Monday, December 5, 2011

Impact of OpenSUSE 12.1 on Tumbleweed

My major motivation for trying Tumbleweed was to have an Arch Linux like distribution but with delta packages. Although delta rpms were only available for the packages in the 11.4 repository and not in the Tumbleweed repository, I continued to be interested in seeing how the 'rolling' model will evolve along with the other distributions of OpenSUSE.

The release of 12.1 distribution had a larger impact on Tumbleweed than I had expected. It was literally a distribution upgrade, no different from 11.4 to 12.1. Tumbleweed repository was emptied and based on 12.1 repository. All packages were upgraded. I had hoped that the Tumbleweed distribution to be very close to the 12.1 and the upgrade should have been minimal even though I had wondered how they will manage versions across repositories.

In the current upgrade, I had to change the repository to point to the current repository instead of 11.4. The current repository is now a symbolic repository so in future no change in the repository information will be needed. However, at least at present, Tumbleweed does not really appear to be a rolling distribution. It is more like the base with some updates, so, not particularly interesting. It is better to use Ubuntu with ppa's.

I will keep watching and may be Tumbleweed will evolve into an interesting alternative. At present, I continue to stick to Fedora and Arch Linux at home and Ubuntu at work.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

First Experiments with Ubuntu 11.10

The upgrade to Ubuntu 11.10 went through smoothly on Lenovo S10-3 netbook. It looks very similar to 11.04. An application would normally use the full screen as expected. I tried to start a new application and couldn't. No matter where or how hard I pushed the mouse, the dash would not appear.

Finally, I remembered the 'window' key! Having found the workaround, I have not had a chance to experiment with it more as I normally use Arch Linux on the netbook and Fedora on the desktop.

At IIT, Ropar, the default desktops are Ubuntu. So, I decided that I would try to upgrade my LTS desktop to oneiric. I certainly wasn't going to upgrade in steps. The choice was between a fresh installation or an forced update and do what is not recommended - strongly.

The latter is more fun and I hoped to learn something. I changed the sources file to use the oneiric repositories. My installation was fairly simple so I did not expect any significant issues. At worst, some packages would be broken.

Unfortunately, the upgrade failed - too many errors. The last error was a fairly simple error of some conflict in a file in two packages. I made the mistake of rebooting inspite of the broken packages!

The system no longer boots - not even grub menu :(

Well, I will now have to do a fresh installation - and haven't understood what went wrong.

Fedora 15 takes too long to boot: traced to Systemd?

I filed a bug report - "System takes over 2 additional minutes to boot after updating to kernel".

This was in July. The problem was erratic. If I tried to trace it, it seemed to disappear. It persisted even after upgrading to 2.6.40. In fact, it seemed to be more consistent. Removing VirtualBox 'solved' the problem but not for long.

Then finally an entry in the system log messages helped!
Oct 25 15:22:28 amd avahi-daemon[1792]: Registering new address record for fe80::217:31ff:fe93:e65a on eth0.*.
Oct 25 15:27:26 amd systemd[1]: network.service operation timed out.  Terminating.

Fortunately, I had not rebooted the system and let it try to boot for over 5 minutes.

It led to the realisation that I had been running network service even though it was not needed any more when using NetworkManager.

Now for the last three days, the system has been booting fine after I disabled the network service.

I will wait a few more days before filing a bug report against systemd - just to be sure.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Facebook makes me younger!

I admit that I am not very good at using using Facebook or knowing what it is asking. However, I was somewhat amused by the status update that I had added Padre Conceicao College to my educational qualifications.

How did it happen?

I got a request that some of my Facebook friends have said that they were at the college at the same time as I. It wanted me to confirm that fact. It seemed like a trivial issue and I confirmed it.

Facebook said that this fact has been added to my profile. What! I did not state that. Oh, well. I do not take Facebook seriously so it mattered little.

So, now I have said to the world that I was a student at this college at the age of 55 when in fact my relationship with the friends was that they were in the classes I was teaching :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

User Interfaces and Familiarity

Getting used to a new interface can be hard, even if it not Gnome3 or KDE4.

I just realised it after 4 years of using my car that the petrol gauge is not linear! I haven't been driving much - less than 10,000 KM in 4 years. Even then I felt silly.

These days, I am driving to Ropar (approx 50KM from Chandigarh) thrice a week and noticed that the petrol seemed to deplete rapidly after reaching the midway point. I was thinking whether there is a problem and then I noticed for the first time that there is an icon at the mid-way point. The icon is of a petrol pump - clearly implying that it is time to fill up :)

Oh, well. Works as intended.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rsync - What on earth did I do!

