guest - flak

samsung chromebook plus

Apple announced a new iPad today, so I bought a chromebook. Actually, I bought it a few days ago; it just happened to arrive today. It’s a 2 in 1 flip around touchscreen tablet laptop all in wonder. I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently on my other chromebook, but sometimes I wish the keyboard would just go away. And when I’m reading on an iPad, I wish I had a keyboard. Technology is all about convergence, right? Bring on the singularity.

As a laptop, it’s not too bad. The keyboard is a little thin, and some keys are quite small. I wouldn’t write a novel with it, but it’s good enough to leave scathing comments on internet forums. The hinges are solid. It’s definitely more useful than a tablet with a keyboard. I have a special soft spot for laptops that can unfold 180 degrees (hello thinkpads!), so this machine earns a bonus star for that, too.

Continue reading samsung chromebook plus...

Posted 2017-03-21 20:46:37 by tedu Updated: 2017-03-26 05:44:55
Tagged: computers review

using yubikeys everywhere

Everybody is getting real excited about yubikeys recently, so I figured I should get excited, too. I have so far resisted two factor authorizing everything, but this seemed like another fun experiment. There’s a lot written about yubikeys and how you should use one, but nothing I’ve read answered a few of the specific questions I had.

It’s not a secret I’ve had a dim view of two factor auth, although many of my gripes are about implementation details. I think a lot of that remains true. Where two factor auth perhaps might succeed is in limiting the damage of phishing attacks. I like to think of myself as a little too savvy for most phishing attacks. That’s sadly true of most phishing victims as well, but really: I don’t use webmail. I don’t have any colleagues sharing documents with me. I read my mail in a terminal, thus on the rare occasion that I copy and paste a link, I see exactly the URL I’m going to, not the false text between the <a> tags. Nevertheless, if everybody else recommends secure tokens, I should at least consider getting on board with that recommendation. But not before actually trying these things out.

Continue reading using yubikeys everywhere...

Posted 2017-02-20 07:14:52 by tedu Updated: 2017-02-21 17:07:50
Tagged: computers gadget security software

Samsung 960 EVO

Thought I was happy with my gaming PC, but there was a Steam sale, and suddenly 256GB just doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. Even purchasing only a few games per year, at 20GB or so each, that’s not much. Looking for a bit of future longevity, decided to make the switch from SATA to NVMe. Best drive on the market is probably the Samsung 960 PRO. Saved some money by going with the EVO line, which might be the best value.

It’s an older motherboard, so I needed one of these gadgets to plug it in. Seems a bit silly to spend $20 for a bit of plastic and copper. No boot support, but that’s just fine. It’s only for storage.

It’s as fast as promised. For reference, the existing drive is a Samsung 840. Copying all the game data across, the destination drive was almost entirely idle. (For funsies, I made a second copy, both from and to the 960, and it screamed.)

Posted 2017-01-07 21:51:18 by tedu Updated: 2017-01-07 21:52:07
Tagged: computers gadget

2016 computer review

Where are they now followup review for some computers, some from before 2016 even. Three sets of three computers.

I use three laptops, each weighing about three pounds, which makes them convenient to carry about. I’d been trying to keep the ThinkPad T430s active, but it’s now firmly retired.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Purchased January 2015. Two years later, love it as much as ever. I liked the T430s before it, but that was always a little too heavy to carry around. The X1 is an easy bag and go machine. Despite quite a few cycles, the battery is still about 96% as original, and generally lasts me longer than I need.

Zenbook UX305. Purchased October 2015. This is the portable Windows 10 machine. I don’t have much use for Windows, and so the Zenbook doesn’t see much use either, but it’s nice to have. It’s always a bit of a disappointment switching from the X1 to this machine, but it’s still a fine machine.

Continue reading 2016 computer review...

