iPod Touch has 802.11n! But it’s not enabled! Zing!

I went to the Apple Store on 5th Ave before doing a little bouldering in Central Park.  Chris sent the Polish Traverse and made it look effortless.  At least someone is in shape.  So, I stopped by Apple and asked what they knew about the 802.11n chipset on the latest model iPod Touch.  Nothing.  They never know anything.  Seriously, I’ve had my best experiences at these stores only in the morning on very un-busy days.

I had to get a new battery once for a black Macbook and my options were: 1) schlep to Staten Island 2) buy one or 3) schlep to the 14th Street store because they are less busy.  I sat around the 14th Street store for about 45 minutes, crossed my fingers and waited for a lull in the ever present traffic.  The Genius there was very nice, she took pity on me and warranteed a new battery. But my other option was to come back to the 59th store at 5AM on a Friday. Their system blows, but I digress…

The employee didn’t have any specific answers about 802.11n on the new Touch.  It was his belief that it works, though I imagine if this were the case I’d have read at least one technical blog mention it.  Right now the word is that it has Broadcom’s mobile n chipset and it has a single antenna and it should be capable up to 30 Mb/s. Most tech writers speculate it’ll be enabled in the next 6 months. Oh well. Also, there is no camera yet on the Touch.

The image below links to the tear down, and if you’re into such things, click here for the Broadcom PDF spec sheet.



iFix it 802.11n iPod Touch Teardown

iFix it 802.11n iPod Touch Teardown

802.11n in iPod Touch

802.11n in iPod Touch

Darwine you are a fine Wine.

For whatever reason I’d never played around with application compatibility layer software like Wine under OS X. Parallels and VMware are quite overkill for most people’s purposes.  Usually the user may need to run one application in the guest OS and setting up an entire VM and giving 10GB or whatever over to that system, not to mention memory resources, is overkill.  Certainly for developers being able to load/change machine states with VMs and sandbox their development, it makes sense, but for most end-users it’s crazy.

I haven’t checked all the applications I’d like to use, the ones I found myself booting to XP the most were A/V stuff like Foobar2000, MediaMonkey, EAC, etc.  But the good news is that under Leopard Darwine v1.21.1 runs Foobar2000 just fine, a fine Wine if you will (hah).  So that’s exciting.  Codeweavers sells something similar called CrossOver but Darwine is free and I figured since I already had X11 installed it was worth a shot.  Pretty cool stuff.

Darwine

Darwine

WWDC no 802.11n in on the 3G S iPhone!? Drat!

So, with the new iPhone 3.x OS you will not be purchasing an 802.11N enabled wireless chipset.  Apparently the new 3G S model does support 4G HSDPA but not 5 GHz 802.11N wireless with the new lower powered Broadcom BCM4325. Apparently the 3G S model is a bit snappier. When is the 802.11n iPod Touch coming out? That’s what I’m waiting for. I saw that Garret had a very small LG phone that’s basically free from Verizon, if I could find that used/new and then go with a Touch remote… we’ll see how it goes…. Windows 7 RC is OK. It works, for what it’s worth.

I like Ubuntu 9.04 with MythTV…. I’m going to go back to that but probably do a dual boot leaving Win7 RC just in case…. Sadly, for Netflix playback due to Silverlight DRM a Windows XP/Vista/7 VM or even an OS X VM is necessary for Netflix streaming…. or buy a Roku box, unfortunately our TV doesn’t have 2 HDMI inputs… I’m surprised no one has been able to reverse engineer the Roku Box’s chipset and put the Silverlight DRM code out there…. Or even just have a “Roku Box VM”…. Why not, right? Seems possible, when you consider how almost all old video console games can now be played and fit on one flash drive.

I brewed with the Yama 5 Cup Vacuum brewer today. Thank you Conor and Leigh, awesome gift BTW; best of luck in your trip West. The coffee is very good, very clean, very smooth. I currently am grinding Gimme’ Coffee’s Picolo Mondo variety. Thank you Japanese vacuum brewing technology and to Chris for the awesome vintage German Peter Dienes grinder which does it job remarkably well for a hand grinder over twice as old as I am.

