Monday, November 27, 2006

Top 10 PDA Designs

Probably not the best title, but Top 10 PDA Designs chronicals the evolution of wireless data devices. Turns out the Palm is missing from you list because this list starts with the brick cell phone, and only lists data devices. The Palm is not technically a wireless data device: the Treo is. Unfortunately, the Treo is a Blackberry knock-off.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wine Barrels?

Aging wine at Linganore Winery in Mt. Airy, MD. Five thousand gallon aging cylinders.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Adama Manuever

I was watching "Battlestar Galactica" the other night, and couldn't help but hoot. In this weeks episode, Adama and Galactica had to rescue the humans that had been left behind on New Caprica, now under Cylon occupation. The plan was for insurgents (I've never heard that word used in any fictional show befor) to launch a ground offensive, while the humans launched to safety in their grounded ships.

Of course, the insurgents were sure to be crushed by superior Cylon airpower (which doesn't seem to be helping against the Iraqi insurgents). Even if the humans could get to the ships, there were two Basestars in orbit to prevent their escape. The solution to these problems involved getting Vipers into the fight to secure air superiority.

So... There's this scene of Colonel Tighe leading an assault. Suddenly, there is a thunderclap, and everyone looks skyward-- and there is Galactica-- hovering at 96,000 feet AGL [above ground level]. Unfortunately, a million ton Battlestar can not hover, so it begins to fall.

As she plummets through the atmosphere, the Vipers pour out of the launch tubes. The hull is blazing, red hot, and its shadow is rapidly engulfing the city. There is no way this puppy is going to land! Oh no! What ever shall we do? That's when Adama orders: "Jump!".

And Galatica FTL's out of the atmosphere, leaving a huge, gaping hole in the air. Dude. That was so cool. Now, off to battle the Basestars.

I do have one question: Don't the Vipers have FTL?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fix for "Metadata file does not match checksum" error

Since Fedora is using yum to deliver updates, I've been having to learn about it's configuration. In the process, I botched one of my boxes, and kept getting the error in the title. I found this article on Fresh RPMs mail list cache that told me to run yum clean all. Problem fixed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Linux Distro Download Service

Came across a while trying to download a distribution DVD. They provide uncapped bandwidth for a 3G download for $1.46. That's actually a good price, especially considering the public site kept timing out.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Impala Radio

Got an upgrade on my rental car in Raleigh to a Chevrolet Impala. I liked the use of the LCD on the radio to display the presets. I don't care for the car, as a whole, which is funny considering I once went to buy an Impala, but ended up with a Monte Carlo, instead. I guess I didn't like it five years ago either.

The problem with the car? No way to open the trunk from the outside. No cup holder!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sci-Fi Film Cliches

Erik Even has compiled a fun list of SciFi cliches, divided in to Two Parts. Good thinking, very clever-- especially Jonny Jungleseed. As usual, ignore the comments: most are from people whose lives are so worthless that they spend their lives trolling the interent for blogs where they can post comments about how worthless the blogger's life is.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"Nothing specified to install"

The next failure that taunted my me in Xen was the Nothing specified to install message. The plan was to execute a text based installation using the script. I was able to get through packeage selection, but the install would spluge errors. Needless to say, the error message made no sense, as I had selected packages.

It seems the trick is to select the Virtuallization group. This seems a little strange, as you wouldn't have a virtual machine running virtual machine. Instead, you would have the Dom0 (actual) run two virtuals. Regardless of the reason, it's now loading.

Happy day.

Saturday, September 09, 2006 VmError / No such domain

I have been struggling with Xen for weeks. Everytime I would try to launch a guest install, it would fail. From a root prompt, I would execute: -n xm-guest-1 -f /dev/vg0/xm-guest-1
    -l -r 256 -p -x text

Everytime I would get the same failure:
    Starting Install...
    libvir: Xen Daemon error : POST operation failed:     No such domain xm-guest-1

In the /etc/log/xend-debug.log I would see:
    VmError: I need 262144 KiB, but dom0_min_mem is 262144
    and shrinking to 262144 KiB would leave only 243948 KiB free.

...Or some such nonsense.

Much to my dismay, if I reduce the memory footprint of Dom0 to 128:
    xm mem-set 0 200
...It works!

Now if I could only get the network to function!

Google Video: Window Washer

Since the life of a window washer isn't frightening enough on its own, what we need is to add a little terror to their daily routine.

Friday, September 08, 2006

How It Should Have Ended

Found the the site How It Should Have Ended Friday night while downloading 5 CD's worth of files for work. Flash animations of alternate ending for about a dozen movies. Very clever.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Palm Bluetooth "Error: Serial: timeout"

My Palm TE2 has been getting an error when attempting to connect to my SprintPCS phone for internet access. I did some research and found that allot of people ar also getting the message Error: Serial: timeout. Could be bad cable or faulty Modem. (0x0305). I've found a solution for my setup.

The question was whether the problem was the Palm or the Samsung A940 phone. Eventually I isolated it to the phone. Turns out, if the phone is connected to my Scala 500 Bluetooth Headset, it will not allow the Palm TE2 to establish a dial up connection. By pressing Menu, Tools, Bluetooth, and executing a Disconnect against the headset, the Palm is permitted to connect. Once the Palm is done with the connection, I repeat the process, ans choose Connect.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Tripwire Script

Here's a fun little tripwire script I whipped out this afternoon:

cd /tmp
find / | grep -v ^/proc > tripwire0 2> /dev/null
diff tripwire1 tripwire0 | grep "[<>]" > tripwire3
cat tripwire3 | sed 's/</del/' | sed 's/>/add/'
chattr -i tripwire1; mv -f tripwire0 tripwire1
chattr +1 tripwire1;
exit 0

Run this in a cron job and get a list of all the files that have been added or deleted from a system. This is specially calibrated ignore the dynamic nature of /proc. Beware of transient mounts!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Room 101: The Evolution of Desktops

A nice set of screen shots covering The Evolution of Desktops. Don't read the comments, as people started blasting the guy for not having an all inclusive history of desktop computing. He didn't state that as his goal, so his achievement is definitely worth.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sunrise Run

Went for a sunrise run along the beach in Jacksonville, Florida. I was just getting back in the car for the trip back to the hotel to get ready for work, when I noticed the sun peeking over the clouds.

