Write at haste repent at leisure

I wrote a quick blog post last night, where I learned a lesson – don’t write to a syndicated blog late at night after a long day.

I’ve corrected the post now, where I remarked I’d untarred a tarball to the root, which I know isn’t best practice but its what I did in the early hours of the morning on a pre-production system where I know the contents of that tarball.

So apologies to anyone that this offended – such as the first comment I received (which was so rude I’m not submitting it). My post is apparently so bad it’s to be featured on a site known as ubuntunoobs.com.

I was wondering what this was, what its about and why its being used as a threat to those giving their time to try and make open source software, particularly Ubuntu that little bit better. Then I realised that I’m too busy doing that to care.

If this sounds like sour grapes, it isn’t, after all to err is after all human but to forgive is divine.

Firefox 3.x hanging on Aspire One

On my Aspire One, which is running UNR, Firefox hangs for a few seconds then resumes. Its annoying and becomes more frequent over time, especially with page loads.

On my Aspire One, which is running UNR, Firefox hangs for a few seconds then resumes. Its annoying and becomes more frequent over time, especially with page loads.

I’ve commented on this before, and it seems that sqlite3 when combined with an SSD is the culprit. I disabled phishing protection (yes, careful, dragons, blah) a few weeks ago but the problem resurfaced recently. Then I realised that history is stored the same way and defaults to holding 90 days of history. The file places.sqlite had grown very large.

So I’ve disabled it too and deleted all the *.sqlite files in my Firefox profile and the hangs have stopped.

Membership

I got approved for Ubuntu Membership tonight! Actually feels quite rewarding – I know giving time to OSS should be an altruistic thing but it is nice to be recognised.

For anyone who is thinking of applying, they really should.  Its quite nerve racking – not being sure what’ll be looked at.  It really didn’t help my nerves after the first guy up tonight was declined.

So what’s needed?  Well, prep your wiki page and make sure that you have testimonials or better still members at the meeting to support your application.  Make sure you’ve a visible contribution and then off you go.

You introduce yourself and a board of four or five people ask you a couple of questions, they each vote and they tell you there and then.  If you’re successful then you get a message saying your added to the Launchpad team.

I then joined the flood of bloke in #ubuntu-irc getting the IRC cloaks (You need two registered nicknames grouped – I discovered tonight that my alternative is too long and the server ignores the last character), adding my Planet Ubuntu feed, applying for a little rank picture on the forums and trying (even though it takes up to two days) your new email address!

Of course this is now going to hit Planet Ubuntu, so I apologise to everyone there, who are members and know this already.  Still happy though…

Replacing Linpus Linux Lite on the Acer Aspire One

I love my Aspire One but have come to be less impressed by the Linpus distro installed. So at the weekend I decided to try Arch Linux, which as a long time Slackware fan I had heard worked well and had good documentation.

I love my Aspire One but have come to be less impressed by the Linpus distro installed. So at the weekend I decided to try Arch Linux, which as a long time Slackware fan I had heard worked well and had good documentation.

Its all up and running and other than two quirks, the guide on Arch Wiki is spot on.

As I said, I came across two quirks – the install image used kernel 2.6.26, which detects the r8196 module for the network but for some reason will not answer a dhcp request after reboot (only after reboot) – so replace it with 2.26.27 before reboot. You’ll need to anyway because the Atheros wireless chipset in the Aspire One is supported OOB on the more recent kernel.

The second is well documented, that ext2 partitions on SD are corrupted on suspend. I opted for an XFS partition though and have not had any issues.

The only things I haven’t got working are suspend to RAM and the WiFi light (although the switch works). Neither of these is a show-stopper because I’ve got boot time down to under 18 seconds which is only a few seconds more than resume from RAM.

I’d also advise binning dhcpd and using wicd – which integrates well with XFCE and being a daemon means WiFi is up before you’ve got a desktop.

Really impressed with Arch, a distro I haven’t used before. It’s from the minimalist camp and allows a tailored installation with little or no cruft. Its documentation is fantastic (I have seen a few ideas that I intend to implement in Ubuntu!).

Building PDF from Ubuntu Documentation

People frequently ask for PDF versions of the Ubuntu System Help. We have a toolchain to build them but why not do it yourself?

This is true of any DocBook – dblatex is in the Ubuntu repositories and can transform DocBook in to many formats, the default being PDF.

Usually it is as simple as:

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dblatex filename.xml

To generate filename.pdf. Most errors are easy to rectify because dblatex calls other tools and you can step through some (such as pdflatex).

However if you get an error along the lines of:

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Overfull @hbox (20.76302pt too wide)

Well that is a bit of a pain. The prescribed wisdom is that something (usually a ulink) is just really too long, such as one of those really long URLs. In the case of DocBook, more often than not it’s a table that it just cannot render – so keep them simple!

Reports of Ubuntu reducing hard drive lifespan

There was a story posted on Slashdot today with regard to Bug #59695 (No link, intentionally). Apart from the fact that it was extremely poor form to post a link to Launchpad thus slashdotting a major bug tracking tool, this issue should be addressed quickly. Here is the bug report:

When switching to battery power, /etc/acpi/power.sh issues the command hdparm -B 1 to all block devices. This leads to extremely frequent load cycles. For example, my new thinkpad has already done well over 7000 load cycles — in only 100 hours. That’s at least one unloading per minute. Googling for “load unload cycles notebook OR laptop” shows that most laptop drives handle up to 600,000 such cycles. As these values clearly show, this issue is of high importance and should be fixed sooner rather than later.

Please see for yourself how often your drive is load cycling:
smartctl -d ata -a /dev/sda
(This command is for an SATA drive; you’ll need to install the smartmontools package first.)

See also http://paul.luon.net/journal/hacking/BrokenHDDs.html for a rather dramatic account of the effects the current default values may have.

Just in case the load/unload timeout depends on the specific laptop or disk model, here are my system specifications:
ThinkPad Z60m & Hitachi HTS541080G9SA00 disk (80GB)

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