...making Linux just a little more fun!

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This month's answers created by:

[ Ben Okopnik, Brian Bilbrey, Dale Raby, Faber Fedor, Kapil Hari Paranjape, Karl-Heinz Herrmann, Lew Pitcher, Neil Youngman, Ramon van Alteren, Rick Moen, Samuel Kotel Bisbee-vonKaufmann, Steve Brown, Thomas Adam ]
...and you, our readers!

Gazette Matters

To everyone who helped to produce LG#132...

Benjamin A. Okopnik [ben at linuxgazette.net]
Thu, 2 Nov 2006 09:28:38 -0500

...a most sincere "thank you"!

This month, a number of new volunteers came aboard - and, in a word, revitalized LG. Some came in and cleaned up the dusty phrasing, straightened up the crooked grammar, and replaced the broken spelling; others brought their technical expertise and poked into the complicated corners of articles. Yet others looked at LG with fresh eyes and pointed out a few broken phone cords and the bumps under the carpet (which turned out to be broken stuff hastily swept under in the past.) All who contributed have left their mark.

As Editor-in-Chief, I took great pleasure from seeing all this activity; in coordinating all of this [1], I got to meet a number of smart, energetic, capable individuals - people whom, as a group, I'm proud to know, and ones whom I hope I may come to call my friends.

Because of all of you, - even during this first month while everybody "settled in" and got familiar with the tasks needed to keep LG moving - my end of the production process has shifted focus, in large and positive ways. Just in case anyone missed it, this month we published the largest Mailbag (mailbag, talkbacks, and 2-cent tips) ever, by a large factor (over 620k, as contrasted against, say, 45k in LG#113.) In large part, this is due to our fearless Mailbag Editor, who also happens to be my fearless wife :) - but in part, it is due to the fact that I had the time and the energy to 1) rethink the Mailbag process and presentation, and 2) write a script which automated/relieved a great percentage of the drudgery that Mailbag used to be.

My best hope for the future is to revisit and revise every part of LG to shift that work/fun ratio toward the fun end by leaving the repetitive work to the machines as much as possible - and leaving the fun, interesting, challenging efforts to us humans.

I'm very, very glad that all of you are here to share this with me. Thanks again, and I hope that our interaction continues and improves with time.

[1] To the extent that a herd of cats can be coordinated, of course. :) Part of my enjoyment in all of this was seeing people indepently grab a hunk of work and make it by-damn behave without much input from me.

I'd mentioned, in an email exchange with René Pfeiffer, that I don't want to tie people down to process details. I've written or tweaked every LG FAQ to define results; the implementation is mostly left undefined, or stated in general terms. What I want is for everyone to do their piece the way the think best; if they get stuck, I'm always here to troubleshoot the process along with them. The way I do things is only my way; it's not the way - and if you do them better than I do, then I'll happily learn what you have to teach. That, to me, is one of the best benefits that cooperation offers.

* Ben Okopnik * Editor-in-Chief, Linux Gazette * http://LinuxGazette.NET *

[ Thread continues here (3 messages/4.44kB) ]

Aaaand... one more time, with gusto!

Benjamin A. Okopnik [ben at linuxgazette.net]
Tue, 31 Oct 2006 14:58:12 -0500

I've just added a routine to extract all the email addresses out of the TAG mailbag, look them up in the LG bios, and pull up the names associated with those addresses; the folks for whom this chain 1) exists and 2) matches will be credited with participating in the monthly madness (the credits will be listed at the top of the generated Mailbag page.)

Since I really like rewarding people who do good work to whatever extent I can, I'd appreciate it if everyone would make sure that 1) they've sent me a bio (preferably with a ~200x200px pic included) and 2) their bio contains the email address that they're using to post to TAG. This would satisfy my itch and credit you for your brilliant flights of wit and wisdom... sounds like an all-around win to me. :)

* Ben Okopnik * Editor-in-Chief, Linux Gazette * http://LinuxGazette.NET *

[ Thread continues here (3 messages/3.97kB) ]

Still Searching

Issue with evolution on FC6

Dale A. Raby [daleraby at tds.net]
Tue, 07 Nov 2006 19:22:41 -0600


This one is an irritation and a puzzle... need I mention that I do not like puzzles?

I purchased a DVD of Fedora Core 6. After a few minor repartitioning issues, I got it installed, though the default resolution was 1024 x 768. This displays text a bit small for my old eyes, so I changed the display to 800 x 600, which is what I usually use on my vintage machine.

The problem is with the Evolution groupware package. For some reason, the default window is larger than my desktop. When I unmaximize the window, I can move it over so I can access the scroll bar, but then I cannot see the mailboxes on the left side of the window. This window will not resize.

When I change the resolution to 1024 x 768, everything works as it is supposed to, except that I get eyestrain after ten minutes. All other applications seem to work fine at either resolution.

I would like Evolution to display correctly at 800 x 600. Does anyone have a suggestion for me?



"Nothing is ever so bad that it couldn't be worse, and if it could be
worse than it is, maybe its not so bad!"... me

max. viewer for paperport

ghnolan [nolanman at comcast.net]
Mon, 30 Oct 2006 07:34:52 -0500

This was originally sent in .html format, which I manually removed. PLEASE do not send e-mail to TAG in .html! --Kat

In Jan.2000 you received a query from a man that could not open max. files for viewing paperport. He later responde that he found the viewer on the web. Do you have any idea where he found it? Going bananas here 'cause folks can't open my attachments from Paperport sent as max. or pdf., or jpeg, or tiff.

Geoff in Miami

Our Mailbag

Get HW and SW inventary

ada * [adalex81 at gmail.com]
Wed, 22 Nov 2006 11:04:03 +0100

Hello everybody:

I'm a spanish girl in her last year at University studing computer engineering. I'm starting to look into linux to develope my end-degree project. The project deals with the managing of a heterogeneous net, this means that from a client (administrator) I have to get a Hardware and Software inventary of every computer and device in the net. The problem is that I just don't know where linux keeps such information (Windows keeps it in the register). Could any of you give a helping hand?

I mean to design the interface using J2EE tecnology, so I'll have to interrogate computers using java (neither how to do this yet).

Another question I'd like to ask is the best linux distribution to work with. I'll work with virtual machines so high requiriments do not represent huge problems.

hoping someone reads this (and spends sometime answering it ;) ), Galax

[ Thread continues here (12 messages/28.32kB) ]

Stuck at April 2005 on Debian Etch

Riccardo Tritto [riccardo.tritto at gmail.com]
Thu, 23 Nov 2006 19:35:23 +0100

Hi there, I have installed lg-all and lg-subscription on my Debian Etch, but I only have issues 1 to 113 (April 2005) when pointing my browser to /usr/share/doc/lg/index.html (or http://localhost/lg/).

Is it normal that I miss issues 114 to 132 (as of today)?

Is perhaps the maintainer of the Debian packages still packing all those missing issues?

Or perhaps something is wrong in my system?

Thanks for answering.

Riccardo Tritto - Bari - Italy

[ Thread continues here (2 messages/1.75kB) ]

To split DVD video stream according to DVD menu - how ?

Wladimir Mutel [mwg at mwg.dp.ua]
Sun, 19 Nov 2006 15:14:50 +0200

Dear people,

I have a DVD with several short films glued together into one big video-stream (and of course then split into 1GB VOBs). There is a menu on this DVD, which buttons trigger play of this stream from certain offsets (starts of separate shorts). On the ending of a short, playing continues into next one.

My problem now is how to split this DVD structure back into separate mpeg/avi files, one for each short ? I.e., first, to read starting point data out of DVD menu buttons, next, sort these points in advance order, and last, extract resulting pieces/intervals from big DVD stream.

