Watch “Guitar Close Up – 1961 Gibson ES-330TDC Cherry $7295” on YouTube

New laptop, new OS

The women in my life gifted me with a sweet HP Envy 15-as133cl 15t laptop. I guess they saw the keys pop off of my old HP laptop a few too many times.

The new laptop has an HD screen (1920 x 1080), a lot of memory (16GB), an Intel i7 CPU (not sure of the exact model) and a 1 TB hard drive.

Right now I’m running the Windows 10 that came with it. I “auditioned” Fedora 25 with GNOME and Xubuntu 17.04, and while either one may indeed work with this hardware (the biggest problem being the HD screen and the Linux desktop environments’ inability to handle them without a lot of little tweaks), for now I’m sticking with Windows.

The main reason that I can stick with the stock OS is the Windows Subsystem for Linux (aka the WSL), which gives me a full Ubuntu-powered Bash shell that runs pretty much every Linux console program available. I’m using it to run/update my Ode blog (I still can’t get Unison in Windows to work across networks because I can’t get SSH working and am a little wary of Windows software that seems frozen in time).

As I allude to in the sentence above, adding software in Windows has it’s good and bad points. Good: You can easily run things like MS Office and the Adobe suite, though I don’t use those at all (instead opting for LibreOffice and Google Docs, and GIMP/IrfanView/Inkscape). Bad: Some things are old and unmaintained, like the ClipX clipboard manager that I rely on heavily. Plus after years of drawing on huge Linux software repositories offered by projects like Debian, Ubuntu and Fedora, having to go all over the Internet to find applications is not something I’m excited about.

That said, I have most of what I need. I’m playing with JavaScript, especially in Node, quite a bit, and I have Node installed both in the Ubuntu shell and on the Windows side.

I don’t have Ruby in the WSL or Windows since I haven’t used it in awhile, but I will probably do that in the WSL.

If/when I start dabbling in Java again, I can do that on both sides (WSL and Windows), too.

For Java and Ruby especially, I like coding with them in the Geany editor, which is like a “baby” IDE (it can execute your code, though I’ve never gotten it to work like that with JavaScript/Node). Unfortunately Geany is one of those old GTK apps that looks like hell on this laptop’s HD screen. Principally it’s blurry. So I’ve been using Notepad++ instead, which is a great text editor, though I haven’t figured out if it is capable of executing code in the languages I use (Ruby, JavaScript, Java, Bash).

I am also experimenting with Visual Studio Code, Microsoft’s “not-quite Visual Studio” editor. The “not-quite” part is OK by me, because most IDEs I’ve tried are so massive and cryptic that I’m happy to have something that’s I can understand more easily.

I already had Visual Studio Code on my old HP’s Fedora system, and now I have it in Windows 10 proper. I’ve used it for a little JavaScript. I like the syntax highlighting, and I was able to execute my code via the debugger. (If you actually know what you are talking about, I encourage you to laugh at or with me — your choice.)

In the WSL, I’m relying on Vim as my text editor, and I’m using the limitations of the WSL (most of which can be summed up as “no GUI,” though you can definitely hack one in) as an excuse to sharpen my Vim skills. I also have Vim and gVim on the Windows side. (Vim is everywhere.)

You might notice that a lot of the programs I’m using are things you’d find in Linux. I’m surprised that so many traditional Linux/Unix applications are available in Windows. Some of them are even regularly maintained.

I’ll detail all the software I’m using in Windows 10 at some future point, probably on another site, but quickly:

  • Audacity (audio editor)
  • Dropbox (file sync)
  • FileZilla (FTP)
  • GIMP (image editor)
  • Inkscape (vector graphics editor)
  • IrfanView (image editor)
  • LibreOffice (office suite)
  • Node.js (JavaScript in the console)
  • Notepad++ (text editor)
  • OpenShot (video editor)
  • PuTTY (terminal for SSH connections to servers)
  • qBittorrent (torrent client)
  • QuiteRSS (RSS reader)
  • Vim and gVim (text editor)
  • Visual Studio Code (text editor, mini IDE)
  • VLC (video editor)
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux (aka WSL aka Ubuntu for Windows aka Bash on Windows … do you think they have a branding issue?)

