I run Arch on an older Intel Dual Core PC as a media center, which uses a pretty old, but relatively high memory Nvida Card. After upgrading Arch, I ran into a bug with Nvidia’s legacy 304xx driver and the latest kernel, which prevented XFCE/Xorg from properly starting.

The bug, aside from just the obvious no XFCE, was:

modprobe: ERROR: could not insert 'nvidia': Unknown symbol in module, or unknown parameter (see dmesg)
dmesg

nvidia: Unknown symbol mtrr_del (err 0)
nvidia: Unknown symbol mtrr_add (err 0)

After a bit of digging, I came across several bugs on the topic from various distros, including an Arch one bug report, which indicates that the bug was introduced in Nvidia 304.128 driver on Kernel 4.3.

Per the bug, I found the easiest way to fix it was to just enable the Arch LTS Kernel, which uses an older version of the Linux Kernel, at the time of this writing 4.1.16-1, which works a bit better with legacy hardware.

Warning: The below involves changing your grub settings, so use caution, make backups, and as with any time you mess with grub, you should be comfortable booting to alternate media(like a live CD) if something goes wrong.

1) First, install the LTS Kernel, LTS Headers(optional,) and LTS Nvidia Driver. Depending on your hardware, you may need other LTS software like if you run an older Realtek network card.

pacman -S linux-lts linux-lts-headers nvidia-304xx-lts

2) As root, make a backup of your /boot/grub/grub.cfg file

cp /boot/grub/grub.cfg ~/grub.cfg.bac

3) Update /boot/grub/grub.cfg to use the LTS Headers(again you should be comfortable fixing with a Live CD before messing with grub)

In the first grub menuentry section, probably titled ‘Arch Linux,’ find the two lines(which will probably be a bit different depending on your install):

linux   /vmlinuz-linux root=UUID=xxx-xxx-xxx-xxx- rw  quiet
echo    'Loading initial ramdisk ...'
initrd   /initramfs-linux.img

Add ‘lts’ to both the linux and initrd lines as shown below, so that they read /vmlinuz-linux-lts and /initramfs-linux-lts respectively:

linux   /vmlinuz-linux-lts root=UUID=xxx-xxx-xxx-xxx- rw  quiet
echo    'Loading initial ramdisk ...'
initrd   /initramfs-linux-lts.img

4) Reboot your system and if all goes well you should now be able to get your display working. If your system doesn’t boot at all, you can revert your grub.cfg to the backup you made. Otherwise, you may need to do a bit more troubleshooting.

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Update: Newer versions of GTK3 do work better, so with the upgrade to Fedora 23, the search file chooser is functional…it just operates differently than the old search. See below ‘GTK Filechooser and Fedora 23’ section at bottom of post.

After updating to Fedora 22, the File Chooser in Firefox XFCE, like you would see when you click ‘Open File’ or upload a file, was broken.

Specifically, while the open file dialog does open and let you select files, the quick find was not working properly. Normally, you can start typing the first letter(s) of a file name and the file browser will jump to files that start with that letter in your current folder. However, this was not working for me in Firefox and instead typing a letter did nothing. Further, the files were not grouped by folders, but rather displayed files/folders together(although this might not be a setting.)

It turns out this isn’t a bug with Firefox, but rather a problem with GTK3’s Filechooser Dialog. A bug is currently open here, so hopefully it will be addressed soon.

In Fedora 22, Firefox is compiled to use GTK3 instead of GTK2, along with Gedit and I would imagine a few other programs. So, anything using GTK3 has this bug for me.

A Temporary Solution: Since this makes using Firefox and selecting files incredibly painful, a quick fix is to uninstall Fedora’s version of Firefox and install Firefox separately(by downloading or compiling.) The version available directly from Mozilla does NOT use GTK3, so works fine. Just make sure to stay on top of updates and keep an eye out for when Fedora updates GTK3, as this will probably get fixed soon.

Hopefully, this will save someone the amount of time I spent trying to figure out why it was broken…

The GTK3 Filechooser, shown on right, does not currently work correctly in Fedora 22.

The GTK3 Filechooser, shown on right, does not currently work correctly in Fedora 22.

