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Just Another Tech Blog

Anything and everything having to do with technology, computers, science, and most of all... Linux! The documentation of my Linux endeavor.

FIRST, Robotics, and an Amazing Person!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The last 6 weeks of my life have primarily been consumed by robotics team. Yes, a nerdy sounding activity to say the least, but it has probably been the best 6 weeks of my life, and I think many others feel the same way. But first, let me get into what this robotics club is, what FIRST is, and of who Dean Kamen is.
What is FIRST?

FIRST stands for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology." It is a not-for-profit organization founded by Dean Kamen. As Mr. Kamen says, FIRST's vision is "To create a world where science and technology are celebrated... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes." Making up FIRST are four competition "realms." These are the FIRST Robotics Competition (high school), FIRST Vex Competition (high school), FIRST Lego League (9-14), and the Junior FIRST Lego League (6-9). Founded in 1989, FIRST has grown from just couple teams in one region with one event, to many thousands of teams from 45 countries around the world! There is so much more to FIRST than just engineering though, it is also about teamwork, and uniting a group of people in a common interest. Building the robot is but half the fun, the true fun lies in working with others, helping others, and learning leadership and responsibility. Even if a team doesn't manage to ship a fully functional robot, they have still learned irreplaceable values and skills that they can then carry with them throughout their life.And I think that is what FIRST is all about.

Dean Kamen
So Who is Dean Kamen?

Dean Kamen is simply an extraordinary person. Founder of FIRST, and the leader of DEKA (his research and development company), Dean Kamen is changing lives around the world, quite literally. People may know him as the inventor of the Segway. This super cool "human transport" device is already making great strides forward in the realms of police force transportation, and quick, reliable transport for the everyday person. However, this invention seems to be almost insignificant in comparison to the other remarkable work he has done for the medical field. Mr. Kamen's most profoundly important device is probably his small, portable HomeChoice™ dialysis machine. This astounding, practical device allows patients with chronic renal failure to have more freedom than ever imagined, letting them go just about anywhere. In addition to this, he has developed/ invented the first insulin pump, the IBOT, Hydroflex Irrigation Pump, and has led work in the production of better stents, fully functional robotic arms for those having lost an arm, and treatment systems for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). Already, an amazing list of achievements, but just the tip of the iceberg. Mr. Kamen is now working on bringing electricity and water to every remote area in the world that doesn't have any. His new inventions are a breakthrough to say the least. His device for purifying water can take literally any water, however polluted, and make it virtually sterilized. His device for creating electricity also works in a similar fashion. Through the use of technology including Sterling engines, he can take literally any "$#!T", as he puts it, and make it into electricity. Yes, this IS for real!
Just recently, I had the great privilege of attending two speeches Mr. Kamen made for the FIRST Robotics community in the South Carolina area. He is a true inspiration. Talking about being an entrepreneur, he made it apparent that conventional thinking just isn't good enough. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to think out of the box, and even further! He said that if you go to someone with an idea, and they claim it is possible, then it is probably not going change the world. Chances are, someone had already thought of it, and tried it. Nearly every one of Mr. Kamen's inventions was initially thought of as impossible, and look where he is now. The difference he is making in the world is real, and beyond belief. Gaining more and more momentum, he is trying to help ever more people, and to say "it's working!" would be an understatement!
Dean Kamen says he is NOT a bashful person, and this is one of his major strengths, as he illustrated in his talks. He told us about particular incident when he was meeting a group of governors from various states, rallying support for his FIRST Robotics league. He asked for use of their universities to hold the competitions. When he wasn't acknowledged he threatened them with a class action law suit, accusing them of fraud, and that if they want to settle it out of court, they should rename their university to something with sports, because that seemed like the place where all their money was going. That got him support.

Dean Kamen is a man to admire greatly. Step by step, he is changing the world, and even on the level of a single person (ie; me) he is making a profound difference. I just want to say Thank You Mr. Kamen, you really are a hero to many.

