I appear to have broken my netbook.

Well, ‘broken’ might be a bit steep – it no longer responds to a lid close event with the nice, neat standby mode it once treated me to.  Instead, it triggers the standby script and gets itself into a half-on, half-off state.

In this state, the power light is flashing to indicate that it’s in standby.  Unfortunately, it isn’t – everything’s still working fine.  The only indication that it even tried to standby is that my SD card unmount/remount script is triggered and the default keyring is locked.

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I came home tonight to find that my Internet connection had crapped out, but that’s not what this post is about.  This post is about how Billion – that is, the company rather than the oft-misused numerical value – software engineers are perhaps not the sharpest tools in the box.

After restarting my router, the syslog spat out the following:

Jan  1 00:01:33 DDNS: DynDNS can not be reliable if SNTP -time server do not
reply to modem correctly, Please fix SNTP -server address. 
Oct 21 19:13:50 syslog: NTP current time is Wed Oct 21 19:13:50 2009

That’s the DDNS service complaining that things might go wrong if it doesn’t know the current time – followed by the NTP service updating to the current time.  Apparently making those two things run the other way around is too logical.

Google LatitudeGoogle has unveiled a new addition to the Google Maps for Mobile fold: Latitude.  Basically, it’s a service which tracks your location – or, technically, the location of your ‘phone – and tells your friends where you are.  Obviously, you can see your friends’ locations too.

It’s pretty snazzy, and integrates well with the Google Maps interface.  You’ve also got the option of running it as a background task in order to keep your location completely up to date: although this functionality only triggers every few minutes and doesn’t keep a packet data connection open it slaughters the battery – I’m down to half charge on my N95 8GB after a single day’s use, although to be fair I’ve been fiddling with Google Maps in general a lot too.

There are slightly creepy, Orwellian overtones to the whole thing – and anyone who thinks Google is probably an NSA shadow op will be putting their tinfoil hats on as we speak – but it’s also bloody good fun.  I’ve got a bunch of friends from work added already, and when the iPhone version comes out I’ll be adding some more.

Whether it’ll end up being anything other than a brief novelty – and how long I keep sacrificing battery life for the ability to tell people where I am at any given moment – remains to be seen.

I use the open-source Pidgin IM client, and came home to discover it had stopped connecting to my MSN Messenger account with the error “Unable to retrieve MSN address book.”

Turns out that Microsoft have blocked the version of the protocol Pidgin’s MSN plugin uses to communicate with their servers.  While this is bound to be fixed in an updated version of Pidgin soon, I got impatient and fixed it myself.

To sort this error out, simply install the MSN Pecan plugin and restart Pidgin.  If you edit your accounts, you’ll see a new option for account type – WLM.  Choose that instead of MSN and it’ll start working again.

MSN Pecan is available for Windows, Linux, and MacOS and is fully open source – albeit unsupported by the main Pidgin developers.

EDIT 20090119: The problem can also now be resolved by upgrading to Pidgin 2.5.4 or later, saving you having to install a third-party plugin.