Archive for September, 2009

vpnc and me

September 17th, 2009 4 comments

After a brief hiatus of making posts (I document my daily trials all day at work, so it’s not usually the first thing I want to do when I get home) I’ve decided to make a beneficial post about how I can now do WORK (from home) on my Fedora 11-based laptop.  Hooray!

At the corporation where I work, our network and firewall infrastructure is – of course – Cisco-based.  Naturally, in order to connect to our corporate network from home, we use Cisco’s own VPN Client.  For distribution to various users across the company, my workplace has provided discs with pre-configured installations of this client, all set and ready to go to connect to our corporate network.  This prevents the dissemination of unnecessary information (VPN IP addresses, etc.) across the ranks, and makes it much easier for the non-savvy user to get connected.

I’ve all ready had a bit of experience using this client on my Windows Vista and Windows 7-based computers.  Unfortunately for me, the Cisco VPN Client we use at work only operates in a 32-bit Windows environment… meaning that on Windows Vista, I had to run a full-fledged copy of Virtual PC with a Windows XP installation.  In Windows 7, I was fortunate enough to be able to use its own built-in Windows XP Mode.

Trial and Error

My first thought to get this software working under Fedora 11 was probably the most simple – run it in Wine!  I’ve had limited experience with Wine in the past, but figured that it was probably my best bet to get the Windows-only Cisco client functioning.  Unfortunately for me, attempting to install the program in Wine only results in a TCP/IP stack error, so that was out of the question.

My next thought – slightly better than the first – came when it was announced that I could nab a copy of the Linux version of the Cisco VPN Client from work.  As luck might have it, it’s a bitch of a program to compile and install, and I had to stop myself short of throwing my laptop into the middle of our busy street before I just gave up.

Better Ideas

At this point, I was just about ready to try anything that could possibly get VPN connectivity working for me on my laptop.  Luckily, a quick search of ‘Cisco VPN Linux’ in Google shot back the wondrous program that is vpnc.  After seeing various peoples’ success with vpnc – a fully Linux-compatible Cisco VPN equivalent – I did a bit of reading up on the documentation and quickly installed it using yum:

$ yum install vpnc.x86_64

There, easy enough.  Further reading on vpnc indicated that I needed to edit a file known as default.conf – located in the /etc/vpnc directory – to store my VPN settings for work, if desired.  Opening up the config file included with the Windows version of the client, I pretty much copied everything over verbatim:

$ cd /etc/vpnc

$ nano default.conf

IPSec gateway [corporate VPN address]

Xauth username [domain ID]

Xauth password [domain password]

Domain [corporate domain]

From there, I performed a write out to the default.conf and saved my information.  The only complaint I might have about this step is that everything in this file is stored as plain-text, and does not appear encrypted whatsoever.  Since we are using a WPA2-encrypted wireless network and the VPN tunnel is secured, I wasn’t too concerned – but still.

At this point, I was now ready to test vpnc connectivity.  Typing in at the terminal

$ vpnc default.conf

I was rewarded with a triumphant ‘vpnc started in background’.  Hooray!  But what to do from here – how to connect to my work computer?  On Windows, I just use Remote Desktop… so logic following through as it does, I typed:

$ rdesktop [computername].[domain]

Instantly, I was showered in the beauty that was a full-screen representation of my Windows XP Professional-based work computer.

A shot of vpnc running in terminal, and my desktop running in rdesktop.

A shot of vpnc running in terminal, and my desktop running in rdesktop.

It certainly was not as easy a process as I’m making it out to be here – indeed, I did have to figure out to add .[domain] to the end of my computer name, as well as allow vpnc’s ports to flow through by performing a terminal netstat command and then opening them accordingly in the Fedora firewall – but I am now connected to work flawlessly, using open-source software.

I am currently running Gnome 2.26 on top of Fedora 11 (Leonidas). Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Dana H, Fedora, Linux Tags: , , , ,

Wireless Network Manager Woes

September 16th, 2009 No comments

Debian Lenny ships with the Network Manager package, version 0.6.6-4, which for all intents and purposes is a well written and very useful network management application. But of course, I wanted something more. At home, I have my music library (hosted on a Windows Vista machine) shared to the local network, and wanted to mount that drive using Samba so that I could share my music library between my two machines while on my home network.

On a Windows machine, one can just point an application to files on a networked drive, while Windows handles all of the dirty details related to allowing that application use those files as if they were on the local machine. On Linux, the application in question seems to have to be aware of how to handle a Windows share (usually via the Samba package), and handle that drive sharing on it’s own, unless the network drive has been mounted first. Further, when mounting a network share in Linux, one can choose any folder on their hard drive to put its contents into, ensuring that it always appears in the same location, and is easy to find.

Unfortunately, as far as I can divine, a networked drive can only be mounted by the root user, which seriously reduces the number of applications that can perform that mounting action. In my quest to get my home music share working, I looked into plenty of different methods for automatically mounting network drives, including startup scripts, modifying the fstab file, and manually connecting from a root terminal. None worked very well.

Eventually, I stumbled across a web post advertising the pros of the WICD network manager, which as I understand, will be used as an alternative to the network manager package by Debian Squeeze, and can currently be pulled into Lenny by adding the Debian-Lenny Backports repository to your sources list. I installed it, replacing the default network-manager-gnome package.

My first impression of WICD was extremely positive. Not only did it connect to my home network immediately, it also allowed me to define default networks to connect to (something that is conspiciously absent from the NetworkManager interface), and to set scripts that are run when my client connects to or disconnects from any of the networks in the list. This allowed me to write a simple one line script that mounted my network share on connection to my home wireless network. It worked every time, and mysteriously did so without asking me for my Sudo password, even though it used the sudo command internally to get rights to perform the mount.

Odd security peculiarities aside, I was happy with what I had accomplished – now I could tell my laptop to automatically connect to my home wireless network, and to mount my music share as soon as it did so! Then I went to school. Shit.

The wireless network at my University uses EAP-TTLS with PAP inner-authentication as a security protocol, something that WICD apparently had no idea how to handle. This protocol is extremely secure, as the host identifies itself to the client with a certificate that the client uses to tunnel into the host, allowing connection to take place without any user information being passed in the clear. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work, except that our school doesn’t have a certificate or certificate authority, so… Whatever.

In any case, WICD does not include a template for this type of network (which is fair I suppose, since Windows requires an add-on to access it as well), but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to do to fix the problem. I trolled the internet from a wired machine and tried editing the WICD encryption templates, while Tyler (on Fedora) and Phil (on OpenSuse) connected on first try.

Eventually, after an hour or so of fruitless trial and error, I gave up, came home, and reinstalled the NetworkManager application, because that’s what Tyler and Phil were using on their systems, and it seemed to work fine. Sure enough, the next day I connected after just a minor tweaking of the network properties in the NetworkManager dialog.

Unfortunately, while I can now connect to my home and school networks, I once again have lost the ability to automatically connect to networks, and to execute scripts on connection, meaning that I’m back to square one with the mounted networked music share – for now, I just do the mounting manually from a root terminal. Balls.

New monitor woes

September 15th, 2009 No comments

So I’ve gone out and purchased myself a gorgeous LG Flatron W2243T. Unfortunately, getting it to work correctly has proven difficult so far. It’s connected to my computer through a DVI-to-HDMI cable. Now, adding a monitor to my Windows XP machine was fairly simple – all I had to do was plug it in, add it through display properties, and then I could futz around with it to my heart’s content. The task has proven more arduous on Mint.

Mint’s display manager really brought my system to its knees – as soon as I opened it, the computer slowed to a crawl and was basically unusable. Some of the information on the display manager was correct: there were two monitors (the laptop monitor and the new LG external monitor), and one was wider than the other; unfortunately, every other piece of information was “unknown”, and trying to change anything killed my system. After I rebooted, the monitor worked right from startup, which was a pleasant surprise, but that’s where the fun ended. I tried to get into my display manager again, but all it did was slow my system down and present me with a blank screen. I’ve tried going in through terminal and finding anything I could online, but I’m not sure what to do. Hopefully Jake can help me out when he gets home – otherwise I’m stuck with a mirrored dual monitor setup in a non-optimal resolution. Thankfully, my monitor and laptop share the same display ratio, so at least everything is in proportion.

Oh God How Did This Happen

Oh God How Did This Happen

Armacycles Advanced

September 14th, 2009 3 comments

This afternoon Phil, Jon, Sasha and myself engaged in a little Tron-esque gameplay thanks to the awesome 3D recreation known as Armacycle Advanced or sometimes Armagetron. This game is awesome! Not only is it very, very addictive but it is also fully networked meaning you can play on your LAN or even online with other players.

