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m (13 Nov 2004 17:08): where is a good place to get cheap electronic parts? I need some female usb plugs, and a breadboard wouldn't hurt, either. the only thing I've got is radio shack, and they're not so hot.
zong (13 Nov 2004 17:28): Do you have any local electronics stores?
There are a few in Silicon Valley, but that's not where you are, I suppose.
Then there are online ones:
Jameco electronics

m (13 Nov 2004 18:26): YHAR!!!
Paul (13 Nov 2004 19:21): Radar Electric in Seattle used to be awesome. They sold resistors for a nickel and switches for a dime. I think they only made money off industrial customers. Maybe that's why they seem to have eliminated their non-industrial business now... :(
Paul (13 Nov 2004 19:25): For something as expensive as a breadboard, ebay might be worth a shot.
Paul (27 Aug 2008 6:37): I want to buy an LCD Projector (I think). Do you all know a model that's cheap and decent? Is a used one from eBay possibly okay? And are they like printers, where the replacement bulb costs as much as the unit itself?
Paul (20 Sep 2008 6:18): Recommendations for a webcam? Requirements: cheap, linux-friendly.
G (21 Sep 2008 2:48): Oddly, this is familiar, as if from a dream...
G (21 Sep 2008 2:56): This came up immediately in Google. Is it useful? I don't know! You might just check to see what cheap webcams you can get your grubby mitts on, then check it against the chart to see if there are drivers and if they have multiple asterisks in the 'quality' column. After checking to see if <camera name> + "linux", "driver" turns up anything.
G (21 Sep 2008 3:24): There are a lot of webcams out there. What are you looking for? The Microsoft VX-1000 "Lifecam" goes for a cool $20 at amazon, and has drivers at that one page. I guess the native sensor resolution is 352 x 288, and I didn't see any sample video or snapshots for it anywhere. Presumably nothing overwhelming.

