Archive for October, 2009

Portage drops the canoe, crushing my Gentoo installation

October 13th, 2009 No comments

In the process of migrating to KDE as my desktop environment (selected as I have no experience with the newest versions, and I want an entire desktop environment as opposed to just a window manager) I decided to use the fateful eselect profile utility.

Gentoo has a system profile selector, where you can choose the Portage profile that best suits your environment and needs for the computer. My existing profile was default/linux/amd64/2008.0, and I decided to switch to default/linux/amd64/10.0/desktop. I then ran emerge –update –deep –newuse world to completely rebuild and update packages accordingly.

Bad idea.

Portage indicated that I had hundreds of dependency conflicts and refused to update or install additional packages, no doubt aggravated by my use of “autounmask” and Portato’s dependency resolver. The most visible problem was Ekiga depending on GTK+ 2.6, which depends on GNOME 2.26, which itself depends on Ekiga. It was a giant circular mess that left me unable to resolve dependencies. I tried all the traditional fixes, including depclean and trying to reset my package.keywords file.

Faced with an intermittently working desktop, I flattened and reinstalled the system last night and am continuing to get things back up in working order, this time with the QT libraries enabled. (KDE is currently compiling – I’m using twm, the default X window manager, to run a web browser.) A few things I noticed this time around:

  • Don’t necessarily put a whole ton of USE flags in your /etc/make.conf file at first. Portage is pretty good at telling you if a flag is required for a package, and you can always recompile something if you need to.
  • In the latest amd64/10.0/desktop profile, comes with version 1.6. I had no end of difficulty getting an xorg.conf file created with X -configure – it would start and load with only a black screen. I ended up running using startx, then using nvidia-config to generate a base file.
  • evdev (for input device support) works great, provided you have hal and dbus USE flags and the appropriate daemons are started. I didn’t even have to touch the input device section of xorg.conf.
  • Select your system profile first, before changing it will cause grief!

I am currently running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for a home server, with a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux clients for both work and personal use.
I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity - XFCE is much more my style of desktop interface.
Check out my profile for more information.

The road to GNOME

October 12th, 2009 2 comments

As you know we are all going to be transitioning from our current desktop environment (DEs) to something new. I did a bit of quick research and it seems as though Fedora offers the following DE options: KDE, GNOME, Xfce, LXDE. However because KDE is my current DE I  obviously can’t use that one.

Goodbye KDE, you served me well

Goodbye KDE, you served me well


Let me start by saying I didn’t chose LXDE as my replacement. With that out of the way I think LXDE could have a lot of potential given the right scenario for its use. From what I have read, it is an extremely light-weight DE that is mostly menu driven. So much so that you can actually script the right-click menu!


I consider Xfce to be GNOME-lite, and I mean that in a good way. It is designed to remove some of the clutter found in more fully-fledged DEs, thus speeding up your ability to be productive. However with my system’s beefy specs and the fact that I have been running KDE this whole time I doubt I need to shed that much DE weight.


GNOME is the default desktop for Fedora and something that I had initially passed up in order to differentiate my experience from that of Dana’s. Now though it seems as though GNOME is the best (for me!) alternative to KDE.


After some quick Googling I found a forum post that described installing GNOME through yum by typing the following command into a terminal:

sudo yum groupinstall “GNOME Desktop Environment”

I could only assume that this means that yum will go out and grab anything that has to do with the string “GNOME Desktop Environment”. So I bravely hit the Enter key only to be presented with a list of 57 packages that needed to be installed for 106MiB worth of download!

Is this ok [y/N]: y

The downloads were actually very quick with an average speed somewhere between 650KiB/s and 1MiB/s. The install process on the other hand took significantly longer. Once it was finished I decided to reboot (just in case!) before switching the session options to load GNOME instead of KDE.

First impressions

Oh god what am I doing here? I am not very good with GNOME. It seems as though the first thing GNOME did was get rid of my pretty KDE log in screen and replace it with a sparse looking GNOME one. Par for the course I suppose. A quick switch of Sessions from KDE to GNOME and I logged in.

My new GNOME desktop

My new GNOME desktop

Once my desktop loaded GNOME presented me with a pop-up telling me to unlock the default keyring. Is this the same as kwallet? Apparently not because I had to keep guessing passwords until I finally hit the right one.

Holy crap! My wireless actually connected without prompting me for the wifi password. That is a feakin’ miracle!

The next thing I did was try and install Compiz, which enables desktop effects for GNOME. This took some work but eventually I got it to work by running the following command:

sudo yum install -y ccsm emerald-themes compizconfig-backend-gconf fusion-icon-gtk emerald compiz-fusion compiz-fusion-gnome yum install -y ccsm emerald-themes compizconfig-backend-gconf fusion-icon-gtk emerald compiz-fusion compiz-fusion-gnome libcompizconfig compiz-gnome compiz-bcop compiz compizconfig-python compiz-fusion-extras compiz-fusion-extras-gnomelibcompizconfig compiz-gnome compiz-bcop compiz compizconfig-python compiz-fusion-extras compiz-fusion-extras-gnome

and then turning on some effects within CompizConfig Settings Manager.

CompizConfig Settings Manager

CompizConfig Settings Manager

Next I had to turn off some stupid default setting that made my file manager open a new window for every folder I browsed into. I don’t know why this was enabled by default but it was awful and had to go.



To finish things off I quickly install GNOME Do and set it’s theme to Docky at the recommendation of Phil D. And welcome to my new desktop!

Is this Mac OSX?

Is this Mac OSX?


I haven’t had a long time to play with GNOME on Fedora yet but I will certainly be comparing it to KDE along the way. So far from what I’ve seen GNOME seems to be a little bit snappier. Another thing I noticed was that while both KDE and GNOME can mount Windows shares, GNOME can’t seem to write to them for some reason. I actually quickly booted back into KDE to make sure this wasn’t just a fluke and sure enough KDE could still write to those same shares. On the plus side KDE now also remembers my WiFi password!

2 weeks and counting…

That’s all for now. In the two weeks leading up to our next podcast I will continue to post about new discoveries and little differences between GNOME and KDE. Until then…

I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
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).

Well shit, that was easy

October 12th, 2009 1 comment

One of my big griefs with Mint was that the sound was far too quiet. I assumed this was some sort of hardware compatibility issue. Apparently it’s not and it’s really easy to fix. Essentially, the default “front speaker” volume is not at the max level. While this has given me a great max volume, my latest problem is getting Mint to increment/decrement the volume properly – the master volume is essentially muted at 70%. That being said, I’m glad I can finally watch online videos from my laptop without needing headphones or a soundproof room.

Categories: Hardware, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

Happy turkey day!

October 12th, 2009 No comments

I’d just like to wish a happy, safe, and food-filled Thanksgiving to all of our Canadian readers out there.  Enjoy yourselves – go forth and be merry!

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

Climate Change

October 11th, 2009 No comments

Here at The Linux Experiment we are all about shaking things up. After all, we have committed to using Linux for four whole months just to see if we could! The next big thing that we are going to introduce into the experiment is a little environmental change. No I don’t mean the Al Gore kind of environment, but rather the desktop environment like GNOME or KDE.

For a week or so, leading up to the recording of our next podcast, each of us will be switching our current desktop environment to something else. The point is to once more branch out of our comfort zones a little bit and see if we don’t end up liking something else better!

Stay tuned!

The problem with Gentoo: my reactions

October 9th, 2009 1 comment

One of the articles Tyler passed me this morning was a brief post on three problems with Gentoo by Dion Moult. There are a few things he’s mentioned that I definitely agree with. Having used the distribution for a little over a month, some minor changes would go a long way to making the experience less painful and more usable.

Updated Documentation
This is the biggest factor that I think impacts Gentoo uptake, adoption and continued use. While the installation guide is very detailed, it’s beginning to show its age: there’s no mention of the ext4 filesystem, and it only details XFS briefly. Since choosing a filesystem and partitioning scheme is one of the first things that needs to be done during the installation process, it’s important to give the most amount of information possible to prevent users from having to change things down the line.

Likewise, the configuration guide discusses the difference between using /dev/input/mice and /dev/mouse as a pointer input device, but both configurations neglect the more recent evdev and HAL. To their credit, the wiki maintainers indicate that the information is out of date, but getting up and running is absolutely essential for a desktop or workstation configuration.

Dion mentions that things should just work out of the box. As far as hardware goes, my only difficulty so far has been getting my mouse to work (due to the evdev/HAL issue mentioned above.) I run an nVidia card and by following the nVidia guide, I had no issues with getting accelerated graphics working. Likewise, after installing GNOME and setting USE flags, my external hard drives and USB devices are now working consistently.

Since my main machine is a desktop, I haven’t really investigated the usual problem points of hibernate and standby. One thing that might improve compatibility would be an installer or set of meta-packages that takes care of the hardware usually present for desktops or laptops. For example, a set of common wireless modules, power management tools and ACPI/DSDT fixes would provide a convenient way to get a netbook or laptop user up and running.

Better communication between developers and users
I also agree that when developers maintain a dialog with their users, it’s much easier to understand the rationale behind program design decisions or why a package isn’t included in the distribution. As of this point, I have no idea why the default KDE version in Gentoo is 3.5 – and searching through bug reporting databases isn’t an easy way to figure this out. I expect it’s due to stability concerns, but at least make the reasons behind that known. Providing easy instructions for adding overlays or unmasking packages to achieve a user’s goals also helps foster good relationships.

The Songbird ebuild is another case in which I don’t know what to do. Is there a way to install the package or not? I’m satisfied with the stability of Songbird on my own system, but there’s no clear and easy way to get it loaded into Portato.

Perhaps the only way to really understand the Gentoo installation process is to install Gentoo itself, then try again and use what you’ve learned. :)

I am currently running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for a home server, with a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux clients for both work and personal use.
I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity - XFCE is much more my style of desktop interface.
Check out my profile for more information.

Where did my Desktop go?!?!

October 8th, 2009 3 comments

My desktop used to have icons… And when I right-clicked on it, a fancy little menu came up that let me do things to it. It is now missing in action – and I think I might know why.

This afternoon, I was tidying up my home folder, carelessly deleting some crap that I didn’t think I needed anymore, when I deleted a folder called file: that seemed only to contain the the directories /home/jon/Desktop. I drilled all the way down into this directory, concluded that it was empty, and deleted it. A few moments later, my desktop disappeared.


Edit: I restored the folder to it’s original location and restarted the machine; Everything was back to normal, but I don’t understand the significance of that directory. It doesn’t appear to contain anything, even from a root terminal.

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.

Impending Upgrades

October 7th, 2009 5 comments

Here’s another fun little tidbit – today I tried to use Writer seriously for the first time, and realized rather quickly that I was running version 2.1 of same. For those who don’t already know, was close on unusable prior to version 3.x. While it has since matured into a very capable suite of programs, the first few versions were just awful. In particular, I couldn’t get the formatting correct on a numbered list with bullet-ted sub-points.

A quick apt-get -t lenny-backports install did the trick, and removed my system-wide dictionary as a bonus. Now both Icedove (Thunderbird) and Pidgin claim that everything that I type is spelled incorrectly. A quick check with Synaptic confirmed that the aspell package had mysteriously disappeared from my system; when I tried to mark it for re-installation, Synaptic refused, claiming that it aspell depended on a package called dictionaries-common, which wasn’t going to be installed for some unspecified reason. Christ.

Figuring that it was a version issue (since the only thing that has changed on my system is my version of, I tried apt-get -t lenny-backports install aspell. It worked, and also warned me that my upgrade had left about 25 packages lying about that ought to be removed:

bluez-gnome, libmtp7, python-notify, obex-data-server, libgda3-common, python-gnome2-extras, evolution-exchange, rhythmbox, system-config-printer,
libgpod3, gnome-themes-extras, bluez-utils, python-eggtrayicon,, libxalan2-java, python-4suite-xml, libgda3-3,
transmission-common, libgdl-1-0, libxalan2-java-gcj, serpentine, transmission-gtk, libgdl-1-common, gnome-vfs-obexftp

The strange thing is that some of those packages look like they might be required by software other than You know, like Evolution, or maybe Transmission? What the hell is going on here? I’m upgrading to the Testing repositories as soon as I get the chance. Hopefully that will solve some of my old-ass-software issues.

The Linux Experiment Podcast #1: The Pilot

October 5th, 2009 9 comments

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

Missing in action: Sasha D

Show length: 1:08:59


The first podcast from the guys at The Linux Experiment. It’s our pilot episode, so please bear with us on the length and the quality. We’re still learning how to use the Tux!

In this episode:

  • What our experiences have been like so far.
  • Dave L and Phil D compare experiences with openSUSE while Dana H and Tyler B contrast experiences with Fedora.
  • What the hell Linux? A segment where we vent some of our frustrations.
  • Shout out to mintCast


“Han Solo” by Superbus found on Free Music Archive here.

Get the show:

Listen here:



October 5th, 2009 No comments

We decided that we should have a mascot for the site and for the experiment so we cooked one up this afternoon that we would like to share with you now! His name is Dr. Theodore L. Engelbart which we think makes him sound important. Truth be told we just wanted a name with initials that matched The Linux Experiment. We did our best…

Yes, he IS a penguin mad scientist dressed in a lab coat.

Yes, he IS a penguin mad scientist dressed in a lab coat

And just for fun we decided to include an ASCII art version, just for you. Click here to view that.

Technical details

  • Created in Linux
  • Created using KolourPaint initially
  • Finished up using GIMP

Ted’s going to be showing up in a few more places moving forward so be sure and keep an eye out for him 😉

TrueCrypt, kernel compilation and where’d /boot go?

October 5th, 2009 1 comment

Since I’ve installed Gentoo, I haven’t had access to my other drives. One of them is an NTFS-formatted WD Raptor, and the other is a generic Seagate 300GB drive that contains my documents, pictures and Communist propaganda inside a TrueCrypt partition. Getting the Raptor to work was fairly simple (as far as Gentoo goes) – I added the entry to my /etc/fstab file and then manually mounted the partition:

/dev/sdb1               /mnt/raptor     ntfs-3g         noatime         0 0

The TrueCrypt drive proved to be more of an issue. After installing the software and attempting to mount the partition, I encountered an error:

device-mapper: reload ioctl failed: Invalid argument 
Command failed

A quick Bing and the Gentoo Wiki described this problem exactly, with the caveat that I had to recompile my kernel to add support for LRW and XTS support. Into the kernel configuration I went – the only difference I noticed is that LRW and XTS are considered “EXPERIMENTAL” but aren’t noted as such on the requirements page:

Kernel configuration options

(This may come down to an x64 vs. x86 issue, but I haven’t run into any issues with these options enabled (yet!))

Of course, then came the make && make modules_install commands, which didn’t take too long to complete. The question then became, how do I install the new kernel? Looking in my /boot partition, I only had a few template files – and not the kernel itself or any grub settings. Essentially, /boot had nothing in it but the system still launches properly!

I then tried mounting /dev/sda1 manually, and the kernel and grub.conf showed up properly in the mountpoint. Something is obviously wrong with the way my system remounts /boot during the startup process, but at least now I’m able to install the new kernel. After copying /arch/x86_64/boot/bzImage to the newly available directory, I rebooted and the new kernel was picked up properly. TrueCrypt now lets me open, create and delete files from /media/truecrypt1, and automatically uses ntfs-3g support to accomplish this.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased at how easily I can recompile a kernel, and installation was seamless once I figured out that /boot wasn’t pointing to the right location. I expect I’ll try and manually remove the directory from /dev/sda3 and see if that makes a difference.

I am currently running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for a home server, with a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux clients for both work and personal use.
I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity - XFCE is much more my style of desktop interface.
Check out my profile for more information.

Blackbery Sync Attempt #3: Compiling from Source

October 5th, 2009 7 comments

After my first two attempts at getting my Blackberry to sync with Mozilla Thunderbird, I got pissed off and went right to the source of my problems. I emailed the developer of the opensync-plugin-mozilla package that (allegedly) allows Thunderbird to play nicely with OpenSync, and gave him the what for, (politely) asking what I should do. He suggested that I follow the updated installation instructions for checking out and compiling the latest version of his plugin from scratch instead of using the older, precompiled versions that are no longer supported.

I set to it, first removing all of the packages that I had installed during my last two attempts, excluding Barry, as I had already built and installed the latest version of its libraries. Everything else, including OpenSync and all of its plugins went, and I started from scratch. Luckily, the instructions were easy to follow, although they recommended that I get the latest versions of some libraries by adding Debian’s sid repositories to my sources list. This resulted in me shitting my pants later in the day, when I saw 642 available updates for my system in Synaptic. I figured out what was going on pretty quickly and disabled updates from sid, without ruining my system. If there’s one thing that Windows has taught me over the years, it is to never set a machine to auto-install updates.

