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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Tue, 14 Oct 2014

Dietrich T. Schmitz of Linux Advocates likes Fedora 21 Workstation

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

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

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

Wed, 24 Sep 2014

Hammering hard on Xfce 4.10 in Fedora 20

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

But today I only have the laptop.

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

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Mon, 15 Sep 2014

I started my personal Fedora Wiki page

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

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

Thu, 21 Aug 2014

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

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

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

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

$ fc-match -v arial | grep file

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

And that font was hideous.

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

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

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

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

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

Hours later, Peter Oliver confirmed the problem:

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Fri, 18 Jul 2014

One year, two months with Fedora this time around

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

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

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

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Wed, 09 Jul 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mon, 07 Jul 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wed, 04 Jun 2014

Matthew Miller is the new Fedora Project Leader

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

Terrific choice.

Watch the video above, read his Fedora Magazine posts.

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

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

Tue, 27 May 2014

Fedora is remarkably stable despite a constant flow of new

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

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

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

Just now I got a new Xscreensaver.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for the most part, it works.

Fri, 23 May 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

$ mkdir catalyst

$ cd catalyst

Grab the needed Fedora 19 packages with yumdownloader:

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

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

$ sudo yum --nogpgcheck install *.rpm

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

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

$ sudo aticonfig --initial

Again, I did NOT need to do this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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