Tag Archives: Linux

Converting PDF files to cbz

This is one of those things I am blogging about simply to have ready instructions for the next time I want to do it, so I do not have to go searching google again. What I want to do here is convert comic books that are in PDF format to the more generic cbz format so it can be read by apps like ComicBook Shelf, iComic and some others. The cbz format is simply each page of the comic being saved as a jpeg file, then it is all compressed into one zip file. It is simple enough that the conversion is pretty easy with just a couple of commands, I did not even have to install any extra software. Its so simple I am not even going to explain it, here is the shell script.

mkdir tmp
pdftoppm -jpeg $1 tmp/page
zip $1.cbz tmp/*.jpg
rm tmp/*.jpg
rmdir tmp

Oculus Rift and Linux

So there is some very tentative support for the Oculus Rift in Linux. Basically at this point, I am looking to just get my desktop extended to the Rift, to me this is a the most basic first step. I am not there yet, but I am close. Here is the step by step instructions for getting started. When I run one of the demos, like Simple or Test.py, it does light up my Rift and I do get an extension of my desktop, the problem is the displays are switched and I have not figured out how to change that yet.

sudo apt-get install -y build-essential libusb-1.0-0-dev libudev-dev autotools-dev autoconf automake libtool libudev-dev libusb-1.0-0-dev libfox-1.6-dev libogre-1.9-dev libois-dev libtinyxml-dev cmake libogre-1.9-dev libois-dev libtinyxml-dev git cython sdl2-dev libglew-dev

mkdir src
cd src

git clone git://github.com/signal11/hidapi.git
cd hidapi
sudo make install

cd ..
git clone https://github.com/OpenHMD/OpenHMD.git
cd OpenHMD
./configure –enable-openglexample
sudo make install

sudo -i

echo ‘SUBSYSTEM==”usb”, ATTR{idVendor}==”2833″, MODE=”0666″, GROUP=”plugdev”‘ > /etc/udev/rules.d/83-hmd.rules

echo ‘SUBSYSTEM==”usb”, ATTR{idVendor}==”0bb4″, MODE=”0666″, GROUP=”plugdev”‘ >> /etc/udev/rules.d/83-hmd.rules

echo ‘SUBSYSTEM==”usb”, ATTR{idVendor}==”28de”, MODE=”0666″, GROUP=”plugdev”‘ >> /etc/udev/rules.d/83-hmd.rules

udevadm control –reload-rules


#### Unplug your Rift from the machine at this time and plug it back in.

cd ..
git clone https://github.com/OpenHMD/OpenHMDDemo.git
cmake .

cd ..
git clone https://github.com/lubosz/python-rift.git
cd python-rift
sudo ln /usr/local/include/openhmd/openhmd.h /usr/include/openhmd.h
sudo ./setup.py install


That is it, at this point you should be able to run the demos. The next time you start Steam, it is going to detect the Rift and install SteamVR, which does not work, but it does cause some errors, so to fix that run this command;

sudo apt install libxtst6:i386 libxrandr2:i386 libglib2.0-0:i386 libgtk2.0-0:i386 libpulse0:i386 libgdk-pixbuf2.0-0:i386

I almost went back to Linux today

So today I was really close to returning to Linux as my primary operating system. I want to reiterate, that I don’t hate Windows, Windows 10 for the most part has been fine. In fact my plan was to setup a dual boot, so I could still use my Oculus Rift. The fact is, I just feel more comfortable with Linux. What stopped me was that the recovery media supplied by Dell failed, it seems to be looking for an image that does not exist, I am not sure why I can’t just do a bare metal reinstall, but it will not let me. I suspect that it will only let you do that if the hard drive is blank, otherwise it would rather do a restore or reset.

