Archive for the ‘Purchases’ Category

Arduino: Day 1

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Part of my Halloween costume requires an micro controller to display a pattern on a led light strip. The light strip and the Arduino Uno micro controller I got to control it arrived today. In the span of about an hour I was able to:

  1. Borrow a USB A to B cable from my room mate as apparently I don’t own one.
  2. Find and follow this guide to working Arduino on Gentoo
  3. Install 16GB more ram while I was rebooting after making the kernel changes required in that guide, for a total of 23.50 Gigabytes of ram on the development system, which is also brand new.
  4. Build the circuit for the basic blink code
  5. Build and upload the basic blink code, which did require two totally hacky symbolic links before it would work.
  6. Realize that the uno includes an led on the board so I didn’t need to build the circuit and realize that it came pre-loaded with the basic blink code so that I can’t actually tell if I did anything yet.
  7. Change the blink code to use port 12 and be faster to prove I’m actually in control.
  8. Success!

Tomorrow or this weekend I hope to learn to how to talk to the led strip. Then I need to go get a fez of some kind. Oh and a Halloween party to attend in the costume, that would be a good thing to find as well.

Surprise Upgrade

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Much to my surprise last weekend, there was a slight rumble noise coming from something in my apartment at about 3am when I was finally done playing Diablo 3 for the night. I went back out to the living room and determined the noise was not out there. I went back to my room at turned off my computer in there. I didn’t determine the noise was coming from the computer, it was late. I just turned it off to safe so I could deal with it in the morning.

In the morning I found that it didn’t want to turn on. Some LED’s blinked and the fans spun up, but it did not beep or post. I did hear some much different strange noises from the power supply while I was trying to test out some things. They slowly got worse, but I still had to put my ear on the power supply to really hear them. I decided to get a new supply, and got a 650W one sent overnight via Amazon Prime.

The new power supply was not the problem sadly. When it arrived I went directly to trying to power on the motherboard with it. It didn’t turn on at all. The supply’s fan didn’t even turn on. I checked all my connections and tried again. Still nothing. I got out a super old single core Althon mobo/cpu/ram that I have lying around and that worked with the new supply. I also tried the suspected broke supply on that mobo, and it really made a loud sound that time. I confirmed the old mobo still worked with the new supply again, and then I tired the new supply on the motherboard in failed machine. Still nothing. I took out some ram, and then it powered on just like the failed supply had done; no beep, no post. When I put the ram back in, it still powered on with no beep and no post.

So it seemed like the thing to do was replace the machine’s internals. It has been on mostly constantly since 6/21/2007 and five years seems pretty good. Here’s what I got for the new system, which is now operational:

I also picked up 8GB more ram from a friend who bought the wrong kind. My 16GB set has not arrives yet actually, so the 8GB actually allowed me to do the build today instead of waiting for the other side of the long weekend.

I had to get the DVD drive because all of my existing DVD drives were PATA, but the new motherboard only has SATA connectors. In fact, I learned while building it today that it also lacks as floppy drive connector. That spawned a two hour hunt for the plastic piece that goes in the case to block up where the floppy drive lives. I did eventually find it. And while I was looking I reorganized all of my cables and spare hardware. I filled up two boxes of old stuff to recycle or give away, including the heart of my 500Mhz P3 and my original GPU, the Riva TNT2.

The build went smoothly; everything powered up on the first try; except that I forgot to hook up a SATA cable to the new DVD drive. I also accidental chose the “auto-overclock” option in my fancy BIOS, which then turned the machine on and off a couple times trying out different settings. That is pretty cool, as overclocking just enough used to be hard. Of course I don’t really want to waste the power to overclock, so when it was done I had to turn it all off. The Linux setup went easily. I didn’t reinstall the OS; I just rebuilt the kernel as all my drives were still perfectly fine. The one real gotcha was that I had moved my Nvidia GPU to a different slot, and so it had a different bus number, and that bus number was in the xorg configuration file… so it couldn’t find my graphics card for a while.

I can’t wait till I get the extra ram, and then to run some video compression benchmarks!

Dear Comcast

Monday, November 29th, 2010

I do not care if the entire city of Boston, New England, East Coast of the US, the entire country, or the entire world is having internet connectivity problems! When I call you because my service is not working I expect to either:

  • Talk to a person, to whom I can explain my service problem and receive help or direction
  • Be able to loge a service out notice with a computer
  • Be told of known service problem in my area and be provided with a estimated time of service restoration

Any of those is acceptable. Just to be clear and ensure that I am not being unreasonable in my request, when my power goes out, my power company offers all 3 of those options depending on the circumstances. Now, the ETA I am told by the power company is not always correct. However, it is updated from time to time, and they will call me back if and when they update the ETA. Also, they call me back after they expect the power has been restored to confirm that my reported outage has been resolved. That is how a service outage should be handled, if you ask me. Excellent job government sponsored monopoly, nStar.

