02 August 2005
Random Ramblings: Linux WallpaperEven though my mainstay computer has been and still is Windows (at least for the time being), I've been using Linux wallpaper for the past 6-7 years. If nothing else, it's a reminder that I should be doing something else with my time. With the recent rebuild of my Windows computer, I forgot to copy my Linux wallpaper over, and rather than taking apart my computer to connect a 2nd hard drive to copy 3-4 files, I figured that I would go Internet spelunking to find my favourite wallpaper instead. Incidentally, my favourites show Tux with an umbrella walking in the rain (reminiscent of the years I spent in rainy Oregon), Tux sucking on a Windows XP juice carton, and Tux lounging in a bathtub reading a Linux rag.
Needless to say, I DID find what I was looking for - and tons more as well (several years have past since I went to looking for these). One site in the Czech Repbulic that has A LOT of wallpaper is Linuxsoft.cz (hint: click on >NÁSLEDUJÍCÍ to move to the next page). I've even found a new favourite: Tux playing the Kill Bill cast (Gogo, Elle and the Bride herself). Alas, Tux is no match for the real Uma Thurman, but you can't have everything!
20 July 2005
Random Ramblings: Booting Linux from a USB DriveSoon after I posted my July 9 blog entry about using Live CD's with public computers, Bill Thompson alerted me to a product called The Portable Virtual Privacy Machine ("PVPM"). This is a Linux implementation that runs entirely from a thumb drive. While I've known that such things existed (albeit not this particular one), I didn't put much emphasis on it in my piece because the Post Database letter writer apparently didn't have access to his own computer and thus would have no easy way to create such a device.
Coincidentally, Wanda Sloan highlighted PVPM in Sloan Ranger this week as well. Given all this, I figured I'd better take a closer look. After an 86MB download, I unzipped the contents into one of my thumb drives. I then ran it under a Windows 2000 machine with a 1.7GHz CPU and a Windows XP machine with 2.0GHz CPU. How did it turn out? In a word, the performance was horrible - absolutely unusable. This is hardly surprising given that a Linux emulator is running under Windows.
Bottom line: I still believe that a Live Linux CD is the best solution for public computing. Until proven otherwise, of course.
09 October 2004
Random Ramblings: FirefoxMore than two years ago, I said that I was back to using the Opera web browser. Well, sorry, but Opera was supplanted by Firefox not long after that. Actually, I started using it when it was still called "Phoenix" (and thereafter "Firebird", and now "Firefox") and was at version 0.5. I was actively working with Linux at the time and didn't particularly like Mozilla. So, Bill Thompson recommended Phoenix to me and I've been using it ever since (although ironically, I'm back to using Mozilla under Linux now due to laziness on my part).
Firefox has progressed nicely over the past two years, although it still gags on some websites, prints badly on others, and its Thai font rendering is a bit small for my tastes. But I love how it blocks pop-ups, I love having a Google search box close at hand, and I loved using something that up until recently, was outside the mainstream and not in someone's cross hairs.
A few addendums:
- Firefox's recent default theme is awfully ... nay, painfully plain. So, I opted for the "Noia 2.0 (eXtreme)" theme by Kongkeat Kuatrakull (apparently a fellow Thai) instead. To each his/her own, of course.
- A while back, I had trouble getting Firefox to work properly with Yahoo. The "fix" back then was to fool Yahoo into thinking Firefox was another, more palatable browser. To do this, I used Chris Pederick's User Agent Switcher, which allowed Firefox to masquerade as Netscape or Internet Explorer. (Note: Opera has this capability built-in). This Yahoo incompatiblity seems to have been resolved as I no longer need to do this smoke and mirrors routine any more. But it's a useful trick to have up your sleeve, in case you run into those Internet Explorer-only websites.
- I use Firefox to open Word and Excel files on my Samba file server. (I realize that this isn't safe to do on the internet, but we're talking about a local area network here.) For some reason, I couldn't get Firefox to automatically open Excel files, despite the fact that Word files opened without a peep. I eventually learned that I had to teach Firefox how to handle this MIME filetype. But how do you do that - there's doesn't seem to be a way to do this within Firefox proper? The solution was to use the Mime Type Editor. Incidentally, the MIME type for *.xls files is application/vnd-ms-excel.
- Like many people who have recently discovered Firefox, my sidekick Petch now swears by it. Not surprisngly, what turned him was the recent spate of problems with Internet Explorer, and perhaps the work he had to put in to install numerous patches and anti-spyware programs on almost two dozen computers. Anyway, he now installs Firefox on every computer that crosses his path, and even went so far as to hide IE's shortcuts on the computers at work. I'm not sure if I would have gone THAT far ...
- Recently, Bill Thompson alerted me to FirefoxIE, a project that provides a makeover for Firefox to make it look and act like Internet Explorer. I just gave this a try and got mixed results. Frankly, even if it had worked out perfectly, it would still be a pain to perform these manual customizations on multiple computers. Clearly, a more automated solution is needed. Thus, I'm going to put FirefoxIE away for the time being, because after all, I don't mind using Firefox in its current form anyway.
21 March 2003
Update: Windows Clients for Linux ServersI've solved the problem with SSHDOS that I noted in my Windows Clients for Linux Servers piece and have added an Update Notes link re: what I did.
My plans now are to write a Part II to the piece, dealing with some additional clients, such SSHDOS, VNC, Cygwin ssh and XFree86 (if I can get them to work), and something about using WinaXe with XDMCP. As I finish each piece, I'll add them to the original article's Update Notes, and once EVERYTHING is finished, I'll split them off, brush up the writing a bit, and re-combine then as an official Part II.
20 March 2003
Article: Windows Clients for Linux ServersI've just finished writing another lengthy article on Windows Clients for Linux Servers. Sigh, I need to learn to write short stuff for a change.
10 March 2003
Wobble: DOS/Windows/Linux CribsheetsFYI: There are two new links in the left purple band, being cribsheets for DOS/Windows and Linux. They're really for my personal use, but in case they're of any interest to anyone, be my guest. These days I've been updating them several times a week.
09 March 2003
Article: KnoppixI've just written and posted a fairly lengthy piece on Knoppix, a CD-based Linux distribution that hails from Germany.
24 February 2003
Updates: Linux and Foreign File SystemsSeveral loose ends in my article on Linux and Foreign File Systems have been tidied up. I can now read PC Zip disks under mtools and Mac Zip disks under xhfs, and the article has been edited to reflect this. The only thing left to do is to actually make Linux read OS/2 HPFS partitions, which frankly isn't a high priority for me at this time.
22 February 2003
Article: Linux and Foreign File SystemsAnother Linux related piece that covers the ins and outs of accessing "foreign" file systems under Linux. Specifically covered are: DOS' FAT16/FAT32, Windows' NTFS, OS/2's HPFS, and the Macintosh's HFS. Needless to say, this is hardly an original article, content-wise. My real objectives were to make sure that I knew the stuff by making myself write about it, and to gather information from a lot of disparate sources and to put it in one, more easily referenced place.
18 February 2003
Article: Netware and LinuxAnother Linux-oriented article, this one dealing with NetWare and Linux. I cover the early attempts to implement a NetWare server over Linux and end up showing how to set up a NetWare client for Linux.
08 February 2003
Article: Booting Linux from a Windows Boot ManagerSigh, it HAS been a while, hasn't it? I just wrote a piece for a Linux class, re: how to boot Linux from a Windows boot manager.
10 March 2001
Random Ramblings: Trials & Tribulations of Installing LinuxI've been "offline" for the past week or so because of a crash on my home computer. I was planning to install a web caching program called "Squid" (https://www.squid-cache.org) and decided to install Linux for this purpose. It had been almost a year since I last played with Linux, and the first time I had done so in the U.S. This was partly due to certain unpleasantries that occurred when I last installed Linux. Back then, I had some free space on my Windows hard disk and decided to install "KRUD" (an optimized Red Hat v6.1 at the time) as a second O/S. For some reason, perhaps due to a mistake on my part, KRUD ended up corrupting my Windows partition. It took several hours of nail-biting work to repair the damage and another 24 hours to reinstall/reconfigure all my apps and data. Ugh. Very ugh.
Anyway, having learned my lesson, I decided to play it safer this time. This time, Linux would go on a separate hard disk, far from the madding Windows crowd. Unfortunately, out of laziness and/or misplaced faith that Linux would ignore my Windows hard disk, I didn't disconnect the Windows drive. But as expected (sic), when I rebooted my computer, only the Linux destined drive was detected by BIOS and by Disk Druid, one of Linux's partitioning utilities. Fine, the Windows drive was essentially hidden. Wrong. Very wrong. I forgot that Linux's partitioning programs ARE able to detect a Windows partition if left online - and alarm bells should have gone off. (Indeed, Linux's FDISK is one of the most adept partitioning utilities I've ever used, with support for literally every disk filing system I've ever used). And come to think of it, why WOULDN'T BIOS detect the 2nd drive if it was left connected? Oops.
I had mistakenly left both drives configured as "Primary/Master" and after I had finished with and removed the Linux drive, the Windows drive would no longer boot, complaining loudly about VxD errors. Booting from an emergency disk, I found that all of the data was still there, so at worst it meant a 24 hour reinstall fest. I was planning to do this apnyway, since I wanted to add a Windows NT partition to my computer. Nein, Wolfgang. I soon found that many of my files, while visible, were in fact "randomly" corrupted. I would have no way of knowing which files were good or bad unless I checked every one by hand. This problem was partly alleviated by reinstalling data backups, but there are still hundreds of files I have to check manually. Ugh, ugh, ugh.
By the way, the fault wasn't due to Linux. It was entirely my sloppiness. Speaking of Linux, I had collected several new Linux distributions since my last installation, and debated whether to install Mandrake v7.2 or OpenLinux v2.4. As it had been a long time since I last tasted OpenLinux, I opted for that. Very nice. Everything went well, including the often tricky video setup (I'm using an AGP card). I also got Linux working with my cable modem, although frankly I "cheated". Since my cable modem is now connected to my internet router, all I had to do was to setup Linux with a static IP address, and then provide it with the gateway IP address (i.e. the router), and the IP addresses of my ISP's DNS servers. Smooth as silk.
Lesson: Next time I install Linux, I'll clone my Windows hard disk first and then remove and lock it in a closet UPSTAIRS.