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Sat, 29 Dec 2012

Final word on Ivybridge ultrabooks

ASUS Zenbook Prime UX32VD

So, after all this time, I took advantage of a trip to Canada to buy an ASUS UX32VD-DH71-CA ultrabook. I was starting to wonder if I should wait for Haswell laptops or a Microsoft Surface Pro device, but one can wait forever until something new comes out real soon now, and my original non-unibody Macbook Pro has become somewhat of a boat anchor, as Apple won't support it with newer releases of MacOS (which goes to show that one should trust one's instincts: I remember being concerned that Apple had decided to use non-64 bit Intel Core Duo processors in those early Macbook Pro systems, and sure enough they were discontinued after 8 months to be replaced by 64-bit capable Intel Core 2 Duo models).

So, I am typing this on my shiny new Asus Zenbook Prime ultrabook running under Windows 8, and so far the machine is very nice. It's also nicely upgradable, as you can change the harddisk for an SSD and you can add more RAM, so ideas for the future.

Any suggestions as to whether I should attempt to put Ubuntu onto my old Macbook Pro? I wouldn't mind having an Ubuntu laptop around, but Ubuntu on Apple hardware always seems like a bit of an iffy proposition.

Anyway, more on my experiences with the new Ultrabook in the coming weeks. Until then, happy transition into 2013 to you all!

/hardware | Posted at 09:38 | permanent link

Sat, 15 Dec 2012

I am irritated at Windows 8

Grumble grumble grumble.

:-(

I am irritated at Windows 8.

Last night, my PC informed me that it would reboot in 15 minutes to install a Windows update.

That irritated me: my PC should not decide when it's going to reboot... I could be in the middle of something important and need to postpone rebooting for an hour or two. Previous versions of Windows have always given me the option to postpone the reboot.

So, I shut down the PC and went to sleep.

This morning, I rebooted the PC and went into the desktop... Boom! "Skype has stopped working".

Cannot get skype to work. Restarted it, failed again.

Argh. It's been ages since a Windows Update has broken my machine (actually, I can't remember when that last happened).

Reinstalling skype did not resolve the issue.

Then Internet Explorer also stopped working. Not a huge issue as I use Firefox most of the time, but still...

Hunted around for a solution and in the end fixed it by going to Windows Update and installing the latest Important fix (KB2779768).

So, now looking at the update history, it seems like KB2771431 is the one that broke skype, and KB2779768 fixed it.

Still, I lost an hour hunting around for a problem that shouldn't have occured. Last thing you want at 6 AM on a Saturday morning is to be hunting around to find why your PC is not starting up gracefully.

As I've said: Grumble Grumble Grumble.

P.S. I also dislike how some New UI (Metro) applications display adverts on my PC. Actually, that has turned me off completely from New UI applications, and now I avoid them for that reason.

/software | Posted at 01:59 | permanent link

Wed, 12 Dec 2012

Windows 8 on my PC

Another quick blog item on this 12/12/12 :-)

Since I've last blogged about this, I have purchased an upgrade for Windows 7 Ultimate Edition on my main PC to Windows 8 Pro.

I have gotten somewhat used to the 'modern' UI popping up when I boot the machine and/or bring it back from sleep mode. It still feels a bit odd navigating this new GUI with a mouse, as the big tiles really look like they're made for big fat fingers... so I do spend most of my time in old-style desktop applications: MS Office, WoW, Steam games, Skype (desktop version), Firefox, Thunderbird, etc.

The O/S feels quite responsive and I am pretty happy with it. Next machine I buy will definitely be a Windows 8 machine, and that will be OK.

As for my "new laptop saga", the next chapter still isn't written: I am still tempted by the Asus UX32VD as it's the best machine around... so the jury is out: will I buy an Asus for Christmas, or will I be able to wait until Q1 2013 to get a Surface Pro device?

More later on this topic.

/hardware | Posted at 17:09 | permanent link

The 12th of December 2012

The Hobbit

Blogging on the 12th of December 2012. On the 12/12/12. Last time we have a triple repeating number until 01/01/01 (in 2101). It's a silly pattern, as you could say that 2012-12-12 is not really a repeating number, but it's amusing to see how many places have reported this as news today.

Anyway, as I didn't pay particular attention what I did on 11/11/11 (or 10/10/10 (or ...)), let's talk about something special that we did today: we saw the early premiere of the movie "The Hobbit" at midnight at the Gaumont Marignan theater on the Champs Elysees.

As this is a long movie, we weren't home until 3 AM, so actually it will soon be time to hit the sack, but before I go, here are some thoughts about The Hobbit:

  • It's a good movie. Not a great movie, but I'm glad I saw it.

  • The HFR 3D experience is... OK. I still am not a big fan of 3D in movies (and don't get me started about how silly it is to try to have 3D in a TV at home with present technologies). As for the 48 fps HFR, I thought it made the movie look a bit like a video game (you know how sometimes video games in high resolution look too real? well the movie looked a bit like that). Maybe it was just too late at night and I was too tired to truly appreciate it? I'll have to see it again

  • The story of The Hobbit is a short, slightly silly, story. The movie certainly captures that: it does feel a bit thin at times. Plus, they are trying to make 3 movies out of that short book. It's interesting, the special effects are amazing and the characters are very nice, but I am not sure that The Hobbit deserved to be turned into 3 long movies.

Still, the dwarves' quest for Erebor is enjoyable: I definitely had fun and will certainly see the movie again.

So enjoy 12/12/12 while it lasts and get all of your last minute shopping done before it's too late :-)

PS. Oh, The Hobbit is definitely not a kids' movie: any young one seeing it will probably be scared of the wargs and the orcs.

/misc | Posted at 16:58 | permanent link

Mon, 29 Oct 2012

Which tablet to go for?

Microsoft has just introduced the Windows 8 O/S and the Surface RT ARM-based tablets last Friday.

I will probably upgrade to Windows 8 on some of my machines; but I am quite tempted by a Surface Pro tablet with an associated keyboard. That's a Surface Pro, not a Surface RT. If there is one reason I am considering leaving the iPad world is that I am irritated at the various ways that Apple is limiting the way I can use the computing device I have purchased... I don't want to end up in the same situation with a Surface device, so I want the flexibility of adding any Windows application I wish onto my Surface device. Hence exit Surface RT, welcome Surface Pro.

Now, of course the Surface Pro will certainly not have all of the characteristics I am looking for in an Ultrabook, but then the usefulness of the format is probably enough to make me buy one.

But I don't think I want a Surface RT. Just like I wasn't interested in Windows NT on MIPS or Alpha!
Too bad I have to wait until 2013 to buy a Pro :-(

PS. Let's see if I wait or if I end up buying an Ultrabook before then... perhaps some nice machines will come out with Windows 8?!

/hardware | Posted at 14:32 | permanent link

Wed, 25 Jul 2012

Movies: what I have seen recently

Hunger Games: my rating 7/10

I liked Hunger Games. To the extend that I got the 3 books of the trilogy from Amazon on my iPad and read them during my vacation last May. First books I bought for the Kindle application, and first books I read on the iPad. Solid acting in the movie by the young lady playing Katniss... in the end, it's still somewhat of a teen movie, but quite enjoyable. I will be watching for the next 2 movies.

Man on a Ledge: my rating 8/10

Good thriller, good cop movie. Actually better than I would have expected from the movie poster. Recommended.

Sur la route du Marsupilami: my rating 4/10

Well, I really wanted to like Sur la trace du Marsupilami, as I have known the Marsupilami cartoons since my youth, and Jamel Debouze can be quite funny (I remember fondly his performance in Asterix mission Cleopatre. But in the end, the movie disappoints: the Marsupilami is not really as unforgettable as one would have hoped, and many of the jokes fall flat. It made me chukle a few times, but unfortunately not enough to rate more than 4/10.

