Archive for the 'Linux' Category

Linux Mint 14 XFCE Edition

Linux Mint 14 xfce

Linux Mint 14 xfce

Woo! It has been a while since I posted about any linuxy things here and I was just going to veg today, but I promised :)

It’s no secret that I have had a thing for Linux Mint for quite a while. It is a solid reliable distribution that “just works” and, personally, it’s the one I have to piss with the least in order to get it working the way I like. That being said, as I posted about earlier, I noticed a few things on Mint 14 (Cinnamon) that contributed to keeping me off of it for a while. Most have been fixed, like the processor pegging, but the nagging issue with not being able to set custom keyboard shortcuts was a stinker. Honestly, at this point I have been so busy the last fre weeks I haven’t had a chance to see if that has been resolved yet. All that being said, I have this old laptop that I have traditionally run the XFCE edition on because it haqs lower resources. The XFCE edition has always worked a treat on this thing and I finally had the opportunity to upgrade from Mint 13 to 14 and really beat on it a little bit. In fact, that is what I am typing on now.

So just to be clear, I followed the recommended upgrade path, which is to say, clean reinstall. This seems to bother a lot of people but in Mint’s defense, I believe this is the best way to go from distribution to distribution. When you do an in place upgrade (which is possible) it takes tremendously longer imho, and then you are left sometimes with little residual bits and bobs issues to deal with that may or may not spring up on you at an inopportune time. Conversely, the clean install method of backing up your important bits, clean reinstall, and restoring the bits again is really relatively quick and painless. It does count on you having good backups, but, for sure, if you are doing an in place upgrade without good backups, you are lighting the disaster fuse :)

So, what is new on xfce edition? It doesn’t seem like there are any earth shattering changes here, mostly userland and kernel updates. Everything works really well and very quick, just as it did under 13. I would like to say I am surprised, but I am not. I have come to expect a certain level of quality from the Mint folks and they hardly ever disappoint. That’s why I always recommend their distribution, especially to newbies. People need to have a go-to distro that just works.

If you haven’t tried XFCE before and are contrasting it with Cinnamon or gnome (standard) you would certainly feel right at home and comfortable. While being a good bit lighter than the other DE’s xfce does well with providing you a similar set of programs, look and feel. Instead of a nautilus file manager, you generally have thunar, which works very well and much the same. Other differences are xfterm instead of gnome-terminal – still carries much of the same feel and functionality, etc.. You also have many of the same setup options, such as some ability for composting, screensavers, desktop backgrounds, virtual desktops and the rest of the things you are used to having control over. The menuing system has a bit of a different feel, but it is easily navigable.

As a lighter desktop option, there are still some things, some tweaks that you might need to take care of manually though. I will give you one example. For one reason or another xfce’s default icon text color was black. Well, as you can see from my screenshot, that doesn’t really work well for people like myself who like darker backgrounds (the default bg for Mint is a very light grey). I wanted to change that text color to white so I could, you know, read it :) While not very hard, it involves editing the .gtk-xfce file in your home directory and changing all the color codes (3 there) from #000000 to #FFFFFF. The resulting file looks like so:

style “xfdesktop-icon-view” {
XfdesktopIconView::label-alpha = 0

widget_class “*XfdesktopIconView*” style “xfdesktop-icon-view”

The rest of the customization, outside of fixing network manager’s dns control, which I think is a horrible idea, is pure userland. There are a bunch of programs that I personally use that make me able to do what I do and I naturally put all my customization into a script to be able to share it. You’ll need to run this as root and not just sudo it to get it to work correctly. To oget to a root account simply open a term and do a “sudo su -” and you’ll br prompted for your password. Once you give it, you are root. Just run this program for all the goodies. One other oddity I found was that after the initial reboot, when you are logging in, you *must* choose xfce as your session type. If you do not, you won’t get a desktop environment :) Once you choose it once, though, it’ll ask you if you want to make it your default. Yes is a good answer here :) Then you’ll be a rockin’!

