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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
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 but 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 needing 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.

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.

Tue, 21 Oct 2014

The Debian Jessie installer: first impressions -- desktop choice (yay), encryption fail (boo)

I did a Debian Jessie install last week. This was a traditional install on "real" hardware, more specifically a different drive on my daily (HP Pavilion g6) laptop.

As much as I've praised the Debian installer in the past, and I'll praise it a little bit right now, I will also drop it in a hole and throw a shallow layer of dirt over it just because.

First of all, the Debian installer experience seem much the same in Jessie as it was in Wheezy and Squeeze before it. I don't remember it being much different in Etch. That was my first Debian installation, so my memory, hazy as it is, ends there.

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Catalyst/fglrx trouble in Debian (and not just in Fedora)

My AMD Catalyst (aka fglrx) trouble in Fedora is well-documented. Biggest of the big at this point is that the proprietary AMD driver DOES NOT work with GNOME 3.

The reason for this incompatibility seems to be that GNOME is getting ready for the Wayland display server, and code associated with that move makes GNOME crash when you try to run it under Catalyst/fglrx, which appears to know nothing about the imminent arrival of Wayland. (Note: You can play with Wayland today in Fedora 21. I did so briefly before the whole thing fell apart on me.)

The lack of an easy-to-install (i.e RPM-packaged) proprietary AMD driver has been a problem since the release of Fedora 20 and no doubt is a major factor in why nobody has packaged Catalyst for a Fedora/RHEL-derived distro since.

Yep, there is no RPM-packaged Catalyst for Fedora 20, and it looks like the situation will continue through the Fedora 21 cycle. There is also no Catalyst RPM -- from RPM Fusion or anybody else -- for RHEL/CentOS 7.

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Tue, 14 Oct 2014

Developer of Stella, the best CentOS-based distro for the desktop, not looking to create a CentOS 7 version any time soon

I've been saying for the longest time that if you want to run RHEL/CentOS on the desktop and don't want to quickly hit a wall in terms of packages, you need to either run the Stella spin on CentOS, or use the developer of that project's repo to give your existing CentOS/RHEL system what it's otherwise lacking.

Who is that developer? I'm talking about Nux, who not only produced the great CentOS 6-based Stella, but who also offers repositories for RHEL/CentOS 6 and now 7.

The way I look at it, without the Nux repo, you are going to miss a LOT of packages you're accustomed to seeing in Fedora, Ubuntu and Debian that you just don't see in Fedora, EPEL, El Repo and RPM Fusion.

Yep, three extra repos won't give you the desktop packages you need.

But the Nux repo will. And luckily at this point it's got hundreds of packages you might want or need for RHEL/CentOS 7.

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Dietrich T. Schmitz of Linux Advocates likes Fedora 21 Workstation

The reviews are starting to roll in for the now-alpha Fedora 21 Workstation, and Dietrich T. Schmitz of Linux Advocates likes what he sees so far:

It's a good sign when I find myself smiling, which is what happened after installing Fedora 21 Alpha Workstation. As I write, and after a week of poking around Fedora Workstation Alpha, I am thinking: "This is Alpha? It's more production-ready than other general releases I have seen". Seriously Folks, it's that stable. The most obvious change? Visual. Fedora Workstation gets the proverbial face lift with GNOME 3.14. And that is what keeps me smiling.

Go to Dietrich's review for more on F21 Workstation, including screenshots.

Thu, 09 Oct 2014

So I'm totally into Reddit right now

I recently started looking at Reddit, and I'm enjoying it.

It's more like Slashdot than not. The biggest difference is that on Reddit, it's easier for anybody to post a "topic," and actually see their post on the live site.

Fri, 26 Sep 2014

I turned off automatic Windows updates

I'm not in Windows 8 so often (except for the past two days) that on the rare occasions when I do load it up I am at all happy to wait a half-hour or more for the machine to shut down because it's downloading and installing dozens of updates.

I turned automatic updates off. When I have time, I'll boot into Windows 8 and do the updates manually.

Thu, 25 Sep 2014

With dodgy broadband on dodgy apps via Citrix, I turn to Windows 8

I had a pretty good day yesterday running the dodgy over-Citrix apps I need for my $Dayjob. But when bandwidth is poor and I keep getting disconnected, the only way I can manage to keep working is to run the Citrix apps in Windows (in my case Windows 8, not even 8.1 because that update went pear-shaped when I tried it months ago).

What happens is the bits on my DSL connection stop flowing for a minute or so, and I get disconnected from my Citrix apps. In Windows, there's an option on the Citrix page in my browser to reconnect to my "paused" resources. That option doesn't exist on the web page in Linux. Could it be because I'm using a slightly older version of Citrix Receiver / Wfica / ICA / Whatever the hell it is in Linux?

All I know is that it's a pain in the ass. When I'm on a "strong" networking connection with a ton of bandwidth, this isn't a problem, and I can probably run the Citrix apps in Linux. But with my not-so-great home "broadband," I need the extra cushion of being able to easily reconnect to my Citrix apps in order to stay working.

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Wed, 24 Sep 2014

Hammering hard on Xfce 4.10 in Fedora 20

So I'm working from home today and doing the full $dayjob breaking-news production routine (anything that nine websites throws at me plus other assorted sundries) in Fedora 20 with Xfce 4.10. When I'm at the office, I usually split the load between a monster ThinkCentre machine (8 GB RAM, AMD CPU with 4 cores) running Windows 7 and this less powerful laptop with Fedora/Xfce (3 GB RAM, AMD APU with 2 cores).

But today I only have the laptop.

First, my latest software change: It's been getting more and more difficult to run the AMD Catalyst driver in Fedora. For the past month and then some, running Google Chrome would crash X if I didn't start it with just the right command switch. Then Firefox started crashing X if I opened up certain web sites in a new tab. File that under "time to ditch Catalyst."

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Sure we need to kill e-mail dead, but here's an article with some interesting alternatives

In a business context, e-mail is horrible, outdated and a time-waster. With that (and more) in mind, Thomas Knoll of Primeloop writes for Medium, I banned email at my company.

Sure his reasons for ditching e-mail make sense, but what makes the article value is that Knoll mentions more than a few services that Primeloop is using to replace e-mail and help his team collaborate and communicate.

Among them are:

I'm still trying to wrap my head around what these services do and how/why to use them, but so far Slack and Hackpad look extremely promising for "situations," I find myself in.

It's not lost on me that the context of this article is a startup company leveraging the work of other startup companies, with all of that work being proprietary and hosted by said companies and not available for self-hosting at all. Even if a service is web-based, it's nice to have the option of loading it up yourself, on your server (or rough equivalent), and controlling it without a company getting in the way.

But a compelling service that fulfills an acute business need (or three) is well worth looking into and possibly adopting if that need is real (and unfulfilled). If/when the startup responsible for the product is acquired and said product is Hoovered up into the mothership, that's another problem, I guess.

Mon, 15 Sep 2014

I started my personal Fedora Wiki page

With inspiration from Paul Mellors, I decided to start my personal Fedora Wiki page. Yes, I am a Fedora member, though I haven't yet blossomed into an active one. At this point I try to answer questions on Ask Fedora, and I'd like to start contributing to the Fedora Magazine.

So I'm mostly just a user of Fedora. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't be a Fedora member, or have a wiki page. So I am. And I do.

Fri, 12 Sep 2014

Ruby's 'insert' method is something I'm definitely going to use

It's not a secret that I'm starting to look into the Ruby programming language. I've got a mess of second-hand books, plus there are plenty of helpful web sites.

I was looking into the gsub method of search/replacing in Ruby when I stumbled across something very useful: the insert method.

I'm sure there are plenty of better ways to do this, but the fact that I can do this and understand it ... that's something.

Here is what I'm talking about. I did it all in the interactive Ruby shell (aka irb) and have revised it because it's even easier to type out than I thought:

irb(main):017:0> phrase = "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back"
=> "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back"

irb(main):020:0> phrase.insert 0, "<bold>"
=> "<bold>The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back"

irb(main):024:0> phrase.insert -1, "</bold>"
=> "<bold>The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back</bold>"
Sat, 23 Aug 2014

Why I don't distro-hop: Because work. And pain.

I still see people installing new Linux distributions, one after the other, on their "production" laptops and desktops. I don't.

Sure, I fire up live images via USB or old-timey CD/DVD fairly regularly.

But I almost never do full, bare-metal installs on hardware I'm actually using. And I got rid of most of my PC boneyard, though I still have a 1999-era Compaq laptop (running Debian Squeeze LTS) and now a recently returned (from my daughter) 2002-era Thinkpad R32 (choking on Lubuntu 14.04 and in need of something new).

As far as "modern," equipment goes, all I have is my "production" laptop, an early-2013 HP Pavilion g6-2210us. And ever since I had the time to set up a Windows-Linux dual-boot, I've been running the same Fedora installation, upgraded via Fedup from F18 through F20.

Given that this is new, cheap AMD hardware, it's been a bit bumpy along the way. But the speed of updates in Fedora means that new kernels and drivers (theoretically) provide the latest drivers that are the lifeblood of any new, not-yet-supported hardware.

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Thu, 21 Aug 2014

Another great experience in Fedora bug reporting: Wine font fix solves my web-browsing problem

Fedora's motto is "Freedom. Friends. Features. First." I'm here to tell you Fedora lives up to that billing. Why do I say this now? I've just had another positive experience with Fedora, this time in finding a bug in my system, adding my information to an existing bug report and now seeing updated packages pushed to the Fedora 20 stable repositories and onto my system, where the problem has been fixed.

This all started a few weeks ago. After an update of the wine software that allows Linux users to run many Windows programs, many of the fonts in both the Firefox and Chrome web browsers started to look horrible. I narrowed it down to anything resembling Arial and Helvetica.

After searching for information, I found a command that would tell me what the system was using when asked to display a certain font:

$ fc-match -v arial | grep file

Now that the problem has been fixed, the output is different, but at the time it clearly showed that a wine-installed Arial font had been installed in my system's decidedly non-wine (aka "normal") font path.

And that font was hideous.

Many web sites, including the Fedora Forum and Gmail, looked like hell with that horrible Arial font. When Gmail looks horrible, you know there's a problem.

I began searching for other Fedora users who might have this same problem and came across this bug report on wine-courier-fonts overriding the system Courier font. In that bug report was this Aug. 9, 2014 comment by Arun Raghavan:

This also seems to apply to the arial font which makes things in Firefox look weird as well.

I saw this on Aug. 13, and immediately got into the thread because I'm a Fedora member and already have a Bugzilla account:

I am seeing this same issue with Arial. The fonts look terrible in both Firefox and Google Chrome. I think this happened during the last Wine update.

Hours later, Peter Oliver confirmed the problem:

Indeed, wine-fonts-arial was first included in 1.7.22-2, pulled in automatically by wine-fonts.

http://pkgs.fedoraproject.org/cgit/wine.git/commit/?h=f20&id=a401ea3e98ebe63b2654e2680e2a166b80aefc9a.

I know there's disagreement about whether Wine fonts should be made available as system fonts, but, irrespective of that, this affects the existing user experience, so ideally shouldn't have been included in a stable update.

