Archive for the ‘project_e’ Category

After action report: Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Monday, November 17th, 2014

I’ve sort of hinted at this, but now the full story can be told.

Mike the Musicologist and I went on a road trip to Oklahoma the weekend of November 8th.

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On the road again…

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Heading home. Travel day. In the meantime:

1. Go read this post by Tam. There are echos in it of something some less smart person wrote a couple of years ago.

2. I didn’t realize until the middle of last week that this year is the 50th anniversary of the .41 Magnum. (Ask me about my Model 57.)

3. I took a fair number of photos yesterday while running around with my aunt and uncle (who graciously drove the two hours each way from Cleveland to spend part of the day with me; thanks again, guys!). I’m waiting until I get back to do the post-processing and uploading, but I thought I’d throw one up here that I played with last night.

DSC_0005

I took this with the D40X and the 18-55 kit zoom. It was cropped and the exposure adjusted slightly using Shotwell on Project e. I’m actually pretty happy with the end product, though I may make a second pass over it once I’m in front of iPhoto.

Ubuntu blues.

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

Documenting this here for the record.

I think I have finally resolved the “the system is running in low graphics mode” error I’ve been getting on Project e (which, I will remind you, is an Asus 1005HA with an integrated Intel 950 graphics adapter) since upgrading to Ubuntu 13.04.

This particular document is comprehensive and ultimately useless. I tried every suggestion in it, with no success at all.

What finally seems to have resolved the problem was a suggestion in this thread. Specifically, brucey99’s suggestion to edit /etc/init/lightdm.conf and add

sleep 10

above

exec lightdm

seems to have done the trick. (I used “sleep 20″ instead of “sleep 10″. What’s the harm, 10 seconds more boot time? I can always change it later.)

It also seems like the

sudo service lightdm restart

command from a terminal window works to get things back to normal if the machine does start in low graphics mode.

And I’m not sure it made any difference, but just to document: I also created a xorg.conf file (from xorg.conf.failsafe) and edited the “Device” section:


Section "Device"
Identifier "Intel Graphics"
Driver "intel"
Option "AccelMethod" "UXA"
EndSection

After restarting about a half-dozen times, it hasn’t come up in low graphics mode yet. I’ll see how it goes.

As David Brin once said, “Let the next guy know what killed you.” And thanks, brucey99.

Stuff and things.

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Last week was not a good week. This coming week is shaping up to be pretty hectic (though I am hoping not as personally unpleasant), so there may be a blogging slowdown.

I spent all day yesterday at the 2013 edition of the Texas LINUX Fest. I haven’t been since 2010, but that had less to do with my frustrations with the 2010 organization and more to do with personal issues. (In 2011, that just turned out to be a bad weekend, with having to get my car inspected and deal with other things. Last year, it was in San Antonio; while that may be a welcome change of pace, the schedule wasn’t compelling enough to make me drive 150 miles round trip.)

I thought about doing detailed summaries of each session I attended, but frankly I’m a little worn out and a little lazy. I’d rather mention a handful of panels I did like. (There were some others that I went to, but don’t feel I can fairly evaluate because they weren’t what I was expecting, or I was distracted by other issues (see below), or, in one case, I just think it’d be a jerk move to badmouth the presenter.)

I really enjoyed Theo Schlossnagle’s “Scaling: Lessons Learned and Their Applications to Apache Culture” keynote speech, which covered a lot of good points about complex systems. He sees commonalities between building scalable systems and building communities to support them. Many of the points he made may not be hot news flashes but are worth repeating. Among those:

  • People get so caught up in how awesome it it to build stuff that they forget what the real world looks like.
  • Code is just a tool. It isn’t a child or a family member. You don’t have loyalty to it.
  • Engineers have a tendency to focus on the technology they love instead of the actual problems they face.
  • At the core of things, your job is to tell the computer what to do.
  • Unbalanced hyperspecialization leads to poorly constructed solutions.
  • The biggest challenge is that increasing scale and increasing performance demands lead to increased complexity.
  • Technological complexity is an emergent property of complex and changing business problems. This complexity has to be understood and managed, which is difficult for specialists.
  • If you don’t provide value, your [stuff] doesn’t matter.
  • In order to survive, we need generalists. Schlossnagle didn’t quote Heinlein, but he might as well have.

