Monday, October 22, 2012

Will Xoom Defy Nexus?

See my Android devices - a Motorola Xoom, a Google/Asus Nexus 7 and a Motorola Defy (phone). The phone is crappy, it hangs from time to time, but the small footprint is too convenient to replace. But I am looking!

Last week the Google Nexus 7 arrived here in Norway, and I ran out to get one. So now the question is; will I prefer the old Xoom or the new Nexus?

So far I am very pleased with the smaller footprint and it is significantly faster.

One of the applications areas I will be looking at is as an alternative to the graphing calculators allowed in Norwegian schools. With decent calculator apps I see a tablet as a much better investment than a regular calculator which has few other uses.

I have six calculator alternatives installed already, including a Gnu Octave based ecosystem. This one has a user interface that runs in a unix terminal, but I doubt if my kids have that background. Then there is the Mathlab alternative. I may end up upgrading to the payed version for off-line availability.

And writing this post on the Nexus worked very well!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I'm on

I while back I made a cable to connect a JTAG test system to a proprietary DSP board. The cable has a Molex type connector in one end and a RJ45 in the other (not Ethernet), but the Molex side looked vulnerable with bare cables soldered to pins.

So I took some Sugru I had lying around and covered it up. I posted the result on their site, and today I discovered that my contribution is featured on the front page. If you look at the picture you can see my design in the lower left hand corner, see Make a 14-pin, 2 row connector.

Sugur is really a fantastic material, and I look forward to finding more uses for it.

The fruits of a booze cruise

As a good Norwegian citizen I occasionally take part in the traditional booze cruise where Norwegians go to Sweden for shopping. The government is continuously implementing new taxes and tolls on foreign products so that we can advocate free trade globally while favoring subsidized Norwegian agriculture. This leads to a growth in the cross border trade at the expense of domestic businesses.

So the last time I was over I bought a piece of wild boar steak. These animals have returned to Sweden after having been more or less extinct, and now they many enough to be hunted.

The interesting thing about this steak is the absence of detailed information on the packaging. Instead, they use a QR code to link the consumer with their web site. So that is where I went and found a recipe that I used. And the verdict from the family was that this was tasty, so the next time I go over I will look for more.

It is reasonable to expect these animals to appear i Norway as well. At the moment they are not welcome, but I do not think the government will be able to regulate them back over the border.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Do you know how to reuse computers?

Do you know how to reuse computers?

This video presents how the FAIR equips schools with computer labs built from recycled computers. Linux is the platform that makes this economically viable, and the result is a spread of IT knowledge among people that would otherwise miss out on this cornerstone of modern society. Unfortunately, you need to know Spanish or Norwegian to understand the audio or subtitles, respectively.

But you get the idea, don't you? Even though you have the latest in computer technology for yourself, the equipment you phase out can still be of use to others. In Scandinavia, large amounts of computers are being discarded each year. They are thrown away because they are not fast enough, or do not have enough disk space etc. We replace them for new computers that are faster, more modern, and have up to date features and functions - rarely because the old computer is broken! In developing countries, institutions such as schools, universities and hospitals, have a great need for IT in order to join the global information community, and enjoy its many benefits. Information technologies are an important prerequisite for the development and sustainability of democracy, education and health-care.

FAIR is working to bridge the digital divide between countries that are technically more developed and those that are technically disadvantaged. Schools in recipient countries are provided with integrated and effective computer solutions for use in IT classes - based on open source software and reused hardware, which otherwise would have been discarded and destroyed during recycling. You can help FAIR in its efforts by donating your own equipment, convincing your employer to become partner, or by becoming a personal member. The choice is yours, but the responsibility is with us all!

And by the way, I am biased as I am a member of FAIR's board.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I have been robbed!

Last Sunday I was reminded that it was time to harvest nuts from my Hazel shrubs - a pair of spotted nutcrackers were robbing me.

I seem to remember that the thieves of previous years have been eurasian jays. Last year they took everything. But this time I joined the harvesting and managed to secure more nuts than I have ever had before. And still there were more on the shrubs that I let the birds handle.

