Thursday, 17 September 2009

More beagleboard stuff

I've still got some problems with the USB port - although now i'm using a USB HDD for the OS it seems to be a lot more stable. Every now and then it dies and requires a reboot. Hopefully the BB guys and/or TI work out what it is, both of my boards have it. Instead of using the usb OTG port i'm using a PC PSU to run the board - I thought that might help the crashing problem, but it didn't really make any difference.

I haven't had much fun with the default demo build of Angstrom. It's limited in strange ways. I haven't been able to get it to compile either; I got it further by forcing a serial compile, but it still eventually dies, and the build system is shitting me off too.

I gave Android another go - now i've got a screen. Yay, a phone interface. Doesn't really work with a mouse and keyboard, the network wouldn't work and things crashed a lot. Oh well, I think the basic idea is right (throw everything away and use linux as a set of device drivers), but a phone-os has little appeal to me (i'm still using a nokia 8250).

So I tried the Touchbook's OS from Always Innovating ... it's just a custom build of Angstrom. Much better though - the sound even works (sounds quite nice quality to my shitty ears too), although mplayer doesn't now :-/. It's also a bit snappier (it has the powervr drivers and some dsp stuff too). Running off the usb hdd is a lot faster than flash too - it was my old playstation hdd so it isn't even a particularly fast drive. It seems to be set up reasonably nicely although it has a few weird things - like no shadow file (`sudo sh' gives you a root shell). I have to manually bring up the usb ethernet adaptor, otherwise it basically works straight out of the box.

I've also been trying to get haiku to build, but not having much luck. Not that I expect it to work but it can't even get past building the cross compiler. Sigh. Well i'll try with a manual build of gcc rather than the system's and see how that goes. I couldn't register with the haiku site to ask questions since it wanted a 'captcha' that it decided not to display, but they've been making site changes so I should probably keep checking.

Apart from Angstrom's weirdness, linux and the distributions around it are starting to give me the shits somewhat. Progress just seems to be bigger and slower like every other system. My laptop's are running slower now I `upgraded' their distributions. I don't think the 'open saucer' crowd's motto of 'more eyes make bugs shallower' really sums it up, I think 'enough eyes make even the worst software work'.

And i've been reading various ARM & OMAP manuals on and off. There's a great deal of complexity in that little chip. My foot's pretty ok but now I have a sore shoulder. Too much hunched over computers and soldering irons and carrying buckets of dirt.

Thursday, 10 September 2009


Well my beagleboards arrived. And i've spent the last couple of days getting them going. Ugh. Actually it arrived about midday yesterday - but it seems like a couple of days already.

I got the serial console going pretty easily and after a bit of a false start with a dodgy SD card I got it booting reliably. But I couldn't for the life of me get the damn video working all day yesterday and most of today. The problem is the video format option has changed every kernel revision, so it took me some time to track down the right one. It didn't help that I only had cables to hook it up to my TV which is a bit pickier about what it will accept. Although I finally got it working - it was off the screen and not very usable though - I went and got a dvi-d cable today so it's now plugged into my old monitor. The computer shop also had a second hand usb 100mbit ethernet adaptor for only $5 which saved a longer trip or unnecessary spending.

Tiny tiny thing, lost in wires and crap on the desk.

I also tried getting the cross development environment up. Sigh. Another stupid build system (it's written in python ...) to deal with, and it builds a whole distribution which isn't really what I wanted at this point. And it failed part way though building it's 3000 'steps'. Well I suppose i'll keep trying but i'm in no rush right now. The angstrom distro seems a bit flakey too - doesn't want to mount any of the usb drives I have. I've had some usb issues - if it gets particularly busy, usb just drops out and needs a reset to fix - appears to be some hardware bug with the OMAP itself :-/ Otherwise it's kind of neat. Not the snappiest thing running X or firefox, but it works - powering off a usb port with no cooling required. Feels similar to ps3-linux, although mplayer is pretty slow (then again, it's using 1/600th the power!).

Had a bit of a turn with my main box too - I had to reboot it since I stole the dvi-d port on my monitor for the bb and it wouldn't turn on the vga without it (or at least, it was the easiest way). After that it wouldn't let me log in - orbit issues. Turned out all the orbit directories in /tmp wouldn't go away, infact the directory wouldn't list properly and only some files would delete. Hrm, I thought jfs would be more reliable than that. A forced fsck fixed it, and it deleted /tmp altogether.

