the garden of nerdy delight

<This is an old draft I just finished. Oy!>
We just received a brand new Foundry FastIron Gigabit switch at work. It’s to be used in our new network-based editing configuration. I’m testing it out to see if it will handle 8 simultaneous video captures. Here’s the boot message from this bad boy:

FGS Boot Code Version 02.4.00
Enter ‘b’ to stop at boot …
BOOT INFO: load monitor from primary, size = 84371
BOOT INFO: load image from primary…….
BOOT INFO: bootparam at 00049268, mp_flash_size = 001dc352
BOOT INFO: code decompression completed
BOOT INFO: branch to 00400100
Starting Main Task …
Parsing Config Data …

FSecure SSH is included in this product

SW: Version 02.4.00cT7e1 Copyright (c) 1996-2006 Foundry Networks, Inc.
Compiled on Sep 06 2006 at 16:40:46 labeled as FGS02400c
(1950546 bytes) from Primary fgs02400c.bin
BootROM: Version 02.4.00T7e5 (FEv2)
HW: Stackable FGS624P
Serial #: CH42060189
P-ASIC 0: type D804, rev 01
400 MHz Power PC processor 8245 (version 129/1014) 66 MHz bus
512 KB boot flash memory
8192 KB code flash memory
The system uptime is 2 seconds
The system : started=cold start

FGS624P Switch>
Power supply 1 detected and up.
PowerPC, eh? Pretty slick. It must be one of those embedded jobbies from FreeScale. With 128 MB of RAM, this is a pretty serious switch.


in memoriam green iPod mini

Green iPod mini

After several months of searching high and low, I’ve given up. I’m beginning to accept the fact that my green iPod mini is lost. I’ve looked everywhere, and have racked my brain trying to remember where I last saw it or used it. The odd thing is that I still have the docking cable. I always took the cable with me if I was going to be away from home for more than a normal day.

I think the thing I’m saddest about is the sentimental value of greenie. A2C gave me greenie when we were dating. I remember it was just before we got engaged. She had just returned from a trip overseas. We were hanging out in her room, and were catching up and talking about things. I told her I loved her, and she replied as she always does with, “You do?”. Only this time, she continued, “Oh good, then I have something for you!”. She jumped up and began digging through her closet. In a few moments, she produced a new iPod mini and a protective case. I was floored, as it was a pretty extravagant gift (to me, anyway).

If I were to pick an iPod myself, it would have been green. It was so nice to have something I’d use all the time to remind me of A2C (not that I needed reminding or anything). I got lots of good years out of that iPod, and I must say, I think the minis are still my favorites. I’ve not tried out the nano (older or newer), and quite frankly, I’m not all that interested. Half due to the fact that I read more than listen on my daily commute these days, and half because I’m not so enamored of all things iPod as I once was. That being said, I’m slowly becoming more and more interested in the iPhone. Must… resist… temptation… shiny…


holy small form factor, batman…

Back in 2002 or so, I became fascinated with small form factor computers. Those of you (okay, *both* of you) who have followed my blog for any time have probably noted this fascination.

There’s something about the shrinking size of all that computing power that really appeals to my geek-ness. I think it’s the possibilities that are opened up for putting powerful computers into more and more everyday things, like toasters, cars, appliances, etc. Or, it could be that the shrinking size of my living space has necessitated replacing all those huge, power-guzzling, noisy boxen of yore with svelte, silent, cool-running machines of the future.

Of course, Apple’s Mac mini is on my wishlist of small computers to add to my collection of small powerhouses, but today I read an article about the new pico-itx form factor designed by VIA, the leader in small form factor design. Prior to the availability of the Mac mini, VIA were the ones to watch in the SFF arena. The mini brought more features, slightly smaller size, and impeccable style to the table. To be honest, the offerings in SFF with regards to visual impact are pretty sorely lacking. I have found that Casetronic has the most attractive cases in the market, aside from Apple.

comparison image shamelessly linked from mini-itx.comSo the new Pico-ITX form factor reference design is targeted to consume about 1Watt of power under normal usage! Pretty amazing. This combined with RoHS compliance, I believe, are helping to push the industry toward lower and lower power consumption and better environmental impact.
Anyway, enough of my rambling.

saying goodbye to an old friend…

right side viewBack in my college days (seems like ages ago now), I assembled my first PC. Ah, the memories. I hand-picked my components, trying to achieve the perfect balance of cheap, good, and fast. I had selected a motherboard and CPU combo with a 486 DX2-66MHZ processor, and 2 VLB slots and 6 ISA slots. I put in my 4 MB RAM from my first computer and lived with that for a while until I bit the bullet and added 4 MB and then another 4MB, eventually having 12MB RAM. I got a SoundBlaster AWE-32 which, at the time, was *the* top-of-the-line sound card. I also got a 2X Sony CDROM drive so I could play Myst. For the graphics card, I selected a 1MB VRAM STB Powergraph 24. 640×480@24-bit color, baby (my 14″ IBM monitor couldn’t handle resolutions above 640×480). For the communications (had to get on the ‘net!) I chose a Zoltrix 14400 model. This was a *huge* step up from my measly 2400baud modem that came with my PS/1.

I also purchased a 1GB Seagate ST31220A Enhanced IDE hard drive. A mere 3 months before, it debuted at $1000. I picked up that bad-boy for a mere $500 and change. What a deal! With it, I had to get a VLB disk controller, since the mobo didn’t have a built-in HDD controller. The last piece I needed was a case to stuff all these totally ‘leet components into.

On the way home from a somewhat long night of revelling, I stumbled past the local computer shop and beheld the most interesting case I’d seen to date. The design was interesting, but not overdone, and it seemed large enough to house the many upgrades I envisioned for my perfect machine.

3/4 front view

This case lasted me several years and many fun upgrades. And, many sleepless nights fearing that I’d completely screwed something up. I remember playing Doom with an audio CD playing in the background (Usually Smashing Pumpkins). This required a TSR (terminate and stay resident) driver for the CDROM drive. Oh yes, did I mention the not-so-leet Labtec speakers? “Tiny and Tinny” was their claim to fame but for the college dorm, they were enough.

Its first rejuvenation was the move to a Pentium 100 on an Asus P/I-P55TP4XE with upgradeable pipeline burst cache (which I bumped from 256KB to 512KB). This beast had 24MB of RAM, an MPEG-1 Decoder card (the docs were all in Korean, but hey, it was free). I also splurged on a 17″ Sony CPD-17SF-II Trinitron monitor which was driven by the amazing, all-powerful Number9 Imagine 128 4MB VRAM PCI graphics engine. 24-bit color at 1152×864. I also decided to get into digital artwork and purchased a Wacom 4″x5″ tablet. Sweet. I decided to upgrade the mouse to a Logitech Mouseman Serial 3-button mouse. Count ’em and weep! I also bumped up my keyboard to a Microsoft Natural (the big honkin’ original, not the Elite). It was on this machine that I first installed Solaris x86 and Linux (Redhat, then Slackware).

left side viewEventually, I upgraded, as the case had the worst arrangement for the drive cage. Any maintenance required disassembling the entire drive subsystem, which was a lot of work back in those days. I kept the old case lying around, and eventually revived it with old parts salvaged from discarded PCs (I believe it was a Pentium in the 150MHz range), and finally, I purchased overstock components and it lived out its last days as a 1GHz Celeron with 256MB RAM on an Epox baby AT motherboard (they actually made baby AT motherboards after the turn of the century!) The mobo/CPU/RAM live on in my current linux box, but that’s another story. As you can see, it also acquired a mass of stickers. The kana on the left side is the hiragana for my english name. I lovingly glued, X-acto knife’d out the excess, and taped over it with clear packing tape to preserve it for all time.

So, It is with misty eyes and a heart swelling with emotion that I bid a fond farewell to a trusty but finicky old friend. You will be missed.

the last place you’d think to look…

Way back in tha halcyon days of the late 90’s when USB was young, and the women were glad of it, I decided to go all USB for my peripherals. At the time, it was hard to find a BIOS that would use a USB keyboard to boot from. Over the years, I’ve chewed through a few USB hubs, and several mice, keyboards, scanners and printers.

Recently, I decided I wanted a full-time Linux box around, and I wanted to share my monitor, keyboard and mouse between it and my Windows box. Now, you may be thinking, “why, oh why would you not just buy one of those cheap-as-dirt KVM switches that are on the market today, that even include cables?”.

Of course the answer to that is that I’m cheap. I already have the video switching capability in my monitor, so I just need a solution for the K and M portions. I hooked up the keyboard and mouse to the USB hub, and then have 2 wires that rest near the hub. One connects the hub to the Windows box, the other to the Linux box. This way, I need only reach a few inches, pull a plug, and push in another. Pretty decent solution, right? right?

Well, for some reason, having the mouse connected via the hub causes it to lose communication with the computer to which it is attached. This was not news to me, I had observed this behavior many times in the past. At the time, the solution was to connect the mouse directly to the PC. This is no good in this scenario for obvious reasons. The mouse is a basic Logitech First Mouse with a wheel. The keyboard is the Microsoft Natural Elite (though I have nothing nice to say about their software, their hardware is pretty decent. Not that they actually make the stuff.) Anyway, I noticed that after a few moments of inactivity, the mouse would no longer move. If I reinserted the mouse’s USB connector, all was good until another period of inactivity. This is absolutely unlivable. No way this is flying. What’s the deal? Maybe the hub sucks? It’s an unpowered hub, but it can be plugged in if the power requirements so dictate.

Of course, I googled the problem. I noticed a lot of posts regarding bad mouse drivers for various mice, and a lot of similar inquiries regarding the hub. Then it dawned on me. Could it be the mouse itself? To test the theory, I turned to my trusty Drawer of Many Things™ From its depths, I pulled a Microsoft USB mouse. I plugged it in, and there were no issues with loss of communication via the hub. Odd. All these years, I never knew, and just suffered with the crappy mouse. I don’t prefer the MS mouse, but in this case, I’ll just have to deal. I’d rather have a system that works reliably, than have a nice mouse that doesn’t work so well. *sigh*


cable guy

So a few weeks or so after the wedding, I walk into the computer room at home, and notice that my Windows machine (which had been running for a few months with no issuues) is at the BIOS screen. “okay”, I think, “something small has happened and I’ll just reboot.” Uh-uh. The SCSI controller is complaining that it can’t make its wide negotiation with one of my drives (the 80GB 10,000RPM guy). Well, it says to check the cables, but I hope that’s really the problem. So, I never get around to fixing it because I’m so busy getting the rest of the house in order, living the married life, and working.

So finally, last night, I decide to take a look and see what the problem really is. I disconnect the cables from both hard drives and the adapter doesn’t complain. Good. At least that somewhat eliminates the adapter as the problem. Now, I hope it isn’t the drives. So, I reconnect the drive that wasn’t having issues, and the controller complains that there’s a termiation problem and that I should check the cable. Great, this is pointing more and more to actually being a cable issue. so, I replace the cable with another SCSI cable (happen to have 3-4 68-pin SCSI cables lying around) and voila! It works! no complaints from the controller, so I think that was the issue. A huge sigh of relief 🙂


iPod mini annoyance: fixed

I love my iPod mini. The one annoyance I had with it was that when it wakes from a deep sleep (not used for 36 hrs), it loses some settings. Primarily, the one that annoyed me was the cliker settings. I generally set it to off, to save power, and so it doesn’t, well…, click. There were also issues about the main menu items and all that, but it didn’t bother me so much.

As of the newest firmware (1.4), they have fixed this issue. Thank goodness! Unfortunately, they broke the Smart Playlist feature. You see, the Smart Playlists on the iPod would update if you changed some attribute (typically the rating) of a song on the iPod. Now the feature only works while you’re in iTunes. This is supposed to be fixed.

John Gruber has some interesting views on the podcasting phenomenon, and why Apple had to release new firmware and iTunes.


Nerd Badge of Courage

So, I just signed up for an account on an OpenPower Project machine in Germany. Power as in PowerPC – the chips that have been powering Macs for the last decade+. It’s sponsored by IBM.

You are allowed to develop and run code on this platform pretty much as you like. They’re trying to get interesting development projects happening in an atmosphere of sharing and innovation. Pretty cool if you ask me.

What am I going to do with it? Who knows. Mostly just play with some test code and benchmark it with other platforms. Plus, it gives me a +5 in geek cred 🙂 Should be fun!


New Projects, old projects

Well, it’s been about 6 weeks (tomorrow) since A2C and I got married. Since then, it’s been a lot of moving stuff, cleaning stuff, adjusting to stuff, and enjoying time together. As things simmer down a bit, my mind is turning back to my various projects. I’ve got a lot on my plate these days, but I’m hoping to squeeze in the following old projects that I just haven’t gotten around to yet.

  • Soekris OpenBSD router(security)
  • Kerberizing network services(security)
  • Cleaning out old hardware, and making new machines from the parts

On top of all that, I’ve got a new project to add to the list. This will come as quite a shock to those of you who know me. I bought a TV. Yes, a real live Tel-a-vision. We have yet to get cable, but it’s coming soon. Anyway, this new screen will be one piece in the new home theater setup. I’ve decided to go with a Mac mini as the foundation for the system. Windows Media Center is not even a consideration. The Linux-based alternatives are even worse. For less money, and much less hassle, I’ll get a compact, powerful enough, quiet box that will serve out audio, play DVDs, and allow me to play emulators like MAME and Stella(Atari 2600).

“What about PVR?”, you ask? Well, I’m not so much into recording TV, especially since we don’t even have cable, but I suppose at some point I might decide to do this. I can always add that capability, and I think the mini should be able to handle it. If not, TiVo is a great solution 🙂

I’ll post updates to my projects page as things progress.

Wish me luck!

fixin’ maniac…

It all started with that old ADA preamp. Since then, I’ve fixed Ken’s Tobias bass (just needed to re-solder a wire to a potentiometer), and I’ve revived my old fretless bass.

Way back in 1992, I bought my first bass. I don’t even remeber what brand it was, but it had a cherry burst finish, and a small body. I really liked that bass. I had it setup by the one guy in my hometown who *really* knew how to set up a guitar. Dave Pickett was his name, and if Pickett couldn’t fix it, it couldn’t be fixed. Needless to say, when I got it back, it played like a dream.

Then a friend of mine, Jay, wanted to know if I’d trade him for his fretless. He needed a fretted bass to do some recording. He sweetened the deal by throwing in a Crybaby wah-wah pedal. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse. So, I traded my first bass for this fretless and the wah pedal.

Many years passed, and since I didn’t play enough to be good at the fretless, I really didn’t play it much at all. Eventually, I moved out to the east coast and got the itch to play again. Unfortunately, years of neglect had taken its toll on the fretless. The battery for the active electronics had corroded and took the battery connector with it. Also, the output jack corroded. I thought it was finished. “Maybe one day I could fix it”, I thought. And so, it lingered amongst my possessions until a few days ago.

With my new-found interest in fixing things, I thought I’d fix my gaze upon this old thing and give it a shot. I looked at the electronics, and it looked like I really just needed to replace the jack and the battery connector. Everything else seemed to be okay. So, this Saturday, I headed over to a local guitar shop and got the jack and the connector. A grand total of $12. I figured it was worth that much to see if it was fixable. If it didn’t work, I was out $12 and I could get rid of the bass with the knowledge that I had at least tried to fix it.

To make a long story short, after one failed attempt, I realized my mistake and rewired one of the connections. That did it! I plugged it in and I was in business. How cool is that?!