Archive for July 2008

KDE 4.1 is now available for general use. This first major update to KDE 4 brings the KDE PIM suite, various Plasma improvements, and many other features. Plasma can now replace the KDE 3 shell for most casual users. Indeed, the whole KDE 4 can now replace KDE 3, as it’s gotten so polished.

Get it while it’s hot! Packages are already available for various distributions such as Kubuntu.

The performance issues with NVidia’s proprietary driver still exist, however. Engineers at NVidia are aware of this problem, but they have not yet issued a fix.

KDE 4.1.1 is due on September 3rd, and KDE 4.2 will arrive at the end of January next year.

Since it takes so long for me to install new software every time I reinstall, I figured that I’d create a metapackage that pulls in all the software I need. After I’ve done that, I was thinking, “what about setting up a repository too?” It’s not necessary, since dpkg is sufficient for working with metapackages, but somehow working with apt-get feels cleaner. I’ll be putting other packages up as well that may be of public interest.

A new HAL was recently released that allowed MadWifi to support the AR5007/AR2425 devices by Atheros. Last month, there were still some hiccups with the code, but it seems smooth enough for general consumption now. The new driver supports both 32-bit and 64-bit environments, unlike the older 32-bit-only hack. As a bonus, I successfully patched the code for injection.

The commands required to checkout, patch, build, and install the driver are rather simple. I’m posting it here both as a note to myself and for public benefit.

Read on »

Word is on the street that motherboard manufacturer Foxconn was sabotaging its BIOS to break Linux ACPI support. While Foxconn claims ACPI-compliance, its motherboards only work with select versions of Windows. When used with non-Windows operating systems such as Linux, ACPI-related activities caused the system to crash or freeze. Ubuntu Forums member TheAlmightyCthulhu disassembled his BIOS for clues, and was horrified at what he found.

Read on »

I was designing a photo album viewer for a Jalbum user and ended up with iAlbum. It’s basically just a PHP script that crawls through a bunch of images in an album-oriented directory structure, generates thumbnails, and presents the images using a lightbox.

Originally, the script generated one thumbnail per image. The result loaded quite slowly, and the thumbnails appeared out of order in the browser. After I switched to using CSS sprites, the thumbnails loaded much faster and were displayed all at the same time. The first time an album is viewed, a strip of thumbnails is generated for it and cached. After that, the cached version is sent to the browser (there’s an option to regenerate the thumbnail should the album change). I was worried that clustering all the thumbnails into one long strip would be too much for PHP to handle, but it turned out to be pretty fast even for an album with a couple of hundred images.

During the project, I encountered Lytebox, an excellent lightbox implementation that does not depend on any of the bulky libraries the way the other implementations did. After minifying and gzipping, the script weighed in at only 5.7kb. I left the CSS alone for an additional 5.7kb, but it would have been about 1kb gzipped.

To celebrate Timex’s 150th anniversary, Timex and Core77 ran a contest to design a concept watch. In the year 2154, one would be able to tell the time simply by looking at one’s thumb. While this design is a runner-up in the event, the idea is pretty fresh.

The disposable device is designed to be clipped to the wearers thumbnail. Pressing the tip of the nail would activate a luminescent time display.

The disposable device is designed to be clipped to the wearer's thumbnail. Pressing the tip of the nail would activate a luminescent time display.

[via: CNET] [winners] [nail watch]

SQLite is a wonderful flatfile database system that’s just gaining exposure in the PHP-programming population. For moderately-sized databases, SQLite offers speed and performance gains over even MySQL. The native object-oriented interface is also very easy to use.

Because SQLite is a relatively new player in the PHP arena, there is currently a serious shortage of good administration tools targeting it. While MySQL has phpMyAdmin and a bunch of other tools, SQLite is left on the side.

phpLiterAdmin is a new opensource PHP-SQLite administration tool that shows great promise. Although its author currently has more experience with MySQL, he is a skilled PHP developer who is capable of undertaking substantial projects. This project’s on my watch-list.

A pair of Firefox themes appeared not long ago that look truly magnificent (in my opinion) on a KDE 4 desktop. The Oxygen theme blends well with KDE 4 icon-wise with its Oxygen artwork. The Kde4 + Firefox3 theme focuses on the colors and styles rather than the icons. I ended up going with the latter because of its holistic approach to desktop integration.

Have a look at these smooth themes, and stop complaining that Firefox is too GTK-like:
[Oxygen] [Kde4 + Firefox3]

I got a $10 OmniTech flexible keyboard at Staples yesterday. It’s a funny little device that can be rolled up and packed away, while still being fully functional. At first glance, it’s just a regular USB keyboard with a silicone coat instead of a hard plastic shell. Further inspection through the translucent silicone confirmed that the innards were, indeed, identical to those of a regular keyboard. It consists of two flexible circuit boards overlayed over each other. Each layer has a different pattern of traces, and each keypress occurs at a unique junction to connect the circuits.

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After having dug to a depth of 10 yards last year, New York scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 100 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the New Yorkers, in the weeks that followed, Michigan scientists dug to a depth of 20 yards, and shortly after, headlines in the Higgins Times newspaper read: “Michigan archaeologists have found traces of 200 year old copper wire and have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network a hundred years earlier than the New Yorkers.”

One week later, “The Baxter Bulletin” in South Carolina reported the following: “After digging as deep as 30 yards in a corn field near Mtn. Home, Bubba Johnson, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing. Bubba has therefore concluded that 300 years ago, South Carolina had already gone wireless.”

found here, a variation of this.