I’ve finally finished the controller for the TVRRUG Open Motor Controller with a few really stupid mistakes.
The mistakes I made are all dumb, the simpler one to fix was that I misread a brown line on a resistor as a red line. Much swearing and de-soldering ensued and 3 resistors where taken off and replaced. The one that caused me the most headaches was the fact that I started soldering down the long IC socket without checking all the pins had passed through. Stupid! Taking the socket back out I managed to break the socket. After getting a second socket I managed to rip one of the pads off the board while clearing the old solder out.
Luckily the TVRRUG are quite handy at solving awkward problems and with all the boards being open source I discovered (with some help) that a simple jump wire could resolve this problem (Thanks Mike the Bee).
Once the fix was in place I ran the electrical tests and all was fine! Now I just need to think about how to mount all of these together and build the cabling for it.
For the past few weeks life has been busy, and when I say busy I mean hectic beyond belief. In that time I’ve had a few OSS revelations I’d like to share.
As an experiment at work I thought I’d try using eclipse as an IDE instead of my normal vim+terminator job. Scary as it is, I find myself actually quite liking eclipse. It may be that my work machine has 4GB of RAM, and so copes better than the machines I’ve used in the past, or it may be that I’m starting to lose my qualms about what tools I use to do a job, as long as a job gets done. The PHP and Python tools inside eclipse have made my life a lot easier, and I really do find little things, like it reading out the docstring I’d put in a function when I hover over that function when it’s called, useful. Has eclipse evolved to where it’s useable or has affordable technology caught up with eclipse? A bit of a quandry for me that one.
The other small revelation I’ve had recently is that KDE4 is now inherently useable, and quite shiny to boot. when I’ve tried it in the past I quickly got fed up with things that didn’t quite fit or where missing completely, but now time has passed, and like KDE4 I believe I’ve changed a bit, and actually quite like it. I won’t be using it at home for a while, as the 7″ screen on this tiny little netbook certainly won’t make it very use-able compared to the 20″ odd monitor I have at work. The one big thing annoying me with it at the moment though is that konquerer doesn’t seem to fit with the default theme. Niggly annoyance I know, but surely that should be a papercut?
The last revelation I’ve had, though it’s not really a revelation, is a pang of guilt. I’m inherently a consumer in the whole Linux ecosphere. I consume by far more than I give back, and at the moment I simply don’t have the time to give back as much as I’d like. So this is my decree, and a proclamation that as of next year (with certain exceptions) I intend to deem one night a week free software night. On that night I will help to squish bugs, I’ll sit on IRC and be patient with people trying to help them through problems, I shall try and get involved in the various mailing list debates I sit and read, and I shall attempt to stop consuming quite so much and start giving back as much as I can.
In order to do this I will need a little help. The whole software workflow thing is a bit of a mystery to me. I’ve had little formal training in such things and as such tend to wing it more than I’d like. Can people point me in the direction of some good literature to help mend this? I’m quite willing to get my hands dirty if people are willing to be patient with me as I learn how the OSS developer crowd works so I can learn and adjust. In a way I’m hoping that this will flow back and help me at work as much as it’ll help me contribute back to the community in general.
If anyone also has a project they might want a hand with one evening a week from the of the month, feel free to drop me a line by your favourite communications method
Last weekend was LugRadio Live 2009 and the first ever Oggcamp. Since, for a couple of years now, I’ve been meaning to get more involved with the Ubuntu and greater Linux community, and having now got a job and be able to afford these wonderful things, I thought this would be a good time to put some faces to names.
Since this was the first event of this size I’d been to, I was a little nervous in all honesty. The only person there I’d ever met before was Popey and I’m not particularly good in a crowd of people who are essentially strangers. What actually happened turned out to be the complete opposite. People were welcoming, open and incredibly friendly. It was good to feel included.
What about the events themselves? Well, LugRadio was very insightful. Wandering around listening in to the talks was incredibly interesting and has actually helped me with my day job. The talk on the OpenStreetMap has got me fired up and interested in finishing mapping my village. I’ve also become reinvigorated in hardware hacking. Given a little time I might start looking at trying to get a hackspace going in Reading, however I’ve got a lot of other stuff on my plate at the moment taking precedence, if you’re interested though, let me know! A shared work load is less work for me!
