Gadgets On Order

I’ve been trawling through ebay China (just found the new “Worldwide” flag!) for fun components to experiment with my Raspberry Pi. I must say though, the “Best Offer” function is pointless, the sellers just decline your offer and counter offer for about 1% less than the Buy It Now price.

I got a PAM8403 stereo amplifier to replace the crumby one I’ve got in my radio project at the moment, I want to solder on some pin headers so I can unplug the speakers, USB power and 3.5mm audio jack when I need to, also I believe it has an all-in-one volume/power knob instead of two separate ones, £4.27 for two.

I’ve ordered some female-to-female breadboard jumper cables to go with the above, I’ll solder jumper pins to the speakers too rather than soldering on the male end of a F-M jumper cables I have for the GPIO-to-breadboard, £1.65 for 40!

Also on order is the HC-SR501 infrared motion sensor for £1.30, similarly I’ve ordered the HC-SR04 ultrasonic range sensor which can measure how far away something is by the time it takes for sound to bounce off it, £1.29

I was also looking for some better switches than the ones I current use in my radio project, some places were selling them for a £1.25 for 5 or £1.35 for 10, I got 20 for £1.20!

I’ve bought a 2nd Model-B RPi for £28.07, I was thinking of a Model-A for my radio, but they’ve gone up to £20.05 so not worth losing ethernet, half the ram and a usb slot for £8

I’ll need some more breadboard soon, although I must have a look around in France for my veroboard stuff, as I know I have a shedload of solder and a veroboard punch somewhere, as well as my multimeter and Dremel.

I’ve had to pay the extortionate amount of £20.49 for a 7-port powered USB hub (D-Link DUB-H7/B) as I can’t find any other hub that doesn’t have issues with the RPi. I have also ordered a 5V 3A replacement PSU for my crappy Dynamode hubs in the hope that it will be as good as the 2A one I’ve got (that is no longer available) and better than the crappy 500mA/1A PSU’s that came with them, £2.85

Update: I got an old RL-S5610/SBBW 7-segment display working using just GPIO pins and 330ohm resistors: Youtube

Update 2: the USB hub didn’t work at all so is being RMA’d now, the Pi just about managed to boot, but ethernet, keyboard and mouse didn’t work, an LED on the GPIO was flickering the current was so low, 1.2A per port my arse!

Waiting for gadgets

I hate waiting for things to come from ebay, I sit here every day cursing the Hong Kong postal service, or the French customs and postman; never once considering that I’d either have to pay a fortune or simply wouldn’t be able to get hold of the goods I’m buying without fleabay. They do have some weird shiz on there that you’d never see in the highstreet.

So here’s my list, in order I’m expecting them:

  • Linkcom HD Pro+ headset – £50, Amazon: £80
  • Hard cover for Dad’s Kindle3G – £4, Amazon: £7
  • 16x 3000mA AA rechargeable batteries – £6, Amazon: £25
  • Bottle opener keyring (to replace my much-loved but broken Guinness one) – £1, Amazon: £4
  • VOIP headphones (to replace the ones I bought from Skype for £30) – £1, Amazon: £3
  • Mains/cigarette socket to USB adaptor (charger) – £4, Amazon: £8
  • 7-port powered USB hub (like the D-Link one I paid £25 for) – £4, Amazon: £11
  • 7-LED 3w torch+laser pointer – £2, Amazon: £4 (without laser)

Update: just flashed the smartphone with CM7 nightly 67 which fixes a volume control display bug and some minor issues. I also adb-push’ed the 2nd patch which fixes the loudspeaker hiss issue without muting the phone entirely or breaking SIP. I’ve got a funny feeling that the Facebook app is what causes the battery drain, as it probably uses data sync.

Ugly Qt Fonts on Fedora 13

Qt4 (KDE) applications like Chromium and VirtualBox have had ugly non-antialiased fonts, whereas Gtk2 (Gnome) applications look fine. I’ve found the fix – basically create a ~/.fonts.conf file with the following content, which turns on subpixel smoothing (installing freetype-freeworld did naff all):


I also changed the monospaced font in Chromium from 13pt Courier-New to 12pt Monospace, which interestingly enough made the fonts a bit bigger, and seems identical to my Firefox setup.

I’ve also upgraded the blog to WordPress 3.0.1 which went very smoothly – plugins/themes worked without even having to edit the CSS files. Doesn’t look like much as far as new features go for a major version release, I guess it got to 2.9.2 and they kinda had to move to 3.0 next!

I received the replacement fan for my graphics card today – the heatsink is so much bigger than the crappy one from Inno3D, and the fan is maybe 60mm not the 40mm crud from Inno3D. Temps have dropped 10c idle and 20c loaded (about 43/54c now). Looks like the same “TopCooler” model I have on my 8600GT. Not bad for six quid.

I’m now waiting for a replacement windscreen arm for my GPS, the sucker bit is broken off, so the ebay China guy is sending me a new one. Gotta give it to them, they know customer service over there. Not like an online store in the UK I ordered something from – I emailed them today asking where it was, only to be told they never sent it out as they’ve stopped selling them. Nice of them to bother telling me!

Update: I have changed the CSS for the blog to reduce the main text size from 16px (1em) to 14px, as it looks a bit huge in Chrome/IE8. It now looks fine in Opera and Firefox too.

Wire speed!

Dad came over the other day and helped me run some CAT6 cable from my computer room to my lounge so I can stream video’s etc at gigabit speed over NFS from the fileserver upstairs to the Mac Mini which is now hanging off the LCD TV using my new HDMI-to-DVI cable.

MacOSX at 1920×1080 on a 37″ screen is incredible! I’m awaiting my wireless keyboard/trackerball so I can use it to surf downstairs as well as running Plex (Xbox Media Center ported to the X86 Mac) with the Mac’s remote control. I’ve watched my first 720p and 1080p movies, and you can actually see the difference from a regular 480p XviD or DVD – not just the resolution, but the detail like hair and leather textures and lack of compression artefacts, plus you get DTS 5.1 sound and so on that the Xbox1 simply can’t cope with.

I’m going to order 15m of white CAT6 or 5e from ebay though, as the blue looks a bit naff against my white walls.

I’ve been playing with Windows Vista today under VirtualBox3, it really is a pile of poo – can you believe that to install Service Pack 2 you actually have to first install SP1? They each take about an hour, and afterwards there’s still more to get from Windows Update. Literally to install Vista, Norton and Office (plus service packs etc.) must have taken well over four hours! Nothing like RedHat where you install 5.0, type “yum -y update”, go make a cup of tea and come back to 5.3 with OpenOffice and so on pre-installed.

Weather’s still boiling hot, in fact I’ve come out in prickly heat/heat rash, so am showering every few hours to keep my core body temperature down and minimise sweat.

I also finally found my old GnuPG key, so I’ve revoked the Jedi one from the keyservers, leaving the more up-to-date Synaptic one which uses better encryption.

New Home Theatre setup

I’ve just bought a 37″ LCD TV, 1080i FullHD all the bells and whistles. Its lovely. I’m awaiting a HDMI->DVI cable for my Mac Mini, and then that will be hooked up to replace my Xbox as my media centre box (running Plex).

Someone is seriously inflating the cost of computer accessories in France though – a 1.5 metre HDMI->DVI cable was 30e in the supermarket where the LCD came from, or four quid including postage from ebay UK for 2m!

I’ve moved the CRT telly into the snooker room, along with the Xbox. I tried overclocking my OpenWRT wireless routers to get the signal through the two 3 foot walls, and it just managed it at 15dbm (up from 7dbm!) but there’s more noise and heat and less signal now, so streaming video doesn’t work, even though http/ping/ssh are usable. So I’m going to have to run some CAT5e up from my bedroom through the lofts and down I think – which I already did when we renovated the snooker room, although its on the opposite wall to where I need the TV, and we’ve sealed up where the a cable could run behind the skirting boards!

I’ve got to do the same down to the Mac, as I tested and even 720p video’s can’t stream over 54g wireless (regular DivX does of course) and VNC is a bit slow too, gigabit will be much nicer. So I should be able to run a cable from a switch in my computer room, through the ceiling where the gas pipes go, and along the beam in the lounge to the Mac. I’ve got to look into the effects of running UTP cable alongside copper pipes, and then either beg some cable from PP, or see if the couple of 25m lengths I’ve got are enough – should be for the Mac, dunno about the snooker room though.

If I cable those two up, I can completely disable wireless in my house, it is an awful piece of technology really – too many “standards” with differing implementations, way overstated speeds and far too vulnerable to interference from microwaves, phones etc. Fine for some casual web surfing from a laptop, although I don’t have a laptop anymore – another piece of technology I don’t really have a use for.

I’ve also got to get a friend to help me run some more satellite cable (which I’ve got to measure and buy too) for the snooker room, I’ve got a spare Sky box, card and LNB socket, so might as well plug it into the telly.

It’s sweltering hot the last couple of days, I’ve been over to the folks and used their jacuzzi, but it doesn’t cool you much when its over 31c outside. My lounge is about the coolest place at the moment, being all thick stone walls and tile floors, as long as I keep the door shut.

Update: I just moved my 24″ LCD onto my main desktop machine, seems like a waste on the laptop docking station (it used to share with the Mac Mini) and wow, 1900×1200 is a lot of desktop space! You can play 1280×1024 games in a window, or have what used to be a fullscreen VirtualBox session in a window and still have about a third of the desktop free. Websites can look a bit odd though. An 80-column text editor only fills about a third of the screen too, so it should be useful for programming. The sound is a bit tinny compared to the 19″ though – as that was a TV as well, so had good speakers. Of course its handy for watching movies with the widescreen aspect ratio.

Update 2: I found that even the wireless speed of the Mac Mini was unacceptable – scp’ing a 700Mb DivX took ages, so I’m currently hanging a 15m piece of CAT6 out of the window and in through the back door! Getting around 35MBytes/sec over GigE now, so copying a 4.4Gb Matroska file took under 3mins!

I’ve also figured out how to sleep the Mac Mini remotely, as if you use shutdown it won’t wake using WOL. So you just make the following AppleScript:


tell application "System Events" to sleep

chmod a+x it and run it over SSH.