Monday, March 31, 2008

Linux on IBM Thinkpad R32 Shutdown / Poweroff Problem with PCMCIA Wifi

Having trouble with your Linux distro not powering down on your laptop? On my old Thinkpad R32, several distributions including Kubuntu 7.10 and OpenSUSE 10.3 were not able to power off the system via software. I'm not exactly sure what was going on, but right when the system should have powered off, the CDROM drive would spin and the CPU fan would come on full blast. Nearly the exact opposite of shutting down, really.

I traced this problem to my D-Link DWL-G50 PCMCIA wifi card -- a nice Atheros based AG card on the cheap. Well, I shouldn't imply that the problem is with the card itself, but something to do with PCMCIA at least.

One solution I've found for this problem is to tell the system to eject the PCMCIA card before or during shutdown with the following command:

pccardctl eject

(Note: if your distro is slightly old, the command might be `cardctl eject`).

Which script you put this command into will depend on your distribution and preference. In OpenSUSE 10.3, open the file /etc/sysconfig/shutdown (as root) and change the line:



HALT_POWERDOWN_INSERT="pccardctl eject"

I've noticed a few complaints elsewhere about systems not being able to suspend due to wifi card issues. I haven't had a problem with OpenSUSE 10.3 suspending or hibernating on my system, but it seems like a pccardctl eject and a pccardctl insert in the appropriate suspend scripts could solve the issue.

There might be a more appropriate fix for this problem, but I don't care. I'm sick of configuring Linux. I know that Ubuntu 7.10 was able to power my system off correctly, and I think that PCLinuxOS 2007 was able to as well.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It Smells Like Fedora in Here

Fedora installed. Fedora uninstalled. Too much freedom for me, unfortunately.

Fedora's freedom mantra would mean a lot more if it were coming from anyone besides RedHat -- a company that in my mind used the GPL to build its user base and then cut us all off with some copyright legalese mumbo jumbo. The Fedora project was born out of one of the most bogus moves ever pulled by a commercial distribution as far as I'm concerned. (yeah, I used RH9 on servers. yeah, dumb, I know that now)

A simplified version of the history of Fedora: 1) Red Hat produces, for years and years and years, one of the most popular, absolutely free, Linux distributions. 2) Red Hat yanks the rug out and discontinues Red Hat Linux at version 9. They end support for RH9 after a very small number of months (12?). The only supported upgrade path is to the commercial-only Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution. They put their name all over the source and hide behind copyright to make it hard for anyone to copy, although they still do (e.g. White Box Linux). 3) Red Hat launches Fedora, a free community based "bleeding edge" distribution. Essentially, a beta for RHEL that people are suckered into using. That's how it went down from my perspective; feel free to correct me.

So why did I try it? Some jackass on LUG Radio uses it. Besides, I'm desperate at this point.

Anyhow, Fedora worked ok but installing anything that goes against the freedom of freeness and true community freedom is a serious pain in the ass. The simplest way to get the non-free stuff seems to be the Livna repositories which, unfortunately, and not unexpectedly, suck. More errors than SCO lawsuit. I decided to scrap the whole thing when installing flgrx errored out because it requires a kernel version that is not yet included with Fedora 8. No thanks fellas, I'm not playing.

(I don't know if it's something about the workings of RPM in general, but I always end up with update errors from RPM-based distributions)

You know, I don't really want to rant too much here (yes I do), but the whole "information wants to be free" freedom freeness business really chaps my ass. Not so much the concept, but this:

Freedomer: "Here is our free as in speech software. This information is free as the wind as all information should be!"

Me: "Hey, thanks... oh wait, when I try these simple tasks the system pukes, can you help me?"

Freedomer: "Oh I'm sorry, THAT information is not the kind of information that wants to be free."

Me: "But you said...freedom...information...can you just tell me how...."

Freedomer: "Oh well we don't even write that information down. It's all up *here*, you see. Think of it as a service. Make sense?"

Me: "Well sorta... but I'm all pumped up with these feelings of being free. It's almost like the whole world makes sense again. People are really good at heart and..."

Freedomer: "Listen, if we keep this up much longer you'll have to purchase some Information-Extraction Service Minutes. We have several plans, and some are not too much more than the cost of your commercial applications."

Me: "Oh, well I was...ok...but I'm..."

Freedomer: "You see, software is just a tool. A means to an end, you see. Tools are free. Instruction manuals cost money. Are you not familiar with how this works. Ever been to a little place known as The Home Depot?

Me: "Sure but...sorry, I guess I..."

Freedomer: "Listen, you haven't even paid us anything. What do you expect? It's free! I mean, sure, we believe that it's better than anything else out there, but still, you can't expect us to help you get it running without puking all over your system unless you're going to pony up some dough."

Me: "Yebut..."

Freedomer: "Why don't you try our community. The community is what we're all about. Community. Freedom. Information. Tools. Freedom. Our community is always happy to help. We just love helping people."

Me: "Ok, well than can you please help me? Like on a personal level? Buddy to buddy? Please."

Freedomer: "Oh I suppose so. What do you want."

Me: explains problem

Freedomer: "Oh sheesh! RTFM already! It's so obvious!"

Me: "But the manual doesn't really address my problem and..."

Freedomer: "Then buy the damn book already! The information in the book is all free once you buy it."

Me: "I think I'm going to go buy a Mac."

Freedomer: "Oh, and don't forget to notice the Paypal Donation button on our website. Your donations are what keep the community truly free."

Me: "Thanks. And please tell your sales team to stop cold calling me. No, I DON'T have any projects coming up in the next six months god damnit. I'm too busy installing Linux distributions to find one that supports two pieces of very popular hardware without having a cow."

Freedomer: "Oh you need to RTFM maybe."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How to Kill PCLinuxOS in One Easy Step


1) Start with an IBM Thinkpad R32.

2) Install PCLinuxOS 2007 from a LiveCD. Note that if you try to use the option to erase partitions and start from scratch, you'll get a message indicating that you should reboot first. Hm, cute.

3) Once installed, update the dern thing with Synaptic. Reload, Mark, and Apply.

Ok, now you've got your very own PCLinuxOS running and everything is groovy! Enable 3D Desktop effects and amaze your friends with the wobbly windows that didn't work in Ubuntu without manual xorg configuration. (when they ask why your focus window title bars are all blank, just change the subject)

And now, here's how we destroy PCLinuxOS:

1) Create a new network profile and activate it.

That's it. Voila. Easy as pie. Thanks for playing.

You will lose your graphical login manager upon restarting X. You will be able to start X manually after logging in to the terminal as root or another user, but alas, all is not well. A plethora of services will be off. You'll immediately notice the lack of any sound and the big error message indicating the lack of any sound.

To make things even more fun, your screen resolution might have dropped down a notch, making a brilliant desktop manager like KDE utterly useless because it can't resize windows worth a damn. This is especially frustrating considering how many configuration "wizards" in PCLinuxOS use the standard GIANT WIZARD DIALOG DO YOU WANT TO APPLY THE CHANGES OH YEAH WELL THEN CLICK THE GIANT YES OR THE GIANT CANCEL BUTTONS WHICH YOU WILL NOTICE APPEAR GIANTLY IN THE LOWER CORNERS OF THIS GIANT WIZARD DIALOG. OH YOU CAN'T SEE THEM BECAUSE YOUR SCREEN RESOLUTION IS SET TOO LOW WELL SORRY ABOUT THAT BUT NOBODY CARES STOP BLOGGING ABOUT THIS STUPID CRAP!

A neat fix is to delete your network profile which will bring things mostly back to normal, except for your resolution, which will be impossible to set. Oh, and you can't login as another user without being prompted for a root password and then being shown the 3D Desktop settings dialog and NOTHING ELSE. Ever.

Imagine the sound of a hard drive being wiped clean, and you'll be closely approximating the sound waves that are vibrating my ear drums this very minute. This is an all new time record for an operating system eating itself in my experience. The sucker went completely useless after about 30 minutes of use.

Oh, it's "Radical" alright.

Next up: Fedora.

PCLinuxOS 2007

Real funny, fellas. Har har har. Laugh it up, I don't care.

From freshly installed to completely demolished in less than 16 hours using nothing but a mouse. Sheesh. Your installer is plenty fast, thankfully, so I'm going to give this thing one more go before I give it the heave ho.

I was going to rag on you about your "Radically Simple" tagline, but then I noticed and appreciated the subtle ambiguity of that statement. You're going to have to work a lot harder to get this l33t hacker to break down!!!


Goodbye Ubuntu. I sampled your Freaky Frog and poked around in your Greasy Goat and even noodled around with your Horny Heron for a few days. Es bunku.

For being the best supported community Linux distribution with the biggest desktop install base (I'm making that up), Ubuntu has its canonical thumb up its canonical arse when it comes to hardware support. I have no idea what that means, but I'm not good at clever insults.

Case in points: many wifi cards (specifically in my case anything with an ralink or hermes chipset) and some ATI video cards (namely mobility Radeon).

Ok, so really I'm just pissed that your Ubuntu sucks on my Thinkpad R32 laptop and completely drops the ball when it comes to drivers for my Linksys WUSB54G wifi adapter. When I came to realize that support for my adapter actually worsened in the Haggardy Heffer beta, I decided to kill this retarded installation.

Interestingly enough, I wiped Ubuntu from my laptop the day I got a new wifi adapter that would have worked with it. Why me so krazie? Well, because I'm just not terribly impressed.

My Ubuntu 7.10 (and 8.whatever Beta) experience:

1) Terrible installation process.

2) Poor performance with default software load installed. Very poor, actually. In your defense I didn't give it enough memory, but I've seen much better performance from other distributions.

3) It's damn ugly. A stock Gnome installation straight out of 1995. You want bling? Be prepared to manually install drivers and edit your xorg config if you've got ATI video. You want something besides a solid color panel? Break out the terminal.

4) Where are the features? There is no centralized management interface that I can find, just a bunch of disassociated applications stuck to a start menu. It's very difficult to remember where to find various settings. The printer management is horrible. HORRIBLE! The themer is easily broken beyond repair and features from some themes just don't work. Network management is a joke. File sharing is more painful than it need be.

From my perspective, Ubuntu brings exactly two things to the table: 1) Automatic updates and 2) a network applet in the panel. Those are the killer apps that are year-of-the-Linux-desktoping the world. wow. Oh, and thanks for the links to "non free" codecs and drivers. A little silly to have deliberated over this one for ten years though, don't you think?

Ok ok, it also has a very large repository which is a plus. No complaints there.

Is this the best that the free Linux desktop world has to offer? I sure hope not.

I replaced Ubuntu with PCLinuxOS 2007 (real clever name there fellas) which installed in minutes from a LiveCD and seemed to setup and use all of my hardware correctly. Yay! But not so yay. After doing nothing but configuration via the GUI control center, my sound has stopped working completely and I no longer have a graphical login. Oh, and installing Kismet broke some dependencies. And most notably, it's been installing updates for over 70 minutes and i have no idea what the hell is going on. Kubuntu? Fedora? I'll blog my little heart out about all this later. You can't wait.

Soon I may end up putting Windows back on this machine because in the long run, really, I've got some shit to get done. (no I don't, I'm just trying to stir some shit up)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Illustrator CS3 Suckage

My first official tear has come in the form of a massive headache.

This one is just great. A hour's worth of work down the can because of yet another Illustrator crash:

This error is very clever, because you can close as many windows as you want and Retry will never work. Cancel always leads to a crash. Here's what happens when you try to save the file you're working on:

Oh dear, I hope my file is ok! No. Of course it's not:

I've got 4 gigs in this machine, and Illustrator at the time of the crash was only consuming 628MB. I've got one gig of physical free. I notice that the message is from VersionCueUI.DLL, which is interesting because I have Version Cue disabled (mostly because it sucks).

You know what else Illustrator sucks at aside from running? Hibernating and sleeping. Especially with files open on a network share which leads to crashes and corrupt files. This has been a problem since at least CS.

Suck it Adobe.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Top 10 Reasons to Use Linux FUD / Bull

This is a response to "Top 10 Reasons to Why Should I Use Linux? - A Linux Evangelists' Reference."

Think of ten reasons off of the top of your head why Linux is better than other operating systems. Go.

"Umm... 1) It helps you get rid of viruses 'n' stuff."

True, sorta. It doesn't help you get rid of viruses and malware exactly, though it could be used for that purpose. Linux is certainly more resistant to infection for a variety of compelling though questionable reasons. Its "server-client relationship" is one of those questionable reasons, and a good one if you're worried more about damage to the operating system than to all of your data. Linux is a more secure multi-user environment out of the box, and is a more secure single user environment partly because of obscurity and partly because users by default don't run as root. There are plenty of security flaws in "Linux" -- assuming we're not just talking about the Linux kernel -- many of which are never taken advantage of.

Back when I was running RedHat 7 I was a little bit lax on keeping it up to date, and my machine was rooted and subsequently used to attack at least one organization. I'm to blame, sure, but let's not get carried away with this "Linux is uber-secure because of its amazing design and opensourceness" business.

Linux is uber-secure when compared to Windows. Compared to Mac OS (even pre-OSX BSD goodness), it doesn't exactly stand out.

"2) Linux is really fast 'n' stuff."

Yeah yeah. This is a seriously out of date point. You certainly cannot run a major distro on 256MB of RAM with "all the bling." In fact, you'll have a hard time even installing some major distros with only 256MB. And as soon as you bring up an application like Firefox, it's gonna grind.

In my experience XP will run "better" than the latest Ubuntu on 256MB. Not so much "better", but "useable" or "slightly less sucky." I do realize of course that XP is seven years old, and 256MB was adequate when it was released.

What really impresses me the most is how OSX runs on my old G3 with 512MB. Now *that's* impressive. This is something that neither Windows nor any full-fledged Linux distribution could pull off.

Oh, and "Linux" will bloat and slow down if you willy nilly start installing applications and the requisite eight bajillion dependencies required by each. Run your Linux installation like the average user person runs his Windows installation and you'll be in a similar boat right quick. You'll just have spent a hell of a lot more time getting the boat into the water.

My most used XP installation is at least 5 years old (yeesh my machine is getting old!) and isn't slow.

"3) Linux is easier to use than Windoze"

This is absolute bull. What could be easier than opening up a package manager and installing the software you want? Downloading a single file and clicking on it, that's what could be easier.

Despite the impressive completeness of most package managers these days, they're still at the mercy of poor descriptions and extremely bad program naming. Many times I've jumped through more hoops than necessary to install "ksmk2ii1kk-", not realizing that it was in the damn repository already...or if I did see it, it's six months out of date and the features I need are in version

Now I'm not saying that I don't like systems like Synaptic, because I do very much. But this is not necessarily a reason that Linux is "easier." There are some things about it that are better, sure. Easier? For me. Sometimes. Sure.

Hardware compatibility? Ok, just freakin stop it. To say that Linux has better hardware support than Windows (as a whole) is just a lie. And using ndiswrapper to help prove your point just negates your point. Using an OPTIONALLY INSTALLED program like ndiswrapper to wrap WINDOWS drivers does not make Linux easier to use than Windows. And if you care so much about so-called freedom (see point 4) then using Windows drivers is not an option.

Frankly, the Linux desktop is still harder to use than Windows or Mac. It's gotten worlds better, but unless you have a system that's setup to do X, Y, and Z, and only X, Y, and Z, the average person is going to get frustrated very quickly. And the shell will come out. I have never been able to get a Linux distro to the same relative state of usefulness as a generic Windows install without using the shell. Ever. The last time I installed a major distro was last month.

"4) Linux is free because information wants to be free man"

Ok, I'll concede this one, although I'm still on the fence as to whether a software application can be considered "information" and thus should be free, unless I intentionally stick my head back into the box and disregard the energy required to generate said "information," not to mention that some of this information is the ends itself, not just a means. But I digress. I'm certainly no fan of modern commercial licensing.

"5) The FBI can't spy on you with Linux!"

Please. This is genuine FUD. Just because you can't read the high level source code for Windows does not mean that you can't verify that it's not spying on you and sending the information to the FBI. Please. And when was the last time your grandma popped open the source to kPrescriptionLoc to verify that it wasn't leaking her Medicare information?

"6) Windows programs like Photoshop CS3 work awesome on Linux thanks to Wine!"

No they don't. They just don't. Stop lying. Photoshop CS3, and all of the CS3 Suite programs have major problems even installing in Wine. Even the Wine lead Alexandre Juillard in a recent interview with LUG Radio admitted to being far from able to keep up with new software developments. (not that he ever tried to deny it)

And what happened to "Linux is easier to use than Windows" and that business about freedom? Wine? Please.

"7) Linux looks better than other operating systems."

Cork it. Linux finally has some eye candy, that mostly works, and is mostly not too clunky. Better looking? I enter into the record the Gnome Panel. Case closed. The best looking Linux was had ten years ago with Enlightenment, the Duke Nukem Forever of desktop managers.

Awesome 3D Penguin backgrounds and wiggly windows get old pretty damn fast. Linux has a long way to go to catch up with OSX in terms of look and feel. I'd even say that it has some catching up to do with Vista, one of the worst, most annoying operating systems that I've ever used.

"8) Linux is fun!"

Well no shit. I've always said that Linux is the best tool available for configuring Linux. It in and of itself is a challenge. Unfortunately "fun" and "easy to use" are mutually exclusive here.

"9) You can help improve Linux!"

Pahleese. This has nothing to do with Linux specifically. Go ahead and send your whiny complaints to Linus and see what kind of reaction you get.

Yes, we can all help to improve open source software. I *love* open source software. I will not spend my free time improving it, however, unless it's something I really need to have working. That's not to say that I won't complain about, however.

Anyhow, you'll have a hard time convincing anyone that they should write the documentation for some software that they can't figure out how to use because the documentation sucks.

"10) adf adsfadsf adadsf adf"

Ok, an "evangelist" couldn't come up with ten valid points about why Linux is a superior operating system in a TOP TEN list? Too busy looking over source code for security flaws? Too busy writing better documentation for Sendmail? Or are you just stuck trying to work out some dependency conflicts?
Here is my list of why Linux is the best operating system. Note that many items are repeats of the FUD article, but without the poor explanations:

1) It costs nothing. Self explanatory.

2) In terms of free operating systems, it has the best hardware support.

3) Business case: licensing ensures that your vendor can never pull the rug out from under you and force you to start paying. The software, and the source, is yours to keep, use, and modify forever. (although I haven't gotten over feeling burned by RedHat when it dropped RH Linux after version 9 and left us with a pay-only upgrade to RHEL or the baby new Fedora project) More importantly, your data is yours.

4) No activation schemes, period. No situations where you're restricted from using your software because you've changed your own hardware. Need to reinstall? Then do it. Hundreds of times. Thousands of times. Never call a support center in India to verify the genuine awesomeness of your operating system again.

5) There is a lot of software available. Most of it is very poor quality, but you can still be very productive.

6) Business case: Linux makes for a fantastic server. You've got the same clunky problems maintaining a Linux server that you do maintaining a Linux desktop, but once you get that server running the comparative uptime is phenomenal.

7) Once you've got your distro configured just right, Linux is easy to use and productive as a desktop operating system. Unfortunately, there is a chance that you will never get it configured just right.

8) You're already using Linux whether you know it or not. It might be on your phone, your router, or your MP3 player. Chances are, it served you this web page. Linux is not just a hobby operating system for enthusiasts anymore.

9) Your chance of becoming infected with a virus or malware is reduced nearly to zero if you keep your system up to date. This doesn't mean that you're not susceptible to a wide range of online trickery, and it doesn't mean that Linux doesn't have security flaws.

10) Using Linux prevents you from getting involved with most DRM systems and somewhat prevents you from becoming a part of the software patents problem.