Wednesday, December 30, 2009

3D Fractals

Ever wondered what intricate patterns might show up with a 3D rendering of the Mandelbrot set? Check out the Real 3D Mandelbrot Fractal. Here's a sample image with lots more, in high definition at the site:

3D Mandelbrot Fractal

Friday, December 25, 2009

ASUS Skype Video Phone Touch SV1TS

ASUS SV1TS Skype Video Phone The ASUS Skype Video Phone Touch SV1TS (Silver/Blue) is one of the newer Skype phones that brings PC-less video calls to Skype. It’s an all-in-one unit with a 7-inch 800x480 touch-screen display, built-in microphone, speaker, webcam, wifi and ethernet, and jacks for optional external headset. The phone also comes with a rechargeable battery pack.

The touch screen and menus made it a breeze to setup and start making calls in a couple of minutes. Audio quality is great but the video resolution leaves a lot to be desired. The complete package is also rather bulky, weighing in at 1.6 kg (about 3.5 lb) and at 25.3 cm (9.9 in) tall. The photographs of the phone don’t highlight this aspect but when seen in-person, the phone is definitely heavy and huge! One of the big disadvantages of this phone is the lack of portability compared to the cordless/wifi Skype handsets. Since the focus is on video calls, it can only be used a desk, making it unsuitable for causal home use as a replacement for a landline. The phone would have been a better package if it also included a cordless or wifi handset for non-video calls. After a few minutes of use, these disadvantages outweighed the cool-factor of the video and touch screen, and I had to return the phone.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Boxee + iPhone as Remote = Awesome!

Boxee, in their own words, “… is a social media center. With Boxee you can play videos, music and pictures from your computer, local network, and the Internet. You can also share with your friends what albums you're listening to, what movies and TV shows you're watching, send recommendations and more.” Hooking up a  computer running Boxee to a television is a great way to get access to tons of video and audio content from Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, BBC, Pandora and so on. Boxee’s got a lot of positive press lately. With the recent addition of the Boxee Remote application, the iPhone can now be used as a remote for Boxee via wi-fi. Here’s a video of the Boxee remote application in action:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

End of Mininova

Mininova has announced that they are limiting their activities to their Content Distribution service. All the copyrighted content has been scrubbed from the site. It’s time to thank Mininova and move on.

Does that mean no more Top Gear downloads? Well, not according to FinalGear who claim to be considering other options including RapidShare and MegaUpload.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Installing Ruby Gems via a Proxy

On Linux, to install Ruby gems via a HTTP proxy. simply set the HTTP_PROXY (all upper case) environment variable to point to the proxy.

For example:

export HTTP_PROXY=http://my.proxy.server:port/
gem install sproutcore

Update: Brat points out that FTP_PROXY may also be required for FTP access. For example:

export FTP_PROXY=http://my.proxy.server:port/

Saturday, October 3, 2009

SproutCore 1.0

SproutCore SproutCore is a HTML5 Application Framework written in JavaScript, that makes it easy to use HTML5 features across the browsers. At the Silicon Valley Code Camp this year, Charles Jolley from Sprout gave a great presentation about the features of SproutCore and did an excellent demo of a simple HTML5 ToDo app that runs using the Google App Engine. Seems like a very interesting framework to take advantage of HTML5.

Gentoo and KDE

I've been using Gentoo since early 2003 and have generally been very regular (almost daily, at least weekly) with system updates using emerge. There was a period of time though when the system was on KDE 3.x and I didn't do any updates for several months. Eventually it took me a lot of effort to resolve dependencies and fix the blocked packages to go up to KDE 4.1. Being an old machine, I didn't do much on that system for the past 5 months. Now it seems like it's going to be very very difficult to any updates.

