Archive

Archive for the ‘Jon F’ Category

How is it doing that?

December 15th, 2009 13 comments

Just about everything that I’ve ever read about media playback on Linux has been negative. As I understand the situation, the general consensus of the internet is that Linux should not be relied on to play media of any kind. Further, I know that the other guys have had troubles with video playback in the past.

All of which added up to me being extremely confused when I accidentally discovered that my system takes video playback like a champ. Now from the outset, you should know that my system is extremely underpowered where high definition video playback is concerned. I’m running Debian testing on a laptop with a 1.73 GHz single-core processor, 758MB shared video RAM, and a 128MB Intel GMA 900 integrated graphics card.

Incredibly enough, it turns out that this humble setup is capable of playing almost every video file that I can find, even with compiz effects fully enabled and just a base install of vlc media player.

Most impressively, the machine can flawlessly stream a 1280x528px 1536kb/s *.mkv file over my wireless network.

As a comparison, I have a Windows Vista machine with a 2.3GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 512MB video card upstairs that can’t play the same file without special codecs and the help of a program called CoreAVC. Even with these, it plays the file imperfectly.

I can’t explain how this is possible, but needless to say, I am astounded at the ability of 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.

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.

(Finally) Installing Bluezync for Thunderbird

November 5th, 2009 1 comment

After some constructive comments from Henrik, the developer of the BlueZync plugin for Thunderbird, I decided to take another shot at getting Blackberry sync working on Linux. This time, instead of making up my own instructions, I actually followed his (which have been updated somewhat since my last visit).

Surprisingly, when I followed the instructions to the letter, the plugin built correctly the first time without any problems. When I launched Icedove (the Debian rebranding of Mozilla Thunderbird), the plugin even loaded correctly! If you’ve read my past posts detailing this process, you’ll feel as incredulous as I did.

The only trouble that I ran into along the way was actually with version 0.9 of the Lightning plugin for Icedove (Thunderbird). Upon installation of the plugin, I was not able to create a calendar, an event, or a task. Turns out that this Ubuntu bug applies to Debian as well, and that the problem can be easily fixed by uninstalling Lightning, downloading and installing the libstdc++5 package, and reinstalling the Lightning plugin. For whatever reason, I could not find this package in the Debian Testing repositories, and instead downloaded and installed it from the Lenny repositories.

With that issue solved, I tried running the ./test-bluezync.sh script, and was met yet again with a slew of failed tests:

21% tests passed, 15 tests failed out of 19

The following tests FAILED:
5 – thunderbird (Failed)
6 – tbird_empty (Failed)
7 – tbird_slow (Failed)
8 – tbird_slow_3 (Failed)
9 – tbird_fast (Failed)
10 – tbird_add (Failed)
11 – tbird_delete (Failed)
12 – tbird_modify (Failed)
13 – light_empty (Failed)
14 – light_slow (Failed)
15 – light_slow_3 (Failed)
16 – light_fast (Failed)
17 – light_add (Failed)
18 – light_delete (Failed)
19 – light_modify (Failed)

However, unlike in past attempts at this install, this time the Bluezync plugin is visible from within Thunderbird… Now all I have to figure out is how to use it. More on that later.




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.

Reinstalling Linux

November 2nd, 2009 2 comments

Generally, after using a Windows machine for close to a year, it gets bogged down and slow and benefits greatly from a reinstall. After about 2 months of using Linux, and installing three different desktop managers on top of one another, I’ve found the same with my Linux install.

I attribute most of the problems that I’ve been having to the relationship between XFCE and KDE. After installing KDE and playing with it for one evening, I hightailed it back to XFCE, and found that many of  the options that I set in KDE leeched their way back into XFCE.

For instance, all of the window decoration that I set in KDE, the default web browser and file manager all persist in XFCE. Thanks to the light weight way that XFCE handles settings (read: it doesn’t save them, and doesn’t listen to ones that you do set, so don’t expect it to), most of KDE has leeched into my XFCE install.

This, along with a few other minor problems that I’ve been having lately, as well as a curiosity about what the install process would be like now that I know what I’m doing, have lead me to attempting a fresh install. Ideally, I’ll be back up and running within an hour.

Cheers, and wish me luck.




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.
Categories: Debian, Jon F, KDE, XFCE Tags: , , , ,

FTP Trials

October 24th, 2009 2 comments

I use FTP for a lot of things, mostly related to website administration. On Windows, my client of choice is WinSCP. It has this great feature that allows you to constantly synchronize a local directory with a remote directory, allowing you to make changes in your local editor of choice, and have them reflected on the site as soon as you save the file.

On Linux, I’ve been remoting into the server via SSH, opening the remote file in nano, and copying and pasting my local code to the server. While the combination of SSH and bash scripting can allow for some really cool code, I’d rather just find an application that mimics the WinSCP functionality that I’m looking for.

To that end, I have raided Synaptic and downloaded as many different graphical FTP clients as I could find. Read on, dear reader, as I delve into the depths of FTP on Linux, and share my findings with you.

1. BareFTP
This app is written in C# (for really cool cross-platform action), and targets the Mono framework on the GNOME desktop environment. It supports the FTP, FTPS, and SFTP protocols, and has a nice, clean looking interface:

bareFTP-Screenshot

It's pretty and functional, no?

I really like this app. It has a nice, intuitive interface, feels quick, and supports bookmarks that let you automatically connect to a remote server and set your local and remote directories with a single button click. Unfortunately, the program does not appear to support any kind of scripting or directory watching, so while it may see use as a client for occasional file transfers, it likely won’t suffice as a WinSCP replacement.

2. Filezilla
Before discoving WinSCP, I used this app for a long time on Windows. It’s an excellent utility that seems to have improved quite a bit since the last time I used it.

More features along with a more cluttered interface.

More features along with a more cluttered interface.

Of particular interest to me are the Synchronized Browsing and Directory Comparison features. The former changes the remote directory whenever you change the local directory, so that you can always keep an eye on the difference between local and remote files. To that end, the latter feature applies a colour coded scheme to both local and remote files so that you know exactly what has been synchronized to the server and what hasn’t. However, like bareFTP, there is no synchronization support.

And Others…
The unfortunate part about this little exercise is that after trying another three FTP clients, I realized that they’re roughly all the same. Sure, some are uglier, like JFTP, and some are uber streamlined like kasablanca. Unfortunately, even though they all do the same task in a slightly different way, none of them do quite what I want.

And so I ask you, the reader – is there an FTP client that allows me to synchronize a local directory with a remote one?




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.