I don't think I have seen spotted nutcrackers before. They were beautiful birds, and I hope they stay in my area. They are welcome to more nuts, and maybe they will contribute to spreading hazels in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Conquerer of cowberries

My stores of cowberry in my freezer have been running low. So last Saturday I made a trip into the woods to pick some more. I brought my berry collector (red thing in my right hand), and I set off to harvest.

I remember when I did this last - I ended up overdoing it. It resulted in many jars of jam that still have not been consumed in addition to frozen ones. This time I was not going to make the same mistake again, I thought. On the picture I am carrying a framed backpack I found as a kid. It has been my faithful companion on berry picking excursions ever since. Usually I am satisfied if I fill the backpack, but there were so much cowberry that I simply had to fill a shopping bag as well. The berry collector of course made the picking easy, but there is the need to sort through the harvest afterwards.

My yellow sweater was an attempt to avoid the interest of the annoying deer fly. This leather-like insect may appear in large numbers and they settle on anything that may resemble an elk. Experience shows that that may include me! But maybe the sweater worked since the deer flies didn't bother me this time.

But when I came home I could not find my berry sift, so I ended up hand sorting into the night. The result was 16 liters of cowberry, and again I can make cowberry chocolate cake and other delicacies

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Easy living

It has been a wonderful week. A week back a friend and I celebrated that we both had turned 50.

We had a big party in my garden with friends, live music, good weather, food and drink and everything else we could wish for. As you can see by the picture I was all smiles!

And it didn't stop there.

On Thursday I had my last day at my job in TraceTracker. I handed in my resignation some time back since I got an offer for a new challenge in a major engineering company. But first I cashed in a gift certificate for spa treatment on Friday to "wash off" my old job. And yesterday, out of the blue, I learnt that a musical wizard from earlier times, Ken Hensley, was performing at Eidsvoll Rock & Blues Klubb not far away. So I got to get my head cleaned out with old Uriah Heep music as well. Big success!

I start in my new job tomorrow, and I look forward to coming back to low level programming in the hardware/software interface.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Biological warfare on the home front

This spring carpenter ants have yet again tried to take posession of my cabin. As before I have employed chemicals to convince them to move elsewhere, but this year I made a small experiment as well - I applied a sauce of chili peppers and chili oil to the foundation.

The foundation is made up of stones and concrete, and the near horizontal "stripe" starting on the left hand side is the chili sauce. This picture was taken after a couple of weeks, and by then there were no carpenter ants to be seen. However, when I applied the stuff there was a single one that found its way blocked by my product. It (she?) tried to cross in multiple places, but each time turned back to try somewhere else. The ant also performed a series of "washing" operations, as if the chili had got stuck to it and it tried to clean it off.

I think maybe that I next year shall apply a similar mixture early in the spring. Maybe it will discourage the carpenters so that they find a home somewhere else.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Camping at Kobberhaughytta

At Kobberhaughytta in the forrests surrounding Oslo there are two Leantos that can be rented. This place is part of the Norwegian Trekking Association's chain of cabins that allow people to enjoy the great out-doors.

During Pentecost we were four dads and 5 boys renting the leantos for two nights. The weather was warm and the water temperature was so high that even adults enjoyed swimming.

At the same time we were there so early in the spring that the mosquitos were not active. Combined with the bog volleyball field, the superb dinner served by the cabin's personel on Sunday, and the wonderful view from the nearby Kobberhaugen the trip was almost perfect. Something to make the plank floors in the leantos softer to sleep on would have been nice, though!

Friday, May 18, 2012

GoOpen 2012 in Oslo

The market for free and open source software in Norway is being assisted by the government via the Friprogsenteret. As part of its outreach they arrange the annual Go Open conference. This year's iteration was held in downtown Oslo 23. April 2012.
My association with FAIR allowed me to staff a stand where conference participants could be informed about our projects to bring computer technology to schools in developing countries. This effort is important to let those populations take part in the fast development of ICT technology. But cost is a critical issue, and FAIR keeps cost down by refurbishing equipment that otherwise would be recycled destructively into school sets. This way selected schools can take work to close the gap between rich and poor countries, building a better future. In addition, FAIR has a take-back scheme whereby used electronics is taken back to Norway for recycling. This way neither FAIR or its partners can be accused of dumping electronic waste.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spring before schedule

This year's month of March was particularly warm. As a consequence the snow melted too early, in the eyes of anybody eager to go sking. Yesterday we took a trip to the cabin, and here is what we found.

This picture shows the stump of a birch tree that I felled in the beginning of March. That was probably before the sap started to rise but the temperature was already higher than normal. Later, as the temperature increased the root system started to prepare for a new season by pumping sap into the trunk - but the trunk wasn't there any more. So the sap drained to the ground. However, then the temperature fell again, the sap froze, and the picture shows the resulting frozen sap. I can't remember seeing this before, but I take it as an indication that the tree that I felled was relative dry and probably will be usable as firewood the coming season.

This next picute shows the flower blåveis as it is called in Norwegian. There is even a leaf of wild strawberries there. The "blåveis" and its sister the "hvitveis" normally appear in early May. But with the warm March they have been tricked to appear much earlier, maybe so early that the ants and other insects needed for pollination and distribution of seeds have not appeared yet. The "blåveis" is actually rare in Norway, and having it in large numbers on our property is very nice.

Monday, April 2, 2012

An unwelcome excursion

Late last year I bought the book Global Health where Hans Rosling is one of the contributors. Never did I know then that I would be taken on an excursion into the Norwegian health sector while reading it.
While my hospitalization was most unwelcome and urgent, it showed me the benefits of living in what the book refers to as a high income country. I was taken care of and diagnosed quickly, all the way meeting people I could have absolute confidence in. Acute infection from diverticulitis turned out to be the direct cause, but it all started with diarrhea some days before.
The book made me think about the challenges people in different parts of the world face in terms of health services, and the benefits of the single-payer, universal health care system in Norway. We are fortunate enough to have a will to finance this over the tax bill, and the capability of the health sector to organize itself in a good way. There are of course challenges, both in terms of costs and availability of services. Living close to the Akershus Universitetssykehus was a bonus for me, but is also made me sympathise with people living in rural parts where the services may be remote.
So I look forward to getting back to work to contribute my taxes towards the common interests of society. The Global Health book ends with saying that "It is partly up to the readers of this book to make sure that collaboration for better global health goes the right way."
It is not clear to me how I can contribute here, but I will be on the lookout.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pigs in space ... no they're Nazis

Last night the Filmfest Oslo showed the Iron Sky movie, supposedly a Scandinavian premiere and the first showing after the premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival.

So what should one expect? Well, sometimes when I go to the movies to see a Hollywood film that cost a fortune to make I am disappointed. This film, however, was funded in a completely different way, and the budget was comparatively small. But the film was no disappontment. It had a plot, action and humor, put together in a convincing way. I was simply impressed.
I hope the creators continue to use saunas to generate ideas, and that "we, the people" entrust them with small funds to make it come true.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Clockwork knowledge

Have you ever seen such a cool wall clock. My 14 year old got it as a birthday present from one of his aunts. The clock has been produced by Tekna and uses elementary(?) mathematics to represent the hours. My kids do not understand it all yet, but they were amused by my enthusiasm.

The clock has now replaced the old kitchen wall clock, so that we get more exposure to mathematics every day.

The values in green are linked with Tekna's history. You can read about it in the Wikipedia page. Or you can visit their web site at

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Autodestruct in progress

In Norway kids learn about word processing, spreadsheets and so on in school. When I asked my own kids about what they think about this topic, their enthusiasm was limited.They knew the stuff from before, and the teacher is not always up to date.

But it appears that this may not be a problem only in Norway. During the weekend I read the report "Shut down or restart?" from the Royal Society. This report is about how ICT-training in British schools has become a threat agains Britain's future as a technology leader. It also suggests that the topic should be replaced by
  • digital literacy
  • Computer Science
  • Information Technology.
This may sound wild! What kind of school can expect to give pupils insight into programming, data structures, building software solutions etc, in addition to learning them how to edit in a word processor?

Well, here comes the exiting news - the UK department of Education has decided that ‘Harmful’ ICT curriculum set to be dropped this September to make way for rigorous Computer Science.

What will a country like Norway do to keep up with the advantage the UK will get in technology, innovation and business? Nothing, I fear!