Back again

Well, that was a short trip. It rained every day I was in Seattle, most of them continuously. Thursday was mostly fine, so I hired a car with a friend and drove down to Mt Rainier only to discover that it was closed due to flooding. Agh! At least Snoqualmie Falls (which we visited on the way) was open, and quite impressive due to all the rain.
Also, United Airlines sucks.

How to get the case off a Netgear DG834G

So after gingerly snapping plastic bits off my router, I discovered that the feet are removable and conceal (torx) screws.
Why take the router apart? I’m trying to solve a cooling problem that is causing it to lock up. It seemed to work well on its side, so to allow air to flow when it’s horizontal, I’ve drilled holes in the top of the case:

The way it is designed, the top curves a bit, so I hypothesise that without these holes a pocket of hot air builds up and can’t escape. Hopefully this will improve things.

Mobile phone software sucks

Case-in-point: I recently bought a new phone. I ended up getting a Motorola, partly because one of the features it supported was SyncML, which is a standard protocol to sync contacts and calendar entries to your PIM application etc. You might naively assume that you can just plug it in to your computer (or even use that fancy bluetooth link) and away you go. But no, it turns out that it only supports SyncML over the air, using GPRS data and making you pay your mobile carrier insane data charges every time you want to sync. How retarded is that?
Apparently Motorola think this is a feature, because when those stupid users don’t have the opportunity of syncing with their desktop they don’t have any chance of screwing it up. Right. Those would be the users buying the phone then would they?
So anyway, after being pissed off about this for quite a while, I decided to do something about it. It turns out that there is a (mostly undocumented) set of extended AT commands to read and write phone book and calendar data. And so, after much frustration at how brain damaged the internal representation of this data is (I’d love to know how they implemented SyncML), I present to you an OpenSync plugin that does the job. The phone has some pretty serious limitations about what it can store, especially in the calendar, but I’m using it now and it actually works ok.
It’s amazing how much you can get done when you have an impending paper deadline to procrastinate for 🙂

The dissertation inquisition

I have this mish-mash of Python skits playing in my head:

What is your problem?

Well, rebooting to apply updates and patches to your OS is a pain, and in some cases it’s actually really bad.

What is your aim?

To do something about the problem! I guess dynamic update has a good kind of ring to it.

…and what is its scope?

I don’t have time to rewrite the OS, or write my own OS, and other people have done lots of stuff in user-level updates already, so I suppose that limits the scope.

What are your hypotheses?

Uhhhhhhhm. Hypothesis?

What is your research method?

To hack something up, perform some experiments, and at the end of it all try to write a coherent thesis about it.

What are your results?

I don’t know, I have some numbers, does that count?

What do you conclude?

I conclude that it’s possible for my toy research system, no, wait, I conclude that it’s possible for all sorts of systems if you believe my very convincing arguments at generalisation, which are… um… Aaaargh!
(falls into the chasm)


… actually I’ve been back for a while, but too lazy to blog. Where have I been, you ask? Leuven, Karlsruhe, Paris, Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Würzburg, Rothenburg, Nürnberg, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, and a few other places besides.

more photos elsewhere, and to appear in coming weeks.

Random memories:

  • Bizarre Belgians and their camping party: “We don’t normally dress like this.”
  • …worrying about the sirens that kept stopping right near our Paris hotel, before discovering the police station around the corner.
  • …trying every one of Munich’s six breweries.
  • …playing the Sound of Music drinking game in a Salzburg hostel (it definitely made the movie more watchable).
  • …taking the train from Vienna to Venice: perfectly on-time until it reached the Italian border, and then 1 hour late by the time we reached Venice.
  • …queueing for hours at the Uffizi in Florence, which later paled in comparison with a queue for the Vatican Museum.
  • …being locked out of the Roman system subway that stopped before 10pm on a weeknight, and having to nightride it home (actually working out where the nightride buses stop is most of the challenge).

Random observations:

  • Germans crossing the road will wait for the lights to change, regardless of the traffic or time of day.
  • Italians crossing the road walk boldly in front of oncoming traffic (you need to anyway, since lights or pedestrian crossings make little difference).
  • While on the subject of traffic, lanes are clearly optional in Paris and Rome.
  • Coffee is passable in France, crap in Germany, overpriced in Vienna, and great (and cheap) in Italy.
  • Not much comes close to Belgian beer, French cheese, German beer, sausage and bread (the complete meal!), or Italian coffee and gelato.
  • While American tourists are everywhere (and many are obnoxious), Australians seem mostly confined to the southern countries (and especially Italy). Canadians are desperate not to be confused with Americans, and there are surprisingly few Poms.


Well, here I am in Leuven, Belgium. Apparently its claims to fame are being the home of both Stella Artois and a really old University. Fighting jetlag, as usual, but I went for a quick walk and took some photos of the town (link):

…most of the shops seem to be closed due to Easter. My Dutch is nonexistent, but after sheepishly asking five people so far if they spoke English, I’ve yet to find someone who wasn’t fluent in it.