May 17, 2008

Ask Linux.com: detecting drives, scripting bash, and distributing documents

Author: Linux.com Staff

This week in our semi-fortnightly stroll through the Linux.com forums: working with external hard drives, configuring all those extra mouse buttons, bash scripting help, and advice on finding software for the hearing impaired.

Dmseg and drives

Dmesg is an invaluable system administration tool -- but it's not always easy to understand. In the New to Linux forum, alvin asked how to tell whether or not his external hard drive is being detected by his Linux distribution. Attaching it produces dmesg output, but to a new user the flurry of messages can be difficult to interpret.

User Khabi helped him wade through dmseg's results, and determined that the drive was being recognized, but the reason it was not appearing on the desktop was that is was not mounted. Proopnarine noted that USB drives should mount automatically under Ubuntu 7.10 (alvin's distro), and advised him to cold boot the machine, and see if the problem repeated itself.

Tackling over-complicated mice

User xoligy is also new to Linux, and asked for help with a problem most of us have faced at one time or another: how to get X to recognize the extended buttons and scroll wheel on his mouse.

Penguin replied with a link to a FAQ that explains how to configure up to seven buttons in /etc/X11/xorg.conf, and how to set up an .Xmodmap file to make sure those buttons are recognized in the proper order. It's a straightforward process once you know where to look, but when you're new it's nice to have someone point you in the right direction.

Have a blast with bash

In the Programming and Development forum, asmerm described himself as an old hand at Linux but new to bash scripting, and asked for suggestions on how to parse a configuration file with bash. The syntax is very important in this challenge, so check out the original post to read the exact scenario. Given known delimiter characters, asmerm needs to extract the last delimited item from every line in the file.

Readers Khabi and Anthony Robbins each posted a potential solution -- Khabi's using awk, and Robbins' using cut. If you're a shell scripting guru, you might want to compare your solution to theirs.

Software for the hearing impaired

Finally, user rene asked the Applications forum for advice finding Linux software appropriate for a hearing impaired user, in particular to translate speech to text.

Shashank Sharma pointed rene towards two speech-to-text projects -- FreeSpeech and Xvoice -- but cautioned that he is not sure how actively developed either program is. So if you have experience with speech recognition tools, please visit the thread and offer your advice to rene.

Unanswered questions are on the line: will you take the call?

This week's unanswered questions include source RPMs, document management, SiS graphics, and a tricky problem with WiFi on the Sony VAIO.

User sunny needs help installing a package from the source RPM. "I need to install an rpm file,but I only have '.src.rpm' version of it. I want to convert it to a binary rpm, so I tried this: rpm --rebuild somethin.src.rpm. But I am gettin '--rebuild:Invalid option' as output. Is there another way to rebuild source rpm.?"

On the hardware front, GreatApe is having trouble getting his integrated SiS graphics card running at 1280x1024. "I've looked at the downloads on the SIS website, and all they have on offer for Linux are some five and a half year old drivers for drivers for RedHat 7.0 and 7.2. Is there any way I can cure this problem and get 1280x1024 working on this machine? Quite happy to try a different distribution if it would help as this is a virgin new machine so can easily be totally wiped and restarted."

User chuffer has a particularly tricky puzzle with the wireless Ethernet on his Sony VAIO VGN-NR260E. The card is recognized and Kubuntu even reports loading a driver, but it doesn't work. Moreover, this particular WiFi card has a hardware activation switch on the outside -- it works in Windows, but not in Linux.

Finally, Lee Larson asks for your recommendation for a distributed document management system. "I am an editor of a mathematics research journal with a dozen or so other area-specific sub-editors scattered all over the planet. I'm looking for a Web-based system to manage manuscripts. All of our submissions are in LaTeX and various people have different tasks in the process from submission -> refereeing -> editing -> final preparation. I'd like software that lets people download files to work on, upload them back to the site and also keeps a "paper trail" of who did what when along with archives of older versions."

Think you have the answer any of these readers is looking for? Then head on over to the forums and test your mettle.

And don't forget, if you have a question of your own to ask, post it in the appropriate forum -- depending on whether it is about hardware, applications, programming, or Linux distros. And be sure you follow the official posting guidelines to make sure you get a timely response from other readers.

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