Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Lights Are Bright

griffin powermate
I decided that my grifcat utility for controlling the Griffin Powermate wasn't useful enough and so I modified it enabling you to tweak the LED's brightness and pulsing display. For those of you who have a powermate under linux, there's also a linux driver available which can be used with the linux event interface. Hopefully when linux 2.8 comes out these things will be mainstream enough to render my little utility useless.

Grifcat is oriented more toward those needing a scriptable interface to the Powermate. If you're looking to do more general desktop integration, the kernel module route is probably the best solution. Should you go that way, here's some useful tips on making it work.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Attractive Things Work Better

Donald A. Norman (of DOET/POET fame) has an excellent article titled Emotion & Design: Attractive things work better. In it he discusses the affect an object has and how that dictates our ability to interact with it in different situations. A must-read by anyone interested in design.

Affect therefore regulates how we solve problems and perform tasks. Negative affect can make it harder to do even easy tasks: positive affect can make it easier to do difficult tasks. [...]

Imagine a plank 10 meters long and 1 meter wide. Place it on the ground. Can you walk on it? Of course - no problem. You can jump up and down, dance, and even walk along with your eyes shut. Now lift the plank 3 meters in the air. Can you walk on it? Yes, although more carefully.

What if the plank were 200 meters in the air? Most of us wouldn't dare go near it, even though the act of walking along it and maintaining balance should be no more difficult than when on the ground. Why would a simple task suddenly become so difficult - impossible, even? Tell yourself all you want that if you can walk on the plank on the ground, you can still walk on it in the air. You still won't walk along it, let alone jump and dance or, heaven forbid, close your eyes while walking. Fear dominates.

Why should affect have such an influence?

Go read the article. You'll be glad you did.

Mac Compact Belgium

Cult of Mac had a recent entry about the Mac Compact Belgium site. The picture of the mac collection is quite awesome. I'm from California and whenever I see something like that all I can picture is lying there Skinner-like buried under an avalanche of computers. The picture (full size) is awesome and a worthy desktop background on any platform.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Scriptable Access to the Griffin Powermate

griffin powermate
Griffin Technology makes a nifty device called the Griffin Powermate (Available at ThinkGeek). It's essentiall a knob+button you put on your desktop. However, unless you have software that can take advantage of it, it's basically a lighted paperweight. I got fed up not having an easy way to monitor/read this device for use in scripts and so I wrote grifcat. It's a simple utility I can run as a coprocess to my music controller so that I can map the input operations to my mp3 player. The best part is that since I use the Music Player Daemon (a.k.a. mpd), I can remotely control the volume and playback, I don't need to attach the powermate to the system running the mp3 player.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

acdctl 1.1 Released

A new version of acdctl has been released which incorporates changes kindly sent in by Michael Hanselmann. The tool now directly supports one more display in the apple product line. Additionally it can now take in the vendor/product id on the command line to make it easier to test against unsupported displays.

If you are able to make it work, please send in your display information so I can add it to the set of supported displays. Part of the changes made by Michael is a restructuring of how the displays are stored internally so that new ones can be added very easily.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Capturing Toslink/SPDIF Using Creative LiveDrive In Linux

Here is how I configured Linux to record an Toslink/SPDIF audio source. It's quite easy once you figure out what all the buttons do. I do not know if the Creative LiveDrive actually captures the digital stream or re-encodes it. I haven't been able to find out one way or the other and I just don't know enough to tell for sure. What I do know is that using the digital input minimizes the opportunity for noise to be introduced into the sample you are recording, especially if you do have the option of a digital source.

The process wasn't difficult, but that observation comes from hindsight. I'm sure there's a tool out there which only takes a few clicks to do what I did here, but this is what worked for me.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Blizzard Downloader Forces Seeding?

So, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase the much vaunted World of Warcraft (WOW) by Blizzard. If you don't know what WOW is, well then you're probably living under a rock. Regardless, after purchasing the game, I created an account and used another installation to play my account for a few hours. Once I got home and had to install the game myself, the requisite waiting and patching ensued.

The blizzard updater uses a system based upon the very popular BitTorrent (BT) peer-to-peer distribution mechanism. In essence, your client talks to other users downloading the same file and randomly exchanges parts that you have for parts that they have. It's a quite beautiful system because the more popular a file is, the more people there are to download it from and everybody works together to get everybody copies of the file.

One problem that plagues most bittorrent distributions is the lack of what are called seeders. Seeders have a copy of the entire file and therefore can serve up any block you are missing. Without a seeder in the peer group, only those blocks that are in the network will eventually be copied everywhere. It would seem that in order to ensure there are enough complete (or nearly complete) sets of blocks exist in the Blizzard/WOW/BT network, the client has some magic.