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Starting posting on eHow

I know, it's pretty sad. I've started posting on eHow, but they pay, and maybe I'll get a little bit if recognition, you know? Anyway, the article is on "Diagnosing a bad CRT or LCD monitor" and contains the very basic tricks that techs do to diagnose... well, anything.

*Sniff* ... it's gone. All gone...

Well, it was fun while it lasted. I had been running Opensuse 10.3, and loving it on the Acer, using it for school, for gaming, for music... everything. I even had the files on an NTFS volume shared read/write. And then... it was stolen out of my car in the garage. Yes the garage doors were closed, no they weren't locked, no my car wasn't locked. Sure, kick a guy while he's down. And the thief took my entire briefcase--- plus the papers I needed to grade! Needless to say, grades went in probably higher than they should have, the thief probably saw that my beautiful Linux opensuse install was locked out and threw it in the trash, and I'm now out a very nice laptop. Hence, the Apple iBook is now back in service, dual booting OSX Tiger and Opensuse 10.3! That's right! They can take my hardware, but they can't take my Linux! I also had all the documents backed up luckily, so now it's just a matter of getting them back on the Ibook. Also, I had to fork out cash to max out the memory on this sucker (it only goes up to 640MB, about 100MB less that the Acer) and get a new battery. But, after trying a couple different PPC linux distributions, namely: Ubuntu 8.04 (it was ported out of love, but is not officially supported, so I had trouble on little things like tap-to-click), Fedora 9 (looked really nice but there aren't any cool repos yet, and I still couldn't get the tap-to-click to work), and then, finally, OpenSuse. On first attempt, OpenSuse wasn't liking the net install method, and the boot partition didn't get "blessed" or something when it was installed, so I couldn't boot without the install CD. The second time, though, I used the default partitioning option (had to reinstall Tiger twice >.<) and that seemed to stick. I haven't tried adding Mac OS X to the yaboot.conf yet, though, but I can just hold down the Alt key for boot options, which, honestly, is just as good as a graphical boot loader.

So now I'm back. . . not like anyone reads this blog anyway, but it was handy to have the Xorg.conf options listed on this blog! I was able to get Xorg singing right from the beginning. Also, I want to kiss whoever decided to create PowerPrefs.... awesome stuff.

Current Specs:
Apple Ibook 2002 Dual-USB
PowerPC 700mhz
100mhz frontside bus (ugh)
640MB SDRAM (double ugh)
ATI Mobility m3 LY
30GB hard drive
Opensuse 10.3 ppc
Mac OS X Tiger


Still wish my Acer would come home... *sniff*

Acer Travelmate 292Lmi
ATI Radeon Mobility 9200
Pentium Centrino 1.5Ghz
DVD-R combo drive
60GB hard drive

Opensuse 10.3

Opensuse 10.3 gets released tomorrow! And my Samsung T9-YP works in Amarok without configuration! And... And... I think I broke something.

For the record, OpenSSH on Windows XP can be done, but it's a little clunky. As a server, mind you. I found some installable package using the Cygwin pieces for it to work properly, and I suppose for what it is it installed fairly well. It's not as point and click as it is in linux, however. Oh well. At least now it will talk to linux remotely and safely! Also in Opensuse 10.3 are advancements in KDRC, including tabbed sessions. That'll be fun for at work, when I sometimes have a couple remote sessions open at once. And it's green! I think this year is going to be the Opensuse year!

SLI . . . Remastered!

I now have both the desktop and laptop running in dual-boot mode with Windows XP and OpenSuse 10.2 (it was just so easy). Actually, the desktop is triple-booting now, but I'll explain why in a minute. First, SLI in a nutshell.

Things to know:

1. SLI is Nvidia's answer to demands for more graphical processing power. Hence, they followed the belief that two is better than one, and made a design to link two PCIE graphics cards together.
2. SLI only works with two identical graphics cards (preferably by the same manufacturer), a motherboard that supports the Nvidia chipset for SLI, and a "link:" a small piece of circuit board that physically connects the two cards to each other.

3. The Nvidia graphics drivers for linux have pretty well caught up to the graphics drivers for Windows (practically speaking), which means that SLI is a possibility for both OS'es.

Now, before I even began to play around with my two new freshly acquired Gigabyte GeForce 6600 GT's, I needed a motherboard to support them. I found an Abit An8-SLI motherboard on Ebay with all the parts included and thought, "What the heck!" But for days I couldn't get SLI to enable. In both operating systems, the graphics drivers gave vague messages about "no SLI configuration" or "unsupported chipset" or would neglect to show SLI options in the control panel views. To make a long story short, the problem was a simple one: The VGA BIOS on both graphics cards were too old to properly support SLI. Unfortunately, the BIOS upgrade program doesn't run in Linux... or Windows XP x64 Edition. This is where the triple-boot came in.

