Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Another small update

Not much has really changed.
My old laptop is still plugging away on Debian, and is actually doing fairly well, using an Openbox session with fbpanel to provide a taskbar.

I've gone off pretty much all Ubuntu derivatives for now, because they're not really very good for solving problems - problems like the desktop with Karmic on, failing to boot, and then after sticking Jaunty on, failing to update properly.

Slackware's being a pain as well, as the ISO downloads take forever, and the torrent ones have no peers or seeds connected to me. Add to that, that the Slackware 13 install CD fails to boot with a kernel panic, and it's enough to annoy anyone.

I have, on the other hand, been looking into making a server on the home network, since if I use CentOS, I can learn a bit about it for business environs. However... given that CentOS and Fedora are fairly similar, I'm wary about using it - past experiences with those kind of distros has not turned out well.

BSD was a recent and fleeting interest of mine, having a look into MidnightBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and MirOS. However, no matter how much I know about Linux, BSD is a whole different can of worms, and not one I'm willing to open right now.

and now, a parting word.
That's all for now.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A return to Debian

As some of you may well know, some time ago before I started this blog, I once tried Debian. At the time, it was Debian 4.

Now, with Ubuntu seeming too simple, and my laptop temporarily unusable, I've gone looking for a new Linux distro to use on the desktop PCs, and thus I turned once again, back to Debian.
This time, it's Debian 5, Lenny.

Not much, visually, has changed since Debian 4. Since I prefer graphic installers over text ones if available, that's what I used to install it with.

The destination is a not too old custom desktop, the specs of which I won't bore you with here.
For some time now, it's second hard drive, though small, has always had a Linux distro on it, primarily for emergency rescue for the Windows XP install still on there, despite it's little use lately, but also because whenever one of the family want to try out a distro, that's where it all starts.

Since no one's after that though, the previous Arch install there is being replaced with Lenny.
The graphic installer, while somewhat bland, nevertheless is clean, clear, and concise, leaving very little doubt about what is happening, and what choices you're being asked to make. I like this; it makes sense, and at only one point did I have any trouble, and that was the partitioning. Until I remembered to do it manually.

Once done, I had a working Debian Lenny install within 15 minutes, which for this old computer is a fair feat.
One old niggle I have with Debian is Firefox. For some reason unknown to me (Because I'm too lazy to find out) they don't like Firefox, and so instead rebrand an older version as Iceweasel.
Now, call mea fanboy, but I prefer to have Firefox say it's Firefox, so I went and downloaded it direct from them, to extract into /opt so I could enjoy my favourite browser just as it is. However, something appears to have gone wrong. I haven't figured out what yet. But, Iceweasel is an adequte replacement until then.
Setting up the NVidia proprietary driver was a bit of a pest at first, until I got Iceweasel to search Debian's help, and then a clean simple explanation solved it. With Compiz installed after, I have the full range of effects I'm used to.

The next little problem is Sudo. By default, Sudo isn't set to work for me.
A little change using Visudo, and that's solved. Almost too easy.
It's nice to know that they warn you about the dangers involved when you first use Sudo though.

A few key - at least to me - apps were missing, however, from the default Debian install. K3B is understandable, but is a standard for me as it's best burning program there is for Linux.
The Compiz Fusion Icon is the next essential, since it allows on the spot management and changing of the window manager. I use this a lot, especially when darting in and out of Openbox when I need a little extra resources that metacity and Compiz hog.
Finally, Wine. I don't really run that much Windows software, but I keep it around because there are times I do need to.

But based on the initial impressions it's made on me so far, I like it a lot better this time. I've actually managed to stick with it long enough to start fiddling around like I always do at post-install and after.
Gnome-look, as always, is the first port of call to get the look and feel I want. Dark themes are the current fad here, so long as the main controls are clear still.

On other distros though...
I thought I'd look into Slackware 13, and (after arguing with a Linux Mint install that was segfaulting) finally got it burnt to a disc. However, trying to install from it gives an inexplicable Kernel Panic. For some reason, I can't help but laugh when I see that, despite that it means something's gone wrong.
Arch was given a try, through the unofficial LiveCD Arch, and it's installer, larchin. However, since it couldn't recognise the wired network interfaces, and I don't have wireless on this computer, it was short lived.
Gentoo once again got a look in from me. I keep coming back and trying to learn more with a kind of morbid curiosity. I always come to it, thinking I'll try it this time, and then go looking to find out more, but always find something that puts it off again.
BSD, for the first time here, also got a look in. I've not tried it yet, but it's possible next time I get bored, I'll have a look.

And finally, in other news, I've decided I prefer deb-based systems, but want RPM's yum package manager. Where this will lead, no one knows.

Have a happy christmas everyone.
Rock on.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Window Managers again, GRUB, and so long and thanks for all the help

It's not really often that I lump so much into a post, but it seems to be becoming a habit. Sorry to anyone that bothers.

Anyway, it's that time again, when I ramble about my ancient laptop.

Some time ago, I made a post talking about various Window Managers. This was under Ubuntu, however, not Fedora.
Under Fedora, GNOME/Metacity works relatively well, and I enjoy the customizability I get from it, but as time has gone past, it's started to cause trouble. Firefox, for example, has begun to inexplicably lock up randomly. This is distressing, because Chromium doesn't work, much to my annoyance, and the only other web browser I have available that I can put up with is Galeon, which is no substitute in my books.
So, I turned once again to an old curiosity of mine, and launched Openbox once more.
Well, that's not entirely accurate - Blackbox and Fluxbox also got a look in, but since I've yet to figure out how to the NetworkManager to work correctly in either, and WICD isn't available to Fedora 12 users, I left them behind.
Openbox, in comparison, is incredibly spartan. There's no panel, unlike Flux and Black. Instead, it's all done through the right-click menu on the desktop.
Unfortunatly, I'm in the habit of using a panel, so I'm trying fbpanel, which despite it's lack of customizability to it's GNOME and XFCE counterparts, is quite impressive, and I'm starting to like. If I could get it to launch itself when I launch an Openbox session, that'd be perfect.
This has got me thinking about Crunchbang Linux, as it uses Openbox, but more on that later.

Now, for GRUB.
The Grand unified Bootloader, and it's younger cousin, GRUB2, are from my point of view, quite impressive little things. It leaves a lot to be understood, however, as dad wants to put Linux Mint on his laptop. Now, Mint Gloria is based on Ubuntu Jaunty, which has no GRUB2 - and I may be wrong, but GRUB doesn't support Windows 7 correctly. GRUB2 I also have no understanding of.
So I'm left being forced to get him to put off using it until I can understand how exactly to manage it.
In ordinary circumstances, I'd simply go to the LQ website, but recently, I've been having a few negative responses there, so I'm letting things cool off before I go back.

Lastly, Fedora. Oh, Fedora.
It made such a good impression, but I'm afraid I have to say goodbye already.
Ubuntu Karmic, as you'll know, has left a very bitter taste for me, which is why I left it. Fedora 12 replaced it, in an attempt to get a little more usability out of my laptop, but with some of the issues I've had, not to mention the somewhat... snobbish community, I'm forced to leave it.
For Slackware.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, Crunchbang has recently appealed to me because it too is based on Ubuntu, which is like an old friend to me, and it uses Openbox, which is my new favourite session. I'm wary about using it though, because I don't like Karmic, and I don't want to use something based on it, at least not until the so called Service Pack for Karmic comes out next year. Also, I'm already uneasy about going back to Ubuntu and it's derivatives because inevitably, I'd have to upgrade, and that once again means Karmic. Karmic, Karmic, Karmic. I don't like it, and I'm sorry to say that unless it picks up, I never will, and that will be the end of Ubuntu in my house, but for anyone else who might use it.
Slackware has been suggested to me before, but until recently, I didn't quite understand the lettering system that explains the software packs. Now, I have a better understanding, and know - I think - what I need.
The problem remains however that I need to understand how to make GRUB - Fedora's GRUB, that is - boot the installer, which is from the LiveCD, but running on a HD partition. Essentially the same way I installed Fedora, except from the LiveCD, and on a HD partition... unlike Fedora, which was actually installed direct from the internet (A novel idea, and quite an interesting one, too).

For now, Openbox/Fedora 12 is managing, despite problems still finding there way in to bother me. But as soon as I've decided on either Crunchbang or Slackware, and I know how to do it, I'm changing once more.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

SELinux and more

My little laptop is pretty much back to normal, or rather the new normal, now I've had a chance to sort it out. I still have some small problems with it, but apparently they're either there to help the community, and be a pest to me, or they're there because there's no other reason except to be a pest.

For example, SELinux.
Now, my understanding is that it's meant to aid in system security. I have never had a single problem on my network. I run exactly zero antivirus guard with a resident shield. Periodic scans for both viruses and malware return nothing. If there is a network problem, it either originates with a mistake I made, or a mistake on the computer having the problem.
I have no need for SELinux.

However, it seems to be built into Fedora 12, and it seems to fall into the category of "There to help the community, but be a pest to the user" as in it's Enforcing mode, it allows me to do nothing beyond log in, and log out.
In Permissive mode, it allows me to do some more, then waits until I have something I don't want to lose, crashes everything, and then forces me to hard-reset.
So I've disabled it, and now everyone's busy telling me it's a bad idea.
Why? It's done nothing useful for me. It's sat there and been a pest. Since I'm told it's not removable, it can stay disabled. Someone suggested tweaking it, however I distrust this on the grounds that it just seems to be a varient of Permissive settings.

My main nag with it is that with it enabled, I cannot run anything through Wine - not even Winecfg, the configuration tool. And I do use Wine a lot, because some of the programs I used have not been ported to Linux in one form or another yet.

Yet I'm told that's a 'feature' of Wine/SELinux.

You're kidding me. Stopping people from using Wine is a feature?
I could understand if there were ports for all Windows programs. But this is just sheer wrongheaded stupidity.

