Saturday, March 29, 2008

AsiaBSDCon 2008

Asia BSD Conference 2008
Today, in 水道橋グラヌドホテル (Suidobashi Grand Hotel) was a third day of Asia BSD Conference, 2008. It was full of interesting geeks that came to Tokyo from different places of the Earth. They has been amazed by japanese culture, food, quality and please.

This is the entrance to the conference (no alcohol, sorry):

This is the real entrance (alcohol and girls included), after the conference:

There was not so many people, as I could expect, because Japan still mostly bound to Microsoft Windows. Linux and Sun Solaris is only a server-side and Apple Mac only recently got a huge boost in market thanks to well-designed MS Vista that can not even handle properly a 4GB RAM. Thus Mac here getting up to 65% of sales vs 2.5% of Microsoft Vista. The rest is fast and reliable Windows XP that now, after MS Vista everybody started to love. Desperately.

OK, anyway with the Vista and other things. Here is FreeBSD conference!!! Yay!!!

Brief history
(Note: copied from very truthful source). The FreeLSD project was started at Berkeley Community College in Caledonia by a group of devil worshippers who built the first kernel by running the contents of the Necronomicon through a C compiler. The project was so named because of the FreeLSD tradition of giving free LSD to all contributors. However, after the threat of a lawsuit from a competing angel of death, Darl McBride, for stealing his hallucinations of grandeur, the project ceased the practice, and renamed to FreeBSD. Libraries and system tools were later adopted and integrated from other systems such as FreeTIBET, FreeMUMIA, and GNU/Windows.

Today, FreeBSD is continually being improved by contributors all over the world (and the underworld). Its source code is chanted at black masses and cross-burnings on every continent.

One of the very interesting part of the FreeBSD system is a UFS, the Unholy File System. It is the native file system of FreeBSD. The most prominent feature of UFS is called 'Soft-updates', which achieves high levels of file I/O performance at the application level by holding pending disk read/write operations up in a kernel buffer for weeks on end while the system solves fourth-order differential equations to figure out which operations can safely be performed first.

UFS is a replacement for FFS, or FAT File System, which was used in the earliest versions of FreeBSD. The former FFS was known as FAT8 File System, which was later copied by Microsoft and originated FAT16.

Conference and speakers As it is very common and usual in FreeBSD world, all technical part was in its the best traditions and spirit: strongly promoting FreeBSD OS, using all advanced recent BSD inventions and technologies, such as Mac OSX, Microsoft Power Point, sometimes Microsoft Windows, and rarely Ubuntu Linux.

On this conference was also accepted new logo for upcoming FreeBSD 8.0 release:

M. Warner Losh (photo below) presents Tracking FreeBSD in a Commercial Setting, using advanced presentation technology, such as Microsoft Power Point and Mac OSX Tiger 10.4.10 (not the very last update, BTW). He strongly believes, that if commercial organizations wishing to use FreeBSD in their products must be aware of this significant policy. And the policy itself supposed that each 3 years FreeBSD OS should be terminated and hardware disposed, replacing with more CPU, more RAM and totally new version of totally new OS release. Kind of cool: no matter what happened, you SHOULD kill you server after 3 years of use, even if version of multi-million Enterprise software supports only that version of OS.

Here Peter Losher (Internet Systems Consortium, Inc.) is using his totally FreeBSD hardware with manufacturer OS a presentation, that intended to be promote IPv4 bubble, bashing IPv6. No, sorry, maybe opposite... Anyway. His additional friendly statements was completely deny such internet services like BIND, SMTP, XMPP, XXX, PR0N. He also had a 15 minutes to scare people about firewall and security:

Once started his speech, Peter was surprised by advanced firewall security of upcoming experimental FreeBSD 9.0 Pre-Alpha, saying: "WTF?", which (I think) probably means "Web The Foundation!":

The rocket science guy, who actually never used PostgreSQL more than two tables and totally dislikes Trac, still creates his stunning presentation about how those two amazing products advanced technologies and environment, so how can they fit in Enterprise at all it's best:

Jörg Sönnënbërgër (left), an author of German version of ÜFß file system in NetBSD OS with his personal bodyguard Krištopz Dzonsonz (right) from Lathuinia, city of Riga-Vilniškės. He's hobby is to totally bastardize the only still left clean product on the market that is sane and simple by code and design: the NetBSD kernel, re-calling it with very innovative name: MULTIX. The idea is to copy the kernel multiple hundred times on one single machine and call them simultaneously, burning out CPUs and running out of the memory, as it successfully happened on the demo here. More about this fantastic project you can find here: Codename of the project is "Mooltixux Moolt Moolter". It is all written in the most innovative and clean, aspect-oriented language: Perl and some areas are written in Visual Basic for more visual low-level system support.

Other peaceful folks are trying to get used latest FreeBSD hardware, such as MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and the most free and competitive open-source software from GNU/Microsoft and Debian Symbian:

What else? Sakura! In Tokyo now Sakura everywhere. Almost like a winter in Kristop's Latvia, just bit wormer with the difference of just few 15-20 degrees:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

MacBook Air

New hardware at my home: meet MacBook Air.

