Sunday, November 26, 2006

Home Automation taken a little too far ...

The BBC has a story on LG's view of an automated home of the future except they've actually built it. The story, called "Smart homes a reality in S Korea" details a technology rich apartment where there's a central panel that can control the technology. It goes on, briefly, to describe power line technology where control, data, voice, video and Internet services are delivered via the homes power lines. The appliances are all HomeNet compatible and how you can control your air quality, looks who is at the front door, check your power and even access everything remotely. It also goes on to say that you'll wear a PC on your wrist that can be tracked around the home and open and close doors for you. It will even help you select what to wear and tell you what clothes need to be washed. There goes a bachelors wardrobe. :-)

While I like playing with technology I don't like the idea of wea ring a PC and being tracked. If it can be used at home it can also be used to track you everywhere. Remote access to everything also makes me a bit nervous. A normal human being has enough trouble with keeping their personal information secure (and it seems a great many don't do it well enough). With the advent of more and more RFI technology our personal information will just be public information. While I like the idea of home automation I don't like the idea of technology being used to invade my personal life. Yes, I sound like a Luddite and I don't subscribe to conspiracy theories but more control is being given to others and less to me. I have no idea if I can trust others but if they're corporations then I know I can't. Corporations are not interested in me they're interested in my money and ways to earn more money off of me. Once they have the information they view it as their's not as mine. So I can't trust them them as they haven't earned my trust and don't have my interests as part of their interests. Personal automation, control and monitoring when taken away from the person is taking things a bit too far. That's when the technology is taken too far. We need some kind of a gatekeeper to control what's being done with all this information.

Linux Geek Holiday list

Putting together a holiday list for computer geeks is a difficult thing! You can't just go and ask for something like an ARM Single Board computer with 32M of RAM, 8M of Flash, Compact Flash, USB, Ethernet, 2 serial ports, optional ADC, RS485 and a compass in the stock without getting a "You'll shoot your eye out" stare back! It really depends on the person. For instance, I use Linux, buying me software for Windows is pretty useless. I have nothing to run it on! I'm also a hardware geek, if your geek is a software person then getting them electronics to build isn't going to light up their eyes. Having said that here are a few goodies I wouldn't mind seeing under my Christmas tree!

  • Qtopia Greenphone - At $695 it a rather expensive phone but it's cool toy/platform for experimenting with. :-)
  • Mindstorm's NXT Robot - It's suggested for 7 ye ars and older. I think I'm qualified, besides robots and Legos what's not to love.
  • TS-7200 ARM Single Board Computer - 200 MHz ARM9, Boots Linux out of the box, 32 MB SDRAM, 8 MB Flash disk, 10/100 Ethernet, Compact Flash, 2 USB 2.0 Compatible OHCI ports (12 Mbit/s Max), 2 COM ports, 20 DIO, PC/104 expansion bus, Optional A/D and RS-485. This should make a could good home automation controller to replace my older HCS II. Yeah I know, you'll shoot your eye out.
  • I love working with various micro-controllers. Most of my work is in assembler or C ( SDCC C compiler). I also have a wire wrapped 8052-BASIC board (self made). Lately I've been interested in the BASIC Stamps. A friend is using them in a few hobby project. Since then a few of other vendors have come out with BASIC stamps. I'm interested in ZBasic because I've got the IDE working under WINE.
  • Of course there's X10 but now there's Insteon and UPB Power Line home automation controllers. Control the world around us.
  • Nokia 770 - Internet Tablet, I love this thing. I wish I could get my hands on it. My wife uses it all the time I'd love to use it more often.
  • IP cameras would make a nice gift. I've got three, one wireless and two wired cameras. I didn't want a USB camera since they tend to be finicky and the ones I have I couldn't find drivers for them.
  • If you've got a real hardware hacker/geek a Robo Sapien would probably make an interesting base for a project. Sure beats the Lafayette robot arm. :-)
  • Books - when all else fails a geek will love books! We need them as reference and to give us ideas. Don't know which type, try a gift certificate. It may be a little impersonal but I don't know many geeks that don't have a library of book that surpasses their own local libraries. Since you need a recommendation how this book: Linux Smart Homes For Dummies. Yeah I know I wrote it but it is a good idea book. :-)

  • Labjack U12 - a USB Digital Acquisition device with 8 12-bit analog inputs, 2 analog outputs, 20 digital I/O, and a 32-bit counter. Don't worry they've got a drivers for it. Team this up with Mr. House for home automation.

So where is the software on my list? Well my I'm using Open Source software so I don't need to purchase much so far. I have purchased Eagle Layout Editor for my electronic designs and CCS C compiler for Microchip development. I haven't needed to purchase anything else so far. There are plenty of development packages I'd like to see under Linux but I haven't see them yet.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

An interesting event, a power hit!

Yesterday morning my home took a quick power hit. I'm guessing that it was the high winds in the area. This is not really that unusual as my area has been experiencing power problems more and more lately (see Another bad day ...). What is unusual is that I have everything on several UPS boxes (I learned my lesson, yeah!). So it was interesting to watch my cable modem lights as the power dipped and my computers stayed up and running (yeah!). What I noticed was the online and link lights went out on my cable modem. The cable modem is on the UPS as well as the firewall/router. This is a pretty clear indicator that my local ISP (Comcast) doesn't have their street equipment on battery backup and that a local power failure means no Internet connectivity. This really isn't too much of a problem as I've kept my copper line but others may not understand that if their Internet connectivity goes out they may not have their VoIP service.

My opinion on the Microsoft/Novell deal

A lot has been written on the Microsoft/Novell deal and a lot more will be written. It would nice (and naive) to believe that Microsoft would like to play nice with the Open Source Community but history paints a much more grim picture (think IBM/Microsoft and OS2). To make matters worse is Steve Balmer's most recent comments towards the Linux community infringing on Microsoft's intellectual property (and his past tirades). It's obvious that Microsoft has no intention of co-operation but rather spreading FUD and using bully tactics. I'm hoping that the Linux community can work together and defeat Microsoft at it's marketing game of cat and mouse. Those who are interested can sign Bruce Peren's Protest the Microsoft-Novell Patent Agreement online petition. While a single voice may not be easily heard a group of voice can form a choir that can be more readily heard from afar.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

MS Linux, WTFrell?

Today, Microsoft and Novell have announced 'broad business and technical collaboration agreements' (Microsoft) to make their products work better together. OK, does anyone really believe that Microsoft is out to help the Linux community? Hello, remember OS/2? Let's face it, M$ is out for it's own gain and unless Novell really careful M$ is going to take advantage of this much to the detriment of Novell and Linux. I'm sure M$ is out to put a dent in Linux's armor in some way. One comment that did standout is: "The patent cooperation agreement enables Microsoft and Novell to give customers assurance of protection against patent infringement clams." Hmm, that sounds like FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) to me.

Well I'm still fixing up the home server. My web site automation code is not longer working (sitecopy seems to be broken). I attempted to download the entire site and it failed. I instead used scp -r userid@system.url: . and that worked well. I still have much to clean up. That's the reason I haven't posted much yet. I really need to get work on this so I can get back in swing.