Fatdog64 721 is Released

In the light of recent Spectre and Meltdown fiasco; the Linux kernel team has released patches to sort of workaround the problem.

It's not free, you will get a performance hits anywhere from 5% to 30% depending on the kind of apps that you use (more if you use virtual machines), but at least you're protected.

We have released Fatdog64 721 with updated kernel (4.14.12) that comes with this workaround.

You can, however, decide risk it and not use the workaround, by putting "pti=off" boot parameter. You'd better know what you're doing if you do that, though.

Apart from that, this release also supports microcode update and hibernation. We've bundled the latest microcode from both Intel (dated 8 Jan 2018) and AMD (latest from linux-firmware as of 10 Jan 2018); however it is unclear whether any of them address the problem.

Release Notes
Announcement (same announcement as 720).

Get it from the usual locations:
Primary site - ibiblio.org (US)
nluug.nl - European mirror
aarnet.edu - Australian mirror
uoc.gr - European mirror

Posted on 11 Jan 2018, 21:40 - Categories: Fatdog64 Linux
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Fatdog64 720 Final is released

Fatdog64 720 Final was released on 20 December 2017, after about three weeks of beta (720 beta was announced here).

It was a hectic before Christmas so I didn't get to announce it here in my blog. In fact, Barry Kauler (original author of Puppy Linux) announced it earlier that I do - which is quite a tribute for us

There isn't much changes between this and beta, other than a few bug fixes - as I said earlier, 720 beta was actually quite stable.

One new "feature" made it there: 720 now comes with two initrds (dual-initrds) - the first one is the usual huge initrd, and the second one is a very small initrd (around 3.5MB) with ability to "load" the larger initrd. This was a suggestion from forum member LateAdopter, which we "adopted"

Why the need for that? Some people have been complaining about the slow booting speed of Fatdog64 due to its huge initrd. There are many reasons for this slowness but it's mainly because:
a) old BIOS
b) old bootloaders (grub4dos/grub-legacy)
c) boot from modern, large filesystem such as ext4 with size over 16GB.

This particular combination is especially toxic - bootloaders usually use BIOS calls to get data from the disk, and old bootloaders don't understand new filesystem well so while they can load from it, they only do it very very slowly.

Nevertheless, the new "nano-initrd" (as I call it) to the rescue. The small initrd will be loaded fast enough by the bootloader, and then Lnux kernel takes over and load the huge initrd - with the use of modern, optimised code. So booting remain fasts.

However, nothing comes for free. It's basically a stripped down initrd (as explained here so along with the cutdown in size, a lot of other stuff must be sacrificed too. Don't expect the nano-initrd to be able to boot from exotic environments.

Release Notes
Forum announcement

Get it from the usual locations:
Primary site - ibiblio.org (US)
nluug.nl - European mirror
aarnet.edu - Australian mirror
uoc.gr - European mirror

Posted on 28 Dec 2017, 14:36 - Categories: Fatdog64 Linux
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How to create Nvidia driver SFS for Fatdog and Puppy

If you need to use Nvidia driver (instead of the open-source nouveau driver), I've written the steps to prepare the driver SFS yourself.

I wrote this article because Nvidia driver is sensitive to kernel changes; each kernel changes requires a rebuild of the driver. And we usually don't provide nvidia driver for beta releases.

Also, there are variations of the nvidia driver (long term, short term, legacy, etc) supporting different cards. Creating a driver for each variation, and re-creating them every time the kernel change, takes a lot of time.

So I've published the way for you to do that yourself. The steps enable you to create the SFS yourself, or, if you can't be bothered about the SFS, it will install the driver directly for you.

As a bonus, it should work on recent Puppy Linux too.

The instruction is here.

Note: this article is an update of the original instructions I wrote here (which is XenialPup64 specific).

Posted on 4 Dec 2017, 15:58 - Categories: Fatdog64 PuppyLinux Linux
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I accidentally removed glibc

I accidentally removed glibc.

I was running Fatdog build process and I wanted to remove glibc from its chroot.

The correct command to do that was this:
ROOT=chroot removepkg glibc32 glibc

but I typed in the wrong way:
removepkg ROOT=chroot glibc32 glibc

This has the unintended effect of attempting to remove ROOT=chroot package
(which didn't exist), and then glibc32, and glibc. Of course the removal wasn't fully successful, but the dynamic linker /lib64/ld-linux-x64_64.so.2 was deleted and that's enough to stop almost anything.

