Archive for the ‘windows’ Category

Microsoft Profits Stun World, Still Year of Linux Something or Another?

January 28, 2010

Microsoft posted a 60% increase in profits in the final quarter of last year over the same period a year ago. This was on record revenue and due in large part to strong sales of Windows 7.

No word yet if certain geniuses still think Steve Ballmer needs to leave the company.

Meanwhile, SJVN has declared 2010 the Year of the Linux Desktop Tablet GPS Some Fucking Device. Dude is like a damn Energizer bunny rabbit when it comes to the year or future of Linux. I see I beat his comparison of Apple’s new iFad to the iPod Touch by about five hours. Niiiice!

Freedom, Security, and Lacking Credibility

January 22, 2010

This is in response to something on another site.

Just a quick note to the whiny little fucktard who wanted to lecture me on another site about credibility: screw you.

Every time you asked a question or made a point, I gave a rational and coherent explanation. That includes my own example of why someone wouldn’t necessarily want to automatically run a server despite installing such software. That includes the issue of blind trust via social engineering that could lead someone to install something which unknowingly could present an issue with respect to something on a USB stick “automagically” starting without your knowledge or consent or interaction. Etc.

Oh, but it’s Linux! No fucking worries here. Ever!

That site has become something of a joke, especially the distro reviews (where did Caitlyn go?!). I pointed out that BSDs are not Linux only to get a response from the author about “old ways” as if some isolated KDE-oriented sub-project supersedes the one on which it’s based. You know, as if an exception overshadows the norm. Last time I checked, not one of the three major BSDs sets up automounting by default (and why the fuck should they? certainly not to match the Linux world by starting extraneous processes by default). That “last time” was yesterday when I installed NetBSD 5.0.1 on my new workstation. Works the same as it always has: insert USB stick, console messages (haven’t set up X yet) show me it’s there, “disklabel  /dev/point” shows me what partitions are available on it, then it’s straightforward to mount it and/or add entries in /etc/fstab. Duhhh. But probably not so straightforward if you expect it to work like Linux Windows without ever reading any documentation. Just burn the image, boot it, and wonder why you have to set up something because some developer didn’t do it for you.

By the way, the “Linux way” the author prattled about in his review used to be the “BSD way”: users were given control of what gets mounted and when rather than developers taking it upon themselves to dumb everything down so Windows converts would feel more at home. The “Linux way” is an anti-Unix way, it’s really the Windows way. And it’s apparently a flaw if a reviewer has to ever RTFM to learn that he has to manually add extraneous filesystems to his computer. Let alone manually mount something in the first place.

Unix isn’t Windows. I loathe those who demand making Unix more like Windows. It won’t attract more users. It hasn’t thus far. All it does is piss off people who have to go undo things that shouldn’t be done in the first place for a wide variety of reasons (yes, fucktard, including security — no matter how remote the risks might be, as I pointed out at least twice).

Auto-mounting is not a “feature.” I accept many users may indeed want it — we’re talking lowest common denominator and that’s going to be a lot who don’t bother or want to RTFM. That doesn’t mean it should be configured without user interaction of some sort.

If Linux and open source is ultimately about freedom, then stop forcing users to accept myriad running services in the background until they realize they have a lot of bullshit to undo and instead offer them opportunities to start what they want/need at install. Some distros do this, but most don’t. Isn’t it telling that the distros most popular among Windows users and converts give less freedom at install than Windows itself does? And isn’t just as telling that the Linux distros and BSDs that want the end user to have the most freedom and flexibility are the ones that give users a blank slate and tools upon which to build what they want/need and also seem to have an eye on things like stability and security?

But never mind my lone opinion. As the aforementioned fucktard suggested, nobody can take me seriously. I lack credibility because I think users should decide when things start or mount or are added to any system rather than a developer taking such liberties. Go read the lame reviews, pat the author on his buttocks, and wonder why more distros aren’t just like Windows — or wet your pants over the ones that do take all the decisions out of your hands… while you probably write snotty things about Microsoft for doing that very thing. Putz.

Thoughts on ath5k, Stability, and Linux (In)Security

August 3, 2009

I’ve continued to have serious issues related to Linux ath5k wireless so I’ve decided that I’ll upgrade my netbook to Windows 7 when it’s released. I was hoping that recent improvements in the ath5k code would fix what had plagued me before with frequent loss of detection of the Atheros card itself, which, as I’ve described before, continues even after rebooting into either Linux or Windows. That alone tells me something’s really, really bad with it.

I’ve been kind of restraining myself from going beyond that particular point about the gravity of the problem or what it potentially means. As I’ve already written, loss of detection of the card even after rebooting leads me to have concerns about physical damage to hardware. In case you haven’t noticed, every distro comes with a disclaimer that you’re on your own and developers take no responsibility for damage to your hardware. That’s always so comforting to know, that these people promise you the world but can’t stand behind their code.

The problem is capricious and can’t be tied to one event. That makes it difficult to initiate some specific sequence of events on my netbook to replicate the issue. At least that would give some guidance on what not to do — whether it’s a certain application, hitting certain sites, using a particular encryption protocol, etc.

Here’s what I haven’t said thus far. I wonder if it might actually be easier to recreate the issue outside of my netbook than on it.

Where there’s a “bug,” there’s often a vulnerability not far beneath. With the frequency of loss of wireless with this particular driver-card combination on my netbook, I wonder how difficult it would be to cause DoS (edit: whether limited to the wireless device, extending to the whole OS, or even pwnage/arbitrary execution) on the same network or even outside of it. If so, then there’s a much bigger and potentially more serious problem than instability.

This is only something I’ve pondered so far. I haven’t done anything (yet) to see if this is possible. It may not be any easier to cause the DoS externally than to set up a situation where the card panics and the OS no longer detects it. Either way, Linux is not proving a rock-solid option on my AA1.

My curiosity, though, is piqued by the possibility that I may be able to at least cause DoS through the instability of this driver (or the Linux 802.11 stack?). I’ve never been one to presume that Linux is inherently more secure than any other operating system. I’m certainly not going to start lying and join in the lie that it’s more stable than any other operating system. That’s especially true when it comes to my Atheros card: flawless and no crashing under Windows, unpredictable and buggy as hell under Linux.

One of the things I wrote last summer when Linus Torvalds mocked the OpenBSD people for their attention to security is that the OpenBSD team focuses on correctness of code because that makes security-related issues easier  to find. Where Linus is more concerned about fixing bugs, the OpenBSD team is concerned about doing things correctly from the start so there aren’t myriad little bugs to find because of sloppily-submitted code. One’s “bug” is another’s hole to pwn en masse.

I’ll probably continue looking to see if there are changes to the ath5k code and/or 802.11 code in Linux. I’ll also see if I can find another card with a better track record under Linux. Barring any changes, though, my Linux days are numbered.

Using libmtp, mtp-tools in Fedora 10

July 4, 2009

Working on MTP-stuff while watching the first day’s time trials in the Tour de Lance. I removed rhythmbox several days ago along with the big load of Gnome bloatware I ditched. No big deal.


Just for background, my MTP device is a Samsung S3 (YP-S3). The S3 was on my wishlist because it’s capable of playing OGG and video; it also has a cool touchpad interface instead of a stupid wheel thing. Unfortunately, just because it plays ogg files doesn’t mean it plays fairly with non-Windows operating systems. It was purchased from a big box electronics store which runs its own music download site; this retailer sells custom-flashed models to work with their store and this custom firmware removes OGG-capability (even though the retailer’s site provides specs suggesting it does play ogg files). I installed the default firmware for the device to get OGG support on it; Windows, though, will wrongly suggest these files won’t play on the device when copying. And despite being capable of playing back video, the videos must first be converted for the device using Samsung’s software that comes with it. I chose to not install it so I don’t watch videos. Finally, the other fly in the ointment with the device is that it’s MTP rather than UMS. UMS is standard USB storage and MTP is Microsoft Transfer Protocol. Of course, the packaging and specs don’t tell the consumer that it’s MTP and not plug-and-use like any standard USB device.

