Until I make the time to figure out how to make this an RSS feed, so interested folks can subscribe to it. I've decided to put the news in a separate file.
Summer, 2008: The host-to-adapter database topped 700 devices early in the new year. This was the milestone I needed to push me into finishing the new line art (mainly adapter schematics) for my console pages. I've already put the new Cyclades Console Connection Guide up on the Conserver site. I'm still updating the scripts to create the host-to-adapter pages for Cyclades, Digi, and Opengear. Since I won't be teaching at USENIX LISA 2008, I'm planning to be there as a student, and I'm looking forward to seeing some of you at the Consever BoF!
While updating pages, and checking links, I found that the Digital (DEC) Network Products Group (www.dnpg.com now points to what appears to be a vendor for legacy network gear. You can still get some Cabletron gear from the same place, but can you get support? All of the 'deep links' to the DNPG support documentation has been lost. I hope it's been saved somewhere.
Note to self: Make copies of online resources while I can, back-up to physical
media, such as CD, for the day that the online versions go away!
Note to self #2: Send a Thank You email to the Nortel folks, for continuing to host and post their store of information for the old Xylogics microAnnex line (which became Bay Networks Annex, which became Nortel, and which Nortel retired). Thanks for helping keep the old stuff out of a landfill!
My new project work has me hip-deep in old Lantronix ETS32PR terminal servers. Yes, the have the BREAK problem. I'm also surrounded by Service Processors from Dell, Sun, HP and others. The more I work with these devices, the more I think that the RealWeasel folks had the right idea with their PC Weasel products. That's the best implementation so far, in my opinion, since you can put it into any server. The Rackable Systems Roamer implementation is a great solutions, if you're buying servers from Rackable, but you can't get it as an add-in for other servers you may already have. On the positive side, the complexity of interactions of these Service Processors brings me many interesting puzzles, and chances to learn something new.
Update, New Year 2008: Wow! I'm surprised that I let this page get so old! Sorry! I started the ConsoleTeam blog early in 2007, and I've posted most of the news and current short topics there. But it looks like I still lost another 18 months somewhere. Here's what I hadn't posted on the News page...but try to check the blog occasionally for the latest info.
I've changed employers in the past couple years, and I missed a chance to teach at USENIX LISA 2006.
Over the past couple years, I've worked on a few Conserver deployments, had a LOT of experience with Cyclades (including upgrading some very old units to current code), so I expect to have a Cyclades/Avocent page finished early in 2008. I've also had some chances to work with Digi and Opengear products, and with the Cisco HWIC modules. These were documented on the BREAK-off results page.
With the addition of test gear to the lab, I've also spent this fall updating the adapter artwork! Most adapter and cable schematics are now posted on the Console Connection Guides. I've also had to expand the artwork, to account for Cisco to Cyclades, Xyplex to digi and etc. (the matrix keeps getting bigger).
The host-to-adapter guides list now tops 700 devices, thanks to Jeff Komori and Lou Owayni at Adaptec for letting me get to check the ports on a bunch of gear there (nearly 40 new devices just from that trip).
Cyclades was acquired by Avocent early in 2006. There seems to have been some trouble transfering Cyclades info into the KnowledgeBase at Avocent (I find few articles when searching), but the support folks have been pretty responsive so far. The old Cyclades website (www.cyclades.com) now takes you to Avocent, but the old Cyclades anonymous FTP sites (ftp.cyclades.com and ftp.cyclades.de) are still online, with the legacy software versions, so keep these links in your bookmarks, and consider getting copies of the software and release notes files you might need for your older gear soon! Avocent is still supporting TS series owners, but there is no new code development. The ACS line is still being produced, but with different case tooling and Avocent logo and paint. The PM series power managers are sharing the spotlight with Avocent's SPC, and Server Technologies devices.
I found the BlueConsole bluetooth wireless serial adapters, but after two years, the manufacturer is closing the doors in JAN 2008. They are handy, but pricey. I found them to be sturdy, well constructed, and they've earned a place in my Doctors Bag. He also lists his competition, in case this kind of thing interest you.
I also registered the ConsoleTeam domains, but I haven't made the time to learn PHP to the point that I'm ready to build a full customer support site. I've been spending some time getting to know LogSurfer+ (the heir-apparent to Swatch) for watching my logs for interesting strings. I also want to dabble with Splunk, but I've been waiting for a server upgrade (dual multi-core CPUs) before I add that to the current mix.
Update, Spring 2005: The site updating continues! Many new pages, including available past tutorials and training, what's in my serial Doctor Bag, modem and RS-232 clues pages. (Heck, even this page is new!) And with all of the new pages, I finally released the new Greater Scroll and Minor Scroll of Console Knowledge.
There is much more work to do, including updates for the Xyplex, IOLAN, and Annex pages, and then making a new set of pages for Cyclades, and maybe a Digi CM page as time permits. (I'm also entertaining the idea of preparing another tutorial for USENIX LISA 2005, or perhaps a hands-on serial and Conserver workshop, which would require some refocusing of my time and effort.)
Update, Winter 2004: It was time to upgrade the site, my testbeds, the pages, and start outlining a new tutorial. Plenty of rainy days for my rainy day projects.
The testbed was expanded from one rack to three, so I can keep more equipment cabled and ready for testing. I have been expanding the pool of test gear, and a Netra CPU arrived in early March, courtesy of Sun Microsystems! The website is being reorganized structurally, and many page updates are being made. Expect a new look in the Spring. My Cisco Connection Guide has been significantly reworked. Check it out if you use Cisco gear. The Greater and Minor Scroll pages are currently being overhauled, expect new pages soon.
The serial info database that drive my Host-to-Adapter guides has nearly 600 records now, thanks to a day at Wierd Stuff Warehouse in Sunnyvale, CA. There's probably another 30-50 devices I can add, when I can afford to spend another day there.
I've been working on an RJ-45 passive signal tracer, primarily for checking the RJ-45 console and aux ports on Cisco gear, but there are some basic similarities between the Cisco RJ-45 schema, and the schema used by Xyplex, iTouch, MRV, and Cyclades and others, so my design has been working to incorporate these. More information will be published on a Passive Signal Tracer page soon...
Update, Summer 2004: This summer brought some Good News and some Bad News. Fortunately the good is helping to offset the bad.
First, the Bad News. The FileMaker Pro database I have been using to create my adapter information pages was on a machine without a Floppy, and no other writable removable media. (OK, I should have bought a USB Flash Disk for the Mac, but I was holding out for a large Flash disk that would play well in both the Mac and Win* worlds. I waited too long...) The hard disk ate all it's data in early July, and I'm fortunate that most of my web pages, and the export file from the DB survived on the web server. I have 88 percent of the data recovered, and I'm still trying to re-collect info on the remaining 48 devices, before I can finish rebuilding the database and lookups.
But, there is Good News, too. Thanks to help from Robert Gutierez, Venkatesh Krishnamurti, Jeff Komori, Cary Roberts, and others, I've recaptured a bunch of devices, but I've also managed to add more than 50 new devices to the database! And in late June, I managed to purchase a DLM200 Serial Protocol Analyzer, from Benedict Computer. I'd been hoping someone would offer an older HP, or a NavTel, or perhaps I'd find a simple, inexpensive async analyzer. But, I finally started looking for something I could afford, and my searching found these folks practically in my back yard. It was more than I needed, but the price was worth it. PLUS, now that I'm rebuilding the database, and revisiting a bunch of equipment, now I have something that can auto-detect the communications speed and parity (in either direction, up to 56 Kbps), without needing to lug a laptop around. I'm now much happier with my purchase, and I'm using features that hadn't been at the top of my 'needs' list. The database, and my web pages, will be better off because of this purchase. I think this was money well spent.
Update, Spring 2004: Word came to me that Digital Networks (which grew from the roots of Digital Equipment Corp.) is bringing out some newer versions of the hallowed DECserver. I've just tested a DECserver 90+M (8-port), and it is BREAK safe, and has support for reverse-TCP connections. The documentation for this feature is covered in the Management Guide and the Command Guide PDF docs. I liked the docs, too! Good examples (more useful because they have MANY options and features related to port configuration).
In the March 2004 issue of Sys Admin, I found an ad for Logical Solutions, and their website talks about a new R-series "Secure" version of their Sentinel series being BREAK-safe, and Cyclades has an ad, plus an item in the New Products section regarding their PM series power management units (serial controlled power outlets). The PM series is useful enough, but Cyclades has also managed to integrate control of the outlets with access to consoles, to the point where you can work on a console, an then easily change the power state from the same interface (when using Cyclades console servers), making it a bit easier to "try to take over the world". Lantronix also had an ad in the back.
Bryan Stansell is using the Cyclades ACS1 these days, for Conserver development work. My Road Warrior kit now includes an 8-port fast Ethernet switch (Allied Telesyn AT-FS708LE) and a Cyclades TS800 (8-port console server). Since I'm not running a Unix laptop, I use PuTTY or NCSA telnet to get to the serial ports, with a couple ethernet cables and many adapters. This works really well, and the parts fit nicely in the computer bag.
I've also seen a 4-port console server with a built-in modem from MRV Communications (the LX-1000S), which includes a lot of cool dial-up support, such as PAP, CHAP, and SSH. I'm told it's BREAK-safe, by someone I trust, but I haven't tested this myself.
Update, Spring 2003: Word has reached me that the Computone product line is being revived! Development went dormant last summer as new management changed directions at Computone. However, Altura XL has bought the Intelliserver® RAS 2000 hardware line, and they are continuing development of these products.
NOTICE: Most of the pages, articles, and tutorials on this website are copyrighted works. You may make 'deep links' to various pages. (If you let me know which page(s) you are linking to, I'll let you know if I move the page(s) during updates.) Please send me email if you wish to republish any material, or use it on your own website.