36 Chambers – The Legendary Journeys: Execution to the max!

October 20, 2013

New Phone

Filed under: Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 5:17 pm

I’ve had my Thunderbolt for two and a half years now.  It’s a slow but venerable phone and has served me well.  Unfortunately, over the past few months, the battery life completely died.  I bought a new battery, which fixed that problem, but recently, it started shutting itself off at 80% battery life and after reboot claiming that the battery is at ~0%.  After the next reboot, it would be back at 70-79% and A-OK for a little bit, except when it jumps from 70% to 15% and shuts off.  So basically, it was time for a new phone.

With this battery-related craziness in mind, I decided to spring for a Droid Maxx.  It’s much faster and, more importantly, has a huge amount of battery life.  Paired with a USB recharger, I should have no problems when at a conference.

April 2, 2013

Computing Notes

Filed under: Computinating, Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 6:00 pm

February 18, 2013

New Computer Built

Filed under: Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 6:00 pm

The last desktop computer I bought was in 2007.  It was pretty good for the time (or at least as good as I could custom-build for ~$1300 including monitors and peripherals), but it has been showing its age for a while.  Sometime in the next year, I plan to build a mega-computer, designed to handle running 4-5 VMs simultaneously and allowing my laptops to connect similar to a vmWare View workstation, so that I don’t use up their scarce resources like I am today.  Unfortunately, that computer’s going to be pretty expensive (I have it spec’d out at a bit over $4000).

To get me through the meantime, I decided to try to upgrade my current computer.  My plan was that I would buy some more RAM, maybe get a solid state drive, and upgrade Windows to 64-bit.  This plan fell apart about ten minutes after I began:  the motherboard I had was limited to 4 GB of RAM, and I was at that amount already.

So then I decided to get a new motherboard.  But then I’d need to get a new CPU, new RAM, and a new video card (it was 5 years old, too, so although it still worked fine for a lot of stuff, it was beginning to show its age).  And I wanted to do this today, so off to the local giant computer chain I went.  While there, I also found a great deal on SSDs, so I threw in one of those, too.  I figured I could re-use my case, power supply (which I had upgraded to a 650w Antec model), two SATA drives, DVD burner, wireless network card, and sound card.

Sometime after installing the new motherboard, I took a closer look at the thing and realized that it’s not 2008 anymore:  there were no PCI legacy slots (goodbye sound card and network card) and no IDE channel (so long, DVD burner), so I had to go out and get a wireless USB stick—cards are apparently passe now—and DVD burner.  I only have cheap speakers for this computer, so the onboard sound is acceptable.

The total price for this was about $950, but I now have 16 GB of RAM, a solid state Windows installation, a mid-range processor, a good video card, and have slaked my urge to spend $4K on a computer…for now…  Eventually, I’ll donate this machine to the spousal unit and build my mega-computer, but at least I can play The Sims 3 without having it crash and lose hours of micromanaging…  Oh, and the 7-second bootup is so nice.

December 22, 2012

More Microsoft Doom Notes

Filed under: Computinating, Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 7:00 pm

Windows 8 appears to be a flop in the business world.  This makes total sense to me:  in my experience so far, Windows 8 has a good feel for a tablet-based system, where you may lack a keyboard or end up doing a lot of work with a touchscreen.  But as far as desktop-related work goes, they didn’t really improve the Windows 7 interface but they did shuffle things around and make it harder to get to places if you do not already know the name.  For example, try to get a casual Windows user to shut down the machine.  It’s harder than you might think.

And don’t get me started on the UI for Server 2012…

Infoworld’s review, I think, is tough  but fair.

It kind of feels like Microsoft is trying to force businesses and consumers into Windows 8 by (perhaps) not offering a second service pack for Windows 7.

November 14, 2012

Windows 105

Filed under: Computinating, Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 5:40 pm

Bad name, but awesome job.  To think that you could rig a Windows look-alike on a Commodore 64 is just amazing.

October 26, 2012

Wrist Computing

Filed under: Computing Devices, Cool Toys — Kevin Feasel @ 6:00 pm

We’re getting closer and closer to having Pip-Boys, except without the nuclear apocalypse and giant mutated creature bits.  This is us definitely getting the better end of that deal.

The actual device isn’t wonderful, but it’s definitely a step forward, so kudos.

October 5, 2012

Joel Runyon Meets The Inventor Of The Computer

Filed under: Computinating, Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 5:00 pm

Joel Runyon runs into Russell Kirsch in a coffeehouse in Portland.  Reading the follow-up post is also something I recommend.

March 4, 2012

A USB Pen Drive

Filed under: Computinating, Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 8:03 pm

While at my forensics course a couple of weeks ago, the other guy in my class pulled out a USB stick and showed off some tools on there.  He built it using YUMI, over at Pen Drive Linux, and I’ve taken some time to do the same.  The process for creating a bootable USB stick is easy, and I’ve loaded my drive with goodies, including:

  • Windows 7 (using a valid copy I own; you need to provide your own ISO)
  • Backtrack 5
  • Ubuntu 12.04
  • Knoppix 6.7.1
  • Peppermint Two
  • Ophcrack
  • Ultimate Boot CD
  • Acronis anti-malware scanner
  • Kaspersky virus scanner
  • Trinity Rescue Kit
  • Gparted
  • Clonezilla
  • AVG anti-virus scanner
  • Memtest 86+
  • FreeDOS
  • Tails

On top of that, I have some forensics and analysis tools on the stick, in case I’m somewhere without an internet connection and need to do some repair or analysis.  I like the idea of having most of my tools available on one bootable USB stick, rather than a pack of DVDs.

