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Wed, 26 Aug 2009

HP ProLiant software repository

HP's "ProLiant Support Pack" software is now available via an online repository (apt, yum, etc). Instructions for accessing it are here. Feedback via the HP Linux Forums welcome.

posted at: 11:20 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 19 Feb 2009

HP ProLiant Servers Debian 5.0 "capable"

HP has posted a capabilities matrix for Debian 5.0 ('lenny'). Its linked off of the easier-to-remember url:

posted at: 12:02 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 17 Feb 2009

Adding firmware blobs to install media

Here's a shell script I wrote to stuff non-free firmware bits into an existing lenny installer image. It currently can operate on either a initrd.gz file or an isolinux-based iso image. I've only tested it on a netboot initrd.gz and a netinst iso, but it should work on larger images as well. If you need support for some other media type or architecture, let me know.

posted at: 12:44 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 04 Feb 2009

RPM Macros

I've been working with RPM macros quite a bit lately, and I've noticed some interesting properties. Though mostly obvious after the fact, they are surpisingly underdocumented.

Macros don't seem to deal with floating point values. This works:

%define five 5

%if 0%{?five} <= 5
  %define string A
  %define string B
While this causes a parse error:
%define five 5.3

%if 0%{?five} <= 5
  %define string A
  %define string B

Quoting integers makes comparisons lexical. This will evaluate to false:

%define five 5

%if "0%{?five}" == "5"

Perhaps the most frustrating one for me was that commented out macros are expanded. This has surprising results if your macro expands to multiple lines. Say my spec file includes the following:

And foo happens to expand to multiple lines:
%define foo one\
My description will end up being:
Description :


posted at: 16:05 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 01 Jan 2009

Controlling Power on a USB Hub

Andrew, I bought those wootoff lights as well, and have them connected to a hub on my mythtv system so I can activate them with a remote. I use the hub-ctrl.c utility from this page with this simple wrapper script that searches for the hub:


bus=$(lsusb | grep TUSB2046 | cut -d' ' -f2)
dev=$(lsusb | grep TUSB2046 | cut -d' ' -f4 | sed 's/:$//')


if $hubctrl -b "$bus" -d "$dev" -v | grep "Port ${port}:" | grep -q power; then

$hub-ctrl -b "$bus" -d "$dev" -P "$port" -p "$toggle"

Note that not all hubs implement the port power feature - but luckily I had an unused one laying around that does.

Unfortunately, one of my lights won't spin unless the physical power switch on the light is toggled - hopefully that's not true for yours.

posted at: 21:10 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 28 May 2008

Retrieving a NIC's permanent address

I needed to query a card to get its permanent mac address (the value programmed into the card, even if the admin has ifconfig'd it differently). This can be done with the linux kernel's ethtool API, but the ethtool command doesn't currently support it and google didn't know how either. I had to figure it out myself.

Now google, you no longer have an excuse - I expect you to know next time I ask.

posted at: 14:46 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 09 Apr 2008

etchnhalf kernels available for testing

2.6.24 kernels targeted for etch are available for testing in etch-proposed-updates. Some architectures are missing for this first upload, but fixes are pending for the next upload.

posted at: 00:30 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 25 Jan 2008

Etch and a half

For those unfamiliar with the project, etch-and-a-half has the goal of making the existing etch release work on more hardware, but with minimal risk to existing etch users.

This will be done by *adding* new kernel packages to the existing release. Kernel selection isn't final yet - the kernel team would like to use 2.6.24 if it proves itself stable in time; 2.6.22 is the backup choice.

etch-and-a-half isn't restricted to kernel updates by-definition; new X drivers, or proven-safe X driver updates are reasonable candidates as well (though at this point, no changes have been proposed).

An oft-asked question is around updating desktop packages, e.g. new versions of GNOME/KDE. This is beyond the scope of etch-and-a-half because it introduces a great deal more change than just additional hardware support, its wouldn't be a transparent upgrade to existing etch users, and we cannot say with a high level of confidence that it wouldn't introduce regressions for existing users.

That said - a localized change to a package that adds support for new hardware and clearly doesn't break existing hardware is a valid candidate for any stable release. Such requests should be submitted to the SRM team like any other stable update request.

The current plan for etch and a half is to release as part of a point release. 4.0r4 is the planned point release, since 4.0r3 is planned to have a quick turnaround to fix issues with 4.0r2. This means that pre-release bits will be made available via proposed-updates - testers are greatly appreciated.

There is no plan to add support for etch-and-a-half to the etch branch of d-i. Rather, support will likely be added in a beta of the lenny installer.

A wiki page exists here, and a coordination list has been setup on

posted at: 00:42 | path: / | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 16 Nov 2007

On IRC proxies

Adeodato mentioned using ctrlproxy, so I thought I'd ramble a bit about my experience w/ IRC proxies in general.

dircproxy was the first IRC proxy software I tried. It did the job, but the thing that annoyed me the most was that only one client could connect at a time. I'd get home and realize I was still connected at work, and then have to login and send a kill signal to xchat.

When I found out about ctrlproxy, and that it supports multiple clients, I was very excited. It did the job, but occasionally it would hang and need to manually killed/restarted, and it had this weird problem of writing logs for one channel to the log file of another.

Most recently (and for probably a year now) I've been using bip. I immediately hit an issue with one server - bip would constantly reconnect/disconnect. Upstream immediately went to work on the problem, determined it was a bug in the server itself, and (iirc) sent the server maintainers a patch. Now that's support! bip has been stable for me for nearly 2 years now.

