Monthly Archives: October 2011

Ubuntu 11.10 + Gnome Shell + ATI drivers + multiple monitors


Dane (see comments) pointed out that ATI has in fact released the 11.10 version of their drivers, I went ahead and gave them a try and using them broke most things for me.

Once I booted back in to Gnome…I had some of the Gnome3 look and feel…but everything else (menus, icons, etc) were clearly from Gnome2.  I reinstalled version 11.9 and everything was back to normal.  This update might work for some other setups…but for now I’ll just stick with the version that is working 95% of the time.


I was finally able to get a working desktop using Ubuntu 11.10, Gnome Shell, Gnome 3.2 along with my Radeon HD 2400 XT video card.  The adventure started a few weeks ago when I tried to setup my existing Ubuntu 11.04 desktop using some PPA repositories I found online.

I was able to successfully upgrade from Ubuntu 11.04 to 11.10 beta, and  since the 11.10 final release was right around the corner I figured it was safe to go ahead and give it a try.  The upgrade went well, but I spent the next day fighting to try and get gnome-shell to play nicely with my Radeon card using the existing ATI drivers.

I ended up starting from scratch a few days later, by backing up some important files in my home directory and doing a clean install of 11.10 once the final version was released.

After doing an update and installing some other packages such as  ubuntu-restricted-extras, vlc, pidgin, etc installing gnome-shell was painless:

# apt-get install gnome-shell

After rebooting, I logged in to find some of the same problems as before with this desktop install (screen tearing, blurry icons, multicolored menus, etc). I found some posts around the net that alluded to the fact that I might be able to solve some of my problems if I used the latest drivers (version 11.9) off the ATI website.

On the other hand, I found other posts by people claiming that even using the latest drivers had not completely solved all their problems and that ATI would be releasing version 11.10 sometime within the next 2 to 3 weeks, and that this new version would be specifically tested against Gnome 3.x (and fix the remaining bugs).

Anyway, I decided that I had nothing to lose at this point and decided to grab the latest version from the web:

# mkdir ati-11.9; cd ati-11.9
# wget
# sh --buildpkg Ubuntu/oneiric
# dpkg -i fglrx*.deb
# aticonfig --initial -f

After rebooting my machine again, I was pleasantly surprised to see that everything was looking good, no more problems with screen tearing and all my icons and menus were seemingly in order.

The only thing I needed to do now was to setup my multiple monitors correctly, since at that point I was staring at two cloned spaces instead of one large desktop spread across both my two 24″ monitors.

First I launched the Catalyst control panel:

# gksu amdcccle

Under the ‘Display Manager’ page I had to select ‘Multi-display desktop with display’


After a reboot I went into the Gnome ‘System Settings’ and choose ‘Displays’….I was finally able to uncheck ‘Mirror displays’ and hit ‘Apply’ without error.

The final two steps required for me to getting everything working %100 correctly was to install the gnome-tweak-tool:

# apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool

and disable the ‘Have file manager handle the desktop’ option in the ‘Desktop’ section (that did away with the extra menu I was seeing).

The final step in the process involved installing a new theme…I really liked the Elementary them found here. So that is the one I choose….now everything is working as it should be!

Proxmox 1.9 and Java oom problems

Ever since we upgraded from Proxmox 1.8 to version 1.9 we have had users who have periodically complained about receiving out of memory errors when attempting to start or restart their java apps.

The following two threads contain a little bit more information about the problems people are seeing:

1)Proxmox mailing list thread
2)Openvz mailing list thread

At least one of the threads suggest you allocate a minimum of 2 cpu’s per VM in order to remedy the issue.  We already have 2 cpu’s per VM, so that was not a possible workaround for us.

Another suggestion made by one of the posters was to  revert back to using a previous version of the kernel, or downgrade Proxmox 1.9 to Proxmox 1.8 altogether.

I decided I would try to figure out a work around that did not involving downgrading software versions.

