Re-adding Internet Radio to the O2 Joggler

Did I say before that I’m a subscriber to the idea that everything in life is about stories?

The Joggler is a little atom machine, with a clever stand that acts as a heatsink for the CPU. O2 originally marketed it as a sort of family organiser, and then dropped it to £50 or so to clear what was presumably stock that wasn’t shifting.

A few months back O2 announced they’d be updating their Joggler unit’s software, what wasn’t made plain in the announcement or the notification received on the device itself was that this in fact would remove the clock / internet radio functionality and other gubbins for which I’d picked up the unit in the first place.

This made it completely useless for my purposes. It’s tempting to rail at this point against a malignant corporate entity… you wouldn’t be too happy if your car’s manufacturer suddenly remotely disabled it’s ac function / radio / wheels. So, we now have the villain of our piece.

Are O2 really thinking about you?

YouTube Preview Image

O2 have indeed been thinking about their users. Hunched in their support castle, built from the bones of a million children, perched atop a desolate mountain of fear they watch the still, fetid waters of a large cauldron and through the murk glimpse innocent people washing their dishes whilst listening to online radio. “THIS CANNOT CONTINUE” the head troglodyte spits, soaking those support minions unfortunate enough to be in the front row.  “Everyone knows technical devices are supposed to be barely fit for purpose and waste far more time in troubleshooting than they return in productive use…READY THE UPDATE MY MINIONS”. Small leathery creatures are whipped to ever greater effort as they delete modules of code…

Etcetera.

The problem with this story is a modern reality: often a product as a physical item and the services provided on it are two very separate things.

Experience working in the IT industry means realising that often you don’t have full control of the “service” you provide. The reasons for this can be many and varied, from a partner organistion dropping support to license requirements and technical changes making the service untenable to continue.

Is that the end of the story?

The difficulty with fixing this is that it does require a certain amount of what can only be described as technical farting about. It may be that a much greater % of users are happy taking these sort of steps than in the past, but I can also imagine that a very large % of the Jogglers out there will end up on Ebay or worse, chucked in the back of cupboards or in the bin. That’s a sad story, whichever way you look at it.

Whatever the reasons, luckily this story has some heroes too. People are providing mods adding other OS’s or additional software (such as Squeezeplay for online radio).

The steps to modify an updated and useless Joggler are relatively simple if you’re of a technical persuasion

Firstly, load a different stock OS version to your Joggler, this can either be the original release firmware or the latest (the version of which available online allows the magic root telent access).

For what it’s worth, I loaded the “Openpeak-small” image from the list of those available

This then needs to be written to a USB key, in Linux you can use the following to do so. Replace /dev/sdc with your USB disk. DON’T randomly try values, /dev/sda for example is highly likely to be the main hard disk drive in your machine.

user@computer:$ gzip -dc openpeak-small_12-06-14.img.gz | sudo dd of=/dev/sdc bs=1M

Boot your Joggler with the USB key plugged in and the replacement OS should be installed after a few minutes.

With your Joggler now receptive to being modified, you can download and load the third party bundle that re-adds the removed functionality and a few other goodies such as ssh administration

I went with PNPIII (Others are available)

Basically, it’s a quick and easy way to greatly enhance the functionality and usefulness of your Joggler whilst retaining the ease of use of the original operating system!

This needs to be uncompressed to a USB key, it is then simply a point of telnetting onto your now accessible Joggler (you can find it’s assigned IP within the settings section) and executing the install script for the mod.

I now have more weird and wonderful internet radio stations than I’ve time to listen to.

Hector – We Negotiate with Terrorists Review

Alright, quickly now: ‘Hector – We Negotiate with Terrorists’ is a point and click crime comedy game that I purchased for less than a fiver and completed in a rainy afternoon. The puzzles are mostly pretty logical and clearly laid out and there is a nice hint system if you miss anything. The game is a little buggy, some of Hector’s comment dialogue seems to be missing, the game froze up / bugged out on me a couple of times and the voice work could be of a higher bitrate.  There is potential for the developer to develop their gags, both knowing and crude, as well as their send-up references of more esteemed cop fiction in future episodes.

Overall I’ve give it a solid 80% – Read on for a bit more…

Continue reading Hector – We Negotiate with Terrorists Review

allsimple.net VPS Review

Time certainly does fly… as such this is a three month review of the VPS service at allsimple. I picked up one of their VPS via LEB to host this blog and a few bits and pieces and have been pleasantly surprised with the results.

The closest equivalent retail package would be at a somewhat higher £11 p/m with the below limits. I’m paying £4.40 for  512MB Swap and 200GB bandwidth. The VPS I have sees 2x CPU cores (see below for full cat /proc/cpuinfo).

Linux Virtual Servers – 512MB VPS
512MB Memory
1GB Swap Memory
20GB Disk Space
400GB Data Transfer

General Information and Signup

The VPS offerings are Xen based, which is generally seen as a positive over OpenVZ, as it allows swap allocation and greater control of certain aspects such as kernel & modules to the purchaser.

Ordering is via a WHMCS billing system and payment via Paypal for card processing. A quick look over the site reveals a maintained if quiet forum (i.e. not filled with spam like certain other providers I could mention) and Web Hosting / VPS packages with sensible limits (i.e. ones the company will actually be able to make a profit on without rabid overstuffing of their systems / disregarding their customers).

I ordered on a weekday evening and order processing  was quick within 10 minutes. The VPS can be configured via a simple control panel with the following OS templates provided.

  • Debian Lenny
  • CentOS 5.5
  • Ubuntu 8.04
  • Ubuntu Lucid 10.04 LTS
  • Lightweight WordPress on Debian using lowendscript

The usual basics such as reverse dns can be configured and there is a server console available via SSH. Reboots / Re-Imaging can be made via the billing system. It does not appear possible to make automatic upgrades to higher resource allocations although this appears to be due to the company wishing to ensure nodes do not become overloaded.

The host node appears of a suitable grade (Xeon CPU E5506  @ 2.13GHz) and I have not encountered any immediate evidence of overloading or poor configuration (increased i/o wait load etc).

Uptime is published and  has been generally good and whilst I didn’t request credit back in March (total uptime of 99.805%) there is an uptime SLA of 99.9% offering various levels of compensation for downtime. I’m not immediately able to locate any information on the RAID setup used on the host nodes or what degree of disaster recovery backups are in place.

A free 1GB of storage on a separate backup server is provided and can be activated via the control panel.  Name Servers are available if you wish to use them.

Support and the Company itself

I’ve had cause to submit two request for support, both during the working day and both of which were resolved quickly with a courteous and technically comprehensive explanation of what had gone wrong. One involved a RAID problem on the host node and the other a networking snafu.

The company appears to be a limited liability partnership just under a year old. Some may wish to avoid small companies / those without a proven track record for various reasons, but providing you have a suitable off site backup regime in place I personally see no reason not to recommend them on what I’ve seen in the last three months.

If you found this review useful, please consider signing up via my affiliate link. This will provide me with a 15% credit.

Note: 05/12/2011 Allsimple appear to have been screwed over by their data centre and the servers have been unavailable for some hours whilst they are physically moved. Communication by email and twitter has been good.

CPUInfo

user@computer:$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor       : 0
vendor_id       : GenuineIntel
cpu family      : 6
model           : 26
model name      : Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU           E5506  @ 2.13GHz
stepping        : 5
cpu MHz         : 2133.408
cache size      : 4096 KB
fdiv_bug        : no
hlt_bug         : no
f00f_bug        : no
coma_bug        : no
fpu             : yes
fpu_exception   : yes
cpuid level     : 11
wp              : yes
flags           : fpu de tsc msr pae cx8 apic sep cmov pat clflush acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht nx constant_tsc pni ssse3 sse4_1 sse4_2 popcnt
bogomips        : 4270.03
clflush size    : 64
power management:

processor       : 1
vendor_id       : GenuineIntel
cpu family      : 6
model           : 26
model name      : Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU           E5506  @ 2.13GHz
stepping        : 5
cpu MHz         : 2133.408
cache size      : 4096 KB
fdiv_bug        : no
hlt_bug         : no
f00f_bug        : no
coma_bug        : no
fpu             : yes
fpu_exception   : yes
cpuid level     : 11
wp              : yes
flags           : fpu de tsc msr pae cx8 apic sep cmov pat clflush acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht nx constant_tsc pni ssse3 sse4_1 sse4_2 popcnt
bogomips        : 4270.03
clflush size    : 64
power management:

Disk Throughput (although please don’t regard this as in any way definitive).

user@computer:$ dd if=/dev/zero of=test bs=30k count=30k conv=fdatasync
30720+0 records in
30720+0 records out
943718400 bytes (944 MB) copied, 19.6883 s, 47.9 MB/s

Slicehost 2.5 Year Review

Most of what I said here stands. In the time I was with Slicehost the hardware I was on had an issue requiring a reboot once, other than that the service and network was solid across the entire two and a half years. I didn’t have much reason to call on their support so can’t comment too much there, but replies were always quick and courteous on the couple of occasions I did.

So, reasons for leaving?

  • Still no UK / European arm to the service (although Slicehost was purchased by Rackspace, who now do).
  • Billing in dollars led to variable price month on month, plus now all of my bank accounts charge a commission for converting currencies. I like my costs to be fixed, old fashioned that way.
  • Lowest spec slice is no longer cost competitive. The VPS Market has changed a lot in two and a half years, now I can get:
  1. Greater spec at a lower price (albeit possibly with a reliability trade off)
  2. Get what should be a UK service with comparable uptime that is admittedly that bit more complex (due to hourly billing) by paying slightly more.
  3. Or again by paying a few pounds more a month a UK service (albeit with teething problems) with a greater specification and afford a license for a great management system to run on the VPS.

