Archive for the ‘Jake B’ Category

Fix: trying to overwrite ‘/usr/share/accounts/services/google-im.service’ installing kubuntu-desktop

June 5th, 2016 No comments

I have an Ubuntu 16.04 desktop installation with Unity and wanted to try KDE, so I ran sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop. apt failed with the following message:

trying to overwrite '/usr/share/accounts/services/google-im.service', which is also in package account-plugin-google [...]

The original issue at Ask Ubuntu has several suggestions but none of them worked – any apt commands returned the same requirement to run apt-get -f install, which in turn gave the original “trying to overwrite” error message. synaptic also wasn’t installed so I couldn’t use it (or install it, as all other apt installation commands failed.)

I was able to get the dpkg database out of its bad state and continue to install kubuntu-desktop by running the following:

dpkg -P account-plugin-google unity-scope-gdrive
apt-get -f install

(Link to original Kubuntu bug for posterity:

This post was cross-posted to my personal website.

Categories: God Damnit Linux, Jake B, KDE, Kubuntu, Ubuntu Tags:

Applying updates to Docker and the Plex container

December 7th, 2014 No comments

In my last post, I discussed several Docker containers that I’m using for my home media streaming solution. Since then, Plex Media Server has updated to for non-Plex Pass users, and there’s another update if you happen to pay for a subscription. As the Docker container I used (timhaak/plex) was version at the time, I figured I’d take the opportunity to describe how to

  • update Docker itself to the latest version
  • run a shell inside the container as another process, to review configuration and run commands directly
  • update Plex to the latest version, and describe how not to do this
  • perform leet hax: commit the container to your local system, manually update the package, and re-commit and run Plex

Updating Docker

I alluded to the latest version of Docker having features that make it easier to troubleshoot inside containers. Switching to the latest version was pretty simple: following the instructions to add the Docker repository to my system, then running

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install lxc-docker

upgraded Docker to version 1.3.1 without any trouble or need to manually uninstall the previous Ubuntu package.

Run a shell using docker exec

Let’s take a look inside the plex container. Using the following command will start a bash process so that we can review the filesystem on the container:

docker exec -t -i plex /bin/bash

You will be dropped into a root prompt inside the plex container. Check out the filesystem: there will be a /config and a /data directory pointing to “real” filesystem locations. You can also use ps aux to review the running processes, or even netstat -anp to see active connections and their associated programs. To exit the shell, use Ctrl+C – but the container will still be running when you use docker ps -a from the host system.

Updating Plex in-place: My failed attempt

Different Docker containers will have different methods of performing software updates. In this case, looking at the Dockerfile for timhaak/plex, we see that a separate repository was added for the Plex package – so we should be able to confirm that the latest version is available. This also means that if you destroy your existing container, pull the latest image, then launch a new copy, the latest version of Plex will be installed (generally good practice.)

But wait – the upstream repository at does contain the latest .deb packages for Plex, so can’t we just run an apt-get update && apt-get upgrade?

Well, not exactly. If you do this, the initial process used to run Plex Media Server inside the Docker container ( gets terminated, and Docker takes down the entire plex container when the initial process terminates. Worse, if you then decide to re-launch things with docker start plex, the new version is incompletely installed (dpkg partial configuration).

So the moral of the story: if you’re trying this at home, the easiest way to upgrade is to recreate your Plex container with the following commands:

docker stop plex

docker rm plex

# The 'pull' process may take a while - it depends on the original repository and any dependencies in the Dockerfile. In this case it has to pull the new version of Plex.
docker pull timhaak/plex

# Customize this command with your config and data directories.
docker run -d -h plex --name="plex" -v /etc/docker/plex:/config -v /mnt/nas:/data -p 32400:32400 timhaak/plex

Once the container is up and running, access http://yourserver:32400/web/ to confirm that Plex Media Server is running. You can check the version number by clicking the gear icon next to your server in the left navigation panel, then selecting Settings.

Hacking the container: commit it and manually update Plex from upstream

If you’re more interested in hacking the current setup, there’s a way to commit your existing Plex image, manually perform the upgrade, and restart the container.

First, make sure the plex container is running (docker start plex) and then commit the container to your local filesystem (replacing username with your preferred username):

docker commit plex username/plex:latest

Then we can stop the container, and start a new instance where bash is the first process:

docker stop plex

docker rm plex

# Replace username with the username you selected above.
docker run -t -i --name="plex" -h plex username/plex:latest /bin/bash

Once inside the new plex container, let’s grab the latest Plex Media Server package and force installation:

curl -O

dpkg -i plexmediaserver_0.

# When prompted, select Y to install the package maintainer's versions of files. In my instance, this updated the init script as well as the upstream repository.

Now, we can re-commit the image with the new Plex package. Hit Ctrl+D to exit the bash process, then run:

docker commit plex username/plex:latest

docker rm plex

# Customize this command with your config and data directories.
docker run -d -h plex --name="plex" -v /etc/docker/plex:/config -v /mnt/nas:/data -p 32400:32400 username/plex /

# Commit the image again so it will run if ever relaunched:
docker commit plex username/plex:latest

You’ll also need to adjust your /etc/init/plex.conf upstart script to point to username/plex.

The downside of this method is now that you’ve forked the original Plex image locally and will have to do this again for updates. But hey, wasn’t playing around with Docker interesting?

Categories: Docker, Jake B, Plex, Ubuntu Tags:

Running a containerized media server with Ubuntu 14.04, Docker, and Plex

November 23rd, 2014 1 comment

I recently took it upon myself to rebuild a general-purpose home server – installing a new Intel 530 240GB solid-state drive to replace a “spinning rust” drive, and installing a fresh copy of Ubuntu 14.04 now that 14.04.1 has released and there is much less complaining online.