Here is



# Test for UID=0
if [ "$(echo $UID)" != "0" ]
echo “You must be superuser to run this program. Try ‘sudo su -’ then ‘./’”

sed -i -e ‘s/dns=dnsmasq/#dns=dnsmasq/g’ /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf

apt-get update
apt-get -y install xterm
apt-get -y install openssh-server ssh
apt-get -y install sshfs
apt-get -y install smbfs
apt-get -y install irssi
apt-get -y install vpnc
apt-get -y install screen
apt-get -y install vlc
apt-get -y install mencoder
apt-get -y install vim
apt-get -y install moc
apt-get -y install subversion
apt-get -y install git
apt-get -y install curl
apt-get -y install php5-cli
apt-get -y install mutt
apt-get -y install clusterssh
apt-get -y install html2text
apt-get -y install autofs
apt-get -y install vncviewer
apt-get -y install dropbox
apt-get -y install sqlite
apt-get -y install links
apt-get -y install rdesktop
apt-get -y install expect
apt-get -y install mysql-client
apt-get upgrade

for service in rsync virtualbox-guest-utils dns-clean pppd-dns saned speech-dispatcher ; do update-rc.d $service disable; done


Linux Mint 14

Linux Mint

Tonight on the TechShow I will reveal some **super secret** information from Clem regarding Linux Mint 14! Tune in tonight, Wednesday November 28th at 8:30pm EDT! Get directions at


WTH Mint-14!? Cinnamon runs at 17% cpu (doing NOTHING), Gnome3 at 7.x%, xfce at 2.x% and Fluxbox at 0.x%… GAHHH! FIX ME PLEASE!!!

Adventures in Virtualization

A long long time ago, I virtualized all my home infrastructure onto an ESXi 4.0 server. It has run perfectly fine, minus one hard drive failure, for quite a few years. Lately, though, I had been wanting to upgrade it because it’s not terribly fast and I have run out of resources to be able to add new VMs. It was running on a dual cpu machine (single core) with 160Gb HDD and 4Gb of ram, and I was just using it all up. No more ram for new stuff.

I decided that I would upgrade the matching spare server I had and try out KVM because I had used it a bit for RedHat training and it worked so well. Of course, Fessenden’s law, as opposed to Murphy’s law, stated simply that “Something will go wrong.” And it did. Over and over again.

First off, let me say that on an enterprise class server system, if it says it needs registered ECC ram, it is NOT kidding. I must have swapped ram around in that server 50 times before I noticed 2 sticks of non-registered ram in there. Once I got over that, I had 8Gb of ram and a new 250Gb HDD and I was ready to rock! Or so I thought.

I decided to use CentOS 6 as my virtualization host OS and that went right on but I soon discovered that my CPU doesn’t support virtualization. Ugh. So I decided that I would switch gears and go with virtualbox instead so that I could continue using my current hardware. I have often used virtualbox on other machines and it is a fantastic platform. I set about getting things running.

When I installed the base OS, I did a minimal install. No GUI, etc.. There is no sense in putting stuff on there you don’t need on a server right? Well, the very first thing I found was that I could not use the virtualbox gui controls because I did not have any X installed. To rectify that:

yum -y install xorg-x11-xauth dejavu-lgc-sans-fonts

You need the auth to be able to forward your X session, and need the fonts to be able to actually see words on your app.

Next I copied all my vmdk files to the new server. This takes a LONG time for old servers to move around 100Gb. Once there, however, I discovered that virtualbox cannot read native vmdk files. Ugh again.

yum -y install qemu-kvm

And then I could convert the vmdks to raw images, and then again to native vdi files for virtualbox.

qemu-img convert machine-flat.vmdk machine.bin
vboxmanage convertfromraw --format VDI machine.bin machine.vdi

I put all my machines together and noticed that virtualbox was complaining about uuid on some of the disk images. To fix that:

vboxmanage internalcommands sethduuid machine.vdi

The first machine I started up was a CentOS 6 machine and that fired right up, however, udev immediately reassigned my ethernet device to eth1. In order to get thatr back where it was supposed to be I had to go into /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules and delete the ethernet rules in there and reboot.

Along about this time my server powered off. No idea why. It powered itself back on again about 30 seconds later. I checked everything on the server and it looked fine. Curious, but I kept on going.

Next I tried to start up my remaining Centos 5 VMs. These were problematic. The very first thing I noticed here was that they were barking because I never uninstalled the vmware drivers. I fired them back up on the original server and ran the program. I turned them back off and spent hours re copying the over, and then reformatting the vmdk files into vdi.

