Tao of the Machine

Programming, Python, my projects, card games, books, music, Zoids, bettas, manga, cool stuff, and whatever comes to mind.

More O2 news

After successfully compiling the socket module yesterday, today I added the termios module. Fortunately this was quite easy, since the fix had already been discussed on python-dev.

I also looked at a few Irix-related bugs on Sourceforge, and commented on one, but my help will probably be of limited value, since I didn't encounter any of these problems/errors. I can upload the binary, though, if anyone is interested.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-10-30 23:37:28   {link}
Categories: SGI, Python

Short O2 news

Slowly but surely I'm exploring Unix (or IRIX, to be precise). Unix is very powerful, but not always easy, and documentation can be sparse. Fortunately, there's always Google.

I managed to remap some keys in the bash shell, using the .inputrc file. I can imagine that, if you don't know where to start, this can be very hard to figure out. (man readline tells you more, but how would you know that you need that man page?) Anyway, I mapped Ctrl-Up and Ctrl-Down to do a "history search", much like I'm used to use in 4DOS and 4NT. Home and End cannot be mapped, for some reason; I tried various combinations, but they don't work, and no key code shows up in cat.

As for Python... Last time, the _socket module wouldn't compile. For some reason, u_long and u_char were not defined in /usr/include/netinet/tcp.h, nor in a Python file (getaddrinfo.c, IIRC). Fortunately, this was easily fixed by adding #defines in the right places. I also added a bunch of other modules, and sgi, so now I have a more complete Python on the O2. Much nicer. ^_^ Nobody likes a crippled Python.

The system is slowly becoming usable now. Maybe I can start hacking on my projects soon... that would be more than I could on the Mac. (I miss it, but I won't go back anytime soon.)

Posted by Hans "does SGI have an Ellen Feiss?" Nowak on 2003-10-30 00:41:47   {link}
Categories: SGI

Some links

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-10-22 22:19:25   {link}
Categories: SGI, linkstuffs

L'ordinateur, c'est moi

Yes, more O2 stuff. There's not much else to write about anyway, except that maybe in a few months or so I will visit the Netherlands again.

  • I successfully compiled Python 2.3.2. Although it depends on how you define success, really... I get a clean compile out of the box, but the resulting Python doesn't have the socket module, as I found out when I tried to write a simple mail checking program (just for testing purposes). Uncommenting _socket in Modules/Setup yields errors. Some other modules, like grp and pwd, did compile after uncommenting. So this is something I need to take a closer look at. By the way, the precompiled Python 2.1 on freeware.sgi.com doesn't have _socket either.

  • elastiC 0.0.37, the development version, does compile. Yay! I can now experiment with this interesting language. (0.0.35 didn't work for some reason, the configure file seemed messed up, thinking gcc was a cross-compiler, etc.)

  • What doesn't compile yet is Common Lisp. I tried versions of CLISP and CMUCL, to no avail. Then again, I don't really know what I'm doing. :-) Maybe there are binaries for IRIX somewhere.

  • I have no clue how to use samba. Reading some documentation is in order.

  • I installed a bunch of packages from freeware.sgi.com, mostly as auxiliary software for stuff I wanted... a newsreader, samba, cvs...

  • Once cvs is set up properly (which I have done before, but don't find easy), I can actually hack on some of my projects from the O2. The adventure engine comes to mind, and other stuff that doesn't require fancy GUIs and graphics (or sockets :-).

  • So far working on this machine has been fun. Sure, not everything I try works, but it's a good way to learn Unix, and as long as I don't stretch my expectations too much (like I did with the Mac) it will hopefully remain fun. I wonder how long the O2 has been out. I'm guessing it came out around 1996. It must have been a monster at that time, with 256 Mb of memory. Its performance is still surprisingly good; yesterday I compiled Python in one shell window (a memory-intensive task) while browsing the Net and running gvim in others. On my Windows box, this would have been a definite slow-down, even though it has 256 Mb as well and a 900 MHz processor (O2 has 250 MHz RISC).