Being told to go online for help when the internet is not working is not acceptable! At the very least your system should detect that there is an internet problem and not play that recording. With the power company, most of those options are handled automatically by a computer, which is fine. No one expects a service provided to have enough people answering calls to deal with the flood of complaints during a service outage. However, we should be informed of the problem, when we call; not disconnected because too many people are calling. If I have to turn to twitter to find out that this is a larger problem and not just me, as well as find the solution (use google’s dns servers), then you as a service provider have failed miserably. I don’t know why I expected that you would not fail in this case, you fail every day all of the time. I really don’t understand why the government monopoly power company provides an entirely different level of customer service than you; you technically do at least have some minor form of competition.

I Do Love My Phone

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Not having any food in the house and not feeling like spending any money I resigned to having chipotle again this week. Not so so much a resignment as a guilt; to aswauge that guilt I decided that I would walk the .75 miles. I began looking for something intersting to do with my walk. I picked up my new camera and my old bluetooth headphones to listen to music; not that I had anything new or interesting to listen to.

On my walk it hit me, the camera did not have its battery in it. Oh and I thought of something to listen to, that might be worthwhile: NPR. I waited until I got to chipotle where I could use the phone without freezing my hand, typed NPR into the market and I was listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me within a minute. I don’t normally listen to NPR, but with months of podcasts anywhere anytime, I think I’ll give it a try. Anything to be more interesting.

P.S: trying out a new blogging app too. The user comment was right, better than the brower (on the phone) for sure.

New Glasses

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

I resolved my lost glasses problem today. I got my new prescription from the optomistrist. Surprise, it’s the same as it was two years ago. At least I didn’t pay for them to tell me that directly, but this is totally part of the health care spending problem in this country. If I want a pair of lenses with certain focal lengths, I should be able to get them without wasting money on a doctor. Anyways, I spent more than I expected, but I like them better than my old ones so at least there’s a win. Here they are in black, but mine are silver.
Mine are in silver, not black
Of course, with a broken camera, I can only show you the stock photo. But it is pretty accurate.The last picture of my old pair (I think) They are very similar to my old pair, in that they are silver, have a rim only at the top, and are squarish rather than round. The main difference is that the lenses are smaller and more rectangular. They still aren’t the tiny little rectangles that are in style these days, but they’re smaller. Mary, who I brought along to provide her expert opinion, suggested that my old ones were too big, so at least we solved that problem. Although, these were her second choice, her first choice were even smaller, and I just couldn’t deal.

New Hard Drives

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Last month Best Buy Online ran a great deal on some 1Terabyte Seagate hard drives. I have been looking for new drives ever since I hit the 90% full level on my current 1Terabyte mirrored setup. 90% full is the magic number where various unreliable internet sources say that file fragmentation can become a performance issue. Not that I need speed out of my huge media storage, but its nice to have. The main problem with 90% full is that you run out of space of course, so I pounced on this deal, but not before they were sold out. So I back-ordered the drives.

The website said to expect 2 weeks, but we all know that’s a bullshit number. I sent them off a nice email at 2 weeks to see what was up, and the response made things seem grim. Like they would much prefer me to cancel my order than them send me the drives. But low and behold yesterday they arrived! It was certainly unexpected. Here’s what I got.

I could just add them to my current setup to get a whopping 2Terbyte partition, but I don’t actually need that much more space. The thought of all those drives (which I have room and connections for) heating up the inside of the case and wasting a bunch of power makes me uneasy. Instead of that, my current setup uses the two new 1Tb drives in place of two old 500Gigabyte drives. This maintains the heat and power usage of the previous setup and still increases my space by 50%. I of course can always re-add those 500Gb drives later if I need to, and I fix up my power and cooling situation.

1.4Terabytes! 60% Free

A Night for Great Customer Service

Monday, February 25th, 2008

On Sunday I got a phone call, not all too common of an occurrence. I was at Amber and Aarrons’ place (of WND fame) to play some party games and it was Jed, who said he might join us, so I answered. I flipped open my phone, and much to my surprise the screen was black. It worked just fine, Jed said he’d be there in an hour or so. I fiddled with it some more that night and today, and nothing just black screens, unless I shone a bright light on it, then the faintest glimmer of menus and calendars. My backlight was broken.

