Thinkpad X220

Fixed msata

Upgraded to a Thinkpad X220 model 4287CTO from a X201. Kinda prompted by Jamie purchasing a X220 too.

A 64bit Archlinux install on a 166GBP OCZ 120GB Nocti SSD - mSATA SATA-II - Read 280MB/s Write 260MB/s from Ebuyer went well. I can't verify the SSDs speeds, but they are much faster than the Seagate 500GB Momentus XT Hybrid SSD in my Archlinux SSD upgrade from Ubuntu.

I opted for syslinux and I can boot into Windows uncommenting a chainload stanza in /boot/syslinux/syslinux.cfg or by using the Thinkpad own BIOS boot menu. No more bloated Grub for me, and syslinux does allow you to alter the cmdline. Bonus.

With MODULES=(acpi-cpufreq cpufreq_ondemand cpufreq_powersave) and /etc/conf.d/cpufreq:governor="ondemand" configured, I do drop down to 800mhz on all 4 processors. However the fan unlike my X201 is pretty much permanently on. Argh! NOISE... It is pretty hot on the side, so the X220 seems to exhibit some cooling issues. :( I'm not sure who to turn to. I don't think there is any point trying to turn off the noisy fan if it feels hot to the touch! I did find a ridiculously long forum thread on the X220 fan's issues.

UPDATE: Appending i915.i915_enable_rc6=1 to /proc/cmdline seems to make my X220's temperature /sys/class/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp fall almost 10C! Why the hell isn't this enabled by default is beyond me. The authoritative resource is tidbits buried in and also seems like a nice X220 resource.

Another problem is the "Intel Corporation Centrino Advanced-N 6205 (rev 34)" wireless. Arch's wifi-select wlan0 doesn't seem to want to join an open network. The problem seems similar to an issue documented with my X201 and DHCP IP lease attempt failed on Archlinx. I've also found general complaints about the Intel iwalgn driver. My workaround is to sudo iwconfig wlan0 essid praze, sudo iwconfig wlan0 key off & sudo dhcpcd wlan0 manually to get connected!

Another issue is the card reader. mmcblk0: timed out sending r/w cmd command, card status 0x700, sdhci/mmcblk0 b0rks with errors and REGISTER DUMP (mmc0) all over the shop when I put in an sdcard, which works fine on the X201. Found an Arch post of the same topic, which says the problem might be fixed in Linux 3.1. I'm running Linux x220 3.1.0-4-ARCH #1 SMP PREEMPT Mon Nov 7 22:47:18 CET 2011 x86_64 Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-2620M CPU @ 2.70GHz GenuineIntel GNU/Linux atm. :/ Works now fine in 3.1.1-1-ARCH.

The 9 cell battery only seems to get 4.5hrs out of it. There is probably some tweaking I can do. Doesn't help that powertop doesn't work because it isn't ported to /sysfs IIUC. :( The 9 cell upgrade wasn't much money, but I think I would have gone for the smaller battery now, knowing what I do now.

X201 versus X220 showing tmux

I like the new wider & clearer screen. It suits me well with the rather excellent tiling window manager dwm. The little webcam (HD 720p) is also an improvement over the one embedded in the screen in the X201. I also think the keyboard is slightly better too, with the fat ESC & Delete keys that suit a vim user well.

Of course I disabled the touchpad/Trackpad in favour of the Trackpoint "nipple" in the BIOS, but it is unnerving to accidentally depress it from time to time as I think the case is falling apart (which it isn't).

Occasionally the Windows hard drive spins up and makes a funny noise, even though it's not in use. Not sure what I can do about this... perhaps I should take it out. ;) Update: I just removed it and saved some weight. Running solely off mSata.

Volume on the X220 is quite low, compared to the X201. Almost too low to watch a movie.

I must say buying a laptop from (powered by Digital River) was a little frustrating. It exhibited a myriad of problems, most of which I've cleared my mind off, less I go mad.

  • Timing out (joy at having to pick all the parts I want again ...)
  • Failed to login (I think my login is for the US site which doesn't work in the UK site), ended up ordering without an account, completely daft
  • Awful, god awful forms
  • Conflicting information about the on-site warranty, needed to call up to clarify this

Lenovo UK on twitter thankfully were slightly useful.

The UPS shipment progress was also pretty ridiculous. The laptop started in China on 11/03/2011, then it went to:

  • Castle Donnington, United Kingdom
  • Back to Shanghai, China (w.t.f!)
  • Incheon, Korea, Republic of
  • Almaty, Kazakhstan
  • Warsaw, Poland
  • Koeln, Germany
  • Castle Donnington, United Kingdom (been here 5 days earlier!)
  • Exeter, United Kingdom 11/08/2011
Iphone4 versus NexusS

Iphone4 and NexusS

The TL;DR version is that I'm having an embarrasing non-sensical emotional break down since I'm having to switch back to using a Nexus S after using a Iphone4 secretly for the past few months. My principles are in a mess.

I must confess I started using an Iphone4 whilst on the 2011 Mongol Rally. I had the phone through work, though I didn't have a good reason to use the Iphone until on the trip.

The Iphone4 feature I fell in love with was its camera. It takes excellent videos too, and it was a pure joy to look back on them in the Photos application and the Places feature was a sheer bonus.

