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

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




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 libxpcom.so, which checks if the file libxpcom.so is registered as a symlink on your system. After finding out that it was not, I entered the command locate libxpcom.so from a root terminal, and found three locations for the file in question on my system. I then used the line export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib/icedove:/usr/lib/iceowl:/usr/lib/xulrunner-1.9 to register the symlink. Unfortunately, even after running the export command, ldconfig failed to find the link. Although this one will probably bite me in the ass later on, I’ll skip it for now.

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

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

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

Back to the proverbial drawing board with me…




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.

OH GOD WHAT THE HELL LINUX!!!11

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.

LINUX IS INSTALLED ONCE AGAIN

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.

WELL, WORKING IS A RELATIVE TERM

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!

I WANT MY GNOME BACK!!!

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