Loving Ubuntu

Filed under: tinkering,ubuntu — jaydublu @ 6:31 pm

I’ve been off on holiday for almost two weeks now – last week was ‘real’ holiday – totally disconnected. I didn’t even have my phone on! This week I had to succumb and have been tinkering.

I’ve got some plans coming up that need me to have my Linux skills a bit more polished than they are currently so I thought I’d take the opportunity of some playtime to get back in practice.I dug out my various old boxes to see if I could get one or two working, and then started thinking about what flavour Linux to go for.

Historically, I’ve always used whatever I’ve been using in production environments. Firstly FreeBSD many (many) moons ago when I was hosted with Donhost, more recently Red Hat Fedora as most boxes I look after are with Rackspace (love them!) and run Red Hat ES3. But neither distro has really clicked with me as they’re both a bit of a pain.

In my own tinkerings I got heavily into Debian based distros when I was trying to set up a wireless network mesh before it was announced that my village would get Broadband in a sensible period of time (hence all the boxes I have kicking around) and I’ve blogged previously about trials with Gentoo. This time, I thought I’d give Ubuntu a go and so downloaded the 7.04 Server CD (I thought support would be better than Gutsy Gibbon) .

I’ve got two systems installed fine – one to play with as a dev box and one as something more stable. I want another one as I want to play with clustering, but I’m running out of decent spec hardware – I’m currently fighting to install on a K6-2 machine with 96MB RAM (all I can scrounge!) but it keeps constantly rebooting after the install but I know why – I’m writing this while I wait for ‘sudo apt-get install linux-image-386’ to finish whirring. [Postscript – can’t do this with only 96MB RAM – but 128MB is enough! Oh, I wish I knew where all those SIMMs I’d been keeping are!]

What else is new – thanks to Mat’s suggestion in a comment on an earlier posting I tried installing Xubuntu on a retired laptop, but I fear the spec is a bit too lowly – again I can only scrape 96MB of RAM together and even trying to install off the Alternate CD it ends up stalling. I did get a command line install running (took a couple of hours to install!) but it’s not much fun. Back to Win Me methinks.

And one of the reasons for all this – my realisation that as good as the NSLU2 might be for acting as a backup filesystem, it’s not up to much for network services – it’s sooooo slooooow!

Anyway, I can see why many people who’s opinion I trust rave about Ubuntu – it’s slick, straightforward, and … works!

Ever wish you didn’t start something?

Filed under: nslu2,tinkering — jaydublu @ 9:24 am

I’ve been meaning to get around to making sure all my good files (mainly photos and some crucial documents) are properly backed up for some time – I even played with getting an old machine running as an rsync server – but it was too noisy and … crap.

So I finally got around to buying something proper, and after some research into Network Attached Storage settled on a Linksys NSLU2 with a Buffalo DriveStation 500GB USB hard drive – expandable flexible storage, and I thought there would be some fun to be had with various open source firmware available for the ‘slug’.

Day 1 – install the thing in my network, get the drive formatted, set up users, get things going ‘out of the box’. Great, does what it says on the tin, I’m a happy bunny, time for bed.

Day 2 – do I quit while I’m ahead? No.

I’ve been reading up on the unslung firmware and it sounds easy, and a lot of fun. Perhaps I can get it acting as a Subversion repository, streaming media to remote iTunes etc. – all the things I don’t need but will be great to tinker with. So I get the latest release of the software, fully digest all the instructions, including the warnings, and following the process to the absolute letter (apart from ensuring I can RedBoot because I’m an optimist) I proceed to upload the .bin file through the web interface at the right moment. “Can take 5 minutes or more …” it says “… do not turn off the power while upgrading!” it says.

One hour and 5 minutes later it’s still blinking, and I’m now pretty convinced I’ve got a nicely styled plastic brick. What do I do? Should I leave it running all night in the pathetic hope that the pixies will sprinkle their magic dust and it will have sorted itself in the morning, or should I do the thing I’ve been told not to and turn it off to try and follow the process to un-brick it? Why didn’t I leave well alone?

To cut a long, boring story short, I finally managed to get into the RedBoot prompt, reading through the instructions on what to do next made me chicken out of going that route – with my luck I’d permanently screw something up. So I found a bit about using the Sercomm Updater (I only had a Windows machine to hand) – and it worked an absolute treat upgrading to the unslung firmware (brave decision – I was a gnats’ away from going back to the Linksys) Why isn’t that the first suggestion rather than teasing the unsuspecting with talk of trying to catch a 2 second telnet window with a Vulcan nerve grip keyboard maneouver?

I’ve now got an unslung NSLU2 with all the original Linksys web interface still working – when I’ve regained my composure I may see if I can figure out another way to brick the thing.