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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Thu, 27 Nov 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are two changes you need to make in GRUB.

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Fri, 21 Nov 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

$ su

(enter the root password when prompted)

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

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

Thu, 23 Oct 2014

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

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

Tue, 21 Oct 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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