The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for December, 2005

All Hail SCSI, The Once and Future King?

Posted by Deliverator on 30th December 2005

There really is a lot of great server hardware coming to market at very cheap prices. I picked up a brand new (still in original antistatic bag) 15K RPM SCSI hard disk, cabling and Adaptec SCSI controller the other day for only $35. This set up easily outperforms the top of the line 10K SATA “Raptor” HDD, which currently sells for around $200. With a dual channel Ultra 160/320 SCSI RAID controller and four 15K RPM hdd’s one should be able to create a four disk stripe able to move somewhere between 240 and 320 MB of data per second, depending on the access pattern. This is enough to actually saturate a normal PCI bus, so one would need either a 64 bit PCI slot or a newer PCI Express SCSI adapter to really achieve these sort of rates. Is SCSI the once and future king of the desktop?

SCSI:

– Complex, thick ribboned cabling sometimes requiring special terminators or jumpers to be set on drives.
– Expensive client adapter cards
– Scsi drives typically lag far behind EIDE drives in capacity (as they are used in servers where reliability is a bigger concern).
– Easy to saturate the scsi channel from the client adapter to the drives, especially with todays disks that are capable of pushing 60-80 MB/s. Most scsi cards have multiple channels to minimize this problem.
– Easy to saturate the bus architectures (by which the scsi card talks to the rest of the system) found in today’s desktops, although rapid adoption of PCI Express will probably make this a moot point.
-Command QUE reordering has been extant in the SCSI world for a LONG time, just added to SATA in the form of NCQ (more commonly) and TCQ (rarely adopted).

SATA on the other hand:

-Thin point to point cable
-No jumpers to be set EVERY AGAIN – YAY!
-ports on existing desktop motherboards, often with some level of raid support. There are rarely enough for a larger stripe or raid 5 array, however
-300 MB/s of bandwidth available to each SATA device, with latest SATA standard makes it pretty much impossible to saturate the connection between the SATA client adapter and a SATA HDD. With controllers hooked into a Hyper Transport bus, which is even more difficult to saturate.
-SATA HDD’s available in capacities up to 500 GB in 7200 RPM and 74 GB in 15K RPM. SCSI drives have them beat in speed, with 15K RPM 150 GB drives available, but certainly not in overall capacity.
-Lots of cheap 15K RPM (though small 18-36 GB capacity) drives coming onto the used market.

SATA looks to have a very bright future ahead of it, but old SCSI gear may have a last chance for some glory. Of course, hard drives may all go the way of the dodo in 3-5 years (always 3-5 years!) when holographic transdimensional quantum storage makes it possible to store our entire porn collection on the head of a pin – next to the choir of dancing angels, mind you.

Posted in General, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | 1 Comment »

You Got Servered!

Posted by Deliverator on 30th December 2005

My alert eyes caught a nice Compaq rackmount server going for an absolute song on Craigslist. It is a Proliant DL380 with dual 733 mhz PIII’s (max 1 GHZ), 640 MB of ram (space for up to 4 GB of registered ECC ram), four 9 GB 10K RPM HDD’s with space for 2 more. Everything about this system is designed for high redundancy, with dual redundant power supplies, voltage regulator modules on their own daughterboards, etc. I worked on these systems a lot at Microsoft and they were quite reliable. It may not be fast by today’s standards, but at current eBay pricing I can upgrade it to 4 GB of ram, plop in two 1 GHZ p3’s, a 64 bit scsi raid controller, six 36GB 10K RPM drives (or maybe even some 15K RPM ones) and have a system with insane performance for about the price of a low end desktop. I hope some of my friends at Seattle Wireless can help me find some cheap colocation in the Westin. I need to find some rails for this unit locally, as their weight really drives up their price on eBay.

Posted in General, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

CVS Video Camera FW version 3.7

Posted by Deliverator on 27th December 2005

One of the many wonderful gifts that I received this Christmas was a pair of CVS video cameras thoughfully provided by my brother Scott. I managed to unlock a CVS video camera earlier this year using a hardware attack and have greatly enjoyed using it ever since. That camera was hardware version B3 with firmware version 3.62. The original version 3.4 cameras required no hardware attack to unlock, but subsequent versions have become progressively more difficult to unlock. A camera purchased by Casey Halverson has proven impossible to unlock thus far. His camera doesn’t respond to any of the known “nerve pinches” used to reveal the firmware revision information. Thus far, we have no leads on how to unlock Casey’s mystery model. It is definitely a hardware revision B3 unit, but other than that we haven’t a clue. CVS has also begun rolling out a new “series 220” unit that has thus far proven impossible to unlock. If you want an unlockable CVS video camera, you might want to buy one sooner than later…

Thankfully, both of the units my brother were firmware revision 3.70 units. These units are a bit harder to unlock than the 3.62’s, but with some luck and patience the hardware hack should work. It took me around 60 attempts to get the first of my brother’s two cameras unlocked. The second I managed to fry after about five attempts. I believe my shorting wire slipped a bit and applied voltage to something that it obviously shouldn’t have. This unit no longer powers up in any meaninful way. I may use this fried unit for parts. Oh well :(

Despite this failed attempt, I am happy to now have two working CVS video cameras. I have a feeling they will come in very handy during the upcoming FIRST season.

CVS Video Cameras

Posted in General, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff | 8 Comments »

iRiver T10 1 GB – *NOT* recommended

Posted by Deliverator on 27th December 2005

My mother wanted to give my father a lightweight mp3 player for use while exercising for a Christmas gift and naturally knowing nothing about mp3 players asked my opinion. I recommended she get a iRiver flash based player with at least 512 MB of flash, rather than a shock-prone hard disk based unit. I have always liked iRiver’s flash based players. They just seemed to “get it” as a company. I remember Alex showed me an early model iRiver flash player. It had an intuitive interface, an fm radio tuner, ogg support and best of all showed up as a drive letter when you plugged it in. This let one choose how to synchronize one’s audio, whether through simple drag and dropping or through the use of a plethora of software choices. iRiver was 1st in soo many areas and all the other player manufacturers were quick to incorporate these features into their own players – though rarely surpassing iRiver’s implementations. So, I was most displeased when I checked out my father’s new iRiver T10.

Overall, this is a wonderful player, but it is likely going back to the store for one simple reason. iRiver has removed USB Mass Storage (UMS) support from this player on the US version. They have hopped into bed with Microsoft and now only support synchronization with the DRM happy Windows Media Player 10. There is NO OTHER WAY to synchronize the player. This means that users of Windows 2000, 98, XP SP1, Mac OS Any, Linux are all out of luck. iRiver has shut out a huge portion of their userbase. The usually fantical iRiver supporters over at MisticRiver have gone silent over this model and even users of XP SP2 with WMP 10 have reported numerous difficulties getting their players to detect and synchronize. The thing that pisses me off the most about this player is that most retailers of this device are openly advertising compatibility with all major versions of Windows and Mac OS. The box prominently features an emblem announcing Plays For Sure – NOT! I sure hope Microsoft is good in bed, iRiver, because you ain’t getting any loving from me.

Posted in General, iRiver, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff | 34 Comments »

GAPI 3.02 for HPC’s

Posted by Deliverator on 26th December 2005

The unofficial 3rd party implementation of the Microsoft Gaming API (GAPI for short) from WinCEsoft recently received a .01 version upgrade from 3.01 to 3.02. Despite the modest version incrementation, this release is a huge upgrade in terms of functionality and number of supported devices. Around a dozen new devices are supported, including the Branium WiBook – mentioned previously. I had a chance to beta test the new version on my Wibook thanks to Frank at WinCESoft and thus had a chance to preview some of the cool new features in this release.

Probably the biggest feature is that GAPI now works alongside Nyditot, allowing one to adjust the screen orientation even in graphics accelerated games and applications. Prior to this release, one could use Nyditot to rotate the screen and specify an arbitrary resolution, but could only do so in non-accelerated applications. This put a whole lot of PPC games, applications and even web browsers that could otherwise be made to run on the HPC platform tantilizingly close… but just out of reach. I can now confirm several games, including the amazing Snails from PDAmill now run happily on my Jornada 720 (upgraded to a 728 with one of the rom boards I am selling). I am in the process of checking out other promising applications such as the Thunderhawk Web Browser.

Posted in General, Tech Stuff, Windows CE | No Comments »

Jornada 720 to 728 ram/rom upgrades now up on eBay

Posted by Deliverator on 21st December 2005

I have started selling off the remaining Jornada 728 ram/rom boards on eBay. They were a pretty big hit on the HPC Factor forums, with boards being sent as far as Poland and Hungary. I am still happy to sell them at the special reduced price if you can convince me that you have been an active HPC Factor forum member or reader of my blog, prior to now. If not, you can get one through my eBay Auction

Posted in General, Windows CE | No Comments »

3 watt LED

Posted by Deliverator on 16th December 2005

I recently purchased a 3 watt LED flashlight from AXShop. It arrived
today and my god is it bright! The 1 watt emitter absolutely pales beside
it. I took the cone shaped reflector assembly off, exposing the Luxeon
emitter beneath. The emitter is hex shaped with a thin layer of non-
conductive circuit board material on top of a predominantly metal base.
Even at an LEDs high efficiency, a lot of heat is produced, so the metal
base isn’t for show. These hex emitters are just begging to be chained
together to form an array of super bright LEDs. I am going to contact
lumileds and see how many of these emitters they can send me. I would
love to cap these with acrylic to waterproof them for use on the ROV, but
I worry about the ammount of heat these put out. Perhaps I can mount
these to the back of a big heatsink, then do an acrylic pour so that only
the fins of the heatsink extend out from the acrylic? These emitters may
be robust to survive the pressure already, so I think a trip to Silent
World to use their pressure test equipment is in order.

Posted in Mobile Blogging | No Comments »

Jornada 720 -> 728 rom+ram upgrade

Posted by Deliverator on 15th December 2005

Ok, I received the boards today and tested a few out by upgrading my J720 to a J728. I have 44 total upgrade boards. All are new in original, foam lined boxes and in anti-static bags. I opened 10 of them enough to check the region codes, but did not remove them from their anti-static bags. So far all the units are ABA (USA) boards.

Using these boards to upgrade your J720 to a 728 is pretty easy:
1. Removed main system battery
2. Remove backup battery and any CF/PCMCIA cards.
3. Turn unit over and remove the 3 screws at front edge of keyboard using a T-6 bit
4. Turn unit right side up and open the screen. The keyboard should now be removeable
5. Be careful with the ribbon for the keyboard. I suggest using a small flat head screwdriver to move the tabs on either side of the ribbon and then remove the keyboard entirely.
6. carefully pry up the old rom board and put new one in its place
7. Put everything back together again in reverse order.

The only hitch I ran into is that once upgraded, I wasn’t able to restore any of my old 720 backups. The backups would restore, but the keyboard would stop responding after the data was restored. So, anyone wanting to upgrade will have a “hard reset” unit. I keep all my programs on my CF card, anyways, so this wasn’t much of an issue for me.

If you would like one of these boards, I am going to be charging $75 + $5 S&H as a special price for HPC Factor community members and readers of my blog. Please contact me at dmarsh@speakeasy.org to ensure I still have enough of them left. I will reply by email at which point you can send me payment through paypal at the same email address. I am willing to ship outside the US, too, but will have to make individual shipping arrangements. Please shoot me an email if you want to try and arrange alternate payment/shipping options.

Posted in General, Tech Stuff, Windows CE | 4 Comments »

Alright, who has been having sex with my snail?

Posted by Deliverator on 14th December 2005

While cleaning my fishtank today I noticed something on the interior surface of the glass. At first I thought it was just a bit of algae, but as my eyes focused, I realized that it was a baby snail. This is very odd, as I only have a single adult snail in my tank, a garden variety Apple Snail. While some snails are hermaphrodites, Apple Snails, according to everything that I have read, fall into distinct genders and thus two snails must meet to produce offspring. The single snail in my tank has been there for quite a while, far longer than the Apple Snail’s reported gestation period, so I have to conclude one of following is the case:

1. My snail is not an Apple Snail
2. Everyone else is wrong about Apple Snails and their genders
3. Everyone else is wrong about the gestation period of Apple Snails
4. SOMEONE HAS BEEN HAVING SEX WITH MY SNAIL!?!?!

Posted in General | No Comments »

Seattle Wireless Hacknight – 12/13/05

Posted by Deliverator on 14th December 2005

Tonight’s Seattle Wireless Hacknight was held at Redline, just a few blocks away from Rob’s place. Despite this fact, for some reason Hacknight has wandered far and wide without ever holding a meeting there. Hacknight has been hopping between venues the last month or so, after the sudden and inadequately explained closure of the Capitol Hill Internet Cafe. The only public notice of the closure was a sign on the door saying (more or less) “closed due to electrical problems – hope to open Monday.” Several Mondays have passed and CHIC remains closed, so this explanation really doesn’t hold much water. Casey hit on a likely explanation after a search revealed numerous escalating health violations. The Redline on the other hand has a pretty clean record. So far, I really like Redline. The food and drink was good, tablespace adequate, wifi reasonably stable for a Linksys box, etc. Outlets up front were scarce, but were plentiful in the back.

Tonight’s Happenings:

Eric Butler showed off some of the work he has been doing to visualize SWN node links & perspective links using google maps.
– Casey and Rob discussed possible hardware configurations for the new tower node. The current though seems to be to use a omni with an electrical downtilt in conjunction with a 400 mw Senao WiFi card.
-Rob was interested in whether a magnetic motor/battery utilizing only permanent magnets (not eletric) could be formed. His interest in this controversial idea that some say borders on “perpetual motion” was peaked due to more powerful Neodymium magnets becoming available to the public through companies like United Nuclear.
– Joe Towner proudly donated the last $100 needed to make the tower node possible.
– I monkeyed around with the wireless camera on my Vex trike, checked out application (in)compatibility with Win CE 4.2 on my new Branium WiBook. Everyone found the WiBook quite comical, but what do I care IT PLAYS DOOM!
– bumped into several people that we had met previously at Seattle Mindcamp. They were meeting to discuss/work on Ruby on Rails development and offered to share with us their cushy backroom with its plentiful power outlets (albeit malfunctioning ones).

Branium Wibook Joe Triumphant in Giving!

Posted in General, SWN Hacknight, Windows CE | No Comments »