So I went to the Verizon Store in Everett today after work, and after waiting for traffic to calm down. As usual when going to deal with customer service, I was ready to get stern if need be, and loaded up my arsenal of acceptable resolutions and reasons why they should fix my phone for me for free. Much too my surprise I didn’t need any of that, they took the phone and told me to come back in 30 minutes.

So I went to grab dinner at Chipotle. Upon receiving a Chipotle gift card for valentines day from my loving mother I realized that I now had 4 Chipotle gift cards of unknown values in my wallet. On my recent trip to Las Vegas for work I started to use them, and so tonight I continued. First with one, $5.76 remaining, then another $4.30 remaining then a third, which covered it. The cashier was impressed, and in her thick accent, she thanked me for being a “Chipotle Lover” and gave me a free bag of chips + salsa. I can’t complain about that. Maybe I should go to the old Everett Chipotle over the new, closer Davis one more often.

After finishing my dinner I went back and the Verzion tech’s had replaced my phone. That makes this the third Maxx Ve I’ve had, and I have to do the seem edits all over again. But it was free, and they transfered all my contacts and such. Anyways I’m pretty happy with my customer service tonight.

Cannon A560

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

This post is essentially just a comment on chris’ post. Hey nice choice of camera, I got the A560 for my birthday, but never got around to posting it. I wonder how much searching it would take to find out what that extra 10 is getting me. They look almost exactly the same so its probably not much.
I guess those Maria Sharapova commercials really worked on us, well on you and my mother, who searched out the camera for me. Now all I have to do is remember to carry it around with me.

Can’t Teach a New Phone Old Tricks

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

Old Phone New Phone So, as many of you know I dropped my old V710 (see how nice and simple that name is) phone (left) in the Atlantic ocean on my trip to the Outer Banks. Luckily I’d managed to hold onto my old phone for 2 years and as such was eligible for my $100 new every two discount from Verizon. I researched it a little bit and I found a phone that seemed like it had more or less the same abilities as my old one. The new phone has the most overly marketed name I can think of on an actual product. It (right) is the Motorolla KRAZAR Maxx Ve. Yep so RAZAR is a cross between razor (sharp) and laser (cool), and KRAZAR is a cross between that and crazy, and its not only whatever the fuck KRAZAR actually means to the max its that to the maxx! And then, well, they have to differentiate the crippled phone for Verizion from the non crippled one for those GSM networks (more on this later) so you get the Ve part.

First, and foremost, among the capabilities required that drove my research is the ability to connect to a custom, free wap server. This allows the phone to use free (airtime minutes only, no monthly fee) wireless web, well its not free, you must leave a computer on at all times running a little perl script. The new phone does this, after going into its OS memory and flipping a bit. Its a hack, but its well documented online, and it worked. This couple with the ability of the newer browser software on the phone working better with Google’s mobile services means that in the end I am happy with the phone. But I feel the need to list the features that I enjoyed on my old that are missing on my new phone. A screen shot for reference.

Maxx Ve Screenshot

  • The new phone can not change the color of those big red bars. The old one could do blue, green, red, or yellow, or silver. Also the old bars were shaded, and nice, not big red and ugly. I’ve read that it may be possible to change them to other solid colors by hacking into things.
  • See the text for the “soft buttons” on the lower red bar, the left one says “Messages” and the right one says “Contacts.” So the whole idea behind soft buttons is that they can change, otherwise you’d save your screen space and write the text on the keypad. Nope these can’t be changed, but they could on the old phone. One click access to recent calls was way more useful than messages, and in fact it used to be the default, but no more.
  • The old phone had a bright exterior LED that could be used, and was often used, as a flashlight. It was actually the flash for the camera, but since it didn’t flash (was either on or off and that was set manually) it was really much better as a flashlight. The new phone, well they got the flash right, but I don’t need a flash on my phone camera, but the flashlight was super useful and now its gone.
  • The old phone could use predictive typing by default for all text entry, there was even a menu to change this. The new phone keeps different defaults for all different sorts of entry, and well sometimes those defaults are to non predictive and can’t be changed. Wow does that suck, I grant, neither solution is perfect, perfect would have a menu for setting the default for each type of entry, but at least I didn’t have to use up 2 key pressed to get to the predictive entry every time I went to add a contact.
  • Speaking of predictive typing, the new phone seems to be worse at it. Its fine in the contacts and text message sections, but it’s interface in the wireless web and mobile IM sections can’t learn new words. The interface in the other area’s and the old phone, was the same everywhere, and could learn new words anywhere.
  • The new phone can’t vibrate and then ring, which is the most useful ring setting I can think of; yup, used it on the old one all the time.
  • The new phone can’t change volume level while closed, now this was implemented annoyingly on the old phone, it could change in your pocket by randomly hitting buttons, but its not there at all on the new phone. I guess if at first you don’t succeed, better scrap it all together next time.

