Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
User Journal

Journal: Installing Java for desktop use in /opt/java

Journal by kriston

Putting symlink in /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins for libnpjp2.so -> /opt/java/jre/lib/amd64/libnpjp2.so

Trying to run a Java app from, say, http://kriston.net/games/, the Java runtime might still refuse to work on the principal of "security reasons." Feh.

Run this as the normal (non-root) user: /opt/java/jre/bin/jcontrol
Click on "Security" tab and select "Medium" which allows the Java plugin to run unsigned Java apps with a prompt.

That is all.

User Journal

Journal: Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook problems

Journal by kriston

The Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook has a number of problems that require too much attention. Perhaps that's why I bought one new today for over $400 off list price. This Ultrabook has a 12.5" 1920x1080 screen, touch screen, Intel Core i5, 4 gigs of memory, 128 GB SSD, and has a nifty screen flipping feature so you can use it like a tablet.

Here are a few problems so far.

The keyboard is bad and the keys stick up unevenly. Normally this isn't a problem but the white LED backlighting points out to you which keys are jutting out. It's okay to type on but I prefer to flip it into tablet mode and plugging in a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard.

More importantly, the touch screen can stop working. What happens is the two I2C HID Devices under Human Interface Devices are disabled by Windows because it "detected a problem." This happens randomly but most often when coming back from sleep. I got used to the touch screen, especially in tablet mode, so I'm not sure I want this feature disabled. Simply doing 'Scan for hardware changes" in the "Action" window will re-enable them but they will eventually stop working again. So updating the BIOS should fix this. The BIOS update from Dell from A03 to A04 updates the BIOS, another Intel firmware (likely the touchpad's firmware since it's an Intel device), and a third firmware, and reboots. Following this, updating the touchpad drivers from Dell should do the trick and I will be watching this for success.

Finally, updating to Windows 8.1 complains that my user is not an Administrator. Well, this is, of course, incorrect. What I did to fix this is to remove the Windows Update 2871389 from the system, reboot (takes a long time), run Windows Update and install updates again, reboot (again takes a long time), and then go back to the App Store to download it again. Finally, now I'm waiting for over three gigabytes to download.

The screen is beautiful and it's too bad Dell and Intel didn't test this Ultrabook enough. They must have lost a ton of money on this model. My local store had around 25 new in stock at fire-sale clearance prices. You can't get a 12.5" 1920x1080 Ultrabook at anything near this price, let alone a Core i5 with 4 gigabytes of memory, 128 GB SSD, and a "carbon fiber" case, whatever that means. Just make sure you have the patience and problem-solving skills to work out the problems.

Windows Experience Index details (before Windows 8.1):
Processor 6.9
Memory 5.9 (bummer)
Graphics 5.7 (Flunky Intel graphics)
Gaming Graphics 6.5 (Flunky Intel graphics)
Disk 8.1 (Superb!!).

A great value for a new Ultrabook over $400 off the list price. Too bad for Dell's profits on this troublesome Ultrabook.

Android

Journal: Why aren't Android binaries stripped for performance? 1

Journal by kriston

I was doing some reverse-engineering of my Nook Color with Cyanogenmod just to see where they store the data for Angry Birds. Most of the configuration stuff is in Lua, which is interesting, but I also noticed that the shared objects have copious help text and even documentation inside them which would never be seen by the end user. These are space-, memory-, and cpu-constrained devices. Why aren't these data stripped out?

User Journal

Journal: Bootstrapping compilers 1

Journal by kriston

This evening I'm building OpenJDK 7 for FreeBSD and it requires me to install an older version of Java to build this version of Java. It reminds me of when we would use the Solaris compiler to build a nominal version of gcc and then use that gcc to build gcc again, and then use the built gcc to build the final gcc a third time.

User Journal

Journal: Scanning documents and cleaning them up

Journal by kriston

Years ago I got into the habit of taking handwritten notes and scanning them into the computer. I then have a digital record and no paper lying around to get lost, stolen, or cluttered.

A problem has arisen with this recently. Late-model multi-function copiers like the Xerox ColorQube scan at such a high resolution and sensitivity that they capture not just the handwritten notes but the texture of the paper. This is extremely annoying because all I want is the writing, of course, and even the "Remove Background" feature of the Xerox ColorQube just doesn't.

So, for the time being, here is a cheap way to remove backgrounds. Load the scanned document into your favorite editor and reduce it to sixteen color palette.

For example, in Paint Shop Pro 4, my favorite for quick-and-dirty fixes, select Colors...Decrease Color Depth...16 Colors and select "Palette Windows'" then "Nearest color" and finally "OK." This magically removes the background noise and so far it has worked on nearly everything I scan.

Be sure you do this after scaling down your image. PSP 4 calls this "Resample" which, by the way, is the only correct way to resize an image in PSP 4.

Journal: Amazon Web Services (AWS) notes

Journal by kriston

Forget CentOS, who are taking too long with 6.x. Amazon AWS with Red Hat Linux 6.1 for $0.085/hour for t1.small is excellent and $0.02/hour for t1.micro is even more excellent for high-availability services.

For file backup services, the S3 reduced-redundancy storage for $0.093/GB is a steal, but make sure you convert your storage buckets to RRS. The Windows Home Server plugin does not set RRS so use an Amazon EC2 instance to run convert_to_rrs.py and quickly convert your bucket to RRS for big savings. The AWS console won't work on huge buckets, nor do the popular Windows-based S3 tools. This might cancel out some of the savings.

User Journal

Journal: How to kick-start Windows 7 updates

Journal by kriston

Do you want to kick-start Windows 7 updates for a computer you've built or set up for someone else? This is what I do and it mitigates the threats to newly-installed machines. It installs certain libraries and other dependencies that trigger Windows Update to give you the latest and greatest. You can let the user do the Service Pack updates at a later time. In this situation we are bootstrapping the update process for most of the important libraries and software you care about without buying Microsoft Office and installing the most important updates before you leave the user to his own devices.

Download and install the following software in this order on another PC and put them on a USB drive.
Do not connect your new computer to the internet yet.
Run these installers in this order. Nothing should ask you to reboot, but if it does, let it reboot and continue with the next one.

Microsoft Word Viewer 2003 (the latest is Word 2003).
Microsoft Visio Viewer
Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer 2007
Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer 2007 SP1 Update
Microsoft Excel Viewer 2007
Microsoft File Format Converters
Microsoft DirectX Redist
Microsoft .NET 3.5 SP1 (Windows Vista and XP Only, x86 and x64 are in the same download)
Microsoft .NET 4.0 Full (x86 and x64 are in the same download)
Microsoft Security Essentials

Restart your computer.
Go to the Windows Update control panel, click "Check for updates," and then install all of the Required and Optional ones.
After you're done with all this, go to the Windows Update control panel and ask it to install "for all Microsoft products". This is somewhat more difficult to find.
Go to Windows Update and hit "Check for updates" again and install everything.

Note that Microsoft .NET 3.5 SP1 includes .NET 2.x and 1.x inside it. Windows 7 has 3.5 SP1 built in already. Windows Vista may or may not depending how old it is.

User Journal

Journal: Cherrypal now runs Android

Journal by kriston

The Cherrypal Asia laptop at http://www.cherrypal.com/ is now shipping with Google Android installed. This replaces the older Cherrypal Asia mini laptops that were running Windows CE and Linux based. Both laptops run the ARM9-based VIA 8505 SoIC platform at 533 MHz with 256 megabytes of RAM and 2 gigabytes of NAND flash. The $148 version has a 1024x600 screen while the sub-$100 model runs 800x480. I'm looking forward to seeing how Android can squeeze more throughput out of the VIA 8505 since Windows CE didn't do such a great job on the original Cherrypal Asia.

User Journal

Journal: Review of ABS mechanical keyboard

Journal by kriston

[Reposted from Newegg because I'm proud of my review.]

Blurb: "Great feel and nice loud sound, but not a Model M clone"

Pros: Loud, ringing reverberation is just like keyboards of old PC clones not made by IBM (see Cons).
The keyboard is only a little larger than the keys take up. This is a major bonus if you like small keyboards but don't want to compromise on keys.
FULL SIZE caps lock key for Unix people who remap CTRL to caps lock. This is rather rare on any keyboard (and I am still searching for a Model M clone with full-sized caps lock either).
The keyboard is nice and heavy as nature intended, with amazing, grippy rubber feet (and really good rubber on the risers, too, also rare).
Stiff, solid, and a very tasteful matte black finish that isn't painted on (the plastic is black).

Cons: The case reverberates a bit with a ring. Your table may amplify or muffle it. I don't happen to care but you might.
This is not a Lexmark Model M keyboard clone and does not pretend to be. The reviewers who think this is a Model M are confusing this with another type of old-school "clicky" keyboard.

Other Thoughts: This type of keyboard is not the same as a Model M. The clicking noise comes from the keys landing, not from the (very faint) click in the key mechanisms themselves. However, the click happens at the moment of keystroke actuation which gives this a nice touch. I didn't feel any of the "halfway down" actuation some other reviewers claimed.

This keyboard is an excellent a clone of those "other" clicky keyboards that came with Compaq IBM PC clones in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I have about twenty real IBM/Lexmark Model M keyboards in various states of repair. Those boards click loudly as the key is struck and also when the key hits the back plate. This one only really clicks when it hits the back plate. If you had a PC clone in the late 1980s or early 1990s you know this feel. I think some people call it the "Cherry" feel.
It's not better or worse than the Lexmark Model M; it is just different.

User Journal

Journal: Cherrypal Africa Windows review

Journal by kriston

The unit is a very small and light, slightly customized version of those $100 laptops that have been spreading across Asia for the past year or so. The model I ordered runs Windows CE 6.0 and a suite of custom installed programs like various media players and document viewers. The Youtube application does not work but the rest work fine. The machine is rather slow but it browses the web just fine. The word processor is also good. Some applications are formatted for Pocket PC (the menu bar is on the bottom instead of the top) but Windows CE users are used to this. A benchmark I ran says 200 MHz but I believe that speed is actually due to power management which is always adjusting the CPU speed based on your usage of the unit.

My unit came with some nasty glue that I had to clean off, presumably from stickers that were removed from the original manufacturer. The Cherrypal brand stickers are coming off, too.

I had to order this thing four different times. The credit card processor changed each time, too, but no money was stolen from me. The Cherrypal people say the delays and strange circumstances were due to hacking attempts but my own observations make me speculate that too many customers complained to the credit card ordering processor which caused Cherrypal's account to be terminated for undelivered goods. I persisted through four different ordering processors since December of 2009 and eventually got my unit in late March 2010.

When you order the Cherrypal Africa you are not guaranteed any particular processor type, memory, or screen size, just the minimum specs. This means that your processor can be ARM, MIPS, some x86 variant, or maybe even a PowerPC. Most people seem to have gotten what I have, which is a "VIA" ARM-VT8500 and I'm not really sure if that's the real "VIA" from Taiwan. It also has 128 meg of ram, WiFi, and 2 gigabytes of NAND flash.

In conclusion, I expected what I had received, which is an extremely basic laptop. One thing I didn't expect though was that the "Windows XP" spec was changed to just "Windows" when I had originally ordered it. If I had realized that it is Windows CE I would have ordered the Linux version instead.

