New hardware ordered: printer and kitchen computer

The kitchen computer project will be powered by a black ASUS EeeBox B203! The ancient 800 MHz (VIA Samuel 2 crap CPU) Mini-ITX machine I use for the prototype is very slow, has issues with the USB network adapter (NetGear WG111v3, ID 0846:4260),  and freezes occasionally so it will be retired soon! I will try to use Ubuntu Netbook Remix on the EeeBox.

I also ordered a new network laser printer, and actually not an HP! It’s a Samsung ML-2851NDR. The OpenPrinting database says that the very similar model Samsung-ML-2851ND works perfectly so I hope that the “R” does not mean “Requires Microsoft Windows”. It was cheaper than the HP LaserJet P1505N, even though the Samsung has duplex support and the HP does not.  Hopefully I will not share the experiences in this negative Samsung ML-2851NDR review.

Upgraded my FreeBSD file server

Upgrading a FreeBSD server should be less painful than putting a graphics card in a Windows server, unless there is a huge technical debt involved of course…

At home I’ve been upgrading my three year old FreeBSD file server. I bought 3 new 500 gigabyte hard disk drives for a new graid3 setup, but I forgot to buy a new SATA300 controller. Fortunately a friend found out where they still sell Promise SATA 300 TX4 PCI cards so I ordered one.

In the meantime I had some FreeBSD upgrading to do; the server was embarassingly still running FreeBSD 6.2! That old version does not have freebsd-update and it does not have portsnap.  I have not saved a complete log of my upgrade adventures and frustrations, but here are some highlights. Lets call it “paying technical debt”…

  • My ports tree was pretty broken so I moved /usr/local to /usr/local.old and /var/lib/pkg to /var/lib/pkg.old to get a fresh install. I also saved a pkg_info output for reference.
  • Upgraded from 6.2 to 6.3 (It seemed better than going to 7.0 from 6.2)
  • Upgraded from 6.3 to 7.0 (I was too much a coward to go for 7.1-RC1)
  • Not getting the 7.0 kernel to boot properly (atapci0: unable to map interruptpanic: Root mount failed, startup aborted) until I found that APIC was disabled in BIOS (wtf?) and enabled it.
  • Hoped to install all ports from binary packages (pkg_add -r) but then I didn’t get mod_sav_svn
  • Not getting pthread:ed ports to compile properly until i added a missing a symlink
  • Also forgot that I needed more SATA power cables, but fortunately I was able to buy the right cables in Karlskrona
  • Creating the graid3 was so quick and simple that I was afraid I forgot something: graid3 label storage2 ad8 ad10 ad14; newfs /dev/raid3/storage2

Thanks a lot to Jonas and Per for their helpful advice!

Solved problems installing a graphics card in a Windows 2003 Server

My computer troubles did not stop with the RAM failure on my laptop.

The next issue was a server upgrade at work. We needed to put a graphics card into a server. (Don’t ask why!) The HP ProLiant ML110 G5 server has a built-in Matrox G200e (with 8 megabytes of RAM) and I installed a  PNY Quadro NVS 290 with PCI-Express x1 interface. (The server only has PCI-Express up to x8, not x16 as 99% of all graphics cards require!)

It was not possible to disable the integrated graphics in BIOS so we only disabled it in the Windows Server 2003 Device Manager. So far so good! The weird thing was that Remote Desktop stopped working. It took me embarassingly long to find the relevant message in the Event Viewer: SystemRootSystem32RDPDD.dll failed to load. Once I found that message it didn’t take long to find and try the suggested solution and it worked at last!

Mysterious crashes = RAM memory failure

I had some mysterious crashes on my Thinkpad T60p the other day. First I got Firefox hangs, second Firefox didn’t start, third I got segfaults when listing a directory on the hard disk, four I got kernel panic when running fsck…

Now I’m running Memtest86 and it does not look good:

That computer is soooo being sent to service!!!

New Windows PC and monitor ordered

I usually pride myself with not falling for "special offers" but when I found this €450 computer and monitor package I could not resist.  The new hardware is an HP Compaq dx2450 Microtower PC and an HP L2208w 22-inch Widescreen LCD Monitor. It’s not high-end stuff, but I think it should work nicely for iTunes, Civilization Ⅳ and some adventure games. Maybe I should start managing my photos in Aperture and do some video editing in Premiere Elements too!

The big question is: should I run Windows XP or Windows Vista?  Or dual-boot with both? Maybe triple-boot with Ubuntu?

Update From the list of software above it might sound like I should be running a Mac instead, but the games and hardware price tag do not fit the equation… 🙁

Update 2 Well, Aperture is only for Macs, right? Maybe I should get Lightroom?

Highway to Dell, part six

(Continued from Highway to Dell, part five.)

Yesterday I noticed a problem with ssh on the Dell Inspiron 1525: I could ssh in any direction between the laptop and other computers on the same wireless network, but not to a computer outside of the wireless network. The issue was already reported as Bug #237894: I cannot connect to any server. Conection hangs up at "channel 0: open confirm rwindow 0 rmax 32768". The solution – as documented in the comments to the bug report – is easy but a bit unexpected: Disable the wl driver and use ndiswrapper for the wireless network interface! As I already had ndiswrapper working in Ubuntu 7.10, i only had to reboot after disabling the wl driver and the ndiswrapper was used instead and ssh worked!

The WLAN router as a development platform?

I have a Fonera WLAN router (unfortunately it has been offline for a while now, but nevertheless) and I really like their thing. In their blog I read that their next generation WLAN router will be an open platform for developers. Interested developers will be able to join Fonosfera: The FON Development Community. Also worth noting is that The Fonera 2.0 will have a USB port and they plan to make it possible to connect an HSDPA modem for sharing 3G access. Nice!


Highway to Dell, part four

(Continued from Highway to Dell, part three.) Before buying the Dell Inspiron1525 I did some research and I found a thread about PPP problems with Ubuntu on the machine. I sent a PM to the author of the post and asked of his/her experiences. I got this reply (quoted with permission):

I am no longer using Ubuntu 7.10 on this notebook. I converted to Fedora 8, have not yet returned, and do not plan to until the 8.04 release. Fedora functions beautifully in an unprecedented manner. My primary issue with Ubuntu was power management, which is a complete wreck. The screen saver, for example, would activate only sporadically. To no surprise, hibernation and sleep never functioned, and I would lose sessions consistently upon reactivation. Not that this situation is unique, but, on the other hand, Fedora 8 has managed to execute power management flawlessly and I have maintained highly stable uptimes of up to two weeks. I would highly recommend its installation on this particular model, as I have experienced virtually no drawbacks.

Ubuntu works fine for me, but if you can’t get Ubuntu to work properly it sounds like you might want to try Fedora!

Update Continued on Highway to Dell, part five.

Highway to Dell, part three

(Continued from Highway to Dell, part two.) The trackpad is much easier to work with since I followed these instructions. I also set MaxTapTime to "0" (zero) to disable tapping on the trackpad, and SHMConfig to "on" so that I can use synclient, gsynaptics or similar programs to play with the settings at runtime. The relevant section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf now looks like this:

Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier      "Synaptics Touchpad"
        Driver          "synaptics"
        Option          "SendCoreEvents"        "true"
        Option          "Device"                "/dev/psaux"
        Option          "Protocol"              "auto-dev"
        Option          "HorizEdgeScroll"       "0"
        Option          "MinSpeed"              "0.14"
        Option          "MaxSpeed"              "1.6"
        Option          "AccelFactor"           "0.084"
        Option          "SHMConfig"             "on"
        Option          "MaxTapTime"            "0"

I plan to play with HorizEdgeScroll later! It also seems like ndiswrapper was not loaded at boot so I simply load it from /etc/rc.local with the line below. There is probably a more correct way, but this works fine:

/sbin/modprobe ndiswrapper

Once when the computer woke up from hibernation it did not restore the X session properly, but it was possible to login from another computer and reboot. Such is life. I was not able to spot anything in the logs to explain this.

Update Continued on Highway to Dell, part four.