Showing posts from 2005

Old signals

I was recently approached by a company willing to give new life to old security equipment. The system had a proprietary serial bus, but the manufacturer refused to disclose any information about it. Provided it was more than twenty years old it should not be a big challenge.

However, figuring out the details of a serial communication you know nothing about will require some nice tools. This time I bought a nice USB oscilloscope. It's only 1 Mhz bandwith but fast enough for my needs in this case. With it I was able to capture bidirectional communication (as it is dual channel) and start the process of figuring it out.

Just looking at the scope signals will tell you the encoding and bitrate (look for the shortest pulses, they are likely single bits and its time-length will tell you the bitrate). Serial communication used to be mostly asyncrhonous, and this was also the case. Once the time duration of a bit known you can figure out the data length and wether parity is being used or no…

SuSE Linux 10.0 is out

I've just installed in a couple of systems I use. I decided not to do an upgrade from previous versions. It's nice you can use /home partition from a previous install so you can keep all your bookmarks and email and documents without too much trouble.

A bit disappointing is that, still, java applets look bad (due to huge fonts) and that it cannot play almost any media file out of the box. But here is the cure.

As for the rest, the system seems to be quite fast and stable. However, it will not be until some weeks have passed that we may have an informed opinion about this release stability.

Back from summer holidays

Every time I build a new computer or I rebuild and old one I run into trouble. This time I transfer my old computer to one of my children and I bought a new ASUS Pundit-R with the cheapest Celeron I could find (a 2.4GHz one).

Because my kid wanted to play games I replaced the ATI Rage 128 16MB RAM with a NVIDIA 440MX 64MB RAM I had lying on the drawer. However, I needed to get a new fan before as the old one on the card was making a lot of noise. Once the installation blues was over and the kid started playing he came back telling me that the system was freezing. A quick check-up showed the new fan was not properly fitted, so I removed the card and I re-attached the new fan (with funny LED's by the way). Minutes later, same problem. Ok, over time I've developed the attitude that the best brand of hardware is "brand-new". I was not 100% sure the card was ok so I went to the shop and I bought a non-NVIDIA graphics card. This time it was an ATI Radeon 9250 128MB RAM and…

MPlayer rules

I've been using MPlayer quite extensively since I built my digital satellite receiver two years ago. I use MPlayer to play AVI/MPEG/MPEG2/OGM video files and I use MEncoder to actually create such files from MPEG2 broadcasted shows.

These command-line tools that are both great and free software. Tools are based on standard video codecs and there is even support for commercial codecs (provided you get their dll files). I've used MPlayer on Windows, Linux and OSX without any problem.

If you are a perfectionist a great deal of fine tuning of codecs parameters is possible. If you are "good enough" guy (as I am) you'll be pleased with default behavior most of the time (both in terms of computing speed and output quality).

MPlayer is a program to play video/audio files that can also dump audio to a file. MEncoder allows you almost any transformation of your multimedia files (video+audio) plus different filtering options and limited stream cutting. My main use is to reco…

SuSE 9.2, not this time

This distribution is available on for a month or so. You can dowload the installation DVD or you can do an FTP-based install by booting your computer with a small (60MB) ISO image.

I've been using SuSE for three years now and I am, most of the time, quite pleased with it. It is my main distro and I like to have DVD full of software I can install without having an Internet connection. I do like the online update feature too.

I have been upgrading my systems every now and then, mostly because newer KDE versions use to inlcude lots of fixes and new cool features. But when I tried 9.2 to install in my trusty but old Toshiba Satellite (128MB RAM only) it took around 6 hours. Afterwards the system took, everytime, a lot of time to boot because it froze for a long while on udev. And when it booted KDE was almost useless as it was slow to a crawl.

The system was still acceptable, but slow, on SuSE 9.1. Because I had an Ubuntu install CD around I used this instead and now my o…

New wireless router

After five years of trouble-free operation with my 11Mbps D-link DWL1000-AP 802.11b wireless access point I decided to upgrade my home wireless gear. The USRobotics USR-8000A router with print server and the access point were replaced by an SMC2804WBRP-G that contains a print server (for USB printers), 54Mbps 802.11g wireless access point, four ports FastEthernet switch and router, all in one nice box.

My initial research on the net told me the product firmware was quite poor, with lots of users reporting different problems. However, because the retail price was under 100 Euros I decided to give it a try.

The results: I configured the router off-line and then I just switched the old by the new gear on the fly. The p2p software I was running on a server continued running as happy as before. I was a bit dissapointed as the unit's current firmware does not provide fixed IP mapping, this can be a problem.

After some hours of happy networking my son complained an streamed show he was …

A nice video projector

These holidays we've got some new stuff to play with. I'm very impressed with the new Creative Zen Micro, which is a harddisk based 5GB MP3 player plus FM radio plus voice recorder. It looks cool, it sounds superb and the software just works. Very nice too is the new Muvo (same capabilities but Flash-memory based, ours is only 256 MB).

But the star has been the PB1600 video projector. It really delivers a great image for either DVD or VGA. It's 800x600 DLP-based but our 1024x768 iBook displays just fine. Now I need to get a projection screen to get the best result.