Better than bad, it's good
7 February 2013 -
Just wanted to post about a new mod I’m making available for MyBB. It was based on one called Buy Credit from the mybb.ro team. Anyway, it lets a forum admin sell their forum points/gold/tokens for bitcoins. It uses the very clean Blockchain.info API to get addresses and all funds get forwarded to the forum admin’s Bitcoin address of choice. For now the mod is available here. It has been submitted to the MyBB.com mods database so should be there once approved.
Here’s what it looks like at the moment of truth:
24 August 2012 -
I just wanted to post a link to my new eBook that is available on Lulu and soon on BN/Nook/iBookstore and at CoinDL (which only accepts bitcoins). I wrote it because many people get caught up on technical details of Bitcoin which are totally unnecessary for initial use.
If you are interested in the technical details of Bitcoin, check out my Introduction to Bitcoin Mining or browse the excellent Bitcoin wiki
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26 April 2011 -
Motorola’s dual-core 1GHz Android-based phone, the Atrix, is notable because it’s the world’s first dual-core phone. Add to that the option to connect it to an optional laptop dock and the product is pleasantly unique. After more than 4 weeks of use, here are my impressions:
1. The phone is fast. This comes as no surprise since it’s dual-core and has a gig of RAM but so far it beats the pants off any other phone I’ve had. If I have any problems with the phone, it’s not me waiting for it to process something. Searching emails and contacts happens quickly but my biggest test was playing HD video on it while on the phone. Nary a glitch. For comparison, I didn’t have many problems with my last iPhone but my more recent Blackberry Curve 8900 frequently stalled while loading text messages and the browsing experience was truly discouraging.
2. The fingerprint reader is going to be a must have for me on any future phone. With the Atrix (and yes I refuse to call it Atrix, dropping the definite article…after all this is a thing, not a person) I happily set a strong pin knowing that I can quickly swipe my finger past the sensor to unlock it. This even works when the phone is docked.
3. The laptop dock was worth the purchase to quickly be able to hammer out a well-formatted email from time to time. I’ve played music, monitored my location via gps, and surfed the Internet all at the same time with only the most infrequent of audio glitches. For what the dock has hardware-wise, it could be cheaper however Motorola is offering a standout option here so some premium is to be expected. I like that it charges the phone while in the dock and I’ve had a blast being able to really multi-task with the laptop dock.
4. Android has tons of apps available and if you like freedom in your mobile software, Android is the only way to go. Since I do prefer to stick to free software apps if I can, F-Droid has been very helpful even if I just use it to select what I will later download via the Market.
5. Android’s browser is fast and fun to use. Besides loading pages well, the Android browser does a great job of resizing colums of text to eliminate the need for horizontal scrolling.
6. The keyboard could use some work. It often fails to correct common words I type and I’ve gotten into several capitalization battles with it. From what I can tell there’s no logic within it to know which keys are next to which. This sort of programming would really help it fix my typing errors. I’ve found in some cases just counting on it to fix as I go worked but it could definitely be better.
7. Cubed is a fantastic music player. I’m not going to review lots of apps but this one really enhances the experience not just as a phone but as a device for life. Two things are notable about the player…1) It downloads cover art for random MP3s and albums really well, automatically searching Flickr and other sources and 2) as you flip through your cover art, an experience lost since I physically handled CDs in jewel cases, it’s very easy to queue up album after album to create a great listening session.
There is much more to say of course but much of that would be about apps and not specific to the Atrix. Thanks for reading and if you have a tip for a better, hopefully free-software-licensed keyboard, I’d love to hear it.
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15 January 2011 -
A number of years ago I purchased a Yangqin for a relative but never saw it properly tuned. The yangqin is pronounced yawng followed by the word ’seen’ but started with a t sound.
Today I learned a method to tune this instrument and since I couldn’t find any similar info on how it should be tuned I am going to document the process here. My hope is that someone else will have some guidance for tuning their yangqin or will point out any errors in what I ‘m doing. There a number of different layouts for yangqin depending on which part of China the instrument is made and what kind of music will be played on it. I am documenting here the layout for one that was purchased in Suzhou, China near Shanghai in 2004.
First a bit about the instrument: The yangqin is a Chinese percussion instrument with many sets of strings that are plucked or hit with small mallets. Individual notes are produced by groups of 1 to 5 strings that follow closely parallel paths on the instrument and are tuned to the same note. The tuning of each note(again made by from 1 to 5 strings) is combination of two mechanical settings.
The first setting is the tension set by using a tuning wrench to turn tuning keys on the right side of the instrument. The second setting is the position of a small metal cylinder that simulatneously changes the length of the vibrating section of the string as well as slightly changes the tension on the string. These metal cylinders rest on the wood face of the instrument or for the higher notes, there are pedestals built to support them.
The strategy I would follow to tune this instrument is first to set all the metal cylinders to the center of their range of motion. This will allow for simple minor adjustments later due to environmental changes. Then each individual string should be plucked and tuned with the big tuning wrench using a chromatic tuner(just like one would use for a guitar or other instrument). You can probably get a chromatic tuner app for your mobile phone if you have a smart one.
There are many strings on this instrument so this process is likely to take hours and I wouldn’t be surprised if each string needs to be tuned a couple of times due to changes overall in the tension on the instrument. Once it is done however, it should be possible to fine-tune it by moving slightly the metal cylinders.
The picture below shows the note that should be produced by hitting each position on the instrument. If a position doesn’t have a note, that means it’s not supposed to be played there. When in doubt if the strings go from a little white bridge to a metal cylinder then you can play it.
Now I’d like to explain the relationship between the notes on the instrument. The tuning described here has all notes in the key of C(so no sharps or flats) and the tuning goes from low on the side closest to you to high further away from you.
Using the note A as an example the blue A in column 2 (2) is one octave below the green A (4) which is one octave below the red A (6). So by playing the blue, green, and red As in sequence you hear three octaves of A ring together.
Note that the only set of bridges for which strings can be struck on either side is the longest column shown as columns 2 and 3.
Another octave relationship exists between columns 3 and 5 with the two Ds on the bottom being one octave apart. The yellow D is one octave higher than the uncolored one.
The last relationship required to figure this out(and I’m not really sure how column 1 fits into this) is going from right to left with the yellow squares and green A. This is best explained with a note line (like a number line).
If I start with the green A in the tuning chart, I should move down melodically four notes in the C-major scale to get the yellow D at the bottom of column 5. Then I should continue 4 notes lower in the C-major scale to get the yellow G at the bottom of column 6. Going the other direction from the green A, notes E and B in columns 3 and 2 respectively are 4 notes each up on the C-major scale.
I’m not sure that everyone will spell this instrument the same way in English so here are some other words that might be used to spell it to help those in need find this howto. yong, yang, chin, qin, tsien, chien, yongtsien, yongqin, yongchin, yongchien, yangtsien, yangqin, yangchin, yangchien. Yes, I’m aware a good search engine would do this kind of translation already but I have no idea how that works for Englishified chinese syllables.
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8 December 2010 -
The NOOKcolor from Barnes & Noble is an Android tablet computer that’s been turned into an e-book reader with the capacity to show pictures, store contacts, browse the web and play some video files. B&N has released an SDK and plans to compete simultaneously with the iPad and Kindle with this one device when they add a Google Marketplace app. That’s supposed to happen early next year.
All this is very exciting but it’s not why I bought it, I bought it because the NOOKcolor had been rooted, or modified to give its owner near complete control over the software. It also helped that others posted videos that showed some of the things a rooted NOOK color could do. So, within a couple hours of my purchase, I had rooted mine(thanks to the nookdev team!) and was off to load it with games and apps.
Finding these packages is tricky and for someone used to Synaptic, this process feels like an unsettling scavenger hunt. One must read wikis and forums to navigate the many places where the apk packages are available. After trying unsuccessfully to get many of the apks I wanted, I went and asked some free software friends who pointed me to F-Droid. F-Droid is an “app store” of sorts with the sole purpose of distributing free-as-in-freedom software to Android devices.