It seems like you have to pony up at least $25 or $30 to get out of the 352x288 ghetto into the 640x480 slums. And obviously there's a lot more beyond that. I dunno.
Paul (22 Sep 2008 19:32): That gspca looks like a plan if I can't get something simpler. Where simpler is defined as, "built into the kernel already". Thanks!
G (23 Sep 2008 11:48): Then maybe you could do what's on this page to find out what's in your kernel, and then use that information to go and find a compatible camera.
Paul (4 Oct 2008 12:37): Having now bought a random webcam, and found that it doesn't quite work with the gspca driver, I think I should've consulted this page to support vendors that make free-friendly products.
R (5 Oct 2008 4:12): That is a short list. :(
R (8 Jan 2009 13:51): Asus is showing a nice computer-within-a-keyboard concept at CES. Small touchscreen attached, some sort of wireless video solution, and cripplingly-low battery life. But, shows a lot of promise.
m (9 Jan 2009 14:38): One hour of battery life? Christ, it's not even like they've got that much display to power - where's it all going?
m (9 Jan 2009 14:39): Grousing aside, it does look pretty fucking sweet.
Paul (6 Mar 2011 12:07): Okay, I'm getting ready to shelve my Thinkpad 600E, and foray into a new model of laptop. Target="200GB disk, 2GB ram, 10in size, trackpoint, native Ubuntu support for all hardware including wifi+sound+video, durable construction to last many years". Does anything meet this target for under $500? I can be flexible if I have to.
G (6 Mar 2011 20:03): Kind of amazed that anybody would prefer the mouse-nipple over a touch-pad.
G (6 Mar 2011 20:13): I think you're unlikely to get a 200 GB HD and 2GB ram in a laptop for under $500... but you might get close. If you want something to last you a long time, you will probably want something that can support 4GB of ram, but I guess they all do now. 200 GB hard drive - are you okay with an external? Ubuntu compatibility, maybe check here or something:
G (6 Mar 2011 20:14): I bet you you can't find one with a mouse nubbin though.
G (6 Mar 2011 20:17): lol how old am i
You seriously can't find hard drives smaller than that.
I was all like, maybe hook up an external? Nice one.
So do you want something like this? It has Ubuntu pre-installed.
G (6 Mar 2011 20:29): Still kind of blown away by the point-stick thing, though.
Sandra asked 'why paul doesn't like nice things.'
G (6 Mar 2011 20:43): S-S-S-SIX POSTSSSSS
All these posts have got people saying, G, is he on drugs?
Sure. Yeah. I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen.
R (6 Mar 2011 22:15): Personally, I don't prefer a nipple, but there are some reasons to like them. If your primary work on a computer is via keyboard input, you can use the nipple without moving your fingers from the home row. Pretty great for folks who rarely leave a set of different terminal windows. Tiny little trackpads (the kind you find on netbooks) can be hard to use. Lastly, there are some really jumpy, shitty sensors out there — us privileges Apple whores don't put up with it, but it is a thing that exists. Personally, I need a scroll thing. Two finger scrolling, scroll wheel, side of trackpad that scrolls, all those can work. Although what's wrong with PgDwn?
R (6 Mar 2011 22:18): Also, 200 GB drives are expensive lol. You were, uh, probably thinking of SSDs. Yeah.
R (6 Mar 2011 22:59): FWIW, the Thinkpad x120e just started shipping. Looks like you can get one starting at $400 from Lenovo. Specs.
R (6 Mar 2011 23:07): On sale at Lenovo through the 10th? Some slickdeals coupons out there, too. Dual-core CPU is probably worth the $40 upgrade.
G (10 Mar 2011 8:09): So whatchu gon' do, Paul? Another thinkpad?
Probably the only way you're going to find a 1366 x 768 resolution on a 10-inch...
Paul (12 Mar 2011 7:44): I keep getting caught on random issues. For example, now that I read about LiCoO2 vs LiFePO4 batteries, I understand why my XO battery still works fine after 3 years, while many others do not.
G (12 Mar 2011 13:14): Buy another battery in 3 years?
Paul (14 Mar 2011 22:07): Went for the Thinkpad X120e. Estimated shipping 3/23 + 4-6 business days. Sounds like it may be bleeding edge for a bit, but plenty of Linux users are getting it, so it should become well supported for a while. Ordered using an 11 year old Thinkpad 600E.
R (15 Mar 2011 0:58): Awesome! Pretty sure you'll be happy with it, excited! Also, test post.
R (28 Mar 2011 17:58): New laptop show up yet?
Paul (4 Apr 2011 5:24): Got it, and installed Ubuntu yesterday, which was painful. Possibly my USB CD-ROM drive is not good. It said "sorry, the installer crashed, please file a bug report". And then when the install finally succeeded, mancalablog didn't work, however that seems to have been a problem affecting all computers, not just my new one. So, now it works, and plays youtube videos out of the box(!) which is a feature I have not had before. I will probably continue to discover more nice features like this.
R (4 Apr 2011 20:35): Excellent! Welcome to the moden web, P!aul. Paul. That.
G (8 Apr 2011 7:29): So what you're saying is that you're now too busy watching dogs eat cabbage.
m (8 Apr 2011 15:43): Corgi and cabbage
G (8 Apr 2011 20:13): Yeah but you know I only want video.
Paul (2 May 2011 19:17): So now that I can (somewhat) (more) easily watch Youtube videos, where can I get a list of videos I missed over the years that I should watch?
G (2 May 2011 20:38): You could look through my favorites list...
R (2 May 2011 21:35): I can't log into my YT account now, but MY favorites list is probably at least as good as G's. Since I've provided a link, you are much more likely to investigate my favorites than his! AHAHAHHHAHH. Why yes, I HAVE been drinking.
R (2 May 2011 21:38): Jesus, my favorites are chock full of crap. Nevermind@!
G (17 May 2011 7:45): There are many favorites, but this one is mine.
m (17 May 2011 9:09): What?! Paul?
Paul (18 May 2011 18:38): I was just thinking I should post thanks to R of mblog for pointing me to the Thinkpad X120e, which is working out very well. Funny to see Cory Doctorow (whom I have only heard of via xkcd) say the same thing.
Paul (5 Jul 2011 19:55): Does anyone know why backup storage costs like 10x more than regular storage? It seems to be a trend across multiple vendors, here's an example.
Paul (16 Jul 2011 17:30): My X120e started having this terrible Thinkpad battery problem now. Trying to figure out which pins are voltage and which pins are microcontroller so I could try the "eliminate the microcontroller pins for one discharge" solution.
R (21 Jul 2011 16:45): Wow, that isn't a fixed problem? Terrible. I imagine you'd be able to get a new battery under warranty, though. Definitely makes more sense than battery hacking. If you're unlucky, there'll be plenty of time for that later, when you're out of warranty.

