Minor Ubuntu News

Just a few words today:

  • There has been an update to the Ubuntu 14.04 on the Intel Compute Stick. For me the main change is that Bluetooth now works properly: it was always on apter power-off. Now it is kept in the previous state (off in my case – I use a wired ethernet and both USB keyboard and mouse). No other issues so far.
  • The Ubuntu Touch was updated. The update is still not available fom my phone. But after reading the bugs that can be solved in the next update (some of them are introduced now), I’m not sure if I want to install the current one. It seems that there is still lot of work to finish or enhance the basic functions of the phone and new features are added much slower than they were announced.
  • Finally there are some more informations and pictures related to the announced LibreOffice viewer app for the Ubuntu Touch. This is the most important thing that I miss on my phone (I really don’t want to use any “office” on the phone but many people still tend to send even simple things encapsulated in a “word” or an “excel” files…). But an application to communicate with the Pebble watches is on my wishlist, too…
Minor Ubuntu News

Owner’s Workshop Manual…

Just got this:

New reading//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Why? Because it’s interesting. I would prefer a little less history and more technical informations but it’s just my opinion.

If we stay just on topics related to computing, there are some interesting facts.
One needs a pretty lightly-specced computer to fly a space ship:

RAM: 2 kB 
Disk/ROM: 16 kB
I/O rate: 80 000 Kbps
Speed: 200-22 operations per second

That’s are main data of the 16-bit Argon-16 computer which was used in the Soyuz spaceships from 1974 to 2010. It weights about 70 kg and needs 280 W of power. It has up to about 60 data inputs and everything (CPU/RAM/ROM) is tripled in order to reach maximum reliability. It is said that the computer itself has no single recorded failure in the space.

This thing was produced from 1974 to (at least) 2010. And it was programmed in the C language, by the way.

There is more info about the family of Argon computers.

Of course, the book includes a lot of info about the Soyuz spaceships themselves. I can definitely recommend it.

Owner’s Workshop Manual…

Intel Compute Stick with Ubuntu

I finally have got also the Linux version of the Intel Compute Stick. It’s cheaper than the main version but its specs are degraded: it has just 1 GB (instead of 2 GB) of RAM and the eMMC is only 8 GB (instead of 32 GB). It means that free disk space on a new stick is about 1.7 GB. It also uses 1 GB of the eMMC as a swap space.

Default system on Intel Compute Stick

There are several things that I cannot understand:

  • It has 1 GB of RAM which means that system continuously swaps to the disk.
  • The pre-installed Ubuntu is a 64bit version. Why? The Windows version of the Stick (which has 2 GB of RAM) has a 32bit system.
  • There is even no support for 32bit stuff installed. So Geekbench 2 fails to start. Thus I will provide no benchmark numbers, sorry.
  • Although Firefox web browser is not known for a low memory usage, the Chromium – which is even more memory-hungry – is the default web browser (the Firefox is not installed at all).

There are also some good things: the default installation includes a complete LibreOffice package. So you have a quite good office package from the start.

Speed: I first connected the Stick to my 1920×1200 screen and it was slow. On my main screen (1280×1024) it feels as fast as the Windows version of the stick is.

The main limitation of the Stick is the memory size: I can imagine that it can be a near ideal device for an internet access, maybe for use of some Chrombook-like online applications. But the memory can make problems when it will be necessary to simultaneously open several modern large web pages at one time…

To be honest, it looks like the stick can fit most of my needs: I need a modern, and fairly secure, machine for on-line stuff (and for few other things) while continuing to use my SGI O2 for all other tasks.

Intel Compute Stick with Ubuntu

Off-line at vacation (well, almost)

I spent last two weeks in Low Tatras (Slovakia). They are a very nice mountains (the highest point is slightly over 2000 meters) and I like them. It wasn’t my first visit here. This time we were in the Liptovsky Jan village.

Chopok from Poludnica

The main advantage of that place is a low availability of an Internet connection. There was a low-speed WiFi signal in our hotel (it even wasn’t advertised). So no work e-mails and mostly no other internet access. I only accessed a geocaching.com site to download few caches and several times searched for weather forecast and for some local info.

I must say that it was great. No disturbing emails, no phone calls (I turned my phone into airplane mode).

