Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Linux’

Distro hopping: how to install Plex Home Theater on elementary OS

September 15th, 2015 No comments

Plex is great. It is a very easy to use cross-platform program that lets you view and watch your own personal media almost anywhere. The main component is the Plex Media Server which actually hosts and provides the media but they have another program that offers a very nice interface to browse and view these files called the Plex Home Theater. Unfortunately while they have builds for Windows and OS X there are currently no such officially supported versions for linux. Thankfully the community has stepped in and provided the means to get this running on your distribution of choice. This post will show how to install it on elementary OS (or any other Ubuntu based distributions).

Visiting this page you can see that there are instructions for different distributions. As elementary OS is derivative of Ubuntu we’ll use that provided repository to install the program. The first step is to open a terminal and run the following command:

 sudo apt-add-repository ppa:plexapp/plexht

This will add the community repository to your system so that you can find and install the program normally. Next you just need to run the update command to re-sync with the repositories and then the install command to actually install the program:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install plexhometheater

Once the command finishes Plex Home Theater should be successfully installed.

Plex!

Plex!

Have fun watching your movies!

This post is part of a series:




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

A distro hopping experiment

September 12th, 2015 No comments

Over the last little while I’ve become quite comfortable using a single distribution, Linux Mint, for my day-to-day needs. While this has obviously allowed the operating system to, in a sense, disappear into the background and let me do “real” work it has had the side effect that I haven’t been as exposed to the interesting changes happening elsewhere on the Linux landscape.

That’s why I’ve decided to run my own mini experiment of sorts where I leave the comfort of Linux Mint and start off on a journey of hopping between different distributions again. I don’t exactly know how long I’ll be staying on each distribution but the goal is to stay for around two weeks or so in order to get a good feel for that distribution. Heck I may even throw in the occasional BSD or other alternative operating system here and there as well just to mix things up. I also plan on trying to stick with the majority of the defaults (settings, programs, etc.) that ship with the distribution so that I get the intended experience.

So join me as I jump around and if you have any suggestions for distributions to try let me know!




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

CoreGTK 3.10.1 Released!

September 8th, 2015 No comments

The next version of CoreGTK, version 3.10.1, has been tagged for release today.

Highlights for this release:

  • Added some missing (varargs) GTK+ functions. This makes it easier to create widgets like the FileChooserDialog.

CoreGTK is an Objective-C language binding for the GTK+ widget toolkit. Like other “core” Objective-C libraries, CoreGTK is designed to be a thin wrapper. CoreGTK is free software, licensed under the GNU LGPL.

You can find more information about the project here and the release itself here.

This post originally appeared on my personal website here.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

CoreGTK 3.10.0 Released!

August 20th, 2015 No comments

The next version of CoreGTK, version 3.10.0, has been tagged for release today.

Highlights for this release:

  • Move from GTK+ 2 to GTK+ 3
  • Prefer the use of glib data types over boxed OpenStep/Cocoa objects (i.e. gint vs NSNumber)
  • Base code generation on GObject Introspection instead of a mix of automated source parsing and manual correction
  • Support for GTK+ 3.10

CoreGTK is an Objective-C language binding for the GTK+ widget toolkit. Like other “core” Objective-C libraries, CoreGTK is designed to be a thin wrapper. CoreGTK is free software, licensed under the GNU LGPL.

You can find more information about the project here and the release itself here.

This post originally appeared on my personal website here.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

CoreGTK 2.24.0 Released!

August 4th, 2014 No comments

The initial version of CoreGTK, version 2.24.0, has been tagged for release today.

Features include:

  • Targets GTK+ 2.24
  • Support for GtkBuilder
  • Can be used on Linux, Mac and Windows

CoreGTK is an Objective-C language binding for the GTK+ widget toolkit. Like other “core” Objective-C libraries, CoreGTK is designed to be a thin wrapper. CoreGTK is free software, licensed under the GNU LGPL.

You can find more information about the project here and the release itself here.

This post originally appeared on my personal website here.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

Linux alternatives: Mp3tag → EasyTAG

August 4th, 2014 1 comment

A big part of my move from Windows to Linux has been finding replacements for the applications that I had previously used day-to-day that are not available on Linux. For the major applications like my web browser (Firefox), e-mail client (Thunderbird), password manager (KeePass2) this hasn’t been a problem because they are all available on Linux as well. Heck you can even install Microsoft Office with the latest version of wine if you wanted to.

Unfortunately there still remains some programs that will simply not run under Linux. Thankfully this isn’t a huge deal because Linux has plenty of alternative applications that fill in all of the gaps – the trick is just finding the one that is right for you.

Mp3tag is an excellent Windows application that lets you edit the meta data (i.e. artist, album, track, etc.) inside of an MP3, OGG or similar file.

Mp3tag on Windows

Mp3tag on Windows

As a Linux alternative to this excellent program I’ve found a very similar application called EasyTAG that offers at least all of the features that I used to use in Mp3tag (and possibly even more).