So this got me to thinking, why do I need to keep Windows at all, of course the answer is, because i want to use my Oculus Rift. This leads to the next question, why do I need the Oculus Rift, I mean, I am not a gamer and anyway I seem to have a lot of excuses for not playing them. Beyond a few interesting videos, the Rift really has not provided anything in the way of improvement in my computing experience. It does not really give me any new ways to interact with my computer. There is a program that lets me use my desktop with the Rift, but I am still basically using the same old desktop, I am just using the Rift as a monitor and the controllers as a mouse, there is nothing new or interesting about it.

Give me something new, give me something that truly improves how I use my computer. I am not asking for the Oasis from Ready Player One, all I am asking for is new and interesting ways to access my data. If you can create a game that lets me pick up a gun and shoot a mutant, why can’t you design an OS shell that lets me pick up a book and read it? It sounds stupid, but Microsoft actually had the right idea with Microsoft Bob, yes yes I know, it was a horrible piece of software that is now the butt of many jokes, but that does not mean it was not a good idea. Its problem was the Operating System and the hardware at the time was not advanced enough to provide a credible experience. That has now changed, we can now build a virtual house, our data expressed as objects within the house so we can stroll through it and interact with the environment. Please, give me something that makes this $600 worth the investment.

I miss Linux

I started using Linux around 1992, I started using it full time around 1999. I stopped using it just a few months ago when I bought an Oculus Rift and decided that was more important than the Operating System I was using. Now a couple of months later, I find myself missing Linux, it is nothing major really, just a lot of little things.

  • It is nearly impossible to get things to look the way I want them to. In Linux, I have control over every part of the user interface and it is pretty easy to get everything just right. In Windows, I can change some colors and choose a background, but that is about it.
  • Windows command line still sucks, even PowerShell blows the big one. In Linux I would regularly drop the the command line to do quick and dirty tasks that are just faster and more efficient than a GUI. The regular Windows command line has a very limited command set which makes it very difficult to built decent scripts without adding a ton of 3rd party programs. PowerShell tried to do better, unfortunately all the new commands are terrible and badly structured.
  • Windows 10 is head and shoulders above Windows XP in security. The problem is, while Windows 10 is kind of “Good enough” it is still not as good as it could be. In Linux I didn’t need a virus scanner or an anti-malware program, heck I almost did not even need a firewall. With Windows, a dedicated virus scanner, a dedicated anti-malware program are absolute MUST HAVES. Anytime a popup appears you had better read every word of it before you click on anything and 99% of the time you are better off killing it than clicking on anything.
  • Windows 10 is also head and shoulders above Windows XP in stability, and again we are solidly in the “Good enough” territory. But you know what, I still get weird error messages and yes the very occasional unhappy face that is the new blue screen of death. In Linux when things went wrong, it was usually because I was being stupid, in Windows, errors just happen out of the blue for no apparent reason.
  • In Linux it was easy to cut off all the internet Ad’s, in Windows even with ADblock Plus and an anti Ad host file, the bloody Ad’s still sneak in and Facebook is the worst.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Thoughts on Windows 10

So I have been comfortably using Windows 10 for a week now. There was not any real bumps in the road since I had been using it at work for the last year or so. Most of the software I was using in Linux is available in Windows as well; Thunderbird, GIMP, LibreOffice, etc, so I have not really needed to learn anything new. The only thing I am really twitchy about is malware and such, using Linux I simply never had to worry about it before and now I cringe every time the odd browser redirect occurs, but so far so good.

Windows has come a long way in the last 15 years, I really did not like Windows XP or any of iteration prior, it was buggy, unstable and insecure. Even Windows 7 and Windows 8, while serviceable just did not really settle with me very well. Windows 10 seems to finally be more or less where it needs to be. I have not suffered a single crash or weird glitch since I started using it. It seems to be handling all the weird beta stuff I have been throwing at it, like WebVR sites and it continues to run smoothly.

Things I don’t really like are of course the lack of true configurability and flexibility. I mean sure, I can change my wallpaper, move the task bar, and change some colors, but really not much more. Linux I could literally change my windows manager and significantly change how I interacted with the machine. I have for the most part left it alone, not really even changing from the default Alienware wallpaper. I kind of feel since I cannot do anything major, then the minor things are probably not worth much effort.

