General stuff, and the Matkakortti

A new machine was added today, a Sun Netra X1. It’s basically like a weak version of the Netra T1 that i got earlier. I’m not sure what i’ll do with it, but those Sun machines are pretty cool looking, so i couldn’t pass it by.

The specs are basically, a 500 Mhz Ultrasparc IIi, 512 RAM, and two IDE disks. No floppy or CD, and two NIC ports plus a serial interface and two USB ports. It could run something like Sun Solaris 8, 9 or 10, or it could run say, the Debian SPARC port. It would take up a light network task perhaps.

In other news, i’m thinking of ditching Windows 7, because it sucks. I’m serious. The transfer speeds with any drivers that are available, are appalling. I was moving a file and it was doing it at around 2.6 MB/s. Booting to ubuntu, i got speeds between 25 and 40MB/s. How can this be? And in Ubuntu, i don’t even have to install drivers, or think about write caching, or anything else. It just works. So i can’t understand how this shit can be that difficult? I have a modern motherboard, with a modern chipset. The disks are capable of more.

I’m probably replacing the P4 rig inside Agrippa, with the Athlon 64 3700+, simply because i think there’s something wrong with the IDE controller on that P4 board. The two drives in one of the IDE-busses keep disappearing randomly, which makes booting anything from them very challenging.

I’m working on making a server for the intranet, as Agamemnon took a place in the DMZ. The inside server would take care of DHCP allocation, and DNS. There would also be a pf machine (possibly one of the Sun machines?) that would handle traffic coming in and going out from my internal network.

I’m starting in earnest to investingate the Matkakortti system that we use here in Finland. It’s equivalent to the US and Chicago Metrocard system, except that system is primitive, and based on a magstripe and reader, where as Matkakortti uses an RFID chip to send and receive data.

What i’ll start doing now is the following: I’ll collect the numbers of cards and compare them to see if there’s a difference in the two main card types. The types are the personal card, which is bound (and contains) the information of the cardholder, and the non-user-specific card, which is more expensive, but can be transfered between people in a family for instance. The card numbers should contain some information, as it’s a very long string; a lot longer than the amount of cards in circulation.

The card is only used in the capital region. There has been talk of making it Country-Wide, but financial hurdles have so far prevented them from deploying it everywhere. Figures…

Another thing i want to investigate is, getting a device that can tell me if a frequency is transmitting or not. Then,  i could see how long the burst of data is between the reader and the card when you show it to the reader. The next part would be to get a reader, and look at the actual data, i.e. send out 13.xx mhz to the card, and watch what it sends back. It’s probably encrypted, but it can’t be too encrypted, since we are dealing with a very simple, quick system.

Also, i’d like to find out how the busses communicate with some central entity, in order to keep track of what’s on your card. A personal card can be recovered at certain service desks, and they have the exact up to date information on what is on your card. For a fee of 5 euro, to recoup the cost of the card, they’ll give you a clone of your lost/missing/stolen card, and deactivate the old card. This tells me they can do a system wide lock of a certain card number, as well as know the specifics of your card.

The readers themselves have a buffer, because i’ve encountered one beeping constantly and displaying a “Buffer full” message on the screen. The device was locked out and could not be used. Supposedly, the beeping only stopped once the thing was turned off, and then needed to be emptied/reset by a technician. I’ve only seen it once, which leads me to believe that there is a set buffer for a device, and that it perhaps uploads once or twice a day, depending on the line. But how does that work then? It wouldn’t be completey up to date in that case.

The other alternative is that it does send data constantly through some wireless link (the trains are bound to have a link for control purposes, some RF thing), and that the reader had just faulted somehow and not handled the buffer as usual, filling it up with people’s swipes.

It’s an interesting system. As an example, here are the three numbers displayed on the backside of my card:

In the top left edge: 042405535

In the middle: BUSCOM 0523

In the top right corner: F2463001111154998100

If you have a card and want to help me out, send me the info from your card to grelbar ( äet ) grelbar (dot) net.


When you have a powerful processor such as the AMD Phenom, you really want to use the full fucking force of that thing. It’s kind of like keeping a Ferrari in the garage the whole year if you don’t.

So i figured, how much difference would it make, if you benchmarked one core (out of four), versus the full four cores. I ran some tests using John The Ripper, which should be fairly good at loading the processor, as it’s mostly just grunt-work. I added on the MPI patch, which allows you to use the mpich2 framework to run John on multiple processors/threads and even on a cluster of machines over the network.

The result on one core was i think 4400 raw MD5 hashes per second (correct me if i’m wrong here), where as on all four cores, using 8 threads, the result was an impressing 27400 hashes per second. I have no idea how it technically works, but i can say from the ./john –test benchmark mode that it was indeed faster.

Comparing to an older machine, Agamemnon, which was two 3.0 Ghz Xeon’s (the first 64 bit ones i think), the result on both cores, 4 threads, was ~11 000 hashes per second.

It was nice seeing all four cores at 100% load for the duration of the test. Normally, just one is used, and the others do “something”, between 0-20% in load, while one core is used more fully.

To run john the ripper like this, i did the following (i’ll document this here, because MPI’s site didn’t have all that good a documentation):

  1. Use your favorite package-manager to download at least OpenSSL, and the mpich libraries (do a search, and get the ones listed -dev), or download and compile if you do it that way
  2. Download and compile john the ripper, with all necessary patches (such as the MPI and Jumbo-patch). Be sure to use the machine-type as correctly as possible when you issue make, e.g. make clean linux-x86-64, for a 64 bit version. Issuing the make command alone will give you a list of the supported architechtures.
  3. Download and compile the mpich2 set. Download any dependencies, should you need them.
  4. After this, create in your home directory the file .mpd.conf, and chmod it to 600.
  5. Start mpd using mpd &
  6. Go to the run directory under the John main directory, and issue for instance mpiexec -n 8 ./john –test . This will run the benchmark mode of John the Ripper, using the mpiexec plaform, and running 8 processes. Depending on your processor, you may want to change this number.
  7. PROFIT!

New Additions to La Familia

Oh and what a great day it is. Why, you may ask? Well the reason is rather simple. I’ve got new hardware.

Let me lay it down in terms that are easy to comprehend. Three new machines, all of them in working condition, some perhaps in need of cleaning or minor overhauls, but three solid machines none the less. I’ll post pictures tomorrow or something. It’s getting rather late, and i don’t wanna crack out the camera anymore.

The machines will be named according to Babylon 5 space-ship names. No, i don’t have a series going, i just pick whatever sounds cool. I have one other space-ship named computer from before, my Sun Netra T1, called Sulaco, after the ship in Aliens. The new computers, in order of greatness are: Agamemnon, Agrippa, and Damocles. Let’s break those down in to main specs:

Agamemnon: This is a very nice piece of work. An HP Proliant ML350, that hosts two 3.0 Ghz Xeon procecssors, and 4 gigs of DDR. It all sits in a sleek dark grey case, that really looks like a server. It has two redundant power supplies, and a four disk RAID array.

Agrippa: A custom built “server”. Actually it’s just an old workstation. A 2.8 Ghz Pentium 4, with 2GB or RAM, sitting in a nice Antec Full Tower. It has five disks. Nothing fancy, but it has a nice case!

Damocles: This is an interesting little thing. It’s a Sun Blade 100. Despite the name, it’s not a Blade-server (i wish it were, trust me!), but a Sun workstation, that has a 64-bit Sun UltraSPARC IIi, running at 500Mhz. In a previous life, it used to run backups or something. It looks pretty cool, and i think i’ll put something like OpenSolaris (if it fits) on the machine, or.. just try something neat.

So that concludes today’s hardware roundup. Tomorrow: pictures of these puppies, and maybe i’ll have made up some kind of uses for these. I’m pretty certain Agamemnon will replace Dorsia as the main server on the network for a few reasons. It’s more modern, eats less power, and it’s quite a bit more silent than the 6 disk Dell Poweredge, which can be a noisy bitch. Agrippa will probably be converted in to a test workstation for the network, with a nice amount of memory and HD. Damocles on the other hand will become some secondary side-project, that will take place at a later date.

From the left: Damocles, Agamemnon and Agrippa
From the left: Damocles, Agamemnon and Agrippa

Plantronics 925 Bluetooth handsfree

At work today, i was tasked connecting a US bought (AT&T i was told) Plantronics 925 bluetooth headset, with a Finnish bought Nokia E71. This is an easy howto, to start with, so don’t expect magic. To connect the two in a bluetooth pair, you need to power on the Plantronics headset. This happens by pressing the multifunction button, that has the plantronic logo on it. You need to press it, and hold it for a good 5+ seconds. First, it turns on, displaying a blue light. Keep holding the button, until the device starts blinking in an alternating red and blue. This is the bluetooth-pairing mode, and the only state where you can even find the device.

This is only necessary for the initial pairing of device and headset. After this, it’s enough to just turn it on, by pressing and holding until the first blue light.

Your phone will ask for a pin-code, which in plantronic devices appears to be 0000 by default. Not sure you can change it, as the headset lacks any sophisticated controls, or screen. Once you have entered the four-zero pin-code, the devices will be paired, and you will be asked to confirm whether it’s okay to automatically establish the connection in the future.

It is done

Phenom II X4 940!

Windows 7 running on the Quad Core Phenom II

Windows 7 running on the Quad Core Phenom II

CPU-Z output on my new puppy

The Continuity Factor

My main machine, Continuity is being upgraded quite heavily. I’ve purchased three new parts for it:

This will make it in to a pretty sweet fucking rig. The only problem now is the graphics, which is currently handled by a PNY Geforce 8800 GTS 640MB, which isn’t the latest spec., but will handle itself quite nicely. Maybe before assembly (or *at*) i will get a new card, perhaps something int he new 200 series of Geforce.

I tend to want to support Nvidia, because they have far better drivers in gnu/linux, than for instance AMD (who bought ATI a while back, as you might recall). Radeon’s usually offer better bang for the buck (and my motherboard offers Crossfire, instead of Nvidia’s SLI so..), but since the support is so lowsy, Nvidia gets my money.

The operating systems currently installed are Windows 7 RC x64, and Ubuntu 9.04.