Saturday, December 30, 2023

… And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

I mentioned to a friend that if he cannot describe his home network setup in under 500 characters, I doubt "home networking setup" is the proper description. 

That may also be true of our own LAN, but it's seriously simpler than his. To wit …

Ziply Fiber gives us residential 1 Gb/s FiOS service with DHCP.

Behind the router (below), the primary network is a flat /18 address space. Multiple physical machines host virtual and/or emulated machines, and internally route packets destined for them.

The primary switch is a ~ 2007 24 port 1 Gb/s Netgear unit; 4 8 port Netgear units help in various rooms. (Collectively, they can be thought of as Dumb & Dumber.)

3 eero 6 units provide both our primary Wifi access and a guest Wifi network. We'd use one of them as the router, but they don't support IPv6 tunneling via 6in4.

The router is a Raspberry Pi 4 CM plugged into a dual Ethernet Seed Studio board using OpenWrt; it runs services for:

  • NAT services & port forwarding
  • An IPv6 tunnel (via 6in4) to Hurricane Electric
  • DHCP server
  • Dynamic DNS to publish our IPv4 address

A Raspberry Pi 3B Plus runs services for:

  • NTP
  • DNS
  • git
  • SMTP relay
All residence devices have fixed IPv4 addresses known to DNS and DHCP.

As for the devices actually on the network, it has (not counting virtual/emulated devices) :

  • 13 streaming devices 
  • 10 computers
  • 10 IoT Devices 
  • 6 tablets
  • 2 watches
  • 2 iPhones
  • an iPod
  • a game console and
  • a printer 

p.s. most importantly about the network — Our network manager of 31 years is Binkley the Ether Bunny.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Spawn of Cerberus

 It's official, I've got a silicon relative of Cerberus under my desk.

The xena, The Warrior System, can now run:
  • MacOS Ventura (or its older sibling, OS X El Capitan)
  • Windows 10 (with it hosting Ubuntu running under WSL v1)
  • Ubuntu 22.04.3
Now I just gotta find a use for at least some of its many talents (beside space heater).

Friday, November 3, 2023

Planned Obsolescence: Avoided!

Performance Report From Our WiFi Access Point

With various system & application installs I've been doing this week, I've copying big payloads between systems and downloading packages from Internet.

The most noticeable thing was that downloading a 4.7 GB file from took a leisurely 30 minutes. Both our internal links and my FiOS Internet are better than that, so it was probably on their end. But it points up that we have gotten rather used to end-to-end 1 Gb/s performance.

The impressive thing is not actually the network speed, it's that internally we've had this basic infrastructure for 16 years. When we moved to Kenmore 2007 and discovered using WiFi didn't cut it, we installed a Gigabit/second unmanaged Ethernet main switch in the network pantry and ran 16 ports to it. Since then we have run additional six ports, added four small switches in various rooms, upgraded the Wi-Fi access points, and did multiple upgrades of our Internet service. However, we have never upgraded the speed of the main switch, and the wires running from the network pantry to our desktops are the same ones we installed originally.

(And even our oldest computers, my early 2008 Mac Pro & our 2012 MacBook Air, have Gigabit Ethernet ports. A few $35 Raspberry Pi units don't. Ah, well.)

No doubt our infrastructure has slid from bleeding edge to merely slightly above average, but I'm still happy with it.

I guess I've been doing it right.

P. S. In the there is always a faster gun nearby department, I should point out I know we do not have the best network on the Northshore of Lake Washington. That would go to a former coworker one town over who has 10 GB/second Ethernet and VLANs in his house.  To each their own …

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Last of the Mac (Intel) V8 Cheese Graters

xena's configuration before I upgrade the OS

Early in my time at Google (2008), I wanted to switch from a VGA monitor to a larger monitor which supported dual DVI, which my spiffy work Mac laptop already used in the office. This meant I might also upgrade my (as it turned out to be last) Pentium Windows PC; I got seriously carried away and spent too much money to get 42 pounds of a high-end Mac Pro (the ones that look like cheese graters) with:

  • 8 64-bit 3.2 GHz Intel cores
  • 8 GB of memory
  • 500 GB disk (and space for three more)
  • Four Dual DVI ports

The Mac Pro was christened xena, the Warrior System (Second of her Name). Both xena and my on-call Mac laptop talked to a 30" HP monitor,  the same model as I used at work. 

    She later got mid-life upgrades of two SSD disks (160 GB and 512 GB), 2 TB hard drive (for Time Machine backups), and a USB-3 card.

    xena was ahead of her time for a home machine. She was sufficiently ahead of her time that she was always under utilized, and 16 years later, xena's performance specifications are still not horrible. (Her power consumption was and is horrible, but nobody's perfect!)

    After seven years, xena was retired in favor of a 2015 iMac (kendra, fourth of her name); we also replaced my spouse's system with the same model. That wasn't an upgrade for me per se, but kendra did have a slightly higher clock speed, twice the memory (16GB), and used a fraction of the power.

    kendra and her twin lasted seven years as well, and were replaced last year by Mac Studios twins (tamara & minerva) using an Apple M1 Max chip with again twice the memory (32 GB),  and 1 TB SSD.  Again, they may not be upgrades, but the pure SSD makes it far smoother. kendra and her twin both got food chained to family in Syracuse.

    xena is still here; after eight years of retirement I'm still looking for a use for it, but it's such a nice system I can't ship just it off, especially she's sort of The Last of the V8 Interceptors.

    For reasons not completely understood by even me, this summer I acquired three upgrades for xena:

    • A 1 TB SSD drive 
    • Another 8 GB of memory (doubling it)
    • A Metal-enabled Nvidia GTX 780 video card

    The 1 TB SSD was because I didn't want run on platters, and I had stolen the 512 GB SSD (mentioned above) for another system. I want to make it triple boot (MacOS, Linux, and Windows 10), and that wasn't happening on a mere 160 GB SSD.  

    The video card makes at least a some sense for two reasons. First, the old cards would occasionally cause corrupted video for reasons I never figured out. Second, one cannot do (an officially unsupported) upgrade of MacOS beyond a certain point without a Metal-enabled video card.

    The memory was mostly simply I didn't want to even think about memory when I do find a use for the machine.

    I've been sitting on them until Katherine was free to install them (which happened this weekend). And oh, my goodness, they work!  

    Now I just have figure if I will:

    • Do an unsanctioned-by-Apple upgrade, 
    • install Ubuntu,
    • get a dual monitor KVM for kendra, xena, and foghorn-leghorn (a Raspberry Pi 4), and
    • most importantly, determine what actual use I could possibly have for the machine.
    Decisions, decisions …

    Update: I upgraded to MacOS Ventura, and she now also has Windows 10 (w/WSL 1) & Ubuntu 22.04 Desktop on it.  I have a keyboard/mouse switch, I question if I even want a true KVM.

    Sunday, July 2, 2023

    The Ad-dressing of Computers

    First, sad news: Pepe Le Pew, our only 8GB Raspberry Pi 4B, has been stress tested and founding sadly wanting. It's been flaky for an indeterminate length of time, and by stress testing it crashes reliably.  (Its older smaller brothers, both 2GB Raspberry Pi 4B units, Foghorn Leghorn and Wile E. Coyote, have had no such problems.) 

    So Pepe Le Pew is in the recycling bag. Luckily, the supply shortages for Raspberry Pi have eased; I was to able order a replacement unit for only a small premium, and it arrived promptly. The arrival led to concern over a new system name. That's more important than in most houses, because our machines have assigned IP addresses and names for remote access.  (It's not like you can point at the things!)

    The topic of the name led to:

    me: "I need a system name, a Looney Tunes character." 
    Katherine: "Marvin the Angry Martian"
    me: I don't think "Angry" is part of his name.  We know he is angry, but it's not in his name. 
    Katherine: "The name not to use is Michigan J. Frog. It performs brilliantly … until someone is looking."

    Good advice, but this didn't give me a name (I'd already used Marvin the Martian). I then considered the protagonists of various Looney Tunes cartoons; while I had used most of them, I realized I had missed one: Porky Pig.

    I wasn't sure of that name. A Raspberry Pi 4B is not a bloated system, however, the unit is bigger than its siblings. I did consider that a secondary function of that machine and its extra memory is to run the free Raspberry Pi version of Mathematica.

    Give our nickname for Mathematica is Mathpig, we have a winner.

    Sunday, May 28, 2023

    The Games Computers Play

    For years, I kept making half-hearted attempts at getting MAME (the arcade simulator) working. Several months ago, I tracked down a collection of old games (which don't come with MAME due to copyright reasons), and did get MAME working with them on a dedicated Raspberry Pi 3b with an SDXC card for storage. That particular machine has gone to a friend, but last month I acquired a Raspberry Pi 3b+, and got the setup working again.

    I also recent got MAME added to one my bigger Raspberry Pi 4b units with M.2 SATA SSD storage. Then I put dosbox on it, and it works well for older DOS and Windows 3.1 programs; I've got a dosbox configuration which has running smoothly with speed of a 486DX-33. And the 4B is not dedicated to games, it also runs emulated IBM machines and other software.

    (Falcon 3.0 video doesn't look any good on the 4B, but anything older is fine. And I can slide Falcon into a VM onto ada, our one modern Intel x64 box. Hope is not lost)

    I decided to go for the gold and also put dosbox on the Raspberry Pi 3b+ that runs MAME. It … didn't go well. Not even Lemmings runs cleanly. 

    But I don't need multiple machines to play multiple versions of TETRIS on, honest. Right? 


    Sunday, April 2, 2023

    Walk a Mile in my Shoes

    I wanted to visit the East Coast this spring.  However, after having a chat with both various people and my legs, my travel plans are set for Spring 2023: I'm not going anywhere far this spring.

    Basically, when walking, I have too limited a range. I could do two miles a day in Stoneham when I weighed more, but since I let a MS relapse scare me two years ago, I have not been getting out. Now, walking just 0.26 miles with a cane inside leaves my legs tired. That's too low to even visit someone and do things like visit a park, hit a mall, and go out to dinner in the same day. I want/need better range to take a trip, even if using my cane and services like wheelchairs in airports. 

    The good news is that I've been walking enough to show myself:

    • It's not my bad knees limiting me.
    • It is a lack general of conditioning of my legs.
    • I noted (above) that I've done short walks of 0.26 miles (17 loops around the downstairs); how I feel after them is enough to know I have something to build on.

    And I have a plan, namely a treadmill. My sister happens to already own what I am looking at, a Horizon T101. It's small and basic; the unit is not good for a serious runner or a tall person, but I'm neither. My stretch goal for Labor Day is to able to do two miles on it; I'll settle for feeling comfortable after walking half that.  

    (One caveat is my knees could start acting up. I'll deal with them when I've enough done work to wake them up.)

    Of course, upstate New York is beautiful in Fall Foliage Season … 

    p.s. My exercise bike rides will continue, probably at a reduced pace. And it probably puts the kibosh on my previous secret plan, getting a road tricycle this spring. 

    Tuesday, January 31, 2023

    Fine Tuning Monitor Performance

    Back in in the age of steam and the Intel 80286, after graduating MIT Katherine set off with friends on their bicycles to ride from Boston to Santa Barbara. She left behind with me two plush creatures (Binkley & Gunther) to help me track her progress.

    After Katherine's ride, Binkley & Gunter joined her at UCSB; the staff shortage in Boston was corrected that Christmas by the arrival of Snuffles, the Plump Plush Platinum Programming Polar Bear (or Snuffles P. Bear for short). Snuffles was a happy resident of my (ever bigger) CRT monitors for ten years.

    The Tribble, Snuffles, and an assistant on duty ~ 1997

    Alas, in ~2000 we moved to LCD monitors, and her position was literally eliminated (she is a plump bear); Room was made for her elsewhere in my office, but no creature bigger than Thomas Tech Bear could balance on the thin LCD monitors since then.

    Until this month, that is. I discovered that one can buy stands for LCD monitors. Thus, she able to reclaim her time-honored position, joined by a few senior friends.

    The Tribble, Seymour Crayola,Thomas Techer Bear, and Snuffles P. Bear
    (click for a larger image)

    The 2023 monitor creatures, briefly:

    • The Tribble (1983): Since he arrived during my mainframe era, the Tribble has graced every primary monitor I've used; that has included two mainframe terminals, ~ four PC CRT's, and ~ five PC LCD monitors.
    • Seymour Crayola (2000): Our Patron Bear of High-Performance Computing; he missed the 64-node Thinking Machines CM-5 I used in the early 1990s (upper right in the photograph), but more recently he constantly wanted to use my Google credentials to borrow a datacenter or three.
    • Thomas Techer Bear (1978): The Dean of our Plush Faculty.
    • Snuffles P. Bear (1990): Our Patron Bear of Chocolate (those are Thin Mints at her feet), and the Kendra Electronics Wonderworks Directbear of Marketing.

    In Her Own Words

    I just program for Drew because Binkley Bunny (who is as snowy white as I am) and Gunther Bear used to help Drew program from the top of kendra's monitor. They went west in September [1990] with Mom so that Mom and Binkley could work on their PhDs. That made the Wonderworks understaffed, so at Christmas [1990] Mom asked me to live with Drew.
    — Snuffles P. Bear
    My mom is very proud that I'm a computer literate bear. She also thinks Drew has gone off the deep end, although she doesn't mind.
    — Snuffles P. Bear

    Wednesday, January 11, 2023

    New! Improved! Revisited!

    One of the exercise pedals needed to be revised a week after our last visit.  

    With my bow-legged feet, there is a certain amount of toe-out stress on the pedals. This means sooner or later the straps with their hole can slip out of the friction fitted pegs on the pedal. The right pedal slipped out three times on two rides, so I took action.

    I added Gear Ties under the pedal; they counter the toe-out force by pulling the bottom of the straps together; like a cotter pin on an axel, they don't apply force in the main (vertical) direction of the force on the strap, but keep it from falling off.

    Problem fixed.  I hope.

    (The left pedal may need the same treatment. Not today.)

    Underside View of Pedal with Gear Ties

    Sideview of Gear Tie on Pedal

    Saturday, January 7, 2023

    Throw Another Brick on the Fire

    Headline: Syracuse woman wins award for oldest furnace

    Pity the oldest furnace contest was not in the Boston area when we first moved there; the winner in Syracuse had a furnace only from 1910. The Stoneham house was over a 100 years old when we bought it in 1995, with a oil fired steam-heat furnace which may have been older than the house.

    The Original Jurassic-era Furnace in Stoneham
    The Original Jurassic-era Furnace in Stoneham

    Our furnace service person thought it was a conversion from coal, and we privately thought it was originally fueled by dinosaur guano. Not fossilized guano, but rather fresh guano straight from the  living source.

    Around 2000 we had replaced the tank, which was leaking; we found a previous repair had been done with fiberglass … and oil eats fiberglass. When we replaced it, the 1500 gallon tank had to be replaced with two smaller tanks; I think they had to cut the old tank up to get out it of the cellar.

    We already had gas service for the stove and hot water; in 2004 we replaced the furnace with an gas fired one. Not only did was it quieter running, the company figured out why our steam pipes banged (a low spot in a pipe), and we smoothed out our utility bills by going on a budget plan.

    Thursday, January 5, 2023

    New! Improved!

    My exercise bike is ~ 19 years old; the threaded posts (in photo) pushing the pedals away from the cranks so the heels of my bow-legged feet don't hit them, are more like 29 hours old. 

    Exercise Bike Pedal Extender Post

    They became far more important as I tried to extend my ride time from 48 to 64 minutes. The problem was not the increase in overall length, that but it divides into 16 segments; going from 3 minute segments to 4 minutes on "hills" made me tired and therefore sloppy about keeping my feet straight. (Much banging of heels then occurred.)

    The extenders work, too. I wish I'd found them years ago (It seems I wantedneeded to search for "pedal extenders" not "crank extenders"), but I've got 'em now. 🙂

    My first 64 minute ride is now in the books.

    My thanks to my usual bicycle engineer, Katherine!