Switching to Fedora from Ubuntu

I’ve run Ubuntu on my desktop (well… and laptop) since roughly the first release back in 2004. I’ve upgraded along the way, with reinstalls on the laptop limited to changing CPU architecture and switching full disk encryption.

Yesterday I wiped Ubuntu and installed Fedora.

Previously to Ubuntu I ran Debian. I actually ran Debian unstable on my desktop/laptop. I ran Debian Stable on any machines that had to sit there and “just work” and were largely headless. Back then Debian stable just didn’t have even remotely recent enough kernel, X and desktop apps to really be usable with any modern hardware. The downside to this was that having an IRC client open to #debian-devel and reading the topic to find if sid (codename for the unstable distribution) was pretty much a requirement if you ever thought about running “apt-get dist-upgrade”. This was exactly the kind of system that you wouldn’t give to non-expert family members as a desktop and expect them to maintain it.

Then along came Ubuntu. The basic premise was “a Debian derived distribution for the desktop, done right.” Brilliant. Absolutely amazingly brilliant. This is exactly what I wanted. I had a hope that I’d be able to focus on things other than “will dist-upgrade lead to 4 hours of fixing random things only to discover that X is fundamentally broken” and a possibility that I could actually recommend something to people who weren’t experts in the field.

For many years, Ubuntu served well. Frequent updates and relatively flawless upgrades between releases. A modern desktop environment, support for current hardware – heck, even non computer literate family members started applying their own security updates and even upgrading between versions!

Then, something started to go awry…. Maybe it was when Ubuntu shipped a kernel that helpfully erased the RAID superblock of the array in the MythTV machine… Maybe it was when I realized that Unity was failing as a basic window manager and that I swore less at fvwm…. Or maybe it was when I had a bug open for about 14,000 years on that if you left a Unity session logged in for too long all the icons in the dock would end up on top of each other at the top left of the screen making it rather obvious that nobody working on Ubuntu actually managed to stay logged in for more than a week. Or could it be that on the MythTV box and on my desktop having the login manager start (so you can actually log in to a graphical environment) is a complete crapshoot, with the MythTV box never doing it (even though it is enabled in upstart… trust me).

I think the final straw was the 13.04 upgrade. Absolutely nothing improved for me. If I ran Unity I got random graphics artifacts (a pulldown menu would remain on the screen) and with GNOME3 the unlock from screensaver screen was half corrupted and often just didn’t show – just type in your password and hope you’re typing it into the unlock screen and it hasn’t just pasted it into an IM or twitter or something. Oh, and the number of times I was prompted for my WiFi network password when it was saved in the keyring for AT LEAST TWO YEARS was roughly equivalent to the number of coffee beans in my morning espresso. The giant regressions in graphics further removed any trust I had that Mir may actually work when it becomes default(!?) in the next Ubuntu release.

GNOME3 is not perfect… I have to flip a few things in the tweak tool to have it not actively irritate me but on the whole there’s a number of things I quite like about it. It wins over Unity in an important respect: it actually functions as a window manager. A simple use case: scanning photos and then using GIMP to edit the result. I have a grand total of two applications open, one being the scanning software (a single window) and the other being the GIMP. At least half the time, when I switch back to the scanning program (i.e. it is the window at the front, maximized) I get GIMP toolbars on top of it. Seriously. It’s 2013 and we still can’t get this right?

So… I went and tried installing Fedora 19 (after ensuring I had an up to date backup).

The install went pretty smoothly, I cheated and found an external DVD drive and used a burnt DVD (this laptop doesn’t have an optical drive and I just CBF finding a suitably sized USB key and working out how to write the image to it correctly).

The installer booted… I then managed to rather easily decrypt my disk and set it to preserve /home and just format / and /boot (as XFS and ext3 respectively) and use the existing swap. Brilliant – I was hoping I wouldn’t have to format and restore from backup (a downside to using Maildir is that you end up with an awful lot of files). Install was flawless, didn’t take any longer than expected and I was able to reboot into a new Fedora environment. It actually worked.

