Controlling Winamp over the network.

AjaxAMP - ThumbnailI usually play music on my desktop speakers, even when I’m at my laptop because these speakers just plain suck and you can’t hear anything. In the beginning I used to just set the playlist and fire and forget, but you know how people use Windows systems, they all use one single user. Well, that’s what my family does too, so any changes to the current playlist affect everybody. Now what this means is that you have to pick your part of a giant playlist and play that. That’s hard to do when you’re not at the computer.

Now, one way of doing this is to use RDP and log in via Terminal Services and choose your music. If you use this, remember to use RDPv5 because it seems much faster than the previous version. However, even this, despite being a cross platform solution, isn’t great. There are better ways of doing this. So I looked around for the obvious solution, a web interface and not surprisingly there were lots of results.

There’s WAWI, which is a bit spartan looking; BrowseAmp, which has all sorts of features and user bandwidth limits and the sort, probably useful for a web radio; Winamp Remote Control, which was last updated seven years ago; and finally my favourite AjaxAMP which seems to have less features and options than BrowseAmp but which looks great and is just what I needed. It has its own media library and also allows streaming, if I ever feel like it though I doubt it. I liked it so much I donated some money.

Weird offers – All those things you wished were built-in to your laptop.

Lately there’s been a craze for laptops: There was ELCOT’s 50-60% discounts, some price cuts on some older Lenovos, this morning I wake up to receive the perfect laptop offer in the news. It’s not in the specifications, it’s not the look, it’s the accessories. Accessories, accessories, accessories. Observe:

Laptop Offer - Front Cover

Okay, not too great, if you’d been around a couple of weeks ago you could have had a nice Thinkpad for cheaper. Not exceptional or anything. It’s not clear whether they’re just dual core Pentiums or Core 2 Duos. It hardly matters though, what’s on the other side would make up for this even if they were old Compaq Armadas.

Laptop Offer - Back Thumb

See, I’m no great fan of bundled offers myself. Usually, they’re rip-offs. But tell me this, if you were given the chance to get an MP3 player, a colour printer, an HP + Mic and an antique clock, cordless iron, and dinner set wouldn’t you jump at the offer? I mean, come on, every up and coming executive who needs a laptop will require a cordless iron, antique clock and dinner set for all those long flights between cities. I can’t wait for the day these features are integrated with the laptop itself, mine has the clothes iron part done right already.

Woo hoo! India has the 4th fastest supercomputer – EKA

Well, would you look at that! EKA is in the 4th place among the top 10 supercomputers today. Fascinating! Tata Sons must be using this fellow to add up all their earnings. Well actually, they claim they will use it for earthquake and tsunami modelling, but I’ve read elsewhere that they’ll be doing digital animation and rendering on it. All that power and all we’re going to get is Hanuman all over again?! DO NOT WANT! Also, all that money/energy spent on getting this cluster of 64-bit Xeon processors was apparently a bit too much for the Computational Research Laboratories team because their website seems to be from 1995.

I was just thinking about this the other day actually. One rack of IBM’s Blue Gene/L costs about Rs. 8 crores, and a 16 rack configuration can put out 70 teraflops. That was then, prices have fallen now. Anyway, this HP cluster cost them around 117 crores. I’d like to see what they’re going to do with all that power. They’ve called this Eka, so will there be a Dvi then?

Yes, life goes on, but I didn’t think anyone in India had a need for a supercomputer after good old Param fell off the rankings once other machines started processing at more than a teraflop. Ah good times, good times.

Oh and yes it runs Linux, and I did imagine a Beowulf cluster of those

UPDATE: I just read the BBC News article on EKA and according to them:

The system will be initially targeted at developing applications such as neural, molecular and crash simulations, and digital media animation and rendering.

“The supercomputer system will have a direct affect on the lives of Indians, espcially in areas such as earthquake and Tsunami modelling, modellings of the economy and potential for drug design,” said Mr S. Ramadorai, chairman of the Computational Research Laboratories.

