What does a webtech addict do when in a Tesla?

Tesla Model S infotainment panelWell, checking out the browser, off course!
I had the opportunity to ride along with a friend in his brand new Tesla yesterday. Great ride, but you know that already, so I checked out the browser and data connectivity obviously. I visited my own little “ip check” page and saw this in the logfile:

188.207.103.140 – – [05/Feb/2015:12:17:24 +0100] “GET /check_ip.php HTTP/1.1” 200 132 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux) AppleWebKit/534.34 (KHTML, like Gecko) QtCarBrowser Safari/534.34”

Breaking it down:

  • The free mobile data connectivity is provided by KPN (Base) in Belgium (and Holland, probably).
  • As per the useragent the car display runs on Linux (that little OS that could is really everywhere these days)
  • The browser is QtCarBrowser, which would obviously be built with QT and WebKit. Based on the WebKit version, one can deduct that the version of QT uses is 4.8. As such, QTCarBrowser seems very similar to QTWeb and might indeed be based on it. HTML5test.com rates QTWeb with 204/555, but Tesla’s QTCarBrowser result might still be different off couse.
  • The WebKit-version, 534.34, is pretty old and as such dates from mid 2011 (QT 4.8 was released in December 2011). This is close to the version that was used in Safari 5.1 (534.48.3).

I sure hope there are not too many vulnerabilities in those old version of of QT and WebKit, but one does not drive a Tesla to browse the internet, does one? 😉

Feeling the Ubuntu-upgrade pain

I upgraded my Samsung n135 netbook to Ubuntu 11.10 today and encountered some … issues:

  • The upgrade process didn’t disable the powersave schedule, which suspended my computer and the ongoing upgrade
  • After the upgrade (which took hours to complete), the screen flicker problem I already knew proved to have become worse, to the extend it rendered my system unusable. A blunt “rmmod samsung_laptop” stopped the flicker (actually powersaving trying to change the screen brightness).
  • While trying to install the “Linux On My Samsung” deb’s from the ppa:voria/ppa repository (which amongst ohter things contains the samsung_backlight kernel module that solves the flickering) I encountered serious networking issues which eventually proved not to be caused by the upgrade, but by dns-problems at my ISP. After changing my network config to use Google’s public DNS instead, I was able to install “Linux on My Samsung”-debs.

So here we are, working on what seems to be a stable, usable  “Oneiric Ocelot”, having learned some new stuff and having a couple of new gray hairs to prove it. And now: sleep!

Firefox 6 on Ubuntu Linux swapping like crazy

Firefox 6 got pushed on my Ubuntu 11.04 netbook as an update a couple of days ago and things were badly broken; memory usage was skyrocketing, the kswapd was eating almost all CPU and the system was pretty much in a continuous wait-state.
After some cursing and a lot of Scroogling, I finally stumbled across this blogpost which described the exact same problem and advised to set  “layers.acceleration.force-enabled” (which tries to force hardware acceleration, which isn’t supported on Linux by default) back to “false” in about:config. And indeed this small rollback solved my memory-woes. Guess I shouldn’t have dismissed that silly about:config warning message after all.
And while we’re on the subject; Firefox 7 should see substantial improvements in memory usage, yay!

Follow-up Friday: Ubuntu Unity, Android security & WordPress Stats

Just a couple of small updates on previous stories to keep you posted really.
We’ll start of with Ubuntu Natty Narwhal; beta 2 has been released earlier today. I’ve downloaded a lot of updated packages over the last few days, so I guess I’m on the second beta as well. The Unity launcher now comes out of hiding perfectly and it scrolls down automatically to show items at the bottom as well. There also was a bug with the menu-items of some applications (e.g. Firefox 4) disappearing which seems fixed. Hope they can get the launcher to behave with Java apps (e.g. my favorite mindmapping application) soon.
On another note: Lookout, the Android app that allows you to locate your handset and -if you have the paying version- remotely wipe it, seems to be getting some serious competition from …. Google. Enterprises who have Google Apps for Business can now locate, encrypt and wipe their Android devices. Especially the encryption is important news, but it really should be available and configurable in the Android OS itself
To finish off with some news about WordPress Stats secretive inclusion of Quantcast behavioral tracking: it seems like WordPress Stats plugin will be replaced by Automattics Jetpack, which according to the site:

supercharges your self‑hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com

Jetpack actually is a “super-plugin” that offers functionality from Stats, Sharedaddy, After the deadline and other previously separately available Automattic plugins. The Jetpack WordPress.com stats module does still include the Quantcast “spyware”, doesn’t disclose this feature and doesn’t provide functionality that warrants Quantcast inclusion (in spite of Matt Mullenweg claiming “We’ve been using Quantcast to get some additional information on uniques that it’s hard for us to calculate”). But there is (some) good news in the Jetpack Stats source code though, because on line 145 it reads:

‘do_not_track’ => true, // @todo

This could mean that blog-owners will one day be able to opt out of 3rd party tracking or it might be that Stats will take e.g. Firefox DNT-header into account for your blog’s visitors. Having both would off course be what I will be rooting for!

Happy conception-day Linux!

Although Linux 0.1 got released on August 26th 1991, Mashable already ran an anniversary-story yesterday. According to Wikipedia’s entry on the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds did start coding in April 1991, so one could argue today is as good a day as any to celebrate our favorite kernel’s conception!
My first memories of Linux date from 1995, when a friend introduced me to mp3’s, the Internet and Linux in one session of what seemed ûber-geekiness at that time. Although I bought the Infomagic 5-CD Linux Developer Resource some time after that, I didn’t do a lot of Linux (probably because I was too busy discovering the Internet) until 1996. That year, while working at a PC shop, I started co-administrating the belgonet.be Linux-server for the ISP-service the owner offered his customers. I learned a lot on that box, especially when “rm -rf”-ing /bin instead of ~/bin and later when the server got hacked because it was running an old vulnerable version of sshd. Good times!
In the late nineties I switched to Linux-based distributions for my personal desktop-pleasure, running Knoppix at first and installing Suse and Red Hat later on. When the Belgonet-server got decommissioned, I installed Gentoo on a spare desktop-machine at work and hooked it onto the internet as srv-ict-lxfgo.reference.be, hosting a couple of personal sites.
Nowadays I use Ubuntu on my netbook and Debian on my VPS-server. I’m not a hardcore sysadmin by any measure, but I know my way around a Linux-based system well enough to keep it up to date, secure and stable. And although Linux for the masses did not become a reality on the desktop (yet), Linux is a part of almost everyone’s life, with smartphones, wifi-routers and televisions running on the Linux kernel. So I guess 20 years of Linux does call for a celebration, even if “it is just a kernel“, no?

Unity launcher auto-hides in Natty Narwal

I just upgraded my Samsung n135 from Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition to Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narwal” beta 1 and I’m a happy man:

  • the Unity launcher now auto-hides, which is no luxury on a 1024X600 screen.
  • Mutter has been replace by Compiz, so no more crashes when adding an external monitor.
  • Compiz replacing Mutter also seems to have a (very) positive impact on windowing performance.

But this is beta 1, there are bound to be some bugs and especially the launcher isn’t perfect yet;

  • sometimes only half of Unity launcher appears when it comes out of hiding.
  • I couldn’t make the it scroll down to see the icons at the bottom.
  • And non Unity launcher-related: the screen sometimes flickers while the brightness seem to be auto-adjusting (which shouldn’t happen as there’s no light sensor in my netbook) UPDATE: this got even worse after upgrading to Ubuntu 11.10, but there is a solution

Anyway, beta 2 is expected April 14th and the final release should hit the web on the 28th. Looking forward to a Ubuntu that’s perfect for my teeny weeny netbook. I’m curious to see how Gnome3”s Shell will do in comparison!

Blij met oude brol en een toetsenbord

Aangezien ook dit jaar blijkbaar enkel de brave kindjes speelgoed van Sinterklaas kregen, heb ik mezelf afgelopen weekend dan maar een cadeautje gekocht; een n135 netbook van Samsung. Een beetje tegen de tablet-stroom in, ik weet het, maar ik ben zo tekst-georiënteerd. Geef mij een toetsenbord en ge hoort mij niet meer. En dan is er de kwestie van de prijs natuurlijk. Een 5 maand oud netbookje voor nog geen 200 Euro (met dank aan koopjeszoeker.be), daar hebt ge niet veel tablet voor, toch?
Soit, zondagnamiddag thuisgekomen pakte ik blij verrast mijn cadeautje uit om dan 5 minuten schaapachtig naar Windows 7 Starter te kijken. 2 minuten hadden kunnen volstaan, maar Windows 7 op een netbook, echt snel is dat toch niet. Maar zo wist ik dat ik Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition met een gerust hart kon installeren, die Windows zou ik niet missen. Over die installatie valt weinig spannends te vertellen, behalve misschien dat ik een beetje heb getwijfeld over de partitionering van de harde schijf. Uiteindelijk heb ik sda1 en sda2 laten staan, dat lijken de recovery-partities van Samsung (met oa de Windows 7 installatie-bestanden). Voor de rest: smooth sailing!
En op die manier zit ik nu op de trein met m’n netbookje (6 uur autonomie, geen schrik van vertragingen); stukje bloggen, m’n presentatie over website-performantie bijwerken, een eerste versie van een nieuwe WordPress-plugin (DoNotTrack) tweaken … Straks nog een mailtje naar Sinterklaas, beloven dat ik braaf zal zijn en of ik in Juli dan een HTC Desire Z (met toetsenbord) krijg.

Cross-platform cloud storage with Dropbox

When a good friend of mine bought a Sony Xperia X10 Mini Pro (that small dude does have a keyboard) and couldn’t find JungleDisk in the Android market, I went looking for alternatives (I had already looked into cloud-based storage/ backup back in 2007) and found Dropbox.
Dropbox is an Amazon S3-based cloud-storage solution with client software for just about every system, Android included. Moreover it offers an API for platforms or applications that need Dropbox access as well. The basic account (with 2Gb storage) is free (sign up here and I’ll get some more free storage thank-you-very-much), so I installed it on the Windows laptop at work, on my Linux “disktop” and on my HTC Hero and (at first sight) all seems to work exactly as advertised (free, easy, cross-platform).
And now that I have external storage that allows sharing files with anonymous users, I could offload some files from my own server? But more importantly; I really should look into reworking that old backup shell-script again (I’ll have to get dropboxd up and running first though). Or maybe I’ll just install WP Time Machine to automatically back up just this blog to my Dropbox-account?

Impatiently flashing my HTC Hero into shape

the new android recovery image menu in actionI’m an impatient man, so although I heard rumors that Mobistar might be testing the HTC Hero update (which is Belgium-specific, as the YouTube application has to be removed because of privacy law concerns), I decided to go the “less official” way and root and flash the darn thing myself. The process was pretty easy (thanks for the info Thomas & Serge), the outcome is great; my phone is a better Hero for it!
So suppose you’re as impatient as I am, suppose you don’t care that this may void your warranty, suppose you’re not scared of bricking your brand new toy, suppose you’re a not entirely technically ignorant, then you could follow these steps:

  1. Root your HTC: by using flashrec.apk to flash a new recovery image on your HTC as described here. If you get a “backup failed” error in step 10 as I did, you just need to power off and on and try again (the backup itself isn’t used anyway, that step is just needed to have flashrec allow you to continue).
  2. Upgrade your rooted HTC: from the new recovery image menu flash MoDaCo custom ROM v2.x (I installed 2.2, 2.3 was released a couple of hours ago) to your system as described here. And don’t forget to wipe before flashing as I did.
  3. Update to the latest radio package to version 63.18.55.06EU_6.35.06.18 from the recovery image menu (you should know the drill by this step) for optimal radio performance.

But you could also wait for the official update, off course …

HTC-dude, where’s my keyboard?

In spite of my almost religious view on the ideal mobile phone, I bought a HTC Hero last week.
But let there be no doubt; it’s a great handset! My Hero sports a beautiful touch-screen, a nice -albeit young- Linux-based OS and a top notch webkit-based browser (with Adobe Flash 10, a first for a mobile device). The price is considerably lower then that of an iPhone and the platform is very open (esp. if you  compare it to the golden cage Apple created for its ecosystem). I’ve installed several free apps from the Android Market and downloaded and installed a great AR-application from outside the Market without having to jailbreak anything (more on Android-apps in a later post).
But there’s one thing I really miss on my fancy device; a physical keyboard. Because as ancient as my Nokia e61i might have been, I really was more productive (as in “writing mails”) on it thanks to the (small) physical QWERTY-keyboard it sported. And while friends and colleagues assure me that I’ll get used to the virtual keyboard, and I’m sure things will indeed get better, we should not kid ourselves; nothing beats a real keyboard. Ever! So let the quest for a small compatible bluetooth keyboard begin!