I read somewhere that Fedora produces an initramfs that is rather specific to the hardware you’re currently running on, which just fills me with dread for my next hardware upgrade. I remember switching hard disks from one Windows 98 machine to another and it WAS NOT FUN. I hope we haven’t made 2013 the year of Windows 98 emulation, because I lived through that without ever running the damn thing at home and I don’t want to repeat it.

Some preferences had to be set again, there’s probably some incompatibility between how Ubuntu does things and how Fedora does things. I’m not too fussed about that though.

I did have to go and delete every sign of Google accounts in GNOME Online Accounts as it kept asking for a password (it turns out that two-factor-auth on Google accounts doesn’t play too nice). To be fair, this never worked in Ubuntu anyway.

In getting email going, I had to manually configure postfix (casually annoying to have to do it again) and procmail was actually a real pain. Why? SELinux. It turns out I needed to run “restorecon -r /home”. The way it would fail was silently and without any error anywhere. If I did “setenforce 0” it would magically work, but I actually would like to run with SELinux: better security is better. It seems that the restorecon step is absolutely essential if you’re bringing across an existing partition.

Getting tor, polipo and spamassasin going was fairly easy. I recompiled notmuch, tweaked my .emacs and I had email back too. Unfortunately, it appears that Chromium is not packaged for Fedora (well.. somebody has an archive, but the packages don’t appear to be GPG signed, so I’m not going to do that). There’s a complaint that Chromium is hard to package blah blah blah but if Debian and Ubuntu manage it, surely Fedora can. I use different browsers for different jobs and although I can use multiple instances of Firefox, it doesn’t show up as different instances in alt-tab menu, which is just annoying.

It appears that the version of OTR is old, so I filed a bug for that (and haven’t yet had the time to build+package libotr 4.0.0 – but it’s sorely needed). The pytrainer app that is used to look at the results of my Garmin watch was missing some depedencies (bug filed) and I haven’t yet tried to get the Garmin watch to sync… but that shouldn’t be too hard…

The speakers on my laptop still don’t work – so it’s somebody screwing up either the kernel driver or pulseaudio that makes the speakers only sometimes work for a few seconds and then stop working (while the headphone port works fine).

On the whole, I’m currently pretty happy with it. We’ll see how the upgrade to Fedora 20 goes though…. It’s nice using a desktop environment that’s actually supported by my distribution and that actually remotely works.

Ubuntu 10.10 biggest mistake: shotwell

This is meant to replace f-spot.

It just isn’t ready.

I do not have what I would consider a large photo collection. It’s about 77GB on disk, maybe 30,000 images.

Importing from f-spot is horrendously slow for what is essentially a few INSERT..SELECT statements. It does not copy your photos anywhere, yet takes about that long.

It eats memory for breakfast. No, really. I bought a digital camera around New Year 2003. In just importing the photos from 2003… It’s now using 800MB of memory… sorry, 900MB now. At final count, at the end of 2003, it’s up to 1.6GB of memory used and an additional 300MB of disk space in ~/.shotwell/thumbs. How on earth is it going to cope when it gets to where I really start shooting? Now, the Shotwell website does state that there was a memory leaking bug that is now fixed in trunk. Note where it isn’t fixed – in Ubuntu.

Ubuntu 10.10 currently ships with an unusable photo manager.

f-spot is nowhere near perfect. Relegating it to universe instead of main (i.e. it’s now “not maintained by Canonical”) is just stupid.

Meanwhile, I still love darktable – it’s simply wonderful.

No, I haven’t forgotten digital (darktable for the epic win)

This was my first real play with darktable. It’s a fairly new “virtual lighttable and darkroom for photographers” but if you are into photography and into freedom, you need to RUN (not walk) to the install page now.

My first real use of it was for a simple image that I took from my hotel room when I was in Hong Kong last week. I whacked the fisheye on the D200, walked up to the window (and then into it, because that’s what you do when looking through a fisheye) and snapped the street scene below as the sun was going away.

Hotel Window (Hong Kong)

I’d welcome feedback… but I kinda like the results, especially for a shot that wasn’t thought about much at all (it was intended as a just recording my surroundings shot).

The second shot I had a decent go at was one I snapped while out grabbing some beers with some of the Rackspace guys (Hi Tim and Eddie!) in Hong Kong. Darktable let me develop the RAW image from my D200 and get exactly the image I was looking for…. well, at least to my ability so far. Very, very impressed.

