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How to install FreeNAS on a Sun x4500 Thumper

2014-01-28 Leave a comment

We had an old Sun x4500 that needed repurposing, and I wanted an easier-to-manage user interface for storage management. I decided to install FreeNAS 9.2.0-RELEASE on it, which is a converged storage platform based on FreeBSD.

The x4500 has a whopping 48 disks, and two of those disks are bootable. The bootable disks are the ones connected to controller 4, port 0 and controller 4 port 4. When it’s running Solaris, the devices are enumerated as c4t0d0, and c4t4d0. FreeBSD uses a completely different numbering convention for SATA disks, so the only real trick to getting FreeNAS installed on these boxes is to know which disk to put the operating system on.

The two bootable disks show up in FreeNAS as devices ada24 and ada28. The one on ada24 is the default boot disk that Solaris called C4T0D0. When you boot the FreeNAS install CD, eventually you are asked to choose a disk to install FreeNAS onto, and the list has disks from ada0 to ada47. If you choose ada24, and let it finish its install, everything will work out as expected, and your Thumper will boot into FreeNAS when you restart it.

New (Old) Headphones

2013-04-08 Leave a comment

I used to have an old set of Koss K6/ALC headphones when I was a teenager. They were big, loud, and suprisingly good. I used to have a 15 foot extension cord for them, and I’d listen to them in my recliner in my room, playing Pink Floyd and Beethoven, which A Clockwork Orange hooked me on.

I recently was browsing around and discovered that the higher end Koss headphones made at that time, the Pro4AA, are still made, are available new. While I was buying something else on Amazon.ca, these popped up on sale, because Amazon is insidious and prompts you to buy stuff after you’ve looked at it, so I ordered a pair.

They arrived today. Here’s the old-school packaging.Image

 

The box weighed a tonne. When I opened it, here’s what I found. Nothing but the headphones and one piece of slim paper with the lifetime warranty on it.Image

 

I plugged them into my recently acquired FiiO E09K headphone amplifier, and settled them on my noggin. They really only weigh half a tonne. I’ve been listening to Pink Floyd all afternoon, with a little Vangelis thrown in for variety, and these things are as awesome as I remember my old ones from the ’80s being. 

They’re also built like a tank. I expect that lifetime warranty is not as hard to live up to for Koss as one might think.

It was a good purchase. Plus, they’re the best sounding headphones you can get for under $200, and they can be had for $60 if you find a sale.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff Tags:

Raspberry Pi Unboxing

2012-08-01 2 comments

I recently received my Raspberry Pi computer after months of excited waiting. It arrived in this nondescript package.

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In the tradition of people buying and opening beautifully packaged new Apple devices, I thought I’d produce an Unboxing blog entry.

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Inside the envelope, there was a page of compliance testing statements for numerous countries, a packing list, and the elaborately packaged Raspberry Pi. I must say that the Canadian emissions compliance statement is the most concise and reasonable of the nations represented.

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After opening the small box, I had to take back the “elaborately packaged” comment. The packaging consists of an anti-static bag in a box that’s about as robust as one for playing cards.

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Here’s the Pi in all it’s minimalistic glory. It’s even smaller than I expected, despite the designers taking up a couple of square centimetres for the Raspberry Pi Foundation logo.

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Here it is compared to my moderately large hand for a size comparison. These things are tiny!

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff

Whiskey Stones Cooling Effectiveness

2011-12-20 2 comments

Somebody asked me about this on Twitter, so here you go:

Some whiskey drinkers love the purity of the flavour of their whiskey. They may want it chilled, but they might not want the pure beverage to be diluted by melting ice. A company has tried to come up with a solution to this problem with a product called Whiskey Stones. They are small ice-cube sized cubes of soapstone, that a whiskey drinker chills in the freezer, and then puts in his glass of whiskey to chill it. It’s a neat idea, but how effective are the stones at chilling the drink compared to regular ice cubes?

Presuming that we take a standard two ounce shot of 80 proof whiskey, which is about 55 grams, from a bottle at room temperature (19 deg C), and then use a standard freezer at -15 deg C to prepare both ice and the Whiskey Stones, what is the difference in cooling of the beverage? I will use the same volume of Whiskey Stones (which are 11 mL each, so I’ll use 3) and ice cubes in my two scenarios. 33 mL of Whiskey Stones are about 96 grams, and 33 mL of ice cubes are about 33 grams.

When you take two things with different temperatures, and put them together, energy will flow from the warmer thing to the colder thing, until both things are the same temperature. This is one of the implications of the second law of thermodynamics. If you have a perfectly-insulated glass, all the energy that comes out of the whiskey as it chills is transferred to the ice as it warms up and melts, or to the stones as they warm up, until a temperature equilibrium is reached.

The amount of energy it takes to warm something up depends on the material it is made of. For ice, it takes 2.11 joules (J) of energy to warm up 1 gram (g) by 1 degree C. For water, it takes 4.18 J. For whiskey, which is a mixture of alcohol and water, it takes about 3.4 J. Conversely, as something cools, it gives up energy according to the same figures. Water gives off 4.18 joules per gram as it cools one degree.

Additionally, as a solid melts into a liquid, it also absorbs energy, without changing temperature. It takes 334 J of energy to change 1 g of ice into 1 g of water at 0 deg C.

Any energy that comes out of the whiskey goes into the ice, water or stones.

To see how much energy is absorbed by the ice, I will calculate how much energy it takes to warm ice at -15 degrees up to zero, and then melt it all into water.

First, assuming 33 mL of ice starting at -15, it takes 15 x 33 x 2.11 = 1044 J to warm it up to zero degrees. Next, to melt that ice into water, it takes 334 x 33 = 11022 J. That means that to convert all the ice to water, it takes 12066 joules of energy.

How cold does the whiskey get if we remove 12066 joules of energy by transferring it into the ice? The change in temperature is equal to the energy transferred, divided by the specific heat of whiskey times the mass of the whiskey. T = 12066 / (55 x 3.4) = 64 degrees of temperature change. If we started at 19 degrees, the whiskey can’t drop all 64 degrees, because the second law of thermodynamics says that energy will flow from a hot thing to a cold thing until the two things are the same temperature. That means that the whiskey will reach 0 deg C before all the ice melts, and then it will stay at that temperature.

For the stones, I have to take a different approach. I know that any energy that comes from the whiskey as it cools, goes into the stones as they warm up. If the final temperature is called F, I know that 19 deg -F = the change in energy of the whiskey, divided by the whiskey’s specific heat multiplied by the mass of the whiskey. I also know that 15 deg + F = the change in energy of the stones, divided by the stones’ specific heat multiplied by the mass of the stones. In both equations, the change in energy is equal but opposite, so that allows me to solve both equations for F, which turns out to be 7.6 degrees C.

That means the coolest the whiskey can get using the three stones is 7.6 degrees, but with the ice, it’s zero degrees C.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff

First Experience with Riverbed Steelhead

2011-11-30 Leave a comment

We are currently evaluating some Riverbed Steelhead WAN accelerators for our network. I arranged to get two larger ones and one smaller one, for three of our offices. I went on a road trip to install two of them today.

My experience so far is that 1/3 of them were DOA. Of course, that’s working with a sample size of 3, so it’s not statistically significant. The other thing I found out is that Riverbed’s technical support is extremely responsive (at least in the pre-sales phase, but I have no reason to suspect it’s different after you buy them). They can also deliver a replacement under an RMA for a dead unit in less than 24 hours to our offices. That’s pretty impressive.

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RIM Playbook Impressions

2011-04-29 Leave a comment
One of our engineers bought herself a RIM Playbook last weekend. She
brought it to me to look at yesterday. It’s a surprisingly nice little
device. It felt solid, and the user interface was pretty responsive.
The email program connected to her Blackberry smartphone, and
apparently the email only supports working through a
bluetooth-connected Blackberry, so that’s a severe limitation.

There was a web browser that could be used to get online through the
connected Blacberry as well, but the included Gmail, Yahoo Mail and
Hotmail icons didn’t work that way. Those apps can only connect via
Wi-Fi. That seems to be another very stupid limitation.

It came with Documents to Go, which provides Word, Excel and
Powerpoint, and it also has an Adobe Reader app, so you can access
your office documents. Plugging it into a computer makes it show up as
a USB hard drive, so you can just copy your files onto it. For
business use, that makes it superior to the iTunes-centric philosophy
of the iPad, in terms of files. The Adobe Reader app seems to have a
foolish limitation that renders it almost useless: It can’t search
within a PDF file. If you open a 500 page PDF, you can’t search for a
word and jump to that page. For big engineering contract documents,
that severely limits it’s utility.

I think the future models that have integrated 3G will be more
compelling. Either that, or they could make the bluetooth internet
connection through the Blackberry smartphone more fully featured so
that apps that work over WiFi also work over the Blackberry
connection. She’s going to use it for work for a while and then
hopefully I can talk to her again about how it’s going.

We need to figure out some kind of a strategy for tablets. More users
are starting to ask about them.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff

Forgive this test post please.

2011-03-15 Leave a comment
Cathedral_city-palm_desert-201

I'm reconfiguring my posting tools for my blog, Twitter and Facebook. I'm trying to simplify this a bit for myself. This is just a test post to make sure everything is working.

Here's a picture of where I was last week, for fun.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff

Das Keyboard vs IBM Model M

2009-04-08 3 comments

I just saw this article on techreport.com via reddit, reviewing a Das Keyboard and comparing it to an IBM Model M. I use a Das Keyboard every day, and I have loved it since I got it two years ago. Last weekend, I was taking a bunch of old electronics junk to the local recycle depot, and as I was unloading my van, I noticed perched on top of a pile of old junk, a pristine Model M keyboard. It was as if my attention was drawn to it by a stray sunbeam, illuminating just the keyboard.

Of course, I grabbed it and brought it to work, and tested it out. I couldn’t believe that I found a genuine Model M in excellent condition that was very clean and actually works! It was made with the 1984 design, but built in 1993, so it has a ps/2 connector instead of the old style big keyboard plug. What a find!

If you don’t know what is so special about an IBM Model M keyboard, you are not a typing snob or computer geek. If you do know what it is, writhe in envy.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff Tags:

What’s Shaw Doing to My Torrents?

2009-02-07 1 comment

I have Shaw Cablesystems as my ISP. I was downloading a few torrents today, a couple of which were using trackers hosted on thepiratebay.org. For some reason, the tracker announcements kept failing, which prevents my torrent client from finding any peers. I had no network connectivity problems, and I could ping the tracker servers.

I launched a command prompt, did a “dig vip.tracker.thepiratebay.org” and got a list of IP addresses. Then, in my torrent client, I went into the stuck torrent and added http://ip-address/announce as a user-added announce server, where I replaced ip-address with one of the addresses that my dig command produced, and restarted the torrent. Lo and behold, the torrent started downloading and instantly ramped up to a couple of hundred k per second of transfer rate. A few minutes later it finished.

I don’t know what’s going on there, but it seems like somehow Shaw is trying to block my access to torrent trackers. This seems to be an alternative method to reduce torrent traffic instead of doing traffic shaping, which they have been accused of in the past.

It still works, but if I always have to do that it’s going to be a nuisance.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff, Rant

At Least it’s a Buck Instead of 20

2008-10-27 Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago I read about tire plugs on Kevin Kelley’s Cool Tools blog. I live in a newer neighborhood where people are still building houses, so there are a lot of screws and nails and other construction debris around. Since we moved into our new house in 2003 I’ve had about five flats fixed, and that gets expensive, so I was excited to find out about these tire plug things. I went to Canadian Tire (called for no good reason Pneu Canadien in our house) was pleased to find a kit with a rasp, a plug tool and five plugs for about five bucks. The way they work is that you remove the screw or whatever, use the rasp to roughen the inside of the hole, and then you jam the plug, which is basically a piece of string covered in sticky bad-smelling black goo, into the hole with a tool that looks a bit like a screwdriver handle with a giant sewing needle on it. Then you just cut off the bit of the string plug left sticking out of the hole, and voila!

The van had leaky tires on both sides on the rear. Jenn filled both up the day I bought the tire fixing kit. I examined the tires and found big screws stuck in both. I fixed the holes with the plug kit, and managed to only lose a couple of psi per tire in the process. It’s pretty slick. Supposedly you’re supposed to get an internal patch installed over the hole to consider the repair “permanent”, but the plugs I’ve used seem to be holding well for me so far.

Yesterday when we took Mack to water polo Jenn said the van was pulling to the right. When we stopped, I found, sure enough, a big bloody screw in the right front tire. Dammit!. When we got home I rolled the van into a position that allowed me to access the screw to get it out and fix the hole. I was sitting on the ground, wiggling the screw out with pliers while Mack watched, and he goes “Why is there one in that tire too?” Sure enough, there was another screw in the right rear tire again. I fixed both. That’s four punctures in one week. I’m starting to get paranoid.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff
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