A good article on migrating to Ubuntu Linux

Over at Tom’s Guide Daily they are doing an article on switching to Ubuntu.

Link to article

While this is nothing new these days, I was particularly enjoying it even in the first page because of this paragraph.

Have you ever been some place you really didn’t want to be? I mean, have you ever really, really had a desire to leave but for some reason you just couldn’t? There was always something holding you back. Maybe it was circumstance, the comfort of your surroundings, or it was just too familiar (even though you know you should’ve moved on long ago)? Sound familiar?
Conditions like these keep many people tied to Windows. Those users feel there has to be an alternate way, but are unsure how to proceed. Well, there are alternate solutions to Microsoft Windows. Many are robust and allow users to make the migration with little knowledge and no loss. For anyone interested in finding the route out of Redmond, WA, please continue to read on. Today, we’re looking at the new face of Linux: Ubuntu.

Check it out if you have that same feeling. I know I had that feeling last summer when I made the switch, but it subsided after I got the feel of things.

MythTV project – Update 3

New Antenna is completely built, and working. I had to buy nothing, I had everything in the house that I needed to complete the design from the lumen labs forums that I linked to earlier.

The Pentium 3, 1GHz even with the GeForce 6200 isn’t exactly down with decoding the HDTV stream and displaying it well on the LCD monitor. I’m wondering if it will do better when it isn’t downsampling (the LCD is at 1024 x 768, and 720p is somewhere around 1398 x 720). I have the XvMC set up correctly as best as I can tell from the guides, and it looked a little better after it was enabled, but still it isn’t holding up all that great.

Also, I’m wondering if upping the RAM from 384 to 512 would work better.

But anyway, the cool part is that it is working, and it is doing what it should. I think next for antenna purposes I will either build a better version of the antenna I built and put it in the attic or on the roof, or just keep moving it around inside the house until I get a really good spot.

So, until we get the new receiver or the HDTV this project is pretty much done.

MythTV project – Update 2

I received the Kworld 115 Tuner on Tuesday. I tried to use this guide on mythTV’s wiki, but that alone didn’t give me everything I needed. Instead, if you follow my path and buy this card and run ubuntu, start here and follow the first 4 steps (ignore the modprobe step) for the ATI HDTV card.

So, I had to reboot, since I’m an idiot at getting linux to reload kernel modules properly. This then yielded lots of weird dmesg errors about readbyte and i2c or something when trying to load the nxt200x firmware.

But the analog signal part of the card worked…so it was at least part way there.

I somewhat figured out that it was a permissions issue. So I went to where the card is located.
/dev/dvb and it was adapter0

and I used the ‘chmod -R 777 adapter0’ command
and then rebooted.

This seemed to fix this error.

Now, I’m having trouble with signal strength, and getting it to lock on any one channel.

A while ago Barney pointed me to AntennaWeb which is a great start for getting antenna orientations down. But, today I found TV Fool, which is much better because it actually lists the real channels for the UHF signals that local stations use (instead of the 2_1 fake names). And it gives much more detail, which I need. See the image it created for me with all this information here. It is pretty freaking detailed….Electrical Engineers like these kinds of details.

Right now, I’m trying to play with antennas. This weekend I’ll probably build my own using these plans or some variation.

And, I’m trying to get a worked up channels list in the format that some video players use, called “channel.conf”.

I have yet to get the scripts to work that are supposed to make them for me. there is one called make_atsc_chanconf.pl that supposedly will do it, but for some reason I’m getting a “stationXML” variable something something error that I didn’t have time to look into deeply this morning.

My plan is to get this channel.conf file all set up for the local stations, and then try to turn on the TV software, and use the visual cue’s instead of the “lock / not locked” cues to aim the antenna. No one seems to have a good signal strength program that I can set to a single frequency and then just leave it there until I get the antenna aimed. And, since I don’t have the antenna aimed I’m getting no signals on any HD channels.

My hope is that this is an antenna problem, and not a hardware problem, but we shall see, and I will keep everyone updated.

The MythTV Project Plan

I’ve been rambling a lot lately about MythTV, which is an open source project that aims for something akin to Microsoft’s Media Center application for Windows XP (MCE edition) and for Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate.

But it is a lot more than that, with an amazingly flexible client / server architecture.

