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


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.

Read the rest of this post

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.

Read the rest of this post

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.

Read the rest of this post

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, 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.

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

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.

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


(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.

Read the rest of this post

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.

Read the rest of this post

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?

Wed, 22 Jan 2014

Fedora -- or any Linux -- with working suspend/resume is awesome

It's been a long time since those halcyon days of mid-2010 through early 2013 when I ran Debian Squeeze and Wheezy on my Lenovo G555 laptop (with AMD CPU and GPU) and had working suspend/resume.

Being able to suspend the laptop and bring it back within seconds by opening the lid changes the way I use the computer. It's pretty much a killer feature. And I've missed it terribly.

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Mon, 20 Jan 2014

I can be bought cheap, and Fedora has me locked in

It doesn't take much to buy my (operating-system) loyalty. Fedora Linux did it with a working video driver and working suspend/resume.

That and the system not blowing up and all the software I want? That's pretty much all it takes.

Sat, 18 Jan 2014

I solve the suspend/resume problem in Fedora 20

It's my holy grail. My holy fucking grail. Suspend/resume.

And I finally figured it out. I've seen the hints about putting a resume=/dev/??? line into the bootline in GRUB, with ??? being the location of the swap partition. I tried it, and it never seemed to work.

So I forgot about it.

Then I saw this post from Ankur Sinha that makes the same suggestion:

resume=/dev/??? in the bootline in GRUB

But what to sub in for ???? Where exactly is /swap?

My system is encrypted and using LVM, so finding /swap is not as easy as using df -h or opening up gParted.

Maybe the system itself could help me figure out where /swap lives in the LVM/encrypted world of Fedora.

I looked at the man page for swapon and soon had my answer:

$ swapon -s

That returns the following:


So I rebooted and dropped this at the end of my bootline in GRUB:


Lo, behold and holy shit, IT WORKS!

I now have working suspend/resume in Fedora 20 -- and presumably every other Linux distribution out there.

Next step, how to modify GRUB so this persists. It's not so easy because GRUB isn't set up the same way in this Fedora U/EFI system as in other systems I've seen.

If/when I figure that out, I'll update this entry. But for now, I HAVE SUSPEND/RESUME. Couldn't be happier. (Really!)

First try at making GRUB modification permanent

I tried to get resume=/dev/dm-1 into GRUB permanently on my EFI-based Fedora system.

Here's what I did.

$ sudo gedit /etc/default/grub

I turned this line:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="rd.lvm.lv=fedora/swap rd.md=0 rd.dm=0 $([ -x /usr/sbin/rhcrashkernel-param ] && /usr/sbin/rhcrashkernel-param || :) vconsole.keymap=us rd.lvm.lv=fedora/root rd.luks.uuid=luks-f87cd0dc-c2a5-4a18-913d-b0c9d0e7d18f rhgb"

into this:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="rd.lvm.lv=fedora/swap rd.md=0 rd.dm=0 $([ -x /usr/sbin/rhcrashkernel-param ] && /usr/sbin/rhcrashkernel-param || :) vconsole.keymap=us rd.lvm.lv=fedora/root rd.luks.uuid=luks-f87cd0dc-c2a5-4a18-913d-b0c9d0e7d18f rhgb resume=/dev/dm-1"

Note the added bit at the end.

Then I rebuilt my GRUB entries:

$ sudo grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/efi/EFI/fedora/grub.cfg

GRUB didn't look quite the same upon reboot, but my boot stanza did have resume/dev/dm-1 in it. And suspend/resume still works.

I don't know if this will persist after a kernel update (I suspect it won't), so I'll update this entry when I know more.

Is your Fedora update failing due to 'scriptlet' issue? Here's the quick, easy fix

Update: While the simple fix below seems to have worked for me, what Fedora experts are sugggesting is slightly more complicated. Start reading here and click through to find the recommended fix. (I suspect that my solution was easier because I didn't install anything until I resolved the SE Linux problem on my system.)

Original post begins here:

It's all over the Fedora forums, mailing lists and bug trackers: A bad update is causing software updates to fail.

It has something to do with SE Linux.

I got my updates to go through and returned the box back to normal with these three commands:

# setenforce 0

# yum update

# setenforce 1

That's it. Everything is back to normal.

Fri, 17 Jan 2014

Windows 8.1 upgrade fails, kills the bootloader, but I eventually find the fix

(I used a digital camera to capture the screen images of my Windows boot failure and subsequent 8.1 upgrade failure so you can share in my pain before reading below how I fixed what Microsoft broke)

So I figured I'd upgrade the Windows 8 portion of my Windows/Fedora dual-booting (and naturally EFI-running) system to the presumably shinier, newer Windows 8.1 with the offer of an upgrade via the Microsoft Store.

Big fucking mistake.

I go into Windows 8 and do the upgrade. It tells me at some point that "there will be several reboots."

The first reboot was the last. Windows would no longer boot. (Luckily Fedora continued to boot during this whole nightmare.) When I tried to start Windows 8, I got a blue-screen error with the code 0xc000000f.

I went into Recovery Mode via the BIOS.

The automatic repair didn't work. Then I went to Advanced Options, then to the Windows command prompt, to start trying hacks.

The easy hacks didn't work.

Read the rest of this post

Buy Debian merchandise from Debian France (and it helps if you can read French)

Debian France now has an online store where they sell Debian-related merchandise: hats, shirts, even umbrellas, pocket knives and those "buff" things that losing "Survivor" contestants throw into the fire on the show's Redemption Island (which probably tells you too much about my recent TV viewing).

The currency is Euros, the language French. May the European force be with you.

Phoronix is one of my essential resources

Especially while I'm obsessed with the state of AMD video drivers, but for all Linux and much BSD news, Michael Larabel's Phoronix is an essential site that I'm looking at every day.

I honestly don't know how he keeps up the pace, but if you're looking for news on the state of AMD, Nvidia and Intel video, AMD, Intel and ARM CPUs, the Linux kernel, benchmarking of hardware and Linux and BSD distribution, plus what's going on (both in plain sight and behind the scenes) in many of the projects that make up the free-software ecosystems, Michael appears to have it covered, and for that I thank him.

Mon, 13 Jan 2014

I succeed installing AMD Catalyst in Fedora 20, and that means I don't have to dump the distro

Thanks to the help of a few, proud Fedora users, I was able to install the AMD Catalyst 13.11 beta (version 9.95 to be exact) driver on my Xfce-running Fedora 20 system.

And thus the long local (as opposed to national) nightmare of poor video performance and a CPU running 30 to 40 degrees hotter is over.

I would love to stick around and wait for the open-source Radeon drive to get better, and I'll continue to keep an eye on it. But my test of the 3.13.rc7 Linux kernel -- which is supposed to include some key Radeon patches -- showed that it is no better on my machine than 3.12.x. That means it's not time to wait on the open driver but instead time to get serious about putting Catalyst -- direct from AMD -- on the laptop.

Today I was successful, and the CPU on my HP Pavilion g6-2210us is running at a cool 80 degrees as opposed to the not-as-cool 120 degrees under Radeon. And I can watch full-screen video in VLC (and any player other than MPlayer) without a) that video stuttering and b) both CPU cores jumping to 100 percent.

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Sun, 12 Jan 2014

Could the kernel-devel package be the thing preventing AMD's Catalyst from installing in Fedora 20?

Update: Thanks to tips from Bernhard J. Wolf, I have successfully installed the AMD Catalyst 13.11 beta driver in Fedora 20. I did not need to use Maxorete's install-file hack. When I opened the file that needed to be changed, it looked like AMD had already made the fix -- and since Catalyst did install, I can confirm that they did. Thanks, AMD! Keys to success were adding the kernel-devel package in Fedora. It probably couldn't hurt to make sure you also have kernel-headers, which I already had. Bernhard also said the installation wouldn't work with GNOME installed. GNOME, you are now history on this machine. With kernel-devel and without GNOME, the install of AMD Catalyst 13.11 beta went like butter. I will do a new post that contains all of this information, but for now I leave what I wrote earlier today in its original form below. You know, for history's sake:

Original post below (I didn't need the install-file hack)

Anybody who has read anything I've written in the past month know that the sudden absence of the AMD Catalyst driver in packaged-for-Fedora form is really chapping what's left of my Linux hide. The fact that so few seem to care is just stamping my "get out of Dodge/Fedora" ticket.

But given momentum's pull, principally the fact that I have Fedora set up the way I want it, I'd rather stay for now and move at some time in the future. When I'm ready, that is.

So I've gone against the advice I've held to since Fedora 14 crapped out on me, that advice being, Don't install Catalyst directly from AMD.

Read the rest of this post

Sat, 04 Jan 2014

From ReadWrite: Online Privacy: We Are The Authors Of Our Own Demise

Online Privacy: We Are The Authors Of Our Own Demise by Matt Asay. The subtitle: We used to pay with money. Now we pay with our private data. Will we regret it?

Tue, 31 Dec 2013

When life hands you lemons, go back to Debian

Update on Jan. 16, 2014: Since I originally wrote this post, I succeeded in installing Catalyst with AMD's script in Fedora and buying myself a whole lot of time with that distribution. I also tried Debian Wheezy with live media containing nonfree firmware, and that is looking even better than Jessie if I don't want/need an EFI-friendly installer. My original plan was to stick with Fedora until the Debian Jessie freeze and then make the move (sometime late this year). But if Wheezy works out, I'd want to go to it sooner rather than later and avoid Jessie for as long as possible (or until suspend/resume somehow returns to my neglected AMD APU chip.

Update on Feb. 4, 2014: I have suspend/resume working in Fedora 20 with the fglrx/Catalyst driver, and I'm very confident that the same technique I used to get it working there will also work in Debian Jessie, so that means if I do want to run Debian in the near future, I can get working fglrx video, working suspend/resume and EFI booting with Testing/Jessie and don't need to use Wheezy unless I absolutely want to. The only thing that makes me nervous about installing Jessie now is the uncertainty over which init system Debian will end up with -- both in the Jessie and Jessie+1 cycles. But since I have everything but printing to my crappy HP USB printer working in Fedora, it's likely that I'll stick with it for the near (and maybe farther) future.

To keep a short story short, the maintainer of the proprietary AMD Catalyst (aka fglrx) driver for the Fedora-focused RPM Fusion repository doesn't want to do it anymore.

And he made this decision not before the release of Fedora 20 with lots of notice -- and not after with lots of notice BUT PRETTY MUCH DURING THE RELEASE with no notice.

That means my Fedora 19-to-20 upgrade left me without Catalyst. And that means much poorer video performance, higher heat and more fan noise for my newish AMD APU chip -- the Trinity series A4-4300M model with AMD Radeon HD 7420g graphics.

And while the open-source Radeon driver has gotten a whole lot better in the 3.12 Linux kernel, the Catalyst driver is much, much better for this hardware.

I already mentioned the slow video. I can barely run GNOME 3 with the open driver, and THIS LAPTOP ISN'T EVEN A YEAR OLD.

Read the rest of this post

Windows 8: Not my cup of pain

In the course of my day job, I use Windows 7 all day. I have really nice Lenovo desktop hardware with a nice AMD processor and lots of RAM. Windows 7 is fairly solid. It's not Linux, but when compared to Windows XP, it's a world and a half better.

So is Windows 8 better than Windows 7? I still dual-boot Windows 8 on my laptop, a newish HP Pavilion g6 with an AMD CPU and enough RAM to be comfortable.

The Metro interface is distracting, looks terrible and doesn't add to productivity. In a keyboard-mouse environment, it's hard to know what to do to make Metro (or whatever it's called now) do what I want. It's not intuitive.

The desktop portion of Windows 8 seems much like Windows 7. That is good.

I'm not saying I'm a Luddite. And I'm not saying I'm not. But there's nothing in Windows 8 that makes me say, "this is better."

There are so many things wrong with the Windows model from the perspective of a user who prefers Linux (currently Fedora, though I'm thisclose to moving to Debian or Xubuntu), but when it comes to basic functionality, I can get along fairly well in Windows 7. Windows 8? I can't believe it's gone on this long.

Fri, 27 Dec 2013

Fix for PulseAudio trouble with Skype in Fedora 20 and other Linux distributions past and present

I'm on the fence on this Skype fix for Linux distributions that use PulseAudio:

If you are packaging Skype for your distribution, you need to change the Exec line in your Skype .desktop file as follows:

Exec=env PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60 skype %U

If you are a user, and your distribution doesn’t already carry this fix (as of about a week ago, Ubuntu does, and as of ~1 hour from now, Gentoo will), you need to launch Skype from the command line as follows:


Using rootly privileges, I made this change in my /usr/share/applications/skype.desktop file. It worked some but not all of the time. I'm more troubled by PulseAudio's use of CPU when I'm running Skype in the background but not actively using it.

