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Intel Core 2 Quad... Which version of Linux do I have to install?

This is my first contribution to the community, I hope it will be at least from a practical point of view, useful for some of the new Linux users, as I actually am.

I recently purchased a nice computer. I mounted the components (which was kind of an adventure) and decided to install Debian on it. I faced the very first question as I was going to download it: which architecture is the one I should use?

My processor is an Intel Core 2 Quad 8200, so I knew I could run on 64-bits.  But the amd64 version looked weird to me, since my computer had an Intel processor (Intel64...) not an AMD. The answer is quite straight forward: for Core 2 amd64 is the one.

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How I got involved with Linux

I am a technical writer. I've written hundreds of thousands of words about the Linux operating system over the years. I currently write for three different companies - one of them our beloved linux.com.

I thought I would introduce myself by way of discussing how I got involved with Linux in the beginning....

I came into computers rather late in life. I was just joining the professional world as a professor at a university and realized I had to have my first computer. So I bought an Acer Aspire with a 75 Mhz CPU. At the time it was sweet. I was on AOL and having a blast...that is until Windows 95 decided to do its thing and reveal to me my first "BOSD". At that point I assumed it was a "feature" and plodded on. But that "feature" continued creeping into my daily computing life. No matter what I was doing I found myself having to reboot my machine with either the three or the one finger salute. 

After a few years of that I heard the whispers of another operating system - one that wouldn't frustrate me beyond belief, one that would actually do what I wanted it to do. Being the curious monkey I am I had to know what this operating system was. That was circa 1998 and I finally heard the name Linux.

Being on dial up, the only way I was going to have this operating system was either: 1) from Cheapbytes or 2) from the local retail. I got lucky and the local retail shop had a copy of Caldera OpenLinux. Believe it or not I did get this installed. It was rough...like thermo-nuclear physics rough. I had never installed an operating system before and was, well, a bit taken aback by the process. 

Eventually it was installed and I was up and running. Only problem was I wasn't doing much. It took me a while to finally figure out I was the proud owner of a winmodem, so I couldn't get on line.

Ah the beauty of the US Robtics external dial up modem. It worked like a charm and I had Linux up and running and on line! I flipped the bird to Windows and never looked back.

Now I can say I have tried every distribution I can get my hands on. I have covered nearly every aspect of Linux one one or more sites. My writing about Linux has been published and translated into multiple languages.

Linux has been, and always shall be, my friend.

 

ASUS Ai Remote driver

Everybody with a ASUS P5E3 or a similar Mainboard has got an infrared remote control, that can be connected to the PC via USB. I had some trubles making this thing work with LIRC, so I wrote a Python script, that maps the remote's signals to keycodes.

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test „ÉÜ„Çπ„Éà

Test „ÉÜ„Çπ„Éà
 

Using lftp to synchronize folders with a FTP account

lftp is a powerfull FTP client than can be used to sync with a remote account. In Ubuntu 9.04 it is already installed so all you have to do is figure out how to use it. :)

First, you'll need 2 "scripts", one to download files from the remote FTP server to your computer an one to upload them from your computer to the server.

Download script:

Create a file named download.x with the following content:

open -u user,password -p [port] [server]
mirror -c -e /remote_directory /local_directory
exit

You will need to write your username and password; also specify the port, usually 22, and the server address (eg: ftp://domain.com - you can also use sftp://). Also insert the absolute paths to the remote and  local directories.

The effect of the option -e  in the second line is that files that don't exist anymore in the remote directory will be deleted from the local directory; you may want to change this if you don't need this option.

Upload script:

open -u user,password -p [port] [server]
mirror -c -e -R /local_directory /remote_directory
exit

 

There are only a few things changed in the upload script: the -R option is used because we want to upload from the local directory to the remote one. Also note that the order of the two folders changed from the download script.

There are many other options for lftp; just, you know, man lftp.

Now, to download the files from the remote FTP server to the local directory open a terminal an type in:

$ lftp -f download.x

Note: if the download.x file is not in your home directory, you'll have to write the path to it.

To upload the files to the remote directory use the command:

$ lftp -f upload.x

 

Hope this helps.

 

Been using Wine to play some old windows games.

Strangely these 6 to 8 year old commercial windows games run better under Linux using wine than they do on a fairly modern Windows XP box.

 Myth, Starcraft, SimCity3000 all just worked on Linux.

 I have also found Linux based Clients for several games that work perfectly. The quake 2 and 3 source code compiled very easily on my system and worked flawlessly. 

 Source code for Quake 2: http://www.icculus.org/quake2/#download

I had to install a few libXxx* libraries to get the code to compile.  To get sound to work I had to edit the Make file and have it build sdlquake and run that version to get sound working.  

