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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Fri, 19 Dec 2014

I'm running Fedora 21 with Wayland, and so far (almost) everything is working just fine

After saying I wouldn't jump into a Fedora 21 upgrade, I rather quickly had a change of heart and mind, ran a Fedup upgrade and am now running Fedora 21 on my go-to HP Pavilion g6 laptop.

With Wayland.

Yep, one of the new features of the GNOME 3.14-running Fedora 21 is a preview of the next-generation, post-X Window Wayland display manager, and you can choose "GNOME with Wayland" in the login/session manager.

I'm running Wayland right now. I've heard the caveat many times: Not all applications will work in Wayland. But so far, every application I've tried (Firefox, Gedit, Transmission, FileZilla, VLC, Files/Nautilus, Liferea, Yumex, Google Chrome, Geany, even apps in Wine) has run in Wayland with no trouble.

I've been running Fedora 21 for a few days now, spending most of my time in the non-Wayland world of Xfce and GNOME with X, and the system is as solid as ever. And by that I mean pretty damn solid.

The only glitch I've had with Wayland has been in suspend/resume, which is pretty touchy anyway with my hardware. (I've probably written 50 posts about it since I got this laptop.) When running Wayland, the laptop will suspend and then resume, but I'm seemingly "detached" from my session and have to log in again. At this point I'm logged in twice. This doesn't happen in X. If this is the only thing I can find wrong with Wayland, I'll still consider it pretty remarkable.

Just from a "look and feel" perspective, GNOME 3.14 is working better and faster than version 3.10 did in Fedora 20. I'm not saying I'm going to throw Xfce over for it, but the environment is more usable than ever. I moved to the Adiwata Dark theme while still in F20, and everything looks that much better in F21.

As I've said since I began running Fedora 18 on this laptop and upgrading via Fedup to each subsequent release, a system as forward-looking as Fedora shouldn't be anywhere near as stable as it is. It's a tribute to the developers for Fedora and the many upstream projects that go into the distribution.

Today marks only nine days since Fedora 21 went stable, and my system is running like a well-maintained watch.

So if you think of yourself as the adventurous type, someone who likes everything to be pretty new all the time but doesn't really want to deal with a lot of breakage and is curious about Wayland in the real world, give Fedora 21 a try.

Later: You know what got fixed in Fedora 21 that was broken in F20? Mounting of Apple iOS 8 devices.

Tue, 16 Dec 2014

This is an Ode Markdown formatting test

This paragraph is set off with tabs and has a Markdown-generated link:

This is my Ode site, [which lives here](http://stevenrosenberg.net/blog).

This paragraph uses "blockquote" HTML tagging and an HTML link:

This is my Ode site, which lives here.

This paragraph is set off with tabs and has an HTML-tagged link:

This is my Ode site, <a href="http://stevenrosenberg.net/blog">which lives here</a>.

None of this text uses the "code" tag.

So my question is, how do you call "blockquote" without "code" in Markdown?

Later: I have the answer. Set off every line with the > character:

> This text will be set off in blockquote style.

With the proper Markdown, this becomes:

This text will be set off in blockquote style.

Fri, 12 Dec 2014

Fedora 20 confession: Now that F21 is out, I'm enjoying the quiet

So I haven't upgraded my daily-drive Fedora 20 system to Fedora 21, which was released two short days ago.

From what I can see, the RPM Fusion repositories are ready for F21. Google Chrome might break, but a quick removal and reinstall should fix that.

In F21, there will be many changes in the GNOME desktop environment and applications.

But for my go-to desktop environment, Xfce, it's going to be pretty much the same. (Yes, Xfce is moving glacially slow, and I've heard talk of people turning to the GNOME 2-inspired Mate desktop because it's under heavy development.)

My web browsers (Firefox and Chrome) won't fall behind. I get the latest versions from Fedora and Google, respectively.

I'm dabbling in Ruby, and F20 has version 2.0. F21 has 2.1, but at the level I'm at, it doesn't matter.

And now that all the heat is on F21, it's been relatively quiet, update-wise for F20. It's a bit closer to running Debian Stable. After awhile you get a few security patches here and there, but updates are quiet and quick.

Even an old (but still supported) Fedora release gets more updates than a current Debian Stable, but for the moment, I'm enjoying the ritual of staring Yumex and seeing either only a few or, better yet, no updates waiting to be installed.

Sure I'll move to F21. It could be tomorrow (probably not) or next month (you're getting warm). But what's the hurry?

Sat, 06 Dec 2014

Keybase: Cryptography and keys made easier

I'm trying to wrap my head around https://keybase.io/. http://devio.us uses it, and that's how I learned of its existence.

I already use keys for some services, so I'm not completely in the dark, but I sense that between the Keybase web service and local command-line interface, this is something useful.

Thu, 04 Dec 2014

Unhappy Node.js users fork the Joyent-run project, creating community-driven io.js

The Node.js server-side Javascript runtime is today’s hot thing. You might say it’s the Ruby on Rails of the ’10s. Where developers used to code in Perl and PHP, then Ruby/Rails, today’s startup-fueled web-development world is all about Javascript on the server, and Node is the grease that makes it all go.

And sitting atop the Node.js heap is Joyent, the company where Node creator Ryan Dahl was working when he came up with the idea and the code to make it run.

So even though Node.js is an open-source project, its direction is largely guided by the for-profit Joyent. And that doesn’t sit so well with some Node users/developers.

As reported in InfoWorld and elsewhere, a group of them just started a fork of Node.js called io.js, which is now living on GitHub and prepared to take the Node code in a community-driven direction.

As the io.js project’s “Read Me” text states:

"This repository began as a GitHub fork of joyent/node where contributions, releases, and contributorship are under an open governance model.

"We intend to release, with increasing regularity, releases which are compatible with the npm ecosystem that has been built to date for node.js."

As InfoWorld previously reported the Node forking threat has been floating around for awhile, and in response Joyent created an advisory board to get more community input into what has become one of the most-used open-source projects in the world of web-delivered application development.

Fighting, infighting, forking and just plain grumbling is nothing new to open-source projects. Friction over the transition from Python 2 to Python 3, the never-ending gestation of Perl 6, everything about Linux distribution Ubuntu and its SABDFL (self-appointed benevolent dictator for life) Mark Shuttleworth since he moved the buttons from right to left, Debian and the now-raging debate over the systemd init system that’s so much more than an init system … and the beat goes on.

The question is, does Joyent have enough developer (and major corporate) juice to keep Node as the glue holding together today’s Javascript-driven web stack?

The short-term bettor says yes, since Javascript on the server is so “now,” and corporate IT has wrapped its arms firmly around Node. But since Javascript on the server has gone from curiosity to total domination in a few short years, and there’s always something new on the hot-development-tool horizon, it’s anybody’s game.

If the many-horse race over “best Javascript web framework” is any indication, another player in Node’s space is nothing more than the familiar brand of healthy competition that keeps the technology world on its code-slinging toes.

Most forks come to nothing. Just like ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once said in all his sweat-drenched glory, it usually comes down to “developers, developers developers.”

Wed, 03 Dec 2014

So I did a Fedora 21 install, and the Anaconda installer was efficient and super quick

I needed to do a bare-metal install of Fedora 21 today, and I used the beta image for the live Xfce Spin.

I didn’t do anything special. The whole disk was devoted to Fedora. I encrypted everything.

It was probably the quickest Linux install I’ve ever done — even quicker than OpenBSD’s excellent text-based installer, where if you go with the defaults you have a working system within minutes.

Sure Ananconda isn’t “linear” like other installers, but once you get used to its “hub and spoke” logic, you can bring up a Fedora system very, very quickly.

As much as I love Debian, whenever I try to do anything complicated with disk partitioning, I run into trouble. Ubuntu’s Ubiquity installer is pretty good, too. But considering the bad press that Fedora/RHEL’s Anaconda installer has gotten over the past few years, once you get to know it, you can do installs very quickly and efficiently.

Thu, 27 Nov 2014

The secret to successful suspend/resume in Linux on the HP Pavilion g6-2210us

After a year and half, I've finally cracked suspend/resume in Linux on the HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop (AMD A4-4300M APU with AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics) with the open-source Radeon driver.

I've been able to successfully suspend/resume for some time on this laptop with the closed-source AMD Catalyst driver, but two things have prompted me to give that driver up for the open Radeon driver:

1) AMD Catalyst hasn't been packaged for Fedora since Fedora 19, and we're about to see Fedora 21 released with no indication that things will change. There are at least a couple of workarounds that will get Catalyst/fglrx on your Fedora 20 system, both of which I've written about at length, but I'm tired of doing them. While the Catalyst/fglrx experience is somewhat smoother on distributions that are serious about packaging the driver (Debian and Ubuntu come to mind), breakage is inevitable on fast-moving distros like Fedora that get new Linux kernels all the time.

2) While AMD Catalyst allows the laptop to run cooler at idle (I'm pretty sure it runs at a similar temperature under load), the quality of video -- actual videos in applications like VLC, that is -- is better with the latest Radeon driver than with Catalyst. Briefly, when I'm watching something and the image is "moving," it breaks up horizontally in Catalyst, not at all in Radeon.

But suspend/resume trumps all. Having it with Catalyst kept me ... running Catalyst.

Now that I've cracked the code for successful suspend/resume without Catalyst, the infrequently updated, not-packaged-for-Fedora, closed-source driver is fading in my virtual rear-view mirror.

So how do you get suspend/resume working on this particular HP Pavilion g6 (or similarly equipped) laptop?

There are two changes you need to make in GRUB.

Read the rest of this post

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 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.