Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's Alive!!

Make-live is a brilliant new method of making stuff live without all that messing around in hyperspace. (<-- non-sequitur HHGTG reference. Sorry) Or, to put it another way, make-live is a brilliant new method for creating a zombie army of flesh-eating slaves.

Or, to put it a slightly less wildly inaccurate way, make-live is a brilliant Debian application for creating an up-to-date Debian live CD. What is a "live CD", you ask? Well I'll tell you. Or, rather, I won't. Sorry.

Oh, ok, dammit, take a look here: and don't say I never do anything for you. Instead, please say that I rarely do anything for you - it's more accurate, and makes you look kind of generous. Trust me, I know about stuff.

Anyway, once you've installed make-live (apt-get install live-package) you can just type "make-live" to automagically build an iso of your very own Debian live CD. It really is as simple as that. Well, it is that simple if you don't mind downloading all of the required packages each time you wish to build a CD. This can be hundreds of MB at a time.

To avoid this, you're going to want to use some kind of proxy on your local network, or your local machine. I recommend apt-cacher (apt-get install apt-cacher). Then you're going to edit (as root) the file at /etc/make-live.conf and change the various repositories to point at your proxy. For example, using apt-cacher on the local machine, you would change the following line:

Now each package will only be downloaded once. If I were not quite so lazy I would point out here that this is also a very useful method to avoid unnecessary downloads if you have more than one Debian machine on your network. But I won't, on account of aforementioned laziness.

To build a KDE based live CD, instead of typing "make-live", type "make-live -p kde" or "make-live -p kde-extra" to get extra stuff. There are also Gnome and XFCE versions of the above command.

The configuration file includes options to specify additional packages to be installed (Firefox is a popular example. Well, it is popular with me. Ok, I thought about adding it but didn't bother.), additional files to be included in the image, Which Debian distribution is to be used (unstable is the default), and other stuff that I am not going into right now on account of it is all rather complicated and did I mention I am lazy? Thought so.

So, there you have it. Now you can build your very own zombie army Debian Live CD. No need to thank me - just click on the Google ad - and remember, there are no flesh-eating zombies, I did not mention flesh-eating zombies, and I have exactly zero plans for world domination. Look at the google ad. Concentrate on the google ad. You are feeling sleepy...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Installing Nvidia Drivers in Etch

For some time now the Nvidia drivers have been missing from the Debian Etch repositories.

Naturally it is possible to use Nvidia's own installer, however I prefer to avoid bypassing the package management system where possible, and you should too. Because I say so, and I am right.

Here's how:
  1. apt-get install module-assistant
  2. Next you need an Unstable repository available. This is done by editing the /etc/apt/sources.list file and adding this on a new line, but without the quotes - "deb unstable main non-free contrib"
  3. apt-get update
  4. m-a prepare
  5. m-a auto-install nvidia
  6. apt-get install nvidia-glx
  7. Edit /etc/apt/sources.list again and remove that new line, or comment it with a # at the beginning of the line.
  8. apt-get update
All steps must be performed as root. (At a command prompt type "su" then enter the root password) Once you're done, type "exit" to exit from the root shell.

It is possible to do all steps except for 4 and 5 using Synaptic, but I will not go into that here, on account of I am lazy.

  1. Anonymous points out that it is also necessary to edit your xorg.conf file to replace "nv" with "nvidia". Absolutely. Not sure how I missed that step.
  2. Nvidia drivers are available in Etch again, so this guide is no longer necessary, although still potentially useful if you need more recent drivers.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Thing About Beagle

Beagle is a desktop search tool for Gnome. I thought I might give it a go, because sometimes I need to find things. Since I am using KDE I also installed Kerry, which is a KDE front end for Beagle. All of this can be accomplished in Debian as follows:

apt-get install kerry

Phew, that was tricky. I can see why those windows guys find Linux sooo difficult. It is waaaaay easier to go to some random website, download an installer, pray that it is safe, double-click on the installer, click "Yes, I do agree to all of these outrageous license terms and I don't mind that it includes spyware, and adware", click Next, Next, Next, and finally reboot a couple of times.

Linux sure has a lot of catching up to do in the area of software installation.

But I digress. It's what I do best.

The idea with Beagle/Kerry is to make it easier to find stuff on your computer, or, as the Beagle folks put it "Beagle is a search tool that ransacks your personal information space to find whatever you're looking for. Beagle can search in many different domains."

Beagle can search based on file name, and on the contents of the many file formats it understands. And it is damn fast. Beagle can index your emails, documents, web history, and many other things that I am waaay too lazy to deliniate here.

So, anyway, Beagle and Kerry are now installed. You'll find Kerry under "Utilities" in the KDE menu. When first run it needs to index your system, which can take some time. You can use Kerry before this is finished, but don't expect a complete set of results.

Here's how you use Kerry: Type your search term. Press Enter.

At least, that's how it's supposed to work.

"Ah," says the reader. "We've come to the bit." And you would be right. This is the bit, and here it is. The thing about Beagle is that it misses stuff. Really really obvious stuff. I tested by searching for a file called "revaddress" in my home directory. No results. Huh?

Well, has it not finished indexing my home folder? Unlikely - I left it two days before testing.

Maybe I'm just not holding my mouth right.

I tried a different file, this time with the tip of my tongue sticking out the corner of my mouth to show how determined I was. Beagle found this one. Tried a few more searches for known files. Some were found. Others not. Perhaps there is a pattern of some kind, but if there is my enormous brain was not able to discern it during my exhaustive five second examination.

There is another bit. I was happy with Beagle's ability to search my Thunderbird mail folders, however when I clicked on a search result in order to open the message, Kerry failed with an error:

"Could not start process Unable to create io-slave:

klauncher said: Unknown protocol 'mailbox'. "

Update: Just now got a new version (0.2) of Kerry from the Debian repositories, and this error no longer appears. Instead, when I click on a search result to view the original email nothing whatsoever happens. So, they're half way to fixing the problem, I guess.

There is another bit. It is this. Beagle/Kerry use bucket-loads of memory, which I'm sure has been covered elsewhere so I don't know why I bothered mentioning it here, except that, for me, it means Beagle will be disappearing from my system pronto - for some reason I'm not keen to have ten percent of my RAM chewed up by a process that I might use, maybe, if you're really lucky, once or twice a month.

By the way, bucket-loads is a technical term - you probably wouldn't understand it, because it is so technical.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Vista Crippleware

Vista DRM

People are going to want to buy this crap? Does nobody else have a problem with paying for deliberately crippled software?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Microsoft Firefox

Excellent new product from Microsoft. I wonder if they make a version for Linux.

I particularly like this bit: " Tired of slow image rendering? Microsoft Firefox 2007 can deliver online pornography at blazing fiery speeds. By using a proprietary dynamic algorithm, anything that remotely resembles a tit or a boob will download up to 10 times faster!"

Friday, November 10, 2006

Weakly Debian Nudes #4

Nothing happened this week. Sorry.

But that never stopped me before, so let's begin with the strange rumour that Novell is having Microsoft's love child. This kind of thing is completely unwarranted, and the people spreading these fabrications - bloggers, analysts, so called "Novell Spokespersons" - really need to, well, knock it off. Novell have enough going on at the moment without having to deal with this kind of unfounded innuendo - why they still need to figure out a way to take advantage of Oracle's recent attempt to cripple Red Hat.

Moving on to some slightly more debian-related bits. On the debian-security mailing list this week Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña said:
$ diff -u /usr/share/doc/php5-common
/examples/php.ini-dist \
/usr/share/doc/php5-common/examples/php.ini-paranoid |less

You know, just to show that I do read the mailing lists. Or I did read one of them, once. Well, security is important and all that.

And from the "Intranet is for porn" department, Christian of reports that for some strange and unknown reason the word "nudes" is now one of the top four search phrases leading to his site. I offered to help, but was told to sod off and that I had, apparently "done quite enough already thank you very much", whatever that means.

But on to the famed "Linux Hissy-Fit Award" and we find that for the first time in living memory the recipient is not connected with the Debian project. Please welcome Dave Jones, who has quite a bit to say about a recent review of Fedora. Apparently Dave is a bit miffed. Onya Dave, firstly for giving me an excuse to use the word "miffed" in a sentence, and secondly for discovering that Ubuntu is the root of all evil. (<-- tenuous Debian link in this story)

Miffed is a great word. I call on bloggers to use the word "miffed" in your next post. If we all make the effort "miffed" can be elevated to the recognition it so richly deserves. Forget "wtf", and "rtfm", and "meh", and "pfy". Get "miffed" - you know you want to.

In local news, I tried Beagle/Kerry on my box and was mostly underwhelmed. Story to follow, if I can be bothered.

Well that about wraps it up for another illuminating episode of the Wonky Debian Nudes! In next week's Wankly Debian Nudes, the ever changing title of this series undergoes a transformation that surprises, and possibly shocks, even the most hardened of analysts. I can't reveal too much quite yet, but, well, let's just say that it may or may not involve some kind of covenant with a little-known monopolist in the software industry. Yes, I may or may not be working to preserve the right of my readers, and only my readers, to make smart arsed comments without fear of infringing certain patents related to smart-arsedness.

