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Monthly Archives: November 2009

Just a brief notice, took caff+tls, pulled changes up to latest debian version from svn, and hacked it into working state: script is here, suitable .caffrc is there.

Both power consumption and imminent cease of Debian security updates for the sparc32 platform (I was running a trusty SparcStation 10 still) made me look for a worthy replacement. Some requirements: three or more ethernet ports, very low power consumption, must run Linux (platform with all-open drivers gives extra points), and a RS232/RS485 jack for the solar power inverter read-outs.

I settled for GlobalScale’s openRD-client box, an ARM kirkwood-based design, which typically takes about 6 watts, has ample interface connectors, including two gigabit ethernet ports (yeah, I wanted three. well, turns out that brings you into a completely different price range – so I’ll simply use an USB-based NIC for my 3rd). Hardware arrived some 6 weeks ago, but there was no pressing need yet.

Well, while staying at the GSoC mentor summit, things suddenly went south, the SparcStation blew its scsi controller (and the attached disk’s interface as well), I lost ~3 days worth of email, and I had to hurry things a bit.

Here’s what I did to have stock Debian stable running on the box:

  • I upgraded u-boot to the latest version (it’s kind of the bios on those arm machines, first thing that gets run after a reset), as I needed support for booting off of sd cards:
    • grab latest image from the list at ( currently)
    • put on toplevel dir of a random usb stick, insert into openrd-client, reset, then at the u-boot prompt:
      fatload usb 0:1 0x0800000 uboot.bin / ext2load usb 0:1 0x0800000 uboot.bin
      nand erase 0x0 0xa0000
      nand write 0x0800000 0x0 0xa0000

      If that turns out to be succesful, issue a reset.
      After that, you should see this:

       ** MARVELL BOARD: OpenRD-Client LE 
      U-Boot 1.1.4 (Oct 27 2009 - 21:57:24) Marvell version: 3.4.19
    • Ready to actually install now. I did it as outlined here
    • Most important difference: we’re not setting up a Sheevaplug (which is also quite nice), so in the above howto, issue a
      setenv arcNumber 2361

      instead. Memory setup, I/O register etc. are all hard-coded on arm, so picking the correct machine magic number is paramount for having a working setup (and not accidentally frying your hardware, because some I/O pins are mapped differently. You have been warned).

    • I then decided to build a custom kernel, as the existing lenny image was not supporting all the openrd-client features yet:
      • cloned repo
      • applied this patch on top of it
      • stripped down config (you want to select OpenRD client from the ARM Kirkwood section), make sure mmc drivers are built-in if you want to boot w/o initrd
      • make uImage doesn’t even take that long to build, on the actual machine (1.2GHz, FWIW)
    • You can then flash your kernel image to the internal rom, like this (assuming the image is less than 4MB in size):
      ext2load mmc 0:1 0x00800000 uImage
      nand erase clean 0x00100000 0x00400000
      nand write 0x00800000 0x00100000 0x00400000

      This assumes the kernel image resides on the second partition of your sd card. Since u-boot’s mmc support is still a bit flaky, and sometimes fails to properly initialize the sd card after a reset, booting from internal flash comes in extremely handy – boots kernel from flash, kernel then sets up mmc nicely & grabs everything else from there). Which ends up with the following tweaked u-boot boot setup for me:

      setenv bootargs 'console=ttyS0,115200 root=/dev/mmcblk0p2 rw mtdparts=orion_nand:0x400000@0x100000(uImage)'
      setenv bootcmd 'nand read 0x800000 0x100000 0x400000; bootm 0x800000'

      (my root fs lives on the 2nd sd card partition)

    Really happy with it, now that it’s working:


Decided to put 11.2 on some spare HD bits of my MacBook last week. Here’s the log of things I did:

  • Grabbed newest refit, install docs here.
  • Wanted to install via the network install image (around 150MB) from a usb thumb drive, it’s such a hassle (and a waste) to go & and burn CDs for that. So I went for latest grub2 to make EFI/rEFIt boot from usb. More docs about grub2 efit booting:
    • usb boot on mac: german blog
    • grub background info
    • my grub2 setup (on a x86_64 system):
      • ./configure --with-platform=efi --enable-efiemu --enable-mm-debug --enable-grub-emu --enable-grub-fstest --enable-grub-emu-usb --prefix=place_you_have_write_permissions --target=i386
      • then make; make install
      • cd into place_you_have_write_permissions
      • cd into lib/i386-grub/i386-efi there
      • run ../../../bin/i386-grub-mkimage -v -d . -o grub.efi part_gpt hfsplus fat ext2 normal sh chain boot fixvideo appleldr loadbios loopback configfile fs_file fshelp halt handler help iso9660 linux ls minicmd probe reboot search video scsi msdospart bitmap blocklist fs_uuid kernel memrw part_msdos parttool ext2 extcmd hexdump minicmd read sfs xnu xnu_uuid 2>&1 | tail
        this should result in something like "grub-mkimage: info: writing 446 bytes of a fixup block starting at 0xa000"
        Note that in theory, you could just use ../../../bin/i386-grub-mkimage -d . -o grub.efi *.mod, only that this was simply hanging during boot for me – and I didn’t have the patience to bin-search those upteen modules to find the incriminating one. Thus the explicit list, which worked for me.
  • Prepare the usb stick:
    • you should be fine with using both ext2 or fat partitions on it
    • copy your openSUSE-11.2-NET-x86_64.iso into the toplevel dir of the stick
    • from place_you_have_write_permissions/lib/i386-grub/i386-efi, copy grub.efi and *.lst to a efi/grub/ dir on the stick (that’s where refit looks for bootable stuff)
    • put this into efi/grub/grub.cfg on the stick:
      menuentry "openSUSE install" {
       root (hd0,1)
       loopback loop /openSUSE-11.2-NET-x86_64.iso
       linux (loop)/boot/x86_64/loader/linux initrd=initrd splash=silent showopts install=file://openSUSE-11.2-NET-x86_64.iso?device=sdb*
       initrd (loop)/boot/x86_64/loader/initrd
  • Put stick into macbook, select usb medium in refit boot screen, boot install image. For me, the installer was falling back to manual setup, so grab the next mirror to you from, determine IP address for the host (“host <mirror_name>”), enter that into the field you get when selecting “http method” for the installation image. Path on that server usually is something like /pub/opensuse/distribution/11.2/repo/oss/ .
  • Proceed with normal installation. Easy as pie.
  • More general info for openSUSE on macbook:

Misc stuff I did:

  • most important first thing to do, to prevent 2nd degree burns on knees: echo -n 2400 > /sys/devices/platform/applesmc.768/fan1_min (you want to put that line into your boot.local script or something. and it’s nothing Linux is at fault, this is entirely broken on Apple’s side of things)
  • get headphones jack to actually output music: run alsamixer in terminal, press F6 and select “HDA intel”. Press F5 to show all mixer controls, un-mute “Speaker 1”.
  • for the iSight built-in camera: install isight-firmware-tools, mount your (hopefully still-existent) OSX partition (something like mount -t hfsplus /dev/sda2 /mnt, then extract the firmware via ift-extract -a /mnt/System/Library/Extensions/IOUSBFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/AppleUSBVideoSupport.kext/Contents/MacOS/AppleUSBVideoSupport. Reboot, and voila, camera is working.
  • everything else just worked out of the box.

Spent an intense last week in Orvieto, Italy. First two days had the 2nd odf plugfest; glad to see so many enthusiastic people from the odf universe again, or for the first time in person – and of course witnessing big corporation representatives like Doug and Rob sitting on the table, striving for better odf interop.


Following that had three days of conference, with many interesting talks (including those from my excellent colleagues Petr, Noel, Cedric, Fridrich, Kendy, Rodo and Kohei).
I found the outlined ideas around an "odfkit" (the similarity in name to webkit is not by accident) quite remarkable – if that ends up in more code reuse across the place (and ideally also reusing existing code in their implementation), this is Good ™.


Also great to meet the ever-energetic Chris Noack again; it was mostly due to him that I attended a few UX-related talks – and had at least the occasional feeling that approaches there were a bit by-the-book, maybe leaving a few peculiarities and potential synergies available in software generally and FLOSS specifically out of the equation. Reportedly, there are also students working on UX topics, so it would be really awesome to see them join the education project – in an attempt to tear down the wall between coders and interaction designers, that at least I perceive is existing in OOo.

Been at the mentor summit for the first time, and it was even exceeding my high expectations. Awe-some. If there’s another event that pulls together so many friendly high-profile FLOSS people, I’d like to know immediately.

Group Photo - everyone including photographers

Many kudos to Google for the event, and warthog9 for the nice group pic!