The Power of Contactability

Wow – The very same day as I create a link to let people email me, I get some feedback on one of my HOWTO documents, all the way from Kansas!

Yesterday I set myself up a GMail account for this blog so that, just incase someone *does* read it (or I guess, more to the point, the articles linked to from it) they can contact me and give me some feedback.
I’ve come in this morning to an email message all the way from Kansas State University College of Architecture Planning and Design where Brent O’Connor has fed back on my Debian Sarge HOWTO, letting me know that to reload my Sarge Server without rebooting I just need to run “/etc/init.d/inetd reload” (given that I’d posted �Reboot the server (or figure out how to reload the affected configuration files – and let me know)� in my original document).

So wow, huge thanks for Brent from Kansas for paying attention to the man behind the curtain and letting me know that tip, I’ve since updated the page to reflect his advice.

For those of you without contact addresses on your websites, get one up there! You’ll see that I’ve used a GMail account as it’s pretty much disposable in terms of being able to change it at anytime should SPAM levels get too high, and of course I’ve also munged the address to try and upset the spambots ability to harvest the address in the first place (I guess the munging also serves as a kind of intelligence test for people contacting me too! 🙂 ). It’s kind of rewarding to realise that other people are reading your site and can discuss what you’ve written (should they choose to), so this isn’t really just a resource for Rob when I forget stuff any longer I guess – yippee!

Podcast on a Stick

Continuing in the vein of portable podcastiong, I’ve recently downloaded ‘MyPodder’, an open source pod catching client which installs on your USB memory key… Read on for my initial impressions

One of my favorite Podcasts at the moment is from Geek News Central, I find it has just the right amount of news, opinion and personality with the shows host Todd Cochrane sharing bits of his personal life (where relevant(ish)) with his audience… Anyway, he played a promo on his July 12th 2005 podcast which referenced an open source podcatcher which installs on your USB memory key.
Anyway, I’ve since headed over to the MyPodder site and downloaded their version 0.3 beta which has since installed quite happily on a spare 256MB USB key that I’ve recently freed up after getting a nice new Kingston 256MB key as part of a team day here at work. In summary:

  • The MyPodder site is fairly basic, but I’d rather they spend time on developing good robust applications than eye candy – so well done there.
  • The installation is basically “Unzip the download to the root of your USB Key” which is fine
  • The application lacks some of the niceties which I’d hope will appear in future versions such as importing XML files from other podcatching applications

So, all in all – it’s looking fine from the first cut, I’ll probably be back to this post to update my impressions after a while – one change I’ve already made is changing the launch batch file to make the last line read “call podcatcher.exe” which I hope will get rid of the current DOS window which appears looking like this:

G:\>ECHO OFF
————————————————–
STARTING PODCATCHER ON A STICK …. please wait
————————————————–
You can close this ugly window
after the podcatcher had started.
————————————————–

I’ve also changed line 1 to read “@Echo Off” just to make that first bit invisible too 😉
I’m also having a quick google as a background task to see if I can develop an Autorun file so All I need to is plug in the USB key and the application will automagically start.

Nice effort, worth a look for those of you who want to take podcasts from machine to machine (I just want to be able to save state so I don’t re-listen to content and be able to archive/purge stuff I’ve already consumed).

smartFeed – Podcasting for your Pocket PC

I’ve found out about a new piece of software called smartFeed which allows you to manage your podcasts directly on your PocketPC (or SmartPhone)… I’ve installed it and it’s pretty good!

I’ve been a keen listener to Podcasts for just over a year now and it’s getting easier all the time as it becomes more mainstream.

You may remember I wrote a piece a while back about the whole blogging / podcasting thing. Well, last night as I was painting the hallway (or dining room, I can’t exactly remember – there’s a lot of painting going on) I was listening to a Podcast from Geek News Central which referred to this entry over on DavesiPAQ.com. Now I’ve been happily using the Doppler software for windows to manage my podcast subscriptions and, through an entry on one of the Blogs that I subscribe to by Sean Alexander, I dutifully went through the HowTo and set things up to manage these Podcasts that doppler downloads, via Windows Media Player – which in turn allows me to sync them to my portable device… sounds complicated eh? Well – it kind of is, and I have some issues with Doppler as a package which doesn’t seem to want to allow itself to be killed automatically on a windows shutdown, but I may go into that in another entry at a later date.

So the good news, after quickly wiping paint off my fingers, I did a dash to the notebook (which was out of the way of paint splashes thanks very much), rewound the file a wee bit and grabbed the link. I installed it this morning (why don’t they give you 2 cradles for your PDA when you buy it, you *need* one at home and one at work!) and – though it didn’t work first off, giving me a "Could not find resource assembly" error message. Which in fact means that you need to download and install SP3 of .NET CF (of course) which you can get from here.
From there it was a simple task of setting the Podcasts to load to a particular directory of my storage card (root is default – yuck) and choosing which casts to subscribe to via the PDA.

To summarise:

  1. Install the latest .NET service pack for your PocketPC / SmartPhone
  2. Download smartFeed for your platform from http://smartfeed.org/
  3. Install the software
  4. Setup your destination directory (under settings)
  5. Add your Podcasts
  6. Retrieve some files (I’d recommend using the cradle link – bandwidth is MUCH cheaper when it’s not mobile 🙂
  7. Start listening…

Update [28/06/2005]: While preaching the good word of Podcasts to a collegue here at work, I’ve just seen that Doppler 3.0 has been announced and includes some very cool features including more support for Windows Media player, a plugin to launch Doppler and auto-download feeds and even uses the BITS technology to background load podcasts… nice!
Not yet launched into Beta, but definatly something worth keeping an eye out for 😀 😀

Setting up Sarge

I’m finding more and more need for a large amount of ‘always on’ storage to be available on my home network and, the recent release of Debian 3.1 (Sarge) has enticed me to repurpose a box I had around the house and get it up and running…

Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 (a.k.a. sarge) was released on 6th of June, 2005. The new release includes a bunch of major changes to it’s predecessor Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 (a.k.a. woody). You can check out the press release, review the release notes, or simply click yourself off to the Debian website to read more about it.

Now, while an official installation manual exists, and Google will help you find thousands of people who may be able to answer more technical questions, this page (or pages – depending on how much I end up caring about the documentation) will record my installation experience on my soon to be main server for the house. It’s mainly for my future reference, but you may find it useful too! I have based the instructions on the experience after booting to a CD burnt with the debian-31r0a-i386-netinst.iso file.


Hardware
This section is a little unnecessary as the Debian 3.1 install is actually pretty good at finding everything, but – for the sake of completeness – my hardware configuration for this server is as follows:

Case: Enermax FS-710B Yes it’s big, but the case was unutilised from a previous MythTV backend server project. This machine will also be running a number of hard drives and cooling is key 🙂
PSU: Enermax 550W EG651P-VE Again
big – 550W (peak 650W) is more than the average system needs, but these
are quiet units and I’m expecting to have a large amount of disk in
this unit at the end of all this. – [Review]
Motherboard: ASUSTeK A7V333-RAID

(VIA KT333 Chipset)

It’s an old board and monitoring the environmental sensors on it doesn’t appear to be too easy – if you have this board AND can direct me to an easy to follow howto to get monitoring working under Debian Sarge, please drop and email to rob [dot] inskeep [at] gmail [dot] com (with the obvious changes to unmung my address :))

I’ve found this link around running Debian on this board – I’ll need to have a bit more of a play and see if it can clarify any of the issues I’ve been having…

CPU: AMD Athlon 2100+
RAM: Generic 512MB PC2700 DDR
Hard Drives: 40GB Maxtor

120GB Western Digital

200GB Seagate

Apollo UATA133 2MB Cache (6E040L0)

(WD1200BB-00DW)

(ST3200822A)

Optical: LG DVD ROM It may seem like overkill to put a DVD ROM into a server and I’d agree – but as the distros get bigger it’s making more sense – it also allows me to convince myself (and the accountant wife) that a DVD/RW + CD R/W drive would be a good investment for one of the LAN PCs
Video Card: Power Color CM64P I found this card in my box of bits that all us IT types tend to accumulate, I can’t find a manual or anything useful to describe the card so – google may be your best bet here.
Sound Card: Onboard (C-Media CM8738) Not planning to use this
NIC: PCI 3Com 3C905B Will probably add/replace with a Gig card at some stage


Initial boot from the Network Installation CD

1.0 Choose Language
English
2.0 Choose Region
New Zealand
3.0 Choose Keymap
American English

4.0 Detection Phase

5.0 Configure the Network
5.1 Enter Hostname
[Enter a name for your machine]
5.2 Domain Name
[Selected Default]

6.0 Partition Disks
I have 3 Disks in this system:
40GB Maxtor (6E040L0)
120 GB Western Digital (WD1200BB-00DW)
200GB Seagate (ST3200822A)
Since there is nothing I want on the box I’m happy to have the install wipe out everything.
6.1 Partitioning Method
6.1.1 Erase entire disk: IDE1 Master (hda)
6.1.2 All files in one partition
This created 2 partitions,
#1    primary    39.5GB    ext3    /
#5    logical      1.6GB     swap   swap
I don’t plan to setup the other 2 disks yet as I want to span them into a very large drive which I can add more space to later – that will take a bit of learning I imagine so for now we just:
6.2 Finish partitioning and write changes to disk
Answer yes to confirm writing the partition tables.

7.0 Write partitions / Installing Debian base system

8.0 Install GRUB boot loader
8.1 Install GRUB as default boot loader

9.0 Completing Installation
9.1 Remove the CD from the drive


First boot after initial CD Configuration

10.0 Debian Configuration

11.0 Time Zone Configuration
11.1 Clock is NOT set to GMT
11.2 Pacific/Auckland
11.3 Root password
11.4 Users Full Name
11.5 Username
11.6 User Password
English

12.0 APT configuration
12.1 Chose edit by hand
Enter the sources as listed further down in this section – some may not resolve at this point so commenting them out with a # at the start of the line will allow you to continue through the installation.

13.0 Software Selection
Note: I would not choose to install applications during the initial setup as, until this guide is complete and I can understand everything which is happening, I want to be able to install all the packages I need via the apt-get method. To do this, it pays to use local sources where it makes sense see below for my sources list which can be copy/pasted into
/etc/apt/sources.list

13.1 Unpacks a bunch of files

13.2 Configuring Exim v4 (exim4-config)
13.2.1 Local delivery only; not on a network
13.2.2 Plan to configure things later to grab mail from various POP sources and deliver locally to allow for spam/virus blocking at the network level.
13.2.3 Root & postmaster mail recipient
13.2.3.1 [default user]
13.3 Debian configuration complete
13.5.1 Note that we can run this again via base-config program.
13.5.1.1 OK
13.4 Tries to start X & fails
13.6.1 Disables X Server until X can be configured correctly
13.5 Login Prompt

That’s it – the system is setup, now obviously there is some tidy up to do – but at least the system is running. Now, while we still have a local keyboard and monitor plugged in, we need to set the system to use a static IP address so we can find it later once it’s running headless (without a local keyboard/mouse/display).
You may find it easier to finish off via a SSH connection, first off we need to know the IP address that DHCP has assigned to this machine.

ifconfig
You are interested in the value of inet addr: for the eth0 card as this is the IP for the machine (and you’ll need to use it to connect your SSH client remotely.
inet addr:10.1.1.xxx

Once you’re remotely connected, you can carry on to the next step, or go it alone and install any packages you so desire. The only package I needed at this point was vim, a text editor.

  1. As the root/su user, do an apt-get update and an apt-get upgrade first, to ensure you have the latest packages and package list.
  2. Use the command apt-get install vim to install the vim text editor
  3. Edit your /etc/apt/sources.list to restore the lines we commented out during the installation.
    vim /etc/apt/sources.list
    Your file should look something like this:

    ———————————————————————-
    deb ftp://ftp.jetstreamgames.co.nz/debian stable main
    deb ftp://debian.ihug.co.nz/debian/ stable main
    deb http://http.us.debian.org/debian stable main contrib non-free
    # The non-US source listed below is not loving me at the moment – I need to find
    # another non-US apt source.
    #deb http://non-us.debian.org/debian-non-US stable/non-US main contrib non-free

    deb http://security.debian.org stable/updates main contrib non-free
    ———————————————————————-

  4. Do another apt-get update to test your sources and ensure you have the latest package lists.
  5. Once all your sources are working, do a apt-get upgrade to update your system with the latest packages


Setting a Static IP address
To set a static IP address, you will need to edit the /etc/network/interfaces file:
vim /etc/network/interfaces
Change the line:
iface eth0 inet dhcp
to:

iface eth0 inet static
address [ a_valid_IP_address ] (e.g. 10.1.1.xxx)
netmask [ your_netmask ] (e.g. 255.255.255.xxx)
network [ your_network ] (e.g. 10.1.1.0)
broadcast [ your_network ] (e.g. 10.1.1.0)
gateway [ your_gateway ] (e.g. 10.1.1.xxx)

and save/exit the file (<esc> :wq <enter>)

To apply this configuration type:
/etc/init.d/networking restart
or reboot the system with shutdown -r now


Creating a Spanned Disk using LVM
So, the theroy is like this: I have a couple of largish hard drives (okay, as large as I could afford – and had lying around) and had previously spanned these within Windows XP to store a buttload of files and stuff. Since this server we’re building is going to be up all (most?) of the the time, it goes to reason that the large disk should sit here rather than on a windows box which goes up and down like a whitehouse intern.
On with the section…

  1. Start with unpartitioned disks
  2. Install LVM packages
    apt-get install lvm-common lvm2
  3. Initialize the disk(s) (or partition(s)) for use by LVM
    pvcreate /dev/[ device_name ]

    e.g. pvcreate -ff /dev/hdc
    e.g. pvcreate -ff /dev/hdd
    The -ff option forces an initialisation

  4. Create a Volume Group vgcreate [ volume_group_name ] [ device_to_include ] [ device_to_include ]

    e.g. vgcreate volume_group /dev/hdc /dev/hdd

  5. Create a Logical Volume
    lvcreate -l [ the_size ] [ y o u r _ v o l u m e _ g r o u p ]

    e.g. lvcreate -l 76313 volume_group

    To determine [ the_size ] you can run the command vgdisplay [ volume_group_name ] and take the ‘Total PE’ value (or fraction of). See below for an example of this on my system.

  6. Make the File System
    mkfs -t ext3 /dev/[ your_volume_group ]/[ y o u r _ v o l u m e _ g r o u p ]

    eg
    mkfs -t ext3 /dev/volume_group/LargeDiskVolume

  7. Mount the Drive
    mount /dev/[ Volume_Group_Name ]/[ Logical_Volume_Name ] /mnt

    e.g.
    mount /dev/volume_group/LargeDiskVolume /mnt

  8. Check the Mount
    df

    Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on
    /dev/hda1 xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xx% /
    tmpfs xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xx% /dev/shm
    /dev/mapper/large_disk_volume-LargeDiskVolume 307673208 32828 292011480 1% /mnt
  9. Set the mount to load at boot
    vim /etc/fstab
    Add the line:
    /dev/disk_span/lvol0 /mnt       ext3    defaults        0       0

    Save the file
    Test with mount -a

Right – the mount appears, it’s all done! The next step is to install Samba and create a share that windows machines can see and write to.

