Bye Fedora

I’m going to say goodbye to my current Fedora 12 laptop; yes the one for which I wrote that post about Fedora 10 at the time which I then updated for Fedora 11. This is not because the laptop broke down, but rather because I ended up getting my MacBook Pro fixed, and that is again my main laptop. While I did want to have a laptop running Linux to the side of the MBP running Mac OS X, I finally decided it’s pretty pointless for me.

There are multiple reasons for that, some have nothing to do with Fedora, but a few have. Marginally maybe, but they have. The first problem is, once again, the video card. While it’s not like it has been easy with Yamato’s new one I got to say that two and a half months later I’m definitely glad I got it: KMS with 2.6.32 (and GIT userland — need to check whether that’s still needed, but I guess so for a while still) works like a charm, I’m able to use compiz without a glitch, it’s perfectly stable. With the nVidia on-board card of that laptop, it’s a totally different story. The nvidia binary driver for that card is not (yet?) available for Fedora 12, and the nouveau driver is… useless. It’s not just a matter of lacking 3D acceleration, but it’s also totally broken for suspension, which worked fine at least with the proprietary driver instead.

But it goes beyond the hardware support; probably you have all heard about the thunderstorm around Fedora’s original decision to allow any user with console access to install new packages without root password. I actually think that for Fedora’s target, that’s a pretty good move: it limits itself to installing and upgrading signed packages which has thus limited security implications, and it’s just a default. For most users, having console access is as good as having root’s password so it shouldn’t really matter; for desktop usage, that’s pretty much true already. Smarter, more security-paranoid users can easily change that setting. At any rate, the thunderstorm (or crapfest if you prefer) got them so much they changed the default again; too bad. Unfortunately, it seems instead that I got a different problem: my PackageKit interface is totally broken and I cannot use it at all; I got to use yum to upgrade my box which is definitely not so nice.

At first I thought it had to be related to either the fact that I upgraded from F11 or to my use of RPM Fusion but turns out that the PackageKit interface is as much broken on a box that a customer of mine set up for me to install a toolchain chroot for them last week. I ended up using yum there as well; no clue what the problem is with that.

And since I upgraded to F12 I found another problem as well: I already ranted about the fact that I couldn’t get bluetooth dial-up to work with my Nokia phone, and I had to use the cable to work it out; following Adam’s suggestion I also got the JoikuSpot application that turns the phone into an (ad-hoc) hotspot to use it via WLAN without configuring anything. The latter approach is, unfortunately, valid only if you’ve got the power adapter of your phone at hand, since it lasts about an hour on my E75; and the other day (at my customer’s office) I didn’t have it available. I had, though, the cable, left in the bag since the last time I used it, unfortunately when I tried to connect with that, exactly like I did in F11, NetworkManager decided to fail. And of course neither DUN nor PAN seems to be available via bluetooth in F12 as well as F11.

So I’m considering whether I need that laptop or not: the MBP starts up in less than two seconds, thanks to the fact I always leave it in Suspend-to-RAM (and that’s faster than Google’s Chrome OS… I wonder why people seem to challenge the start-up time rather than fixing the suspension support, bah); the MBP lasts more than four hours on its battery; the MBP have a much sleeker design which makes it handier and I don’t have to go around with the clunky power supply (not only because the MBP’s is smaller, but also because I have my mom’s supply downstairs if I’m running low on battery); the MBP (with OSX at least) can connect properly, via bluetooth, to the phone and thus the Internet (most of the times at least). So at the end, I’m not going to use the Compaq for much.

I’ll create a Fedora 12 virtual machine on Yamato for testing my projects there, where most of the previous notes about stuff not working properly will be moot points.

*Post scriptum: I wrote the draft for this article a couple of days ago and in the mean time I set up the Fedora 12 virtual machine I noted in the last paragraph; it was that way, by trying out virtio, that I found the n-th qemu/kvm quirk that made me drop the “proper” qemu. Unfortunately with that new install, from scratch, not update, I found another share of problems.*

*The remote desktop support in GNOME is totally broken: I can see with tcpdump the request arriving, but no reply is given altogether. If you set an hostname in three parts (say, fedora12.qemu.local), Avahi will advertise fedora12.local instead. system-config-services is not installed by default, and the first time I installed it I had to reboot otherwise I would only get crashes. One default cron job causes SELinux to report invalid accesses to /var/lib … all in all, it seems to me like Fedora 11 was way more polished!*

Making everything a computer: an upgrade odyssey

We’re all used to software upgrades. Gentoo users has to update their tree daily and they’ll probably find something new, unless they are running a full stable system. Windows users have to upgrade their stuff regularly, too, and Mac users the same (almost, having all three operating systems in my office at the moment shows me that Windows update are the most painful, as they require a lot more restarts, and they appear gradually, like after I installed Nokia’s software, Windows Update decided to show me some more upgrades from 2006 and early 2007).

Nowadays a lot of “hardware” that we used to consider absolutely unconcerned with the idea of upgrades started to need those upgrades too, like they were jealous of computers and their operating systems that can upgrade. Or more likely because they started to move from being microcontrollers to full-fledged minicomputers.

So nowadays you update the firmware of your cellphones: Sunday I updated my brother-in-law’s Nokia E61i to the last version of the firmware, that solved a few problems it had. I had to update the firmware of my E61 last year, to fix a SIP connection problem, and to see if that helped my problem of self signed certificates (it didn’t). My VoIP phone also needed three upgrades since I bought it, the first right out of the box, and two later on. My router has had three upgrades (and its software still sucks, I keep it only because it has a nice hardware capable to connect me to the network with as much noise as I have here, which is something that I was unable to find from any other router).

Don’t even try to look at the MacBookPro! It required firmware upgrades to the machine itself, to the_keyboard_, the optical drive, and twice already to the battery! Still in Apple’s house, the Airport Express takes care of its upgrades on its own luckily, while the AppleTV would be quite easy to upgrade if only… let’s not get there now though, ok?

BIOS upgrades on workstation start to be quite common, especially to fix processors’ issues and to support new processors. And speaking of processors, microcode updates are also quite common nowadays, which is something nobody would have guessed when we were still stuck with 80486.

GPS navigation systems have obvious need to update their firmware and their maps but it starts to be ridiculous for me that I, although not owning any, have to keep three of them updated!

I was impressed by the way PSP updates its firmware by the way, just try to play a newer game and boom! it asks you to upgrade the firmware from the UMD itself. Nice way to force people not to limit themselves to older crackable firmwares, indeed.

And now this came to the area from which my considerations started to write this blog: the PlayStation 3 had a firmware upgrade today. A quite long one because I was messing with the network settings at the time and didn’t consider it would have restarted from the beginning to download the new firmware. The funny thing is that i bought it less than two weeks ago, and this is already the second firmware upgrade (the first was out of the box). Slick, uh?

Add to that the new router I’ve made a friend of mine buy today (his old router was a crappy 11b one, a very bad one in many aspects, and he wanted something nice and working): it needed a firmware upgrade right away or it was unable to forward ports through NAT. Ridiculous!

And in all this, I still haven’t been able to play with my DVD writer’s firmware .

I just wonder how much time I’ll have to spend upgrading and upgrading and upgrading.

New laptop, finally!

Today I finally got my new laptop, a siny and happy MacBook Pro 2.33GHz Core2Duo. I was quite pleased with my iBook (exception being the sucky wireless support under Linux, main reason why I usually used it with Mac OS X), and this ew Intel incarnation of Apple’s hardware seems to have the same touches that made me like the previous laptop (that’s now being usd by my mother): the backlight on the keyboard is good to have while I’m writing in my chambre, the non-glossy display still has an incredible color and does not reflect so much, the design is sleek and sober, compared for instance to HP’s Pavillions, and it’s quite fast.

Gentoo will come on this box soon; for a couple of days I’ll leave Mac on this and then I’ll start working on that. I was thinking of building the system from the other box, but the ROOT= support is quite limited and this CPU has SSE3 while the other hasn’t, so I can’t really use a pure chroot.

Now, on more Gentooish notes, I started to port nss-mdns to FreeBSD, as the current implementation only works on GLIBC; the reason of this is just that I needed a way to identify the two laptops that have dynamic IP addresses depending if I connect them via cable or via wireless, so I decided to give an inner try to Avahi and ZeroConf as a whole.. the result is pretty neat, although I had to disable the return-on-not-found for the minimal nss module or it was failing to resolve everything when searching for local domain. Maybe I have to play with it a little more to get it to work as I need.

Instead, on the ALSA front, after yesterday’s release of ALSA 1.0.14_rc1, I’m probably going to work a little bit more on the ability to disable on request the plugins of alsa-lib; especially considering the embedded devices, often you don’t need most of them; even for simpler user systems you probably need just an handful of them.. I think this would be simple to solve with use groups, but in the mean time I’m probably just going to ask for a new USE_EXPANDed variable, to be converted in the future (and poke Zac again about getting something usable for that).

I know there are still glitches with that (for instance there’s a too low dependency for alsa-lib in alsa-utils), but considering I always say to leave as much as the same verison for everything there, it’s hardly a priority to me.

Okay, let’s see what else I can do with this boxy before going to sleep :) And for who’s wondering, considering the other laptop was named Voyager, this one is, obviously, Intrepid :)