Posted by Hans "enough already" Nowak on 2003-10-20 21:41:57   {link}
Categories: SGI

Now with 10% less content

More SGI stuff. I realize this will not be very interesting for most readers, so won't keep posting about it much longer, unless some peculiar features/questions come up. Hopefully I will have some real content again one of these days. :-)

Maybe I can use some shorthand, some kind of "ticker" syntax, appended at the end of a post, to keep people informed about my SGI progress, or lack of it. With simple syntax:

+: indicates progress, success
-: failure, no progress (yet)
!: observation
!+: observation, positive
!-: observation, negative
?: question, something to find out
>: to-do

[+ installed bash, set it to default shell. + installed vim. !− IRIX vim in text mode isn't very good. !+ but gvim is OK. + installed gcc. + compiled hello.c. :-) + compiled and installed scheme48. − elastiC doesn't compile here either. + edited bash .profile. ? still don't know how to access PC. > install samba.]

Yes, elastiC doesn't compile on IRIX either. (Earlier attempts failed on Mac OS X and Cygwin.) It makes me wonder where it *does* compile. I'd like to try the language, but the Windows binaries are old, and I obviously haven't had any success compiling so far. Suck.

Exploring Unix is both a rewarding and a frustrating experience. Rewarding, because there's always something to learn. Frustrating, because it's not always easy to find out things. It's not bad if you're just tinkering, but if you need to find out something quickly, then you might be in for a world of pain. At least, until you know what you're doing. :-) But this is what I got the SGI O2 for in the first place... so I have a lot to learn, to find out, to tinker, etc. Just like back in the days when using a computer was fun...

Posted by Hans "weet je nog? oudje?" Nowak on 2003-10-19 12:54:31   {link}
Categories: SGI, programming

Second impressions

Progress: Hooked it up to the network. SGI box can go online now. Downloaded software; Python 2.1 from the SGI freeware page. After some poking around, it appeared to be installed in /usr/freeware/bin.

The IRIX version is 6.5.11f. About 2.5 years old; maybe newer versions support more options, including such essentials as, setting the desktop background image, and storing console settings. I am currently looking for an upgrade of some kind. SGI SupportFolio seems to have them, but they didn't send me an email with my registration confirmation.

Some more software needs to be installed to make the machine usable. The shell (sh) doesn't support readline, for example, and will be replaced by bash. It also only has vi and not vim or emacs. At least vim will need to be installed. Caveat: the harddisk is only 4 Gb, with 1+ Gb free, so I cannot afford to install lots of stuff. Just the bare necessities. This includes gcc as well. There *is* a C compiler, though, that I have to investigate first. A new browser would be cool as well, but Mozilla Firebird is 50+ Mb. I really need something better than Netscape 4 though, which is the default.

Oh, and the machine is very much capable of displaying high resolution graphics in lots of colors. It's just hard to see without the right monitor, and (this version of) the OS doesn't make good use of the features.

Open issues: How to access files on the PC? How to get and install an IRIX update? How to free harddisk space without messing everything up?

Posted by Hans "everything is green" Nowak on 2003-10-18 00:28:26   {link}
Categories: SGI

First impressions

The SGI box arrived today. I haven't been able to do much yet. I really need a separate monitor for it; this one kind of works, but I need it for the Windows box, and it doesn't has the so-called "sync on green" feature. This was known and expected, by the way. Someday I'll pick up a cheap monitor somewhere.

The good:

I don't know yet. Well, the computer looks pretty. :-)

The bad:

Apparently it's not possible to make a direct DSL connection with PPPoE. All the system seems to know about is PPP for modem or ISDN. Both require a phone line; I want to use the Ethernet card. Once the SGI has its own monitor, I will try to share the DSL connection between Windows and SGI, like I did with the Mac. That better work, because a network connection is the only way I will be able to store things (considering I have no zip drive, CD burner, floppy drive...).

There's more. The CD-ROM doesn't open by itself; pressing the little button does nothing. You have to select 'eject' in the OS. Also, it doesn't seem to read other CD-ROMs well... it chops off names to 8x3. Of course, all this could be because I don't know what the hell I'm doing. :)

The ugly:

The OS looks *old*. It looks like somebody took Windows 3.1 and changed some stuff around. Nothing like this. I can't really judge though until I have a better monitor, the current one displays everything in green. :-) I don't mind really, but I thought SGI machines were known for their excellent graphical capabilities. Then why does it look like Win3.1 with 16 colors? Something to figure out.

