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KDE, WTF

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Treo 700p Tether with Linux

SUSE 10.2 on Dell Optiplex 320

SUSE 10.2

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February 15, 2009

KDE, WTF

This shit is bananas. I installed Kubuntu Intrepid on a laptop recently and made the foolish choice of using the KDE 4 option. That means that you get no right-click ¨extract to¨ or ¨compress as¨ in Konq, or Dolphin, if you´re into that kind of thing.

I messed with creating some custom ServiceMenus, but could not get them to work with Ark. Dammit. The best solution I´ve seen can be found here.

This is just my most recent KDE4 frustration. And this is sad because I don even use the whole desktop environment - I use Fluxbox; I just happen to love Konq as a file browser and FTP client. While booting into KDE to see what the hell they were doing, I noticed I can´t set the taskbar to only show windows from the current desktop. The control center is absolutely neutered. Plasma...really?

ANd it seems I made the wrong call when configuring the keyboard because whenever I try to put an ¨e¨ in quotes I get an e in ümlauts. Well, thatś my bad and can be fixed easy enough.

Hugs & kisses.

Update: Keyboard layout fixed! Horray for being able to put "e"'s in quotes!

September 19, 2008

NetIQ Video

I recently took a job at NetIQ, a (proprietary) software company that produces enterprise systems management and monitoring software. Some may be familiar with AppManager, others may remember NetIQ as the previous owners of WebTrends.

We recently had an intern from Harvard work on a couple videos to try and explain a few of our software lines. I think they came out great. The first one was just released:

...and if you want to help us out with a Digg.

December 5, 2007

Treo 700p Tether with Linux

Wow. I have been trying to get my Treo 700p to function as a DUN modem with Linux for a long time (and my 650 long before that). I tried Bluetooth primarily because I couldn't find anything on doing it with they sync cable and/or Linux. I really wanted to get it to work via USB to avoid the hassle of Bluetooth and avoid the bandwidth bottleneck. Anyway, my prayers have recently been answered - I found some info on how to get it working.

First, I found a Free is the new Blog post where the author got it working. I tried to duplicate what he did and didn't get very far, but I learned a little more about how to do it.

I did some more searching and found an Ubuntu tutorial that explained exactly how to do it. I followed the instructions, but still couldn't get it working 100%. What follows are some notes I made to get this to work for me on a Feisty Kubuntu installation and Sprint.

  • don't forget to sudo modprobe cdc-acm and add "cdc-acm" to your /etc/modules to load the module on startup
  • I had to adjust the "chat" line suggested in the instructions and template file to connect '/usr/sbin/chat -s -v "" AT OK ATD#777 CONNECT' the line they used would just result in a "FAILURE" message. I got the idea from that Free is the new Blog post
  • for the pap-secrets file I had to use the line myusername@sprintpcs.com *, so from left to right: the username, tab, and asterisk. I think this is because Sprint doesn't use a password (or something).
  • I did not have to copy the ppp resolv.conf to the main resolv.conf, it seemed to do it automatically.
There you go. Just to clarify, the USB Modem software does enable you to use your 700p as a modem without buying that special service from Sprint; this may, or may not be illegal/immoral/violate TOS. I haven't seen any black helicopters, nor have I heard of anyone else seeing them, but I just wanted to mention it. I'm actually using this at home because DirecWay sucks...bad. I'm going to try to serve this internet connection to my network. I live in the country and get either one or two bars at my house, I did a bandwidth test and got nearly 300 kb/second. Not stellar, but not bad.

February 16, 2007

SUSE 10.2 on Dell Optiplex 320

I installed SUSE 10.2 on my bosses machine like I had talked about. It was a slightly bigger pain in the ass than I had expected. I should have checked it out before buying it, but I figured something shipping with openDOS was going to be pretty compatible. There are some known issues getting Linux on a Dell Optiplex 320. Otherwise I think the machine is pretty cool. It is very quiet.

The SATA hard drive was not recognized during the install. As I found suggested elsewhere, this is fixed by using the kernel parameter linux pci=nomsi. I read that another problem was that GRUB wouldn't work. I wanted to try for myself, and sure enough during the first boot grub $hit the bed. So, lilo it is. Those were the only two problems I ran into during the install and neither were too hard to fix.

After the install I had my usual problem with Samba, but that was about it. My boss will be back in the office Tuesday and will be able to play with his new SUSE machine. I'll have to wait and see how he does.

February 8, 2007

SUSE 10.2

I downloaded the 6 SUSE CDs last week in preparation to upgrade my machine at work. It was running 9.3 and had problems synching with my Treo 650 (like all my SUSE machines), bluetooth wasn't working with my dongle, my fluxbox startup file wasn't working, odd cursors in Firefox and Thunderbird every time I rebooted until I played with gnome-control-center, and a few other minor things I hoped a fresh install of the latest and greatest from SUSE would fix.

I was busy last week and was unable to get around to installing SUSE 10.2 at work. However, a woman I have been tutoring in web development mentioned she's been wanting to try Linux on her Dell machine she just got back from getting repaired with a clean HDD. I suggested a dual-boot with Windows, so we installed Windows first and then tried to install SUSE 10.2. I say tried because we got an error that her machine didn't have enough memory to run YaST. It asked to mount a swap partition, but since this machine only had windows installed, there was no swap partition yet. Her laptop had 256 MB of memory, which is SUSE 10.2's minimum requirement.

Some Googling turned up similar errors for people installing it in a VM. The fixes they used didn't help me. I decided to download DSL, burn it, and use it to resize her NTFS and give her a swap. Unfortunately, I couldn't get two separate machines to boot off of two separate downloads of the newest version of DSL, 3.2.

These shenanigans left the woman with a poor impression of Linux, especially compared to the almost thoughtless process involved in installing XP on the same machine. I told her we'd try it again next time when I brought an older version of DSL with me. The next time I saw her I didn't bring up Linux and neither did she.

I also recently had a conversation with the CEO of the company I work for. He was running Windows ME (he resists change, especially technology) on his desktop at work and has noticed how one-by-one he is losing support for ME from Microsoft, Symantic, ZoneAlarm, and others. I agreed and told him that he would really need to upgrade to something newer to protect his data and our network. We talked about how expensive Vista was and how he'd be in the same dwindling-support situation in a few years with XP. He asked me to tell him again about that "thing" I have on my computer. I told him again about Linux, how it's free, secure, and can be modified so that each new update does not mean he has to re-learn how to use it. I told him I wasn't pushing it on him because I know how much he hates change. He told me he knew he had to change to something so he was willing to give Linux a try.

He's been using the same hardware for about 10 years, so I talked the holder-of-the-purse-strings into letting him get a new computer. They've leery of the "pieced-together" machines I'm famous for because they have no warrantee, so I checked out Dell. I was able to get a respectable 3 GHz Celery, 1 GB of RAM, more storage than he can use, a 17" monitor, DVD-RW, 3-year warrantee (heavy on the fine print), and FreeDOS shipped from Dell for about $700. My plan has been to install SUSE 10.2 on it. I can ssh into it and handle any updates and new software he needs from my desk.

Unfortunately, I've had more than a few headaches with SUSE 10.2 on my own work machine. So many, that I'm starting to wonder if I shouldn't just install XP for my boss. Blasphemy from a Linux advocate, I know. The problems I have run into when installing Windows for non-geeks can usually be fixed by the average introverted male teenager. The problems I run into when installing Linux often involve compiling a new kernel module, copying a binary, and some other CLI stuff that seems like wizardry to the bystander.

SO, the problems I've had with SUSE 10.2:

  • I really dislike YaST online update and Software Management. Really subjective, but it seems to have gone from fairly straightforward to a bunch of whizzing progress bars. Progress bars that pop up and shift focus away from what I'm working on.
  • It's been difficult for me to add software repos in YaST, they often hang or fail. I try to mark the CDs not to be refreshed, but YaST asks me to insert them anyway. I haven't tried deleting them as a repo yet.
  • I get an error that says another process is accessing the RPM database when I try to open Software Management, Online Update, rpm -i or right-click on an RPM to install with YaST. It seems this happens only after I successfully install an RPM by right-clicking on it. This error persists until I reboot, sometimes fixed when I kill every process grepped for krpmview and zmd. Possibly related to this reported behavior.
  • If I try to install a local RPM, YaST looks at the repositories to try and find a newer RPM and if one exists, installs that instead. This has been a frustration.
  • Getting Fluxbox to work has been a pain. This is likely a problem with my config or Fluxbox, but it was working fine in 9.3.
  • I can't get Aterm's transparency to work. I'm really stumped here. Again, just dandy in 9.3.
  • rdesktop isn't working. I haven't had time to troubleshoot this yet, but it worked fine in 9.3.
  • I'm having this problem, which is not too unlike the X cursor I was getting in Firefox and Thunderbird.
  • I get an error when I log in to fluxbox about a problem with the geometry and it suggests I try some terminal foolishness to figure out what the problem is. I haven't looked at this problem yet.
The Fluxbox and Aterm issues are probably not SUSE's problem and nothing I would face when installing for a new Linux user, but the YaST stuff is unbearable.

"It's free, stop complaining and go fix the problems." Well, my skills aren't quite there. I'll keep using Linux (and likely SUSE) until hell freezes over, but I may not be able to recommend it to my less-technically-inclined friends.

To be fair, I found a lot to like in SUSE 10.2. The default KDE desktop is really cool (though I only use it until I can get Fluxbox working). Kerry was nice. The search bar in Konq is cool. I haven't tried bluetooth or syncing my treo yet, maybe that will give me something else to rave about.

Anyway, I'm just surly because of the frustrations I've been having. I'm sure things will start to look sunny soon.

December 10, 2006

SUSE 10.2 Reviews & an XP Install

A couple of SUSE 10.2 reviews; DesktopLinux and JonRob's Blog. Both were glowing, each mentioned only a couple of minor concerns.

The only incentives I have to upgrade from the 9.3, 10.0, and 10.1 versions I run on my various machines are my problems with Kpilot choking on my Treo 650's Java and the perpetual issues I have with Samba. I haven't checked for new versions of these packages in a while, so maybe I'll just check that. Anyway, I've learned the hard way that upgrading for the sake of seeing the version number increase is tempting Murphy's Law, so I doubt I'll be going to 10.2 until I have to.

I've been reformatting and reinstalling XP on my wife's PC all evening. What a pain. This ancient OS needs a few hundred MBs of updates to bring it back to life and DirecWay's "'Fair' Access Policy" means that they slash my bandwidth after about 125 MBs of downloads. Cool, I got to complain about DirecWay and Microsoft in the same sentence.

One amusing thing happened while reinstalling XP for her. I watched it get owned about 3 minutes after connecting it to the interenet, lol. I had dozens of popups poorly disguised as security warnings asking me to visit various websites to install patches or risk permenant data loss. I literally could not install the updates fast enough. It's crazy because I did not visit any websites besides Microsoft.com. I downloaded AntiVir while I was installing updates and started running it. It found three trojan files, something like DA/Something.Agent.xhl.1. Insane.

December 7, 2006

Fun with Telemarketers

This isn't really your typical YTMND gag, but very funny: http://howtoprankatelemarketer.ytmnd.com/ .

October 31, 2006

PlanetPlanet 2.0

Yeah, I'm still alive. I have no idea what's going on in the SUSE, Novell, or Linux worlds right now. It's been at least a month since I've visited any of the geek-news sites. If this is your first day using SUSE, you're probably more up-to-date on what's going on than I am (you want to take this site over?).

School is taking up most of my time now. I have to write more about that in it's own post. I've also developed an obsession with learning to ride a motorcycle. I don't really know where it came from, but my spare online time is now spent looking at used motorcycle ads and motorcycle websites. If anyone knows of any newb-friendly used motorcycles in the San Antonio area, please let me know (less than $2500).

Ok, what got me writing this post was an upgrade from a year (plus) old installation of PlanetPlanet to the 2.0 hotness. I don't know when it came out, but it's sweet. I was having more problems with my wife's scrapbooking site. Many of the syndicated blogs had feeds that were wrecking the site. I don't know exactly what causes this, but something in some feeds got chewed up in PlanetPlanet. I'd added some hacks in the loop to close the most common html tags, but it was ugly and sometimes didn't fix the problem. Anyway, 2.0 fixed those problems. I didn't even have to change my templates.

I released a new version of my Firefox extension, SEOpen for Firefox 2.0. I must have had 20 emails in a single week asking me to update it. Speaking of which, there are a few things I'm not happy about in FF 2.0. I don't like the "close" function on each tab and I don't like how quick they are to spill over; that said, it's easy enough to fix as seen in this thread. The other thing I don't like is how so many new features which should be handled by extensions are being integrated into FF itself (like spell checking). I personally don't like the anti-phishing features, I wish they would be kept in an extension, but I also know that people who are aware of how to install and use extensions are not the kind of people who get frequently taken in by phishing scams. FF 1.0.8 was the last build I really liked because 1.5 brought the damn GTK file manager, I @#*&ing hate that thing.

Anyway, I'm still alive and hope to be back to work writing about SUSE and Linux related stuff really soon.

September 22, 2006

Creating a Local Repository in Vector Linux

I recently upgraded my aging, but much-loved laptop the other day from Vector Linux 5.0 SOHO to Vector 5.1.1 SOHO. I'll try to post a review later, but the short version is: "slick, fast, better, more features".

I often like to compile my own software even when binaries are available (sometimes you can't find binaries). Sometimes options are missing, sometimes they just don't work, sometimes...well you know the reasons. The problem was that with Vector Linux I could not figure out how to use slapt-get (or gslapt, if you prefer) to install local software packages. I spent a lot of time searching and ran into several dead-ends, instructions that assumed the reader was a power-user, and some flat-out bad advice. So I'm going to lay out the steps as plainly as possible on how to use slapt-get to install binaries you've downloaded or compiled yourself.

This is pretty easy to do, it's just long because I'm sympathetic to newer users so I go into detail where it may seem redundant to some.

Compile

I'm going to assume you know how to do the configure, make, make install dance. This builds the software and throws the binaries into your system, bypassing your package manager. I'll also assume you know how to use checkinstall which turns the compiled software into a package. If you don't know how to do these things, do some Googling and come back when you can go from source to ready-to-install package.

Create Local Repository Directory

OK, we're going to make a directory where you will store the packages you create for use with slapt-get. You can put it pretty much wherever you want and call it whatever you want. When I was going through this process I found some instructions that almost-worked that suggested putting the directory in /usr/src/ , so that's what I did. As tempting as it may be, do not place your new directory in /home/ftp/pub/veclinux/packages/; whenever you do a slapt-get --clean you'll delete your packages in that directory. It also makes since to make the directory owned by root since only root should be installing packages and using checkinstall anyway. So my new directory was /usr/src/local_repo/ .

Minor Script

Vector comes with software that can automatically build the checksums and package information required by slapt-get. You just need to run the command makeinfo-slapt with a switch that tells it whether it should build the info for all the packages in the directory or just the new ones. Now, if you don't mind cd'ing to your local repository and running this command every time you add a new package, then you can skip to the part below that talks about adding your local repo to the slapt-getrc; I'd just suggest playing with the makeinfo-slapt command to get comfortable with it and see what it does. However, with a couple easy steps, you can save a a little work each time and make it easier to remember.

As root, create a new file in /root/ called "build_repo". In this file add:

#!bin/sh
cd /usr/src/local_repo/
makeinfo-slapt new

The middle line should be the new directory you created in the previous step to hold your downloaded/created packages. Save your addition, close the file, and make it executable. As you can see, when this script is run, it changes to the local repository directory and runs the makeinfo-slapt command with the "new" option. If you want it to build the info for all your packages every time you run it, then use "all" instead of "new"; in most cases, you won't need to do this.

Add an Alias

As root, open root's .bashrc. We're going to create an alias that automates executing the script we just created above. Near the bottom of root's .bashrc, add:

##My alias
alias buildrepo='/root/build_repo'

That means that as root, we can just type buildrepo and it will execute the script we created. If you're using the command line, end your shell session or open a new terminal (then su to root) so that it incorporates the changes you made to root's .bashrc.

Modify your slapt-getrc

We now need to make sure slapt-get knows about our new local repository. As root, open your /etc/slapt-get/slapt-getrc file. We need to add the line

SOURCE=file:///usr/src/local_repo/

...to the file. Obviously, if the directory you created is elsewhere, you should use that path instead. There are a couple different places you can add this line. I like to put it in the "FAVORITE" group so slapt-get tries to use my packages first, but you can also put it in the "VECTOR" group.

Once you've made the changes, save the file and close it.

Running the script

Now we just need to populate the new directory of ours. If you've downloaded or compiled a package recently, just move it to the new directory as root. If you don't have any .tgz packages on hand, you'll need to download or compile at least one and put it in your new repo directory.

Now as root (from any directory) run our buildrepo command. You'll see some output that indicates it's building the necessary files (and deleting old ones). When it's done, it will give you a prompt.