BTW: must be reading my blog, because the day after I mentioned that they could not post picture descriptions, but Blogger could, they fixed their system.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Huge Trunk

When they handed of the keys to the rental car, I thought it was strange that they called the trunk the HOLD. I figured it must be a huge trunk he they are calling it a cargo hold. Then I realized they
meant that I had to hold the button to open the trunk.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

More Moblog Integration Fun

A few observations:
One picture at a time. The bridge post included three pictures, but only one of them made it to Blogger. All three made it to the TextAmerica moblog.
Doesn't handle punctuation. The truck picture should have some apostrophes, but they didn't get translated correctly.

Bridges In Jacksonville, FL

Boy, these people really like bridges.

Car Covers

Transport truck carrying covered Audis. Cool idea. I&#39;m suprised an American car company didn&#39;t think of this. Not.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Blogger - Moblog Integration

You'll notice a picture of the Denver airport in the blog. I wanted to test this new function of Blogger. Setting up the integration was not as straight forward as they implied, but seems to work a little better than TextAmerica. Honestly, the problem is Sprint.

Blogger says to send them a picture and they will send you a claim code. Unfortunately, the claim code was sent as an image which my Sprint phone could not view. I had to forward the message Blogger sent to the phone to regular mail account. Sprint, however, does not actually e-mail pictures. What they do is send people an e-mail that tells them to go to so they can see the picture that was uploaded. It's Sprint's way of saying "All you Picture belong to us." Once I logged into webmail, redirected to Sprint to get the message from Blogger, I could then log in to Blogger to associate my phone with the blog.

The only reson I mentioned that it works better than TextAmerica, is that TA is not able to capture the picture mail text from Sprint. As a result, anytime I send a picture to TA, I have to log in and edit the description. Blogger seems to have licked that problem.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Denver Airport Trains

This is a view of the train that connects the terminals.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Google Maps Mobile

As you know, I love Google Maps! And now, I've got Google Maps on my phone!

I already have Rand McNally StreetFinder on the phone which is integreted with the phone's GPS system. (We understand, of course, that phones don't really use GPS, the use LBS.) This is a wonderful program as it is actually a client application, which makes it much more flexible than a standalone GPS device. It uses the location based services to locate the phone within a few hundred feet, and downloads the street and neighborhood info for that area. As a result of this download, I can start keying in a destination address, and the system will search memory first, and on the server if needed. Generally, it can find any address within half a dozen characters.

Now that it has both the current location and destination, it hands the data up to the server, which calculates the route, and downloads maps to the phone. Since it is constantly communicating with the server, the information is reasonably up to date, and I don't need to worry about updating the program. The downside is that it is a subscription based service, but at $4.95 a month, I can afford to run it for a long time before buying a real GPS.

I use a similar process to drive my Bunger Tracker system, though I let Google provide the maps, and skip the downloads.

Now to Google Maps Mobile: I stumbled upon, which explained that if visited the site on my phone, I could download the application. There was a hardware compatibility list of supported phones, it did not show the cost of this service. I figured the only way to find out was to try it... and you know what?

Its free!

The bad news: no GPS integration. The good news: satellite images.

Monday, July 31, 2006


I just finished the book "Starswarm", by Jerry Pournell. Like most of the fiction I read, I got the book from the thrift store, which means it was about ten years old. Since it was set in the future, on another planet, that was not a major concern. Actually, the technology held its own, ever after a decade. As a matter of fact, it was probably pretty visionary in 1995, and significantly more believable today.

When my wife saw the book, she thought the title was Starswarm, and was a part of the Skywalker saga. I explained that she was thinking about the story of a soldier, who took a young boy to live with his uncle, so he would not be found by the agent of an evil emperor, who had arranged the death of the boy's father. This book was the story of a soldier who took a young boy from his uncle, who was an evil emperor, and had arranged the death of the boy's father. Completely different.

To emphasis the differences, in Star Wars, the evil emperor could not have ordered his agent to kill the boy's father, for the agent was the boy's father. In Starswarm, the emperor did not order the agent to kill the boy's father, because the emperor was not evil, it was the agent who was evil, and killed the boy's father by order of a another emperor. Got it?

So anyway. They story was completely irrelevant to me when I bought the hardback book for sixty cents. What interested my was the type setting. The book was written in three different fonts.

The boy's mother was a member of the ruling family of the planet, but was also a computer scientist. She had the child implanted with satellite uplinked nuero transmitters, which linked his brain back an AI entity, which existed in the planetary mainframe. When the computer would talk to the boy, the computers quotations were in courier font. The boy would concentrate to communicate with the computer, and his thoughts were in an italicized, underlined, font. All third person action was a normal font. Interesting concept.

It was a good read.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

SELinux Strict Policy on Fedora Core 5

Fedora Core 5 will not successfully boot using the SELinux strict policy. It seems that the policy is soooo strict, that it will not let init execute. Here's a work around, for those of you that have too much sanity and patience.

1. Edit /boot/grub/grub.conf, and remove rhgb from the each kernel line.
2. Edit /etc/inittab and set the runlevel to 3.
3. Edit /etc/sysconfig/selinux and set SELINUX to permissive and SELINUXTYPE to strict.
4. Edit /etc/rc.d/rc.local and append the following line:
        setenforce 1
5. Execute the command touch /.autorelabel.
6. Add an unprivileged user and assign a password, as root is about to become impotent.
7. Reboot.

During this reboot, you will see a message about relabeling the file system. This will take several minutes. The system will start in the Permissive mode, then will switch to strict. Congratulations, and good luck... You'll need it.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bluetooth Internet Gateway

The more I work with Bluetooth, the less I like it. It's one of those things that, in theory, sounds like a good idea... Kinda like communism. In the real world, getting this mess of Bluetooth devices to work together requires a lot of patience and persistence. For instance, I was happy to find that I could use one of my Linux systems as a Bluetooth gateway to allow my Palm to connect to the Internet (HOWTO Set up a Bluetooth Access Server.) Unfortunately, I can't use the Linux system to Hotsync.

