Monday, November 29, 2010

Server moved and nearly fully operational again

Just a quick update: the new picture gallery server, a Xen domU instance hosted at ispOne, is running fine, so after some tests I changed the DNS entries and is now served from Frankfurt. A few files are still missing, but that will be fixed soon. Finally, since the server is now located outside the internal Maximilianeum network, the picture upload feature as implemented previously does not work anymore. I'll have to come up with a new mechanism... soon... in the meantime, please just mail me a DVD :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ostpforte going virtual

It was a fragile thing from the start, just leaving an old piece of hardware in the basement of the student home as a (low-priority) webserver, and moving out to a different city in a different country... From that point of view it was quite surprising that the picture gallery server that I was administering kept working nicely for years and years. That's over now... some combination of freak accidents left it unbootable. Most likely that is only a software problem (the kernel comes up but udev does not generate any devices), and by now, I've moved back to Bavaria and am only 90min by train away. Anyway, though, when I'm in München I usually have better things to do than sitting in a dusty basement (that I dont have any key for anymore) and fumbling around with rescue cd's.

The real world comes to the rescue. I am constantly amazed about new lows in pricing for about everything computer related, and this time it was virtual server hosting. I mean, I used to be up to date, but then some time passed when I was busy otherwise, and now suddenly one can get a small Xen instance with Gentoo preinstalled and unlimited server traffic for 5€ per month! OK, I may in the end go for a slightly bigger package since the data does not entirely fit into 20GByte, but anyway... rsync is running. :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pluggin' a cool plug-in for Firefox

An important part of my work is reading scientific publications, which nowadays all come as online pdf files. Unfortunately, with Gentoo amd64, the Acrobat Reader plugin situation has lately been far from satisfying, with the plugin crashing and pdfs disappearing from the screen regularly. I know that the recommended thing to do is to install a 32bit firefox-bin, which supposedly works more stable with the 32bit Reader. However, from a Gentoo poweruser point of view, that's definitly uncool.

So, what else can we do? Turns out, there is a really nice solution for this problem, as long as you already run KDE and use it to view documents: remove the Reader plugin completely, and just install kde-misc/kpartsplugin. Automatically, after a Firefox restart, your browser can display everything that a KPart is available for. This means, a pdf or ps will get you an embedded viewer just like Okular, and much more... Somebody has been thinking this through a lot, you get buttons "Open in separate application" and "Save as file", and if there are several KPart's available, you can choose one and optionally save that preference. Works great here, and the pdf display is way faster!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Another home gadget

It has ...
cassis ~ # uname -a
Linux cassis 2.6.36-gentoo #1 Sat Oct 30 01:34:28 CEST 2010 armv5tel Feroceon 88FR131 rev 1 (v5l) Marvell OpenRD Ultimate Board GNU/Linux
... taken me some time to realize that I need an "always on" home server. Not really for big amounts of data or lots of computing power, but for the small conveniences - as printing easily from my laptop to my usb printer, or staying always online on freenode with a quasselcore. The first is something most DSL routers can do today, the second they usually can't. And besides, where is the fun with a prepackaged solution? Requirements: runs Gentoo, is absolutely silent, low power consumption, some hard disk space, USB ports.
At first I tried a GuruPlug, but what I did not realize until it was on my desk: it's fan makes quite some noise, and there's unfortunately no soundproof server rack in my flat. So, now I have settled for a (fanless) OpenRD Ultimate board, and I can say it really lives up to my expectations so far. For those who know Raúl's SheevaPlug installation instructions, the process can here be done roughly the same way, with two small caveats:
  • Raúl's kernel does not work, we need at least 2.6.35 (I'll place a binary online... see below)
  • The console kernel parameter needs to be console=ttyS0,115200n8
Otherwise, the preinstalled bootloader provides many more additional options to get the required files into memory than the one of the SheevaPlug or the GuruPlug. You dont have to hassle with network and tftp, but can just load kernel and initramfs from an (ext2 or fat-formatted) USB storage device, MicroSD card, or even eSATA disc...
Finally (but that applies to both devices of course, they are binary compatible), what I find really astonishing is how many Gentoo packages "just work" on these arm gadgets, even if they dont have the ~arm keyword (yet). This is really the power of a source-based distribution. Cheers!

UPDATE: Try the kernel image from here (together with Raúl's initrd) and tell me if it works! Untested so far...

Southern Skies

Beginning of the week is paper sorting time, and once again something interesting has come up in the arXiv blog: a detailed report on how an "outburst" of a star called η Carinae around 1845, when it became the brightest star of the sky for a few years, has entered the oral tradition of the Australian Aborigenes! Interesting read...