Archive for the ‘Free Software’ Category

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.

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

Wireless Network Manager Woes

September 16th, 2009 No comments

Debian Lenny ships with the Network Manager package, version 0.6.6-4, which for all intents and purposes is a well written and very useful network management application. But of course, I wanted something more. At home, I have my music library (hosted on a Windows Vista machine) shared to the local network, and wanted to mount that drive using Samba so that I could share my music library between my two machines while on my home network.

On a Windows machine, one can just point an application to files on a networked drive, while Windows handles all of the dirty details related to allowing that application use those files as if they were on the local machine. On Linux, the application in question seems to have to be aware of how to handle a Windows share (usually via the Samba package), and handle that drive sharing on it’s own, unless the network drive has been mounted first. Further, when mounting a network share in Linux, one can choose any folder on their hard drive to put its contents into, ensuring that it always appears in the same location, and is easy to find.

Unfortunately, as far as I can divine, a networked drive can only be mounted by the root user, which seriously reduces the number of applications that can perform that mounting action. In my quest to get my home music share working, I looked into plenty of different methods for automatically mounting network drives, including startup scripts, modifying the fstab file, and manually connecting from a root terminal. None worked very well.

Eventually, I stumbled across a web post advertising the pros of the WICD network manager, which as I understand, will be used as an alternative to the network manager package by Debian Squeeze, and can currently be pulled into Lenny by adding the Debian-Lenny Backports repository to your sources list. I installed it, replacing the default network-manager-gnome package.

My first impression of WICD was extremely positive. Not only did it connect to my home network immediately, it also allowed me to define default networks to connect to (something that is conspiciously absent from the NetworkManager interface), and to set scripts that are run when my client connects to or disconnects from any of the networks in the list. This allowed me to write a simple one line script that mounted my network share on connection to my home wireless network. It worked every time, and mysteriously did so without asking me for my Sudo password, even though it used the sudo command internally to get rights to perform the mount.

Odd security peculiarities aside, I was happy with what I had accomplished – now I could tell my laptop to automatically connect to my home wireless network, and to mount my music share as soon as it did so! Then I went to school. Shit.

The wireless network at my University uses EAP-TTLS with PAP inner-authentication as a security protocol, something that WICD apparently had no idea how to handle. This protocol is extremely secure, as the host identifies itself to the client with a certificate that the client uses to tunnel into the host, allowing connection to take place without any user information being passed in the clear. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work, except that our school doesn’t have a certificate or certificate authority, so… Whatever.

In any case, WICD does not include a template for this type of network (which is fair I suppose, since Windows requires an add-on to access it as well), but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to do to fix the problem. I trolled the internet from a wired machine and tried editing the WICD encryption templates, while Tyler (on Fedora) and Phil (on OpenSuse) connected on first try.

Eventually, after an hour or so of fruitless trial and error, I gave up, came home, and reinstalled the NetworkManager application, because that’s what Tyler and Phil were using on their systems, and it seemed to work fine. Sure enough, the next day I connected after just a minor tweaking of the network properties in the NetworkManager dialog.

Unfortunately, while I can now connect to my home and school networks, I once again have lost the ability to automatically connect to networks, and to execute scripts on connection, meaning that I’m back to square one with the mounted networked music share – for now, I just do the mounting manually from a root terminal. Balls.

Armacycles Advanced

September 14th, 2009 3 comments

This afternoon Phil, Jon, Sasha and myself engaged in a little Tron-esque gameplay thanks to the awesome 3D recreation known as Armacycle Advanced or sometimes Armagetron. This game is awesome! Not only is it very, very addictive but it is also fully networked meaning you can play on your LAN or even online with other players.

Here is a screen shot of the game in action:


Armacycles Advanced A.K.A. Armagetron needs snappier application names

September 13th, 2009 1 comment

Seriously, the names in are pretty bland – “Spreadsheet”, “Word Processor”, “Presentation”, etc. However, that’s pretty much the only fault I could find so far.

