Tinker

Good Internet, Bad Internet

In which I discuss poor internet connections.

Slow Internet

Today at work I was using a terribly slow internet connection. What interested me was which programs and websites worked on a slow connection and which ones didn't.

These programs/sites worked well:

These didn't:

  • Outlook
  • Outlook web
  • Wunderlist
  • Ctrl-Alt-Delete

Google Mail & Calendar were intermittent.

Why should this be? I'm not sure and would have hazarded a guess that sites and programs which send less data would work better. However, Wunderlist only needs to send short strings of text (calendar events) when Evernote was syncing complete documents. Also with the websites both CAD and Xkcd require images to load. Xkcd managed it easily but I haven't seen today's CAD yet. Maybe the ones which loaded were just better coded/written!?!

Good Wi-Fi

Currently I'm writing this from the comfort of First Class with a complimentary glass of Merlot :-) The free Wi-Fi is excellent and speedy - the upgrade was definitely worth it (£2 to upgrade which gets me the normally £6 Wi-Fi, free wine and dinner). My new Archos G9 101 tablet is working very well and for a quick trip like this it's so much better than a laptop.*

So my first post written entirely on a tablet has gone well, also having a 250Gb HDD means I've done so to excellent musical accompaniment (LotR and TMBG among others).

*Although I did need to re-calibrate the screen after a recent update.

Tom Out!

CASE Placements and Research Software

In which I apologise for this week being low on blog posts and update you on my AstraZeneca placement. Also I use software I normally use for research for other purposes.I'm sorry there haven't been any updates this week. There was no cake made as I had no time for choir on Tuesday, no tea as it's an alternate week and the usual Thor update is delayed (pending a hot wire cutter).

CASE Placement

This week I started my work placement at AstraZeneca, the industrial part of my Industrial CASE PhD (see my post on PhD types). Apart from the system shock due to waking up significantly earlier than usual (my commute to UoM is a 15-20 min walk not a 45-60 min drive) the week has been good so far :) I've gone through a load of induction sessions and lots of positive feedback on my study designs and planning for the weeks ahead.

Next week I start work proper with my first study and hopefully the results will be as we predict. Sadly for now I can't give any more details due to confidentiality agreements. Rest assured though if I get a publication out of this placement (which I hope I will) it will be mentioned in this blog :)

Weeping Womble

On Monday night I managed to take a good set of photos of fellow Scout leader and Networker (Womble) walking ominously towards my camera. I used ImageJ a free, java based image tool commonly used by MRI researchers to animate this simple gif:

After fixing some timing issues, adding 'blinks' and a final word of warning I ended up with this final masterpiece of internet animation:

Proof that research software can be quite fun in your spare time!

Tom Out!

P.S. AstraZeneca

P.P.S ImageJ

Android on an old Dell

So my old Dell Inspiron 1525 has had many problems. Not least of which is a hardware fault preventing the battery from charging most of the time :S However it is a very useful tool for testing distros on and generally tinkering.Following a chat with my housemate about his netbook I decided to see if it was possible to install Android on a laptop. Turns out the answer is yes courtesy of the Android-x86 Project: http://www.android-x86.org/

It's working well though I'm currently struggling to transfer pdfs and such across and certain apps (like Angry Birds) keep failing. You need a basic knowledge of linux commands to mount USBs and the like but other than that it is effectively a non-touch screen version of the OS :)

Tom Out!

I have a GUI

So following my post earlier today I now have a working xorg.conf and KDE 4.8.3 is running smoothly. Turns out there is an easy to use utility called nvidia-xconfig which I had overlooked and did the job perfectly. Also importantly I now have Chromium (Chrome for Linux if you didn't know) installed :) Time to start tinkering!

I've provided my xorg.conf here in-case it is useful to anyone. This works with a Nvidia GTS 450 linked by HDMI to a Panasonic 42" TX-P42U30B Plasma TV:

# nvidia-xconfig: X configuration file generated by nvidia-xconfig

# nvidia-xconfig: version 295.71 (buildmeister@swio-display-x86-rhel47-04.nvidia.com) Thu Aug 2 20:28:32 PDT 2012

Section "ServerLayout" Identifier "Layout0" Screen 0 "Screen0" 0 0 InputDevice "Mouse0" "CorePointer" InputDevice "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard" EndSection

Section "Module" Load "glx" EndSection

Section "InputDevice" # generated from data in "/etc/conf.d/gpm" Identifier "Mouse0" Driver "mouse" Option "Protocol" Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice" Option "Emulate3Buttons" "no" Option "ZAxisMapping" "4 5" EndSection

Section "InputDevice" Identifier "Keyboard0" Driver "kbd" EndSection

Section "Modes" Identifier "Modes0" ModeLine "1920x1080@60" 182.28 1920 1952 2640 2672 1080 1102 1113 1135 EndSection

Section "Monitor" Identifier "Monitor0" VendorName "Unkown" ModelName "Unknown" UseModes "Modes0" HorizSync 28.0 - 33.0 VertRefresh 43.0 - 72.0 EndSection

Section "Device" Identifier "GTS450" Driver "nvidia" VendorName "NVIDIA Corporation" EndSection Section "Screen" Identifier "Screen0" Device "GTS450" Monitor "Monitor0" DefaultDepth 24 Option "ConnectedMonitor" "DEP-0" Option "DPMS" "false" SubSection "Display" Depth 24 EndSubSection EndSection

Tom out!

Gentoo 64-bit

So guess what I was up to last night - yes that's right, installing Gentoo.

This was my first time installing Gentoo on 64-bit architecture - the important specs are below:

  • Intel Core i7 2600k Processor (Sandy Bridge - important later)
  • 8 GB DDR3 RAM
  • Asus P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3 Motherboard
  • 250 GB HDD (well 250 GB partition out of the 4 TB in my machine)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTS 450 GPU
  • Blu-Ray recorder drive

Also worth noting that this is a dual boot with Windows 7.

[WARNING - If you're not interested in Linux or computer geekery I expect you will find the rest of this post boring]

I followed the Gentoo documentation found here: http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/handbook/ I will be noting any differences between that guide and my install here.

Choosing the Right Installation Medium

I downloaded the LiveCD and used that as my initial Linux environment for installing from.

Configuring your Network

All done through DHCP.

Preparing the Disks

I used the standard layout of boot, swap and root partitions but on /dev/sdb2 to /dev/sdb4 because of my dual booting. I set my swap partition to 20 GB following advice I found online. Then annoyingly the LiveCD made me reboot in order to write the changes. The I used the standard filesystems.

Installing the Gentoo Installation Files

The -march option in CFLAGS needs to be native or corei7-avx because of the Sandy Bridge architecture. I used MAKEOPTS="-j5" as it's a quad core processor.

Installing the Gentoo Base System

I selected the default amd64 profile. I set up my USE flags with KDE in mind so -gnome and -gtk were used. I also added the bluray flag.

Configuring the Kernel

I mostly followed the guide but later I had to come back and recompile without some Nvidia options: http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/nvidia-guide.xml#doc_chap3

Configuring your System

I always set my hostname to be the name of a famous fictional computer - this time I went for Ozymandias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_computers#1990s)

I set my locale to be en_GB.UTF-8.

Installing Necessary System Tools

I chose to get syslog-ng, vixie-cron, mlocate, dhcpcd and ppp.

Configuring the Bootloader

I used GRUB and followed the standard set-up except for a timeout of 10 seconds and replacing Windows XP with Windows 7. I also had to ensure to make the boot device hd1,1 and root=/dev/sdb4.

Finalizing your Gentoo Installation

I made my user with nearly all the groups (N.B. games doesn't work - is it depreciated?)

Where to go from here?

By the time I left for work this morning I had also emerged X-org and KDE 4.8.3 and had managed to get startx to not crash while going to a black screen. I'm going to have to work on my xorg.conf this evening and hopefully I'll get a working one running. This will be useful as Googling doesn't currently give a working one for my 42" TV and graphics card via HDMI. I hope people might find that useful :)

Tom out!

P.S. http://www.gentoo.org/

Polymorphing

Polymorph mouldable plastic

So this is the first post of my new combined blogs *maniacal laughter*

One of the things I plan to post about a bit more regularly is my PhD. Not the general day-to-day stuff but the cool and wacky things that you wouldn't expect to do - of which there are many.

So I am in the process of prototyping various bits of MR safe equipment for use in my project and having been playing around with Polymorph. It is a re-mouldable plastic which you can melt in boiling water and then make into any old shape. For bonus cool science points it turns clear when mouldable and  white when it sets :)

Today I've been moulding it around an old tonic bottle and some test tubes - proof that my research will never cease to surprise me!

[You can buy Polymorph from Maplin]

Tom out!

P.S. This is my first Tinker post!

P.P.S. My blog has polymorphed!

Hello World!

Well this is the first post I'm making here on my shiny new blog.In short I thought no-one would want to listen to my problems etc. (those who do can do so IRL) so I decided to make a blog full of useful/interesting things (or at least it will be).

The name of TinkerTailorSoldierSponge sums up my intention for this blog fairly neatly - these will be the 4 major categories of posts:

  1. Tinker - a catch-all term for DIY and computer related geekery
  2. Tailor - costume design/construction for fancy dress purposes (or even porpoises)
  3. Soldier - Airsoft related activities
  4. Sponge - cookery (mostly cakes) [won't start until mid-June when I move to a house with a working oven]
Over the next few days I'll be getting to grips with WordPress and blogging in general. First to pick a theme...
Tom W