I'd also suggest comparing the bug pages for dircproxy, ctrlproxy, and bip. That's not always a good way to measure relative stability, but it resembles my experience in this instance.

posted at: 15:19 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 18 Jul 2007

Installing Debian 4.0 ('etch') on a TVease Hannibal

Last night I decided to install etch on my pre-built MythTV system. The process is documented here

posted at: 13:52 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 13 Jul 2007

HP now supports etch on ProLiants

HP announced support for Debian 4.0 ('etch') on ProLiants today. See the HP/Debian page for details.

posted at: 14:45 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 15 May 2007

Starting a text-mode Debian install using the virtual serial port (VSP) via an ssh connection to iLO 2

That's a mouthful. We had a customer asking for information on this, so I did a couple screen captures using byzanz to demonstrate.

The first shows howto setup a system to do bios over serial. I did this w/ the remote java console, but you can also do this locally on the system (or the ActiveX console I suppose, but I've never tried this myself). In brief, you need to choose a serial port to map to the VSP (I use COM2 aka ttyS1), and tell the system to redirect the BIOS to the same serial port at your desired baud (115200 in this example).

The second shows me initiating an ssh session, setting up a virtual cd-rom, and booting the debian installer. Of course you could use local media or even PXE boot. But either way you need to tell the installer to direct its console to the same port that you've configured as the VSP and at the same baudrate (console=ttyS1,115200n8 in this example).

Note that if the screen goes blank after attempting to boot from the CD it is likely that the installer is displaying a graphical splash screen. Simply hit F1 to transitition to a text-mode help screen.

posted at: 17:12 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 13 Mar 2007

svn-load now in unstable

svn-load, a DFSG-free replacement for svn_load_dirs, is now in unstable. John Wright has been working on adding support for doing preset pattern-based moves, which I hope will be ready in the next upload.

posted at: 15:29 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 05 Feb 2007

pysvn_load_dirs: a free implementation of svn_load_dirs

Users of subversion may have noticed that the svn_load_dirs script was removed from Debian due to a lack of a license from upstream. So far, attempts to get a DFSG-free licensed version have failed, so I've begun a new python implementation that is licensed under GPLv2. 0.1 is functional and uses the same syntax as the original, but is missing a few features that prevent it from being a drop-in replacement. I hope to remedy this in the coming weeks.

posted at: 17:05 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 08 Jan 2007

Demuxing Personality Disorder (DPD)

I suffer from an in ability to successfully monitor multiple sources of information. For example, I rarely check on lists that I have procmailed out to their own folder. If its a list I need to stay on top of, I have to dump it to my primary inbox. For one list, I even dump messages to my inbox *and* keep a copy in a subfolder. That way I can keep on top of what's going on, but also keep a low-barrier-to-delete since I know I have an archival copy. I do think its important for me to check e-mail regularly, but there is some part of my brain that considers e-mail to be a time sink, and prevents me from going beyond what it considers the bare-minimum: Inbox messages.

Another instance of this disorder struck me with RSS. There are web pages that I check every day, and not all of them have RSS feeds. I played with a few different RSS readers a while back, and decided that straw was my favorite. But I could not get myself in the habit of bringing up a second application. Later I started using Firefox, and I thought I'd have better luck with something like Sage. But even that was easy to avoid because it requires actually opening up the sage panel. I would either never check it or, in times of boredom, check it too often. Since then I've given up on RSS readers. These days I've stolen an idea from Alex Chiang and just keep a bookmark folder called "daily" and one called "monthly". Every morning I hit the "Open All in Tabs" item in the daily folder, and quickly ctrl-w through pages w/ no new content. My daily folder includes things like bug reports I'm monitoring for activity, gitweb views of files where I'm waiting for a fix, blogs, parcel tracking, comics, wiki watch lists, etc. Since a few of these pages are rather important, I always remember to do it and therefore force myself to browse the others as well. Most days I spend less than 10 minutes "wasting time" going through them.

Its strange to both be aware of poor working habits, yet know from years of experience that I'll be more successful if I work around them rather than trying to retrain myself.

posted at: 16:33 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 05 Jan 2007

Got a DPT/Adaptec controller? Help fix an RC bug.

We're trying to mitigate the severity of #404927 by working around the issue in udev. But, to do that, we need someone to provide us with udevinfo output for these controllers. If you have access to one, please help!

posted at: 14:40 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 04 Jan 2007

IRC proxies

Lucas, try bip. It's not nearly as buggy as ctrlproxy, and allows multiple client connections, unlike dircproxy.

posted at: 13:42 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 21 Nov 2006

Debian/ProLiant support active

As announced in August, HP has now gone live with support for ProLiant. More information is available at

Admittedly its odd to announce sarge support right before etch releases, but hey - we had to start somewhere.

On a similar topic, I started a wiki a while ago to track the status of sarge and etch on various ProLiant models. I think it'd be cool to have similar pages for various vendors. By linking to d-i installation reports, I hope this will reduce duplicate information.

posted at: 15:17 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 10 Oct 2006

Contentless ping for XChat

Good idea Tollef. Here's an xchat port.

posted at: 12:17 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 06 Oct 2006


hpodder is awesome, thanks John!

posted at: 11:12 | path: /tech | permanent link to this entry

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