Monday, May 31, 2010

Life on an Old Sun Box - First Impressions

I've moved a large chunk of my userland experience off of the modern Linux box and onto the old Sun Ultra 1 running OpenBSD 4.7. My web browser, desktop session, BitTorrent client, and MP3 player are still running on the newer Linux box.

Email - alpine is the mail client of choice for me on this box. After a bit of reading and a bit more googling, it wasn't too hard to get this set up on my primary mailbox. I haven't yet gotten multiple mailboxes going but I've learned it is possible and probably not too hard to set up. It's working really well on the old Sun, and has a decently small footprint on the CPU.

IRC - I've been using irssi for many years. It was a simple matter to rsync my ~/.irssi directory over to the Sun box and fire irssi up. It, too, has a very small footprint on the CPU.

IM - This is where things get hairy. I've used finch before and have had mixed feelings about it. finch's behavior inside of a GNU screen session has left a bit to be desired in the past, mostly in terms of not gracefully resizing itself when I attach from different terminals or resize my terminal window. Under OpenBSD, trying to install finch requires X11 and a chunk of Gnome related libraries. Ugh.   jbroome in Freenode/#trilug mentioned that I might like to try bitlbee with my existing irssi installation.

This dependency problem appears to be a recurring theme. I also ran into X11 dependencies trying to install horde. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!? horde tries grabbing php5-gd, which seems to require X11. I'm thinking this is probably a problem with how OpenBSD packages are being built.

Ultimately I relented and installed the X11 libs since I have plenty of disk space. If I had left the original 4G disk in place, I'd probably be more upset about this.

Speaking of disk, the 10MB/sec SCSI controller has been a bigger bottleneck for me than the 167MHz CPU or meager 128MB of RAM. Indeed, I still have 29MB of RAM free. But big disk operations seem to bring everything to a crawl.

To that end, I'm going to look into my options for a faster sbus SCSI adapter. Suggestions? I do have a bunch of Ultra160 and Ultra320 disks that I've picked up on eBay over the years, plus a StorEdge D1000 array.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Old Hardware Doesn't Slow With Age

One of the profound truths that eludes most geeks is that our hardware does not get slower as it gets older. Our expectations of it, however, become increasingly unreasonable as our software bloats and our new hardware follows Moore's Law.

With that said, I do keep some old hardware kicking around, and do put it to good use. You'll see mention of it here from time to time.

Tonight? I have a Sun Ultra 1 that I'm working on. Right now it's got 128MB of RAM and a 4GB hard disk. I've ripped out that hard disk and installed an 18G hard disk for the OS, and a ~140GB disk for /home. It's doing a netboot-based installation of OpenBSD 4.7 as I write this blog.

It so happens I also have a Sun Enterprise 250 kicking around here that I'm not currently using. The memory is compatible with the Ultra 1! So the Ultra 1 is getting an upgrade to 1GB of RAM tomorrow.

If that wasn't sick enough, I also have a Sun StorEdge D1000 array laying around, and the disks & spud brackets to properly populate it. What I'm still missing is an sbus HVD SCSI adapter, cable, and terminator to attach the D1000 array to the Ultra 1. Not a high priority project, but it's on the to-do list.

I'll post a dmesg from the Ultra 1 once I'm done loading it up. Formatting the 140G /home partition is taking awhile...