Nov 142016
 

HP/Compaq nx6310/nc6320 logoA good while back, I got a free notebook from [The_Plague]German flag, a HP/Compaq nx6310[1][2] which he kinda pulled out of the trash at his company. It’s not exactly “Thinkpad T23” material, but it’s a pretty solid, well-built machine with a good keyboard. I’ve been using the thing as an operating system testbed for a while (Linux, ReactOS, Haiku OS, OpenBSD, Dragonfly BSD, and finally: FreeBSD UNIX). After settling for FreeBSD the machine clearly showed its limitations though, the most problematic being imposed by the very low-end i940GML chipset. That one has limited the machine to a single processor core and a 533MHz data rate FSB.

I did give the machine a Core Duo T2450, but switching dual core on in the BIOS results in a lockup at POST time. Also, the chipset cannot use dual-channel DDR-II and limits the user to 2GiB of memory, making the use of a 64-bit processor rather pointless. Which turned out to be bad, because some code doesn’t even provide full functionality for 32-bit anymore, like x265, which dropped deep color support on 32-bit architectures.

But now, The_Plague pulled another one out of the trash, it’s basically the exact same machine, but a higher-end model, the nc6320. This one has an i945GM chipset, which means dual core support, FSB667 and 4GiB dual-channel RAM capability! It came with a Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz with 2MiB L2 cache. I ordered the largest possible chip for this box from ebay Hong Kong, so now it has a Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz with 4MiB L2 cache. Also, 2×2=4GiB of DDR-II/667 CL4 are on their way already, together with a 12-cell secondary monster battery!

And of course, FreeBSD UNIX again, in its brand new version 11.0-RELEASE:

HP/Compaq nc6320 running FreeBSD 11.0 UNIX

HP/Compaq nc6320 running FreeBSD 11.0 UNIX (click to enlarge)

The CPU upgrade is actually even noticeable when browsing the web, lots of resource-hungry Javascript and CSS3, you know. Luckily, Chromium supports hardware acceleration on the Intel GMA950 GPU on FreeBSD, as the OS comes with a kernel modesetting compliant driver for almost all integrated Intel graphics chips. It’s too slow to do the rasterization stage on the GPU, but it still helps.

Once again, it shall serve mostly as a meeting and sysadmin machine, with a little bit of private-use-fun added on top. Let’s have a look at the software! Oh and by the way, I decided to make the screenshots 8-bit .png images, so some of them will look a bit bad. But still better+smaller than JPEG for that purpose:

Running screenfetch on the nc6320

Running screenfetch on the nc6320 (click to enlarge)

$ screenfetch is showing us some details about the machine, which also makes it clear that everything is “Tokisaki Kurumi”-themed. Since there’s a lot of red color on that girls’ garments it seems at least somewhat fitting for a FreeBSD machine.

Chromium with FVD Speed Dial

Chromium with FVD Speed Dial (click to enlarge)

I’m a [Vivaldi] fan personally, but that browser isn’t available on any BSD yet, so I installed a few extensions to make Chromium work somewhat like Vivaldi; The most important part being the static FVD speed dial you can see above. What you can’t see here are the other extensions that followed it: AdBlockPlus and Ghostery. I hear there are better/faster solutions than ABP for ad blocking these days however, so maybe I’ll revise that.

IBM Lotus Notes via wine 1.8

IBM Lotus Notes 6.5.1 via 32-bit wine 1.8.4 (click to enlarge)

Also, for work I would sometimes need IBM Lotus Notes, as it’s our Universities’ groupware solution (think of that what you will). While I couldn’t get the Linux version to run, our Domino servers still accept connections from older clients, so it’s Lotus Notes 6.5.1 running under a 32-bit [wine], which is a solution IBM officially recommended for running the software on Linux/UNIX a few years ago. And yeah, it still works. And if you have Windows software wine can’t cope with?

XP x64 via VirtualBox on FreeBSD

XP x64 via VirtualBox on FreeBSD (click to enlarge)

For anything that wine can’t handle, the VirtualBox port kicks in, as we can see here. Together with the CPUs VT-x extension and the guest tools, virtualizing Windows on FreeBSD UNIX works relatively well. Not all features are there (like USB passthrough), but it works ok for me. Will need a Windows 7 VM as well I think.

