How to add USB Gamepad support for your Android phone or tablet

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I was almost at the point to buy a playstation or xbox controller to use with my tablet, since they seem to be supported out-of-the-box. But actually I still have an old USB controller lying around, which would be more than good enough for playing some games. Interestingly my gamepad did in fact work partly, but only the left analog stick and one or two buttons, and the rest did not. My hacker spirit told me that this must be fixable somehow.

So I started hacking around and added support for my old USB gamepad for my android tablet. In this post, I’ll show you how I did it and how you can to add support for any gamepad to your phone or tablet as well!

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Samsung Galaxy S3 repair – Glass screen/digitizer replacement and why it is not recommended

Glass screen replacedA friend asked me to repair her friends Samsung Galaxy S3 mobile phone, that had a broken glass screen/digitizer, so I had a closer look at it. The process of replacing the glass screen/digitizer on a Samsung Galaxy S3 is straight forward and not many tools are needed. However, what you really need is patience… a lot of it.

This post shows how it is done and why I still would not recommend it anyway.

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QCAD – Symbols, special characters and font styles in dimension labels

Cover - QCAD with Alpha and l_ABz dimensions

QCAD is a great free and open source CAD software. Although limited to 2D design, it is my favorite tool for drafting, construction and simple sketches. It is well documented overall, but one issue I could not find a solution for, was how to label dimensions with symbols, special characters or certain font styles (bold, italic, super-/subscript).

This blog post provides a simple trick to get it done.

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Maxima (software) and gnuplot – plot functions using lines with symbols on it (workaround)

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I am recently working on some scientific papers for which I have to visualize a lot of mathematical functions. In a good scientific paper the graphs (and visualizations in general) should be colorless and utilize dotted/dashed lines or lines with symbols on it instead of colors. This has several advantages: A colorless plot is more neutral to the reader, he/she does not get distracted by the different colors. A reader may also have a (subliminal) preference in color, so he/she pays more attention to e.g. the red curve than the yellow one, that is hardly readable on the white background anyway. This also helps to distinguish functions, if they are plotted in one diagram and printed in gray scale mode or read by color blind people. Also, if two identical functions are plotted in one diagram, using just colors will probably only show one of the functions and hide the other.

I am using the CAS software Maxima to do the calculations, which in turn uses gnuplot to plot the functions. Gnuplot alone does the job perfectly. However, when plotting functions (and not discrete data points) using lines with symbols on it from within Maxima (which also uses gnuplot to plot the graphs), the results are quite ugly. There seems to be no proper solution to this problem.

This blog post suggests a workaround that is rather ugly, but which produces very nice graphics, that meet the above-mentioned requirements.

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Samsung SSD 840 EVO 2.5 Zoll SATA – Firmware update under GNU/Linux

I recently bought a Samsung SSD to replace my HDD in my Arch Linux notebook. It is a “Samsung SSD 840 EVO 2.5 Zoll SATA”. One of the first things I do when I get new hardware is to make sure the latest firmware is installed. Mine did not have the latest firmware update and – as it was to expect – Samsung SSD firmware updates under GNU/Linux are not (officially) supported. Samsung ships only Microsoft Windows software, called “Magician”, which can directly update the firmware or create a live USB-Stick to do the update. Additionally, they provide *.iso image files (one for Microsoft Windows systems and one for Apple computer, respectively) to update the firmware from a live CD. The *.iso image file intended for Microsoft Windows would also work under GNU/Linux, only that my notebook does not have a CD Drive anymore. Obvioulsy, the only option left was to create my own live USB-Stick under GNU/Linux – without using Microsoft Windows and that crappy Samsung “Magician” software. A simple “dd” comand to “burn” the *.iso file on an USB-Stick did not do the trick, as the Isolinux version Samsung uses is over 10 years (!) old.

This article shows how to update the firmware of a “Samsung SSD 840 EVO 2.5 Zoll SATA” under GNU/Linux using a bootable live USB-Stick.

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UEFI, GNU/Linux and HP notebooks – problems and how to get it working

There is a lot of confusion and wrong information in the internet about the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) and how to set it up correctly – especially under GNU/Linux. What makes things worse and also confused me a lot is that all vendors tend to implement this “standard” differently. So although UEFI is defined as a new industry standard replacing the BIOS, it can hardly be called “standard” at this time. Yet another problem of understanding UEFI is, that people seem to mix up words that have a special meaning.

My old notebook still uses the old BIOS-MBR setup, not capable of any UEFI fancy-ness. But it is dying, so I recently bought a new one. It is an “HP EliteBook 840 G1”. I used that opportunity to familiarize myself with UEFI and GNU/Linux.

This article explains two things (only taking GPT setups into account):

  • How is UEFI implemented in practice and set up with GNU/Linux?
  • How to set up UEFI and GNU/Linux on HP notebooks?

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Create a GNU/Linux multiboot USB-Stick (Live USB) with Syslinux chainloading

Since USB-Sticks, that are fast and have a high capacity, are finally affordable, I decided to buy a new one. I usually install a GNU/Linux live CD (more precisely live USB) distribution on my USB-Sticks: either SystemRescueCd or Kali Linux (former Backtrack). The left over space is used for the classical purpose of an USB-Stick – data exchange. Todays USB-Sticks have enough capacity to easily fit several GNU/Linux live distributions on them, while still leaving enough space for other data. So my plan was to create a multiboot USB-Stick, that would boot my favourite GNU/Linux live distributions mentioned above. Unfortunately, searching the internet for implementing this did not give me any satisfactory results. There are a ton of guides that explain how to create an USB-Stick that boots GNU/Linux, but there are almost no multiboot solutions. The few howto’s about multiboot USB-Sticks are either about booting *.iso files (which only works with some GNU/Linux distributions) with GRUB 2 (which is designed for static boot setups anyway) or require further customized modifications of the GNU/Linux live distributions. I wanted a simpler solution that – once created – allows for easy updating of the installed GNU/Linux live distributions.

This guide will explain how to create a multiboot USB-Stick that can boot several GNU/Linux live dirstibutions via Syslinux chainloading. It will have several partitions (one for each OS and one for the main Syslinux bootloader) and a separate data partition, that can be formated independently in any way you like, so that your data is seperated from the operation system data. This guide installs SystemRescueCD and Kali Linux on your multiboot USB-Stick, but any other GNU/Linux live distribution should work as well. Adding more than two OS should also be no problem.

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Poor man’s DynDNS – A PHP solution

I’m running a Thin-Client as a home server and sometimes I need access to some files at home. Since those no-ip services didn’t prove that reliable in the past, I decided to implement a DynDNS substitute in PHP.

The concept is quite simple: Let the little server at home call a PHP script somewhere on a “big” Server that has a static IP. The big server then writes the IP to a file, so it can be read from anywhere. There are two scripts that have to reside on the big server: an index.php, which reads and echoes the IP, that was recorded, and another script in a .htaccess protected folder, which is able to write the IP of the home server to a file.

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Archos Touchscreen Calibration Workaround for Archos 101

The Archos 101 has a crappy touch screen, as all the owners of this device already know. Most of the other problems could be fixed using a custom rom like urukdroid. But the touchscreen has been bugging me for the past year now: the touchscreen sometimes just acts weird (wild and random clicks, or almost no reaction), until it is “recalibrated”. No wonder, since it is a cheap USB touch screen “UNITEC USB Touch (Win7)”, probably made for windows 7 netbooks. Since the recalibration is hidden deep in the android settings, but needs regular access, I wrote a simple app as a “shortcut” to it. You can find the app download link at the end of the article.

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