Nook SimpleTouch eInk Tablet v2

I recently got the nook 1.2.1 firmware and it locks down the device (again). I knew I was likely to lose all my tablet-y stuff but frankly it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to and at the battery life I might as well have a new tablet. I blame the gapps, which never close and sync in the background nonstop. To add insult to injury, nook apps tend to assume you have colors. No colors makes for a very confusing experience. Also the eInk display tended to be hacky with special secret handshakes to activate fast mode, etc. Turns out someone else got really fed up with it also and decided to write a launcher and android ROM which was based on the official 1.2.1 and also knew someone might actually want to use the nook as a nook! WOW! So the smart guys over at XDA put together NookManager which does all this good stuff and still keeps the B&N official applications so you can read their books for free in the store. It even does the right things with the buttons which is really sweet.

That being said, Amazon seems to know something is up because the kindle app isn’t available in this ROM (although I suspect it’s because it upgrades the android core OS on the device) nor through the store. You have to sideload it from here, which is as simple as using dropbox to grap the APK and then opening it on the device. It does have the google RSS feed cacher, which I have desperately wanted and would crash immediately on the old ROM. The browser is still nothing special and will “forget” to update the page if you throw too much JS at it.

The only real rub is that I have to reseat my SD card for the nook to see it if the Nook completely runs out of battery. A small annoyance since I have 30 microUSB plugs next to my bed but still requires fingernails.

The Case of the Mysterious Missing MAC Address

Coriander is dead. Turmeric is alive. What does this mean? All the content on went away except for the PDFs and various other ebook formats which I was smart enough to grab off the RAID before it entirely keeled over. The uptime for coriander was ultimately 20 minutes tops before it keeled over. Not bad for a computer I built in 2003 and then rebuilt when Drexel had the Heat Wave of Death which caused me to request an extension on the finals. The box was two RAIDed 80GB IDE drives, running OpenSuSE I had installed as a desktop and later simply retired to serving up content to my Nook and XBOX.

Turmeric, however, is a first gen nVidia motherboard. And if this is people’s experience with nVidia, I am entirely, absolutely done with them as a motherboard maker. My network is pretty standard for home use. I have an honest to god Cisco router, a Cisco WAP, a comcast bullshit cable modem which is probably going to have a terrible accident so I can get one that works, and all the devices meander through those. The XBOX is UPnP permissions, nothing else does. Turmeric/Coriander had a MAC address reservation so they would come up, get the right IP, and then the cisco firewalls would pass traffic to them as needed. It worked swimmingly well until Turmeric refused to get the IP I had reserved for it. It would always get a different IP than reserved, but it would get the IP consistently. I racked my brain on this problem for a few hours and finally broke out ettercap to see WTF it was doing.

Turns out the first gen nVidia motherboards do something really stupid with DHCP. Actually lets rewind for a minute – they generally do really stupid stuff. This motherboard has hardware RAID also, but it only works for the SATA drives. IDE? Shit out of luck. To further add insult to injury, the bootp stuff for jumpstarting a box? Doesn’t work. Never figured that one out. Finally there’s only two default devices you get set in the BIOS. For the moment it’s CDROM and then the first drive in the RAID, but to actually do the install I had to change CDROM to USB after burning out an image to it. What the heck guys?

Now, I’ll save you the boring TCP spec – When the nVidia board comes up it actually sends a DHCP packet on its own which is nice. The problem here is the HLEN of the packet is… 0. Yup. Someone didn’t know what to put in the field, so they send 0. This causes the router (thank god) to respond to FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF, which while it’s not correct, works because it’s a broadcast packet. The adaptor (seems) to configure itself, then Linux does something goofy where it sees the adapter is configured, so it sends out a release/renew, which the router, apparently knowing the MAC address but having an entry for a bogus MAC, sends out a different IP (next in pool) for the correct MAC address.

The BIOS, of course, doesn’t have a way to disable this “convenience feature” and to add insult to injury, dmesg doesn’t work in Linux because the BIOS is doing something funky by itself. For right now I’m just ignoring it. But seriously nVidia, fix your shit.

Drones Over Berks

This story is amusing me greatly: Activists Drone Shot out of Sky for Fourth Time Their argument is that “canned hunts” are somehow unethical and unlawful. I think the obvious counter argument is that there’s nothing wrong with canned hunts anymore than a farmer walking up to a canned cow and shooting it in the head with his captive bolt gun. It’s just how farms work. If farmers actually gave the animals the same chance as the birds, they’d cut the cow loose in a field and have to chase it down. The birds are actually doing better than the livestock. Why don’t the cops seem to care? The reason is because the SHARK idiots are in violation of the PA state law. Chapter 34 Statute 2302 concerns Interfering With the Lawful Taking of Wildlife. The answer is – “You’re doing it”. One drone landed on the property, almost all the other drones enter the airspace of the club. If the club is wingshooting, there’s no difference between this and driving an ATV into a deer herd. More on the point the drone obviously comes down near the operators, but if there actually is someone in the woods, then the drone is out of control by their own admission and nearly hitting people. If it was a car, it would be reckless endangerment. Here’s the video they posted:

What’s conspicuously missing? The cloud of shot and the wadding. I would expect to see one (or both) on the videos. It’s more damning to them than the gun club to post this, so I took the liberty of mirroring it locally so I can repost it if the link goes down.

