Today I received a new battery for my Dell Latitude E6400 laptop. The old battery (a 6 cell one) only lasted for about 15 minutes any more, 1,5 year after I acquired this system. The new battery is a 9 cell version. gnome-power-manager estimates I should be able to run 6 hours now without a charge, which corresponds with what I expected.
Now that I have a new battery, it is time to take a look again at trying to lower power consumption as much as possible. On my system I am using Mandriva 2010.1 Cooker with GNOME 2.30 and laptop-mode-tools 1.54, but this howto should apply (sometimes with slight modifications) to other distributions too.
The kernel is now updated to 2.6.33 final. As usual, KernelNewbies has a complete overview of the changes in this new kernel. Some noteworthy changes include: the new Nouveau driver for NVidia graphics cards is now included in the kernel and is now used by default on Mandriva instead of the NV driver. DRBD, the Distributed Replicated Block Device driver, which is useful on High Availabality clusters is now included in the kernel. There is a new experimental Compcache driver, which compresses part of the memory, effectively increasing the amount of memory you can use. Note that Mandriva does not yet include the user space tools to effectively use this. The Anticipatory I/O scheduler was removed and there were the usual improvements to the default CFQ I/O scheduler. Of course there are also many improvements to hardware support, such as a new driver for WIFI devices with the Ralink RT2800 and Realtek RTL8192U chipsets.
The TMB kernel in Contrib uses the BFS process scheduler now, bringing improved responsiveness.
GNOME reached version 2.29.91. Empathy now lets you easily configure a Facebook account using the standard XMPP protocol and File Roller will now use PackageKit to install any missing (de)compression utilities.
On the KDE front, the KDE 4 port of KmyMoney now reached beta status. Amarok 2.3 beta 1 brings improved podcast support, a newly designed toolbar and the possiblity of automatically using a USB mass storage device for the collection when it’s connected.
Postfix 2.7.0 is now available, bringing improved performance in content filttering and address verification.
The MySQL packages were reorganized a bit. The mysql-max package was dropped and its features were merged in the standard mysql packages. The clustered storage engine NDB was removed from the mysql package and is now available in the mysql-cluster package.
There were some updates to various video editors: Lives 1.2.1 brings PulseAudio support, many improvements to multitrack mode, a startup wizard for new users, some new real-time transitions and improved performance. Kdenlive 0.7.7.1 now includes colour themes, an improved titler and a few other new features. The OpenShot video editor was imported in Mandriva last month. The package is now at version 1.1 alpha 2.
There was a a major new version 2.0.0 of the Bluefish web editor. It adds autocompletion for HTML, CSS and PHP, inline help, inline spell checking, a character map, upload/download synchronization with remote web sites, automatic document recovery and more.
GNOME is now at version 2.29.90 (the first beta of GNOME 2.30). Compared with the previous alpha release, it brings various improvements to the new features previously added.
KDE has been updated to final version 4.4.0. New features since KDE 4.3 include integrated desktop search in Dolphin, a new Plasma desktop interface optimized for netbooks, Palapelli (a jigsaw puzzle game), Cantor (a scientific maths application) and many others.
New versions of the personal finances management applications Skrooge and Homebank were released. Skrooge 0.6.0 brings improved graphs reports and better automatic text completion of categories and an improved Search & Process user interface. Homebank 4.2 brings similar improvements with a new trend time report.
libgpod 0.7.90 was released and this version brings iPhone, iPod Touch and iPod Nano 5G support for gtkpod.
The microcode_ctl package has been enhanced to automatically download the latest microcode for you CPU and now supports AMD CPUs. Intel microcode is also available from the new microcode package in non-free.
Mandriva’s configuration utilities now support setting up an encrypted password in GRUB.
Linux kernel 2.6.33 rc6 is now the default kernel in Mandriva Cooker. In this kernel, the anticipatory I/O scheduler has been removed, and there were again various performance improvements to the CFQ I/O scheduler, which is the default already for a long time. There were also different performance improvements to KVM virtualization (such as improved kernel context switching speed and IRQ scaling). There are power saving improvements in the Intel i915 driver (render standby and LVDS downclock, the latter being disabled by default for now), a new driver supporting VMware’s paravirtualized SCSI device, better support for ALPS DualPoint touchpad/trackpoint on some Dell laptops, and many other improvements to hardware support.
GNOME has been updated to development version 2.29.6. Epiphany enables Webkit’s page cache by default, which makes using the Back and Forward buttons much faster now There is also a new Epiphany extension available to view Youtube movies without having Flash installed. There were further performance improvements in the GLib library. Gnome Activity Journal, a tool which uses Zeitgeist to let you browse through the documents you recently worked on, is now available in Mandriva. Evolution opens attachments read-only to prevent accidentally loosing modification you might make. Vinagre now supports tunneling VNC connections over SSH. Gnome Color Manager, a utility to set up colour profiles for your monitor, is now packaged in Mandriva Cooker.
Firefox has been updated to the final 3.6 version. Ars Technica has an article giving an overview of some of the changes, which include Personas, better performance, and better support for HTML5 and other web standards.
Transmission 1.83 is now available in Mandriva Cooker. It adds support for magnet links and trackerless torrents and has many other improvements.
The popular media centre software xbmc is now available in Mandriva Cooker. Ideally for setting up a Home Theatre PC (HTPC) with Mandriva!
Spamassassin has been updated to version 3.3.0. There are new plug-ins and adaptations of the default scores for better spam detection. The rules now are in a separate spamassassin-rules package and by default sa-update is run on a daily basis to update them.
Songbird, an advanced music player, has been updated to version 1.4.3, which includes a new default look.
GNOME has been upgraded to the new development release 2.29.5. The Cheese webcam application has been split into different libraries, making it easier for other applications to integrate webcam functionality (like avatar choosers in instant messaging applications). Epiphany now uses an infobar to ask the user for saving website username and password and stores them in the GNOME keyring. Thanks to the new Content-Encoding support in Libsoup and Webkitgtk, Epiphany is now capable of correctly rendering web pages which send GZIP compressed pages.
There is a package available in Cooker now for the QBittorrent BitTorrent client.
xine-lib 1.2 with support for VDPAU for hardware accelerated rendering of high definition video is now available.
dracut, a replacement for mkinitrd, is already available for some time in Mandriva. The last few weeks many changes were made to make it work nicely in Mandriva out of the box. You can create a new initrd with dracut by hand if you want, or start using it by default the next time you install a new kernel by running
# update-alternatives --config mkinitrd
Ruby 1.9.1 is now available in Contrib. This new version is much more faster than the previous Ruby 1.8 series
USB/IP, a tool for using USB devices over the network, is now packaged in Cooker.
In spite of the holiday season, lots of new packages continue to trickle in Mandriva Cooker. Amongst the many updates, here is an overview of some important changes:
GNOME is now updated toversion 2.29.4: The most important changes are in Nautilus. In preparation of GNOME 3.0, where Nautilus will purely be a file browser and won’t provide the desktop anymore, the file management part has been improved a lot. Upstream is now using browser mode by default (this was already the case in Mandriva) and made several UI improvements for it. The developers have added now an optional split view like Midnight Commander. Another useful change is that it’s now possible in GNOME to configure a background per monitor on a multi-monitor setup in GNOME. Also worth mentioning is the fast progress the Tracker document search engine is making since some time. I would recommend removing Beagle from your Cooker system, and switching to Tracker instead. Then by clicking on the Search button in Nautilus’ toolbar, you can easily search your files.
For NVida graphics cards, the Free edition of Mandriva will now use the Nouveau driver by default instead of nv. Nouveau will bring KernelModeSetting support (which provides high resolution consoles and flicker free console switching), 2D acceleration, and RandR 1.2 support (for easy multi-monitor setup.)
Mesa 7.7 is now in Cooker. 3D support has been enabled for the ATI R600 and R700 chipets (ATI Radeon HD 2000 and later), so these users can now enjoy 3D acceleration with the free ATI drivers.
The Intel X11 driver version 2.10.0 RC2 is now included in Cooker. In combination with kernel 2.6.33 this brings video overlay support for more CPU efficient video playback.
Digikam and kipi-plugins finally reached stable version 1.0. Version 1.1 is already expected in one month, strengthening Digikam’s position as one of the most advanced open source photo management applications.
Lots of important changes happened in Mandriva Cooker during the last few weeks. Here is a quick summary:
GNOME has been updated to the development version 2.29.3. There is a new game, called LightsOff, Empathy has improved IRC support, Evince supports PDF file attachment annotations and opens each document in a separate process, more and more applications support Seed and more applications have been ported to new APIs such as GtkBuilder.
Amarok 2.2.2 beta 1 brings improved podcast support, custom track labels and other improvements.
Linux kernel 2.6.32 is now used in Cooker. Per-backing-device based writeback gives better writing performance under many workloads, kernel samepage merging gives huge improvements in memory usage when running many virtual machines with qemu-kvm, CFQ low latency mode will provide better interactivity for desktop workloads when there’s background I/O activity. There are more improvements to KVM virtualization, power consumption reduction and of course hardware support improvements.
Glibc 2.11 brings many performance improvements, especially in combination with STT_GNU_IFUNC support in the new binutils package in Cooker.
Firefox 3.6 beta 5 is now available in main/release. This means all users will be updated to this version now.