RE: VR and Linux

I have replaced my old Alienware X51 with a new Aurora R6. It has everything I wanted a 7th gen i7, 16GB of RAM and a 1060 Nvidia card. The price point was exactly where I wanted it. The only thing I skimped on was I did not get a solid state drive, I already have one and adding it to the order would have sent me over my price point, so I settled for a regular spindle drive.

I got the system last Monday, I initially setup the system to dual boot, it took me about a half hour to remember how to add a EFI boot path and update grub so it presented me with a menu to boot to either Linux or Windows. This was mostly because if I had an issue with the system, when I called tech support, I would not have to panic them with Linux.

On Tuesday I had a discussion at work about my new computer and the reason I bought it was to eventually buy an HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift. This initiated a very exited conversation about VR and the future of computing. The fact is, I have been waiting for VR since the mid 80’s, even before I read Neuromancer or saw the Holodeck on Star Trek: The Next Generation. So I went to Best Buy and bought myself an Oculus Rift, because I just did not want to wait anymore.

Linux support for the Oculus Rift is non existent and is very unlikely to see anything for at least another year. Support for the HTC Vive has just entered beta and everything I have read on it, says it at least 4-6 months from being usable. So here is the reality of VR on Linux, we are at least a year from having a stable platform from which to work and then we are at least 2-3 years from having any interesting application of it. So at long last, I believe I have come across the killer app that makes me move to Windows and give up Linux.

So I am making another foray into using Windows as my primary operating system. I have tried this before and I always end up going back to Linux. It is very possible that in a moth I will say screw this, hook up the Rift to PezWitch’s machine and go back to Linux, but for the time being, I have switched to Windows 10. I used a nice little utility Called Paragon SSD Migration Tool to clone the Windows 10 install on the spindle drive to my SSD, it took less than an hour and was very easy, although afterwards I did have to reinstall a couple of applications, though I am not sure why. Then I formatted the spindle drive and moved my data to it. I saw a significant improvement in the performance of Windows 10

More Desktop Fun

A while back I wrote some about what I was doing to customize my desktop to make it more useful to me. I am sure most of you remember this.

Vacation Days

Well over this last weekend I got rid of my old monitors and went to a single 28 inch, partly because I wanted more room on my desk and partly because I just did not use two monitors much. I really felt virtual desktops would serve the same purpose and since I was at it, it seemed like a good time to activate Compiz, which is the software used to create 3D desktops effects. Here is the result.

Pretty neat actually, took me all of 3 minutes to get running.

Windows 7 VM

Yesterday I finished getting my final virtual machine running headless on my server. This one is my Windows 7 VM, which I really do not need running 24/7, but that never stopped me from before. Fortunately Linux has a really good Windows Remote Desktop (RDP) client called Vinagre, so I did not have to do anything particular beyond activating RDP in Windows to access the VM across the network.

Moving all my VM’s to a dedicated server was the one of the best things I have done in the last few years. I see now why VM’s are becoming so popular. They are not that tough to get up and running, they make managing multiple machines very easy and I can allocate just the resources needed for each machine. Most modern machines have more than enough CPU cycles and memory to run several VM’s. A 6 core processor with 16 GB of RAM runs my three VM’s with plenty to spare, so if need be, I can add another one later on.

The Headless Horsemen

Today, I finally got around to figuring out how to run my VMs at startup, rather than having to start them manually each time. This allows me to run the server completely headless now, with no keyboard, mouse or monitor. I control the system using either secure shell for a command line or VNC if I happen to need the desktop for something. I suppose at this point, I could remove X Windows (Xorg) from the server and manage it purely from the command line, but frankly, I am old and I do not like to mess around with stuff that much anymore. So there you go, a server as god intended it to be.


