Code Generation 2011

I’ve been having a closer look at the Code Generation event programme since my booking was confirmed. I can’t quite decide between a few of the sessions, but at the moment I think I’m most likely to choose these:

Day 1

Day 2

That could change though, so I’d be interested to hear any recommendations. Unfortunately I won’t be there for the full conference, so don’t mention day 3!

Now I just need to organise somewhere to stay, and work out the chances of being able to park in Cambridge!


Home server OS

Choosing the hardware took a while but that was nothing compared to tracking down a Linux distribution to use! I’m a big fan of DSL and, being damn small, it runs a treat on the Netvoyager but it’s purpose in life isn’t really as a home server. So began a hunt for a Damn Small Home Server Linux distribution which has eventually led me to…

SLAMPPLite uses the XAMPP server suite, and is low fat version of the “instant home server” SLAMPP. Sounded promising! So far it’s lived up to expectations, running the XAMPP samples without any noticeable delays- here’s how it looked with everything running (though not necessarily doing anything!)…

top - 02:55:44 up 9 min,  1 user,  load average: 0.49, 1.38, 0.94
Tasks:  80 total,   1 running,  79 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie
Cpu(s):  2.6% us,  3.9% sy,  0.0% ni, 93.6% id,  0.0% wa,  0.0% hi,  0.0% si
Mem:    119544k total,   116608k used,     2936k free,     9428k buffers
Swap:        0k total,        0k used,        0k free,    55916k cached

So a pretty tight squeeze, but on a £95 box (they reduced it after I bought one!) I’m more than happy. As an added bonus, SLAMPP/SLAMPPLite are based on SLAX, which made recompiling the broker for publishing CurrentCost data a snap, plus you get some handy tools for customisation, including the MySlax Creator gui for those of us who spend too long with Windows, so I’ve been tinkering with an extra lite version! (I may well be installing SLAX on my venerable old ThinkPad 240 as well since it seems so flexible.)

Now that I have the LX1000 BIOS password, thanks to the very helpful Netvoyager customer support, I should be able to get it set up to boot back up after a power cut as well. Andy has also been asking about file serving but I haven’t given that a try yet. Plenty more to do!

Update: Another quick look at memory usage, this time after stopping a few unwanted services:

# free -t -m
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:           116        100         16          0         17         62
-/+ buffers/cache:         19         97
Swap:           78          0         77
Total:         195        100         94

DSL, Puppy Linux, Netvoyager and CurrentCost

After some procrastination I now have a tiny home server:

Netvoyager LX-1000

The Netvoyager comes with some thin client software pre-installed, which I’m thinking of leaving alone for now, since it might turn out to be useful if I ever get a SLUG as well. (Well it is my birthday in a couple of months!!)

The first tiny hurdle was trying to boot a DSL USB stick I have. Unfortunately I discovered the BIOS is password protected so hitting Del didn’t get me very far. Luckily Netvoyager support helped out by telling me to press F8 to bring up a list of devices to boot from. I’m hoping they’ll also tell me the BIOS password to avoid having to do that every time because it got a bit annoying this weekend!

My attempts to boot using DSL were met with mixed results: booting from a USB CD drive worked a treat, but no amount of hacking got it to boot from a USB stick. It seems to be GRUB rather than DSL that’s the problem. It turns out that there is quite a bit of information about for the Netvoyager, under its Microclient and eBox-2300 aliases. Puppy Linux seemed to be the favourite option, so I had a go with that and, while being a bit slower, it’s working a treat. It had an added bonus of having a few other bits I needed that DSL didn’t. For now it’s happily publishing data for CurrentCost power graphs but I plan to break it again at some point to switch to a command line only cut down Linux install.

Definitely pleased with the Netvoyager decision so far, despite people suggesting even more alternatives since I got it! Cost, features and power use are spot on for what I wanted.

Update: Found a couple of useful Netvoyager links while playing around with new Linux distros. (24 October 2010)

Plug and Play

Thanks to Dale, I’ve found something to keep Damn Small Linux company on my USB key (there is a lot of space left after all!) – like Dale, I have an interest in mobile computing (unlike Dale, I have less gadgets, so PortableApps sounds great to me) and I’ve posted a couple of times before on the subject. At the risk of this weblog turning in to Dave, here’s a repeat:

It sounds like, between them, Scott McNealy and Dan Gillmor have got the right idea about access to my data. Hopefully not actually my data though! Scott wants it on the network, Dan wants it with him, and I just want it.

For years, I’ve quite liked the idea that I could have some sort of rfid tag with me (on my key-ring, in my watch, or somewhere I don’t have to worry about it) that would just log me on to my PC (and phone!) when I’m nearby, locking it again when I move away. It would be even better if it worked with any computer, giving me access to the same desktop where-ever I go. Scott seems to agree, although what’s with having to get out a “smart card” to plug it in? Sounds more like a “daft card” to me.

More recently, with the amount of data I can carry around with me (I suspect I’m actually behind the times here with a meagre 1Gb split between a tiny USB key and an MP3 player!) I’ve been leaning towards Dan’s point of view although, again, fumbling around to find something to plug in is just annoying. This is the 21st century! (Isn’t it?!)

The solution should be simple; I have a nice large lump of storage with me, that can wirelessly connect with any computing device (my desktop, thinkpad, PDA, phone, public kiosk, etc. etc.) giving me access to the same data everywhere. The data is also on the network too, luckily for Scott by the sound of it, so the two copies can be synchronised automatically, allowing me to work when I can’t, or don’t want to (it might be slow, insecure or expensive), connect to a network but providing access when I don’t have my storage with me (I could have left it somewhere deliberately or, not for the first time, lost it!). Even better if my storage is on some existing format expansion card so that I can physically plug it in to a) save having to carry around yet another gadget (just plug it in to a phone/PDA) and b) get faster access to the data if the wireless link is too slow.

(Originally posted 29 June 2005)

SoulPad looks pretty interesting too.

Damn Good Linux

Damn Small Linux is a superb Mini Linux distribution which I’ve been using on and off for a while. Like some sort of swiss army knife on steroids, it seems to do everything I expect of much larger distributions despite its tiny size. It is also really well thought out, being remarkably easy to use; this isn’t some bare bones command line only system and everything just seems to work without a struggle.

After getting my latest gadget (see below) I had another look round for alternatives but I’m sticking with DSL. Very handy to have around, and now even easier to carry.

Micro Vault Tiny– much cheaper than an iPhone!

Sony Micro Vault

Keeps my old Thinkpad 240 gainfully employed, but I do keep thinking a Damn Small Machine might be fun, or perhaps a Linutop… resist, resist, might as well give in to the iPod Touch temptation at that point!