Tuesday, April 29, 2008
After a full day of wrestling, I finally got an old family computer (A PIII 700mhz with 256 ram and a 20GB harddrive) to the point where I'd call it "finished". I installed Arch (of course) along with Openbox and Thunar. The family will have to learn to survive without Desktop icons.

Since this machine was going to be going in the living room, having it connect to the router via a wire was out of the question. Instead we purchased a Linksys wmp54g wireless PCI card. At first I thought I was going to have a rough time, as the card wouldn't scan with "iwlist scanning". After about an hour or two of trying different stuff (but not ndiswrapper), I finally decided to just install wicd and see if it worked. For some reason, it decided to work. I'm not complaining.

The second thing that messed me up was the xserver. The machine itself is a very old machine, so it can't handle AIGLX. Every time I would try to startx, the mouse would appear, but after 5 or so seconds, the whole screen would freeze and I'd be greeted with a barrage of fantastic colors and lights. While some might consider this trippy, I wasn't pleased; There was no way for me to use my keyboard to escape or kill the process. I eventually had to shutdown and start from runtime 3.

How did I finally figure out that I needed to disable AIGLX? I Google'd my vga controller according to lspci along with the error that /var/log/errors.log spit out. After some reading, I had to do this:
Section "ServerLayout"
Option "AIGLX" "false"
After much wrestling, the family computer is humming along quite nicely. I've even set up an ssh server on it so I should be able to access it from far away if they need help with it.

Just goes to show that it may not be a good idea to trash computers at the first sign of sluggishness. Get the right kind of computer geek that's willing to blow away an entire day and you may have yourself a happy new addition to the family.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008
First few days home
I just arrived home and am now starting relaxation times. When I came to my dad's, first thing I checked was if anyone was mooching off our wireless (unencrypted). Sure enough, I had to set up my first MAC ban. Man that's empowering. You should try it sometime. Leave your network unencrypted, then watch your DHCP table. Swat down anyone's MAC that you don't like.

I've a mission to do while I'm home: Fix up the family computers. I think I'm going to rewipe them eventually and put Arch on them. Hopefully they'll be able to get over the fact that they don't have desktop Icons.

Also this is good to know: xvidcap. I've been looking for a toy like this.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Post First Year Thoughts / Brain Dump
I just finished out my first year at college here in the US. Whew... what a year it was. In that time I've met new people, experienced new cultures, and learned many new things. I'm looking forward to my second year in the next 4 months. In the mean time, though, it's time for summer, and I won't be doing much in the way of school work for quite some time. But I digress.

In my first year at college, I committed myself to running Linux full-time. I started out with Ubuntu, worked my way up to using Openbox, then decided to go for broke and install Arch Linux. I'm extremely happy with that switch. Using Arch has enabled me to learn much much more about Linux than I could have with Ubuntu.

Next year I'm considering migrating to a no Pencil/Paper system of note-taking. While some will argue that this isn't the best decision, let me reassure you that I'm not totally sure this is the direction I want to take yet. Aside from math classes in which I'd more than likely have to write equations rather than dictate a lecture, I'd use Google Notebook as my note taking device, Google Docs as my Office Suite, and Google Calendar as my schedule manager. In the mean time, I'm hanging on until Google moves more, if not all, of its applications to Google Gears. Also, I'm waiting for Google Notebook to become a bit more flexible, resembling an actual notebook (with margins, diagram making (yikes), quick comment -> content linking, etc.). Until these things happen, I'm not sure I can confidently use my computer for EVERYTHING just yet.

All good things in time, I suppose.

I also introduced a few of my floormates to the Linux world while I was out at college. My roommate, who had already adventured into Linux a tiny bit, is really loving Arch Linux. He still runs a dual boot so that he can play his favorite video games to their full potential (it is possible with Wine, but the quality difference is extremely noticeable). Another friend was sick of Vista, so he tried Ubuntu, and then Arch. I'm not sure if he likes it as much as a Window environment, though. I also offered to install Arch on a third friend's older laptop (an Inspiron 510m, I believe). He said the speed difference is incredible. He seemed extremely interested in learning the Linux environment, so I introduced him to the Unix for the Beginning Mage ebook which I find a pleasant and informative read. My friend said he enjoys it, as well.

Also, I found out it's really a bother to mess around with wireless in Linux. However, the wicd program makes it extremely easy. If you're trying to connect to your University's wireless and you have a wpa_supplicant.conf file all set up, you're halfway there (well, more than halfway). You need to plop that script into /usr/lib/wicd/encryption/templates/ (some people report this folder is actually in /opt/wicd/encryption/templates, so this fact may vary across systems). After this, just add the name of that file into /usr/lib/wicd/encryption/templates/active and you should be able to select your template as an encryption type when connecting to a network. You'll need to modify the beginning of your new template a tiny bit, so just look at one of the other templates in that directory and see what you're missing.

Finally, I should mention that I changed some of the items in about:config in Bon Echo. I modified general.useragent.extra.firefox to have the value Firefox/ so that I wouldn't run into websites telling me that I don't have a compatible browser (ie Google Gears). I also changed middlemouse.contentLoadURL to false, because that error message is really annoying sometimes.

This post is more-or-less a brain dump, so please forgive its large size and lack of cohesion.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Fixed Stuffs
Recently I fixed my annoying line glitch I was getting when trying to run UT2k3. Turns out it was a well known problem with the nvidia drivers. A simple upgrade to the beta nvidia drivers fixed the problem right up.

Also, I've been sucked back into Guild Wars. Oh god how much time I've plunked into that video game over the past few days... Let's just say it's over 36 hours. Yeah. I have a problem.

Not much else to report on right now... I finally got some of the media buttons on my laptop working. Now I can turn the volume down/up without popping up alsamixer. Convenience.

Finals are almost over. I'm not sweating them too much, but I'll still study quite a bit tomorrow for my Java test.

Monday, April 7, 2008
2 installs in 2 days
Two of my friends both decided that they wanted Arch Linux on their desktops this past weekend. I've gotten pretty friendly with the install/setup process of Arch in that time, as both of them are fairly new to the Linux environment. I hooked them both up with an Openbox environment similar to mine. I included Thunar, pypanel, feh, Firefox, and Pidgin in their default install. One of the friends wished to have gnome installed, as well, so I went ahead and did that, too.

After that weekend I appreciate my Google Notebook WAY more. I can search through all of my config files or any trials/tribulations I may have gone through to get my setup working. My next task is to merge a ton of commands into one, as I've got a lot of unsorted pacman commands floating around.

Issues on the friend's computers:
  • There's something wrong with one of the friend's hard drives. He said he had them setup in a raid, but the more I think about it, the less I'm staring to think that's the case. In any case, his boot times are severely gimped because of a bad hard drive or a bad sata cable.
  • The same friend's mouse (Microsoft Wireless 6000) has a major sensitivity issue. Both the wheel and the general movement is WAY too touchy. It's at the point where one is unable to choose a different workspace when scrolling on the openbox desktop: The dialog box pops up, but it goes fast enough so that it just ends up back on workspace 1 every time.
  • The second friend's net connection seems kinda iffy. I don't know if the arch mirrors were just down yesterday (a ton of them seemed to be not functioning), but we were getting a lot of "cannot connect to mirror" errors.
Right now, if I have to solve another computer issue today, my head is going to explode.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Consonance: A small music manager? Yes please.
If you have a hankering for a music manager and don't wish to be tied down to bloated dependencies (and you've a fetish for gtk apps), check out Consonance. Built for Arch (so you know it's nice and snappy), this music player is built to be a replacement for larger applications like Amarok and Banshee. The only thing that would hold people back (that I could see right now) would possibly be that ipods might not be supported as well as Amarok (or at all) yet. I haven't tried out the program yet myself, but I will be very soon. Also, I don't have an ipod, so I can't tell you how well it would work with it. I'll adventure with it today... or tomorrow, depending on when I get around to it.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Yes, I am now "exploring" the Linux graphical world. Ever since my friend opted to install Xfce4 on his eee instead of *box, I got to wondering: What is the appeal of larger Desktop Environment suites? I decided to try on a few bigguns, starting with KDEmod (because if you know me, I couldn't bring myself to install KDE... too much crud).

KDEmod seems pretty nifty. A ton of eye candy even for the minimal install is included in the package (or at least what I consider to be eye candy). Auto-mounting would be a plus for a casual computer user, and was easily setup in Archlinux after adding my account to the "storage" and "optical" groups.

Not only this, but it would appear that setting up Samba shares as well as NFS shares would be amazingly easy, as there's a nice little gui setup for it.

KDEmod comes with its own theme which seems pretty cool. However, at the time of writing this, the current KDEmod in the repos is currently based off the 3.5.2 version of KDE, so a few of the themes also located in the repos will _not_ work. I never got around to installing a "minimal" theme, but I figured as long as I'm using a real Desktop Environment, gosh darnit, I'm going to USE it.

Let me just say this: multiple programs open do NOT play well with my computer for whatever reason under KDEmod (and any other bloat DE, I'm guessing). Perhaps it's the processor, but I just know the draw time for windows was pretty laggy after I had 5+ different programs open. I guess this isn't too big of a surprise, but for someone who likes to multitask, this was a big problem for me.

I never really thought about how much is truly "hidden" to the user when they run a Desktop Environment such as GNOME or KDE. A ton of the basic functionality that I hand-coded was done with a GUI interface in these heavy weights, which I could see as appealing to those migrating from windows. It's just... blergh... I didn't like it very much.

I didn't feel like I knew what was going on with my computer. I didn't know where the setting files were, nor where icons or backgrounds or anything else for that matter were located. I switched back over to my openbox session, but left KDEmod on just in case someone needed some kind of help with it later on.

I'm still convinced that, if you have help, running something like Openbox or Fluxbox or any other *box program is PLENTY for usability. When I install on a friend's or family's PC, I'll be sure to put on two things: openbox and thunar+thunar-volman. The rest of the programs will fall under the usual array, being Firefox, urxvt, and possibly wine. Right now I'm keeping all of my gained knowledge in a google notebook. I'll compile all of these notes into one super `pacman -S` statement in the future.

That's enough for now.