How Canonical automates Linux package compilation

pandaboard

What do you do when it’s time to port the most popular Linux distribution to a completely different architecture? Canonical employee [David Mandalla] works on their ARM development team and recently shared the answer to that question with his fellow Dallas Makerspace members.

Canonical needed a way to compile about 20,000+ packages for the ARM platform, however they did not want to cross-compile, which is quite time consuming. Instead, they opted to build a native solution that could handle the load while ensuring that all packages were compiled securely. To tackle this immense task, [David] and his team constructed a 4U server that runs 20 fully-independent ARM development platforms simultaneously.

The server is composed of 21 PandaBoards, small OMAP development boards featuring a dual-core ARM cortex processor with just about all the connectivity options you could possibly ask for. One board operates as the server head, keeping track of the other 20 modules. When someone requests server time to build a package, the main board checks for unused server, triggering a relay to reboot it before the server is automatically reimaged. Once the pristine, secure environment is ready to go, it’s handed off to the customer who requested it.

If you’re interested in learning more about the build process, [David] has put together a blog with additional details.

[Thanks Leland]

Webcam turned security cam with motion detected email notifications

[Sean] used his old webcam to assemble a closed circuit television feed for his home. He already had a server up and running, so this was just a matter of connecting a camera and setting up the software. He wasn’t satisfied by only having a live feed, so he decided to add a few more features to the system.

He started off by hanging a webcam near the front of his house. He mentions that he’s not sure this will last long exposed to the elements, but we think it’d be dead simple to build an enclosure with a resealable container and a nice piece of acrylic as a windows. But we digress…

The camera connects via USB to the server living in the garage. [Sean's] setup uses Yawcam to create a live feed that can be access from the Internet. The software also includes motion detection capabilities. Since he wanted to have push notifications when there was action within the camera’s view he also set up Growl alert him via his iOS devices. You can see [Sean] demonstrate his completed CCTV system in the video below the fold.

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DIY Low-power PSU for home server use

diy_pc_psu

[Viktor] decided to replace his old power hungry home server with a model that is much easier on the old electric bill. The new motherboard uses an Intel Atom chip and consumes far less power than its predecessor. He figured there was no reason to use a bulky ATX power supply when all he needed was 12V for the mainboard and a pair of 5V rails for his hard drives, so he decided to build a PSU himself.

He sourced a 100VA toroid transformer as the basis of the power supply due to its popularity with audio amp builders, adding a standard bridge rectifier and smoothing capacitor before regulating the DC output. A pair of switching regulators were added, one for the 6A, 12V, and a second for the 1.5A, 5V supply. The motherboard only requires about 18W at full tilt, so the PSU should be more than sufficient for his needs.

Schematics and board layouts are available for free on his site, if you are in the market for your own DIY low-power PSU.

Looking for more build to suit electronics?  Check out this DIY amp we featured just the other day.

[Thanks, Chris]

Internet controlled remote

How often does this happen to you? You’re leaving on a long trip, and half way there you remember the TV was left on. Never? Alright then, how about wanting to control an Xbox 360 from within the other room and you don’t have the remote. Still a rare occurrence?

Perhaps you have a better situation where an internet controlled IR remote, that can be programmed to work with any TV or IR accepting device, would be useful. [Nicholas McClanahan] starts off with USB Propeller from Parallax, adds an Ethernet module making a mini server, and ends with an IR LED and receiver. The code is nearly as simple being a combination of SPIN, Html, and JavaScript. All coming together under a nice website GUI that prompts for what IR signals to send. To make the project even more straightforward, [Nicholas] has included an Instructable as well. In the end though, while the hack is great, we’re still trying to find a decent enough use. Video after the rift.

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Serial port controlled CPU fan

[Christian] was running a Linux box as a home server but needed a way to quiet the noisy machine. Like many Linux servers, he’s using some pretty old hardware which doesn’t have an on-board header for the CPU fan which generates much of the unwanted sound. Those headers are nice because software can monitor the CPU and board temperature and adjust the fan accordingly.

[Christian's] solution was to use the serial port for the task. He built a small circuit in which serial pin 3 drives the base of a transistor, pin 5 provides ground, and a floppy drive power cable supplies 5 volts. From there he wrote a RUBY program to monitor the CPU temperature and generate a PWM signal on the serial port, throttling the fan speed as needed.

[CC Photo Credit: Garrette via Flickr]

Server enclosure from 22 rolls of tape

Who needs metal, wood, or acrylic if you are talented with duct tape? This server is housed in a 20-sided enclosure made entirely of duct tape, 22 rolls of it. A team of seven completed the project after eight build session over the course of about ten days. It’s currently in use at this year’s MillionManLan 9 as confirmed by this incredibly boring live feed.

However whimsical, we do appreciate the build process. Tubes are rolled until they reach the specified thickness, then cut to length on a chop saw. More sticky stuff is applied to the joints and piece by piece the frame comes together. From the diagram laying off to the side in one of the pictures it looks like they did the smart thing by designing this in CAD before getting their hands dirty sticky.

GuruPlug, the next generation of SheevaPlug

Meet GuruPlug, an all-in-one server that is now available for pre-order. This is the next generation of the popular SheevaPlug that features some added goodies. The base model sells for the same $99 and appears to have the same specs as the original but for $30 more, the GuruPlug Server PLUS moves to 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports, one eSATA connector, and built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. All of this for $129 and it only pulls 5 watts? Wow.

Update: Thanks to [Foerdi] and to [Phil Burgess] for the pointing out that the hardware diagram on the features page shows WiFi and Bluetooth for both models.

[Thanks Chris]