Archive for the 'Linux' Category

Linux Mint 10 RC

Linux Mint 10 RC on ThinkPenguin Air

Linux Mint 10 RC on ThinkPenguin Air

After having a couple really long and bad weeks here at the Fessenden residence, I finally got the chance to send back my Think Penguin Air review unit. But right before I did that I wanted to make sure I wiped all my personal info from the computer. Cue Linux Mint 10 Release Candidate.

I was so excited when Ubuntu 10.10 came out because I knew that meant that a new Linux Mint would not be far behind. It was not long afterward that I learned that Mint had a release candidate ready. Not being a patient man, I grabbed an iso and, via unetbootin, stuffed it onto a usb stick so I could try it out.

It just so happened that I was way overdue to send back my review unit, so what better place to try the new Mint than to use it to wipe my data off that review unit? I could think of none, so on it went!

The interesting thing I noticed in the installer was that it was installing packages while it was asking the “end of install” questions. You know, the ones where it was asking my account name, timezone, name for my computer, those sorts of things. Now I may be wrong, but I am pretty sure those were never asked on previous releases until *after* all the software packages were installed. Anyhow, I believe this sped up the install considerably. 15 minutes and I was up and running.

Once running, one of the first things I noticed was the default background was grey and the theme has some polished metal thing going on. Initially, I was incensed that Mint would release without their trademark beautiful green background, but after a few minutes, it started to grow on me a little. I looked at the other included backgrounds and found the same background as the default, but in green. I decided that what they really *need* to do is to take the green logo from the green version and apply that to the grey default background and that would fix things for me :) Maybe Clem is listening?

I can’t comment too much on the rest as I have not had much of a chance to use it, however, everything worked, everything was aesthetically pleasing, and the Mint menu looked a bit different.

Kudos to the Mint team and I cannot wait for the final release so I can upgrade some of these machines around here and give Mint 10 a better run :)

A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux 3rd Ed.

Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux, A (3rd Edition)

Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux, A (3rd Edition)

I have said before on several occasions that Sobell does really good work. Well, this holds true to my words. This is a big book with some 1250+ pages in it absolutely filled to the brim with useful information. The review on the front cover mentions that the book is “comprehensive” and that just might be understating it a little. This book has practically anything you might want to know about Ubuntu, and references a lot of really helpful general linux and userland program information and it’s put together in a very straight forward and understandable way. Having the word “Practical” in the name is also a really good fit as the book offers great walk-throughs on things people will want to do with their Ubuntu install from beginner things like configuring a printer all the way up to things like some perl programming and running your own web server. All in all, this book is not only worth a look, but a keeper. It’s a good read and great technical reference.




I had the opportunity to check out some encrypted filesystem stuffs recently. The one that really stood out as easy to install. manage and use, for me, was EncFs. Now this post is mostly for posterity, but I wanted to share that, unless you are trying to get it running on RHEL, it’s pretty easy to get set up. I mostly referred to this site and had it up and going lickety-split.. I really am thrilled with how easy this actually was…


I tried getting it running on RHEL 5. I will spare you all the gory details about how it took hours of peeling through the dependency issues with nonstandard RHEL packages, but you get the idea. What I will leave you with here is what actually made it work:

yum -y install fuse fuse-devel fuse-libs
rpm -Uvh rlog-1.3.7-1.el5.rf.i386.rpm
rpm -Uvh fuse-encfs-1.4.1-1.el5.rf.i386.rpm
modprobe fuse
useradd -G fuse your_user_name

And that was it! Bask in the glory!!!

TLLTS Email List



We just mentioned on the last LinuxLink TechShow that we are starting a mailing list. Our intention is to provide a way to more easily disseminate information during the week to our listeners, have a place for some interesting conversation, ideas and help, and have a sort of virtual user group. If you would like to join in on the fun, point your browser to: and sign right up! I’ll see you there!

A Yeti of a different color.

So I sold my Mac Mini and my old Linux desktop machine burns up (cpu temp over 100 celcius). I need a new computer right? Well, the Best Buy run didn’t work out so well, so I started looking at other local stores for somewhere that had a decent laptop / desktop replacement that appeared to be, or mostly to be Linux compatible.

What I found, while browsing through store ads online was that Staples had a Dell Inspiron 15 for sale for just over $500. This machine sports a dual core proc at 2.2ghz, 15.6 inch widescreen with the Intel GMA 4500, 350gb hdd, 4gb ram and a Dell wireless card (rebadged Broadcom). The best part was I actually knew a friend who ordered 3 of these and had Ubuntu on at least one of them. Viola! Instant Linux Laptop!

