You know what happens with old phones, right?
The battery slowly dies, and it needs charging all the time.
So we modded this old brick by attaching the charger to the battery, increasing the phone’s usability by 1000%.
Now you never need to worry about the battery running out, just plug it in. AND because it has a 3-pin plug, you never need an adapter.
It is was in use everyday by Nicholas Abbot for a couple of years (although he had to enlarge his trouser pockets <grin>).
The ultimate mod!
Launchpad bug 59695 has been gathering a huge amount of activity since I wrote about this issue. The issue seems to be that the hardware manufacturers (BIOS and HDD firmware) set very aggressive values for power management. And every other OS (Windows & Mac OSX) override these values to something more sane. The manufacturers only test their equipment in Windows, so they don’t see any problems :-)
This kind of thing seems to happen to Linux quite regularly - we all remember the ACPI debacle caused by manufacturers using Microsoft’s broken ASL compiler, which worked in Microsoft’s broken ACPI environment (or was overridden with driver updates).
So in my opinion, Ubuntu (and every other distributor) has to step in and override these aggressive settings. And, by the look of the bug report, Gnome Power Manager should provide the user with a slider to set the balance between power savings and hardware lifetime.
Oh, and the workaround I posted last week obviously doesn’t cover the case of the machine resuming from suspend. You have to use an ACPI event script for that.
I’ve just come across a rather scary, and worryingly old launchpad bug, which talks about real hardware damage. There is more on the problem here. But basically, by default, Linux is far too optimistic with spinning laptop hard drives down, and you can reach number of spin-up/downs that your drive is rated for over it’s entire life-time, in a few months.
My laptop (3 months old), is already at 160000 Load/Unloads: Around half it’s rated life.
The easy solution is
Or, the following in /etc/hdparm.conf
Lets hope that this gets resolved soon, or the problem isn’t as bad as it appears.
I see that Matthew Garrett (the Ubuntu Laptop Tzar) is subscribed to this bug, but doesn’t seem to have commented on it. I find that a little odd, considering its seriousness.
I was lucky enough to win a Nokia N800 at LugRadio Live 2007, because I’d come from South Africa. I’ve had it for 3 months now, and the successor was announced last week, so I think it’s time to blog about it, properly.
The hardware is pretty decent. The screen is very bright and vivid (great for photos), and just big enough to read websites comfortably. There are enough buttons to fulfil the basic tasks without reaching for the stylus, but you generally work it with the stylus (or a finger). It has quite a few hardware features:
The battery life is comperable to my cellphone (about a week of non-use, or a day or two of use), and I’m happy with most of the hardware, but I do have a few issues:
The power button isn’t sufficiently recessed for it’s soft carrying case. This means that I can’t carry it off in my bag, it’ll turn itself on eventually, and run it’s battery flat from spurious touch-screen clicks. The solution is to always leave it on, and screen-locked (it supports an auto-lock). For a cellphone manufacturer, I’d have thought they’d get this right.
The webcam’s position at the far left means it gets a good view of the left side of your face. This can be a little disconcerting.
The USB port is (without some serious hackery) only in peripheral mode. I’d really like to be able to plug a USB keyboard into this device (bluetooth keyboards are way too expensive).
There’s a bottleneck in the system (processor presumably), that stops it playing youtube videos at full framerate. Mplayer seems to just be able to handle QVGA video at 24fps, but nothing more.
The software stack of the N800 is everything I could desire. It runs a Debian derivative of Linux, Maemo. Maemo uses proper Debian package management, the GTK widget set (with addons), Telepathy for IM, and Gstreamer for media. This makes it a doddle to port existing X applications to the N800.
When you first turn on the N800, after unboxing (or reflashing), you go through an install wizard. It sets the hostname, timezone, and pairs with your bluetooth cellphone. The bluetooth phone pairing is well thought out, and beats anything I’ve ever come across on any platform. Unfortunately it suffers from the same problem as Windows - it doesn’t set your Home Town, etc. based on the time-zone.
The default web browser is Opera-based, but a Gecko engine is available, and a WebKit one remoured to be on the way. It has a (proprietary) flash plugin, so you can watch YouTube, and the CACert.org root certificate is pre-installed :-)
The device has 4 input modes:
I find the input fine, although slow, for everything except passwords. Multi-case, symbol-laden passwords really bring out the worst of all the input systems.
The default software selection is passable, but not great. The device really ships with “internet tablet” software, with a few decent games thrown in. The major problems are the media player doesn’t play oggs or video, and the e-Mail program’s IMAP support, which is a joke, at best (It uses IMAP as if it was POP).
But I enabled a few extra repositories and soon my N800 became a really cool device:
http://catalogue.tableteer.nokia.com/certified/ bora user http://catalogue.tableteer.nokia.com/non-certified/ bora user http://repository.maemo.org/ bora free non-free http://repository.maemo.org/extras/ bora free non-free http://www.claws-mail.org/maemo/ bora user http://maemo-hackers.org/apt bora main
It’s a cool device for a geek to own, no doubt, but what’s the actual point of it?
I can answer that in a few ways:
But in the end, all that matters is that it runs Linux , and has Python dammit, so it’s a piece of cake to write any software for it that I want to. I think that reason on it’s own makes it a device worth owning.
A couple of months ago, I was looking at a friend’s laptop. It had definite motherboard problems and a dead HDD. As part of the service, I updated the BIOS. Unfortunately, it died mid-flash.
I tried the local Fujitsu-Siemens service center, but they said the motherboard had to be replaced. On an aging laptop, that’s just not worth it. New HDD, yes. New Mobo, no.
I asked around UCT everywhere, looking for someone with a PROM programmer, but the only one I could find was an ancient device attached to a 286. The “new” programmer (not much newer) was broken… I waited a couple of months, but it still isn’t fixed.
So, I tried a mail-order BIOS flashing service, biosflash.com. They found a compatible chip, programmed it (with the update I’d been trying to install), and put it in the (registered) post within 24hrs. 2 weeks later, I’ve got it, and it installed it in the laptop.
Usually this kind of kind of thing means the laptop is written off. (Desktops normally have some kind of bad-flash recovery procedure, but it’s rare in laptops, and not foolproof anyway). I’m very impressed with biosflash.com: for only €15, the machine is no longer a brick.
Now to replace that HDD…