Oct 18, 2004

The State of the Demon Address

It's an exciting era in the Berkeley Software Distribution world; indeed, things started off with a litigious bang over a decade ago, but now BSD solutions are more varied than ever before and offer the user heretofore unprecedented choice and power. So many are the options today that it's time for a roll call from the various distributions. Each of the four major BSD projects are pushing forward with development and experiencing growth, diversifying the Open Source playing field's offerings Let's take a look at what each project is up to these days.

Aug 25, 2004

QNX Multi-Processor Problems

I'm at wit's end here, folks, and I could really use some advice. My QNX install's performance is vexing me and I can't figure out how to resolve the issue. At work I'm running some extremely powerful big iron and grew sick of Windows. Our IT staff gave me the go-ahead to switch operating systems since I do embedded development not tied to the Windows OS, so I made the leap to QNX 6.2.1. Before I go on, let me share my system's specs:

After having read about how efficient the Neutrino kernel was, I was sold. I had QNX on my system within an hour and rebooted into root. At first I was pleased with the interface and bundled apps, but I noticed something that unnerved me.

I first suspected that QNX was only using one of my four processors when I took off my case cover to do a routine dusting. Only one of the CPU heatsinks was hot (very hot, actually) while the other three were only warm to the touch. Running the system profiler program confirmed that only one CPU was being recognized. Under Windows XP all four chips had been in use and I could confirm this by feeling the heatsinks as well as viewing the task manager program. After reading that QNX supported multi-processor configurations, I was stoked. Now here I am running a uniprocessor system because of QNX. What gives?

I upgraded to QNX 6.3 but this didn't make a difference at all. (I'll be going back to 6.2.1 anyway since my thirty days with 6.3 are almost up.) My system's supposed to be fast and I have three blazing processors just waiting to be put to work. For now, they just sit idle and useless. This problem has to be a configuration option somewhere, specifically to do with SMP support. Can anyone throw some ideas my way?

Thank you.

Jul 9, 2004

The Ninety Nanonmeter Speed-Bump

Last Summer, Apple launched a serious upgrade with the Power Mac G5 and for the first time in a decade used a totally new PowerPC core not based on the PowerPC 603. With IBM's PowerPC 970, Apple is using a mainframe-level chip capable of massive parallel computing, access to hyper bus speed, and huge volumes of cache. Since the industry hit the wall shrinking to 90nm, however, the Mac community has expressed unrest at the clock-starvation: Memories of Motorola's 500 MHz Fiasco five years ago bubble up to the surface.

Kill your worry processes, Mac users. There's no clock-stall in the PowerPC's future any time soon. Motorola's failure to achieve speeds above 500 MHz was a result of it recycling the PowerPC 603 core far too many times, something that IBM avoids in using its Power series core. The speed-bump at 2.5 GHz is the result of a one-shot problem involved in shrinking the die. But let me explain in more detail.

May 5, 2004

iTunes 4.5 Problems

I upgraded to iTunes 4.5 and QuickTime 6.5.1 from iTunes 4.2 and QuickTime 6.5 under Mac OS X v10.3.3. While the install went smooth, I noticed an extreme slowdown in my system after launching the the new version.

Activity Monitor showed iTunes 4.5 grabbing all available CPU cycles, so I quit and relaunched and after a few seconds I ran into the same problem. Remembering a tip from Trollaxor over at MacSlash, I ran sudo diskutil repairPermissions / in Terminal.app. While a lot of file permissions were repaired, this changed nothing with iTunes so I rebooted. This is where things get sticky.

I relaunched iTunes 4.5 and it spent a good five minutes updating my library (which means what specifically I don't know). After that iTunes was speedy, but my music was destroyed—over 10,000 tracks of carefully downloaded or ripped songs that took me three and a half years to make! I think I should probably explain how they were ruined, though, since I've never seen this before.

All of the songs have some hissing or buzzing in them now, similar to the sound of playing a data CD in an old CD player. Most of the tracks also overlapped with other tracks. It was as if iTunes had created new MP3s out of several old ones. Another detail to note was that several of the song files and ID3 tags had been renamed to garbage that looked like someone had held down the option key and jammed their hand randomly on the keyboard.

Has anyone run into this yet? I don't see anything that I did wrong, though I'm no expert. Did I perhaps run a wrong command for the Disk Utility program? If so, I am going to be pissed. But I've done that command a few other times and nothing has ever changed. So I'm stuck here and am hoping there's some way to fix my music files and regain some faith in iTunes, Mac, and Apple after this disappointing bug.

Feb 26, 2004

Thank Apple For FreeBSD

I have been running FreeBSD since the 3.x days. Right around this time Linux became popular but I stuck with FreeBSD for several academic reasons. At that point one was as good as the other, but as time went on this changed. Linux started gathering a huge following and it really hit its stride. The developers made leaps in bounds in hardware support. Meanwhile, FreeBSD crawled from 3.x to 4.x, which was a great improvement to be sure, but not as rapid or large as what Linux had been offering.

Feb 20, 2004

Eric S. Raymond's Match.com Reply

Today was shaping up to be a great day for Eric S. Raymond, Open Source figurehead and accidental anthropologist extraordinaire. He had finally received, after two years, a reply to his Match.com love-letter.

Using Open Source tools such as Perl and Jägermeister, Eric had wired his entire house to his 386 running Linux. His shack had just lit up like a Christmas tree before his eyes the instant the reply hit his inbox.

Straining to read the dusty 13" monitor, ESR pulled out a soiled handkerchief and spat it in, eagerly wiping away the years of filth and grime. When the screen was cleared, he sat anxiously at his kitchen table waiting for his lovely's email to come up.

Jan 31, 2004

Dear 2600: I have a serious complaint against you…

Dear 2600:

I have a serious complaint against you. The apartment next to mine has had hacker meetings for some time and things have gotten out of hand lately. I know it's 2600 because they hang a sign on the door.

I know they're hacking my cable modem because my connection dies every time they get together and I'll be offline all night. I get viruses too. They know my phone number and prank me with breathing and hang-ups until I disconnect my phone. These people even write stories about me and post them online. While they're doing all of this they blast their computer music at full volume and put the speakers up against my walls. The last straw was finding human feces in front of my door after their last meeting.

I bought a copy of your magazine to figure out their behavior but I'm still clueless. I thought you were about computers? I’ve lost my patience with this crap (literally) and I'd appreciate a response. I'd hate to have to involve the law.


Jan 7, 2004

Scoop Does Not Scale

For the last year Kuro5hin has been experiencing database corruption, timeouts, downtime, and packet loss of a frequency and volume both detrimental to site usage and inexplicable by any means. Now, after 12 months of unacceptable instability—especially in light of the $35,000 donated to Rusty to run Kuro5hin—I am moved to examine the outages and poor performance that have been plaguing this site. It is my responsibility to the average Kuro5hin user to expose the culprit.