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1st Oct, 2012

So, basically that covers the period between my last update upto about, say, the mid-May (the research proposal submission) and Uni results (which were officially released at the end of June)... so what have I been up to since the proposal went in?


First thing was basically a week-and-a-bit of doing pretty much nothing at all... to get the proposal done both in time and to a reasonable standard, I'd been putting in 12 to 15 hours a day on it everyday for the preceding fortnight... given that I'm not exactly the best at sleeping when I'm working on something cos it keeps running around my head and I've never figured out how to switch it off (well, except for by drinking copious amounts of alcohol...!), that fortnight was seriously short on quality rest, and i was pretty screwed by the end of it... I don't think I could've done more than a couple more days at that level before I bombed entirely..!

So yeah, my recuperation pretty much consisted of reading a bit of fiction, watching some TV, wandering round wikipedia and the web reading Random Stuff and chatting online a bit with a couple of people... nothing at all brain-using.. was rather nice ^^

I did get a bit more active after my little holiday...

  • Android
    I figured that I'd dabble in Android development for a little bit... see what its like to code for... only fairly basic stuff though, nothing of any real use to anyone, just getting a feel for the way Android apps work, the API, etc...

    I have got a few ideas for some little utilities I'd like to have that I can't find existing apps for... atleast, not that do what I want how I want... so I'll probably come back to it at some point with a bit more intent...!

  • Moby
    Having had my Sensation on HTC's Ice Cream Sandwich update (and running it rooted) for a while, I ran into a really crappy problem... following an update to the BusyBox app, my phone started constantly crashing (and by constantly, I mean my uptime was under 5 minutes!)... but I'll cover this in more detail in another post... anyway, it took a few (very frustating, annoying) days to fix and then managed to reoccur, requiring a couple more (even more -grrrr-filled) days to re-fix (and made a brief reappearance this evening, but that was quickly fixed... but you can imagine the scale of -grrr- that elicited!!)!!!

  • The odd-and/or-annoying-job-list-from-head-hell!
    So, over the past nearly two years since my head went AWOL, I've been accumulating jobs in the "should do" category... some of them small or trivial, some of them annoying, some both, some rather bigger, none of them urgent...

    Initially the things that started this list were things that I just didn't feel up to (or even capable of) doing when my head was properly messed up... stuff like reinstalling Windows on my laptop, which (I know) sounds like a reasonably simple little thing to do... until you see the many-page list of software that I install... believe me, it takes a lonnnng time to do... even longer if I'm being sensible and taking harddrive snapshots at regular intervals so I can rollback if there's a problem and retry and/or reorder the install sequence... anyway, the system that I'm currently using was one I started installing in the summer between Masters year 1 and my abortive first attempt at year 2... its a real mess now because I've just thrown things on it as and when needed, rather than having planned it out from the beginning (and with those snapshots too)... its still a "ToDo", but its a good example of the kind of thing I'm talking about...

    More recently, I've pretty much been either slogging through Uni work or vegging in between Uni work... thats basically what this academic year has consisted of... certainly there's not been a day where I've thought, "I know, I'll tackle that odd job because I don't have anything else to do and I'm really up for being productive..."

    So, having gotten the year out of the way and having recovered a bit from that final slog to the proposal deadline, I finally did feel that way... with it enough to start doing things from the list, and enough determination to be productive to make me actually get on with it...

    As I say, there's two years of accumulated "stuff that can be put off"...

    So far I've made a start on:

    • put a shelf up, having painted it ages ago (not entirely sure when I actually did this though... it might've been Easter... memory is still a bit dodgy!)

    • tranferring all the stuff from storage into the new garage now its dried out enough to hopefully not end up with damp-damaged cardboard boxes, books, paperwork, etc... done a couple of loads so far, still quite a few to go though...

    • transferred all my CDs into boxes (rather than the two old-and-knackered) bed drawers they had been in) and moved them out into the garage

    • done a little bit of programming to try and start to get back into the groove of it in advance of starting the dissertation... been working on two things, one a PHP webby thing and the other a bit of unixy systemy Perl...