The good news is that Windows XP has the ability to do Internet Connection Sharing, thus allowing the same system to do both jobs. Oh, wait a minute... It turns out that ICS only works as long as the line from the ISP terminates on the XP machine. My XP system connects to one of those new fangled home routers. So, we're back to square one: one system dedicated to each task.

But wait! What is that on the horizon? A Windows app that will act as a Bluetooth gateway? Yes: Over at Palm Info Center I found a page about Howto: Bluetooth Internet with Windows XP, which outlines the use of Intuwave's m-Router. This app was designed to be used with Symbian technology, but will work with Palm just as well.

It is excellent... And its is available as a free (as in beer) download.

Note: I have to stop m-Router in order to Hotsync, as only one of the two apps can access the Bluetooth dongle at a time. Occasionally, WXP will not realize that the program was stopped, and will have to be booted in order to switch to the other task. Same for the Palm. If I've used m-Router at home, then want to use SprintPCS on the road, I have to hard reset the Palm.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Toy Ray Gun Blog

Followed a link from to Christopher Howarth's Toy Ray Gun Blog - KiTT NeT. Lots of cool pictures.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Razor Cell Phone Sucks

My mother-in-law is not what you'd consider a technology whiz kid. My brother-in-law on the other hand... well, he's smarter than average when it comes to all this tech stuff. He's even indicated that if he were not a surgeon, he'd probably be in the computer field. Of course, then he'd be broke like the rest of us IT flunkies. Since he is not (broke, that is), he gets to pay for his mother's cell phone.

I've had SprintPCS for about ten years now. I had a Cingular phone for about 15 months, and cancelled it when they hit me with a $1,023 bill for one month. (It's been over a year, and it is still in litigation.) I had a T-Mobile phone for 12 months, and cancelled it because they only had coverage in about ten US cities.

He's had SprintPCS for years, which was convenient, as we were all on the same plan. Well... His daughter complained about coverage problems in Memphis, TN, (none of us live there: including her) so he changed to Verizon. As a result, my mother-in-law now has a Motorola Razor phone.

That thing is a piece of crap!

My Samsung will do everything but cut the grass, and I live in a townhouse... that has no grass. The Razor's menu has five options. Each has about four functions, giving a total of about twenty settings that can be tweaked. My Samsung has at least 80 functions from the main menu, another dozen from the Settings sub-menu, and about fifty more from a secret Field Service Menu.

She really only wanted three things:
* Add some numbers to Contact. (What a mess! I had to delete entries to edit them.)
* Make the numbers on the clock larger. (No can do: It could be done if the Verizon logo was smaller, but the logo is locked onto the handset display.)
* Get the voicemail to work. (It was a provisioning problem, so I called Verizon. I had to dial "O" for the Operator to ask how to get to Tech Support. They said dial #611. Tech Support wanted me on a second phone, but would not give me a direct line to call back. They agreed to call my SprintPCS phone. After several minutes they gave up and told me to take it to a store.)

I can't believe this is the coolest phone around! Sure it looks good... I'm just astonished that is the main people buy a phone!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Windows XP Bluetooth Dongle Problem

I've been having a problem with my Windows XP Pro desktop system using my bluetooth dongle. Apparently, I'm not the only one. It seems that XP SP2 does not release the COM port when the dongle is removed from the system. This means that if you remove the dongle (for use on a laptop, for instance), that WXP thinks the port is still in use. This means that when you plug the dongle back in, the COM port is incremented, and the application has to be reconfigured.

The problem has manifested itself when using my Palm Hotsync via bluetooth. Every time I disconnect the dongle, the Palm Desktop software has to be reconfigured to use the new COM port. I finally found a fix, but it is a nasty hack. As if there is any other kind on WXP!

Launch System Properties, click the Hardware tab, click Device Manager. Expand Ports and double click Bluetooth link. This item will be labeled with the current port number. Select the Port Settings tab and click Advanced.

At the bottom of the window is the current port number listed in a pull down menu. Turn out, it would let you run it up to COM256! Move up the list to COM3, which will display as in use. (On your system it may be something other than COM3... Adjust appropriately.) Select the in use port, click OK. Return to Advanced, and move through the list for each of the bogus ports, clicking OK after each.

Once all the ports have been freed, select the correct port (COM3 on my system). Before leaving the Bluetooth link, try upping the connect speed-- mine was set to 9600! Click OK, exit Device Manager and System Properties.

Go to Bluetooth Devices and check the COM Ports tab. I should be back to the correct value. Reconfigure the application, and try to connect.

Howto Hack SprintPCS / Palm (pt4)

In case any of my loyal readers forgot where we left off with this project (not likely as I think there are two of you), we were able to get the Palm Tungsten E2 communicating with SprinPCS via a bluetooth enabled Samsung MM-A940. The problem was the $39.99 per month fee for the service. It would be hardly worth it, but for the fact that this also gave PC access. Unfortunately, it would not work under RHEL4.

So, I cancelled the service. This means no data for Mr. Palm. But wait! I did say I had one trick up my sleeve. Check out these links:

Tapland :: Zodiac (PalmOS) and Samsung a920 - How do I connect these?
PCS Intel :: Samsung Sprint

Happy, happy, joy, joy.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Alternative Keyboard Gallery

I came across Tim Griffin's Alternate Keyboard Gallery displaying some very interesting keyboard designs. This is particularly interesting to me, as I use and ergo-split keyboard on my WXP system. Since I now have a dedicated Linux system, I really need another, but the retail stores no longer carry them.

* His site was running a little slow, so I had to hit the refresh button a couple times to get the pictures loaded.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How Few Remain

My wife is fond of dragging me to "thrift stores" to go shopping. Luckily, her favorite has a large book and record section, so I can usually stand about thirty minutes in the place. A few weeks ago, I found a book called How Few Remain, by Harry Turtledove, about the second war between the Confederate States of America and the Union.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "There was only one war between the states, and the Confederates lost." Turtledove, however, is known as the master of alternate histories, and this was the second volume about a history where the Confederates won. In another series of books, the US in engaged in World War II, when an alien species decides to invade Earth. Given the situation, Roosevelt and Hitler sign a treaty, and fight the aliens together.

The first of the Civil War series was The Guns of The South. General Lee finds himself at a turning point in the War Between the States. He knows that if he can not pull off a major victory by invading Pennsylvania, then turning on Washington's soft northern flank, than the war is lost and the South is doomed. That's when a man with foreign accent
presents the Confederate Army with the gift of a newly invented rifle. He explains that he, and his associates, have a factory where they can produce the new weapon and ammunition. They call the rifle the AK-47.

In reality, the foreigners are South Africans who are using a time machine the transport weapons from the future, in an effort to keep slavery alive. The Confederates do win the war, but Lee and Nathan Bedford Forest turn on the South Africans when they realize what is happening. Lee follows Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederacy, and emancipates the slaves in order to secure the support of the Europeans.

Time machines, people from the future, advanced weapons out of place on the battlefield... Hey, it's a science fiction book!

Advance twenty years. It's now about 1887, and the USA and CSA are coexisting at best. Tensions are high, and war in rumbling on the horizon. Unfortunately, there are no AK-47s on the battlefield-- instead, everyone has Winchesters and Springfields. And the CSA still has slaves. General Lee is not even mentioned. No time machines.

Hey! This isn't a sequel: its a completely new book based upon the premise that the Confederates just won the Civil War on their own. Well, that's a pretty big leap of faith. In reality, the Confederates didn't actually expect to win the war. For the most part this a book of speculative politic fiction.

The only interesting part so far is that the first US victory was under the command of Custer. He turned the tide of battle by baiting cavalry into an ambush, and chopping them down with his Gatling Guns. Of course Custer was actually killed at Little Big Horn by being ambushed by attacking cavalry... because he wouldn't take his Gatling Guns in the field.

Hopefully, Turtledove has more tricks than irony up his sleeve.

Friday, June 09, 2006

SELinux: MLS Under Fedora Core 5

Hearing that Multi Level Security was available in FC5, I decided to load it on a system and take a look. The original concept of MLS was to allow military and government systems to tag files as Classified, Secret, Top Secret, or Unclassified. In its current incarnation, the military labels are replaced with arbitrary codes which can be aliased to names. This means you could put a document on a server that could only be read by people with "Marketing" clearance, whether they are in the Marketing group or not.

Here's what we have to do:
1. Install a Fedora Core 5 system with SELinux active, running the targeted policy.
2. Load the selinux-policy-mls RPM.
3. Change the default policy from targeted to mls.
4. Reboot the system to allow it to add a default security level label to every file.

Unfortunately, this resulted in a kernel panic. The kernel would die at boot time, because it was expecting to find an extra security context element, which wasn't there. (SELinux uses a three part security context to flag each file. MLS gives and additional flag, which must be added.) Of course, it was suppose to boot to a relabel mode, and take care of that for us. No luck.

Rebooted the system, interrupted GRUB, and appended selinux=0 to the kernel options. Logged in as root, and issued the command fixfiles restore. It took the system about 15 minutes to relable the files with the new information. (This isn't the best way of doing this, but it was the only choice since the auto-relabel failed.)

Rebooted the system, and was offered a login prompt. Logged in as root, only to find-- I didn't have security clearance to access /bin/bash. Oops.

Rebooted the system, interrupted GRUB, and appended enforcing=0 to the kernel options. Logged in as root... and I'm in! The SELinux security system is running in the Permissive mode, however. Now I've got to get the correct clearance.

Just for fun, I switched back to the Enforcing mode. I logged into the system as an unprivileged user, and everything worked. Ha! Maybe it is not broken after all... Maybe I'm just not allowed to login as root, which (actually), is a good thing.

You see: root is living, breathing, security violation. If I have a user on my "traditional" linux system that has codename clearance for the MAJESTIC project, and I access his home directory, I could snatch documents that I am not authorized to see. Under MLS, root can not even cd into an unprivileged user's home directory. As a matter of fact, now that I've switched back to Enforcing, I can't even cd into /root!

Turns out, the problem wasn't the clearance needed to run Bash, but the clearance to access root's home. When root logs in, he has the staff_r role. To access /root, he needs the sysadm_r role. To make matters even more interesting, I wanted to return to the Permissive mode to test my theory. I issued setenforce 0 only to be greeted by a happy little message:
Permission denied

Now I'm stuck. The only way out is to reboot... Or accept the march of progress. Root is no longer God. He has gone the way of Quetzalcoatl. Maybe he was a false god all along. Kinda like the Go'ald.

The next trick is to figure out how to use MLS to create my own codewords.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

RHEL4 Network Access via Bluetooth Cell Phone

I worked several hours on using my Bluetooth enabled cell phone as a modem for roaming internet access. Alas, it was not to be. I was able to successfully get my Palm to connect, but could not get the laptop to work.

The problem was RHEL4's inability to respond to a PIN request from the phone. Under Fedora, there is a PIN Helper Daemon to handle pairing. It is not included with RHEL.

Oh, well. Maybe I'll try again in RHEL 5.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Palm Video

I'm having trouble nailing down which video formats are supported by the native video viewer. One important issue I've discovered so far: the movie dimensions are limited to the screen resolution of 320x320. Given that most videos are shot in the 5x4 aspect ratio (as opposed to HDTV's 16x9) this means that we need to pay special attention to the width versus height. Furthermore, there is not an option to scale the image, say to double size, as as you might expect to do with a video sized at 160x112. Oddly, it will scale JPG images.

Some websites are reporting that the TE will display several different file formats, but the only one that has worked thus far is MPG. Notable failures include AVI, RM, and MOV. Some MPGs also will not display, presumedly due to an incorrect codec. Unfortunately, failures are always reported with the same generic error message.

Ideally, we should be able to pull programs off a DVR, like MythTV, drop them on the SD ram card, and use the Palm as a portable video player. As with many of the other features of our present consumer devices, it seems that it is not meant to be. A quick look at the an hour long episode of Star Trek seems to indicate an AVI size of 105MB, captured at 320x240, using a Divx Codec. Another episode, captured in MPEG, took 445MB. Given the cost of the media, initial indications do not look promising.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Palm Bluetooth Cache Editor

In working with my New Palm Tungsten E2's bluetooth system, I noticed another anomalous behavior. I had bought a USB Bluetooth dongle (plug-in adapter), and had been using it for wireless hotsync to my XP desktop. I also, however, wanted to use it the connect to my Red Hat laptop. Unfortunately, the Palm would always discover it as the XP hostname.

Turns out, the Palm has a cache were it logs the dongle's MAC and the system's hostname. It assumes that any time it sees the dongle, the same system is behind it. There was no obvious way to clear the cache. Luckily, a game developer called 3Division created a Palm Bluetooth Cache Editor (BTcahcED) to solve the problem.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lost, But Not Forgotten

Last night's episode of Lost created quite a few new questions to ponder. Are John, Eko, and Desmond dead? Surely not-- they wouldn't kill off any of the characters. Are Micheal and Walt really headed for rescue? That boat is not an ocean going vessel. Will we hear from Jack, Kate, and Sawyer next season? Once someone is captured, we typically don't see the story through their eyes anymore.

(Sawyer may be the exception: We learned about the Tailies from either Sawyer, Micheal, or Jin's point of view. It couldn't be Micheal, since he was gone two weeks, without a clue as to what was happening to him. It probably wasn't Jin, because we've heard the story through his ears, and it sounded like gibberish.)

Here's what we need to think about:

* Desmond asked John when the plane crashed on the island. "Sixty three days ago," was his response. "No, what was the date of the crash?" insisted Desmond. "September 22nd," offered John. Desmond's printout indicated the date of the system failure to be 09222004-- the date of the crash. By pressing the button too late, did Desmond cause the crash? It's not important. What is important is that the year is 2004. The show is happening in the past. Furthermore, the last night's episode happened on the day before Thanksgiving.

* We would not have seen the foot of the giant statue if it wasn't important. Sayid would not have made his comment about the foot having only four toes if it wasn't important.

* The pier where the Henry did the prisoner exchange with Micheal was not that of a rag-tag group of castaways. It was sturdy, and long. Much larger than that little tug needed. And why would Henry give away their only boat?

* Why didn't Kelvin explain to Desmond why they didn't build an automated system to press the button? Ah... I got you on this one. It turns out there is a precedent for such a system. It's called failsafe: When you send the bombers to attack, they don't wait for the Go order, they wait for the Recall order. If no recall order, they drop the bomb. This is the thing about the button. Give the code, or the bomb goes off. If the Others kill you, the bomb goes off. If you die from the plague, the bomb goes off. John breaks the computer, the bomb goes off.

But the single most important question, is the one you've forgotten about:

What happened to the mecahnical, smoke breathing, dinosaur that killed the pilot?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Howto Hack SprintPCS / Palm (pt3)

The moment of truth: Configure the Palm for network access via a paired SprintPCS phone.

At this point, our Palm has a trusted connection to the phone via Bluetooth, but no way to tell the phone to get it online. We need to establish a Network Service over which we can connect. The fastest way to configure the connection is from the Preferences screen, and selecting Network.

Tap New and change the name from "Untitled" to "SprintPCS" (the name is arbitrary). The username will be the device phone number. The password is the same password used to access the SprintPCS account management website. If you do not know the website password, you can do another human engineering hack: Call Customer Service and tell them you can need to know how to access your phone's e-mail account via your browser. The password will get reset in the process.

It is best to save the password in the device, as the connection will only give you a few seconds to respond to the prompt. Tap the word "Prompt", enter the password in the window, and tap OK. For connection type, select "Edit Connections...".

We will need to couple the Network Service to the Trusted Device. Tap New and select a new name-- perhaps the phone's model number. Change "Connect To" to "Phone" and "Via" to "Bluetooth". Now we will identify our Trusted Device, by selecting Tap to Find. In the new window, select the Trusted Device configured in the previous section. Tap OK to return. The model will remain "Standard GSM".

Next tap Details, and change the speed to 115,200. A tap of OK returns to the Edit Connections screen and another tap of OK will prompt for a confirmation. Tap Yes to make this the default connection. Tapping Done will return to the Network screen. Clicking Connection should now show us the option we just defined. Highlighting the option will select it.

The box labeled "Tap to enter phone" will open a new window. First try the number #777. (Yes, the pound symbol is part of the phone number.) Tap OK to save the number. If #777 does not work, you may need to use #999. To test the settings, tap Connect.

If the connection is properly defined, the phone will open a window indicating "Connected as data modem". The Palm will display a window indicating "Connecting", "Signing On", and lastly "Established". Once the connection has been tested, tap Disconnect. This should return the phone to the service screen.

Now lets test the system in production. Tap the Home Icon and select Web to launch Blazer. Input the URI and tap Go. The Palm should connect to the phone, and load the page.


1. The phone will not remain connected. This is correct-- and good, as it will allow incoming calls.
2. IT is normal for the Palm to take up to a minute to establish a connection.
3. When done, it is best to turn Bluetooth off. This prevents an application from trying to bump you off a call, and makes your device more secure.

So... Is it worth $959.76? Probably not.

I do, however, have one more trick up my sleeve. Before we go that route, we need to get a laptop running Red Hat Enterprise Linux on the network. Stay tuned.

Howto Hack SprintPCS / Palm (pt2)

Today's mission: Interface the Palm Tungsten E2 with the Samsung MM-A940 via Bluetooth.

We will focus more on the Palm device than the phone, as it is actually the Palm, which is the weak link. The first step is going to be to assign a unique device name. From the Preferences menu, selectBluetooth, and tap Device Name. Input a unique name and tap OK.

Ensure Bluetooth is set to On and the phone is "discoverable". On the Samsung MM-A940, click Menu, Bluetooth, Options, Settings, and adjusting Visibiltiy. To pair the Palm to the phone, execute a search from the Bluetooth menu by clicking Options, Add New, and Search. Highlight the device with the Palm's unique name, and click Add to list.

It is important that the Palm be on and ready. A new window will open asking for the phone's passkey. The default passkey value is 0000. A window will appear on the Palm asking for the phone's passkey. Enter the same code and tap the Trust Device checkbox before clicking OK. On the phone, confirm the pairing in the Bluetooth menu. Return the phone to the service screen (sometimes called the "Time And Date Screen" or "Sceen Saver".

On the Palm, click Setup Devices and Trusted Devices. The phone should be listed. It would seem that we could have tapped Phone Setup instead of Trusted Devices, but that leads to a dead end... if you do not have a preapproved Verizon phone.

The phone and Palm are now paired. There is an option in Communcations on the Preferences page for phone integration, but this is leads back to the same dead end as before. Without a Bluetooth initialization string, the Palm can not access the keypad for contact dialing.

That's okay, however, because our next step is to connect to the Sprint data network.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Howto Hack SprintPCS for Palm Network Access

The Problem: Use a Bluetooth enabled SprintPCS phone and Palm computer to access the Internet.

In a perfect world, this should be easy-- seemless, in fact. As I have previously stated, it is not. So what went wrong? First, it turns out that Bluetooth is not as platform independant as I had anticipated. Second, when I bought my Samsung cell phone from Sprint, I was miss informed as to the base capabilities of the Power Vision (EV-DO) Network.

As a result, we will have to approach this hack from three fronts. We will need to hack the Palm to talk to the Samsung, via Bluetooth (it only knows Motorola and Ericson). We will need to hack the Samsung to connect the Palm to the network (the default config only allows the phone to access the Internet). We will need to authenticate on the network.

The toughest part is the network. Sprint has made the brilliant decision that a customer must pay an extra fee to run data across the network. When they first introduced high speed data, around 2000, data was billed both as minutes and as kilobytes. They soon dropped the minutes fee, as it is cheaper for them to carry data than voice. (Data is not time sensative or prone to collision, which means they can carry it in between voice conversations. Effectively, this allows them to get use of idle voice channels.) With the introduction of the 3g Vision Service, they charged a flat fee for unlimited data.

With EV-DO Power Vision, they decided to take a step backwards, and charge both for megabytes, and a fee. Furthermore, their operators (the bane of SprintPCS) are being told that users must commit to a 2 year Phone As Modem plan at $39.99 per month to get external data service. That's $959.76... but who's counting.

Luckily, a simple human engineering hack can get us around this problem. By visiting the SprintPCS store, I was able to get a sales rep to grant me access to the service for one month, in order to evaluate its potential. He was willing to do this, because I'm still under contract, and the brochures do not actually state that you have to agree to the feature for 2 years, just that you must have a 2 year contract.

The good news: In theory, we now have a valid authentication on the Sprint network. The bad news: We can not contact Tech Support, because Sprint does not realize that any data systems exist other than Microsoft Windows XP. Therefore, any other system will be summerily dismissed as non-usable.

Part Two: Get the Palm and Samsung talking.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Bluetooth Disappointment

On paper, Bluetooth sounds like a wonderful idea. Once you actually apply it to a real product, the luster of this wonderfully technology quickly fades from the limelight. At the beginning of the year, I upgraded my cell phone, an ended up with Bluetooth. How wonderful, I thought, dreaming of seamless integration.

So, I bought a Nokia Bluetooth headset. It beeped... constantly. Every three minutes, it would play the Nokia jingle. Whenever I would get a call, I'd click the connect button, but I couldn't answer the phone, because I had to wait for the jingle to finish. I called Nokia, and they said their headsets were only designed to work with Nokia phones.

I though Bluetooth was a platform independent protocol?

So, I bought another headset Scala. The good news is: the Scala jingle is shorter than the Nokia jingle. Then it occurred to me, two brands of headsets, same problem-- the common factor was the phone.

So, I called Samsung. No, they explained, Bluetooth is extremely particular about whom it will talk. They were surprised that either headset worked. They suggested a change that would decrees the frequency with which the tone played, but couldn't silence the tone.

As if I didn't have enough headaches in the world... I bought a Palm Tungsten E2 with Bluetooth. It won't exchange data with the phone, because it only understands the Bluetooth dialects spoken by Motorola, Nokia, and Siemens. Even if it could, it doesn't know how to access the internet via SprintPCS... only Verizon.

So, I bought a Bluetooth USB dongle. The Windows XP desktop recognized the device. It paired with the Palm, Samsung, and even the Scala headset. In the end, however, the only thing it let me do was sync the Palm via Bluetooth. Unfortunately, it has to be reconfigured every time the system gets booted.

Bluetooth, schmoo tooth.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Wired News: Airlines Try Smarter Boarding

Here's and interesting article about how Wired News: Airlines Try Smarter Boarding. What I found humorous is that their example of efficentcy was American West Airline, which I just flew to San Jose. I found them to be no more efficent than my preferred airline, Southwest (who was also mentioned).

American West was using a new boarding process they called "reverse pyramid". Southwest uses chaos theory. Pyramid says load back seats first, starting at the windows. The Southwest system is based upon the theory that if you tell a hundred people to get on the plane, as fast as possible, that they will adjust their movements to accomplish the task. As long as everyone's goal is the same (fly), everyone will work collectively (think ants).

What distressed me is that no one identified the actual problem with boarding, which is passengers loading carry on luggage in the overhead storage. The good news is that many airlines are beginning to enforce carry on regulations: one item, limited size. Before long, they take a page from the cargo services-- all carry on must be in a uniform box, of a specified size. No more fumbling in the aisles, as the box will fit in your alloted space.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

When In Doubt: Reboot

I have been struggling with a problem for about two weeks, and finally solved it this morning. The problem was with Logical Volume Management under Red Hat Enterprise Linux, version 4. Logical Volume Management (LVM) allows sysads to dynamically resize Linux file systems, in similar manner to the way that Partition Magic allows Windows uses to resize partitions. The principal difference is that LVM can resize a live file system on the fly. This mean no outage, and uptime is a good thing.

Unfortunately, one of my production systems TvFerret was running out of space in /home. When I attempted to grow the file system, it would refuse, complaining about an unable to resize or no space left on device. The error messages would also reference ioctl.