Robotics, Team 1293

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I myself am a member of a local robotics team. Team 1293 to be exact, D5 Robotics (District 5 Robotics). Since the build season started about seven weeks ago, the members of this team have dedicated countless hours of hard work, to produce a robot to accomplish a certain set of goals (see this NASA stream to learn more). The six weeks of build season were really the best I have ever experienced. Robotics has made me think in ways I never had before, and has made me stretch my realm of comprehension to embrace ever more ideas. We had our setbacks, but in the end, we managed to ship a fully working robot (we shipped on the 20th, last Tuesday). This is quite an accomplishment. I mean, in six weeks, we had to think up a complete design for the robot, build it from pretty much scratch, AND program it. This years challenge was "Rack 'n' Roll!" We had to create robot to lift inflatable tubes on to a dynamically moving rack. Not an easy task, but I believe our robot, Atlas we called him, accomplishes it quite nicely. Although the students did most of the work, we could not have gotten ANYWHERE without the immense help our mentors gave us. Educating us in every subject imaginable, we learned not only how to work power tools, but also how to act as a team, to get things done. I'd like to give all the team 1293 mentors a huge thanks. Giving up countless hours to help us was not something they had to do, but they wanted to make a difference, and, I think I speak for the whole team, when I say we are eternally grateful.

Now, go out, and promote FIRST! Also, be sure to check out the D5 Robotics website, which contains news and information about our team (be sure to view the media gallery too!).
posted by linnerd40, Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | link | 7 comments |

New Gmail feature out! Fetch mail from other accounts!

Now there really is no reason why not to use gmail. This new feature lets you retrieve both new and old mail from up to 5 other accounts, and see it in gmail! I'm trying it with about 4 other adresses, and so far, its looking good! I no longer need to keep up with multiple accounts, passwords, logins, etc. It's all in gmail! Keep up the awesome work Google!
Now Gmail can check for the mail you receive at your other email accounts. You can retrieve your mail (new and old) from up to five other email accounts and have them all in Gmail. Then you can even create a customized 'From:' address, which lets you send messages from Gmail, but have them look like they were sent from another one of your email accounts. Please note that you can only retrieve mail from accounts that have POP3 access enabled. Learn more
Sadly, yahoo doesn't offer POP3 for free, so I can't access that account it seems. But, having multiple Gmail address, this is a great feature to have! Here's a quick screenshot:

Submit to digg?
posted by linnerd40, Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | link | 7 comments |

A Blog Of Note

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It seems I have been chosen as a "Blog of Note" by the "Blog of Note" team! Awesome! Again, many thanks to all my visitors, especially the ones that return! I started this blog about 10 months ago, in March of 2006. I never even dreamed that this blog could achieve such success. I put a lot of time into this blog, and its nice to see people like my posts. I'm just passionate about technology, and I know many others are. What ever interests me, I post. As I have said in the message board, I am working two rather large posts (sort of the first of their kind) for this blog. If things go well, I'll get the written up by Saturday. I'll see how things go from there. Anyways, thanks for visiting the site! Enjoy and be sure to browse the archives or use the search box (powered by Technorati) to look up all your favorite tech topics!
posted by linnerd40, Tuesday, February 27, 2007 | link | 10 comments |

First desktop motherboard supported by LinuxBIOS: GIGABYTE M57SLI-S4

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The GIGABYTE M57SLI-S4 is the first-ever desktop motherboard supported by a Free & Open Source BIOS, thanks to AMD engineer Yinghai Lu who released GPL-licensed code last month. This state-of-the-art motherboard is based on the NVIDIA nForce 570 SLI chipset and AMD's latest Socket AM2.
As mentioned in the article, this really is a huge step forward in the quest for a "completely Free & Open Source general-purpose computer that enables users to have full control over their own hardware." You can read more about the motherboard @ gmane.linux.kernel. For those interested in the board, you can check it out @ Newegg! Here are some quick specs on the board:
  • Support for AMD Athlon (Socket AM2) 64 X2, Athlon 64 FX, and Athlon 64 processors
  • 2X PCI Express x16 slots
  • 3X PCI Express x1 slots
  • 2X PCI slots
  • 3X 1394a (FireWire) ports
  • 10X USB 2.0
  • 16GB maximum memory
  • 6X SATA 3Gb/s slots.
posted by linnerd40, Sunday, February 25, 2007 | link | 4 comments |

