Paul McCartney on PBS without a pledge drive!

I just finished watching Paul McCartney's latest episode of Great Performances on PBS (Chaos and Creation in Abbey Road). Is it my imagination, or does he do a new show for them every two weeks or so? And yet, I still tune in. Every time. Maybe it's my demographic. I watched him play that Hofner bass on a black and white TV in my pajamas when I was six, and never stopped. And you know, McCartney's like pizza. When he's good, he's really good, and when he's bad, he's still pretty good.

My biggest annoyance this time was that he dropped the Lennon-written half of "I've got a feeling", one of the last of the Lennon/McCartney songs that was actually written by both of them. Plus, every time you see Macca with a Mellotron, you know he's going to play the first few bars of "Strawberry Fields forever", and then stop.

However, I thought it was fantastic that he brought Bill Black's old upright bass onstage and played "Heartbreak hotel" on it.

Required geek check for this post: I watched the show in one window of my tiled workspace on the Ion window manager, using AvView on my ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon 7500. While catching up on BlogLines in another window.

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Google Pages: Works for me

You may have heard by now about Google Pages, the new free website offering from the same folks who give me this blogspace. The early reviews (Jeff Jarvis', for example) are dismissive, saying that this is just Geocities redux. Nik Cubrilovic, the guest blogger on TechCrunch, gives a good overview, but breezes by the most important point for me in his writeup.

Google Pages does let you upload any file though, and gives you 100MB of space, which some may find more useful for sharing files or distributing SNL video's.

(By the way, Nik, you don't need an apostrophe there. Videos is quite adequate as a plural.)

As they did with Gmail, Google raised the bar on disk space. Geocities gave me 10 meg when I signed up, what, ten years ago? Before the Yahoo buyout, anyway. If you sign up for Geocities today, guess how much you get? 15 meg. Google's giving me 100 meg. Guess who I use?

I know there's plenty of other online diskspace concerns, but I needed something really simple. I'm releasing a lot of files for the GP2X now, and Google Pages makes creating a download repository dead simple. In about five minutes, I had it done. It was probably the first online page editor in which I didn't immediately jump into raw HTML mode. (I'm in raw HTML mode in Blogger right now.)

Here's the result. Just what I wanted.

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DosBox for the GP2X

Most work in the open-source world is done by developers scratching their own itches. This is another example of that.

As my prior blog posts attest, my current favorite toy is the GP2X handheld. One of the things I want to do with it is to play an old DOS game that I loved seventeen years ago (yikes!), BlockOut. This was a fantastic 3-D variant on the Tetris theme.

I looked into various options: porting one of its clones, running it under the already-ported Bochs emulator, rewriting from scratch... I finally had some success by porting DosBox to the GP2X platform. It's similar to Bochs in that it is a software emulation of the Intel CPU, but it also directly provides the DOS infrastructure, and is designed primarily for DOS games.

Well, it works well enough for me to play BlockOut, so I'm making what I've done so far available for download here. It's definitely for people who like to fiddle, since you really have to rewrite obscure text configuration files for every game you want to play, and you have to creatively map the GP2X buttons to enough keys to make the game playable.

If you've got an old DOS game working on the GP2X using this, please let me know!

PS: The source for the GP2X kernel is still missing in action, although a new version of the binary has been released today. My self-imposed grace period may be expiring soon. UPDATE: It looks like there was a source release today to coincide with the updated kernel. I'm checking it out of the Subversion repository right now to see what we've got.

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Joining the brrreeeporterati

This post really doesn't mean much of anything, except for its multiple references to the word brrreeeport. It's an experiment on blog tagging and indexing, initiated by Robert Scoble in this post. I figured I'd play along.



Zmodem for GP2X

I've deliberately been keeping quiet about the still-unresolved situation with the GP2X handheld's failure to release their modified source code for the Linux kernel. Call it a grace period.

In the meantime, I've been experimenting with coding for the machine. It's an interesting experience, using cross-compilers to generate programs and communicating with the GP2X over a serial interface. Well, actually, I'm tunneling a serial interface through the USB port, as described here at mindstab.net. The problem with this is that you can't have the USB mass storage interface, where you mount the GP2X as if it were a removable drive, running at the same time as the USB gadget interface that lets you log into the system. So, when developing, I either waste a great deal of time switching USB interfaces, or alternately waste a great deal of time sneakernetting my SD card from the GP2X to my desktop card reader.

The solution? Well, the real solution would be to recompile the kernel to get TCP/IP and PPP working over the serial connection, but I don't have the kernel source. (Oops, grace period, remember?) So, it's time to fall back to the days of the BBS and use good old Zmodem to transfer files while connected via my terminal emulator. To that end, I've ported lrzsz, a GPL fork of Zmodem, to the GP2X. Works very nicely for me.

If you're a GP2X developer in a similar situation, you can download the binary here. The tarball also includes a README on building from source yourself, and a tiny patch to make ./configure work.

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A really good day

This past week has been Tech Week for the production of Oliver! in which I was performing, which left no time at all for the blog. The photograph is of me as Fagin, surrounded by my little thieves and pickpockets. I love doing shows with young actors, and I think you can see my enjoyment here.

Yesterday was one of those days where all the news was good. It was the closing performance of Oliver!, which turned out to be the best show of the run. In addition, my team won the Super Bowl (I've been a Steelers fan since before their first Super Bowl win in 1975), and Seton Hall, my alma mater, beat Rutgers in basketball. To top it all off, I finally got gdb to cross-compile for the GP2X.

I am now dreading the inevitable bad day that I expect will soon arrive to bring balance to the Force.