The voltage pins should have ... voltage, so if you have a volt meter, that shouldn't be too much trouble. I wouldn't spend too much time looking for the info online.
Paul (22 Jul 2011 5:40): Solutions I've used now: (1) set a cron script to record minute-ly values of "voltage, remaining_capacity, power_now". Sure enough, voltage *should* correlate with remaining_capacity, but the battery internal whatever gets confused and starts reporting remaining_capacity is *higher* than what it should be, then when voltage drops to a critically low value, remaining_capacity jumps down to match. (2) charged the battery up to 99% and let it keep charging until *voltage* stabilizes. sure enough, voltage took a lot longer to stabilize, even after remaining_capacity was at 99%. thankfully it never hit 100% and refused to charge more.
Paul (22 Jul 2011 5:45): Wait, does it just compute remaining_capacity as int power_now dtime? Then of course it would get wrong over time, because voltage is on average lower when discharging than when charging, only current should be expected to be the same.
m (26 Jul 2011 10:12): A tablet whose carrying case comes with a certain someone's favorite keyboard!
G (26 Jul 2011 13:01): You first. >_>
Paul (30 Jul 2011 11:18): Just on the heels of figuring out the battery charging weirdness (since my solution seems to solve it completely, I'll call it "resolved as weirdness"), now I have a worse problem: several keys and mouse buttons stopped working. WTF? At least one other person has the same problem
Paul (30 Jul 2011 11:30): More people also report broken keyboards on the Thinkpad X120e. Why is new hardware so unreliable??
Paul (30 Jul 2011 15:24): Since it's under warranty, Lenovo support is sending me a new keyboard. They asked if I'm able to replace the keyboard myself, using the instructions in the hardware maintenance manual, so I said yes. It's different from the old days when everything said "if you open it yourself you void the warranty". I suppose their cost is a lot lower by having me do the replacement...

Gah, it's difficult to navigate when typing in Chrome without the down-arrow, home and end keys. I have to use the crippled mouse a lot more. Thankfully I don't use the affected keys at all in vim, so I can get by until the new keyboard comes.
z (30 Jul 2011 15:47): "Why is new hardware so unreliable??"

As computer prices drop, we shift on the features-reliability preference curve much towards features, because if it breaks you just buy a new one.
m (31 Jul 2011 10:15): yeah, think how limited your feature set would be if you forged your transistors out of iron like in the old days. But they'd last forever!
Paul (15 Aug 2011 20:39): Okay, installed my replacement keyboard and it works! I'm not sure if the original keyboard itself was really defective; what's really defective is the plastic connector labeled "7" in Thinkpad X120e hardware maintenance manual page 63. It had shaken out of place, causing some keys to not connect to the computer anymore. When installing the new keyboard, I just jammed "7" in place again, of course, but who's to say how long it will stay in place this time...

