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Updated: 14 min 40 sec ago

Gabriel Noronha: NSW Solar Feed in Tariff

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:06

If you where lucky enough to install your solar panels before 30 June 2012 then you have nothing to worry about your nsw government guaranteed to get 60c for those pre 28/10/2010 in the scheme or 20c for those later. I didn’t own my house before that date so I missed out so we’ll mainly be looking at VFIT voluntary feed in tariff.

So to safe you the research I’ve put it in a table below using Energy Made Easy Website to look up power companies avaliable in NSW.

Company VFIT c/kwh Greenpower Website Click Energy 10 No Click Energy AGL 8 Yes AGL Diamond Energy 8 No** Diamond Energy Power Direct 7.7 Yes Power Direct EnergyAustralia 7.7* Yes Energy Australia Lumo 6.6 Yes Lumo Energy Orgin 6 Yes Orgin energy Red Energy 5* Yes Red Energy

*can’t confirm rate on company website need to ring for quote.
**Doesn’t offer certified green energy but does own green energy generators and no fossil fuel generators.

I export 3199.9 kWh/annually so at 8c it’s $255.99 and at the top rate of 10c/kWh it’s $319.99 so 10c give me an extra $64 per year. but that’s only a saving if the cost rate is the same.

There are other things to take into account when choosing a provide through, like the rates and discount for example click charge 27.39 c/kwh plus 7% discount 25.47 c/kwh which beat the discounted AGL rate of 26.44 c/kwh. Diamond energy with discount is ~26.56 c/kwh. daily service charge will also have to be factored in but it has less of an affect on the bill size. with click offering 78.10 c/day AGL 74.877 c/day and Diamond Energy 78.10 c/day.

I’m currently with AGL but I will be doing some further number crunching to work out if I can get enough savings out of click energy to justify me contract break fee that AGL will charge me if I leave.
I also dispprove on AGLs submission to the RET review so I’m not so willing to give them any more money.

Click energy doesn’t provide green power, this is a slight sticking point as purchasing green energy means not that my power comes from green sources but my money does. But that can be purchased seperatly to your energy bill and more directly to green providers so that might be an option.

Gabriel Noronha: New Electricity Retailer

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:06

So after crunching some more numbers and reading the green peace green energy guide I decided to change electricity retailers. Based of my need for a high VFIT (see previous post )  it was a choice between AGL (current provider), Click Energy and Diamond Energy.

Power Saving Calculations

Ok so the savings it’s not completely fair on AGL $55 of that $70 saving is 100% green energy which I’m not longer buying.  As click doesn’t offer it on their solar plan. but i can buy green energy from the a environmental trust for 4.2c/kWh and it’s a tax deduction.

Click saved me the most money has no contracts over AGLs 3 year killer and Diamonds 1 year one, it was also rated by green peace as middle range green. I’ve decided to move to click energy I’ll officially switch at my next meter read.

What about Gas well it’s going to switched later when click supports it. from twitter today:

It’s official! We’re pleased to announce Click Energy will be a #naturalgassupplier by the end of the year

— Click Energy (@click4energy) September 4, 2014

If I’ve convinced you to switch and you want to get $50 click has a mates rates referral program  drop me a message and we’ll go from there.

Gabriel Noronha: EVSE for Sun Valley Toursit Park

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:06

So you might of seen a couple posts about Sun Valley Tourist Park, that is because we visit there a lot to visit grandma and grandpa (wife’s parents) .  So we decided because its outside of our return range we have to charge there to get home if we take the I-MIEV. but with the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) that comes with the car limits the charge rate to 10amps max. So we convinced the park to install a 32amp EVSE.  This allow us to charge at the I-MIEV full rate of 13amps so 30% faster.

Aeroviroment EVSE-RS at Sun Valley

If you want to know more about the EVSE it’s an Aeroviroment EVSE RS.  It should work fine with the Holden volt, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, I-MIEV 2012 or later (may not work with 2010 models) and the Nissan LEAF.

If you are in the central coast and want somewhere to charge you can find the details on how to contact the park on plugshare. It’s available for public use depending on how busy the park is and the driver paying a nominal fee, and the driver phones ahead, during office hours.


