Gmail and low powered (older netbook) computers.

This is all about getting Gmail to run on a low powered processor without the machine grinding to a halt.

I have a 1 1/2 generation netbook, the Acer Aspire One A110.

The netbook has low RAM, 512MB, and adding more is a massive task involving taking the whole thing apart. A new SSD, on the other hand is more manageable. The processor is an older Atom single core, 1.6GHz.

The original SSD is just 8GB, so I may try mounting a larger one. The machine came with a Linpus (as far as I recall (Linux)) system, and some standard apps.

I want to use this with a relatively modern Linux distribution, but the easy choice, Ubuntu or the like) simply cannot run properly on such a low powered machine.

What to do? I tried with Xubuntu, and while it is running, an update broke the screen driver, so it could only show 800×600, not the original 1024×600 screen resolution. Discarded. I became aware that the Raspberry Pi folks had made a version of their Raspbian system for Intel type processsors. This works with a relatively low demand on the 512MB, and the screen works properly in the 1024×600 resolution using about 100MB for the system with its running processes.

So far, so good.

I intend to use the machine for non-demanding stuff like writing for this blog, managing ebooks etc. Now, the system comes with a Chromium web browser, but in my experience this is a massive memory hog, so not really feasible with the low RAM.

The Thunderbird email client is also quite memory intensive, so I tried out a terminal email client, Alpine, which is fairly user friendly if you are not afraid of a text mode screen. This installed and following the manual for setting up Gmail, and at the authentication it failed. The thing kept asking for a login every time I tried to enter the password.

Google the problem. Yes, it was known. I should change the setting accept “less secure clients. This works. But (there is always a “but”) suddenly my phone kept asking to login to Google, and kept doing it. Also they keep sending mails about “upgrading security”.

Text mode browsers were tested, but not accepting Javascript the Gmail site refuses me a login.

I tried to find a text mode app that Gmail will accepts as “more secure”, but nothing found.

Update :

Here is what I do now with that machine :
Thunderbird and Chromium use about the same amount of memory, even if 2 tabs are open in Chromium. Wo when it is open there is gmail and this blog in 2 tabs. That works with a bit to spare for the writing programs.


Second update 13 August :

That netbook does not have the power for a writing program. Fortunately I have a newer, and with a larger screen, Acer with 4GB RAM and a quad core Atom processor. Runs the writing programs easily with a bit to spare. That will most likely end up as my computer for writing what I want.

Danish Rocket Launch

Today was a good day for the Danish rocket builders Copenhagen Suborbitals.

They launched the small rocket Nexoe (Nexø) 2 this morning Danish time from a self built sea launch platform about 35km West of the island Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. The rocket fired perfectly and burned for 33 seconds, and reached an altitude of 6.500 meters, the parachute unfolded beautifully and the rocket was recovered nicely.The launch was streamed with a somewhat interrupted stream via Youtube. The interruptions in the streaming are due to the distance, and some rising water vapour in the warm (for the time of the year) Baltic Sea, and also due to the large distance and wide bandwidth of the signals.

I followed the stream from about half an hour before launch, until the rocket was recovered and brought to the launch control ship.

The planned maximum altitude of 13000m was not reached, because the burn time for the engine was only 33 out of the planned 45 seconds, but never the less I consider today’s flight a strong success, many new systems were tested, and functioned well.

Congratulations to Copenhagen Suborbitals with the successful launch.

Ebooks – Self Made

I have written some articles for a Danish science fiction magazine.

Since I have an e-reader I would like to have those available to bring with me.
For an article the process is very simple :
I take the text version of the file and add some headline tags (Simple HTML), make some paragraph markups .
Things come up very readable, and I used a neat text editor for the Mac called “TextWrangler” The editor “understands” Regular Expressions, a hairy Unix way of doing text editing, but I just had to learn a bit of it to do this.

Neat to get my own stuff on the e-reader. I may put more of my stuff on it.

Up’s and down’s of using Mac OS X

Having tried out Mac OS, Linux and Windows I find that they all have their advantages and disadvantages.
Linux comes with a large amount of free and quite useable software, yet can be tricky with new or exotic hardware
Mac OS is very easy to use, but the selection of programs is more limited than the two others.
Windows has as many programs as you want, yet is so commonly in use that it is a target for Virus, Trojans and other malware.

I found a neat program for making and organising notes when using linux. Zim desktop wiki easily creates linked text files in a wiki-like way, yet it is on my own machine.
The Linux version is packaged for the most common distributions There is a Windows executable, so there it is easy, too.

Enter the Mac

Mac OS X is a Unix like system, much like Linux,yet with some quirks.installing Linux programs directly is not possible, so someone has made package installers available, compiling the source code and, mostly taking care that dependencies are installed.
Macports has Zim in its repository. However the version is an ancient one that possibly will cease running in a not so far future. The version is Perl based and no longer maintained. The latest version is written in Python, and here is the thing.
Some dependencies are not readily recognised because they are not in the “expected places”.
I have been looking into it the last week, and it looks like I have found a way to get it running. I want to make sure it is reproducible, and then I intend to write in the blog how I got it running.

Update : It looks like I got the install procedure running, nor I will make an attempt to simplify the procedure.

Leviathan Chronicles – Audio play, season 1

During travels between Netherlands an Denmark I have been listening to an audio play titled  “The Leviathan Chronicles” by Christof Laputka , a story of immortals living among us. Throw in some deep sea and air travel and some ancient legends of how the immortals came into being, and you got the sense of the story

The first “season”, 25 episodes is out now and I listened to those, with several meta eposides in there.

The story is intended to consist of 2 seasons of 25 episodes each. Since the production of the first season took longer than planned, the show will not be released until all of the second season has been produced.

My first impression is that the production values are quite good, and the story plot is flowing rather well, as seen in the first season. If (when) the second season arrives I plan to follow it, yeah I am curious enough.

I did find the theme music somewhat intrusive, but it does fit the story to a large extent. One thing I noticed : The extensive use of a narrator is not too bad, but a few things did pull me out of the story.

The first is that I found the narrator, at least for me, speaks at the same break-neck speed all the time, even when the narration is more on the descriptive side, or scenes with less action. Why not relax a bit when the story warrant a calmer tempo ?

Second, I found that for an audio play there was too much narration and too little dialogue.

The two first are minor niggles compared to the third one :

In this example the action is just ramping up, you hear heavy footfalls – attackers on the way . . . then the narration suddenly goes into description mode, describing the attackers in place of continuing the action . . . The story completely lost its momentum for me.

Now the main complaints are done, I found the chcracters rather believable in the context of the story, and the story seems to be rather consistent in its progress. Likewise the acting was mostly good, though I found the narrator/narration the weakest link in the story.

Since this was a podcast play with comments from the writer, I will have to say that I found that he was talking too long and with too many repetitions after the main episodes, and in particular in some of the meta episodes. But that is my personal matter.


I will rate this to 7/10 on the Lurker’s scale.




Iran Launches a satellite into orbit.

Today Iran is a member of a very exclusive group of countries – those who have launched satellites into space.
The then Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, in October 1957. The United States followed with the successful launch of Explorer 1 in January 1958.
France, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, India and Israel followed later .

The satellite is called “Omid” which means “Hope” in Persian, and carries experimental control systems, communications equipment, and a small remote sensing payload, according to Iranian news reports.

I do find it a bit worrying that a nation with a stated hostile intent towards USA and Israel in particular, and the West in general, now has the capability to deliver whatever type of weapons they have (their secrecy about the nuclear installations, anyone ?) to any place in the world.

It remains, however, quite a feat from a nation to do what they have done, so we must have some respect for their technical abilities. Let us hope that they will learn the lesson of the Cold War – and that they will not start a “hot one”.

Find more information on Spaceflight Now

RIP Mars Phoenix Lander.

NASA has finished listening for the Phoenix Mars Lander, reports Spaceflight Now in *this article*.

It comes due to the Martian Winter fast approaching, the solar panels are unable to keep the batteries charge…. and it is a little tricky to send someone to run a generator or change the batteries. 😉

In a sense it is sad to lose a spacecraft, but Phoenix had done what it was supposed to do, and was operational for 2 months longer than its original 3 months mission. Not bad at all. The Odyssey orbiter appears to continue functioning, so not all is over yet, even if we are unlikely to hear it for some time while Mars passes behind the Sun (from our perspective).

eBook reading on the iPod Touch

Yes – the 2.0 software for the iPod Touch allows (finally !) 3rd party software to be installed, making the Touch a more versatile piece of equipment than just a browser and audio/video player. Suddenly it becomes more of a PDA.

I downloaded the Stanza ebook reader to the Touch. It allows downloads of free ebooks from project Gutenberg. I downloaded a few, and got to read one for now. Having watched the “Jekyll” miniseries on DVD I got curious and wanted to (re)read the story giving the inspiration for the series – the short story “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Also I downloaded a few ebooks that come as applications for the Touch. Mike Stackpole has a few there, mostly short stories, but his novel “One a Hero” is there as well.

I have read a bit of those as well.

The small screen of the Touch is not really ideal for the purpose, but if you go travelling and want to travel “light” it is an option for having a set of books with you. It is easy to adjust the font size for relatively comfortable reading. Just don’t expect to read a novel in one go on the iPod Touch.