Wrath of the Titans: my rating 6/10

An interesting depiction of the age of titans and the story of Perseus. I generally like fanasty/mythological movies, and this one was OK... the special effects were quite good, I loved the cyclops (amazing how far we've come from the movies of the 1970s). I watched it on a plane, but it would be good to see on a large screen.

/misc | Posted at 15:43 | permanent link

Yet Another A380 Adventure to Report

:A380

Oh noes! Another A380 adventure.

If you have been reading this miniblog for a while, you may have read my previous postings about my woes with A380s (here).

Well, I did it again: for this summer's vacations, I picked the Paris-Montreal flight on the A380. What is happening this time? Well, one of the on-board computers is deffective on the plane, and after some testing they found that they needed to replace it and then run some diagnostics. So, instead of taking off at 13:30 as originally planned, we are still sitting on the tarmac in a powered down plane so they can replace the electronic gizmo... and it is 14:00. Of course, no movies or meal service, as we've not really left yet!

At least, some good news: as the plane is fully booked and there was a long waiting list, we were upgraded from Premium Class to Business Class, so the wait has not been unpleasant. But still, my luck with the A380 continues to be so-so (I'd venture that 50% of my A380 flights so far have had various problems or incidents). Through all of this, Air France is being quite nice, but still the incident rate is surprisingly high.

It might have to do with the fact that there are 6 A380s in the Air France fleet (compared to, say, 59 Boeing 777s), so when you've got a difficulty with the pilot or with a technical component, you're probably more likely to be on your own.

Anyway, if I understand correctly, Air France will stop flying A380s on the Paris-Montreal route in a few weeks: not a big loss from my point of view :-/

To sum it up: nice plane, but still a bit early in its life to have it be as reliable as some of the workhorses in the airline industry. In a few years it will be fine.

(update: the plane has re-powered up... hopefully the diagnostics on the onboard computer will pass and we'll have the green light to take off.)

(Update 2: 16:23, the final tests on the onboard computer have been successfully run and we have the green light to depart -- let's now see what sort of timeslot we get for takeoff)

(Update 3: 16:38, we're heading for takeoff. More info in Montreal... can wait to get there and meet the family)

(update 4: 19:14, service is very friendly on Air France; nice meal, nice movies.
Overall, a nice flight... almost forgot about the 3h delay ;-)

| Posted at 15:08 | permanent link

Mon, 23 Jul 2012

More on Ivybridge ultrabooks

Dell XPS14 ultrabook ASUS Zenbook Prime UX32

I have not yet bought a new laptop, but the first few IvyBridge ultrabooks are starting to come out.

As I've written before, I am interested in a lightweight machine that is going to be powerful enough to last a few years. I don't want one of those silly 1366x768 screens that you find on many otherwise fine machines (like on the Toshiba Portege Z930), and I do not think that the Intel HD Graphics 4000 are going to be sufficient to run the odd game on the road (Diablo 3, World of Warcraft, or various Steam games).

I fear I am a few months too early :-( The new Dell XPS 14 looks promising, but the reviews I've seen so far have been fairly disappointing unfortunately. So, I had almost decided on an Asus Zen Prime UX32VD-DB71 which has a backlit keyboard, a nice 1080p screen and a proper GPU (though unfortunately it is Nvidia's entry-level GPU, the GeForce GT620M, instead of the GT630 like in the XPS14, but apparently it is good enough for 60+ FPS in World of Warcraft). However, they are sold out at Amazon Canada, and in most other Canadian resellers I've seen... Oh well, if it takes them too long to stock them up, new machines will come out that may fit my requirements even better :-)

Hmpf. For the price of a Dell XPS14, one can almost get an Alienware M14xR2, but that's not an ultrabook... it even comes with a DVD drive! (pity you can't configure it out to lighten the weight of the machine)

Going forward, I think that the Microsoft Surface gizmos actually look quite attractive... let's see if I'll wait until they come out to renew my machine.

(pictures from the Dell and Asus websites)

/hardware | Posted at 20:06 | permanent link

TGVs: fast train service in Europe

TGV

Over the past few days, I have travelled from Paris to Cologne, to Brussels, to London, and then back to Paris. All of this in the comfort of a fast TGV train (the Thalys for France-Germany-Belgium, and the Eurostar from Belgium-UK-France).

Fast trains are a very civilized way to travel: they are comfortable, you can eat properly (well better than on regional airplanes), and some (like the Thalys) even provide WiFi access in the cars (mind you, the access is not flawless, but compared to no access, it is much preferable and truly welcome).

Coming from North America, where trains are not in most people's travel habits, I have discovered the pleasure of a well-run rail system, and it is indeed a great way to travel.

(picture from Wikipedia)

/misc | Posted at 20:06 | permanent link

A few words about Windows 8

Speaking of the Microsoft Surface and of Windows 8, I must admit that I am a bit worried about Windows 8 for laptops/desktops (as reported here: Windows 8 'bad' for desktop users). It does match with my limited experience with Windows 8 consumer preview: not very pleasant on a desktop machine: I got the impression that I was constantly fighting with Metro to get stuff done using the mouse and keyboard. I like tablets, but if I'm sitting at my desk, I don't want a "touch" paradigm :-(

/hardware | Posted at 18:19 | permanent link

Tue, 05 Jun 2012

June 6 is World Ipv6 Launch Day

IPv6

Not only is today 2012 Venus Transit (see here), but it is also World IPv6 Launch Day (see here).

As I've said earlier, my home network is on IPv6 as can be seen here through the SixXS IPv4 gateway. Support the move to IPv6, NAT'ed IPv4 networks are really a weak solution.

/inet | Posted at 20:02 | permanent link

Recent vacation

RubyPrincess

As I am posting pictures today, here is a picture of the ship that we've recently sailed upon: the Ruby Princess... The picture was taken at night in the port of Venice, after coming back from a gondola ride in the late evening around Venice.

Beautiful ship and a great vacation. Lots of rest and relaxation. We will go back on a cruise at some point in the future.

Now, I have about 1256 pictures from that trip, but as a public service to readers of this blog, I am not going to post them all here :-)

/misc | Posted at 19:41 | permanent link

Venus transit across the sun

Venus

I am connected right now to NASA Edge over here to watch the 2012 Venus transit across the Sun... This is similar to a solar eclipse, but since Venus is quite far from us (and not that big), it appears as a dot moving across the face of the sun.

This is a fairly rare event, the next one being in 2117... so that makes the event fairly exciting (the NASA scientists on the webstream have been using words like spectacular and neat to describe it, and are obviously getting quite excited by the event :-)

Now, the fact that I am watching this in my Paris appartment as a webstream live on the internet from Hawaii is most definitely very neat.

/misc | Posted at 19:16 | permanent link

Sun, 03 Jun 2012

Ivybridge ultrabook performance

Still looking into upcoming ivybrige ultrabook laptops, I found an evaluation of the Intel reference design for an ivybridge ultrabook on thinkdigit here.

The article is a brief overview of the Intel ivybridge ultrabook reference design, and gives a glimpse of what we can expect from these machines... however, the comments on the DirectX 11-compatible HD Graphics 4000 integrated graphics are a bit sobering (to quote: "the graphics test scores were more ambiguous. The 'Ivy Bridge' HD Graphics 4000 are a real step forward compared to the 'Sandy Bridge' HD Graphics 3000, but a step doesn't equal a sprint: our gaming tests fell short of the 30 frames per second (fps) playability threshold").

