Saturday, November 8, 2008

KStars gets GPS sync support

By default, KStars can sync the telescope's time and location settings to that of KStars. This is an important step before you can properly control your telescope. However, some users, especially those who frequently change locations require syncing the PC time and location settings to those of the telescope, especially since many modern telescopes are equipped with GPS receivers.

Bug 147743 was opened to address this issue. I recently committed a change to KDE svn repository to add this feature to KStars. Now users can select the source of the time and location settings!

Barty barty barty!

Part of my weekly ritual is to dine at my favorite Thai restaurant in AlMuthanna Complex, Kuwait City. Just next to the Thai restaurant is another shop that has been out of business for quite a while. It has one of the most horrendously misspelled names to be conceived by homosapiens. I'll just leave you with the picture :-)

Using Zain 3G Modem in Linux

Zain (formerly MTC) offers 3G wireless internet via their unlimited 7.2 Mbps plan. Of course, the bandwidth is neither 7.2 Mbps, nor unlimited. More rather, it should be called Zain 128 kbps restricted and capped plan. It's presumably capped @ 30 GB per month, and if you exceed this limit, then they will degrade your speed. What a joke, degrade it to what? 1200 bauds? Maybe I won't even notice the difference.

Yes you can get 2 Mbps if you're lucky at times, but don't bet on it. Rumors has it that the closer you are to Zain's transmission towers, the faster your connection gets. In fact, someone was indeed able to download at 7.2 Mbps while camping near one of Zain's towers for the full 30 seconds it took the microwave radiation to fry him alive.

At any rate, what do you need to run Zain's 3G modem in Linux? With the 0.7 release of network manager, which is included by default in Ubuntu 8.10, it's a breeze (well, almost) to connect to the internet using Zain Huawei E220 HSDPA USB modem.

Once you plug in the modem, Ubuntu will detect it and then offers you to configure it.

1. Select A provider: Select Kuwait from the list of providers, and then select Vodafone:

2. Confirm provider selection:

3. Edit provider settings

You need to enter the username, password, APN, and PIN if you have it enabled. How do you get these settings? If you plug the USB dongle in an XP/Vista machine, it will be recognized as a modem and also as a read-only Mass Storage Device which installs the drivers and Zain's connectivity application. The USB contains a file named SYSCONFIG which lists the configuration of Zain connection profiles. This is an example of the 3G profile (Which can be used for the 27KD plan):

[Zain 3G]
IP Dynamic=0
Authentication protocol=1
Dns Dynamic=0
Wins Dynamic=0

Here is another profile for Bahrain Zain customers:

IP Dynamic=0
Authentication protocol=1
Dns Dynamic=0
Wins Dynamic=0

Please note that the password is NOT one character | but there are two unicode characters before the |, and they are %7F%7F. This is how you enter the password in the network manager:

1. Go to the password field.
2. Press Ctrl + Shift then u then 7F then press space, and you'll get your first unicode character.
3. Repeat #2 once more.
4. Enter the character |

Your password field should look like this (if you enable show password):

That's it, you're set!