Linux Blog

New Laptop

Filed under: Linux Hardware — at 10:06 am on Friday, October 10, 2008

I’m excited because this weekend I’m getting another laptop. I’ve gone through quite a few laptops some of which have been more Linux friendly than others. I have been happy with my last two Toshiba laptops (Portege 4010 and Tecra M2) but this time I am buying a used Lenovo Thinkpad.

I was very happy with my last upgrade, from a 933MHz with 512MB of ram, to a 1.7GHz with 768MB ram that was recently upgraded to 1GB. The performance increase was phenomenal. Now moving from a 1.7GHz to am Intel Core 2 Duo should provide another greatly needed performance increase.

Who Opened Pandora’s Box?

Filed under: Linux Hardware — at 9:36 am on Friday, September 12, 2008

I was reading my RSS feeds and happened to stumble across the OpenPandora. Until now I’d never heard of the OpenPandora, and had no idea what it was. Its actually a cool little device which they claim is the most powerful hand held computer in the world. Here are the specs from OpenPandora.Org

* ARM® Cortex™-A8 600Mhz+ CPU running Linux
* 430-MHz TMS320C64x+™ DSP Core
* PowerVR SGX OpenGL 2.0 ES compliant 3D hardware
* 800×480 4.3″ 16.7 million colours touchscreen LCD
* Wifi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth & High Speed USB 2.0 Host
* Dual SDHC card slots & SVideo TV output
* Dual Analogue and Digital gaming controls
* 43 button QWERTY and numeric keypad
* Around 10+ Hours battery life

The CPU is a decent speed, and the OpenGL supported video means the video will probably run better than it did on my old Toshiba laptop. While this is aimed at gamers, the console could be a good device for students or people who currently own Nokia N770’s, N800 or N810’s that are not satisfied. Although I wouldn’t use the gaming controls and it has a touch screen I can see why they put them in if they are going after a gaming crowd. If they want to get taken seriously out side of the gaming industry they may want to make a version that does not have the controls. They have some cool video demos available on their blog (here they are in case they get buried:, It still looks like they need to tweak it a little bit and make a graphical interface but even still it looks awesome.

It’s currently available for select developers and pre-orders on September 30th for about $330 USD and I really hope that this takes off. So if you’re asking who opened pandora’s box, OpenPandora did!

Some notes on DD-WRT

Filed under: General Linux,Linux Hardware,Linux Software — at 1:44 am on Saturday, June 21, 2008

For those of you that don’t know DD-WRT is a modified version of firmware somewhat like that of the Linksys NSLU2 except more geared towards wireless routers, it runs on over 80 models.

I needed to finally set my home office / desk up with my home wireless network. I currently have a Belkin running DD-WRT and was very happy with the versatility. I have temporarily used it as a wireless bridge in other applications, so I thought I’d add another DD-WRT box to my network and use it as a bridge as I had previously done.

As noted above DD-WRT does support a large variety of wireless routers, the problem is finding a supported model. I purchased another cheap Belkin as it was on the known working hardware and came to realize that it was not possible to get DD-WRT set up on it. It was an version that was specifically put on the not supported list which I had failed to check.

A lot of Netgear routers are supported, but be careful. I noticed that the Model numbers do work, but the newer Netgear versions of the same model are not supported. I oped to buy a WRT54G for a modest $49.99. It has slightly less ram, and flash memory meaning that it can not support the full version but it has more then enough features in the micro version that it can run.

The Linksys WRT54GL retails about $65-$90 and can be purchased from most computer stores that have a decent selection. It features some pretty good specs, like the WRT54GS except it has more RAM and more flash. Again, this depends on the version you get. If you purchase the WRT54GL you are guaranteed to get a working version of DD-WRT on it though. It took me a while to find my WRT54G, I shopped at Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Max, Staples and they all had the “latest and greatest” models that are not yet supported by DD-WRT and were incredibly over priced. At one point I was very desperate and almost purchased an overpriced WAP54G which is the same thing without the built in switch. I am very happy that I didn’t as I would have also had to wire up my 16 port switch to a power supply since it went bad.

If your considering purchasing a router to run DD-WRT just check the black list first and take a print out of the supported and not supported lists from (The employees of big box retail stores don’t like it when you take every model they have to a computer with Internet and compare the models / versions one by one only to take them all back.)

Linksys NSLU2 – A Great Linux Box

Filed under: Linux Hardware — at 2:35 am on Friday, March 21, 2008

This is a piece of hardware that I have owned probably for about two years now. I thought that it had died therefore it sat in my box of unused computer crap probably for about a year and a half. The other weekend I took this little gem back out of this box and actually un-bricked it. It was a bit of a pain to get it working again from its unusable state. It would never boot up, never beeped. Just stopped with an orange light, I really thought it was toast. So I tried the redboot method (regular upgrade method would not work) and it actually went into redboot. After flashing its memory and reloading firmware I was able to get a some what working Linksys NSLU2.

Now thats over with, naturally after having Linksys’s NSLU2 back to its original state, I had to fix it again. That is install Linux on it. The Linksys NSLU2 already runs Linux so there are a few options on how you can get Linux on the Linksys NSLU2. I opted for the easier install this time which is Unslung. My theory with this was, it has a lot more packages then when I first saw Unslung and my Debian Installation was what bricked the poor little slug. So, now I have a great Linksys NSLU2 that is sitting serving up files and is available to run lightweight applications.

I highly recommend the Linksys NSLU2 to anyone wanting to play around with Linux. It is so easy to get started with and they can easily be picked up for under $100. You don’t need anything special to use the Linksys NSLU2. Windows, Linux, MacOSX and anything with a Telnet or SSH client will work. There are so many things that you can do with Linux on an NSLU2 the options are endless. What are you waiting for? Grab one today!

Optimus Maximus OLED keyboard – Linux Support

Filed under: Linux Hardware — at 8:00 pm on Friday, February 22, 2008

I was reading a post on Tech.Blorge and thought I’d write a little about it.

I think that this keyboard is a little over priced at the moment, but the price is sure to drop. If I got my hands on one of these here are the things that I would do with it:

  1. Impress my friends
  2. Make it have some kind of fireworks effect where every key you hit makes some sort of explosion on the keys around it. Who doesn’t love fireworks?
  3. Matrix Keyboard. This would be pretty sweet. Just have it constantly waste power by scrolling the Matrix code down it all the time. No one will ever use your computer because they won’t be able to figure out where that blasted key they are looking for is.
  4. Write a movie player so that I could watch a movie on my keyboard instead of working.
  5. Make a game that tests hand eye-coordination. Kind of like BrainAge except you use your hands and don’t have a 1″ screen.
  6. Gaming. I’d love for my keys to change when I play any game. Lets take Quake or Halo for example. It should always flash the mother of all weapons the either the B.F.G or the Rocket Launcher.

I love the shift feature and the special characters feature is pretty cool too but there are better practical uses of this keyboard:

  1. System Stats. Lets say WiFi signal strength, CPU load and memory usage Why display them in Torsmo, gkrellm or anything else you can just move your fingers and see the percentage of memory being used.
  2. Syntax highlighting while programming. I think that this would be a nice feature for new developers and for programmers not familiar with a particular programming language. An example would be the IF syntax. Once you type if, the space bar highlights. Next the left parenthesis then the quote depending on which programming language you use.

If any one gets one of these working I’d love to see it in action. I also thing it should be mandatory that when your OS crashes (no matter what OS your running) it displays the B.S.O.D.

MacBook Air Alternatives

Filed under: Linux Hardware — at 6:03 am on Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ok, so there that been a lot of smugness in the Apple community about the new MacBook Air, which I must say is a stunning looking notebook. Although tiny it is still not the lightest of notebooks weighing in at 3.0 pounds. Here I’ve got an alternative to the MacBook Air. Although not as pretty it should get the job done.

This is a slightly slower Core 2  Duo at 1.2GHz and a 12.1″ Screen but its a worthy laptop for any road warrior

The Portege R500.  Right from Toshibas website comes this statement:

The Ultimate Ultraportable
With its ultralight design and stunning silhouette, the feather light 1.72 pound* Portégé® R500 Series is the transcendent expression of executive mobility and style. Offering the world’s lightest* widescreen 12.1″ notebook PC in one configuration, and the world’s thinnest widescreen 12.1″ notebook PC with an integrated DVD-SuperMulti drive in another, the Portégé® R500 Series represents an uncompromising synthesis of portability and productivity that’s meticulously engineered for the demands of executive computing.

*Lightest model configuration of 1.72 lbs is based on a 64GB solid state drive (SSD), a 3 cell battery and no optical disk drive. The Portégé® R500 with the solid state drive will not be available until the end of July 2007. Weight may vary. See Weight Legal Footnote at
Here are the dimensions:

• Dimensions (WxDxH Front/H Rear): 11.1” x 8.5” x .77”(f)/
1.0”(r) without feet
• Weight: Starting at at 2.4 lbs, depending upon
• LCD Cover Color: Aluminum Silver

It boasts on the flyer that its the worlds thinnest 12” widescreen which I can believe since it is .01” Thicker in the thinnest part then the MacBook Air. Don't think that with the lack of size on this laptop that you get skimpy options like the MacBook Air either. You get Three, yes I repeat Three USB 2.0 ports, Firewire, Gigabit Ethernet, a/g/n wifi for all of your wireless internet needs. 1 Type II PCMCIA slot, an optional DVD Burner a 6 Cell 5800mAh battery, SD Slot and all kinds of other goodies that you would expect from a laptop. I'm sure if they removed some of these lovely features they could make it thinner. It has the same resolution as the MacBook Air but is a little skimpy on the RAM with 1GB but makes up for it with a 3 year warranty on the hardware and a 1 year warranty on the battery.

They claim that you can get 8.18 hours from this battery so I'd love to get my hands on one of these to play around with powertop to see if it could get even more.

Lenovo have some sweet ThinkPads that are under 3lbs also. I can't find the exact measurements of them but I'm sure they don't come close to the Toshiba or the Air. Actually looking at these specs I think I got a pretty decent deal on my Toshiba Tecra M2 which has done me good so far. It has the following dimensions: 12.3” x 10.1” x 1.2/1.4” and is apparently 4.98 lbs although it feels more like 6. Its a single core 1.7 but I bet you it will boot faster than the MacBook Air. Resume also works too. All in all I probably saved about $1300 by purchasing my laptop. I think they still have some of the Tecra's I have left, they are a pretty good deal at ~$420. Shoot an e-mail if your interested.

New Linux Desktop

Filed under: Linux Hardware — at 5:50 am on Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I got a new Linux desktop for use at my office.  All right, so its not entirely new but the price was right!

Here are the specs:

Motherboard: MSI K9N6SGM
CPU: AMD Sempron 3400+ 256 KB Cache, 1808.430 MHz and 3620.23 Bogomips (Slightly more than my laptop)
Ram: 1GB Generic Ram
Hard Drive: 80GB Sata Drive
Power Supply: 350 Watt

Now, considering I only paid around $200 for all of this I think I did pretty good. I already had an fairly new e-machine that was given to me with a fried motherboard, power supply and hard drive, so I used the Case DVD, Rom and CD-RW drive. Its a pretty fast machine so far. The onboard video happens to be a GeForce so I’m happy about my 3D Graphics support.

What is even better is that if you would like to support The Linux Blog and happen to need a new computer, you can call The Tech Fellows at (704) 780-4932 and tell them that The Linux Blog sent you and they will hook you up. Even if you just need parts they can help and normally can match Tiger Directs prices.

I will let you know how the rest of the installation of Slackware goes and post some benchmarks some time.

Possibly the Fastest 1U Linux Server Ever

Filed under: Linux Hardware — at 5:58 am on Wednesday, January 16, 2008

eRacks is one of the links that appears in the Google ads on this page. It just so happens that I have experience with eRacks. They have some awesome servers available. I believe they may have the fastest Linux server in a 1U package available for delivery. I’m sure you could custom build something your self, but for the price they are well worth checking out.

My configuration was a TwinServe box, which is basically two computers in one so this may be cheating a little. Anyway, I configured it as follows:

1U TWINSERVE chassis, for dual systems, 900W PS
TWINSERVE dual X7DBT dualCPU Intel Xeon 5300/5100
CPU’s for motherboard 1: 2 x Intel Xeon Quad-Core E5365 3.0GHz 1333FSB CPU Add $2945
CPU’s for motherboard 2: 2 x Intel Xeon Quad-Core E5365 3.0GHz 1333FSB CPU Add $2945
16GB of RAM for each Motherboard
4 1TB Drives (Two for each motherboard)
Debian Etch Preinstalled
and a $25 donation to the OpenSSH Project

Total Price: $13855.00 before taxes shipping and handling. For the price, I think its a steal. Thats two quad core 3.0GHz CPU’s in each motherboard, so (3.0GHz * 4)2. 24GHz per motherboard for a total of 48GHz. 32GB ram, and 2TB of raid+1. This is basically the same thing the Mac’s have in their Mac Pro’s except this is in a 1U Chassis, and there is two motherboards. I configured a Mac Pro, just to see what kind of price they offer, and for comparison. I mean there is no denying that the Mac Pro’s are sexy, but is the cost worth it? Now, I configured these the same, 3.0GHz, 16GB Ram (One Motherboards worth) and two 1TB HD’s. I didn’t want the extra crap that Apple bundles in such as the MightyMouse, Apple Keyboard with Mac OSX and the Superdrive because this is a server. We don’t need any of that. Now, one thing that Apple has our system beat on is the graphics, but again note this is a server, but the graphics could be updated if needed. So, the final thing other than looking at how pretty the case is was the price. To my Amazement it wasn’t too shabby the cost only $8849 but then I remembered that the box I configured was this times two. So to compare Penguins to Apples we would need to double that and add taxes for both of them. Shipping is free so the grand total is: $18,892.62. This is quite a price tag and also a hefty package. Here is the Dimensions for each case:

  • Height: 20.1 inches (51.1 cm)
  • Width: 8.1 inches (20.6 cm)
  • Depth: 18.7 inches (47.5 cm)

The size of the eRacks is a tiny 1U meaning 1″ High X 19″ Width x 705mm Deep. There are so many specs to play with and they are dirt cheap. Take a look at the page, you can find the Twin Motherboard Servers under the special purpose website on their website.

I’d have to get a massive loan to afford something like this. A loan larger than my car payment, but you never know maybe when my cars paid off I can get one. At least I wouldn’t have to finance the $18,000 that Apple would charge me, that would be crazy. $414 a month for the apple with an interest of 5% over 4 years, or our double spec system with the same loan terms for $319.07. A difference of $4556.64 for both of them. That’s one third the cost of another double motherboard dual quad core server. I wonder if by the time the loan would end if I would need to buy another computer or not. Interesting concept but I don’t know if I currently need 48GHz of computing power right now.

Checking your battery life from the shell

Filed under: General Linux,Linux Hardware,Quick Linux Tutorials — at 8:46 am on Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I’ve often thought to my self “Wouldn’t knowing how much battery life I had be nice.”

Now when a window manager is open, this isn’t a problem. But when your just in a terminal it can be a bit of a problem. If you don’t get the gist of it heres an example, if I’m just in a terminal writing an article, or programming in VIM on battery life. Now I no longer have to execute the following command and guess how much life I have left:

 cat /proc/acpi/battery/BAT1/state

I simply run the command:


It tells me all kinds of information about my power usage, what the current temperature is, am I plugged in, what CPU governor I’m using. Its a really neat tool. I would recommend for everyone to install it. Worst case scenario it can be used when the system is undergoing maintenance, or if you left your box sitting in the other room and need to check the battery live via SSH. Check out the screenshot:

YACPI Screenshot

To install it it will vary by distribution. I’m sure Debian has it in its XXXX number of packages which means Ubuntu probably has it too. To install on other distributions such as Gentoo or Slackware you’ll need the source. You can acquire the source from here:
You’ll also need libacpi which can be found here:
Make sure you compile libacpi first, or the make will fail for yacpi.

That’s it, once you download the package and install or download and compile the source you’re good to go. Have a good time checking the battery life from the shell. Try doing that in DOS!

More Hardware to add to my collection. Toshiba Tecra M2

Filed under: Linux Hardware — at 1:23 am on Monday, December 10, 2007

If you read my post about my Toshiba Portege 4010 you would know that I mentioned in their that it was a little too slow. I couldn’t do the things I needed to do, such as virtualization or play Quake3. So for an early Christmas present to I sold my Toshiba Portege 4010 and I purchased a used Toshiba Tecra M2 laptop. The specs are pretty decent for the amount I paid for it.

CPU: 1.7GHz PM
RAM: 512MB (Needs upgrading)
HD: 40GB -> Upgraded to 100GB
Graphics: GeForce Fx 5200 toGo 64MB.
Media: CDRW-DVD Combo, Firewire, USB 2.0, 2PCMCIA Card Slots
Network: 10/100/1000 B/G Wireless

The battery life is not as good as my old Portege 4010 but with the time I save by not waiting on the CPU I can normally get my Quake3 I mean work done in time to find a power outlet.

The Tecra M2 has excellent support for Linux. The only thing thats not supported that I’m working on is the SD Card reader. This is the same situation as the Portege’s as they use the same hardware.

I’ll be making a post for any body wanting to run a real Linux distribution on a Toshiba Tecra M2.

My Linux Box has a new video card!

Filed under: General Linux,Linux Hardware — at 12:10 am on Friday, December 7, 2007

NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti 4200 AGP 8X Driver IssueI’ve got a new to me video card to temporarily service as my video card until I can get a cooling kit for my GeForce FX 5200. Its an older GeForce 4 Ti 4200 AGP8X. I thought it would be as simple as plugging it into my agp slot, turning the computer on and re-installing the NVIDIA driver module but I was wrong.

The problem is, since this is an older card I have to use a legacy driver:

WARNING: The NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4200 with AGP8X GPU installed in this system
is supported through the NVIDIA 1.0-96xx legacy Linux graphics
drivers. Please visit for
more information. The 100.14.11 NVIDIA Linux graphics driver will
ignore this GPU.

If you can’t see the screen shot click it. Its basically a pretty version of the above error message that tells me that I need to use the: “NVIDIA 1.0-96xx legacy Linux Driver”. Here is the download page for the driver if your running into the same problem:

You can temporarily use the “nv” driver in your XORG configuration but be warned this is not accelerated so you should just use it to download the legacy driver, quit X and then install the accelerated one. Unfortunately I could not get links or lynx to download from nVidia’s site because of some strange javascript code. I find it Ironic that the Unix drivers page isn’t even compatible with the basic Unix browsers.

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