Now Using Kubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx…

Well, I finally upgraded my work machine from Jaunty to Lucid about a month ago, and really liked what I saw.  I was using 64-bit, and got sick and tired of all the little issues with flash, Java, and Acrobat Reader., so I switched to 32-bit instead.  KDE4 seems much more stable and polished now, and I can sign PDFs with my smartcard now in Acrobat Reader.  Since it worked so well at work, I went ahead and upgraded at home after a couple weeks.  This involved swapping my media computer with my main computer (the old RAID SATA setup I have is getting a little squirrelly), and rebuilding both.  The RAID computer was built using the Alternate Install ISO, which worked well.  In both cases, I lost no data unless I chose to, so the 300 GB of movies I had copied from our DVDs was wiped from the old media server.  I figure I can always recopy them in a smaller format later.  Yesterday, I updated my wife’s laptop, completely rebuilding it (wiped everything after backing up the user data).  I restored her data later and nothing was lost.

Some common things I am doing to customize my Lucid installs of Kubuntu are:

  1. sudo wget --output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/$(lsb_release -cs).list && sudo apt-get --quiet update && sudo apt-get --yes --quiet --allow-unauthenticated install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get --quiet update (from https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Medibuntu)
  2. sudo apt-get --yes install app-install-data-medibuntu apport-hooks-medibuntu
  3. sudo apt-get install libdvdcss2 w32codecs
  4. Update to a later kernel (currently 2.6.35-17) – sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kernel-ppa/ppa && sudo apt-get update
  5. sudo apt-get install linux-headers-2.6.35-17 linux-headers-2.6.35-17-generic linux-image-2.6.35-17-generic linux-maverick-source-2.6.35
  6. Update to a later version of KDE4 (currently KDE 4.4.5) – sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/ppa && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

So far, things work very well.  The computer with squid, squidGuard, and dansguardian is not going to be upgraded, however.  Another thing – no more XFS.  I now use EXT4 with everything, and have a separate /boot partition.  This is so I can more easily convert to btrfs when 2.6.26 comes out.  I read that btrfs suffered a large performance regression in the 2.6.35 kernel, so I will hold out for the 2.6.36 kernel instead.

Cool Desktop Contest…

OK, I did it.   I joined the “The $100.00 (USD) Coolest Linux Workspace Contest” at Tech Source.

Upgrading Kubuntu-9.04 from PPA – KDE 4, Xorg, Wine, OpenOffice 3…

I have upgraded all my systems to KDE 4.3.1 very successfully, and it is gorgeous.  While still slower than LXDE (this will likely always be the case), it is much better than the 4.2 that shipped with Jaunty.  I have also upgraded to OpenOffice 3.1.1, the latest stable Wine, and I have updated Xorg as well – all from the PPA (Personal Packages Archive) site.  Here is how, and from where:

To use these, click on each link, then:

  1. Select your sources.list version and copy the two deb lines to your /etc/apt/sources.list file
  2. Import the key with this command – sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv-keys 12345678 (replace 12345678 with the appropriate import key listed above)
  3. Update with sudo apt-get update
  4. Upgrade with sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Hope this helps, but YMMV.  This is only a “howto if you want”, not a “recommendation that you do”.  If things blow up, well, that’s the risk you take.  I find it encouraging, however, that across four different Kubuntu 9.04 systems, I have not had any problems from these upgrades, and found that many fixes and improvements had taken place.

Ultimately, this article is really to help me for future upgrades.  But if you get something good from here, that’s cool too.

Kubuntu 9.04 and Flash Audio…

I finally got sound to work reliably.  Here is what did NOT work:

  • “touch .asoundrc” in the home directory
  • remove and reinstall non-free flash and the installer
  • ensuring the PCM channel was unmuted and not turned down

I did have to make sure that the correct sound card was selected (I have two).  This made a difference for system-wide purposes, but as far as flash went, sites like YouTube were mute.

I finally found a site that gave instructions to install a pulse audio management tool – padevchooser.  I don’t remember which site, because I must have trolled dozens, but this solution worked every time (I had to do this once for each user, as each user).

Opening a terminal and running padevchooser opened up the app in the system tray.  Left clicking it brought up the context menu.  Selecting Volume Control, and the Output Devices tab, I was able to ensure that the correct card was the default.  On the Playback tab, I was able to move the stream to the correct card.  For some reason, they all seemed to default on the other unused card, which is integrated into the motherboard.

