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MSI Wind U100 Netbook

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This page covers the MSI Wind U100 Netbook running under a dual booted system with Windows XP and Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin - the latest Long Term Support (LTS) version with three years support ahead. We have also used the previous two LTS versions Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 and Lucid Lynx 10.04 - their use on the Wind are covered for reference on a 'Legacy page on using the Wind with Hardy Heron' and 'Legacy page on using the Wind with Lucid Lynx' It is being updated

Our experience is that everything works 'out of the box' under 12.04 although a couple of tweaks are currently needed to avoid a general problem of premature hibernation if you unplug the power supply with a laptop turned and a Wind specific fix for to avoid a hang up when suspending on battery caused by the Wifi Card. Both seem to have been fixed in Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty and Mint 17 Qiana.

Precise Pangolin uses the Unity Desktop, initially designed for Netbooks and our experiences at Ubuntu Unity - Evolution or Revolution all come from the Winds so it is almost a part 2 of this article. More recently we have switched to the Cinnamon Desktop manager from Mint, which is based on Ubuntu, instead of Unity and that is covered in Adding Spice to Ubuntu - Cinnamon and Mint.

We are now making the full transition to Mint 17, the next LTS version, on all our machines including both Winds and this article is being updated

Contents

The MSI Wind U100 and Ubuntu Linux - the story starts
Waiting for the Wind - preparation and searching out information.
The First Breath of Wind - testing and basic installation of Ubuntu
With the Wind behind - rapid progress in adding programs
Light Wind - Tips and Tricks for a small screen under Ubuntu
Wind in the rigging - disk management - stopping the drive clicking and wear
Hard On The Wind - Taming the Sentelic Trackpad
Taking the Wind away
    Internet Access via Bluetooth Connections (Tethering) to Mobile Phones and Windows Mobile devices
    Using Vodafone Mobile Broadband USB Modems
Secret Winds - Keeping data safe on the move using Truecrypt for disk encryption.
Going like the Wind - Tips and Tricks to get the best from the Wind, especially whilst on the move:
     General Tips and Tricks to get the best from Unity - a link to Ubuntu Unity - Evolution or Revolution to avoid duplication other than for a few specific to mobile operation.
     Power Saving with later kernels using Jupiter
     A Netspeed AppIndicator for Ubuntu with Unity
Short of Wind - a fix for the 'Critical Power' anomaly when you unplug power from a machine whilst it is running.
Wifi Problems specific to Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal and higher - there are a few fixes needed with Wifi under 11.04 and higher including 12.04
Tropical Winds - mainly a link to Adding Spice to Ubuntu - Cinnamon and Mint which we are using to replace the Unity desktop
No Wind - Outstanding activities and snag list - now very short!
Before You Leave - we welcome comments and suggestions

The MSI Wind U100 and Ubuntu Linux - the story starts

We spent many months agonising over whether we should get a Netbook and which one. We wanted one which was light for traveling but powerful and versatile enough to replace the laptop and was largely self contained. We expect to largely run Linux but would prefer to also have a dual boot to Windows XP because of Pauline's teaching where we are not sure that everything will work under Ubuntu. The first Netbooks we saw were the original Asus eeePC 700, three were brought to Pete's First talk on the Transition to Linux given on the QE2 Linux and Open Source, A Real alternative to Windows ? Or, why settle for Windows when you can have the whole house for free .

The eeePC was an eye opener but was never going to be adequate for OU teaching these days although we had a Libretto 50CT with a similar size and lower resolution screen in use for many years - it still works fine with Windows 95. The Netbook is really intended to replace our Toshiba Portege 3440 which is already dual booted with XP and Ubuntu Dapper Drake but will not take any more upgrades and needs wifi cards, USB2 cards with power supplies, an external USB disk and Bluetooth dongles to work.

The choices came down to the Asus eee901 and the MSI Wind U100 with the Wind winning with a 80 or more Gbyte hard drive versus a smaller solid state drive overcoming the poor relative battery life and questions over the Wifi. We nearly bought a Wind clone, the Advent 4211 from PC World and have finally ordered a MSI Wind U100-222UK-WT120A from Ebuyer.com which is White and has a 120 Gbyte drive, 1 gbyte memory, Windows XP, Wifi (which card of the three is not known), webcam and Bluetooth for 299 plus 5.95 shipping. To make it a going concern it will also need a 12v power supply (15) and possibly a larger battery. The following notes on the installation of Ubuntu are based on our Road to Freedom - A progressive migration from Windows to Ubuntu for Safety, Security and Savings in Home Computing

Waiting for the Wind - preparation and searching out information.

Whilst we were waiting for the MSI Wind U100 to come I did some homework and planning by doing some searches of the MsiWind.net wiki and Ubuntu forums and found several items which were of interest.

The MsiWind.net wiki on Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 Installation and Post Installation Guide and Tweak were probably the most useful overall.

I found that the drive was likely to already be partitioned into three primary partitions with a 4 Gbyte FAT32 partition for system restore information, a 40 Gbyte partition for Windows and the remainder of 75 Gbytes being a NTFS partition which was not used. I planned to delete the big NTFS partition and make an extended partition to hold a FAT32 data partition, a Swap partition and two EXT3 partitions for the root file system and a separate /home partition.

There were several forum articles covering Wifi and it became clear that there are now several possible Wifi cards but the most likely one was one I used for drivers was a RTL8187SE WLAN card and I found precompiled drivers at http://boskastrona.ovh.org/index_en.html - I found that it was however better to set up the Wifi drivers from scratch and that is what I did on the second Wind. None of that is now needed as suppot is built in from Jaunty onwards.

The next step is to make a bootable USB stick to install Ubuntu and I used Unetbootin which seems to be the perfect way to install Ubuntu on a machine without a CD. You can either download to the machine and install or you can create a LiveUSB. I created a LiveUSB of Hardy Heron and tried it on the only machine which I have capable of booting from a USB stick and it behaved just the same. It looks as if it should be able to create a LiveUSB from an ISO of a LiveCD of other programs such as disk partitioners but I have not tried it yet. In fact I created two LiveUSBs because I made on for the partition editor Gparted as well.

The First Breath of Wind - testing and basic installation of Ubuntu

Setting up Windows: The Wind U100 arrived two days earlier than we had expected from Ebuyer.com and we eagerly unpacked it and found from the label that it had the expected Realtech RTL8187SE wireless card installed. We turned it on and connected up via Wifi which needed our WEP key entered 26 characters twice! It had two DVDs so we did not need to make backup .iso images although the facilities are built in and we will probably do so at some point. I tried to work through as much as possible using what I have written in The Road to Freedom but much was not required as it was a brand new machine with nothing to back-up and I had already made the .iso using Unetbootin

I loaded the Avast! 4.8 free virus checker and a ZoneAlarm free firewall to give reasonable security. This took about 90 minutes by the time I had done all the reboots etc. I also loaded Firefox at this point so I had a realbrowser available rather than Internet Explorer.

And on to Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04.1: I then got a little ahead of myself and put in the Ubuntu LiveUSB and rebooted - you tap the F11 key whilst booting to access the boot menu and select the USB Stick then wait a few seconds for it to all stabilise before the return - in a few minutes Hardy Heron was up and running. The Wifi did not work and I had only prepared the driver for the latest version of the kernel so I could not check that but almost everything else seemed to work.

I needed to know about the partitioning so I used Gparted on the LiveUSB and got carried away again and deleted the larger NTFS partition and created an extended partition and a 30 Gbyte FAT32 partition within it for shared DATA. I did check everything still worked in Windows and gave the new partition the name DATA and changed the operating system partition name to WINDOWS.

I was now go to go back to the LiveUSB and start the install. I used manual disk partitioning to create a 3 Gbyte swap (3x the memory size) and two EXT3 partitions with mount points of / and /home. Everything went according to plan and at minute 175 from opening the box I had a full Ubuntu system up and running and just managed to double click the .deb file for the Wifi driver downloaded from http://boskastrona.ovh.org/index_en.html and give it the WEP password by minute 180 ( I may have taken 181 but I did not check the start to the second!)

The partitioning initially looked like this when seen latter in Gparted within the Ubuntu system:

With the Wind behind - rapid progress in adding programs

We had made good progress so far so it was time to work through the configuration in The Road to Freedom . I set up the repositories. The Ubuntu software repository is organized into four "components", on the basis of the level of support Ubuntu can offer them, and whether or not they comply with Ubuntu's Free Software Philosophy. The components are called:

There are other sets of software which are held in repositories which can be used by Ubuntu but not supported by the Ubuntu team which can be added - we will add one called Medibuntu in due course. But first we need to enable some more of the 'official repositories' in readiness for some of the software I suggest you install.

We do this by System -> Administration -> Software Sources - You will be presented with 5 tabs

Using the Synaptic Package Manager to add programs:

The Synaptic package manager is similar to Add/Remove but at a lower level and used more for adding services than main stream programs although it will do so just as well - we could have used it for Thunderbird we are going to be adding a number of library routines to for playing and ripping media files. The package manager is clever and every program in Ubuntu carries the information on its dependence on any other services and automatically downloads them, if required.

Open the Synaptic Package Manager by System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manage.

When the Synaptic Package Manager has opened use Search to find the package/program you want, click the box and click Mark for Installation each one. When they are all marked, click Apply. The following is the list I use when setting up a machine.

This is my initial list of packages installed using the Synaptic Package Manager

Light Wind - tips and Tricks for a small screen under Ubuntu - also see Unity Page

Many programs and web sites these days are written on the assumption that you will have at least a 1024 x 800 screen whilst the Wind U100 has one 1024 x 600.

Removing Flicker on Full Screen Windows (Unity only).

This screen mode can flicker if compiz is enabled. To fix that problem, install compizconfig-settings-manager by using the Synaptic Package Manager or opening up the Terminal application and typing:

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

Then, go to to System > Preferences > CompizConfig Settings manager (Advanced Desktop Effects Settings), click the "General Options" button and untick "Unredirect Full Screen Windows".

Wind in the rigging - disk management - stopping the drive clicking and wear - not a problem with Oneiric or higher.

Some versions of Ubuntu seem to do a lot of disk access resulting in a clicking noise on the Wind. This seems to be partly to do with the energy saving available from the drive and continual parking of the heads and partly that the swapping in and out is set too aggressively.

I played with both under Ubunty Hardy Heron and it gave some improvement possibly at the cost of power consumption. This seems to be less of a problem with Jaunty and Lucid - I have not changd the Power Management settings other than Swappiness so if you are using Lucid or higher I recommend you skip these changes.

Power Management: The first step is to make power management less aggressive. This one hopes has the following results:

To try the setting without rebooting run:

sudo hdparm -B 192 /dev/sda

To make a permanent change one needs to modify a setup file so open a terminal and type:

sudo gedit /etc/hdparm.conf

At the end of the file, paste the following:

command_line {
hdparm -B 192 /dev/sda
}

The value in the above line can be any where from 1 - 254 unless you want to switch power management off completely when you should use 255 instead of 192. It will make the drive run slightly warmer and use slightly more power but probably better than mad head parking. I currently have 255 to switch power management off completely.

