So the Dal-ACM hosted another Installfest on Saturday. Rather than be a simple spectator of cool stuff and mooching off the nice spread of snacks, I decided to be an actual PARTICIPANT this time.
So, the Dal-ACM has this ‘development server’ (of the desktop machine variety) called mblast. In times past (2 Installfests ago) Gentoo was installed on it for some reason. Every time this was upgraded, something broke. More importantly, since almost everyone could
sudo su - for root, packages were installed and upgraded with impunity, resulting in things breaking often. Funnily enough, the DSU opt-out site was run from this machine, and someone actually upgraded it while the opt-out period was running.
So, flash forward back to the present. Since the Dal-ACM aquired slammer, more people have shifted their user accounts to that machine, leaving mblast somewhat underused with the exception of some of my own work. I figured, since with the exception of a few Ruby On Rails Cookbook tutorial instances, I was the only person using the machine, I could wipe it and play with a few things I have been thinking about for a while (and yes, I asked to make sure there was nothing critical and performed a backup anyway).
So, what did I end up doing? I decided to try my hand at virtualization. Set up Debian Stable as a host machine, installed Xen, set up a host server from disk, and started that up………. two machines running on one machine’s hardware. It was pretty sweet to get running. Of course, it wasn’t as easy as reading those lines. I somehow screwed up a minimal Debian install, had problems with mblast’s hardware, some misinterpretation of the hardware, and oh yeah, the pain in the ass of backing up everyone’s data before wiping that sucker the first time.
In the end it was done, it was cool, and as soon as I figure out how to install other operating systems besides Debian (since I used debootstrap for that) and to have the virtual hosts actually accessible to the internet, I will be able to set up any operating system (well, linux or bsd really, unsure about Solaris) for people, and then they can screw it up to their heart’s content without affecting someone else’s work (assuming that work is on a different virtual server). Yeah, learning all that is what reading week will be partially for.
The other cool thing at Installfest was Roomba hacking. Several people in the CSB, including my friend Oliver, bought a Roomba (a programmable robot vacuum cleaner) a wireless router, and other items. Their goal is to power the router from the Roomba, install linux (WRT Firmware) on the routers, and then be able to control the Roombas remotely via wireless. Add in some USB ports on the router and you can do a lot of things with that.
At the installfest, most of the time was spent deconstructing the Roombas without breaking them. Towards the end, they actually experimented with powering the router from the Roomba. One problem: the router partly starts up and then…. dies. The Roomba is currently blamed, the theory being that, while the specs say 2 amps of current can be drawn from the Roomba, there is probably some regulator somewhere that doesn’t allow more than a percentage of that out of the power interface they are using. A set back to be sure, and I am looking forward to seeing how they solve it, and having those Roombas running around the CS building.