Disabling upowerd on a Desktop Linux computer that never actually had a battery.

One of the facts which I’d like to make sure the reader knows, is what, exactly, the process ‘upowerd’ is responsible for on any Linux computer, lest the reader disable something that he or she may really need.

Many computers, including laptops, have batteries. ‘upowerd’ is the Linux process that monitors the battery, or the batteries, in case there is more than one to monitor. If the computer has batteries to monitor, then this process is essential and should not be disabled. But, in certain specific other cases, this process can become a problem, as it recently was on my desktop computer named ‘Phosphene’, which is running Debian 9 / Stretch, which has Plasma 5.8 as its desktop manager, and which will only ever run on A/C power, due to the very way in which its hardware is designed.

Several months ago, I noticed that the ‘North Bridge’ of this computer – an essential chip on its motherboard – was becoming rather hot. And the motherboard in question, the ‘Sabertooth X58′, manufactured in the year 2011, was already famous for the design flaw that causes its North Bridge to become 76.5⁰C hot when idle, which is actually hotter than the GPU on that computer will normally become, when pressed to work hard. Several Months ago, the North Bridge temperature when idle was 80⁰C or even 81⁰C! Whether it’s actually safe for a chip to be that hot is a subject open to opinion. This temperature will not cause an immediate failure, but if the chip is so hot continuously, then its lifespan will become shorter, than what the lifespan of chips is supposed to be, in general.

Therefore, months ago, when I first noticed this, I opened up the tower / desktop computer and examined it, to look for failed cooling fans, etc. There was no such cause for the elevated NB temperature. Not being able to remedy the problem, I just left it that way.

But only yesterday, I noticed that the process ‘upowerd’ was consuming an inordinate amount of CPU time. On the octa-core machine, that process was consuming maybe 1% of available CPU time, which was quite a lot, considering that there should have been nothing for it to do. And, never having noticed this before, it seemed possible to me that ‘upowerd’ may have been consuming 1% of available CPU time (unnoticed), since months ago.

When ‘upowerd’ misbehaves in this way, sometimes this happens, because of hardware signals, such as perhaps, a battery which continuously disconnects and reconnects, etc… Therefore, before a software kludge is attempted, all possibilities need to be followed, to find hardware causes for this behaviour, to which ‘upowerd’ would simply be responding in a normal fashion. Yet, even given hardware reasons to be active, ‘upowerd’ should not be consuming much more than 1% of available CPU time, in case the reader has some situation where this process is consuming, say, 10% of the CPU.

Continue reading Disabling upowerd on a Desktop Linux computer that never actually had a battery.

Installing Visual Studio Code under Linux.

Linux users have often been avid followers, but left thirsting for some ability to run the proprietary applications, that Windows and Mac users have had access to since the beginning of Computing for the Masses. In fact, the narrow supply of Open-Source Applications for various Linux distributions has been aggravated by the fact that many Linux distributions exist, and when one follows the subject to its smallest detail, one finds that every Linux computer evolves into a slightly different version of Linux, because they can all be configured slightly differently, which means that some users will configure their Linux boxes in their own, personalized way. Actually, this is not a very good thing to do, unless you really know what you’re doing. But the mere fact that many, professionally configured Linux distributions exist, has also meant that packages destined for one distribution would either not install on another, or that packages which were not meant to be installed on a given distribution, could actually break it, if the user supplied his ‘root’ privileges, to so-install the package anyhow.

At the same time, the total amount of programming time available to open-source development has always been scarce, which means for the sake of this blog posting, that programming hours ended up divided between different Linux distributions. (:2)

In recent Linux distributions, there have been two main mechanisms developed over the years, to reduce the severity of this problem. In fact, since Debian 9 / Stretch, both these solutions have been available:

  • Flatpaks,
  • Snaps.

For the moment, I’m going to ignore that Flatpaks exist, as a very viable way to install software, just because Flatpaks had as their main purpose, to install purely Linux software, but on a wider variety of Linux distributions. So, why do both ‘Flatpak’ and ‘Snap’ exist? I suppose that one reason they both exist is the fact that each was invented, and that in principle, both work. But another reason why these two vehicles exist is, the fact that ‘Snaps’ are really disk images, which get mounted as loopback devices, and that therefore, ‘Snaps’ can install software which is binary in nature and therefore, not open-source, yet, install such software on a Linux computer, where the emphasis has traditionally been on open-source software. (:3)

Both mechanisms for installing software have a limited interface, of which features on the host computer the guest application is meant to have access to, since, if both methods of installing software were completely unrestricted, Linux users would lose the security which they initially gained, through their choice of Linux. I think that the way it is, ‘Snaps’ tend to have more-severe security restrictions than ‘Flatpaks’ do, and this is also how it should be.

What all of this inspired in Linux users, was the hope that eventually, they would also start to be able to install certain proprietary applications. And, the main goal of this posting is to assess, to what extent that hope seems to have been materializing. And I’m just going to ignore the fact for the moment, that some ‘Snaps’ are really just Linux applications, which their programmers compiled to the additional target, that being a ‘Snap’, and that for this reason, some Snaps just don’t work, usually because their programmers did not take into consideration that on an eventual host computer, each Snap only has access to the Interfaces which the security model allows, even though, when residing on Linux computers natively, the same application ‘just works fine’. For the sake of argument, software developers might exist, who are professional enough in what they do, to compile Snaps as Snaps, which in turn do work as intended.

An idea which could make some Linux users uneasy would be, that the supply of proprietary software available as Snaps, may not have grown as much as hoped, and that Linux users could be looking at a bleak future. Well, in order to get a full idea of how many Snaps are presently available, user can just visit ‘the Snap store’, and browse to see what it has to offer. And this would be the URL:

https://snapcraft.io/

What most Computer Users would seem to notice is the fact, that there is not a huge abundance of software, at least, according to my tastes, and at the time I’m writing this. Also, users do not need to pay for anything at this so-called Snap store. However, I have at least one Snap installed, of which I know, that if I activated that, I’d need to make a one-time payment to its developers, before it would actually function as one user-license.

What I’d just like to explore for the moment is the possibility that a User might want to program and compile code he wrote himself, in his favourite language, such as, in C / C++, or in C#, and that additionally, said user might prefer “Visual Studio Code” as his Editor, as well as his IDE. In reality, Linux users do not depend very strongly on the ability to use ‘VSCode’, as it’s also called, because under Linux, we actually have numerous IDEs to choose between. But let’s say I wanted to write code in these 2(3) languages, and, to use ‘VSCode’ to do so…

(Updated 5/04/2020, 17h50… )

Continue reading Installing Visual Studio Code under Linux.

Major Update to Debian / Stretch Today

I have two computers running Debian / Stretch, which is the code-name for Debian 9. I name those computers ‘Phosphene’ and ‘Klexel’. Debian 9 has just received a major update, from Debian 9.9 to Debian 9.10. At the same time, this update installed a kernel update on both machines.

As far as I can tell, the upgrade went smoothly on both machines.

Dirk