Showing posts from 2011

Upgrade from FC14 to FC16 using preupgrade

My preupgrade system was a dual boot (linux/win7) x86_64 system with a couple of hardware RAID arrays running FC14 with grub as the bootloader.  Graphics hardware is fairly modern and should not by itself pose a problem for Gnome3.
There are separate partitions for /home, /boot as well as a couple of others. I mostly relied on the Fedora Project preupgrade Wiki.

Used Software Update to update to latest FC14.Backed up /home, /etc, and some of /var to an external drive.sudo yum install preupgradesu; preupgrade (choose FC16 Verne as the upgrade dest) ---At this point everything seemed to go well as many new packages were downloaded etc. but significantly there was no /boot/upgrade directory created and /boot/grub/menu.lst did not have an entry for the upgrade kernel. Ran preupgrade again --- now things are good.Reboot and boot into the upgrade kernel -- this takes a while as more stuff gets downloaded and the system is modified to support the new distro.Perform the "common post upgra…

Wall Street Journal Kindle Fire Edition

Update 1/28/2012: They (WSJ) have provided a software update - latest is now - before was You can check your current version from settings | More | applications | WSJ.

You can update by starting from home screen, going to "Apps", then "Store", then Bottom Menu, then "My Apps", then "Update Available" then on WSJ hit "Update".  Before this update the app would often freeze. Now it is working as it should, with articles loading crisply, and no problems with downloading the whole paper each morning.

I recently got one of the first Kindle Fires. At $200 I figured the price was right, and while I can read Kindle books and my Wall Street Journal from my Android phone, the (phone) screen is small, not to mention battery life is a problem. Furthermore, I figured I could make the Kindle Fire pay for itself, as the difference between the WSJ print edition and the online only edition over the course of one year is --- $200 (regula…, Dynamic Views and Google Analytics

I recently changed my blog to their new Dynamic views. These Dynamic Views have an Ajax-like way of changing between pages that don't require a page refresh. Unfortunately, this change broke Google Analytics, which had previously been working.

With the old, static, blogger views, Google Analytics required that you manually paste some "tracking code" in your HTML. With "Dynamic Views" this is no longer possible and the old "tracking code" (if it's still there at all) no longer has the intended effect.

Fortunately there is a simple solution.

Access your Google Analytics account, click on the "Gear" icon, go to profiles and copy your "Web Property ID" which is of the form AB-12345678-1.Go to your account, then go to Account | Settings | Other and paste in your recently copied "Web Property ID" into the field that asks for the Google Analytics Web Property ID.  I found this tip on this Google Analyt…

Fedora 14 - "Sane Backends" intefering with Software Update

Running the Update Software utility from Fedora 14 was giving me some conflicts and error messages related to Sane Backends which has to do with scanning, digital cameras etc.

This looks to be Red Hat Bugzilla - 749083. The error messages look like

"Transaction error: could not add package update for sane-backends-libs-1.0.22-5.fc14(i686)updates: sane-backends-libs-1.0.22-5.fc14.i686".The fix is easysudo yum update --obsoletesThe explanation (from Bugzilla) is that "The problem was that sane-backends-libs-gphoto2has been obsoleted by the new package sane-backends-drivers-cameras,but it looks like Software Update didn't deal with this."

Why are all these bogus contacts showing up on my Android Phone?

When I first got my Android and synced to my Google account, there were hundreds of unwanted contacts showing up on the phone. Most of these contacts were auto-generated by Google based on any emails I had been sent or had sent out. All they did was clutter up my contact list.

The fix for this is simple. The idea is to use Groups in Google contacts. I happen to use the group "My Contacts" and I think this is what Google wants you to use. The same approach may or may not be possible with other, arbitrary groups.

In Gmail on your PC go to "Contacts" then select "My Contacts". If there are contacts under this group that you don't want on your phone simply select them and under Groups uncheck "My Contacts".

Then on your phone go to the Contacts application, hit the menu button, hit "More" and then go to "Display Options". Go to Google and here make sure "My Contacts" is checked but "All Other Contacts" is …

Viewing Android Files from Linux

Apparently this is easier with Windows - something is done automatically there.

What I found worked for Linux was
On phone - Settings | Applications | Development | Enable USB Debugging.Connect Phone to Linux using USB.This will create a notification on phone - tap the notification - phone will ask if you wish to access files from PC and answer "Yes".  As a side note I couldn't add ringtones from the Sound Menu. Need to create folders on the phone which are all one word and all lower case named ringtonesnotificationsalarms And put the proper sound files in the proper folders. Some folks say you have to restart your phone for this to take effect but I did not have to do this - it just worked.

First Impressions after 24 hours with Samsung Galaxy S2

First off let me say I've never had a smart phone before. No iPhone, no Crackberry, no Windoze phone, no Droid - zilch, zero, zip, nada. I knew that one day I would eventually take the plunge being pretty much of a techie and that day turned out to be yesterday. Having been playing with the Samsung Galaxy S2 (ATT version) for almost exactly 24 hours it's time to take stock and jot down some random observations in no particular order. Some of these impressions or opinions may change obviously and some may be purely a function of me being a total smartphone n00b. But with that being said, here goes.

Battery life seems pretty lacking as a first impression. I can see myself charging the thing more than once a day.The Wall Street Journal app is a huge disappointment. You might think that as a print and an online subscriber that I would be able to read the content that I've already paid for - twice - without any additional fee. But if you thought that you'd be wrong. They see…

Ugly, Jagged, Fonts on Linux - How to Fix

Rendering fonts, especially on modern LCD screens, is a non-trivial problem. I'm not an expert in computer graphics, biophysics or UI design. However, what I do know is that most out-of-the-box Linux installs result in a visual experience that is unacceptable from my personal point of view.

Sure, it's possible to use the system tools (Appearance Preferences in Gnome 2 for example, now it's gnome-tweak-tool in Gnome 3) to set your default fonts and default sizes, and to tweak how they are rendered (hinting, smoothing, sub-pixel smoothing and presumably other sorts of manipulations). What I quickly discovered was that it was akin to a game of whack-a-mole. No sooner would I get one part of my screen free of jaggies, ugly color hinting, or letters that are barely recognizable, than these undesirable effects would show up elsewhere. 
There is one more knob that we have available to us and that is the DPI (dots per inch) of the overall display. This often defaults to 96 on Linu…

To Île Aux Marins and Back

I recently got back from a trip to Saint Pierre et Miquelon, two French Islands just off the coast of Canada's Newfoundland. These islands actually belong to France, and have for the past 150 years. The people there speak French, hold French citizenship, vote in French elections, are educated in the French educational system and if they get sick, are treated in the French medical system. In short, a little bit of France in North America, as they like to describe themselves.
One of the day trips I took while there was to Île Aux Marins (translation "Sailors' Island" - pictured above) - a small island reachable by a very short ferry trip from the main island of Saint Pierre. Before 1963 this small island was fully inhabited by a small number of local fisherman. From 1963 to about 1985 it was uninhabited and it's buildings fell into ruin. However, starting around the mid-1980s some of the buildings have been restored, and many others have been completely rebuilt as v…

Macbooks from early to mid 2009 can't output S-video

Disclaimer:  I am not a Mac guy. But I think I can still contribute with a possibly useful blog post. The purpose of which is that if you have a 2009 Macbook and you can't understand why your S-video connection won't work - read on!

Backstory: A friend had a Macbook - not a Macbook Pro, not a Macbook Air, just a Macbook. The vintage was as best as he could determine, early 2009. When he tried to use the Apple mini-DVI to S-video adaptor nothing happened. Nothing. Zero. Zilch, Nada. Nothing.

No amount of fiddling with inputs on the TV or dialog boxes on the Mac would change the outcome either.

Additional Datapoints:
Repeat with two other TV's and S-Video. Same result.Same Macbook worked fine going to another TV using VGA output.Working Hypothesis: Some Macbooks cannot be persuaded to output S-Video.
Confirmation of Working Hypothesis: Can be found here in this Apple support document. It says "However, these MacBooks do not work with S-video output or composite output using…

Smoking cessation as a result of a natural experiment - linking smoking to seasickness

In Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange (based on the novel by Anthony Burgess), the protagonist, Alex, undergoes operant conditioning, or aversion therapy, to modify his (ultra)violent tendencies. He's forced to watch film clips with violent scenes while drugged, and thus develops a strong negative response to violence. The movie and the novel raise questions about the morality of such treatments while at the same time illustrating their efficacy.

I had an analogous experience where something of this sort happened to me - really quite by accident - and I always thought it was an interesting bit of psychology/physiology and, unlike the scenario depicted in the movie and the novel, there are no troubling moral issues.

This is because at the age of 18, I developed a strong association between cigarette smoking and seasickness, with the net result that I haven't touched another cigarette for going on 40 years. Moreover, I retain strong negative associations to even such t…

Getting Tramp to work on Xemacs

What is Tramp?

Tramp is an ange-ftp like utility for Emacs/Xemacs that allows remote file viewing.
More modern than ange-ftp, it's normally used to invoke secure protocols like scp, ssh etc., whereas ange-ftp was ftp based as its name implies. Tramp is actually an acronym for 'Transparent Remote (file) Access, Multiple Protocol'.

The Xemacs documentation for Tramp may be found here.

What goes in Xemacs config file?

     (require 'tramp)
     (setq tramp-default-method "scp")
     (setq tramp-default-user "yourusername") 

What syntax do you use to open a file on a remote machine?

The online manuals specify this pretty clearly but I somehow didn't take what they said to heart. To avoid invoking "efs" (Which Xemacs needs for package downloading, so it can't be turned off, but is FTP based which we don't want) we need to use Tramp-like syntax which means use square brackets around the machine name. 

A major point of confusion is th…

Fedora 14 - Asus Motherboard - PS2 lockups Solved

Addendum: Somewhere along the line during one of the Fedora upgrades this blacklist file got saved off to an rpmsave file and the asus_ast0110 is happily being loaded with no ill effects. So I guess this issue has been fixed somwhere along the line.

Ever since installing FC14 on a ASUS P7P55D-E Pro system I was plagued with PS2 lockups. The only fix I was able to come up with was to bypass PS2 altogether and go with USB keyboard and mouse. Which worked fine but OTOH, things should just work, right?

Well finally the answer is in. Thanks to Bob P on the Fedora Forums as well as others such as Brad and Josh on the Ubuntu forums the problem seems to be related to a driver conflict between the PS2 driver and the asus_atk0110 driver which apparently has something to do with fans and fan speeds.

For Ubuntu this is bug #632048 which is a duplicate of bug #557065. The fix (or the workaround) is to blacklist the asus_atk0110 driver by simply editing the file /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf and a…

Pacino on Pacino - Impressions after seeing the great actor on May 20, 2011 at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC)

First Impressions:

When he first comes out one's struck by how short he is. You don't necessarily expect him to be tall, but he's shorter than you expected.

A second impression is that if you had to cast a Keith Richards role in a film or on stage, Pacino would clearly be your guy. The impish smile, the wrinkled visage, the swagger - it's all there.

New York Origins:

Pacino says he's from South ("Sout") Bronx and then moved to Greenwich Village later in while in his 20s. He's obviously a New Yorker through and through - you hear a lot of "Dese" and "Dose" and he's spent a lifetime watching the denizens of New York under his actor's microscope. He's obviously played a lot of New Yorkers over the years. Being a New Yorker informs his world view - he has that particular mix of cynicism, world weariness, optimism and delight at the passing human parade that I think you especially find in New York.

Needless to say he's…

SSH with port forwarding for VNC sessions

The problem:

               | Client   ------|--- SSH server -----  VNC server                |             firewall
(Of course this doesn't really have to be VNC - it could be any application such as web, mail etc.).

We'd like to access the VNC server by establishing a tunnel via the SSH server.

(Note, the way VNC handles display numbers is that it constructs ports as offsets from the base port number of 5901. Thus VNC display :6 is mapped to port 5906.)

Let be the ip address of the VNC server.
Let be the ip address of the SSH server.

Connect to the SSH server which in turn connects to the VNC server. Here we are making VNC server port 5906 (display :6 in VNC terms) available locally as port 9999. ssh -L   9999:  username@

          When asked you supply the password to the SSH server.

     2. Use the VNC client program to connect to the localport - in this case 9999. Do this from another xterm or console. Here the VNC password ne…

Perl - easy way to get 64 bit containers (and beyond) - bigint, bignum.

You can pretty much do anything you want in Perl but sometimes the trick is to do it easily and with a minimum of hassle.

I often use Perl scripts to parse output I've taken from embedded applications. If the embedded application uses 64 bit values and you want to do arithmetic operations on those values (shifts, masks, add, multiplies, divides) Perl will by default assume 32 bit containers and you won't get the answer you want.


use bigint;
use bignum;

Use the first if you need integer representations and the second if you need floating point behavior (I needed to calculate some percentages which required me to use bignum.)

The beauty is one line of perl code and you're done - no complicated libraries, no getting modules from CPAN, just simplicity itself. Maybe most folks already know this but it was new to me so I thought I'd share. Apparently you're not limited to 64 bits either - I have not tested this however.

My perl version was as follows:

perl -v

Quicken for Windows - "One Step Update" hangs

As a longtime Quicken for Windows user,  I've been plagued by this problem for years.  You click "One Step Update" to update all of your online accounts and all operations complete but the dialog box goes into what seems to be an infinite loop and the only way I could find to stop it was to kill the process. Fortunately this never resulted in any lost data, or database corruption but then on the other hand, it's pretty awful engineering to sell a program that  requires a kill signal to be sent to terminate a normal operation.

Of course Intuit claims that if there's a problem it's with anything other than their program.  They advise to check your internet connection, contact your Financial Institutions (FI's in Quickenspeak) - all the usual crap - instead of fixing their obviously defective software.

Not to mention that Intuit's response is absurd on its face. A program just shouldn't hang - regardless of cause. If something is wrong with the conn…

Gmail Spam Recipes - no thanks!

For Gmail users you sometimes get these creepy links just above your inbox for Spam recipes - you know spam tortillas, spam primavera, spam remoulade, it's really creepy and I might add nauseating.

I think that the fix is Gmail Settings | Web Clips and find the entry that says "101 Cookbooks" and nuke it. (It's been a few days now and no more recipes - w00t!)


Guess not.

Spam recipes came back this time with Spam Burritos. So turning off the display of Web Clips permanently turned off. That should definitely do it.

As one of the below comments indicates Google has "Grandfathered" us in to either Web Clips or No Web Clips depending on what our settings were at the time of the "Grandfathering".  So if they're there now there's apparently no way to turn them off now. Great.

Fedora 14 Flash Sound Problem - Linus Torvalds to the Rescue

A nice write up of the bug that Linux Torvalds found and fixed. Basically Fedora 14 came with an updated version of glibc that broke the sound (well seriously messed it up) for Adobe Flash Video. The sound sounds very choppy and hard to hear, full of digital artifact like with a bad cell phone call. This was logged as Bugzilla #638477. Linus Torvalds (and others) figured out the problem and came up with a workaround which is easy, elegant and it works.

cat << EOF > mymemcpy.c
void *memcpy(void *dst, const void *src, size_t size)
void *orig = dst;
asm volatile("rep ; movsq"
:"=D" (dst), "=S" (src)
:"0" (dst), "1" (src), "c" (size >> 3)
asm volatile("rep ; movsb"
:"=D" (dst), "=S" (src)
:"0" (dst), "1" (src), "c" (size & 7)
return orig;

# Compile and link
gcc -O2 -c mymemcpy.c
ld -G mymem…

1987 BMW 325e goes into "limp home mode" in snow and rain

(this was written some time ago but placing it here for posterity)

I had acquired a 1987 325e in the summer of 1999 with 73k miles, fairly low mileage for a car of that vintage. It had been fairly well maintained with a few outstanding issues.

The first indication of this problem was the first snowstorm of the winter of 1999-2000.While driving home during a late night snowstorm, the car went into a strange mode where it would not stall, but it would only produce 1000 rpm even if the accelerator pedal was pressed to the floor. The car would make progress at 5 to 10 mph, even going up gentle hills.I parked the car just glad to have made it home.

The next morning it started up and drove fine. The problem was quite unusual and I planned to speak to my mechanic about it. When I did have the conversation,the mechanic was not able to shed any light on the problem.

Over the next 3 years the situation repeated itself, something like 10 or so times. Most dramatically, it would happen during sno…

Fedora 14 Hangs - PS2 Mouse is Bad Mmmkay - SOLVED

(insert mental picture of South Park's Mr. Mackey here)

Smolts Profile is here.
Fedora Core 14 x86_64 dual boot with Windows 7
ASUS P7P55D-E ProIntel i7 processor
3ware 9650SE RAID cardATI Radeon HD4350
PS2 Mouse and Keyboard Things would work great for about 5 or 10 minutes and then the system would lock up.
Mouse cursor freezesKeyboard has no effectCan SSH into system and shutdown gracefully I found that the best stress test for this problem was a vigorous game or two of minesweeper - very mouse intensive that game!

The various Linux message boards are full of descriptions of this sort of thing and most folks thing that this is a mixed bag of problems - similar symptoms but perhaps a large variety of causes. Hard to say without having a definitive analysis of each instance.

There are lots of "home remedies" - changing kernel versions, changing video drivers, changing the boot parameters for the kernel, changing xorg.conf, etc. but again, these are hard to evaluate for sev…

Dogtra 3500NCP SuperX - backing out case screws is a bear!

Click on picture to enlarge.

I have a Dogtra 3500NCP SuperX shock collar. Without it my Dobie would not get any exercise because he'd play "keep away" whenever I threw his favorite ball for him to fetch. With a little "gentle reminder" he comes back and the cycle can begin again.

The collar worked well for about a year and a half but then the transmitter part wouldn't hold a charge any longer. A replacement battery can be purchased and they offer to do the replacement for you but that would entail a service charge not to mention shipping it there and back. So I ordered a new battery? How hard could it be to change a battery?

Answer? Very hard. Very hard indeed.

The 6 screws that attach the back of the case to the case itself are CEMENTED into the plastic. Or might as well be. With a screwdriver that was just the right size I was able to back out four out of the six with a fair amount of difficulty. The other two (i.e. the bottom left two in the picture) were n…

Awkward! (Realtek RTL8111/8168B PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controller in "awkward" mode)

We hear new expressions from teens and twenty-somethings all the time - and they usually get real old real fast. But there is one semi(?) current expression that I like a lot - it's where kids say - often as a sing-song chorus - "AWKWARD" - in response to someone else describing a situation that is, well, awkward.

Well, even though I basically do networking for a living, I'd never heard of "awkward" mode as applied to a Network Interface device like an Ethernet adapter. Promiscuous mode, yes. But awkward mode no. That is until yesterday.

Here's what happened.

My dual boot machine (Win7, Fedora Core 14) was running Windows 7 and there were some Win 7 OS updates that I said yes to. I was later able to verify that one of these updates did include a driver update for the Realtek PCI Gigabit Ethernet onboard NIC. Things were working fine, I left and I guess the updates installed themselves.

When I returned there was no network connectivity. Not in Windows…

HP Photosmart C8100 All-in-One won't print (Printer says "out of paper" but need to pull back the blue photo tray).

Mine's a C8180. Everything looks fine. You print a test page and the rollers spin for ten seconds or so and then a non-helpful message appears on the printer saying you're out of paper. Except you're not.

You RTFM. No help.

You go online to HP's troubleshooting guide for this exact problem and they have a detailed list of things to try except none of them fix the problem.

I figured this one out myself but if you look here somebody else did too

yoofahsays: 30/08/2010 at 04:43 Another possible issue not identified in the video:
these printers are equipped with a blue “photo tray” in the main paper tray area. If this is pushed in, it’ll try to draw from that instead of the main train tray, causing this same type of error. The solution is to reach your head in, and pull out that blue tray until it is flush with the main tray.
Yeah, you need to pull that little blue photo tray back a few inches and - voila - the printer prints again. (I don't think yoofah meant to reach…