Once I did these things, Flash audio was just fine.

Dual-boot Laptop – Vista and Kubuntu 9.04…

I started last night.  First, I decided to use the 32-bit LiveCD installer.  I booted off the CD after shutting down Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium, and soon was at the GUI (I chose the first option; to test before installing).  Once there, i opened up a konsole session, ran “sudo -i” to get root, and installed gparted – “apt get install gparted”.  After it installed (to RAM of course), I ran it to see what I could do.

NOTHING.

I could not resize the 140 GB partition Windows called a “C drive”, because I forgot to defragment it first.  Crap.  So I booted back into Windows, Safe Mode.  I found the defrag tool under the System Accessories, but it would not run.  I tried from the command prompt as well.  I rebooted, into SAFE Mode With Console, and it still wouldn’t work.  I finally just rebooted into Vista normally – then it worked.  It gave no status other than a flickering hard drive light and a spinning cue that meant it was not finished.  Eventually, it did finish.  It claimed to have been doing it on a schedule, and the last defrag was back on the 5th of May, yet it took over two hours to complete.  Guess what?  It made all the difference in the world.  I suspect it wasn’t really defragmenting after all.

Once I rebooted into Kubuntu Live CD and reran gparted, I was able to resize it.  The first attempt failed – I cut it too close to the bare minimum space i could shrink the drive.  I decided to split it 50-50, giving about 70 GB for each side, and then it worked.  This took another hour, but I had 70 GB or free space.  I went into cfdisk and manually made a 10 GB bootable partition for root, a 3 GB for /var, a 2 GB for /tmp, a 2 GB for swap, and the rest for /home.  i then rebooted into Windows.

Windows behaved as expected, like it had been punched int the mouth, but didn’t know by whom.  It rescan itself, determined that everything was still ok, and rebooted again.  This reboot came up fine.  Satisfied I had not broken Vista, I rebooted a final time back into the Live CD.

I went ahead and formatted everything with XFS except the swap partition:

  • mkfs.xfs -f -d agcount=1 -i attr=2 -l lazy-count=1,size=128m,version=2 /dev/sda3
  • mkfs.xfs -f -d agcount=1 -i attr=2 -l lazy-count=1,size=128m,version=2 /dev/sda5
  • mkfs.xfs -f -d agcount=1 -i attr=2 -l lazy-count=1,size=128m,version=2 /dev/sda6
  • etc…

I then made the swap partition and then installed, choosing to manually select my partitions and not to format them.   I went to bed, abd when I woke up and checked in the morning, it was done.  I had been unable to get wireless to work (no proprietary drivers needed, just would not work) on the Live CD, so I had connected it up via network cable.  Once I booted into the new system, I saw that it had a GRUB entry for Windows (it works).  After logging into KDE, I was able to set up a working wireless connection with no real drama.  I also modified my /etc/fstab to mount the XFS partitions with the following options:

noatime,nodiratime,logbsize=256k,logbufs=8

I edited /etc/X11/xorg.conf and added in the section to reenable the CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE zap for X:

Section "ServerFlags"
      Option          "DontZap"               "false"
EndSection

I installed the medibuntu repositories, the kubuntu-restricted package, the sun-java6 package, the non-free flash package, the libdvdcss and libdvdread packages, lots of TTF fonts, the MSTTF core fonts, skype2, firefox, thunderbird, and the packages needed for a DoD smartcard.

Links:

Medibuntu

DoD CAC

Thunderbird setup with AKO

Kubuntu-restricted and Sun-JRE6

Xorg no-zap

Results:  It boots and shuts down much faster than Vista.  It is a Compaq lapto, Pentium Core-Duo, 1 GB RAM, uses the ath5k driver for wireless, has an integrated Intel graphics adapter (maybe 800 fps max on glxgears), and a 160 GB SATA drive.  It has sound, a mic, speakers, a DVD writer, some USB ports, and a network jack.  Overall, not too bad for what I need it to do.  But it is a little shaky and unstable from time to time, so I have shut off the compositing effects and unloaded some troublesome widgets (RSS news widget especially seemed flaky).  But the suspend and hibernate functions work great, and the webcam i bought (Logitech) worked right off the bat with skype.  So did my smartcaard reader.  I also installed the Acrobat Reader from the Adobe website – with it, I added the coolkey security device and am able to sign fillable PDF files with my card.  DVDs also play (region-free, of course).

So, these are my ramblings on the notebook.  I dual-booted because my wife insisted I keep Vista, just in case the Linux machine she is on dumps.  But she is getting more comfortable without Vista already – I can tell.

Wireless and Kubuntu 9.04…

I tried to connect my media computer to my wireless network and failed. I ended up running a wired connection to it and searching online for an answer. There is a lot of stuff out there regarding problems with the KNetwork Manager app being brain-dead with wireless. I did some checking and found that my wireless chipset, a Broadcom BCM 4318 AirForce One 54g should work. I ran the command lshw -C network and the results seemed normal. The b43 modules was loaded. Yet I could not get it to connect. I also stumbled over a possible fix with KWallet – using no password, creating an entry and allowing KWallet to use that for the network connection. It still did not work.
Then I went to the System menu, Hardware Drivers, and looked at the proprietary drivers. The Nvidia driver and the Broadcom driver were both listed but not enabled, so I enabled each. As soon as the Broadcom driver loaded, I recreated the network connection and was in immediately.

Not too smooth, overall. I can appreciate the frustration lots of folks are having with this issue, and the one with KNetworkManager not connecting to a network that does not broadcast an SSID. Some notification that more drivers needed to be loaded would have been really helpful here. I understand Ubuntu [GNOME] and Xubuntu [XFCE] are not having these issues.

Impressions of Kubuntu 9.04 and VMware-Server 2.0.1…

So far, RAID-10/LVM/XFS is working quite well with Kubuntu 9.04.  Jaunty picks up hardware effortlessly.  I plugged in a USB thumb drive, and a little notification pops up.

Ok.

I plug in my camera, and it sees it fine,no muss, no fuss.

Better.

I plug in my webcam – no notification, it just works.

Sweeeet.

I plug in my HP printer, and I have to dig around to see that it was added as quietly and politely as you please, ready to print.

Awesome.

I ran out of things to plug in.  Kubuntu 8.04 (the previous version I was using) didn’t boot nearly as quickly, took longer to load the desktop after login, and was good about detecting devices, mostly, but needed polish and charm.

9.04 has it in spades.  I am really quite impressed with the hardware cababilities of it.  There are some programs, like adept, I am missing, but the learning curve for the newer stuff is really more like a learning bump.

Update:  It even loaded the sensors package to track temperatures.  Wow.

I am running 64-bit now, and flash and java work fine.  It took me a while to find the right libjavaplugin and link it into the Firefox plugins folder, but flash 10 worked fine and installed easily.

VMware-Server is a different story.  The 64-bit is slow, flaky, and cranky.  It times out all the time, it resets often, and it just stalls doing stuff.  I now have a VM ready for loading, but it took all day to fight it into doing so.  And I found no reliable cure, to include swapping out the java jre version used for a later version.  I am really dissapointed with the 2.0.1 release in terms of ease of install, performance, and reliability.  Oh well, at least it installed without needing a special patch or script.

Update:  After a huge fight, I got a new Windows XP VM made.  Using the command ‘watch “du -s –si /home/vmguests/WinXP” ‘, I was able to get a sense of the speed of the file system when I was creating the virtual disk files.  I chose to make one large file at once for each of the two disks; C drive (15 GB), and E drive (48 GB).  With the watch command updating every two seconds, I was able to see that the RAID-10 XFS filesystem was handling about 100 Mbps as the disk files were created.

Once I had made theVM, loading it was uneventful.  Just a regular Windows XP professional install, like any other.  The vmware-server played nice mostly after that and has continued to do so.  I have only had to log out once due to unresponsiveness, and have not had to restart the server services.  The VM is quite fast, and allows my wife to see her video streams in Media Player 11 with only minor stuttering of the video.   Audio is fine.

I really like the USB visibilty of vmware-server.  The VM picked up the printer as if it were directly connected, and once I loaded the drivers for it, I was printing from the VM like normal.  All of my USB devices can be presented to the VM, which is an area I had problems with in the past with the 1.x versions of vmware-server.

Anyway, my wife is set up with her login and has a shortcut to RDP to the Windows XP VM, where she can login and watch her JNet streams.

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