Category: Computers

Linux Mint 19.x: Cinnamon and AMD Graphics

If you’re just now updating to a new Linux distro running the latest Cinnamon DE and you have AMD graphics rendering, you may be running into some problems. This seems to be particularly common among those with older AMD graphics.

I have an R9 290X in my machine, and after initial testing and booting into Linux Mint 19.2, everything appeared fine. However, after running updates and rebooting, I was introduced to a Cinnamon has crashed and is running in fallback mode. Do you wish to restart Cinnamon? That is paraphrasing, as I did not screenshot the error and don’t remember it word-for-word any longer, but you’ll know exactly what error pop-up I’m referring to if you’re seeing it, as well.

At first, I thought it might be an issue with Cinnamon itself, and started searching for indications that I should restore the system backup I did before updating. But then I started seeing signs of the graphics rendering being the issue. Some forum threads had members suggesting that hardware others were using may no longer be capable of running Cinnamon any longer, but I could not see my R9 card being unable to run Cinnamon, so I decided to log out and start Cinnamon using software rendering instead. This allowed Cinnamon to run fine, so it told me the issue was definitely with my hardware.

Since hardware support is typically located at the kernel in Linux, I started looking at trying different kernels. I reverted back to the previous kernel used prior to the system update with no success, then moved to test out the newest kernel versions in 5.x branch with no success. The last thing I could do at this point was hope for some way to get drivers that would support my system. The solution was AMD’s proprietary drivers located here. Following the instructions of extracting the tar.gz and running the amdgpu-pro-install script, everything went smoothly and a reboot had my system working as expected with hardware rendering.

The instructions for installing the drivers was straight-forward as laid out by AMD in the documentation.

I hope this helps someone.

Commercial DVD Playback in Ubuntu 18.04

This also applies to KDE neon installations using the Ubuntu 18.04 base, and possibly Linux Mint 19.x.

sudo apt install libdvdnav4 libdvdread4 gstreamer1.0-plugins-bad gstreamer1.0-plugins-ugly libdvd-pkg
sudo dpkg-reconfigure libdvd-pkg
sudo apt install ubuntu-restricted-extras

A lot of online advice suggest doing everything except reconfiguring the libdvd-pkg package, which leaves you without the necessary libdvdcss package installed on the system for most applications to be able to read the commercial DVD. Following all the above steps should install everything needed, and grab the latest libdvdcss package directly from videolan.org.

This is also explained by the VideoLAN devs themselves here.

Ubuntu 18.04 Live Installation – How To Reboot

Just a quick tidbit for those who found themselves stuck at the nefarious Please remove installation medium, then reboot. message that restarting/shutting down from a Live Boot of Ubuntu 18.04 presents. I’ve seen several people mention this problem after it popped up for me after running it for a test, but I didn’t see any solution mentioned. Everyone stated that they had to hard reboot their PC by holding in the Power Button. As most will find out, pressing Enter, Esc or any other usual common keystrokes to progress will do nothing. I even tried a console command such as sudo reboot with no luck – even though the screen doesn’t technically present a terminal prompt (just trying anything at that point).

So, do I have a solution? Yep…

CTRL + C

You’ll see your screen magically go black and reboot the PC (even if you chose Shutdown from the exiting menu in the Ubuntu Live Session). The only other nuisance I’ve seen this with (and this could just be something to do with my particular setup) is that the EFI OS boot manager gets altered and sets Windows Boot Manager as the first order option on the machine after running the Live Session. Unsure if that’s something to do with Ubuntu (it happens when testing KDE neon, as well, which is Ubuntu-based) or something to do with the fact that the PC booting is managed via EFI. Some might manage to boot into Linux and reinstall Grub to get around this, but really going into the BIOS/UEFI settings when the PC boots and just rearranging the OS boot manager order in the system configuration gets things back to the way they were before. An easy fix, but just annoying that I’ve had to do this each time I’ve tested a Live Boot of Ubuntu or KDE neon (ended up installing Linux Mint 19 from the first test of the Live Session, so didn’t see if it would cause the same issue).

I do think it’s stupid that the latest LTS version of Ubuntu doesn’t provide a more straight-forward approach to this situation (the historical Remove media and press Enter. has always worked well, and is still how other distros do it), but… there ya go. At least a proper resolution does exist until Canonical sorts out the emotional storm they seem to be going through to get back to the straight and narrow.

As for a return to Gnome… I thought the desktop looked fine. I’ve never been a fan of the Ubuntu purple theme color, but Gnome seems to run as well as Unity did in my previous Ubuntu experiences. I only started using Ubuntu around the coming of 12.04, so I wasn’t familiar with the Gnome 2 Ubuntu of past times. For what it was, Unity seemed fine to me. The only thing that pushed me away from using Ubuntu was Canonical’s more commercial minded moves to forcing Amazon, tracking and profiting off of dash searches and the such. Even if there were ways to get around it all, the problem is that Canonical wanted to force those practices onto its users in the first place. I’ll compare it with phpBB’s attempt to fund itself by profiting from video embeds in newer versions of their software. The difference, however, is that phpBB lets you know that this is something that they would like for you to do upon installing the software on your website, and provide appropriate (and simple) means of opting out of doing so. Like Canonical, the developers of phpBB provide their product as free-to-use, but gain some profits from services related to the product. However, where it seems to stand out to me (and this is from the layman point of view) is that they are being fairly transparent about their practices to attempt funding their work from your use of their otherwise completely free product. Canonical, instead, went about it in a way that seemed to imply that they didn’t want the user to know it was happening. I know this is a dead-horse subject that was beaten to that point several years ago, but that is ultimately why I ditched Ubuntu for other distros – even ones that link back to Ubuntu as a base. Up until recently, I’ve been happy using Linux Mint – and with the discontinuation of their KDE option, I’ll likely also be looking to KDE neon. With alternatives such as these available to me, I’d be quite surprised if I ever install Ubuntu on anything I own as a day-to-day use OS ever again.

HostUS: 2GB OpenVZ VPS Special

A belated Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to everyone.

HostUS is offering an unmanaged 2GB OpenVZ VPS between December 25th, 2016 through January 3rd, 2017 for $25/year. I know I’m late getting this up here, but just learned of it and there’s still a week left on this special.

The VPS features the following:

  • 2GB RAM (with 2GB vSwap)
  • 50GB Raid 10 Disk Space
  • 2 vCPU Cores (Fair Share)
  • 2TB Bandwidth (monthly)
  • 1 Gbps transfer speed
  • 1 IPv4 and 4 IPv6

The servers are available for the following locations:

  • Atlanta
  • Dallas
  • Los Angeles
  • Washington, DC
  • London

I’ve used HostUS for several years now and been completely happy with the service and support (when needed). I’ve received maybe 2-3 emails from them in that time stating that a VPS of mine was taken down temporarily for an issue, but it has never hindered me in any way (never seen the outage when it happens) and they have always promptly resolved the issue at hand and had the server back up with times given in the email. For what breaks down to less than $3/month for a VPS with these specs, it’s hardly a difficult choice if you’re in the market for a VPS, and they appear to never fuss about what you do on their servers as long as it doesn’t violate any government laws, result in exploited security vulnerability (such as DDoS) or cause any unjustified overhead on their server resources.

Like I said, if you’re in the market for a VPS (and OpenVZ suits your needs), these guys are probably as good as any you’ll find for the money.

If you want to look over location and network information for them, check out this page.

Linux Mint, Cinnamon and Banshee: Disable Song Change Notifications

I’m really impressed with Cinnamon in the more recent release of Linux Mint. However, I hate that simply pressing for the next song to play in my Banshee library causes a notification to pop up on my Notifications panel in Cinnamon. If you sit there and let the application play through a whole list of songs, you’ll easily look down and find dozens of notifications – which I consider totally pointless and without any benefit. If you disagree, feel free to keep getting your notifications.

Fortunately, you can simply disable a small extension in Banshee to cease getting the notifications.

  • Click Edit in the top menu and go to Preferences.
  • Click on the Extensions tab.
  • Scroll down until you see the Utilities category and search for Notification Area Icon. Note: all extensions and categories are alphabetically ordered, and it should be the second from last extension in the entire window if you have not installed any additional extensions in Banshee (feel free to scroll all the way down for quick find).
  • Uncheck the box next to this extension and you’ll get no more notifications in Cinnamon from Banshee.

It’s that simple. It would be more intuitive to have the option accessible from the notifications area in Cinnamon itself, but at least there is a way to disable it. Otherwise, I might have found myself switching to a new music application. I have not used Banshee in MATE, but I would assume disabling the notifications would be similar if it produces notifications in that desktop environment as well.

I do like the task bar icon and pop-up with information and control interface in Cinnamon for Banshee. It looks sleek and provides all the essential commands to the play er without having to open it in a full window. Even though I was used to Rhythmbox and did like its integration into Ubuntu’s task bar, I think I actually like the Cinnamon/Banshee integration slightly better. The down side for me, unless I’m missing the ability to change this, is that I can’t close Banshee to just the icon on the task bar but just minimize to get rid of it – moving to a different workspace being the only apparent option to free up the place on the task bar altogether. Unsure why they haven’t made the ability to close the window to the task bar only, or if its a limitation in Banshee or Cinnamon itself, but hopefully they’ll add this option at some point. Or hopefully I’ll learn how to use it if I’m missing it somewhere.

Properly Cleaning Up /boot Partition

This is a follow-up post to a post I made earlier today: Cleaning Up /boot Partition.

I won’t say that the steps in that post aren’t going to help clear up space, but it certainly didn’t do the trick for me. I still had a piled up /boot partition loaded with the kernel images. I can’t explain why, but completely removing them via Synaptic apparently didn’t completely remove them. So, it appears this method is more effective.

Search for installed packages named linux-image* to see the kernels on the machine:

dpkg -l linux-image*

Like before, you can find the current kernel using this command:

uname -r

I recommend keeping the current and its previous kernel, but that choice is yours. Either way, you do not want to remove the current kernel! Using the same example from the previous post, I’ll change the step to remove the same kernel images but using this method.

sudo apt-get remove linux-image-{34,35,36,37,39,40,43,44}-generic

Then, remove dependencies.

sudo apt-get autoremove

 

Cleaning Up /boot Partition

It’s very easy to lose track of how many times the Linux kernel is updated on your system, and, depending on the amount of space allotted to the /boot partition, you’re likely to come across an error stating that there isn’t enough space to provide updates at some point. You may be confused if you see this message, especially since it isn’t always clear where the lack of space is in the message – and you’ll easily tell yourself that there’s no way your root partition doesn’t have the 100MB of space to perform the update. Instead, it’s the boot partition that is lacking the available space.

Why? Because every time the Linux kernel is updated, the previous kernel is kept on the system as well. You might think it pointless, but it’s actually rather nice – especially if a kernel update creates an issue with something you have installed on the system. You can easily boot into a previous kernel in that situation. The problem is that there is no limit to how many kernels are stored, and so after about ten kernel updates, you’re likely going to be out of space – especially with the default 500MB partition allotment that Ubuntu and its derivatives tend to stick with.

The easiest way, in my opinion, to remove these unnecessary kernel images off of the boot partition to provide space for future updates is using Synaptic Package Manger. Some explanations state using the command line to remove the packages, but the UI of Synaptic works great for this.

The first thing I’d advise to do is look at the images stored on the boot partition. You can do that by entering this into your console:

ls /boot/

You’ll see a lot of different files listed, but the most important part of each filename is the version number. Despite the variances in the list of files (abi, config, System, etc.), they should all share the same version numbers in that part of their filenames. The thing I recommend doing is removing all but the last two, which should be the current kernel and the previous one before it. You can check which kernel the system is running with this command:

uname -r

In my situation, I had the following kernels residing on my system:

3.13.0-34-generic
3.13.0-35-generic
3.13.0-36-generic
3.13.0-37-generic
3.13.0-39-generic
3.13.0-40-generic
3.13.0-43-generic
3.13.0-44-generic
3.13.0-45-generic
3.13.0-46-generic

So, I’m removing kernels 3.13.0-34 through 3.13.0-44. After opening Synaptic Package Manager, first click on Installed in the left-hand column to filter out all uninstalled packages. Then, search for the first part of the version numbers for the kernels. eg.: 3.13.

Select each package title linux-headers-x.xx that fits within the kernel versions we’re removing, and after you’ve highlighted all of them click the green box next to it and select Mark for Complete Removal. You’ll notice that all of the linux-image-x.xx packages have also turned red and are selected for removal. Simply hit Apply at the top and confirm with the popup for the packages to be removed and Synaptic will do the rest. It should take only a few seconds, but less than a minute in any case.

While you’re in Synaptic, you can also remove any residual configurations by selecting Not installed (residual config) in the left-pane and removing any packages listed there as well. This will clear up any configurations left by packages that have been removed from the system – freeing up wasted space.

ReadyShare USB Storage via NETGEAR Router in Ubuntu

Okay. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I was confused about how to access an external USB drive that I decided to connect to my NETGEAR router and use as for shared network storage in my house. All searched online led to explanations of using fstab to mount the drive and map it to a location such as /media/network, which I instantly thought seemed like too much work for the simple ability of accessing a USB drive connected through the router. After all, finding such a drive is as easy as viewing Network locations in Windows, and I refused to believe that it could be any harder in Linux.

Apparently, I was right. I would have manually entered the location that I expected the drive to be in the file manager, but I don’t have an address bar that I can manually enter locations into (or I haven’t configured Nautilus to show on if it’s capable of doing so). But, as soon as I opened Nautilus and looked in the left-pane displaying locations such as Locations, Devices, Bookmarks and Network, I saw a hint as to what I was looking for: Browse Network.

As soon as I select Browse Network, I see exactly what I’m looking for. Two options, among several others, listed as READYSHARE and readyshare(for Time Machine). Both lead to the same place, a location listing USB_Storage, which was exactly what I needed. Clicking on USB_Storage reveals the contents of my USB drive that I have connected to the router’s USB port. Just to be sure I could, I created a new text file on the drive and saved a small string of text into it to make sure I would be able to alter the drive in some way from my Ubuntu PC. Everything worked as expected.

So, I really don’t know the benefit of following other explanations of accessing and manipulating storage devices in Ubuntu that are connected to NETGEAR’s ReadyShare port, but this way worked fine for me.

Install Oracle Java 8 in Ubuntu with Updates via PPA

Thanks to WebUpd8, you can install the most up-to-date JDK and JRE directly from Oracle, as opposed to using OpenJDK which is the default in the Ubuntu repositories. As far as I know, this should work for any *buntu OSes, including Linux Mint and elementaryOS. They should also get updates automatically via the Update Manager while they are within the support window for the OS version you’re using.

I know this isn’t exactly news, and WebUpd8 posted this information over two years ago now, but I was shocked to find out about it myself just recently, and figured I’d just go ahead and post it on my blog for anyone else who happens across it without knowing as well.

Here are the steps, all together, for adding the PPA and installing Java 8 (currently update 40). I also included an additional step to remove all remnants of the OpenJDK package. I’m uncertain if the presence of OpenJDK would cause any problems, but I figured its not needed and so worth it to clear up an easy ~50-100MB of space anyway.

sudo apt-get purge openjdk*
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/java
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install oracle-java8-installer
sudo apt-get install oracle-java8-set-default

The PPA is hosted at this location on Launchpad. As you will see if you visit the page, WebUpd8 doesn’t actually maintain any Java binary packages for on the PPA. Instead, it simply hosts the installers that pull the packages from Oracle’s own servers. An alternative might be to manually download and install the software from Oracle, but you would have to manually update it every time Oracle pushes out a new version. With this PPA, you will get updates for it automatically through the Update Manager for as long as your OS is within its support window.

If you prefer to use version 7 instead, you can issue the following commands to install the JDK and JRE packages installer for version and alternate the versions used.

sudo apt-get install oracle-java7-installer
sudo update-java-alternatives -s java-7-oracle

Then just use the following command to return to version 8, if you decide to.

sudo update-java-alternatives -s java-8-oracle

Nexus 7 (2012): Revert to Previous Firmware using Ubuntu 14.04

First of all, this is for the 2012 version of the Nexus 7 Wi-Fi. Though the steps for doing this on other Nexus devices may be similar enough to make following this post safe, I would still try to find some verification of that before doing it. Second, this will wipe the tablet of all data, applications and settings. With the exception of items that can be recovered via Google’s account backup service, you will lose everything on the tablet. I recommend using the USB link to back up any data you wish to keep before continuing.

I decided to post this after doing some research and reverting my Nexus 7 tablet – which had recently been updated to Android 5.1 – back to Android 4.1.2. If you’re wondering why I’d want to revert back, it’s safe to say you haven’t ran Lollipop on the 2012 Nexus 7. In fact, I haven’t ran it either, because crawled it would be a more fitting description. I suppose it’s to be expected that an OS three years newer than the hardware it’s installed on might make that hardware run sluggish, but I think it should be unjustified for a company with Google’s technical foundation to even release such an update for the device if it is going to be incapable of running in a state that provides any kind of real experience. A lot of us are used to being a step or two behind when it comes to Android updates anyway, especially with the pace that most phone manufacturers push out their updates.

To get back on subject, the process of reverting the Nexus back to an older version was actually quite easy. Though all of the tutorials and examples online referred to doing it from Windows – with occasional references to Mac in the form of “oh, just change this command to be like this,” nothing referred to using Linux. In fact, I couldn’t even find a location to download fastboot for Linux. Luckily, I didn’t need to. Apparently, Ubuntu has both fastboot and adb compiled in the repositories – at least for Ubuntu 14.04 – and supposedly from version 12.10 on. I believe there’s a PPA you can add to grab it if you’re using 12.04 or earlier, but I can’t speak to that from experience.

As far as the process of reverting the tablet to a former version goes, you can start with grabbing the image of whichever version you’re looking to revert to from Google’s page for factory Nexus images. Based on what I’ve seen since reverting back, OTA updates seem to be in succession, so you’ll be updating to the next immediate version (eg: from 4.1.2 to 4.2.2), in case you are afraid that you will have to re-image the tablet to go from one older version to a newer version that isn’t 5.1 Lollipop. You also want to make sure you have fastboot installed on your computer from the Ubuntu Software Center.

Make sure the tablet has USB debugging enabled. In newer versions of Android, you have to reveal the location, which is hidden by default, in Settings by first going to Settings -> About tablet and tapping several times on the Build number field. You’ll see a small message pop up saying that you’re on your way to becoming a developer. After a few more presses, there will be a new settings location under the System category titled Developer options, which holds the setting for enabling USB debugging. Make sure it’s enabled.

Next, power the tablet off, and then restart it by holding down all three physical buttons simultaneously (Power + Volume Up + Volume Down) until you see the Google splash screen and the Android bootloader screen. Lastly, make sure the tablet is plugged into the computer’s USB port using the charge cable. At this point, you’re done with the tablet itself and can set it aside (somewhere it won’t get knocked around!).

Now navigate to the tgz file for the factory image you downloaded. First, extract the archive. Then, open a terminal and navigate to the directory where the tgz and extracted folder are located. In my case, it was my Downloads folder, which can be easily accessed by:

cd ~/Downloads

Next, check the hash value of the archive and make sure it matches the one listed on Google’s page for the factory image you downloaded. In my case, I used 4.1.2. If using a different Android version, or the 3G tablet (which is codenamed nakasig instead of nakasi), you will obviously have a different filename.

jerry@Ubuntu:~$ md5sum nakasi-jzo54k-factory-973f190e.tgz
d906b505ccae0d439839d3c5fafb137a  nakasi-jzo54k-factory-973f190e.tgz

If the hash value matches, we’re good. If not, you need to re-download the file and check again. Assuming the hash was good, navigate to the folder that was extracted.

cd nakasi-jzo54k

Now we need to verify that fastboot recognizes the tablet is connected to the computer. If you just type fastboot into the terminal, it will return some information for what commands and options can be pushed to it. The command we need is devices.

fastboot devices

If the terminal line breaks directly back to prompt without listing any devices, it means the computer is not able to communicate with the tablet. You may need to restart the tablet, or you may not have enabled USB debugging. Otherwise, you’ll see a serial number beside the word fastboot.

Assuming your device was recognized, it’s now time to unlock the bootloader (which will wipe the tablet – make sure you backed up any important data beforehand) and flash the image.

fastboot oem unlock

At this point, the tablet will display a screen warning about unlocking the bootloader (guess I was wrong about being done with the tablet). Make sure Yes is selected and hit the power button. Once it returns to the bootloader screen, proceed with flashing the image to the tablet.

At this point, a lot of tutorials state to enter each fastboot command manually. If you look at flash-all.sh in a text editor, you’ll see that the shell script enters the exact same commands, but saves you the work of doing it. I decided to use the shell script.

./flash-all.sh

At this point, you’ll see fastboot spitting some information and time lapses into the terminal. You want to leave it alone until it finishes. You’ll know when it’s done, because it will end with the following lines:

rebooting...

finished. total time: 105.989s

The value for total time will vary, but it typically shouldn’t take more than 2-3 minutes. Still, I would wait for 30 minutes if it seemed to take that long, because I would assume that trying to interrupt the process could cause problems for the tablet.

After the process has finished, the tablet will automatically restart and boot into the reverted Android version. It will prompt you with a screen similar to the one it did when you bought the tablet and turned it on for the first time. At this point, I would follow the prompts and any steps it has you do to initialize the tablet. But once you’re at the home screen, you will want to go to Settings -> Developer options, turn the slider from OFF to ON and then check to enable USB debugging. Now turn the tablet back off and reboot into the bootloader.

Once you’re into the bootloader and verified with fastboot that the tablet is recognized, re-apply the bootloader lock to re-secure the tablet and help protect your data.

fastboot oem lock

The main reason for doing this is to protect the data on your tablet, in case it is ever lost or stolen. If the bootloader is locked, fastboot and adb cannot be used to access or manipulate data on the tablet – and unlocking it again will wipe the data again. If it is left unlocked, this safeguard will not be in place.