Debian 7 on the Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook

I recently purchased an upgrade to my aging laptop; a SAMSUNG Series 9 NP900X3C-A01US 13″ Ultrabook. I wont go too much into aesthetics except to say that this laptop is everything the reviews say it is. It’s light, sturdy, stylish, fast, and sips power. It is, almost down to the PCB, Samsungs answer to the 13″ Macbook Air. I am happier with it so far than I have been with any laptop I’ve owned… and I’ve owned quite a few.

At any rate, throwing Debian 7.0 (wheezy) on this laptop was trivial and almost everything “just works”. There are a few things I had to tweak as far as power saving, function keys, etc. and I wanted to outline those things here. Implement the items below to get the most out of yours if you own one.

Use the latest kernel
I am running 3.7.4 from on this ultrabook. Always use the latest available stable kernel on laptops. This is doubly true on very new ones like the series 9 if you want all the hardware to be well supported. Some hardware wont work under the default wheezy kernel on this model. There are also continual improvements in power management happening in the kernel. One example of something that didnt work properly under the default wheezy kernel was detecting when the lid was closed.

Use tmpfs
Debian doesn’t yet default to putting some things on tmpfs that should be. In /etc/default/tmpfs set RAMTMP=yes to mount /tmp on tmpfs. I also like to add an entry to /etc/fstab to mount /home/someuser/.cache/google-chrome on tmpfs as well. Both of these things speed up access to temporary/cache data and help to save power.

tmpfs /home/someuser/.cache/google-chrome tmpfs mode=1777,noatime 0 0

Enable discard support
This laptop comes with a 128GB SanDisk SSD U100. If your SSD supports TRIM (and this one does) and you are using ext4 (and you should be!) you can enable TRIM support in the file system by adding ‘discard’ to all the mount points in /etc/fstab.

/dev/mapper/lvm-root / ext4 discard,errors=remount-ro 0 1

If, as in the example above, you are also using LVM then you should configure it to issue discards to the underlying physical volume. To do so, set “issue_discards=1” in /etc/lvm/lvm.conf.

Use NOOP scheduler
Schedulers are getting smarter these days so this might not be necessary any more. I am still in the habit of setting noop as the scheduler for non-rotational storage devices though. I like to add a udev rule that will set noop if the device advertises itself as non-rotational. You could just set the default elevator to noop but this would effect, say, a USB SATA disk that you may plug in some day.

cat > /etc/udev/rules.d/60-schedulers.rules << EOF # set noop scheduler for non-rotating disks ACTION=="add|change", KERNEL=="sd[a-z]", ATTR{queue/rotational}=="0", ATTR{queue/scheduler}="noop" EOF

i915 power saving
The i915 kernel module for the Intel HD 4000 graphics chip set supports some extra power saving options that you can take advantage of. To enable them, add the following to /etc/default/grub, in the same spot where the "quiet" option for grub currently exists.

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet i915.i915_enable_rc6=1 i915.i915_enable_fbc=1 i915.lvds_downclock=1"

To see more information about what those options do, execute "modinfo i915".

Disable onboard LAN
This is a truly portable notebook. You shouldnt generally be using the onboard LAN a lot. You can save some power by disabling it in the BIOS.

Extend battery life
This laptop has such good battery life that you should be able to live with it quite comfortably in "battery extender" mode. This mode only lets the battery charge up to 80% and greatly extends the useful life of the battery. Enable it in the BIOS.

If you are in a situation where you know you're going to need maximum battery life (say, while waiting to board a very long flight) you can disable battery extender mode via a file in /sys. Letting the battery charge to 100% should give you about another hour of run time.

echo 0 > /sys/devices/platform/samsung/battery_life_extender

Enable touchpad tapping
Xorg uses the wrong driver for the touchpad by default. If you want to enable tap / doubletap / etc. then you'll need to touch a config file for Xorg.

mkdir -p /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d
cat > /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-snaptics.conf << EOF Section "InputClass" Identifier "touchpad" Driver "synaptics" MatchIsTouchpad "on" Option "TapButton1" "1" Option "TapButton2" "2" Option "TapButton3" "3" #Option "VertEdgeScroll" "on" #Option "VertTwoFingerScroll" "on" #Option "HorizEdgeScroll" "on" #Option "HorizTwoFingerScroll" "on" #Option "CircularScrolling" "on" #Option "CircScrollTrigger" "2" #Option "EmulateTwoFingerMinZ" "40" #Option "EmulateTwoFingerMinW" "8" #Option "CoastingSpeed" "0" EndSection EOF

Coming Soon...

Enable silent mode binding
omething here about binding Fn-F11 to enable/disable silent mode.

Enable keyboard backlight bindings
Something here about enabling backlight keys Fn-F9 and Fn-F10

Enable wifi binding
Something here about Fn-F12

Turn off bluetooth radio by default
Related to the above, but only turn off bluetooth radio during boot up

Use Powertop
Something here about enabling powertops tunables on boot up

Linux KVM: Openvswitch on Debian Wheezy

Among a great many other things, openvswitch is an alternative to managing your virtual networking stacks for KVM with bridge-utils. It supports VLANs, LACP, QoS, sFlow, and so forth.  Listed below are the steps required to get openvswitch running on Debian 7.0 (wheezy).

