Reality Check October 2007

Right now there’s darkness outside my window. It is in the middle of the night and this is my prime hacking time, when the rest of the family are all sound asleep.

The three first days of nursing Rex full time has been gentle, as he’s been his very happy himself and we’ve had some great weather allowing walks outdoors and visits to the nearby playgrounds etc. Also, Rex’s two naps per day (totaling at around 3-4 hours) does allow for some personal time as well, so I manage to read my mails and even do occasional commits during the days.

Things will get rougher when the days go darker, colder and wetter. Or when Rex is getting more cranky and similar. But I’m optimistic.

Keeping up with IRC like I can when I’m sitting in front of my computer all day at work isn’t really possible and the no commuting will prevent me from keeping up with the podcasts I used to listen to, but those are no biggies to overcome. I quite like not having to go anywhere particular in the morning and thus not have to “travel” home again in the later afternoon.

Instead, I’ve fixed bugs and worked in several patches to curl and c-ares and I’ve even been able to submit blog posts at a decent pace.

Chinese Cool-looking Fake iPhone

I’m quite impressed by what these Chinese cloners can produce.

As can be seen on this youtube video, there’s a nice typo on the boot-up screen (“tPhone”) and it does use the Windows startup sound(!), but it is an otherwise pretty decent-looking clone.

As for someone who’s never seen a real iPhone, just seeing them on shabby youtube videos certainly gives the impression that this fake is pretty similar to the original one. Even functionality wise. Apparently this one even supports MMS and works with any SIM card…

Now, it’s less than two weeks till I’ll go to China… 🙂

Preparing for China

I’m going to China for a week in October. I have a few things I feel I better figure out while I’m there, including:

  1. Exactly how evil is the internet censorship and filtering for ordinary tourists such as me. A laptop and some network tools should be enough to tell, as the hotel boasts free internet access…
  2. Time zone stuff. China has a single time zone for the entire country, which by itself is fascinating for such a huge area. And when looking at a time zoneChinese Sign for monkey map, you can see that the country picked a time zone that is the equivalent of western Australia, which seems to be a lot of sense for the east coast of China. So, the western parts of China are terribly off. The question is: do the people ignore the time and follow the light, or do they obey the time and spend parts of the lives in more darkness than what they otherwise would? If you go north/south at the eastern and western edges of China, you’ll end up in time zones that are five hours apart!
  3. Chinese typing is with glyphs; some tens of thousands of different ones. In a Chinese dictionary, like a Chinese to English one, how do they sort the Chinese words? I mean, glyphs just have got to be very hard to sort in a logical manner?! Or how do they find the words?

Zunes, New Zunes and Hacking it

Microsoft (New) Zune Microsoft hasn’t given in yet it seems, as they announced their updated Zunes yesterday. They’re available as 4 or 8GB flash and a 80GB hdd version, and these ones are claimed to play more movie formats (like h.264 and MPEG-4) and they actually seem to be capable of using the wifi for things like syncing music etc.

The zune music is also said to go DRM-free… All in all, I’d say they seem to really make an effort to be a serious iPod alternative.

Anyway, there hasn’t of course been any serious dissect of these new Zunes yet but given how their earlier models were made it seems unlikely that they will attract any larger crowds of eager hackers. They also seem to have applied a fair amount of cryptography, another Apple-like approach, so it is hard to put a replacement firmware on it.

The guys in the Zune Linux project have really no clues about what hacking these things require, and their early chatter on deciding what logo to use and what “distro” to base their work on have just been hilarious jokes. I don’t expect this new set of models to change this situation in any significant way.

I’m not aware of any known skilled (Rockbox) hacker having a go at Zune. The old Zune models are however quite similar (but not identical) hardware wise to the Toshiba Gigabeat S models, for which there is a Rockbox port in the works (as I’ve mentioned before).

Analog TV is sooo 1990

Yeah, you losers out there in the rest of the world: we no longer do analog terrestrial TV broadcasting in Sweden. At October 15 2007 the last parts of Sweden go DVB-T.

(Yes, some dinosaurs are said to still get analog TV over their cable networks but I’m sure they will be extinct soon enough..)

Sagem 64140TThe upsides with DVB for a casual TV user such as myself, is the built-in standard EPG and the fact that the time is sent to allow “terminals” to sync and stay accurate easily. It would be even better if the Swedish broadcasters would a) send program data for more days ahead than what they currently do (currently they only provide roughly 48 hours ahead) b) fill in more details in the meta data about the programs – right now a film or a TV show can be explained as “American movie” or “drama” with no further explanation.

BTW, a little side-note. In my house-hold we switched to digital early this spring with the Stockholm area switched off analog and not long after the switch I one day noticed how my EPG would show all the Swedish åäö letters in a funny way (and my box uses the name of the show for recorded files so they ended up looking funny as well). It looked exactly like they were UTF-8 encoded suddenly – but assumed a more regular character set like iso8859-1 or similar. I filed a bug report to Teracom, and I don’t know if I had any impact at all but in a day or two the bug was gone.

Rockbox on iAudio 7

Cowon iAudio 7We’re slowly building a team and effort in the Rockbox project to make a port to the Cowon iAudio 7 player.

It’s a 60 gram 4/8/16 GB flash player with a 1.3″ 160×128 TFT LCD, FM tuner, Telechips TCC771 MCU and a bunch of chips familiar to us from other existing Rockbox ports.

TMM already bricked his first player…

Update: this entry does not allow comments anymore. Go to the Rockbox forums to continue!

Hacked not Voided

The other day while I was browsing the endless stream of pointless articles about iPhone this and iPhone that, I fell over this slashdot article that mentioned the US Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act which basically says that a company cannot void a warranty just because the user has tampered with its software if the company cannot prove that the alternative software is to blame for the failure.Lots of Rockbox Targets

Of course I’m not a lawyer or even in the US, but it certainly seems to be something that should apply for quite a few Rockbox users who have feared returning broken units to manufacturers with the Rockbox installation left intact. (Both Archos and iriver are known to have refused to service such players – but I guess neither of those cases actually were in the US with US customers.)

It does however require that there is an existing written warranty in the first place.

And then I figure the struggle for a mere single human being to fight against one of these companies claiming that Rockbox isn’t to blame could be more than just a little intimidating and probably just won’t happen…

Movie Trailers by MMS

When I took the PendeltÃ¥get train home from work today, I couldn’t help noticing a big ad for some new Swedish upcoming film, displayed on the wall of the car. The ad wasn’t particularly interesting by itself, but I found the offer “SMS this word to this number and you’ll get a three minute trailer for the movie sent back to you as an MMS” shown on the ad a really cool idea.

I was tempted to do it just to try out the technology, but while I pondered about actually doing it I reached my station and I went off and forgot all about it…

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