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Various findings.

Free Software for a rooted NOOKcolor

8 December 2010 - Filed under Default

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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4 comments  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2010-12-08

Old Search in Thunderbird 3

22 September 2010 - Filed under Default

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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Comments Off  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2010-09-22

Ubuntu 10.04 32-bit on Sony VAIO VPCF121GX PCG-81114L

6 September 2010 - Filed under Default

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).

Sound

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.

Touchpad

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
3. Reboot.

Suspend

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:

ftp://download.nvidia.com/XFree86/Linux-x86/256.44/NVIDIA-Linux-x86-256.44.run

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:

init 3

Then I was able to login, sudo su to root again and run the driver installation script with:

./NVIDIA-Linux-x86-256.44.run

Now my suspend works!

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1 comment  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2010-09-06

Simple Pen Art

9 July 2010 - Filed under Default

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.

Comments Off  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2010-07-09

An as-of-yet untitled webcomic

6 June 2010 - Filed under Comic

This new webcomic is here:

http://www.davidsterry.com/webcomic http://www.simplepenart.com

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.

Comments Off  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2010-06-06

Needed

20 May 2010 - Filed under Default

Comments Off  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2010-05-20

Two Lane Highway

20 May 2010 - Filed under Comic

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Comments Off  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2010-05-20

Install GNU/Linux without a CD or USB Flash Drive (just a spare computer)

15 May 2010 - Filed under Default

Most laptops that don’t have a CD drive can boot from USB but not all. This I found out with the Toshiba Portege 3500 Tablet that I recently was tasked to get up and running with a new operating system. I chose Fedora 12 after having seen some compelling footage of Fedora on a tablet. The problem was, I could not boot from CD and a flash drive prepared with fUSBi didn’t work.

What did? I used another laptop that had a built-in CD drive to install Fedora to the hard drive. Then I put the hard drive back into the Portege. When I attempted to boot, I was dropped to an administrative shell because the partition /dev/sda2 was dirty or needed to be fsck’d. I did that a couple of times and voila, I was up and running with F12 on the Toshiba.

After doing this, the maximum screen resolution I could get was 800×600 but adding a line to a newly created xorg.conf solved that.

Moral of the story: You can install GNU/Linux to a hard drive and move that hard drive to your target system.

If there’s any reason this should not work, please leave a comment. So far, I’ve not seen any adverse impact. Since mainstream distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora use a single generic kernel for many different hardward configurations, I would expect a hard drive swap of this sort to work in general.

One other thought I had is about the non-booting flash drive. I recently had an incident where a fUSBi-prepared flash drive wasn’t bootable and this was fixed by running the HP Drive Key Boot Utility.

Comments Off  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2010-05-15

Error 2013 with Seagate FreeAgent backup

11 May 2010 - Filed under Default

I recently ran into a problem where the backup software that came with a 1TB Seagate FreeAgent external usb drive wasn’t working. When I looked at the backup logs I saw many files(possibly all) that the program tried to backup said Error 2013 next to them. After a bit of searching, I found the problem to be related to simple Windows file permissions.

To fix this, all you have to do is:

1. Open the Seagate drive from My Computer(or Computer for you Vista/7 users).

2. Right click on the backup folder(e.g. Seagate Backup) and go to properties.

3. Uncheck read only in the attributes and apply this change. Windows may ask you if you want to apply this to all subfolders and files and you definitely want to. It may take a few minutes to an hour to complete depending on how many files you have.

Once this is complete, your backup should proceed as normal. As always make sure you test any kind of backup periodically by retrieving and opening a file from it. Remember, you  might be doing backup but you really want RESTORE!

Update: After revisiting the backup on the same machine, Seagate backup is still saying backup filed and its icon is glowing red. Looking into the logs this time, I only see system and hidden files that it refuses to backup which is ok for my purposes. For the time being, this appears to be as good as it gets with this program. For a more reliable, yet less user friendly option, I have to recommend cwRsync (rsync bundled with necessary files from cygwin) scheduled using the Windows Task Scheduler.

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2 comments  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2010-05-11

What do you call a USB Flash Drive?

11 May 2010 - Filed under Default

Over the last few years, small form-factor solid state usb storage devices have become ubiquitous. They have replaced floppies, CDs and even larger usb hard drives with spinning disks for many backup, file transfer, and utility purposes. The question still remains though, what do we call them? To solve this problem, I turned to Google. For each name I had heard used, I got the number of results returned.

There you have it, the most popular term is clearly flash drive. Go forth and be confident when you ask someone to pass the flash drive!

Some other observations:

This kind of survey is only a cursory examination of the question. Further research could refine results by trying to weed out SSDs that don’t fit the flash drive form factor. I also didn’t use quotes in this examination.

One thing I find odd is that ‘thumb drive’ has so few hits when ‘flash drive’ has so many. Especially when you consider that ‘usb thumb drive’ is more popular than ‘usb flash drive’. This leads me to believe that thumb feels too ambiguous to let it be written without the usb.

If you’re looking for something interesting to do with a spare flash drive, why not try fUSBi to boot up your computer with gNewSense. Another interesting thing to do is try something like PenDriveLinux so you can save your operating system, prefernces, and files to a flash drive.

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1 comment  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2010-05-11