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Happy birthday to us!

September 29th, 2009 No comments

On top of Tyler’s self-congratulatory post, I’d like to commemorate that it’s been two months since our very first post here on The Linux Experiment, with many more to come – don’t you worry.  Extended props from me to the folks at mintCast for mentioning us in their podcast at the beginning of September.  Keep up the awesome work, you guys.

LINUX HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Edit: here’s some birthday cake.  Enjoy.

I am currently running Gnome 2.26 on top of Fedora 11 (Leonidas). Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Dana H Tags:

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?

Gaaaaaaaaaaaay(mes) for Linux

September 26th, 2009 5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

vpnc and me

September 17th, 2009 4 comments

After a brief hiatus of making posts (I document my daily trials all day at work, so it’s not usually the first thing I want to do when I get home) I’ve decided to make a beneficial post about how I can now do WORK (from home) on my Fedora 11-based laptop.  Hooray!

At the corporation where I work, our network and firewall infrastructure is – of course – Cisco-based.  Naturally, in order to connect to our corporate network from home, we use Cisco’s own VPN Client.  For distribution to various users across the company, my workplace has provided discs with pre-configured installations of this client, all set and ready to go to connect to our corporate network.  This prevents the dissemination of unnecessary information (VPN IP addresses, etc.) across the ranks, and makes it much easier for the non-savvy user to get connected.

I’ve all ready had a bit of experience using this client on my Windows Vista and Windows 7-based computers.  Unfortunately for me, the Cisco VPN Client we use at work only operates in a 32-bit Windows environment… meaning that on Windows Vista, I had to run a full-fledged copy of Virtual PC with a Windows XP installation.  In Windows 7, I was fortunate enough to be able to use its own built-in Windows XP Mode.

Trial and Error

My first thought to get this software working under Fedora 11 was probably the most simple – run it in Wine!  I’ve had limited experience with Wine in the past, but figured that it was probably my best bet to get the Windows-only Cisco client functioning.  Unfortunately for me, attempting to install the program in Wine only results in a TCP/IP stack error, so that was out of the question.

My next thought – slightly better than the first – came when it was announced that I could nab a copy of the Linux version of the Cisco VPN Client from work.  As luck might have it, it’s a bitch of a program to compile and install, and I had to stop myself short of throwing my laptop into the middle of our busy street before I just gave up.

Better Ideas

At this point, I was just about ready to try anything that could possibly get VPN connectivity working for me on my laptop.  Luckily, a quick search of ‘Cisco VPN Linux’ in Google shot back the wondrous program that is vpnc.  After seeing various peoples’ success with vpnc – a fully Linux-compatible Cisco VPN equivalent – I did a bit of reading up on the documentation and quickly installed it using yum:

$ yum install vpnc.x86_64

There, easy enough.  Further reading on vpnc indicated that I needed to edit a file known as default.conf – located in the /etc/vpnc directory – to store my VPN settings for work, if desired.  Opening up the config file included with the Windows version of the client, I pretty much copied everything over verbatim:

$ cd /etc/vpnc

$ nano default.conf

IPSec gateway [corporate VPN address]

Xauth username [domain ID]

Xauth password [domain password]

Domain [corporate domain]

From there, I performed a write out to the default.conf and saved my information.  The only complaint I might have about this step is that everything in this file is stored as plain-text, and does not appear encrypted whatsoever.  Since we are using a WPA2-encrypted wireless network and the VPN tunnel is secured, I wasn’t too concerned – but still.

At this point, I was now ready to test vpnc connectivity.  Typing in at the terminal

$ vpnc default.conf

I was rewarded with a triumphant ‘vpnc started in background’.  Hooray!  But what to do from here – how to connect to my work computer?  On Windows, I just use Remote Desktop… so logic following through as it does, I typed:

$ rdesktop [computername].[domain]

Instantly, I was showered in the beauty that was a full-screen representation of my Windows XP Professional-based work computer.

