Captain Kerbal

Category: Acer Project

Backups for KSP in Debian

As part of the Acer Project, I’ve added a simple backup scheme based on rsnapshot and an external 1GB HDD. It pretty much involved uncommenting some lines in a cron job, and adjusting some lines in rsnapshot’s config…

As part of this, I discovered that one of my SD cards – an older 512MB card – is borked. As in, mkfs.ext4 doesn’t work because it encounters “short writes” and other such errors. I’ve no idea what that actually means, apart from the fact that a patch of the SD card is shot, but it probably needs to be thrown out…

I’ve also synced up my KSP project, so I’ll now be able to play KSP! What I’m not quite sure about is how I’ll get the screenshots off the Acer, since it’s “air walled” from the network, due to it no longer having a network card…


KSP in kiosk mode

I’ve set up KSP in “kiosk mode” on the Acer, as part of the Acer Project.

I created a custom .xinitrc file for KSP, which starts openbox (otherwise KSP doesn’t seem to get input?) and then starts KSP.

openbox &

Once KSP is shutdown (or crashes…), the computer goes back to a login screen.

Next step: Set up some kind of backup for my saved games!

A KSP update!

It seems a long time since I last wrote about KSP on this blog…

Yesterday, I took some time to install KSP on the Acer, which is now dual-booting Debian 8.1. It’s using the proprietary nVidia drivers – so there was a small performance boost, although it currently ‘only’ has 2GB RAM, which nullified any real performance gains. I’m thinking of perhaps getting some second hand 4GB sticks to put in the Dell, so that the two 2GB sticks in the Dell can be put into the Acer. I’m just unsure as to what I’d do with the two 1GB sticks left over 😦

I hope to be able to spend some more time on the Acer tonight, although I’m quite busy at the moment. I’ve still got to move my existing KSP game across, for starters…

Remaining software tasks:

  • Setting up a backup script of some sort. Done!
  • Making KSP start full-screen on start up. Done!
  • Adding a second monitor. It didn’t work very well, so I’ve abandoned that idea.
  • Moving my KSP game across. Done!

Remaining hardware tasks:

  • Stripping the machine, removing any needless parts, and encasing it in a new case.
  • Soldering the power supply connector in.
  • Adding a second monitor… Maybe, or maybe not. See above…
  • Creating some custom controllers.
  • Making it look cool 😀

Possible retirement options

Not for me – for the laptop that was on loan, until it became mine!

I had intended to replace it entirely, because it has a dodgy power supply. But since I have it, I’ve been considering using it as a dedicated gaming machine, aka an embedded computer in a KSP console. Of course, I really should either finish the iMac project, or throw out the remaining iMac hardware.

It’s just an idea at the moment – much like my other ideas – so I’m unlikely to make any progress.

But it would be a decent way to re-use the hardware.

Some of the ideas:

  • Wire the PSU directly into the laptop to avoid the dodgy power connector.
  • Leave the laptop battery as-is as a backup power supply.
  • Use it as a kiosk machine, ie not internet-connected, so that I don’t have to care to much about the OS changing. Running Debian? Or Arch?
  • Use the other monitor I have stashed in the garage (without a power supply…) as a map view (?). Or as a second monitor; apparently I can just adjust the display resolution to be the width of both monitors. Which might be weird, since both have different resolutions/aspect ratios… and would be complex (two X servers).
  • Hook up an arduino or similar microcontroller, with some keys.
  • Use the existing laptop display as a porthole, ie as the actual monitor for KSP.
  • Add extra lighting, to help avoid eyestrain.
  • Just use the laptop motherboard – discard the trackpad and keyboard. Implant the speakers somewhere. Generally get rid of the rubbishy plastic exterior! But I’d still need a mouse and keyboard, at least until the arduino  supplied all of the key bindings…


Change is in the air

I’ve recently invested in the replacement for the Acer. “Replacement” might be the wrong word – the laptop (a Dell) will have more than a few pieces taken from the Acer! But it’s intended to fill the same role. I’ll post an update once I’ve managed to purchase a battery for it. Dell is apparently not really interested in taking my money…

One knock-on effect from this is that I’ll have no machine to play KSP on 😦 I’m not sure how to tackle this, but I suspect it will involve a “new” graphics card for my PC. Only being able to play KSP at home probably isn’t a bad thing either…

However, there will probably be a short break (read: at least three months) until I get around to buying a “new” graphics card, so no KSP till then.

Now that I have my “dream” laptop, what next? Well, I’m hopeful that I won’t acquire much more new hardware for a while. No full computers, anyway…

Aspire 6920 (Steve)



I originally thought that it was too ugly for a photo, but it’s been around for quite a while now, and has served me well. It deserves a photo:


You can't see the coffee stains from here

Shiny… and grubby…

This is yet another laptop. Originally, it was another loaned machine, but then it became mine – the original owner didn’t want it back.

It originally was running a terribly slow install of Windows 7, but I replaced that with Arch Linux, and used it for a while. Since I’ve now got the Dell working, it’s now running a Debian dual boot with the Windows Vista install from the Dell, just in case I ever need it back.



This machine is probably going to be my KSP machine, mostly because my other machines really aren’t powerful enough.

To help with that, I’ve turned it into a separate project – cunningly named the “Acer Project”

It’s currently running Debian.


It did have some decent specs to start with, but I’ve moved quite a few parts to the Dell

  • Core 2 Duo @ 1.8Ghz – T5670
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 250GB SATA HDD
  • Nvidia GeForce 9400M GS 512MB GPU
  • Half-dead battery (2 hour life, if I’m lucky) – now being used as a budget UPS 🙂