Gabriel Noronha: Charging Infrastructure

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:06

A lot of people ask where do you charge. The answer is nearly for all EV drivers is at home. Some times the next question is do you need special equipment to which the answer is a powerpoint. (more specifically a 15amp powerpoint for the provide cable with the LEAF or I-miev). When out and about we have the following options.

 Commercial Infrastructure

There are two providers of commercial charging infrastructure in Australia, both are American Chargepoint and Blink, there was a 3rd Better place but unfortunately that company went broke.  Blink is yet to setup an Australian office so they are a bit harder to contact.

Chargepoint have a office in every state of Australia and have around 167 charge stations in the country. The chargepoint model is a low risk for them, it requires the person or business that wants a charging station to pay for the capital costs of supply and install of the charger.  It’s then up to the charging station owner if they want to charge the EV driver and chargepoint through the use of their RFID tags issued to drivers then take care of the payment system and charger driver accordingly, at present all the ones in Australia are free to use.

As you can see the blink network is much smaller, with only 5 sites and 7 chargers.  blink doesn’t let the site owner choose the price but instead charge $1USD per hour. I’m still waiting to hear from blink sales on if they have plans to expand in Australia.

Community Infrastructure

What if you don’t want to charge people or just provide a simple power point.  Well for these site there is a great site that EV drivers and Charging spot owners can used to share information. (you might have to pan to Australia) Allows you to sign up and add charge points to there map tell other EV drivers that a charging spot works by checking in (think foursquare and facebook), and upload pictures to help people find charge location.  This has probably been the most useful tool so far when it comes to charging infrastructure, I highly recommend all EV drivers install the app on the iphone or android.

Encouraging Infrastructure

Currently there still isn’t enough charging infrastructure, not because the current EV drivers need it but mainly because it puts people off buying a EV.

In a small effort to make it easier for business to understand what’s required to provide a service to EV drivers I prepared a primer

Electric Vehicle Charging Solutions for Businesses

Hopefully other EV drivers can use this when negotiating with companies about added a charging station to there site.

Gabriel Noronha: Kickstarter Field Hockey Game

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:06

For years in high school I had my hockey mad team mates telling me how great a field hockey game would be…

Looks like someone finally listerned there is currently a kick starter campaign to get one made

Love hockey but thing gaming is a waste of time ….. well think of this as a promotion of the sport well worth your time. I’ve backed it !

Gabriel Noronha: Betterplace, the first to fall.

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:06

Around May 2013 betterplace pulled out of Australian operations in an attempt to keep it’s parent company a float. This plan wasn’t overly great as the parent company still went bankrupt. this SMH article goes into a bit more depth, on why how and what’s to blame.

The real unfortunate thing is they put in quite a bit of infrastructure, with their own money and through government support through smart grid smarty city funding and now it’s being removed or unusable.

Below is pictures from at the Morisset Level 3 Charger, before and after removal.

The good news for the Level 3 fast chargers is that schneider electric have taken possession of these units back (they originally provided them) and at least they will be resold and not placed on the scrap heap.

It also appears it’s not just the level 3 but the level 2 after noticing a local shopping centre was adversing EV charging on there facebook page I emailed them to sadly only get this reply

Good morning Gabriel

Regarding your query about our Electric Car Charges, we did have charging areas however these have recently been removed from our Centre.

Kind regards

Michelle Thomas
Centre Manager
Commercial Property
Retail | Office | Industrial
Stockland Jesmond & Wallsend
28 Blue Gum Road, Jesmond NSW 2299
T +61 2 4955 9249 M +61 438 266 707
F +61 2 4955 8014 E
BeGreen… and consider the environment before printing this email

So while I’m working madly to try and increase the amount of EV chargers in my area they are being removed at a faster rate that I can convince people to put them in.

Gabriel Noronha: Recharging NSW

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:06

So those who have been following this blog know that I’ve been a keen enthusiast for EVs attempting to grow and expand the amount of EVs in Australia and the related charging network.

Some of my frustration on how slowly it has been growing has turned into why don’t I do something about it.

So I have. I’m now a director of a new company Recharging NSW Pty Ltd. The main aim is to encourage and support EV uptake in Australia.  By increase both cars on the road and public charging.

