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The ‘DreamChess’ incident!

April 25th, 2011 by

Today I was reading the openSUSE forums and found an interesting thread on the ‘Games’ section, from which I quote:

I remember playing DreamChess on Ubuntu, but the one is not available for Suse 11.4 KDE.

I’ve taken a look around, gathered the stuff required and made a quick package of this game, thus pushing it forward to the games repository. Within a few minutes of the submission, the package was approved and it’s ready to be served to the masses.

We can’t leave transitioning users from Ubuntu unhappy can we ?! Once more thanks to Dimstar and Prusnak for the quick answer in getting this package into the games repository.

DreamChess 0.2.0 on openSUSE 11.4 with GNOME3

GNOME3 iso by fcrozat and ATI radeon driver… a quick easy fix!

April 10th, 2011 by

Hi all,

For some time I wanted to check out GNOME3 and gnome-shell… My current chipset is ATI M92 RV710 and while the thermal performance with the proprietary driver is somewhat what I expect, the open source radeon driver does overheat my laptop a lot compared to flgrx. For the time being, fglrx isn’t really a choice because it just borgs the ‘activities’ bar on top… And until ATI fixes their driver, there’s no other choice than running with the standard radeon drm driver, which does provide a very pleasant experience with GNOME3 / gnome-shell.

For all that matters, KMS is to be enabled, period, full stop. And from this point… we have two options regarding power management:

1. Dynamic Frequency switching (not really working for me);
2. Profile based frequency switching (does provide what I need);

For all that matters regarding ‘profile based frequency switching’ we have 5 profiles available:

  • “default” uses the default clocks and does not change the power state. This is the default behavior.
  • “auto” selects between “mid” and “high” power states based on the whether the system is on battery power or not. The “low” power state are selected when the monitors are in the dpms off state.
  • “low” forces the gpu to be in the low power state all the time. Note that “low” can cause display problems on some laptops; this is why auto only uses “low” when displays are off.
  • “mid” forces the gpu to be in the “mid” power state all the time. The “low” power state is selected when the monitors are in the dpms off state.
  • “high” forces the gpu to be in the “high” power state all the time. The “low” power state is selected when the monitors are in the dpms off state.

Now, what I did might not be an option to everyone, but for sure it does provide a nice solution for my problem… So be mindful of that… this is a personal preference based on the fact that I don’t require intensive GPU usage, neither I run intensive GPU requiring applications within GNOME3/gnome-shell (I have a normal openSUSE 11.4 with GNOME 2.32.x with fglrx dual boot config for those apps).

The first thing we might want to do is to switch to profile based frequency switching… how do we this? As root:

[code] echo profile > /sys/class/drm/card0/device/power_method[/code]

Now we have to pick one of those 5 profiles… and since I’ve already stated… I want the ‘low’ profile since I don’t really do much intensive GPU work…

[code] echo low > /sys/class/drm/card0/device/power_profile[/code]

Now… you might want to check out the different profiles and the different clocks used… this can be done through:

[code] cat /sys/kernel/debug/dri/0/radeon_pm_info[/code]

and will report something like this:

[code]linux-331w:~ # cat /sys/kernel/debug/dri/0/radeon_pm_info
default engine clock: 680000 kHz
current engine clock: 299530 kHz
default memory clock: 800000 kHz
current memory clock: 249750 kHz
voltage: 900 mV
PCIE lanes: 16[/code]

This one is using the ‘low’ profile… Feel free to test stuff around and find which one better answers your needs… Also there’s far more that can be done… I hope this helps ATI users with DRM driver to bring out the best of your system and improves your GNOME3 / gnome-shell experience, at so that you can run it with good thermal performance without fglrx.


A kind word to everyone!

