Archive for the 'DIY' Category

Gmote on the MyTouch 3G and an Ubuntu 9.10 HTPC

Finally got a chance to play around with Gmote on my MyTouch 3G running Android 1.6. Installed the Android app a couple of months ago and then never set it up on any of my desktops. This afternoon I installed Gmote server on my custom HTPC hooked up to my Samsung HDTV. It’s running Ubuntu 9.10. I’m writing this post on the beautiful 1080p 42″ screen, as a matter of fact.

I downloaded the server tarball from the Gmote website and ran the shell script to start and setup the server. It didn’t run the first time. Ended up having to install the latest JRE – no big deal. Ran the script again and the server started up prompting for a password to be created and to tell the server where my media files were. The server uses VLC to access and play media files on the host machine. I’m less interested in that functionality. The thing I was interested in is the remote mouse access functionality. Essentially you make the phone touchscreen into a remote touchpad for the server. Sweet.

I turned on wifi on the MyTouch and fired up the Gmote client software. If you’re on the same network the software will go out and find the server on the default port number (8889). If you need to access it across the 3G network you can port forward that port from your router. I’ve already got another PC setup as a DMZ and I’m not doing any other port forwarding. The only downside for the wifi for me is the battery that the wifi radio eats on the phone. Pretty cool little piece of code. Now I can sit in my recliner and control the machine from 10 feet away, which is good, ’cause that’s where I left my Bushmills…

Antikythera Model Completed

A couple years ago, I wrote about the world’s earliest known computer, the Antikythera, finally being decoded as a result of X-Ray Tomography. Now two years later, Michael Wright, a former curator at the Science Museum in London, has built a working model of the device. I absolutely love that the Antikythera was finally cracked by an interested “amateur” – though this is probably a misnomer. In any case, Wright is clearly an extraordinary hardware hacker, rather than a research scientist. And I really love that he was able to do what many others have not. Here’s the article on, which includes a video interview from New Scientist with Michael Wright.

eBooks: Promise and Reality

Just uploaded a recording of a presentation I did yesterday on eBooks. Here’s the description:

eBooks: Promise and Reality

eBooks have been around for several years and every couple of years the technology is hyped as being ready for mass consumption. We’ll take a look at the current eBook landscape. I’ll demo several hardware solutions, including the Sony PRS-500 Reader System and alternative devices like cell phones and the PlayStation Portable. I’ll demonstrate how to use BookDesigner to convert among formats and other software tools. We’ll talk about sources for eBooks like the Gutenberg Project. We’ll also take a look at newly announced technology, including Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader, Adobe’s new Digital Editions format, and color eInk devices that were shown at SIGGRAPH this summer.

View the Presentation

(Adobe Presenter Flash format)

More on the Sync and eBooks

So I’ve been fooling around more with the Samsung Sync and eBook reading and I’ve discovered a few new bits that might be helpful to anyone who would like to use the device for reading eBooks. I’m preparing for a presentation on eBooks that I’ll be giving on Wednesday, so I’m doing some experimentation with various hardware and software tools. Read more »

Using the Samsung Sync for eBook Reading

I received an interesting comment on my post about getting video onto my Samsung Sync mobile phone this morning. In the comment, Matt asks if I’ve ever tried to use the Sync to read eBooks. I hadn’t. But being an eBook user and fan, I took it as a challenge. Matt had already tried copying a text file over using Bluetooth and opened it using the Picsel file viewer. The results are unsatisfactory – clunky zoom and the need to pan all over the place to read because the text does not wrap. I suspect the text is being treated as if it is an image and this makes it impossible for the software to understand the document’s text flow. Matt had been on the right track after this initial attempt. He says he tried to open the browser and could not find any way to use the file:// protocol to call up the file in the web browser.

Here’s how I solved these problems and was able to read text comfortably on the Sync:

I took a Word document (it could have been any text format) and saved the file from Word as HTML Filtered. The “Filtered” option in Word 2007 strips out all the nasty Microsoft specific code that might not render properly in the Sync’s browser. I then copied the file to my MicroSD card and popped it into the phone. I navigated to the file using the “My Stuff” file browser and opened the file. Because it was an HTML file it opened directly in the phone’s browser. This result had two consequences that were an improvement over the Picsel file viewer. First, the text was sized properly for reading on the small screen, and second, the text properly flowed vertically and wrapped nicely so that no side-to-side scrolling was necessary. In addition, the browser allows you to resize the text on the page; there are three text size settings: normal, smaller, and larger. I found the normal sized text to be very much readable on my phone, and scrolling down for more text was not too bad.

