Friday, August 28, 2009

It's so quiet!

Well that made a huge difference.
My Ubuntu server was originally installed onto an old 80Gb Maxtor drive, and it had a very very loud, horrible, whiney, grating, pulsing sound. Since I've recently freed up some drives from my old PC, I went looking for a way to replace the old whiney drive with a newer 200Gb Maxtor SATA drive that was just sitting in a drawer. This 200Gb drive may not be ultra fast, but it is quiet and still faster than the old drive.
So I found this useful link on how to clone my Ubuntu boot disk onto the new disk. I used SystemRescueCD to do it all and everything went according to plan.
The noise in the office has dropped considerably - it's sooo much more comfortable in here now. Ahhhh.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Windows CAN support more than 4Gb RAM

This is something I hadn't appreciated earlier. 32 bit Windows can support more than 4Gb of RAM. The link is a very well written article and worth some time if you have interest.
The main point to think about when trying to get your head around this is that a modern OS doesn't allow applications to access memory directly, but via virtual memory pages. These pages are mapped to physical memory in a way the OS decides given the ability of the hardware. 16 bit Windows was able to access more than 64K memory, and in the same way, 32 bit windows can access more than 4Gb memory. 32 bit Windows drivers need to deal with 64 bit numbers to do this, but this has been part of Windows since at least Windows 2000 and probably Windows NT. Note, of course, that any individual 32 bit app can only access less than 4Gb RAM, we're talking about the OS here.
The reason Vista 32 and others only report less than 4Gb RAM is a licencing one! See the article.
Obviously it is in Microsoft's interest to have us all using 64 bit Windows asap. That's fine with me.

Augmented Reality starts here

Mattel is releasing toys using Augmented Reality (AR).
Have a look at the video on the news site. They use web cam software to augment what the toy looks like to the user. It's a bit crappy on a small laptop screen, but I'm sure would be really cool on a super wide screen TV. Look out for consoles to implement this in the next generation. This doesn't just have to be for kids toys. Think of the possibilities. It gets even better when you move the screen to goggles with a built in webcam.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Web Tablet

I totally want a web tablet. Tech Crunch have a good idea of what I mean. There have been lots of rumours of Apple doing one lately.
As well as web surfing in front of the TV, this would be a great eBook reader. I currently use my Nokia n61i for the former, and would really like a cheap eBook reader.
I'll buy one for less than $300 AU.

[update - more rumours]

[update 28/9/09 - tech crunch going at it]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gigabit Router - DGL-4100

I just replaced my aging existing router with a shiny new D-Link gigabit DSL-4100. The obvious point here is that PCs with gigabit network connections connected to this router can then share files much faster than with the old 100M router. Good. What I didn't expect was to have web surfing sped up, but in fact, it is. Now the downlink from the web hasn't changed, at most, it's a 9M link anyway, and although a single hop speed has increased, you wouldn't think this would have such a large effect.
What's giving me the speed increase is the QOS implementation and probably general hardware speed of the router. I've set up the router to prioritise outbound traffic based on a few simple rules, shown below.

The rules specify priorities (lower number, higher priority) for IP address source, target and port. The rules I've used are (highest to lowest priority)
  • VOIP - all traffic from my VOIP ATA at highest prioriy, 10
  • DNS - all UDP DNS lookups at high priority, 100
  • ICMP - all ICMP requests at high priority, 100
  • PDC - all traffic from my primary domain controller at medium priority, 200
  • HTTP and SSL - all websurfing at medium priority, 200
  • Everything else, like bittorrent on my PC at default low priority, 255
This works really well for me. For example, I can now have my bittorrent client open and filling my outbound bandwidth to the max (256M), and then open a bunch of tabs in a browser as normal. Previously, it would have taken a lot longer for all the pages to load because of the torrents flooding the uplink. Now I can watch the torrent bandwith meter die right back as the router throttles it. The same goes when I'm using the phone, I can see the bittorrent client get notched back about halfway, as VOIP doesn't use all the pipe, but gets exactly what it requires.
Note, if you are looking here for help with your DGL-4100, FIRST upgrade your firmware to the latest!! If you are trying to get a VPN pass-through to work, you should try turning off the IPSEC ALG under Advanced/Firewall as your VPN client probably supports NAT traversal. TO get my VOIP ATA working, I had to forward the main port under Advanced/Virtual Servers, and the SIP port range under Advanced/Gaming.

[update - removed the PDC entry as network would starve for bandwidth when PDC was doing a large update!]

Sunday, August 16, 2009

PC Transplant Part 2

I realised recently that my new PC was just going to get too hot this summer, so I decided to go ahead and buy a new case with better cooling function. I bought a Cooler Master HAF 932 and amd very happy with it so far. It totally dominates the office, but is quieter and cooler than the previous case. The previous case had three 120mm case fans, which while using the quiet Noctua fans, would still give off more noise than the fans in the HAF 932, because the new fans are much larger and spin more slowly. The HAF 932 has three 320mm fans and a 140mm fan at the back. Awesome cooling.


It's a work of art I tell you! Check out the EHDDVD (External Hard Disk Drive Vibration Dampener) I made. That's right, it's sole function is to stop this awesome piece of data storage from vibrating my desk. I started with a piece of packing foam with some nice angled corners, and painted it in industrial black and yellow warning stripes. Artwork! See action shot here.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I finally got round to organising someone to come out and install a couple of whirlybirds on the roof. I've been wanting to get this done to make the house less stuffy in the winter, and cooler in the summer. It's apparently a good thing, and makes a difference. Time will tell now.
To get a tradie out to do the job, I first looked through the local yellow pages, then threw that over my shoulder as useless, then went web surfing on true local, also useless, then general google searching, and found the Trade Connect website, which has had some radio advertising as well. I punched in the job details into this site, had a call within an hour, and had the job sorted next day. Easy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ten years

Today, Sinead and I have been married for ten wonderful years. It seems to have gone so quickly, but has easily been the best ten years of my life. I feel so lucky to have met her. Not only my lover, but my best friend, a brilliant financial partner and special mother of two gorgeous kids. I couldn't have wished for anything else. Here's to another hundred years!
Thank you Sinead, I love you!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Getting Windows 7 to join Ubuntu Domain

[see updates at end for Ubuntu 9.10 info]
I finally managed to get the release of Windows 7 to join my Ubuntu domain controller at home. First I had to upgrade Ubuntu from 8.04 to 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope). This was pretty easy, since Ubuntu has a single button for upgrade, although I had to upgrade in two steps with 8.10 on the way.
The next step is to install Samba 3.3.4. The required version of Samba running is very specific since Windows 7 will only join a Samba domain of this exact version. Previous versions of Windows don't care. So the default 3.3.2 of Ubuntu 9.04, nor later versions of 3.3.7 etc will work at all.
I found a posting here that helped my do the manual Samba upgrade. Quite a long and tedious process, but I got it to work in the end.
Finally, I had to tweak some Windows 7 registry settings to let it use some lower security options for dealing with the old style NT domains. All the details are found here. You'll notice I posted a question here when I was having problems, and the poster Greg was really helpful with getting me on track. Thanks Greg!
My problem was the upgrade of Samba/Ubuntu left my smb.conf with an invalid -n option in the "add machine script" line, which caused an error when attempting to add a machine to the domain.
All sorted now, which means I'm one step closer to upgrading my main workstation OS from Vista x64 to Windows 7 x64. I just need to verify VMWare Workstation and a couple of other critical apps are going to work. Joy.

[Update 28/8/09]
Upgrading a Vista machine that is already connected to a Samba 3.3.4 domain to Windows 7 RTM also works fine. I notice the only reg entry it changed of the four above was the "RequireStrongKey" one.

[Update 16/11/09]
It seems Ubuntu 9.10, Karmic Koala, does support Windows 7 clients in a samba domain (fix released), however I'm waiting to upgrade my server for a while.

[Update 6/2/10]
Upgraded. Seems fine.

[Update 26/5/10]
Now I've noticed that one of my accounts couldn't log into the domain. I had to change these reg settings:


In smb.conf, I also added to

write list = root

Not sure which is important, but the account now logs in.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

All Tomorrow's Parties

Just finished William Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties, for the second time. I read it when it came out ten years ago.
This novel is the third in a postcyberpunk series featuring Virtual Light and Idoru, but reads easily standalone. For those that have tried and perhaps struggled with Gibson's earlier cyberpunk work, I feel that this novel in particular is very accessible. It deals with the emergence of nanotech and emergent AI in an environment, where clearly things have gone astray economically and the omnipresent gritty feel of cyberpunk is thick, however tech progress is still climbing inevitably.
Formost, Gibson's language is just beautiful throughout the whole novel. Often you'll see a few good chapters of rich descriptive detail, before a novel grinds off into the plot, but not here. The flavour and richness are relentless, the poignency affecting.
The characters are mostly compelling, I love the unnamed zen assassin character. He's just beautiful, not killing, just "completing a motion that had already begun".
The reveal feels a little flat, until you get to the very last paragraph of the book, when it really hits home. It's an ending that you may need to just think about for a while.
If you are new to the genre, I actually recommend reading this first. Then go back and read Neuromancer. That is required reading.

Spin Control

I finished reading Spin Control by Chris Moriarty last week.
This is a very cleverly written SF novel set mostly around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict some 300 years in the future. A lot has happened, and sadly, not much has changed. Although this doesn't have as high a "fun" level to read, there is a lot to compensate, and this novel really isn't about that conflict, so there's no focus on those issues.
There is some intelligently written and fascinating in depth involvement of the Syndicates - the races of tank grown clones on the fringe of post-humanity. Where each clone race is made up necessarily of what would appear to us as the exact same person, homosexual, to boot, because obviously, you'd only really want to work/live with your own clones. Although it is a deeply disturbing concept, it was executed in a very believable, intelligent way. Fascinating.
The other really cool part of this book is the use of EnderBots by both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian war. If you don't immediately guess what an EnderBot is, you need to read Enders Game. Seriously. Enders Game is required reading and I don't want to spoil the ending of that book if you haven't read it.
Check out this passage from the book :
"... felt ... the old story [of] ... an obsolete and ossified humanity giving way to the Syndicates in a clean neo-Marxist ballet of thesis, antithesis, and sythesis had been replaced by ... a coevolving cloud of quasi-species in which Homo sapiens had not been replaced, so much as exploded out into a bewildering fractal of coevolving post humanities."
Whew. A really good read, but I would have liked to hear more about the AI Cohen, and thought he would have a much larger role.