Robotic Tendencies
The personal blog of Robert McQueen

April 18, 2008

Lazyweb request: gadgets I would like to have

Last night I thought of a few gadgets which I’d like to have, and although I’m pretty sure you should be able to get hold of them, I had trouble finding anything that looked quite right:

  • Alarm clock which makes coffee: I can’t be the only one who finds it hard to bootstrap my days because I have to get out of bed and make the first coffee of the day before I’ve had any coffee. My parents had a machine which was an alarm clock which made tea (very noisily) at the appropriate time in the morning. Surely there should be a similar device which can display the time and make (at least passable) coffee instead? Be it an alarm clock with a sideline in making coffee, or a coffee machine with a built in timer. I’ve noticed some of Gaggia’s bean-to-cup machines claim to have 24-hour clocks, but does that mean they have a timer function? We just don’t know.
  • Decent watch with USB storage: I found some watches online last night which had USB storage built in, some with a little USB connector that folded out, some with a mini/micro USB connector on the side, with the idea I could store (maybe parts of) my GPG and SSH keys on it, and maybe a bootable Debian installer/rescue system. The thing is, I have a reasonably nice Timex Expedition watch at the moment which I quite like: it has an electro-luminescent analog display for the middle of the night, and a digital bit for the date, alarms and multiple time-zones. The USB-enabled watches I saw didn’t look that great as watches, but I might be wrong. Does anyone have a watch that features USB storage that doesn’t compromise too much on the watch functionality? Maybe I should just give up on this one and go for the rugged USB stick on the keyring approach.
  • Video output over USB: I have a reasonably new HP 2510P laptop which I also use as my main machine at work with a docking station, TFT, keyboard, mouse, etc. However, as a machine for watching DVDs or other videos on at home, it’s a bit on the small side. I have an olde-worlde big flatscreen TV at home (which is not as good as Christian‘s flat-screen blueray surround sound movie set-up, but I think I retain the moral high ground on taste in films), but my laptop doesn’t have any video out. Is there a USB 2.0 widget which produces composite or S-Video output which I can feed to my TV, that will work with Linux, or should I just get a scan converter of some sort so I can use the VGA output?

So, answers on a postcard…

posted by ramcq @ 11:42 am
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May 11, 2007

Tubes and Planets

Daf blogged earlier about some of the work we’ve done thus far for the One Laptop Per Child project. Tubes (although the picture looks more like snakes if you ask me :D) are a really cool technology which should let the OLPC activity authors just work on their activity, and use D-Bus and Telepathy to take care of the communications.

At the moment our implementation for Gabble (Telepathy’s XMPP backend) is pretty rudimentary and sends all data via the server, but this already lets us layer multi-user tubes over XMPP multi-user chat rooms and have it act like a bus where each member of the room is also a D-Bus endpoint. You can export objects, call methods and emit signals just as normal.

Next up we’re going to implement them in Salut (the link-local XMPP backend, which we’ll use for communications over OLPC’s mesh networking) using good old TCP for the one-to-one connections, and some of Sjoerd’s more exciting link-local multicast stuff for multi-user tubes. To make tubes work for desktop clients we’re going to go on and look at more advanced Jingle-based ICE NAT traversal stuff.

Maybe one of our next ports of call should be raw stream tubes for existing TCP protocols, then we can make a reality from X over Jabber (or whatever other protocol) that Matthew Allum was wondering about. πŸ™‚

I’ve also just stolen Planet Collabora from Daf’s home directory and put it on its own subdomain, so you can add it to your feed readers and keep track of what we’re up to with Telepathy, Farsight and friends.

posted by ramcq @ 2:03 am
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January 18, 2007

LCA and hiring

I’m in Sydney for LCA 2007 this week, and this should also be my debut post on the conference planet. This is the first time I’ve made it to the other side of the world for this conference, and I’m really glad I came. It’s definitely one of the cooler conferences I’ve been to, slickly run and with an excellent programme of talks, so massive congratulations and thanks are due to the organisers and volunteers. The weather’s a stark contrast to the French Alps (I was skiing last week!), although thankfully it’s quite mild at the moment and not gotten too hot for a Pom like me. πŸ˜€ It’s always cool to catch up with people who I’ve not seen for a while, and put names to faces for a whole load of others I’ve not met yet. If you’re around, reading this in time, and interested in the Telepathy VOIP/IM framework, my talk is today (Friday) at 11am. If shameless bribes help, I’ve also got some funky Collabora and Telepathy shirts I need to give away before I head back to the UK.

The second bit is that Collabora‘s looking for a couple of people to either join us in Cambridge (UK) or work with us as a subcontractor. We’re currently doing loads of cool and totally open source stuff with IM, voice & video streaming and collaboration technologies. We’re looking for people with experience with some/many/all of C, Python, Glib/Gtk, D-Bus, GStreamer and RTP. If you’re interested, send mail to jobs(Ñ)collabora.co.uk, or if you’re around at LCA then come and find me if you want a chat.

posted by ramcq @ 3:09 pm
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December 16, 2006

Telepathy and OLPC (part 2)

I’ve been away from the office for a couple of days, but when I got back to Cambridge, Daf and Sjoerd had some pretty cool stuff to show me:

These screenshots are taken by using an environment variable to tell stream-engine just to create an xvimagesink for any call, but Daf’s writing a simple pygtk UI which handles embedding the output window into the UI properly and should make placing/receiving calls slightly less mystical. Even so, a graphical video call APP in ~150 lines of python… not too bad if you ask me. πŸ™‚

posted by ramcq @ 6:27 pm
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December 12, 2006

Telepathy and OLPC

We got an OLPC prototype at Collabora last week, and have been playing with the Telepathy VOIP/IM framework on the devices. Using telepathy-gabble’s (our XMPP backend) Jingle implementation, and telepathy-stream-engine with the Farsight GStreamer RTP library, we got a bidirectional voice/video call going pretty quickly using a few lines of python and a bit of hackery (patches to follow :D).

