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March 2008

Monday, 31 March 2008

The problem I was having with backing up my web site has been traced down to my router. The router went completely belly-up Saturday morning, so I bought a new one. This one is a D-Link wireless N router and it really works well. The intermittent problem I have been having with ftp for the past 6 months or so is gone. I am a happy camper.


Ubuntu 8.04 Beta required upgrades for 101 more packages. It seems to be working fine. The only extras I have added so far is VLC and some codecs to let me play DVDs.


Ten inches of snow fell over the weekend. I used my truck to get in and out, but I needed to put the plow back on it to move so much snow. So on Saturday, I pulled the car out of the garage to get at the plow, and the car got stuck in the snow (it only has three or four inches of clearance). I couldn't get the truck around the car to hook up the plow.

I shoveled the snow away from the car and let it sit all day Sunday. Some of the snow melted during that time, so I could finally pull the car back out of the way. I hooked up the plow and can now get the car back up on the county road. Lot of work, though. It really isn't supposed to snow on the 29th of March.


I've been having some problems with my cell phone. The display on the front started combining two pictures into one, which was annoying. I tried to restart it by pulling the battery and starting over, but that didn't work. On Saturday morning, it told me the time was 6:30pm, Friday, so I took it back to Verizon. Since it was under warranty, they just replaced the entire phone. Why couldn't they have upgraded the firmware, instead? Ain't technology wonderful?


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Friday, 28 March 2008

I have been busy backing up the web site, so I haven't been able to do anymore with Ubuntu 8.04 Beta. I am having a problem with the backup now, so I'm not sure when I will get back to that.


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Thursday, 27 March 2008

Someone has attacked this web site again. I will have to decide what to do about it.


I tested playing an unencrypted DVD on Ubuntu 8.04 last night. As usual, the Totem movie player came up when I put the DVD in the drive. It wouldn't play because there was no codec. It asked me if it could search for one and I said yes. It got the codec and installed it.

Once that was finished, I tried playing the DVD again. It played, but with jerks and breaks in sounds. I figured I would try a different DVD player, even though I was pretty sure the problem was that the DMA was disabled on the DVD drive. I installed VLC and tried it, but it wouldn't even start playing.

There is no GUI application to twiddle with the hardware, so I went to the Ubuntu forum to get info on how to do it from the command line. I used the following commands:


     sudo lshw -C disk
     sudo hdparm -v -i /dev/hdc
     sudo hdparm -d1 /dev/hdc

The first command describes all the disk drives on the computer and allows me to determine that my DVD drive is /dev/hdc. The second command describes the DVD drive and tells me that the DMA is disabled. The third command enables the DMA on the drive.

The DVD played fine in VLC after that. Now I need to put that third command in the init sequence somewhere so it will always be enabled after I boot the machine.


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Wednesday, 26 March 2008

The Ubuntu 8.04 Beta updates keep coming. When I powered up the notebook this morning, there were 55 more updates waiting for me. So this is what a real beta test program is like - interesting how responsive Canonical is and how unresponsive Microsoft was during the Window NT beta test.

I have noticed that Ubuntu 8.04 beta seems to boot faster than 7.10. It's hard to be sure, as the two machines I am using to compare are completely different. And the 7.10 machine has mySQL running on it, too. This is just an impression, though. It's hard to think otherwise when you power both machines up at the same time and the slower notebook machine gets to the login screen faster than the desktop machine.


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Tuesday, 25 March 2008

With Ubuntu 8.04 beta, the only thing that wasn't working on my notebook computer was the WiFi connection, as usual. Since the computer uses a Broadcom chip set, this is not an unusual situation. Ubuntu 8.04 did try to install WiFi, but the firmware was unavailable.

Since all that was required was the Broadcom firmware, I decided to try getting that. To do that, I went into Synaptic and searched for fwcutter. I downloaded and installed that. As part of the install, a dialog came up asking me if it could get the firmware. I told it yes and it found the firmware and loaded it. WiFi started working right after that. I have never had an easier task of installing WiFi on that notebook.

Ubuntu 8.04 Beta also contains the Firefox 3 beta program. The new Firefox appears to be much faster than version 2, with a lower memory foot print (17.5MB for the new, 29.5MB for the old Firefox). It still has a few glitches in it, like dying all on its own for no apparent reason, but I'm sure they will be worked out. It will be a race to see if Firefox goes to release before Ubuntu 8.04's April 24th release date.


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Monday, 24 March 2008

Thinking that I would try again (third time is a charm), I downloaded the first Ubuntu 8.04 beta, burned a disk and tried to run it on my notebook computer. Unlike the two alphas I tried, the beta worked okay. I ended up installing it on the notebook.

Once the new distro was installed, the first thing it asked was to download changes for 150 programs. I did that with no problems. The next thing was to install the ATI graphics driver, so I could enable Compiz. After a reboot so the new display driver could be enabled, I had Compiz working fine.

The Preference menu now has an Assistive Technologies entry, which allows the user to enable such things as a screen reader, magnifier and on-screeen keyboard. Preferences also now has an Encryption and Keyrings menu entry, which allows you to control the encryption and passwords used with your system. This menu entry was moved from the Administration menu to the Preferences menu and slightly renamed. There don't seem to be any new Administration items.

A peer-to-peer file transfer program called Transmission has been added to the Internet programs menu (I bet the RIAA and MPAA will be real glad to hear that), as well as a Network Manager Editor and a Remote Desktop Viewer. The System Tools menu entry is now present on a new install, and it contains Hardware Testing and System Monitor.

The Sound & Video menu entry now contains Brasero as the CD/DVD burning application. F-Spot is still the photo manager of choice, although I prefer KDE's digiKam.

The standards are still present: OpenOffice.org, The Gimp, gEdit, Tomboy Notes, Firefox, Evolution, Totem Movie Player, Rythmbox and the standard Gnome games. I will let you know if I find anything else of interest.


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Friday, 21 March 2008

Java is a platform-agnostic programming language. Sometimes, this means that when you try to do something that is usually dead-simple to do with another language, Java makes the task difficult.

I ran across a problem like that yesterday. I needed a list of files from a directory, but only the files described by a wildcard specification - something like 'HOUIMM0*.txt'. If I was using Delphi or C, this would be a simple problem. With Java it became a bit more complex.

Basically, the 'list' method in the Java File class required a filter as a parameter. That filter is another Java object - a class that you must define. The class has an 'accept' method that checks to see if the filter information passes your criteria. Jeeze, I just wanted to put the wildcard into the 'list' method, but this is ridiculous, even if it is infinitely more powerful.


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Thursday, 20 March 2008

It isn't often that I find something hilarious in someone else's Java code. I found such a thing yesterday:

/*************************************************************************
*  YES this is intended to set newFilename and send it in as the argument.
*  This is done so that we can verify if newFilename needs to be
*  incremented, and then change it in this class.  So, if you happen by
*  and notice that they are the same and think, "I bet they meant one of
*  these to be filename or something else," then you will be bad and
*  wrong.  There will be a new word for how bad and wrong you are, badong.
*  You should stand for the opposite of badong, gnodab.  Please be
*  gnodab and do not change this next line.  Thank you. - code reviewers
************************************************************************/
newFilename = incNewFilenameIfNeeded(newFilename);


We have more snow. Winter refuses to give up, even though today is the first day of Spring.


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Wednesday, 19 March 2008

I have finished the program I was trying to test at work. My problem was a communications problem between virtual machines. I will keep the solution in mind for the next time I have to do that kind of testing.


When I moved into the Coeur d'Alene area 24 years ago, this was kind of a sleepy area whose economy was based on wood products. There were sawmills all over the place. The one that closed on the northern edge of the lake was torn down and the land is now a golf course with a floating green. Another was torn down and is rapidly being converted into a shopping center. A third was torn down and townhouses 'with a view' are being erected in its place. The last sawmill is closing down in May. CdA can now officially be labeled as a tourist trap, with way too many tourists and late settlers.


