Hosts, Toast, and Server Compost

Man! What a weekend this one turned out to be. On Friday afternoon, I nuked my Out of the Woods board by accident.

I had been having some slow, really feckin’ slow server issues for the past month. I was piggybacking on a friend’s server. The friend had been a bit scarce since Christmas and I had not been able to get in touch with him to alert him to the issues. I thought maybe I could tweak the database a bit to revive the board. Uh-huh. I tweaked it alright. I tweaked it into oblivion. More evidence that you really shouldn’t mess with stuff that you’re not familiar with. Gotta’ learn somehow, right?

Anyway, another pal o’ mine who does this do-do for a living offered to attempt to revive my board with my most recent backup. Hey! What the hell, right? Go for it. So, Jay (of http://lachsoft.jaylach.com/) took the ball and ran off. After a while, he reported back that the issue had not been my board’s software or database, but possibly a corrupted/non-maintained server. Alrighty then. I can’t get hold of the friend whose server this is, so what now?

Jay comes to the rescue by offering to serve my board on his server. YAY! The fully revived Out of the Woods board is now LIVE and functioning again. It can be found at its new home –> http://vtel.jaylach.com/index.php Please stop on by if you get a minute or two. There are a bunch of great folks there. Tell ’em Eric sent you. Oh, and if you’re planning on spamming that board, forget it. All memberships must be Admin approved. You’ll never get past the gate keeper.

Have a great week, folks! Life is GOOD!

Later…

~Eric

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The Slacker Dreads MS Windows Service Packs

Back in the dark ages of my computering life. I used an operating system known as Microsoft Windows®. I still occasionally play around in Windows these days.

I have (had, the drive failed on me recently) an XP Pro installation on my desktop system for playing games only. It’s crippled… no networking installed at all. I also have an installation of Win 7 on my laptop. It’s just for fun and education. I’m the family computer nerd, so everyone comes to me for help. They don’t run Linux… yet. MUAHAHAHA! Anyway, I have to stay comfortable with how MS products work so I can still be helpful to the unfortunate souls still using that OS.

As some of you who know me may remember, the camel that broke the straw’s back for me with MS Windows was the fact that I had numerous catastrophic system failures due to corrupted installations of various Service Packs on XP back in ’06. The last one may have actually been a faulty Seagate hard drive, to be fair to MS. However, the last one was the last one for me. I went to Linux full time within a few days of that event.

Now, here comes a new Service Pack (#1) for my Win 7 installation. UH-OH! I’m very gun shy about Service Packs, folks. This time, though, the OS is not my primary computer tool, so what’s the worry. If it boogers up, I can just reinstall. No great loss… just more minutes of my life sucked out of existence by Microsoft. Anyway, I decided to go for it yesterday. The install was fast and painless. And best of all… the system rebooted into a working Win 7 OS. Cool, huh?

Kudos to MS. They may have finally gotten something right with this new Win 7. So, just what was Vista? XP’s Millennium Edition? Oh, wait… Vista was the beta, of course. I wonder how many folks actually paid $300 to beta test for MS on that one. All that testing paid off. Thanks beta folks! 🙂

OK, I’m outta’ here…

~Eric

NOTE: All derogatory comments regarding Microsoft and the Windows® operating system are absolutely true… er, I mean are absolutely in jest. jk, as Generation Text likes to say. Can you imagine what Evolution is going to make their childrens’ childrens’ childrens’ thumbs look like? Heh!

Arch Steps Up – Debian Takes a Backseat

I recently did some soul searching regarding my GNU/Linux philosophy. I found that I wasn’t being true to myself.

For years now, I’ve run Slackware Linux as my primary operating system and a second, fully updated version of Debian as my  secondary OS. I’m a firm believer in simplicity and stability. I enjoyed both of those qualities in Slack and Deb, of course. They are both rocks when it comes to stability. I’ve never had a crash in either operating system that was due to the OS itself. Any crashes were usually caused by something stupid that I had done.

All that being said, while contemplating upgrading from Debian Lenny to Squeeze, I had an epiphany. Slackware and Debian are not very much alike, other than their common quality of stability. Where Slack has a relatively small application set; Debian’s repos are huge. Where Slack uses close to the newest versions of its software; Debian uses versions that are typically three to four releases old (VERY stable and proven stuff).

It was always difficult for me to sync Slack’s apps with Debian’s in my primary and secondary operating systems because of the discrepancy in releases; especially so with Mozilla apps like FF and TB. This got me thinking… maybe Debian, even though it had always been my fall-back operating system, might not be serving my purposes that well after all. Is there something better out there for what I want to do?

As most of you know, I have five tester slots on a dedicated drive just for trying out and learning other distributions of GNU/Linux. No, I don’t do virtual. I like to REALLY install and set up operating systems. Virtual computing is like virtual sex. It works, but it’s not nearly as much fun (or as messy). In one of my tester slots there is almost always an installation of Arch Linux. Why Arch? Well, it’s a cool distribution. That’s why.

Seriously, Arch is a very stable, very robust distribution of GNU/Linux. It’s been around about ten years now. It’s a fork of the old Crux branch of the Linux Tree. I started playing around with Arch about three years ago, I think. I was impressed right off the bat. One of the greatest things about Arch is its outstanding support community, particularly the wiki. There is an abundance of information for Arch users of all sizes and shapes. Support is a good thing!

As a result of all this deep thinking and philosophizing, I decided to install Arch as my official secondary operating system. I spent the past three days installing and setting it up. I’m using it now to post this article. I have everything set up to closely match my Slackware installation. I keep both sync’d (manually) and updated. If my Slack craps out, I can always boot Arch and seamlessly carry on until I fix my Slack. Odds of Slack crapping out? Null. You never know, though.

Give Arch a try. You might be impressed. For a very good tutorial on installing Arch, see securitybreach’s tutorial at Scot’s Newsletter Forums – Bruno’s All Things Linux.

My Arch w/ Xfce Desktop Environment

Later…

~Eric

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to startx

I got up bright and early on Wednesday last in anticipation of performing some computer projects that I had set aside to do.

I sat here at the computer desk with my hot cup of coffee steaming on the desk next to me. I reached out and clicked that ON button on the face of my tower. The buzzing and whirring began just as it always does. My Slackware boots in a relatively short time, so I scratched at myself and picked my nose while waiting. When I glanced up, the monitor was black. Hmm… that’s not good.

To make a long nightmare more enjoyable to read about, it turned out that I had some sort of dirty contact issue with my PCIe graphics card socket. Ain’t that a bitch? Well, I tried a little brush with alcohol. Nope. That didn’t work. I tried some compressed air. Nope. That didn’t fix it either. OK. I disassembled the system and removed my mobo completely. I took it outside to my shop (that’s when you know something’s serious).

I re-soldered all the pins on the socket, in case there was a cold/cracked solder joint. Not to worry, folks. I’m a professional. I spent the better part of my life servicing electronic products to component level. I have the tools and the skills. I don’t recommend you try this at home, though. Those boards are machine soldered (by Chinese machines that run on rice) and can easily be boogered up, if you don’t know what you’re doing.

So, while I had the mobo on the bench, I got a piece of emery paper and folded it and inserted it into the slot on the socket. I ran it back and forth, cleaning those little metal contacts as I went. I sprayed tuner cleaner in healthy amounts and blew the socket out with compressed air again. I took it back inside the house.

I reassembled the system and booted. YAY! It worked! Let’s hope it continues to do so because I have some more good stuff to tell you about in the next few days. I had a mini-installfest again. I installed Arch Linux (again) and installed Foresight Linux (also, again). I’ll post a bit about my adventures with that project and why it happened in a couple days.

Later…

~Eric

5 Things I Love Most About MS Windows

My first experience with Microsoft Windows was version 3.1. It was installed on a PC in my brother’s construction company office back in ’93. It was COOL! I’ve loved MS Windows ever since. Here are my top 5 reasons why:

  • numero cinco – I love MS Windows because it has more users than Charlie Sheen has drunken girlfriends; which serves to paint a LARGE target on it rather than on my actual operating system (Linux). Hackers and spammers are wise. They use Linux on their own systems and target the operating system that gives them the biggest bang for the byte. Thanks to Microsoft for being my shield.
  • numero cuatro – I love MS Windows because of all the times, while trying to learn the secrets of that OS, I visited boards and forums where helpful members there would use the code word RTFM to teach me how to do something. Many times, they would suggest that you RTFM even when there wasn’t an FM to R. Thanks to those MS Windows gurus, I learned what real community is NOT supposed to be like.
  • numero tres – I love MS Windows for making me dread Tuesdays even more than Mondays. The creation of the “patch Tuesday” updating methods for MS Windows operating systems was a stroke of genius that greatly changed folks’ attitudes about that previously most hated day of the week… Monday. I’m sure Monday is appreciative of this. The only good thing about Tuesdays these days is happy hour.
  • numero dos – the penultimate reason that I love MS Windows is because it is the Terminator of operating systems. It searches out other operating systems on its own and peripheral hard drives and terminates them. It won’t even brook the presence of another MS Windows OS on same drive. It is a very anti-social operating system. It does NOT play well with other operating systems. You have to trick it for it to behave.
  • numero uno – the very tippy-top mostest for sure reason that I love MS Windows is that it replenished my faith in the fact that even chubby computer nerds like Steve Ballmer can make a bazillion bucks by doing practically nothing of note; except for being in the right place and being friends with the right guy (Bill Gates) at the right time.

=====

The Disclaimer: In the last article here (5 Things I Hate Most About Linux), and in this article, I tend to tease a bit about Microsoft and their Windows operating system. Yes, I have had my bad experiences with that OS. Yes, I like to tease about MS Windows. And yes, it’s just for laughs. I actually feel that Microsoft changed the world with its innovations and ideas regarding operating systems and software. Oh, and I really don’t know Steve Ballmer well enough to be accusing him of being a chubby computer nerd.

Bing THIS!

Later…

~Eric

5 Things I Hate Most About Linux

The GNU/Linux computer operating system created through the sewing of miscellaneous Richard Stallman body parts around Linus Torvalds‘ heart is not perfect. Here’s a list of my 5 top pet peeves:

  • coming in at #5 is the fact that using the GNU/Linux operating system causes me great distress due to the guilt of not having paid $300+ to purchase this operating system in a very earth-unfriendly, made-in-China package from my local Bloat Buy retail software outlet.
  • #4 would, of course, be the pain caused by my empathetic tendencies toward those poor souls out there using other operating systems, and my terrible evangelistic need to convert them all. I’m becoming a damned Jehovah’s Witness of GNU/Linux… *Knock-Knock* “Hello, ma’am. I’d like to talk with you a bit today about the everlasting joy of Linux. Come to the light with me, won’t you? Yes, you can bring your cat, too.”
  • 3rd on the list is the fact that GNU/Linux does not follow the engineered obsolescence business plan that has kept free markets and manufacturing buzzing for the past 50 years. It is instead a steady, long-life item that will eventually put many folks out of work. Besides, the best distributions are given away for no cost at all. What’s up with this? This is NOT your granddad’s Capitalism, comrades.
  • my 2nd most peeving peeve is the gnawing certainty that the GNU/Linux was actually a technology that the C.I.A. leaked after discovering its usage in the computers on that crashed alien craft that’s kept in storage in Area 51. No current human intellect could have come up with something so efficient and useful. I think the aliens may have assimilated us without our knowledge or consent. Maybe that’s a good thing, upon further reflection.
  • and first/foremost on my list is the fact that GNU/Linux has increased my boredom exponentially over the last 5 years. I no longer have to run crap cleaners, antivirus apps, defraggers, malware hunters, cookie cullers, bloated/inefficient backup apps, etc. Sheeesh! I have all this time on my hands to do really useful computer stuff nowadays. So, what do I do? I choose to sit here and tap out masterpieces such as this one for your entertainment and enlightenment.

I HATE Linux! I love that little penguin, though.

Later…

~Eric

Which Widgets Watch Weather and Whether Watchers Care

Have you ever noticed we’ve become a bit obsessed with the weather in the Internet age?

If I had a nickel for every weather app out there for Windows, Mac, or Linux systems, I wouldn’t have to slave away at this keyboard making the measly $4.81/word that Chris P. pays all of us. Oh, shoot! I’m not supposed to divulge that information. However, I don’t want to backspace and delete that much money; the Jag’s in the shop, after all.

Back to the topic at hand though…

I remember ages ago how neato I thought it was when I installed an app called WeatherBug on my old Windows 98 system. Man! That thing was the weather cat’s meow. It did all sorts of stuff. Another really cool thing was back in ’04 here in Tampa I was able to experience my first real time online hurricane.

As some of you may remember, that was a bad year for hurricanes in and around Florida. I had a few near misses here in Tampa that summer/fall. What was cool, though, was watching and tracking those storms on the Internet as they were happening. I no longer had to depend on that talking head weather dude on TV. I had all the same info he had at my own fingertips. How cool is that?

I guess that was the beginning of my weather addiction. I’m a regular visitor to NOAA and Weather Underground these days. Coffee and the day’s forecast are a morning staple. I don’t really care what the weather is going to be like. I’ll find out eventually. I just enjoy the information and other fun stuff on those sites.

I even have another tab open right now with Weather Underground’s radar for my area as a big, nasty winter cold front is moving down across the Tampa area right now. I can hear the wind gusts and the rain pattering against my windows as I type this. Hmm… better save a draft in case the electricity drops on me.

Weather is cool. Check it out sometime. I don’t mean looking out the window. I mean looking at some really cool websites and stuff. You could even install a couple weather apps on your system (like you don’t already have two or three installed). I don’t use WeatherBug these days, but I do have a weather applet in my Xfce panel. It gives me the basic info. For the really in-depth stuff I go to the Internet.

Wherever you are… enjoy your weather.

Later…

~Eric

The PATH to /home/timmy/grannys_house

Back in the old days, when Timmy wanted to visit granny’s house, all he had to do was have Lassie lead him there. In today’s more complicated computer world, it takes a bit more understanding.

We’re going to learn a bit about a very important subject in Linux. It’s called PATH. The path to a file or whatever on your Linux operating system is something that you need to understand when manipulating files from the command line. Another term we’ll look at briefly is the working directory.

When Timmy, as a regular user, opens his terminal from his GUI or from the post login command line (Run Level 3 – multi-user, no X running), his working directory is in /home/timmy. Whichever directory you are in at the time is known as the working directory. Timmy may navigate to another directory using the cd command. Let’s say he navigates to /usr/bin. At that time, his working directory becomes /usr/bin. See how this works?

Think of the Linux file system as a multi-room house. If you’re in bedroom4 right now, your working directory would be /house/bedroom4. If you walked out of that room and down the hall to bathroom02, then your working directory becomes /house/bathroom02. At that time, you may then use the command micturate. Heh! A little bathroom humor there.

OK, so now we know all about the working directory, right? Moving on…

Let’s say that Timmy wants to copy a .jpg that is in /usr/share/wallpaper over to the /home/timmy/grannys_house directory. He would open his terminal, which would then be sitting there with that blinking cursor waiting for Timmy’s next command:

timmy@lassies_machine~:$ |

Timmy’s working directory at this point is /home/timmy, as designated by the command line shorthand character ~ . If Timmy wants to copy the .jpg without actually going to the directory that it’s in to copy it, he must provide the proper path in his command.

timmy@lassies_machine~:$ cp /usr/share/wallpaper/cabin.jpg /home/timmy/grannys_house

The above command, using absolute path names, directs the shell (command line interpreter) to copy the cabin.jpg image from the /usr/share/wallpaper directory to the /home/timmy/grannys_house directory. If Timmy wanted to just make a duplicate of a file in his /home/timmy directory, then he could leave off the / character when showing the command line the proper path. This can be done because he’s already in the /home/timmy directory. It is his working directory. He can now use a relative path to direct the shell to make the copy.

timmy@lassies_machine~:$ cp cabin.jpg cabin.jpg_backup

In the above example, notice that there is no / being used. Timmy is simply making a backup copy of cabin.jpg. Both files are relative to his working directory, so the shell understands that Timmy just wants to make this duplicate right there in that same directory.

It’s really not rocket science, to use that worn out old clichĂ©. The command line can be pretty simple once you get the hang of it folks. You know what I always say… Don’t fear the command line. I hope you’ve learned something here today. Remember to click the links within the article. You’ll find some more useful information and a few definitions for you there.

Later…

~Eric

Further reading:

Unix Commands @ Wikipedia

LinuxTutorial.info

Linfo.org

Paul Sheer’s Rute Users Tutorial and Exposition

Image credits: Timmy (Jon Provost) and Lassie image owned and copyright by Classic Media

Xfce 4.8 – The Little Mouse That Roared

It’s here, folks. We’ve been patiently waiting for this one… version 4.8 of everyone’s (mine, anyway) favorite desktop environment –> Xfce!

There have been many improvements, judging by the release notes. Read more about it here –> http://www.xfce.org/about/news/?post=1295136000 It may be a bit before you start seeing this in your distribution’s repositories, but you can always attempt an install from source, if you know what you’re doing.

For you Slackers (users of Slackware Linux) out there, Robby Workman has a Slackware Package of 4.8 on his server. Don’t forget to read his NOTES and install the dependencies (which he also provides for you) in the order he suggests. Of course, install at your own risk. If you have an experimental installation of Slack, as I do, it might be better to play with it in that installation rather than your primary OS… just in case, you know.

Ever since KDE4 became a fat, over-bloated MS Windows-like clone, Xfce has been my primary desktop environment. Aww, shucks! I’m just kidding about KDE. It’s fine too, as long as you have 12Gig of RAM and a water-cooled, over-clocked quad-core processor… and don’t mind the occasional system crashes.

Anyway, watch a repository near you or take the bold approach and install from source. Either way, you’ll come to love that little mouse.

Later…

~Eric

Image credits: Xfce logo Copyright 2003-2011 Xfce Development Team

Out With the Old…

… in with, well… nothing, actually. I spent the day today out in my shop weeding through boat anchor computers trying to put one good one together.

Nothing panned out, unfortunately. I ended up stripping an old Pentium III Compaq, an old Duron HP unit, and my old ericsbane02 machine. Each one had different problems but incompatible parts, so I couldn’t cannibalize to make one working unit. I kept the case and mobo from ericsbane02, but the other cases and mobos went to the curbside, where they were promptly scarfed up by the neighborhood scrap metal vultures.

My whole project aim was just to put together one machine to use as a shop system. I was focusing on ericsbane02, an AMD Athlon XP 2600+ based unit, because it was the most modern out there. Sadly, I think there is a mobo issue with that unit. I could have sworn it was working when I put it out there, but I have since taken most of the goodies out of that case. The replacement stuff I put in there today may have actually caused more issues.

It’s a project to return to another day.

At least I did make some room on the shelves by getting rid of those old dinosaurs that I had sitting there. Sheeeesh! One actually had a 10Gig hard drive. I remember paying $100 for that drive to upgrade my Pentium I machine back in 2000. A hundred bucks for 10 stinkin’ gig, huh? We’ve made some hardware progress since then, thankfully.

Well, enough rambling for this evening.

Later…

~Eric