Brave browser


I wrote a post about Brave recently, and found that Brave browser is interesting. So, I am switching to Brave from Chromium for a trial.

A brief introduction about Brave: Brave is developed by Brave Software, which is founded by Brendan Eich, creator of JavaScript and former CEO of Mozilla Corporation. Firefox is the product of Mozilla Corporation. However, Brave is built on Chromium, the open source project for Google Chrome. So, I personally perceive Brave as the Chromium with the soul of Firefox. That is why, it makes Brave different from Chromium and Firefox.

Why not Firefox?

Actually I was trying to switch from Chromium to Firefox before. However, Firefox doesn’t fit my needs. Since I am doing web development, sometimes the web browser will be crashed. Firefox crashes more frequent than Chromium. The worst is, Firefox crashing will cause systemd core dump and the computer slow down, until I do hard reboot on the computer. That is very bad development experience.

Besides that, Firefox rendering engine is different from Chromium. Most of the web developers I know are using Chrome. If I am using different web browser, the CSS styling may be varied. It will be difficult to do testing and review.

Bookmark sync

Bookmark sync is one of my main requirement to choose a web browser. Chromium and Firefox both support bookmark sync, with the requirement to create user account.

Brave is a little different, it doesn’t require any account created, but it can sync between desktop version and mobile version.

Please take note that, Brave desktop disabled the Sync feature by default. This can be enabled by going to brave://flags, then enable “Enable Brave Sync”.

Besides that, we can doing copy-paste for the bookmark folders from Chromium to Brave easily. Need not to export and import.

Side note: Workspace (personal method)

Since I am migrating from Chromium to Brave, I also discover a method to manage my workspace.

Most of my works require Slack as the communication channel, so does other communication applications like Skype, GMail, Google Calendar, etc. These web apps need to open during working hours.

I was using All-in-One Messenger long time ago. However it focuses on messengers only.

Then one of my project managers mentioned Shift. It has similar interface like Slack App. But I didn’t try any of them. I used alternative app, namely Franz. After some time of using Franz, the app limits to three services only, meaning I can maximum run three services at the same time, such as one GMail, one Slack, one Google Calendar, no extra.

After Franz, I found the other alternative, that’s Rambox. It is very good solution so far.

The rationale that I use different app for the communications is to decentralize the usage of single web browser for all tasks. Let’s say the web browser crashes, the communication app can still work.

However, I plan to centralize every task in Brave, in order to try out the potentiality. In order to make a working environment similar to Rambox or Franz, this is what I am doing:

  1. Create a bookmark folder, eg: Workspace
  2. Create all the bookmarks for my working web app in the folder
  3. Whenever I work, just right-click and open all bookmarks in the folder in New Window
  4. Practise that the New Window is for communication only, don’t open new tab for browsing or development.

By doing the above, Rambox will be unnecessary.

Lenovo Legion Y7000


In my previous blog, I mentioned I changed a new laptop. My older faulty laptop is Dell Vostro 5459, which was four years old. My current laptop is Lenovo Legion Y7000 2019 PG0 model 81T0, which as higher spec than the old one. Besides that, I added another 1T HDD, just in case I may doing machine learning study, or my work requires large disk space.

Note: All the instructions should follow official Arch Linux Wiki. The followings are only based on my experience of this installation.

Installation preparation

Since I have an extra HDD and plan for dual boot, I preserve the Windows in the SSD. Therefore in Windows, firstly disable Fast Boot, and secondly allow UTC time.

After this, I disable the Secure Boot through BIOS.

Since my primary OS is Arch Linux, I usually prepare two Live USBs, Arch Linux and SystemRescueCD. I just found that the recent SystemRescueCD is built based on Arch Linux.

SystemRescueCD is useful especially doing partitioning, shrinking/growing partition, and moving partitions, using GUI. Command-line like cfdisk and cgdisk can do partitioning, but moving partitions will be less intuitive comparing to GUI.

However, I failed to run SystemRescueCD with Xorg (running startx) due to graphic driver issue. (Though later, I found that it can be solved by going to BIOS, and change the Graphic Mode to “Switchable”, where the default is “Discrete”.)

As a result, I continued with Arch Linux Live USB. Due to the graphic driver issue, the TTY is not rendered properly. This can be solved by adding nomodeset parameter to the Kernel, by editing the GRUB menu during the boot.

Network

After boot into the Arch Linux installation Live USB, the first thing must solve is the networking. In this modern day, a laptop that cannot connect internet with WiFi is useless. However, the WiFi of Lenovo Legion Y7000 was blocked (plane mode) by default when running in Live USB. This can be solved by rfkill unblock all. Then, I started the network service with netctl.

Partitioning and boot loader

I believe most modern laptop and HDD support GPT. Since I am using command-line interface, cgdisk is sufficient for the partitioning. I created three partitions, for / (root), swap, and /home.

After partitioning and mounting, I installed the Arch through network.

Boot loader is a little troublesome. I chose GRUB. I believe most modern laptop supports EFI. So, I booted into Windows and used Disk Management to find the partition that is used for boot. One of the partitions is EFI.

Then in Arch Linux live media, I installed grub, os-probe, and efibootmgr.

Note: I installed the grub after I have run pacstrap. pacstrap will create /boot directory. So, I renamed it to /boot to /boot~, and create another /boot for GRUB installation.

I mounted the partition to /boot (in arch-chroot environment), then follow the instructions here.

os-probe is useful to allow dual boot to Windows, as it will generate the GRUB menu entry for Windows automatically.

After this, reboot to make sure we can boot into the new installation.

Note: Add nomodeset to the Kernel in the /etc/default/grub if rendering fails.

Network again

After boot into newly installed Arch Linux, I was not able to connect internet, because required packages were not installed. So, I needed to boot to the live media again, with the network connection, install wpa_supplicant, netctl, and dhcpcd. Then at least I can connect to internet with the newly installed Arch Linux.

NVIDIA

After the network, the second big problem is NVIDIA. I choose NVIDIA, because it supports CUDA, as it is important for machine learning, especially deep learning.

I used nvidia-dkms, which I have good experience with this package.

But I faced two main problems. One is the brightness not able to be controlled when running Xorg. The documentation mentioned that this can be solved by adding

option "RegistryDwords" "EnableBrightnessControl=1"

in /etc/X11/xorg.conf or relevant file, under “Device” section “nvidia” driver.

The above solution doesn’t work perfectly. When I boot into LightDM (display manager), sometimes the brightness is 100%, which I cannot reduce the brightness. But sometimes it works fine.

When the brightness is 100%, I need to restart the LightDM, or login and logout (I am using Openbox). Then the brightness is controllable.

The second problem is hibernation. I failed to resume from hibernation. It was a nightmare, as one of my testings failed to boot properly.

I have tried several solution, such as this, and this, and this. None of them work.

I also tried to use linux-lts. But it doesn’t solve the brightness problem, and the WiFi failed to work. So, I give up linux-lts.

And I give up the hibernation as well. It is useful, but I still can work without hibernation.

Note: After successful installation of NVIDIA, we can remove nomodeset from the GRUB entry.

Touchpad

I was using Synaptics. But it is no longer actively updated, and the official documentation suggest to use libinput.

So, I am using libinput now, but it sadly doesn’t support circular scrolling.

f.lux

I was using f.lux for health purpose. However, f.lux package doesn’t work on new laptop with NVIDIA. So, I switch to Redshift. The drawback is that, unlike f.lux GUI, Redshift is not able to change the colour temperature on the fly.

Leftover tasks

After these, I have to migrate a lot of data from my previous computer.

Danshari is necessary, so that not all data need to be migrated.

Family and personal photos (and some videos) are important, as they tell me who I was.

Personal data are important, as they tell me who I am.

Working data are important, as they allow me to continue what I am working with.

Configuration files are important, as I need not to waste my time to setup everything again. Especially Openbox, tint2, Mendeley Desktop, Postman, DBeaver, Emacs, VIM, bash, zsh, SSH, fcitx, fonts (and fontconfig), etc.

Other data files like movies, pictures, music are less important, but valuable. As I need not to collect them again.

