Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Snowdonia Hellathon is looming

Well for my wife at least..... some of us have more sense than to run marathons, let alone run marathons in probably the hilliest place in the UK.... but each to their own I guess.

We are staying in a nice cottage in Llanberis for a couple of days....myself and Justin (the husband of the other deranged runner) are going to provide vital support along the marathon route namely making sure water is available for our respective partners which of course will require stopping at every pub to fill up water bottles and it would be rude not to have a pint while we wait patiently for our respective running partners to zoom by... 

Then we have the strenuous task of breaking camp (after a bag of pork scratchings and a packet of crisps) and moving onto the next pub and doing it all again... it's a good job there are only three pubs on the route otherwise we probably wouldn't make it to the fourth pub.... These runners just don't know how much hard work it is supporting them whilst they go for a jog around the countryside.....  

Then we have all that awful drinking and socialising after the race to endure and of course "The Curry" ..... it will be hell.

The things you do for love eh ?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Wifi and Physics

Xbox boy after being banned from using the broadband connection for going behind my back and re-enabling it when I had disabled it has had a reprieve.... I've allowed him back on the internet with his precious Xbox 360... so he went out and bought a new usb wifi dongle from Microshaft... (well the ban had gone on for longer than a year... despite him asking at least four times to be forgiven ......let it not be said that I'm draconian unnecessarily)

I wasn't hopeful that he would get a decent connection because Lauren's computer has difficulty connecting through the 3ft thick stone wall and Xbox boy's room is directly above hers which means that to the wifi signal it's exponentially thicker because it travels up through the wall at an angle increasing the width of the wall by a factor of at least 4 maybe more... 

Needless to say it didn't work (very well....told you so !!!) so I told him to put the dongle in a plastic bag and hang it out of the window with a USB extender cable I had knocking around.... bingo full connection !!! although I can't see that lasting because Andrea is not happy about a plastic bag hanging out of his bedroom ..... I can see her point..

As for his full connection, yes he does have all the bars lit up but it's not really though because our router really doesn't like what the Xbox is throwing through it data wise so he's getting drop outs ..... There have been complaints about the Zyxel router we use with fellow Xboxer's ..... Which means I'll have to get a new wifi router that supports Xbox properly ..... NOT !!!

ahhhh well his in-house support for his Xbox network connectivity ended years ago... He's on his own now.... it works for Linux and Vista and XP and that's all that matters to me (and everybody else for that matter).....

Freya has managed to trash FOMO boys nintendo Dsi obviously by hammering it on something and breaking the screen, apparently it's only £32 to fix it so not as bad as we thought... but to be honest I think kids have far too many "gadgets" these days and one less is no loss to me..... (FOMO boy may disagree on that one) 

If all the consoles and gaming machines suddenly disappeared in a puff of smoke I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.... I can't see the draw with them to be honest, I also can't see how an adult can become so wrapped up in a "game" that it rules over all else.... a sign of the times I guess... maybe it's an escape from reality ?? who knows (or cares even)

Monday, 20 September 2010

Like music ?

And more importantly brilliant music .....
Then click on the link below

The man is a genius !!!

Just click the link above turn your speakers up 
and get blown away !!! :P

Friday, 17 September 2010

I'm a Nazi

Well according to Pope Benedict I am at least..... he made the astounding comparison when he addressed the nation in Edinburgh the other day.... He said that Atheism is comparable to the Nazi's ... Now I don't remember putting to death millions of Jewish people or putting them into forced labour..... I'm sure I would have remembered doing that and I certainly don't remember giving my allegiance to some despotic nut case hell bent on world domination at any point in my life.... Neither do I walk around in shiny jack boots or have I ever possessed insignia or a membership card of the Waffen SS or the BNP....
So I fail to see how the quite plainly mad pontiff can draw the conclusion that I being an Atheist equals being a Nazi.... but each to their own I guess.... live and let live.... I certainly won't lose any sleep over it or rush to get converted to the Catholic faith or any faith (ever).....Mind you I was never a member of the Hitler youth..... unlike Mr Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger

You don't need a bible to show what love is all about, the bible however is the most efficient instrument of hate ever created..... and lets face it a God who made imperfect human beings when he was perfectly capable of making perfect ones (allegedly) Then spends eternity blaming us for his mistakes !!! that's not intelligent design .... it's just bad design....

Anyway enough of the fanciful my PC is still limping along at half speed, I can't seem to find a supplier for Arctic Silver 5 heatsink compound and until I do I'm running at half mast on the Ghz which is a bit frustrating... That said I'm sure I will get hold of some at some point.....

Our heating/boiler/Rayburn has been fixed and we now have heat in the house... couldn't have happened sooner really because the days definitely have taken a turn for the colder.... 

It's just under six weeks before Andrea does the Snowdonia Marathon we were all prepared with the hotel booked and everything but we had the chance of booking a cottage for two days in Llanberis much cheaper so with Andrea's friend Niki and her husband we are sharing this lovely cottage for the duration which will give us a bit more freedom than the hotel.... plus it's right next door to Pete's Eats in Llanberis the home of the hearty climbers breakfast !!! 

So all systems go although Andrea has been suffering from some kind of cold/chest infection so her running/training has been put on hold for now but she's champing at the bit to get back out there....

That's about all the news there is at the moment I'll report back when I've something less interesting to speak about 

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Gravity.... it's ups and downs

I have enough computing power to concurrently run a moon mission, control Heathrow airport, calculate the end of the universe and play several games of chess concurrently..... Alas this needs a CPU cooler of monstrous proportions made of pure copper... which is HEAVY .... 

it's mounted sideways on the motherboard and strains on it's retaining clips like a breeze block suspended by spiders thread.... 

So let me set the scene... I needed to pull out the "beast" to plug a usb connector in for our ink hungry Epson printer.... simple job you would think.... but like most men I over estimate the length of things.... (slight pause for comic effect) .....and pulled the computer too far causing it to bump heavily down when the back end of the computer ran out of computer desk and settled on the wooden floor.....rather loudly....

there was an almighty "CRACK!" as the CPU cooler separated from it's fastenings and my 4 drives all decided that I had exceeded their operating shock (non  sinusoidal) limits.... and all recalibrated in unison having completely lost the position they had last left the read/write heads  (careless to say the least) .....closely followed by my Quad Core CPU immediately going into thermal meltdown a la three mile island style....ok it didn't melt it's way through the three stories of our house and continue on it's way to the centre of the earth.... but it had a good bash at it... thankfully AMD  have engineered their CPU's to become a little bit suspicious about temperatures above 86c and they immediately disconnect power to prevent thermal runaway..... 

However I was left with a broken CPU cooler bracket and a motherboard manufacturer which had closed it's doors in 2009 (Abit) so after a few phone calls to a local PC supplier  of whom I've been friends with for years......I had secured another clip off a dead motherboard !!! yay!!

or so I thought.... it seems now that the CPU is a "bit" brain damaged in that no matter how fast the CPU fan runs (currently nearly 4000rpm and sucking the air out of the room as I speak) the CPU will, if stressed above 90% peak at over 90c which is pretty bad for this particular CPU because it's rated at 86c max temperature..... :(
So as a stop gap until I can get hold of replacements I have cut off the thermistor which controls the fan speed and it's running like a Spitfire engine at full tilt  in a dive towards a group of Heinkel bombers over London .....which makes playing music different as the wind whistling past your ears and almost ripping your socks off as a veritable mini tornado under my desk  pulls anything within 4 metres towards the computer air intake.... does  detract somewhat ...... just a tad .....from the quieter moments of Pink Floyd's "The Wall

I will have to cancel the next moon mission and cut down my parallel chess games to just one....Heathrow will have to wait on a holding pattern until I can fix the problem......

Gravity sucks ......

Friday, 3 September 2010

SN9C202 web camera's (Microdia type)

These little beasties are pretty hard to get working in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS but here is a step by step walk through to get it working within minutes :) just type the highlighted commands in a terminal session....

firstly identify you have an SN9C202 or similar camera by using 


which should return something like this 

Bus 002 Device 002: ID 045e:0040 Microsoft Corp. Wheel Mouse Optical
Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 001 Device 004: ID 0c45:628f Microdia PC Camera with Microphone (SN9C202 + OV9650)
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub

Once you have indeed confirmed you have the offending camera follow the steps below.....

firstly install Git with the following command line

sudo apt-get install git-core

1. Download the source code

From a command-line prompt, cd to a directory where you want to download it, default "home" will do then run the command:

git clone http://repo.or.cz/r/microdia.git

This will create a folder named "microdia" which contains all the source code.

Sometimes the above command doesn't work. In such cases please try this one:

git clone http://repo.or.cz/microdia.git

2. Install bare minimum packages

To be able to compile the driver, you must have kernel sources and the necessary tools to compile it. For most applications you will also need libv4l.


sudo apt-get install kernel-package linux-headers build-essential ctags libv4l

(this might take a while depending on how fast your connection is)

Note: linux-source is not necessary, rather linux-headers with the same version of your kernel will install /lib/modules//build.

Attention: Do _NOT_ under any circumstances use "sudo make" or "make". There are no root privileges necessary at this point and using them causes a never ending chain of different problems later on.

3. Setting up the compilation environment

The linux kernel needs to be locally compiled in order to compile the microdia driver.

If the kernel is not compiled, "make" will complain of "modpost" missing.

The Makefile expects the source of linux to be located in /lib/modules/$(KVER)/build, if this is not the case edit the Makefile to set KSRC to point to the linux source location.

4. Building Microdia driver from source

After installing Git (command line to get git shown above), you need to download microdia kernel driver source. After installing Kernel packages and necessary tools to compile it, you will be able to compile it by typing:

cd microdia

Attention: Do _NOT_ under any circumstances use "sudo make" or "make". There are no root privileges necessary at this point and using them causes a never ending chain of different problems later on.

Troubleshooting MAKE errors

If you get the following error:
make: *** [driver] Error 127
Error 127 simply means that the module is not in the proper location. This is not a major error.

5. Loading the driver

sudo insmod ./sn9c20x.ko

If everything works fine you won't see any message on stdout, but your dmesg will have lines like the following:

sn9c20x: SN9C20X USB 2.0 webcam driver loaded
sn9c20x: SN9C20X USB 2.0 Webcam - XXXX:XXXX plugged-in.
sn9c20x: Detected XXX Sensor
sn9c20x: SN9C20X USB 2.0 Webcam is now controlling video device /dev/video0
usbcore: registered new interface driver usb_sn9c20x_driver
sn9c20x: v2008.10 : SN9C20X USB 2.0 Webcam Driver

Troubleshooting insmod errors

insmod sn9c20x.ko
insmod: error inserting 'sn9c20x.ko': -1 File exists (which is what I experienced)

means a similar module is was already loaded into the kernel and needs to be removed first. To find out which model that is, do:

lsmod | grep sn9c20x

you should see something like this

 gspca_sn9c20x 31616  0
 gspca_main 26816  1 gspca_sn9c20x

From which you can then figure out the module name (gspca_sn9c20x in my case) and replace it with the new module as shown below

sudo rmmod gspca_sn9c20x
sudo insmod snc9c20x.ko

Make sure you type all of this from within the git cloned microdia directory or else it will simply bomb on you. You can now check to see if the module is loaded:

lsmod | grep sn9c20x

and you should see the driver installed.....

Update the dependencies for every module.

sudo depmod -a
sudo m-a update,prepare

if the sudo m-a update,prepare fails you'll need to run the following and repeat the command line above

sudo apt-get install module-assistant


sudo m-a update,prepare

FIXME: more possibilities
6. Test it using Skype or the command line shown below
Please note that the test requires libv4l for video decoding. mplayer does not support JPEG compression on its own.

LD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib/libv4l/v4l2convert.so mplayer tv:// \
    -tv driver=v4l2:width=640:height=480:fps=25:device=/dev/video0 -vo x11

7. Installing the Microdia Driver

Once you're happy that it's working as expected ....

open a terminal session and put the following commands in to weld it into the operating system :)

sudo strip -g sn9c20x.ko
sudo mkdir -p /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/media/video/usbvideo/
sudo cp sn9c20x.ko /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/media/video/usbvideo/
sudo depmod -a

Just cut and paste the above ... you might need to press the enter key for the last command to execute

voila .... working webcam :)

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

School Time is upon us

The long lazy days of the school holidays are behind us (nearly) .... Andrea went back to work today and the other kids go back on Thursday (Phew!!) it's been a busy 6 weeks what with moving house and settling in.... I won't want to be doing that in a hurry again that's for sure... predictably the weather has improved remarkably in the last three or so days.....

We are still without heating, we are just using the immersion heater for hot water which is probably going to bankrupt us once the bill arrives.... but can you get a boiler engineer when you want one ??? ... you'd think in the "height" of summer they would be thick on the ground begging for work .... but alas no.... I'm under the impression they all hibernate in the summer and only come out of their work vans when the weather turns a bit colder and boilers fail like leaves off the trees....

I will have to lay a trap and see if I can catch one staggering back from the pub....

Andrea is in Carmarthen this evening "running one off" doing endless laps of a 800m circuit, it's something to do with building endurance or something like that... she did manage to beat her personal best at the St Clears 10k race, she beat her previous record by a few minutes.... which is a massive improvement :)

Snowdonia marathon is looming large now ... the heat is on ....

She is off doing the Merthyr to Brecon race along the Roman road this weekend I think...... it's 16 miles up hill and down dale.... she'll be cream crackered after that one....

Did I mention the kids are back in school on Thursday ??? (YAYYYYYY!!!)

and relax.....