Archive for February, 2007|Monthly archive page
In other news, Debian Etch rocks!
Recently after having some friends ask me what’s so great about linux on my desktop, I decided to pull out the big guns and really impress them. I decided to install beryl.
Now I’ve tried this procedure before with some sucess – I installed compiz and XGL on my main PC with a Radeon 9600. It was hell to get DRI working with the binary drivers, setup XGL, hack up GDM, and finally get compiz to work, and it didn’t look or feel that different.
This time was completely different.
My laptop (The wonderful Sony VAIO PCG-TR1mp) has an Intel i810 (I think, it might be 830, 850, 915, or something weird like that), which has open source drivers in the kernel and in Xorg. I had previously rolled my own kernel (To get my Wacom tablet working, I needed newer than the 2.6.18 builtin to Etch), so it was dead easy to compile in the DRM module for the graphics. I hit upon a slight problem when Xorg refused to use DRI because I had selected the i810 driver – one quick dive into menuconfig to change this to 915, reboot, restart X, and I had DRI. From there I configured xorg.conf (Using the gentoo instructions of course) for DRI and AIGLX. Restart xorg, glxinfo / glxgears, and it’s all fine and dandy.
I hit upon a slight snag when I noticed beryl wasn’t available in etch, only compiz – one quick google search and adding a new repository (Don’t have the URL handy at the moment, will add it later), then I could apt-get beryl and emerald-themes. Restart Xorg, start beryl-manager in an xterm, select WM as beryl, and we have wobbly windows, jelly on the desktop, and desktops on a dice. Wahoo!
In other (again) news: GCSE mock exams start next week, therefore I will be mentally scarred for the remainer of my life. It’s been nice knowing you. Lucky bastards with the modular GCSEs.
Well, as anybody who sort-of knows me knows, I’ve been using Gentoo linux for a long time, and have been strongly against anything else. But recently my Gentoo install died on my laptop, due to suspend2 getting rather confused and completely corrupting up my root filesystem – it seemed quicker and easier, instead of trying to restore all the files from /lost+found etc. to just reinstall (Yay for /home on a different partition). As this laptop is (only) 900MHz, I didn’t want to do a full gentoo reinstall, and I needed to be up and running quickly to get back to work. So I decided to try debian…
I’ve had a long history of being bad with distro installers – they hate me. They crash, mess up, and generally give me the finger and every possible oppertunity, which might be one reason I settled with gentoo’s “Lack of installer” install method. But this time, I decided to try Debian’s actual installer, instead of playing around with debootstrap
One rather small netinstall download and a trip downstairs to the cd burner later, I had my CD. The install went rather well, except for one little thing – I love LVM(2). I’ve started using it on all my machines. Now, the Debian installer (This is Etch I’m talking about, BTW), claims to support LVM2, however in the partitioner I couldn’t figure out how to actually create LVM logical volumes – So I just dropped to a TTY, fired up the built-in busybox shell, and created all the volumes manually (Following the gentoo instructions, of course ). Strangely, once I had actually created the logical volumes in LVM2, the debian partitioner saw them nicely and allowed me to setup all my partitions on them, dead easy.
So that’s certainly the smoothest install I’ve had in a *long* time. Thanks Debian.
Actually using the system wasn’t too bad either – once I had figured out the /etc/networks/interfaces syntax, I got my ethernet working. My laptop’s built-in Intel Pro/Wireless 2100 was a different matter though – It never seemed to be properly recognised. Eventually after routing (rooting?) through dmesg, I located the error message – ipw2100 was complaining it couldn’t find the firmware. It seems that debian included and installs the ipw2100 driver, however not the firmware, as intel has some funky restrictions on the license of the firmware. However they didn’t think to create a nice warning box or actually tell you, they assume you already know or dmesg is your bedtime reading… Even now I found and installed the binary firmware, I still have to modprobe -r ipw2100 && modprobe ipw2100 before I can use my wireless, I have no idea why. But once I’ve done that, it works perfectly.
To get widescreen working with Xorg I had to use the same VBIOS hack I used on gentoo previously, I simply hacked the GDM initscript to run it before X, that now works nicely.
Getting my touchpad working was also a bit of a pain – it “worked” on debian by default, however it was mind-numbingly slow – I had to add my touchpad configuration from my gentoo install to get everything working nicely (Decent acceleration+speed, tap-clicking, side/corner scrolling, double-tap-dragging). But now that’s also working nicely.
To get my external wifi dongle (Netgear WPN111 – avoid like the plague) and my tablet (Wacom Volito2 – lovely) working, I had to ditch the debian kernel – I couldn’t get a kernel newer than 2.6.16 out of apt, so I installed my shiny new 2.6.20 vanilla kernel straight from kernel.org – I had to configure and install manually, but now that works fine. My tablet worked perfectly once I copied my settings from my gentoo install, however, my dongle is still hell:
This dongle has an Atheros chipset, but the madwifi drivers don’t support USB yet. Oops. So, I tried ndiswrapper: Bad, bad idea. Every time I send a decent amount of data over the wifi, my kernel segfaults. If I unplug the dongle or even wiggle it: Kernel segfault. If I look at my laptop in the wrong way, yup you guessed it, kernel segfault.
So now I have my shiny new Intel Pro Wireless 2915A/B/G sitting on the desk in front of me, waiting to be installed this weekend – hopefully it will support higher speeds and WPA without horrific drivers (Yes, the intel drivers aren’t perfect, with their binary blobs, but I’d prefer that to ndiswrapper any day). Updates coming soon.
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