The “new hotness” that I’d like to discuss has been the use of Docker to containerize various processes. Docker gets a lot of press these days, but the way I see it is a way to ensure that your special snowflake applications and services don’t get the opportunity to conflict with one another. In my setup, I have four containers running:

I like the following things about Docker:

  • Since it’s new, there are a lot of repositories and configuration instructions online for reference.
  • I can make sure that applications like Sonarr/NZBDrone get the right version of Mono that won’t conflict with my base system.
  • As a network administrator, I can ensure that only the necessary ports for a service get forwarded outside the container.
  • If an application state gets messed up, it won’t impact the rest of the system as much – I can destroy and recreate the individual container by itself.

There are some drawbacks though:

  • Because a lot of the images and Dockerfiles out there are community-based, there are some that don’t follow best practices or fall out of an update cycle.
  • Software updates can become trickier if the application is unable to upgrade itself in-place; you may have to pull a new Dockerfile and hope that your existing configuration works with a new image.
  • From a security standpoint, it’s best to verify exactly what an image or Dockerfile does before running it – for example, that it pulls content from official repositories (the docker-plex configuration is guilty of using a third-party repo, for example.)

To get started, on Ubuntu 14.04 you can install a stable version of Docker following these instructions, although the latest version has some additional features like docker exec that make “getting inside” containers to troubleshoot much easier. I was able to get all these containers running properly with the current stable version (1.0.1~dfsg1-0ubuntu1~ubuntu0.14.04.1). Once Docker is installed, you can grab each of the containers above with a combination of docker search and docker pull, then list the downloaded containers with docker images.

There are some quirks to remember. On the first run, you’ll need to docker run most of these containers and provide a hostname, box name, ports to forward and shared directories (known as volumes). On all subsequent runs, you can just use docker start $container_name – but I’ll describe a cheap and easy way of turning that command into an upstart service later. I generally save the start commands as shell scripts in /usr/local/bin/docker-start/*.sh so that I can reference them or adjust them later. The start commands I’ve used look like:

docker run -d -h plex --name="plex" -v /etc/docker/plex:/config -v /mnt/nas:/data -p 32400:32400 timhaak/plex
docker run -d -h sabnzbd --name="sabnzbd" -v /etc/docker/sabnzbd:/config -v /mnt/nas:/data -p 8080:8080 -p 9090:9090 timhaak/sabnzbd
docker run -d -h sonarr --name="sonarr" -v /etc/docker/sonarr:/config -v /mnt/nas:/data -p 8989:8989 tuxeh/sonarr
docker run -d -h couchpotato --name="couchpotato" -e EDGE=1 -v /etc/docker/couchpotato:/config -v /mnt/nas:/data -v /etc/localtime:/etc/localtime:ro -p 5050:5050 needo/couchpotato
These applications have a “/config” and a “/data” shared volume defined. /data points to “/mnt/nas”, which is a CIFS share to a network attached storage appliance mounted on the host. /config points to a directory structure I created for each application on the host in /etc/docker/$container_name. I generally apply “chmod 777” permissions to each configuration directory until I find out what user ID the container is writing as, then lock it down from there.

For each initial start command, I choose to run the service as a daemon with -d. I also set a hostname with the “-h” parameter, as well as a friendly container name with “–name”; otherwise Docker likes to reference containers with wild adjectives combined with scientists, like “drunk_heisenberg”.

Each of these containers generally has a set of instructions to get up and running, whether it be on Github, the developer’s own site or the Docker Hub. Some, like SABnzbd+, just require that you go to http://yourserverip:8080/ and complete the setup wizard. Plex required an additional set of configuration steps described at the original repository:

  • Once Plex starts up on port 32400, access http://yourserverip:32400/web/ and confirm that the interface loads.
  • Switch back to your host machine, and find the place where the /config directory was mounted (in the example above, it’s /etc/docker/plex). Enter the Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server directory and edit the Preferences.xml file. In the <Preferences> tag, add the following attribute: allowedNetworks=”″ where the IP address range matches that of your home network. In my case, the entire file looked like:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <Preferences MachineIdentifier="(guid)" ProcessedMachineIdentifier="(another_guid)" allowedNetworks="" />

  • Run docker stop plex && docker start plex to restart the container, then load http://yourserverip:32400/web/ again. You should be prompted to accept the EULA and can now add library locations to the server.

Sonarr needed to be updated (from the NZBDrone branding) as well. From the GitHub README, you can enable in-container upgrades:

[C]onfigure Sonarr to use the update script in /etc/service/sonarr/ This is configured under Settings > (show advanced) > General > Updates > change Mechanism to Script.

To automatically ensure these containers start on reboot, you can either use restart policies (Docker 1.2+) or write an upstart script to start and stop the appropriate container. I’ve modified the example from the Docker website slightly to stop the container as well:

description "SABnzbd Docker container"
author "Jake"
start on filesystem and started docker
stop on runlevel [!2345]
/usr/bin/docker start -a sabnzbd
end script
pre-stop exec /usr/bin/docker stop sabnzbd

Copy this script to /etc/init/sabnzbd.conf; you can then copy it to plex, couchpotato, and sonarr.conf and change the name of the container and title in each. You can then test it by rebooting your system and running “docker ps -a” to ensure that all containers come up cleanly, or running “docker stop $container; service $container start”. If you run into trouble, the upstart logs are in /var/log/upstart/$container_name.conf.

Hopefully this introduction to a media server with Docker containers was thought-provoking; I hope to have further updates down the line for other applications, best practices and how this setup continues to operate in its lifetime.

Categories: Docker, Jake B, Plex, Ubuntu Tags:

Initial thoughts about PC-BSD

January 16th, 2014 No comments

[Please note: this is a historical post – I’m no longer running *BSD in 2014, and this is a collection of thoughts on its setup in case I decide to return to the operating system. Further posts from me will focus on other Linux experiences.]

So after not too much effort, I’ve gotten PC-BSD to replace my FreeBSD installation and am back up and running. Some minor tips, interesting facts and tweaks:

  • Default filesystem and mountpoints all seem to be ZFS, which would make PC-BSD probably the quickest and easiest way to get a functional desktop environment running with this neat filesystem.
  • To enable Flash playback in Chromium (and I assume Firefox), run
    flashpluginctl on

    from the terminal (under your own user account, not root) and restart the browser. Thanks to the PC-BSD forums for this answer.

