Tag Archives: hardy heron

Damn You, iPod. DAMN. YOU.

Michelle is in the air at the moment, probably rapidly descending into New York by now.  Last night, one of the things that she asked me to help her out with was getting access to the iTunes Music Store and her iPod itself on her computer at home.

She runs the latest version of Ubuntu, at her own request.*  I thought that this should pretty easy anyway, since she has a virtual Windows installation on there for stuff that you, well, y’know, have to have Windows for.**  I would just make sure I could get the USB rokkin on the virtual machine, install iTunes, and she’d be done and done.

That turned out to be a lot more complex than I thought it would be.  I never did manage to get USB working in VirtualBox OSE, but I’ve got it all set in my VMWare Windows machine on the laptop.  I probably spent an hour or more trying to get it fixed on her desktop.  The recent upgrade that I did complicated running the virtual machine itself, so there was a good chunk of that hour wasted right there…

Then when I moved this iTunes-installing-and-using operation over to MY laptop, there was a whole different problem of just being able to get the virtual machine to recognize that the iPod was plugged in.  It was as if Ubuntu didn’t want to completely give it up.  Finally, I managed to get that to happen, too, but I quickly managed to initiate a process of “sync”-ing the iPod, which, apparently, will go ahead and wipe everything off of it.  Which is on one hand, total bullshit, and on the other, awfully disheartening when you’ve been working on getting this damn thing to work for 3 hours.  This is not to mention to fact that the syncing process took FOREVER, given that the USB support, while present in VMWare, is merely of the version 1.1 variety (versus the standard, commonly recognized, vastly superior, HIGH-SPEED USB 2.0).

I do understand, on a basic level, why these frakkin iPods are so locked down and a pain the ass to try to work with.  I dig that you can’t use the Music Store with anything but a Mac or a Windows PC.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about it.  I thought it was a profound drag that I spent so much time dicking around with this problem that I’ve never had copying mp3s over to an SD card and plugging it into my PDA, for example.

What this did make me decide I should do, though, is come up with an more effective means of using Windows on the desktop machine.  Dual-booting would be one option, but I don’t know if I’m interested in blowing the hard disk space or the partitioning effort on that.  How often do I really need to use Windows?  I think I can count all the occasions in the year on one hand.  I’ve become much more interested in scoping out this Windows-on-a-thumb-drive option.  Not only is it more complex than re-partitioning and installing Windows on the side, I’ve never done it before, so it will require quite a bit more effort.  Right up my alley, where personal computing is concerned.

I think I’ll get started on it now, since it’s relatively early and the Brewers are getting smoked once again

* – Granted, her request was not necessarily for Ubuntu, but when I set up this machine that she has right now and offered to install XP, she said, “Well, I don’t really want Windows…”  Very sexy.

** – Those would be things Netflix, TurboTax, and goddamned iTunes.

Hardy and SMBFS — A Change of Syntax?

As I’ve made known here previously, I am one of those “dangerous-but-not-really-very-knowledgeable” types, particularly when it comes to the command line and certain config setups in Ubuntu.  That said, I found a solution to the problem I was having with mounting my server using smbfs.  I thought I would post it for the Google-pilgrims that might need a hand in the future…

Ever since Dapper, I have had a line in my /etc/fstab that looked like this:

//<server IP>/<share> /home/jason/Server cifs credentials=<credentials file>,lfs,dmask=777,fmask=777  0    0

This stopped working in Hardy.  After installing smbfs, the share would still mount, but I would get errors saying the following:

WARNING: 'dmask' not expressed in octal.
WARNING: CIFS mount option 'dmask' is deprecated. Use 'dir_mode' instead.
WARNING: 'fmask' not expressed in octal.
WARNING: CIFS mount option 'fmask' is deprecated. Use 'file_mode' instead.

I could read everything from the server, but I had lost my permission to write there.  After finding this bug that was filed at the end of March, I thought, “what the hell, I’ll try mounting the way this guy’s doing it:

//<server IP>/<share> /home/jason/Server cifs credentials=<credentials file>,lfs,file_mode=0777,dir_mode=0777,uid=1000,gid=1000 0 0

And now all is well.  DVD playback– fixed.  Server share– fixed.  What else did I need?  Oh, right, nothing.


Hardy Heron Post-Install #1

Sorry if there are a few über-geeky posts in the next couple days.  But, I did say that I would share my experiences with running Ubuntu…

Forgot a few things in my post(s) from the last few days.  There were a number of additional packages I could have mentioned, but here are the highlights…

First, turn on all those non-default software repositories (except maybe the bleeding-edge development channels), then get all the gstreamer plugins, the microsoft core fonts, and thumb through the add/remove software window.  I like to sort by popularity, because there’s usually a reason that a lot of people are downloading it.  You can find a number of the packages that I mentioned the other day using this method.

