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Amazon loves to annoy
June 27th, 2013 under Digital Rights, Gadgtes, rengolin, Software, Unix/Linux, Web. [ Comments: none ]

It’s amazing how Amazon will do all in their power to annoy you. They will sell you DRM-free MP3 songs, and even allow you to download on any device (via their web interface) the full version, for your own personal use, in the car, at home or when mobile. But, not without a cost, no.

For some reason, they want to have total control of the process, so if they’ll allow you to download your music, it has to be their way. In the past, you had to download the song immediately after buying, with a Windows-only binary (why?) and you had only one shot. If the link failed, you just lost a couple of pounds. To be honest, that happened to me, and customer service were glad to re-activate my “license” so I could download it again. Kudos for that.

Question 1: Why did they need an external software to download the songs when they had a full-featured on-line e-commerce solution?

It’s not hard to sell on-line music, other people have been doing it for years and not in that way, for sure. Why was it so hard for Amazon, the biggest e-commerce website on Earth, to do the same? I was not asking for them to revolutionise the music industry (I leave that for Spotify), just do what others were doing at the time. Apparently, they just couldn’t.

Recently, it got a lot better, and that’s why I started buying MP3 songs from Amazon. They now had a full-featured MP3 player on the web! They also have the Android version of it that is a little confusing but unobtrusive. The web version is great, once you buy an album you go directly to it and you can already start listening to songs and all.

Well, I’m a control freak, and I want to have all songs I own on my own server (and its backup), so I went to download my recently purchased songs. Well, it’s not that simple: you can download all your songs, on Windows and Mac… not Linux.

Question 2: Why on Earth can’t they make it work on Linux?

We’re not talking about Microsoft or Apple. This is Amazon, a web company that is supposed to know how JavaScript works, right? Why create executables, ActiveX, SilverLight or whatever those platforms demand from their developers when they can do the same just using JavaScript? The era when JavaScript was too slow and Flash rocked is over, like, 10 years ago. There simply is no excuse.

Undeterred, I knew the Android app would let me download, and as an added bonus, all songs downloaded by AmazonMP3 would be automatically added to the Android music playlists, so that both programs could play the same songs. That was great, of course, until I wanted to copy them to my laptop.

When running (the fantastic) ES File Explorer, I listed the folders consuming most of the SDCARD, found the amazonmp3 folder and saw that all my songs were in there. Since Android changed the file-system, and I can’t seem to mount it correctly via MTP (noob), I decided to use the ES File Explorer (again) to select all files and copy to my server via its own interface, that is great for that sort of thing, and well, found out that it’s not that simple. Again.

Question 3: Why can I read and delete the songs, but not copy them?

What magic Linux permission let me listen to a song (read) and delete the file (write) but not copy to another location? I can’t think of a way to natively do that on Linux, it must be a magic from Android, to allow for DRM crap.

At this time I was already getting nervous, so I just fired adb shell and navigated to the directory, and when I listed the files, adb just logged out. I tried again, and it just exited. No error message, no log, no warning, just shut down and get me back to my own prompt.

This was getting silly, but I had the directory, so I just ran adb pull /sdcard/amazonmp3/ and found that only the temp directory came out. What the hell is this sorcery?!

Question 4: What kind of magic stops me from copying files, or even listing files from a shell?

Well, I knew it was something to do with the Amazon MP3 application itself, if couldn’t be something embedded on Android, or the activists would crack on until they ceded, or at least provided means for disabling DRM crap from the core. To prove my theory, I removed the AmazonMP3 application and, as expected, I could copy all my files via adb to my server, where I could then, back them up.

So, if you use Linux and want to download all your songs from Amazon MP3 website, you’ll have to:

  1. Buy songs/albuns on Amazon’s website
  2. Download them via AmazonMP3 Android app (click on album, click on download)
  3. Un-install the AmazonMP3 app
  4. Get the files via: adb pull /sdcard/amazonmp3/
  5. Re-install the AmazonMP3 app (if you want, or to download more songs)

As usual, Amazon was a pain in the back with what should be really, really simple for them to do. And, as usual, a casual user finds its way to getting what they want, what they paid for, what they deserve.

If you know someone at Amazon, please let them know:

We’re not idiots. We know you know JavaScript, we know you use Linux, and we know you can create an amazing experience for all of us. Don’t treat us like idiots. If your creativity is lacking, just copy the design and implementation from someone else, we don’t care. We want solutions, not problems.

Touch-screen keyboard
May 2nd, 2011 under Computers, Gadgtes, rengolin. [ Comments: 2 ]

I’ve been using virtual keyboards for a while (iPad, Android phone) and, while it’s good enough, it made me wonder…


The QWERTY keyboard was invented in the 19th century and before computers had keyboards, it was mainly used for typing letters. The advanced feature of a typewriter was the SHIFT key.

When computers had their input changed from switches and punched cards to keyboards and printers (before monitors were invented), the natural choice was to use the ubiquitous QWERTY layout. But because of the nature of computing, many additional keys were needed. Since the single most important function of a keyboard was to input code (and not Word documents), the SHIFT concept was extended with CONTROL keys, the FUNCTION keys were added and some other impossible concepts in typewriter, such as the Home/End, Insert/Replace, etc.

All that was added around the traditional keyboard, and today it’s now ubiquitous as well. All editors (code and otherwise), use extensively those keys and it’d be impossible to imagine a keyboard without it. But, to be honest, the layout of the computer keyboard did not technically have to mimic the old fashioned typewriter. It just did to ease the transition between writing letters on paper and code on silicon.

Nowadays, the virtual keyboard is, again, mimicking the 120 years-old layout, just because everyone got use to, but now the excuses to keep it are fading. I do not know anyone that still uses a typewriter, do you? Also, most of the extra keys are still only used by coders of some sort, including Vim, Emacs, Photoshop and Excel.

Swipe movements

Clicking on links, editing text and drag&dropping is very awkward on the iPad (not to mention on phones), so that’s not going to stick more than a decade. However, gestures are so intuitive on touch-screen interfaces that it can easily become mainstream, if done right.

One browser I use on Android (Dolphin) has hand gestures, and I have to say it’s horrible and too complicated. It’s based on the old mouse-gestures that, by definition, is out-dated and not technologically compatible.

Touch gestures have to be more natural, like moving objects on your desk. One way to do this is to use the (now famous) two-finger swiping. Another is to add hot-areas to your touch screen, where people know are for specific purposes. For example, imagine a touch-screen keyboard the size of an iPad (10″, no screen on it, just the keyboard). Remove every other key than the QWERTY keyboard itself. Just as you would use the lower area as a pointing device, the lower area (either swiping or tapping) brings a full-screen pointing device, with all gestures and controls one needs. Another tap would bring the main keyboard back.

The same way, right and left screens would bring editing capabilities to your programs, and each program could have its own screen. Some could revert back to the main keyboard as you press on key (as to save the return tap), others would require you to press multiple keys are the same time. The top part could bring the multi-media area, with animated buttons, etc.


All that is not complete without some feed-back, the worse thing on using virtual keyboards. The click noise is easy enough, but tactile is coming a long way without really going anywhere. Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, Sony, all tried (and patented) solutions to tactile touch-screen and yet, not mainstream device today uses one. I’m sure that’s mostly due to technical difficulties (maybe battery life, or bulkiness), none of them critical to a keyboard.

When playing games on the phone that emulate joysticks (SNES emulator, or other Android-specific ones), I often die because of the lack of tactile feed-back, that is, I take my finger off the D-pad without noticing. This is most annoying and virtual keyboards aren’t going anywhere without a decent feed-back system.

Some laptop/tablet cross-breeds, have dual touch-screens for that purpose, and I think (or rather, hope), that this is the future. But they need to change the layout of how keyboards are supposed to work. Luckily, that can be done all in software, and Linux is an open system, which anyone could implement it.

If you do, please open source it and make it free. Any penny you get from it is a second away from it being universally accepted.

Dream Machine (take 2)
January 18th, 2011 under Computers, Gadgtes, Hardware, rengolin, Technology, Thoughts. [ Comments: none ]

More than three years ago I wrote about the desktop I really wanted… Now it’s time to review that and make some new speculations…

Back Then

The key issues I raised back then were wireless technology, box size, noise, temperature and the interface.

Wireless power hasn’t progressed as much as I’d like, but all the rest (including wireless graphic cards) are already at full steam. So, apart from power, you don’t need any cables. Also, batteries are getting a bit better (not as fast as I’d like, too), so there is another stop-gap for wireless power.

Box size has reduced dramatically since 2007. All the tablets are almost full computers and with Intel and ARM battling for the mid-size form-factor, we’ll see radical improvements with lower power consumption, smaller sizes, much cooler CPUs and consequently, no noisy fans. Another thing that is bound to reduce temperature and noise is the speed in which solid-state drives are catching up with magnetic ones.

But with regard to the interface, I have to admit I was a bit too retro. Who needs 3D glasses, or pointer hats to drive the cursor on the screen? Why does anyone needs a cursor in the first place? Well, that comes to my second dream machine.

Form Factor

I love keyboards. Writing for (int i=0; i<10; i++) { a[i] = i*M_PI; } is way easier than try to dictate that and hope it gets the brackets, increments and semi-colons correctly. Even if the dictation software was super-smart, I still would feel silly dictating that. Unless I can think and the computer creates the code for me the way I want, there no better interface than the keyboard.

Having a full-size keyboard also allows you to spare some space for the rest of the machine. Transparent CPUs, GPUs and storage are still not available (nor I think will be in the next three years), so putting it into the monitor is a no-go. Flat keyboards (like the Mac ones) are a bit odd and bad for ergonomics, so a simple ergonomic keyboard with the basic hardware inside would do. No mouse, of course, nor any other device except the keyboard.

A flat transparent screen, of some organic LED or electronic paper, with the camera built-in in the centre of the screen, just behind it. So, on VoIP conversations, you look straight into the eyes of the interlocutor. Also, transparent speakers are part of the screen, half-right and half-left are screen + speakers, with transparent wiring as well. All of that, wireless of course. It should be extra-light, so just a single arm to hold the monitor, not attached to the keyboard. You should be able to control the transparency of the screen, to change between VoIP and video modes.


CPUs and GPUs are so 10's. The best way to go forward is to have multi-purpose chips, that can turn themselves (or their parts) on and off at will, that can execute serial or vector code (or both) when required. So, a 16/32 core machine, with heavily pipelined CPU/GPUs, on multiple buses (not necessarily all active at the same time, or for the same communication purpose), could deal with on-demand gaming, video streaming, real-time ray-tracing and multi-threaded compilation without wasting too much power.

On a direct comparison, any of those CPU/GPU dies would have a fraction of the performance of a traditional mono-block chip, but their inherent parallelism and if the OS/drivers are written based on that assumption, a lot of power can be extracted from them. Also, with so many chips, you can selectively use only as much as you need for each task for specific applications. So, a game would use more GPUs than CPUs, probably with one or two CPUs to handle interface and sound. When programming, one or two CPUs can handle the IDE, while the other can compile your code in background. As all of this is on-demand, even during the game you could have a variable number of chips working as GPUs, depending on the depth of the world it's rendering.

Memory and disk are getting cheaper by the second. I wouldn't be surprised if in three years 128GB of memory and 10TB of solid-state disk are the new minima. All that, fitting nicely alongside the CPU/GPU bus, avoiding too many hops (NB+PCI+SATA+etc) to get the data in and out would also speed up the storage/retrieval of information. You can probably do a 1s boot up from scratch without the necessity of sleeping any more, just pure hibernate.

Network, again, wireless of course. It's already a reality for a while, but I don't expect it to increase considerably in the next 3 years. I assume broadband would increase a few percent, 4G will fail to deliver what it promises when the number of active clients reach a few hundred and the TV spectrum requires more bureaucracy than the world can handle. The cloud will have to wait a bit more to get where hard drives are today.


A few designs have revolutionized interfaces in the last three years. I consider the pointer-less interface (decent touch screen, camera-ware) and the brain interface as the two most important ones. Touch-screens are interesting, but they are cumbersome as your limbs get in the way of the screen you're trying to interact with. The Wii-mote was a pioneer, but the MS Kinect broke the barrier of usability. It's still in its early stages, but as such, it's a great revolution and because of the unnatural openness of Microsoft about it, I expect it to baffle even the most open minded ones.

On the other hand, brain interfaces only began this year to be usable (and not that much so), the combination of a Kinect, with a camera that reads your eyes and the brain interface to control interactions with the items on the screen should be enough to work efficiently and effectively.

People already follow the mouse with their eyes, it's easy to teach people to make the pointer follow their eyes. But to remove uncertainties and get rid once and for all of the annoying cursor, you need a 3D camera to take into account your position relative to the screen, the position of other people (that could also interact with the screen on a multi-look interface) and think together to achieve goals. That has applications from games to XP programming.

Voice control could also be used for more natural commands such as "shut-up" or "play some jazz, will ya?". Nothing too complex, as that's another field that is crawling for decades and hasn't have a decent sprint since it started...


The cost of such a machine wouldn't be too high, as the components are cheaper than today's complex motherboard designs, with multiple interconnection standards, different manufacturing processes and tests (very expensive!). The parts themselves would maybe be a bit expensive, but in such volumes (and standardised production) the cost would be greatly reduced.

To the environment, not so much. If mankind continues with the ridiculous necessity of changing their computers every year, a computer like that would fill up the landfills. The integration of the parts is so dense (eg monitor+cameras+speakers in one package) that would be impossible to recycle that cheaper than sending it to the sun to burn (a not so bad alternative).

But in life, we have to choose what's really important. A nice computer that puts you in a chair for the majority of your life is more important that some pandas and bumble bees, right?

December 19th, 2010 under Digital Rights, Gadgtes, Hardware, rengolin, Software. [ Comments: none ]

I got an iPad for Christmas. Didn’t buy it, got as a gift, and I have to say that it didn’t change my point of view on Apple a single bit.

A few years ago, while getting an iBook for my sister, I had to configure it to speak French for her and still English for me, which was a pain. I wanted to run OpenOffice, only to learn that there wasn’t one. I couldn’t find the configuration files or anything that would resemble running a Unix system. Some people say I just didn’t find it in the right place, that I could have used such and such software to make it the way I like it, but that kinda killed completely Apple’s spirit of “just work”.

All in all, I was happy to go back to my old faithful Linux and eventually bought a Dell Studio, now running a vanilla Ubuntu 10.10. I used to be the hard core Linux user, compiling the kernel, changing modules and fiddling with the configuration a lot, but there’s something I’ve learned in all these years is that a desktop (or a laptop) has to just work. And having used a iBook and an iPad, the créme de la créme of usability and user experience, I have to say that, unfortunately, there is no miracle.

To summarize my experience with the iPad in a sentence: the hardware is good, the software is average, the philosophy is disgusting.

The hardware

The hardware is good, not great. First, it’s got a good CPU+GPU combo and memory enough to run some cool games without glitches. I was actually surprised with the quality of some games, and the screen resolution and the quality of the capacitive touch-scree is really something.

But the (stereo) speakers I have in my Nokia N95 are far better than the (mono) speaker in the iPad, even in quality (despite its smaller size). There is no camera, and no easy way to interconnect it to the world, unless this “world” is made of Apples. You can only print to an AirPrinter (or whatever that’s called), you can only connect Bluetooth with other iPads, maybe iPhones but it didn’t even recognize my Nokia.

Despite its lack of hardware, the case is pretty heavy, almost a kilogram. I normally think that heavy is good, but in this case, to hold the iPad while you play is quite tiring after a few minutes. I bought the Need for Speed (quite good game) and I ended up using cushions to rest my elbows after a while and a few minutes later I stopped playing because my arms were hurting.

All in all, the responsiveness and screen quality are really amazing, the rest is just not what I’d expect from Apple. However, I hear that since 2005 Apple has slowly and constantly reducing the quality of the parts not to increase the price of the gadgets. It’s a clever move for a while, works even better with a fan base (instead of customers) but that’s bound to fail one day.

Finally, a minor thing. There is a side button for the volume, and one to mute. Problem is, it doesn’t work with everything (even some things made by Apple). It’s mute and you can still hear the sounds. Even the volume works while in mute, only for those applications that ignore the mute button. The others, you need to un-mute it to hear. I expected more from Apple…

The software

The second expectation I had from Apple was that the software would be amazing. I’m not talking about third-party AppStore software, but bundled Apple software. How naive.

My experience developing software for 20 years tells me that every piece of software is crap, people just don’t realise because software engineers can hide the crap really well. Microsoft hides it behind zillions of useless features, Oracle hides it behind zillions of useless configuration steps, Google hides it in a secret box that only his advertisers can read, open source don’t hide it at all and Apple hides it by giving poisoned apples to their fan base.

Because I’m not a fan boy, I’m unfortunately exposed to the naked truth: it sucks.

