The End

I decided to cease posting here and move to Why? Because I publish more via the Gopher protocol than the HTTP/HTTPS one. And converting from Gopher to http must be done externally.

I might still publish something here (from time to time). But my post frequency is so low that it will probably make no difference…

The End

Blackbird Saga: 11. Sound of Silence

My new 3U CPU heatsink arrived today. This is the big one with a fan. I ordered it the early August, the Raptor needed its usual two week to process the order (well, they still are a tiny company so they are not as fast as big ones), the USPS was fast this time but our Post Service was even slower than usually.

Anyway, the thing arrived. So I removed the older 2U heatsink and installed this new one. Of course I didn’t re-seated the PCU so the system refused to start. So I re-seated all things once more (including the RAM as it is placed close to the CPU socket) and it started to work!

Well, temperatures. My previous situation was 61-63oC in idle or light use (with CPU governor “powersave”) and up to 85-87oC in full use (with “ondemand”).
Now I have 51-52oC in normal use (with teh “ondemand” governor). By “normal use” I mean also running of a current, un-optimised Firefox with Javascript-burden WWW pages. I saw temperatures over 70oC in full use.

For your information, current temperatures (when I’m writing this post) are (as obtained from “sensors” command):

Chip 0 Core 0: +52.0°C (lowest = +25.0°C, highest = +67.0°C)
Chip 0 Core 4: +52.0°C (lowest = +26.0°C, highest = +68.0°C)
Chip 0 Core 8: +51.0°C (lowest = +25.0°C, highest = +66.0°C)
Chip 0 Core 12: +51.0°C (lowest = +27.0°C, highest = +69.0°C)
Chip 0 DIMM 12 : +52.0°C (lowest = +29.0°C, highest = +54.0°C)
Chip 0 Nest: +51.0°C (lowest = +27.0°C, highest = +60.0°C)
Chip 0 VRM VDD: +55.0°C (lowest = +31.0°C, highest = +61.0°C)

Please don’t ask me why the only RAM module is called "DIMM 12". I don’t know.

But the noise is different. The new CPU fan is very powerfull and noisy – it runs at full speed during start and increase of noise is noticeable (it’s much louder) than it was just with three case fans. But after that the system is quiet. Fans are running on slow speeds and they are even not noticeable. At least I cannot hear them. Previously the fans ran on pretty high speed so the system was near as noisy as my SGI O2 is (an its 10-years old and dirty fan is not really not quiet!). Now it is the quietest system in house. Even our GPD Pocket laptops are much more noisy (not speakting about the ORDOID or about the iMac G5).

So this piece of cra.., err, aluminium with the attached fan might be expensive but it worth its price!

Resume: If you are going to buy the Raptor Blackbird then you should buy the 3U heatsink and not the cheaper 2U one!

Blackbird Saga: 11. Sound of Silence

BlackBird Saga: 10. From O2 to Blackbird

I have been started the transition from my SGI O2 (with the IRIX 6.5) to my brand new BlackBird (with the Fedora Linux, now in version 30). As I expected it is not (and will) not be smooth nor easy. At the moment I use the O2 for most of time and the BlackBird only when I need more computing power (and yes, also when I need to add a WordPress post). I ahve been trying to find good substitutes for various pieces of software which I have been using for years. Below is a short summary of things which are already done.

It is good to remember that the BlackBird is a POWER9 computer (ppc64le) not an Intel/AMD-based PC (i386 or x68_64) nor my favorite MIPS (misp/mipsel). It has its (big) advantages but it also can make it less compatible with some codes.

