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Chris's Random Ramblings

Fri, 20 Jul 2007 - Watch the world

A very cool SL Machinima video. Wish I knew where in SL it is so I could go have a look.

Mon, 16 Jul 2007 - Virtual Software Freedom Day 07 T-shirts

I saw Pia's post about Software Freedom day t-shirts last week and asked about getting the source artwork to make some virtual ones. I'm no gimp expert, but I did get around to making a virtual t-shirt up that you can grab in Second Life for free.


tshirt dispenser

You can pick up your own free (full mod/copy of course) version of the t-shirt at Sipiwesk (127,40,61)

Mon, 16 Jul 2007 - T60p, Ubuntu Feisty and Second Life

About every three years our laptops get upgraded. Monday last week was upgrade day for me and I received a T60p to replace my T41p. If I'd remembered to google beforehand I would have saved myself a bit of time as the graphical installer doesn't work because the video driver doesn't work (installer just crashes). The text installer on the other CD did get a lot further, though it did stall for a long time at the end - long enough that I thought I'd try to kill off the offending process and hope the installer would continue. Unfortunately although the installer framework survived, it just refused to retry installing the packages.

The second time around when it stalled I did a bit more investigating, and with the help of sfr realised that it was trying to do an http request. It was late enough in the day that the office network was behaving much better and rather than getting stuck it managed to complete the install. A little bit of upgrading and everything was happy. Nice not to have to play around with xorg.conf settings for once.

These days virtual worlds are a big part of my job, especially with Second Life, thus the choice of laptop with a 256Mb video card. Unfortunately Second Life has a bit of a reputation of really pushing the graphics drivers (both on Linux and Windows). Hardware accelerated OpenGL works pretty much out of the box, but on Ubuntu Feisty Second Life dies pretty early on in the process.

Again if I'd googled before hand I'd have found that Second Life simply doesn't work with the default install. Luckily, upgrading to the latest version of the binary drivers makes things work, although it does still seem to crash occasionally.

Sun, 08 Jul 2007 - PS3 Eye Toy

I recently noticed a couple of videos on YouTube about the PS3 Eye Toy coming out somtime this year (I think). The first is basically just an advert, and the second is a demonstration of how a card game will work. If it works as well as it does in the videos, there are going to be some very interesting user interfaces come out as well as some very fun games.

Fri, 04 May 2007 - Brother MFC-7820N

We've been looking around for a black and white network multifunction laser printer for a while, and finally got around to getting the Brother MFC 7820N a couple of weeks ago.

Importantly, it has really good Linux support with drivers available for download from the website. And even has packages in rpm as well as deb format. Setting up network printing was very easy and faxing direct from the desktop was pretty straightforward as well. There's a little program you can run on your machines so that they register with printer. So when you want to scan something you can then choose whilst at the printer which machine/account you want to send it to.

The only oddity is that for some strange reason the phones all ring in the house when sending a fax. Probably something to do with a wierd interaction between the printer and the voip box, though I haven't found the source of the problem yet.

Thu, 02 Nov 2006 - New shiny toy

A few of us at the office bought Nokia E70 phones so have new toys to setup. The E70 has a neat fold out qwerty keyboard, a very nice screen and on top of doing the standard phone stuff supports 802.11g as well as making voip calls. It was a pretty straightforward process to get it working with my Asterisk setup at home, so now when my mobile phone is at home its just another extension. Incoming calls on the PSTN, VoIP or mobile provider lines will all ring the phone and outgoing calls on the mobile phone will by default go out on VoIP by default rather than making a more expensive mobile call.

Synchronisation of calendar and contacts with Linux has been a bit of a disappointment. OpenSync tries very hard to synchronise between evolution and the phone, but there are obviously quite a few problems remaining. Its very easy to get duplicate entries, and it simply doesn't like some entries generated by evolutions which causes the synchronisation to fail.

The phone runs the SymbianOS for which there is a documented development environment free to download, but its not an easy process to do so on Linux and as far as I can tell the Series 60v3 used on the E70 isn't yet supported by the Linux tools yet. The culture of development for Symbian seems pretty similar to other PDA like systems - more of a shareware or commerical one rather than Open Source.

I've tried about half a dozen java Jabber clients (some of the Open Source) and the all were pretty bad. I get the impression that portability has been gained at the cost of usability and looks. Some of the native ones looked pretty good, but were shareware or commerical. As a result I'm sadly considering having to write my own. On the good side, you can get Python for the phone, an effort which appears to be supported by Nokia. So maybe I can whip together an IM client reusing existing python libraries. It least it would be an excuse to finally get around to learning Python.

Thu, 05 Oct 2006 - Found a Second Life

After reading some online articles about what some IBM employees have been doing in a virtual world I decided to check it out myself. Second life is a 3D virtual reality earth-like world. If it was real it would be about the size of Boston. You can see and communicate with other people, and are represented in the world by an avatar. There is no end goal designed into the game. What a person does, and how you interact with others is left up to the player. Its not really a game in the same sense as other virtual games such World of Warcraft or even Eve Online.

Inside this virtual world you can build objects out of simple primitives such as cubes, pyramids, and spheres (just to name a few) which can be modified and textured using in game editing tools. There is also a object oriented scripting programming language, whose syntax is similar to say C or Java. Using these tools in conjunction you can create objects which interact with other objects in the world or with other players.

I would not classify the graphics detail (at least with my reasonably oldish computer) as cutting edge. Nearly everything is downloaded on the fly from the servers so you do need a good internet link and reasonably large quota - I think I'll actually get through my 20Gb quota this month.

I find several aspects of this game quite interesting. I think I'll talk about them a bit more in detail in future posts, but briefly its:

Here's a few snapshots I took in Second Life. My desktop system has 4 year old graphics card in it and it wasn't cutting edge at the time I bought it, so the graphics could probably be much better with better hardware.

Almaden Island

IBM owns a virtual island within Second Life called Almaden. There are various presentations available for anyone to look at as well as some virtual freebies (t-shirts, caps etc).


Yes, thats a Stargate. It will dial other gates, just like in the TV show and teleport your Avatar to other places within Second Life.


That's my Avatar relaxing in a comfy chair while Kelly builds our virtual house.

Here's a few links to more information about what people are doing in Second Life:

And yes, there is a Linux client. Its an alpha version, but at least for my hardware configuration, the graphics work better (less clipping bugs) than the windows version.

Thu, 14 Sep 2006 - Asterisk Setup

A few of the people in the office are interested in the setup I used for Asterisk and the SPA-3000 ATA, so I did a bit of a brain dump.

The new Nokia E70 phone looks very tempting. It has PDA functionality, does WiFi and importantly can handle VoIP calls over the WiFi. So its possible to set it up as another handset that connects to Asterisk when at home or in range of an open access point.

Tue, 12 Sep 2006 - Home PBX Fun

I finally got around to setting up Asterisk properly at home. We use a SPA-3000 as an ATA to connect to Asterisk which selects between a couple of VoIP providers we are subscribed to. Incoming calls on VoIP connections as well as those on the normal (PSTN) phone line go through asterisk which also serves as the answering machine. Its quite handy to have voicemail emailed to you when at work or travelling. On the TODO list still is to add some voice menus to filter out telemarketers.

Thu, 24 Aug 2006 - Why cats shouldn't sit on or next to laptops