Thus I we used just a few devices: my phone (bq Aquaris with Ubuntu), a camera (HP PhotoSmart 730), a nVidia Shield Tablet (as a backup device for photos taken by the digital camera) and the Garmin eTrex 30 GPS device (for navigation and geocaching tasks, of course.

The most used device was the Ubuntu phone: it was used for internet access (mentioned above), for notetaking (touch-based device is terrible for longer texts, but it’s OK for short notes), as a camera (when the HP was unavailable) and for storing and reading of some off-line maps and guides. I even find one geocache with it. But I prefer to use a more durable device for the geocaching (the eTrex is almost ideal for me).

Perl interpreter on Phone

I have to say that the bq Aquaris with Ubuntu is quite nice for most of tasks and it worked very well. Of course, it lacks a hardware keyboard and it has well-known problems with night photos (the flash makes them overlighted). If there will be a USB-host feature, then I will be able to leave the Android tablet at home (and thus I will able to take something more usefull with me).

Off-line at vacation (well, almost)

Octave 4.0 and Win 8.1

When using my Intel Stick I have experienced several problems. One of them is a semi-working graphics in the GNU Octave. The installer warned me that it is not fully forking. And it was right, unfortunately. The plot command freezes the program.

The solution is quite straightforward: replace the default graphics backend (Qt) by something different (the FLTK backend works).

Just find the file octave-home/share/octave/site/m/startup/octaverc. The octave-home is probably something are C:\Octave in the common operating system (which name starts with W).

A single line should be added to that file:

graphics_toolkit("fltk");

Thats all. Now your graphical outputs should work as expected. But I will still prefer to use Octave 2.0 on the IRIX…

Octave 4.0 and Win 8.1

File transfer between Psion MC600 and desktop

After too much posts about cutting edge technologies (the Ubuntu Touch), there is a post about something more familiar. One of my favourite devices it the Psion MC600 laptop. It’s a 80086-based laptop computer from 1989. It’s not exactly fast (but it’s not that bad for a 8 MHz!) but it’s battery life is excellent – 40-60 hours of continuous usage and few months in suspend. And it is relatively light and compact, it’s not much worse than today’s mid-range notebooks.

Psion MC600 and Workabout vs Ben NanoNote

The problem is that there is no floppy drive (and no USB, of course). There was an external floppy device but it was very rare. I even have one but it is incomplete (no cable, no power source) and I don’t know if if works (it was sold as non-functional). The Psion-designed SSD disks are compatible only with Psion devices and today the SSD drive for PC is as common as the unicorn.

Fortunately, there are some more common interfaces: a parallel one and the serial one. It was a non-standard connector (it’s not Apple-compatible serial connector) but the Psion Series 3 cable has the same. So one can easily get a required cable.

I need to connect it to my SGI O2. It has a PC-style serial port. In order to make things work I have to find a null-modem cable and to connect it to the Psion cable with an adapter. Then things started to work.

The next part is software. There used to be scams that MC600 has integrated laplink software. There is no such thing on my Psion. Thus I decided to use the Kermit. Why? Because it’s a well-known and universal communication software that work on near any computer. So I was able to get MS-Kermit for the MC600 and the C-Kermit for the SGI. And they are compatible, of course.

The O2 has two serial ports. Being an actual computer, and not a PC-style emulation of computer, it has a serial console on the first port. So it is possible to connect the MC600 here a use it as a serial terminal. The commands to set the Kermit up looks like this:

# serial console setup:
SET MODEM TYPE NONE
SET LINE 1
SET SPEED 9600
SET FLOW-CONTROL RTS/CTS
CONNECT

Then it is possible to log in into the IRIX and start to work. The MS-Kermit supports Tectronics graphical terminal emulation so it is even possible to use the Gnuplot and see the graphical plots on the screen!

For a file transfer it is easier to use a normally-configured serial port (which is the second one on the SGI). The setup of the kermit will be slightly different:

set modem type none
set line 1
set speed 9600
set file type binary
set parity space

You of course have to have a similar setup on the SGI’s side (the main difference is th set line /dev/ttyF2 instead of the set line 1). If your are curious about the low speed that I use (9600 baud) it’s because it is the highest speed that both device accept. I experienced errors on higher speeds.

After this your are able to use send and receive commands to transfer files.

As you probably know it is not necessary to type all the command on every start of the Kermit. You can put them to a file (say to a o2.tak) and load them with take o2.tak inside the Kermit.

File transfer between Psion MC600 and desktop