Oct 302021

Steam under Linux (and probably other environments too but I’ve never run it elsewhere) has a nice feature to enlarge text on high dpi displays. Unfortunately when I enable it, the pop-up windows (such as the settings window) will scroll down the screen repeatedly disappearing from view.

Which is very inconvenient and makes it quite tricky to turn the feature back off again. Now this could be a problem with the Awesome window manager or with the settings that I use (although Steam seems to be the only application with this issue), but I’m not interested enough to try and fix the problem.

I just want to change the setting back to something that may be small and squashed but at least works.

  1. Find the ~/.steam/registry.vdf file.
  2. Edit with a text editor and search for “DPIScaling” :-
» grep DPIScaling registry.vdf 
					"DPIScaling"		"1"

And change the “1” to a “0”, and restart Steam.

About To Break
Oct 302021

Ever since adding a couple of additional network interfaces to my workstation I have had a problem with reboots – the systemd-networkd-wait-online.service service “lingers” as it waits for all of the NICs to come online (and fails). Not especially problematic as everything works fine after the boot process has finished, but it slows down reboots (which are slow enough on this rather complicated desktop) and gives me an amber ✗ in my window manager’s status bar.

After spending some time re-jigging my storage (which consisted of far too many reboots), I finally decided to fix it.

Which basically consisted of making the relevant NICs “optional” in netplan. :-

      dhcp4: false
      accept-ra: false
      addresses: []
      optional: true

This isn’t one of the NICs that I actually use – I added the NIC configuration in an earlier attempt at making things work … unsuccessfully. The key part is the “optional: true” bit.

And whilst you’re in there, replacing the gatewayv4 and gatewayv6 specifications with the “new style” is worth doing too :-

        - to: default
        - to: default
          via: 2001:db8:9c2:dead::1

(No those aren’t the real addresses)

This can be activated in the usual way – with a netplan apply (in my case a netplan try isn’t effective because of the use of bridges), although in this particular case a full reboot is called for.

The Round Table
Oct 162021

The one you’re running.

A bit of a simplistic answer but there’s a great deal of truth to it. It is too easy to get distracted by the new shiny and keep changing distributions. When the time could be far better spent just learning Linux – to a great extent all Linux distributions are the same. You can get Firefox (or whatever browser you prefer) with any of them; similarly LibreOffice is nearly always available. It’s the software you use on a daily basis that is important; not which distribution you’re using.

Similarly the desktop environment you use is selectable – this laptop has a distribution-specific flavour of GNOME, Awesome, Xmonad, and i3 (although I spend most of my time in Awesome). You might be able to tell something about my preferences for “desktop environments” from that list! A whole new desktop environment and a whole new look is just a quick software install away.

And a whole lot quicker and less disruptively than you can install a different distribution.

Different distributions offer different feature sets and different system administration commands (dpkg vs yum), but it isn’t that difficult to adjust to these differences especially when most of the time you are just using the computer to do real stuff rather than just managing it.

The Round Table
Aug 282021

For a while now, my workstation has been spewing out this error in rather large volumes :-

Aug 27 00:00:07 pica multipathd[1686]: pktcdvd0: unusable path (wild) - checker failed

(about 18,000 per day)

The multipath daemon is for handling block devices (disks) with multiple connections and dynamically updating the geometry when errors occur. Not the sort of thing that you usually find in a workstation (or indeed most servers) and indeed it appears that I only have this installed because I started with the server install of Ubuntu.

It wasn’t causing any harm but it was annoying that it was spamming syslog log files, so I took a look at fixing it. Turns out it is rather easy. Just edit /etc/multipath.conf and add a “blacklist” section :-

blacklist {
       devnode "^pktcdvd0"

The parameter to “devnode” is a regular expression but in this case we can get away with a “^” (meaning beginning of string) followed by the name of the device.

At this point, you could restart the daemon :-

systemctl restart multipathd.service

This shouldn’t cause any problems on most machines without multiple paths; and it probably won’t be a problem for servers which do have multiple paths. But in the later case, I’d test it or just go for a full reboot.

Morning Lighthouse
Oct 102020

One of the big names in the opensource world – Eric Raymond – has declared that Windows will soon be effectively a Linux distribution. Which seems like a ridiculous notion; except technically it might make a lot of sense.


It seems impossible for Microsoft to replace Windows with Linux, but actually it could be done. Windows itself consists of a bunch of software applications which call Windows “APIs” which in turn make calls to the legacy NT kernel. If all that software is written cleanly (it won’t be, but bear with me), it should be possible to make modifications to both (or either) the Linux kernel and the Windows APIs to allow Windows software to run natively.

Impossible? Nope – it has already been done to a certain extent – Wine and Proton allow a considerable amount of Windows software (and games!) to run under Linux.


So it’s not impossible, but surely it is a lot of work. So why?

Microsoft has a bit of a problem – they don’t make a huge amount of money selling the Windows operating system, and maintaining it is hugely expensive. All those security fixes, all those bug fixes, and all those new features they want to introduce.

Now most of this is done to the “userland” rather than the kernel itself, but the kernel does still need to be maintained. But what if you could use the Linux kernel and get some level of maintenance supplied by those not employed by Microsoft?

Would that save Microsoft money? It seems quite possible, and you can bet someone in Microsoft has estimated whether it would or not.

Will It Happen?

There are those who point to certain actions by Microsoft – the Linux subsystem for Windows, the Edge browser for Linux, the rumour of an Office build under Linux, etc. as indicators that Microsoft is planning this.

I think they’re wrong to the extent that those actions don’t say whether Microsoft is planning to make Windows a Linux distribution or not. There are plenty of reasons why Microsoft is releasing Linux software not least because they will almost certainly have developers that believe that porting software is a good way of finding bugs.

The real answer is that the only people who know are inside Microsoft.

The Join