February 26, 2010

links for 2010-02-26

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February 24, 2010

links for 2010-02-24

  • A lovely approach to life.
  • A good way of thinking about the increasing enroachment onto our privacy of firms like Facebook and Google... "What's happening is that our privacy has become a kind of currency. It's what we use to pay for online services. Google charges nothing for Gmail; instead, it reads your e-mail and sends you advertisements based on keywords in your private messages. [...] The genius of Google, Facebook, and others is that they've created services that are so useful or entertaining that people will give up some privacy in order to use them. Now the trick is to get people to give up more—in effect, to keep raising the price of the service."
    (tags: privacy ethics)
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February 21, 2010

Running Ubuntu on a Sony S Series VPCS11V9E

This entry is unlikely to be of any interest to anyone who isn't trying to run Ubuntu on the Sony S Series VPCS11V9E laptop. I've had one of said laptops for a week or two now and although I've got both Windows 7 and Ubuntu installed on it, I've been finding myself running Ubuntu almost all the time. However, there've been a couple of niggles to sort out, and not quite everything is working fully. I suspect most of that is down to it being a very new machine, but thought I'd jot down some of my findings (and ways that I've fixed things) in case it helps anyone else, or in case someone can suggest how to fix the remaining issues.

I must admit I've not spent much time trying to fix things - it's been a busy few weeks with work, so if I haven't found a solution with half-an-hour to an hour's playing around then I've tended to leave it as is. Which is basically me pointing out that a lot of what remains might well be fixable - I've got enough working for most of what I need.

I'll try to update this as time goes on and more stuff gets fixed, and I'll include a date for any updates. So if the last update is more than a few months ago then it's quite possible the world has moved on and fixed things.

Base Install

The base install has been Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala", the 64-bit desktop edition. Out-of-the-box a lot of the system worked, including Bluetooth, the display, keyboard, trackpad, Ethernet...

What Worked With Some Help

These are things I've got working, but required some extra work over the base install:
  • WiFi card. To get that working I needed to install the "linux-backports-modules-karmic" package.
  • 3G modem. I haven't quite got this working yet, as I think it will need gobi loader to be installed to load the firmware. If you're going to completely wipe Windows 7 from your machine and want to use this on Ubuntu then make sure you copy the firmware files from the Windows 7 install before you remove it. If you warm reboot after running Windows 7 (so boot into Windows 7 then just reboot into Ubuntu) then the firmware will be loaded already and you can just run sudo modprobe usbserial vendor=0x05c6 product=0x9225 to load the driver, and then you should be able to configure it through Network Connections' Mobile Broadband tab.
  • Built-in speakers. With the basic install, using the headphone jack for sound works just fine, but if I don't have anything plugged into the headphone jack then I don't get any sound at all. To fix that I installed the "linux-backports-modules-alsa" package.
  • Firewire. Have only used it to capture video, but that works fine.

What Doesn't Work

This is what I've not been able to get working properly yet, hopefully the list will shorten over time...
  • The Nvidia screen drivers. Using the free "nv" graphics drivers works pretty well, but you can't adjust the brightness (and I don't know if/how well the external monitor support works), but enabling the Nvidia proprietary drivers just results in a black screen when I boot up. You can fix that by booting in recovery mode to a shell prompt and editing /etc/X11/xorg.conf to change the "nvidia" line to "nv" in the Device Driver section.
  • Suspend/resume. The system will suspend without any apparent problems, but trying to resume just results in a blank screen for me.
  • Webcam. This seems to be partly recognised - when I try setting it up in Skype (the only thing I've tried so far) then the "webcam turned on" green LED turns on, but I haven't seen any video come from it.
  • Built-in microphone. Have just tried the Skype test call, and the microphone doesn't appear to be working.

What I Haven't Tested

Things I haven't tried yet, so can't comment on whether or not they work...
  • SD card reader
  • Memory Stick reader
  • External monitor - either VGA or HDMI connector
  • Docking station (or whatever it is that the connector underneath is supposed to connect to...)

Update 11/12/2010. Move to Ubuntu 10.04

I'd held off upgrading to 10.04 for a while because when I tried the Live CD I didn't get any display. However, I had another play around with it, and also tried the 10.10 Live CD. I get the same problem of no display with both of those, but if I hit F6 when the CD is booting, and add the "nomodeset" option then both work fine. So I've just upgraded to 10.04.

The only difference, functionality-wise, is the sound-card. With the "linux-backports-modules-alsa" package installed I get the sound through both the internal speakers and the headphones when something is plugged into the headphone jack. For now, because the internal speakers aren't that important to me, I've just removed the "linux-backports-modules-alsa" package and gone back to the internal speakers not working at all.

Update 28/05/2011. Now on Ubuntu 10.10

The SD card reader now works, as does the internal webcam. The 3G modem also seems to mostly work, although at times it's been a bit troublesome - I haven't spent any time trying to work out why, as I don't use it very often.

I've also just worked out how to get the speakers working properly (which is what prompted this update). If you go into the "Output" tab on "Sound Preferences" and change the "Connector" setting to "Analog Speakers" (it was set to "Analog Output" on mine) then the speakers will work, and be muted correctly when you plug something into the headphone socket.


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February 19, 2010

Ignite Liverpool

O'Reilly, the tech book publisher, organises a series of events under the banner of Ignite and a group of us are bringing the format to Liverpool as part of O'Reilly's Global Ignite Week.

