Developing concurrent distributed systems (M362)

I’ve just started this Open University module. From the module description’s computing requirements:

If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this course by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

I started with the OU in 2008 and it’s good to see things have changed – back then it wouldn’t have mentioned Linux at all.

Joking aside things are changing. Algorithms, data structures and computability (M269), which I’m taking concurrently, has Linux software available with instructions on how to install and configure. I can understand why M362 staff would want specific versions of NetBeans and the JDK installed – the forums are already filling up with questions about various incompatibilities and conflicts and that’s just with Windows.

Fortunately the University has a Dreamspark Premium membership – so I was able to download Windows XP and a license key to install in a VirtualBox instance.

Virtual Box running OU software

I hope we continue to see progress with regards to platform neutrality – I’d like to spend more time learning computer science and mathematics and less time worrying about my choice of operating system.

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Samsung RV511 backlight and Fedora 20

Put Fedora 20 on my Samsung RV511 yesterday, everything worked out of the box except the backlight. Using the keys or the slider moved the animation but didn’t change the brightness – which was set to nuclear eye ball toasting mode.

Both the slider and the key combinations change the values in /sys/class/samsung/backlight. I know that the ACPI BIOS can provide interfaces but not always methods to control brightness, so I added acpi_backlight=vendor to the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX entry in /etc/default/grub and the back-light is working fine.

Don’t forget to grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg.

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Goodbye Wiki

I realised this morning I spend more time maintaining a Wiki than using it so I’ve archived it and removed it from the site.

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Problems updating Nexus 7 (grouper) to Android 4.4.2

Latest update failed (4.3 to 4.4.2 I think) – just a forever spinning Nexus logo. Overwrote the tablet with a stock Nexus 7 (nakasi) image and all is well, besides needing to reconfigure everything and put my files back on it (thankfully Moon Reader Pro syncs positions with Dropbox/Google Drive).

You need the Android SDK installed (remember to add it to your path) and to have rooted the device – both covered in an earlier post. On the device hold down the power, volume up and down keys until the rescue screen appears.

Connect with USB and open a command prompt/terminal then type:

adb reboot bootloader

Download a stock image from Google – the Nexus 7 (nakasi) is this one. Decompress it and go to that folder in the command prompt/terminal, run either flash-all.bat (Windows) or flash-all.sh (Linux) and follow the prompts.

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Developing concurrent distributed systems (M362)

Module materials for Developing concurrent distributed systems (M362) just arrived and I’m a little daunted. I completed the now discontinued Object-oriented programming with Java (M255) in 2008 so I think it would be wise to read over the module notes – thankfully I still have them as PDF.

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Thoughts on Web Technologies (TT284)

TT284 Web Technologies is a level two Open University module now in its second year of presentation and compulsory on the solutions development pathway of BSc (Hons) Computing and IT (B62). From the module description:

This course will give you an insight into architectures, protocols, standards, languages, tools and techniques; an understanding of approaches to more dynamic and mobile content; and demonstrate how you can analyse requirements, plan, design, implement and test a range of web applications.

Continue reading

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Word 2013 stopped saving

Wasted a good chunk of last night and today farting around with Microsoft Office 2013 after it decided to crash every time I saved. No idea what caused it, other than that it started after I had pasted some Python code from an editor.

Control Panel, Programs, Programs and Features. Select Microsoft Office 2013 and click Change. Quick repair didn’t work but full repair did.

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Well that’s a shame

From Sourceforge’s blog (emphasis mine):

Thanks to DevShare, we are now able to offer a bundle program that is fully compliant with Google’s strictest policies. This includes a solid compliance process for both open source applications and third party offerings. The whole installation flow is clean and has no misleading steps. Uninstallation procedures are exhaustively documented and all applications are verified to be virus and malware free.

I notice the linked example, Filezilla, has a clearly labelled download button with the file name on it. Except you’re actually downloading a completely different file name. Continue reading

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ICT Forums

I’ve studied six computing modules at the Open University, participating in their forums and even moderating one (TU100). I feel that there is a tendency to criticise computing modules that I haven’t noticed on mathematics modules. Unfortunately students are often not specific in their complaints, leading to responses from the faculty which don’t really answer the question (clearly -they don’t know what it is) in turn provoking a hostile response.

This isn’t to say staff are blameless. It infuriates me that while replying with accusations of not providing enough information, they then fail to do so themselves – stating the number of students on the module would give perspective on the number of people actually complaining.

It seems clear that regular forum users believe they are representative of the majority but from experience on TU100 I’m not sure this is true. A lot of students don’t like posting and I’ve met several students who find forums intimidating. I’d love to see some hard numbers here.

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Nexus 7 custom firmware

Although the Google Nexus 7 is pretty muck stock Android, I thought I’d give Cyanogenmod a try. Installing a custom firmware involves three steps – unlocking, installing a custom recovery mode, and installing the custom firmware. Oh and I’m doing this in Windows 7. There is also a very good guide on the Cyanogenmod Wiki which I followed. As I often do, this blog post is more to remind me what to do.

Setting up the tool chain

The Android Development Kit provides two useful tools – Android Debug Bridge (adb) lets you communicate with a connected Android device; and Fastboot which when in a boot loader allows flashing, erasing and rebooting. Once downloaded, unzip it to your folder of choice and add the sdk/platform-tools folder to your path (in Windows 7 you can do this by going to the folder in question, copying the address line and then right clicking My Computer→Properties→Advanced System Settings→Environment Variables, select Path and Edit then add the line with a leading semi-colon). The ADK requires the Google USB Driver and that you enable USB debugging (Settings→About and tapping “Build number” until Developer mode is enabled, then you can select USB debugging from Settings→Developer Options).

Unlocking the device

Connect the Nexus 7 via USB and open a command prompt in Administrator mode. Type:

adb reboot bootloader
fastboot oem unlock

The Nexus 7 will display a disclaimer – use the volume buttons to scroll through options and the power button to accept. Reboot the Nexus 7.

Custom recovery console

Turning the Nexus 7 on by holding down the volume up, volume down and power buttons. The stock recovery partition lets you do a factory reset but not much else so I replaced it with ClockworkMod which will install custom firmware and allow you to make backups.

First download the image, the Nexus 7 is available here. From the terminal:

adb reboot bootloader
fastboot devices

If there is no device listed, then you should check that the USB drivers are installed correctly. Ensure you’re in the correct folder and flash the Nexus 7:

fastboot flash recovery RECOVERY_FILE_NAME.img

Finally reboot into the new recovery image:

fastboot boot RECOVERY_FILE_NAME.img

Installing Cyanogenmod

Download Cyanogenmod - I choose the nightly build. You can also download Google apps here. ClockworkMod can install from SD card, which the Nexus 7 doesn’t have – but there is a folder called /sdcard/. From the terminal, use ADB to push the two files (obviously use the filenames you downloaded):

adb push cm-10.1-20130706-NIGHTLY-grouper.zip /sdcard/
adb push gapps-jb-20130706 /sdcard/

Now using the volume and power buttons to navigate the ClockworkMod menus:

  1. Back up the Nexus 7 (backup and restore→backup)
  2. Wipe data/factory reset
  3. Install the two zip files (install zip from sdcard→choose zip from sdcard)
  4. Reboot (reboot system now)

You should now have Cyanogenmod installed.

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