Ubuntu Upgrade Day: 11.04 – 11.10 ‘Oneiric Ocelot’

Yay! My favorite Linux distro gets a facelift today with Ubuntu 11.04 making way for the newly released version 11.10 ‘Oneiric Ocelot’. From past history lessons, I do tend to stray on the side of caution, so only one of my machines will be getting the upgrade treatment this week and I’ll hold off with the others until any post update issues shake out.

For those who haven’t given Linux a try yet – I’d strongly suggest giving Ubuntu a go – it has a nice interface and can be skinned to look and feel quite similar to some of the other major operating systems you may already be familiar with. Follow this download link and grab the file.

If you just want to kick the tyres and have a quick look, there are some easy to follow instructions on the download page for making a ‘Live CD’ or a bootable USB stick that you can drop into your current machine and check out.

For those already running Ubuntu, upgrading is as easy as following the instructions on this page, or by entering the command:

update-manager -d

from a terminal window (or from a command via <Alt> + <F2> ). At the time of writing, the update files hadn’t made it to the New Zealand servers so you may want to hold off a little, or change your region under the ‘Settings’ option.

Good luck, enjoy (and don’t forget to make a backup of your data files BEFORE you start…)

Getting Ubuntu to Boot *AFTER* installing Windows 7

Photo Credit: fallsroad - http://www.flickr.com/photos/fallsroad/13240207/From Google, and the various Linux community forums, this is a fairly common problem so, in an effort to be more useful than those who simply post a link to the GRUB man page, or an article which spells out how dumb it is to install Windows AFTER Ubuntu – I thought I’d drop my experience and the resolution here – I’m bound to need it at some point in the future.

The Fix:

While the suggested Boot-Repair GUI didn’t do the trick for me, the following  did result in an eventual #WIN.

  • Boot from a Ubuntu LIVE CD/USB
  • From a terminal, enter the following
    • sudo fdisk -l
    • This will identify the device / drive. For me (and most users) this will tend to be /dev/sda
    • If you are still uncertain you can also run sudo blkid for more details and review the partition labels & sizes
  • Mount the Ubuntu boot partition
    • sudo mount /dev/sdXY /mnt
    • e.g. sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt
  • Run grub-install as below to drop the GRUB2 files back onto the boot partition where they should reside
    • sudo grub-install --root-directory=/mnt /dev/sdX
    • e.g. sudo grub-install --root-directory=/mnt /dev/sda
  • Reboot (into your freshly resurrected Ubuntu installation)
  • Open a terminal and refresh the GRUB2 menu with:
    • sudo update-grub
  • That’s it.. you SHOULD now have both Ubuntu and Windows 7 detected at boot and be able to choose between them.

Thanks to the Ubuntu Community for this page – and all the others which pointed to different solutions and variants of this fix. If the above doesn’t work for you, Google is your friend – there’s a heap more articles out there which should offer you an eventual solution.

Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty) + WiFi working on EEE

When Ubuntu 11.04 released, things went backwards for the EEE. If the wireless adapter was enabled, Natty would hang soon after login – it turns out this was due to a kernel issue similar to that experienced in its predecessor.

But, as per many things in the open software world, the community has come up with a solution which I’ve summarised below.

  1. From here, download the latest kernel files which should be named as follows:
    • linux-headers-2.6.39-999_2.6.39-999.[LatestDateTimeStamp]_all.deb
    • linux-headers-2.6.39-999-generic_2.6.39-999. [LatestDateTimeStamp]_i386.deb
    • linux-image-2.6.39-999-generic_2.6.39-999. [LatestDateTimeStamp]_i386.deb
  2. Then, from a terminal window, install them in the SAME order they were downloaded i.e.:
    • sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-2.6.39-999_2.6.39-999.[LatestDateTimeStamp]_all.deb
    • sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-2.6.39-999-generic_2.6.39-999. [LatestDateTimeStamp]_i386.deb
    • sudo dpkg -i linux-image-2.6.39-999-generic_2.6.39-999. [LatestDateTimeStamp]_i386.deb
  3. Restart your EEE (with WiFi enabled) and login.

Good luck! (YMMV)

Skype Beta for Linux – Webcam WORKING!

Skype for LinuxUgh – finally, after much backward and forward (even to the point I dragged out a Windows laptop) I’ve tracked down the issue which was stopping my embedded webcams (which otherwise works in all other applications) from working with the latest beta of Skype for Linux.

The solution is this (thanks Ubuntu Forums):

for 32-bit Linux / Skype

sudo mv /usr/bin/skype /usr/bin/skype.original
sudo echo -e "#!/bin/bash \nLD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib/libv4l/v4l1compat.so skype.original" > /usr/bin/skype

for 64-bit  Linux / Skype

sudo mv /usr/bin/skype /usr/bin/skype.original
sudo echo -e "#!/bin/bash \nLD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib32/libv4l/v4l1compat.so skype.original" > /usr/bin/skype

I found the command to build the script didn’t work out for me

$ sudo echo -e "#!/bin/bash \nLD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib32/libv4l/v4l1compat.so skype.original" > /usr/bin/skype
bash: !/bin/bash: event not found

So, I built my own script

sudo nano /usr/bin/skype

and pasted in the lines to build the script

LD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib32/libv4l/v4l1compat.so skype.original

Of course, the script needs to be made executable

sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/skype

Then all that remained was to make sure no instances of skype were running, and re-launch skype from the menu.

For me, the video came up once Skype had loaded, from other discussions, some people may need to restart their machines.

Chrysalis Cam – Using Open Source to Open Minds

The kids in Room 3 had a problem, all of the caterpillars that went into the pupa stage of their metamorphosis were emerging when the students were out of the classroom.

