Archive for Operating Systems

SSD Performance in Modern Laptops

After acquiring a new laptop in October ’16, I was surprised to find how fast the old Intel Core 2 laptop still felt. To dig a little deeper, I decided to shoddily compare the performance of the first (SATA) SSD I ever bought back in 2010 to the (M2) SSD in my new 2016 ASUS UX305C. The old laptop did not feel faster than the new one as such, but between an ’09 AMD Phenom II and an Intel i7 there was a really noticeable speed increase on the same SSD. But this new laptop actually seemed to be slower at installing programs.

  • screenshot_2016-11-03_15-02-37-benchmark-ssd-120gb-2010-fs8
  • screenshot_2016-11-03_15-06-56-ssd-64gb-2015-zenbook-ux305c-fs8

Obviously in 2016 and beyond I’d strongly consider upgrading to a larger model, but that it could also be worthwhile to upgrade for performance reasons saddens me. The write rate is particularly bad, and this can be felt in software installation taking longer than on the old laptop. NB The old laptop originally came with a significantly slower HDD, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that my old desktop SSD performed better… Still, I was expecting more. As long as it’s better than your average HDD I suppose I can’t complain.

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libGL error in Steam and Broken Age in Debian Stretch

After some update or other, Broken Age refused to start.

$ ./start.sh 
Running Broken Age
libGL error: unable to load driver: radeonsi_dri.so
libGL error: driver pointer missing
libGL error: failed to load driver: radeonsi
libGL error: unable to load driver: swrast_dri.so
libGL error: failed to load driver: swrast
X Error of failed request:  BadValue (integer parameter out of range for operation)
  Major opcode of failed request:  155 (GLX)
  Minor opcode of failed request:  3 (X_GLXCreateContext)
  Value in failed request:  0x0
  Serial number of failed request:  91
  Current serial number in output stream:  92

Oh well, let’s give it a little hand, shall we?

LD_PRELOAD='/usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libstdc++.so.6 /lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgpg-error.so.0' ./start.sh

This loads the included libraries before any others, in order to override the incompatible libraries shipped with the program in question. The same trick also works for Steam. If gaming is your goal, you should probably stick to whatever version of Ubuntu is supported best. I’m just pleased that I can play the occasional game like Oxenfree (no preloading required, mind you) or Broken Age on my workhorse without having to install any stability-reducing binary blobs.

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Fix No gksu(do) Permissions Prompt on Gparted, Synaptic, Mounting Drives, Etc. in Debian

I run Debian Stretch (testing) as my daily driver, and at some point I stopped being able to start programs like start Synaptic, Gparted, Synaptic etc. without manually typing gksu(do). The solution is as simple as it is seemingly unnecessary and stupid:

sudo apt install policykit-1-gnome

The problem is apparent upon reading the description:

This implementation was originally designed for GNOME 2, but most
GNOME-based desktop environments, including GNOME 3, GNOME Flashback,
MATE and Cinnamon, have their own built-in PolicyKit agents and no
longer use this one. The remaining users of this implementation
are XFCE and Unity.

Reported as Debian bug #843224. My first?


D’oh, I wrote this on November 5, 2016. I’ll still publish it anyway in case it’ll still help someone searching for a solution.

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UNetbootin Custom Drive Selection

UNetbootin has been broken for many, many years, but just today (a few years after the fact) I discovered that the previous GUI option to show all drives was readded as a command line option. So if the program doesn’t want to detect your drive, just use the targetdrive argument:

unetbootin targetdrive=/dev/sdf1

And voila, it’s working. I have no idea why it should have to be so difficult. The program categorically refuses to detect any of my USB flashdrives or harddrives, so since the removal of show all drives it’s been utterly useless.

PS This is basically only for Windows ISOs. For everything else you can just use, e.g., dd. Much easier.

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Workarounds for Turning Off Your DisplayPort Monitor

Sometimes you jot down a few quick notes for yourself without bothering to turn them into a blogpost that might be useful to others. This is one of those notes. First, I’ll introduce my computer monitor workflow as it’s been since time immemorial, also known as ’95 or ’96. Just like how I turn off lights I don’t use, I’ve always turned off my monitor when I wanted it. This has never been a problem, until in early 2015 I had to use DisplayPort for the first time. If you want an UltraHD monitor, which you do if you care even the tiniest bit about sharpness and clarity, you have to use DisplayPort.

But DisplayPort isn’t nice. Turning off your monitor is treated the same as disconnecting it. In Windows this means everything resets itself to some absurdly low resolution, whereas in Linux the consequences can be even worse (like having to SSH in from another computer to run an xrandr command to reactivate the monitor). This means you either face a colossal waste of energy or continuous annoyance at the fact that your monitor has turned itself off yet again. In my view monitor timeouts should be at least twenty minutes, just as a failsafe in the extremely unlikely event that you forgot to turn it off. Luckily I found two reasonable workarounds within the first week or two of having acquired my UHD monitor.

The first?

xset dpms force off

This has the same effect as your monitor timeout, only at your volition. I tend to find the blinking light on the monitor somewhat annoying, but this nevertheless remains your best bet to quickly turn the screen off as part of your regular workflow.

The second method consists of actually turning the monitor off. Besides getting rid of the blinking light I figure it saves just a tiny bit more electricity to boot. Which is useful if you want to keep your computer active, but not your monitor. For this method you have to switch to TTY (Ctrl + Alt + F1-6) before turning your monitor off. Then when you turn your monitor back on, X won’t know it’s been missing. Switch back with Ctrl + Alt + F7.

I’m still hopeful that there might simply be an xorg.conf setting I’ve overlooked, but in any case these workarounds serve their purpose. Note that xset dpms force off is also tremendously useful on laptops that don’t have a function key for turning off the screen. Standby often just isn’t what you want.

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Scanning with an HP MFP (multi-function peripheral) on Debian

You need to install hplip. It looks like something’s still off about the colors compared to Ubuntu and Windows, and I can’t figure out what the difference is. Alas. :/ Also, don’t buy HP.

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Less is More

A minimal Debian install comes without the ability to view man pages. Fair enough, it’s minimal after all. But they can be quite useful. A sudo apt install man later results in man pages being shown. That’s all, folks? Unnfortunately not, because the man pages are shown using the more command, which doesn’t allow for scrolling up and down with the arrow keys or j and k, Pg Up and Pg Dn, and all the other usual niceties. To fix you need to sudo apt install less, a “pager program similar to more.” And better, at least on any machine with sufficient RAM. Meaning anything anyone is likely to use in 2016, or probably also in 1990 for that matter.

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Let’s Encrypt on Debian/Jessie

Wow, that was easy. I’ve been reading about Let’s Encrypt all over the place, and I wouldn’t like any snooping on my feeds password, now would I?

  1. Add the jessie-backports repository.
  2. sudo apt install -t jessie-backports certbot python-certbot-apache
  3. sudo letsencrypt --apache -d example.com [-d subdomain.example.com]

This stuff expires every 90 days, so you still need a cron job to renew.

sudo crontab -e

Let’s say 4 at night every Sunday.

* 4 * * 0 letsencrypt renew >> /var/log/letsencrypt-renew.log

Neat!

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Switching to FreshRSS

QuiteRSS is a terrific piece of software. It only has one flaw, which is that it only runs on my desktop. Unfortunately this has led to me increasingly getting behind on the things I like to read. Sometimes this is fine, like when I can read a book instead, but other times it’s mildly frustrating.

QuiteRSS in three-column mode.

It would seem that none of the online feeds readers, whether self-hosted or SaaS, support the paradigm I’m used to. They’re all following the “golden standard” of nightmarish, thankfully-it’s-gone Google Reader. Basically I use feeds like emails. Most I delete after reading. Those I want to keep for reference I keep around, marked read.

But not so with these feedreaders. Feeds you want to keep for later reading should preferably be favorited, bookmarked, or maybe saved to a system like Wallabag. This has advantages too, of course. By centralizing your to-read list in one location, like Wallabag or Pocket, you don’t have the problem of remembering what’s where, or that you have loads of unread open tabs in various browsers.

Long story short, after sampling a whole bunch of feedreaders I opted for FreshRSS. It suffers from the omnipresent “no pages” disease. Got a feed with a thousand items? (Yes, they exist.) You can go to the start or the beginning by sorting in ascending or descending order, but reading things somewhere down the middle? Forget it.

These minor inconveniences are worth it, however. This way I can easily read my feeds from any computer anywhere in the world. The feeds are always updated, provided you set up a cron job. I don’t have to start up my computer or risk missing anything if I’m on vacation for a few days. I can quickly check them on my cellphone during an otherwise wasted moment. Overall I’m happy. Goodbye, QuiteRSS. You were a good friend after Opera died, but it’s time to move on.

PS Here are some feed-related links that should go along nicely with any feed reader.

  • Feed Creator allows you to create feeds for webpages that are missing them.
  • So does RSS-Bridge, but since it’s self-hosted it fits perfectly next to FreshRSS in the kluit spirit.
  • Tubes is a tool I wrote a few years back that can filter and fix up feeds. Useful if a website happens to have a feed, but not on a per-category basis or some such. Or of course because you might want to subscribe to an hourly news podcast, but only get the news once a day.

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Cloud, Kluit, Clod?

Just a quick demonstration of the power of openclipart.org. I dubbed my “personal cloud” experiment kluit: a Dutch word meaning both clod and the ball of earth around the roots of a tree. In other words, kluit is firmly grounded because you’ve got your own ground with you wherever you go. Be like Dracula. With a name in mind, I also wanted a matching logo. Following a quick search for leaves, root (or was it tree) and after a little initial play something like attraction, this is the quick and satisfying result.

A couple of floating leaves still connected with their roots. This arrangement symbolizes how creating your personal cloud keeps it grounded.

And of course the remix is free for all. Enjoy.

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