In summary, Slicehost were a worthy company to run a server with, but the world has moved on and there is a hell of a lot more choice out there than once there was.

Note: I’m not suggesting that the three service linked above are directly comparable to Slicehost, or indeed each other. However when you’re paying £5-£20 a month for a 256MB-512MB Ram server, you’re usually flexible in terms of the hosting infrastructure and SLA (or not) provided.

Michael Pawlyn: Using nature’s genius in architecture

I don’t like simply reposting things, but this has to be one of the most inspiring talks I’ve seen in a while.

“You could view nature as being like a catalogue of products, all of those have benefited from a 3.8 billion year research and development period. Given that level of investment, it kind of makes sense to use it”.

Android / Eclipse Error generating final archive: Debug Certificate expired

It appears the android SDK / debugger generates a certificate in .android/debug-keystore only valid for a year. You may come to generate a new project in Eclipse, go to run the debug / android emulator and find it won’t run.

To fix this, delete the keystore file from your home directory, then run Project / Clean in Eclipse on any projects displaying the error. The emulator should then run without issue.

Installing Git on CentOS

Git can be found in the EPEL (Fedora Project) complimentary packages repository. The command to install the package will be similar to the following

user@computer:$ rpm -Uvh http://download.fedora.redhat.com/pub/epel/5/x86_64/epel-release-5-3.noarch.rpm

Remember to sanity check this against your RHEL version…

Tree houses…

It’s true that you can waste a lot of time on the internet, but whilst doing so, you can also come across some really interesting stuff. Such as this little three minute video lecture from Mitchell Joachim on growing houses.  The main idea apparently relies on a well established growing technique to form the main structure of a building from plants around a plywood guide scaffold.

I don’t honestly think that the artists impressions lend the idea much credence to a rabidly conservative house buying public, but I like the idea of a tree growing out of my roof and the home being a living thing a whole lot more than the other idea expressed in the talk.

“Pop your head out of the sphincter darling and let me know if I should take a coat”.

It’ll never catch on ;)

This is the sort of thing that needs to be shown to kids alongside Science lessons in UK schools, humans love problem solving and the idea of living machines is well established in books and on telly.  If you want to increase interest in careers in Science, try and inspire with something that initially seems bonkers that might turn out not to be…

Mitchell Joachim

Thoughts on Green Hosting

At work we had a query recently asking if we offered any “green” hosting packages. My initial reaction was a roll of the eyes and slight annoyance. This is because in my book “green hosting” sounds like a total oxymoron. Computers, for a variety of reasons aren’t exactly the most environmentally friendly things in the world.  They’re complex to produce, are composed of finite resources and are usually replaced within 3-5 years in a commercial situation. With web hosting they’re also housed in a big, chilled building (datacentre) with backup diesel generators, other redundant systems and are switched on 24/7. All to ensure everyone has a chance to see pictures of your cat in various hilarious situations. Green hosting has always struck me a little like asking if a green version of Jeremy Clarkson could exist… it’s a possibility, but I still wouldn’t rate the ice caps chances particularly highly…

Continue reading Thoughts on Green Hosting

Kubuntu: Rolling back a package

Kubuntu is currently my desktop OS of choice for 40+ hours a week of paid eye strain. It’s a good OS, basically Ubuntu with KDE as the desktop environment, however over the three or four years I’ve been using it the quality of the package management GUI applications has been somewhat variable.  What we have at the moment (Kpackagekit) is nice and fast, but doesn’t seem to allow rolling back of updates (although it does have a greyed out button to do so… go figure).

However, we can drop back to the command line to roll back a package. I needed to do this recently when an update to Wine stopped Spotify from working properly (the window would load but the interface would not display properly).

When Kubuntu downloads updates these are stored in /var/cache/apt/archives If we’re lucky, this directory contains the previous version of the package you want to roll back.

Change into the directory

user@computer:$ cd /var/cache/apt/archives

If you know the package you want to roll back (like wine), list the directory contents using grep to search for this.

user@computer:$ ls -al | grep wine
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 9163658 2010-01-09 01:16 wine1.2_1.1.36-0ubuntu1_amd64.deb
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 9242342 2010-01-29 23:01 wine1.2_1.1.37-0ubuntu2_amd64.deb
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 9303990 2010-02-06 09:21 wine1.2_1.1.38-0ubuntu1_amd64.deb

Issue the command to re-install the previous package

user@computer:$ sudo dpkg -i wine1.2_1.1.37-0ubuntu2_amd64.deb

One quick note, this isn’t necessarily suitable for complex rollbacks with dependency issues, however you should be fine using it to roll back a single package that you know has caused a problem.