I really wanted to put DEFT Linux on this stick, but YUMI does not support it at this time.  Instead, you can use the Universal USB Installer to create a single-app bootable stick.  After running that, DEFT 7 loaded just fine.  Unfortunately, its ISO is just over 2 GB, meaning you’ll need a 4 GB stick to get the full kit on there.

Another difficulty I’ve had is with getting additional bootable ISOs up and running.  For example, I wanted to get BartPE and a Windows 7 repair disc as well, but this didn’t work quite as I’d like.

Incidentally, if you get a weird syslinux error in YUMI stating that An error(1) occurred while executing syslinux. Your USB drive won’t be bootable, make sure that your USB stick is formatted as FAT32.  If in doubt, just let YUMI format the stick for you.

November 25, 2011

Design Problems

Filed under: Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 3:26 pm

Here is an interesting post on design problems inherent in touchscreen-based technology (via Brent Ozar PLF’s weekly list). There is something to be said for tactile interfaces:  typing on an old IBM keyboard provides much better feedback than trying to type on a similarly-sized touchscreen keyboard (not to mention a much smaller touchscreen keyboard).

The other problem that I see is that most of our daily experiences are three-dimensional in nature:  the relative thickness of a book, as pointed out, tells you a pretty good amount on its own:  it tells you how far along you are, roughly how much more there is to go, and how big the book is compared to other books.  Without that third dimension, you need page numbers, or you’re lost.  The lack of a notable third dimension certainly keeps devices portable and light (I’m not complaining about being able to store hundreds of books on my nook, and I can lay my nook flat and expect to be able to read from it without holding the thing open) but comes with some tradeoffs.  When it comes to something like a keyboard, or some other device in which constant visual observation is a bad thing, the model falls apart, leaving us to cope with subpar design.

October 16, 2011

Ubuntu 11.10 On An Asus UL30Vt

Filed under: Computing Devices — Kevin Feasel @ 10:15 am

Installing Ubuntu Linux on my Asus laptop required a few tweaks to get things working correctly.  Previously, I had used Ubuntu 9 and 10 and did not have nVidia driver support.  With 11, jockey-gtk (the Additional Drivers tool) told me that I could use the nVidia drivers, so after I installed them from that tool, the product said that the drivers were installed but not activated.  I tried a number of things, but was unable to get my 3D card to work; the Intel card worked fine and lsmod showed the nVidia card set up, but my Xorg.conf file change didn’t result in the nVidia card working correctly.  What ended up fixing it was upgrading my BIOS firmware to the latest version.  After doing that, the driver worked fine, and now I have 3D support.  The battery life is pretty crappy—far worse than in Windows—but at least my video card works now.  In addition, I can do Unity in 3D.

My quick thought on Unity is that I like it.  I like the fact that it uses the Windows key to pop up a gnome-do style box.  That’s a rather convenient feature.  It also doesn’t really get in the way for me, which is vital for a menu.  Fancy-looking menus which get in the way aren’t progress…

In addition, when updating from 11.04 to 11.10, my touchpad stopped working.  When I ran xinput list in a console, it showed the “ETPS/2 Elantech Touchpad” as active and on id=12, but it just didn’t work.  It turns out that Mark Pointing has the correct answer for me:  the touchpad was renamed in 11.10, but one of the script files was not updated to match this change.  Specifically, change /etc/acpi/asus-touchpad.sh from

XINPUTNUM=`xinput list | grep 'SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad' | sed -n -e's/.*id=\([0-9]\+\).*/\1/p'

to

XINPUTNUM=`xinput list | grep 'ETPS/2 Elantech Touchpad' | sed -n -e's/.*id=\([0-9]\+\).*/\1/p'`

Note that there are some apostrophes in there, but the entire line is bracketed by backticks (`, which shares its key with ~ on the US keyboard, and is above the tab key).  After changing that line and restarting X, my touchpad worked just fine.

Another helpful hint from that thread comes from martincasco and Emily Strickland.  Install dconf-tools:

sudo apt-get install dconf-tools

Then, after that, run dconf-editor.  This does require a mouse, unfortunately, so get a USB mouse to tide you over (or make the shell script change first).  In the configuration editor, go to org –> gnome –> settings-daemon –> peripherals –> touchpad.  In here, touchpad-enabled may be unchecked.  If it is, check it.  In addition, you can also change the touchpad to use two-finger scrolling (which I’ve really gotten accustomed to) and turn on tap-to-click, another thing I like in Asus touchpads.  Horizontal scrolling is another setting I’ve turned on.

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