Thrice's the charm

I have finally took the time to upgrade my Girlfriend’s laptop (Dell Inspiron 6400) to Ubuntu Hardy Heron (8.04) from Gusty Gibbon. It took me a while to get around to it as I never seemed to be able to get to her place with any decent amount of time to allow me to do it.

The reason why I needed to upgrade, other than being bleeding edge, is so that I could finally sort out a bunch of problems I introduced in my attempts to get the ATI drivers to work normally.

Initially, I tried the automatic upgrade feature of the updates-manager, just for the hell of it, although I pretty much expected it not to fix my current issues. It worked flawlessly. Indeed, from my previous attempts at distro-upgrade, I expected the thing to horribly b0rk out but I was pleasantly surprised.

Unfortunately, the problems that I was having were not resolved by the upgrade so I went to plan 2. A complete reinstallation with my new shiny RW CD I just burned.

Once again, everything worked amazingly well and within 30 minutes I had a fresh warking installation. I am especially happy that they finally decided to include an option on the CD boot for Installing directly and I didn’t have to get into the live environment before I could do it.

Now I had to see if setting up the laptop would be problematic. Fortunately it wasn’t. This time I also went for the smart method and just used EnvyNG to download and install the ATI drivers which worked (again) flawlessly and quickly.

Fortunately, other than setting up the language and reinstalling the previous software, I did not have to do any extra configuration on my gf profile. This is the bonus you get when you have the /home directory in a different partition as all the program settings are kept there. It wasn’t so easy with my own (second) profile since when I tried to recreate the user, for some reason, the system would not let me use a directory that already existed on the system. That meant that I had to use a different dir for the user and move my necessary program settings there (.mozila for firefox, .purple for pidgin etc. It always annoys me when programs do not have the same config directory as their name…). This wasn’t such a big issue to tell the truth as my previous profile was quite b0rked from previous experimentations.

I was also happy to see that Laptop Suspension actually worked now. Unfortunately Hibernation still does not. It just starts the procedure and then returns you to the locked user screen. Maybe it’s some x11 setting I need to find…

Last issue for the day was Firefox refusal to play flash sound while another program (like amarok) was using the sound channel. Fortunately a little googling led me to the quick solution.

Well, that’s all for today. The setup was quite painless so I don’t have much to rant about. The next days will show how true that is. Hopefully, by the time the next version arrives I will not need any more reinstallations and the auto-upgrade feature should be enough. Of course, that depens on how much I experiment again. 😀

Ubuntu Community DDOS

Holy shit! by judging from the current speed of the ubuntu website I can only assume that their servers must be practically melting from the amount of people trying to download the new version.

The ubuntu community is DDOSing their site.

I did manage to download the .torrent file so you can download it from here if you want to. There’s currently ~10.000 peers!

My 3Dyssey

I have finally managed to make the display drivers on my girlfriend’s laptop (Dell Inspiron 6400) work with the propriertary ATI drivers.

It took me about a week and a lot of research but I finally managed to make it work. To make a long story short, the problem was that before I tried to install the propriertary drivers, I had installed the xserver-xgl package as it is necessary to have 3d acceleration with Ubuntu’s restricted drivers. Unfortunately, as the propriertary drivers can finally work with AIGLX, XGL is not needed anymore. Also unfortunately, this is not mentioned anywhere and not are you warned about it at all. As a result, I didn’t even think of that this might be the cause.

Furthemore, the ATI installation wiki, does not even mention this in the verification section either. I have now added it just to save other the same frustration I went through.

Hopefully, once I uninstalled the xserver-xgl driver, ATI became the default renderer. Unfortunately since compiz is used to work with XGL, it refused to activate. Fortunately the envy script is setup to configure compiz to use AIGLX so all I needed to do to fix this was run the script and have it reinstall the ATI drivers.

Finally I have normal 2D and 3D Capabilities. I especially hated not being able to see a fullscreen movie.

Lesson for the future learned: Ignore manual installations and just run the goddamn Envy

Now, all I need to do is figure out why power management is not working :-/

I think Ubuntu has spoiled me.

