Category Archives: TermiSoc

A Day of Success!!

Well today was a great day, first off I got up at a reasonable time – 9am, not like last week when I was lucky to be asleep by that time! Then I had to go to an interview, the job – which I saw advertised through an Agency is with InfoTeam who have the contract to repair and provide technical support to customers of Acer equipment, including PC’s, Laptops and other IT paraphernalia! The interview went well, I was able to answer their questions really easily and I felt comfortable.

The great news was that about 2hrs after the interview, I was told I got the job and start on Monday at 9am!

Later I went to take the first of the CompTIA A+ exams, which is a qualification to show that you can fix computer hardware and software and provide technical support.

I passed that as well, the required score was 675 and I got 750 out of 900! So now I have to take part 2, I have a choice of Phone Support, In Person Support or never talking to a customer back room stuff!

Tonight we (as in TermiSoc) shall be going out for a curry to celebrate the 21st birthday of our great comrade, Ben A’Lee. He was actually 21 two weeks ago, but everyone was busy back then!

It has been a great day and I am definitely feeling better about myself!

A great Birthday, thanks!

Today I am 27, staring down the barrel at 30 I know, but at least I am still here!

Yesterday I had the official celebration of my birthday with my friends from TermiSoc. Ben, Dan, Ed, Gem, Chrissy, Rich and myself went up to Dartmoor where we had a picnic! We got rained on a bit, messed around with the the smallest tent known to man that Ed had brought for £10 in Lidl, played catch with a very heavy dog ball that we found in the river and finally ate cheese and biscuits whilst sitting around in waterproofs trying not to get blown away!

Then we drove back to Plymouth, I fell asleep for a few hours and nearly missed the next part, a curry at the Baba curry house! Well, it was very busy in there and we sat around waiting for at least half an hour before they gave us a table and then we had to wait ages for our main course to come out! Fortunately they gave us a free round of drinks, which was nice!

After that we went back to Rich and Chrissy’s house where we watched the original Star Wars film (the first time I had seen it in whole).

Sadly whilst walking back from there we encountered some drunk idiot who seemed to keep wanting to kick me and Dan from behind, we managed to loose him but not without first sustaining some brusing.

Got home around 2:30am.

Thanks very much to everyone for a great time!

SCSI… a now un-supported standard?

I have spent the last few days trying to get a 50pin HD to 50pin Centronics SCSI cable, so that we can attach a SCSI CD-ROM drive to Marvin, our HP 9000 Server. I have tried in Maplin and also in ‘The Computer Shop’, both here in Plymouth. Whilst the nice people at ‘The Computer Shop’ sold me a used Sun SCSI cable for 95p, its 50pin HD to 50pin HD. Maplin say they don’t stock SCSI cables in their Plymouth store, but they do stock them in Southampton and Bristol.

I think at the end of the day, it will be easier to fit an internal CD-ROM drive to Marvin and I am grateful to Darren for the donation of 2 SCSI hard drives, 1 SCSI CD-ROM drive and a PCI SCSI card, however I am not yet sure if said items work!

Anyone who has a 50pin HD to 50pin Centrontics SCSI cable which they don’t want anymore should contact me through the usual channels, Thanks!

The most interesting Tuesday night so far?

It all started when I offered to make a console cable for the HP 9000 Server that was acquired by Termisoc. Initially I discovered that it had a 25 pin serial port marked “modem”, which we could probably attach a null modem cable to and then plug the other end into a laptop running Hyperterm or minicom. Except when I took my null modem cable round, I discovered it was the wrong gender for the port! We started off with the idea to hack our own gender changer with 2 25 pin D-connectors, but this was rapidly ditched when we didn’t know which connections we could get away without connecting – would you solder 25 connections onto two fairly small plugs if you didn’t need to? Thought not!

On Monday night I found out that Rich had found the pinout for the actual console port on the HP 9000, which uses a 6pin Mini-DIN connection, much like a PS/2 socket. I then decided that we would be better off getting hold of a PS/2 extension cable and then soldering a 25pin D-connector onto 1 end so that we could connect that to a PC. The instructions Rich found only gave the pin-outs between a 6pin min-DIN and a 25pin D-connector, I later found that we could have used a 9pin D-connector!

So, after 2 visits to Maplin’s, I arrived at the TermiHouse with a PS/2 extension cable, a 25 pin D-connector and a 25-9pin D converter. With help from Gem, I started off by working out which pins on the PS/2 plug were connected to which colour wires in the cable and drew a diagram of this. I then needed to get information from Rich as to the pin-out of the cable I was going make – I discovered after a bit of checking that I had drawn my colours diagram upside down – a fact that would come back to haunt me later. Having compared both diagrams, I had a plan! Because my soldering is very uncoordinated I asked Gem to do the soldering for me and she set about making the connections with the 25pin D-connector.

We had organised to go to the monthly BCS lecture that evening (which was about IP over satellite given by a bloke from BT Goonhilly) and so it was a race against time to get this cable to work before we had to leave. We got to the lecture on time, but we failed to get a working cable! The lecture was (for me) very interesting and I think nearly everyone learned something from it. I think it was a very difficult lecture to give, because it is a subject which is very difficult to talk about without using a lot of jargon and given that most people in the audience probably didn’t know much about satellite comms, I think the presenter did very well.

After the lecture we all decided we needed drinks and food, so after some debating we went to the Fresher and Professor and ordered their biggest most expensive pizza, complete with potato wedges and garlic bread! I was most impressed, because this was the first time I had ever eaten a pizza in a pub, prepared by the pub! Whilst we were there, we were joined by members of the Poker Society (from the Uni) and probably quite a few random’s! It appeared that they were having a very strange social which involved visiting Plymouth’s student nightspots, whilst gaffer-taped together at the wrist in a very long chain! They also appeared to be on a scavenger hunt for cleavage photos – Gem obliged them with a photo! Just before they left, they tried to get us to join them as part of their chain, but we politely refused; we had a server to get back to!

We returned to the TermiHouse to consider the problem of why our console cable was not working. Marvin, our HP 9000, affectionately named by Ben, was booting, but nothing was being echoed to the terminal. First we checked the cable for continuity, and it was fine. Then we decided that it might be a problem with the terminal software (we had been using Hyperterm on my IBM ThinkPad), so we installed minicom on Gem’s Debian Laptop. We then spent quite a while trying to work out how to get minicom to talk directly to a port. It was all in vain… I realised we had wired the cable incorrectly, because I hadn’t transposed my diagram correctly.

By this time it was at least 11pm if not later and I was very grateful to Gem for soldering the connector a second time! This time, we knew we had the correct pin-out, but we still weren’t sure of what to do with minicom. We decided to switch back to Hyperterm. After rebooting a few times (my Windows installation was acting up again!), we managed to get something echoed to the terminal, it was garbage, but it was something – WOW! We realised that the problem now was that we didn’t have the correct terminal settings. If you decide to go out and hack your own console cable to connect an HP 9000 – remember this: 9600baud, 8-N-1, VT100J emulation!

At last, we had meaningful output from Marvin – it was so exciting! It booted into HP-UX 9 and we were presented with a login prompt – oh dear, we had no idea of any usernames or passwords. We had assumed that this box had come from The Royal Bank of Scotland, but that would prove to be incorrect.

Following instructions from the comp.sys.hp.hpux FAQ we booted into single user mode. Sadly, we were not able to hack the /etc/passwd file and change the root password, we were presented with a prompt to insert a backup tape or call some extension number. Someone had obviously locked this box down to prevent things being changed.

Sadly that was as far as we got. From fiddling around Rich discovered that it probably didn’t belong to RBS after all. On booting it normally he saw something about the BBC Network Accounting System being called at start-up. We couldn’t find anything about this on the net. The time on the server was set to September 1998 when we first turned it on, so we assume that Marvin’s working life ended quite some time ago. How it came to be acquired by the Computer Shop in Plymouth we will probably never know.

I left the TermiHouse at approximately 2:45am, I was very glad that I have no lectures on a Wednesday!

We have now acquired information from Simon Waters (a former HP admin) which might allow us to boot Marvin into a different run-level and bypass this security measure. I hope so after all the time I have spent messing around with it and all the money I spent in Maplin – and still they didn’t offer me a credit account! They did give me a 5% discount for being a student though, which was nice.

Until the next time… hack safe kids, hack safe!