Comments and HTML

This post is simply to explain to all the commenters here that Blogger's comment system fully supports HTML.  This will allow you to make URL's clickable and such.  Once I have spare time to write more CSS code here, I want to try and make it so URL's in comments will be made clickable automatically, but until then (and I'm not even sure how successful that will be), you can use HTML.

Here is the code required to make URL's clickable within comments:
<b><a href="">URL Title</a></b>

I added code to make the link bold, because otherwise it will not stand out, and will blend in with the rest of the text.  As I'm sure you all know already; bold is the language of clickable links here.

So there you go... you can all now use this and other code to make your comment links clickable. I'm not exactly sure what, if any, limits Blogger put on the extent of supported HTML, but I know that url code works perfectly.

Happy HTMLing!

Debian Bug Reporting Party!

This is my second post title in a row that ends in an exclamation point. But before I get voted off the island, I thought it would be a good idea to have a post dedicated to the reporting of Debian bugs great and small. I could kick it off by whining reporting my findings and linking to various bug reports I've left, and then you the reader can confirm and augment my bug report with your own additions. Then in the comments section, you can tell us about bugs you've run into and we can confirm and resolve to file a report to the ever-responsive bug squashing gods.

I've been switching over to Debian Jessie and I've run into several bugs that seem to be PowerPC issues. There are of course KMS issues with Xorg's radeon driver (black screen, system freezes, broken suspend), but I'm not sure there's much point in leaving bug reports since Xorg developers have basically said they don't have the hardware or inclination to debug our issues. This is a bit of a conundrum since KMS will now be required to use the radeon driver, and those of us who can't switch because of the above bugs are stuck with the fbdev driver and an unaccelerated desktop.

That said, maybe we can find a more receptive audience with sound bugs. The one I'm most interested in is this Clementine bug. It crashes whenever I try to play a music file, and it happens on all three systems I've used it on. I've never seen anyone else report a similar bug, so my question is, can anyone on PowerPC get Clementine to play files? Or is it just me?

Another bug I found is tangentially related to Clementine. Clementine pulls in gstreamer1.0-alsa as a recommended dependency, but with that package installed, all other GStreamer players crash. After I uninstalled gstreamer1.0-alsa, GStreamer apps like Rhythmbox and Banshee could once again play files. Again, I haven't seen this reported elsewhere, so maybe it's a PowerPC thing.

Definitely a PowerPC thing is this soundcard-detect issue, also reported and commented on in many other places. Hopefully somebody's working on it behind the scenes, or maybe the next bug report will be the magic one?

Finally, two other audio bugs: Quod Libet's equalizer plugin failed, and I can't get an audio server with jackd2.

In kernel bug news, I found a couple. First, hibernate isn't working for me, and second, when DPMS powers off the screen after 10 minutes of inactivity, the backlight won't come on after I wake it. The only way to turn the backlight back on is to toggle the brightness keys. This is on my iBook using the fbdev driver; I haven't tested it with KMS on my Powerbook as I've not upgraded that to Jessie yet.

As for GUI bugs, I found a massive one — as in it makes your icons massively oversized. This only happens in GTK3 applications when using an SVG icon theme, so an easy workaround is to ditch SVG icons or GTK3 apps.

In terribly sad news, xfburn appears to crash whenever I add files in preparation for a data burn. The package maintainer had nothing to say, but another developer with an interest seemed to think this was a PowerPC, or at least a 32-bit, issue.

This brings up something else. In the bug reports I've filed, package maintainers haven't been exactly jumping off their stools to respond. In a lot of these reports I left backtraces and everything, but there appears to be precious little debugging. Maybe if more PowerPC users chime in, we can get a better response. Or at least make developers feel really really guilty inside when they don't do anything.

Any bugs you've come across that really bug you? Leave them in the comments, and me and hopefully others can try to confirm them and organize a party of pitchfork and torch bearers to show up at a developer's doorstep.

Wanted: G5 Author

Have a G5?  Run Linux, Mac OS and other OS?  Have a legitimate background in technology, and would enjoy writing about it?  PowerPC Liberation needs you.

The G5 chip has always been very under-represented here, and not because of intent, but because the stance of this blog has always been to write from direct experience, not conjecture.  So since none of us who write here own a G5-powered machine, we can't really write from that perspective.

Logout from viva PowerPC has an open invite to be an author here, and that offer will always be there if he wants it.  He is about the only truly qualified G5 user I know of.

Anyone else, please send your details, and perhaps some sample writings, to powerpcliberation at gmail dot com.  In your details, please explain why you want to write here, along with how you're qualified to do so.  Only serious and qualified applicants will be considered.

The number one thing we need here is a G5-based Linux/Debian user; with some Mac OS and other operating systems peppered in.  So if you're a strict Mac OS only fanboy-type user; don't waste your time or ours.

Grab a Qup ;) of QupZilla!

Admit it, you laughed.

A reader and starter of this Ubuntu forum thread alerted me to the existence of a (relatively) new browser with the pun-proliferating name QupZilla. Since it's a good idea to have at least two web browsers on your system, and since Midori seems to be having difficulties lately, I'm on the lookout for a second browser to complement Iceweasel. And being a webkit browser, QupZilla seems to fit the bill.

So is it any good? Upon first opening it, it looks familiar, very much like Firefox from the pre-Australis days. This isn't the eccentric interface of Midori which was developed to the interests and needs of its author rather than a general audience. With QupZilla there are no surprises, but there are many features. This isn't one of those minimalist webkit browsers, either. Besides the usual bookmark, password, and cookie management, there are also built-in features that are rather like some popular Firefox and Chrome extensions. So it comes with AdBlock, FlashBlock, and Greasemonkey as well as Speed-Dial, an RSS reader, and Videoner, which opens video links in an external program.

Its performance on Linux is practically indistinguishable from Iceweasel. They use almost identical amounts of memory and I didn't perceive any differences in page loading times.

Additional features let you link to an external download manager if you want more than the built-in one, and enable user agent management either globally or on a site-by-site basis. There's also a web inspector, so this is a mature browser even though it's relatively new on the block.

Overall, I have to say I'm really impressed. The only downside for me is the lack of a NoScript-like feature, but maybe if we cross our fingers and email the developer they'll make our wish come true.

QupZilla is in the Debian Jessie repository with a newer version in Sid, so go give it a look!

Taking a Walk With Debian Jessie

It's about that time in Debian's release cycle again where Testing enters a feature-freeze and all of Debian's worker bees hunker down and concentrate on bug squashing for their next stable release (yes, my metaphors are terrible). Also, they've recently come out with Jessie Installer Beta 2, so what better time to check out how Jessie's coming along and see if it'll crush our dreams or not?

In order to do this, I wanted to do a clean install instead of upgrading from Wheezy and having the safety valve of falling back on the old kernel. No safety nets here! Also, it's on a testing machine. I'm not gonna risk my stable install for you people. So onto the exercise. How does Jessie measure up?

The installer itself remains very familiar. It's only toward the end where it throws in something new: fresh choices for the desktop environment. In addition to the usual Gnome, KDE, LXDE, and XFCE, they also have options for Cinnamon and Mate. Good to know, but I was in a hurry and deferred installing a desktop environment for later.

To get a GUI up and running quick, I installed Openbox over the base system along with Xorg and LightDM and rebooted. It didn't take long for things to go wrong. For some reason LightDM didn't want to start up, so I replaced it with Slim, which is what I should've done in the beginning since it's much faster, and tried again. This time I got past the login screen but quickly found there's an issue with the radeon driver. This G3 iBook has an ATI card in it, so I need the radeon driver to give me at least 2D desktop acceleration, but I'm getting kicked back to the fbdev driver instead. Either the radeon driver is broken or it stopped supporting another slew of cards. I'm not sure which.

So to get an acceptable picture, i.e. without psychedelic colors, with the fbdev driver, I had to enter the yaboot parameter "Linux video=radeonfb:1024x768-32@60" at boot. This gives me a usable desktop, though video playback is unacceptably slow. So there's showstopper number one.

Showstopper number two is sound. As in, I have no sound. This bug has been around and reported on for over a year now and still isn't fixed. Basically, in many iBook models and some Powerbooks and perhaps others, the machine ID isn't read correctly so the sound card isn't seen. Patches have been proposed, but still no fix. Worrying.

At this point, do I have to say suspend is broken? Didn't think so.

As for new and exciting things Jessie offers, one is Mpv, an Mplayer fork that supports https streaming. Also there's Compton, a compositor that expands on xcompmgr, adding window and menu transparency and many bug fixes. Also, I saw Abiword is now at version 3.0, so just for laughs I decided to install it and see if it was any less awful than my previous experiences with it. And it was not quite as awful. I would put it around 80% as awful, so keep up the good work!

If you used Wheezy when it was in testing and were impressed by its stability and lack of bugs, Jessie is sure to be a letdown. There are major problems with video and sound, even this late in the development cycle. Some people can get around the radeon issue by disabling the radeon framebuffer and enabling KMS, but KMS for me is too unstable so it's not an option. Downgrading the radeon driver to the Wheezy version drags you into dependency hell and is probably unwise, so of course that's what I'm gonna do. I still don't know what I'll do about sound, though. Compile a new kernel? Or to be more accurate: learn how to compile a new kernel and then compile a new kernel? Or maybe I can try my "ignore it until it goes away" approach to problems. It doesn't always work, but when it does it's a thing of beauty.

The Liberating Luddite

Dan, the renowned founder and author of PPC Luddite, has joined the PowerPC Liberation writing team.  Please join me in welcoming him.

I feel truly honoured and privileged to have someone like Dan be part of this blog.  In my opinion this will bring an already close PowerPC community even closer.

For at least the next couple months, I will be taking a total break from active blog activity, like posting and commenting etc.  I will still be handling the administrative side of things, and commenting where I really feel a need on occasion, but the over two years of running this place has left me in dire need of a total break from the active side.

This doesn't mean Dan will no longer be a writer when I return; far from it.  He will be an author here for as long as he desires.  He isn't here as a temporary replacement, but rather just arriving at the time I needed help.

Don't think I'm tired of blogging, because I'm not, and I plan on this blog being around for many years to come.  I have a chance now to spend more time with my girlfriend over the next couple months, which is something we rarely do more than a couple hours in the evening before bed, as we both have very busy lives.  I just need some real life time away from all tech that isn't directly work related.  I shall return refreshed by early next year.

For now it's the Mark (fiftysixk) and Dan show here, and I know you will enjoy it, so just sit back and take it all in.

So again, welcome to the Liberation family, Dan!

Calling Doctor Dave

Dr. Dave is a former author here, and was a very regular voice of the PowerPC community, but I have not seen him around anywhere in about a year now.  He was very highly valued as a writer here, but due to his increasing amount of work as a Veterinarian (both professionally and charitably) he had to cease writing here in 2013.

Since we have lost touch, and I don't see him around here or on the Luddites blog, I just wanted to put it out there so he knows he's dearly missed.  I know that Dan the Luddite has a lot of respect for Dave also, so I'm sure he feels the same.

So to Dave I just wanted to say that you're always welcome here, whether as a writer or commenter.  The invitation is always open.  In the end though, saving animals is far more noble than old Macs.  Dave always did have his priorities straight.