Security, ahh, update?

This morning I turned on my openSUSE work machine and was greeted (as I often am) with a message to update the system.

Today’s message was special however, and perhaps one for The Daily WTF.

I wonder whether “Do not warn me again” means

Don’t tell me when there’s a non-existent update again

Still, it seemed pretty important so I did it straight away!

It’s good to know that I’m protected from security threats so real, they cannot be named 🙂

P.S. If you’re wondering what awesome icon set I’m using, it’s Oxy-GNOME.

Fun with GPT

Jason wanted to borrow my server for his work, so this meant I had to re-build my desktop machine so that I could rsync my data across. As the computer only boots Linux, I thought I’d use GPT (GUID Partition Table) instead of the MSDOS partition table. There are 4 hard drives in my desktop, which I want to run in RAID 5.

As the new Ubuntu release Intrepid is almost out, I thought I’d try this too. I set my drives to use GPT, but then realised that I wanted to offset the partition to align the RAID array. Because fdisk does not support GPT partition tables I had to use parted. As time was short (and I am not as familiar with parted) I just thought I would switch back to a MSDOS partition table and get on with it, using fdisk.

I did my usual trick of wiping the first 512 bytes to clear the master boot record and the partition table.
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=1 count=512

But fdisk still warned that there was a GPT on the disk.. hmm.. This just didn’t feel clean, so I wanted to solve it.
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Taking a SIP of VoIP

It’s time for me to jump on the VoIP bandwagon..

This was the post I made to the CLUG list the other day. Why? Mendy is moving back to Australia permanently in December (yay!) and in the mean time I want to be able to call her at reasonable rates. Currently this means calling her Macau mobile at a hefty price through Telstra. Once she is back I also want for her to be able to call her parents in Hong Kong for cheap.

I knew about VoIP and had played a little with Ekiga (the open source VoIP client for GNOME), but that was about it. Looking into it seemed pretty complex, with a myriad of providers, software and hardware. I wasn’t quite sure which provider to go with, what hardware I needed and what was the best way to set it all up. What traps were there? As usual, my fellow CLUG’ers came through with great advice, so thanks!

It appeared that the general consensus were things like:

  • Make sure your router supports QoS (Quality of Service), so that the quality of your call doesn’t drop when someone is downloading
  • Get a provider in Australia (preferably your ISP) to reduce latency and help with billing
  • Get an ATA (Analogue Terminal Adapter), so I could use my current analogue phone
  • This is how I got it working..
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    Getting MythTV working is easy

    My good mate Tthu wanted to make himself a mythtv box. He bought an old Dell online and after a trip to the computer fair to get a 500GB SATA hard drive, low profile PCIe video card and a PCI digital TV tuner card, had everything he needed.

    So, at my place we started the install. First thing I noticed was that the video cad had a passive heatsink that took up the space for the only PCI slot in the machine. I gave Tthu the option of waiting and trying to find a more suitable card, or hacking up the box to make it fit. Here began the first of our modifications..

    After removing the heatsink from the GPU, we broke off the part that stuck out over the capacitors and proceeded to bend the other fins over. Isopropyl alchohol and some arctic silver later and it was back together again. Perfect. 🙂

    Then we noticed that the case no longer shut because the hard drive bracket came ever so slightly down onto the back end of the card. I whittled away a little of the PCB, but it wasn’t quite enough. Due to the bracket design, we had to break off a part of the metal. This then allowed us to hack at the bracket itself and with Jason’s trusty multi-tool filed away a perfect gap for the card to slide into (with my trusty Dyson grabbing the filings, of course). Only problem was that the plastic slide rail for the hard drive couldn’t slide in anymore.. so we cut that in half. Done! 🙂

    End result? Machine works perfectly with the video card running at about 80 degrees, which is well within spec. How long it all lasts for remains to be seen! Only problem now is that the TV aerial can’t get any signal in the basement.. Jason, where’s that multi-tool?

    Bootology [bōōt-ol-uh-jee] -noun. The art of booting Linux

    Bootchart openSUSE 11.0I just came across bootchart, a tool for “performance analysis and visualization of the GNU/Linux boot process”.

    Ever wondered what was causing that big delay in bootup? Install bootchart and check!

    I installed bootchart on my openSUSE box at work with sudo zypper in bootchart, rebooted and edited grub on the fly, adding init=/sbin/bootchartd to the kernel line.

    After your system has loaded, bootchart creates a log of the process which you can then turn into a chart with the command bootchart. You can also specify the log location if required, or change the output format of the chart from PNG to SVG or EPS.

    Of course, what you do with this information is up to you 🙂 Happy hacking.

    More netbooks..

    Who isn’t making netbooks these days?

    Toshiba has announced a new netbook called NB100, which comes with Linux (Ubuntu 8.04) or Windows XP.

    Samsung has announced the NC10, which comes only with Windows (at this stage).

    Asus has also released the N10, a new notebook based on the Atom – but is not calling it a netbook. It comes with 2GB RAM, NVIDIA graphics and 120GB hard drive. Oh, and it runs Vista, so I guess we can see why it needs more grunt.


    Dell joins the fray

    Dell have finally released their long awaited “EeePC killer” netbook in Australia, the Inspiron 910 (also affectionately dubbed the “Mini 9” – but that just makes me think of a cross between Mini-Me and the Crazy 88 from Kill Bill).

    In the U.S. Dell is selling the Mini 9 in a few different configurations. The pricing starts at US$349 with Linux and US$449 with Windows. I configured the Mini 9 with the same specs as the top Windows version, but with Linux, and it came in at US$494. That’s US$15 more than the Windows version at US$479. Hmmm…

    Unfortunately, in Australia Dell is only selling one model of the Mini 9 and it only comes with Windows.

    So, how does it fair (on paper at least)? Is it really the EeePC killer as some claim? Well in regards to specifications, most of these netbooks are running the same Intel gear, so there won’t be much difference there except that Dell has apparently enabled hyper threading (remember that?). There is currently no dual-core version of the Atom available.

    Time to look at specs and price. The Mini 9 more closely matches the EeePC 901, so I’m going to compare these two.
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    OLPCA few months back Dave Tulloh let me borrow his XO (one laptop per child machine). It’s pretty sweet and a nice little unit, but I couldn’t use the UI for everyday stuff. So, I decided to build a custom Gentoo system for it – yes, of course optimised for the geode cpu.

    What I did is not exactly ground breaking. I didn’t discover anything or work it out, all I did was make a Gentoo system and boot it from a USB memory key. I even cheated and used their kernel and initramfs 🙂 Tisk, tisk! But hey, someone out there might find it interesting.

    The goal was to build as small a system as possible, with XFCE4, Firefox, other main applications and multimedia capabilities. Here’s what I did.
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    Knock, knock. Who’s there? EeePC 1000. EeePC who? Exactly.

    We’ve all heard of the EeePC, Asus’ flagship netbook running Linux that took the world by storm and forged a whole new market for open source software (potentially).

    Ta daa.

    It was a huge success! A singular consciousness that spawned an entire race of machines.. ahh, hang on a sec.. ok yeah, a new race of machines. Now every man and his dog are making them.

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