Wednesday, March 17, 2010

audiocmihd driver (Asus Xonar cards)

Some people have been asking me about this driver. (Asus Xonar cards are fairly high-end high definition cards using the CMI 8788 chip.)

I've finally gotten the code reasonably cleaned up, and converted to my interrupt free audio framework.

I'll probably start a case to get this integrated into late b137, or b138. Mostly its just running a bunch of tests at this point.

One problem I have is that I only have Xonar DX1 cards. (PCI.)

If someone is able to help me qualify the driver with build 137 (or a nightly build) of ON, please let me know. The more I can get this driver tested, the sooner I can get it integrated into OpenSolaris.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Interrupt Free Audio

Today I integrated "interrupt free audio". This set of changes, including some other changes, represents a substantial simplification in the DDI for audio drivers.

The typical audio driver no longer needs to worry about interrupt handlers. On average, about 300 lines of code (or about 10-20% of complexity for typical drivers) was removed from each audio driver.

Furthermore, many audio drivers (for example audio810) are able to run completely lock free, since the audio framework provides synchronization for certain operations. (Operations against each audio engine are synchronized, operations against audio controls are synchronized as a whole, and everything is synchronized against suspend/resume functions.)

Even better, these changes enable some new advanced features that will be used for Sun Ray, virtualization, and hotplug support in the future.

Oh yeah, and since the asynchronous processing now happens as part of the regular timer interrupt, it means that system CPUs can remain in deeper C states for longer, even while playing audio. So, we should have an improvement on system power consumption (admittedly I've not measured this.)

There will be more stuff related to audio in the future, stay tuned.

"Legislative Sleight of Hand"

I normally have avoided using my blog as a soapbox for my political beliefs. However, I simply cannot remain silent on recent events in the House of Representatives (United States for foreign readers.

No matter what your position is on the health care reforms under consideration, everyone should agree that the reforms are sweeping; perhaps some of the most significant legislation that will affect nearly every American we've seen in quite some time.

House Democratic leadership, knowing that the measure is unpopular with many voters (and hence House Democrats may be unlikely to "vote the party line" to avoid a backlash in their constituencies) are planning a move that is even more offensive than "reconciliation".

While I'm a Republican, and generally opposed to nationalization of 1/6th of our economy, I find far more offensive that the House leadership (particularly Ms. Pelosi) would consider a move that so boldly disenfranchises the people of this nation.

This is a crime, if not against the law, then certainly against the spirit of democracy upon which our country is founded. If health care reform is to be passed, then it should be done with a regular vote where the politicians who vote for it are required to be accountable for those votes (and vice versa, by the way).

If it passes without such a vote, then it will go down as one of the greatest failures of "representative democracy" in history.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why We Need a Human Spaceflight

Space aficionados may be aware that President Obama has canceled the previous administration's "Vision for Space Exploration", which consisted of the Constellation program including Ares I, Ares V, and Orion. This has been fairly well covered in the mainstream media.

Critics of the Constellation program raise some significant and relevant objections to the Constellation program.

However, I strongly believe that as a nation, we need a national space program that includes human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit. The cancellation of Constellation, while perhaps with good cause, has left our national space program with a vacuum -- the lack of a heavy lift vehicle, and lack of any vision, would effectively constrain human exploration to LEO for a generation. Furthermore, it significantly constrains the kinds of activities that we can perform in LEO.

Its my belief that this is short-sighted in the extreme.

We need a space program that includes vehicles with the ability to loft large payloads into orbit. Projects like the International Space Station, and further commercialization of space, are only possible with the ability to loft a significant payload into orbit.

We also need to plan for human exploration beyond our front porch. While many people argue that sending robotic explorers is less risky, and far cheaper, the idea that we can or should abdicate all future space endeavors to robotic missions is actually offensive.

Robots won't inspire a generation of students to continue to excel at math and science. Robots can't stand in as national heroes. And robots alone won't help develop the enthusiasm required for the general public to continue to want to invest in space and space technologies. Robotic exploration is mostly a solved problem -- many new technologies that are necessary for human space travel will simply not be invented or invested in, without the "problems" to solve that are involved in human space exploration.

I'm from a generation of kids who viewed astronauts as near personal heroes; I dreamed, and still dream, of being able to see our planet from space itself one day. I dream of the days when human kind steps beyond just Earth, and has outposts on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and perhaps other interesting places in the solar system. And someday beyond.

My own son dreams someday of being an astronaut and visiting Mars. Unfunded as it was, at least VSE allowed a glimmer of such a hope. Obama has killed that hope, and maybe the dreams and hopes of thousands or millions of other like minded kids.

Fortunately, there is a proposal that would revive these dreams, and allow us to retain a national heavy lift capability, retain a lot of the knowledge and expertise that we acquired with the successful STS (space shuttle) program (even reusing a significant amount of the materials and technology), and allow for a "way forward" that would allow us to get beyond LEO and go to interesting places elsewhere in the solar system. The DIRECT v3.0 proposal is IMO the best way forward; it allows us to have our cake and eat it too -- giving us all the heavy lift capabilities that we need, minimizing the significant impact on our economy that both the Constellation program, and the cancellation of the STS and Constellation programs, create.

I firmly believe that we are on the cusp of a major economic shift, where commercialization of space may play as important a role in the coming decade or two as the Internet has played in the previous two. The question is, will we as a nation continue to develop that potential, or will we let it slip away, to be picked up by India, China, or Russia?

Yes, I'm an American. And I believe that it is important for America to be a leader in the exploration and utilization of space. Ultimately, I believe that "planting flags" is much more important than the proponents of solely robotic exploration would have us believe. Someday people will visit Mars. Will America be there, or will we just be an observer while one of the Asian nations celebrates a major achievement?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

ON IPS surprisingly easy

So I have an EOF RTI that was in queue when the ON IPS integration happened last night.

Of course, this totally whacked my packaging changes, and I had to modify them. Making the changes was quite easy. Here's the old, and the new version of the changes. Its actually less files to update under IPS.

I was dreading retesting. Dealing with distro construction sounded "painful".

I needn't have worried. In the tools directory there is this neat tool called "onu" (on-update I guess?)

I had to load a machine with b133 to set up a baseline, but we have a nice way to do that internally via our internal infrastructure and AI. It boils down to running one command on an install server than doing "boot net:dhcp - install" at the OBP prompt. (Yes, this is a SPARC system.)

It took a little bit for it to install, but less than an hour.

Then, after rebooting and getting the initial settings on the system, it was just a simple matter of "onu -d ${ws}/packages/sparc/nightly-nd" to update it. This took a while (20-30 minutes, I wasn't counting). Eventually the system was up and ready for business. Easier than bfu. Amazing.

Thanks to the IPS team! I can't wait for bfu to finally go away.