Hong Kong streetlife

Being a photographer and using Ubuntu/GNOME has never been so exciting. Any inclination I had of setting up a different OS for that “real” photo stuff is completely gone.

(Incidently, I will be talking about darktable at LUV in July)

Problems with Tracker (and why I’m back to Beagle)

  1. If you have more than 8192 directories, it can’t monitor them (max inotify limit)
  2. No search results
  3. access(), stat() and then lstat() called on *every* file that it’s going to index… this takes a long time.
  4. Did I mention that search doesn’t actually give you any results?
  5. Even when you run strings on the database and then search for something there, you don’t get any results
  6. Even when you search for the name of an application, you get no results.

Everything that’s wrong (and right) with Ubuntu Gutsy

So, I’ve upgraded two boxes: my laptop and my mail server.


  • courier-imap-ssl broke. My cell phone could no longer pull mail.
    I got something like in the log:
    imapd-ssl: couriertls: connect: error:1408F10B:SSL routines:SSL3_GET_RECORD:wrong version number
    The fix for this is to change the TLS_PROTOCOL option in /etc/courier/imapd-ssl to SSL23 (an option not listed in the “possible verions” list in the config file). So mail now works.
  • Evolution now seems to put a blank line at the top of emails when replying (before quoting the message). GRRRRRRR…
  • The Window Manager (metacity) has changed how it arranges new windows. Instead of cascading them down, so if you’re opening a bunch you can easily switch between them, it now puts them right on top of each other GGRRRRRR.
  • It set up my Xorg to *not* to X monitor hotpluggy goodness. I’ve managed
  • Login seems to take a fair bit longer than before
  • Tracker
    • trackerd will index while on battery power… GRRR
    • trackerd will hog disk and CPU
    • I haven’t been able to get any results out of tracker.
    • There is no tracker-status or something to check that it hasn’t just stopped working
    • Tracker will use up all your remaining disk space… (I initially only had a few GB free.. and trackerd filled it up)
    • I haven’t actually had a query work at all. i.e. it seems to be useless. I just get a “trackerd exited with status 0”.
  • There is no “remember passphrase” button in Evolution for GPG signing anymore. I think this is now set in the global preferences… but the behaviour change is annoying.
  • The pidgin icon is different than the gaim icon in the Notification Area… this is annoying as I can never find it anymore
  • The Window List applet changed behaviour to now *not* group windows together at all… making having lots of windows open (as I often do) completely unmanagable as opposed to (previously) just annoying.

The Awesome:

  • X monitor hotpluggy goodness (known to others as xrandr 1.2). VGA out works with the free radeon driver now! *YAY*. (I can rearrange screens using xrandr… awesome)
  • Pidgin is quite nice… the likelyhood of reply plugin is neat. More compact IM windows (also cool).
  • Syncing between Pidgin and Evolution with contacts seems to work okay now.
  • Suspend and resume still works
  • New version of f-spot – goodness!
  • New OpenOffice.org (2.3)  sucks less.
  • emacs22 (shiny)
  • New WINE does real neat stuff (such as have menu items for browse C drive, remove software)
  • Evolution doesn’t seem to leak memory as much anymore. Only 316MB RSS at the moment!
  • Lots of neat Liferea bug fixes – much nicer! (read items in the planet.linux.org.au feed stay marked read now!)

Backup solution for mum…

Dear Lazyweb,

I really want a GNOME application with a big button that says “backup” and proceeds to ask for a series of DVDs, on which it writes out everything on the hard disk (/ and /home) which can then (relatively easily) be used to restore the system.

I figure this would work for mum.

The old “drag and drop onto a blank DVD” doesn’t really work:

  • things get bigger than 1 DVD (e.g. Photos)
  • Important things like mail and bookmarks are hidden away in special dot folders (begging the question “so how do I back up my email?”)

Even a GUI around xfsdump that split the dump file into DVD sized chunks would be great…

I heart recordMyDesktop

So, I wanted to get some feedback before I presented my sessions at the upcoming MySQL Conference (be there, it’ll be cool). I thought… hrrm.. distributed company… I can’t just ask a couple of people to listen to me in the conference room as we don’t really have one (apart from IRC).