Finally, it was suggested I change distribution.
Now, unless someone wants to tell me which Slackware ISO I need to download to get the Slackware equivalent of your standard Ubuntu LiveCD using Gnome, there is no alternative except Gentoo or Arch, neither of which are useful candidates because of the amount of work needed for them, and the amount of bandwidth I'd need - more than can be afforded.

So in response to those on various forums but mostly on the Fedora IRC channel - where they could be a little more polite to newbies, rather than being as abusive as they were to me - No, I'm not changing distribution. Slackware I might consider if someone explained, as above. But other than that? I'm on Fedora, and I'm here to stay, so live with it.

And while you're at it, it wouldn't hurt to actually listen to your users once in a while.
SELinux could be made OPTIONAL. But it's mandatory.
They could have used the right branch of GDM, one that had the gdmsetup graphic tool for configuring the GDM login screen, but no, they went and used a different branch, losing gdmsetup, and since forcing them to listen to the 'whining' (Read complaints) of their users demanding it back.
For gods sakes, if your users are doing that, don't just ignore them and call it whining, clearly you made a mistake, so fix it by putting things back again! Or at least wait until the branch you're using has gdmsetup again.
Or as one annoying person on the Fedora so-called-support IRC channel told me, program your own.
Now, that'd be a good idea. If I knew how to program in a language useful to Linux. I know VB. I have some very limited extremely basic C++ knowledge, useful for fixing conflicts in patches applied to OpenTTD, and little more.
But nope, I'm somehow expected to have a sudden burst of inspiration, know how to program in whatever language I need, know exactly what to write, compile it, and become some kind of saviour of the community, because they're too lazy to A: Fix their mistake by using the correct branch of GDM ro B: Write a tool for the users, so they don't have to put up with their whining complaints.

Fedora seems to have as many issues and people being jerks, as it does good points, at the moment.

On a side note, can anyone actually explain how LVM (Logical Volume Management) is meant to be useful?

That's all from me.
Rock on.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Friend of Fedora

A few weeks ago, I would have called you insane for suggesting I'd be using RPM packages, let alone saying that Ubuntu had fallen from graces entirely.

I never thought I'd say it, but damn, RPM is a lot simpler to use than DEB.
I do miss apt-get for terminal commands, and on my laptop's newly installed Fedora, I tried apt-rpm. It's painfully slow in comparison to it's DEB counterpart, and after investigating the DistroWatch website's page on package management, yum has neatly taken over from it.
I like yum. While it's still not familiar to me, it's working on it quite well. I like the layout it uses, and how it does things.
Synaptic isn't used, mainly because it requires apt-rpm, and is therefore considerably slow. I haven't found graphical package manager I like for RPM yet.

Since using Fedora, I've discovered only a few small niggles.
First up Ndiswrapper. Irritatingly, I have a wireless PCMCIA card that has no native alternative. More irritating is that I'm going to have to compile ndiswrapper myself in order to make it work. This isn't exactly something I like the idea of.
Second. The touchpad no longer detects taps for clicking. True, I used the buttons underneath it for left clicking instead, but I did still use it.
Third. On boot up (which is a little longer than Karmic) the screen flashes repeatedly, in a way that people shouldn't look at, until it reaches GDM.
I'd rather it didn't do that, but I think it's just because it's an old laptop.

All that said... first impressions, and using it alongside Ubuntu Karmic on the desktop PC still running it... I'm impressed.
The menus are cleaner and tidier, the games menu I installed an RPM that divides them all into neat categories, installing and uninstalling (yum erase (package), a recently learned command for me) has become relatively easy, and a lot quicker. Adding a new repository seems to be the simple act of installing an RPM that automatically gets the GPG signing key for it.
Beyond the problems, there is little negative to be said about it.
For now, the ex-swap space that Karmic used to use is still an ext3 data partition, because I'm not entirely sure if this is the right distro yet. If I can finally sort out Ndiswrapper, then it'll most likely be put back to swap as normal, which should give a significant boost to the performance.

So the summary? Fedora is neatly winning me over, and Karmic is slowly slipping out of favor. Ubuntu and it's derivative, Linux Mint, may well be good for people new to Linux, but I'm not so new to it anymore. Maybe it's about time I moved on from it to a new distro instead.
And Fedora looks set to be that new one, once the last major issues I have are solved.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Slacking off? Not here

I've been a little busy lately.
I've been looking at replacing Ubuntu Karmic on my ailing laptop.
I've been looking at Slax, Slackware and Fedora.

And I'm looking, to the left of this very screen I'm typing this on, at Fedora 12 installing on my laptop.

Now, considering my laptop has no CD/DVD/Floppy drive, has no working USB, and Karmic taking up all of the Hard drive except for the Swap, this is no mean feat.

The Swap space was taken from Karmic permanently, and changed to an ext3 partition. It was first fed the contents of a custom Slax LiveCD, and (Eventually, with help) booted from.
Slax is not for me.
So I decided to look at the base of Slax, Slackware.
Oh god.
How many different versions? Debian first confused me, until I understood about architectures, but Slackware takes it to another level.

So I gave up, and went looking for Fedora.
Now, my (ex-)Swap partition isn't spacey. It's only just a shade above that required for a LiveCD alone.
So I followed the instructions for a media-less install, and told it where to go to retrieve a file called 'install.img'
And now, thanks to the wonders of a single ethernet cable, my router, and the internet, I have Anaconda, the Fedora installer, sat looking at me as I customize the repositories, and the starting packages - something that Ubuntu doesn't do, and by gods, it needs to do.

Fedora, congratulations. Once you've finished being installed on my laptop, you have a convert in me.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to use yum, RPM packages, and see if I can get good old Synaptic back...

Friday, 20 November 2009

Cloud Storage: Ubuntu One VS Dropbox

Until recently, the only thing I'd ever used cloud-based storage for was the Xmarks extension for Firefox (And other browsers, but I do wish they'd support Opera already), which handily backs up all my bookmarks, and then no matter where I go, I can access them. Lost bookmarks are a thing of the past.
On a side topic, I also recently signed up for, and got into the Xmarks for Chrome (And Chromium) beta. So far, it's good. Chalk up one more in favor of my using Opera.

But to the point, that was all I'd used it for. With some issues still plaguing my old laptop, and moving around computers meaning I'm often away from where I've put this file, or those documents, I decided to finally look into them.

Ubuntu One was my first target. It's free, it's integrated into Ubuntu, and it looks pretty good.
What was the downside for me? I couldn't get it to synchronize on demand. If I added something to my local folder, I had to log out and back in again to get it to happen.
Also, there's no way of telling who's logged into it - my laptop logged me right in, without asking me for a user name or a password, and provided me with a Ubuntu One folder - but my laptop's and my home's main desktop PC seem to be using two different accounts.

After a little frustration, I moved to Dropbox.
Dropbox is what every app should be - clean, simple and to the point. I enabled the software repository for Karmic via Ubuntu Tweak, but that wasn't essential as they tell you how to do it on-site as well.
I installed it, logged out and back in, because it has to integrate with Nautilus, and since the GNOME desktop is basically an embedded Nautilus, that's the safest option.
Run it from the menu, and it lets you know you have to use their proprietary daemon. After verifying this wasn't going to cost me anything, I let it go ahead and download it.
Now, this download took a while, so I can only assume it's a fairly large one. But the clean and simple dialog allowed me to keep watch, a definate plus, though I would have liked to know where it was downloading to.

Finally, I registered on the site, went through the tour (Because it nabs you +25MB of storage space) and all was done.
Added my laptop as well, and now it syncs whenever there's a change - even when both computers are running Dropbox and both logged in at the same time.
It's also impressively quick at it too.

Ubuntu One needs work, but to my knowledge, it is a beta, so that's understandable. Dropbox, which is also in a testing state really, is still superior to it for now, and thankfully, it works on all three major OS. Or so it claims, I've yet to actually use it on Windows, and I don't even know anyone who owns a Mac.

Ubuntu One vs Dropbox? Dropbox wins me over, no contest.
But, if you're thinking of trying either - take my advice and try it yourself - you may find Ubuntu One does better for you.

Calling all Linux users

Please note that this does not apply to every Linux user.
But it seems to be applicable to an increasing number. So here it is.

Stop being jerks. Stop being arrogant, and stop being so blind.

I asked you simple questions, and both times you provided useless answers.
I asked you to help me understand cross-compiling Windows builds of OpenTTD on Linux, and you told me to download the Windows binaries, instead of answering the question.
I asked you if you could help me identify what I needed to help get a little extra life out of my old laptop, and you ignored me and just told me to get a new laptop, something I cannot do right now.

Read this, and learn the next bit.

If someone asks you a question, answer it. Don't give them a solution that doesn't answer the question, like telling them to download a Windows binary that can't be patched because it's not in source form.
If someone is asking a hardware question, answer it. Don't just tell them to get something else, UNLESS it also answers their question.

So stop being arrogant, self-centered, blinded, hateful jerks, and either help, or shut up.

I'm fed up of you being useless. I'm fed up of being given non-solutions. And I'm in one of my rare incurably bad moods because of it. So learn, damn you.

Anyone who's read my threads on the Linux Questions site regarding the two examples above won't find it hard to see the source of my irritation.

I'm not going to twitter about this post, because I'm not proud of it, and I'm just as annoyed about it as they should be at being such jerks. It's a relief outlet for me, and I'll probably remove it later when I realize that I'm not being any better than them by doing this, but I don't really care right now.

Either help, or leave me alone.
Rock out.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Broadband for all

Have a read of this page, then come back here and carry on reading.

Neat, huh?
What's taken them so long? And why doesn't the rest of the world have this right yet?
We should. Any child of the net-generation would agree with that.

And speaking of net-children, it's interesting to notice that while about a year ago, I ignored and eschewed twitter altogether... now it's become useful, and a part of my daily life.
True, I rarely tweet, and have only re-tweeted once, but it's a handy tool for following people and sites you want to keep up with.
So, with that, if you follow me on Twitter (Look for TheStarLion, that's me) you'll get a tweet from me whenever I make a new blog entry.
And that's about all I'll tweet, really. Except the odd one like about that page.
Twitter is good. I'll give it that.
But I think it's more useful to find out what sites are doing, and when your favorite blogger/webcomic artist/whatever updates their site, than to tell everyone your every move.

Monday, 16 November 2009


As usual, my updates aren't exactly regular. I'm working on that, but as long as people don't mind that if there's nothing to mention, I don't have much reason to post, then that's alright.


As some people may be aware, Ubuntu Karmic has recently left a bit of a bad taste for me. While I'll grant that it's slowly improving - and if what I've read through StumbleUpon (An annoyingly addictive addon for Firefox... and other browsers too, of course) is any indication, then they're doing a first, and putting together SP1 - though, most won't notice it as it'll come with their regularly scheduled updates, and so on.
I'll be looking forward to that, since so far, I still have some issued with Karmic, such as that GNOME no longer works at all on my now revived laptop (Interestinly, XFCE works perfectly... but isn't it also technically GNOME?), or the odd issue that sound randomly mutes itself.

But that's become practically normal for now. I'm looking into changing though.
So far, I've had all kinds of suggestions, but with the assistence of the DistroWatch and Polish Linux websites, along with numerous other sources, I've narrowed it down to 4 or 5. I say or 5 because there may well be one more.
That one is Gentoo. The prospect of compiling everything and tinkering with the code along the way is intriguing, but I suspect my meagre knowledge of Linux isn't quite ready for that just yet. So it's only a possible.
The other four are Fedora, Arch, Slackware and Slax. I understand Slax is a varient of Slackware, like Ubuntu is to Debian perhaps.
With the exception of Arch/Gentoo, all of these use my previously detested enemy, RPM.
However... it appears my fears were ungrounded on that (I really should read up more about these things *before* I decide I don't like them...)
Firstly, it appears that apt-rpm and Synaptic are indeed available in some form even to RPM users, they're not just a couple of DEB packages.
Secondly, it seems like yum, the RPM version of DEB's apt-get, does indeed resolve dependencies, from what I see, fairly well too.
And thirdly, like apt, there's no end of options for how to handle it.

So, I've resolved not to slam it until I know more.
The problem comes with what computer to put it on.
See, my ancient laptop, as regulars will know, is clearly on the way to visit Death in person. The only way left for things to get in and out of it, like this blog post, is via the wireless card - which in turn, has to run through NDisWrapper, but that's another story.
So, given that it's only available drive is the hard drive, which when I first foolishly formatted the entire thing into two partitions - swap, and the root filesystem - I have a little problem when it comes to changing distribution.
I'm not naive enough to try what I once did on a different computer, adding the Ubuntu repositories to a Debian install and try to do dist-upgrade, leaving me with a dreadfully broken system.
What I am going to do, is thank the generous people at the Linux Questions website, for helping me find a solution. Two, actually.
(Original thread here)To quote member AuroraZero's post with the solution:
"hmmm do not fret this can still be done I believe. Two ways off the top of my head are one go to e-bay and see if you can pick up a pcmcia ext cdrom. Second choice go get an adapter that changes the 2.5" PATA to 3.5" PATA and then put the hard drive into a desktop to load what you need. The second choice is the cheaper way to go. I have this before and works quite well actually. Both ways cost some cash but not as much as sending it in to be fixed or having it fixed at a comp shop. I would suggest the second way as it will probably be the cheaper way and save the laptop for a few more years. Also when you are done with it you can take the drive and install it into a desktop which is kinda cool."

The former is an interesting choice, restoring - at the cost of losing wireless, as the wireless card also uses that slot - CD Rom drive to my laptop, a considerable boon.
The second is just as interesting though, as it means that if my laptop does give up finally, as it probably should have done long ago (And probably wishes it had sometimes) I can still use it to nab all my stuff off it.

So I've got a lot of alternatives to think about for now.

In related news, my previously Linux-phobic father has actually done what I never thought I'd see him do - he's not only ordered himself a new laptop without Windows on at all, but one which he intends to install, by himself, Linux Mint on, which means he intends to give up Windows entirely. Personally, I'm proud of him - he's been trying to use Ubuntu once in a while, sometimes asking me how to do something, but mostly by himself, but that's on a PC that dual boots with XP. Now he's going for full Linux, no Windows but for that Wine gives, which is bound to be challenging for him at first, but at least unlike me, he's got someone to help him. Me.
So there you have it - Linux is now beating Windows so badly, that even Dad wants to use it.
(So does mum, her Distro of choice being OpenSuSE, but as it takes some time to help her learn these things, we haven't got around to sorting that out just yet. Plus it means I'd have to Quad-boot one of the desktop PC's between Ubuntu for my brother, Whichever of the four above for me, Mint for Dad and OpenSuSE for mum. What a nightmare that'll be to maintain...)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Thanks given

A rare case for me, but nevertheless... a big thank you to Sylphid, who on the Ubuntu support channel helped me revive my ancient laptop.
As regular readers will know, it's died many times before. Now, I know the cause, the diagnosis, and the cure.

To all of you running Ubuntu, you may want to take note:

Disable Ubuntu X and Ubuntu X (Testing) from Ubuntu Tweak.
Go to a TTY (CLI only, no G/KDM) and completly remove xorg-xserver
sudo apt-get update
then install x/k/ubuntu-desktop, or anything that depends on xorg-xserver, et voila! It works again.
Sylphid, I thank you again.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Linux, Linux on the web...

As I mentioned earlier, I decided to look for alternative Linux Distributions to think of trying using the Chooser I linked to.

The results are quite interesting. Where before it listed only Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and the derivatives of each, it now only lists Debian and Ubuntu, along with others. The exact results are as follows:

Debian still holds top spot. I did once, on a previous occasion that I lost patience with Ubuntu (Intrepid, at the time) try Debian. My main issues were that sudo did not automatically have the first user added to it, and the menus were different. Also, their somewhat insistant habit of rejecting software such as Firefox for unbranded versions like their IceWeasel is a pain.

Foresight Linux is a newcomer to my scene. According to the chooser, it boasts the latest and greatest of GNOME - which is appealing, as I like GNOME a lot. People can complain about it's lack of customisability, I say they're wrong. Although I know little about this one as yet, it appears to be a promising candidate for a new Linux to try.

Mandriva isn't new to me, but also isn't tried by me. I've heard much about this distro, and I'm not certain what to make of it. I'd need to know what kind of hardware support for NVidia graphics cards is in there, how it handles packages, and how easy/hard it is to customize.
(Note: I'm no longer opposed to RPM - provided I can install apt-rpm, and manage my RPM packages via Synaptic through the apt-rpm stuff - if not, I'll have to find another way, but apt-rpm and Synaptic are preferred.)

Fedora is an old friend and enemy. It's the very first Linux I used, with Fedora 10 KDE. However, I spent very little time there, as I had trouble with it. This was, I realize now, mostly because of KDE, so it's gained another chance. What brings it down however, is that I've also heard that Fedora isn't very good for normal home use, and that Wine, an essential for me, doesn't work at all. Again, more information on this would be useful.

Ubuntu finds it's way into the results here between Fedora and Gentoo. It used to dominate the top of the boards, but as my knowledge of Linux has grown and changed, and my hatred of RPM has now vanished, it's slipped a lot.
However, I do like Ubuntu. It does have it's many good points, and I will keep it around, even if it means a dual-boot system. It's something I can fall back on.

Gentoo Linux. Ah, much have I heard about this one.
Now, as I understand it, Gentoo doesn't do packages. It does source code. Apparently it compiles the kernel itself on install, which is a daunting prospect - anything I've compiled previously has taken a while to do so, the thought of the massive Linux kernel being compiled is somewhat unnerving - will this take a few minutes, hours or days?
However, the idea of compiling applications rather than using pre-compiled applications is intriguing, and offers me the chance to investigate the source code to help my incessant habit of looking into it just to see how it works.
On the down-side, not all applications I use have source code available, such as once again, Firefox - the more recent ones just aren't available to my knowledge. So, assuming it exists the same on a Gentoo system, I'd have to download it from Mozilla, precompiled, and install it to /opt instead. I've never had to do this before, so like the kernel, I'm a little daunted by this.

Arch Linux is another one I've heard about, and it seems to me to be a lot like Gentoo.
I've looked into it before, but always been put off by the fact that as I understand it, you install and have little more than a command line.
Now, I'm no stranger to the terminal, but it's a Ubuntu- or Debian-like terminal I'm used to, with sudo, apt-get, aptitude and so on, which isn't on Arch. I'd need to know exactly what I'd have to enter into it to get a GDM login screen, and a GNOME session, where I could continue in a graphic environment. I don't have anything against the command line; it's very useful for getting more information on what's happening behind the scenes, so to speak. But I don't like being stuck at one, like my laptop is, and not knowing what to do.

Slackware I know little of, beyond wanting to be stable and easy to use. Ubuntu manages both - despite my opinion of Karmic leaving a bad taste.
Like Foresight Linux, I really need to know more before I can say for sure whether this garners a place on the list of distributions I'll be trying.

Finally, Zenwalk, previously unknown to me. It says it's Slackware based however, which means to me, I'll be considering the two as the same for now.

Now, I'll be posting, as I always do, a tweet about this post on Twitter (it's about all I really actually use Twitter for...)
If you've just come from there, and you use any of these versions of Linux, or for that matter, ANY Linux - have a read through, and see if you can help out on some of the information I'm missing, or - in a rare case of me being unusually nice to people - if you think you can sway me to your favored distro, go right ahead.

If you don't use Linux, pass it on to someone who does, and thinks they can help out - resident Linux fanatics, for example (Be warned though, said fanatics will watch what they say on my blog).

Help a guy out here - Ubuntu Karmic's not doing too well here, so this is your chance to make your favored Linux shine, and maybe net another user for it too - me.
Not that it means much, but I'm sure some people would get a nice feeling from knowing they converted someone.

