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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

Regular blog here, 'microblog' there

Many of my traditional blog post live on this site, but a great majority of my social-style posts can be found on my much-busier microbloging site at updates.passthejoe.net. It's busier because my BlogPoster "microblogging" script generates short, Twitter-style posts from the Linux or Windows (or anywhere you can run Ruby with too many Gems) command line, uploads them to the web server and send them out on my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Sun, 25 Aug 2013

Must-read blog post: On Leaving Ubuntu by Benjamin Kerensa

Big-time Ubuntu contributer Benjamin Kerensa blogs on why he's leaving Ubuntu.

Canonical's next move after $32 million Ubuntu Edge crowfunding failure: Find a real phone, put your damn system on it AND JUST SHIP SOMETHING ALREADY

I'm not surprised about the failure of Canonical/Ubuntu's million "give us , we promise to give you a phone packed with unproven, yet-to-be-seen technology sometime next year" campaign.

And it's not success wrapped in failure. It's just failure.

First of all, is a lot of money.

Second, Canonical is a company that has done a lot -- Ubuntu has certainly (and sometimes even successfully) gone its own way in the Linux desktop, server and cloud spaces. Live CDs, more drivers, a dependable release cycle for a Debian-based distribution, a huge and helpful community. Those are all great. But that seems so ... 2010. For Canonical anyway.

Canonical has promised a whole lot and delivered almost none of it:

  • Ubuntu TV (I don't think anybody ever wanted it ...)
  • That dockable Ubuntu-running Android phone from a couple years or so ago (seems eerily like Ubuntu Edge)
  • Ubuntu Touch preloaded on a phone or tablet (they're promising this "early next year")
  • Meaningful numbers of preloaded Ubuntu desktops (despite the claim by SABDFL Mark Shuttleworth of high percentages of Ubuntu-running PCs, you can barely find them in the real world)
  • The multicore Ubuntu ARM server (Remember that thing at the last [or nearly last] "real" UDS? It wasn't a Ubuntu-made product, but they did feature it, and I don't see it)

All we do have is Unity -- a desktop environment optimized for touch and tablet with few to no devices to show for it unless you can geek out and install it yourself.

Unity is a big achievement. I don't blame Canonical for jumping off of GNOME. I knew they'd go their own way when they couldn't control the upstream.

But this Ubuntu Edge thing was over the top. Asking tens of thousands to part with today for a phone next year that promises cutting-"Edge" hardware unproven by any manufacturer -- and all this from a company that has NEVER SHIPPED A SINGLE HARDWARE PRODUCT?

(Unless I'm missing something, Canonical has never shipped hardware of any kind.)

No. No. No!

Canonical can fix this. Here's what they should do today:

  • Find an existing phone -- a Nexus something-or-other -- that they can get in quantity
  • Pound Ubuntu Touch into this device so everything runs as it should. Order up these devices by the thousands, flashed with Ubuntu Touch and ready for market
  • Repeat for the tablet form factor
  • And then sell the damn things

Once again if I'm not being clear:

  • Develop for -- and sell -- the hardware that's available today. Just do it. Do it. Stop asking for multi-millions in advance and START FOCUSING ON DEVICES YOU CAN SHIP TODAY

Just ship. Everything else is noise.

Tue, 20 Aug 2013

Best coffee mug ever

Buy one here.

Mon, 19 Aug 2013

Pipelight: A new way to run Netflix in Linux (or at least in Ubuntu and Arch)

Pipelight is a new project that aims to bring Netflix in the web browser to Linux systems.

Right now they are focusing on Ubuntu (there's a PPA) and Arch, though you can build it from source if you fly that way.

I never could get the other Netflix-on-Linux project to work in Fedora, though I did get it to run in Debian (and was somewhat amazed that I could bring an Ubuntu PPA into Debian without breakage).

But I also dropped Netflix and for the time being stopped caring about running it at all.

Maybe I'll change my mind in future, but for now consider this a public service announcement for those of you who still subscribe to Netflix and want to watch it in Linux. (In case you were wondering, yes, Netflix should support this out of the box and shouldn't require Windows or OS X in order to view the content you paid for.)

Sun, 18 Aug 2013

AMD Catalyst 13.8 beta driver for Linux working again in my Fedora 19 system, but suspend/resume isn't

Possibly (and in all likelihood probably) because of an error in the RPM Fusion package, when the 13.8 beta of the AMD Catalyst video driver for Linux replaced version 13.6 beta on my Fedora 19 system, it pretty much broke video and led me to remove kmod-catalyst and its associates and go back to the open Radeon driver.

X was dying when I ran most apps. That's bad.

So I waited for an updated Catalyst driver from RPM Fusion, and one finally arrived.

I installed the new 13.8 beta via the RPM Fusion package, and while video does work again, suspend/resume does not. This all worked on my AMD Radeon HD 7420g video chip in the 13.6 beta.

At least I have 3D acceleration back. Here's hoping for the return of working suspend/resume in the next Catalyst-for-Linux release from AMD. Better than that would be working 3D and suspend/resume from the free-software driver that ships with Fedora (and every damn other version of Linux).

But a working proprietary driver is better than nothing, so I'll take it.

Sat, 17 Aug 2013

Read this at Medium: She left Google

It's short on specifics, long on other things, but Ellen Huerta's "Why I Left Google" is worth reading if only to illustrate how it's possible to be unhappy at Google, especially if you're in your 20s.

Read the rest of this post

Sun, 11 Aug 2013

Stop looking at fucking Twitter on your fucking phone

It's not just you.

I'm doing it, too.

It's annoying. I'm annoying when I look at Twitter multiple times per day on my phone.

Are you doing it? You could very well be an annoying pain in the ass.

The fix is easy. Are you with me on this?

Wed, 07 Aug 2013

The AMD Catalyst 13.8 beta video driver for Linux is out, and it breaks my system

So I finally get working 3D acceleration and suspend/resume and get rid of artifacts in Fedora 19 on my HP Pavilion g6 laptop (AMD A4-4300M APU with AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics) with the 13.6 beta version of the AMD Catalyst driver for Linux.

Except that the 13.8 beta driver was released about a week ago, and it finally came into my system via RPM Fusion.

And it broke X. Login is fine, but most applications -- including Firefox -- cause X to quit and send me back to the login prompt.

Not good at all.

I had to rip out kmod-catalyst and all associated packages and return to the open-source Radeon driver, which works great -- except for the aforementioned artifacts, lack of working 3D acceleration and refusal to resume after suspend.

No dependency hell here. RPM and the Yum package manager (which I'm using via the Yumex graphical front end) have performed admirably. But it's pretty hard to revert to 13.6 due to all the other related packages that have been upgraded to 13.8.

I haven't filed a bug on the driver just yet, and the consensus seems to be that AMD developers generally ignore such efforts. There is an "unofficial" Bugzilla instance, and Phoronix readers are discussing 13.8 as well.

So now I wait for the next build of the Catalyst driver to see if my system will like it.

Fri, 02 Aug 2013

Hostgator and this site were down today -- the problem is in Provo

Hostgator is usually plenty reliable. I don't remember the last bout with downtime.

But we had one today. All of my Hostgator-hosted sites were down for what seemed like an hour.

The sites -- including this one -- are back now.

Hostgator says a networking issue at its Provo data center is responsible for the outage. They are working on resolving the issue, according to the forum thread.

Mashable has a story about how the Provo problem is affecting Hostgator, Bluehost and HostMonster, which are all owned by parent company Endurance International Group.

While I've been pretty lucky in terms of the amount of downtime I've experienced from this outage, others in the Mashable thread report up to nine hours of downtime for their sites.

At least one commenter says that ever since Hostgator upgraded the hardware on his/her account, service has been spotty. My account's server has been upgraded, and all I've noticed until today have been performance improvements.

Here's hoping that Hostgator gets this together and we can all go back to not worrying about site availability.

No new stable AMD Catalyst driver for Linux, but there is a new 13.8 beta that runs with the 3.10 kernel

Given that releases seem to happen about every two months, I pegged July 28-31, 2013, as the time when AMD would release a new Catalyst video driver for Linux.

On Aug. 1, 2013, AMD did release a new driver, version 13.8.

The most notable changes, from my perspective anyway, are support for the 3.10 Linux kernel.

So that's why there have been no kmod-catalyst updates from RPM Fusion for Fedora. Hopefully we will see one soon (and if it happens in the next few days, my faith in humanity, Fedora and RPM Fusion will be restored).

Keep an eye on this RPM Fusion page for a new kmod-catalyst driver.

Other than fixes of bugs I don't understand, and besides support for the 3.10 kernel, the most notable change is the removal of the "Testing use only" watermark from the lower right corner of the screen. Annoying, that watermark is.

Here's looking forward to a stable release of the AMD Catalyst driver that supports my newish AMD A4-4300M APU with AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics.

Is my problem with Catalyst or other? I am having one issue with suspend-resume, which only works at all, by the way, with the Catalyst driver: Everything seems fine when I resume, except that the system doesn't think I have an optical drive any more. The output of cd-drive in the terminal shows no drives available. When I reboot, the drive returns to the ranks of living peripherals.