Kubuntu 16.04 LTS

One of my Opensuse workstations fell over. Weird problem with the login, the sddm-greeter was crashing on start. I reinstalled a bunch of things but it would not come back to life. I decided that the system could do with a restart, the partitioning was a mess and the bootloader was badly installed. The system hadn’t been reinstalled for a lone time.

I decided that I need this system to be stable, and Opensuse gets updated too frequently for some of the software that I run leaving me solving problems with missing libraries or incompatible versions of software. A Linux distro with a longer lifecycle was in order.

My initial thought was to install Centos 7, its RPM based (what I am used to) and has the required stability. However I had problems with Centos and NVidia drivers! Once installed the system would login! Rather than spend ages figuring out how to fix it I decided to which to Ubuntu, or rather Kubuntu (I am a fan of KDE). As a user of Debian for my servers I wasn’t expecting any problems. BTW the partitioner in the Centos install is a mess, they need to sort that out.

Kubuntu was straightforward to install, no problems and the partitioner is easy (take note Centos). I did have a problem that I have encountered before with Ubuntu was that the GUI crashed shortly after system start. This seems to be a problem with the opensource NVidia driver. If you drop to runlevel 3 you can install the proprietary driver and its fine. Which is ok if you don’t mind using it. So far getting the system setup has been painless and I am happy to have the system going again without problem. Now to restore all the data and apps!

OwnCloud – its awesome!

I gave up on SpiderOak in the end, it was too resource heavy for my laptops, their batteries were really struggling. The constant encrypting and decrypting was too much. Its a shame because as a backup system for large amounts of data it was really very good. Especially if that data was on desktops or didn’t change much. I couldn’t justify keeping it for this use only, too expensive at $25 a month (which is about £20 now!). So I looked back into OwnCloud.

I tried OwnCloud a number of years ago as I run my own home server anyway. Back then the desktop sync client was just not up to the job. It would take forever to sort out changes and sync them, often using up entire CPU cores on both the server and the client machines. I am pleased to say that problem as been solved and now OwnCloud is a great choice if you are running your own server somewhere anyway. The sync seems to be fast, and the setup is easy. I am using a self-signed SSL certificate, which doesn’t cause much in the way of annoying warnings. OwnCloud has the other obvious advantage that you can really limit the access to the data, and it supports encryption of the data on the server too. Or you can encrypt the drives etc. I have been using it for about 4 months without problem. The only issue I had was when there was a power cut in my house while I was away. Doh! This killed the server obviously.

The downside of course is that with SpiderOak I had a ‘cloud’ copy of all my important data that was at a different location to my house. This is no longer the case. I don’t use OwnCloud to sync all the large data-sets across my computers, I sync those with Unison instead. So to avoid a catastrophic data loss in the event of disaster I have synced all my important data and docs to my office computer using Unison. This is about 1.7TB of data onto a 5TB raid array. The first sync took ages but as this data doesn’t change very much. I also use Amazon Glacier for data that can be essentially archived off and forgotten about, its super cheap.

Gigabyte X79-UP4 Linux Horror

So I am not much of a Windows user, I have one Windows machine that doesn’t get used all the much. I tend to use Linux and have done for about 15 years. One of my work machines has caused a bit of trouble. The system was built around the Gigabyte X79-UP4 motherboard. This is on the face of it a good main-board, nice spec, good components. However I have had a lot of trouble with it. Its all about the USB 3 chipset, Linux hates it. The symptoms are as follows:

  • Anything plugged into the USB 3.0 ports and the machine will not shutdown, it instantly reboots.
  • USB 3.0 devices are unstable, and don’t always function.
  • With anything in the USB 3.0 ports the system can become unstable/unresponsive.

The solution was to deactivate all the USB 3.0 chipsets on the main-board. The the system behaves itself. I didn’t however discover this very quickly. I first tried replacing the PSU as I thought it had become damaged somehow. I then complained to Gigabyte who asked me to send the board back to them. Which I did at cost to me. They checked the board and said it was fine. They however refused to check the board with any Linux install. It is hard to replace a X79 main-board now. I so I have to continue to use it. I have however installed a PCIe USB 3.0 card that is now running the front ports on my system, and 2 on the back. I tried this board with a couple of difference Linux versions, including Ubuntu 14 and Opensuse 13.3/Leap 42.1. So, this means that I will probably never risk a Gigabyte project again, to risky.