Linux is not a get of jail free card

I’ve been having line problems with my ISP – British Telecom. To cut a long story short we see a 75% speed drop, phone BT, jump through umpteen hoops and they reset the profile at the exchange. The fault is with the line and it’s intermittent.

That doesn’t really bother me. The customer support agent told me to use BT’s speed diagnostic tool. Now aside from why their tool would be better, its not really an option as its a poorly written Java applet that doesn’t seem to work with Firefox or Chromium in Linux. Now I dare say I could get it to work but why spend the energy? When I mentioned it to the agent, he told me BT doesn’t officially support Linux and helpfully suggested I keep a Windows laptop handy.

Are you kidding? Keep a Windows laptop handy? There are reasons why I use Linux, there are reasons people use Macs and Windows too – they chose to. What the hell has that got to do with my ISP? I have no software from them, it’s a wireless access point they provide. Do you know what operating system it runs? Linux.

Samsung ML-1915 with Ubuntu

I picked up a cheap laser printer, a Samsung ML-1915. It isn’t automatically configured by Ubuntu 10.10 as it requires the Samsung Unified Linux Print Driver.

The page explains what to do but in synopsis, you need to add the repository and install two packages, obviously check out the site before blindly following me:

Add the repository to /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb http://www.bchemnet.com/suldr/ debian extra

Now, I know Ubuntu has the apt-add-repository command but that will add “pangolin release” instead of “debian extra” and will create a source entry too – which will give you an error:

W: Failed to fetch http://www.bchemnet.com/suldr/dists/debian/Release
Unable to find expected entry  extra/source/Sources in Meta-index file
(malformed Release file?)

If you did then you need to remove the offending deb-src http://www.bchemnet.com/suldr/ debian extra entry.

That done, add the GPG key and update the apt cache.

wget -O - http://www.bchemnet.com/suldr/suldr.gpg | sudo apt-key add -
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install samsungmfp-driver samsungmfp-data

It will then pick up and install when you plug it in. Samsung themselves provide a 30 odd Mb driver file, here. There are a whole list of the differences here but for me, I prefer Debian compliance and not installing anything I don’t need.

Oh and a big thank you to everyone who sent me suggestions of what to do in San Diego. People can be surprisingly open and friendly – especially within our community.

Advocacy by not advocating

We have Ubuntu installed on two of the machines at home and recently, after losing a Windows restore disc, I suggested installing Ubuntu 10.04 on her Dell 1545 after my suggestion.

As installations go, it was relatively painless – certainly better than reinstalling Windows. Don’t get me wrong, Dell is better than most in this respect as they gave us OEM install discs for Windows Vista, bundled software and the drivers.  As strait forward as this is with Dell’s resource CD (it mostly tells you what you need), it doesn’t know any more than what model you own. This is problematic with the wireless card for example as there are two revision states and the drivers are incompatible with each other – one crashes Windows.

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Huawei E1550 on Ubuntu

Update: I’ve rewritten this article for 10.04.1, please post comments there and not here!

Update: You no longer need to install udev-extras in Ubuntu 10.04.

I picked up a Huawei E1550 pre-pay mobile broadband dongle, £39.99 with 3 Mobile including 3Gb usage (note it’s not the device they’re picturing).

I’m on a course next month so that’ll do fine, I have no reception at home and am not away enough to warrant a contract.

It appears to identify itself as USB storage, to install drivers on Windows then flip-flops to a modem.  Nice idea, terrible implementation, even in Windows where it installs drivers every time you use a different USB port (it’s often wise to try such devices in Windows – so you don’t chase your tail with a faulty device).  Pretty sure it’s the autorun program that’s flipping the device.

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Replacing Linpus Linux Lite on the Acer Aspire One

I love my Aspire One but have come to be less impressed by the Linpus distro installed. So at the weekend I decided to try Arch Linux, which as a long time Slackware fan I had heard worked well and had good documentation.

Its all up and running and other than two quirks, the guide on Arch Wiki is spot on.

As I said, I came across two quirks – the install image used kernel 2.6.26, which detects the r8196 module for the network but for some reason will not answer a dhcp request after reboot (only after reboot) – so replace it with 2.26.27 before reboot. You’ll need to anyway because the Atheros wireless chipset in the Aspire One is supported OOB on the more recent kernel.

The second is well documented, that ext2 partitions on SD are corrupted on suspend. I opted for an XFS partition though and have not had any issues.

The only things I haven’t got working are suspend to RAM and the WiFi light (although the switch works). Neither of these is a show-stopper because I’ve got boot time down to under 18 seconds which is only a few seconds more than resume from RAM.

I’d also advise binning dhcpd and using wicd – which integrates well with XFCE and being a daemon means WiFi is up before you’ve got a desktop.

Really impressed with Arch, a distro I haven’t used before. It’s from the minimalist camp and allows a tailored installation with little or no cruft. Its documentation is fantastic (I have seen a few ideas that I intend to implement in Ubuntu!).

Add an XFCE menu to the Aspire One panel

Acer have made some alterations to the xfce4-panel, you probably noticed that you can’t right click and add launchers.

Edit: For anyone who came here to find out how to enable the “advanced menu” or XFCE menu on right click – Open your documents, click “File->Terminal” and type “xfce-setting-show” or just “xfce-se” then hit tab. Click “Desktop->Behaviour” and then tick “Show desktop menu on right click”.

I have a workaround but haven’t worked out why yet. Open a terminal (from a Thunar window if you haven’t enable the right click on the desktop). Now if you look in .config/xfce4/panel there is your standard xml file to layout the panel. If you alter this, on relaunching the panel it overwrites it with the default.

The odd thing is that the un-patched panel is still there, and works as normal (look in /usr/bin – there are two panels, one renamed xfce4-panel.old). Well for some reason that I haven’t fathomed, if you kill the running panel then alter the config then run xfce4-panel.old then restart it the xml config is not overwritten.

Here’s a screenshot:

Weird
Weird