Chinese New Year and new laptop


This was a disastrous week. Firstly, internet network cable broken. Secondly, my laptop went wild. Internet network cable broken, I still can online through mobile hotspot. But my laptop, it was catastrophic problem. Because I have a lot of valuable data, and I have to work.

Chinese proverb, 旧的不去,新的不来, but it was damn pressure. Because the old laptop had unpredictable behaviour. The problem was that, the keyboard will trigger some keys unintentionally, especially Alt key. I thought it was software problem, but until I reboot, and saw the GRUB menu cursor moving by itself. Damn! This means, (i) I am not able to work, (ii) I have to spend money to buy new laptop, and (iii) I need to get my data out.

First problem means that, I may not able to earn money during the period, as I am a freelance software engineer. Second problem means that, I need to spend money, with the possibility that I am not able to generate income, and the new laptop may not be Linux compatible. Linux compatibility is important to me, due to the familiarity and the working environment. Third problem means that, I may have possibility loss the data. I have done backup, but not frequent and not all data were backup. Though those data which I didn’t backup were less important, they are still valuable as I spent time on them.

Surely most important data are family photos, personal data, and those work related things. Though we use “git” and commit our source code, setup everything again spends time. Your employer doesn’t pay you to setup, but pay you to work. That is why I felt very pressure.

I prayed, I prayed, and prayed. Luckily keyboard problem was partially solved with USB keyboard, and Linux command “xinput float” can disconnect the built-in keyboard. And the new laptop can be used to work now (since yesterday). Though new laptop has higher hardware specifications than the old one, it is not perfect, as I failed to make it able to hibernate. NVIDIA and Linux combination is sh*t. But I still need NVIDIA, just in case I have to do machine learning with CUDA. So, for the moment, I have to sacrifice hibernation. Also, during the testing when resume from hibernation, it showed a freaking behaviour, I cannot type in the LightDM login. Damn, I cannot bear it if new laptop also broken.

Hopefully this is the end of the accident. I pray that this year will be new as this new powerful laptop.

祸不单行昨夜行,福无双至今日至。祝大家新年快乐。

MacBook Air 11-inch (Late 2010) revive


Recently, I revived my old laptop HP Pavilion dv3, due to the need of second computer to do my research study.

Since it is revived, and works smoothly, I then revived a tablet which was not used, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (P7500). I flashed the AOSP 7.1.2 Nougat. And it is revived also. However, the hardware specification is too antique, it can neither install Google Chrome nor Firefox. Most of the apps failed to run. 😩

Then lastly, there is a MacBook Air 11-inch (Late 2010), which I have installed Arch Linux onto it before. However, because it has been long time didn’t update all the packages, there are a lot of troubles.

For instance, after partial upgrade, when I ran pacman or pacman-key --init, it complained about

error while loading shared libraries: libreadline.so.6

Even after I boot with Arch Linux LiveUSB, this issue was hardly to be solved. This is because existing packages fulfil the dependencies, but the linked shared libraries’ versions were different.

Another issue was that it complained about

error: failed to commit transaction (invalid or corrupted package (PGP signature))
Errors occurred, no packages were upgraded.

This is even worst. The final solution was to install the latest gnupg, gnutls, and libassuan (as described here). Once pacman can work, then all the upgrades should work fine.

 

MacBook hot (heat) issue

After finished upgrading Arch Linux, there was an issue that I noticed when I first time installed Arch Linux on Mac. The machine was very hot, and the fan was spinning loudly. I firstly thought it was because of the WiFi device driver issue, because this happened even I run Arch Linux with TTY only.

I tried to install macfanctld (according to this), thermald, and cpupower (according to this). But none them solved the over heating issue.

Then after some readings from the forum (such as this post), the possible root cause was the graphic card driver issue, which Nouveau is not compatible with Mac. In order to solve this, I found the solution here (related post here) which allows me to use NVidia graphic card driver. This is a fantastic solution. I tested, and it works.

One thing to note. In the description of the solution, it says

cat << EOF
setpci -s "00:17.0" 3e.b=8
setpci -s "04:00.0" 04.b=7
EOF

Where the “00:17.0” and “04:00.0” may differ for each machine. However, “3e.b” and “04.b”, are just magic number that I just follow them. Though I don’t know what they mean actually.

