Friday, 4 December 2009

Install HTC Sync on Windows

OK, this is not a Ubuntu issue but I thought it was worth sharing as it touches on Android usage.

If you have trouble installing HTC Sync on a Windows machine (specifically non English system language), here is a fix:
  1. Launch the MSI installer. You will run into a dialog that claims DPInst.exe can't find the drivers. In my case the system was a German Windows XP. Drivers were on the hard disk in the program folder path. Due to some hard coding of the access path in the installer, the MSI installer looks under
    C:\Program Files\HTC Sync\Drivers
  2. If this path is not available (as was on mine C:\Programme\HTC Sync\Drivers) you can temporarily create a folder
    C:\Program Files\HTC Sync\Drivers
    and copy the drivers into this path.
  3. Repeat the installation and be patient. The procedure will execute without errors.
  4. You can delete the temporary folder after the installation.

Alternatively you can create a link to the driver directory.

Hope this helps.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

VMware Workstation 7.0 works

Dedicated followers of this blog will remember my complaints about VMware never being able to provide a working installation.

After upgrading to Ubuntu 9.10 I had to reinstall VMware. 6.5.2 did not work, 6.5.3 required a trick to circumvent the hangup in the installation procedure.

Two days after getting 6.5.3 installed, my VMware Workstation informed me that there was a new update out. Should I bother going through another hour of nightmare? I read release notes, nothing special: Windows 7 gaming support at the most. Who needs that?

I was reluctant to install. Finally I got myself up to get it over and done with:

Surprise, surprise.

VMware Workstation took longer than any other installation before but it worked out of the box (or installer bundle).

One gets modest over times: Thank you VMware for providing a software that installs, works and performs. (in fact, this is how it should have been all along).

MSI X320 9.10 installation

I tried Ubuntu Netbook Remix on the MSI X320. It boots.

There are some things that do not work as of today:

1. SD-Card still provide error lists (card driver reports card insert-remove cycle permanently, effectively using 80-90% CPU). Disabling is mandatory in 9.10

2. Wireless does not work. There are no drivers in the media

3. Graphics adapter (or screen) not recognized. There is no poulsbo driver in the media.

This is specifically sad as Canonical announced support for Intels new ATOM processors.

I read some rumors about Intel sublicensing the driver code from RALink (which sounds reasonable because RALink provides source code on their website).

The annoying part: Nothing works out of the box.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

HTC Hero with Android

During summer 2009 I had the chance to compare Apple's iPhone side by side to the then new HTC Hero runing Android. After reading so many positive articles I was curious.

Disappointing at first

The HTC Hero comes with a refurbished Android theme. Compared to the rather clumsy looking original, HTC's Sense theme is looks decent. But this is where my first impression left the enthusiastic path. Compared to the iPhone the HTC was no hero at all. It was slow, text entry was cumbersome and full of recognition errors. So I did not buy it then.

Coverage in the media suggested, this was just a problem with preliminary models.

10.000 apps available .. where?

I read this article comparing AppStore to the Android Market. Apple was supposed to offer well around 100.000 apps. Google claims to have more than 10.000's of apps in it's Market Place.

Let's face it: Neither has Apple any more than say 300+ apps that are worth mentioning nore has Google anything more than around 100. You get easily overwhelmed by round robin lists, betas, free evaluation copies and some me2 development templates. But this is nothing I would call a usefull app (please refrain from flaming me on this, I would hate to censor your comments. I do look forward to discussion though).

Second looks

So, why do I comment on Android, HTC and mobile Phones here?

I do see a huge potential in mobile communication. The iPhone currently is the linea ultima in mobile communication and personal assistance. Windows mobile never was a direct competitor but Google's Android has the potential to be a serious contender.

While Apple uses a strict policy of control, Google offers a more open approach. Developers are encouraged to develope for Android, there are several SDK's, plugins for IDE's (ok, I have my personal opinion about Eclipse) and offers lots of documentation and sample code.

All this makes it an opportunity for innovative solutions and development.

Where we are

While it is easy to geting started, most of this sample code enters Market Place by just being renamed (there are approximately 8 notepad apps derived from Googles Notepad app and only Googles version syncs with GDocs). This is unfortunate and tends to scare people away.

To prevent poor apps to be swamping the market place, Google offers a rating system from 0 to 5 stars. It might sound like a good idea, only the fittest apps will survive. Unfortunately the rating is slightly missleading. Personally I could not relate attributed stars to the quality of the program. I found some apps that were rated 5 stars and the comments suggested that the app crashes (which it did on my phone as well).

True Lies

Here are some myths about the HTC Hero:
  • The HTC Hero has a specially coated touch screen, that makes it look less smeared as other touch screens:
    The HTC Hero will have a special coating after 5 minutes of use. Before that, I can see nothing special about it.
  • The HTC Hero has a scrath proof screen:
    Mine hasn't. Mine had some scratches after 2 days of use (my Motorola RAZR v3 does not have any scratches after 3 years of use)
  • The HTC Hero comes with its own Interface, HTC Sense. It is vastly improved performance-wise:
    HTC Sense is a theme. It improves the looks of the shabby Android Interface a lot. Other than that, it does nothing.
  • The HTC Hero's battery can last more than a week:
    I presume it will if you don't operate it. I have to reload it every other day
Here are some nice features (and immediately remedied):
  • The interface lets you operate the phone with intuitive on screen operations:
    However, not all apps support widget presses to open option menus. Sometimes you have to use the menu key. This might be anoying, because some usefull apps only have keyed menus.
  • Sense has a beatiful, iPhone like date and time selector:
    Well, Sense does, Android does not. I do not know, why some apps have the nice scroll selector, others you have to type + and - signs.
  • I like the Market Place. One can easily purchase apps:
    This was quite a surprise and is a definite positive: I purchased Scan2PDF which I had a free version that embeds watermarks in the PDF. Purchase was straightforward. Entered my credit card, accepted the fee and download started.
    (OK I even found something here: the free version was not removed from the phone, I had to do that manually. There is no security to prevent you from deleting what you just purchased. I also don't know, how to redownload the app in case I reset my phone).
  • The phone comes with headset, a nice box and small power supply.
  • The phone can be charged with a universal USB cable (with micro USB connector at the phone end).
  • The headset jack is a standard jack. One can use any headset they want.
  • ROM 1.6 is significantly faster and more accurate than 1.5. I look forward to 2.0:
    (the original ROM from Google cannot be installed, one is required to get a ROM from HTC).
Do I regret?

Giving the potential that lies within Android, I do not regret having purchased the Hero (speech quality is clear, reception good, quality of mp3 acceptable). Some functionality is still not as one would expect. The phone app cannot be adjusted to personal preferences (which I would actually expect on a mobile phone). Mail services are not integrated (there are seperate apps for GMail, IMAP and SMS).

I still think that the tight integration in Googles online services is something to be aware of (I found my contacts in my Google calendar which I never used before). I still have not decided whether to use Google Docs, calendar and other services more intensly. It would make the phone more versatile.

My recommendation: Have a look, take a test drive and don't believe what most people say about Android (or the Hero). It's pretty beta out there.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 client installation

This refers to Ubuntu 9.10 rc1.

I installed 9.10rc1 on a HP510 (2GHz, 1GB, 1280x800 i945), HPnx8220 (2GHz, 1GB, 1650x1080 ati), HP 8510w (2,4GHz, 2GB, 1920x1200 nvidia).

Installation of the core system went fine. Compiz works on all machines, the Intel chipset being the easiest, NVidia requires proprietary drivers.

Switched from Thunderbird to Evolution.

I don't know why this program gets all the hype. Its buggy (and I mean, it is hardly usable). It's a pain to configure offline synchronization (you have to set this in the Edit -> Preferences -> Mail Account -> Edit -> Receiving Options -> Automatically synchronize remote mail locally and the manually right-click the folder -> Property -> Copy folder content locally for offline operation). It's a pain to configure spam protection (in the above mentioned Account Editor you have to set Check new messages for junk content). It does not read news, it is slow and auto filtering does not work all the time.

Why did I swap: Its default, it has Exchange connectivity (not that I need it) and it syncs my Palm pilot and hopefully my Andriod phone.

Network manager still does not work correctly.

Using a mobile broadband internet connection does not work with wireless access points in reach. If wireless is turned off, the connection works fine the first time, consecutive connections do not adjust the resolver settings.

Used a manual override to fix this.

Another issue is purely annoying: Setting the mobile connection to be available system wide will lock you out of editing the settings. One can delete the connection and set it up afresh. As soon as you set system wide availability, the game starts new. Sometimes I would not even get an error message, the network manager applet would simply terminate.

Canon FB363u still does not work.

It's a shame that this used to work in 6.06 but never after. Several attempts to issue bugs failed. Canonical does not react but still provides drivers for the scanner in it's repositories.

Power management?

In 9.04 the battery on my 8510w lasted nearly 4 hours (3.57). This was ok. I remeber having heard the fan twice.

With 9.10 the battery lasts 2h20mins. Worse, ever since the upgrade the fan spins permanently and really loudly. acpi -t tells me that some device has a temperature of over 75° C. It was never that hot before.

Sound issues.

I installed additional gstreamer libraries (bad and ugly). After that I installed VLC. This seemed to render sound output dead on all my machines. Reinstalling gstreamer bad and ugly libraries solved the problem (don't know why)

VMWare ... the usual ...

I didn't expect VMWare to work out of the box. And VMware did not disappoint me.

Cut a long story short, here is the fix. There is another hint out. I did not find the problems described about mouse grabing problems on any of my machines. As I like simple solutions I followed the one on the vmware community site. It works fine.


I used CUPSpdf a lot to print PDFs out any size. In 9.10 CUPSpdf offers adjustment of the paper size. To the application only A4 or Letter is available. I don't know what the use of bigger paper size is if one can't use it.

So where are the good news?

ext4 works fine. It's fast (boot time about 15 secs, used to be 47 secs with 9.04).
Grub2 is fine. It does what it should and stays out of your way.
firefox 3.5 is snappy.
avant window manager is a pretty add-on that makes my life pleasant and easy.

Pretty little if you ask me.

Worth your while?

If neither Windows nor Mac are an option, then the answer would be: yes.

However the pain and frustration (I still can't connect to my campus network via VPN) accumulates.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

MSI X320 graphics driver update

After upgrading to kernel 2.6.28-14 the graphics driver could not be found. I got an error message that the system does not find the corresponding module and can run only in low res mode. Reinstall or uninstall and install of the poulsbo drivers does not fix the problem.

To fix this, simply install psb-kernel-sources and reboot.
sudo apt-get install psb-kernel-source
sudo shutdown -r now
Reason for this is that the kernel modules are hard coded in a directory:
/lib/modules/2.6.28-13-generic/updates/char/drm (drm.ko and psb.ko).

Installing the psb kernel sources creates a directory:
/lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/updates/char/dkms and in there the files drm.ko and psb.ko.

Why the kernel modules were hard coded in the first place is beyond me. Should work in the future.

Monday, 6 July 2009

MSI X320 Wireless installation (obsolete)

This post is obsolete and has been integrated into MSI X320 Installation (revisited).

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

MSI X320 installation (revisited)

(this post has been updated on Sept. 3rd, 2009)

Installing Ubuntu from scratch (unless you want to live with Windows Vista Home Edition) on a MSI X320 is non trivial at best. The notebook comes without any CD-ROM but boots from an external USB CD- or DVD drive.

Installation goes straight forward, the system comes up nicely.

Things to keep in mind

Graphics resolution is 1024x768. The display can run at 1366x768. Here is what you have to do to get it:

Setting the right screen resolution

In Synaptic Package Manager under Settings/Repositories/Third-Party Software add:
deb jaunty main
copy the following text to a text file:
Version: SKS 1.0.10

Save it under the name "msi.key" and import in the tab Authentication/Import Key File... (alternatively you can download the key from here).

Reload the repository. You should now find a package:
poulsbo-driver-2d and
poulsbo-driver-3d as well as
psb-kernel-source (will be needed by the wireless network driver as well).
Install it and its depending packages. Further install
and all depending packages if you want to mimic Apple.

Now edit the file /usr/bin/compiz. Its a wrapper script to launch compiz. Find the line that starts with:
Add a space and "psb" at the end so that screen composition works with the Poulsbo chipset.

I also installed AUT2 (the Austrian Ubuntu Theme) which has resembles a silvery blueish style. For that, copy AUT2 into /usr/share/themes and UE-icon-set-light into /usr/share/icons.

After rebooting the machine, you will be greeted with an optimized resolution of 1366x768. Choose the AUT2 theme from the Preferences/Appearance control panel.

Wireless LAN

You might find your machine not offering bluetooth and WLAN. Bluetooth can be turned on with the Fn-F9 key combination. WLAN ist toggled with the Fn-F8 key (not very intuitive icon).

Ubuntu does not provide a wireless driver for the RaLink RT3090 pci card built into the MSI X320. In order to get wireless working you need to download the source file. Either go to RaLink directly:
and download the file "2009_0612_RT3090_Linux_STA_V2.1.0.0_DPO.tar.gz" or download sources for SuSE 11 (which have some handy patches enclosed):
The driver derives from the RT2860. If you want to adjust the interface name to wlan-x and the driver name to rt3090sta, you need to patch some source files. SuSE delivers 5 patches, 4 of them apply, on is for 64bit versions only (which do not make sense and I could not get the driver to work with this patch).

Install the patch utility and optionally the rpm utility:
sudo apt-get install patch rpm
Sleves up

Extract the sources. If you extract from the RPM you have to extract the tar.gz contained in the directory within rt3090sta- as well (I renamed the directory to RT3090 for convenience).

In the RPM sources you find 5 patch files, some decriptive text and the original source directory (is the same as the one from RaLink).

Source code preparation

You can either apply the patches or apply changes manually. To apply patches cd into the directory containing the Makefile (2009_0612_RT3090_Linux_STA_V2.1.0.0_DPO). All patches create a backup of the files patched (they have an extension .orig).
patch -b -p0 ---input=../rt3090sta-
This patches the Makefile and the os/linux/ file. In my case I had to revert the changes in the Makefile (I simply copied the Makefile.orig over the Makefile).

You can apply these changes manually by editing ./os/linux/ Set:
This allows the driver to be controlled from the Network Manager applet.

Next apply the WPA-mixed patch. This changes the encryption cypher to TKIP-AES.
patch -b -p0 ---input=../rt3090sta-
You can change the line in ./common/cmm_wpa.c from MIX_CYPHER_NOTUSE to:

If you use the patch utility, you can change the driver name to rt3090. This is cosmetic:
patch -b -p0 ---input=../rt3090sta-
This replaces all appearances of "rt2860" to "rt3090" in the file ./os/linux/pci_main_dev.c and can be done manually using gedit or vi.

We are nearly there. Another cosmetic change is applied by:
patch -b -p0 ---input=../rt3090sta-
This changes the default ra device to wlan device. You can manually replace the "ra" with "wlan" in the define statements of the file ./include/rtmp_def.h.

If you are not there, go back to the directory containing the first Makefile.


Simply call
This will start the compile process. Don't worry about the error messages. I tried to fix them but the results were no better.

After a while the make process will terminate with an error message (it cannot copy files to the /tftpboot directory). Don't worry, we don't need it.


You can call
make install
or manually copy the driver and bind it to the OS:
cp ./os/linux/rt3090sta.ko /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/net/wireless/.
depmod -a
There is also an install utility that you can use for this purpose.


You have to copy the file RT2860STA.dat to /etc/Wireless/RT2860STA. Create the directory Wireless and RT2860STA if it does not exist (if you used make install, this is done for you).

If the file is not found there, the wlan interface will not get registered and you will find an error entry in /var/log/syslog:
... RtmpOSFileOpen(): Error 2 opening /etc/Wireless/RT2860STA/RT2860STA.dat
(I found some posts on the internet that suggested fixing paramters in some configuration files. I think the euphoric success messages are due to frustration and not due to solution. Only having a system readable version of the file in the right place makes the driver work).

Edit the file /etc/Wireless/RT2860STA/RT2860STA.dat. Change the settings for:
or Keysettings. You can find the correct parameters to use in the template file README_STA_pci. Ignore advice of the rest of the file, it does not work in Ubuntu.

Start the driver

Before you continue, check the Network Manager applet. It should not offer you any wireless networks nor should you be able to Enable wireless either.
sudo modprobe rt3090sta
should work flawlessly. After a while you should be able to connect to the wireless network. Enter the connection information in Network Manager. If you choose auto connect and connection available to all users, connections will be set up automatically.

Reboot the machine. The driver should get loaded automatically after reboot.


Some things to keep in mind:
  • The driver is copied into a directory tree of the kernel libs that gets replaced as soon as the kernel gets updated. You have to copy the kernel driver anew to the correct library path. I presume this is an accepable tradeoff until drivers get shipped with the standard image
  • The driver does not connect to SSIDs that are hidden (as was the case with my WLAN). I had to set the router to show my SSID in order to get a connection. This was the reason it took me that long to figure out how to install.
  • The warning messages that you saw during make do mean something. The source leaves some variables uninitialized. This generally is not a sign of good quality code. However, the driver works sufficiently. I hope RaLink people will deal with the warnings.
  • The driver does not correctly deregister for sleep mode.
Disable non-functional SD card driver

The SD card driver does not work on the MSI X320 (as of September 2009). The sdhci kernel mode drivers are notorious for making the machine unresponsive. The device does not release locking bits thus causing permanent timeouts, slowing the machine considerably. To disable kernel mode drivers in Ubuntu
  • goto /etc/modprobe.d/
  • create a file somenameorother.conf (I called it blacklist_sdhci.conf)
  • edit it to:
    blacklist sdhci
    blacklist sdhci_pci
  • restart the machine
You can edit existing blacklists but they might get overwritten in case of OS upgrades.

Other caveats
Neither suspend to RAM nor hibernating works.

I tried Karmic Koala (9.10) but neither the Poulsbo drivers, the SD card nor power savings were fixed.

If you can live with rebooting the machine, the MSI X320 is a slim, leightweight notebook. Here is a screenshot of how my machine looks now:

Monday, 22 June 2009

Webmin 1.480

I run webmin to manage my servers. To upgrade I usually download the latest package from the webmin website and install using dpkg.

Today I saw a notification on the System Information page. Following the link upgrades to 1.480. This is the first time upgrading from within webmin worked on my servers.

If you need web based server administration, I can recommend webmin.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Error in Gnome-RDP

Gnome-RDP is a nice client to administer remote computers. It offers RDP protocol as well as VNC and SSH. It has a simple interface that just does it. And it keeps its settings in a SQlite database.

And here the problem starts.

After every major upgrade of Ubuntu, Gnome-RDP does not read the file correctly:
Error in query:
SELECT * FROM version WHERE id=1
Error:file is encrypted or is not a database
This is annoying as connection information and passwords are stored in this database.

Reason for the error is a difference in the SQlite schema. The error message is missleading.

Here is a fix that works on Ubuntu 9.04.
  1. Open a console window
  2. Check if sqlite and sqlite3 are installed (type sqli and tab. If you have installed a fresh copy then sqlite might be missing. Temporarily install it)
    sudo apt-get install sqlite
  3. Make a copy of the gnome config database
    mv .gnome-rdp.db .gnome-rdp-backup.db
  4. Start Gnome-RDP and quit immediately. This creates an empty config database. Then you dump the old database using sqlite to the new database using the new sqlite3
    sqlite .gnome-rdp-backup.db ".dump session" | fgrep INSERT | sqlite3 .gnome-rdp.db
    Just dump the session table (which will dump CREATE statements as well) and just use the INSERT statements to copy the data into the new file.
  5. Starting Gnome-RDP should now work fine.
  6. Deinstall sqlite (you won't need it)
    sudo apt-get remove sqlite
Hope the developers of gnome-rdp will do a database check in the next release.

Thanks to Mick K for the solution.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

VMWare Workstation 6.5.2 64 bit bundle

VMware download is still corrupted. I found some torrents around that work fine.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Backup with Clonezilla

On my server I use LVM to manage my disks. My physical volume group has two disks containing one logical volume. Up till now I had trouble backing up my server as all the backup tools did not recognize the LVM.

This time I used Clonezilla It's release notes state that it recognizes and honours logical volumes.

And it does.

Just to let you know.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

VMware Workstation 6.5.1 on 9.04

As described in several places VMware Workstation 6.5.1 does not work on Ubuntu 9.04 64bit edition.

This is due to the fact that autocreation of the modules breaks.

I found a script that is supposed to work in Fedora (which I doubt as the script has some flaws).

Here is a script that works on Ubuntu 9.04 (64bit and 32bit edition alike):

cd ~
rm -rf vmware-modules
mkdir vmware-modules
cd vmware-modules
find /usr/lib/vmware/modules/source -name "*.tar" -exec tar xf '{}' \;
mkdir -p /lib/modules/`uname -r`/misc
rm -f /lib/modules/`uname -r`/misc{vmblock.ko,vmci.ko,vmmon.ko,vmnet.ko,vsock.ko}
rm -f /lib/modules/`uname -r`/misc{vmblock.o,vmci.o,vmmon.o,vmnet.o,vsock.o}
cd vmblock-only; make; cd ..
cd vmci-only; make; cd ..
cd vmmon-only; make; cd ..
cd vmnet-only; make; cd ..
#cd vmppuser-only; make; cd ..
cd vsock-only; make; cd ..

cp *.o /lib/modules/`uname -r`/misc/.
cd /lib/modules/`uname -r`/misc/

ln -s vmblock.o vmblock.ko
ln -s vmci.o vmci.ko
ln -s vmnet.o vmnet.ko
ln -s vmmon.o vmmon.ko
#ln -s vmppuser.o vmppuser.ko
ln -s vsock.o vsock.ko

depmod -a
service vmware restart

cd ~
rm -rf vmware-modules
Copy it to a text file "vmware-build-module", set permissions to execute:
chmod u+x vmware-build-module
and execute it:
sudo ./vmware-build-module
The script creates a directory, extracts the module sources, makes them, copies the kernel modules to the right directory in the /lib tree, sets symbolic links (which the original script laked and it did not work without). It then rebuilds the module dependencies, restarts the vmware service and deletes the directory with the compiled modules.

Once done, you should be able to start VMware Workstation 6.5.1 without problems. If you have, let me know.

Note: There is no error checking whatsoever. At least, the script does not remove any other files in the misc directory if there are any.
Note: Sorry there is no download. I wish there was something like the image upload here.

Ubuntu 9.04 RC disappointment

I got a bit disappointed using 9.04. I installed RC on my production machine (yes, I took a full backup, used Clonezilla btw.).

Things worked smoothly. The install went through, it just asked me to replace some files and 30 minutes later, I was up and running again.

VMware Workstation does not work any more

My notebook is a HP 8510w which runs Ubuntu 64bit. Unfortunately, VMware Workstation 6.5.1 did not run any more. The network modules could not be found.

OK, there is a new version out 6.5.2. But: Downloading the RPM works fine, the plain vanilla bundle is corrupt. Does VMware not know or recognize this?

So: No VMware Workstation (and thus) no way to test other things (like ext4). This happened in April 2009 let me add. We do have 64bit machines out there.

On a note by, VMware Workstation 6.5.2 works fine on a 32bit OS.

Gnome freezes

I used a mobile internet connection from Vodaphone today. After use, I tried to disconnect from my provider. The machine froze on disconnect. Not one, not twice, 4 times reproducably.

Most ot the time I put the machine in suspend mode. Every 5 times, Gnome does not react to wakeup calls. I get the background of the password entry dialog, but no entry field, no way to get into the machine.

Up till 8.10 I had the chance to restart Gnome using the well known Ctrl-Alt-Back key combination. Someone had a brilliant idea and disabled this last resort handler. So, now if Gnome freezes, I have to reboot the machine.

Another issue that happens regularly is my bluetooth mouse does not get recognized after boot. I have to turn it off and on to get it recognized (which itself takes several seconds).

Buggy Network Manager

I connect to my infrastructure using a wireless LAN. I like to sit on my balcony on a warm April evening and like ... ok, you are not here to read about my leasure activities.

I use WPA2 private to connect to a Netgear router. There are about 30+ wireless routers in the neighborhood so I turned my SSID broadcast of.

Network manager disconnects regularly when there are more than 10+ SSIDs seen. Most of the time it does not even attempt to reconnect. I like this to happen during downloads especially.

Disconnects happen every 8 hours or so.

Sometimes the machine tries to reconnect. It does not succeed and brings up a dialog to log on to the network.

Lukily one can observe the password that is there as the default.

Unfortunately its not the password, but the password hash. This is retrieved from the keyring manager.

So, I filed a bug, that the logon dialog in the network manager applet takes the wrong credentials.

I'm the only person having this?

I get an answer telling me, I am wrong. I'm puzzled. I can see the wrong password, I can enter the correct one (and get connected again) and this guy says that the correct password is used?

So besides my observations that the password hash instead of the password is used, I download the sources.

I'm no C guru any more (I used to program in C some 20 years ago). But I found some suspicously looking files (wpa2.. wireless... .c and .h). I open them in Geany and low and behold, I find two routines that get called.

One gets called after a first connect and it uses the password, runs it through a hashing function and sends it to the connecting routine.

The other is called whenever the is the need to reconnect. It retrieves the password hash, hashes it and forwards it to the connection routing.

I send the two files to the guy telling me, I'm wrong.

That happened 2 weeks ago. I update daily but there was no update on network manager applet so far.

How long do I have to wait for a working connection (that, btw. was perfectly working in 7.10)?

Never ending scanning story...

I do not want to go into details about scanning. I use a Canon FB630U. It's old but it works. It is supposed to be supported. But since 7.04 scanning with this scanner is not possible any more.

I file a bug every release and it gets piled up, but there seem to be no one that works on these issues.

SD cards

I have a camera that uses SD cards and I have an SD card reader on my notebook. One would think that getting pictures from my camera into my notebook is easy. Well: it's not.

The card reader recognises the inserting of SD cards. But Gnome does not mount them always. I have not figured out why it does not mount the card. At first I beleived that certain cards were formated malformed. But the same card gets recognised on monday and ignored on tuesday.

Should you use 9.04?

I cannot recommend 9.04. Im sorry to say.

Basic error correction by Canonical is minuscule to non existent.
The software is not ready for prime use. Experimental yes, but not stable.

If you have the chance to test, do so. If you want to upgrade: DO A BACKUP. If you never did and relied on Ubuntu quality, DON'T DO IT THIS TIME.

Stay with 8.10 if you can (and want). 9.10 is out soon.

Stay tuned, as I am not giving up on trying to help improve Ubuntu.

If you think that this is normal: Download Fedora 11 beta and test all of the above mentioned issues. You will be surprised. Nothing fails in Fedora (thats why I know, my scanner works actually).

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Testing 9.04 Beta

As of March 23 Ubuntu 9.04 beta was out. It's a fine piece of work. However there are some regression errors and some promises that Ubuntu does not live up to. Here is what is improved over 8.10:
  • OpenOffice 3.0.1 does work with samba shares at last. The workaround mentioned in this blog is not required any more
  • System menu and User menu have been reorganised and unified. It requires learning but it's clear at last.
Here is my list of things that do not work:
  • Scanning with Canon FB363U still does not work. It's a shame that this is not addressed.
  • Network manager looses connection to wireless access points regularly. This was an issue in 8.10, got better eventually but is back with full force. Hope they fix this one before release date.
  • There is an error in network manager related to how they fetch the password from the key ring. I posted this as a bug previously but the developers in charge deny to acknowledge it. Do they not read their own source?
  • Bootup is supposed to work faster. Well maybe if you upgraded from an old 486 to a modern machine. On my machines this is definitely not the case (HP nx8220 1GB RAM, 2.0 GHz: 8.10 -> 1m25s, 9.04 -> 1m23s)
Some issues I have to sort out yet:
  • With every upgrade my test machine became louder. The fan works 100% yet the motherboard and harddisk still run hot. I would suspect the machine to slowly die but launching 8.10 from CD provides a clean, cool machine that does not show the symptoms. I don't know what that is.
  • Deluge every now and then stops operating for no obvious reason. It declines to continue downloading torrents. Using Transmission on the same file works fine. Strange
Some of these issues are reported on launchpad, some are still under investigation.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

OpenOffice 3.0 with Samba file shares

With OpenOffice 3.0.1 (it has to be added using an external ppa repository from Launchpad) I could not read nor write files to and from my Samba file server. It worked under 2.4.1.

Developers on Launchpad denied to acknowledge the bug, even though it was reported widely on the internet.

The issue seems to have something to do with the way, OpenOffice authenticates with Samba. In order to get a different behaviour, one can change the way, OpenOffice is called.

If you start OOo from the menu, the call is:
ooffice -writer %U (with calc and the others following the pattern)
This tells OpenOffice, it should hand the user credentials to samba and authenticate. The result is the well documented error, the file cannot be read or written, a dialog asking for username and password for workgroup MSHOME, etc. appearing.

Under Ubuntu 8.10 you can adjust the menu setting to:
ooffice-writer %F (same with all the others)
If you have a connection to the Samba server (e.g. a share mounted), you can access the files there, both read and write.

This is a workaround for Ubuntu 8.10 (sorry for posting it so late, but I did not find out until recently).

Under Ubuntu 9.04 (bound to be out April 23, 2009) OpenOffice works with the %U parameter as well.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Ubuntu Theme on Launchpad

I created a Launchpad project:
Austrian Ubuntu Theme (aut)
You'll find a tar.gz file there which you can install using the System / Preferences / Appearance control panel.

Feel free to experiment, comment and criticise.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Adding Code Intelligence to Komodo

Writing programs in Python using PyGTK can be hard as the documentation is not consistent and somewhat outdated.

Adding Code Intelligence to the Komodo IDE is a matter of adding a specific XML-File to the IDE. Here is the link to the CIX-Files that do the trick:
Extract the files to a directory. Add the two under Edit/Preferences/CodeIntelligence "Add an API Catalog...".

Viola. You have code completion.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Ubuntu Theme takes shape

As I struggle my way through the configuration files, GTK+ documentation and some source code, the Ubuntu Theme takes on shape.

I still have not found out how to distinguish between windows in the front (focused for Metacity) and the ones in the background (normal). Having a way to differentiate would allow for different coloring of widgets. This in turn would make for nice visual feedback.

Another issue I have to tackle with is figuring out the names of widgets in different applications. Not all of them are documented in the GTK documentation.

Finally my icons in the top panel grew all of a sudden from nice 28 px to 32px filling the whole panel. I have no clue what I did (acutally I think I did nothing, but that certainly is not the case). I would like to think this is due to errors in all the other themes.

Ideas anybody?

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Awn Window Navigator

I follow development of the awn window navigator closely ever since it was first announced on Launchpad.

Awn window navigator is an Apple dock mimic. Under Gnome it acts a a panel on steriods. It lets you collect your favorite apps in a dock, supports drag-and-drop and gives nice visual feedback about the state of the application - Apple like.

Is it pretty? Yes,

Is it usefull? I'm not quite sure any more.

A shortcut collection of items makes sense if:
  • the set of common applications remains static most of the time
  • the set of apps is limited to a few (10 - 15 apps). Otherwise the dock will be overloaded and at the most exceed screen limits
  • the main screen is big enough for the extra space used by the dock
  • applications are hidden behind a cumbersome access path (like menues on Windows or folders on Macs)
Technically speaking, awn is working fine. It allows for customization, adding applications is straightforward, the tool is sufficiently responsive and graphically appealing.

So why do I doubt the usefullness of it?

Basically Ubuntu comes with some shortcuts in the main panel. This dock-like panel can be populated with additional apps. It does not provide visual feedback like awn. On the other hand, it does not use extra screen space (the dock is there anyway).

Ubuntu is reduced to some essential applications. The main menu is organized in logical compartments and can be adjusted to personal preferences using the menu editor. All of this makes Ubuntu easy to use and navigate.

It is because of the combination of just providing the essential applications and the option to add ones favorite applications as shortcuts to the top panel that makes awn redundant on Ubuntu (at least in my eyes).

My recommendation: If you want to mimic Apple, use awn. If you want to work, use the panel instead.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Trouble with gtkrc

Creating a Metacity window decoration was pretty straightforward. I have what I want. A smooth gray window title that dims when the window looses focus. When focused, it has a gradient look imitating a round vertical curve.

Here comes the catch.

Items in the window are controled by a file ~/.themes/mytheme/gtk-2.0/gtkrc. This file controls everything drawn inside the window -- buttons, menus, scrollbars - you name it.

Here is a basic gtkrc file:

# default color scheme
gtk_color_scheme = "fg_color:#202020\nbg_color:#D7D7D7\nbase_color:#FFFFFF\ntext_color:#202020\nselected_bg_color:#696986\nselected_fg_color:#FFFFFF\ntooltip_bg_color:#FCF6DE\ntooltip_fg_color:#202020\n"

# default style
style "default"
# Color assignment

fg[NORMAL] = @fg_color # Metacity and mouseover, Most text
fg[PRELIGHT] = @fg_color # Text when mouseover
fg[ACTIVE] = @fg_color # Text when mouseclicking button, Tabs, Active window list
fg[SELECTED] = @selected_fg_color # Metacity X when window selected
fg[INSENSITIVE] = darker(@bg_color) # Insensitive Text (in menus)

bg[NORMAL] = @bg_color # Normal Background, inactive Metacity bar, buttons
bg[PRELIGHT] = @bg_color # Mouseover buttons
bg[ACTIVE] = @bg_color # Mouseclicking, Tabs, active window list
bg[SELECTED] = @selected_bg_color # Metacity Bar
bg[INSENSITIVE] = @bg_color # Insensitive buttons

base[NORMAL] = @base_color # Background, most
base[PRELIGHT] = @base_color # Mouseover menu
base[ACTIVE] = @selected_bg_color # Menu active item in inactive window
base[SELECTED] = @selected_bg_color # Menu active item in active window
base[INSENSITIVE] = @bg_color # Background, insensitive

text[NORMAL] = @text_color # Text in window
text[PRELIGHT] = @text_color # Text on Mouseover
text[ACTIVE] = @selected_fg_color # Active text in inactive window
text[SELECTED] = @selected_fg_color # Active text in active window
text[INSENSITIVE] = @bg_color # Insensitive text

xthickness = 3
ythickness = 3

class "GtkWidget" style "default"

style "window" = "default"
bg[NORMAL] = shade(0.87,@bg_color)
class "GtkWindow" style "window"

style "menubar" = "default"
GtkMenuBar :: shadow-type = GTK_SHADOW_NONE
GtkToolbar :: shadow-type = GTK_SHADOW_NONE
bg[NORMAL] = shade(0.87,@bg_color)
class "GtkMenuBar" style "menubar"
class "GtkToolbar" style "menubar"

style "tooltip"
fg[NORMAL] = @tooltip_fg_color # required in order to set the gnome default colors right
bg[NORMAL] = @tooltip_bg_color
widget "gtk-tooltip*" style "tooltip"
Two problems with it:

1. It does not load when selected by the Appearance System panel.
2. (and this currently worries me more) I cannot lighten the window background when the window looses its focus.

I would like to change the color of the window interior when the window is in the background. This would allow for the window to visually vanish in the background.

Any hints?

Monday, 26 January 2009

Ubuntu Theme

I have done some research on the subject. And I have received lots of "good advice" Here are some results:

6 myths to go by

  1. Theming Gnome is hard to do: Well, actually it is pretty easy, once you understand how Gnome displays its windows and widgets
  2. There is no documentation around: It's true that the Gnome technical library is somewhat sparse, incomplete and sometimes error prone. However, there are some links to good documentation. And there is the source code of course.
  3. Better modify an existing theme: This is a definitive NO NO as far as I am concerned. You most likely add more junk to the underlying theme, making it even more unusable.
  4. There are no debugging tools around: While it is true that most tools advertised to be helpful are ancient and most likely not working properly, there are few tools that help you develop and test your theme (I will cover them later).
  5. One can download everything from the web: There is And - yes - there are window themes, icon themes, wallpaper, logon themes and bootsplash screens. But this does not make for great design. What's missing is a thorough and complete design. That cannot be downloaded.
  6. A good theme has to be better than Windows or Mac OSX: I'm afraid, the only thing a good theme can do is put Ubuntu / Linux on par with both former mentioned. Everything important was built into those GUIs and Linux mimics most of the style guides.
Some introductory material

This is a list of links that I found helpful:

Designing Metacity Themes - HOWTO
Understanding Metacity Themes
Metacity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Welcome | Murrine
Individuelle Metacity-Themen für GNOME
Understanding Metacity themes
Themes Blog

Useful tools

After experimenting with some tools that claim to help develop themes, I found these the most helpful:
  • metacity-theme-viewer: this shows the window frames for all 6 window types
  • metacity-window-demo: a tool to investigate gtkrc settings. It helps to optimize GTK layout
  • gconftool-2 (actually gconftool-2 --type=string --set /apps/metacity/general/theme themename): sets and resets themes
  • GTK_RC_FILES=~/.themes/mytheme/gtk-2.0/gtkrc Gnomeapp: this starts the gnome application with the corresponding gtkrc file. Helps to optimize GTK settings for applications and widgets.
  • gtk-chtheme: a small utility to select themes and preview the GTK widgets. Currently I have not found a better tool.
These tools were useless:
  • gtk-demo: even though it documents some of the widgets, it is outdated
  • The Widget factory: acclaimed to be the tool of choice to present themes on, this is nothing more than a showcase. Outdated
  • gtk-theme-switch2: while not completely useless, it seems outdated. Some of the widgets are not shown (like scroll bars and handles). Use gtk-chtheme instead.
My first attempt in creating a theme was by (OK, I did it as well) copying a theme and modifying it to my needs. Unfortunately some of the code fragments did not make sense, so I developed a theme from scratch. It's not finished yet, but it is a starting point.

I will publish it on SourceForge when I have tested it more thoroughly.

I also plan to write a compendium in how to write your own theme and publish it under Creative Commons. This will take some time, but I keep up to it.

Comments are welcome, hints appreciated.