Dell – Please don’t waste my life

This morning a drive failed in a customers Poweredge 2950.

Openmanage reports it as failed, it has an orange light on the caddy, its a failed disk, nuff said.

For the record its a 160Gig Sata 7200 drive worth 2/3 of  naff all.

Phone Dell, all ready with disk in hand, service tag. After 20 minutes on hold I get an engineer who wants me to put it back in the server to gather him some diagnostic logs and waste more of my life in him not believing me.

I say I have no intention of wasting more of my life to appease him, and please send me a new disk, now.

He takes my details and tells me someone will call me back.


Ubuntu 10.x, NVidia HDMI Audio Out

I recently finally managed to get my mits on the Lenovo Q150, the idea to use it as media PC.

Obviously I wanted to run a breed of Linux on it, so that I could run XBMC on it quickly, and have now fast access to my NAS using NFS.

I decided to run with Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx).

Loose Lynx installed onto the Q150 with no probs and everything worked perfectly except I couldn’t get any audio out via HDMI, very frustrating.

A quick Google and it seems a lot of people have had the same problem. I read everything on the subject and there are various answers and workarounds, but no-one appears to have got to the nub of the problem.

Anyway heres how I solved it (in the end!).

The first problem is that the version of Alsa drivers that ship with Loose Lynx don’t see the NVidia HDMI Audio only the onboard Intel card.

You can see this with:

jack@media-3:~$ aplay -l
**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: Intel [HDA Intel], device 0: ALC662 rev1 Analog [ALC662 rev1 Analog]
 Subdevices: 1/1
 Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: Intel [HDA Intel], device 1: ALC662 rev1 Digital [ALC662 rev1 Digital]
 Subdevices: 1/1
 Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: NVidia [HDA NVidia], device 3: NVIDIA HDMI [NVIDIA HDMI]
 Subdevices: 1/1
 Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: NVidia [HDA NVidia], device 7: NVIDIA HDMI [NVIDIA HDMI]
 Subdevices: 1/1
 Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: NVidia [HDA NVidia], device 8: NVIDIA HDMI [NVIDIA HDMI]
 Subdevices: 1/1
 Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: NVidia [HDA NVidia], device 9: NVIDIA HDMI [NVIDIA HDMI]
 Subdevices: 0/1
 Subdevice #0: subdevice #0

If you haven’t got at least Alsa 1.0.23, you won’t see the NVidia [HDA NVidia] devices.

There are two solutions to this:

  1. Upgrade your version of Alsa to at least 1.0.23, this guide here will show you how.
  2. Take a chance on the new version of Ubuntu 10.10 – Maverick Meerkat. You can read how to here.

Personally I upgraded my Alsa under Licky Lynx, then later upgraded to Masterbating Meerkat Alpha 3 – and have had no issues.

The next problem you may face is that no matter what combination of options you select on the audio control panel, you still can’t get any sound, which is a touch frustrating.

You will notice that aplay -l, shows 4 sub devices, the first thing you need to ensure is that none of the 4 devices are muted, you can do this using alsamixer (where the number after c is the card number of the NVidia audio shown by aplay -l):

jack@media-3:~$ alsamixer -c1

You should see the 4 devices (S/PDIF, S/PDIF1, S/PDIF2, S/PDIF3), make sure they are all unmuted (press m to unmute a given device), unmuted devices show as ‘oo’ rather than ‘MM’.

Next you need to identify which of the 4 sub devices is actually chucking audio out of the HDMI (I have no idea why there are 4 sub devices and only one works).

I did this from the shell using mplayer to specifically select each device in turn, my sub devices were 1.3, 1.7, 1.8 and 1.9 (which corresponds to the output on aplay -l).

mplayer -ao alsa:device=hw=1.3 test.mp3
mplayer -ao alsa:device=hw=1.7 test.mp3
mplayer -ao alsa:device=hw=1.8 test.mp3
mplayer -ao alsa:device=hw=1.9 test.mp3

Obviously substitute the test.mp3 for something thats available  on your system. mplayer in all cases will appear to be playing the track, however only one sub device will actually make any sound. In my case this was 1.9.

You can at this point manually force most applications to output to device 1.9.

However the best answer is to encourage pulseaudio to use 1.9 by default, so:

jack@media-3:/$ sudo nano /etc/pulse/

About half way down you should find where you can change the default device whatever works for you:

load-module module-alsa-sink device=hw:1,9

Save that and reboot.

You may still have to play with sound preferences a bit, confusingly you need to set the output to High Definition Audio Controller not High Definition Audio Controller Digital Stereo (HDMI).


Vyatta – Telecity Zuid-Oost Amsterdam Deployment

Steve and I recently popped over to the Netherlands to deploy Vyatta for a Dutch IT services company ‘Danego‘, Danego do a lot of managed hosting for their clients, and retained us to deploy Vyatta.

They are using Vyatta for:

  1. BGP Endpoints – one for each of their two upstream providers.
  2. External firewalling.
  3. Internal subnetting and routing ‘router on a stick’ style using VLANs.
  4. All clustered for failover and total routing and switch level resilience.

Router Hardware

Typically we deploy Vyatta on Dell R200s (what were 860s), Danego however managed to get a stunning deal out Dell on 2950s, so the deployment was to what we thought would be similiar hardware to the 860s, Dual Core processor, 4Gigs of ram, hardware sata raid.

Interestingly though Vyatta wouldn’t recognise a mirrored container on the SAS 6i controller in the 2950 despite working fine on the 6i controller found in the R200s which we have used many times before. Howevr it would recognise and deploy happily to a single drive not configured as RAID.

It of course transpires that Dell use completely different chip sets for the 6i on the R200 and the 2950…

Anyway, we tracked the problem down and discovered it was due to be fixed in the next release of Vyatta (at the time we were running 3.0.6), so a quick support call to Vyatta and they immediately sorted us out a pre-release of 3.1.3 in which the issue was resolved. This is why we love Vyatta 🙂


Anyone who knows Steve and I will tell you we like good switches, and by good in our opinion there are only two choices; Cisco or HP Procurve (that doesn’t mean there aren’t others, just we like these!). Cisco are obviously a little more expensive, however the argument goes that you never get fired for buying Cisco, the thing with the HP Procurves is that while I would never consider using them at the upper end of the scale (say much above 4500 series), at the lower 2000 and 3000 series end of the market the HPs represent very good bang for buck, including:

  1.  Very full feature set, it starts to top out when you want to do exciting layer 3 stuff like BGP (but hey thats what a routers for!).
  2. Free updates for the life of the product, this represents a serious saving over Cisco in terms of Cost Of Ownership. Especially if you subscribe to our model of buy cheaper and more to deliver redundancy than relying on unreliable overpriced change-out support agreements.
  3. They are arguably easier to work with, especially once you get your head around adding ports to vlans, rather than the Cisco way of configuring a single port on a vlan.

Telecity South-East Amsterdam

It was the first time Steve and I had been to Telecity in Amsterdam, it allegedly carries more Internet traffic than any other Internet exchange in Europe (some say the world) and it is a very impressive setup and in some strange dutch way friendlier and nice than its London equivelents!


Telecity Zuid-Oost
Blue shoes
Steve Toiling Away
The two Dell 2950s and the HP switches.


Although this is not anything like the biggest Vyatta deployment we have done, I like it because it demonstrates how using HP and Vyatta you can very effectively deliver a relatively complex redundent solution for a fraction of the equivelent Cisco price.

RGB Direct – yet another customer service failure…

So two weeks ago I ordered a new Samsung LCD TV from RGB Direct (

I should have known better when the onerous ordering system forced me to supply home phone and mobile before continuing (My only home phone line is for ADSL and fax), but I ploughed on.

I selected the free delivery because although it said delivery would take 14 days, I didn’t really need it yet, so I could wait.

The next day I got a hassling call from their logistics trying to talk me into paying for delivery so I could get it quicker, and that I would have to wait for the tv to be delivered ‘directly from the manufacturer’.

I eventually convinced them, that I was happy with the free delivery option (though I sensed I would regret it).

Yesterday they phoned me to say that delivery would be today between 10 and 6, I ensured that there was someone at the house all day. They happened to turn up while I was out with the TV, and then demanded to see the credit card I paid with (despite it being delivered to the same address as the card). The card was of course with me, so they took the TV away again. In addition they revealed how they lied to me, it was their own people delivering the TV to me rather than ‘direct from the manufacturer’, so basically their free delivery option is them delivering it whenever they can be bothered.

I phoned up to rearrange delivery and they told me that redelivery would cost me £35 – more than if I had taken their 2 day delivery option in the first place.

I just went with the, fair enough I will cancel my order… and now they are T&Cing me… (see below).

Basically rubbish, my recommendation is DO NOT USE RGB DIRECT.

—–Original Message—–
From: RGB Customer Services []
Sent: 27 June 2008 17:28
To: Ben King
Subject: RE: Failed Delivery Charge apply

 Dear Sir, Further to your email , please note that any failed delivery are subjectedto a charge of £35.00 for refund to process. With reference to the creditcard swipe , we always take manual verification swipe of Credit/debit cardon delivery this is completely for security reasons , we have also statedclearly on our terms and conditions . As you have placed order on internet , you must have seen the terms andconditions of delivery . At this stage if you wish to cancel the order ,there will be £35.00 failed delivery charge apply to your account. Pleaseconfirm accordingly and we will process the refund as per your request.   Thank you Kind regards  Customer Services Tel:  0208 478 1444Mob:0796 696 8734Fax: 0208 924

Jamie’s Fowl Dinners aka Jamie kills chickens!

I finally got around to watching the much hyped ‘Jamie’s Fowl Dinners’ which seems to have caused a bit of a ruck as we see our once favourite TV chef trying to shock us into not buying caged chicken.

Before i go on lets get my personal buying habits out of the way, I strictly buy free range and where possible organic eggs and chickens, it tastes better and makes me feel better and frankly the for the small number of pennies different in price, why not?!

I applaud Jamie for trying to raise awareness, and I did watch it with a bit of an attitude of ‘its okay I buy organic already’, shocking facts to me were:

  1. The price supermarkets pay to farmers for chicken, 2->3p per chicken, surely that can’t be right? I always apply a 30% rule to anything I buy in the supermarket, i.e. i pay £3 for a chicken, and the farmer is getting a £1… apparently i am way wrong, can anyone clarify?! The messaged seemed to be that if you spend a £1 more on a chicken for sunday dinner, that £1 mostly made its way back to the farmer making a huge difference.
  2. Liquid eggs – makes sense I suppose, however the thought of it being in many products i buy is a bit sickening and I feel horribly powerless to do anything about it!

Taking a step back I am interested in why Jamie Oliver is doing this, killing chickens live on TV is bound to upset some people, and apparently the RSPCA are more than a little pissed at him. Although Jamie Oliver has fallen in popularity over the past few years, I am sure there is plenty of money left for him to coast along for a good few years to come… so I can only conclude that either he genuinely believes what he is doing now… or he is taking a high risk approach to taking his career to a new level.

PS Sainsburys – bad on you for not appearing in the show – slap! to punish you I will be defecting for precisely one shop – oh wait like you care!