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Archive for June, 2008

Linux Boot Camp – Day 1

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So day one of Linux Boot Camp is over. On reflection, day one was a mixed bag. The hands on sessions seem to set the bar too low and I would of liked to have seen at least a ‘good to very good’ knowledge of Linux being the minimum standard. I was racing ahead on much of the material and getting a little bored with some of the other discussions.

On a more positive note, a talk on code optimisation at both the compiler level and the hardware level, using new Intel processors as an example, was fascinating. The advanced theories behind pipe-lining and intricacies that arise for scheduling instructions over multiple processors, cores, and even individual instruction pipes gave me a new found respect for the guys and gals who have to rack their brains daily to come up with greater and greater CPU optimisations. The Itanium2 optimisation of the for loop (or iteration loop) was a great example of some recent innovation but its a shame that this feature is unlikely to see the light of day in the next batch of processors.

A talk on ‘Linux on the PS3′ was postponed due to a transportation issue as far as I could tell which was a little disappointing as I was really looking forward to this one. Hopefully it will be rearranged for tomorrow or Wednesday.

Overall its an OK start and I look forward to more ‘geeky’ topics over the next couple of days.

Written by Jamie Bennett

June 30th, 2008 at 8:23 pm

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mCurrency – A currency converter for Maemo

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I tend to do a lot of travelling abroad and the internet tablet always comes with me. I’ve been looking for a currency conversion application for Maemo for a little while now and the only offering seemed to be an repackage of gcur with slight tiding up to fit the smaller screen. The original repackager seems to have abandoned it so, spurred on by a request from users at the Internet Tablet Talk forums I decided to implement a conversion application of my own. I present to you … mCurrency.

<img src="http://www.linuxuk.org/images/mCurrency-main.png"
mCurrency running under Ubuntu *not* Maemo

Currently it’s fully functional, running under Ubuntu. It downloads currency exchange rates from the internet and allows conversions to and from 58 currencies. The next step is to package it up for Maemo and release it into the wild as a 0.1 release. I have more plans for it but it will be nice to let other people have a go at breaking it.

As you may of guessed, this is not a ground breaking application. It’s a simple implementation of a solution to a small but common problem. It was written in a couple of hours, 50% of that time was trying to figure out why I couldn’t append text to a combobox generated by glade (for those interested you need to add a dummy line to the box in glade before you can append dynamically) and the other 50% was brushing up on my GTK skills.

In the next couple of days I’ll add it to garage.maemo.org, until you will have to settle for the screenshots.

mCurrency about box

Written by Jamie Bennett

June 26th, 2008 at 9:27 pm

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Installing Maemo's Diablo SDK under Ubuntu Hardy

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So Diablo has been released. Wasting no time I set about installing the new SDK under my distribution of choice, Ubuntu Hardy. The process is pretty painless thanks to the installer scripts but there are a few little gotcha’s that you need to look out for.

The two extra steps that you will need to do if you are running Ubuntu Hardy are:

as root add

vm.vdso_enabled = 0

to /etc/sysctl.conf and while you are at it change the vm_mmap_min_addr to read

vm.mmap_min_addr = 4096

To make the changes active you have to run

$ sudo sysctl -p

To continue the install first run the scratchbox script which you can get from here by first changing the file permissions and then executing it like so

$ chmod a+x ./maemo-scratchbox-install_4.1.sh
$ ./maemo-scratchbox-install_4.1.sh

From there add a user to the scratchbox environment with

$ sudo /scratchbox/sbin/sbox_adduser USERNAME yes

(replace USERNAME with your username).

and run the SDK script downloaded from here.

$ sh ./maemo-sdk-install_4.1.sh

Answer a couple of questions and wait. You will be presented with a screen asking what environment you want to set up. If you will be developing, and I hope you will be, then choose either option 3 or 4.

At this point go grab yourself a coffee, it takes some time.

Install and run Xephr outside of the scratchbox environment with

$ sudo apt-get install xserver-xephyr
$ Xephyr :2 -host-cursor -screen 800x480x16 -dpi 96 -ac -extension Composite

Finally start Maemo from within the scratchbox environment with

$ scratchbox
$ export DISPLAY=:2
$ af-sb-init.sh start

If everything went as planned you should be confronted with this

<img src="http://www.linuxuk.org/images/maemo-sdk-small.png"

Don’t be dismayed that all that work only got you an pretty much empty window. Take heart that will a little reading and a bit of effort, you too can get cool and crazy apps compiled for the Internet Tablet platform.

Happy hacking!

Written by Jamie Bennett

June 24th, 2008 at 8:31 pm

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It's time to start flashing again!

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OK, everyone get flashing.

Diablo, Nokia’s latest release in the Tablet OS series, has officially been released. Go get it now.

I haven’t had much time to play around with Diablo yet but I’ll be posting my thoughts shortly.

If you want to know what’s new in this release there is a great (and long) thread over on Internet Tablet Talk discussing the features.

Happy flashing.

EDIT: A comprehensive look at what packages have changed can be found here.

Written by Jamie Bennett

June 24th, 2008 at 10:51 am

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Linux Boot Camp

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Next week (Monday 30th) I will be attending a 2 1/2 day conference/workshop at the Bristol Institute of Technology, Bristol, UK titled ‘Linux Boot Camp‘. I quote, ‘The event will involve two and a half days of technical workshops exploring many aspects of modern technology and the use of free open source software’.

It will be nice to meet old and new friends there so if you are attending, come and say ‘hi’.

Written by Jamie Bennett

June 24th, 2008 at 9:31 am

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Carman needs some love

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For some time Carman, the car OBD-II analyser, had been incompatible with the OS2008 release of the maemo platform. Lots of noise and much anticipation was directed towards INDT to get it working with the new OS release and seemingly silently, with no fanfare, it is now available for download. After installing it I can see why.

Carman promises a lot. Plug a bluetooth device into your cars OBD-II port and Carman can show you fault codes, engine temps, engine loads, fuel status e.t.c. There is so much potential there especially with today’s energy conciousness. Carman could tell you your current mpg and optimal mpg/speed depending of past recorded data. It could show you the condition of your engine, again looking at past data. Maybe it could anticipate engine problems as it analyses certain sensors that show that it is getting progressively worse over time. Carman could be great but …

.. at the moment it needs a lot of love. I find that it has a hard time connecting to my OBD-II scanner, it crashes too oftern and some of the data it reports is inconsistent and way out from what is actually happening. Nokia and INDT should be pushing Carman, along with Canola and a Maemo Mapper integration as the ultimate ‘in car solution’. Instead, this little know and even less used application is seemingly being left to rot away.

Lets hope INDT have high hopes for it and are just not being public with their intentions yet. Maybe it’s time to put my Python hat on and spend some time on another project other than Entertainer?

Written by Jamie Bennett

June 19th, 2008 at 8:21 pm

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Entertainer 0.1 Released

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OK, its been a couple of days since the 0.1 release of entertainer and I purposely didn’t blog about it until now.

0.1 is a major milestone for the entertainer project. It may seem such an insignificant number but 0.1 signifies the projects intentions. It shows that we have a piece of software that we are happy to show the rest of the world. We know it’s a little ugly in parts, hell, even we are a little repulsed by parts of it but we know that with time and effort a swan can be made of this ugly duckling.

At this point in time, its a functional and pretty interface to your media. The plan is to make it even better!

Coming up in future releases:

  • Plugin support
  • TV Support
  • A rewrite of the backend indexer
  • Code clean-up
  • and of course lots and lots of cool plugins
  • And much much more.

    Entertainer is an exciting up-and-coming project. Be part of it today.

    Written by Jamie Bennett

    June 18th, 2008 at 9:19 pm

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    Linux and AVCHD files

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    A new camcorder came my way today in the form of a Panasonic HDC-SD5. Its a great high definition (1920x1080i resolution) 3CCD camcorder that takes superb shots but like most other high-definition camcorders, it records to the AVCHD file format. For those that don’t know, AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) is a high-definition recording format used on the new generation of camcorders.

    There doesn’t seem to be much support for this format yet. Mplayer came the closest. It tries but fails to play the file instead showing the image but badly corrupted. The only solution seems to be transcoding the video into some other format which isn’t ideal.

    There’s a great tutorial on how to do this over on fsckin which you should definitely check out if you have one of these swanky type camcorders. The install script included didn’t work for me under Ubuntu Hardy so I had to do it by hand (just look at what the Makefile does) but transcoding is now possible.

    Lets hope the mainstream Linux video players and editors begin to support this format soon, that way transcoding won’t be needed.

    Written by Jamie Bennett

    June 12th, 2008 at 7:06 pm

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    More Entertainer Development

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    The development towards a 0.1 release of Entertainer is hotting up. Lots of bugs are being squished and final touches are being applied.

    One of these final touches for me what adding a weather forecasting module. The first phase of this implementation was completed nearly two weeks ago. Last night saw the graphics being added. Below you can see what it looks like now.

    There’s still a little work to do on adding a configure option for Fahrenheit as well as Celsius but its good to go for the first release.

    I squashed a couple of other bugs but it seems that Josh is running away with it in the Entertainer karma stakes :)

    Hopefully by the end of the week we will have an Ubuntu ppa package available for download as well as packaging for more distro’s if possible.

    Written by Jamie Bennett

    June 10th, 2008 at 7:54 am

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    Iron Man

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    I’m not going to give an in-depth review of this movie, it’s been done to death at other places but I will give my take. Lets get this out of the way at the start, I enjoyed the movie but …

    … it could of been a whole lot more. It had so much promise and the reviews I read (which always end up being the kiss of death) hyped it up beyond belief. I sat in the cinema expecting a lot, what I got was a good film but ultimately I left a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, Iron Man is one of this years blockbuster films to see but it didn’t wow me.

    Gwyneth Paltrow was one of the success stories of the movie, she was simply sexy through-out and Robert Downey Jr was a perfect Tony Stark but it was the story that let this movie down. As with nearly all first movies in a franchise, this one had to give a back story before all the meat could be portrayed. Unfortunately this led to a lull around the 60 minute mark that seemed to drag on for around 20 minutes. Not a big deal but the bench mark for first movie’s (even though the rest were terrible) has to be the Matrix. This first movie completely blew you away. It introduced the world, told a story and ended with the viewer wanting more. I was hoping Iron Man could stand up to this and although it wasn’t quite there, it was not too far off.

    I’ve been an Iron Man reader since a kid and have some of the very first comic books sat here right next to me (I really should ebay all these old comic’s!). When I first saw that Iron Man was going to be made into a film I must admit, I was a little sceptical. After seeing the movie though, it is plain to see that the franchise has a lot of potential. With rumours of Captain America appearing in the second movie (his shield spotted in the the movie) and a a possible tie in with the Hulk and Superman, the Marvel guys (and gal’s) are really giving us something to truly be thankful of.

    Written by Jamie Bennett

    June 4th, 2008 at 7:41 pm

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