ThinkPad 240 netbook

I’ve had a ThinkPad 240 for many years and in the past it’s been a bit fiddly to install Linux on due to the lack of a CD drive. It also doesn’t help that the BIOS won’t boot from a USB device, although it is a very old machine so I’ll forgive them that small oversight. In the past I’ve messed around with floppy disks and a USB CD but in comparison the last install was an absolute breeze, and it’s now working the best it ever has with Linux.

This time I used GRUB for DOS and a Knoppix live CD. I had been using Grub in one of my earlier Linux partitions but it was getting a bit messy, so I restored the mbr and added a GRUB for DOS entry to the Windows boot manager BOOT.INI file:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional" /fastdetect

I’m much happier handling all the boot configuration from the Windows partition since it’s the most ‘stable’, i.e. the one I mess about with the least! Next I copied the contents of  the Knoppix CD to a directory on the C: drive and created a GRUB for DOS menu.lst file with the following details:

timeout 30
default /default

title Knoppix
root (hd0,0)/Linux/KnoppixCD
kernel /boot/isolinux/linux fromhd=/dev/sda1 knoppix_dir=Linux/KnoppixCD/knoppix ramdisk_size=100000 lang=uk vt.default_utf8=0 apm=power-off vga=788 screen=800x600 nomce quiet loglevel=0 tz=localtime
initrd /boot/isolinux/minirt.g

title Command line

title Reboot

title Halt

And that’s pretty much it. In the past that was just the start of getting the wireless card and everything else working, but I’m seriously impressed with the latest Knoppix; it handled the Linksys WPC54G without even blinking and for basic netbook work it’s running on the 240 very nicely. Should have another few years in it yet!


Cheap low power home server options

Unfortunately my CurrentCost meter only gets hooked up to an aging ThinkPad 240 on a time-share arrangement with Jo; she is currently cursing about how slow the web is, so my graph on the power meter page is blank. Other people have a more reliable connection and are tracking down 3KW spikes and 100watt-ish blips. Good excuse for a(nother) gadget I reckon!

Current thoughts, in roughly ascending price order:

  1. SLUG: £57 (as recommended by @andysc)
  2. Netvoyager LX-1000: £130
  3. MicroClient Jr.: $214 (same case as above but includes 2 RS232 ports which is nice. Not sure I can be bothered with importing one… but more than one? Maybe.)

Out of the running (probably) are:

  1. Minifsk: $200+ (Looks neat and claims to have a serial port but in the US again)
  2. TinyTuxBox: cheapest seems to be about £193
  3. Asus EEE PC: better value at around £200?
  4. Linutop 1: €250+

And finally, Dale suggested a Pocket PC option earlier and Steve suggested an ASUS WL-500g. I must admit I’ve not looked in to either of those. I do have a Palm V kicking around but not sure that’d be up to the job! I also have a Linksys WAG354G but that is gainfully employed and doesn’t have any USB/Serial ports.

Decisions decisions.

Update: I’ve been very happy with the choice I made (a Netvoyager) but if I had to make the same decission today, it would be much much simpler: the Viglen MPC-L is a steal at £79! In fact, it’s such a good deal that I caught myself contemplating buying one as a second home server yesterday, which is obviously crazy. (30 November 2008)

RESTful house

Possibly a little premature (not sold the current house yet!) but I’ve been pondering the opportunity for playing with home automation when we find a new house.

Not even having the house yet means I have a completely blank canvas so I’m on the look out for ideas. On the hardware side, Nigel has mentioned Arduino a few times which sounds pretty interesting, plus there’s the Slug option. Laptops seem to get used too but I’d rather avoid that. On the where to start side, Andy’s house uses MQTT, is in Second Life, Twitters, and has a pretty worrying power meter graph, which should provide a few ideas! He’s not the only one- it would seem that IBMers like their home automation projects. Like Glenn, low cost is high on my list of requirements (I will have just undergone open wallet surgery buying a house!) although I suspect my idea of low is lower than Glenn’s! I also want it to be low power- very low power, so I’m pondering some sort of mesh approach to avoid any kind of server… as such… just because really! I quite like the idea of giving the house a REST interface. I don’t want any fans. So a clear set of requirements there then.

Any thoughts, suggestions, success/horror stories?