Monday, December 26, 2016

Linux, GPU, games and Google Chrome

Recently, I have been having a few issues with a few games: once in a while, I like to play a bit of FPS to de-stress, and my frame rate was just abysmally low, what used to be a good 60 FPS went down to 20-30, leaving me with barely playable games, although these were great under Linux Mint 17.

After a bit of searching, I have found something interesting: if Google Chrome is running, the frame rate will be bad. If it is not, my games are back to normal. As Google Chrome uses the GPU for various tasks, I guess this was either due to a conflict (the two applications fighting for GPU resources) or Google Chrome setting some parameters that are detrimental to the games. Looking at Google Chrome's GPU status shows that a few features are either disabled or not available.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Upgrade from Mint 18 to Mint 18.1

A few days ago, there were news that Mint 18.1 was out and ready for install. This morning, my update manager prompted me to install the MintUpdate package, a sign that the new version is ready for prime time.

The release notes do not show anything that would affect me, and so far, so good.

The overall feeling is that nothing really changed: visually this is still the same, the system does not seem to be faster or slower.

A good point: the upgrade did not remove my PPA and other additional depots. It was one of the many little things that made me cringe during the update from 17 to 18. It is not very hard to put back (all the information is in ~/Upgrade-Backup/APT/sources.list.d) though.

Comment if you have had any issue.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pairi Daiza

Here are some pictures from my walk in Pairi Daiza.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

From Linux Mint 17.3 to 18

Linux Mint 18 has been out for the last few months, and I finally found the time to upgrade my computer.

The upgrade

As suggested, I started by using the Mint 18 ISO as a live USB, simply to make sure that every piece of equipment was supported. My biggest concern was my video card (NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT, purchased eight years ago). The Live USB went without a hitch and the nouveau driver perfectly managed the card. However, I did not plan to use it: I had too much issues under Fedora and Linux Mint 17.2. Though it was good to know that, if need be, I could use that driver while shopping for a new video card.
The test with the Live USB being okay, I proceeded with the instructions provided by the Linux Mint team. Starting with the "take a backup." That step is often overlooked, but I really recommend it, especially that a TB external hard drive costs less than 100€. As a matter of fact, I have the habit of taking a weekly backup - usually on Friday evening, and whenever I import pictures from my camera. 

The check phase went fine, then the download - which I let run overnight. In the morning, I only had to go for the mintupgrade upgrade command, which performs the actual upgrade.

There, things were a bit less clear cut: several errors and tracebacks appeared related to mono, but it seems okay and can be ignored. However, when the process finished, several packages were reported has not being upgraded due to errors. I reran the upgrade process and the same result appeared. Here are the packages that were not updated:
  • cron
  • cups-browsed
  • cups-daemon
  • samba
  • rsyslog
  • ubuntu-minimal
  • irqbalance
  • acpid
  • avahi-daemon
  • avahi-utils
  • bluez
  • bluetooth
  • cups-core-drivers
  • cups
  • printer-driver-hpcups
  • hplip
  • printer-driver-postscript-hp
  • bluez-cups
  • gnome-bluetooth
  • gnome-user-share
  • libnss-mdns:amd64
  • nvidia-340
  • nvidia-340-uvm
  • printer-driver-gutenprint
  • printer-driver-splix
  • pulseaudio-module-bluetooth
Looking at the messages, it was pretty much the same for each: either the service could not be/was not restarted and the dpkg --configure failed (for example bluez), or the package depended on such a package (for example bluetooth). I manually ran the corresponding service xx stop / dpkg --configure and everything went fine.
Lastly, when I restarted, I had an issue when I logged in, with the following error message, before disconnecting me.
GLib-CRITICAL: g_key_file_free: assertion 'key_file != NULL' failed
After a few searches, it seems this is a known issue, and a "sudo apt-get purge cinnamon nemo && sudo apt-get install cinnamon" at the console later, I was back in business.

The first half-day

So far, so good. After the first restart, I reapplied the intel-microcode proprietary driver, and I re-added all my repositories and PPA (Google Chrome, Julia, Sagemath and Darktable), which were lost during the upgrade. This is not a major issue, and this was quickly corrected, but a minor annoyance, especially if you have a lot of PPAs and repositories. There is also a pro in not porting over the PPAs: some of the applications may be linked against the older versions of the libraries and might not work anymore after the upgrade, possibly resulting in broken dependencies and other errors.

I had to reboot once, to apply both the microcode driver, but also a kernel update that popped up and was not taken during the upgrade process. Not too bad.

Visually, this version is very clear, and the Mint-X theme is very readable. It is pleasant and easy on the eyes, and while this is something that never struck me as an issue with the 17.3, going to 18 makes a ton of difference.

During my first use, I was surprised: the active application appears highlighted in green in the task bar, which I thought was to request the user's attention. After a minute or so, I got used to it.

From a performance standpoint, I feel it is about the same as my previous Linux Mint 17.3 install. However, my machine is about eight years old and probably not the snappiest thing on earth. 

The aim of my upgrading was to be able to install some more recent applications, especially Julia and Jupyter. For the former, I opted to re-install the PPA instead. For Jupyter, unfortunately, still nothing in the official package. PIP install it is then.


Everything considered, I am very pleased: while there were a few hiccups, the upgrade went without any major issues and the few kinks I had after reboot were easily fixed. This new version is way clearer and visually easier on the eyes.

The upgrade process is still a bit too chaotic, and the hiccups along the way can be issues for people new to Linux. It is to be noted that upgrading a live system is not the way recommended by the Mint team, which favors using a fresh install. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

MIT Technology Review : Cyber-Espionage Nightmare

A very good article by the MIT Technology Review discussing a cyber attack from one of the most active cyber attack unit in China.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Jean Ray, "la cité de l'indicible peur"

Here is a review by Jean:

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Martina's new book, Popletená Móda

Something a bit different than my usual - My friend Martina has started a HitHit (the CZ Kickstarter) to publish a book on knitting. Feel free to lend a hand here.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Here is a review by Jean:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

24 of the most mesmerizing machines

Just for the fun. Some of them are really hypnotic.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

TED 2005 - How juries are fooled by statistics - Peter Donnelly

An oldie but still goodie - Oxford mathematician Peter Donnelly explains why some juries are making mistakes when deciding what the probability is for an event to happen.

There was also an article in the NYTimes about this subject.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Usernix Enigma 2016 - Hacking Health: Security in Healthcare IT Systems

A great talk by Avi Rubin - slightly sarcastic at times - on the IT security in the healthcare industry, a particularly challenging industry when it comes to security. While it has become very good at safety, security is still lagging behind. Avi even mentions an argument I was opposed once when doing a security assessment for a hospital: "if it delays us by 5 seconds, it will cost lives."

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Usenix Enigma 2016 - NSA/TAO Chief on Disrupting Nation State Hackers

This is not often that the chief of one of the biggest exploitation team from one of the biggest intelligence agency in the whole world gives a talk about his job, and more specifically about how to make his team's job harder.

Do not expect any ground shaking revelations: everything he says have been said before. But private companies and government agencies are still failing to implement the tools and steps he talks about.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

This is what happens when you reply to spam (TED Talk)

What happens when you reply to a "too-good-to-miss-offer" coming in an e-mail? Good things? Bad things? Comedian James Veitch decided to find out for you. He went into a weeks-long exchange with a spammer and kept engaging his correspondant, and tells his story in this TED Talk.

This is hilarious and totally surrealistic. Most of all, this is really interesting.

James Veitch: This is what happens when you reply to spam email