Karmic Chaos

My initial impressions of Ubuntu Karmic aren't holding up.
I've reluctantly kept it around on the now upgraded desktop that uses it, and I'm not impressed anymore.

Conky now randomly crashes without apparant reason, and I had to rewrite my config file for it.
Audio levels now appear to be completely random and independant for all programs, requiring constant micromanagement in order to not have sounds too loud or quiet.
The option to change from PulseAudio to ALSA and others has been removed from it's easy-accessible spot in Preferences -> Sounds, and moved to Preferences -> Multimedia Systems Selector - which is hidden by default.
Wine, though it works, the metapackage for it not only depends on the package wine1.2, it tries to remove it at the same time. Wait, what? Is that even possible?
Running in a terminal "sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade" no longer works - it will fail when trying to run the upgrade half.

And overall, a lot of things run very slow. I put this down to being my ancient laptop (Which has since re-died, by the way) before, but now it seems to be affecting all of Ubuntu Karmic.

Oh, and if you do anything with apt-get, aptitude, Synaptic, Adept, GDebi or the new Software Center - something I'm actually still slightly impressed with - you almost always need to restart because the system slows down even more.

I'm sticking with it though, and hoping that at least most of these issues will solve themselves with updates. But if it gets too much, I'm going to do one of three things.
Go back to Jaunty, and stay there until Lucid.
Go back to trying to put up with Debian (Something I gave up on due to numerous differences, which I had trouble with)
Using the Linux Distribution Chooser I found to help find a different Linux distro - even going so far as to possibly use one that uses my previously hated enemy, RPM, if I have to.

Karmic's first impressions on me were good. Since putting it on the desktop though, they've steadily declined.
Definitely more polish needed for it, I think.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Birthday et more

'tis my birthday today, it is.
22, and 14 years on from when I actually was 8, I don't feel a day over 8 years of age.
I get to pull off my favourite Halloween trick too.
See, they come a-calling, every year, the trick or treaters.
And I answer the door.
They say that inevitable phrase.
And I tell them, Sorry, I'm busy celebrating my birthday - come back next year.

Now, you'd think after 6 years of this, they'd finally catch on, but some of them still do it anyway. So I get my yearly fun.


I upgraded my ailing ancient laptop to Ubuntu Karmic.
GNOME has ceased to work on it. KDE is it's salvation. Or it was.
After upgrading, I decided to tidy up, and remove some un-needed packages.
And now, once again, it's stuck at the command line, as KDM - like GDM, previously - fails to start.
What I would like, is a new laptop. One with a working USB, with inbuilt Wireless that linux can use without needing NDISWrapper, one that has it's own built in CD or even DVD drive.
What I have, is this laptop, which is almost dead, and is hiding some of my stuff that I *really* want back.
Except until someone tells me how to access a windows share via Samba on the command line, I'll never get them.
Oh, joy of joys.

In the breif time I had Karmic running though, I had some good first impressions on it. I'm a bit miffed that they've dropped support for GCC - the GNU Compiler Collection - since I use that a lot. A few other packages have conspicuously gone missing or changed, including one that now makes OpenTTD cease to function. However, a helpful person on the TT-Forums, with my aid, found the solution - simply install it from the Jaunty Repo.

In the breif time I was able to use KDE on there, I also had mixed impressions.
The bad ones are that it's slow, clunky, and I got lost in the KDE version of the Start Menu. However, the first two are most likely my laptop being ancient, and the last just being not used to it.
The good ones are that there's some pretty cool stuff in KDE, some nice KDM themes available for it on GNOME-look's cousin KDE-look, and a few things are actually easier.
I also like the plasmoid display. True, it took me a little while to figure it out, and I haven't had the chance to investigate much because my laptop complained if I had more than one plasmoid on screen, but it's got my interest.
I did note, that while my favourite terminal program Guake (Drop down Quake-like terminal for Gnome) has a KDE cousin, Yakuake, that Guake works just as well in KDE. So Yakuake (Or however it's spelled) can stay away for now.
However, I miss Gnomenu. I like Gnomenu. But I don't get Gnomenu. The KDE menu just isn't the same.

So overall - Karmic has a good rating from me, if you like Ubuntu or Jaunty, definatly upgrade - in a few days time though, so you don't get caught by the massive server overloads of people downloading it.
KDE also has a better rating in my books too now.

On a related note, I've been looking into BlackBox, and FluxBox. BlackBox for Windows (bb4win, and bblean) has managed to save me from a lot of getting annoyed at Windows when I'm forced to use it, but on Linux, I can't seem to get used to them. It has something to do with the fact I'm suspiciously missing anything resembling a notification area, that and gksu and kdesudo don't seem to work anymore.

Anyway, that's all from me. Rock on, and wish me a happy birthday, lest I visit curses up on you.

Monday, 19 October 2009

A long needed update

My, it's been a while since I posted here.
Hope no one missed me.

Real life, as always, has intruded itself once more, and time is more limited than usual, but I digress - before I've even started, too.

I recently tried to help maintain the Community Integrated Version patchpack for OpenTTD. Due to the sheer amount of patches in there, it grew overweight, and I had to kill it.
Thus GPP (Gremnon's Patch Pack) was born by me, and was slightly slimmed down.
I still try to maintain it, though various updates to trunk, lack of updates to patches, and the fact that there's still a good number of patches causes it to take time to sort out.
A friend also tried porting it to work on the CargoDist branch, and gave up. Which isn't promising.
I've taken time away from it because I don't have enough at the moment, nor do I have the patience, but I'm not out of the OpenTTD scene yet.

I have, however, grown short-tempered over one small issue on the Transport Tycoon forums, though.
It seems that anyone using Windows immediately gets the 'I can't' syndrome for compiling, and when told it's easy, and that it you read one page (Compiling on MinGW, specifically) on the OpenTTD Wiki, they seem to lose the ability to read, and whine loudly that no one's being helpful.
So now I've lost patience, and any of them I see I'll be reminding that it IS simple - since my 3 year old niece, while supervised, regularly compiles OpenTTD without any help at all.
She apparently doesn't trust precompiled builds, so regularly updates her local subversion checkout, runs ./configure just in case, and then happily sits and watches it compile.
OK, so she's not actually very good at playing yet - but she can compile, and no one helped her learn, I just showed her the page, and explained some of the words she didn't understand.

So there you have it. Compiling OpenTTD is so simple, even a 3 year old can do it.
Now stop whinging, and go compile it yourselves you lazy people who complain 'I can't because of XXXXX'

Saturday, 19 September 2009


Not ducks, though if you're using the same font I do on my laptop, you'd be forgiven for thinking it said that.

Docks. Mac's great gift to all systems, and something that lately, I'm happy they did.
There are lots of docks out there. Mac users need not look, I believe they get theirs pre-installed. Windows users, I know of only the Rocket Dock.
Linux has many, the ones I know of are the (Recently discovered to me) Avant Window Navigator and Cairo-Dock. I know there's more out there though.

Cairo-Dock was good, but somewhat limited, and put me off docks. AWN has won me irrevocably back to them, however, with a simple combination of being able to replace 90% of all things on my GNOME panels, a theme that means it takes up little space, and a whole hoard of applets. When i used the ever-useful Ubuntu Tweak to enable the testing version, it had me.

My AWN Dock is as follows:
MiiMenu - Replaces the standard Ubuntu "Applications/Places/System" menus found normally on the top panel.
Volume Control - Speaks for itself
File Browser Launcher - useful for going directly to where I need
Notification Area - this used to take up a nice chunk of the GNOME panel, now it's nice and neat and far less space.
Cairo-Clock - Well, it helps to know the time. Especially when you have no sense of it.
Show Desktop - Another self-explanatory one. I don't actually use it often.
Trash Applet - Ditto.
And of course, the AWN settings launcher, followed by running programs.

I did consider adding the launchers for some programs I use often, but even using my new theme for it, awn-shiki-brave, found on Gnome-Look (Under other Gnome stuff, they really need an AWN section) this all takes up just under half the lower part of the screen.
So, the ex-main panel at the top now holds my launchers, the desktop switcher, and the menu for logout, shutdown, etc. And a handy little tweak found in the panel properties means it takes up only a small amount of space, rather than the whole of the top, and is on auto hide.

This setup only loses me a small amount of screen real-estate, but provides far more in other ways. AWN's got me hooked.

So thanks to AWN's developers, the maker of each of the applets I use, the creator of the awn-shiki-brave theme for it, but mostly, and most unusually for me, to the Mac - for putting the Dock into the computer.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

How does your desktop look?

Pre-Linux time, I never used to worry much about how my desktop looked. Mostly, this was because XP was, and still is, very limited, without 3rd party programs.
Linux, on the other hand, has unparalleled choice.
Originally, I used XFCE, which of course uses practically the same things as GNOME, which I later used.
Both of these, in comparison to XP, held that much choice, and I changed how it looked often.
At the time, I used one tool - Art Manager. It's a Ubuntu (And probably Debian too) package which you can get GTK, Metacity and more themes.
KDE I experimented with, but as I've said before, I don't like it as much as I do GNOME.
Since discovering the useful site gnome-look, I've found even more choice, and I've since moved from the Metacity window decorater to using Emerald, or Beryl Emerald, to be exact, because it has many interesting styles that I like.
Some people seem to have trouble getting Emerald to work, so, thanks to many people online, and many hours of searching and investigating, here is how to do it.
Firstly, you need to install the Emerald Theme Manager and it's dependencies. Also, Compiz-Fusion should be installed too. Finally, look for the package compiz-fusion-icon (or something similar).
The Fusion Icon is invaluable, as it sits in your notification area, and you can launch both Emerald and Compiz settings managers, change your window manager and window decorator... very useful.
(A Caveat - While running the dev version of compiz fusion, changing the window manager while logged in causes the X session to become unresponsive. I'm not sure if this is my computer, the dev version of compiz, or just me fouling up, so be aware it may happen to you too)
Second thing to do. Launch the Compiz Icon. You'll find it (In GNOME) under Applications -> System Tools -> Compiz Fusion Icon.

Right click on the icon that appears in the notification area, and select Emerald Theme manager. Choose your theme, set any option. Note that at this point you will NOT see any change. This is normal.
Close the Emerald Theme Manager

Right click on the Compiz Fusion Icon again, this time go down to Select Window Decorator, and in the submenu that appears, select Emerald.
Et voila! Give your computer a few moments (or nano-moments if you've got a blindingly fast box) and Emerald should be working normally.

If, for some reason, it isn't, then you need to do a little more.
Go into System -> Preferances -> Startup Applications (Or Sessions, on older Ubuntu versions)
Add an entry, give it the name 'theme' and make the command 'emerald --replace' both without quotes (Copy and paste from here if you want to be sure)
Reboot, or log out and back in, and that should have fixed it.

Now enjoy your Emerald themes. Hope this helps!

Oh, and as a last note, completely unrelated... I now strongly reccommend you miss a bus than run for it - tripping and sliding along the pavement, or sidewalk, or whatever you call it, is not only painful, it leaves you with a lovely arrangement of grazes, bruises, and in my case, also a split lip. Not fun.
Rock on people.

Sunday, 13 September 2009


Ever wondered why there are so many empty PPAs on Launchpad?
It's because it's bloody difficult to figure out.
I finally decided to try maintaining a repository where people could get the latest nightly build of OpenTTD, as I said I would.

Oh, boy did I make a mistake.
It quite happily walks you through setting up a GPG key, the signing of the Ubuntu Code of Conduct and setting up a PPA. Then it gets useless.
See, the page which tells you (supposedly) how to upload a packages makes very little sense.
By trying to follow it's instructions to try to upload my package, I get errors every time. And my package, at this rate, will never get there.
It has a 'helpful' list of common errors. Which doesn't explain anything for my issue.
It sits there and tells you how you're *meant* to upload, and my computer sits there and says, it's wrong.

So now, I have an empty PPA on Launchpad for OpenTTD nightly builds that will never be there, doing nothing, because Launchpad's package upload help is... crap.


(If you think you can help, I invite you to do so before I lose any more of my sanity.)

Friday, 11 September 2009

M&M Update

A little update from the previous post - aMSN has found it's voice again.
One little line change in Preferences->other, and it's solved.
For anyone else having the same issue, simply look for the thread '[Solved] Sound Issues' in the Linux part of the aMSN forums.

Messages and Messengers

My gods. Another of my infrequent posts? Believe it.
Of course, if I knew that I had any readers, I might actually post more often. Possibly. Habits are hard to break.

For anyone interested (probably no one) I signed up on Twitter. I followed one... channel? is that what they are if they're not for a person? Anyway, I followed the Forumwarz.com thing, 'cause they had an update recently and I was bored, so I decided to follow them to find out when it came back up again.
Typically, it was right after I started following them.
As yet, my Twitter account has been looked at once, and isn't linked to anything... although there's a distinct possibility that I might have linked this blog to it. I'm not sure yet. To be honest, I'll probably almost never use it, I prefer the MSN messenger for talking to people.

Which is, incidentally my next topic.
Now, I can understand Microsoft's reasoning behind not providing a Mac/Linux messenger - it'd give more people another reason to leave their gift-from-god (at least in their eyes) OS, Windows.
However, times have changed and all kinds of people have made workarounds. Of course, their messenger service doesn't 'officially' support them, but I have no doubt a few people up there play around with these messengers too.
MSN was the first program I set about replacing when I started using Ubuntu. And I quickly found several replacements, my favourite at the time was Emesene.
Emesene's good, lightweight, but was hard to get used to, and didn't have the same look and feel as the MSN, or the WL (Windows Live, and also hated) messengers. This was a downside, as even now, I still prefer the look from them. Some things I prefer the Windows way, so I'll admit they do periodically have a flash of good sense.
I moved on from Emesene to aMSN. And I still use it. I've had a few issues, such as recently, as I understand it a misplaced Ubuntu Karmic dependency on the Ubuntu Jaunty aMSN daily build, since resolved, and my current issue of no sound. I'm hoping the aMSN forums will shortly be able to help with this one. Seeing a general lack of activity on there however, I might be in for a wait.
So while I'm waiting, I'm writing this.

I've experimented with other messengers that support MSN from time to time, I've heard good things about Pidgin, and indeed, it's ability to link all IM accounts to one simple clean interface is nice, but like Emesene, it lacks a few things from MSN that I like. I'm a stickler for things like that.
I've tried Galaxium, and the testing version (Thanks to Ubuntu-Tweak for giving me access to that - the 3rd party repositories they turn up are VERY useful). Galaxium is actually quite good, to me, if a little unstable, but it was the testing version. I'm periodically trying it again to check on it. It may be possible I'll change to it sometime, but only if it can manage to fully supplant aMSN for me.
There are others, but I won't list them here. Gods know there's too many if I started on that.

I did, however, at one point experiment with getting ye aulde Windows MSN and WL messengers working through Wine.
Here's my advice for you: Don't bother for WL, not without a lot of patience and experimenting, and MSN... well, I guess if you're really desperate and don't like the alternatives...

In other news... I once again attempted to like KDE. KDE once again failed. There are some interesting features... but GNOME still wins out.
I've fixed an issue with Firefox - must remember to be more careful when using Nightly Tester Tools to enable incompatible addons - and it's managed to win me back from Chromium... however, Chromium still has it's place when I need really quick browsing.
I also joined Forumwarz.com, as mentioned earlier. Actually, I joined some time ago, but I didn't bother to tell anyone. If you're not easilly offended, maybe have a look. WARNING: Mature content alert on that site. I take no responsibility. You look at your own peril.

Finally, I've started (again) to play OpenTTD, one of my old favourites that I keep coming back to.
As usual, it's a patched build, with my own selection of them. One more, the newGRF GUI window replacement, I'm waiting on an update for, then it'll join the others.
Where I've been installing these using checkinstall to create a .deb package, two thoughts occured to me.
Firstly, was that maybe I should start a patchpack. However, since my choice in patches varies widely, and I'm expected to keep it up to date - not something I like the idea of - this isn't exactly appealing.
Secondly, was that maybe I should figure out how to maintain a PPA (Personal Package Archive, if you don't know) on Launchpad, and make nightly builds available via that. This option's more interesting, as it means people can simply add my PPA Repository and get an upgrade to a new nightly relatively quickly, and since I recently figured out dependencies for checkinstall, it'll ensure they have all the requirements they need.
The only downside is the same as the Patchpack, however, since all I'd need to do is keep a separate folder for a clean trunk from SVN, and once a day, update, compile, run checkinstall to generate the .deb, then upload, it shouldn't be more than a couple of days out from the current nightly at any time really.

Comment with your thoughts on any matter here... not that I'm expecting any, but it'd be a nice surprise.
Rock on people.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Jaunty and Wireless

So, after a fairly long time, this ancient, ailing, and still slowly dieing laptop has finally been upgraded from Ubuntu Intrepid to Ubuntu Jaunty.
My huge list of 3rd party sources gave a few worries, but since the upgrade helpfully disables them and replaces all instances of 'intrepid' to 'jaunty' so it's looking for the right version's packages, there was only one major issue.
My aMSN messenger package ended up with broken dependancies, and a little investigatory work on their forums revealed that they're linking to a package for Karmic, not Jaunty. I have no problem with this - not any more, at least - but it'd be nice of they checked these things.
So instead, I downloaded and compiled the source tarball, and new have a spanking new version that's even further ahead than the old one, and works better.

That aside, my long overdue impressions of Jaunty are this: It's better. The sound works better, but for a few sounds that still play the default instead of my custom ones, performance is greatly increased - something my desktop conky system monitor reminds me of - the boot time is impressive, since it used to take about a minute to get to the gdm login, let alone have a useable desktop.

I still have a few issues though. Firstly, something odd's happened to my NetworkManager. I don't like WicD,  some people might like it, but I don't. There's such a thing as too much choice. Anyway, NM has decided not to enable on login, I have to open a terminal, start it manually, and leave the terminal open. This has actually carried over from Intrepid, not only before I upgraded, but before I added the PPA on Launchpad with more recent builds of NM. I partially solved it with the Guake Terminal, which takes it's name from Quake's drop down command line interface. It's a godsend for a terminal in a pinch. I used to just open a new terminal in that, and leave it alone.
I've gone one better - sort of - and solved it further by adding a line in the startup applications which starts it. Unfortunatly it requires root or sudo, so I prefixed it with gksu, and all I do is enter my password again after the normal login. It's a minor inconvenience for having my wireless work normally.

The second issue is a long-known one - wireless.
Now, I've been tracking the bug thread for it on Launchpad, and it claims to be fixed in Karmic, by using a new NetworkManager. The same one, incidentally, I happen to be using right now on Jaunty. Guess what? It still can't connect to any secure network. Karmic may have fixed it, but NetworkManager didn't.

The final issue isn't exactly Ubuntu at all, it's the laptop. When I first decided to put Ubuntu on it, everyone told me it was impossible, I'd be left with an expensive paperweight, and I was an idiot. Even Jay, who knows almost as much as I do, said it wouldn't work.
It was difficult, but not impossible. The first issue is that this laptop has no CD drive, I had to use a USB one. Even then, the laptop wouldn't boot from it. Windows XP, which was on here when I got it, could read it normally, of course. I had to make the Windows autoplay that comes up from a LiveCD create a boot option.
When I finally got it to go to the LiveCD boot, I had to tell it to install using ACPI workarounds - whatever that means - because it couldn't boot the LiveCD Ubuntu, and the normal install gave a kernel panic and stopped. I have absolutely no idea why that happened to this day.

At any rate, I finally installed Xubuntu 8.04 on it, and the issue I had right from then, was graphics. Not bad ones. The lack of memery periodically caused odd errors, text artifacts appearing over pictures and toolbars, text going blocky and unreadable.
I moved from Xubuntu to normal Ubuntu - XFce to GNOME, if you prefer - and it fixed most of that, with a slight downturn in performance, but I expected that. I toyed with KDE, but since my experiment with it on here led to waiting ten minutes before it was useable ruled it out.
The upgrade from Hardy, 8.04, to Intrepid, 8.10 didn't seem to change much on that.
However, on going to Jaunty, the text problems returned, worse. I fixed *most* of that by using Ubuntu Tweak's 3rd party repository for Ubuntu X - the experimental upgrades for the X.org drivers and such. After applying that, it worked, and still does work, mostly normally again.

Okay, so you didn't really need to know all that. But it helps. I still have periodic issues with odd text artifacts, and text on image's but it's far reduced, even from Intrepid and Hardy. If anyone knows how to fix it entirely - without buying upgrades - do let me know.

And on a completely unrelated note, post a comment if you actually read this - I'm interested to see if anyone ever does.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


Oh, yes, mistakes.
And so soon after the last post.
Because it's related.

You see, once I had my pure Ubuntu system, I made a mistake. I wanted the two new partitions, one that was previously C:\ and the other D:\ (D:\ being a separate partition on the same drive as Ubuntu and it's swap space) to automagically mount on boot.
However... be wary of messing in something you don't know about, because as a result of trying using tools, and some help in the Ubuntu IRC community support channel - a very helpful place, I might add - Ubuntu now refuses to boot.
So, I'm forced to dig out the Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope LiveCD which has been gathering dust, use it to make a quick emergency backup of the data on Ubuntu to my laptop, and now it's happily churning away.

At what? Firstly, it's changing the ex-C:\ drive into the /home partition. All home folders are on this drive, separately now. Secondly, it's changing the ex-D:\ drive's windows partition, and the now dead Jaunty that was already on there, into one large partition, mounted as / (Root filesystem, for those who don't have a clue).
And then finally, it's going to install Jaunty, and I get the thankless (at least here, anyway) task of reinstalling all sorts of things.

Hey, at least it's quicker than installing Windows, that sometimes feels like it takes years.

The Switch

I've been a Ubuntu user for some time now, but I still periodically needed to reboot into Windows, and the rest of the family here also preferred Windows too.

Now that's changed. Windows XP, which had been failing slowly for a while, finally made everyone lose patience with it when all sound production ceased, with no apparent cause or remedy short of a format, and thus a plan was born.

Now, I've just finished setting up that same computer, with only Ubuntu on it. Windows XP still exists, but only on a mere technicality. For Windows programs, Wine takes over, but even Wine has problems sometimes, so the VirtualBox OSE (Open Source Edition) has been installed from the Ubuntu-tweak's 3rd party repositories, and if the need arises, the Virtual XP can take over from Wine.

There's still one computer in the house that proper dual-boots XP over Ubuntu, but more than just the family use it, so it makes more sense to leave it - for now.
But for the main computer, the days of XP have ended, and the Virtual one's days are numbered, as Wine because more and more apt at running the programs.

(Oh, and yes, I did kind of write this like a story. It wasn't actually intentional.)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Chromium/Google Chrome

Okay, I'm now almost completely switched to Chromium (Or Google Chrome, since a lot of what I say about Chromium applies to Google Chrome too)

As previously mentioned, I've enabled Flash support.
Now, I have an adblocker too.
I'm converted.

I'm still missing something to check hotmail/yahoo emails, I know there's one for the gmail, but I'm keeping things lightweight, and it really isn't too much trouble to log in periodically. Like once a day.
NoScript WOULD be nice, but for sites I'm used to, it's not essential.

Anyway, the goodies you've been waiting for. I'm too lazy to tell you how to do it yourself, so here's a link to your Chromium or Google Chrome adblocker: CLICKY

Friday, 14 August 2009

Random Silliness

I've been on Gaia Online too much lately. It's a far better place to be addicted to than Facebook.
And yes, I AM an addict of Gaia Online. I even joined the guild for it.

I've finished the event, Camp Chaos, in record time for any event I've taken part in (not many, actually).
Now I've been spontaneously pranking random people, except most of them are in a battle already, which gives a General Error.

And I couldn't help but think of a military General, named Error.

Then I remembered something from Zelda II, where in one place, you meet someone named Error. He's Error. General Error.

Okay, silliness over. For now.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Browsers again

Yeah, I know. I need to post more regularly. I've never been one for regular routines though.

Anyway, browsers again. One new one, one old face, SwiftFox, and Chromium.

SwiftFox is similar to SwiftWeasel mentioned before, except it seems to be more up to date, and do a better job. However, like any mozilla-based browser, it suffers from excessive memory and processor use.

Chromium I said before due to it's lack of Flash support, I didn't use much. I've since solved that, and also found a way to get one of my favourite FireFox extensions work too - StumbleUpon.
Firstly, StumbleUpon. I'm not going to hide where I found out, so here's the page it's on.
Useful, neh?

Now for Flash. It turns out, there's a really simple way to do this.
If you'd rather get it from the same place I did, click here.
If not, and you're running a debian, ubuntu, or a box based on either of them, then read on.

1: Download the .tar.gz flash 10 from Adobe
2: Extract the file inside, and make sure you know how to reach where it is in a terminal.
3: Enter this command:
sudo cp ~/Downloads/libflashplayer.so /usr/lib/chromium-browser/plugins
(Replace ~/Downloads/ with the path to the extracted file.
4: run Chromium with the command:
chromium-browser --enable-plugins

If you use a menu item or desktop launcher or any kind of launcher, just edit the command that uses.

A caveat, however. Since enabling Flash in Chromium, it's become slightly less stable, and there's the added inconvenience of flash Ads, but that's all.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Owner, Beware

It's a common occurrence that a computer breaks down, and you need it fixed. Leaving you three alternatives.
Call one of your local geeks, or if you have another working computer, talk to them online about it. Quick, if they're around, that is. And they don't always know the problem, but usually have a guess that might work.
Call out a professional. True, this costs, but generally is safest of these three choices.
Take it to be repaired. Oh my.

You'd think the last would be safe too, no?
Read this story. Read all of it.

Still sure it's safe?
Those of you who read my post on FireFox addons know I'm a very paranoid person about tracking and privacy as it is. This, however, bothers me more. The only way around this is practically to format your computer, or at the very least, uninstall everything, remove all browsing history, cookies, saved passwords, everything, and get it into as close a state to 'as new' as you can.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Browsers again

What do all these have in common: A Web Browser, FireFox, IceWeasel, SwiftWeasel.
The answer? They're all based on FireFox, in turn on Mozilla.

Here's the breakdown. FireFox is of course, the main web browser.
A Web Browser is the unbranded FireFox, basically FireFox without the FireFox specific parts.
IceWeasel is the Debian branch, used because Debian doesn't agree with Mozilla's licenses.
SwiftWeasel is a Linux-optimised version of FireFox, and one I'm currently trying.

SwiftWeasel's optimization makes it a lot easier to use on this old laptop, which with normal FireFox 3 has a few issues because FireFox is fat. It uses a considerable amount of system resources, and slows down a fair bit after three tabs, regardless of what's on them, and if there's one tab with many images on will practically kill the browser.

SwiftWeasel manages these issues more gracefully, and so far has managed everything far better.
The only issue I had is importing settings. When installing FF 3.5, it ransacks FF3's settings and profiles, and imports it all. SwiftWeasel however, doesn't. Where I use a lot of computers, I'm used to re-installing a ton of addons (I use a lot, and find it hard to stop using some), but importing settings is tedious. Which is where the FEBE extension comes in. I made a backup from FF3 (and some from 3.5 before it stopped working again) using it, then install FEBE into SwiftWeasel, and import. Solved.
I did attempt to import a complete profile import using it, however with only one profile, it refused, and also crashed. Ah well.

That aside, anyone who uses Linux should, I believe, at least try SwiftWeasel. Google it yourself, too many people rely on people giving links.

As to extensions, for anyone interested, here's my complete list, with a few notes.
Classic Compact - with Classic Compact Options
Ad Hacker - Used to block all ad tracking sites via either NoScript or an Adblock Plus rule
AdBlock Plus - Using filter lists EastList+EasyPrivacy and Malware Domains from the Adblock Plus site
AmIOnMySpace.com - I tolerate Facebook, I hate MySpace. And Twitter.
British English Dictionary - not that I use it, it's usually ignored.
CustomizeGoogle - Damn, where would I be without it, Google search is no longer lame with this
Download StatusBar - Though, I'd prefer something more like Chromium/Google Chrome's instead.
Facebook Beacon Blocker - like I said, I tolerate it. I don't like it spying on what I do. Paranoia online is useful.
Faviconize Tab - useful for hiding incriminating tab descriptions, or saving on space.
FEBE - see above, I've only just started using it, but it's good for saving settings between browsers and computers.
Fission - saves a little space at the bottom with this
Gaia Online Toolbar - Gaia Online is a site I'm sometimes on, I don't do much on there. Look for (currently) Adept Alex on there, that's me.
Gmail Notifier - speaks for itself, I don't actually use Gmail often
Greasemonkey and Greasefire - Greasefire makes finding scripts easy, Greasemonkey's scripts are very useful. No, I'm not telling you which ones I use.
Long URL Please - STOP POSTING SHORT URLS! I like to know exactly WHERE I'm going to be taken.
Nightly Tester Tools - See also my post on how to get incompatible addons working. Bloody useful addon this, plus you can change the titlebar's part which normally says FireFox, SwiftWeasel, etc to whatever you like. I like confusing people by making it read "Windows Internet Explorer", or sometimes Exploder instead of Explorer. Never fails.
NoScript - by itself, any FireFox based browser is an improvement over IE, but this makes it even more secure. If it could be made part of the normal FireFox trunk code, then I think it should be. It's that good.
Stop Autoplay - oh, yes. No more embedded music playing in the background, no more YouTube or Google Video playing when I don't want it to, or even loading, for that matter, which since this old laptop has a few minor issues with either, is perfect.
StumbleUpon - never be bored again. Or get any sleep.
Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out (TACO) - I don't actually know if this helps much, but apparantly, it sets an Opt-Out for cookies. I'd personally prefer if all cookies were Opt In instead.
TrackMeNot - in conjunction with NoScript and the other anti-tracking addons, this also does exactly what it says on the can. As you may have gathered, I don't like being tracked.
TryAgain - Page load errors are a thing of the past. Sort of. This just keeps trying until something different happens. Wait, isn't that the definition of insanity?
Update Notifier - a lot easier for checking for and installing updates for everything, not to mention offering an instant browser restart on demand.
User Agent Switcher - This was an attempt to get Hotmail working in FireFox 3.5, since any emails I sent in that were blanks. With this, most sites will identify your browser as whichever you specifiy. I use the importable massive list of agents, as it provides tons of choices. I use about three - Firefox 2, for hotmail, iPhone for when FF2 fails, or I want to do it really quick, and Opera 9.64 Linux sometimes.
WebbMail Notifier - like Gmail, but this checks my two Hotmail and one Yahoo emails. It used to do Gmail, but that stopped working, hence the Gmail notifier.
WoT - with community ratings for sites, this will tell you if the site is dangerous or not. Useful for avoiding dangerous ones, though NoScript also disables some of the dangerous parts.
Xmarks - a must have for anyone who uses more than one browser, computer, or both. Keeps bookmarks (or favourites for Opera/IE/Safari users)
YouTube to MP3 - It's been a long time since I used this actually, but it does exactly what it says - converts the soundtrack of a YouTube video to an mp3 file and starts a download for it.

I use a lot of Addons, like I said. Some of them I could get rid of. A lot of them are really only there because I'm paranoid online.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Google, Google, Everywhere

Welcome to any of you who followed me here from my infrequently-updated Facebook page. And yes, against what I've said before, I am still using it. Sometimes.

Google is well known to pop up just about everywhere online these days. Most websites have a custom search for their site, some (like this site) are powered by Google and use your Google login. Other sites use code from the Google APIs and the Google code repository (Note: I have no idea what it's actually called, but it seems suspiciously sourceforge-like to me).
And of course, Adsense and Doubleclick, the controversial ads and cookie system that tracks what you look at through the ads, and gives them a profile about you. Which is one reason why my NoScript has forbidden anything from Adsense and Doubleclick, because I'm mildly paranoid about things like that.
It's got it's own web browser, Google Chrome (Based on the Chromium Project, not something everyone knows, and if you want a Linux Google Chrome, get Chromium's development version from them - it's not fully stable, or finished, but it works, and looks like Chrome.)

Google Desktop was one of the more recently discovered (by me) items... and as far as I knew, only recently released on Linux.
Now I have Chromium and Google Desktop on this old laptop. Chromium... I'll come back to. Be patient.
Google Desktop, installed just five minutes ago as I type this, is still indexing what I asked it to. Fair enough, it'll make it a little more efficiant, I can spare 2 hours for it to troll my 10gb hd.
Beyond that, I'm still experimenting. It seems to be just a Google Search for your computer, so far, along with a search-on-command tool, where you hit a hotkey command and a little box pops up which you can search from, and it'll pass it to the default browser for a standard Google online search. I think. Like I said, still experimenting/learning.

Now, browser. s.
I experiment even more here. I currently have 4 browsers on here.
Firefox 3, Firefox 3.5, Chromium and lastly, Epiphany

I switch between them all regularly. FF 3.5 is used when it's stable enough to last more than a few minutes without dieing, as it's slightly faster. FF 3 takes over when 3.5 fails somehow, and is the most used, and most useful, overall.
Chromium is useful, it's fast, it's lightweight, but it doesn't have any addon support at all yet, so even flash won't work. I use this when I need to look for something really quick.
Epiphany takes over from Chromium when I want quick browsing, but also want Flash or Java. This is useful when I'm running other programs too, since both Firefoxes are somewhat fat on the system resources, so Flash and Java slow down considerably on this old laptop.

Opera sometimes makes a breif appearance. I've used it on Windows before, and had few problems, but Firefox beats it for me. (note - anyone who thinks of flaming browserwars in the comments, think again.)
Konqueror, the KDE browser, also sometimes jumps in, but it doesn't have all the features I like from the other browsers, or if it does, it's in such a different way that I prefer not to.
Lastly, sometimes the ies4linux is used, showing up when I either want to check something in IE6, or when the other browsers have issues.
I meant to try and get IE7 working, but it failed to install, and IE8 is out of the question for now until someone discovers how to make it work.

Alright, that's all from me. For now. Rock on, and come back later whenever you're bored stiff, or want to be bored stuff by my rambling.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

How to get your extentions, themes and addons working in Firefox 3.5 - the quick and dirty way

You can find any number of posts which say 'Go to about:config...'
This isn't one of them. Seriously. There are loads of posts of them that say this and not one that says the bleeding obvious.

Go to the addons search for Firefox, and install Nightly Tester Tools (Not the lite version).
Restart Firefox.
Go to the addons window. Look in the bottom right and you'll see a new button saying 'Override all compatibility'. Click it, and restart Firefox once more.
Done. Your addons now work. If you have incompatible themes, go to the themes selector and repeat.

When you install an incompatible addon, it'll tell you, but now you can tell it to override and install anyway.

Ahem. Sorry for the amount of caps there.

Enjoy your quick and dirty way to get all addons working in Firefox 3.5, and remember - this trick will always be the same, in any version you can add the Nightly Tester Tools to.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


So yesterday I told a little lie in that I have 5 commands I use on login.
I've since experimented just a little more with scripting, and now I have one command:
'sudo sh update.sh'
where update.sh contains all five commands from the previous entry.
I could have left the sudo on the two apt-get commands, but it seems to work this way just as well.

Scripting is useful. You can condense a lot of lines of nonsense into one file, where you never need to remember the command again.
Now if only I could write one for blogging.. er, logging, into the blog to write a new post.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


The terminal, the console the command line. Whatever you call it, it's damn useful on any system.
Sometimes it's a pain to find though, and it's also hard to remember commands for it.

On the first issue, I've started using Guake Terminal - based off, if I remember correctly, the console in Quake, one key shows a drop-down terminal ready for use, and the same key hides it again with a second touch. It's become so useful it now starts up when I log in.
On the second, there are countless cheat sheets, but I've found it's easier to just experiment with commands you use often, and remember them. Never mind others you won't use, at least not until you do need them.

So now, I've disabled the update manager from doing anything, except once a week interrupting me to tell me I missed an update or two, and now when I log in I run five commands in Guake Terminal:
"sudo apt-get update" to update the package listings
"sudo apt-get upgrade" to handle all upgrades to all packages
"cd svn/openttd" which changes to my source code folder for the OpenTTD game
"svn update" updating the source code to latest nightly, then finally:
"make" which lands me the compiled version.

These five commands mean that after they're all completed, practically everything on my system is up-to-date, and it takes about 5 minutes, including the compiling of OpenTTD.

Handy little package Guake. I recommend any Debian or Ubuntu user to try it, and I do believe somewhere out there is a KDE version too. Knowing their naming habits, probably Kuake. Hmm. Maybe not.

Rock on all.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Package Problems

Say what you like about linux, but it's package managers are a stroke of genius, allowing you to update practically everything on your box at the touch of a few buttons.

For Debian, Ubuntu and other derivatives of either, a .deb package is practically the same as all those 'setup.exe' files you're collecting on your windows system, except that they install, and add themselves to the package manager too.

However, there are some times I have issues with even this.
Firstly, subversion (svn) repositories, which once compiled, are meant to be easily installed with the 'make install', but for me never seems to work.
Secondly, I have yet to find a means of using RPM without a lot of issues. RPM may be good, but it has a lot of problems, as far as I can tell, it doesn't do any dependencies, etc, etc.
Third, and last... non-standard installers, such as the aMSN generic installer, which don't add themselves to the package manager's listings.

I like my package manager - synaptic, for preference. But I still have a few issues with it.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Sod's Law

One of the games I used to play often was OpenTTD, which is an open sourced reimplementation of TTD - Transport Tycoon Deluxe - and TTDPatch, a 3rd party patch adding more new features.

Not long after the OpenTTD 0.6.3 release, I stopped playing. Yesterday, I decided to have a look at it again and see what had changed since then, using a nightly build - which despite their name, are actually relatively stable.

I tried it a little, then deleted it, since I had little interest in rekindling my playing it, and no one else here plays it.
Today, Dad decided he wanted to play it again - he and mum do now and then. Except, the last time they played it, was on a custom build, a nightly with a lot of patches I hand applied because it gave features they used.
Unfortunatly, it didn't work. Patching it had broken something, and I didn't have the source code I used to fix it.

So I downloaded today's nightly, put in some newGRFs for Dad to use, and after several small complaints ("It doesn't do this" "I'm missing that") he had it working again.
Which in turn means I now have to keep a copy around on my computer to keep an eye on things, and so I know how to fix anything he breaks. Or finds broken. Making me put it back on again.

Sod's Law in action at it's finest.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Sat-Nav Silliness

This probably is silly, but so what.
With Sat-Nat in your car, on your phone, on your laptop/notebook/netbook and so on, we're going to eventually end up with a lot of people who are good with technology - but without technology, haven't the faintest clue where anything is, or how to get there.

Think on it.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

On the Pirate Bay

Many of you will have already read this many times, and it's old news, but I don't care. You're reading this, therefore you are the victim of my choice to write about it.

The Pirate Bay sold out.
The founders believe nothing will change.
The buyers say everything will.

TorrentFreak reports in a recent article (Go find it yourself, I'm lazy today) that the new owners are going to pay content providers for putting their content on there, which they'll only do if there's no illegal file sharing - e.g. what's currently there.
And they're going to pay file sharers for sharing it, and that will only work if the users have free DRM-free music. And of course, if they don't jump ship, which by the majority of comments on the posts about it at the Pirate Bay, a considerable portion of them are.

Where are they getting the money? TorrentFreak's article says from a massive ads campaign. So now you have to view hoards of ads before you even see a shred of torrent. Or use FireFox and Adblock Plus extension, and give them nothing while taking anything.
And if everyone did that, they'd get no revenue, they'd get fewer downloads by now (by an immense difference) and they'd owe A LOT.

My friends, the Pirate Bay has turned into the Legal Bay, and is sinking fast.
Which is a shame, because they used to be a highly reputable website, and one of the better places to go for a torrent.

In related news, anyone who can tell me a replacement for TPB and Mininova (Who has also begun filtering copyrighted torrents, I'm told) leave a comment, or an email - I think I left my email around here someplace.

Rock on, and don't drown with TPB's sinking ship.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


They say no news is good news.
They're right.

My ageing and ancient laptop, about a month ago, stopped working on me. I didn't bother to find out how, I assumed it was going to happen sooner or later.
Just two days ago, I gave it a little troubleshooting, and found it turned out to be the mains power adaptor. Now it works. Problem solved.
The downside is of course that the battery is still shot, and doesn't work at all anymore, but has to be plugged in for anything to work at all.

More good news. I finally solved a little issue I was having with Ubuntu, on the wireless. Ubuntu Jaunty doesn't normally connect to my router by wireless (Intrepid, which powers my laptop, works fine, and always has). I can't change the security type on the router, no matter how many times people tell me to. The solution? The madwifi site has native Linux drivers.
The bad news? I have no idea how to use these ones. I don't pretend to know everything about Ubuntu or Linux, and previously, all wireless drivers I used worked through NDISWrapper, which is basically a translation layer - the router thinks it's talking to a windows computer - NDISWrapper - and NDISWrapper translates the communications to Linux-readable forms.
(You're welcome to give me a hand with sorting this out, by the way)

Last good news. Firefox has an update, 3.5 version being released. Lots of good features, and through the Nightly Tester Tools, I can keep a few of my older addons working until a proper update happens.
The bad news? Windows Live Hotmail sends blank emails. I found a temporary solution, the User Agent Switcher addon, since the prime reason according the the FireFox community is that FireFox 3.5 is blacklisted by hotmail, as are a few other browsers.
I haven't tested this idea yet, since Ubuntu doesn't yet have a 3.5 update for FireFox, I expect that in due course.

So, in this case, my recent silence turned out to prove that no news was indeed good news.

Friday, 26 June 2009

A bit of Bashing

Despite their best efforts, there's a few software developers I have some issues with. Windows, naturally, is a prime candidate. However... they're excluded from this post because I haven't gotten around to playing with Win7, and never will. For a while, at least.
For Mac bashing, see my previous post.

Linux. Yes, even my favourite system has it's bad points.
Ubuntu Jaunty - presently has a few issues still, such as an ongoing problem of not getting it to work with my wireless.
Debian. Hmm. I thought with Ubuntu based on it, it wouldn't be too different, right? Oh how wrong I was. There's a lot of differences I hadn't expected, and I ended up doing more damage to it in just trying to get working what I had on Ubuntu.
Package Management, specifically RPM. DEB is a nice clean system, it tells you dependancies, it works fairly well. RPM I have issues with. It's quite possible it works just the same, but it's not, and I have trouble with that.
GNOME/XFCE/KDE - not technically a Linux bash, but a Windows one. It's more about the desktop environments, I can choose to have GNOME or use KDE or even both. Windows doesn't have this, with the exception of alternative shells. I've tried a few, but to Microsoft's credit, their own native shell so far has bested them all. Not through any great brilliance, but through the fact that the ones I've tried all had issues.
Also, multiple desktops - on my Linux box, I can have several desktops, and arrange windows on them, send them to other desktops, etc. I have found only one program which does this on windows, and it fails to start on XP (Vista is not even thought of for these computers.)

Don't get me wrong, I like Linux, but it does have it's problems too.

Other bashing now though.... Adobe.
How about 'A Deskload of Bloated Elephants'?
Okay, so I couldn't think up anything better for the 'e'.
But it's a fair point... Bloatware described a lot of the Adobe software. The updater needs teaching manners, I'm opening a PDF, don't go and decide to restart just because there's an upgrade. Don't go looking for upgrades without telling me. And stop re-setting yourself as the default viewer, and placing unwanted shortcuts.
I don't use much Adobe software. In part because I don't have it, in part because of the bloat, but mostly because their pricing is dreadful - €99 does not equal £99 or even $99.
Finally, the Flash Player, one of the most used things on the 'net. And one of the most broken.
Well, not broken, it still works, but on Linux it doesn't fully work correctly, on any system, it's a gaping security hole and leaves behind non-deletable flash cookies, and most of all, the source is not available.
If they'd just provide the source, not only could other developers contribute to improving it (Not to mention the distinct possibility of better developers than theirs), it would help make it more stable, secure, etc, etc... and overall more useful.
It's a similar issue to Apple's only allowing OS X on Apple hardware. If Apply unlocked it to work on all computers, if Adobe showed the code to all people, a lot of good things could happen to each.

Alright, bashing over. And sorry for no post yesterday, there was nothing interesting to mention, except that I got a conquest victory on Civ4 (On Monarch difficulty, hardest I've played on yet)
Rock on people.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

On Macintoshes, Hackintoshes, and other systems

The Hackintosh, for those who don't know, is a Mac OS X operating system, hacked to work on your Windows and Linux capable computer. Normally, this isn't possible because the OS X code looks for a little chip on the motherboard (at least, I think it's a chip, any passing experts can leave a note in the comments correcting me) that says, I'm a Mac. Try to install an unhacked OS X, and it'll fail because it can't find that chip.

If you're one of the few people who reads EULAs and has read the OS X one, you'll know that in there is a little snippet which says you may only run OS X on a Mac.
This seems backwards to me. Windows can be run on their in a varaity of ways, as will Linux which runs on just about everything up to your toaster probably. (Hm, open source toast.)
Apple in their infinite wisdom, chose not to do the same. Well, okay, I guess if you want to lock it to your hardware, that solves a huge amount of hardware problems, but I think if they either allowed Hackintoshes, or better yet, did it themselves (though seeing their pricing, still overpriced) they could win over a significant amount of users to use their system. It's not perfect - not even Linux is - but both Linux and OS X are an improvement of the security-hole ridden Windows.
Though, I'll admit they're trying to fix that, Vista seems to have left such a bad taste that no one wants to leave XP - myself included, however, I've chosen to use Linux instead (Ubuntu, and if you think you're using a better distro which doesn't use RPM for packages, also comment and I'll consider it)
Wine covers a lot of ground, and I can do a considerable amount in Ubuntu instead of Windows, but it's not perfect, and some programs and games still don't fully work. PlayOnLinux attempts to solve the latter, I haven't gotten around to trying it yet. In any case, until Wine can manage a lot more, I'll still be using XP mostly, while patiently awaiting the day where everything is made primarly for Linux, and there are wine-like things to make windows able to run Linux apps.

Yes, I'm a Linux boy. I've had trouble trying to use Macs, but I don't hate them. Windows... isn't bad, but also isn't good. It has a lot of issues, but if you're willing to sacrifice a little hard drive space and a few resources, it's not as much of a problem. But nevertheless, I await the day Linux takes Prime Spot.

That's all from me for now. Rock on people. (To whatever music you like, I'm currently listening to Metallica, Linkin Park - their new song New Divide is awesome.)

When in the summer

Do as summer does? I think not...
I don't do well in heat, and I overheat easily, and get somewhat testy.
I don't mind going out in it, so long as I get the chance to stop in a patch of shade somewhere. I also don't mind walking a friend's dogs for her when she can't, I've been doing that a lot lately.
What I do mind is the people up on the trail nearby on the bikes, not all are bad, but a lot of them aren't all that nice, and couldn't care less who else is on the trail, it's theirs.

Anyway, completely away from the computer bit done.
I've been playing Civ4 a lot lately. I thought I'd have the bright idea of learning to mod it. XML isn't too hard, Python only slightly more so. Modding the SDK though, is not taken so lightly, I've had experiences in C++ before, (With OpenTTD, a game I've stopped playing recently) but the SDK for Civ4 is a bit above that. Especially when what you want to do is take the sources for several mods that use SDK changes, and merge them.
A bit beyond me. Something I'm going to leave for now. C++ might be useful, but it's a devil to understand sometimes.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


So I guess in a time where everyone seems to have their own blog, it's probably about time I started one too.
Some people will likely disagree with that, but at least this way I have one knocking around I can use later on.

Blogs are useful little things. The used to be a way to bore people with your life, now they're more, and you can find a blog for just about anything if you have patience to search for them, for which Google is naturally good. I have an issue with them on that though - grab your copy of IE (if you dare!) Firefox, Konqueror, Opera - any browser will do. Turn off ad blocking, and any addons that affect the Google search. Search for something. Anything.
Look at the results carefully, and there's two glaring problems: Ads which are just wrong, and Spam Results.
Ads which are wrong - look on the right, if you searched for something like a piece of software, it'll likely show "Download ___ Free, no cost" and other such. Shouldn't Google be doing something about this? Hmm... it's one small area though. Look through the results, even the 'sponsored' ones sometimes, and there's more. The Spam Results.
Also included in which are the results which aren't really results, they're just another search engine muscling in trying to pretend to be a result, leading you to another search. Now, I can understand that search engines want your business over a different one getting it, but that almost seems like stealing people's business.

So far, I've found one solution for this, CustomizeGoogle extenstion for Firefox. A lot of other browsers offer ad-blocking, and frame or text blocking to hide things like this, but that extension is the only one I will use, because it does the job without even reminding you it's there.
It doesn't just affect Google search results either, but you can read more details about it and try it here at it's addon page.

That isn't, by far, the only extension I use, or the only reason I use Firefox over other browsers, but I've talked long enough. If people want more on this, I'll do another post on it.