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Tag: Ubuntu (Page 2 of 2)

Adding locales in Ubuntu

I wanted the dates on my Kubuntu system to be shown as Dutch dates. Therefore, I needed to add a locale. The place to do it is in /var/lib/locales/supported.d/local. It now contains this:

en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8
nl_NL.UTF-8 UTF-8

Then run locale-gen to generate the locales.

Set the following environment vars (in profile or something) to let everything behave properly:

export LANG="nl_NL.UTF-8"
export LC_MESSAGES="en_US.UTF-8"
export LC_COLLATE="C"

I don’t know anymore why I chose this specific configuration. I guess this means that everything, from thousand and decimal separators to dates is Dutch, and messages are English. I don’t know, however, why the collate is C. I vaguely remember something about it otherwise not including some characters in the sorting, causing weird sorting in words with dashes and such.

Getting my sister to forget the Google Desktop newsticker

My sister was so fond of the RSS feature that came with Google Desktop’s sidebar that she kept it permanently visible at the right side of her screen. (What a news junkie!) Now that I got her stuck with Linux, she misses her precious Google Desktop and I’m trying to figure out an alternative for her.

For those who want to truly stay on top, just pointing Firefox to Google Reader occasionally isn’t good enough. (I know: I’m slow. I like it that way.) I had heard of various Firefox add-ons to aggregate your RSS feeds in the sidebar, but the sis had thought of this already and didn’t like to have something permanently filling up space at the left. Ok, I can understand. I thought there must probably be some Firefox add-on to move the whole damn sidebar to the right and of course there is; it’s called RightBar.

Screenshot of the RightBar Firefox Addon

Screenshot of the RightBar Firefox Addon

The extension is so simple that you could achieve the same by adding a few lines to the userChrome.css file in the chrome subdirectory of your Firefox profile directory:

/* Change the sidebar's position */
#browser {
-moz-box: reverse;

(If the file doesn’t exist yet, create it from a copy of userChrome-example.css.)

What’s left now is to choose which feed aggregator extension for Mozilla Firefox to use. So far, I’ve only tried Sage (based on a five-star rating and familiarity with the name). It seems to work quite well, although, really, I still prefer just visiting Google Reader every once in a while. I mean: I’m a man, I don’t multi-task, I can hardly single-task.

I’m going to forward these suggestions to my sister, probably just to see them ignored for one crucial oversight: the sidebar doesn’t look very different. One of the things she liked about the Google Desktop, she told me, is that it looked very different from the rest of the stuff on her screen, causing a minimum of distraction. Probably I’ll end up recommending some kind of gDesktlet. (Or is there something better-looking these days?)

The road through Ubuntu

My mom bought a new laptop because of a broken screen on the old Linux machine that she had inherited from me (which wasn’t wasn’t a laptop, so I’m sure that the Golden Arrow of Consumption can explain why she didn’t just replace the screen, although the new boyfriend who is kind of Windows-but-not-Linux-literate qualifies as a more probable reason for getting a laptop that is needlessly dragged down by Vista).

I was a little surprised by her move. The first computer my mother learned turning on was this computer back when I was still using it. Of course it was running Linux at the time. Before I gave it to her, I replaced Gentoo Linux with Ubuntu Linux, and, honestly, she never had any problems with it that were not hardware-related. (Ok, there was that one time when there was some junk stuck in the print spool without a user-friendly path to getting rid of it, but you could argue that this was really due to a junk printer. (On the subject of print spools: my friend Wiebe complained to me a while ago that when the queue in their WorkCentre Pro 232 gets stuck, Xerox engineers have to come in to replace the whole damn control board; apparently, just plugging in a terminal with shell access isn’t possible.)) She was comfortable with and used to Linux. But, alas, she’s in love with someone who is less than comfortable with Linux and there’s always that male ego thing.

But, then, who cares? It was good news for my sister. With her having gone through a rally of shitty old machines in just a couple years and this still being an ok-enough machine, I asked her if she’d like a “new” machine running Linux when she called me about one of those typical Windows problems that had just taken out her previous wreck of a machine. Yeah, sure, she’s was more than willing to finally get rid of Windows.

I was glad that my sister didn’t feel the need to inflict the pain of Windows on this poor old machine. This meant I only had to upgrade and reconfigure i a bit. Upgrading Ubuntu to version 8.04 went pretty seamless, because it was a relatively fresh installation where all dependencies where actually marked as “auto”. After moving away some old – uhm – aesthetic imagery, ill-suited for big-sister-eyes, I brought the machine to her place, plugged in her peripherals, connected it to her screen, and tried to boot.

It booted, but GDM wouldn’t start. I had just swapped a Matrox G400 with a noisy GeForce 4 which I had previously assumed to be broken. This assumption actually goes all the way back to before I realized that the screen was broken. When the screen started complaining of “Not Recommended Mode”, one of my first diagnosis was that the GeForce card was borked. This diagnosis was arrived to after first blaming the screen, plugging it in elsewhere, seeing that working, plugging it back in, seeing that working too, then seeing that stop working again, resetting the screen in increasingly complex sequences, seeing it work again, seeing it stop working again, swapping the DVI connection with a VGA connection, and then, finally, swapping the GeForce racehorse with the old Matrox workhorse. Of course the problems returned, but not before another fun round of swapping parts and peripherals because the machine had started crashing. The crashing led me to replacing the power supply, only to find out later that the CPU’s cooling block had someone loosened dangerously. So, with all that in mind, I had now put back to GeForce plaything before I took the whole concoction to my sister. Now, GDM wouldn’t start. (The GeForce graphics worked fine before I moved the machine to her.)

Admittedly, I hadn’t exactly tried booting with the GeForce. (I’m not the rebooting type.) After swapping the card, not being able to use the binary nvidia and an hour or so of messing around, I found that the nvidia kernel module was actually missing. (I hadn’t noticed this because a “find /lib/modules|grep -i nvidia” did show an nvidia entry; had I looked better, I would’ve seen that it was a directory and not a .ko file.) So I performed a reinstall of the appropriate linux-restricted-modules package and—voila!—the files where there (in /lib/modules/2.6.24-21-generic/volatile/).

So I’m at my sister’s and I’m surprised that X won’t start. I try to find the module in /lib/modules/; it’s gone. Then, after reinstalling the package and an extraneous reboot to see it gone again, it dawns on me: what did volatile mean again? (I should really not be telling you this, because it’s fucking embarrassing. 😉 ) Yes, the volatile directory is a tmpfs mount point. When I realized that this was probably due to initramfs, I realized that I know jack about initramfs, except that it makes Grub’s configuration incomprehensible to me.

I tried updating the initrd.img by issuing update-initramfs -u. When this didn’t work, I added the module name explicitly to /etc/initramfs-tools/modules. When that didn’t work, I changed the MODULES option in /etc/initramfs-tools/initramfs.conf to MODULES=dep and pulled update-initramfs through grep to find out if the module was added appropriately: update-initramfs -u -v|grep nvidia. It was outputted and it was the right initrd.img too but still, after booting, the module was missing from the volatile directory.

So, fuck this! I was getting inpatient: cd /lib/modules/2.6.24-21-generic/volatile; mv nvidia.ko ../kernel/drivers/video; depmod -a; reboot and GDM started nicely.

Now I just have to find out why the bloody eth0 interface isn’t ifup’ed at boot. The configuration seems fine to me (although I’m confused by all this new-fangled GUI stuff and by where everything is stored. :-?) For now, I just dropped a script on her desktop called Darn, the network doesn’t work:

gksu ifup eth0

Pure sophistication, isn’t it? I’ve yet to encounter an operating system where solving such problems has any resemblance to anything I’d call user-friendly… For all the polish they add these days, if you can’t go below the hood and bang away at the shell, you’re basically screwed. That’s why I hate Windows so much, because I know nobody who can get under its hood.

Bypassing smart completion in Bash

Luca Citi, a nice Italian Ubuntu user, just gave me an excellent tip in response to my list of Readline keyboard shortcuts. Modern Linux distributions such as Ubuntu and Gentoo can easily be configured for Bash to use smart completion. With smart completion enabled, instead of just looking among all the available files and directories without discrimination, TAB will be able to more accurately adjust its list of available completions depending on the program for which arguments are being sought.

An example of smart completion is that completions for the cd command will only include actual directories and no longer any regular files. Luca gave me another good example: completions for the kpdf command will only include files with the .pdf extension.

Myself, I’ve been bitten by smart completion a few times because I’d want to complete a command argument towards a filename which wasn’t supported by the smart completion rules. Luca gave me his typical example of such a case: his smart completion configuration includes only entries from the fstab as valid mount points for the mount command. But, what if you want to do an ad-hoc mount? Will you just have to type out the full mount point without auto completion? That’s what I used to think before Luca told me about the Alt+/ shortcut. In Bash, this shortcut will act as the TAB-key would without smart completion enabled.

Of course, I’ve updated my list of Readline keyboard shortcuts to include Alt+/.Thanks Luca! 🙂

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