I consider this kind of wrestling with a new system to be normal. Even if nothing else works, I can still use it to learn some Unix stuff.

The unknown:

Pretty much everything else. I don't know the Irix version (presumably 6.5.x); I don't know what software is on it; etc. Time for me to collect lots of IRIX info on the Net. If anybody has any pointers, other than the obvious (sgi.com etc), I'd be most grateful.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-10-17 20:46:44   {link}
Categories: SGI

Dear Mr. Sniper

I almost sent this letter to an Ebay user...

Dear Mr. Sniper,

Nice try. However, you managed to add $30 to the price of my item. Can I send you a bill for that?


The winner of the SGI O2 10000

Almost. That guy will probably be pissed off already because he didn't get the item; I doubt he will be able to appreciate my remarks. So it seemed wiser not to send it. :-)

In other words, here's what happened: My bid on this SGI O2 stood for a few days, unchanged, and when I checked 35 seconds before the end of the auction, it was still the same. 2 minutes later I checked again, to discover that suddenly the item price had risen by $30, because of a sniping attempt. Fortunately, this still fell within the bounds of my maximum bid, so the item is still mine. Except, now I have to pay $30 extra, just because some [expletive deleted] had to bid for it at the last moment.

Personally, I find this bidding behavior highly unethical. I think it's in the same category as exploiting lag in an online game. Not everybody thinks so, though; there are lots of tools to help you do this. ("We snipe so you don't have to?") This is really an online phenomenon; real-life auctions don't have this problem.

One way to combat it would be to do away with visible starting and ending dates entirely. That way, you cannot intentionally wait till the last minute and then try to outbid the current high bidder. At some time the auction will end, but nobody can use this knowledge to their advantage (and their competitors' disadvantage) anymore. Fair. That's what an auction is all about.

But back to the SGI. I have a curious set of expectations about it:

  • it is capable of eventually replacing my Windows box as my computer of choice for hacking. 1)
  • however, it will probably not do so anytime soon.
  • in the meantime, I'll try to slowly learn about the machine and make it suitable for my purposes (e.g. attach it to a network, etc).
  • my goal is to run at least C, Python and a Lisp dialect on it.
  • i might have to get additional hardware, like a monitor.
  • if nothing else, i can use it to sharpen my (admittedly lacking) Unix skills.

Hopefully it will be a less frustrating exercise than with the Mac. (Cheaper, so far. :-) SGI/IRIX occupies of course an even smaller niche than Mac OS X, but maybe that helps keeping my expectations low. It also is a hacking challenge: if something isn't available, it makes sense to write it. (Or maybe port it, but that seems a bit more painful.)

1) Hacking in the Jargon file sense of the word, of course. I shouldn't even have to explain this. :)

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-10-12 22:14:18   {link}
Categories: general, SGI

You shouldn't judge a book by its cover...

...but what about a computer?

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-10-09 23:00:12   {link}
Categories: general, SGI


Today's topic is SGI. It would be Seriously Cool to have an SGI Indigo or Octane or whatever on my desktop. Not that I have any money to burn, but maybe it's possible to get an old one really cheap. (Sun Blades are interesting too, but they are *way* out of my price range, even second-hand.)

I suppose that, if you know your stuff, you can find some really good deals on Ebay. Assuming the seller is not tricking you. I saw some older system for $30, that "works but gives an error message when booting". If the error message is not caused by a missing harddisk or something like that, then all you have to do is slap a new OS on it and you're golden.

Unfortunately, many second-hand SGI systems do seem to come without a hard drive, or other crucial parts missing. It's still cheap, but what am I going to do with an incomplete system?

Anyway, here's a page that talks about buying old SGIs.

Sometimes I just get this feeling that it would be great to leave all my current stuff behind and start from scratch with a new (= different) computer and a new OS. A new box for hacking, with lots of things to learn and explore, etc. ... Unfortunately, earlier attempts to do this failed. Remember the Mac? Also, I tend to have a romantic and unrealistic view about systems I don't know. :-) What if I don't get Python to compile on IRIX? Hmm...

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-10-08 22:54:33   {link}
Categories: general, SGI

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