The changes to power management seem to be an important part of getting suspend to work.

Swap file management:

The second way to reduce disk usage is to reduce the use of the swap file. There is a parameter called swapiness which is normally reduced on netbooks using solid state memory which wears out faster than a hard drive! See Performance tuning with ''swappiness'' Swappiness controls the tendency of the kernel to move processes out of physical memory and on to the swap disk. As disks are much slower than RAM, this can lead to slower response times for system and applications if processes are too aggressively moved out of memory and wear on solid state disks.

Reducing the default value of swappiness will actually improve overall performance for a typical Ubuntu desktop installation. There is a consensus that a value of swappiness=10 is recommended for a desktop and 60 for a server.

To check the swappiness value

cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness
For a temporary change (lost on reboot) with a swappiness value of 10:

sudo sysctl vm.swappiness=10

To make a change permanent you must edit a configuration file:

sudo gedit /etc/sysctl.conf

Search for vm.swappiness and change its value as desired. If vm.swappiness does not exist, add it to the end of the file like so:

vm.swappiness=10

Save the file and reboot.

I have only bothered to do this on one of the Winds running Mint.

Swap and zRam on the Wind

After reading the WebUp8 article on using zRam - a compressed virtual swap in Memory I have started to use it on some of my machines. You can learn about Swap in general at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/SwapFaq and using zRam at http://www.webupd8.org/2011/10/increased-performance-in-linux-with.html with some test results at http://www.mail-archive.com/ubuntu-devel-discuss@lists.ubuntu.com/msg13173.html

The zRam device is already built into the linux kernel dynamically allocates RAM to store a block device in compressed blocks. The device has a fixed size, but zram only allocates RAM when it needs it. When the kernel frees swap, it now informs the underlying device; thus zram releases that RAM back to the system. Similarly, when a file system frees a block, it now also informs the underlying device zram supports.

Because of all this, you can feasibly actually have a swap device on RAM the size of your entire RAM and nothing will happen until you start swapping--you can have 2GB of RAMand activate a 2GB zram block Nothing will happen until it is time to start swapping anyway, in which case it'll work. That means zram swap devices should not ever have a negative impact but the potential for a significant gain. In effect you increase the size of memory by progressively compressing it, but only when required before you start to use disk for swapping.

There are some tradeoffs and Sergei Davidoff has written a script which he has put into a PPA which enable the optimum size and number of zRam swap files depending on memory, and scales for the number of processors etc in a system. This is then set up to be automatically be run as an upstart job (ie when the machine starts) and you need do no more. The gains should be greatest on older systems with limited RAM and Netbooks. It should reduce the periods of freezing when the system runs out of RAM.

This is all covered on WbUP8 and I decided to give it a try and installed by:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:shnatsel/zram
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install zramswap-enabler

You can see what it has added on your system by

cat /proc/swaps

I will report further when I have more experience, so far no negative effects.

Hard On The Wind - Taming the Sentelic Trackpad - works well with Precise - not tried yet under 14.04 or Mint 17

The Trackpad fitted to most of the MSI Wind U100s is from Sentelic and there are no dedicated drivers available within the kernel - it is in theory possible to take a driver avilable from Sentelic, recompile the kernel with a patch to include it and compile a control panel to give control over the pad but this is beyond most users and would have to be done every time a kernel update was available which would be a nightmare.

The Sentelic trackpad however offers most of the facilities normally expected and needed such as:

The main problems are:

The simplest way round random movements when entering text is to use an external mouse and toggling the touchpad off by Fn F3.

I however tamed the touch pad under 12.04 by use of a simple utility called mouseemu which was initially written for use of single button mice on the Apple. Mouseemu enables one to:

Mouseemu can be installed by Sytem - Applications -> Synaptic Package Manager and Searching for Mouseemu

You will need to reboot before it becomes active and after changing any configuration.

It needs a file to be configured to enable the two features by

sudo gedit /etc/default/mouseemu

Remove the # in front of the SCROLL and TYPING_BLOCK entries

Set the delay before the tap becomes active in TYPING_BLOCK - I use 1000 for a 1 second block

Change the SCROLL value to 100 instead of 56 to use the AltGr key instead of Alt.

I have now quite got to like the Sentelic touch pad when using the Wind on my lap but I prefer to also have a mouse available when I have the space to use one.

 

Taking the Wind away - Internet Access via Bluetooth Connections to Mobile Phones and Windows Mobile devices

Bluetooth - basics and pairing

Bluetooth is an excellent way to send contacts and files between machines and also allows the modem in one device to be used by another. Before you can do this the various devices must be 'paired' - this means that you set up a 'PIN' on both to give a secure communication without anybody else being able to hijack your mobile. The other security feature is that once paired you stop your devices being 'discovered' by other peoples machines which are searching for devices with Bluetooth (BT) turned on. This all sounds a bit complex and it does take a little while the first time.

When a Bluetooth dongle is inserted or a built in Bluetooth device such as that on the MSI Wind is turned on a Bluetooth icon appears in the system area . The first activity is to pair the Phone or Mobile Device to the computer.

The pairing can also be done from the computer under Lucid and higher and, when possible, it is a better approach. Right Click on the Bluetooth Icon -> Setup New Device and follow the Wizard. You will need to enter the pin on the Phone in this case. You may still need to use the phone menus to make the phone discoverable and on some phones such as Blackberies you will need to allow connections to always be accepted from the computer.

Once the pairing is set up you are asked if you want to make a dial up connection and when you tick the box you are taken to a wizard to enter the information specific to you mobile provider. Currently this broken on Precise (12.04) and worse still causes a kernel panic when disconnecting a connection made this way in 13.04 so we are back to doing it the hard way:

Making a Bluetooth Phone Dial-Up Network Connection the hard way

Once you have Paired the phone and the computer you need to find out several pieces of information to enable you to set up the connection to the modem in the phone so you can set up a configuration file - the ends result is you have what looks like a local device. You can scan the Bluetooth connections looking for Dial Up Network (DUN) connections (modems) in the phones by typing the following strings in a terminal, in this example both my T610 phone and the XDA have been paired and are with range.

hcitool scan
sdptool search DUN

which gives an output like this for with both my T610 Phone and O2 XDA Exec on::

pcurtis@satellite:~$ hcitool scan
Scanning ...
00:12:37:C6:81:31 wind-ubuntu
00:0E:07:2C:E8:82 T610
pcurtis@satellite:~$ sdptool search DUN
Inquiring ...
Searching for DUN on 00:12:37:C6:81:31 ...
Service Name: Dial-up Networking
Service RecHandle: 0x10003
Service Class ID List:
"Dialup Networking" (0x1103)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 4
Language Base Attr List:
code_ISO639: 0x656e
encoding: 0x6a
base_offset: 0x100
Profile Descriptor List:
"Dialup Networking" (0x1103)
Version: 0x0100
Searching for DUN on 00:0E:07:2C:E8:82 ...
Service Name: Dial-up Networking
Service RecHandle: 0x10000
Service Class ID List:
"Dialup Networking" (0x1103)
"Generic Networking" (0x1201)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 1
Profile Descriptor List:
"Dialup Networking" (0x1103)
Version: 0x0100

pcurtis@satellite:~$

I will include both the set up for the phone and the XDA in the configuration file as rfcomm0 and rfcomm1 - one can add extra devices to the configuration file as shown below:

The following is the contents of the file which contains the configuration information for both the T610 and the XDA and it lives in /etc/bluetooth/rfcomm.conf
. It is safest to make a copy then edit the existing 'default' rfcomm.conf file. The two important pieces of information are the addresses of the bluetooth devices and the channel numbers for the DUN connections

# RFCOMM configuration file /etc/bluetooth/rfcomm.conf
#
rfcomm0 {
bind yes;
# Bluetooth address of T610
device 00:0E:07:2C:E8:82;
#
# RFCOMM channel for the T610
channel 1;
# Description of the connection
comment "T610 Dial-up Networking via Bluetooth";
}
#
rfcomm1 {
bind yes;
# Bluetooth address of XDA
device 00:12:37:C6:81:31;
#
# RFCOMM channel for the XDA
channel 4;
# Description of the connection
comment "XDA Dial-up Networking via Bluetooth";
}

Remember when testing that whenever you change a configuration file such as the above which you are going to use you must reboot the machine or restart the relevant sub-system, in this case by:

sudo service bluetooth restart

The extra device appears in /dev so it can be accessed via the Network Manager, a terminal program such as wvdial but my preference is for the GNOME-PPP Dialler.

Gnome-PPP

Gnome-PPP is a program to enable one to make Dial Up Network connections using any modems which are connected to the machine. GNOME PPP is installed via the Ubuntu Software Centre or the Synaptic Package Manager and is an excellent way to get a simple dial up connection which also puts a icon in the system tray which can be used to monitor and stop the connection - first class for a normal simple modem set up which detected my serial modem automatically and connected me up. The PPP stands for Point to Point Protocol which is what is used by all modems to connect your machine to your ISP or mobile provider. The latest versions of the Network Connection Manager will handle many connections including Mobile Broadband Sticks and Bluetooth modems in phones for tethering but there will always be awkward phones such as those with Windows Mobile so Gnome-ppp will remain a useful and often essential tool. The only shortfall is that it was written in the days of single connections and I do not see a way built in to handle multiple connection but it is so simple to change that may be not worth worrying.

The modems appear as devices in /dev and the exact name depends on the sort of modem. In the case of bluetooth link to phone they look like /dev/rfcommx where x is 0, 1, 2 etc and the configuration is in the /etc/rfcomm.conf file we made above.

Installing Gnome-ppp in Ubuntu

Gnome-PPP is not installed automatically so install it with the Ubuntu Software Centre and searching for GNOME PPP or use the Synaptic package manager.

Installing Gnome-ppp in Linux Mint

GnomePPP is not installed by default but it is present within the default installation of Linux Mint. Your Linux Mint system comes with a local repository which is disabled by default. You can enable it by using the "Software Sources" tool from the menu. This repository contains GnomePPP as well as a collection of drivers. You can then search for and install using the Synaptic Package Manager or the Software Center.

Gnome-ppp under Unity: Re-enabling use of the Notification Area (Systray)

Many programs that I use require use of Indicators in the Systray (ie on the top panel) which is blocked by default for most programs by Unity. In my case this prevented use of Truecrypt, Kaffeine and Gnome-ppp to name a few. There are several places on the web which cover this and the best overall site covering such matters currently is Web UPD8 - there is a good article on How to Re-enable the Notification Area (systray) for all Applications.

