Linux Errors (SystemD and Spotify)

SystemD – Modem Manager

On my Fedora system I recently saw the following in /var/log/messages (something I try and monitor occasionally).

May 4 12:35:57 philip-pc dbus-daemon: dbus[1238]: [system] Activating via systemd: service name='org.freedesktop.ModemManager1' unit='dbus-org.freedesktop.ModemManager1.service'
May 4 12:35:57 philip-pc dbus[1238]: [system] Activating via systemd: service name='org.freedesktop.ModemManager1' unit='dbus-org.freedesktop.ModemManager1.service'
May 4 12:35:57 philip-pc dbus[1238]: [system] Activation via systemd failed for unit 'dbus-org.freedesktop.ModemManager1.service': Unit dbus-org.freedesktop.ModemManager1.service failed to load: No such file or directory.

ArchLinux’s forum suggests this is actually because there’s a dependency on Modem Manager and that running the following ought to solve it

systemctl start ModemManager.service && systemctl enable ModemManager.service

This seems to have allowed systemd to load properly.

Spotify

So aside from being a pain in the ass to install, Spotify on Fedora also seems log quite a bit (again /var/log/messages):

May 4 12:46:03 philip-pc gnome-session: content-type missing in HTTP POST, defaulting to application/x-www-form-urlencoded. Use QNetworkRequest::setHeader() to fix this problem.
May 4 12:47:00 philip-pc gnome-session: 11:47:00.073 I [social_reporter.cpp:191 ] SocialReporter: A track was played
May 4 12:47:00 philip-pc gnome-session: 11:47:00.106 I [file_streamer.cpp:1816 ] Getting CDN url: http://audio2.spotify.com/audio/47a9a5ee9675befce32fcf9ba95954b500d3ea63?f6663ae2954e4707176c7ee9e6514e3daf2e005a4d99b5538b3933194d7f594fcb4142b903e
7a89aff61e889f4b373a46f5a88ecf4b7bdd70ea99b907ec3a0baf45630e5066333304626ed
9ffec41ee2895890d5b8cd8a4fc89bf3dacac33f (0 -> 327680)
May 4 12:47:00 philip-pc gnome-session: 11:47:00.145 I [http.cpp:887 ] Result 206 Partial Content
May 4 12:47:00 philip-pc gnome-session: content-type missing in HTTP POST, defaulting to application/x-www-form-urlencoded. Use QNetworkRequest::setHeader() to fix this problem.

I guess this will need upstream fixes as the source isn’t available.

GNOME – Tweak Tool

As a follow-up to my GNOME rant, I found a new tool. Apparently gnome-session-properties is now no longer the recommended way to modify start-up applications.

gnome-tweak-tool now serves this purpose and offers lots of configuration, including a better designed start-up applications configuration tool.

However it probably suffers from the reverse problem, that it only allows applications to be installed, not just everything, with an easy way to add applications.

Seems to work okay for the basics however.

gnome-tweak-tool wasn’t installed by default and it’s not integrated into the ‘Settings’ screen. That said, most of it’s configuration is quite detailed (font-sizes and such), I think the ‘Start-up Applications’ is a little out of place.

UI

 

Fedora Linux : Summary

I’ve been properly using Fedora 20 for about a week now and based on my conclusions I want to put some thoughts together to answer the only important question.

Is Fedora 20 ready for a mainstream user

No. Unfortunately not. The problem is there are too many issues where the solution is ‘Open a terminal’. Honestly a mainstream user has never had to open a terminal. That’s almost universally the signal for ‘Contact Tech Support’.

Similarly the GNOME 3 equivalent of ‘Start->Run’ – Alt+F2 is not appropriate either. It’s frankly silly that things like start-up applications aren’t available via a settings screen.

The reason I cast the line here is that knowing what to type is knowledge. It’s knowledge that would either require you to read a manual or to Google for answers. It’s neither intuitive nor obvious. And that is the dividing line.

If we could solve these issues we could as a community then go back to getting bits of application software in niche applications working as good as the Windows counter-part – if not better.

