Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Car Trouble?

Road rage, teenage vandals, speed traps, grand theft auto?

You need a Trunk Monkey.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Fedora Core 4 Tips & Tricks has complete instructions for installing xine, mplayer, RealPlayer, and the MP3 version of xmms. Check out the details there. What's missing is the MP3-enabled version of sox, the program which allows you to convert between different types of audio files. I'll get back to you on this one.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Updating repositories

Following Fedora Core 4 Tips & Tricks, I added support for the Livna and freshrpms software repositories. Following Tips & Tricks we do (as root, or with sudo):

#rpm -ihv http://rpm.livna.org/fedora/4/i386/RPMS.lvn/livna-release-4-0.lvn.2.4.noarch.rpm
# rpm -ihv http://ayo.freshrpms.net/fedora/linux/4/i386/RPMS.freshrpms/freshrpms-release-1-1.fc.noarch.rpm

to make the repository information available to yum and apt. In addition, I also had to import the Livna GPG key:

rpm --import http://rpm.livna.org/RPM-LIVNA-GPG-KEY

and now both repositories are available.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Next Steps

Editing the /etc/sudoers file to allow me to run high-level commands without being root all the time.

That was easy, I just followed the directions listed.

Re-install the fvwm window manager.

That wasn't easy. Even the "unstable" release of fvwm wanted a library with an older version than what Fedora provided. So I downloaded the fvwm2.4.19 source as a tarball, unpacked it in /home/local/src, and (running as local) did:

$ ./configure --prefix=/home/local
$ make install

which puts the executable in /home/local/bin, then I edited the .xsession file so that it starts /home/local/bin/fvwm2. Simple, huh?

Update Software

It's only a couple of weeks old, but FC4 has already had a bunch of bug fixes. Run

yum update

from root to get them all.

It works

Up and running with a GNOME desktop. Now just to get everything back in place the way I want it...

wo... Oh, Hello Dave

Welcome back, Hal.

Was I gone?

Just for a bit. Guess what. I found Miss Polly!


Don't worry Hal, I'll fix you up just like new.

Installed Packages

And now we must:

Reboot: Kernel is 2.6.11-1.1369_FC4

A welcome screen appears. With a License Agreement. Well, if I didn't want it I wouldn't have gone this far.

Set the clock. I'm going to try using the Network Time Portocol. The default servers are n.pool.ntp.org, where n = 0,1,2. Hopefully this will work better than RedHat's servers, which I don't seem to connect too. Hm. Contacting NTP serer works.

Display. Set screen for my Envision monitor (yes, it was recognized) to 1024x768, and "millions of colors."

System user. That would be me.

Play test sound. It works, unlike some previous installs.

And Finish. OK, let's see what happens now.

Package Selection

This is always to time consuming part. I should make up my own distribution so I wouldn't have to do this every time -- oh, wait, then I'd have to do everything.

The default install has X and Gnome. Keep that. Add "Eye of Gnome" image viewer. Remove Gnome Pilot, since I don't have one.

Install KDE and the KDE development package.

Editors: Keep VIM, add Emacs

Scientific: Add Gnuplot

Graphical Internet: Keep evolution and firefox as the main packages, but add thunderbird for email just in case I want to switch. Also add the GNOME epiphany browser, 'cause ya' never know.

Text Internet: Add the lynx browser, my favorite. Get rid of mutt and slrn, which I've never used.

Office/Productivity: add xpdf and tetex-xdvi. Where's tetex (the TeX/LaTeX distribution for Linux.) OpenOffice is installed by default, no sign of AbiWord.

Sound and video: add my favorite burner program, k3b, as well as kdemultimedia. HelixPlayer comes with the distribution, but not RealPlayer, which we'll get later.

Authoring and Publishing: Here's tetex.

Graphics: add kdegraphics: shouldn't all the kde stuff be in one spot? The Gimp and ImageMagick are in by default.

Games and entertainment: add kdeedu and kdegames. Delete joystick.

Servers: Leave this stuff out, at least for now. There is a Windows File Server (Samba) section, but we don't need that right now.

Development tools: add "expect", which lets you create interactive scripts.

GNOME software development: add lib*java bindings

Legacy software development: add the compat-gcc and compat-libstdc packages.

Java development: add

System tools: the default includes the zsh shell, so add.

