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


Penguicon 6.0

I attended Penguicon 6.0 over the weekend. It met my expectations which were rather high but I figured it would. More importantly, two friends of mine also enjoyed it. One had been there last year and the other was a n00b. Another had attended last year and would have returned but unfortunately had family matters that took priority. I did advertise a bit around the Alpena area but I'm not sure how effective it was. Next year I think I'll try to get enough people to fill a van or maybe a small bus and reduce the fuel cost of the trip.

I did help out with the installfest but only saw a half-dozen attendees that took advantage of it. I fixed a networking problem on a laptop of a WLUG member which was simply an issue with a manually set network configuration which was made by another member. It was the direct result of WCC not having a DHCP server on their WiFi.

The other was a volunteer that wasn't able to get any distro to install on an old HP laptop with a 500MHz K6 CPU. The problem was obvious - 64MB of RAM. I put Puppy 4 beta on it which seems stable and looks much better then v3. I didn't have time to try setting up the network but at least he had something to start with. He was planning on installing more memory now that the problem was identified. It would be a good candidate for either Puppy or Xubuntu.

The only major issue at the conference was the Hilton's overloaded WAN connection. By Saturday night it was unusable. There was a small LAN party set up in a large and mostly empty ballroom although there may have been more players in the guest rooms. It looked like it was a local game so it probably wasn't affecting the WAN. I think a LAN party is kind of a waste of space as most attendees can play games online at home and there are better things to do at the conference. Especially since they were Windows systems. They did have some nice large LCD and HDTV screens. The computer lounge had a proxy with ISOs and repository mirrors and there didn't appear to be a large number of users on the public PCs so not much load there either. A virus on some Windows system somewhere could have been the culprit but there's no way to tell. Next year the conference is moving to a different hotel as its outgrown the Hilton so it will be a different environment.


Laptop problems with Ubuntu Hardy Beta

So far my Hardy experience has been good. I've had a few crashes with Firefox 3 but it's session recovery works well so it's been only a minor annoyance. I have mixed feelings about the new live searching in the address bar as I'm used to it only picking up URLs as in Firefox 2. When it hits on page titles and other data it's distracting.

Some of the bugs I encountered in alpha 5 have been fixed. SCIM can now be disabled via System > Administration > Language Support > Enable support to enter complex characters (unchecked). The Gnome display properties applet and Gnome settings daemon no longer crash.

The Java plug-in problem may have been my fault. The correct package is sun-java6-plugin and I may have installed a different one by mistake or it wasn't in the repo at the time.

The problem with X freezing the system during a VT switch or restart/shutdown is still present. According to bug #204603 it's an Intel driver issue which requires Option ForceEnablePipeA "true" to be specified in the xorg.conf Device section. This may be a repeat of a previous bug.

The battery monitor bug only occurs with one account and only with the Power Manager applet. The Battery Charge Monitor applet shows the correct state and other in other accounts on the laptop they both work correctly. Minor config problem somewhere.

A major usability problem I've noticed is that the drive mounting/browsing options that were in the "Storage" tab in "Removable Drives and Media" has been moved to Nautilus preferences. The menu entry hasn't been renamed however which is confusing because it no longer affects removable media. Bug #210499 was already filed about it so I'm not the only one who noticed.

One glaring omission in new Hardy features is the lack of networking support in Friendly Recovery - the menu you now encounter after selecting recovery mode from the Grub menu. Unless your system is configured to use static IP/gateway/DNS you don't get any network access so apt-get is rather limited. On a DHCP network like most broadband and wireless connections you have to manually start dhclient first.

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.