Kernel Tinkering, SuSE, and SteamOS

This is what I like about studying for certifications. They force you to look into subjects at a deeper level than you may otherwise have done. One of the topics in LPIC-2 is Kernel maintenance – understanding the kernel, how it works, the concept of dynamically loaded modules, compiling the kernel and modifying the configuration prior to compiling. It is very intriguing learning about this low-level part of the Linux OS.

It is a complex topic though, and compiling a kernel can take a while, depending on configuration. I managed to compile and install my first kernel today. :)

Meanwhile, since I’ve now obtained my SUSE 11 CLA from Novell (not sure if anything will come through in the post, though), I must really refresh my memory on openSuSE. My primary distributions have been Ubuntu and Fedora.

Whilst downloading various linux distributions including the latest versions of Ubuntu and Fedora, I found out that I could download SteamOS, which is Valve’s own distribution for running its Steam platform. Problem is it only supports x64 which I don’t have (yet)

Fedora & Ubuntu

Ubuntu Studio

Deutsch: Logo von Fedora

Español: Logo Linux Mint

OpenSuSE Icons






I dug out my Wacom Bamboo Graphics Tablet and plugged it into my Ubuntu Studio installation, but frustratingly, I cannot seem to emulate a wheel scroll, which I need for my work in Blender. Sure I can use the keypad +/-, but that isn’t the way I’m supposed to work.

I might switch over to Fedora later this week and see if that is any better. Or maybe even put Linux Mint back on. I know that both have gone through new versions since I last used them. Fedora was at Schroedinger’s Cat / Version 19 and Linux Mint was at Maya / Version 13 last  time I used it.

Now may be a good time to start looking at other distributions. openSUSE seems appealing, but it has caused me problems with restoring from CloneZilla images in the past, especially cross-operating system.



Had a very eventful weekend, and my entire Sunday was taking up trying to figure out a weird symptom on my linux installation.

In the weeks leading up to today, I used to get strange behaviour from my Fedora box. The behaviour resulting in an error being detected by the ABRT tool, regarding a null reference. Sunday, my laptop conked out and refused to startup. I tried reinstalling Fedora, Debian, Mint, openSUSE, and even OpenMandriva — none of them could complete the installation. They either failed with error part way through, or hung completely.

I decided to try installing Windows XP over everything. That failed with an IRQ LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO blue screen. Then I tried Windows 7. That installation succeeded, and I started running updates. Then it blue screened me again. This time MEMORY_MANAGEMENT was the message. Hmmm. So, could it be that one of my memory chips was dodgy? That would account for why it was intermittent. I have 2x 2GB chips in my laptop, so I took both out and rebooted. No splash screen. Good. That’s expected.

Put in one of the chips. Booted, BIOS showed 2GB. Good, that’s OK.

Took it out and put in the other 2GB. No splash screen. Looks like that’s the dodgy one. I dug out my 1GB from when I got my laptop originally, and put that back into the other slot, so I get a 3GB installation. Checked boot. Splash screen displayed. Good. So I then ran a BIOS memory check, and all 3GB passed.

So then I decided, maybe I should try doing a restore, in case the dodgy memory was the cause of my failure to restore previously. It worked fine, so now I’m back up with my previous setup. :D

Cause: Faulty 2GB memory


I tried to install OpenSUSE on my laptop again today, and again it came up with the error about the boot partition. So perhaps I’ll have to tweak the boot partition size the next time I try this.

Instead, I installed Fedora 19, and that went fine – no issues with installing. Next I need to update it.

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I tried to install OpenSUSE today using the Network Installer. Some interesting things happened.

  1. When installing via a Network Installer, you would expect the latest versions of packages to be used. Evidently not. I did this, and when the installer did the update (which I would expect to be quick since there’s nothing to update), it took an extra 30 minutes to apply hundreds of DRPMs.
  2. Whilst doing the update, the installer flagged up the fact that I had run out of space on my boot partition — so the boot partition I had just created via the installer, using values the installer decided upon by itself, has now been clogged up DURING the install. Needless to say, the next thing I did was roll back to my previous Clonezilla image.

This isn’t going to discourage me, though, I do want to try out OpenSUSE properly, so I think what I’ll try next time, is run the installer from the CD instead of the netinstall and keep my software choices minimal until after the install is complete.



This is a very useful boot disk – it allows you to download the latest network installer from the relevant site and boot it, without having to burn or create another stick. It supports the major distributions: Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, Mandriva, Scientific Linux, CentOS and Slackware.

Be warned, though, Network Installers by nature can be heavily console-based.



Debian OpenLogo

Debian OpenLogo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, I decided to try reverting my laptop to Debian, having imaged it yesterday to provide a rollback option in case something went wrong.

The installation (via Net Install) took absolutely ages, but was pretty much successful. Then I got reminded why I stopped using Debian originally — the Unity style interface. It really winds me up. Then I was surprised by just how long it took to download updates. I usually get a throughput of between 100kb/s and 400kb/s depending on what and where I’m downloading from. I was getting around 20kb/s downloading from and downloading the KDE package, apt-get was estimating 6 HOURS to finish downloading, and that’s not including the installing. I even used the tool netselect-apt to pick the fastest mirrors, and it still didn’t improve. I’m going to try again once I’ve downloaded and burned all the Debian DVD images. Maybe I might be able to select the packages and go straight to KDE without using the Unity-like interface.

On the plus side, I checked the DRM test video via Adobe’s web site and I was able to confirm that it works fine and I was able to view DRM protected material in Debian after downloading the hal package, so whatever happens, I’ll at least be able to use Google Movies now.

I might also take a look at openSuSE and see what that’s like. Hey, have to keep my options open. :-)

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