Starting them back up, I found that, again, they would not run. This time I received the error that it could not locate any LVM partitions. This, it turns out, is because the initrc files did not have the appropriate drivers in them. Fixing this was fun. First off, you need to add a cdrom drive to the vm and put a CentOS rescue cd/dvd there. Boot it up in rescue mode, chroot to the /mnt/sysimage and then fix the /etc/modprobe.conf file:

alias scsi_hostadapter mptbase
#alias scsi_hostadapter1 mptspi
#alias scsi_hostadapter2 ata_piix
alias scsi_hostadapter1 mptscsih
alias scsi_hostadapter2 mptscsih

The entries with the #s are the ones I had to change. Then I needed to rebuild all of the initrd images.

cd /boot
for file in $(ls init* | cut -d'-' -f2,3 | cut -d'.' -f1-6); do mkinitrd -v -f /boot/initrd-$file.img $file; done

After that, the machines came right up! Of course, the host powered right off. Several times over the next day. Grrr.

I figured that there was a hardware issue with the host somewhere and resolved to buy myself a new server. I picked an open box refurb from microcenter that had 8Gb ram, a 750Gb HDD and a nice quad core cpu that supported virtualization. Wohoo! I can now switch to KVM!

I set up the new machine and installed KVM and started copying vmdk files over again and, bingo, kernel panic. I rebooted and the machine would not even get past bios. This went on for a couple days until I took the machine back to microcenter. I picked up a different machine, better quad core with 12Gb of ram and 1Tb HDD and set about getting it running.

This time, success! I set up CentOS 6 and KVM, added the bridged networking and copied over the vmdk files. KVM will read vmdk files but I decided to convert to a more native format, qcow2, the preferred format for qemu, anyhow. that is fairly simple to do.

qemu-img convert -O qcow2 machine-flat.vmdk machine.qcow2

I put all the machines back together again and started them back up. I still had to do the initrd fixes on the CentOS 5 VMs to get them going, but after that all has been running fantastically!

Somewhere along the line here I figured out that my issue with my secondary server powering off was a bad port on my UPS.

KVM is really easy to run and manage for a Linux geek as opposed to VMware 4. The native gui tools do the job just fine, although they are not quite as intuitive to me as VMWare’s VIC. I am quite happy, though, with the switch. I now have more than twice the resources of my initial virtualization environment. Now I am good to go for several more test VMs and the new machine is nice and quiet and doesn’t have to hide under my couch :)

PPC Linux

Sometimes I get lucky and something cool happens to fall in my lap. This happened last week when I ran across a G5 tower dual 1Ghz /8Gb ram that was getting tossed. I decided ti rescue it as I hate to see useful hardware go to waste. As the version of OS X that runs on such beasts is getting long in the tooth AND I happen to be a Linux enthusiast, I decided quickly that this would be a great box to look at the recent offerings of PPC Linux. Here are my thoughts:



This happened completely by accident, but Debian was the first distro I tried. You see, the Mint PPC installer will install Debian PPC by default if you don’t specify to install Mint, which I completely forgot to do on my first try. Debian is, well, Debian. I wish I had the foresight to actually get a screenshot, but the installed version on PPC is what I expect it looks like anywhere else as well. Debian is fantastically consistent about that. That being said, Debian and I differ in opinion on what software I generally want to have available under Linux. The Debian folks are very staunch on the “free software only” thing and *I* am one of the guys who thinks I should have the “freedom” to actually enjoy proprietary and non-free software if I want to. As I really wasn’t looking to do a Debian install anyhow, I played for a few minutes and then moved along.



Mint PPC 11:
Now *this* is what I really wanted to try. As a long time admirer and user of Linux Mint, I was thrilled to try it out on the PPC too. Unfortunately I was slightly disappointed. You see, Mint PPC is not an “official” port, per se, so it’s not quite the same. First thing I noticed is it is obviously built straight off Debian, and uses their software “choices”, which I have previously described. Secondly, the default desktop is an LXDE with nautilus. Ok, but a little clunky feeling to me. It wasn’t long before I was wanting to check out what else was out there, and so I did.