I would prefer to solve this problem by using free software (transcode/mplayer/mencoder/mjpegtools/xine/wharever). I also would not mind writing a little program myself in C/Perl/shell if there are no existing command-line utilities to achieve this goal. And I would appreciate some initial directions from you. What is better to read and learn before I start ? I found out that DVD menu is plain MPEG2 file, but no great details about these buttons/actions. May be I should use libdvdnav ? What good examples to look into ?

Thank you in advance for your reply.

[ Thread continues here (3 messages/4.51kB) ]

Uninstalling Linux

Berghuis, Sandy J. [sberghuis at frpaper.com]
Thu, 16 Nov 2006 10:44:55 -0600

Can you tell me how to uninstall Linux from my computer? I could just cry because it wiped everything off my hard drive. Is there any way to recover any of the things I had on my hard drive? Thank you for any help you can give me.

Sandy Berghuis

[ Thread continues here (2 messages/1.95kB) ]

RS 422

Farago, Peter [remedium2 at vivamail.hu]
Mon, 13 Nov 2006 09:26:43 +0100

Dear James T. Dennis,

I bought a midi interface with rs422 ports,and i read about it(because = this interface quite old)and i know its for macintosh.

But one thing isn't too clear in my mind:

Can i use devices with my pc which are made for macintosh?Because i'm = not sure that those devices are made ONLY for macintosh.

Thanks a lot,

Peter Farago


[ Thread continues here (3 messages/3.75kB) ]

Debian install gui

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Thu, 2 Nov 2006 14:48:25 -0800

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick@linuxmafia.com> --

Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2006 14:47:19 -0800
To: luv-main@luv.asn.au
From: Rick Moen <rick@linuxmafia.com>
Subject: Re: Debian install gui
Quoting Peter McMullen (peter@mcmullen.net.au):

> There was a thread running a while ago about the alleged difficulty of
> installing Debian, and much was mode of the lack of a GUI installer. 
> Actually it does exist, and has for a while. It has been updated for
> the Etch RC1, but its a bit of a secret. If you burn the install iso
> and boot, it looks the same as it always has, but if you type
> installgui instead of just hitting enter you get the new install
> interface. 
> Its a direct mapping of the old dialogue, so if you expect it to hook
> gparted to help with partitioning, get used to disappointment. The
> only significant difference, so far, is that it does sometimes ask
> multiple questions on one page - e.g. for password verification.

This illustrates yet again that, when less-technical users say "your Linux distribution needs [foo]", they often mean something else entirely -- or aren't really sure what they mean -- and have a bizarre tendency to express themselves using code phrases.

That is, the code phrase "GUI installer" in this context usually turns out to really have very little to do with graphics. The speaker really means "I want an OS installer that asks me very, very few questions and does extensive hardware autoprobing." I.e., (they believe) they want completely automated installers, or as close as possible.

Old-timers may recall the antique debate point used by MS-Windows and Macintoy OS users for years: "Linux needs more applications." After hearing this for many years, I sat down with one of them, a longtime Windows user, at a Linux desktop box and typed:

$ grep Package: /var/lib/apt/lists/*Packages | wc -l
I pointed out that the return value of 17,511 was the number of currently available software packages, in that distribution. Mr. Windows said: "Um, desktop productivity software, I mean." So, I showed the guy a list of the roughly dozen different full "office" suites that were then available for x86 Linux systems.
RM:  A dozen.  How many are enough office suites?  Two dozen?  A hundred?
Mr. Windows:  Well, I thought there weren't any at all.
RM:  And why did you think that?
Mr. Windows:  Well, I looked on the shelves in my corner software store.
RM:  So, because you can't conceive of getting software any other way
     than in a separate, extra-cost retail package, you simply 
     assumed that Linux "needs more applications".  By the way,
     how many office suites do you use?
Mr. Windows:  {face turning red}  One.
Cheers,                 "Heedless of grammar, they all cried 'It's him!'"
Rick Moen                       -- R.H. Barham, _Misadventure at Margate_

[ Thread continues here (2 messages/4.98kB) ]

Don't know which days are better

mike sullivan [albinoaardvark at sbcglobal.net]
Tue, 07 Nov 2006 07:38:44 -0600

The ones where I learn some thing about Linux. . . . or the days you guys are off on a tangent. Thanks either way.


Web Search Option

Ramanathan Muthaiah [rus.cahimb at gmail.com]
Mon, 20 Nov 2006 05:50:52 +0530

Am looking for ways to enable search options for one of the websites (open source, not meant for business :-) ) am responsible for maintenance.

However, it's not for the entire website for a specific section (FAQ pages).

Any ideas ?


P.S: Prefer to do it using scripts written in sed / awk.

[ Thread continues here (16 messages/18.15kB) ]

Grub Disk Error

clarjon1 [clarjon1 at gmail.com]
Fri, 24 Nov 2006 08:47:09 -0500

Hello everyone

I've come across a small annoyance lately when I try to boot my PC. When it tries to load GRUB, it tells me:

GRUB Disk Error 
I can boot, the livecd which I installed from (Freespire BTW) has a boot from hda1 option that I find quite useful right now, so I can boot. I've tried re-installing GRUB from the commandline, and from the GRUB shell, but to no luck at all. From the commandline, I get told that (paraphrasing) the drive has no bios disk.

Any help would be appreciated.

[ Thread continues here (7 messages/6.99kB) ]

Find circular simlinks

Britto I [brittocan at gmail.com]
Fri, 24 Nov 2006 16:57:13 +0530

Hi Folks!

Some where in the directory structure there might be the circular symlinks ie the softlinks made to the parent directory


       localhost]# pwd
       localhost]# ln -s .. cirlink
       localhost]#  ls -l cirlink
                 cirlink -> ..
I want to find that particular circular or recursive link

Thanx in Advance.. Britto

[ Thread continues here (2 messages/1.46kB) ]

tar doesn`t like colon in the filename

jorge xxxxx [kaeosdonk at gmail.com]
Wed, 8 Nov 2006 13:18:32 +0100

I've removed the original message in this head, as it is entirely reproduced in Jorge's correction below. - Kat

2006/11/8, jorge xxxxx <kaeosdonk@gmail.com>:

> I'm having a problem with the downloadable pack of linuxgazette.net
> issue this month(132).  It`s probably in my side as long as someone
> managed to compress it but when I do
> tar -xvzf  lg-132.tar.gz
> it spit some errors about being unable of creating filenames like
> Talkback:100_lg_tips_html_tips_14.html
> As long as not having internet at home (so that's the downloadable
> package for) and not being able of getting  linux machine in the
> university I haven't the original error mesagges.
> the tar version is the one with debian sarge r1 I've been thinking
> about it being some filesystem name limitation but again you have done
> it in your end.  I can manage to get why it happens or how to extract

> them (without cheating)

> Sorry for the strange enclish
> Jorge

I mean to say I can't


[ Thread continues here (5 messages/9.84kB) ]

Top posting

Benjamin A. Okopnik [ben at linuxgazette.net]
Wed, 8 Nov 2006 16:18:57 -0500

[ Please don't silently drop TAG from the CC list. I've re-added it. ]

On Wed, Nov 08, 2006 at 11:18:58PM +0200, Paul Sephton wrote:

>    Sorry...  won't happen again

No worries, Paul. We don't flame people here for not knowing things - we just point'em to the FAQ. :) In any case, welcome.

* Ben Okopnik * Editor-in-Chief, Linux Gazette * http://LinuxGazette.NET *

[ Thread continues here (2 messages/1.73kB) ]

How do you sort an IP address list?

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Tue, 7 Nov 2006 15:48:08 -0800

Thread quoted below could be grist for the TAG mill, or the makings of a 2 cent tip, or something else.