We’re going to polish this up into an activity you can install, and also Sjoerd Simons has been working with us on telepathy-salut, an XMPP Link-Local (also known as Rendezvous, Bonjour, iChat, whatever) backend which we’re hoping to also get working as part of the OLPC platform.

posted by ramcq @ 8:37 pm
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June 29, 2006

Telepathy

Just a quick one, people want food: my Telepathy talk at GUADEC earlier this week was a success by most accounts, and followed up by after-hours talks today with Kai Vehmanen’s on Telepathy SIP, and Yannick Pellet on the IM/VOIP project on the 770. My slides are available for people who missed my talk, and hopefully soon Fluendo will grace us with videos feeds too.

For people still around at the conference tomorrow, I’ve arranged a BOF with Martyn Russell for discussing/hacking Telepathy and Gossip stuff. It’s in the museum library room at 11am tomorrow (Friday). Hope to see you there!

posted by ramcq @ 6:01 pm
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June 25, 2006

GUADEC and Telepathy

I made it to Vilanova on Friday for GUADEC, managed to get settled in to our chalet (I’m glad we opted for one with air conditioning!). After we got them to fix the hot water, I now think it’s pretty decent accomodation for the price, complete with wifi, swimming pool and a well-stocked shop. The only downside I can see is the distance from town. On Friday night we missed the last bus and walked in, which took over an hour and I developed a bad headache by the time we reached the town (we didn’t find the right beach, but stopped in a bar instead). My enjoyment of the walk wasn’t helped by the small children who were out on the street launching fireworks, mortars and other incendiary devices at or near us most of the way. πŸ™‚

Yesterday we hired bicycles to get to the town center which was certainly more fun, but there’s quite a hill on the way back. Also, bus in and taxi back is pretty much cheaper than the cost of hiring bikes here anyway, so I’m not sure I can recommend it as a long-term strategy. We might do it again for the novelty, and it has the benefit of not needing to wait around for a taxi to get back.

Even before I made it to the conference venue yesterday, I’ve already met loads of cool people who hack on all sorts of cool software which I use every day, and I’ve recognised lots more people who I’ve not managed to speak to yet. I’ve also realised that we need to do a lot more work to raise the profile of the Telepathy project which I’ve been working on for almost a year now (eek!). It’s a really cool way to get IM and VoIP stuff properly integrated into the GNOME desktop, and everyone should go and check out the website, play with our releases, chat with me and come to my talk on Tuesday. Oh, and if anyone wants a Telepathy or Collabora t-shirt, grab one off me or daf. πŸ™‚

posted by ramcq @ 10:10 am
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June 2, 2006

Meta-blogging

In the office just now, daf complained at me that he finds it very annoying when people blog about how they havn’t blogged recently. I apologise, although in my defence, the post was mainly about C (I’ve subsequently learnt that -Wextra will warn me about such errors in future, thanks :D). The question is, is this post also annoying because of this meta-blogging property, or can it be excused as meta-meta-blogging?

Although, whilst I am talking about my blog, I found that Ross Burton took a reasonable picture of me at FOSDEM (I’m the one on the left, versus Iain Holmes on the right :D), which I’ve cribbed for my photo on the GUADEC speakers list. I was wondering if in exchange for beer (or cake), anyone would like to make me a hackergotchi for my various Planet appearances?

I’ve decided with mjg59 that when referring to Web 2.0, the correct pronounciation of RSS is ‘arse‘ (linked to the definition for people to might spell that word wrongly ;), leading to witty concepts such as ‘arse feeds’, ‘arse readers’, etc. It amused us in the pub anyway.

posted by ramcq @ 6:27 pm
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June 1, 2006

if (n00b); warning

I wasted a non-trivial amount of time yesterday debugging code in which I’d accidentally written:

if (...);
  {
    ...
  }

Is there any situation where if (foo); can achieve something which just foo; couldn’t? Could the compiler not warn about a conditional that contained no code?

Aggravating lapses in competence aside, I’ve realised I’ve not blogged for months, so over the next few days I’m going to try and write a little about what I’ve been working on recently.

posted by ramcq @ 12:05 pm
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April 19, 2006

Summer of Telepathy

I put a few ideas on the wiki page for some Summer of Code projects based on getting the Telepathy Framework used on the GNOME desktop. We’ve hacked out a spec for doing most IM & VOIP stuff via D-Bus so that you can add whatever functionality you want into any program like Nautilus, Evolution, Gossip, etc, and share the use of your server connections from wherever in the desktop makes the most sense. We’ve been working hard on our flagship XMPP backend implementation, telepathy-gabble, and Raphaël Slinckx & Adam Lofts have been working on some UI implementations in Python and C#, but we need to get some more people looking at different backends and integrating frontend functionality into the desktop. Get those SoC applications going if you think this sounds cool… πŸ™‚

As well as my ideas, I should also mention I’d be happy to mentor for other deserving ideas such as eikke’s CDIS plans, and I’ve also got some ideas about how cross-program (and cross desktop) music databases should be achieved. I’m particularly keen on helping people with D-Bus related projects because I know that not enough people understand how all this stuff works, so I think it’s worth spending a bit of my time to spread the love (and pain) which I’ve learnt working on Telepathy.

posted by ramcq @ 12:00 pm
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