Word Processor

Earlier today I was visiting my family. My brother wanted to write a resume, but being completely new to the working world, he obviously needed some help. By complete coincidence, my parents didn’t feel like paying for Microsoft Office, so he has to use OpenOffice.The word processor is very intuitive and works just as well as Word. The only two difficulties I encountered were bullet formatting, which involved some guesswork with the horizontal rulers, and table formatting, which I’ll elucidate now.

Despite the fact that every company demands unformatted text resumes submitted online, I still like to make my resumes reasonably attractive in case I need a hard copy – this means screwing with tables, cells, and line colours and thicknesses. In MS Word, there’s a handy table toolbar with some drawing tools – namely the pencil, eraser, and the paintbrush. These tools allow users to select and manipulate individual line segments. OpenOffice’s Word Processor lacks this feature, and instead users have to select cells (individually or in groups) and and manipulate them. This is just as effective as MS Word, but a fair bit more cumbersome.

Overall, the resume turned out nicely and I only spent about five minutes troubleshooting the cell borders.


I mainly use spreadsheets to track my workouts and schedules. I found OO.o’s spreadsheet very easy to use and I transitioned from Excel seamlessly. It easily imported my old workout XLS files and doesn’t seem to have had any problems. In addition, the formatting worked as desired and took no extra time. OO.o’s macros worked as expected and definitely added some time-saving convenience.

Categories: Free Software, Sasha D Tags:

Day 12, my current software setup

September 12th, 2009 No comments

It has been almost half a month since the experiment has begun and I think everyone is just getting to the point where they can begin to be truly productive on their systems. As such I just wanted to share my current software setup, as is, and the replacements I am using for the proprietary software packages that I  would have otherwise normally used under a Window’s environment.

Operating System

As you may have already known, I have chosen Fedora 11 as my distribution for this experiment. While it was quite a rocky start, Fedora is proving to be a competent operating system and should fit my needs for the duration of the experiment.

Office & Word Processing

Fedora ships with 3.1.1 as its office suite. I have used in the past and have found it to be a adequate alternative to Microsoft’s Office suite if not without it’s own faults. Perhaps it is just my familiarity with Microsoft’s Office suite but I find to have many odd quirks. For example its ability to open but not save to Office Open XML (*.docx, *.pptx, *.xlsx, etc.) is rather frustrating. I think for the most part I am going to be using’s preferred format, the OpenDocument Format, but I have read numerous issues with this format as well. I guess time will tell if this is a good choice or not.

Moving forward I think I am going to be looking at alternatives to, such as AbiWord or KOffice, just to see if those work better for me.

E-mail Client

As on Windows I am using Thunderbird to manage my e-mail. What’s kind of weird is I can only seem to install the Thunderbird 3 beta version from my repositories. Again you can find my contact information on my page here.


This one was a really a easy choice for me. I have been using Firefox on Windows for a long time. Fedora allows me to run the most recent version which is 3.5.3 as of this writing. My browsing experience has not changed whatsoever from how it was on Windows.

Instant Messaging

On Windows I had been mostly using Windows Live Messenger. Now that I am on Linux I have tried various IM clients including aMSN, Kopete and Pidgin. Of the bunch I think Kopete has a lot of potential but I am sticking with Pidgin. It just seems to do everything and do it mostly right.

Music/Media Management

As an alternative for iTunes I gave Rhythmbox a go and was very impressed. Next I tried Songbird and while there isn’t much difference between the two players, I like the feel of Songbird better. For videos I am still trying to decide whether I prefer VLC or MPlayer. Like Rhythmbox and Songbird there really isn’t much difference between VLC and MPlayer.

Image Manipulation

I have never been a big Photoshop person so my needs in this category were pretty easy to meet. That being said I have settled on using both the GIMP and KolourPaint to fill in any gaps.


In the past I have been primarily a Windows developer using tools such as Visual Studio to get my jobs done. I would be very interested in seeing how Mono development works on Linux but in the meantime I will be using Eclipse’s Java and C/C++ tools as my primary Linux development platform.


Because there is no µTorrent support for Linux, except under Wine, I have decided to use the native client KTorrent for all of my torrenting needs! I find it to be very similar to what I’m used to on Windows so again this is a easy solution for me.

That’s It For Now

I’ll let you know if I find any better alternatives moving forward.

Alien, OpenPGP & Wine

September 6th, 2009 No comments

Now that the horrors of installation and setup are a part of the past I have been spending my time delving deep into the desktop and the applications. I would like to briefly touch upon three of these.


One of the first things you figure out after you install your distribution of choice is what package manager they are using. Now I’m not talking about Synaptic, mintInstall, or KPackageKit, but rather the packaging format, commonly RPM or DEB. While both of these are excellent they do create problems when you want to install software that only comes in the format that your distribution does not use. This is where alien comes in. Alien is a small command line program that will convert from one package to the other. So I can download a .deb file and use alien to convert it into Fedora’s native .rpm format. It’s simple and works great.


As I am a bit of a privacy nut I have been using Pretty Good Privacy for a while now to secure my e-mail and attachments. My mail client of choice makes this very easy through the use of the Enigmail add-on. What’s even better is Fedora, like most if not all Linux distributions, already ships with the program gpg. GnuPG is a command line application that implements OpenPGP, the open source, fully compatible version of PGP. This means that no matter which program you are using on your system they can all access the same PGP keys seamlessly! I have taken the extra step of generating a GPG key for my e-mail account here, tyler at, which you can find under my page (under Guinea Pigs at the top). I highly recommend anyone who is the least bit computer savvy set themselves up  an key and upload it to a key server. It takes about 1 minute and is very easy to use!


Wine, or Wine Is Not an Emulator, is a Linux program that can run a lot of Window’s programs by tricking them into thinking they are running on a Window’s machine. While I wouldn’t recommend it for everything, Wine is quite powerful and can get you out of a pinch. You can run Windows programs simply by opening a terminal and typing

wine [path to exe]


Notepad running thanks to Wine

Fedora FAQ

September 5th, 2009 No comments

I just wanted to quickly mention this awesome website, While it only covers up to Fedora 10 most of what it says is still completely accurate. It has helped me quick a bit get my system up and running, most recently allowing me to use Window’s fonts in Linux!

Finally Up and Running

September 3rd, 2009 1 comment

As you may recall, last night, I ruined my system by manually editing the xorg.conf config file according to a sketchy tutorial on the Debian Wiki. This evening, I fixed the problem and got Compiz effects running in all of 20 minutes. The moral of the story: Before fucking about online, use the resources that are right in front of you.

Firstly: Fixing X

When I edited the xorg.conf file last night, I made a mistake, and every time X tried to load on startup, it failed out. At the time, I was bleary-eyed and half in the bag, and didn’t realize that when this happened, Debian presented me with the ability to log into the terminal and fix my silly mistakes.

Refreshed and ready to go, I logged into the terminal as root this evening, loaded the config file in question, took out my changes, saved, and restarted. Lo and behold, everything worked perfectly, and I got my desktop back.

Part B: Getting Compiz

After enabling OpenGL support and 3D hardware acceleration last night, I immediately attempted to get the Compiz suite of relatively useless eye candy nonsense up and running, a process that lead directly to me bricking my system.

The first tutorial that I tried to follow last night instructed me to edit my sources list and download the required packages from a third-party mirror… Until I scrolled down (after already doing all of the suggested actions), and realized that the entire tutorial was outdated because Compiz had since been migrated into the Debian repositories. I more or less succeeded in disabling all of those changes, in the sense that undoing them didn’t break anything apparent.

The next step was a quick dash over to the Debian Wiki for information on how to install Compiz properly, which I assumed could be had from this tutorial. Turns out I was wrong, because while the package installs that it reccomends mostly succeeded, when I tried to enable Compiz, it errored out and locked up my desktop.

Pissed off, I tried making the suggested changes to the xorg.conf file that are suggested in the tutorial, which to my dismay, resulted in X locking up because of errors in my freshly edited config file. This brings us roughly to where I was at with last night’s post.

Once I had restored my desktop and come to my senses, getting Compiz was actually a snap. I launched the Aptitude package manager from a root terminal, searched for the Compiz package, and let it take care of handling any dependencies and conflicts for me. In the process, it handily uninstalled a few garbage packages that I had added last night while fucking things up.

With Compiz properly installed, I used the Synaptic package manager (the graphical front-end to Aptitude) to add the Fusion Icon package (a Compiz control icon) to my taskbar for easy access, and sat back to have a celebratory beer and enjoy me some Wobbly Windows. Another moral for the story: The Debian Wiki sucks, and has lead me astray one too many times. From here on in, I will take everything that it claims with a truckfull of salt.

(Supposed) Icing on the Cake: Screenlets

Lastly, I added the Screenlets package, which allows me to have Vista-like widgets on my desktop that do silly things like monitoring my internals and wasting my system resources. So far, I’ve found the default screenlets to be pretty lame and useless, and I don’t quite understand the process of installing a new screenlet yet. I’ll get back to this in a later post.

How to add audio and video codecs to Fedora 11

September 3rd, 2009 3 comments

By default this distro does not support non-free codecs. After a quick google search I found this quick and easy solution to add audio and video codecs to my Fedora install. Thanks again Tech Jaws.

In a root terminal run these commands

rpm -Uhv


yum install gstreamer-plugins-bad gstreamer-plugins-ugly

That should do it! Full MP3 support!

[UPDATE] I noticed that MP3 support wasn’t working in Amarok so after some googling I corrected this problem by also installing the following.

yum install libtunepimp-extras-nonfree
yum install xine-lib-extras-nonfree

The Fedora Megapost

September 3rd, 2009 2 comments

As I sit here writing this I am enjoying the more simple things in life. A fully functional laptop, graphical desktop effects, a strong network connection, decent battery life, and a touchpad that works completely. Ah, but things were never always this easy. No, in fact the last 3 days have taken me through a roller coaster ride of the high peaks and endless lows of my Fedora experience thus far. Allow me to take you through the story of how I got here, and hopefully this will help out people who aren’t quite here yet.

Painless Install

If there’s one thing I can say in Fedora’s favour its that the install went just perfectly. In fact the one part that I thought might be difficult, the partitioning, turned out to be the easiest. Fedora prompted me to select if I wanted the system encrypted via a checkbox or not and then if I wanted to review the default partition choices. Upon review the default partitions nearly matched the ones I thought I was going to create anyway. This includes an ext3 boot partition and an encrypted partition holding a LVM with the rest of my system partitions; an ext4 root and swap partitions.

On the next page I was able to select which software categories I wanted to install, and then customize exactly what that means. I chose to deselect GNOME and select KDE as my desktop environment. I also installed some software development tools, a web server (for fun), and SAMBA support to play nicely on the Windows network.

After entering a countless number of passwords, for the bootloader, the encrypted partition, the root account, and my user account, the system was finished installing and I was presented with my desktop! All told it too about 20 minutes to install – very quick and very impressive.

First Impressions

The K Desktop Environment (KDE) is something that I am very unfamiliar with. It took me about an hour to find my way around it and to be honest I hated it at first. I found it very clunky and some dialogue boxes were too small to show the text that they were trying to show me. Since then though it is starting to grow on me, though I am not sure if I would go with KDE over GNOME again in the future.

Now to Enable Those Fancy Desktop Effects I’ve Been Hearing So Much About

A simple check in the Desktop tab of the System Settings menu and Desktop Effects are enabled!…. COULD NOT ENABLE DESKTOP EFFECTS? If only I had known that this would be the start of all of my problems…

OK So Maybe I Need A Graphics Driver?

After poking around online for a while I finally gave up and just went to the ATi website and grabbed the driver from there. This graphical install was straightforward enough and when it finished everything seemed great! That is until I restarted and tried to turn effects on again. It turns out that there is a bug somewhere that freezes the system if hardware cursor is enabled, which it is by default. Disabling hardware cursor and enabling software rendering makes the system stable again, even with desktop effects, but causes graphics abnormalities around the cursor on the screen.

To enable the software cursor I first dropped down to the terminal from the login splash screen. To do this I used

Ctrl + Alt + F2

Next I logged in as root and changed /etc/X11/xorg.conf and added Option “SWCursor” “true” to the “Device” section as shown below,

Section “Device”
Identifier  “Videocard0”
Driver      “fglrx”
Option      “OpenGLOverlay” “off”
Option      “VideoOverlay” “on”
Option      “SWCursor” “true”
Option      “AccelMethod” “xaa”

I also tried switching from OpenGL to XRender which seemed to fix things but its performance was all over the map, causing the system to slow to a crawl at times. -sigh- Guess I’ll just reinstall…

Round Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, etc!

I will skip through most of the 2 days worth of cursing that I went through to get everything set up correctly. Needless to say I tried everything from patching the kernel, to using open source drivers, to sacrificing a goat and nothing seemed to work. In the end it was a series of small steps that eventually led to my graphics card working. Here are some of the high points:

RPM Fusion

Following the advice of this FAQ over at, I used their community wrapped version of the ATi drivers that I had tried initially. Well at least I tried to, you see when I ran the following line it told me the package didn’t exist.

yum install kmod-fglrx

After more time spent googling I found out that the new name for it was ‘kmod-catalyst’, just like how ATi names it. It would have been nice for the authors at FedoraFAQ to update this in their old article but alas.

I patched and rebuilt the kernel and then rebooted. To my amazement my resolution was no longer very small. In fact I had my full 900p resolution! If that worked surely Desktop Desktop effects will as well! A quick jump to the Desktop settings tab and a check of the checkbox and I had effects up and running! Well… for about 20 seconds until my entire system locked up. Like, we’re talking a hard lock here. I couldn’t even kill X or drop down to the terminal to try and turn software cursor on. -sign- reboot and see if it worked? Nope, no luck there either. Well guess I will just reinstall then…

RPM Fusion Take Two!

After finishing the reinstall I found this new forum post with updated instructions. Great! I thought and followed them to the letter. Too bad this worked even less than before. Again I was forced to reinstall.

Skip All That Crap, Tell Us What Finally Worked!

Here is the process I took to get this to work, hopefully it will help some of you as much as it did me! I didn’t follow any particular instructions but rather mixed and matched ones that seemed to work. As such I don’t really know what each piece does but I have a general idea.

Step 1

Update the system, especially the kernel, to the most recent release.

Step 2

Bringing up a terminal I typed


To become the root user. Next I typed

yum install kmod-catalyst-

This downloaded and installed the ATi driver catalyst kernel module for Fedora 11 x64. Next I shut down X using

init 3

Logging back into root I enabled the catalyst driver

catalyst-config-display enable

Finally I rebuilt the kernel so that it loaded the drivers correct.

new-kernel-pkg –mkinitrd –update $(rpm -q –queryformat=”%{version}-%{release}.%{arch}\n” kernel | tail -n 1)

Remember that’s two dashes before mkinitrd, update and queryformat! At this point you may have noticed that so far I am following the exact same process as I did during my first attempt with RPM Fusion. That is because this series of steps is the only one that gave me working hardware and good resolution.

OK So How Come It Worked This Time?

If you’ll remember it was at this point that when I enabled Desktop Effects my system would freeze up. setting Software Cursor in X seemed to fix this but caused other graphical issues. I managed to find this awesome post much later on in the giant Fedora Forum post that showed much promise. By opening a root terminal and typing,

aticonfig –set-pcs-str=”DDX,EnableRandR12,FALSE”

all of my problems were suddenly gone. Again that’s two dashes in front of set-pcs-str, not one! Now I’m not a rocket scientist but I think I just enabled random to make this work? 😛 This little line is a godsend. I was now able to enable full OpenGL graphical effects, including my desktop ones, without software cursor screwing everything up! Finally all of my countless hours of frustration paid off in spades!

Up Next: Full Touchpad Support

I honestly don’t even remember the whole process I went through to try and get my touchpad to support tap-clicking. My time spent on this task was intertwined between my time spent trying to fix my graphics issues. Needless to say all I had to do was verify that the synaptics driver was installed, it was, and then add this to /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Section “InputDevice”
Identifier  “Synaptics Touchpad”
Driver      “synaptics”
Option      “SendCoreEvents” “true”
Option      “Device” “/dev/psaux”
Option      “Protocol” “auto-dev”
Option      “HorizScrollDelta” “0”
Option      “SHMConfig” “true”
Option      “TapButton1” “1”

And then set up a terminal command to run on startup that executes the following line:

synclient TapButton1=1

So What’s Next?

Amazingly I think I am almost completely set-up and ready to start actually using my system in a normal way. My networking works, my graphics work, my audio works, it all seems to just work.

Are You Sure?

Well… there are two little annoying things.

Network Manager and KWallet

The first time I installed Fedora, a program called KWallet, the KDE password manager, stored my Wifi password perfectly. Now however for some reason it is not storing the password at all which forces me to enter it every time I want to connect to the network. This is incredibly annoying and should be an easy fix but I just cannot seem to find a way to make it start remembering my password! If anyone knows how to make it suddenly smarten up please let me know!

Kopete and Webcam

I never had any reason to use a webcam in an instant messenger however while poking around inside of Kopete I did notice that it seemed to support it. So I hopped on MSN and attempted to test this capability. Only… I can’t find the button to send or receiver webcam invites anywhere. Does Kopete just not support MSN webcam? A quick google search seems to claim it does… Again if anyone knows the answer to this or how to make it work please post a comment. :)


Sorry for the long post but I figured I might as well catch up on everything I had missed writing in the past couple of days. Here is a picture of my desktop just to prove it actually works as promised 😛

My Desktop

My Desktop

The Need for a Password Manager

September 2nd, 2009 1 comment

On my Windows machine, I use a free program called KeePass to manage all of my passwords. It creates an encrypted file that contains all of my passwords, and automatically pastes them into the correct dialog boxes when I hit ctrl-alt-a.

Since I’m attempting to emulate my normal work flow, one of my first goals with Debian was to get a password manager up and running, and to disable the password management tool that is present in Iceweasel (For those that don’t know, Iceweasel is Firefox, but it’s been re-branded and given a new set of icons so that it is a truly “free” program).

Luckily, with just a few minutes of looking around, I found the KeePassX project, a mature cross-platform clone of the KeePass project that even imports KeePass 1.x database files. Installation was simple, and once I exported a 1.x version of my KeePass database from my Windows machine, KeePassX opened it immediately.

It should be noted that GNOME ships with an application called Seahorse that provides a graphical front end to the underlying keyring management system. This application seems to have been designed primarily for remembering PGP keys and remote server passwords. It handles my wireless network passwords, but I can’t seem to figure out how to add website passwords to it, so KeePassX is my replacement solution.

Aside: To add another item to my to-do list, I’ve just noticed that GNOME has registered the Epiphany web browser as my default browser, so all system links launch in it instead of in Iceweasel. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s not that Ephiphany is a bad browser, but more that I’m used to how Iceweasel works. Further, Epiphany appears to just be another re-branding. According to it’s webpage, it runs all the same plugins that Firefox can… So I guess my first question is, why bother?


September 1st, 2009 1 comment

Hi, everyone!  Dana here posting from a successful installation of Fedora 11.  I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get the option to install KDE out of the box, but that’ll be something else to tinker with another day.

For now, just figured I would give a status update.  Wireless works out of the box, as do vertical and horizontal touchpad scrolling.  Screen brightness is set somewhere near the bottom and can’t be adjusted, but I can live with that until tomorrow when I get home from work.

Fun fact: in Russia, Fedora at one time may have been a more popular name with women (for older women now).  These are the things you learn when you have a Russian exchange student living with you.  Thank you, Masha!

More to come tomorrow.