Saturday, December 18, 2010

Installing Skype on Meego 1.1

To install skype on Meego 1.1 first head over the skype downloads page and download the latest Fedora rpm.  Now open a terminal and type:

sudo zypper install skype-

You will receive a warning like this:
Problem: nothing provides qt4-x11 >= 4.2 needed by skype-
 Solution 1: do not install skype-
 Solution 2: break skype by ignoring some of its dependencies
Choose from above solutions by number or cancel [1/2/c] (c): c

Just select option 2 and continue with the installation.

Skype running on Meego 1.1

Notice in the screen shot the font is all messed up?  That's because of the missing QT4 dependency.  Everything still works fine though so it's not a huge deal.  Hopefully the QT4 dependency will be added to the 1.1 repository soon and the problem will be fixed.  I'm pleased to report that my mic and webcam worked without any configuration.  If anyone knows a solution to the font problem please leave a comment.

Installing Dropbox on Meego 1.1

Installing Dropbox on Meego 1.1 is pretty straight forward.  Head over to the Dropbox Linux Downloads page and download the latest Dropbox Fedora rpm.  Then open a terminal and enter:

sudo zypper install nautilus-dropbox-0.6.7-1.fedora.i386.rpm

now reboot and then open Dropbox from the applications menu.

Here's one I prepared earlier

Friday, December 17, 2010

Installing the latest XBMC Dharma Release in Ubuntu 10.10

To install the latest builds of XBMC Dharma in Ubuntu 10.10 open a terminal and enter the following:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc-svn/ppa && sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc

And it's that easy!
You can now find XBMC under Applications -> Sound and Video -> XBMC Media Center

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jolicloud 1.1 Review

The latest version of Jolicloud 1.1 was released a few days ago so naturally I decided to install it and see what has changed since the 1.0 release.  For those of you not familiar with Jolicloud it is a great little Ubuntu based, cloud oriented operating system aimed at netbooks and low end hardware.  They have even started selling their own hardware too with the recent release of the Jolibook.  Things are looking good with a lot of UI and user experience improvements.

The new Jolicloud desktop, looking good.
Probably the biggest change is in the underlying Ubuntu version which has been upgraded from 9.04 to 10.04 LTS.

One of my favourite things about Jolicloud is the hardware support which is comprehensive and hassle free, even my troublesome GMA 500 graphics card works out of the box.

The Jolicloud App Store

Overall there aren't a whole lot of changes on the surface but the Ubuntu upgrade and a general tightening up of the UI and UX makes Jolicloud a whole lot nicer.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What phone to buy and why

I was recently asked by someone which phone would be the best phone for them which got me thinking about the different reasons people choose their phones.  As far as I can tell there are 3 main categories of phone buyers with very different expectations and usage patterns.  Phone users seem to fall into 1 of 3 categories:

People who just want a phone for making calls and SMS.
People who want power, choice and openness.
People that want a fashion accessory.

Luckily there lots of choices out there to meet every niche so I'll give a rundown of the top 3 choices in order of handset sales.

If you want a phone that just makes calls and SMS and does it well get a Nokia.  You can spend anything from $80 to $700 on a Nokia depending on what features you want.  I've owned many Nokia's over the years and they have all been awesome at just being a phone(and admittedly not much else).  I recently purchased a Nokia N900 based on Maemo 5 which strikes a nice balance between being a phone but also providing the features you expect in a modern smartphone.  I've only used the N8 in a store but it seemed pretty nice and has actually gotten pretty good reviews despite being based on the older Symbian operating system.

If you like choice, freedom and power you'll want to grab something running Android and you are certainly spoiled for choice with nearly every major hardware vendor(except Nokia and Apple) providing a range of Android based devices.  Android has a ton of Apps available and you'll be able to find one to suit almost anything you want to do.  Android works well for both the geek and non-geek with a nice UI and easy integration with google services, Facebook, Twitter etc.  If you're a geek you'll love the ability to hack, modify and customise your phone to your hearts content.  Also the Android Market's fairly open policies mean you'll be able to enjoy features iPhone users can only dream of(without jail breaking) like flash, native apps for remotely controlling torrents or even downloading them directly to your phone.  You can also easily change your input methods to alternative keyboards like Swype, install third party UI's or use your phone as a wireless router.

