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Unified Kernel for etch, lenny and sid

Traditionally, the Linux kernel is software that I compile myself from pristine upstream sources for various reasons. I have three major kernel flavours that get built (server, desktop and notebook), and I am pretty current in running a bleeding edge kernel. This is not really necessary any more nowadays, but it's a tradition that works pretty well.

My kernels get built on sid and are packaged up with kernel-package, and equivs builds a dependency helper package which pulls in the kernel's dependencies such as initramfs-tools and takes care of cross-version updates like going from 2.6.29 to 2.6.30. Up to now, I was always able to run a kernel built this way on all my systems which can range from oldstable to unstable.

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Serial Console Server for the Poor I

The serial port is still the way to access network components out of band. It is slow, but reliable, and remarkably well standardized. It does not have technical whiz-bangs that can fail when one needs things to just work. That makes it the natural way to access critical infrastructure and still being sure that this access vector still works when most other things are down.

Every communication link has two sides, so there is a market for devices with a network link and a bigger number of serial ports to connect the actual devices to. Commercial vendors have a broad choice of serial console servers. Most of them, especially the small products with five to ten ports, are quite expensive, so I have been investigating how do build a serial console server with el cheapo hardware.

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Works with a more recent card as well

Today, I had the opportunity to try my UMTS initialization mechanism that I built this weekend with more recent hardware, a newer Option Globetrotter 3G Express Card with Vodafone branding (reporting itself to be a "Globetrotter HSDPA Modem" with Vendor ID 0xaf0 and Product ID 0x6701). To get the card connected to my test Notebook, a hp compaq nc8000, I had a "Expresscard in a PC card slot" adapter and a passive "Expresscard at a normal USB port" adapter. The USB adapter had cost about ten Euros, and I don't imagine the PC card adapter to be much more expensive.

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Automatic initialization of a Option 3G Datacard

For mobile UMTS/GSM, I have been using an Option 3G Data Card for two and a half years now. I blogged about getting the card to work (in German, sorry) on Linux in July 2005. I never found the time - until now - to automate the card initialization so that I had been using a horrible chat script for card initialization when the PPP connection was built.

I recently took the time to automate this, so that the PIN is transmitted to the card automatically when the card is plugged in. This article documents what I did.

On a side note: Unfortunately, the vendors' attitude towards Linux hasn't changed since 2005. Their Hotlines still deny that their products can be used with Linux at all, and they surely do not publish any documentation that can be of help. Otoh, Vodafone has published a software that supposedly aids usage of their products under Linux. I haven't tried it yet since it is not packaged yet for Debian. Additionally, Vodafone support media and sales do not seem to know about this effort, they still deny that their products work with Linux. Windows users happily install proprietary software products that do little more than sending a handful of AT commands to the emulated USB modem and hand over the connection to Windows' PPP Stack. A very unsatisfying situation.

Just for the record: Dear Vodafone DE, a week ago you missed the sale of a new USB UMTS interface because you don't even document it on Linux. This motivated me to look into the drawer that holds the old, non-HSDPA PC cards that have been decommissioned at the customers' site and use an old, used device. Your fault.

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