Month: December 2005

What ThinkPad for Linux?

I find it fairly unlikely that the legendary (in Red Hat, Linux and GNOME circles anyway) Havoc Pennington is going to read my blog, but over in his latest entry Log for December, 2005 he mentions the need to replace his X-series ThinkPad.

Like Havoc, I've noticed that the rate of progress in laptop design appears to have slowed – the current ThinkPads are not massively different to those that were around, say, 2 years ago, although you generally get more bells-and-whistles such as the funky fingerprint readers and hard disk "airbags". Personally, I think the T-series ThinkPads are impossible to beat. Perfect combination of svelte design and power. I always long for a laptop with a higher memory capacity, of course… my work T40 is ageing somewhat and I'd love to break the 2Gb barrier with my next machine, along with a disk larger than 80Gb. On the other hand you do pay a bit more for the T-series range. Well worth it, in my opinion.

If you are thinking of running Linux on your ThinkPad, don't forget the awesome ThinkPad Configuration Tool for Linux, the Linux on ThinkPads mailing list, and the ThinkPad section of the Linux on Laptops website. Oh, and I ought to add that although I work for IBM, I don't endorse either of these sites in any official capacity – my opinions on these things are entirely my own.

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HP printer vs Canon camera

I'm staying with my wife's family in Poland for Christmas and New Year. Today it is pretty cold. There has been deep snow since we got here. This doesn't usually bother anyone over here, since the Poles are quite used to snow and it doesn't cause total chaos when a few flakes drop from the sky as it can do in the UK (I've been reading the BBC website…). However, today it has not stopped snowing and the transport systems are beginning to slow down quite a lot. I posted a couple of photos from a few days ago to my Flickr account.

Christmas trees Malinka

One of the things that I've done whilst I've been here is to set up the new computer for the family. This has been a fairly smooth process, although my ability to read Polish computer terminology has had to improve greatly… (you try installing Polish Windows XP when you can barely hold a conversation in the language…).

The only issues have been with the old printers. The HP LaserJet 5L had packed up, and there is a Lexmark Z600 which is refusing to print colour no matter how much I try to coax it to do so. After some research, I recommended that we nip to the shops to get a new HP LaserJet 1020. This has been a successful purchase, but for one small problemette. I used to be able to plug my Canon EOS 350D into the USB slot at the front of the computer, and it would be picked up. Now, when I do that the device is detected as new hardware by Windows, but it remains an Unknown device and I can't get the driver installed. However – if I unplug the LaserJet 1020 from the back of the system, the camera works fine again. Conflict between Canon and HP? Surely one of them can't be disabling the products of the other? I wonder… anyway, I wish I knew how to get this working. I guess I need to raise support tickets with both companies.

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MP3 USB devices and Fedora

I just treated myself to a little MP3 player from Tesco. They are down to £9.97 in-store (still £19.99 online). It is a small USB stick, 256Mb with a blue backlit display. Apart from anything else I could do with the extra storage for transferring files, and with the onboard MP3/WMA capabilities this is great… I'm one of the unwashed masses lacking an iPod.

I thought it would be a good idea to record how I got it recognised on my Fedora Core 4 system, since it took me a while…

Using information from the Debian Administration pages I learned quite a bit about the way udev is supposed to work. I think I've got it, now.

I plugged the stick into the nearest USB port and it was recognised by the kernel:

Dec 23 18:26:44 castor kernel: USB Mass Storage support registered.
Dec 23 18:26:49 castor kernel: Vendor: SigmaTel Model: MSCN Rev: 0100
Dec 23 18:26:49 castor kernel: Type: Direct-Access ANSI SCSI revision: 04
Dec 23 18:26:49 castor kernel: SCSI device sdd: 493568 512-byte hdwr sectors (253 MB)
Dec 23 18:26:49 castor kernel: sdd: Write Protect is off
Dec 23 18:26:49 castor kernel: sdd: assuming drive cache: write through
Dec 23 18:26:49 castor kernel: SCSI device sdd: 493568 512-byte hdwr sectors (253 MB)
Dec 23 18:26:49 castor kernel: sdd: Write Protect is off
Dec 23 18:26:49 castor kernel: sdd: assuming drive cache: write through
Dec 23 18:26:49 castor kernel: sdd: sdd1
Dec 23 18:26:49 castor kernel: Attached scsi removable disk sdd at scsi3, channel 0, id 0, lun 0

The next step (actually not directly the next step for me – I spent ages fiddling around with hal before realising this is handled by udev… but if you're following this, it should be your next step) was to create a file called /etc/udev/rules.d/local.rules containing this line:

BUS="scsi", SYSFS{model}="MSCN ", KERNEL="sd?1", NAME="%k", SYMLINK="mp3player"

The information in quotes for SYSFS{model} was taken from a file called model in the /sys filesystem:

[andyp@castor ~]$ find /sys -name model

(the first one of those files – I opened it using vi as I needed to check exactly how many trailing spaces there were)

What this achieves is that when this model of device is plugged in, udev creates a symbolic link /dev/mp3player pointing at whichever /dev/sdX device the kernel has created it at.

Then I edited /etc/fstab:

/dev/mp3player /media/mp3player auto auto,user 0 0

I created a mount point called /media/mp3player.
I restarted udev and unplugged the device. The next time I plugged it in, /dev/mp3player magically appeared. In GNOME I could mount the device. I then assigned a custom icon to the device (an iPod – I can dream!) and away I went.

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Extending WebSphere MQ Explorer

The new WebSphere MQ Explorer in WebSphere MQ version 6 is based on Eclipse 3.x, which makes it highly extensible. Dale Lane from IBM Hursley (author of at least two WMQ SupportPacs) has written a developerWorks article on writing tests in Java which can be used in WMQ Explorer.

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On holiday

One of the reasons for the lack of deeply technical posts in the past few days is the fact that I'm now on holiday – not back at work until January 6th 2006.

Yesterday I went to London to finish my Christmas shopping. Took the opportunity to get some shots of London at Christmas time.

Selfridges Oxford Street Liberty

There were more, but I found that due to the bustle and enclosed nature of Oxford Street it is remarkably difficult to capture really good shots from ground level. At least I managed to buy the things I needed.

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