linux n00b

Motherboard Transplants, Debian, Fluxbox and Auto Starting Applications

Posted in Distributions, Window Managers by downforce on July 2, 2007

I’ve recently decided that it’s time to stop letting Mark Shuttleworth hold my hand in my Linux experience and start getting my hands more dirty!

As a result, I’ve decided to start installing Debian on my machines as and when required.

Yesterday, after 5 hours of PC transplant surgery, transposing 4 motherboards in 3 PC’s, what is my HTPC decided it didn’t like the transplant. Very strangely, I changed from this C 2.4GHz 478/533FSB MB to a P4 287.GHz 478/800FSB and it handled it fine. Changing the board back again and X-Windows didn’t want to start, kept crashing out after logging in with GDM.

My HTPC was running Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy w/ E17. Now I realise I could have spent some time fixing it, but I couldn’t be bothered as I didn’t want to run E17 as my HTPC environment anymore anyway, mainly due to conflicting keybindings when using MythBrowser.

So I took the plunge and stuck Debian 4.0 Etch on it via a Net Install. Thanks to using a Debian Etch VM not so long ago, my proxy server had cached a fair bit so the install was pretty quick. I selected Standard System only, not Desktop System. After installing the base system, I installed FluxBox, GDM, MythTV Frontend, nVidia Legacy driver from for my MX4000 PCI and Alsa.

All installed fine (subject to installing some dependencies), however as of today, still haven’t got the sound working correctly. TBH this is driving me nuts and sound in Linux has always been my Achilles heel.

Anyway, one of the crucial elements is having MythTV automatically load at startup. Using my Googlefu I discovered 3 methods, involving editing .xinitrc or .fluxbox/startup. Neither was working!

Turned out that to get these to run, need to start FluxBox with /usr/bin/startfluxbox, not /usr/bin/fluxbox, which Debain does by default!

The solution is to change the alternatives!
update-alternatives --install fluxbox x-window-manager /usr/bin/startfluxbox 100
update-alternatives --config x-window-manager

Next time you login, you’re apps will run! I’ve dumped FluxBox 3 times because of this problem. I might install it on my main PC when it get’s rebuilt!

Now just to figure out how to get my Creative SB Live! Value working!


Get more Gnome Themes

Posted in Howto, Window Managers by downforce on April 27, 2007

When I ran Windows I was never a theme person. Windows themes just took too much of a hit on system performance. Under Linux, it seems that the impact is far less. As such I decided to look for more GNOME themes, bored with the selection offered by the standard Ubuntu installation.

The best site I’ve found so far is! Head on over to their Gnome theme sub-category.

There is even a page on how to install them, although I think it’s slightly out-of-date (2002).

To install them in Ubuntu do this:

  • System -> Preferences -> Themes
  • Click on Install
  • Browse to the .tar.gz file and import

Now I hit a little snag. Some of them said Installed correctly and sometimes I got a message to choose between Revert theme or Switch to new theme.

  • When I saw Installed correctly, it appears in theme list.
  • When I saw Switch to new theme, I had to say “Yes” then below the Install button is Save. I then saved the theme so it appeared in the list for later.
  • Now you can have a pretty new desktop. I’ll post back with more Gnome themes sites I find.

    A Rundown of Top10 Linux Desktops

    Posted in Desktop, Distributions by downforce on April 27, 2007

    New to linux? Read this!

    Found an article today on, Top Ten Distributions.

    It’s a good read, especially for the n00b to linux. It gives a really quick rundown of the history, the pro’s, con’s and some alternatives to the different major distributions to be used as a desktop.

    My brief flirt with Debian 4.0 Etch

    Posted in Desktop, Distributions, General by downforce on April 23, 2007

    I feel my Linux journey is coming to the point where trying one distro over another actually means something slightly more rather than looking at the window manager/desktop. Don’t get me wrong I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I’m getting a better feel.

    So with that, I went and installed Debian 4.0 Etch via a netinstall. In fact I’ve installed it 3 times now, 2 different VM images and also on a partition of my main rig. I’m mainly dealing with the install on my main rig as that’s the one I really tried to use.

    Not surprisingly it installed almost exactly the same as Ubuntu. I even tried it with the installgui option. TBH this is just fluff and without the video card acceleration, it’s painfully slow refreshing.

    I decided on a “Standard Installation” and “Desktop Installation” and went with KDE (as I’m tending to favour over Gnome now).

    Everything installed great and was working fine, with the exception of sound. Sound under every installation has been painful, woefully painful. Oh I lie, Ubuntu (7.04 beta) with a seperate wajig install kde worked great!

    It wasn’t before long I got frustrated. The main reason? The packages in the repo’s are sooo old compared with Ubuntu. As a desktop, I want bleeding edge, I want wine 0.9.35, OpenOffice 2.2, not wine 0.9.25 or OpenOffice 2.0.

    In a commercial setting where stability is key I’d go for Debian, as felt nice and stable, not didn’t work. I know if, or should I say when, I need to rebuild my server, I will go for Debian instead of Ubuntu.

    I’ve just installed openSUSE instead on that partition. It’s my first non-debian based distro. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    How to get Google Services working with Opera

    Posted in Desktop, Howto, Knowledge Base by downforce on April 23, 2007

    I found this on the Opera forums whilst looking how to report bad sites.

    There is in Opera the ability to create UserJS or userjavascript. I haven’t fully researched how it works, but taken from their Opera UserJS Tutorial:

    User JavaScript allows you to specify local JavaScript files for Opera to include on every page that you visit.

    User JavaScript can be used for many purposes, including:

  • Fixing broken scripts on Web pages
  • Enhancing Web pages by changing or adding your own content to the page
  • Controlling what scripts are allowed to run on a page, and what they are allowed to do
  • Simplifying bookmarklets by adding functions they depend on to the User JavaScript
  • So with that a nice guy called xErath wrote a UserJS which fixes Opera with UserJS! There forum thread is here.

    Basically, here is what to do:

  • Download his script and save it somewhere where your Opera can access it. I created a new directory ~/.opera/userjs/.
  • In Opera go to Preferences or press CTRL-F12.
  • Go to Content -> JavaScript Options
  • In User JavaScript files enter /home/user/.opera/userjs/ (where user is your username)
  • Goto and it’ll work!
  • All credit goes to xErath. Thanks for the script!

    Setting Opera Searches to your local Google/Google Linux

    Posted in Applications, Desktop, Howto by downforce on April 19, 2007

    One of the thing Opera can do it address bar searches. I like this feature alot, as around 75% of new tabs I open lead are for doing some sort of Google search.

    The keyboard shortcut to enter the address bar is either ctrl-l or F8. I used to use F8 more until I started using Epiphany which is only ctrl-L.

    To do a normal google search simply type “g I want to search for this

    Easy as hey?

    So now I live in Australia I want this to default to Google Aus. To change it do this:

  • Tools -> Preferences or ctrl-F12 then Search tab.
  • Click on Google and press Edit.
  • Click on Details
  • Just change to your local Google, in my case I added .au to the end so the string became
  • Whilst you are there, you might as well check that Google is the default and tick both default search engine and Speed Dial search engine.

    Now, I also use Google Linux alot, so I’ve created a new search called gl. Can you guess why?

    To do this:
    Press Add
    Name: Google Linux
    Keyword: gl
    If you want to use this as default, then check the default boxes.

    Now you can type gl wajig and it uses Google Linux!

    On a side note, change the part of the string num=50 to another number to change the number of results on each page.

    Nifty hey!

    GKnow – A possible knowledge base solution

    Posted in Desktop, General, Knowledge Base by downforce on April 17, 2007

    I was thinking about my problem finding a personal knowledge base app that I can host on my web server.

    I did a stint doing software documentation and thinking in the shower the other day (1 of 2 places where I tend to do some good thinking not in front of a computer screen) of exactly what do I want from a personal knowledge base solution.

    Here’s a brief summary:

  • Easily viewed and edited
  • Easy to reference and cross-reference
  • Easy to navigate between references
  • A search function which searches both titles and content (context-based search – right?)
  • Can be easily printed/pdf’ed
  • Can be marked private or public
  • Whilst running through it, an brainwave hit me … what I wanted is form of GMail, hence the name GKnow. Other just as googley names included Google-Know or GKBase. Knock yourself out thinking of others.

    Anyway, it has pretty much all the features I wanted, the ‘tag’ emails, a great search engine, it’s *very* easy to use, can groups items with the same title and can be controlled with key presses to navigate around. It even has the ability archive old items. Attaching files can be done the same way I used to transport files home from work by saving attachments to drafts but never sending them.

    There are a couple of missing features from GMail which would apply here:

  • Ability to sort columns
  • Ability to sub-group tags into categories
  • Now, if only Google would read this and fulfill my wish!

    Out with VMWare – In with VirtualBox

    Posted in Desktop, General, Virtualisation by downforce on April 14, 2007

    Some days ago I started what sort of looked like a HOWTO for installing InnoTek’s VirtualBox on Ubuntu. Literally the next day, a post appeared on with the exactly the same task!

    Well, I’m not going to replicate their work, not to mention they were far more inclusive than I was going to be.

    After making some posts on VMWare server, I’ve now started using VirtualBox … and what’s the verdict?
    Well it’s still out … to start with I liked it alot, it loads the VM images far quicker than VMWare server, creating new images was a breeze (so is VMWare but it’s marginally easier).

    On the flip side, the instances seem more … fragile. I’ve had my WinXP install blue-screen a few times and my debain 4.0 lockup. I think I’ve traced the Debian lockups to the screensaver kicking, but more testing required.

    I’ll keep you posted.

    A better fix for dead Opera on 7.04 Feisty!

    Posted in Desktop, Howto by downforce on April 8, 2007

    On my previous post Fixing dead Opera on 7.04 Feisty! I mentioned you could hold back the ‘problem’ package to keep Opera working.

    This is the reason I like using Opera, they have released a patch. As per the comment by csant, he mentioned it’s not just Ubuntu, but many distro’s that used the new libX11-6 package. So, let’s run through how to undo what I did then use the new Opera.

    Load Opera and you should be set! Thanks again to Opera for the speedy fix!

    Extracting Icons from Windows Apps

    Posted in Desktop, Howto by downforce on April 7, 2007

    I have a few games I play through Wine, and none of them come with their icons as seperate .ico files. As creative as I think not, using the generic linux icons is boring.

    Thankfully, there is a tool in linux to extract icons from .exe files, namely icotools. Here’s a guide how to extract icons from .exe files.

    • Get icotools through package manager:
    • wajig install icoutils
    • Within here is two tools, icotool and wrestool. A whatis for both describes them as:
    • icotool (1) – Convert and create Win32 icon and cursor files
      wrestool (1) – extract resources from Microsoft Windows(R) binaries

    • In my case, they are both binaries, so I want wrestool this time
    • cd into the directory of the Windows app.
    • The rest pretty much comes straight from the man wrestool but here’s the low down:
    • To list all icons in the file type:
    • wrestool -l --type=group_icon Win32.exe
    • Extract all icons to current directory, naming the destination files `write.exe_T_N.ico’:
    • wrestool -x --output=. -t14 Win32.exe
    • See what’s extracted:
    • ls -l *.ico; and you should see:
    • Win32.exe_14_1.ico