¿Que pasa?

May 22, 2021

So, it’s been roughly 7 months since I’ve posted on this blog. Thus, a Happy New Year is long overdue. Lots of changes since then, but thankfully, they’ve all been good. I just haven’t had the desire to blog about anything in all that time. Pandemic and all just kind of took a bit of the joy from a number of things, but that’s slowly changing for the better in every way conceivable.

In short, I’m still here, just lurking. Hopefully, I’ll have something interesting to talk about in the near future. 🙂

Greetings, everyone!

Yes, it’s been quite a while since my last post. Lots of personal trials have gotten in the way since I last blogged about anything, but thankfully (big thanks to “The One Above”) those trials were overcome. I’ve also been busy with work and getting things ready for Phase II of our return to in-person instruction.

Now that all of that is done, it’s time to get back to some geeky stuff.

Or better said, “gEeeky stuff!” 🤓

As you’ve read in my previous posts, I’ve revived my venerable and battle-scarred ASUS Eee PC 901 so I can have a really portable laptop to run OpenBSD. Over the summer, it was running as an OpenSSH server as it sat atop the PS4 Pro in the room. However, I decided to buy a new battery for it so that I could take it on the go once again (another blog post is in the works about what took its place 😉).

While the Eee PC 901 has been great since I’ve gone mobile with it, the 901’s internal storage was becoming a problem. My Eee PC 901 configuration has an internal primary 4 GB SSD (more on this later) and an easily accessible but significantly slower secondary 16 GB SSD underneath. I had the 4 GB SSD configured as the root partition and the 16 GB SSD configured as my home partition. With all of the software I installed, I had about 10% or so of available space in the root partition, so while things were tight, I still had some room to play around with.

One day, out of nowhere, I noticed that OpenBSD was complaining that the root partition was out of space after I conducted a sysupgrade to a current snapshot. Once it managed to boot, a quick “df -h” showed something rather odd. All of a sudden, my root partition is only showing 3.6 GB of space and I’m “over capacity” at 103% capacity!

My Eee PC 901’s screen showing only 3.6 GB on what should be a 4 GB partition.

The only explanation for this is that the internal SSD was failing (remember, this is a 10+ year old netbook and most of these components were cheaply made). The only way for me to claim back some space was to uninstall Firefox and a few other packages. I had my space back, but I’ve now lost the whole reason for using my netbook. Sure, I could use lynx/links/etc., but I wanted to access my Mastodon timeline and other “modern” web sites from here. I did install Luakit and used it for a while, but as great as that was, there were some rough edges that didn’t make it useful enough to replace Firefox (Chromium was even bigger so that was out of the question). All of that on top of data loss validated my decision to purchase a new SSD for this netbook.

I already knew that the secondary SSD was attached to a Mini-PCIe slot. I started my search for a replacement and came across a lot of affordable mSATA SSDs and was about ready to make a purchase when I became hesitant of what I was reading. I noticed that many vendors were referring to these as “Mini-PCIe mSATA” SSDs. Something didn’t seem right, so I decided to investigate further before committing to a purchase.

After doing some extensive searching and researching (be sure to skim the comments; very important), I realized that replacing the original drive was not as easy as it seemed. I won’t go into too many details, but the gist of it is that while Mini-PCIe and mSATA connectors look the same physically, they are wired differently. Thus, inserting a mSATA SSD drive into a Mini-PCIe won’t work. Additionally, the Eee PC 901’s Mini-PCIe SSD interface is PATA, not SATA! Thus, I’d need to find an adapter to make this work.

My Amazon order for the mSATA SSD and the mSATA to Mini-PCIe adapter.

I did manage to find an adapter on Amazon that was specifically for using mSATA SSDs on the Eee PC netbooks, so I finally decided to purchase that along with a cheap 120 GB SSD. Granted, the read-write performance on this SSD was paltry compared to the Samsung 860 EVO I purchased for my PS4 Pro, but it was way faster than the 15 Mb/s that the original secondary SSD gave me. So, the order was put in and, in time, the SSD and the adapter arrived.

The SSD and adapter in my grubby hand.

The time came for me to crack open the Eee PC 901 and get to work. I flipped the Eee PC over and removed the bottom cover exposing the RAM, SSD, and other components. The old secondary SSD was removed and the adapter and new SSD was inserted. I closed everything back up, fired up the Eee PC, and hoped for the best.

