Kasperian Moving Parts

kinda like Batman, but with a wife and 3 kids

Thursday August 2, 2012
by Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper
0 comments

Madcatz EVO FightStick Pro Remora, ArcEye3, and ChimpSMD Mod

The finished product, plugged into an XBox360And so it begins. Run USB to the ChimpSMDSeimitsu blue buttons, ArcEye3's and Remora in placeThe Mod WorkplaceThe messy mod workshopIndustrial Strength Velcro to Secure the ChimpSMD Board
Velcro to secure the ChimpSMDVelcro to secure the ChimpSMDHatefully short joystick wires!The original end of the wiring harnessWiring harness metal connectorsHelping Hands thing from Radio Shack
Replaced wiring harness wiresRe-wired joystick wiring harnessNew joystick wiring harness, glued and labelledJoystick connected to ChimpSMD and MadCatz PCBConnecting the buttons to both PCB's via CN1 and CN2 wiring harnessesDual-wired button CN1 wiring harness
Glued, dual-PCB-wired button CN1 wiring harnessGlued, dual-wire-modded button CN1 wiring harnessAlmost there!The finished product. Wires tamed slightly.Remora and ArcEye3's all wired up and dual-moddedFinished product, some wire taming, joystick end

My son and I went to EVO again this year and in addition to spending way too much money in general, I bought the MadCatz EVO limited edition FightStick Pro for myself. The clear Madcatz limited edition EVO 2012 FightStick Pro is a thing of beauty to begin with. But it is just begging to be modded. Of course, I had to dual-console-mod it so I could use it in the XBox360 and PS3. But I also had to add some Button LEDs while I was at it. The new ArcEye3’s, plus the new Remora board, plus a blue ball stick top and blue shaft and blue translucent Seimitsu buttons all combine to be the most beautiful arcade stick I’ve ever seen.

So here’s the finished product:

For more pics and a whole lot more content, check out my Flickr set for this mod.

 

Friday June 22, 2012
by Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper
4 Comments

In Search of a Decent Bluetooth iPad Keyboard

I’ve been looking for a good external Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad for a while. While the on-screen keyboard is okay for typing a couple of words at a time, it is  very much not acceptable for much more than that.

A while ago, I managed to find an old iGo Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard and  have been using it with my iPad for the last couple of years. The keyboard itself is absolutely wonderful. The keys feel like real keyboard keys and the build quality is very good. Unfortunately, it does not come with a dedicated number row, so to type the number 4, for instance, you have to hold down the blue function key and press “r”.  To type the dollar sign ($), you have to hold down the green function key and press “r”. So that kind of stinks and means that touch-typing on it requires at the very least some extra thought when it comes to anything other than A- Z.

Of course, the Holy Grail solution would be buying one of the beautiful (and bulky) Apple Bluetooth keyboards and taking that with me everywhere I go, but that’s a non-starter just because of how big and bulky and heavy the little beast is. Since I take my external keyboard with me everywhere I go, thrown in my UnderArmour SackPack, having as small and light of a keyboard is important to me.

So I finally broke down and bought a Verbatim Bluetooth folding keyboard. I should have known better, especially after reading all of the negative reviews it got. But I was weak. I’m typing this blog from the Verbatim Bluetooth keyboard on my iPad right now. Let me just tell you, this keyboard is worse than I imagined it could be. The keys offer next to zero press feedback. The keys repeat and skip sporadically. My thumb absolutely cannot use the split, goofy space bar. The shifted and very small “g” and “b” keys mean that I cannot find those by touch typing at all. And the position of the left shift key means that I hit the up arrow every time I start a new sentence that begins with a letter on the left side of the keyboard  and start typing in the middle of the text above. The number row is completely unacceptable. All of the number keys are shifted  around, are smaller than all of the other keys on the keyboard, and are not positioned where any touch-typist would expect them, which completely defeats the purpose of having a keyboard. If I have to look at the keyboard to see what keys I’m pressing, I might as well not have an external keyboard at all.

So this thing is going back, for sure. Buyer beware. Maybe this post will help some other desperate soul out there. If only the jorno keyboard would have made it to market!!!

I’m curious if anyone else out there has found a good solution for this. The Jorno keyboard looked perfect but never came to market. The Matias looks good, but it’s really big, even folded, and I can’t find anyone who sells the iPad/iPod keyboard. I don’t want a keyboard that is integrated into an iPad case, since I like how my iPad looks already and don’t want to  always have a bulky thing that I’m using. Would love comments and suggestions.

