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Andre Pang: Tom Bradley, Terminal 8, Terminal 5 ...

Tue, 2014-07-08 04:26

Well, my impression of the American airline industry just gets better and better: my United flight to Salt Lake City at 1:19pm was cancelled, so they shoved me on a Delta Airlines flight at 3pm instead. Oh vey, another 2 hours of killing time at Los Angeles airport! (Though I admit I’ve actually been productive and have been hacking on TextExtras as I intended to in the last blog, so it wasn’t much of a waste of time.) At least the staff are pretty friendly: they do seem quite sympathetic to the numerous screw-ups that keep happening. I don’t think I’ve had a single trip to the USA in the past 2 or 3 years where something didn’t go wrong.

The good part of the story is that I managed to book myself on an earlier Delta flight which left Los Angeles at 1pm, so oddly enough I ended up catching an earlier flight than the one which was cancelled. The bad part of the story is that means I had to move terminals yet again. My Qantas flight into Los Angeles arrived at the Tom Bradley International terminal, from which point I walked with Don to Terminal 5 since I was killing time and didn’t have anything better to do. Then, onward to Terminal 8, where my cancelled United flight was, and then back to Terminal 5 for my final Delta flight. In conjunction with the Auckland stopover, that meant I’d gone through security screening four times. Fun, fun, fun.

The really bad part of the story is that my baggage didn’t travel with me on the flight and got misdirected somewhere between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, although the baggage assistant dude who helped me claimed that it’s very likely coming on the next United flight, which lands in Salt Lake City at 6pm. Since there’s not much else I can do about that, I’ll just pray it does come, otherwise I’ll be wearing my Afterglow long-sleeve shirt again tomorrow …

Andre Pang: To the Australian demoscene and ANSI scene folks

Tue, 2014-07-08 04:26

Prompted by a good friend of mine, I dug out a little bit of mid-90s history and found myself staring at ANSI login screens for my old BBS, Mindflux, along with an Oz96 announcement. After a while, I even managed to track down many art packs from old art groups I was in (DiE and fORCE), and remembered a lot of old aliases I haven’t heard of in years from all over Australia.

And so, for old times’ sake, here’s some shouts out to some folks that I had some damn good times with: Squirt, Pulse, Chuck Biscuits, Black Artist, Squidgalator, Hunz, Rogue and Void/Reality, Firelight, HB, Yannis, Mick Rippon, Astrid, Sudden Death, Entropus X, Frozen Time, Legend, Mandalas Zarich, Flick, Clef, Acme, Caliban, Jedi/Oxygen, Maral, Jase, Countzero, Ranger, Turrican, Maeve Wolf/Tatharina, and Anubis. Sincere apologies if I’ve forgotten you — it has been ten years, after all…

If you were in the Australian demoscene, music scene or art scene at all and know any of those names (or even better, if you are one of those names!), or you remember any of Oz96, Mindflux, Bloodnet, DiE, fORCE, Alternate Reality, do me a favour and drop me an email (especially if you were a Mindflux or Bloodnet user!). I’m still amazed that the Internet’s managed to preserve quite a lot of the scene history (especially the Australian scene history) if you look hard enough for it, and I have the odd feeling that a lot of the demoscene folks have moved into the Linux and Mac developer communities.

And for those of you who used to be in the scene in Sydney back in the day, here’s something you can reminisce on:

Andre Pang: Patterns in Software

Tue, 2014-07-08 04:26

Paul Graham writes in his “Revenge of the Nerds” article:

… in the OO world you hear a good deal about “patterns”. I wonder if these patterns are not sometimes evidence of … the human compiler, at work. When I see patterns in my programs, I consider it a sign of trouble. The shape of a program should reflect only the problem it needs to solve. Any other regularity in the code is a sign, to me at least, that I’m using abstractions that aren’t powerful enough — often that I’m generating by hand the expansions of some macro that I need to write.