So, I’ve finally amassed enough computer hardware that is old enough I don’t want to give it away, but new enough so that it is not useless, such that I can build a “front-end” or TiVo like computer appliance for my living room.

This journal entry is to lay out what I have in terms of hardware and software (with links for my own reference, as well as to share with you), what things are already done, and what things I need to do. Also, I want to lay out some longer term plans to refer back to, so I can avoid confusion in my own head later.

So, without further babbling, here is what I have.

My personal Desktop – This will act as a dual-purpose computer, being my personal desktop, as well as the myth backend. This will do all the encoding, scheduling, and hold all of the files. Long term, this would be great to move to a dedicated server functioning as a internet gateway, LinuxMCE core, and NAS…but that is a minimum of $500 away and very low priority on the budget.

Desktop hardware:
Asus A7V8X Deluxe Motherboard
768 MB of DDR 333 RAM
Athlon XP 1800 (anyone have a Barton core 2500-2800+ w/ 333 MHz FSB that they would sell or give me?)
eVGA GeForce 6600 GT
KWorld 115 HDTV ASTC/QAM/NTSC tuner card (Newegg has it for $47 shipped after rebate)
Plextor 40X CD Burner (I should finally spring for the DVD burner at some point)
300GB Seagate Hard Drive
and I’m running my 17″ and 19″ NEC CRT monitors that either Dirk or I have owned forever.

Internet Terminal / MythTV frontend – This is my brothers old dell PC.
1GHz Pentium 3
384 MB of PC133 SDRAM
Cheap crappy 8 GB hard drive
Sound Blaster Sound Card
eVGA GeForce 6200 (recently purchased from ebay for $26 shipped)
Lite-On 16X DVD ROM
IR keyboard (the old one I’ve had forever)
15″ LCD monitor that I may eventually add a touchscreen too since I have some touch-glass laying around….don’t ask how I got it.

Then we have the regular compliment of old AV stuff: an old stereo pioneer receiver given to me by a friend, a DVD player that plays DIVX files, a CD player, a VCR, a SD 27″ TV, the Wii, and my new speakers.

Eventually I want to move to an HDTV. And before too long I have find a decent, but cheap (read ‘used, and maybe even something I have to repair’), receiver that does S-Video switching to simplify the issue with the TV-output on the computer.

Desktop / Backend

OS: Ubuntu Linux 7.04: Feisty Fawn
All Restricted Codecs installed
Nvidia Binary Driver (pkg nvidia-glx-new from the repository)
Beryl 0.20 rc3 from Ubuntu repositories (I need to switch to the beryl repository instead)
MythTV-backend 0.20
MythWeb backend for management of recording schedules over the interweb
Open SSH server
All your normal compliment of base Ubuntu software

Terminal / Frontend

All the same stuff except no MythTV-backend, and instead:
MythTV Frontend 0.20
All of the Myth-plugins package from ubuntu
and All official Myth-themes.

Currently the backend for mythTV and the frontend on the respective machines is set up and working pretty well. There is a little oddness with the back-end not coming up correctly all the time, or the front-end not being able to find it. Usually if I restart the back-end software (or perhaps start it for the first time) and then the front-end software it corrects itself.

The back-end drive maps to a local directory on the front-end for all the MP3’s and movies and comics and such via an NFS network share.

Samba is set up to share everything to everywhere else in the house so WinblowsXP doesn’t feel left out, and this keeps my wife relatively happy. (long term, I need to get a good rsync script set up to back up her “My Documents” folder to the big drive on the main desktop.

Get the new video card installed for the front-end (should be a simple driver reconfigure)
Get XvMC working on both machines…I thought it just worked through the driver, but I need to re-verify this, and perhaps set them both up to do better with my video cards. (This would explain a few things on my desktop if I wasn’t using the correct settings for the video hardware acceleration for decoding MPEG2 and MPEG4).
Get the Kworld TV Card working with the backend. This is a little more complex. (Link)
Hook the computer output to the TV, and make it work right. Lauren is the key here, if she can work it w/o having me around, then I know it is set up correctly.
Make sure all the myth plugins are setup and work correctly.

First off, must find a good outdoor antenna to avoid problems with recording while not home and the signal is bad. Second, must find a reasonably priced distribution amplifier. I’m thinking a 2 x 8 should cover every possible scenario. Something that will let me configure which output goes with either of the two inputs. And I would like it to amplify the signal such that each output has a unity gain with the input, or possibly even around the +5db gain region through 2GHz signals. Third, centralize networking and media to a single box in the basement. I’m thinking ripping out all the phone cords and using them to pull through network cable, or perhaps use our defunct chimney that goes to the basement to pull cables through. I need to research the wisdom of this one before drilling into the chimney. (Caleb, didn’t you do something like that for your pipes?).

I should figure out if I can actually modify that LCD screen I got from my old job to be a touchscreen. I have the touchglass, and all I would need is to see if I can cut down the standoffs inside holding the LCD panel to allow room for the glass. I would also need a controller for the glass, but that isn’t a big deal.

After we finally get an HDTV in the year 2056, and maybe a better receiver, I plan on moving some of this hardware upstairs to the bedroom, extending the whole server/client thing to actually make more sense. So the infrastructure to do so would be handy to have before hand.

After the new HDTV and receiver, I plan on upgrading my desktop, moving my old desktop to roll of dedicated server / NAS / backend for LinuxMCE, which incorporates MythTV for the TV time shifting / recording functionality. This is when I buy this cool media center case from Silverstone which fits my needs for a silent, small, media center case with an LCD display, so it works and looks like part of an AV rack. This one will have some decent specs w/ good onboard video for watching videos (hopefully full HD content in 1080P by then), and will have a TV tuner in it.

This is the point that if I’m still in this house, I either need to get handy with a fish-tape, or tear it down and rewire the replacement myself. If this fun muti-year project goes this far, I would start ripping out the AC wiring to all the light switches, and brining newer and better wiring through, along with a planned control network (+24VDC signal wires, AC wiring, Analog signal wires in the form of shielded twisted pairs, and maybe ethernet depending on the cost of programmable light switches). I would then terminate everything for lighting, heating, cooling, and anything else I could think of back to a PLC (programmable logic controller), and use an open source, standard protocol, to patch the PLC into the LinuxMCE. (probably use the industrial Ethernet/IP standard, or ModBus TCP/IP). Then, outfit each light fixture, and light switch with a programmable light controller for automatic dimming. And replace the thermostat with a dumb touchscreen which would allow lighting and temperature control. The relays into the furnace and air conditioning would be replaced by the PLC (I need to research whether relay output PID control is appropriate here…I’m guessing not). Also, in the ventilation, and on the windows I would mount stepper motors, to allow for zone controlled heating and cooling with automated dampeners, and complete lighting control by automated shade control.

Also, all the phones would route through the ethernet using VOIP.

That is my pie-in-the-sky part of this scheme…but that would be fun to do. It would also take a really long time if I was working at the time.

Also of note, I’m seriously researching some new stuff about moving to solar power for the house. That would greatly aid my doing this, because I’m sure some of the power stuff would get re-worked at this time anyway.

There you have it folks, my Audio / Video / Home Automation / communications nirvana project. I wonder if I did this, if it would actually be valuable to anyone who owned the house after me?

Ben = Intel Fanboy?

Yes, that is right ladies and gentleman, after many years of Intel bashing, and hating them because they are the microsoft of the hardware world, I am going to jump camps unless AMD pulls something amazing out of their ass.

I need to timeline a little just to help explain how much I hated intel.

Somewhere in 99 to 2000ish Intel and AMD were in the P3 vs Athlon race to 1GHz. I was a freshman in college taking ECE 110 or some such thing. Both camps used the same memory, and the only archictecural difference between the processors that made any mark in anything was the prescence of SSE in the intel stuff.

Then, Intel introduces that stupid RD RAM crap…I think they even made a P3 chipset for it. It was expensive, proprietary, and those Rambus bastards always struck me as either smug or whiny. In the meantime AMD is mopping the floor with intel in the benchmarks that don’t use SSE, VIA is the king of AMD chipsets.
2000 – 2001 I help dirk build his (at the time) kick ass computer. AMD Athlon 850mhz (best bang for the buck at the time) with the VIA KT133A chipset…king of the PC133 chipsets. I take ECE 290 and learn about pipelining, then go home for a break…I think it was thanksgiving. Intel releases the engineering monstrosity driven purely by crap-tastical retards in the marketing department known as the Pentium 4. The dark black spot in my heart gets seared with the name “Intel” (which has now been replaced with “3 Doors Down”, but that is for another blog). The Pentium 4 is released at speeds of 1.6, 1.7, and 1.8GHz (The 1.4 was the fastest P3, or original Athlon ever made), but the performance of each of these chips is less than the faster Pentium 3’s due to it’s incredibly long integer pipeline. Marketing people scramble in both camps, and AMD decides that their next revision of the Athlon will not carry it’s speed anymore as it’s name for distinguishing purposes, but a marketing number meant to compare it to the performace of the P4, hence the name of my processor in my desktop is “Athlon XP 1800+”, but it is actually a 1.53 GHz processor.

