Tag Archives: geek

All up-to-date now!

Up-to-date!

This weekend I finally updated my laptop to Fedora 21. Initially I was thinking about doing a complete clean install but ultimately the usual lethal combination of laziness and too much to do forced me into upgrading it directly using fedup. Well, it did what it had to do (upgrading about 3500 packages, took it about an hour or so including the downloads on the internet connection I have at home) and it all went smoothly without any dramas.

The only annoyance I found (but I had seen it before when I did the clean install of F21 on the Dell) was that Nautilus didn’t have a mimetype association with .lyx files (hence LyX would not even appear on the “Open With…” list, even though I could launch it from the application list). Editing ~/.config/mimeapps.list sorted the problem quickly, though. πŸ™‚

Speed-wise it is more or less the same thing as before (I can’t expect any miracles out of a 2010 Core 2 Duo laptop running on an Intel graphics card, right? πŸ™‚ ), but GNOME is definitely more stable. And some of the things that were giving me a lot of grief before, such as file sharing and navigating through Windows shares are working seamlessly (I even managed to stream content directly to my Raspberry Pi using rygel without having to configure it (other than activating the “Media Share” option in gnome-shell settings). Brilliant work!

Not to mention the updated apps – I am very happy with the latest version of Inkscape, which includes snapping corners and measuring tools! And the inclusion of California, the official GNOME Shell calendar, in the main repositories was also great (I’m getting a bit fed up of the sluggishness of Evolution when it comes to the rest of the PIM apps – e-mail is mostly fine, not to mention it being the only Linux client which can deal with my university’s Exchange server!…).

Well done guys, things are looking great for GNOME! (and Fedora, too…)

I “fixed” the computer!

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I got a new toy quite recently – a (new-ish, for my standards) Dell workstation which will allow me to leave the ThinkPad at home! (at 2-2.5 kg it is still a bit of a heavy beast, especially when I’m already carrying lunch+gym gear on a heavyish (~20 kg) commuter bike!)

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All was not well, though. Even though it came with no operating system it still featured the horrid “Designed for Windows Vista” sticker on its pretty front. No more, though – it has been replaced with a “Powered by Fedora Linux” one!

(I should definitely print it in colour, though)

Installed Fedora 21 with the latest GNOME and it is running very smoothly (even with only 2 GB of RAM – 4 more on the way!). One of the major grudges I was having was related to connecting to Windows shares on the network (both the central School’s server and other workstations on the network) – the latest version actually works properly! I can see all the file servers directly from Nautilus, and the whole experience seems a lot more enjoyable, now.

I now need to do the same on my laptop… if only I could get some time to do it, though! πŸ™

Jazooli web cam

After getting my new “old” monitor I am now running my ThinkPad with the lid closed off its docking station, much to the dismay of my grandad who cannot “see” me now. I then went to get the cheapest webcam that I could find which would be Linux-compatible (and stress-free).

The Jazooli had reviews on Amazon with people successfully running it on Ubuntu with apparently no big dramas, plus it was only Β£1.99 (+Β£1.99 P&P πŸ™‚ ), so I went for it. It features not just the camera itself, but a built-in microphone (great since the inbuilt mic of my laptop is on the screen bezel and, as mentioned, the lid is closed..) and 6 LEDs whose brightness you can control through a little knob – for those occasions where you are working in semi-darkness and can’t be bothered to turn a light on if someone calls you on Skype!

It arrived relatively quickly (although I feel that things off eBay with free delivery tend to arrive sooner than the ones from Amazon, even the ones specifically fulfilled by them!), and I immediately set it up on top of my monitor (it has a hook in its base which secures the camera in place, quite a clever design, and it can also be used with a laptop screen!). Plugged it and fired up Cheese to test it – perfect, although its claims of 16 MP are grossly exaggerated – this is a VGA (300k-pixels) sensor, and it can only do VGA at 15 fps anyway, which caused some issues with Cheese. Lowering it to 320×240 seemed to do the trick.