But I have said too much.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Weekly Debian Nudes #3 - or "How to flog a dead horse"

And here, once again, flying in the face of common sense, of good taste, comes the legendary Weekly Debian Nudes, determination in every line of its features, like a superhero who has accidentally strayed onto the wrong blog.

Yes, despite the fact that the genuine Debian Weekly News has been published this week, and despite that fact that the reader has no doubt woken up to the realization that I know nothing whatsoever about anything that is going on in the Debian project and mostly just ramble on a bit about whatever has happened on my computer lately (Well, I am running Debian, so that counts as Debian news, right?), not to mention making up some stuff about Debian people I have never met, and then finally throwing in a few sentences so long that by the time you get to the end of them we've all forgotten what they were supposed to be about.... Where was I?

Ah, right; I was explaining that this right here is the third issue of the famous Weekly Debian Nudes, which totally deserves to be in bold.

Firstly, and this is the bit where we get to the actual news, Debian Weekly News has returned, although indications are it will no longer be a weekly, so that just goes to show how great I am.

But just in case you still don't get it - I am great.

In other news, Technoblogical posted a really fab article on Documentation in Debian, which contains almost two coherent sentences. That may be a record of some kind.

Debian Sarge has been updated again (Release 4) , and Etch is still on target for a December release, but don't quote me on that, mostly because I didn't say it.

Ubuntu 5.04 is now officially unsupported, like a win98 in an XP world. Oh how the rolling panoramic Vistas call poor old 5.04 on to Valhalla, where courageous mixed-metaphors party like it's some kind of eternal 1999.

But on to the important stuff.

It has been reported, and a recent study confirms, that almost all of the Debian developers shower naked.

"What?!" Suddenly the reader's ears prick up at the prospect of finally seeing some good hardcore shagging, before realizing that this is the "Weekly Debian Nudes", and the prospect of any actual nudity is very slim indeed, which is more than I can say for many of those Debian developers.

The reader's ears then go on to win several major literary prizes for their article entitled Why "reader's ears" can't possibly see anything, in which they explain that ears are not eyes, and that the likelihood of "reader's ears" realizing anything about the Weekly Debian Nudes is also extremely remote, on account of them being ears, and not brains, and that therefore Ben is a bit of a moron and can't write to save his elbow. I mean his life. You know what I mean.

In next week's episode we finally see some actual content. Also in next week's episode, the reader's ears are disappointed to find that my promises of actual content were, as usual, without substance. Finally, in next week's episode, it turns out that after winning several million dollars in the lottery I find it increasingly difficult to give a toss about actual content.

I think I shall buy a packet of Tim Tams that never runs out.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Deb Help Me Now

Our last best hope for docs
There is a vast array of documentation installed with your typical Linux distribution. There are the ancient and venereal - uh, venerable - manpages, which are kind of like the Vorlons of documentation (<-- obscure Babylon 5 reference). There are the more recent info pages, which are kind of like that fake Vorlon in that episode with the fake Vorlon in it.

Finally, there are all of the others - html docs, changelogs, readme files, plus of course, The Oracle and that annoying brat who bends spoons.

Traditionally manpages are accessed via the "man" command. To find out more about "man", type "man man" at a command prompt. Info works kinda the same. (Type "man info" to read the manual for "info"). And, yes, in case you're wondering, "man" is short for "manual".

The third group (html, changelogs, etc) are not so easy to access. Firstly you need to find out where they are, then load them in the appropriate application. Actually, first you need to know that they exist, but let's not get all pedantic now. None of this is difficult, of course; in Debian, for example, you can just type "dpkg -L <Package Name>" to see the locations of all files installed by a particular package.

Still, it would be nice to have all of this stuff in one place. And, of course, since this is Debian, somebody has already thought of that. More than one someone, in fact...

Enter the dhelp
dhelp is a command line program that pulls all of that other stuff together. Install dhelp via Synaptic, or by typing "apt-get install dhelp". Typing "dhelp <Package Name>" searches the documentation for the package mentioned, then launches your browser to display the results. If you are not in X, it will use a text mode browser, such as lynx. Typing "dhelp" on its own will show you an index of available documention, organized by section.

Now this is pretty neat, but it gets better. If you also install the info2www and man2html packages dhelp can also display manpages and info pages, although these also require a web server be installed. (apache or httpd).

All available documentation via one interface? That's pretty neat.

dwww is much the same as dhelp. dwww is prettier, but will always require Apache. If you don't mind having another daemon running on your system, install dwww instead.

This dwww addon is a browser based frontend to the package manager. It allows dwww to display full details of packages.

This paragraph is the summary. See, I am really good at writing stuff.