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OS/2 FixPak installation from hard drive

by on Jan.26, 2008, under software

IBM unlike MS provides (well, not anymore) fixpaks in the form of diskette images. Because floppy disks are notoriously unreliable, slow  and expensive these days, it is much better to install FixPaks using other method – extract the content of all the diskette images to hard drive and then apply it to your OS/2 installation.

You will need the following:

1. FixPak files (from IBM FTP server)
2. latest version of RSU Corrective Service Facility (CSF) (from IBM FTP server)
3. DSKXTRCT utility for extracting the diskette images (from Hobbes FTP server)

Then follow these steps: 

1. Extract CSF ZIP archive into a directory, for example C:\FIXPAK.
2. Use DSKXTRCT to extract all the diskette images to the same directory using syntax:

    DSKXTRCT /S:<name of image file(s)> /T:<target directory>

3. Start FixPak installation using following command:

    OS2SERV <path to CSF directory> <path to FixPak directory>

In our example it would be OS2SERV C:\FIXPAK\CSF C:\FIXPAK

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Multimedia PC for $160

by on Jan.12, 2008, under hardware

If you were trying to assemble small computer that would fit into sexy case that looks just great in your living room and could act as a multimedia center PC to play music, DVD and even some simple games, until recently there was only one option – all-in-one mini-ITX boards from VIA. These included VIA C3 or C7 CPU, integrated graphics, audio, LAN, USB and firewire. There are however few problems with these mainboards – the CPU is everything but fast, the graphics is good only for 2D, and the price is way too high even for the lowest model. And since every component is soldered to the PCB it cannot be replaced or upgraded at all.
There is new competition in the market that comes from the current king of CPU’s – Intel. Same mini-ITX format of only 172x172mm, the better of two available models BLKD201GLY2 called ‘Little Valley’ has the following specs:

– SiS662 + SiS964 chipset with integrated SiS Mirage 1 GPU
– up to 1GB DDR2 PC4300 memory
– Intel Celeron 220 @ 1.2GHz – based on Core 2, TDP 19W
– 1x IDE, 2x SATA, 1x PCI, 1x 10/100 Ethernet, 6x USB, VGA, audio

Intel Desktop Board D201GLY2

From the specs it is obvious that it is no miracle performer, graphic adapter is as bad as the one in VIA, but the CPU is about 4 times more powerful than the C3 and most importantly – for 1/3 of the VIA’s cost.

The street price of the above configuration, believe it or not, is $75. Just add $25 for 1GB DDR2 memory module and $60 for 60GB 2.5 inch mobile hard drive and you have fully working computer that would be powerful enough for majority of users. And since the board is so small it deserves to be placed into small computer case, which ironically would be the most expensive part of our PC – but nice ones including 100W power supply can be bough for as low as $120.

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Recovering failed RAID0 on Promise 20579 controller

by on Jan.09, 2008, under hardware

I know it is a stupid thing to use two 160GB drives in a pseudo-hardware RAID0 array for storing 300GB of important data. It all started as experiment to see how the array will perform and compare the performance with standalone hard drive. My MSI K8T Neo2-F mainboard has two SATA ports included in the VIA 8237 chipset and two additional SATA connectors provided by Promise 20579 chip.
So I created RAID0 array in the Promise BIOS without any problems and happily used it for couple of months. The performance was better than single drive which was good news. During the time I collected many files, database dumps, source codes, but also family pictures and videos, some movies, music and games – about 300GB of data. And just when I was finally about to backup everything and connected external USB drive, one of the hard drives in the RAID0 array made awful ‘I-just-had-enough-of-this’ click sound and the array disappeared from the system.
The management software provided by Promise is a joke – it is actually very ugly looking monitoring tool that doesn’t allow to do anything useful except showing message that array is in ‘critical’ status because one of the two hard drives is missing. So i rebooted into the Promise BIOS in hope to fix the problem from there.
Both hard drives were visible, the first one still a part of the array, the second one as ‘Free’. After some clicking I found out that the BIOS is so simple and stupid that there is no way how to rebuild failed RAID0 array. I’m screwed. The only options available to me were to display status of the array (critical) or to delete the array. Very nice!
So I called myself many names for being such idiot and accepted the loss of all my data. I decided to delete the array and never use it anymore. But to my surprise when destroying the array it asked me if I want to delete all information from the hard drive or leave it as it is – so I decided to leave it. I was surprised by that choice but then I thought that maybe there is still a hope for me – I tried to create new RAID0 array from the two disks and it asked me again if I want to initialize the disks or leave it as it is. Second choice is right, array was successfully created, I booted into Windows – and whew, my precioussss is back!
So in case you experience the same problem as me with Promise 20579 controller, as long as the disks are not physically damaged or dead you can still recover your data quite easily.
By the way – after backup the RAID0 is now gone. Next time I might not be this lucky.

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Adding your own search provider to IE7

by on Jan.01, 2008, under software

Internet Explorer 7 has built in search and by default it uses Live Search by Microsoft. You can however choose from a list of other providers that is available at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/searchguide/en-en/default.mspx

Recently I was looking for some movies and TV series on Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) and I thought it might be nice if I am able to search not through the website but directly from IE. But since IMDB is not one of the listed available providers, I had to find a way how to add it manually myself. Programmers in MS are not stupid and made this task quite easy – all you had to do is to follow the 5 steps shown on the website:

Search

Put the following line in the first box:
http://www.imdb.com/find?s=all&q=TEST

The simply add a name for the search provider and you’re done. Easy!

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Installing SLES 10 SP1 on IA64

by on Dec.04, 2007, under software

I admit it, I’m a Windows guy. Almost 20 years ago I started with MS-DOS, continued on Windows 3.11, then 95, replaced them with OS/2 Warp (may it rest in peace…), back to Windows NT, then XP and 2003, now friendshipping with Vista. But time to time I get the crazy idea to try something new and I’m off to hunt penguins.
Yes, Linux has improved in the past few years and the installation of many distros is quite simple and straightforward – as long as you don’t have any ‘exotic’ hardware. If you find out that your audio, video or whatever card is not supported, then you’re in trouble. Especially when you don’t expect it just like me…

Last week I decided to try SLES 10 SP1 on my Dell PowerEdge 3250 server. Knowing that there are actually only THREE different mainboards made for Itanium 2 CPU’s (all from Intel and two are no longer manufactured) I didn’t expect any problems since it seems quite easy to test the final release on three different configurations. Oh, how I was wrong.

Just when the graphical part of the installation (YaST2) kicked in, the screen went blank and greeted me with ‘Signal out of range’ error. Ok, maybe I overlooked something or made wrong selection, let’s try again and reboot…

(continue reading…)

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Shopping for treasures on eBay

by on Nov.15, 2007, under hardware

Couple of weeks ago I got hooked to eBay.co.uk since I was able to find some great hard-to-resist deals on computer components. It started with simple task – replacement board for dead 7U Xeon server in our office that we used as database server. Not exactly the same board, this one was from SuperMicro, but it had everything I needed – only after I paid I noticed it also has couple of 1.8GHz Xeon CPU’s. Price? Amazing GBP40 including shipment to Czech republic.

My Pentium M based desktop computer is slowly starting to show it’s age and I decided to give it a boost with more memory. All computers stores here in Prague ask ridiculous prices for 1GB DDR333 memory modules – got online, spent couple of minutes on eBay and voila! 2GB DDR333 with warranty and including shipment to Prague still cheaper than 1GB purchased here.

The greatest deal however was purchase of two used Dell PowerEdge 3250 servers. Dual Itanium 1.4GHz, 1GB DDR RAM, 2x 16GB U320 SCSI 15krpm hot swap hard drives, 2U rack mountable chassis. Since each server weights about 80 pounds it was not possible to send it abroad, I had to drive to get it. Basic price in 2003 when server was announced (with 1CPU and diskless) was $6229 – including the fees and gasoline, it cost me 15% of the original price.

Try it as well – it’s fun, it’s addicting, and it’s worth it!

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