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* Posts by Tim Walker

208 posts • joined 14 May 2009

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Crooks use Synology NAS boxen to mine Dogecoin, yells Dell

Tim Walker

ARM-based Synos - don't bother

We have a four-year-old Synology box - it's one of the lower-range ARM-based models - and whilst it does what we need (mostly: an extra drive and a server for the Logitech Squeezebox in the lounge), to say it's hardly a speed-demon is like saying Antarctica is hardly a good location for a beach resort.

If I'd seen this story last night, I might've thought our Syno had been p0wned (sp?) for Tulipbulbcoin-mining, it was running so slowly. Turned out it was "only" indexing some photos I'd uploaded - I really should look into setting it up so it does the indexing overnight, as the Syno is effectively unusable while it devotes its resources to that titanic task. (Remember the coffee-machine on the Heart Of Gold and the Vogons attacking? Yup: same effect.)

So, prospective BitGold-miners looking to hijack our Syno for some wealth-generation on the QT: I suggest you look elsewhere. You'll be lucky to get the equivalent of a few coppers out of the old jalopy, and I'll get so honked-off at the box slowing to a crawl that I'll end up rebooting it at the first opportunity.

I think the chap down the road might have an Atom-based one, though... ;-)

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Toshiba's CB30-102 13.3in Chromebook – imagine a tablet with a keyboard

Tim Walker

Ethernet

I've been keeping a weather-eye on Chromebooks, as my trusty Eee 701SD (running Arch Linux) is bound to croak sometime, and there's only so much one can get done with a tablet and Bluetooth keyboard case.

I suspect a Chromebook might make a decent-enough replacement for the 701 (especially if I could dual-boot it with Arch), and I'd even consider an ARM-powered model once Arch Linux ARM has come on a bit further (esp. on the accelerated graphics front).

However, one feature I'd really miss from my Eee, which seems to be missing from just about every Chromebook I've looked at, is an Ethernet port. Yes, I know CBs aren't really aimed at users who'd usually reach for a Cat5 cable, and yes, there are USB-Ethernet adapters out there (do they work on a CB?), but sometimes it's just a handy feature to fall back on, especially if/when a wired network link can outperform a WiFi one.

It looks like the Acer C7 Chromebook has an Ethernet port, but this Tosh doesn't appear to. I suppose a USB3 Ethernet adapter might be an option (if there's one that works), but it would be nice to have at least a native 10/100 port on a Chromebook.

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Why 2014 might just be the year of the Google Chromebook

Tim Walker

+1 for the Eee 701SD :-)

My 701 is humming away contentedly on the desk here - it's a great little machine, and has never had any MS Windows variant anywhere near its SSD. (Arch Linux since 2011 - IMO, the perfect distro for rolling your own lean and fast system. Even WinXP will barely get out of bed on this little fella, but with Arch it fairly zips along.)

Funny how the 701 was slagged off for being "too small" (hence a large part of its appeal to me - fits on a FGW train "tray-table" when few other machines would), but 7" tablets are now everwhere...

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DEATH-PROOF your old XP netbook: 5 OSes to bring it back to life

Tim Walker

Arch Linux?

In 2011, I needed an alternative Linux for my (even then, venerable) Eee 701 netbook, as the distro I was using (Eeebuntu) had become unsupported.

Ideally, I was looking for a Linux which could be tailored to very modest hardware (and on that measure, believe me, the 701 qualifies), but that was unlikely to be abandoned like Eeebuntu had been. For me, the latter meant looking for a "top-level" distro (i.e. which isn't an offshoot of another), whilst the former was tricky, as many distros give you lots of apps, etc. out of the box. If you want a lean and fast machine, this can be a mixed blessing.

Long story short: I settled on Arch Linux, and have never looked back - the 701 is running it here beside me as I write. Arch is not a distro for Linux "newbies" (and I don't mean that disparagingly; you really need some knowledge of what you're doing), but I was able to build a system which runs pretty speedily, even on the 701. I had to say "buh-BYE!" to GNOME or KDE as a desktop - I chose the less-lardy Xfce, but LXDE would probably be even nippier - and if you need eye-candy, you can add a morsel or two like Cairo-Dock without impacting performance greatly.

Obviously this is all moot in the writer's case (and I don't know how long he would've had to work on building an Arch system), but I thought other owners of XP netbooks looking for a "resurrecting" OS, might want to look at Arch as an option.

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Doctor Who nicked my plot and all I got was a mention in this lousy feature

Tim Walker

Nigel Kneale and Malcolm Hulke

In such a comprehensive collection of instances where "Doctor Who" - now, what's the phrase - "paid homage to" its influences, I'm surprised there wasn't a mention of Nigel Kneale. All three of his "Quatermass" BBC serials of the 50s were "homage-d" in three of the finer stories from the Pertwee era:

- "The Quatermass Experiment" > "The Ambassadors Of Death"

- "Quatermass II" > "Spearhead From Space"

- "Quatermass And The Pit" > "The Daemons"

Despite being invited to write for "Who", Kneale apparently wasn't at all flattered by the "tributes" (or at least, wouldn't admit to it), and made no secret of his belief that "Who" was a silly children's show that trivialised SF and ripped off his work (you judge).

Also: no mention of Terrance Dicks' relating of one of fellow "Who"-scribe Malcolm Hulke's favourite aphorisms?

"What you need in television, is a good original idea. It needn't, however, be YOUR good original idea." (followed by one of Terrance's famous explosive chuckles)

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‘Priceless’ unique Palm ‘FAILEO’ laptop goes under the hammer

Tim Walker

"Even the first eeePCs were underpowered": out of the box, I'd probably agree with that, but I wasn't prepared to settle for that state...

I've owned an Eee 701SD since 2009 (it's humming away on my desk here as I type), and it's still going strong, except that there's no battery so I'm running it off AC power. (Nothing wrong with the battery bay - the battery just wore out, as they do, and I haven't got around to buying a new one.) I upgraded the RAM to 2GB and installed Arch Linux on the machine (choosing Xfce and other lightweight applications), and the Eee is pretty nippy - choose your OS and apps carefully, and it can perform quite acceptably for your usual Web surfing, wordprocessing and so on.

When my 701 hops off to Silicon Heaven (yes, with all the calculators), I wouldn't mind an ARM netbook if I can find one that'll take Arch/ARM - maybe that Samsung Chromebook?

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Penguins, I give you: The SOLAR-POWERED Ubuntu laptop

Tim Walker
Linux

Re: Interesting

I'd go for Arch Linux, personally. I built a stripped-down Arch system on my Eee 701SD, and the little fella zips along, largely thanks to not having all the "lard" a typical Ubuntu installation sticks in there. (Oh, and the RAM maxed-out to 2GB. Every little helps.)

That said, if Debian gives you a similar opportunity to work up from a minimal base installation and choose only the bits you want/need, that should do just as well.

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1953: How Quatermass switched Britons from TV royalty to TV sci-fi

Tim Walker

How much the Doctor owes to the Professor...

It's been said plenty of times before, not only how Nigel Kneale coined the three basic plots of British TV sci-fi with the three Quatermass serials (in order: "we go to them", "they come to us" and "they've always been here"), but how much "Doctor Who" openly borrowed from the shows, even to the point of three whole "Who" stories from the Pertwee era, being specific tributes to them.

"The Ambassadors Of Death" (1970) is practically a rewrite of "Experiment" (British astronauts make contact and aliens send replicas of them back to Earth); "Spearhead From Space" (1970) does the same for "Quatermass II" ("meteorites" bring an alien intelligence to Earth, launching a covert invasion); and "Quatermass And The Pit"'s "alien present on Earth for centuries, seen as the Devil" plot was the basis for "The Daemons" (1971).

Not that Kneale was flattered (at least, not that he admitted) - he reputedly hated "Who" and criticised it scathingly as a silly children's show that plundered his work (you judge).

Also: worth mentioning that "Experiment" was remade by the BBC in 2005, and broadcast as a live performance, just as its ancestor had been. Ironically, David Tennant (Dr Briscoe) had just heard a few days before, that he'd landed the role of The Last Time Lord, so during transmission a fellow cast-member changed a line to greet him as "Doctor"!

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Google adds Atari Easter Egg for Breakout's birthday

Tim Walker
Linux

"Through The Wall"?

I must have whiled away a fair chunk of the Christmas morning when I got my Speccy, just playing Through The Wall... just the novelty of playing a game like that on our home telly was enough!

Thirty years later, I recreated the experience with my then-new Raspberry Pi: plugged it into our TV, installed a Speccy emulator, found a snapshot file of the demo tape, loaded up Through The Wall...

You know, Reg, you really should add an "air soggy with nostalgia" ((c) Tom Lehrer) icon on here ;-)

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Star Trek: The original computer game

Tim Walker
Linux

Arch too...

There's a bsd-games package in the Arch Linux "community" repo:

https://www.archlinux.org/packages/community/i686/bsd-games/

One "sudo pacman -S bsd-games" later, and I'll be back in the 70s... thanks for the "head-up"!

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Tim Walker
Happy

EGATrek

I have vague recollections of seeing a "Trek"-type game running on a schoolfriend's BBC Micro (the jammy goit) in the early-80s, but my main connection with this kind of game came a little later...

At uni in 1993, I inherited my first PC: a wheezy old DOS-running XT clone with an EGA colour monitor (don't ask me how that worked on an XT), which could just about get out of bed to run WordPerfect 5.1 and a couple of EGA-capable games. One of which (via a shareware floppy) was "EGATrek" - a very playable colour "Trek" clone, which I wasted enough hours on in my final year, that I felt honour-bound to send its author the $10 or so registration fee (and pre-Web/Paypal, I can't remember how I managed that).