My left hand holding the new SSD as I begin the replacement process. The bottom of the Eee PC 901 is exposed as I replace the old SSD still attached.

After turning the Eee PC on and going into the BIOS, I checked to see if it detected the new drive. I was pleased to see that the new drive was detected, but noticed that the old primary one was now disabled (not sure what’s happening here, but I imagine it has something to do with the adapter). Not a problem since I wasn’t going to use the 4 GB partition anyway, but I could not find a way to change the boot priority of the new drive. So now, whenever the Eee PC goes through the BIOS checks, it complains that there’s no primary boot drive and prompts me to hit F1 to continue. I guess I can live with this for now since my main concern was whether I could boot from it at all, so I plugged a USB drive with the OpenBSD 6.8-beta snapshot installation and off I went installing onto the new SSD with one large root partition since I had enough space to do so.

The installation went through without a problem, but the moment of truth was still to come: will this SSD boot even though it’s not the primary? After everything was installed, I rebooted and the BIOS warned me again about the lack of a primary drive and to hit F1. After hitting F1, I was happy to see the OpenBSD bootloader at the prompt running from the new SSD! It booted just fine and a LOT faster than the original internal 4 GB drive. I proceeded to bring my files back from the backup I made before starting this process and configure everything the way I had it previously as well.

The Eee PC 901’s BIOS showing only the 120 GB SSD detected as the “primary slave”.

Remember earlier in this blog post when I mentioned the 4 GB internal SSD? I learned that this is actually a removable SSD just like the 16 GB SSD! All this time, I was under the impression that the 4 GB SSD was soldered to the mainboard, and mainly because that’s what I had always read online! I guess some models do have it soldered to the board, but mine was on another Mini-PCIe slot on the inside of the 901. Since I had to open it up to resolve an issue that I thought was related to the internal power cable for the power jack, I figured I’d get in there and see if I could move the new SSD to that primary slot. Unfortunately, the 4 GB SSD is half-height, which means that my full-height SSD with the adapter was not going to fit at all. I did manage to find a Mini-PCIe extender ribbon on Amazon, so I may get that in the future to have it finally work as the primary and bypass the F1 message. For the time being, I can live with that minor nuisance.

I also found out that my power issues were related to the new SSD touching the aluminum foil plating on the inside of the bottom cover (the adapter brings the SSD up off the mainboard so it’s close enough to possibly make contact), and a piece of thin cardboard between the SSD and aluminum foil solved that problem.

To date, I’m completely happy with my upgrade purchase and it’s breathed some real life into this little netbook. I’ve been able to use it for some work-related tasks, but I can’t push it too much due to its lowly CPU and RAM. Still, it performs a lot better than it did with the original drives and it continue to be a great attention grabber when I take it on the go. 😊

Coffee and computing on my upgraded ASUS EeePC 901.
OpenBSD 6.7 artwork by Jonni Phillips

Hello again, everyone! Time for another blog post, this time about a new release of OpenBSD which came out on Tuesday, 2020-05-19. On this date, version 6.7 was unleashed to the world, bringing with it FFS2 as the default filesystem for most architectures, several SMP improvements, new and improved drivers and improved ARM CPU support. You can read more about it here.

And, as is always the case with an OpenBSD release, there’s some new artwork, this time by artist Jonni Phillips, and it’s definitely a sign of the times. It’s called “Coral Fever”.

“Coral Fever” by Jonni Phillips

So, how is OpenBSD 6.7? Great, actually! Though I had been running what would be 6.7-release for a while now since I run the -current snapshots, I had to redo my installation on the Toshiba Portege M400 in order to get the goodness of FFS2. Everything seems to be quite stable as it has always been, so I’m quite happy.

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to share this time. If you want to give it a try, be sure to download it from the OpenBSD website and either get it on some hardware or in a virtual machine. Have fun!

new main who dis?

May 18, 2020

Screenshot at 2020-05-18 12-49-30

Screenshot of my new Mastodon account.

Hello everyone!  I thought I’d post an update after nearly 2 months since my last one (such is life in “the time of plague” 😛 ).