I eventually reverted this fix in my /usr/share/applications/skype.desktop file and am doing OK with the regular Exec=skype %U line that is the default in my Skype installation.

Thu, 26 Dec 2013

Read the excellent year-end proprietary AMD Catalyst and free Radeon driver roundup from Phoronix and find out why I'm recommending against buying AMD hardware for Linux

I got a lot out of reading Michael Larabel's AMD Catalyst 2013 Linux Graphics Driver Year-In-Review on his Phoronix site.

He's been following all of the Linux video drivers for years, and his perspective is very valuable, especially in his assessment that it's been a horrible year for the proprietary Catalyst driver and a great one for the open Radeon driver.

I can confirm that I finally have 3D acceleration in the open Radeon driver on the 3.12.x Linux kernel but that the performance isn't what it is with the Catalyst driver. That Fedora users might no longer have a choice between the two when it comes to a pre-packaged driver is troubling.

But thanks, Michael, for a thorough look at AMD graphics and Linux.

Of course things are going better for Nvidia, Michael reports.

That's cold comfort for me with my AMD hardware, and while desktop users can generally chose to shove an AMD or Nvidia card into the box, there aren't all that many laptops with Nvidia chips on them. No, AMD is a whole lot more common, especially if you're trying to save a few dollars over an Intel-based laptop.

So overall, it's pretty much AMD vs. Intel when it comes to laptop graphics, and AMD's extremely lackluster performance in 2013 is leading to me recommend against buying AMD hardware. While the open Radeon driver project is going from strength to strength, sometimes you need (and/or want) the proprietary driver.

And in 2013, there appears to be no contest when it comes to graphics for Linux. Intel and Nvidia are doing a lot. AMD is doing a whole lot less.

If you want to delve further into the rabbit hole that is Linux graphics, start at this part of Phoronix. Good luck. I really appreciate Michael Larabel's testing and writing, but I'd rather things just worked (and wish I had opted for an Intel-based laptop when I needed one on short notice in March of this year).

Tue, 24 Dec 2013

Will there really be no AMD Catalyst driver packaged by RPM Fusion for Fedora 20?

So I finally did my FedUp upgrade from Fedora 19 to 20, and one of the things hanging me up was the AMD Catalyst driver, the packages for which come from RPM Fusion.

I should have looked into this more BEFORE I did the upgrade, because there are no kmod-catalyst packages for F20.

This has happened before. Catalyst is always behind Nvidia when it comes to RPM Fusion packages.

But according to these two threads, the maintainer of kmod-catalyst is orphaning the package, and unless someone else picks it up, there will be no new Catalyst drivers packaged as RPMs for any existing Fedora releases, including F19 and F20.

The good news for me anyway is that Fedora 20 with the 3.12.5-302.fc20.x86_64 kernel marks the first time that the AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics chip in my HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop has had working 3D acceleration without the proprietary Catalyst driver.

But it's not as good of video as I get with AMD Catalyst (aka fglrx if you're running a Debian-based distro).

Without Catalyst/fglrx, animations in GNOME 3 aren't as smooth, games that use 3D don't perform as well, and full-screen video in VLC stutters a bit. Again, that's better than GNOME 3 not running at all (which is what has been happening with the open Radeon driver in recent months), but I'd rather have the choice between the open Radeon and proprietary Catalyst drivers.

Oh, and my suspend/resume situation is the same. Suspend appears to work fine, but without resume (which doesn't work at all), why bother?

The laptop does run cooler with the proprietary driver, too.

Back to the point: I'm not willing to download and run AMD Catalyst directly from AMD. That's always been a prescription for endless fiddling and bricked video. I have heard good things about the open Radeon driver in the 3.13.x kernel, and I will wait for that to roll into my system before I decide whether or not to abandon Fedora for a distribution that isn't orphaning the Catalyst/fglrx driver. Among those: Debian, Ubuntu and everything derived from them.

I've always said I'd prefer to run the open driver, and there has been substantial progress in making my particular AMD video chip work better in Linux. But there needs to be just a little bit more performance. The stuttering video NEEDS TO GO.

And before this release, GNOME 3 did not work at all. It works now but is struggling. For me, that means more time running Xfce.

I'd love to see a dramatic improvement when the 3.13.x kernels come into Fedora. If that happens, all is forgiven. But if not, more than likely I'll be moving from Fedora.

Update: Full-screen video in Mplayer is much better than in VLC and GNOME's stock player. That's a workaround but not a full-blown solution.

Twitter: A bad day for Fedora users

Sat, 21 Dec 2013

Proposal: How about a way to bring Twitter into Ode?

There's something about Twitter. It's so easy to tweet out links, to retweet, to have 140-character discussions ...

But it's a bit harder to bring those conversations into your own blog in a more permanent fashion.

What I'm thinking about doing doesn't seem all that hard. It could be a browser-based program -- maybe a Firefox add-in -- that takes a tweet and plows that text (with links to the original tweet) into an Ode post, so anything I write, retweet, or just want to offer up can appear in my own blog without a whole lot of trouble.

It could also be a Perl script (or Javascript, or Python, or Bash) that outputs HTML to paste into a file.

I'll be thinking about this ...

Once you start blogging by writing plain text files, you can't go back

One of the biggest things that keeps me using a system like Ode for blogging is the freedom to write entries on my local machine using any text editor I wish. Those text files turn into blog entries, and I never have to write in a web interface unless I want to (and for that we have the excellent EditEdit add-in).

I've written local files and pushed them via FTP, opened up my web-server space via sftp in my local Linux file manager (either Thunar with Xfce or Nautilus with GNOME) and now synced a local directory with my server via Unison.

I also love using Markdown. It eliminates much of the HTML-coding drudgery that's even part of mainstream blogging applications like WordPress.

But more than anything, when you can create a text file, write it in the editor of your choice, which for me is Gedit, and then have that file somehow make its way to the server and become part of a blog, it makes the process that much more enjoyable.

Fri, 20 Dec 2013

Twitter: The open web

Thu, 19 Dec 2013

New Fedup is here -- proceed with your Fedora 20 upgrades

My Fedup upgrade to 0.8 as seen in Yum Extender

(Click the image above for a larger version)

After news that fedup 0.7 stood a good chance of not successfully upgrading you from Fedora 19 to 20, the project's developers swiftly pushed out fedup 0.8 to solve this and a great many other problems.

As you can see above, the change has come through to my system, and I have updated the package. No, I haven't actually run the fedup upgrade to F20, though I did use the program to bring this system from F18 to F19.

