Saturday, September 22, 2007

Nasty People.

Well, it's the end of the Packard Bell story I guess -for the beloved computer has been stolen from our house in a burglary.

Even though it's gone from us in such an awful way, I do hope eventually it will find a loving user in some cheated child in a developing country, or something.

Just in case: if someone reads this who has a Packard Bell Easynote in their hands which they got "used" and cheaply (without the receipt), and you are able to check the serial number (there was a sticker on the bottom when I used it ("S/N"), but it is possible to find it by opening up the computer as well), it is 103264000134 (the model number is PB20R00189).

If you find that this serial number is on your computer then I'd really appreciate if you could contact me through my Blogger profile. I won't want the computer back (I understand the buyer probably has no fault in this!), but it would be very helpful to identify who you got it from in order to lead the police to the burglars. So please help!

Friday, January 05, 2007

New wireless USB mouse

To prevent the touchpad buttons from wearing away again, just got an HP Invent wireless USB mouse, and runs beautifully "plug-and-play" under Kubuntu, no install needed. I love my computer. :)

First major service.

My left touchpad button stopped functioning the other day, needed to get it repaired. I am a heavy user and I used it basically constantly, so it's impressive that it held on for so long!

The entire mainboard (not to be confused with motherboard) had to be changed in order to fix it. However, all of it was done under the warranty so I happily have my computer back, all healthy now. :D

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Fixing the annoying "wacom" bug in X

The problem occurs when trying to run a program in X-mode from command line, eg. Kate or Gedit. The error message is:

X Error: BadDevice, invalid or uninitialized input device 168
Major opcode: 148
Minor opcode: 3
Resource id: 0x0
Failed to open device
X Error: BadDevice, invalid or uninitialized input device 168
Major opcode: 148
Minor opcode: 3
Resource id: 0x0
Failed to open device

The program starts up and seems to work fine, however. On the other hand, new error messages come up when for example trying to save a file inside that application. These error messages are fake, because the program otherwise functions just as it should.

The reason for the problem is that somehow "wacom" input devices are loaded in xorg.conf, such as stylus and cursor - which are in fact nonexistent on my computer! The solution is rather simple: comment out in xorg.conf all the lines that have anything to do with "wacom": both in the "Input device" sections ("wacom stylus", "wacom eraser", "wacom cursor", from "Section" to "EndSection"), and from "ServerLayout" (InputDevice "stylus", as well as "cursor" and "eraser"). It fixes it.

Another description of this fix can be found at UbuntuForums:

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=1264009

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Changing the GRUB splash image

I never really liked the boring black GRUB splash - I have finally got myself down to changing it. The following steps need to be taken:

1) Create an image which you will want as your GRUB splash. It must have a resolution of 640x480, and it must have 14 colours. In GIMP, you can edit the number of colours by clicking on Image->Mode->Indexed. Save the image in XPM format (.xpm).

2) Gzip the image by typing into the console:

gzip image.xpm

Where "image.xpm" is the image file you created (with its location, if you're not already in that directory). If you do not have permissions, remember sudo too.

3) Create a GRUB image directory and move the new image file into it.

sudo mkdir /boot/grub/images
sudo mv usplash.xpm.gz /boot/grub/images

4) Change the GRUB menu file to load the image.


sudo cp /boot/grub/menu.lst /boot/grub/menu.lst.old
sudo kwrite /boot/grub/menu.lst

Find the following (row 24 or therabout):

# Pretty colours
#color cyan/blue white/blue

Add there:

splashimage=(hdX,Y)/boot/grub/images/image.xpm.gz

NOTE: Replace X and Y with the proper numbers! X in this case is the actual disk drive and Y is the partition. Assuming you have a pretty standard installation of Kubuntu, you could find this information further down in menu.lst. Locate the section which matches the entry you normally boot from:

## ## End Default Options
## title Kubuntu, kernel 2.?.??-?-??
root (hdX,Y)

There you can find the proper numbers to use for your splashimage command. Enter those in the line added before. If you have a separate boot partition you have to remove the /boot in the path, this is because the root of the boot partition is mounted in /boot on your other partition. Resulting in this section instead:

splashimage (hdX,Y)/grub/images/usplash.xpm.gz

5) Update GRUB.

sudo update-grub

Restart and voila! :)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Installing GNOME

Though I personally prefer KDE to GNOME, the GNOME environment does sometimes have a few advantages. For example, Synaptic Package Manager does not come with KDE, but I believe it is the best package manager for Ubuntu-based systems. So I decided to install the GNOME environment too. The package that has to be installed is actually ubuntu-desktop. The installation is straightforwardly done like this:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop

There is a lot of downloading then and the desktop environment takes up several hundreds of megabytes on the hard disk, but at this price, many programs are also installed.

After the installation, we can log out and attempt to log back in in GNOME. To my shock, however, GNOME wouldn't start up! In KDE I could see the new programs though.

I went on the #gnome IRC channel on the Ubuntu Servers - there I got to know that I wasn't the only one with the problem: my "symptoms" resembled precisely what is written here: http://www.ubuntux.org/dapper-gnome-error

To copy from that location with a slight modification, which I emphasised: "
Now when I log into Gnome the splash screen appears, does its thing, then the panels try to load. The panels appear, flash eleven times, and then disappear. it leaves me with an empty blue desktop with nothing on it but a mouse cursor. The only control available is ctrl-alt-backspace. "

The solution seemed to be given on that webpage too: "Go to user folder, show hidden files, rename .gonf .gconfd gnome gnome2 and gnome2_private, just add a .bak on to them. Log into gnome. Wala!"

However, that only worked for one GNOME startup. I then tried various things - since my X always displays error messages anyway when trying to run a graphical program from command line (it has a problem with some input device I can't yet identify - but it doesn't affect the working of any programs, so it doesn't do me any bad), I attempted to remove some of these devices from /etc/X11/xorg.conf, and restart X (CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE). However, as a result my X wouldn't start up at all, so I went down in console mode again and restored my original xorg.conf (That's why it's important to make backup copies of any system file you modify!!).

On a computer restart, X then started up again, and voila, I could log into GNOME now without any problems! I could not believe what I was seeing - I logged out and into KDE, just to check how things worked: and KDE loaded without problems. Then back into GNOME, and that loaded again without problems. I don't quite understand what the above given website means when it says "
Flushed the settings cache", but one thing is for sure: this quite convoluted procedure seems to have done the trick, even if I have no clue how.

Fixing the Widescreen

As Kubuntu did not recognize my widescreen automatically, it had to be fixed manually. Many Linux-users have trouble with getting their widescreen display properly in Linux: in particular, for the integrated Intel graphics cards, usually a BIOS hack is necessary.

For Ubuntu there is a package called 915resolution - it can be installed from a package manager or from command line with sudo apt-get install 915resolution. I followed the installation instructions at http://users.skynet.be/thomasvst/linux-on-laptop/#wide. Instead of killing gdm in step 6, however (remember that Kubuntu uses kdm instead of gdm!!), the XServer can be restarted by hitting CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE right on the graphical interface.

IMPORTANT NOTE!!! The widescreen display did not work with a 1280x800 resolution. It turned out that the BIOS returned 1280x768 as the internal resolution (can be checked in /var/log/Xorg.0.log) - 915resolution had to be set to that to work, and of course the depths at /etc/X11/Xorg.conf updated to the correct resolution (1280x768).

The widescreen display now works like a charm. See the before/after pics below!

BEFORE:


AFTER:

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Installing the Automatix package

Automatix is a package that automatically installs several programs that are very useful for the ordinary user. These programs include Adobe Acrobat Reader, Firefox web browser, Opera Web browser, Thunderbird, Gimp, Gaim, Skype, AMSN, fonts, multimedia programs, little extras like "checkgmail", and the entire Sun Java Runtime environment. The user interface of the Automatix installer is very friendly and allows the user to select which programs are to be installed.

To install the Automatix package on Kubuntu, the instructions at Ubuntu forums should be used. To make things easier I'll repeat them here:

A Terminal Window should be opened and the following code should be typed:

sudo kwrite /etc/apt/sources.list

This will first ask for a password (the actual user's password), and then open a new window with a text editor. In that editor, we need to edit the repository list so that all the package repositories are available for the system. We do that by un-#-ing every line that begins with "deb". In addition, we also need to add:

deb http://www.beerorkid.com/automatix/apt kubuntu main

This will add the package repository that contains the automatix package to the list. After that, we save the file and exit the editor.

What is left is actually installing Automatix.

First we get a key:

wget http://www.beerorkid.com/automatix/apt/key.gpg.asc
gpg --import key.gpg.asc
gpg --export --armor 521A9C7C sudo apt-key add -

And then we install:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install zenity
sudo apt-get install automatix

Note that in spite of what the instructions post says, there is actually no need to install the automatix package from a package manager now, it is already installed!

