Recycle your old netbook to a wireless ethernet bridge for your Raspberry Pi

Instructions with more detail and less prose follow below…

In the last few weeks I have been looking for a solution to get my Raspberry Pi connected to the internet without extensive cables trailing around our home. And, as a Yorkshire man, I have been trying to do it on a budget.

As a result, home-plugs or Ethernet bridges weren’t an option. And due to the layout of our house, neither was discreet cabling. Setting up a windows network bridge, or using internet connection sharing didn’t work either, for reasons I don’t fully understand. Trying to follow the readily available instructions on the internet for turning your Linux installation into a router simply hurt my brain.

And then I found that, quite simply, when the Raspberry Pi and Ubuntu were networked, they both willingly worked out IP addresses, and when the wired connection was enabled to be shared, surely enough, it made the internet available too. Beautiful and parsimonious.

So I thought it might be good to have something operating as a permanent server to deliver my wireless connection to hard-wired devices in my room. So I drew my old Eee PC; now 5 years old most modern software is virtually useless. Loading up a terminal only version of Lubuntu and the most basic edition of Lxde seemed to do the trick. Using the terminal I installed Network manager, to share and configure the wired connection, and now with a simply CAT5 cable linking it to the Pi, it enjoys unrestrained access to the net.

But I wasn’t finished there! To get more out of this newly available hard wired connection in my room, I plugged in a router, which took and ip address perfectly from the Eee, and relayed it to my Xbox, RasPi, iPad and Laptop giving me all the connectivity I ever wanted to play about with, having my devices no longer strangled from the internet due to a lack of wlan cards. And it worked fine with our Virgin Media 30meg broadband connection relaying HD video for half an hour on the Xbox.

More Detailed Instructions

1. Download the Lubuntu Alternate Iso here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Lubuntu/Alternate_ISO

2. Copy the ISO to your USB drive following these instructions: http://elinux.org/RPi_Easy_SD_Card_Setup (Scroll down to the heading ‘Copying an image to the SD Card in Linux (command line)’ or find another way of flashing an ISO to a USB stick)

3. Get LXDE by typing:

sudo apt-get install lxde

Note: what I did then was type ‘startx’ at the command prompt which told me another command to type in. This command installed a package to let Lubuntu boot on into LXDE from then on in. I think it was another sudo apt-get install thing. Now it’s done I cannie really repeat it, but it was simple enough.

4. Boot into LXDE, then run from the terminal:

sudo apt-get install network-manager

5. Load LXDE, press the LXDE start button equivilant, select ‘preferences’ and then ‘Network Connections’

Click on your wired connection that will be sending to the Eee PC, click Edit at the right, and click on the IPv4 settings tab. In the Method drop down box, select “Shared to other computers” and click ‘Save’. Note: If you find you cannot reach the save button with your mouse due to the screen being to small, hold down ALT and drag the window up with the mouse to access the button.

6. Connect your Eee PC to your Raspberry Pi, or Xbox or whatever, and reboot it. Once the logon screen is showing, boot the Raspberry Pi. You should then have access to the internet over the Eee PC.

Please note I haven’t yet set up a Gui for the wireless network, it simply loads as the system boots. The details are still stored within from the installation

Do please comment if you have any questions, or to tell us it works. Thankyou!

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I like my iPad, leave it alone!

A few days ago, I had the joy of going on a short coach journey. Now, for all the quips we have against public transport, this was definitely a trip and a half. We had a beautiful Mercedes coach and the sun was shining as we drifted across North Wales.

But the banta was the best. The great thing about coach travel, is that not driving, your mind is free to go over other things, thus stimulating some interesting discussions. We started by talking about mountain biking, concluding we should have a race down the A55 North Wales Expressway, then we set the world to rights, talking about how wind turbines take 30 years to pay themselves back before they actually produce renewable energy. We debated whether we’re really running out of oil or not, and then ending up resolving the problem with solar energy.

And then on the way back, something happened. My head became explosively large. This actually relates to apple products. There are a certain group of people, who like to buy iPads, iPhones and other bits and pieces, and then consider themselves higher up than others, for their new possessions. It’s a bit like some BMW drivers. When I bought my iPad, I told myself, I would not become one of them. But suddenly, a guy on the bus told me I was stupid for having bought an iPad, called me an apply fanboy and said I only thought it was best because I hadn’t seen the alternatives.

No no no! I retorted. I tried the Samsung galaxy tab in the shop, and I have an android phone (all-be-it a Motorola) which is rubbish. I want to choose against android. Then he told me I should get the Acer tablet, because it doesn’t need expensive custom leads, and that with apple the structure of getting app’s is too rigid. And he showed me the photo quality on his Samsung galaxy. When I told him I had the iPad 3, with its high-res display, he thought I was an even bigger idiot. And at that point something switched itself.

My response: yes I know that the iPad is astronomically expensive, and that I could buy a small country for the cost of hooking it up to my TV. And I know that to make an app you have to pay apple copious amounts of money and have them bug check it. And I know that someone somewhere claims to have a more responsive keyboard on their touchscreen, and that nothing with it is properly compatible with anything else, but the simplicity and use of its user interface are perfect, and mean I don’t have to worry about things not working as they should. And maybe it is robbing me of my computer literacy skills, but I don’t care. I have an iPad and I love it!

Seeing that I was getting a little bit exasperated now, he persisted. So I pulled out my scriptures, and with Holy writ as my basis, shared inspired words about putting your faith in what you most believe in. Now please don’t misunderstand me here. In saying that I do not mean to mock that which is most important to me. I know that my Heavenly Father is he in whom I most believe, and my source of life and joy. But my experience with my iPad shows me it is a very good piece of equipment, which serves its purpose very well. And I do put confidence in it to accomplish many day to day roles.

So where am I going with this? Am I saying that iPad owners aren’t smug, they’re just driven to it by the quips of others? Or just simply that we should go on more coach journey’s with buddies? Or is it that we all just start saying things we don’t mean when we get carried away, but who cares, since we had our fun?

All I can say is that none of it would have happened had I gone in the car. Which takes us right back to peak oil again. Ugh.

Dog Eat Dog, Rat Eat Rat – Repairing Your Three Red Rings of Death

The Three Red Rings... OF DEATH!

Here is a story, of a young man who had an Xbox 360, which came ill with the so called three red rings of death. He looked on the internet, and all he could find was James Dean’s famous $29.95 repair guide, which was highly optimized among internet search engines. Then, one day, many months later he wen’t on ebay, and found a much cheaper kit, with instructions, which worked perfectly, and they all lived happily ever after.

Yes Mr Dean, oh yes they did! Despite that every search of the internet seems to display phantom blogs singing praises to your name. If I were a socialist I’d say look who’s been a naughty boy, trying to convince all those people that you are doing them a favor, but I’m not one of those. Instead, my purpose here is to tell the world what worked for me, for a fiver.

I just had a look on ebay, and found a handful of different kits to replace the oh so terrible X-clamps. The one I bought had nylon washers included, which are protected from the heat emitted from the GPU and CPU. It cost £5.50, came within three days, and included a step by step photo and video guide with very good detail. Everything James Dean would gladly have your $30 for.

And the best bit is, it worked! After a relatively simple process of removing the old X-clamps, and bolting the CPU and GPU back down, and the so called ‘over heat reflow’ process, and now I have a working Xbox again.

So if you need a repair for the three red rings, this is what worked for me. And I see absolutely no reason to spend much more than a fiver on getting this problem fixed. Get yourself on ebay, find a honorable, decent looking seller, and get closely aquainted with the inside of your Xbox.

And that’s my contribution to the free market economy.

Playing Grand Theft Auto in Real Life Can be OK

“Yes, you can’t be the biggest tree hugger in the world, without killing something.”
 

