Musings about things that interest a "Geezer Gadget Geek" who also happens to enjoy some of the finer things in life that liberty in a free country makes possible.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It should come as a surprise to no one who knows me that the CBS show Numb3rs is my all time favourite television series. Just like the ever-popular Star Trek series of shows, this program is a geek's delight - full of suspense, drama, and enough Mathematics and Computer Simulations to delight even the moribund of geeky viewers.

The story centers around brothers Don and Charlie Eppes and their careers as FBI Agent and Mathematics Professor. All episodes focus on solving crimes in and around the Los Angeles, California area and in using Mathematics to aid in catching the bad guys. It is a geniune pleasure to see intelligent people featured as such - too much of modern TV is centered around boorish characters who almost glory in the comedic nature of their idiocy. Joining Don and Charlie are a diverse mixture of regular characters who add spice to the stories - David, Colby, Lynn, Larry, Megan, Alan, et al. We are presently into season six of the series and some of the characters are no longer with the show, but the central characters remain, as well as the outstanding writing, direction, and production of the finest show on television.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Porting Progress: zForth -> ARM

I've made great progress in working to port my zForth system from the Intel Pentium world to that of the ARM world. The platforms that I use at present are the wonderful QEMU virtualization platform on my Linux workstation, and the T-Mobile G1 cell-phone. Eventually, my goal is to also get it working on my HP-50G calculator in time to present it to the HHC 2010 Conference.

ARM is a powerful and very "clean" processor and I love working with it. RISC machines in general have much to offer low-level systems programmers such as myself and this makes it a fun project to work on.

Porting to a new processor involves many phases which, like scafolding at a construction site, each step is built so that you can "stand on it" and work on the next phase. The first phase was (1) to complete an ARM assembler, after that, (2) to modify the metacompiler so that ARM code is produced, and then with ARM code being produced begins (3) the repeating cycle of run-test-edit on both an ARM simulation environment (QEMU and the Android Emulator) and on the actual ARM hardware (the G1). I've completed phases one and two, with both taking about 6 months of part-time work (roughly an hour a week) and am now in the run-test-edit cycle with threading working perfectly, and some I/O working, but not all. I still have many more weeks ahead of me, but I've "hit my stride" per say, and am enjoying the trip! :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

I ordered my Kindle from Amazon two days ago, received it yesterday, and I thought I would record my first impressions here. Amazon has always been a first-class company and I received a quality product. The first book I downloaded into it was (of course) "Web Geek's Guide to the Android-Enabled Phone", and am looking forward to learning how to effectively use the Kindle with the book that Jerri, Prasanna, and I wrote.

I downloaded some books on my favourite hobby - Mathematics, to see how the Kindle handles the esoteric symbols and formula that make up the language of Mathematics. (Conclusion: no problemo! :)

I've also been busy on the website using Amazon's tool for requesting books to be published for the Kindle by visiting the many book orders that I've made in the past and clicking their "Kindle Request" feature.

I firmly believe in the eminent demise of paper books as the generations that are totally devoted to paper books pass on. Everything about eBooks makes them better in my very opinionated opinion - they take up no space, they can be indexed and searched electronically, one can highlight and mark them up with notes, clip portions from and transfer them among other useful devices, and basically do anything that an ordinary book can do - ONLY BETTER! I fail to see the attachment that so many have to the old paper-based technology, but then again, I never was a Luddite - someone who resists change just to resist it. Besides, my new Kindle fits perfectly into the padded slot in my beloved Franklin Planner, so why not?

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Android Revolution is exploding! 12 Phones strong and growing in number - just like the PC revolution of the 1980's or the Linux revolution of the 1990's! This is good - very very good indeed.

Open source has always been a better choice for a number of reasons but the most important one, of course, is that it allows people - empowering individuals - to apply their own talents towards improving the system for everyone else.

Of course, mine is not an unbiased opinion, since I am a co-author of a book on the Android powered cell phone - but be that as it may, the system is growing in popularity and that is making me a very happy man. Viva 'la Android!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fort Collins, Colorado

Here is the view from my hotel window. It's a beautiful and cool day in Fort Collins, and the HHC 2009 conference begins tomorrow at the Hewlett-Packard facilities. My mother and I made the trip okay and the only difficult part of the trip was from the Denver bus station to Fort Collins (about 53 miles) since the bus was packed with people. (Full occupancy.) The hotel (Cambria Suites) is great and the food that they served us for dinner last night and breakfast this morning was first-class indeed!

I look forward to a bit of shopping today, since I will need nicer clothes for the conference. Directly across from the hotel is a shopping mall and I should be able to find something to wear. I'm also going to eat lunch at the food court there - if they have one.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm in a mad rush right now to get everything that I'll need packed and ready for the trip. To borrow a Star-Trek expression, the Borg (Amtrak) are about to assimilate me and I know now that resistance is futile.

I have so much to do ... transfer my archives from the main workstation to my HP notebook computer ... make printed copies of everything to do with the trip ... pack the essentials (pills, tickets, electronics, and oh yeah - clean clothes too) ... mentally prepare to be away from my comfort zone for two weeks ... hand off any work to my partners ... and of course, try to get some sleep this evening and late night so I can be ready for the ordeal beginning at 4:00 AM tomorrow morning.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I've been working on setting up RSS/Atom feeds so that my blog can be exported to both Amazon's Author Central and Facebook. Hopefully this post will make it to both sites. It's so nice to be able to work on one site and have the content exported to others automatically. Five copies of the Web Geeks Guide to the Android-Enabled Phone were delivered to my home this morning and I was thrilled. Up until this point it was more like a vaporous entity, but as of today, it's real! :)

I'm almost finished with my packing for the trip to the HHC 2009 in Fort Collins, Colorado. The weather is so fantastic right now I almost regret leaving, but I'm sure that the trip will be worth it. I was visited by my son and daughter this morning as they were passing through. Michael was in Winfield for the weekend and Rachael was giving him a ride back to his home in South County. I am the most blessed of Fathers - I have two GREAT kids! (Who at 27 and 25 aren't quite "kids" anymore.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's a lovely Sunday morning in Hillsboro. The sky is clear, the temperature hovers around 60 degrees and the windows are wide open. Nothing beats breathing the fresh air of the rural countryside! Ahhh...

On Wednesday, I'll be leaving for the HP conference that I wrote about earlier and am making the trip a memorable vacation to Fort Collins, Colorado by riding the rails of Amtrak.

My mother, who loves travel and wants to see what Fort Collins is like, will be my traveling partner. She and I are very excited about the scenery that we'll enjoy and having ridden Amtrak before for short trips to Chicago and back, as well as Hermann and back, are sure that this first long trip across the Midwest will be even more rewarding. Amtrak offers some great travel bargains for travelers of all kinds (especially writers!) and I encourage everyone to consider seeing our beautiful country with an Amtrak rail pass!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wow! I never thought that retirement would be such a busy time - but it is! Between getting my next developerWorks article finished , completing work on my first book, and preparing for the HHC 2009 conference in October, 2009, I simply haven't had much time or thought to record things here. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, I just need to relax a little and blog a little more often.

Jerri Ledford, the main author of the book I was refering to (and not the lady pictured at the left!) has informed me that writing books can be a lot of fun most of the time, but there can be times of maddening delays. We're over those delays now and the printing presses are running all-out now in order to ship copies of our book to the large book-sellers. If you have an interest in Android cell phones or Android technology in general, then feel free to visit one of the book sellers and purchase a copy of our new book, Web Geek's Guide to the Android-Enabled Phone.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A New Laptop Computer!

I purchased a new Laptop / Notebook computer today, a HP DV7-2040US computer powered by a Quad-Core processor, the Intel Core 2 Quad processor Q9000, with 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB SATA hard disk. I'm looking forward to having it delivered by next Tuesday, and plan on making it a tri-boot machine, just like my HP Workstation is. (Windows Vista, Ubuntu Linux 9.04, and my custom OS.) Since this will be my first Quad-core machine, I look forward to getting my custom OS to run on the L2 cache of all four cores, and work on inter-core communication protocols. Yes, I am very much looking forward to getting involved in the multi-core, parallel-processing arena too.

The HP-50G

I've been a HP Calculator fan since 1979 when I purchased my first HP, the HP-41C. No surprise there, eh? Well, 30 years have passed since then and the state of the art in advanced calculators is now the HP-50G. (I've actually owned mine since 2006.)

