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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Fri, 21 Nov 2014

Two Debian Jessie firmware packages that make the HP Pavilion g6-2210us run better

I've been doing test installs again, among them Debian Jessie, and things don't work as well as they should on my HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop without a couple of firmware packages that can be installed after a little tweaking.

Before I go on, for my particular laptop with a Realtek wireless module, the two Debian packages I need to install are firmware-linux-nonfree and firmware-realtek.

If you use [the "regular" Debian images])(https://www.debian.org/distrib/) to install, as I did this time, instead of the harder-to-find, unofficial ones with non-free firmware included, after installation you have to first get into your /etc/apt/sources.list file as root and add the contrib and non-free repositories, update your software sources with apt, and then install the firmware packages.

First, as root, modify your /etc/apt/sources.list, adding `contrib non-free to every repo line.

Here are a few web sites that can help if you've never done this before.

Let me just say that if you hope to use Debian for any length of time, you WILL be mucking with /etc/apt/sources.list, so you might as well learn it now.

Once you have contrib and non-free added to your lines in /etc/apt/sources.list, use either su or sudo to update your software sources with apt. Since sudo isn't in the Debian default (though I always install and configure it immediately with visudo), I will give the "recipe" below as if you are using su with the root pasword to get full privileges:

$ su

(enter the root password when prompted)

# apt-get update
# apt-get install firmware-linux-nonfree firmware-realtek

Then reboot the box, and you are good to go.

Thu, 13 Nov 2014

Why OpenBSD runs so hot on AMD A4 APU hardware -- and how to cool it down 20 degrees C

The good news is that I can run X in OpenBSD 5.6 on my AMD A4 APU-equipped HP Pavilion g6 laptop. Before now, starting X would cause a kernel panic.

The bad news is that the laptop runs very, very hot.

This OpenBSD misc post explains it:


List:       openbsd-misc
Subject:    Re: Slow performance on Radeon (HD7770) video card
From:       Jonathan Gray 
Date:       2014-06-22 5:12:12
Message-ID: 20140622051212.GC9087 () mail ! netspace ! net ! au
[Download message RAW]

On Sat, Jun 21, 2014 at 10:32:55PM +0200, Julian Andrej wrote:
> Hello,
> 
> i'm getting really low performance on my ATI Radeon HD7770 video card.
> glxgears runs at poor 27 fps and videos are stuttering (playback with
> mplayer and different -vo options).

We don't do acceleration on southern islands or newer Radeon
parts because it depends on LLVM, glamor and drm backed EGL.
This also requires the gbm part of Mesa which until very
recently has only supported Linux and udev/systemd.

Yes, even basic 2d acceleration requires this mess because
xf86-video-ati only has OpenGL backed glamor acceleration
for these parts, they didn't write any normal X style acceleration.

In the default configuration, my cpu is running at 70-80 degrees C as reported by:

$ sysctl hw.sensors

I was able to cool it down about 20 degrees C with this (as root):

# sysctl hw.setperf=0

I'm sure there's a way to get that parameter set automatically on boot, but I leave that to you (or for me another day).

So now I'm getting CPU temps of 50 to 65 degrees C, which is 122 to 149 degrees F. Not horrible, but not anywhere near the 95 to 120 degrees F that I get in Linux.

I did a few other OpenBSD 5.6 tests. I installed the Firefox browser and then the Xfce desktop environment.

Both worked well. Video playback from YouTube stuttered quite a bit. Audio was low, even when boosted via the Xfce volume control.

Then I installed GNOME, which consisted of adding the metapackage and making a couple of configuration changes.

That went well. I had a working GNOME 3 desktop in OpenBSD 5.6. I must say, it is probably more responsive than GNOME 3 in Fedora. It's pretty much like it is in Debian, except for the CPU heat and the fan blowing.

So the combination of excessive heat and fan noise along with poor video performance means I won't be doing much with OpenBSD on this particular laptop.

But it's always instructive to check in on OpenBSD with various hunks of hardware to see how they work together. OpenBSD has always been a project to watch, and I can only hope that hardware compatibility improves as development continues.

Mon, 27 Oct 2014

I just installed the TopIcons extension to GNOME Shell

After reading about it on one of the Fedora mailing lists, I hunted down and installed the TopIcons extension to GNOME Shell so the Dropbox icon shows up and persists in the upper panel.

So far I'm very happy with it.

I'm experimenting, as it were, with GNOME Shell and the GNOME Classic version of same, now that I'm using the open Radeon video driver and not the closed AMD Catalyst version (the latter of which does not play well with GNOME 3 at this point in time).

I finally did figure out suspend/resume in Radeon on my hardware (which I will write up at some point soon), so I'm able to run GNOME 3/Shell in addition to my go-to desktop Xfce. Suspend/resume has been a little squirrely at times, so I'm experimenting with it more than just a little before I declare myself satisfied with the fix.

Part of this means getting my GNOME Shell Extensions situation together so the environment isn't so user-unfriendly. To me anyway.

Fri, 24 Oct 2014

Matt Asay on why PostgreSQL is suddenly cool

Why is PostgreSQL on the upswing while Oracle and the Oracle-controlled MySQL are going the other way? Matt Asay aims to explain it all at ReadWrite.

Thu, 23 Oct 2014

Ars Technica looks back at 10 years of Ubuntu: The hopes, the dreams, the kerfuffles

As Ubuntu hits its 10th year as a Linux distribution, cause celebre and all-around topic of conversation among the free-software set, Ars Technica takes a look back at what started with release number 4.10, nicknamed Warty Warthog in 2004 and continues today with the version 14.10, named Utopic Unicorn.