Sunday March 11, 2012
by Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper
0 comments

A Watch Band Fit For A James Bond Hacker

I finally found the first watch band I’ve ever been excited about in my entire life and I just wanted to share it. It’s the Ballistic Nylon Strap (24mm, 5-Ring, Black). The reason this is so exciting for me is that when you attach your watch to it, you end up with a non-standard watch band where the buckle is actually near the side of your watch instead of on the bottom of your wrist. This means that if you’re a programmer like me, you won’t have a bulky watch band buckle digging into your wrist all day!

Now, first of all, this watch band is made from ballistic nylon, and while I don’t know exactly what that means, I’m pretty sure I can use it to deflect bullets like Wonder Woman. And when the description includes words like James Bond, NATO-style, military, police, and divers, that makes my inner geek stand up and take attention. Here’s the description from the website:

This strong, durable, nylon strap is called a Ballistic Nylon Watch Band. The black strap is designed to fit watches with 24mm lug widths. It is often worn by military, police, and divers. This one-piece strap “weaves” under your watch. If one spring bar breaks, you won’t lose your watch! One stainless-steel ring functions as the buckle, four others secure the watch in place, with two of them acting as keepers.
  • Black nylon strap
  • NATO-style, one-piece watch band for more secure attachment
  • Fits watches with lugs width of 24mm (see size info)
  • Adjustable length allows fit for many wrist sizes
  • Water resistant

Like I stated earlier, the fact that there is no watch band buckle on the bottom of your wrist means that instead of fighting with the watch band like every watch band I’ve ever had since the beginning of time (because resting your wrist on that buckle for 8+ hours a day ends up causing pain and anguish and such), you have just a single layer of ballistic nylon which causes zero interference or discomfort!

The only problem for me was that I didn’t have a watch face that would fit in this band, having previously purchased Diesel DZ7134 Watch (shown at the left). Like most digital watches out there these days, this Diesel uses a very tightly-integrated watch band and won’t work with the new James Bondy watchband I had my eye on. And while I loved the Diesel watch, I was really tired of constantly fighting with its watch band while resting my wrist on it as I worked.

But then I found a new watch that would work with the James Bondy watchband and looked every bit as cool as the Diesel: the Nixon Unit Watch (shown at the right). And it comes in blue! And it uses a more standard watch band that works beautifully with the James Bondy watchband I wanted to try! And seriously, I really do like it a lot. Even with the default watch band, it is probably my favorite watch ever.

But coupled with the ballistic nylon watch from The Watch Prince, it is the most awesome watch in the entire universe. So if you’re a James Bondy guy like me, or a hacker like me, or a fashionable dude like me, or a guy (or gal!) who’s tired of fighting with your watch band while trying to work, you might want to give this watch band (or something like it) a closer look.

After all, it’s what James Bond would do.

Sunday March 11, 2012
by Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper
0 comments

On Getting Unlarger and Unrounder

How many times have you heard something that starts with “it’s a funny thing when you start getting older” and then end up hearing things that make you cringe and silently vow to yourself that it’ll never happen to you. Yeah, me neither. But let’s imagine that we have.

If “it’s a funny thing when you start getting older”, it’s an even funnier thing when you get older and work from home 100% of the time. And if you think that’s funny, it’s an absolute riot when you get older, have a sit-down job, have a wife and 3 kids, work from home 100% of the time, and have no reason to go outside your front door more than once a week.

Unfortunately, as much as I have tried to deny, ignore, argue against, and shrug off these things, it’s not actually all that funny, and it’s high time I start doing something about it.

I had an awesome Dad growing up. He was my hero, truly. He was larger than life, powerful, strong, forceful, loving, gentle, kind, and caring. Oh, and he was a bodybuilder and worked out with the likes of Jack LaLanne, Lou Ferrigno, Arnold, and a bunch of other really awesome names that have long since faded into the sunset. But my Dad and I worked out together as I grew up and he taught me to take care of my body. And though I never took things to the level of bodybuilding competitions like he did, the years I spent with my Dad laid down a solid core to my physique that have lasted me my whole life since. So far at least.

