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November 21, 2005

Winner for the Sony Vaio VGN-TX1XP Laptop: SuSE Linux

Filed under: — brendan @ 21:02 IST

I tried Fedora Core 4, then Ubuntu, then Debian 3.1, then Fedora Core 4 again (without ATRPMS which caused problems the first time), and finally SuSE Linux 10.0, which is definitely the winner.

Some bits learned along the way:

  1. The Fedora Core 4 installation program, when asked to leave the existing partitions (two Windows XP ones, to keep the C: and D: drives created by Sony but shrunk down by Partition Magic), did leave them but actually changed their order in the partition table. This broke Windows; I had to boot with a Knoppix CD and use fdisk to fix the partition table to put the C: and D: drives back in positions 1 and 2 of the partitions, moving Fedora to the rest. That and a quick edit of /boot/grub/grub.conf to fix the root partition it knew about, invoke grub-install and all was good. Well, almost: I installed ATRPMS, and it had some trouble with duplicate versions of things being installed. Next time I won’t force apt-get. 🙂
  2. Ubuntu 5.10 “The Breezy Badger” got caught in an infinite loop while figuring out the video hardware. I found this both with the Live CD version and a regular full install. I haven’t yet tried to figure out which script is failing.
  3. Next came Debian 3.1 “Sarge”. Its startup didn’t give me a working X-Windows til after I edited my /etc/X11/XF86Config-4. No i810 driver for the Intel 915GM video card. The TX1XP’s trackpad didn’t work even with gpm (the console-based cursor movement); I had to make it boot under one of its 2.6.* kernels to have it work. And, it had no ipw2200 driver at all for the TX1XP’s wireless card. Bummer, I really like Debian but perhaps it’s not best for a really-new laptop.
  4. Back to Fedora Core 4, this time without ATRPMS. The ipw2200 wireless driver and the i810 support for its 1366×768 screen weren’t working by default—you have to do a hefty update of everything to make them even hope to work. I did discover I needed to invoke up2date --nosig to make it not pause after every F’in package to ask me if it’s okay that the package wasn’t GPG-signed. It needs a “ignore now and always” sort of option. Later I realized in the initial up2date dialogs, there’s an option that lets you not require valid signatures on stuff before installation. Oh well. Next, I found a sonypi driver on someone’s website which I could try to control the brightness of the screen. (People are having trouble getting the Fn button to work properly on the Vaio.)
  5. Then I saw my local news agent had a copy of Linux Format, a UK-based Linux mag that has CDs & DVDs of incalculable enjoyment. This time around, they had SuSE 10.0. Yay! I’d been thinking about trying it out but never considered a download. It worked like a dream!

I was able to make the display use the whole screen just by changing the /etc/X11/XF86Config to have this entry in its install-generated Modes section:

Modeline “1366×768” 88.03 1366 1424 1680 1816 768 770 782 808

(I found this via Google from someone else’s post on a totally different topic.) Then the Screen section just needed "1366x768" added to each of the Modes lines. To be consistent, I copied the other post’s values in Monitor to be

HorizSync 31.5 – 90.0

though I’m not positive it’s necessary.

SuSE already has the sonypi driver for brightness, letting me just invoke

powersave -k 4

choosing a number from 1 to 8 on how bright I want the screen to be. Update: With thanks to ph030’s great bits about his experiences putting Gentoo on the TX1XP, you can also install the spicctrl package. It “uses the Sony Programmable I/O Control device (SPIC), which is part of most Sony Vaio laptops, to perform several functions, such as changing the display brightness, controlling
Bluetooth power, or reporting battery status.” The first practical use of this for me has been to turn off Bluetooth so it’s not using any battery. The command spicctrl -l 0 does the trick, but I found it helpful to put these lines in my /etc/rc.d/boot.local:

# Turn off bluetooth by default.
test -x /usr/bin/spicctrl && /usr/bin/spicctrl -l 0

I haven’t managed to change the brightness with it instead of powersave, but I’ve not spent much time using it.

I tried making the laptop sleep as well as it did under Windows, but I’m only halfway there. I edited /etc/sysconfig/powersave/sleep to make DISABLE_USER_SUSPEND2RAM be yes but this did NOT work—it could sleep okay, but it never woke up properly. And DISABLE_USER_STANDBY never works. I did get suspend-to-disk to work, though (aka hibernation). For this, I edited /etc/sysconfig/powersave/cpufreq/events and changed EVENT_BUTTON_LID_CLOSED to be suspend_to_disk.

When the screen saver blanks the screen, it actually turns it off, where all of the others could only ever make the display turn to black but still obviously still be physically emitting light from the screen. My first guess is how the others had a hard time using anything but the vesa driver in the Device section of its XF86Config or XF86Config-4, while this is happily using i810.

Finally, as was suggested by rcpowersaved in /var/log/messages when it started up, I changed /etc/sysconfig/powersave/cpufreq to CPUFREQD_MODULE to be speedstep_centrino.

SuSE has been working really well, though I have one complaint: the SuSE 10.0 “OSS” version omits a lot of stuff compared to the “EvalDVD” version. In particular, both vpnc and ncftp are noticably missing. I downloaded the 3.6Gb ISO image of the DVD version mainly to get those files. Now I just need to mount it and get the RPMS from it that I want.

Why doesn’t Novell make it possible to download any of the RPMs that’re in the DVD image? Thus you could make YaST2 just point to the right place to get “all” packages, instead of the less complete set that’s on the OSS version?

Update (originally in a later post): Jem Matzan has a great article in The Jem Report which addresses this directly. He explains how to set up YaST to be able to automatically get stuff you’re missing like Thunderbird, MP3 support, and Java. It has the other parts I’m missing, including ncftp and vpnc. Yay! I could also finally get the NetworkManager packages, which I came to really enjoy when I was using Fedora Core 4. Thank you, Jem!

It’s a wonderful laptop so far. (Wouldn’t it be cool if Sony gave you stuff like a second AC adapter for free when you make comments in a public fashion in support of their products? 🙂 )

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Get a job, kid.

Filed under: — brendan @ 21:01 IST

“Dad, I want to do lots of work.” Patrick announced. “So I can learn some money. So I can buy things.”

“What would you buy?” I asked.

“I need a remote control helicopter,” Patrick replied.

“So you can make it fly up into the sky?”

“No, it might fly up in the house, and then into the lantern—that lantern,” he said. pointing at the light in our livingroom.

“So how much money do you think you’d earn doing this work?” I asked. “Like lots of money or a little money?”

Change of context: he now looks at our wedding picture and says he sees his cousin; the image is much younger than the 12 year-old boy he met this Spring.

“Where was me?”

“You weren’t there yet,” Elana told him.

“I was in your tummy?”

“You weren’t there yet.”

He stared intently at the framed photograph. “I was scared being in there.”

“You remember being scared?”

“I was screaming,” he said matter-of-factly.

“You were screaming in there?”

“Yes. I liked it outside cuz I’d never been outside.”

“So you liked going new places?”

Patrick proclaimed with finality, “Uh huh.” Next topic.

Random conversations are so much fun.

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Leaf Soup

Filed under: — Sven @ 00:29 IST

Dare I make a “The Accidental Cook” post? I’ll try it and see what pundits say.

As the autum starts to turn into winter, my CSA is starting to slow down. Like the first pickup, things are turning to mostly leafy greens, the first and last harvest of our farmer. I had too many leafy greens, extra lettuce, extra kale, extra mustard greens, and I think a few others, but not spinach. So, here is what I did…

I fried the mustard greens with some onions and green pepers. After a time, I added some water with a little vegetable broth. When that got to a boil I dumped in some potatoes, when they got soft in my my miscellaneous leafy greens. In goes a little salt and pepper, purée. After a bit of boiling I had 余艾蕾 try a bit. She thought it tasted, and looked a bit, like saag.

Now, when I started my blogging, one of my hopes was to be a food diary. This entry is for that, the very first step in the evolution of what might be a great recipe, what my online pages was first meant to prodce. The problem is I don’t think I will have to many leafy greens again until last next spring, when my CSA starts up again. Hopefully I will remember this post and add a followup.

I was going to try to change my leaf soup to Saag Seitan. When I put in the broth and water I was thinking soup, and put in the quantity for soup. I spent a half hour trying to boil it down but I got hungry and had Leaf Soup with Seitan, after adding some butter and corn starch. It was good, with a little more foresight it could of been great.

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