your django app.

olpc.jpgThe session on Agile development with dynamic languages was very interesting and made me want to go back and re-visit the Design Patterns material in the light of my use of Python.

There's an interesting variety of laptops in use, certainly netbooks have garnered wide support, mostly running Ubuntu. Macs, and particularly MacBook Pros seem to be very popular amongst developers, my guess is about a third of those here, and the majority amongst speakers.

One projector doesn't get along with new macs with the mini display port - we tried everything including showing people's slides via a VNC connection! Along the way it emerged that there is a firmware update for the mini display port to VGA adapter. Maybe that's why these little Apple dongles are a bit expensive - they have a computer in them.

lightningTalkTheathre.jpg

We finished the day with "lightening talks" which were fun.

Brisbane PHP MySQL group meeting

welcome.jpgI'm in Brisbane to attend the Open Source Developers conference being held at the Bardon Conference Centre. While some of the equipment is a little dated.. the wifi service is OK and at a fair price ($35 for three days).

We got in the night before things start and have met a few fellow attendees just hanging around the lobby. Gary kindly gave us a lift in to the Brisbane PHP/MySQL group meeting which was well attended.

phpmysqlall.jpg


phpmysql.jpgThe presentation and demo was about mongoDB which is a database that stores blobs of structured data expressed in JSON. This would not be impressive if it didn't also have the ability to query and even index the structured content of that data. The use case that comes to mind is where you're storing rich data but don't fully know what you might get.

The database is written in Javascript, running on the server, and functions can be sent to the server for execution there. Interesting stuff and thanks to everyone for putting it on.

After Indian dinner Gary drove us up to the top of a hill from where we viewed a panorama of Brisbane.

ViewOfBrisbane.jpg

More tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

David Rhodes chain letter senders

Just received a second copy of a chain letter allegedly originated by David Rhodes of Perth.
rhodes.jpg


This is a well known scam.

The following people are participating in this scam, presumably motivated by greed:

  • Belinda Mills of 227 Mills Rd, Molong NSW 2866

  • L. Giffen of Carnoustie Dve, Dubbo NSW 2830

  • B. Harris, 3750 Stoneville Rd, Stoneville WA 6081

  • L. Dunn, PO Box 242, Arana Hills QLD 4054

  • A. Marsh 96 Bunya Road, Everton Hills QLD 4053


In my opinion, you are naive idiots. I will be forwarding your letter to the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection.

fivecents.jpgThanks for the money by the way.

Update

Based on the instructions in the letter, mine came from A. Marsh in Queensland so I've reported it with the Queensland Office of Fair Trading here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What comes after catastrophic?

Now that we have our first day of "catastrophic" fire danger here in NSW, I was wondering what might be next.

apocalyptic.png


Can I propose "apocalyptic"?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Apple Magic Mouse review

magicmouse.jpgFinally the Apple Magic Mouse arrived in stores here in Sydney. I think this is the biggest step forward since laser tracking.

The left and right click detection is reliable, unlike on the Mighty mouse, the scrolling by dragging a finger is smooth and presumably keeps working after three weeks, unlike the ball on the Mighty mouse.

Yes, the mighty mouse was mighty for the first few weeks and then the little ball gets gummed up. The mighty mouse's right click detection left a little bit to be desired too, anyway, perhaps it was the "mouse we had to have" to get to magic.

I'm finding the acceleration a little different to the Microsoft mouse I was using but I'm sure I'll get used to it soon. The scroll with momentum feature is nice. Like all wireless mice with a battery it's a little heavy.

Bluetooth pairing was very smooth the only unknown at this point is the battery life and how the two slidy tracks wear over time.

Initial impression is very positive, although I'm always sceptical of technology that works by "Magic".

How the mighty have fallen. I hope we can keep the magic.

Update

It's Jan 1, 2010 and I just got the first low battery warning. The initial batteries have lasted 1.5 months with daily use. Not bad I guess.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No video on Macbook? Reset pram

My daughter's well used, and loved, MacBook had reportedly died. No video on screen at all. No video output to an external screen either - I feared the worst.

macbook.jpg

Turns out that resetting PRAM, by booting with Command-Option-P-R held down did the trick.

