My Fedora 11 Adventures: Part VI

Folks, I cannot take this any longer. I've had Fedora 11 installed on my computer for 5 days now. That is close enough to a week for me. There simply is not enough about Fedora right now to keep me using it. Perhaps the next release will be better for me. I honestly hope so.

To be perfectly honest, I enjoyed most of the Fedora experience these past few days. I was thoroughly impressed with the speed and memory usage in Fedora compared to Jaunty. When I mentioned that on Twitter the other day, one fellow asked if the two systems were running the exact same software. His train of thought seemed to be that you can't really compare two different distros for speed or memory usage unless they run the exact same software at the time of the sample.

My response to that is that it doesn't matter to me in this particular case. I was comparing the general performance of both distros using their "stock" configuration. You can customize a distro however you'd like, and, in the end, that's where you'll probably find the most performance gains in any system.

But performance out of the box is important to me. I'll just leave it at that.

As I write this, I'm creating an ISO of slackware-current (as of midnight MST) so I can see what KDE 4 is like on a real distribution. Heh. This oughta be fun. Anyway, I truly hope that the next release of Fedora will hold my attention for a bit longer.

My Fedora 11 Adventures: Part I

Today I decided that I would deliberately put myself outside of my comfort zone. No, not by intentionally putting myself on a telephone for more than 5 minutes this month... I will need a lot more preparation before I can attempt that one. No no, today's experiment has to do with Linux. If you're new around here, I am a very big fan of Linux. It has been my primary operating system for over 8 years (but I still use Windows and Mac occasionally, when I need to test my programs and the cross-platform behavior).

A Little Background On Yours Truly

There was a time when I was what you would call a distro-hopper. I would download any and every Linux distribution I could get my hands on. Most of them would hang around on my computer for a few days at best, but a select few actually impressed me enough to have them stick around for longer. Among those few are Slackware and Sidux. Many other distros are nice and pretty, but when it comes to me being productive on them, there always seems to be something lacking.

I am addicted to speed and reliability--two things that originally urged me to tinker with Linux all those years ago. I am more than willing to sacrifice looks and features for being able to just get something done quickly and efficiently. As a matter of fact, I'm writing this article in VIM, one of the most "light-weight" editors around these days. It allows me to do exactly what I want to do without getting in my way. That's how I like things.

That's probably the main reason I love Slackware. It won't do anything I don't tell it to do. No crazy background processes updating some package repository, slowing down my system. No pestering me about security updates that I will install in my own due time. Slackware only does what I want it to, and I have learned a ton about Linux because of it. If I decide I want something automated in the background, I have to tell the computer to do it. If one of my programs has been updated on the Internet, I download and install the package manually instead of using a "package manager." If one of my programs doesn't work because of a missing dependency, I am the one who finds and downloads the dependency. It's a lot of work initially, but I'm of the persuasion that this work is well worth it for my situation.

In today's day and age, that sort of setup seems to scare a lot of people off. People like to have things "just work." People like to not have to worry about keeping up to speed with what security threats are out there. People like having things to keep them entertained instead of getting things done. People like to see their desktop turn into a cube and spin around. People like to see things glow and wiggle on their computer. It's aesthetically pleasing. There's nothing wrong with that. Unless you want to get things done instead of just stare at your computer.

The Challenge

With that background in mind, you should be equipped to better understand the information and articles that follow. My challenge to myself is this: install Fedora 11 and use it for at least a week. To add to the the challenge, I'm installing the 64-bit version. In my past experience with 64-bit operating systems, there has been no real motivation or necessity for 64-bit computing. It just means more compatibility problems, which reduces productivity. This will be the first 64-bit operating system I actually plan to keep around beyond the exploratory period.

There are a few things about this that will bring me waaaay out of my comfort zone. They are (in no particular order):

  • Fedora
  • RPMs
  • KDE 4

I have a strong disregard for each of these items. There was a time when I considered Fedora to be a respectable platform--back when it was Fedora Core 2 or 3. Ever since then, I feel that it has gone down the tubes. RPMs have always seemed grossly lacking in the speed department to me, and it only got worse after I found out about Debian and Slackware. Finally, KDE 4 seems like one of the absolute worst window managers I have yet to encounter. I love KDE 3.5.x. I wish I could use it everywhere I go. But KDE 4 has yet to appeal to my desire for efficient productivity--it gets in my way almost as much as GNOME does.