Spring, I take ECE 291 and learn more about instruction sets and how to program for the deep dark parts of the computer…this is the class that means you get to graduate from the Hogwartz school of Dark Computer Magic. I hate intel less, because MMX is cool, but hate them more because 3DNOW was a great idea, and it died because intel came out with SSE. The pentium 4 started to push 2.0 GHz sometime around here.

2001ish-2002, no more compE classes left to take for the lowely EE, so I just go on hating intel because it seems like the right thing to do. AMD comes out with DDR memory based chipsets, Intel notices but tries to ignore it and says RD RAM is the way to go….they are stupid, lawsuits with Rambus complicate Intel’s position.

DDR based chipsets start whiping the floor with Intel again…they look really stupid for sticking with RD RAM and making a 20-some stage pipeline.

I go on a co-op job, I get cash, I build a sweet computer based on DDR Ram with an Athlon XP (now with SSE support freshly licesnsed from Intel). My computer rocks the socks off most things intel at that point.

2002-2003, AMD gets lazy, starts to loose performance to Intel, mostly based on Intels massive amounts of money they can sink into refining their process of making silicon wafers. It is realized that the Athlon XP needs a revamp….and the “Hammer”, AMD’s 64-bit parts, are delayed. Intel comes out with Hyperthreading…which was somewhat visionary although ultimately not very useful in most common applications. Hyperthreading allows two “threads” or two programs to run through the processor at the same time.

2004 AMD unveils the Athlon 64 in the fall, which starts to handlily WHOMP intel again with its onboard memory controller. Brilliant move by AMD, but now the waiting game beings because Microsoft is draggin their feet in getting an OS out that takes advantage of the 64 bit-ness. Intel promptly recants their earlier statements that 64 bit is silly for the consumer right now, and starts to announce their upcoming 64bit processor. I think, once again, that they are thinking with their marketing team, not their engineers….which I say is the equivalent to a man thinking with his little head and not his big one, it always seems like a good idea at the time, in immediate payoffs, but down the road it just burns your dick when you get screwed by making stupid mistakes.

Turns out Intel does something smart this year, and comes out with the Pentium M (the processor for Intel’s Centrino Technology). I begin to wonder if all the smart people working for intel are in Isreal (where the Pentium M was developed), because it is a kick-ass processor. Expensive, but still, it rocks. Good battery performance, good speed, and it is based on the old P3 architecture.

2005, Intel continues to be stupid by releasing the “Prescott” core for the Pentium 4. This ups the pipeline to a whopping 31 stages, and allows for speeds up to 3.6 GHz. Intel has now completely lost it’s performance crown, no one even thinks about buying these chips who have read articles. Even the Intel bonner sucking Tom’s Hardware had to admit that AMD is badass. You can fry eggs on intel heatsinks now, because they are rediculously hotter than AMD. AMD no longer carries much stigma for processors overheating thanks to their “Cool ‘n’ Quiet” technology, and in general just better engineering than Intel, and than they have had in the past.

Pentium M is still sweet, AMD tries to come out with the AMD Turion processor which no one notices because: “AMD makes chips for laptops?!?” AMD needs to stop being smart and start using better advertising, because their chips are really good, but ultimately not much better than that Pentium M so they aren’t going to sell themselves. Intel also makes the deal sweet for people like me at work by giving system builders kick-backs for building systems with Intel Chipsets, processors, and wi-fi cards as a package. Standard marketing thing…microsoft does it too, and so does AMD except they are cheap about it. (all i got from them was a window sticker, at least intel gave me a hat).

2006, Intel unveils the Core Duo, which is a great ramp-up from the pentium-M. I would tell you to buy this processor if you are getting a laptop this year….but it turns out they had another announcement to make this week.

This week, they debuted processors to replace the Pentium 4, Xeon (server chips), and an upgrade to the Core Duo, which are totally freaking AWESOME!!!!

