Welcome to Tumbleweed

At the start of this year, I treated myself to a new PC. The first thing I do with any new PC is to scrape Windows off it and replace it with some variation of Linux, and this time I ended up going with openSUSE Tumbleweed.

I like openSUSE: it’s an unflashy and very solid distribution that reliably handles whatever demands I make of it. It comes in two flavours, Tumbleweed being the rolling release version and I’ve been hooked on rolling releases ever since I tried Sabayon way back in 2010. With a rolling release, you never need to reinstall or upgrade your operating system because the constant stream of updates keeps you completely up to date.

And so to Monday evening when a whole bunch of updates came down the pipe, including a fair bit of Gnome-related stuff. So I updated everything (which, I should note, is always a reliably quick process) and, to check that everything was still working as expected, I rebooted my PC.

At which point, this popped up on my screen.

Welcome to openSUSE

Obviously, this is not my first time using openSUSE but the welcome screen is a nice touch. It’s a very friendly way of pointing you towards the documentation you are likely to need as well as where to find help if you need it. It’s also very consistent with my experience of openSUSE to date: friendly, helpful and (if I uncheck that ‘show on next startup’ option) completely unintrusive.

And I love the pirate gecko.

Upgrading without backups, or: How I learned to stop worrying and break my system

I have to admit that, when it comes to keeping my laptop up to date, I have been spoiled by Sabayon’s rolling release model. Put simply, I never needed to worry about upgrading to the next release because the cumulative weekly updates took care of this for me.

However, I now have Frugalware installed and, yesterday, version 1.7 was released. The upgrade process looked pretty straightforward so I pushed the button.

Installing the new improved pacman-g2 went fine, but then things turned a little pear-shaped. The actual upgrade threw a couple of dependency issues at me. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these were caused my me tinkering over the last few days, but it was late and I was too tired to resolve them properly, so I figured the next best thing would be to ignore them. What could possibly go wrong?

So, it was with a pacman-g2 -Sud --noconfirm, that I started the upgrade.

Did I mention that I hadn’t bothered to back anything up? Or that I was using a wifi connection?

Inevitably the connection dropped about two-thirds the way through.

Oh happy, happy days.

Once things were up and running again, however, Pacman did successfully pick up where the connection broke and I now have Frugalware 1.7: Gaia running on my laptop.

Apart from the fact that Gnome desktop won’t start (hey, remember those dependency issues?)

By this point, it was late and I was tired, so I went to bed. This means that tonight, I will be mainly unbreaking my laptop.

Muktware on Sabayon

Muktware reviews Sabayon and manages to summarise everything I like about this distro. Especially this:

Sabayon’s repositories are updated weekly with the latest and greatest packages available. Because all Sabayon packages are built off of Gentoo, all packages available in Gentoo are also available in Sabayon (only in the binary (pre-compiled) format. As a result you get the cutting-edge stability of Gentoo, but without the time-waste or compiler headache.

In addition, Sabayon packages are about as close to vanilla (a term used to refer to the original experience provided by the package maintainers) as it gets, so expect a more pure experience. This means that Sabayon GNOME 3 is pure GNOME 3, Sabayon KDE is pure KDE, and Sabayon LXDE is…well you get the point. Most Sabayon distributions include the customization of the appearance of the user interface, but to ensure that the pure vanilla experience is provided, these customizations are done without modification of the packages the UI builds upon.

What I want from a Linux distro is the latest and greatest upstream stuff for as little effort as possible. Sabayon does a fantastic job of delivering this.


Yesterday I ordered a new Laptop and today my Samsung NP300E7A-A02NL turned up. I wasn’t originally planning to blog the entire set-up process, but I did have a few initial thoughts and thought I might as well jot them down while I wait for the backup of my old laptop to finish.

First Impressions

It’s surprisingly light. With a 17.3 inch screen this is very much a desktop replacement and not a machine that I expect to be lugging around so I was a little surprised at how light it was when I pulled it out of the box (compared to my Dell Inspiron, which also has a 17.3 inch screen).

The laptop comes with Windows 7 pre-installed and – this time around – I am planning to keep a Windows partition. This is entirely because of the limitations of the Belgian online tax returns service, but that’s a rant for another time. One thing that did impress me when I initially booted into Windows – and I don’t know if this is a Microsoft or a Samsung thing – is that it promptly asked me if I wanted to partition my disk. It’s a nice touch, even if I did launch the Disk Management application (type Disk Management in the search box in the Start Menu) to delete the newly created D: drive and create a nice big chunk of free space.

I am less enthusiastic about the keyboard. The keyboard and the number pad are the chiclet (separated keys) style and the keys don’t travel as well as I am used to. As someone whose typing stye normally involves battering the keyboard into sbubmission, the lack of travel felt a litle uncomfortable. It’s early days yet, but this keyboard is going to take some getting used to.

Installing Sabayon

So in goes the previously prepared USB stick, reboot, press F2 to access the BIOS, and I’m in the Sabayon 8 live environment. It’s a painless process but I do like the reassurance of being able to check everything works before I hit the install button. And since I am typing this from part of the post from within the live environment, I think it’s time to start the install.

And we’re in.

I am increasingly impressed with the Anaconda installer. It recognised that there was unused space on the hard drive (I knew it was worth deleting the D: drive I created under Windows) so I was able to just accept the defaults, hit go and take the dog for a walk.

I did encounter one problem though. Once the install was complete, booting into Sabayon failed with the following message:

Block device /dev/mapper/vg_barbarella-lv_root is not a valid root device
Could not find the root device in .

This, it appears, is a problem with the bootloader install and is easily fixed by putting the USB stick back in the laptop and reinstalling the bootloader.

Sabayon 8

One of the things with using a rolling release distro is that you don’t realise quite how far your setup has diverged from the default until you come to do a fresh install on all new hardware. The biggest change I’ve noticed is that the default repository is now sabayon-weekly.

This repository was launched a year ago and is updated only once a week. What you lose in getting everything right now with this repository, you will gain in stability – that’s the theory anyway. I’ve left this set-up as it is for now but may go back to the main (all shiny, all the time) repository at some point in the future.

The Sabayon team also appears to have dropped Firefox from their default install in favour of Chromium. So I have installed Firefox and applied the Sabayon Chrome theme. Maybe it’s just me, but I do find the default Chromium theme to be quite an ugly affair.

I’m also a big fan of the Gnome desktop environment. I do like the direction the Gnome team are taking with Gnome 3, so once my preferred packages were installed, I untweaked all of the Sabayon tweaks and put the clock back in the centre of the system bar, because that’s where it belongs.

And finally

All of my data and all of my settings are currently sitting on an external hard drive. And now I am going to restore them. I won’t bore you with the details. Instead, I shall hit the Publish button on this post and then open a whisky while the restore completes.

Sabayon 8: It’s here

My Linux distro of choice has just hit another release milestone.


More busy than busy bees, we’re once again here to announce the immediate availability of Sabayon 8 in all of its tier-1 flavours. If you really enjoyed Sabayon 7, this is just another step towards World domination.
Letting bleeding edge and reliability to coexist is the most outstanding challenge our users, our team, is faced every day.

There you have it, shining at full bright, for your home computer, your laptop and your home servers.

Linux 3.2, GNOME 3.2.2, KDE 4.7.4 (4.8.0 available in testing repo), Xfce 4.8, LibreOffice 3.4.4 are just some of the things you will find inside the box.

During this cycle, we spent a lot of time optimizing critical packages at compiler level, ensuring unprecedented performances, tuning system responsivity under load and backporting power management patches.

What you find here is Sabayon GNOME, KDE, Xfce, SpinBase (bare-metal flavour for building your own ISO images), ServerBase (same but with server-optimized kernel) and CoreCDX, for those liking Fluxbox.

Of course, with Sabayon being a rolling release, I don’t need to do anything beyond my regular updates to reach the next release. And this is one of the reasons that I love using Sabayon. The developers have done a great job of building a distro that delivers all of the latest and greatest software, direct to my desktop, with pretty much no effort needed on my part at all.

If you are a time-poor geek who likes having the latest shiny, it really is the best of the best.

I’m also very happy to see that, while Cinnamon is in the repositories, my desktop will continue to default to the latest release of GNOME 3. Not that changing from one desktop environment to another is difficult, or even time-consuming, but I do like the elegance of GNOME 3, and the fact that it is so relentlessly focussed on actually getting stuff done.

Pylint: My new favourite static code analyser for Python

I spent most of yesterday evening playing around with Pylint, a static analysis tool that reads your source code and looks for common mistakes. I found a lot.

You can find Pylint in the Sabayon repositories, so it can be installed with a simple equo install pylint and then you’re off.

Running Pylint over a random module, the first thing that surprised me was just how much information the application provides. The first thing it gives you is a line-by-line list of issues – this tells you exactly what problems your code has, and where these problems are. In my case, the vast majority of these were Convention and Warning types, indicating that I really do need to clean up my Python coding style.

It then provides a number of reports which gives you a stack of metrics by which to measure the quality of your code. These were interesting, but would probably be more useful if I was running Pylint over a larger source file.

The approach I found most useful was to go through the list of issues and, for the obvious ones, just fix them. For less obvious issues, I found myself going to the Python documentation to understand why the issue had been raised and what was wrong with my existing approach.

There is a lot of documentation available for Pylint and a goodly set of configuration options. I have looked at neither so far because the reports that it generates are so self-explanatory that it is very easy to jump right in.

This is a tool I can see myself using for a long time to come and, as codebases grow, this is a tool that will become increasingly useful.

Gnome 3: Initial Impressions

It was back in April that the Gnome developers announced the official release of Gnome 3. This was a significant redesign of the open source desktop environment and one about which much electronic ink has been spilled.

When the release was announced, I downloaded an OpenSUSE live USB to take a look and, while I could see what the Gnome team were trying to do, I also felt that they were solving problems that I didn’t have. I wasn’t particularly opposed to the changes but nor was I in any great hurry to install them on my main laptop. So I took a wait and see approach, deciding that I would wait for Gnome 3 to be implemented on my distro of choice before attempting to use it in production.

Yesterday, the Gnome 3 packages were released for Sabayon.

It is impossible to evaluate a completed desktop environment in less that two days, and I am not going to try. What I will do is stick with Gnome 3 for a month and see how well it works for me. I have to say, though, that I am finding the switch a lot easier than I expected. This ease of transition is being helped in no small part by tweaks like this one.

The Great Linux World Map

I’ve seen this Great Linux World Map, from Dedoimedo before, but seeing it again on Tentacled Monkey in Exile reminded me that I hadn’t mentioned it yet. And it’s certainlty worth a mention.

I particularly like the fact that I appear to be sailing northwards, having started out in The Great Communist Empire of Ubuntu I am now floating in the Sabayon Sea and wondering if – or when – I should attempt a landing in the Forbidden Land of Gentoo.