PC Engines APU and m0n0wall

I brought up a sandbox router at work yesterday using a PC Engines APU and m0n0wall for the purpose of testing Samba 4.

The APU was purchased as a kit with case from Netgate. The kit arrived intact within three business days, standard shipping. Assembly with the included heat sink was a little tense, read the instructions here twice.

I flashed generic-pc-serial-1.8.1.img to the included SD card. At this point I realized that my trusty USB to Serial to Null Modem setup was at home. I booted the box anyway, hoping that the Ethernet ports would auto-detect. By trial and error I found that the ports auto-detected in reverse order from the case labeling so that:

OPT1 = re0
WAN = re1
LAN = re2

with re0 assigned to LAN, re2 unassigned in the router software.

m0n0wall does not allow assigning Ethernet ports from the UI as far as I know, so I downloaded the configuration to my laptop through the Diagnostics: Backup/restore page of the m0n0wall UI and edited the <interfaces> section of the XML, substituting re2 for re0.

Uploading the edited config using the Restore configuration button on the backup/restore page completed the port reassignment.

Presto, up and running with no serial cable.

The APU is fully compatible with m0n0wall and better than easy to set up. For my usage, load is under 1%. My justification in purchasing the APU is to eventually replace one of our ALIX routers, which are more heavily loaded.

Lenovo ThinkServer RD330 – Danger Danger Danger

Last year my employer purchased a ThinkServer RD230 for a server consolidation virtualization project. This was the most competitively priced server I found matching my specs after a reasonably careful search. My plan was always to purchase a second server as a backup, but my manager delayed the second purchase for a year.

By the time the second server was approved, RD230’s were discontinued. I ordered an RD330 4304E3U, thinking it would be about like the ‘230, only somehow less expensive, with six, not four cores. I order servers without hard drives when I have a choice because it is almost always a better deal.

When I opened the box, I had a surprise. The server arrived with no hard drive trays. One bay was empty and the other three contained fillers that look just like a hard drive tray from the front but have no tray on the back of the bezel. Provantage, my supplier of choice and generally very good, does not sell the trays or even trays with drives.

The parts manual lists the 3.5″ tray as 03X3969. The best price I found on the web from non-Ebay sources for the tray was $89. Times four trays would add $356 to the price of the server. The manual lists about 40 hard drives, presumably with trays. Part numbers for 1 TB SATA 3.5″ are: 03X3950 (HS) and 91Y1655 (WD). Searches on the Web on these part numbers and the word price do not produce any useful results. Needless to say, this server is going back.

Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2

Player 4.2 - what's in the boxMy mp3 player was slowly dying, the click wheel only worked sometimes and I was looking to replace it with another non-Apple product. August, 2012 PC World carried a review of the Samsung Galaxy Players, 3.6 and 4.2. An Android based mp3 player sounded like a good idea to me, so I bought a 4.2. The 4.2 is by far the best in terms of convenience and ease of use of the three mp3 players I have owned, but there are pluses and minuses. I paid more than twice what I paid for the better of my previous players for the 4.2.

What’s good about it?

  • Works with Linux and syncs with Rhythmbox. The 4.2 looks like a drive to my laptop.
  • I like to listen to music by album and the songs play in album order flawlessly.
  • The sound is good.
  • Connects to my Jambox over Bluetooth.
  • The Player is an Android phone without the cellular radio. Features include WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS radios. Anywhere that you can get WiFi you can surf the web, install any Android app you want to, etc..
  • The charger is a two part charger. One part is a small wall wart with a USB socket and the other part is a standard USB to micro USB cable. You get both the sync cable and the charger in a very lightweight item.

What’s bad about it?

  • You don’t get anything like the advertised 8GB of space. Only 5.0 GB was available. I had to buy a micro SD card to hold all the music my former 8G player held.
  • trs and trrs plugsThe headphone jack. I use my player most often plugged into some kind of speaker, not with headphones. The jack on the 4.2 is a TRRS style like phones have, not a TRS style like my other players had. I had to buy a $10 adapter. Griffin 10034 and Gigaware (Radioshack) 12-635 both work.
  • The 4.2 is really really a phone without the cellular radio. When you first turn it on, the screen says something like: Just a few moments while we set up your phone. If you don’t want most of a phone, you won’t be happy. I imagine you can talk on it with WiFi and Google Talk. I haven’t tried.
  • Insomnia. Like a phone, the 4.2 never sleeps. There seem to be three modes, on, on with the screen off and shutdown. The battery lasts only two or three days with no use unless you shut it down cold. I haven’t looked deeply into this, I just make sure to charge the phone player when I think I’ll need it. Update: if the WiFi and GPS radios are shut off when not in use, the battery life is really reasonable, a week or more.
  • Another not so nice power management issue is that to get those Google goodies, you have to link the device to a Google account. Then you’ll want to password the device. You get an I am sure familiar to Android phone users choice of pattern, PIN or password. Once you have set one of these, every time an adjustment needs to be made to the player other than volume, after the screen goes dark, default one minute, you have to enter the pattern, PIN or password. The temptation is to turn the password off.