Showing posts with label Ubuntu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ubuntu. Show all posts

Saturday, 21 January 2012

And when it doesn't work its back to Windows 7

Unfortunately that is the only logical option.

Since 2009 my Samsung R510 Laptop has been struggling to cope with Linux. Essentially it works but not as efficient as I would like.

The biggest issues I have relate to the system performance and battery time, both of which just cannot beat Windows 7 (and Vista)

Battery time has been an ongoing issue with Linux in general, I remain hopeful that one day the situation will be much improved and I currently praise the efforts being made by Canonical Ltd to improve battery time in their next LTS of Ubuntu.

But we have to be realistic, until more hardware vendors back Linux the current situation for the majority of Laptop users will continue to plague users. Poor battery time, laptops running hot, lack of functionality and noticeably slower system performance.

And inline with being realistic, it is back to Windows 7 on my R510.

In future I will be more careful when buying a laptop and pick one that is Linux compatible. A practice I do when building PC's.

So let me see, anti virus installed, disk fragmentation looking good, service pack 1 installed, windows fully up to date, download drivers, why is it a pain in the arse to find up to date Atheros drivers......

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Enabling Samsung Laptop Backlight Support in Ubuntu 11.10

Is your Samsung Laptop brightness buttons not working? Yep, mine isn't too. The Kernel in Ubuntu 11.10 includes support for a number of Samsung Laptops thanks to the efforts of Greg Kroah and if you are interested in improving this I suggest filing bug reports to your distribution vendor or upstream.

What to do in the meantime...

Follow these steps to make your Samsung Laptop's brightness buttons work / or to test if the samsung-laptop.ko works with your Samsung Laptop.

Open a terminal,

mkdir samsung
cd samsung
sudo dmidecode -s system-product-name

Make a note of the product name / model, mine is identified as R510/P510

gedit samsung-laptop.c

Add your Samsung model to the dmi table or modify one of the existing entries, scroll down to line 504, you will see the table starts with the N128.
.ident = "N128",
.matches = {
.callback = dmi_check_cb,

I am going to modify the N128 entry and replace the "N128" with my Laptop model, the R510/P510.

.ident = "R510/P510",
.matches = {
.callback = dmi_check_cb,

Once you have edited the samsung-laptop.c file, save and exit. Now build the samsung-laptop.ko module.


Your modified samsung-laptop.ko module should have compiled successfully. The next step is to replace the existing module.

sudo cp samsung-laptop.ko /lib/modules/$(uname -r)/kernel/drivers/platform/x86/
sudo depmod -a

The final step, add acpi_backlight=vendor to grub

sudo gedit /etc/default/grub

Modify the line,



GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash acpi_backlight=vendor"

Save and exit, then update grub.

sudo update-grub

Now reboot and test your Fn Brightness buttons.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

How to Recompile your Kubuntu 11.10 Kernel

This quick and simple guide will help you to recompile your Kubuntu 11.10 Kernel. Modify where appropriate, eg amd64 / i386.

1. Install these packages

sudo apt-get install fakeroot dpkg-dev libncurses5-dev kernel-package

2. Create your source directory

mkdir ~/src

cd ~/src

3. Download the Kernel source

apt-get source linux-image-$(uname -r)

4. Configure your Kernel

cd linux-3.0.0

make menuconfig

5. Speed up the build


General rule, concurrency level = number of processor cores + 1

6. Clean up temp files from a previous compile attempt (skip if necessary)

make-kpkg clean

7 Compile your Kernel

time fakeroot make-kpkg --initrd --append-to-version=-tweak kernel-image kernel-headers

You can change -tweak to anything you wish

8. Install your Kernel

cd ~/src

sudo dpkg -i linux-image-3.0.6-tweak_3.0.6-tweak-10.00.Custom_amd64.deb

sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-3.0.6-tweak_3.0.6-tweak-10.00.Custom_amd64.deb

9. Reboot

Your recompiled Kernel should automatically load.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Jono Bacon, Ubuntu Community Manager - Unity is too simple

Pretending to be a Journalist - It's all about twisting the truth...

Jono Bacon, Ubuntu Community Manager at Canonical Ltd recently made the suggestion of creating a Ubuntu Power User Community, -

The alleged driving force behind this reason,

"as One key piece of feedback from some Unity users was a concern around the lack of configurability in Unity, and a feeling that it is a little too simple and does not expose enough of the system, for which many more expert Ubuntu users enjoy."

But more interestingly Jono states,

"While traditionally we set out to provide the simplest and easiest to use Ubuntu desktop environment, and this has not changed, this focus is become more and more prevalent as we shave off more and more rough edges on Ubuntu to make it ready for the prime-time. The problem is…some folks don’t want to loose the lack of configurability and control as we move towards the prime-time."

Some may even laugh at the fact that even the Ubuntu community find Unity too simple, although let us be very clear about what is too simple about Unity. It is the usability and functionality that is too simple.

The announcement by Jono has illustrated a clear wedge in the Ubuntu community that may have a long term damaging effect for Ubuntu.

Canonical Ltd have also seriously underestimated how much influence so called power users had on the popularity of Ubuntu.

Power users who do not use Ubuntu often recommend it to friends and family members because of its easy to use/maintain nature but will they continue to do so with Unity?

Jono's announcement has effectively said Unity is for people who can't use a computer, the Community Manager at Canonical Ltd has stated the key feed back about Unity from the Ubuntu community is that it is too simple.

The result is current Ubuntu users are finding Unity to be a very restrictive interface, an interface that dictates what you can do and one that does not let you do things.

Would you therefore recommend Ubuntu with Unity to a friend or family member?

Would you dare insult their intelligence?

You are too stupid to use a computer, you should use Unity.

Ubuntu currently has a reputation for being a newbie friendly Linux distribution, this is a very positive reputation that has helped to encourage the use of Linux.

Unity will overshadow that beneficial image and replace it with, Ubuntu - Linux for the computer illiterate and stupid.

I guess we all now know what the move towards prime time is all about.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Kernel bloat, the responsibility lies with the distribution vendor

It seems as time goes by the Linux Kernel is supporting more hardware and delivering more functionality. This is great but it introduces the problem of bloat. Bloat is bad but the fact of the matter is bloat cannot be avoided although it can be reduced.

Distribution vendors are the ones responsible for including more or less bloat in their Kernels and unfortunately the current trend is to simply include as much as possible without any thought whatsoever.

I was tinkering with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (64-bit) a few days ago and found it very amusing that support for an S3 Trio graphics card was included in the 64-bit Kernel.

And a Voodoo 5, Cirrus Logic, Riva TNT....

Canonical Ltd has included support for various hardware (not just old ancient video cards) that no longer exists or even if it did, would no longer work on modern systems.

Even though most of these are compiled as Kernel modules and the impact on the core Kernel code size is minimal, there is no reason to include its support.

I can therefore only conclude that the reason why Canonical Ltd continue to include support for ancient unusable hardware and various other Kernel functionality that is deprecated is because they are lazy.

When was the last time a Kernel clean up exercise was performed?

But is it just Canonical Ltd who continue to bloat their Kernels unnecessarily with ancient hardware support and unused Kernel functionality?

Equally as time goes by hardware becomes obsolete and certain functionality unused but distribution vendors continue to include such support in their Kernels.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Fedora and Gnome 3, Ubuntu and Unity, will openSUSE and KDE benefit?

Right now it seems like some of the top Linux distributions such as Fedora and Ubuntu are heading down a slippery slope.

Fedora 15 will be based on Gnome 3, it is still early days for the Gnome 3 project and over time I am confident it will get better but many (including myself) feel its not ready for use.

I believe the simplicity of Gnome 2.x is what made it a success, the main menu bar provided a quick and efficient method of accessing your applications / system settings. The ability to minimize to a panel also provided users with a quick and efficient method of accessing minimized programs and by its very nature visually indicated that a program has been minimized.

Gnome 3 on the other hand doesn’t really have a place to minimize applications to and should you use the gnome tweak tool to enable the minimize button to application windows, applications disappear (not minimize) to the activities tab leaving the user with no apparent visual indicator that an application has been banished (minimised) to the activities tab.

Accessing or viewing applications in Gnome 3 generally requires use of the activities tab where you can either browse through all your applications or search for an application. Unfortunately the Gnome 2.x method of using the main menu (a concept featured in all major operating systems) is still a quicker and more efficient method of accessing your applications. The search function works effectively, although it doesn't help if you don't know what you are searching for.

There is also space in the activities tab to place some of your favorite applications in a dock like fashion which will certainly mitigate some of the inefficiency caused by the method of browsing through or searching for applications, but some will always find it a slight annoyance since you have to invoke the activities tab to view it.

People moved away from the command line and into graphical user interfaces because it made doing things easier and quicker, the current implementation of Gnome 3 compared to Gnome 2.x therefore seems like a step in the wrong direction.

However, visually speaking Gnome 3 looks very modern and stylish.

With Fedora being a project that aims to lead the advancement of FOSS the decision to include bleeding edge software and the latest developments such as Gnome 3 is the right decision and inline with the project goals.

Fedora users will be familiar with the possibility that the latest and greatest can sometimes have a detrimental consequence and for many Gnome 3 is no exception. But the sad reality in this instance is for many Fedora users Gnome 3 is unworkable.

So what will these users do? 

I expect many to hop over to another distro that still features Gnome 2.x and come back at a later date providing Gnome 3 has improved. Alternatively, Fedora does have a few other spins but Fedora at heart has always been a Gnome distribution and the majority of its users Gnome users.

What about Ubuntu?

Taking a look at Ubuntu presents a similar situation. Canonical Ltd have recognized that Gnome 3 is not quite ready for the Ubuntu user base and their solution is Unity. Ubuntu 11.04 features the new Unity desktop from Canonical Ltd which is currently a mish mash of Gnome 2.x and Compiz.

Just like Gnome 3, some users like it and others hate it. Quite clearly Unity is not a finished product and I cannot understand why it was decided to make Unity the default desktop in Ubuntu 11.04.

Some users feel Unity is easy to use and if you rarely ever have to go beyond the dock that stands to follow but just like Gnome 3 it also lacks the application menu as featured in Gnome 2.x. A poor decision.

Instead you can view all applications by using the applications tab or the search function, this is the same as Gnome 3.

The simplicity Gnome 2.x provided Ubuntu users has been lost with Unity, the very simplicity that made Ubuntu easier to use.

Personally I think Unity for Ubuntu is a lost cause. There is nothing wrong with trying out new ideas and I give credit to Canonical Ltd for trying but those who are not good at using computers or those who find slick looking 3D GUI's complicated and hard to navigate will not appreciate Unity.

I feel Canonical Ltd have over looked how the simplicity of Gnome 2.x contributed to making Ubuntu easy to use.

So what now for Ubuntu and Fedora users?

If you are one of those users who likes to have the latest version of a distribution the future may be looking quite grim. It has been confirmed that Ubuntu 11.10 will not feature a classic Gnome 2.x interface and future versions of Fedora will have Gnome 3.

Looking ahead, Unity in Ubuntu 11.10 and Gnome 3 in Fedora 16 may be a completely different experience from what we are seeing right now but nothing is for certain. Therefore due to that uncertainty some users may go about looking for another distribution that doesn't use Gnome 3 or is not Ubuntu with Unity.

The quest for another distribution will inevitably spark interest in some of the other desktop environments available and speaking of desktop environments, is there anything worth mentioning over KDE 4.6.x?

Will openSUSE therefore benefit?

With the recent acquisition of Novell by Attachmate now complete, SUSE has been split away from Novell and will be established as its own corporate entity. A positive step in the right direction for SUSE and the openSUSE project.

Despite my own reasons for putting openSUSE behind me, it has the best implementation of KDE 4.6 (although I maintain the view if you have the time and patience, Gentoo with KDE is better) and a powerful system management application called YaST which makes administering your system easy (or at least in some instances that is the idea).

Since the release of KDE 4.6 things have been looking very good for KDE and given openSUSE is a strong KDE distribution with many KDE developers behind it, if you are looking for a solid and usable desktop environment KDE 4.6.x (in other words openSUSE 11.4) is a great choice.

The openSUSE project could do with more users, so if you are looking to try something different openSUSE is definitely worth considering.

Its funny how things can change in just a few months,  not so long ago I would have been quite happy to recommend Ubuntu or Fedora but with current developments this is no longer the case.

And not so long ago I was voicing my annoyance with openSUSE 11.4 but believe me, its nothing compared to Unity and Gnome 3.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Installation advice - Dual booting Windows and Linux with 2 disk drives

Dual booting between Windows and Linux on a single drive is very common and for the most part problem free. However, when it comes to dual booting with 2 disk drives things can be made more complicated than necessary.

I deliberately said 'can be made' as oppose to 'are more...' because the technique most people use and which I have witnessed time and time again on the internet is the direct cause of many headaches.

Well no more, I am going to tell you how to create a fool proof dual boot setup featuring 2 disk drives.

The biggest mistake you can make (bad practice)

Most of the problems in a 2 disk dual boot setup are caused by having your Windows disk drive as the Primary disk drive on your system and the intended Linux drive as the Secondary drive on the system.

With this disk setup, when attempting to install a Linux distribution it will always default to automatically suggesting to install or installing the Grub bootloader to your Primary Windows disk drive.

It is important to note that the reason why Grub wants to install on your Windows drive is because it is the Primary drive on the system.

Assuming you proceed with such a setup the end result is potentially for the majority of users a bad result.

Why is installing Grub on the Primary Windows drive in a 2 disk dual boot setup bad?

/dev/sda ---- > Windows --- > Primary Disk ---- > Bootloader (Grub boot files on /dev/sdb)
/dev/sdb ---- > Linux ---- > Secondary Disk ---- > No Bootloader

If you were to disconnect your Secondary drive or it fails, your Windows operating system will be unbootable because the Secondary drive contained files required by the Grub bootloader to boot the system.

In the opposite situation, if you disconnect the Primary drive or it fails, the Linux operating system will be unbootable because no bootloader is present.

Therefore the biggest disadvantage with this setup is the system is dependant on the presence of both drives. Should either of the drives cease to be present or function you cannot boot into Windows or Linux.

Most Linux distributions do allow you to change the default grub installation settings, and if you plan to keep your Windows drive as the Primary drive on the system make sure you install grub to the Linux drive, /dev/sdb.

It is far more advantageous to have each drive independent from one an other and capable of booting on its own.

But there is a better more fool proof way!

If you want to ensure avoidance of the possible problems the above setup can cause there is a very simple solution. Physically make your Windows drive the Secondary drive on the system and your intended Linux drive the Primary.

By doing this, distributions such as Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE will always default to installing the bootloader (Grub/Grub2) on your Primary and intended Linux drive. You can therefore blindly install a distribution and your Windows drive will remain untouched.

SATA port 1 > SATA port 2

If you have two SATA hard disk drives, connect your intended Linux drive to SATA port 1 and your Windows drive to SATA port 2. This will permanently make your intended Linux drive the Primary disk drive in the system.

If you are still on IDE drives, remember that the Master end of the cable is the Primary, and that IDE channel 1 takes priorty over IDE channel 2.

Additional guidance for Ubuntu 11.04 users

During the installation choose the "Something else" option and create your partitions manually.

Ubuntu 11.04 - Creating a 2 disk dual boot setup

In the above screenshot, I have placed my intended Linux drive in SATA port 1 and my Windows 7 drive in SATA port 2.

The Ubuntu installer has identified my intended Linux drive as the Primary drive on the system (/dev/sda) and has by default suggested installing the boot loader to /dev/sda.

My Windows 7 drive therefore by default remains untouched.

So if you are the forgetful type or want to ensure no mistakes, making your intended Linux drive the Primary drive on the system will help.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

How to safely remove in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

You may be aware of some guides on the internet telling you how to do this, mainly using one of the following commands,

sudo apt-get purge*
sudo apt-get purge* 

If you run either of the above commands the following packages will be REMOVED:

aspell* aspell-en* dictionaries-common* hunspell-en-ca* hunspell-en-us* language-support-en* language-support-writing-en* myspell-en-au* myspell-en-gb* myspell-en-za************** python-uno* wbritish*


If you do, programs including Firefox will lose its ability to spell check because the above commands will erase some very useful packages (all those in green).

Fortunately you can easily reverse the damage by reinstalling the packages highlighted in green.

How to fix the damage

sudo apt-get install aspell aspell-en dictionaries-common hunspell-en-ca hunspell-en-us language-support-en language-support-writing-en myspell-en-au myspell-en-gb myspell-en-za wbritish

Lesson for next time, be cautious when following guides on the internet. Including mine, I am only human and sometimes can make typo errors or due to a lack of knowledge post garbage.

However, if you feel I have made a mistake please post a comment or email me.

So how can I safely remove in Ubuntu 10.04 (LTS) ?

sudo apt-get purge uno-libs3 ure

At this point I would assume you wish to install a newer version of OpenOffice from

How to install 3.3.0 from

Ubuntu 10.04 (LTS) 64-bit users

Open a terminal

cd Downloads


tar -xf OOo_3.3.0_Linux_x86-64_install-deb_en-GB.tar.gz

cd OOO330_m20_native_packed-1_en-GB.9567/DEBS

sudo dpkg -i *.deb

cd desktop-integration

sudo dpkg -i *.deb


Ubuntu 10.04 (LTS) 32-bit users

Open a terminal

cd Downloads

tar -xf OOo_3.3.0_Linux_x86_install-deb_en-GB.tar.gz

cd OOO330_m20_native_packed-1_en-GB.9567/DEBS

sudo dpkg -i *.deb

cd desktop-integration

sudo dpkg -i *.deb


How do I then erase the version of 3.3.0 at a later date?

Run the following command,

sudo apt-get purge ooobasis*


Thursday, 10 March 2011

openSUSE 11.4 - not just disappointing but the final nail in the coffin!

So its out and already being labelled as the best openSUSE release ever. The same was said about 11.3 and every other previous release...

In terms of visual appearance the openSUSE team have done an excellent job, the new spash screen, desktop wallpaper and installer together have a very consistent and professional look. It gives the impression of a quality product.

Don't judge a book by its front cover!

These minor elements aside, I am disappointed with openSUSE 11.4.The previous release, 11.3 got a reputation for being the worst distribution for nvidia users and you would have thought they would not make the same mistake twice.

32-bit nvidia users, this is for you -

Monitoring the forums, there could even be a nasty surprise for AMD/ATi users. Other issues surfacing include problems resuming from suspend/hibernate, borked systems when using the upgrade feature and lack of sound.

In any event I am a 64-bit nvidia user so the 32-bit nvidia bug is of no relevance to myself but I am still disappointed with the performance of 11.4.

The boot speed is slower than 11.3 and KDE seems to have a long delay at start up making the system unresponsive. I have tested this on 3 different systems, all exhibit the same behaviour.

Adding a new Wi-Fi connection using knetworkmanager seems a bit buggy, logging out and back in KDE resolved this issue.

With concern to the system response, KDE 4.6 in 11.4 just doesn't feel as fast as it should be. Maybe I am being unfair when judging performance as a result of using KDE 4.6 in Gentoo but on the very same system the difference is a world apart.

Memory consumption in this release has also has taken a dive for the worse, its not as friendly as previous releases.

Maybe after a few updates 11.4 will become more refined but it hasnt been as polished as I was hoping for.

Its also quite interesting that they decided to ship 11.4 with a beta version of Firefox 4.

Personally I am struggling to think of a reason to use openSUSE 11.4. If you are a die hard KDE fan Gentoo will provide you with a blazing experience and whilst I have not tried Arch I am sure it will be better than openSUSE 11.4.

And if you are a GNOME fanatic, Fedora, Ubuntu and Debian provide a leaner and meaner experience.

Sure enough not everyone wants to spend the time setting up Gentoo / Arch but openSUSE comes with a lot of bloat and is the most bloated distribution I have used. Holding itself out to be a multipurpose distribution, you could say this is by design.

At the end of the day I am just an ordinary average desktop user looking for a Linux based operating system that will satisfy my simplistic needs. I was drawn to openSUSE because of KDE 3.5 and my great experience with version 10.3. Despite such a great experience I have never liked YaST, the idea of a central application to manage and administer the system is a great but its implementation (via YaST) seriously sucks. I can use YaST but I find the layout illogical. Its often a case of tab after tab, scroll here and scroll there.

Setting up a Samba server, modifying the firewall rules, managing a network card, it is all easier without YaST.

Since then I have never been completely satisfied with openSUSE and have spent a lot of time distrohopping back and forth between openSUSE and other distributions.

Well openSUSE 11.4 is the final nail in the coffin.

The reason I distrohop back and forth from openSUSE is because there is always something better. But if you are wondering why openSUSE in the first place, 10.3 was the distribution that changed my view of Linux. It opened my eyes and made me realize that Linux on the desktop was a perfectly viable and real option.

You could say I continued using it simply out of loyalty.

Unfortunately it is time to accept the fact that openSUSE is not for me.

If I want a GNOME distribution I will always pick Fedora. If I want to use KDE with the best user experience possible then Gentoo delivers. If I want to setup a dedicated samba server, FreeNAS. If I want a low maintenance distribution for a family member, Ubuntu.

And that's the end of that, the hammers down and the nails are in.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Car insurance renewal made easy with Linux

The boom in car insurance this year has meant my insurance premium is just over £200 up from the previous year but had I stayed with my current insurer the increase would have been over £300.

Moving from one insurance company to another often means sending proof of your no claims discount (NCD) and about a week after purchasing my new car insurance Aviva sent a request asking for such.

Although surprisingly Aviva gave me two options,

1. Send the proof of NCD by post, or

2. Email it

It is nice to see companies taking advantage of modern day technology and I decided to go for the modern approach and email it. (My printer was out of ink anyway)

This obviously means scanning my proof of NCD, a big problem with Windows 7 and Vista.

My scanner, a Canon CanoScan N650U is only supported in Windows XP which I no longer use. The scanner happens to be a good few years old but for occasional use works extremely well.

Linux however, fully supports my ageing old scanner. In the past I have used Xsane and Gimp until now.

I noticed a scanning application called Simple Scan in Fedora 14, curious to see how well it works I launched the program and immediately knew this program had my name on it. I like simple and this program really is simple.

Simple Scan, a no nonsense program

 Click on the scan button and that is it. The preferences (Document > Preferences) contain DPI settings.

What is really cool about Simple Scan is scanning as a Text file automatically saves the document as a PDF file, exactly what I wanted.

You can switch between scan modes by clicking on the little down arrow next to the scan button.

But but...this is even more interesting, viewing the about information.

Who says Canoncial doesn't submit anything upstream?

So Linux was able to save me money on printer ink, postage fees, a new scanner and scanning software. Overall making my car insurance renewal easy.

Windows 7, your PC simplified

Linux, your life simplified!