Got the new family member. Okay, eventually it was unavoidable that
after being computer and network engineer for 20 years I going to
buy a laptop. :-P So far I survived with desktop machines (and you
know they accumulate pretty nicely), mobile phones (obviously
Android, but they're way too small for real work) but now I
realised it cannot go on anymore. I've been on the way for days and
often I had to fix things and it's just not possibe using that
I've been fighting this for 2 years now. The old Thinkpad T40 I
inherited completely died, first the video ram got funnies, then
the fan then the cpu went to see the Great Manitou. The next
problem was to find something cheap
. I realised that if I want to have the best
possible solution it'll take about forever. So okay, let's see what
is NOW available around. This one is probably old enough to be
cheap (as far as I see it's not listed in the current model line
anymore) but good enough to be useable. Originally it's been a
Toshiba but Lenovo got a more powerful cpu and better features.
Finally I picked a Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E320 129888G, Core i5-2450M
4G RAM, 320GB
and an Intel integrated and an ATI Whistler video
card with a Radeon 6600M chipset. It possess a b/g/n wifi (Intel),
an SM card reader (RTS5116 from RealTek), DSub and HDMI for ext
video and an E-Sata for, well, just because. And 2 usb and the gig
ethernet from Atheros closes the line. Not that bad, overall, for
3-6 hours of battery power. I mean, for approx $730 or €545.
Okay, that wasn't what I wanted to talk you about. I wanted to talk
Installing Linux on E320
It sucks. No, really, it does suck pretty hard. I mean, I'm doing
this shit for 25+ years now and still took me the better half of
the day, and a bit of the next. With the help of experience, google
and lots of patience. And it's not Linux who's to blame, mind you.
Okay, so this came preloaded with some windows trash, v0.7 or
something, for the fun without any install media. Which means that
if it gets screwed up then you're probably on your own. Brilliant.
Oh, I mean, no problem, windows never gets broken.
So this machine starts up nicely apart from the microsoft trash on
it. I remembered that ages ago I've used Partition Magic to shrink
it, but it seems it doesn't really exist anymore. But google told
me that this kind of windoze can actually do it by itself. Really,
it has the disk utility built-in which can actually - amond other
things - shrink the partition. And worked pretty well, for a
So I have shrunk it to ~48 Gigs and the rest to be used. The disk
contain 3(!!) partitions, one for thinkpad stuff and other is for
some windows driver crap or whatnot, but fortunately one left to be
used for logical partitions. (Don't get me started on EFI, that
So there's the partition, let's install it. I have a DVD install
but I have no DVD in the machine, but fortunately I have an
external USB drive. So lets boot!
Um, it doesn't. Starts windows (and every time either you wait for
the crap to finish or have to poweroff it since there ain't to
reset buttons on mobile stuff), everytime.
Okay, let's change the BIOS settings. I mean... I ... wtf? No bios
prompt at boot. "Press ENTER to abort booting." Very funny fsckers,
it goes faster into the bloody windows again.
Let's see DEL...no. F1? No. Ctrl-whatever? F12? Looks weird but no.
Okay, the net told me F2, but F12 could be good for it either. So
F2, enter the BIOS, and activate that bloody "show enter bios
prompt" setting, and move over to boot order.
Boot order looks fine: first usb stick, then cd, then whatever,
last hdd. Still, doesn't really care about it, starts hdd
Here came a longer gap when I have tried to
look up what UEFI and EFI is
, why and why not, what and
whatnot, since this beast supports EFI boot. If you wonder you can
look it up in Wikipedia.
No luck. Latest Debian DVD is supposed to boot on EFI as well as
USB stick images, but no. I can set EFI only, no. I have tried
Legacy Only and no. It may have been related to the fact that the
machine boots faster than the DVD can identify the media. So I have
disabled the hdd from boot and this way it was a bit faster to
figure it out, without the need to see windows anymore.
Well, some combination
of EFI and legacy boot, with efi
first if I remember correctly, plus using the F12 boot which was
able to delay the booting I was able to start the DVD. (After the
mess I figured that newest
USB images, which contain
everything including the MBR can boot as well, but no way if I try
to use my own MBR.)
went well, from an older
, installed grub, and I was kind of realised it won't
be that simple.
And it wasn't. Grub didn't boot at all, no operating system. The
fscking lame BIOS is made for windoze and if some windoze shit
isn't there it thinks there isn't an OS around. No matter MBR
signature is ok, the partition table is ok... something is required
which isn't just there.
Another bunch of hours passed with several moves of trying to get
an EFI boot, no luck, or to try to figure out some combination of
partition table which works, without much success. In the meantime
I was able to find an USB stick state which was able to boot,
containing a new (v1.97) GRUB and the partition table created by
grub-mkrescue. So I figured upgrading Debian to latest (sid) may
help, because it contains the new GRUB plus it may support EFI,
Upgrading obviously requires a working ethernet or wifi, and
obviously... none of them were detected. For the record, here are
00:00.0 Host bridge : Intel Corporation 2nd Generation Core
Processor Family DRAM Controller [8086:0104] (rev 09)
00:01.0 PCI bridge : Intel Corporation Xeon E3-1200/2nd
Generation Core Processor Family PCI Express Root Port [8086:0101]
00:02.0 VGA compatible controller : Intel Corporation 2nd
Generation Core Processor Family Integrated Graphics Controller
[8086:0126] (rev 09)
00:16.0 Communication controller : Intel Corporation 6
Series/C200 Series Chipset Family MEI Controller #1 [8086:1c3a]
00:1a.0 USB controller [0c03]: Intel Corporation 6 Series/C200
Series Chipset Family USB Enhanced Host Controller #2 [8086:1c2d]
00:1b.0 Audio device : Intel Corporation 6 Series/C200 Series
Chipset Family High Definition Audio Controller [8086:1c20] (rev
00:1c.0 PCI bridge : Intel Corporation 6 Series/C200 Series
Chipset Family PCI Express Root Port 1 [8086:1c10] (rev b4)
00:1c.1 PCI bridge : Intel Corporation 6 Series/C200 Series
Chipset Family PCI Express Root Port 2 [8086:1c12] (rev b4)
00:1c.2 PCI bridge : Intel Corporation 6 Series/C200 Series
Chipset Family PCI Express Root Port 3 [8086:1c14] (rev b4)
00:1c.5 PCI bridge : Intel Corporation 6 Series/C200 Series
Chipset Family PCI Express Root Port 6 [8086:1c1a] (rev b4)
00:1d.0 USB controller [0c03]: Intel Corporation 6 Series/C200
Series Chipset Family USB Enhanced Host Controller #1 [8086:1c26]
00:1f.0 ISA bridge : Intel Corporation HM65 Express Chipset
Family LPC Controller [8086:1c49] (rev 04)
00:1f.2 SATA controller : Intel Corporation 6 Series/C200
Series Chipset Family 6 port SATA AHCI Controller [8086:1c03] (rev
00:1f.3 SMBus [0c05]: Intel Corporation 6 Series/C200 Series
Chipset Family SMBus Controller [8086:1c22] (rev 04)
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller : ATI Technologies Inc
Whistler [AMD Radeon HD 6600M Series] [1002:6741]
03:00.0 Network controller : Intel Corporation Centrino
Wireless-N 1000 [8086:0084]
04:00.0 Unassigned class [ff00]: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd.
RTS5116 PCI Express Card Reader [10ec:5209] (rev 01)
04:00.1 SD Host controller : Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd.
RTS5116 PCI Express Card Reader [10ec:5209] (rev 01)
09:00.0 Ethernet controller : Atheros Communications Inc.
AR8151 v2.0 Gigabit Ethernet [1969:1083] (rev c0)
So, we have a Centrino Wireless-N 1000, which requires
driver and more importantly its firmware
which isn't quite free, so it goes onto the USB stick,
into its root specifically. The installer requires to look for
missing formware images on external drives, finds the usb and uses
it nicely. Still, wifi setup isn't trivial in the installer
(especially when using WPA2).
The ethernet... well it's an atheros 8151, using the atl1c driver,
which is part of debian, and doesn't even require any external
firmware... except it just doesn't get detected.
A nice summary can be read on the Debian
which tells the secret:
echo "1969 1083" > /sys/bus/pci/drivers/atl1c/new_id
And after that udev finds the card nicely. A small problem is
that when you have to try to reboot many times (to fix the
aforementioned boot issues as well as others) this has to typed
every time. Bummer, no mouse on console while installing.
Well yes, the upgrade worked, but still no boot. Dammit.
Another round of fiddling started, which resulted a working
combination of BIOS (efi then legacy), and MBR (GRUB's code but
partition was set as boot media!) and a few twists
with encrypted swap (which changed UUID in the meantime and
update-initramfs completely screwed up figuring it, so
/etc/crypttab had to be edited then initrd had to be completely
removed and re-created), and after all I ended up with a working
As a closing act I wondered whether windoze 0.7 survived, as people
mentioned for windoze 6? xp? whatever? that it dies when MBR
changes and require a reinstall media to fix, which I obviously
didn't possess (this was the reason for the honorable mention in
the first paragraph). Lenovo rescue was beyond rescue: bad media,
fix me with the DVD, but what DVD nobody could tell. To my greatest
surprise years didn't passed vainly on windoze as this extreme
professional version choked on MBR change (but of course, what else
to do anyway), but offered to fix itself and lo! it just did. So I
have a windoze partition as well as a game console or for those
programs which exist only there.
It wasn't that hard. ;-)
Right now Everything Works™, even the SD card reader. I have tested
with dual monitors and it works nicely. I didn't test eSata but
everything else looks fine. Battery time is 3hrs with active use or
close to infinity when suspended, real life lies between these two,
my guess would be around 4-5 hours. Charger is pretty quick: fully
charges around 1 hour.
So far I'm happy.
Those websites who serve data to the public but not to data
gathering robots (programs), or those who would like to keep people
who register there to be humans often try to achieve this goal by
methods conceived tobe able to differentiate between a human and a
machine, usually requiring associative and patter recognition
skills which relatively easy for humans (well, at least for that
approximately 40% possessing enough intelligence anyway) and
supposedly hard for computers. You know those distorted, hard to
read words you have to recognise and type, sometimes moving
letters, sometimes even graphical images and other image
recognition tricks. Computers are usually pretty bad to recognise
distorted letters, especially if it contains mixed font,
handwriting and extreme calligraphy.
However sysadmins know that these methods are not perfect, and
while they usually stop the general bunch of lowlife vermins to be
able to illegally utilise someone else's resources they often fail
to stop the advanced attacker.
Admins answer by using "stronger" CAPTCHAs: they distort the
letters more, use colors, use letters not related to the "solvable"
problem; but after a while it becomes obvious that the real human
users of the site fail more and more percent of the tests while
determined attackers seem to be able to get through in much higher
Some admins just don't understand how. Are the character
recognition methods became so good? Are the analyser programs so
smart, the dictionaries so perfect? Or maybe... someone's cheating?
Enter porn. You know, those websites which offer naked genitalia
for the public. Since genitalia is unfortunately connected to those
humans, and offering them on the 'net uses up pretty high resources
it's normal that they ask for money. But horny John Doe don't want
to pay (maybe can't, either) so they prefer free porn of course.
They are not surprised then that the website have to make it sure
that porn get digested by the noblest of the noble, the human
being, and that they have to checkit by using a captcha: you prove
us you're human and we give you pictures of cheap whores. Fair,
requires only a few letters to type.
It is not surpising then to mention that these CAPTCHAs are usually
the same as those put up by the aforementioned sysadmins who wonder
how the machines solve them so easily.
Machines are not getting much smarter but people would do anything
for a virtual fsck. :-)
And a sidenote to admins: watermark your CAPTCHAs with the url
and name of your site
, so the porn guys at least know whose
puzzles they're solving to get the material.