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A Tale of Two Fonts

December 10th, 2009 3 comments
Hey, where'd my text go?

Hey, where'd my text go?

I set my system font to Dingbat, which worked perfectly in every application except for Open Office. The strange part is that the font worked just fine in all of the other programs that I have installed. Silly OpenOffice.

This… looks… awesome!

December 8th, 2009 No comments

Looks being the key word there because I haven’t actually been able to successfully run either of  these seemingly awesome pieces of software.

Amahi is the name of an open source software collection, for lack of a better term, that resembles what Windows Home Server has to offer. I first came across this while listening to an episode of Going Linux (I think it was episode #85 but I can’t remember anymore!) and instantly looked it up. Here is a quick rundown of what Amahi offers for you:

  • Currently built on top of Fedora 10, but they are hoping to move it to the most recent version of Ubuntu
  • Audio streaming to various apps like iTunes and Rhythmbox over your home network
  • Media streaming to other networked appliances including the Xbox 360
  • Acts as a NAS and can even act as a professional grade DHCP server (taking over the job from your router) making things even easier
  • Built in VPN so that you can securely connect to your home network from remote locations
  • SMB and NFS file sharing for your whole network
  • Provides smart feedback of your drives and system, including things like disk space and temperature
  • Built-in Wiki so that you can easily organize yourself with your fellow co-workers, roommates or family members
  • Allows you to use the server as a place to automate backups to
  • Windows, Mac & Linux calendar integration, letting you share a single calendar with everyone on the network
  • Implements the OpenSearch protocol so that you can add the server as a search location in your favorite browser. This lets you search your server files from right within your web browser!
  • Includes an always-on BitTorrent client that lets you drop torrent files onto the server and have it download them for you
  • Supports all Linux file systems and can also read/write to FAT32 and read from NTFS.
  • Sports a plugin architecture that lets developers expand the platform in new and exciting ways
  • Inherits all of the features from Fedora 10
  • Finally Amahi offers a free DNS service so you only have to remember a web address, not your changing home IP address

FreeNAS is a similar product, although I use that term semi-loosely seeing as it is also open source, except instead of being based on Linux, FreeNAS is currently based on FreeBSD 7.2. Plans are currently in the works to fork the project and build a parallel Linux based version. Unlike Amahi, FreeNAS sticks closer to the true definition of a NAS and only includes a few additional features in the base install, letting the user truly customize it to their needs. Installed it can take up less than 64MB of disk space. It can (through extensions) include the following features:

  • SMB and NFS as well as TFTP, FTP, SSH, rsync, AFP, and UPnP
  • Media streaming support for iTunes and Xbox 360
  • BitTorrent support allowing you to centralize your torrenting
  • Built-in support for Dynamic DNS through major players like DynDNS, etc.
  • Includes full support for ZFS, UFS, ext2, ext3. Can also fully use FAT32 (just not install to), and can read from NTFS formatted drives.
  • Small enough footprint to boot from a USB drive
  • Many supported hardware and software RAID levels
  • Full disk encryption via geli

Both of these can be fully operated via a web browser interface and seem very powerful. Unfortunately I was unable to get either up and running inside of a VirtualBox environment. While I recognize that I could just install a regular Linux machine and then add most of these features myself, it is nice to see projects like that package them in for ease of use.

This is definitely something that I will be looking more closely at in the future; you know once these pesky exams are finished. In the mean time if anyone has any experience with either of these I would love to hear about it.

[UPDATE]

While publishing this, the folks over at Amahi sent out an e-mail detailing many new improvements. Turns out they released a new version now based on Fedora 12. Here are their notable improvements:

  • Amahi in the cloud! This release has support for VPS servers (Virtual Private Servers).
  • Major performance and memory improvements, providing a much faster web interface and a 30% smaller memory footprint.
  • Based on Fedora 12, with optimizations for Atom processors built-in, preliminary support in SAMBA for PDC (Primary Domain Controller) with Windows 7 clients and much more.
  • Completely revamped web-based installer.
  • Users are more easily and securely setup now, the with password-protected pages and admin users.
  • Brand new architecture, with future growth in mind, supporting more types of apps, and more importantly, bring us closer to supporting Ubuntu and other platforms. Over 100+ apps are working in this release out of the gates!