For the last day or so I’ve been trying to setup Fedora 8 just to see the progress that has been done there. For those who haven’t checked the history on this blog (i.e. everyone),Fedora Core 1 was pretty much the first distro that I tried as my first serious foray into this wonderful world. So I have always a soft spot for it.

So after I played around with Mint and KDE 4 (Nice btw), I chucked in my freshly burnt DVD and started the installation. To tell the truth, I liked that fact that I didn’t have to wait for a LiveCD environment to load before I started the installation process. I also took notes of what I did and what problems I had in order to write my experience. In order of happening:

  • Install Fedora with Basic Packages and Developments Packages
  • Login with root (As the system did not prompt me to create a user during the installation process which is strange. I may have missed something but I don’t think so).
  • User System -> Adminstration -> Users & Groups to create a normal user
  • Discover that he is not a member of any group. Add him to some basic ones
  • Try to setup sudo for more security. run visudo and uncomment the option to allow users of the “wheel” group to run all commands. Add the new user to the wheel group
  • Run pppoe-setup to set up my dsl connection. Setup more difficult than pppoeconf which took most of the correct choices. Internet connection working now
  • Start copying user configurations to a folder in the /home directory called my_clones. Then give everyone permissions to a new group called “clones”, grant all files in that folder with r/w perms for the “clones” group and then link then configuration files to each user’s directory.
  • Discover that Amarok doesn’t like that for some reason. Discover the “amarokrc” in the .kde/share/config directory. Link that as well. Collection still not saved. Rebuild it. Curse kde for not needing ownership of configuration files.
  • Try to install proprietary Nvidia drivers. Initially follow instructions here
  • Try to play some music while waiting for some permissions to change. Discover that Fedora still does not have mp3 support out of the box and no easy way to have it (like amarok informing you to press a button). Sigh and play my personal radio from firefox 3 beta 4
  • Install a bunch of packages that I hope will provide me with mp3 playback. Those include amarok-extras-nonfree.
  • Try to install d3lphin and got it without any icons. Unusable. Tried to find out what I was missing and thus installed some kd4 packages. As a result it started installing various things I did not need. In the end I had to reinstall among others VLC, Amarok, and the Gimp ad the KDE packages seem to have some weird dependencies…D3lphin still not working
  • Installed Gnucash. It didn’t automatically recognize the configuration files. Fortunately all I had to do was open the ledger file.
  • Tried to install Keytouch. Not in Fedora Repositories. Downloaded RPM for fedora 7 and installed. My Play, Back and Forward buttons do not work although they do in Ubuntu.
  • Tried to find the advanced compiz manager. Couldn’t. Installed some packages that I seemed appropriate, including emerald but manager didn’t appear and emerald didn’t affect the window decorations. Still haven’t found which package install’s compiz advanced setting manager…
  • Trying to adjust the time. Got error: “Failed to locate a program for configuring the date and time. Perhaps none is installed?” – Huh?!
  • Wine worked fortunately but I’ve lost my menu items.
  • For some reason, on boot, Fedora seems to get stuck on the boot sequence while trying to get an IP for my eth0 device. As I’m not using DHCP but rather I’m using pppoe to connect online, this just slows down the booting for no reason.
  • I’ve lost access to my previous installations of Ubuntu and Mint. Well, I’ve lost my previous grub configuration from Mint when Fedora set up the MBR and it’s own grub. I had lost Ubuntu access when Mint formated the /boot sector as a prequisite for using it (I have my /boot on a separate partition) and that pissed my off but I was hoping that Fedora would recognise my other Distro installations and give me options to boot on them. Unfortunately, even though it recognised my old WinXp installation and created an option for it, it did not recognise the GNU/Linux ones. I tried to make manual menus but apparently this only created grub boot sequences fit for Windows. This actually still annoys me. How come different distros can recognise your windows installation but are plainly oblivious to your other GNU/Linux installations? For that matter, why does Ubuntu derivatives insist on formatting your /boot partition before using it? Can’t they just leave it well enough alone?

Anyway, enough ranting. I did manage to make Fedora work partially as I need it but I’m still missing my super custom compiz-fusion eye candy and I’ve lost some settings in the process. Unfortunately I didn’t want to use my previous user directory since different distros have different ways of organizing it and every time I tried to do this, I ended up with a bunch of errors on loading it which were the result of different configuration items.

Unfortunately, my experience with Setting up Fedora 8 is not as good as I’d hoped. Ubuntu is just miles ahead in regards to ease of use.There is no way that a simple user can setup a Linux installation with Fedora with the same ease that you can do in Ubuntu. And this is unfortunate. I just hope the devs take some points on the way that Ubuntu handles the initial configuration and the available menus and copy the useful items.

Nevertheless, I plan to stick with Fedora 8 for a while just to see how well I can use it. Unfortunately I’d like to be able to multi-boot into my other installations but I still have to work on my grub’s menu.lst in order to make it see them.

Ubuntu on Dell Inspiron 6400

Crappy title I know, but it’s two-twentyfive a.m. indulge me…

So four days ago my girlfriend informed me that her laptop totally b0rked. Blue Screen of Death on boot.

Not having much chance to help from the phone, I instructed her to bring her laptop over to me to see what I could do. Now, this was a system that has been running WinXP for a while now and lately it had started giving some alarming problems, like Winamp crashing randomly or slowness on explorer etc. Now, the (cracked) AV had not reported anything and spyware scanning had not shown anything specific so I did not think to check in depth other than fix or workaround the issues as they cropped up.

I have no idea why the laptop BSODed but I put it down to either a slow AV update that allowed something nasty to pass through or just a random hdd fart that lost a system file or whatnot. Seeing as the windows installation was in Deutsch, there was not much I could see from the BSOD error other that it informed to run a chekdisk. Well, I did that and although it recovered some stuff, it did not really fix anything.

Unfortunately, as she didn’t have the recovery CDs for the laptop with her and I didn’t have any Windoze XP installation handy (well, to tell the truth, I did but it was not a good version) I considered installing Ubuntu. I was already preparing her that there was a high chance her OS would not be recovered so it wasn’t a complete surprise. Since I was always explaining her the virtues of the OS, I though that this might be the perfect chance to have her try it. Especially since she is neither a gamer nor uses the laptop for anything requiring professional apps. Fortunately she was not opposed to the idea. She just sighed and trusted in my capabilities to do what is best for her 😉

So I started the installation with Ubuntu 7.10. I chose that over Kubuntu mostly because I wanted to enjoy the 3D effects that come automatically with Ubuntu and because the support for it is more solid (just in case I’m not around to help). The initial installation went through perfectly, I created a 20G bpartition for the OS, 2 Gb swap (she has 1Gb of RAM) and the rest 70Gb as a /home separate partition which will preserve her settings in case a reinstallation is needed (a wise choice as it happened).

Once the system booted after the installation, I was greeted by a 1024×768 resolution which did not look right on the laptops LCD. I decided that the best thing to do would be to install the restricted drivers for the ATI card. That meant that I would have to connect to the net through my DSL connection and that meant a pppoe setup. Unfortunately, this is still something that lacks an easy user-friendly setup for the less technical users which I guess would not know how to deal with this at this point. Fortunately I knew the correct command to run on the terminal: pppoeconf
This took care of the internet connection so it allowed me to install the restricted drivers.

Their installation went through flawlessly and I was quite glad on that regard. A reboot however showed me that the resolution stayed the same and changing the display resolution from the System options was not possible. There was only the singe 1024×768 choice, which meant that I would have to edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf and enter the right resolution to use (1280×800) and then restart the X-Server to activate it. This is still something that really bothers me with Ubuntu. There is no easy way to change or add a resolution option for the system. If the setup fails to autodetect your monitor then you are only left with the option to edit the configuration file and this is something that a normal user will find intimidating to say the least.

Anyway, that settled, I wanted to activate the compiz eye-candy to impress her. Unfortunately, even though the System -> Preferences -> Appearance -> Visual Effects option is a major improvement over running terminal commands, the system just refused to activate them. I just received a generic error message that “The Composite extension is not available”. Not very helpful because even though I installed compiz with synaptic(I had the impression that it came with the basic setup but apparently I was wrong) this still kept popping up. An Ubuntu Forum search did not provide with much results but fortunately a google search did (in the Ubuntu forums no less). All I had to do was to install the xserver-xgl package and reboot. Compiz presto.

I then started setting up various other useful apps that I knew she would need. Amarok (yes, I’m planning to convert her), Azureus, Pidgin (Finally an excuse to quit the horrible, add-riddled ICQ client), Picard and K3b. The first problems I run to were when I tried to play videos with Totem. Although it is much better now that it automatically suggests and can download the appropriate packages, it is still annoying a bit and I am guessing a bit perplexing for a non-technical user who is certain to run into problems of missing repositories and open apt sessions. Same problem exists for mp3 which need to be installed for various programs like amarok, k3b and picard. In the last case especially, because it does not give any indication on what is missing (it just does not accept mp3s dragged) you have to install a package that is not even easy to find for me. It is named libpimp-mp3 (or something) and is needed for picard to handle them. Fortunately. once again the Ubuntu forums were to the rescue.

Finally, after all software was installed, I updated the installed stuff and started testing what worked and what not.

I used this page to see what I should be aware of. Unfortunately however it is quite outdated (I am planning to update it at some point) and I was not sure if various issues were fixed in later versions. Most importantly it notified me that sleep/hibernate does not work because of driver issues. The workaround did not seem to work as the system would just not startup again after the sleep mode was activated and only a cold boot worked. At this time I left this to be fixed later as it was getting quite late.

The last thing I did was to install the German language support and I was surprised on how easily it was done. System -> Administration -> Language support and install the German. Then set it up as the default and you’re done. I also set up a new user for me which would use the English language. I especially hated WinXP on that issue actually; without giving you an option to switch the language of the system it made it pretty much impossible to perform system administration.
Fortunately in Ubuntu, to switch the system language was as easy as changing an option at the login prompt (although it did take me a few seconds to find the correct one 😉 )

Next day, I visited my girlfriend at her place to check out how it was working. She informed me that picard would not work but other than that it seemed to be working OK. I started looking around to find how to make the hibernation work which eventually led me here. I followed the instruction to install the newest ATI driver and everything seemed to go through fine. I tested Sleep and hibernation and they were finally working.

Then I started looking on how to make the laptop media buttons work with Amarok’s global keys. Unfortunately, through the Gnome DE it always creates problems. My first idea was to disable any keyboard shortcuts for play/pause, next and forward from gnome’s “keyboard shortcuts” application but this was not enough. I tried verious combinations on amarok but for some reason nothing worked solidly. Fortunately my search eventually led me to use the “Keytouch” application which seemed to be perfect for this use.
I configured it and it seemed to work fine on my account but for some reason when I switched users and used the media handling buttons, instead of manipulating Amarok it opened a new Amarok process which lacked any window decorators and stayed always on top…strange.

Later in the afternoon, we decided to watch a movie and then I discovered that my 2D acceleration was absolutely horrid. Watching a movie fullscreen was pretty much impossible. After we watched the movie in window-mode I set out to find the solution. Unfortunately from me, the issue was related to the new ATI drivers as I found more than a few people complaining about the same issue. Some managed to solve it by inserting

Option		"XaaNoOffscreenPixmaps"

in their xorg.conf file and while it did help a bit, fullscreen videos were still unwatchable. The most unfortunate fact however was that there was nothing I could do about this. I couldn’t find a way to rollback the new ATI driver, and I couldn’t make it have a sufficient 2D acceleration. Finally after a few hours of searching I threw my hands up and just decided to reinstall the whole system and use Ubuntu’s restricted driver and leave the PC without hibernation function.

Since I didn’t have the CD at my girlfriend’s place I downloaded a new one (fortunately she did have a spare RW CD to use) and started the installation. Everything went through normally once again and the new environment was ready. I went through pretty much the same steps and a few more hours later it was done, eye candy and all.

