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Ubuntu 12.10 Alpha 3 (Report #1)

August 27th, 2012 No comments

Well it’s been a little while since I made the mistake (joking) of installing Ubuntu 12.10 Alpha 3. Here is what I’ve learned so far.

  1. My laptop really does not like the open source ATI graphics driver – and there are no proprietary drivers for this release yet. It’s not that the driver doesn’t perform well enough graphically, its just that it causes my card to give off more heat than the proprietary driver. This in turn causes my laptop’s fan to run non-stop and drains my battery at a considerable rate.
  2. Ubuntu has changed the way they do updates in this release. Instead of the old Update Manager there is a new application (maybe just a re-skinning of the old) that is much more refined and really quite simple. Interestingly enough the old hardware drivers application is also now gone, instead it is merged into the update manager. Overall I’m neutral on both changes.

    Updates are quite frequent when running an alpha release

  3. There is a new Online Accounts application (part of the system settings) included in this release. This application seems to work like an extension of the GNOME keyring – saving passwords for your various online accounts (go figure). I haven’t really had a chance to play around with it too much yet but it seems to work well enough.

That’s it for now. I’m off to file a bug over this open source driver that is currently melting my computer. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Tyler B, Ubuntu Tags: ,

Test driving the new Ubuntu (12.10)

August 26th, 2012 No comments

Call it crazy but I’ve decided to actually install an Ubuntu Alpha release, specifically Ubuntu 12.10 Alpha 3. Why would anyone in their right mind install an operating system that is bound to be full of bugs and likely destroy all of my data? My reasons are twofold:

  1. I regularly use Ubuntu or Ubuntu derivatives and would like to help in the process of making them better
  2. There are still a few quirks with my particular laptop that I would like to help iron out once and for all, hopefully correcting them in a more universal sense for Linux as a whole

So join me over the next few posts as I relate my most recent experiences running… shall we say, less than production code.

 




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Tyler B, Ubuntu Tags: ,

Automatically put computer to sleep and wake it up on a schedule

June 24th, 2012 No comments

Ever wanted your computer to be on when you need it but automatically put itself to sleep (suspended) when you don’t? Or maybe you just wanted to create a really elaborate alarm clock?

I stumbled across this very useful command a while back but only recently created a script that I now run to control when my computer is suspended and when it is awake.

#!/bin/sh
t=`date –date “17:00″ +%s`
sudo /bin/true
sudo rtcwake -u -t $t -m on &
sleep 2
sudo pm-suspend

This creates a variable, t above, with an assigned time and then runs the command rtcwake to tell the computer to automatically wake itself up at that time. In the above example I’m telling the computer that it should wake itself up automatically at 17:00 (5pm). It then sleeps for 2 seconds (just to let the rtcwake command finish what it is doing) and runs pm-suspend which actually puts the computer to sleep. When run the computer will put itself right to sleep and then wake up at whatever time you specify.

For the final piece of the puzzle, I’ve scheduled this script to run daily (when I want the PC to actually go to sleep) and the rest is taken care of for me. As an example, say you use your PC from 5pm to midnight but the rest of the time you are sleeping or at work. Simply schedule the above script to run at midnight and when you get home from work it will be already up and running and waiting for you.

I should note that your computer must have compatible hardware to make advanced power management features like suspend and wake work so, as with everything, your mileage may vary.

This post originally appeared on my personal website here.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.

Mount entire drive dd image

May 21st, 2012 No comments

It is a pretty common practice to use the command dd to make backup images of drives and partitions. It’s as simple as the command:

dd if=[input] of=[output]

A while back I did just that and made a dd backup of not just a partition but of an entire hard drive. This was very simple (I just used if=/dev/sda instead of something like if=/dev/sda2). The problem came when I tried to mount this image. With a partition image you can just use the mount command like normal, i.e. something like this:

sudo mount -o loop -t [filesystem] [path to image file] [path to mount point]

Unfortunately this doesn’t make any sense when mounting an image of an entire hard drive. What if the drive had multiple partitions? What exactly would it be mounting to the mount point? After some searching I found a series of forum posts that dealt with just this scenario. Here are the steps required to mount your whole drive image:

1) Use the fdisk command to list the drive image’s partition table:

fdisk -ul [path to image file]

This should print out a lot of useful information. For example you’ll get something like this:

foo@bar:~$ fdisk -ul imagefile.img
You must set cylinders.
You can do this from the extra functions menu.

Disk imagefile.img: 0 MB, 0 bytes
32 heads, 63 sectors/track, 0 cylinders, total 0 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x07443446

        Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
imagefile.img1   *          63      499967      249952+  83  Linux
imagefile.img2          499968      997919      248976   83  Linux

2) Take a look in what that command prints out for the sector size (512 bytes in the above example) and the start # for the partition you want to mount (let’s say 63 in the above example).

3) Use a slightly modified version of the mount command (with an offset) to mount your partition.

mount -o loop, offset=[offset value] [path to image file] [path to mount point]

Using the example above I would set my offset value to be sector size * offset, so 512*63 = 32256. The command would look something like this:

mount -o loop, offset=32256 image.dd /mnt/point

That’s it. You should now have that partition from the dd backup image mounted to the mount point.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Linux, Tyler B Tags: , , ,

How to test hard drive for errors in Linux

May 21st, 2012 No comments

I recently re-built an older PC from a laundry list of Frankenstein parts. However before installing anything to the hard drive I found I wanted to check it for physical errors and problems as I couldn’t remember why I wasn’t using this particular drive in any of my other systems.

From an Ubuntu 12.04 live CD I used GParted to to delete the old partition on the drive. This let me start from a clean slate. After the drive had absolutely nothing on it I went searching for an easy way to test the drive for errors. I stumbled across this excellent article and began using badblocks to scan the drive. Basically what this program does is write to every spot on the drive and then read it back to ensure that it still holds the data that was just written.

Here is the command I used. NOTE: This command is destructive and will damage the data on the hard drive. DO NOT use this if you want to keep the data that is already on the drive. Please see the above linked article for more information.

badblocks -b 4096 -p 4 -c 16384 -w -s /dev/sda

What does it all mean?

  • -b sets the block size to use. Most drives these days use 4096 byte blocks.
  • -p sets the number of passes to use on the drive. When I used the option -p 4 above it means that it will write/read from each block on the drive 4 times looking for errors. If it makes it through 4 passes without finding new errors then it will consider the process done.
  • -c sets the number of blocks to test at a time. This can help to speed up the process but will also use more RAM.
  • -w turns on write mode. This tells badblocks to do a write test as well.
  • -s turns on progress showing. This lets you know how far the program has gotten testing the drive.
  • /dev/sda is just the path to the drive I’m scanning. Your path may be different.



I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.

Sabayon Linux – Stable if not without polish

April 28th, 2012 3 comments

I have been running Sabayon Linux (Xfce) for the past couple of months and figured I would throw a post up on here describing my experience with it.

Reasons for Running

The reason I tried Sabayon in the first place is because I was curious what it would be like to run a rolling release distribution (that is a distribution that you install once and just updates forever with no need to re-install). After doing some research I discovered a number of possible candidates but quick narrowed it down based on the following reasons:

  • Linux Mint Debian Edition – this is an excellent distribution for many people but for whatever reason every time I update it on my hardware it breaks. Sadly this was not an option.
  • Gentoo – I had previously been running Gentoo and while it is technically a rolling release I never bothered to update it because it just took too long to re-compile everything.
  • Arch Linux – Sort of like Gentoo but with binary packages, I turned this one down because it still required a lot of configuration to get up and running.
  • Sabayon Linux – based on Gentoo but with everything pre-compiled for you. Also takes the ‘just works’ approach by including all of the proprietary and closed source  codecs, drivers and programs you could possibly want.

Experience running Sabayon

Sabayon seems to take a change-little approach to packaging applications and the desktop environment. What do I mean by this? Simply that if you install the GNOME, KDE or Xfce versions you will get them how the developers intended – there are very few after-market modifications done by the Sabayon team. That’s not necessarily a bad thing however, because as updates are made upstream you will receive them very quickly thereafter.

This distribution does live up to its promise with the codecs and drivers. My normally troublesome hardware has given me absolutely zero issues running Sabayon which has been a very nice change compared to some other, more popular distributions (*cough* Linux Mint *cough*). My only problem with Sabayon stems from Entropy (their application installer) being very slow compared to some other such implementations (apt, yum, etc). This is especially apparent during the weekly system wide updates which can result in many, many package updates.

Final Thoughts

For anyone looking for a down to basics, Ubuntu-like (in terms of ease of install and use), rolling release distribution I would highly recommend Sabayon. For someone looking for something a bit more polished or extremely user friendly, perhaps you should look elsewhere. That’s not to say that Sabayon is hard to use, just that other distributions might specialize in user friendliness.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.

Big distributions, little RAM 4

April 9th, 2012 No comments

It’s that time again. Like before I’ve decided to re-run my previous tests this time using the following distributions:

  • Debian 6.0 (GNOME)
  • Kubuntu 11.10 (KDE)
  • Linux Mint 12 (GNOME)
  • Linux Mint 201109 LXDE (GNOME)
  • Mandriva 2011 (KDE)
  • OpenSUSE 12.1 (GNOME)
  • OpenSUSE 12.1 (KDE)
  • Sabayon 8 (GNOME)
  • Sabayon 8 (KDE)
  • Sabayon 8 (Xfce)
  • Ubuntu 11.10 (Unity)
  • Ubuntu 12.04 Beta 2 (Unity)
  • Xubuntu 11.10 (Xfce)

I will be testing all of this within VirtualBox on ‘machines’ with the following specifications:

  • Total RAM: 512MB
  • Hard drive: 8GB
  • CPU type: x86 with PAE/NX
  • Graphics: 3D Acceleration enabled

The tests were all done using VirtualBox 4.1.0 on Windows 7, and I did not install VirtualBox tools (although some distributions may have shipped with them). I also left the screen resolution at the default (whatever the distribution chose) and accepted the installation defaults. All tests were run between April 2nd, 2012 and April 9th, 2012 so your results may not be identical.

Results

Following in the tradition of my previous posts I have once again gone through the effort to bring you nothing but the most state of the art in picture graphs for your enjoyment.

Things to know before looking at the graphs

First off if your distribution of choice didn’t appear in the list above its probably not reasonably possible to installed (i.e. Fedora 16 which requires 768MB of RAM) or I didn’t feel it was mainstream enough (pretty much anything with LXDE). Secondly there may be some distributions that don’t appear on all of the graphs, for example Mandriva. In the case of Mandriva the distribution would not allow me to successfully install the updates and so I only have its first boot RAM usage available. Finally when I tested Debian I was unable to test before / after applying updates because it seemed to have applied the updates during install. As always feel free to run your own tests.

First boot memory (RAM) usage

This test was measured on the first startup after finishing a fresh install.

Memory (RAM) usage after updates

This test was performed after all updates were installed and a reboot was performed.

Memory (RAM) usage change after updates

The net growth or decline in RAM usage after applying all of the updates.

Install size after updates

The hard drive space used by the distribution after applying all of the updates.

Conclusion

As before I’m going to leave you to drawing your own conclusions.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.

Oh Gentoo

December 22nd, 2011 6 comments

Well it’s been a couple of months now since the start of Experiment 2.0 and I’ve had plenty of time to learn about Gentoo, see its strengths and… sit waiting through its weaknesses. I don’t think Gentoo is as bad as everyone makes it out to be, in fact, compared to some other distributions out there, Gentoo doesn’t look bad at all.

Now that the experiment is approaching its end I figured it would be a good time to do a quick post about my experiences running Gentoo as a day-to-day desktop machine.

Strengths

Gentoo is exactly what you want it to be, nothing more. Sure there are special meta-packages that make it easy to install things such as the KDE desktop, but the real key is that you don’t need to install anything that you don’t want to. As a result Gentoo is fast. My startup time is about 10-20 seconds and, if I had the inclination to do so, could be trimmed down even further through optimization.

Packages are also compiled with your own set of custom options and flags so you get exactly what you need, optimized for your exact hardware. Being a more advanced (see expert) oriented distribution it will also teach you quite a bit about Linux and software configuration as a whole.

Weaknesses

Sadly Gentoo is not without its faults. As mentioned above Gentoo can be whatever you want it to be. The major problem with this strength in practice is that the average desktop user just wants a desktop that works. When it takes days of configuration and compilation just to get the most basic of programs installed it can be a major deterrent to the vast majority of users.

Speaking of compiling programs, I find this aspect of Gentoo interesting from a theoretical perspective but I honestly have a hard time believing that it makes enough of a difference to make it worth sitting through the hours days of compiling it takes just to get some things installed. Its so bad that I actually haven’t bothered to re-sync and update my whole system in over 50 days for fear that it would take forever to re-compile and re-install all of the updated programs and libraries.

Worse yet even when I do have programs installed they don’t always play nicely with one another. Gentoo offers a package manager, portage, but it still fails at some dependency resolution – often times making you choose between uninstalling previous programs just to install the new one or to not install the new one at all. Another example of things being more complicated than they should be is my system sound. Even though I have pulseaudio installed and configured my system refuses to play audio from more than one program at a time. These are just a few examples of problems I wouldn’t have to deal with on another distribution.

-Sigh-

Well, it’s been interesting but I will not be sticking with Gentoo once this experiment is over. There are just too many little things that make this more of an educational experience than a real day-to-day desktop. While I certainly have learned a lot during this version of the experiment, at the end of the day I’d rather things just work right the first time.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.

It should not be this hard to change my volume

December 22nd, 2011 1 comment

Normally my laptop is on my desk at home plugged into a sound system, so I never have to change the volume. However I’m currently on holiday, so that means I’m carrying my laptop around. Last night, I had the audacity to lower the volume on my machine. After all, nobody wants to wake up their family at 2am with “The history of the USSR set to Tetris.flv”. Using the media keys on my laptop did nothing. Lowering the sound in KMix did nothing. Muting in KMix did nothing. I figured that something had gone wrong with KMix and maybe I should re-open it. Well, it turns out that was a big goddamn mistake, because that resulted in me having no sound.

It took about 30 minutes to figure out, but the solution ended up being unmuting my headphone channel in alsamixer. It looks like for whatever reason, alsamixer and KMix were set to different master channels (headphone/speaker and HDMI, respectively), thus giving KMix (and my media keys) no actual control over volume.

Categories: Hardware, Kubuntu, Sasha D Tags:

The Linux Experiment Podcast #5.1: Experiment 2.0

December 5th, 2011 No comments

Hosts: Aine B, Dave L, Jake B, Jon F, Matt C, Phil D, Tyler B, & Warren G

Missing in action: Dana H, Sasha D

Show length: 0:31:16

Description:

The fifth podcast from the guys at The Linux Experiment. In this reunion episode we kick off the second round of The Linux Experiment.

In this episode:

  • New recruits.
  • Plans for this experiment.
  • And lots more!

Get the show:

Listen here (explicit):

 




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.