linux n00b

Installing VMWare Server on Feisty.

Posted in Administration, Howto by downforce on March 31, 2007

EDIT: I noticed that I made a few early assumption on getting to this stage. For completeness I have gone back and described how to get VMWare Server. Check is out here.
EDIT2: Updated for new vmware-any-any-update109. Thanks to Monku for letting me know.

VMWare Server is available for free from their website. All you need to do it ‘register’ and get a key. The key is reusable if you ever need to reinstall (which I’ve done a few times now!), mind you there are different keys for Linux and Windows.

When installing vmware-server (and I believe workstation but I don’t use this) on Feisty I was getting errors around compiling vmmon.ko and it would bomb out.

When running 6.10 Edgy I had this same problem, however I was using a vanilla kernel – 2.6.20 which was the latest at the time. Feisty, however, comes with 2.6.20 as standard so this problem will occur (I imagine) for everyone.

There is great discussion on this on the VMWare forums and it took me a little while to disseminate all the info. Here is a description of what the patch is, but I’ll run through how to install it.

Go to and download the latest vmware-any-any-updateXXX.tar.gz update, or (as of writing):

Unzip it:
tar zxvf vmware-any-any-update109.tar.gz

Make sure you have what you need to compile
wajig install build-essential **

Enter the directory:
cd vmware-any-any-update109

Run the script:
sudo ./

It should prompt you to run as well, but if it doesn’t enter:

Go through and answer all the vmware questions and you are up and running! To run the server the command is vmware.

** wajig is a simplified command-line replacement for the package management that comes with debian/Ubuntu. It combines various apt-get/apt-<everything else> functions into one tool and saves a heap of key presses over time. It doesn’t come standard so get it with sudo apt-get install wajig. Make sure you have universe enabled in your sources. Otherwise just use the boring sudo apt-get install XXXX


In the Beginning was the Command Line

Posted in General by downforce on March 31, 2007

I read Cryptonomicon a couple months ago, on recommendation of a well-read work colleague.

I have to say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and throughly recommend it.

There is an article on it’s website called In the Beginning was the Command Line and it’s also an interesting read!

Something so simple? A solution!

Posted in Howto, Window Managers by downforce on March 30, 2007

I was … whinging … about a feature I missed in E17 that I hadn’t found in gnome.

Except last night during my playing I found a work-a-around. It’s not what E17 did, but in some ways might be better.

Right-clicking on the title bar and there were 2 options “Always show on visible workspace” and “Always on top”. Now this is great for myth, in fact it’s probably a better solution than the way E17 works in that I run MythTV in a window at 1024×768 so on each workspace I get the 1280×1024 for one monitor and I get the other 256×256 for other things … like a terminal! “Always visible” I’d use all the time, ‘On top’ when I really want to watch the whole show.

Notch another win for the garden accessory!

Stop the condemnation, start the glorification!

Posted in General by downforce on March 30, 2007

Great – I’ve got your attention with a severly over the top title. So far I’ve done a lot of complaining about things not working. You’d think with all the problems I’ve been having I’d ask myself “Why do I bother?”. There are a lot of stuff Linux does that just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Repositories – These have to be the single greatest idea within the linux world. Seriously, tell me one site that has so much software for your operating system whereby you can installed/remove/tweak your apps with the minimal of fuss?

Command Line – I missed the command prompt in Windows. Yes I know it’s there, but what can you seriously do with it? All I ever did was ipconfigs/pings/traceroutes and nslookups. I can’t think of another command I used …. Actually, I suppose the Run box replaced some of the things I’d have done with a command prompt. Win-R was a favourite, one I haven’t got around to replacing under Linux.

Everything is a file – and aint it grand? I love the fact I can change pretty much any settings with a text editor. Want a new samba share? No problems, vi /etc/samba/smb.conf, a bit of cut and paste, a few edits, one sudo /etc/init.d/samba reload and it’s there.

SSH – Until recently, I could access my box from anywhere. Been told about some new app or ‘thing’ to try at home, SSH in with lynx (or I used elinks) download the file. Or if I knew the exact link, wget.

GNU – This is the ultimate reason I swapped. As I get older and apparently wiser, I decided that I wasn’t going to give my money to Microsoft when I can do what I want for far less. I do intend to make some donations to some FOSS projects, but procrastination has got the better of me!

Moving onto the Ubuntu Gnome side of things, I actually got to sit down for an hour last night and just “have a play”.

Some of the things that stand out are:

Auto mounting of USB devices – I have a 4 slot memory card reader and a Sansa e240 MP3 player. Plugged both in and it was detect and Nautilus popped up. Cards in the memory card reader are auto mounted too and a nice popup from GImageView to ‘import’ them. I move them, but import is fine 😉

This is a backhanded compliment … I like how nearly all configs are in a menu with a GUI. Only problem, a lot of the information doesn’t really display well in a GUI format. Creating a new samba share was actually confusing compared to directly editing the smb.conf file.

It’s stable – Although this is an unfair comparison. E17 is still in ‘testing’, not sure if it’s beta or alpha, I’d say beta so it’s bound to have problems – and it does at that! Fluxbox wasn’t anywhere near configured, I never had stability issues but then I couldn’t do as much as I wanted.

I feel bad now; this is all I can come up with. I spent most of the hour copying and looking at photos and copying mp3’s to my Sansa. The rest of the time, I was loading and looking at the different config options. Most of them I’ll never use.

I also checked out gDesklets and another tool that while looks great, I’ll never use. I rarely see my desktop, it’s covered in screens. I was running conkk under E17 for a while and still have my config for it, but I never knew what it said as I could never see it. Not to mention a few of the applets kept dieing. One of them decided it loved my mouse and wouldn’t detach and stick to the screen. A kill from terminal was required.

As usual … more to come.

Wobbly windows?? Wobble this!

Posted in Window Managers by downforce on March 29, 2007

I was having a play and tried the ‘Desktop Enhancement’ which I assume is the compiz 3d desktop.

WOW, how annoying!! By default it turned off borders, so I needed to lalt-click to drag them around. I also couldn’t figure out how to use the cube for 3d desktop swapping. Clicking the maps down the bottom didn’t do the cube and lalt-f1/1/n and a variety of other keys didn’t work either.

The worst part is the gui visibly slowed down. Now I definitely don’t have a bleeding edge PC, but I wouldn’t say I have a POS either. When I did buy it 2+ years ago, it was the dogs bollocks, AMD64 3000+, 2GB of dual channel Crucial Ballistix and a 6600GT AGP (:() 128MB – I bought it pretty much exactly 1 month before PCIe boards became available.

Wobbly windows lasted about 15min, next gimmick?

Something so simple?

Posted in Window Managers by downforce on March 29, 2007

When using both Fluxbox and Gnome there is a feature in E17 that stands out when going to the alternatives on a TwinView setup:

Unlink screen desktops

Actually, I’m not sure what it’s actually called so let me explain.

I usually run 3 or 4 virtual desktops. In Gnome or Fluxbox these equate to 2560×1024 (2 lots of 1280×1024) so when you switch from 1 to 2 the contents of both monitors change.

When I was running E17 each screen effectively became 1280×1024 so I had 8 desktops, 4 on each monitor. It wasn’t that I was running two X-sessions, I could move windows between both of them with ease.

I found this most useful with mythtv, I’d have mythtv running on my CRT screen (to the left) and I could switch between desktop 1 to 4 on my LCD whilst keeping myth there the whole time. Now if there was a app on a different desktop to myth, I could change it (e.g. I ran Thunderbird on Desktop 4 – alt-f4), do what I want then switch back to Desktop 1, which the LCD screen stayed on say Desktop 2.

Whilst using it I thought it was nifty, but it wasn’t until I switch to Gnome/FB that I noticed just how good it was.

If anyone actually reads this and knows 1. what this is called and 2. how to get the same functionality in gnome, please let me know.

I have to say it’s not in my xorg.conf as I am using exactly the same xorg.conf I was running under E17.

How to break Feisty in 5minutes

Posted in Desktop by downforce on March 29, 2007

Here is something I don’t recommend:

sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop 
sudo sh

I spent almost 3 hours last night trying to recover from it. I’m not 100% sure whether something went wrong or it just doesn’t work. I suspect the later based on some googling.

The error I was getting was something along the lines of:

API conflict, the kernel module installed is 1.0.75xx and the driver requires 1.0.97xx.

I tried so many different thing, none with any success using the nvidia driver. I installed nvidia-xsettings, which doesn’t help unless you are already IN X, nvidia-settings. I tried multiple reboots, re-installs. There is even an advanced option -K which is supposed to just install the kernel module.

It’s probably a good time to point out that I don’t actually know what a kernel module although my logic tells me that it’s a ‘module’ that plugs into the kernel so that ‘something’, be it hardware or driver can interact with the kernel.

OT: Well bugger me dead, there is a ‘lookup’ button on my wordpress. I decided to press it and entered kernel module. Here’s what I got … kernel module. So what do you know, I was right! Yay! I get a gold star! Actually is a pretty nifty site, I recommend it for dictionary searches etc.

So, back to the task on hand – this nvidia driver. Now I’m one of these people that while am quickly becoming a FOSS advocate, the fact nvidia has a binary driver, isn’t going to stop me using it, as long as it’s still ‘free’ as in I don’t have to pay for it, especially if it improves my 3D performance. I like to play my wine games! Not only that, I have 2 monitors and like to run TwinView. My primary screen is on the right HS and the 2nd screen on the left.

I keep digressing – So about the 1.5 hour mark I said ‘bugger it’ and gave up on sorting the binary issue. I tried to get back to the ubuntu default. Now who said this was any easier? I reset my xorg.conf with sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg and loaded the boring vesa driver. This got me back into gnome. After scouring the menus, I found the restricted manager but it said I didn’t have any devices that required restricted modules – All my googling said I did!A wajig install nvidia-glx later I tried again and changed the driver to ‘nv’. Slightly more success – no TwinView but had 1280×960 res and some acceleration, the menus were blurring in and out as with vesa.

At this point I threw my dummy out of the pram, went and had a whinge to the wife and decided – screw this, I’m going to reinstall Feisty. And that’s what I did. Once it has installed I went straight to the restricted manager, enabled the nvidia driver, which wanted me to install linux-image-2.6.20-13-386 and it’s headers and nvidia-glx.

All up it took about 60min, 45min-ish to reinstall (of which about 15min was getting to the install stage!!) 15min to change the sources, pick my apps and then left it overnight to download 250mb and install 480mb of updates and additional apps. Most importantly, the nvidia driver is working!

Just how intelligent is it?

Posted in Humour by downforce on March 28, 2007

Couldn’t help but laugh at this one:

Linux or Microsoft?

Flux today, Gnome tomorrow.

Posted in Window Managers by downforce on March 28, 2007

The urge continues ….

I liked Fluxbox, it was clean, smooth and customisable. The killer? The last one. At the moment I don’t have the time to re-setup the machine from scratch using Ubuntu 6.10 alternative from console.

Fluxbox starts very minimal and everything needs to be additionally installed. I installed bbrun (the command line tool) and fbdesk (for desktop icons) but couldn’t get them to load on startup. I found two articles, one mentioned about ~/.fluxbox/init and the other … err I’ve forgotten (not at the PC at the moment!) but got neither to work. The other annoyance was the automatic menu generation didn’t pick up every item in /usr/share/applications/. Manually adding additional items required the console, which isn’t a a problem, just really time consuming!

So with that, I’ve decided to ‘become mainstream’ and go for the full blown Ubuntu again, with the garden accessories (gnome) and everything that comes with it – 7.04 Feisty (Beta).

TBH, I really wanted to give the new Ubuntu a go and seeing it was recently released as beta, I thought why not. Not only that, the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was low with Fluxbox, there weren’t nice desktop icons, nor easy to access menus etc and having opera and gaim not load on startup was starting to annoy her.

I think my previous experiences with Gnome must not have been as successful as I wished as this is actually running quite nicely, none of the ‘sluggishness’ I noticed last time. I’m running it out of the box with one exception, I’ve installed the nvidia binary driver. I’m beginning to think my previous problems may have been driver related. As I left home, I had Synaptic downloading additional apps, like wine, xmms and all the 105mb of updates.

After using it for 2minutes though there is one feature I miss that’s in both Fluxbox and E17, the mouse-driven menus. TBH I’m not sure what it’s actually called, but you know the one where you click the desktop and get the system menu? Anyone knows how to get this under gnome I’d be appreciative. I will look, but got to get everything else working first!

It’s time to go play .. err I mean use it.

Google Linux

Posted in General by downforce on March 26, 2007

This single tool is the greatest resource I have for getting stuff done in Linux ….