Posts Tagged ‘technology’

New laptop woes and thrills!

October 16, 2018

Well, I finally bit the bullet and bought a brand new laptop.  No it wasn’t from a pawn shop as with the Dell Inspiron N5010.  Actually I bought two per say.  Bought a new Dell Inspiron 5575 with an AMD Raven Ridge APU in it and had to return it for two reasons after a week of frustrations putting Linux on it.  First and largest reason I returned it was because I could not load Linux on it.  The second was what I describe below.  Prior to this Microsoft Windows 10 was on it.

Later investigation into the reason I returned the AMD Raven Ridge laptop found it had a BIOS (basic input output) issue which after a year had still not been fixed.  It seems the BIOS manufacturer and not Dell had screwed up.  Yes, that’s right Dell did not write their own BIOS for this system.  The BIOS IOMMU (input output memory mapping unit) failed to function with Linux.  Not only this but Linux could not even see the southbridge in the laptop motherboard.  The one time I was able to load a distribution of Linux on the system I had to do so in pure legacy mode.  It would not install with the UEFI enabled at all.  Well this made the laptop heat up as well as the power brick.  There is a work around for this but for me that was not an option.  Either it works correctly from boot or it is garbage.

Even more investigation into this issue found it to be a BIOS issue not just with Dell but other manufacturers as well.  I’m unsure at this time who wrote the BIOS for those other laptops (Lenovo and ASUS, there may be others).  It makes me wonder if there weren’t some backdoor shenanigans done or backdoor deals with another CPU manufacturer to make the Raven Ridge chip a disaster even a year after it’s initial release.  It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.  It actually has and the company behind it was fined heavily.

Anyway, I turned that laptop back into the place of purchase and walked out with yet another Dell.  This time a Dell Inspiron 7573.  Not that I wanted to go back to an Intel processor, but I was forced to by the fiasco of the Inspiron 5575.  I’m still learning this laptop and it’s functions.  It’s a 2 in 1 with a Kabylake quad core processor with Intel UHD 620 graphics.  The display is a touch screen FHD IPS technology display.  I like it much better than the Inpiron N5010 display even if it still has a 60HZ refresh rate.  It came with a 256 gigabyte Micron 1100 Sata 3 SSD and is suppose to support an Nvme drive or Intel Optane drive.  I’ve yet to find out for sure about this.  Haven’t pulled the bottom panel off yet to be sure.

With this laptop, I was able to load my favorite distribution of Linux.  KDE Neon loaded up without so much as an issue with secure boot and UEFI BIOS settings enabled.  It took me a bit to get everything back to normal (my normal setup), but here I am typing this to you from it.  What immensely surprised me on this laptop ((manufactured in 2018 (that’s right, this year)) that I purchased for just about $860 with taxes included, is that it even had one of the newest if not the newest Intel WiFi chips in it.  From what I’ve been able to ascertain it’s not only dual banded (2.4 as well as 5Ghz) but also has the 2X2 antenna.  Bonus!

I haven’t done a full battery test on it yet, but I’m pleased to say that under Linux this thing will do rather well.  Last night I watched approximately 90 minutes of video and didn’t even scratch the battery capacity.  It dropped to just 90% watching that video.  I’ve yet to throw a couple of 3 hour movies at it.  I’ll update this as soon as I watch Dune and Avatar (both director’s cuts) on it.  Back to back I doubt.

Couple of quick notes for those looking to purchase a laptop this year.  Some manufacturers are doing away with the numeric keypad on the 15.6 inch models to conserve space and lighten the load.  Thus key spacing is a bit wider on this laptop compared to my old one which had a numeric keypad.  For me it’s not a necessity as I learned to type back in 9th grade on a manual typewriter.  I’m still getting use to this keyboard on my new laptop and find myself backing up to correct errors.  However, my typing speed is improving quickly.  Other thing I’ve found is that this machine needs a new lock (cable security lock for when you’re away from the PC).  My old one just won’t fit the hole in this laptop.

Other than the aforementioned items, I’m thoroughly please now that I have a fully functional laptop again.  Now all I have to do is max this one out memory wise and possibly replace the Sata 3 SSD with a much larger Nvme drive.  That’s for yet another day though.  For now it does what I want without issue.

Also for those looking into a new laptop to run Linux, do your research carefully.  Make sure that you know whether or not they have fixed the Raven Ridge issues before purchasing the Raven Ridge laptops.  Sure the graphics are faster than the Intel built in graphics chip, but is it going to work without workarounds in Linux.  It was my original intent to have a faster graphics machine for a laptop.  However, we must all make trade offs to get our work done.

Yet another thing to look at is the WiFi chipset in your prospective new purchase.  Is it supported by the Linux kernel or are the drivers freely available?  The Raven Ridge laptop that I originally purchased had Atheros ath10k WiFi chipset.  That has readily available drives in most distributions of Linux.  Since I went back to an Intel machine, I got fortunate to not have a Broadcom chipset (which Dell has been known to use).  I have a very fast Intel WiFi.

My recommendations for those purchasing a new laptop for Linux is to look into Dell (they support Ubuntu), HP, Lenovo, or System 76 (they are now producing their own variant of Ubuntu called PopOs!) for your purchases.  Most of these manufacturers have great support.  Dell and HP let you download full service manuals for their laptops from my knowledge.  Lenovo and System 76 I’m unsure of.  If you don’t care for the trouble of doing your own install of Linux, Dell and System 76 are the best bets.  However, you’ll have to order those systems direct from those manufacturers.  Beyond that, you’re mileage may vary depending on the manufacturer of your laptop.  Also, do your homework before you make your purchase.  Once you purchase it, make sure the system BIOS is up to date while Windows is still on the machine (Windows does make things easier in this realm).

Hopefully this will help those that consider purchasing a laptop to run other than Windows on it.  At least it may help those who are considering dual booting or just jumping ship and leaving Microsoft behind like I did well over a decade ago.  Enjoy.

One thing I did forget to mention as I was writing this was if you should purchase a Dell system.  There is an item under the Dell menu in Windows 10 worth noting.  It’s called “System OS Recovery” that’s worth noting.  Should you want to wipe Windows 10 off your system, Do use this “System OS Recovery” prior to wiping the hard drive/SSD!  What it does is download the Dell image file for your system and writes it to a USB stick for later re-install or install after you decide to sell your laptop when replacing it.  Should you ever want to restore Windows 10, this is an invaluable tool.  Especially if you should sell your laptop at a later date to someone who is not familiar with Linux.


B43 Offline installation and other items Linux related.

April 11, 2018

Recently, I had the pleasure or you could say the displeasure of setting up an old netbook for use by a friend of mine.  Upon discovering it had an old Broadcom BCM4312 chipset in it, I had to go scurrying through the net to get it up and running.  I was able to do so using one method but discovered the installed image of Linux was outdated and about to lose support.  So again I went scurrying.  This time to download an updated image of that particular operating system.

Well, low and behold, that installed but had issues with using the first method of installing the B43 drivers offline.  So once again, I had to scurry the web for a new method to install the appropriate drivers on this old netbook so the wireless would work.  I just happened across one method that actually worked with the installation of one Ubuntu package (soon to be gone along with the Trusty Taur repositories as it’s going out of support).  This one file is for NON-FREE firmware drivers.  Once installed all I had to do was issue one command in the terminal and edit the /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist file adding four lines as well as edit the /etc/modules file adding b43 to get it to stick upon reboot.

I’ve since kept the deb package for other older hardware and am going to make it available via my Google Drive to the public who uses this rather ancient driver in case it disappears from Ubuntu servers forever (Ubuntu stopped producing or updating this package due to licensing issues).  The following link is for the deb package and instructions download.

This method works for various Ubuntu based distributions that are based on 14.04 LTS and 16.04 LTS.  I’m currently unsure if this will work with the soon to be released 18.04 LTS based Ubuntu’s and their derivatives.  I’ll assume so since this package contains NO dependencies.

For those that like Mintstick!

There are many who use Linux Mint in it’s various flavors and love the USB image writer and formatting tool in the Mintstick package.  Well, I’ve discovered some things for those that want this on their Ubuntu based distributions other than Mint.  After version 1.3.4 it can NOT be installed with the exception of the Mint distributions.  Beyond 1.3.4 it has hard wired dependencies to Mint distributions (namely Cinnamon).  However, you can still get the Debian package from the Mint repositories.  Once downloaded check for these dependencies within your Ubuntu based distro:


If these dependencies are installed (often times your package installer will pull these in for you) if not, use your package manager to install them.  Once installed, Mintstick 1.3.4 will install on your distribution.  At this time I’m unsure if the source code can be compiled on any other distribution.  Myself, I’ll continue using this to make install only USB drives.  If I want to use the same setup as I have on my laptop, I’ll use the following to generate a new image with all my applications and settings and then write it with mkusb which is a newer application that can do what unetbootin can but better.

UPDATE:  With the recent move to Ubuntu 18.04 base KDE Neon is still able to use Mintstick 1.3.4.  Alas, there are a couple of more steps you have to do to make it function.  First of all, you’ll have to create the menu items in the System Menu on Neon.  This entails you opening up KDE Menu Editor and selecting the System Menu and click on the New Item.  Then you can add the menu items one at a time for both the format command and the image writer command.  The commands are as follows:

For formatting a USB drive:               mintstick -m format

For writing an ISO to USB drive:       mintstick -m iso

As to name, icon, description, comment for these new items, that is up to you.  Myself, I went and loaded up a virtual machine with Mint KDE 18.3 and found the precise items for name, description, and comment.  The icon is your choice.

The last thing you need to do is copy /usr/share/kde4/apps/solid/actions/mintstick-format_action.desktop to /usr/share/solid/actions/mintstick-format_action.desktop.  This will put the appropriate action in your notification area when you insert a USB stick so you can format it from that notification in KDE 5.  Hopefully this update will help others here with KDE Neon and Mintstick.

Alas, upon getting current updates from KDE Neon (KDE destop 5.14 Mintstick no longer works.  I’ll find something out about that in due course.

Remastersys re-emerges!

For those of us who remember the application called Remastersys, I’ve found something new.  We all know that the original developer no longer supports this tool and it has gone the way of the wind in many Ubuntu based distributions.  NO LONGER!

Some developer at Bodhi (another Ubuntu based distribution with custom desktop based on Elementary) has aptly come up with Bodhi Builder, which for the most part is the very same Remastersys with Bodhi badging.  I discovered this while testing Bodhi and other distributions in a virtual machine.

Well I thought to myself, can it be loaded into my favorite Ubuntu based distribution (KDE Neon).  So what I did was load synaptic into the virtual machine to discover it’s dependencies.  Sure enough it CAN be done.  I have it up and running on my system.  And here are it’s dependencies and you can download Bodhi Builder in a Debian package that can be installed on any Ubuntu based distribution as long as you have these dependencies met:

dpkg-dev | genisoimage
discover | discover1

I only found one problem when installing Bodhi Builder on Neon.  Qapt would not install it.  However, Neon’s own Discover would install it as long as the dependencies were met.  You can attempt to do this with your package manager of choice.  If push comes to shove and you have all the dependencies loaded you can issue a dpkg command in a terminal to install it.

