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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.

Tue, 18 Jun 2019

My beautiful Linux development environment by Deepu K. Sasidharan

Deepu K. Sasidharan's Fedora desktop

Normally I would just microblog a link like this, but in this case I want to give myself a better chance of remembering it.

My beautiful Linux development environment by Deepu K Sasidharan on https://dev.to goes into detail about both hardware and software, and the tips on how to configure Fedora 30 with GNOME are very good, especially because many developers take unusual pride in their minimalist, non-mainstream window manager choices.

The tips on GNOME theming, Extensions and icon sets are particularly welcome. Deepu's other interesting choices include ZSH instead of Bash (I'm not sure if this has anything to do with macOS' shell switch, but I think it predates it), the Tilix terminal, which allows for easy window splits.

Deepu's tips include the Timeshift backup utility, which I'd never heard of. It's like Apple's Time Machine, but for Linux, and it's something I want to take a look at.

Thanks, Deepu.

Sun, 26 May 2019

A quick recap of the Fedora 30 upgrade

I just did the Fedora 29-to-30 upgrade on my old HP Pavilion g6 (AMD A6 APU, 8 GB RAM) laptop, and it went about as smoothly as expected.

I first did a regular sudo dnf upgrade, then I let GNOME Software do the rest.

After the upgrade, which took a long time, the system booted up as normal.

One thing I did forget: Every time I upgrade Fedora, I get a Dropbox popup about downloading the daemon. I said yes when I should have said no. Dropbox then proceeded to re-index 56K or so files, which took quite a while.

Also, there is no Dropbox repo for Fedora 30 from Dropbox the company, so I get an error when I dnf upgrade. I am not even sure I need that repo because I have RPM Fusion, but maybe I do. Dropbox tends to run behind, and it's not like they have to do anything beyond creating a /30 directory and flowing the files into it. They'll get to it eventually.

As far as GNOME 3 goes, I didn't notice it being faster or slower. This is OLD hardware (circa 2012), and it's not a wonderful experience anyway, and I usually use Xfce because it's way more responsive.

The new GNOME 3 icons don't look so great. They look like they were plucked from the early 2000s. The "old" icons from Fedora 29 are nicer.

The sensors/temperature GNOME Shell extension is working fine, but the Sensors Xfce panel add-on got the usual error about not being able to access /usr/bin/hddtemp and not giving me the hard-drive temperature in that desktop environment. I tried changing the permissions, like the popup suggests, and that didn't work. I added battery voltage so I would still have two things displaying in Sensors, so I can live with that.

I can't say for sure, but it seems like Xfce is starting up more quickly than in Fedora 29.

I already had Fedora Modular set up in F29, but this is my first "look" at the supposedly faster GNOME 3. I'll have to spend a little time running it to see what I think.

I have a feeling that the new GNOME icons and fonts are designed to look better on HD and UHD monitors. At least I hope that's the idea because on my 1366-by-768 screen, it all looks a little worse. I can probably go into the settings.

Speaking of settings, the GNOME Tweak Tool, now just called Tweak Tool, I think, has a really, really different icon; that one I like.

As I've written (or at least tweeted) in the recent past, the hard-core Fedora users and developers seem to be all about Silverblue, the immutable desktop with Flatpaks for most applications and containers for development. Right now I just need everything to work, so I'm not going to mess with that for a few more cycles at least.

Overall, I'm glad the upgrade went smoothly, and while I grumble about Fedora upgrades, they usually work, even though they take a long time. Even during the release cycle, Fedora is extremely dynamic, pushing new kernels all the time, so I don't know why it can't just be a rolling release, which I guess they already have with Rawhide. But I really don't see the difference, except that Rawhide is "newer" in some way. I'd rather get all this new stuff gradually (like we already do) and not have a fully up-to-date system that requires a 2-hour-plus update to replace pretty much the same packages that are already on the laptop in F29 versions with a mostly (and usually) identical bag of bits.

That is all. I still love Fedora and recommend it to developers, writers and both casual and serious users of all kinds. There are a few extra steps here and there to get things working (like multimedia in the Chromium browser), but it's all Googleable, and it's not like you won't run into issues with Ubuntu and Mint, because you do and you will.

As always, Fedora is one of the easiest ways to get new packages on a continuous basis, especially new kernels that will bring better hardware compatibility to your newish hardware much more quickly than Ubuntu, Debian and similar distros that don't bring you kernels one after the other.

Tue, 30 Apr 2019

How to get H.264 video working in Chromium on Fedora

I'm more comfortable using the Chromium web browser supplied by the Fedora team instead of Chrome as packaged by Google.

The only problem is that video doesn't generally work because the codecs that you might have installed so video works in Firefox don't work for Chromium.

The solution is to install the chromium-libs-media-freeworld package from the RPM Fusion Free repository.

If you haven't already added the RPM Fusion repos to your Fedora installation, I recommend you do it as soon as possible. (If you are a hard-charging software-freedom zealot, you already know why you do what you do or don't do.)

Once you have RPM Fusion hooked up, run this command to add the codec:

sudo dnf install chromium-libs-media-freeworld

Then restart Chromium, and you should be able to watch video from YouTube and others.

Fri, 15 Mar 2019

How to watch video with the Chromium browser in Fedora 29

When my Fedora 28 upgrade blew up, I didn't turn to Google's repository for Chrome when I reinstalled F28, sticking with Firefox only for as long as I could.

Eventually I needed a Chrome-equivalent browser, and I turned to the Fedora-packaged Chromium. It runs great, and I like that it's packaged by Fedora developers.

But it ships without the codecs required to watch video from places like YouTube.

It didn't bother me for awhile, but situations do come up where I need to see a video, and it's a little interruptive to start Firefox if I'm not using that browser already.

So I did a little web search and learned that there is a package from RPM Fusion that will take care of this issue.

If you already have the RPM Fusion repositories set up on your Fedora computer (and I recommend that you do it if you haven't already), just open a terminal and run this:

$ sudo dnf install h264enc

That will get you video in the Fedora-packaged Chromium browser. That's it. Easy, right?

Wed, 09 Jan 2019

Using Fedora Modularity in Fedora 28

Modularity is one of the big new features in Fedora 29, but it's also available in Fedora 28.

What is Modularity? As the project leader says in Fedora Magazine:

Modularity lets us ship different versions of packages on the same Fedora base. This means you no longer need to make your whole OS upgrade decisions based on individual package versions. For example, you can choose Node.js version 8 or version 10, on either Fedora 28 or Fedora 29. Or you can choose between a version of Kubernetes which matches OpenShift Origin, and a module stream which follows the upstream.

I want Node.js 10 instead of v.8, so I figured I'd try it out. I'm still running Fedora 28. I haven't upgraded yet. The upgrade from F27 to F28 didn't go so smoothly that I'm eager to do it just yet.

If you want to try Modularity in F28, it helps to read the docs.

First you have to enable the Modular Repository:

$ sudo dnf install fedora-repos-modular

Then you can check for available modules:

$ dnf module list

I like to live on the edge, so I'm going to install Node.js 11:

$ sudo dnf module install nodejs:11

That worked, and now I have Node.js 11. Remember, read the documentation -- that's how I got this far.

Thu, 13 Dec 2018

Cygwin and Unison, trying again (and failing)

After I made a permission change on the server and broke the ability of Unison in Cygwin to sync with same, I decided to blow away the files on the Cygwin-controlled filesystem in Windows and try again.

I created a file in Cygwin, and that synced fine. But once I created a file on the server and tried to sync from Cygwin, I got a bad bigarray kind error, and that was that.

Wed, 31 Oct 2018

Cygwin troubles with Unison

I got the input_value: bad bigarray kind error in Unison. What I did before I got the error was to change some permissions on files on the server. Unison is not picking those up from the laptop, and the process ends with the error and no file transfers.

This makes my last entry somewhat problematic.

I tried the Windows version of Unison once, and it was permissions trouble that kept me from using it. The Unison files in Cygwin are living in a Windows filesystem, and maybe it's still a problem.

Tue, 30 Oct 2018

Cygwin and the Windows Subsystem for Linux, when to use one and not the other

tl;dr: The Windows Subsystem for Linux is shiny and new, and its great when your environment has to be exactly like Ubuntu (or whatever distro your WSL is based on), but if your aim is to use Linux tools on Windows files, Cygwin is a better choice.

Cygwin, the Linux environment for Windows, has been around for a very long time, but I've never used it. Until now.

During the year or so that I've been running Windows 10, I tapped into the Windows Subsystem for Linux (aka Bash on Windows, aka Ubuntu on Windows) as my Linux-in-Windows environment so I could have the best of both worlds, or at least all of one world and a great deal of the other.

When I first started with Windows 10 and the WSL, what I thought I would do with Linux on Windows was manage files and do little sysadmin-style tasks like update this blog via Unison (very doable in the WSL) and back up Windows files (NOT doable in the WSL). I thought I could have a Windows computer but do everything in a Linux shell.

It was not meant to be.