I was glad that my monitor worked out of the box, at the right resolution and frequency.  A welcome change.  I also noticed that SeaMonkey was in the software channels now, so that kind of makes ubuntuzilla an unneeded commodity for me.

I forgot to mention how to get DVDs running.  Take a look at medibuntu for more info on that.  Or, is Automatix still around?  I haven’t used it in a while…  Oh, I guess not.

The thing that’s really sticking in my craw right now is the wealth of issues (well, just two I guess– but big ones) that I had with samba immediately upon installation.  In the past, I have run samba on my desktop machine because it was an easy way to share files back and forth between my desktop and laptop (in case I didn’t need or want to use the server as an intermediary).  Well, samba crashed every time I tried to start it so far.

The second problem (MUCH bigger) was getting my server mounted with full read/write access at startup.  This absolutely has to work for me.  At this point, I can get the share to mount (although not where I tell it to, for whatever reason), but I can’t write to it.  I’m going to check around the forums a bit today when I have time, and see if I can get these things resolved.  If it looks like there’s going to be a wait for a fix of some kind, I’d probably go back to Gutsy and wait for a while.

Oh, and finally (almost forgot)– Firefox 3 is the default browser for Hardy, even though it’s stil in Beta.  Granted, they’re on like the 5th or 6th beta version now, but fact is this: almost none of my extensions work, or a couple of them work wrongly.  I can still install Firefox 2, but I’ve never had to change the “default browser” in Ubuntu.  I’m sure it’s not too tough.  But maybe ubuntuzilla won’t be obsolete after all…

Switching to Ubuntu– a Quick Footnote

So the new version is due to be “officially” released in a couple days.  Forgot to mention the other day that when you’re downloading it, you definitely want to use the torrent.  It is maniacally-insane-fast.  The best speed you’re ever going to get directly from a server is *maybe* 300K or so.  Right now, I’ve the torrent coming in at about 830K.

I’ll let you know how my fresh installation on a new machine goes!

Words of Experience on Starting with Ubuntu– Part 2

Earlier this week, with the new version of Ubuntu due in just days, I wrote a little about switching over from Windows for the first time. These are just a few of the things that I found particularly beneficial during process when I finally got started with Linux about a year-and-a-half ago. Today, I’m talking about software.

Wine — When You Just Can’t Live Without That Old Software

Wordy often asks a lot of the same questions that I had out of the chute: “What program am I going to use for [X, Y, and Z] when I switch over?” I’ve found the answer is usually one or the other– “there is something better in Linux that does the same thing,” or “you can keep using the same program.”

Obviously, a lot of very popular software has been developed on both platforms. I really don’t need to go into Firefox or other Mozilla products, and it’s fairly well-publicized that Google is at the forefront of offering their apps in a format that runs natively on Linux. When you just can’t find something to do that one special task, though, there is always Wine.

To quote directly from their site, “think of Wine as a compatibility layer for running Windows programs.” Once you install Wine, you will (almost always) be able to run a *.exe setup program to install your Windows software (or the stand-alone .exe itself, in some cases). Wine has been useful to me in a few different ways. While there are plenty of Linux apps that rip DVDs, I still haven’t found one that is as outrageously simple to use as DVD Shrink. Fortunately, it runs just about flawlessly in Wine. I use PortableApps on my USB drive for transporting certain docs and programs to work, and that runs in Wine, too. AxCrypt is an open-source encryption program I use time to time, and the stand-alone decrypter runs in Wine. The list could go on…

“But,” you say, “you’ve only mentioned a few random freeware products that you use.” True ’nuff– but with Wordy’s switch-over project in mind, I looked into a few other more mainstream software titles. Photoshop runs in Wine. Wordy’s screenwriting software, Final Draft, does too. You’d be surprised at the size of the list. Rumor has it they’re even getting close to making iTunes work in Wine. That will be a HUGE hurdle overcome for those of us with iPods…

Two pages that I have bookmarked for verifying application functionality are the Wine Application Database, and Frank’s Corner. To be completely honest, though, a lot of time I just run the install program and see what happens. No harm, no foul, y’know?

When Wine Won’t Cut It, Go Virtual

That leads me to my next endorsement– if your system has the horsepower (and it probably does; my 1.3 Athlon processor w/ 768 RAM was enough), you can always install a virtual Windows environment for the times that you absolutely, positively NEED to use Windows. VMWare Server is now a free product, and there’s also one called VirtualBox. To be honest, the latter has proven to be a little simpler to set up.

