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Howell Tam: FGMap now does metar, and more…

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Recently updated FGMap with various bug fixes, as well as adding a new tabbed info box for airports. That way I could easily add more different information, such as metar information. I have to admit I first got the idea of adding metar information for FGMap when I first saw it on They have excellent real world aviation charts, data and an awesome flight planning tools. I’m simply using the metar in Debian at the moment. Hopefully it will match FlightGear’s weather when using with its real weather fetch.

Also I’ve added external links in the airport info box to World Aero Data and AirNav (for U.S. airports).

Howell Tam: Windows badness, and VirtualBox goodness

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Just don’t ask why, really, but (under the influence of my wife) we bought a AverMedia Hybrid (DVB-T + Analogue) + FM Radio USB 2.0 box. It’s a nice little USB device, and it also has composite and s-video input, audio input, and a remote control.

And of course it works under that proprietary . Then we realized it has rather serious issues with the composite-in being a bit slow (both slow frame rate and sometimes laggy).

As a Linuxer, naturally I then tried the device under Linux. Only just halfly expected, there is no driver for Linux yet. That’s no better way to spend your holidays overseas? I decided to spend a little on looking into the possibility to reverse engineer the windows driver.

Doing things on windows is always painful. Though I got one of the windows USB sniffer working, it wasn’t as convenient as doing things on Linux. So I went for using QEMU booting into windows and capture all the USB traffic. Unfortunately, windows (xp) crashes (classic BSOD style) while installing the device driver. I thought for a second, maybe it’s QEMU not emulating something that is needed?

Someone on #bochs pointed me to VirtualBox, so I gave it a go. Still out of luck though, windows xp crashes at the exact same spot. Damn.

On the bright side, I have discovered VirtualBox – yet another virtualizer for x86 hardware, and it’s pretty awesome:

  • (On this Pentium M 1.6GHz laptop) VirtualBox is much much faster than QEMU (with kqemu) for, well, running windows xp.
  • It has a GUI frontend for setting up VMs. As much as I prefer text/command-line based apps, a GUI frontend does help new users to try things out a lot.

Having said that, VirtualBox (currently anyway) is not entirely open source. It has two editions. And the version I tried was the one with those closed-source features. On the other hand they did say “some of these features will eventually be made available with the open-source version as well”.

So, no, I didn’t go very far with the reverse engineering. It’s usually a painful and time-consuming process. I did have some of the USB traffic sniffed and logged under windows, but I haven’t done much with them yet.

I have some more photos and info of the device here, including photos of it pulled apart.

Howell Tam: Multi-head FlightGear

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Finally bought a cheap “new old” BenQ 19″ monitor for like 20 bucks (yes, its delivery cost was more than that), replacing my unlucky Philips 19″ which died in the rain (stormy day with an opened window basically), and so I’m back to my 3-monitor desktop setup.

And so one thing leads to another. I setup Xinerama for the 2 screens. I played with DMX across the 3 screens for a bit. It’s nice but for some reasons it’s not doing direct rendering for GLX, neither the local nor the non-local clients.

And then the most obvious and exciting thing to do is to run multi-head FlightGear. As my setup is 3-screen-on-2-machines, normally you’d simply run one FlightGear on each machine. However my 1-screen-machine is rather old and slow, and not much memory (Pentium 2 w/256MB ram). So I ended up running two instances of FlightGear on the 2-screen-machine (Pentium 4 w/1GB ram) and forwarding the display onto the other (by setting DISPLAY). Its startup time is a lot faster this way.

When I have the time I should play with Chromium as well…

The Golden Gate Bridge across 3 screens Flying over San Francisco

Howell Tam: LCA2008 Day 6 – Open Day

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

So it had come to the last but not least day of LCA2008 – The Open Day.

Since last year, the Open Day has been yet another exciting day in LCA. There were over 30 booths hosted by different companies and organizations demonstrating their cool Linux and open source technologies.

I believe the ones that caught most attention would be the gaming booths where there were StepMania, Frets On Fire, and a bunch of open source games that were configured to use the wiimote.

And speaking of the wiimote, of course another highlight was Rusty’s Pong Hero. It was inspired by one of Johnny’s Lee wiimote project that uses the wiimote’s infrared camera and a infrared light to work together as a whiteboard. In Rusty’s case, you draw using a specially made infrared lipstick on the virtual whiteboard to play the classic Pong game. You can catch it in action on this video.

Overall the Open Day this year was great. Though I kinda hope for a better venue for it. Because it’s inside a building it’s kinda packed. I mean comparing to the one last year, LCA2007’s was a much better semi-opened area for things like Open Day.

I hung around till pretty much when then Open Day came to an end. I slowly strolled back to St Mary’s to get ready for my flight back to Sydney.

Goodbye LCA2008, and looking forward to LCA2009 in Tasmania.

Howell Tam: 2007

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

It’s like second best thing to see that the programme for the 2007 is out! I imagine it’s as exciting as when a new TV guide is out for some people. :)

And for the (first) best thing, LCA 2007 registration is now opened!

Now how cool is that! (Or I should just get out more…)

Howell Tam: LCA 2007 Day 4 – Inkscape’s bling, weather art, and the ROCKING Open Day

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Andy Fitzsimon’s Single Source Design illustrated a lot of “bling” in graphics and web site design using Inkscape. It’s one of those talks that inspired you with all these mind-blowing new ways of doing things.

While Alexander Reeder presented his neat, practical and yet simple idea of his naked laptop weather display in the Open Source Art talk. He has reminded me of the broken laptop my ex-flatmate gave me, which has a rather flaky IDE bus as well. I should probably think of something cool to do with it.

In the afternoon we had the ROCKING Open Day at the pavilion. Though the venue is small (comparing to those big expo of course), there were heaps of interesting displays and demo. It might be things that we (Linux enthusiast) see everyday, but to the others it was a wonderful experience. It was very packed and apparently there were over a thousand people visited, including families and friends of people in the Linux community. Maybe this will become a trend of all LCAs in the future to have an awesome Open Day.

I ended up helping Endy a very little bit at his ScummVM demo stand. I showed and explained to a few kids the what and how of the game. Turns out there were a lot of young kids interested Sam ‘n Max and the Maniac Mansion Day of the Tentacles when they saw them. Many of them were willing to sit down and spend lots of time going though the game. Good games can really be good games of all time.

Photos of day 4 here.

Howell Tam: YSSY -> YMML for LCA2008

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

In about 4 hours time I’ll be on my way to LCA2008. This is also my first trip to Melbourne. All good!

Also just wondering if there’s any other FlightGear-ers around LCA this year? (apart from those who I already know). We could have a little chat, or maybe some hacking/debugging/troubleshooting sessions? Or even some multiplay fun?

See you all at LCA!

Howell Tam: FlightGear git repository

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

I’ve been keeping a git repo of my own for FlightGear for quite some time. I was using Tailor for importing CVS into git, since git-cvsimport seems to be an issue with the branches in FlightGear’s CVS. Tailor is very powerful, and work among over 10 different revision control systems.

On the other hand, I’ve been having some issues with tailor. Not until much much much later (about a week ago) that I discovered the cause and possibly the remedy. At the same time one of the FlightGear developers Tim Moore has figured out why git-cvsimport wasn’t happy, and more importantly how to make it happy.

And so I’ve re-imported FlightGear and SimGear source from scratch and it’s been going well so far. But for those who have been using my repo, you will have to re-clone it again.

I’ve also imported the FlightGear data repo, but beware, it’s rather big even for git. The bare repo is almost 1G. So if you’re happy with your current CVS checkout, I suggest you not to bother with my git one. Mind you, that’s the entire history. Considering a checkout is about 1.7G, that’s not too bad. I’ve also set a 512kB/s limit for my git upstream, just in case there are like 20 people cloning the data repo at the same time :)

Howell Tam: 2005

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

I managed to go to LCA 2005 this year in Canberra, 3 years since the last LCA I went to in Sydney. It was all good (apart from I didn’t win the IBM laptop and I’ve lost one chance of getting a 1G USB key).

I was never into wireless stuff as I always think they hurt my brain and give me headaches. Then I was thinking everyone is going to be using wifi at LCA, i.e. 499 wireless cards is not going to be any better than 500. And so I’ve bought a CompactFlash wifi card for my iPAQ about 2 weeks before the conference. And it’s working very well under Familiar 0.8.x. It pretty much works straight away. So I was using wireless on my iPAQ happily for the entire LCA.

I went to the Embedded Miniconf on the first day. I quite like Chris McCormick’s 10 embedded tricks for coding on the Gameboy Advance talk. I also went to his Gameboy Advance talk on the last day of the main conference. He mentioned his little music program for the GBA called looper. I wonder how hard it would be to port it onto Linux and perhaps my iPAQ…

Keith Packard’s talk on Twin was also very interesting especially when he brought up stroke fonts again. I saw someone talking about stroke fonts when I was googling around looking for ways to reduce the footprint of ttf fonts. If you’ve played with Chinese or Japanese ttf, sure you’ll know they are usually very big (>10-15MB), and hence not very nice on devices like my iPAQ. Stroke fonts on the other are much much smaller. However there isn’t seem to be any open source implementation and support for stroke fonts at the moment :(

Then on the second day I went to the Audio Miniconf. The sound demo by Mark Greenaway was quite amazing as he showed off a couple of Linux audio/music programs, including with ardour, seq24, hydrogen, alsamodularsynth, meterbridge, etc etc. Now I can waste more time playing around other than just with rosegarden :)

Some other random LCA notes:

- Everybody can implement their own BitKeeper client. All you need is to ask for “help” :)

- The Golden Penguin Quiz show was simply fun, and also it suggested that how little I know about things :)

- After the Penguin Dinner night, we’ve all discovered a new way to kill productivity by apt-get install wesnoth.

- Must check on James Cameron’s Remastering Knoppix notes so we can setup the one-command-launching-bzflag-on-all-machines-on-the-network at work.

Photos at lca 2005

Howell Tam: LCA2008 Day 3

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Doing a bit back-blogging… but hey, at least that means the conference was so great and I didn’t have any time to blog :)

So it was the first day of the LCA main conference. Apart from Bruce Schneier’s keynote and all the cool talks, it was also the 10th year anniversary of, and during the morning tea we had some really really rich and delicious lwn chocolate muffin. It was soooo good.

It was also the day/night for the penguin dinner. It was held at the Queen Victoria night market, which is quite different from what the usual LCA penguin dinner used to be. And being the first time visiting Melbourne, it is actually a pretty good idea.

So we all like 700 people walking from the Melbourne University. It was funny that there was a guy who worked opposite to the road where we slowly strolled to the night market, and he couldn’t resist and headed down from his office and asked us what’s happening with all these people on the street.

We got to choose our own food from over like 30 different food places (even though I’ve got from the one only, but I loved it). And I like the semi-open environment (and glad that it wasn’t raining in the afternoon and the evening), more casual, and a lot more fun.

Didn’t pay much attention to the actual market though myself, as I found it very much the same as the one at the Rocks in Sydney.

Howell Tam: SCIM with 32-bit app on 64-bit system outside chroot

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

For those who need SCIM while running 32-bit apps on a 64-bit system outside chroot, there are two things (at least for me) needed.