April 4th, 2011 by

One person can make a difference and every person should try.” – John Fitzgeral Kennedy

Dear all,

In the last elections I’ve had 23 votes, and it’s to those persons that I address mainly in this hour, one hard one for me, with a ‘broken heart’ regarding many things…

A few weeks ago, I’ve emailed “admin@opensuse.org” requesting some changes to my user account, and later I’ve informed the Board about the reasons behind revoking my status as openSUSE member, also making them aware that I would continue to submit regularly the packages I currently maintain for the project and that I would be continuing to keep working for GNOME:Ayatana. I don’t really require ‘membership’ status for it, neither I want to be agraciated or recognized for my work, which is mainly directed towards openSUSE users, because I mainly see them as the source of motivation for this.

People will still me around on GNOME Meetings (those I can attend), I will still be around on #opensuse-gnome and #opensuse-pt… In fact people will notice that really nothing has changed, besides loosing an IRC mask, being listed as member. The real change is that I’ll longer take part in strategical or political mailing lists, neither I will be involved in anything regarding the orientation of the project. I’d rather continue giving something back to the project in the form of packages and will cut down all the superfluous stuff.

Behind this are reasons, most of them personal, and an increasing demand for my time in my personal life… things needed to be prioritized and I need also some rest on my mind, and staying away from certain areas of the project seem the right way to get some peace in my mind. The time that I removed from openSUSE project is being redirected to support the marketing of a new initiative in Portugal, which is also done as volunteer pro-bono work. There’s a national uproar involving the Firefighters future in Portugal. This is where I’m going to apply in full many of the experiences that I’ve taken from open source marketing (specially regarding distribution of digital contents) with an endeavor focused on digital marketing and social networks. This is also my true area of expertise (Marketing Management), and through this project I expect nothing else than high visibility as a professional, serving a cause that I fully trust on.

I hope that the 23 people that shared a vote of trust in me won’t feel that I’ve walked away on them, I haven’t, but I’m seeing that openSUSE is marching in the right direction. I hope only that they revoke one decision from the previous board and show some benevolence towards a redeemed contributor.

openSUSE is stronger than ever, and will succeed! I hope to see as a user/contributor a more daring project claiming for what should be ours and fighting for becoming the most popular Linux distribution! Anything else that doesn’t place us on the top, shouldn’t be considered! That is my position regarding the future and what openSUSE should fight for! Honor our sponsors, honor our contributors and keep an endless fighting spirit until it reaches such point!

A warmth ‘Thank You’ for the awesome experiences that the project has allowed me to live, for all the fun I’ve had! And the best of luck for the future! I am sure everyone’s work will be rewarded!

Stand strong people!

Nelson Marques.

GNOME:Ayatana – being populated

March 30th, 2011 by

GNOME:Ayatana repository is currently being populated. I’ve asked Dimstar who is reviewing the packages to enable ‘strictest mode’ as it’s a very nice opportunity to learn something more about openSUSE packaging guidelines.

As Canonical polishes their software for the release of Ubuntu Natty, their indicator stack will be at best shape also for openSUSE 11.4. More to come in next days.

I’ve also enabled openSUSE Tumbleweed builds on my test repository, not really sure if Tumbleweed as some usage for this work, if so, ping me… I don’t mind sharing with them!

openSUSE 11.4 :: Wine… A practical case…

March 15th, 2011 by

For some time I follow the openSUSE Forums which provide me a very interesting view about what our users do with openSUSE. I’ve noticed there are some relevant questions about Wine once in a while in the Games forums.

A few time ago one of my friends nagged me a lot to do a couple of levels in Lord of the Rings Online which has a ‘Free Play’ plan in Europe. People can create an account and play for free the game with some restrictions (contents, equipment, items, etc). Players also have the option of using the online game store to unlock several aspects of the game. I’ve used a free play account for this, as I don’t really dedicate much time to it.

I’ve downloaded and installed the game in a Windows 7 computer (abour 10.5GB’s),  updated it and it works as expected. My laptop has somehow better hardware and I’ve decided to see how it would run under openSUSE through wine! On WineHQ there’s some extensive know-how shared by the community about this game… for my little experiment I’ve used the following:

* Lord of the Rings Online installation files pulled from the installer (since I had previously downloaded the game on a Windows machine, I’ve used those files to avoid downloading 10.5GB’s again).
* Wine 32 bits (1.3.12, shipped with openSUSE, LotRO requires also wine-gecko);
* openSUSE 11.4 x86_64;
* ATI FireGL drivers, release 11.2;
* PyLotRO Launcher (written in Python, used to launch LOTRO since the normal Turbine .NET launcher has some serious issues);

Looking at everything written on WineHQ about LotRO it seems quite a hard task to get this running, luckily it’s actually the opposite… pretty much a quick step, though time consuming due to the size of the game. Here’s the procedures:

  • Installing wine on openSUSE 11.4

Installing wine on openSUSE is pretty easy (like any other software package). Make sure you are networked and open your favourite terminal emulator and type in the following command: zypper install wine wine-gecko. Zypp client will pull all the required dependencies and install the software. Please be aware that your system needs to have 3D capable drivers, often proprietary drivers.

  • Installing Lord of the Rings Online

As I’ve stated previously, I’ve had available the installation cache files from a previous Windows installation which made my life easier (around 10.5GB). If this is not your case, you can look into WineHQ and check how it goes with the installer. An interesting thread can be found here.

When one installs LOTRO on a Windows Machine it will create a folder on the Desktop called LOTRO_* which will contain a local cache of the files necessary to install the game. Inside of this folder there’s a ‘lotrosetup.exe’ runs the installer. To start the installation is quite easy… open a terminal (with normal user), navigate to the directory where we have the cache files from the installer and run: wine lotrosetup.exe. The installer window pops up preceded by a small splash screen. Follow the instructions on the screen and wait until it deploys the game (took around 30/40 minutes).

  • PyLotRO Launcher for Linux

There’s ways to run the game and the Turbine launcher (.NET) isn’t really friendly of wine. I’ve decided to go for PyLotRO which is a small launcher written in Python. I’ve made a small test package which is available on my test repository in OBS (openSUSE Build Service) and called it python-lotro. You can find it here. For openSUSE 11.4 it can download this RPM, python-lotro-0.1.14-4.1.noarch.rpm and install it with: sudo zypper install python-lotro-0.1.14-4.1.noarch.rpm. This will also create a link on your Games menu entry (works in GNOME, never tested on KDE).

You have the Linux launcher installer and are a tiny step away from being able to play LoTRO…

  • Updating the Game…

PyLotRO provides a small interface with the very basic functionality available from the Turbine Launcher. Allows to configure wine debugging output and patch the game amongst other features. Here’s a small screenshot how it’s looks:

To update the game, it’s only required to hit the ‘Tools‘ menu and select ‘Patch‘. This will access the game contents, download, decrypt and update the game to the latest version. Due to the size of the game it really takes a bit of time, so be patient.

WARNING: Before launching the game make sure that you have 3D effects disabled on the Desktop (ex: disable compiz or composite in Kwin). If this step isn’t done, the game might suffer of great performance issues and weird behavior. If something looks fishy, then that’s because you forgot this step. This also made me think in one thing… What impact will Unity and gnome-shell have in cases like this… when the accelerated 3D Desktop will generate performance issues in applications like in this case… something to look for in the nearby future…

After the update it’s possible to login into the game, configure the options and give it a go… You will need a game account first than can be created for free (Europe only as far as I am aware, the game seems to be under subscription in the US), make sure you download the European client as well.

  • Gameplay

The game tries to detect the best configuration for your system (Low in my case)… I’ve forced it to Very High, selected my native resolution and gave it a go. The game is fluid enough, though lags a bit in big cities (ex: Bree), this is somehow something to expect, the same happens in Windows. While I haven’t seen much problems with performance, I’ve disabled dynamic lighting and it’s somehow a bit better. The runs nice and everything seems to work.

I know many tutorials talk about winetricks and d3dx9… I’ve not did such things and the game runs very nice with the native wine dll’s without having the need of installing Microsoft’s DirectX files.

This was a very pleasant experience, and it really surprised me on the positive. OpenSUSE has a very nice version of wine capable of running at least LotRO and World of Warcraft without any issues! It’s something that is worth trying with openSUSE!

openSUSE 11.4 :: How it goes in Portugal ?!

March 13th, 2011 by

I’ve been following the biggest general technology forum in Portugal with a close eye for openSUSE 11.4 comments and reviews… 10 years ago SuSE Linux was one of the predominant Linux distributions fighting for first place with Red Hat and followed closely by Debian. The fourth place belonged to Slackware.

10 years after… Slackware mainly disappeared, the Red Hat/Fedora community somehow vanished (judging by LUG member strength), and fate hasn’t been nicer for openSUSE. From most of what I read, Ubuntu became the major power, followed by Arch Linux and Debian… there’s a few pockets of resistance by Mandriva… It’s also interesting to see that new users are mainly confused between choosing Fedora and openSUSE… this relation is also getting strong with drop outs from Ubuntu. The timing is good for intervention…

From what I could see in the reports of openSUSE reviews I’ve seen:

* Installer – Users expected something new, but they didn’t disclaimed what they expected. They say that openSUSE installer is pretty much offering the same features as other distributions. I really don’t know what can be innovated here….

* Updates – This is one of the points that is most commented in the reviews. Though there’s no real claims on what could be improved or what is missing, everyone points to a simple conclusion: people seem to like updates and the faster they are done, the better. Update timings seem important.

* Tumbleweed – There are a lot of expectations towards rolling releases and Tumbleweed. This feature seems to captivate a lot of veterans changing from other distributions and also new comers. This is without doubt one of the points to invest in the future for the local community…

* Time of Installation – Some harsh critics on the installation time. People believe that 30 minutes is too much of installation time. I kinda disagree as it seems pretty much normal for a DVD install. Installing openSUSE LiveCD’s on real hardware (no virtualization) through USB2 and USB3 sticks, is pretty much bellow 10 minutes. Should we focus on USB sticks installations and work the methodology? Sounds good as a differentiation point.

* USB Sticks – Some harsh critics with people using imagewritter and unetbootin. For what I was able to determine, this problems seem to be related with the partitions not being flagged as ‘active’. Something we can improve here?

* KDE – All the reports seem to place openSUSE as the best KDE offer. Nothing was expected besides this.

* OpenSUSE and other distros – Not much has been written, except some comments considering that Mandriva Spring was the only distribution that is more attractive than openSUSE 11.4. Only 2 comments place emphasis on this… Something we can improve on this field ?

* Support – Support on those forums is rudimentary… Something we can improve and that’s being worked on. Soon Portuguese will become available on the official openSUSE Forums and a Portuguese Team as been assembled for this. Additionally Jim Henderson is contacting Carlos Ribeiro to explore the possibility of having also Brazilian contributors and community to help on this Forums. They will become Portuguese (language wise) following the work by the Wiki and IRC.

The feedback is very positive, and there’s an abnormal dropouts from Ubuntu and many confused people…. The timing is perfect for taking action… and that will happen soon!

gnome-shell :: test drive

March 10th, 2011 by

As many people are aware I’ve used Fedora for quite a long time… and with the release of the first ALPHA of Fedora 15 I got this tiny itch to check out GNOME3, namely, the gnome-shell.

I’ve have to say that the first impressions I had from GNOME Shell from Fedora 13 raised in me a high level of skepticism towards the new interface of GNOME Shell. The contents of this text are mainly influenced by my own view of the things… I don’t mean to be disruptive… but some things need to be said…

#1 – For starters… gnome-shell UI doesn’t seem to lag that much anymore… this is a very positive step, as lagging interfaces really kill my joy!

