Making my new monitor work with an old docking station

After my old monitor had failed, I wanted to replace it with the best possible successor that would still work in the environment I have at home: a Lenovo ThinkPad S1 Yoga notebook attached to a OneLink Pro Dock, both of 2014. The highest resolution supported by that docking station is 2560×1600, i.e., a 4k monitor, which I would otherwise have preferred, was out. 16:10 resolutions including 2560×1600 are no longer popular, but I really prefer having some additional pixels in height. I thus found the Dell UP3017 (product page, review). Not producing visual media but rather working a lot with text, I was not in urgent need of that monitor’s professional colour management, but the suitable resolution and the possibility to rotate the display were sufficiently convincing.

The most troublesome part turned out to be to connect the monitor to the docking station. The docking station features a DisplayPort, and is said to actually only support resolutions above Full HD over DisplayPort. The monitor came with a DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort cable and has, among DisplayPort and HDMI, a Mini DisplayPort input, to everything seemed fine. However, the monitor kept showing the dreaded “no mDP signal from your device” message. Searching the Web told me that besides a broken cable (which I wouldn’t have expected from a 915 € product) the problem might be caused by the computer’s BIOS, the graphics driver, and the docking station firmware. I managed to update the former two but initially didn’t succeed updating the latter (download location, README). The dock firmware update failed leaving the cryptic message “Can’t connect to Synaptics VMMxxxx DP hub IC” in a file named update.log. Meanwhile I had connected the monitor to my old ThinkPad X220t, which comes with a DisplayPort outlet, and thus confirmed that the monitor and the cable worked. The README of the firmware update software as well as a well-written third party guide claimed that the update would only work with a properly working monitor connected to the dock’s DisplayPort. OK, but my monitor+cable combination was not “working properly”, and I didn’t have another DisplayPort-enabled monitor handy.

Finally, this is how I managed: Connecting my old monitor with broken backlight to the dock over DVI convinced the firmware update to work. After that the Dell UP3017 started to work on the Lenovo OneLink Pro Dock, with 2560×1600 @ 60 Hz.

Poor man’s Org mode time logging

I never really got used to MobileOrg, and all I really need to do frequently when I’m not near my computer is logging my working hours. Now that I found out that Vim Touch for Android works really well for me (I’m an Evil user anyway), I ended up with the following poor man’s solution:

  1. I have an org.txt file in a Dropbox-synced folder.
  2. To clock a task, I enter its title manually.
  3. I insert a timestamp with C-t (or for Vim users), which I bound with the following .vimrc entry: inoremap =strftime("[%F %a %H:%M]")
  4. When I’m back at my computer, I manually merge the (few) clocked tasks into my Org file.

Contributing to Free Software by Bug Reports

I consider myself an active user and supporter of free software. So what do I do to support free software? Well, I do contribute code to free software projects, but most of these are academic research prototypes that are only of interest to a very small group of users. For most of the software that I am using, I neither know the code bases nor the programming languages well enough for being able to contribute. Therefore, my contribution is mainly in terms of bug reports.

This page lists most bugs that I have reported so far, outside of my academic research.

Blogging from Emacs

source of this blog post in Emacs There is a reason why I didn’t blog for a year: Being a person used to real text editors, I find it cumbersome to log into a web content management system and to enter text into a WYSIWYG HTML editor that always can’t do the things I want to do. I know there are workarounds, such as calling an external editor from the browser, but still…

So why not blogging externally to the browser altogether? Having become more and more addicted to the Emacs org-mode

  • time tracker
  • to-do list manager
  • calendar
  • publishing frontend
  • address book
  • personal knowledge manager

– just listing a few of its features in the order I learnt them! – I finally found org2blog, an org-mode extension that acts as a frontend to WordPress (and theoretically any other XML-RPC-enabled blog as well).

Those who have not used org-mode before, don’t worry: You can basically edit blog posts from within Emacs in a lightweight text-oriented markup language, but have full access to HTML if you need it. Posts can be edited offline and are stored as local files. There are keyboard shortcuts for publishing a file as a draft or post.

The only shortcoming I have perceived so far is that you have to tell org2blog explicitly about the blog site you want to log into.

So there is hope that there will soon be some more posts again.

No more NetworkManager annoyances thanks to wicd

So far I had been using NetworkManager on my notebook to establish wireless connections. But with KDE 4.1, which I still consider beta, the friendly knetworkmanager frontend was no longer available. The command-line alternative cnetworkmanager worked but wasn’t even capable of using ASCII passwords. Then, I finally realized why my internet connection always got interrupted when starting or ending battery operation. Following the Gentoo Power Management Guide, I had created a “battery” runlevel, and for some strange reason, NetworkManager always got restarted when switching runlevels. Last but not least, it turned out that NetworkManager sometimes even reset my hostname to “noname”, which caused problems e.g. with my X server.

Finally I was fed up with these annoyances and discovered wicd: a daemon that just works, plus a user-friendly user interface.

Broken bike lock

So far I’ve been quite satisfied with the city bike I rented from West Ireland Cycling. However, on Thursday the key broke during unlocking, leaving the blade stuck in the lock. So I had to call their emergency service and arrange an appointment for breaking the lock. I got a new lock with four (!) keys, but that still doesn’t prevent the problem.

Pro-European but Anti-Lisbon

My colleague Brendan voted against the Lisbon Treaty, but for good reasons:

  1. the new forms of military cooperation (which I’d support, though)
  2. the advancement of research in nuclear energy (which I’d support too)
  3. that the other Europeans were not asked to vote on it (and there he’s perfectly right!)

So not every Irishman who rejected the treaty was simply fooled by the dirty fear-uncertainty-doubt campaign.

The internet is full

You may have seen this fake error message (unfortunately I don’t find this picture anywhere): “The internet is full. Please try again later.” It felt like this during the ESWC in the 5-star Sheraton La Caleta, Costa Adeje, Tenerife. The VPN login form gave a similar error message when you tried. Later, they disabled all these security measures and bought additional capacity from a neighbouring hotel, but still the connection was extremely unreliable. When I managed to connect every now and then, e-mail worked sufficiently, HTTP much less so, just Skype was reported to defy all obstacles. Maybe one should invent a software that allows for tunneling all internet services via Skype. The whole thing must have been a misunderstanding between the local organisers and the hotel. Maybe they thought, sure, we can provide internet for a few hundred people, but failed to realise that every one of them would want to be online at the same time.