Archive for July, 2010

A Matter of Opinion

July 19th, 2010 No comments

Tonight I installed VirtualBox, an incredibly handy virtualization program that lets me run instances of Windows and other Linux distributions from the comfort of my Linux Mint 9 Isadora desktop. Upon installing the latest version in my repositories, I launched the program, only to be confronted by a dialog box offering a link to a newer version of the program available on its website. So I clicked the link, and downloaded the *.deb of the new version. My package manager started up, tried to install the new package, and complained that it conflicted with the existing VirtualBox install. So I opened synaptic, uninstalled the version of VirtualBox that I got from my repositories, and finally installed the most recent version from the website.

So here’s my question, and please feel free to leave your opinion in the comments below: Should Linux applications warn the user about updates that are not available from their repositories?

On one hand, I like having up to date software, but on the other, package maintainers work hard to ensure that everything that ships with a stable distribution plays well together, and probably don’t appreciate these apps leading users outside of their carefully curated repositories. From a security-oriented point of view, this is also bad practice, as much of the security that is inherent in Linux comes from the fact that the vast majority of the software that you install has been vetted by the package maintainers who work to ensure that your distribution is safe and stable. And surely the guys who program VirtualBox, being the insanely awesome ninja-powered pirate wizards that they are, could have come up with a way to update my install without my having to uninstall and re-install an entirely new version. Just sayin’

Chime in with your opinion in the comments below.

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.

PulseAudio: Monitoring your Line-In Interface

July 11th, 2010 21 comments

At home, my setup consists of three machines -  a laptop, a PC, and an XBOX 360. The latter two share a set of speakers, but I hate having to climb under the desk to switch the cables around, and wanted a better way to switch them back and forth. My good friend Tyler B suggested that I run the line out from the XBOX into the line-in on my sound card, and just let my computer handle the audio in the same way that it handles music and movies. In theory, this works great. In practice, I had one hell of a time figuring out how to force the GNOME sound manager applet into doing my bidding.

After quite a bit of googling, I found the answer on the Ubuntu forums. It turns out that the secret lies in a pulse audio module that isn’t enabled by default. Open up a terminal and use the following commands to permanently enable this behaviour. As always, make sure that you understand what’s up before running random commands that you find on the internet as root:

pactl load-module module-loopback
sudo sh -c ' echo "load-module module-loopback" >>  /etc/pulse/ '

The first line instructs PulseAudio (one of the many ways that your system talks with the underlying sound hardware) to load a module called loopback, which unsurprisingly, loops incoming audio back through your outputs. This means that you can hear everything that comes into your line-in port in real time. Note that this behaviour does not extend to your microphone input by design. The second line simply tells PulseAudio to load this module whenever the system starts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have jerks to run over in GTA…

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.

10 reasons why Mint might not fail in India

July 7th, 2010 14 comments

Last evening while reading the SA forums, I encountered a thread about Linux and what was required to bring it to the general public. One of the goons mentioned a post that indicated ten reasons why Ubuntu wasn’t ready for the desktop in India. I kid you not – the most ridiculous reason was because users couldn’t perform the important ritual of right click/Refreshing on the desktop five or more times before getting down to work.

Here are Bharat’s reasons why Ubuntu fails, followed by why I think Mint might succeed instead in its place (while still employing his dubious logic.) When I refer to Indian users, of course, I’m taking his word for it – he’s obviously the authority here.

GRUB Boot Loader does not have an Aesthetic Appeal.

Bharat complains about the visual appearance of Grub – how it does not create a good first impression. This is, of course, in spite of Windows’ horrible boot menu when there’s more than one operating system or boot option to select. Apparently Indian users all have full-color splash screens with aesthetic appeal for BIOS, video card and PCI add-in initialization as well; this is just the icing on the cake that makes them go “eurrrgh” and completely discount Ubuntu.

To improve relations with India and eliminate this eyesore, Mint has added a background image during this phase of boot. My good friend Tyler also informs me that there’s a simple option in the Mint Control Center called “Start-Up Manager” that alllows easy configuration of grub to match a system’s native resolution and color depth.

Login Screen-Users are required to type in their username.

Again, another seemingly impenetrable barrier. Has nobody in India worked in an environment where typing in usernames AND passwords is required – like, for example, posting a blog entry on WordPress or signing into Gmail? In any event, Mint’s GNOME installation definitely gives a clickable list for this awfully onerous task.

Desktop-The Refresh option is missing!