Of course, these things are never that easy…

I ran out and picked one of these up and *just* as I was about to press enter to start formatting the drive, I notice that there is 1 dead pix3el in the middle right-hand side of the screen. Back it goes and I grab another (this one sans dead pixel). Mint 8 looks beautiful on this machine as I install it. Everything is peaches until I go for configuring the wireless. Now I am intending on using this machine as a desktop replacement, hooked to ethernet, but hey, if I have wireless, it should work. Right?

Well, I had a dandy of a time getting things to go like they are supposed to. Wireless on this laptop seems to be added under the “Hardware Drivers” or “Restricted Drivers” modules. What popped up was an STA driver and another that I cannot seem to remember at the moment. I, unfortunately, did NOT chose the STA driver. This started the maddening process where I fiddled with things and cussed at my computer for HOURS and could not get the wireless to work. After obtaining a sore throat that way, I decided to try the STA drivers. Well, once you installed the other drivers, whether or not you KEEP them installed, you CANNOT get the STA drivers installed. Each install failed, frustrating me even further. Eventually, I just did a clean reinstall and picked the STA drivers. Wireless worked perfectly after that. :-)

After all that, it was time to put my desk back together with the new laptop. I really like the clean look of the desk now. Not as much screen realestate, but it’s tidy looking and feeling. I also purchased a Logitech wireless kb/mouse combo and I absolutely love it. And did I mention that this new machine absolutely smokes the previous two combined? :-)

I named this monster Yeti, which is a re-use of the name of my Mac Mini. This machine, however, is black, so I guess it really is a Yeti of a different color. Hey, who says Yeti have to be white anyhow right?

Best Buy?

More like goodbye…

Friday night I go to Best Buy to check out their 17″ Gateway laptop. I bring my trusty Mint Live cd so I can check things out real quick like before I buy the thing.

When I get into the store, I am, greeted by one of the blueshirts who asks if he can help. I explain I am there for a laptop, I brought my Live cd there to do a hardware compatability check before I buy it. He says just don’t install anything on the demo machines and I say no problem, it should only take me a coupe mins to check things out.

A few minutes later (still booting the live cd) the “supervisor” whiteshirt guy comes storming over to me saying “you can’t do that!”. Do what? Install “stuff” on computers… (Mind you I already have permission) I am not installing anything, just checking hardware compat for Linux – I need to buy a laptop. Supervisor says “Linux will run fine on it”. I look at the screen and I X is trying to start so I say it’s almost done. Supervisor steps in between me and laptop, rips out cd, pushes it at me and says “you can’t do this and if you don’t like it I can get someone to escort you out of the store”.

Needless to say I didn’t buy a laptop from Best Buy that night – or any other. What I *DID* do, when I got back home was to send nastymails to everyone at Best Buy I could find an email address for. I simply cannot deal with mean and nasty customer service people anymore and I do not have a problem writing emails to complain about it. Honestly, if this guy would have pulled his attitude with my wife while I was watching, someone would have had to bail me out of jail. You all know the type – I have even had the misfortune to have to work with the Joe Powertrip people like this before. Further, I did a little research on the Laptop I was unable to complete looking at in the store and found that there are some Linux issues with the i3 procs and perhaps even the Atheros wlan and Intel HD video too. This means that the “supervisor” guy was not only a butthead but was giving bad technical advice too. As a technical guy myself, that is not cool. If you don’t know the answer and do not understand the technology, at least be man enough to cop to it and go find the correct answer.

It’s unfortunate that this all went down like it did because I have a best buy store credit card and have previously been quite happy with my purchase experience there. It is, however, difficult to want to go shopping at a store that the manager threatened to throw you out of though.

Update: I was called on monday evening by the store manager who apologized profusely. He asked if I felt my experience had negatively impacted my decision to shop there in the future. No kidding, he really asked that.. DUH. Anyhow, I told the store manager there that I thought this guy should be, at least, retrained, that he was intentionally mean and that the technical people there should indeed be technical people. He asked if there was anything he could do to make my experience better. There isn’t, just make sure this crap doesn’t happen again. This morning I started getting emails from Best Buy Corporate. Who says the pen is not mightier than the sword?

I will probably not shop there, at least for a while, but maybe this whole debacle can turn out to be a win for Linux users who want to check hardware compatibility? Maybe…

You know you’ve had a bad day when…

You know you’ve had a bad day when you have to use a DRILL to try and fix your wife’s laptop. Oh yeah.

My wife’s laptop has been having troubles with crappy wireless for the longest time. Well, I decided I was going to replace her card with a better one. It’s a Compaq Presario f730us laptop that has a mini pci-e wireless card in it. I searched around and found a nice intel card on Amazon and bought it. Well, when I put it in it wasn’t even detected. So, I tell the seller, thinking that it may just be a bad card, and he says it may need an HP branded card and sends me one of those to replace it with (nice seller btw). I get that card and get ready to try that and find one of the dang screws on the card is now striped and apparently welded in place. Nothing I have will get the friggin thing out so I had to resort to drilling off the screw cap just to remove the card. Then, you guessed it, the new card doesn’t get detected either. Friggin ComHPaq. So, the old card which drops packets like nobody’s business is back in place and the other 2 cards are on their way back for a refund.

