Archive for category Operating Systems

Slow internet in LinuxMint

I installed LinuxMint earlier today because I found that I really liked the Cinnamon desktop environment on my laptop. I promised that I would post how well it works on my desktop.

Well it mostly works fine. There's still a slight hiccup that I'm trying to work through, where the desktop environment just seems to die. I have this same problem on Gnome 3 and Unity though, so I think it has something to do with the ATI drivers. I wish I had a good nVidia card to go in this thing.

There's one bug that I had to post about. I was getting terrible internet speeds from my LinuxMint install. My top speed was around 190KBytes/sec. Some people may still regard this as fast, but I'm on a 30Mbit/sec connection. I should be seeing speeds around ten times that.

It was across the board too. I thought it was a bad mirror at first because I first noticed it while trying to update the system and install new software from the repos. I soon found that the problem was also happening from every web site and speedtests showed the same results.

I started out by searching for the issue and was coming up with a lot of duds. It was the standard first level support answers like "unplug your router and modem". No need, I know that's not the issue. After some intense searching, I finally found the answer. It was a problem with my network card drivers in the latest versions of Ubuntu and LinuxMint.

My system was showing a RTL8111/RTL8169 network device. The 8169 is the part to look for. This driver is built into the latest kernel and it has problems. I found that the solution was to build the r8168 drivers (note that's 8168 not 8169) from source.

A full walk-through can be found here: https://unixblogger.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/the-pain-of-an-realtek-rtl8111rtl8168-ethernet-card/

Follow those steps and you'll not have this issue again. Much thanks to the author!

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Cinnamon – Another reason to love Mint

There's plenty of Debian-based distributions out there. So many, in fact, that many of them have derivatives of their own. Ubuntu has been a leading distribution for many years, and it owes much of its fame from its Debian roots. Enter many Ubuntu-based distributions which add to the great works done on Ubuntu.

LinuxMint is probably my favorite of the derivatives. It started out as a more feature-rich, multi-media version of Ubuntu. It also added its own (better looking) theme. I've always disliked the default themes in Ubuntu, whether it be orange, brown, or purple, although I give them point for originality. LinuxMint brought a minty green flavor to the Linux desktop.

I've recently posted that I can't stand Unity or Gnome 3, and I was searching for an alternative in a more modern distribution. I could have went with Debian Stable or CentOS 6, which still use Gnome 2, but I wanted a distribution that uses more up-to-date versions of software like Blender, LibreOffice, Firefox, and such.

The problem with that scenario is that there aren't many "modern" distros which use something other than Gnome 3 or Unity as their default desktop environment. I tried to use XFCE4, but it just wasn't for me. I can use it in spurts, but I wouldn't want to use it permanently. I wanted something that looked fresh.

For a few days, I tried to adapt to KDE4. You know things are rough in my Linuxland if I'm trying to adapt to KDE. I was getting by and actually liking the experience until I tried to do a little Java game development. For some reason, anytime I switched my Java app to fullscreen and then back to a window, it would disable my second display. This peeved me off enough that I just installed Windows 7. I've been using it for the past month.

Today, I was messing around on my laptop, which happens to have LinuxMint 12 installed on it, and I remembered reading something about a Gnome 2 fork that the LinuxMint crew was working on called Cinnamon. I thought, "what the hell, I'll give it a shot".

It was impressive. It was actually more than impressive. It was exactly where I thought Gnome should have went. It's like a better looking version of Gnome 2, with all the same Gnome 2 features. It felt like home, which is coincidentally like the subtitle of the Cinnamon homepage:
"Love your Linux, Feel at Home, Get things Done!"
This is a great slogan, because it really goes right along with how I felt about Cinnamon. I loved using Linux on the desktop again. I felt at home. I bet I'll be able to get things done in it as well.

I rarely use that laptop, so next I'll be installing LinuxMint on my main desktop again. I'm going to cross my fingers and hope that their isn't some annoying bug that makes me wish I'd stayed on Windows 7.

It's pretty sad when a Linux advocate, that loves working in the command line, doesn't want to use Linux because of the sad state of desktop environments. I wish the main developers of this type of software would lose the "unify everything" mentality and make the desktop just work.

Hopefully, I'll be able to give Cinnamon a thumbs up on my main desktop and just stay in Linux heaven. I'll post my results later.