Amusing: If Operating Systems Ran Airlines...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

An amusing little piece theorizing on how each individual operating system's airline would be. Quite amusing. Check it out @ zyra.org.uk.
Linux Air

Disgruntled employees of all the other OS airlines decide to start their own airline. They build the planes, ticket counters, and pave the runways themselves. They charge a small fee to cover the cost of printing the ticket, but you can also download and print the ticket yourself.

When you board the plane, you are given a seat, four bolts, a wrench and a copy of the seat-HOWTO.html. Once settled, the fully adjustable seat is very comfortable, the plane leaves and arrives on time without a single problem, the in-flight meal is wonderful. You try to tell customers of the other airlines about the great trip, but all they can say is, "You had to do what with the seat?"

posted by linnerd40, Saturday, February 24, 2007 | link | 3 comments |

WOW! Logitech X-230

Friday, February 23, 2007

Just WOW! That is all I can say right now about my NEW Logitech X-230 speakers. I can not even begin to describe how much better these are than my old speakers. It is simply amazing how great they sound!!! I used to have the world's cheapest speakers, probably costing $5 with my mouse and keyboard. Well, they are gone now, and they will NEVER return. Logitech simply makes amazing products. These speakers, in my opinion, can not be beat for the price. In a 2.1 configuration with 64 watts peak power, the sound these things produces is beyond belief. The subwoofer is great, and provides excellent, solid bass. The two speakers both produce crystal clear sound at all volumes. Spectacular! For those interested, check them out at Amazon.com.

posted by linnerd40, Friday, February 23, 2007 | link | 1 comments |

Big Debian Linux Payday For HP

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Debian Logo"HP is making $25 million by supporting the free Debian GNU/Linux distribution in what may ultimately turn out to be a challenge to commercial distributions from Novell and Red Hat."

And people say Linux isn't profitable!? HP is pretty cool about Linux. I just wish/ hope some (or all) of the that $25 million was going to open source / Linux development. Read more @ internetnews.com.
posted by linnerd40, Thursday, February 22, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Get the most out of bash

If you use Linux or UNIX you most likely spend a lot of time at the shell (or command prompt). Chances are that you are using bash. This insightful article at IBM developerWorks shows you how to get the most out of bash:
Ease your system administration tasks by taking advantage of key parts of the Bourne-again shell (bash) and its features. Bash is a popular alternative to the original Bourne and Korn shells. It provides an impressive range of additional functionality that includes improvements to the scripting environment, extensive aliasing techniques, and improved methods for automatically completing different commands, files, and paths.
Check it out @ IBM developerWorks.

Also check out this article by Sam Rowe at Deadman.org. He also provides great advice on how to proficiently use the bash CLI. He writes:
If you've ever used GNU/Linux, chances are good that you've used bash. Some people hold the belief that using a GUI is faster than using a CLI. These people have obviously never seen someone who uses a shell proficiently. In this tutorial, I hope to show you just a few of the amazing features bash provides that will increase your productivity in the shell.
posted by linnerd40, Thursday, February 22, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Ubuntu, Kubuntu, & Xubuntu Benchmarks

With Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Xubuntu each deploying a different desktop environment (GNOME, KDE, and Xfce respectively), how do each of these distributions compare performance-wise? We have taken two systems -- one with dual Intel Clovertown processors and the other an AMD Sempron -- and tested out each of these distributions in some of our commonly used Linux benchmarks to see how the performance truly stacks up.
Interesting comparison via Phoronix. This is only part one of the results. Get this, test set up one consists of 2 (TWO) Quad Core (4 CORES) Intel Xeon E5320, with 4GB RAM. Nice. Check it out @ Phoronix.
posted by linnerd40, Thursday, February 22, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Easily extract audio from any YouTube video

