Tag Archives: ubuntu

Ubuntu and old hardware

I got a call from a friend a few months ago saying he had a friend drop off some computer equipment and he didn’t know what to do with it. A few days later I stopped by his shop and what he had was a Dell PowerEdge 2800 Server. This is no run of the mill machine but server grade, 3 SCSI drives, Windows 2003 Server, and weighed 50 + lbs. The tub of incidentals was minor compared to this behemoth. I reluctantly took it not knowing when or if I’d have time to mess with it. Worst case I figured I could recycle it.

It is a few years old, BIOS is from 2005, but should be able to run Linux. The first challenge was how to boot, it has no CD-ROM drive and the BIOS supports booting from a floppy not USB. So the only option that didn’t involve hardware was PXE. That seemed interesting since I haven’t done that before, sounded like a good experiment. To get that setup I followed this reference on the Ubuntu Community site.

Next up was DHCP. My router serves it on the network so temporarily shut that off and enabled it on the server. Note to self here if you’re going to do that don’t assume you’ll have a network connection when you turn it of, change your settings to static before you do that. DHCP was a little bit of a struggle, it’s been 5 or more years since I’ve had to dive into the config files, but that was taken care of in about 15 minutes.

With both of those pieces addressed I turned on the 2800, btw it sounds like an airplane about to take off for the first 10 seconds, pressed F12 when the BIOS information showed up and away we went. Once it got an ip address via DHCP the Ubuntu Server install screen showed up. The install went without a problem the only thing I didn’t do was try to configure RAID. With the drives attached via SCSI controllers Ubuntu saw one drive by default. Not a good thing as I can’t use the three hot swap-able drives as intended but I’m not sure I’ll be running this thing for anything so it wasn’t a big deal. Note: There was an option to configure RAID but I did not take the time to go through that. So the knock on ‘no RAID’ is probably me and not Ubuntu..

Yes it was a good experiment.

Ubuntu Karmic notification icons with messed up video

For the last month or so I’ve been using Fedora as it seemed to fit my T42 better than Ubuntu did. But wanting to get back to it I plopped in the drive and fired it up. A decent amount of updates were needed and after getting through those things seemed fine. But then after resuming from suspend I noticed the pop up icon in the notification area was blank. It was almost like the something was up with the resolution or video display of the icon itself.

Bad Video Notification

I’m not sure if this was one of those things I thought was a problem when Karmic first came out or not. I did load it pre-release but moved to Fedora shortly thereafter. Finding this to be odd I tried to do a little googling and research, found a few threads that pointed to some of the work the Ubuntu Desktop Experience Team was doing but not much that suggested a solution. The only thing I did come across was talk about video drivers and excelleration. This didn’t really make much sense to me, it has been years since I’ve had to care about the X config file and adjusting it manually. That takes me back to the RedHat 6 days and my Tecra 600. But it did give me a thought.

Video in general was not a problem, just the notificaiton icons. So as a guess I checked what was set for Visual Effects.

System -> Preferences -> Appearance -> Visual Effects (tab)

The current setting was None so I changed it to Normal. To test I watched Rhythmbox move to the next song and the icon was normal.

Correct Notification

Good to know that fixed the problem but interesting it needed to be done. Regardless the polish with Gnome in Karmic is really good. Ubuntu has taken Linux on the desktop where no one else has and with that there will always be little challenges. Wonder where they’ll go from here.

Flash not working in Ubuntu

There seems to be a lot of discussion about Flash not working from time to time in Ubuntu and I to have had that problem in the past. I was late upgrading to Jaunty and after doing so it came up again. Mind you most times I don’t do a dist-upgrade but a fresh install, with $HOME on it’s own partition. This time I tried gnash and swfdec but for some sites it didn’t do the trick. So this evening I thought I’d sit down do some research and fix it.

After a bit of googling I found my way to this forum thread. It is dated but gave me a direction, so I followed the advice and did the following.

$ sudo apt-get clean
$ sudo apt-get autoclean
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get remove -y --purge flashplugin-nonfree
$ sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree

Unfortunately the result was the same, but all was not lost the plugin was installed I just needed to point it to firefox. That wasn’t quite it. See I had installed gnash and swfdec and removed them so I thought but there was still something overriding firefox from using the flashplugin-nonfree package. So when trying to play a flash movie from the browser I right clicked on the embeded player in the page and selected “About”. What came up was SWFDEC, and there in lies the problem.

I’m not positive at this point if the package was something I installed or loaded by default but removing swfdec-mozilla fixed my problem.

$ sudo apt-get remove --purge swfdec-mozilla
$ sudo apt-get autoremove

Reload the page and we are up and running… YMMV.


Virtualbox rules

The beginning of 2009 I decided to move back to windows for work and with the laptop dead again it seemed like the right time. Yes I forgot, after getting a new power supply it again has decided to shutdown randomly. At times receeding the hard drive, or the memory, or the battery seemed to bring it back but nothing consistent. So I picked up a used IBM T42, added a extended life battery and maxed the memory at 2GB (from the old laptop) and it has been great. Hopefully I’ll get a year or so out of it.

So about Virtual Box. Since the T42 came with a copy of XP I had a license to work with. Installing was simple using aptitude, but I did grab a more current version by updating /etc/apt/sources.list with.

deb http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian lenny non-free

This was mainly since the T42 runs Debian and the desktop runs Ubuntu. From there it was.

aptitude update
aptitued install virtualbox-2.1

.. and I was ready to create a virtual machine.

With the virtual machine created I loaded XP, updated and added the software I needed from our servers at work. When it came time to move it to the other machine I did run into a problem. But after checking the forums I was able to clone from one machine to the other and things are working in both places.

Sweet !!

Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex beta

With the latest release of Ubuntu coming up thought I’d give the beta a try for a few days. It served me well when moving from Gutsy to Hardy earlier in the year. The install was routine no problems and the only real changes were to manually partition the drive. By default /home is not on it’s own partition and doing that makes upgrades and backups a better experience.

After loading and logging in did the normal updates with apt-get and added a few apps like Geany, Bluefish, vpnc, Liferea, gFTP, irssi and some others. The latest version of GNOME has a modified network manager as well as some changes to user switching and logging off, obvious to me at least. You can see the complete list here.

Evolution also had some changes.

Message Templates
WebDAV Contacts support
Google Contacts support
Custom header support while sending mails 
Single Model view for Calendar
Sqlite Based message summary (aka Camel On-disk Summary)
New Bonobo-less composer for Evolution 
Quota support to IMAP/POP accounts
Gtk+ Recent manager integration in Composer
Contact-list for Exchange

I had some initial trouble with the conversion where the indexed messages didn’t match the db. But removing files in .evolution/mail/local leaving the mbox files fixed the problem.

So far no real show stoppers, until this morning when updating caused a firmware / driver mismatch with the wirless nic, ipw2200. Not to keen on digging into that at the moment so will go back to Hardy for now. More than likely another update in a few days will fix it or it will be resolved in general release.

Update: Oct. 20 – After further investigation the firmware was removed. Putting it back in /lib/firmware resolved.