I created a new document related to a course I am teaching on my netbook. I rsync'd my netbook to the desktop. To my horror, the lecture notes I had prepared on the desktop were over-written by the version on the netbook.

Why can't software prevent me from doing something so dumb.

Well, I should have examined the implications more carefully for bi-directional rsync.

Another often used flag not included in -a is -u, which says not to overwrite newer files. If we wanted to do a Briefcase style synchronization, we need -u, and we need to do the rsync in two directions:
rsync -aHu a/* b
rsync -aHu b/* a

Monday, August 22, 2011

Arch Linux - experience with kernel 3.0

Upgrading to kernel 3.0 on Lenovo S10-3 did have a couple of issues. The first issue was that the wifi was not functioning. This was easily solved by following the instruction on Arch Wiki and blacklisting the conflicting bcma driver.

The other issue was that waking from sleep is not working any more. This is in spite of  adding 'intel_idle.max_cstate=0' to the kernel boot options. Hence, I reverted to kernel 2.6.39 until I have time to examine the problem in more detail and see if  there is a workaround.

Incidentally, I have been facing erratic behaviour with waking from sleep on Lenovo S10-3 with Ubuntu 11.4 with 2.6.38 kernel and Fedora 15 with 2.6.40(!) kernel. I thought that the reason may be that I am using x64 versions of Ubuntu and Fedora whereas on Arch Linux I have installed the i386 version.

Update: A silly mistake in Fedora 15 grub.conf file. I had typed 'state' instead of 'cstate'. Initial tests of sleep work on Fedora 15 with kernel 2.6.38 but not with 2.6.40 (presumably the same as mainline 3.0). I will have to check if the behaviour of waking from sleep on Fedora is consistent as on Arch Linux or erratic as on Ubuntu.

Update 2 -  I found that there is a bug report of the waking from sleep issue on Debian bugs list when upgrading from 2.6 to 3.0.

Retraction of Farewell to Education

About 5 years ago, I had given up on education in India. From August, I started to teach a course - Software Engineering. The difference is that it is at IIT, Ropar, instead of a college affiliated to a university.

After two weeks, I was wondering what makes the difference to me. I am sure the students are very good; however, I had enough good students that that was never a de-motivational issue.

The major impact for me is the control over the course. I am experimenting with a lab - I may be wrong but I think it is worth trying and seeing if the students learn more. The fact that the lab grade matters, the students are willing to be a part of my experiment. I just have to convince them that the experiment will not be unfair to any.

I suddenly realised that I was covering more content than I expected. I can choose to leave out parts I do not think are very important today and add content related to agile processes which appeals to me a lot more. I can also choose to emphasise tools which I believe help create better software. I do not have to worry about the paper setter or complaints of 'out of syllabus' from students of another college.

Bottom line - I am enjoying it and enjoying the effort I have to put into fine tuning the course to hopefully make it more effective.

Monday, July 25, 2011

More Experience on Canon LBP2900B

I have found a few workarounds by which the Canon LBP2900B works reasonably.
  • On Fedora 15, we need to restart the ccpd after it has booted
    • $ sudo systemctl restart ccpd.service
  • If the printer is out of paper, the print job is stuck. 
    • The button on the printer seems to have no effect
    • Cancel the print job
    • Enable/resume the printer
  • Printing from some applications fails (e.g.printing an image, Adobe's Document Viewer). Workaround was:
    • Print to a pdf file
    • Print the pdf file using a Linux application(evince or okular)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Blogspot problems

I was surprised to find problems in loading any blog on this morning. Occasional problems are present but even in the evening it was not loading and searched to see if there was a problem reported. Instead I found this and found that the following suggestion in the post  worked! 
Publish Post
Wonder why? 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Another case for Rolling distribution

While it is nice to read a news item like  "Asus will preload Ubuntu Linux on three Eee PCs", statements like the following cause a discordant note:
"The only question left is Asus' decision to ship Ubuntu 10.10 although Ubuntu 11.04 came out back in April."

In the case of open source, the users get to try the software before the vendors get around to it. Hence, rolling distributions are ideal. The vendor-supported OS will not be obsolete from the perspective advanced users and, worse, trade press, which will influence the non-tech consumers.

I wish some vendor would latch on to Arch Linux :)

Fedora 15, CUPS - Why does Canon LBP2900B behave so erratically?

I installed a Canon LBP2900B printer and discovered that the drivers are not included in Fedora. It was easy to get them from

The printer worked but after a reboot, the printer did not seem to work. CUPS insisted on creating an additional LBP2900-2 printer for device usb://Canon/LBP2900, while the correct LBP2900 was on device ccp://localhost:59687.

Ignoring all the false steps, the problem would be overcome by stopping the ccpd server and restarting it.

It took a number of reboots and installing it on Ubuntu 11.04 as well to identify that while the additional entry for the same printer by CUPS was confusing, it was harmless.

The real problem was that /etc/init.d/ccpd service should have two processes. On Fedora 15, it was having only one. However, when I stopped the service and restarted it, it would start correctly with two processes:
$ sudo systemctl status ccpd.service
ccpd.service - LSB: Start Canon Printer Daemon for CUPS
      Loaded: loaded (/etc/rc.d/init.d/ccpd)
      Active: active (running) since Fri, 03 Jun 2011 09:56:52 +0530; 11min ago
     Process: 5681 ExecStop=/etc/rc.d/init.d/ccpd stop (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
     Process: 5693 ExecStart=/etc/rc.d/init.d/ccpd start (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
    Main PID: 5698 (ccpd)
      CGroup: name=systemd:/system/ccpd.service
          ├ 5698 /usr/sbin/ccpd
          ├ 5702 /usr/sbin/ccpd
          └ 5703 captmon2 --data-write-fd=8 --data-read-fd=12 --cmd...
The issue appears to be somehow related to systemd starting services in parallel. The ccpd server probably expects some service to be running which has not yet started.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Enabling the brcm80211 driver in Fedora 15

[Update: As pointed out by Dean Brettle and, subsequently, by AM in the comments, rpmfusion added the kmod-staging package. The steps below may be useful if I ever need to compile a single module again.]

The driver for the wireless on the Lenovo S10-3 is included in the staging directory of the kernel. Fedora 15, unfortunately, did not enable it and wl.kmod or brcm80211.kmod were not available from rpmfusion repository either.

So, the best option was to download the source and enable it. The instructions to download the source of the kernel and prepare the source tree were available at The kernel source was now in the rpmbuild/BUILD/kernel-2.6.38.fc15/ directory.

The following steps helped to build only the desired module
  1. Modify the .config file to include
  2. Make sure that the following details in Makefile are as per the running kernel, e.g.
    VERSION = 2
    SUBLEVEL = 38
    EXTRAVERSION = .6-27.fc15.x86_64
  3. Run the command
    $ make drivers/staging/brcm80211
    This step prompted me to enable the additional option -
  4. $ make M=drivers/staging/brcm80211/
  5. $ sudo make modules_install M=drivers/staging/brcm80211/
  6. Looking at the OpenSuse's /lib/firmware/brcm, I created two softlinks:
    $ sudo ln -s bcm43xx-0-610-809-0.fw bcm43xx-0.fw
    $ sudo ln -s bcm43xx_hdr-0-610-809-0.fw bcm43xx_hdr-0.fw
  7. Add the driver:
    $ sudo modprobe brcm80211
The wifi card was now recognised and working. It took just a few minutes instead of hours for compiling the full kernel - even if it took a few days to understand and reach this point!


  • If step 2 was not done, modprobe failed to load brcm80211 - invalid module format. The log reported a more meaningful problem - version magic mismatch and the driver was unloaded.

  • If step 6 was not done, the driver was loaded but the log reported an error that failed to find firmware /lib/firmware/brcm/bcm43xx-0.fw.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fedora 15 Upgrade - NetworkManager and rsyslog need to be enabled

The NetworkManager and rsyslog services were failing to start after the upgrade of the systems from Fedora 14. The workaround was working so well that I did not get around to looking into the issue till today.

A quick search for the error:
Unit dbus-org.freedesktop.NetworkManager.service failed to load: 
No such file or directory.
The solution appeared to be that I needed to enable the service:
$sudo systemctl enable NetworkManager.service
It created symlinks in /etc/systemd/system and /etc/systemd/system/ folders.

Since this was likely to be the solution, I also tried
$sudo systemctl enable rsyslog.service
This also created a symlink in /etc/systemd/system/

I removed the workaround script in /etc/rc.local. As expected, the system worked fine.

If I come across any more services which fail to start at boot time, e.g. nfs, I know what to try first.

I am, though, still curious - why is the ethernet device still eth0!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

LibreOffice Page Style - Not a bug, works as intended :(

I had used page styles several years ago in OpenOffice. I must have followed a tutorial because I do not remember having a miserable time of it.

Yesterday, I decided to rely on what seemed obvious. Since the obvious did not work, I thought that LibreOffice had  introduced a bug. This is what I thought was obviously buggy:

  • Take a document with more than 3 pages. Insert a manual break (Ctrl+Enter) before the last page.
  • First try: Go to the last page, use "Styles and Formatting", select Page Styles and apply Landscape style. ALL pages in the document now had Landscape style. Not what I intended.
  • Second try: Go to last but one page. Choose Format -> Page option. Change the Next Style to Landscape. Now the first page remains Default but all the other pages are Landscape! Also, not what I intended.
Next, I searched for bugs on Page Style and then for tutorials on Page Style for OpenOffice.

The solution was simple. One has to use Insert -> Manual Break (and not Ctrl+Enter). This gives an option to specify the page style to be chosen for the next page. An explanation of how to use page styles for self-publishing may be seen here.

So far this is the only case where OpenOffice/LibreOffice GUI has left me thoroughly confused and very dissatisfied.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Will my 82 year old mom be able to handle Gnome 3?

As I had been expecting, Arch Linux update now includes Gnome 3. I updated my Lenovo netbook first and tried Gnome 3 though I am normally using KDE Plasma Netbook profile.

My initial reaction was, "Oh, no! I will no longer be able to keep my mom's computer current." There was no way that I could get my 82 year old mom to use the empty screen. My experiment with a rolling distribution was about to end.

On Arch Linux, the classic Gnome display was shown - nearly blank panels and no desktop. It was easy to fix the classic Gnome issue as I needed to install gnome-shell.

Now, I had a blank desktop with the Activities action only. There was no way I could inflict the mouse movements needed to get an app to run on my mother. Had the favourites been always visible as in Ubuntu's Unity display, I may have considered that option.

I would have to use the Gnome classic display for her. I should be able to get her accustomed to two panels. For many years, her desktop is configured to use only one panel at the bottom. An alternate option would be configure KDE plasma to look like her current environment. My mother's needs are very simple and few. She uses Thunderbird for email, Rhythmbox for playing music and AisleRiot to play Freecell. Occasionally, she may use Firefox, OpenOffice or Image Viewer if somene has sent a link or an attachment. (In the case of attachments, she now often needs our help.)

It is unfortunate that I needed to use gnome-tweak-tool to get the file manager to manage the desktop. Given the controversy KDE4 developers had faced, I would have expected that this option would have been enabled by default.

Suddenly, Gnome 3 looked much closer to the familiar environment.

The classic Gnome did not seem to have a 'favorites' dock. A little playing around led to the discovery that I could drag a menu item to either panel. Now, the desktop is far closer to the familiar. I can add a script to shutdown the system so that she is not confused by the status menu or, even the alternate status menu.

So, in principle, I can continue with the experiment. But I will save the current setup in a partition so that I can fall back to it in case my expectations are belied.

I still have to consider whether to stick to Gnome or switch. LXDE may be the best option if I can customise the theme for large fonts, high contrast which are needed for my mother to be able to read emails with greater ease. But in all my efforts, I have to make sure that I do not frustrate her.

It is going to be a tough call!  Drop the experiment and stick to what works or take a chance with one of the three options. Which one? Decision taking is hard :(

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gnome 3 - Where's the Desktop?

The initial reaction to Gnome 3 is understandably negative. It does not look anything like what we were using. Getting started is not easy.

The major shock is the empty desktop - no icons. My wife had organized her desktop the way it suited her. So, she was at a complete loss. For a moment, I panicked and was contemplating reinstalling Fedora 14. However, a little search led to the existence of gnome-tweak-tool. It has an option to let the desktop be managed by the file manager. It would have been much better to enable it by default if the desktop was upgraded from Gnome 2 to Gnome 3. The shock of change would be far less.

The next issue was the missing favorite applications which had been saved on the panel. This was a minor issue. A new favorites list was recreated with a little effort. It was a relief to see that the icon sizes decreased as more favorites were added.

One disappointment is that the favorites list should be visible all the time on a large screen. One first has to move the mouse to the upper left corner or click on Activities to get the list. It may be hidden only on a smaller screen device like on a netbook, where the screen real-estate is precious. The latter approach is followed by the Unity interface on Ubuntu 11.04.

The minimize option was missed by my wife and so was the absence of the applications on the task bar. She found switching between applications much harder.

However, she is willing to live with the system and I do not have to revert to Fedora 14!

The presence of Suspend option on the desktop(which does not work on my hardware) and the absence of Shutdown option from the desktop is somewhat irritating. I have not yet had a chance to explore if these options can be customized.

Upgrading the Desktop to Fedora 15 Beta

I decided to take the risk of updating the desktop to Fedora 15 beta after trying it on the Lenovo netbook. My wife uses Gnome desktop so the risk of upgrading was very high!

I was keen to see how delta-rpms work across distribution versions. So, after installing the fedora release rpm for Fedora 15, instead of upgrading the system, I upgraded only rpm and yum packages. The dependencies resulted in upgrading of about 60 packages, some of which surprised me. Had I followed the instructions in and installed xz-compat-libs first, it would have reduced the number of packages affected.

The next step was to upgrade the entire system. I copied the cached rpm's from the netbook to save some download effort. Even then 1.5GB of additional downloads were needed. However, this time the delta rpm packages could be successfully used. This resulted in 94% saving on half a GB of downloads. I wish delta-rpms were available for the remaining 1GB of packages!

Aside from having to uninstall some packages, the upgrade was smooth.

As I had experienced on the netbook, the network was not working. For reasons not yet identified by me, systemd fails to start rsyslog and NetworkManager at boot time. A simple workaround was to explicitly add the following lines to /etc/rc.local
/etc/init.d/rsyslog start
/etc/init.d/NetworkManager start
The system was now usable, even by my wife, subject to the Gnome 3 concerns.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Upgrading to Fedora 15 beta - the problems encountered

As usual, I wanted to upgrade the existing Fedora distribution using yum and not install it from scratch. I was wondering how smooth the transition to Gnome3 would be. I decided to experiment on Lenovo S10-3, especially as I was curious to see how Gnome 3 looks in comparison to the Ubuntu Unity on a Netbook.

The first step was to download fedora-release-15-0.7.noarch.rpm and manually install it. I needed to install fedora-release-rawhide-15-0.7.noarch.rpm as well.

As expected, some packages created conflicts. These seemed to be related to meego desktop. So, I removed them as that could be tried later.

Surprisingly, I had conflicts with backgrounds which I could not resolve. To narrow down the issues, I decided to disable the updates-testing repository and see if there was a change.

Now, I could go through with the upgrade but after I had forcibly removed gnome-themes. This did not seem to be a concern as there were conflicts in file names with another similar package.

The next surprise was that there were delta rpm packages. However, they would not work. Sadly, I did not read this documentation and had not seen this link regarding the changes in the xz compression. I let yum download the full packages.

The system was up and running. The KDE environment did not look any different. The Gnome3 environment was, of course, disconcerting. However, my first concerns were more immediate.

The first shock was that network manager did not find any devices.

A little search revealed that Fedora does not ship with the open source driver for Broadcom wifi devices as it is still a part of staging directory in the 2.6.38 kernel. And the wl driver was also not available for this kernel from the freshrpms repository. I will need to build a custom kernel.

That did not explain why the wired ethernet card was not found. I could get the network to work by explicitly running
# ifconfig eth0
#dhcpclient eth0

But why was network manager having a problem?

This led to the discovery of two other issues - /var/log/messages contained no new messages. And the NetworkManager system service was not running. I could manually start it and it would then find the eth0 device.

I tried the LiveCD and the messages file contains new entries. The logger works as expected.

Network manager works with the wired ethernet card without having to manually start the NetworkManager service. The difference is that the device is named em1 and not eth0.

So, somehow some of the configuration settings are not the expected ones because I upgraded from Fedora 14 to 15 beta.

Next step will be to understand how the new systemd is working and what could have caused the unexpected behavior when booting into Fedora 15.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Indian Railways online booking experiences - Complexity of Scaling

I saw a presentation about the infrastructure of Facebook a couple of days ago and found it fascinating. A few lessons really stood out:
  • Use of mysql as just a reliable storage & not a relational database
  • High ratio of RAM to database size for the performance to be acceptable.
  • Extensive use of cache and programmatic generation of indexing.
  • A view shown to a user has to be consistent but not current.
This presentation came to my mind as I tried to make a train reservation for my nephew during the day time. I normally do not try to make a booking during the day as I find that the failure rate for me has been very high. Yesterday, between noon and 6PM, I must have failed over 6 times. On two occasions, the payment from my bank was done but no booking done.

I no longer worry about the payments because experience has shown me that the money is refunded within a week.

Finally, after I had successfully booked a ticket at 7:30 PM and emailed the ticket to my nephew, I was wondering about whether any of the lessons of Facebook applied. The data needs of the railways are not that large. There are no arbitrary relationships that need to be formed dynamically, e.g. collation of the data of 'friends'.

I have no knowledge of how the railway reservation system actually works. But since it seems to take a fair amount of time for the system to display the availability status of the train/class, it would appear that the availability information is not cached.

As a user, it hardly matters whether the system says 100+ seats are available or 131 seats. In most cases, a somewhat stale information would be perfectly acceptable. Furthermore, the fact that one seat is available is no assurance that it will be when I make the payment.

It is hard to understand why the site would get so slow and timeout. I would be curious to understand the architecture of the railway reservation system, why can't it add servers as it is not a major expense these days. I wonder how much useful work the system actually does under stress, and the resulting 'losses'.

With my bad experience re-confirmed, I am likely to stick to booking at night only. That is still preferable to going to a physical counter and standing in line. So, in spite of the performance issues, remains one of the most useful sites in India.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

On Computerizing the Government

I had admired and liked V P Singh.

We had been involved in a project when he was the finance minister. At least I never met him but the people we interacted with definitely wanted to stop tax evasion. It was obvious that the country's infrastructure and rules made it hard.

I recall an effort to create a simpler, one page form. The officer spent a lot of time and came up with a mess. It was, then, that I realized that how hard it is for people to realize that a code is enough. All information associated the code can be displayed on the system or in the reports effortlessly. A person or an organization once known to the computer application does not need to provide anything more than the code again. However, they must provide the code!

There were times when we had extract the code from the raw information because the government forms did not ask for the code!

Success of the project was minimal. Failure was more likely to be because of logistics and the horrible telecom infrastructure and not because of commitment. Manual processes could not be eliminated in short term.

The objectives of the project were achieved. Tax compliance improved thanks to lower tax rates :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Getting faster updates of Fedora in India

I was finding updates of Fedora pretty slow for some months now. Finally, I realised that the local mirror in India, at IIT-K, was probably limiting the bandwidth.

Earlier, I had changed the text file, mirrorlist.txt, using the mirrors in US and Canada from the default list of one Indian mirror and rest from China, USSR, Japan etc.

Manually changing the metalink.xml did not seem to work.

It turned out to be easy. I had to modify the mirrorlist option in the fedora-updates.repo file and add the country option.

The updates now are much faster though it seems silly that to get a fast response I have to use mirrors in US rather than in India!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tumbleweed and Other Repositories on OpenSUSE

From the OpenSUSE forum posts, it was apparent that I was not the only one confused by which repositories to use and the implication of using multiple repositories.

OpenSUSE does not allow an update from a repository if the package ownership changes. This is a mixed blessing. It appears to be useful if one is using packman repository in addition to the OpenSUSE's OSS, nonOSS and contrib repositories and some packages overlap. However, it also meant that I could not update the additional packages added to Tumbleweed repository. (I may be able to overcome that problem using the instructions in

I needed to use the following command again.
$ sudo zypper dup --from Tumbleweed

So far, I have not come across delta rpm packages in Tumbleweed repository. I am hoping, once the packages are updated within Tumbleweed, delta rpms will also be available.

I expect that after some time, the 11.4 specific repositories will become redundant.

Currently, it would be easier to stick to Arch Linux! But there would also be less to learn :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

OpenSUSE Tumbleweed

I installed the live KDE version of OpenSUSE 11.4 and then added the Tumbleweed repository as documented here on a Lenovo S10-3 netbook. The installation and updates were pretty straightforward. It updated to 2.6.38 kernel. However, the wi-fi was not connecting. I tried to install the broadcom-wl driver and there wasn't one for 2.6.38. I built the non-free driver for 2.6.38 and installed it. It still did not work. Since I could not understand the cause or diagnose it, I removed the hidden network option on the router. The wireless connection worked!

The next step was to realise that there was an open source broadcom driver brcm80211 included in 2.6.38 kernel and the wl driver wasn't needed. The wifi network worked well with the open source driver. I made the network hidden on the router and the network still worked! I am not sure if this workaround is needed every time a new wifi connection is needed - something to be verified.

My preference is for a rolling distribution which distributes delta packages. I still like Arch Linux and the ease with which I could hold back X11 server to an older version for Intel 845/945 graphics cards. It has been successful in demonstrating the power and feasibility of a rolling distribution model. It is great to see OpenSUSE adapt it and OpenSUSE were, probably, the first to offer delta packages. So, I plan to stick to Tumbleweed on the Lenovo Netbook with the KDE Plasma Netbook interface.