EasyTAG on Linux

EasyTAG on Linux

For anyone looking for a good meta data editor I would highly recommend trying this one out.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

How to migrate from TrueCrypt to LUKS file containers

June 15th, 2014 2 comments

With the recent questions surrounding the security of TrueCrypt there has been a big push to move away from that program and switch to alternatives. One such alternative, on Linux anyway, is the Linux Unified Key Setup (or LUKS) which allows you to encrypt disk volumes. This guide will show you how to create encrypted file volumes, just like you could using TrueCrypt.

The Differences

There are a number of major differences between TrueCrypt and LUKS that you may want to be aware of:

  • TrueCrypt supported the concept of hidden volumes, LUKS does not.
  • TrueCrypt allowed you to encrypt a volume in-place, without losing data, LUKS does not.
  • TrueCrypt supports cipher cascades where the data is encrypted using multiple different algorithms just in case one of them is broken at some point in the future. As I understand it this is being talked about for the LUKS 2.0 spec but is currently not a feature.

If you are familiar with the terminology in TrueCrypt you can think of LUKS as offering both full disk encryption and standard file containers.

How to create an encrypted LUKS file container

The following steps borrow heavily from a previous post so you should go read that if you want more details on some of the commands below. Also note that while LUKS offers a lot of options in terms of cipher/digest/key size/etc, this guide will try to keep it simple and just use the defaults.

Step 1: Create a file to house your encrypted volume

The easiest way is to run the following commands which will create the file and then fill it with random noise:

# fallocate -l <size> <file to create>
# dd if=/dev/urandom of=<file to create> bs=1M count=<size>

For example let’s say you wanted a 500MiB file container called MySecrets.img, just run this command:

# fallocate -l 500M MySecrets.img
# dd if=/dev/urandom of=MySecrets.img bs=1M count=500

Here is a handy script that you can use to slightly automate this process:

#!/bin/bash
NUM_ARGS=$#

if [ $NUM_ARGS -ne 2 ] ; then
    echo Wrong number of arguments.
    echo Usage: [size in MiB] [file to create]

else

    SIZE=$1
    FILE=$2

    echo Creating $FILE with a size of ${SIZE}MB

    # create file
    fallocate -l ${SIZE}M $FILE

    #randomize file contents
    dd if=/dev/urandom of=$FILE bs=1M count=$SIZE

fi

Just save the above script to a file, say “create-randomized-file-volume.sh”, mark it as executable and run it like this:

# ./create-randomized-file-volume.sh 500 MySecrets.img

Step 2: Format the file using LUKS + ext4

There are ways to do this in the terminal but for the purpose of this guide I’ll be showing how to do it all within gnome-disk-utility. From the menu in Disks, select Disks -> Attach Disk Image and browse to your newly created file (i.e. MySecrets.img).

Don't forget to uncheck the box!

Don’t forget to uncheck the box!

Be sure to uncheck “Set up read-only loop device”. If you leave this checked you won’t be able to format or write anything to the volume. Select the file and click Attach.

This will attach the file, as if it were a real hard drive, to your computer:

attachedindisksNext we need to format the volume. Press the little button with two gears right below the attached volume and click Format. Make sure you do this for the correct ‘drive’ so that you don’t accidentally format your real hard drive!

Please use a better password

Please use a better password

From this popup you can select the filesystem type and even name the drive. In the image above the settings will format the drive to LUKS and then create an ext4 filesystem within the encrypted LUKS one. Click Format, confirm the action and you’re done. Disks will format the file and even auto-mount it for you. You can now copy files to your mounted virtual drive. When you’re done simply eject the drive like normal or (with the LUKS partition highlighted) press the lock button in Disks. To use that same volume again in the future just re-attach the disk image using the steps above, enter your password to unlock the encrypted partition and you’re all set.

But I don’t even trust TrueCrypt enough to unlock my already encrypted files!

If you’re just using TrueCrypt to open an existing file container so that you can copy your files out of there and into your newly created LUKS container I think you’ll be OK. That said there is a way for you to still use your existing TrueCrypt file containers without actually using the TrueCrypt application.

First install an application called tc-play. This program works with the TrueCrypt format but doesn’t share any of its code. To install it simply run:

# sudo apt-get install tcplay

Next we need to mount your existing TrueCrypt file container. For the sake of this example we’ll assume your file container is called TOPSECRET.tc.

We need to use a loop device but before doing that we need to first find a free one. Running the following command

# sudo losetup -f

should return the first free loop device. For example it may print out

/dev/loop0

Next you want to associate the loop device with your TrueCrypt file container. You can do this by running the following command (sub in your loop device if it differs from mine):

# sudo losetup /dev/loop0 TOPSECRET.tc

Now that our loop device is associated we need to actually unlock the TrueCrypt container:

# sudo tcplay -m TOPSECRET.tc -d /dev/loop0

Finally we need to mount the unlocked TrueCrypt container to a directory so we can actually use it. Let’s say you wanted to mount the TrueCrypt container to a folder in the current directory called SecretStuff:

# sudo mount -o nosuid,uid=1000,gid=100 /dev/mapper/TOPSECRET.tc SecretStuff/

Note that you should swap your own uid and gid in the above command if they aren’t 1000 and 100 respectively. You should now be able to view your TrueCrypt files in your SecretStuff directory. For completeness sake here is how you unmount and re-lock the same TrueCrypt file container when you are done:

