Tag Archives: toys

A NeXT workstation in Brighton

NeXTstationFor many years I’ve wondered if there were any NeXT systems in my home town. Search results certainly brought up mirrors at University of Brighton many years ago or promotional announcements of classic UNIX workstation vendors such as Solborne for University of Sussex. End of last summer I received a pleasant message from Luke on twitter to say one had been found sitting around in a disused room that had been locked for many years .
It Turns out such systems are still around and finally one is in my hands. Internet friends are the best! ūüôā
grazed NeXT logo
Despite the grazed logo, system is in great condition. The status of the system is unknown due to the lack of peripherals. It’s just the slab. By the logo it appears to be a stock mono NeXTstation. I’ll leave it connected to the power before I try and power it up NeXT week!

NeXTstation label

NeXTstation Turbo Color

NeXTstation Color
After many years of trying to get my hands on a NeXT machine, I finally received a turbo color slab as a gift from Joshua Elasser of the OpenBSD project last week. The machine with eventually made its way to my from Portland, OR after a lengthy delay at the customs here. The machine didn’t work out of the box, first I needed to find a sync on green LCD which the Dell UltraSharp 1901FPs could, then I discovered the system was net booting despite having a 4GB ST15150N SCSI disk installed. Following the manual I re-jumpered the disk to set it to delay start which fixed the issue. The system was running OPENSTEP which was configured to be connected to other machines on a private network which caused delays booting as the daemons waited to time out. Following the Apple KB article I entered the boot prom & boot the system in single user mode to reset the root password thanks to a post on the nextcomputers forum . The system has 32MB RAM (expandable to 128MB), according to /etc/hostconfig is called murphy and the keyboard is tagged “Fuller Brush CO.”. The Config.app is broken on the system so not sure as to wipe it & restart or just replace the affected binaries. I’d like to get my hands on a daydream rom box which’ll allow me to run classic Mac OS natively on this machine, there are plans on next computers to build one from scratch & progress is being slowly made.


NeXT Mouse

IBM ThinkPad X60s – Part 1 “headless brick”


Since the announcement regarding the X60 series becoming certified by the FSF I’ve been interested in getting my hands on one. Not because of the political statement but I really wanted to play with coreboot on something other than my Alix which at the time previously had ended disasterously.
Luckily my regular used computer hardware pusher told me he had an X60s albeit with a broken screen which I could have. I decided to put off collecting it until I had managed to source a replacement screen cheaply so that there’s one less computer to move around with, come summer time there were “compatible” panels being advertised on ebay for between ¬£40 to ¬£80, I collected the ThinkPad & eventually ordered a panel listed specifically for the model ThinkPad I had (1704-GL5).
Once the panel had showed up, I began stripping the display assembly to swap LCD panels, fairly straight forward to do apart from the bits of tape which stick to the side frame & LCD panel. With the old panel out, I began trying to fit the new panel in the frame, the screw holes lined up though things were slightly off alignment, the cover still fitted so I continued.
I connected the panel to the motherboard via the ribbon & to make sure the display actually worked before tightening the screws I switched the laptop on. The fan on the laptop spunup and the moment when the display is meant to become active the system switched off. Subsequent boot attempts resulted in even short runs before switching off. The panel the seller had sent was not compatible with the ThinkPad & the pinout on the panel was completely different.

I was pointed to the X60 fuse list & advised to check those fuses were ok. Stripping the board & checking the fuses with a multimeter for circuit continuity showed that fuse F5 had blown (responsible for the LCD inverter).
I was unsure of the state of the motherboard at this point and whether there was further damage caused to the board. As I had stripped the system to test the fuses, the CMOS battery had been disconnected which obviously caused BIOS settings to be reset. Not sure of which, but on the first power attempt after a reset the system either opts to run from the first connected display or the VGA out, either way the system completed post with an external monitor connected, pressing the hot key to switch to the LCD panel exhibited the previous behavior and the system switching off promptly.
I obtained a full refund for the LCD display from the seller & the replacement fuses were with me after a couple of weeks of shipping blunders from RS.


I’d never attempted to do surface-mount re-soldering before, attempting to remove & re-solder components on a scrap circuit board didn’t go too well, not sure if it was the soldering iron I was using or the solder used on the components but I didn’t make any component move. Thanks to the kindness of a member of the Hackspace with experience who offered to help with the use of 2 soldering irons the fuse came off & they were able to replace it with a new fuse. The problem was fixed, the system was able to drive the original (broken) panel and complete post successfully.


Returning to search on ebay, I sourced a complete display assembly for £21 which saved the hassle of trying to fit thing back again into the old assembly.
The system was fully functional once again & ready for playing with CoreBoot.


Restrictions on Apple hardware

I was recently looking for a link I thought I’d bookmarked on how to install recent versions of Mac OS X on EoL Apple hardware, specifically the Mac Pro. I was unsuccessful in finding the link I was looking for but I did find¬†that ¬†you can re-flash a MacPro1,1 with a MacPro2,1 EFI firmware, main benefit being microcode updates. Turns out the hardware in the first & second generation Mac Pro is identical bar the model of CPU available. There’s also modified images to bring the¬†MacPro4,1 to 5,1¬†which seems to provide much more benefit than the previously mentioned modification.

This got me thinking about some of the issues I’d¬†experienced¬†with¬†older apple hardware and the work arounds, it has been a while since I’ve posted something here so I wrote this post.

On the old world SCSI Macs (pre biege G3?) the drive vendor on the disk firmware with be identified as Apple which the Drive Setup utility (predecessor of Disk Utility) would look for, if it was not found, you would not be able to format your drive as HFS and hence be unable to install Mac OS. Work around was either finding another platform to format the disk or modify a copy of Drive Setup utility with ResEdit & add the drive to the necessary table.

The first of blue & white PowerMac G3 systems logic board shipped with a buggy CMD IDE controller which would corrupt data when doing DMA transfer, Apple shipped the disks in these systems with the firmware tied to PIO mode which was lots of fun when you came to replace the disk with a newer/bigger/faster one. To complete the replacement successfully, the new disk with need to be connected to a PC first & using the firmware utility provided by the vendor, make the same change of restricting the disks operation mode to PIO, otherwise it would not be possible to rely on the disk as data would be corrupted as you began writing to it, there was a recall for the motherboard If you were aware of the issue at the time.

The Mid/Late 2007 MacBook Pro (per advisory?) has the SATA port on the ICH8-M south bridge locked to SATA I even though it is capable of SATA II.

Most systems with user replaceable RAM are capable of taking more than official specification documents list. MacTracker Рan application which lists specs & information about Apple hardware provides advertised & actual maximum memory capabilities of system. Not so much a software based restriction but a documentation one.

Bricking & Unbricking a Dell Inspiron Mini 9

I dusted off an old Dell Mini 9 netbook I had lying around, I’d stopped using it as the netbook refused to charge its battery once it’d run down completely (easily do-able if the machine is used lightly & could go up to a month without use), after the second battery It happend to, I gave up on it.
A side effect of the battery being run down was that it was not possible to flash the BIOS through windows, Phoenix WinPhlash refuses to write to the flash if there is no battery detected & exits with error code: -144.
This is not an issue on DOS using the phlash16 utility. Here lies a different kind of madness, as it’s attempting to write to the flash it stops using the mains & switches to battery power source, which if you have an unchargable battery results in bricking the netbook.
At this point, you can perform a flash recovery using a boot floppy containing a special boot sector, the phlash16 utility, some library and a copy of the image to flash named as BIOS.WPH generated with the BIOS recovery tool.
To initiate the recovery mode, the power and battery need to be removed, a USB floppy drive connected (of the left hand side ports only the USB port closest to the SD card reader worked on mine). With the Fn & B keys held down on the keyboard, connect the power whilst continuing to hold the keys down. At this point the power light should switch on. Press the power button & when you hear a beep, let go of the keyboard keys.
After a moment the system will begin reading the floppy & once reflashing commences, the system will begin beeping, once it has finished the system will reboot & startup normally.
I was unable to find working links for prepared images which I could write using dd so instead had to resort to finding another machine running Windows XP & a USB floppy drive but I’ve imaged the floppies I created so hopefully It wont be a repeated exercise.

The images can be written to a USB flash drive & used to recover a Mini 9

A04 Bios recovery image
A07 Bios recovery image

If you have a faulty or uncharged battery & you intend to use the phlash16 utility, remove the battery before attempting to flash the BIOS.

Building RetroBSD on Mac OS X

Earlier this week it was announced on the RetroBSD forum that the official repository had moved to GitHub. Along with the move came changes which fixed previous issues with the build so now it is possible to build a RetroBSD image on Mac OS X.

As covered in the RetroBSD installation document, I installed the required dependencies from MacPorts & used the prebuilt PIC32 toolchain to build RetroBSD.

port install bison byacc flex libelf

The compiler was uncompressed to /usr/local to keep it inline with the code base & reduce the number of changes need to get thing to build.

I’d previously installed the command line tools from within Xcode, while this had installed clang & the rest of the toolchain into /usr, I was missing /usr/include, installing the command line tools manually with xcode-select --install fixed this.

Kernel built from the SVN code base on Google Code:
2.11 BSD Unix for PIC32, revision 892M build 2:
Compiled 2014-03-29 by xxx@xxx:
cpu: 795F512L 80 MHz, bus 80 MHz
oscillator: XT crystal, PLL div 1:2 mult x20
console: tty0 (5,0)
sd0: port SPI2, select pin C14
sd0: type SDHC, size 15339520 kbytes, speed 13 Mbit/sec
phys mem = 128 kbytes
user mem = 96 kbytes
root dev = rd0a (0,1)
root size = 102400 kbytes
swap dev = rd0b (0,2)
swap size = 2048 kbytes
temp0: allocated 30 blocks
/dev/rd0a: 588 files, 8752 used, 93247 free
temp0: released allocation
Starting daemons: update cron

2.11 BSD UNIX (pic32) (console)

Kernel built from the git code base on GitHub:
2.11 BSD Unix for PIC32, revision G38 build 1:
Compiled 2014-04-19 by xxx@xxx:
cpu: 795F512L 80 MHz, bus 80 MHz
oscillator: XT crystal, PLL div 1:2 mult x20
console: tty0 (5,0)
sd0: port SPI2, select pin C14
sd0: type SDHC, size 15339520 kbytes, speed 13 Mbit/sec
phys mem = 128 kbytes
user mem = 96 kbytes
root dev = rd0a (0,1)
root size = 102400 kbytes
swap dev = rd0b (0,2)
swap size = 2048 kbytes
/dev/rd0a: 588 files, 8752 used, 93247 free
Starting daemons: update cron

2.11 BSD UNIX (pic32) (console)

RetroBSD on chipKIT Max32 with Arduino Ethernet shield

I bought myself one of these boards to play with RetroBSD a few months back but with build issues & other distractions in real life I didn’t get very far because the stock MAX32 kernel configuration is for SD card slots wired to the board whereas I was trying to use the SD card slot on an ethernet shield. This resulted in the kernel not being able to detect the SD card, hence no root file system. I’d use prebuilt binaries without trying to build my own but for some reason there is no prebuilt kernel image for the configuration I require. Finally, tonight I managed to get a MAX32-ETH kernel built & flashed onto the board, still unable to build the userland but I was able to get an older prebuilt image from the RetroBSD Autobuild Server which currently has images for build 860 & 778.

Will follow up once I have everything building from scratch.
Building RetroBSD on Mac OS X

2.11 BSD Unix for PIC32, revision 892 build 1:
Compiled 2014-03-29 by xxx@xxx.xxx:
cpu: 795F512L 80 MHz, bus 80 MHz
oscillator: XT crystal, PLL div 1:2 mult x20
console: tty0 (5,0)
sd0: port SPI2, select pin C14
sd0: type SDHC, size 15339520 kbytes, speed 13 Mbit/sec
phys mem = 128 kbytes
user mem = 96 kbytes
root dev = rd0a (0,1)
root size = 163840 kbytes
swap dev = rd0b (0,2)
swap size = 2048 kbytes
temp0: allocated 47 blocks
/dev/rd0a: 576 files, 8644 used, 154555 free
temp0: released allocation
Starting daemons: update cron

2.11 BSD UNIX (pic32) (console)


Building the MSP430 openchronos firmware on FreeBSD

There are two openchronos projects, there’s the original OpenChronos project & the continuation openchronos project.
The openchronos code has a few modifications which are not upstream in poelzi’s OpenChronos repo, most importantly the changes to build under mspgcc 4, I was unable to build under mspgcc 3 as support for some versions of the MSP430 were missing, this may just be an issue specific to version currently in FreeBSD ports tree however.
To build the openchronos firmware on FreeBSD you’ll need the following ports installed:

At the config stage of msp430-libc leave the “Use new msp430-gcc4 compiler” option left on & build.
Once everything is installed clone the repo listed on the openchronos website with git.
The config process for openchronos uses python & depends on the locale to be defined correctly, otherwise running gmake config on the shell will cause an error such as:
UnicodeEncodeError: 'ascii' codec can't encode character u'\u2503' in position 20: ordinal not in range(128)2
Defining LC_CTYPE with the appropriate UTF-8 encoding for your locale resolvers this, run locale -a for a list of supported types which you can declare.
Once that’s defined, running gmake config should show the configuration script, if you’re still receiving errors you may want to run gmake clean & try again.
You need to check the frequency setting is correct depending on the model of watch you bought.
Now save your configuration & run gmake to compile the code.
If you’re unable to compile the image successfully as the image generated is too large (see the problems section of README) either set “Metric only code” option in configure or try this patch which reduces the size of the image (Thanks to Andrey Ulanov for the pointer).
If build completes successfully, you’ll have two files in the build directory named eZChronos.elf & eZChronos.txt.
At this point I cheated & used Windows to flash the watch wirelessly.
Set the watch in rFbSL mode & run the Chronos data logger app, go to the wireless update tab, point it to the txt files & press “Update Watch”
A counter should show up to display the progress on the watch.
Once the flash is complete, all the elements on the LCD display should switch on

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) ūüôā
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 ūüôā

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.