Improving SSD Lifespan on Linux: What I Learned Not to Do

While Solid State Drives (SSDs) can provide a significant performance boost over traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDDs), there is one downside which often concerns users: longevity. Although, with general day-to-day usage, the average user will not likely kill their drives any more quickly than an HDD, particularly since the latter is mechanical, advanced users are often more concerned about this, and will put in the extra effort to increase the lifespan of their SSDs. Typically, this is accomplished through various means to reduce the number of reads and writes to the drive. One method I explored turned out not to be as effective as I’d hoped, but became an interesting learning experience none the less, and may allow for improvements given the right setup. Continue reading


How to Edit systemd Unit Files (Services)

While working on migrating to a new PC, and transferring over some of the services and settings, I realized that I a) I’m forgetful on how to edit systemd services, and b) the guides that exist aren’t entirely clear, or are missing info. I figured write about it here not only for my benefit, but since I expect others have encountered the same problem. Continue reading

HDMI Output with Nvidia-XRun

Linux users with Nvidia Optimus (hybrid graphics) hardware currently face many challenges in order to optimally utilize their system. While there are many solutions that allow both integrated and discrete GPUs to be active, it is still not yet possible to utilize video outputs from both sources concurrently through a single display server session (X11 or Wayland). Although 1.20 may allow this to be possible, until then there is only one other solution: separate session for each GPU. With a bit of work, it’s possible to use the Nvidia-XRun project to accomplish this.

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Nvidia-XRun: An Alternative to Bumblebee

Despite the many advances the GNU/Linux operating system has made over the past few years, there’s one area with which I have frequently struggled: hybrid Nvidia graphics. Being the owner of a laptop computer using Nvidia Optimus technology (i.e. having both an integrated Intel GPU and a discrete Nvidia GPU), I’ve spent more time then I’d like to admit getting the best performance possible out of both cards. Unlike on Windows, where Nvidia’s drivers and software make it easy to launch applications with either GPU, accomplishing the same isn’t quite as easy on Linux. Recently, I discovered a project that can accomplish this: Nvidia-XRun.

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Installing Debian/Ubuntu Packages on Arch Linux

Although Arch Linux has packages for most everything, there is the odd circumstance when one can’t simply install one from even the AUR. I recently stumbled upon an old .deb archive, meant to be installed on Debian, Ubuntu, or a derivative, amongst some of my files. It’s for a game acquired from Humble Bundle, which I’ve had for so long I can no longer seem to find the URL to take me to the download page. While the AUR has various packages designed to install such files, they work with ones formatted in .tar.gz. As luck would have it, I discovered a handy utility alternative which allowed me to install the archive I have.

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Installing RetroPie from Linux

Seeing as how difficult (and expensive) it is these days to get one’s hands on an NES Classic, an arguably better alternative is to turn a Raspberry Pi into an emulation box. The setup for this is surprisingly easy. Along with the Pi, a micro SD card (8GB as a recommended minimum), a micro USB power adapter (be sure to chose one with the correct voltage), a USB or Bluetooth controller, and a case are what’s needed. The setup also requires a keyboard, and the device needs to be connected to a display through an HDMI output. Audio can either be passed through the HDMI connection, or through the 3.5mm audio jack.

As a convenience, a Linux distribution called RetroPie is designed specifically with emulation in mind. Download it from the official website, and install it to the SD card with the following command:

dd if=/path/to/retropie.img of=/dev/sdX bs=1M conv=fsync

Be sure that the SD card is not mounted when executing the command.

After it is complete, connect all the peripherals to the Pi (SD card, USB devices, HDMI), then plug in the power adapter. The device should automatically boot up, and resize the partition to accommodate the available space. The controller will then be configured via user input. It is recommended at this point to perform updates to the device through the configuration menu. Once completed and rebooted, ROMs can be loaded onto the device following this guide. Files can be added automatically via a USB drive, through SFTP, or even a Samba share. If ever terminal access is required directly on the device, pressing F4 will pull it up.

Fears for the Future of Firefox

With the most recent update to Firefox 55, users are presented with a long overdue reality check: their favourite add-ons are going away. When browsing the about:addons page, the user is presented with beautiful labels next to their installed extensions:

Screenshot from 2017-08-09 22-22-43

With this indicator, Mozilla is finally trying to make it clear to the end user: we are 3 months away before older add-ons lose compatibility with Firefox.

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