Karmic Koala & ATI Radeon

This post will deal with the Alpha4 release of Ubuntu 9.10 “Karmic Koala”, and it’s new features, particularly the functionality of ATI Radeon cards.

I did a clean install yesterday, and this is what i’m liking so far:

  • Empathy, the new default IM client is awesome. I didn’t find plugin support yet, but it’s light, and clean. Just the way i like it.
  • The boot time is less than 20 seconds on my machine. It’s nearly not enough to go do anything else while i’m waiting, which is a great feature for someone that has to deal with windows vista at work every day…
  • Firefox 3.5 ubuntu branded by default. Thanks. That package is missing from 9.04 right now, and while you can still install it, it takes some work to go from the Beta name of “Shiretoko” to Firefox, with icons and everything. It works, but it’s not perfect.

What i don’t like:

  • The new default login screen sucks ass.
  • While the new 2.6.31 series kernel is a great improvement in many areas, AMD has not yet supported it in it’s binary fglrx drivers (which offer 3d acceleration and the works on ATI cards)

So this will be the topic of discussion today. ATI cards have traditionally been much worse than those of Nvidia on any Linux distro. AMD (ex. ATI) offers drivers called fglrx which provide full 3D acceleration in Linux, and when they are working, the cards can offer great performance. However. When they don’t work, disaster ensues.

When you install Karmic, you’ll get the traditional “Hardware Drivers” dialog, which will say you have a device that requires propietary drivers that weren’t installed by default. Yeah no shit they weren’t. You select your device, you hit install. It downloads the drivers, installs them, makes modifications to xorg.conf, and asks you to reboot. With Karmic Alpha4, i got no download dialog, even if it seemed to do something. The selection of my card remained inactive and grey, instead of the green “activated” button that appears when drivers have been installed. So i thought that the drivers somehow failed (didn’t look at debug or anything). I went about my business, doing an apt-get update && apt-get upgrade, and then rebooting.

To my great dismay, it wouldn’t load gdm at all, but instead displayed an esoteric graphical pattern in the top section of my screen. So, switch to a shell, check out /etc/X11/xorg.conf, and sure enough, fglrx was jotted down as the driver. So clearly, this didn’t work.

To get past this problem, uninstall and clean the fglrx drivers. They are not supported in the 2.6.31 kernel yet, so we need to wait for AMD’s 9.9 series drivers for this. Usually they’ll be out in time for the Beta’s or at least the release, so i’m not fretting.


aptitude purge xorg-driver-fglrx && dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg && exit

This removes the driver, deletes anything related to it, and runs a reconfigure on xorg.

You should now have a clean xorg.conf. Install the xorg-driver-radeon if you don’t have them (i’m not sure, i think they were installed by default), and then edit xorg.conf and in the device section, set the driver option to “radeon”, if it isn’t.

You should now be able to boot in to a graphical user interface.

Okay dual screens. To make these work, as a “big desktop”, make your xorg.conf look like this. I tried different options, and fiddling around with the “System -> Preferences -> Display” dealio, but that didn’t get me anywhere. It’ll ask you to “automatically set the virtual resolution to match your screens”, but the end result was 2048 x 2048, in xorg.conf, which obviously didn’t work.

Here’s my xorg.conf:

Section “Screen”
Identifier      “Default Screen”
DefaultDepth    24
SubSection “Display”
Virtual 3360 1050

Section “Module”
Load    “glx”

Section “Device”
Identifier      “Default Device”
Driver  “radeon”

In all it’s simplicity, i made the virtual resolution match the maximum resolutions of my screens set next to each other. I have two 22″ Samsungs, each with a 1680×1050 resolution. So i added up the width resolution and that was it. I restarted X (why does ctrl-alt-bkspace not work anymore?), and went to Display, and then unchecked “mirror displays”, and dragged the screens next to each other. Apply, Ok, restart X. Dual screen.

UPDATE! Video playback works *much* better with the radeon drivers than the fglrx drivers ever did in Jaunty 9.04! I’m playing a FullHD video, in full screen with no tearing (which was evident in 9.04 with fglrx drivers), and no problems. 40 CPU load on one core. 500 megs ram used with a bunch of other stuff on as well.

So conclusions: If you don’t need 3d performance (i.e. compiz, gaming whathaveyou), don’t install the propietary drivers. Stick with the open-source ones!

One blog

So now there is only one. Blog, that is. The hosting on that other site ends in two weeks, and we decided not to renew, since most of us got static ip’s now (through our workplace, and a special offer by Nebula (nebula rocks)). So now there’ll only be this one blog, here at comfy www.grelbar.net.

I still feel a slight tingle with my own domain here 🙂 It’s probably because way back in the day, even before the dotcom boom, your own domain was kind of a high mark, an achievement of sorts. Something that you as a kid couldn’t afford, or even maybe knew how to get. This was like.. the time period between 95 and 99 or something. Geocities was still hot. *shrug* Enough nostalgia.

So, i’ll be writing mostly tech stuff here, but some political stuff and other rants about the decaying state of freedom of speech here in Finland, the stupidities of the legal system (“murder pays off, copyright crime does not” comes to mind..), and general things on my mind. It won’t be terribly personal, like perhaps two years ago, but yeah.

Hoist the sails, TPB is back

So they are back. Check out their page now. Apparently, the ISP of the ISP of TPB was handed a hefty fine, in order to shut down the site, but they’ve already relocated. Trackers are said not be up yet, but T-shirts are being sent out to the people responsible for the bandwidth-chopping.

The shirts are black and say: “I spent months of time and millions of dollars to close down the Pirate Bay, and all i got was this beautiful t-shirt!”

Stupid Outlook 2007 autoproofing, and Nokia Ovi Maps 3.0

So i’d like to divert your attention to two things that bugged me this tuesday morning:

1) Outlook 2007 autoproofing. I had a client come in with an Outlook 2007, that automatically made headings out of the first words in a mail. So if you wrote “Hi”, on the first line, followed by a line change, it’d make it heading 1. Annoying as hell, since you probably don’t want the Hi to be size 9000 and bold and blue? So how do you turn this off. I had to google it, and turns out it was a helluva path. So, you go to Tools, Options, Mail Format, then Editor Options, Proofing, then Auto Correct Options, and then AutoCorrect as you type. From there, uncheck the shit you don’t want Microsoft to do for you…. Grr!!!! I actually gave a post-it note to the client with the path there.

2) Nokia Ovi Maps doesn’t detect your phone. So Nokia Maps is now Nokia Ovi maps, since everything Nokia is now Ovi (means door in Finnish). You plug in your phone, make sure you have PC Suite support installed (From PC-suite, go to help, then Install PC-suite support on phone or something). Download Nokia Map Updater from their site (version is something like 3.0 at the time of this writing), and then, you install that and like start it.

It should then detect your phone. PC-suite detected my phone. My phone detected the PC. I could even like..view the messages on my phone in PC-suite. But according to Nokia Maps Updater, no compatible phone was connected. It’d just say “searching for connected phone(s)”, and nothing. It did say “This might take minutes”, but to be fair, i gave it several, to no avail.

So how to get it to see the phone? Well: Switch it off. Then while the phone is off, plug in the usb-cord, then power up your phone. When it has booted, it’ll ask for the “How do you want to connect”, and offer options like PC-suite, Mass-memory and so on. Select PC-suite, then start Nokia Map Updater, and presto. Phone is detected right away without any searching.

Tweeting with sms

So yeah. Activated my phone on twitter, so i can send SMS messages to update my status.

Why, you may ask, would one want to use something as rudimentary as a text message to update your twitter status? Well, one of the reasons is: Data is expensive if you are roaming, or if you don’t have a plan.

Plans are pretty cheap here nowadays. You can get unlimited maximum speed 3G for 12,90 a month, as long as you submit yourself to be a whore of that company for two years. I know it’s very common to be tied to a mobile service provider abroad, but we’re kind of used to not being locked in.

Sure, we have subsidized phone plans as well, that require a 1 or 2 year contract, but most phones i’d wager are still the unlocked kind, with some kind of pay as you go plan, or a plan without a long contract.

But if you’re outside a plan, or abroad, data costs you an arm and a leg. Why? I’m not really sure. I’m not really sure how moving one megabyte of data through the network can cost 1.5 euros (which is the standard going rate for un-planned data!). That’s over two dollars a megabyte! Abroad it can be even more insane, where billing can be by the kilobyte. I heard in Turkey, certain roaming data costs like a euro per 50 kB.. insane.

So in these cases SMS might be a good choice. SMS will cost you the standard rate, which might also be a bit high abroad, but still not as high as data, probably. 140 characters isn’t a lot, and loading the m.twitter.com page (or any other mobile page for that matter), won’t cost you too much, but multiple updates will.

An SMS usually costs you less than ten cents, and even while roaming it’s hardly ever over 30 cents. So if you just want to do a quick update, it might be a better choice than data.

Activation was pretty easy, you just slide in your number, then sms the twitter number with an activation code and you’re done. After that you can just sms that same number and it’ll tweet it. 140 chars though, so not even a full standard 160 char SMS.

So long Pirate Bay.

So, if you point your browser of choice to http://www.thepiratebay.org you will see this:


Yep, it’s gone. The last news out of that place was on slashdot today, stating that the CEO of the company who supposedly bought TPB, has resigned due to charges of insider trading, and a lot of other people leaving as well, such as Johan Sällström (boardmember), and advisor Wayne Rosso. Seems the uh.. pirates are fleeing the ship? Maybe it wasn’t such a good buy for five mil (or whatever they actually ended up paying for it?)

I guess the court decided that TPB had to shut down in its current form, which they now have. I have no idea if the trackers are still up, or any of the other components. I just know a lot of other sites are still serving out illegal content.

In other news also, before they shut down, there was apparently a torrent of all the torrents (several gigabytes in size) of just the .torrent files, which could potentially be used to set up a new site/tracker whatever. I didn’t follow very closely, but i’m pretty certain that someone (or a big load of someone’s) got that download done before the end. So maybe the tale of TPB isn’t done just yet. But the boat is definately sinking, and the last swig of rum has been had, i think.

Any legal form it’ll return in will not succeed. Mark my word. People aren’t looking for a site that’ll give them what they want for a premium or for some other catch-22. They’ll just head elsewhere, because these sites will never go down. Pirates are like ninjas in that way. They are everywhere. (I’ll get shot for saying that!).

In memoriam, you could check out static.thepiratebay.org from http://www.archive.org, and check out some of the hardware that ran the piratebay, from it’s humble beginnings in 2004, to the latest archives in 2007. Sadly, the latest aren’t there, but i bet someone has them. If you see them somewhere, hit me up with a link.

Pidgin 2.6.1, the woes of video support and the loss of encryption

So i got Pidgin 2.6.1 at the literal order of my good friend Anteuz. It’s not in th official repo’s yet, so you can either add a repo where it can be found (link here), or download the source and compile on your own.

I opted for the repository, because it just felt like the easiest way?

Anyway. 2.6.0 brings video and audio support for gmail users (the XMPP protocol), which is very cool. Windows user have had this for ages, using either the gmail flash client, or then the gtalk client. Other IM clients of course have supported video and audio for ages. I remember using MSN messenger (yeah, the folly of youth..) to do voice chats back when it was a novel and cool idea. You got chicks that way. Okay, i am lying.

So 2.6.1 is the latest version that you can download, i guess 2.6.2 is the latest “testing” version or source version. Anyway. Installation went fine, and it got some of the necessary Gstreamer plugins to enable video and audio. No problems, Help -> About shows that Audio and Video is enabled.

But then, when i tried to initiate a video conversation with Anteuz, it failed. The File menu has the new Media entry, which has the options for audio, video and audio and video. All fine so far, except the options are greyed out. Not my side apparently. Turns out the windows 2.6.1 does not have audio and video support, which sucks major ass. So no testing of that nifty feature, since my dear friend is a rooted windows user (no pun intended?). But he’s a gamer, so i understand.

