January 27, 2013

To be completely honest, I’m a little disappointed with ZaReason‘s tablet offering, the ZaTab (N.B. currently sold out while they develop the successor). And I feel guilty about saying so, because I love ZaReason and I want them to succeed.

Here’s the basic problems I’ve been having with my device.

  • Device doesn’t charge. This is kind of a big problem for a device to have. It’s kind of a qualified "doesn’t charge", though, because if you plug the USB cable in just the right position, it will charge, but slowly (36 hours for a charge?). It seems like the connectors aren’t well-seated or maybe the case is coming loose, or maybe the connectors are breaking off the motherboard. Who knows? I wrote support an email on the 14th of December. I thought I’d cut them some slack for the holidays, but it’s been almost three weeks without any response — even so much as a "sorry, we can’t help you, it’s almost certainly completely fucked and it’s out of warranty". (I pinged them on Twitter too; nothing.)
  • When a MicroSD card is inserted, the device becomes much more sluggish and seems to run out of charge a lot faster. Maybe this is related to the above, maybe not. This was with a 32GB card; I haven’t tried anything else since them.
  • No clear way to update device. Maybe this is my fault for factory-resetting the device, but it’s running CyanogenMod 9, right? So why can’t I just easily install Cyanogen 10 to see if the above problem goes away? I don’t want to dick with flashing ROMs and installing the Android SDK. That’s the whole reason I bought a free device!
  • Oh, a standard micro-HDMI connector doesn’t quite fit into the port. You can order a cable with the tablet that has a micro-HDMI connector that’s an itsy bitsy bit longer than standard, which works. Yuck.

I don’t want to jump to any conclusions as far as what this means about ZaReason’s technical chops or their business practices or whatever. Maybe I just got a bad one, or I was too rough on it, or it got banged up in shipping and it’s no one’s fault. But when I buy devices, I want them to just make my life unilaterally and unequivocally better. Instead it seems like nobody ever sells exactly the product I really want, and ZaReason just manages to come a little closer than everyone else.

I guess the good news is that in the last few years, open hardware has suddenly gotten a lot more plausible. Please be aware of PengPod and Jolla. It’s a brave new world..

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Upgrading an uncooperative ReadyNAS

August 31, 2012

My ReadyNAS was refusing to be upgraded from version 4.1.6. Every time I tried to induce it to get a new upgrade, it complained that the checksum had failed. I eventually got it to upgrade by following the instructions on this page, which seems to avoid doing a checksum. I’m not sure if it will be necessary to repeat the process for every new release..

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Readline tab completion using Django models

December 28, 2009

Seen on Planet Debian, a totally sweet hack involving using readline-style tab completion based on some random crap you have in your Django database.

import readline

from mymodels import MyModel

completer = QuerySetCompleter(MyModel.objects.all(), 'name')

readline.parse_and_bind("tab: complete")

while 1:
    print repr(raw_input(">>> "))
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adieu Google

December 13, 2009

Lately there’s been some fuss about Google’s new privacy policy, with this post by Joey Hess (on Planet Debian) and Slashdot‘s article about Google’s new opt-out policy.

Joey Hess writes:

With the decade over, and Google rolling out all manner of tracking cookies and javascript, it’s time to move on. Just keeping on top of the torrent of privacy-affecting changes Google is making, and trying to parse the real meaning in the chirpy googlespeak announcements has become more work than the value their search engine adds. (This was the last straw.)

At least for now, I’ll be using Duck Duck Go for search. It’s small, quirky, has features the big competition lacks, and works well enough for my mostly moderate and occasionally intense needs. Sorta like Google in 1999.

While I am in favor of privacy, have not been thrilled with Google’s behavior, and have come to resent the attitude of Google employees and officers, I have to say Duck Duck Go does not meet my search needs. Neither does Bing. Neither does Google, when it comes right down to it. Search is hard, and there are a lot of tricky bits. (Try searching for the Haskell type signature "Int#". For a while it was nearly impossible to find the emacs package "magit", as all you could get were results for "magic".)

So for the time being I’m still using Google Search. With luck, in time everything will just magically get better..

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Score: 5, Privileged

November 18, 2009

Seen on Planet Debian, this parody of this Slashdot comment.

I get the impression that the Windows 7 launch is a lot like seeing an old boyfriend suddenly show up on your doorstep wanting to get back together. He’s had some work done, apparently: stomach stapling to take off some of the weight, teeth whitening, and a radical nosejob to make him look as much like your current boyfriend as medical science will allow.

He’s handsome, of course, almost too handsome. He still uses far too much product in his hair and carries that desperate look in his eyes. The fragrant haze around him is the cologne he overuses to mask the scent of failure.

Call me crazy, but I find the old-boyfriend version more compelling than the old-girlfriend version. I hadn’t seen the version on Slashdot, so to me it was just a fascinating analogy between Windows 7 and an old abusive boyfriend. I guess I missed the whole "deconstruction".

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November 16, 2009

I found this fascinating site for the GRIB API:

The ECMWF GRIB API is an application program interface accessible from C and FORTRAN programs developed for encoding and decoding WMO FM-92 GRIB edition 1 and edition 2 messages. A useful set of command line tools is also provided to give quick access to grib messages.

Being as ignorant as I am, I had never heard of GRIB (WP: from "GRIdded Binary", "a mathematically concise data format commonly used in meteorology to store historical and forecast weather data"). For the first ten minutes I was staring at this page trying to figure out if it was an elaborate hoax — that someone had invented a funny-sounding acronym for a technology and pretended to develop APIs for interacting with it. It sounds wrong in just the right way! Especially convincing is the mention of the older, now deprecated GRIBEX package.

Related work: HORG, the Holotypic Occlupanid Research Group; SCIgen and their video Near Science, and Dresden Codak’s Dungeons and Discourse.

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Revisiting the Original Reviews of Windows Vista

November 13, 2009

An interesting article on Slashdot about the predictive power of early reviews.

‘We now know that a remarkable percentage of consumers and businesses decided to spurn Windows Vista and stay with XP. But did the reviews of Vista serve as an early warning that it had major problems? I looked back at the evaluations in nine major publications and found that they expressed some caution–but on the whole, they were far from scathing. Some were downright enthusiastic.’

As futurists, we have to re-evaluate what we thought would happen if we are to get better at predicting. My feeling is that by and large, the things we expect to happen do not happen, and the things that take us by storm are the things we never saw coming. But that’s just a gut intuition.

This leaves aside the larger question of whether Vista sucks as bad as people feel it does (as is discussed in the Slashdot comments). What’s interesting is that nobody could have predicted the user outcry based on the press — maybe even based on the quality of the software itself!

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Google Serves a Cease-and-Desist on Android Modder

October 30, 2009

Vastly old news by now, but it’s kind of surprising how fast this blew over: source on Slashdot.

Several readers sent in word that Google has served a Cease and Desist order to Cyanogen, one of the most prolific Android modders: his CyanogenMod is enjoyed by 30,000 users. The move is puzzling. Gizmodo wonders what Google’s game is, and Lauren Weinstein calls the move "not of the high ‘Googley’ caliber" that one would expect of the company.

I’d like to clarify that while I bought a G1, this kind of bullshit is why I’m so dissatisfied. This is what I wanted to get away from. I’m keeping an eye on the N900, let me tell you!

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Jon Dowland: music on linux

August 12, 2009

Seen on Planet Debian. Source. File under “all hardware sucks, all software sucks”:

Via Dave Jones, an excellent article on a professional musician switching to Ubuntu from a Mac.
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