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Well shit, that was easy

October 12th, 2009 1 comment

One of my big griefs with Mint was that the sound was far too quiet. I assumed this was some sort of hardware compatibility issue. Apparently it’s not and it’s really easy to fix. Essentially, the default “front speaker” volume is not at the max level. While this has given me a great max volume, my latest problem is getting Mint to increment/decrement the volume properly – the master volume is essentially muted at 70%. That being said, I’m glad I can finally watch online videos from my laptop without needing headphones or a soundproof room.

Categories: Hardware, Linux Mint, Sasha D Tags:

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 build-install-opensync.sh 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 setEnvOpensync.sh 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 build-install-bluezync.sh 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 2.0.0.22
–     THUNDERBIRD_XPCOM_VERSION 2.0.0.22
–     THUNDERBIRD_VERSION_MAIN 2
–     THUNDERBIRD_XPCOM_MAIN_INCLUDE_DIR /usr/include/icedove
–     NSPR_MAIN_INCLUDE_DIR /usr/include/nspr
–     THUNDERBIRD_XPCOM_LIBRARY_DIRS /usr/lib/icedove
–     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
SEVERAL
–      SUNBIRD_MAIN_INCLUDE_DIR /usr/include/iceowl
–      SUNBIRD_VERSION 0.8
– Found xpcom (thunderbird and sunbird):
–   THUNDERBIRD_XPCOM_VERSION=[2.0.0.22]
–   SUNBIRD_VERSION=[0.8]
–   THUNDERBIRD_VERSION_MAIN=[2]
–   SUNBIRD_VERSION_MAIN=[0]
–   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
–   SUNBIRD_VERSION 0.8
CALENDAR_VERSION=[8]
LIBTBXPCOM_INCLUDE_DIR
XPCOM_LIBRARIES  xpcom;plds4;plc4;nspr4;pthread;dl
ENABLE_TESTING [yes]
TESTING ENABLED
– 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.

More XKCD

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

Armagetron

Armagetron

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 ;)

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.

Barry: The Open-Sourced Blackberry Utility

September 30th, 2009 No comments

There is no denying that the installation process for the Barry project sucks. That said, the promise of having the ability to sync my blackberry with a linux-based calendar application like Mozilla’s Thunderbird or the Evolution mail client kept me working at it through the wee hours of the night. The Barry site at Sourceforge provides not one, not two, but four Debian packages (which rely on an additional two undocumented packages), that need to be downloaded and installed in a specific and undocumented order:

  1. libbarry0_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)
  2. barry-util_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)
  3. libglademm-2.4-1c2a (debian.org)
  4. barrybackup-gui_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)
  5. libopensync0 (debian.org)
  6. opensync-plugin-barry_0.15-0_i386.deb (sourceforge)

With the packages installed, I launched a terminal and used the auto-complete feature to find the command barrybackup. At first, I couldn’t figure out what it’s syntax was, until I realized that it doesn’t need any arguments, because it simply launches a GUI (that doesn’t appear anywhere in my Applications menu) that lets you back up your device databases:

Screenshot-Barry Backup

Well, thats a handy utility, assuming that it is also capable of restoring the backups to the device. I shied away from trying the restore feature, as I didn’t have access to a Windows box with which to fix the device should the worst happen.

I’m currently using Mozilla’s Thunderbird (re-branded in Debian as Icedove) as my primary mail client, along with the Lightning calendar plugin, and would be thrilled if I could synchronize it with my Blackberry. You’ll note that libopensync and a Barry opensync plugin were both a part of the installation process; having never used libopensync, I had a tough time figuring out how to make them cooperate.

The opensync page on Wikipedia lead me to install the multisync-tools package, which claims to be able to “synchronize calendars, address books and other PIM data between programs on your computer and other computers, mobile devices, PDAs or cell phones. It relies on the OpenSync  framework to do the actual synchronisation.” I have PIM data that I would like to sync! I have the OpenSync framework! We’re on a roll!

Finally, I installed the multisync-0.90 GUI and opensync-plugin-evolution v0.22-2 opensync plugin packages, which should have allowed me to sync between the Evolution mail client and my phone. I chose to try the process with this software first, as a plugin for Thunderbird was not immediately available. Unfortunately, when attempting to sync, I got this message:

Surprisingly, it was the evolution plugin that failed to connect

Surprisingly, it was the evolution plugin that failed to connect

Useful? Sort of. The Add button let me set up a Blackberry profile with both the barry and evolution plugins, but no matter how I tweaked the settings, I couldn’t get the evolution plugin to connect to my PIM data. Further, after making a synchronization group and adding plugins to it, I couldn’t find a way of replacing a plugin with a different one.

Sick of the limited GUI, I moved on to try KitchenSync, the KDE-based alternative. While it was uglier, I found it to be a far more useful front-end, and managed to get it to sync my device calendar and contacts with my filesystem:

Screenshot-PIM Synchronization - KitchenSync

This process exported all of the calendar and contact information from my Blackberry to a folder full of vCalendar and vContact files on my machine. Now if only I could get Thunderbird to read these files.

After a bit more looking around on the OpenSync webpage, I found a link to these guys, who claim to have programmed an opensync plugin called libopensync-plugin-mozilla-0.1.6 that allows Thunderbird and Lightning to talk to the OpenSync manager. They provide the plugin as a tarball that contains a *.so binary file and a sample *.xml configuration file… but no instructions on how to install them.

Thouroughly lost, I turned to the #opensync channel on freenode.net for help. Until they see fit to help me out, I’m taking a break from this. No sense in giving myself a heart attack out of extreme frustration.

Edit: I got some help from the members of the #opensync channel, who recommended that I drop the mozilla-sync.so file into the /usr/lib/opensync/plugins/ directory. While this didn’t immediately allow OpenSync to see the plugin, I noticed that every other plugin in the directory has an associated *.la configuration file. So I fabricated my own *.la file, and tried again. That didn’t work either.

The members of the channel then recommended that I try downloading the source code directly from the creators. I did as much, and found that it didn’t include a configure or make script, but just the source code. Not knowing how to proceed, I attempted to follow these instructions, which entailed downloading another 20 or so packages, including the sunbird-xpcom-devel package, which again lacks documentation on how to proceed with installation.

Lacking that package, and again frustrated beyond belief, I decided to drop the issue for another hour or so and do some math homework. That’s right, I chose to do math homework over playing with my computer, because this process has been that frustrating.

It doesn’t help that this entire process seems to be aimed at installed BlueZync, and not the opensync-mozilla-plugin. What the hell is going on here?

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 192.168.1.1, 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)?

LINUX!!11

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?

Mounting an NTFS-formatted External Drive

September 20th, 2009 6 comments

I have a Western Digital 250GB NTFS-formatted external hard drive that I use primarily to store backups of my Windows machine. Since I’m away from my house for a couple of days, I used the drive to bring along some entertainment, but encountered some troubles getting Debian Lenny to play nice with it:

mount-errorAfter searching around for a bit, I found a helpful thread on the Ubuntu forums that explained that this problem could be caused by a few different things. First, with the drive plugged in, I ran

sudo fdisk -l

from the terminal, which brought up a summary of all disks currently recognized by the machine:

jon@debtop:/$ sudo fdisk -l
Disk /dev/sda: 40.0 GB, 40007761920 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4864 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0xcccdcccd
 Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1   *           1          31      248976   83  Linux
/dev/sda2              32        4864    38821072+  83  Linux

Disk /dev/dm-0: 39.7 GB, 39751725568 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4832 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000

Disk /dev/dm-0 doesn't contain a valid partition table
Disk /dev/dm-1: 38.0 GB, 38067503104 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4628 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000

Disk /dev/dm-1 doesn't contain a valid partition table
Disk /dev/dm-2: 1681 MB, 1681915904 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 204 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000
Disk /dev/dm-2 doesn't contain a valid partition table
Disk /dev/sdb: 250.0 GB, 250059350016 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 30401 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x5b6ac646

Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1               1       30401   244196001    7  HPFS/NTFS

Judging by the size of the drives, I figured out that the OS saw my drive at the location /dev/sdb, and the partition that I wanted to mount (the only partition on the drive) at the location /dev/sdb1.

Now, to determine why Linux wasn’t mounting the drive, I checked the fstab file at /etc/fstab to see if there was some other entry for sdb that was preventing it from mounting correctly:

# /etc/fstab: static file system information.
#
# <file system> <mount point>   <type>  <options>       <dump>  <pass>
proc            /proc           proc    defaults        0       0
/dev/mapper/debtop-root /               ext3    errors=remount-ro 0       1
/dev/sda1       /boot           ext2    defaults        0       2
/dev/mapper/debtop-swap_1 none            swap    sw              0       0
/dev/scd0       /media/cdrom0   udf,iso9660 user,noauto     0       0
/dev/fd0        /media/floppy0  auto    rw,user,noauto  0       0

Since there was no entry there that should have overwritten sdb, I gave up on that line of inquiry, and decided to try manually mounting the drive. I know that Debian can read ntfs drives using the -t ntfs argument for the mount command, so I navigated over to the /media/ directory and created a folder to mount the drive in:

jon@debtop:/$ cd /media/
jon@debtop:/media$ sudo mkdir WesternDigital
jon@debtop:/media$ ls
cdrom  cdrom0  floppy  floppy0  WesternDigital
jon@debtop:/media$ sudo mount -t ntfs /dev/sdb1 /media/WesternDigital/
jon@debtop:/media$ sudo -s
root@debtop:/media# cd WesternDigital
root@debtop:/media/WesternDigital# ls
KeePass.kdbx  nws  $RECYCLE.BIN  System Volume Information  workspace.tc

As you can see, the contents of my external drive were now accessible in the location where they ought to have been if Debian had correctly mounted the drive when it was plugged in. The only caveat to the process is that the mount function is available only to root users, meaning that the mountpoint was created by root, and my user account lacks the necessary permissions to read or write to the external drive:

no-permissions

I figured that this issue could be solved by using chmod to grant all users read and write permissions to the mountpoint:

root@debtop:/media# chmod +rw WesternDigital
chmod: changing permissions of `WesternDigital': Read-only file system

Well what the hell does that mean? According to this post (again on the Ubuntu forums), the ntfs support in Linux is experimental, and as such, all ntfs drives are mounted as read only. Specifically, this drive is owned by the root user, and has only read and execute permisions, but lacks write permissions.

According to this thread on the slax.org forums, there is another ntfs driver for Linux called ntfs-3g that will allow me full access to my ntfs-formatted drive. After sucessfully adding the ntfs-3g drivers to my system, I dismounted the drive, and attempted to re-mount it with the following command:

mount -t ntfs-3g /dev/sdb1 /media/WesternDigital

This time, the mount command appeared to almost work, but I got an error message along the way, indicating that the drive had not been properly dismounted the last time it was used on Windows, and giving me the option to force the mount:

Mount is denied because NTFS is marked to be in use. Choose one action:

Choice 1: If you have Windows then disconnect the external devices by
 clicking on the 'Safely Remove Hardware' icon in the Windows
 taskbar then shutdown Windows cleanly.

Choice 2: If you don't have Windows then you can use the 'force' option for
 your own responsibility. For example type on the command line:

 mount -t ntfs-3g /dev/sdb1 /media/WesternDigital -o force

Well, since I didn”t have a Windows box lying about that I can use to dismount the drive properly, I’ll took a shot at using the force option. After warning me again that it was resetting the log file and forcing the mount, the machine finally mounted my drive with full permissions for the owner, group, and other users!

drwxrwxrwx 1 root root  4096 2009-09-18 15:40 WesternDigital

After a couple of manual tests, I confirmed that both my user account and the root user had full read/write/execute access to this drive, and that I could use it like any other drive that the system has access to. Further, thanks to the painful XBMC install process, I already had the codecs required to play all of the TV shows that I brought along.