Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ekiga DOES work!!

Wonk wonk wonk. Can you hear me? Wonk wonk wonk. R2? Is that you? Can you hear me now?

Giggles from my wife across the room. Strange looks from my daughter. Welcome to the wonderful world of Geekdom.

For a long time now, off and on; more off, I have been playing with Ekiga for sip Internet calls. It has been terrible. The audio quality has been inaudible.

It all started when I took my wife to the Berlin Mart in Berlin, NJ. She loves marting, and I was passing time in one of the mart stores and noticed the Auvi usb Skype Phone selling for $9.99.

Couldn't pass that up.

Get home, set up Ekiga, plug in the phone and find a victim. See the first two paragraphs of this post; repeat the same for 30 minutes.

Being the hard headed techno fool that I am, I can't let it die there, or admit that new technology can be flawed, so on I push to make this work. Hmm, through and Ekiga you can purchase time to use your sip phone to call landline phones.

Ahh, that must be the catch. That will make it work better. Get that setup, call my answering machine, my giggling wife across the room, and my own cell phone. That sounds pretty good. Sure it does. :-/

A couple of months go by. Joe Terranova is all bragging about his asterisk system. Not to be out-geeked I pull the usb phone out of the laptop case and ask Joe to hit me up at See first two paragraphs of this blog; repeat for thirty minutes.

Do I need another phone solution? No.

Fast forward to today. Kejava is working on his webcam. Don't know how it happens, don't want or need a webcam solution. I do own 3 webcam devices though. Cheap ones, the dollar store types (at least 2 of them). In the spirit of advocacy, and believing, or being made to believe, that newcomers may want webcams to work in Ubuntu, I begin a new endeavour. Finally, I realize that the my Jazz Digi-Stix does work in Ubuntu. It just has a bad proprietary usb cable. (That's why I have a third, not dollar store type of webcam. My son purchased that one when the cable broke on the Jazz.) At least now I figured out why he bought that webcam, he would never buy anything when he could use my stuff.

Tell Kejava that the webcam is working and the next thing I know, I am getting a sip call on Ekiga from Kejava. After fiddling with the cable and inaudible convo, and much irc chat typing of said non-conversation, Kejava and I have a brief dual video conference call!! Success. Sort of. The sound was still horrible.

Since both of us are relentless geeks, we continued; my video froze, but still, with a usb phone to my ear, typing into irc what I was saying, watching Kejava do the same, we continued this high tech conversation,

Then suddenly, Kejava's sound changed; it sounded normal. "Hey, I turned off 'echo cancellation, you try."

Voila. To make Ekiga work, I mean really work. No more 'wonk, wonk, wonk.'

in the audio codec section of preferences.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Gonna give this Bug Squashing thing a Whirl

In an attempt to get back in the swing of things, and keep momentum moving along, I have decided to give Ubuntu Bug Squashing a try.

The hard part is I am not real good at defining what is a bug versus what is a "Linux challenge".

I just asked Dave Harding, who I respect, and who has identified bugs in the past, if something was a bug. I had already determined that in my mind, it wasn't a bug, but realizing that my thinking is often flawed, I decided to ask.

RESULT: My thinking is flawed.

I will have to take two steps back and read all the documentation that is provided, and submit to the fact, if something doesn't work for someone, it is NOT whining, or being a wuss, to report it as a bug.

Years of playing with Linux has brought me countless hours of joy and frustration making things work, that didn't work originally. For me, that's what this hobby of mine is all about. Some call it hacking, others tinkering; for me it's just relaxation and diversion from the daily grind.

This isn't going to be easy. I can already feel the frustration. Supporting users with something that I am passionate about is difficult. I tend to judge them, which is something I need to let go of.

If I truly give this a whole-hearted attempt, it may end of squashing some of my own psychological bugs.

That's a pretty decent two-fer!!

Let the squashing BEGIN!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Yoda_Van now running Ubuntu!

Ok, it's been awhile.

I'll start with the most recent and work backwards.

Yoda_Van now running Linux!!!

This is major for me. It never felt right using a non-Linux os in the van. Thankfully, that os
choked. I took that as the opportunity to Linux up.

For those of you who don't know, Yoda_Van is my mobile alter-ego. It is the nick that I use when traveling in my van. I use the alternate nick so that people know why sometimes I may not respond timely, or make seemingly horrific typos (damn potholes).

It didn't go as smoothly as I would have hoped, and it is not completely finished, but here is the journey.

The original van laptop, IBM ThinkPad 600e, 400MHz, 128 plus onboard 32 RAM, formerly running XP, and an AT&T AirCard 860 Wireless Laptop Card.

First Step: Install Xubuntu on laptop - effortless, everything, with the exception of sound works.
(Sound not an issue, at this point)

Second Step: Install Pcmcia AirCard 860 and see what happens.

Card not recognized. No Problem, that's why there is Google.

Need firmware. Then need to setup an old-fashioned modem connection,
like a dialup connection. Hmm, never did a dialup connection, and from
what I have heard, may not be too easy.

These links provided all the info I needed:

Install firmware and the device is recognized. Very nice, going smoothly. Now to try the GPRSEC application to do all the hard work, communicate with card, have all the proper
settings and get online.

Not so easy. Back to Google. ThinkPads have a problem. Conflict with onboard serial port. Easy, go to bios, disable onboard serial and rock and roll.

Ahh, what bios. Older ThinkPads don't have a 'standard' style bios config. Instead they have
"Easy-Setup" bios overlay gui (my description) with this odd hummingbird mouse pointer thingy. Basically a system test app and change bootup device- nothing much more than that.

Back to Google. Two weekends (project time) later, many config changes, and one reinstall to get changed config files back to original condition because I am too stupid to backup before I
make wholesale changes; still no go.

ThinkPad on hold. Grab Toshiba A75, my tri-boot Devil box; XP, BackTrack2, and Ubuntu 7.10 (Satanic Themed), with the devil tail ac adapter plug and give it a whirl.

Install firmware, everything seems to work. Fire up GPRSEC and get a connection!!!

Now put it in the van and see how it goes. The Toshiba A75 is a desktop replacement laptop; a power hog. The ac adapter is 120 watts. That's pretty large, as most seem to be in the 60-90 watt range. My 200 watt inverter couldn't power the laptop and my cell phone charger. Thankfully, I have a spare 400 watt inverter, a little bulky and loud but I NEEDED power.

Laptop fires up, AirCard Connects, and Yoda_Van now runs Ubuntu !!!

I feel so much better now.