Archive for August, 2003

[back ported] Diary – 28/08/2003

Thursday, August 28th, 2003

[ from the retro-fitting-older-entries dept. ]

Random Stuff

Today I am on a train currently passing through Leicester on route to Nottingham. I had an interesting morning and got a delayed 12:05 train from Reading which was up to the usual excellent standard stereotypical of Virgin Trains – overcrowded so that I had to sit in the corridor next to the broken toilet and help rescue another female passenger who could not escape. Remember there are reasons people are not persuaded to use public transport.

This weekend I am off to a family wedding in London and am staying in what would appear to be a reasonable hotel on Friday and Saturday night. Next week I need to look in to this long European weekend I keep meaning to have somewhere like Brussels. Need to find out if any friends want to go too. Probably would be a good excuse to get a digital camera I suppose. Hmmm… Back to the present and this train should be in Nottingham soon so I can meet up with jok and tom for afternoon tea and supper.

I went swimming again last night and did the weekly weighing. I admit that I am still over what I should be – but I am just under 14st. now which is an improvement that I am aim to take further over the next few months. Eventually I want to weigh 12.5 or 13st and balance out my diet and exercise.

Hacking Stuff

The room setup has made little progress over the last week. I still have a bunch of machines which are clogging up the dining room and which need to be moved in to the new racking. Perihelion is pretty damned sweet running Debian testing now and I have to say Windows XP has nothing on this machine. The addition of an Ultra on my desktop would make the second monitor more useful though I now have more than I have room for (15″, 17″, 19″, 21″, etc.)

I have been debugging the Linux 4xx TLB handling over the last few days. The code is pretty simple and not SMP future proof, and of course differs in every release you come accross depending upon which tree you chose to use today. Would somebody please consolidate in to the next 2.4 release? :-) . The PowerPC 405 is a funny thing really. The more you use it the more quirks and more interesting it becomes – I think I should have been a hardware engineer in another life or something. Anyway interest aside I am pretty comfortable with the work I am doing now (somewhat debug intensive now).

Reading the combinational logic design section in the Digital System design with VHDL book. Getting some more SCA disks for the Sun machines at home – probably time to pick up an Ultra soon given they are now available on ebay for under 50 quid.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Another day and more people calling me about recruitment. I seem to be averaging several mails a week now although I am as always driven by interest. Money is also a useful resource but not as important as doing something interesting this side of 25. Of course later I will have a zillion commitments, a flashy sports car and a geeky girlfriend…or just a lot of commitments to geeky technology. One or the other, you can guess which.

I find the work that the Embedded Systems Lab at Leceister are doing is both interesting and fits in with the kind of stuff I dig right now. There are various application forms sitting in an Inbox somewhere which I should fill out and get in to the pipeline.

This diary and website needs a complete overhaul.

Just arrived at Loughborough. Not far from Nottingham again now. TTFN.


Bankholiday Weekend

Monday, August 25th, 2003

[ from the have-you-updated-your-blog-yet? dept. ]

Screenshots: Phoenix (Solaris 9) and Perihelion (Debian testing) Updated.

General Update

For the last few weeks I have been working on various Linux kernel hacking and continuing to read up on various items of interest, including hardware design and digital logic. I bought the book “Panic! UNIX System Crash Dump Analysis” for bedtime and train reading…and because I do actually dig that stuff.

I went to Liverpool on Saturday and enjoyed my visit to the point where I am encouraged to travel more over the next few weeks – I want to discover parts of England I have not been to, and other parts of the UK too. I switch to a three day working week soon so have some more free time.

Driving lessons will be arranged soon as I want to start within the next couple of weeks really. Swimming is going to also shift around so I go evenings Mon-Wed and mornings on Thu-Fri for the time being. Randomly got yet another recruitment call the other day – I like that :-) .

Machines Update

The 4.5GB SCA SCSI disk I ordered from a guy on ebay (who it turns out I already knew through a mailing list anyway) works fine and is happily running Solaris 9 now. Phoenix was running Solaris 8 for a long time but had been offline for the last few months during moving. I am now using both Solaris and Debian on my desktop partly to compare the two in daily use and also to keep my Solaris skills up to date. I generally prefer a Linux desktop though it does have to be said – Solaris is very stable but library configuration and binary location should not have to bother a desktop user.

Hacking Update

I bought an PIC for updating the firmware on my older PICSTART programmer but since I only get one shot I will do it when I am less tired. Have been reading and planning to get a Xilinx Virtex II Pro evaluation board or a Spartan but still waiting to hear back about pricing.