Well, would you look at that? They’re going to be using it to play the stock market! :D

Checking if your laptop hard drive is being killed – Fujitsu MHW1200BH

Some laptop hard drives have very aggressive power saving measures programmed into them. As a result, Windows ignores these settings and overwrites it with its own. On Ubuntu though, when you’re in Laptop Mode, the default settings are used unless you actually set it to not park the drive heads, and then there’s the possibility you’ll get a couple of bad sectors if you drop your laptop. Of course, if you’re capable of being careful of your things then you don’t have to worry about dropping your laptop. If your hard-drive is S.M.A.R.T capable then you can use monitoring tools to get the data you need, stored in Load_Cycle_Count. First you have to install smartmontools:
sudo apt-get install smartmontools or select it from Synaptic using the administrator.
Now, check if you have SMART enabled.
sudo smartctl -d ata -i /dev/sda
The output will tell you quite clearly if you have SMART enabled and the model of your drive. Mine, for instance, is:
smartctl version 5.36 [i686-pc-linux-gnu] Copyright (C) 2002-6 Bruce Allen
Home page is http://smartmontools.sourceforge.net/
=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
Device Model: FUJITSU MHW2100BH
Serial Number: NZ1CT732784D
Firmware Version: 8918
User Capacity: 100,030,242,816 bytes
Device is: Not in smartctl database [for details use: -P showall]
ATA Version is: 7
ATA Standard is: ATA/ATAPI-7 T13 1532D revision 4a
Local Time is: Wed Nov 7 20:35:38 2007 IST
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled


If support is Available, but not Enabled, you may have to wade into your BIOS to change things.
Anyway, then you check your drive health. You can grep for 193 to get Load_Cycle_Count
sudo smartctl -d ata -A /dev/sda
This will give you a list of stuff like this.

Most drive manufacturers say that their drives can handle 600,000 cycles. My Fujitsu MHW2100BH is one of those drives. Considering I’ve had this laptop for atleast 4 months (I can’t remember how long exactly) , 19172 load cycles means I have (600,000 / 19172) × 4 months of stable use left, that’s around 10 years. Works for me :)

And just to see how fast this is increasing, I have a loop running on a terminal that checks the value every 5 minutes (This dude’s idea) and for the past hour it hasn’t changed. That’s made me rather happy. Here’s the loop I use:
while(true); do smartctl -d ata -A /dev/sda | grep 193 >> smart.log; sleep 300; done Naturally, you have to be root. I think the sudo will time out after 15 minutes anyway, that’s why I didn’t use it.

Related bug report.
Prominent page on this topic.

I get loads of spam

And I don’t know why. I mean, look at this section of my logs. The 2250 is the number of unique non-spambot people who visited. They visited some 28,000 pages this month. The 474,479 is the number of spam bot attempts. I have whole ip ranges blocked to prevent these nutcases. Here’s a little warning to anyone else using WordPress. The comment moderation queue stops working after 16,000 comments. It just doesn’t open.

Awstats - Showing the number of blocked hits - Thumb

If it’s too late and you’ve ended up in this situation, you can try marking them all as spam using phpmyadmin and sql.

India and OOXML

I never bothered to check the ballot results, I was just happy that OOXML wasn’t fast tracked. There are innumerable problems with the standard and greater men than I have opposed it. Anyway, I’m just glad to see that the Bureau of Indian Standards (formerly the ISI) categorically rejected OOXML and said they wouldn’t support it unless the proprietary bits (like “linespacinglikeWord95″) were removed from the specification. India is a P-member, so we have no choice but to vote, and when we vote we’ll likely vote against OOXML being accepted as an ISO specification. Fascinating.

Hurrah for standards and freedom.

It’s a kitty!

Little Kitty

Kitty!

Gitanjali and Isha let me take this adorable little kitten because they couldn’t keep her in the hostel in college. She’s the friskiest cat we’ve ever had and spends all of the time either running around attacking a stuffed hedgehog tied up with string or biting and clawing our hands and arms. I think she’s a bit of a nutcase, because she doesn’t eat fish unless it’s been fried, she’ll eat any cooked chicken but no uncooked, and she’ll eat all kinds of mutton. The funny thing is, she loves human company and sleeps only when there’s someone around. This means that in the middle of the night she’ll crawl onto my pillow and curl up to sleep, sometimes with one paw on my head.