So the new phone does do some new tircks that I like, but mostly no thanks to Verizon.

  • The new phone interfaces directly with Motorola Phone Tools and is fully functional without a hack, well unless you think that telling MPT that it is a V6 model phone and not a Maxx Ve is a hack. Yup its got the same everything as the GSM Motorola V6, so despite that it would not be fully functional if MPT thought it was a Maxx Ve, it is as the V6. Fully functional means that I can set my own custom (from mp3 or midi files) ringtones for free without file size limits. With my old phone those cost $0.25 a pop and were limited to 300Kb. I can also backup my contacts and such, but that part is available in the limited Verizon functionality.
  • It uses a mini USB port to charge, and hack, which I have thanks to my new camera (post coming soon). So I don’t need to drop $10-$30 on a cable. I haven’t yet opened the wall charger it came with. I’ll also be able to use it continuously on road trips charged by the laptop (which plugs into the car) for internet, expensive if its not a weekend internet.
  • The ringtones are louder, I had problems hearing my old one.
  • The battery life is way better, and the screens are bigger. Oh and you can change the background on the outward facing screen. Thats actually something people complained about with the old phone.
  • The new phone also supported the bluetooth stereo headphone and audio control profiles so I can use it as an mp3 player with wireless head phones. This is something my old phone could almost do, if only it had the bluetooth profiles. I’m currently looking for a cheap pair of good bluetooth headphones. I was never one to want into the iPod world so I think this will work well for me.
  • The new phone is smaller, volume wise, although it is longer (if you don’t count the antenna on the old one) anyways its definitely slicker than the old one and I like its feel, at least until those big red bars are staring back at me.

Oh I almost forgot, the things both phones do that I really don’t want either of them to do at all.

  • Have a camera.
  • Locked to BREW software (no homebrew development)

You see, I really want my cell phone to be my MythTV remote via bluetooth. Luckily things such as the iPhone (its getting hacked into a decent development platform) and openmoko are working on the homebrew problem. Hopefully in 2 years when my next new every two is up something like this will be available on a network that doesn’t suck. Then I won’t have to be nearly as pissed off about how my next new every two credit will only be $50 instead of $100, because all I want in a phone will be available. And heck I might actually not mind paying retail for something that does exactly what I want it to do.

New Computer

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

It is unfortunate but I will soon be availing myself of Seagate’s wonderful 5 year warranty on one of my 500gb media hard drives. It has not failed completely yet, but it is having read/write errors when I put it under the stress of doing video compression. This is, as we say in the OMG my data is not backed up business, a bad thing. Luckily, these errors are being recorded into the drives error monitoring hardware, so it should be easy to prove the drive is malfunctioning and get an in warranty replacement.

Of course first I need to back up the data on the drive. The drive is 1/2 of my 1Tb media partition which has ~750Gb used on it. Because of the way its setup i have to back up all of the partition without using the other 500gb drive, a tall order that my ancillary drives simply cant handle. They total only 493Gb. So I need to buy new drives, thats ok, 750Gb’s just dropped to $200 and 500gb’s dropped to $100. So I’ll just get some more $500’s as thats a $0.066 price per GB difference (which adds up). Problem is that I haven’t gotten a new computer since the Athlon XP went out of style. That was before the rise of SATA over PATA. Now I could buy 2 500gb PATA drives and use them in my current system, but that path prevents me from future upgrades and locks me into the old stuff. As it turns out older stuff gets more expensive, so thats a bad thing. So that means that now is the time to upgrade and start buying SATA drives. So I’m building a new system, dual core, and all. The components:

ECS KA3 MVP Motherboard MSI NX7100GS-TD128E GeForce 7100GS AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+(65W) Windsor 2.0GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM2 Processor

Crucial Ballistix 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Seagate 500GB Serial ATA/300 16MB Buffer ST3500641AS-RK Seagate 500GB Serial ATA/300 16MB Buffer ST3500641AS-RK

Update: @ 10:30am 6.25.2007 Aww, still in Philadelphia.