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When I was a child Lego Technics was about to come and the term “Steampunk” wasn’t even in Gibson and Sterling minds. And that’s a pity because there would have been a lot of fascinating stuff to do like this Dardenbahst. On a complete different steam, I relocated my PC in the living room on a small desk. Unfortunately the phone plug is far away from it so I decided to solve the problem with the homeplug powerline.
Homeplug is a standard that solves easily and promptly the cabling problem in private house, where you are unlikely allowed (by wife or parents) to dig through walls to lie CAT5 cables or, even worse, to leave such cabling on the floor for longer than a couple of breaths.
The homeplug solution creates a network over the power line that are already cabled. The standard is one, but the devices you can shop for have different speeds ranging from 14 to 200Mbits/s (with prices varying accordingly). I opted for a couple of Atlantis adapters at 85Mbits/s and shelled out 85€ for both.
Unlike several advanced technology device, they worked quite “plug’n’playable”. Just plug into the power outlet and connect the patch ethernet cable. Then you have to run the Atlantis utility (Windows only) to set the encryption password.
The only glitch I found is that the utility is supposed to remotely configure any device provided you have its password (printed on the case). I had found no way to do that, so I just temporarily attached the other device to the PC, configured it too and then put it back to it final location. Done.
While talking about cables I had to notice that the small PC desk is not large enough to hide the forest of cabling behind the PC. Power supply, USB connections, ethernet cables, monitor and so on, each device accounts for at least 2 cables. Wouldn’t it be nice if all this stuff could communicate through the homeplug standard? In this way every box would have just the power line.

How to dissect your Palm Tungsten C

Good news first – my Palm Tungsten C is fine and happily running with replaced batteries. Bad news, consider pretty carefully if you really want to do it yourself. I read that the maintenance people could charge you 170$ for the operation, that could cost no more than 40€ if you do it yourself. But … doing it by yourself is risky, you could send the little gizmo in the grey silicon pastures of heaven.
Ok, you take the risk, here’s the instructions. Have a look at yesterday post for a link to some good and detailed pictures of the operation).
With your trusty Torx screwdriver unscrew all the four screws on the back of the PDA. The back is kept in place by two clips about at the middle one on the left and one on the right side. There is nothing to do but to gently pull the back inserting your nails in the sides.
Now the back is removed, take a deep breath and astonished watch for a while what could be stone dead in a matter of seconds.
You see a small board piggy-back’ed on a larger one, fixed with two (standard) screws and with a single black wire going upward. That board is the wi-fi module. Unscrew the two screws and then pull gently the wi-fi module away from the main board. It won’t come easily because there is a connector below. Be gentle and firm and stay relaxed.
Now the main board. This flat bastard is hold by four little plastic tags (two per sides) and has the keyboard connector below (very similar to the one from which you unplugged the wi-fi module). Moreover the audio plug will try to stay where it is (upper right) keeping together the rest of the system. First use a pin or something like that to unplug the battery connector on the middle left edge. Then lift the board so that the board is above the four tags, then unplug the keyboard connector and eventually slide the board toward the lower edge being careful about the audio plug.
And now you can see the batteries. Don’t hold your breath, they won’t jump out of their place… they have been glued (!) to the tin sheet below. Start from a side and use a screwdriver as a lever to gently (again) pull the batteries out.
Perfect you are halfway, replace the batteries paying attention to keep the right orientation of the original pack. The put back the main board. Slide it in first with the audio plug (maybe you have to lift the screw hole at the top), move it below the tags and then push the bottom to make the connection to the keyboard.
Connect the batteries, this require some skill since the connector is to be … invited in the right place rather than put, since there is not space for your fingers here.
Put the wi-fi module back, press it to connect and then screw it in place.
Eventually put the back cover, verify that the two clips hold it and eventually screw the 4 screws.
Done… Count up to three and connect it to the power. Mine worked at first attempt, I had just to synchronize it to have it in the same state it was before replacing the batteries. I lost a kg in the process.

It’s a kind of magic

Evenimg_0744tually I had to take my old computer from my parents’ house. It has been a long story, now it’s nearly 9 years I’m married and I ran out of excuses for leaving those huge boxes in their basament. The alternative would have been to trash my old and yet beloved Amiga.
So I brought my A2000, keyboard and TV monitor home and last Sunday. After unpacking everything in the living room, under the attentive and slightly worried look of my wife, I connected and switched it on.
It has been a strong emotion. Amiga meant a lot to me. It was the first Real computer back then, it was a Linux before Linux (someone may put that Linux is an Amiga after Amiga), and I spent a lot of time with it. With my Amiga I played, I learned, I wrote software, I painted, I created…
The computer, true to its spirit, happily and trouble-less answered to the switch flip, with a ready humming, a proper hard drive clicking sound and blinking light. To make it short, despite of about 15 years spent in the basement, the Amiga worked fine as out of the box.
Rivers of inks have been written on the Amiga, so I won’t tell anything new here. The Amiga had been a turning point, a milestone in the history of personal computers. It was the second pre-emptive multitasking cheap computer (the first was the Sinclair QL some years before), it was the first multimedia platform, the first to have no configuration hassles.
Continuing the tradition of home computing (ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and C=64), Amiga brought the fun of computer to new levels.
Well, now I’m a bit battled on its future. I don’t have the space to keep it at home (my wife patience is not endless) and it’s rather expensive to add an ethernet adapter and tie it up to my network. On the other hand leaving it in the basement doesn’t look as a pleasant perspective, even if it is much better than bringing it to wasteland.
For sure, I’m going to extract everything was on the 120Mbytes HD (that has no bad blocks!) and have a try to UAE or something like that. Using the RS232 interface at 57.6kbit/s won’t be a brief experience.
I already recovered the screens I drew for ‘Polignomica’ a graphical adventure technically inspired to “Zak McKraken”, set in the Milan Polytechnic, and going (soon or later) to upload them here.
In the meantime my look felt over my new palm (‘new’ to me, it is used and is 2 years old), it is some 50 times faster, has a memory capacity 20 times larger and fits perfectly in one hand (or pocket for what matters). Well, that’s how the world goes.
Anyway Amiga has more magic!

Linux – Windows 1 – 0

Sometimes there are things you give for grant, like gravity, water being wet, 220V being harmful, Windows interfacing painless with every kind of hardware. I was so convinced about this that I was utmost surprised to find problems with the wireless network of my notebook. In fact I had no problem with Linux, Fedora Core 3 latest kernel (2.6.10-1.741_FC3) supports naively the Intel pro 2200BG hosted in my Toshiba. Just a matter of a few settings and I could access internet from my living room without wire hassle.
I expected Windows XP HE to be more or less the same thing, and the starting was good – it told me it was looking up all available wireless networks. Good… But after some minutes of idle wait, it returned to me with one network that wasn’t mine for sure. So I tried to configure it manually with the network name (maxpagani.org 🙂 ), it waited another bunch of minutes, but it wasn’t able to find it. So I tried to connect to the other network to get exactly the same result… no connection.
I spent something more than a hour trying to make it work with no success. What is puzzling is that XP-HE came pre-installed on my notebook and my wi-fi network is just a plain network with default options (even no encryption enabled).
So… Linux, good job!

New Job – First Day

First day at a new employer. If you are reading these lines then it’s likely that you know me personally and therefore it’s even more likely you know why I changed job. My new employer is Dylogic (but beware, it is spelled “dylogic”, but it is pronounced “Dynamic Solutions” 😉 ), a solution provider in the field of video-conferencing, video-communication, video-answering-machines, and more or less everything that begins with “video” but doesn’t end with “games”.
If you ever dealt with networking and communication you know how many TLA and ETLA are there. In case that wouldn’t be enough, there’s plenty of 3DN and 4DN (invented right now: 3 digits number and 4 digits number). It would be nice to listen a speech between communication experts…
The company is rather small providing an informal and warm environment. On the first day I learned some basics of IP telephony and discovered some amusing facts about the UMTS (AKA 3G) mobile phones. Do you know that video-call in 3G devices is achieved through H324M, which is basically the H324 protocol revisited. The amusing part is that this protocol is for videoconferencing over PSTN (Public Service Telephone Network), and is not packet based. Not something that makes you fall from your seat… but somewhat unusual in this world of IP connectivity.
On the tools part I’m going to use Visual.NET 2002 along with Vss. Visual 2002 C++ implementation is quite far from the ISO/ANSI standard. Lacking, if memory serves me right, of template partial specialization as the most important flaw. This alone is a major showstopper for STL and the C++ standard library. Microsoft corrected most (maybe all) of non-standard behavior of their C++ compiler with the 2003 edition of Visual .NET.
I’d like to have a look whether interesting libraries (such as boost, spirit, ace, blitz) could work fine with this compiler or to which extent are limited.
I enjoyed an XP installation, that is, to tell the truth, quite straightforward. To be completely honest the hardware was nothing unusual. But what I appreciated is the security assessment performed by the system as soon as it is installed (with ServicePack 2). For example you get informed that no antivirus has been installed and a bright red crossed shield informs you that your PC is at security risk. Another nice feature is the “Install updates and shutdown” option when shutting down the box. If I am right, this option is only present when the auto-updated detects some “pending” updates. In this way the user could instruct XP to auto-update in a semi-unattended fashion.