Tag Archives: drivers

Installed KDE via Kubuntu v13.04 – My First Thoughts

I moved to Kubuntu early Sunday morning, and it was not without a few minor perils. I wanted a clean install, thus formatting /home was a must. I was coming from Linux Mint 14 XFCE  to Kubuntu 13.04 which of course uses KDE as the default desktop manager. I really didn’t want any cross contamination in /home nor did I want to dual-boot. It was all in or nothing. So I chose the all in and I am glad I did.

I want to first talk about the install and we will get to the minor perils later. The installer uses a very simple but efficient interface and for me was really quick including updates, (An option during the install.). I went with the manual option and reused the partitions already in place, but as mentioned above, I did format all of them except for /swap. The first boot was very fast to the desktop. Something I did not expect at all was that my Atheros wired connection was up and running with the alx driver. I wrote about having to build the kernel module for this driver in the past.

KDE Desktop

KDE Desktop
Original background image was obtained from the desktop applet and DesktopNexus.com.

The next screen capture shows both wired and wireless detected and connected. I really liked having both available without doing anything. I am glad that the devs at Kubuntu chose to add this module or chose this kernel that includes the alx driver. Definitely saves some time and frustration.

Showing the networks.

Showing the networks.

This brings us to our first minor peril, after suspending the session the wired network is unresponsive. In fact it doesn’t even show that it exists at all. Open manage networks and under the wired tab is nothing. Running ifup or dhclient do nothing either. After some failed attempts at a fix from Google searches, I finally found one that works. Apparently this has been a bug since v12.04. Fix this by adding nomsi to the /ect/default/grub file as root. Be sure to run sudo update-grub after if you need to alter grub.

Most of the visual default settings were okay, but I did alter some of the eye candy  effects since I am only running a moderate speed dual core. I am a bit pragmatic about those things anyway so it was not a loss in my book. I do think they look cool and I’m sure plenty of people love those effects. I was surprised that I can honestly report that even though I removed about 75% of the effects, there was not a noticeable improvement in system responsiveness. Perhaps I am running a system at the level it was designed for basic usage?

One of KDE’s main attractions is the levels of customizations someone can do to the desktop. I can clearly understand why people want to do this since KDE offers so many options. It can seem daunting at first, but diving in can be fun and even slightly captivating. My wrist was getting sore from the constant use of the mouse as I explored one option after another. :)

I did find one more small annoyance and that is the Leave button on the main menu does nothing. Right clicking the desktop runs the appropriate action, but not the button in the menu. Hmm…anyone else see this behaviour or lack of it?

The basic installation does give someone all the applications to do everyday computing needs. Installing more programs is easy to do through the Muon Software Center.

Muan Software Center

Muon Software Center

I used this almost exclusively to install some of my favourite applications only using the command line once. I did try to search for applications and for some reason nothing resulted from this. So I just went down the list and installed as I wanted. Now this may seem petty and probably is, but every time an installation finished the screen would refresh and leave the focus back at the top. This minor annoyance wouldn’t be one if the list was only a couple of hundred of choices long, but as most of us know Ubuntu has thousands of choices. This forces one to resume scrolling over and over to get back to where you were when the last choice to install was made. Anyone at Kubuntu reading? Break this into categories or remove the refresh for the entire screen. I did install everything I wanted and a few more that in the past I had passed on because of the KDE overhead. Not an issue now.

Speaking of KDE overhead, it is pretty massive compared to what I am used to running in XFCE or Openbox. This is something I am going to be looking into later. I have no plans to use about half or more of the applications that are running resident, but it is not really clear what removing them will do to the system. I like some of the widgets available for the panel and configured it the way I wanted. Rebooting during one of the network down periods messed up all the changes I did and I still have not found the Dropbox widget. Having the icon does nothing apparent to the eye. The options available in the panel are something I will explore in more detail later.

I like having an application like LibreOffice install with a current version. There is definitely something with Kubuntu for everyone and installing more applications is really easy despite the one minor annoyance. I am pleased with the overall look and feel, comfortable with the speed of the system, and I am looking forward to seeing what KDE has in store for me to learn. I am planning on giving Kmoney a try also and if it goes well, I can finally stop using Windows in a virtual machine (Virtual Box installed flawlessly.). :)

For now I am going to stick with this configuration and only make a few minor tweaks as I learn more about KDE. It has certainly changed from the last time I used it via Mepis and that was several years ago.


Edit: Today I am happy to say that the Muon Software Center did behave as it should. I had categories to choose from and I searched for the same item that refused to appear on Sunday. I did install updates and there were plenty. I can only assume that was a bug that was quickly caught or an install error the updates fixed. Either way it worked a lot better.

How To Install Atheros Wired Drivers

Wired driver installs? Yes if you are using the newest of chip sets from Atheros, it might not be in the kernel yet and you could be facing no interface found when attempting to configure the network. The driver patch is pretty easy to install if a few steps are followed while using wireless or from another computer.