Monday, February 19, 2007

There are times when you come across a YouTube video that has a soundtrack that you just must have. You can download the video... but then you still have the video attached. What if you want just the audio? Well, if you're running Linux, ffmpeg has come to your rescue. Using any YouTube ripper, first download the video. Make sure it saves in .flv format. After that we can simply run the following command:

ffmpeg -i input.flv -f mp3 -vn -acodec copy output.mp3
This will give you just the audio of the video in nice mp3 format. From there, you can encode it as you wish.
Another method you may want to use, utilizing mplayer, is:

mplayer -dumpaudio [name of file].flv
This gives you a file called stream.dump in the original audio format. Rename the file as you wish.

posted by linnerd40, Monday, February 19, 2007 | link | 5 comments |

Cool stuff with X: xwinwrap

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Xwinwrap is an awesome little application that allows xgl (works with AIGLX too!) users to replace their desktop background with a movie or screen saver! You can install the application through synaptic. All you need is xwinwrap + xscreensaver! Commands to get it to run (with the MatrixGL screensaver):

xwinwrap -ni -argb -fs -s -st -sp -b -nf -- /usr/lib/xscreensaver/glmatrix -window-id WID -delay 10000
Check out the vid!

As usual: AMD Athlon 3700+ @ 2.76Ghz, 1.5gig DDR400 RAM, GeForce 6200 128MB ; Ubuntu Edgy 6.10 latest nVidia drivers
posted by linnerd40, Wednesday, February 14, 2007 | link | 6 comments |

Linux: New Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Driver

Monday, February 12, 2007

James Ketrenos announced a new 80211 based driver for the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network connection adapter, "this new driver uses the new d80211 subsystem previously only available as part of the wireless-dev tree." An earlier incarnation of the driver code was much criticized for its inclusion of a userland binary-only daemon [story], prompting the OpenBSD project to create their own blob-free driver for the card [story]. "The [new] iwlwifi driver for the 3945 does not require the user space daemon, but does require a new microcode image," James explained, "over the past year we were able to make the necessary changes to the microcode used with the 3945 such that we were able to remove the regulatory daemon."
Great news for laptop users wanting to use Linux! Next to the Broadcom chipset, the Intel PRO Wireless chip is one of the most popular ones in laptops. As Roy Schestowitz puts it: "No more 'I got Ubuntu installed, but I can't get my Wi-fi to work without ndiswrapper'. Good news. Maybe the "free drivers" initiative [1] is paying off."

Read more @ KernelTrap (with some Q and A).
posted by linnerd40, Monday, February 12, 2007 | link | 5 comments |

South Carolina Computers & Technology Expo

As some may know, I live in South Carolina. Long have I been itching to go to a technology expo... yet all the good ones are in the North East or California (I'm a freshman in high school... no job... no money... no $$$ for travel). Luckly, a reader (Tim) has called to my attention a Computers and Technology expo right here, in Columbia, South Carolina! The expo will feature the following exhibitors:
  • Acumen
  • Bearweb.com
  • Computer Business Systems
  • Discovery Training Center
  • DSB Scientific Consulting
  • Eagle Business Solutions
  • EMC
  • Keypoint Solutions
  • MicroStaff IT
  • Netcommart
  • SCANA / Spirit Telecom
  • SDI*Networks
  • Servin
  • Serviza
  • Solutience
  • Time-Warner Cable
  • VC3, Inc.
  • VMWare
  • Unitrends
  • USC School of Computer Science and Engineering
  • USC Information Technology
  • Yorel Integrated Solutions
  • Zimbra
Not bad, for the area. In any case, this is something I would definitely like to see.
More information can be found at the South Carolina Computers & Technology Expo homepage.

