No FOSDEM for me.

Feb 28, 2006 / 0 comments

Bah. All these people back from FOSDEM posting about having had a great time. And Dominic got engaged!

I'd have liked to have gone to FOSDEM this year, but it clashed with Christmas and someone had to stay in the country to mind things (Dominic and Simon both went, so I drew the short straw). Plus I decided not to go to Debconf this year; although I've enjoyed the past 2 years I couldn't really justify the cost of flights. And I'll no doubt need time off around the wedding, but I made the decision not to do Debconf before we got engaged, so that wasn't quite so big a factor.

However I now find myself lacking in geek events this year. I'm sure there'll be the usual Linux Expo stuff, but I've been considering the UKUUG Linux conference, which people have said good things about in the past. Is there anything else in the UK I should be considering?

I did get some hacking done this weekend however. Mark Underwood got 2.6.15 booting on the Amstrad E3 videophone to the point of USB and serial working. So I spent a while trying to figure out where Amstrad had hidden the NAND flash and managed to write a driver for it. I'm all chuffed with myself; my E3 now has a JFFS2 root filesytem. I also mapped out the keys on the keypad and tried to get the LCD working, but although I can get it to light up (the easy part) it doesn't actually seem to want to output anything. Bah. You can find all the bits you need at http://the.earth.li/pub/e3/ - both Mark's original stuff and my patch on top of that are there. Oh, and the list at http://www.earth.li/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/e3-hacking is a useful place too.

(And yes, I know Christmas is in December, but I have a yearly Christmas meal with the people I lived with in my final year of university, but it can take so long to find a weekend we're all free that it's often nowhere near Christmas by the time it happens - February is pretty good going for us!)

Power corrupts

Feb 21, 2006 / 0 comments

I bought a Belkin F6H500ukUNV from eBuyer (quickfind code 77131). At under £25 including P&P it seemed like a good deal and I've been meaning to get round to having a UPS to allow clean shutdown of my local machine during power problems.

Belkin ship Linux and FreeBSD programs to talk to the UPS (though only over the serial interface - it has USB too). It doesn't like xterm it seems; prints Error opening terminal: xterm.. Seems fine with a terminal type of linux. It also puts all its files (config, help, binaries) in /etc/belkin. And it's binary only so I can't fix any of this brokenness.

However, the lovely Network UPS Tools exists. Except Belkin have a number of UPS types, all incompatible with each other. After figuring out that I really, really needed to use the Belkin provided cable and not just a generic serial extender cable (grrrr. Why? If it's got a 9 pin D labelled RS232 why not make it a sensible port?) I got the Belkin software working and straced it to see what it did. A bit of looking at the nut source found several drivers that appeared to use the commands Belkin were sending (Q1, I & F). I tried powermust first, with the following /etc/nut/ups.conf:

[belkin]
	driver = powermust
	port = /dev/ttyM2

(I have a 4 port serial card, so /dev/ttyM2 is just a normal serial port, really.)

And tada. It works. I can now get output like:

[noodles@pot ~]$ upsc belkin@localhost
battery.charge: 100.0
battery.voltage: 13.8
battery.voltage.nominal: 12.0
driver.name: powermust
driver.parameter.port: /dev/ttyM2
driver.version: 2.0.3
driver.version.internal: 1.1
input.voltage: 227.0
input.voltage.fault: 227.0
input.voltage.maximum: 234.0
input.voltage.minimum: 221.0
output.frequency: 50.0
output.voltage: 227.0
output.voltage.target.battery: 230.0
ups.delay.shutdown: 2
ups.delay.start: 3
ups.load: 0.0
ups.mfr: Mustek
ups.model: PowerMust
ups.serial: unknown
ups.status: OL

I don't know about doing shutdown yet, but ups.status correctly goes to OB (on battery) if I pull the power, which is probably the most important thing. :)

At some point I'd like to move over to the USB interface; I have better things to do with my serial ports. Belkin don't appear to have done the sane USB HID power thing; instead it's some odd hid device that doesn't even have a Belkin manufacturer ID:

