Monday, July 31, 2006

Root Kit vs Sukhumvit... DIP Stick

I have just had an absoulte shock :O

Living in Thailand (particularly Bangkok) you get used to the fact that Copyright really means the right to copy stuff and that IP is more likely to mean Internet Protocol (although even that's a leap) rather than Intellectual Property.

I have just paid full price for three CD's of Thai artists distributed in Thailand.

The distributors are GMM Grammy and More Music.

Like a lot of people today I listen to music at work, this generally means MP3. Unlike most people I don't like to be bound to Windows Media Player (the evil empire) and often spend a lot of time on Linux (be it Ubuntu or SuSe) which don't have Windows Media Player [obviously!].

So imagine my surprise to go through my usual routine of using AudioGrabber to convert my purchases to MP3 so that I can listen at work from my hard drive or play on my MP3 player during the many hours I spend on planes and the less hours that I spend in the gym (more's the pity me) to find that here of all places they've resorted to using root kits.

Many people might not realise it but there is the DIP here, the Department of Intellectual Property, you can go to their "website" here. At first I thought the blank void was the usual Thai preference of a single browser (IE) but even using IE 6.0 doesn't change the professionalism of this website design.

I have often thought that if companies are committed to stopping piracy they should do more for thier end users:

  1. Lower the price point of the pucker product. I don't condone pirated goods but where is the economic logic in being able to watch a film on "DVD" for less money then it costs me to go to the cinema
  2. Films: keep them in the theatre longer. I get a two week window of opportunity to watch a blockbuster in Thailand. This is usually a hectic period where the cinemas are over full as everyone rushes to watch the film. If the two weeks is a period where I am out of the country on business I miss out. If the film is really popular I can never get a seat and I miss out. All round pretty poor planning on the part of the distributors.
  3. Music: why should I pay the full price for a CD of my favourite artists and only be able to listen to the music at home on my CD player. Many of the CD's don't play in the car and as can be seen from my latest experience I can't now listen at work either. To put it into perspective I am at work 10 to 11 hours per day. I am at home and free for maybe 1.5 to 2 hours in the evening. If they want to get serious then make it as easy as possible for me to enjoy my full price product.
All in all I'm pretty upset. Maybe next time I should head to Sukhumvit Raod and buy the (substantially) less than full price for a less than legal copy of the media. At least I would get to use it. But then that would be proliferating the piracy and encouraging the bad behaviour.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Unwiring Linux

I am a firm believer in Linux, or at least the idea of Linux. I have used Red Hat at work; I then favoured Ubuntu as an all in desktop with good server support as well. I have now installed SuSe 10.1 on my server at home.

All of these platforms have a common flaw, the lack of or at least the general lack of WiFi support.

Part of the problem is the slow adoption of WPA-PSK on Linux. Until very recently WEP was the only security (other than MAC address filtering) but this is old and so the move to WPA is essential if Linux is to move up to XP again.

Ubuntu Dapper and SuSe 10.1 are very good replacement desktops and I would easily jump across permanently if only we could solve the WiFi issue.

With SuSe the D-Link card I have is potentially supportable with Madwifi or Ndiswrapper. I couldn't get either to work at all. Then some more googling later I [finally] discovered that version C of the PCI card was not Atheros but Ralink. A quick trip to the site (via my laptop and trusty USB/SD stick) got me the driver make files. However the make didn't work.

This is also part of the problem with OS. The community aspect that is a strength (and nice to be part of) is also the biggest weakness. I found six postings on how to configure my card with SuSe, all of them were different and although I appreciate the time and effort people have taken to try and let others know all of them fall a part if it doesn't go exactly 100% as planned.

In the end I tried 4 out of 6 and none of them worked :(

I'm not completely techdense (TM) "the opposite of tech savvy" but while it's down to the user to build the drivers yourself WiFi; and in fact a lot of Linux, will remain the realm of the geek.

But.... there is hope on the horizon. Both Belkin and Linksys produce Wireless Ethernet bridge products that allow me to use the Ethernet interface on my Linux (or XBox, PS2, Tivo et al) hardware to wire to the bridge and then connect to my wireless network this way.

This bypasses the need for drivers and other software on my hardware, it's all on the network element.

So I've found the options, nominally, I am now faced with the usual challenge to try and find someone in Thailand or Singapore that can provide me with one.

If Linksys or Belkin are listening I am more than willing to help you distribute these products to fill a big gap in the OpenSource and home user market in Thailand.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Web 2.0 in action

or should that be using Web 2.0 to get some action.

Damien Mulley has laid it all out in his 11 step guide to "using google to find girls and get laid", you can find it here.

Typically the early adopters of new technology has been the porn industry, I have had to mask by country location in Skype as I was getting random connect requests from less than desirables.

Damien has a very scary insight on how you can use the array of free tools and move from networking to neckworking the Google way.

Flash ahaa...The save-ier of the universe

Flash memory has been dominated by two things of recent times:

  1. Capacity goes up
  2. Price goes down
We now have a 4Gb SD card, that's the same size as a DVD and how well were they lauded when they arrived?

There are prototypes that use magnetic charge (like a traditional hard drive) opposed to the [volatile] electric charge.

But what does this really mean?

It means that we are very close to having a non moving part PC. The average size of a hard drive in a laptop today is somewhere between 20 and 40 Gb (although this is trending up) so imagine being able to have 10 such SD cards creating a logical drive. This would take up much less space than a normal hard drive and would give the ability to swap out parts of the storage.

Think of it as SD raid.

Friday, July 21, 2006

One small step for Maemo.....One giant leap for Maemo users

Not long after Nokia announced it's plans to release a non-phone I was keeping my eye on the project.

Living in neither the UK or US I haven't been able to buy one yet but a good friend did buy one whilst on a trip in November.

I played with it for a bit as was mostly disappointed. The screen is amazingly clear but there was limited functionality and the WiFi connection was clunky and unreliable.

Now with the release and installation of Maemo 2.0 the tablet has really come into it's own. The connection is far more reliable and the new range of applications makes it a truly useful piece of hardware rather than just a play thing.

The inclusion of Gizmo for 770 is a nice addition and the ability to use GoogleTalk would now give me a full range of communication options.

Even when outside the range of a WiFi hot-spot with a suitable phone (something like the E60, which I am still waiting to buy) I can pair it up and use the GPRS connection over a bluetooth bridge to stay connected.

Two things now need to happy:

  1. We need to get a headset profile so I can use my bluetooth headset for VoIP
  2. I need to find a Telco in Thailand that can give me a large buffet of GPRS, my current provider (DTAC) has the closest name to DATA of all the Thai Telco's yet their Data policy is almost non-existent
Next time I go back to the UK or find myself in the US I think the little device has evolved far enough to warrant the price :)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Why IT Departments should allow Skype...Your Network Sniffer

I've been having frequent problems with my ADSL connections recently. I have the same provider both at home and at work.

On both connections I get intermittent; seemingly random, outages on the pipe. The service provider has a "help desk" that are typical in Telco environments and IT Companies you know the routine:

  • restart your computer
  • check the cables
  • restart your modem
  • "are you sure you've got the password right? is caps lock on?"
Anyway the problem at home was initially a broken modem after 4 months of use and the problem at work was initially a broken splitter after about 2 weeks of use :(

Anyway getting to the point (finally), how did I know there was a problem with the network in the first place? not just the usual random web page not available (aka someone's turned the server off)

I knew because my trusty network sniffer couldn't find a way out; what is the sniffer I hear you ask?

The answer is Skype!

Wherever I am, inside or outside of a firewall, I know if there is at least one way out to the internet if I see this in the bottom right hand corner
Due to the way that Skype transits the network, generally speaking if it can't create a connection then this means that there isn't one.

If IT departments allowed people to install Skype they would empower the user to alert them very early to a broken network connection. The other benefit, for me, is that inside the firewall I can't use Yahoo or MSN messenger. Again Skype comes up trumps for me as I can use Skype Chat. A big up for Google as well as due to the way that GoogleTalk, a jabber based IM opposed to SIP, is integrated with Gmail I can also use their IM as well.

I'm sure it's a coincidence that both SIP IM's can't get out but Jabber and the Skype propiretary IM's can.

So you know you've got network problems when you see this guy

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

IM Mobile

Or should that be I am mobile, I never was very good at grammar.

I have been made aware of Mxit recently. I downloaded it onto my phone to have a play.

Mxit is an Instant Messaging platform for small clients, handsets, that connects you to your list of online contacts in your messenger of choice through GPRS or CDMA (3G) networks.

The interface is good considering the size of the phone screen and pretty intuitive to use. It could certainly become popular here with some minor tweaking. Localization would be a plus for the app to make it easy for non-English speakers to use the service.

One of the things I like about it is the ability it gives me to see across many IM's who is available. I use YIM and MSN and more and more I am using GoogleTalk as me network starts to move into the Googlesphere. In windows world this generally means many IM clients, Mxit acts as a mobile IM aggregator.

Agile is also out there but not an option for me as it doesn't support GoogleTalk. The list seems to be a SIP service so 'snaps' to Mxit for getting jabber support into their client :)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Loki Planet Guide

The mighty Om thinks that WiFi location based services will be the next kickstart in the industry.

I agree that this could be the killer app, the SMS of WiFi/Max, that could really be a key integration point for Muni nets, FON networks and the newest WiFi enabled handsets.

He mentions Loki so I went off to have a quick look. It seems pretty interesting and it made me revisit a previous idea for book readers. Combining LBS with a brand like The Lonely Planet would be a pretty powerful partnership; apply the whole thing in a PDA or some other WiFi enabled device that makes book reading easy (something like Nokia's 770) and you have your own tour guide in your pocket that is as close to being smart as you can get. It will be able to know which country you're in and allow you to subscribe to the guide for that country, or mini-guide for that city. Once walking around the LBS granularity would enable a smart book mark to move you to the section of the guide for where you are.

I think the possibilities for LBS are good and an already think of some of the players that would be smart to start looking into it. As a bit of a Starbucks addict it would be good to know where the nearest branch is, hospitals, dentists, Police Stations would be another good use for the service.

Some years back a pilot was launched in Cambridge, UK that provided LBS service based on GSM cell sites for trinagulation. It was limited to a map for shopping and the limiting factor was the size of the screen on the handset. Many of those limitations are diminishing with big screen mobiles, PDA's and rotating screen orientation (such as the Nokia E60) make this a real choice in today's digital community.