In this, the Nanny State of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the kids of today are deprived of valuable experiences that they need to become capable adults. They’re not allowed to jump on a trampoline without paying a professional trainer to ‘oversee’, in case somebody gets hurt, and every school trip is accompanied by a pine tree of paper work, to make sure nobody gets ill from touching a dirty penny on the floor. Any form of practical work is deemed to be too much hassle or too dangerous to do, leaving our youth to do worksheets and watch videos. The problem is that seeing all these things in theory, makes you long to stretch your legs and go out and do something for real.

We’ve all heard the complaint that the youth of today don’t have enough to do, and that all they ever do do is play Grand Theft Auto, so they end up spray-painting their names on benches and mugging people smaller than them. And it’s true, unfortunately. A few months ago, somebody from our local community was doing something he shouldn’t have been in his car, so the Police went and chased him.

The results weren’t pretty, but it doesn’t need to be this way.

While the manufacturers of Playstations would have you believe that the only way to get satisfaction in life is to take a virtual gun, and virtually riddle someone elses face with virtual bullets, I believe that isnt true. No, I think there’s far more satisfaction in going out and doing it with a real gun. Now please don’t be too alarmed at that statement, because you don’t yet know who my enemy will be.

Prepare to be annihilated, Photo: Chris J. Barker

My Weapon, Photo: Chris J. Barker

Even the most devout of our tree hugging brothers will admit that we simply can’t survive without killing plants. If you want to eat carrots or lettucies for example, you have to kill them first, or if you want a nice garden, you’ll have to kill some weeds, or prune a bush. Yes, you can’t be the biggest tree hugger in the world, without killing something.

Weed killing was the name of the game for me this morning, and it was brilliant. I had a little hand gun, and when I encountered a weed, all I had to do was pull the trigger and a little jet of poison would come out and zap it. I soon got quite in to it, discovering that I could either hold down the trigger for automatic fire, or if I just pulled it in short bursts, my ammo would last longer, and I wouldn’t need to reload as much. Better still, I was clearing our territory of all our uninvited visitors, cleaning it all up and making our garden and driveway look more in line with its suburban setting and less like farmer Giles’ dirt tracks. My mum loved it, I loved it, our neigbours loved it. I got to be outside, doing something worthwhile, finding a good use for my time and achieving something to be proud of.

So there we have it, the solution to dealing with rowdy kids with no hobbies is not to teach them all this liberal ‘here’s the facts, you decide for yourself’ nonsense they teach in school. It’s to arm them with a weed killer gun and teach them who the real enemies are, whilst they’re still mould-able enough to learn.

As for me, my patch is clean. My vegetable patch that is!

My vegetable patch that is.

Chromebook vs. Notebook

I have a weakness, and it’s to do with technology. Allow me to explain this in more detail. When manufacturers bring out a new product, I get quite excited, and really want to get one. To draw from a recent example of this, let’s talk about the Apple iPad. I find it an amazing piece of kit, it looks the business, does loads of cool stuff, and I really wouldn’t mind having one. Except the biggest reason I want it, isn’t really because its features are going to improve my life and bring lasting happiness, its because I want to play with it, experiment with it and admire how cool it is.

This last couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about how I could justify getting one, probably for University. Apple do say it will revolutionise everything, including education, but as of yet, I can’t see how. The one place where I could see an advantage, would be in note-taking. If you were using a laptop to take notes, the iPad is a lot smaller and thinner, and only 2 dimensional, which makes it a bit more natural. Or if your walking along, and need to note something down quickly, its easy to put out and write into. But I don’t use a computer for taking notes – for educational purposes at least. It is accepted that writing your notes with a pen and paper will help you recall more effectively what you’ve learnt. Moreover I have terrible experiences, having tried to use a computer to take notes before, drawing diagrams, for instance. And then lets come on to doing some real work. While an iPad may be fine for writing in text, and dropping in some pictures, it feels restricting in what more it can do. It is definitely not a replacement for a laptop.