Amazingly, you can still find EGATrek quite easily if you search around - I've got it loaded into DOSBox on my Arch Linux-running Eee 701 netbook, and I even fire it up every now and then for a ten-minute blast around the quadrant. Even began writing a "definitive guide" in my spare moments, until I realised I didn't have any...

Still hopeless at command levels 4 and 5, though. It's the "Mongol"'s plasma bolts.

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Ten ancestors of the netbook

Tim Walker
Linux

Agreed

As I wrote later in this thread, I ditched the Eee's Xandros within weeks of acquiring my 701, for one simple reason: it wasn't updated. The software versions in the repositories were ancient even by 2009, and were clearly going to remain so, so I decided to jump to another Linux as soon as I picked up a USB CD drive.

Suffice it to say: Eeebuntu until mid-2011 (when it became obvious that distro had been abandoned too), and after that, Arch Linux (to date). The Arch wiki even has a big page on installing on a 701:

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Installing_Arch_Linux_on_the_Asus_EEE_PC

If you still own an Eee 701 and fancy giving it a new lease of life: roll up your sleeves and give Arch a spin (if that's not a crazy mix of metaphors)...

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Tim Walker
Linux

Eee 701SD and what came before

I suppose owning two Psions (3c and 5mx) in the late-90s, prepared me for the refurbished Eee 701SD I picked up in 2009 for barely more than £100.

It's still going strong (beside me as I write) - I long since ditched the Eee version of Xandros it came with, having run Eeebuntu (2009-2011) and since then, Arch Linux. Arch in particular was a good move - it runs surprisingly fast on the 701, as I installed a deliberately- stripped-down and lean set of software on it (Fluxbox instead of GNOME or KDE, etc.). Mind you, maxing out the RAM to 2GB didn't hurt either.

About the only thing I'd replace if I could, is the 8GB SSD, which is constantly groaning at the seams with only a few hundred megs' "headroom". It's a very particular kind of SSD, with a 32GB unit at about £40 (if the moon is in the right quarter), and a bit of a faff to install, so one for the "copious free time and moolah" file.

I think I'll run this little fella until it joins the Psions in Silicon Heaven...

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Guess who PC-slaying tablets are killing next? Keyboard biz Logitech

Tim Walker

@John Tserkezis - K400 issues

Sorry to hear about the issues you had with your K400 - I could only speak for my own experience, but a trawl round the Raspberry Pi forum shows you're not alone in encountering problems. I think I've been lucky, though I may have avoided some trouble by plugging the K's receiver dongle into a powered USB hub - connecting any power-hungry USB device directly to the Pi is a recipe for headaches - but overall the combo has worked well for me.

I do agree, though, that the build-quality of the K400 doesn't impress - it feels light and insubstantial, and I try and treat it carefully. Yes, take the logo off, and I'd guess it was a £20 effort from the Amazon Marketplace - I was fortunate to get it as a Christmas present. For all the K400's functioning well in use, I'd have felt somewhat ripped off if I'd forked out £40 for it (or whatever the RRP is).

If Logitech's going to survive the next year or two, I think it really has to raise its game. They can do better than they've been doing - I hope...

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Tim Walker
Facepalm

Re: Don't mention Squeezebox or Ultimate Ears

Count me in as one of the Squeezebox "loyal fab base" - I have a Duet (Controller and Receiver) running off Logitech Media Server on a Synology NAS (one of the lower-end ARM-based models). The Syno can take a while to buffer the audio to the Receiver before playback, but it's great to be able to play my digital music library through some half-decent hi-fi separates.

I was lucky enough to snap up the Duet as a "blemished box" just around the time Logitech discontinued the range (about 50% off, and the unit was untouched). A Squeezebox Radio might've been nice too, but now I think I'd just cough up for a reasonable speaker-dock and plug in my iPhone (especially as there are apps like Squeezecast and iPeng which basically turn your iThing into a Squeezebox).

It'll be a crying shame if Logitech lets Squeezebox die off - seem to me there are so few network-aware digital music player systems at hi-fi level, which don't require a stockbroker's salary to afford. Even fewer support FLAC - at least I won't have to go looking for SB alternatives for a while yet.

Oh, and FWIW, I use a K400 wireless keyboard/touchpad with my Raspberry Pi. Quite happy with it...

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Google shreds Reader in new round of 'spring cleaning'

Tim Walker

Re: New sync services needed....

I'm giving Feedly a whirl at the moment (as a potential GR replacement), and it looks like it could do the trick, except it bothers me that Feedly appears to "piggyback" on Google's authentication, and I can't find a way to set up a "discrete" (separate) Feedly account.

Any other "cloud-based" RSS aggregators (with or without iOS app) that can import OPML from GReader, but don't depend on it in any other way?

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Tim Walker

Re: CalDAV?

Ah, CardDAV - I was getting mixed up with that. I re-checked the iPhone settings, and I'm pretty sure the setup there is how you described it (GMail for mail/calendars, CardDAV for contacts).