But the real comedy gold comes at the 2:42 minute mark (video quality is poor because they only uploaded at 480p)…

Does that look like a wire that’s been shot? Nope, you can clearly see the copper stranding, which is much thinner than the insulation, which means it wasn’t covered in insulation to begin with if the stranding is all exposed in different directions. My guess is they bought the drone at a yard sale for losers and just twisted the wires together (hence the stripped insulation) and when it fell out of the sky they decided it had to have been shot down. Then they spend three minutes yelling at nothing in the woods, and post it to youtube. Hur dur.


US Space Program: By Redbull

If you’re not watching the space jump live, you should be. It’ll take three hours to get to 120k feet, but once he’s there it’s going to be amazing to watch him fall back down to the ground. I’m hoping they’re filiming it in IMAX so we can watch it on the big screen. I also hope Felix brought extra batteries for his gameboy.

The elephant in the room is that Obama grounded all the manned space flights by cutting funding to the Constellation program. This was met with the whole “US Space Program: Brought to You by RedBull” meme which is fairly tragic. On the one hand I think it speaks volumes for the success of private programs over publicly funded programs. I even think it might pave the way for payloads being delivered to space on balloon. If they can make it to 10% the height of the ISS, why not knock 10% off the fuel tab by sending rockets up on balloons until they lose their ability to lift? If we get really crazy with the cheez wiz we could do it with hot air and not lose the balloon or fuel. Although burning liquid oxygen isn’t exactly a waste.

But there’s a point here – this is old NASA stuff, this is awesome H G Wells science fiction stuff. As a public program the entire thing stagnated. How much of the Felix and RedBull craft looks like old NASA stuff? Zero. It speaks volumes I think towards the stagnation of NASA. I don’t particularly think the funding should have been cut – NASA did bring us vapor layment processor construction and other really cool technologies. On the other hand I do think it needed a serious injection of brainpower, and if the private sector is doing the injection, then so be it. But that also means the government can go a the way it does now with aircraft and defense – it purchases resources from private companies to perform tax funded work.

A slightly more troubling question at this point is “What work does NASA do?” NASA had asked Obama to fund another mission to the moon (frankly I’m surprised they didn’t get it with how Obama treats money) and Obama said no and cut the funding for manned space flight. If NASA isn’t going to the moon, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper for companies to contract out to private firms and have them ferry their experiments and similar crap to space. Also unfortunately, now that we know what space is like because we’ve documented it so thoroughly, we can make things in the comfort of our own atmosphere without having to go to space. The whole vapor deposit technology can be done on the planet now that we’ve dumped the cash into building the stuff. High levels of radiation? Just hang out at a nuclear plant. Weightlessness to study perfect fields? We do it with magnets now.

Is there anything left for NASA to actually do in space?


We’ve entered a new age of trading: Perception based high frequency trading.

It used to be some trader somewhere would try to get their hands on a new press release, or make a guess using out-of-band information about what a company or person was going to do. Based on that, they could figure out if a company was going to make money or have a killer product or continue to sort of plod along. These realities are still important and drive the majority of insider trading law, but whats a market to do when there’s a vacuum of information and innovation because the economy still sucks?

We trade on perception.

However it gets even more interesting than that. When the trade happens on perception, and not on actual fact, it generates much less movement than a stock going public or some company announcing a new contract. What we used to have were bots looking for stock trends and then buying a few hundred thousand shares to generate money on the resale. While this requires high speed access to the markets to both see the trend and execute the buy and sell, this is relatively simple. The stock would rise, the machines would buy, they would immediately sell, and make a few cents on the shares as the stock continued to rise.

Someone, somewhere realized the risk was proportional to how long the stock was held and by the volume of stock purchased. How do we get around that idea?

The machines got faster and the market started doing something new. The machines would buy less stock, sell it faster, and then wash, rinse, repeat. Big companies can do it because they pay for a subscription to the market rather than per trade. Suddenly, the trading volume skyrocketed at open, lunch, and closing. Why? Because thats when humans tend to trade. They go to home, they watch the evening news, they make up orders for the next day. Before going to lunch they move some stocks around figuring less people are watching, and before they go home they buy (or sell) based on lunchtime discussions and news. It’s all hunky dory until we realize it’s one big circle-jerk. Buying any volume of stock and then immediately selling it results in profit now because of all the bots hanging around trying to get a piece of the action. Suddenly, instead of buying things based on actual worth, they’re buying things based on perception when they perceive the stock might rise.

This is a recipe for disaster. Not only are we buying things which have no worth (and actually aren’t strictly property), but we’re not buying because they might have worth (a part of a company) but we’re buying because we see others doing the same thing. More on the point when no-ones watching what actually is going on, the opposite can be true also. A stock might have “bottomed out” but then when people start purchasing them, the robots get in on it. If the people then immediately sell, it’s very very likely a massive order could simply tank the automated process if one person is holding all the options. It’s generally non-optimal.

It’s also the plot of the latest Batman film! Go see it!