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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Tue, 31 Jan 2012

Laptop overheating, causing thermal shutdown during prolonged, CPU-intensive tasks

I've had my Lenovo G555 laptop (AMD Athlon II at 2.1 GHz) for nearly two years, and recently I've been experiencing thermal shutdowns while running prolonged, CPU-intensive tasks in Debian Squeeze.

Perhaps ironically but probably totally explainable, watching Flash video is not one of these tasks. I can watch Flash-delivered content in Hulu all night, and the Lenovo is fine.

The laptop overheats and shuts down when doing two things:

  • Java-heavy tasks like listening to networked, software-defined-radio sites like http://w4ax.com

  • Rendering videos in OpenShot

Two things that are very CPU-intensive, indeed.

So what did I do about this?

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Wed, 18 Jan 2012

Get more Unicode fonts on your Debian system

I was reading this article in the Linux Weekly News that mentioned the site's coming UTF-8 capability, allowing it to more easily enter and display characters from many languages, and I noticed that not all of those characters were displaying in my web browser (I happened to be using Google Chrome at the time).

One of the commenters in that article recommended installing the xfonts-unifont and ttf-unifont packages to remedy the situation.

I went into the Synaptic Package Manager and learned you can install a single package -- unifont -- that brings both xfonts-unifont and ttf-unifont into your system, giving you way more Unicode capability than you had before.

Tue, 17 Jan 2012

This blog will go dark on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 to protest the SOPA and PIPA bills restricting the open web

I'm joining Identi.ca, O'Reilly, Wikipedia, BoingBoing, MoveOn, Mozilla, Reddit and scores of other websites large and small in going dark on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), which would allow U.S. copyright holders to shut down foreign web sites with only a suspicion of copyright infringement.

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Use alsamixer to turn off the annoying, loud beep (aka system bell) in Debian Squeeze when you shutdown or restart

Before I installed the 2.6.39 kernel from Backports on my Debian Squeeze system, I quieted the annoyingly loud system beep (aka system bell; it used to be a real bell back in the day) from startling me and waking others by "blacklisting" the pcspkr in /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf.

Since that stopped working in 2.6.39, and the beep returned (it is LOUD), I figured there had to be another way to shut it up.

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Sat, 14 Jan 2012

Raphael Hertzog's Debian Squeeze discs are well worth the money

I've burned hundreds of Linux and BSD discs since I figured out what to do with an ISO sometime in late 2006/early 2007. I've saved many and gotten rid of many as well.

Nowadays my main laptop can boot from USB, so I tend to put the ISO images that allow both testing of live systems as well as installation straight onto flash-memory thumb drives. Now with the "hybrid" images that projects like Debian, Ubuntu and Fedora are using, it's easier than ever to use the cat command to copy the ISO to the USB thumb drive.

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Sat, 07 Jan 2012

I'm using Debian Live-based Tails from a live USB stick to preserve privacy and anonymity

Courtesy of Distrowatch, I learned about Tails, a live Linux distribution based on Debian Live that uses Tor and other cryptographic- and privacy-minded features to protect a users anonymity while using the Internet.

I've been interested in projects like this for quite some time. I used a live CD based on OpenBSD called Anonym.OS to do this some time ago (more to see if OpenBSD would run on my hardware, but I did appreciate the security emphasis of Tor then and now).

No sooner did I hear about Tails than did I download it and write it to a bootable USB drive.

Now I'm in the Debian Live/Tails environment, using the Iceweasel browser with Tor and excited about the possibilities of using Tails to operate computers (plural) on the Web in a truly free and (mostly) traceless way.

It all should be like this but isn't, of course. The endgame for me is a fully installable distribution that adheres to these privacy principles.

I'll write more about Tails later. Until then, download it yourself and give it a try. It runs great (it's Debian under the hood after all) in case you were wondering.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012

Keep an eye on Debian CUT

If the notion of a Constantly Usable Testing version of Debian is something you might be interested in, keep an eye on the project's web site, http://cut.debian.net.

Read the Original Manifesto to get up to speed. And follow the mailing list.

It was news to me that there is actually something there -- monthly Testing snapshots and even nightly builds.

I don't know yet how I feel about CUT. I've run Testing before, generally right around the freeze before the next stable release, and for the most part I haven't suffered from too much breakage. CUT aims to deal with that very problem.

The biggest problem I've had has been upgrading an existing Stable installation to Testing. I've had more trouble than not, and I recommend either installing Testing from scratch, or waiting for the official Debian release notes for a new Stable release.

Anything that gets more people using Debian is a good thing. If you've read this blog even a little, you realize that most of the entries consist of me telling why my Stable/Backports/Selected Outside Repos setup works for me.

Wed, 04 Jan 2012

Somehow .org sounds too official

I've been using steven@stevenrosenberg.org as an e-mail address for a few years now.

But I don't feel, as an individual, very .org-ish.

I also have a .net domain, so I started an e-mail account at steven@stevenrosenberg.net. It's a small change.

The .org e-mail will forward to the .net account and thus won't be lost in the ether.

I'm just feeling less like a .org and more like a .net.

In case you were wondering, somebody who isn't me has stevenrosenberg.com.

I'm running the 2.6.39 Linux kernel from Debian Backports

After months spent pondering the installation of a post-2.6.38 kernel that's actually being patched when needed for my Debian Squeeze system, I finally figured out how to add the Debian Backports 2.6.39 kernel without the operation removing every other kernel in the process.

That's what threatened to happen every time I used Synaptic or Aptitude to attempt to add the newer kernel from Backports. Since the 3.1 kernel from Liquorix panics in this machine, I was loathe to add a new kernel from Backports and not have my older kernels to fall back on if that should panic as well.

It didn't. Now I have 2.6.39 from Debian Backports, 2.6.38 from Liquorix and the original 2.6.32 Squeeze kernel to choose from.

And presumably the Backports kernel will be patched if/when needed.

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