Things I’m relying on in the WSL:

  • Bash (which is obvious, but I use all the common Unix tools and rely on a number of scripts to automate various tasks)
  • SSH (for encrypted connections)
  • Unison (file sychronization)

Things I haven’t yet installed:

  • Geany (GTK text editor that looks a little rough in Windows 10 on this laptop)
  • Hugo (static site/blog engine)
  • JVM (the Java Virtual Machine)
  • Netbeans (IDE written in Java)
  • Ruby (programming language)

 

Still running Fedora on the HP Pavilion g6-2210us

Just an update on Fedora 18 with Xfce on the HP Pavilion g6-2210us — all systems are very, very ‘go’ that I’m still running Fedora, now version 25, and I just replaced the keyboard on the laptop after individual key replacement didn’t go so well.

When I replaced the “n” key, it took me a while to find the “right” replacement key since HP used so many different keyboards on its Pavilion laptops during this period (2012-13). But the new “n” was never right. It was mushy, and eventually it, too, broke. Then the space bar went wonky, and that looked even more complicated to deal with.

I finally did get the right keyboard. It only cost $15. Yesterday I took out the old one and put this new one in.

Next update/repair should be the hard drive. It’s time for a new one, and I’m looking at both 1TB spinning drives and 512MB+ solid-state drives.

Annoying as shit: I can’t see this blog while logged in to WordPress.com without an annoying overlay asking me to buy domain mapping

It’s a long story, but I had domain mapping on this blog for awhile.

As you can see, I rarely post here. But I wanted to check out the new Javascript-coded WordPress.com interface.

But while logged in, there’s this annoying overlay when I try to innocently view this blog that says:

Uh oh! Your blog’s domain weblog.stevenrosenberg.net expired 578 days ago! Renew now for 1 more year.

While in theory I appreciate the reminder, it’s been 578 days. Odds are very, very good that I don’t want to renew.

Yet there is no way, seemingly, to make the overlay go away. And I can’t even see my own blog. It it some kind of “give us money” ransom?

Hint to Automattic: I should be able to type esc to make the overlay go away. Or click a button that says something like “No thanks. I don’t want to renew this service.”

How long is this overlay going to make it so I can’t see my own blog?

Update (on Jan. 26, 2016): I finally figured it out. You have to go into the configuration, open up Domain Mapping, then click “Remove Domain Mapping.” Now the overlay is gone.

Fedora 18 with Xfce on the HP Pavilion g6-2210us — all systems are very, very ‘go’

Just a quick post to tell you that my Fedora 18 with Xfce installation on the HP Pavilion g6-2210us is doing very well indeed.

Unlike Xubuntu 13.04, Fedora 18 WILL run under Secure Boot after installation.

I’m using full disk encryption and working on a separate hard drive (not the Windows 8 drive that shipped with the laptop).

Also unlike Xubuntu 13.04, I had no trouble with sound in Skype. Yep, I already installed Skype in Fedora. And it’s working perfectly.

Like Xubuntu 13.04, overall sound levels are fine once volume is upped via the Pulse Audio Volume Control.

In addition to Skype, things I also added to Fedora 18 without incident included the RPM Fusion repositories, the Adobe Flash browser plugin, gPodder and Xchat. I also found a new kernel and installed it (you’ll see why below).

All went smoothly.

So far Xfce in Fedora looks great. It runs great. It’s super-fast.

The only problem with this laptop and its new AMD APU (CPU plus graphics) is video. The 2D video in Xfce runs with no problem. GNOME 3 is a total mess. Unity is workable but has artifacts (though there was some improvement in the final release of Ubuntu 13.04 that I saw with live media).

And what all of these systems have in common — Ubuntu and Fedora included — is that suspend doesn’t work.

The laptop does go into suspend, but there’s no waking it (i.e. resume is broken). That’s bad because I’m a huge user of suspend/resume. The new kernel I tried from Fedora’s Koji service didn’t help. Eventually Linux, X, radeon and catalyst will catch up to this HD 7000-series video chip. It just hasn’t happened yet.

But I can say right now that Fedora 18 is good enough, configurable enough with proprietary bits, and stable enough for my daily use.

This is the first time I’ve used the Yum Extender for package management, and it’s a terrific, exceedingly quick tool.

What do I miss most not running Linux? Easy, usable FTP via the file manager and text editors (I can’t believe this is so f’d up in Windows8), and easy management of my old, old iPod, which I’m shocked is pretty much impossible to do in Windows without iTunes. I’ve tried a half-dozen music-manager/podcast manager apps, and none of them in Windows can do a damn thing half well.

Getting back to Linux’s gPodder (the Windows version doesn’t do iPod) and Rhythmbox will solve all of my Windows problems. For almost everything else I have mostly free open-source apps that just happen to run on Windows.

But a pure Linux environment would make my life better and easier. That and working suspend/resume and I’ll be a most happy camper. If I were confident that a dual-boot with Windows 8 wouldn’t fail, I’d do it today.

Update: It’s been about 2 1/2 years, and I’m still running Fedora on this laptop. Now I’m on Fedora 22, so that means four in-place upgrades without it blowing up. And I should upgrade to F23 soon.

Now I don’t need the Catalyst driver. The free Radeon driver works great. I don’t even need any hacks for suspend/resume, though I did have one for quite some time. And there are no sound issues — switching between HDMI and native laptop sound is seamless with the pavu (aka PulseAudio Volume Control) application.

My experience is that with new hardware, Linux can be difficult at first, gets better in a year, and now I can say it’s very solid after two years. While that’s a nice thing for people with 2-year-old hardware (like me now), we really need to get to the point where things are pretty good out of the box and totally locked down in six months.

What constitutes totally locked down?

  • Boots from ISO with no issues
  • Installs with no issues, especially no EFI/UEFI problems
  • Installs in dual-boot with Windows with no issues
  • Boots from disk after installation with no issues and allows boot to Linux by default
  • Video works perfectly with free drivers, including HDMI
  • Audio works perfectly, including HDMI
  • Suspend/resume works without any hacks
  • CPU heat and fan usage is comparable to what hardware achieves in Windows

Linux on the HP Pavilion g6-2210us — today’s tests: Debian Wheezy and Xubuntu 13.04

I swapped an old hard drive into the HP Pavilion g6-2210us and gave a few Linux distros a spin today.

Why a separate drive? I’m not at all confident about a successful Linux-Windows 8 dual boot. For those keeping score, this laptop features an AMD A4-4300M APU processor with AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics. The wireless NIC is by Atheros, and the wired NIC is a Realtek. (I’ll report later on specific NIC chips for wired and wireless Ethernet.)

First up was Debian Wheezy. I had to turn off Secure Boot because Debian doesn’t support it. That was no problem. You can toggle Secure Boot on this HP Pavilion g6, and you can also toggle UEFI and “legacy” BIOS mode. So really I’m only limited by what “works” with the hardware itself. Given my angst lately over video (no GNOME 3 due to shaky 3D acceleration support for this newish AMD chip), that’s cold comfort.

Debian seemed to install perfectly. Except that, early in the install, it wanted me to supply nonfree firmware for the wired networking port (a Realtek NIC) on removable media. I actually got the nonfree .deb package (all Wheezy firmware is here, unpacked it and put the required files on a USB flash drive (formatted as FAT), plugged it in and continued with the install. That didn’t work. Debian didn’t “see” the firmware.

Give what happened later (the laptop stalled during boot), this was strange because the system continued installing from the netboot image — using that very NIC to download all of the required files.

I knew I would have trouble with the 3D acceleration in GNOME 3 (and I later confirmed that the proprietary 3D driver for ATI/AMD does not work on this video card), but I was doing a test install and could always bring in Xfce later.

That wouldn’t matter.

I did the entire installation. But as I hinted above, Debian Wheezy wouldn’t reboot into the new system. It hung during configuration of the wired Ethernet port. I guess I can try again with install media that includes the nonfree firmware.

Later: I did look at the installation guide for Wheezy, where I saw that you need to leave the firmware in .deb package form. I also found install images with the firmware included.

Next up was Xubuntu.

The install went fine with Secure Boot turned on. But on reboot, I had to turn off Secure Boot to get the system up and running. It could have had something to do with the fully encrypted LVM option that I chose during the install. I’ll have to do an install without encrypted LVM to see if it makes a difference in Xubuntu’s ability to run with Secure Boot enabled.

Everything looked good once I was in the system. I installed a boatload of updates. I brought in Skype with the service’s own .deb package. I managed to get audio working in Skype. But upon reboot it was not to be. The audio left Skype, as did the configuration options I had to choose from to make it work in the first place. it might come back on the next boot. Who knows?

Unfortunately I need Skype to work at the moment. I never had such trouble in Debian Wheezy on my now-dead Lenovo G555. Until it died, that is.

Otherwise I was happy with audio. That was a major concern of mine. However, I was able to boost audio levels with the Pulse Audio Volume Control, and audio was every bit as good as it is in Windows 8.

Alas, the day’s experimenting had to come to an end. I swapped back in the Windows 8 hard drive, re-enabled Secure Boot and had a working Win 8 system once again. Yep, it’s as exciting as you thought it was.