    • working out a 'gizmo' to interupt my iPod audio when my moby's navigation app says something... I kinda get how to go about it, but this one's on hold for the moment, as I'm thinking about replacing the stereo in the car as its become noticeably flaky in the past few months... it throw a total wobbly on the way down to Bristol... I had to pull it out and disconnect the power at the services to get the damn thing to reset... this is in addition to the CD player part that failed a couple of years ago... still, I don't suppose its done too badly, it was only 50 quid new...! As its about 4 years old now, I don't think it really owes me a great deal!

    • Which leads into another job... since I'm looking at replacing the stereo, I've been looking at car DAB... basically so I can have BBC 6 Music and so I can have Test Match Special on... the current stereo hasn't got longwave, so it can't get Radio 4 Longwave, but the previous two stereos I've had in this car both had reception issues on longwave around the Radio 4 band... bizarelly, they'd both quite happily pick up continental european longwave at other bits of the dial... its kinda weird that I could listen to french music but not enlish cricket!

      The issue with DAB though is the aerial... while you can get them that stick to the inside of the windscreen, but they get pretty poor reception and rather obviously advertise that the stereo does DAB... there are also magnetic ones, which get better reception, but I don't like the idea of (a) something that's only stuck on using magnetism, especially when I don't know how magnet-friendly my car roof is... I don't fancy it detaching at motorway speeds and hitting someone else (and b) you've gotta get a wire from the aerial to the stereo, somehow... and my car sees enough small children (and one particularly inquisitive (especially when it comes to wires) little boy) that I don't think thats a good idea! The other option is a "proper" body mounted aerial... now, I don't relish the prospect of making a hole in my car, especially not in the roof, which is where to site a DAB aerial for best reception... (call me a wuss if you like, I just don't fancy a rusty roof and I'm cautious enough about my DIY skills to chicken out!) so that leaves me with the option of replacing the factory-fitted aerial with one that does DAB and "proper" (ie, analogue) radio... they make them, thats not a problem, but they do still require a wire for the DAB output to get to the stereo... and that wire is obviously not present on my 2001 car... so after a few days, much Googling and lots of poring over the Haynes manual, I've managed to persuade myself that I am correct in thinking that I can manage to both do the aerial replacement and get the cabling through to actually use it... I still want to attack the car trim to make sure that everything is as my research shows (or if its different, that everything is still feasible) before I actually commit to buying anything, but in principle I am atleast confident it'll all work!

    And completed:

    • OK, this doesn't sound like a job, I know... and its not really something that I accumulated, but it ate a couple days after a trip to storage... I came across a few jigsaws that were bought for me years ago that I never did... so I figured I'd have a go at them... I'm sure I didn't used to be that slow at them, so I think its possibly another indication that my head isn't quite back to 100%... but doing them did also get me thinking about visual processing... when you consider just what your brain is doing when you're relaxing doing a jigsaw, its actually pretty impressive! I'm sure it would be a non-trivial task to program a computer to do the same thing in the same way... I mean, as you're going through pieces, your brain is assessing the current state of the puzzle, the 'box picture,' the colour, pattern, etc of the piece you're looking at and determining in a fuzzy kind of way whether it can approximately place the piece within the current state... and when you get further into the puzzle, its starting to not only do fuzzy matches, but to come up with instantaneous precise matches (those moments when you pick up a piece and think "haha! I know where you go!"). As I say, when you really start to think about visual processing, its pretty darn impressive what our brains do automatically...... which makes me a bit more nervous about my dissertation, which involves doing something else that our brains find to be pretty trivial but which is, when you analyse what needs to be done, really rather complex...!

    Other stuff thats gotten done:

    • Note: Oops... I seem to have left this incomplete and unposted...!

      So, there were a bunch of other things I also did... I just had really brief notes here for them though... so I've fleshed them out a bitand posted it!

    • Windows 7 test installation... took about 2 days to get Win7 and all the apps installed, but the system was a bit of a bodge, as I was figuring out what worked on 64-bit and what
      didn't as well as how to work around some things, like Win7 requiring signed drivers and me
      using the Basilisk and SheepShaver Ye Olde Macintoshe emulators and wanting to get them on the network... which works easily on XP/32... but required me to build a 64-bit driver... which the best I could do was self-sign... Luckily Win7 has something called Test Mode that you can activate via the bootloader config tool. Test Mode lets you run self-signed drivers, so that solved the problem... and (unlike on Vista), the only visible change when its turned on is that it tells you in the bottom right-hand corner of the desktop that its enable... Vista had this in all four corners (the same way that Safe Mode is flagged on the desktop)... I can live quite happily with it down near the clock... all four corners would've narked me *right* off!!!!
      I'm still using this system, having used up one of the activation resets... and I must be getting close to the 2nd being necessary... but I have a huge amount of data on that machine's HDD at the moment that I'm converting and sorting and stuff... which is taking a while... once thats done, that install is history... even though its actually rock solid, I know there are various things that happened during the experimental stages that mean its a mess under the bonnet!

    • Emptied the storage unit... now that the garage is sorted out and dry, all the stuff I had locked away is now back here... which means I can get at stuff now :-)

    • Having gotten all my random spare computer bits back, I've been able to figure out what I'd got and what I'd need to get in order to fix the various issues with various machines... a shopping list, quite a few parcels and a couple of week's work, including some time modifying some things (such as now having an internally mounted USB floppy drive and a 4-port hub where I used to have a standard Sony 3.5" floppy drive (this having been made obsolete by the replacement motherboard not having a floppy connector) which mostly required the hub case to be modified to fit... ), and I now have my 3 servers back up and running, including an upgrade from a 32-bit AMD K6-500 to a 2.4GHz 64-bit Athlon (since the software that machine runs is now not available for 32-bit!) that only cost me about 60 quid! :-)
      I also now have my Active Directory synced up, which took a while to make work... having been offline for something like 18 months (ie, way past the Tombstone time!)... and I've also moved away from using BIND on Linux for DNS to using AD-Intergrated DNS on Windows... simply because it removes a possible point of failure (ie, if the Linux/BIND box fails, the AD won't work... which is why everything was offline for so long!)

    • My attempt to rebuild a battery for my old Powerbook 540C doesn't seem to have been particularly successful... it looks to be working, in that it will charge up and run without mains, but it doesn't seem to hold charge when its turned off over night... I'm really not sure what's going on with it, and I'm rather disheartened with the whole project, so I haven't really put any more time in to it :-( I have (possibly) found somewhere to buy a (supposedly) new (clone) one for about 20 quid though, so that might just get done... should give me a few years service... and therefore a few years figuring-out time for the rebuilt one!

    I'll also add that since I left this half finished, way back in July, I've done a few more things...

    • I now have fully functional car DAB, thanks to a new head unit, new antenna and two new aerial cables. It also has new 40W speakers. Oh, and the original tweeters are now disconnected from the vehicle loom and are wired to a new loom I've added for what I've been referring to on Facebook as Project AI. This little paragraph doesn't really do justice to how much time and effort this job took!

    • Project AI (or "Audio Interrumpt") is an electronics project I've been working on... its by far the most complicated bit of electronics I've ever done... the idea is to have a device that will interrupt the car stereo when my phone is connected to the device and it's SatNav starts talking and (because the headphone socket on the phone disconnects the phone speaker) amplifies the SatNav audio so it can use a couple of small car speakers... For the stereo interruption, there's an Audio Intrerupt connection on the stereo that is intended for essentially this purpose, except it was for older mobile phone integration interrupting the stereo, not a SatNav.
      The Interrumpt (thats an integrated interrupt and amplifier... because "Interamp" sounds a bit too much like it should go between a preamp and a poweramp...) has taken me a pretty long time to design... and its mostly done from adapting bits of other people's designs and various datasheets to put together a schematic that I think should work...
      The design is now done (including a PCB layout cos I'm highly tempted to get a one-off board for this... I was gonna build it on matrix board, but to get a piece that would be large enough will cost almost as much as having a custom board fabbed by a place I've found thats semi-local)... I need to sit down at some point and put together an RS order to get the bits... then I can build a prototype (and check it works as intended) before a final PCB decision...!
      One little annoyance with the new head unit is that, having finally gotten around to properly installing it and attempting to make the Audio Interrupt work (its supposed to interrupt when the AI line is grounded...), I have now found out that it doesn't support AI :-( The installation wiring diagram does hint at this (by marking AI as "unused"), but the way it was drawn, it could have simply meant that the AI line didn't have a wire to the vehicle harness (which it doesn't) or that the stereo doesn't use AI (which it also now seem it doesn't!)