Also, I have to get used to pressing "Down" again. In desperation, I had mapped "F3" to "Down", but over time it got to seem entirely normal to use F3 instead of Down.
G (2 Mar 2012 13:12): Whenever somebody links to the Das Keyboard Ultimate I think of Paul (and Sam), because they're the only guys I know who are frequently (usually?) not using qwerty.
m (2 Mar 2012 14:56): Pretty sweet. What's n-key rollover? Is this letting me press arbitrarily many keys at the same time?
G (3 Mar 2012 18:41): That's precisely what it is.
Paul (28 Dec 2012 14:10): Ok, I'm looking at getting a smart phone. I'd like to get something that's going to be reasonably good for at least 2 years, but I'd also like to not pay very much. Any suggestions? Here's some overview. It sounds like month by month service is ok from Straight Talk or TMobile Monthly 4G, and you can use "whatever" phone that uses GSM (HSPA? LTE? WTF?). It sounds like Cyanogenmod is nice, and also supports many phones. My friend got a Google Nexus 4 recently. Should I wait until more of them are available? Who should I buy from?
m (28 Dec 2012 22:43): you should ask Kai about what he does / his scam. He just started at UBC in Vancouver, so he scrambled to get a google voice number to forward his US number to his laptop (wifi, gets text messages), then got an iphone with no plan (same deal, phone via google voice when on wifi) and then got some kind of cel data-only plan that's relatively cheap, and now all of his phone calls work all the time, voip style, on his data plan.
G (30 Dec 2012 0:45): Yes, please find out what the best/cheapest way to get a smartphone is.
Paul (4 Jan 2013 15:22): OK, this is my first post from my smartphone. it's a used Samsung from on craigslist. Came with cyanogenmod preinstalled, so that's convenient.

Now it seems to have some kind of terrible thing where it thinks I keep pressing a key when I'm not...but it was OK after rebooting. Next step is to set up Google voice and groove like Mike said. Porting my number will be the last step after everything else works.

Paul (7 Jan 2013 21:25): smart phone is pretty great. This post is made by talking into it which is totally magic.
G (8 Jan 2013 22:46): Tell us more! I want to get a 'smart-phone' and I am a total cheapskate.
What do I have to pay The Man to let him track me around and see through walls?
Come to think of it - I bet your phone plays youtube videos flawlessly. It's the end of an era...
G (10 Jan 2013 8:11): Also is $70 a month, like, the best I get to hope for?
R (10 Jan 2013 9:54): You can do $60/month without much trouble — look at T-mobile's monthly 4g plans. Some folks go a little further and set up a Google voice phone number, and then only use the Google Voice android app. Doing things that way, you'd need more data, but I think you'd be able to do the $30/month 100-voice minute plan.

Aside from that, you could try Wal-Mart's Stright Talk, which is MVNO AT&T. Works great unless you need help, and some folks that go over some unpublished data limit (2GB?) get unceremoniously tossed off the network.

I'm still on Virgin Mobile, which is MVNO Sprint. The price is right, starting at $35/month, but speed is excruciatingly slow at times. Phone selection is very limited too — without hacking the IMEI number on your device, they'll only allow phones they sell.

