Eee 701 Planetoid


Yamaha Guitalele… with transducer pickup

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Tim @ 12:56
Yamaha Guitalele... with transducer pickup

Yamaha Guitalele… with transducer pickup,
originally uploaded by tawalker.

I can’t remember the last time a musical instrument “captured” me quite as much as the Yamaha GL-1 Guitalele (well, unless you count the iPod Touch with Garageband, and even that comes second), but I couldn’t help thinking it was missing a couple of things for my taste: an internal transducer pickup and an extra strap button… now my GL-1 has both. Yamaha: how about a “GL-1x” – an electro model, perhaps with a cutaway?

Still, I’m happy with mine 🙂

(Note: this got posted to E7P rather than my “personal/musical” site, but I’m keeping it here as it’s probably in your feed-readers, subscriptions, etc. by now… 😉 )



Raspberry Pi ordered at last…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tim @ 17:23

Apologies for the total lack of updates for a while here—I’ve been kept busy with the infamous “other things” (aren’t we all?), but also… well, to be honest, I’m pretty much “ticking over” with the Eee. I’ve got the system more or less the way I want it, and I doubt there’s going to be much to report on the Eee front for a while (unless I feel like telling you how I managed to sort out the current package-update failures, and that depends on whether I do sort them out!).

That said, this blog could be about to get a shot in the proverbial ARM… pun intended 😉

Back in January, I posted here about the Raspberry Pi, a $35 ARM-based computer on a board the size of a credit card, aimed at helping schoolchildren in the UK to start learning how to program. Obviously, techies around the world got enthused, and immense interest in the Raspberry Pi meant that even two months after its launch, to date only a few fortunate computing fans have managed to order and take delivery of the first run of “RasPi’s”.

Well, you will shortly be able to count yours truly amongst their number, as I have just placed my order for one of these little beauties 🙂 I understand it should be despatched within the next few days, and hopefully that means I should take delivery of my Raspberry Pi some time next week.

I’m planning to run the ARM version of Arch Linux on the RasPi when it arrives (though I may settle for Debian/ARM if Arch/ARM is too lacking in features—watch this space), so I hope I can transfer at least some of what I’ve learned with Arch/x86 on the Eee, to the Pi.

What I don’t know yet, is what all this will mean for this blog. My first choice would be to rename it, to accommodate coverage of my experiences with the RasPi as well as the Eee—however, I need to look at what a change of blog title would mean for the URL, and ensure that links to the blog are not severed. If I can’t change the name without these issues, I may have to set up a “sister” blog for the Pi, though I’d rather not do this if I can help it, as I’d like to keep the Eee and Pi material together as far as possible.

Anyway, thanks for keeping E7P in your feed reader (!), and watch this space for further developments…


Raspberry Pi: a PC in your pocket?

Filed under: Hardware, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tim @ 14:53
Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi,
originally uploaded by ubuntunewsru.

If you follow the tech and gadget press—and perhaps even the “regular” media’s technology supplements—you may have got wind of a British-initiated IT project which has garnered a considerable amount of interest in recent months… and has now grabbed my attention too 🙂

The product in question is the Raspberry Pi, and although it is officially aimed at schools and the education market, the device already has computing and Linux fans straining at the leash to get their paws on one.

Judging by the coverage, the reasons are not hard to understand. In short, the Raspberry Pi is a functioning computer, with (on the “Model B”) an ARM processor, 256Mb RAM, a OpenGL-capable graphics system with HDMI and component video output, audio out, 10/100 Ethernet, USB and 5V micro-USB power… all built onto a circuit board the size of a credit card, and likely to cost around UKP25. Initially, the device will be sold “as is”, without a case or enclosure, though from what I have read, there is no shortage of enthusiasts stepping up to design custom cases, or suggest alternative enclosures (an empty tin of Altoid mints seems to be a popular one!).

There are plenty of news sites picking up on the potential of a device like this. To pick one out at random, The Guardian has given the Pi some attention in its Education section, focusing on the avowed aim of the project to revitalise the teaching of computing in schools (and perhaps even inspire a new generation of coders and ‘hackers’ (in the non-criminal, inventive sense of the term)).

OK… so why am I posting on my Eee blog about the “R-Pi”? One reason is that I’ve always been interested in small and inexpensive computers, from the Psion Series 3x and Series 5mx I owned in the late 90s, through to the Eee 701 itself, and the Raspberry Pi looks like it packs a lot of functionality into a very small and cheap package.

Furthermore, as a leaf through this very blog should reveal, I am a keen Linux “tinkerer” when it comes to my Eee, and the R-Pi provides ample scope for experimentation, with HDMI, USB and Ethernet connectivity in a low-power device. There are a number of prominent Linux distributions which have been ported to the ARM processor family, including Debian and Fedora, but most of interest to me is Arch Linux ARM, as I could hopefully “port” my experience with Arch’s x86 sibling to the R-Pi.