»crosslinked«

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jMonkeyEngine “An instance of the program cannot access specified user directory”

This is a simple issue and most Linux users can probably figure it out rather quickly. I don't mean to offend anyone, but the error message is pretty straight-forward when it comes to the problem. However, I'll explain it to those who run into it and want to know how to fix it. Then again, I may be the only person who runs into this problem. Either way, I'm posting it for anyone who may need it.

The problem stems with the installation of jMonkeyEngine. The installer is a .sh file which which can be executed like so:

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sh jME3_SDK_Beta-Linux.sh

However, if you are like me, you may have ran it with sudo like this:

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sudo sh JME3_SDK_Beta-Linux.sh

The good thing about using sudo is that the program will be installed for all users on the machine. I've not ran it without sudo to see if it will install for only the user running the installer, but I'm assuming that it will.

After the installation occurs, it asks you if you want to start jMonkeyEngine. If you answer yes, it will start it as root, and it will write it's hidden users directory in your home directory. The home directory will have root:root as the owner because the program was first started by the root user.

So when you go back and run the program again, it will not have access to the required folder. The solution is to change the owner of the folder. This is accomplished simply by typing this in a terminal while in your home folder (the terminal should open in your home folder automatically, but just to make sure we'll change directory into it first). In the following example the word "username" should be replace with your actual username.

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cd ~/
chown -R username:username .jmonkeyplatform

You should now be able to open jMonkeyEngine. The -R, for those of you interested, means "recursive", which will change the owner of all files and folder inside of .jmonkeyplatform, not just the folder itself.

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The Wrong Path for Desktop GNU/Linux

I've tried to use Unity. I've tried to use Gnome 3. While many others have had success adapting to the these new desktop environments, I find them buggy and frankly...terrible. I know there have been many debates about it, but I want to give my two cents about it as well because it really hits me hard as a long-time Linux user.

Before KDE version 4, I used KDE most of the time. I rarely used another desktop environment. I was used to it. So believe me when I say I'm not afraid of change when it comes to Linux. When KDE 4 came out, it was different, but it wasn't so different that I couldn't have kept on using it. What made me switch to Gnome was the fact that KDE 4 was still in beta and very buggy. I couldn't use it because of the bugs. So, I switched to Gnome and grumbled about how change for the sake of change isn't that great.

KDE could have waited until it was ready for production before releasing it. Many distributions continued to use KDE 3 for a long time, but KDE 4 scared me away from it. I switched to Gnome and was happy with a desktop that worked well. I wasn't alone. Many people switched to Gnome. I became a staunch advocate of Gnome and tried to steer every new Windows convert away from KDE because I didn't want them to have a bad first experience with Linux.

Enter stage left Gnome 3 and Unity. These two flaky pieces of garbage have been pushed on every major modern distribution. I say modern to refer to the distributions that use more bleeding edge software packages. Debian Stable is still using Gnome 2, but Debian Testing (which will become Debian Stable someday) uses Gnome 3. If you want to use Debian Stable, you'll be stuck with older versions of many software packages. If you want to use modern packages, such as VLC 2.0 (which has minimal support for bluray playback) you'll need to go with a more modern distro.

The problem with going with a more modern distro is that most use Gnome 3 or Unity, and they don't really have a choice. Gnome 2 and GTK2 will no longer be supported or developed.

The philosophy, as I've heard it, from the developers of Unity and Gnome 3 is that users don't migrate to Linux because of all the software choices. Too many desktop environments create confusion for new users. Should they use XFCE4, KDE, Gnome, FluxBox, or something else? The claim is that this massive amount of choice scares away new users.

This is a terrible philosophy. The competition is what helps drive free software. People love having a choice, especially the type of users that actually USE LINUX. The main reason more people haven't adopted Linux is because MOST PEOPLE DON'T EVEN KNOW THEY ARE RUNNING WINDOWS. They just know they have a computer and they use what it came with. They don't know which version of Windows they are running, and they don't care, as long as they can get on Facebook and talk about how bored they are. People don't flock to Linux because Manufacturers don't put Linux on their new computers.

Manufacturers have deals with software vendors which lets them cut the cost of their computers. They get paid by software vendors to install their "crapware" onto the new computers. Computer manufacturers actually get paid to put all that junk on your new computer. If they start installing Linux on their computers, they will have to raise the price of their new systems, because they will no longer be getting the "crapware" income.

An example of how Linux on new devices actually increases market share can be found in Android. There are millions of people using Android on their phone right now oblivious to the fact that it's Linux. They have no idea, and they don't care. There are many internet browsers they can install on their phone, but most will never do so. It already comes with one. There are many software choices out there on Android. That doesn't scare away Android users. They install something if they want it. It's as simple as that.

This whole notion that unifying user interfaces will bring people to Linux is garbage. More and more people use Linux every day. In time, manufacturers may install Linux on more of their computers. Only a few do it today. As that happens, however, the number of Linux desktop users will grow exponentially.

While we are waiting on that to happen, though, why not listen to the users who are actually USING the software right now. Most HATE unity and Gnome 3.

And now that KDE 4 is pretty solid, most, like myself, will be moving to it. I installed it yesterday, fixed a small distortion in the audio, removed the blue shadow from the active windows, and will not be looking back. It's working flawlessly for me. I'm very happy with what it has become, and I'm glad it's available for me at this time when Gnome developers apparently have their head stuck where the sun doesn't shine.

I don't mean to badmouth the developers because I know they have a tough job and they do it all pretty much for nothing. Perhaps the problem is with the project management. I'm not sure where the problem lies. Did the Gnome project get taken over by Microsoft or Apple? I have this curious feeling that it is being led by a bunch of suits instead of developers.

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How to get rid of the annoying blue shadow in KDE 4

I vowed to switch to KDE after trying for a few months to find an alternative to Gnome 2, which is going the way of the Dodo. I ran into two problems initially. The system sounds were distorting and I hated the annoying blue shadow on active windows.

The fix for the first problem came when I installed the phonon gstreamer backend, though I'm not sure this was exactly the fix as I never switched to that backend in the settings.

To fix the annoying blue shadow, go to System Settings -> Workspace appearance -> Window Decorations. Click on the Oxygen theme and then click "Configure Decoration". Click the Shadows tab and change the colors under "Active Window Glow". I made my inner color a dark grey and the outer color black. I like this a lot better than the bright blue.

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Screw you Desktop Environments, I’m installing KDE

Many years ago I used KDE as my main Linux desktop environment. I switched to gnome around the same time that I switched to Debian and later Ubuntu. I liked GTK themes. I liked Gnome's way of keeping the visual simple and found that it was much more solid than KDE, especially KDE version 4+. I've lived in a Gnome utopia for quite some time, and I loved it.

Now, we have Gnome 3 and Unity. XFCE4 is a good alternative but it just isn't Gnome 2. Rather than battle it any longer and continue my search for a Gnome 2 alternative. I'm switching back to KDE. I don't care if I hate it. At least they aren't trying this whole unification approach that is killing the desktop in Linux on many distributions.

So far, LinuxMint has been the only distribution I've found that had a decent Gnome 3 setup by default, and it has some freakish glitch with my ATI video card that appears to make it reset itself from time to time. It just acts really flaky.

So, I'm installing the kde-full package in Debian Wheezy right now and crossing my fingers for a better experience.

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Mount Samba/Windows/CIFS Share with User Read/Write Permissions

Mounting a Windows/SMB/CIFS share can be accomplished in many different ways. The way that I do it works best for me, and I'm presenting it here for anyone who wants to take advantage of the info.

I have a NAS device with Windows shares on IP 192.168.1.90 on my LAN. One of the shares is called "Docs" which I use for important documents. First I create a directory to mount the share to on my local machine. I put this in my /media directory.

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sudo mkdir /media/Docs

Note that I'm using Debian Wheezy as my distro, but all of this should work in any distro.

Next I add a line to my /etc/fstab file. It can go at the bottom of the file. So, open /etc/fstab in your favorite editor. I'm using vim.

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sudo vim /etc/fstab

The line I add for the share is:

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\\192.168.1.90\Docs   /media/Docs cifs username=myuser,password=mypassword,uid=myuser,gid=users,auto 0 0

I set "myuser" to my actual local username. The reason I'm setting the uid in this line is because I want to specify that my user will be the owner of the mounted share (giving me read and write), and I'm setting the gid to users because I want all other users on the local machine to have read access to the mount.

After saving the file, I can sudo mount /media/Docs and I'll have my mount available for my user. When the system reboots, the mount will automatically occur. So my user will have access to the mount directly after boot.

An optional, more secure way to do this is to put your username and password in a file somewhere (perhaps your home directory) and replace the "username=myuser,password=mypassword" part of the mount line with "credentials=/path/to/file". This will help keep your passwords safe. Also note that these credentials aren't your local user credentials necessarily. They can be the same, if you set your local user up with the same creds as the share, but these credentials should be the user information that gets you access to the share.

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Increasing the size of tmpDSK and /tmp in a CPanel Environment

I recently ran into an issue in cPanel after recompiling Apache with some new settings. I enabled the eAccelerator extension in my EasyApache configuration for PHP. Now cPanel uses a default size for its /tmp mount of 512mb. I found out rather quickly that this isn't enough for eAccelerator. I actually ended up resetting this value to 4096mb (4GB). As a reminder to myself and so anyone else looking for the solution to this problem, I will outline what needs to be done below.

First, ssh into your server and login as root or su - root after logging in as a regular user. Now use the power of the command line. Don't panic!

Stop Apache, MySQL, and cPanel

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service httpd stop
service mysql stop
service cpanel stop

Next unmount the existing /tmp

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umount -l /tmp

Remove /usr/tmpDSK

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rm -rf /usr/tmpDSK

Next, use your favorite editor (Vim in this example) to change the config file for the tmpDSK

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vim /scripts/securetmp

Search the file for "tmpdsksize" (in Vim type /tmpdsksize and hit enter). The line should look like this by default:

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my $tmpdsksize     = 512000;    # Must be larger than 250000

Change the 512000 to a higher number in Kilobytes. For my 4GB, I changed it to 4096000.
Save the file (vim :wq enter).
Run the script...

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/scripts/securetmp

Answer y to the two questions it asks.
Finally start your services back up.

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service httpd start
service mysql start
service cpanel start

That should have you set with more /tmp space.

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Linux Desktop UI Options

I'm detest the current path of the Linux desktop. There are reasons that the desktop environment programmers and the distribution makers have taken the path they are on, but I disagree with those reasons. Their reasoning involves unifying the user interface for desktops, laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices.

The main problem I see with that reasoning is that they are hurting the desktop environment in the process, and the desktop/laptop is the only place their products have a future. There's no need for a revamping of the desktop interface to make it more like a mobile device's interface. The tablet/phone interfaces are designed for multi-touch interaction from the user. THE ADVANTAGE of a DESKTOP is having a good keyboard and mouse. The desktop UI is designed for superior input methods. Mult-touch is cool and all, but it is designed to give mobile devices an interface to mimic what you can already do on the desktop and laptop with the keyboard and mouse. Multi-touch on a desktop is cool, but it has only been implemented on OS X on Macs, and they didn't change the actual interface itself to accomplish this. They just added multi-touch capability to the UI that was already there.

I could see good reason to make this change to the default Linux user interface if the distributions were going to be used primarily on mobile devices. BUT they aren't. The mobile market has two very strong operating systems. Those are iOS and Android. Android is Linux itself, but its user interface is perfect for a mobile device. It also has the convenience of the Google marketplace. It is the defacto Linux distro for mobile devices. There's no demand for Ubuntu on a mobile device like a tablet or phone. Android does everything you could want to do on those devices, and it does those things well.

So, what is the point to unify the user interface on the Linux distribution, if the only real use you're going to see for these distributions is in the desktop and laptop markets? There's absolutely no reason to do this.

The new unified user interface, namely Unity and Gnome 3, are clunky at best in a desktop environment. They are a downgrade from the previous user interfaces that were popular, especially Gnome 2.

For this reason, I see a shift in the primary desktop environment used by most Linux users. I think most users will switch to XFCE4 or one of the other DEs which were similar to Gnome 2. I would be willing to wager that within a year or two, most distributions will be using XFCE4 as a default desktop environment by popular demand from their userbase. Either that will happen, or the desktop environment creators will see the error of their ways and change back to the old desktop standard.

BRING BACK XORG and just improve it!

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Global Media Shortcuts in Windows

Many Gnome users may have taken advantage of the global keyboard shortcuts available. I'm in Windows at the moment on a normal keyboard, and I want the same customizable shortcuts. Typically in Linux I'll set Win/Super + P for the play/pause shortcut, Win + Up Arrow for volume up, Win + Down Arrow for volume down, Win + Left Arrow for previous, Win + Right Arrow for next, and Win + M for mute. This removes the need for extra media keys completely, and I really like that feature of Gnome.

Now that I'm in Windows 7, I really miss that ability. I'm looking for a way to do this. If anyone out there knows how to do this, shoot me a comment.

Thanks!

Edit: Eureka! Nevermind on the suggestions. I found a nice little free app that does exactly what I wanted. I was about to try to write one myself, but this one does it well. You can download it here. The app is great. I setup my keys, changed the options to have the app start at windows startup, and set it to close to the system tray. That will confirm that it's always running when I'm in Windows.

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