Thursday, May 29, 2008
Age of Mythology: Wine?
Confirmed. Age of Mythology, a game from Microsoft Game Studios, works (with a no-cd patch, of course) in wine-0.9.61. Wow. I'm actually pretty surprised, although I probably shouldn't be, given that it's an RTS. The opening movie was a tad chunky, which made me a little nervous. However gameplay is amazingly smooth. If you've got this game, give it an install.

One side note: There doesn't appear to be wide screen capabilities, at least not under Wine. There's the flaw, you nitpickers.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Slowly Educating Myself (Learning Bash, part 1)
Last night I decided that I would finally "teach" myself bash. That may sound kind-of odd, as most know that by default, most Linux distros use bash at the command line, and more than likely, I understood a decent bit about it already. This may be true, but I need to learn syntax for things like for loops, if loops, basic commands, etc.

A few helpful sites that I'm using right now:

The Linux Document Project's tutorial for Bash Scripting. TLDP taught me about Logical Volume Management, so this was the first place I looked for a basic introduction to Bash. It's not quite as in-depth as I was hoping, but that's OK; I still learned some valuable info related to syntax and HOW to write code in bash. Good stuff.

hypexr's documentation is also very informative. I learned about two different "modes" for bash: emacs and vi. This info will DEFINITELY come in handy. I feel a inclined to install emacs so I can have a useful text editor for editing scripts. Sorry vi guys, I'm not up to your standards yet. EDIT: On second thought, maybe I will use vim afterall.

Now what I really need is to think up some reasons to write scripts. I already have some basic ideas, one of which is for backing up my home directory:

Weekly (or so) backups of my home directory in /var/. I'll need to exclude the .wine folder, as this hosts a fair amount of space that really doesn't need to be taken up in a backup. I can also exclude .Virtualbox for the same reason. If there are more than 2 backups in my /var/backups folder after a backup, I'll remove the oldest one.

We'll see how it all goes.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008
Another failure and a first run with awesome
My step mother has decided that Linux isn't right for her. She has her reasons, I'm sure, so I'm not going to fight her (especially since it's her computer). I'm fairly sure the kernel panics have something to do with it. Allow me to explain:

Every once in a while, her computer would freeze while in X. This means nothing could be entered via the keyboard, mouse, etc. Nothing would respond, including switching terminals. At first I thought it was the leaky Firefox. I told her to make sure she closed out after every session, just to be on the safe side. A few days later, though, she informed me that the problem still persisted.

I'm going to copy her logs tonight and just see if I can make any sense of obvious failures/errors. Hopefully something will point me in the right direction. Tomorrow, though, I will sadly install Windows XP on her old old old computer. One can only breathe a heavy sigh and accept defeat. I will take a page out of K.Mandla's book and not install antivirus on her computer. I will just do a vanilla install, wash my hands of the situation, and she'll figure out the rest.

On the brighter side, I tried awesome for the first time two nights ago. It was an interesting experience, and I think I'd vastly enjoy the window manager if I had a keyboard that had a super key ("windows" key). I use a model m, so I had to re-map Mod4 to Caps Lock. I don't consider this elegant, but it still did the trick.

I dropped learning kind-of quickly as I was extremely tired when I tried it and didn't want to have a majorly bad impression of the program. In the future I hope to be able to pull away from floating WMs and use tiling full time.

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Friday, May 23, 2008
LEEEXXXMMMAARRRRKKKKK! and other fist shaking
Here's another story about a guy who would really like to install Linux on a computer but is limited by non-working peripherals that the client considers essential.

I've been talking up how I'm going to install Arch on my mother's computer in almost every other post it seems. It seems like these plans have fallen through; her printer, a Lexmark Z1300, currently is garbage under a Linux OS. Their drivers page was one of the things that made me say "oh sweet lord no". Notice how they (Lexmark) completely disregard the fact that anyone uses something other than a MAC or, heaven forbid, Windows. I dislike this company right now to a degree unthinkable by any living being.

