Internet documentation for Jaunty – help!

Documentation string freeze is rapidly approaching (March 26th) and I’ve not managed to get as much feedback on NetworkManager as I would have liked in order to make some really useful documentation.

Connection is one of those things that if a new user hits it, it can be a major problem – especially when so much help is available on the Internet! This often results in frustrated users who can only look to the little blue circle with the question mark.

The thing is though, I’m to blame too. I know how to troubleshoot networking problems, so it’s unlikely that I approach the problem from the same aspect as a newcomer, so might be answering a question that no-one asked!

With only two of NetworkManager’s currently supported connections – the documentation is lacking in three areas: VPN, DSL and the one I’m most worried about, Mobile Internet. I’d also love to reach more of a consensus on how to document dial-up connections.

So, now I’ve got a feed to Planet Ubuntu, I can hit a much wider audience and who are likely to have overcome any issues they encountered.

I need your experiences connecting using NM:

  • Which of NM’s connection types do you use?
  • Was it detected automatically?
  • Did you need to take any steps that are not apparent from the interface – such as installing extra packages or manually configuring options?

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…

Acer Aspire One

Checking me server logs (as you do), I’ve seen a lot of hits from people searching for information of the Aspire One – looking for information on enabling the right click menu and editing the panels.xml file.

I don’t have the vanilla install of Linpus Linux Lite (nothing wrong with it – I just prefer Arch) but I thought I’d mention that anything I did encounter while using it is available on my Wiki:

Install Arch Linux on an Aspire One

I recently decided to reinstall a perfectly good install of Arch on my Aspire One because someone said they couldn’t get it to work. I don’t know why this install was more troublesome than the last but it was. I’m not taking any credit here – this information is available on the Arch Wiki, its more to jog my memory for next time. Continue reading Install Arch Linux on an Aspire One

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.

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!).

Add an XFCE menu to the Aspire One panel

Acer have made some alterations to the xfce4-panel, you probably noticed that you can’t right click and add launchers.

Edit: For anyone who came here to find out how to enable the “advanced menu” or XFCE menu on right click – Open your documents, click “File->Terminal” and type “xfce-setting-show” or just “xfce-se” then hit tab. Click “Desktop->Behaviour” and then tick “Show desktop menu on right click”.

I have a workaround but haven’t worked out why yet. Open a terminal (from a Thunar window if you haven’t enable the right click on the desktop). Now if you look in .config/xfce4/panel there is your standard xml file to layout the panel. If you alter this, on relaunching the panel it overwrites it with the default.

The odd thing is that the un-patched panel is still there, and works as normal (look in /usr/bin – there are two panels, one renamed xfce4-panel.old). Well for some reason that I haven’t fathomed, if you kill the running panel then alter the config then run xfce4-panel.old then restart it the xml config is not overwritten.

Here’s a screenshot:

Weird
Weird

Stanford-Binet IQ Test

Did you know that the Stanford-Binet IQ test, when first translated to English in 1908 by Henry H Goddard, the scale used very different definitions to those used today?

Currently in its fith revision, the system uses ten groupings but the 1908 translation’s first three classifications were: 0 to 20 – Idiot; 20 to 49 – Imbecile; 50 to 69 – Moron (the average IQ being around 100).

Also, believe it or not mental retardation and learning difficulties were referred to as the spectacularly offensive “Feeble Minded“.

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:

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:

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)

Continue reading Reports of Ubuntu reducing hard drive lifespan