As you can see, I am nowhere near putting a decent load on it. I originally thought I would need 32 GB of RAM, but looking at this, I think 16 GB is maybe a bit overkill. I may set it up to run my Windows 7 VM automatically so it is always available, but frankly, I use Windows so little, I am not sure its worth the effort.

Adding a Hard Drive to an LVM Group

I am putting this here so I do not have to go digging for it again. If you are looking for more detail, go here;


sudo pvcreate /dev/sdb

sudo vgextend ubuntu-vg /dev/sdb

sudo lvextend -l +100%FREE /dev/ubuntu-vg/root

sudo resize2fs /dev/ubuntu-vg/root


RE: Setting up Mystic BBS on Linux

Almost a year ago I wrote tutorial on setting up Mystic BBS software under Linux.

Setting up Mystic BBS on Linux

I had a couple of problems with it, first I was never able to get Telnet to properly work and ssh required users to login twice. I have since figured out how to get Telnet to work and dispense with ssh altogether. The instructions in my previous post still apply, except I would download the latest Alpha version 1.12 A22, this supports 64 bit Linux, so you do not have to install all the 32 bit libraries to make it work.

Second, once you have gotten everything running, add the following line to the /etc/rc.local file

/home/mystic/mis -d

What this does is starts the Mystic BBS built in server in daemon mode, turning your system into a Telnet server. The server software even transitions itself to run as the owner of the program rather than root as a security precaution.

I have not made this accessible to the public, I am not sure I am going to. I originally started this project as part of my Cyberpunk campaign, as a sort of prop to be used during the game. While this was an interesting exercise in 90’s technology, it really is terribly outdated, and does not really offer anything a mediocre website with plug in parts could not do better.



More Vacation Fun

So yesterday I built a computer, the first one I have built in several years. It basically reminded my why I stopped doing it. It was not terribly difficult, it took me about an hour and booted on the first try. Thomas did the cable management for me, personally I think cable management is for weenies, but PezWitch insisted.

The idea behind the new system was I wanted to be able to run 4 or 5 virtual machines, but it did not have to be a total beast of a system. I went with an Athlon 6 Core CPU, 16 GB of RAM, and 2 x 1 TB drives. Future upgrades will include another 16 GB of RAM and setting up 3 x 2 TB hard drives into a RAID 5. There is no particular need for a solid state drive or even a decent video card

While it did not take long to build the thing, getting it ready to do something useful took much longer. I broke the first rule of Linux, which is always check the hardware compatibility list before buy hardware. I ran into a bit of trouble with the network controller, which required me to compile a kernel module, which is no big deal. The funny thing was, while I was searching for the fix for the network issue, I ran into a solution for fixing the USB3 ports for this motherboard, I didn’t even realize I had a problem with the USB3 ports, apparently, quite by accident, every port I used was a USB2 port. The final bit of fun, was trying to remember how to add a new drive to an LVM volume so I could take full advantage of the 2 x 1 TB drives.

At this point, I have two VM’s running, one being my website server running Ubuntu 14.04 Server, the second is where I am going setup a telnet BBS and perhaps an IRC server, at this point it is a clean install of Ubuntu 16.04 Server. The 3rd VM will be my Windows 7 VM, I use it like twice year, so there is no real reason for me to have it sitting on my main box take up hard drive space. I am taking requests for the 4th VM, I am thinking some weird little used Operating System, I wonder if I still have my OS/2 discs laying around here?

Edit: 3 VM’s running, as you can see, the cores are starting to get a load and memory is about 2/3 free. Of course only Server 1 is running anything beyond the OS.

Screenshot at 2016-06-22 15:23:23

I fought the age old war and I lost

So I made one of my journeys into Windows yesterday. I have felt for a couple of years now that Windows has finally become a reasonably stable and useful OS. I use it at work and have felt pretty neutral about it for quit some time. As I get older, I find myself less and less willing to fuck around with stuff. I have not built a computer in years, preferring to buy from OEM’s instead where I can get a one stop warranty. Like it or not, Linux, even the best of them always requires some screwing around. There are also some interesting stuff coming up, like the Occulus Rift, which I am looking forward to, that I would like to try. So with the long weekend, it seemed like a good time to try Windows once again. I lasted less than 12 hours.

Friday night, before I went to bed, I backup all my important data and downloaded all the latest drivers for my system. I dug up my Windows 7 Home Premium disc I got with the system and I went to bed. Saturday morning I got out of bed, made coffee and put the Windows CD in at around 8:00 AM, it was all down hill from there. By 6:30 PM, my frustration level was through the roof and I pulled out my Ubuntu Mate install USB Key. Two hours later, I had my OS installed, including updates and drivers, the only thing left was to let Dropbox sync and install my Steam games, both of which can be done while I slept.

When I started this post, I was going to go into all details of the trials and tribulation I went through, but now that I think about it, I am too exhausted. At this point, I have no idea why my system slowed down to a crawl, or why it started freezing, or why it would not download any updates, all I know is after 6+ hours of trying to solve these problems (I did take a break from it), it just seemed like too much trouble.

Is Linux ready for the desktop ?

The short answer is NO! if that does not particularly satisfy you, then go read this, if you have not already done so, go ahead, I will wait.


Man, that is one long ass article. I have to admit, I agree with a a lot of it, Linux video drivers really do suck and audio is not much better. 15 years ago I probably would have went on a 45 minute rant about how this guy is wrong and even though Linux is not perfect, Windows is worse. I am past that now, Windows has finally gotten to the point where it is good enough, Windows 7, 8 and 10 are fundamentally solid operating systems and besides, Windows has nothing to do with the quality of Linux.

First, let me say, Linux is not now, nor will it ever be “Ready for the Desktop” as we understand it today. I have excepted this fact and so should everyone else. Second, it does not really matter, nor has it ever mattered. Linux is not at its core a Desktop operating system, Linux is a development platform. Linux is used to build things, Desktop computers are just one of the things it is used to build. It does not happen to make a particularly good Desktop, and so what.

Linux has been used to build a lot of useful things, Servers, Phones, Tablets, DVRs, Cars. Windows is a good Desktop operating system, but it is a very poor development platform. This is why Windows Phones have not done particularly well and you don’t see much in the way of Windows driven anything, besides desktops. It is true, Windows Servers make up roughly a third of servers on the internet, but that is true of Linux as well and when you start talking about big iron mainframes, that is 98% Linux. In fact, I would say the world runs on Linux and it has for a very long time. Pretty much no one living in a first world country** can go a full day without coming in contact with a Linux driven device.

So, no Linux is not ready for the Desktop, but so what, it is extremely useful for many other things. A friend of mine Chad, has said many times, pick the proper tool for the job. If your primary use for a Desktop is playing AAA games, Linux is not the system for you. If you have been using Windows for longer than 20 minutes and have no particular need or drive to learn Linux, then don’t bother. If on the other hand you are interested in doing something new or you got a Raspberry Pi for Christmas and you are looking to build something, then by all means grab a Ubuntu ISO and knock yourself out. I recommend starting with a virtual machine rather than blowing away your hard drive and living to regret it.

** Living in lower Alabama, Moosebreath Montana or NoWhere Alaska does not constitute living in a first world country.

Windows 10???

So every time Microsoft updates their Windows OS there seems to be a resurgence of the Windows vs Linux debate on the internet, specifically on Slashdot. I long ago gave up the fight for Linux on the desktop, for a variety of reason. I really don’t care what operating system other people choose to use just as long as they do not call me when it breaks. So here is my official opinion slash stance on Windows 10;

“If it came pre-installed on your system and I don’t have to fuck with it, I think Windows 10 is great!”


Slight update to malware problem

So it seems I did not have malware after all, my 20 year streak is in fact still intact. On further examination I discovered this was simply a java powered ad that Adblocker Plus was not blocking, the ad was moving from tab to tab as I changed, it is actually kind of clever.