Anywho, my mother was, to say the least, displeased that she would not be able to print things with her computer, an action considered a given by present day computer users (and it should be). Ah well. I'll just let them stick with what they have for now (XP) until the printer kicks the bucket OR until I find a sub $50 printer that works flawlessly in Linux. First and foremost, though, I need money.

And now, more adventures with the VirtualBox. Oh MAN do I love this program.

Let the official record state that I do not like Slackware. It's package management (can we even call it that?) is not to my liking at all. Packages are downloaded from their website (or cd) rather than a program such as pacman or apt/aptitude. YOU must do all dependency checking for the program. This does not please me. I understand that this may be that I'm spoiled by my nice programs that check and automatically download dependencies for me, but seriously, that one little thing, to me, makes or breaks whether or not I ENJOY building a system. I don't want to spend more time tracking down dependencies and having sub-par package management than I do using my system.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008
So many distros, so little time...
If you want a basic idea of just how many Linux Distributions are out there, take a look at DistroWatch. Holy CRAP that's a ton of 'em. How does one choose? To tell you the truth, I really couldn't tell you how. One must experiment. Find out what your skill level is and go from there.

I'm still holding strong with Arch.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Cursor Themes: Wowwee!
I just learned how to set cursor theme for X. Xcursor themes can be found in /usr/share/icons/ or (per user) in ~/.icons. A strange place to put them, but whatever. One can set their cursor theme of choice by adding the line Xcursor.theme: Theme-Name to their .Xdefaults file, where Theme-Name is the name of the folder containing the theme.

Themes can be downloaded from the official repos or from other sites. Do a pacman search for xcursor and a few themes will pop up. If you want the mouse theme to apply to all existing windows, you'll have to restart the programs. For me, this means I have to exit out of X (which kinda sucks, but whatever). If you want the XCursor theme to apply to newly created windows, just run xrdb -merge ~/.Xdefaults.

Right now I'm just rockin' a white mouse theme called Vanilla-DMZ from the repos. Suh-weet.
Goodbyes and Hellos
Today I say goodbye to VLC. It's been a nice run, old friend, but since you broke in the last update, I decided to try out mplayer. You're good, but mplayer is better, especially since it can be run in screen (usually only useful when using it as a music player). Fare thee well.

I also gave spookyet's compilation of firefox3 a run through (firefox-spookyet). Infact, I'm still using it. I haven't noticed a definitely speed boost yet, but there's nothing wrong with it. I think after I run it on some older computers I'll start noticing a larger difference in performance.

The time to install Arch on the family computers is nearing. At my father's more space is needed for everyday tasks (he uses the computer as a personal dvd copier. Nothing illegal, just home videos). Not only this, but they've got Ubuntu installed on it, and if you hadn't noticed, I'm through with Ubuntu and am currently on the Arch love train. At my mother's, the computer is SLOWWWWWWW. It shouldn't be so darned slow, though. Sure it has 192 Megs of ram, but that's no excuse. It's currently running under Windows XP along with antivirus I installed for it which heavily weighs it down. It's like attaching a friggin' cement block to one's feet and telling them to run a marathon.

Now that that's out of the way, I'm once again perusing the internet looking for some fun little time wasters. To be specific, I'm looking for some nice browser based mmos to sooth the savage beast. The usual meet the guidelines: Civilization/Management based, Pokemon-esque (c'mon, who doesn't like pokemanz), or... well, actually, everything else is close to utter crap. I ran across Urban Rivals, but I didn't end up enjoying it very much. I also found Pokemon World Online, which will DEFINITELY be worth (to me) doing once their Java client is released.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008
Virtualbox Playtime
Being a tad bored, I decided to install Virtual Box. It was extremely easy to set up a virtual machine. Soon enough, I was trying to installed every OS I could think of. Windows XP installed extremely easily, as did Ubuntu 8.04. I also tried almost all of the flavors of BSD, but eventually crapped out; I couldn't get many of them to work. It was quite frustrating. I found this, which could explain why I was having so much trouble.

I tried to go over a few possible reasons in my mind as to why someone would want to install an OS on a virtual machine rather than an actual real-life machine. I came up with a few reasons:
  1. Lack of a Machine - This goes without saying, but I'll write it anyway: a person might not have a spare machine collecting dust or even a spare drive.
  2. Needed at the Workplace - If your manager or supervisor or whatever would spontaneously combust if you didn't use Microsoft Word or Outlook Express or whatever silly program that a company may rely on, you don't have to install a crappy OS to run that crappy software.
  3. Testing Purposes - If you wanted to try out that new release of Fedora but didn't want to mess around with your partitions or risk data loss.
  4. Troubleshooting a Family Member's Problems - If your Great Aunt Tia just can't seem to open up Internet Explorer or your little cousin has just installed Ubuntu, you don't have to say "Sorry, I don't run your operating system."
These are the main ones that I could come up with. If you haven't tried out a virtual machine yet, give it a go.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008
Followup: Oh Garage Games, what have you done?
Here it is. The answer to the Dark Horizon woes. As I mentioned previously, I was having troubles getting DH: Lore running. This simple work around does the trick.
Rockbox on my Newly Used H10
Someone in the arch IRC channel pointed me in the direction of Rockbox back when I was toying around with a borrowed iPod. It's a cool concept, especially if you're like me and are into customizing everything you get your grubby little hands on. Unfortunately I didn't have a compatible mp3 player at the time, so Rockbox sat in my bookmarks bin collecting dust. Luck was in my favor though, as my friend recently offered me his slightly used iRiver H10 at a heavily discounted price. I immediately bought it and installed Rockbox on it.

The install was super simple, especially since the Rockbox devs have created a nice looking GUI for the install process. I went with a full install; if I'm going to use a 20GB music player with a color screen, I'm going to go all out.

What I thought was really cool was that the install didn't disturb the music my friend had on it. Every song was left untouched after the installation. This would probably be a selling point for most mp3 player owners.

The only real problem with the h10 (20GB model) is that when connected via a USB cable, it's placed into MTP mode by default instead of UMS. Basically UMS mode means the player will connect as a USB Mass Storage Device while MTP will not. Click this link for a full explanation. Luckily one can force the player to enter UMS mode just by holding down the select button and then turning on the player. This is annoying, but it's a small price to pay, IMO. With that said, there's probably an option in Rockbox to enable UMS by default. Then again, perhaps Rockbox isn't able to do this. Looks like I have a new mission.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Issues with the spare computer
I don't quite remember if I mentioned it, but my step mother recently wanted me to set her up with a spare computer for the dining room. It seems in this day and age when we as humans have come to rely on technology and computers so much an additional computer is required in a home (right now there are 4 here at my father's). The spare computer is fairly old, clocking in at 700MHz and 256MB ram. For this reason, I decided the best route to take would be to install an Arch + Openbox system rather than a full featured DE.

Everything seemed to run OK., aside from flash chunking like mad when watching movies on sites like youtube. The other thing that didn't seem to work would be the DVD drive, which only seemed to be picked up as a CDRW. Not too sure what the cause of that is just yet. Edit: Problem is non-existent. DVDs pickup now. I'm fairly sure it was a problem with the DVD I was trying before.

Anywho, the computer seemed to run just dandy for a day or two. Soon, though, it began to lock up when viewing youtube videos every once in a while. I was a tad lost, and my step mother wasn't too happy, to say the least. I didn't blame her; if I were watching a video and suddenly my entire computer would lock up, I would not be a happy camper.

I ssh'd into the computer and monitored the ram usage while she surfed the net. I noticed that even with Firefox3b5, the ram footprint while surfing her normal workload of websites would eat up around 20-40% of the ram. Note that this is not a big surprise, as my stepmother had open three instances of Firefox each with multiple tabs. This wasn't necessarily the problem.

I kept the ssh session open and noticed Firefox was slowly eating up more and more ram. A quick Google search told me that even with firefox3, there are still unresolved memory leaks that may NEVER be resolved. It all began to make sense. My step mother confirmed that she was in fact leaving her browsers open overnight and then coming back to them the next day, only to find that when she tried to do anything that'd hog up the memory, her computer would lock up. I simply told her that the best course of action would be to close out of her browsers when she was done, or to simply logout of the system and just log back in in the morning.

