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iriver Lplayer teardown

ian – Sun, 2008 – 09 – 21 06:56

Overall thoughts:

  • This is a very small, neat, lightweight player.
  • Battery life could be better
  • Audio quality (specifically noise floor) could be better
  • Tactile interface is great
  • Being able to just copy MP3s to it like a drive is awesome
  • It's just so... tiny. And it plays videos.
  • UI responsiveness improves with 1.03 firmware, and you get a lot less crashes with funny characters in your filesystem
  • Much more solid-feeling than the Clix 2

Time to see what makes it tick.

The case is held together with clips along the edges. I pushed and twisted and poked trying to make it spring apart like the previous Clix, but it's a lot simpler now. Stick a fingernail into the edge with the power/volume buttons and lever the base outwards, away from the screen.

Sipura SPA-841 teardown

ian – Thu, 2008 – 05 – 08 06:45

Today, we have a special guest: a Linksys-branded Sipura SPA-841 VoIP phone.

Sipura/Linksys SPA-841

Let's see what's inside.

Opened SPA-841

Overall, this device looks like it was built to be low cost, while acknowledging that volumes also won't be very high. This is usually a bad combination as a manufacturer - you end up having to use a lot of (expensive) manual labor, since it's too expensive to tool up machines. Rather than integrate the LCD into the mainboard, they've soldered an adaptor cable to a header on the mainboard. The same is true of the off-board connections; most of them are soldered rather than using dedicated connectors, saving a few cents per connection. Most of them are covered in hot glue to provide a little mechanical stability.

Robotic locomotion

ian – Sun, 2008 – 04 – 13 10:23


Robotics is an area that I'm interested in for the long term. It's similar to software development twenty years ago: it's immature, there's no general consensus on what the 'best' way to do things is, and there are a lot of unsolved problems. The development cost is starting to come down to the point where ordinary individuals can tinker and learn without external sponsorship.

I think the 'unsolved problems' element is important. In software, 20 years ago, we were contrained by technology and immaturity. We didn't have cheap multi-GHz CPU's. We didn't have cheaply accessible worldwide communications networks. We didn't have stable, reliable, cheap operating systems. In 1988, we had the 8086, DOS and maybe a megabyte of RAM.

Finding value in work

ian – Sun, 2008 – 04 – 13 10:21

I'm struggling with the idea of value in work that is performed.

I think this is related to my general dissatisfaction at web development. Sure, there's a lot of stuff going on. Sure, there's even a little money to be made. But why is it valuable? Why does anyone care?

Ultimately, we're just presenting and shuffling textual information. This is valuable to a point. Certainly, I love to be able to punch in any old company's name, get info on their offerings, contact numbers, buy their stuff, etc. That's great.

Sidebar: I'm trying to find some good Bluetooth chips. There are a half-dozen manufacturers that make them. Philips/NXP make some very promising-looking products but don't provide a datasheet on the web, so I can't decide whether they're suitable. I find the number for the local sales office and it turns out to be a poor woman in Accounts who doesn't know why she's getting so many technical calls. She forwards me to reception. Reception says that no, NXP doesn't exist any more, it's some other company. This other company doesn't have a website, but here's the mobile number of a guy that can help me. I call the mobile. Guy doesn't call back. It's like, I will give you money if you answer a few simple questions, and I can't even find the right person to talk to.

ZFS: the final straw

ian – Thu, 2008 – 02 – 21 11:45

It's official. I am finally pronouncing ZFS 'buggy'.

I do not trust the integrity of my data with this filesystem, and I suggest that you do not use it for any purpose.

I've tried three platforms so far, trying to find a stable ZFS system. They are:


Didn't support any common SATA controllers. Crashed if you looked at it the wrong way. Actively user-hostile. Tiny user community, most of it hostile to Linux users and noobs.


Leaks memory and crashes about once a week, more if you use it. I can't complete a scrub or a complete copy of my storage pool (800GB) in one pass: the machine must be rebooted in the middle. Sometimes claims that the pools are fully intact but contain no data, which is somewhat disconcerting. Little hope for future updates as Sun has 'purchased' the developer that was working on the project.

Cross-blog pimpage:

ian – Sun, 2007 – 10 – 14 07:53

I've been talking about setting up a software company for a long time. I'm finally getting organised about it and making progress.

I've set up a blog for it at

Running AbstractSpoon ToDoList under Wine

ian – Thu, 2007 – 08 – 16 21:31

I'm using Ubuntu Feisty with the Wine that's installed with it - version 0.9.41. I'm still using a relatively old ToDoList 4.10.2. I also tried version 5.3 - it started up fine, but would page fault while loading some of my task lists.

Copy these dll's from a Windows installation into the ToDoList directory:

  • mfc42.dll
  • mfc42u.dll
  • msxml2.dll
  • msxml2r.dll
  • msxml3.dll
  • msxml3r.dll
  • msxml.dll
  • msxmlr.dll

FIre up winecfg. Under the Libraries tab, add overrides for msxml and msxml3. Their load order should be (native, builtin).

Aoyue 906 Hot Air Rework Station review

ian – Wed, 2007 – 08 – 08 23:04

I've been lucky enough to use a Hakko 852 at work. It heats up quickly and accurately, gives you fine control over the air flow rate and has all sorts of temperature profiling magic. It's an elegant weapon for a more civilised time.

The Aoyue 906 is not an elegant weapon. Where the Hakko 852 is a perfect lightsaber, the Aoyue 906 is a wooden club in flourescent paint.

What I learned from setting up ZFS on my fileserver

ian – Fri, 2007 – 07 – 06 04:30

I've been using Linux with a software RAID5 array for my fileserver for a few years now. It's pretty good. I've had one drive failure in about five years. But, of course, I filled it up (again). I decided to switch to ZFS for the most recent array for a few reasons:

  • I believed that I could add drives to the RAID array whenever I wanted to
  • I liked the idea of end-to-end checksums
  • It's supposed to be more robust against power failures than RAID5

In particular, I liked the idea of having two parity drives (RAID6 or raidz2).

This is what I learned.

Nokia E65 review: how does it stack up against a 5-year-old Siemens ME45?

ian – Tue, 2007 – 06 – 12 09:38

I got a Nokia E65 after years of swearing that I'd never buy a Nokia.

Symbian has sold me. The built-in apps are garbage, but it's just the idea of finally having a beefy computer that I can carry around and with a nice screen that I can read. There are free SDK's and tools, and so I'm very excited about the idea of building a nice work environment on there.

I was carrying around a Siemens ME45 for about five years prior. Beautiful little phone in its own ugly way. Absolutely bulletproof. It had serial and IrDA connections, GPRS, internal memory, and was the only useful phone in an era where everyone wanted pretty.