Category Archives: Linux

Linux Hardware Support? Much improved!

I bought my brother an hp printer/copier/fax for xmas (from for $39, shipped; stupid Shell Shocker deals.)  Between the time I bought the unit and when he got around to unboxing, I also cut his machine over from windows XP (which was beyond hosed with spyware) to Ubuntu.  For my brother’s general web browsing needs, its seems to be working fairly well (except for a couple of media playing issues.)

I drove out to Utica one night expecting some problems trying to get the printer to work with Ubuntu.  After searching for the model number for the unit in the Synaptic Package Manager and not finding anything, I was pretty sure I was in a for world of hurt.

So, I said what the hell, lets just plug it in and see was happens.  My jaw pretty much hit the floor when about 10 seconds later, a little notification flew out that said it found the new printer, installed the appropriate driver, and was ready to print.  Shocked and in disbelief, I printed a random webpage and sure enough everything worked fine.  Sweet.

Pushing my luck, I said lets play around with the new Kodak digital camera that I got him for his birthday.  So, we snapped a few pictures, installed Picasa and plugged in the camera.  Unfortunately, we weren’t as lucky.  The pc and Picasa seem to see the camera, but it can’t seem to get to the pictures on the camera.  But, I’m not sure its an Ubuntu related problem.  We were trying to get pictures off the camera’s internal memory (rather an a memory card) and my other brother who has a very similar camera says he wasn’t successful at getting pictures out of internal camera memory either (on Windows XP.)

I’ll update this post when I hear back from my brother after he gets the SD card I sent him a few days ago.  If downloading through the camera ends up not panning out, the cheap and easy work around will be to just buy an SD card reader.  I’m pretty sure that’ll work with minimal hassle.  The built in SD card reader in Sandy’s laptop works just fine in Ubuntu.

All in all, I think that Ubuntu is becoming more and more a realistic choice for the general computing public.  The few family members I’ve cut over to Ubuntu appreciate that its significantly faster on their older hardware and like not having to spend all the effort and funds to keep spyware and antivirus stuff continually up to date.

FC5: A little progress

Quick update today. Got printing to work. After some googling around, I found lots of advice that the gnome printer config utility was pretty flaky, I blew away my existing CUPS config (generated by the gnome utility) and ran the CUPS config utility (localhost:631 in the browser) straight up. A minute later it spit out a test page. I tried printing from Firefox and that seemed to work fine to.

I gave printer sharing via samba a quick shot, but realized I have some other samba setup stuff to get working before I should worry about shared printing. But with the printer working locally, it shouldn’t be too big a deal.

Did mess around just a little more with Parallels. Phew, I was able to just restart Parallels and the Win XP virtual machine after the crash from the day before yesterday. Got through the first round of windows updates. Went to start the second round and kaboom crashed again. Nutz. Maybe I’ll try qemu.

Project FC5 Update: 0 for 2

Last night, I had two tasks for my FC5 project:

  1. Get a Parallels VM machine for Windows XP rolling.Seemed to kick off OK after having to remember how to use Parallels’ VM setup utility. A false start or two later, and the XP installed seemed to start fine. It did all the normal setup stuff, got right to the point where it starts up for the first time and blam Parallels craps out with a kernel panic.

    No biggie. Lemme just restart Parallels and that virtual machine. Doh, unfortunately, I didn’t save the VM profile before I started the XP install. Crap, gonna have to start over. I blew away the VM file and used the wizard to make the profile and was sure to save it before starting the XP install.

    The XP install went pretty uneventfully. After a some time, I was sitting at the XP desktop. Figured it was time to start patching things up with Windows Update. So I started Internet Explorer. Kaboom, Parallels goes down in flames.

    Was too tired to mess with that any more, so I left it alone. Hopefully, I can just fire up Parallels again and restart the VM and pickup where I left off. Not quite sure what I’ll do if Paralllels turns out not to be that reliable.

  2. Get Printing Working Locally.Normally, I usually have a windows box that’s my primary machine that has printing capability. This has been working pretty nice; I can share the printer and Sandy can print wirelessly from her laptop in the living room. I’d like to try to have the same arrangement from Linux land. So, step 1 is getting my hp lj1000 to print locally.

