Compiz, Lenny, x300, i965, exa, xaa, xv …

12
November 1, 2008

I’m spending this lovely Saturday morning to go through some bugs in Debian. Actually I set my eye on one special bug, Lenny RC bug which in few days will be 1 year old, and then this fact and figure as one ripped the stitches of my mouth, and thus I started writing this post … I want to talk few things over in general Linux development and possibly give definition to this highly cryptic title.

EXA vs XAA on i965

But before that let me tell you a little story that should’ve been told long time ago.  When I got my x300, I was “thrown” on a lot of new stuff. One of the most interesting things is that i965 was blacklisted in Compiz (and as I see it now, it still is).  So as I configured everything back in the day, last step was to configure Compiz. I was very surprised to see i965 to be blacklisted, nevertheless this was none of the problems that will follow.

EXA is default, EXA is supposed to replace XAA, so here’s the paradox. With that same default EXA you’ll run into numerous problems, from basic scrolling being slow, to whole compiz being incredibly slow, to the point of not being usable. Of course you can spend hours and hours tweaking and hacking to make it run any faster, maybe fix scrolling speed, you’ll make it, but the I believe the “core” of this problem is in something else. Also there is a good side to side of this story, you can play videos, however if you run them in fullscreen they’ll go just incredibly slow, no matter really what plugin you set as your video playback.

Setting video playback plugin to “No XV” didn’t do anything, neither did Xshm or any other option. But then I said, hold on, why is i965 in Compiz blacklist again?

 "XV does not play with XAA under compiz, only with EXA"

Ok …, hold on I’m not even using XAA, if this is how XV plays under EXA and how Compiz acts by itself … now there’s a reason to blacklist it.

Then I did something that might seem illogical to some of you. I switched to XAA. And believe you me, all the performance problems were solved without any problems. But if you wanted Compiz, you wouldn’t have video playback and vice versa. But then again, I read somewhere that fix for this would be implemented into XAA by September. After one of my dist-upgrades I did see one of the “xserver-xorg-video-intel” updates coming along, and true, I could watch videos on my compiz, under “No Xv” down side to this is that CPU will heat up when you’re watching “No Xv” movies or series for awhile, so my cool x300 won’t be cool. Not to forget that you won’t see your full video’s quality, but it’s going to be nicely pixely video which you can get used to as most of things in your life.

If you’re lucky enough, that is if you play video, full screen it and then hit “space” to pause it, you’ll get the output on the screen if you choose to use X11/Xshm/Xv and use “Intel Video Overlay” as your device. Then once you eventually get your video ouput, it’ll be the video quality it really is, but only if you wanna see it in fullscreen.  Talking about video input, (v4l and/or v4l2) … you won’t get it, and once you do it’s going to be slow.

And talking about xserver-xorg-video-intel and xorg.conf and XAA, this is my “Device” section in xorg.conf that does the best job, with or without compiz enabled:

Section "Device"
        Identifier      "Intel Corporation Mobile GM965/GL960 Integrated Graphics"
        Driver  "intel"
        Option   "XAANoOffscreenPixmaps"         "true"
        Option   "DRI"                           "true"
        Option   "AddARGBGLXVisuals"             "true"
        Option   "RenderAccel"                   "true"
        Option   "VideoOverlay"                  "on"
        Option   "GARTSize"                      "384"
        Option   "DesktopSetup"                  "horizontal"
        Option   "MigrationHeuristic"            "greedy"
        Option   "AccelMethod"                   "XAA"
        Option   "ExaNoComposite"                "true"
        # compiz experimental
        Option   "AllowGLXWithComposite"         "true"
EndSection

Problem here is that I don’t know who to trust anymore. EXA is successor of XAA? So this should mean that XAA is obsolete and decapitated? Hm, yes except that I just saw that fix being written in order to have video playback under Compiz with i965 on XAA. Or maybe EXA is obsolete and decapitated as I read when I decided to move to XAA. And here I am, this is a guy who knows what he’s talking about. That’s the guy.

Situation is definitely clear, and most obvious. But what’s not clear and obvious that you have a RC bug that’s one of just few bugs from preventing Lenny of becoming next stable. And that’s the bug I mentioned when I started this post, in few days it’s going to be 1 year old. Then again, really thank you Debian for making all of this public and transparent, and actually fixing stuff before release your next stables. Now some of you, think again why it takes long time to get Debian stable.

