Archive for 2007


by on Dec.18, 2007, under Linux

Misterhouse is an open source home automation program.  It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s entirely geeky.  Written in Perl, it fires events based on time, web, socket, voice, and serial data.  Perl subroutines and objects are used to give a powerful programming interface.  Features include:

  • Executes actions based on voice input, time of day, file data, serial port data, and socket data. Serial and speech data can also be read or written to proxies on remote boxes.
  • It has a web interface to allow control and feedback from any browser, either on a local intranet or on the internet. Check the Winter’s house at
  • On Windows systems, it uses OLE calls to the free MS VR and TTS engines for voice recognition and text->speech. The high quality AT&T NaturalVoices TTS engine may also be used. If using IE, you can enable remote VR and TTS using an MS Agent.
  • On Unix systems, it uses the free Festival, flite, IBM ViaVoice and non-free AT&T NaturalVoices TTS speech engines for text->speech and on Linux IBM’s ViaVoice engine for voice recognition. These engines can also be called from Windows version of mh.
  • Reads/writes any data from any serial attached device.
  • Speaks the speed, course, and position of vehicles, by interfacing to a ham radio modem.
  • (TNC). Brian Klier wrote has a nice article about it. You can see our car position logs here.

  • Sends/receives X10 data from the X10 CM11 (ActiveHome) interface.
  • Sends wireless X10 data using the X10 CM17 (Firecracker) interface.
  • Send/receive data to the Ibutton family of devices, including the weather station.
  • Reads/writes data from the JDS interfaces (Stargate, Time Commandar, HomeBase) interface.
  • Reads/writes data from the HomeVision interfaces.
  • Reads/writes serial port data from the Weeder Technologies PIC kits that can process X10, digital, analog, callerID, and outgoing phone data.
  • Reads/writes to Applied Digital’s CPU-XA and Ocelot interfaces via the cpuxad socket deamon.
  • Reads data from IRman infrared receiver serial interface and writes to X10 IR Commander wireless interface.
  • Code has been written for DSC Alarm pannels, Stargate LCD displays, Slinke IR send/receive, Marrick X10, RCI X10 sprinklers, Xantech preamps, ISDN modems, voice modems, ComPool and Aqualink pool equipment.
  • Reads and writes from the lcdproc server which interfaces to inexpensive LCD modules and keypads.
  • Shares a modem for caller ID and paging.
  • Reads/writes internet mail, http, and ftp files unattended.
  • Sends/receive instant messages using AIM, MSN, or Jabber.
  • Reads MS Outlook, Unix ical, or the built in Organizer calendar for event reminders and VCR programing.
  • Uses free internet TV web pages to allow for VCR programing and show reminders.
  • Has an entertaining ‘chatbox’ web page that will listen to all your problems.
  • Can monitor NetGear RT311 / RT314 or LinkSys syslog router traffic, so you can track stuff like incoming web hits and online game time.
  • Uses Voice XML to interface to To try it, dial 1-800-555-Tell, then after you ear ‘tellme more’, enter 1-46630 (1-HOME0). With a XML browser (e.g. IE), you can see a test vxml menu here.
  • Use simple menu templates to generate menus for LCD, VXML, or WAP phones. If you have a WAP phone or WAP browser, you can see this test menu with this url: You can also walk the menus with an html browser with a frames version or a a simpler version . These menus can also be controled with a single switch (e.g. air sip switch for the disabled), using audible feedback to select items/states.
  • Logs weather data to the wunderground personal weather project. Here’s weather logs from my house
  • Here is a list of some users written code files along with standard code files that demonstrate some other MisterHouse features.
  • You can use RSS readers to track various data, like phone or speak logs.

See the online documentation for more information.


The latest release using debconf to configure basic fucntionality:

The last stable release that did not use debconf:

Changes from Original Source

  • Separate code/libraries/binaries to the appropriate places (see README.Debian).
  • Created wrapper scripts, init files, etc.
  • Created man pages.
  • Created a default configuration that is compatible with Debian/FHS.
  • Added debconf templates for common code activation and some basic functionality.
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by on Dec.02, 2007, under Linux

debian-helper-scripts is a set of tools to help with the maintenance of a Debian system.  It is basically a package of scripts (Perl and Bourne-shell) that I generally install on any Debian system that I maintain.  They are:


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Debian on the Xbox

by on Nov.07, 2007, under Linux

Update 01/17/2012:  It seems that my internal links suffered from bit rot and broke at some point while moving my website around.  I have fixed those.  Also it appears that the site is borked and has been for some time.  I still get emails about this process, so I have annotated some of the steps below as best I can from memory.

Below are a series of Debian packages specific for the Microsoft Xbox.  Their purpose is to assist upgrades from Xebian 1.1.4, which is based on a rather old version of Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 “woody”.  These packages allowed me to upgrade my Xebian installation to Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 “etch”, with some additional effort.  Here is an approximation of the steps required to install Debian on an Xbox:

  1. Read the Getting Started Guide at the Xbox Linux Project Wiki.  The exact methods that you chose depend entirely on what you have to start with and what are your goals.  You may have to flash the BIOS, etc. In other words, this is where you have to hack the Xbox so that you can boot Linux. There are several ways to do it and they are documented elsewhere on the Internet. I used a mod chip and loaded Debian into the unused area at the end of the hard drive so that I could still use Xbox Live (though I never did). There are other methods that don’t require hardware mods as long as you don’t mind getting your device blacklisted on Xbox Live. Given the age of this device, I suspect you probably don’t care. One caveat is that the kernel sources below do not have the FATX patches applied. If you plan to install Xebian in the game partition, you’ll need these. I remember seeing them ported to a later kernel by someone else out there.
  2. You should evntually end up at the Xebian Download page.  Download the Xebian 1.1.4 archive of your choice.  The “basic” archive is effectively a Debian base install for the Xbox, while the “xbox” archive is a full graphical desktop.  Both work on the Xbox, of course.  If you are an advanced Debian user and intend to immediately upgrade to the latest stable Debian, the upgrade may be more painless by starting with the “basic” archive and adding packages after the upgrade is complete.  I already had the “xbox” archive installed for several years, as it was being used as a MythTV frontend.
  3. Be sure to read the Xbox Linux Boot CD/DVD Burning HOWTO before burning any images.  There are some caveats with the Xbox. Basically, don’t use CD+RW or and RW DVD media because the drive doesn’t like it. CD-RW media seems to work fine as do regular CD-R’s.
  4. Read the Xebian HOWTO all the way through. I don’t remember anything from this, but there is some information in the README that comes in the Xebian archive.
  5. Install and configure Xebian per the procedure outlined in the HOWTO.

Once you have Xebian installed and configured, you need to prepare for the Debian upgrade.  At the time of this writing, Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 “etch” is the most recent release.  This procedure has that assumption in mind.  If Cromwell BIOS is used, version 2.40 or higher is required. Obviously, this is a rather old version of Debian. Debian doesn’t support skipping over stable versions, so your best bet is probably to download Etch from the archives and do the upgrade per the steps below. If you only did a base install of Xebian, you might be able to get away with skipping straight to the latest version, but I haven’t tried it.

  1. Configure your apt sources.list as shown here and execute “apt-get update”.
  2. Upgrade the kernel and modules to version 2.6 using the packages below.  Due to something strange about make-kpkg, the sources may need to be untarred in “/usr/src” for the installation to succeed. This kernel is rather long in the tooth, but I never got around to making an updated one. The patched sources are below, so you can generate your own patch set from the pristine sources and try to patch a later kernel. If you have luck, I will be happy to post a newer kernel here for those who may follow.
  3. Install the module-init-tools package with “apt-get install module-init-tools”.
  4. Replace/merge your “/etc/modules” config file with this one.
  5. Add an entry for the new kernel to “/boot/linuxboot.cfg” as described on the Xebian-1.1.4-Kernel-2.6-Upgrade Wiki page under “Compile the Kernel -> xebian”.  You will need to change the “append” line for the new kernel to “root=/dev/hda2 kbd-reset xbox=hdd”, as Xebian uses the obsolete devfs driver.  Be sure to leave the entry for the old kernel in case something goes wrong.  This one works with the kernel package below. Just use the config file below. It should be self-explanatory.
  6. Reboot the Xbox with the new kernel.  You need to manually select the HDD boot device to make the kernel selection menu appear.  If all goes well, add a “default” entry to “/boot/linuxboot.cfg” to make the new kernel the default.
  7. Now perform the Debian upgrade.  There are some caveats with “etch”, so be sure to carefully follow the upgrade procedure in the Release Notes for Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 (“etch”), Intel x86.  Some manual intervention is required to get the upgrades to go smoothly, including removing some old packages (hotplug and python2.3 come to mind) and browsing through various scenarios presented by the aptitude tool.  This is due to old Xebian cruft. There are caveats to most Debian upgrades, so be sure to carefully read those release notes as well.
  8. Once the final “aptitude dist-upgrade” has been completed, reboot the Xbox to make sure it comes back up OK.
  9. Install the “nvxbox” driver for X.Org and place this xorg.conf as “/etc/X11/xorg.conf” to get the X server up. This is going to be a problem for later versions of Debian. If you need X, you may have some difficulty. Definitely look at the nouveau driver as they were actively trying to support the Xbox at one point.
  10. Replace your “/etc/lirc/lircd.conf” with this one if you were using the Xbox DVD remote with Xebian.  The new lirc_atiusb module only returns one byte per code instead of the 3 byte sequence of the old driver.
  11. Xebian’s “blink” tool to control the Xbox LED will not work, again due to its usage of the obsolete devfs device node structure.  I haven’t been able to get it to recompile yet, but a simple workaround is to create the device node manually and creating a symlink to it to emulate the devfs structure.  As root (this won’t stick if you are using udev):

cd /dev

mknod i2c-0 c 89 0

chgrp mythtv i2c-0

mkdir i2c

ln -s ../i2c-0 i2c/0



Linux Kernel 2.6.16 for the Microsoft XBox

This is a recent point-release of the 2.6.16 kernel with the Xbox patches applied and the modules for LIRC 0.8.0.  Also available is the patched kernel sources that may need to be present in /usr/src when installing the kernel package.  Note that FATX support has not been ported to the 2.6 kernel series yet.


X.Org nVidia Driver

This is a packaged version of the original xf86-video-nvxbox driver found in the Xbox Linux CVS. The driver itself is old, but is suitable for Debian Etch (X.Org v7.1.0) and works sufficiently well for use as a media center.

I also attempted to merge the changes from the xf86-video-nvxbox driver found in the Xbox Linux CVS into the xserver-xorg-video-nv driver for Debian Etch (X.Org v7.1.0).  This seems to work for me, though it will segfault if you do not set “NoAccel” to “true” in xorg.conf.  There is some breakage in the DMA support code that is not present in the older driver, however with the accel disabled the performance of the overlay is poor.  It’s not suitable for use as a media center.  It probably breaks support other nVidia GPUs too, so don’t try to use it for those.

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Version 60.14

by on Aug.30, 2007, under Blueberry

08/30/2007: Version 60.14 (based on “Blueberry60”) – bump FuelFullThrottle point 2 down to 5800uS. Too lean during decel still, so move point 1 of FuelNoThrottle right and up 2 ticks to -14.2psi @ 10.00uS. Move ColdEnrichmentFuelCurveA point 4 from 58.8^F @ 1.19 to 58.8^F @ 1.21.

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The Daytona: June 5, 2007

by on Jun.05, 2007, under Daytona

Drove the car all winter and spring without any major issues.  The most annoying thing that happened was when the adjustable cam sprocket came loose and the car wouldn’t start late at night in the parking lot at work.  I was able to snug it up with some vice grips and get home.  I’ve got a stock sprocket on there now.

I recently replaced the stock headlamps with a Hella H4 “Free Form” conversion kit and built a relay module so that the lights got power directly from the battery.  I measured an over 3.5V drop through the stock headlight circuit.  The housings are DOT approved and I am using the standard 65/55W bulbs.  The light pattern is much better than a standard sealed-beam lamp and they run nice and bright with the extra voltage.  If you are thinking about a HID conversion for better visbility (and not because you think they are pretty), do the H4 conversion and relay mod instead.  The on-coming drivers will thank you (I hate HIDs).

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The CSX: June 5, 2007

by on Jun.05, 2007, under CSX

I literally have not touched this car, short of starting it up once this spring.  I really need to tackle the mechanical issues first, just so that it can be driven in the event of an issue with the Daytona.  With the birth of our son this past December, there just hasn’t been any time.  What little spare time I do have gets devoted to fixing small issues on the Daytona.  I suspect that I will not be able to do anything with this car this year.

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