Archive for ‘February, 2009’

Linux Server-in-a-Plug is here…..only $100

datePosted on 18:40, February 24th, 2009 by Many Ayromlou

Marvell Semiconductors is now shipping their SheevaPlug linux machines. Little tiny Linux boxes the size of a plugin adapter. The SheevaPlug draws about 5 Watts of power, comes with Linux, and boasts completely open hardware and software designs.

At $100 the platform is available in single quantities, and is priced within reach of students, hobbyists, and tinkerers. This looks like the perfect embeded platform for all sorts of stuff. Think home automation, security monitoring, ultra low powered file servers, ad-hoc mini clusters, not to mention robots and such …..there is no end to it.

Its hardware design is completely open — everything from schematics to Gerber files will be available on a marvell’s website — and ARM ports of several popular Linux distributions are already running, and included. More importantly, Marvell has committed to do everything it can to ensure the best Linux support for SheevaPlug going forward.

The $100 SheevaPlug development platform and Plug Computer designs are built around the Marvell 88F6000, or “Kirkwood” SoC, which was introduced last year. The Plug Computer is based on the high-end 88F6281 version of the Kirkwood, with a Sheeva CPU core clocked to 1.2GHz. The Sheeva core combines elements of Marvell’s earlier Feroceon and XScale architectures, both of which implemented ARM Ltd.’s ARMv5 architecture, similar to ARM Ltd.’s own “ARM9” cores.

The SheevaPlug Plug Computer is further equipped with 512MB of DRAM and 512MB of flash. The tiny embedded PC also includes gigabit Ethernet and USB 2.0 ports. One early product based on the design is listed as measuring 4.0 x 2.5 x 2.0 inches. Plugging directly into a standard wall socket, the Plug Computer draws less than five watts under normal operation, compared to 25-100 watts for a PC being used as a home server, claims Marvell.

Early supporters of the SheevaPlug Plug Computer design include the following companies, each with links to their respective websites:

  • Cloud Engines Pogoplug — The Pogoplug enables remote viewing of external storage devices via a web browser. The device connects to an external hard drive or memory stick via USB, and to a router via gigabit Ethernet, says Cloud Engines. The 4.0 x 2.5 x 2.0-inch device plugs directly into a wall socket, and enables remote uploading of multimedia, including access from an Apple iPhone. Regularly $100, it is now available for pre-order at a special price of $80, says the company.
  • Ctera Networks CloudPlug — This Plug Computer device converts any USB drive into a NAS device, and provides secure offsite backup, says Ctera. The CloudPlug is aimed primarily at service provider OEMs that want to offer online backup services to consumers and small businesses. Equipped with gigabit Ethernet and USB 2.0 ports, the device offers features including automatic and secure online backup, and data snapshot restore, says the company.
  • Axentra HipServ — Axentra has ported its home media server application to the SheevaPlug platform, providing applications for storing, managing, sharing, viewing, or listening to digital media content remotely over the web or across a home network, says the company. HipServ for SheevaPlug is said to enable connection to third-party services such as online backup and photo print apps, as well as social networking sites like Facebook and Flickr. Recently upgraded to HipServ 2.0, the software is built on Red Hat Linux Enterprise, and is said to support UPnP-AV, DLNA, WMC, and iTunes media standards.
  • Eyecon Technologies Eyecon — This “media companion” application enables remote mobile users, including iPhone users, to discover content from sources including the Internet, DVRs, PCs, and NAS devices. The Eyecon software can then direct the media files to any connected device in the home, says the company.


Sugar interface on a USB stick…..

datePosted on 23:25, February 18th, 2009 by Many Ayromlou

Thanks to Sugar Labs you can now have your Ubuntu 8.10 or Fedora 10 linux distributions with sugar on it…..Shweet :-).  Yep you heard right, go here and grab your OLPC XO inspired 1GB USB stick image and boot all those old PC’s into sugar. According to Walter Bender (the creator of Sugar OS) a new version dubbed Sucrose 0.84 is on its way soon. Complete article (including interview with Mr. Bender) is over at XConomy.

How to get Admin rights in OSX Leopard using single user mode…

datePosted on 23:11, February 18th, 2009 by Many Ayromlou

Here is a quick way to gain access to that leopard machine you don’t remember the admin password to. Yes I know this can be used by all the kiddies out there, but lets hope they are smarter than that. To start, reboot the machine into single user mode by holding down command-s before the chime (on the white screen with gray apple logo). Once in single user mode you need to mount the HD in read-write mode using the following commands:
/sbin/fsck -fy
/sbin/mount -uw /

Then we need to start the directory services by issuing the following:
launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/
First thing we need to do is to create the new userid (I call it newadminusername, you can use whatever you want). It is important to assign the user a Realname (which is the long name under OSX), a UID in 5xx range (I use 599 in this example) and assign the user to group 80 (which is the admin group):
dscl . create /Users/newadminusername
dscl . create /Users/newadminusername RealName “Test Admin User”
dscl . create /Users/newadminusername UniqueID 599
dscl . create /Users/newadminusername PrimaryGroupID 80

Next we need to use the dscl command to make our newadminusername part of the admin group in open directory using the following command:
dscl . append /Groups/admin GroupMembership newadminusername
To check and make sure it worked lets look at the list of users in the admin group using the following command:
dscl . read /Users/newadminusername
and make sure newadminusername is setup correctly.
dscl . read /Groups/admin
and make sure newadminusername is listed as part of this group. The output of the commands on my machine for my test userid “tester” (I chose tester as my “newuseradmin”):
Brain:~ root# dscl . read /Groups/admin
AppleMetaNodeLocation: /Local/Default
GroupMembership: root mayromlou tester
Password: *
PrimaryGroupID: 80
RealName: Administrators
RecordName: admin
RecordType: dsRecTypeStandard:Groups
SMBSID: S-1-5-32-544
Brain:~ root# dscl . read /Users/tester
AppleMetaNodeLocation: /Local/Default
AuthenticationAuthority: ;ShadowHash; ;Kerberosv5;;tester@LKDC:SHA1.532A60C783871C50CE0DAF911171860F528DE20F;LKDC:SHA1.532A60C783871C50CE0DAF911171860F528DE20F;
GeneratedUID: A248AE2D-DCA4-41AF-B3C9-91F96CB42091
Password: ********
PrimaryGroupID: 80
Test User
RecordName: tester
RecordType: dsRecTypeStandard:Users
UniqueID: 599

If everything is good to go reset the users password:
passwd newadminusername
Reboot by typing reboot from the command line. You can now use your newadminusername to login and admin the machine. Once you’ve got access back to the machine through your regular account, you might want to undo all the stuff we have done above (just to keep things neat and tidy). If you decide to do that, reboot into single user mode again by holding down command-s before the chime (on the white screen with gray apple logo). Once in single user mode you need to mount the HD in read-write mode using the following commands:
/sbin/fsck -fy
/sbin/mount -uw /

Then we need to start the directory services by issuing the following:
launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/
Then we need to undo all the steps we did above to create the newadminusername ID. That can be done simply by issuing the following commands:
dscl . delete /Groups/admin GroupMembership newadminusername
dscl . delete /Users/newadminusername

That’s it…..You’re done……

LaserTouch….Multitouch using a projection TV and Lasers….

datePosted on 22:52, February 18th, 2009 by Many Ayromlou

Yep you heard right….freaking lasers…..yummy. These guys have managed to turn a rear-projection TV into a multitouch surface using IR lasers. Absolutely fantastic as it (using lasers) makes the whole design a lot simpler and gets rid of the the tracking problems associated with regular IR LED based tables and ambient IR light. Although the original laser idea comes from gang, stuffing everything inside a 16″ deep tv is a nice touch :-).

Below is a good rundown of the pros and cons of this setup vs. FTIR:


  • Excellent tracking results, even with lots of ambient IR light.
  • Zero-force: Feels very natural to work with.
  • Comparatively easy to build.
  • Comparatively cheap to build.
  • Comparatively fast to build.


  • Already “sees” the finger slightly before it touches the surface (since the laser light plane extends to about a millimeter above the surface).
  • It is very sensitive.
  • Availability of infrared lasers*
  • Lasers are dangerous for the eyes.
  • Potential problems with occlusion.

*As long as you are careful with the lasers, your eyes will be safe: Just accidentally looking into the laser for a second won’t do any harm, it’s just that you shouldn’t stare into them for long. However, since the infrared lasers also emit a bit of (red) light in the visible spectrum, you’ll notice immediately when you’re looking into a laser by accident, so you can turn your head away. It’s really nothing to worry about too much, but it’s most definitely not an ideal setup if you want to work with children, for example!

Their blog page outlines everything…..and I mean everything.

3D scanning for cheap(er)…..

datePosted on 22:25, February 18th, 2009 by Many Ayromlou

Well 3D scanning is coming within reach, slowly but surely. 3d3solutions announced their FlexScan3D solution that uses a simple projector and an SLR type digital camera to create a 3d mesh.

Using one or two digital cameras and a white light (presentation) projector FlexScan3D will scan a wide range of objects, faces, and body parts quickly and accurately.

The projector or laser puts reference patterns on to the scan target to aid accurate digitalization. The scene is captured using a camera or video camera. FlexScan3D’s 3D triangulation engine takes these images and creates millions of measurements of the scene. The process to acquire the data needed to create a 3D model is then completed in seconds.

FlexScan3D software is offered in 3 different packages: FlexScan3D Single, FlexScan3D Duo, and FlexScan Complete. Cost ranges from $999 to $1499 for the Complete.

Duplicate your Ubuntu Installation….

datePosted on 13:55, February 18th, 2009 by Many Ayromlou

As good as Ubuntu (and linux) are in general, once in a while you just get to a point where you need a reinstall. That’s when the realization kicks in that you’ve got far too many packages installed since the initial Ubuntu install. It’s okay, there is a way out. Make sure you have a USB key.

On Ubuntu Workstation (with graphical interface):

Run Synaptic package manager. Once inside Synaptic, go to File/Save Markings As menu option and choose a filename and location (USB stick). MAKE SURE YOU ALSO CHECK THE BOX “SAVE FULL STATE, NOT ONLY CHANGES”. This will save a text file that contains every single package installed on your system (through apt system and all it’s variants….manual compile/installs are something else). Now you can go ahead and reinstall the machine and configure your repositories. Once the machine is up and running again, load up Synaptic and go to File/Read Markings and point it at the file you saved on the USB stick and press Apply.

This will start a download process that will set the machine up (as far as installed packages are concerned) just like it used to be. Configurations need to be done manually, but atleast you get all your packages back.

This is also super handy if you’re duping identical systems. Remember that you can not do this to upgrade from one version to another. This is strictly for “Restoring” installed software packages from the same version of Ubuntu.

On Ubuntu Server (command line):

First we need to create a list of all the installed APT packages and configurations and save them:
sudo dpkg --get-selections > /tmp/dpkglist.txt
sudo debconf-get-selections > /tmp/debconfsel.txt

Copy the files from /tmp to your USB stick or save them somewhere else.

Now reinstall the OS, copy your backed up debconfsel.txt and dpkglist.txt file to your fresh system’s /tmp directory and execute the following:
sudo dselect update
sudo debconf-set-selections < /tmp/debconfsel.txt
sudo dpkg --set-selections < /tmp/dpkglist.txt
sudo apt-get -y update
sudo apt-get dselect-upgrade

Don’t worry! This method only adds and upgrades packages, it will not remove packages that do not exist in the list.

We also covered aptoncd program which basically does the same thing (it’s a extra install). Last but not least to make a costum Ubuntu install CD/DVD you want to check out our entry on Reconstructor.

Disk for Iphone….Turn your IPhone (IpodTouch) into a portable HD.

datePosted on 13:48, February 13th, 2009 by Many Ayromlou

MacFUSE project has grown a lot since we last covered it here and here. MacFuse 2.0 is here and it’s looking really nice. MacFUSE is the mac implementation of FUSE (File-system in USEr space) filesystem originally developed for Linux. For those of you who’ve not heard of this gem before, MacFUSE allows you to extend Mac OS X’s native file handling capabilities via 3rd-party file systems. Pretty much anything that has some order to it can be turned (viewed as) into a filesystem (ie: sshfs, youtubefs). As a user, installing the MacFUSE software package will let you use any 3rd-party file system written atop MacFUSE.

Disk for iPhone is a MacFUSE based filesystem that allows you to read and write files on your iPhone. It uses the MobileDevice API (like iTunes) to access the filesystem of the iPhone over USB. You need to install MacFuse base system on your machine first and then grab Disk for iPhone module.

Well, it didn’t take long for the observant Luke Hutchison to figure it out….It’s all there in the system class files. For all the details check out Luke’s page. Here is the teaser video:

Would you like your PC over IP?

datePosted on 13:13, February 10th, 2009 by Many Ayromlou

Imagine if you could hide your 16 Core, Quad GPU, Nitro burning gaming PC in the closet in the basement. What if you could build the next University lab where all the highpowered CAD workstations where humming away in the machine room and you could actually “teach” in a quite classroom/lab. Fill in the rest of the scenarios yourself. The next wave in thin client computing is here and it’s name is Teradici. They don’t really make a end user product (they just make the custom compression chipsets), but companies like Leadtek have end user products on the market now.

Integration of Teradici‘s PCoIP remote enterprise desktop technology in Leadtek‘s WinFast VP200 enables delivery of a high-definition graphic and multimedia experience across standard IP networks, unmatched by any thin client on the market today. For $800 per link, $400 on each side of the link, Teradici provides a PC-over-IP host card, to be embedded into the host unit (most likely a workstation), and a desktop portal, a device slightly bigger than a hardcover book, equipped with a Teradici processor chip, 4 USB ports, and an HD audio output, and dual DVI outputs. The desktop portal and the host unit are linked via LAN, WAN, or a wireless network, allowing the user to communicate with the back-end PC.

The WinFast VP 200 system includes a WinFast VP200H host PCI Express card and a WinFast VP200P desktop portal. The Host Card allows you to centralize your computing in a data center as an add-in solution to your existing Workstation, Rack Mount, or Blade Server to secure all data and computers; On the desktop, a stateless device called a Portal connects over a standard enterprise IP network to the Host Card, eliminating heat, noise, and clutter at the end user’s desk for a comfortable working environment.


WinterCity ’09 – Pi-Leau by Close-Act

datePosted on 17:37, February 1st, 2009 by Many Ayromlou

Dutch street theatre troupe, Close-Act, transformed Nathan Phillips Square into a mythical under-water world that floats high above the audience. I had a chance to see the show twice (Friday and Saturday Night) and have to admit…..It was amazing.


Themes of global warming and environmental struggles were evident, but at its heart this is a story of forbidden love that combines theatre, music, fire, dance and incredible props. It will be here for another two shows next weekend, so if you live in Toronto (or are visiting), definitely drop by City Hall and check out the show. It’s about 1 hour and well worth it.