Blackview Tab 11, a good budget tablet

Blackview Tab 11 tablet with optional wireless keyboard.

Blackview Tab 11 tablet with optional wireless keyboard.

Last year a family member told me that her compact mobile phone’s screen is too small to show family photos properly to her friends. She said her friends use tablets to show their family’s photos, and she asked me if it would be possible to access her existing WhatsApp account via a tablet. I explained that, without guaranteed access to Wi-Fi in public areas, it would not be feasible to use WhatsApp Web on a tablet, so a tablet would need to have a SIM card. As the tablet’s SIM card would have a different phone number she would need a different WhatsApp account on the tablet but that account could be a member of the existing WhatsApp chat groups of which she is a member on her mobile phone. Additionally, she could forward to her tablet’s WhatsApp account any photos she receives in her mobile phone WhatsApp’s account.

Coincidentally, a few weeks later we changed our home Broadband provider (the previous provider’s service was terrible), and the new package included a mobile phone SIM card with 5 GB data monthly at a very cheap price. We already have good SIM-only packages for our mobile phones, so the new SIM card was available to be used in a tablet. Therefore I decided to buy a budget tablet, and plumped for a Blackview Tab 10, which had a good specification for a budget tablet. It came in September 2021 with Blackview firmware version Tab10_EEA_TP717_V1.0.0_20210429V07 containing some bugs: the System Manager app did not work after I inserted a 128 GB microSD card and the tablet’s microphone did not work in WhatsApp, Signal and Skype. I was able to fix the bugs by upgrading the tablet’s firmware to version Tab10_EEA_TP717_V1.0_20210824V09 with the help of Blackview’s customer support department. I assume a Tab 10 purchased since September 2021 would already have the newer firmware. Anyway, after upgrading the firmware everything works well. The tablet’s camera performance is not stellar, but who buys a tablet for its cameras? I would summarise the Blackview Tab 10’s features as follows:

  • It has 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage.
  • It was supplied with a charger, USB C earphones (including microphone), OTG (on-the-go) adapter (USB C plug on one end, USB A socket on the other end), and a protective case which can be folded to make a kickstand.
  • It does not have a 3.5 mm jack socket for earphones, so you have to use earphones that have a USB C plug.
  • In the UK it works well to make and receive phone calls (4G), send and receive SMS messages (4G), and send and receive mobile data (4G). The SIM card for a mobile network that also supports 5G works with 4G too. I had to enter the APN (Access Point Name) parameters of my mobile service provider, which I found by googling.
  • According to Blackview the Tab 10’s mobile phone functionality does not work in the USA. only Europe and Asia.
  • It comes with Blackview’s Doke OS_P 1.0 using Android 11.
  • It has a bright, crisp screen, albeit without automatic brightness adjustment.
  • It can be connected to a magnetic keyboard designed for the Tab 10 (see Blackview’s online shop).
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work well.
  • It is fine for browsing the Web, viewing photos, watching YouTube videos and other videos, reading documents, chatting via WhatsApp, Signal and Skype.
  • The tap detection is a little slow, but fine for normal use.

There is a very comprehensive review of the Tab 10 on the NOTEBOOKCHECK Web site.

By the way, since I bought the Tab 10 Blackview has released a Tab 10 Pro with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage, with handwriting support. The additional memory, storage and handwriting support make the Tab 10 Pro a better choice than the Tab 10 for an extra GBP 30 or so.

Anyway, the Tab 10 filled the brief I had been given.

This post would have ended here except that, last week, I noticed that the Tab 10’s screen had partially popped out of its plastic housing. I suspect one of my family had either dropped the tablet or sat on it on the sofa. When I tried to push the screen back into its housing a crack formed in a corner of the screen. The crack appears to be in the LCD screen under the touch screen. I asked a local repair shop how much they would charge to repair it and they quoted me nearly half what I paid for the tablet, so I decided to buy the latest Blackview tablet model instead, the Tab 11. The Tab 11 has a higher specification than the Tab 10 and I paid less for it than I paid for the Tab 10 (although the Tab 10 is now being discounted by Blackview and some online stores and can be purchased for less than the Tab 11).

Apart from the higher specification CPU and GPU than the Tab 10, the Tab 11 has double the RAM and double the storage. The Tab 11 housing is aluminium alloy rather than the plastic housing of the Tab 10, and it weighs less than the Tab 10. The NOTEBOOKCHECK Web site does not yet have a comprehensive review of the Tab 11, but the TECHXREVIEWS Web site has a fairly comprehensive review. The Tab 11 is noticeably snappier and responsive than the Tab 10 and I like it a lot so far. Unlike the Tab 10, the Tab 11 has a 3.5 mm socket for earphones with a 3.5 mm jack plug, which I prefer.

The Tab 11’s mobile phone functionality does not work in the USA, only Europe and Asia according to Blackview. I can confirm a UK SIM card works perfectly in the Tab 11 in the UK. The SIM card I am using supports the mobile provider’s 5G network but the Tab 11 supports up to 4G LTE, which works fine with the SIM card.

There is significant commonality between the Tab 11 and Tab 10 as they both use Android 11. The Tab 10 has Blackview’s Doke OS_P 1.0 on top of Android 11, whereas the Tab 11 has Doke OS_P 2.0 which has several additional features (split screen functionality, for example).

I have seen a YouTube video review that claims the Tab 11 does not support Widevine L1, despite Blackview’s specification for the Tab 11. I have not tested that feature as it is not something I am particularly interested in. However, I read Blackview’s blog post ‘How to enable or check out Widevine L1 Certification on Blackview Tab 11?‘ and I installed the third-party Android app ‘DRM Info‘ which indicated the Tab 11 supports Widevine L1, although that is as far as I have checked. I installed the BBC iPlayer app on the Tab 11, and programmes play perfectly; video looks great to my eyes, and audio is also excellent. YouTube videos also play well and sound great. I’m not interested in playing games, so cannot comment on that aspect, although the reviews of the Tab 11 I have watched on YouTube claim games performance is good.

I would summarise the Blackview Tab 11’s features as follows:

  • It has 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage.
  • The housing is made of aluminium alloy and is strong and rigid.
  • The tablet weighs less than the Tab 10.
  • It was supplied with a charger, OTG (on-the-go) adapter (USB C plug on one end, USB A socket on the other end), and a protective case which can be folded to make a kickstand.
  • It has a 3.5 mm jack socket for earphones.
  • In the UK it works well to make and receive phone calls (4G), send and receive SMS messages (4G), and send and receive mobile data (4G). The SIM card for a mobile network that also supports 5G works with 4G too.
  • According to Blackview the Tab 11’s mobile phone functionality does not work in the USA. only Europe and Asia.
  • It comes with Blackview’s Doke OS_P 2.0 using Android 11.
  • It has a bright, crisp screen with automatic brightness adjustment (‘adaptive brightness’).
  • It can be connected to a wireless keyboard designed to work with the Tab 11 (see Blackview’s online shop).
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work well.
  • It is good for browsing the Web, viewing photos, watching YouTube videos and other videos, reading documents, chatting via WhatsApp, Signal and Skype.
  • The tap detection is good, and response is snappy.
  • Audio is good.

In summary, if you’re in the market for a budget tablet, in my opinion the Blackview Tab 11 would be a good choice; I am very pleased with it. At the time of writing, Blackview’s online shop lists the Tab 11 at GBP 168.44 and the Tab 10 at GBP 145.47. Unless your budget is tight, I would forget the Tab 10; the Tab 11 is the way to go. If you want a tablet that supports a UK SIM card as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the Blackview Tab 10 and Tab 11 are good budget choices in the UK, although the Tab 11 is a much better choice if you can afford the extra GBP 25 or so. However, US residents should note that the tablets do not support mobile networks in the USA (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work fine in any case). Blackview’s Web site states “This tablet’s 4G [mobile] network connection can only work in Europe and Asia area, please pay attention before purchasing or consult us.”

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Using GeckoLinux to resurrect my old nettop

Clementine music player in GeckoLinux LXQt on my 43-inch TV screen

Clementine music player in GeckoLinux LXQt on my 43-inch TV screen.

 
 
Background/History

Back in early 2010, when nettops were the latest thing, I bought an ASRock ION 330HT nettop, billed as an ‘HTPC‘ (Home Theatre PC):

  • CPU: Intel Atom 330 1.6GHz (Dual core)
  • Memory: Supports DDR2 800MHz, 2 x SO-DIMM slots, default 2GB (2 x 1GB), maximum up to 4GB (due to the CPU limitation, the actual memory size available to the OS may be less than 4GB).
  • Chipset: NVIDIA ION graphics processor
  • Graphics: NVIDIA ION Graphics, supports DX10 / HD 1080p playback
  • Audio: 7.1 CH HD Audio with DTS
  • HDD: 320GB 2.5″ HDD, capable of supporting RAID 0 and 1 by adopting a second 2.5″ HDD
  • ODD: DVD Super Multi
  • LAN: Gigabit Ethernet
  • WLAN: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Rear I/O: 1 x HDMI, 1 x D-Sub VGA, 6 x USB 2.0, 1 x S/PDIF, 1 x powered eSATA/USB (For powered eSATA function, Hot Plug function is supported in RAID / AHCI mode only. IDE mode does not support Hot Plug function.)
  • Remote Controller: MCE remote controller
  • External Power Unit: 65W/19V adapter
  • Firmware: PC BIOS (no UEFI)

In 2010 so-called smart TVs were not really that smart. I still had a large Sony Trinitron TV with a CRT, and I wanted to see if I could use the nettop with it. I bought a DVB-T USB adapter to enable the nettop to access digital terrestrial television, and I installed XBMC (now called KODI). I installed the now-defunct Sabayon Linux, and had a hell of a job getting ASRock’s CIR [Windows] MCE (Media Center Edition) remote to work. ASRock only released a driver (lirc_wb677) for the Nuvoton w836x7hg CIR chip in the nettop for Ubuntu 9.10, 10.04 and 10.10, and I had to patch it to get it to work with LIRC in Sabayon Linux. Later that year developer Jarrod Wilson released the first version of a new driver named nuvoton-cir for the Nuvoton w836x7hg chip, and in 2011 I had another struggle to get that working with LIRC and XBMC in Sabayon Linux.

To be able to use the DVB-T USB adapter I installed Tvheadend in Sabayon Linux, which worked well, although the adapter needed to be connected to the house TV aerial in order to provide good reception, i.e. the small indoor aerial supplied with the DVB-T adapter was next to useless.

I bought a VGA-to-Composite Video converter to connect the nettop’s D-Sub VGA socket to the TV’s composite video input. The Linux Desktop displayed on the CRT TV screen was OK-ish but, as you would expect, not comparable to the display on a TFT monitor.

Basically, I was not satisfied with the result, and the nettop went back into its box after very little use. I did get it out briefly in 2016 to upgrade the 2GB RAM (two 1GB modules) to the maximum allowable 4GB (two 2GB modules) in case I might want to use the nettop in future. With two 2GB RAM modules the nettop detects 3327MB of RAM, which limits what can be done with it.

When ‘proper’ smart TVs came onto the market, there was no longer any incentive to use an HTPC; everything and more that a nettop HTPC did could be done by a smart TV. In 2015 I succumbed and bought an LG smart TV, added a USB 1TB HDD, connected my DVD player to the TV and forgot about the nettop. The LG TV developed a fault three years later. I fixed it but its lack of catch-up TV apps for some of the main TV stations became irritating so, three years ago, I bought a new TV. The media player on the TV (a FINLUX TV) cannot play FLAC music files, and the Web browser is very slow with a buggy UI, so I began thinking about resurrecting the ASRock nettop in order to be able to browse the Web properly on my TV and to play my music flles through the TV’s sound bar. I finally got around to doing this recently, so here is the story…
 
 
Connections

I have a Rii i8 mini wireless keyboard which I used with my smart TV, so I connected its lead with USB wireless receiver pigtail and micro-USB charging plug pigtail to one of the USB ports on the back of the nettop. The lead is long enough to enable the USB wireless receiver (about the size of a USB Type A plug) to sit between the sound bar and the TV stand. The micro-USB charging plug pigtail lies out of sight on the TV stand behind the sound bar, ready to charge the mini keyboard when needed. Excellent wireless mini keyboard with touchpad, by the way.

The nettop is connected to the TV by an HDMI cable. The sound bar is connected to the TV by a 3.5mm jack plug cable, and connected to the nettop by an S/PDIF (optical) cable. I use the sound bar’s remote to switch easily between TV audio and nettop audio.
 
 
Finding a suitable Linux distribution

Given the limitations of the nettop’s CPU and memory, I wanted to install a distribution with a lightweight Desktop Environment. I like LXQt, so that would have been my choice if possible. Gentoo Linux is installed on my laptops, and Lubuntu 21.04 on my family’s desktop. LXQt is available for Gentoo Linux but I would not dream of installing Gentoo Linux on a relatively slow nettop with less than 4GB accessible, but Lubuntu seemed a good candidate. Therefore I created a Live USB pendrive with Lubuntu 21.10, which booted fine on all my other machines (including a legacy machine with PC BIOS only, not UEFI) but would not boot on the ASRock nettop. It would get as far as the GRUB menu then stall. So I tried Mageia (the Xfce release, as there is no Live LXQt release), but the result was similar. So then I tried PCLinuxOS (also the Xfce release, as there is no Live LXQt release), and that did install and run nicely (although the edges of the file manager’s windows were thick dashed lines). Everything worked well until I selected Suspend and tried to Resume, which resulted in the following messages on the screen and the nettop hung:

[ 1774.594461] IRQ 26: no longer affine to CPU1
[ 1774.602213] IRQ 16: no longer affine to CPU3
[ 1774.602227] IRQ 18: no longer affine to CPU3
[ 1774.613499] TSC synchronization [CPU#0 -> CPU#1]:
[ 1774.613504] Measured 377387956 cycles TSC warp between CPUs, turning off TSC clock.
[ 1774.613552] TSC found unstable after boot, most likely due to broken BIOS. Use 'tsc=unstable'.
[ 1774.609000] clocksource: Checking clocksource tsc synchronization from CPU 1 to CPUs 0.
[ 1774.609000] clocksource:         CPUs 0 ahead of CPU 1 for clocksource tsc.
[ 1774.609000] clocksource:         CPU 1 check durations 6592ns - 6592ns for clocksource tsc.
_

I could get rid of the clock-related messages by adding ‘tsc=unstable‘ to the kernel boot line in /boot/grub/grub.cfg, but I could not get rid of the ‘no longer affine’ messages and the hanging every time the nettop resumed from suspension. I wondered if the BIOS was to blame, so I downloaded onto a FAT32-formatted USB pendrive the latest version (1.2) of the 330HT BIOS from the ASRock Web site and installed it on the nettop (easy: press F6 at boot), but the problem remained. I began to wonder it any modern Linux release would work on this nettop.

So it was time to try another distribution. My searches on DistroWatch showed that GeckoLinux (“a Linux spin based on the openSUSE distribution, with a focus on polish and out-of-the-box usability on the desktop” according to its Web site) has static and rolling editions based on openSUSE Leap and openSUSE Tumbleweed respectively, and has many Desktop Environment releases, including LXQt. The availability of LXQt attracted my attention, but I was also curious to try openSUSE and the Btrfs file system. I did try openSUSE briefly many years ago (possibly more than a decade), but I have never used Btrfs. So I decided it was worth a shot.

I downloaded the latest available ISO for GeckoLinux ROLLING LXQt and used dd on one of my Linux machines to create a bootable USB pendrive:

user $ sudo blkid # Find out which device is the pen drive
user $ sudo dd if=/home/fitzcarraldo/Downloads/GeckoLinux_ROLLING_LXQt.x86_64-999.220105.0.iso of=/dev/sdd bs=4M status=progress && sync

I booted the pendrive on the nettop and launched the GeckoLinux installer, which had no trouble installing the OS on the nettop’s HDD. Further on I point out a couple of minor niggles I found with the application menu but, by and large, I find GeckoLinux Rolling LXQt provides a good, polished user interface and experience.
 
 
Setting up auto login and disabling a lock screen

LXQt Desktop in GeckoLinux LXQt on my 43-inch TV screen

LXQt Desktop in GeckoLinux LXQt on my 43-inch TV screen.

I found that, in order to get auto login working correctly in the installation, I needed to specify a user password during installation and then set up auto login after booting into the new installation:

‘Application Menu’ > ‘Preferences’ > ‘YaST User and Group Management’

  1. Select the user and click on ‘Expert Options’
  2. Select ‘Login Settings’
  3. Tick ‘Auto Login’
  4. Tick ‘Passwordless Logins’

One needs to be a little careful not to end up with both light-locker and XScreenSaver providing lock screens. I wanted only a screensaver and no locking of the user session after a period of inactivity. Any press of a key or tap of the touchpad on my Rii i8 mini wireless keyboard will simply stop the screensaver animation and then display the Desktop.

‘Application Menu’ > ‘Preferences’ > ‘LXQt Settings’ > ‘Session Settings’

  1. In ‘Basic Settings’, untick ‘Lock screen before suspending/hibernating’.
  2. In ‘Autostart’, ‘XScreenSaver’ under ‘LXQt Autostart’ needs to be ticked.

‘Application Menu’ > ‘Preferences’ > ‘Screensaver’

If a window appears informing you that the XScreenSaver daemon is not running and offering to launch it, click ‘OK’.

  1. Select ‘Mode: Only One Screen Saver’.
  2. Select a screensaver animation (I use ‘GL Matrix’).

‘Application Menu’ > ‘System Tools’ > ‘dconf Editor’

Configure the following settings for light-locker:

idle-hint false
late-locking false
lock-after-screensaver 0
lock-on-lid false
lock-on-suspend false

‘Application Menu’ > ‘Preferences’ > ‘LXQt Settings’ > ‘Power Management’

Untick ‘Enable Battery Watcher’, ‘Enable Lid Watcher’ and ‘Enable Idleness Watcher’ on the respective tabs.
 
 
Setting the hostname

I set a static hostname (I opted for ‘ion330ht’) by selecting ‘Application Menu’ > ‘Preferences’ > ‘YaST Network’ and entering the hostname on the ‘Hostname/DNS’ tab.
 
 
Package Management

Both the YaST Software Management GUI and the zypper command are new to me, so I still have a lot to learn.

The main package repositories were already added, but to learn how to add other repositories manually see the following articles:

Anyway, these are the repositories currently in use on this nettop:

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # zypper repos
Repository priorities in effect:                                      (See 'zypper lr -P' for details)
      90 (raised priority)  :  1 repository
      97 (raised priority)  :  1 repository
      98 (raised priority)  :  2 repositories
      99 (default priority) :  4 repositories
     115 (lowered priority) :  4 repositories

#  | Alias                                | Name                   | Enabled | GPG Check | Refresh
---+--------------------------------------+------------------------+---------+-----------+--------
 1 | Google-chrome                        | Google-chrome          | Yes     | (r ) Yes  | Yes
 2 | Google-talkplugin                    | Google-talkplugin      | Yes     | (r ) Yes  | Yes
 3 | Nvidia                               | Nvidia                 | Yes     | (r ) Yes  | Yes
 4 | Packman_Tumbleweed                   | Packman_Tumbleweed     | Yes     | (r ) Yes  | Yes
 5 | Tumbleweed_OSS                       | Tumbleweed_OSS         | Yes     | (r ) Yes  | Yes
 6 | Tumbleweed_OSS-updates               | Tumbleweed_OSS-updates | Yes     | (r ) Yes  | Yes
 7 | Tumbleweed_non-OSS                   | Tumbleweed_non-OSS     | Yes     | (r ) Yes  | Yes
 8 | http-download.opensuse.org-f6f93dd3  | openSUSE:Tumbleweed    | Yes     | (r ) Yes  | Yes
 9 | http-opensuse-guide.org-a78c9b99     | libdvdcss repository   | Yes     | (r ) Yes  | Yes
10 | https-download.opensuse.org-96367b31 | network:im:signal      | Yes     | (r ) Yes  | Yes
11 | https-download.opensuse.org-a5f414ff | openSUSE:Tumbleweed    | Yes     | (r ) Yes  | Yes
12 | skype-stable                         | Skype-stable           | Yes     | (  ) No   | Yes

Repositories 8 to 11 in the above list were added when I used ‘1 Cick Install’ on an openSUSE Software Web page for a specific package.

Most of what I needed was already installed, and I installed a few other packages using either the YaST Software Management GUI, the zypper command or ‘1 Click Install’:

● To be able to use the locate command to search for specific files:

   mlocate

● To be able to configure the LXQt Keyboard State Indicator on the Panel to display the flag of the keyboard language:

   iso-country-flags-png

● I was not sure if online updates would be advisable, but it looked potentially useful:

   yast2-online-update-configuration

● Some Web sites are not displayed correctly in Firefox, and I use Google’s Chrome browser for those:

   google-chrome-stable

● The Clementine music player (already installed) has the ability to display visualisations using projectM:

   projectM
   projectM-data

However, I could not get projectM to load its visualisation files, but I need to tinker more with it.

● I wanted to implement my scheme to scan automatically any files downloaded into the ~/Downloads/ directory (see my 2017 post), so I installed the following packages:

   clamav
   kdialog
   inotify-tools
   acl

(See further down for the addtional steps I took in order to get my scheme to work in GeckoLinux/openSUSE.)

● A GUI front-end to ClamAV in case I wanted to scan any files or directories manually:

   clamtk

● Although not essential, I installed the package monitoring-plugins-clamav in case I wanted to use it to check if the virus signatures are current, although my Bash script in a 2021 post serves the same purpose.

● To provide the commands dig, host and nslookup in case I need them in future:

   bind-utils

● To provide the man command and pages from the Linux Documentation Project:

   man-pages
   man

● To enable me to specify the window colour and size etc. in xterm, if I wish:

   xtermset

● To provide a GUI utility to show the amount of used and unused space in each partition:

   filelight

● Various multimedia codecs were already installed, but I had to install the package libdvdcss2 in order to be able to play commercial DVDs, as VLC would not play them. I installed it by using ‘1 Click Install’:

https://software.opensuse.org/package/libdvdcss2

● I use Signal Messenger, so I installed the package signal-messenger by using ‘1 Click Install’:

https://software.opensuse.org/package/signal-desktop

However, a subsequent rolling update flagged a dependency conflict requiring it to be uninstalled.

● To enable machines running Windows to browse SMB shares in File Explorer I installed the WS-Discovery daemon:

   wsdd

● To be able to edit tags in my music files:

   kid3-qt

● To be able to copy characters not available on the keyboard:

   kcharselect

● To install ir-keytable, *.toml files and 70-infrared.rules so that I could try to get the ASRock CIR MCE remote working using the in-kernel support for IR decoders, instead of LIRC:

   v4l-utils

● I no longer use KODI but I wanted to see if I could get the ASRock CIR MCE remote to control it using the in-kernel support for IR decoders instead of LIRC:

   kodi

● I prefer SMPlayer to VLC (which came installed in GeckoLinux Rolling LXQt):

   smplayer

● To be able to edit .mkv files, e.g. to change the default audio language etc.:

   mkvtoolnix
   mkvtoolnix-gui
 
 
Web Service Discovery host daemon (wsdd)

Having installed the package wsdd by using ‘Preferences’ > ‘YaST Software Management’ I performed the following steps as root user:

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # systemctl enable wsdd

I edited /etc/systemd/system/multi-user.target.wants/wsdd.service and added ‘--workgroup=HOME‘ to the ExecStart line, as my Windows workgroup is HOME rather than WORKGROUP:

ExecStart=/usr/sbin/wsdd --shortlog --workgroup=HOME -c /run/wsdd $WSDD_ARGS

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # systemctl daemon-reload
ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # systemctl start wsdd

Although not necessary (and nothing to do with wsdd on the nettop), I performed the steps given in my 2020 blog post ‘A Linux command-line utility to discover and list WSD-enabled computers and printers on a home network‘. Works a treat.
 
 
SMB

This SMB configuration is for my home network that uses Broadcast NetBIOS Name Resolution, SMB and WS-Discovery. See the following posts (and all the comments on each, some of which contain important updates) for an explanation of how I set these up, making it relatively straightforward to add a device that uses the SMB protocol and enable it to browse shares on the other machines, and vice versa.

Note also that the smb, nmb and wsdd services must be running (see the next section).

I used the command ‘ip address‘ to find out the names of the wired and wireless interfaces, then I edited the file /etc/samba/smb.conf to contain the following (the Workgroup name in my home network is ‘HOME’ rather than the usual default of ‘WORKGROUP’):

[global]
;no need to specify 'smb ports' as ports 139 & 445 used by default
workgroup = HOME
netbios name = ion330ht
case sensitive = no
browseable = yes

;If this machine becomes a Master Browser, the following parameter allows it to hold the browse list
browse list = yes

printcap name = cups
printing = cups

log file = /var/log/samba/log.%m
max log size = 50

security = user
map to guest = bad user

encrypt passwords = yes
passdb backend = tdbsam

domain master = no
local master = yes
preferred master = yes
name resolve order = bcast
dns proxy = no

;Listen for NetBIOS on Ethernet and Wireless interfaces
;Names of the interfaces found using ifconfig command
interfaces = enp0s10 wlp2s0
server string = Samba Server on ion330ht
log level = 2

[netlogon]
comment = Network Logon Service
path = /var/lib/samba/netlogon
guest ok = yes

[printers]
comment = All Printers
path = /var/spool/samba
guest ok = yes
printable = yes
create mask = 0700

[print$]
path = /var/lib/samba/printers
write list = @adm root
guest ok = yes

[fitzcarraldo]
path = /home/fitzcarraldo/Public-fitzcarraldo
comment = To pass files to and from ion330ht
browseable = yes
public = yes
writable = yes
valid users = fitzcarraldo

I used the command ‘smbpasswd -a fitzcarraldo‘ to specify my SMB password, which has to be the same as my Linux password.
 
 
Starting Services

‘Application Menu’ > ‘Preferences’ > ‘YaST Services Manager’

In addition to any services already configured to start ‘On Boot’, make sure the following are set to start ‘On Boot’:

  • clamd
  • cups
  • nmb
  • ntpd
  • smb
  • wsdd

 
 
User’s Locale

Even though I had configured during installation (and confirmed after installation using YaST) the language, keyboard language and location as British English and Europe/London respectively, the dates of files displayed by PCManFM-Qt were still in US format. I added the following lines to the file ~/.profile to fix that:

export LANG="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_CTYPE="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_NUMERIC="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_TIME="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_COLLATE="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_MONETARY="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_MESSAGES="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_PAPER="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_NAME="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_ADDRESS="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_TELEPHONE="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_MEASUREMENT="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_IDENTIFICATION="en_GB.UTF-8"
export LC_ALL=""

Susequently I discovered that the file /etc/sysconfig/language contains variables that I probably could have edited manually to achieve the same thing for users’ accounts.
 
 
GUI Appearance

As I am sitting on a sofa viewing the TV screen from a distance, text and icons have to be larger than on a normal desktop or laptop machine. This was easy enough to configure.

I right-clicked on the LXQt Panel and selected ‘Configure Panel’ to increase the height of the Panel and the size of the Panel icons and Panel font. I selected ‘Preferences’ > ‘LXQt Settings’ > ‘Appearance’ to increase the size of the icons and font in the rest of the UI, to change the icon theme to Oxygen, and to change the mouse cursor size to 50. I selected ‘Preferences’ > ‘LXQt Settings’ > ‘Desktop’ (or right-click on the Desktop and select ‘Desktop Preferences’) to increase the icon size and font size on the Desktop.

I increased the font size of the Firefox address bar, bookmarks toolbar, tabs and page using the two methods (devp and userChrome.css) described on the following Mozilla Support page: Text size of menus and tool bars way too small. I want to be able to increase the size.

Firefox font size on my 43-inch TV screen

Firefox font size on my 43-inch TV screen.

 
 
ClamAV virus signatures database was not being updated

The ClamAV signatures database was not being updated automatically after I installed ClamAV, so I needed to fix that.

Using the following commands listed on the openSUSE Wiki page for ClamAV did not work, because there is no freshclam.service file:

fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> sudo systemctl start freshclam
fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> sudo systemctl enable freshclam

I suspected that GeckoLinux/openSUSE Tumbleweed uses systemd timers instead of cron, and indeed I found a timer file for freshclam:

fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> locate timer | grep fresh
/usr/lib/systemd/system/freshclam.timer
fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> cat /usr/lib/systemd/system/freshclam.timer
[Unit]
Description=Timer for freshclam virus definitions downloader

[Timer]
OnBootSec=5m
OnUnitActiveSec=2h
Persistent=true

[Install]
WantedBy=timers.target

I enabled it as follows:

fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> sudo systemctl enable freshclam.timer
[sudo] password for root: 
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/timers.target.wants/freshclam.timer → /usr/lib/systemd/system/freshclam.timer.
fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> sudo systemctl start freshclam.timer
fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> sudo systemctl is-active freshclam.timer
active

systemd now runs freshclam 5 minutes after the machine boots and every 2 hours thereafter.
 
 
Automatic scanning for viruses in the Downloads directory

See my 2017 blog post Using the ClamAV daemon to scan files placed in my Downloads directory in Gentoo Linux, which I have implemented successfully on machines running Gentoo Linux and Lubuntu. However, in GeckoLinux it took a bit more effort to get the scheme working.

GeckoLinux Rolling (and, I assume, also openSUSE Tumbleweed) allocates clamav to a user named ‘vscan‘ and a group named ‘vscan‘ instead of a user named ‘clamav‘ and a group named ‘clamav‘.

fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> ls -la /var/lib/clamav
total 343504
drwxr-xr-x 1 vscan vscan        84 Jan 14 20:27 .
drwxr-xr-x 1 root  root        534 Jan 11 12:08 ..
-rw-r--r-- 1 vscan vscan    293670 Jan 11 12:36 bytecode.cvd
-rw-r--r-- 1 vscan vscan 180965376 Jan 14 10:29 daily.cld
-rw-r--r-- 1 vscan vscan        69 Jan 11 12:33 freshclam.dat
-rw-r--r-- 1 vscan vscan 170479789 Jan 11 12:35 main.cvd

Why GeckoLinux (and, I assume, openSUSE) is different from Gentoo Linux and *buntu I don’t know, but I wish Linux distributions were consistent in such cases.

This test command did not work:

fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> clamdscan --fdpass --move=/home/fitzcarraldo/virus-quarantine /home/fitzcarraldo/eicarcom2.zip
WARNING: Ignoring deprecated option AllowSupplementaryGroups at /etc/clamd.conf:790
/home/fitzcarraldo/eicarcom2.zip: File path check failure: Permission denied. ERROR
/home/fitzcarraldo/eicarcom2.zip: File path check failure: Permission denied. ERROR

----------- SCAN SUMMARY -----------
Infected files: 0
Total errors: 2
Time: 0.003 sec (0 m 0 s)
Start Date: 2022:01:14 20:36:05
End Date:   2022:01:14 20:36:05

Anyway, this is what I did (I am not sure precisely which command or commands below were necessary to get things working):

fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> setfacl -Rd -m 'u:vscan:rx' /home/fitzcarraldo
fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> sudo setfacl -Rd -m 'u:vscan:rx' /home/fitzcarraldo
fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> sudo usermod -a -G fitzcarraldo vscan
fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> sudo usermod -a -G vscan fitzcarraldo
fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> groups
fitzcarraldo vscan users video lp audio network storage wheel autologin
fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> sudo reboot

(This was the reason I installed the package acl I mentioned earlier.)

After the above changes, this test command does work:

fitzcarraldo@ion330ht:~> clamdscan --fdpass --move=/home/fitzcarraldo/virus-quarantine /home/fitzcarraldo/eicarcom2.zip
WARNING: Ignoring deprecated option AllowSupplementaryGroups at /etc/clamd.conf:790
/home/fitzcarraldo/eicarcom2.zip: Win.Test.EICAR_HDB-1 FOUND
/home/fitzcarraldo/eicarcom2.zip: moved to '/home/fitzcarraldo/virus-quarantine/eicarcom2.zip'

----------- SCAN SUMMARY -----------
Infected files: 1
Time: 0.020 sec (0 m 0 s)
Start Date: 2022:01:14 20:41:27
End Date:   2022:01:14 20:41:27

Also the scheme described in my aforementioned 2017 post now works in this installation.
 
 
Corrupted filesystem

Not long after I installed GeckoLinux I left the nettop running unattended on several occasions, and a couple of times I returned to find the HDD clicking rapidly (I assume this was the noise of the head continually seeking unsuccessfully), and had to press the machine’s Power switch in order to stop this. As the nettop had been used very little and was in almost new condition, I suspected that the problem was not caused by the HDD but rather by the software installation. I have read about corruption of Btrfs filesystems on several occasions in the past, so I wondered if the problem was caused by Btrfs itself.

I booted the Live pendrive that I had used to install GeckoLinux Rolling LXQt, became the root user (‘sudo su‘) and entered the command ‘btrfs check /dev/sda1‘, which returned no errors. I did some searching on the Web and came across commands such as ‘btrfs check --repair‘ which appeared to be analagous to ‘fsck‘ for other filesystems. It was only later that I found an article ‘How to recover a BTRFS partition‘ with a dire warning about only using that command as a last resort. Before finding that article I ran the following commands:

localhost:/home/linux # btrfs rescue zero-log /dev/sda1
Clearing log on /dev/sda1, previous log_root 0, level 0
localhost:/home/linux # btrfs check --repair /dev/sda1
enabling repair mode
WARNING:

        Do not use --repair unless you are advised to do so by a developer
        or an experienced user, and then only after having accepted that no
        fsck can successfully repair all types of filesystem corruption. Eg.
        some software or hardware bugs can fatally damage a volume.
        The operation will start in 10 seconds.
        Use Ctrl-C to stop it.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Starting repair.
Opening filesystem to check...
Checking filesystem on /dev/sda1
UUID: 82a56d4a-a234-4543-8596-99d98b84c581
ERROR: Corrupted fs, no valid METADATA block group found

Darn it! I tried the following command to see if it returned an error message:

localhost:/home/linux # btrfs rescue zero-log /dev/sda1
Clearing log on /dev/sda1, previous log_root 0, level 0

Then I found the aforementioned article ‘How to recover a BTRFS partition’ and entered the following command which the article states can be used to rebuild the filesystem metadata tree:

localhost:/home/linux # btrfs rescue chunk-recover /dev/sda1/

It was very slow, occasionally displaying lines ‘Scanning: <n> in dev0‘, so I didn’t hang around to wait for it to complete. When I came back several hours later I found that it had finished and was displaying the final lines of output in the terminal window:

[...]
Scanning: 14673166336 in dev0
Scanning: 14742372352 in dev0
Scanning: 14813675520 in dev0
Scanning: 14884454400 in dev0
Scanning: 14954708992 in dev0
Scanning: 15025487872 in dev0
Scanning: 15094693888 in dev0
Scanning: 15143624704 in dev0
Scanning: 15213707264 in dev0
Scanning: 15284486144 in dev0
Scanning: DONE in dev0
Check chunks successfully with no orphans
Chunk tree recovered successfully

I then ran the ‘rescue zero-log‘ and ‘check‘ commands again to see if there would be an error message:

localhost:/home/linux # btrfs rescue zero-log /dev/sda1
Clearing log on /dev/sda1, previous log_root 0, level 0
localhost:/home/linux # btrfs check /dev/sda1
Opening filesystem to check...
Checking filesystem on /dev/sda1
UUID: 82a56d4a-a234-4543-8596-99d98b84c581
[1/7] checking root items
Fixed 0 roots.
[2/7] checking extents
No device size related problem found
[3/7] checking free space tree
[4/7] checking fs roots
[5/7] checking only csums items (without verifying data)
[6/7] checking root refs
[7/7] checking quota groups skipped (not enabled on this FS)
found 159583424512 bytes used, no error found
total csum bytes: 155206908
total tree bytes: 614842368
total fs tree bytes: 389431296
total extent tree bytes: 28753920
btree space waste bytes: 131658663
file data blocks allocated: 188270157824
 referenced 182537080832

I hoped the filesystem had indeed been repaired. I then rebooted the machine from the HDD and it has been fine ever since.
 
 
Minor bug in the applications menu entry YaST Filesystem Snapshots

Preferences menu in GeckoLinux LXQt on my 43-inch TV screen

Preferences menu in GeckoLinux LXQt on my 43-inch TV screen.

The entry ‘Preferences’ > ‘YaST Filesystem Snapshots’ in the LXQt Application Menu would not launch Snapper (there was not even an authentication prompt to enter the root user’s password). All the other menu entries under ‘Preferences’ worked as expected. What made this more perplexing was that ‘Filesystem Snapshots’ in the ‘Miscellaneous’ section of the YaST Control Centre (‘Preferences’ > ‘YaST’ in the LXQt application menu) did launch Snapper, and I believe that selection also uses the desktop configuration file /usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Snapper.desktop).

To check if there was something wrong with the desktop configuration file I copied /usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Snapper.desktop to the Desktop, changed its ownership to fitzcarraldo.fitzcarraldo, right-clicked on it and selected ‘Trust this executable’, and it worked as expected when I double-clicked on it. So why did it not work when selected from the application menu?

I then compared the Snapper desktop file to the other YaST2 desktop files in the directory:

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # grep Exec /usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast*
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Alternatives.desktop:Exec=/usr/bin/xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 alternatives"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Bootloader.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 bootloader"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.CheckMedia.desktop:Exec=/sbin/yast2 checkmedia
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Disk.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 partitioner"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Firewall.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 firewall"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Host.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 host"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Installation.desktop:Exec=/bin/true
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Keyboard.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 keyboard"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.LAN.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 lan"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Language.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 language"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.NTPClient.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 ntp-client"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.OnlineUpdateConfiguration.desktop:Exec=/sbin/yast2 online_update_configuration
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Printer.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 printer"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Proxy.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 proxy"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.ReleaseNotes.desktop:Exec=/sbin/yast2 inst_release_notes
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Remote.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 remote"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Security.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 security"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.ServicesManager.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 services-manager"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Snapper.desktop:Exec=/usr/bin/xdg-su -c '/sbin/yast2 snapper'
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Sudo.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 sudo"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.SWSingle.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 sw_single"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.SWSource.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 repositories"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Sysconfig.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 sysconfig"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Timezone.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 timezone"
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Upgrade.desktop:Exec=/bin/true
/usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Users.desktop:Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 users"

To get the LXQt application menu item ‘Preferences’ > ‘YaST Filesystem Snapshots’ to work I had to do the following:

1. Edit /usr/share/applications/YaST2/org.opensuse.yast.Snapper.desktop and change the following line:

Exec=/usr/bin/xdg-su -c '/sbin/yast2 snapper'

to:

Exec=xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 snapper"

2. Run the following command (as root user):

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # update-desktop-database /usr/share/applications

The file org.opensuse.yast.Alternatives.desktop contains Exec=/usr/bin/xdg-su -c "/sbin/yast2 alternatives" and works, and xdg-su is indeed in the directory /usr/bin/, so I don’t know why the original Snapper desktop file would not work from the LXQt application menu. Anyway, the modified file works, although I could have done without wasting several hours trying to fix the problem, even though it was an inconvenience rather than a show-stopper.
 
