Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Another form of recycling

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

This was on the bus stop bench outside my work today:

image

The note under the memory modules (3 sticks, 512MB each, either PC100 or PC123) says “please take”.

I never thought about trying that. Do you think I can do the same with my old CRT?

Apple’s next iPhone 5 will have everything we’ve already seen on Android

Monday, July 9th, 2012

International Business Times has published an article with some features made available by iOS 6 that is likely iPhone 5 will offer:

Answering/Declining Calls – Users will now have the option to answer or decline calls. Users may send a text message from a choice of pre-programmed options if you wish not to be disturbed at the moment. Users will also be able to remind themselves to return the missed calls later.

Really? That’s a new feature? Having used these features constantly since, like, forever on Android, I’m actually very surprised that iOS didn’t have those up till now.

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The most complex Google Doodle

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Please go to Google’s Home page right now to look at the Google Doodle for Robert Moog‘s(1) 78th Birthday – its a fully functional synthesizer that you can play on and record yourself!

It works slightly better in Chrome although the latest Firefoxes can also handle the moogdoodle. I wouldn’t count on anything else being able to play this demo that uses the experimental Web Audio API for HTML 5 that looks to aiming to bring to the web, all the capabilities of a Commodore 64 SID ;-).

Things you can do (The knobs are unfortunately unmarked, so I had to guess what each knob does):

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  1. Inventor of the analog synthesizer []

Scanning Hand Written Texts Into High Quality Digital Files

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

The purpose of this exercise is to convert a hand written note – such as your signature – to high quality digital files that can be used to embed “hand write” into documents – such as when someone asks you to fax them a “signed” copy of the PDF they emailed you. You’d be surprised how often that happens around here.

Required Ingridients:

  • A computer with The GIMP installed
  • Your handy smart phone with a 5MP or better camera
  • A good pen and paper.

So anyway, here’s the process from top to bottom, with pictures:

  1. Sit down at a proper table, and using a good black heavy-line pen(1) on a white clean high-density paper, write what you need to write – slowly and deliberately but without pauses. Try not to smear the ink so you get clean continuous lines, otherwise the quality suffers a lot.
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  1. in this shot I used a 0.7 permanent marker – which is just overdoing it – probably any 0.7 pen will work []

Handling “Package file is invalid” problems on CyanogenMod 7

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Update: The latest update for CyanogenMod for Milestone – version 7.1.0.3 solves this problem as well.

Lately I’ve been having problems updating software on my Motorola Milestone (1, as in A853) running CyanogenMod 7.1 (thanks to Nadalbak who maintains an unofficial and unsupported port of CyanogenMod for this old device). When I start the Android Market and do an update of an existing application, I get the error “Package file is invalid” for any application. Sometimes removing an application and reinstalling it will work, but often not.

There could be several problems that cause this, apparently a problem with the file permissions on the file systems is common, and if this is your problem then it can be fixed by opening the terminal emulator, executing “su” to gain super-user permissions and then running “fix_permissions” (it will take a while to complete).

If this doesn’t solve the problem for you, then likely the problem is that you ran out of space on your “data” partition or “cache” partition. This is very common if you have a large “apps partition” on your SD card and you are in the habit of installing tons of applications – I know I am 🙂 .

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Android, iOS – who stole from who?

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

The obvious answer is – who cares? But Apple fan-boys seem to like to gloat that any smartphone design (or at least any design moderately successful – nobody is looking at Symbian) is a “rip off” from the iPhone, while Android fan-boys(1) point out may cases where iOS designers “shamelessly” “got inspired” by Android features such as the pull-down notifications, seamless multi-tasking, “share” functionality, personal Wi-Fi hotspot, untethered syncing (iCloud in Apple’s lingo) and more.

So everyone copies from everyone else – that’s how a market should behave: if one product comes up with a better idea, then it is only expected that other products can build on that idea – and sometimes do it better. And don’t get me started on the patent thing – patents allow an inventor to protect the technology and implementation of a specific idea, it does not give one a monopoly on ideas (even though many today try to use the patent system like that).

The question that, I think, is more interesting to ask is – who is more willing to play this game and who treats idea as their sole domain and exclusive property?

The answer, not coming as a surprise to anyone, can be found in Apple’s founder new biography: “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, as reported by AP review of the book set to be available tomorrow, here are some choice quotes (taken from AP’s review):

Jobs told Isaacson in an expletive-laced rant that Google’s actions amounted to “grand theft.”

“I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product.”

Jobs told Schmidt [Google’s CEO at the time] … ” I want you to stop using our ideas in Android”

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  1. of whom I am a card carrying member, I’ll admit []

Suddenly I’m Less Worried

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

About my next Android phone: Google Buys Motorola Mobility (for $12.5B).

This deal is very good for me, as a consumer of high-end smart phones, for several reasons: one reason is the more obvious patent issue: the Google smart phone OS has come under fire from competitors (mostly Apple) in a host of patent lawsuits, though none of them actually targeted Google itself: the main advantage of Android is its availability to any small manufacturer – which enabled the amazingly rich ecosystem that is the Android world, but its also its main disadvantage as competitors can target “small fish” for their patent extortion, companies that are too small to afford a real legal battle. Google wasn’t in a good position to help defend their OEMs or developers, and I believe this is what they were trying to do with their Nortel patents bids, that didn’t come through – but they had an ace in their sleeve: even as the Nortel business was going on, Google was probably already deep in negotiation with Motorola Mobility that hold a portfolio of around 18,000 patents and patent applications – compared with Nortel’s paltry 6,000 patents. With this arsenal, and once the deal comes through(1), expect Google to come out swinging.

But as I mentioned – this is only part of why I’m happy about this deal. The second, and likely more important reason as I will be looking for a new phone at about early 2012, is that I think Motorola Mobility is one of the best makers of Android running hardware – if not the best. They definitely have the market in keyboard slider phones, which is the kind I’m using. The problem is, I’m a power user – I like to use the latests and best software available and the whole point of having a small computer (read: user programmable device) in your pocket – is the ability to install and upgrade whenever something new comes out (about every couple of months). And this is where Motorola devices fail me: Motorola like to keep a lock down on any user modifications to the phone’s operating system and their devices are notoriously hard to mod – installing a new firmware on a Motorola phone is a dangerous game of “will it brick?”.

Motorola has come out with promises of freeing up the phone “bootloader” (the part of the phone’s firmware that makes sure you don’t install “unauthorized” software) but so far we haven’t see any results. I have hope that under the new ownership, Motorola Mobility developers will find it easier to keep to this promise and allow us power users to buy hardware on which we can run whatever Android-based operating system we want.


  1. supposedly by early 2012 – these things take time []

Mandatory Access Control And Malware

Monday, July 18th, 2011

After listening to the virtus/malware discussion on LUG Radio’s new (but apparently one-off) show (check it out at lugradio.org, these guys are hilarious), got me thinking about how much Linux users are exposed to malware.

Lets forget, for the sake of the discussion, the technical attacks(1) as these are relatively easy to handle and Linux operating systems are already pretty well protected against such. The main vector of attack for malware these days is Social Engineering anyway – this is how Mac OS-X users get attacked by malware: you browse a web site, and an image that looks like a a blinking dialog box notifies you that your computer has been infected by a virus and prompts you to download this “fix”.

Most of us, technically inclined users, sneer at this type of “threat”, but most people aren’t technically inclined and there are enough people out there that will be fooled by this practice time and time again. Click the image and a binary gets downloaded to your computer and if it is in the correct format it will get executed.

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  1. Such as buffer overflows and such []

Same old Microsoft, at Nortel’s patent sale dispute

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

As reported on Reuters and Techcrunch, Microsoft is claiming that the sale of bankrupt Nortel’s 6,000 patents to Google (or any other successful bidder) is unfair under the current sale terms that allow the buyer to not carry current licenses to the patents.

Microsoft is understandably concerned, as they currently hold a “perpetual, royalty-free” license to all patents (which means that if the buyer doesn’t get to re-license with existing license holders, then they won’t get any more money from Microsoft on these patents), but what I’m ranting about is not their legitimate concern, but their attempt to color this as “unfair” – quips Techcrunch:

Microsoft says that’s unfair. And while they don’t specifically mention Google, it seems pretty clear who they’re thinking about when they write that a termination of existing licensing agreements “would result in considerable disruption in the development and enhancement of various existing technologies and give the prospective purchaser an unfair competitive advantage”.

This may be unfair, but Microsoft has done this exact same thing in the past, including the very near past where immediately after buying Skype, and just a few days after Microsoft promised that Skype will continue to be offered on non-Microsoft platforms, the “Skype for Asterisk” product was terminated disallowing Digium to sell any more Skype integration module for their successful (and open source) VoIP solution(1).

Obviously this is a move perpetrated to allow Microsoft’s competing VoIP product (Lync) an unfair competitive advantage by offering features that Digium can no longer offer – not because of technical issues but because Microsoft will not allow it.

Taking that into account, Microsoft claiming the sale of this patents to Google is unfair is just the pot calling the  kettle black.

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  1. I know that technically they did not stop supporting the module – just not allowing any new sales, but they also put a deadline to stop supporting the Skype-Asterisk integration module: it will not work past July 2013. Cutting this any sooner would have netted Microsoft/Skype a serious law suite so obviously they did the worst they could get away with []

Just jumping on the 6692d179032205 bandwagon

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

As Intel confirmed, the HDCP master key has been leaked (using PasteBin of all things(1) ), and have been reproduced(2) around the web in blogs and forum posts.

One, more industrious, individual went a step further and reproduced the HDCP master key as a Python program to generate sink and source keys according to the leaked instructions – which is reproduced here fully for the purpose of mirroring (no copyright notice was added so I don’t know who to thank for this). More musings about the meaning and purpose of all this – after the break:

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  1. Where it quickly went out of control, people don’t seem to understand the concept of  “mirror” or “offsite backup” 😉  []
  2. 1890 sources, total for today and not including this one []

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