UPDATE:  Since the update to Bodhi Builder and Ubuntu 18.04 base, Bodhi Builder still works but opens up a terminal window from your menu that has to stay open while running this application.  I found there is a way around the open terminal window.  In KDE Neon and possibly Kubuntu, you can edit the menu entry to look like the following:

kdesu /usr/bin/bodhibuilder-gtk

This will bring up Bodhi Builder without opening a terminal window which stays open.  It may be possible to do this on other GTK based desktops with the gtksu command prior to the /usr/bin/bohibuilder-gtk.  Your mileage may vary here.

I certainly hope this page is very active as many have had issues with installing the b43 Broadcom drivers for various cards with the supported chipset.  I am also positive that the other items listed here (Bodhi Builder and Mintstick) will be loaded on many other Ubuntu based systems than just Mint distributions even as Mint makes Mintstick dependent upon their distributions (sorry Clem.  Love your distributions but since you dropped KDE I’m gone for now).  Enjoy all.  My contribution to keep older hardware still serviceable.

Challenge To All Anonymous Crackers!

December 10, 2012

I thought of something I myself wouldn’t do though I can get all the tools needed to do it.  Is it illegal?  Highly.  Do I have the prerequisite knowledge to do it?  Not exactly.  Though I’m a CompTIA A+ certified computer repairman, I would personally NOT “crack” into any website or system server.  I’m what the term “hacker” is.  I learn one or more operating systems and if possible point out weaknesses to the company or group of individuals (as in the case of Linux distribution) in charge of the production of said operating systems of said weaknesses.  That said, I DO NOT CONDONE CRACKING FOR PROFIT OF ANY KIND!

However, I’m not above challenging someone to do what some would think impossible.  In this case, put mud in the face of big business and governments.  How do I propose this challenge?  Simple.  Pose the challenge to those that find cracking to be fun, sporting, and down right anti-establishment in nature.  Some of these people do this for profit as network security consultants.  Funny thing is many of those consultants are probably nonvocal members of Anonymous.  Though nonvocal, they are the ones that don’t get caught when assisting the rest of the group.

Frankly, I’ve found what Anonymous has done to date to be pure child’s play compared to what they can do.  These people are probably ones who go to the Defcon and Blackhat conferences to learn new exploits/tricks to possess root access to the operating system they attack (Windows, OS X, Android, and others).  Some or all are known to Homeland Security via registration for those conferences.  However, those that don’t attend are those to watch out for.  So here’s my challenge to those of Anonymous that are so endowed with knowledge that goes beyond anything I know or am willing to teach:

If you want to really show your salt (talents), stop with the current stuff you’re doing taking down websites as well as exposing client lists and do the unthinkable.  Crack in and find the appropriate information exposing corporate/government corruption and put it in the public domain for all to see.

I’m certain this would be much more challenging and garner some of you folks the attention you deserve not to mention a possible position in computer security for major corporations not to mention governments around the world.  And yes, I expect to be hauled in by Homeland Security (Homeland Insecurity 😛) for questioning revolving around said challenge.  I’m not scared.  It’s not as bad as something I’d write a book about.  That would be much worse than what I’m challenging.  Besides, I can’t be convicted for just putting an IDEA out there for others to act upon.

I’m already ostracized since I’m now homeless and without employment in my field of choice (Information Technology).  My age alone (52 soon to be 53) is also a strike against me.  No one wants someone my age in that field anymore unless it’s as a senior systems administrator or some position like that (and I’m not qualified for that).  Consider this a big F**k You to the establishment who grew up before and during the same time I was growing up.  You copped out.

Again, I state for the record that this is just an IDEA/CHALLENGE for those who can and are capable of doing this.  I DO NOT CONDONE ANY FORM OF COMPUTER/WIRE FRAUD, NOR DO I ATTEMPT EITHER OF THEM.  Even if I did, I couldn’t do it right now anyway as I have NO computers (laptop or desktop) of my own in which to do it with.  I’m currently writing this from a library computer and will continue to do so till I can afford another laptop.  That will probably be another year or two before that happens as is.  By that time the computer world will surpass my knowledge even further than it currently is today 😦