Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How to Run Remote Desktop Connection Client (RDP / rdesktop) on Windows XP Home

If like me you've scoured the net because the Remote Desktop Connection client program can't be found on your start bar under All Programs -> Accessories -> Communications because you have XP HOME edition, you'll be pleased to hear you can ignore all the nonsense that it is only available on XP PRO and above, and even that you'll need to hack Windows to have your machine pretend it's XP PRO.

Simply go into the folder C:\WINDOWS\system32\ and create a shortcut on your desktop to the file mstsc.exe that can be found inside.

This is in fact the Remote Desktop Client application, double click your new shortcut to start!

Friday, October 31, 2008

No progress

An October 31st release isn't happening for Vampire Castle - predominately a new job, birthdays and less free time in the day due to train travel means this project has had no new work on in the last two weeks.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Random Developments

A couple of things to mention that don't really warrant their own posts.

Today I got bored of Vampire Castle and took a short break to do some poor box art for the game. The game itself is coming along nicely, as per last post, in addition the game trail is now working and the reels spinning randomly - I'll later amend it so that it runs on a weighted probability e.g. "70% payout".

I also learnt about the "heart beat" function in Windows Vista that may be unnecessarily keeping your hard drive active when it could be idle and turning off/saving notebook battery. Have a look at this Microsoft forum for more info. I've set the value to zero as per the instructions to disable the registry setting and according to Task Manger -> Performance -> Resource Monitor -> Disk Vista is no longer writing a "lastalive" file every few seconds to the hard drive. Whether this will help battery life on a Vista notebook I don't know, but there's been no adverse affects so far.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Vampire Castle Video Update

I've made significant progress on my first Nintendo DS game "The Fruit Machine - Vampire Castle" but I'm disappointed that an audio recording I had of a genuine chav/wine-o hassling me whilst I recorded sound effects for the game has been accidentally deleted and the player I had the recording on has since broke (don't trust Aldi/Tevion - 3 of these players broke for me with software freezes). Useless Fascin8 support who are the warranty providers for ALDI for this product told me because it was out of warranty now I couldn't have another. This is highly disputable by UK law (a good has to be free of defects, fit for purpose and I need to have "enjoy quiet possession of the goods" - which clearly three returns shows I have not). So rather than return the player again for another breakable one I'll simply warn others and not buy more ALDI high tech goods.

Anyway rant over - enjoy the video

Monday, October 06, 2008

Aerofoil 1.4.5 "Bug" and (simple) "Solution"

A few users have been commenting that they have been starting Aerofoil and the settings they have selected in the installer have not been picked up.

This appears to be a "user error".

On install, the installer puts your chosen configuration settings in the program group and startup folder shortcuts for Aerofoil..

Unfortunately the majority of affected users (3 I know of to date) have been starting the Aerofoil.exe in C:\Program Files\Aerofoil instead of with these shortcuts, which of course does not have the chosen settings and starts with everything enabled.

For users who want to run the application manually, please use the shortcut in the "All Programs -> Aerofoil" program group. If you no longer have Aerofoil shortcut icons simply running the installer again will create them (and allow you to reconfigure Aerofoil).

If you are using the shortcuts and still have problems please drop a comment below and an obfuscated email address I can get in contact with you on. Please also verify you are using Aerofoil 1.4.5 by viewing the about box before contacting me (remember if you are updating Aerofoil that you need to exit it before running the new installer).



Sunday, October 05, 2008

Vampire Castle Update

I've spent the entire weekend designing and writing the model behind the "The Fruit Machine", the first instalment is "Vampire Castle". I haven't yet decided whether there will be other machines, however the code is entirely a -well designed- *1* tier event driven "Fruit Machine" model. Simply put, the design mirrors an "abstract" fruit machine, with abstract boards, abstract components, etc etc, and so has a clear defined structure, allowing for multiple differing implementations, i.e. fruit machines to "sit on top". The domain logic (the features) are tightly integrated into the implementation because I need to keep memory overhead low and the logic is highly specific to the implementation, i.e. the Vampire Castle machine.

Although my time is mostly limited to weekends I would estimate a release within the next month.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Aerofoil 1.4.5 and LocateMe 1.0.1 Beta

Aerofoil 1.4.5

- Fixes a small issue with hibernate closing explorer on resume

Download Aerofoil 1.4.5 installer
Download Aerofoil 1.4.5 source

LocateMe 1.0.1 Beta (source only release)

- Basic integrated GPS support (no need for a bluetooth GPS - Satellite View not yet working)
- Refactor of view handling

Download LocateMe 1.0.1 Beta source

Many thanks to Stefan Lembach for providing N95 testing, and Calum for providing an integrated GPS reader class

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Free Iron Man MP3 Download

Okay so I haven't finished Vampire Castle or done work on Gesture Magic, with good reason however - I've been job hunting.

Console yourself with a free mp3 download of a song from the official Iron Man movie album curtesy of

Just watch the trailer and the mp3 download starts at the end.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Where can I get a Wii Fit?

Skip to the bottom for your answer - but come back for a read :)

This was a question I asked Google a few days ago, but only found notification sites telling me when HMV, GAME, Amazon etc. etc. had stock. This is obviously no good if you want them tomorrow, or are not fast enough to "preorder" online - and cynically, I think stock will probably be gone by the time most people get through the process (or they could just delay your order until the next lot of stock comes in).

I have a suspicion Nintendo are deliberately not ending the shortage - have you seen how many "Rock Band", "Guitar Hero 3" etc etc there are? No hardware shortages there, yet Wii Fit is always out of stock and has been for half a year. What happens near Christmas? We'll see headlines like:

"Parents given the run around for Wii Fit"

"Nintendo promises to fix Wii Fit shortage before Christmas"

"Wii Fit Number 1 in Nintendo charts" (only because it sells out)

"Wii Fit sold out"

Can you see what is happening here? Wii WII WII all the way ho... to the bank.

Well if you want one NOW (and you live in the north of England) I recommend you get one from SCAN for £116.31 Inc VAT (go down and pick one up - as otherwise postage will be a fortune - it's heavy). Note Aria also sell Wii Fit but are even more expensive (I wouldn't recommend them based on returns and supposedly "next day delivery" experience).

Yes it's really extortion, but unless you are prepared to accept the risk, think of it as insurance, or if you want it for Christmas, but can use it now, think of the price difference ~£45 as gym lessons up to Christmas.

If I find any more "off the beaten track" places for Wii Fit I'll do another post, good hunting, especially if you're still trying to find that elusive and rare <£70 Wii Fit.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Aerofoil 47th in Hot 100 Windows Vista Magazine Utilities

This page is just for archive purposes - Aerofoil is now at version 1.5.0 please click this link to get it.

Aerofoil has been rated at 47th out of 100 best software for Windows Vista!
(That's just one behind BBC IPlayer, and ahead of iTunes at 50)

Aerofoil extends your Vista and Windows 7 notebook battery life by

- Allowing you to manually disable Aero Glass.
- Optionally managing Aero Glass user interface.
- Optionally managing the best two power plans.
- Optionally managing Windows Vista Sidebar.
- Optionally showing a quick hibernate button - hibernate and power management were greatly improved in Vista.

Benefits over earlier versions and similar software:

- Much more efficient - Aerofoil is 100% unmanaged C++.
- Much smaller than older versions and other similar software.
- UPX compressed meaning Aerofoil.exe is as small as it can be.
- No configuration file - everything is done with the installer.

Windows 7

Aerofoil has been tested in a Windows 7 virtual environment and no obvious bugs were found. "Windows Gadgets" - "Windows Sidebar" on Vista - seems to be managed correctly - at least started when on AC, as I can't simulate battery power I can't tell if its shut down when on battery. Please also note that if your Windows 7 graphics card driver doesn't support power management then the Aerofoil "Hibernate" menu shortcut won't work.
For most people Aerofoil should work just as well as in Vista, having said that... if you notice any problems with Windows 7 and Aerofoil please report them here since I don't have real hardware to do the testing on!


Download Aerofoil 1.4.5 Installer (read the note below!)

If you receive the message "Side-by-side configuration is incorrect" you may also need a Vista update - the Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable

If you find your settings are not being saved please read this post (they are saved, this is not a bug)

Download Aerofoil 1.4.5 Source Code (C++)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Software Update: Gesture Magic 1.1, Aerofoil 1.4.4, LocateMe 1.0.1

I know from comments on this blog a lot of readers are watching for a new release of Gesture Magic, this is still at the front of my mind and is part of this schedule

Since I've been quite busy recently and job hunting I haven't had as much time to spare for work on the schedule as I would have liked. There have been a few updates, a few given feedback from readers of the blog:

Aerofoil 1.4.4 and a native version will be published sometime within the next week, this is small improvement to hibernate without a new process call, and a native version to improve memory usage (i.e. make it smaller when running, not the executable file size).

