Archive for the ‘God Damnit Linux’ Category

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
Check out my profile for more information.

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.

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.

The Linux and its ability to brick itself.

September 29th, 2009 1 comment

Over the weekend, I started a stats assignment that required me to use R. R runs in the terminal, but when you create plots, it brings up graphics. Normally in Windows, you can just copy the window and paste the new plot into whatever word processor you’re using. Linux Mint wasn’t letting me copy the plot – in fact, it wasn’t even letting me use alt-printscreen. Finally, I gave up and tried to install ksnapshot (I figured I could just screenshot a selected area). This is where my troubles began. Ksnapshot refused to install. Actually, everything refused to install. I restarted the computer and found this ridiculous scene on my desktop:

So many screenshots

So many screenshots

Seeing as I apparently had an abundance of screenshots, I gave up on ksnapshot and moved on with my life.

Today I tried to update my system through mintUpdate. Unfortunately, none of the updates went through. I called Tyler and Jake in and we tried installing something – anything – else. Nothing worked, and I kept getting this message in the console:

“dpkg failed in buffer read”

It turns out that Festival (the text-to-speech program) was completely ruining everything. We tried removing it through the terminal, but to no avail. We tried simply accessing it, but the system was having none of it. In the end, we had to go into recovery mode and do some weird file system stuff (I’ll have to ask Jake and Tyler on the details of what exactly it was I did). So far the system seems to be functioning again, but if Tyler and Jake weren’t around I’m sure I’d still be struggling to figure out what the hell was going on.

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

Another kernel update, another rebuild of my kernel

September 29th, 2009 No comments

Seriously, this is getting annoying

And just when I thought it couldn’t get anymore annoying… it seems as though there isn’t a kmod-catalyst for the newest version of the kernel that I just got updated to. Which means either I get the new kernel or I get to keep my graphics. I think for now I will be sticking with the latter and only move up to the new kernel when there is a kmod-catalyst ready for me.

The Magic of Lenny Backports

September 28th, 2009 No comments

This afternoon saw me in a really annoying situation. I was in a coffee shop, wearing a beret, and writing poetry, and couldn’t get a ‘net connection. The coffee shop runs an open network access point, but some asshat in a nearby complex was running a secured access point with the same SSID.

For some reason, my version of the network-manager-gnome package (the older one that shipped with Lenny) could not tell the difference, and I could not get a connection. When I attempted to force a connection, it crashed. Repeatedly.

This being my first experience with anything on Linux crashing, I immediately (and rashly) determined that the problem must lie with my (relatively) old network manager. After all, I was running v0.6.6-4 of an application that had since matured to v0.7.7-1! And my companions, who were running the latest version, were connecting no problem! Of course, this also wasn’t the first set of problems that I had encountered with my network manager.

So upon returning to my domicile (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence), I hit the #debian IRC channel and asked about upgrading to the testing repository, where all of the latest and greatest code is awaiting release as Squeeze, the next version of Debian. Having heard that the code was frozen in July, and that the release was slated for early spring, I figured that by this point, the code there would be fairly mature, and easy enough to use. To the contrary, the members of the channel weren’t comfortable giving me advice on how to upgrade, since in their words, I shouldn’t be considering upgrading to testing unless I understood how to do as much.

With this warning, I was then given instructions on how to update (which didn’t make me feel any better – the last step in the instructions was “be ready for problems”), along with the suggestion that I check out first.

Essentially, this site is an alternate repository dedicated to backporting the latest and greatest code from testing to the last stable version of Debian. This means that, with a simple modification to my etc/apt/sources.list file, I could selectively upgrade the packages on my machine to newer versions.

In fact, I had actually already added this repository to my sources.list file, back when I was working on getting Flash 10 installed. At the time, I just didn’t know enough to understand what it was, or what it’s implications were.

So now, running the newest version of network-manager-gnome, a somewhat more recent version of gnome-do, and clinging to the promise that I can upgrade anything else that seems to have gotten better since the time of the dinosaurs when Lenny was released; my urge to upgrade has subsided, and my commitment to wait out the proper release has been restored.

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?

How I solved my audio problems

September 27th, 2009 No comments

Short answer: IRC and #fedora

Long answer:

As you may recall I have been without sound for quite some time now. Finally getting sick and tired of it I ventured into the official Fedora IRC channel to try and get some help. Thankfully the people over there are very helpful. After about an hour of trying this, that and the other thing I finally found success by doing the following:

yum install pavucontrol padevchooser

This installed some very easy to use tools for PulseAudio, the component that I long thought was the cause of my problems.

PulseAudio made easy!

PulseAudio made easy!

After pulling this up I noticed that it was sending the master audio stream to my ATi HDMI port for some reason. A quick switch of this to the “Internal Audio” and everything seemed to work fine! Not sure what caused my default audio stream to be switched to the HDMI port that I’m not even using but I’m just glad that after all of this time I have finally solved the problem!

DNS Not Satisfactory

September 25th, 2009 No comments

While trying to connect to a remote webserver via SSH last night, I found that my machine refused to resolve the hostname to an IP address. I couldn’t ping the server either, but could view a webpage hosted on it. Now this was a new one on me – I figured that my machine was caching a bad DNS record for the webserver, and couldn’t connect because the server’s IP had since changed. That didn’t really explain why I was able to access the server from a webbrowser, but I ran with it. So how do you refresh your DNS cache in Linux? It’s easy to do in Windows, but the Goog and the Bing let me down spectacularly on this issue.

This morning, I tried to connect via SSH from my school network, and couldn’t get a connection there either. This reinforced the idea that a local DNS cache might have an outdated record in it, because at school, I was using a different nameserver than at home, and a whole 12 hours had elapsed. Out of theories, and lacking a method to refresh my local DNS cache, I hit the #debian channel on IRC for some guidance. Unlike my last two trips to this channel, I got help from a number of people within minutes (must be a timezone thing), and found out that unless I manually installed one, Debian does not maintain a DNS cache. Well, there goes that idea.

So where was I getting my DNS lookup service? A quick look at my /etc/resolv.conf file showed that the only entry in it was, which is the IP of my home router. The file also has a huge warning banner that claims that any changes will be overwritten by the operating system. Makes sense, as when I connect to a new network, I presumably get DNS resolution from their router, which may have a different IP address than mine. The guys on IRC instructed me to try to connect to the server with it’s IP address instead of it’s hostname, thereby taking the DNS resolution at the router out of the picture. This worked just fine.

They then instructed me to add a line to the file with the IP address of the nameserver that the router is using. In the case of our home network, we use OpenDNS, a local company with static servers. I did so, and could immediately resolve the IP of my remote server, and obtain an SSH connection to it.

Well fine, my problem is solved by bypassing DNS resolution at the router, but it still doesn’t explain what’s going on here. Why, if DNS resolution was failing at the router level (presumably because the router maintains some kind of DNS cache), did it work for my webbrowser, but not the for ssh, scp, or ping commands? Don’t they all resolve nameservers in the same way? Further, if it was the router cache that had a bad record in it, why did the problem also manifest itself at school, where the router is taken entirely out of the picture?

Further, will the file actually be overwritten by the OS the next time I connect to a different wireless network? If so, will my manual entry be erased, and will the problem return? Time will tell. Something smells fishy here, and it all points to the fact that my machine is in fact retaining a local DNS cache. How else can I explain away the problem manifesting itself on the school network? Further, even if I do have a local cache that is corrupted or contains a bad record, why did Iceweasel bypass it and resolve the address of the webserver at the router level (thereby allowing it to connect, even though the ssh, scp, and ping commands could not)?


My audio doesn’t work anymore

September 21st, 2009 1 comment

Yup. Not sure why. It just happened. I have tried messing around in my audio settings and still nothing. In fact the only audio device I can get to play is not PulseAudio, or anything standard like that, but rather the Intel audio card that it found for my system. While this is all fine and promising it still doesn’t work right. When I tried to set it as my primary device and restarted my machine KDE threw a bunch of error messages my way saying that it couldn’t use the Intel device (really? because that was the only one that worked for me…) and instead fell back to PulseAudio (really? because that one doesn’t work for me…).

Why is it that Linux works great for a short while and then suddenly breaks itself?