Bus 003 Device 015: ID 0001:0000 Fry's Electronics 
Device Descriptor:
  bLength                18
  bDescriptorType         1
  bcdUSB               1.00
  bDeviceClass            0 (Defined at Interface level)
  bDeviceSubClass         0 
  bDeviceProtocol         0 
  bMaxPacketSize0         8
  idVendor           0x0001 Fry's Electronics
  idProduct          0x0000 
  bcdDevice            1.00
  iManufacturer           1 MEC
  iProduct                2 MEC0002
  iSerial                 0 
  bNumConfigurations      1
  Configuration Descriptor:
    bLength                 9
    bDescriptorType         2
    wTotalLength           34
    bNumInterfaces          1
    bConfigurationValue     1
    iConfiguration          0 
    bmAttributes         0x80
      (Bus Powered)
    MaxPower              100mA
    Interface Descriptor:
      bLength                 9
      bDescriptorType         4
      bInterfaceNumber        0
      bAlternateSetting       0
      bNumEndpoints           1
      bInterfaceClass         3 Human Interface Devices
      bInterfaceSubClass      0 No Subclass
      bInterfaceProtocol      0 None
      iInterface              0 
        HID Device Descriptor:
          bLength                 9
          bDescriptorType        33
          bcdHID               1.00
          bCountryCode            0 Not supported
          bNumDescriptors         1
          bDescriptorType        34 Report
          wDescriptorLength     624
         Report Descriptors: 
           ** UNAVAILABLE **
      Endpoint Descriptor:
        bLength                 7
        bDescriptorType         5
        bEndpointAddress     0x81  EP 1 IN
        bmAttributes            3
          Transfer Type            Interrupt
          Synch Type               None
          Usage Type               Data
        wMaxPacketSize     0x0008  1x 8 bytes
        bInterval              10
Device Status:     0x0000
  (Bus Powered)

The NUT energizerups driver appears to talk USB and use the Q1/F commands, so I think I'll try that later. Or it's back to usbsnoop and a Windows box I guess.

8 years old

Feb 16, 2006 / 0 comments

Last Saturday was the annual Earthlings dinner. We get very funny looks from the restaurant staff when we explain that we're celebrating the birthday of a domain. It's a good opportunity to see lots of people I don't see often enough though; sometimes it's hard to keep in touch with people.

Actually, on that subject, there are a whole bunch of people I don't keep in touch with at all well. Mostly those who don't really do email and I don't really do the phone. I probably need to ring people more often; I used to be very good at running up my parents' phone bill. It's a bit hard to know what to say to people I haven't had any contact in years with. "Er, hi, please condense your entire life since we were at school and spoke regularly into a few minutes of conversation". And no one is near Norwich, so it's not like I can easily go and have coffee/beer with them. Meh. I've started having a regular dinner with people back home at Christmas, which helps a bit. And Burly's pretty good at telling me what people are up to.

So, if you know me, and feel we don't see/speak to each other enough, sorry. If you think you see too much of me then tough. :P

WTF is the point of SSL mailing list archives?

Feb 9, 2006 / 0 comments

Why are more and more mailing list archives put behind https URLs with self signed certs? What exactly are they securing? What does it achieve other than pissing people off who have to accept the cert just in order to see a mailing list post? GNUCash is the one I happened to hit today, but it seems to be a not infrequent thing.

Friday fun with consumer routers

Feb 3, 2006 / 0 comments

I'm such a funster. It's Friday night and I've spent it fighting with consumer routers in an attempt to get my home setup sorted out a bit. And I've made some progress, but it's taken a while.

My old setup was an Asus WL-500g with a USB Speedtouch attached. This was running a hacked up version of Oleg's firmware, with kernel 2.4.20 (ewwwww) and the userland Speedtouch pppoa3 driver. It's been up 253 days as I type, which is quite impressive IMO.

The plan was to get something else doing the same job so that I could try and get more up to date firmware on the Asus (probably OpenWRT) and give it to my parents as a wireless access point / print server.

First try was my Netgear DG834G. Unfortunately the ADSL interface on it doesn't want to sync to the line for any length of time. I don't really want to faff with it at present, so I gave up on that. I do want to try and get this sorted, as it has a native ADSL interface, but the AR7Port appears to have stagnated a bit.

Next was the Netgear WGT634U. I'd built an OpenWRT image for this and tried to flash it earlier in the week, but messed it up and bricked the router. So opened it up, hooked a serial console up and managed to restore it easily enough. A little bit of frobbing and I had it recognising the Speedtouch. Result. This has a 2.6.15.1 kernel, which means in kernel driver goodness and nice and up to date. Plus OpenWRT makes it easy to add various nicities like radvd and dnsmasq. I'm currently using this solution and will keep an eye on it over the weekend before reinstalling the Asus.

Of course my home network has become simplified a bit by the fact I no longer factor the NTL connection into it. That's always just been a backup thing since getting ADSL from Black Cat (mmmm, IPv6 goodness) and I've decided to finally ditch it soon. However I might want to add a modem to the WGT634U at some point - probably using a USB serial dongle I guess, as I don't think the internal ports do hardware flow control. That's a battle for another day though.

I also managed to get rid of a whole load of computer junk that was working but unused, thanks to Norfolk FreeCycle. Kathy will be pleased when she comes back from London tomorrow. :)

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