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AlphaServer 1200 — Gentoo, OpenBSD or NetBSD? Or quite old Debian?

There’s a question about what to run on it. OpenVMS on one HD makes sense, just to see what it’s like. Other OSs that are still available include NetBSD, OpenBSD, Gentoo — that’s about it. There’s a Debian community supported option out there http://backup.parisc-linux.org/, which is a mighty effort but which is likely to require some hacking to work. A small group of enthusiasts just can’t be expected to test stuff on all different types of hardware.

Here I sum up my experiences so far, given I am in mid-process.

Debian: Official Debian support for Alpha ended with Debian 5.0.10, the last update to Lenny, in about 2012. That makes it vulnerable to security exploits, though one suspects that anything that depends on a hardware exploit is pretty unlikely — how many nasties are out there targeting Linux on Alpha? If security by obscurity is ever going to work, this is it! On the other hand, once the system is installed there’s no update cycle to worry about, and the software ecosystem is pretty big (no Open/LibreOffice, but that’s about it). I’ve got a whole post on putting Debian 5 on the thing. Short answer: (almost) works right out of the box.

OpenBSD: Installs effortlessly, but lacks an X server, though does have some X tools. I guess that means you could use X on the machine if you had a second machine acting as the server, or maybe try to use the NetBSD ports/pkgsrc route. OpenBSD looks like a good option for a server or if the text terminal is your thing.

NetBSD: Installs just as easily. X is there, just haven’t quite got it to work. Since OpenBSD can be made to play with NetBSDs source packages, it may be possible to get X onto OpenBSD in a roundabout way.  Tried to compile X and to install ‘modular X’ (https://wiki.netbsd.org/pkgsrc/how_to_install_modular_xorg/) but compile of the server failed with various problems with the C code which I am not in a position to wrestle with (‘cos I don’t know enough C and I do not intend to spend my time learning it). Looks like the code just does not dovetail with the Alpha. I’ve not given up yet. NetBSD without X seems to work fine, I should add, and X is not everything.

Gentoo: Life is too short for this! Actually, I intend to have a crack. Already tried once and failed but I think that was me not Gentoo — made some mistakes with the (long and arduous) install process and ended up with a broken system. Need to try again.

Debian unofficial: The 9.0 install media would not boot on my machine. The 8.0 booted and installed but X does not work out of the box and ‘$ Xorg -configure’ throws a seg fault. Lots of ‘unaligned traps’ suggests that a lot of the code base has not been customised for one of the unfortunate quirks of the Alpha architecture. Tried importing the xorg.conf from Deb 5 but it did not like that.  May need to recompile X.  Experimenting with apt-src, but looks like this is not going to work without a lot of hands-on.

I have 3 SCSI HD I can use. Debian 5 is working well. I’d like to have a BSD for interest. So Gentoo or Debian unofficial? I’m inclined towards having another crack at Gentoo. Especially now that I have increased my internet download limit.

 

Compile it.

 

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AlphaServer 1200: adding sound

Had an ancient Creative Technologies SoundBlaster in the shed: Model: CT5803.

Perfect vintage for a box from 1998 running Debian from 2012. Specs of card:

Creative Technology Ltd

DP/N 00074HUW

Sound Blaster Audio PCI 64 Dell/Gateway

(1) Turned box off and unplugged power cords.

(2) Already had Debian 5.0.10 installed. Slotted card into a PCI slot, screwed it in tight, closed up the case and booted up.

(3) (Re)installed a bunch of sound stuff — libasound2, alsa-utils, alsa-oss mainly. Used synaptic and just asked for a reinstall of anything alsa, basically. Also chose a couple of sound mixing applications. One of their dependencies might be crucial, not sure.

(4) Rebooted.

During boot saw: Setting up ALSA … Done

Promising!

(5) Opened ‘Sound’ on the System/Preferences menu and did tests. Yep, works!

(6) Got a screenshot just to put a pic in this post. Sadly, old versions of browsers won’t work with WordPress (old version of JavaScript is probably the issue), so copied the file off the Alpha to my main box using scp over my local network.

Screen shot with no useful content.

Sound works.

