Title photo
frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Tue, 26 May 2015

Gear review: The iRig 2 guitar interface to iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad

The iRig 2 guitar interface

Here's my short and not so sweet review of [IK Multimedia's iRig 2] guitar interface to the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and some Samsung Android devices.

The iRig 2 was floating around the office, and I figured that I'm a guitar player, I've always been interested in headphone-amp type solutions, and maybe this would enable me to play an electric guitar, with the aid of my iPod Touch 5th Generation, and leave amplifiers behind.

Here's the challenge: I play jazz mostly. I don't like distortion. Jazz guitar for the most part requires a lot of headroom but no distortion.

Can the iRig 2 handle it?

First of all, the iRig 2 is an inexpensive device. It's something like $39. That's cheap. So how much can you expect from it? How good is the onboard preamp?

Read the rest of this post

Wed, 05 Mar 2014

Helpful post: How to manage/sync your iOS 7 device under Linux (natively) by Manuel Escudero

This post is here more so I don't lose track of this extremely detailed tutorial on how to deal with iOS 7 devices under Linux, especially Fedora.

(Because friends don't let friends use iTunes)

Fri, 31 Jan 2014

Just because you're a former Apple manager doesn't mean your iMac's getting fixed

An extremely cautionary tale on broken iMacs, Apple's relative indifference, and how barbaric this all seems in relation to hardware from other vendors:

Readwrite: How I Fixed An iLemon -- Repairing a Mac is no simple task — take it from someone who worked at Apple for 20 years by David Sobotta

Wed, 16 Oct 2013

File under obvious: Turning off CPU fan makes computer run hot

So I noticed a BIOS option to turn the CPU fan off on my HP Pavilion g6-2210us. I tried it.

After invoking this in the BIOS, the fan didn't run all the time. It ran about half or more of the time. And the bottom of the laptop was appreciably hotter.

So I went back into the BIOS and turned the fan back to "always on."

Now the laptop runs cooler.

Obviously, right?

The fan isn't so loud that it's a problem, and it does have variable speed, so having it cycle off and on is more noticeable than just having it on all the time.

Fri, 30 Aug 2013

Sinclair ZX-81: I used to have one of these

I used to have one of these Sinclair ZX-81 computers. It plugged into the TV, allowed you to enter programs in BASIC, and save and load those programs and others via a cassette tape recorder.

It was a computer, and it cost .

I had two of the 16K memory modules that plugged into the back. They shorted out more often than not and crashed the computer.

I even subscribed to a Timex-Sinclair-related magazine that offered programs you could type in. Most didn't work. Maybe it was due to typing errors on my part, but you never know.

I eventually put the whole lot into a box and sold it off at a garage sale.

Maybe not so curiously, I think we should still be able to buy computers for . You sort of, kind of can do that.

Tue, 20 Aug 2013

Best coffee mug ever

Buy one here.

Thu, 21 Feb 2013

Aftermarket replacement battery on the cheap for the Lenovo G555

I've had the Lenovo G555 for about 2 3/4 years at this point, and I've had another part fail -- the battery.

A laptop battery losing its ability to hold a charge after two years is by no means unusual.

Laptop batteries can be pricey. I've seen them go for -- and that's for a computer that's worth maybe .

When my LCD power inverter went when I had the Lenovo for about two years -- a bit early -- and I was able to replace what is usually a part by spending and change on eBay, I decided to look around before committing to a new battery.

I saw aftermarket batteries going for anywhere from to . That's quite a range. Some claimed to be better. Those offered a two-year warranty. Most of the time, it would take another to in shipping to complete the transaction.

Read the rest of this post

Wed, 21 Nov 2012

Is touchpad sensitivity to blame for erratic behavior?

I'm still trying to get to the bottom of the erratic cursor movement when the Alps touchpad in my Lenovo G555 laptop is in tap-to-click mode.

Having found that this happens only rarely in GNOME, I've tried to find the differences between touchpad configuration in GNOME 3 and Xfce (version 4.8 is what I'm running in Debian Wheezy).

Running a diff on the files has produced a few differences, but nothing that affects sensitivity.

So I've been delving into the many settings of Synaptics and Alps touchpads -- all accessible through interfaces meant for Synaptics touchpads, by the way.

In most modern Linux distributions, you can control the touchpad through the synclient utility. While man synclient helps in figuring this out, you need to look at man synaptics much more closely. That's where the keys to the touchpad-controlling kindgdom really lie. They tell the truth, but that's where they are.

One thing I did was write a couple of scripts that turn tap-to-click on and off. I don't think these needed to be in /usr/local/bin, but I put them there anyway. They did need to be executable. In Xfce I made program launchers on the desktop that call both of these scripts so I could turn them off and on, using the touchpad's tap-to-click when I want and turning it off when it's annoying me.

There are usually system utilities that can help you do this, but they're usually a few menu clicks away, and Xfce in Debian Wheezy -- at least the way I have it set up -- doesn't offer to toggle this behavior for me. And the scripts with launchers are faster anyway.

I'll go into detail about all of this in the near future when I have all of the settings more set.

For now I'm experimenting with touchpad sensitivity. There are a few parameters that seem to control this, and I began by focusing on FingerHigh.

I raised the number to reduce the sensitivity of taps on the touchpad, meaning it takes a harder tap to actually register a tap.

Here is how I set it in the terminal: $ synclient FingerHigh=35

I think the default value was something like 12. When I got to 40, tapping pretty much stopped working. So I'm working with FingerHigh=35 for now.

Another parameter I've been experimenting with is PalmDetect, which is supposed to ... detect your palm.

Once I get the scripts in better shape, I will both publish them on this site and in a publically available repository.

This kind of command-line tinkering and extremely simple scripting is not at all complicated. It's the kind of hacking anybody can do.

Touchpad sensitivity is a problem I've seen not just in the Lenovo G555 but in Windows 7 as well as in Linux, and the lack of control that users in Windows have over behavior of the hardware is a terrible situation.

Mon, 15 Oct 2012

Raspberry Pi single-board $35 computer's RAM doubles from 256 to 512 MB

The all-the-rage Raspberry Pi single-board, ARM-based computer is a great device for embedded uses -- I'm eager to turn one into a print server -- but isn't well-appointed as a desktop substitute.

News that its memory is doubling to 512 MB (H-Online, RaspberryPi.org) and that all boards are being assembled in the U.K. instead of China while the price is sticking at is welcome.

Read the rest of this post

Sat, 06 Oct 2012

Google Chromebooks are looking better and better

Even though I guess I'm a "power user," I'm starting to agree with Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols' idea that Google's Chromebooks are a compelling choice.

If you're comfortable with Google services and doing everything in its cloud, or if you're doing it anyway, these devices are cheap enough, starting at , and due to their light Ubuntu-derived OS boot right away and run acceptably fast. They have a six-hour battery life. From an updates and security perspective, they're virtually maintenance-free.

If you lose one or it breaks, you just move on to a new one. All your stuff is in the cloud.

I'm pitching them to my company. Very soon now, we'll be able to do just about everything we do with a Chromebook. It's cheaper than an iPad, way more usable for things like writing, and the tight integration with Google is a win for those already committed to the search giant's services.