Josef “Jeff” Sipek

Meili upgrades

A couple of months ago, I decided to update my almost two and a half year old laptop. Twice.

First, I got more RAM. This upped it to 12 GB. While still on the low side for a box which actually gets to see some heavy usage (compiling illumos takes a couple of hours and generates a couple of GB of binaries), it was better than the 4 GB I used for way too long.

Second, I decided to bite the bullet and replaced the 320 GB disk with a 256 GB SSD (Samsung 840 Pro). Sadly, in the process I had the pleasure of reinstalling the system — both Windows 7 and OpenIndiana. Overall, the installation was uneventful as my Windows partition has no user data and my OI storage is split into two pools (one for system and one for my data).

The nice thing about reinstalling OI was getting back to a stock OI setup. A while ago, I managed to play with software packaging a bit too much and before I knew it I was using a customized fork of OI that I had no intention of maintaining. Of course, I didn’t realize this until it was too late to rollback. Oops. (Specifically, I had a custom pkg build which was incompatible with all versions OI ever released.)

One of the painful things about my messed-up-OI install was that I was running a debug build of illumos. This made some things pretty slow. One such thing was boot. The ZFS related pieces took about a minute alone to complete. The whole boot procedure took about 2.5 minutes. Currently, with a non-debug build and an SSD, my laptop goes from Grub prompt to gdm login in about 40 seconds. I realize that this is an apples to oranges comparison.

I knew SSDs were supposed to be blazing fast, but I resisted getting one for the longest time mostly due to reliability concerns. What changed my mind? I got to use a couple of SSDs in my workstation at work. I saw the performance and I figured that ZFS would take care of alerting me of any corruption. Since most of my work is version controlled, chances are that I wouldn’t lose anything. Lastly, SSDs got a fair amount of improvements over the past few years.


Back in June I got myself a new laptop — Thinkpad T520. As always, it’s a solid design (yes, I know, Thinkpads aren’t what they used to be). The unfortunate news is that the hardware was just a bit too new to be supported well. It came with Windows 7, which of course knew how to deal with all the devices in the system.


I tried installing Debian, but anything but the latest testing snapshot didn’t recognize my Intel 82579LM ethernet chip. The latest development snapshot installed just fine, but when I tried to boot into the installed system, everything got stuck in the middle of the initramfs. Booting with init=/bin/bash got me a shell, but anything and everything I tried didn’t fix the problem in the end. I searched the bug tracker for similar issues — no luck. In a last ditch effort, I tried to ask #debian. In has been my experience in the past that this channel is useless, but I asked anyway. I got precisely zero responses.


Unlike Debian, OpenIndiana installed and booted just fine. Sadly, both my wifi (Intel Wifi Link 1000) and my wired ethernet were not supported. I ended up installing VirtualBox in Windows and OpenIndiana underneath it. It worked reasonably well. At the same time, I started pestering some of the Illumos developers that mentioned that they were working on an update to the e1000g driver — the driver for my wired network interface.

Yesterday, one of them updated the bug related to the driver update with binaries for people to try. Well, guess what? I’m writing this entry in Vim over ssh.

The driver install was a simple matter of overwriting the existing e1000g files, and then running update_drv -a -i ’"pci8086,1502"’ e1000g and then rebooting. (I could have used devfsadm instead, but I wanted to make sure things would come up on boot anyway.)

I still need to switch Xorg to the proprietary NVidia driver.


I’m pretty sure I’ll end up rebooting into Windows every so often anyway…if only to play Wikipedia article: Age of Mythology. :)

P.S. In case you haven’t guessed it yet, Meili is my laptop’s hostname.

Linus & Windows 7

You might have already seen this image, but in case you haven’t…

Linus + Windows 7

Microsoft tried to torpedo the success of the Japan Linux Symposium by launching their Windows 7 product that same day. They even had setup a big promotion booth across the street from the conference center.

During a break, we decided to make some fun of Microsoft and dragged Linus over there. When we arrived there, Linus was sold immediately on the product as you can see in the picture. At least that’s what the sales guy thought. He obviously had no idea who he was dealing with. But in the end Linus surprisingly did not buy a copy. Wise man!

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