Moving on: 64bit Linux, PulseAudio, Fedora 10 and so on

With the release of Fedora 10 I took the opportunity to finally switch over to 64bit Linux – including the proprietary stuff like Flash, Skype, and so on. Also, Fedora 10 itself had several rather pleasing surprises for me.

I already used Fedora 10 since it’s Beta release. However, recently I decided to re-install it, this time in 64bit, and check how that would go. Also, since I had some rather strange problems and performance issues I wondered if a re-install would fix them.

64bit in General

Switching from 32bit to 64bit on an operating system is a huge and complicated task involving effectively all larger applications. This can e a real pain – unless you have an operating system where all software usually supports 64bit anyway. This is the case with most open source operating systems and therefore also with Linux. So grabbing the 64bit image and installing it was just like grabbing the 32bit image. In case of Fedora the download link offered by default was 32bit, but 64bit was just a click away. I wonder when that will change.

There are numerous advantages and disadvantages regarding 32bit and 64bit, for a first introduction start with the Wikipedia article.


The problems regarding 64bit arise when you deal with non-Open Source software: this might only be provided as 32bit. In case it depends on any other library, the system must provide these libraries in 32bit and 64bit. While on RPM systems this is not a problem at all, this can be rather problematic when browser plugins are 32bit only, because then the browser needs to be 32bit only as well, the same is true then for all other plugins, and so on. There are wrappers to deal with that, but these are sub-optimal.

Luckily, Adobe has now released a 64bit Alpha version of their Flash player. While it is still missing several features and is not even provided as a rpm or deb file, in my first tests it worked without problems. As a side note, the 64bit versions for Windows and Mac OS are still not out there – Linux is a clear technology and development pusher here!

For the sake of completion (and since someone would point it out in a comment anyway), there are also free (as in FLOSS) alternatives to the Flash player – which are available in 64bit for quite some time now, of course.


Another issue is Skype – this is not provided as a 64bit version at all (bug report). For Ubuntu users there is at least a 32bit version modified for easy installation on 64bit systems. Btw., hardly anyone seems to know that, even the German Ubuntu wiki doesn’t mention that at all.

Anyway, that doesn’t help the Fedora community anyway – but since Fedora runs on RPM installing all the compatibility libraries is just a question of hard disk space:

yum --nogpgcheck localinstall skype*rpm
yum install alsa-plugins-pulseaudio-1.0.18-1.rc3.fc10.i386

That’s it. In my tests Skpe indeed worked, even a video test image was shown although I haven’t actually made a real video call. Also, I had problems with the microphone, but that might be due to problems with PulseAudio. I appreciate any tips on that issue.


Well, PulseAudio is a difficult thing. It has a rather strong community and people are making sure it comes up everywhere and works everywhere like it should. However, while I read all the rather long papers and documents why I should need PA, nothing of these papers really stuck, and I always wonder why it is really needed – apart from the more esoteric reasons that Alsa is not suitable for the future. Besides, I do wonder if the Alsa guys would say the same.
Additionally, in my first tests PA worked just fine – under Gnome, but not in KDE. So my first step after installing Fedora since my first contact with PA was always to remove PA.

But I always tend to give things another try, and this time I didn’t remove it. And indeed, almost everything works, and I haven’t even met a delay yet. It all just works, even on KDE with its Phonon!

So it looks like PA finally fits in well. Now what I only need some ideas what to do with it 😀 Seriously, what I would appreciate to see is a simple one sheet drawing with all the usual suspects of the Linux audio blob (from Phonon over xine down to Alsa) to see where PA fits in and what it does there.

KDE, Nvidia and performance

Fedora 10 now includes KDE 4.1.3 (included in the updates), and together with RPM Fusion Nvidia drivers are just a

yum install kmod-nvidia

away. While I had trouble with this way with the beta version, and general serious performance problems with the drivers installed manually, it turned out that with Fedora 10 final everything works like a charm – fast and snappy!

I am slightly surprised and wonder what was wrong with my Fedora 10 Beta setup. But on the other hand, my work machine is running Kubuntu 8.10 and there the performance is similar fast. So to me it looks like the days of slow KDE 4.x on Nvidia hardware are finally over, given that the drivers are the newest stable ones and KDE is of version 4.1.3.

Fedora’s encryption

This time I decided to not go with a full hard disk encryption, but rather with a home disk encryption. And while I still dislike Fedora’s disk druid for not letting me chose the disk setup in detail I appreciate that clicking a checkbox was all I had to do to activate the home partition encryption. It is even nicely integrated with the boot process.

Overall impression

The overall impression of Fedora 10 is very good. Most bugs I encountered running the Beta version are fixed – except for a strange coding problem, but I will survive that one.

Also, my first move into the lands of 64bit are also far less complicated than expected. Your mileage may vary, depending on the used proprietary software, but then again kvm might be a solution to work around that problem.

Telepathy support in Qt Extended – soon in main Qt?

Recently, Qtopia was renamed as Qt Extended and released in version 4.4 Besides the political interesting questions regarding future Nokia mobile devices the new release caught my interest because of a specific feature: Telepatyh support.

The recent release of Qt’s Qt Extended was quite interesting because it showed that Nokia is supporting the further development of this mobile device framework – which means that we might expect future Nokia devices using Qt Extended. Given the current situation regarding the iPhone and Google Android on the one hand and the large community of Qt/KDE developers on the other hand Qt Extended might be a valid option for Nokia for future devices.

But besides these speculations there is also an interesting feature in this new release: built in Telepathy support. In case you don’t know, Telepathy is an abstraction of all the various Instant Messaging protocols (Yahoo, Google Talk, MSN, ICQ, …). By supporting Telepathy Qt Extended also supports all these IMs. By supporting Telepathy’s audio/video it automatically supports Audio/Video in all the other protocols (as far as Telepathy supports audio/video in them). In a way, Telepathy is to IM what Phonon is to Multimedia.

And since Qt Extended now uses Telepathy (as it uses Phonon, btw.) I hope that native Telepathy support will come with the next Qt release to KDE. It would mean that IM development and integration into KDE 4 would become much easier.
Of course there is already a project going on to bring Telepathy to KDE: Decibel. The inclusion of Decibel into KDE 4 was scheduled for KDE 4.2, but the current state is a bit unclear. The developers blog was quiet for months now, and I guess a little more help is always welcomed anyway. With Telepathy support in Qt the development of Decibel and the inclusion of the features into mainline KDE would be sped up a lot.

With that KDE developers could access Qt/KDE-like functions to natively integrate their applications with IM – socializing the desktop would be in reach! The developers could concentrate on the IM functions and wouldn’t have to bother with the protocol details. In Gnome the first steps of such a development have been already taken by using Empathy as the default IM client.

I’m looking forward to the next Qt release and would really like to see the Telepathy work in there and to see Decibel building on top of it. Let’s socialize the desktop!

UVC support soon in vanilla kernel?

In a recent interview with the German IT online magazine the kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman mentioned that the USB video device support will soon be merged into the vanilla kernel.

Many USB video devices (like Webcams, etc.) do work via the UVC standard. There is of course a Linux driver available, however this is not part of the vanilla kernel yet due to problems with the Video4Linux implementation. Therefore it has to be compiled manually or is added afterwards as a patch by the distributions. Fedora 9 and the new Ubuntu 8.04 for example do include the driver with their kernels.

Now in an interview with the German Greg Kroah-Hartman mentioned that it is planned to merge that device driver in the near future into the mainline kernel:

There is a standard for USB video devices and the corresponding driver will soon be merged into the kernel.

If this really happens than video devices on Linux will make a big step forward: first of all a huge set of devices will be supported out of the box. Second, the support can be expected – therefore application developers can rely on it and can develop applications incorporating such video devices. Third, the developers behind the driver finally get credit for their great work and can continue the development on a stable base and with a clear future. And last but not least, the distributions have one patch less to worry.

Besides this information GKH identifies two big problematic fields in the current Linux device driver world: WLAN and video devices. WLAN just became much more sane and easy due to the new stack, but Broadcom devices are still a problem due to lacking support from Broadcam. And while video graphic cards support is getting better due to published specifications (NVIDIA, you are the only one missing!) many devices like video cameras and similar are still a problem and not well supported yet.

It is good to see that the kernel device developers have a clear picture of which device drivers are missing. And btw., it is nice to see that these drivers are for average desktop devices for normal users. So in this regard the kernel developers have an eye on the desktop.

KDE SOC projects published

The list of the Google Summer of Code projects for KDE was published. The list has several interesting entries to make the life for KDE users much easier.

The results for this year’s Google Summer of Code are out, and several KDE ideas were picked up.

Going through the list I found some items which immediately rouse my interest:

Of course this is just a small list of the accepted applications – and an accepted application doesn’t necessarily mean that the project will be a success. Additionally, this year the process around the applications and slots wasn’t perfect, but maybe the KDE e.V. can step up there to make the rejected projects possible nevertheless?
An idea would be to collect money through the KDE e.V. to sponsor other applicants, given that KDE finds their applications worth a try. I would be willing to donate some money for a stand-alone, KDE integrated browser based on WebKit, for general video input device support in Phonon or for a full featured Sonnet.

Qt, Trolltech and Nokia

Qt, Trolltech and Nokia
Nokia acquired Trolltech – some thoughts about that move.

The news is already some days old: Nokia acquired Trolltech. Surprising since Nokia’s focus is mainly on hardware while Trolltech focusses on software almost exclusively. Additionally, Nokia’s Open Source involvements so far most often dealt with Gnome.

Anyway, it is done now. The question remains what that means for the Free Software world, especially KDE. First of all not that much: Of course Qt development will be continued, at least for the near future. Even if the worst case would happen and Nokia would drop Qt to get rid of a competitor for their Symbian OS, Qt would automatically be released under some BSD styled licenc – and is already GPL-free. Nothing to worry there.
Additionally, it is unlikely that Nokia drops Qt because than they would not have acquired Trolltech in the first place.

However, since Nokia is specialized on mobile technology it is likely that they will use Qt to spread software among their devices. Since Qt already works cross platform the hope is that Nokia wants to use Qt to develop cross platform tools for PCs and mobile devices at the same time. This is a realistic aim since Qt already has strong cross platform abilities. In reverse this would mean that maybe some day KDE tools would become available on mobile devices without much of a hassle.
Another aim for Nokia could be that they are searching for a way to unify their software in general: parts of their software (the PC Suite) are already using Qt, and it can only be in Nokias interest to make all their applications look and behave in similar ways.

Of course, the fear that not everything works out perfectly well for the FLOSS community is there: it could be that Nokia just neglects the Linux part of Qt (or even the entire PC part) as far as possible without releasing Qt under a BSD-style licence. Additionally, buying Trolltech is just a piece of a larger puzzle: recently Nokia acquired several other companies as well. The main task for Nokia now is to bring all these pieces together to form a decent, appealing and working platform. If that strategy fails, Trolltech could fall down as well and could be sold to somewhere else.

But if Nokia gets the idea of FLOSS properly – and there are several hints that they do – it could work out pretty well. I hope that will be the case!