The QT and KDE development snapshots have been updated to the latest versions: QT 4.6 RC 1 and KDE 4.3.77. Desktop effects are now enabled by default in KDE and Nepomuk is now using Virtuoso as its back-end to store data, which should give faster tagging and indexing.
OpenOffice.org 3.2 beta 1 is now in Cooker. A very noticeable change is that its start-up performance has improved. Expect also better OpenXML files import and basic docx file export.
Firefox 3.6 beta 4 is now in main/testing. Developers are focussing on bug fixes and a release candidate is expected very soon now.
For the first time, a development snapshot of Google’s Chromium browser is now available in Mandriva Cooker. Note that it only builds on i586 for now. x86_64 users having configured the 32 bits main and contrib repositories, should be able to install this i586 version on their system too though.
The Sysklogd system log daemon has been replaced by rsyslog. Rsyslog is a very modern system logger with very active development. It includes advanced features such as storing logs in SQL databases, e-mail warnings on certain log messages, support for sending syslog messages over TCP and many more. Users of sysklogd will be automatically migrated to rsyslog.
Mandriva Cooker now includes version 2009.11.14 of the ntfs-3g driver. This is a major upgrade with support for file permissions and sequential writing to compressed files and performance improvements when using NTFS file systems.
Munin, an advanced system monitoring tool, has been updated to version 1.4. It provides better scalability and many new plug-ins for monitoring MySQL, PostgreSQL, Asterisk and others.
From now on, all packages will be linked with the -Wl,-O1 linker options. This can be beneficial for the start-up performance of applications linking with many different libraries.
Already for some time, I experience some annoyances in Mandriva’s wifi configuration tools especially when moving my laptop from one to another location with a different wifi network where I connect to. The list of inaccessible wifi networks is not cleaned up in the network applet when moving the system, the network applet says it connected to network X, while in reality it connects to network Y and it only reconnects automatically to the last SSID you were connected to but not to a previously known SSID.
Other distributions (Fedora, Debian/Ubuntu and also OpenSUSE if I am not mistaken) are using NetworkManager for some time. When working on these other distributions, I always had the feeling that NetworkManager was actually nicer than Mandriva’s tools: not only did not it have these little annoyances, its GUI also looked much less cluttered. Another advantage is that lots of applications can make use of NetworkManager’s status. For example, Evolution will nicely switch to off line mode when there is no connection instead of starting to annoy you with error messages in its status bar. Once NetworkManager reconnects, Evolution will switch back to online mode again.
So I was interested in trying out how well NetworkManager worked in Mandriva. I updated the networkmanager package (which actually was already available in Mandriva), and I created a Mandriva package for networkmanager-applet, the GUI front-end.
To my surprise, the packages were immediately functional in Mandriva. The (known) disadvantage is that NetworkManager does not really work together with the standard network configuration tools, especially not in Mandriva because Mandriva’s configuration tools do not take NetworkManager into account, unlike Fedora’s, which let you choose whether a network interface should be controlled by NeworkManager or not. In practice, this means that it is best to remove Mandriva’s standard network configuration by removing the ifcfg files for the network interfaces you want to control with NetworkManager in /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts. I guess removing the connection in Mandriva’s Control Centre might work too, but I have not tested this. If you do not do this, you risk that NetworkManager and Mandriva’s networking tools will both try to configure the same network interface, interfering with each other.
Connecting to my wifi network was dead easy with NetworkManager. I configured it to connect automatically to my wifi network and to make it available for all users. NetworkManager now automatically connects while booting the system.
Its GUI is really a relief. It looks nice and uncluttered. It does not put lots of things in two or three level deep submenus like Mandriva’s applet and does not clutter the menu by trying to show all networks when lots of different APs are available. Also the fact that it does not pop-up another application window when selecting a network to connect to (Mandriva starts up drakroam when selecting an SSID in net_applet) is nice.
I will need do some more testing to really know for sure that there are no new annoyances now, but the first experience is positive. I think that the integration with other applications like Evolution is non-functional in Mandriva however, because these applications need to be build with NetworkManager support. This will most likely not happen, because Mandriva does not want to support this. Also I have not yet packaged the VPN configuration bits for NetworkManager, but I will probably do that in the future.
If you are having problems with the Mandriva network configuration tools, you are welcome to try out NetworkManager and let me know your experience. However, keep in mind that this is totally unsupported in Mandriva and do not expect us to fix bugs you may encounter. It seems useful for me and so it may be for others, but your mileage may vary. But if you do not have any problem with the standard Mandriva configuration tools, do not bother to try this. Especially on desktop systems which are never moved, there does not seem to be any advantage in trying out NetworkManager.
Oh yes, In case you are wondering, I am aware of Mandriva’s criticism on NetworkManager. Honestly, I don not really care about that: I want a tool which works good and looks nice and NetworkManager seems to fulfil this need for me.