Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2012

I live in Singapore but only found out about the Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2012 from a DangerousPrototypes blog post.

Singapore Mini Maker Faire logo

It’s happening this weekend (4th and 5th August 2012) at the Science Centre, 10am – 5pm. Admission charges to the Science Centre applies.


Adobe Flash Player is Crap

It seems that Adobe has been releasing Flash Player updates very often, and it’s getting a little irritating since I told it to “notify me to install updates”. I’m generally very against software that automatically updates itself (like Google Chrome).

So recently an update popped up a couple of days ago, and I went ahead to install it. What’s really irritating is that it doesn’t keep my preference of “update method”. Here’s what I’m talking about:

I remember selecting the “Notify me to install updates” option the last time, and every time it installs a new update, the radio button goes back to “Allow Adobe to install updates”. Is there a technical reason why it could not have read my settings and defaulted to my previous choice? Absolutely not – it’s like those registration forms that automatically select the “send me your spam often” checkbox by default, except you’ll keep seeing this screen every time Adobe releases an update.

This time Flash Player was upgraded to the 11.3 series, and all of a sudden YouTube videos sound like I’m watching them in a cinema. Why? Because the new Flash Player decided to play the YouTube stereo audio stream in 5.1 instead. Wow, what a load of crap! Someone has also voiced this out in the Flash Player forum and his solution was to install the older 11.2 version.

If you found this irritating, you can go to the Archived Flash Player versions page and download a ~160MB zip file containing Flash Player installers for all 3 different platforms. I chose version as suggested in the forum, and it fixed the problem.

As you can probably tell, I’m quite pissed by this to write such a lengthy rant. Horrible software like this just irritates the hell out of me.

Don’t Use Power Drills as Screwdrivers!

I think people who use power drills with those screwdriver “drill bits” are just plain lazy.

I had a new ceiling fan installed yesterday, and the installation guy came over with a power drill fitted with the Phillips screwdriver bit to do his job, and he used it on everything. The fan came with the blades and motor hub separately, so some assembly was required. Just have a look at the result.

Here’s a view from the top. If not for the fact that this screw has a groove into which you can insert a flathead screwdriver, you probably won’t be able to remove this at all.

I actually needed to unscrew the bottom cover (which they term the canopy) to check if there’s a serial number printed on the motor hub. I’ve tried 3 different Phillips screwdriver and none of them can grip the screw properly.

The thing about using a power drill is it’s powerful – it really jams the screw in there tight. But if you abuse or misuse it like this, you will probably have a hard time trying to remove the screws, and when you do, you have to find a replacement screw.

So, why couldn’t the guy just have used a regular Phillips screwdriver? I think he was just fucking lazy. How would you feel if your factory-assembled products came with stripped screws like that?

Firefox Desktop Notifications for Gmail

At work, I use Google Chrome mostly. When I access Gmail, it asks if I wish to enable desktop notifications, but oddly at home I don’t see it. That’s because I use Firefox.

With so many tabs open, it’s definitely a good thing to have desktop notifications (something like Growl for Mac), especially since I use Google Chat on the Gmail page sometimes. I was hoping that Gmail detects a capable browser based on the availability of Javascript objects, instead of some stupid sites that detect the User Agent string, so that the functionality could at least be injected into the page using a Greasemonkey script or a Firefox plugin.

It turns out that someone has already written a Firefox plugin to implement desktop notifications, and that Gmail does in fact detect the presence of Javascript objects instead of blindly relying on the UA string. It’s called ff-html5notifications. With this plugin installed, Gmail will now ask if you want to enable desktop notifications, just as if you were using Chrome.

Chrome implements the Web Notifications API (draft specifications at this point) via the window.webkitNotifications object. It is unclear whether Firefox would support this API in the future, but the ff-html5notifications plugin provides a good solution for now.

Rescuing Data From a Nokia 7230

Recently I was passed a Nokia 7230, which committed suicide by taking a nosedive into the toilet bowl. I was asked to extract the phonebook data from it.

The convenient thing about (some) Nokia phones is that they provide haptic feedback when it powers up, so I know it turned on, but the display was blank. The keypad LED also lit up, but I had no visual indication of what was going on. My first thought was to extract the data using something like PC Suite, but I really didn’t want to install it because you had to install the Nokia drivers and stuff.

Upon connecting the phone via USB, it will prompt you to select a mode you would like to use, among which are “PC Suite” and “Mass Storage”. The mode we are interested in would be “PC Suite”. However, since the screen was not working, I had to manually guess what the options are, and which is selected by default. You can tell from theĀ  type of USB interfaces that are exposed to the PC.

After pressing the buttons for a while, I had no luck getting it to switch away from Mass Storage mode.

I suddenly had this thought – what if there was actually an image being displayed, but the backlight was not working? I took an LED torch and shone it on the LCD and presto, I could see the display. Here’s what it looks like:

After being able to see the display, I realized the phone automatically locked the keypad, which was why my keypresses were not getting through.


gnokii is a CLI-based tool that enables you to communicate with your Nokia phone over a couple of protocols, one of which is USB. I had Fedora Core 14 installed in VirtualBox and managed to easily bridge the USB into the VM. Upon connecting the phone, the kernel module cdc_phonet will claim the USB device. You will need to unload the kernel module in order to allow gnokii to communicate with the phone.

The important settings are below:

model = series40
port = 1
connection = dku2libusb

However, it hanged upon trying to get the phone model. Since FC14 only had the version 0.6.28 RPM, I tried to download the latest version (0.6.30 at the time of writing) and compiled it myself. That didn’t work either.

Although I did have some experience in the FBUS protocol, I decided I was not going to get my hands dirty. Moving on.

Apple iSync

This is why I love using Apple products. With the OS, it bundles this very handy utility which doesn’t have a Windows equivalent. iSync talks the SyncML protocol to most Bluetooth-enabled phones to perform synchronization of your phone contacts and calendar data.

Since I can see the screen, I enabled Bluetooth and paired it with my Mac. However, iSync does not support this device. A little bit of Googling brought me to a SourceForge project called iSync-nokia-723. Simply download the ZIP file (again, I didn’t want to use the installer) and unzip the phoneplugin bundle into ~/Library/PhonePlugins.

Restart iSync and you’re in business.

Remember to create a new user account as you won’t want iSync adding the phone’s contacts to your own Address Book.