 
Applications Menu entries for YaST

I personally found the large number of YaST entries in the Application Menu confusing and unecessary (see the screenshots above and below). It also looks cluttered. The individual YaST entries can also be accessed via ‘Preferences’ > ‘YaST Control Center’, so a shorter menu could have been implemented instead. Also, the three entries ‘Other’ > ‘YaST Software’, ‘Preferences’ > ‘YaST Software’ and ‘Preferences’ > ‘YaST Software Management’ all do the same thing.

Other menu in GeckoLinux LXQt on my 43-inch TV screen

Other menu in GeckoLinux LXQt on my 43-inch TV screen.

 
 
ASRock CIR MCE Remote

I should point out that I tinkered with the infrared remote to scratch an itch, because the Rii i8 mini wireless keyboard with touchpad is far superior to a CIR MCE remote and can be used to control the Desktop Environment and any application, including KODI, with ease. MCE remotes are a pain in the neck to configure. The KODI Wiki states: “MCE Remotes – Infrared remote controls made for computers that follow the MCE standard. These remotes should work with Kodi out-of-the-box on Windows and Linux.” Good luck with that!

Anyway, the following are useful background reading on configuring Linux to use infrared remotes:

Here is what I had to do to configure GeckoLinux to recognise the ASRock MCE remote:

1. Ensure the IR receiver is enabled in the ASRock ION 330HT BIOS.

2. Do not install lirc. If it is installed, uninstall it and any associated LIRC packages (except liblirc_client0 which is a dependency of vlc in GeckoLinux/openSUSE, unless you don’t want VLC).

3. The nuvoton-cir module should be loaded automatically at boot if the IR receiver is enabled in the BIOS:

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # lsmod | grep nuvoton
nuvoton_cir            32768  0
rc_core                65536  6 ir_rc6_decoder,rc_rc6_mce,cec,ir_rc5_decoder,nuvoton_cir
ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # lsmod | grep lirc
ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo #

4. Install the package v4l-utils to install the ir-keytable utility, the files /etc/rc_maps.cfg, /lib/udev/rc_keymaps/*.toml and /usr/lib/udev/rules.d/70-infrared.rules

5. Enter the command ‘ir-keytable‘ and you should see some output similar to the following:

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # ir-keytable
Found /sys/class/rc/rc0/ with:
        Name: Nuvoton w836x7hg Infrared Remote Transceiver
        Driver: nuvoton-cir
        Default keymap: rc-rc6-mce
        Input device: /dev/input/event6
        LIRC device: /dev/lirc0
        Supported kernel protocols: lirc rc-5 rc-5-sz jvc sony nec sanyo mce_kbd rc-6 sharp xmp imon rc-mm 
        Enabled kernel protocols: lirc rc-6 
        bus: 25, vendor/product: 1050:00b4, version: 0x0073
        Repeat delay = 500 ms, repeat period = 125 ms

6. Enter the command ‘ir-keytable -t‘ and press some keys on the remote. You should see something like the following:

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # ir-keytable -t
Testing events. Please, press CTRL-C to abort.
297.938077: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f0401
297.938119: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f0401
297.938119: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_down: KEY_NUMERIC_1(0x0201)
297.938119: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
298.154989: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_up: KEY_NUMERIC_1(0x0201)
298.154989: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
301.628475: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f0402 toggle=1
301.628516: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f0402
301.628516: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_down: KEY_NUMERIC_2(0x0202)
301.628516: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
301.846981: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_up: KEY_NUMERIC_2(0x0202)
301.846981: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
307.577177: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f0422
307.577219: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f0422
307.577219: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_down: KEY_OK(0x0160)
307.577219: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
307.725639: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f0422
307.725671: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f0422
307.725671: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
307.943009: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_up: KEY_OK(0x0160)
307.943009: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
311.272866: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f040d toggle=1
311.272930: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f040d
311.272930: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_down: KEY_MEDIA(0x00e2)
311.272930: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
311.420857: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f040d toggle=1
311.420900: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f040d
311.420900: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
311.638978: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_up: KEY_MEDIA(0x00e2)
311.638978: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
^C

7. Check the file /etc/rc_maps.cfg exists and includes the following line:

*       rc-rc6-mce               rc6_mce.toml

 

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # cat /etc/rc_maps.cfg
#
# Keymaps table
#
# This table creates an association between a keycode file and a kernel
# driver. It can be used to automatically override a keycode definition.
#
# Although not yet tested, it is mented to be added at udev.
#
# To use, you just need to run:
#       ./ir-keytable -a
#
# Or, if the remote is not the first device:
#       ./ir-keytable -a -s rc1         # for RC at rc1
#

# Format:
#       driver - name of the driver provided via uevent - use * for any driver
#       table -  RC keymap table, provided via uevent - use * for any table
#       file - file name. If directory is not specified, it will default to
#               /etc/rc_keymaps.
# For example:
# driver        table                           file
# cx8800        *                               ./keycodes/rc5_hauppauge_new.toml
# *             rc-avermedia-m135a-rm-jx        ./keycodes/kworld_315u.toml
# saa7134       rc-avermedia-m135a-rm-jx        ./keycodes/keycodes/nec_terratec_cinergy_xs.toml
# em28xx        *                               ./keycodes/kworld_315u.toml
# *             *                               ./keycodes/rc5_hauppauge_new.toml

# Table to automatically load the rc maps for the bundled IR's provided with the
# devices supported by the linux kernel

#driver table                    file
*       rc-adstech-dvb-t-pci     adstech_dvb_t_pci.toml
*       rc-alink-dtu-m           alink_dtu_m.toml
*       rc-anysee                anysee.toml
*       rc-apac-viewcomp         apac_viewcomp.toml
*       rc-astrometa-t2hybrid    astrometa_t2hybrid.toml
*       rc-asus-pc39             asus_pc39.toml
*       rc-asus-ps3-100          asus_ps3_100.toml
*       rc-ati-tv-wonder-hd-600  ati_tv_wonder_hd_600.toml
*       rc-ati-x10               ati_x10.toml
*       rc-avermedia-a16d        avermedia_a16d.toml
*       rc-avermedia-cardbus     avermedia_cardbus.toml
*       rc-avermedia-dvbt        avermedia_dvbt.toml
*       rc-avermedia-m135a       avermedia_m135a.toml
*       rc-avermedia-m733a-rm-k6 avermedia_m733a_rm_k6.toml
*       rc-avermedia-rm-ks       avermedia_rm_ks.toml
*       rc-avermedia             avermedia.toml
*       rc-avertv-303            avertv_303.toml
*       rc-azurewave-ad-tu700    azurewave_ad_tu700.toml
*       rc-beelink-gs1           beelink_gs1.toml
*       rc-behold-columbus       behold_columbus.toml
*       rc-behold                behold.toml
*       rc-budget-ci-old         budget_ci_old.toml
*       rc-cec                   cec.toml
*       rc-cinergy-1400          cinergy_1400.toml
*       rc-cinergy               cinergy.toml
*       rc-ct-90405              ct_90405.toml
*       rc-d680-dmb              d680_dmb.toml
*       rc-delock-61959          delock_61959.toml
*       rc-dib0700-nec           dib0700_nec.toml
*       rc-dib0700-rc5           dib0700_rc5.toml
*       rc-digitalnow-tinytwin   digitalnow_tinytwin.toml
*       rc-digittrade            digittrade.toml
*       rc-dm1105-nec            dm1105_nec.toml
*       rc-dntv-live-dvb-t       dntv_live_dvb_t.toml
*       rc-dntv-live-dvbt-pro    dntv_live_dvbt_pro.toml
*       rc-dtt200u               dtt200u.toml
*       rc-dvbsky                dvbsky.toml
*       rc-dvico-mce             dvico_mce.toml
*       rc-dvico-portable        dvico_portable.toml
*       rc-em-terratec           em_terratec.toml
*       rc-encore-enltv-fm53     encore_enltv_fm53.toml
*       rc-encore-enltv          encore_enltv.toml
*       rc-encore-enltv2         encore_enltv2.toml
*       rc-evga-indtube          evga_indtube.toml
*       rc-eztv                  eztv.toml
*       rc-flydvb                flydvb.toml
*       rc-flyvideo              flyvideo.toml
*       rc-fusionhdtv-mce        fusionhdtv_mce.toml
*       rc-gadmei-rm008z         gadmei_rm008z.toml
*       rc-geekbox               geekbox.toml
*       rc-genius-tvgo-a11mce    genius_tvgo_a11mce.toml
*       rc-gotview7135           gotview7135.toml
*       rc-hauppauge             hauppauge.toml
*       rc-hisi-poplar           hisi_poplar.toml
*       rc-hisi-tv-demo          hisi_tv_demo.toml
*       rc-imon-mce              imon_mce.toml
*       rc-imon-pad              imon_pad.toml
*       rc-imon-rsc              imon_rsc.toml
*       rc-iodata-bctv7e         iodata_bctv7e.toml
*       rc-it913x-v1             it913x_v1.toml
*       rc-it913x-v2             it913x_v2.toml
*       rc-kaiomy                kaiomy.toml
*       rc-khadas                khadas.toml
*       rc-khamsin               khamsin.toml
*       rc-kworld-315u           kworld_315u.toml
*       rc-kworld-pc150u         kworld_pc150u.toml
*       rc-kworld-plus-tv-analog kworld_plus_tv_analog.toml
*       rc-leadtek-y04g0051      leadtek_y04g0051.toml
*       rc-lme2510               lme2510.toml
*       rc-manli                 manli.toml
*       rc-mecool-kii-pro        mecool_kii_pro.toml
*       rc-mecool-kiii-pro       mecool_kiii_pro.toml
*       rc-medion-x10-digitainer medion_x10_digitainer.toml
*       rc-medion-x10-or2x       medion_x10_or2x.toml
*       rc-medion-x10            medion_x10.toml
*       rc-minix-neo             minix_neo.toml
*       rc-msi-digivox-ii        msi_digivox_ii.toml
*       rc-msi-digivox-iii       msi_digivox_iii.toml
*       rc-msi-tvanywhere-plus   msi_tvanywhere_plus.toml
*       rc-msi-tvanywhere        msi_tvanywhere.toml
*       rc-nebula                nebula.toml
*       rc-nec-terratec-cinergy-xs nec_terratec_cinergy_xs.toml
*       rc-norwood               norwood.toml
*       rc-npgtech               npgtech.toml
*       rc-odroid                odroid.toml
*       rc-pctv-sedna            pctv_sedna.toml
*       rc-pine64                pine64.toml
*       rc-pinnacle-color        pinnacle_color.toml
*       rc-pinnacle-grey         pinnacle_grey.toml
*       rc-pinnacle-pctv-hd      pinnacle_pctv_hd.toml
*       rc-pixelview-002t        pixelview_002t.toml
*       rc-pixelview-mk12        pixelview_mk12.toml
*       rc-pixelview-new         pixelview_new.toml
*       rc-pixelview             pixelview.toml
*       rc-powercolor-real-angel powercolor_real_angel.toml
*       rc-proteus-2309          proteus_2309.toml
*       rc-purpletv              purpletv.toml
*       rc-pv951                 pv951.toml
*       rc-rc6-mce               rc6_mce.toml
*       rc-real-audio-220-32-keys real_audio_220_32_keys.toml
*       rc-reddo                 reddo.toml
*       rc-snapstream-firefly    snapstream_firefly.toml
*       rc-streamzap             streamzap.toml
*       rc-su3000                su3000.toml
*       rc-tanix-tx3mini         tanix_tx3mini.toml
*       rc-tanix-tx5max          tanix_tx5max.toml
*       rc-tbs-nec               tbs_nec.toml
*       rc-technisat-ts35        technisat_ts35.toml
*       rc-technisat-usb2        technisat_usb2.toml
*       rc-terratec-cinergy-c-pci terratec_cinergy_c_pci.toml
*       rc-terratec-cinergy-s2-hd terratec_cinergy_s2_hd.toml
*       rc-terratec-cinergy-xs   terratec_cinergy_xs.toml
*       rc-terratec-slim-2       terratec_slim_2.toml
*       rc-terratec-slim         terratec_slim.toml
*       rc-tevii-nec             tevii_nec.toml
*       rc-tivo                  tivo.toml
*       rc-total-media-in-hand-02 total_media_in_hand_02.toml
*       rc-total-media-in-hand   total_media_in_hand.toml
*       rc-trekstor              trekstor.toml
*       rc-tt-1500               tt_1500.toml
*       rc-twinhan-dtv-cab-ci    twinhan_dtv_cab_ci.toml
*       rc-twinhan1027           twinhan_vp1027_dvbs.toml
*       rc-vega-s9x              vega_s9x.toml
*       rc-videomate-k100        videomate_k100.toml
*       rc-videomate-s350        videomate_s350.toml
*       rc-videomate-tv-pvr      videomate_tv_pvr.toml
*       rc-videostrong-kii-pro   kii_pro.toml
*       rc-wetek-hub             wetek_hub.toml
*       rc-wetek-play2           wetek_play2.toml
*       rc-winfast-usbii-deluxe  winfast_usbii_deluxe.toml
*       rc-winfast               winfast.toml
*       rc-x96max                x96max.toml
*       rc-xbox-dvd              xbox_dvd.toml
*       rc-zx-irdec              zx_irdec.toml
# *     *                        af9005.toml          # found in af9005-remote.c
# *     *                        az6027.toml          # found in az6027.c
# *     *                        cinergyt2.toml       # found in cinergyT2-core.c
# *     *                        dibusb.toml          # found in dibusb-common.c
# *     *                        digitv.toml          # found in digitv.c
# *     *                        megasky.toml         # found in m920x.c
# *     *                        tvwalkertwin.toml    # found in m920x.c
# *     *                        pinnacle310e.toml    # found in m920x.c
# *     *                        haupp.toml           # found in nova-t-usb2.c
# *     *                        opera1.toml          # found in opera1.c
# *     *                        vp702x.toml          # found in vp702x.c

8. Copy the file /lib/udev/rc_keymaps/rc6_mce.toml to /etc/rc_keymaps/rc6_mce.toml and edit the latter. For example:

[[protocols]]
name = "rc6_mce"
protocol = "rc6"
variant = "rc6_mce"
[protocols.scancodes]
0x800f0400 = "KEY_KP0"
0x800f0401 = "KEY_KP1"
0x800f0402 = "KEY_KP2"
0x800f0403 = "KEY_KP3"
0x800f0404 = "KEY_KP4"
0x800f0405 = "KEY_KP5"
0x800f0406 = "KEY_KP6"
0x800f0407 = "KEY_KP7"
0x800f0408 = "KEY_KP8"
0x800f0409 = "KEY_KP9"
0x800f040a = "KEY_DELETE"
0x800f040b = "KEY_ENTER"
0x800f040c = "KEY_SLEEP"                  # Power
0x800f040d = "KEY_MEDIA"                  # Left Meta, Start
0x800f040e = "KEY_MUTE"
0x800f040f = "KEY_I"                      # Info
0x800f0410 = "KEY_VOLUMEUP"               # Volume Up
0x800f0411 = "KEY_VOLUMEDOWN"             # Volume Down
0x800f0412 = "KEY_CHANNELUP"
0x800f0413 = "KEY_CHANNELDOWN"
0x800f0414 = "KEY_FORWARD"                # Fast forward
0x800f0415 = "KEY_REWIND"                 # Rewind
0x800f0416 = "KEY_PLAY"
0x800f0417 = "KEY_RECORD"
0x800f0418 = "KEY_PLAYPAUSE"              # Was KEY_PLAY but didn't pause in Clementine
0x800f0419 = "KEY_STOP"
0x800f041a = "KEY_NEXTSONG"               # Skip Next
0x800f041b = "KEY_PREVIOUSSONG"           # Skip Previous
0x800f041c = "KEY_NUMERIC_POUND"
0x800f041d = "KEY_NUMERIC_STAR"
0x800f041e = "KEY_UP"
0x800f041f = "KEY_DOWN"
0x800f0420 = "KEY_LEFT"
0x800f0421 = "KEY_RIGHT"
0x800f0422 = "KEY_ENTER"                  # OK
0x800f0423 = "KEY_BACKSPACE"              # Back / Exit
0x800f0424 = "KEY_DVD"
0x800f0425 = "KEY_TUNER"
0x800f0426 = "KEY_EPG"
0x800f0427 = "KEY_ZOOM"
0x800f043a = "KEY_BRIGHTNESSUP"
0x800f0446 = "KEY_TV"
0x800f0447 = "KEY_AUDIO"
0x800f0448 = "KEY_PVR"
0x800f0449 = "KEY_CAMERA"
0x800f044a = "KEY_VIDEO"
0x800f044c = "KEY_LANGUAGE"
0x800f044d = "KEY_TITLE"
0x800f044e = "KEY_PRINT"
0x800f0450 = "KEY_RADIO"
0x800f045a = "KEY_SUBTITLE"
0x800f045b = "KEY_RED"
0x800f045c = "KEY_GREEN"                  # Green
0x800f045d = "KEY_YELLOW"
0x800f045e = "KEY_BLUE"                   # Blue
0x800f0465 = "KEY_POWER2"
0x800f046e = "KEY_PLAYPAUSE"
0x800f046f = "KEY_MEDIA"
0x800f0480 = "KEY_BRIGHTNESSDOWN"
0x800f0481 = "KEY_PLAYPAUSE"

9. Run the following command to load the edited keymap and check that it works:

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # ir-keytable -c -w /etc/rc_keymaps/rc6_mce.toml
Read rc6_mce table
Old keytable cleared
Wrote 60 keycode(s) to driver
Protocols changed to rc-6

By the way, adding ‘-p RC-5,RC-6‘ to that command would select the rc-5 and rc-6 protocols:

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # ir-keytable -c -p RC-5,RC-6 -w /etc/rc_keymaps/rc6_mce.toml
Read rc6_mce table
Old keytable cleared
Wrote 60 keycode(s) to driver
Protocols changed to rc-5 rc-6

10. Check that the protocols have been enabled and the keymap loaded:

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # ir-keytable
Found /sys/class/rc/rc0/ with:
        Name: Nuvoton w836x7hg Infrared Remote Transceiver
        Driver: nuvoton-cir
        Default keymap: rc-rc6-mce
        Input device: /dev/input/event7
        LIRC device: /dev/lirc0
        Supported kernel protocols: lirc rc-5 rc-5-sz jvc sony nec sanyo mce_kbd rc-6 sharp xmp imon rc-mm 
        Enabled kernel protocols: lirc rc-6 
        bus: 25, vendor/product: 1050:00b4, version: 0x0073
        Repeat delay = 500 ms, repeat period = 125 ms

11. Reboot.

12. Check that the modified keymap has been loaded:

ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # ir-keytable
Found /sys/class/rc/rc0/ with:
        Name: Nuvoton w836x7hg Infrared Remote Transceiver
        Driver: nuvoton-cir
        Default keymap: rc-rc6-mce
        Input device: /dev/input/event7
        LIRC device: /dev/lirc0
        Supported kernel protocols: lirc rc-5 rc-5-sz jvc sony nec sanyo mce_kbd rc-6 sharp xmp imon rc-mm 
        Enabled kernel protocols: lirc rc-6 
        bus: 25, vendor/product: 1050:00b4, version: 0x0073
        Repeat delay = 500 ms, repeat period = 125 ms
ion330ht:/home/fitzcarraldo # ir-keytable -t
Testing events. Please, press CTRL-C to abort.
1392.769850: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f040d toggle=1
1392.769898: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f040d
1392.769898: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_down: KEY_MEDIA(0x002e)
1392.769898: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
c1392.917858: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f040d toggle=1
1392.917899: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f040d
1392.917899: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
1393.137843: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_up: KEY_MEDIA(0x002e)
1393.137843: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
1409.275700: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f0418
1409.275756: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f0418
1409.275756: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_down: KEY_PLAYPAUSE(0x00a4)
1409.275756: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
1409.425095: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f0418
1409.425131: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f0418
1409.425131: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
1409.641846: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_up: KEY_PLAYPAUSE(0x00a4)
1409.641846: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
1411.757874: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f0418 toggle=1
1411.757928: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f0418
1411.757928: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_down: KEY_PLAYPAUSE(0x00a4)
1411.757928: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
1411.907269: lirc protocol(rc6_mce): scancode = 0x800f0418 toggle=1
1411.907296: event type EV_MSC(0x04): scancode = 0x800f0418
1411.907296: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
1412.125848: event type EV_KEY(0x01) key_up: KEY_PLAYPAUSE(0x00a4)
1412.125848: event type EV_SYN(0x00).
^C

However, not all the keys on the ASRock remote work in KODI when using the key names in the file rc6_mce.toml listed above. I might have been able to change some of the key names in the file to see if they would have the desired effect in KODI, but it is not worth the hassle when my Rii i8 wireless mini keyboard works perfectly with KODI, all other apps, and the Linux Desktop. I find KODI unintuitive in any case, so there is even less incentive to tinker further with the ASRock CIR MCE remote.

Furthermore, I have now disabled the CIR port in the BIOS because I found that sometimes the nettop was resuming from suspension without me triggering it from either the ASRock CIR MCE remote or the Rii i8 mini keyboard. ‘Boot From Onboard LAN’ is not enabled in the BIOS, so that was not the cause.
 
 
Disabling the nettop’s LEDs

The nettop is on my TV stand and its Power LED, LAN LED and SATA LED could become annoying, especially the blinking power LED when the nettop is in Suspend mode, so I disabled these in the BIOS (‘Good Night LED’ is Enabled to turn them all off).
 
 
Conclusion

After over a decade I am actually using the ASRock ION 330HT nettop and have it connected to my 43-inch TV so that I can browse the Web properly from the comfort of my sofa and play all my FLAC (and MP3, OGG etc.) music files through the sound bar also connected to my TV. The Rii i8 wireless mini keyboard/touchpad works perfectly with the nettop, so the ASRock CIR MCE remote is redundant. Although I have a dedicated DVD player connected to the TV via a Composite Video cable, the nettop is connected via an HDMI cable so the image is nice and sharp.

GeckoLinux Rolling LXQt performs well on the nettop, and looks polished and crisp on the TV screen. I like it a lot so far. Other machines in my home network can browse SMB shares on the nettop, and vice versa, and the nettop can also be accessed using SSH. I need to become familiar with the package manager (GUI and command line) but have not had any trouble so far. The Btrfs filesystem ‘hiccup’ I mentioned earlier worries me a little, but I have had no further trouble since I repaired the filesystem. And I have actually used Snapper a couple of times to recover files I deleted too hastily. So GeckoLinux gets a thumbs up from me.

Gentoo Linux: Building/rebuilding a kernel and Intel CPU microcode in an installation with initramfs

In a 2014 post I explained how to update the Intel CPU microcode in a Gentoo Linux installation with an initramfs (I use sys-kernel/genkernel to build the kernel in the installation on my Compal NBLB2 laptop, which is running the Testing Branch of Gentoo Linux although the branch is not important). The initscript method (Method 1 in that post) for updating the CPU microcode is no longer valid, and the behaviour of the tool sys-apps/iucode_tool for updating the CPU microcode (Method 2 in that post) has changed, hence this update.

Although not essential I normally perform the microcode upgrade procedure when I either rebuild or upgrade the Linux kernel, therefore I explain both procedures contiguously here.

These days the grub-mkconfig command edits the file /boot/grub/grub.cfg to add a line to the GRUB menu entries, to load the CPU microcode at boot, but nevertheless I prefer to follow a slightly different method that works reliably for me.

Below is the procedure I follow to build/rebuild the kernel and the Intel CPU microcode. Others may have a different approach, but this has always worked well for me, even if some of the steps are sometimes nugatory.

If they are not already installed, you need to merge a couple of packages before starting the main procedure:

root # emerge app-arch/lzma # Needed to build bzImage.
root # emerge iucode_tool

1. Mount the boot directory if it is on a separate partition

root # mount /dev/sda3 /boot

2. Check which kernel sources are installed and which of those sources is currently selected

root # eselect kernel list

3. Make a back-up configuration file for the current running kernel

root # zcat /proc/config.gz > /usr/src/config

4. Select the kernel sources I want to build

root # eselect kernel set <n>

5. Build the kernel image and the initramfs image

root # genkernel --kernel-config=/usr/src/config --clean --menuconfig --microcode=intel --no-splash --module-rebuild all

I have configured the following kernel options relating to the early loading of the Intel CPU microcode (see later):

root # grep CONFIG_BLK_DEV_INITRD /usr/src/linux/.config
CONFIG_BLK_DEV_INITRD=y
root # # grep CONFIG_MICROCODE /usr/src/linux/.config
CONFIG_MICROCODE=y
CONFIG_MICROCODE_INTEL=y
# CONFIG_MICROCODE_AMD is not set
# CONFIG_MICROCODE_OLD_INTERFACE is not set
# grep CONFIG_INITRAMFS_SOURCE /usr/src/linux/.config
CONFIG_INITRAMFS_SOURCE=""

6. Rebuild the X Windows Server and X Windows drivers

I always do this even though not always necessary. One less thing to think about (not rebuilding them has sometimes caused me problems).

root # emerge xorg-server xorg-drivers

7. Rebuild NetworkManager if it is installed

I always do this even though not always necessary. One less thing to think about (not rebuilding it has sometimes caused me problems).

root # emerge networkmanager

8. If there is a new version of the Intel CPU microcode, generate it and copy it to the boot directory

For several years updates to the package sys-kernel/linux-firmware have not resulted in a change to the version of Intel CPU microcode for the legacy Intel Core i7-720QM CPU in my Compal NBLB2 laptop, as Intel no longer supports that version of CPU. Nevertheless it does no harm to repeat the procedure.

root # emerge sys-firmware/intel-microcode
root # rm /boot/microcode.cpio
root # iucode_tool -S --write-earlyfw=/boot/microcode.cpio /lib/firmware/intel-ucode/*
root # rm /boot/intel-uc.img

(The fourth command is to stop the grub-mkconfig command (see Step 9.2) adding intel-uc.img to the initrd line in the grub.cfg file.)

Note the USE flags for that I have set and cleared for sys-firmware/intel-microcode:

root # equery uses intel-microcode
[ Legend : U - final flag setting for installation]
[        : I - package is installed with flag     ]
[ Colors : set, unset                             ]
 * Found these USE flags for sys-firmware/intel-microcode-20210608_p20210830:
 U I
 - - hostonly    : only install ucode(s) supported by currently available (=online) processor(s) 
 - - initramfs   : install a small initramfs for use with CONFIG_MICROCODE_EARLY 
 + + split-ucode : install the split binary ucode files (used by the kernel directly) 
 - - vanilla     : install only microcode updates from Intel's official microcode tarball

9. Create a new grub.cfg file

9.1 First check the contents of /etc/default/grub to make sure it will be OK for the new version of the kernel

root # nano /etc/default/grub

Modify the contents of /etc/default/grub if necessary for the kernel version that has just been built.

9.2 Generate a new grub.cfg file

root # grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

9.3 Check the new grub.cfg file includes the loading of the CPU microcode

root # nano /boot/grub/grub.cfg

The last line for each menu entry (i.e. the line before the closing curly bracket of the menu entry) should contain:

initrd /microcode.cpio /initramfs-<kernel version>-gentoo-x86_64.img

as shown in the example file excerpt below:

[...]
### BEGIN /etc/grub.d/10_linux ###
menuentry 'Gentoo GNU/Linux' --class gentoo --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-simple-9db2f668-a682-4d6f-abc5-ed6f6c515b95' {
load_video
set gfxpayload=1024x768
insmod gzio
insmod part_msdos
insmod ext2
set root='hd0,msdos3'
if [ x$feature_platform_search_hint = xy ]; then
search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root --hint-bios=hd0,msdos3 --hint-efi=hd0,msdos3 --hint-baremetal=ahci0,msdos3  597e8c88-8d50-443f-ae19-f510844f5d4e
else
search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root 597e8c88-8d50-443f-ae19-f510844f5d4e
fi
echo	'Loading Linux 5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64 ...'
linux	/vmlinuz-5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64 root=/dev/sda6 ro BOOT_IMAGE=/kernel-genkernel-x86_64-5.15.0-gentoo root=/dev/ram0 ramdisk=8192 real_root=/dev/sda6 init=/linuxrc resume=swap:/dev/sda5 real_resume=/dev/sda5 intel_iommu=off net.ifnames=0 snd_hda_intel.power_save=0 radeon.modeset=1
echo	'Loading initial ramdisk ...'
initrd	/microcode.cpio /initramfs-5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64.img
}
submenu 'Advanced options for Gentoo GNU/Linux' $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-advanced-9db2f668-a682-4d6f-abc5-ed6f6c515b95' {
menuentry 'Gentoo GNU/Linux, with Linux 5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64' --class gentoo --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64-advanced-9db2f668-a682-4d6f-abc5-ed6f6c515b95' {
load_video
set gfxpayload=1024x768
insmod gzio
insmod part_msdos
insmod ext2
set root='hd0,msdos3'
if [ x$feature_platform_search_hint = xy ]; then
search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root --hint-bios=hd0,msdos3 --hint-efi=hd0,msdos3 --hint-baremetal=ahci0,msdos3  597e8c88-8d50-443f-ae19-f510844f5d4e
else
search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root 597e8c88-8d50-443f-ae19-f510844f5d4e
fi
echo	'Loading Linux 5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64 ...'
linux	/vmlinuz-5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64 root=/dev/sda6 ro BOOT_IMAGE=/kernel-genkernel-x86_64-5.15.0-gentoo root=/dev/ram0 ramdisk=8192 real_root=/dev/sda6 init=/linuxrc resume=swap:/dev/sda5 real_resume=/dev/sda5 intel_iommu=off net.ifnames=0 snd_hda_intel.power_save=0 radeon.modeset=1
echo	'Loading initial ramdisk ...'
initrd	/microcode.cpio /initramfs-5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64.img
}
menuentry 'Gentoo GNU/Linux, with Linux 5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64 (recovery mode)' --class gentoo --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64-recovery-9db2f668-a682-4d6f-abc5-ed6f6c515b95' {
load_video
set gfxpayload=1024x768
insmod gzio
insmod part_msdos
insmod ext2
set root='hd0,msdos3'
if [ x$feature_platform_search_hint = xy ]; then
search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root --hint-bios=hd0,msdos3 --hint-efi=hd0,msdos3 --hint-baremetal=ahci0,msdos3  597e8c88-8d50-443f-ae19-f510844f5d4e
else
search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root 597e8c88-8d50-443f-ae19-f510844f5d4e
fi
echo	'Loading Linux 5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64 ...'
linux	/vmlinuz-5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64 root=/dev/sda6 ro single BOOT_IMAGE=/kernel-genkernel-x86_64-5.15.0-gentoo root=/dev/ram0 ramdisk=8192 real_root=/dev/sda6 init=/linuxrc resume=swap:/dev/sda5 real_resume=/dev/sda5 intel_iommu=off net.ifnames=0 snd_hda_intel.power_save=0 radeon.modeset=1
echo	'Loading initial ramdisk ...'
initrd	/microcode.cpio /initramfs-5.15.0-gentoo-x86_64.img
}
}

### END /etc/grub.d/10_linux ###
[...]

10. Reboot

11. Rebuild VirtualBox if it is installed

root # emerge virtualbox

12. Check the current version of the Intel CPU microcode

Either:

root # dmesg | grep microcode

or:

root # grep microcode /proc/cpuinfo

For example:

root # dmesg | grep microcode
[    0.000000] microcode: microcode updated early to revision 0xa, date = 2018-05-08
[    0.127937] MDS: Vulnerable: Clear CPU buffers attempted, no microcode
[    1.558008] microcode: sig=0x106e5, pf=0x10, revision=0xa
[    1.559335] microcode: Microcode Update Driver: v2.2.
root # grep microcode /proc/cpuinfo
microcode       : 0xa
microcode       : 0xa
microcode       : 0xa
microcode       : 0xa
microcode       : 0xa
microcode       : 0xa
microcode       : 0xa
microcode       : 0xa

Note from the output of the dmesg command that this specific CPU model is susceptible to the MDS (Microarchitectural Data Sampling) vulnerability.

13. Edit /var/lib/portage/world and add (or change) the specific kernel sources package version

I do this in order to ensure the command ‘emerge --depclean‘ does not remove a specific kernel’s source code during a world update. I want Portage always to install the latest version of gentoo-sources but not to delete the version of gentoo-sources that corresponds to the kernel my installation is currently using.

For example, let’s say I have just replaced a kernel built from gentoo-sources:5.15.11 with a kernel built from gentoo-sources:5.15.12. My world file would initially contain the following:

[...]
sys-kernel/gentoo-sources
sys-kernel/gentoo-sources:5.15.11
[...]

If, following a successful reboot with kernel 5.15.12, I want to delete the files for kernel 5.15.11 in /boot/ (initramfs-5.15.11-gentoo-x86_64.img, System.map-5.15.11-gentoo-x86_64 and vmlinuz-5.15.11-gentoo-x86_64) and to edit the file /boot/grub/grub.cfg to remove the menu entries for kernel 5.15.11, I would change the world file’s contents to:

[...]
sys-kernel/gentoo-sources
sys-kernel/gentoo-sources:5.15.12
[...]

On the other hand, if, following a successful reboot, I want to keep the files for both kernel 5.15.11 and kernel 5.15.12, I would change the world file’s contents to:

[...]
sys-kernel/gentoo-sources
sys-kernel/gentoo-sources:5.15.11
sys-kernel/gentoo-sources:5.15.12
[...]

Review of an MT-ViKI 2-port automatic KVM switch

Three years ago I bought a two-port KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) switch with the intention of using it to connect my keyboard and monitor to my headless server to investigate a boot-up problem. But I found the cause of the problem quickly and never needed to use the KVM switch, which was sitting on a shelf ever since.

Recently I bought a cheap second-hand desktop machine for another project and, rather than having a second keyboard, mouse and monitor on my desk, I decided to use the spare KVM switch.

Schematic diagram of connections to MT-261KL KVM switch

Schematic diagram of connections to MT-261KL KVM switch.

The KVM switch was manufactured by MT-ViKI Electronic Technology Co., Ltd, a Chinese company that manufactures a range of KVM switches. The model I bought is the MT-261KL-FBA AUTO KVM USB+AUDIO. It has two DE-15 input ports for connection to two computers using the custom cables provided, a DE-15 VGA output port, an audio Line-Out port, a Microphone port and three USB 2.0 ports. Two cables with pigtails were supplied with the switch. At one end of each cable there is a DE-15 (VGA) plug, a pigtail with a USB Type-A plug, a pigtail with a 3.5 mm Line-In plug and a pigtail with a 3.5 mm Microphone plug. All these are for connection to the computer. At the other end of each cable is a DE-15 plug, which is for connection to one of the DE-15 ports labelled PC1 and PC2 on the KVM switch. Video, audio and USB signals are all transferred via this DE-15 plug at the KVM switch end. The device does not require an external power supply unit, so I assume it is powered from either of the two computers’ USB ports.

The two custom cables supplied with the MT-261KL KVM switch

The two custom cables supplied with the MT-261KL KVM switch.

MT-261KL KVM switch with cables connected

MT-261KL KVM switch with cables connected.

Left end of MT-261KL KVM switch with audio sockets

Left end of MT-261KL KVM switch with audio sockets.

VGA, USB, Line Out and Mic plugs of MT-261KL custom cable connected to desktop

VGA, USB, Line Out and Mic plugs of MT-261KL custom cable connected to desktop.

VGA, USB, Line Out and Mic plugs of MT-261KL custom cable connected to laptop

VGA, USB, Line Out and Mic plugs of MT-261KL custom cable connected to laptop.

My USB keyboard and USB mouse are plugged into two of the three USB ports on the KVM switch. I can switch them and the monitor between the two computers either by pressing a push-button on top of the KVM switch or by pressing specific keyboard keys in sequence within 2 seconds of each other:

  • Scroll Lock + Scroll Lock + 1 (or 2) to select PC port directly
  • Scroll Lock + Scroll Lock + Down Arrow to select Next Port
  • Scroll Lock + Scroll Lock + Up Arrow to select Previous Port
  • Scroll Lock + Scroll Lock + S to select Auto Scan
  • Scroll Lock + Scroll Lock + B to toggle Beep On/Off
  • ESC to exit Auto Scan mode

Two LEDs on the KVM switch are used to indicate which computer is currently connected to the keyboard, monitor and mouse. The loud beep that the switch emits when switching from one computer to the other can be disabled if desired.

This switch supports monitor resolutions up to 2048 x 1536, and I’m using 1920 x 1080 in both OSs. Any monitor that supports a VGA connection should work. My monitor happens to be a 23-inch ViewSonic VX2363SMHL which has both VGA and HDMI sockets and cables. Any USB keyboard and mouse should work; I’m using an HP K45 keyboard and a Logitech M90 mouse. My laptop runs Gentoo Linux and the desktop runs Windows 10, and the switch works fine with both machines.

Although the custom cables between the KVM switch and the computers are quite bulky and stiff, I managed to connect everything to the KVM switch with it in a convenient position on my desk. Selecting the computer from the keyboard instead of the push-button on the KVM switch is easier, though. There is somewhat of a ‘cable spaghetti’ on my desk due to all the cables, but I have arranged them as tidily as possible. The audio sockets on my laptop are on the opposite side of the laptop to the VGA socket, which does not help. Fortunately the audio jack plug cables that branch out of the custom cable are just long enough to reach the Headphone and Mic sockets on the laptop.

There is a third USB port on the KVM switch, that I am not using. It would be possible to use this third USB port to connect another USB device (a printer, for example) that could be switched between the two computers. As there is only one USB connection to each computer, the KVM switch must be acting as a USB hub.

I have not yet connected an external microphone to the KVM switch, but I do have my external stereo powered speakers connected to it. The audio from the external speakers connected via the switch is still OK, although some noise is being picked up from all the cables on and under my desk. But I believe that is as much to do with the long thin unshielded audio cable from the powered speakers (Logitech X-140 Multimedia speakers, not of high quality). I suspect a shorter, shielded cable would perform much better.

Anyway, if you ever need a KVM switch that supports a monitor with a VGA port, this model is reasonable. MT-ViKI also make switches that can switch a keyboard, monitor and mouse between more than two computers, and switches with HDMI ports if you want to switch a keyboard, monitor and mouse between computers that do not have VGA ports. By the way, I have no association with the company.

Digital audio fidelity

Take the following two hearing tests while wearing high-quality over-ear headphones connected to a high-quality sound card:

The first tests your ability to hear sound of different frequencies. Older people will be doing well if they can hear up to 15 kHz. A lot of older people can’t even hear up to that; in one ear I can hear 10 kHz and I think I can hear 14 kHz in the other.

The second tests your ability to discern audio quality (quantisation and sample frequency). My score was 33%!

Those tests are eye-openers. My family did a lot better than me, especially the younger members. One of them could hear above 20 kHz in the first test, and scored 100% in the second test (which is exceptional because all the others scored 50%, so even young people struggle to hear a difference).

Even with my poor hearing I can hear how bad a 128 kb/s mp3 music track sounds, but when you get up to 320 kb/s it’s a different matter. In most cases I can’t hear the difference between 320 kb/s and a 16-bit 44.1 kHz Audio CD, and, as the tests in the above links demonstrate, most people struggle to tell the difference too (watch the video ‘Audiophile or Audio-Fooled? How Good Are Your Ears?‘).

Regarding sampling theory, the video ‘Digital Audio: The Line Between Audiophiles and Audiofools‘ is quite good if someone does not understand why 16-bit 44.1 kHz was chosen for Audio CDs. As to finer quantisation and higher frequencies, ‘The Difference Between 24-bit & 16-bit Audio is Inaudible Noise‘.

As to the perennial discussion regarding CD audio versus vinyl audio, an audiophile friend of mine with a life-long passion for hi-fi has an insanely expensive hi-fi system which is integrated throughout his house – including a room designed exclusively for listening to music – and controlled via iPads, with hand-built pre-amps imported from a small, specialist manufacturer. His main speakers alone cost a lot more than most people pay for an expensive sound system. He switched to dedicated music servers with uncompressed (FLAC and WAV) files either purchased directly or copied from well-produced 16-bit 44.1 kHz Audio CDs, and got rid of his expensive top-end record deck.

As for legacy physical media, Audio CDs are more vulnerable than vinyl. Some of the Audio CDs I bought around 20 years ago have already suffered the well-known phenomenon of disc rot despite being carefully kept and handled. Optical discs are rubbish from a longevity point of view. Vinyls, on the other hand, if kept in a controlled environment, will last almost indefinitely: ‘Record collector builds world’s largest vinyl hoard – six million and counting‘.

However, much as I love LP artwork I’d rather have my friend’s digital system any day. Even with my degraded hearing the music it produces sounds fabulous. Not to mention that the slightest click from a dust particle in an LP groove is, to me, akin to nails scraping on a blackboard. Those were the days!

Configuration of the APC UPS Daemon on my Linux server

 

UPS connections in my home network

For obvious reasons my Linux home server supplying NAS and Web services 24/7 is connected to a UPS. The UPS model (now discontinued) I use is a 700VA 230V APC Back-UPS ES-BE700G-UK. It is connected to one of the server’s USB ports via an APC-supplied cable so that the server can interrogate the UPS and so that the UPS can send unsolicited messages to the server (e.g. mains power supply interrupted, mains power supply restored, shut down the server now, and so on). The open-source APC UPS Daemon apcupsd that I installed on the server enables the server to react automatically to UPS events. apcupsd provides a shell script apccontrol and various other shell scripts to act on these events. All these scripts can be customised by the user. As users with an APC UPS that supports this functionality are likely to be interested in configuration of apcupsd, I think it might be useful for me to explain how I configured apcupsd.

An Ethernet switch and an external USB 6 TB HDD (connected to the server for automated daily backups) are in the same room as the server and also connected to the UPS. If my router were in the same room as the server then it would be connected to the same UPS as the server but, as it has to be in a different room next to the broadband provider’s master socket, it is instead connected to a separate mini UPS so that the server can still send e-mails after an interruption to the mains power supply.

Before getting into the configuration of apcupsd, I should mention that I have come across some home users who think the purpose of a UPS is solely to protect against loss of mains supply from the electricity utility company. Whilst that is one of the purposes of a UPS, home users should note that home fuses can blow and RCD consumer units can trip even when there is no interuption to the mains supply to the house from the utility company. So the argument that the local utility company is extremely reliable is not a reason to dispense with a UPS for a server. Well, not unless you are prepared to accept the risk of corruption of the OS and/or users’ data.

It is possible to configure apcupsd to perform a controlled shutdown of a server if the mains power supply to a UPS has been interrupted for a user-specified amount of time or if the UPS battery’s remaining charge has dropped to a user-specified percentage of its full capacity. If desired, it would also be possible to configure apcupsd and a server’s firmware to reboot the server automatically once mains power has been restored to the UPS following an earlier controlled shutdown of the server (see ‘Arranging for Reboot on Power-Up‘ in the APCUPSD User Manual). However, as I am often away from home on work trips and cannot immediately check what has happened, I do not want the server to reboot automatically when there is power to the server, in case the mains power supply is intermittent for whatever reason. Instead, after receiving an e-mail from the server informing me it is shutting down, I would phone home and ask a family member what has happened and, if I were satisfied everything is now OK, I would then ask them to power up the server. Therefore I configured the server’s BIOS not to reboot automatically if there is power to the server after it has been shut down.

Although apcupsd offers a mechanism to tell the UPS to go into hibernation, I am not interested in trying to get the UPS to hibernate once the OS shuts down, because I do not want to risk the UPS going into hibernation before my server has shutdown the OS completely and powered down the server. Furthermore, the server is not the only device powered by the UPS. Therefore, if there were a long delay until the mains power supply to the UPS is restored, the UPS would continue to supply power until its battery is flat. However, it is unlikely the power supply to the UPS would be down for long, so the possibility of draining the battery completely is unlikely once the server has been powered down; power to the UPS will usually be restored before the battery is flat. The power requirement of the tiny Ethernet switch is small and the external USB HDD goes to sleep automatically after a few minutes of inactivity anyway. It is more important that the server is powered down ‘gracefully’.

The mechanism an OS would use to tell a UPS to go into hibernation is the command ‘/sbin/apcupsd --killpower‘, when apcupsd runs the killpower script. My understanding of the intended process is as follows:

  1. The mains supply to the UPS ceases.
  2. The UPS tells apcupsd that the mains supply has ceased.
  3. apcupsd uses $BATTERYLEVEL, $MINUTES, and $TIMEOUT (set in /etc/apcupsd.conf) to determine when to shutdown the OS (the next step below).
  4. apcupsd runs /etc/apcupsd/doshutdown to initiate shutdown of the OS.
  5. After the OS initiates shutdown, apcupsd (which runs /etc/apcupsd/killpower) tells the UPS to go into hibernation. I think the message to tell the UPS to hibernate is sent $KILLDELAY seconds after /etc/apcupsd/doshutdown runs, where $KILLDELAY is user-configurable. In the case of Gentoo Linux, the apcupsd.powerfail init script (if the user has enabled it) tries to put the UPS into hibernation when the OS is in Runlevel 0 and the OS has almost completed shutting down (the file systems have already been mounted Read-Only).

The message telling the UPS to hibernate can be disabled by setting KILLDELAY=0 in /etc/apcupsd.conf, which I have done. And, just to be sure, I also modified the script /etc/apcups/killpower to do the same thing as the script /etc/apcupsd/doshutdown, and I configured the server’s BIOS not to boot automatically when power is supplied to the server.

I think my caution and disabling of killpower are justified, as the APCUPSD User Manual states:

KILLDELAY time in seconds
If KILLDELAY is set, apcupsd will continue running after a shutdown has been requested, and after the specified time in seconds, apcupsd will attempt to shut off the UPS the power. This directive should normally be disabled by setting the value to zero, but on some systems such as Win32 systems apcupsd cannot regain control after a shutdown to force the UPS to shut off the power. In this case, with proper consideration for the timing, the KILLDELAY directive can be useful. Please be aware, if you cause apcupsd to kill the power to your computer too early, the system and the disks may not have been properly prepared. In addition, apcupsd must continue running after the shutdown is requested, and on Unix systems, this is not normally the case as the system will terminate all processes during the shutdown.

The as-installed configuration file apcupsd.conf contained the following settings:

$ grep -v "^#\|^;\|^$" /etc/apcupsd/apcupsd.conf.original
UPSCABLE smart
UPSTYPE apcsmart
DEVICE /dev/ttyS0
LOCKFILE /var/lock
SCRIPTDIR /etc/apcupsd
PWRFAILDIR /etc/apcupsd
NOLOGINDIR /etc
ONBATTERYDELAY 6
BATTERYLEVEL 5
MINUTES 3
TIMEOUT 0
ANNOY 300
ANNOYDELAY 60
NOLOGON disable
KILLDELAY 0
NETSERVER on
NISIP 127.0.0.1
NISPORT 3551
EVENTSFILE /var/log/apcupsd.events
EVENTSFILEMAX 10
UPSCLASS standalone
UPSMODE disable
STATTIME 0
STATFILE /var/log/apcupsd.status
LOGSTATS off
DATATIME 0

The purposes of BATTERYLEVEL, MINUTES and TIMEOUT are explained in the configuration file’s comments:

[...]
#
# Note: BATTERYLEVEL, MINUTES, and TIMEOUT work in conjunction, so
# the first that occurs will cause the initation of a shutdown.
#

# If during a power failure, the remaining battery percentage
# (as reported by the UPS) is below or equal to BATTERYLEVEL,
# apcupsd will initiate a system shutdown.
BATTERYLEVEL 30
# Was 10 but I changed it to 30.

# If during a power failure, the remaining runtime in minutes
# (as calculated internally by the UPS) is below or equal to MINUTES,
# apcupsd, will initiate a system shutdown.
MINUTES 10
# Was 3 but I changed it to 10.

# If during a power failure, the UPS has run on batteries for TIMEOUT
# many seconds or longer, apcupsd will initiate a system shutdown.
# A value of 0 disables this timer.
#
#  Note, if you have a Smart UPS, you will most likely want to disable
#    this timer by setting it to zero. That way, you UPS will continue
#    on batteries until either the % charge remaing drops to or below BATTERYLEVEL,
#    or the remaining battery runtime drops to or below MINUTES.  Of course,
#    if you are testing, setting this to 60 causes a quick system shutdown
#    if you pull the power plug.
#  If you have an older dumb UPS, you will want to set this to less than
#    the time you know you can run on batteries.
TIMEOUT 0

[...]

 

Lead-acid batteries degrade faster if they are allowed to become flat or nearly flat, so I changed the battery level percentage to 30 instead of 10. I also changed the remaining runtime (as calculated by the UPS) from 3 minutes to 10 minutes. The resulting contents of apcupsd.conf are as follows:

$ grep -v "^#\|^;\|^$" /etc/apcupsd/apcupsd.conf
UPSNAME ES700
UPSCABLE usb
UPSTYPE usb
DEVICE
POLLTIME 60
LOCKFILE /var/lock
SCRIPTDIR /etc/apcupsd
PWRFAILDIR /etc/apcupsd
NOLOGINDIR /etc
ONBATTERYDELAY 6
BATTERYLEVEL 30
MINUTES 10
TIMEOUT 0
ANNOY 300
ANNOYDELAY 60
NOLOGON disable
KILLDELAY 0
NETSERVER on
NISIP 127.0.0.1
NISPORT 3551
EVENTSFILE /var/log/apcupsd.events
EVENTSFILEMAX 10
UPSCLASS standalone
UPSMODE disable
STATTIME 300
STATFILE /var/log/apcupsd.status
LOGSTATS off
DATATIME 0

I also edited the apccontrol script to: a) fix a typo in a message in the script; b) comment out the command to reboot the server; c) comment out the command to shutdown the server (as my version of the doshutdown script performs that task):

$ diff /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol.original 
90c90
<       echo "Battery power exhausted on UPS ${2}. Doing shutdown." | ${WALL}
---
>       echo "Battery power exhaused on UPS ${2}. Doing shutdown." | ${WALL}
103c103
< #     ${SHUTDOWN} -r now "apcupsd UPS ${2} initiated reboot"
---
>       ${SHUTDOWN} -r now "apcupsd UPS ${2} initiated reboot"
107c107
< #     ${SHUTDOWN} -h now "apcupsd UPS ${2} initiated shutdown"
---
>       ${SHUTDOWN} -h now "apcupsd UPS ${2} initiated shutdown"
$ cat /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol
#!/bin/sh
#
# Copyright (C) 1999-2002 Riccardo Facchetti 
#
#  for apcupsd release 3.14.10 (13 September 2011) - debian
#
# platforms/apccontrol.  Generated from apccontrol.in by configure.
#
#  Note, this is a generic file that can be used by most
#   systems. If a particular system needs to have something
#   special, start with this file, and put a copy in the
#   platform subdirectory.
#

#
# These variables are needed for set up the autoconf other variables.
#
prefix=/usr
exec_prefix=${prefix}

APCPID=/var/run/apcupsd.pid
APCUPSD=/sbin/apcupsd
SHUTDOWN=/sbin/shutdown
SCRIPTSHELL=/bin/sh
SCRIPTDIR=/etc/apcupsd
WALL=wall

#
# Concatenate all output from this script to the events file
#  Note, the following kills the script in a power fail situation
#   where the disks are mounted read-only.
# exec >>/var/log/apcupsd.events 2>&1

#
# This piece is to substitute the default behaviour with your own script,
# perl, or C program.
# You can customize every single command creating an executable file (may be a
# script or a compiled program) and calling it the same as the $1 parameter
# passed by apcupsd to this script.
#
# After executing your script, apccontrol continues with the default action.
# If you do not want apccontrol to continue, exit your script with exit 
# code 99. E.g. "exit 99".
#
# WARNING: the apccontrol file will be overwritten every time you update your
# apcupsd, doing `make install'. Your own customized scripts will _not_ be
# overwritten. If you wish to make changes to this file (discouraged), you
# should change apccontrol.sh.in and then rerun the configure process.
#
if [ -f ${SCRIPTDIR}/${1} -a -x ${SCRIPTDIR}/${1} ]
then
    ${SCRIPTDIR}/${1} ${2} ${3} ${4}
    # exit code 99 means he does not want us to do default action
    if [ $? = 99 ] ; then
        exit 0
    fi
fi

case "$1" in
    killpower)
        echo "Apccontrol doing: ${APCUPSD} --killpower on UPS ${2}" | ${WALL}
        sleep 10
        ${APCUPSD} --killpower
        echo "Apccontrol has done: ${APCUPSD} --killpower on UPS ${2}" | ${WALL}
    ;;
    commfailure)
        echo "Warning communications lost with UPS ${2}" | ${WALL}
    ;;
    commok)
        echo "Communications restored with UPS ${2}" | ${WALL}
    ;;
#
# powerout, onbattery, offbattery, mainsback events occur
#   in that order.
#
    powerout)
    ;;
    onbattery)
        echo "Power failure on UPS ${2}. Running on batteries." | ${WALL}
    ;;
    offbattery)
        echo "Power has returned on UPS ${2}..." | ${WALL}
    ;;
    mainsback)
        if [ -f /etc/apcupsd/powerfail ] ; then
           printf "Continuing with shutdown."  | ${WALL}
        fi
    ;;
    failing)
        echo "Battery power exhausted on UPS ${2}. Doing shutdown." | ${WALL}
    ;;
    timeout)
        echo "Battery time limit exceeded on UPS ${2}. Doing shutdown." | ${WALL}
    ;;
    loadlimit)
        echo "Remaining battery charge below limit on UPS ${2}. Doing shutdown." | ${WALL}
    ;;
    runlimit)
        echo "Remaining battery runtime below limit on UPS ${2}. Doing shutdown." | ${WALL}
    ;;
    doreboot)
        echo "UPS ${2} initiating Reboot Sequence" | ${WALL}
#       ${SHUTDOWN} -r now "apcupsd UPS ${2} initiated reboot"
    ;;
    doshutdown)
        echo "UPS ${2} initiated Shutdown Sequence" | ${WALL}
#       ${SHUTDOWN} -h now "apcupsd UPS ${2} initiated shutdown"
    ;;
    annoyme)
        echo "Power problems with UPS ${2}. Please logoff." | ${WALL}
    ;;
    emergency)
        echo "Emergency Shutdown. Possible battery failure on UPS ${2}." | ${WALL}
    ;;
    changeme)
        echo "Emergency! Batteries have failed on UPS ${2}. Change them NOW" | ${WALL}
    ;;
    remotedown)
        echo "Remote Shutdown. Beginning Shutdown Sequence." | ${WALL}
    ;;
    startselftest)
    ;;
    endselftest)
    ;;
    battdetach)
    ;;
    battattach)
    ;;
    *)  echo "Usage: ${0##*/} command"
        echo "       warning: this script is intended to be launched by"
        echo "       apcupsd and should never be launched by users."
        exit 1
    ;;
esac

I made sure the /etc/apcupsd/hosts.conf file specifies the daemon is monitoring the server:

$ grep -v "^#\|^;\|^$" hosts.conf 
MONITOR 127.0.0.1 "Local Host"

I configured the scripts in /etc/apcupsd/ as shown in the listings below (I have obscured my e-mail address for security reasons). Note that the firewall for my server is a virtual machine (with hostname serverfw) on the server, hence the additional command to shutdown the virtual machine too.

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/annoyme 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# starts sending out 'annoy me' messages.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-annoyme.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-annoyme.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

The UPS is sending 'annoy me' messages - investigate now.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/changeme 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# detects that the battery should be replaced.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-changeme.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-changeme.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

The UPS battery needs to be changed.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/commfailure 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# loses contact with the UPS (i.e. the serial connection is not responding).
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-commfailure.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-commfailure.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

Host has lost communication to the UPS.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/commok 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# restores contact with the UPS (i.e. the serial connection is restored).
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-commok.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-commok.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

Host to UPS communication has resumed.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/doreboot 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# requests a reboot. We do nothing - the APC must not request a reboot.
#
# This script should never be run, as I commented it out in apccontrol.
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-doreboot.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-doreboot.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

The UPS has requested a reboot - doing nothing.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/doshutdown 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# detects that a  shutdown is needed.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-doshutdown.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
sudo -u fitzcarraldo ssh serverfw sudo shutdown -h now
sleep 30
shutdown -h now
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-doshutdown.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

UPS requested shutdown, shutting down the systems.

The server has to be powered up manually after it has powered down.
It will not boot automatically when the mains power supply is restored.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/emergency 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# detects that an emergency shutdown is needed.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-emergency.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
sudo -u fitzcarraldo ssh serverfw sudo shutdown -h now
sleep 30
shutdown -h now
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-emergency.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

UPS emergency shutdown requested, shutting down the systems.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/failing 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# detects that the battery charge is below the minimum level.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-failing.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
sudo -u fitzcarraldo ssh serverfw sudo shutdown -h now
sleep 30
shutdown -h now
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-failing.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

The UPS battery is failing, shutting down the systems.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/killpower 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol before
# apcupsd kills the power in the UPS. You probably
# need to edit this to mount read-only /usr and /var,
# otherwise apcupsd will not run.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-killpower.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
sudo -u fitzcarraldo ssh serverfw sudo shutdown -h now
sleep 30
shutdown -h now
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-killpower.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

The APC daemon is powering off the UPS - shutting down the systems.

