Tag Archives: tech

More on the ThinkPad X61s

I came across a couple of bits of information which are useful if your looking to improve performance on your ThinkPad.
First thing is though the X61s is specced as a system only capable of running 4GB of RAM, it can in fact take up to 8GB using 2x 4GB PC2-5300 or 6400 sodimms, Its can be quiet an expensive upgrade but very useful if you’re taking advantage of the VT extension on your CPU.
Second thing is the ICH8M chipset actually supports SATA II at 3Gbps but is soft locked in the bios to 1.5Gbps, this is a big difference in terms of performance, there is lots of information/rants/flames regarding the matter as it seems other vendors implemented the same restriction (completely missed this), it appears that there is a negotiation problem between the ICH8M chipset & marvel PATA to SATA bridges, this post provides a good summary of the situation & what changes are required to a bios image, but theres no need to get your hands dirty, there are modified bios images available from a couple of sources, I used the image available on the same forum, there are images available for other ThinkPads too, covering the X300, T61, T61p, R61 & R61e.

dmesg snippet from FreeBSD 9.0 before

ahci0: port 0x1c30-0x1c37,0x1c24-0x1c27,0x1c28-0x1c2f,0x1c20-0x1c23,0x1c00-0x1c1f mem 0xf8426000-0xf84267ff irq 16 at device 31.2 on pci0
ahci0: attempting to allocate 1 MSI vectors (4 supported)
msi: routing MSI IRQ 258 to local APIC 0 vector 58
ahci0: using IRQ 258 for MSI
ahci0: AHCI v1.10 with 3 1.5Gbps ports, Port Multiplier not supported
ahci0: Caps: 64bit NCQ SNTF ALP AL CLO 1.5Gbps PMD SSC PSC 32cmd CCC 3ports
ahci0: Caps2:

& after

ahci0: port 0x1c30-0x1c37,0x1c24-0x1c27,0x1c28-0x1c2f,0x1c20-0x1c23,0x1c00-0x1c1f mem 0xf8426000-0xf84267ff irq 16 at device 31.2 on pci0
ahci0: attempting to allocate 1 MSI vectors (4 supported)
msi: routing MSI IRQ 258 to local APIC 0 vector 58
ahci0: using IRQ 258 for MSI
ahci0: AHCI v1.10 with 3 3Gbps ports, Port Multiplier not supported
ahci0: Caps: 64bit NCQ SNTF ALP AL CLO 3Gbps PMD SSC PSC 32cmd CCC 3ports
ahci0: Caps2:

My MacBookPro3,1 is also locked to 1.5Gbps but there doesn’t seem to be any solution at the moment due to the signed firmware images.

Intel ICH8-M AHCI:

Vendor: Intel
Product: ICH8-M AHCI
Link Speed: 1.5 Gigabit
Negotiated Link Speed: 1.5 Gigabit
Description: AHCI Version 1.10 Supported

ThinkPad X61s

I couldn’t justify spending £1400+ on a built to order MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM, I settled on what has turned out to be a mint condition X61s with 8 cell battery & still under warranty for £172.98.
I’m really pleased with it so far but it’s still no MacBook Air (I went into the Apple store to double check) 🙂
Though they’re both “ultraportable laptops” they both scratch a totally different itch for me, the macbook is a sleek, tightly integrated with Mac OS, the ThinkPad is an extendible machine which is far more accommodating to various operating systems.
The reason I was looking to move to an ultraportable was so I have something I can with me at all times (obviously) which was to replace my back breaking 17″ MacBook Pro with the ability to run multiple operating systems with ease.
I was able to successfully multi-boot MacOS, FreeBSD & OpenBSD on my MacBook Pro using the gtpsync tool from rEFIT but support for the hardware wasn’t great e.g as It had an nVidia graphics card there was no resume support on OpenBSD, power management didn’t really work under FreeBSD either If I remember right & having a single mouse button meant it was a pain to use X, having to use workarounds with the eject button on the keyboard to emulate right clicks.
The 11″ MacBook Air seemed like the perfect machine for me, but the whole sealed unit really grinds my gears, it’s not that I wanted to take a screw driver to it but I’d like to have the option to extend the system at a later date instead of having to decide on the system configuration which would be set in stone, requiring a new system if I wanted to expand, the ram being the most important thing, buy it with 4GB of ram or be stuck with 2GB. Though 2GB is fine for OS X alone, it really doesn’t cut it when you’re multi tasking with iChat, Terminal.app, iTunes, Thunderbird, Safari, Omniweb or Opera. These are the apps which are usually always open on my system & my 2007 Mac Mini really struggled with this work load with 2GB or RAM, grinding to a halt regularly as the system swapped furiously, moving to 3GB gave the machine a new lease of life & stopped this behaviour, I would hate to be in the same position with a new system so the BTO Air was the only option for me.
I would also be stuck with another nVidia based system if I went for the Macbook Air which means I would still have problems with sleep & X acceleration so the second hand Thinkpad X61s with the intel chipset was the way to go.
The machine is currently multi-booting OpenBSD-CURRENT, FreeBSD-CURRENT & OpenIndiana 148a development build quiet happily.
The system works a treat under OpenBSD, sleep support is still not there in FreeBSD 9.0-CURRENT but I suspect that may just be a bug in acpi_ibm(4). I was hoping to be running Schillix on this system but was unable to get the system to boot after install, I suspect a change in device paths between booting from the optical drive in the ultrabase & hard disk is the cause but didn’t look into it in-depth settling for OpenIndiana after trying Solaris 11 express (which freaked out after the rwn driver was installed) while I work through the DTrace book , though I’ve compiled in dtrace support for FreeBSD & it’s there out of the box on MacOS X most of the examples in the book don’t work as covered in the book on these platforms.

Hardware wise I ditched the supplied intel wireless card & installed a AzureWave AW-NE766 Ralink chipset wireless card. The ThinkPads check minipci-e & wireless usb devices against a device id whitelist in the bios & if not listed the system presents a “1802: Unauthorized network card is plugged in – Power off and remove the miniPCI card” error & refuses to boot. Reflashing the bios with a modified bios image by someone called Zender turns this off & allows the system to boot without any problems.

All in all a great system which is cheaper than a netbook, far superior in build & spec but inferior to a MacBook Air in some ways 🙂

OpenBSD 4.8 dmesg
FreeBSD 9.0-CURRENT dmesg

Dell PowerEdge T105 & *BSD

Dell where running a special offer this week on the PowerEdge T105 servers.
For £173inc Vat & Shipping they make perfect test boxes, I placed the order on monday & they where here on thursday.
I’ve spent some of today trying ou the AMD64 flavours of FreeBSD 6.3 & 7.0-RC1, NetBSD 4.0 & 200802010002Z snapshot, OpenBSD 4.2 RELEASE & CURRENT.
One word of warning the onboard broadcom network card is a POS, you will need an additional network card installed in the system if you’re planning to have any means of connectivity to you box.
I used a cheapo intel pro/1000 GT PCI network card.

Here are some dmesgs:
FreeBSD 7.0-RC1 AMD64
The broadcom network card was enabled in the bios but wasn’t detected by the kernel

I was unable to NetBSD 4.0 & 200802010002Z as the setup program claimed there where any disks installed.

The broadcom network worked fine during the install process as far as I was able to obtain a IP address from a DHCP server, upon reboot when the system went multiuser & the network card was initialised the system would panic, using the intel card instead stopped the panic onboot, but still panicked on reboot, disabling the broadcom network card in the bios solved any panics. Screenshot
I was unable to test the 4.2-CURRENT GENERIC.MP kernel as the system failed to boot, complaining about em0: watchdog timeout -- resetting
wd0a: device timeout writing fsbn 1885728 of 1885728-1885759 (wd0 bn 1885791; cn 11 tn 98 sn 12), retrying Screenshot

I also booted the system off the FreeBSD-CURRENT snapshot using the bootonly iso, the broadcom network card was detected but panicked when attempting to obtain a IP address via DHCP.

Jetway J7F2WE1G5D-OC-PB

6 Months ago I bought a mini itx motherboard to replace my current ancient web server / firewall, I went for the Jetway J7F2WE1G5D-OC-PB as it was cheaper then the VIA ones & it also supports expansion via daughterboards, there’s a whole range to choose from, I went for the AD3RTLAN-G which gives you three additional gigabit interfaces which are based on the Realtek 8169 chipset. Sadly this chipset does have some limitations as mentioned in re(4) on OpenBSD
The RealTek 8169, 8169S and 8110S chips are only capable of transmitting
Jumbo frames up to 7440 bytes in size.

But I’m sure that should be good enough for a network of 1 user! =)

Hopefully within the next couple of weeks I well get OpenBSD 4.2 installed on this box & replace the current server, the only holdup for me atm is the builtin VIA Rhine-II interface doesn’t support adjustment of the mtu, which is going to cause some problems as I’m using pppoe(4) & don’t want use mssfixup in PF, using one of the gigabit interfaces instead would be a waste.

Dmesg from the 21/11/07 snapshot of -CURRENT

My new toy, Nokia 770

I got myself a Nokia 770 after Richard pointed me in the direction of a etailer which had them in stock dirt cheap, I’ve been using the unit for the past 2 days & all I can say is the screen is amazing, the strength of the wifi areal is really really good, its a little slow loading apps but that’s not an issue for me, I’ve got all the essentials on there, openssh, rdesktop & vncviewer, mplayer & scummvm on there plus there’s a whole load more at maemo

The tiny screen which runs at 800×400 means you can use rdesktop & every single detail on your screen is readable, something which my Axim can’t do.
Some of the installed apps on my Nokia 770

Minimo running on my Nokia 770

ScummVM running on my Nokia 770

The builtin Opera running on my Nokia 770

Me & my Axim X50

Well, it’s just a little over a year since I got my Axim X50 PDA & I have finally put it to good use. After a couple of plays with PocketMac Pro I purchased my license for Missing Sync from Mark/Space

Though PocketMac Pro had a couple of really usefull features which aren’t included in Missing Sync (extract .cab files from .exe’s & sync iTunes library), Life is so much better with Missing Sync. Missing Sync is soooooo much more stable for starters (I’m running a alpha version of Missing Sync aswell), it also allows doesn’t get confused if you factory reset your pda & try to re-sync it. I was never able to re-sync my pda with pocketmac if I let my battery run flat, I’d have to uninstall Pocketmac & re-install so that It’d give me the option to scan for a device & install its sync components onto the device.
Another problem with PocketMac was that it was extremely unstable when used with wifi & bluetooth usually causing the system to panic!!

I have also upgraded my Axim to Windows Mobile 5 which kinda makes PocketMac redundent as they still don’t support it!

New addition to the toy collection, Sun Blade 100 Workstation

Picked up a Sun Blade 100 at a bargain price just because the seller thought the unit was dead cause they didn’t plug a Sun keyboard into it!
After sticking 2x128MB ECC PC100 Dimms into it and powering up this came out of the console:
Sun Blade 100 (UltraSPARC-IIe), No Keyboard
OpenBoot 4.0, 256 MB memory installed, Serial #50638801.
Ethernet address 0:3:ba:5:a4:2, Host ID: 8305a402.

Linksys BEFSX41 Random Reboots

The release firmware for the Linksys BEFSX41 router contains a bug which causes the router to reboot when you run a traceroute from any machine connected on the internal interfaces. If you contact linksys support they have a beta version firmware available which addresses the issue (v1.52.5 beta)

My New Mac

Picked up a new adition to my GeekLAN today a G4 450 Sawtooth, upped the ram from 128mb to 640mb, currently hunting for a new graphics card to go in the system.

heres the results from xBench, you can compare online here
Results 63.68
System Info
Xbench Version 1.1.3
System Version 10.3.8 (7U16)
Physical RAM 640 MB
Model PowerMac3,1
Processor PowerPC G4 @ 450 MHz
Version 7400 (Max) v2.8
L1 Cache 32K (instruction), 32K (data)
L2 Cache 1024K @ 225 MHz
Bus Frequency 100 MHz
Video Card ATY,Rage128Pro
Drive Type IBM-DPTA-372050
CPU Test 52.00
GCD Loop 42.43 1.66 Mops/sec
Floating Point Basic 66.92 242.02 Mflop/sec
AltiVec Basic 36.98 1.07 Gflop/sec
vecLib FFT 53.84 835.88 Mflop/sec
Floating Point Library 83.07 3.33 Mops/sec
Thread Test 41.93
Computation 28.97 391.08 Kops/sec, 4 threads
Lock Contention 75.87 952.41 Klocks/sec, 4 threads
Memory Test 74.90
System 83.23
Allocate 373.66 243.74 Kalloc/sec
Fill 72.16 574.42 MB/sec
Copy 51.25 256.26 MB/sec
Stream 68.09
Copy 73.91 540.29 MB/sec [altivec]
Scale 74.83 552.27 MB/sec [altivec]
Add 61.23 391.86 MB/sec [altivec]
Triad 64.42 393.62 MB/sec [altivec]
Quartz Graphics Test 72.89
Line 57.11 1.45 Klines/sec [50% alpha]
Rectangle 67.59 4.76 Krects/sec [50% alpha]
Circle 69.42 1.60 Kcircles/sec [50% alpha]
Bezier 73.63 800.05 beziers/sec [50% alpha]
Text 120.41 1.96 Kchars/sec
OpenGL Graphics Test 80.39
Spinning Squares 80.39 56.25 frames/sec
User Interface Test 105.93
Elements 105.93 34.07 refresh/sec
Disk Test 55.88
Sequential 60.82
Uncached Write 55.46 23.12 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 54.61 22.36 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 88.95 14.08 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 55.00 22.22 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 51.69
Uncached Write 31.08 0.47 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 59.90 13.51 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 75.04 0.50 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 65.81 13.54 MB/sec [256K blocks]

D-Link Sux

Been dealing with a D-link DSL300T ethernet modem today & I now have a even bigger hatred for their kit, the pony piece of kit re-enables the dhcp server & sets the clock back to 1970 after powercycling the unit (even though you’ve saved the changes) resulting in a impressive uptime stat on the modems admin page & a confused firewall (which sits behind the modem) wondering why it has a 192.168.x.x IP address on both the wan & lan port.