Apart from the obvious that you need SCIM installed in the 32-bit chroot, you’ll need to set SCIM_MODULE_PATH to point to the 32-bit SCIM libdir. For instance, my iceweasel32 script looks like:

#!/bin/sh export CHROOT=/chroot/testing.32 export GTK_PATH=${CHROOT}/usr/lib/gtk-2.0 export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=${CHROOT}/lib:${CHROOT}/usr/lib:/lib32:/usr/lib32 export SCIM_MODULE_PATH=${CHROOT}/usr/lib/scim-1.0 export MOZ_PLUGIN_PATH=${CHROOT}/usr/lib/mozilla/plugins linux32 ${CHROOT}/usr/lib/iceweasel/firefox-bin "$@"

Secondly, you’ll need to add a symlink in /usr/lib32/gtk-2.0/2.10.0/immodules for the chroot’s /usr/lib/gtk-2.0/2.10.0/immodules/ Not the cleanest way I have to say, but it works.

Howell Tam: LCA 2007 Day 2 – Jokosher and Gaming Miniconf

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

There isn’t an Audio Miniconf this year like the one in LCA 2005. Still there are a couple of audio related talks like the Jokosher talk I went to in the GNOME Miniconf today.

Jono Bacon pinpointed that a few good elements that what and how a (sound editing) GUI would make sense and be intuitive. I have played with ardour a little bit myself and I have to agree what Jono has said about it. I guess it’s kind of like how I keep hearing people who got used to a 3D modeling app like AC3D and then go and try Blender. (I use and am used to Blender, though)

Well, spent most of the day at the Gaming Miniconf. Wesnoth, PS3 Linux, and so forth.

Also fulfilled my panorama obsession and half-heartedly took one at the round house while people waiting for the conference party. No I haven’t fixed every single glitches in the photo, that’s what the GIMP tutorial on Thursday is for :)

Howell Tam: My FlightGear’s gear

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Bought a Saitek Cyborg Evo when I was in HK. It’s a pretty good stick for Flight Sims. It has most of the basis including the throttle, rudder control and hat switch. And I kind of like those little lights too. Now I can practise all my flying in FlightGear with it.

Howell Tam: Pilot filters in FGMap

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

A couple of weeks ago, one of the fellows (yes, you, MSmith) from the Island Virtual Airways, the virtual airline based on FlightGear, poked me and was asking me if there is a way to show only their airline pilots on FGMap. After spending a few coding train trips, I’ve added a very simple pilot filtering feature. Currently you can filter by the callsign and the aircraft. It also has query string support, so you can do things like

Check it out at Code is in my usual git repo.


Howell Tam: MPlayer + MatrixView for windows

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Gianluigi Tiesi is kind enough to update my MPlayer + MatrixView patch to work under windows. Thanks very much! That’s why open source software rocks :)

Howell Tam: LCA2008 Day 5

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Last day of the conference. There were a few interesting talks that I wanted to go to but a lot of them are at the same time. The not-so-bad thing is though almost all talks were recorded.

In the afternoon, among the few talks I was interested, I decided to head to the MythTV BOF, partly because I know the BOFs weren’t recorded. As a quite-long time MythTV user I find the BOF pretty interesting, however I wish there was more time for it. One of the brought up issues, and also an everlasting issue, was TV guide data in Australia. I always feel funny that it is so hard to get the data, as if they don’t want you to watch their programmes.

After the afternoon tea was the lightning talks, followed by the closing of the conference. To me lightning talks are always the cool and very entertaining. Of course this year’s talks were no exception, and I enjoyed them a lot.

After the closing was the Google party. It was right outside the university union house, so it’s kinda outdoor. The atmosphere was good, and I think pretty much everyone was there enjoying the drinks and the BBQ. The food was nice, but I wish there were a bit more variety.

I stayed around for a bit and headed back to St Mary’s common room. My friend and I joined another two guys (sorry I didn’t catch the names or I just forgot :() there for a game of table tennis. I haven’t really played any double myself so that was kinda of cool.

Howell Tam: FlightGear + Google Earth fun

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Last week I briefly played with Google Earth (GE) and KML, exploring the potential of using it to do something useful with FlightGear (FG).

