Day Two SL54-Live/USB on Aspire One

I rebooted my Aspire One early this morning from XP to the USB stick with Scientific Linux 5.4. It’s now approaching the three-hour uptime mark; I’ve usually experienced ath5k timeouts and losing detection of the card altogether in the two- to four-hour range.

I have a few things to update about what I wrote last night. I didn’t need to install anything to listen to streaming audio or individual mp3 files. My first “test” was hitting magnatune’s classical page, which had an embedded player ready to go. I could hear the music as soon as I hit the page.

Not only that, but you can see the box with the audio icon in the screenshot. I can now vouch that the Acer system audio setting adjusted via the function key works out of the box. So, too, do at least some of the others including disabling the touchpad and adjusting screen brightness.

Maybe this attention to detail is why the more “stable” distros appeal more to me than the others. I mean, you have time to get things right when you’re not tied to a six-month release cycle. I read some of the recent entries on Steven Rosenberg’s CLICK blog the other day which had screenshots showing how Ubuntu’s latest beta (10.04) was full of daily surprises, with changing window controls and version downgrades due to bugs.

I think RHEL/CentOS/SL/Oracle get a bad rap by the “hobbyists” when it comes to version numbers (more on that below), but in absolute fairness Red Hat (and those built off of it) patches for new hardware, for improvements and bugfixes, and for adding legitimate features. The kernel in SL54-Live shows up as 2.6.18-164.1.el5. It’s really more than adequate for my — and most users’ — needs. What gets rushed out to meet a timeline for certain distros results in users having to fill in the details; enterprise users expect and receive a bit more than that (especially when it’s derived from a for-profit enterprise; last time I checked, Red Hat was profitable and Canonical was still trying to figure out how to monetize Ubuntu).

Anyway, since I knew I had audio working correctly out of the box I hit shoutcast to find a nice jazz stream. Upon clicking the link for Sky Smooth Jazz, I was given a dialog prompt to open in the default movie player. I selected it and waited for the stream to cache.

It worked without a hitch right out of the box. As it should, eh? I tweaked the settings quite a bit to see how much RAM I was clogging with the changes. That might be unfair since it was running off USB (I do have a swap partition it’s using, though).

Next, I wanted to see if it had flash or a substitute included so I checked about:plugins in firefox. It showed that libflashplayer.so was indeed installed, so I went to youtube.

So far, so good.

I then turned my attention back to hardware. I didn’t check the base application list to see if there was anything with which I could test the webcam. I did note it was detected in dmesg and the proper uvc driver loaded for it. I just tried to hotplug the SD card that was in my camera to see if the left-side internal reader would work; dmesg showed nothing and it wasn’t auto-mounted. That’s hardly a surprise since the only way to get it to work is to boot with it inserted (fortunately, USB card readers work — if only Acer had installed one card reader on these things and added another USB port or two). Synaptics mouse works correctly, and tapping and scrolling are enabled by default.

I suggested above that “hobbyists” wouldn’t appreciate the paradigm at play in such a distro, particularly when it comes to version numbers. This isn’t a hobbyist distro, though. I already noted the kernel is patched. So are the applications. Gnome is shown at version 2.16. It may not be as fancy as the latest version, but it’s rock solid. It also has some of the standard Gnome desktop software including gedit, games, and all the gnome-whatever things that are supposed to make things easier for users.

OpenOffice.org is version 2.3. It works quite well and most users won’t miss any of the features in 3.x. I’ve gone back and forth between OOo 2.x and 3.x recently and, aside from formatting changes in 3.x that don’t work when backing down to 2.x, I don’t think enough of 3.x to demand that whatever distro I use have it available. If emacs had a mode that could convert muse/TeX documents back and forth to MS Office formats, etc., I wouldn’t even care if OOo was installed.

Speaking of emacs, that might be something I’d upgrade to at least -current so I wouldn’t have to track down various things now in emacs which I take for granted. My .emacs is set up for 23.x.

I suppose I could live with 21.x. Again. I did check and gnuplot-mode is installed. For what it’s worth, gnuplot –version shows 4.0 patchlevel 0.

I’ve been keeping an eye on dmesg, looking for ath5k messages, while writing this post. I’m also running tail in a window to see if something shows up in /var/log/messages. The line count I’m paying attention to in dmesg hasn’t changed in a while (dmesg | grep wlan | wc -l). I see system messages every half hour in tail that show NetworkManager is handling and completing supplicant connection handshakes. Fingers crossed.

I’m going to let this thing run while I go running, and beyond if it will. If wifi doesn’t flake out on me as it has with everything else, I’m going to install it. I don’t know if I have enough room since I cut back on Linux partitions (just enough room for TinyCore plus my home directory) so I may have to do some reconfiguration if that happens. And then I may not sell it or give it away even though I know I should (my hands are just too big for it and the screen is too tiny).

Updates to follow if and when I see that ath5k has timed out…

Update: Had to deal with issue for work so I’m just now heading out to run. I’m now past four hours uptime with SL54 Live on my Aspire One, trying to see how long it will take before wifi crashes. As you can see in my messages tail, there was one noise floor calibration time out at a little over three hours uptime.

That’s markedly different from some of the things that have happened in the past, like this crap:

I’ll try to update this at least one more time today to give a final uptime before I accept that it actually works. I have my fingers crossed. Heh.

Update 2: Shit! Instead of crossing my fingers I should’ve plugged the freaking power cord back in. I was walking out of this room when the audio dropped off so I ran back to see if it was due to wifi crash, then I saw that it was already suspended because the battery was almost drained. The good news is the audio kicked right back on as soon as I plugged it in, so wifi was still working and wifi resumed immediately from suspend — not just good, very good. The bad news is I didn’t have it set up to suspend/resume correctly (especially since it only has a little swap partition to use) so I got it back without video. I went ahead and shut it down because I wasn’t going to pay close attention the rest of today anyway. I’ll say uptime was probably close to 4:40, which is pretty good. I may try again later (overnight), or some time this week.

One thing I didn’t comment about earlier: When running other distros with newer kernels and presumably newer releases of wpa_supplicant, the right palm area on the keyboard would get warm very fast. Since that’s where the wireless card is located, it could’ve been some kind of issue where it was over-cycling (but I can only speculate). The same thing has never happened in Windows. After a few hours uptime in SL54, that particular area was cool/warm — much cooler than it had been under the other distros. I think I’m going to try one more long-uptime test (like I wrote) and make damn sure the thing doesn’t overheat or timeout or get weird like it has before under Linux. Only this time I’ll do it overnight so it stays plugged into the AC adapter.

Update 3: I should’ve pointed out in the paragraph about “attention to detail” that I still prefer to be able to set things up myself when it comes to which services start by default and so on. The comparison in that regard is about distros where I’ve had to go into /etc/whatever and add tweaks to get things to function properly because the distro spent a lot more time on aesthetics than setting up hardware config scripts.

The point about such things as peculiar hardware settings for certain models being detected and properly functioning is also different from something installing and starting various services — wanted or unwanted — by default. For example, I didn’t attach my Bluetooth adapter at any point that I ran SL54 last night or this morning yet I had modules loaded for it and services running. The same is true for other things like CUPS, or (my biggest peeve of all) auto-mounting. Some of that is a little more forgivable for a live CD where use could be more “promiscuous” rather than tied to one particular computer, but not when it gets installed to hard drive.

I already know I’ll have things to disable if I do install SL54 (most likely from the Gnome live CD), not to mention compile. I already know I’ll have to compile a newer version of hplip, as I mentioned last night, to use my HP printer. I also know RHEL just updated to 5.5 and Oracle is the first derivative to release a matching 5.5 release (technically version “5 update 5”) and I’ve seen some preliminary announcements at CentOS for testing and QA so I’ll look at the RH changelogs and see if that’s patched adequately for my needs okay, it doesn’t appear to be patched and CentOS doesn’t appear to be close to releasing 5.5. I also looked an the SL rolling release’s note indicates it’s at “Beta 1” as of April 15th.

Anyway, before I install SL (or CentOS) on the AA1 it’s going to get more testing to make sure I really don’t have any more wifi problems. SL (and CentOS) should be at 5.5 by then. Probably no more updates here until then.

Update 4: I managed to do a complete overnight test so I did another update.

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