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[Freedombox-discuss] Russ Nelson: Admin-free Chumby; inet scripts; supply chains

[Forwarded with permission.]

From: Russ Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com>
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2011 02:08:31 -0500
To: gnu at toad.com
Subject: Freedom box

Simon Phipps pointed me to your Freedom Box Sysadmin missive. Two

Have you looked at the Chumby? It's designed to be a bullet-proof
Linux box that needs no sysadmin. It's a freaking clock radio! Who
wants to sysadmin their clock radio!?!? So it just works.

I've been working with the Technologics TS-7400 (embedded ARM) for
water quality sensors. Very similar problem, except that it reads
"Must ABSOLUTELY boot every time no matter how you got shut down last
time, and must ABSOLUTELY connect to the Internet every time for
remote sysadmin work and uploading data."

So, to that end, I have a shell script which looks for Ethernet, WiFi,
or Cell Data interfaces, and uses whatever one works. Sends periodic
pings to our upload server. If it fails, it goes back to trying
different interfaces. If that fails, it reboots.

Been working on it for a year. It's pretty robust.

The problem with the damned plug computers is that the manufacturers
are idiots. They don't know how to do supply chain management so that
they can keep the boxes in stock. They're forever backordered, which
is another way of saying that they are building AFTER they get the

Something like the Chumby is more better. If you want one, you just go
buy one. For $100. Has internal wifi on a usb stick and one external
USB (which of course can use a hub). It will happily mount a $100
terabyte USB driver. Plus a USB keyboard into it, and up pops a shell
window on the screen.

You should go buy a Chumby if you haven't already. Besides helping to
stir your creative juices, it's a great clock radio. :)

--my blog is at    http://blog.russnelson.com
Crynwr supports open source software
521 Pleasant Valley Rd. | +1 315-600-8815
Potsdam, NY 13676-3213  |     Sheepdog       

[My response re Internet scripts:

Detecting "when the Internet is there" is a bit harder problem than
detecting when one upload server is accessible.  And deciding when to
*gateway* two working interfaces to provide backup service to people
on one of them is another decision that so far nobody is making in
shipping mass market code.  The purpose of your box is to report back
to a particular site on the net, so if it can't see the net, it
apparently has nothing better to do than to reboot.  If a Freedom Box
can't see the net, it should probably not reboot, even once an hour or
once a day; it should go quiescent and await interface status changes.
(And should keep serving local clients to whom it is PROVIDING service,
e.g. serving up Wifi and DHCP and letting you read your stored mail
or post twitter-like status updates.)  But I get your point; it isn't
rocket science, and an early implementation that does 95% of what
you want will get us a long way down the road.    --gnu]

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