Picotech sponsorship & Site updates

I have some great news regarding the site. As long time readers probably remember, I’ve done several hacks with my Picoscope 2204 in the past, including a $5 logic analyzer and the latest composite video decoding article. Since I really like their product, I contacted Picotech and asked if they would be interested in working together more closely.

To my delight, the friendly people at Picotech had also noticed the hacks and agreed to sponsor the Code and Life with the extremely capable Picoscope 3206B. In return, I’ve added a “Sponsored by” box to the right which features Picotech and their Picoscope products, and will continue to feature Picoscope-related stuff in the future, and they’ll also have the permission to use those articles on their own. My warmest thanks to Picotech for their donation!

The first concrete result of the new, beefier 200 MHz scope is that I was able to redo many of the measurements in my Raspberry Pi GPIO benchmark. While excellent otherwise, my older Picoscope 2204 with 10 MHz bandwith and 100 MS/s sampling rate was not capable of analyzing the 14-22 MHz waveforms generated by the Pi very accurately, while this was no problem for the 3206B which has 10x the maximum sampling rate: See Benchmarking Raspberry Pi GPIO Speed for details!

Now that I have a scope with more buffer memory, I’m also going to revisit the composite video decoding and see if I can get full resolution, maybe even colors out of my Raspberry Pi composite output using the 3206B. After I get some experience with the new scope, I’ll likely do a review similar to my previous Picoscope 2204 review.

New look for the blog (and sorry for any hiccups)

I’ve wanted a more unique look to the blog for quite some while now, but hadn’t found any creative talent to help me with the process. Luckily I heard about Freelancer.com, and used their service to find a designer to help me with the process.

AFter some consultation, plus 10 hours of my work time to convert the design from Photoshop file to HTML and CSS, and then another 10 hours learning to transform that into a WordPress theme, I now believe I’m more or less ready to roll out the new look.

There may be some hiccups for a few hours at most while I’m testing the theme, and the look may revert back to Suffusion while I iron out any remaining issues. Sorry for that.

On electronics front, expect some new material rather soon – the blog design work has taken my time for the last two weeks, but I should have two very interesting projects to announce quite shortly!

My Interview in EEWeb

Just a short post today to inform interested readers that my interview was recently featured in Electrical Engineering Community EEWeb‘s. So if you’re interested, you can read the full interview. I talk a bit about how I got into electronics, my favorite software and hardware tools, a bit about this site as well as few other things.

Default feed not disabled with Suffusion

I switched to a new WordPress theme, Suffusion! Hooray! However, the %#&/?! default feed link is added to HTML even if disable it in Suffusion settings. Not hooray.

Digging into Suffusion code, I found suffusion_include_default_feed() from functions/actions.php, but it seems that it correctly does not output anything when I disable the default feed. Furthermore, the alternate feed URL actually does output my FeedBurner feed URL. So it seems Suffusion is not generating these links by itself.

Grepping around the WordPress source code (a look through the dozens of templating PHP files really makes me want to code a barebones blog myself) I finally located the culprit: feed_links() method in wp-includes/general-template.php. Why is this called? Where should it not be called?

It seems at least wp-includes/default-filters.php is adding this feed_links action to wp_head. I commented it out, and what do you know, the nerve-wrecking automatic feed URLs are gone!

Just thought to share it if someone else is having the same problem. It looks like Suffusion should have the following somewhere if default feeds are disabled:

remove_action( 'wp_head', 'feed_links', 2 );

It seems Suffusion is adding a ton of actions and filters in its functions.php, namely in function suffusion_setup_custom_actions_and_filters(). So here’s a patch which gets rid of that default feed URL if you have chosen to disable it in Suffusion setup:

function suffusion_setup_custom_actions_and_filters() {
    // Theme supports automatic feed links, which makes WordPress output default 
    // RSS feed links via feed_links action. Disable this if the user has explicitly
    // chosen in Suffusion setup to disable those very feeds.
    global $suf_custom_default_rss_enabled;
    
    if ($suf_custom_default_rss_enabled != 'enabled') {
        remove_action( 'wp_head', 'feed_links', 2 );
    }
    
    ///// ACTIONS

Dissecting the Excalibur Game Time Chess Clock

A go-playing friend of mine had a broken “Excalibur” chess clock that we here in Europe use extensively in go tournaments. The LCD was shattered and I don’t think they ship replacement parts:

Because the clock is not of much use without a display, I got to rip it apart to see what it contains. This particular clock is used quite a lot, so I thought I’d share the images. Note that you can click on pictures to view larger version of the image.
Continue reading Dissecting the Excalibur Game Time Chess Clock

jGoBoard 2.0 and website launched

Although I haven’t been blogging anything recently, just thought to let any readers know, that I’ve created a new library for rendering a photorealistic go board (“goban”) using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. It’s a rather nice piece of software, and published under Creative Commons 3.0 attribution non-commercial license, so it’s free to use in any non-commercial projects.

See the jGoBoard website for more information!

www.Friendscribe.com launched

I’ve just finished a “public beta” version of Friendscribe.com, which is a web-based chat for keeping in touch with your friends. The idea is that chat messages are stored in a database, so you don’t need to have your browser always open to see what’s going on – just log back in later and see if someone has said anything while you were gone.

Try it yourself at http://www.friendscribe.com.

By the way, the site is powered by CodeIgniter – a PHP development framework you definitely should try out if you’re into PHP web development!

Linux SATA problem with Abit IP35-E

Just a brief revelation to share with any readers (perhaps they stumble here through Google, or by some horrible accident :).

I’ve had an Abit IP35-E motherboard in my HTPC setup for six months now, and while a great overclocking board, stable and packed with nice features (yeah, right, this is the budget version), I haven’t been able to coerce my Debian Lenny installation copied from previous IDE hard drive, or any Linux Live-CD to properly recognize my 500GB Samsung SATA hard drive.

Because booting to Linux rebooted with USB keyboard on, and IRQ options sometimes seemed to work their magic and temporarily get me to login prompt, I figured there was some IRQ conflict at work. I searched for the fix just half a year ago with no luck, but after 5 months of complete Linux abstince (spelled that wrong, I did), I stumbled upon this:

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/hot-deals/812946/ (search for “Linux”)

Turns out all I needed was to swap SATA cable from SATA1 port to SATA5. Voila, now everything works great, no IRQ conflicts there (only SATA1-SATA4 ports conflict with USB controller).

Hope this helps someone!

Nokia acquires Trolltech!

Just a short note on this Slashdot newsbit that almost got me falling off my chair: Nokia is acquiring Trolltech, the makers of QT graphics library behind the popular Linux window manager (/platform) KDE.

I mean, if I had been asked a month ago the top three companies making money with open source software, I would’ve replied RedHat, MySQL and Trolltech. And since MySQL has already been acquired, I really wonder what is next.

Also, it is interesting that Nokia decided to acquire Trolltech, even though their Maemo platform is based on GTK and Gnome, not QT and KDE. Well, let’s just hope they don’t stop providing a GPL version of QT in the future.

Anyone want to bet who is the next open source shop being acquired by some big players? My bet is RedHat being acquired by Google or Microsoft, because, well, that would just be surprising, wouldn’t it?

Darkest material yet created using nanotubes

Just a short interesting headline that got my attention on Slashdot:

Nanotubes Form The Darkest Material Yet Created

Picture of this 99.9% light-absorbing monster material can be found from news.com.au coverage. Now as many slashdotters pointed out, this opens up obvious possibilities for solar panels, but once these really get cheap, I’d propose a couple of additional ones:

  • Limiting the light scatter in open areas where adequate lightning (e.g. for safety) and darkness are simultaneously preferred. Theaters, nighttime transportation (ever tried to sleep in a well-lit train?) spring up to mind
  • Ninja clothing. Of course the problem is, that once you actually become darker than the night, you may be more easily spotted.
  • Striking interior decoration. Doors that look like black holes? Check. Really black borders for your home theater projector canvas? Check. Sofa that just doesn’t seem to be there? Check!

And of course there is my absolute favourite: MacBook Night Air, as shown below.

MacBook Night Air

Like Nigel Tufnel says in the movie This Is Spinal Tap: It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.