Thursday, January 26, 2006

Unable to login to Linksys WAP54G

I recently installed a Linksys WAP54G wireless access point to replace an older Linksys wireless router that was forced into service as an access point. The WAP54G has worked fine as an access point so far (about 1 week), but I was unable to login to the access point's web-based management utility. When I visited (the IP I had assigned to the access point) I was prompted for my username and password. Page 38 of the manual indicates that the administration username is admin and the default password is admin. However, all that got me was 401 Unauthorized It turns out that the admin username is actually , yup no username.

So, to log in, I just left the username field blank and entered the password. Hopefully it's just the documentation that has errors and not the hardware. I noticed another curiosity on page 37 of the manual. Apparently, snmp is the standard e-mail protocol on the Internet. Hmm, that's not what RFC 1157 says. Fortunately, the body of the text correctly indicates the purpose of SNMP. I notified Linksys about both errors.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Review: The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjørn Lomborg

My brother lent me his copy of The Skeptical Environmentalist. After both reading State of Fear by Michael Crichton, we read several of the books that Crichton listed in his bibliography. So far, The Skeptical Environmentalist has been the best. As my brother described it, this book is an almanac of statistics on controversial topics.

The essential premise of the book is that conditions in the world are getting better. The author examines numerous objective ways to measure the state of the world and in almost every instance concludes that we are better off now than our predecessors were. The data also indicates that these trends will continue into the future. Its focus and methodology remind me very much of The Ultimate Resource 2 by Julian Simon (which inspired Lomborg to study and then publish this book.)

I highly recommend this book. My simple summary would be: Don't be afraid because human ingenuity can solve the world's problems. All we have to do is rationally evaluate the various challenges we face and triage the results. Or, to paraphrase a great statement (from an unrelated book), "The earth is for the use of man that he might have in abundance"

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Review: Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition by Eric A. Meyer

For my job, I've been doing a lot of work on automated reports lately. The logic of the reports is written in Perl and the generated content is HTML. I've used CSS on some projects before, but decided to buy Meyer's book to learn some more of the details. I've been using the book as a general instruction guidebook and also as a reference while working on the automated reporting project.

Foremost, I am really impressed with CSS and the people who designed it. I haven't found a technology as useful as this in quite some time. When learning about a new technology, I evaluate it by roughly tracking how frequently it inspires me with new ideas. For this book, I'd say that rate was about one new idea every 15 to 20 pages. At 430 pages, that means about 20 new ideas.

Meyer's writing style was clear and concise. I wish he had found a synonym for affect, but that's a minor annoyance. He used frequent diagrams to illustrate the details of CSS in particular situations. He provided a good mix of prose, code and illustrations. I was particularly pleased with the chapter on CSS for non-screen media. Since management will eventually print my reports, that chapter was particularly valuable.

The book provided a good background and taught me many aspects of CSS that I hadn't originally noticed. Some portions of the book were a little too detailed. If I wanted to be reading the CSS spec, I would go and read the spec. Which brings me to the best CSS resource I've found on the web (now that I have enough background to understand it better): the CSS3 Selectors specification.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

My PDA Wishlist vs. Palm TX

As I posted earlier, it's time for me to buy a new PDA. I have a tradition of keeping a memo on my Palm with a list of the things I want out of my next PDA. Well, I decided to buy a Palm TX. Here's how the TX matches up against my wishlist.

In the following list, red items are missing from the TX. Everything else is present.

  • Small form factor

  • Large screen area

  • Customizable input area

  • Few steps to open the device

  • Able to replace an MP3 player

  • FM transmitter for playing music

  • Huge memory (~10 gig)

  • Wi-fi

  • Three day battery life without charging

  • Backlit color screen, usable as a flashlight

  • Cell phone

  • GPS

  • Low-res digital camera

  • Thermometer

  • Barometer

  • Accelerometer

  • Barcode reader

Monday, January 02, 2006

Review: Palm Tungsten T (long term)

I've owned a Palm Tungsten T for almost 3 years now. I use it every day and for several different applications. It's time to buy a new PDA (for reasons stated below) and I thought I'd write a review of the Tungsten T covering the whole range of ownership.


Initial reviews that I read about the Tungsten|T indicated distaste for the slick surface of the metal case. The case surface is quite slick and when my hands were dry, I almost dropped the device a couple times. However, I almost always use the device with the plastic screen cover attached to the back of the device. The plastic cover sticks to my hand much better than the case does, so the slickness of the case turned out not to matter.

The surface of the case loses its finish easily. At numerous places on the device, the bare metal is visible where the grey finish came off. The finish came off the most along the bottom edge of the device near the application buttons. Fortunately, the gray finish matches the bare metal fairly well, so the flaking produced a pleasing rough look.

The feel of the application buttons is still nice and crisp. All the buttons work as they did fresh out of the box. I used the center button on the D-pad more than any other button. I took to using the Tungsten|T as my main watch. So I often took the device out of my breast pocket and clicked the center button to see the time. The center button was a bit too small and too protected. In the winter, I was unable to depress the center button with my gloves on. That meant that to see the time, I had to remove my gloves. The voice recording button is placed such that I often bumped it accidentally. That would turn the device on and then I find myself in the voice memo application the next time I turned the device on. However, this was only a minor annoyance since it never actually recorded a voice memo.

The headphone jack and external speaker were the most suprisingly useful feature of the Tungsten. I didn't expect to use either one, but I found myself carrying the Tungsten in my pocket playing music while I cleaned the house. Or I'd use it on the road with a headphone to bring music with me on travels. I ended up buying a 512MB SD card so that I could put my most-played MP3s on the device (the included Real Player MP3 player was sufficient for my needs). I liked the external speaker so well that I have included it in my wishlist for my new Palm.

The power button gave me some trouble. After about two years, it began to work only intermittently. Often times, it would go for a week without working and then starting working again for a few months. Towards the end of the third year, it only worked about half the time. Fortunately, the button inside the D-pad and moving the slider both let me turn on Palm anyway.

The SD card slot worked without any troubles. The stylus silo and the stylus both worked well. The Tungsten|T has the best stock stylus I've seen with any Palm device. As I've mentioned in another blog entry, I began to dislike having to depress the stylus to take it out of the silo. The magnet in the bottom of the stylus silo held the stylus sufficiently tightly, except when I ocassionally dropped the Palm from out of my breast pocket. Then it and the SD card scattered across the pavement.

The form-factor and the sliding button pad were the most unique features of the Tungsten|T when I bought it. The first few months, I liked the sliding button pad, but after that, it was just annoying. I detail the reasons in my other blog entry on the subject. I liked the small form-factor, but the sliding pad is too much to pay. It was a clever idea, but turns out to be best in concept and less workable in application.


The screen on the Tungsten|T is very nice. I found it readable in all different light conditions. The colors are bright and crisp. It was clear enough that I replaced my collection of wallet photos with JPEGView. I always used screen protecting platic sheets on the screen, so it still has no scratches.

Data Input

The graffiti recognition on the Tungsten|T seemed quicker and more accurate than on my previous Palms. Unfortunately, after about a year and a half, the digitizer began to degrade. I would have to recalibrate the digitizer about every other day. After a few months, I needed to recalibrate every day. Now I can't write 5 characters without recalibrating. One frustrating result is that I will try to tap-off an item on my to do list and the Palm will clear off the one above or below the one I wanted. Then I have to track down the one I accidentally checked, restore it, recalibrate the digitizer, tap-off the desired to do item.

In consequence of the annoying digitizer effects and the slow input required by Graffiti, I've decided that a keyboard is probably the best type of input for a PDA. My first serious PDAs were HP 95LX, HP 100LX and HP 200LX palmtop computers. I loved the little keyboard. It was accurate and quick for data entry. I think the Tungsten C and the Treo have the right idea.


Really the only accessory that I ever used with the Tungsten was the charging/hotsync cradle. The cradle is solid and receives the PDA easily. I have two complaints. The transformer has the wall plugs attached directly to it. That means I cover two sockets on the power strip when I should only have to use one. The second complaint is that I have to bring the whole cradle with me when I travel so that I can recharge the battery. My wife had a Sony Clie PEG-N610C. With that PDA, the power cable could be detached from the cradle to make traveling more convenient. Fortunately, I can get about three days out of the Tungsten without a charge, so for weekend trips, the bulky charge cradle wasn't an issue. Basically, I think that Palm should have included a more portable charge cable with the stock Tungsten|T. I wouldn't even mind not having a proper cradle as long the charge cable was compact enough for travel.


I've enjoyed my Palm Tungsten|T. It was leagues better than my beloved Handspring Visor and it gave me higher expectations for what a PDA should be. It was solidly built and survived many bumps and drops. Three years is a decent stretch (although five years should be expected). The cost of ownership for this Palm worked out to about $7.30 per month. I'm willing to pay that.