Yama Brewing

Yama Vaccuum Brewing by Digital Colony

My Vintage PeDe looks similar, all metal on top though

My Vintage PeDe looks similar, all metal on top though

Hackable?

Hackable? Image from ehomeupgrade.com blog

I am Netatalk you are Netatalk we are Netatalk

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?  Or does it spend all weekend working out Ubuntu 8.04 command line shell commands to make a beautiful thing happen?  Namely, mount an Apple Time Capsule share over ethernet via Samba/CIFS and and then serve the data via mt-daapd to iTunes and Airport Express.  All from the command line baby.  Yeah.  Compile that package of Netatalk with libcrack2 and ssl. Talk to me dirty with inexplicable buffer writes in  vi baby.  And you’ll do a lot of apt-get.  And if you’re lucky you’ll do a few apt-get purge(s) thrown in there for good measure.

What about mounting the Time Capsule in Ubuntu?  Shouldn’t that be simple beans? You know, smbclient, smbfs, and GO right? It just works.  Hah. Apple doesn’t exactly have a support page for this sort of thing.  The crux of it for me was the domain=workgroup option, and figuring out that with Netatalk everything referenced .local addresses no the local IPs for some reason.  Whatever.  The FLAC flows now.  OGG, wavpac, you name it, this little Linux machine can serve it to iTunes whole.  No more dealing with that cursed iTunes XML library.  Unless of course you want to put music on your iPod.  I still don’t have that part completely figured out.  My feeling is you copy and add music as you want it on your iPod.

It goes – Ethernet > Airtunes > SPDIF > DAC

Got the two Airport Express Base Stations working on the network with Airtunes & iTunes.  I bought an older 802.11b/g one for wired usage and an 802.11n one for wireless audio in the kitchen.  I had to do hard resets on both of them before they’d show up on the Airport Utility.  I turned off wireless on the b/g one and told it to use Airtunes via ethernet.  The newer 802.11n Express joins our existing Time Capsule 802.11n network. Optical SPDIF out from the wired b/g Express goes into the E-MU 0404 DAC, unbalanced RCA analog line into the old Denon amplifier.  Works well.  Pretty light, open and clear DAC on the high end.  These old Bose speakers were never much for bass anyhow, and we don’t like to annoy the building.

Apparently Hulu’s content providers (which I believe includes FOX & NBC) decided to pull their support for Boxee.  Now if you haven’t been following Boxee, they are one of the few companies actually making inroads into “set-top conversion” software, allowing people with computers to get the TV shows they want legally from their computers onto actual television screens.  It’s sad really, that this should be an issue.  Almost every show we watch online (legally, usually via the networks’ streaming sites) usually only has one commercial.  So if you’re watching an hour of television at NBC.com and you’re hoping for a variety of commercials you’ll be disappointed, you’ll simply get the same commercial over and over again.  How is it they can’t figure this out?  I distinctly remember watching a Verizon LG Chocolate phone commercial approximately 30 times (with the Feist song as soundtrack) as multiple episodes of a show simply had the same commercial.

Anyhow, at some point I’m going to try and put together a small low power HTPC that can record and playback at least a 720p stream.  Most of the Intel Atom motherboards simply have abysmal video performance and NVIDIA is supposed going to release something soon (and possibly a new Mac Mini). XMBC or Boxee, or even XP Media Center would work as far as a front end.  My requirements are pretty minimal, I’d like to have a Firefly MT-DAAPD server running for music (transcoding .flac to .wav for iTunes/Airtunes) and possibly a second instance of it running for the rest of the mp3/aac/m4a’s.  I’d probably record shows via the SiliconDust HDHomeRun, which would give two tuners for playback/recording.  Mostly the challenge has been finding something that is close to silent and fanless (especially as the Atom could be fanless) but it really hasn’t been optimized for HTPC applications yet.  OSX86 (search “Hackintosh”) with Boxee and Elgato EyeTV could potentially be an option as well.  MythTV could work too.  Who knows?  Right now I’m pretty happy with the Airtunes and Firefly setup.

Firefly Transcodes FLAC > .WAV for iTunes & Airtunes

So I bit the bullet and ordered a couple of Airport Express base stations so that I can finally listen to music over both ethernet and 802.11n.  A small miracle, the old Dell P3 is able to transcode the FLAC on a USB hard disk drive attached to the Time Capsule (a Samba share via Bonjour in Windows XP mind you) and serve it via Firefly to the iTunes (as uncompressed .WAV with track info) on our Mac laptops.  So now, when I get the Airport Express base stations it should be a matter of selecting both “kitchen” and “living room” in the Airtunes settings and bingo bango, I’m done. Music everywhere.  If I’m ever flush I could use an iPod touch or iPhone to remote control via the mobile interface, however, I’m holding out until they offer 802.11n 5 GHz as a feature.  I don’t understand how Apple could push so hard for 802.11n and then not have it on the products that are supposed to integrate into the “home media system”.  So I think this is it.  It’s the end of the odyssey.  If Z’s in the kitchen with her laptop she can select music from the MP3 library via her iTunes, or if I want to listen to FLAC I select the Firefly Share.  Simple as that, really.

Still Not Ice Climbing – but lets build a MythTV!

Sadly my Saturdays and Sundays have not been filled with ice climbing trips to hidden frozen waterfalls of the Northeast.  My hand feels better despite having a small gash where it hit the edge of the BMW car door. I imagine I’ll be able to go back to the MPHC climbing gym soon.  

I miss the outdoor rock.  Ryan, Josh and I went on a few climbing trips before it got cold and before weddings and Texas.  Ryan has photos of us climbing in the Gunks and Brewster, NY available here: http://picasaweb.google.com/ryanwesleywebb these are just a sampling.

 

Peterskill - Mark, Josh

Peterskill - Mark, Josh

Ryan in Peterskill

Ryan in Peterskill

Ryan, Ice Pond

Ryan, Ice Pond

 

Mark's hand Ice Pond

Mark's hand, Ice Pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent most of yesterday reading about MythTV.  If you feel like setting up an open source home DVR (TiVo like) then Mythbuntu or KnoppMyth seem to be a couple good stable options for creating a home Linux TV recording solution.  Obviously this will only work if your signal is “free and clear”. Dish, DirecTV, ComCast, Time Warner and basically any cable or satellite provider, encrypts all premium content.  So on the one hand, local network channels and basic cable should be “free and clear” (over digital cable local channels are usually free using QAM) but with satellite it’s more likely you’ll need to rent the DVR from them.  The only reason I’ve been considering it is because I’ve needed some sort of iTunes server back-end (see my Firefly MT-DAAPD post) and it might as well DVR network HD shows we want to watch.  Also, our ATSC tuner is old (2nd or 3rd generation) and I think the latest 5th or 6th gen tuner chipset should allow us to get all the local HD broadcast channels without fussing with the antenna. 

There are three parts to most MythTV setups, which could all be integrated into one system or distributed into three smaller systems:

  • The back-end is your dedicated server which should have low power and processing requirements.  I’ve been looking at the MSI Wind ‘Nettop barebones PC (MSI’s product page) which sells on Newegg for like $139.99.  It uses an intel Atom 1.6GHz processor with minimal power draw, I think around 35 Watts max, but you could probably optimize it to use somewhat less than this.  Obviously, HDTV content takes up a fair amount of disk space, so for starters lets say a 1.0 Terrabyte hard disk drive.
  • The actual TV tuner (which now ‘a days will need to be digital ATSC HDTV compatible, unless you still have analog cable) could be as simple as a PCI card in the back-end but something even cooler is the SiliconDust HDHomeRun.  This product is two ATSC tuners in one.  It transfers HD broadcasts from over-the-air (or QAM) to your server via ethernet.  It requires DHCP to obtain an IP address, but otherwise it’s just a little box with one 10/100 ethernet jack and two antenna inputs; ATSC to IP as it were. Your back-end will recognize it as two tuners in the setup. You could watch one while the other records or both could record simultaneously.
  • The front-end will be how you actually watch the content you have archived. Say you ripped all your DVD’s and you’ve been time-shifting several seasons of Top Chef, the “front-end” is what will do the heavy lifting of playback depending on the bit rate and resolution of the video.  It should look just like any other media playback menu.  From my reading, MPEG-2 is the optimal format to save content to (thankfully DVD and ATSC signals are already MPEG-2 so no transcoding is required) and MPEG-4/h.264 require more horsepower on your machine to playback smoothly.  My MacBook Pro Core Duo 2.0 GHz would be a fine front-end however I’d need to plug it in to watch shows.  I’d be able to watch live TV wirelessly on the laptop anywhere in the house though. Note: the Elgato EyeTV is another option for Mac OS X HDTV time shifting however it doesn’t have the front-end/back-end model, your laptop has to be on and plugged into the tuner to record.
Yup.  So that’s where I’m at.  I’ve already wired the 1GigE cable to the bedroom.  I still need to do a cable run to the kitchen, but that’s not really a priority.  I think having a small machine like the Wind PC in a closet would be a nice way to have both an iTunes server and a DVR.  Apparently MythWeb allows you to easily setup recording from your web browser, so you just login and set the shows you want to watch for the week and let the back-end do its job.  There are ways to “Sling” content to yourself if you’re out of town or something, but personally I think I could wait until I’m home, and besides most of the content by the big networks is instantly available online now for free viewing.

Revisiting the Squeezebox and other nerd audio stuff

I’m trying to price this thing out…. on the one hand an iPod touch and a used 802.11g Airport Express base station with SPDIF optical out is about $250.  This requires a laptop running iTunes to be on and feeding it the music which is in turn controlled by the iPod Touch “Apple Remote” app.  So this is one relatively cheap option, really.  

Another option is the Squeezebox Classic which also can be found for about $200 plus $200 for the Touch running iPeng Squeezebox Remote Control app ($10), so for ~$410 you have perhaps a slightly more robust playback system that is open source and can play FLAC or any other file format for that matter and doesn’t require iTunes, but still requires a server/laptop running SlimServer.  Sonos sells a similar setup and they also have a free iTunes app.  The one cool thing about the Sonos is that no laptop is required, it seems it can pull directly from the TC as a NAS but that would be $350 + $200 iTouch.  

Maybe the cheapest, and I think I might try this route first since I already bought the damn Time Capsule which functions as a pretty good NAS / Backup server… For $25 Rogue Amoeba sells AirFoil which allows you to send your iTunes stream to either an Airport Express unit or any other computer on network (AirFoil Speakers is a free download) which means I could simply stream directly from one of our newer Mac laptops to the old thing in the closet which is plugged into the Edirol UA-5.  It’s a free download with 10 minute tests.  All the data would be on TC or a USB drive.  This might be the solution I was looking for.

Okay.  I tested it.  It works.  So that’s an option.  The final option is just the $50 Airport Express, no iPod Touch remote, and simply stream from the laptop to the base station SPDIF > DAC > Analog Out and control on the laptop as a remote.  The fan on the old laptop is really loud.  If can figure out a way to quiet it down.

Okay. Weirdly the stream from 89.9 WKCR doesn’t work in Winamp under Win2k on the old laptop.  So I’m back to the iTunes Foobar2000 plugin scenario and that seems to work fine, it’ll play any internet stream I give it.  Oh well.

The Radio

So there are a couple of stations local to NJ/NY that I really like. One is WKCR 89.9 FM Columbia University, and the other which I first stumbled upon when moving to New York is WFMU 91.1 & 90.1 FM. When I was driving my stuff up through Jersey four years ago they had this amazing set of music from the 60’s (and if I had known about their webpage I would’ve been able to get the playlist). Both these sites obviously have live streams online, but for better quality I’m going to buy an actual radio tuner. Hopefully something compact with digital sync.

Which leads me to the question, how is it that with a fresh installation of Windows XP SP3 Windows Media Player cannot instantly play .PLS playlist streams? Why do i have to upgrade to WMP 11? or 13? How is it, that 10 years ago Winamp could play streams but Microsoft chose not to add this ability natively. I’m sure there is a way to make it work in WMP 9 or 10 but how in the world did Microsoft not see this as being important? John C. Dvorak had a good article in PC Magazine (his Windows 7 “wishlist”) expressing amazment that something as simple as VLC Media Player can do everything WMP can and more without requiring an upgrade or a reboot or Vista. And he has a reasonable point when he mentioned code base improvements. When I installed Leopard on my Core Duo it actually ran faster than Tiger. That was one of the biggest reasons I was hesitant, but now that I know OS’s can actually improve in speed over time on the same system, really it must blow Microsoft’s collective mind. Also, as aside do you know what plays them just fine?  iTunes.  Do you suppose people running Window’s have installed iTunes on their machines due to WMP’s shortcomings? I’m just punting here.

Still talking about music, I watched the bio-pic Control about the band Joy Division.  It was good.  The movie’s sound quality and sound mix in general were fantastic.  It co-starred Alexandra Maria Lara who I had just seen in Coppola’s Youth Without Youth, she played the French-Belgian ‘zine writer that Ian Curtis had an affair and fell in love with while the band toured Europe.  She and Sam Riley (Ian Curtis) were pretty good as the hot young couple that complemented Curtis’ life outside of Manchester to his young wife Deborah (Samantha Morton) with their daughter.  I don’t know what the moral was, except that it was sad, he was young and that epilepsy treatment especially at that time was still hit or miss.  Now to find a decent used tuner.

Hump Wiggles – I got the FireGL V5200 Softmod to work!

Again, don’t just read this blog because you have a MacBook Pro Core Duo and you want to make it act like a FireGL V5200, read it because you care.  Seriously, I got the ATI Moiblity X1600 to softmod into the FireGL Mobility V5200 following a myriad of somewhat unintelligible instructions from the internet (I think I get points for reading both Chinese and Italian posts which referenced this mod).

The driver I ended up using was from the actual AMD/ATI official site but it was an older version, 8.353.1.1000 to be exact – from 5/8/2007.  There is a chance that the newer ones will work but you have to do a patch using RivaTuner 2.11 using one of the patch scripts I found and my concern was that the older scripts would somehow not work with the newer drivers.  So yeah, you run the copy/pasted patch script on the driver you downloaded and you modify one of the setup files within the installation to allow the “MacBook Pro Mobility V5200” to appear as an option and actually talk to the correct address in the system.  From there you should run “Driver Sweeper”, uninstall all existing video drivers, and reboot and hopefully it goes to a safe mode VGA driver.  At this point you’ll try and install the thing.  It worked on my 3rd or 4th try finally using the new ATI driver, so go figure.

The good news is SolidWorks runs a whole lot better with the FireGL driver and the Instant 3D stuff works as well, Window XP’s video is a whole lot snappier.  Now if only I had that older Broadcom Chipset so my signal strength in XP would come back..

Airport Extreme! Broadcom! Oh my!

So, if you don’t care about wireless data connections and or OS X & XP you should ignore this post. I recently did a little 802.11n upgrade to my aging Core Duo Macbook Pro and I bought an “official” Apple 802.11n Airport Card that has 2 antenna wire inputs. It’s chipset is the Broadcom BCM4328. My Apple System Profiler polls this as Broadcom BCM43xx 1.0 (5.10.38.9) and in Windows XP it clearly shows up as the BCM4328. Now, shouldn’t this be all good? Well sort of, there have been some problems.

Under OS X 802.11n (ie Airport Extreme) works like gang busters over the Time Capsule but it seems my 802.11g performance has taken a huge hit. And under XP SP3 both my g/n performance has degraded. So what’s the deal? Well it seems I should’ve gone with an older version of this chipset.

Apparently the BCM94321MC aka the Dell 1500 Part Number NJ449 was the original version, which worked well for people under Tiger. There obviously are other options, but the key here was the 4321 chipset as opposed to the newer 4328 chipset. So what’s the issue? I don’t know. I imagine the XP drivers aren’t fully up to date. And I also imagine 802.11n MIMO works better with 3 antennas which is why the newer Core 2 Duo machines come with the 3 antenna input Atheros wireless cards. Can I add a third antenna wire and put in the Atheros? I don’t know. Should I sell the one I installed and try the $30 Dell 1500 NJ449? I would say yes.

Another issue that has developed is that with around 15% battery the wireless card will go dormant and not startup again without a reboot. Nice. Whatever, I suppose I cannot complain too much. It mostly works.

Big drives & faster weefee

My first generation (Rev. A) MacBook Pro (Core Duo 2.0 GHz Intel 32 bit Yonah) has starting to slow a little.  The 100GB hard disk is full and I can’t add any more RAM (2GB’s maxed out) but swapping in a bigger faster 7200 RPM laptop HD drive (say like a Seagate Momentus 7200.3 320 GB) and upgrading the mini-PCI wireless LAN card to 802.11n will get me by.  As I recall, Apple took about a year and a half to upgrade to the Core 2 Duo chipset with 64 bit capabilities and even then Leopard didn’t come out until Fall 2007.  I was an early adopter and I’ve been pretty happy with this machine.  So now I’m looking to either stay with OS X 10.4.11 or possibly go the whole hog to 10.5.5, either way I’ll need XP Pro SP3 for CAD software using either BootCamp or rEFIt as a bootloader.

In Leopard with Time Machine data backups should be seamless, my only concern now is application compatibility and system stability.  Z’s white MacBook 2.2 Core 2 Duo came loaded with Leopard 10.5.1 and seems to have stabilized in 10.5.4 (though I think it does need more RAM).  From what I’ve read, somewhat like Vista, Leopard has a basic “footprint” of 512MB, so really 2GB is the minimum you need in practice with multiple applications running.  Tiger apparently has something like a 128MB starting point.

I took my first 3D rendering class in SolidWorks today at NYU.  It seems pretty cool.  NYU sells an educational copy that should work under XP and the MacBook Pro supposedly works alright with it.  We’re going back to Jimmy’s No. 43, I’m excited.

I’ve spoken with Viggo and the answer is “Yes”

The thunderstorms have been coming in every afternoon. It puts a damper on evening climbing. I bought some more GRE study materials. NY is full of mostly Mediteranean tourists. Apparently WPA2 Pre-Shared Key encryption is not fully secure. I’ve been considering for a while setting up an OpenRADIUS server, perhaps now is the time.

Also I’ve been considering downgrading to a Samsung flip phone with a small QWERTY keyboard. The 8830 quality control left a lot to be desired and I’m not sure that the 8330 would be any better, though I am quite sure that the bberry OS 4.6 has to be better than 4.2.2 which has been riddled with memory leaks and browser bugs from the beginning.

The latest thing that went wrong with the 8830 was it sensed the trackball (pearl) as being constantly depressed. The delete key would also act as the menu key and it’d randomly create and reply to both emails and SMSs automagically. Listen, okay, so the iPhone cannot cut & paste or search (find) within web pages and the 8830 breaks every few months. Who makes a smart pda that doesn’t run on Windows that is as slick as the iphone but has all the “computer like” features bberry users are used to?

No one, that’s who. Let’s hope Nokia and Google get in the game as there is still quite a bit of room for improvement.

[ed: apparently with a couple of clever bookmarklet non-Apple Sanctioned web-applications Safari on the iPhone can “find in page” and copy & paste. Now as to why we are on the 3G Version 2.0 of this damn Jesus Phone and it requires a third party work around to achieve such is beyond me.]