Fun with Logitech

I recently bought the diNovo Media Desktop from Logitech: I really liked it’s design and the bluetooth-support as this is the only really usable way for wireless equipement (no problems with multiple devices per room, encryption, … you name it)

The problem was: The driver on the CD-ROM installed just another Widcomm Bluetooth-stack which despite being the same piece (down to the version) of software that was installed with my think pad’s internal bluetooth-adaptor (you will have to update to version 1.4 on IBM’s webpage to use the HID-profile), was not compatible with the prior Widcomm-Software (which is a political/legal problem and has no technical reasons at all).

So, when using the diNovo-drivers, the internal bluetooth-adaptor does not work (too bad when trying to use your cellphone to connect to the internet when other means of connectivity are not availabe), and when not using them, I cannot configure the special keys and the media-player support (which is stupid anyway as it does not support Winamp).

My final solution was to revert back to only IBM’s internal driver and pair the logitech devices whith that one (hint: the mouse uses the key 0000). Installing set point which would work perfectly well with IBM’s BT-stack (as it’s the same as logitechs), was not possible beacuse the logitech BT adaptor could not be found. Ergo: No media keys, but at least a really nice keyboard and mouse together with a working BT-support.

Talk about BT-interoperability…

I really look forward to the Windows-integrated BT-stack (which probably will be the widcomm one too – just look at the stack of Windows Mobile 2003)

Gentoo on a xSeries 235 Server

Yesterday, one of the harddisks (or was it the SCSI-Controller – it does not matter…) of our very old, self-assembled developement/fileserver went down. As we had backupped the important data and I had a spare PC running Linux (the multimedia machine I wrote about here), getting a working environement was a matter of about two hours (one I used up trying to get the old server to boot again).

Anyway: We deceided that it was time to move away from self-assembled machines to something more professional (and hopefully more reliable), so we ordered a IBM (we really like those machines – great support, long warranty and rock-solid) xSeries 235 machine which arrived today.

I deceided to install Gentoo Linux on the machine as it will mostly be used as my developement server (and as a windows-fileserver for our data), so eventual downtimes do not really matter (but latest versions of the installed software are important) – a nice testbed for this distribution until I roll out production machines running Gentoo.

Besides the hardware-RAID5 the new server had built in, we plugged an old 120GB IDE drive to be used as storage area for not-so-important files (read: music, temporary files,…) – additionally it contained all the current developement work, so I had to copy it’s contents down to the new virtual RAID5 drive.

Installing was quite easy, but unfortunatly, the current gentoo-sources kernel (2.4.20 – heavily patched) does not support the DMA-Mode for IDE-Devices on the onboard chipset (ServerWorks something), so copying about 30 GB of data from the IDE drive to the RAID was not funny and neither was doing anything on the server when transfers to the IDE drive where running. It was slooow!

Installing a current 2.4.22 vanilla-sources kernel solved the DMA-Problem but raised another: The xSeries 235 uses a Broadcom bcm5700 Gigabit Ethernet chipset which is not supported under a vanilla kernel. Of course, I forgot to patch the driver in before I rebooted the newly created kernel which forced me to go down to the basement, compile the driver and go up here again to write this text.

Anyway: The server is now working like a charm. I really look forward to really use it and to take advantage of the greatly increased speed (PII 500 Mhz -> Xenon 2.6 Ghz and more than twice as much RAM than before)

IBM Thinkpad T40

I got my hands on one of those new T40 model Thinkpads from IBM and I thought, I should post a little review here.

I was working on a T23 for a very long time, so I quite used to that machine. This review will focus on the changes between the models, but will provide a good overview for you users without knowledge of the T23.

The new Thinkpad comes with a new flatter but bigger TrackPoint which I don’t really like, but this may be a matter of getting used to (if not: IBM provides you with the old cap, but I’m really trying to use the new one as it is built from plastic which does not get so dirty during common usage). Additionally, the T40 has a standard TrackPad for those users that do not like the TrakPoint (I am definitely not one of them. Although nothing feels as good as a trackball, the trackpoint is a real cool thing and I was a bit disappointed to see IBM putting an additional trackpad there).

