Tag Archives: linux

Do (Computer) Geeks Really Rule the (Computer) World?

I just read about an interesting development with the latest iPhone. It all started when we found out the iPhone’s antenna is bad. Now we’re finding out AppleCare has informed customers it won’t be fixed (really), Consumer Reports specifically does not recommend the iPhone 4, and Apple forum moderators are deleting threads right and left, which apparently isn’t out of the ordinary, nor will that likely change in the future. (Whew, that was a mouthful!)

If that weren’t enough, Megan McArdle reported about a growing aggravation with Apple’s policies among the geek crowd (surprise, surprise).

Now, what I have to say here is largely speculation. It’s one of those thoughts where you think about it, and it interests you, but you have no real way or need to prove it at the time, but, as time goes on, you start to notice patterns that add leverage to the idea. Continue reading


“I like bug 327809”: Let’s make revdep-rebuild obsolete

That’s a quote from solar. I also like this bug. I really like it. I think it’s one of the best bug reports I’ve ever seen.

(First, a disclaimer: I’m not a Gentoo developer, I’ve only just started any kind of serious portage work, and have had quite a few stupid ideas at this point. Take what I have to say with a healthy pinch of salt.)

First of all, here’s the bug link: https://bugs.gentoo.org/327809

Here’s a highlight of what I think makes this bug so impressive, and my comments on it: Continue reading

Excellent Post About Free Software Purists

Edit: Almost forgot to mention: I heard about this blog post from flameeyes.

There was a really, really good blog post that actually clarified to me what was for so long a nuisance in discussions with Free Software purists (and I couldn’t reason out why at the time). Read this quote:

A long time ago, Larry Wall gave a “State of the Onion” speech. Larry is the guy behind Perl, the programming language, and every year he gave a talk about what he believes Perl is all about and where it’ll be going over the following twelve months. Larry’s not really a programmer; he’s a linguist who does a lot of programming. So his view on what a computer language should be is uniquely interesting, and should be read. Anyway, he spoke of freedom, and characterised the ends of the spectrum on the subject as “Bill” and “Richard”, those two being Bill Gates (at the time head of Microsoft) and Richard Stallman (head of the Free Software Foundation): the idea here was that those two represented the ultimate expressions of their philosophies. Richard Stallman was at the far extreme of belief in free software; Bill Gates was at the other far end, decrying the very concept of freedom. It was a throwaway joke, at the time; a caricature for the purpose of a laugh in a presentation.

I encourage everyone to read the original post, since it really brings some light out on the unreasonableness and extreme nature of the Free Software purist position.

Portage Hooks

Now that school is done for the 2009-2010 year, I’m back at it in Neuvoo again. I’m finishing off a long-planned and fairly major addition to portage I call “portage hooks.” The fun thing is I’ve submitted some patches to zmedico and the response has actually been more positive than previous experiences. solar seemed to be (tentatively?) liking the idea as well.

So, here’s what portage hooks are all about. If you have portage-utils installed, you will have an /etc/portage/postsync.d/ directory. Scripts in this directory are executed after portage syncs the tree. I thought this was a great idea, and I thought it should be expanded so there are other opportunities for unofficial extensions. Continue reading

Status of Gentoo on MacBook Pro (5,3)

HEY, LISTEN! This blog post and some of its tips are out-dated. You can read it but keep that in mind. I have a more detailed HOWTO-like blog post here.

  • ALSA: It supports all the inputs and outputs on the computer. The headphones and speakers get two different volume levels. I find setting headphones to 30% and speakers to 100% works perfectly for me, but every pair of headphones acts differently.
  • Graphics: NVIDIA drivers have been available from the start. No fuss or mess here, especially now that distributions have seemed to have finally found a way to package them in a way that doesn’t obliterate important X11 libraries.
  • Screen and keyboard brightness work if you install pommed. Since GNOME already recognizes the volume keys, I turned that off in pommed. The Banshee music player (my new favorite) understands the media controls, to my surprise! The eject button is also supported by pommed. As far as standard keyboard buttons go, the Home, End, Page Up, Page Down, Windows, Delete, and Function keys are all accessible via the Fn key, in combination with the left, right, up, down, Command, “delete”/Backspace, and Function keys respectively. (Why OSX doesn’t understand half these keys, and some of them only half the time, I still don’t understand.)
  • The large trackpad works very well. Single-finger click is a left click, two-finger click is a right click, and three-finger click is a middle click. Two-finger scrolling works very well, and can even be turned on and off in the Mouse settings in GNOME. Four-finger scrolling appears to be interpreted as a single finger, but that may be adjustable.
  • Within the last week or so, a new release of the isight-firmware-tools package (1.5.92) just added support for the iSight camera built into this MacBook. I am very happy about that, since that’s one less thing to reboot into OSX for. It still has some small setup required, but it’s a one-liner, so it barely registers on my “todo” list.
  • The wireless card works very well, and works with NetworkManager. Bluetooth works.
  • The battery is reported correctly in GNOME.
  • The SD card slot works. I’ve used it several times.
  • The fans require some doing. They don’t actually turn on automatically (scarily enough), so I had to hack up a script someone wrote to get the fan to react to temperatures reported by sysfs.
  • And the hard-drive, um, spins and stuff.

So, as you can see, besides pommed, a fan script, and the webcam, there’s really very little tweaking required. Everything more or less works.

Edit: The kernel configuration for this machine was requested in the comments below, so I’ve posted it here.

When you Can’t Compile ‘Em, Virtualize ‘Em (in VirtualBox)

That’s the approach I’m taking when it comes to Gentoo right now. September, my deadline for all computer projects, is my hard deadline, because that’s when college starts, and that’s when I expect my free time will be dramatically shortened, if not entirely consumed, as far as my computer projects are concerned. Because of that, I can’t waste a lot of time patching and hacking. If it doesn’t work in Gentoo Prefix like I want it to, I’ll throw it into VirtualBox’s copy of Gentoo and use the Shared Folders feature to keep data synced in and out of the virtual machine.

First off, don’t even think about doing this if you don’t have x86 virtualization extensions. You may survive the experience, but you won’t be able to stand it for much longer after. On my ol’ 1.8GHz Pentium 4, the speeds were always at least twice as slow. With my new Core 2 Duo processor with VT-x, the virtual machine can let the real processor take on most of the processing needs. If I had a “Core i7” Intel processor, or something else with Nehalem, I would also have Nested Paging which can give as much as a 1/3 increase in speeds.

But never-mind, because VT-x gives me near-native performance, which is absolutely necessary for Gentoo. Another good thing to have is a bigger-than-8G hard-drive. (In other words, the default Linux size is not good enough.) I gave the machine 512M out of my 4G total, which is more than enough for a Linux desktop. I turned on 3D acceleration and gave it 64M of VRAM, because I want to try KDE4.3. Everything else are defaults, pretty much. Continue reading

The Current State of Gentoo

(Edit: Please read my next blog post after or in stead of reading this one.)

Here we are, with working images, and we’ve begun to look into how to better make our images and the contents within more like (and simultaneously more compatible with) official Gentoo. A lot of that has involved us using tools provided by official Gentoo, such as catalyst and eselect. A lot of things, however, cannot be accomplished with plain Gentoo, such as catching portage before it tries to emerge something to make sure the file-system is set up correctly.┬áIt took us over half a year to finally “catch up” with Gentoo Embedded and actually reach the limits of what Gentoo provides officially.

Let’s step back a month or so, and go down another path: Gentoo Prefix. This excellent project gives people like me hope for Gentoo where there is none. I installed this to OSX, and I have had all kinds of fun hacking my programs into existence, as I’m sure my readers know from previous posts about Pidgin. In fact, it is because of Prefix that I have begun to scratch the surface of the ebuild world with many a Prefix bug report which often (I think) ended up in an ebuild/patch submission.

My experience with each project has been somewhat different, and somewhat disturbing too. What I have found with both projects, I believe I can trace straight up into Gentoo, and may be what is driving more than a few users and developers away from the once-very-popular distribution. I will attempt to describe what I have found, but please keep in mind that, as authoritative as I may sound, all of what follows is largely my own opinion based on what I’ve seen. Continue reading

The Secret to Pidgin on OSX with Gentoo Prefix

OK, there’s no secrets really. It’s just a matter of avoiding potholes and fixing bugs enough so you can work around them.

So, first off, 2.5.7 is the version I use, even though 2.5.8 is out. 2.5.8 has its own set of problems, and if I recall correctly they’re not as easy to work around. Second, I use the following USE flags:

net-im/pidgin prediction perl gtk -ncurses gnutls debug aqua spell
x11-libs/cairo svg
app-text/enchant -hunspell aspell

Pidgin requires cairo with svg, so that’s a no-brainer. Currently ncurses wide-character support is broken, either in Pidgin or ncurses itself, so I avoid that altogether with the “-ncurses” USE flag. Also, if you want a spell-checker, aspell is much more stable than hunspell on Gentoo Prefix right now, and does the same thing. (Besides, other things use aspell more than hunspell, so it’s one less library to install.) That explains the “-hunspell aspell” USE flags.

There’s one USE flag there you may not recognize for Pidgin. It’s “aqua”. This USE flag was put there by me. This is the show-stopper that had be running in circles for quite a while. In order to get proper GTK+ aqua support, you’ll have to patch Pidgin and Pidgin’s ebuild. You can find all the resources you need at the Gentoo bug I made, or in a handily compressed file here, update: or, better yet, in my Gentoo Prefix overlay. With these in your Gentoo overlay, and the proper USE flags above, pidgin will install correctly. Huzzah! Continue reading

The Secret to Unmasking in Gentoo (and Prefix too)

If you ever dip your toes into Gentoo Prefix, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that a lot of your software is either missing or masked. If you’re sharp, or have lots of experience already with Gentoo, you’ll also notice that your profile comes with the ~ unstable keyword by default. You see, Gentoo Prefix is a pretty small project in comparison to Gentoo itself, as far as I can tell, so not as much testing goes into every package, and not every package can be and/or is currently handled by Gentoo Prefix.

Let’s assume, however, that you really don’t care, like me. Let’s assume you want to try things and out and, like every other good citizen of Linux, you plan on tracking down and reporting every bug you find to the Gentoo/Alt bug tracker. You will most certainly try to emerge something that hasn’t been reasonably stabilized yet, like Pidgin. (I will go into more length on Pidgin later. For now, a summary would be “not for the faint of heart”.) If you’re running an x64 Prefix, just about anything you try to emerge will be keyworded or masked. Not discouraged, you’ll start adding the appropriate entries to your package.keywords and package.unmask directories. After your fifteenth entry, or third round of emerge’s, it gets pretty tedious. Continue reading

My Desktop Is Dying

I wish I had more nice here’s-how-to sort of blog posts. I also wish my desktop had managed to stick around until it could be considered reasonable to buy a MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, nothing is going exactly how I want it to, for the most part.

My desktop began showing odd symptoms last summer. The hard-drive would make clicking noises for a moment, the sort it makes when it turns on and off, but everything would work fine. I did get a little worried when fsck reported errors, but it fixed them and I didn’t have any problems since… Continue reading