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Tuesday 16 December 2003

Windows programmers misunderstand UNIX, again

Joel Spolsky has read Eric Raymond's new book, and understood that ESR represents the whole of UNIX culture. Sigh. No, there's more to it than that, Joel. Take a look at GNOME next.

In other news, I've been stuck at home all day fighting off the flu, or whatever this is. Sucks. I missed the launch of Habbo Hotel Sweden.

Friday 12 December 2003

Radeon Multihead

Got a second monitor, a flat-panel Hitachi at work. Configuring XFree86 for multihead wasn't the most intuitive thing I've done recently, so I suppose this info might be useful to someone else, too.

Right now this is just random pieces of hints, but I'll try to collect some real config examples here once I have everything sorted out to my liking. Update: See my XF86Config file for configurations with all three options mentioned below.

Using Fedora's XFree86 4.3.0, the key to enabling multihead operation is realizing that not only do you need to create another Monitor and Screen section in the XF86Config file and refer to those in a ServerLayout, you actually need to make two copies of the Device (videocard) section as well. This was quite unintuitive, and took me a fair bit of time to understand, given that I don't actually have two videocards on the laptop, and XFree86 would not give an error message in either case.

There are some additional alternatives, however. The GATOS driver has better XVideo support (this is especially true for Rage Mobility, not so much for Radeon), but for multihead, the best choice right now seems to be the MergedFB driver, which treats both screens as a single framebuffer, enabling 3D acceleration on both screens. That is, if your screens are not too big.. Radeon Mobility M7, which my laptop has, supports 3D acceleration on an up to 2048x2048 screen, and 1400x1050 + 1280x1024 goes over that. Oops. Naturally, the configuration of this driver is completely different from the "normal" method, which only a single Device/Screen/Monitor setup, and a bunch of additional options in the Device block (reminds me of XFree86 3.x, actually).

More annoying, though, is that apparently I can't make XFree86 automatically figure out whether the external monitor is connected. I made a script that probes for ddc info on reboot/resume of the system and reconfigures gdm, but I just wish that I could plug in while having a session open - that would help in meetings with the video projector, too.

The second annoyance is that since the displays are different size, my GNOME panels have to resize when the desktop size changes, and for some reason, panel wants to completely rearrange its contents when that happens. Easily demonstrated by switching resolutions with xrandr, too. Update: many of the resizing problems are somehow related to MergedFB, and I've switched to a plain Xinerama setup. That means I don't have 3D accel when using two screens, but I can live with that.

Comment by Davide Bolcioni on Fri, 12 Mar 2004 23:52:36:
Could you elaborate on that ? I am trying to achieve the same result on a Compaq Presario 900 EA (ATI Mobility U1) but the external monitor gets no signal. Using a single Device section the same monitor works, although this just clones the panel.

Comment by oa on Sat, 13 Mar 2004 09:36:06:
You might want to take a look at the XF86Config file I just added to this post.

Sunday 7 December 2003

Fedora Core 1

I've recently updated several computers to Fedora Core 1. Having ran it for a week on my main workstation (a Compaq Evo N800c laptop), I have to say I'm quite satisfied with it.

At first, I was a bit hesitant to make the upgrade, as it seemed like quite an invasive operation. However, the process went quite smoothly, even though I did it as an "apt-get upgrade" instead of with a CD-ROM upgrade (on all three machines). This despite the fact that my workstation in particular has a lot of third party packages installed as well.

I had already earlier replaced RH9's GNOME 2.2 with 2.4 packages graciously provided by Matthew Hall (thanks Matt!), as well as installing a lot of other stuff you can find notes about in my earlier notes. This proved not to be a problem at all, thanks to my old habit of never installing anything past the RPM system (I routinely create RPM packages myself, if I can not find the program as a ready-made package - which rarely happens any more).

Having changed all my apt repository configs to point to Fedora alternatives, I only had to manually resolve a couple of conflicts. Most of these were a matter of uninstalling an old, conflicting package, and perhaps afterwards reinstalling the equivalent afterwards if apt did not automatically pick one up. The only really questionable point was krb5-libs - lots of packages have a dependency to libcom_err.so.3, which was provided by RH9's krb5-libs-1.2.7, but is not provided by Fedora's krb5-libs-1.3.1. For now, I resolved that by installing both packages (library packages often allow nonconflicting duplicate installations, this being no exception), and adding an Allow-Duplicated { "^krb5-libs$"; }; clause to apt.conf.

Compared to my earlier notes, this time I dropped GStreamer's repository (it is not very well maintained, and doesn't have a Fedora version). Fedora includes GStreamer, but Matt's archive, mentioned above, is usually a bit more recent. Matt also has a more up-to-date build of GNOME packages. I've also used Dag Wieërs's repository for some additional multimedia stuff. Encouraged by the easy upgrade, I'm also testing out Linux 2.6 from Arjan van de Ven's repository.

On the Fishpool server, the setup is more of a standard FC1 installation, as desktop/multimedia packages aren't needed, and the site doesn't require Java. Having SpamAssassin included in the standard distro is cool, but the lack of Tripwire is not (RH9's Tripwire doesn't work at all). Still thinking about how to fix that.

My earlier problems with the Evo screen sometimes getting corrupted on VC switches haven't repeated yet. I don't know if it's the 2.6 kernel or FC's updated XFree86, or whether I just haven't seen it yet.. The graphical boot is sometimes cool, sometimes not (my old laptop, still running 2.4, needs to have tpconfig run to disable trackpad tap gestures, and that doesn't work while /dev/mouse is opened by gpm or X).

Update: It must be a linux 2.6 kernel thing, but my cdrom no longer seems to work. I disabled the use of ide-scsi since it's been deprecated, but still I can not get any program to recognise discs I insert in the drive. Haven't yet tried booting back to 2.4 to try if it still works there. Solution: duh.. forgot to remove hdc=ide-scsi from the boot options.

Comment by james on Wed, 26 May 2004 19:09:28:
Hi, I was wondering if you ever got tripwire working on Fedora Core 1? I have been trying, without success, to find someone who has made a good configuration file for this. My email address is james at patentcomplete dot com. Thanks, James

Comment by oa on Wed, 26 May 2004 20:20:57:
Yes, I did - it was later introduced by FC1 updates, although it seems to have been removed afterwards (apt no longer finds it). I'm not sure I actually like Tripwire 2.3 better than the 1.x used by RH9, but in any case, I did manage to make it work. You might want to look at something else as well, such as AIDE.

Comment by Larry Kavara on Fri, 17 Sep 2004 19:25:40:
Hi ¡¡ I'm thinking to change to Fedora, but I'm not sure about doing that because I have a now a wireless network card and I do not know if it is going to work with that. Anyone have a wireless network card working on Fedora? Thanks

Comment by oa on Fri, 22 Oct 2004 23:22:29:
Wireless cards work with Fedora just as well as with any other distro - tweaking required, drivers may not be installed by default. I got a Compaq WL200 installed in the machine's multiport bay, and after installing the Orinico USB driver, it works fine.

Friday 25 July 2003

"Autosave"

This link was from Visa.. Irate Scotsman wants Mac OS X apps to automatically save documents. Yeah, nice idea - could be taken further, though. Get rid of files completely.

The thing that really attracted me to PalmOS all those years ago was not the well designed UIs in the apps, although they certainly didn't hurt, but the well-designed OS (well, in one respect, anyway): no files, just documents.

And it never ceases to amaze me that here, in 2003, we still use computer operating systems that force the user to see a difference between RAM (volatile "working" memory) and disk (persistent memory). I mean, "user unfriendly" server applications like databases don't. Maybe with 64 bits and practically unlimited address spaces finally approaching, now is the time for that to change.

The way I see it, an operating system should provide just one service in place of this whole filesystem mess: persistent objects. Basically, flatten the address space from the current RAM+disk to just one space, with RAM acting as the cache for active objects (compare that to CPU caches, if you like - that would make the complete hierarchy something like CPU registers - L1 - L2 - (L3) - RAM - local disk - network services like Freenet or iDisk). Any object (document) manipulated by an application would automatically be persisted to disk, too (with a writeback cache for performance, obviously).

That would even be trivial to implement. There ARE some frameworks kind of like that: Prevayler for Java, for example. The other, slightly harder part of the big picture would of course be providing versioning for those objects. An app could pretty easily do that by itself by cloning the document at user-selected milestones, but I think the OS should provide this service as well.

Getting rid of the filesystem would leave one "detail" open - locating documents. Each app keeps a structure of objects belonging to it, and the operating system provides an indexing service to assist searching for them.

Which is first to provide this, Mac OS X or Linux & Gnome? I'm still rooting for the latter option, myself.

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