As usual, the keyboard is just great. This time, it’s even a bit better, but I am not sure whether this is just because it’s new or because IBM really changed something. What I really, really, really hate about the new keyboard are those Back- an Forward keys above the left- and right cursor keys. I used the empty space around “up” to orientate myself (down was where there was no free space around). So I am constantly hitting “up” when I meant “down” and – even worse: those senseless keys instead left or right. I really hope, I will get used to this or I will have to plug an external keyboard (programming is a quite cursor-intensive task).

The Volume- and the “Thinkpad” (now renamed to “Access IBM”)-Buttons got smaller and have more spacing between them, making it easyier to hit them in the dark.

The status LED’s went from above the keyboard to below the display and are much more visible now. Good thing. Additionally, the Scroll Lock indicator was removed. In Windows it does not make sense anyway (while a missing indicator may be very disturbing in Linux as Scroll Lock quite locks down the console if it’s on). They added another LED indicating that the Notebook is powered. Not so important.

When the display is closed, only three leds are visible: Battery, Sleep and Bluetooth (why bluetooth and not WLAN or both?).

The whole device got a little flatter than the previous model. Extremely flat would be a good term to describe the T40. This unfortunatly breaks compatibility with older UltraBay Extensions (Batteries and Drives) as the new one is slightly flatter.

The T40 is the first Thinkpad where the ThinkLight (a small white LED at the top of the display to enlighten the keyboard when working in dark places) is really useful. It got bright.

Where the connectors where on the back at my T23, they went to the side of the device at the T40 – just the paralell port and the AC plug are at the back (and the big extended battery providing the computer with enough power for about 5 to 6 hours). The COM-Port went away. I liked it for the developement of our barcode solution, but the scanner we uase has an USB cable and USB-to-serial adaptors do exist.

The PCMCIA slots went to the front – the audio plugs (now color-coded) to the back. I don’t really like this as I am plugging audio equipement much more often than PCMCIA cards).

Speaking of Audio: It’s really not that bad for a notebook, but not noticably better than in my T23.

Running the thing

When you turn it on, the first thing you notice is that it is calm. But the Thinkpads have a tendency to grew louder as you use them, so the T40 will probably go louder in a few months too…

The BIOS cannot be accessed directly any more. Instead something called “Predesktop Area” can be reached by pressing the “Access IBM” button during bootup sequence. The PA is something that can be controlled by the mouse and allows access to the recovery system, to the BIOS (a standard textmode one), to a partition imager (without suport for external storage) and quite extensive support material. The whole thing eats up quite a lot of harddrive space in a hidden partition (which I have not removed so far but I will not like the outcome as I certainly have read the Service Manual and all those scary error messages about an inaccessible service-partition. Maybe sometime later ;-)

The first thing I did was to reinstall a clean retail Windows XP Professional – I do not like all those customizations the vendors do to the OS these days. This went flawlessly besides the fact that the setup routine did not recognize most of the hardware: No Newtork, standard VGA, no Power Management, no nothing.

The IBM Support Area on their website provided me with all the drivers I needed (and only those I needed – not a lot of useless tools).

The bluetooth-support must be turned on by pressing Fn-F5 which is documented nowhere. It’s a (integrated) USB-Device, by the way: When turining on Bluetooth for the first time (after installing the driver, of course), Windows reports to have found a new USB device.

The bluetooth software is provided by WIDCOM (as nearly always) and comes in the really current version 1.3.something.

The driver for the trackpad is a really great piece of software as it allows quite a lot of tuining to your habits. I really like this scrolling-feature where a scrolling event in the windows the mouse cursor is currently over is triggered just by moving your finger around the right border of the pad. Nice.

The WLAN Support of the T40 is the first I came across that worked without any tweaking in more than one wireless network. Cool. Maybe the time is ready for endusers to use WLAN?

The expirience with the notebook is a very pleasing one: It’s fast, stable and looks great.

