Bluecore, greycore and blackcore

Often on IRC I refer to my computers by their unique hostnames, which I also use to differentiate their Linux kernel configuration sets, optimized for every individual machine.

Many get confused with this because the names aren’t very descriptive of these machines, so here’s some technical background and history for every one of my technological pets.

This is my current HP Pavilion dv5-1132la laptop, which I got on Christmas 2008 as a gift from my family. It has an AMD Athlon X2 Dual-Core QL-62 processor, which easily overheats due to the badly designed ventilation areas. The graphics controller is an AMD ATI Radeon HD 3200 (RS780-based) which has given me many a headache in my endless search for the perfect Linux device driver for it. It now has 4 GB of RAM as well, with one 2 GB module on top of the shipped, identical capacity. The hard disk’s max storage is around 250 GB, but I have a rather quirky partition layout that limits my usage somewhat.

It currently runs Debian Testing (Squeeze) plus packages from Experimental. When I first got the laptop I installed Debian Testing (Lenny back then) on it, based on my positive experiences with Greycore. The first installation was somewhat of a bumpy ride because of a kernel (2.6.24) oops caused by the Ethernet driver — it was fixed as soon as I upgraded to 2.6.26, which is nowadays what ships with Debian Lenny as the current Stable distribution.

Health-wise, this computer is doing well save for the noisy and dirty fan, and one touchpad key that’s become oversensitive to touch for some reason, most likely garbage bits beneath it. The screen doesn’t have any visible damage other than a tiny scratch near the bottom-middle, displaying a slight pinkish hue, yet very hard to notice from most angles.

Thanks to the AMD-V technology for hardware virtualization and VirtualBox, Bluecore has served me well for running many other operating systems on Linux, including Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 95, Haiku, OpenSolaris, MINIX 3, and even other Linux-based OSes such as Damn Small Linux, openSUSE, Kubuntu and even Debian itself!

In conclusion, I’m fairly happy with this laptop despite the multiple issues involving GPU support on Linux. So far it’s the most powerful machine I have, surpassing Blackcore and Greycore.

Oh, and more recently, the battery died. Sort of. Maybe. Probably.

Greycore is my old Acer Aspire 5050 laptop, which suffered some accidents around and past its warranty period. Let’s say that I’m never going to buy an Acer computer again.

It ran with openSUSE 10.2 x86 and later openSUSE 10.3 x86 and amd64 at first. I could notice a significant performance improvement in some areas when using the amd64 distribution, so I sticked to that architecture even after switching to Debian Lenny back when it was the Testing distribution. I became a Debian fanboy afterwards.

Nowadays it’s only good as a backup laptop whenever Bluecore becomes unavailable for the weirdest reasons. Greycore only has a single-core AMD Athlon64 CPU that performed well with Wesnoth 1.4 back in the day. Unfortunately, newer applications demand better hardware, and it’s not exactly great to carry around a laptop which needs short-circuiting the motherboard to be turned on, and which has a barely usable display.

Greycore’s battery is in no better condition than Bluecore’s, and doesn’t last more than 2 minutes when fully charged. Evidence indicates that it might have completely died recently, allowing no further charge cycles. I haven’t verified this yet.

This is a half-unused, OEM-built desktop with a second generation or so Intel Pentium 4 processor with Hyper-Threading, 2.6 GHz. The main storage is a half-dead 160 GB hard disk with more than 196 uncorrectable damaged sectors and an occasional tendency to go offline when the system is idle for a while while the TV input is active, especially so in Linux since the hard disk isn’t read as often in the background as it is by Windows.

As you may have guessed, it has a TV/Radio receiver card, which allows me to use Blackcore as a quaint TV set since I donated my old one in exchange for Greycore (no, really).

Runs Microsoft Windows XP SP2 primarily, and also has openSUSE 10.3 x86 installed. However, the swap partition for the latter is around the bad end of the disk, and some blocks appear to be unwritable. I don’t really want to run risks with that, so I avoid running Linux for now. I had also tried openSUSE 10.3 amd64 on it, but I discovered that the performance loss was dramatically noticeable there, probably related to the Pentium 4’s rather recent implementation of AMD64/EM64T/Intel64.

Besides the HDD issues, the DVD “recorder” can only write CD-R(W)s. Anything else causes something described as a “power calibration failure.” (!!!) Finally, I tried replacing the HDD but I fried the replacement instead, after 15 minutes of idle time while I decided a partition configuration for Debian lenny. Fortunately I could get a refund for that.


My activities nowadays depend a lot on mobility and high or immediate system availability and performance, so I use Bluecore most of the time, be it for compiling or testing software, doing my homework, coding, spriting and designing levels. I don’t see myself buying a new desktop any soon for purposes other than backups, although it’s in my queue to buy an external HDD for that purpose as well. Notebook-type laptops are convenient for people like me, and while I was hesitant to get one first, it’s turned out to be a smart investment, particularly in Bluecore’s case.

As for the naming scheme, I had associated a color to every single computer as I tried them for the first time, and I couldn’t think of better names so the *core pattern stuck until now. Even my virtual machines’ hostnames follow this convention.