Andre Pang: "Witch" Window Switcher

Tue, 2014-07-08 04:26

A man named Peter Maurer has published a most excellent bit of software for the Mac named Witch. Witch is a window switcher, in the spirit of LiteSwitch X in the pre-Panther days. I quite like the standard ⌘-Tab window switcher that’s built into Panther, so I won’t be using Witch for that. However, Witch’s killer feature for me is that it can also replace the ⌘-` key with its own switcher, which works in a MRU (Most-Recently-Used) fashion, similarly to how ⌘-Tab works.

Witch’s standard ⌘-Tab window switcher replacement also cycles through all documents in all windows, rather than only cycling through the active windows, which is gives more Windows-like behaviour if you prefer that. It also has other nifty features like being able to assign window zoom/minimise to keyboard shortcuts — but IMHO, that’s all small candy compared to the excellent ⌘-` document switcher replacement!

Andre Pang: Failure-Oblivious Computing

Tue, 2014-07-08 04:26

I found a pretty interesting paper the other day about Failure-Oblivious Computing. The idea is simple: when a program encounters an error, simply have your runtime return some garbage value instead of crashing, throwing an exception, or go into error-handling mode.

If you’re a programmer, this suggestion will likely cause you to recoil in horror because the very idea that your functions will be getting back undefined values seems contradictory to everything we’ve been taught. However, it’s hard argue with the results: the authors tested eight fairly well known programs, from mail user agents to Apache and Samba, and in every case the failure-oblivious version arguably did the right thing — and did a better job — than the ‘safe’ versions that would throw an exception or shutdown in a controlled manner when they hit unexpected territory. Read the paper if you’re doubtful about this.

This idea is somewhat in opposition to the Erlang philosophy of Let it crash. However, in both these scenarios, the underlying motivation is the same: large complex systems will inevitably have bugs, and both philosophies not only plan for it, but code to ensure that the system as a whole keeps running in the face of serious errors.

It’s quite easy to react emotionally to these ideas and say that it’s all just too dangerous and unpredictable — coders have always had it hammered into them to check for error values and exceptional conditions. However, there’s also something to be said about the brittleness of software vs more organic systems: the latter will often recover successfully in the face of unexpected conditions, whereas software will simply break. Failure-oblivious computing may not be the answer, but it’s a pretty good first research step. It would be an interesting follow-up experiment to modify the runtimes of the dynamic languages such as Python and Ruby and make them return sentry values instead of throwing exceptions. How many dynamic programs would continue to run successfully rather than die with some weird programmer-centric error?

Chris Samuel: Getting Political

Tue, 2014-07-08 00:26

I’ve not been blogging recently, though I’ve been tweeting a fair bit, and I’ve been getting more and more disconcerted by what the Australian government has been up to, especially with respect to refugees. We are seeing the emergence of a militaristic approach where the facts about rights to seek asylum are conveniently ignored and refugees are labelled as “illegal” (they’re not) and a threat to our borders (they’re not). Questions are met with silence (unless they happen to coincide with their agenda) to frankly absurd levels.

"Seeking asylum is not illegal under international law and people have a right to be treated humanely and with dignity." – UNHCR #auspol

— Chris Samuel (@chris_bloke) July 4, 2014

We keep them in concentration camps on foreign soil and deprive them of necessities even though they’ve committed no crime and we leave them to go mad from boredom, fear and neglect. We’ve had one person murdered in our care with the prime suspect being a Salvation Army worker, but somehow after 6 months nobody has been charged. Others were seriously injured, but their assailants haven’t been charged either.

Now we have the situation of refugees from Sri Lanka who have boarded boats in India being intercepted at sea and returned, not to Indias care, but to the Sri Lankan navy where on their return to Sri Lanka they are then handed over to the police for prosection (as it’s apparently illegal to leave Sri Lanka without permission, the sentence is “two years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine”).