And my winner in this little EXA vs XAA war is definitely XAA if you haven’t figured this so far.
The sad thing is that, besides this EXA vs XAA war is that we also have KDE vs Gnome war, just like the ones you mostly hear about Debian vs Slackware, Fedora vs Ubuntu, XUbuntu vs YUbuntu and such. Maybe if we didn’t have these kind of wars … ah it’s just crazy talk :)

Compiz Fusion

I could really cover all its history, from compiz to beryl and then to Compiz Fusion, but I won’t give you satisfaction to waste your time reading at least 5 more pages long post. And aren’t you happy about that? :)

Instead I’ll just say it short brief notes, no technical nonsense and philosophy lectures. My TV was on, there was this movie, I first didn’t want to see it, I wasn’t really interested. But everybody kept on talking about it, until one day I decided to see the movie. After I saw the movie, it wasn’t anything special, but damn it had some good special effects, in beginning my TV did fell of the wall few times later and broke but effects were so cool and I wanted to be part of the hip new crew and talking about it as well, you get the point behind this story.

Compiz is awesome, it’s ultra cool, but goddamn if it was ever working right. Problem is that over last few years I leave it, and then I hear or see it, and then I try it again and again, and I do see improvements, great ones, but Compiz is not ready to place itself as your default  X compositing window manager. Not yet.

It doesn’t give you scalability and flexibility and usability in a way that it is following you, but you have to follow how it is breathing in order to adapt yourself and your habits to it in order to feel all that it is meant to be.

Maybe you could thing this post was too scrambled or something, but I think the way it’s written also casts the perfect image in what position are some of the projects in our community.

Lenovo X300 review – Debian Lenny

19
September 14, 2008

Even tho, I got this baby almost 3 months ago now, I just got time to make a little showcase. Besides this, I just wanted to this “proper” way, so if you don’t mind the pictures and video I made with my cellphone, then … enjoy.

Intro

X300 was released earlier this year, I was literally dreaming of this notebook for a month or so, I really thought I’ll never be able to afford it, but then one day, I just woke up, and said hell, I don’t know how but I’m gonna get it!

Soon enough, I went to the store and ordered my X300, price was 2.500€ (~3.600$), since I demanded that I don’t want Windows with it (it comes with Vista business) final price I got away with was 2.400€ (~3.400). So ordered it via Genelec which ordered it directly from Lenovo, since at the time X300 wasn’t on the local market. And according to what they told me from the company, I was the second customer from Bosnia that got X300, there was this another guy from Sarajevo who got it.

Now, price of this notebook is very high, there are a lot of haters, and comments of that sort once I told them about the price. But let’s get one thing straight, I got Sony Ericsson W960, which was crazy expensive (still is), I got X300 and few other expensive things, but unlike you haters, I don’t drive fancy cars or get expensive things that are just “trendy” and “in”, instead of a fancy car I ride BMX, but when it comes to these things, I just suffer from disease to get all these tech things, but let’s just put it in a way that I know how to value and appreciate high quality engineering.

Besides that, Apple Air is in the same category X300 is in, except X300 eats Air for breakfast, same goes with iPhone vs W960. So without further ado, I’d like to start with this great video that represents “war” between Apple Air and Lenovo/IBM X300.

Platform, hardware, specs

Configuration:

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo CPU L7100 @ 1.20GHz, Cache: 4096kb
Memory: 2048 MB DDR2
Graphics: Intel GMS965
Screen: 13.3 inch (1400×900 resolution) LED back-lit
Hard drive: 64 GB SSD (SATA3)

Built in microphone + 1.3mp camera, it’s 19mm thick and it’s weight is ~1.20 kilos (less then ~2.5 pounds). Instead of plastic and such, for casing and housing carbon fiber has been used, with magnesium alloy. It also comes with both trackpoint and touchscreen and fingerprint reader. Of course both wireless and bluetooth are included.

I also got DVD-rw and this is the thinnest dvd rom on the market right now, standard battery that comes with it last for 3+ hours, and if you want more you have option to place another battery instead of your dvd drive. Apprently this option with a 6 cell battery in your dvd drive tray can give you up to 10hours of battery life.

This is the configuration I got, there was really no need for me to get more memory, I truly believe 2GB is enough for a Linux user, in case I need more later on I’ll just get two more gigs, since 4GB DDR2 is maximum. 64GB may not be enough, but SSD is fairly and unexplored and since X301 was released there’s a 128GB drive, but for now all of this is just fine, since the same day I got my x300 I also got myself a wd world book 2 which I’ll try to talk about in one of the future posts. Also now after X301 release, you can also get a 2.0GHz variant.

This notebook is incredibly lite, and can really be compared with a regular notebook, both to its size and thickness. And since I moved to notebooks many many years ago, this is actually the first notebook that literally moved me to bed. Now when I look at “normal” notebooks, I just can’t believe how big they are. You literally can’t hear it as well, it’s completely cool, which means it doesn’t get hot (at all!)

Multimedial features are also on its highest level. Sound is just awesome, and both incredibly loud! So far I thought of thinkpads of notebooks that just lacked these features, my other (really old) thinkpad (r50) is incredibly quiet. Also screen is just … wow, you’d need a 19inch monitor to get a 1400×900 resolution + screen is just so bright with such a great quality, that I just don’t want to watch ~700mb dvd rips anymore, ~1.4gb ones are making it more enjoyable, but to enjoy full quality it can offer, you really can’t settle by anything less then an actual dvd quality.

Linux, Debian Lenny

Ah, when you mix these two, x300 + linux … this combo just blows you away

When it comes to Debian, x300 will work on Debian Etch, but if you want Etch on your x300, I highly suggest you go for Etch and a half. Since you really won’t be able to see X unless you have drivers that are included in Etch and a half. Since just recently (since 2.6.26.x got into Lenny) pretty much everything will work!

Before 2.6.26.x a lot had to be tweaked in order to work, now it pretty much all works, from sound to camera, it’s all working, except:

For example, to make your fingerprint reader (thinkfinger) to work, instead of my writing a howto, I just suggest you go to howto on thinkwiki. Now I can’t remember if wireless worked out of box, but all you basically need to do to make it work is:

aptitude install firmware-iwlwifi linux-headers-`uname -r` 

Same goes with bluetooth, which will work out of box, but for example browsing devices won’t work, for example obex is not a dependency when it comes to gnome-bluetooth package, so basically all you need to fix this one is:

aptitude install obexfs obexftp obexpushd gnome-vfs-obexftp

Also, hibernate/suspend works out of box, but due to e1000 driver once you put your baby to sleep, it immediately wakes up, so in order to keep it sleeping, make a file in:

/etc/pm/config.d

For example “sleep” or “suspend” or “whatever“, once you made this file just write this single line in it:

SUSPEND_MODULES="e1000e"

And there you go, that’s all you need to make your x300 work on Debian as it was it’s native environment.

I first thought I’d need to use amd64 to make my system faster, since we are talking about 1.20GHz cpu, but I was surprised how fast the whole system is on i386! I believe it’s due to cache but mainly due to it’s SSD drive! To put it simple, boot takes around 20seconds, compiling is blazingly fast, and to many meter of speed, Open Office takes no more then 3 seconds to load!

It really makes it much faster then my Toshiba L100-121.

Final words

Well, I don’t know if it’s due to Gnome or Lenny but I can’t remember when was the last time I was this productive with my computer. It just all works, fast, secure and highly reliable. All I can say is that I’m leaving Toshiba for good, and I think that Lenovo x series is the notebooks I’m going to stick from now on.

I simply rate this computer 10/10 and it’s worth of every single penny, and all I can say is, save money and get this baby ASAP!

Images

Hello world!

2
August 28, 2008

It’s been almost 2 months since my last post here on foolcontrol.

After I got enough of emails of you guys asking me: “Was that it for foolcontrol?” “Is foolcontrol dead?” “Are you dead?” “Why haven’t you been writing anything?” … I thought least I can do is post anything. Problem is that I was incredibly busy, so it all just kinda hit me hard, working on a lot of projects (simultaneously of course), then this and that … it was just too much to handle. At least in a sense to write a blog post, after work once I’m home, instead of relaxing, enjoying myslef, I’d just switch to work on my other project(s).

Don’t get me wrong, I love working, I’m really enjoying it, and this blog or whatever you want to call it, I’m doing all of this from pure enjoyment, not cuz I’m forced to do so or anything like that. And thank all to the guys who were actually “worried” about what’s happening both to me and foolcontrol. Since a lot has happened in a period since my last post, this will pretty much what “ordinary” people write on their blogs, and that is, boring stuff from their life :)

What was I doing that kept me so busy?

Beginning of summer, for most people synonym for heat, beaches, hot naked objects and beer. So just as summer started I got hired to develop School Information System for AUBIH. Briefly … Debian, Postgresql, Apache, PHP and tons of caffeine. Whole system took me around 3months to develop, and was one of the projects that kept me most occupied this whole summer.

Starting with DebConf8, I didn’t make it to Argentina, mostly since I was careless enough to miss the sponsorship for the travel, which was incredibly expensive.  But working whole summer has it’s good sides of course :) I managed to buy a IBM/Lenovo X300, of course expect a “all-inclusive” post about this notebook! Also I spent my vacation in 5 star hotel in Turkey, which also included a cruise along the coast and trip to Aquapark, in total this was just one amazing vacation, also expect I write something about that one too ;)

From technical side, I managed to buy a notebook of a year, complete SIS + bunch of other projects, and also I managed to “export” my services to US soil, after I completed project for this real estate company, they were so happy that they have another project just waiting for me to take it. Thing I did you can find on eurocraftmi.com (it’s still under beta devel stage so don’t be too harsh on me).

Also one of the things I also got myself and thing I want to talk about is a WD MyBook World Edition, which just seems a hard drive, but is actually a linux powered server, really interesting “gadget”.

Happenings from the open source world?

There have been many happenings from the open source world I want to talk about, just yesterday first beta of Debian Live was released after 2.5 years of development! Also Debian Lenny should be released within a month or so! Very interesting release, besides those two I’m counting days till Gnome 2.24 is released and OpenOffice 3, and all these things are due in a month or so.

Also, just yesterday I started preparing code for FoolControl v1.5, which could also easily become 2.0, have a lot of interesting things I wan’t to put on this whole place, so let’s just keep all those things as a secret for now ;)

All in all, I’m back and ready to embellish your morning caffee with some interesting stuff.

Peace out.

Gnome vs KDE … after release of KDE 4

10
July 11, 2008

Mix of environment and introduction

For some time already, I’ve been wanting to write about choosing a Linux desktop environment. I’ve been KDE fan for years, however I’ve used Gnome many many years ago. Also I’m familiar with Fluxbox and XFCE and few others which I won’t mention. I don’t want to have you sitting here and reading an essay, so I’ll try to put it as short as I can.

This is often asked question, and is probably the most asked the question to new Linux users, probably after which distribution to use. There was also a poll here on FoolControl very similar to this same topic I’ll talk about today, also just to note that I’ll try to be as objective as I can.

My first contact with Linux was with Caldera 2.0, which was as far as I can remember KDE. Later on the the distribution that had me “glued” to Linux was RedHat, and yes I was happy with Gnome. Later on came Slackware and KDE with it.

If you try to make a pattern of some sort, you’ll notice (and in anyone’s case) it’s mostly the distro’s default desktop environment that makes it your default desktop environment as well, even tho they all pretty much have much more choice and freedom with them, but still.

If we take a look at XFCE, it’s a wonderful DE (desktop environment in this post from now on) lite, fast and stable. If we are talking about mini/pupply and other distro’s that need minimum hardware resources to run, this will probably be the choice of my DE.

Fluxbox, very lite, very cool, very l337, very stable and pretty functional DE. But really, where do I see it being used? By people who “suffer” from a syndrome to have a l337 desktop, I suffered from this syndrome as well at one point, but I got over it. Fluxbox is great and all, but besides that one I really can’t find too much use for it.

I mean it’s lite and all, but it’s not lite enough to be set as a DE on a server you deploy. When it comes to server, my favorite DE is just plain console.

KDE 4

Ah, when I just even think of the age, when every KDE fan, even pretty much everyone in the GNU/Linux world kept talking about KDE4 release, and what would/will happend. If I just remember this same time last year, everyone, but absolutely everyone knew at least something about KDE4, and was just waiting/brainstorming/talking/etc … about KDE4.

We the fans, just lived for the day KDE4 would be released.  Without blowing anything up from the proportion, I personally was just waiting to see KDE4 and Firefox 3.  What we saw/heard about was just incredible, stability, speed, low memory usage, qt4, brand new interface was the least I can name we were all waiting for.

And then, after delays KDE4 beta’s started coming out. I made my first post about KDE4 early on beginning of this year, after I tried pretty much all the betas. I wasn’t happy. Then the final went down and even most hardcore KDE fans awed by uncertainty. Soon afterwards, things were clarified by KDE devel team, clearing the smoke by announcing that KDE 4.0 was released just for the developers/testers making it clear that it wasn’t for end users.

So I kept trying to switch to KDE4 until the release of KDE 4.0.3. I was aware that KDE4 was one of the biggest open source projects, and I also said that what matters is that “beast/giant” has been released, and that it was a good development model for a project of such magnitude. I said I’ll just go back on 3.5.x and will just wait for 4.1 which was/is due in August.

Now that, 4.1 is going out beta, I’m sure my decision was right, since I see it’s not the DE I want at least for another/few more releases. Talking about KDE4 releases, I even read some talk that some groups want to start developing a fork of KDE4! All in order to bring it close/closer to 3.5.x.

Back on 3.5.x

Development on this same very branch almost stopped completely,  both the 3.5.x branch itself and for some of popular KDE apps. as well. You could easily see messages “This is last stable release for KDE 3.5.x branch” on projects such as Ktorrent or Kaffeine.

In meantime I worked on the project codename Peacenow. I put 2 month of my time in a project, where I wanted/tried to make the fastest Debian could perform and my default desktop environment was KDE.

Today when I look at that post, I’m not really happy about the whole thing. In case you ask why, well because right now I’m on that same box with Debian Sid, Gnome 2.20.0, 2.6.25-2 kernel, and to say the least … it boots/acts faster. Half is due to new 2.6.25 kernel (this thing is amazing :)) and other half goes to Gnome.

Gnome

But … how … what … wtf is up with you?

That’s the most reactions I get when I say I’ve been on Gnome for last few months. Gnome has changed, if you let’s say compare Gnome 2.16 and 2.20 … a lot has changed. Honestly I think so much changed due to release of KDE4, that Gnome developers got some kind of “boost” to start working on new things.

It’s stable, secure, lite/fast. Or it may be that my philosophy changed a bit.

All I want from my desktop is to be stable secure and fast. I don’t want it to have ton of features I’m never going to use, I don’t want it to be identified with Microsoft Windows in any sort of way! And KDE4 can’t help it but completely identify itself with Vista! Maybe I don’t like the fact that Trolltech is being acquired by Nokia, or in that matter by anyone, or that my DE is being (less or more) property of some company.

Maybe I’m fed up with having MySQL server for the only purpose of having my music player running faster. And talking about Amarok, I don’t like where it’s going with the 2.x development.

Also we should talk about applications. One day I actually figured out that all my favorite applications were written in GTK+ And if you want to talk about GTK replacement for you favorite QT apps. In my case it was definetely for Amarok, K3b and KTorrent that was hardest to get “rid off.

Amarok, well so far Rhythmbox is doing extraordinary job replacing Amarok, mostly due to its speed. Maybe it’s missing few advance features, and it may not be an easy job to move to after Amarok … but it’s all good.

K3b, I thought this was the gap in your heart that would never be filled, until I meat Brasero. Same with KTorrent when I discovered Deluge.

Conclusion

You can discuss this topic over and over, but in the end, I want to sit on my machine, do my work. I don’t want to sit on it and stare at my desktop. Again it’s completely up to personal preference, but with so many wars in the world, I’m glad I ended one.

Even though this was one was just regarding Linux desktop environment.

P.S:

In 2005 Torvalds said “Use KDE”, now (out of curiousity) I’d really like to hear his opinion on the same thing 3 years later.  Especially after the fact that Fedora (his default distro) is one of the first “mainstream” distros that set KDE 4.0 for default when it comes to choosing KDE as your default DE.

Do women write better code?

3
June 17, 2008

Yesterday I bumped into something really interesting on Slashdot. So in case you missed this one …
Do women write better code?

The senior vice-president of engineering for computer-database company Ingres-and one of Silicon Valley’s highest-ranking female programmers-insists that men and women write code differently.

Women are more touchy-feely and considerate of those who will use the code later, she says. They’ll intersperse their code… with helpful comments and directions, explaining why they wrote the lines the way they did and exactly how they did it. The code becomes a type of “roadmap” for others who might want to alter it or add to it later, says McGrattan, a native of Ireland who has been with Ingres since 1992.

Men, on the other hand, have no such pretenses. Often, “they try to show how clever they are by writing very cryptic code,” she tells the Business Technology Blog. “They try to obfuscate things in the code,” and don’t leave clear directions for people using it later.

We are different kind from each other, but it was interesting to read this. What I can definitely say is … true, I’m a man :)

Only part about being a man and writing code, is that after “They try to obfuscate things in the code” most of your clients/later users don’t even to figure/find out everything you did, but what matters is that it was good, to you :)