Giving OpenSUSE 11.1 An Honest Chance

I've decided that if I ever want to really understand Linux, I'll have to give as many distributions as possible a chance. In the past, I've tried to use OpenSUSE on my HP Pavilion dv8000 laptop, but it never seemed quite as robust or useful as many other distributions that I've tried on the same machine.

With the recent release of OpenSUSE 11.1, I downloaded the final 32-bit DVD ISO as I normally do for newly released distributions (even if I don't plan on using them--it's an addiction). I proceeded to install the GNOME version of it in a virtual machine to see what all the hubbub was about. Evaluating an operating system within a virtual machine is not the most effective way to do things, but everything seemed fairly solid. As such, and since I have always had difficulties keeping any RPM-based distro around for any length of time, I plan on using OpenSUSE 11.1 through March 2008 (perhaps longer if it grows on me). If it hoses my system, I will go back to something better. If it works, I will learn to use and appreciate it better.

The Installation

The first step when the installation program starts is to choose what language to use, after which you choose the type of installation you're going to be doing. Your choices are:

  • New Installation
  • Update
  • Repair Installed System

You also have the option of installing "Add-On Products" from another media. At this step, I chose to do a new installation.

Next, you get to choose your time zone. The interface is very intuitive. You get a map of the world, and you click on the region you want to zoom in on. Once you're zoomed in, you can select a city that is near you to specify your time zone. Alternatively, you can choose your region and time zone from a couple of drop down lists.

After setting your time zone, you get to choose which desktop environment you want to install. Your choices are:

  • GNOME 2.24.1
  • KDE 4.1.3
  • KDE 3.5.10
  • XFCE 4.4
  • Minimal X Window
  • Minimal Server Selection (Text Mode)

I will choose to install GNOME because it seems to be the desktop of the future, especially with the hideous beast that KDE has become in the 4.x series...

Now you get to play with the partitioning. Usually the installer's first guess is pretty good, but I've got a different arrangement for my partitions, so I'm going to customize things a bit.

The next step is to create a regular, unprivileged user account for your day-to-day computing needs. This screen is pretty self-explanatory if you've ever registered for an e-mail address or installed any other operating system.

One thing that seems to have been added to OpenSUSE 11.1 is the option to use your regular user password as the root password. This is probably a nice addition for a lot of people, but I'd rather feel like my computer is a little more secure by having a different password for administrative tasks.

You're also give a few other options, such as being able to receive system mail, logging in automatically, and modifying your authentication settings. Other than the administrative password option, I left everything the same. If you're like me, and choose to have a different administrative password, you will be prompted to enter the new password at the next step.

Finally, you're shown a summary of the installation tasks that will take place. I'm going to customize my software selection just a bit so I don't have to do it manually after the installation is complete. For example, while I do like GNOME to a degree, I prefer to use KDE 3.5.x, so I will choose to install that environment as well just in case I need the comfort of KDE programs. Also, since I like to use the command line interface for a lot of things, I will choose to install the "Console Tools" package, just because it sounds useful. Lastly, I will choose to install a few development packages, such as C/C++, Java, Python, and Tcl/Tk. These changes bumped up my installation size from about 2.8GB to just over 4GB.

After reviewing the remaining tasks, all you need to do is hit the "Install" button. You will be prompted to verify your desire to install OpenSUSE, after which the package installation will begin. While the installation is taking place, you have the option of watching a brain-washing slideshow, viewing the installation details as it progresses, or reading the release notes.

The actual installation took nearly 40 minutes on my laptop. While this isn't necessarily a great improvement over past releases, I'm sure the story would have been much different had I not customized the software I wanted to have installed. The introduction of installation images a few releases ago drastically improved installation times. If you don't customize your package selection, you'll probably notice the speed difference.

When all of the packages have been installed, the installation program begins to configure your newly installed OpenSUSE for your computer, with a "reboot" in between. This is when all of your hardware, such as your network adapters, graphics adapter, sound card, printers, etc are probed and configured. Strangely enough, this step seems to take a lot longer than it does in Windows, which is usually not the case with Linux. What is OpenSUSE up to I wonder?

When all is said and done, the installation program finishes on its own and loads up your desktop.


There are a couple things that really annoyed me right off the bat about OpenSUSE 11.1. The first was that the loading screen and installation program didn't use my laptop's native resolution. My screen is capable of 1680x1050. The installation program chopped off about 1.25 inches of screen real estate on either side of the program. I don't know if this was an intentional occurrence or not. It seems like the artwork in the installation may have been limited to a non-widescreen resolution. If so, that's completely retarded. I'd like to think that more computer users these days have a widescreen monitor than not, at least the ones who would be playing with Linux.

The second annoyance was that the installation program wouldn't use my external USB DVD drive, which I like to think more reliable than my internal DVD drive. I mean, everything would start up fine--I got the boot menu, the installation program loaded fine, and things seemed like they would work. That's up until the package repositories (the DVD) were being built. Then the USB drive just kept spinning and spinning. Once I popped the disc into my internal drive the program proceeded as expected.

Your Desktop

I thought it was interesting that I chose to install GNOME, but since I chose to install KDE 3.5.10 alongside it that's what it booted me into after the installation was completed. No real complaints, though, since I prefer KDE anyway. Nonetheless, I switched back to GNOME to stretch my limits all the more. At least the desktop took up the full resolution that my screen can handle, unlike the installation program and boot screen.

