2015 — 8 April: Wednesday

Another nice, sunny start to the day, marred only by:

  1. the daily race condition1 in which the automatic re-start of my Firefox web browser is faster than the automatic re-start of my "internal" webserver on "localhost". Hence the "Well, this is embarrassing..." message from Firefox :-)
  2. the intractable inability of the FileZilla file transfer program to get out of bed unassisted2


... I've now managed to go over 24 hours without having to re-install my Linux system. Being a cheerful optimist (now that I've enjoyed my initial cuppa) I choose to regard this as a positive sign. I realise my journey towards my distant goal of a stable, usable, responsive desktop Linux system has been — shall we say? — somewhat boulder-strewn, but shifting (or squeezing past) each boulder in turn — not to mention taking various detours and cul-de-sacs (culs-de-sac?) along the way — has usually taught me something new, or useful...

A Sandhurst instructor in the 1950s used to tell officer candidates... Never march on Moscow, never invade the Balkans and never trust personal luggage to the RAF.

Date: 1997

And it's hardly fair to blame Linux for hardware problems, even though they invariably cause bigger boulders than one might like. (I certainly never expected to be unable to use the nVIDIA GTX970 graphics card with my new motherboard.) Although there was a period of successful 4K display at 60Hz from the Radeon graphics card, that, too, now awaits further investigation. I was long overdue a new printer, and the opportunity to combine it with a scanner in a unit well-supported (by HP) under Linux was a no-brainer. The audio and video playback of digital media is fine. The only (faint) noise from the system arises from the fans in the power supply and underneath the CPU cooler's fins.

Nor have I lost even a smidgen of user data during the upheavals. (Doing so would have really irritated me.) Right! Time for brekkie, methinks. And a change of cereal fruit topping (having found some tasty Bramleys yesterday).

Victory is mine!

"Put kettle on, mother!"
"What are we celebrating? That pitiful 1.2% IBM pension increase?"
"No, something much better: 4K resolution at 60 Hz"
"I must have dropped you on your head when you were a baby."

Recall what I said about boulder-strewn roads in the Linux landscape?

  1. Switch everything off
  2. Put back the Radeon graphics card, so Linux can detect it and potentially offer a new driver for it
  3. Switch on and reboot
  4. Open a terminal as 'root' and edit "nomodeset" back into grub, in /etc/default/grub since painful experience shows we will simply never get a working display without it
  5. Run update-grub (again, as 'root') immediately to reflect this alteration permanently
  6. Use the Driver Manager to select a proprietary ATI driver (instead of the open source one currently in use)
  7. Reboot, and keep hitting the 'del' key to enter the BIOS setup
  8. Reset the BIOS to use PCI slot 1 for its default graphics (instead of the motherboard's integrated graphics), PF10 to save and exit
  9. Just allow the reboot to resume
  10. Login at the start panel and admire the new 4K desktop display with its increased refresh rate
  11. Unplug the HDMI lead, and smile when the display stays on!

Being unable...

... to think of any reason not to, I betook myself out on a little afternoon celebratory adventure (lunch safely tucked away by then) and managed to acquire some potential entertainment:

2x DVDs

Fingers crossed.

As I was updating...

... the set of notes I've been carefully keeping on how to install (and endlessly re-install!) my Linux system I discovered, to my mild alarm,3 a beautiful "Catch-22" gotcha just waiting to bite me. It's caused by Linux being just a bit too smart for my own good. When I installed the current system on one of my three 480 GB SSDs, I lazily let the installer have free rein over the entire SSD formatted as a single partition. I didn't realise it would spot, and happily re-use, the 24 GB swap partition that was already sitting around on the 240 GB SSD that went "iffy" on me.

A solution, of course, would be to resize my partition on the current system, create a new swap space on it, and mount it as "/swap". But the route to changing partition sizes on one's active system device is particularly boulder-strewn. Not unlike changing an engine on a jet while it's crossing the Atlantic... ill-advised. There are several ways of defurring that particular feline, but they all involve the system device being unmounted. And having access to GPartEd at the same time. The simplest solution (with a tip of the hat to Len, who thought of it as we were chatting about possibilities) was to unmount my as-yet-unused 480 GB SSD /backup and then run GPartEd to shrink its single partition by 24GB, create a new 24GB /swap partition on it, mount the new /swap, edit the /etc/fstab accordingly — removing the line defining the current /swap and replacing it by my new one on the different device — then shut down the PC and physically remove the "iffy" SSD.

I suspect even Linux can't use a disk that's not actually in the machine! Done. [Pause] "The Device", by the way, did not hold my attention for very long. But another episode of "Game of Thrones" did.



1  Avoidable, I predict, by simply not having my browser on a local page when I shutdown the system. I like the way the running programs are restored to their 'correct' virtual desktops, too.
2  Which, for some reason, reminds me that my son will be here this weekend for Phase II of his great "bed swap and build" exercise. Better do some tidying up.
3  That emotion would have been abject horror a mere month ago, so that's some progress I guess.