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Old Mobile Phones as Toys

In the past I have had parents ask for advice on buying a digital camera for a young child. For some years there have been digital cameras on sale for much less than $100 – cheap enough that no-one will be THAT bothered if the child breaks it, so digital photography is a good hobby [...]

Taking my Thinkpad Apart and Cooling Problems

I’ve been having some cooling problems with my Thinkpad recently. It’s an old model T41p which is outside the service period so IBM/Lenovo won’t help me (at least not unless I give them more money). If I run it for a few minutes at maximum CPU when the ambient temperature is about 20C then it [...]

My Ideal Netbook

I have direct knowledge (through observation or first-hand reports) of the following use cases for Netbooks:

System administrator’s emergency workstation – something light to carry when you might get an SMS about a problem. A really small laptop for a serious technical user, can be used for programming and other serious tasks. Only someone who [...]

The Lenovo U1 Hybrid – an example of how Proprietary OSs Suck

Lenovo have announced their innovative new U1 “Hybrid” laptop [1]. It consists of a tablet-style device with a resistive touch-screen that runs Linux on a 1GHz ARM processor which attaches to a base computer that has a keyboard and a Core2 processor running Windows 7. They apparently have some special software to synchronise web browsing [...]

Another Hot Summer

Yesterday was ~30C in my area, today was well over 30C during the day (although cooler in the evening). They forecast 33C for tomorrow in Melbourne, but that means where I live it will probably be about 36C (it’s always a few degrees hotter than the overall forecast for the city). Monday is predicted to [...]

Shared Objects and Big Applications

Some time ago I wrote a little utility named memlockd [1]. Memlockd will lock files into memory which allows significantly faster access when the system pages heavily, in my simulated tests I have found that having the programs and shared objects needed for logging in locked in memory can make it possible to login without [...]

Car Drivers vs Mechanics and Free Software

In a comment on my post about Designing Unsafe Cars [1] Noel said “If you don’t know how to make a surgery, you don’t do it. If you don’t know how to drive, don’t drive. And if you don’t know how to use a computer, don’t expect anybody fix your disasters, trojans and viruses.” Later [...]

Laptop Reliability

Update: TumbleDry has a good analysis of the Square Trade report [0]. It seems that there are significant statistical problems in Square Trade’s analysis and a possible conflict of interest.

Square Trade did a survey of laptop reliability and wrote an interesting article about the results [1]. One thing to keep in mind when reading [...]

Planning Servers for Failure

Sometimes computers fail. If you run enough computers then you encounter failures regularly. If the computers are important then you need to plan for the failure.

An ideal situation is to have redundant servers. Misconfigured clusters can cause more downtime than they can prevent and it requires more expensive hardware to properly implement a cluster [...]

First Dead Disk of Summer

Last night I was in the middle of checking my email when I found that clicking on a URL link wouldn’t work. It turned out that my web browser had become unavailable due to a read error on the partition for my root filesystem (the usual IDE uncorrectable error thing). My main machine is a [...]