At first I tried to allocate additional memory to the VM’s and that seemed to resolve the issue for a short period of time, however after several days I once again started to hear about out of memory errors with Java.

After checking ‘/proc/user_beancounters’ on several of the VM’s,  I noticed that the failcnt numbers on the  ‘privvmpages’ parameter was increasing steadily over time.

The solution so far for us has been to increase the ‘privvmpages’ parameter (in my case I simply doubled it) to such a level that these errors are no longer incrementing the ‘failcnt’ counter.

If you would like to learn more about the various UBC parameters that can be modified inside openvz you can check out this link.

Upgrading Debian

After spending the last two weeks upgrading various versions of Debian to Squeeze, I figured I would post the details of how to upgrade each version, starting from Debian 3.1 to Debian 6.0.

The safest way to upgrade to Debian Squeeze is to upgrade from the prior version until you reach version 6.x.  In order words, if you are upgrading from Debian 4.x, need to upgrade to Debian 5.x and THEN to Debian 6.x.  Direct upgrades are not at all recommended.

Here are the steps that I took when I upgrading between various versions.

Sarge to Etch:

I was able to upgrade all of our Debian 3.1 machines to Debian 4.0 using the following commands.  I did not encounter any real surprises when I upgraded any of our physical of virtual machines.

You can upgrade using apt and the following commands:

# apt-get update
# apt-get dist-upgrade

Etch to Lenny:

The only real issue to note when upgrading from Debian 4.0 to 5.0, is that Lenny does not provide the drivers by default for any of the Broadcom network adapter drivers used by a majority of our Dell servers.  This caused some stress for me since I was doing the upgrades without physical access to the servers, so after I completed the upgrade to 5.0 and rebooted the server, of course I was not able to access the server because the NIC cards were no longer recognised by Debian.

In order to resolve this issue you will need to install the ‘firmware-bnx2‘ package after you do the upgrade but BEFORE you reboot the server.

The reason that the Debian team does not include these drivers by default is due to license restrictions placed on the firmware.  If you want to read more about this issue you can view the very short bug report here.

The best tool for upgrading to Debian 5 is aptitude:

# aptitude update
# aptitude install apt dpkg aptitude
# aptitude full-upgrade

Lenny to Squeeze:

Upgrading Debian 5.o to 6.0 was also relatively painless as well.  One issue that I did run into revolved around the new version of udev and kernel versions prior to 2.6.26.  We had a few servers that were using kernel versions in the 2.6.18 range and if don’t upgrade the kernel version before you reboot, you may have issues with certain devices not being recognized or named correctly and thus you may have issues that prevent a successful bootup.

You can use the following apt commands to complete the upgrade process:

# apt-get update
# apt-get dist-upgrade -u

Here are the repo’s that used while doing the upgrades:

#Debian Etch-4deb etch main non-free contrib
deb-src etch main non-free contrib

deb etch/updates main non-free contrib
deb-src etch/updates main non-free contrib

# Debian Lenny-5
deb lenny main contrib non-free
deb-src lenny main contrib non-free

deb lenny/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src lenny/updates main contrib non-free

deb lenny/volatile main contrib non-free
deb-src lenny/volatile main contrib non-free

# Debian Squeeze-6
deb squeeze main contrib non-free

deb squeeze-updates main contrib non-free
deb squeeze/updates main contrib non-free

Redhat to purchase Gluster

Redhat released a statement today in which they announced their plans to acquire Gluster, the company behind the open source scalable filesystem GlusterFS.

Only time will tell exactly what this means for the project, community, etc, but based on the fact that Redhat has a fairly good track record with the open source community, and given the statements they made in their FAQ, I can only assume that we will continue to see GlusterFS grow and mature into a tool that extends reliably into the enterprise environment.

Gluster also provided several statements via their website today as well, you can read a statement from the founders here, as well as an additional Gluster press release here.