Fortunately, there is some MTP support for non-Windows operating systems via libmtp. The project has had some support from Microsoft. Contrary to the naysayers and haters, Microsoft wants wider adoption of their protocols. After all, a Zune sale makes them money whether the user wants to use it in Windows or Linux. Unfortunately, the ease/difficulty of getting devices to work depends on how they’re set up by manufacturers and how many developers or owners have provided information to the developers. Some applications which use libmtp work better than others, which also is affected by which version of libmtp is being used.

There are several applications which use libmtp to support MTP devices. These include amarok and rhythmbox, but also include lesser-known applications and utilities.

I installed mtpfs, a fuse filesystem allowing the device to be mounted, in Debian but was unimpressed with it. I didn’t see mtpfs in Fedora. I don’t know if I’ll bother with compiling it. In Debian, I was able to mount the device and navigate directories to read files but had zero control over files. Like other MTP utilities, there was scant information to help me resolve the problems. I wish it had worked because I love the fuse approach for things like this.

I also looked briefly at gnomad2 (in Fedora) but was put off by a few things. The worst part was the non-recognition of my device (not too surprising since the application isn’t a general MTP manager but targeted to a couple specific devices). The other thing — and this is the kind of aggravating thing some programmers do that pisses me off — is that it uses graphical interface boxes for the main part of the application or its preferences designed for high resolution screens so that on a smaller screem (such as my AA1) a user has to press alt to scroll the thing up off the screen to get to the options on bottom. Maybe the developer isn’t aware that scrollbars allow users to navigate below a certain point if their screens aren’t the same size as his. I removed it after having to push it up the screen repeatedly to find more options to see if it might be tweakable to find and work with my device. I just said, “Fuck it.”

While most users would feel more comfortable using an application like amarok or rhythmbox which uses libmtp, libmtp comes with its own set of tools (usually called mtp-tools for some strange reason). These tools are command-line and not very well documented. Maybe they’d be easier to use if they were, eh.

The first thing I had to do was figure out which Fedora package has mtp-tools. After looking through the mtp-related files (via yum search and yum info) I realized “libmtp-examples” is mtp-tools. Whatever. I installed it and started seeing what I could do with it.

One important command to see if the device is recognized is mtp-detect. This command will provide details about the device — name, ID numbers, directories, and capabilities. Once you know the device is recognizable by libmtp, you can look at managing it (the list of mtp commands is posted below).

I wanted to copy a couple test podcasts to one particular directory. I didn’t know off the top of my head if using mtp-sendfile would result in my podcasts going to the Music directory or to the root directory. After transferring them — one of which resulted in an error — I disconnected the S3, turned it on, and started looking for it. Music? No. But it did land in the file manager’s Music folder, and it played when I selected it.

So I had to figure out  how to manage the directory structure on the device. It’s offputting to have everything go in one directory when there’s a full tree of directories to manage things better. The mtp-folders command produces a list of folders, each with a number in front of it.

After doing a few searches, I learned that I can’t name destination directories when transferring files but rather need to use their number codes (available via mtp-folders). Once I knew that it was easy to send my podcasts to “Datacasts” on my Samsung S3.


I still get the “unknown options” error message but the files are going to my “Datacasts” directory; when sending to “Datacasts” by name, they were going to the root of the Music directory and accessible only in the File Manager rather than under Music (stupid, huh). Also note that the permissions require root access to the device. Go figure. I’ll add a new group for it or something but it’s not a big deal since Windows will ignore the permissions anyway.

