XFCE Autologin and Autostart

With my media computer coming together nicely, I wanted to remove all user intervention such that the computer will boot directly to XBMC. The two primary obstacles to this are automatically logging in the user and automatically starting a program once in XFCE.

I decided to use SLiM as my log-in manager since it is very lightweight and works well with the XFCE environment I’m using.  SLiM has autologin behavior built-in, just edit /etc/slim.conf
default_user syzygy
auto_login yes

Of course, change the default user to your username. And thats it, you’ll now be logged in automagically. Now that we are logged into XFCE, I want to autostart XBMC. These instructions are specific to XFCE, but I’m sure there is a similar solution for KDE or Gnome. When XFCE starts, it looks in the ~./config/autostart/ directory and any scripts within are then executed when XFCE starts.

Now create a script. I’ve named mine autostart_xbmc, but the name does not matter:
$ cd ~./config/autostart/
$ echo "xbmc" > autostart_xbmc

Restart XFCE, and XBMC should automatically launch right after.

Samsung u550 Hidden Menus and Lock Codes

In playing with my Samsung u550 phone, I found some postings about various “hidden” menus.  On my old Motorola V265, these hidden menus allowed you to change such things as the HTTP proxy that the phone would use for web browsing.  By using your own proxy rather than the default Verizon proxy, you could avoid data charges for web browsing, but the time would still accumulate minutes (apparently Verizon tracked data usage at the proxy).  The V265 had a pretty small screen, and as such was not very useful for web surfing, but I did use it a few times.  From what I read now, Verizon has closed that hack, so using a private proxy will not get you free data usage anymore.

So in looking at what minor hacks are known about my newish u550, I only came across two things.  The first is a Debug Menu.  To get to this menu, do the following:

  1. Navigate to the Settings & Tools menu.
  2. Press #, which will bring up a prompt for the User Lock code.
  3. Enter 000000 (six zeros).

The Debug Menu has several options, that can be used for debugging, such as setting the phone in CDMA only mode, EVDO only mode, and others.  None of these options are that useful to the user.  From the Debug Menu, one can access another hidden menu:

  1. From the main Debug Menu, press # which will bring up a prompt for the Developer Lock code.
  2. Enter 8886573982

The Developer Menu provides some options for testing bluetooth, sound, and sleep settings.

Although the hidden menus on this phone are interesting, they do not provide anything useful to the user as the older phones did.  This phone is also a pretty generic flip phone, and since data plans have become much more common, there is probably very few people who care about tweaking this phone.  I’m sure I’ll get a smart phone eventually, but I’m undecided as to which platform I would prefer.

Airplane WiFi

There have been several recent announcements about airlines starting to offer wireless internet on their flights.  I find it interesting that they are trumpeting this as something new and exciting, when, in my mind, they should have offered internet access on planes years ago, when wifi first started to take off.  There was one quote from a Washington Post article that I find particularly interesting:

“If they charge for it, they are going to make millions and millions of dollars,” said Mike Boyd, an aviation consultant. “Most of us cannot be away from the Internet or our laptops for very long. We get separation anxiety when we are not on the Internet for a few hours.”

I do not know how they plan to make millions of dollars when the cost for service on Delta flights will be $9.95 on flights of 3 hours or less.  Sure, some people will use it, but I have a feeling the majority of travelers will simply wait the few hours until they are on the ground when they can use any number of free wireless access points.  If the airlines are planning on using this as a way to offset their other rising costs, I think that they will be greatly disappointed.  Either the cost of the internet access has to be very cheap, or it must be free if there will be any kind of significant utilization.  If the wifi was free, then the airline could use that as something to attract additional passangers.  Even if the ticket prices were slightly, say a few dollars more, I think people would be more willing to travel on that airline, because the cost of the service is hidden in the cost of the plane ticket and removes the pay barrier that would instantly turn off some people.  I can see myself paying $5 more for a ticket on an airline that had free wifi, but I doubt I would pay $5 to get internet access once I was on the airplane.  I would think that the airline would at least offer it free to first-class passangers and those that are members of the airlines club.

2001: A Space Odyssey on the Big Screen

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to view one of my favorite movies in a theater for the first time.  I was most impressed, as a DVD in the living room just does not give the proper justice to the movie.  I don’t think that a proper appreciation for the scope and impact of the film can be made on a TV.  The film was shown in its entirety, with the overture and intermission intact.  It was shown in 35mm format, which is to be expected since 70mm equipment is rather hard to come by.

I’m very happy that I was able to see the film in a theater, but too bad it was too cloudy to see the Perseids last night, as that would have been an excellent capping of an already momentous evening.

Lunar Eclipse

On Saturday, March 3, there was a lunar eclipse that was visible from my area, however, I was on a flight to Florida at the time as discussed in my previous post.  I had assumed that I would not be able to see it due to being stuck in airports all evening and clouds along the eastern coast of the US, but, as it happens, the eclipse was fully visible from my seat on the plane being above the clouds.  This would not have been possible had my flight been on time, but a 2 hour delay for mechanical problems was perfect to give me a full view of the second half of the eclipse.  Like most airplanes, the windows do not allow for a clear view and the cheap digital camera I have for travel made imaging the eclipse useless.  At the least, I can say I saw the lunar eclipse while cruising at 30,000 feet.

