Thursday, 22 November 2007

Plush WCC?!

Oh dear. It looks like the Weighted Companion Cube toy is going to be a "plushie". There will even be a "furry dice" version for car owners with no taste.

I am, to say the least, disappointed. The WCC toy could have been cool. It could have been a stylish desk accessory. Now it's going to be a frickin' cat toy :(

I think I'll just make do with some papercraft.

Sound issues (or doesn't, as it happens)

Well, it looks like I hadn't sorted my sound problems out, after all. Today when I started KDE I got that old corker: "CPU overload" and artsd quit. It did this several times, pummelling the CPU as it did so, of course.

"Enough's enough," I thought (well, in between the obscenities there was probably a couple of "enough"s, anyway).

I have a sound card that handles mixing in hardware. ALSA supports it quite nicely, so why am I having problems? Why does sound lag in KDE unless I set arts to use ESD (which leads to a slightly shorter lag rather than a full cure)? Why do I keep seeing things like "connection refused" when things try to use sound? Why is artsd suddenly burning up my CPU? Was there a second gunman?

All this trouble started with the new machine and new OS combo. As far as I'm concerned, I should be golden: I have a properly supported sound card (Audigy 2 ZS, SB0350 if you care) and I know from past experience (with SuSE / Fedora Core 6 + SB Live!) that this setup should "just work". For that matter, I have an SB Live! in another box that should also "just work".

So I'm looking squarely at Fedora 8 "Werewolf" as the culprit here... and Fedora 8 installs/uses Pulse Audio by default. Think you're using ALSA? Well, think again: the "default" device is... "pulse".

Maybe Pulse Audio will eventually be the answer to our prayers and bring Linux sound support bang up to date and even beyond the competition... but right now I just want rid of it so I can go back to my cosy ALSA world.

One quick "yum remove pulseaudio" later, which for some reason also took "kino" with it, but nothing else that wasn't an obvious part of the pulseaudio system, I was feeling a little happier. OK, so my sound was more broken now than before (OSS was fine, but ALSA was in trouble), but at least I'd taken some affirmative action and kicked some package butt.

Looking into the ALSA thing (strange that ALSA's OSS emulation would be fine, but ALSA itself wasn't, eh?) I was seeing "connection refused" errors. "Connection"? Ah... let me guess, it's still trying to use pulseaudio, isn't it? Yep. "Kino" might be so heavily dependent on pulseaudio that it had to be removed at the same time, but alsa-plugins-pulseaudio wasn't. Once more unto the yum: "yum remove alsa-plugins-pulseaudio"

And now I'm happy.

Let's see how long it lasts ;)

Monday, 19 November 2007


Well, that was a busy weekend... Lugging furniture around in the whole "moving house" stylee, and whatnot.

Utterly knackered on Saturday night, I actually fell asleep at just gone midnight. That alone is quite unusual, and welcome. Sleeps are good. Sadly, I then woke up at 3am and couldn't get back to sleep again. Less unusual, but much more annoying.

So Sunday was spent in a haze of being neither awake nor asleep... which is a shame since both sociability and mad-UT2004-skillz were required for proper functioning.

On the bright side, I did manage to get some sleeps last night... not that I feel particularly awake today, or anything, y'understand.

Sleep soon?

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

I hate "upgrades"

The new box is built and working... so that means that it's time to install Linux and settle in. Naturally, the distro I'm currently using is being end-of-life'd very soon, so it's time to upgrade. Should be good, right? Shiny new hardware to run a shiny new Fedora?

Well, it isn't.

There's always some gotchas when moving from one distro to another, even when moving from one version to another. It's not that I expect things to just magically "pick up where I left off", or anything. I'm quite happy to do a little tweaking to bring things back to how I like them... but this "upgrade" has frustrated and annoyed me quite enough already - and I've barely started the process.

Sound support has always been a problem for me in the past, so naturally that was one of the things I was most concerned about with the new machine. One "quick" Fedora 8 install later (after one slow, painful failure to install - you'd think I'd have learnt by now not to add repos until after the initial installation, no matter how much the installer tempts you to) I was ready to go.

I'll skip the sorry tale of "The i586 Driver Packaged As An i686 One" because it's not terribly exciting. And besides, if livna didn't screw up at least one nvidia driver package for each fedora release people would start to think they'd got the wrong repo, or something.

I created a user (I'll move my own stuff in later, so just a test user for now) and logged in.... to be greeted by GNOME. Hmm. I don't like GNOME, and I keep forgetting that Fedora just adores it for some reason, so of course it's the default session type. Oh well, never mind - it's not exactly rocket science to select a KDE session instead, which I did. Safely back in my KDE desktop I opened up the Control Centre's soundsystem module and, with baited breath, clicked the "Test Sound" button... and heard nothing. My poor little heart sank.

And then suddenly the test sound started up. "Oh!" I thought, ever the optimist - heart in boots or not, maybe the sound system just took a while to start. So I tried it again. Same result. A little more testing confirmed that sounds did indeed play just fine - but about 2 seconds after they should have done. So I tweaked arts options a bit, but to no avail. It just wouldn't start playing sounds until it was good and ready to. Grrrr. Mr Google didn't have anything useful to say (at least not in english - I have no idea what all the non-english results said, but the fact that almost all the results fit into this category should provide some insight into just how little google had to offer. So, thoroughly miffed, I went to bed. It was, after all, 6am by this point.

Next day... Since I wasn't convinced that arts wasn't indeed the culprit, I tried sound in GNOME... and it worked perfectly. So arts was the problem. Bah. Some very careful googling turned up a page that mentioned in passing that you can make arts use the new PulseAudio wosname for sound by setting it to use the ESD, which I tried... and it worked. Sounds are still lagged a little (thanks to arts' buffering) but that's as good as it gets in KDE, so "W00t!"

By now I was getting annoyed at the fonts looking less than perfect, so went to turn on subpixel antialiasing with full hinting... only to find that I simply couldn't. The subpixel antialiasing tickbox was greyed out. Oh joy. So, having learnt from my sound tribulations, I gave it a go in GNOME... and whadayaknow, it worked just fine there. Shame I really don't like GNOME, huh? But I prefer KDE, seemingly in spite of Fedora's efforts to make it painful for me.

I'm well aware that subpixel AA and hinting are things that might be covered by patents, or some other such crap, but that never stopped me being able to use them in FC6... or in GNOME in F8. But in KDE, "The computer says 'no'." I checked the livna repo and there's a freetype package there, so I installed that... and now I can select subpixel AA in KDE, making me 'teh winnar!', or something.

Since I was clearly on a roll, I copied my homedir from the current box to the new one. OK, I expect some problems when keeping an old set of config files, etc. but generally it's not that big an issue and things get sorted out in short order.

And yet... and yet... My fonts still didn't look right. It wasn't the DPI - I'd already taken care of that. It wasn't the hinting/subpixel settings or any such, either. No, it was that they don't bloody exist according to anything I ask to find them. They're displayed on the screen, messily, but they're simply not in the list of fonts I can choose from. A little prodding later, I discovered that apparently "DejaVu LGC Sans Condensed" simply shows up as "DejaVu LGC Sans", exactly the same as "DejaVu LGC Sans" does. So, no "... Condensed" font, just the plain one. Which means that for all my config is specifying the font I actually want, and the system is using it, *I* can't select it. Worse still, the hinting on the font as displayed is messy. Looks like I lost my 'winnar' status.

Mr Google didn't manage to help me out here, either, BTW.

So here I am, using fonts I don't really like because that's better than the mess I get using the one I do like (and I use "DejaVu LGC Sans Condensed" *everywhere* - or, at least, I used to... sniff). My sound is working, as best I can tell, so that's a bonus... But still, it's taken me two long days & nights to get this far.

Hooray for "upgrades".

Now I've vented, I suppose I should get back to finding all the other problems and, hopefully, fixing them.


Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The Great Betweendoors

It's November now, and in Newcastle that means "cold". And where does the cat want to be at this chilly time of year? Inside where it's warm and cosy, perhaps curled up next to her favourite radiator? Outside, chasing hedgehogs as they search for somewhere to kip?


The Great Betweendoors is where the cat wants to be. Why be inside or outside when you can be both! All the benefits of access to the garden, but with the added bonus of freezing your humans to death and/or raising their heating bills. Make them prove that they love you: let's see some financial outlay and/or suffering!

Cats, eh. Maybe not as smart as some folks would have you think... but they do seem to have a natural talent for knowing exactly where they can cause the most disruption and irritation.