Diary and notebook of whatever tech problems are irritating me at the moment.


Living on the edge with Ubuntu Hardy Alpha

I was having some problems getting Wine to compile with OpenGL support in Ubuntu Gutsy on my laptop. The config script could never find the OpenGL dev libraries. I had been messing around with learning package management and other things and I broke something somewhere and couldn't find it. Instead of reinstalling Gutsy I decided to test Hardy alpha 5. This way I could report any bugs I encountered so they could get fixed before the final release and also fix the Wine problem. The laptop is a Toshiba M35X-S114, a Celeron 1.3GHz with an Intel 855GME chipset. It's Linux compatibility is better than average but not spectacular. I expected breakage with Hardy and was not disappointed. Alpha testing is living on the edge as packages are constantly being updated so system reliability can vary wildly from one update to the next. I often would start it up in the morning, install a dozen updates, a few minutes later reload the package lists and find more updates.

The biggest immediate issue I encountered was X locking up randomly with the Intel driver. It would also lock the system whenever I switched to a virtual terminal. I've encountered the latter problem before when the framebuffer drivers used by the kernel for the splash screen conflict with the X drivers. I edited the Grub menu (/boot/grub/menu.lst) and changed the "splash" entries to "nosplash" which made the system usable. It now locks up rarely during use but fairly often during logouts, shut downs, and reboots. No errors show up in the logs. I'll have to set up an SSH server on it so I can monitor it remotely the next time it hangs assuming it's just X and not the kernel itself. If it is the kernel then the SSH server will die immediately and I probably won't see any error messages. In that case the solution would be to use a serial console but the laptop doesn't have a serial port and I don't have a USB serial adapter. The advantage of a serial console is that the kernel handles it directly and "out of band" so networking issues don't affect it.

Another possibly related graphics issue is that the Gnome display properties utility crashes whenever I attempt to use it (bug #198951). I use this to correct the screen resolution when a game or Wine application aborts and doesn't reset it back after changing it. I can do a "xrandr -s 1024x768" in the terminal for now.

Another constant annoyance is the crashing of the Gnome settings daemon at every login (bug #197153). There was an update that came through and fixed it but two days later another one caused the problem to return.

There is also an issue with the battery monitor always reporting a 51% charge, hal setting the cdrom (/dev/sg0) to group root instead of cdrom and complaining it can't unmount the volume when the drive's eject button is used, and I can't disable the SCIM language control which keeps changing my keyboard language randomly (bug #199314).

Firefox v3 beta works more or less. I like the new smart bookmark which lists recently used or bookmarked links. It crashes once in a while but I haven't determined if an addon or plugin is responsible. I installed the Sun Java plugin but it can't seem to detect it and is not listed in about:plugins.

In spite of these problems the system is usable and 3D in Wine now works.

About Me

Omnifarious Implementer = I do just about everything. With my usual occupations this means anything an electrical engineer does not feel like doing including PCB design, electronic troubleshooting and repair, part sourcing, inventory control, enclosure machining, label design, PC support, network administration, plant maintenance, janitorial, etc. Non-occupational includes residential plumbing, heating, electrical, farming, automotive and small engine repair. There is plenty more but you get the idea.