There are a variety of mtp-tool commands. As you can see, though, I used mtp-connect –sendfile instead of mtp-sendfile. No matter because mtp-sendfile, mtp-delfile, mtp-getfile, mtp-newfolder, and mtp-sendtr are all links to mtp-connect.

mtp-albumart        mtp-emptyfolders    mtp-getplaylist     mtp-reset           mtp-trexist
mtp-albums          mtp-files           mtp-hotplug         mtp-sendfile
mtp-connect         mtp-folders         mtp-newfolder       mtp-sendtr
mtp-delfile         mtp-format          mtp-newplaylist     mtp-thumb
mtp-detect          mtp-getfile         mtp-playlists       mtp-tracks

I’ll see if I can put together a better, more comprehensive tutorial on using these devices without installing bloated apps like those mentioned above.

Windows Tip: Setting Up Mix and Match Default Browser and E-Mail

June 29, 2009

Here’s another Windows tip for those who want to use a different combination of default browser and e-mail client. This can be used to reset to default Windows settings of Internet Explorer and Outlook Express or to whatever applications you want instead. The point of this is to show that one can easily mix and match open and closed source software in Windows.

This will work for anything installed on your system and identified as browser and/or e-mail client. That will include the usual choices of Firefox, Opera, Thunderbird, and the default Windows programs mentioned above. You can use these same settings to revert to different defaults should you change settings you don’t like.

It also includes other less-known applications like Sylpheed. I like Sylpheed because it’s light on resources, very configurable and customizable (I use mew keybindings and have a lengthy set of filters that include a variety of colors to designate different things as well as the usual sorting of mail by category), and it functions the same way between operating systems. Its mbox import/export also means you can easily sync an account between different machines and even different operating systems. Sylpheed also works without any manual configuration of other applications like security suites; in my experience, it’s worked wonderfully with both McAffee (trial version on my AA1) and Kaspersky (which scans my mail and I’ve also used as a spam/junk filter).

For this example, we’re going to set up Sylpheed as the default e-mail client within IE8 (which remains my default browser in Windows even though I use conkeror more often now). The first setting to change is in tools-Internet options.


Select the applications tab once you open the Internet options dialog and you’ll see choices for editor, mail, news groups, etc.


Once you choose the application you want, hit Apply on the bottom. Note this should only work if you’re running the account as administrator (I had to log out, log into my administrator account, change my user setting to administrator, log back in to make my change, then go through the process again to place my account back to limited user). I know many people run as administrator which opens up the system to everything in the world. The reason you don’t want this variable to be changed by a limited user is because any exploit that can affect your browser could change app settings on the fly and compromise your system and your data. I think that’s also a good reason to not run as administrator except as needed. I know it’s not convenient, but the easier and more convenient things are for the user to change system settings the easier it is for any vulnerability to affect the whole system.

Once you have that set, you should be able to use whatever e-mail client you want within IE so that clicking on a mailto: link will open up a composer for your chosen client.

If an icon wasn’t set up in your Start Menu, you can add one this way (and it shouldn’t require administrator privileges). Right click on the task bar and select properties. You’ll get a dialog like the one below. Select the Start Menu tab and then Customize.


This will open another box allowing you to (re-)choose your default browser and e-mail client.


That will put an icon (with the “e-mail” description above it if you’re using the “big icons”) in the top part of your Start Menu. This will also cause whatever app you choose to open if you use the envelope icon on the IE icon bar (“Read Mail”).

It shouldn’t be — and it isn’t — difficult to set up whatever operating system you choose to use with whatever choice of applications you want. You don’t have to switch to Linux just to take advantage of open source software. You can configure Windows to work and look like you want it to even if you mix and match open and closed source software.

AA1 Wireless Problem Strikes Again

June 22, 2009

I’d written a few weeks ago that I was having wireless issues. This started under Fedora and I eventually narrowed it down from bug reports and other blogs to problems with the ath5k driver following resume from suspend (which I’d been doing repeatedly over the course of a week).

The issue wasn’t confined to Linux. When rebooting into XP, I’d continue having problems finding any SSID at all. In fact, the Windows wireless dialog hinted that I might need to enable my wireless card even though I hadn’t disabled it at all. I couldn’t find my SSID or any of the others around me.

Well, it happened again while ago. I logged out of ratpoison to test something (which resulted in losing my connection because of the BS I mentioned in the previous two entries about services being child processes of X rather than starting independently), logged back in and saw from iwconfig that my SSID had changed. I tried to correct it to no avail. In my normal user account it showed I was connected to an unencrypted SSID; as root it showed the right SSID. Then I totally lost all connections and had no wireless. Nada.

So I reset my router to see if that was the problem. Rebooted to start XP to see if that was messed up as well. It was.

What’s really weird is how I’ve been able to get wireless working again both times this has happened. Both times the problems started in Linux (never any issue in XP) and persisted when I rebooted into XP. Because my security suite tries to update, the loss of wireless really bogs everything down. Each time I’ve closed the lid, which eventually suspends to RAM. Both times when I’ve resumed, that wireless LED has been glowing.

Not sure what the problem is. Or why this “solves” it. It’s disconcerting, though, that this has happened again while using Fedora — and without suspending to RAM this time around.

I’ll search to see if I can find out more later to see if it’s something that can be resolved or if possibly there’s something wrong with my wireless card beyond the operating systems.

Setting Up emacs And Other Open Source Applications in Windows

June 20, 2009

One of my grievances against the mouth-foaming Linux advocates who get crazy doe-eyed about how much free software is available via repository packages is that nearly all that same software is also available for use in Windows. That means one really needn’t change operating systems to take advantage of open source software. I think people who are already comfortable using Windows and have valid licenses shouldn’t change — certainly not so they can use software already available to them.

I run a lot of the same software across platforms because I find it convenient to be able to share data regardless of which operating system I may be using at any given moment (which is important because I use XP primarily on my Aspire One and have no plans to stop using it until I can get Linux working at the same level and with the same stability). I have GIMP,, Sylpheed, Firefox, PuTTY, Filezilla, Audacity, emacs, and a lot more free and open source software running under XP on my Aspire One. And it’s not just these kinds of desktop applications that are available. Windows users can take advantage of server software like Apache and all the usual languages — PHP, Ruby, Lua, python, Perl, etc. — to use on their servers. There are only a handful of open source desktop and server applications that won’t run on Windows or that don’t offer a Windows binary of some sort.

As easy as it is to install these things in Windows, sometimes things are a little easier to find and/or use in one operating system compared to others. For example, Windows’ filesystems and applications don’t like starting file names with a period; Unix-like operating systems, though, use period-starting names to hide files and directories. That’s not to say you can’t have a dot-file on a Windows system. By convention, applications with a Unix-like focus can use a file or directory started with an underscore rather than a dot (e. g., _emacs in Windows is like .emacs in Linux). These differences can make things a little more complicated depending where you’re most comfortable.

Another thing that needs to be addressed is where various directories and files are located. The standard file hierarchies of Windows and Unix-like systems are similar in layout but different with respect to naming conventions. Where Linux and BSD have /home/$USER for each USER’s own files, Windows uses “My Documents” for each user.

Many open source applications put their configuration files in the directory preceding “My Documents.” This directory is usually found at “C://Documents and Settings/user name” which can be accessed by hitting the  up-directory arrow from “My Documents” or sequentially in the path above starting at “My Computer.” Some applications put configuration data in a hidden directory at this level called “Application Data.”

Windows uses a different convention to hide directories and files (accessible via Properties). You can choose Tools-Options-View in the file browser to toggle whether or not to show hidden files and directories. Or you can navigate to whatever file (e. g., .emacs) by opening a file (C-x C-f) and editing the path (tab completion works) to the file; emacs can reach “hidden” files and directories under Windows without altering settings mentioned above in the file browser. You can also name or rename your files with a dot from within emacs despite Windows’ preferences.

(The Windows naming convention is tied to legacy 8.3 naming conventions in which the dot is a demarcation between file name and file type.)