First, there is no Flash. I don’t care if HTML 5 is better than Flash, the web has zillions of Flash applications, web pages, videos and animations in Flash and it’s not going to change just because Apple doesn’t like it. Youtube has moved to HTML5 (probably because of Apple), but I can’t follow links of any other pages that have flash. That sucks.

Second, Safari sucks. Try to use eBay on safari. Try to sell something on eBay using Safari… I dare you. In many other pages it broke, as in falling back to the welcome-screen. Yesterday it locked the iPad completely. I was using the Twitter application that redirected me to an youtube page, when I opened in Safari it locked. When I closed Safari, the welcome-screen was locked. I couldn’t click (tap?) on anything. Nothing worked, and you can’t turn it off (the way to go for non-unix OSs), just make it sleep. After a few desperate taps on applications, I managed to tap on the Youtube application (that wasn’t running, so far) and when I hit on another random video on it and it played, I closed the youtube app and the rest started working again.

It breaks so many times and in so unpredictable ways, that now I only use it for Gmail and Google reader, because I know those pages were hand-crafted for the iPad. As a web experience, that sucks big time.

Another big fight I had, until I got in terms with the iPad, was iTunes. In the PC, iTunes does it all: play and download songs, books and videos, buys apps, browse the university programme (excellent, by the way). When I got some songs, videos and a few apps, I went to the iPad and where was all my stuff?

Well, I found out that you must use the iPod software to listen for songs, the Video app to view videos, the iBook to read books, the AppStore to buy apps, the… wait, every time I have an argument about Linux vs. Mac, I’m constantly reminded that normal users want less applications, less complication and with Apple you (supposedly) have the same interface all over the platforms. Well, I just learnt that, with the iPad, this is exactly the opposite. I’ve seen systems better integrated than that…

Another big problem is the bloody spell checker. If you don’t speak English, you’re screwed. First, you can’t disable the spell checker and whatever you type WILL be checked and the version that stays is the spell checker version. You can disable on a word-per-word basis, by clicking on the little X button, every time you type a word. The problem is, if you’re writing in a burst, that kills your speed. Also, in some screens you can’t cancel the spell checker. It shows up with the little X but you can’t click it. Does it make sense? To show the balloon with the X that you can’t click? I expected more from Apple.

App Store

For me, it doesn’t make sense to have a computer and not be able to run programs you want in it. Ever since I wrote my first program when I was 5 years old, I learnt that that’s what a computer is. Even Apple computers at that time were like this, I had some, and I could write programs to them and run. The fact that I have to download it from an App Store is out of my comprehension. (I understand the immediate business model, but I still think that it kills in the long term, lets wait and see).

The same friends again had the excuse of it being a quality control, that Apple can control what’s going in and make sure it won’t break the user experience. Well, if you have used the iPhone or the iPad you know very well that that’s far from the truth. Most applications suck, break, explode, or are just badly coded. And let’s be honest, do you really think that Apple spend time reviewing every single application?

In the end, I found some pretty cool apps, but nothing that I wouldn’t have found if there was no App Store.

So, in a nutshell, the software side of the iPad is mediocre, at best.

The philosophy

And here’s where we get the nasty bits. I could go on and on about all the little details, but I’ve said enough already about Apple, DRM and everything. As I read in another blog reviewing the iPhone vs. Android: “Apple, I’m not your bitch”. I don’t like someone else deciding what applications I can use, what books I can read, what songs (and where) I can hear, etc, etc.

For me, this is the crucial point and to have used a iBook before and to have an iPad now, I can categorically say: I don’t like Apple products, I’m not their bitch.


To be fair to Apple, they do get one thing right: what people want. Before the iPhone, everyone wanted something like an iPhone, but Nokia was too busy fixing Symbian to realise that (and when they finally realised, they copied Motorola). I always wanted a tablet, really, since I saw it in Star Trek, 23 years ago and I bet every one want one, too. When the first tablets arrived in the 90’s, they were absurdly expensive and only ran a few programs that actually used the tablet, in other words, the touch-screen was merely a substitute for the mouse.

What Apple did was to consolidate the interface into a simple and easy to use touch-screen, which children and animals alike can use as if it was their third hand. What is really disappointing is that they know so well what people want and give so little effort to actually make it complete. They create a very good interface and fail to consolidate the tools, they create a quality control mechanism and fail to control the quality, they give freedom to people, that otherwise wouldn’t be able to use computers, and take it away with so many restrictions, they simplify the use of so many things, and take away the basic assumptions people have about things, like being able to play songs anywhere or to borrow a book from a friend.

It’s amazing that a high tech company such as Apple haven’t yet realised that technology changes the way people live, communicate and do business. There’s no point is give half the freedom technology allows you to, just because you can’t monetise the other half. I’m sure Apple has lots of good people inside that could share some ideas on how to progress without handcuffs, if they would just listen to them…

In the end, tablets are really as great as I thought they would be, and I’m loving it. Pity it’s an Apple tablet… However, that gave me reassurance that I must buy an Android tablet next year or so, when they become as good as I hope them to be.

Final Veredict

  • Idea: 0, at least 23 years old and has been done before many times.
  • Time-to-market: 10, as usual, first to make it right.
  • Hardware: 7, a camera and good speakers would do nice.
  • Software: 5, Flash, Safari don’t work well, bad AppStore quality.
  • Integration: 3, only interconnects with Apple, DRM, iTunes on iPad.
  • Usability: 7, the interface is good and simple and always ready to work.
  • Philosophy: 0, DRM, dev. license only works on Macs.
  • Average: 4.6, don’t buy, wait for the Android tablets to arrive in full.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has arrived
October 14th, 2009 under Fun, Gadgtes, Hardware, rvincoletto. [ Comments: 1 ]

The Wikimedia Foundation has just launched the first release of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I hope the next version they’ll use sub-etha to update the contents automatically. It could also come with a babel fish or a Federation tricorder…

Wireless pains
July 7th, 2009 under Computers, Gadgtes, Hardware, Life, rengolin. [ Comments: none ]

One of the good characteristics of human beings is to be able to understand other people’s pains. To impersonate them, feel what they feel and know how bad/good to them was something you did. But this post has nothing to do with it, it’s just about the pains I had, and why I abandoned having a wireless connection on my desktop.


The first benefit of having wireless is freedom to move around. Not a particular strong one with desktops, though, but still appealing if you like to move furniture (as we do). To the desktop, the best benefit is not laying cables around the house, which for a family with kids is a big deal.

Nevertheless, you still have other cables, like USB, video, sound and especially electric cables all around, probably the same length as a network cable would be. And the benefits stop right there…


Wireless configuration is not as easy as it should be. Most boards require driver installation on Linux and Windows (although Linux has been particular strong in wireless drivers, just not to my board). That alone makes your installation of the OS a pain, as you have to install it locally, install the drivers and then update it.

Another problem is that you have to set up passwords and keys, which nowadays is more a user configuration. You can’t just start up all stuff (like sshd or web servers) before you actually log in. It means, before you say it’s a geek thing, that you can’t turn on your computer and log in remotely without logging in locally, if you don’t fiddle with the wireless/network configuration of your “easy-to-use” desktop.

Not to mention that, if you have a home server and want to mount the filesystem over the network, you can’t. Once you fiddle with the configuration and manage to allow it, it still disconnects on log-off and blocks your mount points to unmount themselves cleanly. All in all, the wireless network was designed specifically to laptops on-the-go and not to any other kind of device.

It is true that this issues are being resolved in Linux (drivers, global configuration) but it’s still a good source of problems for the day to day use.


Wired networks have a very stable communication channel. If no one is cutting your cables or laying it around NMRs you’re very likely safe from interferences. Once the connection is established, the likelihood of it falling down is very, very low and if something do happen, it’s probably server related (i.e. it crashed) than any cable/card issue.

On the other hand, wireless connections are completely unreliable, prone to errors in transmissions, channel overuse (especially problematic on overcrowded areas like most cities) and walls. Most programs are not ready to accept huge delays on transmission.

I’ve put my router on top of the printer and bought an antenna booster, changed to a channel far away from all others in the area. The speed has increased a bit, but the reliability is still bad. It often lags, slow down and the latency is just not the same with cables.


Obvious as it is, wireless desktops are not rare. Many of my tech savvy friends (and me), have opted for wireless connection on their desktops in favour of a safer bet, mostly because of cabling issues. I’ve been using wireless for all my needs (desktops, laptops, mobile phones) for over three years now and I can say that I’m more dissatisfied than happy about it. This is why I’ve decided to have a long white cable around my sofas and TV set. Luckily, my power cable is also white, and as I can’t get rid of it (yet), it blends nicely.

Even my boot efficiency (boot and login) increased a lot (about 2/3 of the time), I have no more mount issues, using the server’s shared drives is easy and fast, gaming issues are over and browsing has lost a source of problems.

It’s not all roses, though. When I had the drive mounted via USB, things were a bit faster (my router is 100mbps, unfortunately), but still way better than wireless. Besides, I now have a printer and scanner server!

How green can you get?
April 9th, 2009 under Gadgtes, Life, rengolin, Technology, World. [ Comments: 1 ]

Recently the whole family has been engaged in a complete greenification and organification. We prefer regional organic food (fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products) than regular ones. We recycle everything we can, even if that means a car trip to the recycling centre every now and then.

But the recent trip to Scotland made us to want a new car, and the new car we wanted wasn’t green at all: the Toyota’s Rav4. It took me a while to have courage to actually buy one, but in the week I was listing them to get one on the local Toyota dealer, I saw a talk by Prof. David MacKay at ARM and changed my mind…

Besides being one of the key world figures on information theory, inference and learning, he’s also pushing hard on sustainable energy. His talk was great and it was then I figured out how much difference you can make with little things. Not getting planes unless you really have no other choice, changing your car to something greener and buying food from local markets does make a big difference.

It was then that we bought a Toyota Prius. I have to say that I’m impressed. Not only it runs on battery for quite a while, but the petrol engine is super effective, only turns on when needed and doing 60mpg (21 km/l) at constant speeds. Not only that, but the amount of gadgets and technology they put in those cars is amazing.

I’m not saving the world, I know, but does help a lot. If those cars were more common, if the globalization used more internet and less aeroplanes, and if people ate more local food, maybe we could reduce the energy footprint and than sustainable energy could be viable.

One thing is for sure, people do need to change their attitude towards life and comfort and be prepared to live more and complaint less.

Geeks United! It’s time to recycle!
June 7th, 2007 under Computers, Fun, Gadgtes, rvincoletto, Technology. [ Comments: 6 ]

It’s time to recycle using your hand craft abilities!

Computer Chip Trivet

Don’t you know what to do with those old computer chips laying around? What do you think about a stylish trivet? Instructions are simple to follow: all you need are some computer chips , grout, adhesive, and a tile square.

Once you’re all finished, you’ll have a nicely geekified trivet for all your hot stuff.

You’ll really impress your geeky friends with this genuinely useful kitchen tool that you can make: a trivet built out of old computer chips.

Follow this link for full instructions.

Hard Drive Wind Chimes

The drive platters themselves are also quite remarkable: precisely made aluminium patters with a surface not unlike recording tape. The disks make a lovely clear note if you strike them, so it was only natural to make them into a set of wind chimes.

An interesting side effect is that the shiny shiny platters reflected little spots of light into the house. Naturally, if you have cats, they’ll love it too.

Follow this link for full instructions.

Hard Drive Picture Frames

So, you’ve disassembled hard drives, taken the magnets out, made wind chimes out of the platters, and so on. One thing that you might have left over is a set of printed circuit boards. Funny shaped printed circuit boards, with holes in them.

Here’s how to turn those leftover PCBs into fabulous geek-chic picture frames.

It’s done! Hang it on something ferromagnetic!

Here’s a completed picture frame, hanging on a wire bookshelf.

Follow this link for full instructions.

Credits: Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

Keyboards for everybody
June 4th, 2007 under Computers, Gadgtes, rvincoletto, Technology. [ Comments: none ]

Are you planning change your keyboard and you don know which one choose? Maybe it could help you.

Are you old-fashioned? Full instructions for how to convert a 1980s era “clicky” IBM keyboard into an input device that would look at home in a movie adaptation of a Jules Verne novel are available on The Steampunk Workshop


For those who likes more futuristic stuff, the Bluetooth Laser Virtual Keyboard could be a great idea.

If you want to impress your colleagues and friends, you could use the Das Keyboard – 100% blank.

Windows user? Try the Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop Keyboard 8000, with a magnetic dock for you wireless mouse and a bright Windows key.

Are you travelling all the time or maybe you just want to use your blackberry with a keyboard? So, the Elkensen Fabric Keyboard is perfect for you.

They have both wireless and wired version.

So, which one?


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