User Journal

Journal: Install Go-OO version of OpenOffice on Fedora

Journal by kriston

OpenOffice, the free desktop office application suite, is almost totally compatible with Microsoft Office. It does not support *.docx files and other proprietary (non-free) elements that are needed to share documents with users of Microsoft Office. Novell has solved this with their own version of OpenOffice but it is only for Windows and SuSE Linux. For Fedora users the Go-OO version can be used. Go-OO is the special version of OpenOffice with the non-free elements which Novell's version is also derived from. It should be noted that Fedora's version of OpenOffice is also Go-OO with the non-free portions stripped out.

The challenge is to replace the OpenOffice that cannot be removed from Fedora with this new, enhanced Go-OO version. It's not easy because OpenOffice is a core desktop application and Fedora forbids its removal without removing about 300 other packages that make up the desktop operating system. We're going to force an installation of Go-OO on my Fedora system, uninstall the "required" OpenOffice, and then force another installation of Go-OO on top of that to get things cleaned up.

Go to http:/www.go-oo.org/ and read the documentation.

Run Go-OO's downloader script in its own directory:
        mkdir GO-OO ; cd GO-OO
        wget http://go-oo.org/download/download-go-oo.py
        chmod a+rx ./download-go-oo.py ./download-go-oo.py

Forcibly install everything it downloaded:
        sudo rpm --install --force *.rpm

Remove the original OpenOffice packages:
        sudo rpm --erase openoffice.org-math-core openoffice.org-presenter-screen openoffice.org-opensymbol-fonts openoffice.org-core openoffice.org-math openoffice.org-brand openoffice.org-calc-core openoffice.org-impress-core openoffice.org-writer-core openoffice.org-graphicfilter openoffice.org-draw-core openoffice.org-langpack-en openoffice.org-xsltfilter openoffice.org-impress openoffice.org-writer openoffice.org-calc openoffice.org-extendedPDF

Install Go-OO forcibly again:
        sudo rpm --install --force *.rpm

Now it's all set. I can read and write *.docx and *.xlsx files in Fedora. It's also much faster than Fedora's OpenOffice.

User Journal

Journal: HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server update notes 1

Journal by kriston

I'm not sure why, but we bought another HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server with the intention of gifting the old one to someone else. This version is really different. Not only is the server two gigabytes of memory and uses a 64-bit CeLeron processor, it also has a large number of features that were not present in the refurbished Sempron 512-megabyte HP MediaSmart server. I'm not really sure why but this newer model has Amazon S3 backup service and a huge number of new features that aren't present on the Sempron-based version. We updated the server software on both models but only the Intel CeLeron model has the new features.

If you're going to try out Windows Home Server to automatically and effortlessly backup your Windows machines, get a non-refurbished Intel-based HP MediaSmart server. All of these new features are in the HP MediaSmart software and not WHS itself. I'm not sure why HP did this but it's eye-opening.

I'm going to try to install the Amazon S3 and other software add-ins to our older, refurbished model by doing a "factory restore" from the Server Recovery Disc that came with the non-refurbished model and see if these awesome features get installed on the older server.

Very interesting difference. It might be that the newer one has two gigabytes of memory and the other one only has 512 megabytes. It's possible the features are dependent on the memory specifications of the server, but I doubt it.

User Journal

Journal: Windows Home Server the Sleeper Killer App

Journal by kriston

Windows Home Server has a really neat feature. Install the Windows Home Server Connector and configure it to back up your computer. In a day or so take the hard drive out of the computer and throw it into a lake. Get a new blank hard drive. Boot the computer from the Windows Home Server PC Recover disc. YOUR COMPUTER COMES BACK.

This is the killer sleeper Windows app of the new century!!

Mozilla

Journal: Flashblock getting fooled

Journal by kriston

The Mozilla Flashblock plugin is getting fooled by advertisements on some sites like urbandictionary.com which use a countermeasure (seems to be iframe abuse). Installation of version 1.5.11a2 from the special link http://flashblock.mozdev.org/installation1.html solves the problem for now.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain

Working...