moar storage

I acquired two more 1Tb HDD's effectively making my current total storage space about 4Tb.

I want to software raid my 1Tb disks, but I need a silent UPS before I can (this system sits in my room, so I don't it waking me or anyone else if the power drops during the night), so my server is going to have to stay JBOD for now *sigh*

I am also contemplating putting Vista (x64) onto my lappy to make it easier for work, but I can't bear to loose my Gentoo/KDE after all the hard work that I have done in getting it functional.

I need to make some hard decisions here...

Also, I will hopefully get around to implementing IPTABLES + bridged mode modem + pppoe on my fileserver soon :)


Be afraid. Be VERY afraid

Thanks to Senator Conroy, Australia may have to suffer not only internet censorship but very slow internet speeds, due to an old yet unfeasable policy that the government seems determined to force into our homes (and probably businesses too).

I now direct you to http://nocleanfeed.com/ which explains (better than I can at least) what this is, how it affects you and most importantly, what you can do to help prevent it.

No Clean Feed - Stop Internet Censorship in Australia



I have finally been able to purchase a neo freerunner from openmoko!

Due to the current market, the Australian dollar is really low compared to the US Dollar (1 USD = 1.62063 AUD). But I needed a phone real bad and I really, really really wanted this one because of it 99% open (as in open source) nature.

I'm preparing for the arrival of it by purchasing a 16Gb microSDHC card (as well as the fact that I have dfu-util installed from a gentoo overlay from some time ago).

I'm considering putting Debian onto an SD card for uBoot... maybe a little too nerdy but hey, I didn't buy this thing as a fashion accessory :P

UPDATE 13/11/2008 @ 16:01
Today I discovered a nifty hardware feature. The hone can operate without it's battery as long as it's plugged in via it's USB cable!!! See here

Also, I managed to get host USB working the other day too.

Due to the available distributions it's very hard to find one and stick with it as some have feature and/or bugs that other do/don't have. FDOM sounds like it's for me though.

There is nothing this phone can't do (that which I need it to) :D


bubs is dead

My server (named bubs after the homestarruner character of the same name) died today after a power spike/power outage.

I'm not sure if bubs actually caused the outage, but one thing is for sure: It ain't turning back on.

My initial thoughts are that the power supply was damaged in the surge, but until I can get a reliable unit to test it with, I won't know for sure.

I have an old PSU from a PII computer but I doubt that will work on an amd64-based motherboard.

I just prey that the motherboard is ok becase it's going to get expensive to rebuild with new parts...

Might need to overnight some parts (or at lease a PSU)...

UPDATE 06/09/2008 @ 14:36
Bubs is back online!
Seems that all I should have done is removed it from power for a few minutes, toggle the (PSU) switch, apply power and hit the machines power button.

Also a quick test proved that an old PII/PIII ATX PSU is capable of powering an ASUS A8V board. Who would have thought :P


Home Network Redesign

I think I may have the motivation to redesign my network for the following reasons:

  • Increased Security: Better Firewall solution
  • Increased Security: Segmented network design, allowing for More control with untrusted hosts such as:

    • internet (DMZ)
    • Wireless and
    • temp hosts (ie. LAN party ^_^).

  • Manageability: Implementing a secure routing protocol (RIP? maybe) may assist with network growth/changes
  • Gloating: Show off my 1337 net skillz to my friends :P

The most important aspect of this is the first point (increased security). It should also allow me to easily create a vpn endpoint onto my server for remote access (from outside the network) and for internet access from the wireless network... *hmmm* radius anyone?

This should help me un-lazy myself and develop (internal) dns zone(s) too...

Hopefully I can have the design done and implemented by the end of next UNI break!


openmoko freerunner units

Since one of my geek tech friend's has introduced me to the openmoko FreeRunner I have been wanting to purchase one, but unfortunately they sold out before I could place an order. They have been OUT OF STOCK since early July (7/8 July maybe... can't remember) and their webstore says that the "next batch of shipments are scheduled to arrive on July 25th", problem is it's 5-day past that initial notice and no word of any kind has surfaced as to the availability of these units...

I DON'T want an iTurd but I really need a new phone... I did read somewhere that the company is operating like an open source project, so perhaps they are emulating delays and lack of communication that is normally haunted by most open-source software projects? :P


2Tb of goodness

So I finally shelled out (about ~$400+) for some more storage capacity (2 x 1Tb WD HDD). I was planning on buying a brand new fileserver ($2.5K worth) and doing software raid across them, but due to the cost of recovering from the car incident, I decided to do this on the cheap (JBOB). So now I have about 2Tb of storage at my disposal until I can afford the 10Tb fileserver (RAID6) *grin*



After many changes in my USE flags (alsa/arts) and the fact that I kept breaking my audio (NWN would have no sound, wine kept blocking other apps from accessing the audio harware and many other problematic things), I finally got a working dmixed (and arts free) audio setup *yay*.

This is how I (FINALLY) fixed it:

  1. Created a working /etc/asound.conf (see bellow) and restart alsasound.

  2. Removed arts altogether in favour of alsa (USE="-arts alsa") in /etc/make.conf, ran emerge -NDv world

  3. while tired="true"; do; sleep 8h; done

  4. Restarted X (/etc/init.d/xdm restart).

...and now I have dmix (which now works with wine!!!)!

Here is my /etc/asound.conf

pcm.dmixed {
ipc_key 1025
type dmix
slave.pcm "hw:0,0"

#one called "dsnooped" for capturing
pcm.dsnooped {
ipc_key 1027
type dsnoop
slave.pcm "hw:0,0"

#and this is the real magic
pcm.asymed {
type asym
playback.pcm "dmixed"
capture.pcm "dsnooped"

#a quick plug plugin for above device to do the converting magic
pcm.!default {
type plug
slave.pcm "asymed"

#a ctl device to keep xmms happy
ctl.pasymed {
type hw
card 0

#for aoss:
pcm.dsp0 {
type plug
slave.pcm "asymed"

ctl.mixer0 {
type hw
card 0

And as you can see in the screenshot below, you can see wine (foobar2000) using the dmix plug as it's output device :)

NOTE: Step 3 (sleeping) is optional :P


VMPlayer Anoyances

Here's something that I discovered whilst trying to figure out why I could only start some VM's and not others on an ntfs3g volume.

# cat ntfs3g.txt
If you are running your Virtual Machine on an ntfs3g formatted volume and you encounter the following error:

VMware Player unrecoverable error: (vcpu-0)
Failed to allocate page for guest RAM!
A log file is available in "vmname.log". Please request support and include the contents of the log file.
To collect data to submit to VMware support, run "vm-support".
We will respond on the basis of your support entitlement.

Try adding the following line to your VMX (configuration file):


NOTE: replace vmname with the name of your Virtual Machine.

I found this out from the following VMware Communities forum thread here


Adventures in Open Source (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of Adventures in Open Source!

This post is continuation on the previous article Adventures in Open Source (Part 1). In this post I will give you even more Tips, Tricks and useful information about Linux open source applications and their uses.

As the name suggests, dellBiosUpdate (which is provided by libsmbios) is tool for updating a Dell BIOS in linux. This came about because one day, I noticed an unanswered and unread post on forums.gentoo.org titled Dell BIOS update: extract_hdr, and I decided to investigate/research this because I also wanted to know if it was possible to flash your BIOS under Linux. I then found out (Thanks to the likes of the the Gentoo unofficial wiki post, HOWTO Dell BIOS Upgrade) that I don't even need M$DOS to flash the BIOS on my M1730!

quagmire ~ #modprobe dell_rbu
quagmire ~ # dellBiosUpdate -t -f system_bios_ven_0x1028_dev_0x01f7_version_a06/bios.hdr
BIOS file matches this system and is newer.
quagmire ~ # dellBiosUpdate -u -f system_bios_ven_0x1028_dev_0x01f7_version_a06/bios.hdr
Supported RBU type for this system: (MONOLITHIC, PACKET)
Using RBU v2 driver. Initializing Driver.
Setting RBU type in v2 driver to: PACKET
writing (4096) to file: /sys/devices/platform/dell_rbu/packet_size
Writing RBU data (4096bytes/dot):
Done writing packet data.
Activate CMOS bit to notify BIOS that update is ready on next boot.
Update staged sucessfully. BIOS update will occur on next reboot.
quagmire ~ # rmmod dell_rbu

After doing the above, It occured to me that this process is somewhat the same as when you flash in windows, as the bios data is written to a special section of the bios or EEPROM, then a "bios update" flag is set so that the system will immediately start the flash process upon reboot. Nifty eh?

I learned that it is possible to transfer files (and folders) to/from a remote path that has one or more spaces in it!

You need to enclose the entirety of the remote hosts argument in quotes and put escape sequences into it. For example:
scp -r "/media/sdd/2008-semester1/csg2207/Unit Schedule" "remotehost:~/UNI/2008-semester1/csg2207/Unit\ Schedule"

Gentoolkit (eclean-dist)
eclean-dist (a wrapper for eclean distfiles), is a tool provided by app-portage/gentoolkit that provides easy distfile cleaning (deleting)

After searching for a solution (thanks to the powers of google), I found that the Gentoo tool exists already. It seems to do an intelligent job at checking against installed packages and removing old distfiles (or tarballs). Pretty neat :)

That's right. rsync! I haven't done much research into the differences between cvs and rsync, but it seems to be a much easier to use alternative for synchronisation of file trees (UNI, savegames, software repositories, music, movies etc.) and using openssl (ssh) as a transport mechanism with almost no effort!

Here's an example (or proof) of me synchronising a folder of uni unit to my file server:

dean@quagmire ~ $ rsync -uav /media/UNI/2008-semester1/csg2207/ dean@
building file list ... done
Assessments/assignment2/tmp/the sample of risk management.docx.exe
Unit Schedule/
Unit Schedule/delete.me

sent 17094 bytes received 104 bytes 6879.20 bytes/sec
total size is 45568991 speedup is 2649.67

NOTE: I have to reserve TrueCrypt for private data only, as TrueCrypt requires elevated privileges, which I don't have on most UNI computers :(

That's it for this edition! I hope this was as interesting to read as it was for me to research and discover how to use them! Feel free to drop me a line if you have any contributions or corrections. Next post irssi!


Mouse Rage

So I finally "spat the dummy" and had a bit of a rage and killed my Logitech G7 mouse because it kept on randomly stopping (mouse pointer kept freezing for short periods of time). I slammed it a little too hard onto the mouse pad, causing it to stop responding. Indefinitely. Oh well. Now I have a replacement Logitech MX400 and hopefully, this one will survive more than 5 months :P


Why Gentoo?

In response to Ben's Blog about the some topic, bellow is a culmination of my reasons for choosing this fantastic distribution.

I have found that most of the system is will organized and seems to adhere to a strict guideline of naming conventions and standards of which, most are documented on the official Gentoo documentation or the Unofficial Wiki

Minimalistic Approach
I have learned allot (more) about Linux in general since I started using this distribution. It's stage 3 install process not only seems like a "Linux from Scratch" but with this method you can install a base system for less disk cost that the latest Windows® Vista™ Service pack...

The ability to configure everything with text files is pretty mush a norm for any Linux distribution, but Gentoo has an edge in this area, as there are many command-line tools to assist with configuration such as: etc-update, rc-update, euse, equery, eselect and (lets not forget the almighty) emerge.

Genkernel is also a winner in my books too.

Sane (Simple) Package management
Emerge for me is by far the most powerful and easiest to use (once you understand the do's and don'ts) package management that I have ever come across. Being able to have packages a tweaked to my architecture, pre-configured and all dependencies met by typing one command is very important aspect for me.

Apart from these reasons above, I still stand most of my old arguments from a while back.


Adventures in Open Source (Part 1)

Welcome to the "Adventures in Open Source Series"!

Since buying my Dell XPS M1730, I have been using Gentoo Linux on it exclusively and with surprisingly good results, however I have also learned allot more about certain open source software package in general, so here I will outline some of the these (and also some of the failures) that I've experienced so far.

I have learned to use screen in a much more powerful way than ever before. Until now I was not aware of screen's configuration file capabilities, so had never used it. I found that not only can you make screen automagically setup all your screens for you, but you can also do some awesome console customisation as well (see my ~/.screenrc bellow).

screen -t default
screen -t "compile (emerge)"
screen -t config
screen -t rtorrent rtorrent
screen -t misc
hardstatus alwayslastline
hardstatus string '%{= kG}%-Lw%{= kW}%50> %n%f* %t%{= kG}%+Lw%< %{= kG}%-=%c:%s%{-}'

Here is a picture of what it looks like:

PS: This is actually in use on my fileserver (also a Gentoo box), hence the different hostname.

Since I almost lost my band new 8Gb USB mass storage device at UNI last week, I have decided to start using cryptography, so I remembered reading a planet.gentoo.org article about it and considering I am using Linux at home and Windows *shudder* Vista at UNI, I thought I would give this a try, Not just for portability and security but for any easy backup mechanism also (all I have to backup/synchronise one single file rather than managing lots of files and folders).

I followed the guide on the Gentoo Wiki here, and created a new volume now all I have to do is mount it and it's all there!

dean@quagmire ~ $ truecrypt -u /media/UNI/uni-2008-semester1.dat /media/UNI/uni
Enter password for '/media/UNI/uni-2008-semester1.dat':
dean@quagmire ~ $ ls -alh /media/UNI/uni
total 24K
drwx------ 6 dean dean 4.0K 1970-01-01 08:00 .
drwxr-xr-x 4 dean root 4.0K 1970-01-01 08:00 ..
drwx------ 6 dean dean 4.0K 2008-03-23 12:30 csg2207
drwx------ 7 dean dean 4.0K 2008-03-23 12:30 csg3308
drwx------ 7 dean dean 4.0K 2008-03-23 12:30 csi2102
drwx------ 7 dean dean 4.0K 2008-03-23 12:30 csi3207

And of course here's the proof that it's all working:

dean@quagmire ~ $ mount |grep -i truecrypt
/dev/mapper/truecrypt0 on /media/UNI/uni type vfat (rw,uid=1000,gid=1000,umask=077)
dean@quagmire ~ $

Well, as you may or may not be aware, my wine success has been pretty hit and miss (more like miss when it comes to M$ products and games), but this is due to the fact that wine is considered to be in perpetual development and the fact that I am trying to run proprietary software on a non-native platform *wink*

VirtualBox OSE
Alright, I must admit that I had an issue with this piece of software, but once I got it working it ran like a dream... I've been able to install Windows XP and (of course) Gentoo into Virtual Machines with no hassles whatsoever!

So it seems that I am not only more productive with a powerful Linux desktop, but I am also a much happier computer user as a whole even with the few "glitches" the arise every now and again.

If you learned something, enjoyed reading this article or have anything to contribute (or correct) ,feel free to leave feedback as comments on this post.

Coming soon: "Adventures in Open Source (Part 2)"!


Gentoo GNU/Linux on Dell XPS M1730 (Part 2)

I have made significant progress on this project and have decided to continue with my findings so far.

I fixed the sound problem. Seems that snd-hda-intel was broken in alsa-1.0.14 (from kernel 2.6.20 - 2.5.22). I simply emerged the latest kernel, and now it works! even with surround!!

Next up I got TwinView working (finally). Seems that the nvidia driver thinks that my LCD (2702WFP) is a CRT, so I plugged in a DVI-VGA converter on the notebooks DVI port and hooked the LCD up via VGA (DB15 - DB15) cable and now she works. Interestingly enough, TwinView uses a form of xinerama, so all I had to do to stop getting a desktop stretched across both screens (and apps placed between both monitors), was to add USE="xinerama" into make.conf and re-emerged everything (emerge -uDavN) and now the WM detects the boundaries between displays!!!

Wireless: I have installed ipw3945, but according to the Gentoo Wiki ipw3945 Hardware Article, it seems that iwlwifi is both newer and easier to implement and it will be available in gentoo-sources-2.4.24, but since it's masked, I'm reluctant to use it.

Software Suspend (to disk): This will be very important especially when using this beast at UNI. As I mentioned above, the 2.6.24 kernel has iwlwifi inbuilt, but I realised that the tuxonice-sources is at 2.4.24 (masked) so why not "kill two birds with one stone"?

TavelRemote: Since I also use this system to watch stuff (on the 27" monitor), it would be nice to be able to utilise lirc with the travel remote.

g15 GamePanel: According to some users, it's possible to use this via the g15tools, but it is low priority for me, since I use this thing as desktop-like system, where I can't even see the damn thing :P

MultiMedia Keys: This is yet another low-priority job. I will tinker again with xmodmap and app support to see if I can get it working in the future.

Who needs Microsoft® Windows™? Not me!

UPDATE: 26/02/2008 @ 1353
I discovered that the g15 Gamepanel is now working!
I had the g15daemon and libg15 stuff emerged a while back but I never noticed it working until now (I suspect the the newer kernel-2.6.23 has made a difference).


Digital Camera Debacle

So, now that I'm going to Sydney, I want to preserve some of my memory's of the place by capturing them on a camera, which by now you have probably guessed, that I don't have one :P

I was looking to purchase a Pentax Optio A30 (the "A" series is the most advanced of Pentax's Optio range), but since it's near impossible to get one due to the announcement of it's successor (A40) which is due out some time in February, I am stuck with a very difficult buying decision...

Do I buy the older A30 or do I risk it with the newer A40 model, which could be potentially unavailable (I need this by 6/02/2008)?

My friend has already bought his (not so practical, but awesome) camera, and he is trying to convince me to buy the A30.

Because of this, I feel a bit boned...

UPDATE: 19/01/2008 @ 1219
I have decided to buy a JVC GZ-HD3 video camera instead :)
I just hope it arrives in time for me to configure it (play around with it) before Sydney...


HOWTO: Encode single-file (CD) to FLAC with embeded CUE sheet

I finally remembered how to do it (hence the reason for bloging about it)

This is intended as a rough guide on how to do it manually (I am still looking into automating this process with abcde):

  1. Rip the audio CD as RW_RAW using cdrdao or some other program that can generate a compatible cuesheet and/or tocfile. I used the following command to do this (For more information on command syntax please read the cdrdao man page):

    cdrdao read-cd -v 3 --device=x,y,z --driver generic-mmc \
    --read-raw --read-subchan rw_raw --datafile image.bin \

  2. Convert your tocfile that was created in the previous step to a cuesheet (cdrdao comes with program 'toc2cue' that can generate a very simple cuesheet). If you already have a cuesheet, then move onto the next step.

  3. Encode the raw image. I used the following commandline to encode mine.
    flac --cuesheet=image.cue -8 image.bin --endian=big \
    --channels=2 --sign=signed --sample-rate=44100 --bps=16

    NOTE: The --sign and --endian options may differ for you (especially if you use PPC or something like that).

NOTES: the --ogg option doesn't seem to work when using the --cusheet option and flac exits with the following error (this will probably happen to you if you try to use that option as well):

image.bin: 100% complete, ratio=0.895
image.bin: ERROR during encoding

I have included my command-line usage for reference purposes only! So, don't come crying to me if you just copied and pasted those commands at it doesn't work!


I miss my KDE...

Since I'm stuck up north on yet another shift I'm beginning to have withdrawals from some of the nifty little features that makes KDE so awesome. Stuff like temporary focus-grabbing on the Kmix dock icon (being able to adjust the volume without having to change window focus is very neat... now that I realise it's missing :P ) and virtual desktops... by default!

I forgot to mention (until now) that I managed to get sound working on the XPS M1730 although doing so confirmed my suspicions somewhat. It seems that alsa in the latest kernel has broken snd-hda-intel (stac92xx) support.

I Still haven't gotten WiFi working yet either (ran out of time last RDO due to Portal), so this beast is glued to the one (hot) spot in the house for now. Maybe this heat will force me to get wifi working so that I can enjoy some nice cool aircond offered in the lounge room?