Once I had the source code and dependency libraries, the install was a snap. The plugin source came with a utils directory full of easy to use scripts that automated most of the process. With everything going swimmingly, I was jarred out of my good mood by a nasty error that occurred when I ran the script:

CMake Error at cmake/modules/FindPkgConfig.cmake:357 (message):
None of the required ‘libopensync1;>=0.39’ found
Call Stack (most recent call first):
cmake/modules/FindOpenSync.cmake:27 (PKG_SEARCH_MODULE)
CMakeLists.txt:15 (FIND_PACKAGE)

CMake Error at cmake/modules/FindOpenSync.cmake:46 (MESSAGE):
OpenSync cmake modules not found.  Have you installed opensync core or did
you set your PKG_CONFIG_PATH if installing in a non system directory ?
Call Stack (most recent call first):
CMakeLists.txt:15 (FIND_PACKAGE)

It turns out that the plugin requires OpenSync v0.39 or greater to be installed to work. Of course, the latest version of same in either the Debian main or lenny-backports repositories is v0.22-2. This well-aged philosophy of the Debian Stable build has irked me a couple of times now, and I fully intend to update my system to the testing repositories before the end of the month. In any case, I quickly made my way over to the OpenSync homepage to obtain a newer build of their libraries. There I found out not only that version 0.39 had just been released on September 21st, and also that it isn’t all that stable:

Releases 0.22 (and 0.2x svn branch) and before are considered stable and suitable for production. 0.3x releases introduce major architecture and API changes and are targeted for developers and testers only and may not even compile or are likely to contain severe bugs.

0.3x releases are not recommended for end users or distribution packaging.

Throwing caution to the wind, I grabbed a tarball of compilation scripts from the website, and went about my merry way gentooing it up. After a couple of minor tweaks to the script, I got the cmpOpensync script to run, which checked out the latest trunk from the svn, and automatically compiled and installed it for me. By running the command msynctool –version, I found out that I now had OpenSync v0.40-snapshot installed. Relieved, I headed back to my BlueZync installation. This time around, I managed to get right up to the script before encountering another horrible dependency error:

— checking for one of the modules ‘glib-2.0’
—   found glib-2.0, version 2.16.6
— Found GLib2: glib-2.0 /usr/include/glib-2.0;/usr/lib/glib-2.0/include
— Looking for include files HAVE_GLIB_GREGEX_H
— Looking for include files HAVE_GLIB_GREGEX_H – found
— checking for one of the modules ‘libxml-2.0’
—   found libxml-2.0, version 2.6.32
— checking for one of the modules ‘libopensync1’
—   found libopensync1, version 0.40-snapshot
— checking for one of the modules ‘thunderbird-xpcom;icedove-xpcom’
—   found icedove-xpcom, version
—     THUNDERBIRD_XPCOM_MAIN_INCLUDE_DIR /usr/include/icedove
—     NSPR_MAIN_INCLUDE_DIR /usr/include/nspr
—     THUNDERBIRD_XPCOM_LIBRARIES xpcom;plds4;plc4;nspr4;pthread;dl
— checking for one of the modules ‘sunbird-xpcom;iceowl-xpcom’
—   found iceowl-xpcom, version 0.8
SUNBIRD_INCLUDE_DIRS /usr/include/iceowl;/usr/include/iceowl/xpcom;/usr/include/iceowl/string;/usr/include/nspr
—      SUNBIRD_MAIN_INCLUDE_DIR /usr/include/iceowl
— Found xpcom (thunderbird and sunbird):
—   XPCOM_INCLUDE_DIRS /usr/include/nspr;/usr/include/icedove;/usr/include/icedove/addrbook;/usr/include/icedove/extensions;/usr/include/icedove/rdf;/usr/include/icedove/string;/usr/include/icedove/xpcom_obsolete;/usr/include/icedove/xpcom;/usr/include/icedove/xulapp;/usr/include/iceowl
—   XPCOM_LIBRARY_DIRS /usr/lib/icedove
—   XPCOM_LIBRARIES xpcom;plds4;plc4;nspr4;pthread;dl
XPCOM_LIBRARIES  xpcom;plds4;plc4;nspr4;pthread;dl
— checking for one of the modules ‘check’
CMake Error at cmake/modules/FindPkgConfig.cmake:357 (message):
None of the required ‘check’ found
Call Stack (most recent call first):
cmake/modules/FindCheck.cmake:27 (PKG_SEARCH_MODULE)
CMakeLists.txt:73 (FIND_PACKAGE)

CMAKING mozilla-sync 0.1.7
— Configuring done

From what I can gather from this output, the configuration file was checking for dependencies, and got hung up on one called “check.” Unfortunately, this gave me zero information that I could use to solve the problem. I can verify that the install failed by running msynctool –listplugins, which returns:

Available plugins:
msynctool: symbol lookup error: msynctool: undefined symbol: osync_plugin_env_num_plugins

Ah, shit. Looks like I’m stuck again. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out. Until then, if any of our readers has ever seen something like this, I could use a couple of pointers.


October 4th, 2009 No comments

I swear that I’ve encountered this before…

That is all.

Categories: Flash, God Damnit Linux, Hardware, Jon F, Linux Tags:

Perhaps the most useful Songbird addon ever: The Exorcist

October 3rd, 2009 4 comments

Mad props (to use some ‘hip’ language) to the developers of The Exorcist, a Media View plugin for Songbird that does two things, and does them very well:

  • Finds and removes duplicate tracks from a Songbird library.
  • Finds and removes ‘ghost’ tracks (files no longer present on the filesystem) from a Songbird library.

These two issues are the most frequent contributors to “iTunes library rot” on my Mac – try as I might, somehow my library always gets desynchronized from the actual filesystem and it’s just easier to rebuild it every few months. The Exorcist looks like it’ll help me avoid this problem!

I am currently running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for a home server, with a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux clients for both work and personal use.
I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity - XFCE is much more my style of desktop interface.
Check out my profile for more information.

WTF #17(qq)

October 2nd, 2009 No comments

It’s no secret that Linux, as with any other operating system (and yes, I realize that I just grouped all Linux distributions into a collective) has its idiosyncrasies.  The little things that just sort of make me cock my head to the side and wonder why I’m doing this to myself, or make me want to snap my entire laptop in half.

One of these things is something Tyler previously complained about – a kernel update on Fedora 11 that just happened to tank his graphics capabilities.  Now, I might just be lucky but why in the hell would Fedora release a kernel update before compatibility for two major graphics card manufacturers wasn’t released yet?

Fortunately for Tyler, a kmod-catalyst driver was released for his ATI graphics card yesterday (today?) and he’s now rocking the latest kernel with the latest video drivers.  Unfortunately for me, some slacker has yet to update my kmod-nvidia drivers to operate properly with the latest kernel.

While this is more of a rant than anything else, it’s still a valid point.  I’ve never had trouble on a Windows-based machine wherein a major update will cause a driver to no longer function (short of an actual version incrementation – so of course, I would expect Windows XP drivers to not function in Vista, and Vista drivers to not function in Windows 7; similarly, I would not expect Fedora 11 drivers to function in Fedora 12).

<end rant>

Top 10 things I have learned since the start of this experiment

October 2nd, 2009 4 comments

In a nod to Dave’s classic top ten segment I will now share with you the top 10 things I have learned  since starting this experiment one month ago.

10: IRC is not dead

Who knew? I’m joking of course but I had no idea that so many people still actively participated in IRC chats. As for the characters who hang out in these channels… well some are very helpful and some… answer questions like this:

Tyler: Hey everyone. I’m looking for some help with Gnome’s Empathy IM client. I can’t seem to get it to connect to MSN.

Some asshat: Tyler, if I wanted a pidgin clone, I would just use pidgin

It’s this kind of ‘you’re doing it wrong because that’s not how I would do it’ attitude can be very damaging to new Linux users. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to get help and someone throwing BS like that back in your face.

9: Jokes about Linux for nerds can actually be funny

Stolen from Sasha’s post.

Admit it, you laughed too

Admit it, you laughed too

8. Buy hardware for your Linux install, not the other way around

Believe me, if you know that your hardware is going to be 100% compatible ahead of time you will have a much more enjoyable experience. At the start of this experiment Jon pointed out this useful website. Many similar sites also exist and you should really take advantage of them if you want the optimal Linux experience.

7. When it works, it’s unparalleled

Linux seems faster, more featured and less resource hogging than a comparable operating system from either Redmond or Cupertino. That is assuming it’s working correctly…

6. Linux seems to fail for random or trivial reasons

If you need proof of these just go take a look back on the last couple of posts on here. There are times when I really think Linux could be used by everyone… and then there are moments when I don’t see how anyone outside of the most hardcore computer users could ever even attempt it. A brand new user should not have to know about xorg.conf or how to edit their DNS resolver.

Mixer - buttons unchecked

5. Linux might actually have a better game selection than the Mac!

Obviously there was some jest in there but Linux really does have some gems for games out there. Best of all most of them are completely free! Then again some are free for a reason



4. A Linux distribution defines a lot of your user experience

This can be especially frustrating when the exact same hardware performs so differently. I know there are a number of technical reasons why this is the case but things seem so utterly inconsistent that a new Linux user paired with the wrong distribution might be easily turned off.

3. Just because its open source doesn’t mean it will support everything

Even though it should damn it! The best example I have for this happens to be MSN clients. Pidgin is by far my favourite as it seems to work well and even supports a plethora of useful plugins! However, unlike many other clients, it doesn’t support a lot of MSN features such as voice/video chat, reliable file transfers, and those god awful winks and nudges that have appeared in the most recent version of the official client. Is there really that good of a reason holding the Pidgin developers back from just making use of the other open source libraries that already support these features?

2. I love the terminal

I can’t believe I actually just said that but it’s true. On a Windows machine I would never touch the command line because it is awful. However on Linux I feel empowered by using the terminal. It lets me quickly perform tasks that might take a lot of mouse clicks through a cumbersome UI to otherwise perform.

And the #1 thing I have learned since the start of this experiment? Drum roll please…

1. Linux might actually be ready to replace Windows for me

But I guess in order to find out if that statement ends up being true you’ll have to keep following along 😉

Resolving the DNS Issue Once and For All

October 2nd, 2009 3 comments

A little while ago, I wrote about problems that I was having with my laptop not resolving DNS requests. After I restarted today (because X11 crashed, but that’s a whole other can of worms), it started happening again, even though I had fixed the problem once before. Turns out that the big warning banner at the top of the resolv.conf file was relevant, and that my changes were eventually lost, just not on the first reboot.

So I moved back to my Windows machine for a few minutes to hit up the #debian IRC channel, where I explained my issue and what I had done to solve it last time. Luckily, somebody there presented me with a new solution to the issue that should persist restarts. Instead of making edits directly to resolv.conf, I was instructed to add a prepend line to the /etc/dhcp3/dhclient.conf file:

#add a prepend line to fix DNS issues
prepend domain-name-servers;

Where the IP address is the IP of your DNS server (OpenDNS, in my case). After saving the file, I ran

/etc/init.d/resolvconf restart

to apply the changes and restart the DNS lookup service thinger. I know that doesn’t sound very technical, but I honestly don’t know anything about the part of the network stack in Debian is responsible for DNS lookups, aside from the fact that it may or may not be called resolvconf, so you’ll have to live with it.

In any case, this seems to have worked quite well, so check into it if you’re having problems resolving DNS addresses on your machine.

Suriving September with The Linux

October 2nd, 2009 No comments

It’s been about a month now and my computer hasn’t melted down, so this is a good sign. Additionally, I haven’t been forced to drop out of any of my courses due to technical incompetence.

The Good

  • Linux Mint is fast as hell. Coming from a Windows background, I’m amazed at how quickly my computer boots up and shuts down. Installing programs is (usually) a breeze, and I rarely have to restart my computer against my will.
  • It looks very nice for an open-source OS, and there are a bunch of skins offered.
  • I’ve found open source alternatives to pretty much every program I used in Windows. OpenOffice.Org has effectively replaced MS Office, Pidgin matches MSN messenger, and Deluge works just as well as uTorrent.
  • Thanks to the easy-to-use installation manager, I can easily download and run new programs. I’ve been introduced to Opera (which is an excellent broswer, as it turns out) and Picasa. Although these run on Windows, the installation process involves more than “click four times”, and there’s no guarantee they’ll load as quickly as they do on Mint.
  • I finally understand this joke:

