Geek Gift Ideas – November 30

xkcd_book_300Some people have said that, “laughter is the best medicine.” Well, today’s geek gift idea is the gift of laughter; the kind that appeals to geeks in particular. xkcd is described as a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language. This book, xkcd: volume 0, is the first book that combines selections of the first 600 comics, including various author and fan favorites.

The cost is US $18.00 and is printed by BreadPig. Another thing that makes this a really neat gift idea is that BreadPig’s portion of the profits will go to build a school in Laos through the charity Room to Read.

Geek Gift Ideas – November 27


Why not start off the Geek Gift Ideas 2009 edition with a Despair, Inc. 2010 Custom Calendar. Every geek loves geek humor and Despair Inc. has been dishing out the sarcasm for years now. Not only does this calendar provide a hilarious demotivator for each month, but it also contains important dates in geek history. For example:

  • January 9, 2007: Apple CEO Steve Jobs announces the iPhone. Motorola cringes.
  • February 26, 1955: George Smith makes aviation history by becoming the first man to bail out of a jet at supersonic speeds
  • March 18, 1947: Patent #2417786 was issued to Hurley Smith for the “Pocket Shield Or Protector”. The nerd is born.
  • April 28, 1997: Duke Nukem Forever’ announced. 12 years later, it remains unreleased.

The calendar costs US $15.99 and will earn you 225 geek points.

Friday Song Of The Day – Happy Christmas (War Is Over)

It has been since March that I posted a Friday Song Of The Day, so I figured I’d kick off this Christmas season with a Christmas tune. John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over) seemed apropos to both the season of the year and our country.

Happy Christmas Kyoko
Happy Christmas Julian

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas (War is over)
For weak and for strong (If you want it)
For rich and the poor ones (War is over)
The road is so long (Now)
And so Happy Christmas (War is over)
For black and for white (If you want it)
For yellow and red ones (War is over)
Let’s stop all the fight (Now)

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

So this is Christmas (War is over)
And what have we done (If you want it)
Another year over (War is over)
And a new one just begun (Now)
And so Happy Christmas (War is over)
We hope you have fun (If you want it)
The near and the dear one (War is over)
The old and the young (Now)

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

War is over if you want it
War is over now

Here is a YouTube video with the music and some pictures.

* Click through to the site if you cannot see the video above.

Building ChromiumOS (The Google OS)

I’ve been watching all of the hype about downloading and running the latest Google creation, ChromiumOS this week so yesterday I decided to take a stab at it myself. I did not however want to simply grab a VMWare image and run it. I’m a software engineer for Pete’s sake! I should build it myself. So how did it go? Read on.

System Preparation

First I upgraded my Ubuntu installation to the latest release (9.10 – karmic), which is actually the suggest/preferred build environment for ChromiumOS. Following that I checked the system requirements and made the appropriate adjustments. msttcorefonts did not show up in the Synaptic Package Manager so I just ran the following command and that did the trick:

freetype-dev was also not listed but I had libfreetype6-dev installed and figured that would cover it.

Next I installed version control clients Subversion and Git. I followed that up with installing the Google Chromium Depot Tools. This is basically a group of scripts that Google uses to managing syncing the code repositories and whatnot.

Obtaining the Code

Next I grabbed the code for the Chromium browser. This is actually optional and you can just download a binary instead, but since I’m going this route I figured I’d go all the way. You can follow the instructions here, which include download a huge tar ball that includes the code, extracting it and then syncing the code with the online repository. The first time I synced:

I received some warnings about third party libraries that were no longer a part of the client so I removed them as suggested. Then I remembered that there was a specific way to run the sync when building the OS so I reviewed the website and re-ran the sync (which I would have done anyway since I modified the code base by removing some directories):

So I ended up with the Chromium code base in /usr/local/chromium.

Next I needed to grab the ChromiumOS code, so I created a directory for that at /usr/local/chromiumos and grabbed the code like this:

Now obviously you wouldn’t be able to run the above as a normal user, you’d need to sudo right? I actually created the directory initially using sudo and then gave my local user ownership of the directory to complete the rest of the steps.

Now the code sync ran for about 10 minutes and then ended in errors. Uh oh… this isn’t looking good if I have errors in the check out phase. The error was:

After that it appeared to try and get an alternates list and recover but it was unable to do so. I figured since it was trying to recover then there might be a good chance that running it again would solve the problem. So I reran the sync and it got a little farther before it stopped with failures. Then on the third run it finally grabbed all of the code. I guess the third time really is the charm!

Building Chromium OS

The steps in the build process are all pretty straightforward and I didn’t have many problems. Initially if you are going to build the browser portion, you do that before building the OS. During this phase I actually ended up in an infinite loop. After going back to the docs I set the following environment variable:

and that fixed the problem.

Then the building… and building… and building… process took a looooonnnng time. Other than that it was pretty uneventful.

Running Chromium OS

Having gone all the way through I now had a VMWare image of the Google Chromium OS. Awesome! So how did it run? I’m not exactly sure. I was able to create a VM for it and attach the image and boot it up. After that I get the login screen. I put in my Google account login credentials and then…. nothing. I just get a blank blue screen with nothing on it and no activity. I’ll admit, it really is a nice shade of blue but generally I’d like a little more functionality in my operating system. Anyway, I guess I did something wrong or I am running it in some way that is incompatible. I’ll try to figure that one out and post the results as soon as I can.

Any Lucky Moshi Alarm Clock

moshi3Any Lucky Day is a website that constantly holds giveaways. It’s a great way for companies to get some advertising for their products, I’m sure the giveaway website gets a nice kickback from the traffic that it sends to the product sites and most importantly of all… YOU can win some really cool stuff! All that is generally required is to leave a comment in the comments section for the post that you would like to win (as long as it is still active/open). Well, this finally paid off for me and I won a Moshi Voice Control Travel Alarm Clock.

The package arrived this weekend though I haven’t had a chance to crack it open until today. My first impression is that it is a lot smaller than I though it would be. I suppose this makes sense as it is a “travel alarm clock” and you wouldn’t want to carry around a large bulky alarm clock on the road. The packaging is very nice and sleek, somewhat Apple-ish. Inside there is basically the clock and an instruction manual. I peeled the clear cover off the faceplate and flipped the unit over to reveal the battery compartment. It was easy to open and I put in the 3 required AAA batteries.

Taking It For A Spin

I pushed the IVR button. The alarm clock prompted me for a command to which I responded, “set time.” The clock then asked for the current time. I replied and then the clock confirmed that it had set the time for the exact time I had requested. SWEET! This is really cool. I then asked for the time again to which it replied. I tried asking for the temperature and it responded perfectly. Whenever the clock is activated the backlit display turns on a very bright blue making it eas to read. Plus for such a small clock the numbers for the time are surprisingly large, which should make it easier for those of us who wear glasses to read the thing in the middle of the night.


I would very much recommend this product if you are a traveler. It doesn’t have a radio, but I’m sure most techies out there have a dedicated MP3 player of some flavor. It would be nice to wake up to tunes as I am accustomed to, but the IVR voice recognition technology is really cool. Not only that but Moshi has a larger, at-home version that looks very nice. They don’t have any version which allow you to listen to music yet (i.e. music files, player dock or radio), but they do say they are working on one. I can’t wait!

Aion Fantasy MMORPG in Open Beta


Aion is a new MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) by NCSOFT that is now available for open beta, but it’s for this weekend only (September 6 – September 13). Head on over there to grab your Open Beta key and download the client. If you do want to play though you should start the download process immediately as it’s a 9.1 Gb file download.

RoboForm Update – Online Passwords!

RoboForm: Learn more...I just noticed this really cool feature so I thought I’d throw a shout-out to my favorite password manager. I’ve been using AI RoboForm for many a year now and have actually reviewed it on this site before. I really love this program. Basically it’s a program that sits in your task tray and includes a browser plugin (Firefox and IE) which can fill out passwords and forms for you… automagically! It includes one-click logon which will take you to the desired site and log you in. There are a ton more features which I don’t even utilize but the skinny of it is… I’d be lost without this program. Seriously.

That said, I just noticed a new online synchronization feature that they have included in the latest version. Basically you create an online login on their site, which you then sync up with your desktop version. Now that I’ve set this up I can have access to my logins and passwords even when I forget my thumb drive! (Oh yeah, they have a portable app version that runs off of a thumb drive)

Nike+ iPod Fix Retraction

sad smileyMy last post (Nike+ iPod : Cheap Fix For Failure) outlined a method whereby one could get around the premature end of workout due to water (sweat) damage for the iPod Nano and Nike+ Sensor setup. Well this method worked well for me for several runs afterwards… ending in a major fail. The “fix” may still work for you or at least enable you to get a few more runs out of the thing. Anyway, my iPod Nano has completely failed now. The port won’t work and it freezes when you try to play anything. Oh well, I guess I’ll be manually logging runs until I can get another setup.