If you want something that will look great next to your chai latte while you work on your screenplay at Starbucks then this is the phone for you.  We've all used iPhone's and you pretty much know what you are getting into, they are solid and usable, but in comparison to the multitude of Android devices available you'll get better value if you shop elsewhere.  The iPhone UI is also in need of some overhauling and hasn't changed a lot since the original iPhone and is starting to look a little 2007.  In the last year iPhone has fallen behind Android in terms of features and sales with 3 Android phones being sold for every 2 iPhones sold.  That being said the iPhone is still a classic and iconic piece of hardware.

In the end they all do pretty much the things that we expect from a phone, make calls, SMS and email, play mp3's and video, browse the web(except for the low end Nokias) so the choice is really just down to personal preference and dependent on your needs and budget.  I realise that there are a ton more choices out there but I just wanted to cover the top 3 selling phones at the moment.  Windows Phone 7 might shake things up a bit but there are no reliable sales figures yet and until features like tethering and cut & paste are added it's probably not the best choice for most people.  I'll be picking up a WP7 phone after christmas so I'll be taking a closer look at what WP7 offers soon(especially the development side of things).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dual Boot Meego on the Nokia N900

Last week the latest image of Meego for the Nokia N900 was officially released so I figured I'd pick up an N900 and give it a try.

Nokia N900 Unlocked Phone/Mobile Computer with 3.5-Inch Touchscreen, QWERTY, 5 MP Camera, Maemo Browser, 32 GB--U.S. Version with Full Warranty
The Nokia N900
While Meego is coming along(particularly the Netbook version) the latest N900 release is definitely just for developers, testers and hackers and I certainly wouldn't recommend it for everyday use.  There are a lot of rough edges at the moment but it's nice to get a look at what Intel and Nokia have in store for us.  While you probably won't see Meego handsets hitting the market till around Q3  2011 hopefully we'll see some more complete and usable builds for the N900 coming out before then.  I'll be taking a more in depth look at Meego and the N900 in general but for now here is a short video of Meego running on my N900 dual booted with Maemo 5.

If you're interested in dual booting Meego and Maemo 5 you can follow the  instruction found here:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Installing Synergy on Ubuntu 10.10

Synergy is a great program that lets you share your keyboard and mouse between multiple computers.  It's a must have if you have multiple computers on your desk and has some great features like a shared clipboard so you can cut and paste text from one computer to another.  If you haven't used Synergy before it's works like a normal multi-monitor setup except when you move your cursor off the edge of your screen you are controlling a different computer.  A good example is when I have my laptop at work I put it next to my desktop machine and have synergy set up so that when I move the cursor off the right hand side of my screen the mouse and keyboard attached to my desktop are now moving the cursor and typing on the laptop.  For this to work you need to have both computers connected to a network and Synergy installed.

One of the best things about Synergy is that it is cross platform and works with Linux, Windows and OSX.  The easiest way to use Synergy on Ubuntu is to install QuickSynergy which provides a GUI for managing screens and connections.

The QuickSynergy UI on Ubuntu 10.10

There are two ways to install QuickSynergy, either open the Ubuntu Software Center and search for "synergy" or type the following at the terminal:

sudo apt-get install quicksynergy

The QuickSynergy icon will now appear in your "Accessories" menu.

I have also written up a guide to installing QuickSynergy in Meego:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Installing Apache, MySQL and PHP5(LAMP) on Ubuntu 10.10

Setting up LAMP(Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP) stacks is something I do quite often and in Ubuntu 10.10 it's really easy.  Just open a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install tasksel

and then:

sudo tasksel install lamp-server

and that's it, you will be prompted to enter information during the installation such as MySQL password etc. during the installation process.

To check apache is up and running visit in your browser.

Note: the default web root is /var/www

Some other useful stuff:

I always need to use CURL too, to install CURL for php just type this:

 sudo apt-get install php5-curl

and mod rewrite for apache:

sudo a2enmod rewrite

After installing mode rewrite or CURL you need to restart apache like this:

sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Install Modern Warfare 2(MW2) on Ubuntu 10.10 with Steam

Installing Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 2(MW2) with Steam is very simple in Ubuntu 10.10.  I assume that running the standard MW2 installation in Wine will also work fine but seeing as I am a Steam user I decided to take the extra step of installing MW2 via Steam.  Everything works great too, I am running the game at 1920x1080 with no lag or choppiness.  The installation is basically the same as the Windows installation except for the extra step of installing Wine.

Step 1: Install Wine
To install steam and play the game you will need to first install Wine.  To install the latest version of Wine simply open the "Ubuntu Software Center" and the search for "wine" and the install "Wine Microsoft Windows Compatibility Later(Beta Realease)".

Installing Wine via the Ubuntu Software Center

Step 2: Install Steam
To install  Steam just head over to the steam website and download the Windows installer.  After you have downloaded the installer you need to give the file execute permissions before you can run it so just right click the file and go "Properties" -> "Permissions Tab" and then check "Allow executing file as program".  Now just double click the installer and the Steam install wizard will appear and you can just follow the steps as you normally would

Steam running in Ubuntu 10.10 with Wine

Step 3: Install MW2
This step is pretty damn easy, just install MW2 via Steam like you would normally on Windows and then you are good to go.  Note: the installing DirectX step of the MW2 installer took a while to complete, don't worry it works just give it a few minutes.

MW2 running like a dream on Ubuntu 10.10
So that's really it, super easy and working perfectly.

I'm really pleased with the performance of MW2 using Wine and Steam, up until now I have kept a dual boot with Win7 for playing games but now I can finally do away with Windows altogether.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Calibrating Touchscreen in Ubuntu 10.10

After installing Ubuntu 10.10 on my Asus eee T91 I was pleased to notice the touchscreen was working out of the box.  Unfortunately the calibration was off and I could not find the calibration utility.

These instructions are now deprecated and I recommend using the xinput_calibrator utility which can be found here:

This old method is left here for reference only.

I was able to successfully calibrate my screen using the following method:

Open a terminal and type the following:

xinput list

You should see something like this:

⎡ Virtual core pointer                     id=2 [master pointer  (3)]
⎜   ↳ Virtual core XTEST pointer               id=4 [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎜   ↳ IDEACOM  IDC 6680                       id=8 [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎜   ↳ IDEACOM  IDC 6680                       id=9 [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎜   ↳ SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad               id=13 [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎣ Virtual core keyboard                   id=3 [master keyboard (2)]
    ↳ Virtual core XTEST keyboard             id=5 [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ Power Button                             id=6 [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ Sleep Button                             id=7 [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ USB 2.0 Camera                           id=10 [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ Asus EeePC extra buttons                 id=11 [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ AT Translated Set 2 keyboard             id=12 [slave  keyboard (3)]

Note where it has the first "IDEACOM  IDC 6680", that's your touchscreen.  There should be an id in the second column ie. "id=8"

pass the id into the next command(I'm using 8 as the example)

xinput set-int-prop 8 "Evdev Axis Calibration" 32 300 7900 400 7800

That should have set your screen calibration, the last 4 values are the actual calibration numbers.  You may need to tweak these numbers for your monitor, so just fiddle with the values and rerun the command  until you are happy with the calibration.

At the moment you will lose your calibration when you reboot so to make it permanent do the following:

sudo gedit /etc/X11/Xsession.d/98x11-common_touchscreen

Paste you calibration command from the step above into the file and save.

This will run the command on bootup so your calibration is now set.  If anyone finds a better way to do this please post a comment.

These instructions were adapted from posts on this thread on the Ubuntu forums:

Note: I have been experiencing a bug using the touchscreen where every 4th press or so it seems to register as a drag operation rather than a click.  If anyone finds a solution to this please post a comment.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Installing Elegant Gnome on Ubuntu 10.10

One of my favourite things about Ubuntu is the ability to customize the UI and installing Elegant Gnome is one of the first things I do after a fresh installation.  Elegant Gnome is a theme pack that gives your desktop a very slick look(compared to the default theme) including matching Firefox and Chrome themes and an awesome icon set.

My netbook with Elegant Gnome showing the nautilus theme, also using Docky

To install this theme in Ubuntu 10.10 just do the following:
Open a terminal and run the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:am-monkeyd/nautilus-elementary-ppa

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

nautilus -q

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elegant-gnome/ppa && sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install elegant-gnome ttf-droid

then go Applications -> Accessories -> Elegant Gnome and select install pack

After reboot go to System -> Administration ->Update Manager and update otherwise nautilus UI will be missing icons.

Adapted from the 10.04 instructions found here:

Fixing Docky compositing error in Ubuntu 10.10

After installing Ubuntu 10.10 on my Asus eee T91 with the GMA500 drivers and no compiz enabled  I installed Docky and received the following error:

"Docky requires compositing to work properly. Please enable compositing and restart docky."

To fix this error type the following at the terminal:

gconftool-2 -s --type bool /apps/metacity/general/compositing_manager true

then restart Docky.

Here's one I prepared earlier, running with the new GMA500 PPA and no  Compiz

Note: If you are wondering about the theme and icons check out my post on installing Elegant Gnome here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Installing gma500(poulsbo) drivers in Ubuntu 10.10

To install the GMA500 drivers on your Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meercat install do the following:
Open a terminal and type:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gma500/ppa && sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install poulsbo-driver-2d poulsbo-driver-3d poulsbo-config

then reboot.

Your screen resolution should now be correct.

NOTE: using the gma500(poulsbo) with Ubuntu is not recommended for new Ubuntu users as you will not have the full Ubuntu experience due to the proprietary nature of the drivers.  Please understand this is not an Ubuntu issue but is related to copyright and intellectual property rights associated with this chipset.  If you are a new Ubuntu user and want out of the box support for the gma500 Jolicloud does a pretty good job.

Hope this helps.

I also recommend checking out my guide to installing Elegant Gnome a great theme for Ubuntu.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Mobile Platform Wars

We live in exciting times for mobile operating systems, like watching the birth and evolution of the desktop operating system we are now witnessing the same process take place on our mobile devices.  While for many the battle of mobile platforms seems to be a two horse race between Android(Google) and iOS(Apple) we are really just at the beginning of ensuing struggle for market dominance with two new mobile operating systems(Windows Phone 7 and Meego) scheduled to arrive within a year.  We are about to see 6 big players Android, iOS, Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry OS, WebOS and Meego fighting for your hard earned dollars.  Each one of these have huge industry players behind them so it's bound to be a tough fight.  Here is a list of major backers for each operating system, some of the biggest companies in the tech world.

Android: Google
iOS: Apple
Windows Phone 7: Microsoft
Meego: Intel and Nokia
Blackberry: RIM

While Nokia's Symbian still remains the clear market leader at 40% share globally, over double the size of the next biggest contender, Android at 17%, it is rapidly losing market share.  With Symbian^3 released earlier this year and Symbian^4 slated for release next year it's clear that Symbian will be around for a while on Nokia's low cost handsets. Despite the fact it doesn't get much press the market for cheaper "dumb phones" is still huge particularly in the developing world where demand for rugged, low cost, low power handsets still remains the dominant market force.  Nokia is now pinning  its hopes for a slice of the smartphone market on its partnership with Intel to create a range of Intel powered mobile devices running their newly developed OS Meego.  You won' be getting you're hands on a Meego handset any time soon though, possibly mid 2011 at the earliest.  Meego is also Intel's bid for a piece of the lucrative smartphone processor market which is currently dominated by ARM.

How many major players can the market for smartphones support?  At the moment there are really two markets for smartphones, the consumer market and the business market.  The consumer market is dominated by Android and iOS and the business market mainly by Blackberry and Windows CE.  It's difficult to say at the moment whether this two market situation will remain or if WP7 will bring in consumers or if Android can win over businesses.  The lacklustre response to RIM's latest flagship, the BlackBerry Torch, is a huge blow to RIM who, like Nokia, have fallen behind Android and iOS in terms of popularity, usability and features and are rapidly losing market share.  The desktop operating system market only manages to support 3 major players, Windows(Microsoft), OSX(Apple) and Linux(Mainly Ubuntu by Canonical and also various other Linux distros).  If it is fair to draw the comparison then someone is going to lose out and with so much money at stake failure will be disastrous for those involved.

The recent purchase of Palm by HP and the upcoming release of WebOS 2.0 means that we'll start seeing a bunch of new hardware hitting the market soon.  HP's plans to enter the consumer tablet market will mean we should start seeing WebOS tablets appearing in 2011 as well as a range of smarthpones.

Android and WP7 will also be vying for the affections of phone manufacturers given that they do not produce their own hardware but rather supply their OS to manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, Motorolla and more.  Depending on the reception that WP7 gets with consumers it could replace Android as the current favourite with both manufacturers and consumers.

Adding to this is the burgeoning market for tablets which opens up another battleground for the mobile OS market.  With the release of the iPad and a ton of Android and Windows 7 powered tablets and more on the way as well as RIM's announcement of it's new PlayBook things are just starting to heat up in the tablet world.

In the current App driven market there is also the need for any mobile platform to attract developers.  Each mobile OS needs to provide developers with a set of easy to use tools and a clear revenue stream like Google's Android Market and Apple's App store.  The ability to attract developers can make or break a mobile platform as consumers now expect the high degree of customisability and choice provided by having a huge pool of applications to choose from.  Can WP7 and Meego's new development environment be able to lure developers away from Android and iOS?  It's way too early to say but it's clear that winning the hearts and minds of developers will be critical to success.

Who will win?  It's far too early too tell but one things for sure, the next few years are going to be mighty interesting and critical to the future success of some of the biggest names in technology.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meego on HTC Desire, Nexus One and Dell Streak

If you've been following the development of Meego and are hanging out for some hardware to actually run the handset version on you might be in luck.  Some crafty guys have managed to get the Meego running on the HTC Desire, Dell Streak and Nexus  One using a modified version of the ARM based Nokia N900 ROM.  The project seems to be in its early stages and of course the Meego handset edition is nowhere near ready for prime time at the moment but if you're like me and you're dying to try it out without forking out for an N900 then things are looking promising.

You can read the juicy details over at the Meego wiki:

You can check out a video of Meego actually running on the HTC Desire below:

Video Source:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Installing Synergy in Meego

I love Meego on my Asus eee 1000HA and figured I would incorporate it into my work setup as a third screen for email etc.

The Meego home screen for those not familiar with it.

Obviously I wanted to be able to control everything from the same keyboard and mouse so I figured I would use one of my favourite apps - Synergy.  If you haven't used Synergy before check it out here.  It allows you to use a single keyboard and mouse to control several computers, great if you have multiple computers on your desk.

One of the great features is that it is cross platform and works with Linux, Windows and OSX.  As it turns out it is really simple to set up in Meego, just one line at the terminal in fact:

sudo yum install quicksynergy

FYI: to open the terminal in Meego go:
"applications" tab ->System->Terminal

This actually installed quicksynergy which includes a GUI for managing connections.  To start quicksynergy just type "quicksynergy" at the terminal or go:
"applications" tab ->Internet->QuickSynergy

The QuickSynergy UI running in Meego V1.0

If you are interested in running Meego you need to check your hardware compatibility first, a list of supported hardware is here.  As you'll notice it's a pretty short list, I'm using it on a Asus 1000HA
which is one of the few supported platforms.  If you do have the right hardware it's well worth checking out.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

XBMC ABC Australia, BBC, CBC and more Radio Plugin

**NOTE: this will no longer work in the latest releases of XBMC Dharma and is left here in case anyone is still running older versions

This is a simple plugin I wrote to access some of my favourite radio stations on XBMC. Currently supports ABC Australia, BBC, CBC, Deutsche Welle(English) and RRR Melbourne.

The Plugin can be downloaded here:

To install the plugin in XBMC simply unzip file above and then copy the folder into the appropriate XBMC plugin folder. For installation instructions for your particular platform(Linux, Windows, OSX, Live) see this post in the XBMC wiki.

You will need to place the plugin in your music plugins folder.

If you have any stations you want me to add leave a link to the stream in the comments and I will add it.

If you are into HTPCs I recommend checking out the Boxee Box.  It's released around Novemeber 2010 and looks freakin' sweet.

The Boxee Box by D-Link
You can pre-order them now on

ABC Australia XBMC Video Plugin

**NOTE: this will no longer work in the latest releases of XBMC Dharma and is left here in case anyone is still running older versions

This simple XBMC plugin allows you to watch ABC Australia shows in XBMC.

The plugin can be downloaded here:

To install the plugin in XBMC simply unzip file above and then copy the folder into the appropriate XBMC plugin folder. For installation instructions for your particular platform(Linux, Windows, OSX, Live) see this post in the XBMC wiki.

If you are using XBMC live you can just FTP in to copy the files across.

NOTE: Most shows will work from outside Australia but some streams are geo-locked(meaning they can't be watched outside of Australia)

Setting a static IP in XBMC Live

For those of you who are not familiar with XBMC I highly recommend checking it out. It started out as a mod for the original XBox and has since developed into a really nice, cross-platform(Linux, OSX, Windows) HTPC interface. XBMC has since spawned several successful variants such as Boxee and Plex.

Also on offer is XBMC Live which is a stripped down version of Ubuntu designed to just run XBMC and give your HTPC a nice set top box kind of feel, without having to deal with the underlying operating system. You can boot XBMC Live from CD, USB or do a HDD install for a permanent installation.

Up till now i have been running Ubuntu 10.04 UNR with XBMC installed but I figured I'd try out XBMC live because I liked the neatness of having an entire OS devoted to the single task I want to use the computer for. Also just for the hell of it, i love XBMC and trying out new operating systems.

There's a great guide to setting up your own XBMC box over at LifeHacker:

My conclusion: Pretty Damn Good!
I've only been using the new setup for a week so I'm going to hold back my verdict of "Totally Awesome" until I have done some more testing but so far - perfect!

If you're after a weekend project you'll be disappointed because the entire install took 20 minutes and everything worked flawlessly( at least on my acer Revo R1600). That includes all codecs and my cheap generic MCE remote with all the buttons working and mapped as they should be.

However one of the first things I wanted to do was set up a static IP for the box. In the current release you cannot do this via the XBMC interface(I believe this feature will be added soon) so it's time to get our hands dirty editing some files.

Step 1. Open a terminal
to do this click on the power icon in the bottom left hand corner of the XBMC interface then select "Close XBMC".

Step 2. Login and start X
you will be prompted for your username and password, you need to enter them to continue. After entering your login information succesfully run the command "startx". This will log you into a basic GUI running on Fluxbox.

Step 3. Edit your interfaces file
Right click anywhere on the Fluxbox desktop to bring up the main menu the select:
Applications->Terminal Emulators->XTerm

sudo xedit /etc/network/interfaces

the file will look something like this:

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet dhcp

you need to change it to look like this:

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static

Obviously substituting the example values with the values for you own network.

These settings relate to your network, if you're not sure what these are use the values listed below:

network 192.168.[whatever ip range you are using].0
broadcast 192.168.[whatever ip range you are using].255

After editing you can save and close the file, the static ip address is now set but there is one more step to go, you now need to set your DNS server so you can access sites etc by url.

Step 4. Set your DNS
run this command at the terminal:
sudo xedit /etc/resolv.conf

set the DNS server like so:


Now save and close the file.

NOTE: I have used the google DNS address ( you can put your own value here or just use

Now restart your machine and you should be good to go.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Insteon SmartLinc Review

One line Summary: Not Very Good

I've wanted to get into home automation for a while so I thought I would splash out on an Insteon Smartlinc Plugin Starter Kit, i figured it would be a good weekend project and for $200 i thought - why not? I was pretty disappointed to find out the device is poorly made and does not work as advertised.

First off despite being controlled via a web interface it cannot be accessed by any device running linux. Well actually it can be accessed but because of the bug the load times are intolerable, just to navigate to the button to turn off a light will involve about 2 minutes of loading. "How can that be?" you ask. Amazingly the device does not implement networking protocols correctly and was clearly under tested. Due to this bug it will not communicate properly over a network with any linux device. "Who cares? linux has a pretty small user base" I hear you thinking. Well, ever heard of a little operating system called Android? That's right this device WILL NOT WORK WITH ANDROID. Despite the description on SmartHome's website saying "direct communication via the Internet or Wi-Fi from an iPhone, iPod touch or any other Web-enabled PC, Phone or PDA". After talking to Insteon and SmartHome they are aware of the bug but have no plans to fix it(or update their product description). So if you are running android or linux do not buy this device.

You can check out a detailed assessment of the bug here.

The second huge problem with this device is that despite being a web device you can only(reliably) access it from one browser on one device at a time. Due to the incredibly shoddy design the mechanism for determining a devices's status(On or Off) will only work for one client at a time. That means for instance if you left your browser logged in at home and then go out or to another computer you have no way of know if you devices are on or off. Again Insteon and SmartHome are aware of this and have no plans to fix it(or mention it in the product description apparently, so it's a nice surprise for you after you spend the $200).

There are a bunch more bugs as well(ie. dimming does not work etc.) they have been outlined here.

So in conclusion: the device is poorly designed, tested and coded. It may work for your circumstances and setup but it certainly didn't for me and many others. I could not recommend anyone buying this device. If Insteon was actually going to fix the bugs with a firmware update I might change this opinion as the hardware seems like ok quality but as it stands the device is essentially useless for my needs - despite clearly stating it should work in the product description.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Detect when a user stops typing with jQuery

When writing forms I frequently find I need to do some of my validation server side(for example checking if a username is already taken) but want to have a responsive real-time field validation displayed to the user. Obviously this effect can be achieved using AJAX but if you want to validate while the user is typing sending an AJAX request on every keypress is a very inefficient way of doing things. It seems to me that a "onInputFinished" event is needed so that you can detect and take action when a user stops typing in an input field.

I had a bit of a google around and couldn't find an elegant solution for it so I decided to roll my own using jQuery. This simple jQuery script allow you to add the "onfinishinput" attribute to HTML input fields in the same way you would use normal onclick and onkeyup events.

you can check out a working example here:

Using the Script:
After including the script on your page you can use the new event like this:

<input type="text" onfinishinput="alert('You typed ' + input_field.val())" />

NOTE: instead of using "this" when referring to the element use "input_field" like the example above.

Installing the Script:
The script can be downloaded from here:

The script requires jQuery to function, the latest jQuery can be downloaded from here:

Just include the scripts on your page and you are ready to go.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Playing AVI MP3 DIVX and MP4 in Meego

I recently installed Meego V1.0 on my Asus eee 1000HA and I must say I am very pleased with it. One of the most obvious omissions from this release is the ability to play divx, avi, mp3 and mp4 files. I did some googling and managed to figure out how to do it but the process is rather long and involved so I decided to combine it all into a script so you can install or your codecs with one line at the terminal.

ASUS Eee PC 1000HA 10-Inch Netbook (1.6 GHz Intel ATOM N270 Processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, 10 GB E-Storage, XP Home, 6 Cell Battery)
One of the few bits of hardware fully supported by Meego.

Since the release of Meego 1.1 there have been some changes so there are now 2 different scripts.

*Note: because of all the compiling the script does it can take over an hour to run so I strongly advise connecting to AC power before running it.

For Meego 1.0
Download the script from here:

Now open a terminal and type:

chmod a+x ./divx1-0
sudo ./divx1-0

For Meego 1.1
Download the script from here:
Now open a terminal and type:

chmod a+x ./divx1-1
sudo ./divx1-1

*Note: you must first cd to the directory where you downloaded the file. ie. if it is in "Downloads" type "cd Downloads" first.

Now reboot(it wouldn't work for me until after a reboot)

This script is based on information found at:

Thanks to Eduardo Gonçalves for the advice on the 1.1 script.

Now you can enjoy your MP3's and AVI's on Meego.

You can also check out the thread about this on the Meego forums at:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

XBMC Web Remote Control for Android and iPhone

NOTE:  I have created a new version of the remote that has many more features and is compatible with the latest version of XBMC.  Go here for details.

**NOTE: this will no longer work in the latest releases of XBMC Dharma and is left here in case anyone is still running older versions.