More stuff:

Communicating on FreeBSD

Communicating on FreeBSD (parts are censored, click to enlarge)

One important part is communication! Luckily, there is a version of licq in the ports tree now. It builds well together with its Qt4 UI, so no complaints there. Hexchat for IRC access is also available, but the tricky part was Skype; Not that I really need it, but I wanted to have the linuxulator up and running as well! For those of you who don’t know what the “linuxulator” is: It’s a series of kernel modules that extend FreeBSDs kernel with parts of the Linux kernel interface. On top of that, you can pull parts of Fedora 10 or CentOS 6.8 or some CentOS 7 Linux userspace components from the package servers. Together with the kernel modules those form a kind of runtime environment for executing Linux programs – Skype 4.3 in this case! So I have both wine and linuxulator ready for action, and with it access to ICQ, Jabber, MSN, IRC and Skype. Now, what about multimedia?

Multimedia on FreeBSD

smplayer and xmms on FreeBSD, unfortunately the 8-bit color is a bit too noticeable for this screenshot, my apologies (click to enlarge)

This is a part where the upgraded processor also helps. Here we can see (s)mplayer play the last episode of the Anime Hanayamata in taxing 2.5Mbit H.265/HEVC encoding, paired with AAC-LC audio. The Core 2 Duo T5600 had some issues with this, but the faster T7600 shows now problems. Additionally, xmms is playing a Commodore 64 SID tune using libsidplay2 and the reSID engine. xmms comes with a lot of funny plugins from the FreeBSD ports tree for Gameboy tunes or NES tunes, but the C64 one you need to compile for yourself. Not too hard though, you can fetch libsidplay2 and reSID from packages beforehand to make things easier! What else?

ioquake3

ioquake3, a cleaned up version of the Quake III Arena source code, here in its 64-bit FreeBSD build (click to enlarge)

A pretty fun part: Playing the native Quake3 port [ioquake3] in 64-bit, for whenever you just need to shoot something to blow off some steam. ;) I have to say, I had to tweak it quite a bit to run fluently on the WVA 1400×1050 display of this book given the weak GMA950 GPU, but it runs “rather ok” now. ioquake3 is also available for Windows, OSX and Linux by the way, including a more advanced OpenGL 2 renderer, which gives users access to some advanced graphical effects. And if I get bored by that…

HakuNeko Manga ripper and qComicbook

HakuNeko Manga ripper and qComicbook showing some sweet girls love! (click to enlarge)

Once again, fixing up HakuNekos’ build system and C++ code to work with FreeBSD properly took some time. Unfortunately there is no port for it yet (and I’m too stupid/lazy to create one), so you have to fix it by hand. Lots of replacing sed invocations with gsed, find with gfind etc. and the OS #ifdef parts, which need to be changed in several .cpp files, here’s an example from MangaConnector.cpp:

  1. #ifdef __LINUX__
  2. wxString MCEntry::invalidFileCharacters = wxT("/\r\n\t");
  3. endif

Something like that needs to turn into this to compile on FreeBSD, otherwise you’ll end up with a HakuNeko that can’t do shit (it’ll still compile and run, but like I said, it’d be devoid of function):

  1. #if defined __LINUX__ || __FreeBSD__
  2. wxString MCEntry::invalidFileCharacters = wxT("/\r\n\t");
  3. endif

This is true for the latest version 1.4.1 as well. I guess the modifications should also apply to other operating systems by adding things like __OpenBSD__ or similar.

Now all that’s left is to wait for that massive 12C battery, the RAM capacity+speed upgrade and some FreeBSD case sticker that I ordered from [unixstickers.com] (hint: That’s a referral URL, it’s supposed to give you some $5 coupon upon ordering, I hope it works). Upon my order, a small part was donated to the LLVM project – very fitting, given that I’ve used clang/llvm a lot to compile stuff on FreeBSD as of late. :)

FreeBSD case sticker (preview)

This is what it’s supposed to look like, and it’s going to replace the current Windows XP+Vista sticker

I hope it’ll look as good in real life! :) Ah, I think I’m gonna have a lot of fun with that old piece of junk. ;)

Ah, and thanks fly out to The_Plague, who saved this laptop from the trash bin and gave it to me for free! Prost!

Edit: And the memory is here, two G.Skill “performance” modules doing 4-4-4 latencies at 667MHz data rate, replacing a single Samsung module running 5-5-5. Now I was interested in how much going from single channel CL5 to dual channel CL4 would really affect performance. Let’s just say, it didn’t do too much for CPU processes. However, the effect on the integrated GMA950 GPU (using shared system memory!) was amazing. It seems the graphics chip was held back a lot by the memory interface! Let’s have a quick look at Quake III Arena performance using a quickly recorded demo just for this purpose (ioquake3 can’t play old Quake III Arena demos like the “001” demo):

  • ioquake3 1.36, single channel DDR-II/667 CL5:
  • 30.6fps
  • ioquake3 1.36, dual channel DDR-II/667 CL4:
  • 41.2fps

Roughly +35%!!

Tests were run three times, then three more times after a reboot. After that, an average was taken. For ioquake3 this wouldn’t even have been necessary though, as the results were extremely consistent. It’s amazing how much the added memory speed really affects the game engine! I rebooted and re-ran the tests several times because I couldn’t believe in that massive boost in performance, but it’s actually true and fully reproducible! This reminds me of how well modern AMD APU graphics chips scale with main memory speed and it explains why people were asking for quad-channel DDR4 on those Kaveri APU chips. Its built-in Radeons would’ve probably loved the added bandwidth!

I also kinda felt that browsing web sites got a lot more smooth using Chromium with most of its GPU acceleration turned on. So I tried the graphics-centric browser test [Motionmark] to put that to the test. Parts of the results were inconclusive, but let’s have a look first:

  • Motionmark 1.0 (medium screen profile), single channel DDR-II/667 CL5:
  • Overall result: 13.85 ±22.24%
  • Multiply: 119.26 ±2.95%
  • Canvas Arcs: 19.04 ±68.48%
  • Leaves: 3.00 ±133.33%
  • Paths: 85.30 ±6.57%
  • Canvas Lines: 1.00 ±0.00%
  • Focus: 1.76 ±5.22%
  • Images: 40.58 ±2.56%
  • Design: 18.89 ±8.00%
  • Suits: 24.00 ±37.50%
  • Motionmark 1.0 (medium screen profile), dual channel DDR-II/667 CL4:
  • Overall result: 22.47 ±15.93%
  • Multiply: 124.55 ±1.60%
  • Canvas Arcs: 26.00 ±138.46%
  • Leaves: 65.90 ±16.93%
  • Paths: 37.00 ±16.89%
  • Canvas Lines: 1.00 ±0.00%
  • Focus: 2.00 ±50.00%
  • Images: 41.58 ±3.59%
  • Design: 24.49 ±2.35%
  • Suits: 90.65 ±13.55%

Now first things first: This was just my first pick for any kind of graphics-heavy browser benchmark. I thought I needed something that would make the browser do a lot of stuff on the GPU, given that hardware acceleration was almost fully enabled on FreeBSD UNIX + Chromium + GMA950. However, after repeated runs it showed that the variance was just far too high on the following tests: Leaves, Paths, Suits. Those would also mess up the overall score. The ones that showed consistent performance were: Multiply, Canvas Arcs, Canvas Lines, Focus, Images, Design, so we should focus on those. Well, not all of those tests show promising results (Multiply, Canvas Lines), but some clearly do. It seems my feeling that parts of CSS3 etc. had gotten faster after the memory upgrade was spot-on!

Not bad, not bad at all! And tomorrow morning, the [x264 benchmark] will also have finished, showing how much a classic CPU-heavy task would profit from that upgrade (probably not much, but we’ll see tomorrow).

Edit 2: And here is the rest. Like I thought, the memory upgrade had only minimal impact on CPU performance:

  • x264 benchmark, single channel DDR-II/667 CL5:
  • Runtime: 04:40:08.621
  • x264 benchmark, dual channel DDR-II/667 CL4:
  • Runtime: 04:38:23.851

So yeah it’s faster. But only by a meager +0.62%. Completely negligible. But it’s still a good upgrade given the GPU performance boost and the fact that I can now use more memory for virtual machines. :)

Ah, and here’s the 12-cell ultra capacity battery, which gives me a total of 18 cells in conjunction with the 6-cell primary battery:

Nice hardware actually, you can check it’s charge (roughly) with a button and a 4-LED display, and it has it’s own charging plug. What surprised me most though was this:

$ hwstat | grep -i -e "serial number" -i -e battery
[ACPI Battery (sysctl)]
[battery0]
        Serial number:                  00411 2006/10/12
[battery1]
        Serial number:                  00001 2016/07/29

That probably explains how a still sealed battery could come with a ~25% pre-charge. Manufactured in July 2016, wow. And that for a notebook that’s 10 years old? Ok, it’s an aftermarket battery by [GRS], but that’s just damn fine still! With that I’ll surely have enough battery runtime to make it through longer meetings as well! :)

Edit 3: And today I used the notebook for a sysadmin task, helping our lead developer in debugging a weird problem in a Java-based student exam submission and evaluation system of ours at work. I suspected that the new CuPPIX (=KNOPPIX derivative) distribution I built for this was to blame, but it turned out to be a faulty Java library handling MySQL database access, hence crashing our server software under high parallel loads. In any case, I had the nc6320 with me during the entire morning up until 12:30 or so, walking away with a total charge of 49% left after the developer had fixed the problem. Not stellar given a total of 18 cells, but definitely good enough for me! :)

Edit 4: And my FreeBSD sticker from unixstickers is finally here! They even gave me a bunch of random free stickers to go with it! I gave those to some colleagues for their kids. ;) And here it is:

FreeBSD sticker from unixstickers.com

There was a Windows Vista/XP sticker before, now it shows some UNIX love! (click to enlarge)

The sticker shows some pretty good quality as well, nice stuff! :)

Aug 032016
 

xmms logoYeah, I’m still using the good old xmms v1 on Linux and UNIX. Now, the boxes I used to play music on were all 32-bit x86 so far. Just some old hardware. Recently I tried to play some of my [AAC-LC] files on my 64-bit Linux workstation, and to my surprise, it failed to play the file, giving me the error Pulse coding not allowed in short blocks when started from the shell (just so I can read the error output).

I thought this had to have something to do with my file and not the player, so I tried .aac files with ADTS headers instead of audio packed into an mp4/m4a container. The result was the same. Also, the encoding (SBR/VBR or even HE-AAC, which sucks for music anyway) didn’t make a difference. Then I found [this post] on the Gentoo forums, showing that the problem was really the architecture. 32-bit builds wouldn’t fail, but the source code of the [libfaad2] decoding library of xmms’ mp4 plugin wasn’t ready for 64-bit.

xmms’ xmms_mp4Plugin-0.4 comes with a pretty old libfaad2, 2.0 or something. I will show you how to upgrade that to version 2.7, which is fixed for x86_64 (Readily fixed source code is also provided at the bottom). We’ll also fix up other parts of that plugin so it can compile using more modern versions of GCC and clang, and my test platform for this would be a rather conservative CentOS 6.8 Linux. First, get the source code:

I’m assuming you already have xmms installed, otherwise obtain version 1.2.11 from [here]!

Step 1, libfaad2:

Unpack both archives from above, then enter the mp4 plugins’ source directory. You’ll find a libfaad2/ directory in there. Delete or move it and all of its contents. From the faad2 source tree, copy the directory libfaad/ from there to libfaad2/ in the plugins’ directory, replacing the deleted one. Now that’s the source, but we also need the updated headers so that the xmms plugin can link against the newer libfaad2. To do that, copy the two files include/faad.h and include/neaacdec.h from the faad2 2.7 source tree to the directory include/ in the plugin source tree. Overwrite faad.h if prompted.

Step 2, libmp4v2:

Also, the bundled libmp4v2 of the mp4 plugin is very old and broken on modern systems due to code issues. Let’s fix them, so back to the mp4 plugin source tree. We need to fix some invalid pure specifiers in the following files: libmp4v2/mp4property.h, libmp4v2/mp4property.cpp, libmp4v2/rtphint.h and libmp4v2/rtphint.cpp.

To do so, open them in a text editor and search and replace all occurences of = NULL with = 0. This will fix all assignments and comparisons that would otherwise break. When using vi or vim, you can do :%s/=\sNULL/= 0/g for this.

On top of that, we need to fix a invalid const char* to char* conversion in libmp4v2/rtphint.cpp as well. Open it, and hop to line number 325, you’ll see this:

  1. char* pSlash = strchr(pRtpMap, '/');

Replace it with this:

  1. const char* pSlash = strchr(pRtpMap, '/');

And we’re done!

Now, in the mp4 plugins’ source root directory, run $ ./bootstrap && ./configure. Hopefully, no errors will occur. If all is ok, run $ make. Given you have xmms 1.2.11 installed, it should compile and link fine now. Last step: # make install.

This has been tested with my current GCC 4.4.7 platform compiler as well as GCC 4.9.3 on CentOS 6.8 Linux. Also, it has been tested with clang 3.4.1 on FreeBSD 10.3 UNIX, also x86_64. Please note that FreeBSD 10.3 needs extensive modifications to its build tools as well, so I can’t provide fixed source for this. However, packages on FreeBSD have already been fixed in that regard, so you can just # pkg install xmms-faad2 and it’s done anyway. This is likely the case for several modern Linux distros as well.

Let’s play:

xmms playing AAC-LC Freebsd 10.3 UNIX on x86_64

Yeah, it works. In this case on FreeBSD.

And the shell would say:

2-MPEG-4 AAC Low Complexity profile
MP4 - 2 channels @ 44100 Hz

Perfect! And here is the [fixed source code] upgraded with libfaad2 2.7, so you don’t have to do anything by yourself other than $ ./bootstrap && ./configure && make and # make install! Ah, actually I’m not so sure whether xmms itself builds fine on CentOS 6.8 from source these days… Maybe I’ll check that out another day. ;)

Nov 142014
 

MOD Music on FreeBSD 10 with xmmsAs much as I am a WinAmp 2 lover on Microsoft Windows, I am an xmms lover on Linux and UNIX. And by that I mean xmms1, not 2. And not Audacious. Just good old xmms. Not only does it look like a WinAmp 2 clone, it even loads WinAmp 2/5 skins and supports a variety of rather obscure plugins, which I partially need and love (like for Commodore 64 SID tunes via libsidplay or libsidplay2 with awesome reSID engine support).

Recently I started playing around with a free Laptop I got and which I wanted to be my operating systems test bed. Currently, I am evaluating – and probably keeping – FreeBSD 10 UNIX. Now it ain’t perfect, but it works pretty well after a bit of work. Always using Linux or XP is just a bit boring by now. ;)

One of the problems I had was with xmms. While the package is there, its built-in tracker module file (mod, 669, it, s3m etc.) support is broken. Play one of those and its xmms-mikmod plugin will cause a segmentation fault immediately when talking to a newer version of libmikmod. Also, recompiling [multimedia/xmms] from the ports tree produced a binary with the same fault. Then I found this guy [Jakob Steltner] posting about the problem on the ArchLinux bugtracker, [see here].

Based on his work, I created a ports tree compatible patch patch-drv_xmms.c, here is the source code:

  1. --- Input/mikmod/drv_xmms.c.orig        2003-05-19 23:22:06.000000000 +0200
  2. +++ Input/mikmod/drv_xmms.c     2012-11-16 18:52:41.264644767 +0100
  3. @@ -117,6 +117,10 @@
  4.         return VC_Init();
  5.  }
  6.  
  7. +static void xmms_CommandLine(CHAR * commandLine)
  8. +{
  9. +}
  10. +
  11.  MDRIVER drv_xmms =
  12.  {
  13.         NULL,
  14. @@ -126,7 +130,8 @@
  15.  #if (LIBMIKMOD_VERSION > 0x030106)
  16.          "xmms",
  17.          NULL,
  18. -#endif
  19. +#endif
  20. +       xmms_CommandLine, // Was missing
  21.          xmms_IsThere,
  22.         VC_SampleLoad,
  23.         VC_SampleUnload

So that means recompiling xmms from source by yourself. But fear not, it’s relatively straightforward on FreeBSD 10.

Assuming that you unpacked your ports tree as root by running portsnap fetch and portsnap extract without altering anything, you will need to put the file in /usr/ports/multimedia/xmms/files/ and then cd to that directory on a terminal. Now run make && make install as root. The patch will be applied automatically.

Now one can once again run xmms and module files just work as they’re supposed to:

A patched xmms playing a MOD file on FreeBSD 10

xmms playing a MOD file on FreeBSD 10 via a patched xmms-mikmod (click to enlarge)

The sad thing is, soon xmms will no longer be with us, at least on FreeBSD. It’s now considered abandonware, as all development has ceased. The xmms port on FreeBSD doesn’t even have a maintainer anymore and it’s [scheduled for deletion] from the ports tree together with all its plugins from [ports/audio] and [ports/multimedia]. I just wish I could speak C to some degree and work on that myself. But well…

Seems my favorite audio player is finally dying, but as with all the other old software I like and consider superior to modern alternatives, I’m gonna keep it alive for as long as possible!

You can download Jakobs’ patch that I adapted for the FreeBSD ports tree right here:

Have fun! :)

Edit: xmms once again has a maintainer for its port on FreeBSD, so we can rejoice! I have [submitted the patch to FreeBSDs bugzilla] as suggested by [SirDice] on the [FreeBSD Forums], and Naddy, the ports maintainer integrated the patch promptly! It’s been committed since [revision 375356]! So now you don’t need to patch it by hand and recompile it from source code anymore – at least not on x86 machines. You can either build it from ports as-is or just pull a fully working binary version from the packages repository on FreeBSD 10.x by running pkg install xmms.

I tested this on FreeBSD 10.0 and 10.1 and it works like a charm, so thanks fly out to Jakob and Naddy! Even though my involvement here was absolutely minimal, it feels awesome to do something good, and help improving a free software project, even if only marginally so. :)