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Journal: Prepaid Cellphone, In Japan

Journal by corsec67

I got a cell phone in Japan. A prepaid model, without any kind of contract, since I do not know how long I will be here. (I will talk about prices in yen, since that is what I paid, but a yen is about $0.01, 1 cent. NOT 0.01 CENTS, Verizon)

Even though I was going prepaid, and would thus be buying the cell phone outright, (¥5,000), I had to provide an ID, proof of my registration with city hall, have an alternate phone number, and jump through several hoops there.

The phone (Softbank 730SC) is definitely only worth ¥5000, with a 1.5 Mpix camera, no internet access, games, or anything like that. It does have several tools, like a unit conversion that is essential for translating American to ... any other language, including International English. It doesn't have an English dictionary even though it can be set to display menus in English. The Japanese dictionary is very nice, where once the first word is entered, the rest of the sentence can sometimes be auto-completed.

The way that the Softbank prepaid phone works is that I pay for a ¥3000 card for 2 months of service. Minutes are ¥90 each, so that is about 30 minutes for 2 months, which would be useless if Softbank didn't provide SMS/Email.

Incoming calls are free, so if someone else has a contract phone they can cheaply call me, and I don't pay anything to get a phone call.

SMS/Email is the main point of a Softbank prepaid phone. ¥300 a month out of that ¥3000 card for unlimited SMS, and emails up to about 30KiB. Sending, receiving, it is all unlimited. Pictures from the phone, to the phone, big stuff, all unlimited for ¥300 a month out of what I have to pay to keep the line live.

So, in Japan, on Softbank, for ¥1500/month, I have a phone with free SMS/Email, incoming calls, and horribly expensive outgoing calls. All without a contract.

User Journal

Journal: Nerdy Mothers Day

Journal by corsec67

For mothers day, instead of mailing a card from Japan to my parents in Colorado, I just SSHed into their computer, and printed a picture of me on their color laser printer, and then called my mom and told her to look in the printer.

That was basically my first thought on how to get a letter to appear in their house, which is in retrospect incredibly nerdy. I love how Linux makes it very easy to use remote computers like you are sitting at them.

User Journal

Journal: VoIP for free calling aross the world 1

Journal by corsec67

This is about setting up VoIP for over the internet calls, and not using Asterisk with a local PSTN connection, although all of the phones I talk about here, soft and hard, I think would work with Asterisk.

My sister sent me an email asking if we could use Skype to talk for free, since she was using up too many of her minutes on her cell phone talking to our mom. I didn't want to recommend Skype since there are a bunch of issues with their service, it being proprietary, making computers into servers without authorization, and not making AMD64 versions of their software.

The solution that I came up with is to use SIP with Ekiga.net. The SIP clients we use are Twinkle for Linux and X-Lite for other OSs. Sign up for an account on Ekiga.net, and then enter those details into your SIP client. You may need to set the stun server to stun.ekiga.net if you are behind a NAT or router. In X-Lite, for other people to be able to see if you are online or not, you have to add them or their domain (ekiga.net in this case) to the privacy rules list and "Allow status updates", since the default in X-Lite is to deny status queries.

On a softphone, you really should use a headset instead of a built-in mic and the computer speakers, I use the PS2 Logitech headset which has good support under Linux.

Codecs are where the black magic of VoIP comes in. Since everyone has a different internet connection with different limits, the codec that works for one person may not work at all for another person. Add in the limited support some SIP clients have for codecs, and it can be a real mess. My sisters Time Warner Basic Cable upload is so limited we can't use the default and well supported G.711 (which is uncompressed and uses 64kbits/second plus IP overhead), so we have to use GSM, which uses 13kbits/second plus IP overhead. GSM is an older codec, so something like G.726 or Speex might give better quality. Speex in the wideband and ultrawideband versions have twice and four times as many samples per second as a standard telephone (G.711, 8000 samples/second), so they would sound better than a regular telephone if the network bandwidth isn't an issue.