LocateMe 1.0.1 had a small amount of source code changes by me to make it a little bit more structured, and should support Java phones with a built in GPS (unfortunately the chap who emailed me the changes never kept in contact to say if they worked). Nonetheless I'll update this and post it as an unsupported alpha version when I get time or if you drop me an email at: uk co silentsoftware at ben (reverse add punctuation)

Vampire Castle has had all of it's main game graphics finished (but no menu system yet) I'm still hoping to get this completed within the next couple of weeks, and still roughly on schedule.

Gesture Magic is currently under investigation for an issue slowing graphics drawing down on some single core machines - a threading issue down to the fact it was built on a prototype/proof of concept version.

Monday, August 11, 2008

LocateMe update for Nokia N95 and phone integrated GPS

Calum at has provided a patch for phone integrated GPS units with a modified version of LocateMe 1.0 which he uses with his Nokia N95. The modification was limited to just showing the location (and setting a target) but I've updated the patch further so it can also send and receive location "target" texts (viewing satellites unfortunately isn't possible yet) but as I don't have a phone with an integrated GPS I don't know if the code works (yep I'm a cheapskate). I'm just waiting for Calum to do a small spot of testing for me (I hoping he'll oblige) and then I'll release the changes, otherwise I'll do it in a couple of weeks.

If anybody else wants to test this for me please drop me a comment - thanks.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Vampire Castle Screenshot (Nintendo DS)

I'm overdue for a blog post due to job searching, DIY and spending time on graphics for my Nintendo DS game, The Fruit Machine - Vampire Castle. The graphics (vampire and all) were drawn by hand on paper, scanned and GIMPed, reels were shaded and rendered using my own utility program (apologies for the quality of screenshot - the jpegs were compressed with MS Snipping Tool). As you might expect, I'm not a graphics designer so this has been the longest part (particularly lighting up the sprites, i.e. on and off states). The bottom screen is complete (yes the trail is meant to look a little amateurish, a "cartoony" look against the realism of the buttons and reels), I'm still working on the top. As for sound, well I spent a good £5 sampling random fruit machines at a local arcade, so my own hard earned money went into this, all in the name of research of course.

The code is only ~10% complete just enough to load sprites and play some rudimentary button, reel and collect sounds, this allows me to test the graphics and noises. Basically it's a sound board. The good news is I don't think the program and logic will take long to code and I have a basic idea of the code design structure.
In case you were wondering - the box with text in on the lower screen is a scrolling LCD style display - not a code crash :)

There's also going to be a (nice) surprise for anyone who wins the jackpot prize.

As for the source code, well I haven't yet decided whether to make it open source, but it will probably be GPL 2.

Monday, July 21, 2008

HP notebook returned, dev is back on!

I received my HP notebook back last week, and short of finishing replastering and repainting my bathroom the next few weekends I can spend time again developing software on this schedule.

Unfortunately my notebook is a DV9000 series (DV9233eu to be precise) which has a known design fault that kills the wifi and then the GPU part of the northbridge on the mainboard. The winning combo known to be the cause of the problem is a Geforce GPU and an AMD processor, which probably covers some 30-40% of the notebooks HP have made in the last 3 years

HP replaced the mainboard with (I believe) one of the same revision.

At least it was free - HP agreed to extend my one year warranty by another year for this fault free of charge, and I'm in the UK (no visible recall/extended warranty programme here unlike the US).

HP were very fast (4 working days turnaround) and dealt with the entire thing via email. It's just a shame that the dozy courier gave my laptop to a complete stranger at my work to sign for (hundreds of employees). Luckily it still found its way to me because of a note with my name on I left on the notebook (see below)

The way I see it, if the HP breaks again with the same fault, I'll buy a Dell, otherwise HP will get my money. I think that's fair.

Oh and one more thing - if you send HP your notebook without the hard disk tell the HP contact before you send it and leave a paper note on the machine to the effect that you have confidential client data on it and had to remove it. The HP contact told me that the engineers sometimes refuse to fix them without a hard disk so she had to add a case note on the system and recommended I add the paper note! The engineers also did not do any QA on the return checklist citing "N/A no hard disk" - do they not even have a boot CD?!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Aerofoil 1.4.3 - Small Update

The version of Aerofoil I have has been updated a few weeks ago, but since my laptop broke I didn't get to test it much. I've decided to release it this evening anyway, since it seems stable enough. There are no new features just small improvements in the way it works and particularly the size - it is now just 23K! (albeit the .Net framework still makes the running process much larger I still think this is the smallest utility of its kind!)

  • Smaller file size (23K)

  • Removal of duplicate embedded Aerofoil logo

  • Optimization of the Aerofoil logo

  • Fewer lines of code, few extra code comments

  • Removal of "dangling pointers" (not a problem really as this is mostly managed code - just good practice)

  • Removed a couple of obvious "intermediate" objects (but doesn't affect code readability)

  • Updated to use C# generics (tut I should have done this in the first place)

Download Aerofoil 1.4.3

Source Code for Aerofoil 1.4.3

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Delays for Gesture Magic 1.1/Vampire Castle 1.0

Rather annoyingly my main development laptop died on Friday, and I've got a heavy cold so no work is getting done. The laptop is going into HP for repair and I'll document the procedure and how I got an extension to my 1 year warranty when I get the machine back (I don't want to curse it!)

In the meantime I'm setting up my old XP machine to do development work, this is a long haul measure since I'm anticipating HP may take some time to get back to me.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Free and legal commercial games

A lot of people aren't aware that there are some games that can still be found on sale that are have been given away free by their respective owners. I'm not talking about grey abandonware*, but genuinely free games. Here's a list of those that are reasonably popular and where to get them.

Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto 2
Wild Metal
MechCommander Gold (Expansion pack)
MechCommander 2
Command & Conquer
Railroad Tycoon

Another bigger list (doesn't have some of the above) is also available on wikipedia

* Note Mechcommander/Gold is a tiny possible grey area - Microsoft gave away Mechcommander 2 officially, but I can't find mention of the older editions, however all MechCommanders are hosted at, and I'm sure MS would have busted them by now had it not been official!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Upcoming exclusive free software schedule

Below I present an estimated schedule of upcoming software available here (free):

ProductFeaturesEstimated completion date
Vampire Castle 1.0 (Nintendo DS)First release of this gameLate August/early to mid September
Gesture Magic 1.1 (Windows)New built in gesture actions (e.g close window), better accessor keys, amongst other small improvements (this is a minor improvement release)September
A new Nintendo DS project (I can't reveal more until this goes into production - sorry, however this project has already been planned ahead)Includes wifi, mapping, video, some smooth jazz and advertising (NOT INTRUSIVE - trust me, this is a feature you'll enjoy :) )December/January (I'm looking for a Christmas Day release)
Aerofoil Extra 1.0 (Windows) Aerofoil versions 1.4.1/.2 have proven so popular I'm creating a "pro" version. Aerofoil 1.4, due to its designed simplicity and small size will become "Aerofoil Lite". At least this is the intention. Lets see how it goes...Subject to change - power managed hardware disabling, customisable process shutdowns on low power, XP compatibility, benchmarking and time estimates, task priority adjustments based on power mode, possibly written in C++ (not C# as per original).February/March 2009

P.S. Google Analytics tells me Silent Development has now hit a new peak of 170 hits in a day - so whoever the "silent" hoards are - thanks for making this blog so popular, I'll try and keep the content original and fresh! :)

The reason I don't book with Thomas Cook Signature -

I was just about to book my 3 day Christmas in New York when I found Thomas Cook's Signature website added nearly £1000 onto my final payment for no reason!

Seriously, I really wish I was this rich (and/or bad at maths) to afford thousands for a 3 day break in NYC - kudos to Thomas Cook for taking advantage of millionaires who have poor accountants.

You too can book your exclusive signature holiday here.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Gesture Magic's Criticism

Whilst software I give away on this site usually has praise (Aerofoil being a good example, LocateMe for its educational value, Optimizer for having been a best seller when it was sold) I've recently come across (my first piece!) some criticism of Gesture Magic. Bear in mind Gesture Magic was stated on here (due to time constraints) to be released with a limited feature set because it was better than sitting on my machine not getting used or not getting improved by third party developers, so I did expect some criticism.

What irks me is that the criticism was not constructive, it was left on a third party site and no feedback left for me here.

Even if the user cannot program, lack of simple etiquette to provide some useful feedback of the software on this site shows the lack of understanding of the open source process and how developers rely on feedback to improve the product. This is the cost of the product. You pay Microsoft with money, for open source for whom people who give their own time writing software for others, it's good practice to provide help or feedback. It's all about community, sharing and importantly goodwill.

To summarise my feedback on this issue, based on the intentional simplistic design of Gesture Magic, once I've finished the Nintendo DS game I'm working on, I intend to
- Improve accessor/modifier keys on Gesture Magic (find some other way to start the gesture drawing)
- Improve application starting (add start in directory option)
- Provide integrated default functions, such as minimise/maximise window, close Window, and search.
- Better help support
- Fix or improve some of the issues raised by users.

