Hardware

Can we brick it? Yes, we can :(

March of progress…

It’s 1993, and Super Frog is released for the Commodore Amiga.

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Realtek r8168 driver for Linux 3.8 & 3.9

For a long time, the only way to get the full functionality out of NICs which use the in-kernel ‘r8169’ driver was actually to eschew using the driver all together! Realtek offered their own driver, somewhat confusingly named ‘r8168’. This is available from their own highly unreliable FTP server, or from Google Code. This meant that whenever a new kernel was released you then had to await an update from Realtek before being able to upgrade.

However, the most recent r8168 release, version 8.0035.00, was released towards the end of December 2012 – and, whilst it builds against Linux kernels up to and including 3.7, it doesn’t work with kernel 3.8 or kernel 3.9.

… so I took a look at the r8169 source, and it looked suspiciously as if:

  1. It has been updated;
  2. It supports to specific Realtek device I’m using;
  3. It has full 9k Jumbo-frames support.

Finally, after several years, there’s no longer any need to use a proprietary driver in order to have full-sized frames!

It would, of course, have been nice if Realtek had posted a simple message saying that they were no longer updating their driver as the in-tree driver has now caught up in terms of functionality.

The interesting thing will be to see whether the occasional (every 3-6 months or so?) kernel panic within the networking subsystem will now also have gone away…

Unlocking the ECI B-FOCuS V-2FUb/r Rev. B VDSL modem

BT ships a variety of modems for its VDSL/Infinity product. There are ongoing discussions regarding the merits of each, but what all do have in common is that they are locked-down and inaccessible. The Huawei HG612 is theoretically the easiest to root, as described – but this does require loading a custom firmware. Additionally, mine re-locked itself and I’ve been unable to get into firmware-recovery mode since 🙁

The ECI B-FOCuS V-2FUb/I Rev. 1B can be unlocked via a serial connection without any need to replace the stock firmware – details here.

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Building a LEGO<super>®</super> case for a Raspberry Pi<super>*</super>

Building a LEGO® case for a Raspberry Pi*

There’s something about the Raspberry Pi Model B which makes me want to use the word “awesome” like a be-hoodied member of the next US boy-band sensation: the Raspberry Pi is an awesome 85.60mm x 53.98mm slice of 700Mhz ARMv6 awesomeness.

Another thing which is clearly awesome is Lego.

I think I feel a plan forming…

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The way of the future…

So you’ve got your 3D Vision Kit and your 120Hz Monitor. You hook it all up, and 3D just-works™ – right?

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ATI vs. NVIDIA

I’ve been happily pottering on with a 512MB Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 for some time now, but the recent release of an official high-res texture pack for Skyrim was the final motivation to make a change.

I was lucky enough to come by a free(!) NVIDIA Fermi-era MSI N470GTX board, with 1280MB memory. What’s interesting is what’s changed and what hasn’t…

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SSD RAID considered pointless

The Tech Report, one of the best hardware review sites I know of, has just completed a test of a number of different SSDs of differing capacities. One of the most surprising results?

A RAID0 setup with matched SSDs has performance on a par with or actually lower than a single mechanical hard-drive.

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HP TouchPad Review

Even though I’ve never owned a webOS-based device, over time I’ve followed with interest the various Mobile OS options out there – and webOS certainly seems to have some great ideas. In many ways, webOS is significantly more functional than Apple’s iOS – but is the HP TouchPad good enough as a consumer product to carry through this advantage?

I’m lucky enough to have been allowed to borrow a new TouchPad (model HSTNH-129C), and these are my thoughts after an afternoon’s usage.

HP TouchPad Marketing Image

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Mid-2011 MacBook Air processor comparison: Core i5 or Core i7?

I’ve been promising myself for some time now that – as my current MacBook Pro has started to fall to pieces after three year’s perfect service – I would upgrade to a lighter, much more portable MacBook Air as soon as they received a Sandy Bridge processor update.

There is a nice overview of the available options at TechonoBuffalo, whilst MacWorld and Bare Feats are the first places I’ve seen with useful(*) benchmarks. Furthermore, the ever-reliable Storage Review has an interesting set of figures for the (excellent) performance of the new Blade SSDs.

However, what I’ve been unable to find elsewhere (and even wikipedia isn’t overly useful, in this case) is any quantitative comparison of the two MacBook Air processor options: For the 128GB 11″ model, the Core i7 processor is a £150 (~15%) extra for – on the face of it, a 200MHz (a fifth of an iPhone 4 or iPad, or 12.5%) speed increase.

There must be more of an advantage, surely?

As it turns out, the answer is yes and no…

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A Heath Robinson contraption…

This rather Heath Robinson contraption (or Rube Goldberg, to our American readers) is from a picture I took around this time last year, when trying to diagnose a poorly RAID array.

colossus and alexandria

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