Flying Without ID

In addition to technology, politics and privacy are two areas that interest me as well, and although this blog does not encompass those areas, I recently had an opportunity to fly without showing ID of any kind and wanted to share the experience. The process was quite painless, although from what I hear it varies from airport to airport.

On my first flight, the lady at the United desk was quite helpful and didn’t ask any questions about why I did not have ID. She printed me new tickets with bold “SSSS” printed several times on the ticket and told me that I would need to go through extra security. The TSA workers were also quite friendly and did not pose a problem. They bumped me to the front of the line to go through the metal dector machine, and then took me to a side area for a hand search of my carry-on bag. The first thing they did was use a hand metal detector and wand me again, and then did a quick pat down on my arms and legs. A frisk seems quite unecessary to me, and the only saving grace was the fact that the guy didn’t seem to want to do it any more than I did. The agent was very nice and told me exactly what he was going to do beforehand. After the frisk, the TSA agent swabbed all items in my carry-on and ran the swap through a explosive detection machine. Every item was swabbed individually, making this the most time consiming part of the search. The last item that the TSA agent swabbed was my TI-89 calculator, which, unfortunately, set off the explosive detection machine. A simple rerun through the x-ray machine satisified the supervising agent and they sent me on my way. Overall, the first flight security was OK, and took about 10 minutes total. My returning flight, however, proved to be a little more difficult.

Since the flight out was rather smooth through security, I didn’t expect much of a problem on my return flight. Flying Delta this time, the agent at the desk did not want to let me check my bags. She kept insisting that it was federal law for me to show ID and that she can’t let me check bags without it. After arguing with her for about 10 minutes, I demanded to see the supervisor. She left for a minute and, when she came back, printed my tickets and took my checked bags. When handing me my tickets (with SSSS boldly printed), she claimed the only reason they were letting me fly was because this was my returning flight. If that was true, getting on a plane would be as easy as claiming you were returning home. Other than that, getting through security was easy. Again, they bumped me to the front of an, admittedly short, line, and did similar procedures as my first flight. The TSA agent was very nice, did a quick frisk, and a quick look through my bag. He did not swab everything in my bag this time, doing only the zippers on the bag, my cell phone, my shoes, and my laptop.

All in all, I did not run into any major problems going through security, with only a small snafu with a Delta representative. My main issue with the entire process is why its necessery for such a search simply because the person does not have ID. Whether I have ID or not does not change what I am trying to carry onto the plane. I completely fail to understand what safety having ID brings to air travel. With the completion of this test, I think my next step is to fly with no identifying items whatsoever. By this I mainly mean buying my ticket with cash, since I did buy the ticket with a credit card, thus giving the airline a traceable address. My goal of true anonymous travel may have to wait a while, as I do not have any air travel plans in the works at this point.

Successful Bluetooth Transmission

After putting off working on this project for a bit, I’ve taken in up again this week and successfully used the bluetooth chips to send data between two computers.  I set up one of the chips on my server (using a RS-232 adapter board), and used my D-Link DBT-120 bluetooth adapter on my desktop.  Using hyperterminal, I was able to send ASCII characters and small files between the two machines without too much trouble.  One of the issues I noticed is the inability of the two bluetooth devices to reestablish a connection when one of them is turned off.  I think the problem lies with the settings on the ACODE-300 bluetooth chip that I’m using but I am not sure.  I need to do more testing, but I’m pleased with the success of the chips so far.

After getting the bluetooth to work between two computers, the next logical step was to test it with the microcontroller that will eventually be placed in the car.  I was unable to get the microcontroller to communicate wirelessly.  The only reason for this that I can think of is the serial cable may need to be a crossover cable.  I have a crossover adapter, but I can’t connect it until I get a male to male gender bender.  I’ll probably run down to Radio Shack (they’re not big on carrying useful stuff anymore…) tomorrow to try get one so I can get this thing going.

Internet Out Again

Time Warner just can’t seem to give me an internet connection for more than a few days.  The longest streak of constant internet acess stands at 7 days.  Then, it will go out for at least 3 days… just long enough so that when the guy comes to look at it it works fine.  This is the 3rd time in less than 2 months that it has been out for an extended period of time, not to mention the countless periods of a few hours.  They have no idea what could be causing it.  Good thing being forced to use Time Warner for internet is only temporary.  I will definetly aviod Time Warner service in the future, I would definetly rather pay more for a service that actually works.  Good thing Arby’s has reliable free wifi…

Back again

Back again, and this time it should be for good.  Rather than host this off of my own server, I have moved things to hosting at 1and1.com.  This should fix most of my problems, and for the price, outside hosting was a good deal.

My internet connection is still pretty sketchy, and Time Warner has no idea why.  Only good part of this is that I don’t have to pay for the few hours a day that it actually does work (they’ve been giving me credit for the downtime).  When everything is straightened out, updates should be more common.