The crazy bit is my dad isn’t really fond of cats. He can tolerate them, but he’s not actively crazy about them like the rest of the family. Unfortunately, Cleo insists on sitting on his lap whenever possible and is always running around his legs. It’s patently hilarious, I tell you. Oh, and xkcd was right.

Looking for an EN-EL1 Charger:

All these photos were with the remaining charge on my digital camera. Unfortunately, the charger is broken (I think). I’ve tried to charge both the original EN-EL1 and a replacement Camelion battery but neither seem to have charged properly. Does anyone know where I can get a cheap charger? I’ve looked around and I managed to find a CTA Digital MR EN-EL1 Charger but Amazon doesn’t accept Paypal so I’m stuck now. I’ll just have to go to Ritchie Street now. That sucks. Those buggers are all frauds and their prices are inflated, not in little part due to the idiot import duties we have on electronics. What good do they do anyway, stupid duties. So high.

Spam Assassin

Kushnir with colleaguesOnce upon a time, before we had Gmail we used to curse spammers and sometimes even swear to kill them. I know that I banned whole IP blocks from Russia because this blog can’t handle the 200,000+ hits they make every few days, WordPress’ comment moderation just stands still. Well, all those threats to kill? Someone actually acted on them.

A Russian Penis Enlargement Spammer shot dead by hitmen. Two years ago, another big spammer was killed brutally, with more effort taken in hurting him than in killing him. There’s that little twinge I feel, it’s there every time I hear about a killing, but I must say that I have few qualms that these people have been killed. I wouldn’t do it myself, but I will thank the one who did, so long as he isn’t trying to “move in on” the dead man’s business.

It really is very hard to feel sorry for these men. Ah, such is life.

Monthly link post

For things that I can’t seem to describe properly enough. Here’s just the links:

  • ingimp is a modified version of GIMP that you can use to send usability data. Just download it and use it like you would use the GIMP, it’s the same program after all…nearly.
  • An Offline Wikipedia. You’ll need to download the Wikipedia archive which is a couple of GB in size without the images. It’s useful for when other people claim funny things and you can’t correct them because they don’t understand you. For stuff like “you can’t use a normal parabolic dish for mobile phone signal, you need to optimise it for that wavelength”.
  • Motion, a motion-detecting program, useful with a camera that can output video directly to your computer. Like this guy did.
  • Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen: An interesting martial art from Indonesia (sort of). One particular part of it (Kun Tao) focusses almost entirely on defense and some schools actually have an entire belt ranking system for just that.
  • Do we need an Open Source Hardware Licence: Completely unrelated talk here, go check out the OpenSPARC project. Sun released the specifications and source to its UltraSPARC T2 as soon as it was released. Parts were under NDA, but I think they’ll be freer later. The licence used is the GPL 2.0, though they seem open to the GPL 3.0 as of now.
  • Ubuntu Hardware Compatibility List: A nice database to which you can submit reviews on how your hardware works under Ubuntu and check other people’s reviews to see if it’s worth buying the piece.
  • A CC Science Fiction book. Have a look see.Ventus, published by Tor (the same guys who published JOR’s works) is somewhat about ecology. That’s what interested me.

EDIT: And also because I forgot it, the Peru meteor incident. Did someone say ‘Andromeda Strain’?

Phone-to-Phone Mobile Connectivity

Remember the time you had a friend sitting in the car going in front of you and you wanted to tell him that you wanted them to stop to decide where to eat? Of course you do. Well, then you also remember you couldn’t make the call to him even though he was just some ten metres away from you because you didn’t have a signal to your local tower. That sounded weird, and you grumbled at the funniness of not being able to call someone who was so close by. That problem may be a thing of the past. The idea that you had all that while, that you told everyone about, someone else actually implemented it.

And who else could it be but the Swedes. They’ve gone and made this: TerraNet’s 1km range peer-to-peer mobile system. Nice chaps.