They completely overhauled the entire processor line, and provided a 20% performace increase vs. the fastest, most badass, dual-core Athlon 64 FX 60. Basically they take every single performance comparison by an average of 20%, and these chips will be available for purchase in the second half of the year.

They are well designed, they are susposedly way cooler. The mobile parts take the same battery life as the current core duo chips, but provide a 20% performance increase and are pin-compatible with the Core-Duo, which means that when these chips become available it is an easy switch for manufacturers. These are really made with the consumer in mind, not the marketing executive in mind like the P4. AMD will come out with something to match it, or compete, but it looks like a tough challenge because they are having a hard time getting their memory controller to perform well with the switch to DDR2 memory (something I repeatedly questioned the AMD people about when they made campus visits).

So, now I like intel again, and I basically realized that I can like either company as long as they aren’t trying to screw the consumer like Intel did with the P4 and their strong-arm monopolistic buisness practices in the 90’s.

It is going to be a fun year for the processor wars, just like 1999 and 2000.

Linux Advice

I’ve just started this super-nerdy project and I need some advice from my more linux-literate friends.

I’m taking a 7U chassis from work that can hold 4 slot-mounted computers (plugged into a backplane), and starting with two computers I’m going to populate the thing.

7U - 4 Computer Chassis

Here is what I need help with.

I want to start with one system being a workstation for people to use when they are over at my house. For this system I was thinking of using Ubuntu (in fact I’ve already installed it and it is working pretty well). But I need to know what other people who have tried out some systems think. Like Ubuntu vs. Fedora Core 4 (or 5 when it is out of beta, which looks pretty cool) or that new mandrake thing. Also, I’m looking for this to be easy to use for non-nerds, it needs to run an office suite, and so far OpenOffice looks like the best. But I want to be able to get at it, so I need to get an SSH server going on it, and some fun stuff.

The second one, is the more interesting bit. I want to run it as a gateway server / domain controller. I was thinking of experimenting with Samba 4 (but maybe not since it is super new). I was thinking after I get this working it could replace my router. And, I want this to serve as a file-server as well for my house. And, it would be good to have this running a web server with Ruby and subversion so I can do some project work on it. (Do I need to run X’s server on that so I can forward windows to the workstation box when I’m programming on it?) So I’m thinking I need to learn how to set up BIND, DHCP, Samba, Samba, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, Ruby on Rails, FastCGI, etc. It might also be nice to get my wireless using that as the back-end for authenticating to my network. that way I could have a “Guest” account you just have to know the password for, and not have to go look up that stupid hex passphrase on my router every time someone new comes over with their laptop.

I have no idea what distro to use for this part. I just know I’m not clueless, but I’m not good with Linux either. So please send me opinions, ideas, documentation, etc, that might help me out.

I’m counting on my fellow geek friends out there, cuz I have no idea which direction to turn to in the vast see of Linux/BSD distros. (Can too many choices be a bad thing?)

When I get two more Single-Board-Computers I’m going to probably make a second server and start dividing up tasks (maybe run Zimbra as an email server on it again, since I toasted that server for parts the other day), and an asterisks box, so I can ge the cool VOIP action going.

In other news, Kyle and Ellen are going to be here this weekend, and Saturday Lauren is having a girls night, and I’m taking Kyle out to do something fun that is still TBD. So if you are a girl stop by my house on Saturday for good girly time, and if you are a guy give me a ring and I’ll tell you where we end up going.

Installing Linux

Since no one seemed really interested in my Computers 101 idea from before, I’m just going to go ahead working on my project in my spare time.

But, Josh 3 seemed interested in taking a look at how Linux installs and what-not, so tonight I’m planning on using a little of my free time to run through a setup and install of Ubuntu Linux.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to play around with Linux, and see how it looks, and installs, or anything like that, without the hassle of messing with your own computer, come on by.

I’m thinking around 7 I’ll start working on things, getting hardware ready to roll and what-not. If your interested come by around then.

Get paid to blog?

I applied for Googles Adsense program yesterday, got accepted, and now I’m in the process of augmenting my WordPress theme to add Googles little text-only adds to the sidbar of my page.

Hopefully at some point this will provide returns, and I will actually make a few bucks for blogging.

But, to optimize the money I’m getting, I need to post more content that gains attention on search engines.

