Archive for the ‘linux’ Category

How to use a broken IBM Thinkpad T43 for something useful using puppy linux.

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

I recently got my hands on a IBM Thinkpad T43. Unfortunately it was broken. More specifically the connector between the mainboard and the harddrive had problems.

IBM T43 connector (broken)

I googled a bit and discovered, that this was a known problem. The laptop worked fine, if I put pressure on the right spot on the case of the Thinkpad. Otherwise it would not detect and/or spin up the harddrive. I tried to fix it by re-soldering the connector and using some two-component glue to fixate the connector. I did not succeed :-/

So then what? Throw out the laptop? Or? … I decided to make a project out of it.

A laptop without storage is useless. Due to the broken connector, I could not use a harddrive. I did not want to use a cdrom as it is a slow medium. That left me with a USB flash drive as the only option. It would be a clumsy solution just to plug a USB flash drive into the laptop and be done with it, so I chose to solder a USB flash directly onto the mainboard.

First I stripped a standard 1GB USB Flash from its case and detached the PCB from the USB connector using a soldering iron

Stripped USB flash

After that I soldered 5 wires onto the PCB of the laptop and used one of the holes in the PCB used for assembly as a pass through hole. I initially used 4 wires as the USB connector only had 4 pins, but that was not enough. More on that later.

Wires soldered onto mainboard

Having soldered the wires onto to the mainboard, I now needed to solder the other ends onto to the PCB of the USB flash. That went fairly smoothly

Wires soldered onto flash

Before powering on anything, I used a multimeter to check for bad solderjoins and shorts. I found neither.

Checking for shorts using digital multimeter

Luckily I had a Linux based rescue distribution installed on the USB flash drive, so I just booted that to see if the operation on the T43 was a success. As can be seen below it worked just fine. Well, sort of fine, but more on that in a moment.

Testbooting the flashdrive

Almost done now. I just needed to assemble the laptop again, leaving the USB Flash inside.

Ready to wrap up

Closing the lid on the laptop, securing all the screws I had myself a working IBM Thinkpad T43. Or so I thought. When I tested the laptop thoroughly I discovered that the kernel ring buffer was filled with

hub 2-0:1.0: over-current change on port 1
hub 2-0:1.0: over-current change on port 2

That cryptic message just states that the USB device is drawing more power than it is allowed to by the USB specification. Or more precisely that the port on the USB hub inside the laptop is delivering more power than it was supposed to. It first that puzzled me. Then I read about the USB connector and realized my fail. The 4 wires of the USB connector consists of  VCC, GND, Data+ and Data –. Given both VCC and GND was part of the 4 pins I only soldered 4 pins. After seeing the problems above, I investigated the matter and found a reference to OverCurrent (OC) protection on the header itself. I thus soldered the 5th pin and the problem went away.

I now had a working IBM Thinkpad T43 with 1GB of flash storage. What should I use it for? I decided to use it for puppy linux. Primarily for two reasons.

  1. It appeared to be tailor made for small harddrives
  2. I had never tried it before

I downloaded the 106MB large iso file and burned it onto a CDrom. Now I faced the problem of installing puppy linux onto my flash without using a cdrom drive (as I found the laptop without one). Puppy linux made it quite easy. Using another computer I booted the cdrom. Installed puppy onto a spare flash drive. Booted that flash drive in my IBM Thinkpad T43 and pressed “install” once more, installing it onto the “internal” flash drive.

Booted into puppy linux

All done. Actually it takes quite some time to boot the machine, but that is primarily due to the bios insisting on searching for a harddrive. Unfortunately the IBM BIOS lacks the option to stop it from doing that. After the system is loaded however, it is lightning fast. Way faster than my IBM Thinkpad T400. This is due to the fact that puppy linux loads everything into a ramdisk, so starting program does not require any moving parts to be ready. Programs starts instantaneously. The whole experience just proves (once more), that the computers of today is severely I/O limited, but hopefully SSD will change that real soon now(tm)

Non-HP harddrives in an HP MSA20

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

A customer asked me if it was possible to use non-hp drives in an HP MSA20 as they costed a lot less than HPs own drives. I honestly said that it would require a POF. The customer accepted the initial expense of single 1TB SATA drive.  I fired up hpacucli to figure out what was up and down on this

=> ctrl ch="mirror" show config detail
physicaldrive 1:1
Box: 1
Bay: 1
Status: OK
Drive Type: Data Drive
Interface Type: SATA
Size: 1000.2 GB
Firmware Revision: HPG1
Serial Number: 9QJ2B4GD
Model: HP GB1000EAFJL
SATA NCQ Capable: False

As HP does not make harddrives, but uses OEM drives with custom firmware I had to figure out what types of drives was in there. The easiest solution would be to shut the box down and pull out a drive to inspect. Having dealt with HP quite a lot, I know that they also remark the drives, so I would probably not be able to see what types of drives was in there, leaving me with guessing if I choose to go that route.

Instead I opted for figuring out what type of drive it was likely to be based on the firmware.  I googled a bit and found that the MSA20 could support up to 1TB disks. A bit more googling yielded this advisory from HP about upgrading firmware on Seagate drives to HPG6. Based on the age of the MSA20 in question, the age of the 1TB HP disks we already had in them, I decided it was most likely to be Baracuda 7200.11 drives that HP utilized for this and thus we ordered one of those.
Drive arrived. We put it in. Rescanned and lo and behold:

physicaldrive 1:6
Box: 1
Bay: 6
Status: OK
Drive Type: Data Drive
Interface Type: SATA
Size: 1000.2 GB
Firmware Revision: CC38
Serial Number:             9VP4D0ZA
Model: Seagate ST31000528AS
SATA NCQ Capable: False

A non-HP drive working. We have now placed an order for 19 x 1TB Seagate drives.

Your millage may wary if you try this. It is also worth mentioning that it would be an option to test non-seagate disks and/or bigger disks. Beware of the heat and power requirements though! HP themselves only sells the MSA20 with upto 1TB disks.

Finally for the record, it should be state that this was on an MSA20 with this firmware level:

MSA20 in mirror
 Bus Interface: SCSI
 Serial Number: PAAAC0PMQTR7V0
 Chassis Serial Number: E01RMLJ17M
 Chassis Name: mirror
 RAID 6 (ADG) Status: Enabled
 Controller Status: OK
 Chassis Slot: 2
 Hardware Revision: Rev A
 Firmware Version: 2.08
 Rebuild Priority: Medium
 Expand Priority: Medium
 Surface Scan Delay: 3 secs
 Cache Board Present: True
 Cache Status: OK
 Accelerator Ratio: 50% Read / 50% Write
 Drive Write Cache: Disabled
 Read Cache Size: 56 MB
 Write Cache Size: 56 MB
 Total Cache Size: 112 MB
 Chassis Slot 2 Battery Info
 Battery Pack Count: 2
 Battery Status: OK
 Host Bus Adapter Slot: Slot Unknown
 Host Bus Adapter Port: 1
 SATA NCQ Supported: False

Virtual interfaces under linux.

Friday, January 15th, 2010

As with other operating systems it is possible to bring multiple service ip-addresses online under one physical NIC under linux. This is just at brief howto on doing it.


sudo vi /etc/network/interfaces
# The primary network interface
auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static
# The first virtual interface
auto eth0:1
iface eth0:1 inet static

After you have edited that file, issue

sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart

RHEL (Redhat)/Centos:

cd /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts
 sudo cp ifcfg-eth0 ifcfg-eth0:0
 sudo vi ifcfg-eth0:0

 cat ifcfg-eth0:0

 > DEVICE=eth0:0
 > GATEWAY=192.168.100
 > ONBOOT=yes

After that, issue

sudo service network restart