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Help: Firewire Enclosures

  • January 29, 2007
  • Brian Tarricone

For a while now, I've been wanting to put together a small, quiet, low-power file server. Right now, I have a 1TB volume (comprised of 4 drives in a striped LVM set, so no redundancy) in my desktop machine. Since this box is also a (somewhat public) webserver and subversion server, I leave it on all the time. It's in my bedroom, and is somewhat noisy, so I'd be glad to be able to turn it off sometimes, but I still want the public services on it to be accessible all the time if possible.

The other problem is that I'm rapidly running out of space on the volume. Right now I have about 85 GB left.

NewEgg was running a sale on the Seagate 400 GB SATA II drive around Christmas, so I bought two of them. I want two more, but I'm waiting on a better deal.

My original plan was to build a very small box with no storage in it, based on a mini-ITX board (or something similar). I'd probably buy a 2 GB flash disk for the OS. For the actual file storage, I was thinking about an eSATA enclosure, but the hardware for this is rather expensive, as I'd need a SATA port multiplier, as well as the eSATA-related hardware. I really don't want to spend that much on it.

James suggested I look into Firewire 800 (aka 1934b). Since Firewire is daisy-chain-able, I'd only need a single Firewire port on the computer itself, and, in theory, it's infinitely expandable (well, not really, but close enough for my needs). The assumption here is that the bottleneck will be the network (even with gigabit ethernet), so 1394b would be able to pump out the data plenty fast enough.

To start, I need two things: a 1394b controller that works well with Linux, and a 4-drive enclosure with SATA-to-1394b bridges. Bonus points if it's fanless or otherwise very quiet, but I'm thinking I can toss this in a closet, so that's not a huge deal.

So I started poking around. I have a couple leads on a decent 1394b controller, at an ok price. However, I can't seem to find drive enclosures at good prices. I'd really like to spend around $100-120 on the enclosure. The best I can find is this qBOX-F, which is $190. And it's not even quite what I want, because it requires an IDE-to-SATA adapter. And if you look at the specs, it says it only supports up to a 400Mbps data rate. Useless.

Anybody know of any 4-drive Firewire 800 enclosures that do SATA on the cheap? $100-120 (or less!) is ideal, but I guess I'd be willing to pay up to $160 or so if I had to. Alternatively, should I just stick with the older Firewire 400? (Hell, if I'm going to do that, I might as well just use USB2.) Any other options to hook up 4 SATA drives externally that I can do in under $200?

Wage Gaps

  • January 28, 2007
  • Brian Tarricone

John Bogle, founder of Vanguard, says:

Think about this, and these numbers are in the battle for the soul of capitalism. The real income of the average worker in America has gone, from 1980 to 2004, from $14,900 to $15,900, OK? Well the real compensation of the CEO has gone from [approximately] $400,000 to $6 million, many times over. The CEO is making a statement and it is, "I built this company by myself and all the people that work here didn't help at all. They are entitled to nothing." Well, that is absurd. I have been a CEO for probably 35 of my years, 55 years in this business, an awful lot of them. I know it not to be true.

Really makes you think about the rich/poor gap and the erosion of the middle class.

Xfce 4.4.0 Released!

  • January 22, 2007
  • Brian Tarricone

This is just a copy and paste of my /. story submission, but whatever:

After more than two years since our previous stable feature release, the Xfce Team is proud to announce the release of Xfce 4.4.0. This release features our new file manager, Thunar, as well as many improvements and feature additions to Xfce’s core components.

Head over to our brand-new website and take a look at our visual tour, or go straight to the downloads.

Xfce 4.4.0 Released!

  • January 22, 2007
  • Brian Tarricone

This is just a copy and paste of my /. story submission, but whatever:

After more than two years since our previous stable feature release, the Xfce Team is proud to announce the release of Xfce 4.4.0. This release features our new file manager, Thunar, as well as many improvements and feature additions to Xfce's core components.

Head over to our brand-new website and take a look at our visual tour, or go straight to the downloads.

Digital cameras, libusb, permissions, hal, and other annoyances

  • January 18, 2007
  • Brian Tarricone

At some point in the near past, I stopped being able to access my Canon PowerShot S30 (yeah, it's an old non-PTP camera) as any user other than root. I poked around at the hotplug rules, and everything seemed ok. The device file in /proc/bus/usb was getting correct permissions, but still no good. I even tried setting permissions to rwxrwxrwx, and changing ownership to brian:brian, but still no luck.

So I googled, and googled, and googled. After reading through about 25 Gentoo forum posts, I came upon one thread with a post (at the bottom of page 1) that suggested something different: export USB_DEVFS_PATH=/proc/bus/usb. I thought that seemed somewhat redundant, but tried it anyway, and it worked. So, I thought, if /proc/bus/usb is no longer the default, what is? So I unset the env var, and ran gphoto2 through strace. I saw a bunch of attempts to open files in /dev/bus/usb. Wait... /dev? Sure enough, the device files in /proc/bus/usb are now duplicated as character devices in /dev/bus/usb, and of course the permissions weren't set properly there.

So I grepped through /etc/udev/rules.d for anything related to usb, and found the rule that was creating the entries in /dev/bus/usb. I modified it to set some of the stuff to 0664, with group plugdev owning (this group is specific to Gentoo). The final line, which goes in /etc/udev/rules.d/10-local.rules, looks like this:

SUBSYSTEM=="usb_device", DRIVER!="usbhid", DRIVER!="hub", DRIVER!="hci_usb", PROGRAM="/bin/sh -c 'K=%k; K=$${K#usbdev}; printf bus/usb/%%03i/%%03i $${K%%%%.} $${K#.}'", NAME="%c", GROUP="plugdev", MODE="0664"
The "DRIVER!=" bits are so it doesn't set the group and permissions on things like my mouse, keyboard, the USB hub itself, and Bluetooth. Since those "DRIVER!=" bits make that particular rule not match, udev will continue on until it hits the default rule in 50-udev.rules which will set it up for those devices.

Whew. Unplug the camera, plug it back in, and now gphoto2 works as my normal user.

Next I thought it would be cool if Benny's new Thunar volume manager would launch gtkam when I plug in the camera. So I enabled the option in the volume manager to launch something on camera connection, typed "gtkam" in the box, and plugged my camera in. Nothing. sigh

So, I know all of this uses HAL, so I opened up hal-device-manager to have a look. I found my camera in the tree, and, of course, there aren't any property strings in the device nodes that actually identify it as a camera. Great. Clearly, thunar-volman isn't going to know it's a camera if HAL doesn't identify it as such. But, I remembered a page out of the gphoto2 documentation that mentioned something about HAL. As it turns out, HAL ships with a .fdi file that identifies all PTP-type cameras properly (apparently they share common system, subsystem, class, etc. ids), but doesn't identify any older cameras such as mine. Fortunately, it told me what to do. First, run /usr/lib/libgphoto2/print-camera-list hal-fdi >90-camera-libgphoto2.fdi to generate a .fdi file. Then, move it to /usr/share/hal/fdi/information/90local/. Sweet. I unplug and replug my camera, and thunar-volman starts up gtkam. Finally.

Meh. So why was this so difficult? How come no one noticed that libusb changed its default device path to stuff under /dev/ instead of /proc/? I know this hasn't been working for months and months.

Anyway, it's done, and instead of going to bed more or less right when I got home, it's now 2am. Brilliant.

(On a side note, yeah, I know I haven't posted much in the past month. For those brave few of you who care, I'll get back to that soon.)

Xfce goodness

  • January 13, 2007
  • Josh Saddler - Category: Xfce

I added my new Xfce Configuration Guide to our documentation repository tonight. I hope it'll get some of you to try out the wonderful creamy goodness that is Xfce. ;)

http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/xfce-config.xml

* It might take an hour or two to show up; the mirrors have to finish syncing first.

Xfce goodness

  • January 13, 2007
  • Josh Saddler

I added my new Xfce Configuration Guide to our documentation repository tonight. I hope it'll get some of you to try out the wonderful creamy goodness that is Xfce. ;)

http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/xfce-config.xml

* It might take an hour or two to show up; the mirrors have to finish syncing first.

A new year means new things

  • January 9, 2007
  • Josh Saddler - Category: Xfce

...And part of those new things include:

Time for a status update from my last post!

I finished editing flameeyes' autoepatch documents, just before he sent in his retirement announcement (it's still a ways off, though), and before all his troubles with the stupid BSD-4 licence.

Added random bits and fixes to several docs, including a blurb about branding to the Gnome Guide, prompted this forum topic.

Only the first few items on my TODO list have changed from my previous post:

1) VDR guide updates and autoepatch: Done. Massively overhauled the provided patch (Englishification!), and finished Diego's stuff thus far.
2) Other assigned bugs: Much more progress. I got vivo to send in some patches for some ancient mysql docs bugs just before his retirement, so I closed those old bugs. Love closing old bugs! I've thought of a few more things to do on the pcmciautils migration guide, so I'll get those in and email brix for feedback.
3) Ebuilds: Got some help from Diego on this in exchange for the autoepatch docs. ) Some progress.
5) SwifT's alternative handbook: added some more tidbits. Ended up using some material I recently added for...

X) Forgot to add this to the last post, but one thing I suddenly decided to do a few days ago was write an Xfce Guide similar to the Gnome/KDE/Fluxbox guides already available. Something randomly clicked in my mind: we've a huge hole in the docs! I love and use Xfce (4.4-rc2, even) on my laptop! I should write something! Originally I'd meant to have it done over the next few months, to coincide with an upstream release, but...

So it took me all day today (since I was sidetracked for a good 7 hours), but I finally cranked out an Xfce Configuration Guide. It's the first all-new standalone guide I've written in awhile. It's much longer than what you'd expect for a guide on a lightweight desktop, because my approach was threefold.

First, I wanted to show how to install & configure a basic, minimal Xfce, and second, I wanted to show how to go beyond that and create a powerful, full-featured desktop environment that still adheres to the Xfce principles: fast, lightweight, configurable, and modular. Finally, I wanted to write a forward-thinking guide. Xfce-4.4 will hit final release sometime in the coming few months, and eventually the stable Portage tree. Therefore, I tried to write it in a way that's immediately accessible and practical to those who will be installing 4.2 (currently stable), as well as requiring minimal rewriting once 4.4 and all its huge changes hit Portage. To that end, I think I've succeeded. I'm hoping that this will be a real resource to all the folks that come to the forums asking "which one?" and "what should I run on this old hardware?"

I did quite a bit of research these subjects, examining not only the applications used on my (quite underpowered) old laptop, but also what the forumites were suggesting. Alas, many of the threads were quite old (2005), and most packages were no longer available -- a good example would be any gtk-1 apps, such as webbrowsers and email clients -- or too heavyweight to warrant consideration. Firefox and firefox-bin are the heaviest packages by far recommended in the guide, and even they run nicely on 128MB memory, a slow hard disk, and abysmal system I/O.

On a final note, my ISP has been completely sucking tonight. Internet availability has been terribly spotty. It's making it impossible to shop online for a headset for Skype. I got my first taste of Skype a few days ago, though it was only listening in to a few of my fellow devs; I had to use IRC to talk. That was pretty cumbersome, but now I feel the pull of Skype...must use it! It's so much more fun to hang out with the guys in #-dev via VoIP.

Back in Cali… Sorta

  • January 6, 2007
  • Brian Tarricone

After a minor ordeal of a travel day, I'm back in Cali, kinda. I'm heading out to Las Vegas to go to CES Saturday morning.

I surprisingly had a great time being back home. There ended up being plenty to do, I met some new people, and saw a few people I haven't seen in a very long time.

I need to pack, and get some sleep. Aside from some minor dozing on the plane, I've been up for 25 hours, with only a 1.5-hour nap before that. No good.