I bought a DVD+RW today, I’ve pretty much had it with DVD-R media of any sort. No other media has given me so many problems with ‘power calibration’ and the like. I burned a 100MB iso of Arch Linux onto the beautiful, untouched surface, ran PerfectDisk on my Windows partition to consolidate free space (I love it, it’s much less bloated than Diskeeper and provides several defragmentation schemes).
I booted into the DVD, saw that it wanted me to boot the arch kernel, and duly typed in ‘arch’. After waiting about 20 seconds for the initrd.img to load, I found myself staring at the kernel bootup text again for the umpteenth time in my life. And it detected my Intel 3945ABG PCI-e x1 wireless adapter. So far, so good. I was thinking I had to download the driver from some website and patch it into the official kernel.
Then it stood there. Not doing anything. The CD drive spun down, and I was waiting… waiting… and then I finally gave it the 3-finger salute and tried it all over again. Nope, still hung there. It’s great that you know the name of my wireless adapter, but don’t just hang there! I looked at the kernel selection screen, wondering if ‘nohwdetect’ would help – or was that only for good old Gentoo? It looks like the good old Linux woes that caused me to swear against Linux being used on any high-end desktop/ordinary laptop have come back, and this time, I’m going to write them down and tell everybody exactly why Linux is just not ready for the desktop. (Running the ‘lowmem’ kernel skipped the wireless thing, and it worked now)
I prepared my hard drive (Windows Vista is so polite it can shrink its NTFS partition for me so I don’t have to use 3rd party programs) with only 1GB of swap (with 2GBs of RAM, I doubt Linux’d be hitting the swap anytime soon) and ext3 (hey, who cares, it’s only a test platform). Installing the base system, blablabla, okay, done. I reboot into my new kernel, and there, it works. It works! I install elinks, htop, fluxbox, xorg, gnome, inkscape, gimp, firefox, rxvt-unicode, eog, even ntfs-3g and fuse, everything’s working fine and dandy, I love it! At this point it’s only taking 2.5GBs, while it seems to me that my Program Files folder in Windows is taking up 30GBs of space (don’t ask me). It seems that XMMS2 is ready for consumption, so I installed it to check it out. It seems to work, even starts, but I could not for the life of me get those damn GUI clients working. Abraca 0.2, a GTK2 client, has an interface which looks nice, except that the middle panel is purely for search results and so wastes a lot of space when I’m not doing anything on it. Then I click File->Add. What the fuck? Nothing’s being added! I don’t see anything! I click madly around. I create a new playlist called moo. I try to click here and there. I try to delete moo… and wait a minute… it’s not disappearing! I just clicked delete, pressed yes, and it didn’t go away! Later on I somehow managed to get files appearing by using the xmms2-cli client instead, but when I double-clicked on a file, it would play a totally different song! Just how retarded is this? Wait… how did this program even make it past 0.1? Okay, try gxmms2. The official source package from the website fails to compile. I download a copy from Arch Linux’s AUR website. Hey, guess what? It says I need xmms2 – which I’ve already installed. I remove the line of code that says I need xmms2, and voila it fails while compiling. Then I get desperate, trying out those python applications with gtk bindings and stuff… and they all never work in the end.
Okay, so screw XMMS2. I install Amarok. Amarok comes at a hefty 70MB thanks to the Qt libraries (70MB media player? In Windows I’d be crying foul already, but hey I love Amarok). Amarok uses the xine engine for playback, which I haven’t heard from in some time, but it seems to work pretty well. I install and run it and let it build its collection of music (you gotta love ntfs-3g). I play some Maison Ikkoku, and all seems well, and I even edit a few album tags (which proves that ntfs-3g works, I’m typing this on Vista and I just verified it), and heck, even my Carpenters DTS SACD rip works, although the tags didn’t seem to show up. I’m very impressed so far… then I realize that it’s not playing any of my APE files, and that whenever I doubleclick on a song to play it, it takes several seconds for the interface to be usable again. Specifically my Rachmaninov Piano Concerto files… which is a real deal-breaker here. So I Google to find how to get Amarok playing APE, and apparently it needs the gstreamer engine. Arch Linux only provides the xine engine, and GStreamer was misbehaving when I tried out Rhythmbox earlier today, so I decided to call it a lost cause. I also don’t need to mention that my SPC, PSF, GBS and NSF collections didn’t work. Oh, and one last thing: REPLAYGAIN DOESN’T WORK. The deal was broken already.
Okay, so maybe MPlayer will do the trick. I get MPlayer 1.0rc2 (hey, they updated by one rc while I was gone!) and configure and compile (oh baby, Linux on a high end laptop is so fast… make –j3 flew through MPlayer in 3 minutes, while I remember waiting 30 minutes for my VIA C3 laptop to compile, and almost as long for my Celeron 600 machine back home to compile). I love dual core processors, especially dual cores which are running at 1.6GHz and have higher IPC than an Athlon XP. Oh, and add 2GBs of RAM into that too, heh! It’s finally running, although I forgot to enable gmplayer, and I go to my NTFS partition and play some good old Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai (Hauu’s MKV h264+aac encodes). Right off the bat I notice VIDIX doesn’t work. I google and find that actually there’s no VIDIX drivers for Intel graphics at all – I was really surprised since Intel was supposed to be more supportive of open source adaptation of its graphics chips. No matter, xv works. And indeed it works… hey where’s my subtitles? Hmm… I can’t be bothered to go through the manpage for that! I’m here to watch anime, not code! I’m sure it’s easily enabled, although you’ll have to watch mplayer’s output carefully to find out which Matroska stream is the subtitles, and then look up the appropriate command to load that stream as well… no idea why it wouldn’t automatically load it, you know.
Then I watch some BSS-Anon HD encodes of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Wait a damn minute, why is mplayer crashing? Come back! I run it from the CLI, and xv keeps on talking about ‘insufficient resources’ or something like that. Hey now, I’m pretty sure you have enough VRAM for that! I mean, if you can display at 1280×800 you can surely afford enough space for a video overlay. VIDIX wouldn’t have had this problem at all, I just know that, and when you move the window around, you wouldn’t see the colour key either. Goddamn xv – the color key for today, I noticed, was blue.
Ah, whatever. Let’s get some custom kernel action going! I download a fresh 2.6.23 from kernel.org, patch it with uvesafb, give up on v86d (how the fuck do you work it anyway) and proceed to go through the entire make menuconfig like I’ve done countless times before. I compile, find that it’s loading a module called scsi_wait_scan.ko, and I get miffed and dive in to take it out (I had a bad experience with modules in the past. Yes, my VIA C3 again, although I must add that modules have worked flawlessly for me ever since. It’s a preference thing). Then I reboot.
For some reason, this new kernel insists on referring to my SATA hard disk and DVD+RW drive as /dev/hda and /dev/hdc instead of the proper /dev/sda etc. So I had to edit my /etc/fstab to get it to work. But once I got in there, I found that the Intel i915 framebuffer was corrupting my beautiful Tux logo which I’d set up, plus it was taking longer to boot than the official Arch Linux kernel. I decided to give up on widescreen framebuffer at the moment, and go back to enabling a more useful feature: CPU frequency scaling.
Now, I’m really grateful to have a laptop with an Intel CPU. See, the VIA C3 would always crash whenever a DMA access was issued at the same time as a CPU frequency change. So whenever I was doing normal office type work, it would crash all the time, and there was no way to get around it, it’s just the way the VIA C3 is. Heck, it even crashes under Windows when you enable frequency scaling! So I was anxious to see Speedstep working on my Core Duo. I loaded the speedstep-centrino module (for some reason the speedstep-ich and speedstep-smi refused to load, complaining about missing hardware or something although I’m very sure that the Intel 945GM’s southbridge is named ICH-something). Then I installed cpufreqd. Nope, wasn’t scaling at all, but the GNOME cpufreq applets finally showed up. I fiddled around a bit, read the cpufreq.conf, which seemed reasonable, except there was no way to switch between those profiles. I tried clicking at the GNOME applets that said ‘on demand’ and ‘performance’, but I could see no frequency change whatsoever. I’m not even sure if the voltage switching would work if the frequency scaling worked. Then suddenly, I don’t know how, but I managed to get it at 800MHz while I was compiling mplayer again L. Fortunately, make –j3 saved the day, and it was still faster than if I compiled it with my Athlon XP 1800+. Meanwhile, I was frantically fiddling around and ‘echo’ing ‘powersave, ondemand, userspace’ into the scaling_governor in /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/ directory. Nope, no frequency change, despite the fact that cpufreqd must have noticed that I’m using 100% CPU now and thus scaled up my frequency to 1.6GHz. Fuck! I uninstalled cpufreqd, installed cpudyn instead, and I don’t know how, but it suddenly worked. The GNOME applets would now say 800MHz and 1.6GHz whenever I did something, I noticed that they jumped up to 1.6GHz especially when I was using Firefox.
However by this time I was pretty jaded already. Vital parts of my audio collection weren’t playing, most of the audio players were inferior to foobar2000, Nautilus provides no way to display only 16:10 images so I can quickly browse through my wallpaper collection to find widescreen wallpapers, VIDIX just wasn’t working and xv wouldn’t play HD videos at all. Plus, I haven’t even gotten around to trying to get my multimedia card reader and webcam to work. I don’t think I need any more reason to ditch Linux.
I gotta give Realtek some props, though – their driver utility for ALC883 was really good, and actually worked as advertised… unlike some other apps I encountered today. Perhaps I just don’t have enough time or will to be patient with Linux like I did last time. It’s also because I only have one computer this time around, and a lot of its features will have to work, and the software will have to be comparable in order for it to be a Windows replacement.
EDIT: Okay now I’m back with XUbuntu this time around. Sound, network, graphics and frequency throttling work right out of the box, which is a good thing. On the other hand, I’m kinda worried about my DVD+RW… it’s getting darker and darker each time I rewrite it. Is there a limit to how many times I can use a DVD+RW?