David Stokes from Oracle did what I thought was an excellent talk on “The Proper Care and Feeding of a MySQL Database”. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been dabbling in MySQL, so I got a lot out of this. Some of it may have been obvious (more RAM, more disks, good things. Use decent hardware, not something you scavenged from the admin assistant because it was too slow to run the latest Office), but the two things we learn from history are that too many people don’t learn from history, and that the obvious often isn’t.

Philip Ballew’s “Ubuntu; Where We Were, and Where We Are” presentation was…amusing, shall we say, mostly for the level of skepticism directed at Ballew from the audience, many of whom seem to be skeptical about recent Ubuntu decisions like the replacement of X. I’m becoming increasingly skeptical of Ubuntu myself; I just upgraded to 13.04, and now I’m running into the “The system is running in low-graphics mode” error, which I haven’t had time to fully debug. The worst part is that I’m getting this only intermittently; I think it may be a timing issue, possibly with some Virtual Box kernel extensions.

Owen Delong’s “IPv6 – It’s Easy on LINUX” presentation was also very good. I haven’t even started to configure my systems for IPv6 (and I’m not sure everything supports it: I’m sure about the Mac and Project e, but less sure about some older gear), so I found Delong’s talk useful. I was surprised, though, that there was even more hostility and skepticism from the crowd than there was at the Ubuntu panel. Why is IPv6 an issue in 2013? And many of the questions from the crowd seemed to boil down to “How do I emulate this particular thing I do in IPv4 using IPv6, even though the reason this is needed in IPv4 is because we have a limited number of IPv4 addresses available, where in IPv6 we could give every single atom in the universe a unique address and not run out?”

Okay, that was a long question, but you get the point.

Brad Richardson’s “GPU based password recovery on LINUX” lightning talk is worth checking out. He was able to do the talk in about five minutes, instead of the allotted ten, and the subject is interesting; using reasonably priced GPUs, you can rapidly break MD5 hashes, orders of magnitude faster than throwing a general purpose CPU at the problem. (Richardson’s slides give specific performance figures: try 16 hours 46 minutes to brute-force a “8 character password with lowercase, uppercase, and numbers”, versus an estimated 36 days for a CPU based attack.)

Anyway. Tomorrow is the start (for me) of Yet Another Perl Conference 2013. (I registered for the conference itself, but couldn’t afford any of the training going on over the weekend or after the conference. Plus the training conflicted with the LINUX Fest.) I expect to be pretty tied up Monday through Wednesday, though I will try to blog from YAPC as downtime and network connectivity permits. I may even try to blog YAPC 2013 itself, but I can’t promise that.

Edited to add: Why did I not have a “Perl” category on this blog, but did have a “Python” category, given that I use Perl more often than Python? Fixed.

Edited to add 2: Thinking some more about it, it made sense to have a “Programming Languages” category and make Perl, Python, and others sub-categories below that. I’m still thinking about whether it makes sense to put the languages category under “CompSci”, but that way lies TJIC madness.

Edited to add 3: I realized there were two other points I wanted to make.

  1. I was much more favorably impressed with the organization of TXLF this year than I was in 2010. Of course, they’ve had four of these, so you would expect them to have the bugs fixed. Still, I was impressed at how smoothly almost everything from registration onwards ran. The only problem I saw was an unexplained 20 minute delay in the start of the lightning talks, but I didn’t feel that was a major issue.
  2. The quantity of tchotchkes available at TXLF? Very high. The quality of tchotchkes available? Still evaluating that, but I’m decently impressed. Favorites: the microfiber cleaning cloths from OrangeFS, and the SavvisDirect USB/12V adapters. Special mention goes to Hostgator, who were giving away a much wider variety of tchotchkes than any other single vendor.

Lessons learned.

Monday, August 6th, 2012

So…somebody I know was having problems with their netbook running Ubuntu.

The somebody in question decided (for good and sufficient reasons) that part of the problem might be due to them having done several upgrade installs of recent Ubuntu versions which left cruft on the system. This somebody thought the best thing to do was to make a backup of /home, reformat the box, and reinstall Ubuntu 12.04 from scratch, blowing away all the existing data and partitions.

Which they did.

The somebody in question had a MySQL database on the box that had somewhere around ~2,500 records in it. It was a fairly simple database, probably overkill for MySQL: one table, a few columns.

It turns out that MySQL doesn’t store databases in /home. MySQL stores databases in /var/lib/mysql by default, and the somebody in question never changed the default. (This vaguely makes sense if you think about it; after all, MySQL is intended to be a multi-user database, so why would you store databases under an individual user’s home directory by default?)

The somebody in question found this out after blowing everything away. And, of course, the somebody in question only backed up /home.

Fortunately, the database isn’t that important, and much of the data on it can be recovered from older .CSV files that were used to import the data into MySQL.

But next time, the somebody in question is going to backup every damn thing, not just /home.

The somebody in question is also going to try to get out of the habit of making assumptions about where things are stored.

Hmmmmmmmm.

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

In the DEFCON 20 day 2 notes discussing the ADS-B presentation by Renderman, I alluded to some work on using USB TV tuners to pick up ADS-B broadcasts.

I did a little more research on this earlier today, just to satisfy my own curiosity.

The RTL2832U outputs 8-bit I/Q-samples, and the highest theoretically possible sample-rate is 3.2 MS/s, however, the highest sample-rate without lost samples that has been tested so far is 2.8 MS/s. The frequency range is highly dependent of the used tuner, dongles that use the Elonics E4000 offer the widest possible range (64 – 1700 MHz with a gap from approx. 1100 – 1250 MHz). When used out-of-spec, a tuning range of approx. 50 MHz – 2.2 GHz is possible (with gap). [Emphasis in the original – DB]

Holy cow! I’ve been wanting to mess with software defined radio, but the $1,500 cost for hardware is a bit discouraging. This looks like an excellent way to get started for about $20 instead. The necessary software is linked from the rtl-sdr page, and you can even get a script that will build gnuradio with the proper components.

What has been successfully tested so far is the reception of Broadcast FM and air traffic AM radio, TETRA, GMR, GSM, ADS-B and POCSAG.

Yow!

Edited to add 8/4: We are not amused. In the past two days, we have been to Fry’s. The shelves at Fry’s were almost completely stripped bare of USB TV adapters. We have also been to three different branches of Discount Electronics; none of them had any of the listed adapters. We have checked Google, and all of the adapters listed with the E4000 tuner do not appear to be available from vendors in the United States. The only adapter on rtl-sdr’s list that we were able to find was the Ezcap EZTV645 DVB-T Digital TV USB 2.0 Dongle with FM/DAB/Remote Controller which DealExtreme sells. However:

  1. There are conflicting reports as to whether this is the one rtl-sdr is talking about, and whether this one has the E4000 tuner.
  2. There are a lot of reports that DealExtreme is slow in shipping; as in, a month or longer.

I’ve ordered the Newsky TV28T that’s listed on the sysmocom site (linked from the rtl-sdr page). With shipping, it came out to 23.30 euros, or about $28.86 in dollars. That’s still well within my price range for tinkering with SDR. I’ll update when the device gets here.

In the meantime, if anyone has any GNURadio or general SDR tips, advice, or suggestions, please feel free to leave them in comments or shoot me an email. Contact addresses are in the usual place.

(And thanks, Borepatch.)

After action report: Las Vegas, NV 2012.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

I don’t have much new to report as far as equipment, but I do have a couple of notes on existing stuff. DEFCON for the past few years has run a “secure” network using MSCHAPv2 authentication.

  1. This worked fine on the Kindle Fire. I was able to log in and browse whenever the network was working. However, there seems to be some sort of bug in the Kindle Fire: after a certain amount of time, the wifi setting on the Fire would either stop responding completely (on/off switch wouldn’t do anything) or would immediately crash (with an error message) as soon as I tried to open the setting.
  2. The default Network Manager on Ubuntu 12.04 would not connect to the “secure” network at all, but just constantly brought up the authentication prompt. Google turned up more than a few reports of Ubuntu issues with Network Manager and MS-CHAPv2 authenticated networks, so it seems this is a known issue. I worked around this by downloading and installing wicd, which was able to connect. However, wicd does not appear to save network settings, so every time I wanted to connect to the network, I had to re-enter the configuration.

(In general, I’m seeing more and more problems with project e and Ubuntu 12.04. I suspect some of these may be issues caused by doing several upgrade installs in succession, so I may try doing a backup of /home, reformatting project e, and doing a scratch install and restore of 12.04.)

Food: I had excellent meals at Lotus of Siam (the sea bass drunken noodles) and at Piero’s Italian Cuisine, which is a very old-school Italian restaurant near the convention center.

That was some swell osso bucco. And I don’t think I paid much more for it than I paid for osso bucco at Ciola’s when they were still open.

I also broke with one of my rules and went back to Shabu Shabu Paradise again. In my defense:

  1. I really like these people and want them to be enormously successful.
  2. I haven’t been there since my last trip with Andrew and Mike the Musicologist.
  3. I kind of have a tiny little crush on the waitress. Who, by the way, recognized me from my previous visits, even though I was clean-shaven last time. (I think she’s married to the chef, so nothing’s going to come of that.)

I also had a good meal at Mint Indian Bistro, and very good breakfasts at Blueberry Hill on Flamingo and The Egg and I on Sahara. (The rule doesn’t apply to breakfast, as it is very very hard to find good breakfast places that aren’t casino buffets, Denny’s, or IHOPs in Vegas. If anybody does have a recommendation for a good breakfast place in Las Vegas, please feel free to drop it into the comments.)

I’ve been driving past Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas for years now, considering giving them a try and then not going after all. This time, thanks to Tam inspiring a German food craving in me, I thought I’d give it a shot. The verdict: meh. It wasn’t a horrible meal. The service was pleasant and efficient. But it seemed like I paid a fair amount of money for pretty average food. Walburg is better and cheaper and really not that bad a drive if I go there from work. (You’d be hard-pressed to spend $50+ at Walburg without either being too full to move or too drunk to drive.)

I drove past Flavor Flav’s House of Flavor several times (it is very close to my preferred ATM in Las Vegas, which, in turn, is far enough away from DEFCON that I’m not any more paranoid than usual about using that ATM), and I regret not getting a photo.

I did get some photos (but they didn’t come out well) of “Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer“. BBQ and beer? I can haz both?

(By the way, I was never offered a full can of soda on any of my Southwest flights. But I did get a full can of drinking water between PHX and AUS.)

Thanks to: Everyone at DEFCON 20 (staff, goons, presenters, and attendees), the folks at Shabu Shabu Paradise, Lotus of Siam, the Egg and I, Blueberry Hill, and Mint Indian Bistro, the Mob Museum, Amber Unicorn Books, Greyhound’s Books, Borepatch for linky-love, and anyone else I missed.

0-day DEFCON 20 notes.

Friday, July 27th, 2012

I got in line for my badge around 7:30 AM. Registration opened at 8 AM, according to the schedule.

I got my badge at 9:30 AM. I have no idea how many people were in line, but it was packed. We were told that folks started camping out for badges at 10:30 PM Wednesday night.

But, hey! I got mine!

After what was (in my opinion) last year’s badge fail, they went back to an electronic badge this year, still tied in to a “crypto-mystery” game, but at least the badge does something useful.

Or perhaps can do something useful, would be a better way of putting it. The designer calls it a “development platform”: there’s holes for I/O pins at the top, and we were issued VGA (1) and PS/2 connectors (2) with the badge to attach ourselves. And remember my inquiry a while back about microcontrollers? The badge CPU is a Parallax Propeller.

(I haven’t been able to get the badge and Project E talking yet. I suspect a bad or wrong USB cable.)

I hit two panels today. Worth noting is that today’s theme was “DEFCON 101″: there was only one programming track, and the theme of those items was more “introduction to” rather than “deep dive.”

DaKahuna’s “Wireless Security: Breaking Wireless Encryption Keys” wasn’t quite what I expected, in that he didn’t do a live demo. (Though he did suggest that there would be systems available for practice in the Wireless Village.) Rather, this was something of a “view from 10,000 feet” presentation, giving a basic introduction to hardware requirements and tools for attacking wireless keys, along with explanations of how WEP and WPA keys work, and where the vulnerabilities are. A lot of this stuff I already knew from my academic studies, but then again, I wasn’t the target audience here, and I did pick up a few tips.

The presenters for “Intro to Digital Forensics: Tools and Tactics” sold me in the first five minutes by pointing out that:

  • Not everyone knows everything.
  • It would behoove the community to stop acting like dicks when people ask reasonable questions, like “What switches should I use for NMap?”.

The presenters then proceeded to give example usages for what they considered to be the top five tools for testing and exploration:

  • The Metasploit framework, which they sadly ran out of time while discussing.
  • Ntop, the network traffic analyzer.
  • Nmap, for doing port scans and OS fingerprinting. For example:
    #nmap -v -sT -F -A -oG 10.x.x.x/24
    What does this mean?
    -v turns on verbose mode
    -sT forces NMap to do a full TCP connection to each host
    -F enables fast scan mode
    -A tells NMap to do OS fingerprinting
    -oG tells NMap to output in a format grep can work with,
    10.x.x.x/24 tells NMap the range of hosts to scan.
  • tcpdump, which captures packets on a given network interface.
    tcpdump -i eth1 -n -x
    -i specifies the interface
    -n turns off /etc/services translation, so instead of displaying the service name (ftp, telnet, etc.) it just shows the port number.
    -x dumps hex output to the screen
  • Netcat, which creates TCP sockets that can be used for communications between systems. But that’s a little misleading. Let’s say we have two systems, our localhost and a machine at 192.168.1.128. On the .128 machine, we run:
    nc -l -p 2800 -e cmd.exe
    -l tells netcat to listen for a connection
    -p tells netcat to listen for that connection on port 2800
    -e tells netcat to run a command when a connection is made on that port: in this case, netcat will run cmd.exe.
    On the local system:
    nc 192.168.1.128 2800 connect
    which establishes a connection between our system and the remote system. The remote system will run cmd.exe, which (on a Windows system) should give us a command shell on the remote system that we can use from our localhost.

I took the rest of the day off to visit a couple of bookstores (both are still there, pretty much unchanged) and the Mob Museum.

My first thought was that $18 seems a bit stiff. Then again, the Atomic Testing Museum is $14, And the Mob Museum seems to have more people on staff, and may possibly be a little larger than the ATM. (I can’t tell for sure, but the Mob Musuem bascially has that entire building: all three floors.) ($5 for parking cheesed me off a bit, though.)

Anyway, while the Atomic Testing Museum is still my favorite Vegas musuem, the Mob Museum is well worth visiting, especially if you have an interest in organized crime in the United States. (Not just in Vegas, though that is a key focus; the museum also talks about organized crime in other areas, including NYC and Cleveland.) There is a lot of emphasis on Estes Kefauver, perhaps just a little more than I thought was warranted.(I admit, I chuckled at the “Oscar Goodman” display.)

Two things that surprised me:

  1. The number of families with small children at the Mob Museum. Parents, would you take your kids to a museum devoted to organized crime? (There’s some pretty graphic stuff, but the Museum confines it all to one section, warns you before you enter the section, and gives you an option to skip past it.) (And I feel kind of hypocritical saying this: if my parents had taken me to the Mob Museum when I was, say, 10, wild horses couldn’t have dragged me out of there.)
  2. The popularity among small children of the firearms simulator. Kids were having a lot of fun pretending to be cops, running through various scenarios (like a domestic dispute) and busting caps in bad guys. (I didn’t tell any of the kids that, had they actually been out on the street, they’d be dead before they got their first shot off. Do I look like an asshole?)

Tomorrow is when things start for real. Look for an update, but probably late in the evening.

(Oh, I did want to mention Chad Everett’s death yesterday, but I was using the Kindle to blog, which was a pain, and things got kind of sideways leaving LAX and arriving in Vegas, so consider this your obit watch.)

I heartily endorse this event or product. (#7 in a series)

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

ThinkPenguin.

Back in May of last year, I wrote about upgrading my wireless router to a dual-band Netgear WNDR3700, and the problem posed by the lack of a dual-band wireless adapter in the Project e netbook.

Since then, I’ve been looking for a dual-band 2.4GHz – 5GHz 802.11N USB adapter that was fully supported by Ubuntu out of the box; no NDIS wrapper, just straight plug it in and have it work. I actually bought and returned one adapter that ended up not meeting those requirements. I kept looking, and kept beating my head against a wall.

The last time the issue came up, I noticed a mention of ThinkPenguin on the Ubuntu “WifiDocs/WirelessCardsSupported” page. “Okay,” I said to myself. “Why not check to see what they have?”

Sure enough, ThinkPenguin offered a dual-band USB wireless 802.11N adapter that they claimed would work right out of the box with all current versions of Ubuntu. It was a little more expensive than the 802.11N adapters that you find on sale at Fry’s, but by this point I was willing to pay a few extra dollars for something that would Just. Freaking. Work. So I placed an order.

I picked up the adapter last night, booted up the netbook, plugged it in, and…

…It. Just. Works. Right out of the box. Ubuntu had no problems recognizing the device, I had no problems connecting to my 5 GHz network (even without external antennas; more on this in a moment), and I’m getting the expected substantial speed improvement. If I get a chance, I’ll see if I can post some direct speed comparisons between ThinkPenguin’s adapter and the Asus built-in one.

I’ve also had occasion to communicate with ThinkPenguin support, and I was extremely impressed with the speed of their response; using their online support form, I got a response back to my questions in less than one hour. I consider that outstanding.

I will concede, as I said above, that ThinkPenguin’s offerings are a little more expensive than the stuff you find at Fry’s. I paid $64 for the adapter I ordered (plus about $6 for priority mail shipping); dual-band adapters at Fry’s typically seem to run about $40 (plus local tax of 8.25%) for name brands. The thing is, my time is worth more than $20/hour to me; I’m willing to pay for stuff that works right away, and does what I want it to do without limits.

If that’s the way you feel, I recommend you check out ThinkPenguin.

(One other point: you’ll note that I didn’t offer a specific link to the adapter I bought. That’s because, according to ThinkPenguin support, they’ve dropped that adapter from their catalog. TP states they plan to introduce a new adapter in the next month or two, as soon as they can raise funds to get the adapter produced. In the meantime, while the adapter I ordered is not listed on their site, TP still has a small stock available, and you can purchase it by contacting them through their website or calling 1-888-39-THINK (84465). Please note that I haven’t received any freebies from TP; I’m just a very satisfied customer.)

(Edited to add: Also, if you’re going to order an adapter that supports external antennas, just a note: it is easier to order both the adapter and the antennas at the same time. TP will still sell you the antennas as a separate item; they just don’t have them cataloged, and it will require an email/phone call.)

Talkin’ GPS Blues (part 1).

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

A long time ago, my great and good friend Glen pointed me in the direction of a Steven Jay Gould essay about his encounter with Richard Feynman. Gould’s point in that essay was that he thought Feynman wasted a lot of time trying to understand evolution from the ground up, time that Feynman could have spent making valuable contributions to the theory instead. My response is that I think I understand where Feynman was coming from; the only way he felt like he could contribute something was to start from first principles and work his way forward until he understood each step. I’m not anywhere near as smart as Feynman or Gould, but I feel much the same way as Feynman did. Hence, the long and rambling nature of this entry.

I have six GPS systems. That’s probably more than any one sane person needs, but we can leave that discussion for another time.

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Do Androids dream of electric apps?

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

As noted previously, I finally resolved the phone issue. (And AT&T can still die in a fire.)

The number one question I’ve been getting (replacing “Where did you get that shirt?” at the top of the charts) is: “How do you like your new phone?”

Answer: I like it just fine, but…below are some preliminary thoughts on Android (at least, as implemented on the EVO 4G; I do realize that some of these may be issues with the built-in apps, rather than the Android OS itself):

  • It is disappointing to me that the alarm built into the EVO’s clock app can’t be set to play arbitrary sound files as alarms. (I fall into Ihnatko’s 2% who haven’t seen the movie yet, but I love the story behind “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien“.)
  • Ditto that I can’t set an arbitrary sound file for text message notifications.
  • It is also disappointing to me that there’s no basic Notepad type app provided with the EVO. I’m sure there’s probably 300+ on the Android marketplace, but I needed to make a shopping list this morning and didn’t have time to sort through all of them. Any tips?
  • Integration between the built-in music player and the built-in navigation app is also a disappointment; the navigation app will pause the player to make route announcements, but you have to manually start the player up again, rather than it automatically resuming play.
  • On the plus side, the sound is great; I can listen to podcasts in the car without having to hook into my (currently non-functional) stereo system.
  • The on-screen keyboard is vastly better than using the keypad (even with T9) was on the T616, and somewhat better than the on-screen keyboard on the N800. However, I still have a lot of trouble hitting the correct key with my large-ish fingers.
  • One of the drawbacks of purchasing an Android phone is synchronization with the MacBook. If I had purchased an iPhone, everything would be simple (or at least, simpler). But, no, I had to be different and resist peer pressure… At some point, I suspect I will end up ordering this. (Right now – and I do realize this is a phone controlled setting – the MacBook sees the phone as a USB disk drive with photos on it, and automatically opens iPhoto. I can browse the Android file system and copy files to or from it without problems.)
  • Speaking of iPhoto, I’ve done almost nothing with the built-in camera yet.  I need to work on that.
  • The EVO’s calendar app has a noticeable lag; it takes a couple of seconds to switch to the current date when I bring it up.
  • If there’s a way to sync the EVO’s calendar app with Google Calender, I haven’t found it, and there doesn’t seem to be a separate Google Calender app (like there is for Maps, Voice, Earth, etc.). Do I need to grab some other calender app off the Android Market? (Edited to add 9/10: Okay, I think I’ve figured this one out. You can sync the EVO app with Google Calender, it just isn’t quite as straightforward as I was looking for.)
  • The EVO also seems to lag behind in changing screen orientation when I rotate the phone.
  • I managed to get the Android SDK and the ADT plugin installed without problems on the MacBook, but the ADT plugin won’t install into Eclipse on Project e. It looks like there are some dependencies that Eclipse can’t resolve, but I can’t figure out what those are. I may have to blow away and reinstall Eclipse (which isn’t a major issue; I don’t have a bunch invested in Eclipse on Project e).
  • I either need to dig out my old Java textbook, or see if I can find an updated edition cheap online.
  • Speaking of textbooks, and having nothing to do with Android in particular, I just paid $180+ for a damn textbook. This makes me mildly cranky.
  • My old T616 in the case fit neatly into the magazine phone pocket of my 5.11 tactical pants. The EVO? Doesn’t fit. Dear 5.11 folks: maybe we could think about redesigning that pocket to fit smartphones? (I wear 5.11 tactical pants (or, as some people call them, “Kaiser blade Internet pants“), not because I’m a mall ninja, but because they are the most comfortable and toughest pants I’ve found. Plus they make it really easy to carry all my stuff.)
  • Battery life is…well, middling. I haven’t really tried optimizing power consumption, though, except for turning off WiFi and Bluetooth. (Hurrah for the EVO’s control panel that allows easy access to those settings.)
  • There’s a few applications I’m looking for and would welcome advice on finding in the Android market. The first one is a good WiFi scanning utility; ideally, it would have the ability to log access points with GPS coordinates, note if the points are A, B, G, or N, note if they’re open or closed (and if they’re WEP, WPA, WPA2, etc.), and write all this data to a XML or KML file. It looks like there are several apps in the market that meet these criteria, but I’m not sure which ones are good.
    The second app I’m looking for is a good vehicle management application. At a minimum, I’d like to be able to enter an odometer reading and number of gallons, and get a miles-per-gallon figure for that tank, as well as an average MPG for all tanks to date. It’d be spiffy if I could also enter a price per gallon, as well as other expenses (insurance, repairs, maintenance) and get a cost-per-mile figure as well.
  • I love the GPS Status app.
  • I’ve played a little with the Amazon Kindle app; so far, I’m more impressed with it than I am with the refurbished Kindle I purchased earlier this year.
  • The EVO’s screen is impressive. Much better than the N800’s. I haven’t done a side-by-side with an iPhone 4 yet, but I’m willing to bet it gives the iPhone a run for its money.
  • The EVO’s video player can decode H.264 video! (I haven’t done anything with the camcorder app, so I don’t know what format it encodes video in.)
  • Waiting for a sale on those 32GB microSD cards…
  • Edited to add: There’s also no general file browser app on the EVO.