My only alternative now, other than keeping her hard wired, is to find a USB wireless dongle. So, does anyone have any recommendations for a USB wireless card that’s Linux and wpa/wpa2 friendly and readily available somewhere (and inexpensive)?? Please shoot me an email and let me know!

Book Review

Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, A (5th Edition)

Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, A (5th Edition)

A Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (5th Ed)

Wow. Mark Sobell hits another one out of the park.

Comprehensive can hardly describe this book, although I am hard pressed to come up with a more appropriate word. This massive volume covers all things Fedora and Redhat, from the common to the esoteric, but do not be daunt about the amount of information there. In true Sobell fashion, each topic is explained thoroughly in a manner that could easily be used to teach a novice with. In fact, in the review quote on the front cover, Eric Hartwell says the same. This book is a keeper and its pages will surely be well thumbed, at least until the next revision comes out!

Laptop or Desktop?

Here in the USA it is tax time once again, and once again, the federal government owes me money. It’s funny how they don’t have to pay me interest on monies they owe me, but the reverse is not true, but I digress.

I have, on occasion, mentioned that my current desktop machine is a piece of junk. I have been using it for about 5 years now and I believe it is in dire need of a replacement. Since I am due a little scratch soon, I have given a little thought to replacing it. The real question, though, is whether to buy another desktop machine, or get a laptop that I can use as a desktop replacement. I am just not sure where to go on this one.

Generally speaking, desktop machines are or were faster and better equipped. They had better processors, more ram and bigger hard drives. Recently, though, I have been noticing that this is no longer the case except maybe in the case of multiple processors. I have seen some very reasonably priced multi-core laptops with 4gb of ram and very large hard drives for the same price as their comparably equipped desktop counterparts.

So, what are the pros and cons? Laptops as a desktop replacement can still be mobile if need be. Laptops as a desktop replacement really need a dock or stand and a separate kb/mouse imho and this is already the standard for desktops. Desktops can be not only multi-core, but multi-processor as well, so you can get access to more computing power. Desktops have separate components that are more easily replaceable/urgradable should the need arise, however, these days laptops are a rock-solid technology. Laptops do not need a separate display although they benefit as a desktop replacement from a secondary display as much as a regular desktop system does.

What is the answer? I really don’t know and would love to hear your opinions on this one. I am actually leaning towards a laptop as I spend most of my time on one already. My work desktop is actually a laptop in a dock with dual 22″ lcd screens. It’s a fantastic machine and has no problems even though I have left it running for well over a year now :-) Do I really need another laptop though? I have 4 already, but none of them are beefy enough to really be my desktop machine, with the exception of my macbook, which does not like Linux so that doesn’t count.

Playing catch-up

I decided that on my vacation I would do some catch-up work. I have many times mentioned that I am a consummate procrastinator, and if you combine that with me being just generally whooped tired after 12 hours away from home on any average day, you understand why my computers seem to go uncared for. I think it’s the same as the whole “the mechanics car is never fixed” thing.

I mentioned a couple days ago that I installed ESXi on one of my home servers (redundant servers) to fix a strange problem I had been having with VMware Server 2.x. That was the first job I needed to so, or at least the most important, and so far it has been doing beautifully.

Next on the list was Mint 8 on the old laptop. It has been running Mint 7 since the distro was released and it was time for an upgrade. Everything was working just fine on 7, I just wanted to catch up the latest/greatest. As expected, the upgrade was a no-brainer and it’s running gorgeously, as Mint does.

Today, so far, I decided to upgrade my desktop machine to Mint 8. This machine, a P4 3Ghz with 3Gb of ram runs like absolute crap. I don’t exactly know why, but it always has. Now I have replaced the cpu fan a couple times and also the power supply at least twice. The computer is noisy, whiny, but not physically broken that I can tell. It just seems to run slower than hell and always has. The installation of Mint 8 on it did make it prettier, but sure didn’t make it seem to run any faster. I think it just dogs over the dual display and craptasticly old Nvidia card. Perhaps if I bought it a new quiet power supply, a better working and quieter cpu fan, a new better video card and a new dvdrom drive (yeah that’s pretty broken too), I could resuscitate this thing so that I could stand using it again. But then again, I could probably buy a whole new desktop computer for what I would spend on repairs to this one. Dang.

So, what’s next? Well, I should install ESXi on my redundant server now that I am satisfied with how the other one is running. I should also upgrade to Mint 8 on my Acer Aspire All In One netbook (notice a pattern here). Other than that, I am not sure.. Maybe work on some code projects I have been stringing along for months and months.

So what kinds of great computery projects are you all up to? Or what SHOULD you be up to :-)

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