And I hurt my bloody foot last week. Not exactly sure what I did to make it happen but best I can work out is that I ended up with tendinitis. Sore as buggery for a few days - but I had things to do including riding around and walking around shops all day last thursday and I didn't let a little pain stop that. But since after a whole week it wasn't getting better I thought i'd better look up on the internet and find out what I had. After the last couple of days of resting a lot more seriously it seems to have gotten a lot better. I'm still treating it gently but it was ok enough to ride the 300m to the computer shop and back and limp inside.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Total success

Well on Friday I got my Chef at last, so apart from making some bread (which didn't really work out - insufficient volume to mix properly, i'll try that again today) and some biscuits I thought i'd try something a bit more ambitious, making pizza.

Hmm, yummo. I didn't have much in the fridge, but I managed ... anchovies, capers, smoky bacon, onion, capsicum, cheddar cheese all on a home-made sauce (some garlic, oregano, and a couple of tins of tomatoes). The strong flavour of the sauce made a good base, and pretty much everything else added up to a very nice pizza with a particularly strong flavour. I put some wholemeal flour into the dough too which added a nice texture and flavour too.

And I just got a shot of the finished result while there was still some left.

Bit easier than I thought - the dough making is easier than making bread since you only have to let it rise once and it isn't so picky about getting the structure right. Still took a while but you could probably streamline the effort to speed it up, and there's a few things you can do in parallel, and/or even do offline by freezing partial results.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Partial success

I've been meaning to for a while - with all this time lately I certainly have the opportunity for once - to make a lasagne.

Using a pasta machine to make the sheets of course. I used a hand mincer to make the mince too. Those things are surprisingly hard to find these days. Perhaps also surprising is that even using the cheapest meat I can find it makes probably the nicest mince I've cooked. Bit of a pain cleaning it though.

So the result. Tasted very nice, but a little on the dry side. Since I used fresh pasta I figured it didn't need cooking separately. I was half right. It did cook ok in the oven, but since I'd reduced the sauce a bit on purpose -- I wasn't sure how dry it should be -- it ended up a bit dry. I was also a little short on sauce so the penultimate layer was just bacon instead, which helped dry it out, and I think I had too much pasta to sauce. Next time I wont cook the sauce so long, and have more of it (or make a thinner dish).

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


First day of calendar spring. Not very sprung but I suppose there's a bit of sun out there.

Well as seems to be the case lately it's been another long lull between posts. I've been busy just 'bumming around the house' for the most part, although I've also got into a habit of spending money. Ordered a high-spec Kenwood Chef on the internet - I have a cheap food processor but it doesn't really mix properly and wont knead dough. But unfortunately it's still in the queue after a couple of weeks (from supplier). I tried buying locally but nobody sold the model I was after around here, plenty of places sell the Kitchen-Aid stuff but if i'm going to spend that much money I may as well go the whole hog. I go through spurts of cooking so it will be nice to have some decent gear.

Also just ordered a couple beagle boards. With Sony dropping the Other OS support in the new PS3's, I think that journey may as well come to a conclusion, at least for the time being. Not that I've been inspired to do any programming whatsoever, and they may just collect dust, but I'm hoping I can come up with something to put on them. I wonder which order will arrive first.

Last week I got my hands dirty converting a large coffee table with small drawers into a large coffee table/trunk. What was surprising is the whole thing is put together with only nails! Not even glue! Well it made it easy to disassemble the bits I needed to. I didn't need any extra timber as I re-used bits from inside it, although it could probably use a ply floor for strength and aesthetic appeal.

I took the top off, which already had a splitting join in it about half way across, used the drawer rails to make a spline across the middle and attached large triangle gate hinges to the that and the tops.

Added in some battens and bobs you're uncle. Actually it was a surprising amount of work, considering I haven't done any woodwork for ages and chiseled out the hinge rebates by hand. It's a bit rough -- the chisel wasn't too sharp and slipped some -- and unfinished, but I think I did an ok enough job with some of it. I'm sure glad I have a drill I can use to put screws in - there's over 70 in it now.

Considering the table is always covered in junk it may not be the wisest conversion ever, but it sure has a hell of a lot more room for storing crap now. So now i've been thinking about other woodworking stuff to do and other tools to buy - like a router which would've made the rebates a cinch - unfortunately I have no workshop, garage or even a gated car-port so I might have to hold back on that. If I ever get my retaining wall and paving done I'll have a deck to do at least.

I also found some interesting looking indoor plants and got some nice large pots for them - I have some other indoor plants but they're piddly little things or look like rubbish. I have some seedlings going early too - normally I'm months late with those. Trying to add some life to my herb pots too, and a little more work on the very slow process of creating a thyme lawn in the front of the house. And I think I finally got the ants nest out of the potted lemon tree. I have so much 'real' work to do out the back of my house it isn't funny but the weather and my apathy is holding me back on getting into it so i just keep poking around at the edges.