Category Archives: Hardware

Pigs do fly, Apple buys P.A. Semi!

According to this Forbes article Apple just bought P.A. Semi.

I was really sad when I found out that we weren’t going to see a PowerBook with a PWRficient chip. At the time I pretty much gave up on the idea of a powerful computer reaching home users anytime soon. I doubt we are going to see a PowerBook or PowerMac for that matter based on the PWRficient but at least they reignited the dream again.

Redundant Array of Indestructible Disks

I was investigating the possibility of making the Sun a bit more silent this weekend. In an act of unimaginable stupidity I accidentally pulled the wrong drive out of the RAID. Since I was running RAID5 I kind of assumed I would spend the day waiting for a parity check to finish before my system would be back online again but I was so terribly wrong. I’m using software RAID in OpenBSD, as my SCSI-controller apparently does not come with RAID support, and this is a feature which is not enabled in the supported kernel meaning I only have myself to blame.

Since I don’t own a VGA monitor I drove to work on Saturday evening in order to borrow a monitor so that I could investigate why the system didn’t come up. Instead of recalculating the parity the system refused to boot and waited for me to manually run fsck_ffs on the partitions residing on the RAID. I manually executed a parity recalculation and then ran fsck which found a ton of errors on both the partitions. To top it all off this was the day before my weekly tape backup was to be run. When I finally was able to boot the system it turned out it had killed so many files on /var that it was pretty much useless. I decided to recover the entire tape from last week as I had no idea how far the problems had spread. The posts from last week were recreated by copy pasting from planets where I’m aggregated but I lost the comments, drafts and a couple of other things.

My plan now is to switch to the concatenated disk driver and solely rely on tape for backups. ccd is officially supported by OpenBSD so I assume it doesn’t have as many hidden problems.

The lesson I’ve learned this weekend is to always run the tape backup before messing with the drives. Stupid me!

OpenBSD woes

Based on the encouragement I received to my previous post I installed OpenBSD on the 250 again and this time I compiled a multi processor enabled kernel from current and it worked! So now I’m back on OpenBSD again and it feels great. 🙂

I also found that the AR5212 WiFi chipset is one of the supported chipsets in OpenBSD and as it happens I bought a D-Link DWL-G520 a couple of years ago that hasn’t been doing any good ever so I decided to install it in the 250. A huge Sun machine with a small WiFi antenna on the back looks kind of cool in my opinion. Sadly the ath is not as stable as I had hoped so it will have to be left disabled for the time being. So no replacing the Linksys just yet.
There is of course also the possibility that it is caused by a problem in -current, I’ll just have to wait and see.

MySQL seems to require a significant amount of processing power as it is a constant bottleneck when servicing pages from WordPress. There is a very noticable latency whenever I load anything dynamic that requires data from the db whereas other pages come up instantly. I guess I’ll have to dig through the MySQL documentation on how to optimize it. Especially considering that at the time being it is very memory conservative, much more than it need be.

Operating system evaluation on Sun Enterprise 250

I installed OpenBSD 4.2 on the Sun Enterprise 250 two days ago but after having fiddled around with it a bit I realized that it didn’t come with SMP support for SPARC64. That is a huge shame because I really like OpenBSD and it felt like the perfect fit for this machine but I can’t have one CPU sitting there unutilized.

So then I went on to install Solaris 10 on it which turned out to not work at all, probably due to the Permedia Raptor (GFX-8P) not being supported. I downloaded the Solaris 9 distribution instead, thank god it hasn’t reached eol yet.. Solaris 9 worked better but after installing a bare system I realized it pretty much expects you to make a full install in order to get the management console and what not. Why do I need X11, CDE and a whole other bunch of crap just to run a web server?

After this slight disappointment I decided to give Linux a quick spin. I really don’t want to run Linux on this machine, I already have plenty of Linux boxes around but at least it comes with SMP support. Same story as Solaris 10, Linux did not agree with the Raptor and all I got was a black screen with little green men running around the screen.

As a final cause of action I tried both FreeBSD and NetBSD. Turns out NetBSD doesn’t have SMP support either and apparently it doesn’t support keyboards as well as it didn’t respond to mine at all. FreeBSD suffered from the evil Permedia curse. Now I’m back installing Solaris 9 and longing for the day when OpenBSD support SMP on SPARC64. Maybe that would be an interesting future project to take on.. *evil grin*

ATI XPRESS 200M and the HP mess

Everyone that knows me know about the troubles I’ve had with my HP Pavilion zv6148EA laptop and the built-in ATI XPRESS 200M GPU. The chipset has 128MB dedicated RAM but you can configure it to use up to 128MB of system RAM for a total of 256MB RAM. The first issue with this scheme is that there is a problem with either the GPU, the BIOS or the Video BIOS because the device always reports that it has 256MB RAM. The HP-branded ATI drivers that came with the Windows install seems to handle this just fine but when you use ATIs drivers on Linux (you can’t use the official ATI drivers on Windows as they refuse to install) the machine will deadlock unless you assign the GPU 128MB of system RAM so it actually totals 256MB. My assumption here being that HP modified ATIs drivers to properly detect the actual amount of RAM rather than fixing this damn bug properly. I have no use whatsoever for 256MB of video RAM so throwing away 128MB of valuable system RAM sucks big time.
I recently found this blog created by someone with the exact same problem as me which not only confirmed some of my fears but also asserts that this is not an ATI driver problem but rather a video BIOS bug.