Tag Archives: Linux

Western Digital Black^2 Dual Drive

This week I had a windfall of cash and decided to buy myself a Solid State Hard Drive. Since my Alienware X51 only really has room for 1 hard drive and a dinky 256 SSD would not be terribly suitable, I decided to opt for a Western Digital Black^2 Dual Drive. This device is a 128 GB SSD and a 1 TB mechanical drive built together into a single laptop sized hard drive. The pro to this is I get two drived in a single package, the down side is mediocre  performance. While the Solid state is several magnitudes faster than the mechanic drive, it is sharing a single SATA data channel with the mechanical drive and so you loose some performance there.

My first problem with this drive was fitting it securely inside my computer. The X51 has a fixed SATA data/power connector where the hard drive pushed into it, rather than cables. So I had to do some serious garage engineering to get it in there all nice and snug.

My second problem was when I booted into the Linux install, it only saw the SSD drive, it did not see the 1 TB drive at all. I assumed this would probably be fixed with an updated kernel.¬† I found this was not the case. I went to the internet and found the USB key they sent with the drive was not just Windows drivers. It actually takes you to Western Digital’s website where you down load a program that unlocks the 2nd hard drive. So I installed Windows 7 on the system, got the unlocking program, ran it and sure enough, the 2nd hard drive shows up. In hindsight, I probably could have just plugged in the spiffy USB cable they sent with the drive, hooked it up to PezWitch’s system, downloaded the unlocking program there, ran it on the drive and saved myself the trouble of a Windows install.

Once I got back into the Linux installer, I found the two hard drives actually looked like a single drive, with two partitions, three if you include the 100 MB Windows boot loader. I left the partitions as they were except to change the file systems. the Windows boot loader I converted to a FAT 16 table, figuring I might eventually use it for a quick boot hack. The second partition, which would be the rest of the SSD I formatted as Ext4 and mounted to root “/” and the third partition, which is the mechanical drive, I converted to Ext4 as well and mounted to /home. Magically, this worked, I was able to install Linux and boot up with no issues.

It was at this point I was getting the nvidia card going and things went REALLY wack on me, and the system would not go into the GUI. The nvidia driver was borked or an update screwed me over, I am not sure if it is related to the hard drive or not. I was now nearly 24 hours and three OS installs into this mess and I still did not have a functional OS. Sadly it was time to relegate this technology to the “Not Ready for Prime Time” category. I put my old hard drive back into my system, I just can’t have shit flaking out on me. I have now installed it into my Laptop and giving it one more try, if I can not get a stable OS, it will be crossed off the list of Linux compatible devices and I will foist it off on PezWitch, maybe it will perform better in her M11x.


PezWitch reminded me of one thing I forgot to mention, While I was removing the old hard drive from my X51, I cut myself and bled all over the new drive. Take from that what you will.

CentOS – Party like its 1999

We have a spare hard drive laying around, so I decided this weekend I was give CentOS a try. I have been using Ubuntu/Mint for several years now and for the most part it just works. I do the reinstall, run the updates, run a finisher script and i am done, usually takes less than 2 hours. Ubuntu and Mint are both downstream Debian variants, they are consumer oriented and about as dumbed down as it gets. CentOS is a Redhat and is designed as a corporate Enterprise level OS. I like to keep my skills sharp and sometimes a virtual machine is just not enough.

The initial install went smooth enough, all of my hardware was detected and drivers installed, it did however install the standard Xorg drivers for my NVIDIA card and it kind of went down hill from there. Virtually all of the software I normally use is not installed by default and worse, most of it is not available in the stock repositories. To get my video drivers, I had to add a repository, to install dropbox I had to add a repository, to get wxpython, I had to add a repository, it went on and on. Then I started getting rpm broken dependency errors. I felt like I was in 1999 again, seriously, I have not had to fight to install Flash on a Linux box in a very long time.

Say what you will about Mark Shuttleworth and the direction he is taking Ubuntu, but there is a good reason Ubuntu is kicking everyone else’s ass. It is because Shuttleworth took chances and forced progress into the distributions and solved all the big problem issues so I don’t have to edit my /etc/yum.repo.d/dropbox.repo file to fix an error that should not have been there in the first place and still has not been fixed in 6 months. I was going to try and work with CentOS for a week or two, but that is not going to happen, I switching hard drives back today.

You and me and the dog named Ubuntu

I am a man of the digital age. I try to keep up with modern trends in technology and I do this because generally I find the movement forward in technology to be a good thing. When something promising comes out, I do tend to wait a little while and let them put the spit and polish on it before I jump in. Windows 7 was head and shoulders above Windows XP and I did give it a try as my home OS for a few weeks before going back to Linux. My latest foray into trying to keep up has been making my peace with Unity, the current desktop manager Canonical is using for Ubuntu.