And then I got married, and finding the time to work out regularly became pretty tough. And then we had kids and that time disappeared again. And then I got a job in IT where instead of walking around for 10+ hours a day constantly, I was now parking my butt in a chair for 8+ hours a day. And then I got an AWESOME job (my current job with VMware which I cannot even explain how much I love enough) where I get to work from home (stupid housing market crash *spit*) doing programming and such 100% of the time, from my chair in the basement.

And now I look in the mirror as I walk by and wonder who in the heck that chubby older dude is and why he’s in my bedroom, wearing my underwear and the Woot shirt I just picked out this morning.

It’s a funny thing when you get older and you find that you have to figure out how to take care of your body again.

So I’m taking a stand against these long stories that end badly and make people cringe and vow silently to themselves. I’ve been doing little bits and pieces of this incrementally through the last couple of years, but I’m getting more serious about it now. Especially since I’ve lost exactly zero pounds since the same date 1 year ago. I’ve also gained exactly zero pounds since the same date 1 year ago, but that’s little solace since the kindly-yet-roundly gentleman keeps showing up in my bedroom mirror.

I still need to actually sit down and write up an official “this is what I’m going to do every day” routine, but thus far, here’s what I have:

Every day, Monday – Friday, I’m planning on doing this stuff:

  1. Yoga for at least 20 minutes. I really enjoy Rodney Yee’s videos and I’ve been using A.M. Yoga for Your Week for a year+ now. It has a different 20-minute routine for every day of the week (M-F). I highly recommend it. I also think that maybe it’s time for me to grow beyond these rather beginner-level routines, so if anyone has advice on the next place to go here, I’d appreciate it.
  2. Running on the treadmill or biking for at least 20 minutes. Been doing this for a while now too and I’ve been catching up on Netflix videos while doing it and it’s pretty enjoyable and I get a good sweat going.
  3. Ab-Doer core and abdominal routines. My Dad had already bought me the Ab-Doer Professional workout equipment years ago (it was the earlier version of the Ab-Doer Twist Abdominal Trainer), and while it may look kind of goofy, I do believe that it offers a really good full-midsection workout. So I’m going to try working my way through the videos John Abdo did again and see if I can stick to it and see some progress. Sadly, I lost the original VHS tapes that I had for my Ab-Doer Pro and had to re-order them from Mr. Abdo. These videos are 10 – 20 minutes long as you work your way up.

So there’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I think that if I can be consistent with this and actually do it well for a year or so, I should be in a much better physical condition. Really, I’d just like to stop seeing that portly dude who keeps stealing my underwear and Woot shirts.

Sunday March 11, 2012
by Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper
0 comments

Trying Out This Here Google AdSense Thingie

I really should have done this years ago, back when I was syndicated on a couple of FOSS planet RSS aggregators. *sigh* Anyway, after talking to my good friend Scott Knaub, and hearing how much money he periodically gets from just putting Google ads on his pages (I mean, it’s not tons of $CASHDOLLARZ, but still, every little bit counts!), I realized that I really need to look into doing just that.

Of course, that was several months ago and I’ve had it on my ToDo list ever since. But better late than never?

So, it’s not like anyone reads my blog anymore anyway, but in the off chance that you do and you have thoughts about it, please speak up. In general I try to not annoy people as much as possible, so if I’m annoying you now, I apologize; and if there’s something I can do to make things less annoying, please let me know.

From what I understand of the process, my AdSense account is active, but not really active, for the next 4-5 days or so while Google AdSense peeps review my stuff.

It would surely be swell if I could kick myself in the rear enough to make my web space useful again in this here age of Facebook and Twitter and such. And if I can earn a little bit of $CASHDOLLARZ while I’m doing so, all the better. =:)

Hrm. Speaking of “what the heck am I doing with this here website thing anymore”, I’m wondering why I’m bothering with Categories at all anymore. Aren’t Tags all the rage these days?

Friday December 30, 2011
by Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper
0 comments

This Isn’t My Street Fighter Any More

I came across this article today on BitMob, titled “A characters’ history of Street Fighter 4“. I’ve been playing and loving Street Fighter since Street Fighter 2 came out in 1991. I spent untold amounts of money at the arcades during my college and growing up years, playing Street Fighter with my brother Josh. And I loved it. And through the last 20 years (WOW), I’ve loved playing it on the PC, SNES, Xbox, and finally with the release of Street Fighter 4, on the PS3 and Xbox-360. I used to play with my kiddos and loved teaching them how to do the moves and learn footsies and strategy and mechanics. And I loved it.

