April 23, 2010

To Milter or not to Milter, that is the question...

This whole week has been vacation for me, a bit of a sabbatical, really. Went to Disneyland for three days in the middle of it, so I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but I have made some good progress on somethings.

Today's progress has been on getting email migrated from Chiba (old server) to Puffer (new server.) I've successfully gotten ClamAV plugged into email received on SMTP, and am working on SpamAssassin, but my eyes are starting to cross so I'm going to bed. Yes, it's before midnight. Yes, I'm getting old.

But before I go to bed, I have a question for anyone reading this who understands such things: What is the benefit of using Milters with Postfix as opposed to just doing standard SMTP style before-queue content filtering?

If I'm reading it correctly, Postfix supports Milter so they can talk to off-the-shelf plug-ins that support the Sendmail Milter protocol. However, the plugins I'm wanting to install (SpamAssassin and ClamAV for starters, possibly others) seem to only support Milters using a additional glue-layer package that talks Milters on one side and the normal SMTP mechanism on the other.

If this is correct, then it seems that using Milters with these particular plugins is just MORE overhead. The question is, do I get any additional benefit by using Milters?

If not, I'm thinking of simplifying things and just ripping the Milter layer out and either doing pre-queue filtering, or just going lazy and doing post-queue filtering.

Anyone have any thoughts? Feel free to hit me up on GTalk, AIM, Yahoo and/or Twitter as @SmittyHalibut, or throw a comment here. Thanks for your help.

April 16, 2010

Too damn many things to do!

So, yeah. About that audio mixer project I was working on. Turns out, a friend of mine with whom I'm working on Vesuvius was selling his MaxNC 15OL CNC mill. So I bought it.

That took about $1200 of my $800 budget. No, that's not a type-o.

So I have precisely zero money left with which to buy parts and circuit boards for the audio mixer project. The good news is, the radio bits I need for Wildflower already work; they just don't mix in iPhone audio. So I'm in good shape for the hard requirements of the event.

BUT! As far as Vesuvius is concerned, I have a CNC Mill! So that's cool. I'll post more about the mill on the Vesuvius blog later tonight.

Tonight, I had another idea. I want to make a clock (big shock, 'eh?) that is just a couple stepper motors moving a whiteboard pen and eraser around drawing an analog clock. Though, strictly speaking, it could be made to draw a digital clock too. A servo would push the pen down, or lift it up and push the eraser down, or ride in the middle lifting them both up.

I have the micros, steppers, and servos. Just need the frame, threaded rods, and a few bearings. I think this could be done pretty easily and cheaply (read: with little to no budget.)

The real problem is, I've got SEVERAL other projects I should be working on, like a damn steam engine! *sigh*

April 3, 2010

Bike Audio Mixer: (Another) New Project

Yes, yes. I realize I've got several projects in progress and that I really don't need to start another one. But this one has a specific time-line associated with it, so I kinda need to bump it up in the queue.

The Wildflower Triathlon is coming up May 1st, 2010. Like every year, I'll be bringing my motorcycle to be a chase vehicle on the long bike course. Like most years, I'll have my ham radio and APRS gear mounted on the bike so I can provide the communications that are ostensibly my purpose for being there. Being a ham, I'd love to have a working radio on the bike year round too.

...but I also want to be able to listen to podcasts or audio books or music on my iPhone, maybe even make and receive a call while riding.

The iPhone 3GS supports voice commands for things like making calls and playing music. As long as I have a button I can press without taking my hands off the bars, and a way of feeding mic audio to it, I can control many functions vocally. And, of course, a USB charging port for the iPhone or any other device that charges via USB.

But I need to mix the audio out from the iPhone with the audio out from the ham radio, amplify it (so I can hear it over road noise and through ear plugs) and send it to the speakers in my helmet. I'd love to be able to adjust the volume of each input individually, and the master volume too, with big nobs that are easy to manipulate with gloves on.

And the mic audio from the helmet needs to be amplified (it's a noise canceling dynamic, both the radio and iPhone expect an electret) and sent to both the radio and iPhone. A PTT on the handle bars is key, and a channel Up/Down controller would be groovy too.


Holy crap, that's a lot. But the reality is, it's not very complex, just a lot of connections and a bit of audio work. I've got a circuit mostly designed and am currently selecting components and working on a board layout.