  • Enabling SSH server: add sshd_enable=”YES” to /etc/rc.conf, then /etc/rc.d/sshd start. You’ll also need to allow TCP port 22 inbound through the firewall in the PC-BSD Control Panel/Networking/Firewall Manager application.
  • Sound worked out of the box without any driver finagling, and is a much more simplistic setup:


From the PC-BSD Control Panel, a very simple way to select the default sound device.

From the PC-BSD Control Panel, a very simple way to select the default sound device.

I’m assuming the situation would have been better than the Kubuntu trials and tribulations with PulseAudio – all the possible nVidia HDMI output ports are listed in this dropdown list, as well as my onboard sound and USB/stereo audio adapter. In Phonon, the list is much simpler:

No greyed-out cards or shenanigans - Phonon just shows the default sound card from PC-BSD.

No greyed-out cards or “missing sink”s – Phonon just shows the default sound card from PC-BSD.


So far this has been a pretty great introductory experience – the desktop is polished, KDE integration appears to work well, and manual configuration has been limited to what I’d consider more advanced functionality like the SSH daemon.

Categories: Flash, Jake B, PC-BSD Tags: , ,

Falling off the FreeBSD bandwagon

August 25th, 2013 No comments

I’ll have to admit that during the previous week or so, I haven’t been able to exclusively use FreeBSD at home or Linux as a workstation in the office. Kayla and I have still been using Kubuntu (now with improved PulseAudio support) on the basement machine, and that’s been working quite well for both Netflix and media files stored over NFS. Even Dragon Player, the default KDE association for .avi and .mkv files, is quite reasonable for lightweight playback and has given us no issues.

Dragon Player

Here be dragons

It’s a combination of things that have contributed to my slide back to Windows/OS X. First has been time at the office. When there are several urgent projects, it’s significantly easier to use the tools and infrastructure that are already set up on a Windows partition by virtue of Group Policy or already-existing tools. Wasting several hours because you can’t access a DFS share that would take one click from Outlook on Windows is unproductive.

What’s more, my choice of Arch Linux meant that there were several “rough around the edges” spots where I was missing packages or things just weren’t as polished as something like Fedora or Ubuntu. Font smoothing, for example, wasn’t quite what I was expecting and replacing/editing complicated XML files was going to be very frustrating. Arch seems very powerful and customizable, but that’s not something I can justify when there is a corporate-provided Ubuntu image available for install at the office.

FreeBSD has been fairly standard, to say the least. It supports the usual assortment of desktop applications, but the missing 20% of things that I do under Windows start to really show after a few weeks. My large Steam library sitting on another drive becomes almost worthless, and tasks such as scanning a document are also painful – Brother, for example, does a great job of shipping OS X and Linux (.deb and .rpm-enclosed) drivers but when it comes down to just needing a PDF, it’s way easier to grab the nearest Windows laptop and get things done.

What am I going to try next? After some review, I will be installing PC-BSD 9.1 (based on FreeBSD) and seeing if there’s a more polished experience available out of the box. I’m also going to be reviewing and polishing some of my GitHub-hosted scripts for BSD compatibility.

Categories: FreeBSD, Jake B Tags:

Listen up, Kubuntu: the enraging tale of sound over HDMI

August 4th, 2013 2 comments

Full disclosure: I live with Kayla, and had to jump in to help resolve an enraging problem we ran into on the Kubuntu installation with KDE, PulseAudio and the undesirable experience of not having sound in applications. It involved a fair bit of terminal work and investigation, plus a minimal understanding of how sound works on Linux. TuxRadar has a good article that tries to explain things. When there are problems, though, the diagram looks much more like the (admittedly outdated) 2007 version:

The traditional spiderweb of complexity involved in Linux audio.

The traditional spiderweb of complexity involved in Linux audio.

To give you some background, the sound solution for the projection system is more complicated than “audio out from PC, into amplifier”. I’ve had a large amount of success in the past with optical out (S/PDIF) from Linux, with only a single trip to alsamixer required to unmute the relevant output. No, of course the audio path from this environment has to be more complicated, and looks something like:

Approximate diagram of display and audio output involved from Kubuntu machine

As a result, the video card actually acts as the sound output device, and the amplifier takes care of both passing the video signal to the projector and decoding/outputting the audio signal to the speakers and subwoofer. Under Windows, this works very well: in Control Panel > Sound, you right-click on the nVidia HDMI audio output and set it as the default device, then restart whatever application plays audio.

In the KDE environment, sound is managed by a utility called Phonon in the System Settings > Multimedia panel, which has multiple backends for ALSA and PulseAudio. It will essentially communicate with the highest-level sound output system installed that it has support for. When you make a change in a default Kubuntu install in Phonon it appears to be talking to PulseAudio, which in turn changes necessary ALSA settings. Sort of complicated, but I guess it handles the idea that multiple applications can play audio and not tie up the sound card at the same time – which has not always been the case with Linux.

In my traditional experience with the GNOME and Unity interfaces, it always seems like KDE took its own path with audio that wasn’t exactly standard. Here’s the problem I ran into: KDE listed the two audio devices (Intel HDA and nVidia HDA), with the nVidia interface containing four possible outputs – two stereo and two listed as 5.1. In the Phonon control panel, only one of these four was selectable at a time, and not necessarily corresponding to multiple channel output. Testing the output did not play audio, and it was apparent that none of it was making it to the amplifier to be decoded or output to the speakers.

