Hardware review of the Hewlett-Packard ProLiant N36L Microserver


Low-power systems are popular with enthusiasts everywhere. From the Linksys NSLU2 (thoughtfully also known as “the slug”), and the various Marvell SheevaPlug devices, there isn’t a shortage of options. With all of them, however, you need to make compromises—be it having to deal with ARM’s tics, lack of I/O expansion, bad performance, or lackadaisical manufacturers.

If you’re willing to compromise on: size, but still be much smaller than your average PC; power, but also consume less power than your average PC; performance, but still run circles around an ARM-based device—then take a look at the Hewlett-Packard ProLiant N36L “Microserver”. Introduced September 2010, reviews and photos of this system are few and far between. In this article, I review the hardware aspects of the N36L, while in another, I review its software aspects [coming soon].

Bing Imagery Misaligned at Lower Zooms

Microsoft’s Bing aerial imagery (that’s recently been donated to OSM for use in tracing) is offset by a few meters in some places.

For example, earlier this week I traced buildings with imagery from USDA’s NAIP program. Besides a history of being well-rectified, a GPS track in the parking lot confirms that I was spot on. However, on Bing with a low zoom, they’re misaligned:

Zoom in a bit, and they magically align again:

Apparently, different, well-rectified imagery is used at higher zooms. If I’ve found one problem, it then follows that it exists elsewhere. Be careful when tracing!

High-resolution text console with uvesafb and Debian

While you may rarely use the console on your server, it’s nice to have a high-resolution display just to see that many more columns and rows. Linux’s vesa module (via the vga= parameter) has been around for a while and made this possible, provided you kept up with what VGA mode number to use and don’t mind the spotty hardware compatibility.

While KMS is the way to do this in the future, it doesn’t help us with the drivers and hardware we have now. A new kernel module, uvesafb, mainlined in 2.6.24, is another, new option. In addition to specifying modes in a more user-friendly way (e.g. 1280x1024-32 for 32-bit color, with a 1280x1024 resolution), hardware compatibility is better—in particular, you can now get a high-resolution text console with NVIDIA display adapters.

In the following, I describe how to use uvesafb on Debian and derivative distributions (e.g. Ubuntu). The instructions assume kernel 2.6.27 or higher (Debian 6.0 (squeeze) and Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex), or later).

OpenStreetMap "Geolocate me" user script

OpenStreetMap Geolocate is a user script that adds a “Geolocate me” link next to the OpenStreetMap.org search box. If your browser supports it and you’ve granted permission, clicking on this link will center your map window to your location, as reported by your browser via the HTML 5 geolocation API.

Say you’ve taken your laptop to a new cafe or conference—as soon as you open up OpenStreetMap, you can hit the “Geolocate me” link and quickly see what’s around you, without fiddling with search or endlessly dragging the slippy map. Or, better yet, quickly add what’s missing.

This definitely needs to be built into the OpenStreetMap website.

On most browsers, the geolocation API uses Google Location Services or Skyhook, which determine your location based on nearby wireless 802.11 access points. However, some browsers, like Firefox 3.6 on Linux, can talk to gpsd and your GPS unit, so geolocation can get quite accurate.

I’ve tested it on Firefox 3.6, Chrome 5, and Opera 10.60 (which, interestingly enough, is the first non-beta of Opera that supports geolocation). I’ve been told it also works on Safari 5.

I should make a note in the interest of accuracy: geolocation isn’t actually part of “HTML 5”—it’s a product of the W3C Geolocation Working Group. However, the need to be accurate didn’t keep the XML out of AJAX, and by and far geolocation is one of the technologies people think about when they hear HTML5.

This entry is cross-posted on my OpenStreetMap user diary.


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