I’m just going to directly lift this description as to the burning need for right click / Refresh:

What does an average Indian user do when the desktop loads in Windows?He rights clicks on the desktop and refreshes the desktop about 5-6 times or until he is satisfied.This is a ritual performed by most Indian Users after switching on the computer and just before shutting down the computer.
When this average user tries to perform his ‘Refresh’ ritual in Ubuntu,he is in for a rude shock.The Ubuntu Desktop does not have a Refresh Option or any other simliar option like Reload in the Right Click Menu.
So I advice Ubuntu Developers to include to a Refresh or a Reload option in the right click menu on the Desktop and in the Nautilus File Manager.The option should be equivalent of pressing Ctrl+R.As of now ,pressing Ctrl+R refreshes the Desktop in Ubuntu.

Mint’s developers have unfortunately not come around to this clearly superior way of thinking by default yet.

Read more…

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.

Big distributions, little RAM 2

July 5th, 2010 5 comments

As a follow up to my previous post I have decided to re-run the tests, this time with the updated distributions (where available of course). Again I will be testing all of this within VirtualBox on ‘machines’ with the following specifications:

  • Total RAM: 512MB
  • Hard drive: 8GB
  • CPU type: x86

The tests were all done using VirtualBox 3.2.6 on Windows, and I did not install VirtualBox tools (although some distributions may have shipped with them). I also left the screen resolution at the default 800×600 and accepted the installation defaults. All tests were run on July 3rd, 2010 so your results may not be identical.


As before I have provide state of the art graphs for your enjoyment.

First boot memory (RAM) usage

This test was measured on the first startup after finishing a fresh install.

Memory (RAM) usage after updates

This test was performed after all updates were installed and a reboot was performed.

Memory (RAM) usage change after updates

The net growth or decline in RAM usage after applying all of the updates

Install size after updates

The hard drive space used by the distribution after applying all of the updates.


As before I’m going to leave you to drawing your own conclusions. I will point out though that almost all of the distributions have done a good job of lowering memory usage with system updates, which is very commendable. Also it’s important to note that even though RAM and disk space increase with updates so might performance so it’s all about which metric you hold as most important.

I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint Debian Edition.
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: , , ,

eeePC: TrackPad Mouse Clicking in Linux Mint 9

July 5th, 2010 No comments

One of the most enraging things I’ve experienced with my Asus eeePC is that the TrackPad can be used to make a left mouse click by simply tapping. The problem with this is that it only clicks when you don’t want it to.

In Windows, changing this feature was a big pain, as I had to install a 3rd party utility. However, in Linux Mint 9, it is a simply checkbox in Control Centre under the “Mouse” panel.

Categories: Dave L, Guinea Pigs, Linux, Linux Mint Tags:

Very short plug for PowerTOP

July 4th, 2010 1 comment

Recently I decided to try out PowerTOP, a Linux power saving application built by Intel. I am extremely impressed by how easy it was to use and the power savings I am now basking in.

PowerTOP is a terminal application that first scans your computer for a number of things during a set interval. It then reports back which processes are taking up the most power and offers you some options to improve your battery life. All of these options can literally be enabled at a press of a button. It’s sort of like an experience I once had with Clippy in Microsoft Word; “it seems you are trying to save power, let me help you…” After applying a few of the suggestions the estimated battery life on my laptop went from about 3 and a half hours to almost 5 hours. In short, I would highly recommend everyone at least try out PowerTOP. I’m not promising miracles but at the very least it should help you out some.

I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint Debian Edition.
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.

Setting up a RocketRaid 2320 controller on Linux Mint 9

July 4th, 2010 7 comments

After the most recently recorded podcast, I decided to take a stab at running Linux on my primary media server. The machine sports a Highpoint RocketRaid 2320 storage controller, which has support for running up to eight SATA drives. Over the course of last evening, I found out that the solution wasn’t quite as plug-and-play as running the same card under Windows. Here’s what I found out and how you can avoid the same mistakes.

Remove the RocketRaid card when installing Mint.

Make sure you have decent physical access to the machine, as the Mint installer apparently does not play nicely with this card. I replicated a complete system freeze (no keyboard or mouse input) after progressing past the keyboard layout section during the installer. Temporarily removing the 2320 from its PCI-Express slot avoided this problem; I was then able to re-insert the card after installation was complete.

Compile the Open Source driver for best results.

Highpoint has a download page for their 2300-series cards, which points to Debian and Ubuntu (x86 and x64) compatible versions of the rr232x driver. Unfortunately, the Ubuntu 64-bit version did not seem to successfully initialize – the device just wasn’t present.

A post on the Ubuntu forums (for version 9.04) was quite helpful in pointing out the required steps, but had a broken link that wasn’t easy to find. To obtain the Open Source driver, click through to the “Archive Driver Downloads for Linux and FreeBSD” page, then scroll to the bottom and grab the 32/64-bit .tar.gz file with a penguin icon. I’ve mirrored version 1.10 here in case the URLs on the HighPoint site change again: rr232x-linux-src-v1.10-090716-0928.tar.gz

The process for building the driver is as in the original post:

  • Extract the .tar.gz file to a reasonably permanent location. I say this because you will likely need to rebuild the module for any kernel upgrades. I’m going to assume you’ve created something under /opt, such as /opt/rr232x.
  • Change to the extraction directory and run:cd product/rr232x/linux
    sudo make
    sudo make install
  • Reboot your system after the installation process and the kernel will load the rr232x driver as a module.

Install gnome-disk-utility to verify and mount your filesystem.

I’m not sure why this utility disappeared as a default between Mint 8 and 9, but gnome-disk-utility will display all connected devices and allow you to directly mount partitions. It will also let you know if it “sees” the RR2320 controller. In my case, after installing the driver and rebooting, I was able to click on the 3.5TB NTFS-formatted storage and assign it a mount point of /media/Raid5 in two clicks.

What’s next?

Most of the remaining complaints online revolve around booting to the RR2320 itself, which seems like more of a pain than it’s worth (even under Windows this would seem to be the case.) I personally run a separate system drive; the actual Ubuntu installation manual from Highpoint may have additional details on actually booting to your RAID volume.

I’ve yet to install the Web or CLI management interface for Linux, which should happen in the next few days. One of the really neat items about this controller is that it can email you if a disk falls out of the array, but I’ll need to get the Web interface running in order to change some outgoing mail servers.

I also haven’t done any performance testing or benchmarking with the controller versus Windows, or if there would be an improvement migrating the filesystem to ext4 as opposed to NTFS. I do plan to stick with NTFS as I’d like portability across all major platforms with this array. From initial observations, I can play back HD content from the array without stuttering while large files are being decompressed and checksummed, which is my main goal.

The Linux Experiment Podcast #4.1: We are Linux Mint Fanboys

July 3rd, 2010 No comments

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

Missing in action: Phil D, Sasha D

Show length: 0:54:52


The fourth podcast from the guys at The Linux Experiment. In this reunion episode we catch up on how each of us has been using Linux since the end of The Linux Experiment.

In this episode:

  • Much praise for Linux Mint. Not so much for JollyCloud.
  • The struggle between freedoms and functionality.
  • Linux on phones and other mobile devices.
  • Is Mac good enough for Linux nerds?
  • Replacing Windows with Linux at work and home.
  • And lots more!


Intro: “Can’t Get Enough by Fresh Body Shop found on Jamendo here.

Outro: “Doctor X” by Fresh Body Shop found on Jamendo here.

Get the show:

Listen here (explicit):


Show notes:

1:00 – Praise and Laud for Linux Mint
3:00 – Thoughts on JollyCloud, Chrome OS and Netbooks
5:30 – The struggle between freedoms and usable software. Can you give Linux to normal people?
7:30 – Codec packs and why Linux is superior for HD Video playback
12:30 – Linux on phones, hating on Rogers Wireless, phone software freedom
22:00 – Teksavvy is the shit, and should pay us for advertising
24:00 – Dave sucks at computers and tries to blame it on Linux Mint
26:00 – Miro is awesome, but doesn’t install correctly under Ubuntu/Linux Mint. Also it’s German and fails at search
30:30 – Using a Mac for Linux nerds
34:00 – Fucking up an SVN trunk in 30 seconds or less
35:30 – Gaming on Linux? Buy World of Goo, you insensitive clods
40:00 – Using Linux at work when Windows is the norm
43:00 – Everybody hates Eclipse, Lotus Notes, and Zend Studio. Also, download Geany if you’re a web developer
48:00 – Thunderbird 3 is the best email client ever made, what are you talking about?
51:00 – Swype is great, and the battle royale between software and hardware phone keyboards
55:00 – James Ready 5.5, a fine Canadian brew (“a free James Ready if you go to that page?“)
58:00 – Does anybody still use KDE? We don’t. Also, who wrote YAST? Honestly.