Sunday, August 15, 2010

Making a VCDS inferface work

While I'm in the mood for posting solutions to technical problems, here's another. I have a OBD interface cable for my VW Bora so that I can run a piece of software called VCDS (sometimes known as VAG-COM) and read the error codes from my car's ECU. However, when I plug in the cable (it's the USB version), it is usually assigned to COM7. Unfortunately, the VCDS programme only supports COM1-4.

Weirdly, the solution for me is to plug the cable in and run VCDS settings. If I choose COM3 then it successfully detects a COM port - I think it's used by the built in model. I save the settings, and then bring up the Device Manager and change the port used by the interface cable to COM3. It says the port is already in use, but lets you change it anyway. Then I just use the VCDS software and it works. This seems completely wrong, and to be honest, I'm sure there's probably a better way of doing it than this, but at least it works.

Disabling the buzz

I just installed openSUSE 11.3 on my desktop computer, and I have to say it's pretty much awesome. Almost everything has worked straight out of the box, including my Wacom graphics tablet and my wireless card. One thing that's been annoying me is that whenever I make a mistake (such as trying to delete some text that isn't there), my computer makes the most almighty buzz. Or maybe it could be described as a belch. It's pretty horrible, however you describe it, and makes me jump out of my skin every time. I think it's supposed to be the System Bell.

I spent some time trying to work out how to stop this, and eventually managed to stop it by doing this: I opened up KMix, clicked on the 'Mixer' button to bring up the full mixer. The selected tab was HDA Intel, and I clicked on Settings > Configure Channels, and then dragged the item called 'Beep' from 'Available channels' to 'Visible channels' and clicked OK. Then I muted the Beep channel.

I just thought I'd post that in case anyone else has a similar problem and is searching for a solution some time in the future.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Activating Virgin Media Broadband on Linux

Yesterday I installed Virgin Media broadband at my new house. Virgin Media? Am I insane? Well, unfortunately my new house is 4.5km away from the exchange and the fastest ADSL connection is less than 2 Mbits, so Virgin was my only option. Anyway, I digress. The reason for the post is to help out any other Linux users who want to use Virgin Media.

When I plugged in the router and went to view a website on my computer, I was redirected to an activation page, where I had to enter my name and postcode and stuff like that. Except that the first page you go to checks to make sure you're running Windows or using a Mac. Thankfully, Konqueror and Opera both let me change my browser identification string so that Virgin's servers think I am using Windows. So far, so good. The next problem comes a few steps later when the 'Next' button doesn't respond. A quick view of the page's source shows that Virgin is trying to set the browser's homepage using some bad JavaScript. It also shows that after trying to do that, it was just going to redirect to another page anyway, so I was able to copy that URL into the address bar and carry on. I don't remember what the URL was, but if you look for the function called 'next()' in the source, you'll see it there. A few pages later it prompts you to download and install their special tools. There's no option to skip this, but if you click on 'Next', it starts the download and then goes onto the next page anyway. You can just ignore the download.

After all that, your connection should be activated. Mine was, anyway. Now I get about a 4 Mbit connection instead of the slow 2 Mbit ADSL connection. Which is still slow, considering Virgin Media advertise it as a 20 Mbit connection, but I wasn't expecting anything that good from Virgin Media. After all, they are just NTL with a new name.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Update

So I have a baby. Joscelyn Eleanore was born two weeks ago, and is completely wonderful. And on Saturday Naomi, Joscelyn and myself are flying off to Canada so that the inlaws get to see their first grandchild. I'm really looking forward to it. Well, mostly. It'll probably be quite tiring - we're hiring a car and will be doing a huge amount of driving (around 3000 miles) so that we can see everyone Naomi wants to see. But it'll be fun.

My other baby (my seven year old laptop, Lazarus) is losing its memory. One of the memory slots decided to give up the ghost, so it now only has half a gig of RAM. One gig was already on the low side of comfortable, so now it's extremely frustrating to use. At least I'm running Linux on it and not Windows, since I generally find Windows likes to have around double the amount of RAM that Linux likes. It'd be a good excuse to put Lazarus in the grave one final time and get a nice, fast, new computer. But I can't afford a new computer and a new baby. Well, I could, but I just got a new 10-22mm lens for my camera and I want a new Line 6 box for my guitar, so I might just have to struggle on. Oh well, I'm in Canada for the next five weeks, so I don't have to worry about it at the moment.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I'm trying to write an Android game, but I've been rather addicted to playing KNetWalk, which is slowing me down somewhat. I'm getting fast at KNetWalk though - I just did the Very Hard level in 59 seconds without any penalties. I think I might give up now, although I reckon I could probably do it in 50 seconds if I was very lucky.

tinyurl No Longer Breaks My Security Model

At least, not on my Android phone. I've just released Check Redirect on the Android Market (for free, of course), which intercepts view intentions on links, and if the link is a tiny url of some sort (the list of intercepted hosts is configurable) it pops up a dialog letting you know where the link redirects to, and asks if you wish to follow the link.

And when I'm using Linux instead of my phone, I found an extension for firefox which does a similar thing. I can't remember what it was called though.

Monday, March 30, 2009

tiny.url Breaks My Security Model

Since using twitter, I've noticed a lot of people use services such as tiny.url or in order to shorten URLs. There's a problem with this though: I now have no idea what website I'm about to visit. If someone I trust has posted the link I'm reasonably likely to click on it, but for other people I tend to avoid these shortened links because I have no idea in advance what they are.

What is really needed is for the shortener service to show you what site you're about to visit first, so you can make a more informed decision about whether to visit the site or not. Hmm, maybe I should be sending this as a feature request to those sites instead of randomly blogging about it...