Oggcamp was just as fun for other reasons. Actually being involved in the day and helping out gave me a fantastic opportunity to meet people and have a bit of a day of random chatting. If this event happens next year (maybe I should be saying when to drop a hint) I’d love to be involved again! Meeting the people in the various communities really has driven me to push forward with community involvement, and hopefully pushing forward with some testing with kit at work that the general community may not have access to to provide more information on bug reports and what not. As my programming prowess increases as well, I’ll start trying to contribute more code to the community as well.
Overall, I have to say a big thanks to everybody who made me feel welcome over the weekend, and an even bigger thank you to the organisers of both events. Seriously guys, well done on an amazing weekend. My advice to anyone attending one of these for the first time, come say hello, get involved, honestly you’ll feel better for it! Hopefully see you all next year.
It’s been etched into my diary now, so I’m going to both Lug Radio Live 2009 and Oggcamp. Both of these will be quite exciting for me as they’ll be the first large scale linux events I’ve been too, however judging from the general community populace, both should be quite friendly and cool!
I’ll be travelling up to wolverhampton from the Newbury/Reading area, so if anyones heading up from that area as well, let me know and see if we can organise some kind of lift share. Hope to see a lot of you there!
I’ve been playing with a velleman k8055 USB experimentation boad and think I’ve finally come up with a use for this first board. I’m going to attempt to automate a few things in my room using a Linksys NSLU2.
The first thing to attempt is a nice simple one and does not involve touching any household electrics. A simple motor arrangement on the curtain rail to open the curtains in the morning and force me to get the hell out of bed!
The second thing I intend to do with it is a little more complex and will require some more research. I intend to somehow replace the dimmer switch in my room using the analgue output from the board. If anyone has any good references on what I need to read up to do this, let me know!
My knowledge of linux is sadly lacking, but every day I improve on it. Since I had a few days free over the easter holidays I thought I’d try and improve this further by installing Linux From Scratch. This is essentially building up a linux system from it’s base packages and takes a LONG time. This to me seemed like a good idea, it would exponentially increase my knowledge of what makes linux tick, and what depends on what.
I started on Monday night by reading through all of the LFS documentation. As bedtime reading goes, it’s actually quite interesting, and it seemed like a good idea to get an overview of what needs doing before I started.
Luckily for me my laptop has a fairly large HD (320GB) so finding some space on a partition was quite easy. A quick boot into a livecd and resizing my /home partition created a nice little 10GB partition for LFS to go in. That was at 9am in the morning. By 10:00am I had downloaded all the required programs in the mounted partition as directed by the book and started to build them. In the first day, I managed to build the initial toolchain and got into the chroot and got to chapter 6.15 in the LFS PDF. The longest thing to build was probably either glibc or GCC, which took just over an hour, but did give me time to cook some tortillas from scratch for lunch
The second day, it took me from about 10 in the morning till roughly 3 in the afternoon to finish installing everything. Was a bit quicker than I expected, but also a lot more involved.
I did hit a few roadbumps, I didn’t have gawk installed on the host system, so at one point something didn’t compile properly and freaked out a bit. A simple sudo aptitude install gawk fixed that though. When I was recompiling glibc all of the tests failed, it took me a few minutes to realise that the reason this was happening was because I’d forgotten to run “make”.. oops.
The last major bump was that when I chose which options to compile with the kernel, I forgot to add the drivers for my ethernet card and my wireless card, so when I booted the machine I had no network! A quick scan through the options and a recompile sorted that out (to include the b44 driver)
What have I learnt from this? Two things mainly.
- Where everything should live on a linux system and why its there
- Package Managers are beyond fantastic. They save so much time and hassle!
Tomorrow I intend to try and make my LFS install useful by installing openssh initially, wget and possible x.org and gnome. That may be a bit ambitious at the moment though!
Recently I’ve been fighting off depression and it’s made me take stock of what I do quite a lot. Sometimes it’s necessary for me to stop what I’m doing and often it’s because I’ve looked at what I’m doing and become a bit confused. When ever I do this I end up looking at what I’m doing and asking “How is this me?”. It seems like a silly question sometimes, but life is consistantly changing, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse, so it’s necessary now and again to stop and define what things really mean.
Who am I? I think it’s safe to sat that what you do and how you act defines you, so I shall pick a few things on what I do and how I act to try and define myself.