I configured my softphone(Twinkle) to use the following codecs, in order of preference from most to least: GSM, G.726 32 kbps, G.711 A-law.

If you want a hardware phone, you can use something like a Snom 300, which supports dialing to a regular phone or to a sip address which looks like an email address (username@examle.com). There are adapters that take an ethernet connection and convert that to a regular phone adapter, like a Linksys PAP2T, but you don't have any kind of display on the phone itself. Codec support is definitely an issue on hardphones or adapters, but these might be better for giving to someone else to be able to call you.

Ekiga.net provides some useful phone numbers for checking your setup, but they all use G.711 A-law, so if your network upload is less than 128kbps, it will not work for you. 500@ekiga.net is an echo test, to check that your transmit and receive work, and to check latency. 520@ekiga.net hangs up quickly and then you get a call from 500@ekiga.net, to see if you can get phone calls. Ekiga.net has more info about the conference rooms, of which there are 10,000 that can be pin protected.

Calling a PSTN phone number is provided by DiamondCard.us, where you pay a per-minute fee for calls and a fixed rate to get a phone number that other people can call.

User Journal

Journal: Corsec67's crazy tax rewrite 1

Journal by corsec67

This is my (quite crazy compared to what we have) tax rewrite for the US. It is inspired in part by Ron Paul.

My solution is to pass a constitutional amendment that prevents the federal government from collecting any fees, taxes, donations, or seized goods from any citizen. Also in that amendment would be a provision that income may not be taxed by any state, county, or other local government.

A sales tax is specifically allowed, as the primary method for states and governments to get money.

Revenue for the federal government would be provided by the state governments alone, with some specifications for how much each state pays, whether that is by population, a percentage of that state's revenue, or such. Aside from certain declarations of emergency by a state, federal monies would also not be allowed to benefit a state or other local government.

And that is the plan. It is very revolutionary, and quite different from what we have now.

Gone is the IRS, along with the huge accounting businesses that have sprung up to help people to interpret that crazy tax code. Also, the federal government would not be able to take money from people in a state and then hold that money hostage pending that state from passing certain kinds of laws (55 speed limit, 21 drinking age, 0.08% BAC to name a few).

The government has to get money somehow, and a sales tax by the state and other local governments is all that is left. This would mean that it doesn't matter where your income comes from, nor does the government at any level need to know. Nor do citizens that don't run a business have to even collect and remit to the government any taxes at all, since the current sales tax infrastructure would take care of that.

User Journal

Journal: 1.3E6 to 1 Time Lapse

Journal by corsec67

I have already talked about my long term time-lapse project, but now almost 6 months later, I have... 14 seconds of video.

I chose 22:00 UTC (4PM during "daylight saving[sic] time") for my latest video which is August 2007 through March 2008.

It took 217 days to make that video, and the output is 14 seconds at 15 fps. I think the effect is pretty cool, especially with the tiny tree "dancing" in the snow.

Here is what the camera that made that video looks like, and here is a high quality picture of what the camera can see

My other camera had problems in November, so it will be about 4 more months before I can get a useful picture from that camera.

Reflections on this project: the amount of light from day to day is very variable, with clouds and other atmospheric disturbances meaning that there is a "flicker" to the movie. But, without clouds there wouldn't be that cool snow to fall and melt. Spring might be really cool with the grass going green and then brown in summer. The 6mm f/1.8(fixed) lens isn't very good at this, I would like to stop down to about f/4 or so to prevent those blown highlights during the day. My other camera that is outside has major problems with freezing and changing the focus/focal length of the lens due to the thermal expansion of the housings. The Tamron 2.8-12 f/1.4 zoom that I originally had was horrible at this because it is a varifocal design, but the Pentax 12mm f/1.2 is a bit better.

