Oct 172005

Ahhh, so nice to be rid of most of the assessment. I put in my last bit of mid-semester assessment today, and for now, I can relax.

After this week though, it’s onto SWOTVAC (the week-long “holiday” proceeding the examination period — for the purpose of exam preparation), then it’s crunch time.

This year’s been a bit of a fiasco academic-wise, having failed a maths subject the previous semester… and one engineering subject right just now is not looking wonderful right now. (Okay, I won’t fail… but the marks will still be pretty ordinary)

Part of this was due to an assignment on programming the Motorola M68HC11 8-bit CPU. This was susposed to be a group assignment, but since I have autism, I prefer to work alone. I also have found it very difficult to build up much of a network in amongst my engineering peers. I’m beginning to build a network around on the IT side — it’s taken 2 years, but it’s starting to happen there. Needless to say, technical hitches ended up delaying this assignment, and so it’s ended up eating up time for other assignments… so much, I’m stuck rushing some UML diagrams for one of my C++ assignments.

We’re already looking into some tutoring, not just for myself, but for others too. I did ask Disability Services about this, but they basically said, “Sorry, we don’t offer that”. I’ve since got wind of some funding though, and I’m hoping we can get something set up. All things going well, we should have a framework up to assist not just myself, but anybody studying Engineering (and possibly IT), with Autism/ASD, to gain assistance.

I’ll be talking with people and setting the ball rolling tomorrow, we’ll see what happens.

Jun 282005

Well, I just finished my final end-semester exam for Semester 1, 2005… 6 exams in total (two maths, two electrical engineering, an IT software engineering exam, and a physics exam).

It’s a great thing to see the back of them now… as I can at last get to work on things that have been demanding my attention for some time now.

I’ve started work on a netboot-building system called PreLinux. It’s primarily designed to allow netbooting of diskless/semi-diskless workstations and allow distributions such as Gentoo, Fedora Core, Ubuntu and others run without needing to install them first.

The concept is this:

  • Inside an initramfs image, there’s a version of BusyBox and some basic tools, linked against µClibc, along with just enough driver modules to get the ethernet card and/or storage devices talking.
  • Once a means of downloading the root FS image is established, the system then attempts to connect to the network, and prepares the disk, formatting it completely as swap-space. As initramfs is paged to disk when not in use, it should be possible to run completely out of swap/RAM.
  • If a modules= kernel option is specified, it downloads additional modules to be extracted into RAM, and does further hardware probing.
  • The scripts then look for a root= parameter on the kernel command line. This is a URL to where to grab the image… e.g. http://foo/bar.tbz2, nfs://server/foo.tbz2 or cdrom:/blah.tbz2. This is extracted onto /.
  • The system then execs /setup.sh (from the downloaded tarball for /) which takes care of downloading any SquashFS/cloop images for /usr /opt, etc… and setting up any system-specific configuration settings for the booting machine.
  • Last step… /sbin/init is exec-ed, and Linux boots up like normal

This prodominantly for the Asperger’s Syndrome Support Network, as a means for netbooting their workstations for the Adult Computer Club… however, I’m also aiming to use this for Atomic Linux LiveCD, and for Gentoo/Cobalt-MIPS netboot images. Already, the system is more than capable of calling crossdev to make a cross-compiler suitable, cross-compiling BusyBox statically and cross-compiling a kernel complete with the initramfs — thus making it capable of providing netboot images good enough for bootstrapping Gentoo Linux. I have a prototype script that does some of the other idea too… it’s now just a case of putting it all together.

In short, watch this space. 🙂