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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cheap Programmable Robots

I've always had somewhat of an interest in robots. Up until fairly recently though there haven't really been any cheap robots that I've been particularly interested in. Two that I recently found (and that were on sale :-)) were the Asuro as well as the Viper from Microbrics.

The Microbrics option seems to be aimed towards the beginner and reminds me a lot of more expensive Lego and Mecanno options. Components are Lego like in that they fit together as 'modules'. For instance, one module may consist of an IR receiver (for commands from a remote control) while another may consist of a small electric motor. Funnily enough, there also seem to be completely cosmetic parts as well. You should note that most of the parts are put together using a small (supplied) Philips headed screwdriver. The manual was decent but there could have been more detail to be honest (its fairly short at around 30 pages). Unlike other inexpensive robots though this one can be programmed via a serial port (newer versions can be programmed via USB obviously) using an IDE that uses the BASIC programming language. Moreover, it includes sensors for bump detection, motorised wheels as well as mechanisms for remote control, and line detection.


The Asuro robot is probably one of the least expensive options on the market for something this, 'advanced'. The reason why this is the case is that unlike other robots you need to completely assemble/solder it yourself. (For those of you who are relatively new to soldering short pin/side corresponds to the flat side of the LED diagram on the PCB. For those of you who are impatient, read the manual quickly but 'properly'. Some parts are more difficult to connect if others have been installed first. Other than that does not seem overly difficult to assemble.)

Like other more advanced electronic devices it can be programmed using the C programming language as well as a Visual Interface (which only seems to be accessible using German at this stage though). Like the Viper, it includes sensors for bump detection, motorised wheels as well as mechanisms for remote control, and line detection.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Network Monitoring Systems

Nagios: is clearly the easiest to install/administer (even from source). Graphs could be better though but plugins and community support/documentation are probably the best.
Zabbix: is easily the best for graphs but still a slight learning curve and documentation could be better. SNMP support is lacking but is supposedly part of a commercial downstream project and is a project request for 1.8 (next version), slightly worried about agent having security vulnerabilities as well (although it does seem to be patched regularly).
ZenOSS: could be great but still has too many bugs and there's too much of a learning curve. In future I think this will be 'the standard' for larger networks if Zabbix doesn't fix its SNMP capabilities and/or Nagios doesn't fix its graphs or or plugin to do better graphing.
SNIPS: was a disaster. Don't want to even talk about it. Everything is manually configured (crontab, source code install, etc...) guessing it was developed a long time ago and hasn't been worked on since.
OpenNMS: will try later...

All have the ability to Email/SMS provided correct plugin.
All have SNMP/IP capabilities and other service monitoring.

Windows Tiling Window Managers

- Twinsplay: neat if you're into keyboard shortcuts, costs something, 29USD
- MaxTo, you basically setup regions beforehand and then max/min
within those regions, free
- WindowSize: extremely flexible and has pre-aranged setups. If money
wasn't a problem I'd probably go with this. not free, 20 USD
- GridMove: lack of flexibility with preset templates, free
- HashTWM: think TWM for windows, looked at help file not fun to use, free
- bugn: it works but has non-intuitive interface, doesn't work well
with multiple monitors, free

UPS Device Control/Configuration

APC UPS


Settings are 8,0,1,Xon/Xoff

The APC SC 1500 UPS uses a very simple command language that is based around single characters and control characters. Apparently, USB interface is slightly buggy (could be software/firmware but apparently requires to re-attach cable every once in a while).

http://linux.die.net/man/8/apcupsd (APC control software)

Upsonic UPS

While cheap the Upsonic Power PrOffice 650 seems to have configuration software available for it. It has an RS-232 interface and has Linux interfacing software.

Favourite Links

http://arstechnica.com
http://www.osnews.com/
http://www.reddit.com/
http://www.linux.com/
http://www.lifehacker.com.au/
http://www.engadget.com/
http://www.tomshardware.com/
http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/
http://www.google.com.au/news
http://www.linuxtoday.com/
http://www.techradar.com/
http://www.gizmodo.com.au/
http://www.f1technical.net/
http://stackoverflow.com/
http://techcrunch.com/
http://serverfault.com/
http://highscalability.com/
http://www.newscientist.com/
http://phys.org
http://www.itnews.com
http://www.zone-h.org/
http://www.net-security.org/
http://www.h-online.com/
http://www.computerweekly.com/
http://www.wired.co.uk/
http://www.digitaltrends.com/
http://www.nature.com/
http://allthingsd.com/
http://www.infosecisland.com/

Bible Codes, Random Stuff, and More

On Bible Codes: Obviously, I am somewhat curious about the origin of religion... Recently, I came across a book called 'Bible Code...