I'd recommend you investigate T-Mobile and Straight Talk, as you have a much better selection of phones (yay GSM).
G (10 Jan 2013 18:04): I knew I was missing something. For some reason I never found that page.
Paul (13 Jan 2013 21:54): Typing this using the messagEase keyboard, which is totally awesome. It's like dvorak level of innovation for touchscreen typing. You only get 9 regular keys so they're big, and they give you the common letters: a n i h o r t e s. Then the other letters and punctuation are done by dragging. But even the dragging is designed according to letter frequency and makes common combinations pretty efficient to type.
G (24 Jan 2013 21:14): Suhweeet. Got me a phone, now I just need to activate it...
m (24 Jan 2013 21:38): 10 SIM cards! 20!
Paul (3 Feb 2013 17:30): ok, this isn't quite a hardware question, but here I am. So my phone has an app called "Calendar", which automatically connects with events in And it works fine during winter (non-daylight-savings) time, which it displays as GMT -05:00. But, when I enter events after March 13 in my phone, they display 2 hours later on Like, events scheduled for 7pm display as 9pm. This is probably because the phone somehow thinks they will be in GMT -06:00. Where would it come up with GMT -06:00?? In daylight savings time, my events should be in GMT -04:00, ie, Eastern Daylight Time. I read reviews online and people are like, "doh, I missed so many appointments after daylight savings time." WTF?
Paul (3 Feb 2013 17:35): Ok, I think I found out the problem. In my android system settings, I had chosen, "use network provided time zone". For whatever network reason, this had resulted in choosing: Easter Island Summer Time GMT -05:00, which is the same as US East Coast time during our winter, but is 2 hours off from us during our summer. So, time to go back and adjust all my appointment times in the calendar now...
m (3 Feb 2013 23:06): Eastern Standard Time <=> Easter Island Summer Fun Time
G (5 Feb 2013 8:09): Should I move my most-known phone number over to my new phone? Or to googvoice?
The reason I wouldn't do GV is maybe I want that number to show up when I call people.
m (5 Feb 2013 18:56): Isn't there a setting in the GV app-thing to tell it to make your GV number your visible outbound number?
G (5 Feb 2013 19:46): What I (mis?)understood was that your GV number will always be your visible, outbound number when you make calls with GV. I'm less sure that I'll be able to make calls with GV on my data connection. Although if I was constantly tethered to a wi-fi hotspot or something, it wouldn't be a problem.
R (5 Feb 2013 20:25): This is usually why people pair the low-minute / high-data-cap plan with GV. Some people might have more elaborate telephony plans, but I would only want to deal with having one phone number. If GV works well enough, port your number to that. If it doesn't / if you have plenty of voice minutes don't bother. I guess GV is cool cause you can set fail over, or something? Like, people call one number and you can set it to ring your home, work or cell phone depending on where you are? I don't take enough calls for this to be useful. The voicemail stuff might be nice? If you only have 100 voice minutes and 5 GB data (TMobile $30/month plan) you're going to want to try to make GV work.
R (5 Feb 2013 20:25): Do you have you phone? Is your data connection crappy?
R (5 Feb 2013 20:26): Not sure why you're not sure about making GV calls.
R (5 Feb 2013 20:26): Not that I've tried it!
G (6 Feb 2013 0:01): I do have my phone! I'm also not sure about gv because I haven't tried it really. Data speed seems okay sort of but I hardly know, as again I haven't really put it through its paces.
G (14 Feb 2013 8:50): I was just talking with R about how miserable the Google asp store is and then the very next day I see this article. The one I'm now giving up on trying to paste a link to. God Dani.
G (14 Feb 2013 8:51): Typos too delicious to fox. Stubborn phone typing is basically just as good as drunk typing.
G (14 Feb 2013 8:53): *because the Google Play Store is like a figurative pit of snakes.
m (14 Feb 2013 9:29): I want link!
G (16 Feb 2013 21:16): It was just about how personal info was being sent to all the developers of apps that you download. I think everybody has heard by now.
m (17 Feb 2013 9:21): who's laughing at my blackberry now!
m (17 Feb 2013 10:18): seriously, though - Schneier has talked a little about this. Maybe you can get that app-fence thing, or something like it?
m (17 Feb 2013 10:19): Or maybe you're talking about something else, personal data given at time-of-purchase?
G (18 Feb 2013 4:25): Yes, I was thinking of the info at time of purchase thing.
m (18 Feb 2013 9:21): that's new to me, this problem with android
G (21 Feb 2013 16:27): I'm not completely freaked out, but my impression was that Google was sending contact info for the people who made purchases through the play store. So it wouldn't matter whether you had the information on your phone or not - what would count is whether Google has your info and has it associated with the account you use to make purchases. And if you're paying by credit card, then they probably do.
g (21 Feb 2013 16:28): Whoops disregard that.
G (21 Feb 2013 20:06): I am currently using the Nexus 4, and I like it pretty well, overall. $350 for the 16 GB version from Google. I had assumed I'd want to root/cyanogenmod it, but didn't bother. It's already running the current version of Android, gets updates when they come out, and doesn't have crapware or crippleware installed, which seem like the biggest reasons to do that. I am missing out on a few things that require root access, though, I suppose (full backup including config stuff, etc.).

If I ever do root/mod the phone, it will probably be because I'm sick of the Google Now shortcut, which I loathe (Drag up from any location along the bottom screen opens up Google Now). It's easy to hit by accident, and if you see it happening, you have to drag way up and then way back down to stop it. Or maybe I'd try to mod it if I thought it could improve battery life, but I don't really think that.

Battery life, by the way, is sort of lame. Depending on if you actually use your phone for checking email and web and stuff, if you're in an area with a spotty connection, or if you play a game, you might expect your phone to last maybe half a day. Most online estimates give you about 4-some hours of active web usage. Installing a weather widget or something like that on a home screen that pulls updates can easily ruin your standby battery life. Luckily, if you go through the settings, you can see estimated power consumption by process/app. If you're not the kind of person who likes looking through your phone's settings, you're probably just miserable or need to never install anything. I have, like, one widget running on a home screen. I like that one, though.

Anyway, if you're keeping score, that's about half of the iphone 5's batter life (which isn't particularly different from the 4s, I don't believe), but pretty standard for an android phone.

I have some criticisms of the Apple app store, but honestly it's way better than the Google play store for apps. App selection for android is pretty limited in comparison. I gave up even trying to find a game I'd want to play, but there are a couple ports of iOS games that might be worth getting if they'd be new to you.

Google's apps are pretty good, though. Honestly I'm mostly just using those. I had never felt tempted to link some of my google accounts before this, and I actually did.

Phone is maybe just a little bit bigger than I'd prefer, but the screen is super nice. Speaker placement is stupid for several reasons. The grill is stupid, it's too small, it's on the side of the back of this flat phone, so guaranteed that if your phone is not being held and is not face down the sound will be extremely muffled. Speaker is fine I guess; it's kinda tinny but what do you expect.

Camera is pretty nice, but low-light performance is actually pretty bad. On the other hand, the 'flash' LED is way brighter than I thought it would be. It's really bright. People will wonder if you're welding or something.

So in the end, I'd recommend it for an Android phone. You don't need to root it (no crapware), you actually get updates, it's probably the best 'android' experience. Other potential candidate android phones are not smaller, are not wildly cheaper (unless they're crap), don't get significantly better battery life, etc. I dunno.
m (22 Feb 2013 11:14): Thanks Grant. Passed your post/review on to my dad.
G (22 Feb 2013 22:35): Basically, not aware of anything better.
m (23 Sep 2015 21:33): So I guess Lenovo did stick some perpetual-malware into BIOS. But in new Lenovo malware news...
m (24 Sep 2015 19:34): Bluuuuuuurg.

The update to CM12.1 (several weeks old now!) totally broke the radio on my OPO. Spent the day figuring out how to do a manual install of CM12.0. Finally (seems) fixed. Had to totally wipe my phone in the process.

Poor meows. At least I fed them a plate of sushi before erasing their universe.
m (7 May 2016 10:35): Ann got me one of these a few months back, and I'm just pulling it out to fiddle with and the specs are incredible!
Paul (21 May 2016 11:25): Ok, 3 hours later, and I finally have my thermostat set up to run the furnace fan 7 hours/day without running the heat. This is all based on discovering that a good furnace filter is way more effective than a portable air filter in removing whatever I'm allergic to.
m (22 May 2016 1:17): Yeah!