Using some documentation from the ArchLinux wiki on ALSA, I was able to use the aplay -l command to find out the list of detected devices – there were four provided by the video card:

**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: PCH [HDA Intel PCH], device 0: ALC892 Analog [ALC892 Analog]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: PCH [HDA Intel PCH], device 1: ALC892 Digital [ALC892 Digital]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: NVidia [HDA NVidia], device 3: HDMI 0 [HDMI 0]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: NVidia [HDA NVidia], device 7: HDMI 0 [HDMI 0]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: NVidia [HDA NVidia], device 8: HDMI 0 [HDMI 0]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: NVidia [HDA NVidia], device 9: HDMI 0 [HDMI 0]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0

and then use aplay -D plughw:1,N /usr/share/sounds/alsa/Front_Center.wav repeatedly where N is the number of one of the nVidia detected devices. Trial and error let me discover that card 1, device 7 was the desired output – but there was still no sound from the speakers in any KDE applications or the Netflix Desktop client. Using the ALSA output directly in VLC, I was able to get an MP3 file to play properly when selecting the second nVidia HDMI output in the list. This corresponds to the position in the aplay output, but VLC is opaque about the exact card/device that is selected.

At this point my patience was wearing pretty thin. Examining the audio listing further – and I don’t exactly remember how I got to this point – the “active” HDMI output presented in Phonon was actually presented as card 1, device 3. PulseAudio essentially grabbed the first available output and wouldn’t let me select any others. There were some additional PulseAudio tools provided that showed the only possible “sink” was card 1,3.

The brute-force, ham-handed solution was to remove PulseAudio from a terminal (sudo apt-get remove pulseaudio) and restart KDE, presenting me with the following list of possible devices read directly from ALSA. I bumped the “hw:1,7” card to the top and also quit the system tray version of Amarok.

A list of all the raw ALSA devices detected by KDE/Phonon after removing PulseAudio.

A list of all the raw ALSA devices detected by KDE/Phonon after removing PulseAudio.

Result: Bliss! By forcing KDE to output to the correct device through ALSA, all applications started playing sounds and harmony was restored to the household.

At some point after the experiment I will see if I can get PulseAudio to work properly with this configuration, but both Kayla and I are OK with the limitations of this setup. And hey – audio works wonderfully now.

Getting FreeBSD up and running with and nVidia drivers

July 27th, 2013 No comments

The Experiment has officially begun, and with that I’ve gone through the FreeBSD installation process. The actual install was fairly uneventful: apart from the fact that FreeBSD defaults to a different base filesystem and has partitioning identifiers, sysinstall did the trick without the same bootloader issues that Dave experienced.

The first major difference, coming from something like Ubuntu or Debian, is that FreeBSD uses a combination of both source packages and already-prepared binary packages. Ostensibly the binary packages are for the most popular software and source packages are provided for convenience when there is no dedicated package build/maintainer team. In practice, depending on what you need to install, there are several possible locations and methods:

  • As a package, which is the binary compiled version. Available with the pkg_add -r option that acts like apt-get install on Ubuntu. The next version of this is pkgng, but I haven’t had much luck with it so far.
  • As a port, the source version of the program with FreeBSD hints to make the software compile. There are stubs in /usr/ports for a wide variety of software, and the “make install clean” process performs what seems to be a level of dependency injection as well.
  • From source directly, where you download and compile the package directly from its creator’s website; I’m avoiding this unless absolutely necessary.

As a result, I just end up using Google to find the package and then installing using the suggested command line. Hilariously enough, when looking for “take screenshot FreeBSD”, the suggested package was called scrot. Here’s that result:

My FreeBSD/xfce4 desktop taken with 'scrot'.

In order to get the desktop working, I had to fight a bit with Reading the documentation was incredibly helpful in getting my mouse and keyboard to work – I needed to add hald and dbus to the /etc/rc.conf file:


Once that was set up, I then embarked on the process of getting my monitor to display at native 2560×1600 resolution. First, I was stymied by the Xorg -configure process, which provided a number of created screens does not match number of detected devices error but still generated a configuration file. Copying that file into /etc/X11/xorg.conf and running startx subsequently gave a no screens detected message.

A number of suggestions online related to adding a preferred resolution as a “Modes” line to the Screen section in this file, but there was no change. What eventually worked was changing the Driver line from nv to vesa – clearly my GeForce 660 isn’t supported by the default open-source nVidia driver.

As a result, it was necessary to look at installing the closed-source binary nVidia driver. The first stumbling block in this process was during the make install clean command, where I was first told I’d have to install the FreeBSD kernel source. Using this forum article and adjusting the URL to reference 9.1-RELEASE, I successfully obtained and decompressed the code to /usr/src.

The next problem was with my choice of setup options. Initially during the make install process, I selected the default options, and was now blocked at:

===> Installing for nvidia-driver-304.60
===> nvidia-driver-304.60 depends on file: /compat/linux/etc/fedora-release - not found
===> Verifying install for /compat/linux/etc/fedora-release in /usr/ports/emulators/linux_base-f10
===> linux_base-f10-10_5 linuxulator is not (kld)loaded.
*** [install] Error code 1

Stop in /usr/ports/emulators/linux_base-f10.
*** [run-depends] Error code 1

Stop in /usr/ports/x11/nvidia-driver.
*** [install] Error code 1

Stop in /usr/ports/x11/nvidia-driver.

There didn’t seem to be a good way to get back to the options screen to deselect the Linux compatibility mode and make clean didn’t help the situation. Poking around, I was able to reselect the correct options (remove Linux, and also ensure not to select the FreeBSD AGP option) by running make config. A make install clean command after that, and I could continue to follow the rest of the instructions – creating /boot/loader.conf and adding nvidia_load="YES", editing xorg.conf to set the Driver to nvidia, and then it was time for a reboot.

As a side note, unlike other Linux distributions, the idea of installing proprietary drivers wasn’t portrayed as shameful and against Free Software ideals. The attitude and design of FreeBSD seems to be that you should be able to do what you want with it.

So after this work, what was the result when I ran startx again? Nearly flawless detection of multiple monitors, a readable desktop and non-balls graphics performance. A quick trip to sudo /usr/local/bin/nvidia-settings fixed the monitor alignment and was quite easy to use. Now to work on the rest of the desktop components to make this a more usable system, and I’ll be well on the way to future moments of rage.

