Older blog entries for jpick (starting at number 67)

I finally got my Squeezebox. It was backordered for a month, but I finally got it (I notice they no longer have the colour boxes on the website). Anyways, it's great. I love it.

Slowly, I'm getting the server in shape. I set up a Xen session on it for Classpath -- Mark volunteered to be a guinea pig for it. I saw he logged in once, but I don't think he's done anything with it yet. This weekend, I'll migrate some of my own sites over. I had to patch some of the Xen python stuff because it annoyingly bound the consoles to all the ports, so they were accessible from everywhere -- and their default Domain-0 kernel for Xen 2.0.3 didn't even have iptables in it. Not good - I want secure console logins so I can run passwordless, and just use ssh keys.

I went to see Bram Cohen give a talk on bittorrent at Stanford (in the William Gates building. :-) It was a full house. He had some interesting insights, I though -- I was pretty impressed.

Amazon's A9 search engine now has yellow pages searches with street images. Very cool.

I can't see my house, since it's on a residential street. But I can see my work, where I have coffee, where I grocery shop, etc, etc. (I hope the links work)

I had the same idea about 10 years ago. They stole my idea! Of course, they actually went and did it, so props to Amazon. Google has bought Keyhole, so I'm sure they'll be doing something similar soon as well...

22 Jan 2005 (updated 22 Jan 2005 at 06:35 UTC) »

This is my second blog entry today. That doesn't happen often.

The Mac Mini I ordered arrived. Yay! I hooked it up to my flat screen Sony TV (37XS910) via the DVI connector, and it just worked. I'm very impressed. It's a really nice piece of hardware -- definitely a good purchase. It's perfect for the living room - completely silent, and the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse make it quiet usable from my sofa...

Displaying on a TV, even my high-end one, is very different than using a monitor. One drawback with the Mac UI is that it draws the menu in the overscan area of the TV. I couldn't find any preferences to adjust for the overscan (via Google, it appears that they do have support for that in the OS when outputting via component video -- but not via DVI apparently). Anyways, I figured out how to use the Zoom feature in the "Universal Access" (aka. accessability) preferences screen to let me zoom in and see the menus.

I can tell I'm going to have to do a lot of video mode switching depending on what I'm doing. Mostly, for DVDs, I think I'll use 1920x1080, which looks pretty awesome. However, for computer use, at that resolution, there's an awful lot of flicker (it's interlaced), and the fonts are ridiculously small. I'm using 720x480 now, which just about lets me see the fonts while sitting on the sofa (I'm nearsighted).

I'll have to dig around for Mac OS X utilities for quick switching of resolutions, etc. I'll have to do some research on some nice remote-control driven media centre UI software too. Of course, I'm going to use this box to test Kaffe with, and I'll probably try dual-booting Linux and maybe even Darwin and/or some of the BSDs.

In other news, I brought my little Linksys ethernet switch to work, and tried hooking up my server using that. It worked wonders -- all the IPMI problems magically went away, confirming my suspicions that the problems I was seeing was actually do to the Cisco Catalyst gigabit-Ethernet switch it was plugged into. I imagine that's what I'm seeing at the colo as well, as they have similar equipment. Since I think I understand the problem now, I'm going to reinstall the server at the colo next week. Then I can move onto more important things, like getting a new Kaffe release done.

Intel finally released the Vanderpool (aka VT) specs. Cool.

19 Jan 2005 (updated 19 Jan 2005 at 04:54 UTC) »

Proposed California Senate Bill 96


SECTION 1. Section 653.15 is added to the Penal Code , to read: 653.15. (a) Any person or entity that sells, offers for sale, advertises, distributes, disseminates, provides, or otherwise makes available peer-to-peer file sharing software that enables its user to electronically disseminate commercial recordings or audiovisual works via the Internet or any other digital network, and who fails to exercise reasonable care in preventing use of that software to commit an unlawful act with respect to a commercial recording or audiovisual work, or a violation of Section 311.1, subdivisions (b), (c), or (d) of Section 311.2, Section 311.3, 311.4, 311.10, 311.11, or 502 is punishable, in addition to any other penalty or fine imposed, by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.(b) As used in this section, "peer-to-peer file sharing software" means software that once installed and launched, enables the user to connect his or her computer to a network of other computers on which the users of these computers have made available recording or audiovisual works for electronic dissemination to other users who are connected to the network. When a transaction is complete, the user has an identical copy of the file on his or her computer and may also then disseminate the file to other users connected to the network. (c) As used in this section "recording" means the electronic or physical embodiment of any recorded images, sounds, or images and sounds, but does not include audiovisual works or sounds accompanying audiovisual works. (d) As used in this section "audiovisual work" means the electronic or physical embodiment of motion pictures, television programs, video or computer games, or other audiovisual presentations that consist of related images that are intrinsically intended to be shown by the use of machines or devices such as projectors, viewers, or electronic equipment, or a computer program, software, or system, as defined in Section 502, together with accompanying sounds, if any. (e) As used in this section,"commercial recording or audiovisual work" means a recording or audiovisual work whose copyright owner, or assignee, authorized agent, or licensee, has made or intends to make available for sale, rental, or for performance or exhibition to the public under license, but does not include an excerpt consisting of less than substantially all of a recording or audiovisual work. A recording or audiovisual work may be commercial regardless of whether the person who electronically disseminates it seeks commercial advantage or private financial gain from that dissemination. (f) As used in this section,"electronic dissemination" means initiating a transmission of, making available, or otherwise offering, a commercial recording or audiovisual work for distribution on the Internet or other digital network, regardless of whether someone else had previously electronically disseminated the same commercial recording or audiovisual work. SEC. 2. The provisions of this act are severable. If any provision of this act or its application is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application. SEC. 3. No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.

Doesn't a basic web browser fit the definition of "software that once installed and launched, enables the user to connect his or her computer to a network of other computers on which the users of these computers have made available recording or audiovisual works for electronic dissemination to other users who are connected to the network."? Yeah! Let's criminalize file downloading! Way to fill up California's jail cells dude!

I'm sure this won't get anywhere once people get wind of it. But the politician who thought this was a good idea sure must be a dumb-ass.

16 Jan 2005 (updated 16 Jan 2005 at 21:56 UTC) »

I haven't blogged for a bit - so I'll have to catch up...

The server: I signed up with simpli.biz as the colo for the new server - $99/month for 200GB of transfer, with the server physically located at AboveNet in downtown San Jose. Somebody on the ops list at communitycolo.net gave me the lead. I put it in on the 7th - they seem like a really good bunch to deal with.

Unfortunately, I upgraded the firmware on the Supermicro IPMI 2.0 board just before putting the server in (to version 2.0.1), and the IPMI board hasn't behaved nicely since. At one point, the board stopped responding altogether. It was also doing lots of other non-responsive things. Since I want to have confidence in the board, I went in this Friday, and downgraded the firmware. It was still acting in ways I couldn't fathom, so I decided to pull the server and take it into work so I could investigate it further. With the 2.0 firmware, and using ipmitool and the command line serial-over-lan tool, I deduced that I couldn't contact the board whenever Linux creates or tears down it's ethernet , and during reboot - it's nearly impossible to get to the BIOS, which is something I could do regularily when I had the server at home. It may have something to do with how all the IP/MAC hackery interacts with the ethernet switch I'm plugging into. I think I may try using a cross-over cable to see if that makes the problems go away.

New toys: I ordered a SlimDevices Squeezebox for home. I've playing around with their open source software - it's great. I'm using the Softsqueeze emulator (written in Java) for my desktop instead of xmms now.

I also placed an order for a Mac Mini which I plan to hook up to my TV in my living room. :-)

Wrist Pain: I'm feeling a lot better, but I still feel the occasional dull pain in my left wrist. I'm going to lay off the video games until I'm 100%.

