Archive for the ‘God Damnit Linux’ Category

Going Linux, Once and for All

December 23rd, 2009 7 comments

With the linux experiment coming to an end, and my Vista PC requiring a reinstall, I decided to take the leap and go all linux all the time. To that end, I’ve installed Kubuntu on my desktop PC.

I would like to be able to report that the Kubuntu install experience was better than the Debian one, or even on par with a Windows install. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case.

My machine contains three 500GB hard drives. One is used as the system drive, while an integrated hardware RAID controller binds the other two together as a RAID1 array. Under Windows, this setup worked perfectly. Under Kubuntu, it crashed the graphical installer, and threw the text-based installer into fits of rage.

With plenty of help from the #kubuntu IRC channel on freenode, I managed to complete the Kubuntu install by running it with the two RAID drives disconnected from the motherboard. After finishing the install, I shut down, reconnected the RAID drives, and booted back up. At this point, the RAID drives were visible from Dolphin, but appeared as two discrete drives.

It was explained to me via this article that the hardware RAID support that I had always enjoyed under windows was in fact a ‘fake RAID,’ and is not supported on Linux. Instead, I need to reformat the two drives, and then link them together with a software RAID. More on that process in a later post, once I figure out how to actually do it.

At this point, I have my desktop back up and running, reasonably customized, and looking good. After trying KDE’s default Amarok media player and failing to figure out how to properly import an m3u playlist, I opted to use Gnome’s Banshee player for the time being instead. It is a predictable yet stable iTunes clone that has proved more than capable of handling my library for the time being. I will probably look into Amarok and a few other media players in the future. On that note, if you’re having trouble playing your MP3 files on Linux, check out this post on the ubuntu forums for information about a few of the necessary GStreamer plugins.

For now, my main tasks include setting up my RAID array, getting my ergonomic bluetooth wireless mouse working, and working out folder and printer sharing on our local Windows network. In addition, I would like to set up a Windows XP image inside of Sun’s Virtual Box so that I can continue to use Microsoft Visual Studio, the only Windows application that I’ve yet to find a Linux replacement for.

This is just the beginning of the next chapter of my own personal Linux experiment; stay tuned for more excitement.

This post first appeared at Index out of Bounds.

On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

Phoenix Rising

December 12th, 2009 3 comments

As we prepare to bring The Linux Experiment to a close over the coming weeks, I find that this has been a time of (mostly solemn) reflection for myself and others.  At the very least, it’s been an interesting experience with various flavours of Linux and what it has to offer.  At its peak, it’s been a roller-coaster of controversial posts (my bad), positive experiences, and the urge to shatter our screens into pieces.

Let me share with you some of the things I’ve personally taken away from this experiment over the last three-and-a-half months.

Fedora 12 is on the bleeding edge of Linux development

This has been a point of discussion on both of our podcasts at this point, and a particular sore spot with both myself and Tyler.  It’s come to a place wherein I’m sort of… afraid to perform updates to my system out of fear of just bricking it entirely.  While this is admittedly something that could happen under any operating system and any platform, it’s never been as bad for me as it has been under Fedora 12.

As an example, the last *six* kernel updates for me to both Fedora 11 and 12 combined have completely broken graphics capability with my adapter (a GeForce 8600 M GS).  Yes, I know that the Fedora development team is not responsible for ensuring that my graphics card works with their operating system – but this is not something the average user should have to worry about.  Tyler has also had this issue, and I think would tend to agree with me.

Linux is fun, too

Though there have been so many frustrating moments over the last four months that I have been tempted to just format everything and go back to my native Windows 7 (previously: release candidate, now RTM).  Through all of this though, Fedora – and Linux in general – has never stopped interesting me.

This could just be due to the fact that I’ve been learning so much – I can definitely do a lot more now than I ever could before under a Linux environment, and am reasonably pleased with this – but I’ve never sat down on my laptop and been bored to play around with getting stuff to work.  In addition, with some software (such as Wine or CrossOver) I’ve been able to get a number of Windows games working as well.  Linux can play, too!

Customizing my UI has also been a very nice experience.  It looks roughly like Sasha’s now – no bottom panel, GnomeDo with Docky, and Compiz effects… it’s quite pretty now.

There’s always another way

If there’s one thing I’ve chosen to take away from this experiment it’s that there is ALWAYS some kind of alternative to any of my problems, or anything I can do under another platform or operating system.  Cisco VPN client won’t install under Wine, nor will the Linux client version?  BAM, say hello to vpnc.

Need a comprehensive messaging platform with support for multiple services?  Welcome Pidgin into the ring.

No, I still can’t do everything I could do in Windows… but I’m sure, given enough time, I could make Fedora 12 an extremely viable alternative to Windows 7 for me.

The long and short of it

There’s a reason I’ve chosen my clever and rather cliche title for this post.  According to lore, a phoenix is a bird that would rise up from its own ashes in a rebirth cycle after igniting its nest at the end of a life cycle.  So is the case for Fedora 12 and my experience with Linux.

At this point, I could not see myself continuing my tenure with the Fedora operating system.  For a Linux user with my relatively low level of experience, it is too advanced and too likely to brick itself with a round of updates to be viable for me. Perhaps after quite a bit more experience with Linux on the whole, I could revisit it – but not for a good long while.  This is not to say it’s unstable – it’s been rock solid, never crashing once – but it’s just not for me.

To that end, Fedora 12 rests after a long and interest-filled tenure with me.  Rising from the ashes is a new user in the world of Linux – me.  I can say with confidence that I will be experimenting with Linux distributions in the future – maybe dipping my feet in the somewhat familiar waters of Ubuntu once more before wading into the deep-end.

Watch out, Linux community… here I come.

Categories: Dana H, Fedora, God Damnit Linux, Linux Tags:

A Tale of Two Fonts

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

Hey, where'd my text go?

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

On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

Coming to Grips with Reality

December 8th, 2009 No comments

The following is a cautionary tale about putting more trust in the software installed on your system than in your own knowledge.

Recently, while preparing for a big presentation that relied on me running a Java applet in Iceweasel, I discovered that I needed to install an additional package to make it work. This being nothing out of the ordinary, I opened up a terminal, and used apt-cache search to locate the package in question. Upon doing so, my system notified me that I had well over 50 ‘unnecessary’ packages installed. It recommended that I take care of the issue with the apt-get autoremove command.

Bad idea.

On restart, I found that my system was virtually destroyed. It seemed to start X11, but refused to give me either a terminal or a gdm login prompt. After booting into Debian’s rescue mode and messing about in the terminal for some time trying to fix a few circular dependencies and get my system back, I decided that it wasn’t worth my time, backed up my files with an Ubuntu live disk, and reinstalled from a netinst nightly build disk of the testing repositories. (Whew, that was a long sentence)

Unfortunately, just as soon as I rebooted from the install, I found that my system lacked a graphical display manager, and that I could only log in to my terminal, even though I had explicitly told the installer to add GNOME to my system. I headed over to #debian for some help, and found out that the testing repositories were broken, and that my system lacked gdm for some unknown reason. After following their instructions to work around the problem, I got my desktop back, and once more have a fully functioning system.

The moral of the story is a hard one for me to swallow. You see, I have come to the revelation that I don’t know what I’m doing. Over the course of the last 3 months, I have learned an awful lot about running and maintaining a Linux system, but I still lack the ability to fix even the simplest of problems without running for help. Sure, I can install and configure a Debian box like nobody’s business, having done it about 5 times since this experiment started; but I still lack the ability to diagnose a catastrophic failure and to recover from it without a good dose of help. I have also realized something that as a software developer, I know and should have been paying attention to when I used that fatal autoremove command – when something seems wrong, trust your instincts over your software, because they’re usually correct.

This entire experiment has been a huge learning experience for me. I installed an operating system that I had never used before, and eschewed the user-friendly Ubuntu for Debian, a distribution that adheres strictly to free software ideals and isn’t nearly as easy for beginners to use. That done, after a month of experience, I switched over from the stable version of Debian to the testing repositories, figuring that it would net me some newer software that occasionally worked better (especially in the case of Open Office and Gnome Network Manager), and some experience with running a somewhat less stable system. I certainly got what I wished for.

Overall, I don’t regret a thing, and I intend to keep the testing repositories installed on my laptop. I don’t usually use it for anything but note taking in class, so as long as I back it up regularly, I don’t mind if it breaks on occasion; I enjoy learning new things, and Debian keeps me on my toes. In addition, I think that I’ll install Kubuntu on my desktop machine when this whole thing is over.  I like Debian a lot, but I’ve heard good things about Ubuntu and its variants, and feel that I should give them a try now that I’ve had my taste of what a distribution that isn’t written with beginners in mind is like. I have been very impressed by Linux, and have no doubts that it will become a major part of my computing experience, if not replacing Windows entirely – but I recognize that I still have a long way to go before I’ve really accomplished my goals.

As an afterthought: If anybody is familiar with some good tutorials for somebody who has basic knowledge but needs to learn more about what’s going on below the surface of a Linux install, please recommend them to me.

On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

Eclipse… Again

November 21st, 2009 No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

I Cannot Has Eclipse?

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

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

On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

Configuring BlueZync and Failing at Barry

November 6th, 2009 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the proverbial drawing board with me…

On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

Back at Square 1

November 2nd, 2009 2 comments

This morning I reinstalled my Debian system. I began by downloading an ISO for the current Debian Stable build (called Lenny), and installing it with the graphical installer. That done, I used a couple of my old posts to get my wireless firmware installed and to upgrade my system to the Testing repositories.

Unfortunately, I have realized that a clean install of Debian Linux is a pretty plain place to be in. Even though I have the benefit of my old writings to help me get up to speed, some, like the ones dealing with how to get Compiz working properly, are somewhat lacking in detail.

Naturally, I’ve replaced all of the problems that running multiple desktop environments was causing with all of the problems that an entirely unconfigured system can cause. I’ve already mentioned that I haven’t gotten Compiz working yet (whenever I turn it on, all of my window decorations disappear), and there is some error with Postgre that causes Synaptic and Aptitude to complain whenever I make changes to my system:

E: postgresql-8.4: subprocess installed post-installation script returned error exit status 1
E: postgresql: dependency problems – leaving unconfigured
E: postgresql-contrib-8.4: dependency problems – leaving unconfigured
E: postgresql-contrib: dependency problems – leaving unconfigured

Most stressing is the fact that I cannot get into the preferences for the Nautilus file system browser. Whenever I try to open the preferences dialog from the edit menu, it (and most of GNOME) crash. Running Nautilus from the terminal yields me this output:

(nautilus:4213): Gtk-CRITICAL **: gtk_combo_box_append_text: assertion `GTK_IS_COMBO_BOX (combo_box)’ failed

(nautilus:4213): GLib-GObject-CRITICAL **: g_object_set_data_full: assertion `G_IS_OBJECT (object)’ failed

(nautilus:4213): Gtk-CRITICAL **: gtk_widget_set_sensitive: assertion `GTK_IS_WIDGET (widget)’ failed

(nautilus:4213): GLib-GObject-WARNING **: invalid (NULL) pointer instance

(nautilus:4213): GLib-GObject-CRITICAL **: g_signal_connect_data: assertion `G_TYPE_CHECK_INSTANCE (instance)’ failed

(nautilus:4213): GLib-GObject-WARNING **: invalid (NULL) pointer instance

(nautilus:4213): GLib-GObject-CRITICAL **: g_signal_handlers_block_matched: assertion `G_TYPE_CHECK_INSTANCE (instance)’ failed

(nautilus:4213): GLib-GObject-CRITICAL **: g_object_get_data: assertion `G_IS_OBJECT (object)’ failed
Segmentation fault

Actually, the terminal prints output similar to the above, but so much of it that this post would take up most of the front page of the site were I to post it all. I have no idea what the hell any of that means, or how it got into my system, or why I cannot get into the preferences panel of Nautilus as a result.

Until I do figure it out, I’ll be spending a lot of time on the #debian channel. Along with these major problems come a number of small tasks, like adding myself to the sudo keyring, adding the Testing repository keys to my sources list so that it stops yelling that all of my software is unverifiable.

Fucking Linux.

