Hauppauge NOVA-S-Plus in Lucid

I’ve been using a Hauppauge NOVA-S-Plus DVB-S card for a while now with MythTV running on Ubuntu Hardy.

I recently upgraded to Lucid and had lots of difficulty getting the card to work with MythTV. All of the required kernel modules were loaded as expected (cx88xx, etc) and the device tree showed up as expected:

ls -l /dev/dvb/adapter0
total 0
crw-rw---- 1 root video 212, 1 2010-10-12 23:07 demux0
crw-rw---- 1 root video 212, 2 2010-10-12 23:07 dvr0
crw-rw---- 1 root video 212, 0 2010-10-12 23:07 frontend0
crw-rw---- 1 root video 212, 3 2010-10-12 23:07 net0

Testing dvbtune gave the following message:

dvbtune -f 1159000 -p H -s 22500000
FD 7: fd_dvr DEMUX DEVICE: : Device or resource busy

It turns out the fix is actually very simple, it’s just not very obvious or well advertised:

sudo apt-get install linux-firmware-nonfree

Apparently the firmware blobs have some legal restrictions regarding their distribution so they have been placed into a separate package as of Karmic.

Make sure you reboot after installing the firmware package.

Lucid gconf fail

This evening I encountered a weird problem when booting up Ubuntu 10.04. I simply had a black screen with a small error window saying:

There is a problem with the configuration server.
(/usr/lib/gconf2-4/gconf-sanity-check-2 exited with status 256)

Considering that I hadn’t knowingly changed anything last time I used the computer this seemed a little odd.

The following also appeared in /var/log/syslog:

Oct 13 22:05:34 hostname gnome-session[450]: WARNING: Error retrieving configuration key ‘/apps/gnome-session/options/auto_save_session’: Failed to contact configuration server; some possible causes are that you need to enable TCP/IP networking for ORBit, or you have stale NFS locks due to a system crash. See http://projects.gnome.org/gconf/ for information. (Details –  1: Could not send message to GConf daemon: Process /usr/lib/libgconf2-4/gconfd-2 received signal 6)

Fortunately the fix turned out to be easy; it’s simply a permission problem with /tmp. To fix it simply run:

sudo chmod 1777 /tmp

Eee 900 Bluetooth mod

I finally decided it was time to kit out my ancient but trusty Asus Eee 900 with internal Bluetooth. I had an old micro Bluetooth adapter lying about which came apart very easily to reveal an exceptionally small PCB.

I stuck this to the motherboard of the Eee using a small piece of double sided foam tape, just behind the external VGA connector, and then wired it to the unused USB lines connected to the WiFi adapter PCIe slot.

Power was derived from the same 5v rail that supplies the external USB ports. I simply scraped some solder mask off the tracks and soldered the wires directly.

Fortunately once I put it all together again it worked!

Another reason I try to avoid Windows

I decided to replace the hard disk in my Dell Optiplex 755 with a larger model (500GB). Migrating Ubuntu was trivial; Windows Vista was not. Clonezilla did its best but I ended up running into all sorts of Windows BCD corruption issues. Most of the various repair tools on the Windows DVD failed with incredibly non-descriptive error messages.

After giving up I quickly discovered that Windows would refuse to even install, citing Windows is unable to find a system volume that meets its criteria for installing. This was even after zeroising the first few GB of the disk with dd. WTF Microsoft?

Even a BIOS update didn’t do the trick. (hint to Dell, et al.: DOS is dead. Please give us a modern, OS independent BIOS update mechanism)

It turns out that two things seemed to have an affect on this: my HP Photosmart printer with its built-in card reader and floppy drive setting in the BIOS. Disconnecting the printer and setting the floppy drive mode from USB (default if there is no internal floppy drive) to None cured the problem.

By this stage I had wasted enough hours so didn’t even bother trying to see if the clone would work this time around.

Of course all along Ubuntu behaves just perfectly.

A guide to hacking Japanese car radios

Do you have a Japanese import car that won’t tune to local FM radio stations? It’s a well known fact that Japan uses a different public FM broadcast band to the rest of the world; 76 to 90 MHz instead of the usual 87.5 to 108 MHz CCIR band. Sure you can use a band expander but these suffer from a number of drawbacks, not to mention that the radio does not display the correct frequency of the station you are tuned to.

Here’s a guide on hacking your radio to convert it to natively tune across the CCIR band. This post is still a work in progress so I may update it from time to time and add more photos as I get the chance. Read more of this post

McIntosh EF-1080I Information

I’ve had quite a few requests for more information about the McIntosh EF-1080I amplifier (often but incorrectly referred to as the EF-10801). This unit is actually made by Clarion and is supplied as stock equipment with many Subaru Legacy and Outback cars manufactured between 1998-2003. Read more of this post

Measuring the capacitance of a varicap

Here’s a quick circuit that allows you to measure the capacitance of a varicap (also known as a varactor).

As varicaps generally have a very small capacitance (typically a few dozen picofarads) it pays to keep the wiring between the varicap (VC) and the capacitance meter as short as possible to reduce stray capacitance.