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Its been a whil…

May 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Its been a while since I last took the time to write anything. I guess this has been a period where I have taken stock on and just enjoyed life. This of course has been enhanced by the gadgets nominally under my command.

The Fritz!box, Opensuse 12.1, Samsung NC10 and Shrew VPN ensemble got put to the test while on holiday in Europe. It worked just fine. So that is annoying because I can’t drone on about that anymore.

My Xiaomi MiOne mobile phone continues to be excellent. I get the weekly MIUI v4 development updates and they have reached a very usable degree of stability. I haven’t added any news updates about Xiaomi as the situation is fundamentally the same. Everytime Xiaomi release a batch of phones in China it sells out in minutes. Stronger rumours exist about new models of Xiaomi including quad processors but with the current level of domestic demand in China I am not sure whether they will reach western shores – at least not officially. In that respect, things have changes. There are quite a number of MiOne users participating on the MIUIAndroid forum now so you there is a degree of support available that doesn’t require Google translate. Tales of phones being bricked and then recovered abound which is in itself quite reassurring. I am planning to go back to China this year so get a better view on whats there. The handset by Oppo looks interesting.

One thing that has attracted my attention has been the Raspberry PI. Like the MiOne, it has sold out but I do have to wonder about my motivation in wanting it. I suspect it is similar to the proverbial father who wants to buy their child a train set but ends up playing with it themselves while the child wanders off. Eventually it gathers dust in the attic. So on that basis I won’t get one, however it did get me thinking. I have always wanted a server. To be fair, the Fritz!box 7390 behaves pretty much as a server but even that has limits. It is not a mail server or a webserver for example. Up to recently, the main option for a domestic home server was to mutilate an old PC and slap Linux on it. Fine to a point but noisey and with the energy consumed it wasn’t really a 24/7 option. However the Raspberry PI and other “Plug Computers” are cheap, energy efficient, and have a small footprint. But are they really feasible as a server?

I need to think that one through but it seems better than playing with a model train set.

Categories: Uncategorized

Xiaomi News Round-up February

February 26, 2012 Leave a comment

I expected February to be a quiet month for  Xiaomi with the lunar festival but it didn’t exactly turn out that way.

MIUI

The big news this month was the open sourcing of some the components that make up the MIUI ROM – sound recorder, notes and so on. You can find these on Github here. Hopefully Xiaomi will release more over time.

Xiaomi M1 phone updates

ICS is still in beta for the Xiaomi M1(MiOne) phone so I have not moved to that yet. I did get the monthly Gingerbread OTA update (2.3.5n) last night. Can’t say I have noticed any changes but I have not looked at the changelog

Xiaomi M1 CDMA phone

Back in November Lei Jun ran a poll on the Xiaomi website asking whether there would be any interest in a CDMA variant of the Xiaomi phone. The vote was a resounding yes and now it is here. The variant can also be bought off the Xiaomi site or from China Telecom. Originally, the phone was to cost a little more as the processor is upgraded from the current Qualcomm MSM8260 to Qualcomm MSM8660, which is also a 1.5GHz processor. However, currently priced the same. The speculation is that this device will be the device aimed at the international market – should that ever happen.

Xiaomi Availabilty

Supply of both phones remains problematic in China and virtually impossible outside due to its popularity. The knock off manufacturers have been leaping in to fill the demand. Xiaomi have highlighted the issues here (Chinese). You don’t really need to translate this as the pictures give a pretty good idea of the size of the problem.

Xiaomi Corporate Strategy

Quite what Xiaomi’s strategy has been has always been a bit of a mystery. What is known is that they don’t wish to make profit through hardware sales. So the Xiaomi M1 is sold pretty much at cost price. So where will the revenue come from. Well this month it didn’t become much clearer. Xiaomi indicated they are prepared to take losses for 2 to 3 years and they are following Amazon’s Kindle strategy to build up a user base. But to sell what?

Xiaomi Tablet?

Well not quite. A tablet from the Kingsoft stable of companies. The Eden tablet is being released in Japan and does not have MIUI so the link is probably a bit tenuous for end users at least.

So all in all a quiet month!

