Wifi problems with Elementary OS Freya on the ideapad 100

This week I had a problem where wifi suddenly stopped working on my Lenovo ideapad 100 15iby running Elementary OS Freya. I don't know what happened, but suddenly the machine refused to work with any access points. It would say I was connected, and I would have an IP address from DHCP... but there was no actual connection working. Chrome would just complain there was no internet, for example.

I ended up having to rebuild the Realtek rtl8723be wifi driver from the source repository here: https://github.com/lwfinger/rtlwifi_new/ but actually that was not too bad, because the instructions are quite simple. I just had to follow this post which seemed to work fine for me. But I did need to disable the sleep feature of the driver, which is mentioned as an extra step in the instructions. Otherwise the connection would keep dropping and then prompting me for my wifi password all the time.

So that was a slightly annoying problem! But I am pleased to have it sorted out. As I'm writing this I'm downloading a 750Mb file to make sure it's all OK. I'm currently at 500Mb and all is fine, so hopefully that's a job well done.

I have also noticed that Elementary OS Loki is now released, but there is no upgrade route from Freya, so I need to find some free time to do a backup and clean install. Hopefully that will be a smooth process... maybe I'll try running it 'live' first, without installing, to make sure that things work beforehand. That's a job for another day.

Vanishing mouse on my Lenovo ideapad

One problem I have found with my new Lenovo ideapad 100 15iby running Elementary OS Freya is an issue with the mouse pointer vanishing, as reported here. It seems that if you lock the machine, close the lid, or let it go to sleep, then after signing back in there is no mouse pointer. It's annoying because neither the trackpad or an external mouse seems to work.

Anyway, the solution which seems to work for me is just to replace Light-Locker with Gnome Screensaver. It means that the lock screen is not as pretty looking, but I'd rather have a mouse that works!

It's an easy fix and worth it, although it looks like future updates won't suffer from the same problem. So I look forward to trying that out when I upgrade to Elementary OS Loki. But I'm waiting for it to be released rather than using the beta.

New laptop for Linux experiments

So my trusty old Toshiba Satellite T130 has started to fail. The keyboard has started to go wrong, it seems to miss out random keystrokes, which is really annoying. It's a shame, because apart from that the machine is still working fine. But I decided that it was time for it to be replaced. I didn't want to spend very much money on a new laptop, because the old Toshiba was running Elementary OS very nicely. So I didn't need a super fast processor or anything. I ended up going for the cheapest laptop with 4GB RAM that I could find. So I am typing this on a Lenovo ideapad 100 15iby. It was less than £190, which is pretty reasonable I think. So far I am pretty happy with it.

This machine does feel cheap. It seems very plasticy and the touchpad buttons rattle a little bit as I type. I don't think that it is as robust as the Toshiba, but for the price it seems like good value. It only has a Celeron processor, but it still seems to fly along when running Elementary OS. When I first got the machine, it was running Windows and that was a slightly more painful experience. Although I only kept Windows for a few minutes - just long enough to apply the firmware updates from Lenovo so that I had the most recent BIOS. After that, I blew everything away and installed Elementary OS Freya from a DVD (the ideapad does have an internal DVD drive). I don't have anything against Windows, but I don't think that I'd be happy running Windows on this laptop - I think I would find it too slow on this hardware.

I had no problems installing Linux, everything worked right out of the box - even the special volume and brightness buttons on the keyboard.

After installing the OS, the next things I installed were:

  • Docker
  • Kate / Konsole (for coding in C)
  • Spotify
  • Chrome (and the Chromecast plugin)
  • Nim / Nimble / Aporia
  • FileZilla
  • TLP in the hope of getting more out of the battery

The ideapad version I've got does not appear to have bluetooth (I think that it's an optional extra on this machine) but I managed to find a tiny Bluetooth dongle on Amazon which seems to do the trick. So anyway, let's see how it goes!

Elementary OS upgrade

I've just upgraded my old laptop OS (it's a Toshiba Satellite T130, and must be about 5 years old). Previously, I had been running Elementary OS Luna which I found pretty impressive. It had a couple of niggles ... for example the file manager app always seemed to take ages to load. Now that the new version, Freya has come out, I decided to try it. I went for a complete wipe and reinstall.

I am quite pleased with the upgrade. The slow file manager startup time has even gone away, and the whole OS seems even more polished. However, I have had a problem with the pointer getting corrupted if I did drag and drop, which was annoying, I am currently trying this fix, hopefully that will make it go away. Anyway, I celebrated a successful reinstall by going off to the Nasa JPL Wallpapers site and grabbing myself a nice background, so here's a screenshot:

I think that it's still the most visually appealing Linux I have tried and I'm quite happy that I've upgraded to the latest version. It runs nice and fast on my old laptop, and it's nice to have something that looks good without eating all your CPU cycles.

Linux Voice and Elementary OS

It’s been many years since I’ve regularly read a computer magazine. But I miss those days really, I’ve not got anything against reading computer magazines, but I’ve not seen anything in a long time that catches my interest. But it’s nice to read something and then say to yourself “umm, I’d like to try that out for myself”.

Well, I suppose I do casually read the MSDN Magazine in electronic format, but I’m doing that because it’s part of my work, not because I’m doing it for fun. And I do still read articles on Dr Dobbs.

Anyway, after seeing the Linux Voice magazine mentioned on the Raspberry Pi blog some time ago, I have been reading every issue. This is something that I choose to read for fun, and I continue to look forward to each issue coming out.

But reading this magazine has resulted in me trying out lots of different distros. I have seen that there is a lot more stuff out there that I haven’t tried yet. So my old laptop has taken a bit of a hammering because I keep flattening it and reinstalling something else.

But … for a while, this may have changed. Because I’ve tried Elementary OS. I am very impressed. For me, it hits the right balance between looking really nice, and not hogging all my CPU cycles to achieve it. I can still run it on slightly older hardware and it works fine.

After installing, and without very much hassle, I found myself watching BBC iPlayer in Chromium, listening to music in the Spotify Linux client and writing some notes in the ReText markdown editor. But I was also enjoying the experience. I spend all day switching Operating Systems (every day I use Mac OS, Linux, Windows, iOS and Andriod), but after a few hours on Elementary OS I was thinking to myself “yeah, I reckon I could use this all day”.

So Elementary OS is the first one that I don’t really want to uninstall. I’m comfortable with it. I hope that feeling lasts. I have an old Desktop PC sitting around, I may install it there too.