New Laptop or why I will never ever buy an NVidia GPU again

After my old Dell Precision M6500 died a slow death of overheating, I had to replace it and as I had quite a good experience with two Dell Precision notebooks, I wanted a more modern Dell Precision again.
Unfortunately these devices are quite expensive (Dell sells them as mobile workstations, so they are quite powerful), so I only could afford a used device.
My choice fell on a Dell Precison M7600 as these are powerful enough for running Gentoo on them and were in my financial range. While searching the internet for used M6700 devices it became clear quite soon that my only choice were used M6700 with NVidia Quadro GPUs. Although Dell provided M6700 with AMD Fire GPUs as well, it seems most of Dell's Precision notebook customers prefer NVidia GPUs over AMD GPUs and thus I couldn't find an M6700 with AMD GPU that was neither broken nor too expensive.

Since I had very good experience with all ATI/AMD GPUs and the open source radeon/amdgpu drivers in all of my computers, I had the hope that I could achieve similar results with NVidia + nouveau. Oh was I wrong about that...
Perhaps it's the combination of NVidia Quadro K3000M + nouveau + Xorg + KF5 that constantly freezes my system, I don't know it, but having a Desktop that freezes as soon as you have opened a couple of windows is everything but not useful for daily work.
Searching the freedesktop bug database for nouveau issues revealed lots of bugs that had similar reports to what I was suffering from and no indication that these issues might get fixed anytime soon.
The only "fix" for my issue was to disable render acceleration of the Xorg nouveau driver and change the rendering backend in KF5 from opengl to Xrender. Of course that means no opengl, so no nice shiny desktop effects in KF5 as well. Great!
I do not blame the nouveau developers for releasing crappy drivers. These guys did most of the development of this driver by reverse engineering and the very minimal hardware information NVidia provided. I'm honestly thankful for their work and that we have at least some driver that performs better than the former nv driver that perfomed horribly.
But I blame NVidia for still treating free software users as second class people. I don't care how good or advanced their binary blob drivers are. I don't want to use them! I want free software on my system! So I can only join Linus Torvalds and say "fuck you NVidia!", I will never ever buy one of their crappy cards again!
Unfortunately there are still some more drawbacks with my new notebook. Here's a summary of all issues I have:
  • The GPU doesn't work with open source drivers
  • No backlight on the keyboard (but fortunately can be purchased as spare part)
  • The screen's resolution is only 1920x1080 and not 1920x1200 as with my previous two Dell Precision notebooks
  • The battery cannot be removed/inserted while the notebook is operating with AC power because the notebook instantly shuts off

Issues with apache + nghttp2

For quite a while now, apache-2.4 can make use of the http2 (SPDY) protocol via nghttp2 package.
Unfortunately I had quite some trouble getting the protocol to work on my apache webserver and I couldn't figure out what the issue was until I enabled debugging for that module:
${EDITOR} /etc/apache2/modules.d/41_mod_http2.conf

Replace the line
# LogLevel http2:info
with
LogLevel http2:debug
and restart your apache server. Now try to access some site that should be served via HTTP2. After doing so, grep the apache log files for the following string:
grep -Fr "http2:debug" /var/log/apache2
and you should most likely find the problem with your HTTP2 setup.
Don't forget to disable debug logging again or else your log files will quickly become huge.

In my case it was a cipher combination that was not allowed to be used for HTTP2. After disabling the specific cipher, HTTP2 finally worked on my apache.

New dev machine (yay!)

So I finally had the time to assemble my new dev machine after a long wait for the arrival of its components.

As with every new machine I have found some issues:
  • My Logitech G15 keyboard did not work until the OS got booted. So I wasn't able to use that keyboard for accessing the mainboard and the RAID-controller BIOS or navigate in grub until I upgraded the motherboard's BIOS to the latest available version.
  • Somehow the onboard SATA doesn't work reliably. All devices other than my optical devices won't get even detected by the OS. Most likely a driver and/or configuration problem in the kernel but still very disappointing.
  • I had to replace my good ol' Adaptec 4805SAS RAID controller with an Areca ARC-1680ix-12 as the new mainboard does not even recognize the old controller during POST. That also required me to re-create all the RAID-arrays (one RAID-10, two RAID-1) on the new controller which required to first backup all data on those arrays.

One positive effect is that my new graphics device which needs the amdgpu driver finally works. As I wrote in an earlier post, it didn't work in my old dev machine.
I am now a happy user of a dual eight-core AMD Opteron 6328 machine with 128GB of ECC-RAM. That should be enough for a couple of years doing Gentoo development.

Very late success story with a PCI-X eSATA controller

Since 2003 I only use Linux as operating system on any of the computers I own.
Back in 2010 my decision to buy an eSATA expansion card for my computer was because USB3 still wasn't widely spread, USB3 support in Linux still was kinda experimental and all my external hard drive enclosures already supported eSATA but not USB3 and I didn't want to buy the rare and expensive USB3 enclosures that were available on german market.
So I decided to buy an eSATA expansion card and my choice fell on a Sonnet Tempo SATA X4P although the manufacturer's website didn't mention Linux support at all. I naively thought that it shouldn't be that hard to get the card working as it has a well supported Marvell chip from which I knew that the latest Linux kernels already support it (CONFIG_SATA_MV).
Unfortunately I was wrong with my assumption.

I only use so called LTS (Long Term Support) Linux kernel versions and the versions I used through the years all didn't work with the card:

3.2.x
3.4.x
3.10.x
3.12.x
3.14.x
3.18.x

This was such a frustrating experience that I even wrote a forum entry in the Gentoo Forum about this.

I didn't try with 4.1.x Linux kernel series but two weeks ago I tried to use the card again with Linux kernel version 4.4.6 and this time it succeeded. So anywhere between the Linux kernel versions 3.18 and 4.4.6 there might have been committed a fix to the Linux kernel that makes the card finally useful for me :-)

amdgpu driver crashes my system

I'm not really much into games anymore but from time to time I'd like to play some of the old 3D shooters I used to play back in the early 2000 years.
So after using my trusty Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 for over six years (with open source radeon driver) I decided to renew my graphics device, again with a Radeon card from Sapphire. I chose the model R9 285 which has a so called Tonga chip on it and thus requires the quite new amdgpu driver instead of radeon.
Well, long story short, even with the latest 4.5.x kernel version the card doesn't work in my system. The 4.2.x and 4.3.x kernel series ran into kernel panics where 4.5.x kernel series only blanks the screen and shows some error messages in dmesg output.
I've opened up a bug report but with no response yet from anybody. I wonder if it's my quite old Tyan mainboard which only provides PCI-E of the first generation but without any kernel developer at least looking at the bug I'm quite lost here. Seems like I now own a brand new AMD Radeon card which I cannot use other than letting it collect dust in my shelf.