Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Xorg mates with HAL and it all ends in tears

Oh dear.

One minute I have this thing running like a dream, the next it all ends in tears. Like Bart Simpson I feel it is time to write out, 100 times, on the blackboard ...
"I must not run the update program"
"I must not run the update program"
"I must not run the update program"
"I must not run the update program"
Because I did. And suddenly everything goes black. Xorg refuses to work, there is no XorgConfig and the hwd program that comes with Arch refuses to recognise the kernel. It's going to be a long, long, linux-free session in front of me.

Back to Arch-ery

OK so jaunty "worked", although it isnt possible to read the screen properly and the mouse doesn't appear on the external video display. But it is possible to fire the machine up and keep that hard drive up to date, even if I can't actually use it for the purpose I bought the web-book for in the first place.

So, back to Arch Linux then ? Well, yes. Out goes the ubuntu HDD, in goes the alternative drive with the old Arch image, wifi-radar gets me connected via the ipw2200 and pacman weaves its magic. I decide to dump the bloated gnome / gdm GUI, first in favour of the ultra minimalist icewm which I confess to being enthralled by once I'd seen it run the webbook at 1024x600 in the slitaz aircrack distribution, and then, when the limitations of icwem become obvious, I drop that in favour of Arch linux's particular flavour of XFCE combined with SLiM as my XDM. A quick word about that, make sure every user has a .xinitrc file in their home directory as SLiM does not go looking in /etc/X11... and will output a seemingly unhelpful error message if you try logging in to a user account that does not posess one.

So with all that done, on goes NetworkManager 0.7.1 and with a lot of tweaking and abandonment of the APN that clearly works in Windoze I'm up and running on the net with Arch and the Orange stick. Yippee.

Let's Get Jaunty.

Nothing for it then.

Despite Alan's dire warnings not to move on, it seemed to me the intrepid series was not going to be fixed to work with the option icon card any time soon, so maybe I might have better luck with the jaunty variant ?

Off I went to ubuntu-download-land and in due course I came back with another ISO image, and off we went back through the process of digging out the old 5.25" CD and the £40 dongly thingy from Maplins that comes with a usb plug at one end and a whole raft of 2.5 IDE, 3.5IDE and SATA plugs at the other. A further bout of fiddling with boot params and presto I was off loading myself up a jaunty jackalope.

And then I hit the display issues Alan Bell blogged about. Which I have not (yet) sorted out under this distro. But I will. Because at least this Hard Drive image now connects to Orange again.

One Ubuntu Forward, All Fall Down

Oh dear.

Things in ArchWebBookLand are far from rosy. Network Connectivity through the Option Icon 225 stick has evaporated.

For some time now I have been enjoying a certain amount of success with the elonex web book working the way the manufacturers expected when they supplied it to me. It all started to "go right" the day I finally found someone in Elonex support who understood what a linux system was. Even better, they sold me a little white usb stick on a wrist-strap for next to nothing which they claimed to have a "factory install" on it. Out came the original hard drive, the one that self-destructed a few days after I took delivery of the machine, and on went the new image ....

That was when I found the PING system on this little white USB strap had a corrupt image so it only got 40% of the way through the overwrite process, and then died leaving me with a little white housebrick.

However a subsequent telephone call to Elonex to explain this got me a profound apology followed a week later by a second usb drive free of charge, and this one worked. It didn't have any of the very handy aircrack software that was on the original image though, and in fact it was intrepid ibex not the hardy heron that came originally, but it worked and there's a neat little distro called slitaz that I have found fits comfortably on a 256MB usb pendrive that does the air crack thing.

So, all is sweetness and light and I can close this blog down then, I'm back in the ubuntu fold with a fully working web book ?

Er ... not quite.

Three weeks after I got the webbook "sort of" the way Alan intended, I was sitting in the car in the Vale of Glamorgan, in a layby, dealing with my email - as you do - when I foolishly allowed the ubuntu system updater to update the webbook. And when it had done so, I rebooted. And then, every time I inserted the Option Icon 225 stick, the web-book would stay working for perhaps 30, maybe even 45 seconds after it established a network connection.

And then it would freeze solid. I waited for weeks for an update to come that sorted it out. It never did.