Japanese: I started taking an introductory conversational Japanese course at Soko Gakuen in San Francisco. It's quite a good deal - our sensei is excellent, the classes are inexpensive, and the school is well established (the school has existed since 1915, behind the Japanese Buddhist church near Japantown). Hajimemashite. Jim desu. Dozo yoroshiku. :-)

20 Dec 2004 (updated 21 Dec 2004 at 01:53 UTC) »

Ouch. I seem to have given myself a typing injury (RSI/Carpal Tunnel/etc.). Not good. It's probably due to doing too much typing on my laptop in odd positions, and I probably aggravated it further with too much Gameboy playing. So I've been attempting to stay away from keyboards and mice as much as possible the last 4-5 days. My hands and wrists are feeling much better now, but not as good as I'd like. As a diversion, I've been reading Asimov's Foundation novels, which I'm quite enjoying.

I tried to get the server swap accomplished before Christmas holidays, but I ran into a snag. Apparently, the racks at the non-profit colo I'm using are already maxed out for power. They're not really well set up for more power-hungry servers - the rack I'm currently in only has a 15A circuit. I bought a neato Seasonic Power Angel power meter from Fry's for $40, and measured the power usage of the server. Idling, it draws 220W, or 1.96A. Fully loaded, it draw 278W, or 2.51A, according to the meter. In 22 hours of idling, the meter says the server drew 4.89 KWH of power.

Anyways, since the power draw on the new server is probably about 1-1.5 amps higher than the old server, the colo people can't let me stick the server in the same place as the current one, and since they have stopped expanding, they have no new racks where I can put it. I'll probably have to go in search of a new colo in the new year.

7 Dec 2004 (updated 7 Dec 2004 at 23:15 UTC) »
Jeremy Fitzhardinge at work corrected some of my bad assumptions about Xen, so I decided to give it a try. Wow, it worked right out of the box on the new server, even with the RAID and LVM setup I had. It sounds like I can do just about everything I was planning to do with UML/QEMU, with the same basic filesystem layout I was planning on, without the 40% performance hit. Cool - I think it's a keeper for the new server.

Cal doesn't get to go to the Rose Bowl - what a rip-off. So it looks like I won't even be able to watch them over new years up in Canada. Anyways, at least we keep coach Tedford for another five years. Tedford is god, as they say in Berkeley.

I spent two days figuring out how to build a quarantine network/VPN using Linux and a UML session. So now, I can grant people access to the new server before I deploy it. I had to resort to using policy-based routing, and all sorts of funky iptables tricks. It's probably something I could have done a lot easier using Xen, if only I had tried that earlier.

I'm going to shoot for getting the server deployed this weekend.

18 Nov 2004 (updated 18 Nov 2004 at 21:03 UTC) »

Lots of little things to post... My TV cable company, Comcast, finally deployed VOD (Video on Demand) here in Berkeley. I can finally see what all the fuss is about. We do VOD development at work, but it's nice to see what it really looks like deployed in the wild. It's actually really cool - there are hundreds of free TV shows available. There's a lot more content than I was expecting. I was pleasantly surprised to find some more fringey content that isn't normally broadcast (eg. Japanese anime clips). Also they put in cool content that works really cool via random access, eg. guitar lessons, cooking recipes, individual video game reviews, and cinema trailers. I now feel a lot better about paying $50 per month for cable. I've got a Tivo, but the VOD has a whole different feel - it's a lot easier to sample content. The content does seem to be highly compressed, and the Motorola interface is somewhat lacking. I might even be tempted to rent a VOD movie -- they're only $3.99. I can't wait until the Moxi box is available from Comcast in my market - it's got such a better interface.

Speaking of Moxi -- we won the Emmy! Yay. We had champagne at work to celebrate. :-)

Slashdot recently had an article: Bill Gates Proclaims End of Passwords. It's about Axalto's .NET Smart Card, which Microsoft is going to issue to all it's employees. Nobody else mentioned it, I guess it's a secret, but the virtual machine is actually Hive Minded's Nectar .NET virtual machine -- that's what Tim Wilkinson has been working on for the last two years (along with Simon Rabe-Hesketh, another Transvirtual ex-boss/friend).

I bought some Google stock at $170. I hope it goes up -- or I'll have to bug my friends that work there.

I've got the new Kaffe.org server on a separate physical subnet at home. Hopefully this weekend, I'll get a tunnel set up to the outside, and I'll hand out some accounts.

It's the Big Game this weekend. Go Bears!

14 Nov 2004 (updated 14 Nov 2004 at 00:48 UTC) »
Work has been busy. Our HDTV cable settop box / DVR product is finally being deployed into thousands of homes, and it looks like it is a hit. We've even been nominated for an Emmy Award! I would definitely get one of our settop boxes for home if Comcast offered it here - it just does a whole lot more than my Tivo. Or maybe I'll just sign up for the employee home trial, and suffer through the pre-release testing cycle and QA surveys.

I helped set up a 20 machine distcc+ccache compile farm. It's fun seeing the compile time go from 80 minutes to just 20 minutes. The tricky part was modifying all the Makefiles for our product so it will go in parallel. It's a bit like a game of "whack-a-mole" -- setting up the Makefiles to go faster, and then fixing all the missing dependencies that turn up as random build failures. Now that I know what I'm doing, I'll have to see if I can get some other things (eg. Kaffe, gcj) to build on the cluster. It should really speed up some regression testing investigations. :-)

I encountered a bizarre GNU make bug where a particular Makefile I have will drain all the jobserver tokens, and the "make -j20" build will degrade into a serial build. I can reproduce it, but only after running the build for 20 minutes. It's also a "heisenbug", which goes away when I try to add some printf statements. Ugh. It was easy to fix up the Makefile to avoid it, so I'm not sure if I'll ever have enough time to fully debug it and file a bug report/patch.

I finally found some time to start working on the new server for Kaffe.org. It turns out the built-in Intel ICH5R SATA RAID is really just a joke, it's not really hardware RAID at all (I knew this when I bought it). I ended up turning it off in the BIOS, and going with the Linux software RAID in the kernel, which is really quite cool -- this is the first I've ever gotten to play with it (all the other servers I use have hardware RAID). I got so enthused, I wanted to try out RAID5, so I went out and bought a 3rd 250GB hard driver, so now the machine has 0.75TB of storage. The new drive is a Western Digital just like the others, but it's a EIDE drive, whereas the others are SATA. I ran the bonnie++ benchmark, and there wasn't much difference in speed at all. I partitioned each drive into 15 partitions (the max for the SCSI subsystem), and setup about half of them as RAID-5. I set up the other half with RAID-0 (striped) sets -- there's no disk space overhead for parity, and it's theoretically faster, but it has no redundancy, so I'll have downtime if a disk fails. I'm running LVM2 on top of the RAID sets, so I can easily create and move around logical volumes. I also moved the boot partition to a RAID-1 (Mirrored) volume. And I did lots of GRUB magic, all remotely over the network using IPMI2. It's all very cool.

The machine came with Fedora Core 2 -- the x86_64 version. I spent a lot of time removing RPMs so I now just have a minimal set. I think I'll attempt to upgrade that to Fedora Core 3 somehow. I'm not too keen to run their installer though - I really only want a minimal setup. I think I'll also try out Debian's AMD64 port -- however, that hasn't been released yet. The name for their port seems wrong, since I'm running Intel Xeon EM64T chips. I'd somewhat leery of it, since it I don't know what decisions they've made with regards to the porting issues. My loyalties are split - I maintain RPMs all day long at work, but I'm also a Debian "emeritus" developer. It's hard to make any decisions without having hard benchmark numbers for performance. I've got access to some benchmark suites myself (SPEC CPU 2000, SPEC JVM 98), so maybe I'll have to do some experiments.

Anyways, I'm almost ready to set up a separate subnet for the machine, and tunnel it to the existing kaffe.org server, so I can start migrating some services over. :-)

I'm way behind on my other kaffe.org commitments -- eg. getting testing going for the release process, some website reorganization, JIT4 merge, etc. Hopefully, I'll get this server stuff tucked away soon, and I can move on to the fun stuff. :-)

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