I am running out of names for computers

Somewhere in 2010/11 I decided to clean up mess of naming machines at home and decided to go with character names from “Winnie the Pooh” books (Polish edition). Today I got new developer board and had to spend a moment to get a name for it.

So “klapouchy” (Eyeore) will be new name for DragonBoard. Maybe not best one but most of the names are already taken:

  • krzys (Christopher Robin) is my router (because Chris decides who can enter Hundred Acre Wood which is the name of my WiFi network)
  • puchatek (Winnie the Pooh) is main desktop
  • lumpek (Lumpy) is conference laptop (it was lucek before because it got Ubuntu Lucid as first system)
  • gofer (Gopher) is Efika MX Smartbook
  • krolik (Rabbit) is Samsung Chromebook
  • malenstwo (Roo) is Pandaboard (there were malenstwo-a1 and malenstwo-ea1 when I had two boards)
  • prosiaczek (Piglet) was MX53 Quickstart
  • kangurzyca (Kanga) is my wife laptop (she chosen the name)
  • sowa (Owl) is another router
  • tygrysek (Tigger) is my VPS (at beginning it was up/down/up/down all the time)

So most of the names from books are already taken. There are also Disney movies which adds few new ones (like Gopher and Lumpy) and cartoons (which I am not fan of). In worst case one day I will start re-using names or add names from other story.

What I used before? Desktop was “home” or “hrw”, Dell laptop (now “kangurzyca”) was “maluch” (small) due to 12″ size, “lumpek” was “lucek” due to Ubuntu Lucid installed and rest was named by hardware name (which is a default in OpenEmbedded).

How you are naming your machines?

New laptop: Asus UL30A

New job, new laptop someone would say… But that’s not so easy when you have own company.

But my Dell D400 became desktop laptop due to nearly dead battery and I had UDS-M to visit so needed new mobile computer for use. After some checking of reviews, user opinions etc there were few models selected. Hopefully nearly at same time my brother-in-law bought Asus UL30A so I could check live how good/bad it is.

And one day my own UL30A arrived. Hard disk was clean — no MS Windows, no ASUS ExpressGate. Grabbed 2GB pen drive, put Kubuntu 10.04-rc2 image on it and booted. With help of “alternate install” which in reality means “Debian installer” I was able to setup it in my way (encrypted partition with LVM on top so rootfs, swap, home are encrypted).

System works fine, all components were supported out-of-box. At least that was what I thought. After some checking it was clear that something is wrong with touchpad — it got detected as PS/2 mouse with scroll. 2.6.34 kernel from Maverick solved problem after using “force_elantech=1” option for “psmouse” module.

Dual core SU7300 processor maybe is not fastest possible but does work properly and uses small amount of power. During UDS I was able to carry only laptop with me — power supply was on desk in hotel room. With few tweaks from PowerTop I was able to get 8h of work (sometimes even 10h were reported). Such long battery life was the main reason for buying 😉

When it comes to graphics everything works fine. Intel 4500 chipset works fine with my 42″ plasma TV offering me 1366×768 from internal LCD + 1920×1080 over HDMI. Watching films never was such easy — I just need to plug cable and play as audio is also sent. Problem is that I had to tell MPlayer which ALSA device to use for HDMI 🙁 Maybe one day it will be automatically detected and switched. What surprised me was console output on TV when I rebooted with HDMI cable attached. Nice thing.

Playing 720p movies from local hard drive required few steps from me (otherwise it gets out of sync):

  1. disable internal LCD
  2. switch TV to 720p mode (instead of 1080p)
  3. big cache for MPlayer

Maybe other players works better but I am so used to MPlayer… Before it I used avifile iirc.

Do I recommend this laptop? Yes, I do — long battery life, 13,3″ screen, 4GB of memory, 320GB hard disk and dual core cpu make it nice portable work station. Small enough to watch films during train trips, keeps long enough to allow to do that even in trains without power sockets. It is good replacement for my Dell D400.

Cursing Intel

I am using Dell D400 laptop as my 32bit test machine and during conferences. It has Pentium-M cpu and Intel 855GM/ICH4 chipset. And this is where problem starts…

As I like to use text console on it I wanted to get XGA (1024×768) framebuffer on it. So first try was “use intelfb”. But “video=intelfb:mode=1024×768-32@60” or “modprobe intelfb mode=1024×768-32@60” results in same message:

[ 1760.280291] intelfb: Framebuffer driver for Intel(R) 830M/845G/852GM/855GM/865G/915G/915GM/945G/945GM/945GME/965G/965GM chipsets
[ 1760.280368] intelfb: Version 0.9.6
[ 1760.280471] intelfb: 00:02.0: Intel(R) 855GM, aperture size 128MB, stolen memory 892kB
[ 1760.289927] intelfb: Non-CRT device is enabled ( LVDS port ).  Disabling mode switching.
[ 1760.290251] intelfb: Video mode must be programmed at boot time.

The solution is to give kernel “vga=792” argument but it is not possible here as kernel thinks that 800×600-8 is highest available one.

OK, I can use X11 and terminal there — this works fine. But why kernel got so broken? Probably Intel developers do not test their changes on something older then i945 chipsets (and thats only because it is used in Atom based devices).

Looks like I need to do “git bisect” to check when it broke and then create some hack to get proper behaviour…

Stuck at 600MHz

During this week I work on my Dell D400 laptop. It uses Pentium-M 1.6GHz processor which has few work frequencies available due to acpi-cpufreq kernel driver. The lowest one is 600MHz and normally this machine spends most of time with that speed but goes up when there is some work to do (due to ondemand governor which I mostly use).

But since yesterday it is not so nice… During boot CPU is often detected as 600MHz one:

[    0.693310] Detected 598.133 MHz processor.

instead of nominal speed:

[    0.693310] Detected 1594.845 MHz processor.

I tried rebooting but even if there was boot at nominal speed it sooner or later got stuck at lowest:

root@maluch:/var/log# cpufreq-info
cpufrequtils 002: cpufreq-info (C) Dominik Brodowski 2004-2006
Report errors and bugs to linux@brodo.de, please.
analyzing CPU 0:
  driver: acpi-cpufreq
  CPUs which need to switch frequency at the same time: 0
  hardware limits: 600 MHz - 1.60 GHz
  available frequency steps: 1.60 GHz, 1.40 GHz, 1.20 GHz, 1000 MHz, 800 MHz, 600 MHz
  available cpufreq governors: powersave, userspace, conservative, ondemand, performance
  current policy: frequency should be within 600 MHz and 600 MHz.
                  The governor "performance" may decide which speed to use
                  within this range.
  current CPU frequency is 600 MHz (asserted by call to hardware).

Weird it is… And this is not overheating because 44°C is nothing strange for this machine. Maybe CPU fan require replacing… but this also means splitting laptop into small parts to get access to it 🙁

Battery replace time?

During GUADEC I decided that I need to buy new battery for my Dell D400 laptop. Current one is giving me 40-50 minutes of working only. According to ACPI informations it is really low charged:

11:44 hrw@maluch:BAT0$ cat info
present:                 yes
design capacity:         42000 mWh
last full capacity:      11530 mWh
battery technology:      rechargeable

So it does not get even half of nominal charge. I wonder how much time I will be able to get from 4400mAh battery (current one is 3800mAh when most of available ones are 3600mAh).

And this time I really need to buy one.

UPDATE: bought one — will get it in few days.

17″ laptops are huge

pile of laptops

Few days ago one of my friends asked me for help on choosing laptop. The idea was “I want to buy laptop to use instead of my 7 years old desktop”. We were discussing few options and he finally found Dell Inspiron 9400 for less then 1000 EUR. It is interesting machine:

  • 17″ display with 1400×900 resolution
  • Core 2 Duo cpu
  • 2GB ram
  • ATI X1400 gfx card
  • 160GB Serial ATA disk

After checking who seller is we decided that I will go and buy that laptop (seller was from Poznań).

Yesterday I bought that beast and I have to say one thing — it is HUGE (bottom one on photo). I am used to my 12″ D400 (top one on photo) and sometimes I use Ania’s 15.4″ laptop (middle one) when I need MS Windows.

As usual it comes with MS Windows — this time it was Vista Home Premium. It was my first time with Vista — so now I can tell that I used all MS Windows versions (from 1.01 to Vista). What do I think of it? Hard to tell because I do not used it too much. Looks nice and takes some time to find things which were in XP.

Now when I used 17″ laptop I know that I do not want such one — 12-15.4″ are enough size for travelling. And for desktop I prefer desktop machine with big LCD then 17″ laptop.

LVM is good thing

Some time ago I bought 320GB hard disk to my desktop machine (which also is my main developer box). I decided to try LVM on it and created one volume group which consists whole HDD. There is one partition on it: /home. It works good but I still had 104GB not used on older disk.

Today I finally found time to extend LVM to get use of old hdd space. Few commands later I have 400GB /home partition which use two discs and is easy to expand in future.

But desktop has easy configuration. When I bought Dell D400 I decided to remove Microsoft Windows XP from it (legal copy) and use this machine only under Linux.

Booted Debian ‘Etch’ installer via PXE/TFTP and split hdd into two parts: /boot partition and rest for crypted LVM. During start I am asked for passphrase and then rootfs is mounted, machine is booted into KDE. Swap partition is also crypted so even after suspend you can not check what was running.

So LVM is good solution if you have few hard disks in machine and does not want to think how to mount them to have them best used — simply join them into one big partition and mount (or few partitions but with easy resizing). It is also good when you want to crypt data — easy to configure and setup. The only minus is that it require initramfs if you have rootfs on LVM. But Debian makes this thing also easy to do 🙂

WPA in Debian and Poky

During last week I switched my home WiFi from insecure WEP to WPA2.

Why not used WPA before? My x86 test machine was ProGear which use Orinoco PCMCIA card (no WPA support) and I also used Tosa with that crap called wlan-ng (also no WPA support). Now I have USB Ethernet card and PCMCIA->CF adapter so both can be connected via wire or with CF WiFi card (Prism2 with 1.8.4 firmware so WPA out-of-box).

But since I use Dell D400 as x86 test machine ProGear is not powered — I will probably put it on shelf to get some desk space free (there is no such thing as big enough desk — just ones that are not cluttered yet).

But how to get WPA working in Debian, Poky, Ångström, OpenZaurus or other distros? You basically need few things:

  • WPA-Supplicant
  • card with good driver (so no Orinoco or wlan-ng crap)
  • proper configuration
  • network with WPA

First I configured “maluch” (D400). Installed wpasupplicant package and discovered that it is not supported out-of-box. README propose two methods:

  1. Use only one network and configure network in /etc/network/interfaces
  2. Roaming networks with extra scripts

I decided to follow 3rd way where you need to edit /etc/network/interfaces just to tell wpa-supplicant which config it has to use and which driver:

iface eth1 inet dhcp
        wpa-driver wext
        wpa-conf /etc/wpa_supplicant/config

This way wpa-supplicant is started automatically with /etc/wpa_supplicant/config file as configuration. This file also contain all networks which you want to connect. It can be edited by hand or using external tools — wpa_cli or wpa_gui (QT3/QT4). Have to check does it works ok with other networks then my home one but it should work.

Then same configuration on Zaurus C760 running Poky — Prism2 card in CompactFlash slot. Connecting to network works out-of-box now. On Nokia 770 all I need to to was entering WPA-PSK key.

The worst part was MS Windows laptop — I had to remove all networks from list of preferred ones, reboot and then enter WPA-PSK key to get it working.

Now it should be harder to connect to my network 😉

Dell D400 – installation report

OK, system (Debian ‘etch’) was installed and then upgraded to ‘sid’. Everything is working with Linux (kernel 2.6.18 from Etch):

  • ACPI reports battery status, battery is charging without problems.
  • Dell Wireless 1450 card works — I only had to install bcm43xx firmware (which I took from Cafuego’s Sarge Backports repository). There is also other way — Debian contain package bcm43xx-fwcutter which extracts firmware from Windows drivers.
  • Gigabit Ethernet works with tg3 kernel module (tested with 100Mbps Ethernet only).
  • CPU Frequency scaling works with speedstep-centrino module and provides wide range: 1600MHz, 1400MHz, 1200MHz, 1000MHz, 800MHz, 600MHz so it is possible to extend battery life with it.
  • Backlight control (via Fn+Up/Down buttons) works — it is handled by hardware/BIOS probably.
  • Touchpad was wrongly recognized — it is not Synaptic but ALPS so edit of /etc/X11/xorg.conf was needed. All informations what to change are described in README.alps (part of xserver-xorg-input-synaptic package). Idea found on Ubuntu blog.
  • Suspend to disk works, suspend to RAM also works.

In other words — no problems yet — everything works like it should.

Dell D400 arrived

Dell D400 and Debian Installer

Yesterday evening I got Dell D400 laptop from courier. It is 12″ portable notebook with 1.6GHz Pentium M cpu and 512M of RAM. Only harddisk as storage as in such small case there is no space for CD/DVD drive (which is available as external accessory).

More detailed specification:

  • Intel Pentium M 1.6GHz CPU with 2MB cache
  • Intel 855 chipset
  • 512MB RAM
  • 40GB harddisk (5400 RPM)
  • 12″ LCD
  • touchpad
  • trackpoint
  • Broadcom BCM5705M Gigabit Ethernet
  • Broadcom BCM4309 WiFi 802.11/a/b/g miniPCI card (DELL wireless 1450)
  • FireWire
  • RS232 port

Windows XP Professional was installed so I used Debian Win32 installer but then I broke something in installer so as result machine stopped booting from HDD. Today after half of hour spent on fighting with PXE Boot I have Debian 4.0 ‘etch’ installer running.

The plan is to have Debian ‘sid’ (as I have on desktop) on crypted LVM and use this machine as x86 build machine (some things in OpenEmbedded does not work properly on my amd64) and for conferences so I will be able to read my mail with normal tools. Due to fact that it has RS232 port it will probably also work as machine for checking kernel logs from Zaurus machines (usable for helping with SD/MMC driver for collie).

I will write more when system will be working — now it is still fetching packages to install.