Finally: quite simply, my imagination is fired by the idea of a usable computer which could fit in a pocket. Any HDMI display could be used as a monitor, as well as just about any keyboard or pointing device with a USB interface—even a combined one with a wireless “dongle” should work—so the device should be usable wherever you could find a “spare” TV or HDMI-equipped monitor. I’m not the only one thinking that the R-Pi could make an extremely affordable “media centre” computer, and look forward to seeing how that pans out…

The word is that the Raspberry Pi will be made available to purchase from their Web site from the end of this month (January 2012), and I for one will be keeping an eye on this very closely.


Steve Jobs – 1956-2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tim @ 07:46
Screenshot of this blog with retro Mac OS theme

E7P with retro Mac OS theme

As the wonderful folk at laboured through the night to bring Boing Boing’s fine “retro Macintosh” WP theme to blogs, I couldn’t resist switching to it for a few days, in tribute to former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. (If you’re reading this more than a week or so after the date of this post, I’ve probably switched back to the old theme.)

Yes, I know this is a blog about a Linux-powered Eee netbook, but we have had two Macs in the house, and I certainly have no difficulty using Mac OS X alongside my “penguin-powered” devices. Furthermore, I don’t think anyone would deny that the last ten years in computing would’ve turned out quite differently without Apple’s influence, especially from the “iDevices”. For one thing, I’m pretty sure my current Nokia mobile (an N8) would look more like my previous one (an N95) if the iPhone hadn’t made such a splash.

However expected Steve Jobs’ death may have been, his loss is felt by millions around the world, and although the nature of his legacy may be fought over in the months and years to come, perhaps only Bill Gates (for better or worse) can claim to have made a comparable impact on computing for the masses.

RIP Steve, and my condolences to his family at this time.


Having fun with Fluxbox

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim @ 19:59

I’ve been trying out an old Linux favourite of mine from a few years back on my 701: the Fluxbox window manager. I gained some experience with Fluxbox from experimenting with the DSL “lightweight” live Linux CD, and there’s a lot about the window manager that I like—in fact, I’ve never really forgiven DSL for dumping Fluxbox for a rival which somehow manages to make even fvwm95 look classy (but I’ll stop there in case I get flamed ;)).

Fluxbox is a fast, lightweight window manager for X11, with a “minimalist” look which I think lends itself well to small displays and lower-powered PCs—both of which may give you an idea why I’m trying it on my 701 🙂 It’s not difficult to add to the “stock” Xandros OS; these instructions for installing Fluxbox on the Eee were enough for me, though my experience with DSL a few years ago did help dispel any “culture-shock”.

Fluxbox on Eee 701

Fluxbox on Eee 701 - basic view

The screenshot on this page gives you an idea of how Fluxbox looks “out of the box” (as it were). In this picture, the desktop is very “minimalist”, if not plain; however, if you like your “eye candy”, Fluxbox can cater for it with some setting-up, which I’ve yet to do.

Hopefully, you can see that Fluxbox doesn’t follow the all-conquering “MS Windows-like” look as so many window managers for Linux seem to. Instead, Fluxbox appears more like GUIs such as NeXTSTEP and AfterStep, with features including a “right-click” command menu, virtual workspaces and a “dock” (known in Fluxbox lingo as the “slit”, into which small graphical applications can be inserted.

This screenshot shows the following:

  • The “right-click menu” in its “default” (i.e. just activated) state. From here, you can launch applications, customise Fluxbox’s views and settings, shut down the system, and more.
  • A system toolbar at the bottom of the screen. This one is set up to switch workspaces, show apps running in the workspace, display various “tray” utilities, and show the time. However, you can customise the contents, and create another bar at the top or side, as you wish.
  • A uxterm (terminal app). I have set up one of Fluxbox’s features—”grouping” of application windows—so that all uxterm windows will be “tabbed” in the same window frame (though this is not visible here).
  • GKrellM (graphical system monitor)—this is loaded into the “slit” in the top-right, and displays various items of system information, including CPU load, disk and network usage, and uptime. (In case you wondered, the “water-and-rubber-duck” image is a GKrellM “plugin”, based on the “dockapp” WMBubble—it displays CPU load, free memory and network traffic.)

I have only just started to explore third-party themes for Fluxbox—the one in the screenshot is from the set which comes with the program—but so far I think this window manager really suits the 701. It’s lean, fast, intuitive (well, it makes sense to me, anyway ;)), it gives the machine a new look, and so far, it “just works”.

I’ll post some more screenshots here if I get any good ones, but in the meantime, if you’re looking for something different to “hot-rod” your Linux Eee, you could do worse than take a look at Fluxbox.

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