Archive for the Nerd Life Category

May 3 2016

Where is the next operating system revolution? Where are my options?

The market is WIDE OPEN for a really good alternative operating system out of left field. Perhaps something that pushes a database driven file system interface ala beos? perhaps something that throws away and revolutionizes the entire desktop paradigm? perhaps something that unifies the entire computing landscape from IOT devices to smart watches to mobile to desktop… I feel like operating system software companies are seriously missing out on alternate OS’s… we used to have choices like amiga OS, IRIX, NeXtstep, BeOS, etc. now days you have your choice of BSD, quite a few flavors of linux (which both do pretty much the same stuff similarly), windows, and os x. notably, they are all great at some things, are all pretty mature at this point, and are good options for doing different things, but they all fail at unification (except for maybe *n?x but there is so much fragmentation that it’s silly and very little of it is good for gui use except for android which has it’s own strengths and weaknesses that generally make it impractical for desktop use)… we’re so close to consumer VR, which is just a few steps away from the revolution that will be augmented reality and the methods we use for interacting, designing, and communicating with computers are woefully inadequate. Where are all the alternatives?

The future is going to look like something a cross between between Star Trek TNG, Iron Man, and Minority Report.  UI artists are slowly getting there, but our most popular operating system software has it’s roots in 30, 40, and 50, and in some cases 60 year old code, paradigms, protocols, and idioms for when computers were nowhere near what they are today.  I think it’s time that a few companies start from scratch, instead of trying to re-use ideas that may have been prudent when the smallest computers were multiple beige refrigerator sized boxes that required their own building and had a market of only a few thousand.  so come on Google, Oracle, Elon Musk, and you awesome computer science grad students working on your laptop in a smaller-than-a-prison-cell-sized dorm room or in your parent’s basement or garage…  I’m waiting for the future.  We’ll soon have self-driving cars, perhaps even self-driving flying cars in the near future, VR…  AR… don’t blink.

Jul 8 2015

Chromebook?

I finally got a chance to play with a chromebook today!  In this case, a friend allowed me to use his Acer C720 (1.4ghz celeron, 2gb ram, 16gb ssd) for an hour or so.  I was particularly impressed with it’s speed and responsiveness.  The GUI was a bit utilitarian, but all of the controls seemed to work very smoothly and ergonomically.  There was never a moment of “how the heck do I do xyz” with the default operation of chrome os which is really just the chrome web browser and some wrappers to allow people to connect and disconnect to the networking options and directly launch chrome based apps.  Overall, this was the same chrome I know and love from every other operating system, but somehow google made it super memory efficient (even with 2gb I had at one point a very large number of tabs open to different websites and it responded quickly and was easy to manage windows and tabs and such just as i do on my pc notebook where i have 16gb ram and a quad core 3.2ghz i7).  In fact, with the same number of tabs open, the chromebook was able to hold it’s own for the most part side by side my high powered pc notebook when it comes to web browsing. Read More >>

Oct 1 2014

RTL-SDR

I just picked up a Realtek based DVB-T (European) TV tuner for use as a wide band general coverage receiver of radio stations thanks to the awesomeness of software defined radio.

So far, I’ve been using SDR# for standard radio listening (so far tested successful listening of FM Stereo transmissions (local standard radio stations), a local 2 meter ham radio repeater (at least the ident transponder), CB radio, and some local business band radios.

adsbscope
SDR# also comes with an ADS-B decoder for listening to and decoding the public transponder transmissions from commercial aircraft which include GPS data, registration information, and flight plan number information (all of which can be looked up online to see more information), but the coolest part is there’s another application called ADSBScope which will take that data and plot the vectors for the transponders the radio is actually listening to, in effect giving you a transponder “radar” view of where all the planes are in the area, and their flight information.

I’m just sitting here marveling at what can be done with a software driven USB wide-coverage receiver dongle that cost me $15 shipped and a bunch of free software.

I’m sure I’ll have more to come (maybe I’ll build some guides to how I got it all set up). I’ll certainly be posting as I learn more about various radio modes, how to find and analyse different signals, and any other fun I find along the way. I think my biggest obstacles with this hardware setup are:

  1. front end selectivity / gain control / filtering / rejection. When I experimented with picking up the signals from my CB handheld I found that even at only 4 watts, being in the same room with the antenna completely over-drove the inputs to the point where no amount of filtering or gain control that I tried (please note that I’m particularly inexperienced) did any good (though I don’t discount that I very easily could have been doing it wrong).
  2. Dinky antenna. it came with a ~7″ mag-mount antenna with an MCX connector and about 3′ of cable, which means that everything I’ve done has been inside, and fairly close to a computer (which tend to be a bit RF noisy). I suspect that with a proper wide-band receive antenna, I should get better quality signals that I can work a bit better with.
  3. My own inexperience. This is certainly a huge experience booster. I really don’t know that much about the basis of radio technology (I’m learning), and how it all applies. I’m still learning what all these knobs, switches, buttons, and dials do, and for the most part, I make it worse instead of better, but I’m learning.
Sep 23 2014

New Notebook

Alas my 2008 15″ MacBook pro finally up and died on me (the display stopped displaying things… didn’t dig too far, but i’m pretty sure that the GPU on the motherboard finally died) and I got tired of hauling my workstation to Lan parties, so I decided to pick up a used Dell XPS 15 (Ivory bridge quad-core 2.2ghz i7-3632qm, 16GB ram, with 128gb ssd and 1tb hd originally configured using Intel’s SRT system to make the ssd cache the hard drive but I immediately installed a 256gb MSATA SSD, wiped the hard drive, turned off SRT, and installed stock windows 8.1 directly to the ssd and am using the hard drive for media storage.). Read More >>

Sep 23 2014

New personal NAS / Home Server!

I recently (through work) found a great deal on a sweet NAS array (a Thecus N7700 Pro loaded with hard drives) but being the hacker I am, I didn’t stop there. Read More >>

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