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Archive for October, 2009

Happy Ubuntu Day

October 29th, 2009 No comments

Oh come on, everyone else is doing it.

You can even visit us on Karmic Koala. What doesn't it do?

You can even visit us on Karmic Koala. What doesn't it do?

Love it or hate it Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution to date. While we at The Linux Experiment have not included it amongst our chosen distributions, many of us have had experience with it in the past and look forward to seeing the new features that have been lovingly baked into this release.

Congrats to Canonical et al. for delivering Karmic Koala, hopefully another great version of their staple distribution.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Linux, Tyler B Tags: ,

Quick fix: Compiz on Gentoo, resolving text corruption in terminal

October 26th, 2009 2 comments

This will be a brief reference post mostly for my own benefit, but a good fix for an issue where Compiz shows black boxes or invisible characters in the GNOME terminal when typing:

As for the text corruption issue… Is the “Force X and GLX synchronization” option enabled in the workarounds plugin in ccsm?

In my case, the option was enabled in CompizConfig Settings Manager, but the Workarounds plugin wasn’t:

Enable the Workarounds plugin under the Utilities category

Select the "Force synchronization between X and GLX" checkbox

Hopefully this is useful for those of you using the terminal on a regular basis! I’ll likely have a full update on switching back to GNOME and installing Compiz shortly.




I am currently running various *BSD variants for this Experiment.
I currently run a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux systems for both work and personal use.
For Linux, I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity and still keep Windows 7 around for gaming.
Check out my profile for more information.

Interesting Linux article

October 26th, 2009 4 comments

I stumbled across a very interesting post linked off of Digg, which I browse on a fairly regular basis.  In it, the author attempts to put to rest some of the more common (and, for the most part, completely inaccurate) stories that revolve around various Linux distributions.

Though I think Jake B might have something to say about the first point on the list, it made for interesting reading at the very least – and for the most part, I agree with the author wholeheartedly.  Link after the jump!

Debunking Some Linux Myths

Categories: Dana H, Free Software, Hardware, Linux Tags:

Flash problems in Firefox

October 25th, 2009 5 comments

I mentioned in the podcast that I was having problems viewing Flash stuff in Firefox and I blamed it on KDE. I may have jumped the gun here, because the same issue started cropping up in GNOME. I went on the Linux Mint forums and other users were having similar issues. I’ve run the code that they suggested in the terminal, but I’m not sure if it worked because the problem doesn’t manifest instantly – sometimes it takes over half an hour before websites that run flash white themselves out.

The Linux Experiment Podcast #2: What the Hell [Desktop Environments]?!

October 25th, 2009 2 comments

Hosts: Dana H, Dave L, Jon F, Phil D, Sasha D & Tyler B

Missing in action: Jake B

Show length: 0:40:11

Description:

The second podcast from the guys at The Linux Experiment. In this episode we discuss our experiences with switching desktop environments.

In this episode:

  • What our experiences switching desktop environments has been like (GNOME vs KDE vs XFCE).
  • Clarification of Dana’s post.
  • Our personal pros and cons of each desktop environment.
  • What the hell Linux? A segment where we vent some of our frustrations.

Music:

“City Lights At Night by Revolution Void found on Free Music Archive here.

Get the show:

Listen here:

 




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.

FTP Trials

October 24th, 2009 2 comments

I use FTP for a lot of things, mostly related to website administration. On Windows, my client of choice is WinSCP. It has this great feature that allows you to constantly synchronize a local directory with a remote directory, allowing you to make changes in your local editor of choice, and have them reflected on the site as soon as you save the file.

On Linux, I’ve been remoting into the server via SSH, opening the remote file in nano, and copying and pasting my local code to the server. While the combination of SSH and bash scripting can allow for some really cool code, I’d rather just find an application that mimics the WinSCP functionality that I’m looking for.

To that end, I have raided Synaptic and downloaded as many different graphical FTP clients as I could find. Read on, dear reader, as I delve into the depths of FTP on Linux, and share my findings with you.

1. BareFTP
This app is written in C# (for really cool cross-platform action), and targets the Mono framework on the GNOME desktop environment. It supports the FTP, FTPS, and SFTP protocols, and has a nice, clean looking interface:

bareFTP-Screenshot

It's pretty and functional, no?

I really like this app. It has a nice, intuitive interface, feels quick, and supports bookmarks that let you automatically connect to a remote server and set your local and remote directories with a single button click. Unfortunately, the program does not appear to support any kind of scripting or directory watching, so while it may see use as a client for occasional file transfers, it likely won’t suffice as a WinSCP replacement.

