Jul 112014

As we are going to update to Centos 7 sometime in the far future (around 7.1 – 7.2, after a bit of long-term experience), we started installing some test virtual machines with the just released Centos 7.0.

We never really had trouble with Centos 6.5. Some packages are obviously very old (this can’t be avoided in a distribution with support cycles this long) and the configuration layout feels quite antiquated, but we never had any stability issues or problems with driver support in sipte of the old kernel.

I had high hopes for Centos 7, because of systemd. Due to the standardization of many config files for systemd support and due to the big investment of Red Hat into systemd, I thought RHEL and Centos 7 to become THE standard linux distribution. From what I saw however, everything is unchanged. Centos 7 very much feels like Centos 6. I guess I could have simply copied over most config files and everything would have run (systemctl has a service wrapper, the network configuration is completely unchanged, still no dhcp by default, etc.).

While this makes sense from an enterprise point of view, as you do not need to retrain your workforce, it is a bit underwhelming from an enduser point of view. This also means that there will still be a lot of unneccessary deviation in configuration management of the distributions in years to come.

 Posted by at 9:50 am
Oct 182013

Some choices Microsoft took in their way to handle EFI increase the difficulty to dual boot Windows 8 (and even more so 8.1) with Linux. Observing how these choices evolved with the release of Windows 8.1, I presume these changes were intentional to lock other operating systems out, when using Windows 8(.1). This post only concerns you, if you installed your PC in EFI mode, i.e. you use for example an EFI version of grub. It also concerns you, if you didn’t decide yet, whether to install in EFI mode or in BIOS mode. Short answer: BIOS mode.

Windows 8 introduces some new form of automatic hibernation. If you do not turn this feature off, you will not be able to dual boot with Linux. The following will happen:
After installing Windows 8 in EFI mode and then your preferred GNU/Linux in EFI mode, you will install for example grub-efi.
Check that it boots by booting into Linux (it works).
Then boot Windows 8 (also works).

On the next reboot grub will be gone forever, automatically overwritten by the Windows bootloader. I have not found official documentation as to why, but it happens every shutdown using the new hibernation feature. I guess Windows has a backup of its bootloader somewhere, which it overwrites on shutdown. An answer to the problem can for example be found on Stackoverflow.

Once you turn the hibernation feature off:

powercfg -h off
(Source: Technet)
DO NOT boot into Linux immediately, but do one more shutdown restart cycle with windows. IF you install grub immediately after and then boot windows, your BCD will become corrupted somehow (I guess Windows tries to set some bit in the bootloader, which since then got changed with grub) and you will get a completely unbootable system.
After another power cycle (trust me, you really need it!), install grub-efi as usual.

Now to the changes with Windows 8.1:
With Windows 8.1 Microsoft silently asks you to also enable UEFI Secure Boot, if you boot in EFI mode. This is done by a permanent watermark “SecureBoot isn’t configured correctly.” akin to the “Your windows license is not legitimate” in the lower right corner of the desktop. Currently the only way to remove it is similar to the way you can remove the watermark, if you have an illegal copy, by binary hacking some resource files (don’t do it). If you choose, like me, to have Secure Boot disabled out of your own free will, you will not be able to remove the watermark.

Again to summarize: Use BIOS mode or better: use Windows 7 or even better: Don’t use Windows at all.

 Posted by at 12:58 pm
Apr 172013

I didn’t now I needed it until I found it: python-sh

I allows you to do:

from sh import touch

In other words: You can just call Unix programs with a simple import. I don’t know, where to use it yet and whether it has security implications or even if error-handling is easy, but compared to the SubProcess API this seems awesome.

 Posted by at 2:56 pm
Jan 272012

Today there was a nice piece of news from slashdot calling for an Elsevier journal boycott: http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/01/27/1322234/scientists-organize-elsevier-boycott .

I completely agree with all the negative points about publishing in a high-cost journal; however the proposed solutions do not address the main problem. Scientists publish in these journals, not because they are good or high-price; they publish there, because of the Impact factor. If you get a good publication in a high-Impact journal, you will quite certainly get grants easily.

Publishing articles nowadays is terribly easy and does not cost a thing (arxiv); filtering and getting good referees however is not.


My solution for this would be a public network of papers, where everybody can publish, read and ‘sign’ those papers. If you agree with a paper, you put your signature under it and the worth of this paper goes up. As your ‘worth’ goes up your signature also gains in weight, when signing other papers. Every paper gets a comment section, where reviews can be written and errors pointed out.

If a well known professor therefore signs your work, others will catch up to it. A ‘good’ paper will gain in publicity quickly due to being sent around a lot. One would also need to include a system of diminishing returns, as to avoid groups signing only their own papers. Ironing out these points of abuse will be the hardest part of this system.

The specification above only consists of four to five sentences and yet I would call it much more stable and open than the currently completely anonymous reviewing system.

 Posted by at 2:08 pm
Sep 162011

Most eeePC 1215Bs have a Touchpad issue. For me the touchpad simply went into wrong directions; it could for example go up when going right or move not at all. If it’s also not working for you, you have two options. Contact ASUS, be stern, don’t let them talk you into a ‘driver issue’ and you will get it replaced.

Or you fix it yourself. Probably you will void your warranty, so do it at your own risk. The tutorial which helped me can be found here (below) LINK. It’s the picture below with the green tape. When doing it you will most probably break off one of the small hooks holding the handrest together with the rest of the laptop. This will leave a small gap.

After taping my touchpad like in the thread and breaking off one hook (also like in the thread), my touchpad is working very well now. I never thought it could work so well, seeing how it worked before.

 Posted by at 12:51 pm
Aug 052011

EFI is the ‘new’ bios proclaimed as the savior of all by Intel (among others). Currently it is not (for me). Here’s why:

The old BIOS infrastructure has a few flaws namely:

  1. It’s impossible to address (and hence boot) from devices bigger than 2TB
  2. I haven’t seen a bugfree ACPI implementation yet. (Both windows and linux usually work around it after they find it out)
  3. It’s all written in assembler, it’s not modular, so every new mainboard will have new bugs.
  4. It’s slow to boot because of one million checks.

EFI promised to solve Nr. 1,3 and 4. Seeing posts like this made me sceptical of this, but oh well; that one was Apple specific.

Lately I had to install two new laptops. First one was the Lenovo S205, second one an ASUS eeePC 1215B. Both have very nice hardware and run quite cold. Also both use EFI, however both also support emulated legacy BIOS installs. Of course with all my operating systems supporting EFI (Win7 64bit, every Linux), I went the EFI route.

The Lenovo S205 produces (on Windows) bluescreens from time to time and also always hangs on shutdown or reboot, when installed with EFI support. On Linux it installs, however the wireless card does not work correctly and also rebooting and halting does not work (freeze). EFI supports another EFI implementation for reboots and shutdowns like ACPI. Similar to ACPI the implementation seems to be very buggy on the laptop; also the wireless firmware does not seem to be 100% EFI compatible. In BIOS mode there are no problems whatsoever.

The 1215B from ASUS booted the Windows install (EFI version 310) and then produced a blue screen after copying the files. Enter EFI 401 (current one on the asus BIOS site). This one already rebooted, when the install was loading, so at least I had less work installing and reinstalling. Again: Everything works fine in BIOS emulation land.

So my opinion: EFI wants to repeat the whole mess we had and still have with ACPI. Even if the moronic and braindead implementation should work on paper, many mainboards will be plagued by crappy implementations.

Please Coreboot, save us… …and quick.

 Posted by at 5:55 pm