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60 efficient minutes of Intel

I arrived at DebConf7 with my X40, which would randomly freeze on any video-related event. I even reinstalled everything without copying /etc from the old installation onto a fresh harddisk without success. I tried various kernels, including Ubuntu kernels which rendered my system unbootable. I swore, I kicked and screamed, I contemplated throwing it out of several windows at once and buying a non-IBM replacement, I think I even had bad dreams about it. I did not cry just yet though.

I was unable to work on it, neither locally nor via external monitor. In fact, my solution for the first week was to occupy one of the spare desktop machines, link up the original laptop harddisk by way of a great PATA/SATA to USB converter, which Hanspeter gave me for Christmas, boot off the encrypted filesystems, bring up X, and finally ssh into the laptop, where I did the actual work. Trust me, it was ugly. But at least I was able to make progress on netconf.

I called Lenovo and they agreed to send a technician out to the venue. Yay for on-site support. That was Friday though, so I'd have to wait until Monday, which was of course when my talk on netconf was to take place.

Suddenly, or not so suddenly, but it happened in real-time: in walks Keith Packard, developer of the Intel graphics chips driver for X, and I swear he had "bring me broken X40s!!!!!!" written on his forehead and BIOS latency timeout values as pupils like a popular comic character's eyes may be made off a dollar sign when excited. Ask Matthew Garrett if you don't believe me.

So I approached him and handed over the X40 and had him even more excited when I mentioned i855 and it was all downhill from there. I left him with password for root and the encrypted filesystem (he's a Debian developer after all, so he has root on all my machines anyway…) and wandered off for some organisational stuff. It feels great to be at DebConf without your laptop to come back to.

So great even that in a moment of genius I decided to do my laundry, and off I went, back to the hostel. Get stuff from hostel B, convince staff from hostel A that I am in fact allowed to wash there as hostel B has no laundry facilities, buy tokens and detergent, dump stuff, find couch and sleep…

… gosh was I tired, but not anymore, when my phone rings to announce the end of the washing cycle. Retrieve, return to hostel B, hang stuff all over the room (we all know each other and these are clean clothes), return to hostel A to say thank you (I actually did), fetch lunch at Subway, arrive at venue, return to desk to find laptop but no Keith.

Look confused.

Look around to find Keith smiling at me and that the patch to my problem had already made it to the upstream repository. Sit, relax, think, breathe, wow.

60 damn efficient minutes. Let my next machine have Intel chips, please?

(call Lenovo, "suspend" the call. Lucky for them, or imagine the ripples of the on-site technician suggesting to try to reproduce the problem with Windows).

PS: Unfortunately, the problems aren't all gone. There still seem to be some DPMS-related crashes, and suspending to RAM from X leaves a black display on resume (some might say it's good that this is happening to me too), but I am definitely a lot more peaceful now. Thanks, Keith.

NP: Threshold: Critical Mass