Posted 2016-12-30 17:03:05 by tedu Updated: 2016-12-30 17:03:35
Tagged: computers

watt time is left

So Apple no longer knows how to make a battery meter. The good news is OpenBSD is still here for all your desktop needs. How does its battery meter work?

The simplest interface to get battery status info is to run apm. This gives us both percentage and an estimate of time remaining.

Continue reading watt time is left...

Posted 2016-12-16 13:49:18 by tedu Updated: 2016-12-16 13:49:18
Tagged: computers openbsd software

chromebook printing troubles

I have a chromebook which is quite nice for what it does. A dedicated browsing machine, fast and low maintenance. Alas, I am sometimes required to go outside, and worse yet talk to people, and even worster, show those people information. It is inconvenient to hand over my phone, no rotate it back, your other yaw, scroll a little, here, oh wait, let me unlock it again. I print such things on paper. Double alas, the chromebook makes this difficult.

Something they don’t mention in the advertising for chromebooks is what the printing experience is like. I also forgot to ask because I figure if I can make OpenBSD print, someone on team chrome should be able to solve this problem as well. And oh boy, have they ever. Solved it, I mean. Not solved it well.

Continue reading chromebook printing troubles...

Posted 2016-10-24 19:41:17 by tedu Updated: 2016-10-24 19:41:17
Tagged: computers rants software

OpenBSD on HP Stream 7

Recent events have rocked the mobile computing world to its core. OpenBSD retired the zaurus port, leaving users in desperate need of a new device. And not long before that, Microsoft released the Anniversary Update to Windows 10, but with free space requirements such that it’s nigh impossible to install on cheap 32GB eMMC equipped devices such as the HP Stream series, leaving users searching for a new lightweight operating system. With necessity as both mother and father, the scene is set for a truly epic pairing. OpenBSD on the HP Stream 7.

The HP Stream line is a series of budget computers in a couple form factors. The Stream 11 is a fairly typical netbook. However, the Stream 7 and 8 are tablets. They look like cheap Android devices, but inside the case, they’re real boys, er PCs, with Intel Atom CPUs.

Continue reading OpenBSD on HP Stream 7...

Posted 2016-09-10 13:17:55 by tedu Updated: 2016-09-12 14:46:42
Tagged: computers gadget openbsd

backlight battery indicator

The last few models of Thinkpads are sadly devoid of indicators. How do you tell if caps lock is on? Type something and see if it matches expectations. If it happens to be the lock screen, loltastic. More importantly, how do you know if AC power has accidentally been disconnected and the battery is running low? The red dot on the opposite side of the lid isn’t much use.

It’s possible to use some sort of desktop environment status bar, but I prefer a low thrills environment. I don’t need a big honking battery icon distracting me. Accordingly, I have only a small (text) battery display in the corner. It’s there when I need it, but unobtrusive. The only problem is if I think I’m plugged into the wall, but I’m not, I won’t be checking battery and may not notice even as the situation grows dire.

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Posted 2016-08-28 02:43:19 by tedu Updated: 2016-09-09 21:02:52
Tagged: c computers openbsd programming

computers for parents

Recently had the experience of getting new computers for my parents. The plan was to deliver a chromebook for my mother, but coincidentally the power supply or something in my father’s computer had given up. So mom would get new software and dad would get new hardware. Some observations.

My mother was already using chrome on a Thinkpad running Windows, so how different could it be running chrome on a chromebook? Let me count the ways...

First off, mother is one of those people who likes to click the little button at the bottom of the scroll bar to move the page. I don’t think I’ve ever done this, but that’s how she does things. So immediately upon starting up, this is a problem. I spend some time teaching her how two finger scroll works. Two fingers on the touchpad, no, not too close together, now push down, no, both fingers at once, don’t twist, straight lines, no, lift up to start over, there, nope, too close, that’s just one finger, ok, good.

Continue reading computers for parents...