I started having trouble when I fired up Skype and started a video call to test it – Skype was pulling the default configuration and assuming the maximum resolution of the camera, which obviously wasn’t going to happen, and as expected the video feed froze and crashed.

After editing the Skype configuration for my Skype name (under ~/Skype/yourskypename/config.xml ) and adding the following tags to the file,

<Video>
 <CaptureHeight>240</CaptureHeight>
 <CaptureWidth>320</CaptureWidth>
 <Device>/dev/video1</Device>
 <Fps>25</Fps>
 </Video>

I fired up Skype again and hoped for the best. Nope, it was still happily pushing the video feed at full resolution and obviously crashing. Moreover, with Google Hangouts I had exactly the same issue, which led me to think that maybe this was something transversal to all of these programs (but Cheese). After doing a bit of research and installing some Video4Linux configuration/testing software, I did what normally solves 99% of the problems I have when running a 64-bit Linux system – symlink libraries, in this case v4l1compat.so, which existed under /usr/lib/libv4l but not under /usr/lib64/libv4l.

And that seemed to do the trick – both Skype and Hangouts now work perfectly with no frozen video. And to top it off, this camera behaves much better than the ThinkPad’s integrated one, both in terms of white balance (I no longer look like I have liver disease, the other camera made me look so yellow!) and low-light performance (the camera would just shut itself off if the light level was below a certain threshold!).

It gave me some trouble in the end, but nothing major (and probably related from running a 64-bit version of Fedora… πŸ˜› ). For 2 quid it is a good buy indeed – obviously not HD, but my family is not complaining… πŸ™‚

Whew!

Again, it has been a while! πŸ™‚ Where to begin?

Well, Porto came and went (too quickly, indeed…) and I returned to the island and to my busy schedule (at times). Funnily enough, as soon as I got back one of my university mates came to visit and we spent a nice weekend roaming around Kent, with the mandatory stop at Whitstable to get some oysters.

May was a bit slow… between work at the lab, a pile of lab reports to mark (yeah, I gave myself a proper holiday in Porto and didn’t evenΒ look at them during the whole time I was there – but then the problem came in May when I had to finish them all in a very short span of time! πŸ˜› ), and a very busy time at PARSUK (we had to assess the student applications to the summer placement programme we are sponsoring – and there were a lot of applications!!) I didn’t have a lot of time to do anything else.

My mom and my little sister did came to visit me by the end of the month, which was nice, if it wasn’t for the horrible weather we had and all the miles I had to drive under that rain (unbelievable the spray that forms on the motorway, it came to a point when the water was beingΒ projected over the central reservation into the opposite carriageway!!). After showing them the views and going to London for some sightseeing, using a bank holiday weekend for that purpose, I felt happy but also a bit tired (after returning from dropping them at the airport on Tuesday morning I have to confess I didn’t do much in the lab for the remainder of the day!).

June started with a few meetings and workshops. I attended a National Instruments (NI)/Institute of Physics half-day meeting at Kingston University (SW London) with some of the usual suspects from the lab where I gave a little presentation in conjunction with Adrian B about the NI hardware/software we use and how that helps us achieve what we need, research-wise. It was interesting and I chatted with a few interesting people, namely one of the top level execs of NI here in the UK.

At the Summer School, where I got an award for one of the best poster presentations – feeling proud!

A few days later I went to Teddington to attend a Summer School at the National Physical Laboratory, sponsored by SEPNet (the group of the South-East universities with Physics degrees, Kent being one of them). It was interesting and refreshing, even if myself and Yong H were the only ones in there doing Applied Optics, as far as I saw… but they had some very interesting workshops, an innovation challenge that brought up the “soft skills” we are never taught but are definitely important, and Jim Al-KhaliliΒ as the keynote speaker! (oh, and there were a few social events as well… the weather was remarkably good for those, and in the end I even managed to cram a few nice runs in the morning, in particular a ~10k one partly following the Thames in the Kingston/Hampton Wick area – absolutely beautiful!).

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All the participants of LUSO 2014 congregated for a group photo after the event. The venue was quite unique as well!

