It’s the most wonderful time of the…

The holidays are upon us again. Finally getting everything organized and finding the time to do stuff like blogging. Anyway, Toby has only had a couple run-ins with his new feline companions so far. I thought it would be worse, but thankfully, he’s made friends out of the deal.

I’ve been spending my days trying to figure out all this Android device modding. I think I need to find a few books that will help me a long the way. Once I understand the structure of the file system and how it all goes together, I should be ready for some happy experiments ūüôā Don’t know that I’m ever going to try to develop apps, but I have some ideas stirring.

Building to Something Big

So, I’ve been silent on here for quite some time.¬† I haven’t been completely devoid of the Internet, but I’ve been working on something big.¬† So, if asked “What have you been doing lately?”, my answer would be “learning”.¬† I am learning so much where I am at.¬† Not the technical stuff, that was always easy.¬† I am learning what it takes everyday and I am better off everyday.
Steve Jobs’ passing away had an impact on me.¬† It was a kick in the ass to get things started.¬† Listening to the Stanford dissertation again was quite a motivator as well.¬† My favorite part of it was when he described evaluating his tasks everyday and whether it was what he wanted to do.¬† I want to learn right now.

Establishing the Amazon Kindle as a Tool

The Amazon Kindle is a very practical device, focusing primarily on electronic reader issues such as battery life, text formatting, and of course the well marketed fact that it is glare resistant. I’ve opened a new category on itadmins.org for this device to highlight some of the uses that make it more of a tool than a toy with a color screen that does everything a computer does.

The biggest problem when a device goes mainstream is determining where it fits into your life. First off, don’t compare it to the Apple iPad. It is not for entertainment unless you find entertainment in literature, which some people still do. The Kindle was developed to distribute and consume documents, not to update your status, not to view pictures of your friend’s kids, and not to keep up with the Joneses. It is a tool to disseminate knowledge and information in a readable way, much like books. Let me ask you this: Can a calculator do any of these things?

With that said, the Kindle does its job beautifully. I spend a lot of time reading on it, whether to my daughter, or on my own. This is where the device excels.

You no longer have to go to the bookstore (Time Saving)

There are some people that enjoy perusing a bookstore for hours on end to find that one special book that meets their needs. I am not one of them. The more specific your desired knowledge in a brick and mortar, the harder it becomes to find exactly what you want or need. I’ve spent countless hours traveling from store to store looking for specific titles that bookstores do not carry because I’ve dug too deep. I read some pretty technical books that are borderline manuals. This type of specific need is not cost effective for a store to market to when the latest 8 dollar paperback sells a million copies. With the Kindle, I can search, or find the manual online and push it over Whispernet. This makes it easier for the store and myself.

Document distribution

This is an area that still needs to be developed to its full potential, but I am going to start looking for the code to do so. What I want is the ability to push reports about my home network automatically to my kindle every morning to know what is going on with it. If I am running out of space because I uploaded too many photos, I want to know. I want a weather report specific to my home pushed to my Kindle every morning. I want to know if the batteries are low in my camera and cell phone before I leave the house in the morning. To summarize, I want an electronic nag to prevent the surprises that often occur when you start using electronics in your home.

Reading

I am a reader of Historical literature. I love learning about Ireland, a place I would like to visit sometime. I read The Magic Treehouse to my child. She loves it, despite the fact that TV doesn’t think History is cool enough for kids. Go figure, use a device for its original purpose and you get enjoyment out of it. This is something I feel has been lost in our modern days of mods, hacks, and apps.

I am going to continue to develop this category with information about using the Kindle for everyday purposes, but I will try to remain practical and within the needs it was targeted for.

One Month With The Kindle

I recently received a Kindle Wifi and have spent the last month exploring the features of the device and how to incorporate it into my life. Planning is of course necessary and an understanding of how to to format documents became critical to avoid having to constantly zoom in to read.

This is a brief list of the uses I have come up for it:

Cooking – The Kindle is great to take the place of the netbook I use to read recipes while cooking. If not for the simple fact that I just reduced the chance of spilling hot liquid on a computer, it is more portable, lighter, and energy efficient. It made sense.

Relieving boredom – The simple fact that I have access to a huge library of books has made it easier to pass the time by learning instead of staring blankly at a TV or (ahem) Social Networking sites. I have turned my less productive times of day into reading about Irish History, keeping up on the news in my favorite parts of the world, and checking out new tech I wouldn’t normally learn about.

Bedtime stories – This has to be my favorite use. I ask my daughter what she wants to read tonight and it isn’t a scheduling project to go to the bookstore and pick out one title, which she may or may not like. We have been reading together before bedtime since she was two.

Avoiding paper – I will admit it: I hate paper. I think everyone does. It piles up. It takes over. The Kindle has reduced the amount of paper I have to keep around. I like being green and everything, but the fact that I don’t miss papers lying around is much more important in my mind than saving the world. The unclutter factor is huge with this device. It will be interesting to see if Amazon comes up with additional software to go after the mailbox. I could see a potential for secure documents that replace mail eventually.

