Raspberry Potch

I've been potching recently with a Raspberry Pi 2. It's a promising little board, especially because of its GPIO header. Despite the quad-core processor, it's probably not going to replace my (ancient) work desktop. It boots NetBSD/evbarm and seems to run X11 nicely but the big challenge is storage speed: I'm using it with a microSDHC card that reads at 16 MB/S but only writes at 3 MB/S. A USB flash drive turned out to be even slower. Because my Raspberry Pi only has 1 GB of RAM, any large application is likely to swap and then everything grinds to a halt. That said, rdesktop seems to work nicely so it's plausible as a graphical terminal, despite the 100M Ethernet port.



Atari 520ST

One of my favourite 16-bit computers was the Atari ST. It shipped in 1985 with a simple single-tasking operating system called TOS, which included lumps of CP/M-68k, DOS Plus, GSX and GEM, all from Digital Research. I liked the consistency and simplicity of TOS but in the late 1990s I tried a multitasking operating system called MiNT. I used it with a GEM program called TOSWIN that let me run multiple text-based programs, each within its own window. If I'd had a hard disk I could probably have added the Minix filesystem and MiNTnet to produce something that resembles BSD. This evening, while I was looking for something else I stumbled across this interview with Eric R. Smith who created MiNT. It taught me some interesting things about the thinking and history behind MiNT.


Graphical Terminals

Every now and again I'm asked to give someone a way to connect to a Windows application server. Usually this is for a visitor but I have one or two other users who find it convenient to have a terminal for this on their desk so that they don't have to break out a laptop and wait for that to boot. We have a shelf full of old desktop PCs that were retired when Windows XP was killed off. Here's what I do:-

  1. Install NetBSD/i386 6.1.5
  2. Install rdesktop, an excellent remote desktop client.
  3. Create a user called "termuser".
  4. add the following to termuser's .profile:-
  5. create a .xinitrc file for termuser:-
    rdesktop -fd MYDOMAIN servername

Things to do: have the terminal authenticate against Active Directory or LDAP and then pass those credentials through to the application server, so the user only sees one login screen.