Monday, December 01, 2008

Howto: Ubuntu 8.10, Dell 5530, 3G/WWan and GPS

There is an updated howto on the Dell 5530 using my own python based monitoring tool at


Here is a Howto document for getting the Dell 5530 wwan card working along with the onboard GPS under Ubuntu 8.10. This card does not work conveniently with the bundled Network Manager software, but replacing NetworkManager with other utilities will give the ability to get online using a pretty GUI and not have to resort to using wvdial and the command line...

It should also work with the Ericsson f3507g as I believe the Dell 5530 is a rebadged version of this module.

Check Hardware

First you need to check the modem is detected correctly. On my computer, the modem is detected out of the box by the cdc_acm module and exposes three serial ports (/dev/ttyACM[0,1,2]) for communication. Check by running:

dmesg | grep ACM

Mine shows the following:

[ 34.385302] cdc_acm 1-6:1.1: ttyACM0: USB ACM device
[ 34.390039] cdc_acm 1-6:1.3: ttyACM1: USB ACM device
[ 34.401983] cdc_acm 1-6:1.9: ttyACM2: USB ACM device

Install and Configure wvdial

Next, you need to ensure you can get online using the terminal and wvdial - you will only need to use wvdial to switch the radio on and off - something that can easily be added to Ubuntu's Gnome menu.

Using apt, install wvdial:

sudo apt-get install wvdial

I have written a wvdial script which uses /dev/ttyACM0 for reading the signal quality and switching the device on and off. /dev/ttyACM1 is used exclusively for ppp and /dev/ttyACM2 is used exclusively for the GPS.

[Dialer Defaults]
New PPPD = yes
Stupid Mode = 1
Modem Type = USB Modem

#[Dialer PIN]
#Init1 = AT+CPIN=

[Dialer signal]
Modem = /dev/ttyACM0
Init1 = AT+CSQ
Init2 = AT+COPS?

[Dialer gps]
Modem = /dev/ttyACM2
Init1 = AT*E2GPSCTL=1,2,1

[Dialer on]
Modem = /dev/ttyACM0
Init1 = AT+CFUN=1

[Dialer off]
Modem = /dev/ttyACM0
Init1 = AT+CFUN=4

[Dialer connect]
Modem = /dev/ttyACM1
Init1 = AT
Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Baud = 460800
ISDN = 0
Phone = *99***1#
Password = web
Username = web

This script allows the following commands to be run:

wvdial onSwitch Radio On
wvdial offSwitch Radio Off
wvdial signalShow signal quality, network provider and signal connection (HSPA/3g/GPRS)
wvdial connectConnects to the mobile network
wvdial gpsEnables GPS NMEA message output on /dev/ttyACM2 outputting a new message every 2 seconds

Make sure you can switch your radio on and connect to the internet. If so, you should also be able to switch the GPS on without effecting your network connection. As a final check, run wvdial signal and you should get information about the signal strength - this is crucial that you can get this information whilst the connection is open as it will help later with UMTSMon.

If you find you cannot connect to the network with wvdial connect without being root or using sudo. Ensure you are in the 'dip' group. You can do this through the "Users and Groups" application in the the Adminstration menu, make sure you unlock to get superuser privileges, highlight your login and press the "Properties" button. In the "User Privileges" tab you can tick the box next to "Use Modems", I also clicked a few more like "Dial out using a modem" which I think adds you to the 'dialout' group which appears to be completely irrelevant to pppd and I presume NetworkManager since it's unchecked by default - WTF?

You might need to logout and back in again or re-source your shell. Check you can dial out using wvdial. This is important so you don't need to run UMTSMon as sudo.

Install UMTSMon

Download a pre-built binary of UMTSMon for Debian from the following page: Note I had to use dpkg to install this file, the graphical gdebi failed for some reason.

sudo dpkg -i umtsmon_0.9-1_i386.deb

Once it is installed it should appear in your "Internet" Gnome application sub-menu.

Before you run umtsmon, switch your radio on using wvdial on.

I initially ran umtsmon from the command line so run it using umtsmon. During first run it will setup an rc file in your home directory at ~/.umtsmon/umtsmonrc. You may have to add a profile for your network provider - I use Vodafone and found the information I needed online. Once you have the information you need, add it using the Connection>Manage Profiles... menu item. Add a new profile and fill in the information you need. Additionally you can set usage limits for this profile on this page.

Hopefully you will see signal strength in the umtsmon window, but don't click connect just yet as you want to ensure wvdial and umtsmon are compatible. This is so you can switch the radio off, use GPS and view signal strength whilst connected. The first time I used UMTSMon, it used the same serial port for everything and I couldn't see signal strength or switch the card off once online. Close UMTSMon and in the command line edit the following file ~/.umtsmon/umtsmonrc using your favourite editor! Ensure the device section entries for ATPortName and PPPPortName looks like this:


This ensures the UMTSMon config is compatible with wvdial.

Add the following entries to your Gnome menu:

wvdial on
wvdial off
wvdial gps

All with options to run in the terminal. The last GPS option will hold onto the terminal for the moment, but once you kill it, the GPS will continue to write NMEA statements for read on /dev/ttyACM2.


You will need to install gpsd using apt, then run using gpsd /dev/ttyACM2.

I used tangoGPS which I installed from their website at Tango can also be configured to use Google Maps data in addition to OpenStreetMap.

NetworkManager alternative

To stop the NetworkManager applet nagging you about the new card it can't use, get rid of it and try Wicd - a much cleaner and faster utility for accessing WiFi networks.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Glasgow Green Fireworks 2008


We went to the 'Bonfire night' fireworks last night at Glasgow Green. We missed the last two and this year it was being held on November 6th due to a football match the night before. Glad football now takes precedent over celebrating the failure of Guy Fawkes...

This years theme was West End musicals and the fireworks would be set to the music from famous shows. Unfortunately, it was quite dreary! Setting fireworks to the tune of Memories (from Cats) really isn't that exciting! There were a few upbeat displays - the Monster mash and a Buddy Holly song, but the rest were all pretty unexciting.

A few years back it was awesome and sponsored by Clydesdale bank - they even had frickin' lasers. Just shows there aren't any banks with spare cash around anymore!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin Carving Lights Off

Louise and I thought we'd try out carving a pumpkin, so we bought a carving kit from Morrisons along with two pumpkins. Mine's the one on the right!

I thought it would take much longer to do them. We both want another go now....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekend at Ardgarten


Louise and I spent this weekend at Ardgarten Caravan and Camping Site (run by the Forestry Commission). Unfortunately the Saturday was pretty rainy and we spent the day relaxing inside the van. But on Sunday the weather was much better and we were able to explore some of the local area.

The campsite was very nice with mountains surrounding and it was on the banks of Loch Long which was picturesque. We arrived at night and it was extremely dark. In fact the only thing we could see when we arrived was the lights coming from the windows of a train travelling past on the mountain opposite!!

On Sunday we travelled to the "Rest and be thankful" car park where we had a Leek and Potato soup whilst admiring the views over Glen Croe. After this we took the easiest walk at the Ardgarten visitor centre - the Riverside Walk along the banks of the River Croe.

Hopefully we will return soon and try some longer walks!

Link to Ardgarten Flickr! Set

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Glasgow: One of the world's top 10 cities

Photo by Ed O'Keefe

What does Antwerp; Beirut; Chicago; Lisbon; Mexico City; Sao Paulo; Shanghai; Warsaw; and Zurich all have in common with Glasgow? They are all listed as the world's top 10 cities by travel group Lonely Planet.

I moved to Glasgow 10 years ago for University and have enjoyed it all! I find Glasgow a fabulous city to live and work in. Whilst I've had ups and downs, I have always enjoyed the Glaswegian humour and friendliness! If I had to choose anywhere in the UK to live, it'd be Glasgow!

Over those 10 years I've seen a massive change to the city and every change has been for the better! Hidden away in Glasgow are delicious restaurants; fabulous Museums; superb Art Galleries; and is considered the best shopping centre outside of London!

The secret it would appear is finally out!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ridley Scott to adapt Haldeman's Forever War

Just found out that one of my favourite books read in the last few years is to be made into a film directed by Ridley Scott; Joe Haldeman's Forever War! I bought this book a few years back from a list of top Science Fiction books (S.F. Masterworks), it was the number one on the list. One of the few books I had difficulty putting down, I've started reading through the rest and so far found them pretty enjoyable too, with I am Legend and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep 2nd and 4th respectively.

I'll be looking forward to this release!!

Original Article on BoingBoing

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CG Singapore F1 Circuit

Two of my interests combine in this video - a CG version of the all new Singapore Formula One night race produced by AixSponza for Red Bull Racing showing a lap raced by the two Red Bull drivers and narrated by Mark Webber. Looks like it's going to be a good race - and the video is good too!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

LHC being switched on tomorrow

The Large Hadron Collider is being switched on tomorrow for it's search for the Higgs Boson. To celebrate this - I've linked to XKCD's cartoon about the LHC:

Large Hadron Collider

Maybe the pessimists will be right, so I've posted this the day before 'just in case'.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Lewis Hamilton Spa F1 Controversy

Hamilton Cutting Chicane at Spa

My previous blog posts about Lewis Hamilton have all been quite negative. However, time has moved on and now I think the guy is a superb driver - additionally I've found the mute button on my TV remote so I don't have to listen to what he has to say (or more specifically the way he says things).

Anyway, I watched the Belgium Grand Prix today and was thrilled at the last few laps with some of the best racing action I've seen this year between Raikkonen and Hamilton. I thought both drivers drove hard and well - Hamilton doing the best of the two. Initially I was a bit sceptical about the controversial manoeuvre for which Hamilton has been demoted 2 places; I suspected he was a bit too hot out of the corner but watching the footage again clearly shows he was slower and by the fact he passes behind Raikkonen demonstrates he gave the place back to Raikkonen. I completely disagree and am quite dismayed that Hamilton's well deserved win has been stripped from him. I fully support McLaren's appeal and only hope Lewis' win is reinstated.

Hamilton Behind Raikkonen at Spa after cutting chicange

Whilst I'm backing Massa to win this year's championship, I'd prefer Massa not to win based on stupid decision making in the courts.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Angry Man - The Wrong Door - BBC Three

A new program starting up on BBC Three soon, I sympathise with this guy - but glad my computer doesn't respond quite in the same way! Looks fun.

BBC Site:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Grand Theft Auto Saves!

Amazingly about 15 minutes after I posted that last story about why video game violence exists, I read this story on digg's front page.

Basically a family's Jeep Grand Cherokee swerved off the road and rolled over a few times before resting on it's back. The 11 year old child who'd presumably been illegally playing Grand Theft Auto beforehand realised cars blow up in-game when they are upside down and that provided the much needed motivation for her to help her family to get the hell out!

Indeed, GTA IV is slightly different as the cars no longer blow up when upside down - however you do get a 30 point xbox achievement for rolling your car over 5 times from a single crash. An achievement they narrowly missed by rolling over only 4.

There is no word if the girl later car-jacked another motorist to take her family bowling.

Why Video Game Violence

There is a really interesting blog post on Gamespot about the reason why there is violence in video games. A question which for some reason and as far as the author (and I) can tell, hasn't been asked before. A very enlightening read for which I agree with all of it. In fact one of the games I'm playing at the moment sometimes gives you a choice at the end of a mission whether you should end the character's life or not and I find it quite satisfying that it allows you to spare their lives (which I often do).

I particularly agree with his point about sense of realism, quite rightly life isn't a fairytale and if you play with knives, prepare to see blood. If I play a racing game and skid off the track I expect to see my car damaged, why should a virtual human character be any different?

in much the same way voice acting, sound effects, or real-time physics are tools. If I fire a gun at an enemy in Half-Life 2, I expect him to bleed

You can read the full post at:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

You'll feel safer after watching this video

A Londoner films with his mobile phone camera (with permission) his anti-terror stop and search. To be honest, I was quite surprised that this guy was allowed to film - but since it was in a public place, I suppose it is legal so long as he doesn't profit from the footage. One might expect at some future point some jurisdiction will come into place covering this nonsense under the official secrets act or something similar banning proles from even discussing it.

As far as I am concerned, this is utterly pointless and as helpful as the first police officer is, he just doesn't convince me this 25 minute stop-and-searches was useful.

I am even more appalled by the fact the second officer doesn't even provide identification! Albeit very unlikely, he could be a real live terrorist (if they exist) in a perfect anti-terror-officer disguise planting those oft advertised weapons of mass destruction in this poor chaps bag!

Welcome to Britain ladies and gentlemen!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The War on Terror (Boardgame)

Just bought a copy of the War on Terror boardgame which appears to be getting suppressed by shops and powers that be... apparently MPs have reported it has crossed the line of what is acceptable. Obviously children playing computer games where they can hire hookers and shoot firemen is acceptable!

Looks to be a fun game - though the police clearly don't, they confiscated a copy from some climate activists last week.

From the site:
WAR ON TERROR, THE BOARDGAME: It's got suicide bombers, political kidnaps and intercontinental war. It's got filthy propaganda, rampant paranoia and secret treaties and the Axis of Evil is a spinner in the middle of the board.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Alhambra

Trip to the Alhambra - 041
The Alhambra (viewed from the Generalife)

During our holiday we decided to visit the Alhambra which is only an hour and a half journey away from where we were staying. Rather than drive to Granada we thought we'd use the trains and were absolutely stunned at the experience. We arrived at a somewhat "rustic" train station in Antequera where the crossing across the tracks was a couple of railway sleepers with some tarmac ontop... The train pulled into the station and we initially thought we were in the first class carriage (by British standards) as there was enough leg room for me to stretch my legs out, the seat had plenty of width, had headrest protectors and the carriage was air conditioned. This train cost Louise and I the whopping figure of €6.30 each - for an 90 minute journey!! On the way back we were on a slightly better train which was a larger tilting train, with even more leg room and a reclining seat - a mere €7!! They had vending machines on this train where I bought a bottle of water for €0.60 and a packet of Oreo biscuits for €0.80! Unbelievable!! I have no idea what the "Alta" line (Spain's newest high speed network) is like if this is what their normal network is...

Anyway, back to the point. We've wanted to visit the Alhambra for a while so we prebooked our tickets (essential as they only let so many in each session) and left Bruno (our Boxer dog) at Louise's Mum and Dad's so we didn't have to worry about him and could spend longer there. We arrived at the station in Granada at 11.30 in the morning and our tickets for the Alhambra were for 14.00 so we had plenty of time to get there. We walked and eventually got to where we wanted (Plaza Neuva - a small square in the old town of Granada called Albaycin) which had lot's of bars so we stopped by for lunch. We only found out the day before, but Granada has kept the tradition of free tapas - i.e. every time you order a drink, they will bring out free food!! We bought some tapas anyway and along with the freebies were pretty stuffed for our steep (on foot) ascent toward the Alhambra. We discovered later on there are buses up the mile long hill for a euro each which we should have taken!! The queues at the entrance were enormous, but thanks to the fact we'd booked our tickets we could go straight to the front and collect them; afterwards we joined an even longer queue to enter the complex. Presumably this queue was so long because it was just opening for the afternoon.

We visited the Generalife gardens first and walked around the palaces there before walking to our pre booked entrance time to the Palacio Nazaries (they give you a predetermined time to enter these palaces to stop everyone walking around at once). After this we walked around the Carlos Palace and around an Art Gallery there (free for EU passport holders). We then walked around the Alcazaba before calling it a day; I think we only covered about half the Alhambra and could easily do it again. We bought a souvenir booklet which will certainly help on our next visit! I noticed a few people had radios which gave audio information depending on the area they were in which was a good idea and can presumably be hired at the ticket desk. Also the Alhambra was "bluetooth enabled" unfortunately I didn't know what this did as neither of us had a mobile with us which has bluetooth...

Trip to the Alhambra - 033
Palaces in the Generalife Gardens

We walked back down the hill to Plaza Neuva and since our train back was after 8 we decided to find a restaurant in Albaycin which was open (unusual since it was only six, but we tried anyway). We should have stuck with the tapas bar we were in earlier, but we found an open restaurant and had an "acceptable" meal. We got a taxi back to the station before waiting for our train.

Well worth the trip!! Highly recommended. The Alhambra was absolutely stunning and we discovered a little more about Granada which we didn't know, we'll definitely return!

All my photos have been added to flickr!
Alhambra Flickr! Set

Thursday, July 24, 2008

On Holiday

Pamplona - 40

I've not blogged in a while, with many different projects going on I just haven't found the time; Louise and I are on holiday at the moment in Andalucia where we drove down through Europe in our converted LDV camper van. We stopped for two nights in France on the way down to Spain and we booked into a campsite in the Pyrennees (Camping Ariztigain, Sumbilla); this campsite was absolutely stunning! A huge steep hill on the way up provided a small challenge for our diesel engine - first gear only - but worth it! The staff were very friendly and we discovered that one of the members of staff used to live in Edinburgh!! We only stayed for a night however since we wanted to visit Pamplona.

The next day we travelled the 90KM to Pamplona arriving mid afternoon in a much busier and more "butlins" style campsite called Camping Ezcaba. Not quite as nice as Ariztigain and the staff were a little ignorant to us because we were British (despite us speaking to them in Spanish - perhaps they were Basque or Castillian...). This campsite was only 5KM outside Pamplona so gave us an ideal jumping off point for visiting the historic city. In Pamplona we walked the "Encierro" or more commonly known as the bull run and we admired much of the architecture! The bull holding barriers were still in place from the San Fermin fiesta 2 weeks before. A very picturesque and enjoyable visit!

The following day we decided to crack on with our journey and get to our destination in the Mountains of Malaga that evening, we arrived after a 11 hour drive on one of the hottest days so far this year... The number of cars stopped at the side of the road was unbelievable - presumably with over heating problems. Thankfully, we arrived without a problem!

We've had a few relaxing days here and we visited a mountain top town called Comares where I took a few photos and read about the moorish history of this town.

Today we're off to Olvera to do a little bit of work on our house there.

I've uploaded the photos I've taken so far onto my Flickr! and put them into different sets within a collection.

Check them out below:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Firefox 3

I've been using Firefox 3 now for the past day on both my Mac and Windows computers. I used to use Safari beforehand and am desperately missing Inquisitor - perhaps I'll find a similar extension or it's built in and I haven't realised.

So far I like the native widgets so it's aqualicious in Mac OS X which is nice - but you don't get the fancy Cocoa textbox facilities (spell as you type, built in dictionary lookup, etc) which Safari offers. I don't like the big "back" button, but luckily I discovered "use small icons" in the toolbar customisation which keeps it the same size as the rest. I've installed the extension which I used regularly with FF 2 on Windows, unfortunately it doesn't use the losenge shaped buttons on Mac OS X which makes the toolbar appear a little odd.

As a thank you, Mozilla are offering certificates to those who downloaded which is cool!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Firefox 3 Download Day 2008

The 17th June 2008 is Firefox 3 download day. The Firefox team are trying to get into the Guinness book of records with the largest number of downloads within a 24 hour period. I've pledged and will be downloading both a Mac OS X and Windows version during that time.

I didn't do anything special for the last major release - Firefox 2; but for Firefox 1 I donated and had my name included in their 2 page advert in the New York Times in December 2004!  I even have this as a poster somewhere!!  

Have you made the pledge for Firefox 3?

Download Day 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blair Vs Trafalgar

Originally uploaded by andi808.

Great shot posted on Flickr! Originally found it on BoingBoing where one commenter referred to it as "Blair's Column".

Friday, May 09, 2008

Cashel May 2008 - a set on Flickr

I haven't posted in a very long time, too many projects going on at the moment and not even enough time during my work day to make a post :)

One of the projects my wife and I have been working on is converting an LDV panel van into a camper, we started this last year and did the bulk of the work almost straight away. However, it's an on going project where over weekends I'll potter away fitting shelves, cutting holes in the side of the van or doing something... We decided to take it out for a test camp last weekend near Loch Lomond. Louise was recommended a campsite called Cashel run by the Forestry Commission and we booked it for the May holiday weekend.

We were lucky enough to have some good weather - though it did rain quite hard on the Sunday! For the most part we just spent the weekend relaxing or going on short walks with our dog. Thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend this peaceful site for anyone! It also got me photographing again after a long period of taking progress pictures of the campervan conversion it was great to get out and take pictures of the countryside!!

We arrived on the Friday night and left the site on Monday morning, on the way back we decided to stop off at Balmaha which at 11.30 was very busy! The car park was overflowing so we decided instead to travel to Balloch. This had more parking so we were able to park up and walk around. I think we left at around 2pm and were amazed at the amount of traffic queued back on the A82 waiting to visit the Shores of Loch Lomond! Glad we got out when we could.

A great little trip, helped us decide where to build cupboards and their contents in the van and also test out all the functions which worked fine!

I've uploaded my photos to Flickr!
Cashel May 2008 - a set on Flickr

Monday, February 04, 2008

Microsoft Yahoo!

I read this earlier this weekend and didn't think much of it until I realised that I rely on two of Yahoo!'s products- Flickr! and I used to have a hotmail account in '97 and found it to be very good, then when Microsoft acquired it, it when progressively downhill to the point today where my hotmail name is different to my original because it expired and I use the account only very rarely to log in to MSN Chat.

I don't want Microsoft to get their hands on either as the first thing they'd do is move it over to Windows based systems which will undoubtedly cause severe trouble - although, perhaps they've improved since Hotmail! works pretty well now, I don't want to have my account tied in to an MSN passport and then have my bookmarks progressively integrated with Windows Live services. I just want it the way it is. I was pretty reluctant to sign up with a Yahoo! account for flickr!, but I decided there wasn't much to lose and the Flickr! staff had announced they wouldn't be making any serious changes - good enough for me so I have one. There hasn't been any mention from the flickr! staff about what could or will happen, perhaps because it's speculative at the moment. I know one thing for sure. I don't want Windows Live Photos!

I did read somewhere that they may sell off Flickr! and I don't know who'd buy either - perhaps Google would buy both. I've already mentioned a Google takeover of would be cool.

MS could do something very cool with Flickr!, something Apple has yet to do properly. MS could release an IPhoto type application for Windows Vista and tie it in with Flickr! with synchronisation. You alter the photo in "MS Photo", the alteration gets synced with Flickr! similarly you tag a photo in Flickr! it gets synced back to "MS Photo". That would be a great product and if done right, a great iPhoto competitor. Although, maybe, just maybe, Apple will buy Flickr! and add this capability to IPhoto as an extension to it's .mac services. I did notice a Flickr! viewer on screenshots of the new Apple TV take 2...

BBC NEWS | Business | Microsoft wants to purchase Yahoo

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Simcity (now Micropolis) released as Free Software

Simcity is one of the earliest games I remember playing. Whilst not on the C64 (that award goes to Lunar Lander), I used to play the 1 Meg version on the Amiga. In Detmold, (West) Germany I remember racing back from the games store with Simcity Terrain Editor in one hand and my other on the handlebar of my bike. Inevitably I fell off scraping the skin off my fingers - I still have the scarring! That was DM 20 well spent!!

Uniquely, it's still a game I enjoy playing - I used to spent hours a day with Simcity 4 on the PC a few years back!!

This should be good news for original improvements to a great game in much the same way as happened to my other favourite Transport Tycoon (OpenTTD)!

Original article on Boing Boing

Thursday, January 10, 2008

CES 08: Guitar Hero Air Guitar Rocker

I originally saw this and thought there's a bunch of people playing air guitar.... and then after about a few songs, it is explained. Watch the video - all will be revealed! I want one of these!!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


This is "Joy of Tech" comic for the passing of Netscape made me chuckle!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


There is a new 'backstory' to the TV show lost taking the form of a puzzle type webpage starting with a website at

So far only a small portion of the site is available, but it claims to open up over the next 5 weeks finishing at the same time as the Lost Season 4 premier.

Article on the Lost Blog

Fly Ocenic Air website