So, one way to do that I think is to add more technical stuff. By that I mean write down what I’m doing in my side projects in a more technical manner (and hide them behind an LJ-cut on the Livejournal version). Open up the source to some things I’m doing, including some work stuff that I’ve been up to in VBA (It isn’t anything too special or proprietary, so that is probably OK). Also, I’ve been thinking about some fun electronics projects to do, one of which is a personal audio amplifier for headphones based on a board I can get for cheap at work. Another is a linux project I want to throw together, which would involve setting up Samba as a primary domain controller, and then using the login credentials to also work with a wireless access point which would use WPA2 with Radius passthrough as the encryption method. This box would also be a small-scale file server.

Besides that does anyone have any good ideas for “How-to’s”, “FAQ’s”, or product reviews I could write about technical stuff that you haven’t seen a good guide for online already?

I’m open for ideas…let me know what you think.

Wanna Learn About Computers?

I have parts laying around for somewhere from 2 to 4 computers at my house right now, and as soon as I get a case from a guy at work I’m going to build them up.

I was wondering if it would remotely interest anyone if I turned that into a little info session. I could go over some basics about hardware, proper grounding for working in computers, and things like that, and then maybe walk through an installation of Windows or Linux. It could be a really hands-on kind of thing, very lab-like.

If no one is interested I’m just going to make it a weekend project for myself. But I figured since the sum total of these parts value isn’t more than a couple hundred dollars it might be a good way to get your feet wet with computers if your a person who has wanted to, but has always been a little afraid of making expensive mistakes.

Anyway, leave some feedback, and if there is enough interest I’ll set a formal date and time for this to go down at my place. (That date will be after I finish helping set up sound and tech stuff at church though)

A Little Batch File Help

I’m writing a batchfile, and I can’t seem to get it to do exactly what I want.

I’m taking a directory of files, and running all the .wav files through LAME and spitting out mp3’s with the correct encoding settings. I’m only writing the batch file because stupid winLame stopped giving me options to control all the bit-rate, and sample frequency settings.

Anyway, here is the stuff:

For %%a in (*.wav) DO lame -m m –cbr -b 32 -s 22.05 –add-id3v2 –tt “%%a” –ta “Jeff Heidkamp” –tl “Mercy Vineyard Church” “%%a” “%%a.mp3”

in this the %%a is the filename, and when I spit out a sermon in mp3 the filename ends up sermonName.wav.mp3 All I really need to know is how to strip the file extension from that variable name.

Anyone ever done something like this…I’m finding batch file programming scarce these days.

Turning over to the Darkside

Yes, With the annoucement of the MacBook Pro I am contimplating turning over to the dark side of the PC Universe.

I’m mean, it is just so sexy, and I can dual-boot windows or OS X or any flavor of X86 linux I want.

On a more serious note, I just want to run down some technical reasons on why this is probably the best laptop announced over the last two weeks (and there were many many laptops announced).

Intel’s new Core Duo is a great processor. Two cores, so essentially two processors, running on one system, which means you can process about twice as much information at one time. There are limitations on how effective this is at improving your preception of the performance increase, but for the most part, it is definitely going to improve your speed vs. other single-core processors. Also, this thing gets amazing battery life out of laptops for how much horsepower it packs.

EFI instead of BIOS…this is technical, but I think it is an important step. BIOS is what is called a ‘legacy’ technology. BIOS is your Basic Input-Output System, which lets the hardware talk to the software. It is what loads when your screen is black and runs that memory check. EFI, or Extensible Firmware Interface replaces that for something much more flexible, and up-to-date.
This means you could build in a media player that ran without booting the whole computer more simply than they do it currently. Also, something to note, Windows Vista supports booting from EFI, while XP does not (XP 64 bit edition does, but core duo is not eAMD64 compatible)….fortunately, I’m a beta tester for Vista, so if I buy a MacBook I can easily set up a dual-boot enviornment…..mwahahah

But, why dual boot (which means pick one opperating system or another during boot-up) when I can have BOTH AT THE SAME TIME!!!!!

Thats right kiddies, Microsoft, Intel, and AMD are all working together to provide us with what is called Virtualization Technology (VT). This VT stuff allows us to seperate our hardware into individual ‘Virtual’ systems with no loss of speed. That means if you have a dual core processor, you could virtually seperate one core from the other to be running one OS on once core, and the other OS on another. The only hiccup is that the OS has to support this. Windows Vista does (or will), but I don’t know if OS X is going to. I”m sure some Linux’s will, but honestly I’m only interested in OS X because it is essentially a version of BSD that has a working DVD player and laptop power-saving modes.

Now, I have one other thing to point out about VT that some of my tech friends probably don’t know about since I found out at an MS seminar and haven’t heard of it before or since.

VT allows even more seperation of hardware, to the point that the OS can detect failures of components in systems, and shut down just those parts without messing up the rest of the system.

The example I found the most interesting that MS told me about was this. You have a server with multiple processors. One processor blows. The OS detects it, stops using it, and informs you it is fried. You tell the OS to electrically turn it off. Then, while the system is still running you take off the heatsink, remove the processor, replace it, and tell the OS there is a new one in and to start using it again. It takes off without a hitch…no shutting down or rebooting. (This scenario scares the piss out of me because I drop screws a lot while working on computers, but it is cool)

My understanding is that this can work with PCIe, PCI, AGP, RAM, and all kinds of other stuff, and the MacBook supports it.

Also, the Macbook has a widescreen, is under 6lbs, and uses expresscard (replacement for PCMCIA…but not backwards compatible), has wireless….hopefully mini-pci based so I can upgrade when 802.11n comes out in 2007… and it has bluetooth, built-in camera for video chat, dvd/rw and all that jazz.

Now, when the memron core version of core duo comes out, and they add firewire 800, I think you will have the best laptop in existance. I may have to purchase a new laptop in 2006…and it might not be one I put together myself.

I’m a traitor…it is OK to tell me so.

Help with setting up a mail server

I’ll spare the non-technical types, and just beg for help from people better than me with Linux.

So, I’m working on setting up this Zimbra email server. It is some sweet stuff, but you can read about that in my other posts.

here is the setup. I have this server sitting behind my router. I have all the ports forwarded that the server will use (according to zimbra’s documentation).

I have the hostname set to ‘zimbra’ for server, and I have the domain set up as bigcat.kicks-ass.org

This a dynamic dns (www.dyndns.com) address, and I’m using a windows updater on my desktop, to make sure it is set correctly.

in my hosts file (/etc/hosts) I have two entries localhost.localdomain localhost zimbra.bigcat.kicks-ass.org zimbra

Do I need to do anything else. I’ve no idea if BIND is set up on this thing, if it is I didn’t do it, and I haven’t changed any mx records, nor do I have any idea how to change mx records.

My guess with this problem is that while bigcat.kicks-ass.org is resolving to the correct ip, and forwarded to an internal port on the server, once it gets inside of my router it is bouncing around looking for a domain called ‘zimbra.bigcat.kicks-ass.org’. In the administrators console for my server it is showing the domain as ‘zimbra.bigcat.kicks-ass.org’. So I think I need to set up an mx record that says something like;
bigcat.kicks-ass.org 10 zimbra.bigcat.kicks-ass.org

Is that sound correct?

Help would be appreciated.

Oh yes, and GO BEARS!!!!! According to Seth, Rex Grossman is the touchdown Jesus. I had to agree with him. I think the bears have found their new starting quarterback who will get us some decent points.

Zimbra improvements

I spent some time over the last week or so checking out the forums on Zimbra’s website, trying to iron out some kinks that were preventing a few of the components from starting up.

Well yesterday I fixed the last one, and this thing started to fire on all cylinders…or at least it wanted to fire on all cylinders.

I got every service up and running, but the extra load those missing services created pushed the computer into crap-ola land. It totally choked the thing. And, more searching on the zimbra website found that the minimum requirements were 512 megs of ram, I had 64. 8 times less than what is required. But I also found that 256 works OK for a test box.

Well, Rob from work knows this place up north of the cities that does computer recycling. Nothing is guaranteed, but everything is 5 bucks.

I picked up a grand total of 640 megs of ram, and two pentium 3 processors (one 866 MHz, and one 800 MHz) for 30 dollars. One stick of RAM didn’t work, and I haven’t tested one of the processors, but I suspect that will be OK.

So, Zimbra started without a hitch first time, loads much more quickly, and the web interface is going great. Now I just need to get it to send mail 🙂

The good news is I have enough hardware to setting up a second server either as a router / domain controller / file server, or I could start working on that asterisk box I was thinking about getting going.