Again, I generally like the phone; most of these are just minor quibbles that I can probably solve one way or another.

After action report: Las Vegas, NV.

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I covered a lot of stuff in my previous travel report, so this will mostly just be updates.

  • Project e worked spectacularly well at DEFCON. This is the first chance I’ve had to really push the battery life, and I was able to get an good 12+ hours out of the battery without running it totally dry. (This was with the machine set to “powersave” and putting it into “standby” or “hibernate” when I was in the dealer’s room, or driving around with Mike the Musicologist and Andrew. Continuous usage with the wireless would have been more like 6+ hours, I think, which is still pretty impressive.)
  • My one regret is that I forgot my Alfa external WiFi adapter. I would have enjoyed playing with that at the convention.
  • The 5.11 bailout bag also worked out well for lugging around Project e and various other equipment. Again, I was able to carry a pretty good load, including the laptop, charger, books, a couple of bottles of water,  the small camera, and miscellaneous other necessities.
  • MtM has the Nikon with him and has been taking a lot of photos. As you saw below, I did use the Nikon to take some Gehry photos. When I have more time, I’m going to put up an expanded and annotated Flickr photo set; I did some side-by-side experiments with aperture priority vs. automatic exposure.
  • Food in Las Vegas was, without exception, pretty darn good. The worst meal I had (at the Four Kegs) was still better than average (and I didn’t order the stromboli, which is the house specialty). We also had a very good (if loud) tapas meal at Firefly* on Paradise, the usual wonderful meal at Lotus of Siam, the previously mentioned dinner at Shabu-Shabu Paradise, and a Moroccan meal at Marrakech. (I had not previously had Moroccan food, so I can’t comment on how authentic it was. I certainly enjoyed my meal, and the belly dancer didn’t hurt.)

    Vegas does have something of a shortage of good breakfast places outside of the casinos (and even inside of the casinos, if you’re not looking for a buffet). We had several good breakfasts at Blueberry Hill on Flamingo and one excellent breakfast at The Egg and I on Sahara. I know that MtM and Andrew went to a good Italian place in New York, New York while I was at the convention, and I’ll let them comment on that.
  • Between Tucson and Las Vegas, the refurbished Kindle I ordered arrived, and it went on this trip. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about the Kindle later on, but my first impression is “Meh”. I did manage to read John Clark’s Ignition! in PDF format and a Project Gutenberg MOBI format copy of Heart of Darkness without too much trouble, but my experiences with other PDF files and eBooks have been inconsistent.
  • On the other hand, I finished, and highly recommend, Ubuntu for Non-Geeks 4th Edition and am almost finished with Cisco Routers for the Desperate 2nd Edition (also recommended). No Starch Press rocks. And the coupon code “DEFCON18″ will get you a 30% discount. And they’re running a half-price sale on all e-books.
  • My Southwest experience this time was much more pleasant. No misplaced bags, and no flight delays. One thing that was particularly unusual was going through the security line in Las Vegas; I had, literally, no wait. Just walked straight up to the TSA agent and got in line for the metal detector. It took longer to take my shoes off and the laptop out than it did to get through the rest of security.

My thanks to, in no particular order, the DEFCON 18 staff and presenters, No Starch Press, UNIX Surplus, SEREPick, Lotus of Siam, Shabu-Shabu Paradise, Sarah at the iBar in the Rio, and the unknown belly dancer at Marrakech.

Special thanks to my high-speed, low-drag travel companions in the primary, Mike the Musicologist and Andrew “Porous concrete? What were they thinking?” Wimsatt.