Date: Tue, 7 Nov 2006 12:16:25 -0800
To: conspire@linuxmafia.com
X-Mas: Bah humbug.
User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.11+cvs20060403
From: Rick Moen <rick@linuxmafia.com>
Subject: [conspire] Puzzle: How do you sort IP address lists?
There's a maintenance task I have to do occasionally, that is very much The Wrong Thing over the long term, but necessary in the sort term: I keep a blocklist of IP addresses that my SMTP server shouldn't accept mail from. SVLUG's server, on which I'm interim sysadmin, has a list just like it. Since I maintain both lists, it's logical to combine them, run them through 'uniq' (to eliminate duplicates), and sort the result -- to benefit both sites.

That's where the 'puzzle' bit comes in. But first, why it's The Wrong Thing:

Security author Marcus J. Ranum has a dictum that 'enumerating badness' is dumb (http://www.ranum.com/security/computer_security/editorials/dumb/):

  Back in the early days of computer security, there were only a
  relatively small number of well-known security holes. That had a lot
  to do with the widespread adoption of "Default Permit" because, when
  there were only 15 well-known ways to hack into a network, it was
  possible to individually examine and think about those 15 attack
  vectors and block them. So security practitioners got into the habit
  of "Enumerating Badness" - listing all the bad things that we know
  about.  Once you list all the badness, then you can put things in
  place to detect it, or block it.
  Why is "Enumerating Badness" a dumb idea? It's a dumb idea because
  sometime around 1992 the amount of Badness in the Internet began to
  vastly outweigh the amount of Goodness. For every harmless,
  legitimate, application, there are dozens or hundreds of pieces of
  malware, worm tests, exploits, or viral code. Examine a typical
  antivirus package and you'll see it knows about 75,000+ viruses that
  might infect your machine. Compare that to the legitimate 30 or so apps
  that I've installed on my machine, and you can see it's rather dumb to
  try to track 75,000 pieces of Badness when even a simpleton could track
  30 pieces of Goodness.  [...]
So, in keeping blocklists of IP addresses that have been zombified and used for mass-mailed spam, 419-scammail, etc., I'm aware of doing something a bit dumb. It's a losing stategy. I'm doing it on linuxmafia.com because the site is badly short on RAM and disk space in the short term (still need to migrate to that VA Linux 2230), and so software upgrades are deferred. Similarly, the SVLUG host has a scarily broken package system, and is therefore to be migrated rather than worked on in place, as well. So, we limp by on both machines with some long-term losing anti-spam methods because they're short-term palliatives.

Getting back to the puzzle, you'd think that GNU sort would be easily adaptable to a list like this, right? Consider this 11-address chunk of linuxmafia.com's blocklist:

[ ... ]

[ Thread continues here (23 messages/58.20kB) ]

USB Drive Bad Sectors

Fri, 27 Oct 2006 17:04:01 -0400


I have Linux ( booting from a USB drive. My application is machine control and I wanted to use something solid-state. A USB stick seemed like a good idea because it is cheap and readily available and reasonably fast.

My problem is that I get file system corruption and "bad sectors" some times, presumably due to an unclean shut down. I am using an ext2 filesystem with the thinking that a journal would just wear out the drive in a certain spot. Maybe that's not correct -- I am not sure if the drive has a wear-leveling algorithm implemented or not.


1. Is ext2 the right choice? Or would reiserfs be better? Vfat??

2. Is their a quick way to detect bad sectors? I tried running e2fsck -c but it has been 45 minutes so far!

I am thinking if I can detect the corruption, I can just reformat the partition and restore it from another read-only partition. The kernel seems to report them:

sd 5:0:0:0: SCSI error: return code = 0x08000002
sdb: Current: sense key=0x3
    ASC=0x11 ASCQ=0x0
end_request: I/O error, dev sdb, sector 598730
I guess I could grep the messages log, but I don't think that is a conclusive check.

Any pointers would be appreciated.

Brandon Reynolds                Ph: 330-644-3059
Systems Engineer                Fax: 330-644-8110
CTI, a Poling Group Company     Email: bmr at comtime.com

[ Thread continues here (4 messages/6.67kB) ]

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Copyright © 2006, . Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 133 of Linux Gazette, December 2006

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