So… I thought.. hrrm… didn’t i see something about screencasting on the program for linux.con f.au ? Well, the answer was yes – Screencasting HOWTO. Started watching – I then proceeded to try the list of screencasting software.

Istanbul didn’t work – I got images and audio, but only when there was a change to what was being displayed… so a static slide with me talking, didn’t work. Same with a similar python script.

I then grabbed recordMyDesktop and it worked. ./configure; make; ./src/recordMyDesktop  …. and ctrl-c when done.. encodes to Ogg Theora and *WORKS*


I then got to convince some coworkers to spend time listening to me speak about stuff they may already know to test it before the conf.

I heart Gnome SSH Tunnel Manager

Jonas just switched me on to Gnome SSH Tunnel Manager – a simple GNOME app that stores a list of SSH tunnels you want and can automatically start and stop them.

Totally useful for those who travel (hrrm.. fair few MySQLers there) and/or always have SSH tunnels to places (hrrm… MySQLers there too).

There’s a debian package up there (and you can build one easily) but it’s not yet in the Ubuntu archive… maybe for the next release. But works fine on edgy for me!

Pleading for a better mail suite….

or really just all the Evolution bugs that I consistently hit to be fixed.

Why it needs hundreds of megabytes of memory just to list a single mail folder? What could it possibly be doing, loading the entire mailbox into memory? ick..

currently, after a crash “checking folder consistency” for at leat 10 minutes now… and aparrently i haev 13000 unread messages in INBOX. Bull. About 250 more likely. This will probably be some arse load of crack i’ll have to remove the cache files, restart evo 10 times and sacrifice  a goat to the gods of crackful annoying-apps.

Sound Volume

I like listening to music while I work. I also like notification sounds – such as gaim chiming when messages are received (so I look at them) and such things.

I use an iMic USB audio dongle to output sound to my headphones (partly because the connector on my laptop is a bit dodgy now) and I’ve detailed in the past how support for hotplugging of audio devices leaves a lot to be desired (it’s worse than it used to be sadly – I used to just be able to run esd against sound device and all was hunky dory).

What currently gets me is that music can be an adequate volume and then WHAM this loud gaim notification comes through.

Setting gaim to be softer and music to be louder isn’t immediately obvious and is easy to get wrong. It’d be great if the Volume Control applet could tweak it all from one place (and there was a way to change what the drop down volume applet controlled).

MySQL Bug Deskbar plugin

Over at my junkcode section, I have mysqlbug.py which is a plugin for the GNOME deskbar panel applet.

If you’ve used Quicksilver on MacOSX, then you know the kind of app that Deskbar Applet is.

This one lets you type “bug 1234” and be given the action of “open mysql bug 1234”. If you type “edit bug 1234” it gives you the option of editing that bug number.

We’ll see if this proves useful.

Many thanks to kamstrup (one of the Deskbar developers) on #deskbar on gimpnet for helping me out with the plugin.

I totally heart Deskbar. It’s awesome.

Maemo 2.0 (Nokia 770 Internet Tablet OS 2006)

Installed the Beta on my 770 the other night – rather cool I have to say. A few small niggling things, but it is BETA.

Things feel snappier, the thumb keyboard thing is actually pretty good, the handwriting recognition seems faster, perhaps a bit more accurrate (but still nowhere near even the Newton MessagePad 120 – with version 2 of the OS of course).

I still need to get the screen fixed on mine though, as soon as you get much black (or blue) you get ugly stripes and it becomes unreadable.

Can’t wait to get GPE PIM stuff working. Oh, and actual syncing with Evolution.

Ubuntu and more than 1 audio device

Welcome to a new category of blog post: heart-it-or-fart it.

This is an extenstion on the “Inciting Hatred” category, also allowing for praise.

I have a headphone socket on my laptop that seems a bit loose or a connection is dodgy. So, I’ve pulled out my old-and-trusty iMic – a device that came around so you could (for example) have sound input on a bunch of Macs that didn’t come with it (like my old 500mhz iBook). It also happens to have great audio out.

So, plug it in. little thing pops up saying “found new sound device, would you like to open the sound preferences panel”. So far, so good. So that’s what I do, open it, select my audio device and close it.

Then, if i’m lucky, it’s actually seleted it. More likely I have to go back and select it again, kilall esd, select it, relaunch rhythmbox.

Then i can play.

Maybe one song.

Then it skips over everything else in the playlist without playing them.

Quit rhythmbox, start it up again, works. for one song.

rinse, repeat.

Or, if you’re more lucky, you’ll get a fraction of a second of sound out of rhythmbox before it skips over everything. you even get a red stop icon next to the song. If you click on it, you see “Playback Error. Not negotiated”. Hrrm… not a very good error message there.

Oh, the other thing, if you succeed in playing your playlist, you then get, at the end, ALL OTHER SOUND EVENTS that happened for the ENTIRE TIME your playlist was playing. Because what pleases me more than ever is hearing 80minutes worth of gaim sounds one after another.

In the old days i would just “killell esd; esd -d /dev/dsp1”. This doesn’t seem to work anymore.

Verdict: fart it.

(oh, and before anybody says anything – i will be filing a bug report. just the sort of bug that you’re amazed that it was let out as a non-beta release)

Welcome – Ubuntu Linux 6.06LTS

Welcome – Ubuntu Linux

I took the plunge and last night I upgraded my laptop (my primary work machine – as in it cannot be busted[1]) to Ubuntu 6.06LTS (otherwise known as Dapper Drake. The LTS is for Long Term Support). It went pretty smoothly.

I had to remove irda-utils after the upgrade as a module being loaded was causing a panic (which showed itself by having everything freeze about 4 seconds after gdm started up and you’re about to enter your username). I should report a bug for that…

It’s slightly annoying that I had to disable gdm so i could see the panic to find out what was crashing. Perhaps we need either:

  • crash dumps (a-la IRIX and others where you can then run a debugger on an image of the crashed system)
  • panic over the top of X (a-la early MacOS X)

I have to say though, I am very pleased with the upgrade. Everything seems a bit snappier (much welcome) and NetworkManager works! I haven’t tried to suspend my laptop yet though.. so we’ll see if that works.

But a recent version of f-spot is welcome, I’m thinking I’m going to start using it for my photos. The next trick is going to be when i completely run out of disk space on my laptop for them.

The new Rhythmbox has me using it again. Disappointed not to see google talk support in gaim (although maybe i’m just not looking right).

The Window List still exists – a UI element I solemly think should die a quick death. It didn’t work in Microsoft Windows 95 with more than a few windows  open and it doesn’t work any better now (okay,  a little, but not much).

I want to take a second and marvel at the look of the new Human theme. It is rather lickable and, as we know, the only thing that matters with UI is how much you are licking your monitor. Even without wizz-bang GL compositing powered by cold fusion bucky ball quantum knot computers, it seems nice.

gnome-xchat is taking a little bit of getting used to, but the toast that pops up when somebody “stewart: hey”‘s me is useful.

Epiphany has received some updates too which are quite welcome. A bunch of elements used in phpBMS for Web 2.0 stuff are a lot faster. In previous blog entries I’ve said why I’m using Epiphany and not Firefox. I may re-asses this at some point, but I’m not really in any mood to manually move over saved passwords.

Evolution seems to suck up a bit less memory. Started out only using about 247MB. Now 338MB+52MB for evolution-data-server though…. maybe I’m just not feeling it as much due to other things chewing up less. WHY THE FUCK DOES IT TAKE 390MB FOR A PUNY 10GB[2] OR SO OF MAIL?

On the other hand though, there’s been a bunch of UI improvements in Evolution that are really welcome. I’m quite pleased with the upgrade.

My Bluetooth seems to have broken (my send image from phone to laptop didn’t work). I haven’t had time to debug yet.

Is it just me or do fonts look a bit better too?

I’m probably going to run beagle soon too.

The new version of Deskbar seems to work a lot better. I’ve noticed I’m using it more. Although is it worth 37MB of RES memory?
Tomboy seems to have gotten a bit better, but I’m still experiencing a bug where if i click anywhere that there isn’t text in my “Start Here” note I get a new note with some random large chunk of text from my “start here” note. I credit tomboy with a lot – namely a boost to productivity and not loosing notes. I massively heart it.

I’ll be trying MonoDevelop again to see how easy it really is to whip up something quickly. In breezy things seemed to crash too often to be useful.

The support for switching between audio output devices is much welcomed. However, there still seems to be some bugs – especially related to USB audio devices. I have an iMic here that I bought years ago and am again using since the headphone port on my laptop seems to be having problems (electrical connection related, not software).

Liferea (feed reader) has a lot of improvements. I think it’s chewing less RAM too.

I had to fiddle with my keyboard layout things to get my DVORAK layout working properly. It still seems as though Ctrl-Alt-Left Arrow (and Right) to switch between Workspaces only works for the left cntrl and alt – not the right ones (that are closer to the arrows). Although now the little keyboard applet shows “USA” for Dvorak, “USA*” for QWERTY and “Swe” for Swedish.
My build of MySQL that I use (for important things – i.e. my invoices that make sure I get paid) that is typically a close-to-top-of-tree 5.1 install kept working after the upgrade – i.e .binary compatibility didn’t get boned. I did, however, need to rebuild some of my MySQL source trees afterwards (some linking with SSL foo failed, clean build fixed it).

I also did a fresh install from the Desktop CD under VMWARE on another machine. Quite nice installer.

I feel like I’ll move my Mum’s machine over to 6.06LTS very soon (this weekend) as I’m confident it’ll be a great release for her. I’m sure she’s going to love f-spot. I’m also going to introduce her to rhythmbox, Sound Juicer and possibly last.fm as she now has speakers plugged into her computer and a CD player in her car (okay, had it for a while, just slack in getting her up and running burning copies of CDs for the car).

I didn’t get Avahi out of the box after the upgrade… I wonder if I need this manually for the “Share my Music” feature of Rhythmbox to work. Installing now, so I’ll soon know.

I haven’t tried Ekiga (GnomeMeeting, but new name) Internet Phone yet with any SIP things. Since I have a physical SIP phone (a SNOM-190) I may not really use it (except when travelling). Good to test at some point though.

The real OpenOffice.org 2.0 is much overdue – as I’ve sworn rabidly about before. Big difference being this version actually works.

A very worthwhile upgrade IMHO.

The next box to get the upgrade will by my MythTV box – or Mum’s. But probably both this upcoming (long) weekend.

[1] I, of course, have up to date backups and a quick disaster recovery process (get machine, xfsrestore / and /home, continue working). However, this is a pain in the arse.
[2] This may be wrong… “du -sh Maildir” just takes too damn long. My Maildir is currently 1.7GB in a tar.bz2 archive.

Upgrade to OpenOffice.org 2.0.2 and stop murderous urges

It’s no great secret that I think the stability of OpenOffice.org2 Impress in what’s shipped in Ubuntu Breezy leaves a lot to be desired. By ‘a lot’ I mean copy and pasting is unreliably and the Slide Sorter just stopped working for me without crashes (in at least one document).

However, I took the plunge and did something I usually don’t like doing – installing non-official debs.

deb http://people.ubuntu.com/~doko/ubuntu/ breezy-updates/
deb-src http://people.ubuntu.com/~doko/ubuntu/ breezy-updates/
I am now a much happy camper.

Saving is still amazingly slow, but the lack of crashes has made my week.

doko is my hero for the week. A Tip Of The Hat for him.


Set myself up on last.fm, changed to amaroK for playing music (so things go to last.fm) and added foo to the sidebar of my blog. I guess the trick now would be to get something to auto-add my current tune to the bottom of each entry. Maybe :)

I’m a GNOME boy, but amaroK seems to be leaps and bounds ahead of either rhythmbox or the version of banshee that ships with Ubuntu Breezy.

My main complaints with amaroK are that it looks nothing like my other desktop applications – it stands out that it’s a KDE app and not a GNOME app. Some clue on how to fix this would be appreciated.

Back to last.fm, I think the goal is to help suggest music that you may like by looking at what you listen to and what other people who listen to some of the stuff you listen to listen to. Seems interesting at least.

Newfangled technology to remove the “so what have you been listening to?” question from the list of things to talk about with friends :)