Before I picked up a wireless print server, I needed a virtual machine in order to take advantage of all the features of my scanner. When tax time rolled around this year, I came to find out that both of my favored preparers’ websites required Windows and Internet Explorer in order to work. Having that fallback option is nice on the rare occasions when I get stuck.

Ubuntu– Fantastic Out of the Box, Even Better With Some Additions

I’m not going to go into a LOT of depth with a list of software packages to install on top of you base. Once again, the forums are fantastic and helpful if you’re looking for something specific. I Google “[thing I want to do] Ubuntu” very often, and I pretty much always locate what I want. That said, here are my Top 10 or So Packages That You Really Should Get, In No Particular Order (forgive me if some of the ones I mention have now been rolled into the standard installation):

  • APTonCD — a great tool for upgrade or re-installation time. Instead of going to all that trouble of downloading packages over again, you can pull out and the stuff that you’ve added and create an APT CD and install from there. You have to be careful about cross-distro compatibility sometimes, though (like going from Gutsy to Hardy, for example).
  • Samba & all related packages — a basic summary would be to say Samba lets you connect to the other Windows machines with shared folders on your network, or set up a share on your new Linux box that the Windows machines can see. For cross-platform file sharing, it’s a must.
  • StartUp Manager — if you’re going to be using a dual-boot system, this is just a nice little GUI for editing GRUB.
  • Ubuntuzilla — for some reason, SeaMonkey is still not in the default software channels. Ubuntuzilla is a python script that installs the latest versions of Firefox, Thunderbird, or SeaMonkey, sort of bypassing the ‘official’ software channels and just checking with what’s been released by Mozilla. You can certainly install and run SeaMonkey without it (and Firefox and T-bird come standard w/ Ubuntu), but this makes it even easier, and it checks for updates, too.
  • ZSNES & GFCE Ultra NES Emulator — you gotta have your Nintendo emulators to play your ROMs. I actually had even better success with JNES and Wine for the 8-bit games.
  • Grsync — a GUI for running rsync jobs. If you have files that you carry around, or network storage devices that you want to keep in sync with your local harddrive or a portable device, this is a really nice tool. Rsync is great, but you need to not be scared of the command line to use it. Enter Grsync and your fears are abated.
  • AbiWord Word Processor — I endorse all the OpenOffice.org products, but I have to admit– they can seem a bit heavy on system resources (especially if you have the java options turned on). AbiWord is lightweight and easy to use if you’re just doing word processing.
  • VMWare Server or InnoTek VirtualBox — advantages already spelled out…
  • Gmount-iso — a GUI for mounting ISOs, which is a fantastic way to use a CD or DVD without having to burn a copy.
  • Amarok — Rhythmbox is the default Ubuntu music player/organizer, but I just like Amarok a little better.
  • EasyTAG — I found this really useful for editing tags on some mp3s. A lot of rippers are going to automatically tag your files if you’re doing fresh ones, but if you’re maybe downloading music and want to change something, or you have some really, REALLY old, pre-tagging-phenomenon mp3s, you might need it.

Speaking of playing/using media & files, I haven’t brought up any of the steps or software for “getting playback to work for [X-sort-of-file]” because there are better and thorough guides elsewhere on the webs, and getting stuff to work is supposed to be really simple and smooth with Hardy Heron. More to come on this topic after I install it…

Thanks for taking the time to read the geek posts. Good luck with your new Ubuntu system!

Some Tips from Experience When You're Getting Started on Ubuntu (or something similar)

With the release of Hardy Heron looming within the next two weeks, Wordy is getting set to give Ubuntu another go-’round, and I’ll be upgrading Michelle’s machine from Egdy Eft as well. Talking over some of his concerns and questions made me think of the stuff that I had issues with when I first moved over to Ubuntu. There are few things I wish I could have done differently from the beginning, and a few steps I took that I found really beneficial.  Here are some words on those things.

* This is NOT yet another “howto” for installing Ubuntu, just some suggestions from a guy who was a total newb when he got started…

Don’t Jump In With Both Feet

When you download and then boot the Ubuntu installation CD, there is that option to very easily re-partition your harddrive and install Ubuntu along side your existing OS. If you’re planning to use both Windows and Ubuntu, this is the way to go.

However– when I was getting started, I often found myself getting frustrated with making something work in my new Linux system, and it would be late at night, and I was frustrated with scouring the forums (which are AWESOME, by the way, don’t get me wrong), and I would just say to myself, “Ah, I know how this works in Windows, I’ll just switch over and do it there.” And then sometimes it would be days or weeks that my Ubuntu system would lie dormant.

