October 5, 2007

A desktop operating system that’s easy to use.

Filed under: bsd,thetao — SiKing @ 3:04 pm

The last planned system to evaluate is DesktopBSD, version 1.6RC2. It is the only one out of the list that is non-production ready. I want to stress: there is no particular reason why this one is last it just came out that way.

First impressions: not a very original name , easy to navigate website with the user in mind, “a customized FreeBSD installation not a fork”, forums are active and people actually contribute, several mirrors and bittorrents available.

The installer

Number one item: I first tried version 1.6RC3, but that one could not get past “X server configured successfully”. After a recommendation I downgraded to RC2.

Download, burn, boot. Came up the first time into a fully graphical environment. Not only that, it was able to get a better resolution out of my graphics card than I had been able to get out of any other distro, Linux or otherwise. Like WOW! 30 seconds worth of straight-forward simple questions, followed by 30 minute install (I did not actually time it, it’s just my impression). There was even “use some sensible default in all available free space” disk partitioning option. After reboot, there is a bit of configuration: new users, root password, etc. Not one mention anywhere of network configuration (DHCP in my case), but the machine does come up Internet-ready.

So far, I am in awe.

Package management

“With its graphical package manager, DesktopBSD offers a simple way to install, upgrade and uninstall software using FreeBSD’s package collection (called “ports”). There are about 16.000 packages currently available.”

It took me a moment to find the graphical package manager – built into the KDE Control Center. Only afterwards I noticed the obvious icon labelled “Software” on the desktop. It asked me for the root password, as it should, which tells me that DesktopBSD also does not do sudo. First time I ran it, it told me a whole bunch of information explained in plain-English terms, and updated the portsnap. After starting up, it automatically first checks for current security issues.

One of the ports that is not installed right off the CD is – a sensible decision considering the thing’s size: a good first test for the package manager. To start I boldly ignored all the warnings and advice the package manager was telling me, and jumped straight into installing OpenOffice. My first few attempts (OOo-2-RC, OOo-2, and lastly ooo-build) were all met with failures. OK, so what was it it was actually telling me: update all installed packages, install security updates. Right. Most of the packages updated correctly, some failed since they are apparently no longer available!?!? OOo was among the failures. Update package list, and try again. Same result. I am not familiar enough with the Ports system to be able to resolve this right now. But at least the graphical package manager seems to be a good app. About the only complain that I have, is that it has to restart every time it completes an update of anything – it would be nice if it had to restart only if it updates pieces of itself.

If I switch to this system this is definitely going to take some getting used to, but I shall be brave.

Software support

First off my *NIX tools. Default and industry standard user shell is bash! Points there for D-BSD. I don’t get what is with all the other *BSD guys pushing all the [c-z]sh; they are interesting alternatives but not a choice default. D-BSD was missing GNU-awk (it has nawk), but all my other *NIX tools that I need were there.

D-BSD comes with Firefox preinstalled and working with no configuration. Oddly, I noticed some (but not all!) of the same rendering problems that I saw with FF/PC-BSD. One thing that I ran into a little later, which is not immediately obvious, is that it comes with the American version, which uses inches when defining things like print settings. This is gonna hafta change, if I am going to use this as my full-time system.

Thunderbird had to be installed extra. During the install I noticed the description in the package manager told me the latest is, but it downloaded, and complained that it is not the latest. No idea how to convince it to download the latest. Again, I am dismissing this as user-error. But TBird worked just fine after the install for all my stuff: IMAP, POP3, SMTP, and NNTP.

Gaim, preinstalled, worked with no problems.

For toonz, D-BSD comes preinstalled with Noatun and Kaboodle. The only difference between the two, as far as I could tell, is that Noatun could play MP3s (or anything else) even over smb:, whereas Kaboodle had to have them served up locally.

As I mentioned before failed to install. I will blindly assume that the problem in this case is on my end, specifically with my serious lack of knowledge of the Ports system.

Overall, major points in this area!

Browsing shares

As was already mentioned, browsing my Windows shares worked and it worked with no configuration. I even found where to store my Windows login credentials so that Samba does not bother me with it every time.

External devices

My Seagate disk (two partitions: ext3 and fat32) worked … sorta. D-BSD detected my ext3 partition as type ext2; from what little I know about this, I think this should work. I was able to read / write to both partitions.

DesktopBSD could not, unfortunately, figure out my Nokia. It thought it found four partitions, which there aren’t, none of which could be mounted, of course.

Good enough for my work.


As mentioned, I have access only to a network printer. I went through the KDE Printer Wizard, set it up as a TCP printer, and the test page got dumped out. I did not mess around with all the double sided, booklet printing. That is more of a KDE / drivers type of thing, rather than BSD type of thing. Also, it’s Friday, and I’m feeling lazy.

Good enough for my work.


Guys, what is with the Windows XP look-alike dressing? That is gonna have to be the first thing to go!

One curious thing that I did notice: I found the system rather unresponsive on-par with a liveCD, but that could be just my perception.

Final thought: I found my next workstation OS!


September 20, 2007

Fred is one mean looking insect

Filed under: bsd,thetao — SiKing @ 3:22 pm

The next one that gets a shot at it is DragonFly BSD, version 1.10.1. This distro has been making waves, especially in the BSD world, with its intent “to develop a radically different approach to concurrency, SMP, and most other kernel subsystems.”

First impressions: spunky mascot, they have documentation, branched (forked?) from FreeBSD 4, heavily modified kernel, several mirrors, no bittorrents.

The installer

“DragonFly CDs are ‘live’, meaning these CDs will boot your system and let you log in as root.” Unfortunately, there is no graphical desktop for this liveCD. “To activate the installer, boot the CD and login as ‘installer’.” What you get is a menu-driven Microsoftesque installer (asks for info as it needs it, rather than asking all the questions up front). It has a predefined disk layout, if you are willing to dedicate the entire disk to the distro. If you want anything else, you need to do it manually, using a 3rd-party distro. The installer could be improved by filtering out certain nonsense; for example: it searches for all disks, and then builds a menu that lets you chose which you want to install on. This offers nonsense like the floppy disk or the CD itself to install onto…

After installing the base system, comes the configuration. Bunch of questions, bunch of guesses, until I froze the system on configuring the ethernet for DHCP (command '/sbin/dhclient -1 lo0' if you want to know). Trying to fix it from the command line totally hosed the system.

Second install. Let see how much this thing can do without any connectivity? Apparently not much. Installing whatever packages come on the CD all failed, but the last message declared: “Packages were successfully installed!” Obviously I did not get to try any of them, but I did not see anything relating to X or any other graphical system. Another system, where you have to really know what you’re doing in order to get it to work. Sorry, I don’t have that much time on my hands.

Final thoughts: I am sure the kernel modification are very kick ass, in an ubergeek sorta way, I just don’t get why a whole new distro? Why not just make it a kernel patch set for one of the existing distros … or maybe I just don’t get the whole thing.

September 12, 2007

The BSD for Everyone

Filed under: bsd,thetao — SiKing @ 10:42 am

Up next: MidnightBSD, version 0.1.

First impressions: last stable version (as of this writing) is 0.1-RELEASE (zero-dot-one), some documentation, a FreeBSD fork, no torrents available, download mirrors, like the sound of their direction.

The installer

This being a beta release (at least that is how I interpret zero-dot-something versions), add to that the warning on their website “currently installation is too difficult for beginners”, I was going into this not expecting much. However, I was very pleasantly surprised!

The install CD boots up, auto-detects everything it needs, and comes up with sysinstall. The installer is semi-interactive: asks you a few questions, does some work, asks you some more, … It also has plenty of suggestions and reasonable defaults, including a default disk layout. From the available “distributions”, I chose X-User. To format the disks and install the system took surprisingly little time. Configuring the system was a separate step. Basically a series of questions of type “do you want to bother with this”, followed by “what do you want to do with it”. I got through enough of it to have the machine connected to the outside world.

Package management

MidnightBSD has the FreeBSD standard Ports, managed through the command line. It does mention there are over 13,300 MidnightBSD ports available.

Software support

The base installation does not come with a window manager – not counting twm. In the package selection I could not find KDE anywhere. Although I did find something about GNOME support utilities, I could not find GNOME itself. The manager that I attempted to install was the only available choice: WindowMaker. Unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with the workings to be able to get any of these configured and working automatically.

After this step, I did not bother struggling through anymore.

So far going through this BSD evaluation, I am slowly finding out that without a graphical interface and wizards guiding me along, I am actually quite incompetent. Damn you Microsoft!

Final thoughts: This version is not going on my desktop (work or home), but I will be definitely keeping an eye out for future developments.

September 6, 2007

A wonderful operating system for a world of peace

Filed under: bsd,thetao — SiKing @ 3:32 pm

Next up on the chopping block is MirOS, version #9.

First impressions: .de domain, no documentation other than man pages, a blend of Open- and Net- BSDs, torrents available, but no download mirrors.

From the first go, I got the impression that this project hates users! First time I went to the website, the download link was a dead end (it is working ever since). No big deal, that’s why there is Google; this led me to some mirror in the wild that hosts the images. Download, Burn, Boot. The autodetect seemed to have detected everything it needed, and surprised me with the text-only prompt-driven Microsoft-esque installer: it asks questions as it needs the information, rather than asking everything up-front and then doing it’s thing while I go for a coffee.

I went through the installer once, just to see what it can do on its own merit. Some of the questions I plainly guessed at, having no idea of what it wants. After the reboot, I got a single-user mode login prompt. After loging in, startx gives you twm, which has been described as “an ugly, loathsome, repulsive, deformed window manager”. The most important command that you need to know is exit! This can’t possibly be right.

I noticed during the install that one of the early prompts wisely reminded me that it would be a good idea to have a printed version of the install guide handy. Unfortunately, there isn’t one anywhere on the site! Back to Google, which this time led me to the MirOS Project newsite! WTF, newsite? Well, at least this site has documentation … or so I thought. There is a FAQ, where one of the first questions (not surprisingly) is “How do I install MirOS?” The answer, mockingly, states: why don’t you read the manpage, with a dead link. (For anyone reading this, born after the 80’s: man pages were the standard way of documenting original UNIX, that went out of style sometime around the 90’s!) Well at least the URL gives a hint, which you can then follow from the oldsite to the official install manpage.

Second install. I thought I was dreaming previously when the thing was bothering me with a prompt-driven application to partition my disk. I was not! Two (separate) quarters of the install manpage talk about partitioning your disk. Guys, if you’re reading this, for a desktop system gimme some sensible default and stop screwing around. Second time through I could not make it out of the endless loop of: Do you want to use the entire disk? Yes. Starting disklabel. Use the suggested b<return>0<return>*<return> to use the entire disk, followed by q. Repeat… Game over!

Conclusion: I think I made a mistake and missed the “members only” sign at the door somewhere. There is no way this distro is trying to compete for a piece of the user (even developer) desktop market.

August 31, 2007

Personal Computing, served up BSD Style!

Filed under: bsd,google,thetao — SiKing @ 10:17 am

First up in my BSD review I tackled PC-BSD, version 1.3.01. Actually, it was an article specifically about this distro that got me thinking about this whole BSD trial run thing in the first place.

First impressions: serious looking website geared toward the user, no torrent download, several download mirrors, derived from FreeBSD, discussion fora seem to be active.

The installer

The base distro comes on one CD, with at least one optional CD full of additional packages. Download, burn, boot: the installer was a breeze – just a few, straightforward, obvious questions. Auto-detect correctly detected my video resolution; my video card is slightly odd – it needs a lower refresh rate to get the maximum resolution that I prefer – which causes problems for some auto-detecting programs. The installer even has an option for advanced stuff, none of which was overwhelming. One of the advanced options is to turn off the firewall; since I am already behind a firewall, I disabled it, but again, very straightforward regarding what you want to allow or not.

5 minutes worth of questions, 30 minutes worth of install, one reboot, and I am greeted with a familiar looking KDE desktop. Hey, is it just me or does the default window dressing look like Windows Media Player series 10 – naw, p’wably just my imagination acting up.

I did encounter one small issue. I have two komps hooked up through a KVM switch. If I started the boot switched to the other komp while the auto-detect was going on, it had problems finding my mouse. This required me to reboot the computer, and watch the auto-detection in order to have a fully functional mouse. Not a big deal, but since this problem persists even after the install, it is more than a minor nuisance.

Anyway, top marks for the installer!

Package management

PC-BSD has three (documented) options for installing new applications: PBI Installer (the easy and recommended way), Packages (the quick FreeBSD way), and Ports (the traditional FreeBSD way).

You download a PBI from their website. You then run it on your end, and a wizard guides you through the whole install process. According the PC-BSD website: “Since PBI programs are created from traditional FreeBSD ports and packages, they are fewer and less up to date than ports.” I could not get an exact count, but there are certainly several hundred PBIs, maybe even a thousand available. Most of the stuff that a casual user would want is available through the PBIs. There is also a graphical manager that keeps track of all your installed PBIs, through which you can easily uninstall (but not update) any of them.

Installing packages is done through the command line, and the packages come from the FreeBSD Ports server, which (at the time of this writing) holds over 17,500 packages. FreeBSD Ports is what inspired the Gentoo/Portage. They are both systems where you can tell it what you want, and it will download all the sources it needs (keeping track of dependencies) from the Internet, and build the requested application from scratch right on your system.

The Ports and Packages are two different ways of getting at the same thing. Ports keeps track of all available packages right on your system; the synchronization of this takes quite a while, especially the first time. With Packages, you have to know a little more of what you are doing, as it does not keep track of dependencies for you. All software that comes pre-installed with PC-BSD is managed as Ports.

A casual user should be scared away from the system by this. A geek (like me) will probably like the Ports system.

Software support

PC-BSD does not come with either of the Mozilla packages, relying instead on the KDE equivalent: Konqueror and Kmail. I downloaded the Firefox and Thunderbird PBIs and both installed without a problem. Installation required the root password, as it should. I even installed the Browser Sync plugin (which I now somehow coaxed into working on the first try). Everything seems to be working fine. All good stuff so far. Oddly enough, I noticed some differences in rendering of pages between FF/BSD and FF/anything else. Not sure what to make of this.

While looking for the Firefox PBI, I noticed there is also a Flash plugin PBI. While not part of my stated requirements, I thought I would try it out. The package reported that it installed properly, however it failed to work. Afterwards I found out there is a post-install procedure that apparently fixes this. Negative point as a home desktop. PBI also installed without a problem, and runs just fine – I am writing this entry in it. For some reason (I am sure there must be a reason), the “Install new dictionaries” wizard is missing?!?! I know how to hack up OOo to manually accept new dictionaries, but I anticipate problems. Negative point as a home desktop.

As for my other required applications, I do not have a preference for those two, so I will go with the available default: Kopete, and Kaffeine or Kaboodle. Again, Kaffeine requires a post-install procedure to get all the media codecs into the system; unfortunately, the codecs PBI that is linked from the docs is not available. So Kaffeine disappointed, but Kaboodle saved the day. When downloading an audio file, FF crashes every time it tries to launch Kaffeine; haven’t bothered to try and convince it to launch Kaboodle. More negative points as a home desktop.

The distribution was missing the GNU-awk. Now admittedly the casual user will never, never, ever notice this or even need this. Unfortunately, I need specifically this flavour of the tool for my work. No big deal, I can test run the Ports. I used the graphical front-end to sync my Ports tree, which first time takes quite a while. After that, it’s command line only with no problems.

Even thought I was able to write this blog entry on the system, I was not able to publish it from this system! Neither Konqueror nor Firefox were able to display the Yahoo! blog composition page correctly. For comparison’s sake, the page displays perfectly fine under both FF/Windows and FF/Linux.

Software support is good enough for a workstation, but I would have definite reservations for a home machine.

Browsing shares

Browsing Windows shares was accomplished using Samba in Konqueror, without any problems. There was no setup required, it worked out of the box – major points! Mental note: still have to find where to store passwords in Samba, like I could in LISa.

External devices

When I connected my Seagate USB drive only the first (ext3) partition was found, however, the system failed to mount this partition.

My Nokia faired a little better. The system did find it, and it did mount it properly. I was able to both browse the (fat32) file system, and store / retrieve files to / from it. Unfortunately, the system was not able to unmount it properly. When I tried the “Safely remove” option, the icon quickly flashed as if it did get unmounted but it immediately came back.

As I stated before, this is no a KO criteria, but negative points in this area.


Added my printer as a Network TCP printer, using the KDE wizard. Afterwards I could print, however, single-sided only. The printer does have a double-sided capability, which is normally accessible from Linux. However, good enough.

Brownie points

I have to admit that I am slightly biased toward the KDE desktop, so that choice by the PC-BSD team definitely resonated well with me. The default window theme is nice, but I would be making personal changes to the dressing as well as the behaviour if this becomes my first choice…

PC-BSD does not do that whole sudo thing. I don’t know if this is a BSD-wide choice (will see with the other distros), or just a PC- choice. This means that if you want to perform tasks with elevated privileges, you actually have to become root. This is neither positive or negative for me, I am just mentioning it for the sake of completeness.

Overall, I could see myself getting work done on this system, but it will not be able obsolete my Windows box at work, and I will not be letting it anywhere near my home machine.

August 27, 2007

To boldly go …

Filed under: bsd,thetao — SiKing @ 10:34 am


So at work, they have this negative attitude toward anything not-Windows on the desktop. Since we all have admin access to our own machines, several geeks here have installed Linux on their box. I have dabbled in this also, but since I am the only one that has managed to scrounge up a second physical machine and leave my primary one in a state that is still completely supported by our IT – that is running Windows – I did not really have the proper encouragement to get my Linux box fully working and more importantly keep it that way. It basically became my play machine. Well, apparently installing Gentoo wasn’t enough of a challenge for me, or maybe because I always have this thing about rooting for the underdog, or maybe a good friend of mine had just too much influence on me, I decided to go BSD! However, this time I have a purpose in mind.

I’m gonna test-drive several BSD distros, give each one about a week, and see if I could do all my work (like work-work) on it. I have some criteria, none of which is unreasonable I think, that must be met:

  1. Easy installer – From my Gentoo experience, I decided that I am just too lazy to install stuff by hand through the command line. The installer does not need to be graphical, but it does need to be intuitive and easy to follow without the use of a printed manual.
  2. Easy package management – See #1.
  3. Supported software – Primarily this is going to be a work machine, so it must have all the basic UNIX things that I use: ssh, cvs, bash, awk, grep, etc., etc., etc. all of which should be a no brainer for BSD. But, I also need to have: Thunderbird, Firefox,, something for chat that can connect to the Y!Chat network, and something (simple) to play music on.
  4. Browse Windows shares – Yes, I do need to get stuff off my and several other Windows boxes, and I do not want to need to resort to ftp, scp, or such.
  5. Support for USB devices – While this is not a KO criteria, it would be really nice. The first one is a Nokia N91 – only in the mass storage mode, I do not realistically expect to have support for the other two modes. The second is my Seagate external drive that currently has two partitions: first one is ext3, and the second one is fat32.
  6. Printing – Everything that I have access to right now, is on a Windows network.
  7. Anything else is (appreciated) brownie points.

I am going to be testing this on thetao, which is an Intel D815EEA motherboard with a P3 processor – nothing fancy, and fairly ancient by today’s standards.

The players

A quick search at turns up 12 BSD-based active distros. I have sorted them like so:

  • The big three: FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD. While I have the utmost respect for these players, from my (admittedly limited) knowledge, they are mainly aimed at the server market. I will therefore not be looking at these specifically. Well, maybe later…
  • Server systems: m0n0wall, pfSense. These distros are self-described as aimed at the server market also. Again, I will not be looking at these.
  • Live CDs: FreeSBIE, OliveBSD. These distros are primarily meant as a live CD. I am looking for a desktop system, so maybe as a last resort…
  • That leaves under consideration: DesktopBSD, DragonFly BSD, MidnightBSD, MirOS Project, and PC-BSD.

I am not going to resort to childish things like “Windows does it, so why can’t you,” but I will admit that my judgment may be skewed by my experience with Knoppix. The ultimate achievement of this exercise would be for one of these to blow me away so much so, that it will actually become my desktop of choice even at home.

June 8, 2007

Neškodná destrukce

Filed under: etanol,linux,meatspace,thetao,windows — SiKing @ 9:45 am
Tags: ,

Win XPx64 install CD

Tak jsem se zase jednou dostal na blog. Nemám nic zvláštního, jenom pár drobných novinek / historek. Dejte si .

Tento týden jsem trochu povolil uzdu mého duševního pyromaniaka. Doma používáme svíčky, spíše pro efekt než hospodárnost. Jedna konkrétní svíčka je asi 15cm v průměru, 15cm vysoká, má tři knoty, a je obalená kusem břízové kůry. V úterý knoty už dojely do konce a svíčka naposledy zhasla. Anebo? Zrovna dohořívalo v krbu, tak jsem tam ten zbytek hodil. Během asi půl minuty se 100cm3 vosku transformovalo na 10L hořlavého plynu. To byla prdel! Hukot komínem se rozléhal klidnou nocí. Jak se studené a permanentně provlhlé zdi kolem komínu moc rychle ohřáli (a roztáhli), začal cely barák praskat jako by se připravoval zhroutit, a viditelně se začala vypařovat vlhkost. Vyběhl jsem podívat na show z venku. Při zemi byl docela dost hustý čmoud jak se začali spalovat saze v komínu – odhaduji, že od postavení baráku na začátku 70 let, komín nikdo nikdy nečistil. Z komínu lítali ven rozžhavené kusy hořícího materiálu, a čas od času i plameny. Krásně to rozsvítilo zahradu a okolí. Celé show trvalo asi tak čtvrt hodiny. Teď mám sice zákaz cokoli přikládat do krbu, ale stálo to za to!

Zase jsem se dal na čtení. Poslední roky dost málo čtu, a už tomu bylo hodně dlouho co jsem přečetl něco opravdu dobrého. Našel jsem stránku kde je mnoho odkazů na různé knížky po Internetu, a na jeden typ se pustím do Accelerando.

Začínají se mi formulovat plány na léto. Vypadá to, že asi budu v Čechách na přelomu července-srpna; posledních pár dní bych mohl dostat i vycházku. Je dost lidí kterých bych rád viděl, a nevím jestli všechny stihnu. Doufám, že problém se zmenší nebo vyřeší tím, že lidi už budou sami na jejich dovolené…

No a taky něco o mích mazlíčcích.

etanol měl hard-drive crash – jeden ze tří jednotek zapojených do RAID0! Samozřejmě jsem neměl úplné zálohy. Ztratil jsem pár důležitých dokumentů, několik mailů během posledního půl roku, asi 5GB programů, asi 15GB knížek, kolem 100GB filmů, a přes 50GB opravdu dobrého porno. Shodou okolností jsem alespoň den před tím udělal kompletní zálohy všech fotek. První věc jsem si vylil zlost na instalačním CD pro WinXPx64 – viz obrázek. Vadný disk jsem tam zatím nechal, a přehodil jsem to celé na RAID5 – špatný disk je takhle alespoň částečně použitelný. Pak jsem komp upgradoval z WinXPx64 na Win2k – tedy z rychlého ale nefunkčního systému, na pomalý ale skoro funkční. Zvolil jsem tentokrát jednoduchou instalaci: celý systém na jedné partition, jeden super-uživatel, jeden administrátor. Nainstaloval jsem všechny ovladače (zvukovka ještě dělá problémy), poslední Windows opravy, samozřejmě antivirák a firewall, během třech večerů. Potom jsem zapnul Internet a automatické opravy: přes jednu noc se tam objevilo asi tři stránky dalších oprav. Taky jsem se zklamáním zjistil, že Linux 2.6.19 nemá správné ovladače aby přečetl disk v této konfiguraci.

Instalace Gentoo na thetao zatím čeká. Mám za prvé hodně jiné práce (v práci), a za druhé jsem se nějak poslední dobou vrátil ke staré lásce: Knoppix. Určitě s tím strávím nějakou dobu. Pohrávám si i s nápadem, že bych zkusil být contributor pro Knoppix. Už delší dobu plánuji přepálit si svojí verzi Knopixu a mám několik nápadů co na něm bude. Potom určitě chci přepsat asi dva Knoppix hacks: 21 a 36.

Asi měsíc se flákám s překladem pro DistroWatch. Až (jestli?) to jednou bude, tak to bude tady. Potom si chci přepálit W2kSP1 CD na W2kSP4, jen tak jestli to zvládnu. Přemýšlím, že bych chtěl začít být trochu víc aktivní (a taky produktivní ve volném čase) ve FOSS projektech, no a tak zase přemýšlím o laptopu – něco levného, hračka, starší P3. No stále co dělat.

Lidi, hezký víkend!

May 16, 2007

I think I’m turning into a Luddite

Filed under: belous,cyberspace,etanol,thetao — SiKing @ 10:22 am

IT Virus Life Cycle
copyright Russell Kightley,

Lately, technology just hates me. Either that or I am a walking computer virus!

etanol is further deteriorating. More and more shit just inexplicably stops working: spell check in MS-Word for one user (out of four) does not start up, opening MS-Word files downloaded from the Internet for (a different) one user does not work, one user’s personal documents do not appear under the Administrator computer menu. Then there are the explainable, but still absolutely mind-boggling things like some user programs need to have administrator access to the machine, other programs that must have write privileges to the C:\Program Files hierarchy. This one got me really good: my bank has security certificates for signing in and for sending any kind of payment. I had no problems signing in, but for like half a year I could not send any transactions. The errors that their application was throwing did not give any kind of hint as to the actual problem: Windows one day started shipping without any Java engine! The best is, that the x64 version of I-Explorer cannot even see that a Java engine has been installed! Not to mention all the small things that have stopped working, which I have now just come to accept as normal MS-SNAFU. I have now completely given up on etanol until this summer, at which point I hope I will be allowed to reinstall him. I will be upgrading to Windows 2000 for the benefit of harmony with the people that I must cohabit with and Linux dual-boot.

A while back I convinced my GF to get a Mac – my first exposure to it. Number one reason: it just works! What the hell are they talking ’bout? First off: no localization to Czech; all the free software that she got for it NeoOffice, Thunderbird, FireFox, all with perfect Czech localization. The multi-billion dollar company apparently thinks this is not worth their effort. Next, I could not get the thing to connect to a wireless modem using (default) WEP authentication; I am now running my household on WAP. For no reason whatsoever, it will not download mail from Yahoo! Speaking of Apple’s mail, that has to be one of the most unintuitive applications that I have seen so far on a Mac – it is next to impossible to discover how to make it use SSL, which today is almost a standard. But by far the best one: one night my GF is not home, the MacBook is lying on the table, I got a Knoppix CD in hand… The thing is supposed to have an Intel processor inside, so I thought I’d give it a try. Took me around 10 minutes to figure out how to boot it from a CD – “just press the Options button” BS did not work, tried it several times. Eventually I found something in the control centre (I think it is), where it asked what do you want to boot from – one of the options was CD. Tried that, and Knoppix booted up perfectly fine, and completely in Czech. Showed it to my GF, who was not impressed. Well, this is Knoppix I though, just take out the CD and reboot the machine, everything is back to original. After reboot, all I got was a text message on an otherwise black screen telling me that there is no bootable CD. No shit Sherlock, I’m thinking, I just took it out! The thing would not default to the internal hard drive. There was several very tense moments, of my GF watching over my shoulder and me struggling to figure out how to convince an unresponsive MacBook, that there is in fact an internal hard drive that it can and should boot from. Eventually, I tried the OS X install DVD – I immediately quit the install program, and it asks I you want to reboot from the DVD or perhaps the internal hard drive. I am now forbidden from coming anywhere near my GF’s MacBook. “Just works” … my ass!

I seem to be the only person (or at least in the minority) for whom the Browser Sync plugin does not work. This was just another very kool idea, executed poorly.

Then I found another very kool plugin. I consider myself a bit of a power user. I am always interested in increasing my productivity in OOo. After reading this article, I just had to get the Tabbed Windows Extension. This ended up as just another disappointment. After crashing OOo twice in one day, I was looking only for how to uninstall / disable it. Not to mention that since OOo version 2.0, I can longer edit HTML, because on my installation the HTML source button seems to have disappeared.

Knoppix, one of my favourite Linux distros, is giving me a hard time!

I prematurely posted an entry here on my latest achievement: finally installing Gentoo on thetao, only to discover on rebooting after the post that I screwed up something – kernel panic. Took that entry down PDQ. I was absolutely beside myself when I found out a few days later that the next version of Gentoo was released. Downloaded the live CD and first thing tried it at home. I was fully expecting issues with my disks. The first surprise: it found all the disks correctly on the first try! The second surprise: from the messages flying by, it seemed to have detected that I have an ATI X300 graphics card – not very high end stuff – however, X server had no idea what to do with it. Back to installing Gentoo via Knoppix.

As much as I would like to help out, I simply don’t have the time to be filing bugs and tracking down every single failure that I find in every application that I try. I actually get paid to find bugs in shit.

Man, I’m already pondering my retirement. I am definitely going to read a lot. I discovered the joy of reading very late in my life (when I was in my early 20’s), and recently I do not have anywhere near enough time to do it. Oddly enough, I have a huge (well, I would estimate it at about hundred pieces) collection of books that I have never read. I am going to sit someplace on a beach, and drink those drinks with umbrellas in them. But most importantly: no computers anywhere in sight!

December 29, 2006

Installing thetao

Filed under: linux,thetao — SiKing @ 2:22 pm


Another kompy Geek. For the time being I have postponed the struggle with etanol, although there is a strong possibility that I am going to get a couple of days early in January to finish him off. In case you’re wondering about the non-sense hostnames (again), read the beginning of this (again).

So, thetao is a work machine, nothing fancy: an old PIII box. I am working on something (as in: getting paid to) at work and this project is finally a good excuse to have a look at Portage (a package management system for Gentoo Linux), which I have wanted to do for some time now. However, installing (or should I say “building” in this case) an entire Linux system on a PIII/700MHz/512MB machine would take me weeks. So along came Kororaa – a “binary version of Gentoo”!

I really played with the install. One weird thing was that I had to use the kororaa-nofb kernel to boot the install CD, but to boot the machine after the install I no longer needed the -nofb?! However, the upgrade after install was a bitch!…

The first time through, I was just exploring things trying to get to a running machine as fast as possible. As soon as I fired up 'emerge --pretend --upgrade world' things started to fall apart: it complained about a whole bunch (like several pages worth) of blocking issues. At least I explored a bit more: I could see other servers on the network, Internet worked, but I had problems connecting to a printer or Windows shares – maybe I screwed up installing cups or samba. At work we do not have single-signon even under Windows, and connecting to anything on the Windows network refused my Windows login credentials – however, this is going to have to wait as I have bigger fish to fry right now. Well, I knew the first install was a throw away anyway.

The next few times through I was a little more careful with my choices especially when selecting packages. I did allow the installer to sync the Portage tree, which I suspect was my first big mistake: it left /etc/make.profile pointing to at a non-existent link. After reading through the Gentoo Upgrading Guide, I did find out that Gentoo 2005.1 (which is what the latest Kororaa installs) is no longer supported – hence the missing link I suspect. I tried pointing the link to x86/2006.0 and updating then x86/2006.1 and updating, as the Upgrading Guide mentioned to make sure your Portage is updated. 'emerge --sync' seemed to have worked. However 'emerge --update portage' complained about a whole bunch of blocking issues, at least 'emerge portage' worked. But I still could not 'emerge --update world'. The one that really boggles my mind, is that Portage complained that I had problems with my world file – it suggested a utility (can’t remember its name) which would tell me what the problem is. Apparently, I was missing several net-wireless packages!? My desktop has absolutely no wireless capabilities, including bluetooth, all of which I did indeed choose to not install. So, I tried to unmerge the conflicting packages until I ended up with a completely non-functional machine.

The last install I took a different approach: I installed everything from the Kororaa package CD, and did not sync Portage. Somewhere along I discovered Kuroo, so I let it update whatever it thought appropriate. It updated almost everything except for two packages which were no longer available. So now I have, what I assume to be, a perfectly functional Gentoo 2005.1 equivalent system. The question is: how do I correctly upgrade it to Gentoo x86/2006.1/desktop, without having to take the time to rebuild things I do not need like wireless support, bluetooth support, and several other large-ish packages? Off to scour the documentation and fora

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