Got to say, it was as easy as that. Did need the reboot, but can’t complain. No monkeying about with firmware or anything. Debian roolz!

 

Sound.

A little fix on a Hermes 10

So my Hermes 10 had a little problem; the ribbon vibrator was not dropping down after lifting the ribbon into place. That meant my deathless prose was obscured. Given how many errors I make that may not be a bad thing, but still…

Bitmap image of the typewriter.

Hermes 10 electric typewriter with the upper casing removed.

 

bitmap of the problem part with the part highlighted

Sticky ribbon vibrator indicated by the red arrow.

I tackled it two ways, both at once, so I don’t know which was more important.

First, I just very lightly lubricated the various bits of the mechanism, working from the ribbon position all the way back to the various lever arms and whatnot near the keyboard.

In doing this, I noticed that while there was a spring drawing the mechanism back (and the vibrator down) attached near the top-right of the keyboard, there was no such at the top-left.

bitmap image showing the spring that was already in the machine.

The arrow points to the spring near the top-right of the keyboard. It draws back the ribbon vibrator mechanism, causing the ribbon to drop out of the way.

Now, in most manual typewriters the vibrator is not symmetrical — it’s operated from one side or the other but not both, so such an arrangement would not be that much of a surprise. But on the 10 the mechanism is more symmetrical, with levers and rods on both sides and the ribbon holder moving perfectly vertically on a rail rather than being lifted up by a lever arm from one side. So it seemed reasonable that there should have been a spring on the left, especially since there was a little pin there with nothing to do but hold the end of the absent spring.

bitmap showing the spring

The mismatched spring I added to the mechanism on the top-left.

 

To cut a boring story a little short, I found a little spring in my parts bin (not matching, but that’s OK) and attached it, and an the problem went away.

The 10 is not a bad machine. It combines the evenness and regularity of an electric machine with the satisfying thwack of typebars on paper. Its gentle hum is not disturbing. It is a heavy beast — portable only in the sense it is not bolted down — and the key tops sit high due to the electrical paraphernalia underneath. But typing on it is effortless and the result is very tidy.

And now, thanks to my fiddling about, the ribbon vibrator gets out of the way and lets me see what’s going on.

Here are some more pictures.

image of the typewriter, without its upper case.

Some more pictures of the topless Hermes 10.

It certainly isn’t the most invisible fix I’ve done, but it works and makes the machine much more user friendly, so worth doing indeed.

10 10 10 10.

AlphaServer 1200 — flash the firmware

Following on from this post.

Booted up to SRM console but when tried to boot from console it said BIOS CHECKSUM error (or something like that).

(Note: If you are in AlphaBIOS and want to switch to the SRM console, press the Reset button, wait 5 seconds, then press the Halt button.)

OK, looks like BIOS corrupted. If it’s a bad chip then it’s bad, but maybe flashing the BIOS would work…

OK, flash the BIOS on an AlphaServer

Some possibly useful references:

ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/alphaserver/firmware/retired_platforms/servers/AS1200/alpha1200_v60_fw_relnote.pdf

http://btr0xq.rz.uni-bayreuth.de/Digital/alphaserver/firmware/retired_platforms/servers/AS1200/

The latter has three 3 1.44MB floppy disks as zip files, which are supposed to contain all the necessary files. It says:

Copy the following files to diskette #1:
as1200cp.sys
as1200fw.sys
tcreadme.sys
tcarcrom.sys

Copy the following files to diskette #2:
tcsrmrom.sys

Copy the following files to diskette #3 if you’ll be updating I/O option firmware:
as1200io.sys
tcreadme.sys
cipca420.sys
dfxaa320.sys
kzpsaa12.sys

But … these are V6.0 files and according to the docs, that won’t work (yet)

https://support.hpe.com/hpsc/doc/public/display?docId=emr_na-c00060044

Reading the documents, ones finds out that can only go to versions higher than 5.3 by going via version 5.3, because at that version the firmware gets reorganised (written to different parts of the non-volatile memory) — so need V5.3 images. But where from? Spent ages looking for them. Could only find:

ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/alphaserver/firmware/retired_platforms/servers/AS1200/
File: as1200_v5_3.exe 2573 KB 30/11/04 00:00:00
File: as1200_v5_3.sys 2574 KB 30/11/04 00:00:00

But these are too big for a floppy. and even if I put on CD, no instructions on how to apply. I don’t want to brick the thing… Asked on a forum but got told to use a MOP server — some kind of network booting thing. I am way too dumb to make that work.

