February 27, 2006

Clever way of earning money with free software

Just found a quite clever way of producing free software without starving in poverty. On DonationCoder.com they are offering some quite clever little tools (like the tiny FindRun Robot) for free download yet encouraging the user to donate any amount of money.

They do this by just requiring a free license to open the software for 6 months. After this time another 6-month license is required. Finally after a year of free use the user can get an unlimited license for free again. On the other side if you donate even the smallest amount of money you can get the unlimited license and many other benefits instantly, forever.

I like this concept and it again throws me into thinking of creating a PayPal account for such small things.

Other things which already have pushed my mind into this directions are for example my favourite webcomic, Dominic Deegan, where you get a nice desktop wallpaper each month for as little as 1$ or many of those little or not-so-little OpenSource software things which I use all the time.

Meeting tips

Whew, a bunch of tabs displaying pages containing tips and instructions for meetings and communication have accumulated in my open browsers.

To finally be able to close the tabs:

Also I found a link to an online book about getting your own startup company running without much investment. Read Go It Alone!.

Taking over responsibility

This week I had the chance to take over a bit of my managers responsibilities. He's been abroad and I had to manage some ongoing local work.

I think I did my job not that bad, perhaps in the future I'll get some more chances to proove my competence.

What aided me quite well was my usage of a TiddlyWiki enhanced with some plugins from TiddlyTools and Simon Baird's MonkeyPirate TiddlyWiki TagglyTagging plugins.

Nice stuff.

February 20, 2006

Hacking the router

I've been playing some more with my router. For my experiments I used the latest firmware version, 3.01.25. It took me quite a bit of brain-mangling until I found out that I didn't need to create a completely new kernel as I interpreted the line

2. Make custom modifications to source code and compile.

in the README file in the Netgear firmware image. (I really tried hard to compile the kernel and in the end I've been successful but more on that later) Instead it's enough to continue with item #3, changing to root and unpack the target image directory. Then it's possible to just put the newly compiled binary which was created in the way described in all the other DG834-hacking pages into the right place in the target directory, recreate the image and upload it to the router. That's it. I've already managed to make my HelloWorld permanent on the router.

But it's not possible to create a completely new kernel the same way.

To create a new kernel I had to cruise around quite some obstacles:

  • The toolchain from Linksys contains gcc 3.3 (all versions of the toolchain even the old ones) but the kernel requires an old one. Something like 2.95.3. You can compile standalone applications for the router but it's useless for a selfmade kernel
  • I just found one reference to the right compiler toolset for the kernel but I've lost the link, sorry. Nevertheless, the toolset needed for compiling the kernel is here. Put the directory 'opt/hardhat/previewkit/mips/fp_le/bin' into your PATH
  • Somewhere during the creation-process there is an error with 7zip. It's in the tools-directory of the netgear-source, put that directory into your PATH
  • Some of the compiler toolset binaries require a shared lib named 'libbfd' in version 2.11.90, it can be found here. Just download the file and put it somewhere in your LD_LIBRARY_PATH

If these prerequisites are met, it's possible to compile and generate a own kernel. Run 'make menuconfig' and save and then just 'make dep ram_zimage_pad'.

I think the new kernel has to be merged somehow into the router image and the checksum re-created but I didn't try that yet. So no new kernel so far just home-brewn software. But that's plenty of room to play for now.

The next thing will be to update the busybox on the router. I just have to decide what commands I need in there...

Spam insanity

It's a bit weird but since our company has upgraded their anti-spam applications on the mailservers I'm receiving even more spam than before and this time there are some which even slip my until-now-perfect Thunderbird junk mail filtering.

But I guess it'll only take a few mails until the my filter has adapted the new appearance of this spam.

February 9, 2006

The worlds first oil-free economy

On the Guardian there is an article about how Sweden plans to be the world's first oil-free economy.

It's interesting to read that people from all parts of the society want to cure Sweden from its oil-dependency by around 2020. This really means that everything which today needs oil for generating its energy, be it heating or electricity, should be turned around to use renewable energy sources.

