17 February 2012

Dunlop Black Fang vs Ultex Sharp

This basically is one big Dunlop advertisement, so deal with it.
No, I'm not getting paid to do this and if you're reading this, Dunlop dudes: why the fuck don't you lot answer my emails?

Anyways, for what it's worth: a bit of history first... maybe this'll help someone.

Since I started learning playing the guitar I've been a bit obsessed with finding the perfect pick for me.
I noticed very early on the kind of pick I used greatly affected my playing.
The dude in the music store I bought my first guitar at (grossly overpriced, but what did I know... bastards) recommended those floppy light nylon ones, I tossed those after 5 minutes. That started my search for the perfect pick... (still haven't found the Pick of Destiny)

I recently fell in love with Dunlop's Ultex Sharps 1.0.
I already was using regular Ultex which I love for the material it's made of: durable, very nice sound and they don't slip as much as, let's say, the Tortex ones.
The Tortex ones, I used the green 0.88 ones, were great at first, but they wear down as fast as hell and they get incredibly slippery after half an hour of use.
Now, before Tortex I used the famous Jazz III for quite a while.
Incredible picks, I bought a couple of them and only had to grab another one when I lost one. They last forever, they really do.
The sharp tip was so great to use and the small size forced me learning to pick more accurately, which was great as well at first.
They only have one major downside: they're extremely slippery.
Heh, I used to cut them up with a knife to increase friction.
So when I heard Dunlop would release a Max Grip version I immediately placed an order at the local music store.
The Max Grip version has this diamond plate thing going on on the surface which really works and I used them for quite some time as well.
After a while I grew tired of the additional harmonics I created while playing fast riffs as the thumb of my picking hand would keep hitting the strings because of the small size of the pick.
Yes, I know, it's all technique and all and I guess I just suck.
But that lead me back to normal sized picks.
Ultex ones were the next ones I tried but I really missed having a sharp tip.
Apart from that Ultex is an amazing pick: the brightness of the tone it produces is amazing .
After another trip to the Dunlop site I saw the Ultex Sharp ones... and placed an order at my local music store.

Btw, start seeing a pattern here? For some arcane reason they don't stock a great variety of picks, I wonder why...
Anyways, about 2 weeks later they arrived and I fell in love.
Lightweight, durable with a sharp tip and they produce a great sound. I absolutely love them.

I noticed people talking about Hetfield's Black Fangs on a couple websites.
Looking at the specs it seemed just a branded Ultex Sharp in varying thicknesses the regular ones aren't available at and way more expensive of course.
Rephrase: ridiculously more expensive.
They go €7,50 for 6 here which is 2.5 times more than what I buy the regular ones for.
Just because of that I wouldn't buy them but it kept bugging me: was it really just a Ultex Sharp in another color, another gauge and with a fancy drawing on it or was there something else going on?
Reviews just reviewed the pick, not comparing it to a regular Ultex Sharp of course, that'd be too obvious and easy... sigh.

Then, my mother got me some as a present (thanks, Lien!) so when I got home I tried the Black Fang and Ultex Sharp back-to-back, not expecting much difference.
The first thing I noticed about Black Fang is it's a much rougher texture than regular Ultex, which is smooth as a baby's bottom.
They're exactly the same size, apart from the thickness that is.
So without further ado, here's my take on Ultex Sharp vs Black Fang:

Black Fang is better.

There's no sound difference at all but due to the rougher texture they're so much more enjoyable to hold as they're even less slippery than the regular Ultex and a bit more durable as far as I can see.
And, let's be honest here, they're just plain fucking cool; appealing to my inner Metallica fanboy even.
A black rhino silhouette on transparent yellow doesn't exactly scream metal to me.

That's it.
So, are they worth the money? Hard to say, isn't it... how much do you want to spend on a pick?
One could spend 1000's on guitars, amps and effect pedals while saying 'you get what you pay for'.

I used to say €7,50 for 6 picks is ridiculous, but I'm not too sure anymore.
Time will tell which ones I'll buy next, but chances are it'll be Black Fang.

01 February 2012

DHCP IP end is not in the subnet or not autorized

Yesterday night the Sagem bridge supplied by my ISP suddenly decided to reboot around 4:00.
Remote firmware update? I don't think so, the firmware build number seems pretty old.
Anyways, afterwards dhcp wasn't working anymore.
Turns out the dhcp server configuration was changed to serve to
Trying to change the .63 to something like 120 simply didn't work, the damn thing refuses to accept anything over 63... "DHCP IP end is not in the subnet or not autorized".
So I changed the dhcp config to serve, now it works again.

Firmware-VTU-R: Time Oct 1 2009, 14:04:47

31 January 2012

Why du and df report different disk usage.

Two different programs with two different goals.
du: diskusage, df: diskfree.
du is used to see how much space is used by files and folders on a file system.
df is used to see how much space is used/free on a partition.
Big difference.

du and df will report different disk usage and there are two main reasons.
Indeed, there are two main reasons and for some arcane reason when I hear people talking about this subject they almost never mention both possibilities.

du calculates the amount of space used by stuff on the file system by (special) files and directories.
df looks at the file system usage: how many blocks are available and how many blocks are used.
As file systems use some disk space to store meta data about the stuff on the file system, so even on an 'empty' file system df will still report a usage of a couple of MB, depending on the options chosen at creation time of course.
That metadata consists of inode tables, superblocks, extended attributes etc.
Those bits have to be stored somewhere, hence the difference in reported size.

The other reason they can differ in output is open file descriptors.
Let's say you edit a file and delete it from another terminal.
df won't report the used size as the inode isn't pointing anymore to the file (it was dereferenced after all), but du will still include the file in its calculation as the file is still open.
This situation is also valid in case where defunct processes are still keeping files open which are since long deleted.

Disclaimer: this is at least true on GNU/Linux and *BSD systems.

30 January 2012

Linux: about swap

I can't even begin to count how many time I've heard this argument: "You don't really need swap space as in an ideal situation your system shouldn't be swapping anyhow."

Well...*sigh*... no.

Linux has this little cool thing called swapiness; it's a number between 0 and 100, basically telling Linux how fast it should swap out unused applications.
That's right: how fast... not if.
Setting swapiness to 0 will result in Linux avoiding swapping out stuff as long as possible, turn it up to 100 and Linux will swap out agressively, trying to have as much free physical memory available at all time.
Everything in between 0 and 100... well, you get the picture.

Swapping out stuff is a good thing!
I'm not going to start a crusade to set swapiness to 100, but c'mon... don't tell me an application running 24/7 but only occasionally actually doing something should keep all its data in physical memory.
I like the idea of Linux swapping it out to disk, freeing valuable and expensive physical memory for something important in need of fast memory space.
Have a look on your system right now, do a  cat of /proc/sys/vm/swappiness.
I'm willing to bet it's not set to 0.

What I'm trying to say here is swap is a cool system, but it depends on what you're building.
Some systems can benefit greatly of having swap space at their disposal, sometimes you just want to run everything in RAM all the time.

Oh and btw: not having swap space at all is fucking retarded (we're talking desktops and servers here, not embedded stuff).

23 January 2012

03 January 2012

PS3 Mediatomb Debian configuration

After writing the previous article about the wol file server set up I realized Mediatomb on Debian doesn't, by default, play nice with the PS3.
Here's my config file, it has a couple of extra mappings to make sure everything can be played on the PS3.
Don't forget to adjust the <home> bit and, if required, enable the YouTube and transcoding settings.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<config version="2" xmlns="http://mediatomb.cc/config/2" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:schemaLocation="http://mediatomb.cc/config/2 http://mediatomb.cc/config/2.xsd">
    <ui enabled="yes" show-tooltips="yes">
      <accounts enabled="no" session-timeout="30">
        <account user="mediatomb" password="mediatomb"/>
    <storage caching="yes">
      <sqlite3 enabled="no">
      <mysql enabled="yes">
    <protocolInfo extend="yes"/>
      <add header="X-User-Agent: redsonic"/>
      <ffmpegthumbnailer enabled="yes">
      <mark-played-items enabled="no" suppress-cds-updates="yes">
        <string mode="prepend">*</string>
  <import hidden-files="no">
    <scripting script-charset="UTF-8">
      <virtual-layout type="builtin">
      <extension-mimetype ignore-unknown="no">
        <map from="mp3" to="audio/mpeg"/>
        <map from="ogg" to="application/ogg"/>
        <map from="asf" to="video/x-ms-asf"/>
        <map from="asx" to="video/x-ms-asf"/>
        <map from="wma" to="audio/x-ms-wma"/>
        <map from="wax" to="audio/x-ms-wax"/>
        <map from="wmv" to="video/x-ms-wmv"/>
        <map from="wvx" to="video/x-ms-wvx"/>
        <map from="wm" to="video/x-ms-wm"/>
        <map from="wmx" to="video/x-ms-wmx"/>
        <map from="m3u" to="audio/x-mpegurl"/>
        <map from="pls" to="audio/x-scpls"/>
        <map from="flv" to="video/x-flv"/>
        <map from="avi" to="video/divx"/>
        <map from="mkv" to="video/x-matroska"/>
        <map from="mts" to="video/mpeg"/>
        <map from="ts" to="video/mpeg"/>
        <map from="m2ts" to="video/mpeg"/>
        <map from="mov" to="video/x-quicktime"/>
        <map from="vob" to="video/mpeg"/>
        <map from="m4v" to="video/mp4"/>
        <map from="audio/*" to="object.item.audioItem.musicTrack"/>
        <map from="video/*" to="object.item.videoItem"/>
        <map from="image/*" to="object.item.imageItem"/>
        <treat mimetype="audio/mpeg" as="mp3"/>
        <treat mimetype="application/ogg" as="ogg"/>
        <treat mimetype="audio/x-flac" as="flac"/>
        <treat mimetype="image/jpeg" as="jpg"/>
        <treat mimetype="audio/x-mpegurl" as="playlist"/>
        <treat mimetype="audio/x-scpls" as="playlist"/>
        <treat mimetype="audio/x-wav" as="pcm"/>
        <treat mimetype="video/x-msvideo" as="avi"/>
        <treat mimetype="video/quicktime" as="mov"/>
        <treat mimetype="video/x-quicktime" as="mov"/>
      <YouTube enabled="no" refresh="28800" update-at-start="no" purge-after="604800" racy-content="exclude" format="mp4" hd="no">
        <favorites user="mediatomb"/>
        <standardfeed feed="most_viewed" time-range="today"/>
        <playlists user="mediatomb"/>
        <uploads user="mediatomb"/>
        <standardfeed feed="recently_featured" time-range="today"/>
  <transcoding enabled="no">
      <transcode mimetype="video/x-flv" using="vlcmpeg"/>
      <transcode mimetype="application/ogg" using="vlcmpeg"/>
      <transcode mimetype="application/ogg" using="oggflac2raw"/>
      <transcode mimetype="audio/x-flac" using="oggflac2raw"/>
      <profile name="oggflac2raw" enabled="no" type="external">
        <agent command="ogg123" arguments="-d raw -f %out %in"/>
        <buffer size="1048576" chunk-size="131072" fill-size="262144"/>
      <profile name="vlcmpeg" enabled="no" type="external">
        <agent command="vlc" arguments="-I dummy %in --sout #transcode{venc=ffmpeg,vcodec=mp2v,vb=4096,fps=25,aenc=ffmpeg,acodec=mpga,ab=192,samplerate=44100,channels=2}:standard{access=file,mux=ps,dst=%out} vlc:quit"/>
        <buffer size="14400000" chunk-size="512000" fill-size="120000"/>

02 January 2012

File server WoL

A while ago I decided to upgrade my file server hardware but didn't want it to run 24/7 anymore.
Obviously I only use it for a small portion of the day, so it shouldn't be running all the time.
Saves money and energy, right?
I quickly decided to look into wake-on-lan to wake it up using an app on my phone.
The minor inconvenience of having to push a button on my phone and waiting a couple seconds would be offset by the saved money.

There are plenty WoL apps on the Android market, but I settled on "Wol Wake on Lan Wan", the main reason being the simple straightforward widget it has.
Push the widget and it sends the magic packet, that's it... works like a dream.

Server side, there were a couple of problems.
I use encryption for the storage volumes so just booting the server each time wasn't an option.
Having to enter the key each time kind of retarded for file server usage.
So that left me with a couple options:

  • Use a USB device with the decryption key on.
    • Insecure, physical access means access to the encrypted data.
  • Don't use encryption
    • Insecure, obviously.
  • suspend-to-disk / hibernate / S4.
    • Insecure, physical access means access to the encrypted data as hiberation writes the complete content of the memory to disk and then completely shuts down the server. Next time it boots it just puts the content back to memory.
    • Relatively slow.
  • suspend-to-ram / sleep / S3.
    • More secure. S3 doesn't write anything to disk, the system goes into a power saving state where everything but a couple components still get power to ensure the system can boot to full operational state quickly.
    • Less energy saving than the other options.
    • Wakes up very quickly (matter of seconds).

In the end, I went for S3 as it'd be secure enough for my needs, the power saving would still be a lot better than running it 24/7 and usability is exactly what I wanted.

For some reason the suspend wouldn't work correctly with a 2.6 kernel, so I installed 3.0.0 through apt-get.
It would go into sleep but never wake or work fine for a couple of times before stopping to work.
After troubleshooting the hardware I decided it must have had something to do with the kernel/LKM's so I tried the latest and greatest and it worked fine.
ACPI Linux implementation redesign? Beats me and tbh I've been too lazy to check out what exactly went wrong. Linux 3.0 works, so I'll be using it.

Moving on; the main focus of this project was to have an easy way to serve the files to my PS3 through Mediatomb.
I first thought about a system where a packet sniffer would constantly be sniffing the network for possible connections to the file server and send wake it up as soon as it saw any.
But that required a constantly running server and I wanted as less devices to run 24/7 as possible.
So then I though it'd be pretty cool to have the file server itself look if anything was connected to it and go to S3 state once a certain timeout when nothing connecting to it would be reached.
This is the script I'm using right now to do just that:
while [ True ]; do
echo "$date - MARK" >> /var/log/night
# If we're coming out of S3, we want to kill these
killall s2ram 2>/dev/null
killall pm-suspend 2>/dev/null
# Sometimes resyncing gets stuck on Debian
grep resync=PENDING /proc/mdstat 2>/dev/null
if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then
echo "$date - Setting md0 r/w" >> /var/log/night
mdadm --readwrite /dev/md0
# Check our networking status
ping -c 1 2>/dev/null
if [ $? -ne 0 ]; then
echo "$date - Couldn't reach gateway, restarting networking" >> /var/log/night
/etc/init.d/networking restart
# Check the WoL setting
ethtool eth2 | grep "Wake-on: g"
if [ $? -ne 0 ]; then
echo "$date - WoL setting wrong, correcting" >> /var/log/night
/sbin/ethtool -s eth2 wol g
connections=`netstat -natp | grep ESTABLISHED | wc -l`
if [ $connections == "0" -a $udpconnections == "0" ]; then
# Ok, no connection, let's increase the timer value
echo "$date - No connections, pass $timer of $timeout" >> /var/log/night
let timer=$timer+1
sleep 10
# Oops, there's a connection, resetting the timer
echo "$date - Connections detected" >> /var/log/night
# It's time to go to sleep
if [ $timer == $timeout ]; then
echo "$date - Going night night" >> /var/log/night
pm-suspend &
sleep 30
echo "$date - Lingering for $interval seconds" >> /var/log/night
sleep $interval

Of course, this script applies to my situation.
If you want to use it, you'll have to adjust some settings like the networking interface, the timeout you want, the ip address of the server itself and so on.
But it works pretty well and manages to avoid some pitfalls I encountered along the way.

Right, so the script was ready and worked as it should.
Now how could I get it to run "constantly"?
I tried running it through a startup script as a daemon, but for some reason it wouldn't survive the S3.
I tried running it through cron, which was fine but it wouldn't run 'all the time' as I originally wanted.
Even if the above solution would've been fine, it still wouldn't be optimal as the daemon/script could've been killed by other processes and I don't want that. I want it running, all the time.
So the perfect solution was to use init(8) through /etc/inittab:


The respawn line makes it respawn whenever its not running, no  matter what.
Even if the OOM killer should kill it, it'll be restarted by init and if init(8) gets killed off, there's a far bigger problem going on so it's perfect for my set up.
Anyways, initialize the new line with init q and it works.

The setup has been running for a couple months now and it suits my needs, YMMV of course.

Edit: refer to Label: wurmd for an easy way of waking the box back up.

For completeness' sake:
I'm running a combination of Debian testing and sid.
Linux: 3.0.0-1-486 (486 as I used the same disks as in my previous x86 compatible hardware).
NIC:  Marvell Technology Group Ltd. 88E8056 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 12).