So there isn’t much I can share at present everything is still in the planning phases. but stay tuned.




Gabriel Noronha: EV friendly accomondation

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:06

On the 27 of October met up with some LEAF drivers from Australian LEAF Owners Forum at Sun Valley Tourist Park see the above picture for a line up of their Leafs. It was a good meet up most of them had not met before and basically the whole meet up was based around interest in the cars.  so naturally the talk of the next meet up came up and I suggested next years 2014 hunter EV festival it’s actually down for a weekend this day 1 at the race track day 2 the expo at the foreshore.

So in an attempt to help out I sent this email out to the accommodation around Newcastle

In the lead up the the 2014 hunter Electric Vehicle festival weekend I’m canvassing Newcastle accommodation for places that are Electric Vehicle friendly so i can provide a list to out of town EV drivers.

So the first question is would you like to be added to the list ?

If you are interested I would like to know how many power points you have within close proximity to a car park?  and what type they are ? (most will be 240 Volt 10 amp)

The last piece of information I need is if there is a surcharge to the accommodation cost for EV charging and how much will it be?

Thank you for your time

What I forgot the put in the email was the dates August 16th and 17th… and the approximate cost of power which I estimated at 15kwh (~6 hours of time) so at $0.25 per KWh $3.75.  So far only had one reply which was positive but you can keep and eye on my progress by checking the spreadsheet on google drive



Gabriel Noronha: Solar 1 year on

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:06

this time last year we had the solar installed well by this time it was well on the roof … this date last year we had the meter replaced and the solar turned on.

The statistics:

  • kWh Imported 4295.3
  • kWh Exported 3199.9
  • kWh generated according to the inverter 4936
  • Fit Collected at 8c kWh $255.99
  • kWh not purchased or sold 1736.1

I’m currently on a flat rate of 29.084 c/kWh (note my rate has gone up since solar was installed) minus 10% discount  plus 5.5  c /kWh for green energy = 31.94 c /kWh. So the amount not purchased or sold is what I saved by not buying 1736.1*31.94c = $554.51 + the money I got from Fit $255.99 so in a year it’s saved me ~$810.5.

Has the solar been a good investment no…the capital cost was around $8.5k so with the amount saved it’ll take 10 years to pay back. The main reason for this is that we export way too much and the fit is so low if we got paid what it costs us it would of saved us ~$1500 a year and only 5.5 years to pay back.  Do I care if it was a solid investment not really.

If we look at how green it is if we take imported – exported (1095 kWh)  that’s how much power I’ve used from other generators which for my area is black coal, but that has been offset by my green power money purchasing green power from wind and biogass. so does my house run emissions free when it comes to electricity according to an accountant yes, because every kWh of power I’ve used has been purchased from a green source  but maybe not according to an engineer.

Other interesting notes on the power bill:

average kWh used per day including solar from April to may 2013 before purchasing the EV was 12.1 kwh

average kWh used per day including solar from July 2013 to April 2014 post purchasing the EV is 16.5 kwh

so the effect of owning an EV on our power bills is about 4.4 kwh per day $1.40 increased cost. Note: this would also include seasonal cost extras like summertime air con and winter time heating so I won’t have a clear picture until we 1 year of EV ownership.

Howell Tam: Linux on XDA…

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

I ended up starting to work a bit on getting Linux onto the XDA (It’s a very nice PDA phone, for those who don’t know). After spending about two weeks of fooling around, and getting help from people from (joshua, pb, anpaza, and many others), I’ve finally got it booting. Currently with a very basic initrd image root, with a busybox shell at the serial console. Also trying to get the screen to work properly.

Some of my progress can be seen at the xda-linux photo section.

Howell Tam: WINE 1 : Windows 0

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Got this old but very popular game I wanted to play. It’s a Windows game, but not only that, the version I have is the simplified chinese version of it (I can read it, but not as good as traditional).

I was “lucky” and got someone else’s Windows XP box to try and see if it runs, and it doesn’t. It starts up and says it needs the version of the game only works on a simplified chinese version of Windows. Then I thought, I’ve seen similar problems with other programs. Let me try fiddling with those locale and default language and encoding settings in the control panel, not to mention that I need to reboot Windows almost after every change of the settings. However, none of the changes helped. The game still won’t run. And because you could ask, no, we don’t have a simplified version of Windows.

I know for the fact that the game actually runs under WINE pretty well (good thing being an old game I guess), so I gave it a go. Installation worked. Then when I run it, yup, got the same simplified chinese version error. But there’s something different. The texts of the error dialog box are all garbage. I imagine they’re simplified chinese, but somehow not using the right font or encoding. I decided to fix this problem first, which I knew it would be easy cos I have had same problems with other chinese games before. All you need is to set LANG, in this case, to zh_CN.

And guess what, that not only solves the chinese encoding issue, that also convinces the game to think I’m on simplified chinese version of Windows. The game worked beautifully. And need not to say, setting an environment variable doesn’t require rebooting… unlike some retarded operating system.

WINE wins!

Howell Tam: Linux, ASUS W7J, and the ACPI brightness keys

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Was meant to write up a page about Linux on my ASUS W7J, but I never got the time yet…

Anyway, here’s a possible quick fix for those with an ASUS laptop (W7J at least) and a non-working brightness acpi key (in my case, it’s Fn + F5 and Fn + F6), even though /sys/class/backlight/asus-laptop/brightness works perfectly.

I poked around the disassembled DSDT code and did a bit of googling. After a few reboots and testing, I figured out passing acpi_osi="!Windows 2006" to the kernel fixes the issue.

Apparently with the (current) Linux ACPI driver, the OS interface (OSI) code will respond to the ACPI as quite a few different versions of M$ windows (see drivers/acpi/utilities/uteval.c for the entire list). This list can be modified by the kernel parameter acpi_osi (see Documentation/kernel-parameters.txt for full details).

So my guess is the DSDT thinks I’m running “Windows 2006″ (aka Vista), and so it is doing (or not doing) something with these two particular ACPI keys. Telling the Linux ACPI driver not to pretend to be Vista got rid of the problem.

This quick workaround also means that I didn’t have to patch my own DSDT and build a kernel with it.

[Updated: 5th November 2007] I was testing 2.6.23.x on the W7J, and I noticed both brightness keys Fn + F5 and Fn + F6 work without acpi_osi. I looked into it and I’ve found out that the ACPI video driver makes the keys work. And for some reasons with older kernels (2.6.22.x) the video module is not loaded automatically. So you can probably ignore what I said above months ago :)

Howell Tam: Pikkoro – Episode 2 – Loopback rootfs with Debian

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

My Linux live CF is going well. I have been using it on my wife’s laptop.

Next step I was trying to get suspending working. ACPI sleep state S3 (Suspend to RAM) works pretty well as expected. However when the laptop comes back from the suspend, there seems to be a delay, or timeout, or some issues with USB. As this rootfs is on USB, I’m getting read errors, and from that point on, the rootfs has gone to a funny state, and things stops working.

The easiest way to solve this problem for the moment, to me, is to totally avoid the problem. I need to get Linux running off the harddisk on this laptop. And at the same time I do not want to install, or repartition the existing windows installation. So I decided to go for loopback rootfs.

The loopback rootfs on Linux is not anything new. I briefly did a google search and there’s this loopback root filesystem HOWTO written back in 1999. Though, I want to get this done in a maintainable way. Being a Debian user, hence, I want to do this in a Debian way.

For this Linux live system, I’ve been a good Debian user and keep everything done in the Debian way, so that it’s easier for me to manage, recreate, and update/upgrade the system. Kernel initrd image is handled by initramfs-tools. So rather than putting together an initrd image manually to do all the tricks, I quickly looked at how initramfs works, and wrote a loop script, which is pretty much the same as the existing local script, but with one extra step. And I’ve also added a few more kernel parameters to make things easier. Here it is:

# Local loopback filesystem mounting # Parameter: Where to mount the filesystem mountroot () { for x in $(cat /proc/cmdline); do case $x in rootfstype=*) rootfstype=${x#rootfstype=} ;; loopfile=*) loopfile=${x#loopfile=} ;; loopfstype=*) loopfstype=${x#loopfstype=} ;; esac done [ "$quiet" != "y" ] && log_begin_msg "Running /scripts/local-top" run_scripts /scripts/local-top [ "$quiet" != "y" ] && log_end_msg # If the root device hasn't shown up yet, give it a little while # to deal with removable devices if [ ! -e "${ROOT}" ]; then log_begin_msg "Waiting for root file system..." if [ -x /sbin/usplash_write ]; then /sbin/usplash_write "TIMEOUT 180" || true fi slumber=1800 while [ ${slumber} -gt 0 -a ! -e "${ROOT}" ]; do /bin/sleep 0.1 slumber=$(( ${slumber} - 1 )) done if [ ${slumber} -gt 0 ]; then log_end_msg 0 else log_end_msg 1 || true fi if [ -x /sbin/usplash_write ]; then /sbin/usplash_write "TIMEOUT 15" || true fi fi # We've given up, but we'll let the user fix matters if they can while [ ! -e "${ROOT}" ]; do panic "ALERT! ${ROOT} does not exist. Dropping to a shell!" done eval $(fstype < ${ROOT}) [ "$quiet" != "y" ] && log_begin_msg "Running /scripts/local-premount" run_scripts /scripts/local-premount [ "$quiet" != "y" ] && log_end_msg # FIXME This has no error checking modprobe -q ${FSTYPE} # FIXME This has no error checking # Mount root mkdir /preroot if [ "${rootfstype}" ]; then opts="-t ${rootfstype}" fi # mount the device containing the file image as rw mount -w ${ROOTFLAGS} ${opts} ${ROOT} /preroot [ "$quiet" != "y" ] && log_begin_msg "Running /scripts/log-bottom" run_scripts /scripts/local-bottom [ "$quiet" != "y" ] && log_end_msg if [ "${loopfstype}" ]; then opts="-t ${loopfstype}" fi # mount the file image loopback mount -o loop ${opts} /preroot/${loopfile} ${rootmnt} if [ -e "${rootmnt}/preroot" ]; then # bind mount the real device so that it is accessible later mount -o bind /preroot ${rootmnt}/preroot fi }

With this file in /usr/share/initramfs-tools/scripts/ or in my case, I simply made a copy of what’s in /usr/share/initramfs-tools/ and /etc/mkinitramfs/ and run mkinitramfs -d <confdir> -o initrd.img-pikkoro.loop. Anything I’ve done is adding modules I needed in the “modules” file. Mine looks like this:

usbcore ehci-hcd ohci-hcd uhci-hcd usb-storage sd_mod loop ext2 ext3 vfat jbd nls_iso8859_1 nls_cp437

I’ve created a 4GB ext3 filesystem in a file, stored on the windows fat partition. In my case, the loopback file is on the windows partition /dev/hda5, with the path /pigeon/pikkoro.img. So my kernel parameters are:

root=/dev/hda5 boot=loop rootfstype=vfat loopfile=/pigeon/pikkoro.img loopfstype=ext3

(shown in separate lines here for each parameter to make it clear)

And that’s it. Now I can boot this laptop via USB, then run Linux with the rootfs on the filesystem file, mounted as a loopback. And more more importantly, suspend-2-ram and resume is now working well.

Howell Tam: RAAF airshow 2006

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

On 21st October I went to the first day of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) airshow at their base in Richmond, NSW. It was roughly a two-hour train trip from home (one way).

I got there sometime just before 11 I think. Weather wasn’t very good and quite windy from time to time, but it was very comfortable as I was definitely not sweating, a lot better than one of those 37 degree weekends (which was the week before). It was very crowded, with a lot of families with kids and everything.

So I was pretty much standing and walking around for over 6 hours, taking photos, watching flying demos and aircraft displays. It’s absolutely good fun if you love planes. For me maybe it was too much of a warbirds and fighters show, but still very enjoyable. There were aerobatics, formation flying, attacks demo, helicopter joy riding (which I didn’t do, it wasn’t free :P), also some R/C aircraft and gliders displays. F-111, Hornets, Hercules, Boeing 707, Vampire, Tiger moth, and many many more…

I took almost 300 photos in total, though most of them look pretty dark and dull due to the weather. And to satisfy my panorama need, I’ve taken a 360° panorama view at the base at the end of the day.

Note to self:

  • Need better camera for this kind of show, a DSLR with like a 30x optical zoom lens would be great :)
  • Hang around at the end of the day when almost everyone are leaving, perfect time for taking even more photos wherever and however you like, without the extra random people.

My RAAF airshow 2006 album is here.

On a side note, there was this very odd Linux “sighting” at the show. If someone could explain it a bit that would be great ;)

Should probably start planning for the next airshow soon…

Howell Tam: vimpress again

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

It was about 8 months ago when I started using vimpress. And I’ve actually modified it a bit since then. So far I’ve made two tiny changes.

The first is checking for vim python support before doing anything. I did this because in Debian vim (vim.basic) isn’t compiled with python support, and I prefer vim.basic over vim.gtk or vim.gnome as my default vim (and as for the reason, see my previous vimpress post.

The second is adding a :BlogSave command. Basically sending and saving an entry without publishing it, i.e. saving it as a draft, which I do a lot myself.

I’ve kept it in my git repo now at git://

Gitweb at

Howell Tam: FlightGear + Wiimote

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

So, we bought a Wii. Amazingly my wife managed to walk-in and bought apparently the second last Wii in that shop, on the first day of the release in Australia. We also got an extra Wiimote, Zelda the game, and two Wiimote grip protectors.

With thanks to WMD, you could use the Wiimote under Linux fairly easily. For those who don’t know Wiimote talks to the Wii console via bluetooth. So it works with any computer with bluetooth as well.

People have been using the Wiimote on the computers in all sorts of different ways. As a guitar (Wiitar), as a drum machine, for games like Counter Strike, a virtual light sabre, etc. As for me, using the Wiimote with a flightsim, like FlightGear, would naturally be the first thing I wanna try.

The Wiimote has three accelerometers for the three axes. I’ve modified slightly the WMD script to send the X and Z force to the uinput device as the absolute coordinates. jscal then takes care of the calibration of the two axes. Then I changed the commandMap in the script to send BTN_0 to BTN_9 from all the buttons on the Wiimote.

On the FlightGear side all I need is to write a joystick definition XML for the Wiimote. I’ve also made the ‘B’ button to be the modifier. For example I have arrow Up and Down for throttle, Left and Right for the rudder. Then if I hold down ‘B’, Up Down Left Right become panning the viewport. ‘1′ and ‘2′ for changing views, ‘+’ and ‘-’ for zooming in and out, ‘A’ for brakes and gears. All set. Now I can fasten my seatbelt^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hwrist strap, sit back and ready for take off.

Updated 5th Jan 2007: Here is a patch against WMD SVN repository. Like I said it’s pretty hacky at the moment. And you definitely have to use jscal to calibrate it before it will behave sanely. Also you probably want to make changes to the commandMap in wmd/ to map more buttons.

And for those FlightGearers out there, here is the Wiimote joystick XML config I’ve made.

Here’s a video of FlightGear + Wiimote in action:

Howell Tam: LCA 2007 Day 1

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Hot day, cool people; nice LCA bag, bad wireless. My first day at LCA 2007.

It was pretty exciting to meet for the first time with a few people who I have known online for quite a while. George (or Gorilla) from the FlightGear gang, Leeds I know from, and Endy from the ScummVM team showing off the latest version that has AGI support (for some of the old Sierra games like Space Quest I). Looking forward to his lightning talk at the Gaming Miniconf tomorrow.

Apparently Jeff ended up demonstrating the Wii in the Gnome miniconf (which I have missed). I reckon he should have demo using the Wiimote on Linux, which is pretty easy to setup. Or maybe that should be in the Gaming miniconf… :)

On the other hand, I was having weird trouble with the wireless on my laptop. It’s a Intel Centrino PRO/Wireless 2200BG, and I was using the ipw2200 module with the corresponding firmware. For some reasons it wasn’t able to get an IP from DHCP most of the time. I managed to get an IP once, but it dropped out pretty much straight away. I tried setting the same IP I got statically but it was only partially working (DNS working, for example, but nothing else worked, which was expected).

After consulting Jamie and John a bit they reckoned my wireless somehow kept dropping packets. And to be honest I haven’t actually use the wireless much on this laptop. I have no idea whether it’s a hardware/radio/firmware/driver problem or what. I ended up using my CF wifi card and it worked beautifully.

Anyone in the conference is welcomed to fix it for me :)

Took fewer photos than I wanted to today, but anyway they can be found here. I’ll try to put up new photos there for each LCA day.

Howell Tam: Fun with Wine hacking

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

So I got this PC version of the game Shin Sangoku Musou 3 (真三國無雙). And of course it for some proprietary operating system (we do not speak of its names :P). As a Linux person the first thing you try is to try running it under Wine / WineX / Cedega.

A little bit of surprise, it ran with Wine latest development version, at least it’s gone thru all the splash screen, characters selection, until it gets to the actual game, crashed.

After turning on some debugging and tracing, followed by consulting on #winehq, I’ve learnt that this game hits one of the famous Wine and DirectX issue, multi-threaded Direct3D.

Still I’m a bit adventurous as usual, and did a bit of code reading and hacking in Wine, trying a few different quick-and-dirty approaches to get threads to use the same GLXContext, not that I’m an OpenGL guru.

After a few tries, I gave up. However I still kind of wanna be able to play this game under Linux. So I rethink the problem from a different approach, and did a even more dirty hack, so that only the main thread can do any GL calls. Any other threads will simply returns before trying. Yes, VERY UGLY indeed. So ugly that let’s not even talk about it anymore ;)

And guess what, that does the trick. It gets into the actual game. So apparently it’s creating a new thread only for the pre-game loading screen. So now instead of the loading animation screen, I simply get a black blank screen, and the game continues after that.

And just for fun, I’ve even created a character with the top Taiwanese model’s name :P

More screenshots here.

Howell Tam: FGMap now does metar, and more…

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Recently updated FGMap with various bug fixes, as well as adding a new tabbed info box for airports. That way I could easily add more different information, such as metar information. I have to admit I first got the idea of adding metar information for FGMap when I first saw it on They have excellent real world aviation charts, data and an awesome flight planning tools. I’m simply using the metar in Debian at the moment. Hopefully it will match FlightGear’s weather when using with its real weather fetch.

Also I’ve added external links in the airport info box to World Aero Data and AirNav (for U.S. airports).

Howell Tam: Windows badness, and VirtualBox goodness

Wed, 2016-05-11 13:05

Just don’t ask why, really, but (under the influence of my wife) we bought a AverMedia Hybrid (DVB-T + Analogue) + FM Radio USB 2.0 box. It’s a nice little USB device, and it also has composite and s-video input, audio input, and a remote control.

And of course it works under that proprietary . Then we realized it has rather serious issues with the composite-in being a bit slow (both slow frame rate and sometimes laggy).

As a Linuxer, naturally I then tried the device under Linux. Only just halfly expected, there is no driver for Linux yet. That’s no better way to spend your holidays overseas? I decided to spend a little on looking into the possibility to reverse engineer the windows driver.

Doing things on windows is always painful. Though I got one of the windows USB sniffer working, it wasn’t as convenient as doing things on Linux. So I went for using QEMU booting into windows and capture all the USB traffic. Unfortunately, windows (xp) crashes (classic BSOD style) while installing the device driver. I thought for a second, maybe it’s QEMU not emulating something that is needed?

Someone on #bochs pointed me to VirtualBox, so I gave it a go. Still out of luck though, windows xp crashes at the exact same spot. Damn.

On the bright side, I have discovered VirtualBox – yet another virtualizer for x86 hardware, and it’s pretty awesome:

  • (On this Pentium M 1.6GHz laptop) VirtualBox is much much faster than QEMU (with kqemu) for, well, running windows xp.
  • It has a GUI frontend for setting up VMs. As much as I prefer text/command-line based apps, a GUI frontend does help new users to try things out a lot.

Having said that, VirtualBox (currently anyway) is not entirely open source. It has two editions. And the version I tried was the one with those closed-source features. On the other hand they did say “some of these features will eventually be made available with the open-source version as well”.

So, no, I didn’t go very far with the reverse engineering. It’s usually a painful and time-consuming process. I did have some of the USB traffic sniffed and logged under windows, but I haven’t done much with them yet.

I have some more photos and info of the device here, including photos of it pulled apart.