The program can be started by either entering "automatix" in the command line, or using the menu: Systems->Automatix.

After selecting which programs we want from the interactive menu (note the legal warning in the beginning about DVD codecs if you are in the USA!), Automatix installs everything by itself. There will be quite a few downloads in the process, so make sure you have a stable network while running Automatix!

Automatix does require some user input in places. Make sure you read everything carefully, do not just click OK's automatically. When it asks for a password, it's your user password. Expect that the full download+installation procedure with the help of Automatix will take some time, set aside ca. 1 hour for it if you are installing everything with a good bandwidth! During that time, of course, you can use your computer for other things too. The complete installation of all these programs will also use up some hard disk space, so make sure you only install the ones you want if you don't have much hard disk space.

Fuller report on automatic Kubuntu functionality

Today I have played a little more with my new system, and tested the followings:

Network.
Works perfectly, everything recognized automatically. I was slightly annoyed by the search page coming in every time the network went down, but it is only a question of settings I am sure. Note that Firefox (unfortunately!) does NOT come automatically with Kubuntu.

Sounds.
Perfect sound played and also recorded in KDE's sound recorder. Very satisfying performance, no problems at all.

Keyboard and touchpad.
On further testing, there is no problem at all with these.

Graphics.
As said before, disappointingly the widescreen resolution is not recognized. No other comments yet.

Programs.
Not an impressive range installed automatically. Package repositories have to be enabled manually, and installing the automated installer program called automatix will solve the problem about missing important programs! See the next post on this.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Installing Kubuntu

Kubuntu Install CD


To do a clean Kubuntu installation, an install CD is required. It can either be ordered (for free!) from ShipIt (https://shipit.kubuntu.org/), or it can be burned to a CD or a DVD using an image that can be downloaded from http://www.kubuntu.org/download.php. If you have no experience burning an iso image to a CD, or lack the appropriate software, I would recommend that you order your free copy of the Kubuntu Live Install CD and wait those 4-6 weeks for the new CD coming in a very professional look. Personally I burned the CD myself using a freeware for Windows that messed up and created two bad checksums, so I couldn't use that CD for installing. A CD burnt under Linux (my brother helped me out) worked perfectly, so the problem wasn't with the image itself.


Booting from CD


It is important to set the BIOS to boot from CD! (On my machine, I need to press F2 shortly after restarting to enter the BIOS, where I can set this in the boot options.) As the system boots from the CD, an interactive menu comes up, where one can choose the option "Start/Install Kubuntu". The Kubuntu Installer surprised me by booting the system directly from the CD first, allowing me to try it out and install by clicking on an "Install" icon already within the system itself!

Installing the system

The installation was very easy and problem-free. I only needed to make sure I partitioned the system right - I allowed 35 GB for Windows, formatted as NTFS (that's the type that makes Win XP run fastest), 10 GB for Linux "/", formatted as ext3 (this is where the system gets installed), 520 MB for Linux swap (this is where Linux occasionally loads the contents of your memory to make your programs run faster), and the rest as an "extended" partition for "/home" (this is where I will place my personal files and settings - much like the "My Documents" folder in Windows). The extended partition was needed because of the large size of that partition, but it done automatically by the partition manager so I didn't need to worry about it. The installer worked like a dream: while installing I could browse the net in Konqueror and chat in Kopete, and in mere 20 minutes I had my new Kubuntu system up and running!

What works? What doesn't?


Since the system is very new, I haven't had time to play around and try out everything in it. However, my observations so far:


WORKS

  • Keyboard
  • Sounds out of the system
  • Wireless automatically recognized, works perfectly
  • Personal settings and files preserved, just as expected.
  • Programs run fast and efficiently...?
  • Many things I haven't yet tried, or just take for granted anyway.

DOESN'T WORK
  • Widescreen display!! This is the most annoying thing ever. I hoped that the upgrade of the system would fix it, but apparently it hasn't. The screen resolution remains the standard 1024x768 and I am left with fat people and stretched letters. On the other hand, I do note that a very elegant and professional-looking Control Panel has been introduced, where in Administrator mode I can do a lot of settings on screen resolution and monitor type etc. However, most of these options are "unsafe" to try and it's not just Linux who warns! I have tried out quite a few of them, but the resolution only became worse, or the entire XWindow System was unable to load!!! So the advice here is: DON'T PLAY AROUND without knowing what you are doing!
  • I have observed that tap-on clicking doesn't work for with the touchpad, but I am sure it's just some setting, it worked perfectly in Breezy.