Archive for December, 2009

It All Falls Apart

It has not been a good month in the Washko home for technology. First I slammed my new Sansa Clip in the car door. I bought a Fuze and lo while it works great, the hard case is on back order. Needless to say the screen is getting all scratched up. I purchased some Novus polish to get rid of as many scratches as possbile. That is some real arm busting work to buff out the nicks. I figure I will do this over time, especially when the case comes. For now I am very careful with it.

Over the weekend the server hard drive started crapping out. Monday morning I woke up and the server was down, but not the centos server hosting the virtual machines. Weird, I thought and started everything up and went to work. Prior to coming home the server went down again. I noticed smartd was throwing errors on the drive. This was not good. Over the next 24 hours it went down 3 more times and that was it. I had to order a new drive and throw in the spare that I had and hope for the best. Only the spare would not fit. The interface was about an 1/8 inch off and there was no wiggle room. Damn!

On the bright side I did notice that the server was full of dirt and dust bunnies. I did a thorough cleaning, put it all back together and crossed my fingers. Thus far it has not given me any more problems. Perhaps it was just over heating. Regardless, the new drive came today and I am going to put that in over the weekend.

Last night getting the audio setup off the ground for the show was hellish. I don’t know why things seemed to changed. While I managed to pull it off, we were 10 minutes late.

Today I came home to find the myth box down. There was no display on the screen. I had to drag out a monitor and hook everything up. Well, long story short, the s-video out on the card no longer works. Luckily the card in my workstation had an s-video out so I swapped them and ordered a newer video card.

I just hope this is the last of the dying equipment.

Lesson learned: Make sure you take care of cleaning your equipment to avoid heat and other related damages.

Really? You gotta be kidding.

Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Peace Prize

Sale, Nobel Peace Prizes, 5 for $1.

Apparently, our new President Obama has garnered himself the international peace prize by doing absolutely nothing. I am amazed, stunned and disappointed. Perhaps they will just start handing them out for free now or is this going to be the new subway token?

Google Chrome

I have been using Google Chrome Unstable now for some time. It has been a pretty interesting browser and pretty quick. The only issues I ever had were no flash and java support. Well, recently I noticed that flash was working just fine, and after some digging, found that you have to have Java 6.10 to get Java working, although I honestly haven’t tested that yet.

On 12/8, Google released it’s Chrome browser for Linux in Beta (no longer unstable). I quickly uninstalled my Unstable version and added the Beta. WOW is it FAST! I thought it was fast before, however, it literally starts the browser now almost as fast as I can click on the icon. Other than that, it works exactly as you would expect it to, clean and quick. If you have been running Unstable as I have, the only difference I noticed is it is way faster. I don’t have a clue how you did it Google, but good job and I can’t wait to see what this is going to be like when it’s out of Beta!

Now if I could only convince Google to make a mail client to replace Thunderbird! :-)

Mint 8 Helena

What can you say but “wow”. Although maybe not as impressive a release as I think Mint 7 was, Mint 8 is up to date and strikingly beautiful. I have said before that I believe Mint to be Ubuntu done right, and I believe this to still be the case.

The first thing you notice with Mint is how fast the install is. Compared to Fedora, Slackware, Suse, etc., the install absolutely flies. With my 1.xghz test machine I was literally from first boot to reboot and in my new Mint install in about 15 minutes.

Once there, you are greeted with Mint’s beautiful desktop graphics and everything is ready to run for you. My only additions were to test out the non-free-codecs and install vlc. That was about it. With a couple clicks I was surfing around with Firefox, reading my mail with Thunderbird and watching a TV show I had pulled off my Tivo earlier (that Steven Segal – Law Man cracks me up!)

I am not sure what else I can say to inspire you to try Mint yourself other that to say that I, personally, just don’t have the time when I am working to adjust my desktop environment. Linux distributions that require me to do that simply don’t get used. It’s about time for me to update my work desktop again as it’s currently running Ubuntu 8.04 and I can’t think of a better Distribution to replace it with than Mint 8.


WOW! Dann pulls through again!

I have had my Sansa Fuze for quite a while now and I completely dig it. It’s just simply one of the best “mp3 players” out there. Of course it does much much more than that . It plays Ogg natively and other formats too, and it’s not DRM magnet either. It also has a great fm radio tuner and does slot radio to boot.

The only thing I have not gotten it to do is video. It has some wacky format that it uses and no matter how many attempts I have made at it with ffmpeg or mencoder I get bupkis. That is, until last night.