But lately, I’ve been finding myself getting more and more frustrated by the direction Street Fighter play is taking these days and this article on BitMob said something that struck a nerve:

Now players are combing their way through Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition Version 2012, a free patch that came out in both arcades and consoles. Previous SF4 games have been criticized for rewarding safe defenses over aggressive play, while Arcade Edition tilted the balance too much towards offense. Version 2012 will hopefully create a better harmony between the two approaches.

Street Fighter Arcade Edition was just a huge joke, really. If the only purpose of Arcade Edition was to introduce extremely overpowered and unbalanced characters, why even pretend to have a fair game anymore? AE 2012 claims to try to restore balance, but it did far too little to achieve that.

Anyway, I know I’m going to sound like an old fart here, but I really dislike the current direction of Street Fighter play I see. You can say that previous versions of Street Fighter rewarded safe/defensive play over aggressive play, I suppose. If by safe/defensive, you mean more careful and methodical, then yes, I agree. I’ll refer to this gameplay model as CrouchingTigerHiddenFlashKick.

But the most fashionable way to play Street Fighter today is non-stop, in your face, constantly bullying, constantly rushing down, make one mistake and you’re dead, don’t give your opponent a chance to think, mash buttons faster than the other guy, and in general behave like you’re OD’d on Mountain Dew, Coffee, NoDoze, Monster, Jolt, and PCP all at once. I’ll refer to this gameplay model as MashUntilItWorks. And I really hate it.

The BitMob article pointed this out too with the following video and quote:

The most-telling example of Arcade Edition’s balance comes from an exhibition at Norcal Regions 2011 between Street Fighter grandmaster Daigo Umehara and Dhalsim expert Filipino Champ. In the beginning Daigo used his famed Ryu, and the two fought on even ground. In this video, Daigo switched to Yun and easily smothered the yoga master. The only round Champ won was when he connected both a Super Combo and an Ultra Combo.

Here’s a video to show what I’m talking about. Note that up until about 21:20 of this video, the fighting is more like an exciting chess game. You can just feel the tension and see the thought going into each move. If you’ve been playing Street Fighter as long as me, you can feel the frustration as Filipino Champ correctly guesses and counters each of Daigo’s moves on screen before he does them. It’s exciting. I love it!

Now skip to about 21:20 of the video. From that point on, you’ll notice that the game play is completely different. The focus now is more like beating your opponent over the head with a 2×4, daring them to make any move or guess wrong just once and then you kill him. I hate it.

Now I’m not saying there’s no skill involved in MashUntilItWorks. And yes, I know that it’s an insulting way to refer to 100%, non-stop rush-down play, because there’s a lot of science and practice and plinking and skill in it. But it’s really frustrating to play against people who play like that. And MashUntilItWorks certainly favors younger eyes and brains and hands and reflexes than I have. And I feel a lot of times like I just can’t compete and that’s extremely discouraging. And for the first time in 20 years of playing fighting games, I quite often honestly feel like setting fire to the video game console and trying to find another hobby.

Friday December 30, 2011
by Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper
2 Comments

A Tale Of Two Tablets

I’ve been meaning to blog about the two tablets I’ve been playing with for the last year+ for quite a while, and just never found the time or motivation. Let me say up front that I’m not writing this with the intention of swaying anyone’s opinions or influencing anyone’s purchase. I’ve been mulling the goods and bads about these two tablets around in my head for a long time and I just want to put them down somewhere so I can keep track of them.

My first and main tablet is my iPad (first generation) with 32 GB of memory and built-in GPS/3G networking. I bought it on May 11, 2010. At the time, we were just about to head across the country on a family driving-across-America vacation for two weeks. While I was definitely enamored with the iPad, I was trying to justify its $729 price tag by loading it up with movies and then having the kids watch the iPad as we trekked across the lower 48. While we did do this a few times during the trip, my shiny new iPad didn’t really serve this purpose as I had originally imagined and for the most part, the kids just did their own thing while we were driving. But it is smooth and stable and functional and does just about everything I could want in a tablet.

The second tablet I have is the Nook Color. I bought two of these off eBay on February 28, 2011 when they were $199 a piece. At the time, my wifey was asking for a tablet to play with and I’d been following the news of the Android hackers who had gotten a whole lot more functionality out of the Nook Color than it had been intended to provide. My wifey still uses her hacked Nook Color every day now, running CyanogenMod 7.0.3 Stable. I chose to keep tinkering with mine, however, so I’ve been running the CM7 nightlies for a while and now have CM 7.1.0 Stable installed. To be fair, I think I’ve pushed my Nook Color well past what it was designed for, so I think that quite a bit of the frustrations and complaints I have with my Nook Color are due to the inherently unstable hackery therein and are not indicative of Android tablets as a larger group, or even of the experience one would have running the stock software on their Nook Color.

But I think I’m through with trying to keep tweaking my Nook Color. $199 was a pretty inexpensive price to pay for a 7″ Android tablet, especially at the beginning of this year when there weren’t nearly as many options for Android tablets in the market. But I think I’ve reached the limits on how functional and stable and optimized and fun I can make it and am now tired of banging my head against this wall that won’t budge. So I wanted to list out some things about both tablets that are both good and bad below, and I’ll probably keep adding to them as I think of them over the next couple of months.

iPad – Pro’s

  1. The little dude is really, really stable. Even though iOS 5 seems to have some twitchiness that Apple hasn’t quite ironed out fully yet, my iPad1 almost never gives me problems with stability. Apps may crash every once in a while, and this probably has as much to do with iOS 5 as anything else, but the overall device stability is fantastic. Apple did a great job of protecting the core OS from app instability and I think I’ve only had to reboot my iPad a handful of times in the year and a half that I’ve owned it.
  2. Battery life is really good. It got worse with iOS 5, but it still lasts me a few days between charges with quite a bit of use throughout the day.
  3. Having an on-device GPS is really nice. While I typically been using my HTC EVO 4G as my GPS device and mapping solution when I drive, the big iPad screen + GPS Drive HD makes for a really nice GPS/turn-by-turn-map solution.
  4. Video playback is superb. My darling bride and I typically end our days together in bed, watching Snooker or some TV on my iPad, hooked up via Bluetooth to my Jawbone Jambox. Aside from some obnoxious video buffering problems that pop up every once in a while, the iPad1 plays back videos of all kinds (especially with the VLC iOS app) flawlessly.
  5. Bluetooth works flawlessly. This I especially appreciate because the Nook Color has a Bluetooth range of (no, seriously) about 10 inches. My iPad1’s Bluetooth stack is extremely stable and I can easily sit my Jambox down in one room for my wife to listen to and take my iPad with me into another room and still have a flawless music connection going over Bluetooth. Using my external Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad is quite enjoyable and accurate.

iPad – Con’s

  1. It’s not very customizable. In the customize versus stability trade-off department, this is understandable, but still kind of irritating. I love to tinker with my devices, so this bothers me every once in a while. And it’s sad, really, but I get bored sometimes with an otherwise perfectly working and stable device. I wish I could change UI themes and such on my iPad.
  2. Well, sort of in the customizable department, but I really wish you could change the keyboard on iOS devices in general and the iPad in particular.
  3. Hm, also in the customization department, but I really wish Apple would let you access things like music controls from the lock screen of the iPad. Android does a really nice job on this.

Nook Color – Pro’s

  1. I kind of like the 7-inch form factor. It’s different, at least. And you can conceivably throw it in a purse (which my wife does) and take it more places than you can a 10″ tablet like the iPad. Also, the little corner loop thing is cool, as are the lanyards you can easily put on it. It is definitely smaller in my SackPack than my iPad is.
  2. Extremely easy to customize and root and it’s just about brick-proof. If you’re looking for a toy to hack and play with, this is a really nice one. Of course, the flip-side of this coin is stability, so YMMV (mine certainly did).
  3. Customizable on-screen keyboards are really cool! I love SwiftKey on my Nook Color and Android phone. It is SO nice and I really wish iOS let you change keyboards.
Nook Color – Con’s
  1. I don’t think I like the 7-inch form factor. I know, this contradicts what I said above, but the difference in screen-render-and-view size as well as room-to-interact size between 7″ and 10″ tablets is pretty significant. I don’t think I’d want anything smaller than 10″ for a tablet I’m going to use every day.
  2. Not very stable. At least, I’ve given up trying to get the CM 7.1.0 Stable ROM to be stable and reliable on my Nook Color. I know, this is more a statement of the stability of the CM 7.1.0 Stable ROM than it is of my Nook Color, and I could probably have a stable device if I just ran the CM 7.0.3 Stable ROM like my wife does, but that bothers me. If it’s a customizable toy then I want to run the latest and greatest on it, and that doesn’t work for me. From the widely-known Sleep Of Death problems to app crashes to bad battery statistics/voltages, etc., stability on my Nook Color is nothing like the stability of the iPad.
  3. Bluetooth is a joke. This, again, is because the Nook Color wasn’t even supposed to have Bluetooth at all. The Nook Color hackers found a way to get Bluetooth working, but the range is limited to 10 inches (no, seriously, 10 inches!), so it’s all but useless.
  4. Screen responsiveness and precision is bad, compared to the iPad. Now, this, I think, is maybe more true to all 7-inch tablets? Or at least, I would think that the precision required to click on things on 7-inch tablet is much higher than that on a 10-inch tablet. At any rate, I am constantly finding myself clicking on something other than what I intended to click on on my Nook Color, and only rarely find that happening on my iPad.
  5. No built-in GPS. While TetherGPS lets you use the GPS from your Android phone on your Nook Color, it’s not nearly as nice as having GPS built in on the Nook Color.
  6. The CPU seems to just not be able to keep up. Even overclocked at 1.2Ghz, my Nook Color hits 100% CPU usage an awful lot and it freezes the entire tablet very often, which makes for a pretty unreliable experience.
  7. Battery usage is really bad, especially in the CM 7.1.0 release. I think it was much better in the 7.0.3 release that my wifey is running, but I can’t let the little guy go for more than a day and a half, it seems, before he’s dead.
  8. External keyboard support is really bad. I’m not sure how much of this should be chalked up to the horrible Bluetooth support on the Nook Color, versus problems with the keyboard software on the NC reacting badly to the external keyboard input, but using an external keyboard has never worked out well for me on my Nook Color. I’ve even had the Android keyboard software force close on me a few times while I was using my external bluetooth keyboard.

I guess that’s all I’ve got for now. Again, I’m not trying to sell you anything or sway your mind at all. I just wanted to jot down the experience I’ve had with both of these tablets and keep a running list somewhere to remind myself why I’m using what I’m using now. =:)

And finally, yes, I’m aware that it’s not entirely fair to call the Nook Color an Android Tablet. It was never intended to be one, and it was meant primarily as an eReader with limited other applications. But it’s all I have to go on for a comparison.

I think that from the experience I’ve had with these two tablets, I truly would like to try a new, full-featured Android tablet that has built-in GPS, Bluetooth, and a 10-inch screen. My concern is that rooting said tablet and tweaking the UI too much or installing custom ROMs, etc., is going to end up in the same instability that I have with the Nook Color, and that would make me über sad. But maybe not? I’ve been told the Xoom is the most dev-friendly and kept-up-to-date Android tablet right now. Any suggestions?

Sunday November 13, 2011
by Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper
16 Comments

Goodbye, for now at least, Linux Desktop

I’ve been an Open Source developer and hacker for a loooooong, long time. It has become far more than a part of what I do. It has become part of who I am.

At first, it was mostly about the freedom to run what I want, where I want, how I want. Desktop Linux has always been exciting to me for that reason.

But then it grew beyond that and enabled me to contribute back. Open Source allowed me to teach myself new programming languages. It allowed me to make friends literally all over the world. It became the thing that I enjoyed doing most, technically, especially since my daytime jobs didn’t let me do the kind of programming and development that I wanted to do.

It helped me to get the best job of my life.

I’ve been working at VMware for more than 4 years now. I only have this job because I’ve taught myself everything I know about programming languages, and most of that has been through my work in the Open Source communities I’ve participated in over the last 15 years.

Most recently, I’ve had a blast as a KPilot/KDE PIM developer. I’ve met more people from all around the world and I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. But KPilot and Palm Pilots in general have long since lost relevance. And sadly, I was never able to find a new itch to scratch and a new area to start contributing to. It’s been years now since I’ve contributed any sizable amount of code to any Open Source community. I’ve waited, hoping that I’d find more time, or that I’d find a new itch to scratch, or that I’d get the urge to start hacking on Linux Desktop stuff again. But it hasn’t happened, and I have no reason to think it’s going to anytime soon.

Over the past several years, I’ve become increasingly irritated and frustrated by the ever-changing-and-not-always-in-good-ways Linux Desktop. I’ve blogged before about this and got quite a bit of feedback about it. That was two years ago, almost exactly. What has changed since then? In my mind, absolutely nothing. Now we have Ubuntu turning the desktop on its head again with Ubuntu Unity and destabilizing applications that have worked perfectly well for years and years. I know this because I’ve been working on VMware’s Workstation and Player products for the Linux Desktop for the last 4 years and I can’t tell you how much time and frustration and energy I’ve had to put into last minute bug fixes to work around new and broken in “exciting ways” behavior in Linux Desktop Environments. That’s the kind of thing that really sucks the life and soul out of you, especially when it’s something that you’ve cared so deeply about for so very long.

You have to understand… I have been one of the most outspoken and zealous of Linux Desktop proponents you’d ever want to meet. And I do believe that the Linux Desktop is awesome and a worthwhile thing to use, if only to keep down on the amount of ongoing upkeep you have to do to your PC thanks to viruses, malware, etc. But I have decided to move away from caring about Desktop Linux and I don’t know if I’ll be back, personally.

I’ve always looked at jwz’s “final straw” rant and thought that I could never get there. I’ve invested too much time and energy in Desktop Linux and cared too much about it to give up on it, right? Well, I was wrong, I guess. =:)

So, this isn’t meant to be a slam on Linux or a slam on KDE or a slam on Open Source or anything else. Just chalk it up to an old, cranky dude who became disillusioned with the Linux Desktop if you want. Or chalk it up to said old, cranky dude finally having enough money to buy a Mac and seeing how beautifully it runs and really enjoying it and not wanting to deal with for Linux Desktop on his personal daily equipment anymore.

But anyway, I just wanted to put this out there. I feel like I’m losing part of who I am by doing it officially and all. But I have been using and developing on Apple’s OS X lately and I’m thoroughly loving it. A couple of months ago, the opportunity presented itself at work and I made the switch from the VMware Linux Workstation/Player team to the VMware Fusion team, and I’m really loving it. I had been feeling like I’ve been stagnating lately and not learning or growing as a developer. I had been wanting to make a change and learn new technology and languages. And thus far, I’m really liking Objective-C and Mac development.

So at this point, I’m going to remove myself from planet KDE and take a break from Linux Desktop for a while. I’ve actually been not blogging for quite a while now because I know it’s not going to be relevant to planet KDE and that’s been another source of frustration, so I’m going to rectify that now too. I’ve been meaning to remove myself from the planet KDE feed for a while now, but 1) I felt like I should say some kind of goodbye and 2) I can’t seem to be able to log in to my svn+ssh account anymore to remove myself from the planet feed. =:/

Anyway, sorry to all my KDE friends. I feel like I’m letting you guys down. But truth be told, I haven’t been doing anything in the last couple of years anyway. =:/ I guess it’s just a normal part of life and different phases of it or something. We’ll see where this road goes. I’m hoping that at the very least, this will let me feel like I can start blogging again. =:)

Monday August 23, 2010
by Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper
4 Comments

Logitech Marble Mouse and “auto-scrolling” in OS X

I love my Logitech Marble Mouse. It’s seriously the best mouse I’ve ever owned. And it works really nicely in Linux, especially thanks to this excellent Ubuntu wiki page. And, reportedly, it works really nicely in Windows too, with Logitech’s mouse config software (which does me absolutely no good being that I refuse to run Windows). But I could not get auto-scrolling (where you hold down one of the smaller buttons and move the marble to scroll) to work in OS X.

I almost broke down and bought a new Kensington trackball mouse like the Kensington K72337US Orbit Trackball with Scroll Ring for PC or Mac, Kensington Expert Mouse Optical USB Trackball for PC or Mac (this one still really tempts me), or the Kensington Slimblade Trackball USB 2.0 for PC and Mac, (this one is sexy as hell!!!), but they each have their flaws. The Orbit is awesome and seems to work in Linux, but it only has 2 buttons. The Expert has 4 totally programmable buttons, and I think it has a physical scroll ring, but I’ve read that the new model is really bad on your wrist due to the elevated angle. And the Slimblade Trackball looks just amazing, but from what I read, the scrolling is done by twisting the trackball and that’s done completely in software, which of course Kensington hasn’t provided for Linux.

However, I did find one suggestion that got me to a 95% working solution by reading Google’s cached copy of the second page of this expired Logitech forum post. (UGH!) Specifically, Another_User says this:

I found one that works pretty good using a combination of Smart Scroll and ControllerMate.