I was nervous that Google might be doing something rash and ill-advised by canning CalDAV - as the Reader announcement shows, it wouldn't be the first time :-(

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Tim Walker

CalDAV?

I'm not sure, but I think CalDAV is the route by which my iPhone syncs contacts (at least) with my Google account - am I right, or does iOS use CalDAV for syncing with any Google PIM data?

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Tim Walker

Re: An alternative? (Feedly)

I'm looking at Feedly at the moment, partly as it offers both a Web interface and an iOS app, but also because it can link up to Google Reader (so hopefully I can lift-and-shift my feeds, etc. over to Feedly with minimal hassle).

Perhaps I'm overlooking it (perhaps to be expected, as I'm new to Feedly), is that I can't find the option to set up a distinct Feedly account, as opposed to "piggybacking" on your Google login. Given that I'm joining Feedly BECAUSE Google is retiring Reader, I don't want my Feedly setup - if I stay with them - to have any dependence on the Chocolate Factory.

Perhaps if I get the Feedly app on my iPhone, it might give me the chance to create an account there?

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Infinite loop: the Sinclair ZX Microdrive story

Tim Walker

Re: BBC Micro Hobbit drive

I owned a Spectrum (48K) myself (though if I'd had a snowball's-chance-in-Death-Valley of affording a Beeb, I'd have jumped at it), but in 1983 my primary school held a series of fundraising events to buy a BBC Model B with (intake of awed breath) a 5.25" floppy disk drive. Oh, how I wanted one... from waiting 3-4 minutes to load a Speccy game off cassette, to just a few seconds on the Beeb - "this is the future", my school-age self thought...

Back on-topic: no, I never owned a Microdrive (too pricey), but I could swear I remember seeing one in WHSmith - still can't believe they ever sold computers - and more recently, in the computer museum in Swindon.

Oh, and after all these years, I finally own a Model B... Raspberry Pi. I'll settle for that :-)

(where's the icon for "misty-eyed middle-aged nostalgic", Reg?)

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Netbooks were a GOOD thing and we threw them under a bus

Tim Walker

Re: I am still using my Eee 701SD...

@Ian Johnston - yup, my 701's touchpad left-button expired a couple of years ago (interesting that it's a not-uncommon problem with that machine, by the sound of it).

Like you, I get around the dead button with pad-taps and (where possible) a mini-optical mouse, but it is mildly irritating, and would probably cost more than the worth of the machine to fix, so I live with it. Still fond of the little scamp, anyway...

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Tim Walker
Linux

I am still using my Eee 701SD...

It's probably difficult for some to believe that anyone above primary-school age could get on with "the original netbook", but I really like my Eee 701 (that's the one with the 7" screen, huge bezel and tiny chiclet keys). I was lucky enough to pick up a refurbished 8GB model in 2009, for barely more than £100, and it's still going strong, except for the original battery which wore out (I'm currently running it off AC until I can get around to sourcing a bigger replacement).

Actually, I get on pretty well with the 701, but then having been an owner of two Psions (3c and 5mx) and a Stowaway keyboard for my old Nokia N95 back in the day, tiny keyboards don't bother me. The 800x480 display can be a bit cramped at times, but again I work around that - for me, it's a payoff for owning a machine small enough to fit on a First Great Western train "tray-table".

Software? A tailored Arch Linux installation, running the Fluxbox window manager and other lightweight applications. Runs surprisingly smoothly, but then I think max-ing out the RAM at 2GB probably helped there. Only thing I'd change if I could: a larger SSD wouldn't hurt, as the 8GB one in my Eee is groaning at the seams (constantly about 95% full; imagine what a big package update is like).

When my 701 dies on me, I don't know what I'd replace it with - maybe one of those Samsung ARM Chromebooks, and try and install Arch/ARM on it?

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VIA bakes a fruitier Rock cake to rival the Brit Raspberry Pi

Tim Walker
Linux

Re: Android?

I imagine this board (which looks interesting, and I'm a RasPi owner who's perfectly happy with it) will be opened up to other OSes at some stage, because otherwise, I don't see the point, for me personally.

One thing I like about my Pi, is the sheer ease of loading the OS I want. Arch (my favourite), Raspbian, RISC OS... it's just a case of flashing a new SD card and swapping it in. I get the idea with the VIA APC, that booting another OS involves rewriting the onboard flash memory, with a risk (however slim) of bricking the machine (though I could be mistaken, as I don't own one).

Frankly, if I wanted a cheap Android machine I could plug into my telly, I'd go for one of these MK802-type sticks which seem to be flooding the market at the moment. As I said, this VIA board looks interesting, but I'd want to be able to change the OS without fear, before I'd look at it again.

Horses for courses, though, and I'm sure this machine will suit some users down to the ground.

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FAVI smacks your dumb TV with £30 Android SmartStick

Tim Walker

Android on the RPi

There's an Android sub-section of the RPi forum at www.raspberrypi.org (scroll down the forum home page to the "Operating system distributions" section) - a quick scan over the topic names suggests Android is being worked on, but it's early days yet.

Personally, I run Arch on my RPi, but if I just wanted it to run as a TV media player, I'd look at one of the dedicated RPi media-centre distros, such as OpenELEC or RaspBMC. A useful Android distribution for the RPi could be some way off, though I may well be mistaken there.

On the other hand: if all you want is a really cheap Android media centre, this stick might suit better than a RPi (it'll be ready out of the box. for one). Doubt it'll only cost £30 by the time it reaches the UK, though...

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Review: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 tablet-cum-Ultrabook

Tim Walker

Re: There are other Linux distros besides Ubuntu...

["Arch guy" again] I agree - Ubuntu makes a lot of effort on the easy-to-install/use front, and Arch isn't recommended for the "newbie" (nor does it claim to be). On the other hand, I was writing "off" this sentence in the review:

"Trying to boot Ubuntu off a USB stick proved equally fruitless. In short, this is not a machine for the home tinkerer or the more casual Linux buff."

Arch is a great distro for customising a lean and fast installation (especially on more limited hardware), but you do really need at least some idea of the "nuts and bolts" of Linux to get the best out of it.

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North Korea releases first computer game

Tim Walker
Trollface

Re: Bow down

Kim Il-sung* wrote this game? I knew he was made out by his state personality cult to be a polymath genius, but if dying in 1994 couldn't stop him in his coding efforts, that's quite a testament to his supernatural abilities...

...then again, if the "Eternal Leader" really produced this when he was alive, it might explain the 1980s visuals...

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Google's Drive + Gmail: A 10GB Dropbox killer

Tim Walker

Re: dropbox

This is pretty much my use-case for Dropbox - backing up and sync'ing files between our Mac and Linux machines, and from time to time, sharing large files and folders. Where there's sensitive stuff, I use either an encrypted Truecrypt container, or an EncFS folder with Cryptkeeper (the latter mainly for the Linux boxen).

I mainly like Dropbox because the "infrastructure", including Linux clients, is fairly mature by now and for the most part, it "just works". In particular, because the Dropbox folder is just like any other folder in the filesystem, on Linux and Mac you can do things like symlinking to and from the folder, and Dropbox works on them.

Not that I'm ignoring Google Drive - I've been using it since the Docs days - and I'm sure there'll be a reasonable Linux client in the end (an official GD FUSE filesystem driver from Google would do nicely), but for now Dropbox does the job for me. I may well end up using the "Gmail large files from Drive" option in future - it's nice to have choices!

(BTW: I found that Otixo provides a useful "unite your cloud storage accounts" service - especially as they make all your cloud accounts accessible via a single WebDAV share. I use this to give my Raspberry Pi access to my Dropbox, GDrive, etc., using the davfs2 WebDAV FUSE driver to mount Otixo's WebDAV share into the Pi's filesystem. Very handy.)

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Power to the people - if you can find a spare socket

Tim Walker

Re: Avoiding taking the last available socket

I always try to bring some kind of multi-plug adapter if I know I'm hopping on a London-bound train. The seats on the trains that run from here to the Big Smoke have a socket under the seats in front, though you will note the singular form there... bringing an adapter should avoid any awkward moments, I hope.

Mind you, there's a problem I find with these trains: where there's a proper table, they provide two sockets mounted on the wall, just above the table. Why problem? Simple: there's only about an inch of clearance between the tabletop and the bottom of the socket... which when you have a netbook with a "wall-wart" adapter which extends about two inches downward, is a bit of a "show-stopper" :-( (My multiplug adapter has the same issue.)

Perhaps I should bring a four-way "gang socket" for these moments... or a bigger battery?

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Quite contrary Somerville: Behind the Ada Lovelace legend

Tim Walker
Thumb Up

2DGoggles FTW!

Many thanks for linking to Sydney Padua's fabulous "Babbage and Lovelace" Web comics at the start - I'm holding out for a printed anthology of those sometime... :-)

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Ay caramba, Ubuntu 12.10: Get it right on Amazon!

Tim Walker
Thumb Down

'Bye-'bye, 'buntu?

I doff my cap to Ubuntu and Canonical for all they (and the open-source developer-contributors) have done to get desktop Linux where it is today - in the sense of "at best, it works better than Windows" - but the more I hear about the path Ubuntu is taking, the more I think I wouldn't put it on a new PC in our house.

A colleague has asked me which Linux distro they could put on an old WinXP PC they have. I replied along the lines of "for a works-out-of-the-box desktop, Mint; for a fast and lean tinkering system, Arch". I'd now only consider Ubuntu for someone who wants a truly "consumer" Linux - if I was going to be a PC's regular sysadmin, I'd install Arch (as I already have on my netbook and Raspberry Pi).

That said: maybe I'll give Ubuntu QQ a spin, and reserve a proper judgement until then...

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Slideshow: A History of the Smartphone in 20 Handsets

Tim Walker
Meh

Must... resist... mustn't... post...

...no, I can't stop it: really, no Nokia N95?

Granted, it seems inconceivable that a "smartphone" launched only five years ago (in the same year as the first iPhone, indeed), could've possessed hardware number-keys and no touchscreen, but the N95 packed 3G data and a 5-megapixel stills/VGA video camera, when it's easy to forget the first iPhone lacked either. (And before the fanbois flame on, yes, the iPhone has caught up somewhat over the years... ;-) )

I'm not going to gloss over the initial software issues - I got my N95 in 2007, so I lived through them - but the device was arguably one of the most capable smartphones of its time, even if the iPhone quickly became the standard for other mobiles to follow (influencing my current Nokia N8... oh, the irony).

Otherwise, interesting feature, not least to see how far we have come in so little time.

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Jam today: Raspberry Pi Ram doubled

Tim Walker

Accelerated X server

Thanks for that info - I keep a weather-eye on the RPi forum, and there's been at least one thread there for some time (maybe more by now) which looks like programmers discussing progress on an accelerated X server, so it seems that people are working on it.

Whilst I don't have a "mission-critical" application which demands hardware-accelerated X11 graphics on the Pi, it'll be a "really-very-nice-to-have" when the feature comes - the icing on the proverbial cake, as it were...

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Tim Walker
Linux

Better late than never ;-)

I received one of the early batch of Pi's back in May (having got my order in seconds before RS' server tanked on the opening morning).

It's actually a pretty good performer - especially since I switched to the "hard float" version of Arch Linux recently - but the one hardware feature* that I think has always hobbled the Pi since I received it, has been the "low" memory" (256MB). There are ways to mitigate this - e.g. I run "lightweight" Linux apps, including the Fluxbox window manager - but you find the RAM filling up pretty quickly - Web browsing can be slow, and I have to enable a temporary swap file if I want to build an Arch software package (e.g. from the AUR).

I wasn't planning to go for a second Pi, but I feel I'll really have to give it some thought - 512MB could make a real difference to the machine, especially for desktop and multimedia use. Won't carp about "why not 512MB at launch?" - it's pretty clear they couldn't do this earlier, and I'm just grateful to the RPi Foundation for offering the upgrade.

* I emphasise "hardware" there - the biggest software tweak they could introduce, would be an accelerated X server which could take advantage of the Pi's 2D and 3D graphics hardware. That could take the machine to a whole new level...

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Why is solid-state storage so flimsy?

Tim Walker

Re: RE: OK, I'm starting to get that "cold sweat" feeling here..

You're probably right, on both counts :-)

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Tim Walker
Unhappy

Feeling paranoid now...

I think I've got into the habit of assuming that storage devices are more reliable than in reality - probably because I've been relatively lucky in twenty-odd years of owning PCs.

I can't remember experiencing any hard disk failures in that time, but I *have* had at least two or three flash drives suddenly fail to work one day (thankfully with no important data on them). In my book, I treat USB flash drives like floppy disks of old - don't keep anything of value on them for long, and if I must, I try and make sure there's at least one other copy of the file somewhere.

One SSD I haven't much given thought to, is the 8GB one in my Eee 701SD netbook. I bought that machine three years ago, and it wasn't new then ("refurbished"), so it's not impossible that one day I'll start up the Eee and D'OH! (to use the vernacular). Even a replacement SSD for the 701 would probably cost £60 or up - most likely more than the machine is worth...

And the elephant in the room: our 2TB NAS. How do you back up a machine possessing more disk space than all your other computers put together? (I'm thinking "distribute the folders across the other computers", but even that isn't ideal... my brain hurts :-( )

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Tim Walker
Unhappy

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

OK, I'm starting to get that "cold sweat" feeling here...

We have a Synology NAS box (a 1-bay model, in case you wondered), which we bought back in 2010. About a week ago the 2TB drive in it started making occasional "click" noises - it's a Samsung "green" disk, which is supposed to power down when it's not in use, but I haven't heard it do this in some time (should check the Synology OS settings).

I try my best to keep important files mirrored elsewhere, but if those "clicks" are a sign that the drive could be failing, I'd better start making sure that nothing I want to lose is only stored on the NAS...

0
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How Nokia managed to drive its in-house Linux train off the rails

Tim Walker
Linux

Re: N900

Thanks for the "head-up" - might go for a browse round eBay shortly :-)

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Tim Walker
Linux

N800 and N900

It's odd to think I saw the N800 on display in PC World, of all places (sometime around 2008, IIRC). It looked Interesting for its time - I think they had this idea that you'd "tether" the N800 via Bluetooth to a Nokia phone like the N95 (which I then owned) for cellular connectivity, and optionally a BT keyboard to complete the "suite". The resistive touchscreen would date it these days, but otherwise the screen didn't look too bad to me.

I remember thinking I wouldn't mind owning an N800, but it was outside my price range and the moment passed. A year or so later, and out came the N900, which was arguably more like a "QWERTY slider phone" which ran Linux (Maemo). I welcomed the idea ("great - I can get a pocket Linux device as my next blower from Carphone Warehouse!" - I thought rather naively...). Part of me still wishes I could've got one - for all I know, N900s are probably going for chump-change on eBay these days, unless the fans are hanging onto them...

