Got a Netbook…

I am going to a conference soon, and my wife cannot part with her laptop now, so I bought a $300 Asus Eee-PC netbook (1005HAB), with a 9-cell battery that gives me close to 9 hrs of battery time.  I bought it online through Best Buy (I know, I know), and picked it up at the store a few days later.  I had Windows7 Starter Edition on it.  I prepped a USB drive using a the KDE Startup Disk Creator program and the Kubuntu 10.04 Netbook Edition ISO.  I had to find the BIOS first (F2), and tell the netbook to boot from USB, but after that, Kubuntu Netbook installed without a hitch.  I chose to wipe everything, since the netbook came with the OS media (if I ever want to install Windows, yuck – but hey, I paid for it).  I set it up with separate partitions (including /boot) and formatted everything with EXT4 (for later conversion to btrfs when the 2.6.36 kernel comes out).

Everything worked right out of the box.  Including wireless and suspend-resume.  Sweet.  It is a little slow, but who cares?  This thing is so neat.  I am a little addicted to being able to go anywhere around the house now and surf, blog, email, and administer the other machines from this thing.  When I am done, I can close the lid, and later open it back up, wait a bit, and then be prompted to unlock the screen and get back online, no sweat.

In addition to updating the kernel to 2.6.35-17 and updating KDE to version 4.4.5, I also installed the MediBuntu repositories, set up the USB smartcard with Acrobat Reader, Firefox, and Thunderbird, and got the camera working with the new gmail video chat software.  One more thing – to get the function keys to work, I had to edit my /etc/default/grub file and change the line

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash"

to

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash acpi_osi=Linux"

I also installed “eee-control-tray” from the repositories for better control over the camera, touchpad, etc.  The only thing I do not like is the touchpad, in fact.  When scrolling on a web page, it likes to keep scrolling whenever I move it into the page to click on a a link.  I use a USB wireless mouse now.  We are taking this thing everywhere we go now.

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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.

HOWTO – 64-bit Kernel 2.6.31 and VMware Server 2.0.1…

Assuming you have already installed the 2.6 31 kernel, this link has a patch and script to modify the modules VMware compiles when you run the vmware-config.pl script.  The script is for 2.6.30.4 and later kernels, and works fine for 2.6.31.

  1. Run the vmware-install.sh script that came with VMware Server 2.0.1, but DO NOT run the vmware-config.pl script at the end.
  2. Get the patch script – vmware-server.2.0.1_x64-modules-2.6.30.4-fix.sh and make it executable.
  3. Get the patch – vmware-server.2.0.1_x64-modules-2.6.30.4-fix.patch.
  4. Make a directory, say, /usr/src/vmware-patches and cd to it.
  5. Copy the patch, the script and the four module sources (/usr/lib/vmware/modules/source/*.tar) to the patch directory you are now in.
  6. Run the patch – it should build for 64-bit systems.  I do not know about 32-bit systems…
  7. Run the vmware-config.pl command, and install as normal.

There have been reports of minor script errors, so you may need to make some slight edits.  Or you may not – I had no trouble.  If you need to reinstall, make sure you stop the vmware services, rmmod the vmware modules, and delete everything in the /usr/lib/vmware/modules directory before re-running the installer-patch-config steps above.  You will also need to delete the modules from your system – running the installer should generate a failure message telling you what files to delete from where.  Successfully running the installer will put everything you need back in the /usr/lib/vmware/modules directory.

Big thanks to meubeukeu and michelemase for their work in making these patches!

VMware Server 2.0.1 and Kernel 2.6.30.1…

I finally decided to get VMware Server running on my new kernel.  Whenever the kernel is updated, there are some things you can count on having to reinstall, such as NVidia video drivers and VMware installations.   I expected problems, so my methodology was to attempt a normal install, expect failure, and search on the resulting errors.  This did not pan out, so I tried the VMware Community Forums, and I found this little gem on how to patch the VMware modules:

This apparently works with 32-bit as well, but may not be confirmed.

I downloaded the patch and shell script, ran the script, and followed the directions of the output:

  • Move original files that could cause issues with VMware – “mv /usr/lib/vmware/modules/binary /usr/lib/vmware/modules/binary-orig
  • Run the config again, without the -d option (otherwise, root would be the only user allowed to log into the web interface) – “vmware-config.pl

Essentially, there were no problems getting everything running.  Now I have to figure out what my password was to log into my Windows XP VM.  I have to complete some online training that can only be done in Windows (thanks a ton).  I would hate to have to crack my way in to my own VM….

Huge thanks out to both michelmase and Krellan for the patches and scripts!

Kubuntu 9.04 64-Bit, Kernel 2.6.30.1, and NVIDIA…

I went ahead and decided to upgrade my kernel, and to go to the latest NVIDIA driver (180.51).  I downloaded the kernel and the nvidia driver file, built the kernel, and removed the nvidia restricted driver.  This is on a 64-bit build of Kubuntu 9.04.

However, I was not done.

When I tried to install the kernel image file, I kept getting dkms errors relating to nvidia-common.  I eventually removed the nvidia packages using “apt-get remove --purge nvidia*” (as root), but this still would not allow me to install the kernel. Also my xorg.conf file was empty.

I fixed xorg by typing “dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg” and adding in the line “Driver "vesa" ” to the “Device” section, so I would have something when I rebooted.

Only when I removed dkms (“apt-get remove dkms“), was I able to install kernel 2.6.30.1.  I use lilo since I run RAID-10, but did not have to update the /etc/lilo.conf file.  Upon reboot, I stopped X with “/etc/init.d/kdm stop“.

I next installed the NVidia driver first (and chose to install the 32-bit compatibility files as well). After that, I ran “nvidia-xconfig” and my xorg file was ready.  When testing with the “X” command, it just pulled up a blank screen, but I took a chance and started KDM (“/etc/init.d/kdm start“).

Everything came up fine.  Typing “glxgears” in a terminal showed decent enough acceleration (about 3000 fps).

So far, no other ill effects. And no firmware issues.

Kernel 2.6.30.1 Firmware Issues…

Upfront disclaimer:  I am not saying this is a particular issue with the 2.6.30.1 kernel, instead I am saying I ran into this problem for the first time while trying to install this version.  It appears that many others have had this same problem over a wide range of kernel versions, all vanilla/custom-rolled, and not all confined to Debian/Ubuntu systems.  I did not have this problem when installing 2.6.30 on a laptop earlier.

The story:

The system I installed this kernel version on is a 32-bit Athlon XP.  Plenty of RAM and disk space.  What I ran into was that upon running dpkg -i linux-image-2.6.30.1_xxx, it would fail with an error about being unable to overwrite /lib/firmware/xxx.

I tried renaming the offending file, but that made no difference.  I tried removing that firmware from the kernel config (via make menuconfig), and it only caused the failure on another firmware blob in a different firmware directory.

Searching online yielded lots of posts, old and new, about this exact issue, but the only solution has seemed to be to use the --force-overwrite option with dpkg.  I did this, and was able to install the kernel image.  I had no problem with the kernel header package.

In short, if you have this problem and have no other solution, accept the risk, etc., etc., then try dpkg -i --force-overwrite linux-image-2.6.30.1_xxxx.deb.

YMMV.

Logitech Orbit Webcam on Kubuntu Hardy…

I have a Logitech Orbit AF USB webcam, with Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) controls.  I got it to work on an earlier kernel, on a different computer, by compiling in a custom module, and loading some other modules, and doing some things I never bothered to document.  So, I completely forgot how to make it work on my main computer.

Two things have changed:

  1. The newest kernels (2.6.28.5 and higher, certainly) definitely have the drivers needed for this camera.
  2. I am writing it down this time.

I went through a couple days (off and on) of pain for this one.  No matter what, I could not get modules to load or drivers to compile.  I do not remember the details – they are irrelevant anyway.  What I did notice is that on Hardy Heron (Ubuntu 8.04), I did not have a “/dev/video” entry of any sort.  Making one did not help.  To test the camera, I installed “cheese”.  Just running “cheese” without configuring it was sufficient to test.

I tried rolling a new 2.6.29 kernel, but kept getting weird compiler seg faults.  I did not dig into this, and have no answers for anyone suffering from the same issues.  Instead, I went back to my current kernel source, 2.6.28.5, and ran “make menuconfig”.

In the “Device Drivers” section, under “Multimedia Devices”, I enabled “Video for Linux” (V4L), including support for API 1.  Next, under “Video Capture Adapters”, I enabled the “Autoselect..” option and checked all the modules.  I also enabled the last item, “V4L USB Devices”.  Under this menu, I enabled support for “USB Video Class (UVC)” and UVC events and selected all the modules.  Lastly, I enabled support for “GSPCA Webcams” and selected all the GSPCA modules, for good measure.

I compiled and installed the kernel (ignoring the warnings about building over an existing kernel), shut down entirely (cold boot), powered back up with the webcam plugged in, and logged in as usual.

I checked for “/dev/video” and discovered an entry.  This is a good sign.  Next, I fired up “cheese” and after a small delay, my webcam video was displayed.

Success!

I also tested with Skype and Kopete.  Works in both cases.

I do not have PTZ control, although I did get that working on the last computer.  I do not really need it here though, so I will not pursue it unless I get really really bored.

Sorry this is not a more involved solution, requiring all kinds of strange software contortions.  As it turns out, all I had to do was use a current kernel and enable the proper modules – Ubuntu did everything else. I suspect the UVC support did the trick, since I had most everything else already checked, but I went ahead and wrote this as if I had started from scratch to capture all the details.

This stuff is getting too easy…