It'll be a series of talks on a variety of topics, loosely based round the themes of technology, social or politics. Each talk consists of exactly 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds, so even if one of the talks isn't up your street, it'll be over in five minutes and there'll be something different to look forward to.

We're holding it at the new Art and Design Academy, next to the Metropolitan Cathedral, from 6pm-8pm on Thursday 4th March.

It's a free event, but we'd like you to book so we get an idea of numbers - confirm via Facebook or our our Ning site (you'll have to register with Ning, but it's pretty painless).

Would you like to present?

We've still got a couple of slots available for presenters. If you fancy giving it a crack (and you don't have to be a seasoned presenter, we're more than happy for presenting newbies to give a talk too) then just email a brief (50-100 words) outline to ignite.liverpool@gmail.com by 24th February and we will inform you if you have been chosen by Friday 26th February.

And feel free to share details of the event with anyone you think might be interested. See http://ignite.oreilly.com/2010/02/global-ignite-week-liverpool-uk.html for the full links and info.


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February 15, 2010

links for 2010-02-15

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February 14, 2010


Over on the MCQN Ltd. blog I've decided to join the growing number of businesses posting weeknotes, a weekly update on what they've been up to along with glimpses behind the scenes at the day-to-day planning and running of a company.

You can read MCQN Ltd's first weeknote here and catch up with some of the other businesses' updates at the lovely weeknotes.com.


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February 11, 2010

Improving or Sanitizing?

Reading Julian Dobson's recent article Warning: Dementors at large reminded me of a bit of neighbourhood tidying that's happened here in Liverpool. It was probably just done by the owner of the building, rather than the council or as part of the Baltic Triangle regeneration going on in the area, but it provides some anecdotal evidence of how an intended improvement could affect the delicate threads of activity that it seeks to encourage.

The building in question is next-door to the Novas centre, which was the location of the first Liverpool Barcamp back in December 2008. At the time, I'd decided to give a talk to try to encourage more entrepreneurial and creative activity but had only started putting the slides together on the morning of the second day of the event.

I had the words done, but was looking for suitable images to accompany them when John McKerrell pointed me to a photo he'd taken earlier that day of some graffiti on the building opposite.

First law of the cosmos, get off your arse and make it happen

© John McKerrell

The slogan on the mural summed up my call to action perfectly - "First rule of the cosmos: get off your arse and make it happen" - and ended up as the final slide in my talk Don't Just Change the World... Improve It!.

I don't know how much action my talk inspired, but it did have some effect. Just the other day in an email, a friend explained what an upcoming meeting was about:

"I am meeting [him] to give him the obligatory 'Get off your arse and make it happen' (c) McEwen 2008 talk"

So, just a nice fluffy "man gives talk partly inspired by graffiti, at least one person was listening" story, but one that shows the potential unintended consequences of such "tidying and improving" as the clean-up of the graffitied building that's happened since then...

This is what the graffiti looks like now:

Current view of the painted out graffiti

Good job Barcamp Liverpool happened when it did.


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February 10, 2010

links for 2010-02-10

  • Lots of interesting little projects a guy is making for his and his kids' enjoyment.
  • "Britain has plenty of things to worry about; it would be absurd to suggest the contrary. But the big ones are not sex, drugs and rock ’n roll. There is a statistically small class of people, including a number of underskilled young whites and Caribbeans, who are being left behind in a general march toward the light. Many of those who were already at the bottom of the pile are finding it impossible to get out from under and join in. And this is serious." The Economist takes a detailed and thorough look at whether we do live in a "broken society" and finds that on the whole, we don't.
    (tags: crime society uk)
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February 06, 2010

"New Southampton looks much the same as New Everywhere Else"

I was just going to add this link to my delicious stream, but I wanted to pull just that bit too much in the way of quotes out of it, and so figured a blog post was more suitable.

In From the Mill to the Mall, Owen Hatherley provides a lovely essay on lots of the problems with the retail park and shopping mall architecture and planning of the modern city. It's nominally about Southampton, but I was pointed to it by someone spotting the similarities with Birmingham, and obviously I can draw the comparisons with Liverpool (even down to the hugely busy but invisible container port and the civic architectural legacy from the White Star and Cunard lines)

"Jobs For Local People are no doubt the eventual result, and the alibi for the extremely profitable land deals. The result is a city devoid of any real civic pride, with a series of chain pubs where shops used to be, competing for cheap pints."

"(Southampton is lucky enough to have only one 'Quarter', though a Cultural Quarter has been promised for some time)" Indeed. Liverpool isn't so lucky, we have the Knowledge Quarter, which seems to overlap quite a lot with the Georgian Quarter, and in the centre of town is the Met Quarter (although maybe the council isn't responsible for that, as it's basically a shopping mall... At least the redevelopment around the Baltic Fleet pub is the Baltic Triangle.

At least our big city-centre shopping temple, Liverpool One, does a reasonable job of interfacing to the surrounding city - its walkways are covered rather than enclosed, so there's plenty of natural light and some exposure to the elements; there's some variety in the architectural styles; and the preservation (or recreation) of the original street pattern gives it some ebb and flow with the existing city. It's still a big shopping mall, full of chains that could be anywhere else and has privatised a huge chunk of the city centre, but it's in the centre and about as well done as you could hope for.

Anyway, my ranting aside, it's a good read.


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