Going wireless on the desktop

Broadband Internet service at the new house comes from Home Telecom in the form of their Velocity Fiber service. They offer up to 1Gbps service, but we opted for the more modest 50 Mbps plan which is more than sufficient for our needs.

Installation at the house went pretty smoothly, but could only be installed at one point in the house in the form of a CAT5e cable. I was expecting something similar to Comcast where the broadband would come in via coax and cable modem. In retrospect, I probably should have asked.

I chose to have the installer put the drop in the structured wiring box, figuring I could route it through the rest of the house pretty easily from there using the CAT5e wiring that was run through the house for phone (there turned out to be some kinks in that plan, but that’s a story for another post).

The room that’s become my office and where my desktop is, unfortunately, doesn’t have a CAT5e drop in it (oversight on my part during the planning process). That meant to get online, my computer would have to go wireless for the first time.

Since I couldn’t find where an older USB WiFi adapter got packed away, I did some shopping around and picked up a TP-Link Archer T8E PCIe card from Newegg. Looked like it would be a decent performer and the reviews mentioning Linux said the card worked fine under Fedora and Ubuntu.

Installation of the card was quick and painless, but I couldn’t get Fedora to bring up the card, even after a fresh install of Fedora 24. The kernel detected the card, but the drivers wouldn’t work with it.

A bit of digging showed the adapter uses a Broadcom BCM4360 chipset, which wasn’t supported by the b43 drivers.

Network controller [0280]: Broadcom Corporation BCM4360 802.11ac Wireless Network Adapter [14e4:43a0] (rev 03)

A little more searching brought me to this gist containing a script for installing Broadcom’s wl driver. Downloaded the driver source, compiled and installed, and the WiFi interface popped up. Didn’t even have to reboot the computer. The computer was back online.

The Broadcom wl driver and associated kmod/akmod files are also in the RPMFusion non-free repo, which seems to be catching up with the Fedora 24 release now.

With the proper drivers installed the T8E card is performing pretty well, even with the computer chassis almost directly between the card’s antennas and my wireless router. I’m able to get pretty much the full 50 Mbps from the Internet and can see about 7 other WiFi access points in the neighbourhood. Not sure about what kind of signal strength the card is seeing from my WiFi router, but it’s at least enough for a solid connection. Haven’t tested transfer speeds on the internal network yet but that should still be pretty speedy.

speedtest_20160702

Despite the minor driver snafu, I’m pretty happy with the way the card is performing in the computer and under Fedora. Not quite the “works out of the box” experience I was expecting but still pretty painless.

New mouse

The Logitech MX1100 mouse I had started behaving unreliably on most surfaces, and would only reliably track on the vertical side of the computer case for some reason.

I decided since I had just replaced the keyboard, why not the mouse too.

I wanted something with a similar shape and weight as the MX1100 and ended up going with another Logitech mouse, the MX Master. It’s a wireless mouse that can connect using Logitech’s Unifying receiver (one of those tiny USB dongles) or via Bluetooth.

It looks similar to the MX1100, with a few changes to the buttons and scroll wheels. The top scroll wheel no longer tilts to the left or right. The tilting has been replaced with a thumb scroll wheel. The two forward/back thumb buttons are arranged behind the scroll wheel and the hidden thumb rest button is gone. I find the two forward/back buttons are somewhat awkwardly placed, and aren’t as convenient or easy to press as the MX1100 buttons were.

The battery is built into the mouse instead of the replaceable AA battery in the MX1100. A microUSB port at the front of the mouse allows for charging (charge level is indicated by three lights near the thumb rest of the mouse.

One interesting feature is that apparently the mouse can be used with three separate computers through the Logitech Unifying receiver. This isn’t something I can test out though.

So far the feel of the MX Master is similar to the MX1100 that I’m used to and is pretty comfortable to use. Should be a good mouse to use. Now to get all the buttons set up and usable in Fedora.

Time for some computer hardware changes

This computer of mine has passed the 6 year mark and it’s time for another round of upgrades and replacements.

When I put in the new power supply, I didn’t exactly do a great job of routing cables. I want to get in there and try to tidy some of that cable mess up.

I noticed a few days ago that CPU temperatures were running a good bit higher than usual, around 50°C at idle and as high as 90°C under load (according to gkrellm). It’s got one of those closed loop liquid CPU coolers which as far as I can see hasn’t leaked. The fans and radiator get a good cleaning out at least a couple times a year, and the air being exhausted is definitely warm. I’ll start with taking the cooler off, cleaning it and the CPU off and applying some new thermal paste. Hopefully that will help things. If that doesn’t work, it might be time to replace the cooler.

The MX1100 mouse that came with my old Logitech Wave keyboard finally seems to have bit the dust now. Fortunately I was able to scrounge up a spare mouse from the junk box to use while I search for a replacement. The MX1100 will be tough to replace though. I  really liked the feel and weight of it.

I’ve been seriously considering replacing (or maybe adding…I think I might have a free SATA port or two left) an SSD drive. It would be a good opportunity to re-do the disk layout on the computer and rearrange things. I’ve been wanting to start off with a fresh new home directory to get rid of some of the dead weight that’s accumulated in there over the past dozen or so Fedora releases.

The computer maintenance work will have to wait until we move into the new house. Everything will be disconnected anyway, and it will be a good time to give the computer a thorough cleaning before getting it all set up again.

Fedora + Corsair K70 quirks

This will be an ongoing post of some of the quirks I run into using this new keyboard with Fedora.

  1. Turning the backlight LEDs off seems to behave like pressing F5. If I turn the LEDs off when a browser window is active, the browser ends up doing a refresh.
  2. Trying to assign keyboard shortcuts in Gnome Settings/Keyboard, I can’t seem to get it to do any key combinations with the Super/Windows key. Not sure if I’m just missing something or what.
  3. Interestingly enough, KDE recognizes the Super/Windows key as Meta.

New keyboard

I’ve decided to take the plunge into the world of mechanical keyboards and replaced my long time workhorse Logitech Wave keyboard with a Corsair K70 (non-RGB) keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches.

It’s a pretty nice keyboard to type on, and I’m finding the keys need much less force to actuate than the keys on the old Wave keyboard do.

Each of the keys is individually lit with a red LED, which just happens to match one of the red LED fans in the computer case. There are 4 brightness levels for the LEDs from Off to full brightness.

The palm rest included could be a little bigger for my taste, but does the job. Grippy rubber feet on the bottom combined with the weight of the keyboard keep it from moving around much on the desk.

The cord is pretty beefy and has a fabric covering on it. At the computer end it splits into two USB connectors for the keyboard and a pass-through for the USB port on the keyboard.

The keyboard can be set to have all the keys light up or to a custom pattern that’s pretty easy to do right at the keyboard.

One of the issues I had with the Logitech Wave keyboard was that a lot of the special function keys were just invisible to Fedora. While this keyboard doesn’t have a lot of special keys, the ones it does have for media control seemed to work right out of the box without me having to configure anything.

Quite pleased with the keyboard so far.