Article History

March 2012




Hmm, my shoulder seems better today.

Went into town to look for a null modem cable. The guy at Leading Edge Electronics said there just wasn't any demand for that sort of hardware any more so he didn't stock it. Damn. I may have to make my own after all. The computer fair is on again this weekend.

Finally got around to sorting out the storage and disks on Mars. I created several new filesystems and transferred files. Then I changed the first hard disk to having a PV on the whole disk instead of in a partition. That was a stop-gap measure I had to take when installing the disks on the old motherboard. But now that the boot/root filesystems are on the SSD, the two hard disks are no longer bound by the limitations of the BIOS and bootloader. Once that was done I converted all of the LV's to be mirrored, with the mirror logs on a small PV on the SSD. When I went to bed at 5am I left the last LV syncing up, the 1 TiB media.


The syncing of media finished just as I got up, at 3 pm.

Mum and Dad came home early because the Macquarie river is flooding, threatening to block off Bathurst from Kelso.


The computer fair has been cancelled because of the flooding. So I got to sleep in.

Worried about the amount of data Munin was continually writing to the SSD, I moved all of its data directories onto the /User filesystem.

We drove into town intending to look at the swollen river flowing over the low bridge. The approach to the Evans Bridge was constrained by large puddles of water on the sides of the highway, which happens every damn time we get good rain. The river was very high. Just over the bridge Dad suddenly became concerned that the river would once again cut off Bathurst, stranding us, even though the river was supposed to have peaked at 9 pm last night. So he did a u-turn in front of the showground entrance and took us home. What a waste of time. I got one photo out the window coming back on the highway as we and other vehicles drove through water.


To further reduce the amount of disk traffic produced by Munin, I configured it to use its CGI scripts to dynamically generate the graphs and HTML.

Pulled the CF card from the Alix 2d13 and plugged it into my machine. I used these instructions to start installing Debian on it. After using the suggested chroot method to install packages, I setup a virtual machine directly using the CF card in order to get a more complete setup. That quickly became problematic because the card reader would lock up during large/long transfers until the kernel issued a USB bus reset. So I transferred the contents onto a virtual disk image on my machine and continued from there.


Sunshine! Blue sky! And my Pentax AF280T flash arrived. I once again had to run out to catch the delivery men and sign for the package at the bottom of the driveway.

I continue to set up stuff on my virtual router installation.


Created a ‘386box’ virtual machine for compiling packages for use on the future router box (the Alix 2d13). It only has a 1 GB CF card for storage and 256 MiB of RAM. I haven't installed any compiler or other ‘development’ packages to save on disk space. I‘ve even deleted some non-English locale files. Tis virtual machine will be used to compile the odd package (kernel mainly, I guess) instead of going to the trouble of cross-compiling on one of our AMD64 machines. Debian’s work on “multiarch” will eventually make that simpler.

I finally got out to mow the grass after all this rain. I mowed the back but used up the last of the petrol doing so. There was some wildlife in the thick grass. Apart from a cricket and some small spiders, a small frog jumped into my path just as the mower passed it. I also ran over the “good” hose as I was going around the trailer to get to the corner of grass next to the side gate. That meant I couldn't wash the mower when I was done.

I transferred the hard disk image for the virtual router to my server. The hard disk performance on my desktop computer is not so good. I worry that this is due to its age and having remapped lots of failing sectors.


Looking at the calendar and I think that within the next month would be a good time to get my new phone. Uncle Graeme is bringing his GF Sandy over for three weeks next month, with Grandpa's 90th birthday roughly in the middle. So I would like to have something to show him and possibly Grandpa during that visit and the birthday party.

As to which phone, I keep coming back to the Motorola Atrix. It does have negative points, but so do the possible alternatives, and its positives keep bringing me back to it. So somewhere in the next 2—4 weeks I'll finally have a kick-arse Android phone! What do I do then with my Milestone?


Found that Kabaldan had released an updated CM9 ROM for the Milestone. It had fixed a few things over the first release so I decided to give it a go. It ran very slowly, so I soon restored the nandroid backup of my CM7 installation.


Just a few days after deciding to get my Atrix and I‘m again having doubts. This time I’m wondering if a tablet would be a better choice. One of the positives for the Atrix is that the HDMI out (and Tegra SoC) will allow it to become a games machine. I can pair a PS3 controller (Sixaxis or Dualshock 3) with it too. But a tablet would allow me to play games without a TV or monitor to connect it to. And it would be better for browsing the web and watching videos too. The obvious downsides are that tablets are more expensive and less portable. And they‘re not mobile phones. The Atrix’s quad-band UMTS radio would allow me to access Vodafone's new and expanding 850 MHz network, as well as roam to Telstra's Next G network if necessary.


Finally mowed the front and side. It wasn't even very long, nowhere near as thick as the backyard. It was a little ratty though.

Dad went ahead and ordered the iPad 3 (a.k.a “the new iPad”) online.


Went into the dentist. Waiting in the waiting room, I used my phone to start downloading the latest Top Gear episode because I hadn't gotten around to doing that before I left. Mind you, it wasn't that simple. I first browsed over to to get the torrent link. But transdroid couldn't connect to our server. So I had to log into Mars and start deluge-web because Transdroid uses that instead of connecting directly to deluged, and I had forgotten to start that whenever I had last started the main daemon. Then I could finally pasted the torrent URL intro transdroid and start the download. phew!

I ended up waiting an hour, so I had plenty of time to do all of this. When I finally got to see the dentist, there wasn't much to do because the problem had managed to clear itself up over the last few days. He did take an X-ray of my jaw and saw no abnormalities.

So then I walked home. Stephens Lane was open, with large patches of new bitumen about halfway along.


Dad's iPad cover and A/V adaptor arrived. For some reason they were posted separately.



The USB-serial adaptor and null modem cable arrived in the post. Dad had to pick it up from the post office because “no one was home” and the delivery person left a card. So I first transferred the disk contents from the virtual machine I had been working on to the CF card. I had to make sure that GRUB was properly reinstalled on it. Then I could boot off of it on the real Alix hardware. It took a few tries but it worked fairly well.

I used the “386box” virtual machine on Mars to compile a custom kernel for the Alix box. It took a few tries, but I got there. So it now uses the pata_cs5536 module for the IDE controller, instead of pata_amd, which the initial ramdisk seemed to favour. This seems to agree better with the CF interface, allowing ATA/100 speeds instead of falling back to ATA/33 because it hadn't detected an 80-wire cable.

I also played around with the LED interface. There's three LED's on the front of the board/case and they can be configured to react to certain triggers.


echo heartbeat > /sys/class/leds/alix\:1/trigger

makes the first LED do a double flash every second or so. I can also setup a trigger from netfilter, so and LED can flash when certain traffic comes in or goes out. But I figured we have enough flashing LED's on network ports to show traffic. What I really needed was a disk activity light, as most PC's have but the Alix lacks. Looking through the kernel config turned up a trigger for the old IDE devices, but nothing for the newer ATA framework. But some Googling thankfully turned up this post with a patch. I applied it and compiled a new kernel/modules and it worked! So now the second LED flashes to disk/CF activity. I want to keep that to a minimum to not wear out the CompactFlash “disk”.


More stuff in the post. My two sets of Pentax K body and lens caps arrived. And something else that Dad had to pick up from the post office again. I swear, the delivery people must get lazy and assume that no cars out front or in the driveway means that nobody is home. Or they knock really quietly. I've sprung out of bed and put on clothes to answer the front door lots of times.

Anyway, it turned out it was the Lenovo N5902 remote keyboard/mouse that we ordered on the basis of Techmoan's review and follow-up comparison to the Rii mini keyboard. Dad had seen the Rii (or something very like it) at the computer fair recently.

Finally figured out how to get fowarded ports on our router to also work when requested internally. It turns out I simply need to add a MASQUERADE rule for the specific port on eth0. That way the response goes back through the router and the machine that made the request is happy that the packets are coming back from the address it originally contacted. A little inefficient though. Perhaps a better solution would be to have our internal DNS server just give Mars' IP address when we request

Installed Citadel on Taliesin. The installation didn't go well and it took a bit of work to get it working. It seems that LDAP authentication doesn't work. And there doesn't seem to be any way to stop it spewing messages into the syslog.


Installed ejabberd on Mars and used this section of the ejabberd guide to replicate the databases from Baal. Once Mum was in bed I shutdown ejabberd on Baal and manually ran the iptables commands to redirect all the ports to Mars. I goofed the first try, but I fixed the error and re-ran the for-loop. My jabber client logged in and soon the client on Mum's machine did too.


Went over to Andrew and Alissa's for a visit. We hadn't been there for quite a while. We saw the kids new beds — raised up off the floor to almost chest height for a set of draws to fit under. That made it perfect for jumping of Uncle Ian for shoulder rides between their rooms. I ended up spending almost all of my time in Sarah's room with both of them,


Got up early to go with Mum to Bathurst West Public School for “grandparents day”. We watched a number of performances by the various classes. Sarah and Zac happened to be in the same performance because their two classes were together. Then we had morning tea with the kids in their courtyard.


Dad's iPad was delivered today.


Mum and Dad left in the morning for Grandpa's on their monthly schedule to fix his computer and do other stuff for him.

Installed munin-node-win32 on Mum's machine and started to set it up.

I added the “new baal” machine (the Alix 2d13) to the list of machines for Munin to collect data from. I figure it could be useful to see the differences when I finally get around to switching it in as our router. I also re-enabled the collection of SNMP data from our ADSL modem, through Baal. It seems to be working better with the pre-2.0 version of Munin I'm using now.

I did this after I investigated how to rename hosts and keep their historical data in Munin. So I also figured out how to define “groups” in Munin. I made two groups — Ians and Testers — and moved the machines into these groups.


I decided that the groups in Munin weren't that useful. So I changed to three completely orthogonal ones — Network, Desktops, and Servers. I think that's a far more useful division.

I also discovered that a new version of Munin, 2.0 RC4, was in Debian Sid. But I was pegging the “1.999” version from experimental. So I removed the peg and upgraded on all the machines. And the CGI interface promptly stopped working. I soon found the problem and fixed the Perl code. I wonder if it's really a bug, or just a problem with my configuration.

Mum and Dad came home, a little earlier than they usually do. Then they went out shopping.

I finally went through with it and ordered a Motorola Atrix. I‘ve been agonising over this decision for weeks now. It has a bunch of things wrong with it, like Motorola locking the bootloader, or the Nvidia Tegra 2 SoC apparently being not so great. I kept looking for better alternatives, but kept coming back to the Atrix. So I’ve ordered it, along with a car dock and matte screen protector. I‘m not sure which desk dock to get, so I’ll leave that for later. With any luck it'll be here this week. If not, the week after.


Oh look, a new CM7 update for my Milestone. Installed 7.2.0 RC1.

Damn, the left arm on my glasses broke. Well, not the arm itself. There's an internal spring behind the hinge that resists the over-extension of the joint past the fully-open position. My large head always does that slightly with this frame, possibly leading to this failure. It's done this once before a year or so ago. I can't remember which side it was.


Dad's birthday today. Grandma rang up to wish him a happy birthday, but he was at Bathurst TAFE. He now teaches there on Tuesday afternoons as well. While I was on the phone with her, someone came to the door. I answered it to find Andrew, Liss, and the kids. Andrew was on the phone. Who with? Dad! So we did a weird bit of message passing between our two telephone calls to establish where Dad was and that he'd ring his mum later. With that done I got to my visitors. Since Dad wasn't here, there wasn't much point in them staying long. And they have an early dinner. But I showed them Dad's new iPad, or at least I tried to. I didn't really know what to show them. Graeme's jigsaw puzzle app was fun.


Dad visited the retirement village that Grandma's trying to get into and was shown a room. He took some photos and needed some help stitching them together in Hugin. They weren't the best photos, having been taken with Mum's little Canon P&S. They didn't have a lot of overlap, had wildly varying exposures (some with flash I think), a lot of noise in the shadow regions (where I wanted to place some points), and undoubtedly a lot of parallax. But I was able to get passable results, good enough to show Grandma.

The circular fluorescent light in my room blew. That is, the big 40 W tube blew. The small 22 W hasn't worked for a while. Dad found one of the boxes in the garage with the original 4200 K tube in it. Bleh. Too blue. And it buzzes.


Investigated the buzzing of my room light. I put in the old small tube, but that didn't help. I eventually found that one of the sockets on the plug that plugs into the tube is bent or dislodged, not allowing the pin on the tube to be inserted properly. This improper connection seems to be causing the buzzing sound.

Crazysales sent an email saying that they'd posted my phone. No other information. Mum logged onto their website and was given a tracking number, but nowhere to use it. I remembered that the item page said it was a parallel import and would be shipped from their supplier by DHL. I checked and it actually said “DHL / UPS”. So I checked the DHL site but the number didn't work. It did on the UPS website though. Get you shit together crazysales! Is it that hard to provide a link or even just tell us which courier has the item? Sheez.

Anyway, bad news. It's coming from Hong Kong! And it's supposed to arrive on the 10th next month. That's nearly two weeks away! And here I was thinking it's coming from Melbourne and could even be here this week.


Ooh! In the early hours of the morning there were two updates on my phone — at 2 am it was in Botany, being "processed by brokerage Waiting for clearance“. Then at 4:30 am there were a few updates, finishing with ”Now in-transit for delivery“. So I was really hopeful that it may arrive today. I created a bookmark on my phone for the tracking page and added it to one of my homepages. So all I had to do was wake up my phone, turn on wi-fi, and hit the shortcut to check if there was an update. I did that every hour or two, really ruining my sleep. Sadly, the only thing that happened was that at 10:41 am it was marked as ”Import Scan“. That night, at 21:18, it was marked as ”Departure Scan". Interesting that they were still processing stuff that late on a Friday night.


Got up a little early to go into Bunnings and try to look for a replacement light for my room. Nothing really appealed to me. The other circular fluorescent ceiling lights just weren't as good.

Mum and Dad saw some LED replacement ‘bulbs’ and were interested. They got one each of Edison screw and bayonet to try out around the house. They turned out to be quite bright and threw a lot of their light along the long axis, so they were well suited for our various downlights in the kitchen and hallway.