Up-Grayed

Last week I upgraded my iPod touch to an iPhone… well actually I got a new iPhone 3GS aside the iPod.

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It’s a fast device – even noticeably faster than the 2nd gen iPod Touch. It’s got almost the same battery life like the touch for me and it was a plug-and-play experience to use it the first time.

What I wasn’t expecting is that the smooth experience suddenly came to a stop when I tried to plug the iPhone into my car – just where the iPod touch did the job for about 5 months (including that the touch got charged by the car along the way).

With the iPhone I got two error messages simultaneously:

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“Charging not supported by this accessory”

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“This accessory is not supported by iPhone”

Damn you Apple! What’s the problem? There’s a standard USB port which powered 2,5 inch hard disk drives previously and the iPhone just states that it cannot be charged with this accessory (e.g. the car).

On the other hand everything else just works as it was working with the iPod. I can browse my music library on the iDrive I can listen to music – everything works, beside those two error messages and the not-charging iPhone. Thank you Apple B-) Maybe I need to up-grayed my car too?

massive parallel computing with FPGAs

Today we had a great meeting with SciEngines. These guys offer a great platform for everything that needs massive parallelism and IO bandwidth scalability. They even brought a small copacobana cluster to our headquater.

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Source 1: http://www.sciengines.com
Source 2: http://www.sciengines.com/products/computers-and-clusters/copacobana-s3-1000.html

there goes another Dell Latitude D630

I always asked myself when this particular notebook will fail. Almost everybody I know who got this notebook got his mainboard replaced in the last year. Now it seems that it’s time for my Latitude to get a new set of chips.

It crashed while I was using it and since that it only boots up like this:

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Oh I looked up which graphic chip that actually is. It’s a NVidia NVS135 chip – not like I thought the NVS160 which is embedded in my current generation latitude. Thank god I got 3 year repair and replacement….

The Samsung UE46B6000 + Apple Mac Mini + Plex

So it’s been some days with the new Mediacenter Setup. And all I can say is: Oh boy that is some serious cool setup. I wouldn’t want to chance anything beside adding a new Sound System (>5.1 FTW!).

The Display itself is thinner than thought:

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I strongly recommend the Mac + Plex + Full HD display setup. Even if you don’t get any HD content from your cable provider you can live-stream or download HD content through the different provider plugins inside Plex. The plugin infrastructure with the built-in “App Store” is just great.

Since Plex is a XBMC based Mediacenter software you have tons of information scrapers regarding series and movies. So you’re eventually huge collection gets indexed and presented in a way you would not get from any other Mediacenter. You get pictures, movie posters, descriptions and many more just by automatic indexing your collection.

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MST3k FTW!

Needless to say that HD content is something different. I only had some HD content on normal computer displays in the last years – having it now huge and sharp is different – better.

BTW: It’s on the floor right now because my wife couldn’t decide until now which tv-stand would suffice…

Source 1: http://av.samsung.de/produkte/detail2_main.aspx?guid=b6c1306c-f57d-4ce7-a944-56cc7346ed2e
Source 2: http://www.apple.com/macmini/
Source 3: http://plexapp.com/

new tv set arrived

Finally we got a TV set. Since Samsung announced new LED based sets we ordered a 46 inch tv. It was delivered today (yesterday the Mac mini which will drive the mediacenter arrived). I only had a short test-run scanning for cable stations… so more of that in the following days – especially more of the mediacenter configuration.

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Source: Samsung UE46B6000

sones portiert sein Speichersystem auf das Speichermedium der Zukunft!

Aufgrund neuester Entwicklungen im Speichermedien-Segment wird ab dem nächsten Release des sones Speichersystems auch das angesagteste Speichermedium der Stunde unterstützt: die Speichergurke.

Durch die sensationelle Speicherdichte und unerreichte Zuverlässigkeit ist die Speichergurke das perfekte Speichermedium für den Datenhunger von gestern, heute und morgen.

Source 1: http://www.sones.de
Source 2: http://www.speichergurke.de

Go little Mailserver, go!!!

Since we moved into a new apartment in the last 3 weeks I had no stable internet connection – neither had my private Mailserver.

As of today everything is in place – the mail- and fileserver is up and running and connected to the internet again. So I had a server which buffered all the mail that came in during that time. That sums up to:

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63.671 Mails in about 18 days. Hussah!

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Go little Mailserver, go!!!

New Notebooks and the office for the 3 new developers :-)

I’ve got a new work horse :-) A brand new Dell Latitude E6400 just arrived on monday. It’s quite a lot faster than my old one and after the fresh install it’s also a whole lot better to work with.

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The other news is that all the new hardware for the 3 new developers arrived this week. That means that the guys can move in! :-)

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3x Latitude E6400, 3x Keyboard+Mouse, 3x Sennheiser Headset, 3x 24” Widescreen

Linksys: Epic FAIL! – AVM: Epic WIN!

We wanted to have a separate Office wireless network and a separate guest wireless network in our new Office here at sones. So it was decided to take the old and working wireless router and dedicate him as the guest wirless network base station and buy a new one with 802.11n capabilities to work as the brand new office wireless network base station.

Since we had great experiences with older Linksys WLAN routers we first decided to buy this one:

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Linksys WRT160N

This one was promised to work as a 802.11n capable router but it just did not. There’s nothing more to say about this thing besides: horrible UI, not working, no 5ghz capabilities – we returned this router immediately to the dealer and ordered a new one. This time:

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AVM Fritz!Box 3270

And this one is a winner! Not only was our network up and running within 45 minutes – it also is faster than anything I’ve seen so far. There are even some very very cool frequency monitoring capabilities:

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Not to mention the energy saving functionalities:

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DIY PMR Gateway

In my case it’s just partly do-it-yourself: Michael and Peter did the cable soldering and I wrote the software that controls the serial interface to the PMR sender/receiver.

My gateway is on PMR channel 5 with no CTCSS configured in the Campus area of the TU-Ilmenau. A gateway is only just a PMR radio connected to a PC which is logged into a Teamspeak server which is connected to several other gateways (citizen radio / PMR / …)

So if you talk within the range of my gateway you’ll be heard in more than 24 areas across germany over PMR and citizen radio.

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One toolset which was particularly useful is the VU-Meter tools. You can use them to monitor your input/output ports and tune them for perfect modulation. You can get them here and they look like this:

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Since the cable soldering was one piece of craftsmanship a picture of the radio and the cable:

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the computer side of the interface

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the radio side of the interface

If you want to connect from outside the range of the PMR you should go to the homepage of Freies Funknetz and get all the necessary information there.

Source 1: http://www.darkwood.demon.co.uk/PC/meter.html
Source 2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PMR446
Source 3: http://www.freiesfunknetz.de/index.html

the Hyper-V Server 2008 is available… for free…

I virtualization heaven! I am currently using VMWare Server on most of the machines I am doing virtualization on – but the fact that the Microsoft Hypervisor “Hyper-V” is available for free now is really cool:

“Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008, a bare metal hypervisor-based server virtualization product, is now available as a no-cost Web download at http://www.microsoft.com/Hyper-VServer. Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 provides a simplified, reliable and optimized virtualization solution for customers to consolidate Windows or Linux workloads onto a single physical server or to run client operating systems and applications in server-based virtual machines in the data center. Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 allows customers to leverage their existing provisioning, updating, management and support tools, processes and skills.”

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Source: http://hypervoria.com/

Dye your life…

Some weeks ago I came across those cool color changing LED lamps made by Philips in a hardware store. It’s a mood light with a remote control – you can even control up to 6 lamps with one remote… Oh I really do think that several of these would be great in the new office or at home.

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Source: http://www.lighting.philips.com/microsite/living_colors/

When did RAID became independent?

Once upon a time I was told about that cool technology that lets you take several hard drives and glue them “together” to a single big volume. This technology was called RAID – Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks – and that it was. It brought us greater levels of reliability and performance – and it was inexpensive compared with other technologies and since hard drive prices are falling for years and storage space is growing along with that it’s getting even cheaper than anything else you could use to store data securely. Some of us even backup to a independent RAID system.

