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The new domains, as the name implies, are dedicated for discussions by Iraqis, to Iraqis, and about Iraqi matters. If the forums build enough traffic, I will move them out to a dedicated hosting plan on the IraqiForums.com domain.
Ok, this is not a brand new idea for a new product. What I am trying to do here is find a DYI version of acommercial product.
Such a device could be used in the car, turning it into a mobile hotspot, or in any place where there is network coverage for instant online capabilities for a group of users. Other uses would be to provide the ability to use a WiFi VOIP phone to make cheap VOIP calls while on the move, or even providing life feeds of a web camera.
The idea is to make a small device, that is capable of operating on battery power for several hours, and that is small enough to fit in your pocket, well, it will have to be a rather large pocket. The final device should have a DHCP server and preferably able to do MAC filtering to keep unwanted visitors out of the network.
The above criteria led me to think about using a PDA, either with built in WiFi and a CF slot, a PDA with an SD and CF slots (like the Sharp Zaurus which runs linux natively), or probably an iPAQ with the dual PCMCIA sleeve (which is my favorite solution), and using that CF slot with a CF to PC Card adapter to (no need in the case of the iPAQ with the PCMCIA sleeve) and one of those wireless WAN (WWAN) PC Cards (like UMTS, EDGE, EvDO, or WCDMA) to the mix. In the case of the dual PCMCIA sleeve on an iPAQ, one slot would be used for a WiFi PC card, and the second for the wireless WAN data card.
In an ideal world, this would be all that need to be done to get the router, but this is the real world, so there have to be some hardles to oercome. The thing is, Micro$ofts Pocket PC (or Windows Mobile) operating system doesn’t come with TCP/IP routing capabilities, like its desktop windows siblings.
From my readings, I doubt that routing capabilities can be added to any PPC powered PDA in the form of a third party application, but would LOVE to be proven wrong by any PPC developer out there.
So, the other way I could come up with to do this on PPC OS is by running it as a proxy. Not my ideal way for solving this, because it won’t be a router anymore. It will be a WWLAN to WiFi proxy. But even this turned to be not that easy. Apparently, there arent many people who want to run their PDAs as a proxy for anything (duh). The only “proxy” I could find for PPC was PocketPCProxy, whose development is at alpha stage at best.
Other than the proxy program, the proxy PDA would need to run a DHCP server, so the clients would be able to get an IP address automatically once connected. But even then, the WiFi adapter on the PDA would still show as a client other devices search for it, rather than an access point, but I guess this is something that can be lived with, if everything else works as its supposed to.
So, in order to be able to turn an old PPC PDA into a proxy between your 3G network data plan, and your WiFi network, you would need to either write, or get someone to write you proxy server and DHCP server applications for Pocket PC. What a mess.
All this talk about network services (DHCP, IP routing, proxy) led me to think about Linux. After all, this is what linux is best at, networking.
For starters, there already are many PDAs that run Linux, and there is a linux “distro” for the iPAQ, so why not use any of these? While this would be more than ideal for running such a solution, and would put the solution back to being a router, the only hardle is the lack of supporting drivers for Linux, at least not any that I am aware of. Again, if anyone is aware of something that contradicts what I am saying, I would be glad to be proved wrong.
If any of the WWAN cards has Linux drivers, and someone had ported those drivers to a Linux PDA, then all that would be needed is to install iproute, and a dhcp server, which I don’t think is a hard thing to do.
And yet another addition to my portal, a new classifieds section. This section will be free of charge for all to advertise about anything as long as there is no offensive content.
The classifieds section can be found HERE.
And yet another addition to the blog. Today I finally set up a web proxy for all those who live in countries where internet access is filtered.
To access the new proxy, click HERE.
To start chatting click HERE.
I’ve uploaded a large group of avatars for use in forum accounts. To view the accounts, go to your personal profile, scroll down in the profile page and click on show gellery.
Today, I was finally able to finish setting up the forums section, which I am happy to announce that is up and running.
There arent many categories and topics currently in the forum, and I am still waiting for my first user (not counting me) to register. Hopefully, if and when I build a user base, I will start to adding more categories and discussion topics as needed.
Yesterday, after a few delays, I finally finished my build of LFS (Linux From Scratch) and was able to successfully boot and login into this build. If you know LFS, you will already know that this is nothing big. Its not like I made your next Redhat or Suse distro. For those who dont know what LFS is, its just a base system build entirely from source code which can be used as a basis to build a full distro (provided that you have the time and the huge processing power resources) or a small task specific linux system.
Currently, I am continuing with the BLFS (Beyond Linux From Scratch) trying to make that base system usable for some real world applications.