More googling; found a V5.3 firmware iso at http://ftp.uni-bayreuth.de/Digital/alphaserver/firmware/iso_images/:

as4100_v53.iso

But it is for the AS4100 not the AS1200. It contains a file called ./AS4X00/RHSRMROM.SYS which is clearly 5.3, and they seem to be very adjacent machines … do I dare use the 4100 file on the 1200? (It would be instead of the TCSRMROM.SYS you can see listed on disk 2 above).

https://support.hpe.com/hpsc/doc/public/display?docId=emr_na-c00342269 says…:

AlphaServer 1200:
The AlphaServer 1200 is AlphaServer 4000 electronics mounted in an AlphaServer 1000 enclosure.

OK; should be compatible. Do it. Create two floppies

DISK1:
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 806 Apr 25 18:58 AS1200CP.TXT
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 920 Apr 25 18:56 AS1200FW.TXT
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 1536 Apr 25 18:57 AS1200FW.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 1536 Apr 25 18:58 AS1200CP.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 4096 Apr 25 18:55 TCREADME.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 590336 Apr 25 18:55 TCARCROM.SYS

DISK2:
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 806 Apr 25 19:04 AS1200CP.TXT
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 920 Apr 25 19:03 AS1200FW.TXT
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 1536 Apr 25 19:03 AS1200FW.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 1536 Apr 25 19:04 AS1200CP.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 4096 Apr 25 19:04 TCREADME.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 996352 Apr 25 19:02 RHSRMROM.SYS

Note RHSRMROM on the second disk, copied from the 4100 iso file.

I need to make the lfu utility read the correct SYS file, so changed the file AS1200CP.TXT to call for the RH instead of the TCSRMROM file.

Ran lfu (booted up the AlphaServer into the SRM console and typed lfu ).

Selected dva0 (floppy).

Asked for as1200cp (the modified txt file).

It loaded the files (shows on screen).

l(ist) showed the SRMROM to be correct version

UPD> update srm*

Worked!

wget ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/alphaserver/firmware/iso_images/v57.iso

Then I found the V57.iso firmware and burned to CD and repeated the process using that. In that case, started the Alpha and at the SRM prompt typed:

P00>>> b dka400:

and it booted from the firmware CD and I installed 5.7 version.

Just accepted the CD’s instructions and then:

update * -all

from the lfu prompt provided by the CD. It successfully updated SRMROM and ALPHABIOS.

Then used my original three floppies to update to V6.0 of SRM.

Finally seems to be OK.

Some funny business with the IO update (‘not supported under lfu’), but seems to be OK, so will just suck it and see.

Is now able to boot from CD without errors, allowing install of operating system(s).

Next-ish?

Flash da BIOS on a Gigabyte mobo

My (now aging) desktop machine runs Debian current perfectly snappily. It’s an i7-2600K with 8G RAM and a couple of TB HD. Nothing exotic these days, though when I first got it Debian was not up to date enough and I had to install a backports kernel — far too much work for my liking.

I’ve been having some issues with flaky HD access, and while I think it is a slightly poor motherboard (bad SATA connectors or something — I’ve tried many cables), I figured I was running an oldish BIOS version and a newer one might be better.

Now, flashing BIOS is a bit scary. If it goes wrong you can brick the machine. But when I saw that the newest version (even if 5+ years old) was F8 and I was running F3, I figured it might be possible that there was a bug or something that had been fixed in one of the 5 newer versions.

Read about Qflash:

https://www.gigabyte.com/FileUpload/global/WebPage/20/images/utility_qflash.pdf

Seemed OK. Just find the file, copy it to USB stick, reboot, hit ‘End’ while powering on and then follow the menu prompts.

The BIOS image I found on the website was:

mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe

at

https://www.gigabyte.com/Motherboard/GA-H67MA-USB3-B3-rev-10#support-dl-bios

(Gigabyte GA-H67MA-USB3-B3 is printed on my motherboard).