2. Filezilla
Before discoving WinSCP, I used this app for a long time on Windows. It’s an excellent utility that seems to have improved quite a bit since the last time I used it.

More features along with a more cluttered interface.

More features along with a more cluttered interface.

Of particular interest to me are the Synchronized Browsing and Directory Comparison features. The former changes the remote directory whenever you change the local directory, so that you can always keep an eye on the difference between local and remote files. To that end, the latter feature applies a colour coded scheme to both local and remote files so that you know exactly what has been synchronized to the server and what hasn’t. However, like bareFTP, there is no synchronization support.

And Others…
The unfortunate part about this little exercise is that after trying another three FTP clients, I realized that they’re roughly all the same. Sure, some are uglier, like JFTP, and some are uber streamlined like kasablanca. Unfortunately, even though they all do the same task in a slightly different way, none of them do quite what I want.

And so I ask you, the reader – is there an FTP client that allows me to synchronize a local directory with a remote one?




On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

Learning to live with XFCE

October 24th, 2009 2 comments

There’s no doubt that when I initially switched from GNOME to XFCE, I was pretty angry. But hey, you can’t stay mad forever – In time, I’ve learned to appreciate GNOME’s minimalistic cousin for what it is, and (unlike some of the other guys) haven’t yet decided whether or not I’ll be switching back to GNOME tomorrow.

Sure, XFCE was a pain to get set up, but since then, it’s been fast and exceedingly stable. As a point of comparison, while running GNOME, I experienced daily crashes related to a known issue between Compiz and my Intel integrated video card. On XFCE, this issue has yet to manifest itself, although this may also have something to do with all of the upgrades that I made the day before changing desktop environments. With the addition of Compiz, GnomeDo+Docky, and some minor customization, I’ve created a desktop that is pleasing to look at, but remains responsive and lightweight on my aging hardware.

My only major complaint with XFCE remains the organization of the “Start Menu.” While I initially thought that the idea of separate Application, Places, and System menus in GNOME were stupid (having come from a Windows background), I find myself missing them under XFCE. I find their single menu system cluttered and hard to navigate, even with it’s sub-menus. GnomeDo improves things, but only if you know the name of the feature or setting that you’re searching for.

On the other hand, the GNOME community has just released a new version of their desktop environment, and it seems to include some neat new features. More importantly, the GNOME community has done a lot of thinking about where they want to take v3.0, due for release in either March or September of 2010. Some of the most interesting ideas that have come from this brainstorming (in my mind anyway), are a new desktop paradigm, supported mainly by a new compositing engine called Gnome Shell, and a new way of browsing your files called Gnome Zeitgeist. Check out some early demo screens here.

Hell, I might even consider taking the KDE plunge, just to see what all of the rage is about…




On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

KDE on Gentoo: slightly less inflammatory but still difficult

October 24th, 2009 1 comment

After the shitstorm that was Dana’s post about KDE, I figured I’d go into more details about how my day to day use is going.

Multiple Libraries Make Baby Jesus Cry
All the base system software in the Gentoo kdebase-meta package compiles against the QT4 libraries, but many of the optional packages still depend on QT3. Popular programs like KTorrent and AmaroK either still haven’t been updated or tagged in the Portage repository, so at any given time a desktop user will have programs running that use two separate graphical widget libraries. My level of use is such that I have programs running with GTK+, QT3 and QT4 on the same monitor – not to mention apps like Songbird that draw their own custom interface.

From an efficiency and system resource standpoint, this is really poor utilization. I have 4GB of RAM for intensive tasks such as music library organization, not to show slightly different scrollbars and window controls in every third application. Under GNOME 2.26, there was nowhere near this level of display potpourri with the default system utilities. (It also helps that Firefox is GTK+, which is close to the top-used app on my machine.)

Some Applications Just Suck
I’ve attempted to use all of the built-in KDE applications to combat the mismatched desktop effect, and often I’ll find them wanting compared to the GNOME or GTK+ equivalents. Dolphin seems like a very capable file manager, but it will lock up when hovering over some video thumbnails or seemingly randomly when in my home directory. (The rest of the system remains responsive, so it looks like Dolphin’s the culprit.) Konqueror is fast, but the configuration and settings are confusing to say the least – and without proper add-on/AdBlock Plus support, I can’t consider making it my primary browser.