 I used a couple of set commands to set the 1280x800 resolution of my monitor.: 

quake set r_customwidth 1280 set r_customheight 800 set r_mode -1

Source code for Quake 3: http://ioquake3.org/source-codes/

Here is an interesting site that analyzes Quake source code: http://fabiensanglard.net/quakeSource/quakeSourceNetWork.php

The following site has a lot of installers for many older games to run them under Linux:  http://www.liflg.org/?catid=3 

 I also got the Linux version of Myth II Soulblighter installed using these directions :  http://grokthink.com/wordpress/?p=184

 I haven't played any of these games for years, one nice thing about being unemployed.  :)

 Happy gaming.

 

Shovelling Up the Mess left behind by Windows

One of the interesting uses for Linux nowadays is to re-gain compatibility with older Software and Hardware. As far as software is concerned, this can be broadly divided into two groups: Applications and Entertainment (mainly Games).

Application Software

There isn't much call for running older applications beyond a certain age amongst home users; and any company who knows what it is doing will migrate it's data and document formats to newer versions of software as they are procured.

If an application vendor goes out of business, an older version of their software can continue to be run unless there is a conflict with a newer operating system, at which point Virtualization or Emulation can take over.

Of course, the ideal solution is to convert the data into platform-neutral formats, with standards defined by a consortium. This gives businesses the assurance that they will still have access to their data through solutions from competing vendors.

Entertainment Software

For many years now, some of us have been using (or writing!) emulation software to play our favourite titles from platforms which are now consigned to history. We accept that this workaround is needed, as the hardware and operating system we are using now are so radically different to what the title originally required. There is a label describing the hardware / software required to run the title, such as 'ZX Spectrum', 'Amiga' or 'Atari ST', and we can therefore accept that we need an Emulator to run on 'Linux', 'Windows' or 'Wii'.

But 'PC' games are a different matter. There is a whole slew of older games for DOS / Windows 3.x / Windows 9x that will just not run on NT-based Windows, or require work arounds to work, often performing poorly in the process.  Worse still, x64 Windows systems do not have the NTVDM necessary to run DOS programs at all, and support for 16-bit Windows applications has been removed entirely.

 The fact is that nowadays, an x86 / x64 Linux machine equipped with Dosbox, Dosemu, and Wine (including the propreitary forks such as Cedega and Crossover Games) is in a far better position to run these older games than a modern off-the-shelf Windows system. Dosbox also contains an x86 CPU emulator, and can thus be run on any supported architecture.

Hardware

Modern Windows systems are great for supporting new hardware; Linux less so. You buy a £5 webcam today, and it's virtually guaranteed to work on Windows (and 'Mac' if it is written on the label). If the hardware manufacturer is serious about supporting Open Source, and release specifications and / or reference drivers, than you are fairly likely to find a means of getting the device to work on Linux or other Open Source systems.

Otherwise you are relying on a talented person who knows the necessary driver API's (either kernelspace, such as v4l, or userspace, such as SANE) and is prepared to experiment with the hardware, either for their own use or for a bounty, to write the necessary driver support. However, once the support is in Linux, it usually stays. Even if the API's change, there are usually  enough interested maintainers who will modify the code as necessary to make sure that older drivers still compile.

This is in stark contrast to Windows, where all you get from the manufacturer is binary blobs, a few mystic 'sys' and 'inf' files. If Microsoft change their kernel ABI, or port Windows to a new architecture (as x64 arguably is, as you cannot mix x86 and x64 code in a process, least of all the kernel!) then older drivers will break. If the manufacturer has gone out of business, or wishes to not support a device, the end user loses.

Microsoft have also made this situation worse - all drivers installed onto Vista x64 SP1 have to be signed, effectively ending any hopes at writing Kernel-Mode drivers by enthusiastic Windows users (were there ever any?), or companies who don't consider it economically viable to pay WHQL fees to audit the drivers for older devices, when they could just sell a new device.

I have a specific example here - my mother was using a 'Packard Bell'-branded Mustek scanner under Windows. Support for these drivers was dicy under Windows XP SP2 and onwards, often requiring her to reboot after scanning a single page before she could scan another. However, under SANE on Linux it works perfectly under the 'gt68xx' backend, and is likely to do so for many years to come. Yes, the software is more complicated for her to use, but she is relieved that it works flawlessly, and is grateful it will continue to do so.

Thoughts

I'm hoping that Microsoft's power-hungry grab for the brand-label of 'PC' ("Personal Computer") to describe their particular Operating System running on a particular CPU / Hardware architecture will be a part of their undoing.  The fact that in earlier days people were attracted to the 'PC' brand for the large software and hardware compatability will prove that they cannot even be compatible with their own standards, which the community has had to provide.

It's not just Microsoft though; by clinging to the brand name of 'Macintosh', Apple has made a similar rod for their own back. If you were using OSX prior to 10.5 on a PPC machine, thanks to the 'Classic' emulator you would be guaranteed to be able to run almost any 'Macintosh' title. However, the shift to 10.5 and Intel processors has ended their 'support' of this. Personally, i  believe the label 'Macintosh' to be highly irrelevant in describing modern Apple systems.

 Conclusions

Having now forgotten the enthusiasts that put them where they now are, Microsoft and Apple haven't banked on them still being around, and being able to influence the decisions of non-enthusiasts. We want to carry on running older games. We don't want to have to ditch perfectly good peripherals due to an upgrade of an operating system.

As those PC users (who know enough to be able to support themselves) try to use their older peripherals and software and find that they fail to work on Windows, yet work fine in Linux, the knowledge and reputation of Linux will increase. So the future is actually kinda bright for us, at least in this area!

Although it might seem like flame bait to suggest it on a Linux site, i'm kind of hoping ReactOS achieves good XP compatability and look and feel. Users are reluctant to change, and at least they can carry on with their Windows habits whilst  embracing the freedom that Open Source software brings.

 Richard Foulkes is not a Technical Journalist. He holds no fashionable Industry qualfications and has never spoken at a conference or even been to one. He makes no claim of being an IT professional. He is also not currently employed.

 

Finally!

I have been waiting for this.

I use to be a "regular" of Linux.com...

The gestation was long (it's always like that when you wait...), but now I appreciate why!

Bravo for all the work - this new web site is an impressive achievement.

Im'happy, because I've become free - totally free - when the last barrier - an iMac - fell 2 weeks ago. It was replaced, at my request to my employer, by a System76 machine running Ubuntu. So now, at work and at home, I'm free! My wife and I run Ubuntu on all our computers - and we're happy with it!

And all this because some guy, in Finland, some 20 years ago, decided he too wanted to be free!

Need I say more... ?

 

So Tragic

Ive collected some cute things when I was in Linux World expo last time. I have this rubber penguin keychain and used to hang it on my beg.

Isnt it cute?

Before

Before

 

After

 After

Isnt it tragic :(

I brought it everywhere I go, and many times Ive realised it was stucked inside the car when I closed the car door, the building door and everything else. Will find a new one :) 

 

 

A Microsoft problem, or a "Me" problem

I'll be the first to admit that I probably should know Windows better (being in the IT field, after all) than I should, but sometimes I just have this feeling of "why should I when I know the linux way better?" Of course, not everything is that black and white, but perhaps an example is in order.

Today, I was at a friend's house, and they wanted help backing up a hard drive. Now, by some odd piece of work, it was a SATA drive in which the enclosure didn't work for some reason or another. Now, I do have an IDE/SATA to USB converter, so I offered to rip the drive to an ISO for them. They declined and just hooked the hard drive up to their computer. Alas, the drive spun up but was not detected by windows, and their tools apparently won't rip ISOs if it can't detect the drive. So, I offer again to try and manage to detect the drive through "dmesg | tail", but cannot mount it. Either way, that didn't stop me from dd-ing the drive, but the hard drive space of my netbook was definitely a limiting factor.

Since I was going to be there for a while, I plugged in the netbook and had them share a folder on their computer and had it mounted a second later (after apt-getting smbfs from the ubuntu repositories) across the network. After that, it was relatively smooth sailing until it finished (though, I did run ` watch -n 1 -d "ls -alh backup.iso | cut -d ' ' -f5" ' in another window to keep track of the general progress of the process).

Of course, at this point I am stuck with the thought of "most of these tools are common tools on linux", and immediatly follow it up with the thought "why can't windows have such tools on hand?". Now, I grant that similar tools probably exist on Windows, but why would I want to have them when I know that they are built-in on linux?

To me, linux just isn't about being pretty; it's also about having funtion, and I really appreciate the days when a tiny laptop that I just use for surfing the web and chatting with friends comes in and helps solve a big issue, while the "big windows computers" are forced on the sidelines, due to lack of functionality. Why do I derive such enjoyment from such a thought? Perhaps it's because I always hear "oh, but linux isn't compatible" and "but linux can't do that" all the time, and it's nice to actually have the power to show them that linux isn't just for big servers locked up in a room somewhere.

 

What to do when you can't ping a computer

What do you do when you need to check the status of a computer / device on your network that doesn't respond to pings?

A lot of computers / devices on a network are configured to ignore ping requests. This can sometimes leave you wondering if they are really offline. 

internet:~ # ping 10.1.2.161
PING 10.1.2.161 (10.1.2.161) 56(84) bytes of data.

--- 10.1.2.161 ping statistics ---
5 packets transmitted, 0 received, 100% packet loss, time 4009ms

So how do you ping something that doesn't reply?

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