If you can spare the money (IBM notebooks certainly are more expensive than others but they work better and have three years of warranty), you should go and buy yourself a T40 – it’s a great piece of hardware.

iPod 1.3 for windows

Yesterday, Apple has released a windows installer for the 1.3 firmware. This really is no interesting news as there are so many ways for getting the 1.3 Mac-Firmware to a Windows iPod:

  • Using a Mac (requires double-reformating)
  • Using XPlay
  • Using PodTronics Updater

    And about this hassle with the not supported 2.0 firmware on old devices: I am quite sure that the new firmware can be installed on old iPods using the last two methods above. Unfortuantly, I don’t have the old iPod any more (my father is having much fun with it), so I cannot try this out [and you should not try it either – at least not try it and have the slightest idea I am going to be responsible for what you are doing – I may very well be mistaken]

How to get a Lamp

Last sunday, the lamp of my IBM iL2220 video projector (no link as it is neither available nor would I recommend it any more) exploded. This was especially stupid as I just bought Wario World and Metroid Prime (which I had to have after finishing Metroid Fusion on my GBA and getting to know this wonderful series) and I really wanted to play them.

On Monday, I called IBM’s support line and asked for the part number of the replacement lamp to be able to buy it at the IBM distributor our company has an account at. The supporter told me that he would need the serial- and partnumber of my projector which I did not know.

Today I finally wrote down those numbers before I went to the office and gave IBM another call.

This time the supporter told me (without needing the neither partnumber nor serial number this time) to call another number, which I did thereafter.

This time I was in one hell of a callcenter menu requiring me to press buttons, giving my name and finally my phonenumber for an automated callback. When I finally had a human on the other end of the line (of course I had to make the phonecall with my cellphone – our PBX does not support DTFM sequences), he laughed at me and told me he was from software support and whether he should “flash” my defunct lamp. Funny, but not after having to wait 30 minutes for it ;-)

Anyway: I got another number where I called later on.

This time the supporter knew what I was speaking about (after having explain to her for about three times that I knew the warranty has expired and that I just want the part number to place an order for another lamp). She told me that she was not allowed to give out any part numbers but that she would try to help me anyway.

20 minutes stupid music

“hmmh… please hold the line. This is complicated”

another 10 minutes

Finally she told me that she will connect me to someone else that knows what to do.

2 Minutes

Now I had another supporter at the phone. I told my story again and she finally gave me this stupid part number (33L3426) which the previous supporter was not allowed to give me.

In the webshop of our IBM retailer, I learned that the lamp would cost ~CHF 700.- and that I would have to wait at least 20 days for the new lamp to arrive. Not good as I really want to play Metroid Prime.

Using google I learned that the IBM iL2220 is nothing more than an inFocus LP350 with an IBM label on top of it. Something worth to give a try with.

The supporter at inFocus gave me the number of a retailer of theirs, I called them and learned that they have a lamp on stock and that it would cost at most CHF 485.- more than CHF 200 less than the IBM lamp. Needless to say that I’ve placed my order. The lamp will arrive on friday – about 10 times sooner than the IBM lamp would have arrived.

So much to the great IBM support. So much for buying an IBM product to have a good supply in replacements.

Philips Streamium

I got my hands on a Philips Streamium. Not because I wanted one, but because I’m going to write a review for our broadband portal. I really wondered whether it was possible to use the device without the stupid musicmatch jukebox, so I went behind the scene using a network sniffer.

I will post a deeper review of what I’ve found (its just plain old XML over HTTP) later this day, because now I have to do some real work. Till then, you can have a look at the exchange between my musicmatch and the streamium here (and before you ask: I really have bought all the CD’s from which I have ripped the MP3’s you will see in the log. I rarely ever download music from P2P Networks).

SonyEricsson did it again…

I’ve read that SonyEricsson today announced another phone, the T610, thich should be the successor of the really cool T68i. The site is not very specific about the size of the device, but it seems to be a bit larger than the T68. It has a built-in camera, bluetooth and all the other thing you like on those advanced phones.