I've got from postman neat plastic wrapped box. You can understand the dimensions of entire package how it looks like:

After I've removed cover of the package, notebook was just on top. Take it, power it on and just use. Packaging of Air is also very different from all previous Apple packaging. There are no more bulky boxes that is hard to dispose. This means that transportation of this sort of product will take less fuel and thus contamination to the environment. Here how it looks like:

Under the laptop all needed accessories: a short manual how to use the thing, two DVD with OSX and utilities, some cables and a power adapter that use 45W at its best:

Width and depth dimensions are the same as MacBook. This is not very surprising because MB Air has 13" display. However all of what MacBook Air is about, is a thickness and a weight. The device is really thin and lightweight. Imagine your laptop weights just nearly 1 kilogram and fits between your documents.

Thickness is really different. Here I put it on top of MacBook Pro machine and you can find that lid of the MacBook Pro is more thick than the base of MacBook Air:

Here how it is opened:

It is really thin:

Now, what can I say, especially after Lenovo X300 has been released. As usually, Apple hardware is beautiful and slick, unlike everything else. This machine is just different. Different in style, look and feel and approach to entire sub-notebook computing. It enforces you to get rid of cables and do everything through WiFi.

What you get with MacBook Air?
  • A decent keyboard. The keyboard just phenomenal. I did not see anything similar somewhere. You need to spend some time to feel the difference, but once you got it, you understand the meaning of the beauty.
  • Nice screen. LED. Slim. Bright. Crisp. Cool.
  • 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 2M RAM.
  • Very slow HDD with only 4200 rpm. :-)
  • 1 USB (for your iPod or iPhone), 1 micro DVI to wow your customers with cool presentation and 1 headphone out to do not hear their feedback. :-)
Machine works fast enough as for its class. Never gets hot even on heavy software compilations. You can play 3D games. For fun I tried few, for example, Sauerbraten. It is brilliant there and works great. You can do your programming: C/C++, Java, Python... You can write your documents with iWork '08 or MS Office 2008. Remote CD/DVD solves all the problems with installations. The rest you take to or put from the network storage you probably already have for backups. :-)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Home Theater and PLC Adaptor

Previously, half a year ago, I've built a home theater based on top of FreeVO MythTV. Few shell scripts does the rest: movies pre-buffering from the storage, managing music etc. Hardware is relatively small and very silent while works. Power consumption takes 50W at its best, but usually 45W. I have two machines like this, another just has twice more memory and twice better CPU (read: twice bigger power consumption). Here how the thing looks in all its glory (cover removed, as usual):

Now, the thing is to actually connect it to the network. First what comes to mind: WiFi on cheap PCMCIA card (I've got two of them free as a gift). After spending hours evenings to figure out why NDISWrapper turns the box from "not connected by WiFi mode" to "brick mode" issuing friendly Linux kernel panic, finally I've got a connection. My Linux installation was bit screwed up by several user-friendly kernel recompilations (thanks to its nice monolithic design) and some libraries updates, thus packages turned to be inconsistent. Well, at least it works... At all its best it was slow, bad and chunked, since WiFi router quite far from the TV installation.

I've decided to make it better and drop WiFi idea. But along with that, I hate cables to be visible across my apartments. So decision was made to go with PLC. Preference was given to Panasonic BL-PA100. This is a kit of two devices, where Panasonic already has prepared a starter kit (BL-PA100KT) for ease of installation. The kit includes two preconfigured BL-PA100 adaptors - one is used as the Master and the other as a Terminal adaptor.

The kit allows the average person to easily establish a secure network without using a PC. Simply plug in the Master adaptor into a power outlet and connect a broadband router/modem to the adaptor. Then plug in the Terminal adaptor to a wall outlet in another room where you want to access the network. PC and other network "clients," such as Panasonic IP network camera, can be connected to the Ethernet port of the Terminal adaptor.

Adding another Terminal adaptor is also simple. Plug a second Terminal adaptor, (sold individually), to the same power outlet as the Master and press the "Setup" buttons on both units simultaneously to register the Terminal. Once registered, the adaptor can be placed in power outlets anywhere in the house. Also, the clients can be connected to any Terminal adaptors in the house to communicate on the network. A total of 15 Terminal adaptors can be connected to the system.

Despite of the fact that HD-PLC Ethernet Adapter has a 190Mbps bandwidth, which is really enough to accommodate my needs, adding new Terminal adaptor will "eat" bandwidth too. The more adaptors you have, the less bandwidth you get. So the final solution of my LAN upgrade was adding more WiFi access points over apartments by combining PLC adaptor in Terminal mode with a WiFi router without NAT that works just like an access point. For the WiFi router I use La Fonera device, which is hackable by re-flashing it with OpenWRT firmware. Installing OpenWRT is simple and configuration is just trivial. La Fonera router is very small, can fit in your palm easily. Here is a picture of how two devices looks together:

So now my home theater works great and fast and also I have one more access point with 80-97% of signal available between near rooms.

More information about Panasonic BL-PA100 PLC Adaptor you can find here:

If you want La Fonera for ridiculous price :-) get it here: