Saturday, December 25, 2004

HOWTO: Install Fedora Core 3 Linux on a Sony Vaio PCG-TR2A Laptop

I've installed Fedora Core 3 Linux (the freely-downloadable version of RedHat Linux) on my Sony Vaio PCG-TR2A laptop. It detected and configured correctly for everything except for the odd size (1280x768) display screen and the Intel Centrino-based wireless network interface. Based on my perusal of hints others had left at Linux on Laptops for this and other variations of the PCG-TR* model and for other Linux distros, here is how I got things working. There are still a couple of things left to do, like hotkeys and the integrated video camera; I'll add what I found after I find it/figure it out.

X Configuration

Download the 1280patch, compile it, and then install it:

$ gcc -o 1280patch 1280patch.c
$ su
# mv 1280patch /usr/X11R6/bin
# cd /usr/X11R6/bin
# ./1280patch

To make sure this patch is loaded each time the machine is rebooted, append the line


to the bottom of file /etc/rc.d/rc.local. Next, modify your X configuration file /etc/X11/xorg.conf by adding the line

Modeline "1280x768" 80.14 1280 1344 1480 1680
768 769 772 795

(all on one line) to the "Monitor" section. Don't forget to comment-out the HorizSync and VertRefresh lines or else this won't work:

# HorizSync 31.5 - 37.9
# VertRefresh 50.0 - 70.0

Then, in each of the "Display" subsections of the "Screen" section, add


(including the quotation marks) first in line, prior to the other listed screen resolutions.


It may or may not be necessary, but this is where I ran up2date. You might skip this part. It may or may not affect the rest of the process.


To get sound to work, open the GNOME ALSA mixer using menu items "Applications" > "Sound and Video" > "ALSA Mixer Control". Deselect the "external amplifier". You might also want to mute the microphone ("mic") to keep from getting feedback screeching.


Under menu "Application" > "Preferences" > "Fonts" I chose "Font Preferences" = 9, 9, 9, 9 and "Font Rendering" = "subpixel smoothing (LCDs)". This seemed like a nice compromise between screen readability and getting enough information display on the small 10.5-inch X-Brite screen.

Wireless LAN


$ /sbin/lspci

to see that the Linux (if not RedHat) has detected that the computer is using the following wireless LAN NIC:

02:0b.0 Network controller: Intel Corp. PRO/Wireless
LAN 2100 3B Mini PCI Adapter (rev 04)

Based on this information, download the following RPMS: driver, kernel module, and firmware Verify that you are running the i686 kernel, which is the latest at the time of this writing, by typing

# uname -a

Now, as root, install these packages:

# rpm -ivh
# rpm -ivh kernel-module-ipw2100-2.6.9-1.681-
# rpm -ivh

(Again, each command should be written all on one line. It is reformatted to fit on the this web page.) Then reboot. Kudzu will detect the WLAN card now. Let it configure the card. Choose DHCP instead of trying to configure a static IP address for it (if you're WLAN access point is a DHCP server. Which is what it almost certainly is. You're on your own if it isn't.) Once the computer has finished rebooting, use

# /sbin/lsmod | grep ipw2100

to verify that the ipw2100 kernel module was really loaded. You can configure your IP interfaces either using the menu "Appliations" > "System Settings" > "Network" or you can configure the relevant file directly:

file /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0


file /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth1


Note that I had previously configured my wireless access point to use channel 1 in order to avoid interference from neighbors using other channels. You should change this file accordingly.

file /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/keys-eth1


Now restart the network using either

# /etc/init.d/network restart


# /sbin/service network restart

Then verify that the wireless link works by typing

# /sbin/iwconfig eth1

and observing the response. It couldn't hurt to verify that your Firefox web browser can still load web pages... ;-)

I will add more as I get additional items working. Remember, "it said use Windows XP or better, so I installed Linux!"

Monday, December 20, 2004

Vector Graphics Software ... and It's Open Source!

Today I heard about an interesting software project known as Inkscape. This is open source software and versions are available for Windows, as well as Linux. Unlike The GIMP, which is open source software designed to compete with Photoshop, this is drawing software, something like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw. It is a fairly new project, being only up to version 0.40 after about a year since forking from Sodipodi, but it seems to work nicely!

When I first started using personal computers at work, we used a popular Windows drawing package called "Arts & Letters" and I got to the point where I was fairly good at it. The publisher seems to have sputtered at some point so that, as far as I know, almost no one uses it in its present incarnation. On the other hand, somebody must be buying it because they're still in business. But it isn't widely used and, at approx $140, it is much cheaper than Illustrator but is still a bit expensive for me. Until now, however, I could not find a decent replacement. Since this is an early alpha version, even though it appears to work well, there is still a lot of development to go. I have installed it on my PC and will almost certainly use it. I lust after Illustrator but it costs five hundred bucks!

12/26/2004 EDIT: Here's a link to a review of Inkscape.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

First Snow of the Season

We're currently receiving our first dusting of snow for this season, only a few days before Christmas. Sheena the dog likes the snow and, when there's a bit more of it, likes to have snowballs thrown up in the air for her. She doesn't seem to mind the fact that they disintegrate when she catches them. What a good dog!

Website of the Hour: Arts & Letters Daily

Arts & Letters Daily is one of my favorite web sites. Originally associated with the late great Lingua Franca and now with the Chronicle of Higher Education, it is run by Denis Dutton down in New Zealand. It is a wonderful site consisting of many links to interesting recent articles posted on-line, web sites for the world's most important newspapers, magazines, book reviews, columnists, and on-line radio news and music. Being the son of two English teachers, it appealed to me right away. I simply love it. Geared to appeal to liberals arts types it is, ironically, infinitesimally right-of-center. But that may be an incorrect impression on my part: it has no overt opinions posted and I only think I can detect this slight editorial tendency. I am little more certain that it is US-centric in outlook. Okay, I can't tell any such thing, but this is how I would like to imagine it being. Don't spoil my fun.

President Bush is Man of the Year

President Bush has been named Time Magazine's Person of the Year. Mr. Bush has turned out to be a helluva President, something that would have surprised me during the Republican primaries of 2000. I voted for John McCain in the Maryland primary in spite of the fact that the nomination had been clinched by that time, late in the season. I did NOT want another President George H.W. Bush, for whom I voted in 1988 because Ronald Reagan endorsed him, but against whom I voted in 1992. Some who know me may characterize my antipathy toward the first President Bush as that of a frustrated conservative. I may or may not be willing to concede that point.

But with the events of September 11, 2001 and after, "Dubya" has, to my way of thinking, demonstrated a constancy of policy in hunting and killing the terrorists worldwide. Unlike his father, the current president has a grim determination to see this war through and I very much back him in that. Relentless pursuit of Al Qaeda and their enablers, in Iraq and elsewhere, is how this war is being prosecuted and how it will be won.

Wolfram's "A New Kind of Science"

I just took advantage of a sale at Wolfram Research to buy Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science bundled with the companion software A New Kind of Science Explorer. The bundle is available for about the same price as the book alone at, say, Border's, which never heard of discounting the price from the MSRP. I am enjoying the book, reading some sections carefully and skimming others. The software, based on Mathematica, is limited to what is done in the book but it is organized nicely so that it is easy to read about a topic in the book and the immediately go to the relevant section of the software, indexed by page number, to try it out and experiment a bit with variations in initial conditions, depth, or what have you. Highly recommended.

I wrote (enthusiastically) about Mathematica in a previous post. It is also worth noting that Wolfram is not universally popular among his peers. Compelling ideas served alongside jealous gossip: what could be better?