Friday, July 30, 2004

Running Windoze apps in Linux

I love VMWare!!! I've got VMWare Workstation (4.51 I think it is?), and finally got around to installing it. I set up Windows 2000 Pro as a virtual machine on my Linux box (didn't feel like messing around with XP's activation process, AGAIN). So far it's running everything I've thrown at it just fine.

One little tidbit of a hassle I had - I had enabled "legacy emulation" for my CDROM drives when first setting it up, in the process of trying to troubleshoot another issue (my CD was dirty so it wasn't booting from CD for installation). When I finally got Windows up and running in VMWare, I found that I couldn't install some programs from CD (namely, anything that didn't have auto-run enabled - anything I had to double-click the executable to start). That bummed me out - until I realized that un-checking the "legacy emulation" setting on the CDROM drive made everything work snazzy again.

I'm doing what I hope is my last round of Windows Update... reboot... Windows Update... reboot (UGH!!!) and then I'll be attempting to install Ultima Online. If it works, I will officially have everything I need running my Linux box. Then I'll have the joy of figuring out how to wipe my original XP install, re-configure lilo to only boot Mandy, and use that 80gb drive for more stuff woohooo!

All hail VMWare!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Opening email links with Mozilla

Mozilla under Linux has a bug that has been driving me crazy. When I have my browser running, and try to open a URL link from an email message, I get a dialog box from Mozilla asking me to choose a profile to use. When I choose one, it throws an error that the profile is already in use, and I cannot load the browser. I found that this is due to a session locking feature in Mozilla. There's a lock file you can delete to allow the browser to run, but it'll only run once, as the lock file is recreated when you open the browser the second time.

This has been quite annoying, as it means I either can't open URL's from email messages, OR I must close my browser completely before attempting to click on an email URL. And that sucks!

In my research, I finally found a couple workarounds involving scripts that check and see if mozilla is already running, and if so, just open the URL in a new window in the current session. If it's not already running, it just opens normally.

Check out this link on - there are several scripts. I got smither's script to work fine under Mozilla 1.7 and Mandrake 10.

Mozilla thread at

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Screenshots in KDE

Today's little Linux tidbit... I'm a big fan of screenshots. You know, taking a snapshot of your computer screen and saving it as an image file. I use them in my teaching handouts, to save photo scrapbooks of the online game I play (Ultima Online), lots of stuff. In Windows, taking screenshots is easy - hit the PrintScreen key (or Alt-PrintScreen to capture only the current active window). Or you can use a fancy prog like Snag-It ($$$$). But how do you take screenshots in Linux?

Well, if you're running KDE, there's a neat little program (and it's free!) called Ksnapshot. I found it under my main menu, under Multimedia - Graphics.
Good stuff!

Gosh I love Linux!

Back From Hawaii

Hi all -

I'm back from Hawaii and put up some pics:

Got a tattoo while I was there - it's tattoo #4, of a goldfish. I got it for my dad, who passed away almost 5 years ago. He was a fisherman, but there was no way I was going to put a bass on my body! (His favorite fish). So I settled on a cute goldfish, on my lower back. I'll post a pic later on, when I get it off my laptop.

Aloha! :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Going to Hawaii...

Yeah baby - I'm going to Hawaii :) I will be away from my newly beloved Linux box for the next 10 days, enjoying the ocean breezes of Honolulu. We're staying on Waikiki Beach (I think?) - rented a Mustang Convertible to tool around in (we're cool now!) I'm leaving tomorrow morning, and don't expect to have any updates till I get back. I'll have my new laptop with me, and after another 10 days on Windows I'm sure I'll have plenty of ranting to do when I get home. So, have a great week, everybody! I will :) WoohoooO!

Configuring Auto-Eject

Many thanks to Ellyaht over at for the answer to this question that has been baffling me!

I'm using Mandrake 10, and I was configuring my RPM media sources using the easy-urpmi web site. In the process, I accidentally wiped out my previously configured media - the original Mandrake install CD's. I was able to add them back in manually through the Software Media Manager in MDK's config area, but when I ran an update or an install, and a CD was needed, instead of informing me to insert the CD and auto-ejecting my CD drive tray, the installer would fail saying it couldn't read from the media.

The mission: make auto eject work again!

The solution: Edit the media sources for the CD's, and instead of pointing them to:

file://mnt/cdrom (etc - path to RPM's)

point them to:

removable://mnt/cdrom (etc - path to RPM's)

Rock on! Life is good...

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Saturday's Tip of the Day

Here's a useful tidbit I learned today. I decided to move my mail/calendar over to KDE's Kontact, as I was having way too many problems with crashing and irregularities in Ximian's Evolution organizer. What I noticed though was that in Kontact, when I clicked a hyperlink in an email message, it would open it in the Konquerer browser. I would prefer Mozilla - so, today's tip is how to change your default applications and file associations in KDE. (I'm using Mandrake 10 with KDE 3.2).

From the application menu, click System - Configuration - KDE - Components - File Associations. Expand the tree under "text" to display text-type files, and highlight "html." You should now see on the right side of the window which programs you have installed to handle html files, and what order of preference they are in. Move the programs up and down in the list until your "most preferred" program is first in the list (at the top), and your least preferred program is last on the list (at the bottom).

Tada! Now my links are again opening in Mozilla. (Now if only the Mozilla people would fix the profile bug that is driving me mad!)

Friday, July 09, 2004

Networking Linux and Windows

Who'da thought it would be so easy??

So, this afternoon I settled in for what I thought would be the biggest struggle of all times. My goal: set up a network between my Linux box and the new XP laptop, so I could access all of the files on the old XP drive on the Linux box. (Eventually I'll probably wipe XP off the desktop system completely and use the laptop as my Windows machine.... I need somewhere to play Ultima Online and poker, right?!)

So, I used the Mandrake GUI package manager to install samba. That went a-ok. But where to go from there? Documentation on the web seems spotty at best, which surprised me considering I would think samba configuration is a big topic. I grabbed my O'Reilly "Running Linux" book, and that helped to fill in the blanks. I also got good mileage from this web site:

My laptop and Linux box both connect wirelessly to a WAP in my basement (where the cable modem comes in). My third computer in the basement (an old Win2000 machine) is connected to the WAP (which has a built-in 4 port switch) via a CAT5 cable.

On Mandrake 10, I found my samba configuration files to be in: /etc/samba
This differed from where the book thought they'd be.

Anyhoo, I edited smb.conf with the basics - making sure to put the right workgroup name in there - and set up some data shares. Be careful to put the right path to each share - typing the wrong path will end up giving you a login error when you try to access the share from your Windows box.

Here's an example of what my shares look like:

comment = /home/Shelly
path = /home/Shelly
public = yes
guest ok = yes
browseable = yes
writeable = yes

After configuring the file, I started up samba with: /usr/sbin/samba start
It also accepts stop and restart as options. I didn't have to worry about making a script to auto-start, as samba is already set to start automatically in my init.d file.

Moment of truth! I fired up the laptop, changed the workgroup name to match what I'd configured in smb.conf, and went to My Network Places. (Why oh why couldn't they just keep the name "Network Neighborhood"?? MNP drives me nuts - I don't know why. Too cheesy sounding, maybe?)

Voila! I saw all of the shares I'd set up, and my printer. I was able to browse them with no problems, and copy/write files to and from them. Woohoo!

Consider me networked :)

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Got a New Laptop

Wahooo! I finally bought a laptop :) It's only been like 3 years that I've been waffling over the decision. Now that I have had opportunity to travel and have the need for it, and have also realized that it would make my life a zillion times easier at work to be able to bring my laptop from class to class instead of emailing myself files to work/to home/to the classrooms, I took the plunge. (Really, I bought it because I'm going to Hawaii in 6 days and must guarantee connectivity. Why? Oh, no reason. I just can't stand to be away from my computer!)

I bought a Toshiba A75-S206 system. $1399 with 12 months free financing at Circuit City. (It's the same price everywhere I checked, but Best Buy had only 6 months free financing).

The specs:

Pentium 4 2.80 gHz processor
512mb ram
60gb hdd
128mb ATI Radeon Mobility 9000 graphics
Built-in wi-fi 802.11 b/g
Win XP Home (I'd like Pro, but Home will do for now)

I love it love it love it!

I get about 3 hours of battery life under "normal" usage (browsing the web, email, word processing, basic stuff). When I'm doing a lot with the CD drive, it seems to suck power quicker.

I picked up a Logitech cordless optical notebook mouse for it, and I'm digging that too. It's got the tiny USB stick for a wireless receiver, and the mouse is big enough where I don't feel like it's a pebble in my hand. (Why on earth do they make notebook mice so tiny??) It's a nice size - small enough to pack away easily but big enough to be comfortable. It plays nice with my other wireless mouse too - I have the laptop on my desk here in front of me, and the desktop system monitor just behind that. So my Linux system and WinXP system have side-by-side wireless mice, and no conflicts. Hoorah for that!

Anyway that's my big news for today...

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

RPM's and Circular Dependencies

A little tidbit I picked up today... has to do with that familiar yet undesirable place in the psyche called "rpm hell" in the Linux world.

Ever tried installing a software package with RPM, only to find that it has a dependency on package #2? So you try installing package #2, and it fails because it depends on package #1? So neither package installs, because they keep running in a big dependency circle!

What to do, what to do?!

You can install BOTH applications at the same time by including them both in one RPM command. Like:

rpm -ivh package1.rpm package2.rpm

Well, how about that! Neither one should complain now, and the flames of your rpm hell have been doused and extinguished (at least for the moment).

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Tuesday's Tips

Some things I learned today in Linux...

- Hiding application buttons in the taskbar from other desktops:

In KDE, I wanted to use the multiple desktop feature to reduce clutter as I'm working on my machine. I had worked on a Linux box recently where each desktop had its own open program icons on the taskbar. But in my Mandrake 10 KDE installation, this wasn't happening. I could send applications to another desktop, but I still saw them on my taskbar. Sure enough, there's a way to change that!

Right-click on the taskbar and choose "configure panel." From that configuration window, choose "taskbar" on the left, then un-check the box that says "show windows from all desktops."

Done! Ahhh... nice organized uncluttered interface...

- Keyboard shortcut for switching between desktops: CTRL-SHIFT-Tab

- Keyboard shortcut for walking through the list of desktops: CTRL-Tab

Until Next Time....

Free Linux CD's from Novell

Found a great link over at - Novell is giving away some free Linux stuff in exchange for filling out a little survey (I mean, little - less than a page long).

You get:

- SUSE LINUX Standard Server 8.0 (ISO Installation Images)
- SUSE LINUX 9.1 Professional (Bootable Installation DVD)
- Ximian Desktop 2.0 Evaluation (ISO Image)
- Ximian Red Carpet 2.0.2 Evaluation (ISO Image)
- Novell Linux Services 1.0 (ISO Image & NLS Companion CD)
- Novell GroupWise for Linux 6.5.1 - Server, Client & Messenger
- and more...

Go get U some!

Monday, July 05, 2004

Today's Linux Blunder

Okie dokie, had my first significant Linux blunder this afternoon.

I'm kind of a neat freak when it comes to data organization. (My house, that's another story). I'm a data packrat, but I do like to keep things nice and orderly. So I was becoming unsettled about my new home directory in Linux. It was getting out of hand - no organizational scheme. So I started making some new directories, moving stuff around, deleting stuff I didn't need. I was using the GUI interface, Konquorer in KDE.

Well, I got a little delete-happy and the next thing you know, I'd deleted my entire home directory, including all of the configuration files for my email, desktop, etc. that resided there. DOH! Something that I deleted also caused KDE to go haywire on me, and I couldn't run any apps or view my trash bin. I was in a near state of panic! "Oh, what did I dooooo? What did I doooooooooooooooo??!!"

I posted on, and within minutes had a handful of replies. Special thanks goes out to Dark_Helmet on those forums! I learned that the Trash icon on the desktop is really just a front-end to a hidden directory in my home directory. Sure enough, I could get to the hidden Trash directory from a command prompt. I then copied the contents back to my home directory, and logged out and back in again to (hopefully) re-initialize KDE with my newly replaced configuration files.

For the most part, it worked. KDE asked me to run through the welcome wizard again to configure the most basic settings, and I had to re-setup my email accounts in evolution, but all of my old mail survived, and most of my desktop settings survived as well.

Hoorah! All is working again!

That's one thing you don't get from Windows - that feeling of satisfaction after fixing a problem; the sense that you actually understand your system better than you did before the problem. The notion that you actually LEARNED something, and not just hacked your way around yet another "known issue" that hasn't been resolved by Microsoft.

So that's my story for the day. I also learned how to backup my home directory, thanks to Dark_Helmet's suggestion, a little research on the net, and my O'Reilly "Running Linux" book. I wrote my first shell script, a little bash script to create a tarball of my home directory and move it to a separate partition where I'm storing backups. Now I see that I need an even better organizational scheme in my home directory, because the backup was huge! But that's OK - I'll get to it :)

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Moved to Linux....

Windows crashed on me one too many times...

I'm now running Mandrake Linux 10. I'd been thinking of making the switch away from the dark side for a while, but you know... laziness and the fear/dislike of being a newbie all over again (coupled with a bit of general procrastination) kept me on XP. Five days ago though, when I was installing a new hard drive in my system (250gb Maxtor drive, decent specs - 7200 rpm with 8mb cache, mmmm yummm), a documented bug in Windows regarding the NTFS file system caused me to lose my entire XP installation. Data wasn't lost, just the OS itself, rendering my XP installation useless. I figured, I could either reload Windows (AGAIN - that's twice it has crashed irrepairably in 2004 so far), or... make the move.

The Mandrake install was nearly flawless. I had a little trouble with my wireless USB lan card, a Linksys WUSB11 "Instant Wireless" card, version 2.6, but my troubles were partly due to overlooking the fact that Mandrake actually shipped with support for the card (using the Atmel drivers) - I just hadn't configured the connection to my access point completely. Once I did, it worked like a charm.

I was able to get all of my contacts and email from Outlook by importing it all into Mozilla mail, then importing that into evolution (my new chosen calendar/email/contact program in Linux). (Evolution doesn't support Outlook files directly, but it supports Mozilla files - thus, the use of Mozilla in the middle there. Mozilla uses standard mbox formats for its mail).

My big concern was Macromedia Dreamweaver - though I got MX running under the trial version of Crossover Office in Linux. I'm going to also try VMWare and see which I like better. I have a couple Windows games I'd like to be able to play, so VMWare might be teh way to go. I'm trying out Bluefish and Quanta as alternatives to my previous TextPad/Dreamweaver combo for web editing. We'll see how that goes!

All is going well so far. I hope to never look back! :)