Feb 11 2012

Buffalo LinkStation Tear-down and Rebuild

Category: Ubuntu,WindowsPhil @ 10:55 am

I have been a big fan of Buffalo Technology products for some time. I purchased a couple of their NAS storage devices and use them as my primary backup solution. After working flawlessly for years, my first LinkStation died on me; it was was the original version and only had a 160GB drive.  We had a home office setup in our barn; I moved the LinkStation out there, just in case we ever had a fire in the house. The embedded print server was a nice addition, allowing us to print from anywhere in the house. Unfortunately, I think the barn was a tad bit dirtier than the LinkStation preferred. Even though the office was in a separate room, it was next to my wood shop and must have sucked in a lot of dirt and dust. As you can see from the picture below, there was a lot of black gunk on the fan intake, which ultimately caused the fan to fail. The device would still power up, but the hard drive would spin up and then quickly shutdown. Buffalo’s built in diagnostics indicated that the internal fan had failed, and unfortunately, this prevented the NAS from working at all. What a drag!  I did a little bit of research and found the suggested replacement fan on the Buffalo forums. Amazingly, they wanted about $20 for a new fan. I thought that was a little too steep; considering that can you get a 12omm case fan for under $5! I did some more Googling and found one for for $4 with free shipping; I figured why not!

Getting the box apart was a little challenging; I did the typical man thing – did no research and just grabbed a couple of screwdrivers! I did find some good instructions, after I was done with my project! There was one primary screen in the back, that basically holds the whole thing together. Once you get the case apart, it is quite easy from there. I was pretty impressed with the clean design, the main system board and an auxiliary power board, which eliminates the need for an external power block.  To replace the fan, I just snipped the three wires and spliced in my new one. Once I remembered how to put all of the pieces back together, it was a snap. Literally, the case almost snaps together; the hard drive bracket pops into the enclosure and the only screws are to hold the system board onto the hard drive bracket. There were two small screws that secure the power board, but that is it!

So, the real question is, did it it work after I put it back together?  The answer is sort of!  Actually, I think it worked fine. I could connect to it through the web interface and my son’s Windows 7 computer was able to mount the file system and save files. Unfortunately, neither my Ubuntu box or MBP was able to mount those partitions. Both computers could see the box on the network, but when I clicked on the device to access the shared file systems, they both complained that nothing was exported.  I believe these old LinkStations were supposed to support all operating systems, but I honestly have not used it for so long, I cant’ remember if it ever worked with Linux. My newer LinkStation NAS works with all of the computers, with no problems at all, so it is kind of strange!

While I was doing research on the LinkStation, I found a really cool site called NAS-Central. I know I should not be surprised, but as I was disassembling the device, it struck me that it was way more than a simple NAS device, it was a just another computer.  I really never thought about the internals, I just wanted something that I could plug an Ethernet cable into and  save some data!  NAS devices are actually pretty cool, but not really that exciting! You basically just plug them it and forget about them; they are a true network appliance. Little did I know, just like people who build custom ROMs for cellphones, they do the same thing for these NAS devices… You can easily turn your LinkStation (or other NAS device) into a real Linux server, with a wide variety of additional capabilities. I have not decided what I’m going to do with my old LinkStation yet, but if I get really bored, I might have to give of of these distributions a try!  If you ever decide to purchase a NAS device, make sure you have Buffalo a look. I have several friends and family members who purchased LinkStations, and I have yet to hear about any problems! I think Buffalo makes a pretty solid product, I’m sold!

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Nov 21 2009

Gnome 3.0 Beta Shell

Category: Blogging,UbuntuPhil @ 6:22 am

Half of the fun of playing with Linux is trying out new stuff! I found a blog the other night that talked about Gnome 3.0 as well as installing it on Ubuntu. I don’t think that anyone would disagree that the current Gnome desktop seems a little dated; it is not vastly different from a pre-Vista Microsoft experience. Add in Avant Window Manager, Screenlets and/or Google Widgets, and you get a more modern Apple/Windows experience. I took the plunge and installed the 3.0 beta last week and have not looked back. I really like the interaction and thought the presentation was pretty slick. It is kind of funny how emotional people get (read the above blog comments) about change. People were going off on the usability and new look; saying it looked like Windows or Mac, or this feature was stolen from some other implementation. Who really cares? And why does everyone have to be so negative? I thought it was pretty creative!  Everything was very intuitive and easy to use; it might take a little more mouse movement to navigate, but the overall concept works for me. After using it for a couple days, I have learned there are multiple ways to navigate around, minimizing the clicks. The “Find” is one such short cut, you can quickly find an application in the menu system. It still has the good old fashioned alt-tab behavior to quickly switch between applications. The only option that was not obvious to me, was the virtual desktops. I’m not a big virtual desktop user any more (too much time on a Windows box during the day!); it did seam a little easier with the 2.x desktop (just needed to scroll the mouse wheel, I think).. Now you can dynamically (and easily) add new desktops through the activities menu (just click the plus icon). There is probably a nice short to to navigate between desktops, but I did not look for it.  One other usability note that is not completely obvious; you don’t actually have to click on the word “Activity” to get access to the menu, just push the mouse all the way to the corner and the menu pops up… Nice…

A couple of other interesting things I found on the Digitizor website.  Installing Chrome on Ubuntu and GIMP to be removed from next release of Ubuntu. I’ve also been playing with Chrome this week; it seems fine and fast. My “Wifi-based” Internet provider has so much latency, that it is hard to really hard to test “fast”.  I have been a fan of GIMP for quite a while and have only figured out the most simplistic functions to support my blogging; I guess I will have to give F-Spot a try in the future!

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Oct 18 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 Upgrade…

Category: UbuntuPhil @ 7:33 am

Apparently, I like to live dangerously; last week I upgraded my Ubuntu box to the 9.10 beta. Unlike my last upgrade, this one went off without a hitch. Not surprisingly, I seem to have 100MB updates every other day, but even so, the box is rock solid. The only annoying thing is that many of the updates make me reboot, I almost feel like I’m running Windows! The list of new features is quite extensive. The most obvious change appears on the initial reboot; the login manager and upgrade to GNOME desktop environment. With every release, the user experience becomes more and more polished.
Throw in Avant Window Manager and Screenlets, and you have a really nice looking, easy to use desktop. Other than doing my checkbook (which some might call old school), I have no need for a commercial OS. Everything I need to do is available, Open Office, GIMP, Empathy, Firefox, etc.  This release included some work around boot performance and changes to the login manager. I didn’t really notice any boot time differences (this might not be obvious on a Quad-core, SATA machine), but the login manager is much nicer. I can see this being a big win for people that share a computer at home and user multiple accounts.

Presumably, in a attempt to create another income stream, Ubuntu created https://one.ubuntu.com, personal storage in the cloud. I have been recommending DropBox to my friends, as it has worked very well for heterogeneous environments, supporting all of the major platforms.

There are numerous technical advancements, but my primary motivation is to have a usable development box, one that delivers me a user experience similar to the expensive options and provides all of tools I need (database, Servlet container, web server, etc).  I have been using the 64-bit version of Ubuntu for over a year, it has never been as “issue free” as the 32-bit version I run on my old laptop. However, it is getting much better. I finally have Flash integrated perfectly, this has been a persistent issue for me… I recently tried to get the new Hulu desktop working, but I think it wanted the real Adobe Flash Player. I had been using one of the alternative, non-Adobe implementations and it was quite flaky and unreliable. I finally did a clean install of the Adobe plug-in and am seeing much better rendering; I have not had success with the Hulu Desktop yet, but Google Analytics, YouTube, Hulu, Pandora, WordPress, all web sites that rely on Flash, work perfectly for me now.

So far so good with my upgrade, I’m much happier with this release. Hopefully, your upgrade is as smooth! WorksWithU was an interesting site I found this morning, it seemed to have a lot of information on the upgrade and Ubuntu in general, give it a look!

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May 19 2009

How to customize your jUnit Behavior and Interaction

Category: Java,Misc,Testing,UbuntuPhil @ 8:17 pm

I have tried to walk through the jUnit source code a couple of times, trying to figure out how to implement my own behavior; only to give up in frustration (no I did not read the documentation, real developers don’t do that, they Google!) Why would I want to implement my own behavior? Well, it always seems to center around integrating with Spring. I usually want/need to do control the way the context is being created or do something immediately before the context is loaded or as the context is loading; something that might not be possible not possible using a @BeforeClass annotation.

