Caffeinated Bitstream

Bits, bytes, and words.

Introducing Valence

An on-screen trackpad and keyboard allow a computer to be remote controlled. Valence supports mDNS service discovery (aka Bonjour or Avahi) to locate participating VNC servers on the local network. In my spare cycles recently, I've been tinkering with developing Android code to control home theater components. As someone who has been passionately involved with the consumer electronics industry over the past ten years, my personal home theater system includes quite a collection of disparate devices that defy even the most feature-rich universal remote controls.


File event notifications in Mac OS

While using Mac OS, I've been missing the handy Linux inotifywait utility—it's a simple program to use the Linux inotify facility to wait on certain file events. I sometimes write scripts that use inotifywait to automatically launch programs when files are changed. For instance, I can have a script automatically compile a program whenever I save the source file in the editor. It turns out that Mac OS and other recent BSD operating systems have a similar kernel facility called kqueue, and it was really easy to whip up a small program to block until an event occurs on a file.


Implementing DES

DES, the Data Encryption Standard, was developed by IBM and the US government in the 1970's. Today, DES is considered to be weak and crackable, and a poor choice for anyone in the market for an encryption algorithm. However, many legacy protocols still use DES, so it's important to have implementations handy. I recently found myself looking for a simple standalone DES implementation to study. Most of the open-source DES implementations are either highly optimized into obfuscation, or sloppily written.


Testing multicast support on Android devices

In my previous post, I mentioned my frustration that certain Android phones (including my HTC EVO) cannot receive multicast datagrams. I'd like to get feedback from my friends and colleagues about multicast support on their phones, so I wrote a simple app for testing multicast. The Multicast Test Tool continually monitors the network for Multicast DNS (mDNS) packets while the app is running in the foreground, and presents the contents of these packets to the user.


Broken multicast networking on HTC smartphones

It looks like some (most?) HTC phones running Android, such as my HTC EVO, are not capable of receiving multicast or broadcast datagram packets over the Wi-Fi network. This means that apps which rely on such communication will fail, often with no indication of the problem. From the app's perspective, no obvious error is happening — it can only assume that no other devices on the network are transmitting such datagrams.


The year in bandwidth

I collect data usage statistics on my home broadband connection using a script that polls my router's WAN interface counters via SNMP once a minute. Since I have all this data lying around, I thought it might be neat to chart my broadband usage for 2010 and get an idea of how much of a bandwidth hog I am. My usage includes lots of movie streaming, VoIP phone calls, and work-related applications (since I work from home).


IPv6 protocol overhead

-- The IPv4 address space is nearing exhaustion. The unallocated address pool is currently expected to be depleted at the IANA level in June 2011, and at the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) level in January 2012. Networks will need to transition to IPv6, which allows for an astronomically larger address space (among other nice features). IPv6 has been around in some form since 1995. However, since network operators are human beings, the consensus has not been to methodically migrate to IPv6 over the last 15 years, but rather to procrastinate 15 years and then pull an all-nighter on the eve of exhaustion.


Customizing the Mac Dashboard calendar widget

It turns out that it's not too hard to customize the dashboard widgets that come with Mac OS X, since they're implemented in HTML and Javascript. You can just copy the stock widget from /Library/Widgets to ~/Library/Widgets and go to town. In the above picture, you can see how I've hacked the calendar widget to show week numbers. Update, April 7, 2011: Due to popular demand, I've posted a diff of my changes here, based on the Snow Leopard calendar.


HTC EVO and background network activity

HTC EVO, shown with the optional extended-life battery. Earlier this year, I ditched my antiquated Treo 755p for the new hotness in mobile phones—the HTC EVO, an Android phone available from Sprint. Unlike my previous phone, which would last a full week in standby without recharging, the EVO gulps battery like there's no tomorrow. In fact, the limited battery life has been the primary complaint about the phone.


VFD Clock

I decided I needed a clock in my living room, and remembered I had this Matrix Orbital VFD2041 vacuum fluorescent display in my junk box, so I whipped up a few lines of C code to make it show the current time. The VFD connects to my home theater PC via its RS-232 interface and a USB RS-232 dongle. Here's the source: vfdclock.tar.gz