Progress with the Balloon

Oct 9, 2006 / 0 comments

Way back at Steve’s Debian BBQ I had a late night conversation with Wookey about the fun I’d had hacking on the E3 and how gradually getting more bits into the linux-omap or mainline kernel gave me a bit of a kick. And he talked about the Balloon and how someone who would do that for it would be quite useful.

I, of course, foolishly volunteered if presented with suitable hardware. The next day came and I thought no more of it until the following weekend when I got handed a board. Ooops. I got stuck for a long while fighting with the major NAND changes in 2.6.18, but thanks to Vitaly Wool’s YAFFS cleanups eventually got a board that would boot and mount the rootfs. This allowed me to start looking at drivers.

Today I finally got USB host working. In addition I have the CF slot working (and have had networking going with my CF network card [which doesn’t bloody get detected if the dongle isn’t inserted. Grrrr.]). As far as I’m concerned that’s significant progress (even if it’s largely been as a result of being able to use Nick Bane’s existing work).

The main item left to get working on my board is USB client (sa11x0-udc), so that’s my next task. I have a driver but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to want to work. I shall kick it. I’ve also got LED and I2C drivers to write, but they should be a doddle.

Getting used to a trackball

Oct 9, 2006 / 0 comments

I've been thinking about getting a trackball for a while, to see if I found it any easier to use. However finding a cheap one didn't seem possible - everything was at least £30 even before P&P. However last week I found the Logitech Marble Mouse which despite the name is really a trackball. It came to £18.03 inc VAT and P&P which I deemed a reasonable amount to try it out (I wasn't sure a trackball would agree with me).

So far I've been quite pleased. I haven't found myself wishing for the mouse back. It has 4 buttons but only 3 are easily usable (one ends up under the palm of my hand - if I used the other hand then it'd be the button on the other side that got covered). However that's fine. The lack of a scroll wheel I miss a bit - mainly in JOSM for zooming in and out. I think I can do cunning button mapping to allow it by scrolling the ball, but it hasn't been that annoying yet.

I don't (thankfully) have RSI, but I've read various things that suggest a trackball instead of a mouse is a good way to prevent it. Given that I've found it easy enough to use I think I'll be sticking with it for the moment.

Credit where credit's due

Oct 2, 2006 / 0 comments

I've been quiet recently. I spent a week with the cold, then a week being stressed. I'm hoping this week is uneventful.

One thing I've been meaning to post about for the past month or so are some positive supplier experiences I've had. Like most people I'm quick to whine when things go wrong and I've had a few things I didn't expect to go smoothly be fine.

First up, eBuyer. I mentioned in my initramfs post that I had a disk that had been damaged in transit (according to the manufacturer's diagnostic tool). I wasn't looking forward to trying to return this, as I feared eBuyer would try to weasel out of the RMA. However it all went smoothly. Took them a couple of days to issue the RMA authorisation number, but after that I sent it off including the receipt for the posting and they sent me an email to confirm when they had it and when they sent me out the new one. And credited the postage back to my credit card. I was gobsmacked. I've been using them as a cheap box shifter for a few years and always assumed that the instant I had any problems it would all be pain, but no. It wasn't the quickest of processes, but it did all proceed without me having to chase anyone.

Next, Scan. I've hated them for years. Pre 2000 I vowed I'd never use them again for reasons I can't remember. In 2000 I capitulated and ordered a Scan 2000 DVD player from them (which is still going strong). However despite being stiffed £10 for next day delivery it didn't turn up, nor the next day and eventually I had to ring them and find they'd failed to authorise my card and hadn't bothered to contact me. I vowed I'd uphold my pledge never to use them and until recently had done so. And then I needed some 1U heatsinks in a hurry and the initial supplier I'd found were being slow about getting stock. Scan had enough in stock so I decided to risk it. And they turned up next day, with several text messages keeping me informed about progress. I'm won't be using them in general, but I might try them again at some point.

Finally, regular readers (all 4 of you) will remember the pain I suffered at the hands of Xinit. Black Cat needed some new dedicated servers and I was having problems finding what I wanted (Xeon LVs for low power usage goodness). Neil had some good things to say about Sentral Systems (well, actually Flexiserv who morphed into Sentral) so I figured I may as well drop them an email. I wasn't really expecting much, so when they got back and said they thought they could do exactly what I wanted within a week I was sceptical. Especially as that was a complete server whereas even looking for the bare chips I was getting quoted lead times of at least 4 weeks. To be honest they didn't manage it in a week - it was more like a week and a half (I think the order was confirmed on a Monday and delivered Wednesday week later). Damn fine. Plus they kept me informed throughout the process and the one time I considered ringing them to ask what the status was they sent me an email within an hour of me thinking it anyway. The servers are nice and nippy too. :)

A change is as good as a rest.

Sep 22, 2006 / 0 comments

My Athlon XP 2000+ died at the end of July; it appeared to the be the CPU. I had a 1GHz EPIA-M Via board sitting around, so I installed that and figured I'd have a look at sexy Core 2 Duo kit eventually. I did, and I've ordered some, but I suspect it's never turning up and I have to cancel the order and place a new one (combination of wanting an Intel G965 based board given their decent Free driver support as well as a silent case that wasn't in stock but was a lot cheaper than elsewhere).

However, I cracked and bought an XP 2200+ CPU off eBay. The Via just worked out too slow and the hot weather has passed so I'm less concerned about heat generation. Even though this CPU is only slightly faster than what I've had for the past 3 years the 2 months on a slower box makes me really appreciate it. Aside from the raw speed increase the Athlon also has 4 times as much level 2 cache (256k vs 64k), twice as much RAM (the Via only has 1 DIMM slot so had 512M, while my Athlon mobo has 2 so gets 1G) and a real video card (the Via CLE266 seemed quite poor; even when the system was unloaded I was sometimes seeing a couple of seconds lag in focus-follow-mouse. My ATI 9200SE is much nicer. And doesn't steal system memory.) Plus there's the fact I can put my 4 port serial card back in. Living with 1 port is so primitive. :)

I know that what I've got now is still a lot less powerful that what lot's of people have on their desktop (and conversely I know people who'd be glad of the Via), but my point is more about just how grateful I am for it after only a couple of months on something slower.

Fighting YAFFS gives me the giggles

Sep 16, 2006 / 0 comments

I have been fighting YAFFS on and off for the past week or so. Well, not quite fighting, more trying to persuade to work happily with 2.6.18-rc5 and the updated NAND driver I’ve written for my balloon (more on that at another time). Anyway. I’m now getting the following error message:

yaffs tragedy: existing chunk < 0 in scan

Which keeps making me think of the Bee Gees. Or worse, the Steps cover of the Bee Gees.

Update: Just for JD, who is too lazy to read the comments, I meant the Bee Gees not ABBA. Which means I’m hearing Steps in my head. Argh.

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