This problem was actually related to my previous blog on Implementing Custom Scopes in Spring. Because I implemented some beans using the session scope, I kind of created a catch-22 scenario;  I have tried to capture the problem in bullet form:

  • Each jUnit test needs the ability to specify the specific test user (role, user info, etc.) that is relevant for that individual test
  • The test user profiles are configured and controlled by a Spring managed bean
  • All beans are lazy-init = true and injected into the unit test using the @Resource annotation
  • The session scope beans need to have the SecurityContextHolder configured with the appropriate principal (test user), before they are created
  • So, the problem is: How do you specify the test user, before the session scope beans are created and injected into the unit test class?

In a normal execution environment, using the Spring Security filters and a Servlet, the SecurityContextHolder would have been assigned using the authenticated principal, before creating any Spring dependencies. Because I created my own custom scopes for unit testing, the SecurityContextHolder was null and the session scope beans constructor was failing an assertion (principal != null). I could have easily fixed this by adding a pre-authenticated user to the SecurityContextHolder, using some static method approach,. However, because my mechanism for handling test users was itself a Spring bean, I had no possible way of specifying before the beans were injected into my unit test.

When jUnit 4.0 was released, it added several new constructs that make some very elegant solutions. I don’t think most developer’s ever look beyond the base jUnit functionality; fortunately it seems to solve 99% of the typical test scenarios. The new constructs are actually specified via annotations, they are the @RunWith and @TestExecutionListeners. My example code, can probably be made a little cleaner, but my main goal was to get the unit tests working. Because you don’t directly create any of these objects, you have to be aware of the timing; implement your customizations at  the correct point in the lifecycle. Another interesting problem, is that you don’t actually create the Spring Context, but you can interact with it via listeners.

First, we need a class which extends DependencyInjectionTestExecutionListener. This base class is required when using Spring and provides several override-able methods. I needed to configure the SecurityContextHolder, before any beans were injected into the unit test; I could accomplish this by utilizing the injectDependencies method. To support my testing needs, I added two (2) properties to the sub-class (this could have been cleaner); one to specify a user from a “user provider” factory, and a simpler one that used the user id of the person running the test. As you can see from the code, before an beans are injected into the unit test, I have access to the Spring context. This allows me to request the “user provider” factory and then request a specific test user. At this point, I can now assign the user to the SecurityContextHolder; all before any of the session scope beans are created.

public class AuthorizedTestExecutionListener extends DependencyInjectionTestExecutionListener {

    private TestUserAuthorization defaultAuthorization;
    private String                junitAuthorization;

    public void setJunitAuthorization(final String junitAuthorization) {
       this.junitAuthorization = junitAuthorization;
    }

    public void setDefaultAuthorization(final TestUserAuthorizationdefaultAuthorization) {
       this.defaultAuthorization = defaultAuthorization;
    }

    @Override
    @SuppressWarnings("PMD.SignatureDeclareThrowsException")
    protected voidinjectDependencies(final TestContext testContext) throws Exception {
       if (StringUtils.isNotBlank(junitAuthorization)) {
           final Authentication login = new UnitTestAuthenticationToken(this.getClass().getSimpleName());
           SecurityContextHolder.getContext().setAuthentication(login);
       }
       else if (defaultAuthorization != null) {
           finalTestUserModuleManager manager = (TestUserModuleManager) testContext.getApplicationContext()
                    .getBean(defaultAuthorization.testUserManager());
           final SecureUserInterface user = manager.find(defaultAuthorization.principal());
           final Authentication login = new UnitTestAuthenticationToken(user);
            SecurityContextHolder.getContext().setAuthentication(login);
        }

       super.injectDependencies(testContext);
    }
}

Next, we need to extend SpringJUnit4ClassRunner. This class is responsible for for creating the Spring test context and  DI listener class.  By over-ridding the  createTestContextManager, you have the opportunity to configure the test execution listeners.  I  also created two custom annotations, TestUserAuthentication and  JUnitAuthentication.  Using either one of these annotations, I could provide run-time meta-data  to my  custom AuthorizedSpringjUnit4ClassRunner; the meta data was then used to configure my custom  AuthorizedTestExecutionListner.

public class AuthorizedSpringjUnit4ClassRunner extends SpringJUnit4ClassRunner {

    public AuthorizedSpringjUnit4ClassRunner(final Class<?> clazz) throws InitializationError {
       super(clazz);
    }

    @Override
    @SuppressWarnings("PMD.ConfusingTernary")

    protected TestContextManager createTestContextManager(final Class<?> clazz) {

       final TestUserAuthorization defaultUser = clazz.getAnnotation(TestUserAuthorization.class);
       final JUnitAuthorization jUnitUser = clazz.getAnnotation(JUnitAuthorization.class);

       final TestContextManager context = super.createTestContextManager(clazz);

       for (final TestExecutionListener l : context.getTestExecutionListeners()) {
           if(AuthorizedTestExecutionListener.class.isAssignableFrom(l.getClass())) {
               if (defaultUser !=null) {
                    ((AuthorizedTestExecutionListener) l).setDefaultAuthorization(defaultUser);
                }
               else if (jUnitUser != null) {
                    ((AuthorizedTestExecutionListener) l).setJunitAuthorization(clazz.getSimpleName());
                }
            }
        }
       return context;
    }
}

Once you understand what all of the pieces do, they are super easy to customize to provide enhanced behavior. I think my solution provided a very clean, elegant solution for providing test specific user profiles, on a test by test basis.

@RunWith(AuthorizedSpringjUnit4ClassRunner.class)
@TestExecutionListeners(AuthorizedTestExecutionListener.class)
@ContextConfiguration(locations = {//
"/com/beilers/resources/spring/contexts/jUnitContext.xml" //
})

public class UnitTestHelper {
...
}
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Apr 25 2009

Ubuntu 9.04 Upgrade Disaster, Almost….

Category: Blogging,UbuntuPhil @ 6:38 pm

My Ubuntu 64-bit 9.04 upgrade did not go very smoothly, it left my machine un-bootable. The upgrade downloaded all of the packages, but seemed unable to install anything. The detail window was full of the same message, something about a dpkg failure. I was really bumming, as the upgrade on my 32-bit laptop worked flawlessly. I hoped that I could recover my blog, but was not exactly sure how it would workout. I tried using chroot after booting from the CD, but the install messed up the file system so badly, nothing would run.

I found an old 40GB Quantum Fireball drive in the basement and did a clean install. You have to give the Ubuntu team credit (even though I was pretty mad about my upgrade problem); the install was really quick and everything was auto configured after the install. I was super happy! The clean install actually fixed my NVIDIA driver issue; one of the 8.xx patches toasted my video settings about a month ago. I lost my advanced desktop effects, screen savers, and Avant Window Manager (dock). This actually ticked me off too, I hate when things don’t work like they are supposed too!  One thing that was really surprised me was how slow that old IDE drive was verses the new SATA technology. I have to get that drive out of my box, ASAP!

It was pretty easy to recover MySQL and WordPress. I never took the time to figure out how to backup MySQL, so I was a little worried about losing my blog data; I guess that will now be my number one priority.  The restore was as simple as copying all of the files from /var/lib/mysql and /var/www from my old drive to the new drive. I just had to change the file owners and groups, restart MySQL, and my blog was back, up and running. Not too bad!

Not that it would have helped, but my trusty NAS storage seems to have bit the dust last week; great timing!  I have been using a Buffalo Technology LinkStation for several years as my off-site backup, it is out in the barn! It has always worked perfectly, other than a noisy fan, which has been fixed in the new models.

I’m going to stop locally hosting my blog and sign up with bluehost. I think this will fix several issues for me; I won’t have to run my computer 24×7, upgrades won’t be such a risk, and maybe using them as an off-site backup.  I also plan to move my wife’s web site, she has an interior design business, over to bluehost as well; then I can setup a real site for her, rather than some simple web pages.

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Dec 05 2008

So long Webalizer…

Category: UbuntuPhil @ 10:13 pm

I have been running Webalizer to perform my web server log analysis since I setup my new Ubuntu box. It was very easy to setup, but seemed pretty basic and I wanted something a little more interesting.  AWStats looked much nicer, so I decided to give it a spin. Unfortunately, my first few attempts at configuring it failed. I followed several different write-ups from the net, but none of them worked. Tonight, I found some amazingly simple directions, which actually worked. I don’t know if it is a better tool, but it looks way cooler.  AWStats has a ton of little icons for different browsers, operating systems, countries, etc… which makes the presentation look a whole lot better. Nothing too interesting in the logs thus far, other no OSX or Safari hits… My Steve Jobs blocking software must be working well!

If you are planning to install a log analyzer, I would definitely give AWStats a try, it turned out to be pretty easy to setup and looks great. Now, I just have to work on my tomcat logs, apparently AWStats can be used for tomcat logs as well, I’m sure that will be another interesting exercise!


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Nov 20 2008

Ubuntu 8.10 Update…. and OpenOffice 3.0

Category: UbuntuPhil @ 9:51 pm

This was not one of my more pleasant Linux experiences. The upgrade seemed to take more than it gave! Anyway, my issues have finally settled down and everything is almost working. (I’m starting to miss downloading my daily bug fixes!) I believe the only real issue I have is SAMBA; I cannot access my NAS device anymore (or any windows boxes for that matter). That is kind of a drag when you need to share files!

I was really looking forward to OpenOffice 3.0 with the upgrade, unfortunately it was not ready to be included in the release. I did not want to do the manual installation, so I’ve been waiting. Tonight I Googled and found a super easy upgrade path. The upgrade seems to have worked like a champ. My machine completely rocks, especially when compared to my work computer!!! The OpenOffice applications launch in what seems like 2 seconds! And it is not even cached!

One other bummer, not related to this upgrade is Adobe Air. It still is not working on the 64-bit machine. At least it installs normally now, but there seems to a serious network problem. All of the Air applications run, but do not connect to any of the back-end services. My 32-bit installation works fine…

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Sep 08 2008

Nice site with some helpful Linux tips…

Category: UbuntuPhil @ 7:45 pm

So much to learn, so little time! When I setup my first Linux box (Slackware in the 90’s), it was not that easy, nor were there a lot of (fun) things you actually could do, once it was up and running. Configuring the window manager was about the coolest thing you could do… good old fvwm! Modern Linux distros give you a complete desktop environment, and tools that can add some interesting effects and features. Compiz is one of them. I kind of discovered it by accident, I read about it and figured it was just another thing I needed to install. Little did I realize that it was already installed with Ubuntu. I was Googling how to auto start applications when I login (go to System, Preferences, Sessions… if you don’t know!) and I found this interesting site, Adventures in Switching to Linux… Not a bad little blog if you want to pick up some pointers. Anyway, there was a nice post Compiz features. I also learned that there is a configuration tool which is not automatically installed, but looks pretty cool.

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

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Aug 19 2008

Linux, It just works?

Category: UbuntuPhil @ 8:28 pm

I bought a new UPS for my computer tonight, I think it was a pretty good deal from Staples…. only $50. I have been looking for a reasonably priced unit for some time now, but found no really good deals. So, what really amazed with with this one, was the fact that you could download Linux software for it, and it actually works! Pretty cool, it even gave me a little icon that shows it was working. There is a small daemon that runs which communicates with the UPS unit. You can configure the daemon to respond to multiple events, such as power failures or low battery status. I know this is not big deal, as this functionality has existed for Windows-based solutions for many years, I was just really surprised it worked so easily. Just plug it in and run the setup program. Now I’m ready for all of the power hits we get out here in the country!

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Aug 17 2008

Neat little Screenlets for Ubuntu

Category: UbuntuPhil @ 3:33 pm

Probably doing more messing around than I should be, but I think I’m finally done. My main goal is no more Microsoft Windows! We have a laptop which I will use to do my checkbook and any other mundane tasks, but everything else I want to do on this new machine. When I was looking for software to install to make the machine feel more slick, I happened upon Screenlets.org. I don’t think I’m a big fan of the implementation, but they do look pretty cool! All of the screenlets are written in python, and creates a 10 to 20 meg python process. When I first started playing with the tool, I think I chewed up about 70% of my memory! I have sence upgraded to 4Gig of 1066 OCZ Reaper memory, so I’m not going to worry about a few python processes! There are a boat load of widgets, but I am only using a few to monitor the behavior of my new machine.

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