In controllermate “trackball button 4” box is connected directly to a “toggle” box which is connected to a “button output” box. Properties of the “button output” box are: “when turned on : button down”, “when turned off: button up:, “with mouse button: button #7”

Smartcontrol actived grabscroll with button#7, check wihtout moving cursors and reversed axis.

So I gave this a shot and got it working! Actually, you don’t need ControllerMate. I got this to work by using Logitech’s Control Center for OS X, configuring the two small buttons (button 5 and button 4) to report themselves as buttons 7 and 8 by using “Advanced Click”, and then I used SmartScroll to pick up on button 7 to do the grabscrolling.

This seems to work really well in OS X applications, like Chrome, etc., but the scrolling doesn’t translate well in X apps like NX Client or VNC even. But it’s better than it was before, so I’m definitely happier than I was previously.

I’d still love to get the Kensington SlimBlade Trackball working in Linux though. Anyone out there have success getting scrolling with the trackball to work?

Monday January 11, 2010
by Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper
12 Comments

VLC patch for hfsplus partitions, yay!

I have a 13″ MacBook Pro that I use for my personal and non-work shtuff. I resized OS X down, installed Linux (Kubuntu), and set up a shared partition so that I can keep files there that I want to access from both OS X and Linux. Things like my music and video collection, Snooker torrents, VMware virtual machines, etc. It appears that there are basically 4 decent options for a shared filesystem between OS X and Linux, but IMHO only 2 of them are worth trying and only 1 of them seems to actually work almost perfectly:

  1. The venerable FAT32 filesystem. Yes, it works. No, it doesn’t work like you’d want a UNIX filesystem to work. You can’t store files that are bigger than 4 GB on it, and the whole lack of permissions and filename length limitations thing just really sticks in my craw, so this isn’t a viable option for me.
  2. The newer and even more proprietary NTFS filesystem. Come on, seriously? Why would anybody pick NTFS, which is native to only one proprietary operating system in the world (hint: not Linux and not OS X) and try to use it in Linux and OS X? Insanity, I say. Moving on.
  3. ext2/ext3. Thanks to FUSE and fuse-ext2, the native-to-Linux ext2 and ext3 filesystem can be accessed in OS X. Of course, it works perfectly in Linux. However, in testing, it feels like trying to navigate through the ext2 partition in OS X’s finder is REALLY slow and choppy. I’m not sure what’s going on, and it doesn’t seem like the CPU is getting pegged or anything. But it felt slow enough that I don’t think I want to put all my data on it and hope it works right.
  4. hfsplus. Now this one actually works (or seems to thus far) really well. Reading up on it a bit after having been using it makes me a smidge nervous, since it would seem that it’s extremely unloved from the Linux kernel devs and currently unmaintained. Yay! But if you set up an unjournaled hfsplus partition from OS X, Linux can very happily read/write it and it seems to be very stable and fast in both Linux and OS X.

Great. So why am I blogging about this? Well, like I said, hfsplus access in Linux is working almost perfectly. Except for VLC. Apparently, hfsplus has some nasty problems and isn’t actually POSIX compliant when it comes to opening directories. Due to how VLC handles “files” that it is asked to play (it accepts both directories and files as playlist arguments and VLC chooses to try to open the playlist element as a directory first, and this doesn’t fail with hfsplus the way it should in POSIX-compliant filesystems) VLC is unable to play anything that’s on an hfsplus partition. This is quite a bummer for me and others who use hfsplus as a filesystem and also like to use VLC.

Enter this bug report and Tobias’s awesome little patch for VLC. After using his patch and applying it over the top of my 1.0.3 VLC here in Kubuntu Karmic, I am now able to watch movies and listen to music stored on my hfsplus shared partition again from Linux, using VLC. Huzzah! Maybe this’ll help someone else out there struggling with this (or just generate a lot of “you suck, why would you use proprietary Apple hardware or OS X?!?!” comments).

Oh, and while this is a hfsplus filesystem problem at the root, because of how Kaffeine or KDE’s own Dragon Player open files, they are not affected by this bug. Only VLC is. So…. yeah.

I am curious, though… I know I’m not the only KDE hacker out there who’s using a MacBook or MBP, and who *gasp* also has OS X and Linux sharing the hard drive. What do you guys use for a shared partition between Linux and OS X?