At least the user said Gesture Magic makes your desktop look like a video game, which was an intention all along :)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Aerofoil receives more high praise, Vampire Castle on the way

Two news items today - have done a full page review of my tiny Aerofoil application - more praise! Thanks guys!

I'm also working on my first free Nintendo DS game, the first part in the series goes by the name "Vampire Castle". It's not moving as fast as I'd like because it's the second time I have ever used C++ since leaving university in 2000(!), and the graphics and sound are very time consuming for one person whose main tools are a pencil, scanner and GIMP!

I'm keeping this one under tight wraps for now, but it is progressing (first builds should be out in a couple of months - a realistic timescale) and hopefully it will be an award winner too.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Optimizer 1.0.6 ( for Zaurus ) - now free to download

The (once 3rd best selling) retail Sharp Zaurus software, Optimizer, is now available for free.

From its retail description: Optimizer is a utility to help monitor and maintain an optimal amount of free storage memory space on your Zaurus by tracking changes to your PDA's file system over time.

Before you go off to download it, let me give you some background.

Back in the day when I was first learning Personal Java (the precursor to J2ME, JavaME - Java Mobile Edition) I wrote a small program for a flagship Java device, the Linux based Sharp Zaurus SL5000D/SL5500, that could keep track of changes to files and directories, since Linux was a still a new and scary operating system, and I didn't always know what files were altered when I installed something new.

As you may have guessed, Optimizer was the name of the program. No nifty file MD5sum or datestamp checking to compare file changes, nope, this purely uses the existence of file paths, so it doesn't check for file modifications.

As it was written in Java I adapted the program to be compatible with Jeode (evm) on PocketPC (it was given away free with Axims at the time) and even on a desktop PC (although it's a bit slow on large filesystems). In time, I made it compatible with Sun's Personal Profile J2ME (cvm) making it compatible with other Zaurus' and had it use a layout manager to adapt to any screen size. Truly forward thinking ;)

Now that it is no longer available retail I offer it for free, without any support.

I'm not proud of the source code, it certainly isn't poor, but it's not that great either, so I won't be releasing it (you could decompile it, but really, it's not worth the effort just to embarrass me with some code I wrote 5 years ago)!

Download the last retail version of Optimizer 1.0.6

Shafted by Sega (Iron Man for PC)

I, like many who bought the PC version of Iron Man were led to believe by Sega it would look and play like the XBox 360/Playstation 3 based on pre release screenshots (and why the hell not, afterall, a PC can be an equal, if not superior, piece of kit). Many game sites even attribute screenshots meant for the XBox360/PS3 to the PC version, something Sega never corrected until bait and switch complaints rolled in. Instead the PC owners got given a poor Playstation 2 port.

Just to see how bad it is here are the screenshots (PC top, PS3 bottom), click them for a larger version. (Screenshots copyright IGN/Sega).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Maplin Landisk Performance Fix Workaround

A few months ago I complained about the Samba performance and bugs in Maplin's Landisk (and other brands using the RDC2882 chipset) and how to fix the problems.
One problem, point 4 remained unresolved. Compared to about 20-30 MBytes/sec over direct USB, over a wifi network the Samba throughput I got in Vista was around 30-50 KBytes/sec and about 2-3 MBytes/sec over FTP. Whilst the FTP isn't great, it's certainly better.

The solution is to map a network drive to the FTP server on the landisk, however using Windows own network mapping tool you cannot execute/run a file in place over the network (e.g. double click the file), or add files to a play list like in Winamp. Instead you should install and use the free FTPDrive to do the mapping which can provide these features. There is still a downside, directory listing is slow compared to Samba, but it seems to be a reasonable tradeoff.

In all likelihood with the RDC2882 chipset being end of line, and the performance problem not already fixed in firmware, this is probably as good as you'll get :(

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gesture Magic Source Code Release

Sorry for the delay... I started writing a Nintendo DS game and forgot I was releasing the Gesture Magic C# source!

Gesture Magic 1.0 Source

Gesture Magic 1.0 Installer

And the obligatory "what the hell is it?" video (NOTE BETA VERSION VIDEO):

Friday, April 11, 2008

Pragmatic Software Development for Outsourcers

So your work has been outsourced and you no longer have a job? The new developers spout Bullshit Bingo like they actually know how what they're talking about and "network" with management?
Well don't worry, a colleague of mine recently found a badly translated copy of their Pragmatic Software Development Tips!!!

  • DRY - Do Repeat Yourself
    Copy as much code as possible, CTRL-C and CTRL-V are your friend (don't use CTRL-X)

  • Never Use Source control
    Why have complex code control systems when comments will suffice?

  • Don't test your software, your users will
    As the users will test the software, testing can be cut from the development cycle to save time

  • Use Blackboards to coordinate workflow
    Then erase them, the only documentation necessary is the code, if you can't work that out you ain't smart enough.

  • Don't care about your craft
    There is more to life than programming.

  • Don't be a catalyst for change
    Ensure the code is as complex as possible and therefore cannot be changed (job security)

  • Program close to the computer not the problem domain
    Call variables x and y, don't use a meaningful name like "customer"

  • Iterate the schedule with the code
    As the code gets worse and worse from one iteration to the next this will require even more iterations (and profit)

  • Finish What you Start.
    Badly, so rework will be required.

  • Assume It, don't prove it
    We don't have time to prove it, not with all the complex code, just assume it works (it will be tested by the users when live anyway)

  • Never design for concurrency
    This is too complex and can be handled by the client once the project is over.

  • Use Exceptions
    To swallow the cause of the problem, without the call stack they will never figure out what you did wrong or even if it went wrong

  • Don't refactor
    The code is brittle and will almost certainly break, remember we don't have time for unit tests.

  • Don't gather requirements, bury them
    Hide business rules deep within the system where no-one will find them (or better in the view layer)

  • Some Things Are Better Done than Described
    Don’t fall into the specification spiral, code what you like, no-one will ever know.

  • Abstractions live longer than details
    Make sure you get the interface wrong it will be really difficult to change later

  • Don't think outside the box
    Think lunch box, it's time for lunch forget the code problems.

  • Don't use manual procedures.
    In fact, don't use procedures at all it will only slow you down

  • Coding ain't done till all the tests run
    Luckily we don't have any tests, that's the users' job.

  • English is just a programming language.
    But if you don't speak it you can leave it out right?

  • Estimate to avoid surprises.
    But they will be surprised by our estimates.

  • You can't write perfect software.
    So we don't try - this is our excuse for the 10^6 bugs in the system

  • Don't fix it, blame somebody else
    This always works, nobody will know you got it wrong.

  • Find bugs once
    And then leave them, somebody else can fix it.

  • Sign your work
    Leave lots of comments such as // Change 10-10-2007, but don't add anything meaningful so they can figure it out, why make it easy?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Gesture Magic 1.0 Released

Download Gesture Magic free here!

Minimum Requirements: 1GHz CPU, 8MB 3D Graphics card, Windows 2000
Recommended Requirements: 1.5GHz CPU, 64MB NVidia Geforce FX or ATI equivalent, Windows XP (Windows Vista compatible)

Updated: GPL source can be downloaded here

C# Source code will be made available this weekend

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gesture Magic to be released for free next week

Gesture Magic has been sitting on my PC for the last few months and hasn't changed much*, but by the end of next week you'll be able to get your mitts on it - for nothing - gratis - free!

Gesture Magic allows you to start programs or batch files by painting gestures on screen - directly on top of the desktop. Whilst this may not seem amazingly useful (especially when you could just use program shortcuts), it looks cool and with some configuration and some crafty batch file usage you could probably accomplish some complex tasks more quickly.

* Regrettably the code isn't great and is unfinished (i.e. prototypish so not a good example of C# code :( ), but so it doesn't rot I'll release it as GPL as bug fixed as I can make it. Feel free to build on it, but remember to provide the source.

Here's the youtube preview of an earlier version.

Friday, March 28, 2008

LocateMe - Free J2ME GPS Tracking Software

UPDATE: LocateMe 1.1 is now available which you can get here

--- Original Post follows ---

LocateMe - Free Open Source GPS Tracking software for MIDP 2.0 mobile phones.

This simple application requires a Bluetooth GPS and will show you the direction to a given GPS location (a "target") without maps, using a pulsing direction arrow. You can request the location of other LocateMe users by text message, send your own location, or just simply save a location for directions back to it later.

The features:

  • "Target" other LocateMe users' locations via a request text message

  • Send your location to other LocateMe users via text message (can use your contacts list)

  • Record your last location as a target

  • View all the satellites around you on a "radar" style view

  • Display RAW GPS data (suitable for testing)

  • Connects to any bluetooth GPS

  • Saves your bluetooth GPS and last set target settings

For developers the fully commented source code is a good example of:

  • Design patterns, i.e. lazy initialization, command, strategy patterns

  • 2 Tier system

  • How to use PushRegistry (JSR 118)

  • How to use the Record Store (JSR 118)

  • How to use Bluetooth (JSR 82)

  • How to use Text Messaging (JSR 120)

  • How to use the PIM (and hack to minimise the security notices - JSR 75)

  • How to use the Location Based API (JSR 179 - Nokia lapi.jar included)

  • How to use simple graphics (not using a Game Canvas however)

  • How to multi thread effectively

  • Provide a basic understanding into Graphical and GPS trigonometry

Known Issues:

  • The application is not security signed (this costs money!), so you will be shown numerous security popups.

  • As your phone is not a compass the direction target arrow will only point to the correct direction once you start walking, and the phone can determine which way relative to North you are going, i.e. when you are stood still your phone doesn't know which direction you are facing! :)

  • On first run there can be some delay discovering the bluetooth devices in busy areas (i.e. it may display "Waiting for GPS..." on first run for some time). This is down to the bluetooth device discovery picking up a large number of devices and querying them. Once you have located your GPS, future connections to the GPS do not require this discovery period and will be relatively quick

This software has been tested on Nokia Series 40 3rd edition phones at a minimum resolution of 128x128 pixels and Sun WTK emulator at 240x320

The software is licenced under the CPL 1.0 licence which is included with the distributions.

Download LocateMe 1.0 JAD and JAR for Java phones
Download LocateMe 1.0 source code
Download LocateMe 1.0.1 Beta source code (with basic integrated GPS support) See this page for more info on the beta.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Holux M-1200 vs BlueNext BN-909GR GPS Small Receiver Review

The Holux M-1200 is far superior to the BlueNext BN-909GR.

I needed a Bluetooth GPS quickly because of a programming project I've been working on - "LocateMe", and I needed it quick.

I purchased the BlueNext from Ebay, primarily because it was cheap ~£20 - and it suffers for it. The device I received whilst newly boxed and unopened had light scratches on its very shiny plastic, in addition the power button didn't seem to work unless it was pressed very hard for around 10 seconds (the manual states 3 if I remember) - more on this later.

The performance of the device meant indoors within two metres of a window I got a fix within ~2-3 minutes - that is if the BlueNext didn't switch off of its own accord. The maximum number of satellites I found at any one point was 13 (note this is with my software - which includes satellites that have within the last minute just gone over the horizon out of sight of the GPS). 13 Satellites is quite good - as it should be for a new generation receiver.

The manual states that the battery should be initially charged for three hours and that the red light would go out when it was done. Well it did not - after 5 hours I disconnected it. The manual also states that when the battery is low the red light will flash - well it too did not - the device just powered off. Having said this, the battery lasted me around 12 hours of switching on and off. The manual states that the BN-909GR has a powersave functionality that will switch it off if no device connects to it although (if I remember correctly) it states after 10 minutes, not the 2 minutes or less I experienced.

Anyhow after using the BlueNext for a few days (remember I was desperate) I found that although the GPS can switch on if you hold the power switch, if you do not hold it long enough the GPS part of it will not switch on - and you just end up with the Bluetooth light by itself flashing. You then need to power it off and back on again to reset it. The Bluetooth functionality also seemed to have fail if the connection was lost - the phone (and my laptop) could not reconnect until I switched the GPS off and on again.

Disaster struck two days in - inbetween random disconnects and power offs (usually when it could not get a fix - often after a couple of minutes) the power button broke - it pushed in and snapped inside the case. Being of a technical mind and not having time to claim on the warranty I opened the GPS up and re-soldered a snapped push switch back in place that the plastic part of the case pressed - no problem, in fact it works better now as I no longer have to press so hard.

The case is pure plastic - ignore the silver "metal look" finish you may see around the edges, or the unnatural polish and shine you see in the publicity photos - it is shiny, but will likely have light scratches on like mine which you may find really annoying if you are anything like me!

On the plus side, the BlueNext also comes with a USB to mini USB power lead and a standard mains power to mini USB lead to charge with.

All in all a waste of money and not worth £21 (including postage).

Due to the problems with the BlueNext I went back to Ebay and bought the Holux M-1200 "51 channel" receiver for £37 (including postage). The Holux uses a newer chipset (i.e. its got different insides for the non technical :) ) and was a breath of fresh air. From the same distance inside my house it could get a fix literally within ~30 seconds from cold - it really is that fast, leaving the BlueNext to keep attempting and power off after a couple of minutes.

The power switch is a rocker type - i.e. you move it left to right, and there is no risk of breaking it from pressing too hard. This is much preferred to the BlueNext's push button. The battery required around 60 minutes to fully charge from new (the power light goes out), and in my first test lasted 5 hours 15 minutes constantly connected to my phone via Bluetooth - not the 8 hours mentioned (but I think this is rated for on "standby" i.e. not connected and streaming GPS data). Regrettably I could not perform this test with the BlueNext because of power save/randomly powering off by itself.

