Several years ago, I made a map called Station 15 for the open-source game Tremulous. To my surprise, it has since become a popular Tremulous map on the game servers. I’ve been slowly upgrading it to take advantage of the new capabilities featured by the Unvanquished game engine. This includes higher-resolution textures and lightmaps.
Okay, dirty little secret–this version of the map has been in Unvanquished since the last release, Alpha 28. But I haven’t had time to blog about it since fixing it up. Like Station 15, Spacetracks is a map that I made some NaN years ago for Tremulous and turned out to be popular on the game servers because of its gameplay. This is very puzzling because I’m a decent mapper (well, I’m okay) but a horrible Tremulous player. Spacetracks r1 has been included in Unvanquished* since day one, but compared to the other stock maps, it looked dated. Now it looks shiny, because
everybody loves shiny it has higher -resolution textures and lightmaps.
When stock cooling won’t suffice and you can’t afford a case with better airflow…it’s time to improvise.
I know, I know. Why isn’t the orange case fan plugged in? It’s not plugged in because it so happens that it’s not actually a case fan, it’s really a jet turbine with aspirations. Unfortunately, its aspirations aren’t so much of the “move hot air out of the case” variety, they’re more of the “make noise than all of my other equipment put together” variety. The desk fan is quieter and moves much more air.
It’s almost summer, yay! Time to start cleaning heatsinks.
Not much new to post.
I have a Mac now. I’d say that it was my first Apple product ever, but that would be a lie because there’s a Mac Classic buried in my closet somewhere. Well, close enough, right? A friend was offering his Mac Mini (2012-ish) for a reasonable sum and I decided that my life would be forever incomplete without at least one silver aluminum unibody device sitting on my desk and driving up my electricity bill, so I bought it.
- 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
- 8GB DDR3
- 80GB Intel SSD
- Gigabit Ethernet
- 802.11b/g/n wireless
- SuperDrive (DVD/CD writer combo)
- Lots of USB ports
- Mini DisplayPort
All of this hardware is packed into a sleek 7.76″ x 7.76″ x 1.4″ silver case, which has a large, sturdy plastic cover on the bottom that twists off to allow access to the memory sticks and the single laptop-style cooling fan. Note to computer manufacturers: unfettered access to the fan for cleaning? 11/10 five stars A++++ would buy again. I don’t know where all the dust in the house comes from, but I certainly know where it all ends up: in my computers. Every spring and fall I have to grab my screwdriver and go on a rampaging marathon to coax out the dust bunnies that have taken up stubborn residence in my heatsinks and power supplies. Having the fan exposed for cleaning without even needing to remove a screw is a nice perk. Of course, the trade-off is that the hard drive is much more difficult to get to than one might expect. Win some, lose some.
So I unpacked the Mac Mini, went about hooking it up, and immediately had a Eureka moment. You know those little white dongles that every Mac-toting professor has to fiddle with to connect their Mac to a digital projector? I didn’t know what those were for, because I’d never owned a Mac and had never bothered to ask. Well, now I know. (Insert Bill Nye audio clip here.) One of life’s greatest mysteries, solved! Turns out, they’re kinda important, and by that I mean I couldn’t connect my shiny Mac to any of my monitors because none of them grok Mini DisplayPort and I didn’t have that Mini-DP to DVI/VGA dongle. Oops.
Turns out, they’re also expensive, or at least, the ones from Apple are. For a company that markets to college students, they seem not to know their target demographic very well. (Sure, not all students are strapped for cash, but then again, not all students can go out and spend $30 on a passive Mini-DP to DVI dongle when $30 can be stretched out into a decent amount of basic groceries.) Or maybe we’re not the target demographic. Maybe the Apple Store on campus is less of a store and more of a carrot dangling from a stick. Or maybe the power of a brand name is much more compelling to other people. Or maybe Apple sells more product at expensive, private colleges, and the store here is just an afterthought. I don’t know. No matter what the rationale, I wasn’t going to pay Apple prices for a DVI dongle. Monoprice sells a cheap imitation for about $10 with shipping. It gets the job done and hasn’t broken (yet), so I bought that instead and now I have $20 left over to spend on more important things, like ice cream.
So I booted up the Mac, logged in, and started exploring. I was expecting another Eureka moment here. I was expecting at any minute to find some fundamental way in which Macs differ from their PC counterparts, but I haven’t found one yet. Yes, Mac OSX is odd, but it’s odd like a new keyboard or a different brand of peanut butter; it’s something that doesn’t take very long to get used to. The operating system is very easy to learn, especially if you grok another UNIX (or UNIX-like) operating system.
0) Mouse movement is so smooth!
1) I found out later that it uses only about 10W of power when idle. Whaaaaaaaaat. It also runs very cool and quiet. I can’t hear the fan unless the Mac is doing some serious number crunching.
2) This was the most powerful piece of computing hardware I owned until I put together my Windows 8.1 PC a few days after I got the Mac.
3) I have to question the wisdom of putting a 802.11 wireless card and a Bluetooth receiver inside of a metal case. Yes, the bottom and back of the Mac Mini are plastic, but if you’re like me and you set it on top of a metal desktop tower in the corner…oops. Fortunately, I don’t need the wireless capabilities. I just jacked it into a gigabit LAN.
4) I feel like I now own a status symbol. Not the Mac itself, but the dongle. It forever brands me as a Mac user. Sure, a few other manufacturers have started using Mini-DP, but by and large, they seem to be associated with Macs.
5) This is the first time I’ve ever owned all three of the “modern” desktop/server platforms. I have Windows PCs (7 and 8.1), Linux servers, and now, a Mac desktop. Embrace the diversity! When Skynet comes and takes over all the PCs, we’ll be able to fight back with the Macs!
Edit 12/15/2014: Ooops: the Atom Z230 is a hyper-threading single-core CPU, not a dual-core. I noticed this a few months ago but haven’t gotten around to updating this post until now.
Several months ago, a friend gave me an Acer Aspire easyStore H340 NAS. The system hard drive had failed and up until recently I haven’t had any spare SATA drives, so it collected dust on top of my desktop computer until I could find a drive for it.
The stock H340 has the following:
- 1.6GHz Intel Atom 64-bit dual-core CPU
- 2GB DDR2 RAM
- 4x SATA 2.0 hard drive bays
- 1TB Western Digital Caviar Green hard drive
- 1x Gigabit Ethernet port (Marvell chipset)
- 5 USB 2.0 ports
- 1 eSata port
- 1 PCI-E 1x connector (not used).
- Windows Home Server
- Onboard 256M flash device containing restore image for the OS (although it seems to need a driver/application DVD as well).
All in all, a capable little device, especially for the low, low price of free. It sits in a case approximately 10″ square. Air is drawn in from the left side, across the hard drive bays and over the motherboard at the bottom of the case, and exhausted out the right side by a 120mm fan. Notably, there is no video connector–which makes sense, considering it’s marketed as a headless NAS. Still, this is limiting, although there are several companies who make VGA/PS2 dongles that connect to a proprietary connector, and the PCI-E slot could be used for a PCI-E 1x video card.
Lacking the WHS restore disk, I decided to put Ubuntu Server on the H340. First, I did a little research to find out if this device will boot from a USB flash drive. It will, but not by default; the jumper JP3 on the motherboard puts the NAS into “debug” mode, which allows you to change the boot order in the BIOS–except I couldn’t see the BIOS, because there’s no video card connector. Ooops. So I went with the considerably less exciting route and installed Ubuntu Server on another computer, then transferred the hard drive to the NAS.
With JP3 jumpered (in debug mode), the device seemed to ignore the hard drive and booted into some sort of rescue/recovering environment with a hostname containing “minint”. I suspect this is what is contained on the onboard 256M flash device. Once I removed the jumper on JP3, restoring the NAS to stock configuration, it booted right up. I installed Samba and several minutes later had a simple file server set up and running.
- If you set up Ubuntu Server on a second computer, you’ll want to remove the entry in /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules such that the NIC in the NAS (there’s some alliteration for you) will be detected as eth0 and not, say, eth1. You’ll also want to have OpenSSH set up so you can SSH into it after installing the hard drive.
- You’ll probably want to install lm-sensors and smartmontools to keep an eye on temperature and hard drive health. I also installed logwatch and configured it to email my LAN’s mailserver.
- The power supply fan (a tiny 40mm fan on the back of the proprietary power supply) is noisy. I suspect this is specific to my used H340 and not common to all H340s.
- The side fan is reasonably quiet. However, once it boots, the motherboard throttles the fan down to 700RPM. CPU temperature idles around 63-65C in this configuration. The fan speed can be adjusted either manually or via a script (such as fancontrol). I have mine set to about 1100RPM, which lowers CPU temperature by 4-6C while keeping the room quiet enough for me to sleep at night. It also helps cool the hard drive(s)–and cooler hard drives tend to be less troublesome.
- The hard drive LEDs and the “i” front panel LED need a driver to control them. Fortunately, someone has written one called mediasmartserverd. Among other things, it enables the drive lights and allows you to control the brightness of all the LEDs–useful for sleeping in a dark room. It also allows you to control the “i” LED and use it as an indicator when operating system updates are available. (This feature may be Ubuntu/Debian specific.) The color scheme is as follows: blue == updates available, purple == security updates available, red == reboot needed (after updates are applied). Note that it is godawful hard to differentiate between purple and red when the brightness is turned down low; the purple looks very much like red.
- The H340 is adorable. I like the form factor.
To control the fan and start mediasmartserverd, I put the following in my /etc/rc.local, just above the “exit 0” line:
# warning: I don't really know what this is doing # put the fan into user-controlled mode (?) default is "2" echo 1 > /sys/devices/platform/dme1737.2160/pwm1_enable # allow root to adjust the fan speed chmod u+w /sys/devices/platform/dme1737.2160/pwm1 # echo a value between ~100 and 255 here. # corresponds (somewhat) to fan speed # If it's too low, your drives/CPU may fry! echo 130 > /sys/devices/platform/dme1737.2160/pwm1 # start mediaserverd, adjusting LED brightness and update checks /usr/local/bin/mediasmartserverd --brightness 3 --update-monitor -D
Remember, overriding the motherboard’s fan control is risky. I’m making it run faster than it does by default, but a typo could cause it to run slower or not run at all. Be careful. You don’t want to fry your hard drives!
All in all, I’m pleased with this little device. It’s not the fastest server in the world, but it’ll get the job done, and for me, that’s all that matters.
It’s also cute. Just pointing that out…
Not much to say here. Got some fresh textures and just had to make a little test map to play with them, although it’s not exactly “little” anymore…I’ve been playing Halo 3 recently–actually playing video games is a rare occurrence for me, since I prefer creating worlds to destroying them–and I found the huge expanses and conceptual grandness of some of the maps in that game to be inspiring, as in the first two Halo games. (Especially the “High Charity” levels.)
I have no idea how to turn this into a playable Unvanquished map just yet. In particular, the wall-walking ability of the alien team could make this room a potential pain in the posterior for the human team. Still…I like it.
Snowstation is a small map in development for the multiplayer Quake III-based FPS/RTS game Unvanquished. It sports an asymmetrical layout and varied indoor/outdoor locations. It also utilizes the newer rendering features offered by Unvanquished, making it one of the few maps to do so. It will be shipped with the game When It’s Done (TM), which should be in a few weeks.
The current release is beta 3, which added weather effects and some minor tweaks to the human base. Unfortunately the weather effect does not seem to work on all computers. I am trying to figure out why…
For now, however, Unvanquished players can try the map out for themselves. It is in rotation on the development servers and can be voted into play with “/callvote nextmap snowstation-b3”.
You can download it from here: http://unvanquished.net/downloads/main/map-snowstation-b3.pk3
It’s been awhile since I’ve dealt with the capacitor plague. I recently inherited this elderly (1.8GHz Pentium 4, 1GB SDRAM, 40GB hard drive) box from a friend who is now happily rocking out with a new computer powered by a much more modern and power-friendly dual-core AMD CPU. Naturally, the first thing I did (after cackling and rubbing my hands together with glee) was to open the case and shove the ribbon cables aside. Oh. Hello.
I’m surprised it still runs. In fact, as far as I can tell, it runs as steady as a rock, although how a rock can run is beyond me. (After all, a rock has no legs.) Of course, if it had been some of the larger caps near the CPU, it probably wouldn’t be running very long at all.
Time to pull out memtest86+ and prime95.
Earlier this week, HughesNet scheduled a maintenance outage to do whatever it is that they need to do for maintenance (which, in the past, has included replacing equipment damaged by golf-ball sized hail at the ground stations). When the connection came back up early the next morning, it was plagued by mysterious and intermittent RSTs on HTTP connections and 2% packet loss. Owch! Having approximately 320268309285049386509258 errands to run, I didn’t get to examine the connection until last night…