It seems like it uses the same OS, the T68 did (no Symbian), has just 2 MBytes of Memory and comes in various design-flavours. Unfortunatly, the specifications page is not as detailed as I’d like, but I suspect, the T610 is optimized for not-so-advanced users that like having a phone and not a difficult-to-use PDA.

I’ve read on Slashdot that the T610 will be iSync-compatible from the beginning which worries me a bit as my P800 is not. This does not really matter for me as I am more a PC-guy (but more and more thinking of muying me a Mac just for fun), but it matters for Richard who I’d really like to see buying a P800 too… Possibly, the P800 will never be supported on the Mac, as all the other phones are and there may be no need for Apple to implement another protocol just for one phone. I really hope that’s not the case.

Another note: I really think, SonyEricsson is currently doing the right thing: They release quite a lot of devices for quite a broad range of possible users. This combined with the high quality those devices have (Richard recently put his T68i into the water and it’s still working…), they really may be able to beat Nokia where tey belong to…

The 13 most annoying things of the P800 phone

I had to buy myself the SonyEricsson smartphone P800 as I really liked what all the reviews wrote about it. And it’s cool. I really like it – much more than my former Nokia 7650 (don’ t tell me that I am buying much too many cellphones. I know that, but I’ve not found my solution yet – at least not until I bought the P800…

Anyway. During the first three days, I am using the phone, I came across the following list of annoying things, you should have in mind when buying the phone:

  • The “Select all” Option in the Messaging-Application is quite well hidden. When I deceided to write this article here, I still thought there was no such option at all and I wanted to write a big complaint about having to select each and every sms in the “Sent”-Box to empty it. If you are in the place to design a GUI: Use Menu separators wise and don’t mix toggle-options with commands. The “Select all” command is just above the display-toggle-option in the edit-menu (don’t ask me what display-options have to do in a “Edit”-Menu)
  • There is no support for SMS-delivery-reports. A pity. I really liked the handling of SMS-reports in my Nokia 7650. But then: How many times did I really *read* those reports? Learn: Not every feature is that important to be implemented…
  • The handwriting recognition works really nice – besides that one problem: In PocketPCs and of course Palms, there is a seperate area on the screen for entering text. The P800 uses the whole screen. This seems nice as it allows you to write quite large letters. But actually it is a big problem: As the recognition area overlays the GUI, the software in the phone has to guess whether the current screen-contact was for a GUI-element (like a button) or a stroke. This combined with the fact that a dot (.) is just a line from top left to bottom right and with the extreme sensitivity of the recognition engine lead me to overwrite many textfields with a dot instead of pressing a button in the GUI – I made a small line instead of just a click. I really want to either have an extra recognition area or an adjustable sensitivity for the recognition.
  • Why is the Clock-Application not avaliable with a closed lid? I hate it to open the keypad just to see when I have the alarm set to.
  • The T68i and the Nokia 7650 both had a Screensaver/Standby-Screen that was useful as it displayed the current time. The P800 does not: When inactive, it first displays a screensaver (an animated gif) and then turns the display off. Nice for battery lifetime – bad for people that do not wear clocks. Workaround: Make just one click with the Jogdial and the P800 will display the standard screen showing the time (but not the date – see below).
  • If you have cell info enabled, the cellinfo string will be shown below the provider-name where the current date would be placed instead. There is no way to see the current date with enabled cellinfo besided opening the phone and selecting the clock application. Stupid.
  • Jogdial: Veeery nice idea. This is great. Too bad it’s so hard to push it down into the phone. I always push it forward instead of down. But this may be a problem with my fingers.
  • Keyboard. I know there is no better (at least none as cheap as the current) way to create a removable keyboard than to have the keys press on virtual keys on the touchscreen…. But: The keys are very hard to press down and pressing them feels so much “rubber-ish”. Buärk. And: I had to recalibrate the display to make those two small “back” and “c” buttons work. I am not sure, a default consumer knows about this…
  • mRouter: Say what you want, but I life after the principle: Once broken – always broken. And I have never seen a more broken piece of software than the Nokia PC Suite with its mRouter-Tool (even Microsoft Word is better). The P800 uses the same thing (I think, this is Symbian related and cannot be changed that easily). Anyway: The Ericsson software looks more stable to me than the Nokia Software did. It worked flawlessly with IR and USB on my Notebook. I’ll see what it does tomorrow on my office-pc where I will try to synchronize via Bluetooth and USB.
  • Browser: Why does it open the startpage when I open the browser? OK… actually this makes sense… but then: Mobile Internet Connections are expensive. I want an option to open the bookmarks-page per default. Not the homepage. After all: To change the homepage, I have to open the browser which will automatically open a connection to the internet and display the homepage set per default by your Mobile Provider.
  • Browser-Key: I prefer Opera as my Webbrowser. SonyEricsson gives it away for free and it works much better than the internal browser for HTML. Why can’t I reconfigure the browser-key at the side of my Phone to launch opera instead of the internal browser?
  • Shortcuts: I like the shortcuts to the different applications. Why are the shortcuts for the closed operation mode configured in the control panel and the shortcuts for the mode with the keyboard open in the Preferences-Menu of the launcher-application? Or in common: Why are some settings in the control panel and others in the corresponding application?
  • Multitasking: Yes. It’s a Phone – no PC and no PDA either. I understand that multitasking may not be possible, but then please provide me with a) a list of last started applications or b) the possibility to sort the application-list after self-defined criteria or c) at least sort that list alphapethically! Let me make an example for this: Say you are playing the (greeeeeeat) Solitaire-Game, then you want to have a look at the current time. Thus you start the clock-application (why is the clock not always displayed in the status-bar?). Now to go back to your game, you have to go back to the launcher, scroll all the way down in the list and restart solitaire (after you have found it – the list is sorted by the ideas of a marketing-guy – not of one that really uses the phone (Camera before Adresses for example)…

    This list seems quite big. Didn’t I say the phone is great? Yes. I did. The phone is great. The above list is complete. There are no more problems and many of the existing ones are quite easy fixable. I will list them down in a more professional way and I will be sending them to the SonyEricsson Support. I dont’ think, I’ll get an answer, but maybe they fix one of the problems in a future release…

    Go and buy your P800 – you will like it.

P800 and Bluetooth

I’ve just arrived at my office and tried out connecting to my P800 (see earlier posting) via Bluetooth. As the software underlying the SonyEricsson PC-Suite is the same as in the new Nokia PC-Suite (mRouter strikes back…), I suspected everything to nearly-work as usual.

I am using a Acer BT500 USB Bluetooth adaptor that comes with the usual widcomm software. Connecting to the P800 requires me to check the COM-Port that is assigned to the BT-Adaptor (not to the phone!) in the mRouter-Configuration. Then I open the COM-Port on the Phone with the Bluetooth.-Software on my PC. The Phone receives this request, closes the port again (results in an error-message on the PC) and then opens the COM-Port of the PC’s BT-Adaptor.

Every now and then (about every second time), the mrouter-Software notifies this and opens the channel to the phone.

I heard that newer versions of the widcomm software can handle the way those Symbian Phones connect via Bluethooth without annoying me with error-message. I will check the Acer-Website if they have updated their driver but I don’t really think they did…

Yippieh! – New Software

I’ve just visited the acer-website and downloaded the driver for my BT500 Bluetooth USB Adaptor. There was no modification date on the website, but a short view on the FTP-Server revealed that the current release is quite new – from February 19th, actually.

Launching the setup first wanted to remove the current driver (it said, that it was already installed in the newset version and asked whether it should uninstall itself – not quite true – the new software definitly is newer…)

The new Acer-Driver-Release comes with a lot of new assistants, Audio-Profile-Support (a complete new feature for free – I can now use my PC as a headset for my P800) and of course, the way Symbian devices connect to the pc is now fully supported and no more error-messages ar being displayed. Using Bluetooth to synchronize my phone finally makes fun.

Too bad the P800 comes with a USB Base-Station which is faster than BT and is now permanently plugged to my PC ;-) But it was fun to get BT working anyway.