Jan 282011

Well, the conference is nearing its end, and yesterday morning it was showing. Wednesday night finished up rather late.

Yesterday I had a look at Rusty Russell’s talk on advanced C programming. Very enlightening, although much of it went woosh over my head due to my state of sleepiness and the speed of the presentation. In particular, it introduced the Comprehensive C Archive Network (the logo and concept is a blatant copy of CPAN) which I will definitely have a look at, as I find myself coding in C more and more.

I also had a look at the Dili Village Telco, which is making a big difference in Timor Leste (East Timor). I wonder though… now that people have been saved those long 3 hour walks, is there now a looming obesity crisis in Dili? Hopefully it’s compatible with the Serval BatPhone, as I can see the two being quite complementary once the economy picks up enough for people to afford the Android devices required.

Lunar Numbat brought up some interesting concepts. In particular, the use of 8051 hardware surprised me. It seems high integration and radiation are not a good combo, unless you want to see your bits flipped randomly. I do worry about the MCP2515 CAN controller in use though — that thing gave us lots of grief in an electric harvester project (a lot of data corruption issues in fact, frames about-to-be transmitted would frequently get their data payloads overwritten by received frames before being transmitted).

I learned a bit more Perl tricks. Perl is quite a nice language really, and gets unfairly called “executable line noise” (which can be done in any language). I finished up with a discussion on how to disassemble flamewars and extract useful information.

The Penguin Dinner went down well, another late night but quite enjoyable. We didn’t do so well at the trivia, but I chucked in $50 to the flood effort. It finished again after 10:30PM, so another late night. Thankfully I wasn’t riding the bike home.

Jan 272011

Well, this day the conference got on in earnest. Tuesday I spent almost all my time in the Parallel computing conference, which was very interesting.

The first session was, let’s just say, very interactive. Dr. Vinton Cerf giving a presentation on the implications of parallel computing on network infrastructure, wound up being as much him teaching us, as the rest of us teaching him. A true two-way exchange, with the added challenge of hearing aids deciding to turn themselves off without warning. 😉

That, and the discussions into FPGAs were very interesting, but sadly, I won’t be messing with FPGAs for fun at home. Too expensive, and sadly the companies involved seem to think that something is at stake by being truly open. (Yes fellas, release a FPGA with fully open tools, and I may consider trying out your product! Keep the status quo, and I’ll keep ignoring you!)

Yesterday started off with a very pertinent talk from keynote speaker Geoff Huston discussing IPv6 and the impending shortage of IPv4 address space. (i.e. we run out in February this year. Hint hint iTel!)

The direction that the commercial interests are pushing the Internet in is certainly a sobering thought. I myself run a dual-stack network, and I intend to code what I can to support IPv6 from the outset, however there is a hell of a lot of inertia to overcome on this issue. Non-technical minds are touting NAT as the solution, which still only gives us 48 bits of effective address space. Yes, fine for a small network, but globally it’ll be a nuisance. And NAT makes it harder to trace offenders.

We’re in for interesting times with X by the looks of things, with a lot of code moving out of userspace and into the kernel. That, and multitouch adds a whole new layer of complexity — largely because the hardware cannot tell us much about what the user is doing, we have to make an educated guess. That’s going to be fun to code for!

I was hoping to see the talk on ARM Device Trees by Jeremy Kerr, but sadly that got cancelled. So I prepared to pack up and check out the HTML5 discussions, just as I do so, a horde of people stream in. The HTML5 lecture had moved to the room originally slated for the other lecture. So I stayed put. HTML, CSS and JavaScript have come a long way in the last few years, and some of the things that are now possible make definite food-for-thought.

Sadly most of it leaves IE users out in the cold, but perhaps that’s payback for all the ActiveX and IE-only sites out there. I certainly will be making no special effort to support this browser.

Last night was a late night at the Professional Delegates Networking Session, a bit of confusion as to whether dinner was provided or not, when it started, and for some, where to go. It seems if you ask a Tom Tom GPS for directions, it’ll point you way over in the direction of West End. If you ask Google Maps, it’ll direct you to the Queensland Museum. At least a few of us locals could point the way. 🙂

The networking session lasted ’till after 10:30PM, at which point I made the long trek home on the bike, arriving at midnight. Needless to say I’m sitting in the back row of F509 now, somewhat zombie-like, and I gave the bike ride a miss today due to the late night. Hopefully the cup of tea before Rusty Russel’s lecture will wake me up. 🙂

Jan 252011

Yesterday was great. A lot of interesting discussion on Ardunio and the business of Open Source, particularly the commercial implications of the GPL. Well worth seeing.

Today has been good so far too. Been in N515 listening to the parallel computing talks, and it has been very interactive as well.

Whilst listening, I’ve set myself up on the unofficial LCA planet (in leiu of the official one) and I’ve duly noted the LCA2011 simplex frequency of 145.525MHz into my handheld … I’ll programme the FT290 later. Other radio amateurs at the conference may wish to have a look at this page I put together yesterday.

Jan 242011

Well one Lemote Fuloong 2F system has already been given away, and the new owner has been asked to try and find out about them.

Some of you may be aware of some Lemote related resources on my devspace.  I’ll try to get some Fuloong 2F stuff up there,  but I’m flying blind as I don’t have one of these systems.  The netboot and LiveUSB image you see online is for its older cousin based on the Loongson 2E CPU, and won’t work on the Yeeloong or the newer Fuloong, as the graphic chipset and northbridge differ substantially. The stage 3 tarballs (MIPS I or MIPS III little-endian) will work however.

I’ve got one of the Fuloong 2Es onto the case now however, we’ll see what we can get achieved over the next few days.

Jan 242011

Well, here I am.  Just registered and watching the stream flowing into the rego desk.  It’s not a queue, it’s the whole alphabet.  The only queue I’ve seen longer recently was the one to the checkout at the local shopping centre just before the flood peak.

Journey between The Gap and Kelvin Grove along Waterworks Road/Musgrave Road (to the Normanby Fiveways) took a bit over an hour, had a good conversation on the Mt. Cotton repeater, but evidently I’ve got a connection issue with the antenna.  That, and a bump just severed the connection between the battery and fuse holder, so I shall be riding home in silence tonight.  (Not the first time this has happened either.)

Not sure what to expect today, being my first time, guess I’ll find out.

On other news, Gentoo/MIPS I Big-endian stage 3 got uploaded last night.  Builds for other ISA levels continue.

Jan 172011

Well, that pretty much explains me the last few days.  Haven’t really done much planning, just been taking it one day at a time.  Ironically, it’s exactly what I recall seeing as the theme for linux.conf.au this year.  The very same year that the Brisbane and Bremer rivers decided to get out of bed and visit the neighbourhood.  Pity neither river thought to wipe their feet before flowing through peoples’ houses, leaving a trail of smelly mud behind.

Saturday and Sunday were spent over at Kenmore helping out my grandparents with the clean-up effort there.  As I was home alone, I relied on my one and only form of transport, the bicycle, riding (and walking) Gap Creek Road between The Gap and Brookfield.  Surprisingly, I can do that run in a bit over 1:20 or so, not bad for pedal power alone, and with a trailer loaded with gas bottle and camp stove to boot.

And of course today, seems I was a glutton for punishment, fronting up to Graceville State School and signing up to volunteer there along with my father.  So very little time spent in front of the computer this weekend.  Apart from the nasal assault the mud inflicted as we drove around Graceville area and the tiredness from all the running around, things aren’t too bad.  Our house here in The Gap suffered no ill effects from the floods.

Gentoo/MIPS builds have plodded along, I had to re-start the Qube2 building MIPS4 little-endian builds as it crashed for some unknown reason.  The O2 is busy building MIPS1 Stage 3 now as I type this.  The little-endian builds for MIPS1 and MIPS3 are already online in my devspace.  I’ll see about getting these moved to mirrors when the others are up too.  Cobalt users;  MIPS4 builds will be some time yet, if you’re desperate, the MIPS3 ones will work.

I’ve only uploaded the stage 3’s for now, since the stage 1’s gave me a slight hiccup with regards to python-wrapper, if you really want a stage 1 or 2 image, just throw the stage 3 at catalyst.

I did plan to try and at least get something going on the netbook as a bit of show-and-tell for linux.conf.au, which is rapidly approaching.  I probably won’t get time, but at least it’s working, so I’ll leave it for now.  I will definitely be there next week.  Those in the Gentoo community, we should definitely meet up at some point.  If you see someone riding in, looking like a postie with a bike downgrade, it’s probably me, particularly if the bike in question has an antenna or two mounted on it.

VK4MSL/BM on 2m

VK4MSL/BM on 2m: side view, will probably be seen at LCA2011

I’ve been ambushed by people lurking around it before.  I probably won’t have the coolie hat with me (too awkward to carry on a bicycle, and of course I can’t wear it with the helmet) so in terms of visual queues, that’ll have to do.  I’ll likely also be on the 2m band a lot whilst in-transit between The Gap and QUT where LCA2011 is to be held, so expect to hear me on 147.075MHz (VK4RAX) and 146.875MHz (VK4RBS) repeaters.  Sadly, no APRS yet, so you won’t be able to track me that way for now.

This week, a lot of nets and club activities also resume, including the Brisbane Amateur Radio Club, who meet at the Queensland Maritime Museum just across the water from LCA2011 at 7:30PM that Friday (the 21st)  for a business meeting.  Despite it being largely for business, we welcome anyone wishing to come across and say ‘ello.  Amateur Radio and the Open-Source community do have a lot in common.

In short, I’m cracking the whip on the O2, and hoping to have at the very least, MIPS1 big-endian builds up by the start of LCA2011, and I hope to meet a lot of you at this year’s LCA, which will be the first time I’ve attended one of these events.

Nov 092010

32-bit Gentoo/MIPS stages for both big and little endian systems are now available for MIPS-I, MIPS-III and MIPS-IV.  For now I’ve got these on my devspace, but I hope to get some of them out to mirrors as soon as possible.  I’d appreciate any feedback on this release.

The little-endian stages should work on Loongson systems.  All stages include a patched binutils binary (see bug #338405) which adds some fixes for errata in the Loongson 2F CPUs and the little-endian stages for MIPS-I and MIPS-III have this fix enabled in the CFLAGS, enabling their use on Loongson hardware.  They will also work on non-Loongson systems.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of testing with the little-endian stages in particular, and have had few problems with getting many software packages to work.

binutils-2.21 already includes the fixes needed, along with lots of other MIPS-related fixes… and so when that is released (they’ve already done a branch freeze for 2.21) I plan to build new stages based on this newer toolchain, and with the newer Perl release.  Current stages use Perl 5.8.8 since I found I hit a few snags at the time which I thought were better dealt with later (some package complained there was “something funny about this Perl version” and bombed out) as the primary concern for the Gentoo/MIPS port at the time revolved around gcc.

I downloaded and installed binutils last night, based on that day’s CVS snapshot.  I’m now trying to see if I can get qt-webkit to build (the biggest sticking point so far) using that, with the view of having a workable KDE-based desktop going on the Yeeloong and the Fulongs here before LCA 2011.  (For now I’ve got FVWM.)  In the meantime I’ll be keeping an eye on the binutils mailing list.

On the LCA front… I got formal confirmation of my payment on the weekend… so I’m definitely a go-er… I’m still trying to find out if I’ll be helping out with any stalls…

There’s a social meeting of the Brisbane Amateur Radio Club this Friday, wherein our involvement in LCA will probably be discussed — club president was supportive of the idea when we discussed it on our 2m net last Wednesday evening… we just need to figure out what we can do, who can do it, and what needs to be done.

I’ve managed to get fldigi going on Gentoo/MIPS, and so maybe interfacing one of the computers I have (either one of the Fulongs or the O2) to a radio transceiver… (perhaps one of the ships’ radios on the HMAS Diamantina… nice mix of old+new-er) decoding some RTTY or PSK31, is an option.  We’ll have to decide this formally.

Those who wanted to drop in… we meet at the Queensland Maritime museum this Friday (and every second and fourth Friday except fourth in December and second in January) at 7:30PM — entrance is via “Service Gate 2” off Lower River Terrace.  We meet in the lunch room under the bridge.  If anything is decided, we will likely make our final decision at the following business meeting, which happens a fortnight later.

BARC Meeting entry point

BARC Meeting entry point... via Service Gate 2 off Lower River Terrace

If Gentoo has a stall, it’d definitely be worth setting up one of the Fulongs there… and for that I’d want a reasonable desktop going (KDE, or maybe XFCE… I know people have done some stunning work with FVWM, but I’m not that good).  I look forward to LCA regardless… if neither Gentoo nor BARC are running a stall in the open day, then I’ll just have a look around and see what it’s all about.  I look forward to the event anyway. 🙂

Oct 282010

Hi all,

I’m in the process of registering for LCA2011… since it’s in my home town, I figure I may as well show up. 🙂 This will be the first LCA that I’ve attended, last one I was looking at going to was the one in Sydney a few years back … however at the time I just didn’t have the funds.

Now, with it in Brisbane (therefore no need for a hotel room), and having some money in the bank, there’s no excuse for me.

I’m not certain if Gentoo is organising a stall there or not this year, and there’s mention of the Brisbane Amateur Radio Club (of which I am a member), not sure what activities are going there either (this could be in error… I’ll inquire with the group and see what’s doing). If we have a stall… figured it’d be a good opportunity to get one of the Fuloong computers up and running as a bit of a demonstration of Gentoo/MIPS… maybe get my O2 running fldigi with my FT-897D decoding some PSK31 as well if BARC are involved. We shall see.

What is certain though, is that I’m taking the plunge this year… before the earlybird pricing expires in early November.