my only gripe with the heron

I’m quite happy with Ubuntu. If a user didn’t have to be tied into specific, Windows-only applications, I’d recommend it. It’s stable, fast, intuitive and pretty.

My one annoyance is what the latest release has done to CD/DVD drive naming. In the past, my machine’s first DVD drive was hda. For no reason whatsoever, Ubuntu decide to call it sr0. Similarly, the drive’s name for command-line tools now has a different specification.So all my applications need to be told where the drives are; a pain.

Maybe I’ve been at this too long – I still like to use applications that I can see what’s running in the background, so I use grip over gstreamer (mainly because, unless you’re using lame, I’m not listening to your mp3s),  cdrdao over (whatever the young kids are using today to burn gapless audio). At the very least, I would have liked to get a summary of changes when I upgraded Ubuntu. Better still, I’d have liked a list of reasons for the changes. Unless my CD/DVD drive is now faster and more secure, why change?

like a virtual workspace manager for the shell

How did I manage to go for so long without knowing about screen? screen allows you to create several connection sessions to a terminal, switch between them, detach from them, then reconnect from anywhere. I’d previously had to to set up long-running remote jobs as background jobs, relying on nohup and various methods to prevent terminal output. But no more!

This page taught me all I know about screen: screen: Keep Your Processes Running Despite A Dropped Connection

indigo’s most overpriced yet

I saw the most obscene markup in indigo this evening: the Linux Format special edition was priced at a hefty $34.95. This costs £10 in the UK.

The thing is, UK prices are quoted tax-inclusive. The ten quid you see is the ten quid you pay. Not so in Canada. In the most boneheaded move ever, our prices don’t include tax, so that $34.95 really costs you $39.84 (in Ontario, at least).

According to Google, £10 is $20.53. Indigo’s markup is almost 100%

not-so-smart meter

We got our smart meter installed today. Unfortunately, Catherine didn’t quite understand why there was a knock on the door, then her computer went beeeeyyooooww … then all our clocks caught the <blink> tag.

While I like smart meters, this one isn’t quite as smart as it could be. To me, a smart meter needs to have a big display of your current demand, and needs to be inscribed with a suitable message like “Quit using so much juice, you cretin!” It also needs to hook into local time-of-use pricing, which me being  green and a Bullfrog customer and all, I don’t get to take part in. Boo.

But what could have really gone sideways was my own desktop, which was quietly chugging away installing Ubuntu 7.10. Since I started using Linux in 1995, I don’t think I’ve ever had a system upgrade go totally smoothly. This time, though, I was lucky – the system must have fully initialised before we lost power.

I can’t honestly say I see any difference between Feisty Fawn and Gutsy Gibbon; they both are fairly pretty, and just work.

that was (fairly) easy

Upgraded Ubuntu from Dapper Drake to Edgy Eft last night … and it was surprisingly painless. Sure, it took all night to download, and it did require me to fiddle about using the wireless access point as an ersatz eth0 to get ndiswrapper happy, but I’m not complaining.

I’m still not running in 64 bit though, as I don’t know if there are drivers for some of my cards in AMD64. It’s not a priority, though — everything’s adequately fast as is.

a small form of happiness is

… a USB key with the irritating U3 software uninstalled.

Seriously, U3 is a major annoyance if you:

  • use Mac
  • use Linux
  • work on a PC with locked-down permissions
  • work on a PC with a one-letter drive gap (like having D: and F:, but no E:); U3‘s read-only system will appear in the gap, but your data won’t be accessible.
    (It’s not really U3‘s fault. The fact that Windows still has drive letters amazes me; why don’t they go for the whole 70s thing and have punch cards and gargantuan 5MB hard disk packs?)

All four of the above apply to me, so u3 uninstall.exe is my friend.

When you really haven’t chosen not to trust: Citrix, Mac OS X, and Entrust certificates

NB: this article is a few years old, and I haven’t tested any updates since I wrote it. It may still work; who knows?

This is one that the support desk of my employer really should’ve answered, but they gave their usual, “You mentioned Macintosh in your e-mail, so this conversation stops here” response.

Anyway, they’ve just upgraded their Citrix access, and what used to work now gives the rather cruddy response:

SSL Error 0: You have not chosen to trust

Just what SSL Error 0: You have not chosen to trust “ Secure Server Certification Authority”,the issuer of the server’s security certificate. Error number: 183 is supposed to mean to anyone, I don’t know. (Well, actually, I do know, but in rants like this it’s customary to feign ignorance in a huffy manner. Work with me here, people.)

So, to fix this:

  1. Make sure that Citrix ICA Client is installed
  2. Go to and click on Download Root Certificates
  3. Select Personal Use, and click on Download Certificates
  4. Download entrust_ssl_ca.cer and entrust_ssl_ca.der to your desktop
  5. Open a terminal (it’s in Applications/Utilities), and enter the following:
    cd /Applications/Citrix\ ICA\ Client/keystore/cacerts/
    cp -p ~/Desktop/entrust_ssl_ca.* .
    ln -s entrust_ssl_ca.cer entrust_ssl_ca.crt
  6. Exit the terminal, and try your Citrix session again.

There might be some unnecessary steps there, and this might all be fixed by downloading the latest release of the ICA client, but this works for me now.

very, very old school

Mac OS 7.5.5 Notepad

As I appear to have broken Catherine‘s ability to play Crystal Quest by upgrading her eMac to 10.3.9, I need to find an alternative way to run it. I remember running Basilisk II years ago on a very old Linux box — indeed, my ancient instructions are still here: :: Installing Mac OS 7.5.3 under Basilisk II on Linux, and quite amazingly, are still useful.

I found the following helpful to get it going under OS X:

Maybe it was too easy …

Configuring the rest of the Sempron box has been a slog. It seems that there isn’t a single wireless adaptor that works with 64-bit Linux. I might have to resort to a wireless ethernet adaptor, like the D-Link DWL-G820. They’re not cheap, but they may be the only option.

the computer does work

Picked up the new computer from Canada Computers yesterday. High-end it isn’t, but it’s more than adequate. It’s an AMD Sempron 3000+ (on a Foxconn K8M890M2MA-RS2H motherboard), with 1GB RAM, 80GB SATA disk and a DVD±RW drive. There was change out of $400, including tax.

It’s running Ubuntu for AMD64. While there are a few things I don’t have configured, it was all installed in under an hour. It reminds me a bit of OS X. There’s one thing it does better than the Mac; it knows about duplex printers, and assumes you want to be able to print duplex. Under OS X, you have to choose two-sided every time you print. Thanks to Davey for originally putting me on to Ubuntu. My life’s too short to mess with linux configs.

Now I need to move the old hard drive over as a spare, and fit the various cards from the old machine.

happy desktop

Did some upgrades/maintenance to the Linux box tonight:

  • added a DVD±RW drive
  • finally fitted the cheapo Zalman fan controller to take the edge off the CPU fan noise
  • got X11 working with the nVidia graphics card again, under 2.6.14. It was fiddly.

Some people might wonder why I keep maintaining a 3½ year-old Athlon XP1800+. It works, and with the amount of RAM I have in it, it’s plenty fast.

importing mail from Mozilla Thunderbird on Linux to Mac

How lucky that Thunderbird uses the same text mail format for storing messages. All I needed to do was scp individual server directories from under .thunderbird to ~/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/saltname.default/Mail — that did the job!

I didn’t use the shared global inbox that Thunderbird uses by default. If you do what I did, you probably shouldn’t either.


Okay, so if I were to buy an iBook, I must be able to:

  • have virtual workspaces, like X11
  • use a compose key for accented characters
  • be able to do my usual Perl/Bash things in the terminal
  • get basic, useful applications for free.

Since I can do these things on Linux now, there’s no point in me switchin’ in the kitchen.

not 2.6

Had to revert to 2.4 again, as the suspend-to-RAM only worked for a short while, becoming a suspend-to-RAM-and-sit-there-and-do-nothing. Gr.