# sudo umount SecretStuff/
# sudo dmsetup remove TOPSECRET.tc
# sudo losetup -d /dev/loop0

This post originally appeared on my personal website here.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

Create a virtual hard drive volume within a file in Linux

June 15th, 2014 5 comments

If you are not familiar with the concept of virtual hard drive volumes, sometimes called file containers, they are basically regular looking files that can be used by your computer as if they were real hard drives. So for example you could have a file called MyDrive.img on your computer and with a few quick actions it would appear as though you had just plugged in an external USB stick or hard drive into your computer. It acts just like a normal, physical, drive but whenever you copy anything to that location the copied files are actually being written to the MyDrive.img file behind the scenes. This is not unlike the dmg files you would find on a Mac or even something akin to TrueCrypt file containers.

Why would I want this?

There are a number of reasons why you may be interested in creating virtual volumes. From adding additional swap space to your computer (i.e. something similar to a page file on Windows without needing to create a new hard drive partition) to creating portable virtual disk drives to back up files to, or even just doing it because this is Linux and it’s kind of a neat thing to do.

What are the steps to creating a file container?

The process seems a bit strange but it’s actually really straight forward.

  1. Create a new file to hold the virtual drive volume
      (Optional) Initialize it by filling it with data
  2. Format the volume
  3. Mount the volume and use it

Create a new file to hold the virtual drive volume

There are probably a million different ways to do this but I think the most simple way is to run the following command from a terminal:

fallocate -l <size> <file to create>

So let’s say you wanted to create a virtual volume in a file called MyDrive.img in the current directory with a size of 500MiB. You would simply run the following command:

fallocate -l 500M MyDrive.img

You may notice that this command finishes almost instantly. That’s because while the system created a 500MiB file it didn’t actually write 500MiB worth of data to the file.

This is where the optional step of ‘initializing’ the file comes into play. To be clear you do not need to do this step at all but it can be good practice if you want to clean out the contents of the allocated space. For instance if you wanted to prevent someone from easily noticing when you write data to that file you may pre-fill the space with random data to make it more difficult to see or you may simply want to zero out that part of the hard drive first.

Anyway if you choose to pre-fill the file with data the easiest method is to use the dd command. PLEASE BE CAREFUL – dd is often nicknamed disk destroyer because it will happily overwrite any data you tell it to, including the stuff you wanted to keep if you make a mistake typing the command!

To fill the file with all zeros simply run this command:

dd if=/dev/zero of=<your file> bs=1M count=<your file size in MiB>

So for the above file you would run:

dd if=/dev/zero of=MyDrive.img bs=1M count=500

If you want to fill it with random data instead just swap /dev/zero for /dev/urandom or /dev/random in the command:

dd if=/dev/urandom of=MyDrive.img bs=1M count=500

Format and mount the virtual volume

Next up we need to give the volume a filesystem. You can either do this via the command line or using a graphical tool. I’ll show you an example of both.

From the terminal you would run the appropriate mkfs command on the file. As an example this will format the file above using the ext3 filesystem:

mkfs -t ext3 MyDrive.img

You may get a warning that looks like this

MyDrive.img is not a block special device.
Proceed anyway? (y,n)

Simply type the letter ‘y’ and press Enter. With any luck you’ll see a bunch of text telling you exactly what happened and you now have a file that is formatted with ext3!

If you would rather do things the graphical way you could use a tool like Disks (gnome-disk-utility) to format the file.

From the menu in Disks, select Disks -> Attach Disk Image and browse to your newly created file (i.e. MyDrive.img).

Don't forget to uncheck the box!

Don’t forget to uncheck the box!

Be sure to uncheck “Set up read-only loop device”. If you leave this checked you won’t be able to format or write anything to the volume. Select the file and click Attach.

This will attach the file, as if it were a real hard drive, to your computer:

MyDriveAttached

Next we need to format the volume. Press the little button with two gears right below the attached volume and click Format. Make sure you do this for the correct ‘drive’ so that you don’t accidentally format your real hard drive!

Make sure you're formatting the correct drive!

Make sure you’re formatting the correct drive!

From this popup you can select the filesystem type and even name the drive. You may also use the “Erase” option to write zeros to the file if you wanted to do it here instead of via the terminal as shown previously. In the image above the settings will format the drive using the ext4 filesystem. Click Format, confirm the action and you’re done. Disks will format the file and even auto-mount it for you. You can now copy files to your mounted virtual drive. When you’re done simply eject the drive like normal or press the square Stop button in Disks. To use that same volume again in the future just re-attach the disk image using the steps above.

To mount the formatted file from the terminal you will need to first create a folder to mount it to. Let’s say we wanted to mount it to the folder /media/MyDrive. First create the folder there:

sudo mkdir /media/MyDrive

Next mount the file to the folder:

sudo mount -t auto -o loop MyDrive.img /media/MyDrive/

Now you can copy files to the drive just like before. When you’re finished unmount the volume by running this command:

sudo umount /media/MyDrive/

And there you have it. Now you know how to create virtual volume files that you can use for just about anything and easily move from computer to computer.

This post originally appeared on my personal website here.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

My Initial Thoughts/Experiences with ArchLinux

July 29th, 2013 2 comments

Hello again everyone! By this point, I have successfully installed ArchLinux, as well as KDE, and various other everyday applications necessary for my desktop.

Aside from the issues with the bootloader I experienced, the installation was relatively straight forward. Since I have never used ArchLinux before, I decided to follow the Beginner’s Guide in order to make sure I wasn’t screwing anything up. The really nice thing about this guide is that it only gives you the information that you need to get up and running. From here, you can add any packages you want, and do any necessary customization.

Overall, the install was fairly uneventful. I also managed to install KDE, Firefox, Flash, and Netflix (more below) without any issues.

Some time ago, there was a package created for Ubuntu that allows you to watch Netflix on Linux. Since then, someone has created a package for ArchLinux called netflix-desktop. What this does, is creates an instance of Firefox in WINE that runs Silverlight so that the Netflix video can be loaded. The only issue that I’m running into with this package is that when I full-screen the Netflix video, my taskbar in KDE still appears. For the time being, I’ve just set the taskbar to allow windows to go over top. If anyone has any suggestions on how to resolve this, please let me know.

netflix

This isn’t my screenshot. I found it on the interweb. I just wanted to give you a good idea of how netflix-desktop looked. I’d like to thank Richard in advance for the screenshot.

Back to a little more about ArchLinux specifically. I’ve really been enjoying their package management system. From my understanding so far, there are two main ways to obtain packages. The official repositories are backed by “pacman” which is the main package manager. Therefore, if you wanted to install kde, you would do “pacman -S kde”. This is similar to the package managers on other distributions such as apt-get. The Arch User Repository is a repository of build scripts created by ArchLinux users that allow you to compile and configure other packages not contained within the official repositories. The really neat thing about this is that it can also download and install and dependencies contained in the official repositories using pacman automatically.

As I go forward, I am also thinking of ways I can contribute to the ArchLinux community, but for now, I will continue to explore and experiment.


I am currently running ArchLinux (x86_64).
Check out my profile for more information.

Installing Linux to an external hard drive (+ driver issues)

July 27th, 2013 No comments

While I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to be doing for this round of The Linux Experiment, I have decided that now is a good time to try something I’ve been meaning to try for a while: get Linux to boot off of an external hard drive. This was actually such a straight forward process, simply install like normal but choose the external drive for the location of all files, that I won’t bother you with the details. The only special thing I did was decide to install GRUB on the external drive making the whole install essentially a completely isolated thing – that way if I turn off the external drive then the computer boots up off of the internal drive like normal, if I boot with the external drive on then GRUB asks me what to do.

The only downside to a setup like this is that I am using USB 2.0 as my connection to the hard drive which means the disk I/O and throughput will be theoretically lower than normal. Arguably I could get around this by using something like USB 3.0 or eSATA but so far in my experience this hasn’t really been an issue. Besides once the OS boots up almost everything is running and/or cached within RAM anyway. In fact that only problems I have run into with running Linux on this desktop were, ironically, driver issues.

First up is the wireless drivers. Yes, it is 2013 and I am still having Linux WiFi driver issues… This issue was unlike any I had seen before – the wireless card was automatically detected, the Broadcom proprietary driver was automatically selected and enabled, it even appeared to work but no matter what I tried it simply would not make a lasting connection to the wireless network. On a whim I decided to just turn off the device driver and, even though the dialog window told me that I would no longer be using the device, things suddenly started working like magic. I have to assume that buried deep within the Linux kernel is already an open source implementation for my wireless driver and that is what is actually working right now. Whatever the actual cause, the device is now working flawlessly.

For future reference: Do not use the device = magically make everything work perfectly

For future reference: Do not use the device = magically make everything work perfectly

The other driver issue I had was again related to a proprietary driver, this time for my graphics card. By default the install used the open source driver and this worked fine. However I have had a long battle with AMD/ATI cards working on Linux without using the proprietary driver and so I decided to enable it in order to avoid any future problems.

graphics

One reboot later and not only was my colour and resolution completed screwed up but I also got this “awesome” overlay on my desktop that said “Hardware not supported”. I tried to take a screenshot of it but apparently it is drawn onto the screen post-display or something (the screenshot did not show the overlay). So for now I am back to using strictly open source drivers for everything and amazingly it is all just working. That’s probably the first time I’ve ever been able to say that about Linux before.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

Installing Netflix on Kubuntu

July 27th, 2013 4 comments

The machine I am running Kubuntu on is primarily used for streaming media like Netflix and Youtube, watching files off of a shared server and downloading media.

I decided to try to install Netflix first since it is something I use quite often. I am engrossed in watching the first season of Orange is the New Black and the last season of The West Wing.

Again, I resorted to Googling exactly what I am looking for and came across this fantastic post.

I opened a Terminal instance in Kubuntu and literally copied and pasted the text from the link above.

After going through these motions, I had a functioning instance of Netflix! Woo hoo.

So I decided to throw on an episode of Orange is the new Black, it loaded perfectly…. without sound.

Well shit! I never even thought to see if my audio driver had been picked up… so I guess I should probably go ahead and fix that.

What is this, text for ants? Part II

July 27th, 2013 No comments

Back to my shit-tastic eyesight for a moment.

Now that we have our Bluetooth devices installed, I can now sit in front of my projector, instead of in the closet, to fiddle with the font scaling.

We will want to go through the process of pulling up the System Settings again. Why don’t we refer to this image… again.

Computer Tab

The next step to to select Application Appearance, it looks like this.

System Settings Fonts

This will bring you into this menu where you will select Fonts from the toolbar on the left hand side.

Fonts

In the next screen you can change the font settings. There is a nice option in here that you can select to change all the fonts at once… spoiler, it is called “Adjust all fonts”. This is what I used to change the fonts to a size that my blind ass could see from the couch without squinting too much.

You can also force font DPI and select anti-aliasing, as you can see below. For the most part, this has made it possible for me to see what the hell is going on on my screen.

For my next adventure, I will be trying to get Netflix to work. Which I have heard is actually pretty simple.

Fonts

Installing Bluetooth devices on Kubuntu

July 27th, 2013 No comments

This is actually a much easier process than I imagined it would be.

First: Ensure your devices (mouse, headphones, keyboard, etc…) are charged and turned on.

Next click on the “Start” menu icon in the bottom left of the desktop screen.

Then click on the “Computer” icon along the bottom, followed by System Settings.

Computer Tab

This will take you into the System Settings folder where you can change many things. Here we will select Bluetooth, since that is the type of device you want to install.

Bluetooth Menu

I took these pictures after I successfully installed my wireless USB keyboard and mouse. So you know I am not bullshitting about this process actually working.

Like most Bluetooth devices, mine have a red “Connect” button on the bottom. Ignore the sweet, sweet compulsion to press that button. I’m convinced it is nearly useless. Instead, use the “Add devices” method, as seen here.

Add Device

More awesome Photoshop.

Now, if you followed my first instruction (charge and turn on your Bluetooth Device) you should see them appear in this menu. Select the item you would like to add and click next. This will prompt you to enter a PIN on the device you wish to insyall (if installing a keyboard), or it will just add your device. If you have done this process successfully, your device will show up in the device menu. If it does not, you fucked up.

 

Linux: does it work for workers who work in the workplace?

July 27th, 2013 No comments

In the ramp-up to the 2013 Linux Experiment, I got ambitious and decided to try not only FreeBSD as my official entry, but to install one or more versions of Linux at the office (so take that, anyone who says “Well FreeBSD isn’t Linux!” I’m aware.)

There are a number of reasons I wanted to check out Linux in an office environment, and was able to consider this secondary experiment:

  • Most of my work is Linux-based already. We have moved away from Windows-based systems fairly drastically since 2011, and there is minimal Windows administration effort. The much more common presence of professionally managed Windows virtual machines means that I can use tools like rdesktop if a Windows UI is absolutely required. Having a built-in SSH client is one of the reasons I picked a MacBook Pro for a corporate laptop, and Linux distributions offer the same ssh packages.
  • I have the good fortune to have multiple corporate-issued systems available on short notice. If the experiment goes poorly, I’m only down for ten minutes to reconnect a Windows or OSX-based system. I can then resume my remote tasks through the diligent use of screen and multiple SSH tunnels.
  • Another point in favour is that most IT support is now self-directed for software issues; there is a large (and growing) Linux user community internally and corporate documentation now tends to indicate proper server names and connection information rather than “just use Outlook”.
  • Finally, there’s an easy way to back out if something goes wrong – it’s possible to reimage a laptop and rejoin it to the corporate domain without engaging technical support. I don’t keep files locally and my key configuration files are all backed up on a remote Git server, so getting back to Windows 7 wouldn’t be too hard at all.

Hopefully with this adventure I’ll be able to better able to contribute internally to the Linux user community, and appropriately redacted, share the trials and tribulations of running Linux (mostly) full time in the workplace. Wish me luck!




I am currently running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for a home server, with a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux clients for both work and personal use.
I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity - XFCE is much more my style of desktop interface.
Check out my profile for more information.

What is this, text for ants? Part I

July 26th, 2013 No comments

Unlike many people who may be installing a version of Linux, I am doing so on a machine that has a projector with a 92″ screen as it’s main display.

So, upon initial installation of Kubuntu, I couldn’t see ANY of the text on the desktop, it was itty bitty.

Font for Ants

I can’t even read this standing inches away.

In order to fix this, I had to hook up an additional display.

Thankfully, living in a house with a computer guru, I had many to choose from.

In order to get my secondary display to appear, I had to first plug it into the display port on the machine I am using. I then had to turn off the current display (projector) and reboot the machine so that it would initialize the use of my new monitor.

Sounds easy enough, and it was, albeit with some gentle guidance from Jake B.

From here, I am able to properly configure my display.

The thing I am enjoying most about Kubuntu so far is that it is very user friendly. It seems almost intuitive where each setting can be found in menus.

So these are the steps I followed to change my display configuration.

I went into Menu > Computer > System Settings

Computer Tab

Check out my sweet Photoshop Skills. I may have taken this picture with a potato.

Once you get into the System Settings folder, you have the option to change a lot of things. For example, your display resolution.

System Settings

Looks a lot like the OSX System Preferences layout.

Now that you are in this menu, you will want to select Display and Monitor from the options. Here you can set your resolution, monitor priority, mirroring, and multiple displays. Since I will only be using this display on the Projector, I ensured that the resolution was set so that I could read the text properly on the Projector Screen. Before disabling my secondary monitor, I also set up my Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, which I will talk about in another post.

This process only took a few moments. I will still have to tweak the font scaling, as I have shit-tastic eyesite.

Experience Booting Linux Using the Windows 7 Bootloader

July 26th, 2013 2 comments

Greetings everyone! It has been quite some time since my last post. As you’ll be able to read from my profile (and signature,) I have decided to run ArchLinux for the upcoming experiment. As of yet, I’m not sure what my contributions to the community will be, however, there will be more on that later.

One of the interesting things I wanted to try this time around was to get Linux to boot from the Windows 7 bootloader. The basic principle here is to take the first 512-bytes of your /boot partition (with GRUB installed), and place it on your C:\ as linux.bin. From there, you use BCDEdit in Windows to add it to your bootloader. When you boot Windows, you will be prompted to either start Windows 7 or Linux. If you choose Linux, GRUB will be launched.

Before I go into my experience, I just wanted to let you know that I was not able to get it working. It’s not that it isn’t possible, but for the sake of being able to boot into ArchLinux at some point during the experiment, I decided to install GRUB to the MBR and chainload the Windows bootloader.

I started off with this article from the ArchLinux wiki, that basically explains the process above in more detail. What I failed to realize was that this article was meant to be used when both OSes are on the same disk. In my case, I have Windows running on one disk, and Linux on another.

According to this article on Eric Hameleers’ blog, the Windows 7 Bootloader does not play well with loading operating systems that reside on a different disk. Eric goes into a workaround for this in the article. The proposed solution is to have your /boot partition reside on the same disk as Windows. This way, the second stage of GRUB will be properly loaded, and GRUB will handle the rest properly.

Although I could attempt the above, I don’t really want to be re-sizing my Windows partition at this point, and it will be much easier for me to install GRUB to the MBR on my Linux disk, and have that disk boot first. That way, if I decide to get rid of Linux later, I can change the boot order, and the Windows bootloader will have remained un-touched.

Besides, while I was investigating this approach, I received a lot of ridicule from #archlinux for trying to use the Windows bootloader.

09:49 < AngryArchLinuxUser555> uhm, first 512bytes of /boot is pretty useless
09:49 < AngryArchLinuxUser555> unless you are doing retarded things like not having grub in mbr
(username changed for privacy)

For the record, I was not attempting this because I think it’s a good idea. I do much prefer using GRUB, however, this was FOR SCIENCE!

If I ever do manage to boot into ArchLinux, I will be sure to write another post.


I am currently running ArchLinux (x86_64).
Check out my profile for more information.

This isn’t going well.

July 26th, 2013 No comments

Today I started out by going into work, only to discover that it is NEXT Friday that I need to cover.

So I came home and decided to get a jump start on installing Kubuntu.

I am now at a screeching halt because the hardware I am using has Win8 installed on it and when I boot into the Start Up settings, I lose the ability to use my keyboard. This is going swimmingly.

So, it is NOW about 3 hours later.

In this time, I have cursed, yelled, felt exasperated and been downright pissed.

This is mainly because Windows 8 does not make it easily accessible to get to the Boot Loader. In fact, the handy Windows made video that is supposed to walk you through how EASY, and user friendly the process of changing system settings is fails to mention what to do if the “Use a Device” option is nowhere to be found (as it was in my case).

So I relied on Google, which is usually pretty good about answering questions about stupid computer issues. I FINALLY came across one post that stated that due to how quickly Windows 8 boots, that there is no time to press F2 or F8. However, I tries anyway. F8 is the key to selecting what device you want to boot from, as you will see later in this post.

What you will want to do if installing any version of Linux is, first format a USB stick to hold your Linux distro. I used Universal USB Loader. The nice thing about this loader is that you don’t have to already have the .iso for the distro you want to use downloaded. You have the option of downloading right in the program.

After you have selected you distro, downloaded the .iso and loaded it onto your USB stick now is the fun part. Plug your USB stick into the computer you wish to load Linux onto.

Considering how easy this was once I figured it all out, I do feel rather silly. If I were to have to do it again, I would feel much more knowledgeable.

If you are using balls-ass Windows 8, like I was, the EASIEST way to select an alternate device to boot from is to restart the computer and press F8 a billion times until a menu pops up, letting you choose from multiple devices. Choose the device with the name of the USB stick, for me it was PENDRIVE.

Once you press enter (from a keyboard that is attached directly to the computer you are using via USB cable, because apparently Win8 loses the ability to use Wireless USB devices before the OS has fully booted…at least that was my experience).