One thing I want to do is build a root filesystem image and upload it on this blog so anyone who wants a base linux system for use in building their own linux system from the ground can download it without the need to reinvent the wheel like I did. One issue I am facing, is that the image I am getting from using dd is the size of the partition on which the system was built, even though du’ing that partition will reveal that I am using only 413MBs of space (which IMO is still too large considering that this is just a base system that can’t do any real world task). As soon as I figure out a way to build an image that reflects the size of the actual system on the disk, I will zip it, and upload it somewhere here on the website.
Last week a new comer in the microprocessor design business, namely PA Semi, announced their PWRficient architecture product line, the first member of which will be the PA6T-1682M which should hit markets mid next year.
The PWRficient product line looks like an amazing piece of silicon on the paper. It integrates two Power PC cores, two DDR2 memory controllers, a nice 2MB shared L2 cache, FOUR Gigabit Ethernet controllers, TWO 10Gb Ethernet controllers, 8 PCIe controllers, TCP/IP acceleration, encryption engine, and an arsenal of system interconnects guaranteeing that no component of the PWRficient chip falls short on bandwidth. All that is packed in a chip that consumes an amazing 13W on average, and 25W of power max.
Although built on the POWER PC instruction set, itís not your standard PPC core. The cores were designed by the PA Semi engineers from the ground up. Each core has 64KB instruction and 64KB data caches, a 1024 entry deep TLB cache, a 14 stage integer pipeline, and a 19 stage FPU pipeline with VMX instructions.
One of the most interesting features of the PWRficient architecture is the CONEXANT interconnect crossbar. This crossbar connects the two PPC cores, the two memory controllers, and strangely enough the 2MB L2 cache with the IO bridge. On the other side of this bridge is the ENVOI interconnect which pulls together all the IO engines and interfaces on the chip including the various accelerators, IO cache, DMA engine, Gb and 10Gb Ethernet controllers, XOR RAID engine, PCIe controllers, and the SERDES lanes which provide the bandwidth for all those interfaces.
This brings us to discuss the SERDES lanes. SERDES stands for SERializer DESerializer, which pretty much means that it provides for high speed serial interfacing of the various components on the chip. On the PA6T-1682M there are 24 such lanes that are totally configurable. These lanes can be divided between the GbE, 10GbE, or the PCIe controllers anyway the user likes during startup time, or can be left to the system to decide the proper division of those lanes between used interfaces. The 10GbE controllers need 4 SERDES lanes each, the GbE need 1 SERDES lane, each PCIe controller requires one SERDES lane per 1x. The only limit the user has is the maximum 24 lanes, other than that, the user has total freedom on how to divide those 24 lanes between resources. You can easily have all four GbE interfaces used, and still have 20x PCIe lanes for all your needs.
Initially, the PA6T-1682M will ship at 2GHz, which according to PA Semi will provide for 1000SPECint and 2000SPECfp of processing power per core. Not quite shabby for an embedded solution.
Though the chip is aimed at embedded applications, the processing power provided by the chip, along with the ample and flexible IO options available would make for quite an impressive computing solution. For starters, it would make for a great server platform, especially in blades and in situations where physical size and power consumption figures are restricted. I think it wouldnít be hard to even integrate two independent systems based on the chip into one 1U rack (or even a 0.8U blade rack). The power requirements of the chip are low, while the level of system component integration is quite high, which means simpler system board layouts, fewer system components, smaller power supplies due to smaller power demands by the platform, and much smaller and more quite cooling solutions due low power figures for the chip.
Another possibility for the platform is the mobile market, since the platform features low power requirements, while integrating most components of the motherboard on a single chip. For starters, it removes the need for the north bridge. All you would need to put to have a full blown system is an IDE (or SATA) controller, a USB and firewire controller, audio codec, and most importantly a graphics engine chip. If a low power graphics solution is used, this platform could even yield higher performance per watt than Intelís Pentium-M based Centrino platform.
One key component for implementing this architecture in a server or mobile platform is OS support. While I donít think Microsoft will rush with a Windows version for the PWRficient based systems, Linux could easily be implemented here since we already have ports for the POWER PC architecture. Mac OS could also be a key player here, since it is at home with POWER PC, that is if apple decides to release a version for a PWRficient based platform.
I think this new architecture will make for a very powerful platform where a lot of system designers will come around. This is also boosted by the arsenal of big names PA Semi has hired to design the chip, most notably Dan Dobberpuhl, ex-Alpha and SiByte engineer, Jim Keller also of Alpha then AMD where he participated in the design of the K8. A late addition in the team was Pete Bannon, former Intel fellow who was on the Itanium team (hey, look at how Itanium performs), and an Alpha man before that.
Personally, I will be counting the days until this new architecture is lunched, and until there becomes available some sort of board using PWRficient which we can use to build a system around, hopefully at a low cost.