Archive for the ‘Free Software’ Category

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!


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



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.


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



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.



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.


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


Will this work better than SimCity?

Will this autorun work?

Will this autorun work?



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.


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.


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:


Then use the filter box to search for


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.


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: , ,

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…

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

Setting up some Synergy

October 1st, 2009 3 comments

Last night I was able to set up a neat little program that I think you should all know about! Synergy allows you to set up two or more computers so that they all share one keyboard and one mouse. Even better it works cross platform (i.e. Windows and Linux can both share the same mouse and keyboard).


You need to install synergy on all machines involved. I will only go over the Fedora instructions here. The first thing I did was do a quick yum search for synergy.

yum search synergy

This spit back the following results:

== Matched: synergy ==
quicksynergy.x86_64 : Share keyboard and mouse between computers
synergy.x86_64 : Mouse and keyboard sharing utility
synergy-plus.x86_64 : Mouse and keyboard sharing utility

As you can see in the list above it appears as though the package synergy.x86_64 is the only one I really need so I went and installed it.

sudo yum install synergy

This quickly finished but left me scratching my head. There was no application entry for synergy and not even a man page in the terminal. Looking back at the original search terms I figured synergy-plus must be additional features for the base synergy application and that maybe quicksynergy was some sort of automated or easier to use version of synergy. So I installed that.

sudo yum install quicksynergy

I then set up my synergy server, the computer that would be sharing it’s mouse and keyboard to the others, and defined where the monitors would go.

As you can see I have set up my Fedora computer (XPS) to extend the monitor to the left of my Windows machine

As you can see I have set up my Fedora computer (XPS) to extend the monitor to the left of my Windows machine

Next I jumped back over to my Fedora laptop and launched QuickSynergy. After a bit of tinkering I found out that the Share tab is if this computer is going to be the server and the Use tab is for a client. I tried entering the hostname in the text field but that wouldn’t work for whatever reason. It wasn’t until I entered the IP address of the server that things started working.

QuickSynergy on Fedora

QuickSynergy on Fedora

And now for the pièce de résistance. Here is my desktop computing experience!

3 monitors, 2 machines, 1 keyboard & mouse

3 monitors, 2 machines, 1 keyboard & mouse. Sorry for the poor picture quality.


It’s not cheating to use a Windows machine. I needed it to do work. As far as I can tell the linux doesn’t have Visual Studio 2008 with VB.NET support… yet 😉

Barry: Round Two with the Blogosphere riding Shotgun

September 30th, 2009 2 comments

Given the problems that I’ve been having lately with getting my Blackberry calendar and contacts to synchronize with anything in Linux, I was quite surprised when I almost got it working tonight. Forgetting everything that I’ve learned about the process, I started over, following these helpful tutorials and working through the entire install from the beginning. Unfortunately, aside from some excellent documentation of the install process (finally), the only new idea that those blogs provided me with was to try syncing the phone with different pieces of software. Specifically, Chip recommended KDEPIM, although I opted to  jump through a few more hoops before giving in and dropping the Thunderbird/Lightning combination entirely.

After a bit more mucking about, I decided to give up Lightning and installed Iceowl, Debian’s rebranding of Mozilla Sunbird, instead. Iceowl is the standalone calendar application that Lightning is based on, and is a very lightweight solution that is supposed to cooperate with the opensync-plugin-iceowl package. In theory, this allows calendar data to be shared between my device and the Iceowl calendar after configuring the plugin to read my Iceowl calendar from the /home/username/.mozilla/iceowl/crazyfoldername/storage.sdb file. In practice, the sync process gets locked up every time:

Screenshot-PIM Synchronization - KitchenSync-1

Why must you tease me?

Well, I’ve tried everything that I can think of to get my phone to synchronize with any Mozilla product. I’m very close to giving up, which is a shame, because they really are superior products. The ridiculousness of the entire thing is that I can easily dump my PIM data to a folder, and Thunderbird stores it’s data in an SQLite database. If this were Windows, I’d have written a VB app to fix my problems hours ago… Anybody know any python?

