Monday, March 26, 2007

THLinux Update

I know that this will sound crazy, but I'm radically changing my approach to THLinux and may shelve it completely. After tinkering around for a bit, I realized that I am basically trying to recreate Buildroot from scratch. Which is stupid because the developers of both busybox and uClibc maintain the Buildroot scripts.

So, what I am looking to do is use the buildroot to construct a basic, static bootable core environment. Then I will look into adding in debian-like support so that you can build up your own debian-derived system (as the basic dpkg is supported by busybox... as is).

So, as I said earlier about THLinux, it's extremely alpha and subject to my whims.... neither of which can be considered stable. ;-)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

THLinux and Gumstick Gentoo Updates

As per my THLinux announcement, I have created a homepage for it. Now, don't laugh at the formatting of the page please. Remember, I'm an engineer... not a graphic design artist! But there are some basic gotchas and download link. Right now, the safest thing to do if you want to just try it out is to execute "#./build_thlinux; ./install_thlinux /dev/sd{a,b,c,d}1 {-g}"

sd{a,b,c,d}1 is your thumb drive device that you'd like the rootfs directory dumped into, and the {-g} will install and setup grub on the thumb drive(provided you have grub-install on your host computer).

THLinux TO DO:

  • Add build/install support for "nslookup" as it is broken in my busybox build (will come from bind 9.4.0)
  • Add elinks/lynx for web browsing
  • Look at adding TinyX and Matchbox for GUI support
  • Investigate Cross-Compiled installs... (this could get very interesting... )

Gumstick Gentoo TO DO:
  • Create THLinux-like build scripts to construct Gumstick Gentoo with a simple build script
  • Investigate the experimental uclibc-based Gentoo for shrinking image even more.

Monday, March 12, 2007

New USB Linux Solution Announcement: THLinux

After tinkering around with gentoo, debian, ubuntu, and many other distribution solutions, I found that none of them did what I wanted in a small space. Well, I believe I have finally solved the issue.

Announcing: THLinux

A full 2.6.x series kernel distribution with a simple master build script that fits in <64mb>

  • Boots From USB thumbdrive
  • Linux Kernel with approx 32MB+ of available modules
  • Scripted build environment with minimal deployment requirments
  • Custom Compiled
  • Build Script is customizable to update rootfs and kernel sources
  • Basic IPv4 Networking
  • Text Editing
  • Mount and read from nearly any type of file system
  • Patch minor bugs in busybox-1.4.1:
    • Patched applets/applets.c to allow static busybox linked against glibc (although the developers might argue I broke it to allow statically linked .... ;-) )
    • Fixed scripts/mkconfigs so that it generates a correct bbconfigopts.h
    • Fixed scritps/trylink so that it will actually work in ubuntu(and probably other distributions as well)

    Download missing/newer sources and patches
    Add more functional programs
    Add support for Cross Compiling
    Add support to build PXE-bootable images
    Create a "make menuconfig" style interface

    So far, I have been able to create a bootable thumb drive with the user needing only minimal command line interaction. A full build log is maintained in the background while providing simple status updates to the standard output.

    As of right now, my build environment has been tested and appears to be fully operational in Ubuntu Dapper Drake and Edgy Eft(with downgrade to 4.0 series compiliers) . Granted, it's an early alpha stage, but what in the embedded world isn't?

    Friday, March 02, 2007

    Top Ten Ways to Get a Geek to Help...

    In my browsing around the web and doing computer tech work for the past ten years, I've come across some truths in this world... relating to Geeks of course. Therefore, I intend to share my knowledge of how to actually get a geek to help you out when you need it.

    • 0x0A - Ask Them
      • This may sound completely insane, but sometimes you can actually get help from a Geek if you ask nicely. Usually, you can pick out the Alpha Geek easily with this tactic as (s)he will usually make some sound resembling a cackle and roll their eyes. Beta Geeks will mumble something about being too busy and walk away. Then you get to the Gamma(wanna-be) Geeks. Sure, it won't be the best Geek in the world to get your task done, but something at least will happen.
    • 0x09 - Threaten Them
      • This is only slightly better than the 0x0A approach. Mainly all this will accomplish is motivating the Beta Geek to get something done for you, if begrudgingly. However, expect a snide remark from an Alpha Geek, and you will most likely get a "deer-in-headlights" look from the Gamma Geeks.
    • 0x08 - Pay Them
      • As much as Geeks say they do it as a hobby, everyone likes money. Depending on the amount offered, you could easily net you an Alpha Geek.
    • 0x07 - Buy Food for Them
      • As much as Geeks like money, they like free things even more. Even if the free things are utter CRAP, it's like Geek Gold. Food however, is about an average-level enticement. Therefore, expect Gamma - Beta Geeks to be enticed.
    • 0x06 - Give Old Computer Parts to Them
      • Following on the same line of thought, this is a Gamma - (low-rent)Alpha Geek enticement. The only reason I say low-rent is that an Alpha Geek will most likely already own a small shed that does nothing but act as their spare parts bin.
    • 0x05 - Tell Them You Can Do Something, and then Screw Up
      • Now that we're past the NORMAL enticements, you need to understand something about Geeks. They love to show their superior knowledge about all things Tech. Therefore, if you don't want to take the direct approach with bribes, you need to appeal to another facet of the Geek's personality: Inferiority Complexes that are masked by in-depth knowledge of tech. So as the title suggests, tell the (Gamma - Beta) Geek all about this handy trick you just learned and how you want to show it off. Then as they are intently watching, intentionally do EVERYTHING wrong, and say, "Well it worked on that old Penturiam 98 Box downstairs... why doesn't it work here?" At this point, stand back and let the Geek get to work.
    • 0x04 - Buy Beer for Them (Legal ages only, please)
      • Ahh, now we're GETTING somewhere! About the only thing better than an all night-programming session is having a pack of frosty beverages to help "get you in the zone". This tactic will likely net you the big one, an Alpha Geek. Although, it does help to know what level your Geek is; therefore, be sure to use tactic 0x0A to figure out who is the Alpha Geek.
    • 0x03 - Tell Them That There's No Way They Can Do Something
      • The only thing an Alpha Geek likes better than beer or showing off what they know is a challenge, especially when you single them out in front of others to say they can't do something. If nothing else, the Geek will get it done out of SPITE. They will then make it known they did it out of spite and in a really loud manner. Be prepared to take a bit of diatribe at this point.
    • 0x02 - Be a Member of the Opposite Sex
      • Geeks need luvin too.... Even if there's no chance of it happening
    • 0x01 - Be a HOT Member of the Opposite Sex
      • Seriously, did you really think you were gonna get a date out of it?

    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    Other World Computing Warranty Hassles....

    Update 3/2/2007: After kicking it around at OWC, apparently, their owner made an exception and has granted my warranty request. I also want to point out that the original owner of the ram has used these people MANY times and has nothing but praise for them.

    First off, let me say that I don't usually like to do these sorts of things, but I figured that people (especially Macintosh owners) might like to hear this.

    Next, let me setup the situation. I bought a Mac Mini second hand from someone who had upgraded the ram with a 1GB DDR2700 DIMM from OWC, a computer upgrade website targeted towards the Mac user. The RAM has since gone bad and I'm trying to get a warranty replacement since it has a lifetime warranty.

    As they have a confidentiality statement in their email that does not permit reproduction, I will give you a summary as to protect all involved except the company in question.

    Since I saw no restrictions on the warranty information on their site, I emailed their RMA form and received a response .

    The response seemed friendly enough asking if they could use the original credit card to place a hold in order to expedite a cross shipment(nothing outlandish there).

    Since the original owner should not be liable for this, I let them know that I had ownership of the ram and would like to use my card and address to secure the cross-shipment.

    They responded back saying that their warranty was not transferable.

    At this point, I go to their website and read their warranty policies(see the quoted text at the end of this post). Nothing in there about being non-transferable or limited in any way other than direct physical abuse.

    I respond back to my contact with this, to me, reasonable view of their warranty, and they once again said that their warranty was not transferable.

    At this point I requested contact from the supervisor and have, as yet, received no response. Hence my dilemma. This RAM is about a year old, has verifiable problems, the warranty(as far as I can tell) should still be valid, but they won't do anything about it. The really interesting part however, is that the original owner CAN request a warranty exchange and I believe that they can use my card and address, but they won't do it if I make the request. What am I missing?

    At least for initial owners, they seem good enough at customer service.

    -- The Papa

    Here the text of their memory warranty page as of 3/1/2007. (screen shot was too difficult to post on blogger. Although, I do have both a screenshot, an HTML dump, and all the emails for my evidence.

    All OWC Memory is covered by a Lifetime Advance Replacement Warranty and 30 Day Money Back Guarantee! This warranty shows our commitment and confidence in the product we sell. OWC certifies and tests ALL OWC memory to ensure that this memory meets or exceeds the specifications for those systems a module is listed as being correct/compatible with. Unlike the competition, OWC owns and maintains our own lab that includes nearly every Apple/Mac model we list compatibility for. In addition to the long testing every OWC module undergoes before shipping (most just short test if they test at all), we also continuously batch test modules in the actual machines. You can count on OWC to consistently deliver the top quality memory products you need, correct for your system for a lifetime of reliable operation.

    OWC Memory Warranty/Guarantee terms:

    Within 15 Days of invoice date*: Should any issue be experienced with a module in a system it is listed to be compatible with, OWC will - At no cost to you, issue a Return Shipment Label that covers the return shipping of said product back to OWC. It will be your choice at that time for OWC to advance ship replacement product or request that OWC provide a full refund for the original product upon it's return to OWC. OWC covers the full cost of returning the product as well as the cost of shipping the replacement.

    Within 30 Days of invoice date: Any memory module may be returned for refund or to be exchanged for a different item. Refund/Exchange value provided for memory returned is the lesser of the invoiced price or current web listed selling price. Return must be received within 30 days of the original invoice date, after 30 days - Lifetime Warranty terms apply.

    A Lifetime Warranty applies to all OWC Memory items unless otherwise specified. Should your memory product cease to function in a system that module was listed as compatible with at the time of purchase, OWC will replace the module at no cost. At your option, OWC can either advance ship a replacement via a credit card authorization that will be released upon receipt of the original product or do standard replacement whereby OWC will ship the replacement memory upon receipt of the suspect product. In either case, you will be responsible for the return freight to OWC and OWC will be responsible and cover the cost for shipping the replacement product to you.

    The OWC Lifetime Warranty on memory does not cover damage that is the result of mishandling, incorrect installation, or incorrect use and is limited only to the OWC memory module. Although relatively rare, the most common mistake we see with memory installation is where a module has been forced into a slot backwards. All memory modules have a notch or notches on the pin connector that connects into the computer's memory slot. The memory slot has corresponding 'blocks/breaks' that
    line up with the notches so the correct installation orientation is easy to determine. Sometimes it takes a little bit of force to push a module into the slot and you can remove and re-insert an existing module just to get comfortable with the process. As long as you have taken care to line the notches up, and push the memory in all the way, you'll be good to go every time!

    *15 Day DOA Pickup policy applies only for delivery/pickup within the USA.