Category Archives: computers

aptitude >> apt-get

Eventually I always have to use aptitude to clean up something that apt-get could not. I’m not even sure why apt-get is a thing, when aptitude is clearly better.

Viewsonic vx2025wm DVI fix

My main monitor is a Viewsonic vx2025wm. It’s a 20″ LCD with pretty good specs. The biggest issue with it, by far, is that if you disconnect the DVI connection for any length of time, the monitor forgets that it has a DVI connection. Then a song and dance is required to fix it. I’ve always used the solution in this [H]ard|Forum post. It’s an old post though, so I’m copying the steps out here.

I had the same problem, twice. The first time it happened to me 1 week after purchase and so I exchanged it. The second time was yesterday. I decided to call Viewsonic support and they gave me the solution to fix it:

1. With the computer on, plug in both DVI and VGA to the video card and the VX2025 monitor.
2. turn off computer
3. remove VGA connector
4. disconnect power to the monitor. Wait 5 seconds and then plug it back in.
5. restart PC.

For me, I run two monitors. After following the steps, I plugged the VGA to my 2nd monitor. Both monitors would show the POST screen but when I booted to Windows, the VX2025 did not have a signal. In the nvidia classic control panel, I had to set the VX2025 as the primary display and also Extend Desktop onto the monitors in order to get the VX2025 working in Windows again.

Soluto

I got a beta invite for Soluto today. Soluto is a tool for improving the boot times of Windows-based computers. It examines your bootup, then tells you what you can remove from your boot, what you can delay, etc. The best part of the tool is that there is a wiki on the back end that allows for discussion of the various processes that you’re making decisions about. That means that (hopefully) you’ll have some up to date and relevant info on each process, rather than having to google each one.

I installed it on my work machine. Even with an SSD, it was taking 2 minutes and 30 seconds to boot. After just five minutes with Soluto, I was able to bring that down to 1:30, shaving off an entire minute. It’s quite a beautiful tool as well. I’ll have to post a screenshot later, if I can find some time.

My only concern with the tool is the amount of access that it has. Since it has direct access into boot areas of the OS, it pretty much has free reign of your system. It could (and does) collect stats about who runs what at startup. I’m worried that the community aspect of it could be astroturfed into making people believe that malware was useful. I’m also worried that it could be used as an infection vector.

OS X and wallpaper

This is a really trivial thing, but it’s so nice! You can separately set the image, scaling, rotation etc for the wallpaper on each monitor in a multi-monitor setup. I’m cheap, so my monitors are different aspect rations. The main monitor is a fairly nice widescreen LCD. The secondary monitor is a 4:3 CRT. This means that wallpapers need to be setup differently to look nice on the two screens.

Yes, I realize this is super trivial. Most of the time, I can’t even see my wallpaper. Regardless, it’s nice when things work so nicely. No more stitching images together in MS Paint!

OS X 10.6.2 on Hackintosh, initial impressions

I’ve now spent about a week using my new OS X setup. Everything continues to work except for the “about this mac” screen, even through software updates. I have a suspicion that my motherboard’s ethernet ports are only partially supported, which is what’s causing the about this mac to crash, but I’m still hunting that one down. I’ve installed Transmission (bittorrent client), Quakelive and World of Warcraft.

I started off by putting only 2 gigabytes of ram in the machine. I eventually upped it to four because the swapping behavior when I was close to using all the ram was really nasty. With four gigs of ram, everything is happy.

So far, my favorite things about it are Spotlight and how software is installed. Spotlight is the search/run application. I hit the hotkey for it (Windows key (meta) + spacebar on my machine) and a box pops up. I type in part of the name of the app I want to run, and it starts showing me a list of matches. I can select the program I want out of the list. Very handy. Software installation is also quite nice. Software seems to come packed in two different ways: disk images or directories.

Simpler software seems to come as a directory that I just copy or move into my Applications folder. Voila, installation is complete. More complex software seems to come in .dmg files, which are disk images (although I can’t help but think of them as “damage” files). When I download them, the system mounts them and they generally have a script that runs to install the software that they contain. Basically the same as how a software CD normally works when you stick it in your drive.

Last thing for this post: I gave it the IP for our printer and the operating system detected the type and everything worked correctly. Very cool. It’s a Samsung 4828 laserprinter/scanner/fax, for what it’s worth.

I’m sure I have lots to learn still, but my initial impression is positive. I have the iPhone SDK and xcode downloaded now. I’ll probably install it tonight and start going through tutorials to see if I can get some code running on my iPhone.

wow in linux/wine

For the last few months, I’ve been playing World of Warcraft in linux (because linux’s tcp/ip implementation plays better with a high latency connection than windows’ does), via Wine (a compatibility layer to make some windows programs work in linux). The most recent patch to WoW has revealed a race condition in one of Wine’s libraries, causing random lockups. This has cause no end of consternation.

So I finally stopped putting up with it (ie, being lazy) and googled for the problem. That’s when I found out it was a race condition, actually. As there is no fix available yet, I also found the following workaround:

schedtool -a 0x2 -e wine WoW.exe -opengl

By calling schedtool, it forces wine (and therefore WoW) to execute on only one core, thus avoiding the race condition. (at least, that’s my understanding, without having spent much time understanding it) Hopefully this will be useful to someone else out there. (:

extended linux use

I’ve been using Ubuntu Linux 7.10 almost exclusively for several months now, both at work and at home. I’m really enjoying it. I figured I would take a few minutes and list some things I like and dislike:

Likes:

  • Installing most common software is easy, and have one interface. (aptitude)

  • The default user interface is very useable. I really like the two desktop default.
  • The User Forums. These are easily the best feature of Ubuntu. Most things that I need to do have already been discussed on the forums. Even if something hasn’t already been discussed, the large and active user community is a great resource.
  • Automounting: The OS automounts media that I insert into my PC. Perhaps the best example is when I plugged my ipod shuffle in to charge it. I wasn’t expecting it to get recognized, I just wanted to charge the battery. Not only did the machine recognize that an ipod was plugged in, but it loaded the music player software, added all the songs under “Dave’s Ipod” playlist, and started downloading album covers. Silly thing to be excited about, but wow! It also allows me to copy music onto and off of my ipod without using itunes, which is handy.
  • Network Shares: it automatically detects and allows me to connect to windows shares on my local network. Handy for sharing files with Melissa.

Dislikes:

  • Sound Support. Sound is still a bit wonky in this release. Any one stream of sound is fine. Some application block others from using sound though, depending on which sound libraries they use. I’m looking forward to the April release of Ubuntu, which will use Pulse Audio. I’m hoping that will address most of my sound issues. Until then, I have two sound cards in my machine, so that I can always play at least two streams.

  • Wine. I feel badly listing this as a gripe, since Wine is still maturing. There it is though. Wine is still maturing. It works very well as a windows emulation layer, but it still has a long way to go. To be fair, I still use it every day, but occasional random crashes can be frustrating.

success!

Today at work I had a major breakthrough. The device driver that I’ve been working on for six weeks now finally compiles, installs and operates 100% correctly. It’s not much of a driver. It provides two operations for a network bus master, to enable an unused feature of a device.

The big win was a personal one. I’ve never written a device driver of any sort, let alone one cross-compiled for embedded linux. There were a lot of hiccups along the way, too. I implemented by hand in user-land all the features that the driver architecture provide for me, only to find out that system interrupts were fouling up my timing. So I moved to kernel land and started learning about device drivers. Module makefiles, installable modules, had to fix busbox’s rmmod so that it didn’t segfault when trying to remove modules, etc.

All-in-all, a big win for me today. It’s something I’ve always wanted to know how to do, and now I’m down the road towards saying that I know how! (:

Team Fortress 2

If you have not yet played Team Fortress 2, but you enjoy team based first person shooters, then you’re missing out. It’s quite the good game. There are nine player classes, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. There isn’t a whole lot of overlap between the classes either, forcing strong teamwork in order to win.

I’d really like to see this game be our bread and butter for gamefest 2008. At a price of $30, I think it’s a fairly reasonable price for such a great game. If your budget can swing it, I’d suggest spending $50 and buying the entire orange box. The orange box includes the single player Half-Life 2, HL2: Episode 1 and HL2: Episode 2 games, as well as Portal. Every single game in this box is excellent. Half-life two is fairly well known. Portal on the other hand, you may not have heard of. It’s a first person puzzle game, with physics being the solution to most of the puzzles. You have to see it to believe it. Not only is the concept fresh and fun on its own, but the world you’re immersed into for Portal is very well realized and enjoyable.

Anyway, there are two ways to get TF2. Either download Steam and buy it online (steam will deliver the game to you over the internet) or else go buy the orange box nearly anywhere that software is sold. I highly recommend it.

Sprint EVDO + IPcop

I got a comment requesting a description of how I got IPcop working with a Novatel u720 (USB EVDO modem). This is that post. This also applies to the Pantech PX-500, a PCMCIA EVDO modem. They both work in almost exactly the same way, since the PCMCIA card just has a USB hub built into it internally, so that the modems both appear as USB devices.

I started with IPcop version 1.4.14. The most recent version is 1.4.18. I have not tried installing using the latest version. I’m going to assume that it works the same way. Install IPcop to your firewall machine with the modem plugged in. I use the green + red is modem profile for the network setup. At that point, it’s time to reboot the machine and connect to it via the web interface.

From the web interface, go the the network->dialup menu. Tell the machine that the modem is connected to ACM0. The phone number is #777. You need to put something in for the username and password, but it doesn’t matter what you put there, they don’t get used for the actual connection. I use “asdf” in each slot. You’ll probably also want to select either “dial on demand” or “persistent connection”. For persistent connections, you’ll probably want to select “dial on startup”.

Anyway, that’s all there is to it. Once you save that dialup info into a profile (I call that profile “Sprint”), you can hit the connect button on the main IPcop page and you should be golden.