Impressions of the Mac Pro

I gave in. I purchased a Mac Pro. Clocking in with 2 x Dual Core 2.66Ghz CPUs, 2Gb RAM and the 512Mb ATI X1900 video card, it's one hell of a machine. The first boot it ever did took around 18 seconds - very quick. Of course, the first thing I had to do to it was throw in a second 160Gb SATA HDD and throw Windows XP on there (for those all important games). I must say that I'm quite impressed with bootcamp (which allows you to boot Windows on the Intel Macs). The one thing that does annoy me is that it doesn't give me the menu so I can pick which OS I want to boot to on startup - something I miss from other boot loaders such as grub.

I do have some hassle with the Logitech LLC drivers causing the mac to hang on shutdown, and even making the mouse buttons not work (however I can still move the pointer), however these have been reported to Logitech and I'm sure will be fixed soon.

All in all, a grunty as hell machine, and very nice to play games on ;)

Windows Vista and Samba shares

One of the things you'll notice quickly is that by default, Windows Vista will not map samba shares - nor can you use Samba as a PDC (Primary Domain Controller). This is due to the default security policy of Windows Vista only using NTLMv2 for authentication - something Samba doesn't support as yet.

To fix this, run (Win+R) "secpol.msc"

Navicate to Local Policies -> Security Options

Change the value of the policy "Network Security: LAN Manager authentication level" from "NTVLM2 responses only" to "LM and NTLM - use NTLMv2 session security if negotiated"

This should now allow Windows Vista to both map network drives based on Samba servers, and use Samba as a PDC.

Thoughts on the Mac Pros

I've been looking at replacing my home desktop system with something a little newer. Gone are the days of AGP, DDR400 and HyperThreading. These days it's all about the number of cores and PCI Express. The Mac Pros are a very tempting machine - being Intel based, you can still run Windows XP on there if required for all those important programs (such as Half Life and CounterStrike :)).

This is until you look under the hood a little. The majority of the hardware is fairly generic - until you get to the memory subsystem. Apple have chosen to go with FB-DIMM memory while the rest of the generic industry has gone with straight DDR RAM. This means that on average, the memory latency involved with the Mac Pro system can slow them down on CPU intensive things (like Half Life etc) by a whopping 10%. Add this to the expensive base price of the Mac Pro compared to generic hardware and things get a little dissapointing.

I am certainly hoping that Apple look at addressing this (no pun intended :)) and looks at removing the FB-DIMM based RAM on the Mac Pro and instantly giving their lineup a 10%+ speed gain - bringing it inline with the rest of the industry. Something I doubt will happen however :(

Windows Live Messenger 8.1 goes into Beta.

Here's your chance to once again be part of the select group that makes Windows Live Messenger better. We've added new features and we need your help to make sure they're perfect. The new features include:

  • Redesigned, smarter contact cards give you more data about and easier access to your friends
  • Your display name, status and personal expressions roam with you to any computer
  • Two free calls to virtually any phone in the world
  • You can download from here. As always, Ahmed has wasted no time and has the ad remover for this version here.

    Xen, Asterisk, and a TDM400P

    When you throw them all together, you have a nice virtualised VoIP server with excellent support for up to 4 FXO or 4 FXS modules per card! Although this seems quite simple, giving direct hardware access to a virtualised machine is not the most simple thing to do. This being the case, I've documented how to do it over here.

    Let me know if there's more that should be added!

    X-Plane/MSFS/VATSIM/IVAO Australia charts Updated

    It's been a while since I've posted due to lots of work lately. For those interested, I'm in the middle of doing a 500-600 user VoIP rollout at work as well as the normal stuff. It takes a lot of time to get this stuff right ;).

    In the mean time, Airservices Australia have released updates to their Australian DAPS (the SID/STARs for Australian Airports). To reflect this, I've updated my charts page with all the updated pages. It seems the biggest change that affects me from YMML is the DOSEL5 and LIZZI1 approach. Grab all the updates here.

    Multiple PCM streams on Fedora Core (rawhide) using Alsa.

    Alsa has been a big step forwards for multimedia in Linux over the past few years, however there are still a number of tweaks that need to be done to optimise it fully. One of the things I found today was the capability to play multiple sounds at once. This comes in great when you're using XMMS to play MP3s and still want to hear noises from programs such as gaim.

    To enable this in Fedora Core, a little bit of tweaking is required to make it work. Firstly, you need to edit /etc/asound.conf to contain the following:

    pcm.card0 { type hw card 0 }

    pcm.!default { type plug slave.pcm "dmixer" }

    pcm.dmixer { type dmix ipc_key 1025 slave { pcm "hw:0,0" period_time 0 period_size 2048 #1024 buffer_size 32768 #4096

    periods 128

    rate 48000 #44100 }

    bindings { 0 0 1 1 } }

    After doing this, if you use esd in gnome to play the wonderful events such as warning beeps etc, you need to edit /etc/esd.conf to contain something like:
    [esd] auto_spawn=1 spawn_options=-terminate -nobeeps -as 2 -d default spawn_wait_ms=100

    default options are used in spawned and non-spawned mode


    After this, reboot your PC, and away you go. Set everything such as gaim to use alsa (you may need to pick "command" and using "aplay %s" to make it work). Everything should be peachy from then on in!

    Update: It seems this now works by default and was a bug in the setup for multi-soundcard systems on the particular version I was using during the Fedora 6 testing :)

    More problems with Powerbooks

    Well, as if things weren't bad enough with all the Superdrive issues that I've had, it's now a possibility that my Powerbooks battery pack may explode. If you haven't heard already, Apple is recalling around 1.8 million batteries made by Sony and used in Powerbook and iBook laptops.

    This means that currently, my 1 year old G4 powerbook has: 3 dead pixels, a faulty SuperDrive, and a battery that could explode. Way to go Apple. At least they're fixing the battery!

    MWRP progress - back from the dead.

    I decided to start doing some long overdue work on MWRP today. For those that don't know, MWRP (Short for Melbourne Wireless Router Project) is a package I started writing a while ago to act as a captive portal on a wireless access point. What happens is that someone associates with your access point, it won't let them onto the net unless they authenticate (or you've specifically let them). This allows us to offer free internet access to Melbourne Wireless members (using the Melbourne Wireless server as an authenticaion back end).

    So after re-writing the authentication backend twice, and hammering out in the low to mid double digits worth of bugs, it's all available for everyone to consume :). You can grab the code from the webcvs, or the package or the source code from the web site. More information on what I've just said above is on the Melbourne Wireless wiki page. And of course there's the instructions.

    Oh, and It looks like a german wireless group have extended on some of what MWRP does and tailored it for their group. Good stuff guys! and thanks for the credit :)