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)

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