Wednesday, 30 March 2011

File Systems Part Two Not Invented Here

(Part Two of an article on files-ystems in Linux. Catch up on Part One)

There's more to file-systems than the descendants of our Unix ancestors. 'Plethora' doesn't even begin to describe it. Why do we care? Sadly we don't live in a Linux bubble, un-enlightened colleagues family and friends insist on using other non-native file-systems with which we often need to interact. The biggest? Microsoft blessed us with FAT and NTFS, while Apple gave us HFS through the Macintosh...

Monday, 28 March 2011

Netgear G834GT Firmware Upgrade

So Virgin Media's broadband seems unreliable, insofar as it drops the connection a couple of times a day, sometimes more. Is it them, or is it me?

I'm using my G834GT Router, rather than the GT384G that Virgin sent me, as mine has a Hawking aerial that I can't plug into theirs. I'm thinking it's time to upgrade the firmware as the GT is still on version 1.-something...

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Full Circle Magazine no 47 Out Now

Full Circle – the independent magazine for the Ubuntu Linux community are proud to announce the release of our forty-seventh issue.

This month:
  • Command and Conquer.
  •  How-To : Program in Python – Part 21, LibreOffice – Part 2 and eBook Reader Software.
  • Linux Lab – File Formats Part Two (by some hack called Catling).
  • Review – Piano Booster.
  • Top 5 – School Tools.
  • plus: Ubuntu Women, Ubuntu Games, My Opinion, My Story, and much much more!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Toshiba Powerdown Peril

The most recent upgrade to Lubuntu 10.10 on the Tosh Satelite 2610 went well enough until I tried to turn it off. The only way to power it off was to pull the battery and the cable.

A previous Linux distribution as well as Windows 2000 both powered the system off correctly. Evidently I was missing something in the GRUB boot parameters so it powers down.

Being no expert on Grub2 (or even Grub original), a quick search through the forums provided multiple answers; the second worked perfectly...

Friday, 25 March 2011

Network One Graphics Nil

So I downloaded the latest ISO of Natty Alpha-3, put it on the Pentium-4 and still had 272Mb of updates to run immediately after! This thing is in so much flux, I'm not sure anyone can keep up with it.

The good news is the wireless network is back, aided by my swapping out a duff USB-2 cable which caused most of the drop-out. However, now Samba-shares don't work. You get a connection in or out, but as soon as you transfer a file, the thing just times out. Which is odd given that it worked for about five minutes right after setup....

Not so Natty Networking

Can you hear the sigh of despair from where you are? Natty Alpha-3 just fell over, big time.

Thinking the network stack was running worse than usual - the usb wireless dropping very two minutes or less - I decided to reinstate the windows wireless drivers for the Belkin adapter. I followed my own instructions to the letter...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Memory Upgrades: When the Manual Says No

Look in the manufacturer's manual for your machine or its' motherboard and it will probably give a maximum memory capacity and configuration. You may think that's that: fini.

Not necessarily.

Take the Dell Inspiron 6400/1505 as an example. Dell states that maximum memory is 2Gb. A quick search around the Internet (remember, in most things-upgradeable, Google is your friend) revealed many instances of upgrades beyond this limit. I could go to 4Gb safely, maybe even 8Gb. A quick check on the type of memory I need for this machine model, I find it uses PC2/5300 Non-ECC Unbuffered 200PIN DDR2 SODIMM at 667MHz. That's a lot of good, specific information to go shopping. But wait...!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Linux Lab: NDIS and Windows Wireless Drivers

Belkin and Netgear Wireless USB under NDis
(Inspired by Nikos, Full Circle Magazine #44)

You may have heard reference on the podcast to my antique Pentium-4 'test' box, the 'Home Improvement' -style PC that's so non-branded it doesn't even have a case. Thanks to the placement of phone sockets in my house, wireless networking is essential, but the P-4 has no built-in wireless, cards or PCI-Express slots.

The good news/bad news is the Belkin FD7050 Wireless USB works on Ubuntu 10.10 out of the box: just really badly. Forget using any webmail clients, carrier pidgeon would be faster (happily the networking stack in 11.04 Alpha-1 appears to work at regular speed, but not the graphics - sigh). It was worth a try to get the Belkin going under NDIS Wrapper using the Windows drivers...

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Full Circle Podcast Episode 17: Why Would They Do That?

Full Circle Podcast Episode #17: Why Would They Do That? is available from the main site

Full Circle Podcast is also a proud member of the Tech Podcasts Network.

