Doesn't Not Compute

My log of experiences with GNU/Linux and computers in general.

Double Double, Toil and Trouble

During the time I’ve written in this blog, there have been only two bits of non-Packard-Bell technology that have given me trouble: my Acer Aspire One AO751h-1279 netbook, and my iPod Nano2G. The first, because of the “Poulsbo” chipset that Intel coupled with the processor and then couldn’t provide decent, stable, up-to-date drivers for, and the second because for a very long time Rockbox didn’t support it.

Acer Aspire One 751h

The netbook I’ve spent a lot of time on, trying to hack together a useful and enjoyable set of software on and wrestling with the PSB driver on. I’ve written a series of articles on improving the experience o it, which is listed on the “How-tos” page under “Acer Aspire AO751h”. During my attempts to get the PSB driver working correctly on Arch Linux — a longtime project — I also wrote a simple script for setting the backlight brightness from the command line, requiring much less typing than manually changing the brightness level and not requring Xorg.This made it useful for console work, as the xbacklight tools of course requires a running Xserver.

This morning I tried to turn it on and, although the power button LED lit up and the keyboard LEDs flashed, and the hard drive powered up, nothing else happened. No output to the LCD, no output to an external monitor. It does not attempt to boot from the hard drive. It’s almost as if there was no memory in it, but I don’t have another “stick” of RAM for it and I’m *not* spending US$50 or more just to find out if it’s the problem or not.

It doesn’t bother me much, though. The battery still has 80.05% of it’s design total capacity, and works perfectly, so I should be able to get some decent money for it. The hard drive is SATA-based, so I don’t need an adapter to connect it into my desktop, which in turn means that I don’t have to worry about how to get my data off of it. 😀 And frankly, as much as I like helping others with problems, and as much as I needed this netbook to do that — I was waiting for this horrid thing to die. My Dell Latitude C600 plays hi-def video better than it did (with equivalent power usage, according to Powertop), I had to run an outdated Xserver on it, and even then I couldn’t get OpenGL graphics to work, since that required a much older version of Mesa than Arch Linux ships with and builds against.

I’m more disappointed by the failure of my 2nd generation iPod Nano. It only held 2 gigabytes or so of music, but with Rockbox’s ability to play OGG Vorbis files (thus I could get the same quality at a much smaller file size) this wasn’t an issue until very recently. It seems its demise is the result of a very, very odd flash chip failure. For those who know, it was the storage flash chip. We (myself and the *very* helpful TheSeven in FreeNode’s #freemyipod and #rockbox channels) are still puzzling over it, and waiting for “the hardware guru’s” ideas. Well, it has mainly been TheSeven doing the puzzling while I type in commands, but you get the idea. :mrgreen:

This failure basically leaves me with an ARM platform with 1MB of working flash, an LCD screen, and a control wheel with five buttons and touch-sensitivity. Perhaps I can learn some coding with it. 🙂 Some hardware hacking-in of SD card support, a driver. 😯

Unfortunately, it leaves me bereft of a device to help test Rockbox patches with. At least I was able to help help test the patches preventing Stkov nand, and the next day verify that the change making the working patch unnecessary worked. And tested the “lamp” application improvements and the lcd_backlight_sleep patches, of course. 😐 I just wish I could’ve helped more there.

Perhaps I’ll get a new Nano2G sometime, since they’re about US$50 on eBay, or perhaps a refurbished iPod Mini. But what I would really like is a music “jukebox” device that *only* plays OGG Vorbis, FLAC, and Speex audio files. I know that plenty of players support these. I know that there are chips dedicated to decoding Vorbis, and possible some for FLAC. I would be very happy if someone were to build a digital audio player that *only* plays these formats, made them as free-as-in-freedom as Richard Stallman’s laptop (a Leemote Yeelong of some type, if I recall correctly), and provided software for it. 🙂 Seems like it would be cheaper, since licensing wouldn’t be needing from the owners of patent-encumbered formats.

So what do these two failures mean for my blog? Well, I have no idea. I’ll have different projects to be posting about, certainly, and probably won’t be paying as much attention to the state of “Poulsbo” support in GNU/Linux systems. And Rockbox may or may not be discussed as often, since I have nothing to test it on.

There are other projects I’ve been keeping on the back burner, however; there will still be plenty for me to work on, and enough to post about. So, join my Twitter feed or subscribe to the RSS feed that WordPress so kindly generates automatically. 🙂

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One response to “Double Double, Toil and Trouble

  1. Farthen December 12, 2010 at 11:49 am

    As I already told you on Twitter we may have a fix to your broken nano. At least we would really appreciate if you’d join #freemyipod on freenode again.

    Thanks,
    Farthen from freemyipod

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