GTK Filechooser and Fedora 23

The upgrade to Fedora 23 brought a functional GTK Filechooser, although it operates in a different manner than the older GTK2 version. I like it better in some ways, although not 100%. In terms of searching files, the search works against the entire file name, not just the start of the name. So for instance, if you type test it will pickup the file test.txt as well as file_test.txt. It also sometimes searches sub-folders, which can be a bit of a pain if you have a ton of similar naming files…but it does actually search now…

I recently had a computer repair for someone who needed me to downgrade Windows 8 to Windows 7, because Windows 8 was not compatible with their work software. For anyone that hasn’t done it, UFI can make this process a bit tricky, as access to the Bios can be limited and booting to removable media troublesome.

When I returned to their house, I did the basic setup and familiarization with them, to make sure they were comfortable with how everything worked, discuss anti-virus, some of the tools I pre-install when I do a Windows re-installation.

They wanted to run their work software while I was still there and I got a pleasant surprise when they booted up an Ubuntu based Live CD.

The company they work for is through Arise, which offers virtual call centers. They were in the process of training to work with Sprint, so I am not 100% sure how the process is after training. However, since they are training on a Linux Live environment, I would be surprised if they didn’t use that for actual work as well.

I didn’t do anything aside from making sure it would boot, but it looked like a very minimal Gnome Install, possibly Gnome 2 or at least classic shell. There were only icons for Firefox, a calculator, and an icon for some minimal settings. It utlized a bootable USB alongside a CD.

I thought this was really cool and a great idea. Linux runs great on most hardware and you can get awesome performance out of older hardware, where Windows would be slow once you started doing any real work.

Using a Live CD is also much more secure, like using a Live CD for your banking, as every-time you restart, it should be to a known-good operating system and programs. I would imagine this also gives the company a lot more control and monitoring capabilities, which they wouldn’t have if they let people run their personal computers. Since so many people’s personal computers have some form of Spyware or Malware, I see this as a no-brainer for companies that have these sorts of remote operations.

Not all companies do this though, I have worked on the computer of someone who worked for American Airlines before. He had worked for American for a while as a call center rep and took the opportunity to work from home when they offered it to him a few years ago. As far as I could tell, there wasn’t any sort of required anti-virus and very little over-site to what was running on the person’s computer, aside from running American’s call center software. Pretty scary when you think about how often their call center reps probably deal with credit card information and other confidential email during the day.

See bottom of post, for the TLDR problem/solution:

I have been using XFCE for some time now and overall really enjoy it. I switched to XFCE after giving Gnome 3 a go when it first came out and have been using it since. It has gotten a lot better since then too.

For instance immediately after switching, one of the only things I missed from Gnome2 was tabbed file browsing. Thunar, the default file manager for XFCE, got that awhile ago and has generally been improving a lot.

Another change to XFCE is the way it remembers your desktop settings, windows, and programs when you logout. I admittedly have not researched this as much as I should, but anecdotally I noticed some changes to how this works when I upgraded to a newer version of XFCE recently. I also noticed that there seems to have been a change with the way that XFCE deals with multiple monitors, as after upgrading certain programs starting using the entire width of two monitors when initially drawing their windows, rather then using a single monitor as they had in the past.

Onto the problem: After getting new monitor that supported a higher resolution(1920×1080) and updating my xorg.conf, my resolution would get reset to my old resolution(1680×1050) as soon as I logged back in to XFCE.

I use Nvidia drivers, as I have found them to offer a bit better performance and support for a multi-monitor setup, not to mention generally quite easy to configure. Its been awhile since I tried using it, but the built-in display manager for XFCE has not been well suited to using multiple monitors in the past, while using nvidia-settings provides a nice easy to use GUI for arranging and setting up displays.

I tried several different things with my xorg.conf and nvidia-settings, including removing it all together, as well as a variety of different configurations. However, no matter what I had in my xorg.conf, as soon as I logged in the resolution was reset to the old resolution. It seemed like XFCE was ignoring my xorg.conf settings or overriding them.

I was fairly confident that the xorg.conf was correct, so I began looking elsewhere. I grepped my ~/.config folder for my old resolution and did in fact find it listed the old resolution in: xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/displays.xml.

I tried changing it there to the new resolution, however it still reverted back to the old one. Finally, after being a bit fed up and fairly confident that the saved settings/sessions were to blame, I moved my config folder to a backup: mv ~/.config ~/.config_back

This unfortunately has the side effect of clearing all(or most) of your saved XFCE settings, but as soon as I did that, it started using the new resolution. I have in the past done some messing with xrandr settings in order to get multi-monitors working better, so it is possible this is my own doing, but there was definitely some xfce setting in my config that was reverting the resolution.

This is something that I should learn more about and rtfm a bit, but sometimes killing it with fire works and is the easiest/quickest solution…

TLDR:

Problem: After getting a new monitor, the resolution specified in Xorg.conf was ignored when logging in to XFCE. Instead, each time I logged in, it reverted to the old resolution.

Bad Solution: This is probably not the best way to address the problem. However, moving ~/.config to ~/.config_back cleared out whatever xfce setting was over-riding my xorg.conf and let me use the new resolution.

Caution: Again, this isn’t a good solution, but it worked. If you do the above, it WILL delete all of your XFCE settings, like panels! A better solution would be to learn why/where that setting that maintains old resolution is kept and changing it!

Update 11/01/2013: Steam is now available using RPM Fusion in the rpmfusion-nonfree-updates-testing repo. I have not tested it yet, but should make installing Steam in Fedora much easier. I have had steam running for almost a year now with few issues in both Fedora 17 Beefy Miracle, as well as after upgrading to Fedora 19 Schrödinger’s Cat.

You can install it like so: yum -y –enablerepo=rpmfusion-nonfree-updates-testing install steam

Update 01/13/2013: Since writing this, the opensuse packages have been removed from their site, at least in part due to “the unclear permissibility regarding the distribution.” However, instructions for converting the deb steam package using the “ar” command are available via GitHub. I used this to do the update(although had to install the old version,) as steam notified me a new version was available.

While I used to play computer games a good deal in the past, I haven’t really played in a while, largely due to time constraints. At the risk of dating myself, I think the last time I gamed Unreal Tournament 4 was still pretty popular, so it has been awhile.

However, now that steam is running a Linux Beta and has opened it to the public, I decided to give it a shot and see how it works.

Steam Native Client Support

Valve is only currently officially supporting Ubuntu, but if you goto their support page, they have links to openSUSE, Gentoo, Fedora, and Arch packages. UPDATE: These have largely been removed, see update above!

The Fedora repo page was initially 404ed, which is sadly par for the course when using Fedora, but the openSuse page has Fedora packages which I was able to get running and they have since updated their wiki to use the link to openSUSE page.

I am currently running Fedora 17 64-bit, with XFCE, Nvidia Drivers, with dual monitors.

The Steam Client runs and I have downloaded and played a Team Fortress Mulitplayer without any issues.

Steam Native Client in Fedora 17 64-Bit w/XFCE

The basic Process to get the Steam Client Running in 64-bit Fedora Linux is:

  • Checkout the readme on Github github.com/xvitaly/steamrpm/blob/master/README.md for instructions.
  • Process involves downloading the deb, available directly from steam here
  • Use the ar command to convert the deb to an RPM, install as normal.
  • Goto OpenSuse and Download RPM for your package: software.opensuse.org/package/steam
  • Locate and install the correct RPM for your package, will install some additional dependencies.
  • Install libtxc_dxtn.i686, because it is apparently needed for Team Fortress II.

The steam client would not start right away, largely due to missing 32-bit packages and my 64-bit system and I ran into the below issues.

Additional Dependencies when running XFCE – 64 Bit (see below for Steam Client Error Message and Resolution): xorg-x11-drv-nvidia-libs.i686, openal-soft.i686

Troubleshooting Client Startup Issues:

VGUI_Setup failed

Fixed by installing xorg-x11-drv-nvidia-libs.i686

Fatal Error: Could not load module ‘bin/FileSystem_Steam.dll

Fixed by installing: openal-soft.i686

Finding Missing Dependencies

Thanks to a forum thread on steam, I was able to find what was missing regarding the dll error by issuing the following commands:

cd ~/.local/share/Steam/ubuntu12_32

LD_LIBRARY_PATH=.:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH ldd * | grep "not found"

The result of the above command was: libopenal.so.1 => not found

Which pointed me to downloading the 32-bit version of openal.

SE Linux Issues

I also temporarily disabled SE-Linux, because switching to “Big Picture” in the steam client caused a “steam.sh: line 287” crash, due to it trying to access execheap.

What Works So Far

Currently, the client, including registration works correctly and I am currently installing Team Fortress. I will post an update when it finishes downloading.

Update: Team Fortress is installed and I did not run into any issues playing the tutorial. The graphics look pretty nice too, although I haven’t done any configuring!

Update 12/29/2012: I have had a few issues with Team Fortress thinking I am not logged into the steam client, even though it is running. Starting Steam from the command line, as opposed to the XFCE Desktop icon, seems to fix this.

About a year ago, I got an older Asus EeePC 1000hd from a client. After letting it sit dormant for a rather long time, I finally got around to replacing the harddrive and keyboard last week. Ultimately, I ended up putting Debian Stable on it, although I initially installed Fedora 17.

Fedora 17 worked well out the box, however after doing a full update, gdm gave me the incredibly helpful “Oh something broke, contact someone” message. I was also getting CPU lockups on boot, typically 3 or 4 for over 22 seconds. From the gdm greeter log, it seemed like it was trying to load gnome-shell, instead of xfce, causing it to crash.

Given the lockups and age of the laptop, with its older 900MHZ Celeron Processor, I didn’t end up doing much more than basic troubleshooting, before deciding to go back a bit to a more stable distro, hence Debian Squeeze.

The install went well, no issues and it was easy to setup an encrypted lvm on it. After booting, most things also worked well out of the box. The only real issue was with wireless.

The Asus 1000HD uses the Atheros AR5001 wireless driver. Right after install, the connection kept dropping after a few seconds. This happened with both Wicd and Gnome Network Manager. After a bunch of playing, it resolved itself after I deleted all the DHCP leases on my router…so probably related to that. I ended up keeping Gnome Network Manager though, as I like it a bit better.

It is nice that everything works for the most part and installing xfce was as easy as adding it as a flag when booting the net-install cd.

The only downside with a distro like Debian is that packages tend to move pretty slow, the trade-off of stability. For instance the default browser of Debian Squeeze is Iceweasel(firefox) 3.5. Of course, downloading and installing the latest version of Firefox only takes a second. Since this isn’t really a working machine anyway, only a netbook, I am fine with the tradeoff and am not really planning on installing much software. However, it reminded me how accustomed I had become to having the most recent version of software on my desktop.

Thoughts on Fedora

June 15, 2012

I have been using Fedora now for over a year and overall think it is a pretty cool distro. There are certainly some things that I miss about Arch and, truth be told, when I have some more time I will probably end up going back to it. However, for now I am happy with Fedora.

One of the reasons I wanted to check it out, is because I do a lot of work on Centos Servers at the moment. So, getting a little more familiar with Red Hat distro’s is important and has helped me understand Centos a lot better.

Also, I really like the Rolling Release distro style, as having up to date software is pretty neat. While certainly not as bleeding edge as Arch, stuff gets pushed out pretty quickly to Fedora, for the most part quickly enough to satisfy my needs.

This isn’t actually my first time using a Red Hat Distro, as when I was in School, I took a few Linux classes and the labs had Red Hat installed. I want to say it was their enterprise desktop, although I can’t recall. As an aside, Red Hat’s headquarters is located here in the Triangle, so they had a little bit of a special interest in my college, as well as presumably the others around there. However, at the time, I didn’t really like it and it would be some time before I tried a Red Hat distro again.

While overall, I do enjoy Fedora, there are some things I don’t like. Probably the biggest is the standard software repositories. They take a pretty hard line on what software is included in the main repositories. As a result, a lot of the ‘non-free,’ but really useful necessary stuff is not included, like VLC, as well as a lot of other stuff. So, you either need to compile it yourself or use RPM Fusion. I presume this stance is probably, at least in part, fueled by the enterprise side of their business. However, I would prefer to have a bit more robust repository available, without having to fall to a third-party(rpm-fusion) for some of the more standard packages. There have been at least a few times where software hasn’t been updated quickly enough, I know I need to get involved, or it hasn’t been available and I had to compile/download it myself.

It seems Fedora has a bit of a reputation too, there is a cool talk, Why Linux Sucks, which you of course need immediately follow up with Why Linux Does Not Suck. During it, there are a few funny comments about Fedora users, as well as other distros, but given the number of people that use it, I think it is at least a somewhat common sentiment.

In any-case, I do enjoy Fedora and have an appreciation for the RedHat style of things now, much more so then I did before. They also have a lot of default packages setup, as do other distros of course, so you get a quick and easy choice of desktops and a fairly simple/powerful installer.