Saturday, December 30, 2006

Installing "Edgy" HOWTO

Ubuntu is a fine and easy to install Linux distro but of course it doesn't lack some small bugs or other little issues, but they are easy to overcome - if you know how... I thought I'd sum it all up in one little install HOWTO. (Please keep in mind: this is the way I got it working for my amd64 system...) Here we go!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Ubuntu it is - again

So, I went for Ubuntu Edgy. Fedora Core 6 gave me some hard times updating because yum couldn't resolve some dependencies - I never had this kind of trouble with Debian's apt.

My former experience with Kubuntu Edgy taught me to download the "alternate" install-CD right away. The installation is pretty much the same as with the "desktop" install-CD, but you have the choice to install "grub" not only to the MBR. As I mentioned, my motherboard (and I found some clues that there are a lot of boards with nForce5/AM2 chip set with similar problems) has some issues with Linux. To be precise, without additional kernel options almost no distro would boot. There are two options which made the kernel boot correctly:
  • acpi=off

  • noapic (preferred!)
With "acpi=off" Linux boots but you have no ACPI support what so ever. This means no "powernow" (CPU frequency scaling) and no automatic power-off after shutdown. If applicable I'd go for the second option "noapic". I don't no exactly what it does, but I think it has something to do with PCI interrupts. This option works pretty well and you still have ACPI support.
To boot the Ubuntu install-CD you have to press "F6" at the boot screen and add "noapic" (without the quotation marks) at the end of the line right before the "--" and then hit "Enter". That's it - for now... The bad news is that the installer doesn't remember that extra option and won't add it to the Grub-boot loader configuration file automatically. I'm going to write a short HOWTO about installing Ubuntu on a system like mine where I'll explain how to overcome this issue.

By the way, Ubuntu doesn't have the problem (like Kubuntu) that all drives mounted under /media disappear after logout/login - either they fixed it or it never appeared in Ubuntu.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Back again!

I'm back - finally! I got a new computer (no, not for Christmas, bought the parts myself a few weeks ago and assembled it myself) and until now it works great. Hopefully it stays that way...

The main specs are:
  • Gigabyte GA-M55S-S3 (nForce5) motherboard
  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200 (Dual Core) CPU
  • Gainward BLISS 7600GT 256MB video card
  • 2 GB RAM (dual channel enabled)
Though there are some quirks concerning Linux and ACPI support with the current BIOS of the motherboard I'm pretty content with everything - as there is a workaround this issue. I will write something about that in the near future, but I'm still undecided which Linux distro I should use... At the moment it's boiling down to Ubuntu 6.10 or Fedora Core 6. Well, let's see and be sure that I'll let you know ;-)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My computer died...

Last week my computer died... I'm writing this using one of my old boxes. I don't know what happened, it just left me with a small bang and died. I think there's something wrong with power switch witch might have caused a short circuit. If you think I'm pretty pissed, you're guessing right...

I'm now looking for a new computer. Just don't know if I buy one from Dell or Fujitsu-Siemens or something like this or if I assemble one myself again... Well, I'll see... It's going to be a pretty hard time not being able to play "World of Warcraft"!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

DVD playback with SUSE 10.1

As already mentioned, getting Linux to playback DVDs is a little tricky, because in some countries (including Germany) it's illegal to use the needed library. It's OK if you use Windows as your OS and have a commercial software like WinDVD or PowerDVD, but it's considered to be illegal if you have open source software to playback css-encoded DVDs??? I cannot see the sense in paying for a DVD and than have to pay again for a (Windows-)software to play it. I think that comes pretty close of being bullshit...
I found a nice paragraph in a German Ubuntu wiki, so if the language doesn't bother you have a look at it, it's right at the bottom of that page. To sum it up, it seems I'm not even allowed to write a HOWTO on this matter. But I like to quote (not literally) the former mentioned paragraph from the Ubuntu wiki.