In the beginning of this all there were several hard drive interface technologies used – mainly it was Parallel ATA and SCSI. It was widely accepted that the SCSI drives are specified for 24/7 server usage and were almost everytime faster than their consumer PATA relatives. It was accepted that if you want to build a reliable industry grade RAID you would want to use SCSI drives – the SCSI bus system even had advantages like up to 7 drives per bus compared to just 2 drives with PATA or hot-swap capabilities.

Over the last years it turned out that SATA is the new interface technology that replaces the old SCSI and PATA. There are several server grade SATA drives available now – these drives are getting cheaper, faster and bigger by the minute. So there’s not a real purpose for anything “more server than server-SATA” you might think. Again if you want to build inexpensive and redundant storage arrays there is nothing cheaper than standard or even server SATA drives. They are fast, reliable and huge.

So some years ago the industry presents: the SAS interface. It’s called “Serial Attached SCSI” and is the “new cool thing in hard disk storage”. There are some niche features that may or may not justify the existence of SAS. A fact is that SAS hard drives of the same size and speed are more expensive.

“SATA is marketed as a general-purpose successor to Parallel ATA and is now common in the consumer market, while the more expensive SAS is marketed for critical server applications.(Wikipedia)

It’s getting worse: The industry started to offer fast hard drives (15000 rpm) only for the more expensive SAS interface. The few 15k rpm SATA drives are not slower in any way than their SAS versions – but they are not widely available and all of a sudden the same price like the SAS version.

But back to the definition of RAID:

So over the years the technology made a giant leap forward and all of a sudden you find yourself using very expensive hard drives while glueing them together to giant volumes (it’s now terabytes…petabytes…). While consumer hard drives are available for about a third (at least) the price of the server version of the same drive. It seems that the widely accepted definition of inexpensive is replaced by independence. I do know that there are use cases when you want to use the fastest spinning drive available regardless of the price – but I also think that there could be affordable fast spinning drives if we shouldn’t be bothered to pay the marketing-fee that SAS brings. It’s plain marketing to make new 15k rpm drives only available for SAS and not for SATA. Marketing and nothing more.

As it turns out many industry (marketing) brains (hey, even wikipedia) are switching to a new definition of RAID. It’s now a Redundant Array of Independent Disks – which I think is a definition that could not be worse. It’s not independence we gain with the new definition.

Source 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID#cite_note-1
Source 2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_Attached_SCSI

Fixing the bad bad mouse acceleration in Mac OS X

I finally found a fix for the unspeakable mouse acceleration problem I have with MacOS X. It’s just a fact that Apple seems to have no idea how to do the mouse handling. Some people say it’s the mouse acceleration curve that apple got wrong:

“As wonderful as Mac OS X is, it has a grave defect that can have an immediate adverse impact on the computer’s usability: the way it translates mouse motion into pointer movement. For many users, moving the mouse feels unnatural because of the peculiar way that Mac OS X performs that translation. In industry parlance, the translation is called the “mouse acceleration curve.” What is a mouse acceleration curve, and how is its implementation problematic under Mac OS X?”

It’s a problem I can live with but I am not happy. With Panther and Tiger I had a solution called MacMiceCommand. But with Leopard this solution stopped working and until I found this:

“This is a GUI version of Richard Bentley’s MouseFix. (i)MouseFix is a very simple program that will allow you to regain control of the mouse acceleration in Mac OS X. Both this web page and the program copies large parts from MouseFix because he says: “feel free to take the code and wrap a nice interface round it. Be nice and make it free for everyone to use though :-)””

Source 1: mouse acceleration explained
Source 2: http://www.lavacat.com/iMouseFix/

“Virtualization for Dummies” free eBook is available for download

Thanks to Sun and AMD there’s now a free eBook available for download:

“Virtualization for Dummies – Sun and AMD Special Edition is now available! Published by the same folks who create all the “Dummies” books – this special edition version showcases Sun and AMD virtualization offerings, how they work together, and how they can benefit businesses. Learn about the latest virtualization technologies with this brief and easy-to-read booklet.”

