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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.

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.

Read the rest of this post

Wed, 16 May 2018

Fedora 28: I'm trying to keep it simple

My Fedora 27 system died a less-than-noble death at the hands of a Fedora 28 upgrade.

Maybe my error was upgrading too early (it was about a week after the release), or maybe it was because my system was too old. I probably started this installation on Fedora 17 or 18. That's a lot of upgrades, and one was bound to go south. This was that one.

So I reinstalled Fedora 28 from the ISO via USB, keeping my same partitions. (Note to Fedora developers: This should be easier to do. I had to bluff my way through it.)

Now that I have a new Fedora, I'm trying to keep it simple.

Instead of a bunch of desktop environments (GNOME, KDE, Xfce, LXDE), I'm sticking with the stock GNOME.

I'm only slowly adding the things that died with F27. I just added the RPM Fusion repositories, and before that I installed the Ruby programming language and all the packages I needed to install the gems I need. I have everything

I don't even have Google Chrome. Don't need it. Firefox has made a lot of progress in the past year, and who doesn't need less spying?

Normally I'm an Xfce user, but I can get around (and get along) with GNOME 3.

Nautilus -- or Files as it's now called -- is appreciably fast, especially compared to the Windows file manager (where the lag is not a deal breaker but is noticeable).

I'm enjoying using gEdit (aka Text Editor). I'm not saying I won't add Geany at some point, but for now this works. I added the gedit-plugins so I could get the built-in-terminal, though Menu - Tools - External Tools - Open Terminal Here is probably more useful.

Fedora pro tip: Install Dropbox from the RPM Fusion repository, not the Dropbbox repo

Since I had to reinstall Fedora 28 (though I got to keep my files), I'm still setting things up.

Among those things I'm still setting up is Dropbox. Since the Dropbox service itself is not free software, you won't find a Dropbox package in the main Fedora repository.

You can get an RPM package directly from Fedora, but I don't recommend it. Why? Because I just installed it, and dnf was having issues with the Dropbox repo.

So I removed that package, removed the repo from /etc/yum.repos.d, and added the RPM Fusion repositories with the links on the configuration page. Make sure you get both the free and nonfree repos.

Then install Dropbox from the command line:

$ sudo dnf install dropbox

Note on RPM Fusion: You can certainly run Fedora without RPM Fusion, but I wouldn't.

Dropbox update: The Nautilus integration with Dropbox -- at least when it comes to those little icons that tell you if a particular folder or file is synced, syncing or not synced -- is broken. I can't tell if it's me, Dropbox, or GNOME Files that is messing up. I tried completely deleting my Dropbox dot files/folders, and that didn't make a difference, except for a long operation to re-sync everything.

Getting your Ruby development environment together in Fedora

The only reason I'm revisiting this topic is that a failed Fedora 27-to-28 upgrade forced me to reinstall Fedora 28, and I just had to get Ruby and a few gems installed and working.

It wasn't easy, and it makes me want to recommend Ubuntu and Debian over Fedora because I strongly suspect that those distros make it easier.

My first recommendation for Linux in general is to use the Ruby that your distro ships with. I know there are ways to get exactly the Ruby you want, and there are developers who need to do that, but I'm not in that particular boat, so I use what the distro ships.

In keeping with the distro-approved Ruby, I also try to use the local Linux package manager to install as many gems as are available. Linux package management makes everything easier and less prone to breakage, so I try to use it wherever possible.

I needed the nokogiri gem, and that was available as a package.

Not so for the twitter gem. I needed to use gem install, and right away I ran into a problem. Before I could install (and build) the gem, I needed to install a few things in Fedora. Luckily I found this web page that told me exactly what to do:

$ sudo dnf install ruby-devel
$ sudo dnf group install "C Development Tools and Libraries"
$ sudo dnf install redhat-rpm-config

Only then could I use gem install to get the twitter gem:

$ gem install twitter

I'm pretty sure that both Debian and Ubuntu package the twitter gem, making all of this unnecessary.