East of the Sun, West of the Moon


Old tech, new tech

Filed under: Software,Technology — Erwin @ 12:56 pm

Serial consoles are older tech than most people reading this blog, I suspect, but with USB being thrown in the mix you can do some interesting things, like connecting the serial port of several servers via an equal amount of USB-to-serial adapters to a single USB hub which then hooks up to the poor man’s version of a remote serial console server, using /dev/ttyUSB0, /dev/ttyUSB1, etc instead of /dev/ttyS0, /dev/ttyS1, etc to connect to the various consoles.

I have to admit I hadn’t worked with serial consoles before. That is to say I’d used them when someone else had already set them up, at a previous job, but I hadn’t set up a Linux boot loader or kernel to make use of one, so I had some fun with that yesterday.

Notes to self:

  • Make sure the speed settings in /etc/inittab and /etc/lilo.conf are the same or you’ll have some fun line noise to admire.
  • The USB Serial Converter I picked up worked out of the box with the Linux 2.6.18 kernel I’m running. That’s worth noting because things aren’t always quite so agreeable.
  • Null-modems come in very different shapes and sizes. There’s the ultra-small mini null modem adaptor for just $2.00 and of course the usual 6 to 10 ft null modem cables. It depends on the circumstances what suits your needs the most.
  • Because it seems to be a bit of a pain to send the break signal to the serial console when you’re connecting via ssh via telnet to the actual serial cable, it helps to configure LILO such that you don’t need to. I use these settings:
      append="console=tty0 console=ttyS0,9600"

    The first three lines make sure I get a “boot:” prompt but proceed with regular boot after 10 seconds. The last two lines cause the LILO and kernel output to be visible on both serial and regular console.

The other thing I played with recently was some USB-ethernet adapters. For future reference, out of the box the TRENDnet TU2-ET100 worked with Linux 2.6.18 (using the “asix” module), while the D-Link DUB-E100 and Startech USB2105S did not! For those last two I had gotten the impression that they could work, but no luck. There’s a good chance that the D-Link changed chipsets without changing its name, an unfortunately not unusual behaviour in the business. I suspect that with some custom kernel compiling I could’ve gotten the Startech device to work, but I am trying to avoid that at the moment, not wanting extra work when it is time to upgrade to a more recent kernel.



Filed under: Technology — Erwin @ 2:39 pm

About 17-18 years ago (during my first year at university, 1989-1990) I bought a PC with a 12MHz (I think) 80286 processor, 1MB of RAM, and 40MB of HD. As of a few days ago I have this in one of the headless servers in our basement:

$ df -h /dev/md[0-9]
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/md3              9.4G  2.9G  6.1G  33% /
/dev/md2               99M   35M   60M  37% /boot
/dev/md4              965M   18M  899M   2% /tmp
/dev/md5              176G  158G  9.0G  95% /var
/dev/md0              276G  226G   51G  82% /mnt/media
/dev/md1              459G  267G  169G  62% /mnt/backup

People that have worked with Linux before will recognize the /dev/md* devices which are typically used for RAID setups. In this case they’re all RAID1 (mirrored) setups, with two 200GB, two 300GB and two 500GB disks underneath this, so 1TB of redundant storage.

That’ll keep us going for a while, I think.



Filed under: Humo(u)r — Erwin @ 9:36 pm

This is so completely weird… or ironic, depending on how you look at it.

I have a long-standing habit of using <keyword>@spam.is-here.com type addresses for individual websites, so that if for whatever reason the website turns out to be spam more than I like and shows no sign of honouring requests to stop, I can simply deactivate the individual address and move along.

In the past I’ve had the pleasure of deactivating email used for chumdinger, orbitz, brainbench, etc.

Yesterday I noticed that among the spam were messages regarding premium watches, Canadian pharmacies, OEM software, enhancing drugs, casinos, weight loss to the scholastic@spam.is-here.com address. Say what?

Sure, they can be a pain to deal with because they try to get you to opt in to more than you bargained for, but… did they sell their list of former customers to someone without doing a good background check? Did someone break into their system and steal a list? What? Or are they really such hypocrites that on the one hand they sell books and other educational resources for children, and on the other hand they spam their (former) customers with drugs, illegal software, etc?


New gadget

Filed under: Family,OS X,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 1:41 am

Panasonic PV-GS80 MiniDV Camcorder with 32x Optical Image Stabilized  ZoomIt’s for M‘s birthday, but of course something that’ll be used for the entire family. We got her a Panasonic GS80, a handy camcorder. It’s a bit of a starter model, as we’ve never owned one before and I didn’t want to buy something entirely too complex or overpriced.

So far she’s done some recording with it, had some fun feedback loops while recording straight through firewire into her MacBook, etc. Once it’s been on the initial 24 hour of charging for the internal battery she’ll no doubt test to see how long the rechargeable detachable one will last, and do some recording around the house and such.

The kids are of course enthusiastically planning videos of the rats to be posted on YouTube, but I hope to stop them from that for a little while longer. 🙂

Update: I almost forgot to list that I also, while I was ordering from Amazon anyway, picked up the Snakes on a Plane album. Ladies and gentleman, snakes are slithering… carry on!


Time passes

Filed under: OS X,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 3:46 pm

So what’s happened in the last few weeks, around here?

I upgraded our MythTV setup from 0.18.<aging> to 0.20.2. This was required in order to still get any TV guide information. See, MythTV was getting its information from labs.zap2it.com, which provided that service for free, where free meant answering some survey questions every 3 months. The last few times the number of questions had been 0, which was amusing, but apparently a sign of things to come because a few months ago the fine folks there announced that they were going to discontinue this service. Some open source folks cooperated to work out a solution, now known as schedulesdirect.org, where we can continue to get this data. Initially at $15 per 3 months, but if enough users get on board that price should drop quite a bit. The amusing part is where they get their data from TMS (Tribune Media Services), the people that run zap2it.com, so I guess their biggest deal was that they didn’t want the hassle of dealing with payments and now only have to deal with one contact. Good for them, and now that we are paying real money for this data, there is also a better chance of complaints about missing or faulty data being dealt with, which is definitely a bonus.

My MacBook Pro was sent to Texas for the second time, 2 months after the first repair. This time they replaced the hard disk, which took a little convincing because it doesn’t show any errors when you merely verify using Disk Utility. The TechTools Deluxe software that Apple provides to AppleCare customers has a Surface Scan option which did, however, so I used that as leverage.

Unfortunately my timing was less ideal than last time. I called AppleCare on Wednesday, got a box to ship the laptop on Thursday, had it out the door within 5 minutes because the DHL delivery guy was kind enough to stick around so that he wouldn’t have to make an extra 2 hour trip just to pick up that same box again, and after it arrived on Friday it was marked as done and shipping out again within hours. But then “2nd day shipping” or whatever it was called turned into something slightly slower because the weekend got in the way, plus the extra holiday on Monday (Labor Day for non-US-ians reading along), so I got it around noon on Tuesday.

First thing I did was verify that I had a different hard disk, which I did, and run that Surface Scan on it. Thankfully there were no problems, so I moved on to restoring my home-directories and give M back her MacBook which I’d claimed for the past week.

I will cross my fingers that I don’t need to talk to anybody at AppleCare for a while!

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