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Linux Progress In the KazShack

Given the plethora of P4 boxes showing up in recycle bins as companies migrate off of WinXP, a recent reclamation opportunity made it seem like a good time to save some landfill space and cobble together a Linux file server.  So with a scrap Dell GX280 in hand, the file server/testbed project saw some attention.  Stuffing an extra couple of memory sticks into the obsolescent GX280 brought it up to 2GB.  The GX280 should be a very usable Ubuntu or WinXP platform with 2gb, so its a great shack backup too.  The limitation was the hard drive.  A spare 80gb drive is set up with WinXP, and an el-cheapo 500gb drive went in for the Ubuntu install.  Not phenomenal, but not bad for under $75USD.  Hell, it would have been useful without the upgrades.

The Dell GX280 seems to be well supported by Ubuntu – all of the peripherals are up and running after the install, no hardware/driver hacking required.  Installed Ubuntu 10.04(lts).  The GX280 is widely available as scrap.  Kind of like throwing away a good pre-1974VW Beetle was back in the 1980’s.  Not too sexy, but still serviceable enough for generic mundane uses.  Wish I had grabbed more of them[VW’s and GX280’s].  [Aside: Both my 1968 Beetle and my wife’s 1984 Honda Civic hatchback got better mileage(48mpg and 42mpg respectively) than today’s EcoWeenie “hybrids” get in real life usage.  Ain’t “progress” something to behold?]

Networking the boxes turned out to be the biggest roadblock, and it is still an incompletely resolved situation.  That’s not related directly to the hardware, but to the mix-match of OS’s in the network.  The home experimentation network consists of Win7, WinXP, and Ubuntu 10.04 boxes.  All of the boxes can see the others.  The symbolic names are mostly useless, as only the XP and win7 boxes can access each other using the symbolic names[sometimes].  The linux boxes can share files, but only by using their IP addresses, even with the XP boxes.  Obviously user error setting up Samba shares.  Not a major issue when the router assigns the internal IP’s, providing an alternate route, but far from perfect.  Windows 7 isn’t playing nice with any of the others, probably related to the user security.

So for the present, IP address’ are the ticket.  Kludgy at best, but mapping the drives by IP address works across the platforms.  Not really any more difficult to use the IP’s.  Since they are mapped at the router, its probably easier to remember the box numbers anyway.   “x.x.x.157 is what????”

The good news is that setting up SSH on the Ubuntu platforms was simple enough that even a linux noob can figure it out.   SSH security tips are widely available. With an X-window client and PuTTY installed on the windows side, any of the windows boxes can be used as remote desktops for the linux machines. That more or less eliminates the need for monitor/keyboards or the use of a KVM with the X boxes. Nice to have, but not required.  So the file server can be stuffed into some nook or cranny down in the dungeon/KazShack.  So far I’ve set up only two boxes as control consoles, one an Ubuntu desktop(using SSH), and the other the Win7 box I use most often(using PuTTY and an X-server).

Having the Win7 box able to remote into the server gives the best of both worlds.  I can now tinker with the programming stuff on the Linux side directly from the windows desktop.  Geek Heaven.  Since ARRL finally added the CSV option back to the contest results, I can continue collecting the band breakdown data for the Sweepstakes contests.

The next area of experimentation is to try out some VM’s.  I’m curious as to how much access a contest logging program might have to the required hardware interfaces[USB, serial, LPT] when it sits in a winXP VM being run on top of linux.  Since linux has good control of those hardware interfaces, in theory it should be possible.  Don’t know if the VM’s available are yet up to the task, but loggers are not really doing anything too exotic.  Might be possible, and it seems like a better overall approach than using WINE if the hardware has the extra horsepower needed.

Given the dearth of Linux contest specific loggers, it might be the most practical approach. Since the major contest loggers are written in Visual Basic, it may be the only way to run those particular apps under Unix.

Or maybe not….

Useful Stuff:

Updated, 2011/1/6: The Notepad++ portable app seems to work perfectly well using WINE in Ubuntu 10.04.  Notepad++ has a easy end-of-line conversion for text files, making it easy to switch from CRLF to LF, or vise versa.

5 comments to Linux Progress In the KazShack

  • For a file server, there’s a “server” version of Ubuntu that is much lighter weight. It’ll run well even on a P3 box. However, it doesn’t have Gnome, KDE, or any other desktop environment. Command line only.

    • Yes, I considered experimenting with the server version. Decided I’d probably be logged onto it directly often enough I’d rather have all of the extra cruft the desktop adds in. Easier than learning to configure everything from the command line.

  • Josh (KD8HRX) Smith

    Not really ham related but if you like notepad++/SciTE you should give gvim a go as an editor.

  • I just thought of something else. In theory, depending on whether or not the program author made use of stuff that isn’t implemented yet, a program written in a .Net language C# or VB.Net, might be able to run under Mono on a *nix box. Several years ago I experimented a little and managed to get a really basic Windows app that I whipped together and compiled on the Windows machine to actually run on a RedHat 9 box using the Gnome desktop that way. I just copied the .exe file to the linux box and it ran. Mono is much more mature now and it should work much better.

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