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About this blog

Geeky things I'm up to

Entries in this blog

Pinhole Panorama camera idea

Roughly based on: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2010/03/weekend-project-pinhole-panoramic-c.html   The design point is to make a 120 roll film cyclindrical panorama camera. My original idea was to make one with a 90 degree vertical field of view & 135 degree horizontal FoV, with the idea that a full 360 degrees would be covered in 3 shots. But then I got to thinking about adding a zenith shot (which would be easy if the depth of the camera was half the height), so up'd it to 105 degre

EricBall

EricBall

Collateral Obsolescence

About a dozen years ago I (with the bank's assistance) bought a house. The bank was so gracious for my business they gave me a computer, or rather a gift certificate for the IBM PC Store for an amount equal to their bargain basement Aptiva Isparati. The computer was a dog (Citrix MediaGX processor) but it was marginally better than the 486DX2-66 I had. (And I knew the computer was a dog when I bought it, but as it was effectively free I didn't complain. However, I didn't throw good money aft

EricBall

EricBall

Insignia (Chumby) Infocast

While on a 2 week vacation to watch the Daytona 500 (my wife is the NASCAR fan), I picked up the Chumby powered Insignia Infocast (in spite of none of the Best Buy drones knowing what one was). Now that I have it, I'm wondering what I'm going to use it for.   It certainly will function as an 8" 800x600 digital picture frame, just stick in an SD card. Ideally I'd like to pull stuff from iPhoto or Picassa (since that's where I store photos now). It can also play back videos, although the chal

EricBall

EricBall

Dealing with duplicate backups

I love making backups onto external drives. Plug it in and use EZBack-it-up (now I'm using robocopy) to do a simple copy of every file and every subdirectory onto the external drive. Then put that drive on the shelf until it's time to restore a file or do another backup. Not good for a bare-metal reinstall, but great for a basic file recovery solution. (Also useful when the internal drive gets full and you need to delete some large media files.) And when the drive gets full, buy another driv

EricBall

EricBall

next gen copy protection

Since the PS3's security structure has fallen, I'm left to wonder whether it's even possible to create a secure console. Secure in the sense that it prevents piracy. And if I was Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft I'd be talking to fail0verflow to contract them to help design it.   Copy protection basically comes down to making something which can be read (by the console) but not written (by anyone other than the creator). The PS1 used some sectors with zero'd ECC. So the PS1 drive could read the dat

EricBall

EricBall

Playing GT5

This past weekend my step-brother-in-law gave me GT5 and a steering wheel and I've been playing it every evening. And although I'm not a hardcore racing sim driver (Mario Kart is more my style - foot to the floor) but I am having fun along with some frustration.   I'm currently up to level 8 and my current effort is trying to get around the Nuerburgring in less than 11 minutes. I'm within 10 seconds and that's with a few bounces off the Armco barriers. So I'm confident I'll get there with p

EricBall

EricBall

Team Twiizers does it again!

Via slashdot Team Twiizers (now known as fail0verflow) has made some significant strides in demolishing the security of the PS3. (By discovering a flawed crypto implementation - allowing the private keys to be recovered.)   It makes me wonder if it is possible to implement a truly unbreakable anti-piracy mechanism.

EricBall

EricBall

StarCraft 2 demo

I've just played through the StarCraft2 demo for the n'th time. Part of me wants to like it, but I can't get past the basic nature of RTS - having micromanage everything in real time.   I have to say I never played the original StarCraft. The closest RTS I've ever played was Pikmin. But the resource management on that one is pretty minimal and there's no need to protect your base.   Anyway, although I like the single player storyline, I'm just having problems trying to optimally use my ba

EricBall

EricBall

Happy birthday Xbox 360, where's your successor?

Cnet published an article discussing that the Xbox 360 has reached its 5th birthday with no successor for it or its competition in sight.   The answer is simple: it's all about the money.   Microsoft and Sony initially sold their consoles at a loss to gain market share. Now they make a profit, so the more they sell now the more profit they make. Microsoft also rushed the Xbox 360 to market, which got them initial share but cost them in reliability and replacement. Microsoft and Sony have a

EricBall

EricBall

Panoramic photos & horizon detection

One side effect of buying a new camera (Panasonic FZ40 to replace a Canon S3) is I've rekindled my interest in panoramic photos. Using Hugin (free software) a series of overlapping photos can be assembled into one giant image. Doing this requires identifying "control points" which either link to photos together (i.e. this white dot on photo 1 is the same as this white dot on photo 2) or identify horizontal, vertical or straight lines. With enough control points, the software can determine the

EricBall

EricBall

Fast Discrete Hartley Transform part 2

I know I said last year that it was debugged, but it wasn't. Now it is. But it's now checked out and verified from top to bottom including deriving the algorithm, the pseudo-code implementation, and the actual Propeller code. Backed up with spreadsheet comparisons between the algorithm outputs at each stage versus the base transform.   And it's still fast! 256 samples takes 645,520 cycles (31.7 KHz) and 1024 samples takes 3,534,656 cycles (23.1KHz) with full 32 bit precision. (Good enough

EricBall

EricBall

Piracy is too damn easy

This weekend the family and I got together with the in-laws for a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. We arrived early and ended up spending the time watching "How to Train Your Dragon". About halfway through, their son comments, "pretty good quality for a download." I'd figured we were watching a DVD instead of a Blu-Ray, even though they had a PS3. But then I realized he wasn't saying this was streaming from Netflix, but it was pirated (via LimeWire, which he was using to download Gladiator).  

EricBall

EricBall

Apple ][ versus CoCo

Back in the day my family owned a CoCo (partially because my Mom worked at a Radio Shack computer store at the time, so got a discount), but at school I user Apple ][s (pluses and Es). Unlike the C64 (or the Atari 8 bit computers), neither the CoCo or the A2 has any sound or sprite hardware. Yet the A2 had a huge library of games, and I have to ask myself why.   I think it was the disk drive. Although a disk add-on existed for the CoCo, cassette tapes were still very popular. And, unlike

EricBall

EricBall

Stupid Propeller Tricks

The Propeller has two "native" languages. Like any microprocessor, Propeller Assembly (or PASM) is the human version of the machine code executed by each processor. But like 8-bit computers of old the Propeller has an onboard interpreter. However instead of being a version of Microsoft BASIC, this interpreter is for a new high level language called SPIN. The SPIN interpreter itself is written in PASM, but the initial code for any Propeller program is in SPIN (which can then start additional

EricBall

EricBall

PS3 OtherOS class action update

All files available from: http://dockets.justia.com/docket/california/candce/3:2010cv01811/226894/   Well Sony has fired back at the Amended Complaint with two barrels: a Motion to Strike and a Motion to Dismiss. I haven't gone too far into them, but Sony's first point is the five plaintiffs have different complaints and one didn't even install OtherOS! So Sony's point is if the the five plaintiffs are representative of the class, as a whole, then the court can't assume a class really exists

EricBall

EricBall

AES-128 on the Propeller

One of the knocks against the Propeller is it has no code protection, unlike PICs and other microcontrollers with onboard EEPROMs. And although the protection may be less than perfect, I can understand many companies are not willing to have their IP in an easily accessible state.   IMHO the way to remedy the situation is to include a small amount of onboard OTP storage for an encryption key and integrate a decryption routine into the bootloader. But for that to work someone (i.e. me) needs t

EricBall

EricBall

PS3 review - Blur

So after performing some housekeeping on my PS3 (didja know that you can assign downloaded games an "Album", and then select "Group by Album" - so now my purchased games are in a separate folder) I downloaded the multiplayer demo of Blur.   First, big kudos to Activision for releasing a multiplayer demo which actually allows you to play as if you bought the game (up to level 10 at least). That's right - no timing out on the last lap or limited play time. You can really get a good feel for wh

EricBall

EricBall

Looking for game ideas

Many moons ago I bought Civilization Revolution for the PS3 and have been playing it quite a bit ever since. But always single player, i.e. versus the AI. I've gotten fairly good, where I win the majority of the time against the highest difficulty level. But I've avoided the online multiplayer for a couple of reasons - can't save (so have to dedicate time), and there are quite a few very good players out there.   Well, this weekend I played my first online game and got spanked. Yes, at the

EricBall

EricBall

E3 musings

At E3 each of the big three consoles hit the stage to excite the press and public with their latest gadgets.   Microsoft was first up and they showed off Kinect (nee Natal), where the 360 uses a camera to turn your body into the controller, along with various games (mostly sports stuff) and a staged Star Wars lightsabre battle. The other big announcement was a smaller, quieter, lower cost, Xbox 360 with built in WiFi.   Nintendo went second with Shiguru Miyamoto showing off the new Zelda fo

EricBall

EricBall

Cray-1

Even though I didn't get into computers until several years after the Cray-1 first came to market, it was still a legendary computer.   Just the look and shape of it was awe inspiring; looking like something from 2001: A Space Odyssey (or any other SF film). No simple box, but a C shaped tower with a "love seat". Then you learned that "love seat" was the refrigeration system - it was cooled with Freon - how cool was that? A computer that got so hot it needed a cooling system. (Which actual

EricBall

EricBall

which iPod shuffle?

My wife has suggested getting my son an iPod Shuffle (or similar) to replace the kiddie cassette player he has. A bid advantage of going with an iPod is my son can therefore get stuff from my wife's iTunes library. However...   Reasons I don't like the current 3rd generation iPod shuffle: 1. C$70+tax 2. Controls on the headphones. However, C does think K's iPod headphones are comfy. 3. It's dang tiny, just looking to get lost. 4. Requires a special USB cable for charging & sync. (Some

EricBall

EricBall

PS3 Linux musings part 2

Both potatohead and I agree that GeoHot's exploit represented a potential piracy risk to Sony. The question I have is whether Sony could have done something other than disable OtherOS in response.   Well, they could have ignored it. The attack required a hardware mod and a little bit of luck to break out of the Hypervisor walled garden. But even after that was accomplished getting to piracy (either game or media) may not have been possible, at least in the short term. Unfortunately, histor

EricBall

EricBall

PS3 Linux RIP (for now)

For those of you with PS3s, be aware that the April 1 update disables OtherOS. So after installing the update you will no longer be able to install OtherOS or boot into OtherOS - so no more PS3 Linux. (Of course, the PS3 slim didn't have this ability.) Not upgrading means you will no longer be able to access the Playstation Network.   There has been much discussion on whether this is legal. IANAL, but I suspect it is not and Sony will be forced to either provide compensation (e.g. Playstat

EricBall

EricBall

Bloombox is not green!

I was listening to the 60 Minutes podcast and they were doing a segment on the Bloombox, which is based on a fuel cell. The thing which annoys me is they call this "green energy". Umm, folks . . . you're generating electricity by consuming gaseous hydrocarbons (typically natural gas), which isn't green IMHO unless you are capturing bio-methane. And even then you're replacing the power grid with some sort of hydrocarbon delivery system. They also talk about avoiding grid losses, but half of m

EricBall

EricBall

Home network monitoring

My wife plays Cafe World and other games on Facebook. She's noticed that her MacBook gets hot while she's playing. I suspect it's just because Flash is a hog, but it occurs to me that I really have no idea what it's doing. And although my home network is safely hidden behind a NAT router, that doesn't protect me if something which is running from inside Flash (which has security holes) or other "trusted" environments.   What I'd like to do is put a sniffer on a hub connected between my cabl

EricBall

EricBall

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