This morning I completely removed Chrome and installed Chromium (the open source version). This precipitated me having to re install my browser extensions, when I did this I realized I had been using a hopelessly outdated version of Adblock Plus. This was a side effect of my using my Google account to sync all of my systems, it was automatically installing the original version I installed like 3 years ago, not updating to the latest version. So I am using Chromium for the moment, everything seems to working fine. Now if the fucker would just allow a decent version of NoScript, I would be a lot happier.

This day was going to come at some point

So today I ended up with a malware infestation, this surprised me for two reasons, one, I have not had this problem in 20 years and second, linux is generally pretty immune to this stuff.  The malware is pretty mild, it is just annoying pop up ad that should be being blocked by AdBlock Plus or my anti-Ad host file. The vector of attack in this case was Chrome and manifest itself as a “Deals” pop up. At first I did not think much of it, I figured the Escapist was just being a bitch, then the ad followed me to other sites. I shut down Chrome and fired up FireFox to see if the same thing happened, going to the same websites and it did not. So I went into my home folder and wiped out all of my Chrome config/cache folders and ran Clamtk to search for malware. The scan did pick some stuff up, so I deleted that as well. Everything seems to be back to normal now. However, I no longer trust Chrome. FireFox has several extensions that make it pretty safe and secure, Chrome has some equivalents, but those plugins are not nearly as functional in Chrome as they are in FireFox. For instance Adblock Plus in FireFox works flawlessly, in Chrome it lets certain types of ads through. This is because Google makes most of its revenue on ads and therefore an adblocker in their browser in counter to the profit motive. Don’t even get me started on the lack of a NoScript plugin for Chrome. So it looks like I am back to FireFox for the time being.

All the worlds Linux

I have to say, Linux Mint is by far the best distribution in existence. This includes RedHat, which is supported by a billion dollar a year company. CentOS 7 was a big improvement over 6, a lot of my major complaints were addressed, better wireless support, easier to get the NVIDIA proprietary driver installed, etc etc etc. However, I found several smaller pieces of the pie that were still missing and some packages that were there are broken. I then installed Fedora 21, figuring the community driven version, not beholden to whatever bad decisions RedHat makes and more suited to a normal user rather than an engineer, might work better for me. Fedora turned out to be even worse. I made two attempts at installing the NVIDIA proprietary driver doing it different ways and both screwed my video forcing me to go into single user mode and unfucking the process. My other complaint about Fedora is my system seemed to run significantly slower than under Mint 17. Don’t get me wrong here, I have never thought Linux was perfect and I have always been willing to take extra time to patch things up. But the OS should not fight me, distro makers need to make it as easy as possible find the dev libraries so I can compile programs with no provided packages. Redhat, CentOS and Fedora seem to go out of their way to make this difficult. If peoples first exposure to Linux is with these distros, I can see why the “Year of the Linux Desktop” is never going to come.

RE: CentOS

So far so good. CentOS 7 picked up the wireless automatically and there was a nice repo for the NVIDIA driver making it near trivial to install properly, Dropbox also installed with no issues at all. The only thing so far that was a challenge was Steam, but even that only took about 10 minutes on Google to solve. I did have to install the MATES Desktop as well. This version was slightly different from the Mint customized version, so I had to mess around a bit, but otherwise, it was a very smooth install.

Linux, switching distros

I an starting The Redhat Certified System Administrator course provided by my employer next month. This is going to take the sunny side of a year to complete. I took the skill assessment test yesterday and got a 52% and I have been using Linux since 1993 or so. My big problem is, I have been using Ubuntu or Mint Linux now for at least a decade and it has spoiled me a bit. As with everything Linux, emersion is really the only way to succeed, so I am biting the bullet and changing my desktop from Mint to CentOS. Mint is a downstream version of Ubuntu and Debian, CentOS is a Redhat derivative, so using it will be much more useful to my study course.