Some ideas for my Genesis redesign (I have decided to do it properly now that I understand more of the PowerPC Architecture) have been forming and also for getting Minix to run also. The trouble before was that various non-existent interrupt handlers were getting called that I could not debug.


A Weekend In Scunthorpe

Tuesday, August 12th, 2003

[ from the surprisingly-nice-country-region dept. ]

I spent the weekend in Scuthorpe with Robin and Beckie Allen at their wonderful wedding. The whole affair was done very well indeed and the couple made a fantastic bride and groom.

I went on the 07:05 train from Reading on Saturday morning and got there at about midday. On Sunday it took a similar amount of time to get back home. The reception was at the Red Lion in Redbourne which was also the hotel I stayed at and can now recommend. The room was very reasonable, etc.

Also enjoyed some of the people I met. A couple of IT people, some others from London and the south and also the families. Especially a certain person who shall remain nameless – I regret not asking her to dance but I still think my dancing skill is, shall we say lacking.


Playing with FPGA stuff

Tuesday, August 5th, 2003

[ from the something-for-the-weekend? dept. ]

The BSD Daemon copyright Marshall Kirk McKusick.

Listening to: Tears For Fears – Mad World (Ogg Vorbis)
(W H Smith have a special promotion covering a lot of music).

I have decided to purchase an FPGA development board with either a Xilinx Virtex II or a Spartan on it for playing with programmable logic at home. I plan to test the Microblaze uClinux port and have a board which is cheap enough to be justifiable but hopefully also be useful. The other side of things is that this should tie in with the book I bought on VHDL recently. I want to play with the OpenCores OPENRISC Specification and the OPENRISC 1200 hardware implementation.

Was reading up on Myrinet and VME as I consider some more interesting parallel libraries I might use on this SPARC cluster at home. The first job is going to be to build the thing over the next few weeks now that hopefully the racking is about to be complete. Also I want to experiment with MPI and a few of the other message passing primitives which Compsci Courses brush over without going in to detail.


The History Of F*$k

Sunday, August 3rd, 2003

[ from the this-is-plain-funny dept. ]

This one is funny.

A kid in the States used various F-words in response to questioning by a member of staff concerning his potential smoking in the boys toilet.

A highly amusing legal document was filed in response.


Inland Revenue

Sunday, August 3rd, 2003

[ from the Microsoft-monopolistic-supporting-nuts dept. ]

Sod the Inland Revenue. These people offer a new online Tax Return service which unfairly requires the use of Microsoft software to do so. They could have used a standard Web Services based process using SSL or something similar but no. For some reason there must be some Microsoft Windows only software involved. These people make me very very angry indeed.

Join me and fill in a paper return instead


My plans for now…

Friday, August 1st, 2003

[ from the have-you-updated-your-blog-yet? dept. ]

Photo: Jon Masters, David Brailsford, Robin Allen.
Source: Robin and Beckie Allen Graduation Pictures

I have not been updating this diary much recently though there is a good reason for once here. At the moment I am planning to change various functionality over to a new box and redesign the site using DHTML, XML and CSS2. This will take some time as it is not a high priority.

The Digital System Design with VHDL book arrived today and I have read a few pages. I think this book provides what I wanted – a filler for the material I felt Nottigham CSiT should have covered on their Compsci degree but did not for whatever reasons. I am too demanding perhaps though Southampton seem to have the right idea as this book shows.

I have been reading through the Myri documentation on the Myrinet. Also looking at MPI. The home cluster should be going in over the next few weeks when I am not working – I have decided that I like embedded systems development for the time being.

My room at home has been gutted and now has one of those wooden look floors with two doors and is being painted, kitted out with lighting and new racking for my SPARCstations. I should have an IRIX server installed sometime over the next few weeks if the O2 on offer is sorted. I was offered yet another Origin however I really do not have the room for it given I think there will be more than 30 computers in here soon.

This weekend I am preparing a review on the exim mail transfer agent and looking at an upcoming Tomcat article. I am attempting to cover a broader range of subjects ranging from Web Services through to Embedded Systems. NetBSD is on my radar now as I attempt to become more familiar with it.

Hussein is off abroad while I am working most of the summer but this is inspiring me to look for a holiday in September possibly in the States.

Next weekend I am off to see another friend married and am really looking forward to it Robin. I must go look at their wedding list this week.

My friend Chris might read this at some point in which case I would like to discuss when you are over in the UK during August and feel like a beer?

My provisional driving license has been applied for and I am going to end up paying 600-800 pounds for the pleasure of learning to drive in Reading.