Thanks again to Matt for asking this interesting question. I still find it really cool that we have these fantastic computers that we carry around everywhere with us and that fit in the palm of our hands. I feel like I’m in a Star Trek episode sometimes when I think about the ubiquity of this kind of technology.

Journal of Visualized Experiments

Wired ran an article in the latest issue about a new website that takes the idea of user created video to the next level with a focus on experimental methodology in the sciences. The Journal of Visualized Experiments offers howtos on hardcore experimental methods. These methods have been bound up in tacit knowledge which is extremely difficult to extract from the brains of seasoned researchers. Now with a little work and a community of inquiry spirit, these bits of specialized expertise can be easily accessed as needed. This kind of site really brings to the fore the fact that video has reached the level that desktop publishing reached in the last decade. What’s next you might ask? Desktop fabrication. Work has already begun on DIY open source rapid prototypers.

Ripping and Encoding DVDs Redux

So, I know some of my readers have used my original DVD ripping and encoding guide to get setup with the right software. But some of the recommendations are stale. At the very least I wanted to recommend a product to take the place of DVD Decrypter which has been abandoned by its creators under legal threats from the MPAA and their minions.

I have been using an inexpensive tool from Slysoft to help with copying DVDs. AnyDVD is a lightweight driver that removes CSS, Macrovision, and Region Codes from DVDs making them directly accessible for conversion using any encoding utility such as Nero Recode 2, 1ClickDVDCopy, and others. For $30 it is well worth the price. The application is updated frequently to keep up with new encryption/copy protection schemes used by movie studios who want to tell you where and when you can watch a DVD you have purchased. Highly recommended.

To PS3 or not to PS3

So my birthday was a few months ago and I received a couple gift certificates and some cash as gifts. At the time I was thinking that I would save the money and combine it with anything I received at Christmas and a few bucks I saved in the meantime and buy a PS3 when they become more widely available in the next few months. I’m more interested in the mediahub/den computer aspects of the machine, so the 60 GB model is the only thing I’m considering. With accessories and a game or two, the PS3 would probably run me about $1,000.So I got to thinking…. My main home computer is an MPC Millennia with a 3.2 GHz P4 and 1 GB of RAM. Though the hottest thing around when I got it, there are several subsystems that have seen major evolution in the industry. First and foremost, the newest processors are x86 64 bit and dual core (there are even some new quad core processors available now). Just after I got my current machine, the PCI Express bus became standard, adding much greater throughput on the board, especially for video cards. The 8X AGP in my current machine is long in the tooth, to say the least. The RAM is much slower than current DDR2 DIMMs. The hard drives are SATA 150 instead of the newer SATA 300. The mainboard has only 2 SATA connectors so expansion is limited. Given the limitations of the current system, I don’t think upgrades would do it for me. In addition, I’d like to replace my current homebrew PVR with this MPC machine, especially because the cooling system in my current PVR computer sounds like a damn airplane, interfering with watching recorded shows at a reasonable volume.

So what I am going to do is to price out some components to see how close I can get to an acceptable machine with upgradeability and just above entry level parts in all of the above categories. First, I would like to buy a new Intel Core 2 Duo processer, but I would like to get a mobo that would support a quad core upgrade in a year or two – though this component may be too new to be reasonably priced. I’d like to get a middle of the road PCI-E graphics card, and the mobo should be SLI enabled in case I want to add a second card in SLI configuration later. I’ll need a nice new case and power supply with an ultra-quiet cooling system. I’d like to get at least 2 GB of DDR2 RAM to match the Core 2 Duo; this might also be pricey. Finally, I’d like to get a large SATA 300 drive (at least 500 GB) with a big cache and possibly ondrive flash memory for Windows Vista’s new ReadyBoost technology. I will probably dual boot XP Pro and Vista.

I’ll post the results of my research and then, if I decide to build this machine, document the process here. It should be a lot of fun at the very least.

Replacing an Apple iPod Mini Battery

So my mom and dad weren’t using an iPod Mini they had laying around and the battery wasn’t holding a charge for more than an hour, so they asked if I wanted it. My wife didn’t have one of her own, so I figured I could get a replacement battery and change it myself. How hard can it be?

Turns out, it ain’t that hard at all. Did some quick Google searches and found a nice howto on C-Net:

Tutorial with Video

Ordered a replacement battery from

iPod Mini Battery Kit

It’s a higher capacity battery, so battery life should be longer. Sure beats paying $100 or more for someone else to replace it. $14.99 including tools.

If you want to see the guts of our new iPod Mini, take a look:

iPod Guts Flash Slideshow

One word of advice: Use a hair dryer to loosen the glue on the plastic covers on the top and bottom of the iPod before you start trying to pry them off. Much easier when warmed up.