All of this is important because applications like emacs can be personalized very heavily via their configuration files. Sometimes these files need to be interacted with via interface menus available in the applications themselves. Sometimes they need to be edited manually. The latter is true of the .emacs file, which is a LISP file. (Another myth to shoot down: not all open source applications are configured via text file so YMMV. They can be anything from XML to interpreted languages to binary.)

The location of the .emacs/_emacs file can vary depending how emacs was installed.  The easiest way to find it is to use emacs itself to show the path it’s using for environmental variables. To do this, you can use the emacs LISP interpreter within the scratch buffer.


The next step is to execute the command using C-x C-e. You’ll get the path where your .emacs.d directory is stored along with where your .emacs should be.


Once you know where your .emacs is, you can set it up as you need. While emacs already has some built-in associations, you can either add new ones or alter existing ones. One of my favorite tools in emacs, org-mode, requires some set up in .emacs (see the org-mode documentation). It’s kind of awkward that something is bundled in emacs but you have to tell emacs that your .org files need to be opened in org-mode when other filetypes (html) are opened with an appropriate mode.


Things work better when you set up your .emacs to handle file types the way you want. Rather than opening a .org file as a standard text file, for example, it can be opened so that it’s in org-mode. Your .emacs also controls other modes and tools within emacs, including e-mail and news as well as just about anything you want to do with it (emacs is a kitchen sink).


There are many guides to setting up .emacs and other open source application configuration files online. The more you know, the better you can make software work for you.

Update: First Look Fedora 11 Live CD/USB, Misc Thoughts, cheese Sucks

June 10, 2009

Just a quick update before I get on a conference call. I’ve now booted both the Gnome and KDE versions of Fedora 11 Live from USB thanks to this unetbootin recommendation from scottro. That (old) thread at FedoraForum includes other helpful suggestions netbook users can try if they get bogged down with Fedora images. (Edit: I used unetbootin to successfully get a bootable USB stick with Fedora 11 from within Fedora 10; haven’t tried in Windows.)

Impressions? Well, the KDE version seems more stable than I recall from the prerelease image I ran a couple months back. I didn’t do much with it except look to see which apps it comes with — KOffice and other K-apps instead of OpenOffice. I then booted the Gnome version and it’s not too different from the Fedora 10 selections: AbiWord, evolution, cheese, totem, rhtythmbox, etc. That’s good because I don’t like radical changes. There’s still no hotplug support for the SD card reader (the one on the left side of the AA1 — haven’t tested the multi-card reader yet) unless you boot with a card inserted; I did see that the jmb* module loaded when I later inserted a card after (cardless) boot, it just doesn’t work yet. Beyond that, things seem to be working fairly well.

I was more inclined last night to run a KDE-based system over Gnome, but both are a bit more cumbersome and bloated than I really desire. It’s not so bad with a GB of RAM but I think people delude themselves that Linux is inherently better than Windows on low resource hardware — I think XP’s performance is still a lot better on this AA1 than Linux 2.6, especially with the chronic polling and shit that Gnome does (and KDE, too). That’s why I may go ahead and do a minimal install of something whether it’s Fedora or Debian or Slackware and then install more or less only what I want.

That last point, as it relates to default selections of software, reminds me of how many things I switched around in Fedora 10 on my AA1. I installed to replace AbiWord (because I use it at work and I needed Calc and Base as well), mplayer from rpmfusion in place of totem and cheese (see below), mksh (left bash installed in case any important scripts are full of bash-isms or call directly to /bin/bash), emelfm2 in place of whatever retarded file browser was the default, and a variety of small-ish apps I like to use. And bigger apps like Skype, which works very well now that the microphone is working.

This “cheese” webcam studio or booth thing fucking sucks. I read the FAQ and whatever else I could find to try and get it to record video without stuttering — or even minimal stuttering — but it was still so fucked up even with the smallest possible resolution I could set that I abandoned all hope for it. It basically freezes for a few seconds at the start of a capture and never really gets its shit completely together after that. Looks like the developers were more interested in useless shit like the nifty count down timer and “flash” thing that goes off (not to mention all the “effects”) than getting legitimate core features — like smooth video with properly synced audio — to work correctly. In a way, it’s typical of GNU/Gnome projects where people “major in minors” and the more important things never get finished or it’s a half-assed unfinished project that never fulfills its stated objective (see guile, which was supposed to take on TCL/TK but has languished in near obscurity behind other newer and more relevant languages).

Fortunately, there are things that work a lot better even at the higher resolutions the cam is capable of using. Here’s my alias for recording from the webcam using mplayer/mencoder.

alias record_stream='mencoder tv:// -tv \
driver=v4l2:width=320:height=240:device=/dev/video0:forceaudio:adevice=/dev/dsp \
-ovc lavc -oac twolame -lameopts cbr:br=64:mode=3 -o '

Change the encoders to suit what you have on your system. Type/tab complete the alias in a terminal and add a filename with format type (e. g., record_stream ~/Videos/today01.ogv) after record_stream and use ctrl-c to stop recording. Is it as fancy as something with buttons and can you see yourself? Nope (though it’s possible to run mencoder/mplayer so you can see what you’re recording). The captured video (and synced audio) is of much better quality than I was ever able to get from cheese.

(If you must see yourself before recording you can add an alias like “stream_test=’mplayer -tv driver=v4l2:fps=15 -vo xv tv://'” — you can also add whatever you need to listen to yourself if you need to test the sound, too, but that’s a system setting that you should set to work without constantly screwing around with it.)

I realize people drawn to Puppy and Ubuntu will throw up their hands and yell “WTF” at that, but script it through zenity or something if you think you need a fucking button to click just to do a simple task like capture video from your webcam. It’s easier my way. Really. And you can use whatever codecs you have installed — mpg, mp4, avi, mov, wmv, ogg, whatever.

Anyway, still not committing to Fedora 11 yet because there’s nothing in it that I don’t have working in 10 — just newer version numbers of the same stuff. The only reason I may install it sooner than later is because I want to reclaim space used in various other Linux partitions for one unified install, which kind of mitigates against installing from the live CD anyway because of the quirky requirement that / be ext4 and /boot be ext3, etc. Now that I’ve slept on it, I’m more convinced I want something a bit more conservative with a longer support cycle than Fedora offers. May have more time later to do something.

Still on my to-do list and coming soon: Updated DSL hard drive guide in PDF, even though DSL is pretty much dead. Could have it posted by the end of this weekend.

Update – Installed Fedora 10 on AA1

May 22, 2009

I finally had some time last night to do something with the enormous 54+ GB partition I had left over from what I consider a very fucked-up automatic installation of PCLinuxOS. Maybe I didn’t really have that much time, but I needed something to divert my mind for a while (re the most recent entry on “my new blog” linked on the side of my front page).

I’d converted the PCLOS swap partition — which it set up using 4 GB! — to my /home partition for PCLOS and was running without swap since I’d changed the inittab to start at runlevel 3 and ran mostly in console or in X using ratpoison. I’d also given up trying to get certain hardware to work. In fact, the only time I boot into PCLOS any more is to do some testing to make sure something works cross-platform.

I divided the 54 GB into a couple new Linux partitions and a Linux swap (only about a quarter of what PCLOS set up). I also have a bit left over to try out another distro or two before committing to one or another (or more).

Last night I installed Fedora 10, which makes this the first Gnome-based distro or version I’ve installed in this decade. I’d written about my impressions of KDE4 from using a preview of Fedora 11. I think KDE4 needs a bit more work before I’ll commit to using it.

Speaking of Fedora 11, I think I’ll end up clearing off the PCLOS install and starting from scratch with the non-Windows partitions on this thing when it’s released within the next couple weeks. Whether I stick with Fedora after that or switch to Debian, I think PCLOS is coming off. Nothing against it, it just isn’t going to work for me. I think it’s geared more towards people who can live with default pre-configuration. I can’t. I want a little more control over my system.

