If it moves, it breaks!

Having been in IT for the better part of 30 years, I still sometimes forget, so when the New 500GB disk in my new laptop threw an error, I thought it was my fault. It wasn’t, it was, what is often refered to as ‘Infant Mortality’ a physical failure of the disk. The ‘Smart Disk’ technology on the drive controller built into the diskdrive identified the drive as ‘Failing’ and the Mint OS marked the drive read-only.

This allowed me to backup most of the the stuff I’d put on the drive to an external drive, but then it was useless. The drive has been sent back to PC Specialists for a replacement. The only good thing about this was the ease of repair of my new Clevo Laptop The disk removal took less than 5 minutes, two screws to open and remove the disk.

I am now using the laptop, booted from a new Mint installation on a 16GB SanDisk Cruser thumb drive. There isn’t much space left, and I get an occasional I/O pause with this setup, but try this with Windows, or a Mac and see how far you get.

But remember: ‘If it moves, it breaks!‘ backup often and more often!

My new Clevo W240EUQ Laptop from PC Specialists


This is the Laptop I have moved to. No longer a Mac user, never more than a PC user and never a Windows fan. I’m now entirely into my custom built Clevo W244EUQ laptop, built to my configuration by PC Specialist in the UK. Having done a lot of research and agonizing over prices and parts, my system was constructed and sent to me in, call it 10 days including shipping and weekends. And yes I’m writing this post from it. and I’m doing it from Mint 13 with the Cinnamon interface. Everything works, with the single exception that the SD card reader is not picked up. It also has one ‘hot’ pixel which only shows up during boot time, and I can live with that. I was amused and gratified that the laptop was NOT an exact match to the photos on the PC Specialist site, but I don’t think it was their fault as the Clevo site have many different configurations of this model laptop. On the positive, the laptop is better looking, and has a better keyboard than shown in the Clevo or PC Specialist photos. Mine photos are included below, though the first one isn’t perfect, because the top cover is so black that the auto focus couldn’t lock in.

The Specs are not stunning, about the same as a MacBook Pro. A Intel i5-3210M processor, 8 GB of ram, a 500GB 7200rpm disk with 16MB cache, 14″ screen 1366/768 HDMI, 1000 base ethernet, A/G/N Wifi, 2 USB 3 and 1 USB 2 port and a (currently) non-working SD Cardreader.


CPU Blowfish	    4.070
CPU CryptoHash   343.235
CPU Fibonacci	   1.819
CPU N-Queens	   5.411
FPU FFT		   0.972
FPU Raytracing	  3.688

Benchmarking the Raspberry-Pi

This is a crude and simple PI test against the Raspberry-Pi and a Dell Pentuim-4 (3.0Ghz)

The Raspberry-Pi
Starting PI…
x= 0.38631 y= 0.89070 low= 939239 j=1200001
Pi = 3.130797 ztot= 801773.75 itot= 1200000

real 0m1.900s
user 0m1.720s
sys 0m0.000s

Starting PI…
x= 0.38631 y= 0.89070 low= 939239 j=1200001
Pi = 3.130797 ztot= 801773.75 itot= 1200000

real 0m0.099s
user 0m0.096s
sys 0m0.000s

This somewhere between 17x and 19x speed difference, but compairing a ARM RISC ALU with a Pentium’s CISC FPU is not a fair comparison either. In other testing I was doing, I only got a 5x difference in performance, roughtly the difference between the Raspberry-Pi’s 700Mhz and the Pentium’s 3.0Ghz clock frequency.

As I got this benchmark from an old site, I was amused to note that this benchmark only makes the Raspberry-Pi about 56x times FASTER than a MicroVAX-II, a system I cut my teeth on in my programming life.

Life’s relative, maybe I should write that down.

Note; the GPU was NOT part of the testing.

UPDATE: I managed to get this bencmark to run on a Arduino Uno (16Mhz) and the Pi is 126 times faster, So much for using an 8 bit processor as a number cruncher :-)


The new Raspbian Distribution, (after a recompile) produced this benchmark.

Starting PI…
x= 0.38631 y= 0.89070 low= 939239 j=1200001
Pi = 3.130797 ztot= 801773.75 itot= 1200000

real 0m0.539s
user 0m0.520s

sys 0m0.010s

or between 3.52 and 3.30 TIMES faster that the original Debian Squeeze distro. That makes it only about 5.44 times slower than the Pentium 4 at 3.0Ghz which I was detecting before with non numeric benchmarking. An interesting side note, due to the ‘Hard Float’ the timings incured 1/100 second of SYS time on the benchmark.

The CnM Touchpad II – as a practical Pad

In my previous posting, I mentioned all the things this pad can’t or rather doesn’t do. To make this all balanced, I will put what it can do, into perspective.

For Instance, at a cost approximately the same as a Amazon Kindle You still get The Kindle eBook market.
… but then you get;

You can even play Games on it, who would have thought. And it has not added a single pence to my credit card. But I still don’t have the the ‘Google Market’ even though the calendar, contacts and Gmail still sync up with Google.

MeeGo is now Dead, as a Mobile OS.

This article MeeGo will not displace Symbian as enterprise OS has now demonstrated that Meego is no longer supported by Nokia, and it will be left to die with Maemo as a ‘Non-Runner’ in the Mobile-OS arena. It also indicates that Nokia Management has gone down the MicroSoft path to complete irrelevance in the Mobile Phone market. It’s no wonder the Maemo/Meego managers and developers at Nokia are leaving. Most are heading to the surviving Mobile OS’s Android, Web-OS, iOS and Blackberry.

NOTE: and the BS continues, with Intel killing off MeeGo for Tizen to further delay or destroy Open Source for mobile devices.

Geeks and their toys

A couple of weeks ago a friend from work was clearing out their place, I assume that his wife was involved, but in any case my collection of computers grew a bit when he offered to gift them to me. So now I own a Sun SPARCstation 5 and a Sun SparcStation IPX along with other bits and bobs. My wife was thrilled, as you can well imagine. Now as a rule I only take systems that work, and they do, however the passwords have been lost in the annals of time.

So I was left with a marginal SparcStation 5 with a missing CD drive, which booted to Solaris 2.7, but no further. But I’m a geek, and undaunted by this minor setback, I set out looking for a workaround. The googling net is full of solutions for password recovery … if you have a bootable cd (yes CD not DVD), Ok, next does eBay still have Solaris stuff that old … not cheaply, so what next.

While googling, OpenBSD presented itself, and I downloaded and burned some generic ISO’s of version 4.8. and then to solve the other hardware issue, the Sun IPX was delivered with a cartridge loading CD, but the IPX drive was housed in an external SCSI 1 case, and the SS5 was wired with a SCSI II system externally. so I dismantled the CD drive and searched for a CD cartridge carrier which as any self-respecting Geek, I had stashed away for a rainy day. Then armed with the hardware I jumpered the SCSI CD drive into the SS5 chassis, and bingo a complete and bootable SS5.

Now attempting to boot the OpenBSD was no problem, which surprised me to no end. But then I attempted a password recovery on the Solaris disk and no joy. but I did manage to mount it, and more or less destroy it (latter I found a way to fix it) and determined to go ahead and install the full OpenBSD system. Which more or less worked, there were issues with the X-Fonts archive but I found the tarball contained another version, which worked. It now booted on the internal disk, but I had to add and modify the XF86Config file to find the display, mouse and keyboard. My result does not match the examples of this file you might find on the net. So if you are interested, contact me, the Sun GB keyboard was hell to make work. but TADA:

And I even now have a browser in the form of Links

However, while it can compile most anything, there isn’t much left on the 1GB disk to compile TO. So unless I find some pre-compiled SMALL binaries, or a very cheap internal SCSI Disk to upgrade with, I’m stuck.

There may be more coming for this toy but just to make a comparison with modern hardware;

SparcStation 5 Nokia N900 smartphone
Screen 1024 x 768 (9 screens) 800 x 480 (4 screens)
Memory 64 MBytes 256 MBytes
CPU Freq 110 Mhz 600 Mhz
Storage 1 GByte 32 Gbyte
Price (new) 8,000.00$ to 10,000.00$ ~500.00$

UPDATE: I found amongst the archives another external 1.2GB SCSI disk, which fits nicely in the same connector that the CD-Drive was in, so now the SS5 is without the CD-Drive but has a massive 2.2GB of disks, Impressive :-)

Apple’s outrageous share of the mobile industry’s profits

That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

Pie chart: Apple’s outrageous share of the mobile industry’s profits

In any other businesses this would be called a RIP OFF! by Apple, but with the Apple-Fanboy base, They can do no wrong. I used to be a Apple Evanglista back in Apple’s dark days, and I still use a MacBook. But I use a Nokia N900, because I can do more, with less Apple regulation, and I pay a great deal less than any iPhone ball-and-chain.

My Nokia N900 is Broken

Or rather fractured, at least as far as the operating system. It appears that the DSP, a function (I think) of the GPU (PowerVR SGX) is not working as the DMESG command executed in the terminal application results in the following output:

[ 83.651947] WMD_DEH_Notify: ********** DEVICE EXCEPTION **********
[ 83.651977] WMD_DEH_Notify: DSP_SYSERROR, errInfo = 0x300

But due to the very forgiving Debian/Maemo kernel simply works around the issue, by making the CPU work harder, and consuming the batteries quicker. When everyone else was experiencing improved battery life with the release of PR 1.1.1, mine got worse.

Now the issue will be how to get it serviced as I bought it from Expansys out of the U.K. (I’m in Ireland, the Republic of) and there is the question of wither I send it to them, or directly back to Nokia?

The really important question is, when do I want to let go of this fun computer/phone thingy long enough to get it fixed.

Another Reason to Love Nokia and Maemo

It’s not Google and it’s Deadly Power of Data I have always been leery of Power. I don’t buy Microsoft , and I’ve stopped playing into Apple fandom. The last computer I bought was a home-brew DIY Server built from parts I chose, powered by OpenSolaris So now it’s another validation of my still unshipped Nokia N900 and Maemo! Please let Amazon ship it soon :-)

Committed to Maemo 5

I gone and done it, I’ve committed to a pre-order for a Nokia N900 from Amazon so sometime in the next X Days I’ll be on the Maemo 5 bandwagon. After pondering Android, Vodafone 360, Palm WebOS and Maemo, I had to choose a platform based upon HOW I USE a phone rather than as a Carrier would have me use one. It’s the one phone that most mimics my current use, a Palm T/X with a tethered Nokia 6300. Since Vodafone has killed my tethering of the Nokia, I’m reduced to using the T/X WiFi only, and there is a dearth of free WiFi sites in Ireland. Given that the Blazer browser in the T/X is functionally obsolete pointed me at a ‘Full’ OS device like Maemo. And while I can, and have booted Angstrom on the Palm, it’s inability to connect WiFi and Bluethooth make that configuration interesting, but useless. Android, and particularly the Hero was especially appealing, and was my second choice. But Android appears more like a ‘Widget marketing’ platform where only the underlying core was open source. Maemo is a full fledged Linux, although not mainstream, I can hack Linux. And while the current lack of Java is curious and worrying I do know, and it has, other programming language support, even MySQL (older version).

So what is the N900, it’s a portable Linux system, with a phone app in it. more or less what I have already. I understand that! Now all I have to do is be patient until my new toy ships. Here’s hoping is ships early. :-)

I will miss the Palm T/X, but it’s already been repurposed as a Internet radio on it’s desk stand in my office. The Nokia 6300 will also be missed, I wonder if the wife will let me keep it around as a standby?

UPDATE: More reasons for my choice Software freedom and someone else who agrees with me Maemo offers more freedom

Decisions decisions too many mobile phone choices.

For a change, I have money to burn, some, anyway, and while I love my Nokia 6300 mobile phone, I thought I’d splash out and go for a new ‘smartphone’. But the choices are endless, I like the Nokia E71, but I know that there is an upgrade to the Nokia E72 , then there is the New Nokia N900 with the New Maemo OS, and more or less future proof. Or how about the HTC (Android) Hero. Of the three, I like the N900, but the E72 has better ergonomics, more like a phone. Which is what it’s supposed to be.

Any suggertions?

Legacy Unix always works

Great, I now have a printer that works, but not due to any fancy new features, and also not due to my brilliance, though it should have. But again I am reminded (via Google) to remember the one thing that Unix is, it’s files everything in /dev is a pointer to the device, which for all intents and purposes is just a file. So to print, just cp to /dev/printers/1 which in my case was the USB printer. So by bypassing the fancy stuff, you just call it a file and point at it.

Webmin back door

NOTE: Do not accidently drop your own permissions to su to root.

{Unless you happen to remember to have Webmin running. }

This weekend while trying to get CUPS to print on my DYI-Server I managed to grant myself ‘CUPS management’ and lost all other permissions, including the ability to su to root. If you aren’t a sysadmin this is roughly the equivalent of locking your keys in your house. OpenSolaris, and most of the modern Linux distro’s don’t allow root login. So I thought I was thoughly screwed, until I calmed down, and realized that I had Webmin running, so permissions repaired. Yet another harrowing learning experience.

I’m learning too much that a classic, easy to administer desktop operating system might be beyond Linux and OpenSolaris. Windows and MacOSX have just managed to hide most of the pain involved from the average user. And believe me, there is a lot to hide. Unfortunately for Linux and OpenSolaris, the developers and discussion groups associated with these OS’s ARE NOT end users for the most part, and have little interest in the area of user experience. So if printers don’t print and webcams only work ‘sometimes’ that’s Ok, something of interest, just not a serious impact on their development or their perceptions of the impact to the end user experience.

I appreciate that OpenSolaris is reasonably stable, and features are abundant. I’d just like to snap a picture off the webcam, and play a DVD movie once in a while and not just marvel at ZFS time shifting and what not.

Now back to the books….;-)

A different thing in a real OS.

Through the weekend I believed that I had managed to screw up my OpenSolaris installation. So serious was my suspicion I was planning to erase the disk and reinstall the entire system. The sound system that I’d manage to get working wasn’t, the ZFS snapshot system kept failing into maintenance mode and the NetBeans IDE that I installed disappeared. Perhaps living in a windows world tainted me but in my ignorance, I recognized my lack of understanding and started Googling.

Sometimes panic can instill reason, and so with some illustrations and illumination from the OpenSolaris.org site, I discovered that the issue was the multiple packages that I had been downloading. The ZFS file system had been doing boot snapshots and I was rebooting into one of many boot ‘pools’ that were ‘confusing’ the system, when I was shown the tool for selecting the correct boot environment, and deleting the others, everything became stable. The sound works, the tools were there and it all works.

One note, the ZFS file system in OpenSolaris will surprise you, it takes a ‘snapshot’ of the ‘partitions’ you choose, and performs a type of backup journal of all the files there. Given that, the file manager, using a slide bar, allows you to ‘time slide’ the directory through the entire snapshot history to display the changes that have happened. Very interesting, but it takes a bit of getting used to. I have ‘time machine‘ on my Mac, though I have not used it, so I suspect this behaves in a similar fashion.

There was one issue, of course created by myself, in and effort to get video on the system I purchased a Logitech 3500 video class webcam with built-in Mike. And while the Ekiga VoIP and video conferencing application could detect and use the video from the camera, the built-in mike would kill the sound system. So I’m operating without the camera, hoping for a bugfix.

The conclusion, more or less, is that the fixes I perform, did not require a drastic rebuild and the loss of my work. Only some understanding, and some learning on my part. Learning about how a real OS operates, and protects itself. Something toy OS’s from the past have made us all believe don’t exist.

Time to learn that something old, is new again.