Downloaded, copied it to USB and in my ignorance rebooted. First I followed the instruction in the PDF and saved the old BIOS image to the USB stick, and then I realised I could not find the new one.

Exited without making any changes and revisited the website.

Looked closer at the file names in the Qflash examples (in PDF noted above) and realised they look nothing like mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe; took a guess — maybe the exe file is a Windows self-extracting archive. Yes, it’s obvious to you, but I’ve not done this before, not much.

But I am on Debian … not Windows. Tried just unzipping it ($ unzip mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe) but unzip did not like that. Threw errors.

OK.

Went to folder where mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe was kept and:

$ mkdir flashbios
$ mv mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe flashbios/
$ cd flashbios/
$ wine mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe

Wine (which is apparently not an emulator), ran perfectly (version 1.8.7) and yes some files leapt out of the exe file. So:

$ ls
autoexec.bat
FLASHSPI.EXE
h7mausb3.f8
mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe

Now, there is another option.

These are ‘7zip’ files, so can also type:

$ 7z e mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe

where ‘e’ means ‘extract’. Whatever. Both work. I only figured out the 7z thing after first running Wine because it popped up a dialogue box that said ‘7z self-extracting archive’.

OK, so the file I need is h7mausb3.f8 (note it sticks to DOS 8.3 file naming rules).

Copied that file to the USB, rebooted and it all went smoothly.

Whether I have solved the issues I was having I don’t know (and actually I doubt) but the machine’s working, so that’s something.

Flash, ah–haah!

Back up old Toshi: Making a disk image of a hard drive on an old Windows XP laptop

Toshiba Satellite A40 was a fine machine in it’s day, which coincided with the prime time of Windows XP. 15 years later it’s still responsive and works perfectly, though there’s one dead line of pixels on the screen and it’s on its second HD.

Task was to back up the HD. It’s a 40 GB IDE drive, the second after the first failed. First booted into XP and connected up a USB HD and just copied everything off. But wanted to make a disk image as well.

Photograph of the computer with terminal window open.

Toshiba Satellite A40, running LegacyOS live disk.

(1) Downloaded and burned LegacyOS 2017 live disk.

(2) Held down ‘ESC’ while Toshi booted, and in BIOS made sure CDROM is before HDD in the boot order; only change I made.

(3) Put Legacy live CD in drive and exited BIOS (saving changes). It booted off the CD no worries. Chose Xorg not Xvesa during Xorg setup; 1024 x 768 resolution x 16 is fine.

(4) Plugged in USB hard drive, opened a terminal and ran gparted just to see what all the disks were called; old hard drive was /dev/hda1 (‘h’ means IDE drive), USB HD was /dev/sda1 (‘s’ means SATA); also shows USB HD it to be NTFS and 1 TB where the old disk is 40 GB.

(5) Mounted USB HD:

$ mount -t ntfs /dev/sda1 /mnt/data

(-t tells it the file system on the mounted drive is NTFS, and it’s to be found at /dev/sda1 and attached to a directory at /mnt/data, which was already there in Legacy and ready to use. Great).

(6) Checked the USB HD was there:

$ ls /mnt/data

yep…

(7) Ran disk dump command

$ dd if=/dev/hda of=/mnt/data/toshi.img bs=64K conv=noerror,sync

(the input file system is at /dev/hda and must not be mounted, the output file is to be written to the USB HD as toshi.img and the other stuff just helps smooth the process).

(8) While it was going, went to the directory on the USB HD and noted down the details of the image file; basically this info here.

(9) Waited a looooong time.

(10) Done.

dddddddd

Updating my Debian box — a non-expert’s experience

My Debian desktop box was running the LTS (long term support) version (in other words, older than oldstable, getting minimal updates and getting outmoded and old and crufty), which is the 7.x series. Support for that even as LTS is scheduled to end May 2018, not far away.

So I bit the bullet and decided to update to current, which is 9.3 (‘stable’). I like Debian, rather than one of the many distributions derived from it. I’ve found for me it words pretty well. Most problems I have are with applications not the OS, and when I’ve fiddled around with other Linux distributions, I have generally found that they are different but not better, and often have fewer packages. So Debian it is.

I don’t have a great network connection where I live (in the bush in Australia, which has poor broadband even in towns), so rather than do a net install I downloaded the iso for the installation disk and burned it. This file: https://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/9.3.0/amd64/iso-dvd/debian-9.3.0-amd64-DVD-1.iso. I did not bother grabbing 2 and 3; I have enough internet to grab anything not on the DVD from the server, and eventually the DVDs get out of date.

I also made what I think is a good decision about backups. I began with a 1TB drive. Not big now, but  the computer is about 7 years old, I’d guess. Maybe more. It has an i7-2600K, which was a pretty good chip at the time. When I got it I was using it for numerical modelling, like here, but I don’t do much of that these days, and with 8 GB RAM it is still perfectly capable of running a responsive desktop, so I do not feel a need to upgrade the processing power or the RAM. Since then, I bought a 2 TB drive for storing media, and bunged it in the case and mounted it as /home/username/Music. Worked fine. So with that in mind…

    1. Went into VirtualBox and exported all the virtual machines I wanted to keep to an appliance, ‘Appliance.ova’ — this was a 34 GB file.
    2. Went into firefox and exported my bookmarks to a json file.
    3. Used rsync to copy /home/username (including the Music folder, since it was mounted at the time) to an external USB backup drive called SAMSUNG. Here is the rsync command, for reference:
      rsync -a -v -v -v --stats  --log-file=logrsync.log /home/username /media/SAMSUNG/home/
      

      and note that I have excluded nothing, since I want to keep my web history as well as the actual data. This command will grab stuff like .mozilla/firefox profiles and the like, though more on that later. The Appliance.ova file was also in a place where it would get backed up externally.

    4. Left the 1 TB drive in the case but disconnected power and SATA cables from it. Since I’d been getting some errors from the drives, I decided to use the second row of SATA sockets for the new install where previously I’d been using the first. So I plugged in the CD/DVD and the 2 TB hard drive into the second row of slots, the DVD into the white socket and the HD into the first blue socket. I made sure to use SATA cables with clips.

      Picture of the mother board and which SATA sockets I used.

      Using the right-hand set of sockets for the SATA drives instead of the left.

    5. Double-checked that the USB backup drive had all my data — /home from the 1 TB drive and Music from the 2 TB drive. Yes, it did. Also had the Appliances.ova and the .mozilla hidden directory with all my web history and stored passwords (more on that later). Disconnected it from the machine. So now only the 2 TB HD and the DVD drive were connected.
    6. Put Debian 9.3 DVD 1 into the drive and rebooted the computer.
    7. Pressed ‘Del during boot to bring up BIOS menu and selected CDROM as first boot device. BIOS menu showed that we’re using IDE channel 1, not channel 0 as previously. That’s OK.
    8. Let the machine boot off the DVD and selected Install, not graphical from the menu. Graphical is probably fine but I’ve been doing this for a while and I have no problem with ncurses. Wired internet connection was in and on.

      Picture of the menu.

      Menu to select the Debian install method.

    9. Clicked through the install (Language, Location, Keyboard map, Hostname, Domain, Root password, User account, Clock

      Picture of the menu.

      Menu to select language.

    10. Partitioned the HD. SCSI 2(010)(sda). Whole device. 16 GB swap (2 × the RAM), then rest of disk at ext4 Linux, mount point ‘/’, and set this partition bootable. Done.
      Picture of the partitioner screen.

      Partitioning — setting up swap space.

      Picture of the partitioning.

      Setting up the root partition.

    11. Write the partition information to disk.
    12. Start installing.
    13. Threw a corrupt file error while installing the base system and dumped me into a text menu. Selected ‘Install base system’ or whatever it was (ie, have another go, please) and it went through. I only installed the base system (ie, command line tools).

      Picture of the error screen.

      Red screen means error.

    14. Linux image was amd64, and the kernel image (it told me) was 4.9.0-4.
    15. Told it I was not scanning anymore DVDs.

      Picture of the apt configuration screen.

      Setting up apt (the package management).

    16. Yes, please set up a mirror.
    17. Chose a mirror and let it configure apt. It said something about ‘upgrading’ but I don’t want to toast my bandwidth so I turned off my router. For now I just want to use the DVD, so once apt was configures with the correct mirror, I figured it would be OK to turn off the internet.
    18. Chose some software, set it to install but it halted at one pointed — needed to get something from the net, should not have turned it off yet. Reran with net on and ok.
    19. Yes, GRUB to MBR, please.
    20. Rebooted with web off. Changed BIOS to boot from HD and left DVD in as a file repository.
    21. As root, edited /etc/apt/sources.list and commented out the web repositories for now.
    22. apt-get update
    23. apt-get –install-suggests install mate-desktop-environment.
    24. Chose gdm3 as my display/login manager, since MATE and Gnome should work well together.
    25. Added some other stuff using apt-get; xsane, libreoffice, that sort of thing.
    26. Plugged in backup USB HD and, with a command line open in /home/username/, coipied all the backed-up material into my new home directory:
      cp -irv /media/username/SAMSUNG/home/username/* .
      cp -rv .[^.]* .
      
    27. Edited /etc/apt/sources.list to remove comments from web repositories, now that the bulk of the software was installed.
    28. Downloaded VirtualBox installer from https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Linux_Downloads.
    29. As root, installed a few packages it needs:
      apt-get install dkms
      apt-get --install-suggests install linux-headers-amd64 linux-headers-4.9.0-4-amd64
      apt-get install  libqt5opengl5
      dpkg -i virtualbox-5.2_5.2.6-120293~Debian~stretch_amd64.deb
    30. Then ran VirtualBox and imported the Appliance.ova file, and there everything was. Once I installed the guest additions, it all worked smoothly.
    31. Ran Firefox. Despite the exact copy of the old profile directory, it remembered nothing. I tried running firefox -P and selecting the profile that matched the old one rather than the new one it had cfreated, but that did not seem to help either.
    32. Mounted the old 1 TB HD using a SATA to USB adapter and recopied old profile directory from the 1 TB HD to the new directory (profiles live in /home/username/.mozilla/firefox with filenames like brqhj45.default-1234456787655).
    33. That fixed my passwords but not the bookmarks.
    34. Within the bookmark manager of Firefox, imported the json file I created in step 2, and that fixed that. Done.

So at the end I had my old root drive (minus the Music folder) on the old 1 TB drive as emergency snapshot and backup, I had a current backup on the external USB HD (including the Music folder) and on the 2 TB drive, which used to be just the Music folder, I had everything, including Music.

Still got some issues with Windows progs installed under the old wine not working with the new one — but install media not working with new one either so cannot reinstall…

Relatively painless.

 

 

 

Accidental/coincidental fix of ethernet socket

The lights were out; those little LEDs that flash on the back of the computer when the Ethernet cable is plugged in. Dead. No internet. Could plug the cable into a different machine and it worked, but my main desktop could not even see the router.

Hmm…

Worse, I was working at home and needed to upload a day’s work to the server and it needed to be that day because it had to go to a client.

Hmm…

I tried rebooting, wiggling cables, jiggling the connections between the socket and the motherboard (it’s the built-in port, so attached directly to the MB). No good. Despite previous tests, rebooted router. No good.

In the end I copied the file onto USB and uploaded from the other computer. Then I turned the desktop off and left it for a few hours. Turned it back on.

Nothing.

Then I pulled out the Ethernet cable and the power plug. No standby power, nothing. Left it for a day.

Now it is working again.

Don’t know why; not complaining.

Random acts of something.

Extra ultra super glue.

Just a useful trick. Some people use the word ‘hack’ for stuff like this, but I … don’t.

However, I will say that I have found that super glue, by which I mean cyanoacrylate glue, is lousy for fixing the plastic that most kids’ toys are made from. However, some companies now sell a double-pack for fixing that kind of stuff — it’s sometimes called ‘Toy Fix Glue‘ or similar.

You can buy it, but it costs a premium, and what is in the pack is a felt-tip marker filled with MEK or something very similar, and a tube of what smells a lot like super glue. Now, you’ll pay something like $10 for this tube of super glue and a few ml of this primer. It works, though.

But, instead, I prefer to pay like $2.50 for a multi-pack of no-name super glue and then go to the plumbing section and get a container of primer for joining PVC pipes for about $6. Now, this primer can be coloured, so it’s a good idea to get the transparent, colourless one.

I use a paint brush, like a cheap watercolour brush, to pain the primer onto both surfaces to be joined. Then I let it evaporate off, and apply the glue to one surface and then hold the surfaces together firmly for as long as possible.

This fixes plastics that super glue won’t normally bond, as well as ceramics — I’ve glued up teacups that have then been used for years, though I don’t put them through the dishwasher. Probably could, but don’t.

Warnings:

Use in a well-ventilated area!

Some plastics will be softened by the primer, so avoid applying more than necessary, and if it is a really valuable/valued item, maybe ‘do a test in an inconspicuous area’, as they say.

Super glue is dangerous and must be kept away from skin, eyes and any other body parts, whether your own or those of other people.

Keep out of reach of children, and don’t let them touch the glue either.

 

Glue, ink, whatever.

A fool’s guide to installing a new hard drive in my Linux box.

(1) First I bought a new drive. Nothing fancy, Seagate 2 TB 3.5″ HD. I want extra data space, not a boot disk. I just want to mount it as a multimedia repository. Audacity generates a lot of GB.

(2) Second, I found an empty bay in my tower case and slotted the drive in and fastened it in with all four screws.

Sideways pointless picture of the inside the my PC case.

Sideways pointless picture of the inside the my PC case.

(3) Ran a SATA cable from the drive to an empty plug on the motherboard, and connected power to the new drive.

(4) Disconnected all external storage and booted up, and noticed that the drive showed up in the boot output. (Disconnected external storage to make identifying the correct disk easier when creating partitions.)

(5) I know that my existing HD is sda. Ran gparted. (Applications -> System -> Administration -> Gnome partition editor in the Debian menu structure).

(6) Waited while gparted found the partitions on all the attached disks.

(7) Identified new disk as sdb. Good.

(8) Created partition table: I chose gpt, but msdos works usually too. Device -> Create Partition Table -> select type.

<tt>gparted</tt>. A screen shot too fill up space.

gparted. A screen shot to fill up space.

(9) Right click on its entry in the partition editor window. Selected ‘New’ and added details as preferred. I like ext4, used the whole disk, and gave it a label different from any other disks. It had to be Primary since it is the only partition on the disk.

(10) Clicked ‘Add’, then ‘Apply’. Closed the dialogue when successfully completed. The partition editor took a few seconds and found the new partition.

(11) Okay. Now, to get it to mount on boot. The modern way uses a sort of ‘universal ID’ for the drive — UUID are four letters that come to mind. I just used the fact that the partition is called sdb1.

(12) Created a mount point in my file tree.

Whatever.

Whatever.

$ cd
$ mkdir Music

I was not acting as root at this point — because this is my desktop machine and my data. I am treating it as part of /home/myusername, not creating a drive for everyone to see.

(13) Then edited /etc/fstab. This has to be done as root

$ sudo vim /etc/fstab

This is the added text in /etc/fstab.

#New 2TB GB drive as ~/Music
/dev/sdb1 /home/myusername/Music ext4 rw,user,exec,auto,errors=remount-ro 0 2

(14) Then gave the machine a reboot and saw what happened…

(15) Use the ‘disk free space’ command to see if I can see the new disk.

$ df -h

Here is the output for the new disk…

Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on

/dev/sdb1 1.8T 196M 1.7T 1% /home/myusername/Music

OK!

(16) Need to do a test… Can I write to it? Test:

$ touch /home/myusername/Music/testfile

No! Because when mounted Music is owned by root, not by me.

(17) So…

$ sudo chown myusername /home/myusername/Music/ 

$ touch /home/myusername/Music/testfile

Success… (Note, this may not be the cleverest way to do all this, it only works.)

(18) Now reboot and see if I can still write to it…

(19) Yep. OK, now put the sides back on the tower and copy the back-up to the new data space… Yep, that works.

And awayyyy…….