How is this me? I’ve always felt that everything has a reason that can be understood. When told that the universe has been created I always ponder if this was true, how was it created? What where it’s initial ingredients? How can you set off a system with a few simple rules to create such a complex system? What are these rules and can they be replicated. I’ve always felt that this is part of me, and the more I understand of how the world we live in works, the more I see that it’s important to find a place in it.
I always want to understand why something has happened, how something has gone wrong. These in some ways drive me to do things. As I’ve struggled recently with the depression I feel that I’ve been losing this drive a bit and become too accepting of facts and not questioning things enough. This is me.
Linux and OSS
How is this me? While the idea of financial gain is nice, it somehow seems unnerving. In the land of software, it sometimes seems as if it has got to a point of being all about financial gain, and not what can be done.
Linux and OSS are not just about freedom, they are about being able to push what you can do and do it faster, more intelligently to save effort. A lot of proprietry software seems to think that the software is the important factor, but it’s what the user can do with it that’s more important. If a piece of software can’t do something I need to do, then why shouldn’t I be able to add that functionality? If I needed that functionality chances are someone else will do someday to, so I can give that back to the people who originally made the software. While this doesn’t make me monetarily better off, somewhere it will make someones life easier. This is a net saving in frustration and seems to be worth far more than a few pounds extra at the end of the month.
Linux is also about a community, and more of life should be about this. I have found that the UK Ubuntu community is made up of some of the nice, most helpful people I’ve talked too. Some of whome I have started to regard as friends, and hope to make that so once Uni has finished by taking part more and giving more back to those who have given me so much. Much of the philosophy of this I try and take forward to other parts of my life, not just software.
How is this me? It’s one of the things that makes me stop and look at the world. Sometimes days can get so busy with repetitive, thoughtless tasks that I don’t stop, look or think. When I’m out with a camera I’m always looking, at the way the grass bends with the wind, the way the sun shines across the waves in the bay, the orange glow of the sun rising behind Port Talbot. Small things that seem to be more interesting when you think about what they are, how they happen and what it all really means. Somehow being behind a camera really makes me look enough to appreciate these things the way they should be.
Friends, past and present
Life is incredibly short on cosmological timescales. People come and go, but everyone you meet leaves a mark on you somehow. People I used to be close to have slowly moved away, some people I haven’t seen in a long time. Some friendships are worth more to me than others, but all are individually valuable. These people in a way have formed who am I, what I believe is rightor wrong and what I feel is important in the world. In many ways, bits of everyone I have met are me.
My future wife
In many ways she has shaped the current me more than a lot of other factors, and that isn’t a bad thing. I have known people I would give up a lot to help, but she is the one person I would give up everything for. She is the reason I look forward to a settled married life. There’s no need for piles of money in that future, just enough to get by and her by my side. In a way she is the little piece of the world I have been looking for, and feel like I’ve almost found somewhere I want to be.
There are many other things that are me, but these few I currently feel are the most prominant. So now, people of the interweb, I challenge you to find out just who are you?
So, the third epic astrophotography adventure was this evening. The first night, I had lots of frames of black, no stars at all. The second night was done by means of cheating, and I haven’t yet sorted the photos…. the third night and……
But more exciting than the moon (taken with a blue filter in case you where wondering…)
Yup, Jupiter and 3 moons. A bit out of focus, but you can just about see them. A bit more practice and I might get a nice shot!!!
All of these images where converted out of RAW using FOSS. I’ll blog a bit more about the set up on a later date.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Free Software Foundations (FSF) recent protest against the Apple iPhone (here on slashdot, and here on their website), but what’s all the fuss about? Well, Apple offer a support service known as the Genius Bar where you can book a slot to speak to someone about any problems you may be having with your Apple products. It’s quite a good system in truth, and gives people an easy access route to knowledgeable support agents. What the FSF have decided is to book as many as these slots as possible to constantly ask about the restrictions on software and music on the iPhone.
The underlying reason for the protest I happen to agree with, developers should be free to develop on any platform, and if you purchase music you should be able to easily transfer it between your various music devices. What I don’t agree with is the way in which they’ve decided to protest. Denying what ,for some, maybe an essential service just isn’t right. By all means be loud about your distaste for the various restriction, by all means educate people, but what they’re doing here just isn’t cricket.
More than anything else, they’re going to make every other person who believes in free software look bad, they’re just shooting themselves in the foot. Personally, I hope they realise just how big a mistake they’re making and essentially grow up fast.