I will continue to keep Arch Linux on my mother's computer which has Intel 945 graphics.

My concern is that since OpenSUSE is continuing to work on discrete distributions as well, they may be complicating their environment. I hope they do not drop Tumbleweed in the process.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Demise of ArchDelta?

I have been regularly using the archdelta repository to keep my system current. A couple of months ago, the repository stopped providing updates. The arch linux discussion forum provided the answer. Sabooky was no longer using delta packages and had stopped maintaining the site.

It is disappointing as I had hoped that the experiment would become a part of the core repositories as in the case of Fedora and Suse.

This, though, provides the incentive and motivation for trying out openSUSE's Tumbleweed rolling distribution. I tried updating the Smeegol installation using the Portal:Tumbleweed advice. However, the Smeegol desktop does not appear to be a part of the Tumbleweed environment. So, only the kernel and a few packages were replaced by the higher versions.

I will start with a 11.4 livecd and then add the Tumbleweed repositories and see how it works out.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

More on Vesa driver and Intel 845/945 graphics

Switching to Vesa driver did have one problem.

Skype can show the remote video but if I try to enable local video, skype client crashes. With the legacy intel driver, if I disabled remote video and then enabled local video, it would work. Subsequently, the remote video could be enabled and the client would continue to work.

However, we decided to use the netbook for the occasional skype usage on which the video calls work flawlessly.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Arch Linux 2.6.37, Xorg 1.9.4, Vesa driver and Intel 845/945 graphics

After a long time, I decided to retry upgrading Xserver to the current 1.9.4 version on the P4 with Intel 845 graphics controller. My experience had been that the systems with intel 845/945 graphics  would hang often with the new version of intel driver.  So, I have continued to use Xserver 1.6.3! The wonderful aspect of Arch Linux is that it allowed me to upgrade everything else but hold back 6 packages needed to keep using the xf86-video-intel-legacy driver.

After the upgrade, I got an unexpected error:
 /usr/lib/xorg/modules/drivers/ undefined symbol: resVgaShared
I have probably made a mistake in the upgrade and some old library might not have been uninstalled. I have not had a chance to check it out as yet.

However, meanwhile, the vesa driver worked very well. Earlier, it also used to give errors on this hardware and would not work at 1280x1024 at all.  The system is stable and working well with the Vesa driver; so there is no need for me to revert to the old intel driver anymore even if the current intel driver still gives problems on this hardware.

Update: The error was pretty obvious and silly. Since the package names of the old and new inter video drivers were different - xf86-video-intel-legacy and xf86-video-intel. A pacman update did not replace the legacy driver with the new one! I am now using the updated intel driver. A short usage did not create any problem but will have to wait and see.

Update: Even with Intel driver, the system no longer seems to hang. However, several times, the display was distorted, especially when the screensaver was active. Hence, I have switched to the Vesa display driver, which is good enough for the needs of the old system.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Arch Linux 2.6.37 and resuming after sleep

I have been using 2.6.37 on Arch Linux for several days now. I did not expect to notice any difference on a hardware like Lenovo netbook.

Still, there was the question whether 'intel_idle.max_cstate=0' as a kernel boot option is still needed. The system booted fine without it as it did with the 2.6.36 kernel. Sadly, the system still did not resume after sleep. So, the boot option is still useful.

What ever happened to Living Stories?

Yesterday, my wife and I were discussing that in the excitement of Egypt, there seems to be no news of what is happening in Tunisia.

I thought of Google's Living Stories experiment. It seems the experiment ended. A pity!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

OOPS - I got a Canon LiDE 110 Scanner

It was stupid of me. I bought a Canon LiDE 110 scanner and did not bother to check whether it was supported on Linux. I felt very foolish when I plugged it in and it did not get recognized.

Fortunately, Google helped me find the status and the issues for this model and the status of drivers available in the git repository.

Then, it was a matter finding some nice people who had already written the installation instructions - Ubuntu and Fedora

It works well. Now I have to see the best way to scan old photos and convert them to digital before they fade.

Update 14 May 2012: The Canon LiDE 110 works out of the box on Ubuntu and Arch Linux but for some reason not on Fedora 16 though it is reported to work on Fedora 17. I could build and install the sane-backends using the source from Sane project site and it works.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Can there be a ZipCar in India?

I had really liked the idea of ZipCar when I first came across it on TED talks.

Every time I see a parking mess in Indian residential areas, I keep wondering whether it is at all possible in India. A major problem is that each family seems to need a second or a third car or .... The reasons may be varied but clearly public transport does not seem to offer a solution.

A recent ad of Nano with extended warranty and maintenance services included at a low cost  made me think whether this could a viable alternative for creating a shared pool of cars, at least, as a replacement for  second/third cars for a family.

What if it could start with cooperative societies. Any large society should be able to afford and buy a few cars, which could be shared by the residents who may pay reasonable usage charges. The society may even hire a driver for older residents and/or just picking up or dropping members at a convenient point from where alternate mode of transport would be available. For Delhi and Mumbai and, soon, Bangalore, these could be the nearest metro/suburban train stations.

This may even help bring back some social interaction between society members as life in coop societies is increasingly becoming isolated and anonymous.

An online application could make it easy for society members to keep track of the bookings and usage of cars. May be TATA's can encourage and promote such usage as a compensation for putting still more cars on the roads!

Monday, January 31, 2011

KDE 4.6 on Arch Linux

The first reaction to KDE 4.6 on Arch Linux was that it looked nicer. Minor display issues in Netbook workspace were gone.

Earlier, it would often display only one favourite application. If one dragged the icon to the left edge, all would show up. Some times the application categories would not show at the start. Searching for an application would make them appear.

The graphics effects would cause the desktop to hang. Now, that is working very well. One nice new feature is that one can close a window on the screen displaying all the windows.

The power button of Lenovo S10-3 would not trigger the power off/suspend menu on KDE Plasma Netbook workspace. This problem is sort of resolved. On first attempt, it takes about half a minute to show the dialog. But if one cancels it and retries, the menu is displayed immediately.

But there is a new 'bug'. Wifi does not connect automatically. It waits for me to click ok on the password. I will try with a fresh KDE session just to confirm if the problem is related to some change in the configuration files.

The 'bug', where the network manager fails to start the wifi without any user interaction, seems to be that I was not using the KDE Wallet. Once I used the KDE Wallet, network manager starts the wifi without any prompt.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Meego on Fedora

Comparing with Smeegol, I found that in /usr/bin/startmoblin, the following line is commented:
#export GCONF_DEFAULT_SOURCE_PATH=/etc/gconf/2/moblin.path

The related configuration files are also missing. This results in the default
plugin being used by mutter and the screen being white. 

By adding the configuration files and making the needed changes, the desired plugin was selected but failed to load.

I added my comments to a bug report in Fedora bugzilla. It seems that meego is working in rawhide and will be working in Fedora 15.

I will try if by selecting a few of the packages from rawhide, I can get it to work.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Revisiting Smeegol

My experience with Smeegol had been pretty good except for getting the wifi to work. Now that the wifi on my Lenovo S10-3 was normal, I decided to retry Smeegol. Smeegol 1.0.5 is still based on 11.3 OpenSuse repositories. I could not find one based on the in-progress 11.4.

I could install the wifi driver. However, I had to build it from source as the Packman repository had the binary only for the i586 version. The official Meego boots in under 30 sec. Smeegol took 40 sec. Not a big difference. Unlike Meego, Smeegol uses gdm to launch uxlaunch. The script startmoblin is run using the /usr/share/xsessions/smeegol.desktop.

The directory /etc/gconf/gconf.xml.moblin contains the gconf options for smeegol desktop.

It seems straightforward. So, the question is why is meego desktop not working in Fedora14? It just shows a white screen on Lenovo and on my desktop system. It has been reported as a bug in Fedora's bugzilla. Need to dig and try to narrow down the cause.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stastical analysis of the importance of Mummy and Papa

It is good that someone, even if British, analyzed the composition of the Indian parliament. I wish an open source tool had been used instead of SPSS even though that would not have made the results any less disturbing to me.

The dataset  is available. So, may be someone interested in stats can experiment with open source tools.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Effective sharing for social networks

I stopped myself from sharing a link thinking that I had already shared enough for the day. There has to be a better way than the current - broadcast to connections or to a group among them.

It is easier for me to categorize what is being shared than to think of a group of recipients. Two broad categories I use are technology and play (to borrow the term from Google reader). If categories were available, I may be less inclined to feel that my quota of sharing for the day is over.

As a consumer of shared information, I may choose to follow, say, only play category from some connections. Somewhat like turning off viewing of twitter feeds in Buzz.

In the Facebook-like scenario, it is hard to ignore a request for being a 'friend' from an acquaintance but it may be useful to restrict the categories he/she may see. It is somewhat like a group but, I think, more amorphous.

Furthermore, as a 'friend', I may choose to see/or ignore posts from specific categories on a connection by connection basis.