Fedora Linux : Tales of Woe

I’ll now cover some of the problems I’ve found.

Issues Encountered – Synergy

The first issue I found, which was a problem when I still had my laptop was that Synergy interaction with the GNOME desktop environment is wanting. I needed Synergy because I had one mouse and two computers. Synergy allows you to make one computer a ‘server’ and have one or more clients. When you drag the mouse to edge of the screen it re-appears on the other monitor (much like multi-monitor setups).

Given that I was mainly using my laptop, I made that the server. However with no mouse plugged in, the GNOME environment didn’t display the pointer icon for the Fedora client. So even though the mouse worked the pointer was invisible. This was tedious and despite the fact that it allowed me to use a mouse and avoid the driver issue, I gave up on it fairly quickly).

Issues Encountered - GNOME

GNOME 3 has it’s detractors and, while I wish to avoid a holy war about whether GNOME 2 was better (I can’t really compare), I will agree that it’s lacking several features.

For example, as a fairly basic issue, the ‘Activities’ screen. To my mind this an equivalent to the ‘All Program’ list on a Windows platform, or the home screens on a smart phone.

However it is worse in many ways:

  1. There’s no re-ordering the list, at least out of the box. Extensions are great, but it should be functional on install.
  2. There’s no obvious way to make folders (though one seems to exist) or remove icons you don’t care about.

“IcedTea-Web-Policy” (whose image is badly aliased by the way) is not the 15th most important icon I care about. But un-installing Java to remove it is not a solution.

Suffice it to say, I think it’s worse than the Windows 8 Start Screen, which is saying a lot. The two improvements above would make it usable, not brilliant, but workable. If there are extensions that do the above, that’s fine, but they need to be accepted into a main-line GNOME install.

Start-up management is another issue. I’ve yet to work out a solution to adding start-up applications on Fedora that doesn’t boil down to something like editing a terminal file (http://www.fedoraforum.org/forum/showthread.php?t=287024)

EDIT:
Actually there’s a UI! All you have to do is press Alt-F2 and enter ‘gnome-session-properties’. If someone knows why this isn’t visible on the ‘Settings’ screen, I’m all ears.

This dialog box is functional but very limited and not user-friendly. To add a program you have to know the path to the executable. I’m not sure how it populates the icon.

Preferences generally don’t seem to exist much. Apparently they existed in GNOME 2.

Let’s move on. If they fix any of these in a future release I’ll revisit them.

Issues Encountered - Garmin, Spotify, VLC

I’m a software developer who runs in his spare time. To this end I have a Garmin Forerunner 310 XT. Over the last year I’ve poured all my training data into Garmin’s website. Now this wasn’t without teething issues on Windows, the latest version of their software agent refused to install on Windows 7.

But comparatively it was a smoother ride than on Linux. They don’t support Linux at all. There’s a few open source projects that provide command line tools. But there’s no UI and certainly no RPM for Fedora.

This particular issue I actually hope to help with. So I’ve started learning Python and writing a UI to combine best of the two projects into a piece of software that doesn’t annoy me. Primarily it’ll be UI work, and not protocol / HTTP upload work as the existing projects already do much of the leg work in that area. But a UI will be much better than manually uploading my runners every time. Hopefully it helps others as well.

However, this is really synonymous of the problem with recommending Linux. Applications which the average user will want, apart from the really mainstream ones (I have had no issues with Skype – it’s slightly less functional – no Facebook integration, but otherwise fine), will be more difficult to use.

Another case in point is Spotify. For Ubuntu users there is some help in that there’s a ‘developer preview’ that probably works okay.

For Fedora you have to go through a rather more tortuous route of installing a piece of software called ‘LPF’ and a bunch of hidden dependencies, then LPF will essentially install Spotify from source. (All of this puts more silly icons on my ‘Activities’ panel of course.)

Once you’ve done all that you get a partial Spotify (discover doesn’t work, but it’s got all the playlists and Facebook login works okay).

Finally VLC. Well actually, blaming VLC is a bit harsh (though it could be better), but it shows the problems of codecs I guess. It took me quite a while to install all the packages to actually get Linux to play a DVD [NB to MPAA: a valid one I actually own, I suspect there's no issue playing a torrented AVI file...] and the method of fixing it basically involved Google Search debugging. If VLC could do anything better it would be to improve the error messages to something less cryptic “Unable to decrypt media” would be nicer than a ‘block error’.

I’ll sum up my thoughts in a third post.

Fedora Linux : Initial Thoughts

For a long time now I’ve been meaning to move more substantially to Linux. As a developer an open platform is attractive as it allows more freedom to tweak and improve. It also allows me to learn more about the behaviour of a modern OS.

However I’ve been reluctant to do so for many reasons, partially the time investment of switching, partially apathy. So despite actually installing a working copy of Fedora (after some trials, which I will detail below) in practice I’ve self-contained myself to my laptop for all practical purposes.

But last week my laptop decided to die. It simply shut-down in the middle of surfing the internet and refused to power back on. It won’t even get passed the BIOS screen. I tried the various solutions suggested on forums and support websites but short of completely disassembling the entire thing (and without tools to do so it would probably not go back together) I’ve had no luck. I’ve already tried replacing the battery, reseating the memory, hard-disk and checking the connectors.

Hence I’m back to my desktop, which doesn’t have a working Windows copy on it, only the latest Fedora.

Getting Started

Getting a Linux distro that worked suitably with my hardware was non-trivial. Unfortunately, when I purchased my mouse I didn’t check for Linux compatibility. So until 11 months ago, when Christian Ohm wrote a patch that was accepted into the kernel, my mouse was non-functional. At this point, I’ve been told I could have either re-compiled my kernel or done some wizardry to pull in the driver file. But at this point I was not in the mood for such work. In any case, such work is suitable for the mass market.

Anyway, this was released in Linux 3.11. Since I’d already committed myself to a fast moving distribution, and picked Fedora I thought, well, I’ll just go one step further and move to the ‘rawhide’ distribution which pulls upstream stuff almost immediately. This was a disaster, the upgrade failed (I think I remember I had a power glitch at some point). When you can run ‘yum install yum’ (note not ‘upgrade’) and get a package downloading your system is pretty screwed.

So I backed off a bit, downloaded a new copy of the stable Fedora media and bided my time. Fortunately, Fedora’s release cycle is fairly quick. I’m now running Linux 3.13 on Fedora 20 using GNOME 3.10.1

Next time, I’ll cover more issues I found once I had a system to play with and conclude with whether I think it’s ready for the mass market.

Liberty, Security, Privacy & Politics

I thought I’d cover some points relating to the NSA files scandal. Let’s start at the top:

Submarine Communication Cables, Internet & Telecoms Wiretapping

The Five Eyes security agencies have been monitoring global communications for more than 20 years

Before the rise of underground cable, there was ECHELON. Designed for interception of military/Soviet traffic it’s almost inevitable that it listened to anything the government of the day was interested in. Collectively they covered the world. Before that we listened in on radio and broke radio encryption (ENIGMA). Raw computing power has been used to break and intercept encrypted communication since the beginning.

Obviously once you’ve gained an asset you don’t just drop it once the world moves on. The US at minimum has tapped Soviet communication cables since the 1970s. There’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t continue. After all, the Internet is the growth project of the military and physicists networks.

When it goes on land, you have to switch from secret interception to lawful interception – agencies can’t just break into people’s server rooms after all. Hence Room 641A.

Of course this is all a great argument but for several issues:

1. The Cold War is over
2. Transmitting military communications over a public internet isn’t standard practice
3. Any perceived enemies are no longer states or organisation or necessarily even in communication. They are mostly linked by ideology.
4. Given it’s now a public space there is as much justification as putting listening devices in     public spaces.

PRISM and Lawful Access

I think it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Either you believe Google is so deep under court orders its lawyer must openly lie about knowledge of the program, or PRISM is merely a tool for aggregating, managing and directing lawful access requests.