The solution was to setup a laptop with a web camera programmed to take a snapshot of a waiting chrysalis once every minute. These images were stitched together into a time-lapse which captured the butterfly emerging in this video.

Feel free to skip over rest of the content in this article as what is of interest will vary greatly between viewers – but I wanted to present the whole story in one location in case it is useful to others who are studying similar processes.

The Lesson

Before getting into the detail of the ‘how’ the project was done, it was fascinating to watch the kids go through the journey of:

  • Identifying the problem of missing the butterflies emerging
  • Strategising what they could do to overcome the issue
  • Discarding ideas which were unworkable
  • Agreeing on using the computer / webcam
  • Thinking about what other things time-lapse would be useful for

Continue reading “Chrysalis Cam – Using Open Source to Open Minds”

Running Macbuntu on Ubuntu 10.10

Macbuntu DesktopI was having a chat to some people on Friday on why some devices were successful and some were… not.

Essentially what it came down to was the user experience and, while the hardware plays a part in this experience, the interface was the major driver of intuitive and efficient use.

To that end, I decided to have a bit of fun with some fan boys and, over the weekend I installed a Mac theme/overlay for Ubuntu called ‘Macbuntu

It’s a surprisingly simple process, for Ubuntu 10.10 users it’s 4 simple lines in terminal as follows (thanks Lifehacker):

wget https://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/macbuntu/macbuntu-10.10/v2.3/Macbuntu-10.10.tar.gz -O /tmp/Macbuntu-10.10.tar.gz
tar xzvf /tmp/Macbuntu-10.10.tar.gz -C /tmp
cd /tmp/Macbuntu-10.10/

Choosing the default options all the way through will leave you (after a reboot) with a desktop which is fairly close to that of Mac OSX.

On my EEE netbook the eye candy costs me ~20% more CPU but it served its purpose today when I put it in front of a couple of Steve Jobs diciples and saw them bug out that an open OS could indeed deliver an experience close to that of their beloved Macs.

Organizing, Getting Things Done, (N)Evernote…

With a recent move to a new working environment, I’ve needed to re-address how I’m working to compensate for the loss of an ability to leave my workspace setup ready for action each day.

Part of this change has been to start using (then consolidate) ‘To Do’ lists. As as assistant for this – I’m returning to ‘Evernote‘ to help keep track of things across the platforms I use in both my professional and personal life.

Evernote / NevernoteThe basic premise of Evernote is “Capture Anything > Access Anywhere > Find Things Fast” and, while that is true for the popular platforms such as Windows, Mac, iPhone, Blackberry and Android – it’s sadly lacking in two of my every day devices. Continue reading “Organizing, Getting Things Done, (N)Evernote…”

Getting an XT USB Modem working in Ubuntu

Given that I’m rocking Ubuntu 10.04 on my beloved ASUS EEE 1005PE, I had a need to be able to use my Telecom XT T-Stick (a.k.a. ‘ZTE Corporation MF636 HSUPA USB Modem’) via Ubuntu.

The issue with these particular devices is that they respond to the system by default as a CD drive or USB hub so Ubuntu (with the stick in it’s native form) doesn’t see it as a modem device.

To turn off the function, and make the device a nice simple USB modem, you can do some jiggery pokery using ‘usb_modeswitch’ to switch off the autorun feature…


you can send the AT command “AT+ZCDRUN=8” to the modem.

I chose option two and used a windows machine with a terminal client, but for anyone wanting to avoid using windows, you can achieve the same result* using minicom (sudo apt-get install minicom)

*let me know if you choose to do this as it’d be nice to include the command lines used for completeness of this guide.

Continue reading “Getting an XT USB Modem working in Ubuntu”

Setting up the EEE 1005PE

This post has been far too long in coming – mainly because some miscrent broke into my car and stole a bunch of my gear – including the charger for my 6 hour old ASUS EEE 1005PE. The replacment charger took over 40 days to source (that’s what you get for living in New Zealand).

Anyway, this georgous wee netbook replaced my vintage EEE 701 4G and came pre loaded with Windows 7 Starter – and a bunch of trialware which took an absolute age to purge from the drive. It’s now dual-booting Win7 and Ubuntu 10.04 (which is my primary OS of choice).

As a side note – under Ubuntu 10.04, the Atheros AR2427 wireless card fails to be detected due a different hardware device ID of 002c which the ath9k wifi driver in the current (~ June 2010) kernel does not understand. However, all is not lost – simply follow the HOWTO written by James Little to add the patched driver to your current kernal and, 5 minutes later, you’ll have a wireless Ubuntu netbook once again (Thanks James!!)

A PC for the Kids: Introduction

With my wife adopting a new notebook we’ve found ourselves with an additional, usable machine which we’ve earmarked for our boys use.

The unit in question is a rather dated IBM Thinkpad R51 which ran fine with Windows XP, but given that our boys are now of an age where they are being more inquisitive, I’ve decided that something a little more robust would better fit the bill than the aging Windows OS.

As a keen open source OS user myself, I’m planning to drop Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx) onto the notebook and then lock down the configuration to allow the boys to experiment, but not break the environment.

So, looking at the task list ahead of me, I’ll be looking to run through the following:

  1. Install the OS (release date is 29/04/2010)
  2. Install and configure parental control on the boys user accounts
  3. Lock down the rest of the system on the boys accounts
  4. Let the boys at the notebook and observe what usability issues crop up
  5. Tweak

The next few articles getting posted to the blog will be following through this list so I’ll be making extensive use of search engines, forums and any other resources I can leverage to get the best info to make this happen as painlessly as possible. Suggestions in the comments please 🙂