August 17, 2008

Ask Theft recovery, skeleton files, and boot-looping Eees

Author: Staff

This week in our parade through the wide world of the forums, what to do with a stolen-then-recovered laptop, how to rescue an Eee PC netbook stuck in an endless boot loop, and how make Likewise Open and /etc/skel play nice together. Plus, competitive bash scripting, unanswered questions, and a world of bad Olympic puns.

As if the theft weren't bad enough ...

New forum subscriber D-Lock wrote in to ask for advice with a nightmare scenario: first his laptop gets stolen, then it gets recovered -- with a fresh install of Windows Vista courtesy of the thieves. A little digging indicated that his old Linux partition was still there but inaccessible, and the boot manager was gone. It sounds like D-Lock didn't incur any major data loss, but what to do about the fouled-up partitions?

Khabi and proopnarine both suggested backing up only critical personal files, then wiping the entire hard disk and reinstalling from scratch. Even if nothing seems out of order, Khabi noted, "You never know what someone might have done to it when they had it. Could be keyloggers, password sniffers, or anything else on that laptop right now."

Got skel?

PerlCoder wins the Good Neighbor award this week. His tale started when he found himself in a jam regarding /etc/skel and the open source Active Directory tool Likewise Open. He had been successfully using /etc/skel to create default files for new user accounts on an Ubuntu box, but when he migrated the machine over to Likewise authentication, the skeleton files specified by /etc/skel were no longer being created.

But even though no one came up with a solution within the thread, when PerlCoder did finally run down the trouble, he returned and posted the solution: making a simple adjustment to the /etc/security/pam_lwidentity.conf file, which overrides the base system with Likewise-specific settings. Kudos to PerlCoder for providing answers as well as questions!

Paging Toucan Sam

Attentive fans of Ask (hey, it could happen) will immediately recognize the name proopnarine as one of our heavy-hitting forum regulars, always among the first to step in and help out a fellow user with a question. The shoe was on the other foot last week, when proopnarine had a question of his own: a friend with an Asus Eee PC got it stuck in a neverending "boot loop" during a botched upgrade, and proopnarine didn't know how to fix it.

Fellow regular rokytnji posted links to a few possible resources, but ultimately fell back on a complete reinstall with NimbleX -- a less-than-straightforward process for the Eee, which does not include an optical drive.

Eventually, though, proopnarine found his own solution. He built a live USB image of Fedora 9 using the liveusb-creator application, installed Fedora onto the Eee, and configured the Wi-Fi adapter, webcam, and other hardware one at a time. And thus order was restored to the forums.

Scripting challenge

Bash scripting may not yet be recognized as a competitive sport by the IOC, but that didn't stop Slerb777 from serving up this question: "I am trying to write a simple shell script to run on a cron schedule to ensure that a given process is running and then to take an action based on that result. In this case I am attempting to look at /sbin/pidof to see if a valid value is present for a given process. I'm not sure if this is the best way to accomplish this so I'm open to other suggestions."

Slerb777's solution was seven lines, and was quickly bested by chart3399, who provided both a four-line reply and a compressed, one-line version of the same answer. Since neither Slerb777 nor chart3399 lists their country of origin in their profile, we can't award any medals -- but that's no reason why you shouldn't jump in with your own answer for purely personal glory.

Olympic fever, meet unanswered questions flu

Suit up, stretch, and take your mark: the unanswered questions are coming on fast and furious.

Reader kfxnando is a new Linux user who made it through the install without trouble, but wants to use his Samsung cell phone as an HSDPA modem. If you can help out, the ball is in your court.

In the Hardware forum, didilalala suddenly lost the ability to boot live CD distros. Knoppix, Elive, PCLinuxOS, and Sabayon all booted in the past -- but no more. Could it be BIOS trouble? Optical drive failure? Bad RAM? If you've got an idea, take a swing.

New user ceti331 hit the ground running this week with a string of questions. For example, what terminal emulator can pull off fancy moves like highlighting command invocations and output differently or configure custom commands from the right-click menu? Or what command-line development tools are there for C++ coders that rival the call graphs and class browsing of GUI IDEs? Whether you've got a shot block or slam dunk, ceti331 is hanging in mid-air waiting for you.

That's all for this week. Remember to take your answers to the linked forum thread, not the comments section below, and if it is your first visit in a while, brush up on the forum guidelines. And if you have a question of your own -- or a scripting challenge -- post away!


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