The raspberry pi is still not going to change the world

raspberry pi

…but it is pretty cool. I ordered a raspberry pi for work, in an effort to replace the thin clients that we use to connect to our IBM midrange system. (kickin’ it old school) It works pretty well for the task, and seems like it is ideal for random niche uses, but I still stick by my original statement. Read on if you are interested in ancient computer systems, and how Brits with big ideas can connect the old with the new.

IBM launched their original midrange system, the AS/400, in 1988. Even then, they were supporting legacy systems. The idea behind the AS/400 was that it was a smaller, scalable system, that would run software (usually COBOL and RPG) that was intended for the old System/36 minicomputers, without having to recompile for the new processor. To this day, you can still run binaries compiled for a System/36 on a POWER7 box.

As a result, many companies around the world continue to use IBM midrange systems rather than convert to linux or *shudder* Windows data and application servers for mission critical business processes. My company is in that boat, which means each and every computer in our company needs a working IBM 5250 terminal emulator, “green screen” program, to connect to the iSeries.

Enter the raspberry pi. A tiny, ultra-cheap, linux computer. For some of our specialized situations, and in case a massive computer plague takes out all of our Windows PCs, we use thin client computers, “dumb tubes”, that just connect to the iSeries. Nothing else. The computing requirements for such a task are laughably modest, amounting to basically a keyboard, monitor, and network connection. The raspberry pi is more than capable, as long as you can find some terminal emulation software to run on it.

5250 emulation on the raspberry pi

TN5250 fit the bill, and after a minimum amount of fuss , I have a working raspberry pi thin client! For other iSeries shops looking to run a 5250 emulator on a raspberry pi, I will add a  how-to (or maybe learn how to make a .deb package) if there is any interest.

For all who want to install SIMetrix on Linux Mint

I know there must be tons of people clamoring for help on this, but don’t worry, I can help both of you out. There is a new page up in the how-to’s section for getting the intro version of the excellent SPICE simulation software, SIMetrix, running on the linux distro that has recently surpassed Ubuntu in popularity, Linux Mint.

You can check it out here.

My very own upgraded DSO Nano

A few weeks ago, I was testing a DSO Nano v2 for my old physics professor. He was asking me for some help coming up with a lab procedure for measuring RC time constants with an oscilloscope. He also bought the open source, open hardware, ultra cheap handheld DSO Nano and wanted me to see if it was suitable for this application, and to see if it would be a good option for the school to purchase.

The resounding answer is yes, yes this is an awesome piece of hardware, at a shockingly low price. I gave it back, and after not having it for a few days, I had to order one of my own.

Unfortunately, it is held back by the software that comes preinstalled, and needs a healthy injection of third-party awesomeness to realize its full potential. More unfortunately, the bootloader was updated since the last time I held one of these bad boys, and upgrading is much more difficult now than it was before.

DSO Nano BenF splash screen

After wading through the tech support forums, I managed to find the files necessary to get BenF’s excellent firmware installed. Hopefully, I will find the time to write up a full review in the next week or so.