In a last ditch effort, I used an unused partition to install Windows XP 32-bit edition just to see if the BIOS upgrade program would work. I had previously tried it in x64, but to no avail. The program complained and stalled. However, in regular 32-bit Windows, the program worked so well that it UPGRADED BOTH CARDS' BIOS SIMULTANEOUSLY!!! After upgrading the BIOS, I restarted, and immediately upon restart (regardless of operating system!!) a window (or option) appeared asking whether I wanted to enable SLI, since I had a configuration to support it. Hell yeah!

Now I'm running in SLI mode in both operating systems without any sweating. It's nice, but the BIOS trick was a hard lesson to learn.
I don't remember what exactly forced the switch. Maybe I was tired of the colors. Maybe the constant updates became a bit "too" constant. Maybe I got bored. At any rate, I decided to give OpenSuse a whirl on the Acer laptop--just to see how the other side lives--and I have to say I'm impressed. It's one of the first distros where I didn't go changing the desktop around right away. In fact, it's over a month in, and I'm still using the same window manager, and all the panels are in the same places!

I also love the addition of the OpenSuse menu, whatever the name for it is. It's easy to use, it predicts my needs properly, and is generally unobtrusive. I never thought a "search" bar for programs would be such a godsend! I also love the little lizard's eye movements as he/she follows the pointer around.

That said, the package manager/hardware manager/system manager, YaST, has a steep learning curve. Took me a full week just to add software repositories and find all the system settings. However, once I did, I found myself using the command line less and less. Now I use it only to edit the xorg.conf and samba config files, but most other things I can do through graphical menus. It's kinda addictive!

The only really thing that I can't get to work no matter what I try is the "suspend to disk/ram" function. I've got full updates, and Kpowersave is able to execute hibernate and suspend just find, but it's something a bit more serious. Upon a full reboot, I can hibernate the laptop once. If I try to do it twice, it locks up. Something to do with the USB host controller--in never wakes up after the first hibernate, and uhci_hcd bangs its poor head against the wall trying to reinitialize the usb hub. I've tried removing most of the usb modules before hibernate to no avail--thus far. The answer may still be there, but I'm either too ignorant or too dumb or too impatient to figure it out.

Anyway, overall, I like running the green linux distro. It treats me well.

Current Linux Findings

Ah, fun stuff. I recently gave up my old Apple Dual-USB Ibook, even after so many trials, because the program I'm currently in doesn't allow Macs and because of the current state of Ubuntu linux. Change is a good thing, I guess.

So I'm now running an Acer Travelmate 292Lmi laptop, whose current specs are:

1.5 Centrino Intel Pentium, 768 MB PC2700? DDR (256 + 512), Ati Mobility Radeon 9200 64Mb, Intel Wireless 2200BG, 15" TFT LCD, 60GB hard drive (IDE), IrDA, Firewire, USB, DVD-RW, PCMCIA, bells, whistles, etc. Realtek Audio Sound set

I found it on ebay, so I had to buy a new version of Windows XP for the dual-boot thing. Luckily, at the school I'm attending, I can get it cheaper than retail. Generally, much of the experience is similar to the Ibook--suspend/hibernate is the same deal, the Ati graphics setup is very much the same, and the version of Ubuntu is the same (or was, considering that they're dropping PPC support).

Things that work out of the box:

Pretty much everything except the wireless card.

Things I've discovered:

The "radeon" Xorg driver actually works better for this chip than the "fglrx" ATI driver. I really don't know why, but I've tried both, and since the "radeon" driver is an Ubuntu native, it works better with the OS. "Fglrx" seems to cause more problems and doesn't give a significantly higher performance to justify its use, sadly enough.

The wireless switch is a damn mystery. It's a physical switch on the side of the laptop that REQUIRES A SOFTWARE DRIVER TO WORK! Flippin' crazy, but once it's switched on, the linux kernel works the card without hitch. In order to get it to work, I needed to:

foo@ubuntu: sudo insmod acerhk force_series=290
foo@ubuntu: echo "1" > /proc/driver/acerhk/wirelessled

After this, assuming the switch is in the "on" position, the little orange light comes on, and wireless internet begins to flow...

Hibernate with Ubuntu Edgy worked out of the box at first, but now it's gotten weird. Add that to the little CUPSD "Reading the driver database..." hangup, which I'm assuming many of you have experienced, and I'm thinking it's that time of year to do a little distro jumping. As terrible as it is, I'm going to give OpenSUSE a try. I know, I know, they're in bed with the devil, but I sold my soul to the devil when I started using the proprietary Nvidia drivers on my desktop, so if Novell SuSE works like a charm, I'll use it.

We'll see how it goes. On a side note, it's really nice to be back in an x86 distro in linux. I have Adobe Flash working, I have Sun Java, and I can use CrossOver Office for running Gradekeeper(tm)! Yippee! The Mac is starting to look like a red-headed stepchild, sadly enough...


Apple Ibook 700Mhz PowerPC 12" Dual USB

Mac OS X 10.3.99999

I owe you my Masters in Poetry

New version of VLC 0.8.6

This version of VLC is the first media player to play an AVI of "Bleach" on an Ibook G3 (700Mhz) at almost full speed. Flipping amazing. I'm so happy--now I don't have to boot into Ubuntu just to watch a movie. Check it out: Get VLC
Running Linux on an Apple Ibook is at once a pleasure and a nightmare. Upon first installing Ubuntu Edgy Eft, for example (or upgrading from Dapper -- which did, after some tweaking, work several times better), many things finally work out of the box. The wireless card, USB, laptop suspend/resume . . . all sorts of things that had previously been a pain. Even the sound card driver finally exceeds the Mac OS X driver. But it seems whenever performance is involved, there are no guides available. For example, on my Ibook2 dual usb, 700Mhz, 396Mb ram, once libdvdcss is installed, playing DVD's is relatively perfect . . . just slow. No problem--just enable DMA. That's what all the guides say-- edit your /etc/hdparm.conf file and enable it for the cd drive. Easy right?

Once DMA is enabled, things improve. DVD's play at almost-OSX speeds, and ... well, almost. There is a slight bit of lag that, no matter how much hdparm.conf is tweaked (and I've really messed it up several times) it doesn't go away. Enter the Apple Ibook Linux user's xorg.conf, normally filled with
Section "Device"
Identifier "ATI Technologies, Inc. Radeon Mobility M6 LY"
BusID "PCI:0:16:0"
Option "UseFBDev" "true"
Driver "ati"

Here's what I found after discovering how great Xgl is for an Apple Ibook. Some guy had posted his tweaked xorg.conf, so I tried his options and Voila! Many things began running much more smoothly . . . including
this new Beryl business (Yes! Ibook Users! You too can have Beryl!!)

If you have a similar card to the one listed above in an Ibook, try this:

Section "Device"
Identifier "ATI Technologies, Inc. Radeon Mobility M6 LY"
BusID "PCI:0:16:0"
Option "UseFBDev" "true" #if I don't enable this, I get a black screen
Driver "radeon"
Option "AGPMode" "2"
Option "AGPFastWrite" "yes"
Option "EnablePageFlip" "on"
Option "ColorTiling" "on"
Option "RenderAccel" "yes"
Option "BackingStore" "true"
Option "EnableDepthMoves" "true"
Option "DynamicClocks" "on"

After restarting the xserver, I didn't notice a huge performance boost, but the DVD lag went away, the picture improved, and generally things became more responsive. Good stuff. Oh, and also, in case you forget (because I always do) here is the HorizSync and VertRefresh settings for a 12" Apple Ibook 2002:

HorizSync 30-70
VertRefresh 40-150

Next time I'll tell you how I got beryl and beryl-manager up and running, and with all the tweaks. It's pretty quick, too, considering the old hardware. But after all, Mac OS X's bread and butter was OpenGl, so that may explain why running Xorg has much potential.

Edgy Eft --- as an UPGRADE!! *gasp*

I just upgraded from Ubuntu Dapper to Edgy Eft using the Package Manager "upgrade distro" option. So far so good ... I can see everything, it booted fine. . . uh oh, the clock didn't update . . . I don't think I have an internet connection . . . opening firefox and . . . nope, it's gone. Resetting DHCP and . . . okay, I have internet (I had to specify an ESSID though, which is inconvenient). Reset the clock by hand. . . Ah, okay. Played around with some network settings (with the Network system pane, not the applet shortcut). will keep trying . . .

Things have Changed

It's been a strange, yet lucky, few months in computing land. Current specs for both machines are as follows:

AMD Athlon x64 1.8Ghz
962(?) MB DDR
Nvidia GeForce FX 5500 128Mb
Chaintech 939 Motherboard

Apple Ibook DualUSB
PowerPC G3 700Mhz
ATI Rage Mobility 6 32MB
100Mhz Bus Speed

With the Desktop, I've gone back and forth between Linux distros, most recently trying Slackware, while still keeping Windows X64 Pro. As of two days ago, I went back to Ubuntu since Slackware just wasn't giving the love. Don't get me wrong: It's a solid distro, especially if the user keeps with the default package. But I needed something geared towards really easy desktop use, and Slackware, at least in the beginning stages, does not fit that criteria.

With the Laptop, I continually change back and forth between Mac OS X and Ubuntu. Sometimes I dual-boot, sometimes I just install one or the other. But a couple weekends ago, I gave Gentoo PPC a try since Gentoo always looks so interesting on PC's (and I have used it in the past). After getting everything in the "base" system up and running, I starting running "emerge --pkgonly" to install software (or something similar). It was when my Ibook still hadn't finished compiling Links after three hours that I decided an easier, more package-based distro was probably best.

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January 2009