MEPIS Talks 3

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Warren: Okay. Hi everybody this is the third podcast from MEPIS Talks. We were off last week due to it being a holiday for some of us, and also it turned out that last week I was invited to talk on The Linux Link Tech Show. I hope I got that right.

Matt: Yep, that is right. The Linux Link Tech Show, it was on Wednesday night. You can actually hear Warren's podcast if you missed it. It's still available from their site if you go to,, you can go there and I would also suggest subscribing to their podcast. They actually put out a great podcast every Wednesday night and you can listen to that live streaming or you can download it just a few hours later.

Warren: Yeah, I really enjoyed that. I've talked to those guys before and it's a lot of fun. They actually lull me into putting my guard down and potentially saying things that I might think twice about saying otherwise.

I got a new headset in the past two weeks and we're trying it out for the first time to see if this helps my voice come through. So we'll see how this does whenever we do this recording, hopefully it will fix the issue somewhat.

Warren: Sounds a lot better to me.

Minor release

Matt: That's good. This week, first talking point we have here, is a kind of a minor release that I think you want to talk about Warren.

Warren: Well, yeah. Since 6.5 came out we got some feedback about a couple of things that I felt were important to address right away. So these all things that either affect initial installation or that can be easily fixed by downloading updated packages from the MEPIS pools. But I'm going to release a minor update to the ISO files for people who are downloading and installing for the first time. What's included will be that.... We got some feedback that......well, in the past there have been some strange things happening, seeming to happen, related to using cdrom devices. From our point of view that comes back to the code base that we were working with when we put out 6.0, that only one cdrom device was really being handled fully. That had been pointed out so I thought that I had that all worked out for the 6.5 release. But after we got it out there in the world some people reported back some additional issues when they ran certain programs or when they had.....particularly when they had two cdrom drives or dvdrom drives internal to their system. This tended not to happen with an internal and an external but just when there were two internal IDE drives. So this past week I made some code changes and actually coded up some additional things to happen so that the cdrom drives would be handled in a consistent kind of way. As far as I can tell that's working fine now. I actually had to modify one of the systems here to set up a test case for it to see the problem myself. So that should be taken care of, the update is in the pool but also this is one of those things that seems worthy of putting into a minor update.

Also there was a....., it's been reported. This is a rare thing apparently, in our world, but it was reported that MEPIS was not detecting Vista bootable partitions and therefor not adding Vista into the boot menu so that people who were dual booting between Vista and MEPIS couldn't boot into Vista automatically. They could still go in and set it up manually. It turns out that in our test community, apparently, we didn't have a single person running Vista, I guess. (laughter)

Matt: Is that a surprise? (laughter)

Warren: Well, I hope that's par for the course but I don't know.

Matt: I've??????????more of a feature, right? (laughter)

Warren: Well in any event I've made a change to grub, to the configuration of grub that happens during installation or when the boot configuration is regenerated from the MEPIS System Assistant. And as far as we know, that's working fine. But we're still not totally certain because we still have a lack of Vista users to verify, but it appears to be it's fine and it appears that we're actually doing a better job of identifying Windows type partitions in general. For example on my relatively new ThinkPad, now the recovery partition which is bootable is actually detected and put in the bootable menu list. So if I actually wanted to I could boot into the ThinkPad recovery partition. And that works fine. So like I said that's another thing that will be in the minor update.

Matt: They sound like good things.

Warren: The one for grub, I guess, will really matter for those who are dual booting with Vista, whoever they are.(laughter) We certainly want to accommodate them and it might actually be a little better for people who were dual booting with Windows anyway.

Matt: The age old hardware issue comes up here, where we don't have hardware to test everything. Well....

Warren: Well, yeah I didn't....that's, I guess a pet peeve of mine that I don't talk about so much. That when something like this comes up I need hardware. In this case the only way to really check this out was to go buy the cheapest mp3 player that I could find.

Matt: That had the MTP support in it.

Warren: Yeah. And so, I got one and it was enough for me to test with to think that the MTP should be working correctly for people now. But, again apparently MTP is implemented a little bit differently in every brand and maybe even model of mp3 player. So for the ones who have MTP I still don't know if it's going to work with all of the different devices out there. But in any event that's in the pools and people can update and use that or when this minor update goes out, which I hope I'll be able to put out tomorrow night, upload it tomorrow night and then announce it on Tuesday. For people who are downloading the MEPIS 32 or 64 bit ISO files these things will already be installed and they'll be ready to go.

So, yeah, that's planned. There's one more thing that I want to look at in grub just, that is the boot manager, just to check out another thing that I've heard about that I might want to tweak before doing that upload which is why I'm being a little iffy about uploading tomorrow night. Also tomorrow is tax day and that's the other reason for it to be iffy. I've spent the entire last week working on the paperwork related to filing the tax returns for MEPIS and for me personally. Unfortunately there's a lot of paperwork even though there's not a lot of money involved. (laughter)

Matt: Gotta file those taxes.

Warren: Yep.

Sound issues

Matt: Always a fun day..... Actually I'm looking through the forums and I noticed that, actually since we've had the release go out, some people may be having some issues with their sound cards. So I'll let you take this one away and elaborate a little bit, just a very little bit on what may be going on there.

Warren: Well, first of all, in order to have the best sound support possible. What we do is.....The sound system in Linux that is most commonly used is called alsa, I suspect that that is an acronym for something but I don't remember what. The alsa project works very hard all the time to keep up with all the new sound chips that come out and all the different configurations of those chips that are used in different hardware. To try to keep up with that better than, frankly better than most other versions of Linux, we actually release the sound drivers separate from the rest of the Linux kernel. Which allows us to keep as up to date as one can possibly be. So the 6.5 release has the absolute latest version of alsa that is available right now, the latest drivers that there are. We don't have the resources to be modifying the drivers, trouble shooting them, fixing bugs in them and there's really good people working over in the alsa project who do that. But we pretty much have to take what they give us and what they've been able to figure out and fix.

And they have the same problems that I do of not having hardware sometimes. A lot of times somebody will say well you know I bought this Acer blah blah blah model with so and so sound and, well they don't have that. So they have to do the best they can with working with people. E-mailing back and forth and making the best guess about the fix and sending them the fix to try and so on. They do a great job of that but it means that sometimes there are new sound chips, or even older sound chips for which the sound support is less than perfect. The area where, I guess there is the most likely hood of problems are. 1. If you have a pretty old computer, a computer several years old. Your sound chip might not really be supported anymore. It could be that somebody worked on a driver five years ago and got it working to a certain point and then they went off and did something else and there isn't anybody around to improve the driver now. In particular if you have old hardware, and I mean really old hardware, you might have trouble getting good sound support out of Linux these days. Probably your best bet in that case is if you can get, and if you don't mind spending a little money to find an old Sound Blaster 5, live 5 card. If you have a machine that's old enough that that kind of a card works in, they're probably dirt cheap now and they were pretty well supported and are probably a good substitute for something that you might have where you keep running into a problem. Maybe you have a machine that used to run Windows 98 and now your trying to running Linux on it and your having trouble with sound support. You could be in that fix for, depending, maybe even like ten bucks on eBay you might be able to get a Sound Blaster Live5 or some other card that is well known to work with Linux and just drop that in and be working okay.

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