This does not begin to scratch the surface of the potential for the Kindle. If you have a great idea that I missed, feel free to hit me up in the comments.

dmidecode

DMIDECODE(8)                                                      DMIDECODE(8)

NAME
dmidecode – DMI table decoder

SYNOPSIS
dmidecode [OPTIONS]

DESCRIPTION
dmidecode¬† is a tool for dumping a computer’s DMI (some say SMBIOS) table contents in a human-readable format. This table contains a descrip
tion¬† of¬† the¬† system’s¬† hardware¬† components,¬† as well as other useful
pieces of information such as serial numbers and BIOS revision.  Thanks
to  this  table,  you  can  retrieve this information without having to
probe for the actual hardware.  While this is a good point in terms  of
report  speed  and  safeness, this also makes the presented information
possibly unreliable.

The DMI table doesn’t only describe what the system is¬† currently¬† made
of,  it  also  can  report the possible evolutions (such as the fastest
supported CPU or the maximal amount of memory supported).

SMBIOS stands for System Management BIOS, while DMI stands for  Desktop
Management  Interface. Both standards are tightly related and developed
by the DMTF (Desktop Management Task Force).

As you run it, dmidecode will try to locate the DMI table. If  it  suc
ceeds, it will then parse this table and display a list of records like
this one:

Handle 0×0002, DMI type 2, 8 bytes.¬† Base Board Information
Manufacturer: Intel
Product Name: C440GX+
Version: 727281-001
Serial Number: INCY92700942

Each record has:

A handle. This is a unique identifier, which allows records to refer
ence  each  other.  For  example, processor records usually reference
cache memory records using their handles.

A type. The SMBIOS specification defines different types of  elements
a  computer  can  be  made  of. In this example, the type is 2, which
means that the record contains “Base Board Information”.

A size. Each record has a 4-byte header (2 for the handle, 1 for  the
type,  1  for  the  size),  the rest is used by the record data. This
value doesn’t take text strings into account (these are placed at the
end of the record), so the actual length of the record may be (and is
often) greater than the displayed value.

Decoded values. The information presented of course  depends  on  the
type of record. Here, we learn about the board’s manufacturer, model,
version and serial number.

OPTIONS
-d, –dev-mem FILE
Read memory from device FILE (default: /dev/mem)

-q, –quiet
Be less verbose. Unknown, inactive and OEM-specific entries  are
not displayed. Meta-data and handle references are hidden. Mutu
ally exclusive with –dump.

-s, –string KEYWORD
Only display the value of the DMI string identified by  KEYWORD.
KEYWORD  must be a keyword from the following list: bios-vendor,
bios-version,  bios-release-date,  system-manufacturer,  system-
product-name, system-version, system-serial-number, system-uuid,
baseboard-manufacturer,  baseboard-product-name,  baseboard-ver
sion, baseboard-serial-number, baseboard-asset-tag, chassis-man
ufacturer, chassis-type, chassis-version, chassis-serial-number,
chassis-asset-tag,   processor-family,   processor-manufacturer,
processor-version,  processor-frequency.   Each  keyword  corre
sponds  to a given DMI type and a given offset within this entry
type.  Not all strings may be meaningful or even defined on  all
systems.  Some  keywords may return more than one result on some
systems (e.g.  processor-version on a  multi-processor  system).
If  KEYWORD  is  not  provided or not valid, a list of all valid
keywords is printed and dmidecode exits  with  an  error.   This
option¬† cannot¬† be¬† used¬† more¬† than¬† once, and implies –quiet.
Mutually exclusive with –type and –dump.

-t, –type TYPE
Only display the entries of type TYPE. TYPE can be either a  DMI
type  number,  or  a  comma-separated list of type numbers, or a
keyword from the following list: bios, system, baseboard,  chas
sis, processor, memory, cache, connector, slot. Refer to the DMI
TYPES section below for details.  If this option  is  used  more
than once, the set of displayed entries will be the union of all
the given types.  If TYPE is not provided or not valid,  a  list
of  all  valid  keywords  is printed and dmidecode exits with an
error.¬† Mutually exclusive with –string.

-u, –dump
Do not decode the entries, dump their  contents  as  hexadecimal
instead.   Note that this is still a text output, no binary data
will be thrown upon you. The strings attached to each entry  are
displayed  as  both hexadecimal and ASCII. This option is mainly
useful for¬† debugging.¬†¬† Mutually¬† exclusive¬† with¬† –quiet¬† and
–string.

