Posts Tagged ‘Linux


How to have Twitter when you’re not allowed to have Twitter.

Due to a change in our network security policy, I lost access to Twitter. To be accurate, I lost access to a lot of websites and services, but what really cost me was Twitter. I don’t mind not being able to watch Youtube, I don’t mind losing access to services like Yousendit or Wetransfer (although I got to admit this can make my life a bit more difficult at times), but Twitter was too much. So, I decided to find a way to be able to use Twitter while at work.

Disclaimer: What I did could be considered a violation of company policy. Although it’s good for educational purposes, please consider talking to whoever is responsible for your network.

Before I go any further, let me describe the situation a little bit better. What we use is a type of DNS Blacklisting. I am fairly sure that except from blocking and redirecting DNS requests, there’s also IP blacklisting, since I was not able to access blocked sites even when I tried using the IP in a browser. Besides that, port #53 is also blocked, so the standard “ok use another dns server like (Google’s main dns server)” tip, forum members and internet gurus tend to give you, does not work.

Fortunately, DynDNS domains were not blocked. My good old VIA EPIA would do the rest. This time, I decided to take an extra step to making it silent and decided not to use an HDD. Instead I used an 1GB Compact Flash where I mounted /boot and swap space and an 8GB usb flash drive for the rest of the installation. I chose to go with Xubuntu after trying Damn Small Linux and Nimblex, just because I feel more comfortable with Ubuntu. I have to warn you that what I did was probably not a very bright idea. Both CF and the usb are very slow, but for my purpose it is just fine.

After I finished installing, I set up SSH (check to see if it’s legal where you live), SAMBA and then, the most brilliant program ever written: TTYtter. A console Twitter client!

So, the only thing I have to do, is fire up puTTY, connect to the VIA and enjoy a nice Twitter session. It really took my some time to getting used to it, but I assure you despite the fact that it’s command line only, it is more than usable. Yeah I know, my award for the most ridiculous solution will soon be delivered, but in my defense, what I did is a lot faster than using remote desktop or vnc.

If you cannot live without a proper Twitter client (or another piece of software with a gui for that matter), consider running a remote X-Server. If you are on a Windows machine try messing around with cygwin, but expect no help from me. If you have access to a Linux box however, the only thing you need to do is run ssh with the -X  (ssh -X username@server)parameter. Sweet, huh? Combine that with a sweet little program called screen and you will be able to run as many programs as you want.

Have fun!


Mounting External HDDs at Startup on OpenSuse

OpenSUSE 11.2

Image via Wikipedia

Although Linux Mint will be my favorite flavor of Linux, I am trying hard to give OpenSuse a chance. Last month, I was telling you about a couple of small annoying things I came across on OpenSuse and how to “correct” them. Since then, I switched back to Mint and back to OpenSuse (since yesterday) and I’m hoping to stick to one particular OS for a while, because frankly, it’s becoming some kind of habit…

Anyway, back to our topic. Now I know what most of you are thinking: “Why the hell do we need instructions on how to mount an external HDD? Since the Dark Ages, you have your standard plug n play on Linux mister! Pop it in and all your files are there!” Well, yes, but as it usually happens, mine was a slightly different case than usual. Yeah I know, I got to do something about it.

I have three external hard disks, which host most of my entertainment. These are permanently hooked on my PC and I want them shared via Samba, so I can access them through a Windows 7 box that acts as my current Media Center. For an explanation on why I am using Windows and not XBMC with Linux, have a look at this post. As you probably guessed, the disks are formatted in NTFS and this is what complicates matters.

In case my disks were formatted in a Linux format, such as ext4, things would be simple enough: I would choose to automount them in KDE (I think Gnome has a similar option) and every time I turned my PC on, they would be mounted in /media folder under folders matching their label. Then, I could set up file sharing as usual and everybody would be happy.

NTFS, does not support the same permissions as extended file system. This means that upon mount, Linux applies “fake” file permissions which you cannot change! If you were using ext4 for example, you could easily chmod the files to suit your needs, but in this case, although chmod will report nothing strange, no actual changes were made. Even so, for most of you this will not be a problem, since you will be the only one using this disk and by default you are the owner, so you can do pretty much everything. In my case, I wanted to be able to allow read/write access not only to myself, but to all members of my group too. So here’s what I did:

Since automount through KDE was not good for me, I had to do it the old fashioned way, by adding entries in fstab. First I created a folder for each of my drives under root and gave them the appropriate permissions:

sudo mkdir /Videos
sudo chown -R rosenred /Videos
sudo chgrp -Rv users /Videos

Now, we need to add the mount commands in fstab. The safest way to go, is with each disk’s uuid, a unique identifier that will remain stable even if drive letters change. So we need to find our what is the uuid of our disk:

sudo /sbin/blkid

In case you followed my advice (or are using a different distro) you don’t need to add the /sbin to the command. Write down the uuid of your disk and then edit /etc/fstab using your favorite editor and add the following line:

/dev/disk/by-uuid/7A7ACDEA7ACDA2ED /Videos       ntfs-3g users,locale=en_US.utf8,uid=rosenred,gid=users 0 0

If you wish to add more than one disks, add more lines to fstab accordingly. Reboot and hopefully everything will work just fine.

I don’t plan on writing a separate post about how to configure Samba, there are a ton of tutorials on the subject, however I have one tip that might save you a lot of money from a broken screen/desk/wall:

If you set everything up and for some reason Windows refuses to see the shared directories, go to YAST and disable AppArmor. I know, makes little sense, but apparently it’s a bug in OpenSuse 11.4 as I found out here.


Migrating to Linux pt.1: The basics

Tux, as originally drawn by Larry Ewing

Image via Wikipedia

I have been using Linux for many years. I have tried many flavours, many distributions and I have written some of my experiences down, in this very blog. I am especially proud about managing to run my Intel Classmate on Linux, I have installed Mint on my eeePC and Peppermint on a VIA Epia ML, mini itx motherboard. However, my main PC would always run on Windows. Most of my work and pleasure (i.e. games and porn) would be under Windows and I have been somewhat sceptical about switching. Many years ago, I had tried the dual boot approach, but as it usually happens, one gets to constantly boot on Windows and soon the Linux installation becomes nothing more than wasted space on the HD.

Since my PC needed either some serious clean up and maintenance or a format for some time now, the thought of moving on to Linux was on my mind, but I guess I needed something to push me the right way. That something was a new machine that found it’s way to my house. Nothing out of the ordinary, an Intel E7400 sitting on a Foxconn motherboard. Still, it was a bit better than what I’ve been using, an Athlon XP 3800+, so I immediately decided I would be using the newcomer. Without much thought, I did a quick installation of Windows 7 and then I downloaded and installed Linux Mint 11. I know what you are thinking, I do have two OS’s on my PC, but this time, Linux boots first.

Reasons I still need Windows: I like games. I would not call my self a hardcore gamer, I get dizzy while playing an FPS, but I do like to play. I really like RPGs and one of my all time favourites was Baldur’s Gate. So, not being able to enjoy a good game was not an option. I have also purchased games from Steam and while I have read some articles about using Steam with Wine on Linux, I chose to keep it on Windows. I also do some video editing from time to time. Not professionally but still. I have heard about Linux solutions, such as Cinefx and I do intent to try that, but just to be safe I want to have something I know how to work with.

Despite the fact that I have installed Linux many many times, many different distributions on a number of machines, I still don’t call myself an advanced user. There are many things I have not encountered, things that to some of you might seem like a piece of cake, but none the less I decided to document my progress on using Linux for every day work here, hoping that I might be able to offer some help to those who face similar problems. Leaving all this mumbling aside, let’s see what was the first problem I had to solve:

The Printer. When you are a Windows user, things are quite simple. After finishing the OS installation, you are to install all drivers for the devices you have. Graphic cards, printers, scanners, in most cases, you just have to pop in the CD that came with the device and you are good to go. I had no idea how things were with Linux, since I never had to use a printer while on Linux. So when I turned my HP Laserjet 1020 on and a pop up message informed me that it was successfully installed and configured, I was more than happy.

That is until I tried to print something and although everything seemed normal, nothing would come out of the printer. No noise, no lights flashing, nothing. I imagined that the printer was not properly installed, so I started searching on line for help. I read a lot of things, mostly on how to go to HP’s website and download Linux drivers, but the problem was solved quite easily. I just opened a terminal window and typed:

sudo apt-get install hp-plugin

That downloaded and installed the print head firmware and my PC was able to communicate properly with the printer. So, in case you are facing something similar with an HP printer, give this a shot. Next time I will tell you how I set up my 5.1 surround sound.


Windows 7 Media Center vs Linux Mint Media Center.

Screenshot of XBMC 9.11 home screen using defa...

Image via Wikipedia

Some years ago, it wasn’t but a handful of people who tried to connect their PCs with a TV set and turn them into “Entertainment Systems”. Where most were OK with a descent DVD player, that could also support music and pictures, others wanted to be able to watch movies and surf the web from the comfort of their sofa. Recently however, the initials HTPC are part of many people’s lives and there’s a whole branch of the industry dealing with “Media Centers”.

My own interpretation of a Media Center, has always been a spare PC next to or under my TV. Because of my line of work, I often come across pieces of hardware, so having a box or two laying around is really no bιg deal and through the years, a number of systems found their way to my TV. The latest incarnation of “Largo” is a system with the following specs:

Intel Dual Core @ 1,8GHz


Not exactly top notch, but I thought I did not really need anything more than that. When I first acquired this box, I chose to install Windows 7 and use XBMC as my media center software. I am a huge fan of XBMC and I always regretted not having an XBoX to play with. My motherboard features the Intel HDA sound chip, which means it should be able to handle 7.1 digital and analog sound. At first, I would not care about that,

since I used my TV for sound, having no receiver or speakers.

Sometime ago, I came across a set of 5.1 active speakers (meant to be used with a PC), so you understand I wanted to have surround sound. For some reason that would not work at all. Feeling an urge to experiment, I decided to try out Linux for my media center.

First of all, I installed Mint, my favorite (so far) flavor of Linux. Installation was problem free and as soon as it was finished, it prompted me to install the proprietary drivers for my ATI card, which of course I did. I then did a system update to be sure I have the latest whatever. Next thing was XMBC for Linux.

According to the XBMC Wiki, all I had to do was the following four steps:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc
sudo apt-get update

Simple stuff, no? A few minutes later, I was finished and I eagerly sat down to try m

y new Media Center out.  At first I tested it with an SD Avi file and everything was OK. But as soon as I tried to play HD content, it all went down hill. Even at 720p, playback was choppy and of course I did not have 5.1 sound.

I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how to fix surround. I read a lot of tutorials, I tried a lot of solutions, but I could not seem to make it work. At some point, I even managed to break stereo sound!

I was beginning to feel very frustrated. If it was some other time, perhaps I would bust my ass off to try and fix it. I mean others have had no problems with machines similar to mine, so I figure if I had insisted, I might have made it. But now, I just wanted to be able to watch my movies and series on my TV, so I went to plan B:

First of all, I installed again Windows 7. There were no missing drivers, so I just installed all the recent updates. Then I followed this guide. Basically, what Kris did, was to install CoreAVC, Haali’s Media Splitter and AC3 Filter. In my case, Haali’s was installed together with CoreAVC, so I only had to download and install AC3 Filter.

If you follow Kris’s guide, you will see he’s doing some registry mambo jumbo at some point. The reason for that, is that Microsoft tried to hi-jack  multimedia playback, by introducing Media Foundation. Among other things, Media Foundation locks media playback to use Microsoft’s native decoders, which in our case means that video will not be played through CoreAVC and we have a reason for installing it don’t we?

At this point, I have not yet performed the registry hack and 1080p playback is smooth. This probably means that I’m using Microsoft decoders, or the developers of CoreAVC finally found a way to circumvent Media Foundation. I am not sure which one is it, so I will have to run some tests. Finally, I no longer use XBMC, but switched to Windows Media Center, at least until I figure out a way to fix multichannel analog sound in XBMC.

Bottom line: I am able to play HD video and have sound in all 5.1 channels and I am very very pleased. I would suggest you give the Linux/XBMC solution a try, because after all, we are talking about free open source software. I will get back to it, as soon as I get my hands on a more powerful machine.


What To Do With A VIA EPIA ML.

For quite some time, I have been the proud owner (sic) of a VIA EPIA ML, mini ITX motherboard. I bought it almost in a whim, when a colleague of mine wanted to get one for himself and at the time when the purchase took place, it seemed like a fantastic idea. The theory was, that I would build me a machine that would stay up 24/7. Of course, it had to be as quiet as possible and as low consuming as possible, even if it meant sacrificing features and performance. “What was the intended use?” I hear you ask. Well, since I am out of the house many hours a day, which means that no one is using the internet at that time, it would make a very nice “Download Server”. I was also thinking I could set up a Web Server and/or and FTP Server on it too, mainly to experiment. There were some thoughts in the back of my head, about turning it into a file server, but that would be an added bonus to what I was planning. Let’s say that my main concern was to be able to download noise free.

The model I got was the EPIA-ML6000EAG. With a 667MHz cpu and 1GB maximum RAM, it seems as a poor choice, but hey, I was on a tight budget! At about 60$ it was almost the only choice for a fanless system I intended to build. Since I could spare no extra expenses, I used a memory chip I had laying around, an old 200W ATX power supply and put the whole bunch inside a cardboard box! No, that’s not a typo, I really had a PC inside a cardboard box! Oh, come on! Give me some slack! I am not the first one to do that, you know… Style was not my main concern, plus, it would be hidden away below my router.

Supposedly, it was designed to work well with Windows, so I installed WinXP, uTorrent, FileZilla, Apache and a couple of other little programs and then took some time to marvel at what I had achieved. Not much that is… No doubt it would run, but that would be slow as hell. It didn’t bother me though. Remember, I was planning to leave it running all day, so slow or not, it would do what it was supposed to do. And it served me well, for more than a year. But recently, it had become a pain to work with and since I’ve been mistreating netbooks by installing all kinds of Linux on them, I thought about getting my hands on the EPIA as well.

The first distro I tried, was Mint. Having installed Mint on the eeePC, made me think that it would somehow be ideal for what I wanted. The installation was brief and problem free, but the results were far worse than I anticipated. Gnome was terribly slow and no matter how much I tried to tweak the settings, it would still be uncomfortably slow. I know, I know… With only 667 Mhz what could one expect? Anyway, after many installations and dare I say much frustration, I ended up installing Peppermint, which seems to be a lighter version of Mint. I cannot say much about the GUI, because apart from the initial boot, I have not seen it :). I chose to boot it straight to console, so I would not waste any resources. This can easily be done by editing the /etc/default/grub configuration file:

sudo nano /etc/default/grub.

Locate the line that says GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash”
and change it to                  GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash text”

When you are finished, don’t forget to update GRUB

sudo update-grub

Reboot and you’re seeing a nice console!

Next thing I wanted to do, is set up an SSH server, so I could connect to EPIA remotely and perform whatever tasks I wanted. If you are planning to follow any directions I post here, keep in mind that I am talking console only! Forget Gnome, KDE, or any other window manager. I don’t like it very much myself, I admit, but trust me, that was the only way I could achieve satisfactory results. Moreover it is a very good chance to learn a thing or two about the command line, right? With Windows, all you have to do, is enable remote desktop on your computer, forward port 3389 on your router and you’re done. In Linux however, remote desktop is not so simple, especially when you don’t have another Linux box to connect to your PC… SSH on the other hand is simple as it can be, minus the lack of pretty graphics. In order to install the OpenSSH Server you need to type:

sudo apt-get install ssh

You now have an SSH server up and running and you can test it right away by typing:

ssh localhost

If it asks for your confirmation to allow the connection, you’ve installed it correctly and technically you can start connecting to your PC from anywhere you want. There are plenty of settings for you to mess with, but I have not yet gotten down to that. As soon as I make any progress on the subject I will post right away.

The basic set up is completed, the box is working finer than fine and I am able to access it from anywhere in the world. In Windows, I use Putty as my SSH client and I highly recommend it, since it is light, quick and delivers. What I need to do now, is set up an FTP Server, maybe a web server as well and of course find a torrent client that runs from the command line. Stay tuned for more…


Installing Linux on an Intel Classmate pt.1

Since my eeePC is now minty fresh, it deserves a little piece of mind, doesn’t it? Mint is so far the fastest OS I’ve installed on the eee (and trust me I’ve tried quite a few),  so I decided to stop messing with it for a while and let it rest. But the gods of Technology decided that although the eee earned some time off, I hadn’t, so they sent another toy my way, one more wicked and more difficult to handle than the eee:  The infamous Intel Classmate!

Image Source: Netbook Laptop Reviews

The above image is not of my own Classmate. I “borrowed” it from Netbook Laptop Reviews. So do me a favor and click on it to go there and read their review.

Now, the Intel Classmate has an interesting story. Just like the One Laptop Per Child initiative, it was an effort to equip students with a computer, that would be cheap, durable and able to become a valuable companion to the school’s curriculum. If you are interested in the story, click on the above link to read the OLPC entry in Wikipedia, and you might also be interested in the Classmate PC entry too.

History aside, a third generation Intel Classmate was given to me and of course I had to tinker with it, right? Right? In this post, you will find out what I did to get the wireless to working properly (which is actually no big deal but it could save you a lot of time looking around). In the following part(s) I will address a more interesting but less serious problem: How to make the touch screen work properly.

For a list of features, just go to the wiki entry above and read about the third generation Classmates. The only difference between what you’re going to read there and mine, was that mine came with Windows 7 starter, instead of Windows XP.

Since it has an Atom 1.6GHz cpu, I decided to leave Windows because although it is terribly slow, you can take some pills and work for a while if needed (nothing like the eeePC with Windows 7). I wanted to install Linux on it and dual boot and because it functions as a tablet, I thought Ubuntu Netbook Edition would be a good choice. The installation was a breeze. I don’t think there will be any kind of problem there. After the installation was finished however…

…I found out that I had no wireless! To be exact, network manager would see the wireless module, but it would not pick up any networks. This proves to be a known bug (see Bug #460323) and can be easily fixed. Open a terminal and type:

sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf

I know there are people already laughing at me, but you know what? I don’t care… I like gedit and I am not going to pretend I like VI just to be one of the cool guys! Piss off!

You need to open the blacklist.conf file as root, hence the sudo in the beginning. Once you open it, add this line:

blacklist rt2800usb

The reason why we’re doing this, is because by default Ubuntu tries to load two wireless modules at the same time. So we blacklist one of the two and the other loads properly and yes, you have wireless up and running. Supposedly, if you upgrade your kernel the problem will be fixed without the need of this workaround. The one I downloaded, came with kernel version 2.6.32 and I should have tried to upgrade to version 2.6.34 or later before blacklisting the module, but I tried this solution first and since it worked I did not look into it any further.

A word of caution though: Since we are the kinds of lame people who use graphical text editors in comparison to the manlier vi, we need to be careful because not all editors work. I tried the same thing with kwrite (the equivalent of gedit for KDE) and it fucked up my file. So always keep a backup of what you’re messing with, okay?

An example of how you can keep a copy of blacklist.conf:

sudo cp /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf  /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf.old

There are some people that mentioned the above solution did not work for them. The Classmate I have features a wireless card by Ralink Technology Corp. I have pretty good reasons to suspect that all the third generation models have the same wireless card. Unfortunately, Ralink does not offer drivers for another OS than Windows, so there’s not much you can do there. My suggestion is to upgrade to the latest kernel, in the hope that this problem is fixed. Right now, the latest available kernel is 2.6.36. Another thing you could try, is what Kay suggests in this excellent article. I cannot verify if it works, since the blacklisting solution worked for me just fine, but since I followed the rest of that article (see part 2) I can tell you that he knows his business.

If you have trouble upgrading, be patient for the second part, where I will cover this procedure, as it was needed for another problem I had. Till then, Google is your friend.

UPDATE: Earlier today, I tried to connect to a wireless network and it would disconnect a couple of seconds later. At some point the network was lost from the network manager. I know there can be nothing wrong with the wireless network because other devices were connected and had absolutely no problems. Being a Windows user, I did what I am used to doing in such cases (reboot) and it worked fine. I’ve been working flawlessly for some days now and this is the first time I had such problems. I will keep an eye on it and report back if anything happens.


My eeePc is minty fresh!

If you happened to catch me on Twitter (or looked at the right side of this blog), you probably know that I was itching to change the OS of my trusted eeePc 900. For those of you who did not catch me on Twitter here’s a short re-cap with my eeedventures:

After the not so successful experiment with Win7 which was to be expected of course, I returned to eeebuntu.  I had grown to like it. Trustworthy, fast, and would cover all my NetBook needs. I was on version 3 and there was talk about a version 4, which eventually became known as Aurora. They dropped the eeebuntu project and they promised huge innovations in style and functionality. Since there was no ETA, I decided to stick with version 3, until Aurora came out.

Yesterday, I went over to Aurora’s site to see if any news were out, but nothing more than “Coming Soon”. In a whim, I downloaded the EB 4 beta version, which was supposed to be something between eeebuntu and Aurora. Once the ISO was downloaded, I followed the standard procedure with UNebootin to transfer the image onto a USB thumb-drive. I don’t know if it was the drive, UNebootin or the image (I tried re-downloading a couple of times) but it refused to work. I tried using Linux Live USB Creator, which by the way is a very nice although terribly slow little program, and voila! I had myself a live version of EB 4 beta. I booted with the USB drive and started installing it on disk. Alas, at 96% of the installation, it would give me a fatal error and believe me I tried it more than once. Always at 96%…

Although I could have sent an error report, tried to fiddle a little more with it, I really wanted to have a working net-book, so I went for the next best thing: Forget EB 4 beta and either go back to eeebuntu 3.0 or try another distro. Well, you can easily guess which way I went…

A colleague had handy a Mint 9.0 Isadora live DVD (the GNOME version, already on a USB) so I grabbed it and started installing. Had I downloaded an ISO myself, perhaps I would have also tried the LXDE version, at least for a peek, but hey, GNOME’s nice so I did not complain. The installation was flawless, quick and problem free. I was a bit concerned if I would have to find and install drivers for the WiFi, or other hardware, but to my amazement, everything worked out of the box!

The only thing that did not work, was two finger scrolling on the touchpad, but that is no big deal. I haven’t tried to find a solution for this yet and I am not sure I will try to.

The only additional feature I installed so far, was Gnome-Do. Do, is a launcher that has some very interesting capabilities. You see, eeebuntu offered a very nice mac looking dock-bar, and I was getting used to it. Mint on the other hand had none such feature pre-installed and while I was searching for a dock-bar, I stumbled on Do. Hitting the [Win] key and [Space] will bring up the Do interface and all you have to do, is start typing the name of the application you want to execute. For example, if I were to type “fire”, it would show me FireFox’s icon and if I pressed [Enter], FireFox would start. That simple! The only catch is, that you have to know what you are looking for. Do also offers a lot of plug-ins, from file searching to history searching to Twitter updates, but I haven’t explored all of that yet.

So far, Mint seems (if that is ever possible) much faster than eeebuntu. Less boot up time, faster application launching (even Gimp) and quicker shutdown. Minty fresh!

UPDATE: If you go to Preferences : Mouse, you can activate or deactivate 2-finger scrolling… It was THAT simple….


April 2019
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Yeah, I got one o’ those…