This article is written with the presumption that you are running a source-installed kernel (3.6.6 with the openvswitch module in this case), and want to use the latest openvswitch from git.

Install prerequisites

Apply any available updates, get all the build dependencies for openvswitch, and install module-assistant.

apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade
apt-get install build-essential
apt-get build-dep openvswitch
apt-get install module-assistant

Prep your environment

bridge-utils has a kernel modules that conflicts with the brcompat module in openvswitch. Lets remove that and at the same time stop libvirt and KVM for a bit.

apt-get remove --purge bridge-utils
/etc/init.d/libvirt-bin stop
/etc/init.d/qemu-kvm stop

Build openvswitch

Clone the openvswitch git repo and build debian packages from it.

git clone git://
cd openvswitch
dpkg-buildpackage -b

Install the packages you just built.

cd ../
dpkg -i openvswitch-switch_1.9.90-1_amd64.deb openvswitch-common_1.9.90-1_amd64.deb \
openvswitch-brcompat_1.9.90-1_amd64.deb openvswitch-datapath-source_1.9.90-1_all.deb \
openvswitch-controller_1.9.90-1_amd64.deb openvswitch-pki_1.9.90-1_all.deb

Build openvswitch-datapath for your running kernel.

module-assistant auto-install openvswitch-datapath

Configure brcompat to load on startup.

sed -i 's/# BRCOMPAT=no/BRCOMPAT=yes/' /etc/default/openvswitch-switch

Verify your configuration

At this point you should reboot and verify that the proper modules are loaded, the service starts normally, and the status output is correct.

[email protected]:~$ lsmod | grep brcompat
brcompat               12982  0 
openvswitch            73431  1 brcompat

[email protected]:~$ /etc/init.d/openvswitch-switch restart
[ ok ] Killing ovs-brcompatd (5439).
[ ok ] Killing ovs-vswitchd (5414).
[ ok ] Killing ovsdb-server (5363).
[ ok ] Starting ovsdb-server.
[ ok ] Configuring Open vSwitch system IDs.
[ ok ] Starting ovs-vswitchd.
[ ok ] Starting ovs-brcompatd.

[email protected]:~$ /etc/init.d/openvswitch-switch status
ovsdb-server is running with pid 6281
ovs-vswitchd is running with pid 6332
ovs-brcompatd is running with pid 6357

And that’s it! You now have a working openvswitch installation upon which you can do all the usual things you did with bridge-utils, and so much more.

Bacula 3.0.1 for Mac OS X

I wont be doing a build of Bacula for Mac OS X again any time soon, if at all, for a number of reasons;

  1. I no longer have access to Mac OS X 10.4 running on an Intel chip
  2. I am actively transitioning to BackupPC

Below youll find the method I have been using to construct all the .pkg installers youll find on this site. If you have any questions about the process please post them in the comments.

Continue reading Bacula 3.0.1 for Mac OS X

install debian directly onto an AoE root filesystem

Something that just about no one out there seems to be doing (yet) is trying to install Debian directly onto network block devices. The Debian installer doesnt support it (yet), grub doesnt support it (usually), and its just generally not an easy thing to do.

Now, there are quite a few ways around this problem. You can install to a ‘real’ computer and migrate the installation to a network block device. You can use debootstrap in place of the actual Debian installation system. You can use a combination of these two methods, NFS root filesystems, TFTP hacks, etc. All of these solutions are lacking in my opinion. I want to run the ‘real’ debian installer against a network block device and boot my physical hardware using only the built in PXE booting capability of the BIOS.

Taking all these issues as a personal challenge, I’ve outlined below how to go about using the regular old Debian Lenny installer directly against an AoE block device.
Continue reading install debian directly onto an AoE root filesystem

openais: an alternative to clvm with cman

I’ve been battling lately with a lot of problems with cman, part of Red Hat Cluster Suite. Specifically, the fencing tool (fenced) is pretty much junk when you try to start using it with Xen dom0’s. After much searching and gnashing of teeth I happened upon this mailing list post. The promise there is that you could take clvm and compile it against openais and get a cluster aware LVM which doesnt require the rest of Red Hat Cluster Suite (and its crappy documentation, crappy fencing, and general all around crappiness). A little more searching turned up this web site from Olivier Le Cam which pretty much did 90% of the work for me.

After some testing I’m happy to say it appears to work smashingly. What follows is a somewhat more complete version of how to achieve the same results on Debian Lenny. Enjoy :)

Continue reading openais: an alternative to clvm with cman

diskless booting with PXE and NFS

For a long time now I’ve wanted to set up all my mythfrontends to be diskless nodes that boot via PXE using an NFS share as their root filesystem. I finally got around to doing this. I was even able to just migrate my existing installations directly into the PXE boot environment. Here is how I accomplished it…

Continue reading diskless booting with PXE and NFS