In this episode: U-Cubed and lots of news!
Feeds for both MP3 and OGG:

RSS feed, MP3:
RSS feed, OGG:

The podcast is in MP3 and OGG formats. You can either play the podcast in-browser if you have Flash and/or Java, or you can download the podcast with the link underneath the player.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Zeitgeist: Sign o' the times

It's a word that crops up on the news sites and conference notes, but you may not know what it is. Of course, you recall from German-101, zeitgeist means "the spirit of the times" or "the spirit of the age, but in Ubuntu terms, Zeitgeist is a "a data engine for the GNOME desktop.”
"GNOME Activity Journal (formerly known as GNOME Zeitgeist) is a tool for easily browsing and finding files on your computer. It keeps a chronological journal of all file activity and supports tagging and establishing relationships between groups of files." 
Zeitgeist comes in two parts: an engine that constantly logs events and an activity journal that presents the logged events on-screen...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Building Your Own HD Edit Suite

The conversations with a friend of mine have gone on for a while as we both look to build video-editing PC's. We're not in the land-of-Mac, so don't even comment on that one. We've also been looking at realistic budgets.

The premise remains that you are paying for a given amount of technology for a given price at any moment in time. There will be something faster and/or cheaper next month, if not next week. Make your choice. Live with it. But have some upgrade paths in mind at the outset.

The thing we don't want to do is get seduced by the fastest gaming monster-box on sale. They don't necessarily make for the best edit-suites, with all that cooling and 3-D video game graphics rendering.

Here's the prospective machine with current prices on the UK's

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Eccentricity too Far

In case you missed it, Mark Shuttleworth announced the next release name for Ubuntu 11.10.

Oneiric Ocelot.
  1. Only about 6 people on the planet (plus the Greeks) can pronounce Oneiric. 
  2. Even fewer can spell it. 'I before E except after Ubuntu release name.'
  3. Only about 6 people on the planet (plus the Greeks) know what it means ('dreamy').
  4. It's all too close to 'onanism' (yeah, go look it up).
  5. We already had a cat with the Lynx (although Ocelots are quite cool).
Honestly: DREAMY CAT???!!?!? WTF??!!

This may be the first release to be referred to by the noun not the adjective. It's an eccentricity too far. RC

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Unity Doesnt Work


Same old, same old. The Pentium-4 with NVidia GeForce graphics card gets no Unity. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Blank desktop. No dock, no top bar. Nothing.

It doesn't make for a functioning desktop.

This is Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Alpha-3. If it's not going to work on older hardware, we have a problem Houston. RC

Monday, 14 March 2011

Toshiba Resurrection

Some time ago I loaned my old Toshiba Satellite 2610 to a friend in need of a laptop. She's just bought a very shi-shi Dell Mini-10, so I got the Tosh back. It went out with Windows 2000 and came back blank.

It's still serviceable, if under-spec'd by today's standards. First action was to replace the original 6Gb disk with a spare 20Gb unit. I don't have any spare memory of the right type so it stays at 196Mb.

Next step: install Linux. This is where things fell apart. My favourite Live CD's were reluctant to load in this small a memory. I got as far as Ubuntu 9.10 desktop but nothing newer. Oddly, the Lubuntu 10.10 Live CD wouldn't start at all. Secondly, none of the Ubiquity installers wanted to run in this little memory either. Including Lubuntu. I still can't get the CD-rom drive out in favour of a DVD drive and the BIOS is so old it won't boot from the single USB slot. Time for some lateral thinking...

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Unity Works

Ubuntu Natty 11.04 Alpha-3:

Unity is working!

After all the complaints through Alpha 1 and 2, the update on Friday night provided the best result so far: Unity is working! Canonical's go-it-alone user interface now works complete with dock auto-hide, application spaces panel and search panel. No strobing, no crashing, no doubling-up with Gnome desktop.


This is in the virtual machine. I haven't updated yet on the Pentium-4 test box.
The Unity top-bar won't hold onto a theme. It soon defaults to plain grey after start-up. Oh well... RC

Friday, 11 March 2011

File Systems Part One Home Advantage

"What's a file-system and what's an Ext3? Sit down and let your Uncle Robin explain..."

If you don't know your Ext3 from your Reiser, Robin Catling (of podcast fame) has written two informative articles on file systems, the first of them is used this month with part two coming next month.
Article first appears in Full Circle Magazine Issue #46.