-h, –help
Display usage information and exit

-V, –version
Display the version and exit

DMI TYPES
The SMBIOS specification defines the following DMI types:

Type   Information

0   BIOS
1   System
2   Base Board
3   Chassis
4   Processor
5   Memory Controller
6   Memory Module
7   Cache
8   Port Connector
9   System Slots
10   On Board Devices
11   OEM Strings
12   System Configuration Options
13   BIOS Language
14   Group Associations
15   System Event Log
16   Physical Memory Array
17   Memory Device
18   32-bit Memory Error
19   Memory Array Mapped Address
20   Memory Device Mapped Address
21   Built-in Pointing Device
22   Portable Battery
23   System Reset
24   Hardware Security
25   System Power Controls
26   Voltage Probe
27   Cooling Device
28   Temperature Probe
29   Electrical Current Probe
30   Out-of-band Remote Access
31   Boot Integrity Services
32   System Boot
33   64-bit Memory Error
34   Management Device
35   Management Device Component
36   Management Device Threshold Data
37   Memory Channel
38   IPMI Device
39   Power Supply

Additionally,  type 126 is used for disabled entries and type 127 is an
end-of-table marker. Types  128  to  255  are  for  OEM-specific  data.
dmidecode will display these entries by default, but it can only decode
them when the vendors have contributed documentation or code for them.

Keywords can be used instead of type numbers with –type.¬† Each keyword
is equivalent to a list of type numbers:

Keyword     Types

bios        0, 13
system      1, 12, 15, 23, 32
baseboard   2, 10
chassis     3
processor   4
memory      5, 6, 16, 17
cache       7
connector   8
slot        9

Keywords  are  matched  case-insensitively. The following command lines
are equivalent:

dmidecode –type 0 –type 13

dmidecode –type 0,13

dmidecode –type bios

dmidecode –type BIOS

FILES
/dev/mem

BUGS
More often than not, information contained in the DMI tables is inaccu
rate, incomplete or simply wrong.

AUTHORS
Alan Cox, Jean Delvare

SEE ALSO
biosdecode(8), mem(4), ownership(8), vpddecode(8)

dmidecode                        February 2007                    DMIDECODE(8)

New Years Goals

One might ask why I refer to my resolutions for 2010 as goals instead. It’s simple, really. The more I think back to 2009 the more I realize that resolution isn’t the appropriate word for what I want to do. There is a process to meeting goals, resolutions are immediately assumed to fail. Resolution implies that what I want to do is reactionary and also that the first time I slip up, I might as well pack it up. So, with that said, here is my list of the things I want to reach for this year:

  • LESS FACEBOOK –¬† Social networking has gotten ugly.¬† It is a good tool, but not an art.¬† There is nothing artistic about “Liking” everything I see, getting nagged to take care of my fake fish, and finding out which president my personality most closely matches.¬† I enjoy connecting with people, but Dailybooth is more fun in that regard: Add a daily photo, any photo, and people comment and interpret it.¬† It is so much more interesting.¬† Not sure if I will ever really delete my account with FB, but it is certainly getting less of my attention in 2010.
  • MORE WEBSITE – I need to add more content to my sites.¬† 2009 was the year of digging down into the nitty-gritty of WordPress, messing with constant upgrades and doing SysAdmin and Developer stuff.¬† This year, I am going to blog more and have fun with it. SourceTX.com is quickly becoming one of my favorite sites to work with and I want to start hammering out a lot of content.¬† The idea is simple.¬† I am going to start offering a place for authors, artists, and musicians to post one-off content and I am considering interviewing in the future.¬† Kind of think of it as an online art magazine that never claims to be.
  • GO CORP – The romanticism of being a part of a fledgling company that stands against all odds has kind of taken a back seat with me of late.¬† I am going to focus on practicality in job offers this year and not delusions of grandeur in regards to being the next big thing.¬† No companies that are buyout-bait or refer to their service options as “solutions” to add marketing value need apply.¬† I’m ready for something real that clients really want.

These are the things I am going to work on.  2009 is done and gone.  Time for a new decade and a new year.  Wish me luck!

On a Quest for a Universal Remote

I am thinking it is time for change.
I am thinking it is time for change.

It is time to simplify things a little. I am on a quest for a universal remote. This is the assortment I currently use on a daily basis, and it is driving my six year old absolutely crazy. That’s not mentioning the fact that it is driving me crazy trying to keep them all in one place with a six year old.

From left to right, you have two Wii Remotes (for the Wii and also the Media Center), a Roku Player, the Magnavox DVD Player, the Philips TV, and the DirecTV Tivo Series 2.

I am very skeptical that I can find one universal device for all of them. The Wii Remotes will have to stay and are pulling more than their share of the load. I have my Media Center computer connected with them over Bluetooth as well as using them for normal gaming. The Roku Player is fairly new. I am hoping I can find something compatible, but might have to manually program it for that. The DirecTV, Tivo, DVD Player, and TV should work with most devices.

I am going to look at the Logitech Harmony and see what I can come up with. Anyone else have any suggestions?