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February 15, 2009


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!

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 *, 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.

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.


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:

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/ 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.


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.

May 10, 2006

SUSE, rdesktop Update

When I posted about about remote desktop with XP and SUSE I was having problems with the sound. I couldn't get so much as a peep out of the remote XP box. Well, last night I went to the XP box, logged in with the account I use for remote access with SUSE and started Winamp, as expected, it played music. I then went back to my SUSE machine across the room and opened rdesktop and logged in. By logging in with the same account, it kicked the screen on the XP machine back out to the login screen. I could now control Winamp from SUSE (mostly) (progress!) (apostrophes!!).

I could not control the sound using Winamp's dial, nor from the speaker icon in the system tray. Also, each time the tracks changed, I got a popup box that said something about not having drivers installed. I logged out of the XP machine remotely and logged back in. I could now launch Winamp with results similar to those mentioned above; not ideal, but I was patting myself on the back.

Today I started playing with rdesktop again to see if I could make it better. Well, now trying the -r sound:remote option made the sound work as expected! I tried this before with zero luck, so I'm thinking that the little "procedure" with opening Winamp locally, then controlling it remotely "fixed" something. I'm not real sure what did it, but I can now play whatever I want on the XP machine's "good" speakers from across the room. The command I'm now using in my Fluxbox menu is: rdesktop -u remote -g 90% -a 16 damian -r sound:remote.

I've also run several updates on two XP machines I used the multi-user hack on and it still works.

April 25, 2006

Remote XP Desktops on Linux

Like many enthusiast I've got several computers in various states of functionality in my house. Most of them run some flavor of Linux, but one has to run Windows because crappy DirecWay requires it for use with their old hardware. DirecWay will sell you their new hotness hardware that lets you run the OS of your choice, but DirecWay is right next to Microsoft on my list of companies I hate to give money to. Plus my wife appears to be one of those people who likes Windows because it's what she knows; so she uses the XP machine that serves my house's internet connection.

Due to the order in which our computers were acquired XP is installed on the "cool" computer: best monitor, best graphics card, fastest proc, severely overclockable, etc. Because I'm such a good husband, she also gets the "cool" desk chair, but that's beside the point. The "cool" computer also has the best speakers, nothing an audiophile would love, but it's a Creative setup with a subwoofer, so compared to the machine I use, the "cool" computer also sounds good.

After a couple of the CDs I love (Short Bus and October Rust) were recently destroyed by my children (whom I love somewhat less now) I have been going through and ripping any CDs I consider priceless. I've been using ogg, I know it's lossy and not the best way to archive music, but it's good enough and I have yet to meet anyone who can tell the difference between a CD and a good ogg rip when given the Pepsi challenge. So after a couple day's work I've got a few gigs music on my computer. Many of these songs I haven't heard in a long time and have been looking for a way to play them and control them on the "cool" computer from my linux machine across the room. A CLI mp3 player like mp3blaster would be great if it ran on XP.

So off I went to see if I could find something to fit my needs and somehow ended up with the idea of using remote desktop to run Winamp to play the ogg files. I thought this sounded cool because I'd also be able to use IE from my linux machines (for those damn sites that require IE and switching the user-agent doesn't work) as well as perform any maintenence on the XP machine (I'm always asking my wife to run Windows update, change the file sharing properties on something, etc.). So while this may not be the easiest way to play music on a nearby XP machine from Linux, it solved some other problems and I wanted to try it.

XP's Remote Desktop lets you have visual access to all XP's features. It's as if you're sitting at the machine. It's like a remote X session for Linux (I wouldn't know because I always feel less manly at the thought of accessing a remote Linux machine without using the command line) Scott Morris has some information about running GUI apps remotely with SUSE. So XP acts as the server and you just need a client to pull it off, you can use this on your LAN or elsewhere if you've got an internet connection. To set up the XP machine, just follow these instructions (except the "The remote computer must be running Windows 95 or later" thing is nonsense, we're going to do it with Linux). To set up the Linux box (client), you'll need rdesktop (RPMs available on the SUSE CDs or common YaST sources). Rdesktop is a CLI app, so if you want a GUI, you can try tsclient or GNOME-RDP. I tried the generic RPM on the tsclient site and it worked on my SUSE 10.0 machine, but complained of a dependancy issue that I could never fix on my 9.3 machine, I didn't try any other GUI's because I just set up a menu item in my Fluxbox menu that launched rdesktop with all the options I wanted (run man rdesktop to see what's available). Do some googling and I'm sure you'll find a GUI that suits you if you must.

So far so good? You should now be able to launch rdesktop or the GUI front-end of your choice. If it does not work it might be the GUI you're using, so try rdesktop by itself to if that's working. If you're still having problems, your next step should be checking all the firewalls between you and the host machine. Then make sure you set up XP correctly; I think the XP machine will need to have a password associated with the account you are trying to use. rdesktop

The problem with this is that whenever you log in you'll kick the local XP user out to the login screen. This is because Microsoft only wants one user on there at a time. However, the whole reason I decided to make this long-winded blog post is that today I happened across a Digg story that explains how to hack XP Pro to allow up to three users at once. TFA explains that this is done by installing an old dll, changing some options, and making some registry tweaks. In the comments I also found this post that provides an .exe that does all the installing and hacking for you. In any case, you'll have to offer a certain amount of trust to the authors because you're installing a dll that could have been potentially modified to do "bad things". I've tried both methods mentioned above and have yet to find any problems. Also, you'll need to set up a second account on the XP machine because two people can't be logged in as the same user at the same time, if you try it the first user will be kicked to the login screen.

I have no idea if this hack violates the XP EULA or any laws and these things cary a certain amount of risk, so you're on your own if you end up in jail or with a broken machine. Additionally, the next time you install any MS patches, your hack may be undone or break the hack alltogether.

Did this solve my "music-on-the-'cool'-computer" issue? No. Though you can specify if you want the sounds to come from the server or host, for some reason that's still not working right now, but I'm convinced the theory is sound (forgive the pun), so I'll keep working on it. Update: Sound works now.

January 25, 2006

Novell Linux Survey

Scott Morris from Novell Cool Solutions sent me an email and asked that I mention that they are conducting a survey about applications not available for Linux that users want to see supported.

So if there are Windows-only (or Mac-only, unix-only, whatever) programs that you need to have available in Linux to make the switch, go take the survey. Scott tells me that once the survey is complete, Novell will be contacting the software vendors to see what they can do about getting some Linux support.

Now, if 10 people take the survey, Novell will have a hard time going to Big-Software-Vendor-X and trying to convince them that they should port their applications to GNU/Linux. At the same time, don't go and spam them with 200 requests each to try and get a Linux port of Grand Theft Auto.

I went to go take the survey and I could not think of a single application that I thought of as must-have where I couldn't get something similar on Linux (personally or professionally). I thought of friends and family and what it would take them to switch and the truth is, they are just resistant to change. They couldn't find a real difference between Outlook Express and Thunderbird if their life depended on it. They just want a "Start" button and a blue "e" that they can double click on to get to "the internet"; not because they like it, but because many of them aren't willing to consider other options. Added: Well, I thought of one that's a must-have at work - Quickbooks. I've looked at what's available for Linux and I can't find one that covers everything we need. Plus, for a long time, our payroll was done with Intuit and it enabled us to use some advanced features with Quickbooks.

Anyway, if there are some applications you or your business would need (or like) to see ported to Linux before you can make the switch, go take the survey. This is probably the best chance you'll have to get through to some of these vendors.

January 10, 2006

BOINC & New Users

Sorry I've been pretty silent lately with the blog. The Holidays were pretty tough, lots of things went wrong.

So the "old" SETI@home is dead. Now, if you want to search for little green men, you'll need to download the BOINC client and "attach" to SETI@home. Pretty easy, I'll update my old instructions soon.

I'm not doing SETI anymore. I got into distributed computing through a project similar to folding@home that looked for disease cures and such. When I switched to Linux, they didn't have a Linux client, so I started supporting SETI. By using BOINC, you can choose to support one or more of several projects. I chose to support Rosetta@home; this project claims to be examining proteins that may be used in cures for diseases.

Rosetta@home has a good Linux team, USA Linux Users Group. Don't let the nationalistic name fool you, they have several international members and they have a great site for Linux users.

I've run across a couple of cool articles for new Linux users. The first is Linux is not Windows which does a better job of making many of the same points I make here. The other is one I found through the USALug site, 10 things you should know about every Linux installation. It gives some quick information for people who don't know too much about Linux and want to learn more without getting too technical too fast.

October 4, 2005

Yellow Dog Linux

I've been downloading Yellow Dog Linux 4.0.1 in preperation for the iMac I bought. The md5sums mention "yellowdog-4.0-orion-20050208-install*.iso", but the actual ISOs are called "yellowdog-4.0.1-orion-20050208-install*.iso". Now, there are 4.0 ISOs there, but the 4.0.1 ISOs md5sums match the ones listed for 4.0.

I got the RAM I ordered for my laptop. I installed it and it told me to "Please remove the incompatable memory from slot" least it said please. I've been doing some checking and it really should work. The funny thing is that I think it is the exact same RAM I need for the iMac: 144pin PC100 SODIMM. I'm not sure about this, but I'll try it when the Mac gets here. If that doesn't work, I'm going to have to see what I can do to send the RAM back.

Here's an openSUSE 10.1 Alpha1 review.

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