Archive for September, 2003

PowerPC Linux Porting Guide

Sunday, September 28th, 2003

[ from the howto-you-howto-everyone dept. ]

I decided the existing Linux PowerPC documentation for embedded systems could do with a hand and am going to write a guide based upon my work with the IBM 405 processor over the last year or so that I have been playing with them. This should begin by introducing the reader to an embedded system and tackle issues such as boot firmware and loaders as well as memory maps, platform support and drivers early on before getting in to the main text. Contributions and comments will be sought and I will post more soon.


Nottingham and Birmingham trips

Sunday, September 28th, 2003

[ from the travelling-around-the-country dept. ]

xmms is now playing: Scooter – Weekend

I returned from Birmingham last night having spent Friday afternoon and Saturday morning in Nottignham and then visiting Hannah and Joe with the rest of my family who had arranged to be in Birmingham. Today I am writing up my review of pGina using a VMware installation. I notice that VMware blocks horribly on floppy IO if the floppy is in some way faulty or screwed. I am also completing my wonderful Tax Return.

I now mix a three day work week as an Embedded Linux Systems Engineer with some consulting and travelling which will soon include a PhD. I have some more news on the PhD idea I am wanting to go with and having spoken to a couple of people in Nottingham think I should persue that soon. Usually I work quite long hours on a Monday-Wednesday except this past week I was also in on Thursday so I delayed the Nottingham trip until Friday.

On Friday morning I travelled via Birmingham to Nottingham. Once again I met a few interesting people on the train, including an Oxford English graduate and a woman who had a Masters in variously interesting Chemistry concerned with viruses such as AIDs – though she now has several young children which I am sure is equally as challenging work in a different kind of way. I arrived in Nottingham during the middle of the afternoon and went to CSiT to grab a coffee with a few friends before I met up with jok for dinner at Wagamama. Beckie and Robin Allen joined us and looked every bit the lovely newly weds that they had at and after their wedding. (mental note to get a potted plant from Crocus for their new house). We bought some laser pointers in Maplin for 5 too. After dinner we spent a while in a J D Weatherspoon pub called the Roebuck Inn – which is where some NotLUG meetings happen – where I tried with great amusement to bring up the cinema film information on the Zaurus via my mobile. We saw Pirates Of The Carribean and I was actually quite impressed at how the cheese did not totally ruin the film.

Turns out CSiT upgraded all of the workstations to Microsoft Windows XP as per the expectation that they would do so and they now appear to be a little more responsive in some ways. There are still only three generally accessible Redhat machines in there however. Apparently numbers are down this year too – which is really great. Hopefully overall standards can be raised a little in response to the fall in number of students who are there due to the dotcom era and do not care.

I bought a Buffalo CompactFlash Wifi card and have kismet running on the Zaurus now. I like to leave it running when out and about – over the weekend discovered BTOpenzone available from a number of payphones in Reading and Nottingham as well as a Wifi network on a First Great Western Train called “1st2thefuture” which was interesting. In Nottingham we saw 27 wireless networks in the City with less than 50% advertising WEP.

In Birmingham my family were drinking tea and coffee in the Costa in Waterstones when I met them yesterday. Had yet another bunch of Marks and Spencer grapes before going back to Selly Oak and finding Hannah and Joe have a very cosy house now.

Over the next few weeks and months I will be at the Linux Expo, in Paris, in Brussells, Belfast, and Edinburgh as well as Oxford, Reading, Birmingham, Nottingham, Cambridge, and London. I have driving lessons to do, people to see and places to go. I need to find out whether the Nuclear Bunker Party is happening again.

Back to work now…


Bournemouth Trip

Monday, September 22nd, 2003

[ from the another-trip-with-friends dept. ]

My Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 handheld running Open Zaurus

I had a very pleasant trip to Bournemouth today and visited bds while recalling the time when we lived in Bournemouth ourselves. I like the area. We went for a random walk around the City Centre and I saw the old bandstand where we went years ago – we walked along part of the beach and went up the cable lift before finding some lunch near Poole.

The 11:47 service from Reading was at one point going to be nonstop to Bournemouth though quickly introduced the scheduled stops. I saw my friend John who is working with Virgin Railways and ended up sitting with another pleasant woman who knew what a SPARCbook was once we got talking after discovering she works in IT at Orange. Had a talk about GSM and the various 3G stuff as wells as Sun and BOFH and even the nulcear bunker party hopefully soon. Another trip meeting thing. This is the second this week however though!

A very enjoyable afternoon with Hussein and Markus and Ben.


Poole Visit is today

Sunday, September 21st, 2003

[ from the visiting-more-friends-today dept. ]

I am going to get a train to Bournemouth in a while to visit Ben with Hussein and possibly Markus. Need to fill out the Tax Return too.

I will be in Nottingham on Friday and probably Saturday too as well as Birmingham and potentially several other places. Nottingham is purely for having coffee with dfb and anyone else I can get hold of who I have not seen in at least a few days. :-) .

Time for more tea and a shower now. I need a GPS and an Apple I clone too.


[backported] A Little More Culture

Sunday, September 21st, 2003

[ from the would-sir-like-something-interesting-for-the-weekend? dept. ]

On late Thursday afternoon, after I finished unpacking the PDAs, I met up with Sid and Hussein in Leicester Square. We went over to Trafalgar Square and visted the National Gallery – which was pretty cool. I could get quite fond of visiting and especially enjoyed seeing several Monet’s in the flesh so to speak – before posing like tourists in front of statues. Hussein will remind me that I need a digital camera in the comments below.