Displaying the Volume Group Information
vgdisplay volume_group

— Volume group —
VG Name volume_group
System ID
Format lvm2
Metadata Areas 2
Metadata Sequence No 2
VG Access read/write
VG Status resizable
MAX LV 0
Cur LV 1
Open LV 0
Max PV 0
Cur PV 2
Act PV 2
VG Size 298.10 GB
PE Size 4.00 MB
Total PE 76313
Alloc PE / Size 76313 / 298.10 GB
Free PE / Size 0 / 0
VG UUID 78S1Dh-W6xW-iX1r-nTCQ-egEB-FKan-uRrT0a

Displaying the Logical Volume Information
lvdisplay

— Logical volume —
LV Name /dev/volume_group/LargeDiskVolume
VG Name volume_group
LV UUID 8CrfT4-L2Np-2dEe-R8Xw-hYYn-x2m5-8zebZn
LV Write Access read/write
LV Status available
# open 0
LV Size 298.10 GB
Current LE 76313
Segments 2
Allocation inherit
Read ahead sectors 0
Block device 254:0

Reference: LVM HowTo


Backing up your Installation

If you’re following through this in the order that it’s written, it’d probably a good time to take a snapshot of your raw system before we go installing anything (clever) which might cause problems further down the track. This is a good idea as it give you a clean build of your system after all the initial setup has completed – and saves the setup bandwidth should you need to start again 🙂
I’ve chosen dd as the tool to create the backup as it’s reletivly well documented so googling will pretty much sort out most issues you’re likely to run into (very important when you’re talking about your digital assets!). The ddcommand will do a bit for bit backup of a Hard Disk. I’m using this to give myself an image that I can always come back to as I try changing and installing new ‘stuff’ on my system (given my tendency to haphazardly experiment as I go).

Backing up:

  1. Create a directory to store the backup
    mkdir /[device to store the backup on]/[backup directory name]

    e.g. mkdir /mnt/backup

  2. Copy the HDD to an image file
    dd if=/dev/[hard drive name] of=/mnt/[backup directory name]/[backup name].iso bs=65535

    e.g. # dd if=/dev/hda of=/mnt/backup/mydisk.iso bs=65535

    BE ROOT FOR THIS! Actually I don’t know for sure, but it stands to reason that if you don’t have the access of root, then you won’t be able to back up files owned by root.

  3. Be patient. THIS WILL TAKE QUITE AWHILE (You are after all copying an entire disk) when it completes, you will see something similar to the following (just with numbers not xxxs 😉 )xxxxxx+1 records in
    xxxxxx+1 records out
    xxxxxxxxxxx bytes transferred in xxx.xxxxxxx seconds (xxxxxxxx bytes/sec)
  4. Compress the Image
    If you have a large amount of free space on the disk you were copying, compressing it will shrink it’s size.
    gzip /[device to store the backup on]/[backup directory name]/[backup name].iso

    e.g. gzip =/mnt/backup/mydisk.iso

    Again, this will take a fair while to complete so I’d recommend taking the dd and the gzip command lines and pasting them to the command line together so your system runs them one after the other – you could of course automate this with a script and run it via cron too. As an indication, I was able to turn my 41,110,142,976 byte .iso into a 32,757,683,474 byte .gz file – that’s about a 20% space saving!

Getting it back (Restore [for the benefit of searchbots]):

  1. From some kind of command line (you could use a Knoppix CD or similar CD based distro) you need to run:
    dd if=/[device the backup is stored on]/[backup directory name]/[backup name].iso
    of=/dev/hda bs=65535

    e.g. dd if=/mnt/restore/mydisk.iso of=/dev/hda bs=65535

  2. Reboot
    shutdown -r now
    Note – I haven’t tried a restore at the time of writing this, so I’d recommend testing your backup before you need it.

Creating a Network Share with Samba

So, by this point you should have a machine setup on your network and you may even have a spanned disk with a heap of space which you can make available to your other network machines.
I’m going to use Samba to create the shared drive and control its access so that my Windows machines can also make use of the space.

  1. Install the Samba packages
    apt-get install samba smbfs smbclient

    How do you want to run Samba: [daemons]
    Create samba password database, /var/lib/samba/passdb.tdb? [Yes]

  2. Add a Linux user for linking to the Samba share
    adduser

    Enter a username to add: [Share Username]
    Adding user ‘[Share Username]‘…
    Adding new group ‘[Share Username]‘ (1001).
    Adding new user ‘[Share Username]‘ (1001) with group ‘[Share Username]‘.
    Creating home directory ‘/home/[Share Username]
    Copying files from `/etc/skel’
    Enter new UNIX password:
    Retype new UNIX password:
    passwd: password updated successfully
    Changing the user information for [Share Username]
    Enter the new value, or press ENTER for the default

    Full Name []: [Share Username]
    Room Number []:
    Work Phone []:
    Home Phone []:
    Other []:
    Is the information correct? [y/N] [y]

  3. Add users to the Samba server
    smbpasswd -a [Share Username]

    New SMB password:
    Retype new SMB password:
    Added user [Share Username]

  4. Create a directory to share
    I’m assuming that your LVM is already mounted, if not check the LVM section for the correct syntax
    mkdir /mnt/[Share Directory Name]

    e.g. mkdir /mnt/MediaStore

  5. Allow others to reand and write to the directory
    chmod 777 /mnt/[Share Directory Name]

    e.g. chmod 777 /mnt/MediaStore

At this point, you need to decide if you’re GUI or CLI, for me a Graphical User Interface is quicker and suits my impatient nature quite nicely, others may wish to do all their config from the Command Line Interface – either choice is fine, but for the sake of swift sharing, and given that this server will sit on the inside of my network, I’ve chosen to use a package called SWAT (Samba Web Administration Tool) to help me setup my Samba shares

  1. Install the SWAT package
    apt-get install swat
    As the package configures, you will receive a warning that your smb.conf file is about to get overwritten. Choose [Ok]
  2. Enable SWAT by allowing the service
    vim /etc/inetd.conf
    Find and uncomment the line:

    #<off># swat            stream  tcp     nowait.400      root    /usr/sbin/tcpd  /usr/sbin/swat

    The line should now read:

    swat            stream  tcp     nowait.400      root    /usr/sbin/tcpd  /usr/sbin/swat