#2 – The sound applet – Looks interesting, very well copied from Ubuntu’s Sound Menu, at least in concept. Now this must be a slap in the face for some people I knew that threw a couple of harsh critics on Canonical. Well done to whoever made it that way… you have empowered Canonical’s design and now I will probably watch a full legion of Ubuntu fanboys bragging about how GNOME copied their Sound Menu. /* taking cover */

#3 – The configuration screen – Interesting stuff… But also Deja Vu… I think all the nice people migrating from KDE will find themselves at home with this new ‘control center’. The resemblances are quite awesome!

#4 – The user applet, which I don’t what to call it… Yet shows a lot of resemblances with Canonical’s Me Menu. At least some functions are there, but what I really find strange is the absence of ‘Restart’ button. I guess it’s now really an issue to tap ALT+F2 and issue a ‘shutdown now -frn’ or ‘init 6’ command, I just hope the system allows it.

#5 – The language applet – Interesting thing, but once again I have this Canonical Deja Vu feeling… Not again…

#6 – Moving the cursor to upper left triggers pretty much an effect which brings me a Deja Vu style from Compiz Wall Expo plugins. Awesome stuff!

#7 – The fonts are awesome, my heart is now broken… I don’t really need to install Ubuntu Fonts.

#8 – Icons seem to be monochrome! Awesome, but yet I have this deja vu feeling!

#9 – Artwork – My heart is broken (probably my cóccix as well, I’ve felt from the chair).

#10 – ALT+F2 – Awesome, this is really something I’m used too, I feel at home! I don’t really need menus at all once I know all the commands I need from the top of my head.

#11 – The number of clicks I need to perform to reach for example, Google Chrome. Yeah, ALT+F2 is way faster.

#12 – The default theme… to be replaced by Sonar (has anyone done the GTK3 port?, please someone do it fast, before I loose my motivation).

#13 – System Load up – awesome, nothing to state….

#14 – Calendar ‘applet’ – cool stuff, but evolution is crashing on me (keep in mind this is Alpha, so no real deal here, I’m sure it will be fixed);

Ok the list could be very long to make this shorter… Despite of all, I’m really waiting to see the final version of gnome-shell… I don’t find it much of innovation, as much of the features seem to be taken from other popular software. Everything worked out fine (except evolution) out of the box… I’m actually happy to see that some Fedora fundamentalists after throwing such a heavy load into Canonical, they ended up by handing over something that in much resembles to some software available from Canonical. I’m sure their hearts will be broken… many of this features were considered ‘kinky’ by them and oriented to Fan Boys… I wonder why they choosed to follow the same path, clearly aiming for those that they choosed to combat? Hmmz… I sense some hipocrisy here.

But I’ve gotta be honest, much of this ‘innovations’ actually gave me a rush to see the final product and to run it for a longer period. While many people from the Fedora circle violently attack gnome-shell, I can smell here potential to be a success, I only fear for the quality of the artwork here, which neither presents a nice visual desktop metaphor, neither even looks attractive to me… but once more, I believe it will be fully customizable. Another I missed was the normal system-* applets to configure several parts of the system… I’m happy that openSUSE will not forget YaST for GNOME3, thus I won’t feel defrauded when I run GNOME3 on openSUSE due to missing configuration applications.

My final veredict… this 9 months waiting for GNOME3 on openSUSE are going to be painful, because now that I’ve tasted the forbiden God’s honey, I want MORE! And for real… for everyone out there speaking bad about gnome-shell, please guys, be mindful of one thing… though this will require a bit of love for people to get used to, some of the features presented are actually nice. For those who love GNOME, but don’t really like the shell… Are you aware that you can manage your sessions on gnome-session? I’m not sure, but I think most of that functionality was actually developed in-house by Novell 😉 and I’m sure it will be explored by a few, while I expect the vast majority of the Hordes will end up by loving this shell…

You shouldn’t really take me serious, but thanks for reading until the end… Now that I know that most people are already wanting to crucify me, I hope that you can take 1 week of your time to test the shell and prove I’m wrong. Maybe then, you will become converts, and I’m will for sure rest my head knowing it was worth to write this text.


DISCLAIMER: For everyone who readed this and as pointed bellow by Adam, it seems that in fact was Ubuntu who copied some aspects of the shell. I don’t really have time to dig up the stuff. I’ve funded my stuff based on what I saw, and Ubuntu released first, apparently based on gnome-shell design. I apologize for being misleading.

Some updates on the indicator stack

March 8th, 2011 by

A few achievements:

* appmenu-gtk – the last upstream update really made wonders, and currently it’s safe to use indicator-appmenu with GTK apps with the expected functionality. If you like OSX styled menu’s, this will make your delight! The really critical bugs known to me were fixed in the last update. Adding it to the default pattern (1 click installer).

* dbusmenu – another critical bug solved today, and the Me Menu already works as expected. This was broken for around 2 weeks, it’s now working properly.

With this, one more indicator was enabled (indicator-appmenu) and a few critical bugs have been solved. I’m expecting to talk with Ken later on to check out on the plans for the indicators, and unless something very critical pops out, GNOME2 will see the indicator stack as it is currently.

It’s maybe now the best time to start looking deeply into GNOME3.

Sinclair ZX81: 30 years!

March 5th, 2011 by

My first computer was a Timex 2068, which would be replaced by the latest ZX Spectrum 128K +2A (already produced by Amstrad and not Sinclair). This lasted until it was replaced by a Commodore Amiga 1200 and later with a Amstrad PCMM 512K!

To celebrate the 30 years, there is a new speccie comming out! I know I will grab one from the shelves once it hits! Something to remember.

The Portuguese Republic Citizen’s Card and openSUSE

March 2nd, 2011 by

My ID Card was supposed to expire in the end of the year, and I’ve decided to replace it now by new ‘Cartão do Cidadão’ (Citizen’s Card). The Citizens Card is the primary document for any Portuguese citizen and replaces or holds the data from several cards:

* Old fashioned ID Card;
* SNS Card (National Health Care System); (yes in Portugal this services are free, though 40% of the Health Care industry is already private)
* NIF Card (tax number cards);
* Drivers Licence;
* Social Security Card/Number.

Also some biometric data is being now collected into digital files and some organizations can access it. This card holds 3 PIN Codes for several purposes, and can enable a lot of features and services for the citizens and the Authorities. It’s possible now to sign digital documents with the unique key per citizen on the card and it’s going to be widely used on governmental infra-structures. For example, I can now fill my tax forms on the internet and use the card plugged to my PC through a USB card reader to digitally sign my tax forms and enter them through the internet. The data will be crossed with Social Security and Tax departments from the state, and within minutes tax forms are complete, signed and submitted.

The Police branches, either militarized or civilian also have been receiving new toys to read this cards and have full access to people’s criminal sheets, driving sanctions, etc.

When I went to pick up the card, I bought a card reader (Card costed 15€’s, and the card reader costed 16€’s) to use the card with my PC. Though I have an account man and someone to handle my tax forms from me, I do have some itches and want to explore this option. The fun thing…

* There are drivers for Linux for the Card Reader and it’s supported;
* The application to handle the card is available for Windows, Mac and Linux (including openSUSE 11 binaries);

So what openSUSE Portuguese users need to do to work with this card? Install the dependencies (on my system only required libopenssl for libcrypto) and run the bloody application. I don’t understand why this wasn’t provided as an RPM, instead a dumb tar.gz file with a very naive installer, but it works.

It’s nice that I can use openSUSE now also to fill my taxes, do my legal citizen stuff, sign digital documents with a governmental verified key and use all the mind crushing stuff they have prepared for us. It is nice that the Government hasn’t really forgotten openSUSE, as they did on other distributions (the minor ones).

Linux (and others) software and manual (in Portuguese only) download page is here.