Categories: FreeBSD, Jake B, XFCE, Xorg/X11 Tags:

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!

Airing of grievances: in which upgrading Ubuntu wreaks havoc

February 24th, 2013 4 comments

I’ve had a few nasty experiences this week with Linux and figured I’d vent here. Unlike my previous efforts with Linux From Scratch and Gentoo, my complaints this time around are related to upgrading Ubuntu.

Ubuntu 10.04 to 12.04: Save yourself the trouble

At this point the current Ubuntu LTS release (12.04) is my preferred distribution to work with: it has become widespread enough that troubleshooting and previous solutions online are easy to locate. In a professional capacity, I also maintain systems that are still on 8.04 LTS (supported until April 2013, so we have to be pretty aggressive about replacing them) or 10.04 LTS (good until April 2015).

I attempted to complete two upgrades from the 10.04 release this week to 12.04 – one 10.04 LTS “desktop” installation, and one 10.04 LTS headless server installation. Both were virtual machines running under VMWare ESXi, but neither had given me any trouble during normal use.

Canonical’s updater process (the wrapper around dist-upgrade) appears to be pretty slick; it gives you appropriate warnings, attempts to start a SSH daemon as a fallback mechanism and starts on its merry way to download the necessary packages to bring your system completely up to date. On my 10.04 desktop VM, the installer fell apart completely during the package replacement/removal/installation sequence. I was left with two nasty message boxes: one advising that my system was now in a broken state, and another that completely contained rectangular, unprintable characters.

To put it bluntly, I was not amused, but it wasn’t a critical system and I was content to replace it with a fresh 12.04 installation rather than waste additional time troubleshooting with apt or dpkg. Strike one for the upgrader.

At least the server came back up!

Next on the upgrade schedule was the 12.04 server VM. Install, package replacement and reboot went fine, but I had several custom PPAs installed to support development of XenonMKV (Github page) – specifically ppa:krull/deadsnakes to add Python 2.7 to Ubuntu 10.04.

Python 2.7 still worked when the server came back up, and all my usual tools of choice like SABnzbd+, SickBeard and CouchPotato were still functional.

For some reason, though, I’d gotten it into my head this evening to check out Mezzanine as a potential WordPress replacement. Mezzanine uses Django, a Python Web framework, and the list of supported features is pretty encompassing.

Sidebar: Django and mod_wsgi – complicated enough?

One of the most irritating things from a system administration point of view is getting Web applications to run in a standard server environment – typically a Linux base system and Apache or nginx to serve content. I suppose I’ve been spoiled with how easy it is to get PHP-based sites up and running these days in that configuration by adding an Apache module through apt. A lot of new Web app frameworks come with their own small webservers for development and testing, but generally their creators recommend that when you’re ready to put your site live, that the product run under a well-known Web or application server.

The Django folks recommend using mod_wsgi in their documentation, which in and of itself really just says “RTFM for mod_wsgi and then you’ll have a much better idea of how to do this.” I had to go poking around on Google for the installation article since there are some broken links, but okay, it’s an Apache module with a small bit of configuration (even though a simple walkthrough in the Django documentation would go a long way to making deployment easier.) This is where I ran into my dependency/PPA problem on Ubuntu 10.04.

I’ve suppose I’ve screwed the pooch…

Running the suggested command, I tried: sudo apt-get install libapache2-mod-wsgi and got the following

The following packages have unmet dependencies:
libapache2-mod-wsgi : Depends: libpython2.7 (>= 2.7) but it is not going to be installed
E: Unable to correct problems, you have held broken packages.

Backtracking, I then found out why the library wasn’t going to get installed:

The following packages have unmet dependencies:
libpython2.7 : Depends: python2.7 (= 2.7.3-0ubuntu3.1) but 2.7.3-2+lucid1 is to be installed

Aha! The Python installation from the PPA for Lucid – 10.04 – was installed and acting as the 2.7 package. Since the newly-upgraded Ubuntu 12.04 uses Python 2.7 as a dependency for a good portion of the default applications, I couldn’t just purge or uninstall it, and my attempts to force a reinstallation all ended in:

Reinstallation of python2.7 is not possible, since it cannot be downloaded.


At this point it looks like I’ll have to rebuild the server VM as well, but if any readers have any bright ideas on fixing this dependency hell – please comment with your suggestions!

Categories: God Damnit Linux, Jake B, Ubuntu Tags:

Linux from Scratch: I’ve had it up to here!

November 27th, 2011 9 comments

As you may be able to tell from my recent, snooze-worthy technical posts about compilers and makefiles and other assorted garbage, my experience with Linux from Scratch has been equally educational and enraging. Like Dave, I’ve had the pleasure of trying to compile various desktop environments and software packages from scratch, into some god-awful contraption that will let me check my damn email and look at the Twitters.

To be clear, when anyone says I have nobody to blame but myself, that’s complete hokum. From the beginning, this entire process was flawed. The last official LFS LiveCD has a kernel that’s enough revisions behind to cause grief during the setup process. But I really can’t blame the guys behind LFS for all my woes; their documentation is really well-written and explains why you have to pass fifty --do-not-compile-this-obscure-component-or-your-cat-will-crap-on-the-rug arguments.

Patch Your Cares Away

CC attribution licensed from benchilada

Read more…

Building glibc for LFS from Ubuntu by replacing awk

November 23rd, 2011 No comments

If you run into the following error trying to build LFS from a Ubuntu installation:

make[1]: *** No rule to make target `/mnt/lfs/sources/glibc-build/Versions.all', needed by `/mnt/lfs/sources/glibc-build/abi-versions.h'. Stop.

The mawk utility installed with Ubuntu, and symlinked to /usr/bin/awk by default does not properly handle the regular expressions in this package. Perform the following commands:

# apt-get install gawk
# rm -rf /usr/bin/{m}awk
# ln -snf /usr/bin/gawk /usr/bin/awk

Then you’re just a make clean; ./configure –obnoxious-dash-commands; make; make install away from success.

Reinstalling LFS soon: it’s not my fault, I swear!

November 17th, 2011 No comments

I went to play around with my Linux from Scratch installation after getting a working version of KDE 4.7.3 up and running. For a few days now my system has been running stood up to light web browsing use and SSH shenanigans, and hasn’t even dropped a remote connection.

This was until this evening, when I decided to reboot to try and fix a number of init scripts that were throwing some terrible error about problems in lsb_base under /lib/ somewhere. The system came back up properly, but when I startx‘d, I was missing borders for most of my windows. Appearance Preferences under KDE wouldn’t even lanch, claiming a segmentation fault.

There were no logs available to easily peruse, but after a few false starts I decided to check the filesystem with fsck from a bootable Ubuntu 11.04 USB stick. The results were not pretty:

root@ubuntu:~# fsck -a /dev/sdb3
fsck from util-linux-ng 2.17.2
/dev/sdb3 contains a file system with errors, check forced.
/dev/sdb3: Inode 1466546 has illegal block(s).

(i.e., without -a or -p options)

Running fsck without the -a option forced me into a nasty scenario, where like a certain Homer Simpson working from his home office, I repeatedly had to press “Y”:

At the end of it, I’d run through the terminal’s entire scroll buffer and continued to get errors like:

Inode 7060472 (/src/kde-workspace-4.7.3/kdm/kcm/main.cpp) has invalid mode (06400).
Clear? yes

i_file_acl for inode 7060473 (/src/kde-workspace-4.7.3/kdm/kcm/kdm-dlg.cpp) is 33554432, should be zero.
Clear? yes

Inode 7060473 (/src/kde-workspace-4.7.3/kdm/kcm/kdm-dlg.cpp) has invalid mode (00).
Clear? yes

i_file_acl for inode 7060474 (/src/kde-workspace-4.7.3/kdm/kcm/CMakeLists.txt) is 3835562035, should be zero.
Clear? yes

Inode 7060474 (/src/kde-workspace-4.7.3/kdm/kcm/CMakeLists.txt) has invalid mode (0167010).
Clear? yes

I actually gave up after after seeing several thousand of these inodes experiencing problems (later I learned that fsck -y will automatically answer yes, which means I’ve improved my productivity several thousand times!)

I was pretty quick to assess the problem: the OCZ Vertex solid state drive where I’d installed Linux has been silently corrupting data as I’ve written to it. Most of the problem sectors are in my source directories, but a few happened to be in my KDE installation on disk. This caused oddities such as power management not loading and the absence of window borders.

So what goes on from here? I plan to replace the OCZ drive under warranty and rebuild LFS on my spinning disk drive, but this time I’ll take my own advice and start building from this LiveUSB Ubuntu install, with an up-to-date kernel and where .tar.xz files are recognized. Onward goes the adventure!

Categories: Hardware, Jake B, Linux from Scratch Tags:

Fixing build issues with phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1

November 9th, 2011 No comments

I’ve decided to try and upgrade my LFS system to the latest version of KDE (4.7.3 as of the time of this writing) and correspondingly needed to upgrade phonon-backend-gstreamer. Unfortunately, following the previous version’s compilation instructions provided this nasty message:

[ 4%] Building CXX object gstreamer/CMakeFiles/phonon_gstreamer.dir/audiooutput.cpp.o
In file included from /sources/phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1/gstreamer/audiooutput.cpp:22:0:
/sources/phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1/gstreamer/mediaobject.h:200:38: error: ‘NavigationMenu’ is not a member of ‘Phonon::MediaController’
/sources/phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1/gstreamer/mediaobject.h:200:38: error: ‘NavigationMenu’ is not a member of ‘Phonon::MediaController’
/sources/phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1/gstreamer/mediaobject.h:200:69: error: template argument 1 is invalid/sources/phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1/gstreamer/mediaobject.h:262:11: error: ‘NavigationMenu’ is not a member of ‘Phonon::MediaController’
/sources/phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1/gstreamer/mediaobject.h:262:11: error: ‘NavigationMenu’ is not a member of ‘Phonon::MediaController’/sources/phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1/gstreamer/mediaobject.h:262:42: error: template argument 1 is invalid
/sources/phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1/gstreamer/mediaobject.h:263:45: error: ‘Phonon::MediaController::NavigationMenu’ has not been declared
/sources/phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1/gstreamer/mediaobject.h:317:11: error: ‘NavigationMenu’ is not a member of ‘Phonon::MediaController’
/sources/phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1/gstreamer/mediaobject.h:317:11: error: ‘NavigationMenu’ is not a member of ‘Phonon::MediaController’/sources/phonon-backend-gstreamer-4.5.1/gstreamer/mediaobject.h:317:42: error: template argument 1 is invalid
make[2]: *** [gstreamer/CMakeFiles/phonon_gstreamer.dir/audiooutput.cpp.o] Error 1make[1]: *** [gstreamer/CMakeFiles/phonon_gstreamer.dir/all] Error 2make: *** [all] Error 2

To fix this issue, make sure you have the latest GStreamer and phonon-backend-xine installed. Then I followed some of the advice from this KDE forum topic.

If, like me, you installed Qt into /opt/qt, create a symbolic link into the qt directory pointing to your system’s latest version of phonon. For later success with kde-runtime, create links to the libphonon libraries in /opt/qt-4.7.1/lib to your recently compiled /usr/lib64 versions (adjust paths to /usr/lib on 32-bit systems):

# mv /opt/qt-4.7.1/include/phonon /tmp
# ln -snf /usr/include/phonon /opt/qt-4.7.1/include/phonon
# cd /opt/qt-4.7.1/lib
# rm -rf libphonon*
# ln -snf /usr/lib64/
# ln -snf /usr/lib64/
# ln -snf /usr/lib64/
# ln -snf /usr/lib64/
# ln -snf /usr/lib64/
# ln -snf /usr/lib64/

Then rerun the compilation process for phonon-backend-gstreamer and voila, no more errors. (You’ll probably still have more issues to work out, but this gets past the phonon-backend-gstreamer blockade.)

Why do so many open source programs throw C/C++ warnings?

November 8th, 2011 4 comments

Seriously, I’d like to know, because this is a bit ridiculous.

For all the heavily encouraged coding styles out there, nearly all the open source software packages I’ve had to compile for Linux from Scratch have either

  1. Insanely chatty defaults for compilation; that is, GCC provides ‘notices’ about seemingly minor points, or
  2. A large number of warnings when compiling – unused variables, overloaded virtual functions, and deprecated features soon to disappear.

In the worst case, some of these warnings appear to be potential problems with the source. Leaving potentially uninitialized variables around seems to be a great way to run into runtime crashes if someone decides to use them. Overloading virtual functions with a different method signature has the same possible impact. And comparing signed and unsigned numbers is just a recipe for a crash or unpredictable behaviour down the line.

I just don’t get it. In my former development experiences, any compiler notifications were something to pay attention to. Usually when first developing an application, they were indicative of a typo, a forgotten variable or just general stupidity with the language. If a warning was absolutely unavoidable, it was specifically ignored in the build scripts with a clear explanation as to why.

So what’s the case with your programs? Have you noticed any stupid or insightful compiler messages scrolling past?

LFS so far – why you should build i686 and x86_64 binaries

November 7th, 2011 No comments

I’ve now been actively using my (Beyond) Linux from Scratch installation for about a week now, and it’s actually pretty neat to have something working that I built with just a general outline. Granted, the LFS guide is very well put together, but going beyond the basic console of a system requires a bit of time and effort.

In really any other distro, the package manager should really be your best friend (except when it breaks.) Even in a source-based Linux like Gentoo, Portage gives you a pretty decent idea of what’s installed and is able to keep track of dependencies. With LFS, there are really some times where I don’t want to have to locate and download seventeen .tar.bz2 files, and ./configure –prefix=/usr; make; make install to each one in sequence. What’s worse is when you run into three dependencies for a particular piece of software, and the first two install properly, but the third one depends on ten additional packages.

This is what building software in LFS looks like.

There are also some libraries that despite being built on an x86_64 system will come out as 32-bit, and require special compiler or configure flags in order to build a pure 64-bit version. LFS x86_64 does not really have patience for anything 32-bit. This is generally fine because you’re building most of the applications yourself, but you can’t “just run” any typical application unless it’s taken the architecture into account.

In summary, while it’s awesome to go to SourceForge and have the very latest version of a package, sometimes I just don’t feel like going through all those hoops and satisfying twenty conditions for a compile to take place. Perhaps I’m OK if your application uses a built-in library rather than relying on whatever happens to be installed in /usr/lib.

The takeaway from this is that besides providing the source, considerate developers should try and build an i686 and x86_64 binary from that same source. If your build system has issues or you find it painful to produce binary releases, remember that anyone attempting to follow the INSTALL file will run into the same pain points. Firefox, for example, has both i686 and x86_64 release tarchives. The 64-bit version works quite well on my LFS installation and it’s how I’m writing this post.

Getting Firefox 3.6.23 to compile under LFS

November 4th, 2011 No comments

Using the instructions from the BLFS book with the latest available 3.6 build of Firefox, I was able to achieve success. I figured I’d try out 3.6 before going onto something with a terribly inflated version number, and as per usual, ran into some problems:

  • Rebuild libpng-1.5.5 with APNG support. This is actually optional as I ended up commenting out the –with-system-png option in mozconfig.
  • In the suggested mozconfig, comment out the last two lines:

    #ac_add_options --with-system-libxul
    #ac_add_options --with-libxul-sdk=/usr/lib/xulrunner-devel-

    to create a standalone build.

  • Apply the GCC patch from this Bugzilla report (direct download).
  • Apply a partial patch from the Chromium project of all places. I’ve customized it here:

    # TLE Patch for Firefox/LFS

    diff -u a/gfx/ots/src/ b/gfs/ots/src/
    — a/gfx/ots/src/ 2011-11-02 07:10:17.000000000 -0400
    +++ b/gfx/ots/src/ 2011-11-02 07:10:30.000000000 -0400
    @@ -5,6 +5,7 @@
    #include “os2.h”

    #include “head.h”
    +#include <cstddef>

    // OS/2 – OS/2 and Windows Metrics

  • Apply a GCC4.6-specific patch to fix various .cpp files. Some parts of the patch will fail; that’s expected.
  • Manually edit layout/style/nsCSSRuleProcessor.cpp and go to line 1199. Change the source code as follows:

    const nsCaseInsensitiveStringComparator ciComparator;
    should become

    const nsCaseInsensitiveStringComparator ciComparator = nsCaseInsensitiveStringComparator();
  • For the toolkit/components/places/src/SQLFunctions.cpp file, change line 126 to:
    const nsCaseInsensitiveStringComparator caseInsensitiveCompare = nsCaseInsensitiveStringComparator();
  • In toolkit/crashreporter/google-breakpad/src/common/linux/, make sure line 51 is changed to:
    const CPPLanguage CPPLanguageSingleton = CPPLanguage();
  • In toolkit/xre/nsAppRunner.cpp, line 990:

    static const nsXULAppInfo kAppInfo = nsXULAppInfo();
  • While this is resolved in newer Firefox versions, copy security/coreconf/ to security/coreconf/ to add support for the 3.1 kernel.

Your reward will be a working Firefox installation:

Installing glib-1.2.10 in LFS to get XMMS working

November 3rd, 2011 1 comment

So I wanted to install XMMS in Linux From Scratch, as it’s one of the more reliable MP3 players and one of the first multimedia Linux apps I’ve used. It’s very reminiscent of Winamp 2:

If you would also like to get it installed, you’ll need the source and glib-1.2.10. Then, check out a common problem when installing glib, and a patch to fix the ./configure step.