    Hmm. Good signs. I went to the printer queue setup applet and the wizard found the printer (connected via USB) and seemed to have drivers for it. Cool.

    So, I try to print a test page. Hmm, nothin’. The printer config gadget asked if the page printed. I said no and it gave a me a tail of the last few lines of the CUPS error log. Something about foomatic-rip terminating abnormally.

    I googled around a bit and found a bunch of folks with similar problems, but none of the solutions they found seemed to help. Gonna take some more messing around to get this figured out I guess.

    One theory is I may have a conflict between Parallels and USB. Parallels has an AutoConnect option for USB which I assume means that when you plug in a device and Parallels is running it forks it over to the VM (rather than the host OS). I had that turned when I was trying to install XP and was goofing around with the printer stuff in the meanwhile. A long shot, but its something to check.

More Fun with FC5

I’d love to ditch XP completely, but I still have a few things that I need windows for. My master plan is to run FC5 as the primary OS and use XP in a Parallels virtual machine. I’ve messed around with Parallels before on ancient history PC hardware (400MHz PIII, 384Mb) and found it pretty impressive. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be pretty snappy on my newer (but not brand new…) 2.8Ghz 1Gb machine.

FC5 doesn’t happen to be on the Parallels supported host OS list. But, I’ve conquered that problem before. All it took on my last attempt was using yum to grab kernel source (and update QT, I think) and using rpm with some arguments to skip some spurious dependencies.

I tried the same recipe again on this new FC5 install and ran into some problems. First, I couldn’t remember the exact yum command line to grab the kernel source. I thought I had a bookmark for some details along these lines, but I couldn’t track it down either. After some fervent Googling, and messing around, I figured out that the yum already grabbed the kernel source I wanted, but it was the latest version and not the stuff for the older kernel I was actually running (I can probably elaborate on the versions, if any one actually cares).

So, I yum updated the kernel. That was pretty straight forward. I restarted and picked the new kernel option. Nuts, it appears to go down in flames about 10 lines in to the boot process. Something about ata1 not responding. My guess is that some other kernel related dependencies are now out of whack. So, I reboot back into the old kernel and do the mother update ‘yum update’. Yikes, 929Mb of stuff to download. Gonna let that one go over night.

I checked in this morning and the update completed successfully; that’s pretty impressive in it self. I can’t recall ever updating that much at one time and not having something minor blow up along the way. So, I restarted again and picked the new kernel option.

Grr. Same ata1 not responding message. I walked away from the computer for a few minutes and was pleasantly surprised to see the Fedora login page when I returned. Guess it was a recoverable time out issue, despite all the scary messages.

As my last action in this session, I ran the parallels config script again. This time, it find the kernel source no problem and went on about its merry way compiling.

This evening, I’ll finish setting it and try to get XP installed. I’m sure that it’ll be another 4 hour affair. But, as soon as I get it up to date, I’m gonna burn its associated virtual machine file to dvd. So, in the future, I don’t need to reinstall from scratch. That’ll be heaven if I work out all the details…

Harddrive Replacement

Monday, I took a day off to concentrate on some chores that never seem to make it off my to do list. On of which was replacing the OS harddrive in my primary PC at home before its impending failure.
Starting with a brand new 120Gb ide drive, I figured it would be best to do a dual boot between XP and Fedora Core 5. So, I started by installing XP and allocating it 30Gb. 4 hours and later (suffering throught sp2 + all updates since) and 10 (no kidding!) reboots later, it was ready to roll.

So, next I put in the FC5 dvd. after little headscratching, I figured out the custom partition tool (100Mb boot, 2Gb swap, 30Gb root, 50Gb data.) 20 minutes later (oh yeah, dvd install is the way to go) and 1 reboot later, I thought I was ready to go. Doh, Fedora wasn’t on the GRUB boot menu? It kicked over to XP after a few seconds. Oh well, at least I didn’t break the XP install.

That was Monday night… Yesterday morning I was going to check my mail and noticed that my machine rebooted (more XP updates). I’ve got a quirk that I get I BIOS error message every time I boot about a drive being missing because my BIOS backup battery is dead. So, I hit the F1 to continue and noticed that FC5 grub entry wasn’t missing, you just don’t see the OS selection list unless you hit escape to kill the default boot timer. Sweet.

Some final FC5 config questions and another reboot and things are looking good.