A couple of years ago Canonical switched Ubuntu from Gnome 2 to Unity, I like many users were outraged by this and switched to Linux Mint. I chronicled some that here, and ultimately Mint was not as polished and usable as Ubuntu and had several issues I did not have to deal with when using Ubuntu. So I came back to Ubuntu and I could have installed Mates, a fork of Gnome 2, but I decided instead to try out Unity, see if maybe I was not missing something, embrace new technology and all. So for the last several months I have been using Unity.

Unity over all was not that bad. It did what it needed to do. It provided me with a way to easily access my programs and it took some novel approaches to carrying out this task. My problem with Unity though was I seemed to be stuck in the methodology and usability that Canonical decided was best for me and remove virtually all meaningful customizations. Frankly, my needs are relatively small, I prefer my taskbar at the bottom of my screen. Okay I get it, most people, myself included have more horizontal space than vertical space, so putting the taskbar on the side rather than the bottom, makes sense. Except that I really don’t like it there, it sat on the left side of my primary monitor. Visually this broke up my desktop in an unpleasant way and they would not even let me move it to the other side of the screen. I also did not really like having a universal menu bar at the top of the screen, again, I get it, by having all the menus on the one bar and which menu is available is based on the active window, provides the program with more screen room. Again, this did not appeal to me on an aesthetic level and I would end up trying to access the FireFox menu when I wanted the Virtualbox menu. Finally, because I use Windows 7 at work, having the Minimize, Maximize and Close buttons on the top left rather than the top right slowed me down because I had to think about it.

So, finally last night, I decided it was time to go back to Gnome 2/Mates. It is sort of like putting on an old shoe, it feels right, it feels good. This is the one big advantage that Linux has that Windows will never have. Reconfigurability at the system level, if I am dissatisfied with the way my window manager works, it is near trivial to install one that does work the way you want it too, I am not locked into the Canonical way. It took me less than half an hour to get Mates installed and set up the way I wanted it. I talked a bit last week about Canonical switching Ubuntu from Xorg to XMir in the next update, there is of course an internet shit storm as usual with even Intel acting the fool. To me, it matters very little, if I don’t like XMir, I will simply install Xorg and life will go on, if I do like XMir, then I will get on that train and and life will go on.

Ubuntu’s new GUI framework XMir

Some time ago Canonical, the producers of Ubuntu Linux, decided to go their own way by developing their own GUI framework. The plan is to switch from Xorg to XMir in the next update 13.10. This of course has caused some minor internet shitstorms, but really its no that big of a deal. One of the nice things about Linux, is the massive amounts of choices you have. If you don’t like XMir, there is nothing stopping you from switching back to Xorg. For me though, this is a side issue.

The real point of interest for me is, what took so long. Many years ago Apple took the open BSD source code, customized it to suit their own purpose, built a proprietary GUI on top of it and called it OS X. They have an OS they have complete control over and it is just compatible enough that porting all those open source applications to OS X is near trivial. For years, I have been waiting for one of the big OEM PC manufactures to do the same with Linux.

If I were the chief product director at one of the big OEM houses I would seriously hirer a team of Linux developers to build me my own custom distribution in two versions, a server version with GUI optional and a desktop version with fancy proprietary GUI. I would pay Nvidia, AMD and Intel to send me engineers to help develop drivers for my project. I would start a community contributors program by making all the non proprietary stuff available and a developers tool kit for building and porting programs to my new OS. This would give me an OS I have control over, a pool of volunteer programmers and leverage against Microsoft. I don’t see why this has not happened yet.

So what have I been doing for the last 12 months?

Okay that is a pretty reasonable question I suppose. One that has several answers.

Work: I was promoted last September, proving yet again that snowballs exist in hell. This last year also saw me training 3 new hire classes. I seem to have finally settled into a team, who have now been on the floor for about 3 months and are doing well.

Computers: Most of my computer time recently has been consumed with my obsession with the Raspberry Pi (RPi). These small inexpensive systems are just plain cool. I have converted my server to one, I have been working on using an RPi as the basis of a wearable computer and I have one I have been using for general messing around, like programming and arcade emulators. This year also saw me move back to Desktop computers, I bought an Alienware x51 and I am very happy with it. I also switched back to using Ubuntu, while Mint was interesting, Ubuntu works better out of box and I did not have to jump through hoops to get get Steam running on it.

Gaming: This has been a very hard year for me in this aspect. As I get older, I find I can not stay up until all hours of the night any more and I need time to recharge my batteries. So my regular Friday night game has been put on hiatus. That is a polite way of saying I shut it down. I think I will probably start a new game this fall, but there will be some changes. First I think I will move it to Sunday afternoon, maybe 12P-4P, something like that. Second I think we will probably change games, we have been flirting with GURPS for a very long time and I think as a group we are at the point were we need more depth to our characters. I think I may also be inclined to change genre, fantasy is the best option for RPG’s, but I really want to do something in Supers, Space Opera or Cyberpunk. Maybe I will mix all three and do something in the TransHuman subgenre.

Oh and I still like tits.


Linux Mint 13 RC

As I have previously stated, I have moved away from Ubuntu as my distro of choice, primarily because of their choice to replace Gnome 2 with the Unity desktop and the direction the Gnome Foundation is taking Gnome 3. I tried a couple of different alternatives and I finally settled on Linux Mint and I have been using version 12 for 3 or 4 months now. Linux Mint is a Ubuntu derivative and so its new version follows the Ubuntu releases by a month or 2. Well, this week Linux Mint 13 Release Candidate has been released. Normally, I’d wait for the final, but it is time to upgrade my server which is still running Ubuntu 10.04, the previous Long Term Support release. So I would like to update my server as soon as the Linux Mint 13 final has been released and that means I need to be a head of the game.

So this morning I installed the latest RC release. I have installed Linux so often on so many machines, reinstalling is fairly trivial to me now. For the record, installing Windows is just as trivial to me. I have a couple of scripts that automate all the tedious things that must be done on a fresh install, like running updates, installing software I use and removing things I don’t need. My only complaint at this point is the installer wanted to download and install a bunch of language packages that I did not really need and the download was taking way to long. So I restarted the install and this time, did not connect to the Internet until after the system was installed. Once in, I ran three scripts, while I watched an episode of NCIS on my TiVo, I then spent a few minutes adjusting my desktop and that was it. So far no complaints, everything went smooth.

The only real question left is should I buy a new computer to replace my server. It has been in service for 3 years and it was used when I got it. The problem wih computers is the older it gets the more likely it is to fail and I would much rather be a head rather than behind that curve. I am thinking maybe a $299 Dell will suffice just fine. For a server I do not need Nvidia video or more than 2GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive is bigger than the one I am using now. Well, anyway, not today, maybe I will order it so it arrives while I am on vacation, I don’t know.

Windows 7 etc

I readily admit I was in a bad mood this morning when I got up and that was very definitely a contributing factor. However, one of the reasons I was in a bad mood was, during last nights game, OpenRPG/Traipse kept lagging on me for sometimes 2-3 minutes. I am certain this is a problem either with Windows 7 or Python for Windows. It is not a network issue, because no one else was having the issue and I was connected directly to the server on my internal network and my ping times to the server were constantly at around 0.250 ms and stayed that way even when OpenRPG was lagging. I realize this is a problem with my system and its configuration, because many people use OpenRPG under Windows with no issues. But for whatever reason, it was not working for me.

So, this morning I blew away Windows 7 and reinstalled Linux Mint 12, two weeks short of my promised 30 days of Windows. I am now very nicely back in Linux where I belong. I guess I have been using it too long to be comfortable with anything else on my personal system. I think I am going to install the Enlightenment Desktop Manager along with a Giger theme just because I can.

LPI-1 Certification

This afternoon and went and took my Linux Certification. I took a chance and took both the 117-101 and 117-102 back to back. Each test was 60 questions and I had 90 minutes to complete each test. The test is scored from 200-800 points, with 500 needed to pass. I managed to get a 700 on both tests. So Yay me.

If anyone is looking for a good way to study for a cert, I suggest http://www.examcollection.com/. The program to use the study material is $30 and can be purchased at http://www.visualcertexam.com/order/visual-certexam-suite.html. I suggest reading the reviews of each of the files before committing to them, some of them are out of date and some of them are poorly made.

Lifes little oddities

Okay so here I am in the middle of my month of using Windows 7 and I am now in a situation where I need to renew my LPI-1 Linux Certification. Oddly, this means I need to setup Linux running on Virtualbox. I am not sure of this is Irony or a weird Juxtaposition. They say the LPI test is distro neutral, but the last time I took it, it was heavily weighted towards RPM based distros like RedHat and CentOS. Since RedHat requires a chunk of cash to get even update support, I went with CentOS. I am very use to installing Windows into a VM under Linux, but not so much installing Linux into a VM under Windows. This all good practice I suppose.

Linux Mint

I am experimenting with Linux Mint at the moment. Mint is a derivative distribution of Ubuntu. They seem to be taking a different route from Ubuntu. Ubuntu seems to be embracing the touch pad paradigm, which I believe is at best a niche and within a year or two will be considered fad for desktop computing. Mint had modified Gnome3 to look and act like Gnome2, which works much better for me. On top of that, they have forked Gnome2 into MATE. So the experiment is on. Like always, I will be installing it on my backup rig and taking it for test run, if it works well on my 5 year old Inspirion 1505, then I will do the install on my main system, the 1545.