Sunday, September 30, 2007

LAN Trouble!!!

Ok - trouble is over, but what a frustration!!!

I have a mythTV box in my livingroom and wanted a nice, hidden Cat5 cable connecting it to my router. How hard could that be? So, when my wife and I built our house, we asked for a line between my office and the livingroom. The idiot builders only placed the line and told me I would have to place the outlets myself. Jerks - sure, but I'll discuss that elsewhere...

I bought 2 LAN outlets and went about wiring them. I had trouble after trouble and eventually made my own tester using a breadboard I had laying around with an LED and 2 batteries. Everything was connecting properly but no go!

I eventually came across this Wikipedia article. I then re-wired each outlet EXACTLY like described in the diagram and it worked - at least so far with a different computer :)

I don't know what changed as before I had each wire directly going through (each outlet exactly the same) but by rearranging the wires to again be exactly the same, it now works.

I don't understand it, just glad I don't see myself doing it again!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Pick a linux distro...

There are many ways to chose your distro of choice. I suggest try as many as possible (within reason). CD's are cheap, but they still cost money - don't go crazy. You need a smart with your plan.

First, understand that there are not that many "original" distributions - the ones all the others are based on. These include Gentoo, Debian, Slackware, Red Hat/Fedora, Suse, and Linux from Scratch. Each of these have their own derivatives for example:
Gentoo --> Sabayon, SystemRescueCd
Debian --> Ubuntu (and its derivatives), Knoppix, Xandros, Lin(Free)spire, PCLinuxOS, and many more!
Slackware --> Vector, Zenwalk
I suggest downloading and trying out each of these main distros. They all have a notorious reputation of being difficult to install. I have no computer science background and when I was just starting out, I successfully installed these 3 distros mentioned above. Not everything worked, but I was able to do it and I learned a lot in the process.

That said, in my experience I have run derivatives more than the originals themselves. I have been installing Ubuntu for friends and family who are willing to try Linux as it seems so easy for them to use without the fun configuring that I enjoy so much. Their systems then are variants on a theme, while mine is in a world all its own - the benefit of learning configuring yourself. It takes a while, but you can tweak your system so it is unique, functional, productive, stable, and fun! Before you download a cd, research the community, how it's different from its parent distro, and don't waste time on distro's you won't use.

I have found myself settling on 2 distros of opposite backgrounds, that way I learn to use and configure more than just one type. I do not have much experience with rpm based distros (Red Hat) except for a short stint with opensuse so I cannot seem to be more help to people using them than for general issues. For Gentoo, Slackware, and Debian things I am continuing to become well rounded. That is my goal with distro's. I have picked 2 to use on my daily machines, and am continuing to use the others in different ways from rescue systems, to test boxes.

Conclusion - Download all distro's that look interesting to you, and try them out!

Happy tinkering :)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ubuntu on a Toshiba a215-s4747

This is a new computer that has dual AMD 64 cpu's with an ATI Mobile x1200 graphics card and an Atheros AR5007EG wireless card (those are the specs that matter - all else works out of the box).

The computer comes with Vista Home Premium on it, so as soon as I could I repartitioned using the partitioning software that comes in Vista. It can only shrink the drive so far (because of how Windows writes to its filesystem), but with such a large disk, I was able to create an 80Gb free space partition. I then rebooted back into Vista just to make sure it still worked (You never know with Microsoft products!), then rebooted into the Ubuntu Feisty 7.04 Alternate x386 cd.

I decided on the alternate because I previously attempted the normal live cd and the wonderful ATI mobile Radion x1200 graphics card creates an error for X (ok, I know it is not the cards fault but...). I performed the install using the text installer, and installed grub on the root partition (/dev/sda4) not the MBR (This I think is very important). The partitioning for linux was done using the alt. live cd, selecting manual partition, and then making a 1Gb swap partition (/dev/sda3) and the rest for root (/dev/sda4). I am sure you could get fancier and have a /home or /usr partition but me not comfortable AT ALL with Vista and its antics, I decided not to press my luck with logical partitions (at least until the people who I was installing this for decide they really want me to just wipe the harddrive and use only linux).

On boot, I was pleasantly suprised to be presented a grub menu, but I chose Vista to see if it would still boot (it did) then rebooted into Ubuntu. Of course X dies, but I expected that. I quickly connected the laptop to my network via my LAN, and entered the following commands I had collected via Google (I used ati's latest driver I could find 8.40.4):

apt-get update && apt-get upgrade

apt-get install module-assistant build-essential fakeroot dh-make debconf libstdc++5 gcc-3.3-base linux-headers-$(uname -r)

chmod +x

ln -sf bash /bin/sh && ./ --buildpkg Ubuntu/feisty && ln -sf /bin/bash /bin/sh

dpkg -i xorg-driver-fglrx_8.40.4_i386.deb
dpkg -i fglrx-kernel-source_8.40.4_i386.deb
dpkg -i fglrx-amdcccle_8.40.4_i386.deb
dpkg -i fglrx-amdcccle_8.40.4_i386.deb
dpkg -i xorg-driver-fglrx-dev_8.40.4_i386.deb

cd /usr/src

m-a update
m-a prepare
m-a build fglrx
m-a install fglrx

aticonfig --initial
Rebooting then allowed me to see X! I logged in and got to work on wireless. Here is the disappointment - Atheros cards require madwifi drivers (which are partly closed source) to work. At this point in time, I could not find anyone who had been successful with this particular chip and felt it worthless to think I would be different. I decided to use ndiswrapper and make use of the Windows XP driver for this card. I downloaded the driver from Acer (I think - I don't remember because Toshiba only offers the Vista driver and ndiswrapper does not work with Vista drivers yet). Google for "net5211.inf" and you will find it eventually :) I downloaded it in a zip file, extracted it and followed these instructions which I also collected from my friend named Google:

sudo -i
echo "ath_pci" >> /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist
rmmod ath_pci

apt-get install ndiswrapper-utils-1.9 ndiswrapper-common

ndiswrapper -i Desktop/Wireless\ Lan\ Driver\ 802abg\ Atheros\ Ver.\(Negative-Pole\)70510/net5211.inf
(or wherever you place your net5211.inf and extraceted folder at - I put them in a hidden folder)

ndiswrapper -l
- look for something like this:
net5211 : driver installed
device (168C:001C) present (alternate driver: ath_pci)

modprobe ndiswrapper
echo "ndiswrapper" >> /etc/modules
On reboot, I had wireless choices in my Network Manager!!! I chose mine and it worked!

If you are trying this on your new Toshiba a215-s4747, then you might right now be saying, "hey, this is nice but I have no sound." Well, go to System>>Administration>>Update Manager and check to see if you need to update anything. It had me update the kernel (which had me in almost a kernel panic as I thought my ndiswrapper or ATI driver were going to have to be reinstalled), but I was happy to hear the Ubuntu entrance sound after the required reboot (I have this eiree feeling I have rebooted too much for a linux install :) )

So - Sound works, Wireless works, Graphics work, LAN works, Modem works, USB's work - what doesn't work you might ask. Well, I the little bit of time I messed with this, I could not get the new compiz-fusion to work :( It was not compiz-fusions fault, the instructions (which I will therefore NOT link or explain here) did not give me a recognizable xorg-xgl screen.

It does not matter, the people are happy with it as it is, it is fully functional and I can help them remotely now because I also installed openssh-server. I hope this is a benefit to someone, I had a difficult time finding anyone who had attempted linux on this laptop, I was worried about it, but it turned out ok in the end.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Gentoo Number Two

Things are coming along further now - I have compiled X and it works! I have settled on E17 for a window manager as I currently have a working gnome/compiz setup in Ubuntu which I will keep (for now) as a dual-boot. I can't help but feel more excited every day as I get more accomplished.

As I still have not subscribed to high speed internet at home yet (we just moved and are saving money until we get settled in and see what our typical bill will be), I have resorted to downloading sources wirelessly at coffee shops and friends houses and then compiling overnight. I have written some scripts which I will post later on which either download all sources for a world upgrade or download all sources for a particular package. I felt pretty good about writing those, though they are simple and probably boring to "real" bash users.

I could not emerge much without emerging cmatrix :) so that is now on my console!

What fun this geeky stuff is! Maybe I can become more than a bug finder - possibly a developer someday?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gentoo on a Gateway 200ARC!!!

I have been working on installing gentoo on an old laptop (Gateway 200arc).

As far as I have been able to test, everything works to some degree right now - from booting without errors (and quickly) to the build in wireless card. As it is now, though, it is only a console - no X. I am new to gentoo, and have done the install mostly through chrooting from an installed working version of Ubuntu Feisty 7.04.

I am doing this because I believe a good linux user should be familiar with multiple distributions. I have the most experience with Debian (and its derivatives), but have also sued Slackware and Suse in the past. I guess it is time to swim with the big fish now and Gentoo sounds geeky and l33t :)

I followed the handbook for the most part. Gentoo is actually not that difficult to install if you are comfortable with the commandline and can read/follow directions - the handbook is very well written.

Like I said, I have not used a cd iso or anything, I downloaded the single page html handbook, a stage 3 tarball, and a portage snapshot (just read the book - it will tell you what and where) all from a completely different distribution. I did everything over the other distro's wireless. I made a small file with the instructions on how to chroot into the environment, and used it whenever I needed back in (since I take many breaks). The most time consuming/nail biting experience is the kernel - but I went through every item, and made educated guesses based on lspci, lsmod, and dmesg outputs in my working distro.

The most difficult thing so far has been getting my wireless to work. I first tried compiling the driver (ipw2200) into the kernel, then as a module - both ways left me without wireless working still :( I even jumped on irc (best thing I never tried before) without resolution of the problem - then on some foreign language page I could not read - I found instructions that listed the phrase, "emerge ipw2200-firmware" which I did and everything works! It even works with each kernel :)

Well, I will keep on working at it - this is becoming fun as things work. I will be adding X soon and think I may go xfce + compiz-fusion or Enlightenment 17 - who knows - any suggestions???