Posted 2016-08-17 23:17:14 by tedu Updated: 2016-08-18 00:28:26
Tagged: computers software

HP Chromebook 13

Finally got a chromebook. I was interested in the HP Chromebook 13 since it was first announced as a kind of cheaper Pixel. But then it spent several months on HP’s out of stock list. Now it’s back.

There’s several models available, starting at $499 for a Pentium. I moved up to the $599 (for $580 actually) model which comes with an m3. This includes 4GB of RAM. After that, there’s m5 and m7 models with more RAM, but the price goes up dramatically, and none of them include more storage. Always 32GB. All come with the same 3200x1800 display, which is what really attracted me. This should be nice and crisp, but as we’ll see, it’s not perfect.

It’s well put together. Feels solid in the hand. Comparable to the UX305 in many ways, but it feels lighter. Almost like the base is hollow. The included USB-C charger requires a three prong plug. (Why is Lenovo the only PC company to realize how sweet two prong plugs are?). At least the charger cords are a decent length. Six feet to the outlet, then another six feet to the USB-C plug. The case has a brushed metal finish, but attracts some very visible fingerprints and smudges that make it look dirty after light handling. The palm rest doesn’t seem to have the same problem, though. It has the same squared edges as its big brother Pixel, even including a stripe on the back, but the stripe here is plain gray and doesn’t light up. Overall, a nice looking machine in good company with the Macbook Air and Zenbook, but it’s no Spectre.

Continue reading HP Chromebook 13...

Posted 2016-07-10 14:35:28 by tedu Updated: 2016-08-21 22:19:34
Tagged: computers review

openbsd laptops

OpenBSD 5.9 won’t be out for a little while, but it may be helpful to plan ahead, especially since there’s been some considerable progress on hardware support. Here are some notes about what works in general and a few particular models.

This post was written for 5.9. Only a few things have changed for 6.0.


5.9 will be the first release to support the graphics on Broadwell CPUs. This is anything that looks like i5-5xxx. There are a few minor quirks, but generally it works well. There’s no support for the new Skylake models, however. They’ll probably work with the VESA driver but minus suspend/resume/acceleration (just as 5.8 did with Broadwell).

The iwm driver has gotten better and along with the older iwn now supports 802.11n. Note that the three models supported by iwm (7260, 7265, and 3160) are those frequently found on Broadwell era systems. The similarly numbered 3165 (such as found on a Braswell NUC) and 8260 series found with Skylake are only supported by 6.0.

Continue reading openbsd laptops...

Posted 2016-01-13 18:24:59 by tedu Updated: 2016-09-10 21:58:24
Tagged: computers openbsd

Zenbook UX305

Another new laptop to play with, the ASUS Zenbook UX305 (or UX305F sometimes). I’m a little late to the party, these have been available for some time. Amazon had a $100 rebate off the regular price, which puts it at pretty fair price I think ($599). I was looking for a second laptop, one specifically to serve as a “second” laptop, to run Windows when I wanted, etc. My laptop lifecycle seems to involve running Windows for a bit, then eventually giving up and installing OpenBSD. I’ve spent the day playing with this thing, so here are some early thoughts. It’s not my intention to use this laptop as a primary machine (although one could), but I think I’ve gotten a feel for what it would be like. The Anand Tech review is more complete than here.

Continue reading Zenbook UX305...

Posted 2015-10-07 01:55:54 by tedu Updated: 2015-10-20 02:56:39
Tagged: computers review

OpenBSD on EdgeRouter Lite

The Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite machine is an interesting alternative for a light router/gateway. It’s cheap, small, low power, and includes three network interfaces. Almost like it’s purpose built to be a router. The OpenBSD octeon port supports the ERL. Note that the EdgeRouter X is a quite different machine and not supported.

The web page and INSTALL.octeon file have more extensive notes, but sometimes it can be too much info. Here’s the short version.


On the network side, you need a DHCP and tftpd server, with the octeon bsd.rd in /tftproot.