Here is a screen shot of the game in action:


Armacycles Advanced A.K.A. Armagetron

Eclipse Fails It

September 14th, 2009 No comments

Man, Eclipse works great on Debian! It gives me this cool message on startup:

JVM terminated. Exit code=127
-jar /usr/lib/eclipse/startup.jar
-os linux
-ws gtk
-arch x86
-launcher /usr/lib/eclipse/eclipse
-name Eclipse
-showsplash 600
-exitdata 3a0015
-install /usr/lib/eclipse
-vm /usr/lib/jvm/java-gcj/bin/java
-jar /usr/lib/eclipse/startup.jar

After uninstalling, reinstalling, changing which JVM I was using, uninstalling, reinstalling, googling, yahooing, and binging, I finally found this post over at Debian Help that instructed me to first install XULRunner. With the addition of this simple step, everything suddenly worked great.

The strange part about the whole thing is that Eclipse doesn’t install XULRunner as a dependency, and the Wikipedia article about XULRunner doesn’t mention Eclipse anywhere. I don’t really understand their relationship, aside from the fact that Eclipse supports plugins that may or may not be written on top of XULRunner.

Regardless of their strange and undocumented relationship, the Eclipse/XULRunner combo seem to work perfectly, allowing me to create Java, C/C++, and Plugin projects out of the box. Next steps include adding plugins for Subversion, Python, and PHP. needs snappier application names

September 13th, 2009 1 comment

Seriously, the names in are pretty bland – “Spreadsheet”, “Word Processor”, “Presentation”, etc. However, that’s pretty much the only fault I could find so far.

Word Processor

Earlier today I was visiting my family. My brother wanted to write a resume, but being completely new to the working world, he obviously needed some help. By complete coincidence, my parents didn’t feel like paying for Microsoft Office, so he has to use OpenOffice.The word processor is very intuitive and works just as well as Word. The only two difficulties I encountered were bullet formatting, which involved some guesswork with the horizontal rulers, and table formatting, which I’ll elucidate now.

Despite the fact that every company demands unformatted text resumes submitted online, I still like to make my resumes reasonably attractive in case I need a hard copy – this means screwing with tables, cells, and line colours and thicknesses. In MS Word, there’s a handy table toolbar with some drawing tools – namely the pencil, eraser, and the paintbrush. These tools allow users to select and manipulate individual line segments. OpenOffice’s Word Processor lacks this feature, and instead users have to select cells (individually or in groups) and and manipulate them. This is just as effective as MS Word, but a fair bit more cumbersome.

Overall, the resume turned out nicely and I only spent about five minutes troubleshooting the cell borders.


I mainly use spreadsheets to track my workouts and schedules. I found OO.o’s spreadsheet very easy to use and I transitioned from Excel seamlessly. It easily imported my old workout XLS files and doesn’t seem to have had any problems. In addition, the formatting worked as desired and took no extra time. OO.o’s macros worked as expected and definitely added some time-saving convenience.

Categories: Free Software, Sasha D Tags:

Challenger Approaching: Phil tries to install openSUSE

September 13th, 2009 No comments

I’m the newest guinea pig in this experiment, and yes, I’m a few days late joining up. Since I’ve already become comfortable with Ubuntu, I decided to choose openSUSE for my distribution. However, because I do a lot of Windows development for both of my jobs, I’ll be the only participant of this experiment who’ll be dual booting.

Before you go and cry foul, I checked the rules very carefully. The rules state: “[you] must use the distribution on your primary computer and it must be your primary day-to-day computing environment”. That means that as long as I use it 50.1% of the time, I’ll be within the bounds of the experiment. Of course I plan to use it considerably more than 50.1% of the time.

While everyone else in the experiment has been starting to finally get their computers to a productive state, I’m just started installed openSUSE last Tuesday. I might have had some time to start getting my shit in order, however my first attempt to burn the openSUSE DVD was met with a burn error.

Wasted DVD Count: 1

Not wanting to risk installing from a faulty disc, I burnt it again. Same error. Out of boredom, I figured “what’s the worst that can happen?” and tried to install anyways. Needless to say, the installation failed about 3/4 through, but Windows booted anyways so I figured I’d be okay.

Wasted DVD Count: 2

My next step was to re-download the ISO, then try to burn the disc again from another computer. Shockingly, I encountered the same burn error. Since the last failed burn attempt didn’t completely ruin my system, I figured I’d try it again. Again I was met by disastrous failure, but this time, Windows would not boot.

Wasted DVD Count: 3

After using my Windows 7 RC disc to “repair Windows”, I finally got the system to boot. However, it took over 30 minutes from power on to functional desktop. Immediately I ran a disk defrag and scheduled a checkdisk, and went to bed.

The analysis alone for the defrag took around 4 hours [I know because I happened to wake up in the middle of the night and decided to go check it, and it was about 90% done]. Incase you’ve never run a disk defrag, that’s WAY above normal. In the morning I ran the actual defrag, and it took about 2 hours. Once it finished, I rebooted to start the checkdisk – which hadn’t finished before I left for work 2 hours later. When I got home, 5.5 hours after I started the checkdisk, it was just finishing. In total it took 6 hours. Windows now ran smoothly, but was lacking sound, and nothing I could do made it work. So I re-installed Windows 7 and everything was back to normal before I started trying to install openSUSE.

I decided to burn another copy of the openSUSE install disc, and ran the media check that’s installed on the disc. Around 3/4 of the way through the check it failed. Running it on another machine yielded the same result.

Wasted DVD Count: 4

I decided to get a MD5 program to verify the integrity of the ISO’s I downloaded. They both matched perfectly to the MD5 provided on the openSUSE download page, so with few options left, I asked Tyler to download a copy of the ISO and burn it. Although there was a burn error in that process as well, I decided to run the Media Check on that DVD as well. Surprisingly it succeeded and I proceeded to attempt to install openSUSE.

One of the nice things about openSUSE is that it proposes either a partition based or an LVM based method for installing the OS. Usually, this involved shrinking the Windows partition and using the available space for Boot, Swap, Home, and Root partitions. Because of all the screwing around with hard drive partitions and disk fragmentation, openSUSE was unable to shrink my Windows partition to roughly 40 GB. Instead, I had to boot back into Windows 7, shrink the partition there, and then manually assign partitions from within the openSUSE installer. I ended up choosing to set aside 4GB for my Swap partition [2 * the amount of RAM I have], and to group Home, Root, and Boot into one partition with the remaining 26 GB.

So on Friday night [or Saturday morning] openSUSE finally booted, taking up 5 DVD’s in the process. More to come on making openSUSE do my bidding.

Categories: God Damnit Linux, openSUSE, Phil D Tags:

How to not install XBMC on Debian Lenny

September 13th, 2009 4 comments

So tonight I got a terrible idea. I figured that I’d try to install XBMC, the awesome media centre app for modded Xbox consoles. Turns out that they do, in fact, have a Linux version… but that none of it’s dependencies can be resolved automatically, and that every developer remotely related to the project was on crack while packing the tarball.

Because the devs only package a release for Ubuntu (that doesn’t work worth a shit on Debian), I was forced to download a tarball from this site, which I extracted to my home/username/bin directory. Unfortunately, when attempting to./configure in this directory, I discovered that the package had roughly 337 thousand dependencies, namely:

subversion make g++ gcc gawk pmount libtool nasm automake cmake gperf unzip bison libsdl-dev libsdl-image1.2-dev libsdl-gfx1.2-dev libsdl-mixer1.2-dev libsdl-sound1.2-dev libsdl-stretch-dev libfribidi-dev liblzo-dev libfreetype6-dev libsqlite3-dev libogg-dev libasound-dev python-sqlite libglew-dev libcurl4-dev x11proto-xinerama-dev libxinerama-dev libxrandr-dev libxrender-dev libmad0-dev libogg-dev libvorbis-dev libmysqlclient-dev libpcre3-dev libdbus-1-dev libhal-dev libhal-storage-dev libjasper-dev libfontconfig-dev libbz2-dev libboost-dev libfaac-dev libenca-dev libxt-dev libxmu-dev libpng-dev libjpeg-dev libpulse-dev mesa-utils libcdio-dev

Yeah. That many. Further, the library liblzo-dev is no longer a part of Debian Lenny, although it is available from the Etch repositories. You can grab that tarball and manually install it from this page. Oh, and you’ll also need to add the debian-multimedia non-free repositories to your sources.list file in order to obtain libdvdcss… You can find instructions to do that here.

Assuming you’re still with me, and have managed to install all of the above dependencies (all 300+ MB of them), you’ll probably still fail, because the tarballs for the vast majority of them fail to set execute permissions on their configure files on extraction. As such, you’ll have to manually walk through each of the folders under xbmc and add those permissions…

After adding these permissions as deep as I could in the directory structure with the command chmod -R +x */configure (where you can add up to 6 instances of */), and running the XBMC config file a solid 50+ times, I’m stuck on the libdvdnav library, which doesn’t seem to contain a valid config file… Seeing as I have to work tomorrow, I offically give up for now. Christ this must be a small taste of what Gentoo is like all the time.

The Next Morning:

With a clear head and a fresh cup of coffee, I took another shot at installing XBMC.After spending 20 minutes manually installing the libdvdnav, libdvdread, and libdvdcss libraries, I finally managed to run the XBMC configure script with no errors.

After just over a half hour compiling, I finally got XBMC installed and gave it a test run.

Initially, I had troubles connecting to any network shares where my media is stored. After going into the network settings, changing my workgroup name, and telling the app to automatically mount SMB shares, everything seemed peachy.

More to come as I figure this out

Day 12, my current software setup

September 12th, 2009 No comments

It has been almost half a month since the experiment has begun and I think everyone is just getting to the point where they can begin to be truly productive on their systems. As such I just wanted to share my current software setup, as is, and the replacements I am using for the proprietary software packages that I  would have otherwise normally used under a Window’s environment.

Operating System

As you may have already known, I have chosen Fedora 11 as my distribution for this experiment. While it was quite a rocky start, Fedora is proving to be a competent operating system and should fit my needs for the duration of the experiment.

Office & Word Processing

Fedora ships with 3.1.1 as its office suite. I have used in the past and have found it to be a adequate alternative to Microsoft’s Office suite if not without it’s own faults. Perhaps it is just my familiarity with Microsoft’s Office suite but I find to have many odd quirks. For example its ability to open but not save to Office Open XML (*.docx, *.pptx, *.xlsx, etc.) is rather frustrating. I think for the most part I am going to be using’s preferred format, the OpenDocument Format, but I have read numerous issues with this format as well. I guess time will tell if this is a good choice or not.

Moving forward I think I am going to be looking at alternatives to, such as AbiWord or KOffice, just to see if those work better for me.

E-mail Client

As on Windows I am using Thunderbird to manage my e-mail. What’s kind of weird is I can only seem to install the Thunderbird 3 beta version from my repositories. Again you can find my contact information on my page here.


This one was a really a easy choice for me. I have been using Firefox on Windows for a long time. Fedora allows me to run the most recent version which is 3.5.3 as of this writing. My browsing experience has not changed whatsoever from how it was on Windows.

Instant Messaging

On Windows I had been mostly using Windows Live Messenger. Now that I am on Linux I have tried various IM clients including aMSN, Kopete and Pidgin. Of the bunch I think Kopete has a lot of potential but I am sticking with Pidgin. It just seems to do everything and do it mostly right.

Music/Media Management

As an alternative for iTunes I gave Rhythmbox a go and was very impressed. Next I tried Songbird and while there isn’t much difference between the two players, I like the feel of Songbird better. For videos I am still trying to decide whether I prefer VLC or MPlayer. Like Rhythmbox and Songbird there really isn’t much difference between VLC and MPlayer.

Image Manipulation

I have never been a big Photoshop person so my needs in this category were pretty easy to meet. That being said I have settled on using both the GIMP and KolourPaint to fill in any gaps.


In the past I have been primarily a Windows developer using tools such as Visual Studio to get my jobs done. I would be very interested in seeing how Mono development works on Linux but in the meantime I will be using Eclipse’s Java and C/C++ tools as my primary Linux development platform.


Because there is no µTorrent support for Linux, except under Wine, I have decided to use the native client KTorrent for all of my torrenting needs! I find it to be very similar to what I’m used to on Windows so again this is a easy solution for me.

That’s It For Now

I’ll let you know if I find any better alternatives moving forward.

Just wanted to share a fail.

September 12th, 2009 3 comments

I’m back from a brief vacation, where $3 blackjack was the name of the game. Since I didn’t lose all my money I’m in pretty good spirits. That is, up until I booted my Gentoo system and found that I had no sound. This was one thing that worked perfectly on initial installation.

I’ve troubleshooted sound issues with Linux distributions before; usually they came down to hardware that worked fine under Windows, but crackled or stuttered under an open source OS. They also tend to be generally messy, with confusing acronyms and changing buffer timeouts. As such, I was not looking forward to spending time on figuring out something that had already been working.

First of all, what had changed? I powered down my system for four days, so I checked the mixer settings. The PCM volume was down to zero, so I reset it to the picture below; still no audio.

The XFCE mixer, before in-depth troubleshooting

Then I figured I’d check if my speaker system was working. Connecting the stereo minijack plug to my BlackBerry resulted in successfully playing music… so the problem was the computer. Great.

I then noticed a peculiar thing about this screenshot: what are those console buttons all doing turned on? I’ll try turning them off and see what happens – the function of the “link” button is obvious (left channel and right channel volume levels are pulled together), but I’ve never seen a console button in this interface. There’s also no tooltip on the buttons to indicate what they do. I’d thought maybe they’d provide verbose logging of a sound output to the terminal or system log.

Mixer - buttons unchecked

After unchecking them, the “new message” notification sound in Pidgin was a relatively nice reward!