    • I've just spent a few days entirely wiping and reconfiguring my phone again... this time it was in order to try and get the OTA update from July to install... HTC OTAs won't install when the bootloader is unlocked, and an unlockable bootloader is HTC's way of letting people run custom ROMs without giving them S-OFF (the idea being that you can run a custom ROM but that the firmware and some other bits are still protected)... Rooting my Sensation basically consisted of unlocking the bootloader, installing a custom Recovery then using the custom Recovery to install su and the SuperUser app...
      I figured I'd have another go at getting the JuopunutBear S-OFF to work while I was doing stuff with the phone.... annoyingly, it starts to work quite happily, but then in the part thats supposed to include the "wire trick," v0.8 beta SegFaults on me... this is the latest version and I can't find any of the older versions to try... so I'm stuck with S-ON still... If there's ever a 0.9 beta or a 1.0 release or something, I might have another go... but I'm not gonna waste the time I have this time on it again...! Wish I'd known what a pig getting S-OFF would be after getting hboot 1.27 as part of the ICS update... I'd've S-OFFd and rooted Gingerbread if I had!!!
      I do now have the OTA installed, and its generally working well... and I do now know how to make the phone Stock-enough that I should be able to get future OTAs to install without resorting to flashing the complete ROM using the RUU version (and therefore erasing the phone's contents).
      A couple of the niggles from the 3.32 ROM (do seem to) have gone away... it no longer optimises applications on startup (which was annoying... startup is now done in seconds not minutes!) and I have more of my list of Apps installed now than I did before updating to 3.33, since the 3.32 ROM was the one that kept flaking out when it had lots of Apps installed. I've not got quite as many as I did when that particular problem first started (quite a few fewer games, for example), but I do have a few different (extra) ones, like an Android IDE that I'm gonna try out, installed now... So far, so good... but then, 3.32 didn't flake out immediately... so we shall see if that problem has really been fixed given a month or two of app updates.
      I've also switched my custom Recovery from ClockWorkMod Touch to 4EXT Touch... originally because CWM-T wouldn't work after the update (I guess the updated firmware wasn't compatible with it) and the none-touch version (which did work) is a bit annoying to use... navigation using VolUp/Down and select using Power got on my nerves! Have to say, 4EXT is bloody awesome in comparison to either CWM though... I find it so much nicer and it seems to be capable of so much more...! Very happy with it indeed!!
      And lastly, I've started making ROM backups from 4EXT (and for some, "adb shell")... for the first few I've done both a good old Unix 'dd' dump and a 4EXT tar backup... I'll most likely not do dd ones so frequently though, if it all... the idea is to have a backup of a stable (nearly current) system on the sdcard (as well as pulled over to my PC), which I can use pretty much whenever from 4EXT to get my phone back if it does start being flaky after some update or other... Since I have to use ADB to shell into the phone to do anything with dd, the dd route is only any use when I have a computer, ADB and a USB cable, so the dd dumps are far less useful!

    I haven't really done much on my dissertation until today; I did email my supervisor back at the very start of September to get the ball rolling, but I managed to send it after he'd left the office for the start of his vacation period! He got back to me last week, and I'm really just starting up on it today... trying to get my ideas in order, my ducks in a row, etc to try to figure out a detailed plan of action and to figure out what questions, information, etc I need from him in order to proceed.

    Right! Thats ya lot! I'm gonna do what I came on LJ for now!!