In a normal distro this would probably require an immediate re-install.

In Puppy-like distro (including Fatdog) all you need to do is to boot pristine, disregarding any savefile/savefolder (pfix=ram for Puppies and savefile=none for Fatdog); and then clean up the mess you've created by the accidental deletion. This is usually done by deleting the whiteouts, so glibc can "show up" again in the layered filesystem.

But I was in the middle of something and I really didn't want to reboot and abandoned what I was doing. What to do? I still had a few terminals open, is there anything I could do to salvage the situation?

Fortunately, Fatdog has a failover mechanism for situation like this.

Fatdog has a static busybox located in /aufs/pup_init/bin/busybox. This busybox is linked with complete set of applets, with its shell (ash) compiled to prefer internal busybox applets instead of external commands.

By running its shell
/aufs/pup_init/bin/busybox ash

I am back in a working shell, and I can do "ls" and other things as needed because the busybox is fully static and doesn't need glibc.

Inside there, I then run Fatdog's whiteout clean up script
sh fatdog-clean-whiteout.sh

which run nicely because busybox has enough applets to support it. This removes the whiteout, in effect, undo-ing the deletion.

But trying to do "ls" on another terminal still indicate that glibc isn't installed yet. This is because aufs, the layered filesystem, isn't aware that we have "updated" its layer behind its back. All we need to do is to tell it to re-evaluate its layers.

This can be done by running (from the terminal that runs static busybox shell) this command
mount -i -t aufs -o remount,udba=reval aufs /

Once this is done, the system is back to live, and the project is saved.

Posted on 4 Dec 2017, 22:08 - Categories: Fatdog64 Linux
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Fatdog64 720 Beta is Released

The next release of Fatdog64 is finally here!

Well, the beta version at least. I actually think this is the next stable release. We have been running this for weeks ourselves, but because we have made so many changes, it's good to treat it as beta and test it on wider audience.

A lot of improvements since the last release; lots of package updates, and lots of fixes too. However this is still based on 710 as the base.

We plan to follow this one up with a Final soon, hopefully before Christmas.

What's next?

Once it goes to final, it would probably be sunset for the 700 series. While 720 is running very well, it is showing its age. Some binary packages refuses to run on it, demanding a newer glibc, for example.

The decision isn't final yet, and the 800 series isn't probably going to be started very soon (we all need to catch our breaths). Meanwhile, enjoy it while you can.

Release Notes
Forum announcement

Get it from the usual locations:
Primary site - ibiblio.org (US)
nluug.nl - European mirror
aarnet.edu - Australian mirror
uoc.gr - European mirror

Posted on 4 Dec 2017, 13:08 - Categories: Fatdog64 Linux
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Fatdog Update

Well, I'm still here. I've been busy with life, moving houses, making arrangements, etc. Too much things to do, too little time. I wouldn't bore you with all that mundane things, since what most probably you're here for Fatdog.


Fortunately for all of us Fatdog64 lovers, it has not been so quiet for Fatdog64 under the hood. Our two new members, "SFR" and "step", have been busy at work - bug fixes, package updates, package rollback when the updates don't work :), package replacements, etc. You will find them in the Forum as well, helping other people.

I would say that recruiting them was the best decision we have done - the dynamics works well between us so discussion is always productive.

In fact, we're nearing a release now. To be accurate, however, we have been "near a release" for a few months now - there are so many changes we'd like to share with you; but there is always "one more thing we would to before release to make it better" - and the it's back to the kitchen . So this release may happen soon or may be a bit later (or a lot later) - cross your fingers!

But seriously, all in all, things are looking good on Fatdog64 side. The team has done lots of exciting improvements. As usual, it may not be perfect, but there is a always the next release .

It has not been so well on the ARM front. I'm really the only one who works on FatdogArm, and my lack of time to do anything with it means it gets left behind; and it shows. No new platform supported, packages not updated ... although, all in all, it still runs pretty well, for an aged OS.

Well, that's about it for now. On my other FOSS article, I have published two parts. It's actually a four-parter, so there are two more parts to publish ... I'll get that done very soon.

Cheerios everyone.

Posted on 6 Nov 2017, 01:13 - Categories: Fatdog64 Linux
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Fatdog64 build recipes

I've just uploaded the build recipes for all the official packages of Fatdog64. They are available here.

They are tarballs, containing the recipe proper, and other supporting files such as patches, desktop files, icons, etc.

They have previously been available in the binary packages (every official Fatdog binary package contains the build recipe tarball inside); but to make it easier for people to search and re-use; we have decided to extract them and upload it in separate place.

The recipe itself is just a shell script, to be used with Fatdog's pkgbuild system. If you want to use it to build it as is, you need that build system which you can get from here. Warning: only tested to work in Fatdog. However, if you just want to examine how the build is done; you can just look at the recipe - it's simple enough to understand.

Note: If you're already on Fatdog64, don't bother getting that. pkgbuild is already included as part of Fatdog's devx.

These build recipes will be updated from time to time; but I can't guarantee any "freshness" of any of these recipes. And oh, they come as totally unsupported - feel free to use them as you see fit, but the risk is all yours. And while I'd be glad to hear suggestion and/or patches for them; please don't come to me for support. My hands are already full of other things.

Posted on 18 Mar 2017, 05:55 - Categories: Fatdog64 Linux
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Real-time Kernel for Fatdog64 710

I built and uploaded real-time kernel for Fatdog64.

It's based on Linux 4.4.52 - the latest as of today; and from the same branch as the 710 kernel (4.4.35); and one of the LTS (long-term-support) version; patched with 4.4.50-rt63 patches.

I could manage only the "Basic RT" (PREEMPT_RTB) configuration. This is somewhat between "low-lateny" and "fully preemptible" configurations. I tried the "fully preemptible" (PREEMPT_FULL) configuration but while it gave me a kernel binary; it didn't work satisfactorily --- too many lockups at too unpredictable times.

It has been a very long time since I built an RT kernel (the last one was probably around Linux 3.4 days) which can run in fully preemptible manner. The RT patches aren't always stable either; depending on the kernel version they can be good, okay, or just bad; so I suppose for today, this is the best I can get.

Apart from changing the pre-emption level to PREEMPT_RTB, I made two more (unrelated) changes:
- I increased timer frequency to 1000 Hz.
- I added SDA_HWDEP support.

The first change is done because I plan to use the RT kernel for some audio work that requires lower latency and higher timer resolution.

The second one is done because by tweaking the codec's amplifier I could make my laptop speaker louder by using HDA Analyzer (which requires HDA_HWDEP support); but it turns out to be wishful thinking.

Anyway, enjoy. If you need a guide on how to use the new kernel, look here. There is a new way to test kernels without having to do all above, but it hasn't been written yet. I'll write it when I have time (and motivation) - basically you use "extrasfs" boot parameter to load the kernel-modules.sfs instead of replacing the kernel modules inside your initrd.

Posted on 12 Mar 2017, 05:30 - Categories: Fatdog64 Linux
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Fatdog64 is now listed in Distrowatch

I have been notified of this for a while, but because of my other stuff I forgot to announce it here.

Distrowatch is basically a site that monitors various Linux distributions and their updates; as well as news about what's new; what's coming up; and other interesting stuff about Linux distributions. If you haven't been there already, you should check it out.

Fatdog64 has been recommended to Distrowatch for a quite a while, languishing in the "submission queue" for years. Apparently this year is the year - we finally are listed there: http://distrowatch.com/fatdog.


Posted on 12 Mar 2017, 04:34 - Categories: Fatdog64 Linux
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Time flies

Wow, it is now the third month of 2017. I haven't written anything for 3 months!

Well, things do get quiet during the holiday season; and as usual there are real-life issues that I need to take care of.

In between, things have happened. Fatdog64 is now featured on Distrowatch: http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=fatdog, yay!

Also, we recruited new member, "step" from the Puppy Linux forum. Before joining, step is known as maintainers of a few programs used in Puppy Linux, such as gtkmenuplus, findnrun, and others. Welcome step!

Though this blog is quiet, the Fatdog development is not. It continues nicely in the background with comfortable pace: bug fixes, minor feature updates, etc. Bug fixes isn't always possible, but package updates are visible here. Also checks out Fatdog contributed packages thread.

On the other news, LFS 8.0 has been released and while it is tempting to conclude that Fatdog 800 will follow suit soon, it won't happen.

While 710 (which is based on LFS 7.5/CLFS 3.0) is getting older, it has no major problem as its program and libraries continue to be updated. Fatdog 700/710 has acquired a large number of third party contributed software and we plan to keep them usable for a foreseeable time to come, by supporting 700-series until at least the end of the year. There may be one or two more releases (720? 721? or 730?) but they will use the same base.

Posted on 5 Mar 2017, 14:43 - Categories: Fatdog64 Linux
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