Sunday, February 27, 2011

WM8505 (VT8500, WM85xx) hacking timeline

I've got my hands on cheap WM8505-based Android tablet, figuring out how open to hacking it is, as usual, the information is fragmented and outdated, so I'm going to try and compile timeline:
    git repos:

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Ubuntu, somebody's favorite Linux-based distribution

    Well, to get into the hype, I've installed Ubuntu 10.10 on new Asus X34F. Here's floating post what tweaks I did to get it into shape.

    First note about all those "Herons" and "Lucids". Who said word-based versions are better than number-based? Words are better than numbers when they have meaning, and that's not the case with version numbers. So, as my mind is not going to waste its cycle on remember that stuff for some more time yet, note to myself: 10.10 == Maverick.

    • -Replace dark-strange-buttons-god-knows-where default theme with Clearlooks. And don't even let me start about wallpaper...
    • Fix suspend issue due to usb host module (give link to forum)
    • Make mc stop pretending it's running on 50-years old tty and do Esc key well.
    • Get bitmap fonts to be available for selection: remove /etc/fonts/conf.d/70-no-bitmaps.conf symlink which rules them out, and instead link 70-force-bitmaps.conf (yes, there's 70-yes-bitmaps.conf, but who wants to check if they'll listen if asked politely, granted that they managed to disable classy fonts at all).
    • Set nice bitmap font for Gnome Terminal, because you don't want to file your eyes with anti-aliased vector novelties on a color background. We need classical "Fixed" font from X11's package fonts-misc-misc. For reference, one of font files is /usr/share/fonts/X11/misc/10x20.pcf.gz . When selecting this font for console, make sure to try different sizes: there's some weird substitution for some of them - instead of nice-looking sans-serif there's serif popping up. "Fixed 16" what worked here on X34F (same real size is "Fixed 20" on nx9420/Gentoo, probably because of different dpi or something).
    • Uncommented net/ipv4/ip_forward=1  in /etc/ufw/sysctl.conf
    • NO FIREWALL AFTER DEFAULT INSTALL?! : "By default UFW is enabled but all ports are left open (otherwise there would be no Internet access following installation)." It's only on Ubuntu "not all ports open" means "no Internet access". They've got to learn that ports may be incoming and outgoing. Set incoming to Denied.
    • Anyway, figured out masquerading. It's a shame it cannot be configured by simple rule and in GUI. It's outdated to think masquerading is only needed for router box, nowadays it's needed to give net access for sart devices, virtual machines, etc. The problem I had was that even after setting up masquerading per Ubuntu guide, I couldn't ping google. Well, the VM used physical Ubuntu box as DNS, so I had to add rule to enable incoming port 53.
    • Where's my hibernate?

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Xara Open Source - Sleeping Beauty

     You just can't imagine what fairytale may happen in the industry, while you just do common things like hacking, building, and debugging... Anyway, as any fairytale, it started long time ago. I first saw a demo of Xara Studio when CPUs were 100MHz and Windows just turned 95. Don't hold your breath - software was better those days, but not really magic, so you've got to recognize and remember when you see a miracle. Xara, a vector graphics editor, was exactly such miracle. CorelDRAW the Third was king of the hill those times, which ruled without inspiration, though did its job. Well, Xara brought real fresh spirit into the area of graphics design - not only it brought anti-aliasing support, it was also real-time. And there was streamlined and logical UI and set of advanced graphics tools, like blending shapes - also realtime.

    So, Xara showed that you can do great software if you like, to stand out of the crowd and make a difference. I remember it since then. And today I found out that Xara was open-sourced! "They must be crazy to have done that" - was first thought which occured to me when I saw the site. But this is fairytale, remember, and evil sourcerers must have kept me in parallel world - it turned that happened long ago, the first wave of commercial companies opening up their projects, and it had been dead few years by now, and epithaph written. So, they weren't mad after all, they didn't open up their low-level graphics lib which on 100MHz behaved better than Adobe Flash does now on 4-core 2GHz CPU. And community guys were too lazy to port it to multitude of other graphics engines, so project's dead.

    But what amazes me is that open-source site is up and nicely running, docs are there, etc. just timestamps are old. And mailing lists are quiet. And the temple is full of ancient scrolls suggesting checking if SVN works by telneting to a port. Hush, this is fairytale. It's all working, it's not dead, it's sleeping. Sleeping Beauty.

    So, apparently, as the site is running smooth, the company apparently does well. I checked Wikipedia - they do, and keep amaze their users (content-based bitmap resizing is what I saw with a corner of my eye). I don't know how to treat this case. I can't say "better they wouldn't have opened it up". I can't say "they must have opened up their gfx lib". It's not the case that everything should be open, and such applied software as Xara clearly should bring its owners a direct value. So, I better be amazed by Xara and its creators for the second time, it's nice to know they have tried. Not only they tried - they did it. I installed  it on Ubuntu and it looks and works great, even though it's not maintained much any longer (well, there's Ununtu developers' merit to that too).

    What amazed me is that, even though I tried, I found no attempts to resurrect it. Well, I found this, but it didn't get much beyond changing a preference dir name. It also used some ancient systems like SVN and imported some history-less archives. Well-well. I'm finishing git svn clone now, to push to gitorious, for git be more comfortable bed for the sleep...

    UPDATE 2012-10: There's revived project to port Xara to Cairo:

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    Hacking Osram NightLux

    Ok, this blog had "DIY" included on reload, so here's a bit of it. (By "DIY" I mean hardwarish hacking, real-world directed mostly.)

    For smarthoming purposes, I wanted to stick around my apartment LED motion-activated lights. Because it sucks to push the buttons of course. My requirements were: 1) LED; 2) motion-activated; 3) light-activated (works only at night); 4) thresholds adjustable; 5) battery-powered, so worked on power outages; 6) actually, accumulator-powered with builtin charger for technology to serve me, not me serving technology. Alas, as usual, it's "choose 2 of 3" thing. The best I could find were Osram's NightLux and SpyLux. The first one is floodlight-like, the second is flashlight-like. Well, they don't have builtin charger and - worst - don't have adjust knobs! The only control they have is off-10s delay-60s delay-always on.

    And the light sensor threshold is actually pretty high - not facing a window, it starts to light just on cloudy weather. So, I went inside to see if knobs are there - no. What a shame for otherwise great product! But I found that light sensor actually looks into plastic covers, only slightly lighted by nearby PIR window. So, the hack for 1st NightLux was purely mechanical - I cut with my Dremel-like plastic inside which shadowed sensor. It helped. But I had to put it near the ceiling directly facing the bulb, because when it hanged on a fridge it still turned on couple of times until eco-bulb warmed up.

    Well, I want to put the 2nd one in the hallway, where there's no direct window light at all. I could try drilling cover and exposing sensor, but have doubts such bad aesthetics would still help. So, I've set for real hardware hack this time, even if risking to brick it. The idea is to identify type of light sensor (photo-diod, photo-transistor, etc.) and resistor which passes current from it, then use old trick to either gently file it to increase resistance, or short-circuit with something to decrease.

    I looked at the board more closely - it has small chip, marked M7616. Well, I am lucky, it's not custom one, datasheets are available.

    (to be continued)

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011