Even booting from an installer CD produced no video. Reset PRAM - recommended.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Christmas Carol in Real3D - not for little kids

Screen shot 2009-11-07 at 11.24.35 PM.pngSaw A Christmas Carol in 3D this evening and can highly recommend it. Visually stunning and imaginative the Real3D system, which I understand uses opposing circularly polarised lenses so that you don't lose the effect by tilting your head works really well.

The film is very dark in mood and some of the scenes are pretty scary. 3D is used to good effect and there isn't the silly stuff seen in the past that made me go cross-eyed.

The motion capture to animation technique is marvellous and it's great to see that actors will still be required in the new world after all. Jim Carey's range of expression is wonderful.

Thanks Margaret and David for the recommendation.

The short for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, also in 3D looks fantastic too.

The Wikipedia game

Screen shot 2009-11-07 at 11.03.44 PM.pngCan you get from "Michael Jackson" to "Avacado" on Wikipedia by just clicking links? From "Polo Neck Tee Shirt" to "Lady Ga Ga", or "Ugg Boots" to "Rubber band"? Yes you can!

This is the new game my kids have been playing with great amusement in the last few days.

The rules are, you must follow only Wikipedia links, no searching of course and you can go back only once.

It's played competitively with a group sitting around with laptops.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Don't be evil exception

I'm feeling very Google at the moment, the talk to the Sydney Python group, kindly hosted at Google in Sydney went off well last night.

Today I'm working with Google App Engine creating Gadgets and I just got a "don't be evil" exception. Not exactly sure why but made me chuckle.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Cheap 12.1 inch laptop review

"Brand New 12.1" Netbook - Choose Between Black or White Sale price: AU $449.00" the ebay ad read. Having found the 600 vertical pixels a bit limiting on a normal netbook I thought I'd give this one a go.



It's certainly a generic laptop, on boot it says "Note Book" on the screen. The user's guide also calls it Notebook and there's no mention of who the manufacturer is. The styling is influenced by the Apple MacBook Air although it's not really as thin.



It's a 1.6GHz dual core Atom processor, 1GB RAM, 160GB Hard disk. The ad promised 1024x768 but it turns out to be 1366x768 which is a nice bonus. Video out is via an HDMI socket which isn't very useful for me but might be good for playing back video on a TV. Battery life seems under two hours and the fan runs all the time and makes an annoying noise. The screen is clear but the glossy surface combined with various dents and other marks makes it rather unpleasant to work with.

Installed sensors but it only reports one temperature sensor and no PWM fan controllers.

I wanted to run Ubuntu, in particular 9.10. On install sound and ethernet worked but no wireless. It turns out the wireless device is a 3DSP Wireless 802.11 B+G USB adapter. These are a software device that combines both bluetooth and Wifi. The good news is that there is software for linux here, the bad news is that it doesn't work with 9.10 but rather 9.04.

Update:

The driver for 9.10 is available and there's even a 64 bit beta. Great stuff 3DSP!

Here's the chip on a little board inside:

3dsp.jpg

If anyone knows where the USB pins are on this connector I'm interested in wiring in an alternative adapter.

In the end I re-installed Ubuntu 9.04 and got it going. The software is rather clunky and doesn't integrate well with the normal wireless user interface.



The program needs to be started up and then it finds networks and connects, the normal Gnome network icon seems unaware of it. There is even a petition to the makers to open up their software.

Built in video camera works with skype but the microphone didn't seem to be heard by skype for some reason.

Inside the motherboard is attached to the underside of the keyboard. It's not hard to pull apart but watch for the flat cable attaching the trackpad and buttons.

keyboard.jpg

The battery is very thin so the battery life is remarkable given its size. I didn't disassemble further than this for fear of damaging something.

For the money, this laptop ok but as always you get what you pay for. The one let-down is the noisy fan that always runs.

Update

I got tired of the weird software from 3DSP for their wireless device, and went shopping for a USB Wireless adapter. This also let me upgrade to Ubuntu 9.10. I'm happy to report that the D-Link DWA-100 USB Wifi adapter works brilliantly with Ubuntu 9.10 out of the box.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Talk: GeoDjango with Google Maps

Screen shot 2009-10-31 at 6.34.33 AM.pngOn Thursday, November 5 2009, I'll be presenting at the Sydney Python group SyPy.

SyPy Nov 5th: "Using GeoDjango with Google Maps" - Peter Marks

GeoDjango is the GIS branch of the Python Web Framework Django. It aspires to be a world-class geographic web framework. The project goal is to make it as easy as possible to build GIS web applications and harness the power of spatially enabled data.

Peter will:

  • Give some background on the GeoDjango face of Django

  • Demonstrate a simple mapping application that overlays a Google map with markers, polylines and polygons

  • What you get for free - GeoAdmin with OpenStreetMap

  • Software dependancies: GEOS, GDAL, and PROJ.4

  • Geo enabling your models.py

  • Discuss using MySQL as the spatial database and the short-cuts they've taken so far...

  • Talk about performance:

    • loading just the visible overlays

    • using json for mapping

  • Show a real application



*RSVP: Please RSVP on Anyvite to get your name on the door*

Time: 6:30PM (for a 6:45pm start) - 7:45PM (then pub after)

Getting There: It's a 10min walk from Town Hall station over the pyrmont bridge (directions) or catch the light rail to the casino station.

Go to level 5 or if the doors are locked wait outside and look for smiley happy google people to let you in.

NB. Snacks are provided by google and we also go to a pub afterwards that has dinner available.

Andy Todd will be the man in control. Also a big thanks to Google for hosting us again.

The slides are available via SydneyPython.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 release candidate on Acer Aspire One

ubuntu.pngThanks to Telstra Bigpond's excellent unmetered download feature it was a breeze to grab the ISO of the release candidate of Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala" to be released on October 19.

I'm installing on a netbook, the Acer Aspire One, and for the first time there are no problems of installer windows extending off the bottom of the small screen (1024x600). The installer is more beautiful than ever, I was particularly taken with the new timezone chooser.

Although I had Fedora 11 on the machine before, Ubuntu's installer didn't detect it and happily offered to wipe the disk saying there was no operating system found. Fair enough but it's always been a criticism of Microsoft's installers that they never want to co-exist with other OS's and it's a pity if this feature is broken.

First boot graphics are lovely, like a stage with a single spotlight from above. Unlike Fedora 11, sound on the Acer was smooth.

Wireless worked right off and found my network with ease. The menu bar icons are looking lovely and very "Mac like" these days...

The trackpad works well and the right edge window scroll is enabled.

Bumps

I got a warning about "Incomplete Language Support" saying the language support files for my selected language were incomplete which is a bit weird for English. The window suggested an action and had a button to run that action. I clicked and it then wanted to update more stuff. In the end the language support install took a long time - it was getting English - Australian, it did get there after 17 minutes. Perhaps the release candidate servers aren't ready.

The Acer Aspire One fan has always been a problem, requiring a kernel module to stop it running flat out all the time. I've always had to build acerhdf which does the trick very nicely. Under Ubuntu 9.10 the fan seems to be changing speed so at this point I'm not sure if something is there to control it or if I'm just imagining things, I'll let it go for a while until I figure it out. Hmm, it seems to be under control but does run more than with acerhdf. Update: the fan was running all the time. Fixed now.

On a soft reboot, the wireless didn't come up. I've seen this before and it's fixed but shutting down and then starting up so I suspect that the wireless firmware gets in a strange state from time to time.

Great things

I guess it's Gnome, but visually everything is smoother and even on a low power netbook, visual effects, such as menu actions seem to fade in a little - rather like the Mac.

Browsing the network shows all our devices both windows and mac services. Fedora didn't show anything for me. Looks like it can see Bonjour adverstised services including ssh and Mac screen sharing - unfortunately the remote desktop doesn't support Apple's encryption yet. Browsing for ssh worked just fine though. I was able to browse for my mac and copy files to it using sftp all very transparently.

Finding printers didn't work for some reason, although it has in the past. Incidentally, I find the distinction between the Administration and Preferences menus a little puzzling. Printing is in the Preferences.

On the AAO suspend and hibernate both worked just fine although with the fast boot time I experience hibernate seems redundant.

What's new

There's a lot new in this release. Faster boot times thanks to continuing work on Upstart that has optimised the time to get going. The Aspire One boots in 25 seconds.

departments.png


There's a new way to find and install software called Ubuntu Software Center.

Gnome has been revved of course and is on 2.28. Before this install I had a look at the latest KDE and it's looking very nice these days too.

With this release Ubuntu is offering a storage in the cloud service. Despite some bad press thanks to Microsoft/Danger, backup to the cloud is really a good idea - I'm a long time dotmac/mobileMe subscriber and having lost a disturbing number of hard disks and even CDs I'm happy to let professionals manage that.

Conclusion

This is a very slick desktop. Visual effects, speed, graphical beauty. If your Windows 7 upgrade didn't go well, or you don't want to pay the Microsoft tax, I would definitely recommend Ubuntu 9.10 on a PC. Clearly being influenced by good things from MacOS which is a good sign. I wonder when a dock will appear?

Recommended.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Checked out the unibody MacBook

Dropped by the Chatswood Apple store this morning to check out the new plastic MacBook this morning. The unibody plastic case feels very solid and the round corners are pleasing. It's heavier than I'd hoped and the lack of ports is a bit of a pity.

The design is clean, the battery life sounds outstanding, and I'm sure they will sell really well.

Like many, I've succumbed to the impulse purchase of a netbook, in my case an Acer Aspire One. I do like it, but the small screen, small keyboard, short battery life and bad trackpad means that when I want to do more than just look up the TV guide I reach for a proper computer. I think Apple's right to hold off delivering something too low in usability to satisfy for more than a few minutes.

The new magic mouse was not on show yet, very keen to try it out to see if Apple can win me back after the disappointment of the mighty mouse. The only Microsoft product I use these days is a mouse - they are good at those.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Splitdorf radio - Scientifically correct!

My neighbour, Rob VK2ZNZ called on 3.595MHz just after the WIA broadcast this morning and invited me over to "see a thing of great beauty". He was not wrong.

radiotop.jpg

I can't find many mentions of the Splitdorf radios, but it looks like it's missing a big wooden case.

radio front.jpg

Certainly a thing of beauty. My impression is that it's been restored at some point.

radio side.jpg

A very simple circuit.

radio coil.jpg

They sure have a lot of patents!

radio patents.jpg

It is so simple it would have to be a TRF or perhaps regen radio. Anyone know anything about these radios?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Apple Macbook Pro 13 inch on the road

Screen shot 2009-10-10 at 6.29.40 PM.pngWhen I purchased this laptop a few months back I was looking forward to a snappy machine that, while a little heavy, would be solid and durable enough for travel.

While in Malaysia recently, I spent a day in a small room with a group of people who had all been issued with very nice looking Lenovo Thinkpads. There were not enough power points for everyone and all day they took turns desperately topping up their batteries.

To their amazement, I didn't pull my charger out until an hour before the end of the day, even then the Macbook Pro said it had an hour to go and probably could have lasted.

The figure shown top right is not realistic but when not hammering the machine I do see almost seven hours, this kind of battery life changes the way I think about the laptop. Apple made the right decision to switch from a removable battery in favour of a larger flat system.

My only concerns are that there is something strange about the return key on mine and sometimes I think I trigger the G force drive protection (it makes a clunk).

Those icons in the menu bar are Google GMail Notifier, Expandrive, and Evernote all recommended.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Google Apps is an exchange server for iPhone

googleExchange.gifJust found this out the other day. My employer uses Google Apps for our domain - Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Sites, all that good stuff.

If your administrator turns on Google Sync for the domain and you have iPhone version 3 or above, you can configure a Microsoft Exchange mail account according to these instructions.

With this turned on, you get push mail, contacts and calendars. It's fun to have your calendar open, go to the web, make an appointment and see it appear in seconds on the iPhone.

I was a little anxious about what would happen to my existing contacts, sync'd with my Mac, but all is well. The contacts from my company's list appear as a separate group and further I get a "Global Address List" group as well.

It's funny how Google never once mention the word "Exchange" and try to refer to this protocol as Google Sync.

Note that you can only have a single Exchange account set up on a phone.