You’ll need a serial cable like this one. The port is set to 115200, so to connect you run something like cu -l /dev/cuaU0 -s 115200. Plug it in, watch it boot, smash enter a few times to halt the boot process. First command: dhcp to get an IP. Then tftpboot 0 bsd.rd to load the kernel over the network. And finally bootoctlinux to actually run the kernel. This will take you to the installer.

Continue reading OpenBSD on EdgeRouter Lite...

Posted 2015-08-18 12:03:38 by tedu Updated: 2016-07-11 23:51:35
Tagged: computers gadget openbsd

Thinkpad Carbon X1 2015

A review of the X1 Carbon hardware. Some thoughts on the initial software experience.

I’ve had my T430s for a while now. It very quickly became my main laptop, replacing both my ageing T60 and the X200s I originally thought would replace it. The X was the right weight, but a little underpowered and the battery in particular was rather sad. The T430s slotted in nicely between them; powerful, yet still reasonably light. Recently I’ve carrying it with more, however, and the farther I walked with it, the more my shoulder sagged. The once reasonable battery life now seems a little short, too. (I don’t think it’s actually faded that much; my definition of all day work appears to have grown.)

Continue reading Thinkpad Carbon X1 2015...

Posted 2015-01-27 20:31:48 by tedu Updated: 2016-05-13 00:25:43
Tagged: computers review

Windows 8.1 setup experience

New Thinkpad X1 Carbon arrived today. After unboxing and inspecting for signs of NSA interdiction, first thing to do is turn it on and setup Windows.

First, I have to create a Microsoft account. Maybe this is optional? I know I bypassed it once before when installing the original Windows 8, but I couldn’t find the option to say no this time. Setting up an MS account requires them to text me to verify my phone number. Of course, the text never arrived. So there I am, all giddy and excited to play with my new computer, twiddling my thumbs waiting for a text message. Boy, that was fun. Finally verified my account by switching back to my other Thinkpad and visiting the link they emailed me. What would somebody who can only afford one Thinkpad have done?

Continue reading Windows 8.1 setup experience...

Posted 2015-01-26 21:27:00 by tedu Updated: 2015-01-29 21:16:43
Tagged: computers software

small note about thinkpad trackpad

A few days ago, the trackpad on my T430s started acting very strangely, registering phantom taps and touches whenever my fingertip came within its proximity but without making contact. Usually observed as attempts to move the cursor turning into tap + drag operations.

I’ve worn the little bumps off the center of my trackpad, so I thought maybe that was the problem. (It’s just a sticker, very easy to replace if you like the bumpy texture.) Not exactly. My trackpad was coated in an invisible layer of grime. It still looked clean (black), but after giving it a good scraping and scrubbing, full precision has been restored.

Posted 2015-01-20 00:57:49 by tedu Updated: 2015-01-20 00:57:49
Tagged: computers

unhappy computer people

Was compelled to see Transcendence, which I knew I would regret. I wish I could quip that it was better when the computer was in Johnny’s head instead of Johnny’s head being in the computer, but then I realized Depp didn’t play Johnny Mnemonic.

It’s a strange movie, as some kind of techno romance thriller. Spends way too long setting up the love story, but then realizes too late that it really wants to be a summer action blockbuster. Spoiler: the ending makes no sense. Also, to pick on one petpeeve, why do movie producers demonstrate glitches by having 3D textures replaced by code fragments? Enough people have played various Bethesda games to know what real texture glitches look like. :)

The consensus seems to be that Her is a better disembodied computer soul movie, but I skipped it because Phoenix was really creepy in the previews. Maybe I’ll add it to my list now.

The Thirteenth Floor is a much better movie to watch if you want to ponder the nature of virtual consciousness. It’s more of a stretch, but Don Jon (starring the voice of Her, Scarlett Johansson, in a great role) actually does some philosophizing on human connections, real and virtual, as well.

I keep wanting to compare Transcendence to Source Code (a decent, but terribly, terribly named movie), but there’s not much similarity. I think that’s because there was a preview for Edge of Tomorrow, which looked like an awesome sequel to Oblivion until I realized it wasn’t. It’s actually Source Code but with mech suits.

jwz has some singularity reviews as well. The Machine is ok. Apropos current events, it features a Turing Test.

(Watched Her on the plane back from the hackathon. Creepy and uncomfortable doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s a good film, and well made I think, but I won’t be watching it again. Actually lots of parallels with Don Jon.)

Posted 2014-05-08 15:30:57 by tedu Updated: 2014-07-16 20:43:20
Tagged: computers moviereview

some md5 -t benchmarks

A comparison of some CPUs using my favorite benchmark, md5 -t.

Dell CS24, Xeon L5450 @ 2.5GHz

Time = 0.242135 seconds Speed = 412992751.977203 bytes/second

Thinkpad T430s, i5-3320M @ 2.6GHz (plus turbo)

Time = 0.184372 seconds Speed = 542381706.549801 bytes/second

Thinkpad X200s, Core2 @ 1.8GHz

Time = 0.325009 seconds Speed = 307683787.218200 bytes/second

Thinkpad X1 Carbon, i5-5300U @ 2.3GHz

Time = 0.206281 seconds Speed = 484775621.603541 bytes/second

No name router, Atom @ 1.8GHz

Time = 0.399222 seconds Speed = 250487197.599331 bytes/second

Sun T5120, T2 @ 1.2GHz

Time = 1.809987 seconds Speed = 55249015.600665 bytes/second

BeagleBone Black, ARM Cortex A8

Time = 1.373115 seconds Speed = 72827112.077284 bytes/second

EdgeRouter Lite, Octeon @ 500MHz

Time = 2.198556 seconds Speed = 45484399.760570 bytes/second

Intel “Braswell” Celeron N3050 @ 1.6GHz

Time = 0.334014 seconds Speed = 299388648.380008 bytes/second
Posted 2014-03-18 17:00:46 by tedu Updated: 2015-08-23 03:24:55
Tagged: computers roundup software

Dell CS24-SC server

A short note about my Dell CS24 to accompany the post about the Sun T5120.

You can find used CS24s in large quantities on EBay. Decent value. There’s really not much profit for sellers holding anything cheaper in inventory, so they’re among the least expensive servers you can find. But it’s not all good news. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a special model built for huge enterprise customers and not normally available to solo losers like me. As such, Dell support doesn’t have much in the way of information or firmware updates. Whatever; it’s a PC server and OpenBSD runs on PC servers. Mine is the SC model (I think), there seem to be a few varieties.

It has VGA, net, and serial consoles. I used VGA; no comments on the others. It’s an enterprise computer, built for environments where every second of downtime counts, so don’t expect it to reboot in less than four minutes.

Continue reading Dell CS24-SC server...

Posted 2014-03-18 17:00:35 by tedu Updated: 2014-03-18 17:00:35
Tagged: computers review

OpenBSD on a Sun T5120

I’ve been looking for a sparc64 system for a while and noticed the Sun Enterprise T5120 models have become very affordable. They’re interesting machines and great for testing due to the built in virtualization support.


There are two console ports on the back, serial and net. If you’re lucky, the network port will come in a usable configuration; otherwise you’ll need a “Cisco” RJ45 serial cable. I was lucky.

Plug in network and power, wait a bit, watch dhcpd logs for a new request to come in. There it is. ssh root@ and use the default passwrod, changeme. This lands at the ilom prompt, which is a little weird, but not too ridiculous. Let’s get the rest of this thing fired up. I recommend donning noise canceling headphones at this point. If the CS24 is a hairdryer, the T5120 is a vacuum cleaner.

Continue reading OpenBSD on a Sun T5120...

Posted 2014-03-18 17:00:20 by tedu Updated: 2015-01-08 18:05:37
Tagged: computers openbsd