Eric Abetz says Australia doesn't disappear people. Instead it seems it outsources it to a country that disappears people. Aus called on SL to end "all cases of abductions and disappearances … abuse, torture or mistreatment by police and security forces" 2012

— Chris Samuel (@chris_bloke) July 7, 2014

"Fairfax, Human Rights Watch & the Human Rights Law Centre have all documented cases of returned asylum seekers being tortured by Sri Lanka"

— Chris Samuel (@chris_bloke) July 6, 2014

This seems like a prima-facie case of refoulement and a clear breach of international law. I’m not the only person to think like that, 57 legal scholars from 17 Australian universities have written an open letter expressing the same feelings.

Such summary procedures do not comply with minimum standards on refugee status determination under international law. Holding asylum seekers on boats in this manner also amounts to incommunicado detention without judicial scrutiny.

I cannot stand by and be seen to acquiesce in this abuse of fundamental human rights and so I’ve decided that I must join The Greens as none of the major parties appear to understand international law and obligations.

This is not an easy decision for me, I spent 7 years working in the UK Civil Service and so that ethos of being independent of a political party is deeply ingrained, but the revulsion I have for the policies of this government and my fear of the dark places it is leading us has finally overcome it.

This is not in my name.

This item originally posted here:



Getting Political

David Rowe: SmartMic SM1000 Part 1

Mon, 2014-07-07 15:29

So the parts and PCB arrived from the SM1000 last week, and yesterday I started loading. I use a stereo microscope and hand solder each part. It’s actually fun, a nice change from software.

Here is the current (Rev B1) SM1000 schematic if you would like to follow along.

First I assembled the 5V switching supply, this worked OK except I had the tiny surface mount LED R33 around the wrong way. Then the 3V3 regulator, and this morning I spent a few hours soldering all the parts around the micro-controller (bypass caps, pull ups), and finally the STM32F4 uC.

I connected power but to my dismay couldn’t see any waveform when poking around the uC crystal. After a bit of head scratching I looked at the data sheet. The STM32F has many clock oscillator options, and it turns out that the default (factory) state is to have the external high speed crystal oscillator switched off.

So I connected a STM32f4 Discovery as an STLINK emulator pod, fired up the “st-util” GDB server program on my laptop and it didn’t work:



david@bear:~/stlink$ sudo ./st-util -f ~/codec2-dev/stm32/fft_test.elf

-f arg; /home/david/codec2-dev/stm32/fft_test.elf

2014-07-07T13:47:33 INFO src/stlink-usb.c: -- exit_dfu_mode

2014-07-07T13:47:33 INFO src/stlink-common.c: Loading device parameters....

2014-07-07T13:47:33 WARN src/stlink-common.c: unknown chip id! 0xe0042000

Chip ID is 00000000, Core ID is  00000000.



Hmm, that doesn’t look good. I started worrying that there was some other trick I needed to flash a bare-metal uC from the factory state. Then I checked the PCB. Turned out I has soldered R20 (a STLINK series termination resistor) in the wrong position. So I moved it and it still didn’t work. Then I looked again and found out I had moved the wrong resistor! So then I moved two resistors to fix my mistake and:



david@bear:~/stlink$ sudo ./st-util -f ~/codec2-dev/stm32/fft_test.elf

-f arg; /home/david/codec2-dev/stm32/fft_test.elf

2014-07-07T13:51:06 INFO src/stlink-usb.c: -- exit_dfu_mode

2014-07-07T13:51:06 INFO src/stlink-common.c: Loading device parameters....

2014-07-07T13:51:07 INFO src/stlink-common.c: Device connected is: F4 device, id 0x10016413

2014-07-07T13:51:07 INFO src/stlink-common.c: SRAM size: 0x30000 bytes (192 KiB), Flash: 0x100000 bytes (1024 KiB) in pages of 16384 bytes

Chip ID is 00000413, Core ID is  2ba01477.