Ah, Nokia - they'll be studying you in years to come, as Exhibit A in "leading tech companies who threw it all away" :-(

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Motorola whacks laptop-like phone dock

Tim Walker
Linux

Raspberry Pi owners: start your browsers!

I honestly wonder whether a significant proportion of Atrix Lapdock owners are RasPi enthusiasts, snapping up the "dumb-book" (did I just coin that phrase?) over the last few months as they've ended up massively discounted in the channel...

OK, you still have to expend a few more pounds on the various leads and adapters you need to connect the Pi and the Lapdock (and a couple of hours painstakingly hacking together a "Frankencable" for the purpose), but it's still an interesting project if you're lucky enough to land yourself a cheap Lapdock.

And on that subject: if Motorola is really canning the product now, hopefully there'll be one last wave of EoL stock making landfall soon - if I can find one for my RasPi for <£50, I'd be tempted...

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Just how good is Nokia's PureView 41Mp camera tech?

Tim Walker

Instagram alternative

Some might think it a tiny bit perverse to take photos of the 808's quality and then mangle them down to a 600x600 square, but if that floats your boat and you're missing Instagram, try MOLOME. It's free in the Nokia Store (the Store client should be on the 808), and offers various Instagrammish image filters; MOLOME can also forward your snaps to social and cloud storage networks, including TwitBook, Tumblr, Flickr and Dropbox (plus others).

MOLOME doesn't quite offer the... oh, I have to say the word... "ecosystem" (PTOOOOO! yuk, that leaves a bad taste) that Instagram does (make books and fridge magnets out of your pics, etc.), but if that's your bag then you could always find a similar service that supports Flickr, and use F as a relay to upload your snaps from there.

Yes, I use MOLOME, and no, I have no connection with them (usual disclaimer, blah yada etc) ;-)

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Tim Walker

Re: Going against the flow

Quite right - to be fair, I did mention that sticking with the N8 was my other option :-) Yes, I think I'm probably going to hold fire and see if I can land myself an 808 more cheaply further down the line.

(and there are sometimes when I wish I'd got an N900 myself...)

0
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Tim Walker
Unhappy

Going against the flow

If I had a pound for every comment, blog post, tech review, etc. that talks about Symbian being clunky, outdated, unfamiliar, etc., I could probably afford to buy an 808 PureView SIM-free (which, to my great chagrin, is likely the only way I'd ever get the chance to own one, with no UK networks offering it on contract - thanks for nothing).

I don't begrudge such people their opinions, but they are just that: opinions. I don't find Symbian clunky or outdated, and I struggle with such comments being presented as objective truth - as if no-one could conceive why anyone could possibly want to stick with a Nokia smartphone when there are bigger, shinier iOS and Android models coming out all the time?

In a few months' time, my mobile contract comes up for renewal, and believe me, I've looked long and hard at potential replacements for my Nokia N8 (the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is tempting, for one). However, I feel I'm quite happy with the N8 and its features - just to take one reason from my list, the stills camera on any 2012 smartphone (aside from the 808) would be a downgrade from the N8, and I like to have a decent camera with a proper flash on my phone.

I'm happy with the apps I use (Exhibit A: find me an iOS/Android social-networking client that comes within sight of Gravity on the N8, and I'll look at it), and although there is the odd "hole" (e.g. Skype video-calling), it's nothing I couldn't fill with my netbook or a tablet. Certainly not enough to outweigh the N8 features that 2012 smartphones still don't offer (or not as elegantly).

The one UK phone outlet I found that offered the 808 on contract, has now stopped doing so, and I can't afford to buy one SIM-free, so I'm basically faced with "upgrading" to an iOS/Android device which will lack some key features from my N8, or sticking with my N8 and saving myself some cash (possibly putting it aside to land myself an 808 in a year or so when the price should've plummeted).

I know that in the end, I'll have to move away from this platform, but I'm just not ready to give up its benefits yet... though I really must say the Note 2 is interesting :-)

4
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Momentum builds for iPad Mini launch

Tim Walker

If this turns out to be true...

...I might be interested in an "iPad mini", especially if it turns out to be a "downsized iPad" instead of an "upsized iPod Touch".

Especially if they price it right - a 16GB model, if they can offer it for under £200 (yes, dream on, I know), would really turn my head. I use an iPod Touch for music production - it's surprisingly workable, though the small screen can cramp one's style, but the iPads so far have been too expensive and rather unwieldy in size to cart around.

Mind you, if a prospective iPad mini was sporting the new Lightning connector, that could present minor issues for music-making accessories. I'd need an adapter (cable or otherwise), and hopefully Apple is coming up with a Lightning-format USB Camera Connection Kit (which iPad-toting musos use to hook up audio/MIDI devices).