Fedora 10 installed rather quickly from the Live CD (via USB) without any trouble. I didn’t let it do any default installation — I set up my partitions, and I didn’t let it overwrite my MBR to reinstall GRUB, and I manually edited my GRUB menu.lst to add Fedora.The only things I removed were the internationalization support. I just installed and removed Abiword. I also found out what I had to do to get beyond Fedora’s/Red Hat’s doctrinaire positions (e. g., no mp3 support).

As biased as I am against Gnome, I have to admit it’s much smoother than I thought it would be given its drain on system resources. At the same time, I think I’m going to use a different desktop environment or window manager given my own small set of preferred applications. I don’t need the overhead of Gnome or KDE. I’ll most likely end up with Xfce, LXDE, or some small window manager (jwm, ratpoison, dwm, ion3, etc.). My app choices in Linux/BSD tend to revolve around OpenOffice, Sylpheed, Firefox, Dillo, and various console apps and networking tools. I don’t need a full desktop environment for those.

I don’t know if I’ll get back to using Linux more than half the time with this. It doesn’t help that libmtp is broken and my devices unsupported. I was relieved when I saw that Fedora 10 suspended and resumed flawlessly with this thing; I also had more hardware working, including the card reader (I don’t like the lack of hotplug-ability; still have to boot with the card inserted or else it doesn’t work).

I don’t know yet if I’ll install NetBSD 5 or OpenSolaris on this. I hadn’t planned on doing anything else with Linux but got a wild hair last night and most things are working better than with PCLOS. After using a friend’s Eee with Windows 7, I’m more inclined to install Windows 7 on this when it’s released. More on that shortly.

PCLOS Card Readers: My Temporary Workaround

April 16, 2009

Let me preface that my real workaround right now is just using Windows. I’m hardly booting Linux at all, and then it’s only to try to get stuff working right rather than actually using it.

I admittedly have had very little time to work on getting the card readers on my AA1 to work, but the various things I’ve tried have all failed. The end result is most often a complete freeze.

That includes booting with a card inserted in one or even both slots — freeze during boot. I’ve also tried loading the pciehd module from /etc/rc.local and manually. The system freezes if and when there’s a card inserted.

The only way I’ve been able to get pictures from card to computer in Linux on the AA1 is to connect one of my cameras with a USB cable and download them that way. This has worked with digikam in KDE and gtkam elsewhere (ratpoison, jwm). Simple work around but it means I have to have a camera and cable with me to transfer files. Or carry around a USB adapter for the cards. That sucks, though.


I was going to compile a new kernel to see if I could get things resolved that way but PCLOS 2009.1 comes with a version of gcc (4.1.1?) that the kernel doesn’t want to compile with. Rather than screw around with it any more (just not enough time right now), I’ve thrown up my hands. I’m probably going to try a few more distros while waiting for NetBSD 5.0 and seeing how well it handles this hardware; no idea how soon I’ll do anything else because of work and family commitments.

Til then, Windows XP works beautifully.

Things that work perfectly in XP that are still messed up in Linux: card readers, resume from suspend/hibernate (various issues), switching between screen and VGA-out doesn’t work right, speaker doesn’t mute when earphones are inserted in jack, internal microphone doesn’t work at all, function key controls don’t work correctly, and probably more things that aren’t coming to mind immediately. The deal breakers for me right now are the resume and VGA issues because I need to be able to use my projector for presentations. I’d also like to be able to use my cards without going through another device (camera, phone, audio player) or adapter.

Speaking of audio players, we have a couple devices — purchased because they’re ogg-friendly — that use MTP and I’ve been unable to use them under Linux thus far. No, enabling MTP in amarok didn’t help. Not sure if the problem is specific to the distro or what, but, like I keep saying, right now I don’t have time to delve further into it.