Hmmm. I am looking for a light, take-it-anywhere laptop that I can use for gaming, development, and connectivity. Perhaps it's a couple of years too early for an ultrabook to fit the bill... so perhaps I should look for a lightweight Alienware, Asus, or Dell XPS 14' laptop !?!

/hardware | Posted at 13:27 | permanent link

Happy mother's day 2012

Today is mother's day in France, so this is a quick blog entry to wish my lovely wife a wonderful mother's day for 2012.

/misc | Posted at 12:50 | permanent link

Ultrabooks and Ivy Bridge

As I wrote a few weeks back (is it really June already?), I am quite tempted by an Ultrabook. This is a form factor that would be more useful for me than an iPad, as it allows more freedom in computing because of the keyboard, and especially because of the O/S: I do use an iPad as a neat mediam consumption device, but I am annoyed at the restrictions that it puts on me in the management of space (cannot easily share files with the rest of my computing environment) and connectivity (I do use issh for SSH connectivity to various computers, but this is unix inside: I should be able to juggle ssh, scp, firefox, and a whole bunch of things on it without feeling that I am stuck in a straightjacket :-( Perhaps I should just jailbreak my iPad... but is that sustainable as a model?

Back to the ultrabooks: there are a few very nice models out there, but I am going to wait until the ivybridge ultrabooks are out... and from what I've read, it may have to wait until September, as ivybridge is out for desktops and "big" laptops only.

So, nothing for father's day this year, I guess :-)

/hardware | Posted at 12:49 | permanent link

Batteries and laptops

A couple more words about my 2006 Macbook Pro: my current battery is at 105 battery load cycles. It is the second official battery I've had for this laptop. Now granted, I do not use it so often... but still, after only 105 load cycles, the battery is in 'Service battery' condition, and is down to a capacity of 2218 mAh, where it should really be at 5600 mAh.

Sigh. I should really be able to crack open the battery case and reuse any good cells from my original battery to replace any dead cells in my current (newer) battery. Batteries are actually really complicated, but I find that the industry is not doing very well with battery management... we should be planning for longterm usage (like 10+ years) and provide for capacity management on a longer term basis. At this point, battery management seems concerned only with cycle count and maximum capacity tracking, rather than proper recharge cycle execution.

Anyway, I assume that electric cars are managing this a lot better these days. Something to look into...

/hardware | Posted at 12:38 | permanent link

Thu, 03 May 2012

Tempted by an ultrabook

My Macbook Pro dates back to 2006... it was the first generation of Macbook to feature an Intel CPU. It still works well, but since it's based on an Intel Core Duo CPU, which doesn't support 64-bit instructions, Apple has decided to drop support from Mac OS X Lion... not too nice for people who supported Apple when it went from IBM G5 CPUs over to Intel.

So to make a long story short, I am thinking of exchanging my laptop for a new one. I am quite tempted by an Ultrabook, but I'd rather wait for an Ivy Bridge ultrabook, so I'll have to wait a few month still.

Ivy Bridge has a slightly improved version of Intel's integrated graphics, so I'm hoping it will be at least somewhat capable graphically.

We'll see in a few weeks what interesting machines come out.

/hardware | Posted at 14:55 | permanent link

Sun, 29 Apr 2012

The Avengers

We went to see the movie The Avengers this morning.

Wow.

A truly fun movie: 143 minutes of high energy entertainment.

Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye, brought together by Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. to fight the bad guys. It's over the top comic-book style... a great success! We enjoyed it tremendously.

If you've ever liked superhero comic books, I recommend that you see this movie.

P.S. As ever, my favorite Avenger is Iron Man. The whole gang is fun... reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons in my youth.

P.P.S. It's unusual that an American movie is released in Europe before it is in North America... not sure why the studios (or rather the distributors) chose to do so this time.

/misc | Posted at 18:48 | permanent link

Finishing the StarCraft II campaign

I have finished the StarCraft II campaign today. In Normal mode... Yes, I know, I should have done it in Hard mode, but I've been at it for over a year in Hard mode, and was making very little progress (ok, it had mostly to do with the fact that I was stuck, and had stopped trying)... so I tried again in Normal mode, and there I make regular progress and finished it eventually.

StarCraft II is fun, but I haven't tried the competitive games yet: the fact that they're played at Faster speed tells me that I will not do well in ladder games :-( It's a bit too quick for my fingers.

But it's fun to complete the campaign scenarios & play some cooperative games against the A.I.

And now, it seems that the next expansion StarCraft II - Heart of the swarm is on its way... of course, it will come out after Diablo III which will come out on May 15th!

P.S. So many version 2, version 3, or version 10 games these days... need a few fresh version 1 concepts! (heck, even Diablo 1 was a reheated rogue/moria clone :-)

P.P.S. 2 days off coming up, but lots of work to do regardless. Let's get that schmilblick moving :-)

/misc | Posted at 18:34 | permanent link

Wed, 25 Apr 2012

2012 Presidential elections in France, part deux

The first voting round has passed, with the two expected candidates moving on to the second round (albeit with some slight surprises in the relative weight of the 3rd to 10th candidates).

Now the pollsters and the press have been claiming for months that the result of the second round is easily predictable -- that may be so, but then again French people often don't like to feel like they are being led down a predictable path like that.

It is fascinating to observe. Good luck to both candidates... and to us all :-)

| Posted at 22:29 | permanent link

Sun, 15 Apr 2012

2012 Presidential Elections in France

Next weekend will be the first round of the 2012 French Presidential election.

Most analysts believe that this first round of voting will bring in the expected result, with Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande being the two candidates moving on to the second round. This seems to be the most likely scenario, but one has to keep in mind the 2002 election where the most likely scenario did not play out.

Hmmm. Also, from an economic point of view, we are not out of the woods yet!

| Posted at 11:22 | permanent link

ZFS and USB disks

Having played with ZFS and USB disks over the past few weeks on FreeBSD 9.0, I have come to the conclusion that multiple USB disks + ZFS raid-z is not an excellent combination... USB disks can appear or disappear dynamically, and ZFS does not deal with this beautifully.

ZFS does deal with devices appearing and disappearing, but with an understanding that devices are mostly stable. So, I will use ZFS on internal disks, and for USB disks, I will limit myself to single-disk volumes (which seem to work fine).

I would be interested in a filesystem that would deal with disks being plugged in (or plugged out) dynamically (USB disks or otherwise), but I am not sure that this exists. I will hunt around for something like this.

/FreeBSD | Posted at 11:13 | permanent link

Sat, 14 Apr 2012

Almost one month without a blog entry

Well, it has been almost a month to the day since my last blog entry. Lots of work at the office, with long days (waking up around 03:00 on a occasion) have been keeping me very busy.

Things have been moving forward with my microserver and my ZFS experimentation. I have also dug up Starcraft 2, which is interesting (and somewhat frustrating at Faster speed).

More later.

/misc | Posted at 06:27 | permanent link

Sat, 17 Mar 2012

Content Addressable Storage

Because I am backing up a whole bunch of machines that may have identical files on them (many copies of Windows, old backups, etc), I am interested in finding ways of having n copies of a file not occupy n times the amount of storage.

I see three ways of doing this:

  1. Using ZFS file depuplication on my backup server. This sounds good, but all of the ZFS configuration guides I've seen recommend having lots of RAM when you use dedup, and my little backup servers have only 2 to 4 GB of RAM, so this seems like a non-starter.
  2. Using a manual dedup script that uses hardlinks to free up diskspace on a Unix volume... Something like dedup from Roderick Schertler (documented here), trimstrees at CPAN, harlink from Julian Andres Klode, opendedup, or fileuniq on sourceforge (there is a list here) actually. That sounds attractive, but I am not sure how long it would take on 1 TB of data, and I am not sure hardlinks will work well on files owned by multiple users.
  3. Then, there is the possibility of Content Addressable Storage. EMC does this on its Centera product line, and it is quite useful in the Corporate space... in the Open Source world, I have been interested by Poul-Henning Kamp's stow package for a while (see here for the old version or here for the new version that phk is working on this year).

Stow looks interesting... I'll try to find some time to dig further into it.

/FreeBSD | Posted at 11:48 | permanent link

Mon, 05 Mar 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview edition

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview edition was out Feb 29th. I've downloaded it in ISO image form from here. I have tried installing it in vmware player virtual machine a couple of times, but I have not been successful yet (had an error message when scanning for devices, and haven't really had the time to look at it further since).

Update: I have successfully installed it on a leftover acer PC with quadCPU, 4GB RAM, and 2x 500GB drives. Runs quite well with essentially no complaints.

At first glance, it looks pretty good. I look forward to trying it a good thorough try. I like the look of Metro, but they need to have right-click do something intelligent in it, if it's ever going to be used for anything real.

Anyway, let's hope that in the great rush to send everyone into mobile mode using cordoned-off App world with limited freedom, our industry doesn't lose sight of the fact that many of us still want (nay, need) to really use our machine every once in a while.

/software | Posted at 17:25 | permanent link

Thu, 01 Mar 2012

The HP Proliant Microserver

I have mentioned before the HP Proliant Microserver, about which one can find information here.

I have purchased one of those and I am not successfully running it under FreeBSD 9.0 as a server on my LAN. Quite useful, quite well built, I am fairly pleased with my purchase! This must be from the old Compaq crew at HP, they've always made good servers :-) (Hey, how long has it been since Mary McDowell has left HP? Must be getting close to 10 years now... one of my preferred Compaq executives! My my, how time flies!)

/hardware | Posted at 15:57 | permanent link

Tue, 28 Feb 2012

Blogging on a leap day

So... 2012 is an Olympic year. It is a leap year. 2012 is divisible by 4, but not by 100 -- unless it was divisible by 400 (which explains why Y2k was a leap year). So there you go, I can blog on a February 29th.

Don't forget to check your watches today... all of the ones with simple algorithms for computing the number of days in each month will probably get it wrong. Of course, you should be OK if you are wearing a German Junghans radio-controlled watch that synchronizes nightly with an atomic clock signal in Europe, Japan, or North America (see more here)... or if you are running ntp software on your machine (see more here). Funniest thing about ntp is when Tony and I installed a GPS antenna on top of the building in London to get a time signal for our global ntp servers -- we had some fun explaining why we needed a GPS receiver on a building :-)

Always synchronize your computer clocks with ntp... there's no reason not too.

Oh, and since there still time... just check out the 10000-year clock here and here.

Update: woah... check this out: a major outage of Azure apparently caused by a leap year calculation problem! This is impressive: as an industry, we've been struggling with date/time problems for 50 years or so, and we're still making leap-year or summer-time-change mistakes in 2012. Sheeeeesh!

/misc | Posted at 18:51 | permanent link

Mon, 27 Feb 2012

Jean Dujardin, The Artist, an Oscar...

So... it has come to this.

/misc | Posted at 15:06 | permanent link

Sat, 25 Feb 2012

Aren't NASes fun?

Apart from everything going on at work (and there is a lot to do there), and a fairly significant birthday in mid-week (this is where you find you've got a lot of great friends), I have found some time to play around with my NAS project.

Here's the latest:

  1. The HP Proliant Microserver arrived after 2 days. This is really good service from HP France and it comes with a great rebate (33% -- check it out on the HP France website). It is quite nice hardware; well put together. If it's reliable, I'll be very pleased with my purchase.
  2. I am moving 3 2TB SATA disks into it. I've installed FreeBSD 9.0 on the machine, and will put the 3 disks in a RAID-Z configuration under ZFS. This will give me a 4TB NAS box that does NFS, CIFS, and rsync (oh, and perhaps Subversion too). This is quite nice.
  3. I am finding though that moving Terabytes of information around isn't easy. I am also finding that ext3 filesystem support in FreeBSD isn't great, and neither is ufs support in Linux... both are kind of OK; but in trying to copy 1.8TB of backup from my old NSLU2 onto a couple of external USB drives, I encounter limitations both on the FreeBSD and on the Linux side. Pfffff. My ultimate solution: boot liveCDs onto 2 machines, KNOPPIX on the Microserver, FreeBSD 9 on my main PC, connect the USB 3.0 external drive on the PC, fire up a rsync daemon on the PC, and rsync the data from the disk in the Microserver across the Gigabit Ethernet and onto the PC. It's overly intricate, but it does the job at a good speed and with native FS support on both sides. I will take hours to complete though.
  4. I thought I could throw in my HP USB 3.0 PCIe card into the Microserver, but somehow it doesn't work... FreeBSD or Linux see the card; but the USB devices plugged into the ports don't get any power!?! I would venture that the card is fried somehow. Not sure how it happened; though.
  5. While doing this, I have also changed the TimeMachine backup disk on an old iMac to a 2.5" disk instead of the 1TB disk it used to have... I'll use the later for backups on on the Microserver.

Anyway, I need some form of USB 3.0 support on the Microserver... 40 MB/s is just too slow.

More on this later.

| Posted at 15:49 | permanent link

Sun, 19 Feb 2012

Going for simple FreeBSD instead of FreeNAS

So, I have been playing with my small soekris net6501-70-based NAS device for home.

Lots of things have happened since I last blogged about this:

  1. I decided not to use FreeNAS 8 on my net6501, but rather to just use FreeBSD 9 with ZFS, NFS, Samba, and rsync.
  2. I have copied my olde NSLU2 shared space onto my net6501 under ZFS... it took over 24 hours to copy over the network, the NSLU2 being fairly slow.
  3. I have set up a script to take snapshots of my ZFS storage on a regular basis using a script I found on the internet: zfs-snapshot.sh... this is almost as nice as have the Mac OS X time machine on my little NAS server (ok, not as nice, but still pretty good)
  4. I have had some difficulty with an old Maxstor 1TB USB drive, which seems to appear/disappear... it has caused corruption in my main ZFS pool, which I needed to fix manually, and then scrub the ZFS pool (which took almost 7 hours).
  5. Given all of this, I have ordered a small HP microserver. External USB drives are handled strangely by server O/Ses as they appear/disappear, change device names, etc. Let see how well the microserver with internal drives will do.
  6. By the way, when dealing with External USB disks, never use device names (such as /dev/da0 or /dev/da1s1a...); these names can change dynamically as drives are plugged in, or powered off, etc. Always label your filesystems (e.g. for UFS: tunefs -L disk1 /dev/da0s1a, which then appears as /dev/ufs/disk1; or for GPT disks: /dev/gptid/760ae9e2-5988-12f1-a136-000054cf2648) and use these names in ZFS or fstab... this will avoid a LOT of grief when reboting, or disconnecting or reconnecting a device, or indeed when a device fails.

So, lots is happening with my small NAS server.

More on this next weekend.

/FreeBSD | Posted at 19:01 | permanent link

Upgrading FreeBSD from 8.2 to 9.0

I have just finished upgraing one of my FreeBSD machines from 8.2 to 9.0, rebuilding from source as explained in the FreeBSD handbook here.

One of the painful steps in upgrading a FreeBSD machine, is the mergemaster step, as it forces you to go through a whole bunch of files, just to accept CVS tag changes... or so I thought !!! Turns out that there are optional flags to mergemaster, and running "mergemaster -FiU" does pretty much what I've been hoping mergemaster to do. Yay!

/FreeBSD | Posted at 16:12 | permanent link

Sun, 12 Feb 2012

FreeNAS, ZFS, and external USB disks

I have set up my Soekris net6501 with the latest beta of FreeNAS 8, FreeNAS-8.2.1-ALPHA-r10110M-x64. I installed 4 external 1 TB external USB disks on the machine, and set them up as a RAID-Z ZFS volume in FreeNAS and set about exporting CIFS and NFS partitions to the rest of my household. FreeNAS 8 is going to be an excellent product when it releases v.8.2.1... I look forward to seeing it in use in the coming months.

However, I have received the following FreeNAS alert twice now: The ZFS volume status is UNKNOWN: One or more devices has experienced an unrecoverable error. An attempt was made to correct the error. Applications are unaffected.Determine if the device needs to be replaced, and clear the errors using 'zpool clear' or replace the device with 'zpool replace'.

Interestingly enough, both times the error was corrected without any problem and the ZFS pool was back in HEALTHY state when I looked into it, but still that message sounds fairly omnious. Could it simply come from the fact that the drives go to sleep and are sometimes not ready when ZFS tries to access them (hence they somehow timeout)??? Or is it something more serious and one of my (new) drives is about to go south?

I wonder whether there are any recommendations against setting up a RAID-Z zpool across external USB drives that can go to sleep (and hence take 30-60 seconds to wake up). Hmmmm, I should investigate ZFS best practices and see if USB drives are usable this way. Else, I'll just stick with UFS with rsync for replication/backup.

More next weekend :-)

/FreeBSD | Posted at 17:34 | permanent link

Sat, 11 Feb 2012

4 wins in a row for the Montreal Canadiens

I listened to the hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs last night on ''internet radio''.

Montreal won 5-0 which gives them a 4-games winning streak (haven't seen too many of these this season!). NHL hockey is fun, but it's always particularly fun when Montreal beats Toronto or Boston :-) (Now, of course, these guys probably feel particularly smug when they beat the Canadiens, but I'm not going to worry about that :-)

/misc | Posted at 21:14 | permanent link

Thu, 09 Feb 2012

Using virtual machines at home

I have been architecting, recommending, and specifying the use of irtual machines at work for years, but I had never really used them seriously at home yet until recently. I had looked into using either Parallels or Fusion on my Macs to run Windows seamlessly, but in the end had always reverted to just using Apple's bootcamp, which always did the job for what I needed (except for the @!$&#^!%# graphics drivers in bootcamp which never seemed to be up to snuff).

However, given my recent purchase of a decent PC, I looked into the possibility of running FreeBSD in a virtual machine to take advantage of the CPU speed and sizable RAM to compile kernels for some of my smaller machines faster (running a whole buildkernel buildworld installkernel installworld cycle on a Soekris net4801 takes over 24 hrs which isn't fun).

I investigated various options, but it turns out that the best/most convenient is to run the vmware player under Windows 7 on my PC... using that, I can install FreeBSD 9 in either 32-bit or 64-bit mode, and just "play" whichever version of FreeBSD I need to run tests (or compilations) in a window. There is something inherently fun in having FreeBSD boot and discover the hardware of the virtual machine. Quite useful, quite powerful... just fascinating.

Of course, we are living in a world where one can run a full PC emulator written in javascript in a browser, and boot linux onto it, as I have blogged about recently here. The IT world is fascinating: every 5 years we reinvent the impossible.

/software | Posted at 19:03 | permanent link

Sun, 05 Feb 2012

Watching the superbowl on TV

It's nice to be able to watch Superbowl XLVI on TV, right here in Paris. The TNT channel W9 is showing the game direct from Indianapolis. It's a bit late (actually, it was already tomorrow here in Paris, as the game started :-) but it's quite nice to watch!

2nd quarter's almost over, and the NY Giants have been dominating the game from the start... but the score is only 9-3: the Patriots still have a chance if they get their act together.

...it is cold in Paris (-5 Celcius), so it's nice to watch the game under a warm blanket... I may drift to sleep during the halftime show though: my alarm clock is set for 04:40 in the morning.

Update 1: 10-9 for the Patriots at the end of the 2nd quarter. Hey, game's not over! Not the time to fall alseep yet!
Update 2: good, enjoyable, halftime show by Madonna! An impressive performer who knows how to put on a show.
Update 3: 17-15 Patriots at the end of the 3rd quarter. The Giants have been leaving too many points on the field: it's going to be tough for them. Good game so far... let's see if the 4th quarter keeps me awake :-)
Final update: Giants win 21-17. What a game. Off to sleep now.

/misc | Posted at 21:53 | permanent link

Identity services

A quick follow-up to my recent blog entry about identity servers on small home networks:

  • I have been playing with FreeRadius (available on FreeBSD as part of the ported packages -- /usr/ports/net/freeradius2, I believe) to see if I could use that as an identity server for my home network... to be investigated further in the coming weeks.
  • On a loosely related topic, I find the myOpenID services interesting, especially the "myOpenID for domains" stuff. It seems like I could use this to enable OpenIDs like http://openid.rax.org/my-name to work? It looks like it might be free if I have 10 IDs or less on my domain. Interesting. However, I need to see what level of independence I would need to lose on my domain (including the ability to change providers in the future) if I did that.
  • More interesting stuff to investigate on future weekends :-)

/FreeBSD | Posted at 18:13 | permanent link

What this blog is not about

By the way, just in case anybody wanders here and is curious as to whether anything I write here is related to personal hobbies or work, let me state explicitly that I do not intend to blog about work-related topics or express any work-related opinions here.

Work-related social networking belongs on work-sanctioned forums or communities... so this blog is purely about personal stuff and interests, and any opinions expressed here are my own.

/notwork | Posted at 17:47 | permanent link

Moving forward with FreeNAS

FreeNAS 8 is a nanobsd configuration, based on FreeBSD 8.2. In order to boot FreeNAS 8 on my Soekris net6501 under the amd64 image of FreeNAS, one needs to rebuild the FreeBSD kernel that is at the heart of FreeNAS with the line "device mptable" added to the kernel configuration file, as described on the unofficial Soekris wiki here.

Therefore, I used the instructions from the FreeNAS Forums here to set up a VMware virtual machine running FreeBSD to setup the FreeNAS sources, adjusted the kernel configuration file in "/usr/local/freenas/trunk/nanobsd/FREENAS.amd64" to add the device mptable line as described above, and then built a FreeNAS-8.2.1-ALPHA-r10006M-x64 image that I put onto a USB key and booted my Soekris net6501 with it.

FreeNAS 8 seems to look good on the net6501 and I am able to set it up with 2 external 2 TB USB disks partitioned with ZFS. For some strange reason, the FreeNAS 8 website seems to call for at least 6 GB of RAM to run it with ZFS, but my 2 GB net6501 seems to do just fine so far.

So, I just need to complete the set up of my FreeNAS box, export one of the disks through CIFS, NFS, and rsync, and set up a regular backup from disk1 to disk2. Once that runs fine, I can probably connect a 3rd 2 TB drive to that net6501, and set up some form of RAID-5 between the 3 drives (with snapshots, perhaps I don't need the weekly backup from disk1 to disk2, as I normally do on my NSLU2).

FreeNAS seems like a winner so far. More info later.

Miscellaneous comments & ramblings:

  • I still need Soekris to fix the USB boot code on the net6501 before I consider this completely operational: the net6501 will freeze on boot when my two 2 TB external USB drives are connected at boot time. Works fine when I connect them after the machine has booted... if at least Soekris could add an option in the BIOS to not scan certain USB ports for bootable devices, I could move forward.
  • FreeNAS 8 is based on FreeBSD 8.2, which is unfortunate as it only has ZFS v15, as opposed to FreeBSD 9.0 which comes with ZFS v28 (and perhaps the upcoming FreeBSD 8.3 also?)
  • There appears to be a certain amount of tension between the "new" FreeNAS 8 team, and the "legacy" FreeNAS 7 team. The latter has based FreeNAS 7.5 on FreeBSD 9.0 to get the newest FreeBSD stuff (including ZFS v28 as stated above) and is starting to talk about calling its branch FreeNAS 9, which is not going over too well with the FreeNAS 8 people (who actually own the FreeNAS trademark). Seems like FreeNAS 7 will either die or else it will need to fork off with another name (see here).
  • I don't have a strong opinion on this at this point, except for the fact that I am disappointed that FreeNAS 8 specifies minimum RAM requirements which seem to me to be unreasonably high (4 GB minimum, and 6 GB minimum if one wants ZFS) for some of the small machines that one could want to run FreeNAS upon. I like the FreeNAS 7 community effort, but I fear that it will end up as a dead-end effort once FreeNAS 8 is solid & feature-complete.
  • Anyway, I decided to set up my NAS server as a FreeNAS 8 server, to see if it ran OK in 2 GB of RAM (which, frankly, I don't see why it couldn't).
  • Seems like the net6501 will work as a home NAS device anyway, so finally I don't need the HP Proliant Microserver I was referring to the other day.

Anyway, enough for tonight... good night to all.

/FreeBSD | Posted at 17:39 | permanent link

Wed, 01 Feb 2012

Compilers in the Open Source world

When Gnu started, way back, one of the first bricks to be laid out in the open source building, was the gcc compiler. Okay, first there was emacs, but that was always a bit of a peculiar animal (to this day, I will sometimes use alternatives such as Gnu Zile instead of plain old emacs).

So, gcc was one of the first bricks that led the open source edifice to be built: compilers were always expensive and complicated software packages before that, but then suddenly, one could compile C code freely, and the compiler wasn't too shabby either: being developed by a large group of individuals from industry and academia, it produced very decent code and its optimizer generated pretty fast code too! (I remember using gcc on a project in 1990 because the code it generated on our project under ultrix ran quite a bit faster than the code generated by the native ultrix compiler).

So it's a bit strange these days to see that there are a number of alternative compilers being used by my favorite open source projects (notably FreeBSD): the old pcc is back, and FreeBSD seems to favour the clang compiler (see also this comparison).

Of course, there's also the question of which language to code in: C, C++ (there's a new 2011 flavour of that), Objective C (hey, isn't everyone doing an iPhone app these days? :-), Java, Scheme, python, Ruby, or any number of weird and wonderful languages. Even 'lowly' Javascript is geting quite powerful... Fabrice Bellard has written a PC emulator in it that's powerful enough to run linux in your browser!

Anyway, lots of possibilities. Just have fun coding!

Update: take a look at the TIOBE Programming Community Index of language popularity.

/software | Posted at 19:06 | permanent link

Listening to music

I still purchase music CDs and DVDs -- I guess that makes me somewhat of a dinosaur. I do listen to music online (through Spotify) which allows me to listen to a whole bunch of tunes that I do not have at home but fondly remember from the '80s, the '70s, or even earlier. I also rent movies in iTunes to watch on my iMac or my PC... however, on iTunes, I only use prepaid cards: I don't like leaving my credit card number for recurring purchases... especially since I find that Visa and MasterCard will agree to a recurring credit card charge even if the credit card expiry date has passed. It used to be that you would need to submit your credit card info again, once it has expired, but no longer: they'll just charge you anyway. The first time this hit me was with Apple's MobileMe service: I had let my credit card lag beyond expiration, since I did not intend to renew for one more year, but they still charged my card. Annoying to say the least: clearly not a implementation of the Principle of least astonishment. :-(

Anyway, this being said, when watching movie content, I should ideally set up a Mac Mini or some sort of Apple TV in the living room so that I can watch rented movies (i.e. downloaded content) in the comfort of the living room. Haven't done that yet.
Something on the To Do list, I guess, but kind of low priority.

/misc | Posted at 17:33 | permanent link

Sun, 29 Jan 2012

A microserver for FreeNAS

Food for thought: I've been thinking of rolling my own FreeBSD-based replacement for my old Linksys NSLU2 NAS devices on my home network, based on my recently purchased Soekris net6501 server. However, I have just found a very nice little device on the internet, the HP ProLiant MicroServer which seems quite nice: 4 SATA drives, a dial-core 1.5GHz AMD processor, up to 8 GB of memory in 2 simple DDR3 DIMM slots, 1 Gigabit Ethernet port, and a rather small footprint.

The datasheet is available here.

It is 275-300 EUR (before VAT) on the French HP site. That's less than a net6501. Hmmm.
There are a few models available, and I guess the idea would be to buy one with as little disk space as possible, because disks prices usually fall so quickly that by the time vendors ship NAS boxes to end customers, the prices are already out of whack with the market (Le Zap's rule of procurement: insofar as possible, bandwidth and disk space should be bought at the last minute on the spot market). With at least 4GB RAM, it would be about 400 EUR after VAT... should I just buy one for experimentation? it would be perfect for FreeNAS.

/hardware | Posted at 09:21 | permanent link

Thu, 26 Jan 2012

What are people using for small identity servers at home?

So, on my home network I have:

  • a DHCP server
  • a web server
  • a CIF file server
  • an NFS file server
  • an rsync backup server
  • a network printer
  • a mail server

and various other odds and ends.

However, it strikes me that I do not have a small and simple identity server, where I could define user accounts for all of my various devices and OSes (Windows, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, and probably some Linux also).

What do people use? NIS yellow pages? that seems too unixoid and will probably not help with the Windows machines. Some sort of Microsoft Active Directory? Through Samba? that feels too microsofty perhaps. Is there something that bridges the gap? Going beyond my little home network, is there something that would let me be accepted as an OpenId authenticator? Also, something I could use to allow logins into my machines hosted outside of the home network.

Hmmm. Over the years, we have gotten pretty good at doing IP networks, file sharing, printer sharing, web serving, and even web services and the like... but we are still struggling with having some form of simple authentication mechanism standardized. Probably because it is hard to have trust in authentication mechanisms, and especially the quality of the data they contain(*).

Anyway, that's another interesting weekend project.


(*) Perhaps we are setting the bar too high? I do not need strong authentication with non-repudiation and all that jazz... I would like a simple userid/password mechanism that would return something like the old unix uid/gid, but in 64-bit range, and I would like it to be easily integrated with Windows, Unix, and Mac OS X. Hmmm... fuzzy requirements... it's always more complicated than it looks like. What are people using out there? Any solid and usable public domain reference implementations I could look at and implement? Would Radius fit the bill?

/FreeBSD | Posted at 20:36 | permanent link

Setting up a new NAS device at home

For the last few years, I have been using a couple of Linksys NSLU2 NAS devices coupled with external USB disks for shared storage across my home network. I find that this works quite well to store files from my Mac, Windows, and even FreeBSD machines. One of the NSLU2 is unslung and runs an rsync daemon that I use to save files from my various FreeBSD machines.

The NSLU2 is a nice device, but it had become fairly old (no gigabit ethernet, limited expandability of the software, etc). So I have been meaning to set up a replacement. I have decided to use a Soekris net6501 to build my own little NAS box, using a couple of external 2 TB external drives.

Now, the question is: what software will I run on the net6501? I have been quite tempted by FreeNAS, but FreeNAS 8 has a stated minimum RAM size requirement of 4 GB (with 6 GB listed as the minimum for ZFS usage), and the net6501 is limited to 2 GB RAM (actually, I think that's even a limit of the Intel Atom CPU that it is built upon). FreeNAS 0.7 has a significantly lower RAM requirement, but I am afraid that it will be orphaned, as the main development path for FreeNAS is now version 8.