The next day Michael Cronenworth wrote that he was pushing an update to wine that would take the fonts out of the system path:

The Font SIG has allowed us to remove Wine fonts from the system path. I'll be pushing a 1.7.24 update shortly to address this.

https://lists.fedoraproject.org/pipermail/fonts/2014-August/001736.html

A few days after that, the update was available in the testing repository. I waited for it to make its way into Fedora 20 Stable, which it did today. In the course of today's Yum (in my case the GUI Yumex) update, new wine packages were installed on my system, and now everything looks great again in Firefox and Chrome.

As asked in the bug report, I did add karma after installing the update.

Things do break in Fedora every once in a while, but not as often as you might think.

Pretty much every time something like happens on my system, even with the kernel, I've been able to either start a new bug report or chime in on an existing one. Soon thereafter, the wonderful developers who build packages for Fedora have addressed my problems and provided fixes that made those problems go away.

Chalk it up as another great experience with Fedora, both the Linux operating system and the community behind it.

Sat, 16 Aug 2014

Font changes on this Ode site

Changing fonts in Ode is as easy as changing the .css file in the theme(s) you are using.

I've been having some trouble in Fedora with the Arial font, which looks like hell. The Wine non-emulator that runs Windows software in Linux brought an Arial font into my system, and it's just plain ugly.

I started looking at Arial and Helvetica not just in Linux but in Windows, too, and I decided that I don't like either one very much.

So I went into my CSS and killed out Helvetica Neue and Arial. Now Verdana and sans-serif, in that order, are the default fonts.

Looks better, I think.

A new Ode site: Surface Markup development blog

There is a new Ode-running site out in the wild. Announced on the existing Surface Markup blog is the Surface Markup development blog, which has one of the nicest themes I've ever seen on an Ode site. It's minimal, beautiful and responsive.

Designer/writer Hans Fast helped me make this site responsive, and I continue to thank him.

Fri, 08 Aug 2014

Jordi Mallach says GNOME should remain the default desktop environment in Debian Jessie -- and why I agree

Jordi Mallach details in a post I found via Google Plus why GNOME should remain the default desktop environment in Debian Jessie despite the usual switch to Xfce prompted by a desire to keep the ISO image at CD size.

There's more. And it's not just image size: Most use Debian's netinstall image, which is always much smaller than a traditional data CD, and I think many if not most have access to a DVD drive or bypass optical media entirely for USB flash drives, so size doesn't matter as much as it might.

The dust-up over GNOME 3's controversial desktop is nothing new. Many will never like it. Cue irony: Windows 8, UI-wise, is as crazy as GNOME 3. They make the current Mac OS X desktop look positively old-school. That's probably drawing more to OS X than it is the other direction (to GNOME and Windows 8).

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Wed, 06 Aug 2014

Installing the AMD Catalyst driver in RHEL or CentOS 7

Hey everybody, it's not just Fedora users who have no RPM-packaged AMD Catalyst (aka fglrx) proprietary video driver.

RHEL/CentOS 7 is also out in the cold.

(Note to all developers who have anything to do with Fedora or Red Hat: Recent AMD-running laptops with all-in-one APU chips (CPU and GPU together) tend to RUN LIKE CRAP without Catalyst.)

So RHEL/CentOS 7 users are stuck with AMD's upstream installer. To that end, here's a guide from the CentOS Forum on how to install Catalyst with AMD's .sh installer.

Tue, 05 Aug 2014

How to get Google Chrome to stop crashing while running the AMD Catalyst driver in Linux

If you're having the same problem I am with Google Chrome crashing while running the proprietary AMD Catalyst video driver in Fedora 20 (or any other version of Linux), I have a fix.

My thought was that I could play with command-line switches to "trick" Google Chrome into running.

(Note before we begin: I think different distributions have different commands to run Google Chrome or Chromium in the first place. In Fedora, calling google-chrome runs the browser.)

I found a huge list of command-line switches for Chrome and Chromium from Peter Beverloo's web site and started looking it over and trying a few.

This one worked:

$ google-chrome --disable-gpu

Peter's page describes --disable-gpu this way (and links to this portion of the content-switches code for Chromium):

Disables GPU hardware acceleration. If software renderer is not in place, then the GPU process won't launch.

This means that I'm back in the Google Chrome-running business. I'll have to add this modified command-with-switch to my Xfce panel so I can run Chrome without the terminal.

And now you can, too.

Sat, 02 Aug 2014

Lubuntu craps out, and I'm now auditioning Debian and Fedora for an ancient Thinkpad

I've been running Lubuntu on my daughter's ancient IBM Thinkpad R32 for as long as I can remember. The upgrade from 12.04 to 14.04 was anything but smooth. I wasn't offered a straight 12.04-14.04 upgrade and instead went through the steps (12.10, 13.04, 13.10 and finally 14.04) when I probably should have just reinstalled with 14.04.

Now there's another problem. Wireless networking doesn't work. I even checked with the Lubuntu 14.04 live CD. And two different USB Wi-Fi adapters.

The system sees the networks, but it won't join them. And none of the "help" I found online was very helpful.

I could go back to the long-unsupported Lubuntu 14.04. Since this laptop has a CD drive only, that limits the live images I can try because many have climbed over CD size.

Lubuntu has not. And as I say above, I have tried it.

Fedora LXDE is also still CD-sized. I'm trying to download a torrent now. I'm doing the same with the Debian 7.6 netinstall image, from which I can whip up an LXDE system. Unfortunately Debian is a bit crapshootish because the Debian Live images are, again, too large for a CD.

I'd rather not go with Fedora, as this is OLD hardware. Debian's extra speed really shows in this situation (namely a Pentium 4 with 768 MB RAM).

I'm fairly confident I can return the Thinkpad to wireless-running usefulness. But I remain disappointed with Lubuntu (and maybe all of Ubuntu) for whatever it's doing to this old laptop's ability to complete a Wi-Fi connection.

Sat, 26 Jul 2014

Working Saturday, sweating it out

So I'm working Saturday. At the office. I'm the only one here. And since it's Saturday, there is no air conditioning until 10 a.m.

I'm trapped in a large glass bottle of stale, hot air.

Update: It's 10:01. The air just kicked on. Half of any good employer-employee relationship involves free air-conditioning.

Internet, you bore me

Just wanted to say that.

Sat, 19 Jul 2014

Am I the only person who can't run Google Chrome under Linux with the AMD Catalyst driver?

Am I really the only person having trouble with the Google Chrome web browser while running the propretary AMD Catalyst video driver in Linux?

Just checking.

Fri, 18 Jul 2014

One year, two months with Fedora this time around

I looked back in the archives and found out that I've been running Fedora on this particular laptop (HP Pavilion g6-2210us) for a year and two months.

Since this el-cheapo, about-$400 AMD laptop is NOT a top-of-the-line Intel-running Thinkpad, it hasn't gotten anywhere near the same level of love from the Linux kernel and driver developers.

But things have gotten better and better over time. And excepting the relentlessly rolling Arch Linux, things improve more quickly in Fedora than anywhere else. New kernels, drivers and applications, for the most part, fly onto Fedora systems via regular updates.

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Wed, 16 Jul 2014

Debian Developer switches to Mac, doesn't look back (and yes, we should be worried)

Debian Developer Jon Dowland writes about switching from Linux to the Macintosh with OS X:

It appears I have switched for good. I've been meaning to write about this for some time, but I couldn't quite get the words right. I doubted I could express my frustrations in a constructive, helpful way, even if I think that my experiences are useful and my discoveries valuable, perhaps I would put them across in a way that seemed inciteful rather than insightful. I wasn't sure anyone cared. Certainly the GNOME community doesn't seem interested in feedback.

It turns out that one person that doesn't care is me: I didn't realise just how broken the F/OSS desktop is. The straw that broke the camel's back was the file manager replacing type-ahead find with a search but (to seemlessly switch metaphor) it turns out I'd been cut a thousand times already. I'm not just on the other side of the fence, I'm several fields away.

What can I say? With the Macintosh seemingly left for dead by Apple while the iPhone and iPad shovel in the revenue, Mac laptops have quietly become the platform of choice for developers everywhere.

Meanwhile, fragmentation in the Linux desktop space and what appears to be not just a lack of attention to detail but a willful rejection of it haven't helped.

That said, I'm firmly in the "buy cheap, run Linux" camp, and I figure that the Microsoft-driven laptop price war to combat the Google Chromebook will provide a whole new class of sub-$250 machines on which to run the Linux distribution of your choice.

Since I don't have $1,500+ for a laptop that won't accept OS updates in a few years and generally don't need to run the Adobe Creative Suite, I don't have the opportunity/burden of trying to figure out how much free (as in freedom) software I could shoehorn into a Macintosh OS X environment.

But I can see how developers who aren't Linux distro developers want to go for what's "easy," if not at all cheap.

While Ubuntu has in the past tried to court developers, the current direction in which they're taking Unity is more about mobile compatibility than desktop productivity. And I don't see any advantages for the average developer with GNOME Shell. Maybe GNOME Classic in an environment with a whole lot more configurability out of the box would work. I know that a more polished Xfce with a lot of the rough edges smoothed out could be popular.

But it's the fragmentation ...

I'd love for Fedora Workstation with its (I think) target audience of developers to fill this gap. But without a long-term support release, that won't happen. Maybe a CentOS "developer desktop" spin could do better.

The elephant. In the room. It's the same thing it always was: Preloads.

It's going to require a major hardware vendor to commit to developer-centric laptops in a variety of price ranges with dedicated, in-house developers making sure the hardware is 100-percent supported in Linux and on the Linux distribution shipping with that hardware. I'm not saying it will never happen. I hope it does.

Until then, Apple is going to eat everybody's lunch, including Microsoft's. And desktop Linux's, too.

I'm not saying that choice on the Linux desktop is bad. What I am saying is that a stable, functional, not-scary desktop with some heavy development attention and (dare I say it) substantial corporate support could turn the tide and bring not just developers but others (back) to Linux.

Wed, 09 Jul 2014

AMD Catalyst packages for Fedora 19 still work with 3.15.x Linux kernel in Fedora 20

Probably the best "solution" I've found for the lack of AMD Catalyst packages in RPM Fusion for Fedora 20 has been to use the packages that are still being maintained in that repository for Fedora 19.

But as always with proprietary driver packages, there is a question as to whether or not they will work with a new Linux kernel.

Kernel 3.15.3-200 moved recently into Fedora 20, and I decided to make the leap into installing it today.

I can report that akmod-catalyst handled it perfectly. Catalyst works in 3.15.3, and everything is running as it should.

One of the touted features in kernel 3.15 is faster suspend/resume. Does using a proprietary video driver negate this speedup? I don't know.

I do periodically test suspend/resume with the open Radeon driver to see if I can ditch Catalys, but at this point I'll wait for live Fedora 21 (and Ubuntu 14.10) media for my next foray into the free driver.