    Save the file

  3. Enable SWAT by allowing the port
    vim /etc/services
    Add the line:

    swat 901/tcp

    Save the file

  4. Reboot the server (or figure out how to reload the affected configuration files – and let me know)
    To REBOOT use shutdown -r now
    To RELOAD without a full reboot, use /etc/init.d/inetd reload

Right, now you should be able to point a browser on your LAN to

http://[Server Hostname or IP Address]:901/

You should be presented with an authentication dialogue (which you’ll need to use your root credentials for – don’t worry, you can setup other users once you’re in)

  1. Click the shares link
  2. Create a Share by entering your [Sharename] and clicking the ‘Create Share’ button
  3. In the ‘Base Options’ section, enter the path that you created above ‘/mnt/[Share Directory Name]’
  4. In the ‘Security Options’ section, add the users you want to have access to the relevant list (valid users, read list, write list) e.g. I will have a user who can read and write from my windows machines, but the media devices which also connect to this share will be write only. In the ‘hosts allow’ line, you may want to add you whole network with

    10.1.1.0/255.255.255.0

    or just specific IP addresses

  5. Click ‘Commit Changes’ when done setting options

Reference:There is a pretty good article over on Linux Questions on SAMBA, click here to view


Monitoring the box

This section covers a number of aspects of monitoring which I feel are necessary, but then – I do have a soft spot for numbers and graphs!


RRDTool

This is a great tool used to graph pretty much anything, seriously! One of the features I like the best about it is how the databases it creates never get any bigger than they are when you create them. I’ve decided to store all my databases in /var/lib/rrd/ since a number of others out there seem to use this location and it just makes using other peoples scripts a lot easier.

  1. Install the RRDTool package
    apt-get update && apt-get install rrdtool

Read the documentation on the web for how it all works – it’s explained better there than I can do in this guide.


Hard Disk Drives

SmartMon tools is a package which allows you to interrogate your SMART enabled hard drives for problems. There is a pretty good article over at the Linux Journal here which details the what’s and how’s of the package.

To monitor the hard drive(s) on this system I followed these steps:

  1. Edit /etc/apt/sources.list to add the location of the SmartMon tools package
    vim /etc/apt/sources.list
  2. Add the lines:

    # Location of SmartMon Monitoring Package
    deb http://honk.physik.uni-konstanz.de/~agx/linux-i386/debian smartmontools/

  3. Update your sources and install the package
    apt-get update && apt-get install smartmontools
  4. smartd was disabled and to enable I needed to edit /etc/default/smartmontools
    vim /etc/default/smartmontools
  5. Uncomment the smartd line
  6. Start smartd
    smartd
  7. Check your disks
    /usr/sbin/smartctl -a [disk name]

    e.g. /usr/sbin/smartctlsmartctl -a /dev/had

    I got output which looks like this:

smartctl version 5.32 Copyright (C) 2002-4 Bruce Allen
Home page is http://smartmontools.sourceforge.net/

=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
Device Model: Maxtor 6E040L0
Serial Number: xxxxxxxx
Firmware Version: xxxxxxxx
Device is: In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is: 7
ATA Standard is: ATA/ATAPI-7 T13 1532D revision 0
Local Time is: xxx xxx xx xx:xx:xx xxxx xxxx
SMART support is: Available – device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled

=== START OF READ SMART DATA SECTION ===

SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

General SMART Values:
Offline data collection status: (0x82) Offline data collection activity
was completed without error.
Auto Offline Data Collection: Enabled.
Self-test execution status: ( 0) The previous self-test routine completed
without error or no self-test has ever
been run.
Total time to complete Offline
data collection: (1021) seconds.
Offline data collection
capabilities: (0x5b) SMART execute Offline immediate.
Auto Offline data collection on/off support.
Suspend Offline collection upon new
command.
Offline surface scan supported.
Self-test supported.
No Conveyance Self-test supported.
Selective Self-test supported.
SMART capabilities: (0x0003) Saves SMART data before entering
power-saving mode.
Supports SMART auto save timer.
Error logging capability: (0x01) Error logging supported.
No General Purpose Logging support.
Short self-test routine
recommended polling time: ( 2) minutes.
Extended self-test routine
recommended polling time: ( 17) minutes.

SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 16
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
ID# ATTRIBUTE_NAME FLAG VALUE WORST THRESH TYPE UPDATED WHEN_FAILED RAW_VALUE
3 Spin_Up_Time 0x0027 220 219 063 Pre-fail Always – 8211
4 Start_Stop_Count 0x0032 253 253 000 Old_age Always – 1110
5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct 0x0033 253 253 063 Pre-fail Always – 0
6 Read_Channel_Margin 0x0001 253 253 100 Pre-fail Offline – 0
7 Seek_Error_Rate 0x000a 252 252 000 Old_age Always – 1
8 Seek_Time_Performance 0x0027 250 234 187 Pre-fail Always – 64735
9 Power_On_Minutes 0x0032 232 232 000 Old_age Always – 983h+23m
10 Spin_Retry_Count 0x002b 253 252 157 Pre-fail Always – 0
11 Calibration_Retry_Count 0x002b 253 252 223 Pre-fail Always – 0
12 Power_Cycle_Count 0x0032 252 252 000 Old_age Always – 403
192 Power-Off_Retract_Count 0x0032 253 253 000 Old_age Always – 359
193 Load_Cycle_Count 0x0032 253 253 000 Old_age Always – 1698
194 Temperature_Celsius 0x0032 253 253 000 Old_age Always – 37
195 Hardware_ECC_Recovered 0x000a 253 252 000 Old_age Always – 1136
196 Reallocated_Event_Count 0x0008 253 253 000 Old_age Offline – 0
197 Current_Pending_Sector 0x0008 253 253 000 Old_age Offline – 0
198 Offline_Uncorrectable 0x0008 253 253 000 Old_age Offline – 0
199 UDMA_CRC_Error_Count 0x0008 199 199 000 Old_age Offline – 0
200 Multi_Zone_Error_Rate 0x000a 253 252 000 Old_age Always – 0
201 Soft_Read_Error_Rate 0x000a 253 252 000 Old_age Always – 3
202 TA_Increase_Count 0x000a 253 252 000 Old_age Always – 0
203 Run_Out_Cancel 0x000b 253 252 180 Pre-fail Always – 0
204 Shock_Count_Write_Opern 0x000a 253 252 000 Old_age Always – 0
205 Shock_Rate_Write_Opern 0x000a 253 252 000 Old_age Always – 0
207 Spin_High_Current 0x002a 253 252 000 Old_age Always – 0
208 Spin_Buzz 0x002a 253 252 000 Old_age Always – 0
209 Offline_Seek_Performnce 0x0024 184 184 000 Old_age Offline – 0
99 Unknown_Attribute 0x0004 253 253 000 Old_age Offline – 0
100 Unknown_Attribute 0x0004 253 253 000 Old_age Offline – 0
101 Unknown_Attribute 0x0004 253 253 000 Old_age Offline – 0

SMART Error Log Version: 1
ATA Error Count: 1
CR = Command Register [HEX]
FR = Features Register [HEX]
SC = Sector Count Register [HEX]
SN = Sector Number Register [HEX]
CL = Cylinder Low Register [HEX]
CH = Cylinder High Register [HEX]
DH = Device/Head Register [HEX]
DC = Device Command Register [HEX]
ER = Error register [HEX]
ST = Status register [HEX]
Powered_Up_Time is measured from power on, and printed as
DDd+hh:mm:SS.sss where DD=days, hh=hours, mm=minutes,
SS=sec, and sss=millisec. It “wraps” after 49.710 days.

Error 1 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 0 hours (0 days + 0 hours)
When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was in an unknown state.

After command completion occurred, registers were:
ER ST SC SN CL CH DH
— — — — — — —
04 51 50 40 97 03 00 Error: ABRT

Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC Powered_Up_Time Command/Feature_Name
— — — — — — — — —————- ——————–
ef fe 00 00 00 00 00 00 00:03:20.976 SET FEATURES [Reserved for CFA]
ec 00 01 01 00 00 00 00 00:03:20.944 IDENTIFY DEVICE
c1 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00:03:20.944 [VENDOR SPECIFIC]
c0 00 01 01 ff ff 00 00 00:03:20.928 CFA ERASE SECTORS [VS IF NO CFA]
c1 00 ff 01 ff ff 00 00 00:03:20.928 [VENDOR SPECIFIC]

SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
Num Test_Description Status Remaining LifeTime(hours) LBA_of_first_error
# 1 Extended offline Completed without error 00% 4348 –

SMART Selective self-test log data structure revision number 1
SPAN MIN_LBA MAX_LBA CURRENT_TEST_STATUS
1 0 0 Not_testing
2 0 0 Not_testing
3 0 0 Not_testing
4 0 0 Not_testing
5 0 0 Not_testing
Selective self-test flags (0x0):
After scanning selected spans, do NOT read-scan remainder of disk.
If Selective self-test is pending on power-up, resume after 0 minute delay.

Loads of info huh? You can obviously pull out what is of interest to you from here.

MCE 2005 – Why Media Center will change the way I’m entertained.

I’ve been playing with home theater applications on and off for a few years, I dabbled with MythTV and the ShowShifter type apps, but I’m now a firm believer in Microsoft Media Center 2005 so this entry will serve as a staging point for me to babble on about it…

Like the subject says, Microsoft Media Center has changed the way I am entertained. I’ve been a keen wee techno geek for many years and since purchasing my first VIVO card [archived] back in 2003(?) I’ve been on the lookout for something which can record my TV and let me watch the stuff I want from my PC – this is important given how long I spend in front of it every day.

Things I want to discuss in this post:

  • My history of HTPCs
  • My TiVo experiences
  • Why MCE 2005
  • Ideal setup
  • The media center future

Back in the crazy days of single life, after I’d dropped close to $1000 on a graphics card I was all keen to create an alternative to the TV / Video combination we had in the lounge, after all – my flatmates outnumbered me and often there’d be broadcast conflicts as to what we all wanted to watch – I also was working a lot longer hours including my evenings, so having a TV window on the desktop appealed to me greatly.
The problem with TV cards back then were they were fairly terrible quality, or stupidly expense, so the VIVO option was a good one as I could simple hook off the back of an old VCR I had lying around and use it’s tuner to get my TV signal into the card. The problem with that was I had no IR blaster to change the channel on the VCR and, in conjunction with a lack of an electronic programming guide, the whole operation was very hands on.
Moving forward from there I dabbled with ShowShifter, I looked briefly at some linux distributions which claimed to do all I wanted but, well Linux STILL scares me despite the number of machines I have running it in my home now doing their little things – so Linux was off the cards, aside from a quick dabble with FreeVo and again with KnoppMyth.

I first saw Microsoft Media Center Edition (MCE) back in 2003 when our GM brought a gorgeous Toshiba notebook home from the states with it pre-loaded. It had interface issues which ddn’t quite ‘work’ and of course ran an NTSC tuner so the TV experience was just a fuzzy black and white, but the potential sparked my interest and I’ve kept an eye on the platform ever since.

While I waited for MCE to arrive in New Zealand, I turned to MythTV and, taking a deep breath (and many hours of time from my patient collegues at work) I suceeded in getting a system working… mostly. The main enabler for getting MythTV going for me was a HOWTO by a chap called Jarod Wilson who had documented his experience on his site. In fact, I was so impressed and greatful, that I made an attempt to document my experience and created a page of my own (which seems to get more traffic than anything else on my site, despite it’s now vintage state).

Microsoft New Zealand finally released (quietly) MCE into the NZ market at the same time that it was launched into Australia, but neither country had an Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) avalible so, it’s adoption to date has been slow to say the least. The good thing however is, that a whole range of communities have sprung up around MCE and extensions to its capabilities, including the ability to ‘modify’ things enough to load your own EPG data. I finally managed to succeed in doing this around the end of 2004 with the help of a number of threads from one of the best communitity sites called The Green Button (it’s a reference to the button on the MCE remote used to launch the app).

Now I’m almost ready to introduce it into my home (which is currently undergoing renovations) and have settled on the following specs which I’ve built up on my desk here at work. This is an excerpt from a response I posted over on The Green Button pertaining to Home Theater PC (HTPC) case recommendations:

I’m currently running a Silverstone ST-LC10B (with the iMon VFD software in conjunction with FrontView for MCE it’s sweet!)

Full specs are:

Mods I’ll probably make are:

  • I’m tempted to dremmel out the fan grills at the back over the twin 60mm fans as they’ve got a bit of turbulence noise coming from them.
  • I’d like to mount the HDD in a housing to eliminate vibration as it’s the noisiest thing in the system.
  • I’d like to crack open my MCE remote and drop the sensor into the front of the VFD for WAF (Wife Approval Factor) reasons alone (less clutter /
    visible wires = less complaints)

The case itself is kinda large, but it’s good for airflow and the ability to select from a wider range of cards and cooling product – and I like having a VFD

So that kind of sums up where I am currently, I’ll update this post in awhile with a bit more detail.

My Media Center Setup

I’m currently running a Silverstone ST-LC10B (with the iMon VFD software in conjunction with FrontView for MCE it’s sweet!)

Full specs are:

Mods I’ll probably make are:

  • I’m tempted to dremmel out the fan grills at the back over the twin 60mm fans as they’ve got a bit of turbulence noise coming from them.
  • I’d like to mount the HDD in a housing to eliminate vibration as it’s the noisiest thing in the system.
  • I’d like to crack open my MCE remote and drop the sensor into the front of the VFD for WAF (Wife Approval Factor) reasons alone (less clutter / visible wires = less complaints)

The case itself is kinda large, but it’s good for airflow and the ability to select from a wider range of cards and cooling product – and I like having a VFD

Ooooooh – I’m important and interesting… Listen to ME!

The New Zealand press finally catch up, and run a story on blogging…

Oh yippee… Television New Zealand ran a piece yesterday on blogging [watch the clip – 300K stream] where the breakfast show host introduced blogging as:

“Blogging is someone who for some reason believes the rest of the world needs to know what they did today…”

Bloggers don’t go to journalism school, they probably didn’t work on the high school news paper and they definitely aren’t pretty enough to read from an auto-cue without mumbling so how could they possibly have an opinion that others may find interesting, right?
Paul Renolds (the shows pet “IT Commentator”) agreed with the hosts summation but then, over the course of the interview, proceeded to backtrack on that position and actually explained blogging in a relatively well balanced manner, explaining it in what I’d term “Mum-speak” (i.e. my Mum could probably understand it…)

Checks & balances
The self-righteous host went on to make a fantastic comment that:

“One of the problems with the internet is there are no checks and balances”

Hmm – just like the mainstream media except, oh hey we’ll pretend to give a well balanced view but our bias are as clear as day for those who care to take an objective approach.
What the host and indeed the “commentator” missed, is the fact that you can easily Google for supporting references to pretty much anything your read on the web, and with people writing such social relationship tools as mydensity.com, you can start to see a web of ‘trust’ (if you will) which leads credence to the original site publisher.
There is no such web of trust / ability to cross reference new items as easily for mainstream media stories, and this is why I believe that blogging is a far more interesting way to get news and views than what is spoon-fed to the public that the mainstream press treat like children who need to be entertained rather than informed.
You’ll also notice that in this and most of my other blogs I am giving links to other sites where readers can click off to to learn more or to see other ideas which may support my position (or not) – don’t see much of that in the mainstream now do we?

I liked the fact that the commentator went on to introduce PodCasting and VideoCasting which are also things that I’ve been keen on over the last 6 or so months.

Podcasting:
There is a great article on how to get PodCasts on your Windows Mobile device (or indeed your Windows Media Player) which Sean Alexander wrote about a while back, it’s well worth a read and, after following this guide, I’m now able to listen to my PodCasts in the car as I negotiate Auckland traffic, which is more interesting (to me) than the talk radio or manufactured pop bands of today who seem to do little more than covers of old classic from the 80’s.

The Podcasts I’ve linked to above are just a selection of what feeds I subscribe to, but they are heavily skewed to gadgets, IT news and opinion and, well – there’s an obligatory Adam Curry subscription in there to.
Since I’m able to give a lot more depth of information that the 5 minute slots that broadcasters give to the public before their poor viewers brain gets full and they lose their attention – I can tell you that Adam Curry is regarded as the godfather of podcasting and, while that may be a point of contention for some of the commentators in the online audio space, he’s certainly turned into the poster boy of podcasting and appears to be doing a whole lot to support the ‘industry’ of bringing audio blogs to the ears of listeners around the world.
Again, you can click on the links to learn more – there is also this interesting story on podcasting vs. satellite radio, which I’ll have to comment on after I get around to seeing how I can receive satellite radio affordably in NZ.

VideoCasting
I’m yet to get into this emerging trend due to lack of time, bandwidth and headspace in which I can actually watch a screen as opposed to listen to audio. I guess that will be one of the determining factors in how well Videocasting takes off is that, to watch video you need to pay attention to a screen whereas podcasts are audio only and can be listened to while you do things like walk the dog, drive to work, do your chores around the house (I still remember listening to a great conversation on identity management while painting some plywood sheets for our deck at home – weird, I don’t know why I’m sharing that – it must be a ‘muslie for breakfast’ moment like my buddy the breakfast host said…).
Anyway, Robin Good whose blog I also subscribe to wrote this piece which you may find of interest to explain the emerging trend.

I think that video casting will take a while to gain traction, it’s major roadblocks being stupidly expensive bandwidth and lack of affordable portable media players with large enough screens to allow for long term watching of this content. Answer these problems and the building blocks will be in place, all we’ll need is content – perhaps we can SEE bloggers eating this mythical breakfast that the hosts were talking about! In the interim, Google has recently introduced a hosting system for video which is discussed here.

The host wrapped up the segment by magnanimously declaring that:

“Alright, it’s something that we obviously need to keep half an eye on at least”

To that I say yes, yes indeed. Syndicated content in conjunction with aggrigation tools such as RSSReader and Doppler is the best way to get breaking news out there, the web is an ideal distribution medium, and tools already exists to allow one to search and subscribe to content streams of interest to the individual. Broadcasters would do well to understand if not embrace this trend as it can have a very nice supplemental fit into their existing legacy content systems.

Googles recent video hosting initive just supports the views expressed here in regards to the way that news and information could be distributed in the future. Follow the link, pick a mirror and, if you’re interested – have a look at the transcript.
It is a plausible outlook – Should broadcasters take this seriously? – yes, will they? – no. At least not yet and definitely not by people like the host of this show. Whether it’ll be too late by the time they accept that the traditional landscape of reporting on stuff has changed remains to be seen, but then people who consider themselves smarter, better, more worthy of listening to than others are generally a bit slower to accept their equalities…

Bloody Idiots!

Sometimes you just want to have a grill-mounted rocket launcher…

Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime (unless he lives around the Hauraki Gulf of course…)

Give a man a car and he’ll get to and from work, give a boy a car, and a baseball cap, and the obligatory array of dials and boost meters, and an annoying exhaust – and he’ll drive like a complete dickhead and make you want to kill him in a slow, crushing into his own glove box kind of a way…

What I want is an array of cameras around my car showing the road around me, so I can record with some telemetry data superimposed on the video some of the stupid things I see on the road.
Here you are, being a good lad and indicating for 3 seconds to move lanes, when the guy behind you in his black souped up Mazda decides that since he’s faster, he can indicate once (if at all) and scream up the side of you into the lane you’re indicating toward. Now the good thing about nice shiny souped up cars versus large diesel 4x4s, is that I really don’t give a toss if you’re going to be an idiot, because I AM CHANGING LANES NOW AND YOU DON’T REALLY HAVE THE EQUIPMENT TO CUT ME OFF.
Now, with my proposed camera array hooked into my carputer, I can change lanes as indicated, and if people do stupid things to cut me off, then I’ll have the evidence should we happen to involve insurance firms (if you catch my drift).

I’m really looking forward to getting a decent car so I can build myself one of these units, this isn’t the only handy thing it would be able to do for me 🙂 And with Microsofts soon to launch(?) Microsoft Automotive, I’ll have a few options (I guess) in operating platform (though I’m still tending toward the *nix distros which already exist…

I gotta get more spare time (and cash)!

Aaaargh – the pain… THE PAIN!

I’m moving servers after many years and the transition hasn’t been a comfortable experience…

Change is good, unless your pants are loose – in which case, change can weigh things down and cause a lot of embarrassment.

After a number of years, I’ve moved my sites off my server at home to a server hosted elsewhere – it’s gone from an aging NT Server 4 box running Apache 1.3.14 (which has been remarkable stable despite what you may think) to a Debian box running the 2.42 kernel and Apache 1.3.33 which is a heap faster, but nonetheless, it’s not co-operating with my efforts to get things running smoothly.

Case in point – Server Side Includes, the httpd.conf file is setup as per what a zillion sites tell me it should look like and yet the files are not being included, this leave bits of my site like the renovations and wedding pages without navigation menus – which sucks. It’s probably something amazingly obvious but with the way things are at home and work I’m just too busy to get to the bottom of it. If anyone has suggestions, I’m open to giving them a try…

For those who feel like snooping, you can check out the uptime for http://inskeep.net via this handy wee site from Netcraft, while it doesn’t give you the historical stuff due to a lack of support by NT4 to provide such useful things as uptime.