I ditched my Canon IXUS 1000 HS months ago because it sucked. The Iphone and NexusS feature I can't live without is Geotagging. I did come across a small Canon camera with a geotagging feature, but the sales person said you need to use special software to enable it. Fuck that! Even if the sales person was wrong, a long GPS acquisition time seems to be the case for camera without a data SIM card. Again the Iphone4 seems really fast, faster than the Android NexusS for geotagging an image. In fact, what I love about the Iphone4 is that it doesn't even show it's geotagging, it just does it (with good results), so it's just one less thing to worry about.

This Tuesday I have to return my work Iphone4 since I am moving to Malaysia and I will have to return to using the Nexus S which has a long list of faults.

The Android Nexus S is incredibly sluggish, like walking through mud when using it. The Android keyboard is almost unusable next to the Iphone4's. :(

The NexusS battery is insanely bad. It's half way when the Iphone4 would be 80% doing more things. The Iphone4 also seems to charge incredibly quickly, unlike the NexusS.

The screen on the Iphone4 feels bigger. Using the NexusS is like using a screen that's half this size... the NexusS feels claustrophobic next to the Iphone4.

Some things about the Iphone4 that sucked are:

  • Had to get operator to allow the wifi spot feature which I could never get my laptop connected to
  • Apple's Mail client sucks, search seemed broken
  • You can't tether on Iphone in Arch (at least I could not figure it out) and that just super sucks. Android tethering is a joy.
  • Don't understand notifications on Ios5. For e.g. it tells me I have FB update, but it's sluggish to open FB app and then I have to update again to see the message. w.t.f.? (Still it's better than say tweetdeck falling over all the time on Android)
  • Mounting the Iphone4 filesystem from Archlinux broke on the ios5 update which seriously pissed me off. So I had to email off all the pictures I took which is frankly unworkable going forward.

Besides those complaints I will seriously miss the Iphone4. I hate to sound like a complete fan boy, but I don't think I can cope without it. :(

NexusS takes horrible pictures and just the sluggish UI will piss me off no end. Android ICS 4.0 seems even slower and more bloated than the 2.3.6... so this feels seriously like a down grade and I don't see Android rectifying their sucky bloatware trajectory.

I want to keep with a more "open phone" like Android, but tbh I also like to argue I care really about the browser. For me in the mobile Web industry, I feel Safari on Iphone is the browser to target.

Is IRC at the end of its life?

Web IRC clients

I've been using IRC for years. Since the South African BBS Connectix days, on ZAnet #durban.

During boarding school I took a break from all things Internet, but by Bath University I was back... this time on Quakenet. Thanks to Quake & QWTF clans. There is a chat channel on Quakenet with a few hardcore BUNCS members from 1998 that we are still on.

Since University I've had a VPS and long enjoyed a screen & irssi session on Freenode to complement most of my working activities. I've lurked on #whatwg since its inception and I've asked countless stupid questions on a variety channels like #bash with familiar regulars like greycat & twkm.

I've also been on OFTC for years, mainly because of Debian projects like Debian Live & lately ikiwiki.

Refreshingly the W3C as a organisation use IRC to facilitate meetings. It has a rather excellent bot to help scribe and produce minutes of meetings on the Web. Really would like to see more of this.

I like to think I've introduced some folks to IRC and I was quite pleased to get 3 collegues recently on IRC. In my previous workplace we sat around the table and we were all on Gtalk, so there was no need for a company IRC channel.

So the four of us on a Freenode channel was immediately controversial. Freenode is only for "Free and Open Source Software communities" and we at the company were mainly communicating tbh about company type bullshit. So where do you go if you want an IRC channel for your company? Beats me. Update: Friends tell me their companies run an ircd at their workplace... yikes... another hurdle!

Btw Unreal ircd is 78k SLOC and the esteemed irc client irssi is 65k SLOC... quite a lot of C tbh, for an allegedly simple IRC protocol.

The barrier to entry to the world of IRC communication is outrageously high for businesses.

Setting up chanserv for the "business" channel to cater for employees with a password or rather to limit a certain IP range is non-trivial.

Next a distributed network probably requires some sort of nick registration. Took me personally ages to bother to register my nick on Freenode. Scripting a nickserv identify rule for a variety of IRC clients is another PITA.

Then there is question of users who connect from their local machines and basically drop off (leaving countless annoying quit and joined messages) when they for example change between wlan0 and eth0. Hence missing out on a potential backlog of messages. My colleagues are smart people, but I can't get all of them to use tmux/screen & irssi can I?! It's expensive for a start.

Furthermore I have the problem where the usual shell I run irssi in the UK is just too slow from Malaysia. So what now? Get a new VPS and re-configure stuff like IP masks? What a massive & expensive PITA.

So with the problems outlayed above, I think IRC is seriously in trouble. It really rang true for me as the co-working space in Malaysia, full of smart people... I'm the only person on IRC. They prefer Stackoverflow or Gtalk for discussions. Lack of Asian IRC servers is also a little worrying.

I like to think IRC could pull through well into 21st century if they solved the back channel (reconnect) problem and if IRC had a decent Web front end. Freenode's webchat seems broken half the time, for example too many connections from one IP.

During a fun IRC discourse on #suckless, cls adds:

  • no backlogging
  • no good authentication
  • usually sent in plaintext (not utf8 I assume)
  • we have multiple incompatible networks...

kfx recalls the defunct project irc+, where he said it died because "nobody gives a shit".

Update: I guess there is no such thing as original thought! via tokeiihto: