August 2005


Ah, the sound of a dead drive. That’s what my 200GB Western Digital drive said to me this morning as I rebooted. This was after I realized that I couldn’t access any of my source code. dmesg was yelling at me about having trouble accessing /dev/hde. This drive contained my source code (almost all of which are on remote SVN or CVS repositories, of course) and all my media (audio, video, images).

I just chuckled.

A very short while ago, a matter of weeks really, I had this bad bad feeling that I was going to lose all my data. No real reason, but I started getting very paranoid about it. I looked around and after factoring in cost and laziness, I picked up a 1.0TB Buffalo Terastation, which is a cute little machine. It’s a PPC-based Linux RAID-enabled NAS, basically, with SMB, FTP, and AppleTalk support. After RAID5, I was left with about 700GB. I immediately copied everything I truly cared about to it (media files, basically). While most places sell this for $1000, I found it just over $900 at Comp-U-Plus.

It arrived and I set it up. I have to say, I like it. It just works. It has gigabit ethernet, for when I finally get around to upgrading my network. You just set it up over the web. Users, groups, permissions, mounts, RAID configuration, formatting, diagnostics, optional periodic status e-mails, etc.

One nice thing about the Terastation is that it has 4 USB ports. You can connect a printer to it and have network printer sharing. You can also connect up to 4 USB hard drives and set up a second RAID array, expand the current array, or back up your array. Nice and expandable. It also has support for hooking up to a UPS system, so it can shut down gracefully.

So with the Western Digital drive dead, I shut down, pulled the drive, and rebooted. I then proceeded to play some music and think to myself how glad I was I bought this thing earlier this month.

Now, the Terastation isn’t perfect. My main complaint was that I couldn’t use symlinks, due to SMB not supporting them (or at least this particular version?). That wasn’t a huge deal, considering it’s mostly media files, but I wanted the option, damnit!

I looked around and found a coupel sites on hacking the Terastation. The main one with all the info is a nice wiki at I went to the section on gaining root access and saw that he soldered dip switches onto his Terastation’s motherboard to make the serial port actually usable. I wasn’t ready to do that just yet. Or ever. Maybe if this thing was a few years old and I had another solution.. Maybe.

I checked back today and looked over the firmware pages. It turns out that Buffalo, the makers of the Terastation, provide a zip file with a image.dat, which is just a password-protected zip file containing a tarball and some other stuff. The passwords are available at the aforementioned wiki. The wiki also has some nice instructions on taking an existing firmware image, adding a sudoers file and an ssh server, and repackaging it.

Feeling stupid, I decided to give it a try. I figured that even if I bricked the Terastation, which I very much doubted I would do (given that I was just installing another server and a sudoers file), I would at least still have my drives, so no data loss. I packaged up the new image, compared the old and new tarballs a few times, and then put it back into the firmware zip file. I went over to my Windows machine and ran the updater. It found my terastation and, after a few moments, I clicked the button.

And waited…

And waited…

They really need a little thing underneath the rarely updating progress bar saying, “Don’t panic, everything’s okay, we’re just really slow. Get some coffee, it’s alright.”

I ran back and forth between my work room and the living room and watched as the Terastation rebooted itself a few times (as was documented in the README). Finally it stopped doing that. I stared at it, daring it to blink. It didn’t blink, but it didn’t have the Red LED of Doom, either. I went back to the Windows machine and it happily indicated that the firmware update was successful!

I ran back into the work room and pinged the Terastation. It ponged! I mounted the shares… I could access my files! The worry was over, but the shaking continued for a few minutes still. One last test… I tried to ssh in.


Huzzah! Life is good.

And now that I have a little hackable Terastation to play with, I think I’ll play with the NFS packages available for this. More to follow, maybe.

Oh, and if anybody has a Terastation and wants a known working hacked 1.08 firmware file, let me know. If it doesn’t work, though, I claim no responsibility whatsoever.

The Linux Desktop: One ISV’s Experience

Philip Langdale, one of the Galeon developers and one of our very talented Linux UI developers at VMware posted a couple of blog entries describing the various problems that we, as an ISV, have had with maintaining compatibility amongst a wide range of Linux distributions, from Red Hat 7.2 to modern-day 64-bit distros. It’s a good read, and explains a bit about why we bundle so much with VMware and why some people have the bugs they have.

IBM Woes, Take 3

I foolishly thought things wouldn’t get any worse than the entire system shutting down (not even locking up, but shutting down, and not through the OS, just, boom, dead) on any ACPI call, but I was wrong. It turns out that the battery doesn’t charge unless the power cable is plugged in AND the laptop is off. If the machine is on, the power cable won’t be used, and the battery will just drain.

Gee, that’s the best $700 motherboard I’ve ever been forced to purchase..

My laptop is useless right now. The work I planned for Galago and the notification stuff this weekend will not get done, and I won’t be available for contact much until after next week (assuming IBM can get it right this time.)

Update: Tacking on another wonderful issue. The laptop just stops recognizing the keyboard and trackpoint randomly, requiring a complete shut down. Unfortunately, the On/Off button, which you normally hold down to force a shut-off, doesn’t seem to always work, especially not when the keyboard isn’t working, so you have to pull out the battery.

IBM’s not winning points

So it seems that the new motherboard IBM made me pay $700 for is locking up, and Linux is giving me confused ACPI errors I never had before. Furthermore, Linux no longer detects that I’ve plugged in the laptop power cable until over a minute after I plug it in. This is the exact same install as before they upgraded the motherboard. I didn’t even send them the hard drive, so I know it’s not the install. Nothing’s been upgraded, software-wise. I paid $700 for a faulty motherboard (it seems) and warped plastic.

I’m not happy.

Ducky go down the hooooooole

(Subject and pictures courtesy of Walter, one of my co-workers)

Yesterday, while chatting on VMware’s internal IRC server, we got a bit silly and started talking about the wooden ducks somebody places in one of the upper ponds at our building. It was suggested that we should send one of the ducks down the waterfall. We talked about it on and off all day and eventually gathered together to send the duck on its merry way.

Of course, we took pictures 🙂

Don’t cry over spilled soda

A little bit of explanation as to why people haven’t been able to get ahold of me much lately…

Last week was a crappy week, and I won’t get into all the details of it, except for one part that’s needed for this little story. I was at work, with my laptop sitting next to my monitors, and I was dealing with some annoyances. During this, I had my earphones on, listening to some music on my Rio. I stood up for a second, I can’t remember why exactly. Since I had my earphones on, the cord of course pulled up with me. What I wasn’t aware of at the time was that it was wrapped around a full, newly opened can of Mountain Dew, which proceeded to spill over my keyboard.

This didn’t ease the day any. I cleaned up what I could, knowing that the keyboard was going to be sticky in a couple of days. The next day, I called IBM, whose tech support was superb from past experiences. I told them that the keyboard was sticking and also that my monitor is leaving these vertical light streaks. They sent me a box and I sent it back to them with the laptop.

So I was without a laptop for a few days. My desktop computer wasn’t even configured for a dual-head X session, didn’t have anything except a default Ubuntu desktop on it, and barely any non-base packages. I essentially made my laptop the main computer. Rather than deal with configuring the desktop fully, I decided to relax during the nights and play World of Warcraft and such.

So on Wednesday, I got a call from IBM about the laptop. They said they detected a spill inside the laptop and would have to replace the keyboard and motherboard. They said they would have to bill me $700 for this. I was in shock. It was under warranty and I certainly didn’t expect a fee like this. I asked if it was necessary, and they said liquid could short circuit it later. BS, I thought, it was working for days. They could just wipe whatever off, and there wasn’t that much that spilled in. However, they informed me that either they fix everything and I pay the money, or they don’t fix anything and they just send it back. In which case, my warranty would be useless. After a bit of grumbling, I gave them the billing info.

Today, I received my laptop. I looked at the check list. Replaced the plastic, the motherboard, and ran a virus scan. Huh, virus scan.. I didn’t leave a hard drive in there. Oh well. Wait, nothing about the screen? I had to check, so I performed my usual test. I powered it on and opened up a window. Streaks. Great. I used it a bit longer and realized something else. The right-hand side of the laptop’s plastic is warped. If I put my hand on it to type, I can hear and feel it creak. Too annoying to ignore.

So once again, I called up IBM and explained my frustration. They wanted me to duplicate the problem on Windows, thinking it was a Linux problem, but I assured them I already went through all this with the last person and we confirmed it was the LCD. They’re going to send me a box and I’ll be sending the laptop back to them, again. They tell me I won’t be billed for this one, so I’m going to hold them to that. What was interesting is that they claimed that they were going to escalate my problem to a higher priority division where it would get better care. They’re probably just saying that to ease concerns, and I hope that’s the case, because the idea of them having a division that would handle hardware better than the default level worries me.

I won’t be online much again for a week after Tuesday. This means no Galago, notifications, etc. development, unless I get things running on my desktop box (which is the plan). I will be checking e-mail while at work. If people want to send patches, please do 🙂 Otherwise, I’ll get back to development on stuff when I have a working system put together.

Mood: Asleep

It’s way too early for me. I got up at 7:00, which is not something I do very often at all. I’m groggy and wearing my Destroy Mornings shirt. Still, it’s for a good cause! I’m seeing my girlfriend in half an hour or so and heading back home to visit family and friends. My little sister Jenna is turning five years old. I could have sworn that she was this little thing that practically fit in my hands only a few days ago, but somehow, she turned five.

I bought her this very cool Vtech Nitro Notebook, which looks and feels like a laptop (albeit a cheap one). She’s been wanting a real computer for a while, and though I won’t buy her a real one just yet, this will feel close enough for her. She knows the difference between real computers and toys, but she’ll still like it.

This thing has 80 built-in activities. English, Spanish, science, social studies, math, etc. It even has a My Tools area where you can populate an addressbook of names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. There’s a lot to this little device. One of the features they advertise that I like, though I have not tested it, is that the difficulty apparently adjusts to the level at which the user is at. So if she’s having trouble in an area, it’s supposed to become easier so she can begin to complete it, and then the difficulty will eventually go back up. We can check how she’s doing with this built-in progress report. On top of all this, it has some games and stories.

Cool toy. I want one for myself 🙂


Last Wednesday at SVLUG, I gave a talk (well, more of an interview in the format of The Actors Studio) on Galago, Project Soylent, the Desktop Notifications spec libsexy, and some other stuff (demos of Beagle and such). We scheduled this something like six months ago, and I was nervous as hell the day of the talk. It actually went really well, though, and people seemed genuinely interested. I had a lot of questions at the end about the various things I’m doing and plan to do. I wish I had it in some re-broadcastable format.

Heading out soon, so I’m wrapping this up for now.

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