A few questions to help you figure out what you should have been doing the last 10 years you were working instead.
- When you were a kid what was your dream for a job?
- What was your best day at work like?
- If there were no rules, what would you be and where would you work?
- Who makes you jealous with their job?
- Who is doing what you would love to do?
- What do you have passion for?
- When you are 90, what would make you proud to look back on?
- What environment would you like, small, medium, large?
- What other characteristics of the environment are important to you?
This site may be up and down the next few days as we upgrade operating systems on the main machine.
We plan to migrate almost everything to a backup server and have it perform the services, but sometimes plans don’t work out.
For the last few years, we’ve all seen the iPhone, iTouch, WindowsMobile, and Blackberry options for portable computing. Each has there place, especially when you aren’t paying for them.
I have a few problems with them – the radio and that they aren’t general purpose computers with lots and lots of free software. Basically, I wanted a platform that could do the following things in a highly portable container, securely, with great battery life.
- IMAPS email to my server
- Browse the real web, not some mobile-limited sites only
- wifi with WPA2 as the default network
- Skype and SIP clients for voice calls (I use my cell phone tho)
- MP3 playback (other formats supported too) OGG or other codecs you decide, not Apple
- Occasional video playback – mp4 and many, many other formats via mplayer
- rsync/ssh to servers
- Mapping/GPS (with a tiny GPS Receiver added on)
- Blogging and note taking device (with an iGo Bluetooth keyboard)
- Nearly unlimited expansion via memory (SD cards)
- disconnected from the cell network, so the connectivity can be upgraded outside this device. I use a cheap Motorola cell phone with a 3G data plan via Bluetooth when there’s no wifi available.
- USB connectivity to pull photos from a camera during travels (yes, swapping memory would be better, but I sadly bought a Sony camera). External HD also support this way.
- Youtube to kill some time. Other video formats are supported, but some are challenging for playback – it is only a 400MHz CPU after all. That doesn’t mean you can’t convert with a simple script into whatever format works best.
- High res screen (800×480)
So there’s a bunch of bluetooth happening here. Why? Bluetooth connection mean the cell phone radio can be upgraded as desired – -fairly cheaply. It also stays in the backpack – same for the GPS receiver, and keyboard if you plan to type much.
My solution? Why, a Nokia N800. It runs Linux, so there are many, many free applications. It is backed by Nokia, so there’s a commercial GPS app. I use Maemo Mapper – completely free. Since it runs Linux, when I’m at home, I can ssh into the device and setup files, move music or other files over, and pull photos off it. The uses are nearly unlimited and completely under your control.
The best part? In Feb 2008, an N800 costs $219. That’s half the price of an iPhone – with no monthly data plan payment needed. AND I can load the apps I like, not just apps that Apple or Nokia think I should. Pick an audio file format, you can probabaly use it, provided the DRM works. If it doesn’t, convert it to any format you like – FLAC, OGG, MP3, MP4, whatever you need. Same for video.
The Nokia isn’t perfect. Typing without an external keyboard sucks. It is a read-only device then. That means replying to email isn’t something you’ll do very much. If that’s what you need – get a Blackberry. But when you are portable and on the move, read-only is generally what you need. Reading PDF docs, recording voice notes, using Skype for international calls, using the GPS to find a shortcut or simply listening to your favorite music for a few hours on an airplane. The N800 does all these things nicely, without the extra cost of the other alternatives or the weight of a full laptop. Even taking a keyboard, GPS receiver, and tiny router, we’re still way under the size and weight of most laptops.
Comparison between the N800 and iTouch might be better? They cost about the same amount. Here’s the big differences, as I see them:
- swap the memory or not?
- General purpose browser (Mozilla) or specialized?
- OSS Apps or Apple-only approved apps?
- clunky UI or beautifully designed UI? – this could be important to some
- Multitude of audio file formats supported like FLAC, OGG, MP3, whatever or just iTunes?
- Multitude of video file formats supported (mp4, avi, mpg2, whatever or just iTunes?
- IMAPS email or not?
- GPS or not?
- Skype or not?
- Lots of peripherals or lots of expensive peripherals?
- General purpose portable computer or specific Music player?
It’s your choice. How much is usability on a limited device worth?
Tonight I got an automated call from Comcast asking how well my recent service calls had gone. My answers got me handed over to a real person, which turned out to be a good thing.
She transferred me to a Tier 3 guy. Basically, he strongly suggested I plug the modem into a different wall jack with just a PC. He stayed on the line while I did this … My almost empty living room is the only open jack in the house … carry, carry, find cable A, B, laptop, check firewall is on … plug, reboot router. Speedtest … 22Mbps down, 3.2Mbps up. DAMN! Kewl!
a) I was using a gold plugged coax cable this time. Perhaps it was the cable in my office or the coax from outside to the office … or something else … start simple. Only 1 change at a time.
b) Take the setup back to the office … plug the identical golden coax, modem, ethernet and PC in. Speedtest … 19M/2.2M! I can live with that.
c) Swap just the coax – I’d figured that was the issue. Nope.
d) Add the router back in, unplug all but the uplink and cable to the PC – no switch 1.9M/110K up. My router? Nooooooooo! Swap the 10+ year old ethernet cable with the one I’d been using for the router/modem connection. No change.
e) Swap in 2 old routers … forget to reboot the modem so they refuse to get DHCP addresses … finally figure that out on my original 1-port linksys router circa 1998. Run speedtest. 7M/300K … it is 10 years old, so the network chips weren’t meant to get that much speed.
f) Back to my $20 Buffalo running an OSS OS with 1.9M/110K up. Turn off the SPI firewall and QoS – port filtering is still enabled. Now that I’m on a different phone system, I don’t need QoS. 32M/3.3M Yippy!!!!
Ok, so what did I learn today?
1) I’m not convinced it was the router slowing everything down. My connection has been 2M/256K for years.
2) Retighten your coax cables.
3) Swap any legacy ethernet cables.
4) Lastly, go to a simpler router config – especially if you are using QoS or any complex features.
5) I doubt any of this would have mattered 2 weeks ago, before Comcast found issues with my outside cable and put a line amp on the coax inside my home.
Obviously, those speeds are using the “speedboost” and aren’t real world “grab a Linux ISO” speeds. Still, they are impressive. The last wired test was 32M/3.3M, wireless was 7M/2M, that’s 802.11a with a 72Mbps connection.
This week, my GoPass GPT800 Bluetooth GPS Receiver SiRF Star III from Amazon arrived. The plan was to pair this with my N800 (already paired). It was charged overnight and ready for use today. I didn’t get outside much, but it was able to lock onto 8 satellites even while in my den. Impressive for $35.
In the box:
- Bluetooth GPS Receiver (about 1″×1.5″×0.4″ in size)
- Li-Ion Battery
- Car cigarette power adapter
- USB travel power adapter
- Mini-USB to USB charging cable
- Software CD – I didn’t need this at all;
- it contains the installation manual for WinME, etc. with some of the most impressive Engrish that I’ve ever seen.
- Quick start pamphlet with the bluetooth code
- (2) lanyards for the device (light/dark)
Walking around the house, it showed altitude, direction and speed. The numbers seemed reasonable. Even when not moving, just turning it changed the direction output.
I can’t wait to go hiking and geocaching or even get lost in rural South Carolina like a few weeks ago. Even if I don’t have the correct map, at least I’ll know where I am and hopefully have a POI nearby. I’m guessing that I’ll be able to place this in a backpack and it will still receive and BT connect to the N800.
Ok, so it works with the defacto GPS software on the N800 – Maemo-Mapper.
I pulled gpsbabel-1.3.3.zip off Freshmeat.net to convert from/to whatever format is needed for POI files.
