Samba Samba 75

More fun with GSM Modems. The Falcom Samba 75 behaves in the same way as the Samba 55, i.e. the CD doesn’t actually load the driver or the phone software so you still have to load them by hand, just like the Samba 55.

Mind you the screen image of the phone that turns up is different.

Installation instructions are here.

Another Gem: Sqlite

Open source software never ceases to amaze (and delight) me. I’ve found another gem, though not a network management package this time!

Sqlite is an excellent embedded database. I’ve been playing around with it for the last week or so and I am really impressed with it. It’s quick, it’s simple and it just works.

One of the big problems with a lot of open source software is that the documentation can be a bit sparse. I am happy to say that the Sqlite documentation isn’t bad. And there are a number of books available for it too.

In fact, one of the criteria we have for choosing open source tools is whether they have a reasonable number of books available. When we’ve had problems before it has always been because of a lack of good documentation. If Apress, O’Reilly or another quality publisher has written a book about a project:

  • The project must have reached a reasonable level of users. Publishers like to sell books!
  • Reasonable level of reliability must have been reached. Users don’t like bugs.
  • Active engagement by a number of developers.
  • Rich ecosystem of supporting tools and utilities.

I look forward to further exploring this gem. It is a great new tool in my software toolkit.

Gadget Ahoy

OPENXTRA Console Screenshot
I’ve been seeing lots of activity on the Desktop recently. Apple started it all off with their Dashboard built into OSX. All very impressive but hardly of much interest to Microsoft Windows users.

Anyway. Google have brought out a similar system for Windows users called Google Desktop. It has been through a few versions now and it looks pretty good.

As an experiment I thought it would be fun to create a Gadget as the Google Desktop plugins are called. So, that’s exactly what I did 🙂

You can download the result here. You will need Google Desktop first, you can download that here.

The Gadget displays the current readings from the Sensatronics range of network thermometers. Please let me know what you think.

Not the Dud but the Dude

Brendan from Sentinal was kind enough to point out a new open source network mapping tool. It looks really good and so far seems to work! It’s called The Dude, probably sounds better in an American accent, and I tried it on our test network with the following results.

OPENXTRA Test Network

There are more screenshots on the Microtik website.

Did I mention that it’s free?

I haven’t had time to compare it to other tools but it was simple to install and it worked first time.

Strictly Fun Dancing with the Falcom Samba 55

Samba 55 Screenshot
Is it just me or does everyone find the Falcom Samba 55 GSM Modem a real pain to set up? Loading the driver is OK, but trying to get the Mobile Phone Tools to install is a struggle.

I tried following the instructions on the CD to load the BVRP Phonetools, it seemed to an obvious place to start! but as George Bush said after the mid term elections, “Shows what I know!“.

I clicked on software when the CD opened up, then on BVRP mobilePhoneTools setup.exe and it appeared to install OK. When I clicked on Install.exe all I got was an error message, Run-time error ’76’ Path not found.

In fact I had to open the CD and click through software\win32.BVRP_SAMBA\Install.exe. Then plug the Samba 55 into a USB port (it’s a good idea to have SIM in it) and then everything works. At this point I even started to read the installation guide, but the software detected the phone and did all the rest itself.

You’ll get the image of a phone on your screen and then you are ready to go.

Give me a boost Boost

I’ve not been programming full time since the end of 2002. Ah, those were the days…strong coffee and err RSI a plenty 🙂

I am just about to embark on a heavy duty bit of programming, likely to last a few intense months. I’ll fill you in about the reason why in another post.

Anyway, I’ve just been having a peek at all of the new C++ goodies and my, haven’t the C++ standards people been busy. I don’t know why, but I am struggling with the new features. It doesn’t seem to matter how many books I read about generic programming, none do a good job explaining the new features.

Take a look at the Boost library. C++ is finally getting a library as high quality and broad in scope as many of the scripting languages like Perl and Python have had for some time. The main problem is the steep learning curve. It would be nice to play around with the various sub-libraries contained inside Boost, but time is always at a premium.

So, what’s the answer. Well, pragmatically I’m going to ignore all of those nice new features. Learning whilst in production mode is one of the more stressful things you can do in programming. Also, the resulting code is rarely of high quality.

As a pragmatic programmer I am going to write the code in a style I already know with a liberal sprinkling of unit tests. That way, I can refactor the code to my hearts content with the firm knowledge that when I break something I will know immediately.

You lucky people, yet more OSS

It is nice to see the open source network management community is still in rude health. Another network and systems monitoring tool has popped onto my horizon. Don’t know how I missed this one, it looks a goodie!

Based upon the much underrated application server platform Zope, Zenoss sure does look the part. If the website is anything to go by I can see a lot of IT and network managers finding a home for this one.

By the looks of the board they must have received a healthy dose of venture capital money. And the downloads are going thick and fast. The money tends to be a bit harder though, especially if you are relying on a support sale. That’s really hard.

The idea is far from new, hell we even tried it! Although, we did have a half arsed, underfunded English style attempt. They seem to have made a good stab at it. I wish them luck. The free open source NMS space does have some very nice projects, like Nagios and OpenNMS as well as a raft of RRDTool wrappers like Cacti and Cricket.

It does surprise me a little bit that Zenoss got VC funding. I mean, an open source company can never really build a defendable market position. All of the crown jewels are freely given away so anyone can do exactly the same thing. Still, never stopped Red Hat did it? Maybe I’m a bit behind on current VC thinking on the subject.

Why selling on the web is hard

We are currently on our fifth full iteration of our website. And when I say iteration, I mean full gut wrenching, throw everything out and do it again iteration. That works out to over one full iteration per year.

We’ve used the simplest e-commerce system you can use, called Mal’s-ecommerce, through a PHP based cart and then eventually to our current system based upon Elastic Path.

Trust me, it’s hard. But, that isn’t the hardest part of e-commerce. The hardest part on the web is trust. Trust is way harder to imbue in your visitors than anything else.

The whole trust issue was reinforced to me yesterday. My sister’s PC got infected with spyware. As the family IT guy I got the call. Of all of the tools to cure the problem, all of the ones I’d heard of didn’t work. So, how can I figure out which of the remaining tools I can trust? Well, you can’t. You just have to guess.

Thankfully I guessed right but I had no real information to go on. The bad ones look just as good as the genuine ones.

How to go about imbuing trust in your website I will leave for another day.