Little T in the Cog linux

High-End Chromebook?


Google's Chromeboook is hardly new - they have been talking up the low end notebook concept for a few years now. The previous efforts by manufacturers were always a bit expensive to really take off (who would pay ~$450US for a notebook that was basically a web browser?) but recent advances in Chrome OS itself which make it more like a "normal" OS coupled with the new Samsung ARM powered Chromebook at only $250US now make it a serious contender for consumer dollars. I've read a bunch of reviews for the new ARM powered Sammy and they have all been fairly positive (being ARM powered there is no fan in the unit meaning it is completely silent and never really gets too hot), to the point that I actually want to get one for myself. I've looked at the apps available and thought about how I use my current ancient PowerBook and think that I could actually use this device for some serious work (we currently use the Google suite of apps at work anyway, the hardest thing to get around will be the lack of a proper shell and the Chrome apps/extensions don't really offer anything quite as good as a traditional bash terminal).

Now that they have hit the price/performance curve and are apparently selling really well (the ARM powered model is forever out of stock and apparently is being used in a few thousand schools in the US) we see this video leak out. I'm not sure if it's a fake or a real product, but if it is real it looks pretty high end (complete with a 2560 x 1700 resolution touch screen) so I doubt it will fall into the cheap 'n' cheerful category like the current ARM powered model does. It'll be interesting if the Chromebook can scale up to compete with "proper" notebooks with a hi-res display and quality construction, but still be in essence a web browser with not much off line ability (though the Google doc suit now supports off line document editing). One interesting prospect is if it is priced well geeks like me may well buy one anyway just to install Ubuntu onto (the same way the current ARM powered device makes an excellent Ubuntu machine) as it could be a cheap hi-res solution.

I hope this does turn out to be real and not just a rumour - and even more importantly than that I hope that it will be for sale here in NZ unlike all the Chromebooks to date...

Will we ever see Android apps on the N9?


Even before the Nokia N9 was launched back in September 2011 there was talk about getting Android apps to run on it. This isn't actually as crazy as it sounds - both the N9 and Android use a Linux kernel and share a lot of the same userland, only starting to differ once you go up the stack a bit (Android uses the derived-from-Java Dalvik VM whereas the N9 runs MeeGo/QT).

With all the buzz around the new phone being dampened by the fact that there would probably never be another one (due to Nokia jumping into bed with Microsoft) people wondered if there would ever be many apps for the device - queue a bunch of companies saying that they would get the Dalvik VM (and associated libraries) up and running on it so that potentially the whole Android catalogue would be available for it. Some months later several companies boasted that they had it working, but they had no interest selling it to end users, preferring to sell their solutions directly to the OEMs (and it was extremely unlikely that Nokia would be happy putting that on the N9 seeing as they were winding it down at that stage). There was talk of an open source solution but it never really got very far and it looked like it was to remain a pipe dream.

Then in June 2012 OpenMobile put up an interesting blog post showing Android apps running on a MeeGo tablet which generated a lot of feedback with people asking about the N9, so much so that just under 2 weeks later OpenMobile posted:

"Thank you all for your comments and kind words! Our engineering team at OpenMobile is diligently working on multiple platforms, including ACL for the Nokia N9 MeeGo Smartphone. Thank you for your interest in ACLâ„¢. Keep checking back to the blog for further updates and information as we are able to release it!"

Well, that was back in June 2012, half a year ago, and though they have shown many demos of their ACL ("Application Compatibility Layer") technology running on different devices there has been no further mention of the N9, and as time goes by it looks increasingly unlikely that they'll ever release anything for it (though apparently Jolla's "Sailfish" OS will use the technology and it is also based on MeeGo so there is still some hope that the engineering effort can somehow be used on the N9 too) and the Android on N9 port I talked about when i first got my N9 is still missing some important features (such as the ability to make a phone call and use the camera) so it looks like running Android apps on the N9 is to remain a pipe dream for a bit longer (forever?).

Does this mean I'm unhappy I bought the N9? Hell no! I'm still really happy with my decision to buy the phone, even though I knew it was end-of-life when I got it. I still haven't seen a phone that I'd rather be using, and until the manufacturers (other than Apple of course!) decide to release a flagship phone at around the 4" size then I'm unlikely to switch any time soon as I'm not a fan of how large the phones are getting now.

Raspberry Pi


I've finally ordered my Raspberry Pi! I've been sitting on the fence about getting one of these little guys for a while but the new model "B" with double the RAM (now 512MB) and more importantly on board ethernet pushed me into buying one (and hey, at only NZ $55 delivered it's hardly a massive outlay). I plan on replacing my Intel Atom with it (so run my DNS, DHCP, probably this website etc) but if I get bored of that I'll grab another and then see if I can get it set up as a media player to replace the Mac Mini in the lounge - that would require some sort of Flash playback however as we do stream a lot of shows, and at a decent resolution that could be a big ask.

I'll probably end up running the Raspbian distro on the device, which is basically Debian "Wheezy" optimized for the Raspberry Pi hardware so I'll still have access to pretty much all the standard packages that I know and use (other than Xen virtualization which is i386/x64 only, so I'll investigate getting Linux VServer set up on it).

The only problem with this is just after I ordered off Element14 I received an email saying that it won't arrive for nearly a month - at least that gives a bit of time for my PiBow case to turn up!

New Webserver


I've decided to give the Hiawatha webserver a try. There are a few reasons for this - I've been using Nginx on this box for the last few months and while it has a much smaller memory footprint than apache apparently Hiawatha has an even smaller one (it is used on embedded systems) and is just as quick serving static content. It also has a very strong focus on security (with built in protection for things like XSS and SQL Injections) and a really clear, easy to understand configuration syntax. Not that I can make use of it on this site as this blog is all plain HTML, but if you're using PHP/Perl/Ruby it has a nice built in fast CGI service tha is very easy to set up.

Anyway we'll see how it goes - it's not like I can't switch back again if needed :-)

Final Firmware Update Released for the N9


Nokia have released the third (and final) update for the N9 - by the time I bought mine the first two were already released. I'm not totally sure what this update will bring as I'm still waiting for it to appear in my phone's update app, but apparently it is more of a bug fix release rather than introducing new changes. A limited "change log" can be found here.

How do I know it is the final release? Because on the same day they announced it they also bid farewell to the remaining MeeGo devs, meaning there is nobody left at Nokia building any OS software any more (Symbian development has long since moved to Accenture).

This truly is a sad day for Nokia - they have completed their transformation into a pure hardware maker depending on others for their software and ecosystem, no longer in charge of their own destiny. And seeing as Windows Phone 7 hasn't exactly worked wonders for them* I wonder if there will be a Nokia in two years...

* Their share price is currently sitting around "junk" status - as of writing it is $2.12 and has been dropping steadily for months now.

New Linux Toy


I've just gone and got myself another Linux based toy :-) Yup, I now have in my possession a shiny new Nokia N9! I ummd and ahhd about it for quite some time - I know it's been effectively cut loose by Nokia, I know that Nokia's share price is so low right now that they are in danger of completely collapsing (though I note that the N9 is one of the phones that kept them afloat - it has been amazingly well received everywhere it was actually launched). I am well aware that I'm buying into yet another dying platform.

So why did I buy it then knowing all that? Well, basically I'm a tech magpie and a sucker for a new toy and I *really* liked MeeGo after playing with it in a store (it's super smooth, as smooth as my girlfriends iPhone 4 at least). I like the way it multitasks (right up there with my beloved webOS), I love the Skype/google/etc integration, I love the hardware (sooo well built and sexy to boot!). And the real kicker? The guys (and gals?) over at Nitdroid have released alpha 2 of their port of Android 4.0 and it's looking really good - the hardware is well suited to Ice Cream Sandwich seeing as it has no buttons on the front and youtube clips of it in action are looking really good. It's still a few months away (at least!) from prime time but the developers are steaming ahead at a rapid pace so it's nice to know that should Nokia fold tomorrow and cease all support for MeeGo (they have promised updates until 2014) that an Android port is a viable option. It also helps that it is waaaay less buggy than webOS on my Veer is (though I'm still getting used to the on screen keyboard - the Veer's keyboard is really nice considering how small it is). And finally, it was on sale so I couldn't resist!

Did I mention it's shiny? :-)

Another Linux Workstation


My trusty old Apple PowerBook is now running Debian. I've recorded the tweaks needed to make everything work here.



I've just switched this site over to Nginx from Apache. The main reason for doing this is Nginx is far better suited to lightweight sites like this as it is especially fast at serving static content while using a lot less ram and seeing as I'm not doing any fancy URL re-writing or other things like that Apache was a bit overkill. The reason I went with Apache in the first place when I first started this site a few years ago was simply it was what I was used to - all the web servers I've configured over the years have been Apache servers so it was all I knew. But since switching jobs about a month back I've been exposed to Nginx and after doing a bit of reading about it have decided that this little Intel Atom box with this very lightly trafficked site would be much happier with something a bit smaller and simpler. My first thought was to go with something like Araneum as it is really tiny and efficient with very few options so securing it is pretty easy. However Araneum isn't in the Debian repositories and the only .deb package available from the Araneum website is for i386 (I'm running amd64 on this box) and I certainly don't want to rely on compiling from source each time the server is updated, so Nginx it is*.

To be honest this site sees so little traffic I could probably run pretty much any web server :-)

* I do like how Araneum provides a Haiku package though - BeOS represent!

Ubuntu 11.10


And I'm back to using a Linux workstation <3

I've recently switched jobs, leaving the telco for a web hosting outfit. In my new workplace we can choose which OS we want to use on our workstations (or even provide our own workstations - a bunch of guys are running Macs, the rest pretty evenly split between Win 7 and Linux) and I'm happily running Ubuntu 11.10 on my nice dual 22" screen rig. Well, when I say happily it's nearly all rosy - I can't say I'm thrilled with Unity. It's not that the concept is bad, or I can't work with it, no it's that it is simply a bit too buggy for my liking. The last version of Ubuntu I used was 10.10 and even then there were some regressions in regards to stability (and IPSec broke as well...) but 11.10 seems to take it to a new level, it honestly feels like I'm using a beta OS a lot of the time as I've had a few strange issues (I've "lost" windows a few times now, once I unlocked the desktop only to be greeted by a white screen, every kernel update seems to break the ATi drivers, terminal has crashed twice now...).

I'm actually thinking about installing vanilla Debian, the only thing putting me off is the fact that it would take me a day or two of tweaking to get all my apps installed and set up the way I like. I'll give Ubuntu 12.04 a whirl when it comes out in two months but if that isn't up to scratch I'll go back to tried and true Debian Squeeze.

Tweaking vim


Well it's only taken me about 5 years but I've finally discovered the spell plugin for vim. Seeing as I use vim to blog with and my spelling is terrible (hey, I'm a child of the spell-checker-on-phone generation!) I thought I'd install the plugin and give it a whirl - suffice to say pretty much every entry on this blog had at least one typo/spelling error!

Hopefully from now on you'll notice fewer spelling errors going forward :-)