Mate Terminal with the IRIX-like colors

  • My own uFEM software (so Gtk+-2.0 + OpenGL 1.1 + libgtkglext) – done. Surprisingly, there were no issues as all of the necessary libraries are still supported. It might change in near future, though.
  • My own MicroDef software (so Gtk+-2.0 + libGD). The Gtk+ is the same as in the uFEM case but the GD was not in the Fedora for some reason. But it compiles without issues here. Done.
  • Web browsing: There is a Firefox (66 at the moment) which is not fully optimized, so some ugly, JavaScript-burden pages are not as fast as one might expect. But this is a minor problem of some porly made pages (one of the biggest Czech e-shops is a typical example). I don’t use services like Facebook or Twitter so I don’t know how responsible they are. The second problem is that I have to use the Chromium/Chrome browser to upload stuff to my calculator. There is no such browser for Fedora on ppc64le, yet (but I can use my GPD Pocket for this task). So partially done.
  • LaTeX/csLaTeX/Beamer and so: I have had to finally abandon the old csLaTeX here and use the Babel package which all normal human beings have using for ages. So I have to update all my files to that. Fortunately, it’s a change of 2 \usepackage{} statements and it also works on my older TeXlive instalation on the O2. Done.
  • Image viewer: I used to use the GQview port on IRIX. There is an actively developed fork called Geeqie for the Linux. Done.
  • Vim/gVim -> Vim/gVim. Done.
  • Gnuplot -> Gnuplot. Done.
  • GNU Octave -> GNU Octave. Done.
  • XFig -> XFig. Done.
  • Terminal Emulator. XTerm -> XTerm (even the Tektronics mode still work!). SGI Winterm -> Mate Terminal. I only adjusted the colors and change the font. But I’m not happy from any available font and I’m still have been searching for a better one. Work in progress.

More on this topic later…

BTW, an archive of this blog can be also found at That archive is much more friendly to old computers and browsers. Also a WWW version of my Gopher Phlog can be found at that place. Many thanks to Logout for them!

BlackBird Saga: 10. From O2 to Blackbird

BlackBird Saga: 9. Temperature

Temperature outside is not normal for Central Europe summer(31 degrees of Celsius) but I meat temperature on the BlackBird chips. The system is meant to be small (miniATX) and the default heat sink is passive, without the fan. My computer case is the Fractal Design CORE 1100 with one 120mm fan. I added a second 120mm one (it can be mounted on the side of the case – it’s located over Blackbird’s PCIe slots not over the CPU) and the results were not satisfying as usual CPU temperature was over 80 degrees of Celsius. It seems to be normal but I am not sure if it isn’t too much. And I am not sure what maz happen if the system will be under continuous load.

The case manual suggests that I can add a 80mm or 92mm fan to the back of the case. The 120mm one does not fit here. But the manual also says that I have to use or two 120mm fans (in the front and on the side) or two 92mm ones (onth the front and at the back of the case) and do not mix them. At the moment I the default 120mm one (front fan) and the new 92mm (at teh back) ad waiting for the second 92mm one.

The temperatures are about 75 degrees in idle and over 85~87 degrees under load (I use Fedora 30 with the MATE and CPU governor is “ondemand”). Most time I use a WWW browser, the Vim, some office tools and so. I’m running the LaTeX or the GCC randomly but not so often. So (except the Firefox) the system is not so much loaded (just now).

So I tried to play with the system a bit (help for tah is here). I changed the governor to “powersave”

# cpupower frequency-set -g powersave

And do I need all 16 threads? No, 4 should be enough for now. So I allowed just one thread per CPU core:

# ppc64_cpu --smt=off

Well, and do I really need all FOUR cores? Two should be enough:

# ppc64_cpu --cores-on=2

And now the temperature is 70~73 degrees for all time. And the system is still fast enough. And when I will have to to something bigger the I will set the “ondemand” or “performance” governor and make all 16 threads available.

But I’m going to test the new fans setup first…

BlackBird Saga: 9. Temperature

BlackBird Saga: 8. Desktop

So the Blackbird is installed and configured (at least partially). Thus I have re-organised my desk – I put my ODROID desktop to the storage and displaced the SGI O2.

Blackbird Desktop Screenshot

The O2 is still my main computer but I wish to use the Blackbird for computationally intensive tasks. I also have to ad some hardware – there is no internal speaker so I must find suitable external ones. Also the Radeon WX4100 is still not installed. It is not necessary for browsing the web or for computations but 3D card will be essential for data visualizations.

In the future it may replace my O2 completely but at the moment I don’t think that it is possible. I first have to find some equivalent to tools that I have been using on my O2 (even for open source ones because some of them don’t compile on modern Linux systems).

I have been using the Fedora Linux. As a long-time Ubuntu/Debian user I am bit surprised by many things. I don’t say that it does not work (because it does very well – the “dnf” tool is easy to use for example) but I miss some software packages. So I have had to compile myself these things:

All of them even in the ubuntu. With some others I have had no luck, for example with the “x2x” which is essential for me. I also have to try the SPRNG library. And things like the csLaTeX work with issues (well, it says that it’s obsolete and it should not be used for new documents, but it also fails on my old documents).

So I still have to do a lot of things here…

Update: The x2x actually compiles without issues. The necessary dependencies are listed in the file here. And SPRNG5 compiles well, too. But I will have to update my code to this version (I have been using the version 2).

BlackBird Saga: 8. Desktop

BlackBird Saga: 7. New DRAM

Yesterday I finally installed a RAM stick that seems to be working (a 16GB Hynix of the type listed at the Raptor Wiki). It seems that it works in the A slot instead of the B which is recommended in the manual. For my great surprise the system finally started up to Petitboot. So I connected a USB stick with the Fedora 30 and tried to boot. It worked but installed just a base server system where the only configured package repository was that USB stick. I have not used RedHat/Fedora from the RedHat Linux 6.2 so I was a bit helpless here. Thus I tried to boot a Void Linux CD. It booted and it seems to be OK (well, I should read the manual first as it claims to be very different from mainstream Linux distros).

At the moment I decided to use the Fedora (which seems to be well supported here until I will sure that the whole computer works well. So I reinstalled the Fedora once more and this time with online package repository configured. I have not selected the Fedora Workstation but a system with simple window managers and I also have added some desktop environments (the MATE and the GNOME).

The installation required some time and then it ended in a working system with X11. The MATE is fast and the GNOME is fast, too (on the X11 – I still have not installed the discrete graphics so I don't want to try the Wayland).

There are no screenshots so far, sorry. I still dind’t modified the xorg.conf so my screen is still just 1024×768 so it does not look promising.

BlackBird Saga: 7. New DRAM

XTerm does graphics! (sort of)

As everyone know, the XTerm is a terminal emulator. It emulates (among others) the ancient DEC VT102 text-only terminal. But that’s not all. It can also do some graphics because it can also emulate the Tektronix 4014 terminal. And these Tektronix ones were actualy able not only to do text but also some points and lines! The main limitation is that Tektronix emulation is “black and white” only (it recognises just two XTerm colors: the foreground one and the background one).

This emulation is a bit limited but it’s fully functional. To enable the Tektronix emulation mode it is only needed to use the -t command line parameter:

xterm -t

Then is is useful to set the TERM variable to something like “tek”,
“4014” or “tek4014” (the “tek” one worked for me very well):

export TERM=tek

By the way, this stuff also worked for remote connection. So you can set the Tektronix mode for your local XTerm and generate graphics at the opposite end of your connection. For example you can run the Gnuplot on the SDF and see the graphs on your local XTerm.

The Gnuplot can produce results in Tektronix-compatible format. Just
set the proper terminal:

export TERM=xterm

There are also other Gnuplot terminals (“vttek”, “tek40xx” and so) but the “xterm” one is the best suited for the XTerm – it actually opens two XTerm windows. The first is the Tektronix emulation one for graphics and the second is a VT102-compatible one for the Gnuplot command interface. So you can work in the same way as if you are using the default X11 output window. The main difference is that thus way is more resources-friendly and work wonderfully also for slow remote connections (and there is no need for the remote server to have anything realted to the X11/Xorg. The SSH/telnet connection is just enough).