Because of this project I know quite a bit about wifi and making it stable, as trying to send data over a failing wifi link does bad things. Directional antennas, power adjustments, using Tomato on my routers, singal losses over cables, and ping all are useful in keeping the packets going smoothly.

User Journal

Journal: Ubuntu Rocks 1

Journal by corsec67

I have a HP dv2000t that I got for running Linux. I made sure all of the hardware was supported in Linux easily, with the Intel wifi card, Intel integrated graphics, etc...

I originally installed Gentoo, and after the 3 days of compiling my system, it worked fairly well. Getting wifi and the 1280x800 screen to work took a bit of configuration, but no big problems.

One year later, I accidentally upgraded libexpat while trying to compile Wine, and promptly broke almost everything that was installed.

I tried to fix it, and then decided to install Ubuntu. Aside from some problems burning the CDs, it booted up quickly and recognized everything I needed, including the screen resolution, wifi, the trackpad and scrolling zone, etc... Plus, no need to spend a week compiling everything and then configuring and installing the kernel.

One thing I always do when I set up a Linux box is to make /home a separate partition, so that I can easily swap out the operating system when it gets really messed up.

Gentoo is good if your goal is to learn Linux, Ubuntu is good if your goal is to use Linux.

User Journal

Journal: Pure electric voting is as reliable as the space it occupies

Journal by corsec67

One thing I expected around the 2004 election was a virus/worm that randomly changed the values in Access databases. Don't change the schema, don't delete rows, just change the values that was in there. Not changing the schema and not deleting stuff would make it relatively unnoticeable for as long as possible.

If it used a 0-day exploit, and had a way to get through NATs (piggy back on a website request or something), then you couldn't trust any tallies or votes done on anything that touched the internet.

Imagine the havoc that would ensue if it was found out the next day that any elections that were voted on using electronic voting machines were void, and had to be done again? that would make 2000 seem like a small problem.

Too many people think "the computer said X, and computers can't lie" forget that computers get most of their information from humans, and if a human says they don't lie, they are lying.

User Journal

Journal: DRM-Free Upconverting DVD player

Journal by corsec67

When I got my 720p LCD TV, I went looking for a new DVD player to go with it. I wanted: 720p over component video, and if possible as little DRM as possible. I found that no players sold in the US were allowed to do anything over 480p over component video if the disc had macrovision. However, Helios Labs, with their North American office in Canada, was selling the h2000 and the h4000. They both are region-free, up-converting (720p/1080i for the h2000 and 1080p for the h4000) over Component, VGA, and of course HDMI. The good news is that the HDMI port doesn't have any HDCP, so there aren't any compatibility issues with TVs.

The best feature, which I have quite come to love: Both players ignore the User operation prohibition flag, so I can skip through almost any "FBI Warning" or other logo screens, and get to the movie faster. Imagine that, something that actually does what you want, and doesn't cater to the MAFIAA.

I like my H2000 so much that I am not going to get a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD player until Helios Labs makes one.

User Journal

Journal: Time-Lapse Photography Project

Journal by corsec67

I set up a couple of webcams, one in my office, and one on a pole near my house. My initial idea was to take the picture from noon every day for a year and make that in to a very long-term time-lapse movie. To do that, I save the picture from both webcams every 5 min, and then upload it to my websites every half-hour, using a little cron script written in ruby.

As it turns out, 8:00 in the morning is much more interesting, at least in the meadow. I don't know yet for Fourmile, since it hasn't been up for very long. Too bad I will not really know for a few months, but that is the way this project is. For now I have a couple video up on those sites, with 1 being 8:00 in the morning for August and September, in the meadow.


User Journal

Journal: Windows and Linux... x86 to MIPS, also

Journal by corsec67

Configuring PS2 linux to display windows on a Windows XP computer is fun. XMMS on an XP box is pretty cool, and eliminates the need for a SOG monitor. My monitor used to do SOG, but then somewhere in the display chain it broke.

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.