For those of you who don't know XBMC it is Home Theatre PC software. What's that you ask? Basically it is software you can run on you computer when it is connected to your television to give you a nice TV and remote control friendly interface for watching movies and listening to music etc. One of the best things about XBMC is that it runs on Linux, Windows and OSX so you can bask in its awesomeness no matter what OS you run.

Unfortunately the current XBMC web interface doesn't really work too well on small touchscreens like those on Android and iPhone so I decided to go ahead and write my own.

This is the Beta version of what I am calling XMBC Web Remote(XBMC-WR). It uses XBMC's built in webserver so installing it is as easy as copying it to XBMC's web folder. The XBMC Web Remote allows you to easily browse, play and queue up music and video from your phone or other touchscreen device.

Some of the key features:
-Ability to browse your Music, Video and Picture libraries
-Queue up videos and music
-View video and music playlists
-Play, pause, volume, etc.
-Menu navigation buttons

The Main Menu screen:

Selecting a video:

Playback Controls:

Installation on Ubuntu:

Step 1 - Enable XBMC web interface
Open XBMC and from the main menu select "System" then "Network".
In the Network Settings menu select "Enable control of XBMC via HTTP".

Step 2 - Install XBMC Remote
Open a terminal and then run the following commands..


sudo unzip -d/usr/share/xbmc/web

Installation on Windows

Step 1 - Enable XBMC web interface
Open XBMC and from the main menu select "System" then "Network".
In the Network Settings menu select "Enable control of XBMC via HTTP".

Step 2 - Install XBMC Remote
Download and run the installer

Installation on OSX

Step 1 - Enable XBMC web interface
Open XBMC and from the main menu select "System" then "Network".
In the Network Settings menu select "Enable control of XBMC via HTTP".

Step 2 - Install XBMC Remote
I'm not sure where the XBMC install folder is in OSX, I don't have a Mac to test it on. You should be able to download the zip file here and extract it to the "web" folder in you XBMC installation directory. If someone could test this out and let me know I'd appreciate it.

To test that the install is working start XBMC if it is not already running. Next open a browser (preferably Chrome as animations etc will only work in webkit based browsers) and go to the address

*Note: this assumes you are using the default port 8080

To use the remote from your Android device or iPhone just open a browser and go to:

http://<the ip of your XBMC box>:8080/remote

Any feedback, comments and feature requests are welcome. It is still in Beta so if there is something you would like added let me know and I'll do my best to get it in the final version.

You can check out the XBMC forums thread about the web remote at:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blumpit Firefox Plugin for Touchscreens Review and Walkthrough

I recently tried out a rather nifty Firefox plugin called Blumpit which is designed specifically for touchscreen devices. Blumpit is currently in alpha so it is still a work in progress but the alpha release is relatively stable and functional. My inital thoughts on Blumpit: Almost Awesome! When I say awesome I mean not just the product, but the idea. The use of a Firefox plugin to achieve the end result(ease of browsing on a touch screen) is a very novel idea and also means cross-platform compatibility. When I say almost I mean the product is still in the alpha stage and is not yet considered finished so there are plenty of rough edges. If the Blumpit team can polish it up before the final release then they will have a very slick applic ation which offers a universal touchscreen browsing experience regardless of the OS platform(as long as it runs Firefox).

I think the best feature of Blumpit is the the on screen keyboard. It works well and appears automatically when you click a text input on a web page and slides back into the bottom of the screen when not needed. Another nice feature is the "Web Applications" screen which functions kind of like a desktop, with big glassy icons for all your favourite web apps.

I guess the niche I could see Blumpit filling is for use on convertible netbooks/laptops which combine both a keyboard and a swivel around touchscreen for use in tablet mode. If you are using a touchscreen only device you are probably better off using a touchscreen oriented operating system like Android. I'm using it with the Asus eee T91 and Blumpit provides a quick and easy way for me to switch from a full desktop operating system to a touch based interface without the need to reboot.

One feature that is quite obviously missing from the alpha version is touch screen scrolling, however this can be easily overcome by installing Grab and Drag plugin for Firefox. Another feature that is missing is multi-tabbed browsing which I sincerely hope will be coming in the 1.0 release. Autocomplete on the search box is also missing but will hopefully be in the next release too.