Once I realized that my WSL and Windows filesystems were on two different islands and that using one system to edit the other's files was difficult at best and file-destroying at worse, I abandoned my idea of using WSL Linux tools to manage my Windows environment.

As I say above, I used the WSL as my Windows 10 blog-writing and syncing environment, and it has worked very well for that task, except that my files are all in the WSL filesystem, and I have to do all of my writing in the WSL's Bash shell. That's not a hardship per se. I used the opportunity to improve my Vim skills, and I got even better with Vim when I began using it on the Windows side to do my text processing and editing.

Still, having to transfer text files and images from Windows to Bash/WSL was an extra step. I do have a Bash script that does it for me, but it would be easier if the WSL could work with files anywhere on the Windows drive..

Recently something — and I can't remember what that something was — got me thinking about Cygwin. It has LOTS of Linux packages, including the old version of Unison that I had to pin in Ubuntu WSL so my syncing setup would continue working. And it was made to work in the Windows filesystem.

I downloaded and installed Cygwin, and I began building up my environment. I even added X and the Geany text editor just to see how the GUI works. (It's awkward but usable. Unlike X on the WSL, it is supported.

Unfortunately, while I initially got Cygwin's Unison to work with my Linux shared-hosting account, once I changed some file permissions on the server, the file-synching program stopped working. So I'm back to the WSL for my Unison synching needs. I also installed rsync, and I still hope to be able to use it to back up the Windows side of the laptop.

I've already been using Cygwin instead of the Git Bash shell (which I've been using since I discovered it in my Windows right-click menu) to create files and directories in Windows, though Cygwin's failure to run Unison seamlessly with a Linux server on the other end has somewhat tempered my excitement over having yet another Linux alternative in Windows. Today I just right-clicked into Git Bash to create a few files and directories for my morning news production.

You may be thinking, "If he's so comfortable with Linux tools, why use Windows at all?" That's a fair point. I'm not happy about Cygwin's inability to sync with a Linux server, but I still have the WSL, and I recognize its value.

Wed, 11 Jul 2018

It's 2018, and I'm still dealing with suspend/resume issues in Fedora 28 on my 5-year-old HP laptop

One of the reasons I decided to do much of my daily computing with the Windows 10 operating system that came with my other newer HP laptop is the constant trickle of issues that I'm tired of dealing with in Linux.

I'm running a newly installed Fedora 28 on this 2012-made (and 2013-bought) HP Pavilion g6 -- meaning there has been ample time for all hardware incompatibilities to be resolved. But when returning from suspend/resume, everything works except for the wired networking. WiFi is fine, as is the display, sound, keyboard and mouse.

But wired networking won't work until I reboot.

For the record, the WiFi card is a Qualcomm Atheros AR9485, and the wired Ethernet card is a Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL810xE PCI Express Fast Ethernet controller, both according to lspci.

The "culprit" in this case is the r8169 module, and I tried this 2013-era fix: Fix Network after Resume from suspend in Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

This ancient fix did not work.

While there's a detective/hobbyist aspect to solving these problems in Linux, I'd rather that things just worked. I saw a Fedora bug report on this issue from 2016, and it's fairly obvious that this regression hasn't been resolved. There's even a 2018 update that points this out.

The good part of this bug is that it only affects my Realtek wired interface. The Atheros WiFi interface works fine after suspend/resume, and since I use WiFi most of the time, this issue shouldn't keep me from getting things done. It's still a pain.

Sun, 08 Jul 2018

I'm running Fedora the way the Fedora people want me to run Fedora

Before my Fedora 27-to-28 upgrade failed in a spectacular enough fashion that I had to figure out how to reinstall the operating system while keeping my user files (spoiler alert: I was successful in doing it), I had a system that had been though maybe 10 successful upgrades and had collected plenty of cruft along the way.

This particular laptop, now a 5-year-old HP Pavilion g6, made it through the transitions from yum to dnf and X11 to Wayland and from the time the Catalyst/AMD driver worked to when it didn't (and I didn't need it).

For the F28 upgrade to go wrong was very much out of character for my experience with Fedora, which I began using with F13 (quickly upgraded to F14) on my previous laptop, a 2010-era Lenovo G555, before an upgrade-gone-bad sent me to Debian for the rest of its life. That cheap Lenovo died a quick death in 2013, going to sleep one minute, not waking up, ever again, the next.

There were and are many reasons to run Fedora. But for me, the constant flow of new Linux kernels meant my at-the-time new hardware would be supported much more quickly than in distros that kept the same kernel for the life of the release. And to get that constant newness, all I had to do was make sure the system was updated. That was my No. 1.

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