LOL sudo

The Bad

  • My media experience has been sub-par at best. My sound only works at about half-capacity, which is fine when I’m hooked up to the speaker system in my room, but it’s frustrating when I have to use the laptop’s native speakers. This is especially annoying since a lot of websites (*cough*youtube) have a wildly inconsistent volume level in their videos, meaning going between two linked videos can be jarring. Video has also been an issue – the media players I’ve tried tend to get choppy whenever I have a menu in fullscreen. Moving the mouse while in fullscreen also briefly flashes my desktop wallpaper and returns to the video. Obviously there is room for improvement here.
  • The lockups I experienced were infuriating. I haven’t had any lately (knock on wood), but there are few worse feelings on a computer when you’re halfway through an assignment and a simple google search crashes your computer.
  • Mint doesn’t like coming out of hibernate or standy – apparently the kernel just shits the bed. I’ve been told this is an ATI bug that will be fixed in the next kernel upgrade, but I really needed this yesterday.
  • I still haven’t gotten my monitor working properly. The display manager crashes whenever I open it, and the ATI Catalyst Control Center isn’t co-operating. Ideally my monitor should be running at 1920×1080, but it’s stuck at 1600×900 for now.

The ohjesusgodWHYYYyyyyy

  • A few days ago I experienced a corrupted inode and my computer refused to update or install anything. This was obviously a pretty bad experience and it would’ve taken me hours to figure out what was going on if Tyler and Jake didn’t step in to save the day.

Overall I’m impressed with Mint so far. If it weren’t for the issues I’ve listed in “the bad”, I could see myself using it regularly.

Update: Okay what the hell Mint, I tried to say something nice about you and you go and crash as I’m publishing this post. I guess I’ll amend this infuriating bug.

Another infuriating bug:

  • For some reason, Mint will occasionally decide that my desktop is functioning too well. Out of spite, it will shift everything diagonally by N pixels, where N is some number randomly selected from {1,…,1836} (I have very little data to base this on, but I conjecture that this functions on a uniform distribution or the Cauchy distribution, just to be a bitch). Basically, it selects a new spot on my monitor to anchor the bottom left corner of the graphics. At the same time, it forces me to click where I would have clicked before. It looks something like this:
I tried to be nice, but you had to go and do this to me.

I tried to be nice, but you had to go and do this to me.

So yeah, there go you Mint. Way to ruin this post.

Categories: Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

Songbird on Gentoo

October 2nd, 2009 No comments

For various reasons, Rhythmbox (the default GNOME audio player) returns this wonderful message, which I’m putting off troubleshooting for the time being:

rhythmbox: error while loading shared libraries: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

I decided to install Songbird instead. Problem is, I can’t seem to install the Songbird package from the overlay manager, either by unmasking or otherwise. I’m still a bit confused on how to manually install ebuilds as well. Here’s what I ended up doing to get my music collection back up and running:

  • Downloaded default Linux package from GetSongbird.
  • Extracted package to directory of my choice. Right now it’s sitting in ~/Desktop/Songbird, but I expect to move it to a more appropriate /opt/songbird soon.
  • Removed all gstreamer libraries from the main installation as per this comment in the Gentoo bug tracker:
    rm -rf lib/libgst*
  • Added Songbird to my GNOME menu in Sound and Video category. I haven’t been able to pick an appropriate icon – any official ones or suggestions?

I am currently running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for a home server, with a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux clients for both work and personal use.
I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity - XFCE is much more my style of desktop interface.
Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Jake B Tags: , , , , ,

Update: I can have my cake and eat it too!

October 1st, 2009 No comments

If you have been following my posts on here you’ll know that I have a very… fragile setup. I am doing everything in my power to ensure that Linux and my ATi graphics card play together nicely. The other day when a new kernel update was pushed out my graphics card update was not ready and I was forced to make a decision: keep the old kernel or lose my graphics. I chose to keep the old kernel.

I just wanted to let everyone know that the code wizards have seen fit to push an update to my card and I know get to use both the newest kernel and to keep my 3D graphics and desktop effects too!

For reference the kernel was and the graphics module was kmod-catalyst with matching version number.