Now MacBook Air is revived without overheating issue.

AAC audio file and ID3 tag


I just found that, if I have an AAC audio file (technically M4A), and if I added the ID3 tag 2 (aka ID3v2), then the audio file will failed to be converted by ffmpeg.

It can be either converted to mp3

  • using DeadBeef audio player, or
  • remove the ID3v2 tag then convert

So, how to add the metadata like ID3 tag? Use the Kid3 and add the Tag 3 (aka APE tag). This will not affect how ffmpeg to read the file.

Openbox + tint2


Previously I was using Xfce4. Then, because of the heavy working environment, I tried the lighter desktop environment, LXDE. But still, it has some limitations that made me choose to use Openbox window manager only.

Pros and cons of Xfce4

Xfce4 is lightweight comparing to GNOME or KDE. I like it, because of the conventional design like the task manager. Furthermore another thing I like is the “aerosnap” feature like Windows, which I can view the two windows side by side. However, when running Windows in VirtualBox and other applications, I can feel the obvious slowness in the computer. It is really reducing my working performance. That is why I decided to change to LXDE.

Pros and cons of LXDE

LXDE is lighter than Xfce4. So, running a lot of heavy applications does not slow down the computer like Xfce4. But there was one issue I faced. The LXDE pager (workspace) does not allow me to drag and drop the applications to move among the workspaces.

As a result, I decided to use something lighter than Xfce4 and I can drag and drop the applications among the workspaces easily.

Openbox and tint2

I had experienced Openbox with tint2 when I was using my old laptop. Openbox is nice and highly customisable. Tint2 allows me to set number of workspaces, and easily to move the applications to other workspaces. However, tint2 does not have applets or plugins like Xfce4 or LXDE.

There is one feature I need, that is to see CPU usage, so that I know whether there is any application causes high CPU usage. As a result, I installed Conky and display the CPU usage at the corner of the desktop.

Openbox + tint2
Openbox + tint2

Conky

For the Conky, the following is the conky.conf

conky.config = {
    alignment = 'bottom_right',
    background = false,
    border_width = 0,
    cpu_avg_samples = 2,
	default_color = 'white',
    default_outline_color = 'BBBBBB',
    default_shade_color = '444444',
    draw_borders = false,
    draw_graph_borders = false,
    draw_outline = false,
    draw_shades = false,
    use_xft = true,
    font = 'DejaVu Sans Mono:size=1', --by size 1 then only there will have no space after cpugraph
    gap_x = 0,
    gap_y = 2,
    minimum_height = 5,
	minimum_width = 5,
    net_avg_samples = 2,
    no_buffers = true,
    out_to_console = false,
    out_to_stderr = false,
    extra_newline = false,
    own_window = true,
    own_window_class = 'Conky',
    own_window_type = 'desktop',
	own_window_transparent = true,
	own_window_argb_visual = true,
	own_window_argb_value = 255,
    stippled_borders = 0,
    update_interval = 1.0,
    uppercase = false,
    use_spacer = 'none',
    show_graph_scale = false,
    show_graph_range = false,
	double_buffer = true,
	imlib_cache_size = 10,
}

conky.text = [[
	${cpugraph 27,40 000000 FFFFFF -l}
]]

Cloud9


Cloud9 is a web-based IDE good for collaboration and online development. You can store your large project on the remote server, and use any computer including netbook with a web browser to develop your system.

Now, the problem I faced when using C9 on my Chromium. Firstly, the address bar, tabs, and bookmarks occupy some space in the window. This results a non-editor look and feel. This makes me feel lacking of something. Secondly, the worst part is the shortcut key like Ctrl+W. By pressing this shortcut key, it will invoke the web browser closing window instead of the C9 shortcut key. Meaning, the shortcut key of the web browser has higher precedence than C9 itself.

I looked for the C9 official Chrome extension, namely Cloud9, but it just works like a bookmark. I tried also Cloud 9 IDE Shortcut. It works better than official Cloud9 Chrome extension. Yet, I need to enter my username and password for the first time. Another drawback is the missing of the window icons like minimize, maximize/restore, and close, and title bar, which results difficulty to resize and maximize/restore.