Powered by the ARM9 processor, and running at a nominal 75 MHz clock speed, this advanced, battery-powered handheld computer offers a number of features that make it very useful. It offers algebraic or RPN entry of mathematical formulas and other object types, a highly advanced computer algebra system (aka "CAS"), ARM and Saturn processor development tools, a huge equation library, and some very powerful applications like the Equation Writer and the Matrix Editor. It can be programmed in UserRPL, SystemRPL, ARM assembler, Saturn assembler, LUA, and in C with the very powerful HPGCC toolkit. I am working on adding ARM zForth to the list as well.

I'm also looking forward to attending the HHC 2009 conference on October 3rd and 4th this year in Vancouver, Washington. I hope to ride Amtrak with my good friend Tom Vogel there and back. (Tom wants to visit his daughter Dawn, who lives in nearby Seattle.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

LINUX - Stand Up and Be Counted!

I've been a Linux user since November, 1996 and am a huge fan of other Open Source software as well. No surprise there, eh? Well, here is an opportunity for Linux users to stand up and be counted. Visit this website and fill out all of the information that you can in order to join up and provide the advocates of Linux useful information on who and where we are...

Linux Counter

Linux is my preferred operating system on many of my computers - Red Hat on my work server, Ubuntu on most of my workstation machines, Android on my cell-phone, etc. As a programmer and a writer, I find that the platform is GREAT because there is so much that can be learned from studying the code that other programmers have written. I encourage anyone who wants to become a better programmer to download, install, modify, and play with the Linux source code - you'll learn a lot and have a boatload of fun doing so!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Lovely Spring Day!

All of the Windows are open on this lovely day. The temperature in Hillsboro is 72 degrees and the winds are gusting around 20 MPH. The sky is blue and I'm loving it!

This is the first blog entry using my T-Mobile G1 as the input device. There is so much to love about this machine. It's keyboard isn't bad, but it still can't compare to the ease and comfort of the Treo 755P. That, and the camera are my only complaints about the device. With the Innocell battery, battery life is a non-issue now.

But what really impresses me about the machine's hardware is the rugged construction of it and the vast array of sensory devices built-in.

There are several distinct radios -- cellular service, bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS. The GPS is the real GPS too - not some cell-tower triangulation trickery - it actually gets its positional fix from the GPS satellites.

Throw in an accelerometer, a magnetic compass, the touch screen interface, and here is a machine with a stunning array of useful hardware. Have I forgotten anything?

Also, the fact that the device contains a SOC ("System On a Chip") with dual core ARM9 and ARM11 processors, there's some serious processing power in there! I look forward to finishing up my zForth for Android project to add some more real power into this platform that already has unlimited potential.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Nerd Test

I recently took a test to see what kind of Nerd I was, and you can see the results (left). I think I'll need to put a pair of sunglasses in my pocket protector!

If you want to see what kind of Nerd you are, you can take the test by clicking THIS LINK. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Life is Good!

Well, I met my shortened deadline and have a little bit of time to breath again, so I visited my son and grandson yesterday - while both of their mothers were working. (My son and I are both night-owls: working while everyone else sleeps.) It's good to take a break from work and experience the more important things in life -- so long as the work does not suffer in quality of course. After all, growing boys and girls need to eat, and they don't eat unless we work. (Pictured here is my grandson Jacob "riding" on top of my son Michael - it's one of my favorite pictures, by the way.)

But in keeping to the main theme of my blog, I have recently used my T-Mobile G1 phone to make several phone calls and I am honestly amazed at the quality of the calls. It really is a cell-phone FIRST and then after that the best gosh-darned hand-held Linux computer in the world!

As I turn my attention to other near-future, work-related events (I never thought retirement would have so much work involved in it!) I've been writing a series of ARM assembler routines, collectively operating as a resident daemon in Android, that assist me in exploring the metrics of the system. They are written in ARM assembler so as to run as quickly as possible, for when you are writing code whose whole purpose is to gather performance metrics, you are actually going to degrade performance a bit while doing the gathering. This code MUST be as fast as possible in order to minimize that effect.

There is an old saying that by the simple act of observing something, you are also changing it too. In the world of subatomic particles, this effect is far more pronounced than it is in say, observing the behavior of a pride of lions, but the effect is there nonetheless.

So since I have no desire to be bombarded by stray DNA-altering particles or be looked upon as "potential prey" either, I feel quite comfortable in adding a little bit of performance-degrading code to my Android phone in order to see just what this thing is capable of. And so far as I can tell, this machine is FAST! (It has to be since Java, a notoriously slow but securely implemented language, is the primary development language for applications that run on it.)

Another noteworthy thing to post about is that I just received my 2600 mAh battery for the G1 and it's charging right now! I will spend most of the day (after charging) trying to discharge it as I reorganize the icons on my Android's "Home" page and in the folders that reside there. While doing that, I'll have all of the radios turned on (Bluetooth, Wifi, GPS, Cell) as well as auto-sync running, and will be listening to some Mozart and Andrew Lloyd Webber (along with a little Heart or Kenny Chesney too) and see how long it takes to drain this monster battery! Stay tuned for the results in a subsequent blog post.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I can make calls!!!

February is here and my editor called to tell me that the time I have to write my next article has been shortened - BY ALMOST A MONTH!!! Ouch!

Oh well, I can do it -- I know I can!

On the T-Mobile Android front, I now have a SIM card and a one month usage contract in order to test out the G1 and see what I can see. (...or is that hear what I can hear?)

Here is what I think so far - I was very pleasantly surprised that T-Mobile has a reasonably strong signal in my home territory - 4 bars! I found it surprising because their "coverage map" shows me that I can expect poor coverage. Perhaps the transceiver or antenna system in the G1 is an exceptionally good one? Who knows? All I care about is that it works, and it works quite good!

As a cell-phone alone, the G1 is excellent! My Palm Treo 755P and Verizon doesn't work as well here and that came as a big surprise to me. I thought until now that Verizon was the best I could do and now know that this is wrong. I plan on ending my way-too-expensive Verizon contract very soon now that I know that the G1 and T-Mobile is better - at least here in that huge population center known as Hillsboro, Missouri. (Population a whopping 1,625 people at last count.)

I've also purchased an 8 GB microSD card for the G1 and have already installed a whole hoard of Linux software, development tools, music, Android documentation, and Android applications on it. (I just don't feel like I'm using Linux without bash, strace, gdb, vi, etc. so I had to load these up first!)

The Android applications are not as mature as those that run on the Palm Treo, but since it is an open platform, it's only a matter of time until they catch up and pass it. (I still like the Treo keyboard A LOT better than the G1's slideout keyboard, but the other G1 hardware "goodies" are great - accelerometer, GPS, Wifi, etc.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Androids are Coming!!!

Yeah I know what you're thinking -- you're thinking that I've lost it, eh? I'm seeing little androids riding by on skate-boards. Guess what? SO ARE YOU!

This is what happens when you spend just a little too much time studying about two gigabytes of source code in preparation for writing an article with a due date that was shortened by a month. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I love this kind of work, so let the androids party on dude!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

T-Mobile G1 Android Cellphone

My new T-Mobile G1 Android cellphone (developer's version) arrived yesterday (on my Birthday no less!) and I've been working with it all evening and all night - it's now 3:35 AM.

Background information: I live and work where T-Mobile access doesn't exist, so I can't use the cellphone as a cellphone, at least until Verizon gets their act together and allows it to work on their network. I've been a Verizon customer for many years and this is the only area where they greatly disappoint me - not allowing customers to use their own unlocked phones.

But since the G1 is a Wifi machine, and there is information on the Internet of how to set up and configure the G1 without actually having a phone account, I was quickly able to set it up to use my Wifi and then register the machine.

I've been working for a few months with the Android Emulator and it's a real pleasure to now be able to actually work on a real machine!

First impressions:
  1. It's a smaller and more solid machine than I was expecting. The quality of it is HIGH - well done HTC and T-Mobile!!!
  2. The audio quality is incredible! One of the first things that I did was to copy 1 GB of my favorite MP3 songs to the microSD card that came with it and play the music.
  3. The machine is very fast and responsive - I downloaded from the "Android Market" a few tools - Terminal, System Monitor, Weather Channel, etc. When playing my songs, the CPU barely blips at 24% - WOW!
  4. Speaking of the "Android Market", I was pleasantly surprised to see that there is a HUGE number of FREE programs available for instant download and usage. A+++ for Google!
Combine the open source architecture, solid hardware, fast CPU and memory, this machine has immediately captured my attention. I look forward to building on this foundation myself with programs, articles, and hopefully I will someday be able to use it as a PHONE too!

About Me

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Hillsboro, Missouri, United States

I am a netizen of the world. I enjoy fresh air, fine wines, rural scenery, classical music, eBooks, and interacting with the other netizens of the world.

I look forward every day to waking up, writing code, and learning new things.