Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On Installing Linux Mint - The 'Granite' PC Edition - "Issues Abound"

Cinnamon Destkop Environment, Linux Mint LiveCD
Some context:
  • HP Pavilion PC
  • Linux Mint (LMDE 201403)
  • Hostname: Granite
Some notes, on installing Linux Mint on an HP Pavilion PC
  •  Before writing this blog entry, the drivers for the touchpad for the PC needed to be configured to disable the touchpad when typing
    • That was "Easy enough," via the Mouse and Keypad configuration widget, under the System Settings menu entry in the Preferences menu of the Cinnamon Desktop Menu
    • Without that configuration change, otherwise the PC's hypersensitive touchpad would serve to prevent effective use of the web browser
  • Browser issues -- Mint LMDE 201403 ships with an actually "oudated" edition of Firefox
    • Negative features of the edition of Firefox shipping with LMDE 201403:
      • Firefox 27 -- Is it the ostensible "Optimized by Yahoo" edition of Firefox?
        • That page indicates, inaccurately, as if Firefox 30 was not available on Linux (Accessed 24 June 2014)
          • Maybe it's simply a matter of crossed semantics. Perhaps Firefox 27 is the latest version of Yahoo(Firefox) though it is not the latest version of Mozilla Firefox.
        • Firefox 30 is, in fact, available on Linux 
        • The current edition of Firefox (Firefox 30) is available via Mozilla.org
      • The Firefox 27 edition shipped with that edition of Mint (LMDE) prevents the user from selecting Google as a search engine in the browser search bar
        • Google is not either available in the "Manage search engines" menu, in that Firefox 27 edition
      • The Firefox Synch configuration is strange in that edition, and not well usable. Unlike in Firefox 30, the Firefox Synch configuration in that edition of Firefox 27 it requires some sort of a "remote device" for its configuration, whereas in Firefox 30, the Firefox Synch configuration only needs one's regular username and credetials for login  
    • Due to the significance of the web browser as an application in the typical desktop OS user experience and workflow -- certainly, the web browser being no less significant as an essential desktop application, as much on a Linux Desktop, as much as on an OS X or Microsoft Windows desktop -- then the limitations of the edition of Firefox shipped with Mint (LMDE 201403) might seem to suggest a sense of limitations to the OS itself, if only due to the "Yahoo Optimized" edition's Yahoo branding and Yahoo search engine lock-in
    • At least the upstream Firefox is available to be installed by the user and/or admin -- an edition of Firefox not limited by any single search engine provider's own endeavors in marketing
  • The PC of this installation is an HP Pavilion, 15 D045NR
  • The Linux Mint used for that laptop: Linux Mint, LMDE 201403, 64 bit (amd64), with Cinnamon configured as the primary desktop environment 
    • Cinnamon -- great desktop UX, regardless of these "hangups"
  • There appears to be some kind of an issue with Linux KMS on that laptop -- specifically with  Kernel 3.11.2 on that model of PC
    • The PC will not "Boot to GUI" -- not either before or after installation -- if without the parameter, 'nomodeset', being specified on the kernel command line. 
    • Without that parameter, the install disk screen goes blank after the kernel is loaded. Similar behavior is observed with the OS as installed.
    • Advice about 'nomodeset' was found  via a tutorial at the Linux Mint community web site
    • Additionally, the kernel parameter, grub_gfxmode=1280x1024x24  as denoted in the tutorial, it serves to allow for a more usable terminal/console view, on that laptop
    • Those additional kernel command line parameters may be specified via Grub, at boot time, and may be added to the host Grub configuration, followed with `update-grub`
      • However, the KMS issue (framebuffer??) effectively asks for a long-term resolution, on at least that model of laptop
    • When the Cinanmon desktop boots to X, with the nomodeset parameter specified on the kernel command line, then there's a warning about the desktop running in software acceleration mode. That warning may be viewed as it being a useful item, however -- for instance, it may be viewed as effectively denoting some further concerns with regards to correcting the configuration on the laptop.
  •  Additionally, that model of PC uses UEFI, in such a hard disk and firmware configuration as makes it notably difficult -- though notably "not impossible" -- to install Linux in parallel to the PC's primary Windows 8.1 installation
    • "Quick" workaround: To enable "Legacy boot" in the BIOS, and to manually select the non-UEFI/non-EFI entry for the hard disk, in the boot device options, every time the PC boots
    • Alternately, one may consult available documentation online, for advice about installing Linux for dual-boot on an UEFI PC.
  • Perhaps in some relation to the UEFI issue, `cfdisk` is not able to read the partition table of the laptop's internal drive.
    • `cfdisk`emits the error message, "Unsupported GPT (GUID Partition Table) detected" and indicates that the partition table can be acessed with `gparted`
    • FIXME: The `gparted` partition editor  is not shipped with the LMDE live disk (LMDE 201403)
  • ntfsprogs -- unavailable?
  • Keyring issues
    • A workaround is available - note the comment by Sadi, in an item at Ask Ubuntu
      •  Though the  "convenient hack" is available, but that issue  needs an upstream resolution
    • Evidently it's not a matter of keyring issues, per se 
    • Aptitude reports the issue as if it being a matter of "Unauthenticated sources"
    • It appears that it is matter involving of the /var/lib/apt/list/... files, whether as installed by the LMDE installer and/or as updated after installation. The workaround entails an effective removal (renaming) and subsequent recreation of those files (FIXME)  

As I observe, my post-install tasks therefore include:
  • Task: Fix /var/lib/apt/list/... files (complete)
  • Task: Install gparted (complete)
  • Task: Configure swap partition (complete. "/" is on sda7, swap is on sda8, partitions configured previously via a Debian netinst install, since overwritten)
  • Task: Install new/open Firefox browser, and synch browser with Firefox Synch (add-ins, bookmarks, Diigo.) (complete, see notes)
    • Follow-up task: Update shortcut link (desktop toolbar, menu) for new Firefox (in progress)
      • Note: The KDE Menu Editor presents a convenient interface for editing the user's desktop applications menu. Cinnamon does not currently publish such an interface.
    • Follow-up task: Remove "Yahoo(Firefox)" from OS installation
    •  FIXME: Publishing an Open Firefox via a Debian repository?
      • Question: Compatibility and versions, between Iceweasel and Firefox?
      • Issue: Web usability 
      • Note: Shut down Mint Firefox before starting Firefox in "new" open Firefox installation
    • Note: Used stow for stowing the latest Firefox edition (Firefox 30) under /usr/local 
      • specifically,  /usr/local/lib/firefox  with a corresponding binary dir and symlink
      • the files are actually stored under  /usr/local/stow/firefox-30.0/ but symlinked, using `stow`, under /usr/local/
      • FIXME: Whither xstow?
  • Task: Modify Grub configuration for the temporary nomodeset workaround, and then `update-grub`
  • Determine and fix the cause of the "nomodeset issue"
    • Additional observations:
      • After using the "CTRL+ALT+F_" hotkey for switching to any of the console virtual terminals on that model of PC, and under at least that Linux kernel version, the PC's display screen becomes completely unusable, all of an "Empty black screen" of unusability, no matter what hotkeys would be applied,  then
      • Is it a framebuffer issue?
      • Question: What graphics hardware is the PC using -- as may be denoted, in some sort of a standard way of identifying the hardware -- and what kernel driver is being used for that graphics hardware?
        • Methodology: 
          1. Task: Install `lshw-gtk`
          2. Review the output from `lshw-gtk`as displayed at the desktop, to determine that further information -- namely, hardware ID and kernel driver.
          3. Alternately, review the shell output from `lswh --xml | less`
            • Observe xpath:node[@id='display'] 
            • Containing element:  xpath:/node[@class='system']/node[@id='core']/node[@id='pci']
            • product: 3rd Gen Core processor Graphics Controller
            • vendor: Intel Corporation
            • businfo: pci@0000:00:02.0
            • Identified at manufacturer product specification page as: Intel HD graphics 4000
            • See also: Intel Graphics Drivers for Linux
              • Note: For LMDE, download the source code, build, and install (note: dependency errors) For non-LMDE Mint distros, see advice for installing via apt (package: intel-linux-graphics-installer)
          4. If applicable, reconfigure the kernel for the graphics hardware. 
            • In some PC configurations, and at the user's own option, this may entail an installation of non-free graphics card drivers (whether from Nvidia or -- perhaps more likely -- from ATI, in this configuration) alternate to free/open source drivers (e.g. Nouveau)
    • Resources include:

gparted and terminal, Granite PC

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