There are some complicating factors, though. The project box I'm putting this in is a plastic two piece top/bottom thing. Both halves can mount a board. The "top" part is mounted permanently to the motorcycle. The "bottom" part (the part into which you put the screws to connect to the "top" part) is removable. There is 5/16" between the board and case on the "bottom" section, which is just about right for the pots and Mini-DIN connector for helmet audio, and possibly for other "front panel"-ish bits. There is 13/16" between the board and the case on the "top" section, perfect for things like RJ45 and other tall-ish connectors. (I think those are actually 7.5mm and 20mm (respectively) rather than 5/16" and 13/16".) There is 9/16" between the two boards when they're put together. Selecting the connectors to mate these two is proving to be the hard part.

And ExpressPCB is pretty cheap to add the second board as part of the first board if you're willing to cut them apart yourself.

- I've got the circuit sent to a few friends looking for comments and suggestions. Already found a few bugs, which is good.
- Need to find a better 5vDC regulation system. USB spec is for 500mA at 5vDC. Regulating that down linearly from 14vDC is 3.5W of dissipation. Ouch. Would very much like to switch this instead; just need to select the right component.
- Find the right connectors to mate the two boards back-to-back.
- Figure out how to convince an iPhone to accept a charge over USB.
- Finish board layout and component selection and build the sucker.

March 17, 2010

Checking in.

I haven't posted anything here in a while. That's probably because I haven't _DONE_ anything here in a while. Work has been keeping me busy, but so has a new passion. This is kind of a 20% Time kinda project, but it's likely to take far more than 20%, and it involves a few other people too, so I created a new blog for it.

I'm building a Steampunk stylized live steam powered rickshaw/pedicab. My goal is to take it to places like Maker Faire, Steampunk Exhibition, Handcar Regatta, etc. Less steam-specific uses are places like San Luis Obispo Bike Happening, Arroyo Grande Harvest Festival Parade, etc. And besides, I think it would be a hell of a lot of fun.

I do still have a few 20% Time projects I need to keep working on. For example, I would really like to get the audio mixer system working on my motorcycle. I also need to keep making progress on puffer. Thirdly, my analog panel meter clock is so close to being done, I need to just bang that out and finish it. So hopefully I won't be totally neglecting these other projects.

February 15, 2010

Update. Work on Puffer.

Since I last posted, I've built my new computer, but gave up on Xen for the time being. I was having more troubles than I wanted to deal with, and I just wanted my computer to work. So I installed Windows 7 on it and called it done. I now have a ridiculously over-powered Windows 7 system on my desk. :-D

I've also spent a good amount of time working on my Boxee system. It's up and running on my Atom 230 system, but the video throughput isn't nearly what I want it to be. The motherboard only has a PCI slot, so I'm somewhat limited on what I can add to it. I ended up getting one of these, an nVidia 8400GS with a PCI interface, and supposedly component Video output (my TV doesn't have VGA or anything digital.) Two problems I'm still having: 1) The video card doesn't want to detect the analog TVs. As soon as the driver loads, the TV outs shut off. 2) Video decompression isn't as fast as I expected it to be. Honestly, I can't tell a difference between the 8400 and the onboard Intel 945 chipset, which is completely unaccelerated. I assume I'm doing something wrong, but the instructions I found on the net suggest I did it right.

So, I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do here. I'm tempted to just cut my losses and get a Boxee Box when they're available.

As for what I've been doing tonight... I've spent most of the evening reading documentation on Postfix, ClamAV, SpamAssassin, Amavisd-new and Mailman, trying to make a plan of attack for the rest of the week (have I mentioned that Cindy and Zoe are at Disneyland this week? I've got the evenings to myself!)

My goal is to get email setup on the new system (puffer) and start migrating domains over to it. Postfix has pretty good documentation on itself, but all the documentation about how to integrate the other apps into it tends to be in the form of "do this, then do this, then do this and *MAGIC!* it works." I really want to understand what's going on under the hood. Also, they tend to show how to integrate a single item, but given how Postfix works, I'm not sure how to integrate more than one at a time.

So, yeah. Lots more learning to do here.

I might be home by myself, but it's still damn late. G'night world.

December 20, 2009

NaNoWriMo is done. Next up?

I'm nearly 3 weeks done with NaNoWriMo and still haven't picked up another project yet.

I've gotten the parts for my new desktop, the one on which I hope to install Xen, Win7, Ubuntu 9.10 and possibly someday MacOS. I've played a bit with Xen and haven't gotten to the point where I can easily build a DomU with full-screen (read: usable as a primary desktop.)