Among the apps I’ve grabbed from F-Droid are:
* Tiniest Open Source Violin – it’s just what it sounds like
* androidVNC – lets me view my desktop’s screen using the VNC protocol
* gvSIG Mini Maps – Similar to Google Maps, allows me to use multi-touch to move around many different map sources
* Jamendo – Download free music from the free culture crowd
* StatusNet – a client for identi.ca and other status.net microblogging sites
After loading up what I wanted, I looked for more. I learned of a couple of other lists of free software for the Android platform at https://wiki.koumbit.net/AndroidFreeSoftware and http://trac.osuosl.org/trac/replicant/wiki/ListOfKnownFreeSoftwareApps (the second of which I will probably help extending starting with this post). You can also search places like Google Code and github for other free software Android apps. Here are a couple more I’ve loaded from their Google Code sites…
* daap-client – I can listen to my entire music library that’s hosted on my server
* android-vlc-Remote – allows you to control VLC(the awesome media player) on another computer and even browse for files to play via HTTP
Of all the apps I’ve loaded I would say the daap, VLC, and gvSIG are my favorites. It truly is an exciting time so check out the NOOKcolor… it’s only $249 and the hacking opportunities are endless. It’s also a great front where the software freedom battle can be waged early and with great impact on the quickly growing mobile and tablet markets!
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22 September 2010 -
Thunderbird 3 brings one rather annoying change: the default search delivers confusing search results formatted into separate tabs sorted by relevance rather than date. To use the old style search, just click the icon on the left of the search box and choose anything other than the top option(“Search all messages”). Whew. That was a close one.
As a side note, I’m not sure if it’s my new machine or new operating system (GNU/Linux vs. XP) but this “classic style” search seems a lot faster to me in Thunderbird 3.
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6 September 2010 -
The following is what I did to get Ubuntu 10.04 x86(32-bit) running properly on a Sony VAIO VPCF121GX PCG-81114L. This laptop is currently sold at Costco but shares the same body with many other VPCF12***X models. Sony has an annoying way of putting two model numbers on their laptops. I had more luck once I used the one on the bottom (PCG) rather than the one on the screen bezel(VPC).
I’m not sure if these instructions will work for other models but please comment if it works for you. When booting from a 10.04.1 livecd or a default install I wasn’t hearing any sound, couldn’t use the touchpad, could not resume from suspend. I’ve solved 2.5 of 3 problems so far(mic still doesn’t work).
To fix the sound not working, alsa needs to be updated via a backported package. This package is for my current kernel of 2.6.32-24 though you’ll want to make sure you get the corresponding version for your kernel.
sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-alsa-`uname -r`
I wrote mostly above because the microphone still doesn’t work on the laptop. I’ve not tried any external mics or usb headsets yet but will update this article if I do find a solution.
This laptop uses and Alps Synaptics touchpad which is fairly common so I don’t really understand why Ubuntu doesn’t support it. The problem appears to be with the auto-detection of the touchpad(lots of Macintosh messages show in the /var/log/Xorg.0.log). To get the touchpad working:
1. Run: sudo vi /etc/default/grub and modify it so the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX line looks like this: GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX=”i8042.nopnp”
2. Run: sudo update-grub
I wasn’t able to resume from suspend until I loaded the latest Nvidia driver. This laptop has an Nvidia GeForce 310M and I found the driver on a forum post. I still cannot switch to other consoles with Ctrl-Alt-F[1-6] so hopefully a future version of their driver will fix that. You can get the driver via ftp from:
This is a shell script(a 24mb one at that) so you’ll need to open a terminal and cd to wherever you save it and then:
chmod a+x NVIDIA-Linux-x86-256.44.run
At this point you need to switch to root at runlevel 3. As root at the console I did this by typing:
Then I was able to login, sudo su to root again and run the driver installation script with:
Now my suspend works!
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9 July 2010 -
After 22 comics and graphics released, I’ve decided to name this webcomic Simple Pen Art. It’s a pretty general title because I like the freedom to do comics on whatever without format contraints. Hopefully you find them thought-provoking, interesting, or sometimes just funny.
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6 June 2010 -
This new webcomic is here:
If and when it gets a name and it’s own domain, I’ll update this post. For now, I’m building the webcomic and the back-end to support it in php/mysql right here. My model for this endeavour, at least starting out, is xkcd. It’s early yet, so I don’t expect much feedback but if you feel strongly about something, this is the place to comment.
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20 May 2010 -
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