Now do a slapt-get --clean (this probably isn't required, but since we modified your slapt-getrc, it will give you a clean slate). If you like to manage your packages from the command line, just do a slapt-get --update and it should add your new local packages; if you're using gslapt, just open it and click update. Now using the command line or gslapt, do a search for the package(s) you put in your local repository. You should see them and be able to use them.

Now every time you download or compile a new package, just move it (them) to your new local repo, as root run "buildrepo", then update your slapt-get using the command line or gslapt...good to go.

Troubleshooting

First, make sure you're root and have made the changes above as root.

If you get errors running buildrepo, try cd'ing to your local repo and running makeinfo-slapt all. If you get errors at this point make sure the package(s) you put in the directory were compiled correctly. If the errors go away follow the rest of the steps and then go back and make sure you built build_repo script correctly.

If you just can't make it work and want everyting back the way it was, just delete the directory you created, delete the "build_repo" script in /root/, remove the changes made to slapt-getrc, remove the additions to root's .bashrc, clean slapt-get, and then update slapt-get; you're back to the way things were.

This is pretty much exactly what I did (excluding the trial and error) and it worked like a champ. If I've made a mistake somewhere or skipped a step, please let me know. It's also possible that there's an easier way to do this and I'm just hard-headed, if this is the case, please let me know.

September 21, 2006

University of Phoenix

Well, it's been forever since I blogged. I doubt there's too many people out there that care, but I personally feel guilty because it was something that I really want to maintain. So, after my long hiatus, I'm now going to get back to work on this rascal.

On a completely personal note, I've registered with the University of Phoenix to start taking classes. It's actually Axia College which is UoP's attempt to attract younger students with fewer credits to transfer in. I'm pretty excited to finally get going. I got out of the Air Force over 6 years ago and have been wanting to go to school, but a lack of time and money (and an abundance of laziness) conspired to keep me uneducated.

My GI Bill benefits expire in a little over 3 years, so if I'm going to use them, I've got to get going. I almost registered with UoP about a year ago, but I was scared that even with the GI Bill, I'd end up paying too much. You pay a premium at UoP for the luxury of being able to attend school from your computer. Axia is actually a little cheaper than UoP, but still much more than comparable classes at most community colleges.

Another reason I stopped myself from registering last year were all the horror stories some current and former UoP students have posted online. The main complaints seem to be hard sales tactics (UoP is a for-profit school), unresponsive employees, high prices, easy As, monkeying with financial aid and money, no admission standards worth mentioning, and employers' poor view of UoP degrees...pretty much everything any school does not want to get a reputation for.

For a summary of UoP's infamy, check out UniversityofPhoenixSucks.com. There are a lot of pissed people over there. They have a lot of information and links to (mostly) negative information about UoP. I discount a big chunk of them because during the course of a bitch-thread it turns out they failed to file some paperwork, didn't follow up like they should have, flunked out, or other misdeeds that cast little or no fault on UoP. Now, there are plenty others that seem to have legitimate complaints, but once you exclude the complainers, you are left with what appears to be a level of animosity that is to be expected to be directed at what is said to be the largest private school in the US.

Despite the negativity, I'm going to give it a try because there are some advantages like their experience administering online classes and speed with which I can finish my Associates Degree. My plan is to try and finish my Associates at Axia, then evaluate if I want to stick with UoP, or move on to a more traditional school that offers online degrees. Schools like the University of Kansas and University of Houston offer online degrees; I'm thinking I'd feel more confidant telling potential employers that my Bachelor's Degree is from one of those places rather than the University of Phoenix. This shockingly unbiased-seeming website maintains a list of schools that offer online degrees. I'm not ruling out the possibility of finishing at UoP, I'll just have to see how the Associates goes.

It's hard to find quality, unbiased information about online schools because so many of them have affiliate programs where webmasters get paid for referring potential students. It's too bad because I'm guessing there must be people out there who've had favorable experiences (there are some at UoPSucks.com; often labeled UoP "plants"), but it's hard to find them because the search engines are packed with sites trying to get $$ by referring you to the UoP.

So I'm going into a situation with my eyes open, and willing to take a chance that UoP isn't as bad as some say. So far my experience has been really good (of course they want my tuition). The few people I've talked to have been able to usher me right through the process of getting my GI Bill going and applying for financial aid and grants.

I start classes on Monday. I'll post further impressions as I get deeper into it.

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