A typical day at ITDullard Towers

January 5, 2012 Leave a comment

My other half is a very trusting person. This is a good thing. I, on the other hand am not. This is also a good thing. This is the way of the world and people are different. So you would hope when you bring these two positions together you could reach a happy medium. Well no not really. In fact absolutely not. You see you have to add and extra twist to our cocktail. We are both ferociously stubborn. So compromise isn’t an option really. In practical terms it doesn’t matter much as on most issues one or other of us gives way. However, there is one environment where we a guaranteed an emotional car crash. My partners laptop is the scene of the crime.

My partner is not in the slightest bit IT savvy. She believes laptops should just work. And in a perfect world I am sure they would, but then again in a perfect world we probably wouldn’t need laptops anyway. So ok this is not a new scenario but there is more. When we throw in her trusting nature then stuff starts to happen. Annoying stuff like Trojan infested downloads and unsolicited phishing emails being opened. There is no stopping her and she won’t be persuaded. I am of course overacting – in her eyes at least.

So last night it all goes pear shaped. Somehow she installed a particularly irritating screen saver. A screensaver that appears to think it is the online equivalent of “You’ve been framed” showing selected home videos that some intellectually challenged person regards as hilarious. So its not funny, chewing up bandwidth and “could you please remove it for me darling?” So I did but I couldn’t stop there could I. I react according to my nature and immediately treat her laptop as if it was and IED and do a full additional malware scan. Triumphantly I wave the laptop at her when the scan claims three Trojans are lurking and I also spot that her browser has been hijacked. So I fix all that but then I notice the webcam light is on but no obvious application was running that would use it. Was it hacked? I’ve no idea but paranoia sets in. How do you check for that? Searching the net for advice on this subject is not pretty. There is plenty of advice from the plethora of sordid creeps that imagine hacking a person’s webcam is a cool idea. It isn’t by the way if you feel the need of a moral compass. Anyway the outcome of this distasteful distraction is that I was going have to figure it out myself. All I could find was a remote access service that wasn’t Microsoft’s. I am not sure if it was part of the bloat ware that came with the laptop or something more malevolent. Either way I dispatched it and rebooted. At which point it refused to boot. My partner is now no longer trusting – (of me) and certainly isn’t convinced of the hacked webcam justification because “IT WAS WORKING FINE BEFORE YOU TOUCHED IT!” This was not a good time to introduce her to the Samsung net book I had converted to OpenSUSE judging by the expletives. Another time perhaps.

Anyway, in the end all was not lost after some start-up files were repaired and now the laptop works. Whether the webcam was actually hacked I will never know but the light isn’t constantly on now. So I feel I achieved something of a victory despite the lack of sleep last night, even if it was just a pyric one. This is also another good thing.

Categories: Uncategorized

Wither Linux? Walking the talk with OpenSUSE 12.1

January 3, 2012 1 comment

Stupid question really if you consider Linux as a whole but it is prompted by my earlier rant over Microsoft’s strategy supporting Windows 7 (or not) to encourage the take up of Windows 8. The problem has always been that there has not been a serious OS competitor. It has been the demise of the desktop and potentially the laptop form factors along with the emergence of new ones such as iPads and smartphones that have posed a bigger threat them. This is not news – although learning that Microsoft makes more money from Android through its patent trolling activities than it does from Windows Phone 7 is news to me. Kudos to Barnes and Noble for having the nerve to stand up to them by the way. But I digress and I am sure some of you would point out that Linux is a serious competitor.

Historically, Linux has never quite lived up to expectations as a desktop/laptop OS. Fifteen or so years ago I gave it a go with a SUSE distro. It was awkward and emotional and you had to get down and dirty with scripts and command lines to make stuff happen. I gave up on it as it was a life choice I wasn’t prepared to make. However as Linux Format points out, the last couple of years  has seen a Linux renaissance but not in the areas necessarily expected. TV’s, phones, satnavs,  routers, servers and more have become fruitful territory for open source and Linux but not the desktop/laptop arena.

So, given my negative feelings towards Microsoft (not the best way to start the year), I thought it would a more positive thing to try see if I can live with Linux this time around. Besides, a new opportunity came at Christmas because a family member  discarded their Samsung NC 10 netbook and I have enough space to dual boot on my HP laptop.

Starting with the Samsung.

We bought this 2 years ago. Officially to separate a family member from my desktop who had a habit of installing software that had issues. If a catastrophe was to occur at least it only effected the person concerned. After 2 years of abuse it has served its purpose and it has been replaced. By and large it has been rock solid although it did suffer from the white screen of death. That was simple but fiddly to fix. But it was slow after all the patches and updates that Windows XP requires were installed. So rather than retire it, I have given it a new role as a sort of emergency replacement or guest notebook. Something that you can quickly turn on, get full internet access and be able to create documents. It also must be usable by someone who has used a Windows computer before so the user interface shouldn’t require a steep learning curve. I also didn’t want to waste my life trying to get the installation to work so I went with the OpenSUSE 12.1 Linux distro and installed it from an external DVD. Installation was sweet and took about 30 minutes and I opted for the KDE interface. OpenSUSE 12.1 boots smoothly and most things worked. Just one exception – the All In One HP WIFI printer a bit of research was required and it was resolved. The Samsung itself is now pretty nippy (compared to its previous experience) and eminently usable. More importantly it was actually used.

My HP laptop was a slightly different story. Firstly I wanted it to be dual boot. Again I used OpenSUSE 12.1 and getting it to dual boot  posed no problem during installation. You have to keep your wits about you when it comes to repartitioning the disks and the default was a bit enthusiastic about how much space it wanted from the NTFS partitions. It was easy to reset however. Graphics were a bit of an issue. ATI Radeon do Linux drivers but they are proprietary and not open source so are not supplied with OpenSUSE. The “Unofficial Guide” points you to the palces where you can find and install proprietary software such as Flash and CODECS. Its a minor pain but still a pain nonetheless. So it took a while to get configured to a state comparable to Windows. As with the Samsung, the printer was refusing but at least I now know what to do.

I will always need Windows for some applications although Android is increasing intruding into this space. There are no Linux equivalents for some of the Chinese applications I occasionally use (there is one for QQ however but its functionality is limited). But it would be nice to do this within Linux. So I set up a virtual machine using Virtual Box and run a Windows image under that. Initially, this had a habit of crashing the laptop but it seems to be stable now. I suspect this was down to the graphics driver before I changed it but I can’t be sure. Interestingly, the printer works under the VirtualBox guest but not the host. So far I haven’t had to enter a command line or edit a file to make this work, it has all been done through the KDE interface.

It was easy to attach the NAS disk attached to my FRITZ!Box router via SAMBA For both the Samsung and the HP and there is very little latency. IPv6 is also working seamlessly.

So point proven. I could live with OpenSUSE and KDE. I didn’t have to use a terminal console or file editor once and I got two fully functional Laptops in return. This blog post was even written under its jurisdiction. So instead of shooting at an open goal and whining about Microsoft as I did why not walk the talk instead.

SAAB declares bankruptcy

December 19, 2011 Leave a comment

So sad to hear the news about SAAB’s bankruptcy. I feel for all the workers at this time.

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The dark side of Wakefiled

September 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Wakefield Kirkgate station. If you have ever seen it you will probably be haunted by the experience. To say it is neglected would be an understatement. Anyway, it has been in this condition for years now and nothing has been done about it. Its pretty clear that nothing will be as it is listed. Presumably the intention is to let it fall down and the buildings are obliging. A shame but there we have it. I do wonder how much worse it has to get. Does someone really have to be injured or worse before something is done?

Categories: Uncategorized

Saab

September 18, 2011 Leave a comment

I am keeping my fingers crossed for SAAB tomorrow. They are trying to go into the Swedish equivalent of administration. Their original application failed making bankruptcy a possible outcome.

I have always had a soft spot for the marque. It is a cliché but when I used to own one it genuinely did put a smile on my face and it was über  practical. Under GM, Saab had lost its mojo, but having become independent again the quirks and inspired innovation were clearly on the return. However, time and the economic circumstances we live in have not been kind.

They haven’t produced any cars in europe for a few months now and have struggled to pay suppliers and staff. The basic problem is cash-flow. The separation from GM took longer and was never going to be easy. Coupled with a premium range of cars that are struggling to sell in Europe and the USA plus an unresponsive Swedish government and it was perhaps no surprise that Saab’s rebirth was troublesome. With all that said, there are genuine long term Chinese investors waiting and Saab’s products a absolutely ripe for that market.

Good luck to Saab and its workers

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