Starting today, I plan to look all of these opinions (as biased as they may be) straight in the eye and take 'em head-on. I am going to work on learning to enjoy using Fedora. I'm going to work on learning how to appreciate RPMs. I am going to learn to be productive in the window manager "of the future."

And I will keep you all apprised of my progress.

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.

GIT-SVN on Slackware 12.2

With all of the hype that git has been receiving lately, I started playing with it a while back to see if it suited me and my wants/needs. I found it to be an interesting utility. I won't go into any details simply because I'm not really all that knowledgeable about all the ins and outs of version control systems, but I will say that I have decided I like it. I'm still not sure whether I prefer GIT over SVN or SVN over GIT.

My problem is that basically all of my projects are based on SVN repositories. I don't want to have to start up a new GIT repository for each of my past projects. Fortunately, there is an interface for GIT to use SVN repositories called git-svn. I use this utility primarily on my EeePC because it saves a good amount of space on my small disk (the git-svn versions of the working copies are typically about half the size of their svn counterparts). Sometimes it's a little wacky, but it works well enough for my needs.

I started using this git-svn utility on a Debian-based distribution. That meant it was insanely simple to get up and running: sudo apt-get install git-svn. I recently installed Slackware 12.2, and I was surprised to find out that the git-svn utility wasn't immediately available to me.

I did some googling to see if others had encountered the same problem. There were several accurate hits, but I couldn't quite find the solution I needed. In the end, I finally got things working. The following information describes what I did to achieve this monumental success.

Trying git svn

The first roadblock that I encountered, obviously, was finding out that git-svn didn't work on my shiny new Slackware installation. After doing a bit of research, I learned that I could substitute the familiar git-svn command with git svn and continue using it as I previously had.

Installing Dependencies

Once I learned about git svn and tried it out, I got a nasty error about Alien/SVN. I've lost track of the original error, and for that I apologize. Doing a little bit of research led me to execute this command as root:

cpan Alien::SVN

I'm not sure exactly whether that step is required, but you might as well do it :).

Next, I downloaded a couple SlackBuilds to create my own Slackware packages suited for my computer.

For each SlackBuild, you must download the original source code along with the actual SlackBuild itself. For example, when retrieving the necessary files for swig, I must download both swig-1.3.35.tar.gz and swig.tar.gz from the link specified. Here are some example commands, which should be run as root:

mkdir -p ~/downloads/slackbuilds; cd ~/downloads/slackbuilds
tar zxf swig.tar.gz
cd swig/
installpkg /tmp/swig-1.3.35-i486-1_SBo.tgz

The commands above should create a new directory in /root/ called downloads/slackbuilds. Next, the SlackBuild for swig will be downloaded and extracted, after which the swig source code will be downloaded. The SlackBuild is executed, rendering an installable Slackware package. Finally, the package is installed onto the system.

The process is basically the same for the subversion-bindings SlackBuild. On my system, however, I had to modify the stock SlackBuild slightly. I didn't install Apache on my EeePC because I don't use it and it would just be taking up space. When I tried to execute the SlackBuild for subversion-bindings straight from the archive, it complained about a missing apxs file, which has something to do with Apache.

To avoid the error, I modified the subversion-bindings.SlackBuild script to ignore the apxs thingy. The original ./configure section looked like this:

./configure \
  --prefix=/usr \
  --mandir=/usr/man \
  --enable-shared \
  --disable-static \
  --with-apr=/usr \
  --with-apr-util=/usr \
  --with-apxs=/usr/sbin/apxs \
  --with-neon=/usr \
  --with-zlib=/usr \
  --with-pic \
  --with-ssl \

I just removed the line that says --with-apxs=/usr/sbin/apxs \ and ran the SlackBuild script again. Worked like a charm.

At this point everything appeared to be able to work properly. Running git svn from the command line no longer spit out that nasty error I mentioned earlier. Instead it gave me the options I would expect to see.

That's when I tried to update an existing working copy of an SVN repository. It gave me this error:

$ git svn rebase
Authentication realm: <> Subversion - code
Password for 'myuser': Can't locate Term/ in @INC (@INC contains:
/usr/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.10.0/i486-linux-thread-multi /usr/lib/perl5
/site_perl/5.10.0 /usr/lib/perl5/5.10.0/i486-linux-thread-multi /usr/lib
/perl5/5.10.0 /usr/lib/perl5/site_perl /usr/lib/perl5/vendor_perl/5.10.0
/i486-linux-thread-multi /usr/lib/perl5/vendor_perl/5.10.0 /usr/lib/perl5
/vendor_perl .) at /usr/libexec/git-core/git-svn line 3071.

That's not very nice, now is it? The solution was fairly simple: install Perl's Term::ReadKey module. As root, execute the following command:

cpan Term::ReadKey

After doing that I was able to happily update my working copy and move on.

I don't envision that this article will be the all-knowing, all-powerful resource for how to use git-svn on Slackware, but I sure hope it will help some other folks who run into the same problems as me.

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.

Slackware 12.2, Gmail Tasks and SMS

I just had to come up with a blog post about these newly released bits of awesomeness!!

  • Slackware 12.2 was announced this morning
  • Google has launched two new Labs features for Gmail: a simple task list and the ability to send SMS messages within Gmail itself. w00t

I wish I had more time to report other important releases, but I must study!!!

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.

PyScriptures 0.2a Is Here!

So, for those of you who aren't in my immediate vicinity or who aren't on Google Talk all the time, this might well be your first exposure to my latest project. I'm calling it PyScriptures. Py because I wrote it all in Python. Scriptures because it is a program that provides the entire LDS standard works (as far as the actual scriptures are concerned, anyway).

Some History

(feel free to skip to the good stuff if you don't care about history, or skip to the downloads)

I have been working on this sort of program for a very long time. My first attempt was way back in probably 2001, using PHP. I wanted to have a way to easily read the scriptures on my computer without requiring an Internet connection. To go along with this, I wanted to be able to highlight text, mark verses, and easily navigate the scriptures. Obviously, I never quite got it right--that's why I'm still working on new versions all the time.

After a while, I learned that I would be getting a nifty Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 as a graduation present. It's a Linux-based PDA (one of the first, actually), and it's still pretty powerful considering that it's 6 years old now. Anyway, once I got that little gadget, I wanted to get the scriptures on there, too. I didn't have any of the MarkMyScriptures software that other PDA users enjoyed, because of the different operating system. Not to mention how cheap I am (I hate buying software). I ended up porting my PHP/MySQL version of the scriptures to my PDA and using it that way for a little while, but that proved to be very inefficient. The project went on hold for a while, during my time as a missionary in Romania.

When I returned home from my mission, I picked up the scriptures project again. I think my next stab was a Swing-based Java application. It worked well enough, but it never really got too far beyond, "Oh look! The scriptures!"

It was also during the time I was working on the Java version that I realized that the database I was relying upon for my scriptures was incomplete. I'm not sure what the extent of the missing information was, but I remember specifically looking up Doctrine & Covenants 77 only to find questions with no answers. The database was also not very "normalized" but that's more of a nerdy topic, so I will spare you the details. I attempted to contact the bloke in responsible for maintaining that database to let him know of the problems, but it seems like he died or something. Absolutely no response from him, and no activity on his website for two years.

After discovering the lack of complete scripture in that database, I made a promise to myself that I would make my own version of the database so I wouldn't have to stumble upon more incomplete or inaccurate scriptures. This became a reality early in May, as I wrote a program (in Python) that actually downloaded (I call it "harvesting") all of the scriptures directly from the Church's website. It took quite a bit of time to perfect, but as far as I can tell, it works great now. It puts all of the scriptures in a nice, normalized database. So far I know it works with SQLite and MySQL, but it should work just dandy with others as well.

Once I had that fresh database, I began working on a graphical interface for the scriptures. I had been tinkering with something called wxPython for a little while, but I'd never really built anything useful with it. I could never get used to laying things out after using the amazing GUI builder in NetBeans.

This past weekend I've been hacking nearly non-stop to get a nice, functional interface for my scripture program. I'm very satisfied with it, and I have to admit that it performs far better than any previous iteration of this project. There's still a lot to be done to make it work the way I want it to, but here's a brief list of features in this version 0.2a release:

Features Include:

  1. Cross-Platform Compatible: This program works exactly the same on Windows, Linux, and Mac. I've tested it on Windows XP, Vista, Ubuntu Linux, Slackware Linux, and MacOS X (leopard) and have only found minor differences that don't really matter anyway. The program itself does work though.
  2. Fast: Python does a good job at working quickly, even with my crummy code. It boasts incredible speed when retrieving and rendering the entire canon of scripture.
  3. Simple searching: You can type in a word, part of a word, or a whole phrase, and it will find any and all matches (case-insensitively) in the entire standard works.
  4. Quick Jump: Know the exact reference to the scripture you want? Type it in and you're immediately taken to that verse. I never understood why other programs don't have this feature. My implementation is not perfect, but it sure as heck didn't take much to get it where it is.
  5. Adjustable font sizes: You can easily adjust the size of the scripture text (within reasonable limits). That way you can make it easier to read if you're not sitting right in front of your computer.
  6. Easy navigation: You can quickly and easily jump to the next or previous chapter or book. I realize that this might not be very useful to a lot of people, but I love this sort of functionality.
  7. Random verse: Click one button to jump to some random verse anywhere in the scriptures. This is mostly a database deal, and it seems to prefer the Old Testament in my experience. Maybe that's just because the Old Testament probably has more verses than the rest of the volumes put together?
  8. Good memory: Prefer to have your window maximized? Don't like seeing the toolbar? The program will remember things like that, as well as the size and position of the window on your screen (if it's not maximized) and what verse you had selected immediately before closing down the program.
  9. Keyboard shortcuts: For those of us who hate to use mice, there are keyboard shortcuts to do most things in the program.

There's still more fun stuff to come, but I had to get something out the door. I spent most of today just trying to get the program to behave well on other platforms (mostly Windows), because I develop on Linux. If you're interested in trying out what I have now, feel free to download whatever suits you best:


Windows Installer (32-bit) (9.0MB)

Debian Linux (including Ubuntu) (2.9MB)

Launch pyscriptures after installing and it should work.

MacOS X (11.3MB)

Man... Gotta love the size differences.


This program requires Python 2.4+, pysqlite2 (or sqlite3 if you have Python 2.5), and wxPython 2.8+. These may be different, but that's what I used to develop with, so I know it works with them. The Windows installer should include everything you need to get started, as should the Mac installer.

Note: The .dmg is very, very shabby right now. I plan on making it prettier as time goes on, but this _is_ an alpha release, after all. You can't expect too much.

I should stop here. Enjoy!

Slackware 12.1 on an Asus EeePC 701


This article has a follow-up for Slackware 12.2.

The following are the steps I took to install Slackware 12.1 on my EeePC this past weekend. I hope you find them complete and helpful!

Installing Slackware 12.1 on an Asus EeePC 701

  1. Burn DVD .iso to disc
  2. Turn on EeePC
  3. Hit F2 to run setup
  4. Go to the Advanced tab, and set "OS Installation" to "Start"
  5. Go to the Boot tab, and ensure that the external DVD drive will be used for booting before the internal SSD
  6. Exit and save changes
  7. Just hit enter after rebooting from BIOS configuration when the Slackware boot screen shows up
  8. Unless you want to use a different keymap for whatever reason, hit enter when asked to select a keyboard map
  9. Login as root
  10. Run fdisk or cfdisk on /dev/hdc
  11. 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.
  12. 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 parition, and have it take the whole SSD (3997.49MB in my case).
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Run setup
  17. Select TARGET to specify where you will be installing
  18. Select /dev/hdc1
  19. Format the partition
  20. To reduce write cycles, many people suggest formatting with ext2, which is a non-journaling filesystem. However, many people claim that the limited number write cycles of SSD is not something to worry about. Use your best judgement on this one. Hit OK after the format is complete.
  21. Select where you plan to install Slackware from. In my case, it's the DVD. I usually tell it to find the media automatically. Select manual if you know which device your DVD drive is. Mine was /dev/sr0.
  22. Select the packages you wish to install. This is where your installation will likely differ greatly from mine because of personal preferences. I do a lot of development, so I will keep a lot of things for that. Here's what I selected to install:
    1. Base Linux System
    2. Various Applications that do not need X
    3. Program Development (C, C++, Lisp, Perl, etc.)
    4. Linux kernel source
    5. Qt and the K Desktop Environment for X
    6. System Libraries (needed by KDE, GNOME, X, and more)
    7. Networking (TCP/IP, UUCP, Mail, News)
    8. Tcl/Tk script languages
    9. X Window System
    10. X Applications
    11. Games
  23. Choose whether or not you want to be picky about your software. To save a little extra disk space, I'm going to manually choose what I don't want. This includes:
    1. A: cpio, cryptsetup, cups, floppy, genpower, jfsutils, mdadm, mt-st, mtx, quota, reiserfsprogs, rpm2tgz, tcsh, xfsprogs
    2. AP: amp, cdparanoia, hplip, gutenprint, jed, joe, jove, ksh93, mysql, rpm, xfsdump, zsh
    3. D: gcc-gfortran, gcc-gnat, gcc-java, mercurial, p2c
    4. N: elm, epic4, httpd, mailx, mutt, netatalk, pine, popa3d, proftpd, rp-pppoe, samba, slrn, tin, trn, vsftpd
    5. TCL: hfsutils
    6. X: anthy, bdftopcf, beforelight, libhangul, sazanami-fonts-ttf, sinhala_lklug-font-ttf, tibmachuni-font-ttf, wqy-zenhei-font-ttf
    7. XAP: audacious, audacious-plugins, gftp, mozilla-thunderbird, pan, seamonkey
  24. Wait for the installation to complete. It took almost a full hour with my package selection, leaving me with 485.4MB free on my 4GB SSD.
  25. Choose whether or not you want to make a bootable USB... I skipped it.
  26. Choose how you wish to install LILO. I chose simple.
  27. Choose your frame buffer mode for the console. I chose 640x480x256.
  28. Specify any optional kernal parameters. I left this blank, originally, but later learned that having 'hdc=noprobe' increased my disk access speed by about 13 times.
  29. Specify whether you wish to use UTF-8 on the console. I chose no.
  30. Specify where to install LILO. I chose MBR.
  31. Specify your mouse type. I chose imps2.
  32. 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.
  33. Configure your network.
  34. Give your eeepc a hostname. This can be whatever you'd like.
  35. Specify the domain for your network. This can be whatever you'd like as well.
  36. Configure your IP address information. I just chose DHCP.
  37. Set the DHCP hostname. I left this blank.
  38. Review and confirm your network settings.
  39. Choose which services you wish to have running immediately after booting.
  40. See if you want to try custom screen fonts. I usually don't bother.
  41. Specify whether your hardware clock is set to local time or UTC.
  42. Choose your timezone.
  43. Select your preferred window manager. I chose KDE.
  44. Set the root password.
  45. Slackware has been installed! Exit the setup program and reboot.
  46. Hit F2 to enter the BIOS again.
  47. Set OS Installation to "Finished" and exit the BIOS, saving changes.
  48. Reboot into Slackware! The first boot takes a while because of all the initial setup. It is faster on subsequent reboots, assuming you don't add new services (like apache and mysql) at boot.

Change a few settings around.

  1. vi /etc/inittab
  2. (set default runlevel to 4)
  3. vi /etc/lilo.conf
  4. add 'compact' somewhere to make it boot faster
  5. change the boot delay so it's not 120 seconds

Now for installing various drivers.

  1. Install the ethernet driver:
    1. wget
    2. tar jxf atl2-2.0.4.tar.bz2
    3. cd atl2-2.0.4
    4. make
    5. cp atl2.ko /lib/modules/
    6. depmod -a
    7. modprobe atl2
    8. ifconfig
  2. Install the drivers for the wireless:
    1. wget
    2. tar zxvf madwifi-nr-r3366+ar5007.tar.gz
    3. cd madwifi-nr-r3366+ar5007.tar.gz
    4. scripts/madwifi-unload
    5. scripts/ uname -r
    6. make && make install
    7. modprobe ath_pci

I kind of stopped taking notes after I realized how much fun it was to have Slackware on my EeePC. If you have questions, just add a comment below.

How To Compile and Install a 2.6.x Series Linux Kernel

The Linux kernel is the core component in any Linux distribution. Without a kernel, your computer would be essentially useless. It is the piece of software which allows interaction between you, your computer's applications, and your computer's hardware. With such a powerful role in your computing experience, it is important to keep your kernel up-to-date. Each new release provides more hardware support and many performance enhancements. It is also important to keep your kernel up-to-date for security purposes.

Let's upgrade our Linux kernels together. I will walk you through each of the steps I take, from beginning to end, to upgrade my kernel. Just as a warning, I prefer to do the whole process on the command line, so you might want to pull up a terminal, konsole, xterm or whatever you prefer to use for your command line operations.

First you need to download the kernel source code. Many Linux distributions provide specialized editions of the Linux kernel. Typically, you don't want to manually compile and install a custom kernel for these distributions. This does not mean that you can't, it simply means that you might be better off using the "official" kernels for your distribution, which can usually be obtained through your distribution's package manager. You can get the official, 100% free, and complete Linux kernel source code from Look for "The latest stable version of the Linux kernel is:" and click the link on the F on the same line. Currently, the latest stable version is 2.6.20, and that's what I'll be using for this tutorial. Please note that commands which begin with a dollar sign ($) are executed as a regular user and commands beginning with a pound sign (#) are executed as a superuser.

$ cd /home/user/download
$ wget

Now login as the superuser, and navigate to the /usr/src directory. Then extract the kernel source into that directory.

$ su -
# cd /usr/src
# tar jxf /home/user/download/linux-2.6.20.tar.bz2

You probably already have a symlink or shortcut called linux which points to your most recent kernel. If you do, delete the link and create another link to the new source tree. Then go into your kernel source tree.

# rm /usr/src/linux
# ln -s /usr/src/linux-2.6.20 /usr/src/linux
# cd /usr/src/linux

I like to identify each compile of my kernel uniquely, to make sure that I'm using the right one. To do that, you have to modify your Makefile

# vi Makefile

You will see the following lines, or something similar, at the very top of the file:

NAME = Homicidal Dwarf Hamster

Change the EXTRAVERSION property to something you want to use to identify this kernel. I will use -jcv1


The rest of the Makefile should be fine. In fact, I discourage editing Makefiles unless you know what you're doing. This next step is totally optional, but I like to do it to save some time. You can copy your existing kernel's configuration file in order to have a very similar kernel configuration. My previous kernel version was, so this is the command I use:

# cp /usr/src/linux- /usr/src/linux/

Then I run make oldconfig or make silentoldconfig to update my older kernel configuration file to be able to handle newer features. If you use oldconfig you are required to specify whether or not you want the new features included in your kernel, whereas silentoldconfig will use the defaults determined by kernel developers (they usually know best), asking for minimal input. Let's update our configuration file and then customize it by running make menuconfig (there are several options here, such as make xconfig and make gconfig, but I prefer the text-based menuconfig; there is another you can run by using make config, which runs through each and every option available--it's scary).

# make silentoldconfig
# make menuconfig

menuconfig is a graphical command line application which lets you navigate the features offered by the kernel. Each computer is considerably different from the next, so it really does no good to provide a list of things that I tweak. However, it is important to note what some of the symbols are in the menuconfig utility:

  • M = Module. Modules are loaded when they are required and can contribute to the speed of your system
  • * = built into the kernel. These are typically things which are necessary for your machine to function properly, such as support for your root file system.
  • X = exclusively selected. You'll see this when you select what type of processor you have, for example.

One thing to note before we go further is MAKE SURE YOU KERNEL HAS BUILT-IN SUPPORT FOR YOUR ROOT FILE SYSTEM!!!! My root file system is reiserfs. In my configuration, I made sure that reiserfs was marked with a star. If you don't do this, your kernel won't boot and you will be very frustrated. Trust me.

Your computer is probably quite different than mine, so you might want to just poke around and see if you recognize things that deal with your computer's hardware. Once you are done tweaking your kernel configuration, exit the configuration utility and make sure the configuration is stored in /usr/src/linux/.config

Next we get to build and install the kernel. After that, we have to add an entry to our boot manager so that we can try out our new kernel. The compilation part usually takes just about a half hour on my 2.2Ghz Turion64 processor with 1.25GB of RAM. It takes about 6 hours on my 300Mhz Pentium 2 with 32MB of RAM. Let's find out how long it takes for you to compile your kernel!

# time make
real    27m29.663s
user    23m34.476s
sys     2m56.575s

Now let's install the modules and install the appropriate files in the boot area:

# make modules_install
# make install

This is the part that always used to mess me up. I use Slackware Linux, which is more UNIX-ish than most distributions. It's actually the oldest surviving Linux distribution to date, but that's another story. For some reason, the make install command doesn't always work with Slackware. There is a process I use to setup my boot directory when I compile a new kernel. I wrote a simple shell script called fixkernelinstall to take care of it for me:

# Configure my computer for a new kernel
# Author: Josh VanderLinden
# Assisted By: Dan Purcell

# if the user didn't supply a kernel number, ask for it
if [ $# -eq 0 ]; then
    echo -n "Kernel: "
    read kernel

# determine root partition
echo "Determining root partition..."
rootpart=`mount -l | grep ' / ' | cut -f 1 -d\ `
echo "Root partition is $rootpart"

# copy kernel configuration file
cp /usr/src/linux/.config ./config-$kernel

# now rename everything
echo "Renaming files..."
mv vmlinuz vmlinuz-$kernel

# if the config file exists and it's a symlink, remove it
if [ -f 'config' -a `stat config | grep -c 'symbolic link'` = '1' ]; then
    echo "Removing link to configuration file"
    rm config
    # otherwise it might be important
    echo "Renaming configuration file"
    mv config config.bak

# Link files
echo "Creating symlinks..."
ln -s$kernel
ln -s config-$kernel config
ln -s vmlinuz-$kernel vmlinuz

# Update lilo
echo "Adding entry to /etc/lilo.conf for $kernel"
echo "image = /boot/vmlinuz-$kernel" >> /etc/lilo.conf
echo "  root = $rootpart" >> /etc/lilo.conf
echo "  label = $kernel" >> /etc/lilo.conf
echo "  read-only" >> /etc/lilo.conf
echo "Linux kernel $kernel has been configured."
echo "Please check your lilo configuration and run lilo before rebooting"

I'm not an expert on shell scripts, so please feel free to offer suggestions for doing things better if you know how. This script uses the kernel version (given by the user) to setup by /boot directory properly. In my case, I run the script as such

# cd /boot
# fixkernelinstall 2.6.20-jcv1

And the output is something like:

Determining root partition...
Root partition is /dev/hda5
Renaming files...
Renaming configuration file
Creating symlinks...
Adding entry to /etc/lilo.conf for 2.6.20-jcv1
Linux kernel 2.6.20-jcv1 has been configured.
Please check your lilo configuration and run lilo before rebooting

As you can see from the script, I use LILO instead of the arguably more popular GRUB. Either one works for me, but LILO is sufficient for my needs. If you want to use the same kind of script for a GRUB installation, just change the LILO part at the end to something like:

echo 'Adding entry to /boot/grub/menu.lst for $kernel'
echo '  title Linux on ($rootpart)' >> /boot/grub/menu.lst
echo '  root (hd0,4)' >> /boot/grub/menu.lst
echo '  kernel /boot/vmlinuz-$kernel root=$rootpart ro vga=normal' >> /boot/grub/menu.lst

Make sure you change the line with root (hd0,4) to fit your setup. With GRUB, you don't have to worry about applying changes to see the menu entry at boot. It's automatically there. With LILO, however, you have to actually apply changes each time you make them. You do this by running the lilo command as the superuser:

# lilo
Added Windows
Added Linux
Added 2.6.20-jcv1 *

The star (*) signifies the default kernel to boot. Make sure that your root partition is correctly specified in your boot loader configuration. My root partition is on /dev/hda5, but yours may be (and probably is) on a different partition. If you fail to specify the correct root partition, your system will not boot that kernel until the configuration is fixed. GRUB makes this a lot easier than LILO.

And this is the point when you start to cross your figures and hope that your computer doesn't blow up... We get to reboot our computer and hope that our configuration file plays well with our computer. So, let's do that! See you in a few minutes (hopefully).

# shutdown -r now

So here I am, back on Linux on my freshly-rolled kernel. I hope you are as successful as I have been this time around. Keep in mind that you have to reinstall custom kernel modules if you installed others while you were on your other kernel. For example, I use ndiswrapper to access wireless Internet. I have to recompile and reinstall the ndiswrapper module and device drivers before I can use wireless. Likewise, I have VMWare Server on my laptop, which installed special modules. I have to run to reconfigure VMWare Server for my new kernel before I can run any virtual machines.

To summarize, here are the commands that I used in this tutorial. Remember that lines beginning with a dollar sign ($) are executed as a non-privileged user, while lines beginning with the pound sign (#) are executed as the superuser (root).

$ cd /home/user/download
$ wget
$ su -
# cd /usr/src
# tar jxf /home/user/download/linux-2.6.20.tar.bz2
# rm /usr/src/linux
# ln -s /usr/src/linux-2.6.20 /usr/src/linux
# cd /usr/src/linux
# make clean
# vi Makefile (to change EXTRAVERSION to -jcv1)
# cp ../linux- .
# make silentoldconfig
# make menuconfig (just to ensure settings were good)
# time make
# make modules_install
# make install
# cd /boot
# fixkernelinstall 2.6.20-jcv1
# vi /etc/lilo.conf (to make sure things were good)
# lilo
# shutdown -r now

I hope that you are able to use this tutorial to successfully install or upgrade your kernel. Good luck! Any comments or suggestions are welcome!