On 101 southbound a little south of University Ave in Palo Alto,
a new billboard cropped up a month or so ago. It says:
Senator Joe Simitian: Your cell phone law sucks.
Well, that's not ALL it says. Actually, it says quite a lot
of other stuff. In small print. So much so that if you actually tried
to read it, you'd be virtually guaranteed to veer out of your lane
and into another car.
I loved it. It's so classic. For anyone who hasn't heard, California
has a new law this year that bans talking on a hand-held cell phone
while driving. And honestly, who would think that it was possible
to read a billboard like this while driving -- except one of those
people who veers their SUV into your lane because they're too immersed
in their cellphone conversation to pay attention to the road?
(For a better photo or if you actually want to read the text, the
Times has the billboard story and photo; here's the
news take, with more details on the 75-word message (no photo).)
[ 21:53 Mar 10, 2009
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I decided to stick a tentative toe into the current millennium and
get myself a cellphone.
I sense your shock and amazement -- from people who know me, that
I would do such a thing, and from everybody else at the concept that
there's anybody in 2008 who didn't already have one.
I really don't think cellphones are evil, honest!
(Except in the hands of someone driving a car -- wouldja please
just put the phone down and pay attention to the friggin' road?)
The truth is that I just don't much like talking on the phone, and
generally manage fine with email. The land-line phone works fine for
the scant time I spend on the phone, and I have to have the land line
anyway (as part of the DSL package) so why pay another monthly bill
for a second phone?
Prepaid plans looked like just the ticket, and that's what I got.
With a cute little Motorola V195s. New toy! Rock!
It can take custom MP3 ringtones and Java games ...
but of course I don't want theirs, I want to
make my own. So I wanted to talk to the phone from Linux.
The charger plug was a familiar shape -- looked a lot like a standard
mini USB connector. Could the hardware be that easy? Sure enough, it's
a standard mini USB. Kudos to Motorola for making that so easy!
Now what about software?
My initial web searches led me down a false trail paved with programs
like wammu and gnokii. I learned that I needed to enable ACM in my
kernel (that's the modem protocol most cellphones use over USB),
so as long as I was building a new kernel anyway, I grabbed the
latest tarball from kernel.org (22.214.171.124). With that done,
I was able to talk to the phone with gnokii, but the heavily
Nokia-oriented program didn't show me much that looked useful.
Moto4lin is the answer
I set the project aside for a while. But half a week later while
looking for something else, I stumbled across
which turned out to be exactly what I needed.
I had to run as root, or else when I try to connect, it prints on stderr:
sendControl Error:[error sending control message: Operation not permitted]
) but I'm sure that can be solved somehow.
So run as root, click Connect, click File Manager if you're not
already in that mode, then click Update List and it reads
the files. Once they're there, you can click around in the folder
list on the left looking for the audio files (on my phone, they're in
a directory called audio somewhere under C, not A). Excellent!
Creating a ringtone leads to a kernel debugging digression
Okay, now I needed a ringtone. I wanted to use a bit of birdsong,
so I loaded one of the tracks I use for
into Audacity and fiddled semi-randomly until I figured out how
to cut and save a short clip. It would only save as WAV, but
lame clip.wav clip.mp3 solved that just fine.
(Update: the easiest way is to select the clip
you want, then do File->Export Selection...)
Except ... somewhere along the way, the clips stopped playing.
I couldn't even play the original ogg track from tweet. It *looked*
like it was playing ... it found the track, printed information about
it, showed a running time-counter for the appropriate amount of time
... but made no sound.
It eventually turned out that the problem was that shiny new 126.96.36.199
kernel I'd downloaded. A bug introduced in 2.6.24 to the ymfpci sound
card driver makes Yamaha sound cards unable to play anything with a
bitrate of 44100 (which happens to be the typical CD bitrate).
After a lot of debugging I eventually filed
with a patch that reverts the old, working code from 188.8.131.52.
Okay, a typical open source digression. But while I was still trying
to track down the kernel bug, I meanwhile found
Razr page that tipped me off that I might need a different
bitrate for ringtones anyway. So I converted it with:
lame -b 40 mock.wav mock.mp3
(which also made it playable on the new kernel.)
I also found some useful information in the lengthy
forums discussion of moto4lin
In the end, I was able to transfer the file easily to the motorola
phone, and to use it as my nifty new ringtone. Success! Too bad nobody
ever calls me and this phone is mostly for outgoing calls ...
Now to look for some fun Java apps.
[ 20:27 Jun 22, 2008
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