First you need to install the configuration tool for the Unity Desktop - it is called dconf-editor. It can be installed using the Ubuntu Software Centre - search for dconf Editor - it uses the universe repository and you will be asked to enable it.

Now run dconf-editor using the terminal

dconf-editor

then navigate to desktop > unity > panel and enter: ['all'] in place of the existing string in Value for the for the Key systray-whitelist by clicking, overwriting with ['all'] and then a return.

Tip Most of the tweak tools described below also allow you to restore the Notification area for all programs

Gnome-ppp and User privileges - Membership of dip and dialout groups required

On some versions of Ubuntu including 12.04 you do not automatically have all the permissions to run Gnome-PPP as a user - you need to be in the dip and dialout groups to run it. Unfortunately even though the first user set up is supposed to have full administrator priviledges that does not seem to be the case with Precise Pangolin. If this is not the case the log file which is available from the Log button will have a line complaining about permissions for the executable file /usr/sbin/pppd. The easiest way is to do System -> Administration -> Users and Groups then unlock with your password and highlight your user name and click Properties and on the User Privileges Tab tick Connect to Internet using a Modem which adds you to the dip group and 'Use Modems' which adds you to the dialout group. Neither act immediately and you need to restart or logout and back in as the same user.

However under Ubuntu Unity 12.04 and higher and in Linux Mint the settings via Users and Groups has been castrated and you can no longer set up or change individual Groups so it is back to the terminal. You can check the groups you are in (and get some other useful information), in a terminal, by typing:

id

The output from id on my system which works with gnome-PPP looks like:

pcurtis@vortex-ubuntu:~$ id
uid=1000(pcurtis) gid=1000(pcurtis) groups=4(adm),20(dialout),21(fax),24(cdrom),
25(floppy), 26(tape),29(audio),30(dip),44(video),46(plugdev), 104(fuse),
105(lpadmin),112(netdev),119(admin),122(sambashare),1000(pcurtis)
pcurtis@vortex-ubuntu:~$

The following two commands will add YOURUSERNAME to the dip and dialup groups which are required to use gnome-PPP:

sudo adduser YOURUSERNAME dip
sudo adduser YOURUSERNAME dialout

Remember to restart to activate these changes and check again with id

Gnome-ppp and permissions for /etc/ppp/pap-secrets and etc/ppp/chap-secrets

If you want to save the username and password in gnome-ppp they are saved in /etc/ppp/pap-secrets and etc/ppp/chap-secrets and you need to give read and write access to them from group dip - if you do not then you will get an warning message in the connection log. In most cases this does not matter as the username and password are not actually used or checked by most mobile internet providers - they know who you are from the SIM which is already registered before you can access data. Even so it is best to set these permissions. I use a root file browser which is started in a terminal by:

gksudo nautilus

when using Cinnamon instead do

gksudo nemo

You then navigate to folder /etc/ppp and right click on pap-secrets -> Properties -> Permissions tab then select dip from the drop down menu for Group and and then select read and write under Access. Repeat for chap-secrets. The annoying warning messages should now disappear.

Additional Step to get round bug in Karmic and higher where the bluetooth modem (rfcomm) devices are not automatically created

This bug seems to be cured in Precise Pangolin so it has been removed from here - if you need to find out more it is covered in the 'legacy' version of the Ubuntu Mobile page for Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric

Gnome-PPP Configuration

The main configuration in Gnome-PPP is done by a GUI interface and is all fairly obvious if you are making a simple land-line Dial-Up connection. The default modem initialisation strings and other settings will almost certainly work, so only the initial screen needs the username, password and telephone number entered for a land-line modem. The only thing missing with GNOME-PPP is help. It uses its own configuration file $HOME/.wvdial.conf which it is reported can have additions despite the warnings not to modify by hand.

If, however, you want to make a GPRS connection via most mobile phones you need to set up the APN via an initialisation string option on the second tab of the Setup Screen, and then use a special code in place of the phone number. Using Vodafone UK PrePay on the T610 as an example the Initialisation string 3 is set to:

Init 3 AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","pp.vodafone.co.uk"

and the phone code used is

*99***1#

For other providers replace the pp.vodafone.co.uk with their APN (eg Vodafone UK Contract is internet, Vodafone UK Mobile Broadband is pp.internet, O2 pay as you go is payandgo.o2.co.uk, Guernsey Wave is pepper and Vodafone NZ is www.vodafone.net.nz)

In general the username and passwords are not checked but for most phones something needs to be present - check with your provider. I use web and web with vodafone and payandgo and password with O2. There are more details on my Global Communications and Computing page

My typical settings on the Setup screens for Gnome-PPP are:

Changes required in /etc/ppp/options

Some other options need to be set for some mobile network cards and connections to prevent them timing out. These are not possible via the GUI interface and are taken from the the 'master' pppd set up file which is /etc/ppp/options. We can look at the current options which are set by:

sudo egrep -v '#|^ *$' /etc/ppp/options

It is desirable to make a backup before editing the /etc/ppp/options file so to make a copy and open a terminal:

sudo cp /etc/ppp/options /etc/ppp/options_bak
sudo gedit /etc/ppp/options

I have made three changes to the file. The first two are essential for most GPRS connections and disable the sending and checking of the echo response sent to check the connection is alive - the echo is not implemented by most mobile service providers and the default result is that 4 echo response requests are sent at 30 second intervals and after the 4th failure to receive a response the connection is broken. If you are disconnected after 2 minutes that is the cause. The new values of 0 inhibit the sending and checking:

lcp-echo-failure 0
lcp-echo-interval 0

The third change is essential for the Vodafone PCMCIA Connect Card but does not impact other connections significantly so I do it routinely so I do not forget. It involves disabling negotiation of Van Jacobson style IP header compression by un-commenting

-vj

I have also tried modifying the /ect/ppp/options file to add an extra delay before connection as I was sometimes not getting a correct DNS delivered using Gnome-PPP with the Vodafone but it seems to have little benefit but you can try.

connect-delay 5000

Note the information in the /etc/ppp/options file does not recommend that changes are made in this file. The documentation ( man pppd ) says that if there is a file ~/.ppprc it is used for user default options which could be used instead of modifying /etc/ppp/options - I have not tried that method as the simple way works for me and gives me a working system. I have the attitude that "if its not broken don't fix it"

Use of the Vodafone Mobile Connect Broadband K3565 package (Huawei E220 USB Modem).

Vodafone now offer a package with a USB broadband stick preloaded with 1 Gbyte of UK data for £49 reduced to £39 for Xmas and now various options are even cheaper. Top ups are £15 for 1 Gbyte. The stick I received even has a micro SD reader built-in. It is branded as a Vodafone K3565 which is detected as a Huawei E220. It handles GPRS, 3g and the latest HSDPA services providing 3.6 Mbaud rates. The MSI Wind has no PCMCIA slot so this is perfect for round the UK and I think I have persuaded Vodafone to unlock it for roaming with different Vodafone SIM cards. The service includes reception of texts but not sending.

The Vodafone Group have written some support software for linux - it is not officially supported but is an Open Source development which can be used for many USB 3G sticks and service providers. I covered its use in Ubuntu Linux on the Move but I found that good old fashioned gnome-ppp was all that was needed and much faster to connect so I have not installed it on the second Wind when I found I had never used it for real connections!

Lucid and higher have a number of improvements when it comes to USB Broadband USB sticks in general: Firstly the dual devices are correctly handled in the kernel and identified as Broadband modems however many times they are plugged in and out and Secondly the Network Manager has been extended considerably and handles Mobile Broadband connections explicitely so you do not need Gnome-PPP or the Vodafone Mobile Connect software although you may choose to use them. The latest versions handle an increased number of USB sticks including the Vodafone K3565-Z. However if you buy a new stick without full support Gnome-PPP is a life-saver.


Gnome-PPP set up for Vodafone Mobile Broadband:
When you set up Gnome-ppp the only new information needed for vodafone PAYG Broadband is the port used and the following information:

Username: web
Password: web
APN: pp.internet

The APN is unusual as vodafone usually use pp.vodafone.co.uk for PAYG and internet for contract but I got it from the default under Windows and only that seemed to work when I tested in a normal phone as well as in the dongle. I just added an init string to set up the default APN (CID 1) and it also worked immediately. I use the following init strings:

Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Init3 = AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","pp.internet"

I am not sure that the init2 is needed - it is the standard set up for a fax modem as used through a mobile phone and you could replace it by ATZ which is a modem reset..

The 'number to dial' is set to be *99# or *99***1# and I use stupid mode to get a quick connection.

I have looked at the codes sent by vmc and tried the codes there to set GPRS prefered as an init code. It does not seem very effective but for completeness the codes I have extracted from the vmc source are:

For GPRSONLY set
Init4 =AT^SYSCFG=13,1,3FFFFFFF,2,4
For 3GONLY set
Init4 =AT^SYSCFG=14,2,3FFFFFFF,2,4
For GPRSPREF set
Init4 =AT^SYSCFG=2,1,3FFFFFFF,2,4
For 3GPREF set
Init4 =AT^SYSCFG=2,2,3FFFFFFF,2,4

If you have an unsupported modem then try the small program provided by vodafone called usb_modeswitch to switch between CD boot mode and Modem mode. You can check if the devices are correct with ls -al /dev/ttyU*.

I have not found a way to check ones credit under linux as the linux vmc software does not support it - if the software is improved to do so I will install it. Currently credit checking and Topup via a vouchure is available under the Windows VMC or by telephone and credit card however 1 Gbyte should last a long time!

Secret Winds - Truecrypt Disk Encryption Software

I was not sure whether to include this under my write up of the Wind but if one is running an ultaportable computer like the Wind it becomes even more important to have the ability to encrypt important data you carry with you. I use Truecrypt on all my machines and despite various well documented shock withdrawl by the authors it is still well regarded, safe and available for download. See https://www.grc.com/misc/truecrypt/truecrypt.htm. There are many conspiracy theories based round the fact that the security services could not crack it for its sudden withdrawl. It:

It creates a Virtual Disk with the contents encrypted into a single file or onto a disk partition or removable media such as a USB stick. The encryption is all on the fly so you have a file, you mount it as a disk and from then on it is used just like a real disk and everything is decrypted and re-encrypted invisibly in real time. The virtual Drive is unmounted automatically at close down and one should have closed all the open documents using the Virtual Drive by that point just like when you shut down normally. The advantage is that you never have the files copied onto a real disk so there are no shadows or temporary files left behind and one does not have to do a secure delete. I have loaded it onto two of my Windows systems.

Truecrypt obviously installs deep into the operating system in order to encrypt decrypt invisibly on the fly. This has meant in the past that it was specific to a Linux Kernel and had to be recompiled/installed every time a Kernel was updated. Fortunately TrueCrypt has now reached version 7 which can be downloaded as as an installer for both 32 and 64 bit versions of Ubuntu – make sure you get the correct version. The installed is packed into a compressed file .tar.gz just double click truecrypt-7.x-ubuntu-x86.tar.gz to open the archive and drag the folder to the desktop, double click it then click 'run in Terminal' to run the installer script.

This linux version of Truecrypt is a great improvement and has a GUI interface almost identical to that in Windows. It can be run by just typing truecrypt in a terminal or from a launcher. It opens virtual disks which are placed on the desktop. Making new volumes (encrypted containers) is now trivial – just use the wizard. Old files can be opened but it is best to create a new volume and copy the contents across. This is now a very refined product under Linux.

The only feature I have found is that one has to have administrative privileges to mount ones volumes. This means that one is asked for ones administrative password on occasions as well as the volume password. There is a way round this by providing additional 'rights' specific to just this activity to a user (or group) by additions to the sudoer file. There is information on the Sudoers file and editing it at:

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Sudoers

Because sudo is such a powerful program you must take care not to put anything formatted incorrectly in the file. To prevent any incorrect formatting getting into the file you should edit it using the command visudo run as root or by using sudo ( sudo visudo ). From Ubuntu 8.04 the default editor for visudo has changed to vi, a terminal editor, which is close to incomprehensible at least to those used to Windows so it is fortunate we only have single line to add!

You launch visudo in a termina

sudo visudo

There are now two ways to proceed, if you have a lot of users then it is worth creating a group for truecrypt, changing truecrypt to be a member of that group and adding all the users that need truecrypt to that group. You then use sudoer to giving group members the 'rights' to use it without a password. See:

http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Truecrypt or
http://www.howtoforge.com/truecrypt-with-gui-on-ubuntu

If you only have one or two users then it is easier to give them individual rights by adding a line(s) to the configuration file by launching visudo in a terminal and appending one of the following lines for either a single user (replace USERNAME with your username) or a group called truecrypt (the last option is brute force and gives everyone access) :

USERNAME ALL = (root) NOPASSWD:/usr/bin/truecrypt
or
%truecrypt ALL = (root) NOPASSWD:/usr/bin/truecrypt
or
ALL ALL=NOPASSWD:/usr/bin/truecrypt

Type the line carefully and CHECK - there is no cut and paste into Visudo

Save by Cntr O and exit by Cntr X - if there are errors there will be a message and a request what to do in the terminal.

I have used it both the simple way and by creating a group called truecrypt.

Going like the Wind - Tips and Tricks to get the best from Ubuntu on the Wind

These Tips have all changed a lot now Ubuntu has the Unity Desktop and I do not want to duplicate everything here so have a look at Ubuntu Unity - Evolution or Revolution and in particular Tips and Tricks to get the best from Unity . If you want to you can [ Click here to Expand and see all the Earlier Tips and Tricks which were here  ]

Power Saving

It seems that the battery life of many laptops and netbooks has shortened because of a power issue starting with version 2.6.38 which hasn't been full fixed yet. There used to be program called Jupiter but it has been withdrawn. There are various tweaks that you can apply individually to your laptop to save battery power, but many are difficult to apply or or configure.

The best replacement for Jupiter seems to be TLP which is an advanced power management command line tool for Linux that tries to apply the best settings for you automatically, depending on your Linux distribution and hardware. Use the commands below to install and make the first run of TLP:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linrunner/tlp
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tlp tlp-rdw
sudo tlp start

An alternative is laptop-mode-tools but you must make sure it is not installed alongside TLP (simply run "sudo apt-get remove laptop-mode-tools" and it will be removed if it's installed), as it conflicts with TLP.

Short of Wind - the Solution to the MSI Wind U100 'Critical Power' Anomaly - Cured in Ubuntu 14.04 and Mint 17

This has a separate section as it is more important than the other tips and tricks.

The MSI Wind and many other netbooks and laptops have a very large power surge shown after unplugging and plugging in the power adapter. This is typically 700 watts and is enough to trip the 'critical power' shutdown if it is calculated on time remaining. The symptom can be reproduced if you unplug the power adapter with machine on - you will get a critical power message and the machine will then hibernate which is a triffle annoying if the battery is full.

The 'critical power' criteria can be set to use the battery charge remaining instead and there is a setting in the gnome-power-manager to do that but it is not accessible from the normal GUI. You need to use a terminal and issue the following command:

gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power 'use-time-for- policy' 'false'

You can alternatively do the following:

sudo apt-get install dconf-tools
dconf-editor

Navigate to the 'org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power' section and Uncheck 'use-time-for-policy'

 

Wifi Problems specific to Ubuntu 11.04 and higher? Again cured in Ubuntu 14.04 and Mint 17

There are at least two different Wifi modules fitted to the MSI Wind U100. The Realtek RTL8187SE and the RT2700. These both have problems under Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal and the solutions are slightly different. The easest way is to list the PCI devices to see which module is plugged in by, in a terminal, doing:

lspci

The Wireless card is usually near the bottom of the list.

Natty Suspend and Resume problems when using battery and R8187SE Wifi Card

This is quite a serious problem and did not appear initially with Natty but came after some upgrades and is still present in Precise Pangolin. Early checks in Linux Mint 15 on a LiveUSB have not shown the problem so it may be solved in 13.04.

When one resumed on battery or even after a temporay disconnection my machine would start up very slowly and eventually freeze completely - judging by the fan some program was working flat out. This problem is common to a number of machines and has been reported in a long thread at http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1596545&page=7 where many solutions have been proposed and few work on many machines. A solution for the Wind U100 is to completely remove the Wifi module for the r8187se device before suspending and reloading it after a resume. This seems to work and indicates it is the Wifi module giving the problem. You need to edit a file to do this - on my machine I added a file /etc/pm/config.d/unload_module containing the single line.

SUSPEND_MODULES="r8187se"The easy way to do this is to run the file manager as root by

gksudo nautilus /etc/pm/config.d
Now you can right click to create the file unload_module then double click to open gedit and copy in the line SUSPEND_MODULES="r8187se"

I then saved and closed it and then used a right click to properties -> permissions to make the file executable

After this everything seems to work.

Fixing Connection and Suspend Problems with a RT2700E Wifi Card

Some Wind U100s have a different Wifi module to mine and one of my readers has informed me that it also required a couple of tweaks when running under Natty Narwhal 11.04. He gave me this link which covers what is needed. I obviously have not been able to check this myself but Ricky found it resolved the problem of unreliable Wifi for him. The problem is due to multiple drivers being loaded for several RT 2xxxx cards and is not specific to Ubuntu 11.04 or the Wind so it may well be fixed shortly. The suspend/resume problem with Wifi also seems common to many machines using these modules.

Tropical Winds - Switching to the Cinnamon Desktop or Mint with Cinnamon

We have made the switch on both our machines to the Cinnamon Desktop which is covered very fully in Adding Spice to Ubuntu - Cinnamon and Mint and keep to a brief introduction here.

Cinnamon is the new Desktop Managers developed for Mint which can also be used with Ubuntu in place of Unity and with Lubuntu and Xubuntu. It provides a very sophisticated conventional desktop which has been very well received and once more makes Ubuntu a sensible proposition. It builds on Gnome 3.x but has a much better interface and the Mint - Cinnamon combination has been voted 2012's best Linux desktop by ZDNET . Mint has more than Cinnamon in its favour as it offers a much fuller set of facilities and immediately usability than Ubuntu in particular for media applications. However the Cinnamon interface is the clincher for most people and it can be overlaid very easily on a standard Ubuntu install and be chosen as an alternative to Unity chosen at login - no reboot is needed to switch, only to log out and back in so it is very quick. I have find I have never gone back to Unity to do any work since loading Cinnamon on the Winds.

Cinnamon, which reminds one of the good old days of GNOME 2.x, is built on Muffin (a compositing window manager which has grown out of Clutter/Mutter) and Gnome 3 but is more attractive and with better features including extensive customisation and drag and drop support in the panel and menu. It is trivially easy to add menu items to the desktop, panel and 'favourites' as well as a right-click on the menu to use the menu editor to change edit the main menu itself. It gives me great control over my desktop. Another great advantage over Gnome 2 is Cinnamon/Muffin's Expo mode which seems more useful than the one provided via Compiz in Unity. Expo gives you great control over your workspaces and one can choose how many workspaces to use and drag and drop applications to each workspace - very powerful but also easy to use and I find I am now making much more use of workspaces. Even with the default 'Window List' on the bottom panel multitasking once more becomes practical, something which was scarely possible with Unity.

The panel (Cinnamon Version 1.6 and 1.8) is now entirely implemented by Applets so you can not only customise and reposition all the usual facilities but you can replace them with alternate versions. There are, for example, at least 5 different main menus with different degrees of complexity including the 'Mint' style as well as the new Cinnamon Menu and other layouts and the normal 'Window List' can be replaced by what I regard as a major (if not killer app) which allows one to see popups of each program group which are open with the full Window previewed in the background as you hover over each one. This cures the major problem I have with Unity and that is switching programs especially when I have several instances or windows open especially those running under Wine which often show up with incorrect attributions.

Now there must be a catch! The only real catch I have found is that good 3D acceleration is required for Cinnamon to run so it is not a solution for all machines over 5 years old but Unity and Gnome 3 do not run properly on such machines either! The graphics in the Winds are perfectly adequate for Cinnamon. The only I could find was that the Menus in Cinnamon 1.6 were slow on the Wind's hardware but are much faster in 1.8 with a scarely noticable delay in appearing and no slower than the Unity Dash. Trials of Unity Mint seem even faster so that is a candidate for the next upgrade cycle.

Adding Spice to Ubuntu - Cinnamon and Mint has full details of how to add Cinnamon to an Ubuntu system in a way that allows a choice of desktop manager at login time - but I have never chosen Unity since installing Cinnamon on the Winds.

Recent Changes

I have now installed Mint 17 on both machines and have a:

No Wind - Outstanding activities, snag list - now very short! and Stop Press

Overall the Wind has been very easy to set up and seems to be excellent under Ubuntu Precise Pangolin 12.04 and Mint 17 but I would not like anyone to think that every problem has been solved.

I am therefore keeping this area for an account of any issues and solutions if and when we find them.

Before You Leave

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Fun with Ubuntu Linux | The Road to Freedom - The Journey Starts |The Road to Freedom - Base Camp | Ubuntu All Together - Sharing, Networking, Backup, Synchronisation and Encryption | Ubuntu on the Lookout - Browsing, Email, Contacts, Calendars and Tasks| Ubuntu on the Move | Ubuntu on the Take | Ubuntu making Music | Ubuntu Unity - Evolution or Revolution | Lubuntu - an alternative for lower power machines | Adding Spice to Ubuntu - Cinnamon and Mint | More Spices for Cinnamon - Applet Development | The MSI Wind U100 Netbook for Global Communications and Computing | High Ground - The Chillblast Defiant Mini Laptop with Optimus Technology

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Most recent significant revision: 30 th, October 2014
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