Yayyyyyyyyy! I then flashed a test program (that does not use any I/O) and proved the uC was working just as well as the Discovery boards:



GDB connected.

  kiss_fft  0.59 msecs

  fft  0.56 msecs



Cool! That’s a FFT speed test program, that shows kiss_fft runs slightly faster than a FFT routine “optimised” for the SMT32F4. This was a test program I had laying around last year when I ported Codec 2 to the STM32F4.

OK, next step is to load one of the analog interfaces and see if I can output a modem signal.

Linux Users of Victoria (LUV) Announce: LUV July Meeting: La Trobe Valley Linux Miniconf and installfest

Mon, 2014-07-07 15:29
Start: Jul 19 2014 09:45 End: Jul 19 2014 09:45 Start: Jul 19 2014 09:45 End: Jul 19 2014 09:45 Location: 

Saturday July 19, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014 9:45 AM to 5:15 PM St. Mary's Anglican Church 6-8 La Trobe Road, Morwell

Linux Australia in partnership with Linux Users Victoria is pleased to invite you to the inaugural La Trobe Valley Linux Miniconf and installfest which will also see the formation of a new regional of chapter of Linux

users specifically for the La Trobe Valley region.

The lecture program includes "Why Linux Is The Future of Computing", "Moving from MS-Windows to Linux", "The Variety of Linux Distributions and Desktops", "LibreOffice and Other Office Applications", "Computer Security

LUV would like to acknowledge Red Hat for their help in obtaining the Buzzard Lecture Theatre venue and VPAC for hosting, and BENK Open Systems for their financial support of the Beginners Workshops

Linux Users of Victoria Inc., is an incorporated association, registration number A0040056C.

July 19, 2014 - 09:45

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Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 158: Piedmont Park

Mon, 2014-07-07 11:25

I went to bed ridiculously late last night, and because we had to get up relatively early to try and get away to Piedmont Park for the morning and be back in time for lunch and James' nap, this morning was a bit tough.

Piedmont Park was gorgeous. It's the Central Park of Atlanta apparently. It had a really huge dog park, and some lakes and a playground. Most importantly, it had a big fountain the kids could run through.

Everyone had a great time playing in the fountain, which was the last stop at the park before we turned around and headed back to the car.

I'm really loving how green and leafy Atlanta is. I realised today what I really love about Chris and Briana's house is it feels like it's in the middle of a forest. Looking out the window from the upstairs bathroom, all you can really see is trees. Lovely, straight and tall trees with big green leaves. Not quite as nice as a redwood forest, but pretty close.

The girls played "makeup over" after lunch, and then Briana took them out for frozen yogurt while James napped. After James woke up, Chris and James and I ran some errands. The girls had all gotten back by the time we got back, and were playing in the front yard.

I called a bunch of my friends while I wasn't having to entertain Zoe and caught up with them. It's good to be in a more conducive timezone for catching up with people.

I managed to get Zoe to bed at a more normal hour tonight, because we need to be up pretty early to get to the aquarium in the morning.

Lev Lafayette: The Innovation Patent Review and Free Software

Mon, 2014-07-07 10:29

Presentation to Linux Users of Victoria, 1st July, 2014

1. About Patents

A definition from the World Intellectual Property Organisation "A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application." [1]

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Arjen Lentz: Probabilistic vs Pilot-Wave view of Quantum Physics | WIRED

Mon, 2014-07-07 10:25

http://www.wired.com/2014/06/the-new-quantum-reality/

Interesting. I’ve always had issues with the probabilistic view, and I like the pilot wave (Bohmian) view. It makes more sense in my head. That doesn’t mean it’s right, of course, but just saying – I find it more elegant and satisfactory. It doesn’t require magic.

It’s important to realise that both views are of the same quantum physics. Feynman said “no one truly understands quantum mechanics”.

I reckon it’s worthwhile putting way more research into the pilot-wave view again, as it may well be able to help resolve other related issues such as the unified theory. Different perspectives often help to do that (and that’s even the case if they’re wrong!)

Also consider this tidbit:

In a groundbreaking experiment, the Paris researchers used the droplet setup to demonstrate single- and double-slit interference. They discovered that when a droplet bounces toward a pair of openings in a damlike barrier, it passes through only one slit or the other, while the pilot wave passes through both. Repeated trials show that the overlapping wavefronts of the pilot wave steer the droplets to certain places and never to locations in between — an apparent replication of the interference pattern in the quantum double-slit experiment that Feynman described as “impossible … to explain in any classical way.” And just as measuring the trajectories of particles seems to “collapse” their simultaneous realities, disturbing the pilot wave in the bouncing-droplet experiment destroys the interference pattern.

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Sridhar Dhanapalan: Twitter posts: 2014-06-30 to 2014-07-06

Mon, 2014-07-07 00:27

Matt Palmer: Witness the security of this fully DNSSEC-enabled zone!

Sun, 2014-07-06 20:25

After dealing with the client side of the DNSSEC puzzle last week, I thought it behooved me to also go about getting DNSSEC going on the domains I run DNS for. Like the resolver configuration, the server side work is straightforward enough once you know how, but boy howdy are there some landmines to be aware of.

One thing that made my job a little less ordinary is that I use and love tinydns. It’s an amazingly small and simple authoritative DNS server, strong in the Unix tradition of “do one thing and do it well”. Unfortunately, DNSSEC is anything but “small and simple” and so tinydns doesn’t support DNSSEC out of the box. However, Peter Conrad has produced a patch for tinydns to do DNSSEC, and that does the trick very nicely.

A brief aside about tinydns and DNSSEC, if I may… Poor key security is probably the single biggest compromise vector for crypto. So you want to keep your keys secure. A great way to keep keys secure is to not put them on machines that run public-facing network services (like DNS servers). So, you want to keep your keys away from your public DNS servers. A really great way of doing that would be to have all of your DNS records somewhere out of the way, and when they change regenerate the zone file, re-sign it, and push it out to all your DNS servers. That happens to be exactly how tinydns works. I happen to think that tinydns fits very nicely into a DNSSEC-enabled world. Anyway, back to the story.

Once I’d patched the tinydns source and built updated packages, it was time to start DNSSEC-enabling zones. This breaks down into a few simple steps:

  1. Generate a key for each zone. This will produce a private key (which, as the name suggests, you should keep to yourself), a public key in a DNSKEY DNS record, and a DS DNS record. More on those in a minute.

    One thing to be wary of, if you’re like me and don’t want or need separate “Key Signing” and “Zone Signing” keys. You must generate a “Key Signing” key – this is a key with a “flags” value of 257. Doing this wrong will result in all sorts of odd-ball problems. I wanted to just sign zones, so I generated a “Zone Signing” key, which has a “flags” value of 256. Big mistake.

    Also, the DS record is a hash of everything in the DNSKEY record, so don’t just think you can change the 256 to a 257 and everything will still work. It won’t.

  2. Add the key records to the zone data. For tinydns, this is just a matter of copying the zone records from the generated key into the zone file itself, and adding an extra pseudo record (it’s all covered in the tinydnssec howto).

  3. Publish the zone data. Reload your BIND config, run tinydns-sign and tinydns-data then rsync, or do whatever it is PowerDNS people do (kick the database until replication starts working again?).

  4. Test everything. I found the Verisign Labs DNSSEC Debugger to be very helpful. You want ticks everywhere except for where it’s looking for DS records for your zone in the higher-level zone. If there are any other freak-outs, you’ll want to fix those – because broken DNSSEC will take your domain off the Internet in no time.

  5. Tell the world about your DNSSEC keys. This is simply a matter of giving your DS record to your domain registrar, for them to add it to the zone data for your domain’s parent. Wherever you’d normally go to edit the nameservers or contact details for your domain, you probably want to do to the same place and look for something about “DS” or “Domain Signer” records. Copy and paste the details from the DS record in your zone into there, submit, and wait a minute or two for the records to get published.