Hussein caught a train after we had wondered down through Westminster – picking up a comical postcard with the Queen on it – and found a bike shop near Waterloo Station. Sid and I had food in Leceister Square at an interesting restaurant called Chiquito. We watched as Ewen McGregor turned up for a film premier and then found a train for Sid to go back to Nottingham.

The next day we met up again in the evening after I was delayed coming in to Paddington from Reading due to some signalling problem and also after I had gone to Computer Exchange on Tottenham Court Road to get a 128MB SD Card. We saw Blood Brothers at the Phoenix theatre – which was absolutely excellent.
I also spoke to this chap about “The Saturday Morning Orchestra” which I am thinking I might like to join soon – they meet in Calcot which is down the road and someone from work goes too so I at least know one other person there. I play Violin in case anyone was wondering I also have a Bishop’s Chorister Royal School Of Church Music award which is quite handy too.

Sid and I went back to Reading and then yesterday had a rather relaxed day in Reading. I bought the CompactFlash early in the morning and had my grapes before we went out to look around and eat at the Yellow River Cafe in the Oracle. Apparently Sid got home safely too.

On our travels we ended up in the Bargain Computer Books Store in Reading and I got talking to the chap there who used to run the Blackwells Computing section and recognises me each time I go in. I recommend that book store to anyone who wants good customer service.

I think I will try to regularly visit the theatre now and investigate Opera or Orchestral performances I can listen to on a weekend. There is what was called the Apollo Theatre in Oxford and is now known as New Theatre I believe. This is on the way home from work too.


The world of PDAs

Sunday, September 21st, 2003

[ from the please-stop-going-on-about-them-now-jcm dept. ]

opieplayer2 is now playing: A-Ha – Headlines And Deadlines – The Sun Always Shines On TV (ogg vorbis)

I got offered a deal through a member of a linux mailing list and ended up with a Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 and a Compaq iPAQ 3660. The Compaq is still Microsoft infected although the antivirus magic will be weaved over that sometime in the next few days. The Zaurus now joins the many others running Open Zaurus. It really was disgusting how Microsoftish Sharp had made it out of the box.

There were a few problems installing Open Zaurus due to the fact that installation requires hitting a magic button combination with a preprogrammed CompactFlash in the slot with appropriate file names. It turns out that the 128MB CompactFlash – made by Integral memory who are really rebadging SanDISK technology and selling it through outlets like Photo Optix – has a faulty bits which results in it being effectively useless to most people. After more than 4 hours of experimentation with badblocks and mkfs.vfat I created a 32MB loopback mounted volume which I copied the kernel too and then filled with enough zeros to skip the faulty part – taking advantage of how vfat works using one giant linked list across the whole of the disk – then the next file. I got it right eventually and then repeatedly ran dd to try to get it on to the /dev/hde1 appropriately configured partition which to my amazement then proceeded to work. Today I shall have to try to return this memory and get some which actually works but there is a lesson to everyone – run badblocks on CompactFlash.

I have a 128MB SD Card and will get another 128MB CompactFlash card as well as a CompactFlash Wifi networking card for kismet and internet access. Probably should eventually get some ludicrously large SD or CF storage of more than 256MB though I think I will wait for reasonable pricing. Listening to music requires headphones although that is a good thing because I do not necessarily want to inflict my tastes upon others.

I had to modify several hotplug configuration files as well as the kernel maps for the USBified networking to come up and occasionally get host kernel hard lock annoyances when the interface does not go down cleanly. This I might try to fix since the last kernel hack I suggested had just recently been done by someone else! bah. I suggested writing an interface to call Magic SysRQ through software in /proc/sys and it turns out this can now be done via sending the key sequence to /proc/sysrq-trigger. I hope it is documented well for all the Sysadmins out there. :-) .

The Zaurus is sweet. I can now login to it over usb and have proxy host NAT running to allow Internet access for ipkg to do package updates and to surf the web or simply ping google and yahoo. Did I mention it also plays A-Ha – Take On Me (Superior Techno Remix)? because it really does. :-) .

I need to make a whole bunch of stuff and get a Man Area Network going between the two devices in my pockets for sheer amusement. Actually I bought a 7something quid camera bag from John Lewis as a cheap Zaurus bag.


High Voltage Trip Out

Friday, September 19th, 2003

[ from the 21st-centuary-without-power dept. ]

Listening to Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love?

At 06:15 this morning approximately there was a High Voltage trip out in the Southern Electric provided area of Tilehurst. Since I know the emergency number off hand (+448457708090) through previous issues I immediately called for an explanation. Later today I shall attempt to ascertain whether this was safety related or purely Southern Electric incompetence. For some reason personally I always assume that in these situations it is more likely to be the latter issue although the former is of course a perfectly valid reason. Just as I powered off the battery backup the power returned which was of course bound to happen. I need to know why these happen.

I spent quite a while reading about the American power failures and have to know when these things are down to mistakes which could have been avoided.

I am not entirely concerned with complaining however. Yesterday I called Costa coffee to tell them that the guys in Reading Station are always extremely pleasant and have been so for at least a year or so that I have been going there for my morning caffeine fix.

My mood is recovering.