So what does it take? Well, you both need to be using gmail (xmpp protocol), have 2.6.1 or later installed with video support either precompiled or compiled in. And running linux. Wohoo. Not many of my friends on that fucking list eh.

So another thing we found is that pidgin-encryption 3.0 stopped working. It would’t get the other party’s key when it tried the exchange. The error was something in the order of “cannot find buddy!”, when we looked at the debug window. I’m not a developer so the massive debug output didn’t say too much, but the end result was that key exchange wasn’t happening, ergo no encryption. Blah. Now the NSA can read all of my dirty blabberings.

Ass my embler, i’ll be damned!

Okay, i’m a man, so it’s time to man up, and admit that my college professor might have had a point after all. I thought this cooky old unix guru was out of his mind when he whipped out x86 assembly for us, but fuck. I’ll have to admit that  you can do something with assembly worth while. Something that’s actually really fucking fast, and cool.

MenuetOS. It’s a small operating system, that is made from scratch, with assembly. Yeah, that shit! It comes with a gui, and it fits on a fucking floppy disk. Yeah, the 1.44 MB kind. I put it on a usb stick, and booted it successfully on my Thinkpad X41, however, the 64 bit flavor would not boot on my Phenom machine. I’m not man enough to debug it. It came to the GUI, but then ground to a halt, and just froze the system, so i had to do a reboot.

It works really fast on my thinkpad, and it has all kinds of demos, games, editors, terminals, network clients and servers. Hell you could set up a web server within a second or two. It was that fast. I didn’t try the web, since it obviously didn’t have any WLAN drivers (and i didn’t have an ethernet cord standing by). But it bloody well worked. Damned.

Good job. I’m not sure if one of the makers is Finnish, but i’m pretty sure: his name is Ville Turjanmaa. Give it a try, and help out if you are man enough to chop off your own penis.. i mean.. grok assembly.

Helsinki Air Show 2009

I’ve posted some pictures that i took from the roof of our building of the Helsinki International Air Show here in Helsinki. Check them out from the header-bar pictures link, or here.

Ubuntu 9.04 & CPyrit-Stream now working!


I’ve finally gotten the Pyrit program running and utilizing ATI Stream! I followed these instructions to the letter, though i built RPM from source with the patch for LZMA compressed RPM’s, which did the trick (although, i’ve also read the 1.4.0 beta 2 package of the Ati Stream SDK doens’t have this problem, but anyhow). I think i also had to apt-get some libraries that were missing, but they were listed pretty well in the instructions.

As for building pyrit, i used the instructions in the wiki, that can be found here. I ran in to an error while building the pyrit source, but that was fixed by doing an edit in a file according to these instructions. Fixes for other common errors are in the installation wiki.

So for the order: Install Atistream and Atical according to the instructions in the KB. Apt-get any packages you are missing. Build and install Pyrit, then CPyrit-Stream.

Run the command pyrit list_cores, which should show something like the screenshot below, and then run pyrit benchmark to see what kind of numbers you’re getting on your hardware. I am amazed. Compare the over 8000 PMKs/s (pairwise master keys), with the ~700 of one Phenom II X4 940 cores. Look at those results (yes yes, synthetic benchmark..):

List cores and Benchmark on my Radeon 4850 (and Phenom 2 940)
List cores and Benchmark on my Radeon 4850 (and Phenom 2 940)

You’ll note that it only shows three of the four cores on my Phenom, this is a feature. For every GPU core that it handles, it saves one CPU core for scheduling tasks.

A man can always dream… That there is about 3000 euros worth of hardware  (four Nvidia GTX295’s, a motherboard to support 4 Pci-e cards, processor, memory.. i guestimated). 80 000 PMKs / s (or half of that, depending on how you read the benchmarks). It seems to see the cards as two cores each.

Edit for 15.8.09 – I’m working on a proper howto for this thing since the internets seem not to have a coherent guide for a current ubuntu version. The 8.04 guide is great, don’t get me wrong, but i think it could be more complete. I’ve also e-mailed AMD to ask about providing .deb packages on my / their site, and or publishing the new howto.