This change has to happen mentally and technically and if Sweden succeeds with that it'll be the worlds leading country which has an economy totally independend of oil price changes.

As much as I wish that my country would participate more in that direction I doubt that politicans will change their thoughts anywhere in the near future. Nevertheless I think that this will be a wakeup call for some people and countries which can't be bad for anyone of us.

February 8, 2006

Linux and broadband progress

Yesterday I accomplished several steps which allow me to produce customized software for the wireless router I purchased last week.

At first I managed to install a Knoppix on my Laptop and enabled WLAN connection to the router.

Installing Knoppix was easy but on the first try I made the mistake and tried to update it with current versions of all packages. BIG mistake, the installation was rendered almost useless, ending up in a state of continuous restarting the X11 Window system. Had to reinstall again.

The next step was to enable WLAN connection which was everything but trivial because the connection is made through a PCMCIA card without a clear product name. An FCC ID Search returned the senseless name of an unknown company deep in China. Great. And the PCMCIA-tools could only fetch empty strings from the card, so no luck on that side either.

Well, I had to get help from brother WindowsXP on the other partition which had working WLAN. And there inside the drivers description a chipset Identifier showed up: RT8180L. So I had a no-name-card from Realtek with the RTL8180L chipset. They even provide drivers for Linux with 2.4 and 2.6 Kernel on their homepage, yeah! ... Until you recognize, that those only work with Fedora.

But I wasn't defeated: I had heard of a project which utilizes Windows-drivers for establishing network connections with unsupported cards in Linux. NdisWrapper. Luckilly it's already included in Knoppix, so no installation hassle there. Downloaded the latest drivers from Realtek, unpacked and installed them with ndiswrapper and rebooted. The interface was finally accepted, altough it couldn't establish a connection because I secured the wireless network with WPA and a passphrase.

For that I generated a configuration file in /etc/wpa_configuration.conf containing the output from wpa_passphrase and some custom settings (see the ndiswrapper-wiki for this). Then I added a few lines to the wlan0 interface which I added to /etc/network/interfaces manually before (using almost the same setup as for eth1):

auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
pre-up /usr/sbin/wpa_supplicant -Dndiswrapper -iwlan0 -c/etc/wpa_supplicant.conf -Bw
post-down killall -q wpa_supplicant

With these settings, WLAN access works without problems for me.

Later then I managed to run my first self-compiled "Hello World" application on the router using different tools and packages I already picked up for this thing all over the internet. But since this post is already that long I'll save that for later.

MacGyver Returns - A Narrow Escape

Yes, he's back. But just for an ad. Nevertheless it's a commercial spot which was aired during the Super Bowl.

In it much of the old times MacGyver spirit comes back to life. The hero of my younger years.

I found that news over at robokeek.com and after that went on to priceless.com to watch the actual commercial and some interviews and behind-the-scenes stuff.

It's now also up on Google Video along with all other Super Bowl Commercials. For some other locations, see this Lifehacker post. Some of them are funny too, for example the Bud Light beer commercials.

February 4, 2006

Broadband arrived

Yeah, finally. Last Thursday my broadband order was delivered.

Set it up using the ADSL-modem which was delivered three days earlier with some slight problems. The problems arised because I don't like to start those "wizard" setup tools which are bundled with every providers connection and install crap all over the system. So I had to manually set up some things but the modem refused to work because it had no templates(?) installed. Had to fire up the providers setup-tool but canceled execution after it had the missing templates transfered. Strange stuff.

Well nevertheless. Yesterday I purchased a Netgear DG834G ADSL modem and wireless router and installed it instead of the providers modem. Worked completely flawlessly and I was online with the new hardware within minutes.

Later in the evening I upgraded the firmware on the router from version 2.10.22 to 3.01.25, which I found on Netgears DG834v2 Support Download Page.

And since it runs embedded Linux and the source is availabe I'm looking forward to hack the crap out of it.