Recently in Dell Category

Reinventing The CLI Wheel

As part of my day to day work I spend a lot of time on the command line. In the vast majority of cases this means ssh into devices as diverse as Linux Servers, Cisco Switches, Juniper Routers and Fortinet Firewalls. While in some cases there will be a GUI available, it's a lot easier to document, script and backup what is being done on the CLI. Ssh also the advantage that it can be accessed on anything from a mobile phone to a perl expect script.

I have had the chance to play with a Dell MD3000i over the last few days, which is basically a rebadged LSI/Engenio SAS Raid Array. It's a nice bit of kit however Dell have seen fit to use the SMI interface for managing the array. The SMI interface is great idea which means that there is a nice "object-oriented, XML-based, messaging-based interface" (buzzword overload!) for doing day to day managment.

There is a CLI interface to this in the form of SMcli. In the case of Dell, this is a java app which requires sacrificing goats and/or virgins in order to get running on anything other that Windows, RHEL or SLES. So much for Java allowing platform independence!

What annoys me is that people have gone to the trouble of creating SMcli, so why not use it as a shell on an ssh server running on the array itself. This would all of sudden mean that they gain a lot more platform independence, and therefore a larger potential market. The other technologies needed in order to setup the MD3000i are iscsi and dm-rdac which are already a solved problem and relatively easy to setup.

Am I mad in thinking that it's in Dell's best interests to put as few obstacles as possible in the way of setting up their products?

Hardware And Linux

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It looks like instead of getting easier for Linux to support hardware, there are more obstacles being thrown in the way. I came across two stories today which do not bode well for people wanting to use Linux on commodity hardware.

First of all, seemingly Phoenix are now creating a crippled BIOS which will only support Windows Vista. My own view on this is that the BIOS should only be responsible for getting the PC ready for whatever Operating System the user chooses. A four year old article mentioned in the post seems to suggest that Microsoft are "embracing" Phoenix. If this is true, is it not the same anti-competitive behaviour that Microsoft have already gotten in trouble for? I know there is LinuxBios, but I haven't been brave enough to try it yet, so I can't comment on how good it is.

AMD also don't seem to be getting it. MythTv and Beryl are two popular projects. Yet if you want to use accelerated 3D on ATI cards with either of the these projects, you are out of luck. AMD are a hardware company, they shouldn't give a toss about the drivers as long as they work. I know the 3D graphics market is highly competitive, and there is lots of proprietry tricks used in the drivers to get the last ounce of perforance. I would still rather if they would give the specs to someone like Dave Airlie and let him do nice open source drivers without NDAs hanging over him. I don't care if I loose a couple of frames per second. I'd rather have decent drivers.

How many more hardware makers are shooting themselves by placing such obstacles to using Linux? Hopefully with the likes of Dell commiting to use Linux friendly hardware, AMD and Phoenix might begin to see sense.

Dell Commiting To OpenSource

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It looks like Dell are beginning to see the light! They are now commiting to use only hardware that has drivers in the mainstream kernel where possible. It will be very interesting to see if they can put some pressure on the makers of graphic cards, namely ATI and Nvidia, to open up more.

A Dell laptop with no binary blobs to cause random crashes appeals to me after living with a laptop with an ATI graphics chipset for a few years.

Dell Service Tags

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In order to put something useful on here, and in order to save me having to Google this again, the following is how to get the Dell service tags on Linux and Windows: Linux:
dmidecode | grep Serial\ Number | head -n1
Windows: Open Notepad or your text editor of choice and put the following in:
strComputer = "."
Set objWMIService = GetObject("winmgmts:" _
& "{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!\\" & strComputer & "\root\cimv2")
Set colSMBIOS = objWMIService.ExecQuery _
("Select * from Win32_SystemEnclosure")
For Each objSMBIOS in colSMBIOS
Wscript.Echo "Serial Number: " & objSMBIOS.SerialNumber
Save as get-tag.vbs and double-click to run. This will only work on Windows Server as it requires WMI.

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