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2009 December 5 [Saturday]

LAN on Ubuntu

Thanks to Broadcom not supporting libre software, wifi with bcm43xx drivers used to be an issue ...see http://bcm43xx.berlios.de/ and http://linuxwireless.org/en/users/Drivers/b43. Earlier, ubuntu 8.10 brought out networking issues on my laptop which worked flawlessly in one city (Bangalore) but suddenly even a wired connection failed. Kinda odd to have no Lan but no  jumping loops for wi-fi drivers because in recent versions of Ubuntu (8.10 onwards) the device driver hardware was detected automagically. After loading Ubuntu (a clean install once in 2 years is better than an upgrade), the user has the option to activate a non-free drivers for Broadcom wi-fi cards so device drivers dont have to be manually loaded now. I cant recall if its from the ugly set of plug-ins and hence less supported.   Anyway, the The ethernet cable would detect a direct connection in Vista but not in my Debian and Ubuntu installations. Time to wade through a list of "lan not working in Ubuntu" bugs for every other laptop model and there was another kernel bug filed but that was an issue I faced in ver 8.10 and before. A few minutes of experimenting and wading through help forums didnt help the LAN detection problem. Then I checked /etc/NetworkManager/nm-system-settings.conf

[main]
plugins=ifupdown,keyfile

[ifupdown]
managed=false

and changed the above value to "true" and then "sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart" solved the lan problem.

2008 April 20 [Sunday]

HP-Compaq hardware quality takes a hike

The HP saga of woes continues ....... After insisting that an international warranty means it is one, the service centre amid chants of "best effort basis", "we dont support out-of-country purchase you know" , etc... replaced the faulty motherboard with another faulty one and when this was pointed out to be a display (bios?) problem, they insisted in giving the typical brush-off :- "It is a linux problem" ... hmpf !! According to the HP-enginners, "Linux" was the cause of all my hardware issues. Yeah, right! What that actually means is, "We know zilch about Linux AND dont want to solve the real hardware problem (read replace faulty parts within the warranty) so here is the modus operandi we employ:

1] Delay till the warranty period is close to the end period.

2] If not, delay and grumpily replace the MotherBoard with another faulty one (i discovered that no quality checks were done before replacing it.)

3] Somewhere down the line it will go kaput and voila... there is your business opportunity to take half the cost of the laptop from your customer. This is the best way to be in perpetual business.

IMHO, mumbai's dabbawallah's know what Quality is all about and deliver it with almost zero margin errors.

Well, by now I'd been arguing till I was blue in the face and was inside the secret cave (Its a restricted area where no outsiders are allowed, and only select HP employees have special cards to go in) and was not leaving unless they took a good look at the motherboard problem. Finally the technical head came down and his face brightened up on seeing Linux and i showed him the display problem. He accepted that it may be an incompatible chipset and sent it for observation. It was surprising to note that HP service centres dont even have a testing mount for this model - I was told the standard excuse - your laptop was an out-of-India purchase. So what? Why cant HP provide them with basic infrastructure like testing mounts for each MoBo and chipset model. Before replacing parts no quality testing is done. The bubble-wrapping around the MoBo is removed and hardware is screwed onto the machine. No quality testing or quality checks to see if the replaced hardware could be faulty or not.... that sucks bigtime ! Meanwhile another engineer told me the centre manager fired him for accepting (telling me) that there is a hardware problem with the Motherboard.
The typical reply one keeps hearing is "will only support Windows". Heck i didnt ask you to support Linux but dont blame a hardware issue on Linux. Just because the HP customer service centre is outsourced (...for almost all hardware sellers actually) and you need to generate revenue (understandable) dont be _only_ concerned about making money at the expense of the customer.

2008 April 1 [Tuesday]

libre laptop

Hmm... I've been lazy about bragging about this : The OS free laptop that I had helped load Ubuntu was sold within that week. How cool is that !!

I cant take any credit for the sale as it was the efforts of the sales person there, but knowing  that i contributed indirectly to the sale makes me feel warm inside. Breaking down pre-conceived mindsets was not easy and the sales guy did a good job of selling it. His manager informed me that they were pleased enough to pre-load all the machines with it. Now I need to mail him the Ubuntu-AMD cd's :)

I wish more machines would be sold with _linux-inside_ (tm?) in India. Go experiment, Be different!

dont buy HP-Compaq laptops

Nope, this is not an 01-April joke. I decided to blog about this based on first-hand negative experience with HP-Compaq laptops this past week. Their service centre in Bangalore is horrible as far as customer service is concerned. My laptop is under a 1-year warranty and they have diagnosed the problem (the mother-board is kaput and needs to be replaced, the screen has dead pixels), but yet, they are pussy-footing on the issue. I was told it would take 6 months for parts to arrive from Singapore.

Apparently no chip/component level repair done in India so if the motherboard has to be replaced they will follow procedure, which is :

* Send email to logistics manager and wait for a reply since they have no clue if said part is available in India. No clue when he will reply but its according to company procedure.
* After sending an email they _wait_ for the concerned person to reply which could take forever and meanwhile if your warranty gets over, be prepared to fork out a wad of cash.
* Incase, they receive a reply on the parts, which is subject to availability since that particular model (V6320) is not manufactured anymore, the motherboard needs to be shipped to India (from Singapore) and they have no clue _when and if_ that will happen. In the person's own words : "It can take 2 weeks but will take 6 months. We cant commit anything".

In conclusion, instead of fast-tracking the same before the warranty gets over they are pussy-footing and giving excuses so that they can ask me to pay a fat sum for the motherboard replacement when the warranty gets over 3 weeks hence. Else (according to the local HP-compaq manager) I am supposed to take it back to the country of purchase and get it repaired there despite possessing an international warranty.

Nice customer service there HP. Bleed your customer for all they are worth.

I've learnt my lesson. I'll vote with my money next time and wont buy HP-Compaq laptops and a big thank you for the lousy customer service!

2008 January 18 [Friday]

system down

i face a similar problem that neil williams has blogged about, here and here. Two days ago i updated the testing ubuntu system and the grub file was overwritten. That means when my system installs the updates and restarts, it wont be able to because of the annoying bcm43x driver issue crap. Arghhh..... So far i did try all the noapic nolapic permutations and combinations on this page, which ofcourse didnt solve my problem.

MJG explains some here and another here but frankly now i understand when people say Linux is not ready for the mainstream, add hardware that does not support free/libre software and you go down under. With no OS how the hell will they google for help. Thankfully i kept the dualboot on the lappy, so could use windows to google, which has not helped much but need to get this sorted asap. Using Windows the last 2 days has been well a test, but wth...

[update0-jan18] ram says the issue is with the filesystem (fuse), /home is in another partition and booting hangs whilst loading device drivers, does not even boot from the cd..... found a fuse problem, else may have to do a fresh install if nothing else works :(

2007 September 16 [Sunday]

not there yet

Ubuntu is on Dell but apparently its not there yet. Aaron writes an excellent article (rant in his words) on why getting Linux on your desktop/laptop is akin to climbing Mt.Everest... whether its the Linux community, hardware issues, upstream, SI/vendors, he has touched upon most aspects, except the part about various distributions available across the Linux landscape. Even if the only thing common is the Kernel between them, it is in name only... at the user level each distro is a studied contrast to the previous one. True, its all about freedom (to choose) and all that jazz ...but this variety is a stumbling block for Linux to rule the desk/laptop world.

As I had posted earlier about promoting Ubuntu to the management types, most people (that includes coders with a Masters in Engg) don't really know the difference between Ubuntu and RH and don't really care just so long as it works. People (and companies) use a machine to get work done asap but if they have to spend time reading how-to manuals each time the machine troubles them, its going to be tough going.

2007 May 13 [Sunday]

unable to install Ubuntu-7.04 on HP-Compaq-V6320

Has anyone tried installing Ubuntu 7.04 on a Compaq V6320 ? The installation crashed with some fsck errors that disappeared too fast for me to see. Presently the installation CD is stuck in the drive and the machine does not respond.

The problem has been reported earlier on the forums : http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=2520755

If anyone knows how to solve this please leave a comment.

** update **

Managed to pop out the CD with a manual eject. On my laptop the hole is just to the right of the eject button on my CD/DVD drive. Took a straight paper clip and gently pushed it in to open the door :-)

2005 October 15 [Saturday]

a hundred dollar laptop

I wish the one laptop per child project by nicholas negroponte had chosen "ubuntu" instead of red-hat on AMD chips but most importantly this project should come to india and brighten many kids lives :-) .... provided the government 'babus' in the hallowed ministry of education cared about their common citizens.

So why does it have to be via government participation only as there are so many street kids here who would be able to learn and benefit. Surely, a million laptops would be financially feasible if some large corporates sponsored such learning initiatives by forming a joint venture for a social cause. Many corporate giants and IT companies definitely have the cash to chip in but do they have the heart ? The profit-rich BSNL and MTNL can definitely donate some internet bandwidth to shools and collect some good karma, given that they squeeze and rip-off the regular paying customers.