Lawful access isn’t limited to PRISM. The telecommunications industry hands over data to the police given sufficient information (like a warrant). The security agencies standards are just a lot more lax. There’s an open question here about whether they ought to be. Given you can charge un-named people, is it actually necessary for such lax standards.

The actual problem isn’t the lawful access. It’s the realisation that when you sign up for a service in another country you do so under it’s laws and regulations EVEN if you don’t know which country the service operates from. In the case of Facebook, it might have data centers in a dozen different countries. Are we subject to all of them? Or is it based on where the head office is? Or the sales team?

Fundamentally, this is actually very close to the problems with taxation. The world and it’s citizens don’t know how to deal with multinationals. We left it far too late. The growth of the internet was the growth of the multinational, but the issues existed far before that.

This is compounded by laws which govern citizens of a country as benefiting more and better protection than non-citizens. Most obviously, the rights of the US citizen guaranteed by their Constitution are fairly tough. But none of these exist for customers of the multinational whose data flows into the US’s borders.

Politics and Power

David Davis today says that the laws protecting us are too weak. Well I’m sorry sir, but you voted for them.

Voting Record of David Davis (http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/)

Commons 8 May 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill – Persons entitled to grant authorisations under minority aye Loyal
Commons 8 May 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill – Technical Approval Board minority aye Loyal
Commons 8 May 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill – Offences minority aye Loyal

No abstains, no nay votes. Agreement with all the sections.

Leaks and Morales

I want to only touch briefly on this. It does not appear, that GCHQ has broken the law. Nor might the NSA. However this is not the purpose of leaking this information. If the problem was that they had broken the law, it would be a big deal, but not a huge deal.

The problem, is that it is legal. Through the introduction of bad legislation and the use of surveillance designed to capture enemy troop movements, the politicians that are supposed to serve the people have turned their intelligence agencies on the general population.

We know why they did it. We know they were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, crime. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt their reason and rob them of their common sense. Fear got the best of them, and in your panic their panic they turned to the intelligence agencies. The agencies promised them order, they promised them peace and all they demanded was silent invisible access to everything.

Snowden sought to end that silence. Snowden leaked the information to remind the world of what it has forgotten. More than 50 years ago a great person wished to embed the problem forever in our memory.  His hope was to remind the world that truth, privacy and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you’ve seen nothing, if the malpractice of our governments are unnoticed to you then I would suggest that you carry on, with idea that people like Snowden are a threat, that the world is safer when we are like an open book .

But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then you should consider carefully who to believe in this struggle.

Conditioning

Part of the problem, is that the ‘War on Terror’ never ends, terrorism is a constant threat and a justification for torture, rendition, surveillance and loss of justice. The great truth is that terrorism is a war we can not and will not win. There is no victory, no battle, no triumph.

National security is another watch-word. Invariably it means the security of the establishment, the protection from embarrasment or legal proceedings. The US government continues to use it as a sledgehammer to prevent the uphelding of it’s highest laws – blocking trials and delaying judgement.

In the UK we’ve started to use another strand. The crime of paedophilia, is being used as weapon to censor content. It is invoked to elicit a fear and a reaction to override logical views and to allow disproportionate responses – including further interception of traffic.

Piracy is the final weapon. Copyright law, civil cases which are the result of media channels inability to realise they are a stone cutter in the age of the printing press, a horse trainer following the introduction of the combustion engine. These dwindling media conglomerates who are able to project their thoughts and desires into the minds of the population have decided their control over content is more important that freedom and liberty of the public. Thwarted by the fact that they can’t just sue whomever they like without evidence or proof of loss, they instead demand legal changes to block access to information and content.

This triple threat is the sustained assault on Western civilisation. It is a corrosive and diverse set of problems that is reconditioning the psyche of the people. We have accepted lack of privacy in exchange for negligible security, we have accepted nanny-state to ‘protect the children’ and we have accepted restrictions to protect the wealthy.

Solomon’s General Store – Jagex and RWT

So, here we are again. I’ve already written about the Squeal of Fortune (SoF), the previous ‘Extra’ tagged on. Now I shall cover Solomon’s General Store (which I’ll abbreviate S’GS to avoid confusion with a game item).

And, actually, the Squeal represents a much more corrosive attack on the game than S’GS right now.

The new store – confusingly similar to the entirely separate and ancient shops seen in game functions much more normally – and comparably to other games – by selling cosmetic items and abilities (that is, stuff which doesn’t affect a players ability to do skills or combat etc) for a entirely new virtual currency – Runecoins.

Quite why this has to be Jagex’s 4th virtual currency is completely beyond me – 3 of them interact with RuneScape. The 4 are WoL Gems, JCoins, Spins and Runecoins for those loosing track. There was a 5th but 8Realms was closed.

Anyway, this is a new micro-transaction based Real World Trading system. Of course it doesn’t affect Jagex’s ability to go after players who try and sell their account details or exchange items for cash because that section of the terms and conditions – namely the rules – apply only to players.

People have speculated whether this will become a replacement to SoF. However I doubt it.

Firstly it makes no business sense to remove work done unless it actually costs you money.

Secondly people may still choose to buy spins. The people who want a game advantage – either from a ‘Lucky’ item, coins or lamps – are not the same as those who wish to obtain cosmetic items.

The only reason to remove SoF is if it is possible to buy the items directly – at which point spinning the wheel looks silly.

Many players consider this outcome an inevitability. It’s also worth saying that promises from Jagex aren’t worth the forum space they are written on (and are not absolutes), given that it is clearly the dominant investors calling the shots. The main investor – Insight Venture Partners – has holdings in Nexon which is full of RWT based mechanics.

Whether RuneScape gets there is unclear – many MMOs limit themselves to cosmetic rewards.

Other J-Mods have gone on record saying they have vetoed such mechanics – Mod Rathe is a notable example.

In a recent interview with NowGamer a certain amount of reading between the lines shows that Mod Mark (Mark Ogilvie) may be apprehensive about the rate of change to RuneScape’s model. It is interesting this occurs just before the questions directly on monetization – which he opts to discuss the safe topic of a time limit for F2P (which is a dead model across the industry do this isn’t a shocking insight really):

MO: Find your niche and own it. Don’t be afraid to innovate to stay competitive, but not at the expense of your core community or gameplay.

I really hope that the investors stop before ruining the gameplay itself myself. I would simply say that the line is thin and the end result is irreversible. RuneScape is profitable. Not all their investments are (e.g. Twitter).

One moe insidious problem is that these come unannounced. They aren’t seen as a game updates, merely marketing, simply coming attached to the content updates produced.

This is another sign that it’s like two teams fighting for control. On one side you have the content which I continue to enjoy. Whether or not I like every single bit overall the trend is really cool – better graphics, new and amusing quests, great interaction and changes by the Evolution of Combat team. It’s just fighting my knowledge that along with this comes an endless stream of promotions, discounts, new RWT stores and tacky sales figures to which some poor Content dev has had to think how to attach some lore for the main page post.

On a final note, I would like to say that it is still worth them crushing bots and gold farmers – companies which can’t simply give players gold and must farm it cause more damage than Jagex would (but both remove the ‘game’ aspect)

Combat Beta Review – Part 15: Technical Notes

Using The Client

Most people are playing with the browser. It’s possible to play with the client by modifying the config files to use the new worlds and client rather than the old ones. This is shown below. However, the browser functions okay in my experience. Note that it’s worth making a copy of the prm file as a backup. Thanks to 03data and Omustardo (Castle Wars) who made a video of this.

  1. Download the client if you haven’t yet(check the downloads section of the rs main page)
  2. Open the runescape.prm file using a plain text editor like Notepad.
  3. Change the line that says:

    -Dcom.jagex.config=http://www.runescape.com/k=3/l=$(Language:0)/jav_config.ws

    to

    -Dcom.jagex.config=http://world200.runescape.com/k=3/jav_config.ws?userFlow=5294­635548658754020

  4. Reload the client and it will load the beta.
  5. If you ever want to change it back, just go to runescape.prm and change back the line of text.

