September 29, 2003

Miscellaneous

This Is Broken

I found a great website today called thisisbroken.com. It points out all kinds of things like signs, maps, directions, software interfaces, etc. that are just plain broken. For example, when you can't install your network card, and the troubleshooting guide tells you to download a new driver from the internet. If I could do that.... arrrggghh!!!

Posted by randy at 06:01 PM

September 25, 2003

Computers

uClinux on a Coldfire

Yesterday afternoon I decided to see if I could get uClinux installed and running on a Motorola Coldfire 5282 (MCF5282, eval board from Motorola). I have been evaluating different RTOS's (VxWorks, ARC, Quadros, MULTI and ThreadX) for a new product, and the developers have had so much trouble just getting them loaded and configured for our boards, I thought, how much worse could linux be to get working? And for our product, all of these RTOS's are overkill. We need something small, cheap and easy. At least uClinux is cheap.

Well, I got it going! I used the built-in debugger to download the binary image using TFTP over Ethernet. My biggest stumbling block was getting my windows box to be a TFTP server (it's something peculiar about MY pc - other computers in the lab work just fine - arrgh!).

Once loaded, it looks pretty nice. It comes with a shell called Sash, runs a DHCP client, ping client/server, etc. IFCONFIG and ROUTE work as normal to set up the network. It has a web server, telnet client AND server, and a vi editor! They claim you can mount NFS and SMB file systems, run PPP and IP masquerading, but I haven't played with any of that yet. The entire image is just over 1Mb, which is too bad because we want to fit inside the on-board 512K flash. Will have to see what I can weed out. That means I have to start from the source code, install all of the GNU tools, etc.

Posted by randy at 08:24 AM

September 22, 2003

Computers

New Caps

Well, the capacitors I ordered arrived on Saturday and I quickly popped them into the motherboard, re-assembled the computer, and held my breath as I pushed the ON button... and it worked! Once in a while, it pays to be a geek.

One side note- As it turns out, I wasted a lot of time with the hard drive of that machine, because when I installed it in my other PC and tried to boot from it, it started to boot, then I got an 'unbootable device' error. Now I've learned that sometimes HD's don't like to be moved to another motherboard, and I should have just left it alone until I fixed the motherboard. Instead I spent lots of time re-installing Windows on that drive in order to get it to boot. Then when I put it back in the original PC, it wouldn't boot again, and I had to start over. What a pain. In the end I decided to wipe it and start over with Linux. I installed Red Hat 9, so now I've got a decent basement linux machine I can use as a server. I'm sure I need that for something.

Posted by randy at 07:29 AM

September 18, 2003

Computers

Opera Bookmarks

Hey, I wrote a cool little script today that takes all of your Opera bookmarks and writes them out in HTML, so you can share your favorite links with people much more easily. It's written in Python. Just edit the name of the desired source (usually Opera6.adr) and destination (i.e. mylinks.html), and it will produce a nice HTML page, with headings for each folder. From there you can cut & paste the links you want onto an e-mail or website.

Here's the source code

And here's a sample of the output.

Posted by randy at 04:47 PM

Politics

Americanism

Over the past year, I've seen so many American flags, I'm kinda getting tired of them. What bugs me is that during the mis-guided Iraq war, people blindly go out and plaster flags everywhere and declare they are "Proud" to be American. For me, during that war especially, I was not proud to be an American. I certainly feel fortunate, appreciative, and I feel a responsibility, but I'm not particularly proud. I'm ashamed at the way Bush has behaved, and many judge us based on Bush's actions.

It wasn't even my choice to be American, let alone something I had to fight for, or struggle to accomplish. I just got lucky.

I take pride in things I have personally accomplished. I am proud to have graduated from college, to have such a great marriage, to have landed a good job in a bad economy, and I'm proud of the way I've lived my life.

I desperately want to have a president that will make me proud to have voted for him, and proud to have been given the trappings of being an American without taking them for granted.

Posted by randy at 11:04 AM

Computers

Bad Caps

Well, I discovered the problem with my motherboard last night: bad capacitors. The elctrolytic caps they used (1500uf/10V Radial thru-hole) have been failing all over the world, in all kinds of PCs. You can identify these by their bulging ends and dark brown/black crud that leaks onto the PCB. The fluid that leaks is corrosive, and can cause additional problems.

I don't remember the motherboard maker, but it's in an HP Brio BA600, pentium 3/600 Mhz system.

I'm ordering new caps today (Digikey P10228-ND), and will try to take some before and after pictures, for your viewing pleasure. My board has 10 of these, and they're about 60 cents each so there's a chance I may be able to save my motherboard for $6 or so. Wish me luck!

Posted by randy at 07:26 AM

September 17, 2003

Computers

Bare Essentials

Since I'm having to re-build, or at least recover, my home PC, I've been thinking about making a list of essentials to have on any Windows computer. Here's a first cut of the list:

Anti-virus: Norton (worth the money)
Firewall: Zone Labs Zone-Alarm (the free version works great)
SpyWare/Adware: SpyBot Search & Destroy (free)
Web Ad blocker: Proximitron (free)
Terminal: Putty (free)
FTP: WS FTP LE (free)
Browser: Opera as primary, MSIE as backup (when non-compliant crap doesn't work on Opera)

I'm sure I'll be adding to this list. What would be great is to have all this software in one place, and with one click, update all the versions to the latest ones, and be able to install all of them on a PC in one step.

This reminds me of a great article on recovering/re-installing windows:
How to install Windows XP in 5 hours or less

Posted by rgamage at 08:26 AM

Computers

Windows Woes

We recently went to Sicily for 10 days, and when we came back, our PC was hosed. It keeps rebooting continually. It's our main computer we use for e-mail and general use, and it's running Windows 2000. I swapped it with my PC in the Secret Laboratory (basement), so we're fine for now, but I still need to deal with fixing the stupid glitch. I looked on-line for help, with very limited success. I think I'll try upgrading the BIOS if I can find an update, and otherwise I'll try re-installing Windows 2000, and see if that works.

I'm pretty sure the hard disk is mostly intact, so worst case I can install that HD in the other computer, and salvage our data. However, this is really pushing me to get serious about backing up our data.

I find I am continually chasing down copies, or re-creating new versions, of the same information, like our address lists, e-mail archives, images, etc. I'd like to have all that stuff organized in one place, but available and updateable from anywhere, work, home, basement, web, whatever. I'm thinking of a palm pilot-like sychronization method, where if I update a file at work in this special folder, at some point all of the copies get updated, on all of my computers. I wonder if such a program exists, perhaps written in PHP with an SQL back end?

Posted by rgamage at 08:18 AM