The expo is to be held on February 23, from 10AM to 7PM in the Columbia Conference Center.
posted by linnerd40, Monday, February 12, 2007 | link | 1 comments |

Linspire to go Ubuntu

Thursday, February 08, 2007

This week, Linspire and Canonical, the lead sponsor of the popular Ubuntu operating system, announced a technology partnership that will integrate core competencies from each company into the other's open source Linux offerings. This is very exciting news for both Linspire and Ubuntu users. Through this sharing of technology and working together, all users will benefit from quicker release cycles and expanded features, products and services.
Linspire will remain Linspire, KDE and all. Just the basis will be on Ubuntu, which is another step in the right direction. Read more @ the Linspire website.
posted by linnerd40, Thursday, February 08, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Cool new Beryl Feature: Desktop Wall

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A couple of svn releases ago, Beryl released a new feature called the "Desktop Wall." Initially, I experienced some problems, but now with the latest release, it is fully working. As the name implies, this plugin creates a desktop wall. Not only that, but you can also drag and drop windows on this wall to organize your desktop. Check out the vid:

posted by linnerd40, Wednesday, February 07, 2007 | link | 3 comments |

Quick Tips to Find Files on Linux File System

Monday, February 05, 2007

One of the first hurdles that every Linux newbie working on Command Line Interface (CLI) bumps into is finding files on the file system. Administrators who switch from Windows environment are so much used to the click-n-find mentality that discovering files via Linux CLI is painful for them. This tutorial is written for those friends who work on Linux and don’t have the luxury of Graphical User Interface (GUI).
As the description says, this is a great guide to anyone new to the Linux CLI. The tutorial talks mainly about the "locate" and "find" commands, and how they can be used to their maximum potential. Check it out @ SecGuru.
posted by linnerd40, Monday, February 05, 2007 | link | 1 comments |

Stable Linux Kernel 2.6.20 Released!

The latest stable kernel has been released, 2.6.20. The release fixes many bugs in previous versions. Check out the full changelog for more information!
From Kernel Trap:
Linux creator Linus Torvalds announced the release of the 2.6.20 kernel, summarizing, "a lot of stuff. All over. And KVM." He further noted, "I tried rather hard to make 2.6.20 largely a 'stabilization release'. Unlike a lot of kernels lately, there aren't really any big fundamental changes to some core infrastructure area, and while we always have bugs, I really am hoping that we fixed many more than we introduced." His announcement started with a news parody, "in a widely anticipated move, Linux 'headcase' Torvalds today announced the immediate availability of the most advanced Linux kernel to date, version 2.6.20."

posted by linnerd40, Monday, February 05, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Cool New Beryl Features: Profiles and 3D Animations

Thursday, February 01, 2007

With the latest SVN release of Beryl came new Profile management, and some cool new 3D effects. The new profile management lets you load, save, activate, and inactivate profiles. These profiles outline your personal Beryl settings, and let you easily save and recover your settings.

Also new in the latest release are some awesome 3D animations for Maximizing/ Minimizing Windows.

posted by linnerd40, Thursday, February 01, 2007 | link | 2 comments |

Feisty Fawn Autosuggest Codec Update!

Now, when you open a multimedia file in Feisty Fawn, it will automatically suggest the proper codec package to handle the file! Just another way Ubuntu is making Linux available for the masses! Check out the picks @ diggapleaze's flickr photostream! Here's the process:
  1. Double click mp3 file.
  2. Totem loads, fails to play, calls gnome-app-install, and I click checkbox for "Gstreamer extra plugins"
  3. I click "yes" when I am asked to enable universe repo.
  4. I click "close" when changes are applied.
  5. I click "apply" to gnome-app-install
  6. Finally the mp3 plays!
A total of 6 clicks, yes, but its a step in the right direction!
posted by linnerd40, Thursday, February 01, 2007 | link | 0 comments |