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Tax Time

Posted 2010.04.29 1.51 in Pointless Blather, Work by Stephanie

That time once again. It seems like it comes around every year like this. Income tax. Bleargh.

I try not to procrastinate, I try to be good. Well when I say try, what I mean is that I think about it. I start thinking about doing my taxes in February. It’s a chore though and seems tiring, so thinking about it makes me sleepy.

Then March comes around, and I think about it some more. By March, all the various forms and receipts have usually arrived in the mail. I know I ought to sit down and do it. It’s not too bad if I space it out over two weekends – a couple hours the first weekend to sort & add up my receipts, then a couple hours the next weekend to fill in all the forms and do the maths and figuring.

Then April comes in and I realize I really have to get serious and set aside some time for it. Maybe just one weekend instead of two. If I spread it out over Saturday and Sunday, then it’s not so bad, two smaller chores instead of one big one. Still, it’s no fun, and all the maths and numbers make my head hurt. Then the headache makes me sleepy.

And ultimately, I find myself with about 30 hours to the deadline, sitting up at 2:00am with a calculator, notepad, and a zillion slips of paper, trying to get through it without falling asleep.

Next time, I’ll be good. I won’t procrastinate.

Come to think of it, I’ve got like 30 hours or so left, I might just go to bed and finish this stuff later.

Awkward First Time

Posted 2010.04.25 10.33 in Aquaria by Stephanie

The first attempt at mating is usually rather awkward and uncomfortable…

Unfortunately, feelings of awkwardness and nervousness may be exacerbated by some nitwit with a camera, leading to embarassment and ultimately ending the first attempt in shame and disappointment.

Pointless Dingoo Mods

Posted 2010.04.22 9.44 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

Last night I was a bit bored so I sat down and did some pointless hardware mods to my Dingoo.

First, I added a power LED. When the backlight is off, or if you boot it with the B button to go into flashing mode, it’s hard to know if the Dingoo is on or off. And in any event, I’m a sucker for LEDs. “Real electronics should glow in the dark.”

The easy part was attaching the LED, I used a surface mount blue LED that draws 10mA at 3.6v and stuck it near the start button, then wired it between Vcc and ground. I found a point on the rear of the board where the power is switched so I just ran a bit of 28 gauge wire around from the back to the front. The hard part was getting a hole in the black layer of the front case, without also going through the clear part of the front case. I used a cheap soldering iron to melt some of the plastic then some small precision chisels to cut out the plastic and get the hole to be just about right. Actually it was about 80% luck, I’m usually not this good at modifying the plastic parts.

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More Fun With Dentists

Posted 2010.04.19 15.33 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

Another dentistry day. I guess I’m paying my dues for having avoided dentists for so long. Ok it’s not a guess, it’s a fact.

I knew this was coming back in November – that was the plan. Once the wisdom teeth were out, he could get at the trio of cavities that were hiding at the back. Well, today he got at them.

To be fair, the actual drilling wasn’t so bad. The needles were worse, as usual. Jabby jabby pokey pokey in the gums. Then he accidentally squirted some of the freezing into my mouth and wow that stuff tastes toxic. It tastes like what I imagine drain cleaner would taste like. Just a horrid, horrid nasty medical waste kind of taste.

The other thing that I really don’t enjoy is the sensation of being tipped upside-down, in that scary mechanical chair contraption, while they fill my mouth up with stainless steel and water. Being in that position triggers my sleep apnea only not while sleeping, so my throat keeps trying to close up and I can’t breath. So they’re busy excavating, one pipe bringing water in, another pipe taking water out (but not as fast as it’s coming in) and all the power tools and stuff, I’m clinging to the chair to keep from sliding headfirst out of it, and gagging for air… Actually that might be slightly worse than the needles. Or not. I’m not sure.

Oh and the other other thing is, just before he started working he cranked up his radio to full blast. He thinks that music blaring at full volume helps people relax and takes their mind off the drill. Maybe for some people. I can’t stand loud noises. I hate going to clubs and stuff like that where there’s noise and music blaring away. The loud blaring music was as relaxing to me as, well… it’s just not relaxing at all.

Think about taking a cat to the vet then the vet turns on his shop-vac and sets it next to your cat, to help the cat calm down. Yeah. Loud music. Car horns. Jackhammers. Crying babies. Chainsaws. And for that matter, vacuums. They all have the same effect on me, and that effect is not a calming one. Fortunately at one point I was able to ask them to turn off the radio.

That was all this morning though. Now the freezing has worn off, and I’m just left with a nagging ache in one of the teeth he worked on. Or maybe it’s all three of them, but one is worse than the others.

I really hate going to the dentist.

Dingoo vs. AAC

Posted 2010.04.19 7.38 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

Yes, you can teach an old Dingoo new tricks.

Aside from being a neato mini portable retro gaming platform, the Dingoo is also a little media player. There’s a long list of digital audio formats that it can handle. For some reason I never noticed that AAC (file suffix m4a) was not one of them.

See way back when, AAC was going to be the new big thing. I’d read that it was better than mp3, technically superior, better sounding, and all that jazz. So when I digitized my music collection, I used AAC. Now, over 90% of my collection is in AAC format.

So I was initially confused when I put a bunch of AAC files on the Dingoo, only to have them not show up in the music player. Of course, mp3 files appeared ok, but it was like the AAC files didn’t exist.

In all my bricking & unbricking adventures, I had acquired tools for examining and mucking with the firmware. I could see a list of codecs and there was an AAC codec in there. So why weren’t my files working?

It turns out that the AAC codec is in there for supporting movies. For whatever reason they didn’t set it up to support AAC files on their own. Wierd. But fixable.

So I opened up the main binary file in a hex editor and got to work. Of all the music formats it was set up to work with, I picked a format I’ve never heard of and know nothing about – APE. I then went through the binary and changed all the references to .ape files, into references to .m4a files. These references were in areas of the binary that determine what files are displayed, and how.

Dingoo playing an AAC / .m4a music file.

And voila, my Dingoo recognizes and plays AAC files. I don’t actually think it’s any big deal, since it already had the codec. All I did was fix up the interface so that the AAC files were available to the user.

But then again, maybe it is a big deal? I don’t know. Maybe noone else has done it, and maybe my Dingoo is the only one in the world that can play AAC music files.

The Tired…

Posted 2010.04.18 15.22 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

It is winning.

Debricked Dingoo

Posted 2010.04.14 21.14 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

Well I got it unbricked today at work. Then I bricked it again when I got home. So I went back in to work and unbricked it again. Grumble grumble windows-only tools.

Anyhow, here’s the deal:

The magic tool for unbricking / flashing “HK” type Dingoos, along with instuctions, can be found in this post on Dingoonity. The tool is a ‘normal’ Chinachip flashing tool, that has been patched to bypass the authorization check. Along with the tool, you need the correct lcd driver module, and the a320.hxf firmware file. There are versions included with the tool download, or you can find them online with other flasher / unbricker tools.

Follow the instructions exactly and the process will take less than 10 minutes from start to finish. It requires Win XP, and doesn’t work on 64-bit Windows. I couldn’t get it to work at home because there’s some problem with running the process on a VM. I have WinXP via Parallels on my Macintosh, but the flashing process does something on a very low-level/hardware level and Parallels gets all confused and breaks the connection.

Anyhow, once the thing is unbricked, on to the next challenge: the dreaded “HK” function (or lack thereof). Fortunately, the Dingoo community has once-more come to the rescue. Through diligent work, they have figured out the differences in the “HK” systems, and have recompiled / patched all kinds of stuff (emulators and native apps). They’ve also put the patch into the SDK so that all current / future homebrews should work too.

The fix can be downloaded from this Dingoonity thread. Just unzip the file and follow the directions.

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