If you want to make 2 separate clients follow these steps:

  1. Duplicate a shortcut for your runescape launcher(the default one for rs, and one for the beta)
  2. Right click the new shortcut and go to properties.The regular one should should say:
    jagexcache\jagexlauncher\bin\JagexLauncher.exe runescape

    and change the beta one to say:

    jagexcache\jagexlauncher\bin\JagexLauncher.exe rsbeta
  3. In the jagexlauncher folder, copy the runescape folder and name it “rsbeta”
  4. In the rsbeta folder, rename the runescape.prm file to rsbeta.prm
  5. Change the line of text in the rsbeta.prm file to-Dcom.jagex.config=http://world200.runescape.com/k=3/jav_config.ws?userFlow=529­4635548658754020as per the previous steps.
  6. Load the new shortcut you made and it should load the beta.

Note the URL that is changed to will not reflect the language choice made – you will need to alter it accordingly.

Omustardo has also made an icon for the beta – available here http://puu.sh/E4wH

Latency

In addition, a lot of early players noticed high latency for an extended period (4+ hours). This has now subsided. This was for 3 reasons:

  • Large Numbers of Players

With only 9 worlds and a considerable number of players attempting to access them, it was inevitable that the servers were highly loaded. This is not a new phenomenon (Diablo 3 was a recent ‘victim’), but fortunately, Jagex soon deployed more servers to combat this.

  • Lots of New Content

Typically on release of new quests and areas, or even skills, most people don’t encounter new content (and hence need to download new areas) and have it cached.. However, with the interface changes and new animations, everyone needed to download content. This meant the servers, already under high load from large numbers of players, needed to serve lots of content to people. This can be seen in videos such as those by Castle Wars where, even many hours later, the cache is still partially incomplete.

  • Bugs

With new content comes new bugs. This compound the download problem because people refresh the client (breaking and making a connection server side) and may even delete their cache (which is yet more content to be downloaded).

Combat Beta Review – Part 14: Graphics

Animations

The largest graphical changes and additions are animations for the 50 animations and new weapons that have been added as part of the update. In addition poses such as the stances of characters when in combat, the sheathing of weapons and the spell-casting change (which now sees spells being projected from the end of staffs) are all updated.
Broadly speaking the animations are excellent, with few errors. Occasionally, when in unrealistic but common situations, such as ranging from next to an opponent (quite common) the stances are less realistic. In addition, the way characters hold ranged shields is a little strange – the tiny shield itself is quite incongruous.

Items

Along with the new items reviewed earlier, a small number of items have also been graphically reworked.

Tok-Haar-Kal

The Tok-Haar-Kal, more broadly known as the Kiln cape, has been reworked to great effect. It now features lava on the back, rather than simply being a carapace of black segments.

Completionist Cape 

The completionist cape has also seen some changes which, although they seem fairly minor to me, seem to have irritated some owners…

Combat Beta Review – Part 13: Gameplay

Now we come to the actual gameplay itself..

Multi-Combat

I feel Jagex did badly here. Suddenly making the entire game (including all the Wilderness) multi-combat, with no warning or announcement except 20 seconds in RuneCast was a big annoyance.
It’s going to problematic in PvP in which it means large clans will roam the Wilderness In PvM it is also not great, due to kill stealing and spawn hogging.

Auto-Attack Combat

Essentially AFK combat is almost impossible. Not only will it consume more food, it is just not possible due to the strength of many monsters. The Tz-Kih is level 122 and can’t be one hit (formerly a pathetic level 22 bird). Many monsters are tougher and more resilient – which is only not an issue if the abilities are used correctly to kill and regain health.

Critical Hits

I’m not sure whether this is just maximum hits from before or whether it’s new. Either way it’s barely been explained, the numbers are huge, amorphous and hard to read.