Looks for some solutions. The easiest way is to invoke

chromium --app=https://ide.c9.io/

Yay! Now I can use the shortcut keys and it looks like native text editor!

Chromium running C9 as app
Chromium running C9 as app

If you are serious, you can write the manifest.json to create the C9 web app, then you can have a custom icon instead of Chromium icon.

External HDD struggling


I have an HP 1T external HDD. It is dying. Sh*t!

So, I made my final struggling onto it. Though it is not 100% work as planned, I still have around 320G usable space.

Symptoms

Firstly, I found that some files cannot be deleted, I had no choice but plug out the USB cable manually. Try to chkdsk with Windows since it is NTFS partition, but the chkdsk stopped and no response during the progress. Then I know, these were the bad signs. So, have to avoid using it and get a new HDD, and move whatever files able to be moved.

Backup like sh*t

I use Linux instead of Windows, because copying out the files with Windows is damn slow. So, I have no choice but to use Linux. During copying from this pity HDD to the new HDD, the copying process will stop without warning, and the HDD failed to work. Worst, there was no way to cancel the operation, only solution to plug it out. I repeated this procedure approximately 60-70 times (heuristic guess only).

S.M.A.R.T

There is one thing I have to mention, that is S.M.A.R.T. I had enabled it on the external HDD, but it did not show any useful feature to SAVE my date.

NTFS

After copying out primary data and giving up some secondary data, I decided to re-format it as NTFS. Though I very dislike Windows, NTFS is still the main stream. NTFS and FAT32 are widely supported by the devices, for instance, LG video player. I also considered exFAT, but it is not as good as NTFS supported by Linux.

So, booted into Windows, plugged in the USB cable, format the disk without “Quick Format”, because I intended to have a thorough “chkdsk” scanning for bad sector.

Unfortunately, it was DAMN slow. To increase from 0% to 1% requires about 30 minutes. How am I going to live my following life?

Then I cancelled the format and gave up NTFS.

ext4

Since there was no more hope on NTFS, I planned to format as ext4. I run mkfs.ext4 with “-c” to check for bad blocks (something like bad sectors). But it failed. The hard disk failed to work until I re-plugged in the USB. I tried dmesg, found that there are a lot of errors like

usb 2-2: reset SuperSpeed USB device number 2 using xhci_hcd
usb 2-2: LPM exit latency is zeroed, disabling LPM.
blk_update_request: I/O error, dev sdb, sector 721688448

I concluded that it is not just bad sectors/blocks, but just failed to read the blocks.

badblocks

So, I assumed that mkfs.ext4 with “-c” or even fsck.ext4 will not solve my problem. Those bad sectors should never be accessed. So, I decided to give up those sectors, meaning, skip those factors from the partitions. This can be done by using fdisk or cfdisk, creating the partitions based on the “sector” unit instead of size. We can create the partition to occupy the bad sectors area, then create next partition after it, and then delete the partition that has bad sectors.

Then, the next question is how to find the bad sectors. mkfs.ext4 and fsck.ext4 cannot solve, because they are checking for the bad sectors thoroughly through the partition. The solution is to use “badblocks”.

There are two things have to know, i) sector and ii) block. They are different things. badblocks command can identify the bad blocks, but not the bad sectors. However, fdisk allows us to get the total number of the sectors.

Now, we can do some maths here. Let’s say you run the “fdisk -l”, and get this,

Disk /dev/sdb: 931.5 GiB, 1000204886016 bytes, 1953525168 sectors

The total number of the sectors of the hard disk is 1953525168.

Now, to get the total number of blocks, use “cat /proc/partitions”, you will get something like this,

major minor  #blocks  name

   8        0  976762584 sdb

So, that is the total number of blocks, 976762584. And you can do the calculation, 976762584*2 = 1953525168. So, 1 block = 2 sectors.

This is important information, because when we use the badblocks, the values are shown in block unit. But when we want to create partitions, we are using sector unit.

So, when we run the badblocks like

badblocks -v -s -o bad.txt /dev/sdb

It will show something like

Checking blocks 0 to 976762583

which is the first block (0) until the last block (976762584 -1).

