21 July 2005

Project Week?

So far this week I seem to have spent quite a lot of time doing 1-2-1 tutorials with students who are about to submit their dissertations for comments. The problems have been very varied in terms of content and complexity.

Monday
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I spent some time helping out Jermaine with his web-streaming project (again). He seems to have taken notice about having to have his project on one of our servers here for marking so I had to set up some space for him and check it was serving jsp pages.

I spent the rest of the day evaluating web-cam software (for surveillance use)and reading up about wi-fi antenna. There appears to be a lot of web-cam software available so I set out specific criteria for selection.

I wanted:
1) A program that could take timed pictures and upload them to a remote ftp site
2) Some sort of motion detection
3) Have the ability to number uploaded pictures
4) Be cheap or relatively low cost.
5) Be easy to use

There were quite a few programs which passed the selection process although there were many which didn't. The ones which seemed like they might be useful are:


Conquer Cam
ChillCam
Web-cam Control Centre
Crime Catcher


Of these I think ConquerCam is the winner at $10 USD (about £5.70). At this point I should also mention CatSpy. This is currently freeware and stores video clips instead of single frames. It also has motion detection and is easy to set-up.


Tuesday
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Today I got a wi-fi card working on linux by downloading and compiling the driver and configuring it. While I did this for an old 802.11b card I brought in from home, the principles are the same for any card so I will now be able to support Bob if he decides to integrate wireless into his linux modules.

I got the netgear MA-101 (rev. B) amtel based card running on Slackware by using this site, which proved to be incredibly useful. I followed the sites instuctions to compile and install the driver. The configuration was then just a few conmmands which I added into my /etc/rc.d/rc.local file to get the wifi card to power up after booting:


ifconfig atml0 192.168.10.1 netmask 255.255.255.0 broadcast 192.168.10.254
ifconfig atml0 up

iwconfig atml0 essid "Office"
iwconfig atml0 channel 4
iwconfig atml0 mode ad-hoc

/usr/sbin/dhcpd atml0


The ifconfig commands set up the wi-fi cards IP settings and bring the interface UP. The iwconfig commands access the wi-fi extensions in linux and set up the station id, channel and in this case set the card to ad-hoc (ie connects to any other wi-fi link without requiring an access point). The usr/sbin/dhcpd command sets up a DHCP service on the card so connecting machines can obtain their own IP settings from this machine. This is not very secure but the machine is not connected to the network so it's ok. The addresses given can be changed by altering the etc/dhcpd.conf file. I changed this to give out addresses in the range 192.168.10.32 to 192.168.10.128.

In this case the slackware box was acting as a fixed point in the network. I could have made it a client machine by using dhcpcd atml0 which tells the interface to get it's IP address from another dhcp server. Using this with another network card (PCI or onboard) would be the starting point of a home linux router/firewall system. Using dhcpcd eth0 for example would get the linux machines IP address (and other info) from the service providers dhcp server.

Wednesday
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Today I did a 1-2-1 tutorial with a Mr Abubaker (an MSc student from the Stafford campus) on how to embed an MS project Gantt chart into word as an imported object. MS really don't make it easy to format the object so I finally suggested he use printkey to grab screen-dumps which could be inserted into his document.

I also prepared a ghost bootup disk with drivers for a Dlink 530Tx network card which I set up on Lynn's machine to create a backup copy of her hard-drive (problem diagnosed on Tuesday 12th. Replacement drive from Pheonix computers would not arrive for three weeks so Mel has found a replacement 10GB drive for now). I set the ghost session up after 5pm so as not to inconvenience Lynn during the day.

I also helped out another student who didn't know how to backup his project onto CD. We could create a hand-out for this but I suspect the students actually find it reassuring to have us there at the time. If they get it wrong it is easy to ruin the CD.

Thursday
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Today Mr Abubaker has been back and needed a quick refresher on certain functions of MS word. He asked for help with borders around pictures amongst other things. He left seeming both happy and grateful for the assistance.

Lynns replacement hard-drive has been created using one of the open machines from the hardware lab and will be swapped over later on this afternoon.