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User Journal

Journal Journal: Using YUM...

After seeing an article in, I decided to give YUM a try. That machines I used were a Red Hat 7.3 box, and two Red Hat 9.0 boxes.

The first thing I did was try and update OpenSSH, as per the example, but I ran into a problem right away. It said that the files were "not provided," and got stuck updating out of a dependency loop. This turned out to be a bug already logged into Bugzilla, only for OpenSSH. Turns out it's also not working for Mozilla, vncserver, and a few others. Worked for gaim, though. And vncserver worked as "install," instead of "update." Hmm... The workaround was "yum update" (no package listed) which updates ALL packages. That seemed to work very well on both 7.3 and 9.0.

But the second 9.0 box it totally got looped into "rpm hell," which by its very nature, is kind of ironic. First yum needed libxml2-python, which in turn needed libxml2, which needed which needed glibc 2.3.2... which wouldn't install because it said it was in conflict with another glibc version. Bummer. Since I didn't want to hose this box, I gave up.

I think if you have the right stuff preinstalled (like python), yum is a great way to update your box without going through up2date. But if you have a specialized box with some stuff removed, you might as well just use up2date. I suspect this is a project in the works, so I will be anticipating further releases

User Journal

Journal Journal: Little Debian Snack Box

My work thinks I am a Linux god of some kind, which is kind of funny, because if I was to rate it like a college, I am almost done with my sophomore year: I have a lot of learning to go and then there's all that post-grad work! What will my thesis be... but I digress.

Here's an example. We had gotten these mini-boxes from HP for years. My group tests software and network connections, so we're always looking for full computers in small packages. Currently we use Technoland and Spectrum systems. A few years ago, our HP guy came to me and said he had these things called "EPCs," which was their foray into the Mini-ITX form factor. These were nice boxes: P3/800s with 128mb RAM. They worked great. I set up purchasing with them, and saved the company roughly $100,000 from our current vendor for some remote testers. Then they got a new model, which were P4/1.8ghz boxes, and I was a star, because they worked just as great as the others, and are still being used as servers, testers, and other stuff.

Then Happy HP merged with Crappy Compaq, and they dropped the EPC line for these horrid silver and black boxes called "Evos." I have always had problems with Compaq, and I was pissed when they sent us these things instead. Well, right away, there were problems. The first was that these boxes are USB only. Not only keyboard and mouse, but there are no parallel or serial ports which made testing pretty useless (one of our products is serial-only). We got some converters for our KVMs and serial hardware, but these boxes are very poorly designed from the motherboard on up.

The biggest bitch was that these boxes do NOT like Linux. Specifically how the motherboard talks to the hard drive. These boxes are for Windows XP only, apparently, so when you try and load GRUB on them, they barf. LILO kind of works, but only if you have no dual booting. These boxes were stubborn as hell! here's my issues, and how I got them to work. The first hurdle was they don't allow booting from the CD, unless you change stuff in the BIOS, and then it's only a one-time deal (you have to manually reset it each time). There are no floppies, either.

Red Hat (9.0), our company standard, was right out. It installed okay, but froze with GRUB. This also removed Mandrake as a contender. Slackware 9.0 installed, but then refused to boot. OpenBSD? Forget it: it hung at dmesg startup. But the funny thing is, Knoppix (a Debian distribution) worked almost flawlessly (except no sound, which for the team, wasn't even an issue). So I thought, "Why not do the hard drive install script from the disk?" It took some futzing around. First of all, I found if I installed any more than two partitions, it would not boot. I suspected this was my first error with Red Hat (I usually do a few partitions for security reasons as well as upgradability, like /home, /var, and /boot are kept away from root). When I did cfdisk, it said it could not write the partitions due to an I/O error. So I wiped them all, and installed two: root and swap. Then it wrote the partitions, and then I installed Knoppix-flavored Debian.

It worked. Holy cow, it worked. At first I thought, "It's the hard drive partition thing," but when I tried to re-install Red Hat... same problem. I installed Knoppix... problem went away. Sort of...