  6. Test again. Before you pat yourself on the back, make sure you’ve got a full board of green ticks in the DNSSEC Debugger. if anything’s wrong, you want to rollback immediately, because broken DNSSEC means that anyone using a DNSSEC-enabled resolver just lost the ability to see your domain.

That’s it! There’s a lot of complicated crypto going on behind the scenes, and DNSSEC seems to revel in the number of acronyms and concepts that it introduces, but the actual execution of DNSSEC-enabling your domains is quite straightforward.

Russell Coker: Desktop Publishing is Wrong

Sun, 2014-07-06 17:26

When I first started using computers a “word processor” was a program that edited text. The most common and affordable printers were dot-matrix and people who wanted good quality printing used daisy wheel printers. Text from a word processor was sent to a printer a letter at a time. The options for fancy printing were bold and italic (for dot-matrix), underlines, and the use of spaces to justify text.

It really wasn’t much good if you wanted to include pictures, graphs, or tables. But if you just wanted to write some text it worked really well.

When you were editing text it was typical that the entire screen (25 rows of 80 columns) would be filled with the text you were writing. Some word processors used 2 or 3 lines at the top or bottom of the screen to display status information.

Some time after that desktop publishing (DTP) programs became available. Initially most people had no interest in them because of the lack of suitable printers, the early LASER printers were very expensive and the graphics mode of dot matrix printers was slow to print and gave fairly low quality. Printing graphics on a cheap dot matrix printer using the thin continuous paper usually resulted in damaging the paper – a bad result that wasn’t worth the effort.

When LASER and Inkjet printers started to become common word processing programs started getting many more features and basically took over from desktop publishing programs. This made them slower and more cumbersome to use. For example Star Office/OpenOffice/LibreOffice has distinguished itself by remaining equally slow as it transitioned from running on an OS/2 system with 16M of RAM in the early 90′s to a Linux system with 256M of RAM in the late 90′s to a Linux system with 1G of RAM in more recent times. It’s nice that with the development of PCs that have AMD64 CPUs and 4G+ of RAM we have finally managed to increase PC power faster than LibreOffice can consume it. But it would be nicer if they could optimise for the common cases. LibreOffice isn’t the only culprit, it seems that every word processor that has been in continual development for that period of time has had the same feature bloat.

The DTP features that made word processing programs so much slower also required more menus to control them. So instead of just having text on the screen with maybe a couple of lines for status we have a menu bar at the top followed by a couple of lines of “toolbars”, then a line showing how much width of the screen is used for margins. At the bottom of the screen there’s a search bar and a status bar.

Screen Layout

By definition the operation of a DTP program will be based around the size of the paper to be used. The default for this is A4 (or “Letter” in the US) in a “portrait” layout (higher than it is wide). The cheapest (and therefore most common) monitors in use are designed for displaying wide-screen 16:9 ratio movies. So we have images of A4 paper with a width:height ratio of 0.707:1 displayed on a wide-screen monitor with a 1.777:1 ratio. This means that only about 40% of the screen space would be used if you don’t zoom in (but if you zoom in then you can’t see many rows of text on the screen). One of the stupid ways this is used is by companies that send around word processing documents when plain text files would do, so everyone who reads the document uses a small portion of the screen space and a large portion of the email bandwidth.

Note that this problem of wasted screen space isn’t specific to DTP programs. When I use the Google Keep website [1] to edit notes on my PC they take up a small fraction of the screen space (about 1/3 screen width and 80% screen height) for no good reason. Keep displays about 70 characters per line and 36 lines per page. Really every program that allows editing moderate amounts of text should allow more than 80 characters per line if the screen is large enough and as many lines as fit on the screen.

One way to alleviate the screen waste on DTP programs is to use a “landscape” layout for the paper. This is something that all modern printers support (AFAIK the only printers you can buy nowadays are LASER and ink-jet and it’s just a big image that gets sent to the printer). I tried to do this with LibreOffice but couldn’t figure out how. I’m sure that someone will comment and tell me I’m stupid for missing it, but I think that when someone with my experience of computers can’t easily figure out how to perform what should be a simple task then it’s unreasonably difficult for the vast majority of computer users who just want to print a document.

When trying to work out how to use landscape layout in LibreOffice I discovered the “Web Layout” option in the “View” menu which allows all the screen space to be used for text (apart from the menu bar, tool bars, etc). That also means that there are no page breaks! That means I can use LibreOffice to just write text, take advantage of the spelling and grammar correcting features, and only have screen space wasted by the tool bars and menus etc.

I never worked out how to get Google Docs to use a landscape document or a single webpage view. That’s especially disappointing given that the proportion of documents that are printed from Google Docs is probably much lower than most word processing or DTP programs.

What I Want

What I’d like to have is a word processing program that’s suitable for writing draft blog posts and magazine articles. For blog posts most of the formatting is done by the blog software and for magazine articles the editorial policy demands plain text in most situations, so there’s no possible benefit of DTP features.

The ability to edit a document on an Android phone and on a Linux PC is a good feature. While the size of a phone screen limits what can be done it does allow jotting down ideas and correcting mistakes. I previously wrote about using Google Keep on a phone for lecture notes [2]. It seems that the practical ability of Keep to edit notes on a PC is about limited to the notes for a 45 minute lecture. So while Keep works well for that task it won’t do well for anything bigger unless Google make some changes.

Google Docs is quite good for editing medium size documents on a phone if you use the Android app. Given the limitations of the device size and input capabilities it works really well. But it’s not much good for use on a PC.

I’ve seen a positive review of One Note from Microsoft [3]. But apart from the fact that it’s from Microsoft (with all the issues that involves) there’s the issue of requiring another account. Using an Android phone requires a Gmail account (in practice for almost all possible uses if not in theory) so there’s no need to get an extra account for Google Keep or Docs.

What would be ideal is an Android editor that could talk to a cloud service that I run (maybe using WebDAV) and which could use the same data as a Linux-X11 application.

Any suggestions?

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Ben Martin: Ending up Small

Sun, 2014-07-06 14:27
It's easy to get swept up in trying to build a robot that has autonomy and the proximity, environment detection and inference, and feedback mechanisms that go along with that. There's something to be said about the fun of a direct drive robot with just power control and no feedback. So Tiny Tim was born! For reference, his wheels are 4 inches in diameter.





A Uno is used with an analog joystick shield to drive Tim. He is not intended and probably never will be able to move autonomously. Direct command only. Packets are sent over a wireless link from the controller (5v) to Tim (3v3). Onboard Tim is an 8Mhz/3v3 Pro Micro which I got back on Arduino day :) The motors are driven by a 1A Dual TB6612FNG Motor Driver which is operated very much like an L298 dual hbridge (2 direction pins and a PWM). Tim's Pro Micro also talks to an OLED screen and his wireless board is put out behind the battery to try to isolate it a little from the metal. The OLED screen needed 3v3 signals, so Tim became a 3v3 logic robot.



He is missing a hub mount, so the wheel on the left is just sitting on the mini gearmotor's shaft. At the other end of the channel is a Tamiya Omni Wheel which tilts the body slightly forward. I've put the battery at the back to try to make sure he doesn't flip over during hard break.



A custom PCB would remove most of the wires on Tim and be more robust. But most of Tim is currently put together from random bits that were available. The channel and beams should have a warning letting you know what can happen once you bolt a few of them together ;)



Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 157: Pottering around the house and more time in the pool

Sun, 2014-07-06 13:25

I managed to sleep all night last night! I felt so much better today as a result.

It was a beautiful day today, with unseasonably low temperature and humidity.