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Source: Virtualization for Dummies Download

littleBits – modular electronics that sticks together

It’s like lego for electronic circuits:

“littleBits is an opensource library of discrete electronic components pre-assembled in tiny circuit boards. Just as Legos allow you to create complex structures with very little engineering knowledge, littleBits are simple, intuitive, space-sensitive blocks that make prototyping with sophisticated electronics a matter of snapping small magnets together. With a growing number of available modules, littleBits aims to move electronics from late stages of the design process to its earliest ones, and from the hands of experts, to those of artists, makers and designers.”

Source: http://www.ayahbdeir.com/littleBits/

Vista Battery Saver tool

Sometimes you’ll need the battery of your notebook last as long as possible – sometimes it’s speed that matters. With Windows Vista you can setup detailed power plans for each situation. But this options are a bit hidden under the surface.

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For that matter the “Vista Battery Saver” is a tool that helps you to setup the important settings in just one window, with just one click. It even is aware of the power state of your machine – if it’s plugged in or now and so on.

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It’s a free tool and you can even download it’s sourcecode. Give it a try if you’re on a mobile machine with Vista.

Source: http://www.codeplex.com/vistabattery

Since we’re writing our own google-scale filesystem… we should …

… build ourselves a case for the test machines with lego duplo blocks… like the founders of google did.

“It’d be hard to believe but yes, Sergey Brin and Larry Page made their first 40GB Google Storage Server with lego casing.”

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Source: http://zedomax.com/blog/2008/08/04/original-google-storage-server-made-with-legos/

your office chair: right out of your race car

If you ever wanted to sit on a real fast office chair… you probably want to consider buying one of these:

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built from a Lamborghini Diablo GT chair…

“Race Chairs brand office furniture is the perfect collection for the performance minded or motorsports obsessed individual. Our offerings are unique conversation pieces that give a subtle yet distinctive high tech atmosphere to any room.

Our chairs are made from the authentic high performance seats from exotic racecars such as Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, and Porsche. From our unique connection to the motorsports world, we are able to acquire a unique and everchanging inventory. Our Carbonfiber desks are an industry first and our accessories collection and one-off motorsports memorabilia pieces truly complete the decor while acting as functional pieces in the room.”

It’s not cheap but it has style :-)

Source: http://www.racechairs.com/default.asp

self replicating machines

When I thought of self replicating machines I thought of end-of-time scenarios and a robot armies conquering the world and enslaving the human race… it’s not that bad right now but we’re getting to it… sort of :-)

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“Adrian Bowyer (left) and Vik Olliver (right) with a parent RepRap machine, made on a conventional rapid prototyper, and the first complete working child RepRap machine, made by the RepRap on the left. The child machine made its first successful grandchild part at 14:00 hours UTC on 29 May 2008 at Bath University in the UK, a few minutes after it was assembled.”

“RepRap is short for Replicating Rapid-prototyper. It is the practical self-copying 3D printer shown on the right – a self-replicating machine. This 3D printer builds the parts up in layers of plastic. This technology already exists, but the cheapest commercial machine would cost you about €30,000. And it isn’t even designed so that it can make itself. So what the RepRap team are doing is to develop and to give away the designs for a much cheaper machine with the novel capability of being able to self-copy (material costs are about €500). That way it’s accessible to small communities in the developing world as well as individuals in the developed world. Following the principles of the Free Software Movement we are distributing the RepRap machine at no cost to everyone under the GNU General Public Licence. So, if you have a RepRap machine, you can make another and give it to a friend… “

Source: http://reprap.org/bin/view/Main/WebHome

Augmented Reality Game soon available (full source!)

You may have heard about Levelhead – an augmented reality game made by Julian Oliver – if you did not hear about it? No problem:

Augmented reality (AR) is a field of computer research which deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data. At present, most AR research is concerned with the use of live video imagery which is digitally processed and “augmented” by the addition of computer-generated graphics. Advanced research includes the use of motion-tracking data, fiducial marker recognition using machine vision, and the construction of controlled environments containing any number of sensors and actuators.”

So – Augmented reality mixes the reality and the computer graphics and creates a new reality for you. That’s a lot of theoretical…so let’s talk about Levelhead:

It’s a game where you have to move plastic cubes with printed-on patterns in front of a camera – the computer now renders a new world inside of the plastic cubes – when you move the cube, the world inside the cube moves too… it looks like this:

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“levelHead uses a hand-held solid-plastic cube as its only interface. On-screen it appears each face of the cube contains a little room, each of which are logically connected by doors.
In one of these rooms is a character. By tilting the cube the player directs this character from room to room in an effort to find the exit.

Some doors lead nowhere and will send the character back to the room they started in, a trick designed to challenge the player’s spatial memory. Which doors belong to which rooms?

There are three cubes (levels) in total, each of which are connected by a single door. Players have the goal of moving the character from room to room, cube to cube in an attempt to find the final exit door of all three cubes. If this door is found the character will appear to leave the cube, walk across the table surface and vanish.. The game then begins again.
Someone once said levelHead may have something to do with a story from Borges.. For a description of the conceptual basis of this project, see below. “

If you are not amazed now? You should watch this:

The thing is – this cool game and technology will be available at the end of this month as full open-source. I suggest to check Julians site back at the end of the month at last.

Source 1: Augmented Reality @ Wikipedia
Source 2: Levelhead homepage

what typing 4 words a second sounds like

Okay – the ones who are frequently using a keyboard know that they are getting faster and faster as time goes by – so it’s normal to type fast but FAST is not enough to compete in the national speed-typing contest in the states:

“Who’s the fastest typist in the land? If you’re talking about the Land of Lincoln, it’s arguably Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, who has won the Illinois court reporters speed contest for the past three years. At last year’s event she transcribed the contest’s blazing dictation—averaging 245 words a minute—with a 99.193 percent accuracy.
That’s about 4 words a second.”

Source: Chicago Tribune speed typing (with video)

How much memory can you put into one giant x64 machine and actually use it?

The answer is: 2 Terabyte.

“You can see physical memory support licensing differentiation across the server SKUs for all versions of Windows. For example, the 32-bit version of Windows Server 2008 Standard supports only 4GB, while the 32-bit Windows Server 2008 Datacenter supports 64GB. Likewise, the 64-bit Windows Server 2008 Standard supports 32GB and the 64-bit Windows Server 2008 Datacenter can handle a whopping 2TB. There aren’t many 2TB systems out there, but the Windows Server Performance Team knows of a couple, including one they had in their lab at one point. Here’s a screenshot of Task Manager running on that system:”

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P.S.: Thx boonkerz.

Source: http://blogs.technet.com/markrussinovich/archive/2008/07/21/3092070.aspx

Hyper-V vs. Virtual Sever 2005 R2 – a “benchmark” using Sharepoint

Michael O’Donovan has a great benchmark-comparison of the brand new Hyper-V and the older Virtual Server 2005 R2:

“I have done a fair amount of SharePoint demos and developement over the past few years, and have always done this on my laptop using Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 or Microsoft Virtual PC, to host and run a SharePoint environment. Last year at Tech-Ed, while I was doing a demo, I had a comment from someone in the audience “Why is SharePoint so slow?” To some degree it makes sense, the specific SharePoint virtual environment which I was using at the time had almost every product known to man installed (the virtual hard drive size was 40GB), as well as being a domain controller and running on a laptop which only had 1GB ram assigned to the virtual machine. However, with the RTM release of Hyper-V (on Windows Server 2008), I wanted to see if performance was better now.”

One graph from his article:

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Guess now – which color is which product?

Source: http://blogs.msdn.com/modonovan/archive/2008/07/09/sharepoint-under-hyper-v-versus-virtual-server-2005-r2.aspx