About Stephan Brönnimann

Software engineer

Moving to Switzerland

Our family has now been living in Vietnam since 2010. For the eduction of our children and to support my parents living near Bern (CH), we plan to move to Switzerland by autumn 2014.

We, this means:

Our family in June 2013

  • Stephan, 53, CH, Software engineer, working international since 1997, mainly in Asia.
  • Thi Mong Hien, 38, VN, my spouse, currently taking care of our children in Vietnam, HCM City.
  • Albert, 14, VN/DE
  • Anh Thuyet, 8, CH
  • Bao Ngoc, 5, CH

Since my parents are both more than 80 years old, we are looking for a reasonably sized (and priced) apartment near Bern, preferably in the south-west part.

Installing Debian on a HP ProBook 4230s

Reinstall Windows 7

The HP ProBook 4230s ships with 4 primary partitions: 2 for Windows 7 and 2 others that I don’t remember. Thus I had to reinstall Windows 7 from scratch using the Windows DVD and not the HP recovery disk. The later restores the whole disk, including the partitions.

I’ve used the following partitioning:

Download and install the Debian Windows loader

Download the Debian Windows installer from http://ftp.nl.debian.org/debian/tools/win32-loader/testing/. When running win32-loader.exe I’ve chosen the following options:

  • Expert mode
  • Begin install on this computer
  • Kernel: GNU/Linux
  • Text install
  • Daily build (don’t check for issues)
  • Desktop environment: None
  • Keyboard: US
  • Use defaults in download dialog

The installation creates c:\win32-loader. This directory also contains the uninstaller program. After reboot, the Windows boot prompt provides an option Debian GNU/Linux - continue with install process.

Debian installation

Some hints for the installation:

Choose language

After selecting the menu entry, immediately go back and select it again. This time we can not only choose the default and other locales, but also

  • Language: english
  • Country: Viet Nam. This is important because it allows the choose the correct timezone later
  • Default locale: en_US.UTF-8
  • No other locales

Detect network hardware

The installer complains about the missing firmware the the RealTek Ethernet card rtl_nic/rtl8168e-2.fw. I’ve ignored this, because I was using the Atheros AR9285 wireless adapter which works out-of-the-box.

Download installer components

No additional components are needed.

Set up users and passwords

Because of the special partitioning (see below): don’t create a normal user account.

Partition disks

I’m using the manual setup. The idea is:

  • to create a Linux data partition
  • to leave space to expand all partitions (Windows and Linux, system and data) if needed later.

All partitions are created at the beginning

  • Linux system, primary, 50 GB after the main Windows partition.
  • Swap, logical, 4 GB
  • Linux data, logical 50 GB

Now we delete the 50 GB Linux system partition and recreate it with 25 GB at the end. By this we have 25 GB spare between the Windows and Linux system partitions.

The whole disk now looks like this:

#1 primary 105 MB ntfs
#2 primary 70 GB ntfs
unusable 25 GB unusable
#4 primary 25 GB ext4 /
#6 logical 4 GB swap swap
#7 logical 50 GB ext4 /data
logical 220 GB FREE SPACE
#5 logical 100 GB ntfs

Select and install software

Under this item, I’ve only selected the option Laptop and Standard system utilities, but not Debian desktop environment.

Finish the installation

Windows 7 uses UTC for the system clock: choose No.


After rebooting from the installation, I’ve made the following changes:

  • install the packages firmware-realtek and gpm.
    For the RealTek firmware, I’m not sure if the package is really needed, after removing it,
    the network card still comes up.
  • set-up the data partition (note the relative links!):
    mv /home /data/home
    ln -s ./data/home /home
    mv /usr/local /data/local
    ln -s ../data/local /usr/local
  • avoid Modprobe:modules unix not found in modules.dep during boot
    in /usr/share/initramfs-tools/hooks/udev comment the line force_load unix
  • configure grub to save the last selected entry as default:
    in /etc/default/grub change
    GRUB_DEFAULT=saved and add
    GRUB_SAVEDEFAULT=true and then
  • provide the configuration for the ethernet card
    in /etc/network/interfaces add the lines
    allow-hotplug eth0
    iface eth0 inet dhcp
  • Adjust the console font (for my taste (and age) the default is too small)
    in /etc/default/console-setup set
    FONTFACE="Terminus" and
    see the manual page for supported values and apply/test the changes with setupcon.
  • Avoid boot message Error: Driver 'pcspkr' is already registered, aborting...
    in /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist add a line blacklist snd-pcsp.
  • Don’t start the bluetooth and cups daemon:
    update-rc.d bluetooth disable 2 3 4 5 and similar for cups.

Uninstall the Debian windows installer

Just run the uninstaller in c:\win32-loader.

Set-up X

By my own definition, X is started in runlevel 3. Until everything works fine make sure, that in /etc/inittab the default runlevel is 2
id:2:initdefault:. After everything is configured and tested, one can change it to 3.


Install the package xinit with all its dependencies. The only video driver that is really needed is xserver-xorg-video-intel.
I’ve also added the suggested packages mesa-utils, xfonts-75dpi and xfonts-scalable.

Display and Window manager

I’m using xdm as display manager. After the package installation adjust the runlevel with update-rc.d xdm disable 2 (see above).

The windows manager is wmaker, I like it because of its simplicity and because it does not try to mimic a Windows desktop.
Install it together with the packages wmaker-data and menu.


Check http://wiki.debian.org/Fonts and http://fonts.debian.net/ for available fonts.

Recoding of videos to H.264 using mencoder


# a few possible video filters
VF="-vf crop=712:568:4:4,pp=fd"
VF="-vf crop=688:568:18:4,pp=fd"
VF="-vf spp,scale"
VF="-sws 9 -vf scale=720:-11,expand=:-48::0"
VF="-vf expand=0:-32::0"

# audio filters
AF="-af stats,volume=6 -oac lavc -lavcopts acodec=ac3 -aid 128"
AF="-af stats,volume -oac pcm -aid 129"
AF="-aid 128 -af volume=20:0"

# H.264 settings
PASS1="-ovc x264 -x264encopts pass=1:$ENCOPTS"
PASS2="-ovc x264 -x264encopts pass=3:$ENCOPTS"
mencoder "$INPUT" \
         -o "$OUTPUT" \
         -nosub \
         $VF $PASS1 \
         -nosound \

mencoder "$INPUT" \
         -o "$OUTPUT" \
         -nosub \
         $VF $PASS2 \
         -nosound \

# extract the (AC3) audio track
mencoder -of rawaudio -ovc copy $VF $AF $INPUT -o en.ac3


  • I do not really understand the encoding options ENCOPTS. I’ve picked them up from various other posts and it looks to me, I can get reasonable results.
  • Using the option -nosound may desynchronize the video from the audio stream, the the video output-framerate is wrong.Watch out for warnings “duplicate frame” and check the length of the video stream and audio track!
  • For sharpening, use: -vf unsharp=l5x5:1.0:c5x5:1.0, but test the result!

Just turned 50

I just turned 50 yesterday and I’ve finally decided to invest time in writing a blog.

Currently I’m struggling with the peculiarities of WordPress, mostly in finding a theme using the full available width.

What else has happened yesterday. Well, die EU has finally decided what the measurements to solve the €problem. The issue of GR, the overwhelming state deficits are certainly not easy (if not impossible) to solve with a short time. Let’s see how things develop in the next months.

Much more important than the short-time measures that have been decided (basically to chunk around with a lot of money) is the scheme and actions the politicians will take to prevent a similar disaster in the future. In my opinion the most urgent problems are:

  • Reduce the state deficits
  • Prevent banks from being “too big to fail”
  • Regulation of the derivates market: a forced default of GR was not feasible for political reason but also because nobody was capable to predict the consequences of default with respect to the CDS (Credit Default Swap) market.

And most important: the world has develop an economy model that is independent from permanent grow but instead takes into account the restricted resources.