Of course, I could just set up FreeBSD on the net6501 and be done with it.

Anyway, I still have a few weeks to decide, as I am waiting for a new BIOS release for the net6501, as I am having some issues with the new USB boot code of the Soekris device: if I plug in 2 large (2 TB) external USB disks, in addition to the small internal 8 GB USB key that holds the FreeBSD image, then the device hangs on boot while probing the USB devices. If I just connect the external USB drives after the machine is booted, it works perfectly. I am hoping that the USB probe code will be fixed in the next BIOS release.

Fun for the weekend :-)

/FreeBSD | Posted at 20:06 | permanent link

Sun, 22 Jan 2012

Finding old blosxom plugins

I have set up this little blog using blosxom (from http://blosxom.sourceforge.net). It is an oldish blogging package (in the Internet world, I guess 2003-2005 is getting ancient :-) but I like the fact that it's small, works with simple ASCII text files, and has no dependencies beyond having perl on the system.

The blosxom website also has links to lots of plugins that do useful things, but unfortunately quite a few of the links are now dead.

This is where the Internet Wayback Machine is quite useful. For instance, I was looking for the categorylist plugin, and it had disappeared from the web... well, a quick check in the wayback machine and voilą! the plugin is resurrected from history.

The Internet Wayback Machine isn't perfect, but it does a lot to save the information from the internet and ensure it doesn't just go away.

(Note: some other day, I'll chat about project Guttenberg, another great Internet outpost)

/blosxom | Posted at 20:24 | permanent link

Sat, 21 Jan 2012

Setting up FreeBSD 9.0 with a ZFS root filesystem: Success!

So, I investigated last week's problem with ZFS and FreeBSD 9.0 and I discovered that the problem was very simple to fix. I needed to add:


    # echo 'zfs_enable="YES"'>>  /mnt/etc/rc.conf

to the procedure described last week (on January 15th) so that the zfs mountpoint options would be executed. So now, things are working fine... I am going to play with this configuration a bit to see if the fact that I haven't configured a swap space causes problem with a 2GB memory configuration when I try to compile world.

More later.

Late addition to this post: turns out that the author of the initial page at http://wiki.freebsd.org/RootOnZFS/GPTZFSBoot/9.0-RELEASE had also found the error and fixed it on the wiki, but I had not gone back to check. In the end, it's OK, this has allowed me to explore ZFS enough so that I now understand it better.

/FreeBSD | Posted at 13:49 | permanent link

Wed, 18 Jan 2012

Listening to Montreal Canadiens' hockey abroad

All native Montrealers have hockey in their blood. When living away from home, you can listen to the games on internet radio, either in French on fm98.5 at http://www.985fm.ca/webradio/ or in English on Team990 at http://www.tsn.ca/Montreal/listen/.

This is a real lifeline when one feels too far from home... of course, having maple syrup in the house also helps ;-)

/misc | Posted at 20:25 | permanent link

IPv6 day for 2012 will be June 6

Seen on http://slashdot.org today: On June 6th, many companies will be enabling IPv6 by publishing AAAA record in DNS, and this time, they are not turning it back off!

This is good news.

I have been running IPv6 in my little part of the Universe for about a year (yes, I know, I should have done it earlier... I've been meaning to do it for 10 years). I even have a subnet at home that is running 100% IPv6. Interestingly enough, while IPv6 is fine, it is not easy to run a plain PC or Mac in an IPv6 only world, as a number of things still expect IPv4 to be visible (or at least, I haven't found the ways to get around it). For instance, while Windows has had support for IPv6 for a long time, my Windows machines on that IPv6 segment cannot seem to find Windows update, and hence no patches get downloaded, which isn't nice.

Browsing the web is also frustrating, because even though Google is visible on the IPv6 internet, the search results returned don't all point to IPv6 addresses (unless I haven't found who to enable that).

Are many people living in IPv6-only worlds? How do you do it?

/inet | Posted at 16:33 | permanent link

Sun, 15 Jan 2012

Setting up FreeBSD 9.0 with a ZFS root filesystem

With the new version of FreeBSD being just out, I decided to try out the ZFS filesystem. Notably, I would like to find out whether it works correctly with 2GB of memory, or whether more is really needed (I read that it doesn't really work with less than 1GB of RAM, but then again, there are conflicting reports that it needs lots more, though sometimes that's qualified with 'if you want prefetch' or 'if you are trying to do dedup'). Actually, I am building a small NAS server I am building around a Soekris net6501-70 which comes with 2GB RAM, and I would like to find out if I can use ZFS with it.

So, I looked up http://wiki.freebsd.org/RootOnZFS/GPTZFSBoot/9.0-RELEASE and tried to set up a vmware virtual machine with ZFS only.

I did not bother setting up swap space, nor a mirrored disk configuration, so the commands I used were:

  • boot a vmware virtual machine from the amd64 FreeBSD9.0-RELEASE DVD
  • choose the Shell option at the partitioning dialog in bsdinstall
  • run the following commands:

    # gpart create -s gpt da0
    # gpart add -s 64K -t freebsd-boot -l boot0 da0
    # gpart add -t freebsd-zfs -l disk0 da0
    # gpart bootcode -b /boot/pmbr -p /boot/gptzfsboot -i 1 da0
    # zpool create -o altroot=/mnt zroot /dev/gpt/disk0
    # zfs create zroot/tmp
    # chmod 1777 /mnt/tmp
    # zfs create zroot/usr
    # zfs create zroot/var
    # zfs create zroot/home
    # exit
  • And then, after installation:
    (update: one must add # echo 'zfs_enable="YES"'>> /mnt/etc/rc.conf here as per the post on 21 January)

    # echo 'zfs_load="YES"'>>  /mnt/boot/loader.conf
    # echo 'vfs.root.mountfrom="zfs:zroot"'>>  /mnt/boot/loader.conf
    # zfs unmount -a
    # zpool export zroot
    # zpool import -o cachefile=/tmp/zpool.cache -o altroot=/mnt zroot
    # zfs set mountpoint=/ zroot
    # cp /tmp/zpool.cache /mnt/boot/zfs/
    # zfs unmount -a
    # zpool set bootfs=zroot zroot
    # zpool set cachefile='' zroot
    # zfs set mountpoint=legacy zroot
    # zfs set mountpoint=/tmp zroot/tmp
    # zfs set mountpoint=/usr zroot/usr
    # zfs set mountpoint=/var zroot/var
    # zfs set mountpoint=/home zroot/home

The last 4 commands (i.e. after 'zfs set mountpoint=legacy zroot') give error messages, but I think that's OK. However, once I rebooted the virtual machine, the filesystems (except for /) were not mounted and therefore FreeBSD did not come up properly.

So, this was a first try... More on this next weekend :-)

/FreeBSD | Posted at 16:57 | permanent link

Fri, 13 Jan 2012

FreeBSD 9.0 is out

FreeBSD

Yay! FreeBSD 9.0 is out!

The announcement says:

The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team is pleased to announce the availability
of FreeBSD 9.0-RELEASE.  Some of the highlights:
    - ZFS updated to version 28
    - NFS subsystem updated, new implementation supports NFSv4 in addition to NFSv3 and NFSv2

Please see http://www.FreeBSD.org for more info.

Note also that FreeBSD 9.0-RELEASE is dedicated to the memory of Dennis M. Ritchie, one of the fathers of UNIX.