On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

Flash problems in Firefox

October 25th, 2009 5 comments

I mentioned in the podcast that I was having problems viewing Flash stuff in Firefox and I blamed it on KDE. I may have jumped the gun here, because the same issue started cropping up in GNOME. I went on the Linux Mint forums and other users were having similar issues. I’ve run the code that they suggested in the terminal, but I’m not sure if it worked because the problem doesn’t manifest instantly – sometimes it takes over half an hour before websites that run flash white themselves out.

Miscoloured PNGs: Firefox 3.5.4 Fails It Again

October 20th, 2009 1 comment

The Situation:

A while back I decided to see if I could install Firefox 3.5.4, because I like to live at the bleeding edge. I opted to go with 3.5.4, since version 3.5.3 decided to hue all blue PNG’s orange, as I mentioned in our first podcast.

The Process:

After checking in YaST Software Management to see if I could upgrade from 3.0.14 to 3.5.4 and finding out that no, no I could not, I decided to check my good friend Webpin. Webpin, being literally 1000000 times better than the piece of shit that is YaST Software Management, supplied me with a “one-click install” file for Firefox 3.5.4.

Hooray, Webpin rocks! Or does it...

Hooray, Webpin rocks! Or does it...

I’d like to point out that these one-click install files are hardly one-click. For your viewing pleasure, here is the shit you have to go through to install one of these bad boys:

YaST loaded up.

YaST loaded up.

After hitting next.

After hitting next.

Hitting next again.

Hitting next again.

After hitting next, yet again. Seeing a trend here?

After hitting next, yet again. Seeing a trend here?

Holy dialogs batman! 20 bucks if you can guess my root password!

Holy dialogs batman! 20 bucks if you can guess my root password!

Holy crap its finally installing!

Holy crap its finally installing!

Okay that last one didn't require me to click, but look! YaST fails at resolving a dependency, as usual.

Okay that last one didn't require me to click, but look! YaST fails at resolving a dependency, as usual.

Not only did YaST fail at installing, it also lied and told my the install was successful. I hate liars.

Not only did YaST fail at installing, it also lied and told my the install was successful. I hate liars.

Okay, so Webpin let me down too. That sucked pretty hard, as I like to think of Webpin as useful, and less shitty than YaST Software Management.

As a next-to-last ditch effort, I tried the openSUSE website’s page for Firefox. Here I was provided with yet another lovely one-click installer for the “most recent version of Firefox”. This one worked, and upon restarting Firefox, I was met with… wait for it… orange.

Its like Firefox threw up pumpkin guts all over my PNGs.

Its like Firefox threw up pumpkin guts all over my PNGs.

Checking in YaST Software Management showed a bugfix-type update for Firefox 3.5.4, which is confusing since I thought I just installed the most recent version of Firefox. Giving Mozilla the benefit of the doubt, I tried to update my installation, however once again I was met with an unresolvable dependency for xulrunner. At this point I decided that the bleeding edge had cut me deep enough, and I reverted back to Firefox 3.0.14.

This is what it's suppose to look like. Orange free since version 3?

This is what it's suppose to look like. Orange free since version 3?

The Conclusion:

I’m largely disappointed with this whole situation, and I don’t know if I’m to blame Linux, openSUSE, or Mozilla. Let me know in the comments if you’ve had a similar issue and/or found a way to fix it.


October 16th, 2009 2 comments

Well, again, it’s been a little while since my last post. I hope you all enjoyed the podcast that we put out the week before last. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, make sure to do so by going here. We had a lot of interesting discussions regarding the experiment. If you have any comments about the podcast, or there is anything you want to see, you can either leave a comment, or shoot me an email.


After approximately 46.3 attempts at installing openSUSE on my Asus eeePC, it is finally installed. With the help of Jake B. and Windows, we finally managed to get it working. It took only several hours of both of us cursing, and nearly an entire 24 of Stella, but it is working.


I hate KDE more than I hate Differential Equations, and as Jon F. can probably confirm, I really hate Differential Equations. That being said, besides Sasha D, who doesn’t hate Differential Equations?

KDE just makes everything so difficult. With Gnome, most of the applications mesh well with the interface. However, with KDE, I have a hard time even getting some applications to mesh with it at all. Pidgin looks absolutely terrible. The message font doesn’t match up with what my system font is set to, and I did not have this issue with GNOME.

I don’t want any damn widgets… this isn’t a Mac!


Screen-shots to follow… that is if KDE will let me do that.

KDE is a terrible tease and the reason we can’t have nice things

October 15th, 2009 5 comments

Last night I installed KDE and I was absolutely thrilled. For starters, it has built in widgets, which I absolutely love (when they work, that is). In general I find it a lot easier to customize than GNOME, and themes are easier to implement and look much nicer. This is a shot of my current desktop:

It's rather pretty

It's rather pretty

KDE also natively supports rotating wallpapers, which is absolutely wonderful – I had spent several futile hours toiling with cronjobs in GNOME desperately trying to get it to work. I’m not particularly proficient with Linux, so the fact that KDE offered this right out of the box really appealed to me.

The widgets range from useless-but-amusing (such as the Fuzzy Clock, which gives inaccurate times) to the practical-but-amusing (I have my frequently used folders in the top right corner) to the wonderful-but-broken (any weather widget). I’m actually a bit frustrated with the last one – I tried using LCD Weather Station, and it worked for the UK and the US, but it couldn’t read Environment Canada’s data. Maybe we could change our name to “United Canada” or something.

It gets a bit ugly

Being rather pleased with my progress, I turned on the computer this morning hoping to get my second monitor working. I plugged it in, started up my laptop and then ohjesusgodwhy my laptop and monitor started blinking on and off furiously, rendering my system unusable. Restarting X seemed to do the trick, and my laptop and monitor were synchronized and working properly. However, my monitor was only running at 1600×900, not its native 1920×1080. I decided to fix this in the most daring manner I could: changing the resolution to “1920×1080”. KDE, seeing through my dirty bag of tricks, had none of it and promptly started blinking and seizing, and to (probably incorrectly) quote Mike Tyson, convulsing like an infantile retard.

I had to restart xserver a few dozen times and finally got my system stable again, albeit without running the monitor. I tried the next most daring thing I could think of: going to the display settings. This enraged KDE so much that it decided to go into convulsions again. I restarted my computer hoping that would fix things. Nope, more convulsions. I tried using Catalyst, but that had no effect – literally – I couldn’t even add the new monitor. All in all, I basically tried restarting xserver/my computer a few times, and once the monitor seemed to work properly, I’d stop fiddling with it and accept my half-hearted victory.

Oh, and when I close my laptop the system assumes I’ve logged out, so I currently have the most useless dual monitor setup. Hopefully that’s easy to change.

So yeah, to hell KDE’s seduction.

Categories: God Damnit Linux, KDE, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

GUI Failure

October 14th, 2009 No comments

Now that I’m running the Testing repositories, I actually get regular updates. Today, there were 15 available for my system. However, when I started the update manager, I was confronted with this dialog:


Well what the hell does that mean, anyway? Does it mean that the safe-upgrade will not remove any existing packages or install any new ones? Or is it asking if I would like to perform a safe-upgrade as opposed to installing new packages? Should I just click the Yes button, because it is green and the No button is red? Am I even seeing the correct colours? I am colourblind, you know. Furthermore, if I don’t understand what’s happening here, where can I get more information? How come, no matter what I choose, the Apply button on the next screen is disabled until I manually clear and re-select every update in the list? Lastly, how come the entire update manager crashes when I hit the Check button? It seems unable to resolve one of the sources in my list (one that doesn’t even appear in my /etc/apt/sources.list file), and instead of timing out, sits, waiting, presumably forever, no matter how many times I hit the Cancel button. I’m a seasoned computer user with well over a month of Linux under my belt and I’m concerned – what of those other users who don’t know shit about shit? I want blood, damnit!


On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

Portage drops the canoe, crushing my Gentoo installation

October 13th, 2009 No comments

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

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

Bad idea.

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

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

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

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

Where did my Desktop go?!?!

October 8th, 2009 3 comments

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

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


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

On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
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Blackbery Sync Attempt #3: Compiling from Source

October 5th, 2009 7 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CMAKING mozilla-sync 0.1.7
— Configuring done

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

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

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


October 4th, 2009 No comments

I swear that I’ve encountered this before…

That is all.

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

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.