The case is made of metal and hardened plastic with a polished front - and my review model had no light scratches. The device is about the same weight as the BlueNext but as it has a smaller form feels more rugged - indeed I dropped it by accident onto concrete and has no scratches to show (it did not land on its face however).

The cherry on the cake was how many satellites the Holux M-1200 at its best picked up - 16 - yes 16 satellites.

The downside to the Holux is that it only includes a car charging power lead - although it's also possible to charge it using a standard USB to mini-USB lead (i.e. a cable you usually connect a camera or card reader etc. etc. to your PC with). Fortunately for me, because mini USB is a standard the BlueNext's mini-USB mains power and mini-USB leads can charge the Holux!

In conclusion it may be that I just had a bad BlueNext receiver, when it did get a fix the device was rock solid - as long as Bluetooth didn't disconnect - and was about on par with most other older GPS, but short of BlueNext contacting me and sending me another one for review I won't be investing in another with my own hard earned cash (and I do need to get another GPS).

Kudos to Holux - their product clearly shows the years of experience they have in GPS making and will not leave you disappointed, but they really should try and improve that battery life a little - but this is not a real gripe. The lack of a simple USB charging lead however is penny pinching. If you buy this device you should really ensure you have a mini-USB cable to charge it in the house.

Apologies for the poor photo quality shoddy Nokia phone cam because I was in a rush!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Making 3D images out of 2D photographs

If you want to spruce up your photos a bit with some 3D have a look at Make3D. While some of the photos converted to 3D are a bit disappointing spend a little time with it and help highlight the 3D planes the results are spectacular. (Apologies 56K users the SWF below is ~300K in size).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Maplin, Landisk, ViperNas, Password Protected Storage in Vista

I decided to get a Maplin Landisk NAS server on the cheap last week and have had gripes with it and Vista. As I only spent £30 quid on it I wasn't too bothered about taking it back. This device is based on the RDC2882 chipset, which is common to a lot of budget NAS, so they often use the same firmware. Disclaimer - I can't be certain about this last point, so be careful!

Here are my workarounds and fixes.

Problem 1: The firmware doesn't support Vista or has bugs
Solution: Get the firmware here or here in that order.

Problem 2: The updated firmware admin interface looks shoddy or is wrongly branded.
Solution: Get a much improved admin ui interface at Viperfang Networks. (See the Projects link -> ViperNAS). Once you've downloaded the build (currently 1.5b) this can be uploaded to the landisk in exactly the same way as you updated the firmware.

Problem 3: Password protected storage doesn't work in Vista.
Solution: Yes it does (if you have V48 firmware or greater). Use the username "storage\admin" and the password you set on the network share (as per screenshot on this post). Note when you first enter these details it may fail. Just click "ok" a second time on the same dialog after it has failed and it miraculously works!

Problem 4: Samba (network share) performance is abysmal, or it is very laggy.
UPDATED!!! See here!
Solution (partial - anything better?)

Use the FTP service for large network transfers instead. On Vista add a new network location from within the My Computer window - but add the FTP address instead of the share address (e.g. ftp://storage/..... or whatever you set up on the NAS). FTP seems to work flawlessly (but unfortunately you can't run a program across a network like you could with a network share). You can probably do this on XP too if you have the same problem.

Disable differential compression (helps improve speed) and get Windows Vista SP1 (when it is released officially)

Get the most up-to date firmware, see Problem 1.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Aerofoil 1.4.2 & Gesture Magic Preview 2

Having said I wouldn't do any more Aerofoil updates I did another- but I won't be taking this project any further because in my mind version 1.4.1 was as simple and elegant as I could get it.

New features added in 1.4.2:
- Added an optional configuration file to set default values, including showing messages, showing the hibernate option etc.
- Added double click icon event handler
- Upgraded the Visual Studio Project to Visual Studio 2008.

On the downside because of the the user definable config the size just went up 3k (10%), not that 32K vs 29.5K is really going to break the bank!

Usual places for the C# source code or just the download

Finally.... this is what is taking up my project time.....

Sunday, January 06, 2008

How to boot Windows Vista in 30 seconds or less

This has got to be the single largest performance improvement for Windows Vista, with very little work - improving the from switched off to full desktop time for Windows Vista from 130 seconds to 30 seconds (23%). Why is this feature overlooked so often?

If you came here from youtube, you're probably looking for Aerofoil. Get it on my last blog post

Watch the video to find out more.