I'm curious, though... how is Firefox so well loved even with (a) memory leak(s)? It seems that Mozilla is on the warpath as far as memory usage goes, but one must still wonder how they got so high on the pedestal in the first place.

As a side, the website I listed earlier, Jesse Ruderman's blog, seems to focus on the development of Firefox quite closely.

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Friday, May 9, 2008
Gnome - Wait, I'm running Gnome?
I decided to give Gnome a run through on my desktop. The version in the Arch repos is 2.22 as of writing this. I hadn't used gnome since my Ubuntu days, and I must say I am pleasantly surprised by Gnome. While it's not Openbox, it's still fairly responsive on my hardware (which is, admittedly, fairly up to date). I also installed firefox3 from the Arch repos, and let me tell you the hype about a smaller memory footprint is true.

I may see if this runs OK on my mother's computer which only has 192 Megs of memory. I mostly don't want to bother torturing them with the whole right click + no desktop icons only because I know it'll become annoying to explain over and over again.

I'll probably end up doing something similar to my father's computer; He's still running under Ubuntu and it'd just make the transition WAY easier.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Today I'm taking my first steps into the world of LVM2 (read up about it here). Basically it provides a TON of flexibility when managing hard drive partitions, specifically the ability to resize then very easily. At this moment I'm installing arch from the 2008.04RC cd that I burned last night. The Arch Wiki was extremely helpful (as usual) in helping me out with the necessary steps to get my setup working correctly. Now all I need to do is actually boot into a working environment (fingers crossed).

To be honest, the primary objective was to see the difference between installing on my old disk (which I think is a 2007 disk... I didn't check at the time of burning it). So far what I've noticed is that rc.conf looks different on install (expected) and that fstab uses UUIDs instead of /dev/sda1 etc. In my opinion, this gives an even better reason to configure LVM. This way, one does not have to deal with UUIDs, and can just use /dev/mapper/blahblahblah. Decent.

The wiki also said I needed to add lvm2 to the hooks section in mkinitcpio.conf as well as make sure the menu.list file in /boot/grub has all the correct lines in it. That's understandable.

Now time to cross the fingers and reboot.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Organizing and Updating
While I wait for arch to update, I figure I'll write a post about my recent computer adventures.

I managed to get ssh working on that older computer from last post. I can now help my family out if they have any kind of problems with their computer and I happen to be at college (6 hours away). This plan will be, of course, complicated if they loose power and their IP address changes. Oh well... that's not too hard for them to get for me.

My latest task is to get their digital camera to play nicely with udev. In Arch, udev is kinda... temperamental. I'm not sure why as the whole concept is kind of over my head. All I know is that udev can act similar to hal in that it'll automatically do something when something else in the system happens. Anyway, when I tried to follow the Arch wiki, the computer was able to automatically detect the correct Camera as well as the correct model, but it was unable to scan the camera's memory unless I was root. In other words, there was some odd permissions error that was preventing the regular user from uploading/access pictures on the camera. I had to add a custom rule in /etc/udev/rules.d/ in order to have the permissions issue sorted out (and of course I had to run /etc/start_udev).

It MAY be the the camera is already recognized by the kernel... as libgphoto2's manual says:
Unfortunately, for some devices there are drivers both in the kernel and in libgphoto2, creating a conflict situation. If that happens with your device and you want to use libgphoto2 instead of the kernel driver, you may have a problem. In later kernels and current libusb versions , libgphoto2 will try to unload the kernel driver for the interface as soon as libgphoto2 wants to claim the device.
Perhaps the camera was already picked up by the kernel and, for whatever reason, its drivers are "better" than libgphoto2's. See, I didn't try the camera to see if it worked out of the box (which I should have done first, in retrospect). Oh well... you live and learn. I'll try this out the next time I'm at my family's house in person.

Also, their dvd drive doesn't seem to want to read dvds. It could be that the drive itself is bad. I'll try a few other dvds before deciding this, though.