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And here it is, the PARSUK committee for 2013-14, possibly our last group photo of the mandate. It has been quite a ride!…

And in the following week I headed for Bath, to attend the 8th LUSO (2014) – the annual meeting of the Portuguese students and researchers in the UK. Ultimately this would be also the time to pass on my duties as a treasurer for PARSUK, given that our mandate finishes at the AGM, which took place the day after the conference. It was very intense but also good fun, and I feel privileged to have been able to work with such a great bunch of people. Definitely worth the horrible ~4-hour drive there on Friday afternoon through the congested M25, followed by the congested M3, congested Windson and congested A46, all under a scorching sun (“why would I need a car with air conditioning in this country?”, I naively asked myself when I purchased my car. Well, on a day like June 20th it would have come handy… πŸ˜› ).

Cake skill - acquired! (actually it is only a yoghurt cake, possibly the easiest cake to bake on Earth, but it was still quite yummy! )

Cake skill – acquired!
(actually it is only a yoghurt cake, possibly the easiest cake to bake on Earth, but it was still quite yummy! ) And please do not ask why I am topless, it was really warm that day and the oven being on didn’t help! πŸ˜›

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Almost ran this little fellow over with the lawnmower today! Fortunately I managed to stop in time, and it stayed enough time for me to take a few shots…

At last I managed to have a weekend for myself – this weekend included some rowing, some running, and general tidying up of my house, my car, the garden (managed to mow all the lawn, trim the hedges and tidy upΒ before the rain started!! Big WIN!! πŸ˜€ ).

A selfie at the boathouse! Nice boat, this one…

With regards to running: Richard,Β one of my rowing mates told me about this fantastic nature reserve in Blean – Blean (duh) Nature Reserve – just a stone’s throw from campus and featuring a fantastic 7-8 mile loop through forest paths and rolling countryside, hard to believe that we are less than 5 miles away from Canterbury city centre! Given that I have just presented myself with a shiny new Garmin Forerunner 310XT (which should arrive this week – eagerly awaiting, and a review will follow!) I will probably use it to log a few of these trails, which are not very well documented, which is a shame!

OK, I think I’ll end here. It is late and I need to catch some sleep, I am dead tired today πŸ™‚ Hopefully will update soon!

Now I can most definitely work!

Now I can most definitely work!Via Flickr:

Got this lovely desk a few months ago on eBay for Β£25 (had to drive to Sittingbourne to get it but it was worth it – it is absolutely immaculate!). Speakers (good ones!), Microsoft keyboard+mouse set all from Freecycle.

My trusty ThinkPad sitting in its bigger dock (the smaller one – the Advanced Mini – is in my desk at work), and the newest addition, this lovely 20” ViewSonic which is obviously not new, but serves its purpose admirably, especially taking into consideration how little it cost (Β£35 with free P&P).

I can now work, and indeed I have already done so πŸ™‚

On blowing things and stuff…

Yesterday was not a good day. While servicing one of our old PCs, hoping to make it able to scan our old negatives, I managed to blow a power supply (there were a lot of sparks and loud noises, followed by smoke and the characteristic pungent aroma of burnt electronics…), and apparently the hard drive of that computer as well (which had been reinstalled recently). Ended up having to reinstall XP in it on a slower, smaller drive than I wanted, argh!…

Then I went for a bike ride. All was well, I rode from my rowing club in Gaia down to Valadares, following the coast (didn’t have a tracker, but it was probably something like 15-20k). Then we pulled out, and got out of the bikes to stretch our legs, and that’s when a loud pffft was heard, and my rear tyre went from full to completely empty in about 2 sec!

We took the tube apart (not before breaking a brand new set of spanners my friend had) and realised nothing could be done on the roadside – no patch could save a 3 in long tear on the tube!

Ended up pushing the bike back towards the car, but fortunately I had the presence of mind to jump on the other (working) bike and sprint like crazy against a head wind to fetch the car… πŸ˜›

And now I should head to bed, ’cause this weekend I have a 60k row waiting… πŸ™‚