It all sounds great. I will be looking into this new version as soon as I have a moment to do so.

Successfully completing a school semester with Linux

December 5th, 2009 10 comments

For those of you who have read my profile, you know that I’m finishing up my math degree. More specifically, I’ve just finished lectures for my last term as an undergraduate student of statistics. One of my main fears about switching to a different operating system was that it would disrupt my studies. Fortunately, this fear was unfounded – in fact, I can confidently say that Linux actually made my school experience much easier and smoother than it would have been had I stuck with Windows Vista or XP.

As a statistics student, I obviously work with numbers. Some courses, such as those dealing with experimental design, have fairly simple mathematical procedures (Note: these usually follow not-so-simple justifications for the procedures). Normally I’m given a small data set and told to carry out an Analysis Of Variance (ANOVA). Since the mathematical work in these assignments is pretty straightforward, I like to carry it out in Excel, or some equivalent. Thankfully, OpenOffice.Org Calc works just as well as Excel and uses essentially the same syntax and commands, so I managed to switch between programs rather seamlessly.

Some of my other assignments require more complicated procedures (and occasionally more complicated ANOVAs), so I have to use R, which is basically a very powerful statistical tool. In Windows XP, I found that adding libraries and updating R could occasionally be a difficult process – my roommates can verify that as a consequence, I often go months without updating my programs. In Mint, there were no such troubles – installing and updating libraries is as easy as opening Synaptic and clicking a few times. Linux also provided some less important benefits, such as not having to alter every slash in a filepath to make sure that R can actually find the file. I’m guessing this has something to do with the difference between a backslash and a frontslash.

Other programs like Do, which I’ve reviewed, and Kate, my preferred text editor, make life so much easier. When I’m working, I usually have several data sets open, and I frequently have to jump between folders to access images, old code, old solutions for reference, etc. Kate simplifies things by letting me have several text files open in one window at once, so I can make better comparisons between data sets or summary tables. This is especially important for when I have data sets that are so large that viewing them in R in the terminal would be ill-advised (tip: don’t try to view anything longer than 1000 lines in terminal). Thanks to Do, I can quickly flip between several folders without ever having to move my hands off of the keyboard. In particular, this comes in handy when I need to reference some old solutions for an obscure-but-suddenly-desireable mathematical quality.

I haven’t done too much writing this term aside from updating my resume, so I won’t dwell on the various word processors. In my opinion, if the word processor can create a decent looking resume – it did, by the way – then it should suffice for any other purpose. I’ve also tried out a few other math programs (eg., gnuplot), but I haven’t used them enough to give a reasonably well-informed opinion. However, the fact that I could install them and try them out with absolutely no effort on my part really speaks well for Linux Mint.

After a long, gruelling term, I can confidently say that I benefitted academically from using Linux Mint. Along with everything I’ve mentioned, Linux has provided less direct benefits, such as faster load times and fewer restarts, which make getting started on an assignment or project easier. Despite having a few bugs ranging from annoying (I really wish Do would load on startup consistently) to catastrophic (oh my god why did my desktop shift what is going on), I will probably have some distribution of Linux running on my machine when I switch to Windows 7, if only to run R and some other math programs. If you like to do any sort of math on your computer, I recommend you give it a go too.

Categories: Free Software, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

Why Linux is great for web development

November 27th, 2009 1 comment

Linux is great for web development, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons. The reason I find developing websites and server programs much better on a Linux machine than on a Windows machine is as simple as the following three letters SSH.

SSH stands for Secure SHell and is a way to remotely log into a server over a secure connection. While you can connect to SSH shares in Windows, connecting to one under Linux is a far more integrated experience. For example in KDE’s Dolphin you can connect to the SSH share right within the file browser itself. Then, as you do work, changes can be reflected instantly to the remote server. This saves you a lot of time instead of having to use (S)FTP to transfer files to and from the server. GNOME also has a similar ability through its Connect to Server menu.

Again there are Windows programs that will mirror changes in a local directory to a remote server through SSH but as far as I know Windows Explorer itself does not have this ability (FTP but no SSH?). So next time you are in the mood for web dev, give Linux a shot!

A lengthy, detailed meta-analysis of studies of GNOME Do

November 23rd, 2009 11 comments

GNOME Do is a fantastic little program that makes Linux Mint a very comfortable experience. At first glance, GNOME Do just looks like a collection of launchers that can be docked to your window, with a search function attached for completeness. What stands out about Do, though, is that the search function offers a lot of versatility. Through Do, I can launch programs, mount and unmount drives, bring up folders, and execute a variety of actions through the plug-ins. I’ve found that it saves me a lot of mouse movement (yes, I’m that lazy) when I’m working on assignments. In less than two seconds, I can call up Kate to start up my data entry, start up R in terminal, open the folder containing all of my data, and start a conversation in Pidgin. Best of all, since the search function can be called up with the Super+Space key combination, I can do all of this without ever having to switch windows.

I also find that Do helps to clean up the clutter on my desktop. I’ve got it set up as the Docky theme on the bottom of my screen. Since I have no need for the panel, I’ve got it set up to autohide at the top of my monitor. This means when I have something maximized, it legitimately takes up the entire monitor.

What a beautifully clean desktop.

What a beautifully clean desktop.

Adding or removing programs to or from Do is a cinch too – it’s as simple as dragging and dropping.

Unfortunately, it’s not all great

Like every other Linux program, Do saves time and effort. Like every other Linux program, Do also costs time and effort in the bugs that it has. The most frustrating bug I’ve had so far is that Do simply disappears on a restart. It runs and in a manner it “exists” since I can resize it on my desktop, but I can’t actually see or use it. Apparently this is a known bug, and I haven’t been able to find a decent solution to it. It’s especially unfortunate because Do provides so much convenience that when it doesn’t work properly, I feel like I’m reverting to some primitive age where I’m dependent on my mouse (the horror!)

Notice how the cursor is cut off? In reality, it's a resizing cursor, used to resize an invisible panel. It technically does work since after I reboot I find that GNOME Do inadvertently takes up half my screen.

Notice how the cursor is cut off? In reality, it's a resizing cursor, used to resize an invisible panel. It technically does function, since after I reboot I find that GNOME Do inadvertently takes up half my screen.

Regardless, I’d recommend Do for anyone who can install it. When it works, it’s great for saving you some time and effort; when it doesn’t, well, ’tis better to have loved and lost….

Today, the search engines…

November 23rd, 2009 No comments

I would just like to point out that thanks to you the readers, who I’d like to reinforce are fantastic and have been a huge help to us (as well as making us feel good that people are making use of the site!) have catapulted us to previously unknown heights in the world of Canadian search engine fame!

The big three search engines with Canadian domains – Google, Bing, and Yahoo – have all launched us up to top-shelf status on their search pages with a search string of ‘The Linux Experiment’:

Bing.ca – first search result (yay!)

Yahoo.ca – first search result (double yay!)

Google.ca – second search result (darn you, PC World)

Let’s collectively step it up and get us to the top of the Google search charts.  With a scant 38 days left in the Experiment, time is quickly running out!

Today, the search engines… tomorrow, the (PC) world!

Eclipse… Again

November 21st, 2009 No comments

Man I’m beginning to sound like a broken record. Last night I reinstalled my Debian system. Somewhere along the line, I made a mess with my repositories, and as Wayne suggested in the comments on one of my previous posts, a good way to avoid many of these issues is to install your Testing system directly from a netinst daily build cd image instead of installing Lenny and then upgrading.

So I did. Upon inserting the install disc and attempting to use the graphical installer, I was confronted with a terminal spewing error messages about missing drivers or something. Figuring that this was just an error related to the daily installer build, I backed out of the graphical installer and took a shot at the expert install. Now that I know my way around Linux, the expert installer isn’t so daunting, and the rest of the process went smoothly, although it took awhile.

This morning, I figured I’d be productive and write some Java on my freshly installed system. So I went over to synaptic, and searched out Eclipse… only to find that it didn’t exist in the Testing repositories. How strange. A google and a half later and I had found that eclipse is available in Lenny, as well as Sid, but is conspicuously absent from Testing. What to do?

I hit the #debian IRC channel and asked for a bit of help, which i promptly got, in the form of these instructions:

  1. Add the line deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian sid main non-free contrib to your sources list.
  2. From a root terminal, run apt-get update
  3. From a root terminal, run apt-get install build-essential
  4. Navigate to an empty directory somewhere on your system
  5. Run apt-get build-dep eclipse. This will download almost 200MB of source code to your system. Don’t do it over a wireless connection like I did.
  6. Run apt-get -b source eclipse. Don’t worry if this step takes forever – it took almost an hour on my system.
  7. install the resultant debs. This step is painful, because while all of the dependencies will have been created for you, there is a certain order to installing them that requires a bit of trial and error to figure out.

So after a little over an hour of messing about, I have a working Eclipse install on my system, and can get some real work done. It was frustrating, but hey, thanks to the guys over at #debian, it wasn’t the end of the world.

Fedora 12: Drenched in glory

November 20th, 2009 6 comments

Let me start off by saying that my experience thus far (over the last 24 hours) with Fedora 12 – Constantine has been the complete opposite from Tyler’s.  For the most part, at any rate.  While I, too attempted to do a preupgrade (from terminal) to Constantine and had it fail due to an insufficiently sized /boot partition – the 200 MB that it suggests on install is simply not enough – my clean install attempt went smooth as silk.

After backing everything important (user folder) up to my server, which over gigabit ethernet took all of 12 minutes, I popped the Fedora 12 x86_64 DVD into my drive and restarted.   Installation and drive partitioning was easy, as was customizing my installation repositories to include Fedora 12 x86_64 and Fedora 12 x86_64 updates – this has saved me a lot of headaches now, I’m sure.  I also decided this time around to add KDE at boot time, just to see if this would simplify my problems with that environment; more on that in a later post, I’m sure.

As of right now I’m running a stable – though desktop effects-less – Gnome environment.  Boot time over Fedora 11 has significantly improved, and the boot animation is a great improvement over the scrolling bar from Fedora 11.  In addition, off the bat my computer automatically supported native resolution (no-go without drivers in Fedora 11) and screen brightness changing (same story there in Leonidas).

One other thing that GREATLY excites me – folder mounting of my Windows Home Server shares has increased in speed tenfold.  It’s almost instant now, much like it would be in Windows – fantastic!

Though frustrated by the idea of having to re-configure Wine and vpnc (that took me FOREVER!), and waiting for nVidia or a kmod driver to come out that supports my GeForce 8600M GS for enabling desktop effects and my beloved Gnome DO, I’m pleasantly surprised by my experience thus far.

More to come soon!

Categories: Dana H, Fedora, Free Software, GNOME, KDE, Linux Tags:

I Cannot Has Eclipse?

November 20th, 2009 No comments
Screenshot-Add-Remove Applications

You know, that's interesting, as I'm quite certain that I've installed Eclipse on x86 hardware before...

Configuring BlueZync and Failing at Barry

November 6th, 2009 1 comment

After successfully compiling and installing the BlueZync for Thunderbird plugin last night, I decided to take a shot at actually synchronizing my Blackberry with Thunderbird. The first step was a little bit of configuration. For that, I followed this guide on the BlueZync website.

Everything was going fine until I got to the section entitled “Mozilla plugin for OpenSync.” In this section, you are instructed to execute the command ldconfig -p | grep libxpcom.so, which checks if the file libxpcom.so is registered as a symlink on your system. After finding out that it was not, I entered the command locate libxpcom.so from a root terminal, and found three locations for the file in question on my system. I then used the line export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib/icedove:/usr/lib/iceowl:/usr/lib/xulrunner-1.9 to register the symlink. Unfortunately, even after running the export command, ldconfig failed to find the link. Although this one will probably bite me in the ass later on, I’ll skip it for now.

At this point in the install process, I could access the BlueZync settings panel from within Thunderbird, and run the command line osynctool –listplugins and see the mozilla-sync plugin listed, which is the part of the BlueZync suite that really interests me. mozilla-sync is a plugin for OpenSync that should allow me to interface my Blackberry with Thunderbird (with the help of the Barry libraries, which provide another OpenSync plugin that communicates with the phone).

To continue, it was necessary to install all of the elements of the Barry libraries in order to get their OpenSync plugin that would complete the chain. This is where I may have committed my second cardinal sin – dpkg notified me that in order to install the opensync-plugin-barry package, I had to install a version of the libopensync0 package that was between v0.22 and v0.3. As I understand it, Bluezync already installed some version of OpenSync onto my machine, and I have a feeling that reinstalling a different version may ruin all of the progress that I’ve made thus far.

Indeed, after finishing the Barry install and running osynctool –listplugins again, mozilla-sync was still listed, but opensync-plugin-barry was not. This is strange, as in my last three attempts at this process, getting Barry to show up was the easy part. Now the tables have turned, and I have what I assume to be a properly working BlueZync install, but without the Barry component that would make it all work with my phone.

Back to the proverbial drawing board with me…

Twelve to twelve

November 5th, 2009 3 comments

Well, it’s official – twelve more days remain until the November 17 release of Fedora 12 (Constantine).  I, for one, can hardly wait – Fedora 11 has been rock-solid for me so far (under Gnome, anyways – but I’ll leave that subject alone) and I can only imagine that Fedora 12 is going to bring more of the same my way.

Among some of the more notable changes being made that caught my interest:

  • Gnome 2.28 – the current version bundled into my Fedora 11 distribution, 2.26.3, has been nothing but amazing.  Unflinchingly stable, fast, and reliable – it’s everything I want in a desktop environment.
  • Better webcam support – not sure how this can get any better from my perspective since my LG P300’s built-in webcam worked straight out of the box on Fedora 11, but I’m interested to see exactly what they bring to the table here
  • Better IPv6 support – since our router does actively support this protocol, it’s nice to see Fedora taking charge and always improving the standard
  • Better power management – for me, this is a major headache under Gnome (I know, I know…) since it really doesn’t let me customize anything as much as I would like to.   Among other things, it’s supposed to offer better support for wake-from-disk and wake-from-RAM.  We’ll see.

I’m sure that Tyler and I will keep you posted as the due date gets closer, and especially once we’ve done the upgrade itself!

Making glut.h work in Fedora 11

November 2nd, 2009 3 comments

As part of a computer graphics course I am taking at university I need to be able to develop C/C++ applications using openGL and the openGL Utility Toolkit (GLUT). I tried using many different C/C++ IDEs, including Eclipse, before I finally settled on MonoDevelop as my IDE of choice. After trying for some time to get this to work in a way similar to what I am used to on Windows, I finally gave up on the compilation errors and consulted the GOOG. As this all actually happened about 2 weeks ago I am a little cloudy where I discovered this tidbit of information but it turns out that even after you install freeglut through yum,

sudo yum install freeglut freeglut-devel

it doesn’t actually register the glut.h library correctly. Unfortunately due to the aforementioned registration issue, MonoDevelop was unable to load glut.h. I was able to rectify this by creating my own pkgconfig file, glut.pc, and placing it under /usr/lib64/pkgconfig.

Here is what I placed in my custom created glut.pc file that seemed to do the job:

prefix=/usr/include
exec_prefix=${prefix}
libdir=/usr/include/GL
includedir=/usr/include

Name: glut
Description: Mesa OpenGL Utility Toolkit library
Requires: gl glu
Version: 7.6.0
Libs: -L${libdir} -lglut
Cflags: -I${includedir}

So yeah, that’s it! This seems to be a very common problem so hopefully what I have described here works for you as well.

Resizing batches of images in Nautilus

November 1st, 2009 3 comments

If you’re like me, which you either are or are aspiring to be, then you hate having to manually resize dozens of images. Ubuntu, and Linux Mint, by extension, offers a great image resizing and rotation tool for Nautilus. This tool allows you to resize a batch of images very quickly and easily: you select the images, right-click, and select “Resize images”. You can select how you want to scale the images (the options presented are a preset ratio, a percentage of the original dimensions, or a custom size) and how you want them to be saved (you can append each copy with something like “RESIZED” or choose to simply replace the original image).

This tool is particularly handy if you’re looking to post some of your images online – having it around makes it much simpler and easier to resize several hundred images from, say, a vacation. Smaller images mean faster transfer times, and to some degree less concern about other people pilfering your high-resolution images (this is aimed more at a few social networking websites that like to claim ownership over their users’ photos).

Distribution Upgrades

November 1st, 2009 No comments

As with the release of Karmic Koala, the majority of the other distributions we here at The Linux Experiment have decided to run will also be getting an upgrade. Here is a quick breakdown of what’s to come (in chronological order) to give you a heads up of what you can expect us to be blogging about shortly.

Gentoo – Release Set For: Tonight

OK fine, so technically Gentoo isn’t getting a “major new release” or anything like that but considering the nature of the distribution one could claim that it’s nightly builds are basically the same thing.

openSUSE 11.2 – Release Set For: November 12, 2009

The next step forward for openSUSE is version 11.2. Included in this release of openSUSE are major changes to YaST and zypper as well as a new release strategy whereby all releases are bootable by USB and CD-ROM. Some other incremental improvements in software are:

  • GNOME 2.28/KDE 4.3
  • Firefox 3.5
  • OpenOffice.org 3.1
  • Ext4 is the new default filesystem
  • Support for whole-disk encryption

Fedora 12 “Constantine” – Release Set For: November 17, 2009

Always the cutting edge distribution, Fedora has a massive list of changes for it’s next release. For starters all software packages have been recompiled for i686 which should allow for improved performance, especially on the Intel Atom processor. In addition, all software packages are now compressed with LZMA instead of GZIP which, along with yum presto integration (delta versus full downloads), should offer much faster downloads. Thanks to the newest version of Xorg, spanning desktops (1 desktop on 2+ monitors) is now possible. Other software improvements include:

  • GNOME 2.28/KDE 4.3
  • Firefox 3.5.2
  • PHP 5.3.0
  • Ogg Theora has been updated to the most recent version
  • GRUB now supports Ext4
  • Dynamically rotating wallpapers is now a feature under GNOME
  • NetworkManager has been enhanced to take advantage of Mobile Broadband technologies
  • Bluetooth services are now on-demand meaning they only use system resources when necessary
  • Tons of PulseAudio improvements
  • PackageKit has been improved and can now install software from more places (i.e. right within the web browser)

Linux Mint 8 “Helena” – Release Set For: November 2009

Linux Mint 8 continues the trend by incorporating all of the most recent Ubuntu improvements found in Karmic Koala as well as improving on the Mint specific programs. Specifically Mint improves the boot sequence as well as the Mint tools suite of applications that differentiate this distribution from Ubuntu. The end result should make for one of the most user friendly Linux distributions ever.

Debian 6.0 “Squeeze” – Release Set For: TBD 2010

If you are familiar with Debian’s release cycle then you know that what will become of “Squeeze” is simply what passes muster in the current testing repository. Although this distribution is still quite a ways off, it is promising quite a few interesting improvements including better architecture support and boot performance thanks to parallel processing. kFreeBSD is also now included which makes this the first officially supported non-Linux architecture for a Debian release. While many obsolete libraries are being removed for security reasons many new libraries are also making their first appearance including full IPv6 support. Finally there is preparation going into the packaging formats which will allow for future improvements, including better compression algorithms for smaller download sizes.

It’s going to be a busy month!

Check back soon as we begin our upgrades and blog about our experiences doing so.

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.

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?

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!

Tips & Tricks for Fedora (and others!)

October 18th, 2009 4 comments

I honestly can’t remember how I stumbled across this website but there is a lot of useful information there. Rather than go through the 14 pages of tips and tricks I will just highlight some that I found to be very useful and let you go to the source for the rest.

NOTE: These are all tips for Fedora 11, but with some simple tweaking you should be able to apply them to your distribution of choice.

Modify the sudoers file

By default your username is not included in the list of those accounts who can use sudo. To change this do the following (altered to use nano instead of vi because I prefer things that way):

su -c ‘nano /etc/sudoers’

Then find the line that says:

root    ALL=(ALL)       ALL

and below it add

[username] ALL=(ALL)      ALL

where [username] is the username you want to allow to use sudo. Press Ctrl+O and Enter to save.

You can test if this worked by running the following command:

sudo whoami

If it worked you should see the word root. From this point forward I will assume you have given yourself the ability to use sudo.

Let yum downgrade

By default yum does not allow you to downgrade, or revert to a lower version numbered package. If you would like to change this run:

sudo yum install yum-allowdowngrade

To use it run this command:

sudo yum update –allow-downgrade

Add an ‘open in terminal’ option to Nautilus

This will let you right-click on directories and select open in terminal.

sudo yum install nautilus-open-terminal

Then just log out, and log back in.

Use the backspace key to go back a page in Firefox

Open Firefox and in the URL bar type:

about:config

Then use the filter box to search for

browser.backspace_action

Right-click on it and select Modify. Change the value from 2 to 0 and press OK. Restart Firefox.

Force GTK programs to use QT in KDE

I actually tried this and it seemed to work just fine. In fact it might solve some of Dave’s problems. In a terminal run:

sudo yum install gtk-qt-engine

Then log out and log back in. Next go to System Settings > Appearance > GTK Styles and Fonts and select KDE style in GTK Applications.

Many more

As I said there are 14 whole pages of similar tips and tricks available at the website. Check them out for yourself!

Categories: Fedora, Free Software, Tyler B Tags: , ,

GNOME slip ups; a KDE perspective

October 15th, 2009 3 comments

Since making my switch to GNOME earlier in the week I have finally settled into my new desktop environment. I must admit that while the transition has been almost completely seamless, and in fact has fixed a lot of my issues, I find myself missing KDE. Without trying to spark the holy war that is the GNOME vs KDE argument, allow me to quickly outline some of the reasons for my homesickness.

Look and Feel

Yes I get it, GNOME is supposed to be stripped down and functional. KDE, on the other hand, is supposed to allow for full customization, sometimes at the expense of clutter. Neither of these however explains why GNOME icons and artwork feel so dated when compared to KDE. Take the following as an example.

See the above? See how the Fedora stock icons are just simple shade jobs? Heck that’s better than most default GNOME icon sets. See how the KDE version has actual work put into it? Time and time again KDE wins points for putting more effort into the artwork. And yes I know that you can completely theme GNOME to ‘make it look pretty’ but why should you have to? Why are the defaults so terrible? Surely there are some open source artists out there somewhere. It’s simple things like this that lead to an overall better feel while using KDE when compared to GNOME.

Interaction

The first thing I did back in KDE was to turn off that single-click to open things nonsense. Once that was done my interaction with the two desktops has been more or less identical. However recently GNOME has been ‘losing’ my touchpad tap-click. When I first boot into the desktop it seems to work just fine, but then after a random amount of time I have to resort to the physical mouse buttons. This is really, really annoying.

Battery Life

I have configured both desktop environments for optimal battery life and have some interesting findings. Perhaps as a result of the sparse power management abilities in GNOME I actually get about a half hour less of battery life compared with KDE. I really do wish GNOME would allow for additional power customization; for example I don’t even know if GNOME scales down my CPU clock when it’s running on battery…

One week and counting

Well that’s it for now. At the end of the day it really is a short list of complaints. If anything new crops up I’ll be sure to write about it, if not you’ll have to wait for our podcast!

Categories: Fedora, Free Software, GNOME, KDE, Tyler B Tags: , ,