It's not illegal to search for example via Googel for a library which enables Xine to play DVDs protected by css. If, by accident, you are lucky and find it just get the rpm (if you use SUSE 32bit) or the source (for SUSE amd64) and install the former or compile the latter (no special options required). If you installed "libxine1" from Packman you would now be able to play "normal" DVDs - at least I heard so.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Multimedia in SUSE 10.1

As for all major Linux distributions SUSE comes with almost no support for multimedia. At least mp3 playback is possible via Real Player or amaroK if you install "amarok-helix" and choose it as playback engine for amaroK. If mp3 support is all you want, you're all set! But I like to go a little further here.

Almost all you need for this purpose: Packman has it! Just add this repository to smart. From there on are two ways. If you added Packman with the default settings you will get a bunch of new packages the next time you do a "smart update/upgrade" replacing the one's from SUSE by Packman's. There's nothing wrong with this, but I like to stay closer with SUSE. So, when adding the Packman repository to smart I selected "-10" as priority. This way, I can manually choose which packages from Packman I like to install.

If you followed the "-10 priority"-part you now need to install the packages manually. Open the smart-gui and search for the following packages and mark them for installation/removal (packages by Packman have "pm" in their name):
INSTALL:
  • libxine1 (from Packman)
  • xine-ui (from Packman)
  • xine-skins (from Packman)
  • speex (for amd64: both, the x86_64 and i686 from Packman)
  • xmms (from Packman)
  • xmms-lib (from Packman)
  • faad2-xmms-plugin (from Packman)
  • xmms-mac (from Packman)
  • xmms-shn (from Packman)

REMOVE:
  • speex-32bit (from SUSE)
  • xmms-plugins (from SUSE)

After those packages and their dependencies are installed you should be able to listen to mp3's and watch most movie formats - with the exception of DVDs... I'll cover that later, as this is a little tricky and in some countries even not legal.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Compiling Gaim2 on SUSE 10.1

Recently I couldn't resist installing Gaim2. As there are no rpm's for SUSE 10.1 (you could take a look at Guru's repository, but that would be the easy way!) I had to compile from source. And by the way: it worked! ;-) So, here's a little HOWTO.

First of all get the source (by the time writing it's Gaim2.0.0 beta4) from here and extract it to a temporary directory. Then you need some packages. As I'm using KDE you might already have some of these installed if your preferred desktop is Gnome. Whatever, you need those:
  • gtk2-devel
  • debus-1-devel
  • gnutls-devel
  • gstreamer-devel
  • gstreamer010-devel
  • perl
  • tcl-devel
  • tk-devel
You should also install gstreamer/gstreamer010 and gestreamer-/gstreamer010-plugins to have sound in Gaim. If you never used gstreamer to play sound before (much likely If you're using KDE) play a wave file by typing
gst-launch-0.10 playbin uri="file:///home/whatever/song.wav"

Saturday, November 4, 2006

"Zune" Theme for Windows

Due to the upcoming release of Microsoft's Zune-Player they released a new theme for Windows XP. Looks nice if you like black and it kind of fits to the new Windows Media Player 11 which is also held in black.

You may download Zune theme here.

Friday, November 3, 2006

A short glimpse at "Edgy"

Recently I couldn't resist (those voices in my head told me to...) and give Kubuntu's Edgy a try. I downloaded the desktop install iso for amd64 ignoring the known bug which said that the desktop installer "ubiquity" cannot reuse an existing root partition. I couldn't believe such thing because in Dapper it worked well. OK, this annoying bug does exist... Very disappointing! So, I downloaded the "alternate install" iso and gave it another try. Installation went smoothly but then another bug: logging in and out of KDE makes all mounted partitions under "/media" disappear. You have to "sudo mount -a" to get them back mounted.
Trying to install Klamv, a Qt-interface for clamav, resulted in dpkg-configuration errors which could - unlike in Dapper - not be resolved by just installing any other package afterwards.
Another odd thing is that by default you can't see the "/" filesystem in Konqueror with the exception of your "home"-directory of course and "/media" (if partitions are still mounted...). Maybe that's considered a "feature" and there is a possibility to disable this behavior but I will not try finding out. I'm very disappointed with that release of (K)Ubuntu and hope they'll get it fixed soon. In my opinion those two are grave bugs and shouldn't make it to a final release. I'm going to stay with SUSE and see what openSUSE 10.2 will bring...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Using "smart" with SUSE 10.1

As already mentioned SUSE's ZENworks package management doesn't do it's job and YOU (Yast Online Update) isn't really better. The alternative is smart. If you followed my instructions from "Installing SUSE Linux 10.1" you skipped both registration and update configuration. You may do so now either via Yast or by opening a console, becoming root and typing "suse_register -n" - maybe it works, maybe not... But you don't need it. Anyway, I'd recommend getting smart from here (there' a link to rpm's for SUSE 10.1) and installing all three packages from console by changing to the download directory and typing
rpm -Uhv smart-*.rpm

You should use the "U" parameter (which stands for "update") if you installed the version of smart which came with SUSE. That is the recommended way because all dependencies (needs some python stuff) are already installed then. If you haven't installed smart during initial installation of SUSE you may try installing the packages via "rpm -ihv smart-*.rpm" but rpm won't resolve dependencies this way.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

"Martyr"

A little "nerd-off-topic", but as I'm a big fan of Depeche Mode since the days of "Master and Servant" and "People are People" back in 1984, I'd like to mention that they recently released a new single called "Martyr" which is not featured on their last album "Playing the Angel". The song sounds a little more electronic than most of the songs on "Playing the Angel" (except for "Precious") but would have easily fitted on it as well. Though I think (after listening to it a few times) they had better songs, it's good DM stuff and if you like Depeche Mode, you'll certainly like "Martyr"!
The one thing that disappoints me are the remixes of their singles. Until the mid 90s they really had some great remixes or extended versions. Just think of "Are People People", "Behind the Wheel" or "Walking in my Shoes" - to name a few. But nowadays all their remixes sound crappy... They're always kind of dancefloor tuned and hate it! I think those remixes have nothing to do with the kind of music which Depeche Mode stands for. Well, just my humble opinion...

"Martyr" will be featured on the forthcoming Album "The Best of... Vol.1". I don't know if it's themselves or their record company who pushes out a "Best of" or other kind of DM compilation in between new albums. OK, of course I gotta have it... Maybe that's why they're releasing stuff like that? ;-)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

New Mozilla Firefox 2.0

Mozilla Firefox 2.0 has just been officially released! I'm using Firefox since the days of version 0.4 where it was still called "Phoenix" and I like where it's going to. So, I just installed the Windows version and my first impression: doing great as always! Before installing I removed the previous version and renamed the profile folder in "C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Mozilla" to "...\Mozilla_old". I think it's always good practice to do so when installing a new major version, though maybe not necessary. After starting Firefox for the first time the folder will be recreated and you can copy your bookmarks to the new profile (just copy over "bookmarks.html" from "...\Mozilla_old\Firefox\Profiles\13245678.default\" to the corresponding new folder). Apart from some new eyecandy I'm beginning to appreciate the new spell checker while writing this. This is really a neat new feature!!! Also new is the "phishing protection". You may choose if Firefox should compare URLs to a downloaded list or by asking a site like Google. We'll see if this will do any good. I personally prefer the first method as I'm having no good feeling about telling Google every site I'll look at... ;-)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Installing SuSE Linux 10.1

I'd like to write a short HOWTO on installing SuSE Linux 10.1 for amd64. It's how it worked for me and my computer and doesn't mean to be THE way.

So first of all grab the DVD image from here, which also includes the non-opensource software like Adobe Reader, Real Player and Flash-Plugin. SUSE just released an updated version called "remastered" which comes with all updates since the initial release. Don't forget to compare MD5 sums (for Windows: use MD5summer) and then burn the iso to DVD with your preferred software. Once you've set your BIOS to boot from DVD-drive, insert DVD and up we go!

The installation starts with SuSE's "yast2" asking some easy questions like preferred language, time-zone default desktop (KDE 3.51 or Gnome 2.12), etc. If yast2 has finally gathered the required information all settings are summed up. There's an "Expert" view of all settings which you should use to adjust some of the default settings (just by clicking on the corresponding title).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

My computer

I got my computer about a year ago and assembled it myself. Though I like playing around with hardware from time to time, I'm always really glad when it's all done - and working! So here's what I have (only main specs):
  • AMD Athlon64 3000 CPU (1,8 GHz)
  • Asus Motherboard A8N-E (nForce4 chipset)
  • XFX 7600GT video card with 256MB DDR3 RAM
  • 1,5 GB RAM
  • Innovatek watercooling system (for CPU and GPU)
The watercooling system really does it's job! CPU as well as GPU temperature won't go above 40°C and tend to be around 30°C most of the time. That's the good part... but it's really annoying if you like to change your hardware a lot.

I found the XFX video card more or less accidentally as I never heard of that company before. The video card is very well manufactured and solid. It has a bar added on top of it which stabilizes the board and allowed me to attach the watercooling heatsink a lot stronger compared to my former Gigabyte board. I think, if it's time for a new video card I'll take a look at XFX first. I always prefer nVIDIA boards over ATI, because the Linux support concerning the installation of their drivers is a lot better at nVIDIA.

The Asus board was a bit of a disappointment at the beginning, because the chip fan broke after two weeks. Looking at some forums I found out that this was a "normal" behavior of this chip fan. That's not Asus-worthy!!! So I had to disassemble my computer (and of course the watercooling system got in my way...) and change that chip fan. As the nForce4 northbridge needs good cooling, I bought a bigger heatsink and attached a small (but more quiet) fan to it. Work's like charm! That was about the only thing I could complain of.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ubuntu and SUSE

As I already mentioned I recently changed from Ubuntu to SUSE. Why? To sum it up: I was up for a change! :-) And I liked the way SUSE integrated 32bit Software into their 64bit OS.

Ubuntu is one of the best distros I ever used (and maybe will again). The installation is quick and simple and no package-management can compete with Debian's apt. And this is the main weakness of SUSE: Novell's "ZENworks" package-system is a piece of sh... But there are ways to work around that issue. So here is a short and of course personal comparison of those two distros with pros and cons (always in mind that I'm talking of the 64bit version):


Sunday, October 8, 2006

Linux and me

With "SuSE Linux 5.3" I gave Linux the first try. I just got quite familiar with Windows 95 and was up for something new. I didn't really know what I was doing but the installation went pretty well - but no X-Server was working with my system... OK, that was it! ...until "SuSE Linux 6.3". I actually got X working and even my soundblaster. For the latter I had to "recompile" the kernel. Again, I had no clue what I was doing, I just followed some instructions I came across via Google. I still preferred using Windows for every day work. This changed a bit when I bought "SuSE Linux 7.2", which worked out of the box! The follow-up version 7.3 was a disappointment, I had a lot of trouble with it and the same goes for 8.x, so a I changed to "Mandrake 8.2" (which is Mandriva today) and that did hit the spot! Everything worked great and me being still a noob could manage this distro very well and so I followed Mandrake until version 10 and it became may main OS. I learned quite well the "ways of Linux" and like every time something works really good, I needed a change and my new distro of choice became "Slackware 9.0". I have to say, that this is one of the best distros I ever came across. It's very straightforward and simple. If you want to configure something - well, just edit the appropriate conf-file! I stayed with Slackware until Version 10.1. I became a bit lazy and had an eye on Debian for quite a while. Debian "woody" being a bit out-dated I tried "sarge", which was "testing" then. It worked like charm and once you learn how to use "apt", you'll really appreciate the large amount of software which is right at your fingertips. Then I changed my hardware to 64bit an I wanted a 64bit distro. The Debian 64bit trunk wasn't supported and with "sarge" being stable by now, I had to go with "etch" which was "testing" - and that a lot! So I changed to Ubuntu for amd64. That was kind of Debian, but working. ;-) And I still had apt package-management! I used Ubuntu 5.04, 5.10 and 6.06 and I liked it a lot. With 6.06 the installation of some 32bit software (flash, java-plugin) became a bit easier, but it still was something which could have worked nicer. So, again I changed: this time back to SuSE which is now owned by Novell. I'm writing this running SUSE 10.1.

Getting started...

So, now I started this blog. Let's just wait and see what kind of wisdom it'll bring to the world. To be honest, I already know: it'll be mostly about computers and stuff! ;-)
This is my coffee mug, very helpful if I need to use vi...