My thoughts on Slackware, life and everything

Tag: netbook

Upgrading the eeepc to 2.6.33

Last week I finally took the time to upgrade my Asus Eeepc 1000H to the latest Slackware-current.

I had two issues after the upgrade, which were related to the new 2.6.33 kernel.

  1. My WPA-secured wireless connections would not last longer than a few seconds. After days of despair, I finally found out that the 2.6.33 kernel has a new driver for my wireless card, the “rt2800pci”. This driver is being loaded by default now. Slackware’s kernel also ships the “rt2860sta” driver which is part of the Linux “staging area” i.e. not considered fully stable. This is the driver which would be used with Slackware kernels before 2.6.33. It is in fact a very stable driver which never failed me before.
    By coincidence I saw that both modules were mentioned as supporting the Eeepc’s wireless card in the output of “lspci -v”. After I added the line “blacklist rt2800pci” to the file “/etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf” and rebooted the Eeepc, I had fully functional and stable wireless connectivity again, now using the “rt2860sta” driver!
  2. My sound was gone, or at least working at a very very low volume… I could hear the KDE logout sound if I put my ear to the keyboard but that was about it. Getting normal sound output levels through my headphones was no problem at all, however.
    The ALSA troubleshooting guide for HDA Intel audio hardware pointed me in the right direction: not getting sound through the built-in speakers while the headphone output works well is quite common, and often caused by not raising the correct channel’s volume.
    It turned out that after the upgrade to the 2.6.33 kernel, I need to set the “speaker” channel’s output level to anything non-zero or else there would be no sound…

I have to mention one other piece of strangeness I experienced on my netbook:

It is an issue not related to Slackware-current but rather to my use of the new “netbook” interface of KDE 4.4’s plasma workspace manager. I toyed with the netbook interface a bit, because it lets you use the small screen more efficiently – by removing unnecessary stuff like window elements and task bars. One typical treat is that every application window in the plasma-netbook workspace runs full-screen exclusively – there is no “minimize” button but instead you have to use the application switcher in order to access other running applications’ windows. Unfortunately, when I switched back to the “normal” plasma workspace, the “minimize” buttons did not re-appear in the title bar!
I had to manually re-add this button through “system settings > appearance > windows > buttons” and drag the “minimize” button into the titlebar preview.

Just so you know.


It’s been released: KDE SC 4.4.0

The KDE community has announced the immediate availability of the KDE Software Compilation 4.4.0 (“KDE SC” is the new name of what used to be called just “KDE“). In preparation for this event, the website was re-vamped yesterday to reflect their “shift in marketing and promotion vocabulary”. Looks shiny and new! Also, I think that the new layout makes it easier for people to find information about the KDE community and the software compilation.

Users of small form-factor laptops will be interested to learn that the new Plasma desktop manager now offers two workspace choices. One is the usual desktop-oriented workspace. The interesting addition is a netbook-oriented workspace, with special consideration for the netbook’s smaller screen and typical mobile usage patterns. I have not yet installed KDE 4.4 on my own Asus EEE netbook but I will most certainly do so, later this week!

In order to fully appreciate the work that went into KDE SC 4.4 and learn what has changed since KDE 4.3, you should definitely take the visual tour. Lots of new functionality and usability improvements are hidden beneath this new desktop workspace and just waiting to be discovered and used to the fullest.

Slackware packages galore!

Like I did with the pre-releases of KDE 4.4, I have prepared new goodies for all you Slackers. Get those 32-bit and 64-bit packages for Slackware Linux and install them on your computers (or build them yourself using the accompanying SlackBuild scripts, patches and sources).

You will find all of those at .

Please take good notice of the fact that these packages are built for Slackware-current. You can safely install the KDE 4.4.0 packages if you are running a slackware-current from around 01 february 2010 or newer. Do not try to install these packages on Slackware 13.0.

Slackware 64-bit:

  • Don’t forget to also install the updated or new dependencies! These “deps” packages can be found in the “x86_64/deps” directory.
  • The KDE 4.4.0 packages themselves can be found in “x86_64/kde
  • And of course, the localization packages (non-english language translations of KDE) are available in “x86_64/kdei“.

Slackware 32-bit:

  • Don’t forget to also install the updated or new dependencies! These “deps” packages can be found in the “x86/deps” directory.
  • The KDE 4.4.rc2 packages themselves can be found in “x86/kde
  • If you need a language pack, you can grab one from the 64-bit package tree “x86_64/kdei” since these packages are in fact architecture-independent.

Here are the steps on how you download the packages and install them. You can have an older version of KDE installed, but that is not required. You will end up with KDE 4.4.0 installed on your system.

Instructions are for the 64-bit packages, I think you can figure out how to change them if you want the 32-bit versions:

  1. Download everything in the directory :
    # lftp -c "open ; mirror x86_64"
  2. Change into the directory “x86_64? which has just been created in your current directory:
    # cd x86_64
  3. Remove the no longer required kdelibs-experimental package if you still have that installed. It is part of KDE 4.3.x (i.e. Slackware 13.0 did not have this package). If you do not have kdelibs-experimental on your system, you will get a harmless error message that you can ignore:
    # removepkg kdelibs-experimental
  4. Install/upgrade the KDE 4.4 dependencies:
    # upgradepkg --reinstall --install-new deps/*.t?z
  5. Install/upgrade KDE4.4.0 packages:
  6. # upgradepkg --reinstall --install-new kde/*.t?z
  7. Install/upgrade a language package if you prefer to have the KDE interface in your local language (I used “nl” in the example command, you should substitute your own language code there):
    # upgradepkg --reinstall --install-new kdei/kde-l10n-nl-*.t?z

Of course, you should not run those commands while running KDE…!

If you want to compile the packages from source like I did, that is entirely possible using the provided sources and build scripts. It will take quite a while though…

Have fun, Eric

Note for users of any KDE 4.4 pre-releases:

If you never before installed and used one of the Betas or Release Candidates of KDE 4.4 , then you can safely remove one package,  virtuosoconverter. This package is only needed if you were using “nepomuk desktop search” before this final release of KDE 4.4.0.

# removepkg virtuosoconverter

If you ran any Beta or Release Candidate of KDE 4.4.0 prior to upgrading to 4.4.0, then you will notice that your nepomuk database will automatically be converted from virtuoso v5 to v6, the very first time you login to your KDE 4.4 desktop. This process will take a while (not too long) and will temporarily double the size of your nepomuk database (by default, this database consumes a maximum of 50 MB in your homedirectory below ~/.kde).

If this database is not valuable to you, you can also decide to skip this database conversion by just deleting the database before starting KDE:

$ rm -r ~/.kde/share/apps/nepomuk/repository/*

or by following the instructions in Sebastian Trueg’s tutorial:

If you manually remove the old nepomuk data, you can also remove the virtuosoconverter package of course.

If you do not have any clue about what I am talking about and what you should do, just don’t do anything… and all will be well.

A final remark about nepomuk and strigi – I think that KDE 4.4 finally has a desktop search which is optimized to a level that it no longer eats all your CPU cycles or claim a large chunk of your harddrive. Now I just wish that the strigi developer properly fixes the indexing of my PDF files!

Installing Slackware using USB thumb drive

There are several ways to install Slackware to your computer. You have network installation options available (where the packages are on a remote NFS/FTP/HTTP/Samba server) and local options (where the packages are on a DVD/CDROM or a local directory).

In all these cases you need to boot your computer with Slackware’s installer. Traditionally you can boot from a DVD or CDROM of course, or even from a floppy if you are creative. If your computer does not have a DVD/CD drive then there is still the network boot (aka PXE boot) or using a USB thumb drive to boot from.

It is the USB thumb drive I want to talk about in this blog post.

Slackware ships with a USB image file “usbboot.img” since the 12.0 release (see for instance). Using “dd” this image can be transfered to a USB thumb drive which transforms the USB drive to a bootable Slackware installer. The packages will still have to be available on a local or network medium, because the “usbboot.img” image only contains kernels and setup files… no packages.

If you do not want to “sacrifice” a USB thumb drive for this (note that dumping the image file on the USB stick will destroy all data already present on the stick), there is a solution: Slackware also ships with a script “” since the 13.0 release (see for instance). This script extracts the content from the “usbboot.img” image file and uses this to transform a regular USB thumb drive into a bootable Slackware installer  non-destructively (i.e. any existing files on the stick will not be touched), as long as there is some 30 MB of available free space on the stick.

The “” script is also convenient if your computer refuses to boot from a USB stick loaded with the “usbboot.img” file. The BIOS of some computers will not understand the format of the default Slackware USB image. Using the “” script, you create an alternative bootable USB stick that will be recognized by your computer’s BIOS.

All nice, but there is still a problem that remains to be solved.

If you have a netbook for instance.

The average netbook computer (like my own Asus EeePC 1000H) comes without DVD drive. If you are mobile and without access to wired network, it will not be easy to install Slackware packages after booting from the USB stick.

In such circumstances you need to copy the complete Slackware package tree to a disk partition of your netbook before you start the Slackware installation. This is not always efficient, or even feasible.

Now, I have been creating “multi-partition USB images” for several Slackware releases in the past (more accurately, I have written the scripts that let you create the image and then transfer it to a big enough USB stick using the ” dd” command). You can find those scripts here: . This is an elegant way to create a USB Slackware installer that has all packages “on board” but I wanted something that was more basic, and thus potentially easier to use for a Slackware newbie.

The “old” scripts at create a secoind, EXT2-formatted partition to store the Slackware packages. This makes it harder to add more files if you are on a Windows computer for instance. I wanted to have a USB stick with a single large FAT partition – and fortunately the bootloader I am using (syslinux) allows this.

So I took Slackware’s “” script (which I incidentally wrote too) and expanded its functionality. What is new? The script can now copy the Slackware setup files, kernels and packages all to a regular USB thumb drive, if that has a minimum of 2GB free space available.And it still retains its original functionality (to create a bootable installer as long as there is 30 MB of available free space on the stick).

The USB stick does not even have to be formatted! So, if you already have data on the stick, it will not be destroyed.

There is one advantage to formatting though: if you allow the script to format the USB stick, it will make your future Slackware installation easier. The formatting step assigns a label “USBSLACKINS” to the fat partition. This enables Slackware’s setup to recognize and mount the USB partition automatically after boot, and pre-fill the SOURCE setup dialog “Install from a pre-mounted directory” with the correct directory path. Just hit ENTER a few times to start the installation!

If you did not format the USB stick but used an existing VFAT-formatted stick, you have two options:

  1. either you assign  the label “USBSLACKINS” to the stick’s fat partition manually,
  2. or else you do the following after booting from the USB stick but before running setup: mount the USB partition yourself using the following commands (for this eaxmple I am assuming that the installer recognized the drive as “/dev/sdX“):
mkdir /usbinstall
mount -t vfat -o ro,shortname=mixed /dev/sdX /usbinstall/

And then after you’ve started “setup” and have come to the “SOURCE selection” dialog, you use the directory “/usbinstall/slackware-<version>/slackware” as the source location where setup should look for Slackware packages.

This is how the help text for the script looks:

./ -h
# Purpose #1: to use the content of Slackware's usbboot.img and
#   transform a standard USB thumb drive with a single vfat partition
#   into a bootable medium containing the Slackware Linux installer.
# Purpose #2: to use the contents of a Slackware directory tree
#   and transform a standard USB thumb drive with
#   a single vfat partition and 2GB of free space into
#   a self-contained USB installation medium for Slackware Linux.
# Your USB thumb drive may contain data!
# This data will *not* be overwritten, unless you have
#   explicitly chosen to format the drive by using the '-f' parameter.
# accepts the following parameters:
#   -h|--help                  This help
#   -f|--format                Format the USB drive before use
#   -i|--infile <filename>     Full path to the usbboot.img file
#   -l|--logfile <filename>    Optional logfile to catch fdisk output
#   -o|--outdev <filename>     The device name of your USB drive
#   -s|--slackdir <dir>        Use 'dir' as the root of Slackware tree
#   -u|--unattended            Do not ask any questions
# Examples:
# -i ~/download/usbboot.img -o /dev/sdX
# -f -s /home/ftp/pub/slackware-13.0 -o /dev/sdX
# The second example shows how to create a fully functional Slackware
# installer on a USB stick (it needs a Slackware tree as the source).

The enhanced script is here: …get itwhile it’s hot!

I hope it will get added to the Slackware tree soon. Tell me if you liked it! Any questions or remarks, you can leave them below this post.

Cheers, Eric

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