I’ve noticed that I don’t get a lot of comments on my blog since moving from LiveJournal to WordPress. In case anyone was worried that it would be too much hassle or you’d need to register, neither of those are the case. Just hit the comment button and fill in the form. Most comments will be posted immediately. I do have a spam filter on the comments but most of the time it takes care of things automatically. If there’s some other reason I’m overlooking, please let me know. You can do so by leaving a comment.

Other Catching Up

So what else has been going on…

Maggie went to Korea for a week for a beauty equipment class. Emily and I got to hang out a bunch. Maggie brought back a giant box of Choco Pie back (picture coming).

There’s a new chain of Japanese Curry Rice restaurants started up by Japan’s House Foods called CoCo Ichibanya. They have 7 levels of spiciness and a whole bunch of toppings! One is near Taipei Main Station and the other near Nanjing East Road Station. I love the Japanese Curry Rice, and I have found memories of House Food’s socal Curry House chain.

After going to the Nanjing one a couple of weeks ago I popped over to Asiaworld Center to get a gelato and ran into Maoman from who was having lunch with his wife. It turned out he had been meaning to talk to me that day anyways. To make a long story short, I was invited to be a moderator of the Legal forums on Forumosa. So far I’ve managed not to let the power go to my head.

Last week after getting my gigabit switch replaced (see previous entry), I ran into miltownkid back at my Subway™ restaurant. He’d actually sent me email before hand, but since I’d been out I hadn’t seen it. Good thing I decided to drop by the store. He was there to meet one of my regular customers, Elliott, who I hadn’t yet introduced myself to, one of the Hess crowd. Elliott also has the same laptop as I do.

After Elliott left, miltownkid and I talked for a while and then I showed him around the restaurant a bit, then went back to my house to let him borrow some books. He seems to have gotten really excited by one of them and posted a big old blog entry about it.

Subway news: We had our tax withholding on the royalties changed from 20% to 10%, then they decided they didn’t do all the right paperwork so they switched back to the 20% rate with the extra kicker that those of us who did what we were told had to go revise the payments and paperwork with the tax office. Fun. We also had two boxes of wheat bread which didn’t rise last week. Apparently a problem with that lot. Also after getting the equipment in I was told they needed more money for the shipping costs which I wired over. Now they are ready to close down my equipment account and the money’s still there. I ask what’s up with that and turns out the shipping was in the original quote after all, so they shouldn’t have asked me for more. So yay I get money back, but boo US$22 in fees blown. Otherwise things going fairly well. The end of the July/August tax period is coming so there’ll be a bunch of invoice sorting at the end of the week.

Next week is APNIC22 in Gaoxiong. The spam session is Tuesday so I’ll be going down Monday night and returning Tuesday night. I got together today with Arthur Shay, one of the advisors on spam issues in Taiwan to get the latest scoop so I can give an update (we couldn’t find anyone local to do a Taiwan update other than me so far). He’s going to put me in touch with some other people so hopefully I can talk to them too. The conference is actually covering registration and room this time. Usually I only get registration covered as a speaker. (And in case you haven’t been paying attention to this blog, Gaoxiong trip means Liuhe Night Market Fried Fish Soup!)

Then at the end of the week my Dad will come for a visit to see Emily (and I assume the rest of us too). This time he’s decided to actually stay with us in the new guest room we remodeled last winter.

Avoid: DGS-1008D

The gigabit ethernet switch which I recently bought appeared to work fine for the first week. Then it started locking up randomly. At this point I looked through the logs on my servers and found that it had also sporadically been dropping link a few times a day for a couple of seconds at a time. That’s not that bad, but not that great either. Locking up is unforgivable.

When it locked up it would flash on all 8 bottom LEDs and then flash the port 8 top LED alternatively. Power cycling it didn’t work. Leaving it unplugged for several hours seemed to work. I had bought it at one of the mid-sized computer shops, so last Friday my wife and I went to exchange it. The shop grumbled a bit that it was past 7 days but swapped it out anyways.

The new one still drops link occasionally, and tonight it locked up again. Checking the all-knowing oracle (otherwise known as Google), one quickly finds numerous bad reviews for this switch at e.g. Newegg and Amazon mentioning the same things, link dropping and the switch locking up. The switch locking up was blamed on overheating. Wish I’d read these reviews beforehand, but I thought gigabit switches were pretty much all the same now.

So looks like D-Link blew it on this one. I’ll have to get Maggie to ring up the local D-Link support and see what they are going to do about it since it seems to be a common problem. I’ve generally had pretty good experience with D-Link in the past though. I have a travel router, wifi pc-card, 24-port 10/100 switch and an 8-port 10/100 switch from D-Link which haven’t had any notable problems. I’m hoping they will replace it with a different hardware version that doesn’t have this problem (both mine were version C3) or a different model. It looks like this model is being discontinued now, but its little brother, the DGS-1005D has reviews noting the same problem and it’s still out on the market.

I’ll also have to look around for a different brand of gigabit switch, but they aren’t very widely available here.

In other related updates from that entry, I have upgraded my primary server to use ZFS on the home directory partition using mirrored zfs. I decided zfs root was still too dodgy. When they get it in a supported version and upgradeable I’ll check it out. (Briefly they need official zfs mountroot support, grub zfs support, failsafe boot zfs support and support upgrading before I’ll touch it.) The SATA drive in the test server is also ZFS’d though it’s not RAIDed at all. The important part is that ZFS and the SATA controller both seem to be stable, just my damn network isn’t.

Airline (In)Security

OK, it’s already a bit old, but this is some really incisive commentary on the recent terror plot:

Wait, Aren’t You Scared?:

As the initial “OH SWEET MOTHER OF GOD THEY CAN BLOW US UP WITH SNAPPLE BOTTLES!!” hysteria subsides, we discover that these guys had been under surveillance, completely penetrated, by no less than three major intelligence agencies. That they were planning on cell phones, and some of them openly travelled to Pakistan (way to keep the cover, Reilly, Ace of Spies).


Last week I decided to start modernizing my computing environment here. I’ve been looking at the new Solaris ZFS and RAID-Z features and thinking of setting up a network fileserver using those technologies instead of the pile of drives in my Windows XP box as I currently have it.

However, since I do a lot of work with video, my current 100mbps network wouldn’t cut it. Fortunately gigabit ethernet hardware is quite affordable now. I picked up a D-Link DGS-1008D 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet swich, and two Corega CG-LAPCIGT2 gigabit ethernet cards. I had intended to put one card in my main Solaris box and the other in my Windows XP desktop, and leave my second Solaris box at 100mbps. The Corega card was chosen because it uses the Realtek chipset which is well supported on Solaris.

Installing the ethernet card in my main Solaris box was a breeze. It showed up as rge0 right away and I just had to move /etc/hostname.iprb0 to /etc/hostname.rge0 and it was all set. Installing on XP was a bit different. XP didn’t recognize the card, so I had to load the driver and reboot a couple of times to get it going. After getting it up, I tested a file copy and got about 6X speed increase.

Unfortunately the XP box ran into stability problems running the new ethernet card. It would occasionally lose connection to the switch, sometimes the sound card would make modem-like noises when the network was heavily used, and network performance would slow down dramatically until rebooted. I’m not sure what the problem is quite yet, but I took it out of the XP box and plopped it into my other Solaris server where it is humming along nicely.

Next up, if I want to set up a new fileserver, I’d like to use modern SATA drives. Up untill now I’ve used the older ATA drives on PCs. These days there’s no longer much of a price penalty for going with SATA, and performance is now significantly better than ATA. It’s probably not going to be long before ATA starts getting phased out.

Solaris has traditionally been quite picky about support of add in disk controllers. Currently though, Solaris offers good support for SATA boards using the Silicon Image chipsets. When I went out to look what’s available here in Taiwan I found most boards were based on Initio or Silicon Image chipsets, so availability wasn’t a problem. I picked up a cheap Upmost Uptech SR150-2 board which is a 2 port SATA board based on the Sil3112 chipset. I had trouble finding a SATA-II PCI board, as the Silicon Image SATA-II boards were all PCI-Express, but I’ve since spotted a vendor with a Silicon Image SATA-II PCI board. I also picked up a Seagate 320gb SATA-II drive.

Installing the SATA board in my second Solaris server, I rebooted and found that the board was not recognized by the OS. After some poking around I found that Solaris supports SATA boards only using the non-RAID version of the board BIOS while most boards are sold with the RAID BIOS installed. No problem, I’ll just download the non-RAID BIOS and flash utility from Silicon Image’s web site.

After downloading the files, making a boot floppy and then rebooting the server with it, I find out that the flash utility doesn’t support the flash chip on my board. My board uses a PMC Pm39LV010-70JCE flash chip, which wasn’t one of the chips recognized. Fortunately the flash utility will ask you which chip yours is compatible with, but of course I had no idea. After some googling, I found a page in Japanese of someone encoutering the same problem. Extrapolating from the English words in that page I figured he was saying the the PMC chip is the same as an SST 39VF010. I tried that and sure enough the BIOS flashed OK, and Solaris immediately recognized the controller.

Now I get to play around a bit with ZFS and see if it is feasible. I also need to find a gigabit card that’ll work reliably in my XP box. For now I’ll use my laptop for testing as it has a built-in gigabit interface. If things look good, I’ll get that SATA-II 4-port board I saw and some more drives and set up a nice fileserver.