Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Misadventures In Linux

After hearing about and seeing screenshots of Unbuntu's Netbook Remix I really wanted to give it a try. So I made a bootable thumbdrive with UNetbootin ( ) Set the BIOS in the Acer One to boot from the thumbdrive and proceeded to install. Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) is a very lean edition of Unbuntu with a User Interface that's designed for netbooks. Nice big buttons and windows that always open full screen make it an excellent foundation for a touchpad style of netbook. Another big advantage is abiltiy to easily set up a 'cubed' desktop. About 3 years back I had a Gentoo system for recording with the Beryl cubed desktop and it's a great way to go when you are running multiple applications and want to keep them separate but accessible. The idea is to use one desktop as general purpose, one for GPS mapping only, one for Internet access (Weather maps and river conditions) and one for my fishing database.

Since my fishing database was developed in Open Office Base porting it over to Linux should be a snap and Internet stuff no problem but my GPS software is all Windows based. I basically use 3 programs, OziExplorer for most things, Dr Depth for making GPS enabled depth and 3D maps and Fugawi Marine ENC for (free) Inland Electronic Navigation Maps for the Upper Mississippi River. Oziexplorer and Dr Depth are known to work in Linux under WINE so prospects are good the Fugawi program will also. This is what I thought would be my only possible Showstopper to going over to a Linux OS

Unfortunately I was wrong about that .....

I knew coming in there were some issues with the webcam and microphone, it's nice to have the ability to take photos but not a showstopper. Unfortunately the Qualcomm Gobi 1000 WWAN had an issue under Linux. Since this WWAN card can be configured in real time for two totally different wireless network standards (GSM and CDMA) you need a way to load in the code every time the WWAN is turned on. There is a workaround/hack that loads the firmware on boot which seems to work with Lenovo and Dell netbooks but not the Acer One. The other problem is even on the Lenovos and Dells if you power off the WWAN to conserve battery you have to reboot to get the WWAN back (or reload the kernal modules and firmware loader and restart the network manager) The problem here is Linux needs the ability to load the firmware any and every time the WWAN is powered on or reset. I was really hoping one of the main Linux programmers had played with this card and also had figured out how to enable the GPS. So although I haven't completely given up on Linux but as long as this problem persists it is a showstopper for me and so I'll concentrate full time on adapting XP to have a touch friendly Desktop, programmer launcher app, etc. The only way I could get it to work consistently was to boot into Windows and turn it on and let the firmware load then warm reboot into Linux where it will work until I switch it off but that's not going to be practical at all in Real World use in a boat

Next up will be a long workup on the Qualcomm UDNP-1 Gobi 1000 WWAN cards that have become so popular with the OEMs lately. I have a lot of information that I haven't found all detailed in one spot like I'm about to do so It'll probably have to be split into 2 or more posts.

1 comment:

Anders said...

Hey man!

I just wanted to say that linux is a go now. My ubuntu install works pretty much perfect.

I'am very interested in getting the gps to work in linux. If you drop me a line at anders dot danmark dot 83 at gmail dot com. We could get the linux stuff working together =)