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.

Out by a factor of 4

Sep 11, 2006 / 0 comments

Kathy came back for the weekend (and we went to Vix and Richard's wedding somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Kent), bringing her contract so I could have a peer. It's not a 9 month contract. It's a permanent contract with a 3 year probation period. Which I guess means they can get rid of her easily enough at the end of each academic year, but is still somewhat different than we were both expecting.

I'm ignoring it until the wedding is out of the way. There's not really a lot of point doing otherwise until we find out how she settles in.

Any good webmail servers?

Sep 6, 2006 / 0 comments

With Kathy being away I thought I'd have a look at setting up webmail so she can get hold of her mail easily whatever setup she ends up with. My only experience so far is sqwebmail but it's not that great UI-wise and ties to Maildir. This is good because it means it's lightweight, but I figured if I was investigating systems I should keep Black Cat (who currently use sqwebmail along with various other bits of Courier) and the (which is largely mbox at present) in mind.

apt-cache search webmail produces a list of things to try. My heart sinks as I realise lots of them require PHP. And others want MySQL. I go and have a look at Prayer, which I've vaguely prodded before. It's not packaged, but I decide to try it out. It builds easily enough, I wrestle with roughly packaging it up into a deb to make removing it less hassle and install it. It doesn't like my CA signed cert on localhost. I eventually find the novalidate-cert option and manage to connect.

My home box runs dovecot with Maildirs. This leads to my next problem; Prayer wants to create a folder called .prayer for it's config info. This doesn't work with Maildirs as folder directories tend to start with a . Changing it to prayer-config fixes that, though leaves it visible in the web interface. It's possible I can hide it if I look harder.

So, I'm ready to send a mail. I do so. It gets delivered (modulo me remembering not to try to send from my internal domain to the outside world). A sent-mail folder gets created. Prayer failed to show any messages in it. I verify there is a message there by looking on the filesystem. I curse. I try creating another folder and sticking a message in it. No joy. I try Prayer against a Courier server. Same thing; it shows the mail folders as directories but no messages. I try it against a Dovecot server with mailbox. It works fine. I curse some more.

At this point I decide the statement "Consequently, the user interface distinguishes between mailboxes and directories: this will not work well with servers which provide dual use mail folders." on the Prayer website should be heeded. So I decide to try postman, which the Prayer docs suggest they'd have used if it had been around when they started (it also does persistant IMAP connections with a backend daemon). I give up once I actually start trying to figure out the config file and how it all fits together.

So. Out come the IMAP RFCs. I attempt logins to the different servers I have access to and I find that the mbox server reports \NoInferiors for mailboxes while the maildir server reports [\=HasNoChildren]. And that \NoInferiors implies [\=HasNoChildren]. So I hack Dovecot to always return \NoInferiors. And it works and I can see messages in folders. Yay. But hacking dovecot is annoying and won't help me with Courier. Leading to the following patch to Prayer:

--- prayer-1.0.18.orig/prayer/dirlist.c
+++ prayer-1.0.18/prayer/dirlist.c
@@ -172,7 +172,8 @@
     dl->next = NIL;
     dl->name = pool_strdup(callback.pool, name);
-    dl->isdir = (attributes & LATT_NOINFERIORS) ? NIL : T;
+    dl->isdir = (attributes & (LATT_NOINFERIORS | LATT_HASNOCHILDREN)) ?
+               NIL : T;
     /* Insertion sort algorithm */

ie if there are no child folders we assume the current folder is a mailbox rather than a directory.

Now to actually run it for a while and see if it does the job.

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