You see, Dann broke his Sansa Clip a couple weeks back and for a replacement he ordered a Sansa Fuze. He received it and was reviewing it on the TechShow and mentioned that the video worked great. When I asked him how he got it working under Linux he pointed me to Absolutely Brilliant! I downloaded this software and tried it right away, and, just as Dann had said, it works flawlessly. This truly completes and rounds out the Sansa Fuze for OpenSource users.

There really is nothing bad I can say about this little player now. I highly recommend it. I also highly recommend trying out Video4Fuze to encode a couple videos for your new player.

Almost time for me to go watch a movie! :-)

Night Running and the Cold

Winter is finally starting to rear its ugly head here in Hampton and I was never one to keen on running in the cold. But, alas, it must be done, the alternative is to stop for the season, but as the Shamrock 8k Run is coming up in March, and I’ve a lot of friend entering, I want to keep going.

Last Thursday was my first full night run in the Huaraches and I found it quite pleasant. Running at night limits my courses to staying near the roads and street lamps but that is not too bad. Those are the easiest surfaces to run barefoot or minimal on. But I don’t think I will be doing any night time barefoot running, that is too dangerous. I can barely see the glass that litters the Hampton roads and sidewalks during daylight, so why chance it.

Tonights run was both cold and dark but fun none-the-less. I find that the longer I run in the huaraches the more prone the knot is to rub the flesh from the top of my foot. This can get a bit painful. I suspect I will build of calisus though. Oh, tonights run was almost 5 miles, 4.7. Had I known the distance before hand I would have run around the block one more time or something to make it an even 5 at the least. Well, tomorrow is another day.

Fedora 12

It’s no secret that I have been pretty critical of the Fedora project in the past. I make no bones about my opinions that they have, in the past, released too soon, without doing the proper testing, and have sent out fundamentally broken distributions (albeit nice looking).

That was until now.

As a Linux enthusiast, I do try and keep up things and recently the Fedora project released Fedora 12. As I have this great new Thinkpad X31 test laptop now, I found it impossible to resist testing the new Fedora. I have heard from so many people who absolutely love Fedora, I felt that I , so far, have been cheated of being able to play with it because of the previous issues I have had with the distribution.

The very first thing I noticed was the download time to actually get an iso. This distribution is either wildly popular or they have amazingly crappy mirrors. It took several *HOURS* for me to get a copy of the dvd iso, and this is many days after the initial release and I am on a particularly speedy internet connection.

Once I actually did have a copy of the iso, I used unetbootin once again to get it on some media that I could install from on my Thinkpad X31 (no cd/dvd drive). No matter what I did, I could NOT get an install to work this way. It’ll boot and give you an error about not being able to find the root partition or some such thing. Anyhow, I tried several times and even re-downloaded the iso just to be sure. After checking some search engines it appears that this problem has been around for some time now. Undaunted, I decided I WAS going to get this installed and I downloaded the netboot iso, used unetbootin to put that on a flash drive and mounted up the dvd iso on a spare webserver so I could net-install from there (sounds harder than it is, really).

Once the install was actually working, it went right along at a good pace. The installer is all graphical and asks you the appropriate questions to get your system up and running. It’s nothing difficult and nothing that the average person wouldn’t know or couldn’t figure out. A few mouse clicks here and there and a password and you’re working.

Once the install is done, you give it a quick reboot and kerplowie, you’re running Fedora 12.

The first thing I noticed (other than this release actually boots up) is it’s FAST. I mean F A S T. I don’t know what these fellows are doing but it sure seems the right thing this time. My boot time in F-12 was noticeably faster than even Ubuntu 9.10 and I truly dig anything that gets me to my desktop quicker.

The desktop itself is quite strikingly beautiful. This is one of the things that I have always admired about the Fedora project, though. Their artwork has always been top notch. This is in striking contrast to what I usually feel about Ubuntu’s brown desktops. Underneath the pretty is the gnome desktop, which works quite well, is very integrated feeling, and has become the standard enterprise desktop.

Lastly, networking is flawless. I expected it to be, but then again, I expect it to be flawless on all distributions and many times it is not. This is worth note because both CentOS and RHEL workstation require a little jiggling to get wireless going on my laptop and Fedora comes off the same shelf, so to speak.

The only problem I have encountered so far is shortly after I boot up, on most occasions, I get a notification on the top task bar about kernel error/warning. When I click on the notification icon I am asked to send a bug report in and when I say yes, it fails. Unfortunately there really isn’t a lot of other information on the error – it’s not very descriptive or helpful for that matter. Nothing appears to be broken, everything works so this is really only a minor annoyance and, for all I know, something I inadvertently screwed up myself.

Of course, there are a few things I still want to check out, like multimedia playback and such, but overall I am quite impressed with Fedora 12 and would recommend it as a decent and quick general desktop.

While travelling abroad where it would be legal to do so, you could follow the directions here and also this one. Make sure to hit them both for everything you need (and you might want to add vlc to the yum install on the last one too).

‘Tis the season



What’s your tech wish list look like? I know mine is pretty impressive as they are always coming out with something I am sure I could make great use of.

That being said, there are a LOT of people out there who would love some tech themselves but just can’t afford it. I say, let’s compromise! Do yourself and others a favor by cleaning out your old computer inventory and putting it up on FreeLinuxBox. You can make some room (and a good excuse) for getting your new whizbang laptop while simultaneously giving the gift of a working Linux computer to someone who could really use it. Don’t wait or hesitate. Do it now and you’ll be glad you did.

You may be thinking that nobody wants your old junk, but let me assure you that is not the case. I just recently put up an old used laptop with a bad display and I had several people emailing me asking for it within mere hours. Unfortunately, I had to turn them all down but the one who got it. They are waiting for you to post yours now.

It’s really simple. Get your old computer out, the one that you were saving for your kids when they get old enough, or the one you were holding on to for that special project you will never do. Install Linux or BSD on it and make sure it works. Write down the specifications of the machine like make/model/ram/hdd etc. and post them on FreeLinuxBox. It only takes a few minutes and you can be making someone really happy with their new Linux/Unix toy within just a few hours.

Slackware 13

I decided to give Slackware 13 a try on the new Thinkpad X31. Since there is no cd/dvd drive, I had to resort to unetbootin to get things going. I downloaded the dvd iso image and, through unetbootin, stuffed it on my trusty 4bg usb thumb drive. For some reason, this took 4 tries to be bootable, but did eventually work…mostly.

Slackware’s installer hasn’t changed since I started using it years ago, that I can remember. That being said, it’s a fairly straight forward and simple text interface menu system that you go through step by step. Since I was using a USB drive to install from I picked the “install from a mounted directory” option, hit alt-f2, made a directory and mounted my usb there (mkdir /linc ; mount /dev/sda1 /linc) and used the /linc/slackware directory as my source directory. Sounds a lot more complicated that it really is. The problem with that was that I apparently had a corrupt package on my usb stick and halfway through the install everything stopped. This was remedied by starting the install again and picking “ftp or http install”. I stuffed a copy of the slackware directory of the iso I had downloaded onto a spare webserver for a few minutes and pointed the installer there. That worked like a top. I selected to do a full install of everything.

Booting to Slackware was a lot tougher. Still having learning curve issues with Grub 2, I turned to the web for some help and after a few searches and trials came up with this:

exec tail -n +3 $0
menuentry “Slackware 13″ {
set root=(hd0,6)
linux /boot/vmlinuz-huge-smp- ro root=/dev/hda6

Once everything was booted (Slackware seems to boot quite fast btw), I was dropped at the familiar login prompt (no fancy gui’s here folks - at least not by default). I logged in as root and set up my regular user account.

useradd -m linc
passwd linc
* add your user to wheel
* add your user to disk
* add your user to plugdev
* add your user to power

To be honest, I have no idea if I really needed to add myself to the disk and power groups but, hey, while I was there…

From there, I logged out of root and logged in as my user and then issued a “startx” which started my fancy KDE session. To be honest, I am not all that sure I like the KDE 4 series yet. It’s a little cartoonish to me and I definitely do not like the default menu system. I haven’t used it enough to really comment on it yet though - I may just end up liking it the more familiar I become with it. The familiarity will have to wait ’till I finally get wireless working though :-)

Gparted rocks

I just wanted to write a quick note about gparted. This has got to be one of the most handy pieces of software on the planet.
As you know, I have been doing a lot of different distribution testing on my test laptop lately. Well, one thing that didn’t occur to me until too late was that I can only have 4 primary partitions on a drive. Yes, on the 5th OS I had one of those “DOH!” moments :-)

livecd of Ubuntu because I cannot move around a partition I am actively using. I moved 2 primary partitions to the end of my hard drive’s free space. I then extended the size of my extended partition to encompass all the free space on my hard drive. With gparted, this was a simple drag and click procedure.

20 minutes later (hey, 30gb data to move around) and I was set with a pile of free space in my extended partition so I could continue doing installs :-)

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