/FreeBSD | Posted at 15:19 | permanent link

Wed, 11 Jan 2012

FreeBSD 9.0-RELEASE ISO are out

Found the ISO images for FreeBSD 9.0-RELEASE on ftp.freebsd.org and ftp4.fr.freebsd.org.

I've already got the amd64 version installed on a vmware player virtual image successfully from the ISO -- which works beautifully with FreeBSD under Windows 7; check it out!

I'm off to Zurich for a couple of days... more FreeBSD over the weekend.

/FreeBSD | Posted at 21:05 | permanent link

Mon, 09 Jan 2012

Waiting for the next FreeBSD release

I have been setting up a small computer -- a Soekris net6501-70 -- to use as a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device on my home network. The idea is to replace the small, reliable, Linksys NSLU2 (slugs) that I have been using for shared network usage in my home, with a new device with more disk space and Gigabit Ethernet ports since my home network (at least the wired part) is Gigabit Ethernet.

Ideally, I would have liked to run FreeNAS on the device and to run ZFS as a filesystem, but it didn't turn out that way, as the net6501 has 2 GB RAM, and FreeNAS requires a lot more than that.

Therefore I have installed FreeBSD 9.0-RC3 on my net6501-70 and I even had the pleasure to discover that I could run FreeBSD in amd64 mode (i.e. 64-bits mode).

Now, I cannot wait for FreeBSD 9.0 to be finally and officially released, and for the next iteration of the ne6501 combios to be effectively release.

Can't wait!

/FreeBSD | Posted at 18:29 | permanent link

Social networking

Oh well, after literally years of resisting, I have finally opened a LinkedIn account recently, prompted by an old colleague/good friend at ZFS.

Since then, I've been having fun surfing the social networks and adding lots of people I've known in the past, even going back to friends in Canada from university or even high school.

Of course, I worry about publishing all of this information to an external company: this is why I have had neither a LinkedIn account, nor a Facebook account in the past. But, I have to say that it is quite nice to be able to reconnect with people from way back.

| Posted at 18:15 | permanent link

Wed, 04 Jan 2012

Upgrading an OCZ Onyx SSD drive

A while ago, maybe 2 years, maybe 18 months, I bought an OCZ Onyx 32GB SSD drive to put in my Soekris net5501 server under FreeBSD. The idea was that since that machine doesn't get lots of writes, it would benefit heat-wise and speed-wise from having a SSD drive rather than a regular 2.5" laptop drive (which always seem to fail after about 2-4 years of continuous operation).

Well, I have been quite disappointed, because after only a few months of operations, the Onyx started developing a number of read errors and bad sectors. I restored from backups a few times, but eventually it got so bad that I went back to a simple laptop drive for greater reliability.

When I bought a new PC recently, I remembered my Onyx and tried to use it to accelerated my disk accesses through intel's Rapid Storage caching Technology. Well, that didn't work at all because it developed read errors within 24 hours, and so I gave up on that idea and ordered a small Intel drive to use as a cache in my system (which seems to work fine).

Now, being somewhat stubborn, I surfed the web and found that OCZ had a firmware update for my 32GB Onyx drive (upgrade to 1.7)... so I upgraded the firmware to 1.7, and now the drive is in a very strange state: not only does it report that it has a capacity of 128GB (which is quite strange), but also I cannot seem to pqrtition/format it properly in Windows 7 or with the UBCD.

So, I guess I have reached the end of how much time I am willing to devote to this piece of junk, and send it into the recycle bin... truly one of the least positive hardware purchases I have ever made.

/hardware | Posted at 17:33 | permanent link

Tue, 03 Jan 2012

So, I flew on an A380 from Paris to Montreal

So, we landed in Paris this morning on an A380 from Air France. A very nice flight... fast too (5h 30'), but we took off about an hour late. Overall, a positive experience.

| Posted at 05:26 | permanent link

Mon, 02 Jan 2012

Flying on an Airbus A380

The Airbus A380 is a very nice plane. Quite large. Two floors all the way (as opposed to the Boeing 747 which has 2 floors only in the front part of the plane)... this allows airlines to pack a large number of people in each plane, optimizing revenue on long haul routes that are well travelled. For instance, Air France used to have 4 flights a day between Paris and Montreal; now that one of these flights in an A380, they run only 3 flights.

However, it is also a fairly recent plane.

Now, I have no particular worries about the stability or reliability of that plane; Airbus and Boeing are both extremely proficient at designing, engineering, and building these huge metal birds... and major airlines like Air France, British Airways, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, etc. are all quite proficient at operating and maintaining them.

However, these big recent planes have anciliary problems: you don't have many backup pilots for them; you don't have many gangways for them. So when you have a problem with crews or logistics, you run a greater risk of running into problems.

So far, I've flown twice on an A380. The first time, the pilot was ill and had to be replaced... however, another A380 pilot had fallen ill on that day, and the backup pilot was already on his way to New York! Had this been an A330 or 767, they probably would have had tons of backup pilots... but in this case, they had to send everyone home and delayed the flight to the next day.

The second time I flew an A380, we arrived 30' early. Unfortunately, our gangway was occupied by another A380 that was delayed and hadn't left the gangway yet. So we had to wait for a whole fleet of busses to come and take us to the terminal (there are many people in n A380, so we needed many busses).

So anyway, my impression at this point is that the A380 is a very nice plane, but because of logistic details, it is probably best avoided for now.

I am going to fly on an A380 for the third time tonight. I'll let you know how that goes.

| Posted at 19:23 | permanent link

Sun, 01 Jan 2012

A New Year

Just a quick entry onto this blog whilst it is still January 1st over here in Canada (regardless of what my European blog engine says :-) to wish all of my family, friends, and readers a very happy 2012: happiness, health, and success to all of you throughout the year!

| Posted at 23:24 | permanent link

Using MetaWeblog with blosxom

Blosxom is nice because it produces a reasonable-looking weblog based on very simple ASCII text files. Therefore, I can just use vi, zile, or emacs to edit blog entries, and they just get posted on the weblog painlessly.

The only problem is that I cannot always access rax.org via ssh. For instance, from work, I can do http, but not ssh. Therefore, it would be nice to be able to do weblog entries using the Scribefire add-on to Firefox once in a while. Scribefire can connect to weblog engines using the MetaWeblog RPC protocol, which blosxom seems to support via a plugin, but somehow, I haven't been able to figure it out yet, and I haven't found too many references to metaweblog4blosxom on the Internet.

Oh well, perhaps I should stick to emacs :-)

/blosxom | Posted at 23:20 | permanent link

Using blosxom for blogging

Hmmm. I've just taken a bit of time over the holidays to properly configure blosxom as my blogging engine.

Took a bit longer than I expected to get plugins and flavours going, but now it's fine. I had writebacks going too, but then I disabled them because I feared to be flooded with spam.

I will wait and see how much use I make of this small blog & then I will decide if I use it enough to spend any time policing spam on the blog.

Overall, I find blosxom an interesting little blog engine, but it seems to have fallen in disuse since 2003, 2004, or so. Any comments from any blosxom users out there?

/blosxom | Posted at 23:19 | permanent link

January 1st in Montreal

Looking for a place to have lunch in downtown Montreal on Sunday January 1st is not easy. We walked around rue Ste-Catherine for a while, not finding much that was open (apart from McDonalds and Burger King, which we did not feel like having) except for a dinner that had the excellent idea of being open for business: unfortunately, that meant that 100+ people converged there, and there was a line-up at the door. Then, Sylvie had the idea to walk over to the Chinatown... wow, almost everything was opened and there were tons of people around :-)

We ended up having a Pho and Bo'Bun (sorry for the missing accents) and leaving smiling and happy.

The morale of this story: on January 1st in Montreal, head for Chinatown for restaurants.

| Posted at 04:10 | permanent link