Update: I’ve also managed to successfully synchronize my phone with the Evolution mail client. Unfortunately, Evolution looks rather pale next to Thunderbird. In fact, the entire reason that I switched to Thunderbird about a week ago is that Evolution mysteriously stopped receiving my IMAP email with no explanation. No new email comes in, and the Send/Receive button is grayed out. Until now, I was happy with my decision, as Thunderbird is a superior application.


September 30th, 2009 1 comment

Hi Everyone,

Sorry about the lack of updates. I’ve been pretty busy lately. After a lot of fighting and arguing, Linux and I are finally getting along.

I was unsuccessful in installing Linux as I had mentioned early, by running it from my portable hard drive off of my Mac. As a result, I decided to wipe the Ubuntu partition on my Asus eeePC and install openSUSE on there. It was fairly simple to do, and it installed without much hassle. This guide came in handy with the smooth transition.

Although Gentoo is definitely the best flavour of Linux I’ve encountered, openSUSE hasn’t been too bad.

With that being said, I have a few tasks for the coming days, and I will be sure to post about all of them. First, I want to install a softphone to connect to my Asterisk server. Jake has said after some fighting he managed to get this to work. If I run into issues, I can always ask him. Additionally, I have to get Eclipse set up with some various environments I’m going to have to use in the coming weeks. I’ve successfully set it up to work in OpenGL thus far.

That’s it for now. I’ll be posting more in the next few days as I accomplish these tasks.

Barry: The Open-Sourced Blackberry Utility

September 30th, 2009 No comments

There is no denying that the installation process for the Barry project sucks. That said, the promise of having the ability to sync my blackberry with a linux-based calendar application like Mozilla’s Thunderbird or the Evolution mail client kept me working at it through the wee hours of the night. The Barry site at Sourceforge provides not one, not two, but four Debian packages (which rely on an additional two undocumented packages), that need to be downloaded and installed in a specific and undocumented order:

  1. libbarry0_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)
  2. barry-util_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)
  3. libglademm-2.4-1c2a (
  4. barrybackup-gui_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)
  5. libopensync0 (
  6. opensync-plugin-barry_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)

With the packages installed, I launched a terminal and used the auto-complete feature to find the command barrybackup. At first, I couldn’t figure out what it’s syntax was, until I realized that it doesn’t need any arguments, because it simply launches a GUI (that doesn’t appear anywhere in my Applications menu) that lets you back up your device databases:

Screenshot-Barry Backup

Well, thats a handy utility, assuming that it is also capable of restoring the backups to the device. I shied away from trying the restore feature, as I didn’t have access to a Windows box with which to fix the device should the worst happen.

I’m currently using Mozilla’s Thunderbird (re-branded in Debian as Icedove) as my primary mail client, along with the Lightning calendar plugin, and would be thrilled if I could synchronize it with my Blackberry. You’ll note that libopensync and a Barry opensync plugin were both a part of the installation process; having never used libopensync, I had a tough time figuring out how to make them cooperate.

The opensync page on Wikipedia lead me to install the multisync-tools package, which claims to be able to “synchronize calendars, address books and other PIM data between programs on your computer and other computers, mobile devices, PDAs or cell phones. It relies on the OpenSync  framework to do the actual synchronisation.” I have PIM data that I would like to sync! I have the OpenSync framework! We’re on a roll!

Finally, I installed the multisync-0.90 GUI and opensync-plugin-evolution v0.22-2 opensync plugin packages, which should have allowed me to sync between the Evolution mail client and my phone. I chose to try the process with this software first, as a plugin for Thunderbird was not immediately available. Unfortunately, when attempting to sync, I got this message:

Surprisingly, it was the evolution plugin that failed to connect

Surprisingly, it was the evolution plugin that failed to connect

Useful? Sort of. The Add button let me set up a Blackberry profile with both the barry and evolution plugins, but no matter how I tweaked the settings, I couldn’t get the evolution plugin to connect to my PIM data. Further, after making a synchronization group and adding plugins to it, I couldn’t find a way of replacing a plugin with a different one.

Sick of the limited GUI, I moved on to try KitchenSync, the KDE-based alternative. While it was uglier, I found it to be a far more useful front-end, and managed to get it to sync my device calendar and contacts with my filesystem:

Screenshot-PIM Synchronization - KitchenSync

This process exported all of the calendar and contact information from my Blackberry to a folder full of vCalendar and vContact files on my machine. Now if only I could get Thunderbird to read these files.

After a bit more looking around on the OpenSync webpage, I found a link to these guys, who claim to have programmed an opensync plugin called libopensync-plugin-mozilla-0.1.6 that allows Thunderbird and Lightning to talk to the OpenSync manager. They provide the plugin as a tarball that contains a *.so binary file and a sample *.xml configuration file… but no instructions on how to install them.

Thouroughly lost, I turned to the #opensync channel on for help. Until they see fit to help me out, I’m taking a break from this. No sense in giving myself a heart attack out of extreme frustration.

Edit: I got some help from the members of the #opensync channel, who recommended that I drop the file into the /usr/lib/opensync/plugins/ directory. While this didn’t immediately allow OpenSync to see the plugin, I noticed that every other plugin in the directory has an associated *.la configuration file. So I fabricated my own *.la file, and tried again. That didn’t work either.

The members of the channel then recommended that I try downloading the source code directly from the creators. I did as much, and found that it didn’t include a configure or make script, but just the source code. Not knowing how to proceed, I attempted to follow these instructions, which entailed downloading another 20 or so packages, including the sunbird-xpcom-devel package, which again lacks documentation on how to proceed with installation.

Lacking that package, and again frustrated beyond belief, I decided to drop the issue for another hour or so and do some math homework. That’s right, I chose to do math homework over playing with my computer, because this process has been that frustrating.

It doesn’t help that this entire process seems to be aimed at installed BlueZync, and not the opensync-mozilla-plugin. What the hell is going on here?

A minor setback

September 28th, 2009 2 comments

Since this crazy job of mine doesn’t quite feed my mad electronics fetish as much as I might like to, I do a lot of computer troubleshooting on the side… it helps pay the bills, and is a nice way to stay on my toes as far as keeping on top of possible threats out there (since our company’s firewall keeps them out for the most part).  I’ll usually head to a person’s house, get some stuff done, and if it’s still in rough shape (requires a full backup and format) I’ll bring the machine home.

Yesterday, I headed over to my former AVP (Assistant Vice-Preisdent, for those of you not in the know)’s house to get her wireless network running and troubleshoot problems with her one desktop, as well as get file and printer sharing working between two machines.  Her wireless router is a little bit old – a D-Link DI-524 – but it’s something I’ve dealt with before.

After a firmware upgrade, the option to use WPA-PSK encryption was made available (as opposed to standard WEP before).  Great, I thought!  I go to put in a key, hit Apply, and…

Nothing.  Hitting the Apply button does absolutely nothing.  Two computer and router restarts (including a full reset) later, and the same thing was happening.  Some quick research indicated that, hooray hooray, there was an incompatibility with that router’s administration page, Java, and Firefox.  Solution?  Use Internet Explorer.

Here’s where I really ran into a pickle.  This is the first time I’ve ever felt the disadvantage of using a non-Windows operating system.  If I had Windows, I would have been able to fire up IE and just get everything going for them.  Instead, I had to try and install IE6 for Linux, which failed (Wine threw some kind of error).  I ended up using one of my client’s laptops, which they thankfully had sitting around.  Frustrating, but it was easy enough to work around.

Has anyone else had experiences like this?  Things that are *just* out of reach for you because of your choice to use Linux over Windows?

Installing Gnome Do with Docky on openSUSE

September 28th, 2009 1 comment

Before I switched to Windows 7 for my laptop, I used a a dock software called RocketDock to manage my windows and commonly used desktop shortcuts. I liked being able to see my whole desktop ever since I found a good wallpaper site. Back when I rolled Ubuntu, I installed this application called Gnome Do. It’s a Quicksilver like program that just works. However, the newest feature of Gnome Do that I loved was its Docky theme. It puts a dock similar to RocketDock on the bottom of your screen, and integrates it’s OS searching features right into the dock.

I decided to install the application from YaST, the default system administration tool. It indexes a fairly large number of repositories, and it did have Gnome Do. A few minutes later I had the app running, but unfortunately the version was way out of date. Gnome Do is on roughly version 0.8.x, and YaST gave me 0.4.x.

So off I went trying to find a .rpm for Gnome Do that would install. I was met with a lot of failure, with a ton of dependencies unable to be resolved and so on. Next I tried the openSUSE file from Gnome Do’s homepage, but for some reason the servers were down and I was unable to install that way either.

Frustrated and not knowing what to do next, I decided to hop on IRC and see if anyone in #SUSE on could help me out. They told me about this service called Webpin. There I found a .ymp [which is an openSUSE specific installer file like a .deb or .rpm] for Gnome Do, and a ymp for Gnome Do’s plugins. Downloading and opening the files installed the programs without any problems. The last step I had to take to enable Docky was to install compiz and enable desktop compositing. After that, a quick trip to Gnome Do’s preference dialog allowed me to use the Docky theme, and I was up and running!

Categories: Compiz, Free Software, openSUSE, Phil D Tags:

Programming on Linux

September 27th, 2009 No comments

Now that school as resumed I am getting to spend a lot of time with my Linux install doing day to day productive tasks. The most recent thing that I have had to deal with is programming on Linux. As part of my Computer Graphics class the professor recommended that we install Dev-C++ and GLUT (with related libraries) so that we can code some OpenGL goodness. Well seeing as Dev-C++ is a Windows only IDE that just won’t do.

Instead I opted to install the C and C++ development tools for Eclipse. This works perfectly and within minutes I had a simple “Hello, world!” program up and running. In the past I had only ever used Eclipse for Java programming, however that may be changing permanently in the future.

Next up I had to install GLUT. After a quick search in my Fedora repositories I only had the option to install freeglut listed. So I figured ‘what the heck’ and gave it a try anyway. To my surprise this worked perfectly, even when I still referenced #<GL/glut.h>. This means I can use all of this great open source software to develop the same C++ code that I can then submit to my professor to mark on his Window’s machine.

The only issue I have found is I cannot for the life of me get MinGW to compile the code to a Windows exe. Yet even barring this I must say that all in all I am very impressed!

Gaaaaaaaaaaaay(mes) for Linux

September 26th, 2009 5 comments

Ever the Windows enthusiast, I’ve always been deeply involved in the world of PC gaming.  It’s something I’ve always loved to do, and I’ve been through it all – from the early days of Minesweeper and Solitaire, to the casual gaming market of Elastomania and Peggle, to the full-on phase of Bioshock, Halo, Civilization (all of them), and – sadly, yes – World of Warcraft.

Needless to say, I love gaming on computers.  Always have, always will.  I’ve never been a hardcore console man, but I’ve been known to dabble in Nintendo’s awesome selection (SUPER MARIO GALAXY WHAT) every once in a while.  So to say that gaming on Linux would be important to me is just about the understatement of the century.

I had heard a while back that Unreal Tournament III (UT3) was going to be ported to Linux, after being released to the rest of the world about two years ago.  This game has always interested me, mostly because I get to fire ludicrous weapons and blow up aliens again and again and again.  No such luck in Linux, it would seem – the ‘port’ is still under development.

A quick search of ‘gaming in linux’ on Google spits back a modest fifty million results, so you KNOW I’m not the only person interested in doing something like this.  Several of my former WoW buddies (I kicked the habit) played in Linux with impressive results, and it’s been something I’ve wanted to emulate ever since we all started this experiment.  While I have yet to sit down and attempt the installation of a legitimate Windows-only game into Fedora, I have made a selection of a few free (and some open-source!) games I’ve been keeping occupied with in the meantime.  Hope you enjoy!

  • Nexuiz – a free, open-source first-person cross-platform shooter (runs on Windows, Linux and OS/X)
  • Scorched3D – a 3D update of one of my favourite games of all time, Scorched Earth
  • Armacycles-AD – all ready covered by Tyler, this game is addictive as hell

Any other suggestions you might have would be fantastic!  Next up is trying to get some Steam games running…

Softphones, anyone?

September 18th, 2009 1 comment

Any recommendations for a softphone (VOIP client) that runs under Gentoo? I’m at the end of my rope – my usual poison X-Lite doesn’t want to run in any sort of fashion. I essentially need something that can connect to an Asterisk server for the occasional call where I want to use a headset.

Categories: Free Software, Gentoo, Jake B Tags: