2016-12-05

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.

2016-03-06

MiNTerview

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.

2016-02-17

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:-
    startx
    clear
    exit
  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.