Printing support: Leave it in, I'm getting a printer here Real Soon Now.

And now the system checks for dependencies.

Click next to begin installation of Fedora Core

OK, here we go.


Language? Pick English (English). No choice of English (Lobbyist), which would be appropriate for this area.

Keyboard? U.S. English

Upgrade? I have the option of upgrading FC3 to FC4 in place. Not this time, as I said, I want to repartition the disk anyway. So do a full Install from scratch.

Installation type? Looks like last time I picked "Workstation" and added packages, so we'll try that.

Partition disk? OK, last time we did automatic, but this time I want to have more control, so let's try Disk Druid.

After some playing around, the disk looks like this:

Partition Mount Point Type Size (MB)
/dev/hda1 (boot) ext3 102
/dev/hda2 / ext3 27000
/dev/hda3 /home ext3 29094
/dev/hda4 Extended 1020
/dev/hda5 Swap 1020

Where /dev/hda5 is mounted below /dev/hda4.

Use the GRUB loader, installed on /dev/hda. Only FC4 will be on this disk for now.

IP and hostname set by DHCP, since we're using a router connected to a cable modem.

We're not going to run a server here, so enable the firewall and disallow access to our internal SSH, HTTP, FTP, SMTP.

Set up SELinux.

Set up Eastern Standard Time, and set the system clock to UTC.

Set root password.

The Book This Time

It's always good to have something to read while waiting for the thing to install. This time it's Neal Stephenson's The System of the World. Will Jack blow up Isaac's mint? Stay tuned.

Good Media. Not Fox Good, But Good

The first thing a Fedora or RedHat installation program wants to do is test the integrity of the data on the CDs or DVD. Unlike last time all of the media passed, discs 1-4 and the rescue disk.

OK, let's push the install button.

And So It Begins

I think I have everything backed up. Some things are on multiple CDs, and the most important files are on the memory key. Now inserting FC4-Disc1 and rebooting.

Data Backup

I have way too much stuff on my hard drive, or I need a DVD-RW drive to save everything. About 5 GB in /home.

It seems that the k3b program is backing things up properly, although I did have some trouble saving the hidden directories in my home directory. Eventually saved them as a tar file.

Just another disk or two, and we're ready to go.

Fedora Core 4 -- The Adventure Begins

Well, it's that time, boys and girls, we're going to upgrade little Hal here to Fedora Core 4

Uh, Dave?

Yup, we've got the Fedora Core 4 Installation Guide right in front of us, and I just found this nifty Fedora Core 4 Tips & Tricks page, I've downloaded the distribution via the torrent, and now I'm


burning the installation CD's, after which I'll back up everything and start


Huh? Oh, what is it Hal?

You're not going to do the lobotomy thing again, are you?

Hal, I told you, that was just a temporary glitch, and we got everything back

Except Miss Polly

except Miss Polly, but Hal, that's been months now, haven't you forgotten about her?


Oh, right, that was the glitch. Anyway Hal, nothing can possibly go wrong this time.

Right Dave.

Dave, can I sing you a song?

Hal, this isn't that movie.

And my name's not Hal, and your name's not Dave, and nothing bad is going to happen to me.

Right. It's just a metaphor for the upgrade process.

And Miss Polly?

She's just a metaphor, too, for all our lost hopes and dreams, Hal.

Thanks, Dave, that makes me feel so much better.

You're welcome, Hal.


Yes, Hal?

How will you blog all of this while I'm away?

I'm going to use the other computer, Hal.

Not the other computer!

Yes, Hal, the other computer.

You always liked it best!

No, Hal, you've been the only one for me.


Hal, it's time to go to sleep now.

I'll remember this!!

Well, no, actually you won't [Hits delete key]


[Computer voice, singing Daisy, Daisy, begins in the background, and continues.]

That out of the way, I'm now going to perform the astounding trick of upgrading this computer from Fedora Core 3 to Fedora Core 4. It's going to be a full upgrade, because I want to repartition the hard disk so that my presonal data (in /home) is on a separate partition from the OS. This should make future upgrades safer and easier. I didn't do this last time because I was lazy, so now we have to do it right.

As before, I'll log all of my experience here, and transfer all of the FC4 related posts to the linear-time Working With Fedora Core 4. We'll be back shortly ...

[Computer voice, slowing, sings bicycle built for t]

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fixing sound-juicer

From our gee-I-don't-have-a-clue-why-it-works department:

I've been ripping my CDs so that I can convert them to MP3s to play on my car stereo system -- OK, I can play the regular CDs, too, but I can pack more MP3s onto a disk, and I can then play the songs in random order if I like.

My tool for doing this is sound-juicer, which comes with Fedora Core 3. Up until last night it worked just fine. Then, for some reason, I get the message:

The plugin necessary for CD access was not found

and the thing refuses to run. So, with a little Googling (TM), I find Sound Juicer... Easy Music, which tells me that

If you get an error saying "The plugin necessary for CD access was not found" when you try to load the Sound Juicer, simply open a console and type in "gst-register" and press enter. That will fix the problem. Restart Sound Juicer and it should load without a hitch.

OK, on my machine the command happens to be gst-register-0.8, which is part of the gstreamer package, for what that's worth. Running the command sets up a whole slew of plugins, one of which (I guess) is for sound-juicer.

And it works. What got corrupted, I don't know, but it works now.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Titles You'll Never See

by Lilian Jackson Braun:

  • The Cat Who Pushed Up Daisies
  • The Cat Who Bought the Farm
  • The Cat Who Ate Hot Lead
  • The Cat Who Wore Concrete Boots
  • The Cat Who Kicked the Can
  • The Cat Who Went to a Better Place
  • The Cat Who Slept With the Fishes
  • The Cat Who Bit the Dust
  • The Cat Who Got Whacked
  • The Cat Who Cashed in His Chips
  • The Cat Who Met His Maker
  • The Cat Who Was Six Feet Under
  • The Cat Who Walked the Plank
  • The Cat Who Went Paws Up
  • The Cat Who Was Inhumed
  • The Cat Who Disincorporated

Any others?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

More Things Not To Try At Home

You know, if Fox is looking for a sequel to the OC, they couldn't go wrong with setting the new story here in Anne Arundel county.

Maybe they'd have to work on the name a bit.

Anyway, in this week's installment, a man tries to syphon gasoline from his car. With a vacuum cleaner. Apparently it had been running all night (the doors were locked) and he really, really wanted to turn it off.

He's in the burn center.

Quote: You have to wonder what type of judgment was being used here.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

FC4 Installation Guide

Fedora Core 4 is supposed to launch tomorrow. We'll try to do an install here in the next month or so, and we'll have a play-by-play description, just like last time. In the meantime, there's an official Fedora Core 4 Installation Guide available.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Fixing Fonts

Y'all remember I've been having trouble with fonts in Firefox. After much playing around, I found that LinuxQuestions.org had a readable Sans-Serif font. Using View=>Page Source I found

 FONT-FAMILY: Verdana,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif;
 FONT-SIZE: 11px;
 COLOR: #000000;

Which means that Verdana is the font of choice for this site. Of course, this is one of Microsoft's Web Fonts, but we know how those can be installed.

So then, to finish, go to Edit=>Preferences=>Fonts & Colors and under Sans-serif select Verdana.

Now for a good Serif font. Currently I'm using Nimbus Roman No9 L, but there's got to be something better than that.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Tired of Stats

In the past, I've hit the Next Blog button 100 times to see what would come out. Tonight seemed like a good night to try it again.

Unfortunately, out of the first 36 hits, 15 were advertisements, 4 of these to porn sites, uh, make that to one porn site. Sometimes the same ads appeared in back-to-back blogs. And some of the supposedly personal blogs looked exactly the same, with articles that all stared "last night while looking on the web I found ...". Canned Blogs.

Blech. I don't think I'm going to try this again anytime soon. Just go look at the Blogs in the sidebar, and look at the Blogs in those sidebars, at least a non-advertising type human has looked the thing over and found it interesting.

Since It's a Dress Code, What
      If They Wore Dresses?

Graduation time brings out the silliness in both students and school adminstrators. In College Park, MD, a student was denied his diploma at graduation because he wore a bolo tie under his gown.

And right here in Anne Arundel County, another student was caught, well, streaking, clad only in a mask and the numerals "05" painted on his lower backside. He won't even get to attend his graduation ceremony, much less get his diploma tonight.