I mirrored a huge number of POI files that I found through google. No registration needed. It appears I need to convert the POIs that I want into GPX format, move those files to the N800 and run a script to load them into the poi.db that Maemo-Mapper uses. It can’t be that challenging.
I’ve been stuck the last few months at the same weight. Since November, I’ve lost about 60 lbs, so losing weight is something I thought I’d figured out. Guess not. In fact, I’d planned to increase my physical activity after losing another 20 lbs – total of 80 – to begin the get ripped process.
Ok, so by chance I’ve seen a few web sites that will help me get back on track (Hershey, PA didn’t help any either).
- http://HundredPushups.com/ – I’m doing this.
Wk 1 (Col3) Day 1 10 10 8 6 7+ 60 sec rest Day 2 12 12 10 10 10+ 90 sec rest Day 3 15 13 10 10 15+ 120 sec rest Wk 2 (Col3) Day 1 12 12 9 7 10+ 60 sec rest Day 2 16 13 11 11 15+ 90 sec rest Day 3 15 15 12 12 15+ 120 sec rest Test ??? Wk 3 (Col3) Day 1 25 17 17 15 25+ 60 sec rest Day 2 27 19 19 15 25+ 90 sec rest Day 3 30 22 22 20 27+ 120 sec rest Wk 4 (Col3) Day 1 27 20 20 17 27+ 60 sec rest Day 2 27 21 21 18 25+ 90 sec rest Day 3 30 22 22 20 29+ 120 sec rest Test ??? Wk 5 (Col3) Day 1 40 32 30 25 40+ 60 sec rest Day 2 20 18 15 14 40+ 90 sec rest Day 3 18 16 14 12 40+ 120 sec rest Wk 6 (Col3) Day 1 56 45 42 40 56+ 60 sec rest Day 2 30 25 25 22 56+ 90 sec rest Day 3 27 23 23 20 56+ 120 sec rest Final Test ???
Week 1: * Mon. 5 min run with 5 min cool down (start small, more on this later) * Wed. 5 min run with 5 min cool down (Your cool down can always be a 5 min walk) * Fri. 10 min run, cool down Week 2: * Mon. 7 min run, cool down * Wed. 7 min run, cool down * Fri. 15 min run, cool down Week 3 * M: 12 min run, cool down * W: 15 min run, cool down * F: 20 min run, cool down Week 4 * M: 15 min run, cool down * W: 18 min run, cool down * F: 25 min run, cool down Week 5 * M: 20 min run, cool down * W: 25 minute run, cool down * F: 30 min. run, cool down Week 6 * M: 15 min run, cool down * W:20 min run, cool down * F: 10 min run, cool down * Sat/Sun. Go race! 3rd) Execute your plan.
For the last 10 years, I’ve been doing batch jobs on my server the hard way.
That’s a big confession. For 10 years, I’ve been doing it the hard way. You know, you have a bunch of things to get done, but don’t want them to all run at the same time. Hundreds of little jobs, or perhaps 20 BIG jobs, it doesn’t matter. All this time, I’ve been using at as a manual scheduler. Basically, do something in 20 min, or 60 min or 2 hours or next Friday. Whatever, at is fairly powerful, but for batch jobs where the goal is to use the CPU to the fullest, but not overtax it, at is less than ideal. There could be too many jobs running or unused CPU time. Inefficient.
Then I finally followed up on a freshmeat.net annoucement – ts. Task Spooler, ts, is just that, a queue of tasks. It is a queue where you submit batch jobs to be run. By default, there’s no configuration needed. At this point, I’m not using any configuration. Basically, you pre-pend ‘ts’ in front of your normal command and it adds each to the queue. Installation was trivial – make install
Command line options work as you’d expect – they are passed to the batch unmolested. The environment is also properly retained.
$ ts encode_video some_video_1.mpg $ ts encode_video some_video_2.mpg o o o $ ts encode_video some_video_30.mpg $ ts encode_video some_video_40.mpg
is all that is needed. To monitor your jobs, run ‘ts’ alone.
I’ve told my ts server to run 2 jobs, since I have a dual core processor. It will always ensure no more than 2 jobs are running. The output can be captured and logged or stored into files, or whatever.
You do have to clean up the list of jobs occasionally. That’s just ‘ts -C’`.
It understands that you may want more than 1 queue – using environment variables, you can setup multiple queues with different settings. Then you can set your scripts to use whatever job queue you like. To setup different queues, just set the environment variable that controls the FIFO used. Here’s an example.
Uses for different queues?
- a download queue
- a backup queue
- a CPU intensive use queue
Oh, source code is provided. I’m using it on Linux, but guess it will work on any POSIX compliant OS. Get it here.
Yesterday, a Comcast tech spent almost 3 hours at my home. Primarily, he installed their VoIP device onto my coax network. Along the way, he fixed a few other things …
- Phone service
- On-Demand to work (stopped working a few months ago)
What the tech did:
- Found and corrected a nick in the main coax to the street (nick was on the street side, not my house side).
- Added an amplifier to the coax network
- installed a SIP ATA/UPS in my breakfast room (my request)
- replaced a 10 year old cable to the digital cable box – he called it “blow back” on 1 end of it. That didn’t fix my on-demand.
- replaced a coax splitter on the HDTV
- Swapped out my old bundle for a new bundle – goodbye Dexter, hello Entourage.
- He didn’t have an HD cable box in the truck, so he said I needed a new one.
- All of us are on hold with the VOIP Install Team – 30 minutes! They finally answer and ask 5 trivial questions. This call was made using my new phone service.
Cost $0, besides the $39 install of the phone service.
- I log in to my old SIP service and forward all calls to the new temp Comcast number. Test. Working.
- Log in to GC and remove the old number and add the new number to my global phone service. Test. Working.
- Unplug my phone system from my ATA and plug into the house wiring. All phones are working.
The voice quality is as good or better than BellSouth ever was. $19.95/month with unlimited local and long distance. Since I did a bundle (internet, digital cable, phone, hbo/starz) the monthly price is fixed for 1 year. It should be $130/month. That is what I was paying without hbo/phone, but I had Showtime. So, for the same price, I get phone. I’ll miss shotime, but not that much. Of course, they tried to get me to get it all for $158/month – all channels – sports, HBO, SHO, MAX, TMC, STARZ, IFC, etc. everything. Perhaps after I get some income, who knows.
This morning, I:
- took the old HD cable box to the local Comcast and swapped it out. New box has firewire output too.
- Plugged everything back in … fixed the connections … HBO isn’t working – except on-demand. It works now. Reboot. Wait … HBO channels not working.
- Called Comcast … they answered quickly and immediately turned on the HBO and other services that weren’t working. Good.
- In need to figure out how to connect my laptop to the firewire port and record unencrypted QAM shows in HiDef.
While I had them on the phone, I complained that my internet speed didn’t test out anywhere near the advertised speed 8M/384K – I get 2M/180K. Transferred to the internet department … he looked at my devices and didn’t see any issues over the last 2 months except the occasional reboot. No errors. Time to schedule a tech. Monday.
Since last Friday (7/10/08), I’ve been experiencing problems with my paid VIOP service, voipgo.com. Goodbye voipgo.com
- Inbound calls don’t ring all the time. If I reboot the ATA and it registers, the phone will ring. 10 minutes later and calls are sent directly to voicemail.
- Oubound calls don’t go out. I get a busy signal – even to my cell phone number.
- VMS calls just get a “beep” like NASA uses or eventually a busy signal.
- Online chat support is never answered – it didn’t show as working for a few days
- The online chat initial connection appears to be non-English. Hacked?
- VMS website login was working earlier in the week – not anymore.
- Someone installed the wrong certificate on the myvoipgo.com website. They’re using the plain voipgo.com cert from Go Daddy.
- My internet is working perfectly. And has during all this testing. I’ve told my ATA about my new IP address since a power outage last week.
- Neither the Softphone nor the ATA aren’t working. I’ve double checked that g.729 is the preferred codec as my account is setup. It will fallback to g.711u/a or GSM.
- Yes, I can ping my defined SIP server AND Yes, the registration comes back as completed.
This setup worked when I left on vacation at the beginning of July. Nothing has changed.
This is the last time I’ll deal with phone issues. Comcast Voice will be installed later today and this is goodbye to VOIP from any small player. I can’t tell if it is there fault or perhaps Comcast is doing something to block SIP – I don’t know. I do know that I need phone service at the house.
I slept in a little today since I’ve had a sore throat the last few days. Up for a nice home-cooked breakfast from Lia of eggs, Indonesian noodles and an apple, before getting on the road.
A few toll bridges and paid turnpikes later ($12 total) and I was entering Philadelphia hunting for the famous Art Museum where Rocky was filmed. Close parking opened up for me on the far side entrance, not the main big entrance. Today was pay what you like day at the museum – I paid the normal price.
That price was cheap for what it included. I stayed until closing AND didn’t make it to the two other buildings included in the entry cost. Rodin, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Degas, van Gogh, Renoir, and others. We aren’t talking about a single painting or sculpture here, but entire rooms filled with each. There were over 20 Picasso’s – unprotected, just hanging on the wall. None of them had laser protection, but I suspect each was bolted to the wall and had a pressure sensor.
Besides the famous artists, there were galleries of middle-age art, weaponry, Chinese, Japanese and India art. Then there was the modern art collection. I snapped a photo of a picture that Mom and I discussed a few days earlier – the slightly off center blue square on a white background. Oddly, the guard said that room wasn’t to be photographed. I’d asked at the front desk if photography was ok and was told it was – without a flash.
Hunger forced me to leave – it was closing time too. I wanted to get a photo of the Rocky steps, but it was raining too hard to get to the bottom and face back. In fact the view of the skyline from this location earlier in the day was just a little hazy, but now hardly anything could be seen at all. I quickly walk to my car and get soaked.
Anyway, it was a long day and I needed to find my hotel, Conwell Inn, and get situated for the night. With google map and directions in hand, I start out. What should have been a 30 minute drive turned into an hour+ view the city tour. Google Maps provides approximate distances between turns, so you get a good idea when you’re getting close to a turn. I missed a turn fairly early near the Art Museum and ended up at the capitol. It was one-way street after one-way street. Seems 3 streets all head in the same direction, not every other one as in most cities. I ended up on Broad Street going in the right direction, and when the W Berk Street turn distance came up, there was no street to turn at. There was Berk Mall – into Temple University – a walkway. I kept going all the way out to 71st street and found a place to park and look over my maps. None are detailed enough, so I head back down Broad Street. This time, I find a few of the streets a little earlier in the directions and start following them again, correctly from that point. The mileage places me at Berk Mall again for the turn … again, no place to turn. I’m thinking this is a joke hotel setup by Temple University students to get credit card numbers. I call the reservations phone number and he talks me into the correct parking. It is in the middle of Temple University and there is no W Berk St to turn down. In my rush to book the hotel and get on the road, I didn’t bother to get the directions from the hotel web site which were fairly clear on the hidden nature.
Since it is a college area, summer, and Sunday, none of the food stands surrounding the hotel – and there are many, many of them – are open. I chose this hotel because it was not in the city center and didn’t have $26/night parking, but was on a subway line. The campus police station is in the same building as the hotel. Just one block away are some slums, so I’ll be staying on Broad Street when walking. Oh, and parking is $12/night.
Tomorrow will be a day of Independence Hall and central Philadelphia tours.