The girls played around in the back yard for a bit in the morning once everyone got up and got going for the day, and after lunch we were going to go to a local neighbourhood park, but only got as far as the pool instead.

All of this time in the pool is certainly doing wonders for Zoe's confidence in deep water. She did lots of deep diving and swimming today.

I realised how much I'm enjoying the limited downtime of this holiday. Just the break from having to cook is massive. Skipping out on cooking but still having heaps of quality time with Zoe has been fantastic. I'm also really loving the leafy green neighbourhood.

I took the Peikerts out for dinner tonight to say thanks for having us. We had a nice dinner at a local bar. After we got home and all the kids were bathed, Zoe wanted to watch Clara practice the piano, which devolved into an impromptu piano lesson for Zoe, so I didn't end up getting her to bed until quite late. Hopefully we can all sleep in a bit tomorrow morning.

Michael Davies: LCA2015 CFP Closing Real Soon Now

Sun, 2014-07-06 11:54
It's July, which means the LCA2015 CFP is open... but not for much longer.



I've been reading through what's been submitted so far, and it looks like linux.conf.au will again have an excellent program.  But, as Co-Chair of the Papers Committee, I want the program to be even better! :-)



So if you're working on a open-source or open-hardware project, and you're doing cool stuff, why not come to Auckland in January and speak at one of the best community-driven open-source conferences in the world?  We've got some great information on how to get your proposal accepted (also in video) to help you put your proposal together.



But to be a speaker at LCA2015 you need to make a proposal to speak to the CFP (which closes next Friday on July 13).  So hurry up, and submit your proposal today!



David Rowe: Democratising HF Radio Part 1

Sun, 2014-07-06 08:29

I recently submitted a Shuttleworth Fellowship grant application. I had planned to use the funding to employ people and accelerate the roll out of the project described below. I just heard that my application was unsuccessful (they wanted something more experimental). Never mind, the ideas lives on!

I’m exploring some novel ideas for messaging over 100 km ranges in unconnected parts of the developing world. Radios are migrating from hardware to software, making the remaining hardware component very simple. Software can be free, so radio communication can be built at very low cost, and possibly by local people in the developing world. Even from e-waste.

I have a theory that this can address the huge problem of “distribution”. I’ve been involved in a few projects where well meaning geeks have tried to help people using technology. However we get wound up in our own technology. If you have a hammer, every problem is a nail. I think we have the technology – it’s physically getting it into peoples hands at the right cost and in a way that they can control and maintain it that is the problem. I also hit this problem in my small business career – it’s called “distribution”, it was really tough in that field as well.

Here is the video part of a Shuttleworth Fellowship grant application:

And here are the slides.

I’ll be moving this project forward in 2015. The world needs to get connected.

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 156: Independence Day

Sun, 2014-07-06 02:25

Zoe woke up at briefly at about 1:30am wanting her blankets pulled up. I managed to get back to sleep after that, but woke up at 4:30am for the day. A slight improvement.

I'd wanted to time our visit so that we could be here for the 4th of July. We pottered around at home in the morning and then walked down the street to the neighbourhood pool for a 4th of July ice cream social. It was a bit more than ice cream though, we had sandwiches as well.

After some time in the pool, we had a nap so we'd last until after the fireworks, and after an early dinner, headed into downtown Decatur in preparation for the fireworks.

The girls had a great time playing in a local park for a while, and then we parked over in a multi-story parking garage downtown, and got into position on the roof to watch the fireworks.

We joined a friend of Chris' (also named Chris) and his two daughters, while we waited for it to get dark. Chris, Chris and I played Carcassonne on Chris' phone (it looks like a cool game, I'll have to try and get better at it) while the girls played cards and generally fooled around.

The fireworks started a bit after 9pm. There's one thing about America, it knows how to put on a good fireworks show, and this was just Decatur. Zoe was very impressed. So I'm glad I got to show her a 4th of July fireworks show.

We got home by about 10:30pm, and crashed.