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Archive for December, 2005

Wordpress 2.0

Posted by pete on 31st December 2005

Since I like doing command line tasks over a choppy wireless connection, I decided to upgrade my web log to WordPress 2.0 today. So far, so good. The FlickrRSS plugin and the theme (Devenir en gris) I was using with WordPress 1.5 seem to also work with it, so there’s probably not much different from a user’s point of view. If you do see a problem, please let me know.

Posted in General | No Comments »

New Version

Posted by pete on 24th December 2005

Volker Braun has put out a new version of his FC4 kernel. Here’s my version, which is just his, but with IBM ACPI modularized and IPv6 enabled (and modularized).

Binary RPMs…




…and source RPM


Posted in Kernel | No Comments »

The Secret

Posted by pete on 24th December 2005

After much searching, I found the secret to getting my Thinkpad T40 (with ipw2100 1.1.3 wireless driver) working with WPA2. My parents’ wireless access point is a Linksys WRT54G (ver 4), running the latest Linksys firmware. They’ve got it configured for WPA2 Personal wireless encryption. It was very easy to set up Lisa’s OS X 10.4 mactop (much easier than I remember configuring it for WEP on OS X 10.1), but I spent over a day trying to get wpa_supplicant (0.4.7) working. The secret was not using the ipw driver in wpa_supplicant, but using the generic wext driver. I was getting a lot of “Operation Not Supported” messages in the debug output of wpa_supplicant, but once I changed from the ipw driver to wext, everything worked just fine. I was happy, to say the least. Over 24 hours without access! /me shivers. (Well, without access on my laptop. Good thing I had other computers with which to get online or I wouldn’ t even be able to sit here and type as my head would have exploded.)

Posted in Geekery | No Comments »

This Remote

Posted by pete on 14th December 2005

Red Harmony 676 Remote

Sweet Remote

Blogs are a great way to avoid talking with other people. Instead, you can have online conversations in an environment where anyone can listen in. I’m most grateful to avoid having conversations with Grumpy. Even though his office is only a couple doors down the hall from mine, I can’t be bothered. Of course, that’s assuming that it’s one of the two or three days a month he’s actually at work, but that’s a tale for another day.

Yesterday, Grumpy asked Which Remote? If we were actually talking, he might have learned that just last week, I picked up a Logitech Harmony 676 remote. While it’s suggested price (and the price you can buy it at Best Buy) is around $200, it can be had at Amazon for around $120. While it is about 4x the cost of his new remote, I’d say it’s a wonderful remote.

Our AV or “home theater” system is fairly complex with parts from Sony (TV, DVD), Harmon Kardon (receiver), Hughes (DirecTivo), JVC (*cough*VCR*cough*/digital clock), and Onkyo (CD player). Each has their own remote. We have four main devices that we use: the TV, AV receiver, DVD player, and DirecTivo. Three remotes could effectively control these devices. Every-so-often, when the power flickers, we’d need to use the VCR remote to reset the digital clock. Whenever we’d have a babysitter or guests over, we’d have to give a two hour tutorial on how to watch TV or a DVD. We even wrote up a cheat sheet for them to use.

After a while, we started looking at something that could handle everything well and feel nice in the hand too. This is where the Harmony 676 comes in. It’s got that classic TiVo “peanut” shape and is nicely grippy in the hand (unlike normal TiVo remotes). It’s about 1 1/2 times bigger than the TiVo remote and flatter, but it doesn’t feel unwieldy in either my hands or Lisa’s smaller hands.

Most importantly, it controls everything and simplifies what we’d do, even on one remote. If we want to watch something on the TiVo, we press one button on the remote. It turns on the TV and receiver if they’re not already on and makes sure the TV and receiver are on the right input channels. If we want to watch something on the DVD player, press one button and everything’s set. If we didn’t have a crappy CD player, the same thing would apply to listening to CDs. (The CD player doesn’t have a standby mode, so the power has to be manually turned on or off. The remote can’t help with that.) Even unusual functionality can be accessed via the Harmony remote. While at the top, it provides buttons for meta functions (like “Watch TV”, “Watch a DVD”, etc.), you can also get into device-specific functions. At the time we set up the Harmony, our VCR clock was reset due to a recent (for large values of “recent”) power flicker. The clock hadn’t been reset up to this point because I’d have to get out the VCR remote, put batteries in it, then do the normal configuration. With the 676, I went into the device menus and found the correct functions to set the clock, all on my first try.

(There’s another Harmony — the 688 — that’s supposed to be specifically for systems with a PVR, but I don’t like how the buttons run together. I don’t know about you, but Lisa and I tend to push the buttons without looking at the remote, so it’s important for us to get some tactile feedback to determine what button our finger’s over.)

Set up is done via a web interface on the Logitech site where you configure the devices you have and the functions you want the device to do. It can be kind of tedious, especially if you’re a bit OC, like me. (I’ve heard some people say it was easy and done on their first try.) Setting up the DirecTV channels we get and which ones were our favorites was trying, although that leads to a nice little feature where the shows on your favorite channels are listed in the LCD display. Eventually, you finish configuring the device on the web interface and they push out a new firmware file to you that you use their firmware update program to reprogram the remote via USB. Tweaking the config can be a bit tedious too, but if you get stuck, their free tech support is wonderful and friendly.

Finally, if you get stuck and don’t want to continue further tweaking your configuration, the “Help” button on the remote is truly helpful and will usually walk you through fixing whatever problem there is with what you’re currently trying to do.

Overall, while I did have reservations about spending so much on a universal remote that I was unsure we’d like and use, we’re very happy with it and consider the money well spent.

UPDATE: Actually, it’s very close to the size of the TiVo remote, if not slightly smaller.

Posted in Geekery, TiVo | No Comments »

Linux Laptop Magic

Posted by pete on 9th December 2005

Volker Braun has been working on a series of Linux kernels for T4x Thinkpads. They enable ACPI, software suspend to disk, and the IPW2100/2200 wireless devices and — bonus! — they work. (At least, they work on a T40 Thinkpad with FC4 and the IPW fireware installed. YMMV) I’ve been very happy with them, but have to recompile to make a minor configuration tweak. I like to have the ibm_acpi module compiled as a module so that I can enable the experimental options. (In Volker’s version, it’s compiled into the kernel.)

Today, I discovered another tweak I needed to make. I was suffering /sitting through my Nth IPv6 conference, when I decided to see if I could set up IPv6 connectivity over the wireless offered in the conference room. I had done it a while ago, got the dancing turtle, then decided I wanted to connect to other sites and went back to IPv4. When I tried to insert the IPv6 module into the kernel, I found that Volker doesn’t configure in IPv6.

Since this was a little more complex than just changing a configuration option that’s already there, I now present Voker’s kernel with IPv6 and ibm_acpi compiled as a module. Here are the pre-compiled i686 binaries…




…and here’s the SRPM for your own RPM-compiling fun.


Thanks to Volker for putting this all together.

Posted in Kernel | No Comments »

Can We Go Now?

Posted by pete on 8th December 2005

I never supported the war in Iraq. I always thought it was unjustified and that the Bush administration was using WMD as a convenient excuse, but I was willing to give the politicians the benefit of the doubt. After all, I didn’t have access to the classified and secret information that they did. I really — quite possibly, naively — thought that for something as important as giving the president the permission to take the country to war, our Congress-folk would rise above politics and vote the right way. Since they voted for war, I hesitantly agreed that we must need to go, even though I hoped we would do it in a multilateral way. As more and more our allies slipped away from supporting a “sooner, rather than later” invasion of Iraq, my doubts about the intentions of our Congress and our president grew. Didn’t they have access to most of the same classified data our government did? If they can’t support an invasion, then maybe it’s not even a lay-up, let alone a slam dunk?

After we invaded and found no WMD, it only strengthened my belief that this was illegitimate. Watching the Bush administration flip through new excuses for the invasion would have been comical if wasn’t for what they were trying to excuse. I have no idea what the real reason for the invasion is and probably never will know, but I cannot believe it is anything they are shoveling to us. I do remember the says after Bush v. Gore was decided and the Bush transition team came in with a compressed timeline. One things that stuck out to me even then was their (and especially Cheney’s) heightened interest in Iraq. I believe that 9/11, WMD, “Freeing the Iraqis”, “Bringing the fight to the terrorists”, etc., are all a smoke screen for whatever was driving them in early January, 2000.

That said, I’ve had a big problem with those who have called for us to leave and to leave quickly. We made this mess, we need to stay and clean it up. I had not read anything that convinced me that Iraq would be better off if we cut and run instead of staying to the end. That is, until today. If what this guy says about Iraqi attitudes toward each other and what’s driving them is true, then it really makes sense for us to get out sooner than later.

Posted in Politics | No Comments »

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