Running emerge -av kde-meta:4.3 give me a huge number of conflicts and blocked package:

Total: 290 packages (26 upgrades, 59 new, 205 in new slots, 228 uninstalls), Size of downloads: 556,992 kB
Conflict: 272 blocks (12 unsatisfied) ('installed', '/', 'x11-libs/qt-svg-4.5.0', 'nomerge') pulled in by
~x11-libs/qt-svg-4.5.0 required by ('installed', '/', 'x11-libs/qt-4.5.0', 'nomerge')

('ebuild', '/', 'x11-libs/qt-dbus-4.5.2', 'merge') pulled in by
>=x11-libs/qt-dbus-4.4.0:4 required by ('ebuild', '/', 'media-sound/phonon-4.4_pre20090520', 'merge')
x11-libs/qt-dbus:4 required by ('ebuild', '/', 'dev-libs/soprano-2.3.1', 'merge')
x11-libs/qt-dbus:4 required by ('installed', '/', 'app-misc/strigi-0.6.4', 'nomerge')
(and 2 more)

('ebuild', '/', 'x11-libs/qt-svg-4.5.2', 'merge') pulled in by
>=x11-libs/qt-svg-4.5.1:4 required by ('ebuild', '/', 'kde-base/kleopatra-4.3.1', 'merge')
>=x11-libs/qt-svg-4.5.1:4 required by ('ebuild', '/', 'kde-base/kwallet-4.3.1', 'merge')
>=x11-libs/qt-svg-4.5.1:4 required by ('ebuild', '/', 'kde-base/nepomuk-4.3.1', 'merge')
(and 232 more)
...

Gentoo systems have always had problems when upgrades are not done frequently but right now it looks like the system is un-upgradeable.

Any quick fix solutions here? I already run Kubuntu, Open SuSE and Enterprise Linux on other systems. So I'm aware of other common Linux distro choices but I'd like to get the Gentoo system back to the latest in Portage.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reevaluating Google Sync

I’ve been using Nuevasync for since late 2008 for syncing my Google Apps calendars to my iPhone. At the time, it was one of the few over-the-air syncing solutions for hooking up Google calendars (including Google Apps) to the iPhone. When Google came up with native Google Sync earlier this year, I evaluated it and found that Nuevasync was better. Since then, people have commented on my post about various improvements to Google Sync and it seemed like Google Sync was finally at the point where all my original issues had been fixed. So I had to try Google Sync again.

The steps to move to Google Sync were straightforward:

With these changes, the Contacts and Calendar data started syncing over the air. I have Calendar data going back several years (migrated from old Palm to Google) and so it took about 45 minutes for the calendar data to arrive on the phone.

On the Calendar front, I have no issues. I can see multiple calendars. For the invitees on events, despite the iPhone calendar’s limitation, via Google’s hack, I can see attendee information.

On the Contacts front, I did lose birthday information again. However this is because the iTunes sync to Google Contacts doesn’t map the iPhone’s birthday field to Google’s. However for contacts where I had entered the birthday information in Google Contacts, the over-the-air sync did map them back to the iPhone. Contact pictures also sync but again, since the iTunes sync didn’t move them over to Google in the first place, I can only see what was in Google Contacts.

Overall, I’m pleased that Google has fixed the earlier issues and I’ll be using Google Sync full time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

AD-5526 Digital Multimeter

AD-5526 Digital Multmeter

The AD-5526 is an ancient multimeter from A&D but for $10 one can’t complain. Has all the basic features one would expect from a multimeter and at 5.2 cm X 9.5 cm X 2.6 cm, it’s quite compact. Uses a LRV08 12V alkaline battery – not a common battery in the USA.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Maldol MH-510 Antenna

Maldol MH-510 Antenna The Yaesu VX-8R FM transceiver comes with a stock antenna (YHA-65) consisting of the “Base Antenna” - recommended for operation above 50 MHz - and the “Extender Element” for frequencies below 50 MHz. With this antenna, I was receiving signals from only a couple of repeaters, and that too restricted to certain parts of my house. The N6NFI repeater (Frequency 145.230 MHz, Shift –600 KHz, PL 100 Hz) was the one with the best signal, and I could hear some nets like the SCARES weekly net, all on the 2m VHF band. I also had very little success transmitting indoors with the stock antenna. Outdoors, the transceiver worked pretty well with the stock antenna.

Having seen good reviews for the Maldol MH-510 antenna at eHam.net, I decided to give that a shot. The antenna is for 6m VHF, 2m VHF and 70cm UHF. It is 20.75” tall and is thin and flexible. Gain is advertised as 0/0/.32 dBi and the MH-510 can handle up to 10 watts. The antenna terminates to an SMA and fits directly with the VX-8R. With this antenna, I can actually receive quite a few 70cm UHF signals indoors. Definitely an improvement over the stock antenna! One obvious disadvantage though is that the antenna is quite tall and therefore not exactly suitable for a handheld radio; but that’s not much of an issue for indoor use.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Silicon Valley Code Camp V4

Silicon Valley Code Camp V4 is on October 3rd and 4th 2009 at Foothill College. Register now and save the date! There are already 38 sessions covering a whole range of technologies and more to come as we get closer to the date.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Arduino: Problems With librxtxSerial.jnilib

Recently the Arduino IDE installation refused to start on my Mac with the following exception:

uncaught exception in main method: java.lang.UnsatisfiedLinkError: /Users/arun/arduino-0015/Arduio15.app/Contents/Resources/java/librxtxSerial.jnilib: no suitable image found. Did find: /Users/arun/arduino-0015/Arduino15.app/Contents/Resources/java/librxtxSerial.jnilib: no matching architecture in universal wrapper

Rather bizarre error and as far as I know, I hadn't mucked around with any settings. According to the Arduino forum it had something to with the Java version and suggested giving priority to Java 5 over Java 6. However this didn't work on my setup. Eventually I just downloaded the Java 6 compatible version of librxrxSerial.jnilib and replaced it in the package contents of the Arduino app. This fixed the problem.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

iPhone OS 3.0 GM Seed

Earlier this week Apple made available the iPhone OS 3.0 GM Seed (build 7A341). It's the best build to date. Compared to the previous build, E*Trade's Mobile Pro application now works without crashes. Apple have also implemented one of my feature requests - the ability to retain the order of application icons between restores. So this upgrade was the smoothest of them all.

Apple have also provided an iTunes redemption code to pre-test a version of AOL’s AIM that makes use of the push notification service.AIM Beta with Push Notfiications

In the iPhone’s Settings page, push notifications can be controlled globally as well as for individual apps:

Settings > Notifications Global Notifications Settings Notification Settings for AIM Beta

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

TomTom for iPhone

TomTom for the iPhone is finally here! Turn by turn navigation with voice, iPhone holder with enhanced GPS, hands free kit. It's been a long while since TomTom's original announcement but this should help the iPhone compete with Pre/Android.

TomTom for iPhone

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Adobe AIR on 64-bit Linux - ArgumentError: Error #2004

Adobe has detailed instructions on setting up AIR on 64-bit Linux systems. However they are missing the final step on actual installation of AIR applications. They put a rather unwieldy program under /usr/bin called "Adobe AIR Application Installer". Running this from the command line against any .air file produces this error message: unexpected error: ArgumentError: Error #2004 with no other explanation. Turns out that just running the installer ("Adobe AIR Application Installer") opens a GUI where one can select the .air file and then the installation goes through without problems. Perhaps the command line interface expects arguments in some undocumented syntax.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oracle to buy Sun

Just days after IBM dropped their bid for Sun, Oracle’s stepped in and is acquiring Sun for $7.4 billion in an all-cash deals. The deal brings together two of the four horsemen of the dotcom era. With the acquisition, Oracle gets a lot of pieces – Solaris, SPARC, Java, MySQL, NetBeans, GlassFish, Star Office, VirtualBox. Some of these are in direct competition with existing Oracle products and there’ll be some similarity to prior acquisitions where product lines go into long term support. I don’t see GlassFish replacing Weblogic though given the latter's widespread adoption. NetBeans is a lot nicer than JDeveloper and I hope that doesn’t die. Drizzle seems like the only viable way forward for MySQL. I wonder if Oracle will spin-off the hardware businesses post-acquisition. Perhaps a joint venture with HP to expand the Exadata line? In any case, it must be a good day for a Sun shareholder to finally exit one of the worst tech stocks in the S&P 500!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

iPhone OS 3.0 beta 3 fixes YouTube bug

The iPhone OS 3.0 beta 3 (build 7A280f) released yesterday fixes the YouTube bug that has been plaguing people who restored their OS 2.x based backups to their OS 3.0 phone. The bug prevented the YouTube application from connecting with the error “Cannot connect to YouTube”.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

iPhone OS 3.0 Beta 2 Available

The iPhone OS 3.0 beta 2 was made available on Apple Developer Connection earlier this week (March 31st 2009). The new version is build 7A259g. The usual backup-flash-restore-sync cycle worked without a hitch but I do wish Apple would save the arrangement of apps – the sync puts them back in alphabetical order. Here are my notes from some quick testing:

  • Beta 2 is definitely much more responsive. Apps load quickly unlike the sluggish beta 1. Typing is much faster. The copy rectangle is more responsive.
  • YouTube is still broken (restored from backup).
  • Skype works (on 3G) without a hitch. For some reason beta 1 had trouble on my phone.
  • Some apps like Appigo’s ToDo had issues with text not being visible (white text on white background) – that’s fixed as well.
  • The GPS errors (blue dot not showing location correctly) seem to have gone as well.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Miniatur Wunderland – World’s Largest Model Railway

The Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany boasts the largest model railway exhibit in the world. They have about 800 model trains with over 10,000 railroad cars that run on about 10 km of track! The exhibit includes lots of computer controller road vehicles and ships as well. Here’s the official video (direct link):

Saturday, March 21, 2009

iPhone OS 3.0 – Search

With OS 3.0, the iPhone has finally caught up with one of the old features of Palm OS – the global find. In OS 3.0, in addition to the screens with application icons, there’s a search screen which searches a whole host of things – applications, contacts, calendar, mail, music, podcasts, etc. Here’s a screenshot of the search screen: Search ScreenThere are some configuration options that control the behavior of the home button (via Settings | General | Home) including access to the search screen:Home button configuration

Search results can further be customized to include or exclude items and reorder them: Search customization

One caveat about the global mail search – it only searches the To/From/Subject fields of messages downloaded to the phone. The mail application has its own search screen too, which behaves the same way but it includes an option to search via the server (at which point search results depend on what the server provides): Mail search

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sun Cloud APIs

As part of Sun’s cloud computing push, the Sun Cloud APIs have recently been made available to developers. It provides RESTful APIs for creating and managing cloud resources, including compute, storage, and networking components. You can get a quick start by looking at the “Hello Cloud” examples. Looks like Amazon AWS is finally getting some competition but it remains to be seen if Sun can follow through with their delivery.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Google Voice Impressions

Having been a Grand Central user since their beta in 2007, I got the option to migrate to Google Voice. Based on my usage, here are the improvements to the original Grand Central experience:

  • Integration with Google Account 
  • Integration with Google Contacts
  • GMail-like UI that allows for folders like Inbox, Starred, Trash, Voicemail, etc.
  • SMS support
    • Receive SMS on the Google Voice number and have that SMS forwarded to your registered cell phone. This was my biggest feature request from Grand Central!
    • Respond to SMS via the Google Voice web interface and have then be returned as an SMS
    • Ability to respond to call via SMS
  • Transcription – finally caught up with Jott on that front.
  • Ability to annotate messages or SMSes with notes.

Here are the things where Google has more work to do (or could have done better during migration):

  • No integration with Google Apps For Your Domain (my pet peeve with several Google features!)
  • No keyboard shortcuts for the UI a la GMail or Google Reader
  • No migration of Grand Central call history, messages or contacts
  • A separate UI – this should really be part of GMail (my company has had that for years with both fax and voicemail!)
  • No mention of fax support i.e., use the number for incoming faxes so that it can really be a universal number
  • No tag/label support like GMail – kinda stupid to just have fixed folders especially when GMail has us used to labels

The rest of features are just parity features with Grand Central. Google Voice

iPhone OS 3.0 Copy Paste

Here's how one of the most sought-after iPhone OS 3.0 feature works.  I started off with a page in Safari:

Safari page

Holding down a link on the page allows the link to be copied: Copy linkHolding down an area of the page triggers the copy rectangle:Copy rectangle The copy rectangle can be resized to include any content (including images): Copy rectangle resize Once content is copied to the clipboard, it can be pasted. Here’s an email composition screen, where holding down on the page, triggers the paste action: Trigger paste As you can see, the Paste action pastes the complete clipboard (including images): Paste

iPhone OS 3.0 Upgrade

The beta version of iPhone OS 3.0 (build 7A238j) was made available on Apple’s Developer Connection website yesterday. Here are the steps to install the new OS (as tested with an iPhone 3G):

  1. Sync the phone to iTunes and backup all data! Subsequent steps will wipe out the iPhone and you will need a backup to restore from.
  2. On a Mac which has your iPhone SDK and Xcode, download the OS 3.0 build. It’s about 229 MiB.
  3. Connect your iPhone to the Mac.
  4. Drag and drop the downloaded file iPhone1,2_3.0_7A238j_Restore.ipsw onto Xcode. Downloaded iPhone OS 3.0
  5. The Xcode Organizer should open up and display your phone with multiple firmware choices – the existing firmware on the phone (I was using 2.2.1) and the new 3.0 firmware. Select the new 3.0 firmware and restore it to your iPhone. This will wipe out all data on the phone! The process takes about 12-15 minutes to flash the phone and update the baseband. At the end the phone will reboot and ask to be connected to iTunes. Xcode Organizer
  6. Connect the phone to iTunes. At this point, iTunes will ask you if you want to setup as a new phone or restore your existing backup. Choose to restore the backup and let iTunes restore the data on the phone. It took about 30 minutes to do this with my phone. iTunes Restore
  7. Again, the phone will reboot and sync with iTunes. At this point, a normal sync will happen and install all your original applications.

After all these changes, the phone should be on OS 3.0: os3.0

Feature hands-on reviews in a subsequent post.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Tab Page Gets Updates

The New Tab design for Firefox has been getting several updates less than a week into its public announcement. It has been bumped from version 0.0.18 to version 0.0.23 and the most annoying bug – window losing focus when a new tab is opened – has been fixed.

Mozilla is still playing with the layout of the page and the contextual actions have moved to the top of the tab instead of the left. The frequently visited sites and their RSS feeds are looking better with each incremental release. A new feature is the ability to reorder the frequently visited sites simply by dragging and reordering them in a new tab. Here’s how it looks as of version 0.0.23:

newtab

In related Firefox news, the 3.1 beta 3 is out but if you are tired of betas, try out some alphas :-)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Location in GMail Signature

GMail (including Google Apps) has a Labs feature that enables the addition of location to email signatures:

Enable Location in Signature

As with other location-based services from Google, it relies on IP address as well as Google Gears. When this Labs feature is enabled, it adds a new setting to the Signature settings (look under General settings):

Append location

Once this is done, whenever a new email is composed, a line is appended to the signature with the location.

Seems like Google’s going overboard with location-in-everything (including offerings like Google Latitude). Weren’t web-based email services supposed to offer location privacy (since originating IP in mail headers was restricted to the IP address of the email provider)?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mozilla Labs – New Tab Page For Firefox

Mozilla Labs have revealed a new design for the New Tab page in Firefox. It’s designed to be zero-configuration and minimally distracting to users. The current version divides the New Tab page into contextual actions on the left and quick-access to sites on the right side. The list of sites is driven by the concept of frecency (jargon for frequent + recent) with support for RSS feeds on sites which appear in the list. Here’s a screenshot of how the Google Reader site appears in the list:

Google Reader in New Tab

The contextual actions are designed like Ubiquity and provide one-click access to a useful action. For example, here’s the one-click to undo a previous Close Tab action:

Undo Close Tab

Likewise, with something in the clipboard, the contextual action displays a one-click Search button:search In tests so far, there’s one annoying bug – bringing up the New Tab page seems to lose focus from the address bar and from the Firefox window! Other comments on the Mozilla Labs page have also highlighted the privacy issues with showing RSS feeds like Gmail in the New Tab page. In its present state, it seems like Chrome and Safari 4 provide a much better experience for the New Tab page.

If you are using the Firefox 3.1 beta or newer release, the New Tab prototype is available as an extension.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Windows Live Writer

Windows Live Writer was something that skipped my radar for a while since it’s a Microsoft product that I assumed was specific to Windows Live blogs. After a recent recommendation by Lifehacker, I learned that it supports multiple blogging platforms including Blogger and Wordpress. Adding support to an existing blog is a straightforward process – simply give Windows Live Writer the URL of your blog and it auto-discovers the blogging platform in use and prompts for your blog account information.

Once setup, it’s a breeze to use. It provides a full featured WYSIWYG editor for your blog that has support for uploading images, a built-in spell checker  and tagging support. It even applies your blog’s themes for previews. Being a standalone Windows application, it allows offline editing of your blogs.

Here’s a screenshot of Windows Live Writer in action in the construction of this very post:

Windows Live Writer

Definitely makes blogging a breeze. Expect more posts with this tool in a blogger’s arsenal.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Volume 1.87 billion shares

An iconic moment in history - 1.87 billion shares of Citigroup (C) traded on Feb 27th 2009.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nuevasync Still Better Than Google Sync

For a while Nuevasync has been the best choice for over the air synchronization of calendars and contacts with Google (including Google Apps). As a bonus, it has supported multiple calendar syncing since last month. (For contacts I've been using the iTunes data sync to Google Apps contacts.) With the recent announcement of Google Sync I decided to give it a shot expecting it to have better support than any third party sync with Google.

Since the iPhone supports only a single Microsoft Exchange Sync, I had to delete the existing Nuevasync configuration (after a backup!) and switched over to Google Sync. I was immediately disappointed on multiple counts:

  1. Google Sync did not retain my contact photos. It replaced them with the Google Talk photos for my contacts. (This is documented.)
  2. Google Sync lost all my birthday settings for contacts (since it is not supported by Google Contacts. (This is kinda documented if you read between the lines.)
  3. Google Sync supported only my default calendar and did not show the multiple calendars that I use.

The only positive was that it did sync. For a moment, I thought I would have to reenter all my contacts' birthdays (at least the ones I could remember) and forget about contact photos and multiple calendars. I then decided that Nuevasync was much better and went back to it. I also re-enabled the contact sync from within iTunes and to my relief it restored my original contact data including birthdays and contact photos.

Moral of the story: Nuevasync is still better than Google Sync.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Seven Years

It’s been seven years since the first post on this blog. What started right after the dotcom bust of 2001, continues through the global economic meltdown of 2008. After some housekeeping in the middle of 2007, many of the early posts were removed and backed-up since they didn’t quite fit the Technobabble theme (it was just Arun’s Random Stuff at the time). Seven years ago, blogging and Blogger were still in their early days. Blogger was still an independent company. Now of course, blogging is mainstream and twittering is the in thing.

Thoughts on what the next seven years will bring to the web?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

C#: new modifier

Not being a C# programmer myself, it was interesting to find out that it supports a new modifier which can be used to hide a base class member in an subclass. Taking the example from the doc, consider:

public class MyBaseC 
{
   public int x;
   public void Invoke() {}
}

It is possible to have a subclass like this:

public class MyDerivedC : MyBaseC
{
   new public void Invoke() {}
}

Here MyDerivedC.Invoke hides MyBaseC.Invoke rather than override it. Pretty useful construct.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Blogger and OpenID: Error code bX-o8d45s

I use my blog's URL http://tech.element77.com as my OpenID. This works well at many sites but with ReadWriteWeb's comment system this fails. This is the error from Blogger:


We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request.

When reporting this error to Blogger Support or on the Blogger Help Group, please:

  • Describe what you were doing when you got this error.
  • Provide the following error code and additional information.
bX-o8d45s

Additional information

host: www.blogger.com
uri: /openid-login.g

This information will help us to track down your specific problem and fix it! We apologize for the inconvenience.

Find help

See if anyone else is having the same problem: Search the Blogger Help Group for bX-o8d45s
If you don't get any results for that search, you can start a new topic. Please make sure to mention bX-o8d45s in your message.


There are no matches for this error code in the Help forums or on Google searches. Has anyone else run into this? Any solutions?