Tue, 08 Jul 2014

Stella 7 is on its way

I mentioned this in my CentOS 7 post but felt that it deserved to lead its own entry:

For those who want to run CentOS 7 on the desktop with minimal pain, take heart: Nux is prepping a CentOS 7 version of Stella

I was a big, big fan of Stella 6 -- I really think it's the only way to run CentOS on the desktop without pulling your remaining hair out. Nux has packages of just about everything you're missing in stock RHEL/CentOS. And for those who haven't really looked into it, RHEL/CentOS is missing a lot.

Stella isn't so much a derivative distro as it is a spin on CentOS that includes all the extra repositories you need to replicate the desktop experience of, say, Fedora, but in the supported-just-about-forever world of RHEL/CentOS.

There's a CentOS 7 'Everything' image -- and a new Stella is in the works

In case you hadn't heard (and count me among that number until just about now), CentOS 7 is out.

One of the things that CentOS is planning to do in its cozy-with-Red Hat present and future is release a whole lot of specialized images.

One of those images is out right now. It's an "Everything" ISO image that fits on an 8 GB flash drive and offers every package in CentOS 7.

This is what that README file says about the "Everything" image:

This image contains the complete set of packages for CentOS 7. It can be used for installing or populating a local mirror. This image needs a dual layer DVD or an 8GB USB flash drive.

That README details the rest of the images available of CentOS 7, including the DVD-sized and minimal ISO images.

Want to download CentOS 7? Start here.

And for those who want to run CentOS 7 on the desktop with minimal pain, take heart: Nux is prepping a CentOS 7 version of Stella

Mon, 07 Jul 2014

Update: Can I really encrypt files and folders with Seahorse? I install seahorse-nautilus in Fedora 20 to find out

The title of this post is long. It says it all.

I'd like easy file-encryption from the file manager in Fedora (and every other version of Linux, for that matter).

I'd prefer that encryption be strictly password-based and not dependent on encrypted keys that I might lose, but encryption with keys that I have safely backed up offsite is better than no encryption at all, so I'm going to try using the GNOME application Seahorse to try this out.

I'll even ignore that I'm not using GNOME and instead relying on the Thunar file manager in Xfce.

But I do have a full GNOME environment installed, and I'd use it more if GNOME would run under the AMD Catalyst driver in Fedora 20. That it does not should be a much bigger deal than it appears to be among the greater Linux user base.

Anyway, I do have Nautilus, and to make Seahorse work in that file manager, Fedora offers the seahorse-nautilus package. I installed it just now and will be giving it a try in the very near future.

Update: After installing seahorse-nautilus, it is possible to encrypt files via right-click in Nautilus, but there is no right-click option to decrypt a file.

There is a Fedora 17-era bug on this issue, which appears to have been resolved.

Since the problem seems to be back in Fedora 20, I asked about this on Ask Fedora and was encouraged to file bug, which I did.

An answer on Ask Fedora provided a workaround, but I'm reluctant to try it at this time, though I should probably look into it for help in creating a "custom action" in Thunar so I can encrypt/decrypt directly from my chosen Linux file manager.

Wed, 25 Jun 2014

Google Chrome fails in Fedora 20 with AMD Catalyst, runs fine with open Radeon driver

I pulled the AMD Catalyst driver from my Fedora 20 system to do some tests. Among the things that started working: The Google Chrome web browser, which in recent weeks kills X while running under the proprietary driver.

It turns out that Google Chrome runs fine with the open Radeon driver.

As always, AMD Catalyst giveth (cooler operation, working suspend/resume) and taketh away (Google Chrome fails, trouble updating when driver doesn't support new kernels, general wonkiness).

Turns out I have a lot of stuff in Ubuntu One

I've been getting periodic e-mails from Canonical about the coming demise of the Ubuntu One file syncing/backup service and the need to get my files out of there should I want to keep them.

"I don't remember ever having anything on Ubuntu One, though I'm sure I played with it a bit," I thought.

Well today I went over there, reset my password and looked in on my Ubuntu One account. I've got a ton of stuff in there.

Mind you, it's all stuff I have on my hard drive, and I haven't run Ubuntu proper since 2010, according to the file timestamps, so I'm just going to let it all fade away when Ubuntu One sunsets for good at the end of July 2014.

Mon, 23 Jun 2014

Using Perl modules to parse an XML feed

I'm looking to figure out all the elements I need to convert my election-results Bash script to Perl, and one of the tasks involved is dealing with XML.

In the Bash script, I'm just treating the XML as text that needs to be hacked at with sed.

But in Perl, as in many languages I presume, there are modules to help with this.

XML::Simple takes a file in XML format and converts it to a "Perl representation," one of those "representations" being a Perl array. Here are some other links on parsing XML in Perl.

Perl Begin recommends avoiding XML::Simple and instead using XML::LibXML.

Now I'll have to figure out what to do with the data after Perl deals with the XML so I can turn it into the HTML I'll need later in the program.

I won't lie by saying that it is a lot easier to find recently written XML-parsing strategies for Python than it is for Perl.

With that in mind, before I close out this entry, here are some links on parsing XML in Python.

Wed, 18 Jun 2014

The Programming Project, Part 2: More from 'Learning Perl'

I'm continuing my reading of "Learning Perl."

The book is a bit dog-eared. Some of that is from carrying it around. But some of the wear is from actually reading the book.

I'm up to Page 74. I have been taking notes in the book and underlining things that seem important.

I meant to read this book with the Learning Perl Book Club, a reading group made up of Ode users.

That didn't work for me. The stopper was the "you need to do the exercises" part of the enterprise. While I had the time to do the reading, I had a lot of mental resistance to trying to hack at the exercises at the end of each chapter.

I know that doing the exercises in these books helps you "get" the concepts, but I just wasn't there yet.

Now that I'm a few chapters in, I want to start typing the book's programs into my local system, running them and playing around with them a bit. While that's less than going all in on the exercises, it's more than not touching the computer or using Perl at all.

Fri, 13 Jun 2014

Google Chrome ran on my Fedora 20 system a couple of days ago but does no longer

A couple days ago, there was a Google Chrome update, and for some reason the browser began working once again on my Fedora 20 system.

Now it's broken again.

It could have been a Mesa update in Fedora. Or something completely different. It could be the dubious AMD Catalyst/fglrx installation I have going, using Fedora 19 packages in Fedora 20.

Whatever it is, Google Chrome is broken again.

I even tried Spot's Chromium repo for Fedora. Chromium crashes X just the same.

Is it just me, or is anybody else having a problem with Chromium/Google Chrome in Fedora?

Wed, 11 Jun 2014

Google Chrome browser is working again on my Fedora 20 system

Google Chrome (using the Google repository because Fedora doesn't package Chromium) is working once again on my Fedora 20 system.

It had been broken for a few weeks. Whenever I started the browser, it would segfault and kill X.

Google pushed a new stable version of the browser today to its Fedora repository. I did the update, started Chrome and am now running it with no crashes and no problems.

Thanks, Google.

Getting Adobe Digital Editions working under Wine in Linux (specifically Fedora 20)

I want to borrow books via the Los Angeles Public Library's Axis 360 service, which won't give you their DRM-laden ebooks without use of the Adobe Digital Editions software to take the small file you download (normally called URLLink.acsm) and use it as a kind of key to download the longer .epub book file.

And Adobe Digital Editions is not available for Linux.

But it can be installed with Wine, the Windows compatibility layer for Linux systems.

I already have Wine installed on my Fedora Linux system so I can use the excellent IrfanView image editor that's written for Windows. While instructions on the installation of Wine might be useful, I don't want to go there for the purposes of this post. I'll just say that you should use your distro's package manager to install Wine, and in this particular instance, the version of Wine available in your distro's repositories should be sufficient. One thing I will tell you: Make sure you also install wine-mono (or whatever the package is in your system that includes the Windows version of Mono in Wine).

Back to installing Adobe Digital Editions in Linux via Wine.

A few people reported problems (a very few did not) with version 2.x. A few offered easy-to-byzantine workarounds to make Adobe Digital Editions 2.x work in Linux.

None of that worked for me.

So I followed the advice of Mr. Alphaville, used his download of Adobe Digital Editions 1.7, and was up and running with a working application in a few minutes.

You are prompted at some point after installing Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) to either create an Adobe account or use the one you already have.

I already had an Adobe account, so I used that login and password and was quickly swimmming in the world of DRM-ed ebooks.

Wait, there's a problem

Huge problem. The DRM'd epub files that Axis360 puts out aren't compatible with the Amazon Kindle.

Sure, I could break the DRM and use Calibre to convert the files. But I don't want to do that. I'd rather get the books for the alloted loan period and have them somewhat gracefully disappear when the loan is up.

So for Kindle, I'll stick with the Los Angeles Public Library's Overdrive system.

And for those titles from LAPL's instance of Axis360, I guess I'll just read them in Adobe Digital Editions via Wine.

Editorial comment: It's not like the Amazon Kindle is some obscure device. It dominates the ebook market. Axis360 basically tells users of the dominant ebook readers to take a long walk off a short pier.

Kindle Fire tablets, which are mostly-fledged Android devices, can access this content with the Blio or Bluefire apps.

But non-Fire Kindles (the cheap, not-a-tablet kind) get nothing. I guess that's what Overdrive is for.

Sun, 08 Jun 2014

The Programming Project, Part 1: What's this all about

Now is the time. I'm going to really learn to program.

I've been dabbling in programming for awhile now. I've mostly stayed within the friendly confines of the Bash shell on my local Linux system and the Linux servers on which I run various scripts and services.

I've been meaning to get deeper into real programming, whatever that is, for at least a couple of years. I would say it hasn't happened, but to a small extent it has. Now I'm ready to take the next step.

So what did happen?

A couple of years ago, I began writing little Bash scripts to automate my rsync-driven backups. With these little one- to two-liners, I didn't have to remember the exact syntax to do the rsync backup correctly and remember where my "exclude" file was living.

I also had trouble with screen blanking in Debian Wheezy. I finally figured out how to fix the problem with xset, and wrote a little Bash script to automate that process.

I have also written a bunch of scripts to automate posting and create an archive of this Ode site. Among these Ode-related scripts is a local Perl program that generates an Indexette date stamp. You can copy/paste it into your post file, or call the script from within a text editor, which is what I do with Gedit.

It's still a simple two-liner, albeit with more than a dozen lines explaining what's going on.

About a year ago, I started a more complicated programming project at my day job.

So what do I do at this job? I work for a bunch of local news web sites. I push content. I create web pages in an arcane CMS. I create blogs in a common CMS (WordPress). I fix broken things and solve problems. I take things that are separate and mash them together.

The project, the thing I've wanted to do, was to script together data from various sources, more specifically election results for the nine web sites I work on.

I wanted to do it in Perl. But when I finally decided to do it, I just didn't have the chops. But I did know Bash, and I learned (or learned more) about such Unix/Linux utilities as wget, cat, cp and sed to turn my data into HTML pages I could generate with cron and iframe into my various web sites.

Thus far I've been re-reading "Learning Perl", this time noting things that will help me in my election-results project.

I'm somewhere in the 40s in terms of pages, and I'm making notes in the book -- it's a real book, not an ebook -- in pencil.

  • Search and replace is pretty much a core function in Perl, so I can safely say goodbye to sed.

  • Concatenation can be done with a dot (a .) between items, so that takes care of cat.

  • I would really like to pump data into an array and use Perl's foreach to process each line.

  • Grasping scalars and arrays is going to be key.

  • I'll have to look into grabbing data over HTML and bring it into the scalar or array. The LWP::Simple module looks like a good candidate for this. I could also use the full LWP.

  • I'd like to code a date stamp into the data. I've already experimented with that in Perl for my Indexette date-stamper script.

  • Eventually I'll need to write the results out to files on the web server. That shouldn't be too hard.

Wed, 04 Jun 2014

Matthew Miller is the new Fedora Project Leader

I see in the Fedora Magazine that Matthew Miller is the new Fedora Project Leader.

Terrific choice.

Watch the video above, read his Fedora Magazine posts.

I'm very confident about Fedora being in good hands as the Fedora.Next project begins remaking what the distribution is for those who both use and produce it.

That Fedora is stretching its own particular envelope and remaking itself for the desktop, server and cloud is huge. And having Matt -- a longtime Fedora contributor -- at the helm is very reassuring indeed.

Fri, 30 May 2014

Where my head is on my next Linux distribution

In looking to replace Fedora and get out of Catalyst hell, the distribution I choose depends on whether I will continue to dual-boot with Windows 8 (which I almost never use) or swap in my 320 GB drive and single-boot Linux.

Now that my hardware is "maturing," I can start considering distributions that aren't as aggressive as Fedora in terms of their updates.

Bleeding edge isn't something I'm looking for.

I'm leaning toward continuing with Xfce, though I will consider the GNOME and LXDE desktops. I'm even considering Ubuntu's Unity.

Musts

  • Packaged audio/video codecs and AMD Catalyst/fglrx
  • Lots of desktop packages in the repository, including the OpenShot video editor
  • A decent period of support (would prefer LTS length at this point)

Linux Mint is conspicuously absent from my list. Maybe I should consider it.

The recent move to continue supporting Debian Squeeze as an LTS, and the expectation that the same will happen for current and future releases, has me looking more closely at Debian than I otherwise might. I have a lot of fondness for Debian. For one reason or other it generally runs "faster" than just about anything else.

But as "bleeding edge" as Fedora is, I probably had to do more hacking/scripting to get things working the way I wanted in Debian Squeeze/Wheezy than in Fedora 18/19/20, Fedora's Catalyst driver fiasco excluded, so that's something to think about.

My daughter's aging IBM Thinkpad R32 laptop runs Lubuntu, and I'm fairly impressed by it.

But Xfce remains my workhorse DE. Especially when it comes to running my company's proprietary CMS over Citrix, Xfce seems to play "better" with this sorry arrangement than other DEs. In Xfce I have to be "disciplined" enough to stay on a single virtual desktop. Changing desktops cuts my Citrix connection and locks me out of my apps. (Thanks, Citrix ... or thanks, CMS vendor who will not be named).

In GNOME 3, changing windows at all cuts the connection, so I need to keep Xfce around for this reason alone. I haven't tested this behavior in Unity because I can bring GNOME onto my Fedora system, but Unity is Ubuntu-only, and I haven't set up a full Ubuntu system with Citrix and done a test with this particular CMS. (That's the trouble with a desktop environment tied to a single distro.)

Top candidates, in no particular order, (with notes) are:

  • Debian Wheezy (doesn't handle UEFI, but won't change too much -- good if it works)
  • Debian Jessie (SystemD integration pending, chaos could ensue before freeze)
  • Xubuntu (very few negatives, handling of PulseAudio volume from panel is superior to other Xfce systems)
  • Ubuntu (Might be time to sample Unity)
  • Ubuntu GNOME (I'm back and forth on GNOME 3, more forth than back these days)
  • Lubuntu (I like it, but can LXDE measure up to Xfce?)

Fedora 21 won't be released until October, and if my AMD Catalyst solution continues to hold up, there's a very, very good chance I'll stick with Fedora 20 until the whole thing falls apart.

Thu, 29 May 2014

AMD Catalyst 14.6 for Linux is out

AMD released a new beta of its proprietary Catalyst driver for Linux, version 14.6.

You can download it directly from AMD, or wait for it to enter your distribution's packaging system.

For the past week or so, I've been using RPM Fusion's Catalyst packages for Fedora 19 on my Fedora 20 system, and this update hasn't come through that channel just yet.

If/when this particular method blows up, I could always go back to using the upstream AMD .run installer.

There's also a good chance that I will move to a distribution that regularly packages Catalyst and isn't as aggressive in offering kernel updates so I don't have to deal with this on a continuing basis.

Tue, 27 May 2014

Fedora is remarkably stable despite a constant flow of new

Mat Enders of Sunday Morning Linux Review put it very well in the show's most recent episode.

Fedora is very stable, especially given how much new code gets pushed during the entire release period.

Nobody tells you that before you start running Fedora. The desktop environment tends to linger, but kernels, applications and lots of other components are new, new, new.

Just now I got a new Xscreensaver.

I'm not using Mirall to sync OwnCloud at this particular moment, but I am using Fedora's packages instead of those direct from OwnCloud due to dependency problems on the non-Fedora repositories. And there is a new Mirall today as well.

Every once in a while, a bit of catastrophe enters Fedora. There are SELinux issues. In my case there are AMD Catalyst issues (which can be solved by NOT running AMD Catalyst, which I do from time to time).

Right now Google Chrome kills X. That's my "issue" of the week, you might say.

And when things do go catastrophically wrong, there is usually plenty of help on the mailing lists and in the forum.

Mat's point, more specifically, was that he has less trouble with Fedora than he did with Debian Sid, the "Unstable" release that gets new packages all the time.

What's notable is that Fedora is almost always ahead of Debian Sid when it comes to newness. (It's not ahead of Arch, but what is?)

And that Fedora newness isn't in something called "Unstable," but is in the regular releases. There is no Fedora "Stable."

But for the most part, it works.

Fri, 23 May 2014

The latest Google Chrome browser is segfaulting in Fedora 20

I don't run Google Chrome all that often in Linux, though I run it all the time in Windows.

But I do keep Chrome, via Google's repository, on my Fedora 20 system.

So I try to run it today and it segfaults (I know because it kills X and I see "segfault" in the console messages).

I searched (yes, using Google) and couldn't find anything on this.

I can't remember if I've used this particular version of Google Chrome successfully before my most recent reinstall of AMD Catalyst (via the Fedora 19 packages in RPM Fusion).

Right now I'm unwilling to uninstall Catalyst just to test Chrome, especially because I'm primarily a Firefox user on this machine.

The easiest, best way to get a packaged AMD Catalyst driver in Fedora 20

(This is what the Fedora 19 AMD Catalyst packages look like on my Fedora 20 system when seen in Yumex. Click the image above for a bigger version.)

Who better to tell you how to find and install an RPM package for the AMD Catalyst driver in Fedora 20 than the very person who ophaned the driver for that very release?

That's right, Leigh Scott, who had every right to drop the packaging of the AMD Catalyst driver in RPM Fusion for Fedora 20, is still maintaining it for Fedora 19.

He has an easy recipe for using the F19 driver on F20 systems. I can confirm that his method works. As is, this RPM of the Catalyst driver does not work with GNOME 3 (due to previously mentioned Wayland code that GNOME is now including). It does work with Xfce and KDE (and everything else that isn't GNOME 3, I presume).

Here are the instructions, originally from Leigh's post on the Fedora Forums, with my annotations:

First, make a directory and cd into it. Leigh suggests calling it 'catalyst':

$ mkdir catalyst

$ cd catalyst

Grab the needed Fedora 19 packages with yumdownloader:

$ yumdownloader --releasever 19 xorg-x11-drv-catalyst-libs.i686 akmod-catalyst.$(uname -m) xorg-x11-drv-catalyst.$(uname -m) xorg-x11-drv-catalyst-libs.$(uname -m)

Use yum to install the packages (shown here using sudo, though you can also su to root if you wish):

$ sudo yum --nogpgcheck install *.rpm

After this installation, I rebooted and had a working Catalyst/fglrx driver on my system. As I said above, it doesn't work with GNOME 3, but neither did the upstream AMD package before it stopped working altogether with the 3.14 kernel.

Configuration note: I did NOT need to do this, but if you have problems, you might want to use the aticonfig utility as suggested here:

$ sudo aticonfig --initial

Again, I did NOT need to do this.

Also, I'm not sure if these Fedora 19 packages will be updated with when I run Yumex or yum update. I do know that it's a good idea to keep an eye on the latest packages in RPM Fusion (in this case the non-free F19 updates repository) to make sure that you don't install any kernels before a new Catalyst is ready for them.

I will update this post when I have more information on how long this fix continues to work.

I'd like to thank Leigh both for his work on AMD Catalyst in RPM Fusion until now as well as for this temporary Fedora 20 fix.

At the same time, I once again call attention to how the lack of an RPM package of AMD Catalyst for Fedora takes away choice and functionality from the distribution and its users.

As much as I love Fedora and its community, if you have a newish AMD-running computer, I really can't recommend Fedora because of this continuing problem. Sure, the open Radeon driver for AMD graphics chips/cards is better than ever, but I can't get suspend/resume with it. Once that starts working for me, I'll shut up.

So what do you do if you need AMD Catalyst? Distributions that haven't fallen into this rabbit hole include Debian, Ubuntu, and every single other one I can think of.

I'll ride this fix as long as I can, but you can bet I'm thinking of where I can go in terms of a new Linux distribution in order to have my choice of video driver.

Read the rest of this post

Thu, 22 May 2014

Thanks, Michael Larabel of Phoronix for turning my AMD Catalyst in Fedora rant into an article

Since Phoronix is the best source of news on Linux graphics hardware (and probably Linux hardware and benchmarking, too), I decided to e-mail the site's Michael Larabel and see what he thought about the fact that there has never been an RPM-packaged AMD Catalyst driver for Fedora 20, and at the moment even the upstream AMD installer won't work with the 3.14.x Linux kernel.

I'd like to thank Michael for turning that e-mail into this article: AMD Catalyst On Fedora 20 Is Left In An Awkward State.

The next day, he followed it up with How-To Install AMD Catalyst 14.4 On Fedora 20 With Linux 3.14.

I'd like to thank Michael for this, and for all the day-to-day reporting he does on Linux (and often BSD) in regard to drivers and hardware.

In a forum post for the last article, I found a different, better way to get AMD Catalyst/fglrx working in Fedora 20.

Ironically (or perhaps coincidentally), this tip comes from the guy who orphaned the Catalyst packages in RPM Fusion for Fedora 20 but still maintains them for Fedora 19 (and it involves using the F19 packages in F20).

I have to do a few more tests of this method before I detail it in another post, but first I'd like thank Michael again for his posts, and Leigh Scott right now for this too-easy way of getting the Catalyst driver working again.

Final word: I don't blame Leigh, per se, for dropping the Catalyst package in RPM Fusion. It's every maintainer's right to quit whenever they want. I'm just continually stunned and saddened that in the many months since Leigh made this decision, nobody else has stepped in to fill this crucial gap in the Fedora/RPM Fusion/Catalyst world.

Thu, 08 May 2014

I think a Mesa update broke my AMD Catalyst driver's 3D hardware acceleration -- here's how I fixed it

I'm only speculating as to what caused 3D acceleration to stop working on my Fedora 20 system using the upstream-installed AMD Catalyst driver.

But I'm pretty sure it is the new Mesa packages that rolled into Fedora a day or so ago.

Even if Mesa isn't the culprit, apps that require 3D hardware acceleration are either throwing warnings about the lack of this particular feature, or just crashing immediately.

Running glxinfo in a terminal gave me the following message:

direct rendering: No (If you want to find out why, try setting LIBGL_DEBUG=verbose)

I suspected that the AMD Catalyst video driver, which I'm installing with AMD own .run installer because there is no Fedora 20 package for it in RPM Fusion, was somehow broken.

When I have problems with the proprietary video driver, I usually uninstall Catalyst, check whatever's broken while running the open Radeon driver and then reinstall Catalyst and check again.

Except this time Catalyst wouldn't uninstall. The error message I received said something about the configuration being changed.

Catalyst wouldn't reinstall, either.

The script output suggested that using --force would overcome the errors in either case -- uninstalling or reinstalling.

So I decided to reinstall AMD Catalyst over the current installation.

Since I was already running the latest Catalyst driver from AMD, I had previously downloaded, unzipped it and installed it, and the .run file was already on my system for the reinstall.

I did this as root:

# ./amd-driver-installer-14.10-x86.x86_64.run --force

Catalyst reinstalled with no trouble, I rebooted, and 3D hardware acceleration was back.

Fri, 02 May 2014

Kernel and other packages I have in Fedora that allow me to install and run AMD's upstream Catalyst driver

You need more than just kernel packages to successfully install the upstream AMD Catalyst driver in Fedora, and you might not need every last one of these packages. But it couldn't hurt to have:

kernel-devel
kernel-headers
kernel-modules-extras
kernel-tools
kernel-tools-libs

Other packages that you need or are helpful include:

dkms
gcc
binutils
make

Then you can go to the AMD Catalyst site for Linux, download a .zip file, unpack it and use the resulting .run file to install the driver.

I wrote up more detailed instructions on how to install the driver in January. Those instructions are probably due for an update. I'll do that soon -- maybe when AMD updates the driver for the 3.14 Linux kernel.

Thu, 01 May 2014

Firefox 29, complete with new look, is in Fedora

The new Firefox, version 29, brings a whole new look to Mozilla's web browser.

I hope it brings a lot of other new things, too. I pretty much run Firefox exclusively in Linux, and I'd love to do the same at my day job, in Windows 7, where I use Google Chrome for the most part. In my day job, I have a whole lot of tabs open, and Chrome seems to handle it better. I would welcome a more robust Firefox in this regard.

Better or not, Firefox 29 is now in Fedora. The image above comes from the Fedora Magazine post announcing the update, which already flowed onto my installation via the Yumex package manager.

Sun, 13 Apr 2014

Hiding directories in Apache with .htaccess

In my Ode system running on an Apache web server, I'm "exposing" the existence of the /documents directory by stashing HTML there for my site archive.

Normally only text files and images live in that directory, and Ode uses them to produce the HTML pages it serves out of another directory.

I'm not crazy about exposing the contents of directories that don't, for the most part, serve HTML. So I decided to disallow directory listings on my Ode site with this line in .htaccess:

Options -Indexes

Now my readers can see http://stevenrosenberg.net/documents/archive.html but not http://stevenrosenberg.net/documents and the entire structure under that.

Even if I do decide to move my archive file to another directory (and I am seriously thinking about doing that), it still seems like a good idea to block access to the "raw" directories in Apache.

Thu, 10 Apr 2014

After a year or so, back to Thunderbird

I stopped using stand-alone mail clients about a year ago.

This week I decided to give Thunderbird another try. I'm keeping it simple this time around.

I'm using Thunderbird for a single e-mail account via IMAP. No Gmail. No shared Google Calendar. No newsgroups (yeah, I said newsgroups, which I had running in Thunderbird my last go-round)

What pushed me back to a mail client was the lack of speed in my webmail client of choice, RoundCube, with my mail provider.

So I'm keeping it simple and enjoying the speed and ease of a traditional desktop mail client.

Thunderbird has seen quite an update in its UI since the last time I used it, and that's enough progress for an app that has seemingly been abandoned by its parent company/foundation Mozilla.

As long as they keep it patched from a security standpoint, I don't need any new features.

Wed, 09 Apr 2014

Fedora patches the OpenSSL 'Heartbleed' bug

It happened a day later than it should have, meaning Fedora got spanked by Debian, but the Fedora 20 patch for the OpenSSL 'Heartbleed' bug did roll onto my system today.

I would have liked Fedora to be ahead of Debian rather than behind it, but a day's delay isn't a deal-breaker. And I could have installed the OpenSSL update from Koji early if this were a server installation.

Overall, the free-software community's response to the 'Heartbleed' bug shows the power of open development and how these projects and products are stronger through transparency and sharing.

Tue, 08 Apr 2014

You might want to pay for an e-mail service like the OpenBSD-running Neomailbox

I don't look on the OpenBSD Misc mailing list very often, but today a message from that list introduced me to Neomailbox, which offers services that include secure, encrypted e-mail and anonymous web surfing for prices that are very reasonable.

So why would you want to pay for e-mail? Well, you do get what you pay for, and while services like Gmail have a lot to offer, one of those things is Google's servers crawling the text of your mail and serving you ads based on what's in there.

And while Google is continually boosting its use of encryption, there are plenty of reasons why you might want an offshore, encrypted mail service that you actually pay for.

Did I forget to mention that Neomailbox uses OpenBSD?

Neomailbox also offers an anonymous web surfing service that uses encrypted tunneling and anonymous IP to add a whole lot of privacy and security to your daily comings and goings on the Internet.

And they do offer discounts if you get both e-mail and anonymous web, plus additional "family" discounts.

If your paranoid (or have reason to be) and don't want to run these services yourself on either home or colocated servers, Neomailbox is definitely worth a look.

Wed, 02 Apr 2014

Hashover: A free-software alternative to Disqus and other hosted-commenting services

I’ve been waiting for this: Hashover is a free-software project that aims to replace hosted-comments services like Disqus and those offered by Facebook and others that keep your comments in their database.

Many, many blogging systems like Ode, which I use, and others like Pelican, Ghost and Octopress do not manage their own comments and most defer to Disqus to add a commenting platform.

But the problem is that Disqus is a third-party service that seeks to make money off of you. And you don’t control the comments.

So if you have a self-hosted blog, having comments that are not self-hosted seems like cheating.

I don’t know anything else about Hashover beyond what’s at their web site, but I am very excited at the prospect of an add-to-anything commenting solution like Disqus that you can host yourself.

It’s something we really, really need. And I’m glad it’s here.

More on Hashover:

Other free-software commenting systems?

I found:

Sun, 30 Mar 2014

Printing with the HP LaserJet 1020 works again with Fedora 20, and I don't know why

I was ready to give up. But what's great about Fedora is if something's broken, sometimes waiting is all you need to do.

Your problem will be resolved somewhere upstream. And Fedora gets newness from upstream faster than almost anyone (Arch notwithstanding).

So I was able to print to the HP LaserJet 1020 from Fedora 18 and 19 but not Fedora 20.

It has much, much more to do with the HP LaserJet 1020 printer than it does with any part of the Linux operating system.

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Fri, 28 Mar 2014

Coming to Fedora's Xfce spin: the Whisker Menu and xfdashboard

This is a screenshot of the xfdashboardThis is a screenshot of the xfdashboard, which is billed as a GNOME Shell-like interface for Xfce

I saw on the Fedora Xfce mailing list today that it looks like xfdashboardand xfce4-whiskermenu-plugin are coming to the Fedora Xfce spin's ISO, if not as default choices at least as things you can add to your desktop after the fact.

I'm a fan of the Whisker Menu, which I already have installed, but I've never heard of xfdashboard, which brings a GNOME Shell-like desktop experience to the world of Xfce. I don't particularly want that, but it's an interesting idea.

I support bringing both of these packages, which are already in the Fedora repositories, to the Fedora Xfce Spin ISO (and therefore the default install), and I encourage you to try them out.

Xfce Theme Manager is kind of a train wreck, but I ended up with borders on the sides of my windows (and that ain't bad)

I was looking through the Fedora packages for Xfce applications I hadn't yet installed, and the Xfce Theme Manager came up.

I installed it. Then I ran it.

It screwed up my desktop. Not all the themes in my system were in the Theme Manager, and I was switched over to one of the few themes that were in there. My icons all grew larger in size. (Thank you very much. I'll be here all week. Please be sure to tip your waitress.)

So I had to re-select the Adiwata theme and manually shrink my icons.

But something good came out of it. For some reason Xfce themes have been "losing" the borders on the left and right sides of windows, and I have no idea now to restore them.

The Xfce Theme Manager has managed to do this for me, and I wouldn't want to reverse this change even if I knew how.

But otherwise the Xfce Theme Manager is trouble. I already removed it.

However, it did get me borders on the left and right sides of windows. And for that it was worth it.

Rhythmbox remains under active development, gets updated to version 3.0.2

You've heard the "Rhythmbox is dead" rumors. At various times over the past few years, the GNOME-centric music player, which I favor even in non-GNOME environments, has been called out for a lack of development, and replacements have queued up to take its place.

Well today a new Rhythmbox flowed onto my Fedora 20 system, and I took the opportunity to look at all of the fixes that went into the March 23, 2014 release of version 3.0.2.

Wed, 26 Mar 2014

Google Starbucks WiFi is strong in Granada Hills

So I'm at the Starbucks at Devonshire Street and Balboa Avenue in Granada Hills, CA, which happens to have Google (i.e. no longer AT&T) Internet service.

I'm getting 8.5 Mbps down, 1.3 Mbps up.

And there are a lot of people with laptops and tablets in here.

That's pretty solid.

If only my local Starbucks would dump AT&T for Google.

I'm not ignoring the fact that Google is able to collect a whole lot of data when you use this public WiFi. A lot of people use Google DNS (8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4, which is a genius move because I always remember it), but with Google WiFi they control the whole connection.

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Sat, 15 Mar 2014

Interesting report: Phoronix's Michael Larabel on running Xubuntu with new Asus hardware after giving up on OS X

I saw a very interesting article in Phoronix, in which Michael Larabel writes about issues he is having with Xubuntu and a new Asus laptop after giving up on running Linux in a virtualized environment from within OS X on a Macbook Pro.

Later: I forgot to mention that I have tried the Xubuntu 14.04 Beta. It doesn't look radically different from previous Xubuntu releases. At first. There is a big change in the way the distribution deals with its application menu:

The Xubuntu developers didn't just add the increasingly popular Whisker Menu (which I use and like), they removed the traditional Xfce menu. I have both menus on my system. It's a trivial thing to add the "original" menu back to your panel, and I do think that the Whisker Menu can replace it, but it could be a bit unsettling to someone who is expecting a more vanilla Xfce experience.

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OpenBSD replacing Apache web server with nginx

In a move that surprises no one at this point, OpenBSD is in the process of pulling the Apache 1.3.x web server it has been maintaining on its own for what seems like forever and replacing it with the hot web server of the 2010s -- nginx.

Having a web server in the base install is mighty quirky in the first place, and OpenBSD has proudly flown this particular freak flag with no sign of changing things up.

But as much as a built-in web server (it's quite a help for development, in my opinion) is an enticing feature for many users, having that web server be nginx, which couldn't be more popular at this particular moment in geeky circles, should give many more people a reason to take a look at OpenBSD.

I'm not sure exactly how nginx will be configured in OpenBSD, by which I mean: Will it be possible to run CGI scripts without jumping through hoops due to a chroot environment?

Fear not, fans of the Apache web server. It will still be there in ports and packages for your use in OpenBSD.

Editorial: I don't think running CGI in Apache in the OpenBSD chroot was (or is) impossible in and of itself. What I do think is that a lack of interest among OpenBSD users and developers in doing it and writing tutorials about it made it pretty much impossible. Without someone leading the way, it's hard to stretch the well-established use case on just about any platform (those use cases being networking and firewalling on OpenBSD).

That OpenBSD users and developers are not interested in a particular feature, making said feature difficult to implement for mortal users -- and leading to "why do I have to re-invent the wheel?" syndrome among them -- is something you just have to accept when using a platform for a use case that isn't in its popularly accepted wheelhouse.

Thu, 13 Mar 2014

Actor/geek icon Wil Wheaton less than happy with Ubuntu

Rumbling around the Internet the past few days is talk about actor/geek icon Wil Wheaton's Google+ post about not being terribly in love with Ubuntu.

At least he's running it with Xfce.

The post made its way to OMG Ubuntu! where it provoked much discussion.

Much of it was of the "How dare he!" variety, though there were plenty of people who pointed out that the opinions of non-Linux users sampling today's distros are extremely important.

My constant complaining about the lack of proper suspend/resume with the open-source drivers and the concurrent lack of a packaged closed-source AMD driver in Fedora is the longtime user's equivalent.

For me, the benefits of Linux on the desktop outweigh the trouble I've had over the last year with video and suspend/resume.

But a new user who's on the fence? It's just another deal-breaker.

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Wed, 12 Mar 2014

After four days, I go back to AMD Catalyst in Fedora 20

I lasted four days this time. After I couldn't log in one morning after rebooting Fedora 20 under AMD Catalyst, I pulled the proprietary driver, leaving the open Radeon driver to run the graphics on my HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop.

With every new kernel, Radeon gets better. I'd say the performance differences between Catalyst and Radeon on this hardware are small enough that I'd be happy to stick with Radeon and leave Catalyst upgrade trouble behind (mostly because THERE IS NO CATALYST PACKAGE FOR FEDORA 20, THOUGH NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE).

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70 Decibels' Generational on blogging -- a detailed, geeky discussion on platforms of all kinds

For a very deep dive into blogging systems, listen to 032 - Blogging Platforms with Bob VanderClay. The blog post itself is valuable because there are dozens of links to just about everything they talk about. You can also go directly to the audio.

Here is the description of the show:

This week Gabe and Erik geek out about blogging platforms with Bob VanderClay. They discuss Blogging-as-a-Service (BaaS) vs. self-hosted blogging, then explore the advantages and disadvantages of static, dynamic, and hybrid blogging engines. Along the way, they touch upon a number of related topics including templating languages, commenting, writing tools, hosting providers, and backups.

Mon, 10 Mar 2014

Gvim is vim-X11 in Fedora

I just installed Gvim, which is vim-X11 in Fedora.

Maybe a graphical version of Vim will encourage me to use it more often.

That's the theory anyway.

Coffee Bean in crumbling Tarzana shopping center says its WiFi is out, but it's NOT OUT AT ALL

So I'm at this Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Tarzana. The parking lot to this three-store minimall requires a ticket for entry, though the first two hours are free, and I'M NOT GOING TO BE HERE MORE THAN 40 MINUTES.

Two of the three businesses -- a Cold Stone Creamery and Panda Express -- are closed for good. That means the Coffee Bean is the only thing here. And the lot has a ton of spaces.

I get to the Coffee Bean. There's a PREPRINTED STICKER on the door saying, "Our WiFi is temporarly unavailable."

Except that it's VERY available.

In a mostly unrelated matter, HomeGoods is opening in the Gelson's shopping center across Reseda Boulevard.

Sat, 08 Mar 2014

After I couldn't log in AGAIN, I pulled AMD Catalyst from Fedora 20

Once again, I did some updates on my Fedora 20 system. And after happily suspending and resuming the laptop for days, I crashed in the OpenShot video editor and had to do a hard reboot.

Except that I never got to the login screen. Just like the last time this happened, I suspected that the Catalyst driver I downloaded and installed from AMD's .run package was not playing well with the latest kernel from Fedora.

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Fri, 07 Mar 2014

I created a static Ode archive page

I've been messing around with scripting, and I created a static Ode archive page that lists every entry on this site.

I hacked it quickly. It needs some work. I think this would work better as a full-on Ode extension. For that I'd have to write it in Perl and figure out how Ode add-ins work. It could also be an extension of the Indexette add-in.

I'll be thinking about how to do this.

Script to sync and/or reindex your Indexette-enabled Ode site in Unix/Linux systems

I decided to script my blog updates via a Bash script for Unix/Linux that runs both my Unison sync and the Indexette reindexing necessary to to make those entries live.

You're probably not running Unison like I am (and I still need to write up my Unison tutorial), but the reindexing line is worth sharing because I find it very useful to reindex the blog without using the web browser.

First of all, you need to install wget on your Unix/Linux system. It's available in just about every distribution. Use your favorite package manager to install it.

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Thu, 06 Mar 2014

Fedora and OpenSUSE update GnuTLS today, Debian and Ubuntu a couple days ago

The LWN security updates posted today include the GnuTLS updates for Fedora and OpenSUSE. Debian and Ubuntu pushed out their patch a couple days earlier.

It's a pretty big bug that is being closed. Says Tomas Hoger in the bug report:

It was discovered that GnuTLS X.509 certificate verification code failed to properly handle certain errors that can occur during the certificate verification. When such errors are encountered, GnuTLS would report successful verification of the certificate, even though verification should end with failure. A specially-crafted certificate can be accepted by GnuTLS as valid even if it wasn't issued by any trusted Certificate Authority. This can be used to perform man-in-the-middle attacks against applications using GnuTLS.

This has been all over the Internet the last week or so.

Selena Larson of Readwrite.com writes:

A variety of Linux distributions are vulnerable to hacks because of a bug that allows people to bypass security protocols to intercept and disseminate encrypted information. A member of the Red Hat security team discovered a bug in the GnuTLS library that allows hackers to easily circumvent the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and secure sockets layer (SSL).

The vulnerability affects the certificate verification, meaning secure connections that are supposedly going through as secure, are not. Someone could compromise a secure connection by using a “man-in-the-middle” attack, acting as the server to intercept traffic, financial transactions or secure information.

I get more traffic from LXer.com than anywhere else

I almost never look at the traffic on this site. I don't have Google Analytics on it. I haven't bothered to install Piwik, though I'm very interested in the project.

My shared host offers AWStats, and every once in a while I take a look.

I was prompted to look by Jim Lynch's article, Why You Should Delete Your Facebook Account.

Like Jim, it turns out I'm also not getting any traffic from Facebook. Maybe two views a month. I get a little more from Twitter, but nothing earth-shattering.

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Does the programming language matter?

At some level, ends and means in computer programming dictate that whatever language gets you there is the right one.

If you want to work on a certain project, and that project's code happens to be written in PHP, that is something to think about.

Do you want to attract collaborators? From among the languages you like, pick a popular one.

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Buffer's Awesome plan makes it way more usable, but I'm not in a position to part with $102 right now

I have tweeted a bunch and written some, too, about Buffer, the web and mobile app that allows you to space out your social posts and reposts and have them released at specific times during the day.

Having Buffer "baked in" as a browser extension is a killer feature.

As a user, my company has gone all in for Buffer. We are a subscriber. A business can part with much more than the $102 that the Awesome Plan costs for a year. $102 a year is something most businesses scrape off the bottom of their boots on a slightly wet morning.

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Wed, 05 Mar 2014

Helpful post: How to manage/sync your iOS 7 device under Linux (natively) by Manuel Escudero

This post is here more so I don't lose track of this extremely detailed tutorial on how to deal with iOS 7 devices under Linux, especially Fedora.

(Because friends don't let friends use iTunes)

Why blogging shouldn't be replaced by Facebook -- Dave Winer's view

If you're not following blogging and RSS pioneer Dave Winer, you should be.

Here are some recent, important (yet short) Dave Winer posts on blogging and social media's evisceration of it:

A blog post has lasting value. A tweet stream is more ephemeral, it can evaporate almost instantly.

The blogging tools developers aren't giving the users anything new and/or interesting to do. ... Since when does a software category survive without introducing new stuff every so often?

Okay so people who used to blog now prefer to post their observations on Facebook for the immediate interaction of it. I know what they mean now that I've been using Facebook for a few months. Hearing the likes and the comments is a kind of Pavlovian reward. It's true, I know the feeling.

People like Facebook because when they post something there, they get responses from people they care about.

Sun, 02 Mar 2014

New OpenShift feature I'm excited about: scp

I use Red Hat's OpenShift, and I'd like to use it more. I'm aiming to get the hang of all the different moving parts: the web interface, the rhc command-line interface, getting in with SFTP, git ...

I still maintain that PaaS (platform as a service) solutions like OpenShift need to be as easy to manage as shared hosting, which you can deal with via FTP and which doesn't need a special command-line utility.

I'm not saying that everything shouldn't be configurable for full-on developers. But there should be a simpler way to run cloud/networked applications. And yes, I recognize that we still do have shared web hosting, which can be pretty darn easy.

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The Fall of Perl, the Web's Most Promising Language, by Conor Myhrvold

Read this: The Fall of Perl, the Web's Most Promising Language, by Conor Myhrvold

brian d foy says, "The Fall of Perl" would more suitably be titled "The Rise of Python"

Wed, 26 Feb 2014

If this appears on Twitter an hour after my last Tweet, it works.

If you see a link to this post on Twitter an hour after my last Tweet, my IFTTT-Buffer timed blog RSS-to-social setup is working.

Using Buffer and If This Then That to automate RSS into Twitter at regular intervals

Sure it's better to script everything locally, and I bet that piping RSS to social media at regular intervals is more than scriptable, I started using Buffer a week or so ago to spread out my Twitter posts in the event that I do a bunch of them at once.

Mind you, this hasn't yet happened. But it could. And I'm testing the service for my day job.

For my personal sites, I've been using dlvr.it to automatically feed blog RSS to Twitter (and occasionally Facebook). But while dlvr.it theoretically CAN dribble out posts at timed intervals with it's new (to me) "Q" feature, use of RSS with Q requires a paid subscript to dlvr.it. Again, for the day job this is something we might consider (if anybody but me was a dlvr.it fan), but I'm not that crazy about the paid options.

