Monthly Archives: July 2005

Mapping Minnesota

If you’re interested in maps as either a hobby or resource you may want to check and see what your state provides. Last night I was driving around the web and found the MnDOT Transportation Data and Analysis page. Here you’ll find a state highway map, county maps and even many city maps in PDF format all free for the taking. If you have a system that can take GIS data you’ll find that there too. What a resource! I beleive it’s all public domain too!

Collectors Resources for the Macintosh

If you’re a collector of old Macintosh Computers you might find Gamba’s site to be of use. It has locations for old system enablers, boot disks, manuals, schematics, downsizing instructions and more.

Linux Based Router Software

If setting up a NAS server isn’t what you’re looking for but you want to use an old system as a router you might want to look at m0n0wall or smoothwall.

Free and Easy Network Attached Storage

For those that want to setup a network file server without all the complexity (and flexibility) of a complete Linux/SAMBA server two projects to look at are NASLite and Openfiler.

New Yorkers Give In To Terrorists

There’s an AP story floating about how commuters are taking subway bag searches in stride. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that terrorists are systematically destroying our country and constitutions through the use of fear and the political system of the United States.

Once upon a time we had our own group of terrorists running amuck (though we now call them the founding fathers) and when they finished their war they wrote a fantastic document we call the Constitution. When they finished they added a Bill of Rights. These are the freedoms we claim to hold high and protect, but one of these very freedoms has been threatened by our own government!

The fourth ammendment to the Constitution was a protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

I think it’s pretty clear that probable cause and a specific warrant must be issued before a search is conducted. I question the validity of these so called bag inspections in this light.

Mostly, I am alarmed by responses such as “They should have done this long time ago, ever since 9/11″, “I don’t mind if they’re doing it for the right cause” and “I don’t know how effective it will be, but if it makes people feel more secure, it’s OK.” Have these people grown up in the same country I have? Do they value freedom? Perhaps they should have listened to Benjamin Franklin: “Those who give up essential liberty, to preserve a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

For all the talk about preserving our way of life and our freedoms people sure are willing to give up most of them. When it’s over and we’ve “beaten” the terrorists what will be left?

Twin Cities Railfan Resources

Tonight I was looking around for information on area street atlases and happened upon a good area railfan site which led to a few more. The Twin City Railfan’s Guide hasn’t been updated in a year but contains all sorts of useful information. The Minnesota Railroad Research Project has links to both current and historical railroad maps for the Twin Cities and outstate Minnesota. There is also a personal account of a railfan visit to the area complete with lots of photos. Other notable local organizations include the Twin City Model Railroad Museum, the Minnesota Transportation Museum and the Minnesota Streetcar Museum. Both the Transportation and Streetcar Museums offer operating exhibits. Another option for those looking to experience rail transit is the Friends of the 261 which has a long term lease for steam locomotive excursions and owns several historic cars. Of course the latest addition to MetroTransit, the Hiawatha Line, offers a view into the possible future of local rail transit. Last but not least, the Northstar Commuter Rail will be the next passenger rail transit addition to the Twin Cities.

Addition: The University of Minnesota also has a railfan club with a very informative website and lots of photos.

Cringely, NerdTV and podcasting

Last week Bob Cringely annouced he was going to launch the NerdTV show/network through a series of distributed servers. At the same time he annouced that he would begin providing his columns and the NerdTV shows in an audio podcast format as well. I’m interested to see how this works out. If the show takes off it could go a long way towards showing PBS that the internet is a viable distribution method for TV.

In related news be sure to check out the “This Week in Tech” (TWiT) podcast being produced by several ex-ZD/TechTV employees. You can get the latest episode at their site.

A Common Storage Problem

There’s a pun in that title somewhere. I often need to swap files with friends for projects that are just too big for email. I’d really like to use some sort of web based file locker system that allowed for both personal and group access to various files but it would be even better if there was a way to let users map that file locker to a drive or directory on their system (usually Win32 or OS X) for an even easier way to upload the files. After some research I’ve discovered that the best way to do this may be to use a webdav server (with software such as Plone) and the Novell NetDrive program which maps webdav space to a drive letter. Yet another option may be the Novell iFolder project. I don’t know if either solution is the right one or will let users have both public and private files (especially on a per user basis) which would be a really nice feature, but at least it’s a start.

Building Bootable Tools CD

It’s pretty common in the IT world to carry around a stack of 3.5″ floppy disks with a variety of bootable software on them for diagnostic and repair purposes (Symantec Ghost, DriveImage, DBAN Disk Eraser, Memtest86, HDD Diagnostics, etc.) At various employers I’ve spent some time trying to put all these tools on a bootable CD-ROM. Unfortunatly, it’s usually not a high priority and ends up being unfinished but the plan remains in my head. As floppy drives continue to become scarce in the corporate world this is going to get done sooner or later. The plan as it currently stands is something like this:

Use tools from Bart’s excellent site (especially BFD) to build a series of floppy disk images of the DOS based software (Ghost, Drive Image, HDD Diagnostics, etc.) via scripts to allow for easy updating. The Linux tools (DBAN and Memtest86) usually come supplied as FDD images so I’d just use those directly. Put all the onto a cd and use CDShell as the bootloader and menu program to select which image to start (CDShell also supports loading ISO cd images). I would probably build the cd with Bart’s BCD program which spits out an ISO file or burns directly to disc.

A project similar to this is availible at http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/ but it doesn’t do things quite the way I want. It may work for you though. The time consuming part for me is to try and consolidate the Symantec Ghost boot disks for each different NIC into one big image that’s partially a floppy image and partially on CD (due to size) while still making it fit in 640k of DOS accessible RAM. I’m sure it can be done, I just haven’t had the time to spend on it recently.

Inherited Systems

I was recently given an old Sun SparcStation by a former collegue and know that I want to use it to manage my Linux servers from my desk. I’m also interested in using it as an Xserver (which is really a client, confusing I know) for some graphical applications. Being an Linux believer I would prefer to do this with Linux as opposed to Solaris. While searching the web I found these sites to be of use and made these notes:

SuSE supposedly supports SPARC. It appears such support has been discontinued in newer versions of SuSE. Of course Debian supports nearly everything but I don’t really want to mess around with a full distro for such a simple project.

UltraLinux is a SPARC based distro

TLDP (The Linux Documentation Project) has a SPARC HOWTO

The Linux Terminal Server Project supports SPARC

A specific howto for getting the LTSP to work with SPARC