I'm officially at the point where I need to just make the machine workable and start migrating stuff from the old box. So I think I'm going to dedicate one drive to Win7 and one drive to Ubuntu and dual-boot for now. Maybe someday down the road I'll throw a third small drive in to run Xen and a Dom0 and can just attach the physical drives to their respective DomUs.

So, that's what I'm going to do tonight. The Goal: Have a working Win7 (see below) and Ubuntu 9.10 install tonight.

I have installed Win7 on this new system already, and it needed new network drivers for my motherboard. I also tried to get it to do software RAID on the OS drive and I think it didn't like that. So I plan to just start over. I also plan to download a new network driver on the old system and put it on a USB stick. :-)

Time to get working.

November 29, 2009

NaNoWriMo update: 10011 words, one day early

Yup, you read that right, I've hit my word count goal of 10k. I've never actually been a writer, so I set a more realistic goal for myself, one that gave me a chance of actually succeeding.

And there you have it, I did.

I didn't do so good on my other goal of writing at least a little bit every day. I probably hit about 2/3 to 3/4 of the days, but there were several days where my schedule just did not permit it, and at least one or two where my energy level had a thing or two to say on the matter. But there were more days where I didn't feel like it, but I did it anyway, and that's what I was going for.

I considered cut'n'pasting my manuscript into the NaNoWriMo validator 5 times to compensate for the fact that my personal goal was 1/5 that of their goal. I hit MY goal and I felt I should get something for that. But, I didn't hit THEIR goal, so I decided against it.

Now. The question becomes, what happens next? I'm only about half way through the outline I already have, which is only about half to a third done. And, the 10k words I've written now are filled with TODOs. Read: There's a crap-ton more work to do on this story if its ever to see the light of day.

NaNoWriMo was an interesting experiment. I'm glad I did it. I might even try it again next year with, say, a 20k word count goal. But a lot of other things have been put on hold for this that I really should get back to. I'm about a year late for some Between The Lines editing, I have about four new computer projects in progress that I really need to get back to, and my Seebeck Clock is collecting dust and staring me in the face every time I sit down at my desk. I'd really like to see this story finished, but it will probably have to wait a while.

November 18, 2009

NaNoWriMo update

I'm ahead of my word count goal so far at 6855 after tonight's writing session.

Unfortunately, the last two days I didn't write at all, but I blame work. I "worked" from 7am to 11pm in our Scotts Valley office (200 miles away) on Monday, and went to bed early on Tuesday after driving home. So I'm down by 4 days total for the month, with good excuses though. It's not like I'm getting lazy.

...that's my story, and I'm sticking to it...

Having said, that, I just closed out chapter 3 and my brain is mush. This writing thing certainly doesn't come easy for me. Though, I suppose if it did, I'd have started a lot earlier in life. I think I'm going to watch an episode of FarScape or two and go to bed.

November 13, 2009

NaNoWriMo is going well!

Let me start off by saying that since this is my first serious attempt at writing ANYTHING, my personal goals for NaNoWriMo are: 10k words by the end of the month, and to write at least a little bit every day.

Open Office and the NaNoWriMo page disagree on my word count by 119 words, but in either case, I'm at about 5500 words right now, a bit ahead of schedule, which is good.

However, I am already down by two days toward my goal of writing a little bit every day. The first day was caused by other commitments (see below) which I made up for by writing twice the next day. The seconday (yesterday) I threw under the bus of my personal well being. Between work pages and family waking me up whether I want them to or not (the dogs too; not just Zoe), I haven't been sleeping much lately. So last night I went to bed at 8:30pm and woke up on my own this morning at 5am, an hour before my alarm. 8.5 glorious hours of sleep: precisely what I needed.

So, I've spent the last hour writing before anyone else got it, and got in nearly 800 words, and developed back stories for 7 characters. I'm very pleased with how this mornings writing went.

As for the other commitments I mentioned: I've been helping a friend of mine work on a hardware project involving a tiny surface mount camera, and interfacing said camera to an FPGA. I won't go into the details here yet (I need to get ready for work), but suffice it to say that I finished the circuit and board layout on Tuesday night this week (the first day I missed NaNoWriMo.)

Right. To the day job!

November 1, 2009

It's NaNoWriMo time! Let's roll!

I said before that I was crazy enough to attempt NaNoWriMo and so it appears that I am. It starts today, but I've not been able to get started yet (it's family time right now," he says while writing a blog post on his phone.)

Maybe a little later today.

In other news, MovableType works, but not exceptionally well, in Safari on the iPhone.