Gentoo KDE 4.8.3 Update

KDE 4.8.3 has been marked stable. There is one catch though, ICU 49 was marked stable as well.

So, if kdelibs-4.8.3 failes to emerge, add ICU 49 to your masked list then try emerging kdelibs.

echo "=dev-libs/icu-49.1.1-r1" >> /etc/portage/package.mask

All is right in the world once again.

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Gentoo and KDE SC 4 (Akonadi and Friends)

This is not a thorough review. Instead, it’s more of a technology status update.

The Skinny

After a quick google search regarding Akonadi, Nepomuck and related services it has become apparent that there are/were a number of KDE users unsatisfied with the performance of these additions to the core of KDE. Naturally, this sparked my curiosity and I began to question my own system’s performance.

To my surprise, after a bit of research, how to remove/disable everything Akonadi is a relatively simple task for Gentoo users. The solution is not without sacrifice, however.

Adding

-semantic-desktop

to the global USE flags will basically strip all KDE components of Akonadi and all that relies on it’s existence. The caveat is you will lose some software, most notably:

kmail kdepim kontact kaddressbook korganizer blogilo 

Also, file properties will no longer be visible in any KDE application that relies on Akonadi and friends for this information. As such, the following software will no longer display detailed information for files:

dolphin genview konqueror 

I can live without the software as I never install or use the applications mentioned anyway. The file information is a bit of an inconvenience though.

The question of whether it is worth losing these features and applications ultimately boils down to whether there is any discernible performance gain. And in my own experience, I hadn’t noticed any difference at all. Perhaps all the issues have been resolved, or it is also very possible the issues reported are instead related to customized installs, distro specific changes, or hardware.

The Bottom-Line

In the end and as far as I am concerned, the system is usable in both states with or without semantic-desktop. So, I opt for greater usability of the desktop and plan to keep semantic-desktop enabled. And for those who want an even more lean-and-mean KDE install, at least the option is there to strip it down even further.

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Gentoo and UEFI

Introduction

This is a guide to help with the initial setup and install of Gentoo on a fairly recent PC with UEFI. This is not a replacement for the official Gentoo Handbook. With that in mind, I have made a few assumptions:

  1. You know what Gentoo is and what you are getting yourself into,
  2. You have a 64-bit PC (or Mac) with UEFI support and want to boot from UEFI mode into Gentoo, and
  3. You have free space available on one of your hard drives for a small ~100MB partition and said drive is formatted as GPT (not MBR).

It may be possible to use this guide for 32-bit builds by substituting all references to 64 with 32. However, you may want to confirm this through the use of the linux man pages and google searches for the appropriate commands.
Also, this guide may be followed, unaltered, for Macs. Was tested on a MacBook Air (2011) and may work equally as well on others.

Step 1: Booting from UEFI

Gentoo uses syslinux and a non-UEFI compatible Grub2 boot loader. So, before we can begin anything, we need UEFI bootable media and the easiest way of doing this is to download a live Fedora 16 disk image, burn it and boot it, in UEFI mode of course. All the required information on how to do this is on Fedora’s website. Follow their documentation for creating a disk image in your format of choice (i.e. USB, DVD etc) and once booted from UEFI into Gnome 3 (Fedora’s default desktop) continue with Step 2.

I strongly recommend that you use a windows system and the Fedora Live USB Creator program as it preserves and properly creates the EFI info on the USB drive.

Step 2: Creating the Partitions

If you already boot from UEFI (i.e. Windows 7) there will be a FAT32 EFI partition on one of your hard drives and there will be no need to create another.

For example, the output of parted:

Welcome to GNU Parted! Type 'help' to view a list of commands.
(parted) p
Model: Linux Software RAID Array (md)
Disk /dev/md126: 456GB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: gpt
Disk Flags:
Number Start  End   Size  File system Name                         Flags
1      1049kB 106MB 105MB fat32       EFI System Partition         boot
2      106MB  240MB 134MB             Microsoft reserved partition msftres
3      240MB  456GB 456GB ntfs        Basic data partition
(parted)

If you need to create the EFI partition (where sdX, START, END, and sdXn are specific to your installation):

parted /dev/sdX
Welcome to GNU Parted! Type 'help' to view a list of commands.
(parted) gpt
(parted) primary fat32 START END
(parted) set 1 boot on
(parted) q
mkfs.vfat /dev/sdXn

Ensure the EFI partition is the first partition (i.e. partition 1 as displayed in parted).

For the system disk partitions, you can go classic (ext4) or advanced (lvm). Whatever your choice, a sufficiently large boot partition formatted as ext2-4 is required–important, the boot partition should be one of ext2-4, otherwise Grub2 may not find it and will not be able to boot your kernel nor will Grub2 be able to find it’s own modules under the grub directory tree. It is also assumed that parted is being used and the drive(s) in question have been set as GPT (i.e. mktable gpt etc). Gentoo and others have an abundance of documentation for setting up system partitions in almost every conceivable way (google is your friend).

Step 3: Initial Stage 3 and Portage Snapshot

This step does not differ much from the official Gentoo Handbook, with the exception of booting from UEFI using a Fedora 16 live image. Basically, all the steps that would normally be performed from a Gentoo console and Gentoo boot disk, are performed from a Gnome 3 terminal in Fedora.

The advantage here is access to UEFI, multiple terminal windows, Firefox (rather than links) and easy network setup (required for stage3, portage, emerge etc).

So, connect to your network using the Gnome 3 graphical network manager utility. Make the gentoo directory from a console and mount it:

mkdir /mnt/gentoo
mount /dev/sdXn /mnt/gentoo

Download (to /mnt/gentoo/) a stage3 and snapshot tarball following the appropriate mirrors: http://www.gentoo.org/main/en/mirrors.xml. And essentially, use the official Gentoo Handbook up to the kernel section with one exception:

When linking proc and dev to your gentoo rootfs, just before chroot’ing, be sure to:

mount -t sysfs /sys /mnt/gentoo/sys
mount /dev/sdXn /mnt/gentoo/boot/efi

before you:

chroot /mnt/gentoo /bin/bash

Afterwords, return here and continue with Step 4 for some special options that must be built into the kernel. Also, because we have booted from a non-gentoo install disk mirrorselect will not exist and thus mirrors will need to be entered manually into your make.conf.

You may use the following as a template for your mirrors and rsync:

GENTOO_MIRRORS="ftp://gentoo.arcticnetwork.ca/pub/gentoo/ http://gentoo.arcticnetwork.ca/ http://gentoo.gossamerhost.com http://mirror.the-best-hosting.net"
SYNC="rsync://rsync.ca.gentoo.org/gentoo-portage"

Step 4: Kernel Configuration

At this point you should be chroot’ed into a full Gentoo rootfs environment by following the Gentoo Handbook.

Setup your kernel as per normal making sure to enable the following:

Processor type and features  --->
    [*] EFI runtime service support
    [*] Build a relocatable kernel
Device Drivers  --->
    Graphics support --->
        <*> Support for frame buffer devices  --->
            [*]   Enable firmware EDID
            [*]   EFI-based Framebuffer Support
    Console display driver support  --->
        <*> Framebuffer Console support
Firmware Drivers  --->
    <*> EFI Variable Support via sysfs
File systems  --->
    Partition Types  --->
        [*] Advanced partition selection
        [*]   EFI GUID Partition support

The EFI-based frame buffer overrides all other frame buffer drivers, so don’t bother including any (VESA fb, UVESA fb etc.). See Step 5 for an example /etc/default/grub. After compiling and installing the kernel and initramfs (for frame buffer support), continue with Step 5.

Step 5: Grub2 x86_64-efi

Before we can emerge grub, there are a few things we need to take care of.

First, make.conf requires GRUB_PLATFORMS=”efi-64″:

echo "GRUB_PLATFORMS=\"efi-64\"" >> /etc/make.conf

Next, unmask grub and enable required keywords:

echo "sys-boot/grub" >> /etc/portage/package.unmask
echo "=sys-boot/efibootmgr-0.5.4 ~amd64" >> /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords
echo "=sys-boot/grub-9999 **" >> /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords

And finally, we are ready to emerge grub:

emerge grub:2

If you plan to use fbcondecor etc. you will want to modify the default /etc/default/grub file. Here is an example of the variables that need changing:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="dolvm rootfstype=ext4 ro splash=silent,theme:natural_gentoo console=tty1 quiet"
GRUB_GFXMODE=1024x768
GRUB_GFXPAYLOAD_LINUX=keep
# The following is only needed if you wish to use the default grub theme
GRUB_THEME=/usr/share/grub/themes/starfield/theme.txt

Now, install grub to the efi and boot partitions:

grub2-install --target=x86_64-efi --modules="part_gpt part_msdos linux normal boot all_video chain efi_gop video video_fb gzio ls lvm" --efi-directory=/boot/efi /dev/sdXn
grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg

The –modules option is not necessary and can in-fact be included in the /etc/default/grub file instead. Although, I would recommend adding at least what I have listed as a failsafe incase grub cannot find your boot partition on startup.

Step 6: Check and Verify

To check and verify your Grub2 installation enter the following:

efibootmgr -v

Which should print out something similar to:

BootCurrent: 0002
Timeout: 1 seconds
BootOrder: 0002,0000,0001,0003
Boot0000* Windows Boot Manager  HD(1,800,32000,4333eaa4-5031-4ed5-9798-9e3acc16db5e)File(\EFI\Microsoft\Boot\bootmgfw.efi)WINDOWS.........x...B.C.D.O.B.J.E.C.T.=.{.9.d.e.a.8.6.2.c.-.5.c.d.d.-.4.e.7.0.-.a.c.c.1.-.f.3.2.b.3.4.4.d.4.7.9.5.}...a................
Boot0001* Hard Drive    BIOS(2,0,00)AMGOAMNO........_.I.n.t.e.l. .V.o.l.u.m.e.0.........................rN.D+..,.\...........0..Gd-.;.A..MQ..L.I.n.t.e.l. .V.o.l.u.m.e.0......AMBOAMNO........s.H.i.t.a.c.h.i. .H.D.S.5.C.3.0.3.0.A.L.A.6.3.0.........................rN.D+..,.\...........D..Gd-.;.A..MQ..L.H.i.t.a.c.h.i. .H.D.S.5.C.3.0.3.0.A.L.A.6.3.0......AMBOAMNO........g.M.A.R.V.E.L.L. .R.a.i.d. .V.D. .0.........................rN.D+..,.\...........8..Gd-.;.A..MQ..L.M.A.R.V.E.L.L. .R.a.i.d. .V.D. .0......AMBO
Boot0002* gentoo        HD(1,800,32000,4333eaa4-5031-4ed5-9798-9e3acc16db5e)File(\EFI\gentoo\grubx64.efi)
Boot0003  CD/DVD Drive  BIOS(3,0,00)AMGOAMNO........o.H.L.-.D.T.-.S.T. .B.D.D.V.D.R.W. .C.H.1.2.L.S.2.8....................A...........................>..Gd-.;.A..MQ..L.9.K.B.2.P.4.2.2.2.5. .4. . . . . . . . ......AMBO

Grub2 with UEFI support is now configured, installed and ready to boot your Gentoo install. Once you reboot, after you have followed the rest of the Gentoo Handbook and emerged all required and optional packages you should be greeted by the new Grub2 menu and be able to boot into Gentoo from UEFI.

If grub displays an unusual repetitive character (i.e. ??????), then it has not correctly copied over any fonts into the /boot/grub2/fonts directory. Correct this by copying from /usr/share/grub/*.pf2 to /boot/grub2/fonts:

cp /usr/share/grub/*.pf2 /boot/grub2/fonts/

Conclusion

I find Grub2 extremely stable and reliable as of this writing and have it installed with the default starfield theme and loading Gentoo with fbcondecor for console splash etc.. The location of the EFI FAT32 partition is of little consequence and can be located on any drive, array etc. as long as your motherboard can see it.

The linux boot partition is somewhat limited and is best left as a traditionally formatted ext2-4 partition (otherwise, some effort will be required to determine which grub modules must be loaded to find your boot partition).

The bottom-line is grub installs neatly beside a Microsoft EFI install on the same partition, or as a standalone and is ready for deployment as far as I can tell. Therefore, it should not be long before we start seeing Grub2 with UEFI support automagically installed from all major distros. But until then…

Good luck!

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Review – iPad vs. Eee Slate

Specifications:

Apple iPad (64GB + 3G)* ASUS Eee Slate (32GB)

*Device used was the initial release of the iPad (version 1), the iPad 2 is due for release in Canada on the 25th of March.

Overview

Apple’s iPad and ASUS’ Eee Slate are rather exciting mobile tablet devices when compared to the current competition. They both have sizable screens, responsive to touch, an easily accessible home button on the front facia, 32GB and 64GB options for internal storage, Wi-Fi, audio, and Bluetooth. However, this is where the similarities cease.

iPad

With the iPad you get a screen cleaning cloth, a USB cable with wall charger, SIM card remover, and a few documents consisting of Apple’s warranty and other miscellaneous documents. Sadly, it does include a manual, case/cover, keyboard, digital pen, card reader, or any other such item almost guaranteed to be used or required by most tablet users.

iOS, the operating system for Apple mobile devices, is sleek and intuitive. Kids and adults alike will have no trouble finding their way around with a few simple taps, swipes and pinches. Some noticeable deficiencies were with printing (an Airplay compatible printer is required), limited Bluetooth functionality (inherent to all Apple mobile devices) and restricted to apps through the Apple App Store (unless the iPad is jailbroken).

Peripherals can be purchased separately, but they are somewhat scarce and there is currently no digital pen available for the iPad. Also, the Apple card reader peripheral does not read media cards without pictures or movies recorded by their respective digital devices (i.e. it will not transfer files other than pictures or movies and they must reside in the original folders created by the device).

There are only two ports on the iPad; one for a headset/microphone and one for peripherals/charging.

iPad’s overall performance is provided by Apple’s A4 processor and is decently well suited for the size of the device. On a single charge, 8-10 hours of operation is not uncommon. The convenient, built-in 3G device is a definite bonus. But if you are used to the Windows world, then you’ll find the iPad lacks fatally in capability and compatibility.

Essentially, the iPad really is an oversized iPhone without the phone, camera and microphone and that is exactly what you should expect if you plan on purchasing one (the iPad 2 will come with an internal camera and microphone).

Eee Slate

The Eee Slate is boxed with a full leather cover, Bluetooth keyboard, digital pen, power supply and cords, screen cleaning cloth, full system restoration DVDs and various documents including a manual and Asus’ warranty.

A fully functional Windows 7 Home Premium comes preloaded on the Eee Slate. Thus, compatibility, ease of use and customizability are second nature to this device.

Moderately larger and weighing more than the iPad, the Eee Slate is a powerhouse tablet. This should be expected though given the Eee Slate is practically a laptop minus an attached keyboard. This means you get two USB ports, mini-HDMI out, headset/microphone ports, and an internal card reader. Options for peripherals are virtually unlimited.

Thanks to the Eee Slate boasting an i5 Dual Core processor, browsing the web, watching movies and launching apps become trivial and are handled smoothly. However, with all that power comes great sacrifice. On a full charge, the Eee Slate will last for about 3 hours. Power management can be tinkered with to extend the operational time by an additional hour or so.

The bottom line? Asus’ Eee Slate is, for better or worse, an extremely mobile laptop that can be extended with a wealth of peripherals to satisfy almost any computing need. Admittedly, this comes at a price; power management does suffer.

Verdict

While both devices claim to target the same consumer, I feel only certain types of consumers would be satisfied by either.

The iPad will never be a replacement for a Mac, Windows, or Linux PC. The Eee Slate can provide a very effective and efficient replacement for a laptop, netbook or even a low-end PC. The iPad only runs Apple’s iOS as where the Eee Slate can be loaded with OS X, Windows, or Linux (OS X and Linux are not supported).

Both perform well, although the iPad has an edge on power consumption and the Eee Slate with computing. The Eee Slate comes packed with the all the essential accessories and the iPad simply provides a naked device leaving the consumer to be responsible for purchasing them separately.

Most Windows PC users will most likely opt for an Eee Slate and the die-hard Mac users, iPad. However, if you want extreme mobility and are in the market for a laptop/netbook or even an entire computer replacement, do not overlook Asus’ Eee Slate. Or, if you do not already have an iTouch, iPhone, or eReader and simply want a device with mobility to pass time by, then Apple’s iPad might be for you.

Personally, after purchasing and using both…I chose the Eee Slate. If I could have kept both, I would have but I needed a laptop replacement and when it comes to the Eee Slate, there is no comparison.

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Hackintosh-Acer Revo 3610

After many hours of web-searching and trial and error, the Acer Revo 3610 has been successfully Mac’d with OS X 10.6.3 Retail DVD (Snow Leopard). Many thanks to the Foxconn Hackintosh Guide which was referenced as a starting point for my own success, with little deviation.

What Works?

Device
Status
Comments
Intel ATOM 330 OK patched kernel
nVidia ION GeForce 9400M OK full support OOB
nVidia ION Gb LAN OK full support OOB
nVidia HDMI Audio nil work in progress
Ralink RT3090 Wireless nil work in progress
Realtek ALC662 OK patched AppleHDA + Legacy kext

Available information regarding the Ralink RT3090 and OS X 10.6.3 is rather scarce. For the HDMI Audio, there are a few methods suggested on the web to enable audio on HDMI, thus I am confident it will be working soon. The wireless, however, has been my primary focus and is going to take some time.

Instructions for the Realtek ALC662 can be found here.

OS X Combo Update(s)

Currently, I have no interest in updating OS X. For my purposes, 10.6.3 is sufficient, unless an update is required for HDMI Audio/Wireless to function.

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