Category Archives: Hardware

New build server was ordered

OK, so I got frustrated too many times when waiting for packages that were compiling. My current build machine with its AMD ‘Athlon II X4 640’ CPU and 8 GB of RAM, is now 5 years old and obviously no longer quite fit for the tasks I need it to perform. Compiling Chromium for 64bit Slackware in a virtual machine took more than 24 hours last week (yes, for a single package). Basically, that convinced me to empty my stash of donated funds (thanks to all of you Slackware supporters) and order the most powerful midi tower I could buy for that money. What else is that money for, after all. Well, beer perhaps ūüôā
Because the computer’s location will be the attic of my own house, its components (Seasonic PSU, Scythe CPU cooler, and the ‘be quiet Silent Base’ case itself) are chosen to minimize noise – it’s actually going to be sitting next to a bedroom wall.
The CPU I chose with the help of a friend, and after some consultation of my hardware store, is an AMD Ryzen 1700 at 3,0 GHz, along with 64GB of Corsair RAM (DDR4 at 3,0 GHz) but I am going to slightly overclock both. I added a 500GB Samsung 960 EVO SSD (NVMe) as well as a 4 TB Western Digital Red SATA disk.

With that machine I will be able to parallellize my build efforts and that means, I can¬†give you more updates and still spend more time with my family. The whole hardware order¬†costs slightly more than¬†1700 Euros which sounds like a lot (Robby pointed me to Ebay discard servers for a couple of 100 dollar) … while rackmount servers are cheap, you can not put them in your home because of the noise.
But it’s going to be worth it. And I will still have money left in my donations account to keep paying the rent for the ‘bear‘ server for at least another year. And then it’s rock bottom.

I will give more information when I actually get the hardware, install Slackware on it and create a virtual machine environment. I am not yet sure if I will keep using my own custom scripts to create ‘on-demand’ virtual machines or that I will switch to using virt-manager.
And I can finally also consider another “TODO” project that has been on the horizon for a long time: using Jenkins CI for ‘continuous build’ of my own (and Slackware’s) packages.
I will try to document as much of it as I can. I am sure that more people consider using virtualization to fence off processes, or create predictable (Slackware) OS environments using VM snapshots, or produce predictable builds. It’ll probably take months to get that point though… I am not in a hurry.

Again, thanks for all the donations during the past years that enabled me to do this purchase. You will hopefully benefit from it. Return on investment so-to-speak.

Eric

Alien Pastures switched to HTTPS

The “Alien Pastures” blog has been moved into a Virtual Machine (hence the short downtime yesterday) after its previous host hardware was replaced with a much beefier machine.¬†This was a nice opportunity to configure the VM with a SSL certificate issued by LetsEncrypt¬†(again, thanks Robby Workman).

So, from now on, the blog is served with a HTTPS URL by default. I hope you understand, this is a process seen on many other web sites too.

Cheers, Eric

Short maintenance downtime window coming up

My “Alien Pastures” blog will be down for two or three hours on Thursday, 27 July 2017, starting around 1700 UTC.

The blog runs on a server in the Teklinks datacenter, and that will be replaced by new hardware. Since this involves driving to the datacenter and doing physical work (thanks Robby Workman!) the slightly longer-than-usual downtime is needed.

Additionally, the following services that are running on the same hardware, will also be down:

The http, ftp, and git services of SlackBuilds.org will not be affected, as those are hosted on a different machine.

Cheers, Eric

taper.alienbase.nl mirror will lose rsync access

For the sixth time in just 5 days I had do a system_reset on my virtual machine which runs “taper.alienbase.nl” as well as “docs.slackware.com“. The virtual machine is¬†crashing under the load that is put on it by demanding rsync processes. According to my pal who donated the use of this VM to me for free, the rsync download rate is at a continuous 100 Mbit/sec for most of the time. This is apparently too much for the server, as well as for¬†my pal who had not anticipated this kind of bandwidth consumption. He has been paying quite a bit of extra money for the excess bandwidth during the past months.

I do not like it when someone loses money because of me, so drastic measures are required.

As of tomorrow (monday 15 Feb 2016) I will kill the rsync access to taper.alienbase.nl.

HTTP access will still be allowed, so people who configured slackpkg to download from my server will still be served.

I hope that this will put my pal at ease again, and also prevent the server from crashing.

Apologies for the inconvenience this causes to people who use rsync to keep their local mirrors up to date. I will try to find another location to host my SlackBuild repository as well as the multilib and KDE (ktown) repositories. The downtime of this VM caused downtime for docs.slackware.com as well which I think is unacceptible.

Eric

Raspberry Pi and Broadcom: a birthday present

475px-Raspberry_Pi_Logo.svg Two years ago (on 29 february 2012), the Raspberry Pi Model B went on sale. More than 2.5 million Raspberry Pis have been sold to date! An amazing number, considering that the original goal was to equip british school kids with cheap hardware for Computer Science education.

Thanks to these enormous sales numbers, the Raspberry Pi Foundation (a not-for-profit organisation) was able to sponsor several Open Source projects writing code which can be used with the hardware (XBMC, libav and many others).

And now, two years later, there is a new surprise. The Raspberry Pi has been developed as “open” as possible, however there was a part of the hardware which was not open: the VideoCore IV 3d graphics core on the¬†Broadcom application processor for which only a “binary blob” exists and which is addressed by a thin layer of Open Source graphics kerneldriver. This is not unusual – most if not all of today’s ARM-based mobile hardware has a closed-source graphics stack and no public register-level documentation of the hardware.

This is changing now! As announced on their blog, Broadcom has decided to open up their¬†VideoCore IV 3d core to accompany¬†the two-year anniversary of the Raspberry Pi. The code of the graphics stack has been open-sourced under a liberal 3-clause BSD license and¬†¬†it’s accompanied by complete register-level documentation for the graphics engine. This is unique for the ARM hardware platform as far as I know.

If you are an experienced hacker/programmer, you may be up to the challenge posed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation: to port the open-sourced graphics stack (for the BCM21553)¬†to the Raspberry Pi’s processor (BCM2835). And they will pay you a¬†bounty of $10,000 if you are the first person to demonstrate satisfactorily that you can successfully run Quake III at a playable framerate on Raspberry Pi using your ported drivers.

How cool is that? Of course I hope it will be a Slackware hacker who will reap this reward.

Have fun! Eric