So what happened? Even after changing icon themes within XFCE, the console buttons stay as… consoles. I can only suspect that some KDE packages I installed managed to overwrite the default mute and unmute graphics. Over the next day or so I’m going to reinstall the XFCE icon themes and go from there to see if that takes care of the issue.

Categories: Gentoo, Jake B Tags:

SELinux and printing: Chock full of FAIL.

September 8th, 2009 1 comment

I might be a little frustrated at this point, but please – let me explain myself before you start with the ‘Haha, Linux noobie.’ comments.

After 45 minutes of tinkering, I finally got network printing working on my laptop.  To elaborate, I have a Samsung ML-2510 monochrome laser printer hooked up to my Windows Home Server machine (which I am now able to access no problem), shared across the workgroup. ‘No problem!’ I thought to myself.  ‘Samba loves me.’  Right?

WRONG.  My trials and tribulations first started when adding the printer driver itself.  ‘Input a model here’ taunted me with its ease of use, and sure enough typing in ‘ML-2510’ brought up my printer.  After clicking ‘Forward’ and waiting a moment, there was… nothing.  No driver available for download.

My next roadblock came in the form of the beautiful SELinux feature built into Fedora 11.  For those of you not in the know, SELinux stands for ‘Security-Enhanced Linux’ and basically provides a crap ton of enhanced security policies not otherwise available.  While not a Linux distribution unto itself, many new distributions are starting to include it for added security.  At any rate, SELinux did not at all like my Samsung Unified Printer Driver, available for download from the Samsung site.

30 minutes of frustration later, after test pages failed to print and SELinux reports were being generated en masse, I just turned it onto ‘Permissive’ mode.  Voila!  I could now print.

The only question I can think of from this is ‘Why did they make this so hard?’  It should have, realistically, worked after I installed the Samsung driver and chose my printer.

Day Five, Still Alive

September 8th, 2009 No comments

Just checking in to say so far so good!

Actually I have quite a bit more to say than that. As you all know, I’ve installed Linux Mint, which is basically Linux for Morons. The install was extremely easy and the operating system often works well. Why only “often”? Well, let me put it this way: when Linux works, goddamn does it work well; when it doesn’t, prepare to spend several hours trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Major issues

Linux Mint seems to have a big problem with going into Stanby or Hibernate mode. Basically, reloading the computer to its previous state crashes everything. I believe Tyler told me that it crashes the kernel, and that this is most likely related to my ATI drivers. Hopefully the next kernel patch fixes this. Additionally, my system has locked up several times once booted. I’m not sure what causes this, but it’s happened in Firefox several times, once in Thunderbird, and once in Pidgin. Basically, clicking on a program would crash it. I have since uninstalled several Firefox add-ons – I suspect that FoxyTunes may have been the culprit, but I’m not sure. If I were a decent computer user, I would have removed them one at a time to see what was wrong. That being said, I was in a rush to identify a car part, so I had other priorities at the time.

Minor issues

I’m still having a problem with parts of the screen going black. It doesn’t appear in screenshots, so I’m guessing this is also a driver issue. The video players available really leave a lot to be desired. The main problems are noticeably poorer video when in fullscreen with an interface visible, and that switching between full screen and windowed mode is clumsy and looks like the computer just vomited. I’ve also noticed that the sound on this laptop is significantly quieter than on any of my other machines. When Tyler upgraded his kernel, his sound came back in full force.

Hopefully these issues will be resolved with the new kernel.

Current software

I’ve given up on aMSN and tried out Pidgin, which is a pretty fantastic piece of software. My only complaint is that it doesn’t support webcam, although I’ve been told that that will be coming soon. It also gives me the stupid little plug-ins I so desperately crave, such as virtual dice, 8-balls, and a test-to-speech reader that indulges my juvenile sense of humour. I’ve successfully installed R for statistical analysis, and it was really rather painless once I realized that it’s a terminal program even in Windows (durrr oops). Installing packages and libraries is much easier through Linux than it was on Windows too, but I guess this makes sense since it’s a GNU project. I’ve also started using SongBird instead of RhythmBox, but so far I’ve found that it doesn’t support my keyboard commands. It does, however, support FoxyTunes, which is as frustrating as it is promising because this might be crashing Firefox.

I’ve found that CRON-o-Meter is a suitable calorie counter, although it took a stupid amount of work and a clever script to get going. Creating desktop icons is also extremely easy, if a bit counter-intuitive- just right click the shortcut, click properties, and left-click the icon in the new window.

It also turns out that I’m only running Firefox 3.0, and I can only use Firefox 3.5 as Shiretoko (the development name), which is pretty damn annoying. As far as I can tell, it’s pretty much the same thing as Firefox, just with a different logo.

To-do list

My next two projects are to get my computer to read the network (this is probably Jon’s fault) and to get a rotating wallpaper. Look, I just got a 900p monitor, and it’s about damn time that I had some pretty pictures to look at!

I’m also trying to set up some programs (Thunderbird and SongBird primarily) to always minimize to the tray through AllTray.


The blackening issue

The blackening issue

Categories: God Damnit Linux, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

The trouble with patching your kernel to fix a problem…

September 7th, 2009 No comments

If you remember a while back I was having a world of trouble trying to get my ATi drivers to play nicely with my desktop effects. The end result was me having to patch and rebuild my kernel to make things work the way I wanted them to. Well today I applied some system updates and hidden among them was a kernel update. It turns out that applying this update really messed with my system. Thankfully I was able to fix it by running through the original processes again. Unfortunately I think this means that every time a kernel update come down the pipe I will have to repatch and rebuild my kernel again to get things to work…

Ah well. On the plus side this kernel update fixed a lot of my sound issues!

Alien, OpenPGP & Wine

September 6th, 2009 No comments

Now that the horrors of installation and setup are a part of the past I have been spending my time delving deep into the desktop and the applications. I would like to briefly touch upon three of these.


One of the first things you figure out after you install your distribution of choice is what package manager they are using. Now I’m not talking about Synaptic, mintInstall, or KPackageKit, but rather the packaging format, commonly RPM or DEB. While both of these are excellent they do create problems when you want to install software that only comes in the format that your distribution does not use. This is where alien comes in. Alien is a small command line program that will convert from one package to the other. So I can download a .deb file and use alien to convert it into Fedora’s native .rpm format. It’s simple and works great.


As I am a bit of a privacy nut I have been using Pretty Good Privacy for a while now to secure my e-mail and attachments. My mail client of choice makes this very easy through the use of the Enigmail add-on. What’s even better is Fedora, like most if not all Linux distributions, already ships with the program gpg. GnuPG is a command line application that implements OpenPGP, the open source, fully compatible version of PGP. This means that no matter which program you are using on your system they can all access the same PGP keys seamlessly! I have taken the extra step of generating a GPG key for my e-mail account here, tyler at, which you can find under my page (under Guinea Pigs at the top). I highly recommend anyone who is the least bit computer savvy set themselves up  an key and upload it to a key server. It takes about 1 minute and is very easy to use!


Wine, or Wine Is Not an Emulator, is a Linux program that can run a lot of Window’s programs by tricking them into thinking they are running on a Window’s machine. While I wouldn’t recommend it for everything, Wine is quite powerful and can get you out of a pinch. You can run Windows programs simply by opening a terminal and typing

wine [path to exe]


Notepad running thanks to Wine

Upgrading to Flash 10 in Debian

September 5th, 2009 No comments

Even though the Debian community is very strict about only allowing free software in their repositories, my Iceweasel install came preloaded with Macromedia Flash 9. Regardless of whether this is how things are supposed to be, Flash has since moved on to version 10. Some sites like youtube are already warning users who have lower versions installed that they should upgrade for performance reasons, and Firefox is going to begin to prompt users to upgrade for security reasons.

Regardless of your motivations, having the latest Flash plugin is essential to today’s internet experience, regardless of well placed free software ideals. Luckily, I’ve found a handy tutorial (incredibly, it’s on the Debian Wiki and isn’t horribly out of date) that gives instructions on how to get the latest Flash installed on a Debian system.

It should be noted that the tutorial requires the user to add a non-free repository to their sources list, located in /etc/apt/sources.list file, and that making this change will techinically make your system non stable, in the sense that it will no longer be officially supported by the Debian community. While regrettable, my sources list already contained non-free sources list, as some of my hardware lacks free drivers/firmware, so I’m not terribly concerned.

Fedora FAQ

September 5th, 2009 No comments

I just wanted to quickly mention this awesome website, While it only covers up to Fedora 10 most of what it says is still completely accurate. It has helped me quick a bit get my system up and running, most recently allowing me to use Window’s fonts in Linux!

A Pretty New Desktop Theme

September 5th, 2009 No comments

This morning I spent some more time messing around with Compiz. I followed this tutorial to add an alternative repository to my sources list that keeps a more up to date version of Compiz around. When I ran the install initially, it errored out and broke a couple of my packages, but after fully removing Compiz through Synaptic, I was able to get the install process to work with no issues. It added a number of plugins to Compiz, along with the Emerald Theme Manager.

After messing about with Emerald, grabbing some great new wallpaper from Open Source Wallpaper, and screwing about with the Gnome theme for a few minutes, I ended up with this desktop:

Pretty Desktop

I think that this is a great improvement over the default desktop:

Debian_GNOME Default Desktop

Not entirely awful.

September 4th, 2009 3 comments

So after my initial three-hour fiasco of getting my mouse to work, Gentoo Linux is running in a stable manner on my system. My graphics card, input devices and external drives are all working wonderfully – the ntfs-3g package properly enabled support for my main user account to read and write files off NTFS partitions. Owing in no small part to my OCZ Vertex SSD, the XFCE desktop appears in half a second once I’m logged in.

There’s one remaining issue I have to sort out before I could consider Gentoo a reasonable environment – getting Windows networking up and running. Snow Leopard and Ubuntu have always been acceptable in this matter, but there doesn’t appear to be an XFCE-ish “Network Neighborhood” application readily available. Taking a quick search, it appears that this set of instructions for CIFS should solve my issues, at least from the command line.

More details (and some screenshots) coming as I transition to full-time use over this weekend…

Categories: Gentoo, Jake B, XFCE Tags:

Finally Up and Running

September 3rd, 2009 1 comment

As you may recall, last night, I ruined my system by manually editing the xorg.conf config file according to a sketchy tutorial on the Debian Wiki. This evening, I fixed the problem and got Compiz effects running in all of 20 minutes. The moral of the story: Before fucking about online, use the resources that are right in front of you.

Firstly: Fixing X

When I edited the xorg.conf file last night, I made a mistake, and every time X tried to load on startup, it failed out. At the time, I was bleary-eyed and half in the bag, and didn’t realize that when this happened, Debian presented me with the ability to log into the terminal and fix my silly mistakes.

Refreshed and ready to go, I logged into the terminal as root this evening, loaded the config file in question, took out my changes, saved, and restarted. Lo and behold, everything worked perfectly, and I got my desktop back.

Part B: Getting Compiz

After enabling OpenGL support and 3D hardware acceleration last night, I immediately attempted to get the Compiz suite of relatively useless eye candy nonsense up and running, a process that lead directly to me bricking my system.

The first tutorial that I tried to follow last night instructed me to edit my sources list and download the required packages from a third-party mirror… Until I scrolled down (after already doing all of the suggested actions), and realized that the entire tutorial was outdated because Compiz had since been migrated into the Debian repositories. I more or less succeeded in disabling all of those changes, in the sense that undoing them didn’t break anything apparent.

The next step was a quick dash over to the Debian Wiki for information on how to install Compiz properly, which I assumed could be had from this tutorial. Turns out I was wrong, because while the package installs that it reccomends mostly succeeded, when I tried to enable Compiz, it errored out and locked up my desktop.

Pissed off, I tried making the suggested changes to the xorg.conf file that are suggested in the tutorial, which to my dismay, resulted in X locking up because of errors in my freshly edited config file. This brings us roughly to where I was at with last night’s post.

Once I had restored my desktop and come to my senses, getting Compiz was actually a snap. I launched the Aptitude package manager from a root terminal, searched for the Compiz package, and let it take care of handling any dependencies and conflicts for me. In the process, it handily uninstalled a few garbage packages that I had added last night while fucking things up.

With Compiz properly installed, I used the Synaptic package manager (the graphical front-end to Aptitude) to add the Fusion Icon package (a Compiz control icon) to my taskbar for easy access, and sat back to have a celebratory beer and enjoy me some Wobbly Windows. Another moral for the story: The Debian Wiki sucks, and has lead me astray one too many times. From here on in, I will take everything that it claims with a truckfull of salt.

(Supposed) Icing on the Cake: Screenlets

Lastly, I added the Screenlets package, which allows me to have Vista-like widgets on my desktop that do silly things like monitoring my internals and wasting my system resources. So far, I’ve found the default screenlets to be pretty lame and useless, and I don’t quite understand the process of installing a new screenlet yet. I’ll get back to this in a later post.

How to add audio and video codecs to Fedora 11

September 3rd, 2009 3 comments

By default this distro does not support non-free codecs. After a quick google search I found this quick and easy solution to add audio and video codecs to my Fedora install. Thanks again Tech Jaws.

In a root terminal run these commands

rpm -Uhv


yum install gstreamer-plugins-bad gstreamer-plugins-ugly

That should do it! Full MP3 support!

[UPDATE] I noticed that MP3 support wasn’t working in Amarok so after some googling I corrected this problem by also installing the following.

yum install libtunepimp-extras-nonfree
yum install xine-lib-extras-nonfree