OSCON 2011

I've had a busy week, manning the Personal Telco Project booth at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention - better known as OSCON.

It was my first tech convention experience, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I met dozens of interesting people, had some great conversations, got some decent swag, and made a few potentially awesome connections for PTP. I haven't written about it here before, but I've been involved with Personal Telco for many years; check out my PTP wiki page for more about my work with that organization.

One project I worked on during the convention was particularly interesting: the OSCON wireless network wasn't working very well in the huge exhibit hall, so I flashed a Netgear WGT634U to run OpenWRT, then tethered it to my Android phone via USB and used my data connection to set up a temporary PTP node for our booth at the convention. I followed the recipe outlined in Luis Gallardo's article to get the tether working with OpenWRT.


HP drivers: still terrible after all these years

Poking around on my Mac the other night, I noticed something odd: with nothing in particular running, the system load average was pegged above 1.0. A quick glance at the process table revealed something called HPShortcutManager.app sitting there, quietly laying siege to a processor core.

I like to know my enemies before I destroy them. A quick search led me to a fascinating thread on the HP Support Forum, detailing how anyone who is so bold and daring as to install the HP scanner drivers on a Mac is doomed to suffer the loss of a CPU core, unless the user actively intervenes to prevent it.

Of the available (trivial) workarounds, I opted for killing some processes and deleting some files - problem solved, no more runaway CPU core. Ignoring the fact that HP is aware of this problem and does nothing about it, which strikes me as terribly irresponsible, this made me think: apparently my little MacBook Pro is such a beast that it can sit above 1.0 load for several months without me ever even noticing - and I'm not exactly a light user!

I had noticed the machine running a bit hot, and the average battery life was somewhat disappointing. In retrospect, I feel rather foolish for not looking into it sooner - I simply assumed the i7 was just that power-hungry. It will be interesting to see what the machine is like now, without a bunch of resources being wasted on nothing...

On a related note, HP's software was all installed on my system owned by a non-existent user/group ID 504:504. If I had more user accounts, that may well have been some random person - not ideal. I've changed them all to be owned by root:admin, and scanning still works with this configuration.

These are the commands I ran to accomplish everything described here:

sudo killall -9 HPShortcutManagerStartup.app
sudo killall -9 HPShortcutManager.app

sudo mv "/Library/Application Support/Hewlett-Packard/HP Scanjet Scanner/HPShortcutManagerStartup.app" "/Library/Application Support/Hewlett-Packard/HP Scanjet Scanner/HPShortcutManagerStartup.app.broken"
sudo mv "/Library/Application Support/Hewlett-Packard/HP Scanjet Scanner/HPShortcutManager.app" "/Library/Application Support/Hewlett-Packard/HP Scanjet Scanner/HPShortcutManager.app.broken"

sudo find /Applications /Library -uid 504 -exec chown root:admin {} \;


Making Launchpad suck less

So, Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" is out, and it's (mostly) awesome. One thing that many people don't like about it is Launchpad, the new iPad-style application launcher; one of the major reasons people don't like Launchpad is that currently, it's impossible to remove things from it that weren't installed via the App Store. (Yes. Really. Not slick.)

This bothered me enough that I decided to do something about it. I've written a quick little script that will, given the name of an application, forcibly remove it from Launchpad's internal database. That script is called LaunchTrimmer and it's available for download now. The source code is also available on GitHub.

After downloading, you should be able to double-click the script in Finder, or you can run it from Terminal directly if you're into that sort of thing. It will prompt you for the name of an application, find your Launchpad database, confirm your selections, and remove all references to that application from that database.

I may actually make a nice friendly GUI application out of this; if Apple doesn't fix up Launchpad very soon, I can imagine quite a few people being interested in doing it themselves!


Lion, Xcode and MacPorts

A couple of quick notes for other developers who use MacPorts and are upgrading to Lion:

  • Xcode 4 was $4.99 on the App Store prior to the release of Lion; now, at least if you have Lion installed, it is free.
  • After upgrading the OS and Xcode, sudo port selfupdate handled the MacPorts part of the upgrade just fine, although it took an unexpectedly long time. Unfortunately, at this point, major problems with ports began to manifest. I moved forward with the migration process from the MacPorts wiki. In retrospect, it would probably have been more efficient to just completely blow away /opt/local and reinstall everything there from scratch.

That's it for tonight!


Thoughts on Google+

Google+ seems to be what everyone is talking about right now - and for good reason. Love it or hate it, Google has just made a strong entrance to the ever-changing world of social media.

My first impression of this new service is that it isn't just another Internet tourist trap, like MySpace always was and Facebook has now become. Advertisements are conspicuously absent, which is very pleasant. So far, there are no signs of the "social" games that so many of us have come to loathe.

Instead, in Google+ I see an elegant solution for disseminating information between people based on the ways they are connected in the real world. The web interface is smooth and intuitive, allowing you to define groups of people (called "circles") based on your relationships with them and share with only the circles or individuals that you want to. You can share messages, conversations, links, images and videos. You can also tag anything you share with a location, if you like, and video chat quickly and easily.

To be fair, part of the reason for my enthusiasm is that I am generally a fan of Google products, and one of the things that appeals to me about Google+ is the integration with other Google stuff. For example, I've had a Google Profile for a year or so, and when I signed up for Google+, it was linked automatically. It's a small thing, but details count, and I anticipate much stronger and broader integration in the near future.

As far as the future goes, things could very well change. They could plaster their shiny, expensive new toy with advertising, throw Mafia Wars right into the middle and fill it with an endless army of well-paid spam mongers. I'm just hoping that doesn't happen any time soon. Someday, its feature set will probably fall behind, and we'll look to the horizon for the Next Big Thing. Today, however, Google+ is here, and I'm there.


Blog changes

If you've actually been to this blog more than once or twice, you've probably noticed some things have changed recently.

I've switched from Posterous back to Blogger, with a few tweaks to the theme. I liked some of the ideas behind Posterous, but unfortunately, their implementation left much to be desired. Meanwhile, Blogger seems to have improved significantly over the past year, and the ability to export my data easily is very appealing to me.

Unfortunately, this means any old links pointing to here are now broken. Please let me know if you find any such links or see anything wrong. Thanks!


New old things

Busy, busy, busy.

My music project has (yet another) new name. This time, we're calling ourselves HRD - Hundred Round Drum. Nobody is using the name, it abbreviates well, isn't completely stupid and rings well when you say it, so I'm pretty happy with it. I liked the previous name, but Devon didn't particularly; he came up with this new name.

We also went ahead and released three new tracks on our new SoundCloud page. These are final tracks, as they will appear on our upcoming album, available for free download now. Check them out!