So what is it good at? It’s a very good tool for executives to use, in meetings, to say “my company’s got more money that yours”. It would be the equivalent of parking their BMW behind their chair in the boardroom. In other words, it doesn’t seem to do anything, that something a lot cheaper cant already do.

And then once I’d shaken that off me, along came a web-ad for the new Google Chromebook. Getting excited I clicked on it, thinking; “a laptop that is small, and does nothing more than browsing the internet, that must be really cheap”. But little did I know, I was going to be sorely disappointed, since the Chromebook costs at least £350, or £400 if you want it with 3g. That’s very ambitious of them, to say that it costs almost as much as an iPad, and does much, much less. The Chromebook boats being able to boot in 8 seconds, and giving you access to all of your web services, and your documents through the cloud. In my eyes, the iPad is what it’s competing with.

But this casts light on another problem. Where does all this end? There’s a lot of emphasis right now on products that allow you to play work on the go, yet products that are currently hitting the market are becoming increasingly less productive. Yes the iPad can implement stunning graphics in to documents, but if my dad, who is by trade a Quantity Surveyor, wanted to get some work done, he couldn’t. And the Chomebook looks like it will be great for writing essays and essays of text, but when I come to prepare it for publication, I’m going to be strangled.

Nope, I fear that all we have here are a fleet of over glorified V-techs, that claim the way forward is to spend more money in exchange for less. For me, I’m going to spend less than an iPad costs, on a fully functional computer. And if it be that I need access to something I can write on within 8 seconds, we’ll I’ll cross my fingers that my notepad doesn’t crash.

Doing What My Dad Did

Thirty years ago, my dad was my age. He had a British racing green sports car, equipped with a radio, and he’d say “Breaker 19, this is Chrome Bumper”, to find out about potential traffic jams, car enthusiast gatherings, or simply dangers ahead in the road. Now some people would argue that that culture is past, gone and unless you’re a trucker, forgotten. But I don’t agree.

The reason I say that, is because this morning, I finally decided to get Twitter, something that up until now I’ve been reluctant to do. But it’s amazing! On twitter, I can follow a twitter-thing (I haven’t found out yet technically what it’s called), called the M62, where official traffic updates are posted, but then Twitterers all over the M62 have posted their observations, making an open pool of comments and discussion, not dissimilar from the CB Radio scene of the 80’s.

That’s not the only example either. 15 years ago, my Dad got a pocket TV for his birthday. We still have it, and it still works, apart from that in September they’re going to turn off the signal for it. The Pocket Television appears generally to have died. But can I not watch BBC News live over the air, or catch up on the latest TV from the iPlayer of Youtube. Or, because no one ever really watched television on the train anyway, the content of the media is readily available to read also over the air, using a modern smartphone.

And that’s still not all, maps have become Sat-Navs, Books are becoming Kindles, Cameras have become digital, photos are stored on Hard Drives, I see my bills online, our streets are policed by Cameras. Even my dictionary now has the suffix ‘.com’ attached to it. The Oil age in which we live, could be given a sub-category: The electronic age.

Some might argue that it is sad that our fine engineering advances and manual ways of doing things has been eroded away, and this technology does have its vices. For example, my Dad still has his Pocket TV, but the few remaining iPhone First and Second generations are now practically obsolete. Not to mention that both of the above mentioned handsets cost about 3 times the price of the Pocket TV, never mind the price of the iPhone 3gs and the iPhone 4. You could also say that these advances are making us as a people become more lazy and stupid.

To that last point, I can’t really argue. It is, let’s say, a different type of skill following a Tomtom, but it doesn’t do much for your navigation skills. But other than that, in principle we’re still doing the same things as we were doing in 1980. We’re still eating, going to work, watching the news, going on holiday, taking photos and thousands of other day to day tasks. And the technology we have makes is easier. If you are feeling it has taken the joy out of your life, you may find that you are focussing on the wrong things. Perhaps you have bought the technology, expecting the technology to become your hobby, when really it should only be a means to an end, this end being a fulfilling activity such as exploring nature, where real joy lies.

I honestly believe that when given the correct approach, modern inventions and innovations can give us new thrills, can improve our lives, even allowing us to do what made people click 30 years ago, and more.

The Politics of Modern Computer Software II: Why did I go back to Windows?

This article has turned out to be a sequel to my previous article entitled “The Politics of Modern Computer Software”, which you may have found by clicking the link “Why did I go for Linux”.

As the article suggests, having been using Linux recently, I’ve made the decision to go back to Windows. Now you may well be reading this thinking, “so you’ve had Linux for about 3 weeks, and you’ve suddenly decided you don’t like it, that’s not very committed is it?” And, if you’re thinking that, you’d be right. But let me talk a little more about my choice.

I love using Linux, really I do, and I’ve found very many practical applications for it in our home. It uses minimal memory, doesn’t need drivers, it’s good-looking, often giving the feel of a poor mans Apple, and it’s free. It integrates very well with our other home computers, with my younger sister’s using it daily for work and entertainment. And comparing that to Windows Vista, with its high memory consumption, much complication, slow and expensiveness, the Penguin had a lot going for it.

So why have I moved back away from the Penguin? Despite the complications, despite the need to spend a long long time looking for drivers, and searching for software to do simple day-to-day jobs, once the PC is working, it feels a lot more able. And that’s why I own a computer, because it is useful. Of the three currently supported Microsoft operating systems right now on the market, I have returned however not back to Vista, but to Windows XP. Windows XP will be supported through until 2014, although if things continue as they are, it could go for longer. It is clean, simple, well presented and reliable. All of the software I use is still available for it, and it works quickly with without error. One of the things Linux couldn’t match was iTunes. Ubuntu 11.04 can, through the Banshee Media Player, synchronise music to an iPod, although it is a slow, unreliable process. Right now, Windows XP can still give me exactly what I want. As much as I would love to move over to Windows 7, I see no need to go upgrading components and then purchasing a pricey licence.

Knowing which operating system or computer to use can sometimes feel like you’re in the middle of a gun fight. Most people are still PC users, and they’re generally happy with them, but there’s an increasing number of people buying MacBooks, and then paving the way to bring their social circle over to Apple computers too. Then there’s John the I.T. know-it-all who says Linux is far superior to all, yet nobody knows what he’s on about.

So to all intents and purposes, there are three competitors right now on the operating system market: Microsoft, Apple and Linux. Apple tell us that Microsoft is horrible, complicated, full of viruses, and that the solution is to spend twice the money on a Mac which can do everything, a promise which in my opinion is generally fulfilled. Microsoft tell us that a PC can do a lot more than anything on the market at the moment, it’s a lot cheaper, and generally reliable. Linux’ selling point is that it’s free, secure, highly customisable and has a good user experience. I would say that all of the above statements are true, and therefore the decision for what to use can really only be based on what you want.

For me, I want functionality, and as much as I am enthusiastic for computers, I want my functionality before I’ve learnt to program Linux. I also don’t want to have to sell my limbs to afford the thing. I don’t actually mind putting in the leg work to get my computer set up, so I can have the optimal computer experience and so Windows wins every time. Yes it’s owned by capitalists who sometimes resort to underhand tactics to get my money, but its cheap, and it works.

My purpose in writing this, has been to speak some words in favour of Microsoft and their software products. Because I think they are largely criticised and underrated on the grounds of negative user experiences that come from people not fully understanding their computers. Apple hand-pick the components for their systems, and write their software expressly for those systems. Microsoft develops a platform that will work, generally, with whatever tatty components people decide to build into a computer, and best of all, they do it for about half the price. That is the reason why computers need drivers, software patches, bits chopping and changing every now and then. Without a doubt, Linux is a brilliant package, one that I am still learning more about, but it’s good to have back my old friend: Windows XP.

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The Politics of Modern Computer Software