Wed, 18 Dec 2013

Don't eat the yellow snow, or upgrade to Fedora 20 with fedup 0.7

You don't want your bike chain to fall off.

It very well might if you use fedup 0.7.x to do your Fedora 19-to-20 upgrade:

Adam Williamson, who calls himself the "Fedora QA Community Monkey," writes:

I just poked it a bit and it sure seems like upgrades with fedup 0.7 to F20 are busted. They definitely worked when we tested shortly before release, though. I can only think that using fedup 0.7 against upgrade kernel/image built with fedup-dracut 0.8 doesn't work.

If you have fedup installed, you can tell your version with this:

$ yum list fedup

Here is my output of that command:

fedup.noarch 0.7.3-4.fc19 installed

According to Fedora devs and other expert types, the thing to do is wait for fedup 0.8, which will be moving onto Fedora 19 systems any day now via the usual update mechanisms.

Adam puts it this way:

So, here's the news: do your upgrades to F20 with fedup 0.8, yo. It's in updates-testing for F18 and F19 at present, but will go to stable for F19 tomorrow. If you're upgrading from F18, you'll need to pass '--nogpgcheck' to fedup, because of <https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=1040689>.

Failed fedup upgrades aren't fatal but also aren't fun, so it's worth the wait for a new fedup.

Later: Chris Murphy on the Fedora users mailing list suggests this command to update to fedup 0.8 right now:

$ sudo yum update fedup --enablerepo=updates-testing

Then you could run the full fedup:

$ sudo fedup --network 20
Tue, 17 Dec 2013

Fedora 20 is here, and so are (or will be) new kernels for F19 and F20

The new release of Fedora -- version 20 -- is here. Since I have a USB stick dedicated to such things, I brought down a couple of live desktops (GNOME and Xfce) to try.

All well and good, that is, but the Linux kernel shipping with F20 is the same 3.11.10 that I'm already using in F19.

But a look at the latest kernels in Fedora's Koji build system (which I recommend you visit often) -- shows that the 3.12.5 kernel is being built right now for F19 and has already been built for F20.

In my experience, a kernel shows up in your local yum update within a week after it first appears in Koji. It's not instant but does flow onto your system if you accept the update.

While on the subject of updates, the Yum Extender (aka Yumex) has proven to be a great way to maintain the packages on my Fedora system. It's quicker and better than PackageKit, and fairly equal to the Debian world's Synaptic Package Manager.

Getting back to Fedora 20, I'm not yet ready to run fedup to get the full update on my F19 system. Instead I'm waiting for the 3.13 kernels to start flowing into F19 proper.

What concerns me most is hardware compatibility, specifically display issues that keep my AMD-based laptop from resuming after suspend. I am looking to new kernels and display drivers to fix this problem. Full system upgrades are just window dressing that, in and of themselves, won't really help. That's what I'm thinking, anyway.

Fedora 20 is almost here

This handy counter tells you when It's here:

Tue, 10 Dec 2013

GNOME 3: Adjust 'hot corner' sensitivity with the Activities Configurator extension

It kept nagging at me. Why was the "hot corner" in Debian's version of GNOME 3 so "sensitive," compared to the GNOME 3 desktop's hot corner in Fedora 19?

In Fedora, I'd mouse into the upper left "hot corner," and half the time wouldn't get the app panel or search box to open. I'd have to "aggressively" mouse to get it working.

So I've been using GNOME 3 less and less. Was it just too slow?

Today I did a bit of searching and found out that "hot corner" sensitivity was something that the user can set, not in stock GNOME 3 but with the Activities Configurator extension.

I installed the extension and cranked the sensitivity number way down, from 100 to 43, making it more sensitive. Now my "hot corner" is much more responsive to mouse movement, and GNOME 3 is easier to use.

Once you have the extension installed, you can access its settings via the GNOME Tweak Tool, or by right-clicking on the "Activities" menu or the little smiley face that now appears to its left.

Thu, 05 Dec 2013

Code blocks in Markdown: just tab

I was making things hard on myself. I was trying to do a big code block on this blog in Markdown with backticks all over the place.

But the way it works in Markdown, you just tab or indent four spaces, and it's all wrapped in <pre> and <code> with all the tags rewritten so they'll show up the right way on your live site.

Backticks like `this` (which renders like this on this site) are still good for shorter code blocks on a single line.

But for longer code blocks, it's better to tab 'em.

Social sharing buttons for Ode sites

I decided to add some social-sharing buttons to my Ode site. It's easy to do with code from the sites themselves and tags generated by the Ode script.

I decided to do Twitter and Google Plus share (I could have chosen "+1" but thought "share" was better sine you don't have to "like" it to share it). I could have done Facebook, too, and I might, but for now it's just these two.

I placed the code in the post_footer section of my main Logic (i.e. html) theme's page.html file.

It goes below this part:

<div class="post_footer">
    <p>Posted: $month_name $month_day, $year $hour_12:$min$am_pm $post_advertised_time_zone</p>

And above the permalink/Disqus embed code:

<p><a href="$req_base_url$path$filename">permalink</a> | <a href="$ode::req_base_url$ode::path$ode::filename#disqus_thread" data-disqus-identifier="$ode::path$ode::filename">comments</a></p>

Here is the code I'm putting between those two parts of page.html:

    <!-- Google Share button -->
    <script src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script>
    <div class="g-plus" data-action="share" data-annotation="bubble" data-href="$req_base_url$path$filename"></div>

    <!-- Twitter share button -->
    <a href="https://twitter.com/share" class="twitter-share-button" data-url="$req_base_url$path$filename" data-text="$title" data-lang="en">Tweet</a>
    <script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");</script>

That generates the two social-sharing buttons you see at the bottom of this entry. Can you see how I used Ode-generated tags to specify the permalink for both embeds and the title text for Twitter?

I updated the Creative Commons license for this site

Since Creative Commons updated their portfolio of licenses to version 4, I decided to revisit the license for this site and update my own license.

I used this handy "choose a license" page, though I kept the same license I had before -- Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International-- just updating it from version 3 to 4.

As you can see from the image above, generated from my license-choosing preferences, the CC site tells my that the license I chose is not a "free culture license," because I'm not allowing unrestricted use of my work in commercial settings.

I'm not saying I won't revisit the issue in future, and there are plenty of things I am comfortable releasing for unmitigated commercial use by others. But on the whole, I'm sticking with CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Mon, 02 Dec 2013

Disqus in Ode: 'comments' or '0 Comments'

I don't know if that has anything to do with my use of Unison to push and pull content from my server for Ode, but I've been seeing entries labeled comments instead of 0 Comments.

To that end, I'm posting this entry without the use of Unison to see what happens.

A minute later: I'm getting comments without the use of Unison, so it doesn't appear to have anything to do with file timestamps or permissions as affected by the file-synchronization utility I've been using for the past week or so.

A few more minutes later: Now my previous entry is showing as 0 Comments, so I am chalking this up to "stuff happening at Disqus."

Even more minutes later: Now this post carries 0 Comments. Consider this a false-alarm/something I previously did not notice in Disqus' interaction with Ode.

I'm looking at the Fedora Power Management Guide

Fedora has great documentation. It's one of the many reasons that the Red Hat-sponsored community project's operating system is a compelling choice for your desktops, laptops and maybe even servers if you like to tinker.

The Power Management Guide caught my attention, and I used this part of the docs to install Tuned.

I'm not unhappy with the battery life of my HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop. I get a whole lot more out of it than I did my previous Lenovo G555. But I'm always on the lookout for more optimization, and right now I'm focusing on the hard drive, which throws off more heat than I'd like (but not so much as to be a problem).

I installed tuned and made it run at startup.

There is an error in the F19 Power Management Guide in how to do that.

The correct command (run with rootly privileges) to make tuned start at boot is:

# systemctl enable tuned

The last two words are reversed in the docs. And yes, I did file a bug.

Fri, 29 Nov 2013

Korora 20 beta is out, and now there is an Xfce version of the Fedora-made-easy distro

Korora is to Fedora as Ubuntu is to Debian. Got that?

That means Korora adds on all those helpful bits that a Fedora user just might want. Everything from multimedia codecs to Steam, Adobe Flash to VirtualBox -- you get it all in Korora, though most of it isn't terribly hard to add to "virgin" Fedora.

Just like Debian: There are plenty of things that ship in Ubuntu, but the halfway knowledgeable user with a little time on his/her hands can do most if not all of it on top of Debian.

But just like with Debian and Ubuntu, it's nice to have something like Korora to give us a complete out-of-the-box experience.

The only difference between Korora and Ubuntu? Nobody's ever heard of one of them.

Never mind that. In the next cycle, Korora is upping its game. The Korora 20 Beta builds are now available, and I'm happy to see that Xfce has been added to the list of available desktop ISOs, which already included GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon and MATE.

I'm downloading the Xfce and GNOME ISOs now, though what I'm really looking for is something with a 3.13 Linux kernel so I can put it through its paces on my still-needs-help-suspending AMD-running laptop.

My Fedora system has most of what is in Korora, though not Steam (don't care), Jockey (do care and WANT it) or VirtualBox (could be worth a play). But I've thought for a long time that Fedora needs its own Ubuntu/Mint, and Korora looks to be fulfilling that role very nicely.

MLED -- Microlinux Enterprise Desktop -- builds on Slackware for a 'full-blown production desktop,' but it's not as easy a rolling an ISO

MLED, aka the Microlinux Enterprise Desktop, is Frenchman Nicolas Kovacs' attempt to bring together various bits and pieces of the Slackware community, including Slackbuilds, slackpkg+ (which I confess I've never heard of until now) and more to create what he calls a "full-blown production desktop."

Yes, that includes multimedia codecs.

You get MLED by installing Slackware, then importing "tagfiles" (first time I've heard of this concept) and doing more than a bit of configuration, choosing KDE, Xfce or MATE along the way.

It's not as easy as a full-blown ISO but not as hard as finding all the bits on your own.

Kovacs talks about why MLED is based on Slackware here, and I agree with pretty much everything he says.

If you're looking for a long-term-support distribution with extremely conservative underpinnings, Slackware is a compelling choice, and it looks like MLED will get you from zero to desktop that much more quickly than assembling the bits on your own. I'd prefer this to be more automatic, but those are the Slackware-fueled breaks, I guess.

Wed, 27 Nov 2013

Markdown comes to WordPress.com

John Gruber's Markdown, the human-writable markup language that can be turned into HTML in many your favorite blogging applications, has now come to WordPress.com.

That's great news since Markdown will really help those of us who use WordPress get posts formatted that much more quickly. I hate using the formatting buttons that come with WordPress, and Markdown beats hand-coding HTML any day.

(Note: This is an Ode blog, and it uses Markdown.)

Now all we need is Markdown in self-hosted WordPress.org. Then we'll be cooking with gas. The thread that announced Markdown for .com sites says it will be eventually be part of Jetpack for .org installations.

Until then, WordPress people remind that there are many Markdown plugins available.

WP.com is also offering this quick reference page on its particular implementation of Markdown and a general Markdown support page.

Mon, 25 Nov 2013

Why I'm using the closed Catalyst driver for Linux instead of the open Radeon driver

I've been using Fedora Linux for the greater part of this year, starting with F18 and upgrading via Fedup to F19. For most of that time, I've used the closed-source AMD Catalyst driver as packaged by RPM Fusion instead of the open Radeon driver that ships by default with Fedora and most every other Linux distribution.

I'm not proud of it. But the differences in performance are too big to ignore.

Things that stink with both drivers: Neither the open- nor the closed-source driver will resume my HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop after suspend. (The machine uses the AMD A4-4300M APU with AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics.)

Things that stink with the open driver: Only the Catalyst driver delivers working 3D acceleration, meaning without it I can't run GNOME 3 at all, most games look like hell, and a certain wonkiness crops up here and there on various web pages.

With Catalyst, my glxgears frames per second are 100 times greater than with the open driver. I don't know what glxgears fps numbers really mean, but 5,200 has got to be better than 50.

Things that stink with the closed driver: In Xfce, many application windows have lost the borders on the left and right sides. I can't explain it.

I also cannot successfuly use UEFI secure boot with the Catalyst-enabled kernel, though I can do so without Catalyst installed. It's not Secure Boot itself that is stopping the boot. It just hangs at some point -- after some IP tables lines in the dmesg, I think. The solution is keeping EFI but turning off Secure Boot.

Fri, 22 Nov 2013

Keeping a filesystem in sync across two or more servers and local machines, Part 1

You'd think the solution would be easy and ubiquitous. Here's what I wanted to do: My personal blog run with the Perl-based Ode system. Ode doesn't use a database. Instead it stores its entries as text files in "normal" directories on the server.

I wanted to have exact copies of everything in my Ode documents directory on my local computer and the server. And I wanted the freedom to add to or modify anything in this directory on either side (server or laptop) and have everything track on both machines.

Many of us use Dropbox (or Box, or SpiderOak, or Google Drive, or ...) to both back up some or all of our files and mirror them on other desktops and laptops we happen to use.

But what if you want to keep a filesystem in sync across any number of servers and desktops and laptops without using a third-party service?

My first thought was, "I'll just use Dropbox. Certainly there must be a way to use Dropbox on my server/VPS/shared-hosting. Nope. No. It doesn't work that way.

My second thought was, "Holy shit, Dropbox is missing out on a whole lot of revenue and screwing its users besides."

Read the rest of this post

Thu, 21 Nov 2013

Yes, you can still download the free, open-source Movable Type

For one reason or another, I've been thinking about Movable Type. I went to both of the web sites associated with the blogging software -- movabletype.org and movabletype.com and found no mention of the formerly "free," open-source Movable Type software I used for so many years.

Instead, MT 6 is $595 for up to five users and $1,195 for unlimited users. Ouch. There's quite a gap between $0 and $1,195.

Nowhere on those "official" sites could I find a link to the $0 versions of Movable Type (i.e. everything up to Version 5).

I did some searching, and here they are. Start a directory up and there are downloads of MT 6, which I presume will ask you for some kind of licensing information.

But if you want MT 4.x or 5.x, they are available.

And the software that swallowed Movable Type's user base whole is still available -- and still free.

Movable Type was always a great platform, and it still handles multiple blogs and multiple users better than WordPress in my opinion.

But you really need a full-time hacker on the job if you want to use Movable Type seriously. There never was enough of a community out there with plugins and themes to get you going.

Sat, 16 Nov 2013

More blogs, better CSS at stevenrosenberg.net

I am now using my updated, responsive CSS at the non-blog root of my domain, stevenrosenberg.net.

I also added to the list of blogs and social networks. (I have too many in both categories.)

Later: The page isn't terribly responsive on mobile. That's a project for the future.

The next day: Problem fixed. Per Hans Fast, I added this code to my HTML:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width" />

Hans goes into this here and here.

Ghost is very basic. VERY BASIC

I didn't expect the post-WordPress blogging system Ghost to ship with all of its promised features, but it's more basic than I thought it would be. (If you want to read this very entry on my Ghost blog, here it is.)

It's basically entries tagged with Markdown and presented on the page.

As far as I know there are no categories or tags (though I do see them on other Ghost sites), and none of the promised back-end stats. There is no easily-implemented provision for comments, not even though you can hack in Disqus. Clearly this sort of thing needs to get easier if Ghost has any hope of going beyond the geeky contingent that champions such systems as OctoPress, Pelican and Nikola.

It looks like there is only one user (and one blog) per installation.

In short, while the code that is out now does use Node.js and does use a two-windowed Markdown-on-one-side, styled-text-on-the-other composition screen, and what you write in there appears on your life site in the form of blog entries, that's pretty much it.

So I give the Ghost team this: They have code out in the wild, and it does work. Now they have to build on it and start delivering the features promised on the main Ghost site.

I hope they get there.

For now, you won't find anywhere near the functionality available in WordPress, or my favorite blogging platform, Ode.

And unless you, like me, use a Node.js-friendly service like OpenShift to host your Ghost (I'm sure the AWS Elastic Beanstalk would do just as well) or have access to (or can spin up) a Node-running server and care deeply about running your blog on Node.js as opposed to PHP or Perl (or Ruby or Python for that matter), I'm not yet ready to recommend Ghost just yet. (Note: Ghost's documentation tells of many other ways to run it.)

For me, Ode creator Rob Reed's "Ode means you know how it works" credo is keeping me firmly in the Ode camp. Sure Perl is "old." (Just like PHP, which powers WordPress and Drupal and probably most other Web services.) But Rob has put a lot of thought into the design and subsequent execution of Ode. I'd love to see the Ghost team follow his example and create a system maintainable and hackable by the average human. If you look at a Ghost composition window and Ode's EditEdit side-by-side, you'll find more alike than different.

As an armchair programmer, I get the feeling that Node.js and Javascript on the server in general are getting to be more important than ever, and for that reason I applaud Ghost.

But at the end of the day, there's more to any blogging/publishing system than the language used on the back end, and Ghost will have to sell itself with features and ease of use, not the tools used to bolt it together.

Later: The Ghost Forums are essential for getting the most out of Ghost.

Thu, 14 Nov 2013

Noted contributer Aaron Toponce says goodbye to Ubuntu, even gives up UBUNTU license plate

Aaron Toponce is one of those insightful writers about Linux that I like to follow.

Now he joins those publicly leaving the Ubuntu project after what he refers to as a long line of disappointments in the project and its parent company Canonical, the last of those being the "trademark aggression" exhibited over the Fix Ubuntu site, the heavy-handedness for which SABDFL Mark Shuttleworth has apologized.

SABDFL apology aside, Aaron states many reason for leaving Ubuntu as a contributor and user (he's running Debian on everything, if you want to know). Those reasons include swapping GNOME for Unity, the Unity Lenses and the Amazon shopping "app."

He ends (but please do read the entire post):

I can't be associated with a project like this any longer. Effective immediately, my blog will no longer on the Ubuntu Planet. My Ubuntu Membership will be cancelled. My "UBUNTU" license plates, which have been on my car since August 2006, will be removed, in favor of my Amateur Radio callsign.

I wish everyone in the Ubuntu community the best of wishes. I also hope you have the power to change Ubuntu back to what it used to be. I have no ill feelings towards any person in the Ubuntu community. I just wish to now distance myself from Ubuntu, and no longer be associated with the project. Canonical's goals and visions do not align with something I think should be a Unix. Don't worry though -- I'll keep blogging. You can't get that out of my blood. Ubuntu just isn't for me any longer.

Goodbye Ubuntu.

I found Aaron's post via Benjamin Kerensa's post on the need to establish a Ubuntu foundation. The idea is intriguing, but I doubt anything will come of it.

As I've been saying lately, there are a few hundred other Linux distributions out there, and even close to home there are a number of fine Ubuntu-affiliated/derived projects like Xubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Kubuntu and Lubuntu that offer compelling desktop systems and are run by engaged, growing and inclusive communities. And there's always Mint, Debian, CrunchBang, Slackware and many, many more.

More for technical than philosophical reasons, I'm running Fedora with Xfce. Until my hardware runs better (i.e. suspend/resume works), I need the latest kernels and video drivers, and Fedora offers (in my experience anyway) the easiest, least painful way of getting them. And while Fedora also has a strong corporate parent/overlord in Red Hat, the relationship between company and community is much less frought.

Fri, 08 Nov 2013

Google knows how to get you

I don't get on Google+ all that often. But I was going through my mail today and got a notice about a post from a few weeks ago. I went to it and made a comment.

Further down in my G+-related mail, Google offered me this personalized URL: https://plus.google.com/+StevenRosenberg. In true land-grab fashion, I took it.

Will this make me more likely to use Google+? It certainly won't make me less likely to do so.

Fri, 01 Nov 2013

I like the Xfce Whisker Menu

Those who saw yesterday's entry know that I at once discovered and installed the Xfce Whisker Menu on my Fedora 19 Xfce system.

I already had the standard Xfce Application Finder bound to my alt-F2, alt-F3 and Super (aka "Windows") keys, though I didn't use it that much. What I was going for with the Application Finder being bound to the Super key was Unity/GNOME 3-like functionality in terms of finding and launching applications while retaining the speed and stability of Xfce.

I haven't even used the Whisker Menu for a full day, yet I just used the Xfce Keyboard settings' Application Shortcuts to bind the Whisker Menu to the Super key.

Aside from the Whisker Menu actually working, since it saves me a keystroke/mouse click over the standard Application Finder when searching for and launching an application, I'm pretty much sold on the Whisker Menu.

I'm sold enough that if I find it really working out, I'll remove my application-icon-filled panel on the left side of my screen.

The point: I like the Whisker Menu.

Thu, 31 Oct 2013

I installed the Whisker Menu for Xfce

I just read about the Whisker Menu for Xfce at OMG! Ubuntu and installed it on my system from the Fedora repositories.

While I'm happy with my panel on the left and the traditional Xfce Application Finder, I thought the Whisker Menu would be worth a try.

Once installed, the menu itself can be added as a panel item (that's a step that took me a second or two or 10 to figure out). After you do that, you're ready to go.

Not only does the Whisker Menu provide an alternative to the stock Xfce Applications Menu, you can access your 10 most-recently used applications, create favorites for their own portion of the menu, or easily plop an application launcher onto the desktop or into the panel.

It's a nice little application that Xfce users might very well want to check out.

Wed, 30 Oct 2013

Ubuntu 13.10 review: It's better than billed (and not quite dead, despite rumors to the contrary)

Just to make sure that nothing suits my needs better than what I'm running right now (that being Fedora 19 with Xfce and GNOME), I did an Ubuntu 13.10 installation this week and have spent a bit of time putting the Unity-driven Linux distribution to the test.

The installation was easy. Ubuntu is very good about that. And from the standpoint of actually knowing what's going on during the install, Ubuntu beats Fedora handily.

While the installation process was easy and smooth, I was unable to boot the finished installation with UEFI Secure Boot on my HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop, which has admittedly "difficult" UEFI. I had to turn off Secure Boot to successfully boot Ubuntu 13.10 in EFI mode. Since I'm now having trouble with Fedora 19 and Secure Boot on this same hardware, I'll chalk that up to an overall Linux kernel problem with secure boot as it stands today. Luckily you can just about always turn off Secure Boot in the computer setup/BIOS, so this shouldn't be a problem.

Ubuntu's Unity desktop environment is snappier than billed. But for me it's just a little bit "broken" compared to and Xfce 4.10 and GNOME 3. For instance, as far as I can tell, in Unity you can't drag windows from one workspace to another. It's also hard to tell when you've minimized a window, though this is also the case in GNOME 3.

Read the rest of this post

Sat, 26 Oct 2013

I'm sticking with Fedora

Call it a reality check.

After installs of Debian Wheezy, an unsuccessful upgrade to Sid, and more installs -- Ubuntu 12.04 and 13.10 -- plus some Debian Sid-derived live-disc tests (Siduction, Aptosid), I've decided that Fedora is where I should be right now.

Probably due to my hardware being so new and Debian Stable being so relatively old, my idea about returning to Debian didn't work out as well as I could have hoped.

And then I had trouble with X in Siduction and Aptosid.

Onward, upward. Ubuntu 12.04 wouldn't boot after install, probably also due to its age relative to my HP Pavilion g6-2210us.

Ubuntu 13.04 with the proprietary fglrx driver ran well enough that I still have it on the test drive, a separate 320 MB disk that I swapped into the laptop.

But Unity isn't for me, and I don't see much of an advantage at this point in Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 vs. Fedora 19 with GNOME and Xfce, which is what I'm running once again.

I found GNOME 3.4 in Debian Wheezy much more responsive than GNOME 3.8 in Fedora 19, but the other problems with graphics I had in Debian canceled out that speed improvement.

And the way I have it set up, Xfce 4.10 in Fedora is probably the best desktop environment I've ever used. And I do still have GNOME 3.8 to test when I wish.

I continue to use the proprietary AMD Catalyst driver from RPM Fusion, just as I continually hope for the eventual return of working suspend/resume to this laptop.

That's all I'm really missing.

And the pace of Fedora, which makes even Debian Sid look extremely conservative, offers the best chance of getting there as quickly as possible.

And as I've said before, for all of its forward thinking and new kernels, Fedora 18 and 19 have been remarkably trouble free.

For new hardware, especially when using UEFI, extra especially when dual-booting with Windows 8, I recommend Fedora without reservation.

Wed, 23 Oct 2013

Steam coming to Fedora via the RPM Fusion repository

Amid all the talk about the Steam gaming platform coming to Linux, and more specifically Ubuntu, I just learned that Steam is waiting to enter the RPM Fusion repository for Fedora GNU/Linux users.

After six or so months with Fedora, I'm looking for something new

These things happen in predictable patterns. Due to hardware issues I land in Fedora, and after six months it's time for something else.

Not that Fedora 18 and now 19 haven't been great, because they have.

But I'm wary of my AMD APU-based HP laptop's trouble with suspend/resume and 3D acceleration. I had both working for a very short time during the AMD Catalyst 13.6 beta's brief run.

But before that I had neither, and now I have decent 3D with AMD Catalyst but seemingly no hope of working suspend/resume with this AMD A4-4300M APU and its AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics.

And I'm getting tired of new kernels coming into Fedora, some with Catalyst support, some without. And it's past time that this AMD GPU (I think it's the Trinity family) get better support from the kernel and the free and proprietary drivers.

What I'm saying is that if the hardware support I need is not going to come soon, I'd like something more stable while I'm waiting.

So I started auditioning new Linux distributions yesterday.

And when Debian 7.1 and 7.2 Live DVDs both allowed me to successfully suspend/resume my HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop, I was firmly pulled back into the Debian camp. To my "home" distro.

Read the rest of this post

Sun, 20 Oct 2013

I read 10 NYTimes articles today, and it'll cost me 99 cents for the first four weeks to read more, then $15 per month

I don't read NYTimes.com articles that often. But I got a link to one and started clicking around a bit.

There were little "warnings" along the way -- "You've read 5 of 10 ..." -- but I just kept going.

After 10 articles, I got the screen you see at the top of this post.

Now NYTimes.com is probably worth 99 cents for four weeks. But that goes up to $3.75 a week after that trial period.

That's also known as a 1400 percent increase.


I'm not a big NYTimes fan. I like the work of David Pogue, don't get me wrong, and NYTimes.com's technology coverage is pretty good. But it's a crowded field, and while I know you get the rest of the great journalism from the NYTimes for that $3.75 per week, which adds up to $15 per month, the fact is that most media sites charge a lot less.

In fact most are free.

It's hard to charge $15 a month and make a case that your content has that kind of value when most of your competitors are giving it away and hoping to support their operations with advertising.

If you're a big, huge, big (did I say "big" already?) fan and reader of the New York Times and spend hours a day on the site, I can justify you paying the $15 per month.

But when it comes to technology news, there's a lot of competition out there, and the New York Times doesn't really stand out.

And for that reason, $15 per month really doesn't beat free.

Here's my caveat: If this is working for NYTimes.com, and they're making a ton of money from subscriptions, MORE POWER TO THEM. I would like nothing better than for this sort of thing to work. But in today's Web news climate, I just can't see it.

I certainly CAN see niche content aimed at well-heeled business audiences commanding a subscription premium. And I can also see a micropayment-based model working out.

I can see online journalism dying on the proverbial vine without something to fund it.

But a blanket $15/month? That's for the New York Times faithful only, and that's not me.

Sat, 19 Oct 2013

How to stop GNOME 3 in Fedora 19 from suspending the laptop when the lid is closed

I thought you could take care of turning off suspend when the laptop lid is shut under GNOME 3 by using GNOME Tweak Tool. That doesn't work.

Automatic suspend when the lid is closed doesn't work for me because suspend/resume doesn't function on my HP hardware, and I'd like to close the damn lid every once in awhile without having to do a hard boot afterward.

It's the little things.

So I dug in a bit and found out in the Fedora Forum what you have to do (thanks to forum poster jvroig):

In a terminal:

su -
cd /etc/systemd/
gedit logind.conf

Once you're in logind.conf, uncomment (i.e. remove the #) on this line:


Then change "suspend" to "lock"

It should now read like this:


Save and close the logind.conf file.

Once you reboot, closing the lid should lock the screen and not suspend the laptop.

Note: Xfce doesn't suffer from the same inability as GNOME 3 to control what happens when you close the laptop lid.

Alternate instructions if you want to use vi and sudo:

Open a terminal and type:

$ sudo vi /etc/systemd/logind.conf

Change this line:


to this (remove #, replace suspend with lock):


Save and close the file in vi, then reboot.

Thu, 17 Oct 2013

I like what GNOME 3 and Unity are doing, so I'm replicating those things in Xfce

It sounds screwy, but I'm taking some of the elements I like in GNOME 3 and Unity and implementing them in Xfce.

First of all, I really like the idea of having a panel on the left side of the screen for my application launchers. Given that laptops are now widescreen and there is not enough vertical space but plenty of horizontal space, it makes sense to have the application launchers consume as little horizontal real estate as possible.

So in Xfce, I moved the lower panel to the left. That was an easy one.

The other thing I like about both GNOME 3 and Unity is the ability to click the "Windows" or Super key and then type in the first few letters of an application to launch it.

Xfce already has a great application finder that does this. On Fedora with Xfce, it's configured to open with alt-F2 and alt-F3. I went into the Xfce keyboard configuration and set the Windows/Super key to open this same application finder. Now I can click Super/Windows, type in a few letters and have my desired app open without going through the menu. Just like in GNOME and Unity.

Of course my favorite apps are already in my panel on the left. But for those that are not, this is a nice feature to borrow/steal from GNOME 3 and Unity.

That Xfce can replicate this behavior says a lot about what you can do with this lightweight, stable and very configurable desktop environment.

Wed, 16 Oct 2013

Fedora is remarkably trouble-free

As much as I love Debian, I have had less trouble running Fedora 18 and 19 than Debian Wheezy, video issues notwithstanding (as those are affecting me across all platforms).

Part of this, no doubt, may be due to improvements in Xfce 4.10 (the default in Fedora 19) over version 4.8 (in Debian Wheezy).

But overall Fedora's stability is remarkable, especially because it has a reputation for being less so.

File under obvious: Turning off CPU fan makes computer run hot

So I noticed a BIOS option to turn the CPU fan off on my HP Pavilion g6-2210us. I tried it.

After invoking this in the BIOS, the fan didn't run all the time. It ran about half or more of the time. And the bottom of the laptop was appreciably hotter.

So I went back into the BIOS and turned the fan back to "always on."

Now the laptop runs cooler.

Obviously, right?

The fan isn't so loud that it's a problem, and it does have variable speed, so having it cycle off and on is more noticeable than just having it on all the time.

New link at AMD for latest Catalyst driver for Linux

For reasons that escape me, AMD has changed the structure of its web site -- and changed the link where we all can find out about its latest Catalyst proprietary video driver for Linux:

Here is the new link.

From the bottom of that page, you can drill down to the specs on the latest beta driver.

As always, you can (and should) follow RPM Fusion's latest Catalyst (and Nvidia) packages.

Handbrake for Fedora, it's a thing

I was reading today about how the Korora spin on Fedora includes Handbrake, the popular cross-platform video transcoding/DVD-ripping utility.

But I am running regular Fedora 19, albeit with proprietary-package assistance from RPM Fusion and a few other repositories.

Still, Handbrake isn't in any of those repos.

So I searched and found HandBrake for Fedora GNU/Linux on Sourceforge.

The installation from the RPM was quick, and now I have Handbrake.

In a very much related matter, Korora looks like a great way to get Fedora with all the multimedia bits set up for you. The distribution's What's Inside page discusses what Korora adds to Fedora in a sort of roundabout way.

Aside from automatic installation of all the multimedia codecs and outside repositories, Korora includes the Jockey proprietary driver manager, which I could really use given all the trouble I've been having with my AMD APU's video component.