In the first part of this series I looked into how to assemble a two-way mirror so that an Android phone behind it can be used as an information hub. Of course this is only one part of the story, cause we also need some software to display all this useful information on our Android device. Now, obviously there is already such software available, however I decided to write my own version from scratch for the following reasons:
- to learn more about Android application development
- it had to support Android Gingerbread (API level 10)
- have all the modules important to me here in the UK
A while ago I stumbled over an article about a smart mirror using some old unused Nexus 7 as the driver. I was instantly fascinated by this project because it is low-cost, needs some real world handcraft and of course involves writing some new code. Obviously the last part is my favourite bit so I quickly came up with some new ideas which where not available in the original software. However, I will come to that part later in a separate post. I still had my trusty old HTC Desire in the cupboard and after proofing it still works I decided to give it a go. This first post will guide you through the really simple process of making the base for the mirror. It will not involve any liquid glue … I promise 🙂
When you work with at least two computers on the same project on a daily basis you might have a problem. You need to get changed files from host A to host B and vice versa. The problem getting bigger when you work in addition on different operation systems or use more than two hosts. On UNIX/Linux the preferred tool for such a task is Rsync. Unfortunately Rsync synchronize only in one direction, it doesn’t work very well when more than two hosts are involved (and it isn’t really comfortable to set up on Windows) and can’t use a secure communication channel. Another approach is to check-in changed source files into a version control system, like CVS. On host A you check it in and on host B you check it out afterwards. But this means you always need a more or less stable variant of your code, so that other developer can, at least compile, or much better use it. That is not always the case (especially when you leave the office at 11:00 p.m.) and it also doesn’t cover files which aren’t handled by a version control system. Luckily there is a solution for all the problems mentioned which is called Unison. So here comes the second post in the ToolTips series, which covers an easy and portable way for file synchronization.
The articles I wrote about the FRITZ!Box are pretty popular. They are creating the most traffic on my website. I understand this, cause the FRITZ!Box is a really great piece of hardware and AVM is also a company which knows how to make their users happy by serving regular updates to the firmware. Although I didn’t tuned my FRITZ!Box any further, I updated it with the latest Labor firmware version regularly. At some point the sshd setup (with dropbear) doesn’t worked anymore and I decided it is the time to update my software as well. Beside that it didn’t work anymore it is always a good idea to update software which allow access to a host from everywhere very regularly. Anyway, it turned out this isn’t as simple as I initial thought. Therefore here is the next post in the FRITZ!Box tuning series, which shows how to cross-build software for the MIPS32 architecture used in the FRITZ!Box and in particular get the sshd software to life again. I use a FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 v2 and the firmware is 54.05.05. Please make sure you read the other FRITZ!Box articles as well, cause some of the information given there still applies.
Today I will start a new series where I present small tools which I use on a daily basis and considered very useful. These tools haven’t to be killer applications, but doing the task they are written for, very well. Therefor also the name of this series: TT, which stands for ToolTips. Most of this applications are open source, so I will take the opportunity to say “Thank you” to all the people out there, which create such cool stuff in there free time.
We start with a tool called Apparix.
Everybody know these words. You say it when you have to check a microphone which were plugged into some sound system. It’s just test if the microphone is working well and the spoken words are reflected by the amplifier. It’s a simple test to check the functionality of the microphone or the whole sound system. Why should I write about sound systems? No, I don’t try to learn playing a guitar or any other instrument, I like to share some thoughts about software testing. After writing a post about Valgrind, I had the feeling that I should try to show some ways of testing software. In the following post I will analyze what can be tested, what is useful and which tools are available. I don’t aim to make a full overview of software testing itself, I just like to highlight some tools (or thoughts) which are useful and every developer should know of.
Since the first 64-bit version of Windows Vista it is necessary to digital sign any kernel mode driver. Without a proper code signing the driver isn’t loaded by the system. Although it is also possible to sign drivers and applications for the 32-bit versions of Windows (as far as I know starting with Windows XP) it became mandatory in the 64-bit versions for any kernel mode driver. A serious software provider always sign its own software to make sure the user can rely on the authenticity of the package he e.g. downloaded from the Internet. It also prevent a question about installing a driver from an untrusted source which could be denied by the user and therefore makes the own software unusable. In any case the user has to confirm an installation of a driver, even if this driver is correctly signed, if the driver isn’t Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certificated. In the following post I will not explain the basics of how to sign Windows drivers, there are many articles out there like the one from Microsoft itself, but I will look at changes which have to be made to correctly code sign drivers with a certificate signed by the VeriSign Class 3 Primary CA – G5 root certificate, which is in use by the end of 2010.
Mac OS X and the applications running on it are known for being sometimes unusual in the look and feel. For some reason developer on Mac OS X seems to be more creative than on other platforms. For an application developer which deals with user input it is important to make any user interaction as useful as possible and present this information in a way which is on the one side as much less annoying as possible but also attractive and informative on the other side. Lastly I was thinking about how to show the users they are using a beta version, which should remind them that this is not production ready software, but on the same time make it easy to respond to bugs they find in this pre-release. The solution, I came up with, was a badge in the toolbar which shows this is a release which is definitely in a testing phase, but also allows the user to double-click to give a respond to this particular version. In the following post I will show how to do this.
As you may know, developing for multiple platforms is one of my strengths. Strictly speaking, it’s a basic requirement if you are involved in such a product like VirtualBox, which runs on every major (and several minor) platform available today. Beside the GUI, which uses Qt and therewith is portable without any additional cost (which isn’t fully true if you want real native look and feel on every platform, especially on Mac OS X), all the rest of VirtualBox is written in a portable way. This is done by using only C/C++ and Assembler when necessary. Everything which needs a different approach, because of the design of the OS (and the API’s which are available there), is implemented in a platform dependent way. In the history of VirtualBox, several modules are created and grown by the time, which makes it really easy to deal with this differences. For stuff like file handling, paths, strings, semaphores or any other basic functionality, you can just use the modules which are available. On the other side it might be necessary, for a new feature we implement, to write it from the ground. In the following post I will show how to create a file shortcut for the three major operation systems available today.