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Tuesday, 18 March 2008

I am attempting to retest a program I have written at work. The program monitors the database used by the AVG network anti-virus program and displays the results on our security console. My problem right now is I can't seem to get any data into the database. I have a benign virus file used for this kind of testing, and AVG picks it up and 'heals' it. But that information is not put in the database.

At least this problem pointed out a problem in my code. It was throwing an exception because it was requesting a result set from the database and there were no results to be had. I had proceeded to use these (non)results, so there was a null pointer exception thrown. I take care of that now.

I need to finish this up, as it isn't part of the current work, and I need to get back to that (Sophos database tool).


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Monday, 17 March 2008

Last Monday, my Mom's computer died - it would no longer boot into Linux. My folks live in Arizona, so I couldn't be there to fix it. I talked to my Dad on the phone. He told me that the Windows portion of that machine booted just fine, but Mom always uses Linux, and she needed to get to it. I came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with the Linux portion of the hard disk.

I had my Dad run a hardware diagnostic and repair tool on the drive. It indicated there was nothing wrong with the hard drive. So I figured we needed to check the Linux file systems. That was the last step before reinstalling Linux (without wiping out the home partition).

My Dad couldn't find the Knoppix disk I gave him, so I talked him through going to the Knoppix web site and downloading an ISO image of the disk. He created the CD from the ISO image by himself, and when he got Mom's machine booted into Linux, he called me again. I had him do a file system check on each of the Linux partitions, ie., 'sudo fsck /dev/hda3'. The root partition had several errors, which fsck corrected. When he was finished, he could boot the machine into Linux again. So now I have a reputation as a miracle worker.


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Friday, 14 March 2008

If you are using Ubuntu and your Internet connection slows way down when you use Firefox, go into Tools | Add-ons in Firefox and check to see if a Firefox extension called 'ubufox' is enabled. If it is, disable it. I don't know what it's supposed to do, but what it does is eat up all the bandwidth.

I figured out this problem using Wireshark (AKA Ethereal). Wireshark showed all the WWW traffic that was going on, and when I closed Firefox, the traffic went to zero. So I looked around for something in Add-ons that would cause that. The only thing in there was 'ubufox'.


I have a lot to do this weekend. I am doing another Ubuntu install for a workmate on Saturday. I also want to go to the Gem and Mineral Show at the Spokane County Fairgrounds and to the Home and Garden Show at the Coeur d'Alene Fairgrounds. Anything else that gets accomplished on the weekend will be a bonus.


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Thursday, 13 March 2008

I got a very nice packet of cards in the mail the other day. They were full color, glossy postcard-sized cards that advertised local businesses. One of the cards was for Cena, a place that creates dinners for you if you don't have the time to do them yourself. I stopped in there night before last and purchased one of their entrees.

The dinner I got was $15, but it is actually three meals, so the price is not bad. I got Wok seared pepper steak and cooked it up last night. It was very good, and I will go back for other meals (but not more than one a week). The menu changes monthly.


When I brought up this web site this morning, it had apparently lost it's CSS stylesheet. I went ahead and replaced the entire site theme, but I'm not sure how it got screwed up in the first place. I will be keeping a close eye on it.


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Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you register at a web site, they send two confirmation notices instead of one? Even though they are different, they actually say the same thing? Then the web site starts sending you email you don't want and never signed up for. I just want to get to stuff on the site that they won't let me into unless I am registered. I don't want a running commentary on cosmetic site changes, or whatever.

This comes up because yesterday I signed up for a Microsoft forum (at work). They sent me two emails. I expect many more. They don't call the signup 'passport' any more. It's the same thing, but they now call it 'Windows Live ID'. Limburger cheese by any other name smells the same.


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Tuesday, 11 March 2008

When I attempt to use Ubuntu 8.04 Alpha 6 with my notebook computer, it goes into an endless loop. It gets to the login window, allows me to log in, then instead of going into Gnome, it cycles around back into the login window. I'm reloading Ubuntu 7.10 until 8.04 stabilizes.


I have downloaded a distro called LinuxMCE. It is supposed to be Linux's answer to the Windows entertainment thing. I don't know yet, as it is not a Live CD. I need to reconfigure a few things to install it - like put a TV card in the installation machine. That takes time I don't have right now. Maybe I can do it by the weekend.


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Monday, 10 March 2008

I never got wireless to work on the Xubuntu install on my notebook computer. That's ok, because I'm going to move on to an alpha version of Ubuntu. Xubuntu has some serious deficencies which I will not put up with. The major one is no LAN connectivity. To use Xubuntu to get an ISO image and burn it, I had to put the image on a USB drive and plug that in to the notebook computer. Then there was no CD burning program, so I had to install one. It just isn't worth the trouble for me.

I have downloaded the ISO for Ubuntu 8.04 Alpha 6 and I will try to install that on my notebook tonight. I didn't do it last night because I was backing up the home directory then, per the instructions for the new version's install program.


Now that winter is pretty much over, and the snow has melted a bit, I thought I would show you what my teardrop trailer tow car looks like after being out in the weather all winter. None of that was tossed on the car by snow plow. It all fell from the sky.


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Friday, 7 March 2008

I have installed Xubuntu on my notebook computer. It installed very much like Ubuntu, and it offers pretty much the same choices, wrapped in a different package. After installation, I updated all the packages (110 updates) and installed Automatix2. From there, I installed some necessary non-open source software.

When I was done with that, I installed VLC (multimedia player), streamtuner (stream directory browser) and xmms (stream player). Tonight I will install k3b (favorite DVD burner) and get the wireless working, so I will be ready to demo it to the North Idaho Linux Users Group tomorrow at 1pm.


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Thursday, 6 March 2008

My regular notebook computer has become dog-slow when loading Ubuntu. I don't know how I have screwed up the install, but I have decided to install again. Not Ubuntu this time, though. I was going to install Fluxbuntu, but decided against that. I have downloaded Xubuntu 7.10 and I will be installing that distro. It uses XFCE instead of Gnome or KDE. I have used XFCE before and am really comfortable with it, so it should be a good match. I will backup my data before I take this step, though.

The real challenge in this is always wireless support. I can get it working, but it's not very straightforward. I hope to have all this working before the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting on Saturday.


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Wednesday, 5 March 2008

I finally finished testing at work. I got the two VMs running, uninstalled SQL Server 2005 from one of them and installed SQL Server 2008. I started up the auditing program and it worked fine, auditing SQL Server 2008 on the local VM and SQL Server 2005 on the other VM. Whew!

With that done, I will be going to a training class today and tomorrow to learn about Agitar, which automates unit testing for Java software.

The company I work for has put a gigantic sign up on the side of our building, advertising the fact that we are hiring. We actually need people in all areas of the business, including development. We are especially looking for Java developers. So check out the sign as you drive past the Greyhound Park. We are in the Industrial park, right next door.


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Tuesday, 4 March 2008

I am trying to get a virtual machine network running at work, and I am having no end of problems with it. Windows networking is the most convoluted, complex crap I have ever had the misfortune to be associated with. And nothing is where you think it ought to be.

Sort of like the old Adventure game - a maze of twisty passages, all just the same. I need this network to verify that the SQL Server auditing program I have written works simultaneously with SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2008.

Yesterday afternoon, I finally decided to start over with two VMs specifically set up for the task. One is the domain controller and it also runs SQL Server 2005. The other is a workstation VM, currently running MSDE. I will install SQL Server 2008 on it and go from there.

I never have this problems with my Linux-based home network.


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Monday, 3 March 2008

I got an email over the weekend informing me of this year's first Dutch oven gathering. We must be getting close to Spring. I must confess I am ready to start doing some outdoor cooking.

The email was about the Dutch Oven Workshop in Rathdrum, ID. It said the workshop would be on Saturday, April 24, 2008. I wrote George back saying that the 24th was a Thursday, and he sent an updated email with the 26th as the date. So if any locals are interested, let me know and I will send you the brochure.


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