Things seem fairly responsive... nothing like Slackware though. I just received a little popup notification with an excuse for the lag I might be experiencing: the daily indexing has commenced and should be finished soon. Whatever it's up to, it's taking up a consistent 100% of my CPU. How nice. I hope whatever it's indexing ends up being useful.

Sound worked right from the get-go, which is nice. Hardware acceleration for my Radeon Xpress 200M doesn't work, nor does my Broadcom wireless card. These will be fixed soon.

The Wireless

It looks like the most important step in getting my wireless to work was executing these commands as root:

modprobe b43

I did a lot of stuff to try to get my wireless to work before I executed those commands, but nothing did the trick until I tried them. Also, to make the wireless available each time you reboot without requiring the modprobe b43 command, you need to edit your sysconfig.

To do that, open up YaST and find the "/etc/sysconfig Editor" option. Expand the "System" node, and navigate to Kernel > MODULES_LOADED_ON_BOOT. Then put b43 in the value box. Apply the changes. The next time you reboot your computer, the wireless should be available from the get-go.

The Video Card

This section only really applies to folks with ATI graphics adapters.

I found a tutorial on, strangely enough, which described the process for getting ATI drivers to work on OpenSUSE 11.1. The first step is to download the official ATI drivers for Linux. Each of these commands should be executed as root:


Next, you need to download the kernel source and ensure that you have a few other utilities required for compiling a kernel module:

zypper in kernel-source gcc make patch

Now you should be able to run through the ATI driver installation utility, accepting all of the defaults:


If you're on 64-bit OpenSUSE, you need to take an extra step to make the driver available:

rm /usr/lib/dri/ && ln -s /usr/lib64/dri/ \

Backup your existing xorg.conf configuration file and configure Xorg to use the new driver:

cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.orig
aticonfig --initial -f

Finally, configure Sax2 with the ATI driver:

sax2 -r -m 0=fglrx

Upon rebooting your computer, you should be able to use the hardware-accelerated 3D capabilities of your ATI card. To verify that things are up and running, execute fglrxinfo as a normal user. This command renders the following output on my system:

display: :0.0  screen: 0
OpenGL vendor string: ATI Technologies Inc.
OpenGL renderer string: ATI Radeon Xpress Series
OpenGL version string: 2.1.8304 Release

Other Thoughts

After having played with OpenSUSE 11.1 for a couple hours, I think I might be able to keep it around for a little while. Despite the lack of speed exhibited by other Linux distributions, the "stability" that OpenSUSE seems to offer is attractive to me. It will likely take some time to get used to RPMs over DEBs for package management.

How bad can it be? I mean, it comes with OpenOffice 3.0.0, which is nice. It can handle dual-head mode on my laptop thanks to Xinerama, which no other distro to date has been able to do. This gives me a little more screen real estate to work with, which helps out a lot when I'm developing a Web site or working in an IDE. The package managers are slow, but how often do you really install software anyway?

Again, we'll just have to see how things pan out. Let's hope it turns out to be a positive experience.

Installing Slackware 12.2 On Your EeePC (701 4G, in my case)

Welcome to my second article about installing Slackware on an Asus EeePC. This is a follow-up article to the one I posted in May 2008 soon after Slackware 12.1 was released. In this article, I will assume that you're doing a fresh installation of Slackware 12.2 and that you have access to an external USB CD/DVD ROM drive.

In all honesty, the installation process is extremely similar to what I did with 12.1. However, looking back at my previous article, I realize that my steps may not have been the most useful in the world. This time around I will try to be more helpful.

Getting Slackware

The first, and most obvious step, is to get a copy of Slackware. Simply head on over to and retrieve the appropriate ISO(s) using whichever method you prefer. I downloaded the DVD version of Slackware. If you download the CD ISOs, you really only need the first 3 ISOs. The remaining 3 are source packages for the binary packages you install from the first three discs. Rarely do you need the source code for these packages.

After retrieving the Slackware ISO(s), you must burn them to a disc of some sort: ISOs that are ~650MB should be burned to CDs and anything larger should (obviously) be burned to a DVD. Be sure you burn each ISO using the "burn disc image" functionality in your disc writing software--simply burning the ISO file onto the disc in a regular data session will not do what we need.

Booting The Install Disc

After you have a good copy of the installation disc (the DVD or the first of the CDs), put the disc into your CD/DVD ROM drive and reboot your computer. To ensure that your computer boots from the disc rather than the hard drive, hit F2 when you see the initial boot screen. Then go to the "Boot" tab and verify that your external CD/DVD drive takes precedence over the internal SSD. While we're in the BIOS, let's hop over to the "Advanced" tab and set "OS Installation" to "Start". This will increase the chances that your external drive will be recognized or something.... mine didn't work until I made that change. When you're all done with that, exit your BIOS, saving your changes.

The computer will reboot, and it should access your installation disc immediately after the initial boot screen disappears. Once you boot from the installation disc, you should be presented with a screen which allows you to pass some settings to the installation kernel.

The installation boot screen

To make the installation go faster, use the following boot string:

hugesmp.s hdc=noprobe

This makes it so the installation will see the internal SSD as /dev/sda instead of /dev/hdc, which also boosts the read/write times by about 13 times.

During the boot process you will be asked to specify your keyboard map. Unless you want something special here, just hit the enter key to proceed.

Partition Your SSD

Next you will need to login as root and partition your SSD. You can do this using one of the following two commands:

fdisk /dev/sda
cfdisk /dev/sda

Here are some steps in case you're not familiar with these utilities:

  1. Remove all partitions (unless you know what you're doing)
    1. fdisk: d to delete (you may have to select multiple partitions to delete if you have more than one for some reason)
    2. cfdisk: Select all partitions individually with up/down arrow keys and use the left/right arrow keys to select delete from the menu at the bottom. Hit enter to run the delete command when it's highlighted.
  2. Create one partition that takes the whole SSD (again, unless you know what you're doing)
    1. fdisk: n (for new); enter; p (for primary); enter; 1 (for the first primary partition); enter; enter (to start at the beginning of the drive); enter (to select the end of the drive)
    2. cfdisk: Select the new command with the left/right arrow keys and hit enter when it's selected. Make it a primary partition, and have it take the whole SSD (3997.49MB in my case).
  3. Set the type of the new partition to be Linux
    1. fdisk: t (for type); enter; 83 (for Linux); enter
    2. cfdisk: Use the left/right arrow keys to select the type command at the bottom and hit enter when it's selected. Choose 83.
  4. Set the new partition (or the first, if you decided to make more than one) to be bootable
    1. fdisk: a (for bootable); enter; 1 (for primary partition 1); enter
    2. cfdisk: Select the bootable command from the bottom using the left/right arrow keys. Hit enter when it's selected.
  5. Write the changes to the partition table and quit
    1. fdisk: w
    2. cfdisk: Use the left/right arrow keys to select the write command from the bottom. Hit enter when it's selected. Type 'yes' to verify your intent, acknowledging that your previous data will be "gone". Then select the quit command.

Installing Slackware

As soon as your partitioning has finished, go ahead and run setup to begin the actual installation program.

The first screen of the installation program

Since we don't have a swap partition, can jump straight to the TARGET option. Use the arrow keys to highlight this option and hit enter. Select /dev/sda1 from the list, and format it with ext2. On the EeePC, most people prefer this format since it is a non-journaling filesystem. That means fewer writes to the SSD, which supposedly translates to a longer lifetime.

After the SSD is formatted, you will be asked to select the installation source. Again, I'm assuming that you want to use your fresh Slackware 12.2 disc, but you are free to choose what you want if you know what you're doing.

Selecting the installation source

I went with the default "Install from a Slackware CD or DVD" and told it to auto scan for my disc drive. It was found at /dev/sr0.

Choosing Your Packages

Next, you are given the opportunity to tweak the package series which will be installed on your EeePC. I chose the following series: A, AP, K, L, N, TCL, X, and XAP. I planned on using XFCE instead of KDE on my EeePC simply because it is much more light-weight and still capable of what I need. If you want KDE, be sure to check the appropriate series.

Selecting the packages to install

Once you mark each of the package series you wish to install, hit the "OK" button. You'll then have to choose which prompting mode to use. I chose menu, simply to be a little more picky about which packages I wanted installed. Installation took approximately 28 minutes with my package selection and setup.

Configuring Your System

When all of the packages are done being installed, you will be presented with some other screens to finish up the installation process.

  1. Choose whether or not you want to make a bootable USB... I skipped it.
  2. Choose how you wish to install LILO. I chose simple.
  3. Choose your frame buffer mode for the console. I chose 640x480x256.
  4. Specify any optional kernel parameters. Ensure that the hdc=noprobe from earlier is here to speed up your system considerably.
  5. Specify whether you wish to use UTF-8 on the console. I chose no.
  6. Specify where to install LILO. I chose MBR.
  7. Specify your mouse type. I chose imps2.
  8. Specify whether or not you wish to have gpm run at boot, which allows you to use your mouse in the console. I chose yes.
  9. Configure your network.
  10. Give your EeePC a hostname. This can be whatever you'd like.
  11. Specify the domain for your network. This can be whatever you'd like as well.
  12. Configure your IP address information. I just chose DHCP.
  13. Set the DHCP hostname. I left this blank.
  14. Review and confirm your network settings.
  15. Choose which services you wish to have running immediately after booting.
  16. See if you want to try custom screen fonts. I usually don't bother.
  17. Specify whether your hardware clock is set to local time or UTC.
  18. Choose your timezone.
  19. Select your preferred window manager. I chose XFCE.
  20. Set the root password.

At this point Slackware has been installed on your EeePC and you can exit the setup menu and hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete to reboot your computer.

First Boot

You should now go back into your BIOS and set "OS Installation" back to "Finished", exit and save changes, and reboot again.

Slackware's default LILO boot screen

You should then see the Slackware boot screen. By default, it has a 2-minute timeout, which seems absolutely absurd to me, so we'll change that later. Just hit enter for now and watch your new Slackware boot. The first boot will usually take a bit longer than subsequent reboots because all sorts of things need to generate their first configuration file.

When your system is ready, you'll be presented with a login prompt. Just login as root, using the password you specified in the last step of the installation process.

Tweaking Your Slackware

Here are some of the first things I do when I install a new copy of Slackware:

Add An Unprivileged User

This step is very important, because one thing that sets Linux apart from other operating systems is security ;). If you run your Linux system as root all the time, you're begging for problems.

To create a new unprivileged user, I use the adduser command. It walks you through the process of creating a user. This is the user you should use to do your day-to-day computing. Only use the root user when performing system administration tasks. Trust me :)

Tell X Windows to Start Automatically

I have no problem with the command line interface in Linux. I actually enjoy it quite a bit. However, on a device such as the EeePC, not having a GUI just doesn't seem all that practical. It's also not very impressive to your potential converts when they look over your shoulder and see that your tiny gadget just displays a black and white screen when you turn it on...

So, to help ourselves be a little more productive and to impress our followers, let's tell X Windows to start up automatically when we turn on the computer. To do that, we want to edit /etc/inittab and change the following line:


to be:


You can use whatever program you feel comfortable with, such as vi or nano. The next time you reboot your computer, you should see a GUI as soon as all of the services are fully loaded.

Along with this step, I suppose we can mention the configuration of X Windows. I usually run xorgsetup as root to get things up and running. Usually there is also a bit of tweaking to get things like the scroll wheel on the mouse to function. This part in particular took quite some time for me to figure out.

Enable The Scroll Wheel on the Trackpad

Some of you might be able to live without being able to scroll a page or whatever without using the scroll feature on most mouse devices these days, but I'm not one of them. Here is my entire /etc/X11/xorg.conf file:

Section "ServerLayout"
    Identifier     " Configured"
    Screen      0  "Screen0" 0 0
    InputDevice    "Mouse0" "CorePointer"
    InputDevice    "SynapticMouse" "AlwaysCore"
    InputDevice    "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"

Section "Files"
    RgbPath      "/usr/share/X11/rgb"
    ModulePath   "/usr/lib/xorg/modules"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/TTF"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/OTF"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/Type1"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/misc"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/75dpi/:unscaled"

Section "Module"
    Load  "xtrap"
    Load  "GLcore"
    Load  "record"
    Load  "dri"
    Load  "dbe"
    Load  "extmod"
    Load  "glx"
    Load  "freetype"
    Load  "type1"
    Load  "synaptics"

Section "InputDevice"
    Identifier  "Keyboard0"
    Driver      "kbd"
    Option       "XkbModel"  "pc104"
    Option       "XkbLayout"  "us"

Section "InputDevice"
    Identifier  "Mouse0"
    Driver "mouse"
    Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
    Option "Protocol" "IMPS/2"
    Option "Buttons" "5"
    Option "zAxisMapping" "4 5"
    Option "SHMConfig" "on"

Section "InputDevice"
    Identifier "SynapticMouse"
    Driver "synaptics"
    Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
    Option "Protocol" "auto-dev"
    Option "SHMConfig" "on"

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier   "Monitor0"
    VendorName   "Monitor Vendor"
    ModelName    "Monitor Model"

Section "Device"
        ### Available Driver options are:-
        ### Values: <i>: integer, <f>: float, <bool>: "True"/"False",
        ### <string>: "String", <freq>: "<f> Hz/kHz/MHz"
        ### [arg]: arg optional
        #Option     "NoAccel"               # [<bool>]
        #Option     "SWcursor"              # [<bool>]
        #Option     "ColorKey"              # <i>
        #Option     "CacheLines"            # <i>
        #Option     "Dac6Bit"               # [<bool>]
        #Option     "DRI"                   # [<bool>]
        #Option     "NoDDC"                 # [<bool>]
        #Option     "ShowCache"             # [<bool>]
        #Option     "XvMCSurfaces"          # <i>
        #Option     "PageFlip"              # [<bool>]
    Identifier  "Card0"
    Driver      "intel"
    VendorName  "Intel Corporation"
    BoardName   "Mobile 915GM/GMS/910GML Express Graphics Controller"
    BusID       "PCI:0:2:0"

Section "Screen"
    Identifier "Screen0"
    Device     "Card0"
    Monitor    "Monitor0"
    DefaultDepth 24
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     1
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     4
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     8
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     15
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     16
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     24

A lot of that stuff might not be necessary, but it's what works for me. Normally the process for enabling the scroll wheel is pretty easy, but something seems to have changed in this respect with the release of Slackware 12.2. I had to edit the /etc/modprobe.d/psmouse script to make this line:

options psmouse proto=imps

look like:

options psmouse proto=any

After making that change, things seemed to work a lot better.

Make LILO to Boot Faster

There are a couple tricks we can use to make LILO boot our EeePC slightly faster. The first is to add the compact option somewhere, and the second is to decrease the menu timeout.

Open up /etc/lilo.conf with a text editor of your choosing as root. Add a single line with the word compact somewhere. I put it under the line that says boot = /dev/sda so the top of lilo.conf looks like this:

# LILO configuration file
# generated by 'liloconfig'
# Start LILO global section
# Append any additional kernel parameters:
append="hdc=noprobe vt.default_utf8=8"
boot = /dev/sda

I also changed the line that said timeout = 1200 to be timeout = 50 to make LILO only hang around for 5 seconds instead of 2 minutes.

After making these changes, we must reinstall LILO to the MBR with the new settings:

lilo -v

Here's my /etc/lilo.conf with most of the commented lines removed:

# LILO configuration file
# generated by 'liloconfig'
# Start LILO global section
# Append any additional kernel parameters:
append="hdc=noprobe vt.default_utf8=0"
boot = /dev/sda

# Boot BMP Image.
# Bitmap in BMP format: 640x480x8
bitmap = /boot/slack.bmp
bmp-colors = 255,0,255,0,255,0
bmp-table = 60,6,1,16
bmp-timer = 65,27,0,255

timeout = 50
vga = normal
# End LILO global section
# Linux bootable partition config begins
image = /boot/vmlinuz
root = /dev/sda1
label = Linux
# Linux bootable partition config ends

Network Tweaking

While the wireless adapter seemed to work great for me out of the box this time, the ethernet adapter is still not functional. I compiled and installed the atl2 driver to solve the problem. You can get it from Here are the steps I took to install it:

tar jxf atl2-2.0.4.tar.bz2
cd atl2-2.0.4
cp atl2.ko /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/net/
depmod -a
modprobe atl2

The next tweak I added for networking was to boost boot times... The DHCP address request hangs the entire boot process out of the box if you don't have an ethernet cable plugged in while booting. To remedy this problem, add the following line to the first section of your /etc/rc.d/rc.inet1.conf:


This will tell your computer to continue booting if an IP address hasn't been assigned after 5 seconds of waiting.

Enable Frequency Scaling

We all like out battery to last a long time, right? Well, the EeePC 701 doesn't have the greatest battery in the world, but we can help increase the battery life by enabling the CPU frequency modules. I put this stuff in my /etc/rc.d/rc.local script:

# /etc/rc.d/rc.local:  Local system initialization script.
# Put any local startup commands in here.  Also, if you have
# anything that needs to be run at shutdown time you can
# make an /etc/rc.d/rc.local_shutdown script and put those
# commands in there.

modprobe p4-clockmod
modprobe cpufreq_ondemand
modprobe cpufreq_conservative
modprobe cpufreq_powersave
modprobe cpufreq_performance

cpufreq-set -g ondemand -d 450Mhz -u 900Mhz

Add Your SD Card to /etc/fstab

I have an SD card that I leave in my EeePC all the time, and it's formatted with ext2 just like the internal SSD. Without this tweak, I have to mount the SD card each time I turn on the computer, which gets bothersome. My fix is to add the SD card to /etc/fstab, which takes care of mounting the device at boot.

First, you should make a directory that will be used to mount the device. I made one as such:

mkdir /mnt/sd

Now you need to determine your SD card's UUID. I started out by unmounting my SD card and taking it out of the slot. Then I executed this command:

ls /dev/disk/by-uuid

Next, I popped the SD card back in and executed that command again. The UUID that appears the second time but not the first time is your SD card's UUID.

It's time to add the magic line to your /etc/fstab. Add a line such as:

UUID=[your SD card's UUID] /mnt/sd ext2 defaults,noatime 1 1

somewhere in the file. While we're digging around in /etc/fstab, we might as well add the noatime option to the internal SSD to help reduce disk writes. Save the file and exit the editor. Then mount everything (using mount -a) or just the SD card (using mount /mnt/sd).

For posterity's sake, here's my entire /etc/fstab file:

/dev/sda1        /                ext2        defaults,noatime         1   1
UUID=30293ff4-5bee-457a-8528-ec296f099e9a /mnt/sd ext2 defaults,noatime 1 1
#/dev/cdrom      /mnt/cdrom       auto        noauto,owner,ro  0   0
/dev/fd0         /mnt/floppy      auto        noauto,owner     0   0
devpts           /dev/pts         devpts      gid=5,mode=620   0   0
proc             /proc            proc        defaults         0   0
tmpfs            /dev/shm         tmpfs       defaults         0   0

Preventing Shutdown Hangs

Sometimes the sound card seems to make Slackware hang when you're shutting down. Everything seems to turn off fine, but the little green power LED still shines bright. The solution to this problem appears to be adding the following line:

modprobe -r snd_hda_intel

to /etc/rc.d/rc.6 right before the "Unmounting local file systems." line (around line 195).

Enable Volume Hotkeys and Sleeping

Slackware 12.2 is already listening for ACPI events by default, so we just need to insert our custom stuff into /etc/acpi/


set $@

#logger "ACPI Event $1, $2, $3, $4, $5"

case "$1" in
        case "$2" in
            power) /sbin/init 0;;
            sleep) /etc/acpi/actions/;;
                if grep -q closed /proc/acpi/button/lid/LID/state
            *) logger "ACPI action $2 is not defined";;
        case "$3" in
            # Fn+F2 Wireless/Bluetooth button
            # Fn+F7 Mute button
            00000013) amixer set Master toggle;;
            # Fn+F8 Volume down
            00000014) amixer set Master 10%-;;
            # Fn+F9 Volume up
            00000015) amixer set Master 10%+;;
    *) logger "ACPI group $1 / action $2 is not defined";;

And to handle the closing of the lid or pressing the sleep button, we need to create a new script in /etc/acpi/actions/ called

# script by Fluxx from linuxquestions slackware forum
# discover video card's ID
ID=`/sbin/lspci | grep VGA | awk '{ print $1 }' | sed -e 's@:@/@'`

# securely create a temporary file
TMP_FILE=`mktemp /tmp/video_state.XXXXXX`
trap 'rm -f $TMP_FILE' 0 1 15

# switch to virtual terminal 1 to avoid graphics
# corruption in X
chvt 1

/sbin/hwclock --systohc

# remove the webcam module
rmmod uvcvideo

# write all unwritten data (just in case)

# dump current data from the video card to the
# temporary file
cat /proc/bus/pci/$ID > $TMP_FILE

# suspend-to-ram
# (samwise) not using this it stuffs up the screen brightness
echo -n mem > /sys/power/state

# suspend-to-disk
#echo -n disk > /sys/power/state

# standby
#echo -n standby > /sys/power/state

# force on for now...
xset dpms force on

/sbin/hwclock --hctosys

# restore the webcam module
modprobe uvcvideo

# restore video card data from the temporary file
# on resume
cat $TMP_FILE > /proc/bus/pci/$ID

# switch back to virtual terminal 2 (running X)
chvt 6; sleep 2
chvt 2

# remove temporary file
rm -f $TMP_FILE

And we need to make sure the script is executable:

chmod +x /etc/acpi/actions/

These scripts should enable us to use the mute key, the increase/decrease volume keys, and the sleep key. They should also allow us to close the lid of the EeePC to put it to sleep. Occasionally, when you wake up the computer, you will just see a blank black screen. To get around this, switch back to VT2 by using the keystroke Ctrl+Alt+F2.

Install Special Packages

Slackware comes with a lot of awesome stuff right out of the box, but it is missing some very important utilities at the same time. Included in this list, for me, is a program called wicd, or a network connectivity manager. This is similar to the "Network Manager" utility found in other mainstream distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSuSE. Slackware has yet to include such a utility by default.

Anyway, wicd can be found in the extra directory on the Slackware DVD or the 3rd (?) CD. To install it, find the package on the disc (or download it from the Internet) and execute the following command:

installpkg wicd-1.5.6-noarch-2.tgz

Be sure to check out the extra directory on the Slackware install disc. There are some neat tools in there. Some excellent resources for Slackware packages include:

There are some utilities out there to help you in your quest to resolve package dependencies. Two of the major ones that I've used in the past are swaret and slapt-get.

Using Slackware 12.2

My Slackware 12.2-powered EeePC 701 4G

I have to give the Linux kernel hackers props--the kernel is amazingly fast! I'm sure the fact that I'm running a fairly stock Slackware installation (as opposed to something like Ubuntu) helps the speed quite a bit too. This past semester I had Linux Mint 5 (XFCE edition) installed on my EeePC, and that seemed fairly responsive. Slackware blew me away though, and I can still do everything I want to do!

The webcam and sound card work out of the box, just like the wireless. I rarely use the webcam, but it's fun to play with, and my mom appreciates seeing me on Skype occasionally. The wireless connection quality exceeds what it was with the madwifi driver I was using with Slackware 12.1 and other distros like Linux Mint. Programs are ultra speedy and responsive, even with the processor clocked at 450Mhz. I love it!!!

Boot times could be better, but I'm not too concerned with it. My setup takes approximately 50 seconds from boot to a useable desktop interface. Not horrible by any means, but perhaps not the best for a netbook when all you want to do is check your e-mail.

I would like to see the Network Manager that so many other distributions offer in Slackware some day. The wicd application is nice, but it's not nearly as intuitive as Network Manager, and it seems to be relatively limited in its capabilities in comparison. I know I'm not alone in my desire to see Network Manager included, or at least available, for Slackware. It would be tremendously beneficial in a world where wireless networking and laptops are more and more pervasive. Using the command line to adjust your wireless connection settings each time you have to hop to a new access point is just annoying.

In the end, I'm excited to have Slackware on my EeePC once again. I think it will be around for quite a while this time.

Please comment with any advice or problems that you have in regards to installing Slackware 12.2 on an EeePC.

openSUSE 11.0: Round 2

Ok, ok... I decided to give openSUSE 11.0 another shot. Since my last blog post, I have read some reviews posted by some other people who encountered similar problems when attempting to actually use KDE4. Some of these people opted to install the KDE 3.5.9 remix after that and had more promising result. So, instead of letting my bias get the best of me, I am going to try openSUSE 11.0 one more time using KDE3. The following are the steps I took while going through this process:

  1. Booted from DVD (openSUSE 11.0 x86_64)

  2. Chose "Installation" from the boot menu

  3. After the installer is completely loaded, I selected "English (US)" for both the language and the keyboard layout, read the license agreement, checked the "I Agree to the License Terms" box, and clicked Next.

  4. I waited for a few seconds while the installer probed my hardware and updated some package lists, then I chose "New Installation" and clicked Next.

  5. The next step was to choose my timezone. They have a very simple interface for this--much less frustrating than the counterpart in the most recent release of Ubuntu (8.04 LTS). My system clock is set to Mountain time, so I left that stuff alone and clicked Next.

  6. This step is probably where I screwed up the most last time. It's where you choose which desktop environment you want. You can choose from GNOME 2.22, KDE 4.0, KDE 3.5, and XFCE Deskop. Last time I chose KDE 4.0. This time I chose KDE 3.5 and clicked Next.

  7. After choosing the desktop environment, the installer took me to the disk partition section of the installation. This should be pretty easy for most people, but I changed a few things. Namely, I put the root and home partitions together, and I deleted one of my Windows partitions because Windows is stupid and bloated. Once I verified the disk partition settings, I clicked Next.

  8. This part is where you get to enter the primary system user's information. You can specify the user's name, login, and password. You may also specify a few options including whether or not the root user will have the same password, whether that user will receive system mail, and whether or not that user will be logged in automatically. If you need to, you may change the authentication settings here too. I just entered the information and got on with it. (If you uncheck the box for the root user having the same password, you're prompted for the root password after this screen)

  9. Finally, we get to the step where you get to verify all of the installation settings. I think I'll just go with the configuration for now. When you click Install, you're prompted to verify that you really want to install. Use your head on this one.

  10. After all of that, it began to format my partitions. One neat thing that I noticed while it was installing was the fact that they rolled commonly-installed packages into what they call "images." This seems to increase installation speed considerably. In the past, I've had most RPM-based distribution installations take as long as (or longer than) Windows takes to install. Granted, the difference there is that you actually get useful stuff once Linux is installed, whereas with Windows, you're stuck with something barely usable and you still have to install drivers for every piece of hardware except your monitor.

    Anyway... the openSUSE folks seem to have addressed that problem recently (maybe just in this release). This went a LOT faster than I've ever seen (on any computer). Despite the use of those images, though, there were still nearly 500 packages that needed to be installed. It seems to be quite evident that the packages are working faster than ever before. It's refreshing (though it did still take quite a bit longer to install than most Debian-based distributions I've tried).

  11. After all of the packages are installed, the system does some configuration and then reboots itself. When it comes back up, the installer will appear, do some more hardware detection and configuration, and then go straight into your desktop.

openSUSE actually didn't detect my 1680x1050 resolution (I didn't know any modern distribution wouldn't anymore), so I just went into YaST and set the resolution to what it should be. And then it locked up, and I had to do a hard reboot. Let's hope I can stop that from happening again. I suppose so long as I can still see things other than my mouse, I should be good.

Upon rebooting into my desktop, the resolution was still crappy. When I went to change it this time, though, I noticed that dual-head mode was enabled. That's stupid. I never plug a second monitor into my laptop. I disabled that, then tried to change the resolution. After logging out and back in, it seems to have changed the resolution properly. While I realize that I do have an extremely crappy video card, Ubuntu and others have been able to offer me 3D acceleration. This option is currently unavailable with openSUSE. Perhaps a little research will solve that problem.

After a few minutes of configuration and preference setting, my system locked up yet again. And another hard reset did the trick of getting it operational again. One more and it's outta here!! I do have to say... Minus the quirks with the resolution and drivers, the distribution does not seem bad at all. It might be worth trying out on a different computer--maybe I'd have better luck.

Alright, now I'm going to check the software management tool for a real driver for my video card. Looks like I may have found some. I hope they work. I'm using a "1-click installer" that I found from a Google search. The installation went fine, but after logging out and back in (to have the drivers take effect), it locked up again.

So, round two folks. Again, it might just be user error. It might just be my computer. Or openSUSE really might just suck. I don't think I'll be trying it on my computer again for a while. I might try on a different system altogether, but not on my main laptop.

First Impressions: openSUSE 11.0

Those of you who have ever held any sort of conversation with me have probably heard or have personal experience with my bigotry concerning Linux. I absolutely love Linux, and I make all sorts of excuses for the things it doesn't to as well as Windows and Mac OS to convince people to use Linux. It's just the way I am.

I've been using Linux as my main operating system ever since about 2000, though I did dabble with it a few times before that. I started out with RedHat Linux way back when, and then moved on to Mandrake (now Mandriva) Linux. As time passed, I found out about this particular distribution called "SuSE Linux," which claimed to be able to detect hardware even better than the others I had tried. It even looked really pretty. I began to really want to use this distribution. It got to the point where I almost spent $80 on it, just so I could play around.

Eventually, I got my hands on a free copy by downloading all of the packages from their FTP server or something. I managed to get this installed, and I was even more impressed than I had anticipated. SuSE Linux was amazing. But by this time, I had already become addicted to downloading and trying out any distribution I could get my hands on. That meant that SuSE spent a few days or weeks on my computer before I replaced it with something else.

As I tried more and more distributions of Linux, I began to form opinions about them. I observed what certain distributions did well, and made hard mental notes about what each distribution didn't do so well. It wasn't long before I noticed that basically all of the RPM-based distributions I had tried suffered from two major problems: bloated installation packages and severe system slow-downs as time went on. It seemed that RPM-based distributions always slowed down just as bad as Windows machines. Other types of Linux, such as Slackware, Gentoo, and Debian, didn't seem to suffer from this nearly as bad.

With these opinions in mind, I carefully chose which distributions I elected to actually install with plans for keeping around a long time. It seemed like I would always download the RPM-based distributions, but I would do it "just in case" someone else wanted the CD or DVD. Sometimes I would download the distributions and never even bother to burn the CD image to disc. I would just stuff the image away for future reference.

However, despite my opinions of RPM-based distributions, I did end up installing SUSE Enterprise Linux Desktop/Server and openSUSE a few years ago. Part of it was for a class I had; another part was to find a distribution that would suit the needs of one of my buddies. I noticed several improvements in the distributions as the years passed, but those lingering problems with bloated packages and system slow-downs still plagued each distribution.

Last week, openSUSE 11.0 was finally released. Just like always, I downloaded the CD and DVD images with no plans of actually installing openSUSE anywhere. As the downloads were going, I read some reviews posted by other people. It sounded like this particular release of openSUSE actually addressed the issues of bloat and system slow-downs (finally!!), so that made me happy, but I still didn't quite consider installing it on any of my computers. I did use one of the live CD's at work for a day, though, and it treated me well.

This morning I got the itch to change the distribution I had installed on my main computer. I was going through the list of recent downloads that I had, and it occurred to me that the most recent version I had was openSUSE 11.0. It also occurred to me that it had been at least two years since I had seriously considered installing openSUSE or SLED/SLES on my computer. So I decided that maybe everything I had read was worth looking into on my own and possibly revisiting my biased opinion of RPM-based distributions.

I started the installation early this morning while I took notes and worked from another machine. The installation went very smoothly. Everything was logical and clean. It really was a good experience. The packages really did seem to install considerably faster than any release in the past, so I had high hopes for how the system would perform after installation. After everything was said and done, my computer rebooted into the freshly installed KDE 4.0 desktop of openSUSE 11.0. It looked nice, and it was actually functional--which I cannot honestly say about any other distributions that have a KDE 4.0 remix.

Since up to this morning I hadn't been able to use KDE 4 long enough to figure out what's changed, that's where I started. I explored the new menu, which I have to admit is quite funky, but I guess that's how the industry likes things nowadays. I played around with some of the personal settings that it offers. Things seemed logical enough, but it is quite a change from KDE 3.5, which I've been using for quite a while.

After a couple minutes of tinkering, I noticed a little bubble in the corner that said something about installing some system updates. I clicked it and ran through some sort of wizard, but I guess there were no updates to install. Or maybe I just have super-slow Internet and it was taking forever to download the changes. Whatever the case, I kept on tinkering with some settings while the updater did its thing.

Next thing I know, my screen goes black and flashes a few times. Then all I can see is a white mouse on a black background. That's it. Nothing else. I'm really not sure what the problem was. The settings I was playing with seemed fairly innocent, as I modify those sorts of settings all the time on KDE 3.5. After a few minutes of white-mouse-on-black-screen fun, I decided a reboot might solve the problem.

A couple minutes later, I was presented with my loading screen, followed by the black screen and white mouse. That's it. Nothing else.

Needless to say, despite all of the improvements that I did notice in this release of openSUSE, it left a rather bitter taste in my mouth in other areas. openSUSE is no longer on my computer--it's long been replaced with yet another distribution.

Maybe it's user error. Maybe it's my computer's hardware. Or maybe openSUSE really does suck. Whatever the case, it wouldn't surprise me if I wait another year or two to try out another RPM-based distribution.

SuSE 10.1 x86_64

Ported From Blogger

The following post was ported from my old blogger account.

I've been using SuSE Linux 10.1 on my laptop ever since the day it was released, and I have to say that I'm quite satisfied with it. I'm usually a Slackware man, myself, but SuSE has become one of my new favorites.

Ever since I first started using Linux some 7 years ago, I've kept an eye on SuSE. I came really close to actually purchasing a boxed copy back around version 7.3 I think. This was mostly because SuSE is so visually appealing. Once openSuSE came about, I was super excited and downloaded the 5 CD set for version 10.0 immediately. To my disappointment, this version didn't play well with my brand new laptop. I didn't feel like finding out why, so I just gently tucked the CDs away in the drawer with all of my other Linux CDs. As soon as the 10.1 CD set was publicly released on May 11th, I grabbed a torrent to get all of the 5 CDs plus the non-OSS add-on CD.

The same day, I popped the first CD in and began the installation. To my surprise, SuSE 10.1 had no qualms with my Radeon 200M, whereas almost all distros that I had tried on this laptop up to this point would lockup once they did anything outside of the wonderful console (besides Fedora Core 5). SuSE 10.1 was 1 up on all the others, especially after seeing the splash screen. Absolutely beautiful. The installation went really smoothly. I opted for the KDE install, as I'm not a big fan of GNOME. And this is despite the fact that the folks at SuSE spent a lot of time and effort making GNOME mesh well with their distro.

Once the installation finished, I began tinkering around in my menus just to see what there was to see. I have to say that things are set up pretty intuitively in KDE to begin with (or maybe I've just been using it for a long time), but SuSE makes it even better. Device recognition is actually beyond my expectations for Linux. Just about anything I pop into a USB port will be recognized within seconds and I will be asked what I want to do with it. Even my HP All-In-One printer/scanner/copier works without a hitch!! This is the first scanner that I've had function in Linux! Excellent. My media reader doesn't seem to be compatible with Linux yet, but that's fine since I rarely use it anyway. I was able to get my Radeon to play well with the proprietary drivers from ATI, and my FPS jumped from around 100 to 1100 when running glxgears. Nice improvement.

One thing that did take a long time to figure out was my wireless. I had only played with wireless one other time in Linux and that was on some generic PCMCIA wireless card in a past roommate's laptop. That seemed to be simple enough to setup, with the help ndiswrapper. However, finding the correct drivers for my internal wireless adapter, and finding them in the 64-bit edition proved to be quite the runaround. Eventually, I was able to get in touch with someone who graciously emailed them to me as an attachment. To my disappointment, however, ndiswrapper didn't seem to do wireless with these drivers either!! Wow. I put wireless tinkering away for a while, but came back to it amidst my boredom. I came across some forum that had the answer to my quest: a file link. The drivers I had received through email were the correct drivers, only they were linked up to some other device identifier. All I needed to do was essentially make an alias of my device identifier and make it point to the identifier used by the drivers. As soon as I did this, ndiswrapper worked like a charm. I was able to see several wireless networks in my area. I did (and still do) have a problem connecting to certain access points, however. For some strange reason, I cannot figure out how to connect to my own wireless router, nor the university wireless. It's rather frustrating, but I can live with an ethernet cable.

Ahh, yes. Linux.