Sunday, December 26, 2010

Field Theory for Honey Bee Communication

A proposal for a field theory to understand the communication of bees. The researcher proposes a link to Quantum mechanics. Ok, unexpected.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sun research thread

I have had several conversations lately around a Sun research paper that I read. I keep thinking I will get around to posting a summary and some thoughts but work intrudes.

At a minimum I will post the link for now. The paper is Mashware: The Future of Web Applications and is at least the second paper I have seen from Antero Taivalsaari. Andy or Bruce, I would love to hear what you think about the conclusions he reaches about the future.

Bruce, here is the paper on self-modifying code I mentioned. I just like that this topic may surface again alongside the whole dynamic code issue.

More later.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Grand Canyon Trip

During Christmas 2007, the wife and I escaped to the Grand Canyon for two days. Throwing caution to the wind, we went for hotel rooms when the sun went down. The hotel rooms were booked solid at the entrance to the park and the rooms inside the park were pretty spendy. This is in the middle of winter!

The unplanned search forced us back to Williams AZ about 60 miles away. Williams turned out to be a nice little tourist town to spend the night in. Of course there were about 30 motels from various decades past and we didn't have much time to check them out. We got very lucky with The Lodge on Route 66. The rooms and staff were great and very reasonable for the touristy area.

If you find yourself looking for accomodations in that part of the world (Britt B I am looking at you) and the vacancies are scarce may I recommend this little place down the road. I can vouch for the Lincoln room.

National MS Society Bike Event

May 9th is the date of the Allianz MS 30/60 bike ride this year.

I have to raise more money this year then Brian does. Contact me directly to donate money to a great cause.

Chamonix France

One of my favorite scenic places in Europe is Chamonix, France. I was lucky enough to spend a few days exploring it a few years ago and I remember two events fondly:
-- the cable car ride and walk around Aguille du Midi
-- the train ride between France and Switzerland over the mountains

Thanks to the wonders of You Tube, I can share them here. Let me know if they disappear from You Tube, I have lost one already.

Paul B, remember how awesome this ride was? Too hard to explain to folks afterwards. The video helps. Aguille du Midi is the day trip you missed. You will have to go when you take Natalie and the kids. If we get Mark and Heather there, I am sure they or William will just try to ski it ;)

New type of data for research

I have a friend who is a history teacher here in Minnesota and she has been a pasionate advocate for oral history and its power. While she has opened my eyes to this field, I have never really sought it out in the IT realm. On a whim I did some searching the other day and was pleasantly surprised to find the Charles Babbage Institute (CBI) and:
1) it is an IT oral history repository
2) many transcripts are available on line
3) it is located in my back yard at the U of M

I will report back on any must-read or must-listen items in the collection. Likewise, please send me any you find particularly good.

For all of you former Interop Conference Assessment Team (CAT) members it was interesting to find the Connexions report online and a reference to Ole Jacobsen as editor and publisher of The Internet Protocol Journal.

Microsoft Research Question-Answering Corpus

Ran across this item on MS research site and was intrigued.

"This directory contains a set of 1.3K questions collected from 10-13 year old schoolchildren, who were asked 'If you could talk to an encyclopedia, what would you ask it?' Children wrote their questions on slips of paper, and these questions were then keyed in/spell-corrected. A research librarian then spent several months combing through the text of Encarta 98, creating a full recall set for each question. For each answer, a number of features were annotated (see below), including the best sentence match in the corpus."

One of my pet projects is to develop a decision support system (DSS) and I am still thinking about the best way to design querying and information retrieval. This article gave me a little thought around the processes of QA and UAT testing for an information-based application.

Digital Photography on MS research site

I was looking through MS research site and found these two resources that have to do with digital photogrpahy (I think) and I was curious what a "real" photographer (read not me) would think of them.

Mark, if you are reading this would either of these titles entice you to download these and try them ;)

Continuous Flash

MS Easy Camera Calibration Tool

Friday, March 06, 2009

Reclaiming my Mirra

I own a Mirra M-250 personal server. I originally purchased the device to serve as an easy backup solution for part of my home network. One day it was replaced with another solution and I set the Mirra on a shelf. I took it down today with the intention of converting it into a small Linux box for the lab.

No warranties, either express or implied, are hereby given for anything provided by Eurowonka (this includes "data", "process", or "software".) All data, process, or software is supplied as is, without any guarantee. The user assumes all responsibility for damages resulting from the use of the data, process, or software, including, but not limited to, a voided warranty on your Mirra/Seagate product, the loss of all data and configuratiom from your Mirra/Seagate product, the permanent loss of all function for your Mirra/Seagate product, loss of all data from other hard drives on computers used during the process.

The hardware for the M-250 I own is a custom case that includes a EPIA 5000 Revision E motherboard. The RAM is 64MB of PC133 memory and a Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM 250GB IDE hard drive.

The motherboard has a full compliment of components for being so small: PS2 ports, VGA, LPT, TV out, NIC, USB, AC 97 sound, COM, power leads for case fans, one PCI slot, two IDE connectors.

As shipped, the Mirra has covers over the VGA, LPT, COM, and front USB ports. These can be removed easily. The PS2 ports are covered by a piece of permanent shielding on the back of the unit.

NOTE: The Mirra devices were manufactured for several years so the hardware inside your unit may differ from my device.

Connecting a VGA monitor, USB keyboard, and USB mouse allows you to monitor and control the boot process. There should be a Mirra splash screen during which you can press the DELETE key to trigger the BIOS configuration program.

The BIOS asks for a password. A quick search of the Internet did not reveal the default Mirra password. My assumption was that a CMOS clear should take care of the password. Checking the VIA web site, I was able to verify which model of EPIA motherboard I had and I downloaded the manual.

NOTE: VIA has several versions of their mini-ITX EPIA motherboard. My model happened to be the original EPIA. It is possible that your device may have a different motherboard model or maybe an entirely different mini-ITX motherboard brand inside. Verify carefully which motherboard you have to ensure that the manual and software are appropriate for your device.

Version 1.31 (dated Sept 23, 2008) of the EPIA manual had the motherboard schema on page 12. Jumper J10 is for clearing the CMOS on this revision of the board. I followed the procedure on page 37.

NOTE: Verify that the power is off to the unit before clearing the CMOS to prevent possible damage. The power supply is so quiet in these units it is best when you just unplug the unit from power to clear CMOS.

Upon reboot, the BIOS password was still intact. At this point I figured something was up. A quick search of the Internet turned up the cause. Mirra had modified the BIOS to ensure a CMOS clear would not erase the password.

In order to remove the BIOS password, the OEM BIOS image had to be reloaded. This process is made a little trickier by the hardware configuration of the Mirra.

NOTE: By opening the Mirra case you will void any warranty you have with Mirra/Seagate for your device. This may also preclude you from using their support services on a pay basis as well.

NOTE: Modifying the hard drive from the Mirra will erase all Mirra data and configuration from it. Do not modify or format this drive unless you intend to lose all data on it and never use is as a Mirra drive again. You should be able to use a different drive but I did not test that possibility.

1) Download an ISO image for FreeDos v1.0 ( and burn a bootable CD of the base or full install.

2) Remove the hard drive from the Mirra and place it in another computer as the only HD. It should be configured as a master IDE drive already. The second computer should also have a CD drive configured as master IDE drive on another IDE channel.

NOTE: If there are other hard drives in this second computer you may accidentally delete the data on them. It is safer if the Mirra hard drive is the only one inside this second computer.

3) Boot the second computer from the Free Dos CD in Live mode. Choose 1 from the boot: prompt to continue and then choose 5 to boot Live CD.

4) Switch to X: drive and CD to path X:\FDOS\BIN. The CD drive showed up as X: on my configuration. It may be different on yours.

5) Run the following Free Dos commands in order:

FDISK /CLEARALL --- erase everything on HD permanently
FDISK /PRI:64 -------- create a 64MB partition on the HD
FDISK /ACTIVATE:1 -- make the partition active
FDISK /MBR ---------- populate HD MBR with Free Dos boot software
FORMAT C: /U /S ---- format the partition to be bootable C: drive

6) Download the files needed to reimage the BIOS


NOTE: Although the VIA web site has BIOS flash programs, they will not work with your Mirra until you re-image the BIOS. As long as the Mirra BIOS is installed, the OEM flash programs will fail and say that there is a mismatch between the flash program and the ROM chip. The Award flash program (I used v8.83) works as long as the ROM chip is compatible.

NOTE: EPIA0207.BIN is the OEM BIOS image for my model of Mirra server. I verified that the DOS flash program from VIA supported the ROM chip id (39SF020A) on my unit. The ROM chip is in the corner of the motherboard closest to the front USB ports. It is important that you verify that you have the correct ROM chip and software to prevent issues.

7) Copy the unzipped files for awdflash.exe and epia0207.bin (or your motherboard's correpsonding software) on to the 64MB partition of the Free Dos C: drive.

8) Replace the Mirra hard drive back in the Mirra and connect it.

NOTE: Make sure the hard drive is configured as the master IDE drive. If you unplugged the Mirra IDE cable, make sure it is plugged back into the correct IDE socket. On my motherboard it is the IDE connector closest to the front of the case.

NOTE: If you can plug the Mirra into a UPS or other uninterruptible power source this is preferred. When dealing with BIOS flashing, a power outage during the process can rarely cause unrepairable damage.

9) Attempt to boot the Mirra with the drive. The Free Dos OS should boot up.

NOTE: If you see the screen populated with "L 99 99 99 ..." on boot, this means that the MBR of the disk has not been converted to Free Dos. You will need to apply the Free Dos MBR to the hard drive before it will boot. This involves running the Free Dos FDISK application with the /MBR parameter.

10) Run the awdflash.exe (or your motherboard's corresponding flash) program. Upload the OEM BIOS image to the ROM.

NOTE: The awdflash.exe program will allow you to backup the current BIOS image. If you never intend to use the Mirra as a Mirra backup device again, this is unnecessary.

11) Turn off the machine and unplug it from the power source. Clear the contents of the BIOS.

12) Plug the Mirra back into the power source and boot it up. The splash screen should be changed to a VIA splash screen. You should be able to go into the BIOS configuration now using the DELETE key on boot.

By hooking up a CD to the Mirra hardware, you should be able to install several different operating systems. The VIA web site has drivers for Windows OS of various flavors. There are also Linux drivers on the VIA arena web site.

Usually the RAM is one of the first hardware items to get upgraded. If on boot, you get nothing but a blinking green LED by the power button, you may not have seated your RAM completely. Power down and seat the RAM chips again to fix this problem.