Now, in case we stop/interrupt the badblocks, we can continue from any where we want. Or, we can just start from any block. For instance

badblocks -v -s -o bad.txt /dev/sdb 976762583 488381292

where the 976762583 is the last block we want to check, and 488381292 is the start block we want to check. (Please read the manual in detail.)

Result

So, based on these tools and information, finally I found that there is around 320G contiguous safe space. So, I create the partition for it, and finally format it at ext4. Since it is a dying hard disk, I will not use it to store primary data, but secondary data and secondary backup. (Secondary data is unimportant; secondary backup is the duplicated backup, not one and only one.)

Actual plan for the next stage

Unfortunately, because the hard disk has critical failure, I cannot implement the next stage.

In my expectation, the hard disk may have multiple large, contiguous, and safe space. For example, 0-25% from the beginning is safe, and 60-100% is safe. As a result, I can create 2 partitions for these space. This is what I actually want. If this really happen, then I can use the LVM so that I can combine both partitions as a logical volume, and finally mkfs on it.

But since it does not happen, I cannot test on the LVM.

 

Search song that plays on your computer (Linux)


Since I am working as freelance developer, I spent most of my “otaku” time with Animenfo Radio. Now, when listening with some nice songs you like, and you would like to know what the song is, then you can use Shazam to detect it. But using Shazam requires you to turn on your volume and use your mobile phone to detect it.

What if, you are listening the songs with your ear-phone?

To make it work on your Linux computer,

  1. Listen to a music or song, make sure it is still playing
  2. Run pavucontrol (PulseAudio Volume Control), install it if you didn’t
  3. Open a music searching website such as Midomi (so far I only know this website)
  4. Click the recording button (make sure it starts recording), allow using microphone as prompted by the web browser
  5. Then you will see this in pavucontrol
  6. PulseAudio Volume Controller record audio
    PulseAudio Volume Controller record audio
  7. There are two options, one is “Built-in Audio Analog Stereo”, another is “Monitor of Built-in Audio Analog Stereo”. Choose the “Monitor” something will redirect your computer audio output to your computer recorder (input).
  8. Then, the website like Midomi will get what you are listening, and submit for a search!

Yeah! No Shazam, and you can search when you are listening with the ear-phone.

Technology that you must know


Linux, git, ssh, and Docker.

Linux is the most flexible OS kernel in the world right now. It is used in supercomputer, personal computer, server, embedded system like smart vacuum cleaner, mobile phone, smart TV, etc. Firstly because it is open source, everyone can study it, modify it, and redistribute it. Secondly, thanks to GPL (license). Because of GPL, anyone who use Linux need to open source their code. Those bossy people who knows Windows only and like to earn money without paying any efforts, and never understood programming and programmers, they will never understand the power of Linux and GPL.

git, like Linux, the main author is Mr. Torvalds. It is the most popular source code and revision management tool in the world right now. Those who only know GUI will never understand the power of text files. Those who don’t know what is open source are even more out of their topics.

SSH, with the advancement of cloud computing, you need to access to remote computer or server, SSH is your need!

[B]locking an SSH port for a Linux user is like taking a mouse away from a Windows user! (Powers, 2015)

Then lastly is Docker. It is an OS level virtualisation. The development environment and production environment always has a gap. Therefore, to develop a system in an environment as similar as the production is always a need. For the software level, we can use rbenv or rvm for Ruby, virtualenv for Python. However, if the production environment uses stable version of PHP and Apache, and your working computer is using the latest version of PHP and Apache, are you going to uninstall the latest version and install the stable version? If you have multiple projects, are you going to buy many computers for each of them? One of the solution is virtualisation using virtual machine like VirtualBox. But when we are using virtual machines, we need to reserve the memory and hard disk space to the virtual machines. And some of the hardware cannot be shared, but virtualised, like the graphic card and network card. However, if using container like Docker, it can access the hardware and share the OS libraries. You can also run the GUI application as it is running on the host computer. For those Windows users they will not understand, because Docker is based on Linux technology. However, you can still using Docker on Windows and Mac OS X.