Soekris 5501, you and OpenBSD: Because Security Matters.

I recieved my Soekris 5501 the other day from UPS. I promptly unboxed it and and set it up on my desk. After some reading and digging for a serial cable I had OpenBSD 4.1 installed and working out of the box.

I was expecting to use the 5501 as a portable development station but fate had other plans. I ended up sending the 5501 to Raleigh NC where it was used to debug some mistirous traffic on an internal network.

I’m very impressed with the build quality and community support behind Soekris Engineering. This is my first product from then and I couldn’t be more happy. They customer service was great about keeping me informed about the shipping delay. They double checked my order to confirm which hard drive mounting brackets I wanted.

I’m currently working out the details of using them to run some point of sale servers for one of my clients. The low power and rock solidness of the Soekris 5501 is what is really selling me on these.

Here is a dmesg for OpenBSD 4.2

OpenBSD 4.2-stable (GENERIC) #0: Sun Oct 21 00:47:55 EDT 2007
cpu0: Geode(TM) Integrated Processor by AMD PCS ("AuthenticAMD" 586-class) 500 MHz
real mem = 536440832 (511MB)
avail mem = 511070208 (487MB)
mainbus0 at root
bios0 at mainbus0: AT/286+ BIOS, date 20/71/04, BIOS32 rev. 0 @ 0xfac40
pcibios0 at bios0: rev 2.0 @ 0xf0000/0x10000
pcibios0: pcibios_get_intr_routing - function not supported
pcibios0: PCI IRQ Routing information unavailable.
pcibios0: PCI bus #0 is the last bus
bios0: ROM list: 0xc8000/0xa800
cpu0 at mainbus0
pci0 at mainbus0 bus 0: configuration mode 1 (bios)
pchb0 at pci0 dev 1 function 0 "AMD Geode LX" rev 0x30
glxsb0 at pci0 dev 1 function 2 "AMD Geode LX Crypto" rev 0x00: RNG AES
vr0 at pci0 dev 6 function 0 "VIA VT6105M RhineIII" rev 0x96: irq 11, address 00:00:24:c8:df:0c
ukphy0 at vr0 phy 1: Generic IEEE 802.3u media interface, rev. 3: OUI 0x004063, model 0x0034
vr1 at pci0 dev 7 function 0 "VIA VT6105M RhineIII" rev 0x96: irq 5, address 00:00:24:c8:df:0d
ukphy1 at vr1 phy 1: Generic IEEE 802.3u media interface, rev. 3: OUI 0x004063, model 0x0034
vr2 at pci0 dev 8 function 0 "VIA VT6105M RhineIII" rev 0x96: irq 9, address 00:00:24:c8:df:0e
ukphy2 at vr2 phy 1: Generic IEEE 802.3u media interface, rev. 3: OUI 0x004063, model 0x0034
vr3 at pci0 dev 9 function 0 "VIA VT6105M RhineIII" rev 0x96: irq 12, address 00:00:24:c8:df:0f
ukphy3 at vr3 phy 1: Generic IEEE 802.3u media interface, rev. 3: OUI 0x004063, model 0x0034
pcib0 at pci0 dev 20 function 0 "AMD CS5536 ISA" rev 0x03
pciide0 at pci0 dev 20 function 2 "AMD CS5536 IDE" rev 0x01: DMA, channel 0 wired to compatibility, channel 1 wired to compatibility
wd0 at pciide0 channel 0 drive 0:
wd0: 16-sector PIO, LBA, 57231MB, 117210240 sectors
wd0(pciide0:0:0): using PIO mode 4, Ultra-DMA mode 2
pciide0: channel 1 ignored (disabled)
ohci0 at pci0 dev 21 function 0 “AMD CS5536 USB” rev 0×02: irq 15, version 1.0, legacy support
ehci0 at pci0 dev 21 function 1 “AMD CS5536 USB” rev 0×02: irq 15
usb0 at ehci0: USB revision 2.0
uhub0 at usb0: AMD EHCI root hub, rev 2.00/1.00, addr 1
isa0 at pcib0
isadma0 at isa0
pckbc0 at isa0 port 0×60/5
pckbd0 at pckbc0 (kbd slot)
pckbc0: using irq 1 for kbd slot
wskbd0 at pckbd0: console keyboard
pcppi0 at isa0 port 0×61
midi0 at pcppi0: spkr0 at pcppi0
nsclpcsio0 at isa0 port 0×2e/2: NSC PC87366 rev 9: GPIO VLM TMS
gpio0 at nsclpcsio0: 29 pins
npx0 at isa0 port 0xf0/16: reported by CPUID; using exception 16
pccom0 at isa0 port 0×3f8/8 irq 4: ns16550a, 16 byte fifo
pccom0: console
pccom1 at isa0 port 0×2f8/8 irq 3: ns16550a, 16 byte fifo
usb1 at ohci0: USB revision 1.0
uhub1 at usb1: AMD OHCI root hub, rev 1.00/1.00, addr 1
biomask e5c5 netmask ffe5 ttymask ffe7
pctr: user-level cycle counter enabled
mtrr: K6-family MTRR support (2 registers)
dkcsum: wd0 matches BIOS drive 0×80 root on wd0a swap on wd0b dump on wd0b Help someone help themselve

On the way to work today I was listening to NPR and heard an interview with Bill Clinton where he talked about how one person could make a difference in the world. He spoke of a woman who had no college education who saved money all of her life, to the point where she never owned a car and pushed a shopping cart a mile from her house to the grocery story when she went shopping. The woman gave something like 60% of her life savings to start a college fund so that someone else would have the oppertunity to go to college that she never did.

This sent thoughts through my mind about a show I had seen on PBS quite some time ago about this startup in California that was doing microloans to people in developing nations. I was trying to think of the name of it when Mr Clinton started talking about something very similar. He was talking about Kiva, which happend to be the same thing I was trying to think of.

Today at work I was back thinking about it and thought to myself I can afford to loan someone $25.00 and if I lose it, I really will not be out all that much. So I went to the site, signed up and loaned $25.00 to Abel Fuentess to help fund her business.

I may lose this $25.00 and I may get it all back. So far Kiva has a just 0.3%, I figure thats a risk I can take to try to help someone else.

Apple G4 Cube isn’t as dated as you might expect.

About a year ago I picked up an Apple G4 Cube 450 off eBay for about $100.00. I bought it in the hopes of using it to replace my G3 imac I was using to test some web designs and some other code I had been working on.

When I recieved it it had no OS on it just the sad Mac face when powered on. I didn’t have a copy of OS X handy so I first installed Ubuntu just to get a feel of the hardware and everything. It worked really well with all of the hardware supported out of the box.

When I read that Ubuntu would be dropping official support for PPC with 7.04 I felt like I should start looking for another distrobution to move to. I had tried YellowDog and Fedora in the past but decided that Gentoo would be the most likley to not drop PPC support anytime soon.

Gentoo 2007.1 was pretty much a brease to install. Follow the simple instrucitons and away you go with a base install. It did take a few days to build X, KDE and all of the other fluff to get it up to a desktop. All in all it worked out pretty well as a secondary workstation for 4 months or so.

Two weeks ago I was getting frustrated by how I couldn’t get Azureus to seed anything even though everything looked OK, clients would connect but would drop and not be sent any data. I tried rtorrent and the original python client and they seemed to work just fine but lacked the pollish that the Azureus has with sceduling, rss feeds and auto-speed.

I ended up picking up a copy of Mac OS 10.4 off ebay for cheap and decided to give it a shot after all, I’ve had my macbook for a few months now and am pretty conftorable with the OS as a whole. The install was super simple and strait forward.

The first thing I did once the install was done was get Azureus and tried to seed a torrent and it was sending data fine. The only problem seems to be Azureus is sluggish most of the time even though the box has 1GB of ram. It’s not that bad really, Azureus stays minimized and the rest of the OS is still pretty fast.

All in all I would say that the All G4 Cube is far from dead, it may be an aging piece of hardware but it is still a viable computer for web browsing, email, ssh and downloading torrents.

Updating this blog

I really need to update this more often and stop saving everything as drafts.

Death of a Tivo

On August 17th my 40 hour tivo reported a hardware problem. It was a sad day for my wife and me. Here I was paying a monthy service fee for a magical box that was now gone. The way I saw it I had two options.

  1. Stop paying for tivo.
  2. Find some awsometastic way to fix the tivo.

I went with choice 2. I found a site selling Tivo Restore Software for $50.00. After reading It looks to be just a bootable Linux CD with some stuff from a blank Tivo on it. I didn’t want to let someone else profit from my broken Tivo so I found a  copy of the ISO on Emule and set it to download.

The real problem is I have no patience. I wanted my Tivo fixed NOW. I could have just paid the $50.00 and had the CDs mailed to me but the ISO seemed a faster if not better way to get my Tivo fixed. 3 long days later the ISO is done and burned to a cd.

The the problem of “OH NO, NO HARD DRIVE!”. Looking through my Box-o-Extra-Parts I found a Western Digital 120GB drive. In my head 120gb is better than 40gb. I loaded the new drive and cd into one of my extra computers and away it went.

After about 20 minuites of it doing its thing with little input from me I had a drive ready to put back into my oh so broken Tivo. I ran to the living room with it put everything back together and crossed my fingers as I turned it on.

MAGIC. My Tivo has been resurrected. Oh wait, whats this way way more hours of storage too!

It went from a sad week with no Tivo to a very happy wife knowing she can now store tons of her programs on the tivo.

Update: NSLU2-Linux

Release canidate 2 of the debian-installer came out March 13, 2007. I thought it would be a good time to give it a try. A simple download, reflash and just as before you ssh in and start the install. The install still takes about an hour or so to do but no errors or hickups at all.

I feel like mentioning that I wasn’t previously a fan of Debian. To me it seemed that they lagged behind in package versions. I mean they had stable packages but they were at least one version behind. This slowly started to change when I started using Ubuntu about 2 years ago right about the time RedHat killed off RedHat 9.

I’ve had my slug up with the new fresh install for about a month now and its great. The only problems I have ever had with the slug is when I do and apt-get upgrade to testing or unstable. I do wish someone would work on a port of OpenBSD to it though but for now I’m happy with it running Debian.

Linux SLUG 2.6.18-4-ixp4xx #1 Tue Mar 27 18:01:56 BST 2007 armv5tel GNU/Linux
08:58:28 up 6 days, 1:51, 1 user, load average: 0.66, 0.28, 0.19

linux on nslu2

In January I picked up a nslu2 from newegg for the sole purpose of using aftermarket firmware. I did some reading at They really do have a great Wiki there with tons of information.

I started out using unslug 6.x and it did what i wanted for the most part which was allow me to share my 40gb USB drive via samba and to run mrtg on some of my local switches and routers. Everything was working very well for weeks if not months. I had to shut down my slug and pack it along with all of my stuff up when my wife and I bought a house in the first part of June. Once everything was setup at the house I decided to do ‘ipkg update’ Everything looked good but it seems that suddenly MRTG was not working and rateup was giving an error about missing shared objects. I didn’t see anyone posting a fix or even anyone else with the same problem so I thought I some how did something wrong.

I ended up reinstalling my slug a few times before giving up. I then found Debian-slug which is based on SlugOS. Its not got the fluf of Unslug. That’s not to say that unslug doesn’t have its purpos. Debian-slug is just raw Debian built for the arm processor. It’s great, you get real Debain with apt and the ~15,000 packages that it provides. With it I have mrtg running just as before as well as samba sharing the drive so everything ended up just as it should. I would like to work on getting it to read my APC Back-UPS 500 via USB.