Now, here's a weird thing. Whenever I boot anything non-Windows on this box, I get hundreds of errors on boot about the keyboard, until after a minute and a half of repeating error text about a signal jam of some kind, I get a "keyboard timed out" error. Then it boots normally, and I can use Debian, KDE, and the rest of the Linux stuff just fine so far. Huh.

I reported this to the guy who gave me the box to "try and fix it," but he got so disgusted with them in the meantime that he gave up and told me to keep the box aside until later. Knowing how things are with this company, I'll probably have it until I leave my job. And even then! I still have my first phone headset from this company; I haven't used it since I got it, but was told I was "totally responsible for it," and would be asked for it back when I left or be fined $650... so far, this hasn't happened to anyone else.

But these Evos pack a LOT of heat. So I keep it off. Knowing Compaq, I am sort of afraid to leave it on in my office unattended for fire hazard reasons.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Questions I get about Windows/Linux...

I don't usually preach Linux or BSD systems to the general public for several reasons. The first is that a majority of people I speak to on a daily basis either already use Linux/BSD, so anything I say will be preaching to the choir. And second, a majority of people who do not use it don't because they haven't been trained, and I am lazy and don't really want to train them.

But sometimes I look like "the computer expert" to people who are "newbies," and I am starting to get asked about Linux, or hear comments about it. Here are some of the comments and questions I get, and what I say. I find myself using car/automobile analogies quite often.

"What is Linux?" I say it's an operating system, like Windows is an operating system, but is written not by a company, but a team of thousands of volunteers who write computer code and check each other's work all the time. It's written by people who LOVE computers, and want to keep information about computers public some others can see what's going on. Imagine a world where you buy your car, and get to fool with it to make it run just the way you like. It takes a lot of learning, but there are other mechanics who will happily share with you how to do what you want all the time. Now imagine a world where your car hood is bolted shut, and you have to depend on the person who made the car to fix anything, and you are NOT allowed to find out how the car is made or how it works. The latter is easier for new people who just want to use the car to go somewhere, and don't care how it works, except when it breaks down and costs them a lot of money.

"Should I use Linux?" I don't know. This is usually the hidden question of "What is Linux?" I don't want to say, "Well, how much time do you have to learn it?" because that sounds snobbish. I usually say, "Are you happy with what you have now?" and if they say "Yes," I say, "Then use that." I explain that it's like a trucker's or a motorcycle's license. If you want to learn to use a huge truck or a motorcycle, go ahead. But if you are driving a car, and that's working fine for you, then use the car.

"Linux is a hacker's tool." I could say this is technically correct, but I feel many people who say this mean, "Linux is for those smart computer people who are socially retarded and do illegal things." A hacker, be definition, is someone who breaks apart mechanical things and studies their insides to see how they work. Nothing illegal in that, unless you don't have permission by the thing's owner. A "cracker" is a hacker's term for people who break into things illegally. Like the old word, "safe-cracker." If you live on the streets, though, "cracker" means "white person I don't like," but I digress. I usually ask them to define what they mean, and they get involved in a discussion of some sort. Often people who say that do so out of ignorance, but many are curious, too. We all like crime stories, right? I say, "a hacker is a mechanic who loves to find out how cars work, and tinkers with his own car to make it run better, while a cracker will break into someone else's car and possibly use it for his own crime spree."

"Do you hate Windows?" Not directly. Windows is easier to use, looks nicer, and the games are way better. But I hate Microsoft because of their business practices. They stifle competition, have a product full of security holes, and basically lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want. Microsoft tries to encourage ignorance on behalf of their users to keep them dependant on Microsoft. I like Linux a LOT, but know in my heart it's not perfect. A lot of the Linux GUI managers (KDE/Gnome) need work: they are slow, cumbersome, and have conflicting standards with each build. My main boxes at work and home are Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Windows used to be VERY unstable and crash a lot, but they seem to have fixed most of that. Often I can run them a week at a time before I need to reboot (while before I had to reboot them several times a day). On the other hand, I only have to reboot my Linux boxes when I have to unplug them to move, or at home when a thunderstorm is likely. I have one Linux box at work that has been running over a year and a half without rebooting. Another thing is that Linux will run on older hardware, so you don't have to keep upgrading. When I got Windows XP, I had to buy a new Sound Card, for instance, because it didn't work with XP. My new webcam also did not work with XP, and I don't need it enough to buy a new one, but that pissed me off. The old sound card works great on the Linux box, although the camera doesn't work (this may actually be because I am doing something wrong, and haven't put 100% effort in working on it). I also recognize that Microsoft did set the standards and paved a path for better computing through history, although they sort of forced it because of their "the new Windows needs better hardware to run," which screws the consumer if they don't have disposable money for it. But ye reap what ye sow...

So, as you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to Windows vs. Linux. Sadly, some people want a more defined answer, like "LINUX r00lz, Windowz sux!" or "Linux is a hacker's tool."

User Journal

Journal Journal: Fuck Microsoft - Part 987: M$ Hardware Gestapo Tactics

Just one of my many complaints about M$ is that irritating "we know better than you Where You Want to Go," attitude. Recent bitch is about how you cannot force a reboot anymore.

It used to be that when an OS was hung, and you can't control+alt+delete, you could at least power the computer off. Nowadays, the hardwire switch is connected to the operating system, so you can press the "off" button all you like, it's still hung. You have two choices, really: you can change the BIOS to accept a hard reboot after holding down the power switch for five seconds, or just unplug the damn thing from the wall.

The latter does not work with laptops (with working batteries), and in some cases, the former. I have a Win2000 laptop from work that hard freezes a lot, and I have to disconnect the power, then unhook the battery to get it to reboot. Holding down power switch for hours wouldn't reboot it.

Pain in my ass. Linux never does this to me. Up yours, Microsoft.

User Journal

Journal Journal: My experiences with XPDE (v 0.4.0)

I thought I'd give this GUI a try, since I have been curious about it, and I had a spare machine to run it on in case I fouled it all up. Basic summary is this is very unfinished and needs work, but since it's a beta, that's to be expected, although I would more than likely call this an Alpha-type release than anything else. Usually betas have most of the features installed. I will be truthful, but not overly critical. This machine was a Red Hat 9 box with a small Intel 8mb VGA chip.

I downloaded the full version (with libs), unpacked it, and followed the INSTALL instructions to a T. I made no assumptions. The install directions are very basic, and easy to follow, so no problems there.

I logged on as a normal user, and chose xpde as my GUI off of GDM. The first time, I got an error (MS-like) in blocky-jaggy fonts that stated it could not find /opt/themes/something...something.png. I clicked "OK" and got 1/3rd of the center of my screen with nothing but my default Redhat blue background and a taskbar. I couldn't click anything on the menu but "logout," so I did.

I tried again, expecting the same. But I got a different response! This time, I got the same error, but the desktop background was the picture of a meadow. The taskbar was still in the center of the screen, but now I could click on other stuff. I clicked on "Control panel" and the GUI crashed, putting be right back to GDM. Hmmm...

So I tried again. This time, the title bar was properly rendered at the bottom of my 1028 x 768 screen, with the green meadows desktop background. I could click on anything with no crashing.

The feel is very WindowsXP with "classic desktop," but with an added "HOME" link on the desktop. Here's what I found while poking about.

Clicking on HOME and MY DOCUMENTS produces an Explorer-like interface. I say "like" because the icons are all generic grey boxes with a blue stripe on the top. MY COMPUTER does not show the correct hardware on the system. It has a FLOPPY drive, even though this machine does not have one. When I click on it, it shows nothing. I don't know where it goes, because I cannot right-click and do a "New" anything (it's not even a choice). I have no /mnt/floppy.... so where's it getting it? Same with CDROM. When I write a file in /mnt/cdrom, it shows up in the explorer, which does not dynamically update, I might add; you have to close it and reopen it to refresh, and even that's not a sure thing... there is no "refresh" from the dropdown menu, and F5 does not work. Only closing and re-launching explorer works.

Right clicking anything, and selecting "properties" does nothing. Half the dropdown menus in the Explorer also do nothing. Double clicking on application shortcuts do not launch items except Calculator, Notepad, Command prompt (generic Xterm), and File Explorer.

The fonts are old style KDE mini-jaggy everywhere: dropdown menus, file listings, taskbar, everywhere. Even the icons look like bad closeups. Sometimes the desktop would not refresh, and I'd get blue icon shadows until I right-clicked and hit "refresh."

Right clicking desktop brings up the desktop menu. There seems to be no "themes" to select from. I was able to change the desktop wallpaper, but only from jpegs. Everything else (Screensaver, Appearance, Display) did not work that I could see. Arranging icons did nothing, but I was able to make a working shortcut (I used xeyes) on the desktop. Then I tried Mozilla, and while the XPDE shortcut did nothing, my shortcut launched it successfully. I has able to right click, and change the properties (I changed the icon to a jaggy Mozilla-ish icon). I cannot lasso multiple icons, I can only move one at a time.

After browsing the web a little, when I clicked on a site that launched a new window, the GUI froze, and froze HARD. CNTL+ALT+DEL did nothing. CNTL+ALT+BACKSPACE got me back to GDM, and when I logged back in, all my previous settings were still there. I was unable to reproduce this, so this may have been a Mozilla thing.

The Network Neighborhood did have the ability to add some info about the network, but it wouldn't let me add a WINS server, and couldn't see anything in my Workgroup, although it listed it. When I added my username and password, it showed my username as a machine on the network. Needless to say, clicking on it did nothing.

The control panel icons launch, but not much can be changed. I was unable to change even the most basic of things, like keyboard rate, double-click speed, etc...

My summary of this is that while it has a look of WinXP, the feel has a loooooong way to go. If this were XP, I would have assumed the registry was corrupted beyond repair, and done a full reinstall. But this is a beta, and they have acknowledged at least half these issues as far as I can see. So this will be a waiting game to see if they are able to get the look AND feel of Windows... in my lifetime. I would hope this continues to develop, because this GUI has a lot of protential for easing users into Linux.

Meanwhile, I'll stick with the good old KDE and terminal windows.

User Journal

Journal Journal: EVA Reduced into simple terms

I have always thought Evangeleon was one of the longest and dullest sci-fi anime series that ever messed with my head. My friend, Mark Mandolia, phrased it thusly:

From the THEM Reduced Anime Archive:

I have no spine.

I have no personality.

I have no humility.

I have no responsibility.

I have no morals.

I have no ending.

Oh my gosh! This is the best anime we've ever seen!


User Journal

Journal Journal: Recent Quotes I have seen

This showed up in an OpenBSD port of the UNIX program "fortune" today...

"Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear -- kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor -- with the cry of grave national emergency... Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real."

-- General Douglas MacArthur, 1957

Neat quote. It's as true now as it was back then. I feel another release of Miller's The Crucible coming on... Being a called a terrorist is like being called a communist under the McCarthy Era. I wonder if it's true, that MacArthur said that? On the Internet, you never can be sure; people attribute quotes incorrectly all the time. Here's another quote from someone on Slashdot:

"When a baby gets a new toy, the first thing he does is break it. Still think you're L337?"

I have always liked that one. I hate script kiddies, ever since those immature weenies made it hard to be a BBS sysop in the BBS days of the 1980s. Of course, sometimes the best way to find out how something works is to break it apart, but I don't think that's what this quote means...

Last quote was from Darkhunter of

"I don't need all that user-friendly stuff; it never works. As long as I can get it working, it is friendly enough."

And THAT, my friends, is why I like Slackware.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Should I start a journal here?

I am debating on whether or not to have a journal here. At first, I thought, "Why?" but then I realized that my own journal on my web page is always trying to decide whether to cater to techy or journal people.

If I use this site, I think I'll do all tech-related notes.

Here's a taste: I just took the RHCE 300 Rapid Track course, and while I didn't pass the exam, I learned a LOT of cool stuff. One of them was a script our teacher made where you can see who has ssh access on your dhcp leases:

# Copyright 2003 Brad Smith

for i in $(perl -ne 'm/^lease\D+?(\d+\.\d+\.\d+\.\d+)/ ;
if ($1 != "") { print "$1\n";}' /var/lib/dhcp/dhcpd.leases) ;
do echo "Who's on $i?" ;
if ping -c1 -W1 $i &>/dev/null ;
then ssh $i w ;
else echo "Nobody there!";
fi ;

Arg... this journal format doesn't lend to cut and pasting code very well...

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