Friday, December 26, 2008

Intrepid Ibex and virtualization

I always wanted to do virtualization on my development workstation. There are some software that doesn't get along with one another, PHP5 and 4, apache 1 and 2. The list goes on. I also wanted the fact that I can upgrade my desktop w/o fearing to break things like Oracle libraries suddenly breaks because my distro decided to change libc.

It was a bit hard last year to make it work and let alone all the hardware of 6910p to work. I tried to use vserver and kvm, it was too hard to make a custom kernel to make everything work. I didn't try Xen as its an overkill for my needs, vserver is just fine for my needs. Also I think due to Xen design and objective it simply will not support suspend and resume on a laptop. vserver isn't even really a virtualization more like jail or chroot. This time I am trying again as Intrepid server comes with kvm as its virtualization choice. When I tried kvm last year it was the best candidate for me, however whenever I forget to stop a guest machine then I suspend the laptop I will get a hard lock. This time I am trying kvm which part of Ubuntu Interpid server edition, I am running Intrepid desktop and all I had to was to install the following packages.

apt-get install ubuntu-virt-server
apt-get install kvm libvirt-bin

I was too lazy to do things by hand, I gave the gui a shot. It was pleasantly surprising easy to install and run.

apt-get install virt-manager virt-viewer

It works! its not VMware easy but it close enough. Good enough for me that it does not get in the way and I can start putting my different projects in their own virtual space. I can even suspend and resume the laptop even if I forget the virtual guest machines are still running. Now I am shifting my projects that has similar virtual machines, like java-devel, rails-devel, etc. I am using Ubuntu JeOS as my guest OS, which is pretty good.

Acer Aspire 4315 on Ubuntu 8.10 / Intrepid Ibex

I did an upgrade for the Acer 4315 from Hardy to Intrepid. There where a couple of issues, its similar to Hardy that I had to install the madwifi-ng driver for the Atheros wireless card to run. Its a bit easier now as they are now included on the backports.

sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-intrepid

Add ath5k on /etc/modules, reboot.

Then you need to switch the drivers on System->Administration->Hardware Drivers. Deactive the current default driver (Atheros 802.11 wireless LAN cards) and activate the 5xxx series of Atheros 802.11 wireless LAN cards.

I also encountered a new problem in Skype. It seems my Logitech S 5500 mic is very choppy, the mic is connected via USB. I didn't have time to fix it, so I just activated the mic of the laptop which works with Intrepid. This is likely a software problem, as the S 5500 works fine with the HP 6910p on Intrepid.

HP 6910p on Ubuntu 8.10 / Intrepid Ibex

My HP 6910p is still running after 1 year. Hardware is still fine, I did a clean install of Intrepid a few days ago. So far its alright, the only problem I encountered was with wireless. Kinda weird that Hardy worked just fine, however it is a known issue and is clearly stated on Intrepid release notes. I had to add backports and then install the backported modules.

sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-intrepid

Since I also liked the radeonhd, works great with the HP docking station. I also installed it.

apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-radeonhd

Aside from that everything is still alright. I also noticed that suspend and resume works faster. The harddisk aggressive power management seems to have been taken cared of with Intrepid. I will be observing the load cycle times for the next few days.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Acer support and cashback (part 2)

Now here is my cashback experience from Acer.
  • Jul 21 - Posted the required form, box cut out of the snid and invoice
  • checking the cashback status from time to time at Acer cashback website. Has always been on status where the documents hasn't been received yet.
  • Sep 8 - I noticed my status says "declined due to documents were not received by the due date". I emailed the cashback email address asking them how can this happen, and I asked them to give me some good explanation why on earth a mail from New Zealand to Australia will take 5-7 weeks to arrive.
  • Sep 9 - I noticed my status says "processing, check will be issued on ... November *something*"
  • Sep 16 - I got an email from Acer cashback telling me that they never recieved my documents. They are asking me to email or fax copies of the form, snid and invoice. I emailed them the digital copies of it, except for the box cut out of the snid. Its impossible for me to produce one as it was sent in the mail, I just shot a photo of the my snid on the bottom of the laptop.
  • Sep 17 - I got mail from Acer, its the $99 check. ?!? Are these guys confused of my status or what? Or did suddenly their cashback turnaround processing time is within 12 hours?
Acer cashback is not that bad if you only look into what happened on the start and end. I got the $99 cashback in 1.5 months, I was expecting it to be longer than that. However given that they are certainly confused or just radomly picking cashback status, their cashback is really poor. Oh yeah before getting the cashback form you will be bombarded with extended warranty option.

For those who go into Acer cashback process here are the following things that might help you.
  • scan the snid box cut out. Expect the worst that the mail will get lost, most likely somewhere in the cashback dept of Acer.
  • declined doesn't mean anything. They are just actually confused with your status, or probably trying to see if you the type of person that would just accept a decline status.
  • push for your cashback

Friday, September 19, 2008

Acer support and cashback (part 1)

I would like to give out my long about my personal experience with Acer support and cashback.

Acer support:
Here is my long support story, which all started with a dvd combo drive going wrong.

  • Aug 3 - dvd combo drive started not to read dvd discs. After a few retry, ejects, etc. there is no more power on the drive.
  • Aug 4 - Called up Acer. Call center tech tries to go by the book, tells me reinstall driver, etc. I politely explained the problem further and told him that I am computer literate. Call center tech goes to the next step and files a case number, tells me that someone will call me regarding the repair. Told me that I don't need to bring in the laptop anywhere. I thought wow this is great, I bought a cheap laptop and I don't have to return it to base for repair. I knew something was a miss, but gave him the benefit of the doubt.
  • Aug 7 - I called Acer again since nobody has called me up. Yeah I know it was too good to be true. This call center tech told me that I should bring my laptop to Datacom which is their Wellington repair contractor.
  • Aug 12 - I brought the laptop to Datacom. I also left the power adapter as advised by Datacom (this event will trigger another sub-story).
  • Aug 19 - Called up Acer call center to ask what's the status of the repair and why its taking more than the 5 days turnaround time. Call center tech puts me on hold and comes back to me tell me that Datacom is ordering another dvd combo drive as the first replacement was also defective.
  • Aug 22 - Pickup of laptop after the 2nd replacement drive was deemed to be ok. I noticed the power adapter was different, but did not make a fuss about it. Laptop was also not cleaned up and has some minor new scratches (nothing to really fuss about).
  • Aug 22 - Got home to test the unit. I realized the adapter that Datacom returned to me was faulty (and older too), its wire was loose. The adapter was charging and discharging the laptop depending on the position and if the wire gets nudged.
  • Aug 22 - Called up Acer telling them about the power adapter issue and demanded to get it replaced. Call center tech places an order for an adapter to be shipped to me.
  • Aug 27 - New adapter has arrived. The dvd combo drive worked initially. After a while failed to read the dvd drives, can read some cdrom drives. Drive physically works, but has lots of crc errors and is unable to read the dvd discs most of the time.
  • Aug 27 - Called up Acer about the problem. Acer call center tech apologizes and opens a new case. Acer also arranged for my laptop to be picked up. They also told me not include the batteries and power adapter for the repair. Not including accessories is what I would have expected (SOP I have experienced with other repairs), not what Datacom did which caused a new problem regarding the power adapter.
  • Aug 29 - Courier arrived and picked up the laptop. After a few days some message exchanges on the Acer support website to get the status of the repair.
  • Sep 1 - The adapter also came with a notice I need to return the defective power adapter in 10 days or else they will invoice me $50. Called up Acer, call center tech tells that yes I need to post back the defective courier and gave the address. He also tells me that I need to ship back at my expense, despite my protest. I posted this protest on the support website, that I should not shoulder the expense to ship back as it was not my fault that Datacom replaced my power adapter with a defective unit.
  • Sep 2 - Acer call center tech calls me up that they are sorry and will arranged a courier pickup for the power adapter. My support case on the support website was also updated with this information.
  • Sep 5 - Acer call center tech calls me up telling me that there was a mixup. The notice to return the defective adapter should have been given. They will not pickup the defective adapter anymore and I can dispose of it.
  • Sep 8 - Laptop finally arrives. The dvd combo drive was also upgraded to a Lite-on dvd writer. I am not sure if the upgrade was delibrate or a honest mistake on Acer's part.
In short, it was long support case just to get the dvd combo drive sorted. Acer's Wellington local contractor Datacom is poor. They should have a stock of a common part like a dvd combo drive, should not have got the power adapter and other accessories when turning in a laptop for repair, should clean and take extra careful of the laptop while on repair. Acer's call center tech are confused about things, they are not consistent. I found the support website to be a better way of contact, you get slower reply times though. Demand the support you deserve in a polite manner after all the other person the other end is just on his/her day job. Acer did eventually stepped up and sorted things out. Acer support in Wellington, NZ is poor primarily because of their local repair contractor Datacom.

Wow this support story is very long, I need to sleep. I will post up my cashback experience hopefully tomorrow which is equally hilarous.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Acer Aspire 4315 short review and Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy) install

We got an Acer Aspire 4315 since we needed an extra laptop around. As both the 6910p and dv6000 is being used normally. We wanted something cheap for e-mail, skype, browsing, watching dvd and document editing. The Acer Aspire 4315 seems to fit the bill especially the price.


  • Processor: Celeron M 540 1.86GHz, 1MB Cache, 533MHz FSB, 64-bit capable
  • RAM: 512MB DDR2-667(1 x 512MB)
  • HDD: 80GB 5400rpm SATA
  • Display: 14.1" WXGA CrystalBrite widescreen (1280 x 800)
  • Optical: DVD+CDRW Combo
  • Wireless: Yes 802.11b⁄g
  • Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 up to 358MB
  • Firewire⁄S-video⁄FIR: No⁄Yes⁄No
  • VGA Out: Yes
  • USB Ports: x 3
  • Ethernet 10⁄100: Yes
  • Express Card slot: Yes
  • Battery: 6 cell


Acer Aspire 4315 = $598
512mb upgrade = $30
512mb clearance and bundle = -$30
we got the display model as its the last in store = -$30
acer cashback promo = -$99
Total cost = $469 NZD ~ $356 USD

Short Review

What have we got for $470 bucks? A pretty decent laptop if you ask me. Build quality is pretty good. Keyboard is pretty sturdy and no flex, in fact its probably better than our HP dv6000. The hinges is firm and solid, not as good as the HP 6910p but good enough. Performance wise its just as good as the HP 6910p on most everyday tasks, and what we intended to use it for (e-mail, skype, browsing, watching dvd and document editing).

Minor problems as other owners of Acer 4315 has stated:
- touchpad is very near the keyboard, I tend to touch it accidentally while typing.
- speaker sound is a bit low, however quality is pretty good. Maybe better sounding than the 6910p. It does not sound like a tin can, just not as loud as you would expect.

Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy)

The Acer Aspire 4315 comes with Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy), which is great and no need to pay Windows Vista that I don't use. I immediately installed 8.04 Hardy on it, I used the alternative CD since that is what I downloaded. I did some post install steps which came from this guide.


Wirelessworks, needs post install steps
Suspend and Hibernateworks, suspend works with updated hardy kernel
Splash screen and virtual terminalsworks
Harddisk Power managementneeds post install steps
Audio and Micworks, needs post install steps for proper resume
Screen brightnessworks

Post Install Steps


The atheros card will only work with madwifi-ng, stated on this guide

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install build-essential
wget -c
tar xvf madwifi-ng-r3366+ar5007.tar.gz
cd madwifi-ng-r3366+ar5007
sudo make install
sudo modprobe ath_pci
sudo modprobe wlan_scan_sta

Audio and Mic

After resuming it doesn't have audio and mic. There are some suggestions to do "sudo /sbin/alsa force-reload" which works. I find it annoying as the volume control applet will complain and needs to be reloaded. What I did was to edit /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base and added this at the end of the file

# properly detect the sound again after resume
options snd-hda-intel model=acer

Take note after reboot, volume control will be different. Re-adjust accordingly.

The mic does work, but its very hard to fine tune the proper level. Too low and I hardly hear myself, too loud and it shuts itself or there are lots of crackle. I ended up just plugging in a front external mic.

Harddisk Power Management

Just like the HP 6910p, the Acer Aspire 4315 came with a Hitachi disk (Hitachi HTS542580K9SA00). This also suffers from the over aggressive power management. I used my old guide, but the script will not work as in Gutsy its placed on "/etc/acpi/resume.d" which is not sourced anymore, I placed the script on "/etc/pm/sleep.d" on Hardy. There is a launchpad bug filed on this, apparently Ubuntu changed things a bit.


The Acer Aspire 4315 is a great laptop, cost 1/7th of the HP 6910p. I can surely say that the value is more than 1/7th of the HP 6910p. Comes with Ubuntu 7.10 pre-installed, installing Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy is also straight forward with a few post install steps. Now time to wait for that cash back check to arrive.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

HP 6910p on Ubuntu 8.04 / Hardy Heron

I have upgraded from Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy) to 8.04 (Hardy). This is not a clean install however I made some effort to remove any post install steps that was done previously with my 7.10 Gutsy guide.

HP 6910p specification:

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 (2.4Ghz)
Display: 14.1" WXGA+ 1440x900
GPU: AMD/ATI Radeon X2300
RAM: 2GB (2x1GB)
Harddisk: 120GB 7200rpm Hitachi 7k200 Travelstar
Optical Drive: MultiBay II DVD SM DL
Wireless: Intel Pro/Wireless 4965 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, Infrared
Ports/slots: 3xUSB 2.0; MultiBay II; Intel 82566MM 10/100/1000 Lan; Modem; S-Video out; VGA out; Firewire; Audio in; Audio out; internal microphone; SD/MMC card reader; Smart Card Reader; Type I/II PC Card Reader; SIM card slot; Docking connector; Second battery connector.
Other: Finger print reader, Touch stick with 2 buttons, Touch pad with 2 buttons, Volume up – down, Volume mute, Presentation, Wireless, HP Info Centre touch sensitive buttons.


Videoworks, using radeonhd
Suspend and Hibernateworks
Splash screen and virtual terminalsworks
Harddisk Power managementneeds post install steps
Fingerprint readerworks
Audio and Micworks
Screen brightnessdoes not work inside X, but light sensor works
Card readerdetected with intrepid kernel, some issues see comments below
Docking stationworks including dvi

Post Install Steps:

Harddisk Power management

It seems this isn't resolved yet. I brought back my changes for the hard disk not to park its head excessively. This only affects a few select 6910p using a particular model of harddisk. This is not a 6910p issue but more of harddisk issue.


The upgrade to 8.04 Hardy removed the post install steps that was needed for 7.10 Gutsy, which is what I expected. Since mine is not a clean install and I am unlikely to do a clean install due to the lack of time, anyone has a story from a clean install?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quick update

Well I am still alive, been very busy and had some series of unfortunate of health problems. Today I had some spare time, I upgraded to Hardy Heron using the update manager. So far everything is still alright. I haven't seen any needed customization yet, will check if the hard disk park issue is fixed. Suspend, works. wifi, works.

This is an upgrade from Gutsy and not a clean install. Things that still don't work is the brightness function key. I will try to check the other stuff over the coming days and probably list in detail.

I just need to bring back my customization, oracle, tomcat, etc.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Armored Core 4

Its been a while since I posted, been busy and also having fun playing Armored Core 4 (AC4). I have always liked playing with mech games, I have played MechWarrior from 1 to 4. I guess maybe since I was a kid I got exposed to Gundam and one of the first games I placed on my PC XT was Battletech.

I really liked AC4 because its fast and yet you need to think. As one reviewer put it "its a cross between Virtua On and MechWarrior". I really like the fast pace battle and it has the Japanese touch to mechs, something I missed on MechWarrior where things are much slower and less Japanese touch. I also liked how you can customized your mech, but veterans of the AC series indicated that AC4 had less depth than previous games. I think I have missed this series, much like Grand Turismo and was only able to discover it much later.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fingerprint reader on 6910p

I tried to make the fingerprint reader on the 6910p to work. Surprisingly it works alright. I grabbed the packages and instruction from here.

I then run fprint_demo and registered by right index finger. So far its alright, its not perfect. There are shortcoming (mostly not the fault of fprint) like what is pointed at this thread.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Little tweak here and there

I am unfortunate that I own a hard disk (Hitachi HTS722012K9SA00) that had a too aggressive power management. See for details.

I tried different settings of "hdparm -B" and have observed the following:

127 - spins down and parks the head
128 to 191 - parks the head
192 to 255 - never parks the head

I have also observed that when the 6910p is on battery it does not keep on unparking the head. It seems that the best settings in battery is the default 128. I am now using 128 as the apm value when on battery. I have also added a script "/etc/acpi/resume.d/" as it seems "/etc/acpi/" will set never call "hdparm -B" as the power has never changed state when the laptop resumes. My contains the following:


. /etc/default/acpi-support
. /usr/share/acpi-support/power-funcs

for x in /proc/acpi/ac_adapter/*; do
grep -q off-line $x/state

if [ $? = 0 ] && [ x$1 != xstop ]; then
if [ x$ENABLE_LAPTOP_MODE = xtrue ]; then
$HDPARM -S $SPINDOWN_TIME /dev/sda 2>/dev/null
$HDPARM -B 128 /dev/sda 2>/dev/null
if [ x$ENABLE_LAPTOP_MODE = xtrue ]; then
$HDPARM -S 0 /dev/sda 2>/dev/null
$HDPARM -B 254 /dev/sda 2>/dev/null

For the past 2 days my 6910p wireless seems to be disconnecting. I am not sure if my wireless is getting interference from another AP or not, as this has happened to my other laptops before. I haven't seen this problem from the 6910p for a few weeks or my old nx8220. I have also changed my WRT54G firmware from thibor to tomato firmware for the past few days. Maybe the tomato firmware is causing the problem, but I doubt it so I decided to upgrade my iwlwifi from 1.2.22 to 1.2.23 and mac80211 from 10.0.2 to 10.0.4. So far it looks alright after several hours of use. I have to wait a few more hours, as it it happened for the past few days near midnight... maybe there is something happening to the 2.4ghz rf during that time in our neighborhood.

I am also trying to look at my power draw with the help of powertop from intel. Not sure how much I can save with the tweaks... still playing with it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

xrandr and radeonhd crtc problem

I have been having a problem with my 6910p re-enabling the DVI or VGA external output. It does work when I re-login or restart X, but after I disconnect the external monitor for a long time I couldn't enable it back. Here is what is happening to me:
xrandr --output DVI-D_1 --auto --right-of PANEL
X Error of failed request: BadMatch (invalid parameter attributes)
Major opcode of failed request: 154 (RANDR)
Minor opcode of failed request: 21 ()
Serial number of failed request: 19
Current serial number in output stream: 19
To resolve the issue I have to explicitly pass in the crtc number
xrandr --output DVI-D_1 --crtc 1 --auto --right-of PANEL
For a more detailed discussion of the problem you can look at xorg mailing list archive post here:

A newer xrandr should resolve the issue in the future, for now I just use --crtc switch.