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Tue, 25 Feb 2014

Firefox vs. Chrome on Windows and Linux

I spent quite a bit of time running Google Chrome/Chromium on both Windows and Linux, but between feeling uncomfortable giving away so much data to Google (when logged in on Chrome) and how well Firefox performs on Linux (which is very well from what I can see), I now use Firefox about 99 percent of the time in Fedora 20.

But on my Windows 7 work machine, which is a more powerful (quad-core AMD to my laptop's dual-core, with 8 GB of RAM to the laptop's 4 GB), I flip it, using Chrome about 99 percent of the time.

So I've been switching it up to see how I might like using more Chrome in Linux and more Firefox in Windows.

I'll keep it short. There's nothing about Chrome on my laptop in Fedora 20 that makes me want to use it. It's no faster and no more stable. And SELinux doesn't much like it (and I get warnings).

I spent the whole day yesterday in Windows 7 on my big box running Firefox (version 27 on both machines for the record) for everything. It was measurably slower, and I had a few periods of non-responsiveness, especially with my customary 15-20 open tabs.

This means I'll be sticking with Firefox on my Linux-running laptop (and for my personal use, where I'm not so crazy about Google spying and Chrome on my workplace desktop, where I'm already using Google Apps and am not doing any personal business (and could care less if Google knows about my web use as it relates).

In Movable Type 4, comment spam was overwhelming

So I'm working on a blog that I moved from Movable Type to WordPress in early 2012 but haven't touched since.

There were about 8,000 spam comments that weren't marked by the system as spam from 2009-11.

That's a lot of spam, and I remember now how hard it was to keep up with at the time.

Sun, 23 Feb 2014

At SCALE 12x, I just spoke with Karsten Wade about Red Hat's new relationship with CentOS

I haven't had time to listen back to the recording yet, but I just spent some time with Karsten Wade of Red Hat, the onetime Fedora Community Gardener who's now tending to the community around CentOS, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux-derived distribution that is now a whole lot closer to Red Hat that it has ever been before.

That last statement is a bit of a cheat because until the announcement this January of the new relationship between CentOS and RHEL, they were deliberately not very close at all.

I still have to "process" the interview (in my own mind, that is), but I get the feeling that Red Hat's involvement with CentOS -- which includes employing a number of developers who have been volunteering their time until now, adding some open governance to the project as well as providing infrastructure support -- will only be positives for the distribution that people have turned to when they want an enterprise-level operating system without the Red Hat subscription that goes along with it.

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I'm at SCALE 12x on Saturday, and here's what I did so far today

I'm at SCALE 12x at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton hotel on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, and so far I've roamed the show floor, which seems a whole lot bigger than the last time I attended SCALE, which was probably in 2009.

The floor is thick with people, and there's a lot going on at the booths.

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Fri, 21 Feb 2014

Dive into the world of Linux and free software at SCALE 12x this weekend in Los Angeles

The free-software world converges on Los Angeles this weekend, Feb. 21-23, 2014, for SCALE 12x, the Southern California Linux Expo at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel.

The Friday-Sunday convention welcomes users of the free Linux computer operating system that powers everything from servers and supercomputers to desktops, laptops, smartphones and toasters (and just about everything with a computer controlling it).

And it’s not just Linux. SCALE offers talks by experts as well as booths staffed volunteers from other Unix operating-system derivatives such as FreeBSD and OpenBSD, and offers sessions on the latest cloud-computing technologies, database software projects PostgreSQL, MySQL and MariaDB, programming languages that include Python, Perl, Ruby and Javascript.

If you’ve ever wanted to know just about anything about running a server but were afraid to ask, SCALE is the place to get all the answers and more.

The show is thick with enthusiasts who come hear talks about the latest in free and open technology and meet in the exhibit hall with representatives from open-source software projects and the companies that build their businesses on them.

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Back to AMD Catalyst in Fedora 20 for the suspend/resume

As much as the open-source Radeon driver has improved in the 3.12 and 3.13 Linux kernels in Fedora 20 -- and that improvement has been significant, I returned to the proprietary AMD Catalyst driver for one reason.

Suspend/resume.

While everything else is working better in the Radeon driver, solving pretty much all of the problems I had with it in the 3.11-and-earlier days, the one thing it won't do with the 3.13 Linux kernel in Fedora 20 is allow the laptop to properly wake after it has been put to sleep. (The hardware is an HP Pavilion g6-2210us with the AMD A4-4300M APU, which includes AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics.)

It makes me sad in a way. Radeon has come so far. And so fast. With Radeon DPM (invoked with a kernel boot parameter in 3.12 and by default in 3.13), 3D hardware acceleration works and CPU temperatures are pretty much the same as under Catalyst.

But the convenience of being able to shut the laptop lid to put the machine to sleep, then open it and have it wake up -- it's just too much to give up. I can't help it. It's a feature that's important to me.

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I will be at Scale 12x this weekend

I haven't been for about five years, but this year, this weekend, I'll be at Scale 12x at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel.

And I'll have a longer article on Scale 12x as soon as I can crank it out today.

I'll look for interesting talks, but I'm more interested in being in the exhibit hall and talking to people involved in the world of free software.

I plan to grab a bunch of interviews that I can plow into articles in the days and weeks ahead.

So if you're at the show on Saturday or Sunday, maybe I'll see you there.

Tue, 18 Feb 2014

An Indexette pre-tagging test for synchronized local-server directories

That title sounds like a bad master's thesis, right?

What I'm trying to do here is see how Ode posts that get their Indexette tagging locally play with my Unison sync setup.

If Ode doesn't "touch" the pre-tagged files on the server, I think we're all good.

Minutes later: That works. Now to code up a way to drop in the Indexette tag with system-generated current date and time.

Weeks later: I did write the code in the form of a short Perl script, and I incorporated it into the Gedit text editor via the Snippets plugin. I will detail this in a future post.

It's been nearly three years since I started using Ode

I took a look back today, and I learned that I started using Ode as my main blogging platform two years and 9 months ago. Call it "nearly three years," because that makes for a nice headline.

I suppose I could wait three months and write this post then. I'll probably do that, too.

But for today, I'd like to thank Rob Reed for all the care and feeding he has put into Ode over the years and all the help he's given me and the others who have used this software.

While Perl-powered CGI is as old as the hills, Ode does blogging in a way that is very satisfying for me. I'd rather write Markdown-tagged text files on my local machine and move them over to the server than work through a web interface (though Ode has one of its own in the form of the terrific EditEdit addin, which I do use on occasion).

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Fri, 14 Feb 2014

Linux init-system shocker: Mark Shuttleworth announces that Ubuntu will follow Debian and adopt systemd

You can knock me over with a feather right this very moment: Mark Shuttleworth announced in his blog that Ubuntu will follow Debian in adopting systemd as its init system, even though Ubuntu itself coded the alternative Upstart:

Upstart has served Ubuntu extremely well – it gave us a great competitive advantage at a time when things became very dynamic in the kernel, it’s been very stable (it is after all the init used in both Ubuntu and RHEL 6 ;) and has set a high standard for Canonical-lead software quality of which I am proud.

Nevertheless, the decision is for systemd, and given that Ubuntu is quite centrally a member of the Debian family, that’s a decision we support. I will ask members of the Ubuntu community to help to implement this decision efficiently, bringing systemd into both Debian and Ubuntu safely and expeditiously.

I thought Ubuntu would fight to the end, but the SABDFL appears happy to offload init-system development to Lennart Poettering and company. A wise move, I think. Canonical's resources are spread thinly enough that anything not directly related to getting their phone OS to market should be seen as ripe for offloading to other parts of the community.

I'm nowhere near qualified to opine on which init system is better, systemd, Upstart or even the old SysVinit, but it was clear in the debate coursing through the Debian mailing lists over the past month that the licensing of Upstart, which required contributors to sign a Canonical CLA (contributor licensing agreement) that allowed the company to make the code proprietary in the future, was a huge, huge nonstarter for many free software advocates.

So Upstart will ship in the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS release, and all derivatives like Kubuntu and Xubuntu, which are due in April. These long-term-support releases will be around for five years, so Upstart isn't exactly dead yet, though it's quite the lame duck.

I installed SpeedFan in Windows 8

In an attempt to get a handle on Windows 8 performance on this hardware, I installed SpeedFan 4.49.

Quick tip. Avoid crapware and get the download here.

SpeedFan isn't pretty, but it works well. I can monitor CPU, GPU and disk temperatures. It also keeps an eye on GPU voltage, CPU frequency, battery charge state, uptime and CPU load.

SpeedFan can also manually adjust your fan speeds. I'm not interested in that so much, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

In case you're wondering, Windows 8 doesn't run any cooler on this HP Pavilion g6 than Fedora 20 with either the proprietary Catalyst driver or the open Radeon driver with Radeon DPM activated.

Wed, 12 Feb 2014

'How to Sharpen Pencils': the documentary

All about the point:

HOW TO SHARPEN PENCILS from Pricefilms on Vimeo.

How I fixed my Fedora 20 system when it stalled before the display manager appeared

This is a rewrite of My Fedora 20 system dies for a day, but I find the culprit. I started the original entry before I figured out the solution, and I wanted to tell it chronologically. And so I do:

Ever since I got suspend/resume working in Fedora 20, I've been rebooting maybe once a week. That's because I love suspend/resume.

I love being able to close to laptop lid to put the machine to sleep and open the lid to wake it up.

But since the battery was running low a few nights ago, I decided to do a full shutdown.

I turned the laptop on the next day, and it wouldn't boot into Fedora proper. I couldn't get to the login screen.

I was able to boot into rescue mode. All my files were there. They looked fine. That's the good news.

But when trying a normal boot, sometime during the process the machine just stalled. There was nothing I can do to get it to finish booting and give me either a console or desktop.

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Tue, 11 Feb 2014

The 3.13.2 Linux kernel is being built right now for Fedora 20

Keeping an eye on Koji, especially for the Linux kernel, is a great way to see when an update is imminent for Fedora.

Today I see that a 3.13.2 kernel is being built for Fedora 20. That means F20 users will start seeing it in their updates sometime in the near future.

You could always grab it early (though the build isn't completed at this particular moment). I'll wait. I just got 3.12.10, and I already invoked Radeon DPM (which will be turned on by default in 3.13.x), so there's no hurry.

Mon, 10 Feb 2014

My Fedora 20 system dies for a day, but I find the culprit

This entry has been rewritten as How I fixed my Fedora 20 system when it stalled before the display manager appeared. I recommend reading that version.

Update: After booting into runlevel 3 (putting the number 3 into the GRUB boot line), I had no trouble logging into a console. Then I attempted to start X, and the system stalled. It was fglrx/Catalyst that was keeping me from getting to the display manager.

I removed AMD Catalyst. The system started working again. But back under the open-source Radeon driver, the laptop was running 20 to 50 degrees hotter than with the proprietary Catalyst driver.

Rather than reinstall Catalyst right away, I decided to try implementing Radeon DPM (Dynamic Power Management). DPM is a feature of Catalyst that is just coming to the open-source Radeon driver.

I'm running kernel 3.12.10, and Radeon DPM won't be implemented by default until 3.13. For now it has to be switched on with a kernel boot parameter.

The last time I tried forcing DPM in GRUB, I didn't get good results. This time it worked great.

I tested it by adding radeon.dpm=1 to the GRUB the boot line. The CPU temperatures and fan speeds were comparable to what they were under Catalyst (cooler and slower, respectively), and 3D hardware acceleration was working.

I did get something else from running Radeon instead of Catalyst: The screen dimming/brightening when running on battery power works (unlike with Catalyst). That means the screen dims when the laptop is not being used but brightens up when you start using it again. With Catalyst you had to manually increase brightness after returning to the machine.

So I modified GRUB to take radeon.dpm=1 permanently (instructions forthcoming).

The Linux gods give. And take. With Radeon (and not Catalyst) I lost suspend/resume. I'm not happy about it.

But having a working system again -- and having it without the bother of an unpackaged, closed-source Catalyst driver -- is a fair tradeoff. For now.

The original, before-I-fixed-it post starts below:

Ever since I got suspend/resume working in Fedora 20, I've been rebooting maybe once a week. That's because I love suspend/resume.

I love being able to close to laptop lid to put the machine to sleep and open the lid to wake it up.

But since the battery was running low last night, I decided to do a full shutdown.

I turned the laptop on today, and it wouldn't boot into Fedora proper.

I can boot into rescue mode, and all my files are there and look fine (that's the good news). But sometime during the boot process it just stalls. And there's nothing I can do to get it to finish booting and give me either a console or desktop.

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Wed, 05 Feb 2014

Fedora 20 is looking kind of mature these days

With the release of Fedora 21 delayed by at least three months due to the ramping up of the Fedora.Next initiative, the project's current release, Fedora 20, is likely to be the closest thing users will ever get to a "long-term support" release from the Red Hat-sponsored community project.

And I plan to enjoy it.

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In the Fedora installer, you can choose your desired desktop (and Debian does this, too)

Fedora's Software Selection spoke in Anaconda

After hearing the Linux Luddites guys talk about how Debian's installer and documentation sort of hide the option to install alternative desktops (though the wiki does cover it) and following the "Fedora.Next" debate on the mailing list about the future of spins, I came across the documentation for Fedora's software-selection "spoke" in the new Anaconda installer.

It's been so long since I've done a Fedora install (I've had this system since about May 2013) that I forgot about the part of the new Anaconda installer that defaults to the GNOME desktop but allows you to deselect GNOME and choose KDE, Xfce, LXDE, Cinnamon, MATE or Sugar and then go back to the "hub" and continue with the installation tasks, eventually (hopefully) ending up with a functioning Linux installation.

Say what you will about the Anaconda installer, especially the new "hub and spoke" version (and much of what has been said is far from kind), but the ability to select any of the major desktops during the installation process is a win.

Not that (as I've noted above) you can't do that with the Debian installer, but amid all the back-and-forth over Fedora spins in Fedora.next, it's nice to know you can download and burn a single Fedora disc or flash drive and use it to install the desktop environment of your choice.

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Mon, 03 Feb 2014

Another Buddy Burden meditation on programming: Perl gets shit done

Buddy Burden released the next post in his series on programming, life and everything.

As I said recently, I'm a huge fan.

This one is about "getting shit done":

I’m one of those people who wants to write code to solve every problem that comes along.  If I could figure out how to make a Perl script make my bed, or clean my room, then those things would certainly get done a hell of lot more often.  I’d put it in a cronjob.

I’ve written code to calculate my kids’ allowances, email daily chores to them, track my hours for clients, keep track of info when hiring employees, reset the database for my music player, search for things in my instant messaging logs, organize my music collection, figure out how much space I have left in my Dropbox, balance my checkbook, query package management systems regardless of which flavor of Linux I happen to be running at the moment, calculate Weight Watchers points, track my todo list, count lines of code, print out certain lines from a file, and make a Gimp plugin to help me make cards for my favorite wargame ... and that’s just a small fraction. 

...

I write a lot of code, even outside work.  If there’s any obvious way to use code to solve a problem (and sometimes even if the way is non-obvious), I’m going to write a program.  I can’t fix a car, I suck carpentry and plumbing, I’m not very good at yardwork or gardening, and I’m not even particularly useful at administering my family’s eclectic collection of personal computers, laptops, and tablets, but I can write the hell of out of some code.  And I’m the type of person who will gleefully spend days trying to solve a problem with code that I could have probably just done manually in a few hours, because I don’t mind spending days on a program, ’cause it’s fun.  But just because I don’t mind it doesn’t mean I want to do it all the time.  What I’d really prefer is to get in, write the code, and get out.  Just Get Shit Done.  And that’s what Perl lets me do.

That's a programmer, all right. I don't usually drop quotes this big into entries, but there's way more I could have quoted from this excellent entry.

Again, the entire series is essential reading.

Fri, 31 Jan 2014

A great meditation -- in eight parts -- on programming from Perl coder Buddy Burden

Buddy Burden writes a great eight-part series, Perl and Me, on his approach to programming, how he came to code in Perl and what he thinks is wrong (and right) with the profession and teaching of programming.

It's not all about Perl, though much of it is. Every programmer should read it.

My favorite is Perl and Me, Part 7: The Most Powerful Weapon Which You Can Use to Change the World

I would offer a few quotes from Part 7, but the whole thing is so good that you should just go read it now), then go back to Part 1.

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Skype update for Linux fixes nothing

So I heard about an update to Skype for Linux (thanks, OMG!Ubuntu) that is supposed to fix some general noise and PulseAudio issues.

Since Skype's RPM for Fedora doesn't set up a repo, I had to download a new RPM from Skype and install it.

The new package, Version 4.2.0.13, runs as well as the old one. That means it fixed none of the audio issues I'm having, which include occasional noisy audio and intermittent lack of audio. The commonly accept fix doesn't help me, either.

Luckily I rarely use Skype, and usually only as an IM client, so I'll live.

For the freedom-lovers in the room, I did install the Ekiga softphone package in Fedora, and it kind of, sort of works. But the UI is HORRIBLE, and I doubt a non-geek could ever make it work. I need a better SIP package, and I'm open to suggestions.

BoingBoing: Why Dungeons & Dragons still matters

Most interesting read before 5 a.m. (yes, I'm up that early these days):

BoingBoing: At 40 Years Old, Dungeons & Dragons Still Matters -- Ethan Gilsdorf looks back on four decades of pen-and-paper role-playing tradition

Did I play D&D "back in the day"? A little bit. Would I play it again? I might.

Facebook tries to out-Medium its competition with new Paper interface

I'm not big on Facebook. Or Medium. It would be a different story if I were getting paid to write for one of those services, but since that isn't happening, I'm indifferent.

But in the face of interfaces that are inviting to authors, plus the promise of exposing your work to a potential audience of millions, a la Medium and the Huffington Post (why I pulled that one out of my unmentionables I don't know, but I just did), Facebook is releasing a mobile app called Paper that promises to remake the way you (and you) interact with the service, especially when it comes to shoveling your content into their always-burning furnace:

Re/code: Meet “Paper,” Facebook’s New Answer for Browsing — And Creating — Mobile Media -- By Mike Isaac

Just because you're a former Apple manager doesn't mean your iMac's getting fixed

An extremely cautionary tale on broken iMacs, Apple's relative indifference, and how barbaric this all seems in relation to hardware from other vendors:

Readwrite: How I Fixed An iLemon -- Repairing a Mac is no simple task — take it from someone who worked at Apple for 20 years by David Sobotta

Thu, 30 Jan 2014

Yes?

(Photo by Hans Gutknecht)

Come toward the light

(Photo by Hans Gutknecht)

Wed, 29 Jan 2014

There a 'fediverse' out there waiting for you

I feel for Evan Prodromou, creator of Pump.io and Status.net before that -- both software platforms for his vitally important Identi.ca social network, which started as a free, open Twitter-like service when one was badly needed in 2008-9.

Running Identi.ca under Status.net required a whole lot of resources, and Evan was doing it for nothing (I think). Then he wanted to change everything about the software and hardware running the identi.ca service and did. So Identi.ca lives. But Identi.ca is not as feature-rich as it was when Status.net was the software behind it.

What's missing from the Pump.io version of Identi.ca for me are a search function and the tags and groups features of the original Identi.ca. I also miss being able to access Identi.ca in most mobile clients, especially Mustard. The new Pump-powered Puma -- with development led by Macno, the same developer who created Mustard -- is coming along, as is the desktop Pumpa client. Like Pump.io itself, neither client is terribly feature-rich at this point.

But what I miss most is the community of the original Identi.ca. I'm not sure how much of that community has scattered since Pump.io, but it sure looks like a lot.

Things that are great about the Pump.io-powered Identi.ca are the ability to do so much more in posts -- more than you can do with Twitter and the original Status.net-powered Identi.ca. But I've found that short Twitter-like posts work for me. It's all about the people ...

I like pump.io's Identi.ca, and I really like Evan. He's given a lot to the community in the form of the Identi.ca service itself and both of its platforms (Status.net and Pump.io).

Today I got a nudge from somebody (ironically via Google Plus) that there's a big #fediverse movement out there centered around the Status.net software.

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There's no AMD Catalyst for Fedora 20 in RPM Fusion, but the Fedora 19 packages just keep on getting updated

There still is a packaged version of the AMD Catalyst video driver in RPM Fusion, and it's being updated with each and every kernel release. For Fedora 19.

So what about Fedora 20? The maintainer has made it clear that he's no longer interested in building the package going forward for RPM Fusion, so Fedora 20 users have nothing.

It's lucky (for me anyway) that installing the Catalyst driver direct from AMD isn't as difficult as it was earlier in the F20 cycle. But it's not as easy as installing an RPM package.

If my laptop didn't choke on video (both full screen and windowed in VLC and Totem) and run 30 to 50 degrees hotter with the open Radeon driver, I wouldn't give a damn.

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Mon, 27 Jan 2014

Configuring Fedora 20 to print to HP LaserJet 1020 is a pain in the ass (and so far not doable)

Ah, the "good ol' days." Remember Configuring Fedora 18 to print to HP LaserJet 1020 is a pain in the ass? That was when getting the el-cheapo HP LaserJet 1020 to print in Fedora was merely troublesome.

In Fedora 20? So far it has been impossible. The printer is clearly recognized as being connected by USB because it's listed in the output of lsusb. But the printer is not recognized when I run hp-setup. I can't even get to the part when I download and add the proprietary firmware that should already be inside the printer but isn't because HP hates people.

At least there's already a Fedora bug filed on the problem (to which I've added a "me too.")

On this Fedora 20 system, I have no problem printing to any number of networked printers (all of which happen to be HP devices, but that's besides the point). But the USB printer I have at home? Nope. I'll have to try with a live Xubuntu system to see if the problem is Fedora-specific. (I'd say there's a 99 percent chance of that being the case).

I'd love to see a speedy resolution to this one. I don't print all that often, but it's nice to have the option ... to ... print. Right?