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Present Perfect

Scrolling LED Marquee part one

Filed under: Belgium,Hacking,Twisted — Thomas @ 14:16


When we moved into the new apartment, one of the things I definitely wanted to maintain the nerd quotient in the place was a scrolling LED marquee in the kitchen pointing to the living room:


I got the idea when we bought a marquee such as this one as the perfect gift for Peter's 30th birthday some time ago. I remember racking my brain trying to come up with a good gift for us to give him, and at some point it hit me that one of these things would be awesome for him.

We didn't just give it to him either - he had a birthday party at the Charlatan, a bar in Gent, and we installed the marquee there as part of the DJ booth, putting up increasingly weird messages until he finally realized that it was a present for him. Good times!

Anyway, having that thing at home for a few days and playing with it convinced me I should get one for myself for the new apartment and use it for news updates. We installed the thing in the ceiling spanner and, apart from some tedious remote control entering of texts for some occasions, I haven't used it much since. I tried once in a while to control it from the computer but I never really got it to work.

Until last week I had some spare time and decided to figure out what the problem is with the computer control. After a lot of twiddling, I realized that the serial-to-jack cable had a 6P6C jack, instead of the usual 6P4C for RJ-11 use. I hadn't actually ever seen a cable like that, someone suggested it might have been used for ISDN connections, but I have no idea. Hooking it up directly to a computer made the software work under VMWare and Wine to control the device. After that, controlling it directly from Linux was easy.

Of course, I want to use the marquee in its place in the kitchen, not by my computer. After all, that's why I invested in the Abitana network I installed. I went to my favourite electronics store in Barcelona, where they had to custom-make the cable because apparently it's hard to get stock cable like this.

Took it back home, tried it, still didn't work. After inspecting the cable more closely it seems the guy had put one end on the wrong way. Luckily, one end is supposed to go in the 8P8C RJ-45 wall socket, so I crimped a standard connector on that end, and bingo! Finally have the LED marquee in place and controlled from Linux from my computer!

Next step, to write some Twisted-using software to implement the protocol, and write some code to get RSS feeds and display some news! I considered using LCDProc (which I've used on my Dave/Dina box), but it looks like that's mostly geared towards small LCD displays with multiple lines and characters, and some control buttons.

I need to figure out how I am going to prioritize incoming information (RSS feeds, buildbot status, nagios alerts, incoming mail, ...) and create a message queue out of those spread across the 26 pages the marquee offers. If you know any software doing this sort of thing, feel free to comment!

upcoming music

Filed under: Music — Thomas @ 13:31


In response to Peter's question on upcoming concerts:

That's, from top to bottom, tickets at the Ancienne Belgique for:

  • Stef Bos, 28/01/09 (2)
  • Spinvis solo, 23/01/09 (2)
  • Frank Vander Linden solo, 22/01/09 (2)
  • Gorki theatertour, 15/01/09 (2)
  • Notwist, 11/12/08 (1)
  • Elbow, 11/11/08 (2)
  • Heather Nova (but I'm going for the opener, Scarce, a band with an amazing 13 year old debut and an amazing story on what happened after that) (1)

With all these concerts I got from the AB, I also ordered the 15+3 drink coins ticket :)

In addition, I plan to go to see the Walkmen at the AB club (23/10/2008) - oh do I still regret that one time where Gerald from Charlatan told me 'you should come this weekend to see this new band called Walkmen play, they're your kind of music' and I ignored him.

And furthermore, I have tickets for Sigur Ros at Vorst Nationaal on 16/11/2008 (2) and My Morning Jacket at Cirque Royal on 1/11/2008 (1) And I plan to go see Sigur Ros in Barcelona as well, but not sure yet.

As you can guess from above, I am looking incredibly forward to tonight's Scarce set. I don't recall why I ended up buying this album, because nobody knew about it, but I probably bought it on a vague Pixies reference at a time where I was jumping on anything that sounded anything like the Pixies. After an opening tour for Hole in Europe, right after their UK debut album launched, the singer got hit with a brain aneurysm. He lapsed into a coma, and woke up weeks later, unable to remember that he was in a band. He relearnt his songs, tried to go on tour again with his band, but was unable to enjoy it as he had no memory of it happening before. They ended up splitting in 1996. If it were a movie it would be called over the top.

And apparently, he went back to making music, and now they have rejoined, and they are opening tonight for Heather Nova, of all people!

today’s best moment

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 15:21


Yesterday was spent doing a company event (climbing trees in 'el bosc vertical') - I had to rub my eyes when I got on the bus to see the bus close to full, some 45 people leaving from the World Trade Center. We've come a long way.

I had a flight booked on Saturday morning leaving at 8:00 AM in a vain attempt to get to Christophe's wedding on time. I wasn't able to arrange for transportation getting off the plane (Kristien 'working' at the radio and other friends not going to the service) so I took the early flight for no good reason at all in the end.

There was also a birthday party last night, with food starting at 22:00 and, in Spanish tradition, with 30+ people attending, at least an hour between the 'last coffee' and 'standing outside' moment - which was at 1.30

Does one cut his losses at 1.30 AM for a 6:40 AM wake up or just keep going ? I went with the latter and joined the group in going out, which, in Spanish tradition, involved people proposing various places, going to a few, and settling on something that actually has room in the area of some place we actually wanted to go but didn't have room. We shook the booty until 4:45 AM - I wanted to give myself at least one full sleep cycle.

Woke up into a coma, dragged myself out of the house, kept myself awake with loud music in the taxi and in the waiting area, and continuously dozed off and woke up again when my head fell on the plane.

With the plane arriving 20 minutes early, I was able to get on the regional bus - without having to wait for it, and leaving just as I had gotten on - that leaves just outside the airport, takes 55 minutes to go to my house where it has a stop exactly in front of it. A rare trip where all elements align to make it a swift one, even if the conditions were less than ideal.

So, today's best moment ? Figuring out for a second if there's any way I can prolong my comatose state and attempt at dozing, setting my alarm to 40 minutes into the future, and then sprawling myself across the backseat, with The National on headphones, dozing off with the rumble of the engines, sunkissed by an October morning sun filtered into warming specks by the dirt on a window that went unwashed for a month.

Comfortably numb.

Fluendo, Dell and Ubuntu

Filed under: Fluendo — Thomas @ 10:38


Dell has started shipping pre-bundled Ubuntu with our Fluendo codecs.

Julien showed me this image on the site:


Bal Marginal

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 14:46


This weekend we were invited to one of Kristien's friends' birthday party. It was dress-up, and the goal was to dress like people who don't have any money and are invited to a formal dance.

This was a perfect match for my cross-dress-shoe habit, so I wanted to go one step further. I ended up getting two really cheap blazers in a recycling store (one red, one blue), and cut a diagonal through their backs, and sewed them back together:

It came out rather nicely for a quick sewing job, I'm considering taking the other two halves and actually spending some time finishing it well for a trip to New York.

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