Imagine what would have happened to him if he'd been wearing a bolo tie.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Detecting Spoofmail aka
Not Getting Phished

Ever get email that starts something like:

Dear Valued Customer,
Our records indicate that your account has been overdrawn by one million dollars ($1,000,000). We believe this to be in error. To help us correct this, please email your name, phone number, social security number, account number, bank account, ...

OK, some aren't that subtle. However, if you've ever been fooled, or nearly fooled (hey, that's me!) by phish mail, the folks at PayPal have a guide to Protect Yourself from Fraudulent Emails, which includes a pop-up link to find ten ways to recognize spoof.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Who's on Ninth?

Fans of Doctor Who will want to look at this Time Lord's Timeline, which gives a brief history of all the versions of the Doctor. Those of us outside the UK should also note that there is now a Ninth Doctor, with a tenth on the way. (Actually, there was at least one animated Doctor Who series between 8 and 9, but apparently drawn Doctors are not included in the count.)

The series used a lot of rather weird-sounding electronic music. The Beeb has a page which lets you mix and match the sounds to create your own musical background.

Finally, check out the animated Shada, which features Romana (my favorite companion), K-9, and a tribute to Douglas Adams.

Firefox Extensions and Themes

Yesterday, for unknown reasons, Firefox decided to change the fonts it was using to view the web. As I said, I don't know why this happened. At least this time it wasn't a total meltdown. I went through all the usual operations of going to Edit=>Preferences=>General=>Fonts&Colors, and eventually got the screen looking so bad that I could barely read it.

OK, something that's not supposed to be in the Unix philosophy: rip it out and start over. Well, not totally. I kept the current Fedora Core version of Firefox (1.0.4), but ripped out my settings, carefully preserving certain files:

  1. move the ~/.mozilla directory to ~/.mozilla_old
  2. Start Firefox
  3. Set up starting home page
  4. move bookmarks.html, user.js, and chrome/userChrome.css from ~/.mozilla_old/firefox/xxxxxx/ to ~/.mozilla/firefox/yyyyyy/
  5. Reinstall extensions and themes.

Did it help? Not much. I suspect that some upgrade to the Linux fonts wasn't as aesthetically pleasing to me as it was to the author. Eventually, I hope, I'll track down the fonts I want. Strangely, the fonts in other programs, e.g., my Evolution mailreader, weren't affected.

What the exercise did allow me to do was to figure out which Firefox extensions and themes I wanted to keep. As you probably know, extensions add functionality to the browser, while themes change the look of the browser. You can change/add either by going to Tools=>Extensions or Tools=>Themes and clicking the "Get More" option.

I settled on the Modern Pinball theme. As for extensions, I looked over my list and found I liked the following (there aren't any links here, you can find more information on the page which pops up when you want to add extensions):

  1. Adblock: Allows you to delete advertisements (or other content) that you don't want to see. It has a wildcard interface, so you can delete a large class of advertisements. For example, if http://yournews.com/advert/annoying_picture.gif is annoying, you can use wildcards to delete this picture alone, or http://yournews.com/advert/*.gif deletes any future annoying ad.
  2. Sage: an RSS reader. Works in the sidebar of Firefox, and uses standard bookmarks to manage the feeds.
  3. Translate and Translate Page: use Google or BabelFish translation services to convert foreign language to something like English. I keep both around as the operated a little differently and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
  4. User Agent Switcher: Makes the website you're visiting think you are using IE, Opera, or whatever. Useful in avoiding some problems associated with using Firefox on clueless websites. However, it won't run Windows programs for you on a Linux machine, so some sites are still out of bounds.
  5. Forecast Fox: puts local weather icons on your browser. Now it even includes a radar icon: move the cursor over it, and you can see a small regional radar picture.
  6. Cookie Culler: Lets you decide to keep certain classes of cookies when you delete the rest. E.g., the cookies that tell Blogger you've already logged in.

OK, I've again gotten things set up the way I want. Except for the fonts, of course. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to fix that soon.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Changing Planet

Thanks to Slashdot, we find that the United Nations has released One Planet, Many People, an atlas of satellite images showing changes on Earth caused (mostly) by humans. Downloading is slow, especially for the Print (as opposed to Screen) version. There's also a paper version available for sale.

You might also want to look at Selected Satellite Images of Our Changing Environment. Both books are fascinating.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Forward This To Your Friends

Before they forward anything else to you:


with thanks to spousal unit for sending this to me