Geeks and their toys

A couple of weeks ago a friend from work was clearing out their place, I assume that his wife was involved, but in any case my collection of computers grew a bit when he offered to gift them to me. So now I own a Sun SPARCstation 5 and a Sun SparcStation IPX along with other bits and bobs. My wife was thrilled, as you can well imagine. Now as a rule I only take systems that work, and they do, however the passwords have been lost in the annals of time.

So I was left with a marginal SparcStation 5 with a missing CD drive, which booted to Solaris 2.7, but no further. But I’m a geek, and undaunted by this minor setback, I set out looking for a workaround. The googling net is full of solutions for password recovery … if you have a bootable cd (yes CD not DVD), Ok, next does eBay still have Solaris stuff that old … not cheaply, so what next.

While googling, OpenBSD presented itself, and I downloaded and burned some generic ISO’s of version 4.8. and then to solve the other hardware issue, the Sun IPX was delivered with a cartridge loading CD, but the IPX drive was housed in an external SCSI 1 case, and the SS5 was wired with a SCSI II system externally. so I dismantled the CD drive and searched for a CD cartridge carrier which as any self-respecting Geek, I had stashed away for a rainy day. Then armed with the hardware I jumpered the SCSI CD drive into the SS5 chassis, and bingo a complete and bootable SS5.

Now attempting to boot the OpenBSD was no problem, which surprised me to no end. But then I attempted a password recovery on the Solaris disk and no joy. but I did manage to mount it, and more or less destroy it (latter I found a way to fix it) and determined to go ahead and install the full OpenBSD system. Which more or less worked, there were issues with the X-Fonts archive but I found the tarball contained another version, which worked. It now booted on the internal disk, but I had to add and modify the XF86Config file to find the display, mouse and keyboard. My result does not match the examples of this file you might find on the net. So if you are interested, contact me, the Sun GB keyboard was hell to make work. but TADA:

And I even now have a browser in the form of Links

However, while it can compile most anything, there isn’t much left on the 1GB disk to compile TO. So unless I find some pre-compiled SMALL binaries, or a very cheap internal SCSI Disk to upgrade with, I’m stuck.

There may be more coming for this toy but just to make a comparison with modern hardware;

SparcStation 5 Nokia N900 smartphone
Screen 1024 x 768 (9 screens) 800 x 480 (4 screens)
Memory 64 MBytes 256 MBytes
CPU Freq 110 Mhz 600 Mhz
Storage 1 GByte 32 Gbyte
Price (new) 8,000.00$ to 10,000.00$ ~500.00$

UPDATE: I found amongst the archives another external 1.2GB SCSI disk, which fits nicely in the same connector that the CD-Drive was in, so now the SS5 is without the CD-Drive but has a massive 2.2GB of disks, Impressive 🙂

Eircom Speedup

We received a letter in the mail recently informing us that our DSL connection was scheduled to be upgraded to 8Mbits from the current 3Mbs, and without charge. Last weekend it happened, however they are doing it in stages, or else they couldn’t get their equipment to speed up that fast. So we are left with a ‘configured’ speed of 5Mbits (download) / 512Kbits (upload) which in real terms works out to 4.42Mbits down/ 410 up (see below)

But, what the heck, it didn’t cost extra, and it is faster… one can only dream of a vendor who delivers on the promises, reality is another thing.

Underground War – Whistle Blowers strike back.

I may be the last to see this, a war, underground and undeclared, but a war. The opponents are a bit undefined but there is a clear and escalating combat in the world. I’m not talking about Terrorists, (although the establishment who is under assault may declare their attackers as such) I am talking about the the established order, The Multi-Nationals, the Big Press, Governments, Military establishments, Religious organizations. The big anonymous bodies that have been abusing their positions to detriment everyone else.

On the opposing side, are all the little people, groups and oppressed, or the perceived oppressed. Your fellow ‘pissed off’ worker setting next to you, who will explode in a fountain of Whistle blowing. A venting of frustration that will result in the next big internet explosion.

The WikiLeaks is merely the first oozing pustule on the face of the corporeal Corporations of the world. The World of Blogging has for many years undermined the world press both broadcast and print to the point that now the majority of the population now refer to the Internet for real news rather than the handful of corporation owned ‘News’ services.

Control has now slipped out of the hands of those who for years have managed the information flow. Evidence of this ‘management’ appears almost daily in the presentations of ignorance passed off as ‘News’. And where ‘Fair and Balanced’ openly bribe governments to maintain control, religious organizations openly attempt to promote such myths as Creationism at the scientific Truth.

The tide has turned, and the failing newspapers are only the start. Watch for more WikiLeaks and Whistle Blower sites springing up, more Lawsuits more Smear campaigns as the giant attempts to swat the Whistleblowers who are biting it to death.

‘an chuid eile’ of the world

I have been having discussions all over the net about smartphones and feature phones and the vast marketplace for non smartphones in the third world. A market that Nokia is big in, but is not well supported with things like facebook, Twitter and other social networking communications features, due, in part to the lack of more robust networks in those areas. Even during a discussion at yesterdays Cork Open Coffee the subject of community services came up and I was reminded of a New Beta from Nokia called Nokia Listings ( here, here, here. and here ) which is intended to support communications, operating within a weak infrastructure, in a social networking type of framework.

Amazing Internet

Yesterday I just got a trackback from a new article on Business News, Advices, Quotes And quite a handful of link through’s from there also. The funny part, call it amazing, they were linking to blog post I wrote 18 Months ago. Hardly a current, breaking news item, but the article seem to be quite active considering the link through’s and the minor nature, in context, with what the article was on about.

The internet really doesn’t forget.

More Pseudoscience in the Press

This video at the BBC U.S. Site that claims Technology ‘rewires’ our brains Is yet another Pseudoscience attempt to baffle with Bullshit, the viewer. It comes off all Super Tech and is really no better than claiming that “Technology destroys our Brains”. Just more Yellow journalism. The disappointing thing is, that it’s coming from the BBC. This is for the U.S. (read American) audience, so I suppose it has to be Dumbed down to that level of that group.

But it is a sorry thing to watch happen.

Apps are saving the mobile Internet

Apps, Apps everywhere Apps. There has been a lot of discussion on the internet about the value of Apps. Which are abbreviations for applications, in this case small applications on mobile devices remind me of previous discussions, read arguments, about Client Server applications. These applications in the past were a model, a class of applications to distribute part of the workload of servers to the client. In reality, they had a more important role in decreasing the network communications traffic created by old style server based applications like Web-Apps. Using a client-server, or mobile app, can utilize an API that reduces the actual amount of data transferred between the server and client. And while the flexibility of Web-Apps is perhaps better for the application administration, mobile apps are better for the Mobile carrier reducing traffic and congestion on the wireless network. The current arguments are, that mobile apps are just a passing fad, funny how the same argument was used for client-server. But giving the issue with the Apple Antenna producing poor throughput, apps are what is saving Apples iPhone 4 and the AT&T network

Apple Antenna Spin

Apple’s Antenna woes stemming from the poor design of the iPhone 4 are well known. But what has just gotten under my skin is this PC World article Antenna Expert: Apple is Right, iPhone 4 Signal Woes Overblown. The article is laced with the next best thing to professional lying, from a group of self professed Radio Experts AntennaSys, Inc The article blatantly claims;

“This was a non-scientific test, but it was done by two engineers who deal with RF devices for a living,”

and then this is where the spin/falsehood is;

“We succeeded in taking a five-bar display and reducing it to one bar by doing that,” Webb says. “But the call remained solid and never dropped.”

In plain sight they note First that they DID NOT DO A SCIENTIFIC TEST that yes, the signal drops, but the call is Ok. As a geek, and one who has been dealing with wireless communications for 10’s of years. This is insulting, and a professional attempt to baffle with bullshit

First a simple lesson on current digital mobile voice communications;

Speech is divided into 20 (ms) samples, each of which is encoded as 260 bits, giving a total bit rate of 13kbps (kilobits per second). This is the so-called full-rate speech coding

These 260 bit packets are transmitted in serial order with redundancy, so if a packet does not get received, it get’s retransmitted. The data is transmitted into a Time and Frequency Division Multiple Access digital channel. These slots in which the packets of voice are shared are not contiguously serial for each user. So when packets are transmitted they are separated in the channel. So the packet stream must be reassembled at the receiver side to reassemble the stream of packets back into the audio to be intelligible. the packets are chosen to be small enough so that should there be a packet timeout during transmitting/retransmitting the human ear will not detect it.

The professional lie above begins as such, in the use of unscientific terms as ‘the call remained solid’ in reality it never is, they are packets divided in the stream. They may sound solid, but that is due to the nature of human hearing which will fill in any gaps in the sound, and that the actual bit-rate of the wireless sound is very low, about the speed of a dialup modem. This does not constitute much bandwidth and can be sustained on extremely poor wired and wireless connections. It’s a lie to use this as a measure of signal strength. A piece of string and a couple of tin cans, can sustain a voice channel (analog) with no compression at all. Fidelity is in the ear of the beholder, not a scientific result.

When testing the real through put from the defective Apple antenna, the measured bitrate, collision, and retransmitting errors must be tested on a calibrated bench instrument, not by someone clamping their hands around it and listening for the shoe to drop. Someone should tell the ‘Experts’ at AntennaSys to try the same test on a string between two cans, and see if the ‘the call remained solid’ .


N900 3G speed test

I have been in Stockholm this past week on a bit of a holiday, and while I was nursing my pay-as-you-go Vodafone account I tried out both the GSM Edge and 3G speeds while in the Stockholm Arlanda Airport

Stockholm Airport 3G

Disregard that it says it’s testing a connection to Dublin, it’s from Stockholm to Dublin and what it indicates is that it’s more than 30% faster download speed than my Eircom DSL and more than 3X faster upload speed. So much for DSL. And compared to a test I ran from Vodafone 3G in Cork a while back, it’s was fully 3 Times the speed both up and down link. Why do we put up with such third world performance from our broadband providers? We’re Sheep, has be be, ready to be shorn.

Internet Pads everywhere

This article about a possible ARM-based Nokia tablet to come in the fourth quarter? And the author mentions that the Nokia Tablet MAY run Windows 7 Can you imagine? Nokia management shipping yet another OS on their equipment?

I think this is grounds to fire everyone at Nokia from the VP’s on up, and replace them with monkeys. They couldn’t possibly make worse decisions that this group of Nitwits.

Perfect purposing for an E-Book reader.

With all the iPad hype from the past week or so you would think that the E-Book market was dead. But I have thought of a niche for such things, and it’s one that even the iPad can’t fill. That of a personal printer replacement. My wife is a notorious printer user. Partly as she collects vast amounts of bits of paper in her researches, but she finds it easier to read printed paper rather than a computer screen. Hence our recent replacement of our old, broken, and much used printer with a new HP F4850 .

But what if an E-Book reader manufacture produced a ‘Printer’ dock that would allow the E-Book to act as a printer. You could ‘print’ your web research, documents, and any other output normally assigned to paper, to your chosen E-Book? Sounds like a solution to me. Readability without the cost of printer ink. Most E-Books support Postscript and PDF formats, so it’s unlikely that any special hardware would be required, just a dock that emulates a usb or WiFi printer.

Sounds like a project to me, anyone?

iPad Virtual Keyboard censorship

This thought has come to mind as there are many voices out there who have commented on the iPad’s virtual Keyboard‘. Many have found it hard to type on and found themselves unable to touch type on it as the very nature of touch sensitivity makes it impossible make contact with the ‘keys’. In other words, you can’t type long missives, emails or any other textual input.

What if the iPad is a form of Censorship? Making it hard to comment on the internet, create content, write Twitters/email/Blogs whatever. Because the keyboard it too hard and frustrating to enter anything other than simple search phrases. A consumer ONLY device, made to fill the passive vessels that constitutes the bulk of the internet readership? Content omnivores as Pew Research calls them, an advertising and News consuming only population.