Getting Xubuntu 15.04 (Ubuntu Vervet 15.04) working on an HP 2000 laptop (rt5390sta support)

I was having extremely poor wifi performance on Erin's old laptop after moving it to Xubuntu. Specifically, after initially connecting for about 30 seconds, it disconnects and then can no longer see the network. Turns out this is a problem for all machines with this old wifi card and newer Linux distros. You'll know you need this method if you run lspci and get a line like this: 07:00.0 Network controller: Ralink corp. RT5390 Wireless 802.11n 1T/1R PCIe

These instructions are based on this UbuntuForums post, this AskUbuntu question/answer, and this GitHub

Here's how to fix it:

  1. Make sure you have the kernel sources. I think it's installed standard, though.

  2. Use git to grab the driver: git clone You may have to install Git as it's not a standard part of Xubuntu.

  3. Edit rt5390/os/linux/ to ensure the following:
    • HAS_ATE=y (no change, it was originally as is)

    • HAS_WPA_SUPPLICANT=y (no change, it was originally as is)

    • HAS_NATIVE_WPA_SUPPLICANT_SUPPORT=y (no change, it was originally as is)

    • HAS_ANTENNA_DIVERSITY_SUPPORT=n (the UbuntuForums poster got this wrong for me)

    • Each and every CFLAGS entry has added onto the end of it "-Wno-error=date-time". This is what I got from the AskUbuntu forum up there.

  4. Run make in the rt5390 folder. After a while it will fail with the last step getting permission denied. This is OK.

  5. Run sudo make to fix the permissions error.

  6. Run sudo make install to make all the required folders and put the modules in the right places, etc.

  7. Edit /etc/modules to add the following line: rt5390sta

  8. Edit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf and add the following line: blacklist rt2800pci

  9. Reboot. You'll know it works when you have a ra0 device when you run ifconfig. You may need to restart the network-manager service, but I did not need to. Of course, you'll also know it's working when you can see your wifi networks and connect!


Me, completely surprised


After a lazy morning, Erin and I went to Rockefeller Center to have brunch at the Rock Center Cafe. The head chef from one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, Seersucker, was guest chef there. The prix fixe menu was delicious beyond words. I think he's there until the end of the month. Go!

Then we went to the Top of the Rock. If you love tall buildings, there is no better view in the city. Attached, please find the requisite couple photo, a panorama, and me in front of a radome.

While there, I got a text from Alex V., saying that he and Kitri were in our neighborhood, having a few drinks at our local German place, and asking if we could drop by. I said maybe, as my aunt Kathy was in town and we were going to have a small birthday dinner for me, so we couldn't stay long.

Erin and I took the train home, dropped off some stuff and went to the restaurant to say hi to Alex and Kitri. When we got there, they suggested we check out the downstairs, as we had never seen it before.

"Surprise!" I heard and reflexively ducked, extraordinarily embarrassed for accidentally triggering someone else's surprise party. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw one familiar face, then another, and another. People from Science, TKD, and even my extended family came into focus. I had not set off someone else's surprise, but my own!

To recap the party itself would take far too long, and make for slow reading (imagine the list of begattings in the Old Testament), but I am so very grateful for everyone who showed up, and I'm extra grateful to Erin, the mastermind I am extremely proud to call my wife.

Entertainingly, my aunt Inge was there, with whom I share a birthday (albeit 50 years apart) and who, unbeknownst to her, had her own surprise party scheduled for the next day. Needless to say, my family is done with surprise parties for a while!

If I was paying attention
My dad didn't have a solid dinner plan for our (fictional) party - he usually plans this stuff way in advance.
My mom read out an email where her sister said "see you Saturday", despite the party I knew about happening on Sunday.
My aunt from Boston coming to town itself - although I thought it was because we didn't do any swims by her this summer
When we stopped by the house on the way to the German place, there was stuff for Manhattans out - only my mom's side of the family drinks Manhattans

In short, well done everybody. I've always wanted a surprise party and you all delivered in spades. Thank you thank you thank you!
Burning Man

Nearly killed by a cabbie tonight

I was in the middle of the crosswalk, when I see a too-fast cab rounding the corner. My first thought was "He must be slowing down to make this turn, and he's gotta see me." Very quickly I realized that neither of those things were true, so I ran up the block and across the street. I'm not sure how close he ended up being to me — definitely less than a meter, though. As he sharply decelerated (somewhere after where I was initially in the crosswalk, but before I made it completely across) the cab (one of those hybrid Ford Escapes) made some awful noises. The cab was stopped about 1.5 meters past the inside edge of the crosswalk and would not move. He tried revving the engine, to no avail (and to some horrible noises).

Some other pedestrians asked me if I was okay (I guess the thudding noise coming from the inside of the car sounded like I got hit). I had trouble deciding whether to call 911 or 311 or what, and decided that the damage he did to his own vehicle was sufficient, since I was not harmed (hell, I didn't even have a stress reaction aside from swearing at the guy).

Afterward, as Erin and I headed out for dinner, we went by the guy who was calling someone about his broken vehicle. He apologized. I asked him what happened there and he said he didn't see me. I said "Really?" and went on my way.

IIRC, it was 4J16.

Save the Bay Swim

Date: 7/23/2011
Distance: 1.7 km
Type: Point-to-point (Cross-channel)
Body: Narragansett Bay, RI
Salt water

The event was scheduled to start at 8a, and me being myself and my mother being herself, we tried to get to register when they opened, at 6a. As always, the Naval War College is beautiful, especially at sunrise. Not as always, I was jumping in this time.

A little history: My mom has been doing this swim, skipping a few here and there, for 17 years. It was her first big open water event, and we all know how that turned out. In short, I was really happy to be able to do this together with her. It was our first event together on the same course (I did the 1-mile Mighty Merrimack last year, and she did the 2-mile).

We braved the treacherous rocks into the bay, and were both relieved to hit a bed of sea grass. The event was launched by a big cannon by men in Revolutionary-era garb, and away we went. I was amazed at how clear and how blue the water was. The waters around NYC are sort of a #466552 while Narragansett Bay was more of a #466560, a minor difference, I know, but it really means something when it's all you can see ;-)
It got a little choppy when we got into the main channel, but the water was clear and warm, and the Pell Bridge a welcome companion. I made it in 1:05:05, which was not amazing, but I'm pretty pleased, as I was expecting about 1:10.

By the way, you can see some photos I took at the event at this Google Plus entry.

Swim report: Liberty Island Swim

Date: 6/24/2011
Distance: 1.2 km
Type: Circumnavigation
Body: New York Harbor
Salt water

The event started in the early evening to rain. Not that we noticed in the water. I ran into my friend LB shortly before jumping off the boat Respect. The pack was very congested, and it never really cleared up. For some reason the water seemed cloudier than the East River was last year, perhaps because of all the rain we've been having lately. It was overcastand very choppy - fun, but challenging. Pretty neat event, and it was a real treat to swim at the feet of Lady Liberty.

LJ, you never call, you never write...

Or is it me who never calls or writes anymore?


In July I will be doing a swim to help protect waterways and keep them
safe for swimmers, boaters, or even seaside walkers. The event
supports a great organization called Save The Bay, which preserves and
protects Narragansett Bay in RI.

I'm writing this post now because I need to raise $300 for Save The
Bay to be able to do a beautiful 1.7 mile swim across the bay. You can
donate to me at

Thanks in advance for all your help and thanks to those who have
already done so!

Doing OK

Erin and I went to the Rally for Sanity on Saturday, which was a whole lot
of fun! I
posted some stuff to Flickr which you might enjoy

Things at work have been both busy and slow, the way you do.

I'm writing this on my phone with this thing called 8pen. Its supposed to
increase my speed, which it hasn't yet, but I can see how it might, once I
learn it.
  • Current Mood
    okay okay

Dreamlog: Jetpack in DUMBO

I apparently got that jetpack that they're selling in New Zealand these days
and was giving my brother Nick a ride around DUMBO. At some point, we decide
to do a free fall landing, which is a lot of fun. Then we go into one of
those old warehouses that is now an office building. They force everyone to
submit to some kind of body scan in a big group. It's a bland concrete room,
maybe 3m tall with a 1m bench molded into the wall opposite the scanner,
which is not visible. While we're all waiting to get scanned, a guy asks how
much money the people in this building make. I tell him it's impossible to
know that, as there's over 100 companies in the building. He gets very
upset, and I realize he's asking for his daughter, but I'm not sure if it's
on her behalf or because he's interviewing here and her care is very

Writer's Block: Time in a bottle

If you could eliminate all the calendars, clocks, and measurements of time, how would it change your life? How about the world?

Every single piece of communications technology would fall apart. And so would GPS. There are such things as asynchronous computers and communications technology, but they're much harder to make well, or make powerful.