The quickest hack I did was the GE version FGMap, which shows a moving map of all the online pilots on the FG MP servers. It is basically a very simple change with the FGMap CGI that translate MP server info into XML, only this time it outputs KML. Very simple and straight forward, nothing fancy at all. Check it out by opening this file in GE (if no one is on the server, you’ll see nothing! Check FGMap too).

[Updated] GE MP map using 3D models work-in-progress:

This weekend I started looking into GE’s 3D model support. Currently it supports two kinds of 3D model definition. KML embedded model using MultiGeometry, or a Collada .dae format. After some investigation I figured I have to use Collada to do what I want – having a 3D model of an aircraft and updating its position/orientation in GE. MultiGeometry (current version at least) is a fixed coordinates format, while with a Collada model you can place it in GE and then move it around, and also altering its heading/pitch/roll.

Quickly I found this Collada exportor plugin for Blender. As a test I loaded the C172P aircraft AC3D model from FG into Blender, followed by a few trail-and-error and I figured out what I need to export for GE: 1) Convert all faces to triangles, 2) Export Triangles, Disable Physics, Use UV Image and optionally Use Relative Paths.

According to the KML tutorial I have to pack up the .dae file together with the textures, along with a textures.txt for textures path mapping. However I discovered you could actually alter the path referenced in the .dae file to a local jpeg file, or even an HTTP URL.

So now I’ve got GE to show a 3D model of an aircraft from FG. Next is to get FG to talk to GE. There are many ways (network, serial port, etc) in FG you can export real time flight data. To make things easier for now, I’ve set it up to export simply latitude, longitude, altitude, pitch, roll, heading to a file (or actually a fifo), then I wrote a little program to read and output a KML file for GE to read. Then on the GE side, I have to create a KML with a NetworkLink to refresh the actual FG KML.

Now, problems. It seems even if I set the refresh time to be 0 seconds, and I can see GE refreshing the link continuously, on screen it still only updates the position/orientation about once per second. It could well be a GE internal limitation (or feature). The bottom line is, we need a sane way to feed data into GE.

Another thing is I can never get GE to “follow” the aircraft properly. It’s either not panning faster enough, or it will go kinda crazy and jitter a lot. Guess I’m not a GE/KML yet. I need to test it more and tidy up my codes/scripts/things a bit and I’ll put them up.

Nevertheless, it’s kind of fun to “fly FG inside GE”.

Screenshots of FlightGear running side by side with Google Earth, whereby FG sending data to GE and showing the 3D aircraft. Possibly more screenshots here


Hong Kong with Computamaps Hong Kong 3D models

Howell Tam: LCA2008 Day 4

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

As my back blogging continues…

Day 4 is the Professional Delegates Network Session (PDNS) night. Shortly after all the talks of the day we headed down to the Melbourne museum, where the PDNS was held.

I was absolutely stunned by the museum, and I just couldn’t stopped taking photos. And as a result this also distracted me from the actual “networking”. I shall put up my LCA2008 photos real soon. There was the CSIRAC – Australia’s first computer, and there were many many other cool displays of various animals and bugs, like those awesome ant’s nests and spiders.

It’s a pity though that we were only allowed to be in a rather small area of the museum, and we couldn’t really go anywhere else.

There’s also one of those displays where you put on a specially made glasses to watch a few video clips in 3D.

The food was very nice as well! There was a few things with some kind of raw beef, some thing that a bit like sushi but not quite, raw oysters, usual but delicious sandwiches. Allow me to say that the PDNS food this year was better than last year’s :P

Howell Tam: LCA2008 Day 2

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

After asking for an extra pillow (the one that was already in the room just didn’t work well, it’s as flat as a Macbook Air), I had a good sleep last night.

I have been hiding in the gaming miniconf pretty much the whole day. It was all fun and cool. In particular the Crayon project, which is supposed to turn a simple photo or drawing into some sort of games, sounded very interesting. Unfortunately due to time constrains there wasn’t a demo. It might be shown on the open day however.

Another interesting one would be Rusty’s wiimote project, which will hopefully be ready to for demo on the open day as well.