Thursday Apr 02, 2009

Open Solaris, the laptop OS

Oops, a couple of weeks since I last blogged, but just wanted to point you at Jim Grisiano's puff for Toshiba's Open Solaris Laptops, I really have no excuse left. Do I?

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Monday Jan 26, 2009

Laptop Diaries, 64 bitness & VPN

Over the last couple of days I have been struggling to get my new laptop build up to the minimal level of functionality I require, using Vista 64 as the host operating system. I calculated that I installed 19 applications on the previous minimal build, of which only Scmapp could be considered unnecessary. My colleague, Kar Yang Ho recommended Windows Vista 64 bit as the host and after some experimentation, we chose Virtual Box as the VM manager, primarily because its much cuter about how it takes and reserves disk space.

We use CISCO's VPN solution to access certain services and have been struggling to get this to work from behind my Linksys Wireless-N ADSL2+ Gateway; the connection was failing. Firstly, we discovered on purchase, that one has to use a TCP carrier without NAT. I am seeking to install the VPN client inside a 32 bit virtual machine; CISCO don't have a Vista 64 implementation. Ho says that no one else with this router has the problems I had with it, although we have now fixed the connection by specifying the guest network interface as a “Host Interface” and not the default “NAT”. It seems that the Linksys only wants one NAT function in the configuration.

I am pleased that we have fixed it, as I can now use Virtual Box to boot up Linux and Opensolaris images for experimental work and demonstrations. I also use them as X Server's for remote systems work and I have a Windows 32 bit image for that software that can only run in 32 bit windows such as the CISCO client.

I installed the AMD64 version of Virtual Box on my Toshiba Tecra M10, with 4Gb of RAM on Vista Business SP1.

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[Read More]

Thursday Oct 09, 2008

Laptop Diaries, about video drivers

Recently I have written about problems I have had with pidgin xmpp chat rooms, however, I have also come across a problem where I can't switch between the Firefox 3 control panel and rendered page, so I looked to see if anyone else had a similar problem. I found this article, called Can't Click Inside Firefox 3 Window Without Losing Focus 1st at http://forums.mozillazine.org/, where yesterday, someone posted that new nvidia drivers had helped him solve the problem. So a quick visit to Toshiba UK's support portal and I discover that the most recent driver is over 6 months old, so I grab that an install it. I suppose its one of the problems in taking someone else's build. I now obviously need to wait and see if the problem re-occurs but so far so good.

Given I have new display driver, I have decided to re-install Pidgin 2.5.1 and its associated GTK library. This also seems to be working OK and I have not yet had a problem with the XMPP rooms. I also documented the problems here..., on my Bliki.

I am running a Toshiba Tecra M5 with Windows XP as the OS. I have Sun xVM Virtual Box to let me run Open Solaris and Ubuntu Linux. I take the windows build from our IT department.

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Wednesday Aug 13, 2008

Laptop Diaries, more Bluetooth

Over the last few weeks I have struggled to create a bluetooth 3G modem on my new Tecra M5. The Bluetooth drivers on this XP build have been provided by Toshiba and the big difference between it and my previous configuration which uses the Microsoft stack is that the special phone number code that the microsoft drivers require is not required when using the Toshiba drivers. It has a specific field for holding the modem configuration parameters and uses the default phone number of \*99#. I should have waited.

You can also ignore the create the modem stage.

tags: should be 'how not to'

Thursday Jun 05, 2008

Laptop Diaries, onto the internet with 3G

I have just moved my laptop forward to an improved build. This proves that this article only works if the bluetooth drivers are the microsoft drivers on XP. I have modified the tags on this article. In fact, this was meant to be a follow me article, I hope it works for you. I have written about the toshiba drivers at Laptop Diaries, more bluetooth on this blog.

My colleague at work Sean Harris, helped me configure my laptop and phone to use the phone's 3G capability to connect the internet. Sean was guided himself by this article at 'crackistan'. While that author writes about Mac OS, and I am using Windows XP, we both use sony erricson phones and vodafone as our service provider.

I really did this for times where I have no internet access, but as 'Bodoggy' points out, it may come in useful in airport lounges or other places where the wi-fi costs are outrageous, or their credit cards systems broken.

So the process is

  1. Create a connection channel between the phone and laptop, and I used blutooth
  2. Create a dial up agent for vodafone and select your new modem

The only tricky bit is that you don't use a phone number to connect to the internet, there is a special code instead.

To find out in more detail what I did, use the [Read More] button below. 

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[Read More]

Thursday Jan 17, 2008

Being at the right place at the right time

I have been very busy over the last couple of months, and my diary management has been poor, so since New Year I have been making more effort to do better.

I got a new laptop PC last week, a Toshiba Tecra M5 and propose to write up my build; it will have a dual windows/solaris boot partition utilising Nevada, aka opensolaris and windows XP. I rapidly discovered the new windows build comes with Thunderbird 2 and an uptodate version of Lightning, with the wcaps calendar plugin for Thunderbird. This turns Thunderbird into a calendar client for the ical compliant calendar server,  which I use as my business diary.

