Tag Archive: Technology


So, as a fan of retro computers, I’m always looking for ways to expand my collection (See the Museum part of this site), and recently started looking at an area of my collection that was missing something: The Atari ST.

I managed to pick up an Atari 1040 STF fairly quickly, but the lack of modulator meant that getting anything other than Hi Res, which works on modern VGA monitors with an appropriate cable, was a pain.

So I resolved to try and get my hands on an STFM model in order to plug that gap.

A non working 520 STFM with good casework came up cheap on eBay, and I though if I could get it running again, then that would suffice, and if not, then it would hopefully yield some useful casework.

Well, I couldn’t bring it back to life, but it did yield a reasonable case, keyboard, PSU and newer TOS roms for the 1040 STF, plus the mainboard may yet be saleable as parts only, as it looks like some of the bits are in reasonable condition, and in fact somebody with greater electronics skills than I may yet be able to ressurect it.

An unexpected bonus was to find installed a Marpet 2MB ram upgrade kit, which will go with the mainboard and PSU as things I can resell to reduce the cost of Project ‘E’.

So, I determined to get a working mainboard to go into my case, and was surprised to find an STE mainboard, with PSU and 1 meg of RAM installed, and all the metal shielding, for just £26.99 plus a very reasonable £7 postage.

A few queries later, I was satisifed it was a runner, and purchased the board before somebody else could beat me to it!!

The idea of Project ‘E’ was thus born, to turn an STFM into an STE, and I awaited the arrival of the new components, which arrived on the 23rd of December, just 4 days after purchase, and quite amazing given the Christmas post!

So, I sat down with my 520 STFM case, and worked out just what would be required in order to slot the STE mainboard in.

As it happens, only 2 minor mods were needed.

1. 2x holes for the audio output.

2. The removal of a plastic lip that supports the cartridge slot.

First off was the 2x new holes for audio out.

As the picture shows, the centres line up vertically with the outside edges of the power switch slot, and horizontally with the modulator hole (At the very bottom of the picture), which is about the same size.

I marked the centres, drilling out both holes, then filing to allow a phono plug to connect properly with no interference.

Next was the lip. The next picture shows the lip beforehand, indicated by the yellow box.

With the case bare, I used a set of side cutters to remove the bulk of the lip, then filed the remainder off flat with the base of the case as below.

With both mods done, the STE board was able to slot into the STFM case, and I was able to reassemble and successfully test the machine.

The difference is visible above, with a metal tongue from the shielding supporting the cartridge slot, rather than the plastic lip on the case.

All in all about an hours work from start to fully assembled working machine.

STE fans will note that I haven’t mentioned a case mod to allow access to the STEs two additional joystick ports, found at the front left of the machine.

Well, that may come later, but since I have no intention of using them, it seemed like a lot of work to mod the case to do so, hence, for now at least, they are going to stay neatly hidden.

Interestingly, the case appears to have slight marks in the moulding that appear to indicate where the hole should be cut, which suggests to me that these, or at least some sort of other port, was intended there, and that it was catered for when the case moulds were made.

Thats my retro fun for the day, happy modding everybody 🙂

 

So, storm on Monday, there’s a power outage. Everything important is on a UPS, and though it did expire due to the length of the outage, everything seemed to survive and powered up ok.

I have a Netgear ReadyNAS Duo that I use for some storage and file backups, and normally my backup software burps, because it loses its connectivity to the ReadyNAS, and this seemed to be the case, so I did my usual tweaks to fix it, and walked away.

Unbeknownst to me, the usual tweaks hadn’t worked, because it wasn’t the usual problem! The ReadyNAS now won’t recognise either drive and I am running R-Linux for Windows to scan the drive and recover, and at the moment it looks hopeful, and I at least have a mirrored array to drop the files onto for now, but it’s a major pain in the rear!

R-Linux can be found here: R-Linux for anybody in the same boat, and I will update once I have the results, but having a wierdy file system is not one of the best features of the ReadyNAS Duo, it has to be said!

Update number 1

It’s looking good so far for R-Linux 🙂

It found about the right amount of data in my ReadyNAS disk, and is currently in the process of restoring it for me.

TBH if certain files can’t be recovered, it really isn’t the end of the world, as long as the main stuff can be dragged back kicking and screaming!

I guess my next update will be tomorrow.

Update number 2

Happy days, all data recovered. I just need to work out whats up with the ReadyNAS now!

Update number 3

So, ReadyNAS is back on line, but a factory reset was required. I’m certain I have a config backup somewhere, but I’m thinking a clean fresh setup is the way to go, so best to just crack on. Don’t you just hate it when hardware crashes that badly! Damn storm.

On the positive side, it’ll give me an opportunity to have a clean up of all the crap I kept on there!!

So, I just saw that Samsung has released UK pricing for it’s Gear smartwatch, and I have to say, I think they are bonkers.

At £299, it really is a gadget too far, especially since it will only work with other Samsung devices. At £100, it might have worked, but that really is just way too expensive.

Samsung, get your head in order, and make the price something that real people can afford, and stop being bonkers!!

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So, I got my first Arduino board, a UNO, on Friday (Thanks Etang Electronics via eBay), costing a smidge under a tenner.

Today was the first time I had to play with it, and the results were good. The free IDE software, downloaded from the main Arduino site here: Arduino on the web is simple and easy to use, and getting my first program uploaded and running was extremely easy.

As a first shot, I simply took some example code from the site, and modified to do my bidding.

The goal was to make the onboard LED flash ‘SOS’, wait 4 seconds, and repeat. My code is below, as it’s good to share 🙂

Go get an Arduino folks, and make stuff, the number of sensors etc is AMAZING! I can see me spending some time with it in the not too distant future.

/*
Blink
Turns on an LED on for one second, then off for one second, repeatedly.

This example code is in the public domain.
*/

// Pin 13 has an LED connected on most Arduino boards.
// give it a name:
int led = 13;

// the setup routine runs once when you press reset:
void setup() {
// initialize the digital pin as an output.
pinMode(led, OUTPUT);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
}

// the loop routine runs over and over again forever:
void loop() {
//Signalling SOS with on-board LED
//First S
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(500);               // wait for a half second before moving on to O
//Then O
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(1000);               // wait for a second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(1000);               // wait for a second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(1000);               // wait for a second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(1000);               // wait for a second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(1000);               // wait for a second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(500);               // wait for a half second before moving on to the last S
//Finally S again
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(4000);               // wait for 4 seconds before looping again
}

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I have been with 3 in the UK for a long time now, probably going on 8 or 9 years, and I’ll be honest, my signay at home was ‘ok’, but not great, though usable.

Then for a while, we started to lose signal entirely (I say we, as my wife is also with them), to begin with, over the weekends, then during the week, the signal would just be poor, two bars if you’re lucky.

I’d heard from a friend that 3 offered signal boosters that were connected to your broadband, so I decided to call them and see what was on offer.

It took some prodding, and more than one call to speak to the right people, but I was eventually told that I was in a known area. It arrived a fiew days later for bad signal, and that they would offer me a Home Signal device for free. The normal cost if you just ask for one is £130!!.

However, due to the known signal issues, mine would be free. It arrived a few days later, and is the simplest set up you could wish for.

You fit the supplied SIM card in the bottom, plug it into your broadband, and power it up. Aside from telling 3 which numbers will use it (Up to 32 per home address), which you do via a website, that really is it.

We now have full signal, in and around the house, and never miss a call or text.

If you’re in the same boat, I’d advise you to call 3 and see if you’re eligible for one of these helpful little boxes. (Yes, they are really quite small).

3HSignalThere is a post script to this, in that mine started flashing a red warning light at me over the last few days. The problem? Simple fix, remove the SIM card, clean the contacts, and put it back in and reboot 🙂 Happy days!

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I have had an Untangle appliance for some years now, guarding my network from the internet at large. I like to share things like this 🙂

The great thing is, that there is a free version of this prebuilt security appliance that everybody can use, and it really is very easy to set up.

You can download it from here: http://www.untangle.com/ as an ISO file, that you can then burn to CD/DVD and use as installation media.

My original Untangle server was running on an HP DL360 G2, which was more than up to the job from a hardware perspective.

Originally, I used my BT firewall with the Untangle device in bridge mode, but recently I have removed the BT device since moving to BT Infifnity, since Untangle supports PPPOE.

This turned it into Router mode, and has greatly enhanced my security, since the Untangle firewall has a superior firewall to the BT device, let alone the configuration is easier and more flexible.

You can find the differences between Bridge and Router mode here: http://www.untangle.com/untangle/how-to-deploy under step 3.

Untangle also adds a whole host of other features, such as virus scanning, spam ans spyware scanners, ad blockers, so it really does give you a much better patform to control access to/from your network.

As well as recently moving to Router mode, I also retired my HP DL360 G2, on account of noise, heat and electricity consumption. It’s been replaced by a laptop. Yes, you heard right, a laptop.

So, not only have I now upgraded to the 64 Bit version of Untangle, it runs very nicely on a dual core 1.8GHz laptop with 4 GB RAM, a nice side effect being the fact it now has it’s own built in UPS, being a laptop 🙂

The only thing I needed was a second NIC, for which I was able to get a new Cardbus adapter off Ebay for the princely sum of £5.

The whole process was quick too. It took about an hour or so to install Untangle fresh, and then import the settings from the old server.

I really can’t recommend it enough, especially if you have some spare hardware around that meets the minimum spec.

So, go and untangle yourselves folks!

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So, it’s been a while now since I updated to Jelly Bean, and also since the enforced factory reset due to the fact that things just weren’t quite right after the update.

The factory reset really was the charm though, as everything is running beatifully now, and the battery life is nothing short of amazing compared to before.

What I have noticed though, is that my Nexus 7 doesn’t seem to suffer in the same manner as my One X or Galaxy S2 (Work phone).

It has now had 2 or 3 updates with no factory reset rquired, so that does beg the question ‘Do skinned versions of Android have an update issue?’.

I’d certainly like to know, so if there is anybody out there who has a vanilla Android device, has found a factory reset is needed for updates, please comment!

Otherwise it has got me wondering if my next phone will be an unadulterated Google device. Don’t get me wrong, I love HTC Sense to bits (Touchwiz, not so much), but if it means I have to do a factory reset for each an every update that comes through, I won’t be too happy.

My S2 did just get an update to Jelly Bean, and so far seems fine without a reset, but I’m keeping an eye on it. Maybe It’s just the main version updates that need it, who knows.

For now though, happy bunny, lets just wait to see what the next update brings.

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So, I’m not generally known for my rants about Apple, but more and more I am beginning to think they have turned a corner down a very dark road.

Many years ago, when I first got into IT, Apple was the radical, different company, whose tech was the preferred tool of writers, artists, musicians and the like, and in a world where computers and computing was generally biege, they stood out as being different, and we loved them for it.

So what’s changed? Well whilst nobody was looking, Apple decided that they should become Global Super MegaCorp no1, and have slowly and insidiously become like all the other major corporations, only with much, much more money in the kitty.

It seems to be the Apple mantra now, to obliviate (Harry Potter ref there) all other companies using their fantastical industrial design and their huge piles of cash.

This just isn’t the Apple of old, and I’m wondering how long it will be before people start to notice.

IMHO, Apple has become a money grabbing patent troll, that has lost its way in the pursuit of greed and global domination.

Rant over, but to me it’s a shame that special something they had has vanished behind a pile of cash, a briefcase full of patents and more biege.

I just checked for updated firmware for my One X, and was surprised to see there was an update waiting.

It was large, weighing in at 165 megs, but downloaded quickly over wifi, and was installed in about 5 minutes.

Android is now at 4.0.4, and Sense is at 4.1 and the software number is 2.17.771.3, which seems to be a big jump past the last version. I’ll be interested to see what sort of a difference it is makes to the phone overall.

So I’ve had the updates a few days now and wanted to make a note of what I’ve seen so far.

Visually, it looks much the same. HTC Sense always was a nice UI, even before the update, but now it seems even smoother and just that little bit slicker, and there is something I can’t quite put my finger on with the visual quality, but it seems, well, nicer.

The biggest improvement I noticed was the battery life, which overall seems to have improved hugely, and is not dissimilar to my work Galaxy S2, which is also running ICS, albeit 4.0.3. Considering the extra CPU power in the One X, this is a good thing.

Another area where battery life seems to have improved is gaming. I take full advantage of the Tegra 3 chipset and run games like Max Payne, Dead Trigger, GTA III, ME Infiltrator, Dead Space and Shadowgun.

These used to make for a very low battery, and a very hot phone, but after the last update, these things seem to have improved immensely.

So far I haven’t any other info about this latest ICS incarnation, but as and when I do, I’ll post it here.

Update your phone now, and enjoy the bonus battery life 🙂

Well, my new batteries are fitted and my UPS seems to be happy again, which is good since we seem to be approaching power cut/brownout time round our way.

Just this morning the power went of and on again 3 times within about 30 seconds, so I’ve had to go around resetting clocks and things.

Still, main UPS is now good and all my other machines have their own UPSs back in place. Power cuts, bring it on!

Well, I ordered my new batteries on the 23rd July, hoping to have them before going on holiday.

Well, no such luck, they never arrived. To the credit of MDS Battery though, as soon as I contacted them, they wen’t off and found they’d been lost by the carrier.

That was yesterday (12th July), and today my battery pack arrived. Hopefully tonight I’ll be able to get my main UPS back on line again and put back the UPS on my wife’s PC.

So, after a bit of investigation, looks like dead batteries. MDS Battery, my favoured source for these things is quoting about £32 plus delivery, so it look like I’d better get my hand in my pocket again. Bah Humbug……

Hmm, not a happy bunny. Sat working on a customers laptop this afternoon, just reassembling, when suddenly there’s a ‘thunk’ and my office goes quiet.

Basically my main UPS just shut off and wouldn’t power on again. Luckily, I have two spare smaller ones, now pressed into service, so everything is back up again, but what a pain had it happened any time other than the weekend. I’m feeling lucky to be honest.

Anyway, bed time now, up in under 7 hours for the 60 mile trek to where I’m currently working. I can look at what’s wrong with my UPS tomorrow. I bet it’s dead batteries, as I’ve just had to replace 2 others in my spare units. Merde!

Intel has introduced a new 22nm chip, codenamed Knights Corner. They will apparently run alongside each other in HPC systems. 22nm sounds pretty small, but when you consider that 1nm is between 2 and 22 or so atoms (Depending on the atoms used), it’s still quite big on an atomic scale.

It does make me wonder how soon we will be reaching 10 or less nanometers, and how getting so close to atomic sizes will have an effect in the quantum scale of things.

How soon will we get that small I wonder, especially since the first transistors have been made out of individual atoms.