So now, I am being prompted to install Kubuntu (good news, I already know it supports my projector, because I can see this happening).

Now, I have had to plug in a USB wired keyboard and mouse for this process so far. This makes life a little bit difficult because the computer I am using sits in a closet, too far away from my projector screen. This makes it almost impossible for me to see what is going on, on the screen. So installing the drives for my wireless USB devices it a bit of a pain.

However, the hard part is over. The OS is installed successfully. My next post will detail how the hell to install wireless USB devices. I will probably also make a fancy signature, so you all know what I am running.

Come on, really?!

July 25th, 2013 3 comments

So it is 9:40 PM and I started my “Find a Linux distro to install” process. Like many people, I decided to type exactly what I wanted to search into Google. Literally, I typed “Linux Distro Chooser” into Google. Complex and requiring great technical skill, I know.

My next mission was to pick the site that had a description with the least amount of “sketch”. Meaning, I picked the first site in the Google results. I then used my well honed multiple choice skills (ignore the question, pick B) to find my perfect Linux distro match.

After several pages of clicking through, I was presented with a list of Linux distributions that fit my needs and hardware.

See, a nice list, with percents and everything.

This picture has everything... percents, mints, Man Drivers...

This picture has everything… percents, mints, Man Drivers…

So naturally, I do what everyone does with lists.. look at my options and pick the one with the prettiest picture.

For me that distro was Kubuntu. It has a cool sounding name that starts with the same letter as my name.

So I follow the link through to the website to pull the .iso and this pops up.

Fuck Drupal

God damn Drupal!

I have dealt with Drupal before, as it was the platform the website I did data entry for was built on. Needless to say, I hate it. Hey Web Dev with Trev, if you are out there, I hope you burn your toast the next time you make some.

So, to be productive while waiting for Drupal to fix it’s shit, I decided to start a post and rant. In the time this took, the website for Kubuntu has recovered (for now).

So, I downloaded my .iso and am ready to move it onto a USB stick.

I’m debating whether I want to install it now or later, as I would really like to watch some West Wing tonight. I know that if I start this process and fuck it up, I am going to be forced to move upstairs where there is another TV, but it is small :(

Well, here I go, we’ll see how long it takes me to install it. If you are reading this, go ahead and time me… it may be a while.

An Experiment in Transitioning to Open Document Formats

June 15th, 2013 2 comments

Recently I read an interesting article by Vint Cerf, mostly known as the man behind the TCP/IP protocol that underpins modern Internet communication, where he brought up a very scary problem with everything going digital. I’ll quote from the article (Cerf sees a problem: Today’s digital data could be gone tomorrow – posted June 4, 2013) to explain:

One of the computer scientists who turned on the Internet in 1983, Vinton Cerf, is concerned that much of the data created since then, and for years still to come, will be lost to time.

Cerf warned that digital things created today — spreadsheets, documents, presentations as well as mountains of scientific data — won’t be readable in the years and centuries ahead.

Cerf illustrated the problem in a simple way. He runs Microsoft Office 2011 on Macintosh, but it cannot read a 1997 PowerPoint file. “It doesn’t know what it is,” he said.

“I’m not blaming Microsoft,” said Cerf, who is Google’s vice president and chief Internet evangelist. “What I’m saying is that backward compatibility is very hard to preserve over very long periods of time.”

The data objects are only meaningful if the application software is available to interpret them, Cerf said. “We won’t lose the disk, but we may lose the ability to understand the disk.”

This is a well known problem for anyone who has used a computer for quite some time. Occasionally you’ll get sent a file that you simply can’t open because the modern application you now run has ‘lost’ the ability to read the format created by the (now) ‘ancient’ application. But beyond this minor inconvenience it also brings up the question of how future generations, specifically historians, will be able to look back on our time and make any sense of it. We’ve benefited greatly in the past by having mediums that allow us a more or less easy interpretation of written text and art. Newspaper clippings, personal diaries, heck even cave drawings are all relatively easy to translate and interpret when compared to unknown, seemingly random, digital content. That isn’t to say it is an impossible task, it is however one that has (perceivably) little market value (relatively speaking at least) and thus would likely be de-emphasized or underfunded.

A Solution?

So what can we do to avoid these long-term problems? Realistically probably nothing. I hate to sound so down about it but at some point all technology will yet again make its next leap forward and likely render our current formats completely obsolete (again) in the process. The only thing we can do today that will likely have a meaningful impact that far into the future is to make use of very well documented and open standards. That means transitioning away from so-called binary formats, like .doc and .xls, and embracing the newer open standards meant to replace them. By doing so we can ensure large scale compliance (today) and work toward a sort of saturation effect wherein the likelihood of a complete ‘loss’ of ability to interpret our current formats decreases. This solution isn’t just a nice pie in the sky pipe dream for hippies either. Many large multinational organizations, governments, scientific and statistical groups and individuals are also all beginning to recognize this same issue and many have begun to take action to counteract it.

Enter OpenDocument/Office Open XML

Back in 2005 the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) created a technical committee to help develop a completely transparent and open standardized document format the end result of which would be the OpenDocument standard. This standard has gone on to be the default file format in most open source applications (such as LibreOffice, OpenOffice.org, Calligra Suite, etc.) and has seen wide spread adoption by many groups and applications (like Microsoft Office). According to Wikipedia the OpenDocument is supported and promoted by over 600 companies and organizations (including Apple, Adobe, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, Oracle, Wikimedia Foundation, etc.) and is currently the mandatory standard for all NATO members. It is also the default format (or at least a supported format) by more than 25 different countries and many more regions and cities.

Not to be outdone, and potentially lose their position as the dominant office document format creator, Microsoft introduced a somewhat competing format called Office Open XML in 2006. There is much in common between these two formats, both being based on XML and structured as a collection of files within a ZIP container. However they do differ enough that they are 1) not interoperable and 2) that software written to import/export one format cannot be easily made to support the other. While OOXML too is an open standard there have been some concerns about just how open it actually is. For instance take these (completely biased) comparisons done by the OpenDocument Fellowship: Part I / Part II. Wikipedia (Open Office XML – from June 9, 2013) elaborates in saying:

Starting with Microsoft Office 2007, the Office Open XML file formats have become the default file format of Microsoft Office. However, due to the changes introduced in the Office Open XML standard, Office 2007 is not entirely in compliance with ISO/IEC 29500:2008. Microsoft Office 2010 includes support for the ISO/IEC 29500:2008 compliant version of Office Open XML, but it can only save documents conforming to the transitional schemas of the specification, not the strict schemas.

It is important to note that OpenDocument is not without its own set of issues, however its (continuing) standardization process is far more transparent. In practice I will say that (at least as of the time of writing this article) only Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 can consistently edit and display OOXML documents without issue, whereas most other applications (like LibreOffice and OpenOffice) have a much better time handling OpenDocument. The flip side of which is while Microsoft Office can open and save to OpenDocument format it constantly lags behind the official standard in feature compliance. Without sounding too conspiratorial this is likely due to Microsoft wishing to show how much ‘better’ its standard is in comparison. That said with the forthcoming 2013 version Microsoft is set to drastically improve its compatibility with OpenDocument so the overall situation should get better with time.

Current day however I think, technologically, both standards are now on more or less equal footing. Initially both standards had issues and were lacking some features however both have since evolved to cover 99% of what’s needed in a document format.

What to do?

As discussed above there are two different, some would argue, competing open standards for the replacement of the old closed formats. Ten years ago I would have said that the choice between the two is simple: Office Open XML all the way. However the landscape of computing has changed drastically in the last decade and will likely continue to diversify in the coming one. Cell phone sales have superseded computers and while Microsoft Windows is still the market leader on PCs, alternative operating systems like Apple’s Mac OS X and Linux have been gaining ground. Then you have the new cloud computing contenders like Google’s Google Docs which let you view and edit documents right within a web browser making the operating system irrelevant. All of this heterogeneity has thrown a curve ball into how standards are established and being completely interoperable is now key – you can’t just be the market leader on PCs and expect everyone else to follow your lead anymore. I don’t want to be limited in where I can use my documents, I want them to work on my PC (running Windows 7), my laptop (running Ubuntu 12.04), my cellphone (running iOS 5) and my tablet (running Android 4.2). It is because of these reasons that for me the conclusion, in an ideal world, is OpenDocument. For others the choice may very well be Office Open XML and that’s fine too – both attempt to solve the same problem and a little market competition may end up being beneficial in the short term.

Is it possible to transition to OpenDocument?

This is the tricky part of the conversation. Lets say you want to jump 100% over to OpenDocument… how do you do so? Converting between the different formats, like the old .doc or even the newer Office Open XML .docx, and OpenDocument’s .odt is far from problem free. For most things the conversion process should be as simple as opening the current format document and re-saving it as OpenDocument – there are even wizards that will automate this process for you on a large number of documents. In my experience however things are almost never quite as simple as that. From what I’ve seen any document that has a bulleted list ends up being converted with far from perfect accuracy. I’ve come close to re-creating the original formatting manually, making heavy use of custom styles in the process, but its still not a fun or straightforward task – perhaps in these situations continuing to use Microsoft formatting, via Office Open XML, is the best solution.

If however you are starting fresh or just converting simple documents with little formatting there is no reason why you couldn’t make the jump to OpenDocument. For me personally I’m going to attempt to convert my existing .doc documents to OpenDocument (if possible) or Office Open XML (where there are formatting issues). By the end I should be using exclusively open formats which is a good thing.

I’ll write a follow up post on my successes or any issues encountered if I think it warrants it. In the meantime I’m curious as to the success others have had with a process like this. If you have any comments or insight into how to make a transition like this go more smoothly I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment below.

This post originally appeared on my personal website here.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

Limit Bandwitdth Used by apt-get

October 22nd, 2012 No comments

It’s easy. Simply throw “-o Acquire::http::Dl-Limit=X” in your apt-get command where X is the kb/s you wish to limit it to. So for example let’s say that you want to limit an apt-get upgrade command to roughly 50kb/s of bandwidth. Simply issue the following command:

sudo apt-get -o Acquire::http::Dl-Limit=50 upgrade

Simple right?




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).