No idea whether this is all pie-in-the-sky, but suffice it to say I'll be watching developments like a hawk...

0
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Everything Everywhere's 4G: Why I'm sitting this one out

Tim Walker
Unhappy

It's not just rural areas

I've had a bellyache on here before (indulge me), about the fact we live in a new estate on the edge of a supposedly high-tech town in southern England, a mile down the road from a fibred-up exchange, but we can barely get 2Mbps broadband because the cables to the houses are copper (or overcooked noodles, or wet string, or take your pick).

Perhaps I should get onto BT and give them a (polite) earful about when they're going to get around to upgrading our street. Otherwise, if Virgin Media (or even one of the wireless telcos) provides >2Mbps connectivity to our street before BT "get their fingers out", I'd be looking at leaving Marcus Brigstocke's least-beloved telephone service provider...

1
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Asus CEO sounds netbook death knell

Tim Walker

Re: Shame

If you're happy to stick with your 701 for now, I can't recommend the 2GB RAM upgrade highly enough - it's the best hardware mod I could've made to my 701. Along with running a lean install of Arch Linux (no DE, just Fluxbox), the machine zips along like you won't believe...

I really should look into a battery upgrade - if they work OK, one of those monster 10,000+mAh units look interesting :-)

1
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Tim Walker
Linux

Re: So what

I still like my 701 - running Arch Linux, with Fluxbox to eke out better performance (it's certainly quick). I also maxed out the RAM to 2GB, which really made a difference.

Linux is well-suited to netbooks, but I think it needs to be the "right" distro - one which isn't likely to be abandoned at any time (e.g. the original Eee-customised version of Xandros, or Linpus). Perhaps one way to do it is to preinstall a "mainstream" Linux like Ubuntu (so updates will be ongoing), but with the installed packages tailored to a netbook's needs (lighter versions of applications, no unneeded stuff, etc.).

I ditched my Eee's "native" OS within two months, purely because by 2009 it had been abandoned by Asus for some time. I replaced it first with Eeebuntu, and then 18 months later (when Eeebuntu in turn was abandoned) I went for Arch. I had the tech knowledge and the willingness to tinker and explore new Linuxes, but the average consumer probably wouldn't - probably best to choose a distro which wouldn't be left out in the cold within a year, I think...

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Tim Walker
Linux

Re: Shame

Callam: a well-reasoned post, and I can sympathise. I picked up a refurbished Eee 701SD (yes, the "original netbook" - 7" screen, 8GB SSD, Linux (I put Arch on there)) in 2009, and it's served me very well - as an erstwhile Psion owner, I rather like the super-small form factor of the 700-series.

Like you, I'm wondering what I'll do when the little fella either fails, or requires some accessory I can't find (affordably, or at all). I suppose I'd have to do without it, or go back to Laptops Direct and see if I can find another refurbished netbook to stick Arch on. Maybe a cheap tablet might do... though I've seen a couple of ARM-based netbooks like the Hercules eCafe, which might be worth a look?

Meantime, I think the battery is starting to conk out - those high-capacity batteries on Amazon look interesting?

1
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Windows Phone 8: Microsoft quite literally can't lose

Tim Walker

Nokia is out on a limb, with its bridges burned...

If WP8 bombs, Microsoft might be able to absorb the fallout, but it's unlikely that Nokia could (in its present form, anyway). Remember how Nok's CEO (a former Redmond man, no less) ditched the company's two homegrown OS "burning" platforms and threw Nokia squarely into the Windows Phone dinghy?

Unless Nokia's been holding out on us, there is no Plan B - if its WP8 handsets aren't a success, the stakes for Nokia are high indeed.

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Ten netbooks

Tim Walker
Linux

Eee 701SD...

Yup - remember that little fella? 7" screen, small keys, no Win-logo on the "home" key, SSD, etc.?

I do... in fact, three years after I bagged a refurbished 701SD, it's still going strong. I maxed out the RAM to 2GB, and it's running Arch Linux with the Fluxbox window manager (and "cairo-compmgr" for eye-candy). You'd be surprised how nippy the machine runs with that setup - I sometimes wish I could upgrade the SSD to 64GB or something with a bit more headroom, but even if I found a suitable drive, it would cost more than the machine is likely worth :-(

One day, the Eee will dump its last core, and I have no idea what I'd replace it with... so hopefully my 701 has plenty of life in it yet. I suppose any of the machines under review would "do" - on the other hand, I'm holding out for a new generation of ARM-based netbooks. Probably in vain...

0
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Raspberry Pi now comes in Firefox OS flavour

Tim Walker
Linux

Re: Who wouldn't ...

Well, speaking as a RasPi owner, I'm pleased with the "teapot" demo, because it appears to show progress being made on probably the biggest hole in Linux on the Pi at present: the lack of an accelerated video driver in X which can fully utilise the Pi's GPU.

OK, I don't know that for certain, but if this demo DOES mean a 3D-accelerated X video driver for the Pi is a step closer, it's good news as far as I'm concerned...

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