Actually the APC daemon does not power off the UPS since I edited
/etc/apcupsd/killpower so that it only performs the same actions
as /etc/apcupsd/doshutdown, namely 'shutdown -h now'. This means
the UPS continues to supply output power until the battery has
run down completely if there is a long delay until the mains power
supply is restored. The server has to be powered up manually if
it has powered down; it will not boot automatically when the mains
power supply is restored.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/loadlimit 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# detects that the remaining battery charge is below the min threshold.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-loadlimit.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
sudo -u fitzcarraldo ssh serverfw sudo shutdown -h now
sleep 30
shutdown -h now
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-loadlimit.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

UPS battery charge below threshold, shutting down the systems.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/mainsback 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# detects that the mains has returned with /etc/apcupsd/powerfail
# file created.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-mainsback.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-mainsback.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

Mains back on UPS.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/offbattery 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when the
# UPS goes back on to the mains after a power failure.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-offbattery.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-offbattery.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

Power resumed to UPS. No longer running on batteries.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/onbattery 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when the UPS
# goes on batteries.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-onbattery.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-onbattery.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

Power failure on UPS. Running on batteries.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/powerout 
#!/bin/sh
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-powerout.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-powerout.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

Power out on UPS.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/remoteshutdown 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# is being shut down remotely - should never happen so do nothing.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-remoteshutdown.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-remoteshutdown.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

Remote UPS shutdown requested - do nothing but investigate.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/runlimit 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# detects that the remaining battery run time is below the threshold.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-runlimit.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
sudo -u fitzcarraldo ssh serverfw sudo shutdown -h now
sleep 30
shutdown -h now
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-runlimit.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

The UPS remaining run time is below limit, shutting down the systems.

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/timeout 
#!/bin/sh
#
# This shell script if placed in /etc/apcupsd
# will be called by /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol when apcupsd
# detects that the battery run time limit has been exceeded.
#
cat /home/fitzcarraldo/apcups/ups-email-timeout.txt | /usr/sbin/sendmail -4 -t
sudo -u fitzcarraldo ssh serverfw sudo shutdown -h now
sleep 30
shutdown -h now
exit 0
$ cat ~/apcups/ups-email-timeout.txt
To: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
From: fitzcarraldo@xxxxx.com
Subject: Important message about Back-UPS ES 700

The UPS run time limit is exceeded, shutting down the systems

 

$ cat /etc/apcupsd/ups-monitor
#!/bin/sh
case "$1" in
        poweroff | killpower)
                if [ -f /etc/apcupsd/powerfail ]; then
                        echo ""
                        echo -n "apcupsd: Ordering UPS to kill power... "
                        /etc/apcupsd/apccontrol killpower
                        echo "done."
                        echo ""
                        echo "Please ensure the UPS has powered off before rebooting."
                        echo "Otherwise, the UPS may cut the power during the reboot!"
                        echo ""
                fi
        ;;
        *)
        ;;
esac
exit 0

 

How to prevent CUPS omitting the bottom of the CUPS Printer test page

This is something that has been bugging me for years but I never bothered to look into it until now. When I set up a printer using CUPS Administration and then print a test page, for some printers the bottom of the test page image is cut off, as shown in the scanned image below. Also, the left side of the test page image is too close to the left side of the sheet of paper. This happens when I use the Gutenprint printer drivers, although I do not know if that is a coincidence. The CUPS printer test page (A4 paper) shown below is from a Canon PIXMA MP510 printer using the Gutenprint v5.3.3 driver for that model.

Printer test page printed by CUPS before modifying the Canon PIXMA MP510 PPD file

I had a look at the values of the ImageableArea for A4 paper in the printer’s PPD file, and the as-installed values were as follows:

user $ sudo grep "ImageableArea A4" /etc/cups/ppd/MP510.ppd
*ImageableArea A4/A4:   "0.000 0.000 595.000 842.000"

I then edited the PPD file and changed the x,y coordinates of the bottom left of the imageable area from 0,0 to 10,3 for A4 paper so the file now contains the following:

user $ sudo grep "ImageableArea A4" /etc/cups/ppd/MP510.ppd
*ImageableArea A4/A4:   "10.000 3.000 595.000 842.000"

It is necessary to restart CUPS when a change is made to the PPD file:

Gentoo Linux installation using OpenRC

user $ sudo rc-service cupsd restart

Lubuntu 20.10 installation using systemd

user $ sudo systemctl restart cups

Now the ‘Printer test page’ printed by CUPS looks like this:

Printer test page printed by CUPS after modifying the Canon PIXMA MP510 PPD file

Much better.
 
 
ADDENDUM (2 May 2021): I have discovered that the ImageableArea is not the only factor…

I also have a Canon PIXMA MP560 printer, and I printed a CUPS ‘Printer test page’ on that using the Gutenprint v5.3.3 driver for the Canon PIXMA MP560. A scan of the printed test page is shown below:

Printer test page printed by CUPS before modifying the Canon PIXMA MP560 PPD file

The as-installed values of the ImageableArea for A4 paper in the printer’s PPD file were as follows:

user $ sudo grep "ImageableArea A4" /etc/cups/ppd/Canon_MP560_Wi-Fi.ppd
*ImageableArea A4/A4:   "0.000 0.000 595.000 842.000"

Unlike the original test page for the Canon PIXMA MP510, the vertical lines on the left and right sides of the test image are more or less equidistant from the edges of the paper. However, as with the original test page for the Canon PIXMA MP510, the bottom line of the test page was missing. So I tried editing the y coordinate of the bottom left of the ImageableArea in the PPD file for the Canon PIXMA MP560. However, whatever value I used for the y coordinate of the bottom left of the test image, the bottom line was never printed.

I then looked at the contents of the file /etc/cups/printers.conf and found that the configuration for the Canon PIXMA MP510 included a line ‘Option fitplot True‘ whereas the configuration for the Canon PIXMA MP560 did not:

# Printer configuration file for CUPS v2.3.3
# Written by cupsd
# DO NOT EDIT THIS FILE WHEN CUPSD IS RUNNING
NextPrinterId 3
<Printer Canon_MP560_Wi-Fi>
PrinterId 2
UUID urn:uuid:428a074e-0e81-3ba3-7789-f8050da82c5a
Info Canon MP560 Wi-Fi
Location My office upstairs
MakeModel Canon PIXMA MP560 - CUPS+Gutenprint v5.3.3
DeviceURI lpd://192.168.1.78/lpt1
State Idle
StateTime 1619978009
ConfigTime 1619880075
Type 36892
Accepting Yes
Shared No
JobSheets none none
QuotaPeriod 0
PageLimit 0
KLimit 0
OpPolicy default
ErrorPolicy retry-job
</Printer>
<DefaultPrinter MP510>
PrinterId 1
UUID urn:uuid:0a2a12b5-ea49-33eb-572a-341c1af02f7e
Info Canon MP510
Location aspirexc600
MakeModel Canon MP510 series - CUPS+Gutenprint v5.3.3
DeviceURI usb://Canon/MP510?serial=934631&interface=1
State Idle
StateTime 1619662185
ConfigTime 1619628669
Type 36876
Accepting Yes
Shared Yes
JobSheets none none
QuotaPeriod 0
PageLimit 0
KLimit 0
OpPolicy default
ErrorPolicy retry-job
Option fitplot True
</DefaultPrinter>

 
So I stopped the CUPS service, edited the file to add the line ‘Option fitplot True‘ for the Canon PIXMA MP560, and restarted the CUPS service:

user $ sudo systemctl stop cups
user $ sudo nano /etc/cups/printers.conf
user $ sudo systemctl start cups

The file now looks like this:

# Printer configuration file for CUPS v2.3.3
# Written by cupsd
# DO NOT EDIT THIS FILE WHEN CUPSD IS RUNNING
NextPrinterId 3
<Printer Canon_MP560_Wi-Fi>
PrinterId 2
UUID urn:uuid:428a074e-0e81-3ba3-7789-f8050da82c5a
Info Canon MP560 Wi-Fi
Location My office upstairs
MakeModel Canon PIXMA MP560 - CUPS+Gutenprint v5.3.3
DeviceURI lpd://192.168.1.78/lpt1
State Idle
StateTime 1619978009
ConfigTime 1619880075
Type 36892
Accepting Yes
Shared No
JobSheets none none
QuotaPeriod 0
PageLimit 0
KLimit 0
OpPolicy default
ErrorPolicy retry-job
Option fitplot True
</Printer>
<DefaultPrinter MP510>
PrinterId 1
UUID urn:uuid:0a2a12b5-ea49-33eb-572a-341c1af02f7e
Info Canon MP510
Location aspirexc600
MakeModel Canon MP510 series - CUPS+Gutenprint v5.3.3
DeviceURI usb://Canon/MP510?serial=934631&interface=1
State Idle
StateTime 1619662185
ConfigTime 1619628669
Type 36876
Accepting Yes
Shared Yes
JobSheets none none
QuotaPeriod 0
PageLimit 0
KLimit 0
OpPolicy default
ErrorPolicy retry-job
Option fitplot True
</DefaultPrinter>

 

I have the ImageableArea for A4 paper configured as follows in the Canon PIXMA MP560 PPD file for the Gutenprint v5.3.3 driver (I had to increase the y coordinate of the bottom left of the area to 2.000 in order for the bottom line to be printed):

user $ sudo grep "ImageableArea A4" /etc/cups/ppd/Canon_MP560_Wi-Fi.ppd
*ImageableArea A4/A4:   "0.000 2.000 595.000 842.000"

After restarting the CUPS service I printed another CUPS Printer test page and the result is shown below. As you can see, the bottom line is now printed.

Printer test page printed by CUPS after modifying the Canon PIXMA MP560 PPD file

So, if the outline of the CUPS Printer test page is not centred or is missing one or more of the lines, first adjust the ImageableArea for the paper size on which the test page is being printed, and, if that does not result in success, check if ‘Option fitplot‘ exists for the printer in the file /etc/cups/printers.conf and that it is set to ‘True‘.

Using open-plc-utils in Linux with Powerline (HomePlug) adapters

According to the open-plc-utils documentation, open-plc-utils supports INT6000, INT6300, INT6400, AR6410, QCA7000, AR7400 and AR7420 and later Powerline products from Qualcomm Atheros. ‘INT’ stands for ‘Intellon’, which was acquired by Atheros in 2009. ‘AR’ stands for ‘Atheros’, which was acquired by Qualcomm in 2011. ‘QCA’ stands for ‘Qualcomm Atheros’.

The open-plc-utils command int6k supports legacy chipsets INT6000, INT6300 and INT6400.

The open-plc-utils command plctool supports QCA6410, QCA7000 and QCA7420 chipsets.

The open-plc-utils command amptool supports AR7400 and QCA7450 chipsets.

I have used open-plc-utils successfully with the following Powerline products:

  • NETGEAR XAVB1301-100UKS (uses AR6405 chipset).
  • NETGEAR XAVB5221-100UKS (uses QCA7420 chipset).
  • TP-Link TL-PA4010 (uses QCA7420 chipset).
  • TP-Link TL-PA4010P (uses QCA7420 chipset).
  • TP-Link TL-PA4020P (uses QCA7420 chipset).

For example, I used open-plc-utils to update the chipset firmware in my TP-Link Powerline adapters, as explained in my earlier post ‘Updating the Powerline adapters in my home network‘.

Below I summarise how I install open-plc-utils in Linux and how I use them to interrogate the Powerline adapters in my home network.

1. Download the open-plc-utils source code

user $ cd
user $ wget https://github.com/qca/open-plc-utils/archive/refs/heads/master.zip
user $ unzip master.zip # (This creates ~/open-plc-utils-master directory.)

2. Install plc-utils

user $ cd ~/open-plc-utils-master/
user $ cat README # Tells you how to install/uninstall plc-utils.
user $ sudo make
user $ sudo make install
user $ sudo make manuals

3. Bookmark the documentation index pages in your Web browser

user $ cd ~/open-plc-utils-master/docbook

Bookmark file:///home/<username>/open-plc-utils-master/docbook/index.html

Bookmark file:///home/<username>/open-plc-utils-master/docbook/toolkit.html

4. Use open-plc-utils commands to interrogate the adapters in the network

One example of the many possible commands:

user $ plcstat -t -i eno1 # eno1 is the Ethernet interface on this computer.
 P/L NET TEI ------ MAC ------ ------ BDA ------ TX  RX  CHIPSET FIRMWARE
 LOC STA 038 11:11:11:11:11:11 88:88:88:88:88:88 n/a n/a QCA7420 MAC-QCA7420-1.5.0.26-02-20200114-CS
 REM STA 003 33:33:33:33:33:33 55:55:55:55:55:55 277 268 QCA7420 MAC-QCA7420-1.5.0.26-02-20200114-CS
 REM CCO 004 22:22:22:22:22:22 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF 009 009 QCA7420 MAC-QCA7420-1.5.0.26-02-20200114-CS

(For security reasons, in the output above I have edited the MAC addresses of the three adapters, and the BDA of the two STAs. The BDA of the CCO adapter, which is automatically selected, really is displayed as FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF though.)

  • LOC = ‘Local’, i.e. the Powerline adapter connected to this computer.
  • REM = ‘Remote’, i.e. the other Powerline adapters in the network.
  • CCO = ‘Central Coordinator’, i.e. the automatically selected Powerline adapter acting as the coordinator of the Powerline adapters in this network.
  • STA = ‘Station’, i.e. the Powerline adapters being coordinated by the CCO.
  • MAC = The MAC address of the adapter.
  • BDA = ‘Bridged Destination Address’ (see the Powerline specifications for the meaning).
  • TX/RX = the transmission/reception rate in Mbps of the adapter.
  • CHIPSET = Atheros Qualcomm chipset type.
  • FIRMWARE = Atheros Qualcomm chipset firmware version.

For other open-plc-utils commands, consult the documentation in a Web browser.

5. Optional: Create a Bash script to interrogate Powerline adapters in your network

user $ cd
user $ nano ~/homeplug.sh
user $ chmod +x ~/homeplug.sh

homeplug.sh

#!/bin/bash
#
# This script is to interrogate a network to find the details of the Powerline
# HomePlug wall adapters in the network. It uses open-plc-utils tools:
# https://github.com/qca/open-plc-utils
# See https://github.com/qca/open-plc-utils/blob/master/README for
# instructions on how to install (and uninstall) the tools.
# Therefore this script is limited to the chipsets that open-plc-utils supports:
# https://github.com/qca/open-plc-utils/blob/master/plc/chipset.h
#
# The command int6k supports legacy chipsets INT6000, INT6300 and INT6400.
# The command plctool supports QCA6410, QCA7000 and QCA7420 devices.
# The command amptool supports chipsets AR7400 and QCA7450.
# NETGEAR XAVB1301-100UKS uses AR6405. NETGEAR XAVB5221-100UKS uses QCA7420.
# TP-Link TL-PA4010, TL-PA4010P and TL-PA4020P use QCA7420.
#
echo "================================================================================"
# Specify the interface on this PC connected to a HomePlug device:
export PLC=$( ifconfig | head -1 | cut -d ":" -f1 )
echo
echo -n "The Ethernet interface on this PC is: "
echo $PLC
echo
echo "================================================================================"
echo
#
# Step 1. Send VS_SW_VER to local device to determine its MAC address and device type.
#
MACINT6K=$( int6k -qr | awk -F ' ' '{print $2}' )
MACPLCTOOL=$( plctool -qr | awk -F ' ' '{print $2}' )
if [[ $MACINT6K != $MACPLCTOOL ]]
then
  echo "Unable to determine MAC address of local HomePlug wall adapter."
  exit
else
  MAC=$MACINT6K
fi
echo "Details for the HomePlug wall adapter connected to this computer:"
echo
if [ $( int6k -qI $MAC | wc -l ) -lt 2 ]
then
  plctool -m $MAC
  plctool -qI $MAC
  echo
  CHIPSET=$( plctool -qr $MAC | awk -F ' ' '{print $3}' )
  echo -n "Chipset: "
  echo $CHIPSET
  CHIPSETTYPE=2
else
  int6k -m $MAC
  int6k -qI $MAC
  echo
  CHIPSET=$( int6k -qr $MAC | awk -F ' ' '{print $3}' )
  echo -n "Chipset: "
  echo $CHIPSET
  CHIPSETTYPE=1
fi
echo
echo "================================================================================"
#
# Step 2. Send VS_NW_INFO (int6k -m or plctool -m, depending on device type)
# to local MAC address to find MAC addresses of the other devices.
#
if [[ $CHIPSETTYPE == 2 ]]
then
  plctool -qm $MAC | grep MAC | cut -d " " -f3 > maclist.txt
elif [[ $CHIPSETTYPE == 1 ]]
then
  int6k -qm $MAC | grep MAC | cut -d " " -f3 > maclist.txt
else
  echo "Unable to determine chipset of the local HomePlug wall adapter."
  exit
fi
#
# Step 3. Send VS_SW_VER (int6k -r or plctool -r, depending on device type) to
# each device to find the device type of each.
#
echo -n "" > chipsetlist.txt
while read -r MAC
do
  if [ $( int6k -qI $MAC | wc -l ) -lt 2 ]
  then
    CHIPSET=$( plctool -qr $MAC | awk -F ' ' '{print $3}' )
    echo $CHIPSET >> chipsetlist.txt
  else
    CHIPSET=$( int6k -qr $MAC | awk -F ' ' '{print $3}' )
    echo $CHIPSET >> chipsetlist.txt
  fi
done < maclist.txt
#
# Step 4. Send VS_NW_INFO (int6k -m or plctool -m, depending on device type) to
# each device to determine full PHY Rate.
#
echo
echo "Details for the other HomePlug wall adapters in the network"
echo "(adapters in Power Saving Mode are not shown):"
while read -r MAC && read -r CHIPSET <&3
do
  echo
  if [ $( int6k -qI $MAC | wc -l ) -lt 2 ]
  then
    plctool -m $MAC
    plctool -qI $MAC
  else
    int6k -m $MAC
    int6k -qI $MAC
  fi
  echo
  echo -n "Chipset: "
  echo $CHIPSET
  echo
  echo "--------------------------------------------------------------------------------"
done <maclist.txt 3<chipsetlist.txt
rm maclist.txt chipsetlist.txt
echo
echo "Some of the abbreviations are listed below, but refer to the open-plc-utils"
echo "documentation for more details. (Also see http://www.homeplug.org/ for"
echo "detailed HomePlug specifications)"
echo
echo "BDA   Bridged Destination Address"
echo "CCo   Central Coordinator"
echo "DAK   Device Access Key"
echo "MDU   Multiple Dwelling Unit"
echo "NID   Network Identifier"
echo "NMK   Network Membership Key"
echo "PIB   Parameter Information Block"
echo "SNID  Short Network Identifier"
echo "STA   Station"
echo "TEI   Terminal Equipment Identifier"
echo
exit

 
Run homeplug.sh to see details of Powerline adapters with Qualcomm Atheros chipsets in the network:

user $ ./homeplug.sh

N.B. Adapters in Power Saving Mode are not detected, so, if you want to see details of all Powerline adapters on the network, make sure none of the adapters are in Power Saving Mode before you run the script.

Below is the script’s output for my home network with the following three TP Link Powerline adapters currently connected to wall power sockets:

  • TP-Link TL-PA4010P(UK) VER:5.0 (one device)
  • TP-Link TL-PA4010(UK) VER:3.0 (two devices)

I also own the following Powerline adapters, which are currently not plugged in to wall power sockets, but this script would detect them if they were plugged in (as I have seen previously):

  • TL-PA4020P(UK) VER:4.0 (one adapter)
  • NETGEAR XAVB1301-100UKS (three adapters)
  • NETGEAR XAVB5221-100UKS (two adapters)
user $ ./homeplug.sh 
================================================================================

The Ethernet interface on this PC is: eno1

================================================================================

Details for the HomePlug wall adapter connected to this computer:

eno1 11:11:11:11:11:11 Fetch Network Information
eno1 11:11:11:11:11:11 Found 1 Network(s)

source address = 11:11:11:11:11:11

        network->NID = 99:99:99:99:99:99:99
        network->SNID = 5
        network->TEI = 38
        network->ROLE = 0x00 (STA)
        network->CCO_DA = 22:22:22:22:22:22
        network->CCO_TEI = 4
        network->STATIONS = 2

                station->MAC = 33:33:33:33:33:33
                station->TEI = 3
                station->BDA = 55:55:55:55:55:55
                station->AvgPHYDR_TX = 279 mbps Primary
                station->AvgPHYDR_RX = 276 mbps Primary

                station->MAC = 22:22:22:22:22:22
                station->TEI = 4
                station->BDA = FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
                station->AvgPHYDR_TX = 009 mbps Primary
                station->AvgPHYDR_RX = 009 mbps Primary

        PIB 0-0 8836 bytes
        MAC 11:11:11:11:11:11
        DAK 66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66
        NMK 77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77
        NID 99:99:99:99:99:99:99
        Security level 0
        NET Qualcomm Atheros Enabled Network
        MFG tpver_401115_191120_901
        USR tpver_401115_191120_901
        CCo Auto
        MDU N/A

Chipset: QCA7420

================================================================================

Details for the other HomePlug wall adapters in the network
(adapters in Power Saving Mode are not shown):

eno1 33:33:33:33:33:33 Fetch Network Information
eno1 33:33:33:33:33:33 Found 1 Network(s)

source address = 33:33:33:33:33:33

        network->NID = 99:99:99:99:99:99:99
        network->SNID = 5
        network->TEI = 3
        network->ROLE = 0x00 (STA)
        network->CCO_DA = 22:22:22:22:22:22
        network->CCO_TEI = 4
        network->STATIONS = 2

                station->MAC = 22:22:22:22:22:22
                station->TEI = 4
                station->BDA = FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
                station->AvgPHYDR_TX = 305 mbps Primary
                station->AvgPHYDR_RX = 319 mbps Primary

                station->MAC = 11:11:11:11:11:11
                station->TEI = 38
                station->BDA = 88:88:88:88:88:88
                station->AvgPHYDR_TX = 276 mbps Primary
                station->AvgPHYDR_RX = 279 mbps Primary

        PIB 0-0 8836 bytes
        MAC 33:33:33:33:33:33
        DAK 00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00 (none/secret)
        NMK 77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77
        NID 99:99:99:99:99:99:99
        Security level 0
        NET Qualcomm Atheros Enabled Network
        MFG tpver_401013_171025_901
        USR tpver_401013_171025_901
        CCo Auto
        MDU N/A

Chipset: QCA7420

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

eno1 22:22:22:22:22:22 Fetch Network Information
eno1 22:22:22:22:22:22 Found 1 Network(s)

source address = 22:22:22:22:22:22

        network->NID = 99:99:99:99:99:99:99
        network->SNID = 5
        network->TEI = 4
        network->ROLE = 0x02 (CCO)
        network->CCO_DA = 22:22:22:22:22:22
        network->CCO_TEI = 4
        network->STATIONS = 2

                station->MAC = 33:33:33:33:33:33
                station->TEI = 3
                station->BDA = 55:55:55:55:55:55
                station->AvgPHYDR_TX = 319 mbps Primary
                station->AvgPHYDR_RX = 305 mbps Primary

                station->MAC = 11:11:11:11:11:11
                station->TEI = 38
                station->BDA = 88:88:88:88:88:88
                station->AvgPHYDR_TX = 009 mbps Primary
                station->AvgPHYDR_RX = 009 mbps Primary

        PIB 0-0 8836 bytes
        MAC 22:22:22:22:22:22
        DAK 00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00 (none/secret)
        NMK 77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77
        NID 99:99:99:99:99:99:99
        Security level 0
        NET Qualcomm Atheros Enabled Network
        MFG tpver_401013_171025_901
        USR tpver_401013_171025_901
        CCo Auto
        MDU N/A

Chipset: QCA7420

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Some of the abbreviations are listed below, but refer to the open-plc-utils
documentation for more details. (Also see http://www.homeplug.org/ for
detailed HomePlug specifications)

BDA   Bridged Destination Address
CCo   Central Coordinator
DAK   Device Access Key
MDU   Multiple Dwelling Unit
NID   Network Identifier
NMK   Network Membership Key
PIB   Parameter Information Block
SNID  Short Network Identifier
STA   Station
TEI   Terminal Equipment Identifier


For security reasons, in the output above I have edited the network membership key, device access key, network identifier and adapter addresses in the above output as follows:

  • I have changed the three MAC addresses of the three adapters to be 11:11:11:11:11:11, 22:22:22:22:22:22 and 33:33:33:33:33:33.
  • I have changed the two BDAs of the two adapters that are Stations (STAs) to be 55:55:55:55:55:55 and 88:88:88:88:88:88.
  • I have changed the DAK of the adapter connected to the computer on which the script was run to be 66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66:66.
  • I have changed the NMK of the three adapters to be 77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77:77.
  • I have changed the NID of the three adapters to be 99:99:99:99:99:99:99.

Some of the information that can be gleaned from the above output of the script:

  • the adapter with MAC address 22:22:22:22:22:22 has been automatically set as the CCO (Central Coordinator) for the Powerline network, and the other two adapters (MAC addresses 11:11:11:11:11:11 and 33:33:33:33:33:33) are STAs (Stations);
  • the only DAK that can be read is for the adapter connected to the computer;
  • the BDA of the CCO is reported as FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF;
  • all three Powerline adapters use the QCA7420 chipset;
  • the two Powerline stations are different models of TP-Link adapter (TP-Link versions ending in ‘401115_191120_901’ and ‘401013_171025_901’); the central coordinator is the same TP-Link model as one of the stations (TP-Link version ending in ‘401013_171025_901’).

Indeed, a TP-Link TL-PA4010P(UK) VER:5.0 adapter is connected to this computer, and the two remote adapters are TP-Link TL-PA4010(UK) VER:3.0, one of which is currently acting as the CCO. Last year I updated the Qualcomm Atheros firmware in all of them (see my 2020 post ‘Updating the Powerline adapters in my home network‘).

Resurrecting my Iomega Zip 100 parallel-port drive – Linux comes to the rescue

Top view of Z100P2 drive with 100 MB Zip disk in front.

Top view of Z100P2 drive with 100 MB Zip disk in front.

Z100P2 drive with disk inserted.

Z100P2 drive with disk inserted.

Rear sockets of Z100P2 drive.

Rear sockets of Z100P2 drive.

Back in 1998 I purchased what was then a state-of-the-art storage medium: an external Iomega Zip 100 drive, which used removable 100 MB ‘SuperFloppy’ disks. Until 2002 I backed up my important files on removable Zip 100 MB disks. Over several years in the 1990s Iomega released various models of the Zip 100 MB drive: internal SCSI; internal IDE; internal ATAPI; external DB-25 IEEE 1284 parallel port; external USB 1.1. I bought the external DB-25 IEEE 1284 parallel port model Z100P2. When affordable CD drives and external hard disk drives started to appear I began using those for backups instead, and the Zip drive and a box full of Zip 100 MB disks had been gathering dust on a shelf at home since I stopped using them in 2002.

Now, I was fairly sure I had copied all the files off those Zip disks all those years ago, but recently I wanted to check the contents and then wipe the disks prior to disposing of them and the drive. The trouble was, I have not owned a computer with a legacy parallel port for many years. This is the story of how I managed to use the Zip 100 drive again after a hiatus of some nineteen years.

Notice that the drive has a second DB-25 port with the icon of a printer above it. That socket is to allow a legacy parallel port printer to be connected (‘daisy chained’) to the computer at the same time as the Zip 100 drive. I have not owned a parallel port printer for many years, so that port is of no interest to me.

By the way, the Iomega Zip 100 drive gained rather a bad reputation because of the so-called click of death, although Iomega stated that it affected less than 0.5 percent of all Jaz and Zip drives. I never experienced this problem with my Zip 100 drive and it is still working.

PART 1 – HARDWARE

Power supply for Z100P2

When I purchased it in 1998, the Zip 100 drive was supplied with a chunky and rather heavy 240 VAC to 5 VDC PSU. However, I gave that away several years ago with an old 250 MB external USB HDD that required a 5 VDC power supply. So my first job was to get a 5 VDC supply for the Zip 100 drive. I decided to buy a USB-to-barrel-plug cable to power the Zip drive from a USB port on a computer. So I purchased a ‘USB to 5V DC power cable compatible with the Iomega Z100P2 ZIP drive’ from Amazon. The LEDs on the drive lit up and the drive briefly made the expected noise when I connected the drive to a computer using this power cable, so I was making progress. If a computer happens to have USB Type-A ports, this turns out to be a much neater approach than having to use a 5 VDC PSU.

5 Volts DC power socket on Z100P2 and barrel connector of the cable that is connected to the computer via USB Type-A at the other end.

5 Volts DC power socket on Z100P2 and barrel connector of the cable that is connected to the computer via USB Type-A at the other end.

 
Failed first attempt: USB to legacy parallel port printer adapters do NOT work with parallel Zip drives!

None of my laptops and desktop machines have the legacy DB-25 parallel port that the Z100P2 drive requires. No problem, I thought to myself, I’ll just buy a ‘USB to Printer DB25 25-Pin Parallel Port Cable Adapter’ – there are umpteen of these adapters available on eBay and Amazon. It wasn’t expensive, but I found out the hard way that these cable adapters usually work with parallel printers but definitely do not work with Iomega Zip 100 drives. So I needed to do one of the following:

  • get a parallel printer interface card for a PCIe slot in my modern desktop machines – and hope it would work with a Z100P2 drive;
  • get a legacy computer with a bidirectional parallel port with a DB-25 socket;
  • get a legacy computer with a PCI slot into which I could insert a legacy parallel printer PCI interface card (assuming I could get hold of one).

Computer with legacy parallel port

I searched eBay and found a second-hand Dell OptiPlex 780 SFF (Small Form Factor) with a legacy DB-25 parallel port (connected to the motherboard rather than to a card in one of its PCI slots), Intel Pentium E5800 CPU (3.20 GHz, 800 Mz FSB), 4 GB of PC3-10600U (1333 MHz) DDR3 DIMM memory and Windows 10 Pro installed with a valid licence. It also has plenty of USB 2.0 Type-A ports, convenient for the USB-to-barrel-plug cable I bought to power the Z100P2 drive. The price was very reasonable indeed, so I bought it in the hope that it would be usable. The vendor assured me that Windows 10 detected the parallel port and no errors were reported, but the vendor had no legacy devices (e.g. parallel port printer) with which to actually test the port. Anyway, as it was so cheap I took a gamble and purchased it, although my research on the Web had already indicated that Windows 10 does not support parallel port Iomega Zip drives. I was thinking I could either try using a virtual machine or just wipe Windows 10 and install Linux on the machine.

The FSB speed of the legacy CPU actually limits the memory speed to 800 MHz, but performance is not too bad. I actually replaced the 4 GB of PC3-10600U memory with 8 GB of PC3-12800U (1600 MHz) memory (Crucial CT51264BD160B.C16FED2) which I purchased for a very good price on eBay, although upgrading to 8 GB of memory was not necessary for the purpose of getting the Zip 100 drive working. I decided to increase the memory because the machine is in a nice condition so I will keep it for future projects, which might need more memory.

By the way, the Dell documentation for the OptiPlex 780 SFF that I downloaded from Dell’s Web site states that the machine can only use 1066 MHz memory modules or 1333 MHz memory modules, and the 1333 MHz memory modules would only be able to have a speed of 1066 MHz. What is not obvious is that the documentation assumes that one of the E6xxx series or E7xxx series Wolfdale-3M CPUs (45 nm) is installed, as the speed of the FSB (Front Side Bus) of those CPUs is 1066 MHz. The earlier Wolfdale-3M CPUs which are installed in some OptiPlex 780 SFF machines have a FSB speed of 800 MHz, so even 1066 MHz memory modules are only going to have a speed of 800 MHz in those machines. The Wolfdale-3M CPU in my Dell machine is an E5800, which has a FSB speed of 800 MHz, so the memory speed is limited to 800 MHz (as confirmed on the BIOS System Setup screen, by the CPU-Z utility program running in Windows 10 (2 x 399.0 MHz), and by the Linux commands ‘sudo dmidecode --type 17‘ and ‘sudo lshw -short -C memory‘). The Crucial CT51264BD160B.C16FED2 PC3-12800 modules work fine in the machine, albeit limited to 800 MHz due to the CPU bus speed. On another note, if you happen to be looking for memory for a Dell OptiPlex 780 SFF, do NOT buy CT51264BD160BJ modules: the ‘J’ stands for ‘high-density’, and high-density modules do not work in this model.

Parallel port settings in the PC BIOS

The refurbished Dell OptiPlex 780 SFF has the following user-selectable options:

  1. Disable = Port is disabled
  2. AT = Port is configured for IBM AT compatibility
  3. PS/2 = Port is configured for IBM PS/2 compatibility
  4. EPP = Enhanced Parallel Port protocol
  5. ECP No DMA = Extended Capability Port protocol with no DMA
  6. ECP DMA 1 = Extended Capability Port protocol with DMA 1
  7. ECP DMA 3 = Extended Capability Port protocol with DMA 3

The BIOS had option ‘PS/2’ selected when I received the machine, which I eventually changed to ‘ECP No DMA’ but I think that was unnecessary.

The BIOS also had the Parallel Port Address set to 378h when I received it, and I left it as that.

Data connection

Fortunately I still had the original parallel cable to connect the Zip drive to a DB-25 parallel port on a computer.

Z100P2 end of cable connected to computer parallel port.

Z100P2 end of cable connected to computer parallel port.

Rear of legacy Dell PC with Z100P2 cable connected to the parallel port, and USB-to-barrel-plug power cable connected to a USB port.

Rear of legacy Dell PC with Z100P2 cable connected to the parallel port, and USB-to-barrel-plug power cable connected to a USB port.

PART 2 – SOFTWARE

First attempt – Failure: Windows XP in a VirtualBox virtual machine

My original intention was to wipe Windows 10 from the Dell machine and install Linux to see if I could get Linux to access the Zip drive. But, on second thoughts, I decided I might have a better chance in Windows because my research on the Web had already indicated that several people had successfully used Iomega Zip 100 parallel-port drives with Windows XP running in a virtual machine under Windows 10. I carefully followed a detailed article on how to do this using VirtualBox (How to use iomega zip 100 with parallel port on a windows 10 computer (so long as you have a free PCI slot)), but the Zip drive would not work with the Dell machine. I tried every BIOS option for the parallel port; I tried allowing Windows XP to install the driver; I installed the last official Iomega issue of the driver for Windows XP. Nothing worked.

Second attempt – Failure: Lubuntu 20.10 in a VirtualBox virtual machine

Then I decided to try installing Linux in a VirtualBox virtual machine under Windows 10. I chose Lubuntu 20.10 because it already has the necessary ppa (for older Zip parallel-port drives like mine) and the imm (for later versions of Zip 100 parallel-port drives than mine) modules built and either could simply be loaded from the command line. But that couldn’t access the drive either. Again, I tried without success every BIOS option for the parallel port.

Third attempt – Success: Live Lubuntu 20.10 on a USB pendrive

I was resigned to wiping Windows 10 and installing a Linux distribution when I had a brainwave: Why not try a Live Linux distribution? I used the mkusb utility to create a persistent installation of Live Lubuntu 20.10 on a USB pendrive (it had to use PC BIOS, as the legacy Dell machine does not support UEFI), booted it and used the command modprobe ppa to load the ppa parallel port driver. Shazam! The drive became device /dev/sdc4 and was auto-mounted as ‘ZIP-100’ in the LXQt file manager window. I can browse all the files on the 100 MB ZIP disks. It’s fast, too. I wish I’d thought of trying that first. I could have reformatted the disks with a Linux filesystem (ext4 or whatever) if I wanted to do that.

I then downloaded from a Debian amd64 repository the binary package for a 1996 Linux GUI utility named ‘jaZip‘ that someone named Jarrod Smith (thank you!) wrote in 1996 for Iomega Jaz and Zip drives, and I installed it easily in the Live Lubuntu 20.10 environment. It works perfectly, allowing me to mount, unmount, lock, unlock and eject Zip 100 MB disks. Linux came to the rescue again. I’m chuffed. Below are details of the steps I took to create a persistent Live USB pendrive with Lubuntu 20.10 with the ability to use my Iomega Z100P2 drive connected to the Dell OptiPlex 780 SFF PC.

By the way, a persistent Live Linux USB pendrive is not essential, it just means you don’t have to manually load the ppa module, re-install jaZip and configure it every time you boot the Live Linux environment.

1. Download the ISO of Lubuntu 20.10 from the official Lubuntu Web site.

2. Use the procedure in the following ‘How To’ article to create a persistent Live pendrive of Lubuntu 20.10 by using the utility mkusb:

Create a persistent Ubuntu USB which boots to RAM

The mkusb windows in that 2016 article are a bit different to those in the version of mkusb (12.3.9) that was installed by following the procedure, but it is fairly obvious what to do. Select the old user interface (Option e: Old User Interface). There is no need to perform the steps in ‘Extra: Boot the Live USB to RAM’ because it is now done automatically for you and added to the GRUB boot menu as an additional option.

3. Once I had created the persistent Live pendrive, I booted it and performed the installation procedure for jaZip, and configured the persistent Live installation. The console output for all these steps is shown below:

lubuntu@lubuntu:~$ sudo apt install libforms2
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  libforms2
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 327 kB of archives.
After this operation, 975 kB of additional disk space will be used.
Get:1 http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu groovy/universe amd64 libforms2 amd64 1.2.3-1.4 [327 kB]
Fetched 327 kB in 0s (807 kB/s)  
Selecting previously unselected package libforms2.
(Reading database ... 240052 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack .../libforms2_1.2.3-1.4_amd64.deb ...
Unpacking libforms2 (1.2.3-1.4) ...
Setting up libforms2 (1.2.3-1.4) ...
Processing triggers for libc-bin (2.32-0ubuntu3) ...
lubuntu@lubuntu:~$ cd ~/Downloads
lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ wget http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/pool/main/j/jazip/jazip_0.34-15.1+b2_amd64.deb
--2021-04-14 15:09:15--  http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/pool/main/j/jazip/jazip_0.34-15.1+b2_amd64.deb
Resolving ftp.uk.debian.org (ftp.uk.debian.org)... 2001:1b40:5600:ff80:f8ee::1, 78.129.164.123
Connecting to ftp.uk.debian.org (ftp.uk.debian.org)|2001:1b40:5600:ff80:f8ee::1|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 81280 (79K) [application/octet-stream]
Saving to: ‘jazip_0.34-15.1+b2_amd64.deb’

jazip_0.34-15.1+b2_amd64.de 100%[===========================================>]  79.38K  --.-KB/s    in 0.08s

2021-04-14 15:09:15 (941 KB/s) - ‘jazip_0.34-15.1+b2_amd64.deb’ saved [81280/81280]

lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ sudo dpkg -i jazip_0.34-15.1+b2_amd64.deb
Selecting previously unselected package jazip.
(Reading database ... 240059 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack jazip_0.34-15.1+b2_amd64.deb ...
Unpacking jazip (0.34-15.1+b2) ...
Setting up jazip (0.34-15.1+b2) ...
Processing triggers for man-db (2.9.3-2) ...
lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ sudo adduser lubuntu floppy
Adding user `lubuntu' to group `floppy' ...
Adding user lubuntu to group floppy
Done.
lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ sudo modprobe ppa # Load the parallel port driver for the Zip drive.
lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ sudo blkid # Check if the Zip drive has now been detected.
/dev/sda1: LABEL="system" BLOCK_SIZE="512" UUID="BCF27E52F27E10BE" TYPE="ntfs" PARTUUID="6da119a3-01"
/dev/sda2: LABEL="windows" BLOCK_SIZE="512" UUID="527280DF7280C8E5" TYPE="ntfs" PARTUUID="6da119a3-02"
/dev/sdb1: LABEL="usbdata" BLOCK_SIZE="512" UUID="347345C33A9B90D1" TYPE="ntfs" PARTUUID="793c91c2-01"
/dev/sdb3: LABEL_FATBOOT="lub201064" LABEL="lub201064" UUID="7EAA-D59C" BLOCK_SIZE="512" TYPE="vfat" PARTUUID="793c91c2-03"
/dev/sdb4: BLOCK_SIZE="2048" UUID="2020-10-22-14-26-38-00" LABEL="Lubuntu 20.10 amd64" TYPE="iso9660" PTUUID="509643ab-f22d-4d70-8a47-8708c562cbfe" PTTYPE="gpt" PARTUUID="793c91c2-04"
/dev/loop0: TYPE="squashfs"
/dev/sdb5: LABEL="casper-rw" UUID="55459d4d-48f3-4b50-bd9b-3fd71e552bb2" BLOCK_SIZE="4096" TYPE="ext4" PARTUUID="793c91c2-05"
/dev/zram0: UUID="073aa55f-241b-4deb-b6a0-907676dfff65" TYPE="swap"
/dev/zram1: UUID="692d4cc6-21fa-48b8-8ef7-948dc13dec53" TYPE="swap"
/dev/sdc4: SEC_TYPE="msdos" LABEL_FATBOOT="ZIP-100" LABEL="ZIP-100" UUID="15F9-2C71" BLOCK_SIZE="512" TYPE="vfat" PARTUUID="726a014e-04"
lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ sudo mkdir -p /media/lubuntu/ZIP-100
lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ sudo /usr/sbin/jazipconfig
There are currently no entries in /etc/jazip.conf.

Zip devices detected on the system:

  1:  Device /dev/sdc

There are no Jaz devices detected on the system.

Available commands:
 (a)dd an entry listed from detected devices.
 (c)reate an entry from scratch.
 (q)uit without saving.
 (e)xit and save changes.
                           ? a

What mount point? (e.g. /zip) /media/lubuntu/ZIP-100
--------------------------------------------
These are the entries currently selected for /etc/jazip.conf:

  1:   Device /dev/sdc   Mount point /media/lubuntu/ZIP-100

There are no other Zip devices detected on the system.

There are no Jaz devices detected on the system.

Available commands:
 (d)elete an entry from /etc/jazip.conf
 (c)reate an entry from scratch.
 (q)uit without saving.
 (e)xit and save changes.
                           ? e
Creating /etc/jazip.conf
lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ cat /etc/jazip.conf
# Configuration file for jaZip
#
# Raw Device         Mount Point                  Read but ignored
  /dev/sdc              /media/lubuntu/ZIP-100                      auto    auto        0 0
lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ sudo jazip # Launch jaZip.
ERROR! Couldn't write entry to /etc/mtab.
lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ sudo jazip # Launch jaZip.
lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ sudo nano /etc/modules # Add ppa so it gets loaded automatically.

 
4. Add a jaZip icon on the Linux Desktop so that you can launch jaZip easily:

4.1 Create the file /home/lubuntu/Desktop/jazip.desktop containing:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=jazip
GenericName=Manage Iomega Jaz and Zip drives
Comment=
Exec=/home/lubuntu/.launch_jazip.sh
Type=Application
Icon=/usr/share/doc/jazip/icons/jazip1.gif
Terminal=false

4.2 Right-click on the icon on the Desktop and tick ‘Trust this executable’.

4.3 Create the file /home/lubuntu/.launch_jazip.sh containing:

#!/bin/bash
lxqt-sudo nohup jazip &

4.4 Make it executable:

lubuntu@lubuntu:~/Downloads$ chmod +x ~/.launch_jazip.sh
jaZip window open on the Lubuntu 20.10 Desktop.

jaZip window open on the Lubuntu 20.10 Desktop.

What a pleasure to find that the ppa module, which has been part of the kernel distribution since sometime in the 1.3.x series, is still available and working in today’s Linux kernels, and that jaZip, a utility program for Linux originally released in 1996 and last updated (as far as I can tell) in the year 2001, still works in today’s Linux to manage hardware that has been obsolete for almost as long.

Using jaZip to mount a Zip disk will mount the disk with ownership root:root. Therefore, if I want to copy files to a Zip disk, instead of using jaZip to mount and unmount the disk I click on the device ‘101 MB Volume’ that appears in the Lists pane of the PCManFM-Qt file manager window after a Zip disk is inserted in the drive. I just use jaZip to eject the Zip disk from the drive after unmounting it by clicking on the Unmount icon in the Lists pane of PCManFM-Qt.

Notes on keyboard configuration in X Windows: Keyboard layout, Modifier Key and Compose Key

Before I dive into X Windows, I need to mention Miguel Farah’s excellent and comprehensive Web pages on keyboard layouts and standards:

http://www.farah.cl/Keyboardery/

There are umpteen articles, blog and forum posts available on the Web covering keyboard configuration for X Windows, but my notes below may be of help to someone. I briefly cover keyboard layout configuration (non-persistent) from the command line in a pseudo terminal in an X Windows session, and also how to make the configuration persist. I also cover how to configure a ‘Modifier Key‘ and a ‘Compose Key‘, two different things.

1. Changing the layout

Look in the file /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst to find out what settings are available in X Windows. The file is divided into four sections listing the different keyboard models, layouts, variants and options that X Windows allows:

user $ grep "^! " /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst
! model
! layout
! variant
! option

For example, the following X Windows German-language keyboard layouts are available in the Linux installation I am using now:

user $ awk '/\!\ layout/{flag=1;next}/\!\ variant/{flag=0}flag' /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | grep German
  at              German (Austria)
  de              German
  ch              German (Switzerland)

And the following variants to those three keyboard layouts are available:

user $ awk '/\!\ variant/{flag=1;next}/\!\ option/{flag=0}flag' /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | grep "at: German"
  nodeadkeys      at: German (Austria, no dead keys)
  sundeadkeys     at: German (Austria, with Sun dead keys)
  mac             at: German (Austria, Macintosh)
user $ awk '/\!\ variant/{flag=1;next}/\!\ option/{flag=0}flag' /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | grep "de: German"
  deadacute       de: German (dead acute)
  deadgraveacute  de: German (dead grave acute)
  nodeadkeys      de: German (no dead keys)
  T3              de: German (T3)
  dvorak          de: German (Dvorak)
  sundeadkeys     de: German (with Sun dead keys)
  neo             de: German (Neo 2)
  mac             de: German (Macintosh)
  mac_nodeadkeys  de: German (Macintosh, no dead keys)
  qwerty          de: German (QWERTY)
  deadtilde       de: German (dead tilde)
user $ awk '/\!\ variant/{flag=1;next}/\!\ option/{flag=0}flag' /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | grep "ch: German"
  legacy          ch: German (Switzerland, legacy)
  de_nodeadkeys   ch: German (Switzerland, no dead keys)
  de_sundeadkeys  ch: German (Switzerland, with Sun dead keys)
  de_mac          ch: German (Switzerland, Macintosh)

Let’s say I had a desktop machine with a 104-key Swiss German keyboard. By looking through the list of keyboard models in the models section of the file /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst, I think the following model best describes the keyboard:

user $ awk '/\!\ model/{flag=1;next}/\!\ layout/{flag=0}flag' /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | grep 104
  pc104           Generic 104-key PC

To inform X Windows of the keyboard’s characteristics I could, for example, enter the following command in an X Windows terminal window, which would apply for that session only:

user $ setxkbmap -model pc104 -layout ch -variant legacy

and/or I could configure X Windows permanently by creating/editing a file /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/00-keyboard.conf containing the following:

Section "InputClass"
Identifier "system-keyboard"
MatchIsKeyboard "on"
Option "XkbModel" "pc104"
Option "XkbLayout" "ch"
Option "XkbVariant" "legacy"
EndSection

My laptop has a UK keyboard but, depending where I am, I sometimes connect an external US, Brazilian or Spanish keyboard to it.

Left side of HP UK keyboard

Left side of HP UK keyboard

Left side of HP US keyboard

Left side of HP US keyboard

Left side of HP Brazilian keyboard

Left side of HP Brazilian keyboard

Left side of HP Iberian Spanish keyboard

Left side of HP Iberian Spanish keyboard

To be able to switch the layout to the keyboard I am currently using, the following two methods achieve the same effect in X Windows:

Current session only

user $ setxkbmap -layout gb,us,br,es -model pc105 -option grp:alt_shift_toggle

Persistent

The file /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/00-keyboard.conf contains:

Section "InputClass"
Identifier "system-keyboard"
MatchIsKeyboard "on"
Option "XkbLayout" "gb,us,br,es"
Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
Option "XkbOptions" "grp:alt_shift_toggle"
EndSection

Either of the above methods will enable me to toggle between UK, US, Brazilian and Iberian Spanish keyboard layouts in X Windows by pressing Alt+Shft. If the laptop had, say, a Brazilian keyboard instead of a UK keyboard then I could change the order of the layouts to ‘br,gb,us,es‘ or whatever order I prefer.

In fact, even when an external keyboard is not connected to my laptop I select the layout using Alt+Shft if I want to type in English, Portuguese or Spanish. For example, to type ‘ã‘ (the letter ‘a‘ with a tilde accent) I press Alt+Shft to switch to the Brazilian Portuguese layout then press the ' (apostrophe) key followed by the A key on the laptop’s UK keyboard. Transparent key-cap stickers can be purchased for various language layouts so that users can see which keys on the keyboard correspond to keys in another layout. However I don’t bother with key-cap stickers because I can remember the layouts for the few languages I use.
 
2. Using a Modifier Key and/or a Compose Key

If you do not connect external keyboards with different layouts, or you want to be able to type letters with accents – or type different symbols – that are not on the keyboard, a Modifier Key and/or a Compose Key can be used. These are two different things. You might use a Modifier Key to add an accent to a letter, for example. If you were to configure, say, AltGr as the Modifier Key, pressing AltGr and the ` (grave accent) key simultaneously then releasing them and pressing the A key could – depending on which keyboard layout you are using – result in à (‘a‘ with the grave accent) being displayed. The ` (grave accent) key is a ‘dead key’ in this case because it is not displayed by itself when pressed in conjunction with the AltGr key; it is only displayed when the next key is pressed, i.e. à, not `a, is displayed on the screen.

You might use a Compose Key to display a symbol that is not on the keyboard. If you were to configure, say, the Pause key as the Compose Key, pressing and releasing the Pause key, then the O key and then the C key could – depending on which keyboard layout you have specified – result in the © (copyright) symbol being displayed.

Let’s say that you want a US keyboard layout with AltGr dead keys, and the Windows key as the Compose key. The setxkbmap command would be:

user $ setxkbmap -layout us -variant altgr-intl -option compose:lwin

Alternatively, the file /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/00-keyboard.conf to make that configuration permanent would contain:

Section "InputClass"
Identifier "keyboard"
MatchIsKeyboard "yes"
Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
Option "XkbLayout" "us"
Option "XkbVariant" "altgr-intl"
Option "XkbOptions" "compose:lwin"
EndSection

However, the problem with specifying the Windows key as the Compose Key is that the Windows key is usually the key that makes a desktop environment display the applications menu, so an alternative Compose Key needs to be chosen.

You can play around with the XkbModel, XkbLayout, XkbVariant and XkbOptions options to see what works. Look in the file /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst to find out what are permissible/available.

Using the example of a generic US International keyboard layout with AltGr dead keys, let’s check what options for the model, layout, variant, option and Compose Key are available:

model

user $ awk '/\!\ model/{flag=1;next}/\!\ layout/{flag=0}flag' /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | grep Generic
  pc101           Generic 101-key PC
  pc102           Generic 102-key PC
  pc104           Generic 104-key PC
  pc104alt        Generic 104-key PC with L-shaped Enter key
  pc105           Generic 105-key PC

layout

user $ awk '/\!\ layout/{flag=1;next}/\!\ variant/{flag=0}flag' /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | grep "US"
  us              English (US)

variant

user $ awk '/\!\ variant/{flag=1;next}/\!\ option/{flag=0}flag' /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | grep dead | grep "us:"
  intl            us: English (US, intl., with dead keys)
  dvorak-intl     us: English (Dvorak, intl., with dead keys)
  altgr-intl      us: English (intl., with AltGr dead keys)
  workman-intl    us: English (Workman, intl., with dead keys)

option

user $ tac /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | awk '/\!\ option/ {exit} 1' | tac | grep ralt
  lv3:ralt_switch      Right Alt
  lv3:ralt_switch_multikey Right Alt; Shift+Right Alt as Compose
  lv3:ralt_alt         Right Alt never chooses 3rd level
  ctrl:rctrl_ralt      Right Ctrl as Right Alt
  compose:ralt         Right Alt
  lv5:ralt_switch      Right Alt chooses 5th level
  lv5:ralt_switch_lock Right Alt chooses 5th level and acts as a one-time lock if pressed with another 5th level chooser
  lv5:ralt_switch      Right Alt chooses 5th level
  lv5:ralt_switch_lock Right Alt chooses 5th level and acts as a one-time lock if pressed with another 5th level chooser
  korean:ralt_hangul   Make right Alt a Hangul key
  korean:ralt_hanja    Make right Alt a Hanja key

Compose Key

user $ grep "compose:" /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/base.lst
  compose:ralt         Right Alt
  compose:lwin         Left Win
  compose:lwin-altgr   3rd level of Left Win
  compose:rwin         Right Win
  compose:rwin-altgr   3rd level of Right Win
  compose:menu         Menu
  compose:menu-altgr   3rd level of Menu
  compose:lctrl        Left Ctrl
  compose:lctrl-altgr  3rd level of Left Ctrl
  compose:rctrl        Right Ctrl
  compose:rctrl-altgr  3rd level of Right Ctrl
  compose:caps         Caps Lock
  compose:caps-altgr   3rd level of Caps Lock
  compose:102          The "<Less/Greater>" key
  compose:102-altgr    3rd level of "<Less/Greater>" key
  compose:paus         Pause
  compose:prsc         PrtSc
  compose:sclk         Scroll Lock

(Not all keyboard layouts have a ‘<Less/Greater>’ key, a single key with both < and > symbols on it.)

The following works for me in LXQt with a US keyboard layout:

user $ setxkbmap -layout us -variant altgr-intl -option compose:paus

With the above configuration, I press:

AltGr+a to get á
AltGr+` then a to get à
AltGr+~ then a to get ã
AltGr+e to get é
AltGr+` then e to get è
AltGr+^ then e to get ê
AltGr+~ then e to get
AltGr+o to get ó
AltGr+n to get ñ
AltGr+c to get ©
AltGr+< to get ç
AltGr+s to get ß
AltGr+? to get ¿

and so on, and I press:

Pause then o then o to get °
Pause then o then c to get ©
Pause then ~ then a to get ã
Pause then ~ then e to get
Pause then ^ then 2 to get ²
Pause then _ then 2 to get
Pause then 8 then 8 to get
Pause then E then = to get
Pause then . then . to get
Pause then then > to get
Pause then < then to get
Pause then < then 3 to get
Pause then CCCP to get

and so on. Notice that some characters are available using either method (©, ã and are three examples shown above). A full list of Compose Key characters can be found in the file /usr/share/X11/locale/<locale>/Compose in your installation. For the US layout keyboard the list is in the file /usr/share/X11/locale/en_US.UTF-8/Compose. Various lists of Compose Key sequences and the resulting symbols can also be found on the Web.

To make the configuration in the aforementioned setxkbmap command permanent I would edit the file /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/00-keyboard.conf to contain the following:

Section "InputClass"
Identifier "keyboard"
MatchIsKeyboard "yes"
Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
Option "XkbLayout" "us"
Option "XkbVariant" "altgr-intl"
Option "XkbOptions" "compose:paus"
EndSection

Let’s say I want to be able to switch between British (gb), US (us), Brazilian (br) and Iberian Spanish (es) keyboard layouts by using Alt+Shft on my laptop with a UK keyboard. I could use the command:

user $ setxkbmap -model pc105 -layout gb,us,br,es -variant ,altgr-intl,, -option grp:alt_shift_toggle,compose:paus

The commas in the -variant option means the ‘altgr-intl‘ option applies solely to the US layout. The Compose Key option in the -option options will work for all layouts.

I could make that configuration permanent in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/00-keyboard.conf:

Section "InputClass"
Identifier "keyboard"
MatchIsKeyboard "yes"
Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
Option "XkbLayout" "gb,us,br,es"
Option "XkbVariant" ",altgr-intl,,"
Option "XkbOptions" "grp:alt_shift_toggle,compose:paus"
EndSection

Note that I would not be able to specify ‘altgr-intl‘ as a variant for the gb, br and es layouts I use because the variant ‘altgr-intl‘ is not available in those layouts:

user $ awk '/\!\ variant/{flag=1;next}/\!\ option/{flag=0}flag' /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | grep dead | grep "gb:"
  intl            gb: English (UK, intl., with dead keys)
user $ awk '/\!\ variant/{flag=1;next}/\!\ option/{flag=0}flag' /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | grep dead | grep "br:"
  nodeadkeys      br: Portuguese (Brazil, no dead keys)
user $ awk '/\!\ variant/{flag=1;next}/\!\ option/{flag=0}flag' /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst | grep dead | grep "es:"
  nodeadkeys      es: Spanish (no dead keys)
  deadtilde       es: Spanish (dead tilde)
  sundeadkeys     es: Spanish (with Sun dead keys)

 
3. Virtual Terminal (TTY console) keyboard configuration

Although this post is about keyboard configuration for X Windows, I should briefly mention that configurations for X Windows do not apply to virtual terminals (TTY consoles).

If you’re using a Linux distribution running OpenRC, you specify the persistent console keymap in the file /etc/conf.d/keymaps. You can find out which console keymaps are available by examining the directories under /usr/share/keymaps/. For example, the following console keymaps are available for US keyboards in Gentoo Linux:

user $ ls /usr/share/keymaps/i386/qwerty/us*
/usr/share/keymaps/i386/qwerty/us-acentos.map.gz
/usr/share/keymaps/i386/qwerty/us.map.gz
/usr/share/keymaps/i386/qwerty/us1.map.gz

so you would be able to specify one of the following in /etc/conf.d/keymaps:

keymap="us-acentos"

keymap="us"

keymap="us1"

It is also possible to change the console keymap (non-persistent) from the command line. For example, to switch to a UK keyboard layout for a TTY console:

root # loadkeys uk

(notice it is not ‘gb‘ in the case of TTY consoles), or to switch to an Italian Apple Macintosh keyboard layout for a TTY console:

root # loadkeys mac-it

and so on.

If you’re using a Linux distribution running systemd, see my 2020 blog post ‘Reconfiguring the time zone, locales and keymaps in Sabayon Linux‘ for the commands to list and configure TTY console keymaps. The persistent TTY console keymap is specified in the file /etc/vconsole.conf, which can be edited directly and is also edited by the ‘localectl set-keymap‘ command mentioned in that post. The loadkeys command can also be used as described above to change (non-persistent) the keyboard layout for the TTY console.