Sunday, April 29, 2018

TenFourFox FPR7b3 available

TenFourFox Feature Parity Release 7 beta 3 is now available (downloads, hashes, release notes). This version includes some last-minute tuning to garbage and cycle collection frequency, a couple more hosts for basic adblock, and (the big change) a major fix to DOM keyboard events which caused some sites to fail to respond to keyboard input (like this Applesoft BASIC implementation in JavaScript -- thanks Martin Kukač for the more easily debugged test case). There are also some additional security fixes and there will be a few more prior to release on or about May 8.

For FPR8 the original plan was to get a decent implementation of CSS grid support working, but same-site cookies have risen in priority as they are now being required as a security measure on many sites including one I personally use frequently. If there is time left once that particular major upgrade is functional, I will then work on CSS grid and (as it slowly progresses) native date-time pickers. The FAQ is also dreadfully out of date, so I'll be spending some time on that too.

The Raptor Talos II (check it out if you haven't seen the Talos' unboxing) is now under my desk with the DEC Alpha 164LX, Silicon Graphics Fuel, MDD G4 and of course the Quad G5. Unfortunately to make room for the Talos in the KVM, a system had to be sacrificed: my old and now largely unused Core2Duo Mac mini running 10.6. It has been relegated to the server-storage room while I think about what to do with it. I got Fedora 28/kernel 4.16 booting on the Talos, but there are still issues with the discrete GPU, and the fans still roar like a SpaceX launch. (Also, Firefox 59 crashes on bootup on POWER9, but that's not Raptor's fault. Guess I have my work cut out for me.) Fortunately, Raptor's technical support team has come through with new firmware for the Radeon card and it looks like there is a BMC update on the way to address the ventilation issues, so we'll see how far we get with those. A full review will follow once I have the system in daily-driver condition.

Yes, dear reader, this is what it feels like to live on the bleeding edge of technology.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Unboxing the Talos II: it's here!

UPDATE: Read a semi-review of the Raptor Talos II!

This post is being written in TenFourFox FPR7 beta 3. More about that in a day or two, because today a big container arrived at my P.O. box. I had to put the rear seats down to get it into my 2018 Honda Civic Si Sedan.

The Raptor Talos II (see my previous posts for more) arrives in an 80-pound box. It's a good thing I already had mesh put in for my hernia surgery because I needed it today, by golly. No complaints about the packaging as the unit came very well protected. Gorgeous wife unwillingly positioned for scale (she is 5'4"); the computer is lengthwise and rather longer than your typical tower system:

Inside the accessory box were the keys, footsies, extra header and SATA cables, the recovery DVD for the firmware (with manual), printed QR codes to get public keys for verification, power cables, and the parts removed from the case to install my BTO options described below.

The computer is in an otherwise off-the-shelf Supermicro CSE-747 (hah!) EATX chassis. It's kind of a boring look, but it does have 11 slots, 8 hard disk bays and two 5.25" bays. On the rear here are dual redundant 1400W (!) power supplies, an honest-to-goodness RS-232 serial port, two GigE ports (top is shared with the "Baseboard Management Controller" service processor), two rear USB 3.0 ports and a VGA video port.

But there is some special branding, though I wouldn't have minded some fun case graphics myself:

The chassis is lockable and has excellent ventilation, though the design isn't really all that interesting. I'm thinking of removing the front badge and then doing something like I did for my DEC Alpha 164LX.

An LG Blu-ray drive is included. Take that, Steve Jobs.

It's serial number 12! (I was order 8 originally, in August 2017.)

Well, let's crack it open. Remove the two retention screws from the rear of the case (I would have rather had thumbscrews here) and pop out and lift the side case lever to remove the side door, exposing the interior of the machine. I put the computer on its side here for these photographs.

This AMD Radeon Pro WX7100 is a factory-installed option ...