The last time I tried this, I was very unhappy with the results. Both Video and Wireless were kind of a pain in the ass to get working. I also had trouble getting Dropbox and Steam working. However CentOS and all of that software have went through updates since my last foray into CentOS, so hopefully most of this stuff has been resolve and if it hasn’t then tough shit, I will have to work around it. 2015 is going to be an interesting year.

Steam Summer Sale

So every year I break open my wallet and spend about $20 buying Linux games I will likely never play. While I am not a gamer, I would like to see Valve continue to develop for the Linux environment and I am willing to fork out a few dollars a year as a donation to the effort. This year I bought Sid Meier’s Civilization V and the Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, total expenditure, $18.98.

Linux Mint 17 LTS

With the April release of Canonical’s latest Long Term Support (LTS) version of Ubuntu, means the next version of Linux Mint, due out this month will also be an LTS release. I like LTS releases, they tend to be better tested and updates are audited more carefully to ensure they do not break things. I try as best I can to stick with the LTS versions and upgrade my OS every 2 years when a new one comes out. Sometimes this does not work out for me and I end up upgrading before the two years is up. For instance this last time around I upgraded mid lap because of Steam.

So two things happened recently, first the Linux Mint 17 Release Candidate (RC) came out, this is sort of a final beta test before the big release later in the month. Second PezWitch ended up having to work today for a few hours. So I was at loose ends for a few hours and decided, what the fuck, better to get the upgrade done now than rather than wait and be competing for download bandwidth. Once the final comes out, a quick “sudo apt-get dist-upgrade” will bring my RC version on par with the final. One of the really nice things about having been a professional Tech for so long, is OS reinstalls are trivial and I was done in under 2 hours.

As a side note, while I was at it, I added a small 100 MB DOS partition to my system and installed FreeDOS on it. I have been doing this on my laptop for years. The original reason was for a fast boot OS I could boot into do something really quick like take a couple of notes or write a memo. DOS boots in like 2 seconds and nothing else even comes close. Over the years I discovered this had other uses, like running out of OS diagnostics, so I decided to add one to my main box as well. I wonder if I still have a Windows 3.1 CD around here somewhere?

Linux Mint Debian Edition

Once again, I decided to give a different linux distro a try just to see how things are progressing along. Currently I am using Linux Mint MATES edition, which is basically Ubuntu minus the Unity desktop. The Linux Mint folks have another version of their distribution, Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE), which is not based on Ubuntu, but rather Debian Linux. I liked the idea of this version because it supports what is called “Rolling Upgrades”. What this means is instead of having to reinstall the OS or go through an in place upgrade (which rarely goes well) every time a new version comes out, the “Rolling Upgrade” incrementally updates your packages until you reach parity with the new version. Unfortunately this also means they have a lot less flexibility with the updates they can provide and changes in the one package can break others.

I had many of the same problems with LMDE that I had with CentOS. Many of the things that just simply worked under Ubuntu and her derivatives, did not work at all or required a huge investment of time and energy to resolve. None of the Virtualbox packages in the repositories worked at all, the package from Oracles website worked but was ridiculously slow when running Windows 7 as a guest OS. OpenRPG refused to load giving error messages that indicated the version of python and wxpython were not compatible with the program. The versions of the utilities I use to encrypt folders, encfs and gnome-encfs, would not allow me to import the encrypted folders I already had, the errors I was receiving indicated the fuse package was broken in some way. Fortunately I have a second hard drive I use for these experiments, so I can just put my old one back in when things become too frustrating. Once again, Ubuntu and her derivatives win the day.

Western Digital Black^2 Dual Drive

This week I had a windfall of cash and decided to buy myself a Solid State Hard Drive. Since my Alienware X51 only really has room for 1 hard drive and a dinky 256 SSD would not be terribly suitable, I decided to opt for a Western Digital Black^2 Dual Drive. This device is a 128 GB SSD and a 1 TB mechanical drive built together into a single laptop sized hard drive. The pro to this is I get two drived in a single package, the down side is mediocre  performance. While the Solid state is several magnitudes faster than the mechanic drive, it is sharing a single SATA data channel with the mechanical drive and so you loose some performance there.

My first problem with this drive was fitting it securely inside my computer. The X51 has a fixed SATA data/power connector where the hard drive pushed into it, rather than cables. So I had to do some serious garage engineering to get it in there all nice and snug.

My second problem was when I booted into the Linux install, it only saw the SSD drive, it did not see the 1 TB drive at all. I assumed this would probably be fixed with an updated kernel.  I found this was not the case. I went to the internet and found the USB key they sent with the drive was not just Windows drivers. It actually takes you to Western Digital’s website where you down load a program that unlocks the 2nd hard drive. So I installed Windows 7 on the system, got the unlocking program, ran it and sure enough, the 2nd hard drive shows up. In hindsight, I probably could have just plugged in the spiffy USB cable they sent with the drive, hooked it up to PezWitch’s system, downloaded the unlocking program there, ran it on the drive and saved myself the trouble of a Windows install.

Once I got back into the Linux installer, I found the two hard drives actually looked like a single drive, with two partitions, three if you include the 100 MB Windows boot loader. I left the partitions as they were except to change the file systems. the Windows boot loader I converted to a FAT 16 table, figuring I might eventually use it for a quick boot hack. The second partition, which would be the rest of the SSD I formatted as Ext4 and mounted to root “/” and the third partition, which is the mechanical drive, I converted to Ext4 as well and mounted to /home. Magically, this worked, I was able to install Linux and boot up with no issues.

It was at this point I was getting the nvidia card going and things went REALLY wack on me, and the system would not go into the GUI. The nvidia driver was borked or an update screwed me over, I am not sure if it is related to the hard drive or not. I was now nearly 24 hours and three OS installs into this mess and I still did not have a functional OS. Sadly it was time to relegate this technology to the “Not Ready for Prime Time” category. I put my old hard drive back into my system, I just can’t have shit flaking out on me. I have now installed it into my Laptop and giving it one more try, if I can not get a stable OS, it will be crossed off the list of Linux compatible devices and I will foist it off on PezWitch, maybe it will perform better in her M11x.


PezWitch reminded me of one thing I forgot to mention, While I was removing the old hard drive from my X51, I cut myself and bled all over the new drive. Take from that what you will.

CentOS – Party like its 1999

We have a spare hard drive laying around, so I decided this weekend I was give CentOS a try. I have been using Ubuntu/Mint for several years now and for the most part it just works. I do the reinstall, run the updates, run a finisher script and i am done, usually takes less than 2 hours. Ubuntu and Mint are both downstream Debian variants, they are consumer oriented and about as dumbed down as it gets. CentOS is a Redhat and is designed as a corporate Enterprise level OS. I like to keep my skills sharp and sometimes a virtual machine is just not enough.

The initial install went smooth enough, all of my hardware was detected and drivers installed, it did however install the standard Xorg drivers for my NVIDIA card and it kind of went down hill from there. Virtually all of the software I normally use is not installed by default and worse, most of it is not available in the stock repositories. To get my video drivers, I had to add a repository, to install dropbox I had to add a repository, to get wxpython, I had to add a repository, it went on and on. Then I started getting rpm broken dependency errors. I felt like I was in 1999 again, seriously, I have not had to fight to install Flash on a Linux box in a very long time.

Say what you will about Mark Shuttleworth and the direction he is taking Ubuntu, but there is a good reason Ubuntu is kicking everyone else’s ass. It is because Shuttleworth took chances and forced progress into the distributions and solved all the big problem issues so I don’t have to edit my /etc/yum.repo.d/dropbox.repo file to fix an error that should not have been there in the first place and still has not been fixed in 6 months. I was going to try and work with CentOS for a week or two, but that is not going to happen, I switching hard drives back today.