Well, everyone here is doing well and keeping safe as we continue with “safer at home” orders, though most of those orders have likely been lifted by now.  Things have somewhat returned to normal (which means I’m seeing more availability of toilet paper than before), but with a “new” normal.  People are still physically distancing and wearing masks, especially when going to stores where maintaining physical distance is difficult.  Some stores are doing their best to abide by the rules, others show that they obviously don’t care and just barely doing the minimum requirements so as not to get shut down.  I’m now working from home with occasional visits to my sites upon request to my supervisors, so that’s a good thing.  Once we get the green light to return to our sites, I’m sure I’ll have even more work to tend to.

Aside from that, the other new normal is that I’ve migrated from mastodon.xyz over to SDF’s Mastodon instance, mastodon.sdf.org.  I’ve got all the aliases squared away as of this morning and all my followers were migrated over successfully for the most part.  I’ve also updated the “About” page on my blog to reflect this change.  Really excited to be a part of the SDF Mastodon experience now that I’m quite active on SDF itself, and it really fits the kind of person I am.  Thus, mastodon.sdf.org is my new home. 🙂

In the spirit of SDF, I’ve also pulled out some old computers from storage and have revived one of them (you might notice it in the image above for this blog post).  It is now the computer I use to connect to the SDF Public Access UNIX System during certain DJ shows on aNONradio to chat with other SDFers.  I’ll detail my adventure with that computer in an upcoming blog post.

That’s going to be it for now.  Be well and stay safe!

…AND WASH YOUR HANDS! 😀

Greetings, one and all.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to my blog. Not that I haven’t had anything to post about, but mainly because of this global pandemic crisis.  I’ve been keeping myself busy with personal tasks and this blog has taken a major backseat in my list of things to do, even for fun.  That said, I aim to change that and bring back some content in spite of this crisis.

As for all of us in this household, we are fine.  Dealing with a lack of toilet paper rolls, hand sanitizers, meat, eggs, and other items for the past two weeks like everyone else, but we’re all fine.  We’ve limited our outings to just riding bike and enjoying the outdoors near home as well as “grocery raids” (which is basically what it’s come to lately).  We don’t have any “shelter-in-place” orders in our county just yet, so we can still move about as needed.  I have been home for the past two weeks on paid leave as is everyone else, but this past week was meant to be Spring Break which was already covered. Teachers have been conducting distance-learning classes with students and will do so for the foreseeable time (April 15th, for now).  While most of us will be paid during this time out of work, not everyone is as lucky.  A few people I know are fine now, but they are depleting their financial reserves and while this relief package was passed into law, it may not be enough as we continue with this crisis.  Nevertheless, we are fine here.

The only positives are, as I briefly mentioned above, enjoying time outdoors nearby.  I’m also spending more time doing the things I love at home.  I actually have some time to catch up on some video games, neglected shows, and music, something that has been rather tough until this stay-home-from-work situation.  The only thing I haven’t done yet is pull out my vintage computers and do anything with them, something I hope to change in the near future depending on what happens with work.

I’ve also added my Fedora desktop to the Folding@home project in the fight against COVID-19.  It’s nice to know that you’re part of this monumentous project that has, in just a couple of weeks, become more powerful than the top 7 supercomputers combined!  If you can participate with your computer, please do so.

I’ll do my best to post my doings on here again.  The above is only some of what I’ve been up to, but I have a few more things to post about, like my Raspberry Pi 1 model B project I covered recently on HPR.

Until next time…

On my last post, I talked about how I installed OpenBSD on my old Asus EeePC 901 after receiving the EeePC 900a from my friend and left you wondering about the 900a. Well, wait no longer!

The 900a came with Debian 10 “Buster” installed by my friend and that seemed to run quite well (as most Linux distros do on these devices).  Nevertheless, I decided to go a different route with my newly-acquired 900a and install Haiku. If you’re not familiar with Haiku, it is a free operating system that keeps the spirit of the venerable Be Operating System (aka, BeOS) from the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s while improving its feature set to make it current to today’s needs. BeOS’s history is beyond the scope of this blog post, but you can read about it on Wikipedia. Next to the Amiga, and almost in the same spirit, BeOS was way ahead of its time.  I even got it installed on my old Motorola StarMax 4000 MT (a Power Mac clone from that era) as you can see on this YouTube video below and was quite impressed with it (I had run the x86 version in the early 2000s, but this was the first time I experienced the PowerPC version).

Anyway, back to the 900a! As mentioned, I decided to put Haiku (the open source successor of BeOS) on it.  I downloaded a Haiku nightly image for x86, dd’ed it to a USB flash drive, and proceeded with the install which went through very easily and quickly after I prepared the drive with its Drive Setup utility.

As much as I’d like to say that it was a roaring success on the 900a, the truth is that there were some issues. While it did install successfully, not everything was working as expected, mainly the screen resolution. Also, the trackpad wasn’t working as it should. I mean, the trackpad itself worked, but the buttons didn’t. Seems as though it uses the standard mouse driver, and I can’t seem to find anything to support the Elantech touchpad properly in HaikuDepot (the GUI package manager for Haiku). At least WiFi works, and that’s really what’s most important. I’ll likely keep tweaking what I can to put it in a useful state.

 

Given BeOS’s history in multimedia, maybe I can use this EeePC with Haiku for some MIDI sequencing and composing since my synth setup won’t work on the 901 with OpenBSD. Since the 900a and the 901 have almost the same dimensions, the 900a should sit on my Yamaha S08 just as nicely. If this all works out, I’ll have a reason to replace the damaged LCD display.

You’d think this would be the end of my “Eeexploration”, but not quite! In the near future, I will have my old, grubby hands on a practically-new EeePC 701, the one that started it all. Tune in next time to find out where that adventure will take me!

asus_eee_white_alt

ASUS EeePC 701 c/o Red at English Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0]

Back around 2007 or so, the low-cost netbook debuted on the computing scene. Starting with the ASUS EeePC 701, you could get a very inexpensive laptop that was low-powered and could be used for very light web browsing and e-mail. It was meant to be a secondary device to your desktop or laptop computer. Following the release of the 701, many PC manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and came out with their own, competing netbooks. Unfortunately, due to poor marketing (especially in terms of the OS), Windows XP being shoehorned on them due to demand as a consequence of said poor marketing, and the introduction of Apple’s iPad, the netbook met its demise. The stigma from all those factors still lingers today when it comes to netbooks.

But let’s not dwell on the negative. Many people, especially Linux users at the time, flocked to these cheap devices because Linux ran so well on such meager hardware (4-16 GB SSD hard drive or a slightly larger spinning hard drive, 2 GB RAM maximum). They made great portable systems in spite of their cramped keyboards. I, myself, was one of those Linux users that was (and remains) a big fan of the netbook.

At around 2009, I finally bit the bullet and purchased a black ASUS EeePC 901. I absolutely LOVED this device and it became my main portable machine for home and work. I purchased the 1 GB RAM, 4+16 GB revision with Xandros Linux and, after a small stint with Xandros and becoming frustrated (just like those Windows users), I decided to back up everything, wipe the drives, and install Ubuntu (my distro of choice at the time). I don’t recall if everything worked out of the box, but it worked for the most part, even better than Xandros did. I even ran Slackware on it and it, too, worked very well. A few years later, I would test Fedora 13 on it and that would eventually become my distro of choice on the 901 until I upgraded to my Toshiba Portege M400. The 901 was then relegated to running Lubuntu and playing Pandora via pianobar for when I wanted to play music outside while grilling. Sometime around 2014, I started getting errors on the drive and never bothered to fix it since I was now using my old phone at the time (LG Optimus L9) as a media player. So, the EeePC 901 sat unused since then in storage with the hope of resolving that issue one day.

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The white EeePC 900a sent by my friend, still in the box.

Well, fast-forward to November 2019, and an old friend of mine sends me his old EeePC after I tooted an article on Mastodon regarding the EeePC and how I was hoping to resurrect the old 901. The package came and it was a white EeePC 900a, the predecessor to my 901. Though it arrived with a crack screen (possibly from delivery abuse), it didn’t matter since I planned to use it for parts, especially for it’s power adapter. At this point, I grabbed “ye olde 901” from storage, plugged it in, and fired it up. To my delight, it booted! However, it soon reminded me of why I stopped using it. Apparently, BTRFS (yup) had gotten corrupted and was spitting out errors. I decided to open it up and reseat everything, and that seemed to have resolved the problem (had I known to do that after all those years, but I digress). Happily and quickly, the Eee booted to Lubuntu 14.10, but it was high time to install something new.

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My black EeePC 901 sitting to the left of the white EeePC 900a sent by my friend.

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My EeePC 901 with the previously-installed Lubuntu 14.10.

Since I was already into the BSDs at this point (with OpenBSD being my preferred BSD), I decided to drop OpenBSD on it. Installation went through quite well as it did when I installed it on my Toshiba and on other systems at work. Since I don’t have anything similar to LVM in OpenBSD, I just used the 4 GB internal SSD for the root directory and the 16 GB removable SSD for my /home directory. Although Bluetooth wasn’t working (not supported in OpenBSD), everything else was detected perfectly and was working without issue. After performing the base installation, I managed to grab a list of installed packages from the Toshiba and used that with pkg_add to install everything I needed on the 901: Fluxbox, Firefox, irssi, Chocolate Doom, etc. One “doas sysupgrade -s” later and I was at the cutting edge of -current.

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OpenBSD 6.6 i386 installing on the EeePC 901.

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OpenBSD 6.6 i386 on the EeePC 901 with the FVWM window manager (default) and XTerm.

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OpenBSD on the EeePC 901, now with Fluxbox and my usual apps installed. Sysupgrade is running to upgrade the system to a 6.6-current snapshot.

So how did it perform, you ask? To all the people that have always shat on netbooks for performance, I fart in your general direction! 💨 😀

I was pleasantly surprised at how responsive the EeePC 901 was (relatively speaking, of course)! Granted, it’s not going to take trophies even when put up against my aging Toshiba Portege M400 and definitely not against my HP ProBook 4540s with a 3rd generation Core i3, but it holds its own. It’s a great little machine for SSHing to SDF or elsewhere, IRC, streaming radio, and a few other things, and its portability is unmatched for me. You can see for yourself at the link below.

https://imgur.com/KHJj8lK

Heck, even Firefox ran usably. Yes, Firefox! Of course, I can only run a maximum of two tabs, but even that is more than I expected from this 10-year-old, low-end laptop. So long as I can check my Mastodon timeline and view other web pages in the second tab, I’m happy.

As a final touch (now that it’s running a BSD), I added a RUNBSD sticker on the back of the screen to accompany the other existing stickers on it. I think it looks pretty sweet, especially sitting next to the Toshiba also running OpenBSD and showing off its RUNBSD sticker. 🐡

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The EeePC 901 proudly wearing the RUNBSD sticker (like the Toshiba to the left of it) on the back of the LCD screen along with all the other stickers already on there.

So, what of the 900a that my friend sent me? You’ll have to check back soon to find out! 😉

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2019

 

Happy_New_Year!_(2138227696)

Even though it’s still 2019 in my neck of the woods and in some other places as of this post, I wish you all a very happy, safe, and prosperous New Year in 2020!

Out with the old, and in with the new!

As far as New Year’s resolutions go, I’ll do my best to keep this blog fresh with content. Got something that I plan to put out maybe tomorrow or on the 2nd of January, so keep your eyes “pEeeled”. 😉

A OnePlus Christmas Miracle

December 25, 2019

Hello, OxygenOS 10.3!

After all the waiting, my OnePlus 6T got it’s OxygenOS 10.3 update today! This update brings in Android 10 (most importantly) plus a slew of updates and patches since the dot-zero release. Big thanks to OnePlus for finally pushing this out. I know it was a staged update, but the chances of it falling on Christmas hardly seem coincidental. 😉

So far, I have noticed a few changes in the few minutes I’ve been using it compared to OxygenOS 9.x. Dark mode overall for sure, but I’ve noticed that the text seems…bigger than before. I also notice the big space under the keyboard where the navigation icons would be. I can only guess that this is only visible to those using gestures like me.

Dat gap…

I guess I can deal with it, but it just looks like a kludge. From what I’ve read, it seems like all Android users are experiencing this, but I can’t be sure. Nevertheless, I do like what I see thus far even though I still have to spend more time with it.

Anyway, a nice, unexpected Christmas gift for me. Hope you all are enjoying your Christmas as well! 🎄

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2019

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from UTC -5:00!

10 Cool Christmas Tree Lights (3)