If you’re like me and you’re switching NOT just because you want to dump Microsoft, or NOT just because you don’t ever want to “upgrade” to Vista, but because you also enjoy the challenge of learning something new, and the fun of tinkering with your system, then what you should do is back up that Windows partition to another drive and do a standalone Ubuntu installation.

I have used SystemRescueCD and/or GParted for backing up partitions. GParted is a little more intuitive and straightforward for those of us accustomed to a GUI, but using the Partimage tool with SystemRescueCD is probably a little more robust and has some extra options. The reason is pretty clear if you look at the individual projects– GParted is a straight-up partition resizing and copying tool, whereas Partimage is for, well, creating an image. For a lot of people, the functionality and usefulness of either will be comparable.  There’s a really good tutorial on using partimage with the SystemRescueCD in the Ubuntu forums.  It’s a bit dated at this point, but the steps taken there still work fine.

Multiple Partitions are Your Friends

Speaking of partitions– one of the things about Linux that I have grown to love is /home. You set up your user profile, and by default all of your documents, program settings, desktop customizations, Firefox extensions, etc., all get put in /home/<username>. When you’re running an OS with a much more aggressive release schedule than Windows, it is madly convenient to have /home on its own partition, and the rest of the system on another one. It makes it a lot easier (and less risky) to upgrade to that bleeding-edge distro when you know that if you have to roll back, all your docs and settings are going to stay put. There is a method for moving /home to its own partition at a later time, but I really wish I would’ve started out on separate partitions, to avoid the (mild) headache.

BUT– Always-ALWAYS Back-up!

Keep in mind– I still strongly recommend doing a complete backup when you’re going to upgrade. Particularly after a while when you have a lot of customizations or you’ve installed a lot of packages in addition to the standard install, there could be some bumps with a new distro. Just a couple weeks ago, I tried installing the Hardy Heron beta, and a few devices stopped working on me. Fortunately, I just had to roll back to the backup I had done.

A good backup schedule is something that you (ideally) should have in place regardless of whether you’re running Linux, Windows, or Mac, because you never know when something nasty is going to happen (the Case Fire of 2002 is a great example; click the link, then push Ctrl-End). I’ve found this to be particularly true with Ubuntu, though, if for no other reason than I “mess around” with it a lot more.

It’s Important to Know the Command Line, But It’s OK to Take it Slow

I should take this opportunity to mention that the public forums on Ubuntu are wonderfully helpful, the people are generous easy to understand, and I have not yet run into a roadblock that didn’t have a solution (eventually). I also found a ton of good information early on at ubuntuguide.org.

Something that you’ll see a lot of in both places, though, is help offered by means of “open up a Terminal and type such-and-such.” You definitely need to be careful about just pasting and executing whatever commands people tell you, because there are people out there just trying to be dicks by having you run malicious commands that mess up your system. The forums are very well moderated, though, and I’d say they catch the overwhelming majority of the assholes. That said, you DO have to be careful.

The thing that trips you up the most when you’re coming over from a GUI-based environment is the syntax of doing things on the command line. “sudo dpkg -x mplayer32_20070130-1_amd64.deb ./” just doesn’t mean much to the average end-user. I was not comfortable at all with the command line when I got started (something like 18 months ago now). Since then, I have gotten to the point of “somewhat-comfortable-with-basic-things”. I still need good references for individual operations, but I keep a reference sheet with common Unix commands pasted to the wall by my desk. As time goes on, and I keep copy-paste’ing all those commands, the function of each starts to sink in and I have even (GASP!) had a couple occasions where I said to myself, “Why am I dicking around with this? It would be easier from the command line…” If you’re a bit more conscientious of what these commands are doing, the fog is going to lift. In the short term, bookmark the forums and read thoroughly when you have to go and find help.

Tomorrow, I’ll have some things to say about software alternatives in Ubuntu, and a few additional packages that I’m really glad I installed.

Hardy Upgrade II

The initial upgrade to 8.04 broke my sound and my network card.  And I couldn’t use the mouse.  But I don’t know if that maybe just had something to do with the network hanging, trying like hell to get an IP.  The upgrade process itself went really smoothly, though.  Also, seemed as though the video driver wrinkles from 7.10 have been smoothed out.  So that’s nice.

What I may try to do, again, since I have the /home in its own space anyway, is do a clean install again of the rest of the system.  The biggest drawback is having to reinstall all your optional packages.  With APTtoCD, though, it’s (fairly) painless.

I’m not that interested in spending a whole mess of time on it, though.  It’s only a beta, after all, and the first one at that.  To be continued.