Monday, August 20, 2007

Upgrading Yet Another Notebook to openSuse 10.2

It had to happen sooner or later. Over the weekend I finally upgraded my Gateway M685 to openSuse 10.2. I'd already done this with the older M680, and it had gone surprisingly well. This notebook, with its nVidia GeForce Go 7800, should have gone smooth as silk. It didn't. There were other issues as well, and I'll catalog them. Bottom line is that after more work than I expected I have the notebook updated to 10.2, and it's working more or less the way I want it to work. Notably different between 10.1 and 10.2 is the fact that Compiz is not working on 10.2.

System Hardware

Here's a list of the PCI peripherals:

00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Mobile 945GM/PM/GMS/940GML and 945GT Express Memory Controller Hub (rev 03)
00:01.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Mobile 945GM/PM/GMS/940GML and 945GT Express PCI Express Root Port (rev 03)
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) High Definition Audio Controller (rev 02)
00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 1 (rev 02)
00:1c.1 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 2 (rev 02)
00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI #1 (rev 02)
00:1d.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI #2 (rev 02)
00:1d.2 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI #3 (rev 02)
00:1d.3 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI #4 (rev 02)
00:1d.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB2 EHCI Controller (rev 02)
00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev e2)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation 82801GBM (ICH7-M) LPC Interface Bridge (rev 02)
00:1f.1 IDE interface: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) IDE Controller (rev 02)
00:1f.2 SATA controller: Intel Corporation 82801GBM/GHM (ICH7 Family) Serial ATA Storage Controller AHCI (rev 02)
00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) SMBus Controller (rev 02)
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation GeForce Go 7800 (rev a1)
02:00.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation 82573L Gigabit Ethernet Controller
03:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection (rev 02)
04:09.0 CardBus bridge: Texas Instruments PCIxx12 Cardbus Controller
04:09.1 FireWire (IEEE 1394): Texas Instruments PCIxx12 OHCI Compliant IEEE 1394 Host Controller
04:09.2 Mass storage controller: Texas Instruments 5-in-1 Multimedia Card Reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO/xD)

The Sound Issue

I've complained in the past that sound was not working on this notebook with Suse Linux 10.1 nor with openSuse 10.2 Live DVD. Regardless, I decided to upgrade anyway in preparation for the eventual migration to openSuse 10.3 when it become available. In spite of my initial willingness to accept a soundless notebook, it wasn't long (about 30 minutes after the initial installation) before I wanted to hear coordinated sound with streaming video. So I started to search via Google for others with this issue. After chasing about a half-dozen leads, I finally came up with this simple fix. I added one line of text (in red below) to /etc/modprobe.d/sound:

options snd-hda-intel enable=1 index=0
options snd-hda-intel position_fix=1 model=ref # added by hand
# u1Nb.iVO3S7Pf7gF:82801G (ICH7 Family) High Definition Audio Controller
alias snd-card-0 snd-hda-intel

Sure enough, one reboot later and I had sound.

YaST2 Repositories

I have the following repositories in YaST2 (YaST Control Center | Installation Source). The allow me to upgrade a number of key applications to the latest version. (default Suse updates) (Firefox (OO 2.2.1) (non-free codecs) (7.2 final) (Compiz upgrades) (non-free codecs, libdvdcss)

Problems with Compiz

I was able to upgrade to the final release of Xorg 7.2, and I picked up the latest Compiz releases as well. I was very pleased with the latest Compiz. It worked with the Desktop Preferences | Theme engine. Any change I made in Themes was reflected with Compiz. The problem is that when I went in to try and modify the behavior of Compiz, the Compiz effects applet which resides in Desktop Preferences Look and Feel crashed each and every time. The latest Compiz has a new manager, but it appeared to do absolutely nothing. In particular I wanted to turn off the window wobble effect, and I couldn't. I also wanted to turn off the window-transparency-on-select effect, which I also found I did not like. Watching the windows flash from fully opaque to partially transparent and back again when released, along with the wobbly window, tended to make me sea-sick over time (no, I'm not joking). So after putting up with it as long as I could, I just uninstalled everything that had to do with Compiz, along with Xgl.

Problems with the X Server

Before un-installing Compiz and Xgl I was having a problem with the X server when the system booted. I would get the following crappy text message on virtual terminal 8 right after boot:
There already appears to be an X server running on display :0. Should another display number be tried? Answering no will cause GDM to attempt starting the server on :0 again. (You can change consoles by pressing Ctrl-Alt plus a function key, such as Ctrl-Alt-F7 to got to console 7. X servers usually run on consoles 7 and higher.)
I would select 'No' and the X server would then start, and I would then log-in normally (as well as logout and back in to other accounts). I thought that uninstalling Compiz/Xgl might solve this problem (again via searches with Google), but it didn't. Instead I had to finally hack the file /etc/sysconfig/displaymanager:


That's right. I had to tell the display manager to stop trying to use Xgl and use Xorg instead. Since I was having this problem before I uninstalled Xgl, I'm wondering if there weren't issues with Xgl in the first place. Was Xgl crashing for some reason, and that's why the X server wouldn't fully start?

Final Thoughts

The system is working now, and it's quite stable. I selected the Gnome desktop this time, and to make Gnome work the way I wanted I selected all the DejaVu fonts:
Application font: DejaVu Sans Serif Condensed, 9 pt
Document font: DejaVu Sans Serif Condensed, 10 pt
Desktop font: DejaVu Sans Serif Bold Oblique, 10 pt
Window title font: DejaVu Sans Serif Condensed Bold, 10 pt
Fixed width font: DejaVu Sans Serif Mono Book, 10 pt
I also used the same fonts in Firefox, and told Firefox to use my fonts instead of those selected by the website. Lo and behold Firefox renders pages identically to the way Firefox does on Windows XP. In particular I use DejaVu Sans Serif Condensed as my default text for both sans serif and serif.

The only complaint I have right now is Beagle. Beagle starts up and consumes one of the two processors on this notebook (it runs a Core Duo) which is crap. I'm going to disable and uninstall Beagle just like I did under Europa.

Other than that I'm quite happy with openSuse 10.2 on the M685. Wireless networking, DVD playback, streaming media, USB peripherals, 3D graphics, the list of what works goes on and on. You always learn something when you install a distribution multiple times on different hardware. The tweaks and adjustments I've made to the Gnome desktop have made it quite usable for me. It rivals Ubuntu's default desktop I found so enjoyable when I installed Feisty Fawn. So far the combination of the Gateway and openSuse 10.2 makes for an excellent workstation, and it complements the Windows XP installation that I dual boot for work.

A Final Word to the Wise

I suppose folks looking for ways to slime Linux (and openSuse) would point to my problems as another example of Linux not ready for the desktop. Let me disabuse you of that tendency. I have installed Windows XP (and Windows 2000, and NT, and ...) over the years on DIY hardware as well as vendor machines. I have yet to install any OS without issues. With Windows it has always been, and continues to be, a driver issue. Drivers were either missing or else buggy, causing innumerable blue screens of death. It's great when an OS installs without any hassles, but sometimes you need to get in and just Fix It. Neither Linux nor Windows shines particularly bright in my book when it comes to a clean and tidy install. There's aways something that requires further attention. I'm not a fanboy of either, but a heavy user of both, and if need be I can be harshly critical of both. Don't use me to support your particular agenda. Just accept what I write for what it is; my experiences and some possibly useful data.

The Gateway running Compiz/Xgl before I finally (sadly) removed it. Another one of my favorite cheesy movies is playing in Totem.

1 comment:

  1. I'm trying to get sound working on my Asus A8js without luck. It has the same soundcard, thou your trick didn't work. Almost ready to give up


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