At first, I thought that's the last thing I need, I already use Java Calender Express, an internal http browser hosted reader and Evolution, and my phone, do I really need a fifth, however today I discovered that this client permits some very slick inter-calendar invitations. One of my Mac using colleagues issued a meeting invite from their ical client to my mail box, which I received, pressed accept, and the software wrote the invite into my calendar. What's cute is that this is client to client invitations.

I can now sync this with my phone, a Sony Ericsson K610i. The connection parameters are what you would expect, but the syncml URL is site specific, so you need to find it out. I also am not sure if the 'database names' are mandatory or configurable. Anyway, its changed my life. Now I only have double entry, once electronically, and once to my Filofax.

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Tuesday Oct 02, 2007

Slow cruise to Nevada

Despite having a very hectic week, I finally finished a Live Update on my Solaris partition and have enscripted it, so it shouldn't be so hard next time. I had to fix my zfs checkpointing routines as while I had turned it on to protect my work against stupidity, I wasn't deleting them. I have amended the Gnome startup scripts to invoke $HOME/.gnome.login and the .gnome.logout is also invoked appropriately, and .gnome.logout creates a snapshot. The main reason for doing this is that I am unsure that Gnome runs the login shells exit scripts, and not all shells have these. However my poor code also means that root won't start a JDS session any more. I am going to claim this as a security enhancement. :(

My interest and use of  ZFS and Live Update has all been inspired by Chris Gerhard who documents his ideas at The dot in ...---... Live Update is also a coming technology, so I think it's important for me to get to grips with it. 

I am now considering how to write a tcl/tk wrapper for my LU script as I am still a number of versions behind.This meant I still had to amend the grub menu.lst by hand and refresh the boot archive manually. (The latter requirement may have been caused by me, but now I know how easy it is to mount the shadow BE, I shan't leave it for so long again.) I must remember that the reboot command is probably best issued from a root failsafe session.

Sunday Jul 29, 2007

Finding my way with Schmap!

Schmapp, who publish browsable maps have been using a few of my pictures for a while, but have now created a widget which they are publicising via their contributors. I have contributed to their Amsterdam and Berlin maps and you can see the widgets in their photo display form if you press the [Read More] button below. These are almost certainly best viewed via HTML. However, the content of their maps is not customisable, nor does it  leverage the 'wisdom of crowds'. This latter failing suggests that it'll be overtaken by true web 2.0 applications such as google maps or plazes.

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[Read More]

Wednesday Apr 04, 2007

Gnome on Nevada

I thought you might like to see my Desktop. Its Opensolaris, Nevada, build 59, with Gnome 2.14.

 

My Desktop 

 

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Monday Oct 23, 2006

Laptop Diaries, tripleboot & GRUB

The time has come the Walrus said to think of many things.............like upgrading my Laptop operating systems. Frankly I'm not using the Linux partition which I never got red-carpet to work on and is still languishing at a pretty incomplete Fedora 3. My Solaris partition is running at Nevada 35, and 50 is now availalbe, and as I wrote here..., Solaris is getting better and I need to move on. I am planning to replace the Linux partition with Nexenta and have a triple boot laptop, with Windows, Nexenta and Solaris. Sadly the Solaris upgrade path is destructive so I have to safeguard my SMF for Sybase (more coming soon) and a sekrit TCL project.

The prework required is based on the fact that the MBR points to the Linux grub menu, which needs to be changed; I propose to change the Linux partition for Nexenta. An additional problem is that the Solaris GRUB instance does not point at the Linux partition at all. With help from Big Admin, Derek Crudington & Mike Ramchand, I can now document the following facts.

The Linux grub menu /boot/grub/menu.lst is accurate. Take the Linux lines and copy them to the Solaris copy of menu.lst, which is in the same place. (The exact syntactal compatability between Solaris' GRUB and the Linux GRAB implementations took me several hours to discover). My missing Linux lines were

Title Fedora Core (2.6.13-1.1532_FC4)
    root (hd0,4)
    kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.13-1.1532_FC4 ro root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 rhgb quiet
    initrd /initrd-2.6.13-1.1532_FC4.img

appending the word 'single' to the kernel line gives us a single user boot option, obviously, best change the title. The accuracy of the partition definition can be confirmed using the linux command fdisk -l. (The solaris programs prtvtoc & format perform this function, don't use fdisk on Solaris; the fdisk flags are different.)

So having a good Solaris GRUB menu, I need to change the MBR to point at the Solaris partition. Here's where BigAdmin although some material their is a bit long in the tooth, and Derek come in, his blog has a GRUB category and you can find an article called Solaris 11 GRUB, which documents the required syntax below.

    b# installgrub -m /boot/grub/stage1 /boot/grub/stage2 /dev/rdsk/c0d0s0

Before running the command I checked the disk (i.e. the final argument ) using df -k.

I now have a triple boot system, S11 Nevada 35, Red Hat Linux Fedora 3½, and Windows XP.

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Wednesday May 31, 2006

Global Green Machine!

Global Green Macine Also in Green Futures was an article about One laptop per child project aimed at developing a $100 laptop to help break the digital divide. It is planned as low cost, low-energy and aimed to rollout across the global south.

I have linked to a picture in their project wiki and I suggest you check out either the magazine or the project web sites if you want to know more.

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