Gnuplot in Tektronix emulation of tXTerm

There are other programs which can save in Tektronix-compatible format. Their output can be plotted with help of the “plot” program from the GNU Plotutils (the old UNIX “plot” or “tplot” program should work, too):

cat yourfile.out | plot -Ttek

The Plotutils also include modern versions of other classical UNIX tools. There is a “graph” program, for example. But you can find more in this great
old tutorial
from the Oregon State University. The whole “Coping with Unix, a Survival Guide” tutorial is great reading, by the way.

I have to thank to the Mastodon user niconiconi who tooted about this long-forgotten ability of the XTerm. I was aware of that but never tried it before.

XTerm does graphics! (sort of)

WordPress on PowerBook

This is just a test how the contemporary WordPress behaves in the TenFourFox on a G4 PowerBook (it’s the fastest model of the PB, that 1.67GHz with DDR2 memory, and with the OS 10.5).

Wordpress on PowerPC in 2019 screenshot

Well, it starts with a big warning about old and unsecured FireFox browser. Then it worked rather normally (except the notice that I should switch to a new block editor – which I don’t want to do for obvious reasons). This “old” interface even does not requre the CPU to run at full speed for the most of time but only when one uses functions like the “Save Draft” or the “Preview”. Well, it’s a bit better than I have hoped and it behaves definitely better than on it behaves on my ODROID/Ubuntu desktop (which is a 32-bit 8-core ARM computer). But it probably does not mean that 14 years old PowerPC laptop is better than a semi-modern ARM one. It means that Cameron has been doing excellent work in making the TenFourFox and in optimizing it for these old PowerPC machines..

WordPress on PowerBook

BlackBird Saga: 6. First Try

Sooo, I have had the parts so the only remaining thing is put them together. It has been sounding easy, right?

Well, there have been some problems:

  • The mainboard has “SuperMicro-compatible” front panel connector. My computer case has no sort of thing. So lot of LED indicators cannot be connected.
  • The CPU heatsink is special. You need a hex driver to secure it. Fortunately I ho the smaller 2U heatsink so I was able to use my tools which. I use to service my bicycle.
  • The SSD and the SATA: the Raptor does not ship any SATA cables with the mainboard. And nor the case nor the SSD package included one. It might sound strange for an average PC user but I have no single SATA cable at home (well, something should be to be inside my old Sun Ultra 20 but I don’t want to remove anything from a complete system). This I have to buy some.
  • The USB. The case was two separate connectors for the front USB ports: a USB3 one which can be easily connected to the Blackbird and a USB2 one. The USB2 one has internal connector button the mainboard is only a normal external connector. So adapter is needed here.
  • The case fans. There was one 120mm fan already in the case. But it seems to me that it’s not sufficient (the CPU has passive cooling only) and it has only the 3-pin connector so there is no speed regulation. I might use it for now but I definitively have to order at leas a second one with 4-pin connector. If it will work well then I will probably replace also the original fan with such thing.
  • The optical drive. It’s probably not necessary as this will not be a multimedia system. Anyway, I have rather big collection of music CDs and also some computer stuff is still available on CDs so such drive would be useful. There are two positions for drives so I will consider to use the second one for a backup tape drive. It’s an UNIX (err, Linux..) workstation, after all.
  • The RAM. I have found none of the exact models that are listed on the Raptor Wiki so I have got ones with similar part. And if of course the system refuses to start because of some strange DRAM Error. So they are NOT compatible. Well, for now is is a dead end. I have to obtain a compatible one.

Update: I got a new memory stick. A second-hand Hynix which should be 100% compatible. It may be but this particular stick seems to be dead (the system does not recognise it at all).

BlackBird Saga: 6. First Try