... as well as the Samsung 960 EVO NVMe storage unit and the Microsemi PM8068 SAS 3.0 controller. This will drive the front bay RAID. They are also BTO options.

This SATA controller connects to the optical drive. One of the four DIMM banks is visible. I had 32GB of ECC RAM factory-installed (as two 16GB sticks).

The Supermicro SAS747TQ backplane comes from the factory ready to go connected to the optional Microsemi. I'll be making a Fry's run soon to populate the front bays.

Yuuuuuuge processor heatsinks. You'll need a 5/32" hex driver (Raptor sells one, but my trusty Bondhus #13109 seems to work). They came pre-installed and visually inspected good. This unit has two four-core Sforza POWER9 CPUs at 3.1/3.7 GHz with 90W TDP.

It's even louder than the Quad G5 when it starts, if you can imagine that. The most current firmware supposedly addresses the fan volume but it's still intolerably loud especially compared to the G5 when it's idle. We'll see how it behaves once I get an operating system on it.

Up in Petitboot. No operating system is installed. That's your job!

Right now the firmware is up to date, though I would be remiss not to try to rebuild it from scratch at some point to personally audit it (since the NSA is probably all upin my bidness now for having purchased the thing). I was able to get into the BMC and talk to it from the G5 and all of the hardware seems to be in working order. However, I haven't had much success with actually booting it because I have and want to use my discrete AMD GPU, meaning I'll preferentially need to find a distro with Linux 4.16 or later. (I could use something earlier if I really wanted to, but it would require some jumping through hoops with a serial terminal that I don't really feel like doing right now.) Fedora 28 seems the best bet for getting something working, and then we can see where we're at as other distros catch up.

I'll post progress reports on the Talos as I actually make progress; I'm mostly just excited to finally have it in my hands. This is a heck of a system with quality parts, built to do real work, and my first impression is that the $7200 I dropped on it has gone to good use.

Meanwhile, more about FPR7b3 a little later this weekend. It's mostly a feature and tuneup release, all good stuff.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

TenFourFox FPR7b2 available

Despite being currently in the grip of my annual case of bronchitis, in which I sweat and secrete more foul cloudy phlegm than Jabba the Hutt, TenFourFox Feature Parity Release 7 beta 2 is now available for testing (downloads, hashes, release notes).

The reason for beta 2 was to fix a serious regression caused by issue 495. Since I was issuing a second beta anyway, I took the opportunity to make a few more fixes, including a glitch with image layout that manifested on the MorphOS site, fixing SourceForge's tendency to corrupt our pulldown menus with unrenderable icons, and adding support for TLS SHA-384 ciphers to fix an issue with HTTP/2 sites. There are also some security fixes for testing and instead of changing the fx shorthand UA template to Firefox 60, I just added a new fx60 one as well as a user agent for Internet Explorer 11. This means users whose sites incorrectly sniff them and are using the current Firefox 52 impersonation won't unexpectedly get Fx60 features enabled that the browser can't handle right now (this is particularly an issue for Gmail).

As a result, I'm going to rework the user agent support in TenFourFoxBox, meaning version 1.1 will not get an official release (I'll be going to 1.2). Yes, this will include allowing custom agent strings, though you'll need to do that from the command line. It will be left up at the old URL until the new one is completed.

Meanwhile, my excitement over the Talos systems finally shipping cannot be contained by my mucus. It looks like motherboard orders are being fulfilled and are already out in the public. The system depicted there, however, is not the Talos II as shipped. On the other hand, however, Phoronix actually did get access to a confirmed Talos II, pitted the POWER9 versus AMD Epyx Epyc and Intel Xeon, and came away very impressed. Especially when we consider that the software packages in question were in no way optimized for POWER9 (and are for x86_64), the Talos has very competitive performance even pitted against non-libre systems. I haven't heard that the full workstations are shipping yet, but given that the rest of the components are all off-the-shelf, it shouldn't take long.

2005 called, folks. They want their PowerPC performance jokes back.