LFS, pre-KDE: kdebindings and kdebase-runtime

November 2nd, 2011 No comments


Are you running into the following problem when compiling kdebindings? Well, you’re probably not, because you picked a saner distribution than LFS, but here goes anyway!

ASSERT failure in QList::at: “index out of range”, file /qt/trunk/include/QtCore/qlist.h, line 456
/bin/sh: line 1: 7841 Aborted (core dumped)

From, you can fix this with a patch to indexedstring.cpp:

--- generator/parser/indexedstring.cpp.orig 2011-02-23 22:12:38.695255708 +0100
+++ generator/parser/indexedstring.cpp 2011-02-24 02:36:09.035361151 +0100
@@ -195,12 +195,15 @@

QByteArray IndexedString::byteArray() const {
+  qDebug() << "strings()->size():" << strings()->size() << ", m_index:" << m_index;
return QByteArray();
else if((m_index & 0xffff0000) == 0xffff0000)
return QString(QChar((char)m_index & 0xff)).toUtf8();
-  else
+  else if (m_index < strings()->size())
return strings()->at(m_index).toUtf8(); /*arrayFromItem(globalIndexedStringRepository->itemFromIndex(m_index));*/
+  else
+    return QByteArray();

unsigned int IndexedString::hashString(const char* str, unsigned short length) {

I ended up removing the first qDebug() line before the if statement as I don’t need my compiler to be that chatty – I just need this package to compile properly. Reconfigure and attempt to make with:

    -DKDE_DEFAULT_HOME=.kde4 \
    -DSYSCONF_INSTALL_DIR=/etc/kde4 \
    .. &&


You can patch away your problems if you run into the following message:

[ 39%] Building CXX object kioslave/nfs/CMakeFiles/kio_nfs.dir/kio_nfs.o
In file included from /sources/kdebase-runtime-4.6.0/kioslave/nfs/kio_nfs.cpp:21:0:
/sources/kdebase-runtime-4.6.0/kioslave/nfs/kio_nfs.h:33:21: fatal error: rpc/rpc.h: No such file or directory
compilation terminated.

First, get libtirpc installed to make this work, but then again, you could have just guessed that you needed it, right? 😉

Used under Creative Commons NC license from zhenech

There are some LFS-specific instructions to follow before libtirpc will compile:

  • Unpack glibc-2.14.1
  • In its directory, execute:
    mkdir -p /usr/include/rpc{,svc}
    cp sunrpc/rpc/*.h /usr/include/rpc
    cp nis/rpcsvc/*.h /usr/include/rpcsvc
  • Compile libtirpc with ./configure --prefix=/usr && make && make install

Then from Sourcemage, linking to an old Bugzilla installation:

diff --git a/kioslave/nfs/CMakeLists.txt b/kioslave/nfs/CMakeLists.txt
index b973a73..6556769 100644
--- a/kioslave/nfs/CMakeLists.txt
+++ b/kioslave/nfs/CMakeLists.txt
@@ -3,8 +3,8 @@ set(kio_nfs_PART_SRCS kio_nfs.cpp mount_xdr.c nfs_prot_xdr.c )

 kde4_add_plugin(kio_nfs ${kio_nfs_PART_SRCS})

-target_link_libraries(kio_nfs   ${KDE4_KIO_LIBS})
+target_link_libraries(kio_nfs   ${KDE4_KIO_LIBS} tirpc)


Once this is complete you should be able to get kdebase-runtime compiled.

Categories: God Damnit Linux, Jake B, KDE Tags:

LFS, pre-KDE: Fixing libmng with -fPIC and xine with a header

November 2nd, 2011 No comments

Fixing libmng with -fPIC

In preparation for getting KDE4 (and Qt4, and all the other dependencies) working with my Linux from Scratch install, I noticed an issue when compiling libmng:

/usr/bin/ld: libmng_chunk_io.o: relocation R_X86_64_32 against `.rodata' can not be used when making a shared object; recompile with -fPIC
libmng_chunk_io.o: could not read symbols: Bad valuecollect2: ld returned 1 exit status
make: *** [] Error 1

To fix this, you’ll have to edit the makefile in /sources/libmng-1.0.10/makefiles/makefile.linux as per this osdir mailing list thread. Line 47 currently reads:

FLAGS=-I$(ZLIBINC) -I$(JPEGINC) -I$(LCMSINC) -Wall -O3 -funroll-loops \

Add the -fPIC flag instead:

FLAGS=-I$(ZLIBINC) -I$(JPEGINC) -I$(LCMSINC) -Wall -O3 -fPIC -funroll-loops \

Then change back to /sources/libmng-1.0.10 and run make clean; cp makefiles/makefile.linux Makefile && make to successfully compile the library.

And Xine

Xine appears to be missing a header, causing an xmcc compilation error. Check out the original solution and add the line with the + where indicated:

Index: src/video_out/xxmc.h
src/video_out/xxmc.h 2011-01-23 17:55:01.333928003 +0100
+++ src/video_out/xxmc.h 2011-01-23 17:54:48.509926463 +0100
@@ -79,6 +79,7 @@
#include <X11/extensions/Xvlib.h>
#include <X11/extensions/vldXvMC.h>
+ #include <X11/extensions/XvMClib.h>
#include <X11/extensions/XvMClib.h>
#include <X11/extensions/XvMC.h>

LFS, pre-KDE: Errors Compiling qca-2.0.3

November 2nd, 2011 No comments

If you’re going through the Beyond Linux From Scratch guide, and run into this error while compiling qca-2.0.3 (and I assume many other versions of qca), I think I can help.

You don’t seem to have ‘make’ or ‘gmake’ in your PATH.
Cannot proceed.

The fix is relatively easy. Just make sure to have which installed on the machine. Jake found this out the hard way by looking through the configure script. Doing this experiment on Linux From Scratch has really given me an appreciation for distributions that come with basic utilities such as which.

Since which is very difficult to find on Google, here is a link: