Installing dd-wrt on a Linksys WRT160N-RM v.3

December 8th, 2009

So I cheaped out and bought a refurbished Linksys WRT160N from Amazon for $28. Great price for a 802.11n enabled router (most are in the $100 range) but it kept dropping wifi connections, slowing up and refusing to respond. Wired connections were fine so I suspected a dodgy radio. Linksys support couldn’t fix the wifi issues so I was about to send it back when I decided to wipe the Linksys firmware and flash dd-wrt to it. The router wasn’t doing much anyhow.

The latest version of dd-wrt supports the WRT160N v.3 router. It is easy to install via the router’s web admin interface and rather than repeat myself here I’ve updated the dd-wrt community wiki page with the step-by-step instructions.

Note: when you search the dd-wrt router database it’ll give you back three different bin files to choose from. You only need one of those to kick off: dd-wrt.v24-13309_NEWD-2_K2.6_mini_wrt160nv3.bin AKA “mini” is the basic dd-wrt firmware that I used. It has more than enough features to keep most users happy.

My router has been up and running with dd-wrt for the last 4h29m without any problems and it feels faster (not sure if that is psychological). The best part is that the nerd in me is now super excited to have a working, fully featured, Linux-based router in the office.

Construct at University of Colorado at Boulder

December 7th, 2009

I’ve been talking with faculty staff at CU CSCI about the kind of work they’re doing and to see if there is any projects that we might collaborate on. After a chat with Katie Siek we decided that the most efficient way to introduce my research from UCD and Glasgow was to drop by and give a presentation.

For the opening I talked a little about the data binding technologies we developed at Strathclyde. These “type projection” systems provide a safe and extremely efficient mechanism for computing over semistructured data sources (if you’ve ever used JAXB from Sun they’re kind of similar). I skipped pretty quickly over that, hopefully didn’t loose too many listeners, and jumped into Construct.

Construct is our open-source community platform for Pervasive Computing. It is a middleware that provides the plumbing for developers of Pervasive or Ubiquitous systems. Rather than spend time writing code for management of services and data flow across the network developers can concentrate on the problem domain for their specific project.

I was invited back to talk with Ric Han‘s group early January.

[slides]

Tiddlywiki

November 2nd, 2009

I’m a note writer.

I’ve got Google docs full of notes, dropbox notes, iPhone notes, plain text files for GTD, and inked back-of-envelopes everywhere. Or at least, I did.

After a pointer from a friend and colleague I decided to consolidate and digitize my notes using TiddlyWiki. TiddlyWiki is a personal wiki wrapped up in a single web page. Because key text automatically hyperlinks (these are called wikiwords) a TiddlyWiki can be thought of as a “non-linear notepad”. You don’t write or read from top to bottom but rather jump from “tiddler” to tiddler.

A tiddler is a block of text or a given topic. Collectively they form your TiddlyWiki. Let me try explain better with my Getting Things Done Tiddler. I’ve got a GTD note (a tiddler) in my TiddlyWiki that links to three other notes: ToDo, Done, and Waiting. Clicking on any of these three opens a new note with a list of either “todos”, “done stuff” or “waiting on something”. Within each of these are further links to notes on tasks in my every day life.

TiddlyWiki is immediately useful to anyone with a modicum of HTML knowledge. If you know what <a href means then you can easily learn how to create your own TIddlyWiki in about an hour. It is well worth the effort.

Google Wave

October 12th, 2009

So I’ve been playing with Google Wave for the last couple of days and I’m still not sold on it. Perhaps because of all the hype, and hyperbole descriptions that say things like Wave is what we’d have “if email was created today”.

When you first log in to Wave you’re presented with a set of panels. These are for navigating through your folders, selecting contacts and participating in Wave conversations. Waves are a mix between email and IM. You can edit/add comments to any section of the conversation and these appear in real-time to other online participants. This Techcrunch article sums up the abstract concepts nicely by grouping e-comms mechanisms as passive-aggressive.

The Wave team have integrated a widget model (like those on iGoogle home pages) to allow programmers to extend the environment. Of particular note is the Ribbit teleconferencing application that makes use of this API. It allows you to jump out of written Waves and into a phone conference call. I’m less excited about the Sudoku app.

To get going I created a Wave to discuss Wave with my friends and colleagues who are also beta testers. So far the poll I posed has 4 votes for unimpressed and zero for impressed. Since Google are performing a slow roll out of Wave it looks like they’re testing the water to see how people use it. The ingenuity of the online world can often produce some unexpected uses of new technologies. I’ll be interested to see what happens with this one.

Augmented reality steps closer

August 12th, 2009

BBC tech News is reporting on mobile phone handsets with augmented reality. The article says that this is the first time AR has been available on handsets which is not strictly true. In CIS at Strathclyde University we had MSc students developing prototype map assistants on handsets with AR back in 2003, and I’m sure we were not the first. Maybe the BBC mean this is the first time AR handsets have hit the mainstream.

If you read the article bear in mind that the cyborg theme is erroneous and misleading. Yet another UK media attempt to glamorize a story and attract attention. Regardless, the technology is very cool. Sign me up.

Network Addressable Storage

July 2nd, 2009

We’ve got a bunch of USB hard disks at home that are used for backup and media storage. I’m fairly good about plugging them in and running backup utilities (rsync and SyncToy, mostly) but it is a bit of a pain. So I spent an hour looking at options for network addressable storage.

You can now buy a USB to Ethernet dongle that shares disks over the network. They come in a variety of flavours: feature-low Newlink [£26] which says Windows only; Addonics [£37] which has a load of extra features such as BitTorrent, iTunes, SMB/Samba, XBox media (great review at crunchgear.com). I’m not sure if you can put a USB hub on either of these and access multiple drives.

Another alternative would be to take the drives out of their USB enclosures (they’re usually just laptop or 3.5″ drives) and put them into a NAS enclosure. I found these enclosures on ebay for as low as £13. Again, prices and features vary for them — the Newlink offering at Amazon gets decent reviews for the price [£27].

The final goal is to create a multi-disk box with RAID on an Ubuntu Server. I’ll use that for all backups, media and remote storage. By setting up port forwarding on a home router I’ll be able to access them from anywhere in the world. I’ll wait until we’ve moved into our new home before working on that.

Post from Google Reader shared items to your Facebook profile

May 24th, 2009

I’ve just figured out how to post from my shared items in Google Reader (and this blog) to my Facebook profile. Log in to Facebook and click on the profile tab. Under the “share” button is a “settings” link. Click on that link and you should see the Google Reader option there (and Digg, Pandora, Blog/RSS, Flickr, Picasa, and much more).

To find the public link to your Google Reader shared items go to http://www.google.com/reader/view/user/-/state/com.google/broadcast and look for the text that says “Your shared items are available publicly at this web page

So long desktops

May 12th, 2009

Reflecting on people and places I’ve visited the home desktop PC seems to be a thing of the past. Now you can buy tricked out consoles for gaming, e-readers, lightweight netbooks and smart phones for connectivity on the move. Why would we want desktops in our homes?

This morning I was listening to a discussion with Leo Laport on the TWiT podcast [from 3 May] in which they were discussing Apple’s aquisition of chip designer P.A. Semi and what this meant. On the Apple jobs site a quick search for hardware turns up a bunch of new posts for hardware engineering positions so there is movement in that space. I subscribe to the theory that Apple will start designing their own chips for mobile devices with the longer term view of dropping desktops and eventually laptops (they just started with Intel chips in desktops/laptops so I don’t think they’ll design for those).

What the TWiT podcasters didn’t pursue was where the long view of this takes us. Underlying the chat of so long to the desktops are the first trickles of pervasive and ubiquitous computing. To paraphrase Mark Weiser, it is certain that computational machinery is disappearing into the fabric of everyday life. That is now never a question. Yet we’re still a long way from the ubiquitous support system envisaged as omnipresent smart dust that unobtrusively manipulates our world in our benefit.

It will take a whole new set of standards and technologies in spaces such as location, context, communications, and human understanding before we can start to see this next generation of technology in everyday life. The reason that Apple may have a big advantatge here is that they like to live in a closed world of machines, networking, peripherals and storage. This means that their systems can work together right out the box. All-Apple environments can safely rely on homogeneous hardware and software in which to operate.

So what about Windows? After the Vista debacle it is likely that Windows 7 will be the penultimate desktop OS from Microsoft. Their research labs already host world-class minds who are working towards the Weiser-world.

Web Development IDE

April 29th, 2009

I’ve been setting up my development environment for building PHP based web applications. Since I’m an Eclipse geek I decided to try out the Aptana suite. I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts.

The installation of Aptana is through the Eclipse update manager. Simple stuff. After you reload the IDE you’re presented with the Aptana home page. From here you can install the extra plugin for PHP (or others). More clicks. Simple again.

What I like: the code tab has a set of preview tabs next to it. You can load up your page in any of your installed browsers and check that it works. This is awesome for checking cross-browser compatibility. The debugging of PHP is excellent. Being able to step through as the page renders makes bug tracking so much simpler.

My Aptana experience has not been all plain sailing. For some reason my call to mysql_connect would only work if I pass in params for dbuser, dbpasswd etc. AND had to repeat them in the php.ini file (you edit this under the Aptana section in the workspace preferences dialog). I’m still not sure why this is happening but it works for now.

gd (graphics manipulation) support didn’t work out the box. The default install of Aptana included a gd.so file but Eclipse told me that it was missing libpng.so (go into window -> prefs -> Aptana -> PHP Interpreters and Edit then click verify). I copied the gd.so file from my Ubuntu PHP install into the ext dir for the Aptana CGI PHP interpreter [.eclipse/org.eclipse.sdk.ide/updates/eclipse/plugins/com.aptana.ide.php.interpreters.linux.x86_5.3.16.v20081209/resources/php5/ext/], overwriting the default, and that fixed it.

My latest weirdness was that the internal Jaxer HTTP server wouldn’t serve out new/uploaded files. The fix for this is to refresh the workspace view in Eclipse. Jaxer must use the Eclipse workspace config file to decide what it will serve out as web pages.

If you are interested in more then the screencast intro to PHP is a good starting point. Next I’m going too try out PHPUnit with Eclipse and Aptana.

Updated publications

April 4th, 2009

I’ve finally updated my publications page. I’ve been using the bib2html plugin for wordpress. It does a rather good job but if you’ve advice on a better option I’d love it hear it.