YellowDog 6.2

YellowDog 6.2

YellowDog 6.2:
Years ago, when Dann and I first started the Lehigh Valley Linux User Group, YellowDog Linux was quite a contender. Shortly thereafter, they made their presence really big in Japan and I sort of didn’t hear much from them anymore. Well, it appears they are still going strong and offering what turns out to be a really nice and robust PPC Linux distribution. Honestly, in retrospect, this is the one I would settle on as my second choice. There is plenty of support and plenty of packages available and it runs rock solid stable. If you are at all familiar with RedHat, CentOS or Scientific Linux this would be an no-brainer for you to use. The *only* thing I didn’t really like about it was the default DE was Enlightenment. It worked fine and was completely functional, just not to my tastes. I am sure I could change it to suit my needs better, but there were more PPC Distros to try!

Fedeora 16 PPC

Fedeora 16 PPC

Fedora 16 PPC:
Now THIS one I was SURE would be the one for me as soon as I got it running. The install went really smooth, especially for a Fedora install, which has a really bad historical habit of being broken in one way or another. Once I had the desktop up I was greeted by a standard Gnome3 DE, which is completely familiar to work with for me, even though it was minus the desktop icon support available in Mint. No matter, I was excited to use it and it was FAST and really responsive. Unfortunately, as is the habit of my ventures into Fedora land, it was hopelessly broken, and there is not a lot of package support. Here are a few for-instances: EPEL repo will not install. Flite makes the core dump. Worst was nautilus refuses to prompt for user/password on any shares (ssh, smb, webdav, etc.). It just says you must enter the password and then doesn’t afford you any way to do so. Nice try guys.

Ubuntu PPC 11.10

Ubuntu PPC 11.10

Ubuntu 11.10 PPC:
Saving the best for last, I *finally* hit on one that’s a keeper, otherwise I was going straight back to YDL. Ubuntu, as it turns out, ends up being a very polished product for PPC. Sure there are some issues, such as Unity completely rots on this machine, but they are easily overcome and then you have a nice solid worker with good package support. In my case, like I mentioned, I had an issue with Unity. It seems that the Unity 3D doesn’t like this mac. I am not sure why as Gnome-Shell works great with the 3D stuff. Unity 2D was fine, but not only do I prefer Gnome-shell over Unity, but I was working on a 4×3 screen, which nobody should ever use Unity with. Once I switched to Gnome-shell, I was set. I installed my standard set of packages I use. All of them installed without crabbing about anything and everything worked, even user/pass in nautilus :)

If you have an old PPC machine you want to keep in service or press into service, Linux PPC is surely the way to go. You just cannot go wrong with either YellowDog or Ubuntu on these machines. No sense in wasting or chucking good computer equipment right! Stuff Linux on there and make it useful once again!

The Original Screensaver



I know, I know. I have been really busy lately and have not posted anything. You wouldn’t even believe how much so.

Last night, right before I passed out from another long week I was reading my email (in mutt, the best email client btw) and I decided I was going to take a little nap. Well, as a hold over from the old days when you had to worry about screen burn-in, I wanted to start a screensaver, but something different.

As a cli addict, in the old days I remember using a couple terminal savers, worms and rain. I decided to start up worms for nostalgia sake. Well, it wasn’t installed. AHH THE HORROR! As it turns out, most distributions do not automatically include these anymore and they are normally in a package called “bsdgames”. Once that was installed I was ready to go. Simply running a maximized terminal session with worms -d 60 (a switch to delay the worms a bit), was enough to make things right once more.

I bet that many new Linux/unix users have missed out on the wonders of such simple things and decided that today I would make a little post to try and encourage you to try them out. Please do so! (and remember rain too.)

The bsdgames have a lot of those kinds of little gems and you just cannot go wrong playing around with them. There are greats in there like hack and tetris and snake and on and on. You might be surprised how entertained you can be while enjoying some of the old-school stuff that gives you some great unix creds :)

Who is that masked man?

Probably you have either listened to me or read my thoughts or both for several years now, but it occurred to me today that someone out there might be interested in seeing what actually drives the LincGeek.

I currently live in Pennsylvania, but I was born and raised in Upstate NY, with a brief stint in Washington state. New Yorkers and hillbillies are my people and I understand them. Washington is some of the most beautiful country I ever spent time in and I hope to at least visit out there again someday.

Well, first and foremost, computers and Linux are my personal crack. I started on a life long obsession with computers back in 1983 with my first Vic=20 (Thank you William Shatner). I learned to program in BASIC and from there it was all over until I met Linux in the 90s, then that added into the mix.

I like the fastest computers I can get my hands on. I like Apple computers (more for their quality and aesthetics than OS – they do tend to run Linux very well). I love my Kindle, my Android phone and my iPad (2), which is the tablet device that all others are invariably compared to and for good reason. Linux Mint is probably the nicest version of Linux I have ever run and I use that almost exclusively as my desktop OS of choice. I am RedHat certified and use RHEL and CentOS for the vast majority of my enterprise and personal server needs, because, IMHO, it’s better than the rest.

I am a music lover. I dig 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, Big Band, Jazz, Funk, Disco, Bluegrass and Classical music. I was a hardcore low brass musician and vocalist in my school years, even making it into “Who’s Who In Music” in my senior year in high school, and those are some of my most cherished and fondest memories. Rap is *NOT* music, by the way.

I have been married once, to my college sweetheart, for almost 19 years now and have an adult (she thinks so at least) daughter, currently in college. I am a Conservative Libertarian, politically, and a proud Christian.

Although I am now diabetic and stick mostly to various forms of Chicken and veggies now, I LOVE good food. my favorites are good Irish cooking like my Grandma used to make. Corned Beef and Cabbage. And she made a monster macaroni and cheese too. I would literally hurt someone for some of that again. I strongly believe that vegetables are what food eats.

I like my coffee with (nonfat) milk and sweet-n-low. Buy it from Wawa because Starbucks coffee is overpriced and bitter yuppie coffie IMHO. I like an occasional good cigar (Acid Blondie) and enjoy them most when I can smoke them and hang out with my friends.

I am not a drinker. If and when I do imbibe, I do so with Scotch or Whiskey as I believe beer must be what urine tastes like.

As you can probably surmise, I am highly opinionated, and as I have a monster sized guilty conscience and I am not at all politically correct, so if you ask my opinion, you are liable to actually get it.

I still think the occasional fart joke is funny. I hate unproductive meetings and long phone conversations. I try very hard to be honest, forthright, fair and maintain integrity.

I am a pet guy and love small furry mammals of all kinds. I have and have had cats, dogs, rabbits, mice, rats, ferrets and even a smattering of budgies and small lizards.

And now you know all about me!

GeChic On-Lap 13.3″ LCD

GeChic On-Lap 1301 13.3” Portable and USB powered Thin, Light, and Plug & Play LCD Monitor

GeChic On-Lap 1301 13.3” Portable and USB powered Thin, Light, and Plug & Play LCD Monitor

You would think that my lack of posts here lately meant I had simply dropped of the face of the earth, but that isn’t really so. I have just been extremely busy with the day to day problems facing me in RL, including how to squeeze >that< much more work into my overly busy day.

This particular recent purchase, the GeChic On-Lap 1301 13.3” Portable and USB powered Thin, Light, and Plug & Play LCD Monitor, has helped me do just that.

One of the things all high-end computer workers need to enable them to multitask better is more screen space. This has been researched and documented in a variety of different places. Well, what are you to do with your mobile workstation? You can buy one of those external USB screens, that’s what. Almost a no-brainer, right? The problem with that for a Linux user is the drivers. Most of these types of screens push video through USB, which means you have to have a working usb to video driver, not to mention video over usb is a little slow. Enter the GeChic!

The GeChic solves these problems by NOT usung usb for video, it actually has both a vga and a dvi input along with being usb powered. That’s right, no extra power cord, just plug in the usb cable and pick your input method and you are rockin’ and rollin’. This means it will work with literally ANY laptop or desktop which supports those types of video output, regardless of operating system or driver issues.

The unit itself is a little pricey at $200, however, it makes up for it’s few downsides by giving me my much needed screen space, in an attractive, easy and mobile form. I did say few downsides, and there are a couple other than the price. The first is the color. It just doesn’t want to color match my laptop’s LCD no matter how I seem to adjust it. The second is that using vga input the picture quality lacks a little. To be fair, dvi input is far superior to vga anyhow, and the vga problems could just as easily stem from my machine than from the monitor and I didn’t spend a whole lot of time messing with the settings on vga before just trying out dvi. Ymmv.

What I do like is that this is an attractive little lcd screen with a nice resolution of 1366×768. You can use it while physically attached to your laptop or it can sit standalone next to it in several positions with its included stand. To connect it to your laptop it has surprisingly strong suction cups that attach it’s swing-base to the top of your laptop and it can simply fold up or swing out for use. This allows you to also do neat things like show a presentation on the back of your laptop while you watch the front, etc..

No matter how you slice it, this little thing is mighty handy to have around and everyone who has seen it in action immediately wants one of their own. Boy, I wonder if I could get a kickback from NewEgg on this? Even at that price, I think we have a winner.

Handbrake on Mint 12 / Ubuntu 11.10

Found out a couple days ago that there is a problem with the PPA for handbrake with MINT 12 and Ubuntu 11.10 (and probably others as well). There is an easy workaround for it though. That is to use the snapshots ppa instead:

apt-add-repository ppa:stebbins/handbrake-snapshots
apt-get update
apt-get install handbrake-gtk handbrake-cli

Take a bite out of your email with mutt.



I really love text based email clients. They do a wonderful job of keeping distractions out of your way and letting you focus on what’s important – the message! I find that by using a text email client, I save myself probably 30 minutes or more each day (yes, I get a LOT of emails).
For years I advocated and used pine and alpine for my email. I really liked it and still do, however, it just doesn’t perform great with IMAP it seems, and especially multiple IMAP accounts, and that is what the email of today is like. I switched to a more efficient thunderbird email client for a long while, but then thunderbird started addding “features” like local indexing and such. Kind of a turn off.
Recently, I thought I would look around again and landed back on mutt. I had avoided mutt for many years because it used to require you run your own smtp server. That has always been pretty impractical for me. Now, however, I found that mutt does support using an external smtp server and handles IMAP email with ease. Well! It was time to give it a try and boy, I am glad I did. It’s fantastic! It’s very lightweight, fast, powerful and has that manly text based interface that makes you feel like a power user and makes you look like a unix genius.
The key to a good mutt setup is in the config file, and therein lies all the power as well. Here is a peek into my ~/.muttrc file to give you an idea on how to get things going:

set spoolfile=imap://
set folder=imap://
set record=”=Sent”
set postponed=”=Drafts”
set mark_old=no # does not mark your messages as old
set fast_reply=yes
set include=yes
set imap_user = “yourusername”
set imap_pass = “yourpassword”
set signature=”~/.signature”
set smtp_url=smtp://yoursmtpserver
auto_view text/html
set mail_check=30
set timeout=15
set realname=”your realname”
set from=”your from address”
set use_from=yes
set editor=vim #greatest editor around
unset markers # get rid of those pesky plusses
set ssl_starttls = no # dont use these on my internal srvr
set ssl_force_tls = no # same as above

Those are pretty self explanatory and I find that is a minimum config for me to work with. Now you might (if you are smart and use vim) want to enable a spellchecker in vim as well. That just takes these lines in your ~/.vimrc file:

set spell
set spelllang=en_gb

Once that is in there and you make a spelling error on an email it will be highlighted. Just cursor over the word and press z= for a spelling suggestion.

As for a few tips on actually using mutt, here are some that will get you started:
Cursor up/down and press enter or space to read a mail.
Once in the email space to page/scroll down and – to get back up.
Press v to view attachment list and enter on the one you want to open.
Press m to write a new email.
Press c then tab to change folders and press space to open that email folder.
Press s then ? to save an email to a different folder and select the folder with space.
Press d to delete an email, r to reply to the sender, g to reply to all.
Press a to take an address and save it into your address book. This will make an alias of sorts so that when you create a new mail to an alias of “person” it translates to automatically.
Press D (yes capital) to search for and delete all mail with a subject that matches your expression.
Press D then ~b and expression to do the same within the message bodies.
Press l then expression to filter/search emails.
Press l then ~b and expression to do the same within the message bodies.
Eventually you will want to sync your email and get rid of all the deleted stuff – press $ and enter to do that.
Probably the most helpful is to remember to press ? to get help! :)

I hops that helps getting you all started with using this great client! Enjoy!

« Previous PageNext Page »