Another example of application suck is ksnapshot, which is supposed to do what you think it would – take screen captures of active windows or the entire desktop. I made the unfortunate selection of selecting to capture a region, specifically the “Settings” menu in Konqueror. After selecting a nice 300×300 pixel area, pressing Enter to confirm the region did nothing. Escape did nothing, nor did any combination of mouse buttons. Since ksnapshot takes focus away from the entire desktop, it wasn’t possible to exit the application. I had to SSH in from another machine and manually kill the process to regain control.

Desktop Effects Are Nice
Once I’d mangled xorg.conf and set up my nVidia drivers in TwinView mode, I still ran into issues enabling the built-in KDE compositing effects. The command in Gentoo to learn is “eselect”, which when combined with “eselect opengl list” allows a display of all the possible OpenGL rendering engines. Apparently even when the nVidia drivers are enabled, one must specifically tell X to use the correct renderer.

The problem I’ve encountered is that while some effects are smooth as butter, such as moving Wobbly Windows, resizing them is delayed and causes display tearing. I have no idea what’s causing this, and the behaviour shouldn’t exist.

Going back to GNOME
As of tomorrow, I have no doubts that I’ll be returning to GNOME for regular desktop use. KDE has some compelling features but my experience with it has been less than ideal. I can’t afford to have my file browser lock up during regular use – and GNOME’s environment seems much more predictable.




I am currently running various *BSD variants for this Experiment.
I currently run a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux systems for both work and personal use.
For Linux, I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity and still keep Windows 7 around for gaming.
Check out my profile for more information.

Miscoloured PNGs: Firefox 3.5.4 Fails It Again

October 20th, 2009 1 comment

The Situation:

A while back I decided to see if I could install Firefox 3.5.4, because I like to live at the bleeding edge. I opted to go with 3.5.4, since version 3.5.3 decided to hue all blue PNG’s orange, as I mentioned in our first podcast.

The Process:

After checking in YaST Software Management to see if I could upgrade from 3.0.14 to 3.5.4 and finding out that no, no I could not, I decided to check my good friend Webpin. Webpin, being literally 1000000 times better than the piece of shit that is YaST Software Management, supplied me with a “one-click install” file for Firefox 3.5.4.

Hooray, Webpin rocks! Or does it...

Hooray, Webpin rocks! Or does it...

I’d like to point out that these one-click install files are hardly one-click. For your viewing pleasure, here is the shit you have to go through to install one of these bad boys:

YaST loaded up.

YaST loaded up.

After hitting next.

After hitting next.

Hitting next again.

Hitting next again.

After hitting next, yet again. Seeing a trend here?

After hitting next, yet again. Seeing a trend here?

Holy dialogs batman! 20 bucks if you can guess my root password!

Holy dialogs batman! 20 bucks if you can guess my root password!

Holy crap its finally installing!

Holy crap its finally installing!

Okay that last one didn't require me to click, but look! YaST fails at resolving a dependency, as usual.

Okay that last one didn't require me to click, but look! YaST fails at resolving a dependency, as usual.

Not only did YaST fail at installing, it also lied and told my the install was successful. I hate liars.

Not only did YaST fail at installing, it also lied and told my the install was successful. I hate liars.

Okay, so Webpin let me down too. That sucked pretty hard, as I like to think of Webpin as useful, and less shitty than YaST Software Management.

As a next-to-last ditch effort, I tried the openSUSE website’s page for Firefox. Here I was provided with yet another lovely one-click installer for the “most recent version of Firefox”. This one worked, and upon restarting Firefox, I was met with… wait for it… orange.

Its like Firefox threw up pumpkin guts all over my PNGs.

Its like Firefox threw up pumpkin guts all over my PNGs.

Checking in YaST Software Management showed a bugfix-type update for Firefox 3.5.4, which is confusing since I thought I just installed the most recent version of Firefox. Giving Mozilla the benefit of the doubt, I tried to update my installation, however once again I was met with an unresolvable dependency for xulrunner. At this point I decided that the bleeding edge had cut me deep enough, and I reverted back to Firefox 3.0.14.

This is what it's suppose to look like. Orange free since version 3?

This is what it's suppose to look like. Orange free since version 3?

The Conclusion:

I’m largely disappointed with this whole situation, and I don’t know if I’m to blame Linux, openSUSE, or Mozilla. Let me know in the comments if you’ve had a similar issue and/or found a way to fix it.

Taking Wine for a spin

October 20th, 2009 3 comments

Wine, or W.I.N.E. Is Not an Emulator, is a set of compatibility libraries that allow some Windows applications to run pseudo naively on Linux by mapping Windows API calls to native Linux calls. In the past I have been sort of successful with using Wine but I have never really given it a good go. So I decided that I should put Wine through it’s paces!

Approach

Rather than approach this from an expert’s standpoint I am going to use Wine starting from a novice’s ability and then move up if needed.

  1. Try and run program from graphical shell
  2. Try and run program from terminal
  3. Try and adjust WINE settings to see if I can make it work
  4. Search the web for ideas and consult Wine’s App DB

The Programs

I have selected a number of different applications to test with Wine – some productive software and some games. I have done no research as to the compatibility of these programs under Wine, they just happen to be easy to use for testing, so it’s going to be a surprise for me no matter what happens. As I’m sure you can tell it’s been a while since I’ve played games on my PC…

First thing we need to do is make sure Wine is installed!

How to install Wine on Fedora 11

Technically all you need to do is:

sudo yum install wine

but you might want to install some of the additional packages as well, just in case!

Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Now that EA has released this game as free getting a copy of it was a simple download. Once downloaded and unzipped I mounted it and tried running the autorun script.

Red Alert autorun

Red Alert autorun

Error

Error

Sadly this resulted in the above error. Next I tried opening it using a simple double-click on the SETUP.EXE. This launched the program but gave me the following error message:

5.1 = Windows XP?

5.1 = Windows XP?

1. Try and run program from graphical shell: FAILURE

With that failure I decided to try and run it from the terminal so that I would at least be able to see errors in the print outs.

wine SETUP.EXE

This however only resulted in the same error message.

2. Try and run program from terminal: FAILURE

If this problem is truly related to the fact that it thinks I’m running Windows XP maybe I can change that. So off to the Wine configuration menu I went and lo and behold I found an option to do just that!

You can even set different programs to think they are running on different versions of Windows!

You can even set different programs to think they are running on different versions of Windows!

This time I got a different error message about not being able to find all of the files. I decided to burn the ISO to a disc to eliminate any problems with the way I mounted it. Putting the newly burned disc into the drive and using the terminal to launch autorun.exe made everything work and the installation finished. A simple click of the menu icon and I was playing Red Alert!

3. Try and adjust Wine settings to see if I can make it work: SUCCESS

Command & Conquer: Red Alert Final Result: SUCCESS

Well that wasn’t so bad. Let’s try the others!

SimCity 3000 Unlimited

The first thing I did was pop the CD in the computer.

In goes SimCity 3000 Unlimited

In goes SimCity 3000 Unlimited

Autorun

Autorun

Which promptly gave me this:

Nothing could be that easy...

Nothing could be that easy...

I even tried browsing to the setup exe’s location and running it directly. Still no luck.

Stop teasing me!

Stop teasing me!

1. Try and run program from graphical shell: FAILED

Next I tried to run the game from the terminal. I navigated to the setup folder and ran the exe with wine.

cd /media/SIMCITY3000/SETUP/ENGLISH/

wine SETUP.EXE

To my amazement this resulted in the installer starting correctly! A couple of quick Next button clicks and some typing of my serial key and the game began to install. Exactly 3 minutes later the game was finished installing. I then navigated to the application through the GNOME menubar:

Applications > Wine > Programs > Maxis > SimCity 3000 Unlimited > SimCity 3000 Unlimited

Holding my breath I clicked the button and… nothing. Hmm. Turning back to the terminal I browsed to the location where Wine installed SimCity on my hard drive and ran the program from there.

cd /home/tyler/.wine/drive_c/Program\ Files/Maxis/SimCity\ 3000\ Unlimited/Apps/

wine sc3U.exe

This presented me with the following error screen… about 30 times until I killed it from the terminal.

I just kept on getting this error message... over and over and over and over...

I just kept on getting this error message... over and over and over and over...

2. Try and run program from terminal: FAILED

I looked around in the Wine settings and couldn’t find anything that would be causing the game to fail so miserably so I gave up on this step.

3. Try and adjust Wine settings to see if I can make it work: FAILED

Turning to the web I quickly looked up “SimCity 3000″ on Wine’s App DB. From the look of things SimCity 3000 works with Wine but SimCity 3000 Unlimited does not.

4. Search the web for ideas and consult Wine’s App DB: FAILED

SimCity 3000 Unlimited Final Result: FAILED

Try as I might SimCity 3000 Unlimited just does not work under Wine.

Stronghold

Once again I started by inserting the CD-ROM and tried to run the autorun that popped up.

stronghold

Will this work better than SimCity?

Will this autorun work?

Will this autorun work?

CRAP!

CRAP!

Next I tried once again browsing to the CD-ROM in Nautilus.

Do I run autoplay.exe?

Do I run autoplay.exe?

Or maybe Setup.exe? Or even Stronghold.exe?

Or maybe Setup.exe? Or even Stronghold.exe?

Unfortunately once again no success using the graphical shell.

1. Try and run program from graphical shell: FAILURE

After that, and recognizing the limited success I had with SimCity, I repeated the steps but this time using the terminal. To my surprise the installer appeared!

cd /media/030819_1208/

wine autoplay.exe

A little over 4 minutes later the game finished installing and I was presented with the launch screen. Again I held my breath and clicked on Play. It launched! Holy crap it’s actually working… well… sort of. Something wasn’t quite right so I closed the application and opened up Wine configuration. In that window I checked the box next to “emulate a virtual desktop” and set the resolution to 800×600. Once again I restarted Stronghold… GREAT SUCCESS! It worked flawlessly!

2. Try and run program from terminal: SUCCESS

Stronghold Final Result: SUCCESS

Stronghold proves that Wine is capable of providing a seemingly fully compatible Windows experience.

Notepad++

After a quick download from the SourceForge website I began, again, by trying to run the installer from the graphical shell.

Can you guess what happened next?

Can you guess what happened next?

1. Try and run program from graphical shell: FAILURE

Back to the command line I went and after entering the typical commands I was once again presented with the installer.

cd ~/Desktop/

wine npp.5.5.1.Installer.exe

By this point I honestly don’t know why Wine has a graphical launch option or why it fails so badly. Less than a minute later, using the terminal, Notepad++ was up and running perfectly, albeit with some odd graphical issues.

Notice how the text doesn't look quite right?

Notice how the text doesn't look quite right?

2. Try and run program from terminal: SUCCESS

Notepad++ Final Result: SUCCESS

While not without its odd graphical problems, Notepad++ seems completely stable and quite usable on the Linux desktop.

µTorrent

After three successes I was on a roll and jumped over to the µTorrent website in anticipation of another success.

I’ll save you the details,

1. Try and run program from graphical shell: FAILURE

Turning to the trusty terminal (wow that was a lot of t-words) I started up utorrent.exe with Wine.

wine utorrent.exe

The install went fine and even placed a desktop launcher on my desktop when I clicked the ‘Create Desktop Icon’ box. Running the application proved to be a bit more challenging and when I tried to run it from Wine’s Program Files using the following command,

wine ~/.wine/drive_c/Program\ Files/uTorrent/uTorrent.exe

I was presented with some rather odd behaviour in the form of another installation. In fact no matter what I did I couldn’t get it to work.

2. Try and run program from terminal: FAILURE

Again I poked around in the Wine settings but there just didn’t seem to be anything in there that would help.

3. Try and adjust Wine settings to see if I can make it work: FAILURE

Getting frustrated I turned to the internet, specifically Wine’s App DB, for help. I tried following a number of suggestions but nothing seemed to work. I even ended up on µTorrent’s Wikipedia page but still nothing. On a funny note, Wikipedia lists µTorrent’s platforms as “Wine officially supported”.

4. Search the web for ideas and consult WINE’s App DB: FAILURE

µTorrent Final Result: FAILURE

Try as I might I just can’t get this BitTorrent client to work properly.

Internet Explorer 8

Once again I started by using the graphical shell – although I honestly didn’t believe it would work. And guess what?

1. Try and run program from graphical shell: FAILURE

Following the pattern I tried the terminal next. This started up the application but ended abruptly when IE prompted me saying that “This installation does not support your system architecture (32/64 bits)”. That doesn’t make sense though because the Internet Explorer I downloaded was for x86…

2. Try and run program from terminal: FAILURE

Poking around again in Wine’s configuration proved to be fruitless. There just didn’t seem to be any way to tell it to run the application as x86.

3. Try and adjust Wine settings to see if I can make it work: FAILURE

Finally I turned to the web and searched the App DB for Internet Explorer 8. This made it pretty clear that I wasn’t going to get IE 8 to work under Wine as every version listed, aside from 1.0 and 1.5, had a rating of Garbage – Wine’s worst compatibility rating.

4. Search the web for ideas and consult Wine’s App DB: FAILURE

Internet Explorer 8 Final Result: FAILURE

I guess Microsoft’s iconic browser was just not meant to play nicely with Tux.

Well there you have it

I have put Wine through its paces and while there were quite a bit of failures I am very impressed. Wine might just spark a trip down memory lane with my favorite Windows game classics!




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.