Christmas hols part 11

Not such a busy day today. I got up late and pottered around a bit before lunch. This afternoon went for a bit of a drive around the Lizard Penninsular and watched the waves crashing onto the rockas at Coverack before travelling up to Helston to fill the car with petrol ready for my return journey on Tuesday. On the way back we popped into Tescos to get a couple of things. Exciting, eh?

After our return I helped my Dad with a couple of electrical items such as replacing a light switch, re-wiring a light fitting and replacing a wall socket. That sort of thing.

Again telly’s been naff, so we watched a recording of the “Hogfather” instead.

Christmas hols part 10

You can always tell when I’ve recovered from the rigors of work on my holidays in Cornwall as I start getting the energy to tinker with computers again.

Today I spent time finding out that the new QuickCams are better supported by a different driver because Logitech are using cheaper (and poorer quality) chips in thier devices. Still, it does mean that I got the webcam working under Linux and the webcam’s microphone working for only Skype under Linux but no other application. (Though as Skype for Linux doesn’t support video the rest of the camera isn’t much use for that application.)

After this partial success I turned to finding a suitable source for an updated (and not crackable) version of the Broadcom WiFi driver for Windows XP for my Acer laptop. Broadcom do not release the reference drivers for their devices, even to Microsoft, and rely upon the OEMs to release them. Some manufacturers, such as Dell and HP/Compaq, are prudent and update drivers for their old systems. Acer, amongst many others, don’t, which puts their customers at risk of security vulnerabilities. This is a horrible way to treat your customers.

There is a similar problem with ATI not supplying generic, reference drivers which will install on laptops and relying upon the OEMs to update them, who, of course, fail to, leaving the customers not being able to run certain software. (Unless they use a special hack with the non-laptop version of the drivers as the problem is merely with the installer refusing to install on anything but hardware blessed by ATI.)

Anyway, after finding an article describing how to use the driver from a Linksys PCMCIA card I got it upgraded under Windows. I then tried the same driver under Linux with ndiswrapper with no success. So I searched for a better source and Googled for the HP/Compaq driver and finally found it. Still, ndiswrapper won’t load it so Linux is stuck with the old (and broken) driver for the time being. However, seeing as the HP/Compaq driver *IS* the reference Broadcom one I uninstalled the hacked up Linksys one and installed the proper Broadcom one.

This evening I watched “Mrs Henderson Presents…” which passed the time.

Christmas hols part 9

I can’t believe it’s the ninth installment already… anyway.

Today was the day I did my regular trip to Carleen to visit Meriel and Chris. As usual it was a mixture of talking, tea and tinkering with old PC bits trying to resurect them. Good clean fun was had by all.

This evening there wasn’t much on the telly so watched “The Best of Top Gear” followed by the rather cheaply made retrospective on BBC saturday morning TV programmes, “It All Started With Swap Shop.” Some presenters have weathered better than others I must say. I must say that some of the clips made me think, “surely it’s not *THAT* long ago I watched that?!” This was especially true of the clips from “Going Live!”

Well, it’s the end of another day. Only four more days here and six more until I’m back to work. Blurgh.

Christmas hols part 8

This morning we drove over to truro so that I could pick up a USB 2.0 High-Speed PCI card for my Dad’s PC to make updating his iPod rather faster and to look for a simple docking station for the iPod similar to the one I bought a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, PC World were out of the docking station, but I did manage to get him the PCI card for ~£15. A bit on the high side but still cheaper than mail-order when you factor in the postage.

For myself I got a stack of 50 DVD-R media and a Logitech QuickCam so as to make using Skype on my Linux/Windows laptop. I bought a Logitech as I thought that they were well supported by Linux and were about the only webcam other than the iSight which worked on a Mac as well. The only one I could find at a reasonable cost and with a microphone was the “QuickCam Messenger.” Little did I realise that this is pretty well the only QuickCam not properly supported under Linux. (Actually, it’s this latest version of this model which doesn’t work.) Also, Logitech don’t supply a MacOS X driver for it either, unlike their older webcams. Thankfully, there is a free driver for it under MacOS X which seems to work in everything but iChat.

After lunch I put the card into my Dad’s PC and then got on with trying to hack the two Linux drivers for “QuickCam Messenger” cameras to get them to work. Well, both drivers give the same error, or rather they get the same error back from the USB driver layer of Linux. This part of the kernel seems to think that the device has “stalled” or, having looked at the source, basically not played by the USB protocol as understood by the Linux 2.6.17 kernel.

That basically took the rest of the day.

Christmas hols part 7

Got up late, after which we went on a drive into Helston in search of milk. Having found an open garage with a shop we returned.

After lunch, went for a walk.

Other than watching telly and eating, not a lot else happened.

Windows Vista DRM: Or, how to knobble the computer.

[Non-technical readers should read this as it will affect *YOU*. Skim over the technical details in the referenced article, it’s the conclusions and analysis which matter.]

Dispite finding this analysis of Microsoft’s new Vista operating system’s DRM via Slashdot I think it’s a very important read.

Of course, on /. there were many people saying that because it’s critical of Microsoft it’s obviously false and others who haven’t read the article to spout off with the opposite.

Anyway, the gist of the analysis is that basically Vista will hobble your computer with overhead due to internal system encryption, cause hardware to cost more, make writing hardware drivers mostly impossible and generally make your expensive hardware slow down. Then, if you play a protected MP3 file or play a HD-DVD or BlueRay disk lots of your hardware will either be turned off or the quality of the output artificially reduced. Oh, and if Microsoft or the film studios don’t like any of your hardware, drivers or hardware manufactuer, they can disable parts of your computer until you upgrade… unless the anti-piracy checks decide that your computer has changed too much and you have to re-register it.

This seems like Microsoft not shooting itself in the foot, more shooting itself in the head where business sales are concerned.. unless they can keep it quiet enough so that middle management don’t notice until it’s too late. Of course, for many large companies Microsoft have had enough problems persuading them to upgrade to Windows XP with many only just going through the transition. Windows Vista just isn’t on their radar yet.

Oh, and as pointed out in the article, Linux/UNIX/MacOS users aren’t going to get away from the pain due to the restrictions imposed by Microsoft on the hardware manufacturers. Forget manufacturers open sourcing or giving away techical specs for their new Windows Vista capable hardware. It’s quite possible that they won’t even give this information to the likes of Apple or Sun and will have to manufacture non-Windows versions of their hardware for them, as exorbitant prices, if they even bother.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Christmas hols part 6

Christmas Day started before 9am with the ritual opening of presents. I then helped my Dad set up the iPod I’d bought him and discovered that I’m going to have to get him a high-speed USB card otherwise iPod updating will get rather tedious.

Other than that, the usual turkey dinner insued along with the pulling of crackers and the lazy afternoon followed by cold turkey for tea. I spent most of the afternoon playing minesweeper on my Treo while my Dad played “Parachute” on his iPod. 🙂

This evening we managed to find a few things to watch on the telly, namely Dr.Who (mixed) and the film of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” on Sky Movies (not too bad, dispite the two historical howlers at the beginning. i.e. using bright torches during the blitz and the train taking the refugees being in mid-50s British Railways livery (with the logo plainly visible) when BR wasn’t even created until 1948).

I’ve no idea what we’ll get up to tomorrow, probably not a great deal.