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Posts Tagged ‘windows’

A minor setback

September 28th, 2009 2 comments

Since this crazy job of mine doesn’t quite feed my mad electronics fetish as much as I might like to, I do a lot of computer troubleshooting on the side… it helps pay the bills, and is a nice way to stay on my toes as far as keeping on top of possible threats out there (since our company’s firewall keeps them out for the most part).  I’ll usually head to a person’s house, get some stuff done, and if it’s still in rough shape (requires a full backup and format) I’ll bring the machine home.

Yesterday, I headed over to my former AVP (Assistant Vice-Preisdent, for those of you not in the know)’s house to get her wireless network running and troubleshoot problems with her one desktop, as well as get file and printer sharing working between two machines.  Her wireless router is a little bit old – a D-Link DI-524 – but it’s something I’ve dealt with before.

After a firmware upgrade, the option to use WPA-PSK encryption was made available (as opposed to standard WEP before).  Great, I thought!  I go to put in a key, hit Apply, and…

Nothing.  Hitting the Apply button does absolutely nothing.  Two computer and router restarts (including a full reset) later, and the same thing was happening.  Some quick research indicated that, hooray hooray, there was an incompatibility with that router’s administration page, Java, and Firefox.  Solution?  Use Internet Explorer.

Here’s where I really ran into a pickle.  This is the first time I’ve ever felt the disadvantage of using a non-Windows operating system.  If I had Windows, I would have been able to fire up IE and just get everything going for them.  Instead, I had to try and install IE6 for Linux, which failed (Wine threw some kind of error).  I ended up using one of my client’s laptops, which they thankfully had sitting around.  Frustrating, but it was easy enough to work around.

Has anyone else had experiences like this?  Things that are *just* out of reach for you because of your choice to use Linux over Windows?

Gaaaaaaaaaaaay(mes) for Linux

September 26th, 2009 5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

vpnc and me

September 17th, 2009 4 comments

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

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

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

Trial and Error

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

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

Better Ideas

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

$ yum install vpnc.x86_64

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

$ cd /etc/vpnc

$ nano default.conf

IPSec gateway [corporate VPN address]

Xauth username [domain ID]

Xauth password [domain password]

Domain [corporate domain]

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

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

$ vpnc default.conf

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

$ rdesktop [computername].[domain]

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

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

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

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

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

Alien, OpenPGP & Wine

September 6th, 2009 No comments

Now that the horrors of installation and setup are a part of the past I have been spending my time delving deep into the desktop and the applications. I would like to briefly touch upon three of these.

Alien

One of the first things you figure out after you install your distribution of choice is what package manager they are using. Now I’m not talking about Synaptic, mintInstall, or KPackageKit, but rather the packaging format, commonly RPM or DEB. While both of these are excellent they do create problems when you want to install software that only comes in the format that your distribution does not use. This is where alien comes in. Alien is a small command line program that will convert from one package to the other. So I can download a .deb file and use alien to convert it into Fedora’s native .rpm format. It’s simple and works great.

OpenPGP

As I am a bit of a privacy nut I have been using Pretty Good Privacy for a while now to secure my e-mail and attachments. My mail client of choice makes this very easy through the use of the Enigmail add-on. What’s even better is Fedora, like most if not all Linux distributions, already ships with the program gpg. GnuPG is a command line application that implements OpenPGP, the open source, fully compatible version of PGP. This means that no matter which program you are using on your system they can all access the same PGP keys seamlessly! I have taken the extra step of generating a GPG key for my e-mail account here, tyler at thelinuxexperiment.com, which you can find under my page (under Guinea Pigs at the top). I highly recommend anyone who is the least bit computer savvy set themselves up  an key and upload it to a key server. It takes about 1 minute and is very easy to use!

Wine

Wine, or Wine Is Not an Emulator, is a Linux program that can run a lot of Window’s programs by tricking them into thinking they are running on a Window’s machine. While I wouldn’t recommend it for everything, Wine is quite powerful and can get you out of a pinch. You can run Windows programs simply by opening a terminal and typing

wine [path to exe]

wine_notepad

Notepad running thanks to Wine

The Linux File System Explained

August 3rd, 2009 1 comment

From one Linux newbie to another, read up on the basic file system organization of a Linux machine here. It’s a very basic overview of where the system puts certain types of files, but is a good starting point for anybody who (like me) is trying to wrap their windows-centric head around a new operating system.

Categories: Jon F, Linux Tags: , , , ,

So Many Fruity Flavours…

July 30th, 2009 No comments

I think that I’m the only member of the group with absolutely zero experience with Linux. Sure, I’ve used TightVNC to check the status of a Ubuntu-based file server, and I may even have dropped a live CD into my machine once or twice before in vain attempts to save my files from a bricked Windows install, but I have roughly zero actual experience with any of the distributions. Due to my lack of knowledge and the antique laptop that I’ll likely be using during the experiment, I’ve decided to stick to one of the more popular distributions to ensure ease of use and a wide base of drivers to draw from. So far, the Top Ten Distributions page over at DistroWatch has been very helpful, and I’ve managed to narrow my choice down to just a few of the hundreds of available flavours of Linux (ordered by my current preference):

  • Debian: Over 1000 developers, 20 000 packages, and no corporate backing – the definition of open source community development
  • Fedora: Strictly adheres to the free software philosophy; used by Linus Torvalds himself (If that ain’t street cred…)
  • openSUSE: A pretty looking desktop, with corporate backing from Novell.

While doing my research, I have purposely avoided Ubuntu Linux and it’s variants, as they seem to be “the” distribution of choice these days. To really get a taste of what it’s like to make the switch from Windows with zero previous experience, I’ve decided to stay away from Ubuntu. It’s just too common, and I’m non-conformist as can be.