So currently she’s been running the system for a whole week and it seems to be stable enough, although it does seem to lose some stability when a second user is logged in. Current issues I still have with the system are these:

  • When a second user is logged in, the stability of the system seems to drop. More than once time I had the system b0rk when I used the Alt-Ctrl-F# combination to switch between the users. No idea what is causing it.
  • The external HDD which was formatted as VFAT, seems to only work for the first user who logs into the system. Ubuntu’s automounter will then mount the drive and give only that user full rights while the rest won’t be able to even see the mount point. The odd thing is that my personal external HDD which is formatted as ext3 is mounted normally for all users so I assume this is something to do with the limited security of VFAT. Perhaps the developes felt that mounting these drives only for the current user (since the FS does not support rights) is the correct way to do it. Unfortunately I could not find a way to modify the automount options so I was forced to modify the fstab and add it there. I have not booted since I tried that so I’m hoping it will work.
  • Nautilus seems to freeze at random times. My girlfriend informed me of this while I was at my home and to her it seemed as if her HDD stopped working. The nautilus windows would not respond and new windows did not open. Fortunately I managed to guide her through the necessary steps to install kfrb (i.e. copy/paste the apt command in my IM windows 🙂 )and then I could use krdc to remote in. I noticed that nautilus was frozen with about 10 processes in the system sleeping so I killed everything and lo and behold, the file manager started responding again. No idea why this happened but since then this has happened again. She now knows how to resolve it by herself but it is still annoying. I am thinking of installing another file manager but I am not certain which. Doplhin seems like a good choice but I would rather have something that can be integrated with Gnome. Any ideas?
  • Amarok kept crashing after I set it up to handle the collection on the external drive. I managed to resolve it by having it manage only the stuff that is musicbrainz tagged and disabling the Replaygain script. I am not certain which was the issue (collection size or script) but I plan to activate it and see if the problem persists.
  • I still have not managed to make Keytouch work normally with two users connected. Currently it only works (I think) for the first user that activated it.
  • No Sleep & Hybernation functions. I am still waiting for newer ATI drivers.

This for now. Hopefully, another GNU/LINUX convert is in the making 🙂

Ubuntu trend slowly overcomes XP

After noticing the Google Trends from a lifehacker post, I decided to check out how well Linux is faring against windows. Initially I compared Linux and Windows which gave a huge difference for windows. This is understandable since Linux is not the main environment but rather the core. I then decided to check the actual desktop that someone might use, and the result were interesting

Ubuntu vs XP vs Vista Google trend graph

It seems that Ubuntu is slowly overcoming Windows XP in search popularity and even though Vista is still ahead which I will attribute in part to the ridiculous hype it has received. Currently ubuntu is slighly over XP in search popularity but that could be a minor surge as what happened back when Feisty came out. However if you take in the continuous downward trend of XP it might stay that way now that Gutsy is out.

It is also quite interesting to note that Ubuntu is a much more popular word in European sites and/or in European languages. English based sites tend to talk more about windows but that’s understandable if you consider that Europe is pioneering in that space while the USA (read: Companies in USA) is fighting tooth and nail to prevent the spread and awareness of GNU/Linux.

Funny note: Notice how Vista has entries about it since before 2004. It just shows how far back news about it have been circulating.

Just one more distro change

Every time that I change a GNU/Linux distro I claim that I’m going to keep it for a while but for some reason as soon as some thing start to break down things always start to look brighter on the other side. So this is how I ended up looking toward Ubuntu once more.

For those that do not follow my distro jumping story (and I blame you not), last thing I was trying out was Sabayon Linux, after getting totally pissed off with my Ubuntu 6.10 installation where the system was hanging all the time without reason. Sabayon’s initial install seemed more stable and I thought to install it. (never mind the fact that the true culprit was Nvidia crappy drivers)

Unfortunately for me, Sabayon was much less stable than it seemed initially. I blame it on the absolute bloatware format of the distro. It just includes so many applications for the same purpose, along with 4 different desktop environment and generally every conceivable package that you could think of that it seems inevitable that something will break as soon as you start upgrading things. If only they had an install option to install a more minimal system…

At some point I had gotten fed up with my CD drives disappearing, Kopete crashing (I eventually used Pidgin which is very very nice), randomly failing HDD (OK that still happens) and having to use legacy nvidia drivers in order to have beryl without system halts, I found myself buying a new external HDD (about time and I thought to myself,

Why not buy a cheap VGA to see if that will stop the system halting with newer Nvidia drivers? If nothing else, you can keep your old one to finally setup the extra server you wanted.

And so I did. I grabbed a Geforce 8500 for 90€ who I mistakenly assumed would be better than my 2.5 year old Geforce 6600 GT AGP. When I reached my place, it occurred to me that if I’m going to go to all the trouble of setting up a new VGA, I might as well go all the way and install Kubuntu Feisty 7.04 which will give me a chance to check out the new Compiz-Beryl Fusion as well. Who knows, maybe the new, “Better and more Stable” version would not overheat my Geforce 6600.

S’yeah, right. The first installation failed because I wanted to keep Sabayon as a second OS but the damn Kubuntu installer did not have support for LVM and insisted on formatting my old boot partition if I were to use it. I couldn’t be bothered at that point to play with Grub so I installed the system in my old 80Gb HDD after freeing up my old 25gb “Storage Space” (Hah!) but no luck. Since the primary HDD is the SATA one, installing it on the ATA drive did not make the system boot the new boot loader as the MBR kubuntu wrote on resided in the inactive drive.
So I bit the bullet and after backing up crucial files (Porn), critical settings (Porn playlists) and other stuff I did not want to lose (Porn links) from the home directory I deleted the Sabayon LVM and installed Kubuntu on the freed partition while formatting the boot sector and keeping my home directory intact. I assumed that K[tag]ubunt[/tag]u would just use my old KDE/Firefox settings and I was mostly right. Unfortunately there were quite a lot of setting that did not work “just right” so I ended up resetting the KDE settings (read: rename the .kde dir) and pasting the app setting I wanted to keep in it afterwards.

The initial problem was that I could not install the propriertary nvidia drivers as in the official documentation as Kubuntu does not include the necessary restricted-manager script. No problem, I fired up the package manager and requested the installation. As it was not installed on the menu, I had to use it from the console but no biggie.
I then installed [tag]compiz[/tag]-fusion and used my gf6000 to see how it went. As expected, it halted the system just as I finished setting it up. No problem then, I opened the box, installed the new VGA and tried to use it. Well I was quite surprised when the restricted-manager told me that I do not have a restricted card, the system recognized it as VESA and no matter what I did, Kubuntu just refused to acknowledge that I had a damn nvidia card inside. Checking on the compatibility list, I discovered that my card was not supported by Ubuntu. *Groan*. Now I had to find out another way to install the driver. I did not want to use Envy as it was supposedly not compatible with the official way, but in the end I gave up and used it because nothing else seemed to work.

Fortunately that helped and my new card started using acceleration. Woe to me when I discovered that it was actually much worse, performance-wise, than my old card 🙁
It was at this point that I swore and decided to just buy a good card. Shallow? Quite. But at least I had

an excuse to get myself a present for my good job performance and after all it might allow me to play a newer game. So, I returned the card, became 200€ poorer and got me a Geforce 8800 GTS who I knew was supported this time.

I took me a while to install it because I did not realize it required extra power but I happened to see the appropriate holes as I was getting “hammer and saw” thoughts.

new vgaOne envy run later (no restricted-manager still said I did not have a restricted card) I got my acceleration going. I set it up and playtested it for a while. Fortunately it did not hang the system anymore.

Now there are a few more details to iron out (like the system not booting up at 1280×1024 even though I put it in the or allowing me finally to change languages with double-shift (which does not work, again) and stuff like that but from initial experience I believe that, other than a strange slowness issue, Kubuntu is much much more stable than his predecessors and surely more stable than Sabayon 3.3. Time will tell if this will continue. For now I am contect to play around with my new accelerated desktop.

[coolplayer width=”355″ height=”288″ autoplay=”0″ loop=”0″ charset=”utf-8″ download=”1″ mediatype=””]
Compiz-Fusion Rulz

I’m thinking of making a nice video with the new version but I need an editing software that is not too hard to use. i tried Cinerella but it seems to like to crash so I don’t know how much I can use it. If anyone can propose a good screen capture setup (so that it doesn’t start to flicker when too many 3d stuff are drawn) and video editing for [tag]linux[/tag], I’d love to hear it.