Turns out, I had applied a few updates, including a patch to LVM. The patch did not tell me, however that it required the rev-level 34 kernel. As I had not booted the system since last year, it was still running on rev-level 5. I held my breath, issued a remote reboot, and waited. A moment later, my phone signaled that the boot was complete. I logged in and resize the file system without error.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bunger Tracker 2.0

The new Bunger Tracker is now online. I deployed the first version of the tracker, when I was traveling extensively, as a way for friends to keep track of me. The new version is a vast improvement, as I have out-sourced the mapping to Google Maps.

Perhaps the coolest feature is the ability to zoom in. Most of the maps will get you within a few city blocks. I've not yet perfected the process. The system is suppose to recognize landmarks and display a Keyhole image of the landmark. Is most cases, it is still showing the map.

At the moment, it's close enough. I need to focus on re-engineering the website. I'm dropping Google Adwords, and building som e banners to TvFerret.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

So Long Fedora Core 5

Hate to have to do it, but I had to give up on Fedora Core 5. I'm not certain that its Fedora's problem-- it may be a hardware problem. This is to say that my hardware configuration does not seem to be supported in 5, though it is in 4.

The critical issue is my dual head configuration. My system has an onboard ATI (AGP) video and an ATI video expansion card (PCI). The card feed two identical monitors with a 1280x1024 resolution that form a spanning desktop. Unfortunately, I can't get the AGP video to function under FC5. Not even in a single screen mode.

Its as if the expansion board completely disables the onboard video. If I do an lspci, I can see the card, but the X server will not energize it. I've tried several installs, configurations, and even replacing the PCI with an old Voodoo 3 board. As I've not seen any head way, I've kickstarted back to FC4.

Loosing dual head is just too big a sacrifice.

Stack 'O RPMs

On several occasions, I have found myself with a stack of RPMs (usually updates) that needed to be installed, but did not want to have to do each manually. I've tried several commands, but have never been satisfied with the results. I finnally found one I like.

  find /start/dir -name "*.rpm" \
    -exec rpm -Uvh {} \;

Regardless of errors, or dependanies, this command will keep processing the updates. The command may need to be run two or three times to resolve such dependancies.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Comcast matches Verizon Fios speeds | CNET

I get allot of my tech news from CNET News, but I think their headlines are sometime misleading. Today they reported Comcast matches Verizon Fios speeds, implying that Comcast is reacting to Verizon. Of course the Verizon spokesperson chotelled such in the article.

For those of use that have worked in telecom, we know that this is bunk. Cable so far exceeds any offer a wire line carrier can give you that there is no rational comparison. See, to most people, the networks of the world are just a big nebulous cloud in the middle of a wiring diagram. As for me, I helped build the cloud.

Here's the deal: Phone companies (like Verizon) use a star topology. They run wires from the CO (central office) to your home. This was an architecture that Bell designed for Washington, DC, in the 1880's. Cable companies run trunk lines, and peel off a network segment to your home. This is the same construction we see in an ethernet architecture. Now which would you rather have-- 1880's wire line service or ethernet?

Still not convinced? If a cable trunk line fails, thousands of customers loose service. If the phone company looses a DSL repeater in the CO, a dozen customers loose service. Needless to say, the cable companies are much more responsive.

Then there is basic physics. Most cable companies actually have fiber trunk lines. Most phone companies still have wire trunk lines. Until they migrate to fiber, they'll never match what Comcast offers.

The bad thing about this story is they are only upgrading service in four cities. The good news is-- I live in one of the four! Woo Woo Woo. More bandwidth! Yeah!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Fedora Core 5 Install Failures

I made several attempts to install FC5 on my main linux system, with no luck. I kept getting the same error:
  BUG: spinlock bad magic on CPU#0, anaconda/466 (Not tainted)
  lock: c040d32c, .magic: 00000000, .owner: /-1, .owner_cpu:0

The machine (Gateway E3200, PIII 550mhz) was running FC4, so I was surprised it wouldn't run FC5. I've had problems with memory on this machine before, so I swapped chips, swapped the order of the chips, tried the chips one at a time, but still no go. Another factor is the fact that this one is a dual head system, so I pulled the second video card. Even the old standby failed:
  linux text
  linux noprobe

All generated the same error. I finally found a messages where someone was having trouble with FC5 under VMware. Their solution was to disable acpi and usb at install time:
  linux acpi=off nousb
I figured what the heck... And it worked! Turns out it was the acpi=off option that made it work. That makes sense, as FC4 always tossed up an error about ACPI: BIOS age (1999) fails cutoff date (2001).

So.. I guess I can put off buying another computer until spring 2007. Maybe Vista will be ready by then.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

BBC NEWS | Americas | Pentagon plans cyber-insect army

Normally I wouldn't beleive something like this, but there a three reasons why I do. There are reports of the Pentagon plans cyber-insect army. The basic plan is to insert microchips into caterpillar cacoons. When the caterpillar morphs into a butterfly, it can be controlled by soldiers, like a remote control airplane.

Pretty strange, huh? Well, I believe it for three reasons:
1. I trust the BBC. They haven't succumb to the liberal bias of the American media, and haven't been seduced by the New World Order.
2. I believe everything I read on the Internet. Why would the it lie to me?
3. I once met a guy that told me the CIA had put a microchip in his brain and could read his thoughts.

Isn't technology great!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dilbert Ultimate House

I've gotta say, the Dilbert Ultimate House has it all. It's almost like it was designed for me! Not that I'm a nerd like Dilbert, or any thing...

I Fixed Froogle

Last year, I liked Froogle. Starting around January, Froogle broke, rendering it pretty musc useless to anyone that wanted to price comparison shopping. Considering this was the site purpose, the introduction of this new feature was not a wise choice.

The problem was Froogle's decision to list eBay auctions. Thousands of "eBay merchants" have embraced the policy of listing an item with a $25.00 retail value for a price of $.01 (one cent). This would be a good deal, except the shipping and handeling is $28.00! It's just a scam to beat the search engines.

This means that any attempt to search for something by price on Froogle results in 50 hits on eBay. Here are results if you search by price:
    usb bluetooth adapter
    First 199 hits are eBay, most under $1.00
Here's how to prevent this from happening:
    usb bluetooth adapter -ebay
    First hit is uBid for $6.00

Monday, March 06, 2006 - CEV vs. Apollo - Mar 3, 2006

This a great recap of NASA's new moon initative built around the CEV spacecraft. I especially like point number four, where they say "...enabling all four astronauts to descend to the moon's surface while their spaceship orbits in autopilot mode." Oh, good idea. What if they lock the keys in the mother ship and can't get back in? Leave somebody to baby sit the orbiter! It didn't hurt Collins-- it won't hurt future generations of astronauts. As a matter of fact, I'll volunteer.

I can see it now:

Doug Bunger: Space Valet!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Out Of Phase

The other night, on Stargate SG-1, Carter and Mitchell were messing with an Ancient machine, and got zapped out of phase. They could see and hear everything around them, but no one could see or hear them. Furthermore, they could pass through other people and objects, because they spanning ours and an alternate dimension.

As it turns out, my MythTv box had captured a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where virtually the same thing happened to Ro and LaForge. While assisting a stricken Romulan vessel, a transporter malfunction caused them to be out of phase with our dimension. Similar effects. Turns out, the Romulan were up to no good (imagine that) and one of the Romulan crew was condition as our heroes. Where as the good guys simply wanted to get back to normal the Romulan wanted to kill them.

In one scene, Ro is running through walls to avoid the Romulan (who would simply run through the same wall. Eventually, the Romulan catches her, and is trying to strangle her. LaForge storms in at just the right moment, and body checks the Romulan baddie, knocking him through an outside bulkhead. Unfortunately, the Romulan is out of phase with that too, and goes careening out into space. Yeah for the good guys.

Now the big question about being out of phase: Why weren't they out of phase with the floor?

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Top Ten Sci-Fi Films That Never Existed

A reverse analysis of sci-fi films, The Top Ten Sci-Fi Films That Never Existed is a clever way to engage your philosophical side.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Thunderbird Default Account

I've been playing with Thunderbird this week. For the last year, I've been aggregating all my mail account onto a Sidekick mobile Messaging Device, but I had to get rid of it because of the T-Mobile's horrible coverage. I've moved to one of Sprint's new EVO phones, which isn't going to work as well for reading mail. Thus, I'm working on using Thunderbird as my mail aggregator.

My goal is to move Thunderbird's config files to a USB Thumb drive. When on the road, I'll use my laptop, when home I'll use my workstation. Which ever machine has the thumb drive, will have all the Thunderbird information.

The first step was getting Thunderbird to recognize which account should be the default account. This is important because the default account is expanded and all the other accounts are collapsed on the display. The normal behavior is that the first account configured on the system is the default.

I found that I could change the behavior by editing the defaultaccount setting in the prefs.js file. By looking at the account list in the Thunderbird account pane, I counted down the list, found the account I wanted, assigned it to this setting, and restarted. First problem solved.

More to follow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Space Review: Astronauts and Area 51: the Skylab Incident

Here's an interesting article from "The Space Review", Astronauts and Area 51: the Skylab Incident. It tells of a Skylab crew that accidentally snapped a picture of the Groom Lake test facility, near Tonapah, NV. Groom Lak is better known by Area 51. Good analysis of policy and national security.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

TILDWSB: Creating PDF Reports in Linux

From the Things I Learned During Winter Solstice Break department, I've been toying with generating my system reports in PDF. Normally, my reports are generated in ASCII text, but for some bizarre reason, there are some organizations that are wanting reports in PDF.

I ran into two problems. The first is that the native Linux tools will change text to PostScript, and PostScript to PDF, but not text to PDF. The second problem was that I could not get the PDF converter to accept piped input. This meant it would be a two step process.
    ls -l /etc | enscript -o; ps2pdf x.pdf
The first pipe captures the text output, converts it to PostScript, then redirects it to a file. Next, the ps2pdf utility reads the PS file and converts it to PDF. It's actually pretty sharp.

I was showing this to some folks and explained my two step dilemma. The next day, one of them caught me in the hall and showed me how to get ps2pdf to accept piped input:
    ls -l /etc | enscript -o - | ps2pdf - x.pdf
The second pipe has changed to output to "-". We now pipe to ps2pdf, and replace our input with "-". This has the effect of attaching the output of one to the input of the other. Sweet!

This generated a four page PDF (on my laptop-- YMMV). The next trick was to use mpage to get this onto a single sheet. As it turns out, mpage can do the ASCII to PS conversion:
    ls -l /etc | mpage - | ps2pdf - x.pdf
We use the same dash trick to get it in one step. I felt like this needed one more option, to install a margin around each pane on the page:
    ls -l /etc | mpage -M20 - | ps2pdf - x.pdf
Adding the "-M20" option to mpage, provided a clean, even margin on all sides of the output.

TILDWSB: LVM on Software Raid

From the Things I Learned During Winter Solstice Break department, it turns out that LVM on Raid is not as straight forward as it may seem. I had thought I would migrate one of my systems remotely, but decided it would be smarter to try it on a development box first. Lucky me for being prudent, as it did not work the first time.

The server had software raid running across two drives, containing /home. I wanted to get /var/spool/mail on the raid, also, and felt LVM seem a good solution. I realized it would be destructive, so I did a backup and moved it offsite. I then replicated the hardware configuration, and restored the backup onto the development server.

First, I issued pvcreate /dev/md0, which (as I expected) corrupted the ext3 filesystem. Second, I created the new volume group with vgcreate vg1 /dev/md0 (I already had a vg0). Third, I set up the new home filesystem with lvcreate -L +256M vg1 -n lv.home. Everything is still on track.

Since pvcreate had wiped out the ext3 filesystem, the lv.home had to be reformated. This required mke2fs -j /dev/vg1/lv.home. Oh no! An error!
    mke2fs: bad fragment size - /dev/vg1/lv.home
Good thing this wasn't the production system. Unfortunately, this didn't seem to have any bearing on the actual command, as I had not specified an block sizes at all.

Turns out, there is a problem building an LVM on an existing raid. The solution was to dismantle the LVM, stop the raid, use fdisk to delete the partitions, then start over. This time, I did not format the raid. On the second attempt, the logical volume formatted without error.