Archive for the 'Linux' Category

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!

Silicondust HDHomerun Prime Review

Silicon Dust HDHomerun Prime

My Silicondust HDHomerun Prime finally arrived this past Wednesday. Silicondust had some delays getting this product out the door and having a hurricane blowing up the east coast the same weekend as my shipment moved was not conductive to a quick delivery. The original HDHomerun was a dual unencrypted QAM/over the air digital tv tuner that had two co-axial inputs. It was a very solid device that ran for years on my MythTV system without any issues. The new Silicondust HDHomerun Prime is a cablecard compatible triple digital tuner. It has only one co-axial connection but you can record up to three digital channels at once! The big caveat is that you’ll be able to record encrypted cable channels that have their DRM flag set as “copy-freely”. What’s flagged as copy-freely will vary depending on your cable company. Most cable companies will leave everything as copy-freely with the exception of “premium” movie channels like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, etc.. On the extreme negative end is Time Warner (in NYC &other markets) which encrypts all the channels and flags them as “copy-once” or “copy-never” regardless if the channel is “premium” or not. Your best bet is to do a little research to see where on this scale your cable provider lies and make an informed decision. I had a cablecard from RCN sitting on my desk for the last couple of weeks in anticipation of the Prime’s arrival. The cablecard setup process is threefold:
Activation, Pairing, Provisioning

Activation turns on the card. Pairing puts the cablecard as a registered device on the cable provider’s system. Provisioning is where the card is given access to all the content tiers you should be receiving. I’ve heard of lots of horror stories where the cablecard gets stuck in an unusable state somewhere along the setup. When I picked up the card up from RCN they gave me a piece of paper with the card describing the activation process. First call one number which will send a hard reset to all your cable boxes & cablecards. I had my Prime connected and ready to go and called the number. I saw my cable boxes getting reset. The HDHomerun Prime has an embedded webserver which you can access from any web browser. The pages show various status message such as activation, pairing and whether or not any of the tuners are tuned to channels along with signal strength. On one page I saw a message saying to call RCN’s activation number along with information for the card such as Mac address, serial number, device ID, etc.. I called the number and spoke to a service rep. I indicated I had a cablecard activation and mentioned I was using a network attached tv tuner device. I read off three sets of numbers to the rep and she read them back to me. She then put me on hold for about five minutes. After she returned she asked whether or not I could see any channels. The old hdhomerun_config_gui application somewhat works with the Prime. When you start the application you can see the three tuners but you can’t scan and tune them from inside the application. Open up a terminal window and tell the prime to tune to a certain channel:

hdhomerun_config 13104608 set /tuner0/vchannel 446

13104608 is the tuner ID and 446 is the channel I’m tuning to.

In the gui you will see a dropdown for the channels on the frequency you just tuned into. Pick one of the channels and hit the view button. VLC should now fire up and display the channel if it’s marked as copy freely. Update: I hear that if you download & compile the latest version of the hdhomerun_config directly from Silicondust it should work without having to do this. The version in the ubuntu repos is older.

I then proceeded to successfully tune in a bunch of different channels. As expected none of the movie channels would tune in. The customer rep then asked me to reboot my tuner to make sure the provisioning remained. I restarted the HDHomerun Prime. One minor issue I encountered is that the Prime has to run with dynamic IP assignment. So I had to turn my router’s dhcpd server. As far as I can tell the prime cannot be setup with static IP. After rebooting the Prime all my channels were still there. So after a 15 minute telephone call with RCN my Prime was working as it should. I then went about setting up the Prime as a capture device in MythTV. If you’re running MythTV 0.24.1 or greater the Prime works out of the box. The setup is pretty straightforward:
HDHomerun Prime Setup in MythTV

The setup in MythTV took about another 15 minutes with the majority of that time waiting for mythfilldatabase to complete the population of the channel listings for the new tuners.

Once the setup was completed I went for the gusto and scheduled 4 simultaneous HD recordings (1 on PVR-1212, 3 on the Prime). While all 4 recordings were going I then went to my family room and watched another HD recording on my Zotac based MythTV frontend. There were no noticeable hiccups, stutters, pixelization or audio out of sync issues. After the recordings finished I then watched all of them and they were perfect. The picture quality is pretty much identical to the cable box.

After a couple days of heavy use I’m very satisfied with the HDHomerun Prime. I’m now able to record a ton of HD content. While I wish Silicondust had released this product sooner you can’t fault them after encountering some manufacturing issues from their factory in China. The product itself is a solid successor to the original HDHomerun.

Sadly it seems Windows Media Center users are encountering a ton of issues with the Prime:
Silicon Dust forum

Whether those issues are DRM related or simply platform stability issues is of little concern to Linux users. They’re in dreamland if they expect patches from Microsoft in a timely manner to help alleviate their woes. They made their bed and they’ll have to sleep in it. Maybe some Windows MCE users will finally smarten up and become Linux/MythTV users? One can only hope they come to their senses.

Lost your Mint password?

First time this happened! A coworker asked me today how to get into his Linux Mint box after he forgot his password. Of course I rattled off the old GRUB way to get things done, but, what?? This is GRUB 2! No so fast there! Turns out it’s quite different.

You hold down the shift key while booting to get to the grub menu.
You hit ‘e’ to edit your boot options.
You change the kernel line options on the very end of the kernel line to read “rw init=/bin/bash”.
You press F10 to boot.

Once booted you are dropped immediately into a shell prompt where you can change your password with the “passwd username” command. Reboot and you’re home free!

What’s up?

Been too long since I’ve posted anything on this blog. What I have I been up to? Well, I sold the Archos 101 tablet in order to get a Viewsonic gtablet on the cheap from It’s much more powerful than the Archos and actually has a dual core tegra2 processor in it. I’ve nuked the default version of android and installed Cyanogenmod 7 on it. It works very well and I’ve enjoyed using it every day. I even got the Netflix streaming application working on it without any issues. This year I’ve decided not to go to OLF (Ohio Linuxfest) for a couple reasons. First off I’ve been to the conference multiple times already. It’s a great show that I highly recommend people to attend if you’re interested in Linux and Open Source. Another reason I’m not going is that my proposed talk was rejected. While I enjoy going to Linux conferences and just hanging out I feel like I’ll get more out of the experience if I actually contribute with a talk. Finally I plan on attending the Maker Faire in NYC the weekend after OLF. I’ve heard so many good things about the Maker Faire (both in San Francisco and NYC) over the years that I feel I really need to finally check it out. I’m trying to get my kids interested in science and what better way than bringing the whole family along. Let me know if you plan on going and perhaps we can get together for a bit.

Rsync bug



Bitten by the rsync bug? I was. Apparently in the new RHEL 5.7, and I am sure the RH clones like CentOS, Scientific Linux and ClearOS(?) as well, there is a bug in rsync when you use it with ssh transport like so:

rsync -avz -e ssh remotehost:/data /data

The fix is to make sure to append a username to your host and then it magically starts working properly again.

rsync -avz -e ssh username@remotehost:/data /data


Make it pretty!

   I have had to spend a lot of time this week on my netbook. Normally I really dig the Linux Mint background, but the light background of Mint 11 on my little netbook was just too bright and annoying to me for some reason. So, I set out to find something a little darker.
   Where do you go for a really great wallpaper? Well, my friend Bill just happened to post a link to probably the greatest wallpaper site I have ever seen at Warning! You can easily lose several hours looking through wallpapers there.
   Changing your background in Mint or any other Gnome 2 using distribution is pretty straight forward. You right click on your desktop, select “Change Desktop Background” and then pick the one you want. You also have the ability to add other wallpapers not already in your background collection with the “add” button.
   Changing the login screen to match is a different matter altogether. I have found that the easiest way to accomplish this is to install This is a great little package that will let you change all kinds of hard to find settings not the least of which is the login screen background. On ubuntu-tweak, youy simply select login settings, then unlock, click on the old wallpaper, surf to and choose the new one you want, then quit.
   Lastly, there is changing the “lock screen” wallpaper. This is the screen you are presented with when you unlock your computer after locking your session with a -l (that’s an L by the way). I thought it was really odd that that wallpaper isn’t controlled by the login wallpaper, but a little digging revealed a way to change this as well. There is a cute little command line trick to it:

sudo gconftool-2 –direct –config-source xml:readwrite:/etc/gconf/gconf.xml.defaults –set /desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename –type string `gconftool-2 –get /desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename`

(note that the above command is all 1 line)
and then:

killall gconfd-2
killall gnome-screensaver

And that’s it folks! Again, this should all work on any Gnome 2 desktop.

Stay Tuned!

Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook

Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook

I have been asked to review the “Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook” by Packt Publishing. It’s supposed to be coming in a couple days, so here’s your teaser to stay tuned! Packt Pub vs. Curmudgeonly SyaAdmin, a dead tree death match, only here at

« Previous PageNext Page »