Before you start run the command lspci in a terminal window to determine what driver you need. You will see something similar to this at the bottom of the output window:

02:00.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4313 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN Controller (rev 01)
03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR8162 Fast Ethernet (rev 10)

In my case I have the Broadcom BCM4313 wireless controller and the Atheros AR8162 Ethernet controller installed as hardware. I am using kernel 3.5.0-21-generic #32-Ubuntu SMP Tue Dec 11 18:51:59 UTC 2012 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux in this Linux Mint 14 XFCE edition. In my case the wireless was indeed supported right away but the wired controller was not.

I first found the instructions here on the Linux Foundation but for me they were missing the crucial step of installing Linux headers build-essentials which is explained in this Ubuntu forum post here. The wget command in the instructions will pull drivers from this index. On the Linux Foundation site you will see a list of two chip sets, alx and atl1c. These instructions are for the alx series of chips. If you have the atl1c chip it might be as easy as replacing the alx in the command with atl1c but I have no way in which to test. These are the instructions I followed in a terminal window for the alx controller:

sudo apt-get install linux-headers-generic build-essential
wget http://www.orbit-lab.org/kernel/compat-wireless-3-stable/v3.6/compat-wireless-3.6.8-1-snpc.tar.bz2
tar -xf compat-wireless-3.6.8-1-snpc.tar.bz2
cd compat-wireless-3.6.8-1-snpc
./scripts/driver-select alx
sudo make install
sudo modprobe alx

Note the line starting with wget is wrapped to the next line. If all went well you now have a wired connection active. For some they will already have the build-essential files installed and can skip this step but for me this was the one line missing in other instructions that made this work. It does not hurt to run it again since if they are installed the command will tell you. Also note that if this is being done on another computer, follow the instructions to get the driver patch and transport it to the computer needing it. Once copied to the target computer start again at the tar command. Since this is a kernel patch, if you update the kernel you will need to run this again until the patch becomes part of the kernel.

I hope having this all in one place will help someone get connected until this patch makes it into the kernel itself.


New Laptop, Windows 8 Gone, Installed Linux Mint 14 Nadia

g580Well I finally took the plunge and purchased a new laptop. I got myself a Lenovo G580 with a B980 PDC CPU sporting 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive and more goodies. For the longest time, 10 years, I have either used a build it yourself desktop or a second hand laptop. It has been a long time since last buying new. While I did not go all out and get the latest i7 or i anything, the B980 compared rather well on Intel’s site with their newer and last years models. And as a bonus it sits atop the Sandy bridge giving it an extra punch in the graphics arena. All said and done I am happy with the purchase so far.

As you might be guessing from the post’s title, Windows 8 did not last very long on this machine. :) First priority was to disable the secure boot in the BIOS. And I do not give Lenovo much credit in making this intuitive. Perhaps there is industry pressure not to? We’ll never know for sure. Once in the BIOS you have to enable the legacy boot option and other OS options. This disables the secure boot but does not tell you it does. But upon checking you will find it is disabled after doing this. Save the settings and boot normally. At this point you can boot Windows 8 or your favorite OS. I booted the former. I wanted to see it first hand and I knew there would be an app to register the computer.

After a rather lengthy install process and a video or slide to show you Windows 8, one slide and not helpful at all, you are finally logged in to the desktop. What surprised me right off was I was wired to the network and it would only choose wireless as an option. My second thoughts were how clunky the interface was. Once in an application, which was not an issue, getting out was. No instructions, no pop ups, nothing. I managed to get out eventually and did indeed register the laptop with Lenovo. That is as far as I wanted to go with Windows 8. I have had my experience now.

I replaced the 500GB hard drive with mine, Linux already installed, faster spindle speed (7200rpm) and booted. Linux roared to life as expected. But that is not to say there was not any issues to deal with. Apparently this laptop comes with a newer network chip that does not have a module in the kernel yet. My first thoughts were that I was running the Debian edition of Mint and that the drivers were in the non-free category. I had been planning on installing Mint 14 Nadia since its debut but had not yet given in to the task.After all nothing was broken or anything. I fired up my employers laptop and downloaded the ISO burning it to a thumb drive in short time. Once again the install went off without errors and I was running Nadia in no time.

But the wired network was not working nor was it detected. The command lspci did indeed show the chip set, Ather03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR8162 Fast Ethernet (rev 10), but nothing was happening network wise on it. Enter the best Linux trouble shooter Google and I found the answer here in the Ubuntu forums. There were other posts from Google but this one had the crucial step of installing build-essentials. Without it the fix does not work. I had Ethernet in short order once again. Wireless was functioning but where I live there are so many signals that it is degraded all the time for serious connections. So I prefer wired over wireless right now. It should also be mentioned that the wireless is the famous B43cutter and worked right off the bat. The non-free driver was also available if desired.

So far this setup is doing great and there are not any issues that are deal breakers. My only complaint and I do not yet know if it is the OS or the hardware, is when I go the click something the mouse pointer hides itself. Annoying to say the least. Oh well if that is the worst thing then I have done pretty well.

I should also mention that after setup sound was working, video was set to a good resolution and everything just worked as it should. Nice work to the Ubuntu teams and to Clem and the Mint team for putting this together.

Update: I noticed when changing themes the disappearing cursor is gone. I will have to pay attention to which one it was since I had been switching around on them. This is good to know and I will update again if I notice it.


How to Identify Your Wireless Chipset in Linux

Connecting via wireless has got to be in the top 10 of things people want for their computer. So many of us are opting for laptops, netbooks or tablet devices that wireless connectivity becomes a must have function. Fortunately wireless has never been easier with Linux than ever before. But there are still some cases where the driver doesn’t automatically load. I am writing this post for these situations.

First some quick background to setup the stage. Linux like other operating systems undergoes changes all the time. The main part of a Linux distribution is called the kernel. Windows and Mac OSX both have a kernel built in to their system too. You can think of it as the heart of the system. What separates Linux from OSX and Windows is the kernel undergoes development constantly and is released constantly on a pretty regular schedule. OSX and Windows develop theirs constantly too but will only release when they feel it is necessary or for new version releases. In the Linux community every distribution, Mint, Debian, Slackware, Ubuntu etc., will decide which version of the kernel they include. This can have an impact on what drivers are included since the kernel developers may decide to drop support or add support for drivers at their discretion. This part of the discussion will  be left out since it can be a topic for an entire book. Also no matter what distribution, you can change the kernel but again that becomes a new topic and is recommended only for the advanced users.

With this very basic idea in mind let’s add to it a bit more. In Linux the kernel contains modules and some of those will be drivers. Wireless drivers go into this category and if they are released as open source can be adopted into the kernel. Not every driver is released as open source or as free to use and subsequently may not appear in the kernel ever. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a driver available but it does mean you may have to find it. Identifying the chipset of your wireless controller will aid you in finding that driver you need and reduce the frustration of not connecting via wireless.

The command to find the chipset make and version ID is very simple. Open a terminal window and type at the prompt:

lspci (for card type devices or internal chips) some abbreviated output you will see is:

02:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 4965 AG or AGN [Kedron] Network Connection (rev 61)

This is the controller in my system and one of the lines from the command lspci. It clearly identifies the network controller coming from Intel and it is the 4965 chipset. The AG and AGN are the ratings for the card. Most common nowadays is the N rating but the G rating is still widely in use. For reference refer to the wireless protocol Wiki page where they are explained in detail.

and for USB devices type:

lsusb (mine is not USB but some sample output form the command follows);

Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
Bus 003 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 004 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 005 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 006 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 007 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 001 Device 002: ID 05ca:1839 Ricoh Co., Ltd Visual Communication Camera VGP-VCC6 [R5U870]

You can see I have a camera and supprt for USB 1.1 and 2.0 but nothing else is connected via USB right now. If your wireless device were USB there would be a line similar to what’s above for the lspci command.

Now armed with the information of the chipset you can Google the chipset  ID and the Linux version you are using. I copy from the terminal window this part:

Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 4965 AG or AGN [Kedron] Network Connection (rev 61) and add what version I’m using such as Mint LMDE and I will find links for the driver and or how to’s from people with the same issues. Undoubtedly someone else has the same problem and usually someone somewhere has solved it. As I write this I did Google the first part and it appears that in 2008 there were all sorts of problems with this driver. Probably fairly new back then since now it works pretty well. But the idea here is to follow what has worked before or what people are doing now to solve the problems. No since in re-inventing the wheel unless you are a developer, then by all means write the code and share it please.

Now it should be clear that to search you need to be online. That of course is the goal wireless but if not possible then cabled or the use of another computer somewhere. Libraries are great for free access to computers and you can take the laptop and test the suggestions on the spot.

I hope this post will help someone connect to wireless when they otherwise could not. I always say that the greatest thing about Linux is the community and it stretches around the entire world. There are so many people ready and willing to help. I do suggest also to read on your own a bit too. Learn the Linux basics and the language enough to understand or ask the right questions and provide the right information. Linux at its core is the same code (kernel) and forums will generally advise to use terminal commands because of this. Different distributions may have different controls and specific questions regarding those controls will be better served in the forums for that distribution.

I have held back on very specific solutions since there are so many. My goal with the post is to help new Linux users find answers. Wireless is one of the top issues and knowing the chipset is the key to making it work. Please feel free to add information I may have left out or correct me where needed in the comments. Questions are also welcome there too.