A shot of vpnc running in terminal, and my desktop running in rdesktop.

A shot of vpnc running in terminal, and my desktop running in rdesktop.

It certainly was not as easy a process as I’m making it out to be here – indeed, I did have to figure out to add .[domain] to the end of my computer name, as well as allow vpnc’s ports to flow through by performing a terminal netstat command and then opening them accordingly in the Fedora firewall – but I am now connected to work flawlessly, using open-source software.

I am currently running Gnome 2.26 on top of Fedora 11 (Leonidas). Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Dana H, Fedora, Linux Tags: , , , ,

SELinux and printing: Chock full of FAIL.

September 8th, 2009 1 comment

I might be a little frustrated at this point, but please – let me explain myself before you start with the ‘Haha, Linux noobie.’ comments.

After 45 minutes of tinkering, I finally got network printing working on my laptop.  To elaborate, I have a Samsung ML-2510 monochrome laser printer hooked up to my Windows Home Server machine (which I am now able to access no problem), shared across the workgroup. ‘No problem!’ I thought to myself.  ‘Samba loves me.’  Right?

WRONG.  My trials and tribulations first started when adding the printer driver itself.  ‘Input a model here’ taunted me with its ease of use, and sure enough typing in ‘ML-2510′ brought up my printer.  After clicking ‘Forward’ and waiting a moment, there was… nothing.  No driver available for download.

My next roadblock came in the form of the beautiful SELinux feature built into Fedora 11.  For those of you not in the know, SELinux stands for ‘Security-Enhanced Linux’ and basically provides a crap ton of enhanced security policies not otherwise available.  While not a Linux distribution unto itself, many new distributions are starting to include it for added security.  At any rate, SELinux did not at all like my Samsung Unified Printer Driver, available for download from the Samsung site.

30 minutes of frustration later, after test pages failed to print and SELinux reports were being generated en masse, I just turned it onto ‘Permissive’ mode.  Voila!  I could now print.

The only question I can think of from this is ‘Why did they make this so hard?’  It should have, realistically, worked after I installed the Samsung driver and chose my printer.

Sitrep – Fedora: 1. Dana’s patience: 0.

September 2nd, 2009 No comments

As you might be able to tell from the title of this post, I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle here.  Through hummus.  In the middle of winter.  While I’m getting clawed back down the hill by a thousand lesbians.  Tempted to join them, but ever vigilant.

After much cajoling and terminal commands, I’ve managed to get the real (REAL!) nVidia graphics driver up and running.  While I was very excited for the ‘nouveau nVidia driver’ offered by default in Fedora 11, turns out this offers shit in the form of functionality with my graphics card.  No desktop effects and no ability to change screen brightness?  No thanks.

Hope eventually came in the form of a nice little .run file from nVidia’s site with the latest 64-bit drivers for my graphics card.  Hooray, I thought!  Sweet victory.  But wait, I’ve never seen a .run file before…?

*some searching*

Twenty minutes of Googling and tinkering later, and I figure out how to: 1) run a .run file, 2) kill X, and 3) work my way through the driver installation.  Which eventually failed, yes, but hey.  Five more minutes of Googling later and I came across this fantastic little site.  It gave me detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to add new repositories to yum (to which I’ve rather taken a liking), and from there getting the kmod-nvidia driver up and running.  Easy as pie!

Some time later, I’m now running with full desktop effects (shiny) in Gnome and the ability to change the brightness of my screen.  As far as other devices go, most things seem to work out of the box.  Touchpad and sound controls are fully functional, as well as some of my Fn+ keys (such as screen brightness and mute).  It’s been fun so far.

Next up: networking.  Might need some help here…

I am currently running Gnome 2.26 on top of Fedora 11 (Leonidas). Check out my profile for more information.

Fedora HOOOOOOOO!

September 1st, 2009 1 comment

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

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

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

More to come tomorrow.

Back and ready to go!

August 31st, 2009 No comments

I just got back from vacation last night, in time for tomorrow’s experiment start date.  I’ve all ready backed up my laptop in preparation (running the release candidate version of Windows 7 at the moment) and am very excited to get started.

TO LINUX WE GO!

I am currently running Gnome 2.26 on top of Fedora 11 (Leonidas). Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Dana H Tags:

Vacation a-hoy!

August 23rd, 2009 No comments

Hi, all.  Just a fair heads up that I’ll be relatively incommunicado as I head out on vacation until August 30th.  I hope that everyone else on here can keep you entertained enough until I return (with two days left before experiment start!  Ack!)

I am currently running Gnome 2.26 on top of Fedora 11 (Leonidas). Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Dana H Tags:

KDE 4.3 vs. Gnome 2.26: Slap fight!

August 21st, 2009 2 comments

Ding!  Let the fight begin.

In one corner, we have the only desktop environment I’ve used in Linux – Gnome 2.26, the standard for Ubuntu (the distribution with which I’ve worked the most so far) and Fedora, the distribution I’ve chosen for this experiment.

The Gnome 2.26 desktop is something I'm familiar with.

The Gnome 2.26 desktop is something I'm familiar with.

In the other corner, we have newly announced heavyweight KDE 4.3, supposedly with all sorts of social networking integration and enough shiny parts to attract a magpie.

Windows 7, is that you?

Windows 7, is that you?

I’m not going to lie.  Both environments look pretty gorgeous, but KDE to me – though I’ve used Gnome more in Linux – looks (from screenshots at least) a little more familiar.  So what do they have to offer me?  Let’s find out!

History

Both environments have a rich history behind them.  KDE-ONE was released back in 1997,  a little more than twelve years ago today.  Gnome followed not long after, in March of 1999.

Gnome started in response to KDE’s not being completely under the GPL; two projects were started as to address this, and Gnome was born.  Whereas Gnome – and yes, the ‘G’ in there stands for GNU – started as a completely-GPL response to KDE, KDE in itself was started by a university student troubled by parts of the standard Unix desktop.

Long story short?  Both environments got their starts early, and for different reasons.  I respect both of their reasons for why and how they started, but I won’t let those get in the way of what I came her to do.

Functionality and usability

(credit to the main websites of both Gnome and KDE)

As I mentioned before, I’m all ready familiar with the Gnome desktop environment.  To me, as a hardcore Windows user it was easy to use, intuitive and fairly well laid-out.

Gnome’s newest version includes improvements to its disc burning software and file sharing.  File sharing in itself is rather important to me, due to my Windows Home Server containing the vast majority of my digital media.

There are a few other changes – things like the volume manager and Evolution notes client (though I all ready plan on using Thunderbird as I do in Windows), but nothing that particularly caught my eye.

KDE 4.3.0, as a major release, brings home a huge amount of firepower.  Full web integration has been brought straight to the desktop.  Along the lines of file management, Dolphin seems to offer a lot of the nice previews I’ve come to enjoy with my Release Candidate edition of Windows 7 – file previews in a folder, along with video thumbnails to let me know just what I’m going to be watching (VERY YES).

The System Tray has been completely re-vamped, which I understand could be a nice difference from Gnome (whose system tray hasn’t changed much in the last few updates).

The story thus far

Well, given my complete inability to effectively compare two things and document my findings, not much has been told here so far.  Both environments have a rich history and huge amounts of features to offer, and having only used Gnome so far I really can’t say much for KDE other than that ‘it looks nice and sounds nicer’.

…if you have any suggestions on either one, or would like to offer your own experiences here, please do so!  At this point, I think I’m leaning more towards KDE’s major 4.3.0 release.  Mostly for the shiny things, and partly for wanting to try something new.  I’m bored of Gnome.

Categories: Dana H, Free Software, GNOME, KDE, Linux Tags: