Sunday, 30 December 2007

New formula Codral, and why it's no good! And why the PS3 and Rayban are doing it wrong...

It's been some time between rants, but the drought is over, and here I go...

I picked up an infection of the sinus while down in Melbourne for Christmas, and went to my trusty supply of Codral, which I have known in the past works like a charm to get the stuffiness out of my head and get me breathing again - as well as numb the pains in the other parts of my body. The box was "Codral: New formula". I thought this was good - "If it's new, it must be an improvement on the old formula". All it was is the same stuff as before with the pseudoephedrine taken out and phenylephrine put in to replace it - actually I can't confirm the ingredients of the tablets, but the packaging and the marketing of the tablets was exactly the same. On the next day, I noticed had an article about this. The article suggested that phenylephrine is just a placebo compared to pseudoephedrine. But here's the problem, pseudoephedrine has been "quietly" taken out of common over the counter decongestants, and been replaced with phenylephrine. This is to curb the increase of methamphetamine production - don't ask me anything about this, I'm not a chemist in any way. After consuming some new formula Codral, I noticed that while my headache was gone, my nose was still blocked up. I went down to the chemist to find that you can still get the original formula Codral, but had to go through the process of being identified with my driver's licenses - obviously to track me and my purchases in case I wanted to start a career as an illicit drug manufacturer. No problem, except the packet of tablets I was handed looked nothing like the original - it was a different colour. Even the tablets looked different to the original. Thankfully the original formula worked, and I am breathing a whole lot easier.

If anyone is having similar problems, and finding that the medication is not working "like it used to", you're probably in the same situation as I am, and your body doesn't find phenylephrine as useful as pseudoephedrine when clearing a blocked nose. At least in Australia, you can ask for the original stuff, even though it doesn't look at all like the product used to look.

This leads me to what's wrong with other products. I've been a big fan of the Sony PlayStation since the original came out. I remember going over to a friend's house and watching a basketball game and thinking how awesome it was. When the PlayStation2 came out, I had obtained one 3 months later - waiting for the first sale that had a price drop, thus paying only $600, not the original $800. It introduced DVD technology into my home. On top of that, it also introduced DVD technology to my extended family (when players were $1000+, not like today where they're $35). Most importantly, I didn't need 2 machines connected to my television. The PlayStation2 was backward compatible with the PlayStation. And I do still play my old PlayStation games. This leads me to the PlayStation3. They came out with a 60GB hard drive, and backward compatibility with the PlayStation and the PlayStation2 for around $1000. Recently they came out with a 40GB model, no backward compatibility and a price drop to around $650. While this would mean I would be paying less for the PlayStation3 than I did for the PlayStation2, it means I would have to keep two machine under my TV to play all my games - something I do not want to do. And it's bad in the long run for Sony. It's another day I do not upgrade my TV or adopt BluRay - or even worse, go with HD-DVD technology. Sony can fix this by offering the backward compatibility in the current model. Bad decision just to save a few dollars here and there.

Lastly, RayBan have moved away from the "flexi-hinge" on their Wayfarer models, to their original design of the interlocked rivets. None of the optometrists or sunglass sellers can understand why they have done this. It makes the sunglasses not as comfortable. On top of that, the newer model is priced around $309, whereas the older model is still around the $200 mark. Do shop around, you should be able to find some stock, but they are dwindling.

All prices quoted are in Australian Dollars!

Told you I can rant on...

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Merry Christmas to all...

No Linux notes with this post... just a Merry Christmas to all and I hope you have a safe festive period! Below is a photo of my brother-in-law's Christmas tree at his place. This was after all the presents were handed out.

Christmas Tree at the brother-in-law's

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

USB and Gentoo Linux

I can't believe how good Gentoo Linux (and this would probably apply to many other distributions as well) is with USB devices. I remember in the past where connecting to Windows required different drivers. With Gentoo (and I'm currently using the 2.6.23-gentoo-r3 kernel), I've been able to just plug devices into my machine, and they get mounted to the file system as USB mass storage devices. In summary I can confirm I can connect to the following:
  • Sony DSC-V3 (see older posts in this blog for this)
  • Olympus mju 795 SW
  • Nokia 6300
  • Sony PSP
  • Various USB thumb drives ranging from 256MB to 2GB
Everything just works - nothing to do on the operating system side. The only thing a user may need to do is to switch the device into USB mode.

Secondly, I can also confirm that with CUPS, the HP 8230 works with the hp drivers. Full colour printing, and it can also be used as a device to mount photo storage devices (eg. Compact Flash, Sony Memory Stick, etc...). The printer also attaches to my Gentoo machine via a USB cable. Just make sure when you're configuring the kernel (if it is not already compiled for you), to enable:


Feel free to get in touch with me if you've got any queries.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Christmas, Bobby McGee's Conglomeration, and Locale in Gentoo

Canberra Centre Animated Displays
I went for a walk around Canberra last night to see what it was displaying to celebrate Christmas. My first stop was the Canberra Centre shopping complex. Being from Melbourne I was used to seeing Myer display Christmas windows. Canberra Centre had some displays set up with animated elves doing different activities. While the display looks great, each time I've passed it, I hardly notice anyone looking at them.

Canberra Christmas Tree 2007Next on my walk was the Christmas tree in the middle of the city. Well actually, it was not exactly in the middle of the city, but it well decorated anyway. The base is surrounded by large boxes, some as large as small coffee tables. There are angels and christmas decoration balls covering the tree along with christmas lights. As far large festive trees go, I do remember the ones in Melbourne last year being more decorative, but not as large. Might be worth a visit if you're in town.

I next wandered over to Bobby McGee's Conglomeration at the Rydges Lakeside. Bobby McGee's hold a special place in my memory. It was the first job I got that was fully taxed. I was going to uni and working as a character waiter. For those that do not know much about Bobby McGee's, it's a concept restaurant where the waiters would dress up in different characters. I worked at Bobby McGee's in Melbourne, which was open in the early 90's, but was closed by 1998. I'm a big fan of "Americana Junk food", and I enjoyed many things about Bobby McGee's. The food, the atmosphere, the fact that you'd be working, but you'd be having fun - literally playing games and sharing jokes with the customers. Bobby McGee's was also unique in the fact it had a nightclub attached to it. The original concept was that you'd have dinner in the restaurant, and then party in the nightclub - a night's entertainment under the one roof. I joined Bobby McGee's in the mid 90's. This was when it was at its peak. Then came the scythe of cost cutting, and literally Bobby McGee's was "slashed to success" - except it didn't work. My personal observations was that they let the food quality slide, and decide to make as much money by marking up the drinks - and profiting off the nightclub. While there was nothing intrinsically wrong with this, management did just start hiring anyone - hoping that their core crew of staff would carry it along. It wasn't long before the only times Bobby McGee's was busy was on the weekends, and people were only coming to be entertained by the staff. Through no fault of the kitchen staff, people were not leaving being totally satisfied with their food experiences.

This brings me to Bobby McGee's in Canberra. It is the last Bobby McGee's in Australia. Melbourne and Sydney are closed. This was partially due to the passing away of Rich Morris, who was the Rydges Corporation Food and Beverage General Manager. It was his idea to bring back Bobby McGee's to its peak. It was a sad loss when I heard he passed away due to a household accident. I was even more saddened to hear his replacement was attempting to shut down all the Bobby McGee's in Australia and turn them into cafe / bistros. If you don't think Bobby McGee's was something appreciated by patrons - have a look at Hard Rock Cafe or Planet Hollywood. Both are similar in concept - but without as much fun. The latter is another great concept ruined by bad management.

I doubt the last Bobby McGee's will be around much longer after I write this post. After speaking with staff at Rydges Lakeside, they've already mentioned it will be closed and be renovated into another venue. Gone are the character waiters - and they don't even serve dinner in there. Do pop in if you get a chance, otherwise, have a look at the photos.

Main bar - Bobby McGee's NightclubCartoon theme alcove - Bobby McGee's NightclubBobby McGee's Restaurant - with trademark bathtubBobby McGee's Restaurant dining area

Lastly, I got around the configuring Locales in Gentoo. I initially set it to en_GB, but changed the settings in /etc/env.d/02locale to just en, and /etc/locale.gen to en_AU. While easy enough to configure, I don't fully understand what it has done to the machine, with the exception of change the format of the clock. It's just another thing on my system I need to get around to configure, but I'm still at loss to figure out what benefits it brings to my system. Ah... Gentoo... like the bastardized motto of Ubuntu: "Linux for human beings - who have too much time on their hands".

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

A blog entry on other blogs, and reconfiguring Xorg...

In case your curious, I've been regularly reading some other blogs out there on the web. Some are continually updated, some aren't. The main one I track is:
  • Funtoo by Daniel Robbins: Daniel Robbins is the guy that invented the Gentoo Linux distribution. He (like many other people) hated Linux dependency hell, and came up with a system that downloads source code, compiles it and then installs it on a working system. Any dependencies are resolved when installing a new package. Genius!
Other blogs that I do pop into every so often (since they're somewhat neglected at the time of writing this entry) are:
  • Africa: A blog that was maintained by my sister-in-law, Jacquie. Jacquie spent a year in Africa helping out at a school on a volunteer basis. She has since returned to Australia, and is now doing a prestigious hospitality course. Jacquie's blog has some great photos of her trip to Africa.
  • Bloggy Hell: This is a blog by a friend of mine, Alex. I had the honor of working with Alex for a period of around two years. He really knew his stuff when it came to Unix / Linux. And better still, he made working with him fun!
Do visit them, do leave comments on them (especially the neglected ones), and see if we can get more posts from them.

On a different note, I'm currently in the process of reconfiguring Xorg on my Toshiba P20. The reason I started doing this was due to many different factors. Firstly, there's been a new kernel to install on my system - that being 2.6.23-gentoo-r3. Secondly, I recently tried the new Ubuntu Linux 7.10 LiveCD / installer and was impressed by the fact that it correctly detected my screen resolution (being 1440x900). Back when I first started using Gentoo, there was no automated installer, and hence it had to be configured by hand. Played around with different drivers, as well as modelines, and other configuration settings I had very little understanding. Things have changed in a period of 4 years - and for the better.

In case you're wondering, this is my current configuration (which is found in /etc/X11/xorg.conf - you may need to cut and paste it into a file on your PC if you find it hard to read):

# File generated by xorgconfig.
# Copyright 2004 The X.Org Foundation
# Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a
# copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"),
# to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation
# the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense,
# and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the
# Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:
# The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
# all copies or substantial portions of the Software.
# Except as contained in this notice, the name of The X.Org Foundation shall
# not be used in advertising or otherwise to promote the sale, use or other
# dealings in this Software without prior written authorization from
# The X.Org Foundation.

# **********************************************************************
# Refer to the xorg.conf(5x) man page for details about the format of
# this file.
# **********************************************************************

Section "Module"

# This loads the DBE extension module.

Load "dbe" # Double buffer extension

# This loads the miscellaneous extensions module, and disables
# initialisation of the XFree86-DGA extension within that module.
SubSection "extmod"
Option "omit xfree86-dga" # don't initialise the DGA extension

# This loads the font modules
# Load "type1"
# Load "speedo"
Load "freetype"
# Load "xtt"

# This loads the GLX module
Load "glx"
# This loads the DRI module
# Load "dri"


# **********************************************************************
# Files section. This allows default font and rgb paths to be set
# **********************************************************************

Section "Files"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/misc:unscaled"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/Type1"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/TTF"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/corefonts"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/freefont"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/freefonts"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/sharefonts"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/terminus"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/ttf-bitstream-vera"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/unifont"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/75dpi:unscaled"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/100dpi:unscaled"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/artwiz"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/default"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/dejavu"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/encodings"
# FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/util"

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Keyboard0"
Driver "kbd"
Option "CoreKeyboard"
Option "XkbRules" "xorg"
Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
Option "XkbLayout" "us"
Option "AutoRepeat" "500 30"

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "MS Wireless Mouse"
Driver "mouse"
Option "CorePointer"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
Option "Protocol" "ExplorerPS/2"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
Option "Buttons" "7"
# Option "Protocol" "ImPS/2"
# Option "ZAxisMapping" "4 5"
Option "ZAxisMapping" "4 5 6 7"
Option "Emulate3Buttons" "true"

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Synaptics Touchpad"
Driver "synaptics"
Option "SendCoreEvents" "true"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/event2"
Option "Protocol" "auto-dev"
Option "HorizEdgeScroll" "0"
Option "SHMConfig" "on"
Option "Emulate3Buttons" "true"
Option "LeftEdge" "130"
Option "RightEdge" "840"
Option "TopEdge" "130"
Option "BottomEdge" "640"
Option "FingerLow" "7"
Option "FingerHigh" "8"
Option "MaxTapTime" "180"
Option "MaxTapMove" "110"
Option "VertScrollDelta" "20"
Option "HorizScrollDelta" "20"
Option "MinSpeed" "0.60"
Option "MaxSpeed" "1.10"
Option "AccelFactor" "0.0030"

Section "Device"
Identifier "nVidia GeForce FX Go5200 64M"
# Driver "nv"
# Driver "vesa"
Driver "nvidia"
BusID "PCI:1:0:0"
# VideoRam 65536
# Option "NoLogo" "0"
Option "CursorShadow" "1"
Option "CursorShadowAlpha" "64"
Option "CursorShadowYOffset" "3"
Option "CursorShadowXOffset" "4"
# Option "NvAGP" "3"

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "LCD Panel 1440x900"
Option "DPMS"
#HorizSync 28-72
#VertRefresh 43-60
HorizSync 29.0 - 55.0
VertRefresh 0.0 - 61.0

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Screen0"
Device "nVidia GeForce FX Go5200 64M"
Monitor "LCD Panel 1440x900"
DefaultDepth 24
Option "metamodes" "1440x900_60 +0+0"
SubSection "Display"
Depth 24
Modes "1600x1200" "1280x1024" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

Section "ServerLayout"
Identifier "Default Layout"
Screen "Screen0"
InputDevice "Keyboard0"
InputDevice "MS Wireless Mouse"
InputDevice "Synaptics Touchpad"

I hope it assists someone out there. Do feel free to leave comments or queries about it!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

C'mon Victory... start winning again! And Linux battery woes...

I was down in Melbourne again with my wife this weekend. I was celebrating her birthday, and presented her with her new Olympus camera. On the Saturday night, we went to Telstra Dome in hope that Melbourne Victory would beat Adelaide FC.

Hopes were dashed when Adelaide struck first. I was hoping for a 6-0 win similar to the final (18.02.2007), and something not like when Adelaide last played Melbourne (4-1 loss on 12.10.2007). Then after half time, Adelaide struck again. With Melbourne down 0-2, things were looking bleak. Then I saw some of the best football I have seen from the Victory all year. An attack on the right hand side resulted in a penalty which Capitan Kevin Muscat converted with ease. Then a last minute OG from Adelaide in injury time sealed the 2-2 draw. It was inspiring to see the Victory play, but I don't understand why they have to go down (in score) so much or lose a player (usually to a red card) before they start to play hard.

The Victory now has its backs against the wall. It's either win now for the remainder of the season, or there will be no finals appearance.

On another note, I recently inserted my battery back into my notebook. I know most people leave their batteries in their notebook, but due to the size of my notebook (being a Toshiba P20 running Gentoo), it makes more sense to run it like a desktop. So therefore I don't leave the battery in it (this is even more the case since the notebook did not come with a WiFi card). Anyway, upon inserting in the battery, ACPI claimed it couldn't see my battery. OK, to be exact, it was GNOME's battery monitor that couldn't locate the ACPI battery entry (ie. /proc/acpi/battery). This was quickly fixed, as I also had to compile in a new kernel - being 2.6.23-gentoo-r3. The thing that makes me wonder, is I used to have this functionality in my system about 6 months ago, but apparently, via upgrades of the kernel (even though I copy over the older kernel configuration files and base my builds off them), it has somehow dropped out of the kernel build.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, complete the recompile, and "presto", battery is now seen by GNOME's battery monitor.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Sony DSC-V3 and Linux (correction)

Correction on the previous post. I decided to just connect the camera to my Gentoo machine in USB mode, and type in dmesg into a console to see what the device thought it was. It connected like any other thumb drive / dongle device, as well as allowing me to manipulate the data on the storage within the camera. To me, it was surprising...

This was not the case a year or so ago. It would only connect in PTP mode. The advances in the Linux kernel (and most likely udev) since have improved to a state where this is now a non-configurable issue, and it just "plugs and plays". And therefore the Open Source development model advances...

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Sony DSC-V3, Olympus mju 795 SW, and Linux

The support for digital cameras in Linux seems to be getting better and better. Either that, or the camera manufacturers are standardizing the way PCs connect to their hardware. I own a Sony DSC-V3, and I just purchased an Olympus 795 SW for my wife. The Sony is an older model. I think I purchased that in 2005, and the Olympus was a recent purchase.

The Sony connects to my Gentoo Linux machine via a USB cable, and uses the PTP protocol to interface with the gtkam application. This uses the gphoto set of libraries. It was a little bit of mucking around, with both my machine, and the camera before it was able to transfer images. It was a different situation on my wife's Ubuntu Linux PC. Just plug in the Sony, ensure it is using PTP, and Ubuntu will do the rest. This is an ideal situation for my wife, who unlike me does not have the patience to tinker around with a PC to make it work. She wants it to just work "out of the box". The only thing that doesn't work is that I cannot delete images off the memory card within the Sony from the gtkam GUI. No major hassle. Once I transfer the images, I can just delete them using menus within the camera.

With the Olympus, the story is even easier. It too connects to the PC via a USB cable (but not the same one as the Sony). The Olympus declares itself as a USB storage device. There is no additional work to do. A folder will pop up on the desktop, and you will be able to manipulate its contents like you would do to a USB storage key / dongle. Since the difference between the 795 SW and the 790 SW is its "toughness", I assume the 790 SW would also connect just as easily to a Linux PC. I am yet to confirm if Ubuntu will just read it, but seeing how it is does with every other device, I'm assuming it will. I will confirm this.

To summarize this, unlike some other operating system, there is no additional drivers to load to get these two cameras working under Linux. So if you need assistance in getting either of these cameras working under Linux, do feel free to contact me. If you're using a distribution like Ubuntu, then you probably find that these cameras and many others will just work.

Lastly, here are two pictures from both cameras.

Picture from SonyPicture from Olympus

The first one is from the Sony, and the second one is from the Olympus. Do click on them to look at them in proper size. Both are great cameras - but I still prefer my Sony...