Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Toy

This little guy arrived the other day, just in time for a quick Arduino and Beer trip I'm taking up to the Bay Area.  It's a little thermal printer, similar to the ones in cash registers.  It's light, and it seems to only need one or two amps at five volts.  I have a battery pack that puts out two amps at that voltage.  My brother has some plans.

The manual is kinda fun .. it's chinese and bad english .. but the last page shows some extended characters, one of which is a solid black square, so I might be able to do QR codes on self-adhesive paper.  Extra checksums plz!

Some of the docs mention RS232, so I'm gonna pack a usb-to-db9 connector with me.  They also mention useful configuration bits for running on battery power, so we're in the right neighborhood for a battery-powered application.  Hey and the example code is for Processing!  Plus, there's a link to some good-looking Arduino hackery.  I think we'll hit the ground running!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

iTunes Isn't Opening when You Plug in Your iPhone (Fix)

I guess this happens sometimes, for no clear reason, iTunes stops automagically opening when you plug in your iPhone.  (Weird, because iPhoto still opens happily.)  Well it's possible that iTunes Helper went and borked itself, so before you go down a more complicated rabbit-hole, try this quick fix.
  • Plug in yer iPhone.
  • Open iTunes.  (If it wants to sync, at this point, let it go ahead and finish.)
  • Click your iPhone in the left-hand part of iTunes, under Devices.
  • In the right-hand side, under Options, deselect "Open iTunes when this iPhone is connected."
  • Click the button in the lower-right to Apply, and then click Sync.
  • Now, again, under Options, click to re-select "Open iTunes when this iPhone is connected."
  • Again, click the Apply button.
  • At this point, you will hopefully get a dialog telling you that iTunes Helper will be installed.
  • Click OK to install it on your Mac.
  • Unplug your iPhone.
  • Close iTunes.
  • Plug your iPhone in and see if iTunes opens automagically.
If that wasn't the problem, I'm afraid you're on your own.  This worked for me .. so I won't have to write a more complicated how-to until it breaks worse.  Hopefully my iPhone doesn't consider that a challenge.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Precision Text Placement on an Underwood

So, while getting going on my new calling cards, I needed to be able to do pretty precise placement of type, using the Underwood.  It's not that tricky, but it's been a while, and the IBM Selectric I last used, had a pretty obvious reticule for this purpose.  So, here's a picture of where the Underwood will place a character ... which you can figure out with a couple sheets of paper and a pen, but it's nice to know someone else got the same results.

Also, it's not easy to keep a calling card level, when you're just kinda stuffing it in there and trying to type on it.  I winged it, and two out of the first nine cards are passable.  But next I'm gonna try using graph paper behind it, to keep things lined up.  Happily, there's a site that'll make custom graph paper, in a downloadable PDF, to your specs.  The site's an ad-laden mine-field, but the app itself is perfect.  Is graph paper retro now, too?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Restoring Wifi on a Vaio Updated to Ubuntu 11.10

  • You were running Ubuntu with a 2.6 kernel, say 10.10 or 11.04
  • You let (or asked) update-manager to upgrade you to 11.10
  • Now it doesn't even think you *have* a wifi interface.
I'll bet, like me, you'd previously told the 2.6 kernels to ignore the realtek 2xxx kernel modules, because it was causing an unfortunate mess.  And you did it scattergun style, blacklisting a bunch of them all will he, nill he, until it worked.  The shotgun method is a lovely, time-honored tradition .. you just gotta undo your work now that you're on a 3.0 kernel.

  • `sudo vi /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf`
  • Find all of your "blacklist rt2something" lines and comment them out.
    • If they're not there, check other files in modprobe.d
  • Restart your cute little netbook.
  • If that was the problem, on login, it'll connect to wifi as usual.
That was all it took for me to get my just-updated system back on the intarwebs.  Mine's a Vaio M111AX, but I think Sony used the same chips for other models.  If you really did a number on your module configuration for the 2.6 kernel, a clean install of Ubuntu 11.10 (Obsequious Ostrich) might be your best bet.  But hopefully this did the trick!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gunnar Computer Glasses - Review

"Do those things work?"  Half the department has now asked me about my new Gunnar Digital Performance Eyewear.  "Yeah, they actually seem to," is my reply, "borrow 'em for a day!"  But it seems like people are willing to take my word(s) for it, with a few asking for a real review.

The story starts while I'd been enjoying some really gnarly eye strain.  Like, "I promised myself I wouldn't cry," strain.  You can look out the window and touch-type, part of the time, but it wasn't enough.  I needed to do something before people started to wonder why I got so sad in meetings.

So there I was at a conference in Las Vegas, wandering the vendor village, and Gunnar had a booth.  You've probably done the same calculation ... the idea of reducing eyestrain is great, and the glasses look nice, and you can try them on and stare at a screen for a minute or two ... but you just don't know if they'll do anything after a whole day of use.  Am I right?  And you don't know whether the yellow tint is going to get annoying.  And your cow orkers might laugh at you.  You just don't know, standing there for five minutes.  You need a real scientific experiment.

Well, this being Las Vegas, I decided to take a gamble.  If I played casino games, I'd be out at least a hundred bucks by now, I figured .. and with nothing to show for it, either.

So now it's been a couple weeks, and I suppose there's the possibility that my seasonal allergies just happened to completely disappear when I put these things on, but I think my little bet has actually payed off.

See if you can borrow someone else's pair for a day .. but I think it's reasonable to take a chance and get yourself a set.  If it doesn't work out, you can always sell them to one of the people who inevitably asks you "Do those things work?"