Friday, May 30, 2008

Nokia N800

I recently ordered a Nokia N800 tablet and I have to say, like most people, it is an AMAZING device. I've been debating on whether to buy it for months, researching for the best deal on it. And I believe I found it. Now, you might ask that if the Nokia N810 is out, why would I want to buy the N800. It's easy, the new features on the N810 aren't really important enough for me to want it that badly, and the release of a new version DRASTICALLY cuts the price of a previous model. In fact, I've still heard of people who have the 770 and are still satisfied with that, so, cheaper is better. I first was awed by the N800 after reading an article in Linux Pro Magazine[pdf]. However, its price was listed as $399... wayyy out of my budget. However, I waited, researched for WHY I wanted it, and what a good price for it would be. And that waiting paid off. I searched for good deals with froogle (not generally that great an idea), but I was highly skeptical and it turned out that many of the really good deals were peddled by frauds. However, I then ran into this post that said that Dell was selling them for $199. That's when I thought, "It's a good time to buy!" Unfortunately, Dell sold out before I committed myself, so I had to settle with another deal. I was able to find this deal on TigerDirect (they really do have good prices on electronics. And I know them to be legitimate) for around $220. This one, I managed to catch in time! A few days later, they were sold out. I gave a sigh of relief and waited for the N800 to arrive.

After a heart-wrenching week of waiting, it finally arrived! I have to say, since the hour I got it, it was the most amazing piece of technology I have ever seen. Just out of the box, it detected my network without a flaw (which it should do, but still. That's a good thing!) and came with a nice suite of programs such as a browser, media player, RSS aggregator, IM client, yadda yadda. However, there were a few caveats. The media player didn't handle oggs, the IM client only supported Jabber, the only VOIP client was Skype, and the memory card Nokia included was only 128 MB. However, most of those problems were easily handled by the community built around maemo, which is the foundation of the Linux-based operating system.

First thing I did when I got the N800 set up was try to figure out how to install things. I found this blog to be immensely helpful in getting around the N800. But first, it told me to upgrade the OS. The Operating System for the N800 is OS2007 and they released OS2008. Once again, Internet Tablet School came to linked me to a place that said how to upgrade the OS in Linux (since this was a new tablet, I had no data to back up). It turns out that installing things on the N800 is incredibly easy. You just go to the maemo garage and look for the program you want to install. After that, there's a little button called:This way, I can install ogg support for the media player using mogg. Just click the button and that's about it. Additionally, there are Debian packages that you can also use to install stuff on the N800, but the one-click installer should take care of everything for you. Anyways, I've been working on this post for a while in the past, and forgot about what should be in it, so I'll just post it and if I get any new insights later on, I'll write new posts about them.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Phoenix Lands

The Phoenix lander landed successfully yesterday and sent back its first pictures. And all I have to say is... wow! When I look at the terrain, I notice... it's so barren. When we think of an area with no water, we at least picture some cactus, or brush managing to grow in the dry soil. But here.... the surface of Mars.... is the ULTIMATE barrenness. As far as we know, no life, not even a microbe has been on that soil in AT LEAST several million years, probably even longer! And yet... here we are. On our oasis in space (our tiny blue dot as Carl Sagan put it) and we managed to put... even an artifact of life on this totally lifeless planet. And we've done this all in the last... thirty-something years! Before us, there was nothing on Mars, save rock.... and a puny atmosphere. And yet, in a mere thirty years, we've managed to put numerous robots on and around Mars. Even after we might lead ourselves into self-destruction... and take our moon with us. Those robots will be our calling cards. And that goes for ALL of the missions we've sent out including Cassini, Galileo, New Horizons, Voyager, and on and on! If some extraterrestrial civilization were to visit our solar system post-human. Or.... if you want to be optimistic, we abandon Earth after being a space-faring civilization, then some historian comes back to revisit our roots. Mars will be a lasting sign that we were here, and that this wasn't a dead solar system. There were intelligent beings, who managed to send things outside of their planet's gravitational pull to outer space... to other planets. THAT is the good part of humanity I love to see. When people can get together and reach out! Anyways... that's enough planetary rambling from me. Phil also has something to say concerning photos, though not from Phoenix.

But I have to say... I feel ya, Phil! I feel ya!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Phoenix Landing

Ok, right now, I'm watching NASA TV on Sunday May 25. Today marks the Phoenix landing. Watch when you read it, it's quite interesting. The interesting stuff starts around 4-ish PDT so you might want to drop in around that time. However, watching NASA TV anytime is good! So, tune in whenever you can. The link is up there!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Newer ATI driver

It appears that I missed a release, and ATI has released their Catalyst 8.4 driver. Now, since I'm assuming everyone is using Hardy now, I will rewrite the instructions for the new driver. It's a different beast, but I'll write this guide as I do the install. So any obstacles I encounter will be documented. The new guide I'm using is here. All right, here we go!

First, download the driver from the ATI web site. For some reason, when I tried getting the driver, it wouldn't let me go from the start, so using the direct link will guarantee you getting the driver (unless something weird happens, which is unlikely). Now, download it. Next, put your driver in a separate folder called ati so things don't get messy. You don't have to do it, but your $HOME folder will thank you.
mkdir ~/ati
mv Desktop/ ~/ati
cd ~/ati
Make sure you have all of the dependencies. Don't Run the command:
sudo apt-get install build-essential fakeroot dh-make debhelper debconf libstdc++5 dkms linux-headers-$(uname -r)
Now go through Synaptic and COMPLETELY uninstall all of the packages with "fglrx" in their name you might have, for example: xorg-driver-fglrx or fglrx-kernel source. And remove any .deb packages of fglrx you might have by using this command:
sudo rm /usr/src/fglrx-kernel*.deb
After you do that, you can now set up the deb packages. Just run:
sudo ./ --buildpkg Ubuntu/hardy
This makes the packages. Now you have to tell Ubuntu not to overwrite these packages with the ones in the repositories. So, you need to edit the file:

gksudo gedit /etc/default/linux-restricted-modules-common
Where it says DISABLED_MODULES="", put "fglrx" in the quotes. So you'll get:
As another precautionary measure (I didn't need to, but you might), edit the file :
gksudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-restricted
If it exists. For me, it didn't, so don't be worried if it doesn't for you. If it does exist, you look for the line:
blacklist fglrx
and you comment it out with a #.

Now you can get to the install by using:
sudo dpkg -i xorg-driver-fglrx_8.476*.deb fglrx-kernel-source_8.476-0*.deb fglrx-amdcccle_8.476-0*.deb

which will install all of the packages at the same time.

Once the install goes well, open the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and look for
Section "Device"
Driver "fglrx"
. If you've already done this, it should be there. If it isn't, then add it (without the bracketed ellipses). Now, run sudo aticonfig --initial -f. If that runs well, restart and see what happens from then on.

After you restart, run "fglrxinfo". If you get something that resembles:
display: :0.0 screen: 0
OpenGL vendor string: ATI Technologies Inc.
OpenGL renderer string: ATI Radeon 9550 / X1050 Series
OpenGL version string: 2.1.7415 Release
then congratulations, you've made it! Otherwise.... go read the end of the other guide. It addresses it more directly.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Alliance for Science winners

The winners of the 2008 Alliance for Science contest have been announced! Congrats to Neil Desai, a fellow first place winner in 10th grade, with his really well-written essay (read it!). I'm glad I entered in last year! I would link to his blog, but the blogstalkers haven't stricken yet and.... I can't find it. If I find it, I'll definitely put a link. And maybe he'll see what it's like to get a HUGE spike in visits from a link in Pharyngula, heh! Oh yeah, and a passing congratulations to Frances, David, and Marleigh, the other winners. I hope all of you enjoy your cash prizes because (to be honest) I still haven't figured out what to spend it on... Which brings me to my next point:

SEED!!!!! Get your act together! As my prize subscription from last year has shown me, you have an AMAZING magazine! It's probably the BEST science magazine I've ever received. I have nothing to say but "Great Job" to all the staff who works on it. It has definitely convinced me to resubscribe when the prize subscription runs out (which should be soon). Now I think that these kids have demonstrated their amazingness by writing these essays. I think they definitely deserve a subscription to such an amazing magazine. So, come on SEED... keep helping these guys out.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Are Over!!!!

Yes, as of yesterday, my AP testing terminated! I have no more! And I am HAPPY!!!!!! The stress is over, and the rest of the school year is (relatively) easy going. Five APs (I can't believe myself) over with!

AP Calc AB was..... eh, I didn't really worry too much about that. It went by fairly well. The free-response are up for those of you who are up for the challenge. They were pretty straightforward except for number 5. Solving that differential equation was a royal pain in the butt. Having a negative in the natural log was extremely confusing (which you get after setting the initial condition). However, I THINK I got the equation purely because I learned the esoteric epsilon-delta proofs. I had some free time, so I tried to prove the limit as x approached infinity but..... I couldn't. So, I looked over the work I had done, and switched a couple of negatives and I think I got the right answer. But.... I'll never know now. Anyways, I have a lot of confidence in this exam.

AP U.S. History is kind of an eeehhh..... exam. I'm not entirely sure how I did. All I know is that I completed my goal of writing about the Wright brothers in one of my essays. And funnily enough, the essay was on the "New South". So... that was an interesting experience. There's not much I'm going to say about this test.

The greatest test, AP Physics, was the main focus of my study. I was highly skeptical I would get a satisfactory grade on it, but somehow I managed to study hard, and I think it would have worked. The mechanics test was much easier than I thought it would be. The practice problems we did in class and out of AP review books tended to OVERPREPARE us dramatically. The problems on the test were fairly straightforward (at least I hope so). However, the free-response problems were another thing. It wasn't fair, they stuck in a differential equation. And what's worst is that I know exactly what I did wrong. When solving the differential equation, I forgot to separate before I integrated. I should have been tipped off when I got v=mgtsin(θ)-BS! Anyways, the curve on that test is so low, I don't think it's going to make that much of a difference. The E&M test was just as intuitive.... kinda. I like to think I overprepared for E&M, and I found most of it fairly straightforward except... the last free-response problem. That problem was horrific, but only the a) part. I think it had something to do with Bio-Savart's law or something, but I couldn't calculate a magnetic field at a point! Anyways, no use complaining now.

AP English was just.... great! I can't disclose any information yet because the score might be thrown out (48 hours need to pass), but let me just say I was initially sad because I wrote one of my greatest essays ever, and I thought I would never see it again. However, good news came from Dr. Draper, and he said I WOULD be getting my essay back... later on. And I'm glad, because that essay is my crowning achievement in English for this year. I love it!

Anyways, that was my AP testing schedule. From now on, it's smooth sailing and fun until summer. Unfortunately now... I have a backlog of about unread RSS entries that I have to get through. I'm severely tempted to just "Mark All as Read"... oh well, we'll see.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Hey everyone. Sorry again for not posting, but AP tests are coming up... actually. They're here. It's right in the middle of AP testing period right now. So far, I've taken AP Calculus AB, which really wasn't all that bad. I didn't feel I really needed to study for it. And I've taken AP US History, which took more studying, but I have good feelings about it.

The ones that are coming up are AP Physics, which I'm scrambling to study for this weekend, it's on Monday. I have to do both the mechanics and the electricity and magnetism tests. So far, I'm getting the concepts, but I just need more practice to recognize them and solve them quickly. AP Physics is by far the hardest AP test I've EVER prepared for. After that, on Wednesday is the AP English test. You can't really prepare for that. The multiple choice is basically either you can pick out analyses of authors, or you can't. The essays are what are really important. And, I think I can do fairly well on those. But anyways, I'm off to physics boot camp. I'll be sure to get back to regular blogging once all of this is over! I haven't even had time to go over RSS feeds that's how busy it was. Anyway, just don't think I'm dead or anything... just reviewing my butt off!