Category Archives: Uncategorized

Choqok – Support for Twitter has been restored!


 

When Twitter switched off API 1.0 back on the 11th June, the tweets went dark for Choquk users as the application had not been updated in time to support API 1.1. This was due to the original developer Mehrdad Momeny not having time to maintain Choqok himself and on an appeal to the Linux community. Daniel Kreuter has stepped in and had developed Choqok 1.3.1 which supports the API 1.1.

For Debian users of KDE 4.10, a patch has been compiled and is available in Launchpad. Just download and run.

 

gPodder 3.x: Changing the Downloads Folder Location and Missing Subscriptions


In Ubuntu 12.04LTS (and variants) gPodder v2.20 was shipped and as with all previous versions of this podcast catcher software, it was relatively free of any major bugs as all good software should be if properly tested.

So it was with a degree of horror on upgrading Lubuntu 12.04 to 12.10 that I discovered all of my podcasts (10Gb worth) had apparently disappeared off my hard disk along with the subscription lists.

Missing Subscriptions

It a pity that not enough consideration had been given to how to transparently migrate from the SQLLite2 database in gPodder 2.x to the SQLLite3 database in 3.x this could have been avioded. It’s hardly surprising that with these sorts of problems, the year of the Linux desktop remains a distant hope for the community. If stuff worked in the previous version, it should remain working in the new version and if it does not then the software should be held back until fixed as with open source there is no commercial pressure to get software out of the door at any cost other than that self imposed by the developers.

After a bit of searching on the internet I found an ubuntuforums.org post from gds which is reproduced below:

Re: gPodder subscription list gone after upgrade to 12.10

I had the same problem. Ubuntu 12.10 now ships gpodder 3 which uses a new and incompatible database format. They don’t appear to have supplied any conversion tool nor any warning that your old config wouldn’t be converted (thanks!). However – it seems gpodder3 keeps it’s configuration in a gPodder directory in your home dir, while gpodder 2 was keeping it’s configuration in .congfig/gpodder. So I was able to recovery my subscriptions.

Here’s what I did: from the gpodder download site I downloaded the last release of version 2 (I used this one). Unpack the files somewhere (we don’t need to actually install it, just run it once. I put them in /tmp). Make sure gpodder 3 isn’t running.

Then from a terminal I ran
Code:

cd /tmp/gpodder-2.9
bin/gpodder.py

Now you can export your subscriptions to an OPML file that gpodder 3 can import (it’s on the subscriptions menu). Once you’ve done it you can quit and run gpodder3. Skip past the initial dialog offering you default subscrptions and you can import the OPML file you created in the last step.

I had an extra problem, because even after this gpodder3 didn’t recognize any of my previously downloaded podcasts (it wanted to pull down 3Gb of new shows!). This might be unique to me because I was using a non-standard location for my downloads, but I solved this by the brute-force technique of doing one last sync to my player from gpodder 2 and then telling gpodder3 to consider all the subscriptions up to date. I’m sure we could do better but this was enough for me.

Changing the Downloads Folder Location

With my subscriptions back, the next step was to find out where my previously recorded podcasts had gone.

Now I suspect I’m not too unusual in downloading a lot of podcasts both video and audio. becaue of the formers size, I do not store them in the default download folder location dictated by gPodder but store it on a separate data drive so if my filesystem partitions runs out fo disk space (as that is where my Home directory is located) I will not crash the system! I’ve been there before so I’ve learnt the hard way.

Up until version 3, gPodder allowed you to change the downloads folder location and in the Wiki this is still possible if you run Windows, Linux/ Unix/ OS X and MeeGo. If you run a varient of Ubuntu Linux, then as far as version 3 of gPodder goes you are stuffed as this feature does not work due to a software bug.

Whilst the Wiki does suggest making “session-wide changes on Ubuntu Linux”, it does not really explain how to do it and how to test that the change has been applied and gives up in providing proper instructions by pointing distressed users to the Ubuntu community documentation on Persistent Environmental Variables, which isn’t great in itself.

Whilst a bug has been raised about this probelm and Thomas Perl has tried to provided some assistance to my question about how to see if the variables have been set, I’ve decided to take a different approach and redirect the gpodder downloads folder residing in my Home drive to another folder on a different drive. Whilst useful for resolving this particular gPodder problem, it also has other users like redirecting the contents of your Documents folder to another folder on the same or different drive.

To mount one folder on to another you need to use the following command syntax:
sudo mount -o bind <source folder path> <destination folder path>
This is what I did:
In my case my gPodder folder is located in /home/username/gpodder/ and I wanted it to be located on /media/data/gpodder/
1. I moved all files located in the source folder /home/username/gpodder/ to the destination folder /media/data/gpodder/
2. Opening Terminal I entered the command
sudo mount -o bind /home/username/gpodder/ /media/data/gpodder/
This mounted the destination folder on to the source folder, effectively redirecting it to the new location.
Whilst this command is useful, it’s of no use if you have to keep reentering it every time you wish to use gPodder.
To make this permanent you will need to edit /etc/fstab and add it in. Using the above example this is what I did:
1. In Terminal enter the following to edit fstab as sudo:
sudo nano /etc/fstab
2. At the bottom of the file add the following comment:
# Mount Folder /media/data/Documents/ on to /home/username/gpodder/
3. Then add the following line below:
/media/data/gpodder/ /home/username/gpodder/ auto bind,gid=46,defaults 0 0
4. Save the file
5. Exit nano and from Terminal enter the following to rerun fatab and mount devices listed in it:
sudo mount -a
If the syntax was correct, there should be no error messages and you should be returned to the command prompt.
Using you file manger check that the /home/username/gpodder/ folder contains the same content as /media/data/gpodder.
If uncertain, create a file or folder in one and see if it appears in another, you may have to refresh the display (F5) to display the change.
GPodder will continue to think it is saving podcasts to the default folder location, but using this trick it will actually be saving them to a location of your choice without the need to fiddle around with environmental variables.

 

Mini How To… Recovering the GRUB 2 Boot Menu


The one thing I really hate in Linux is the GRUB boot loader, it’s fine when it works but when it goes wrong it can be a complete pain to fix and in this respect GRUB 2 is worse than the original version of GRUB.

So after upgrading one of my Dual boot PCs to Windows 8 Pro from Windows XP, I was not surprised to find that I could not boot into GRUB. On this occasion not the fault of GRUB but of Windows which has always obliterated any GRUB (or for those who can remember that far back) / LILO instance.

The way to restore the GRUB menu is to use a tool called Boot-Repair, the only problem is that it is not included by default* in Ubuntu 12.04.

According to Help Ubuntu two options are available:

  1. Use the Ubuntu-Secure-Remix CD or the Live Boot-Repair iso CD
  2. Or just boot of an Ubuntu live CD and install it.

As I have plenty of Linux Format DVDs stuffed with all sorts of Live distros so I booted up Ubuntu 12.04 LXF remix live CD, opened terminal and added the repository using the following command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:yannubuntu/boot-repair && sudo apt-get update

I then entered

sudo apt-get install -y boot-repair && boot-repair

to install boot-repair and then run Boot-Repair from Terminal

After that I just followed the on screen prompts.

Since first using it to fix the above problem, I’ve now used it on a number of occasions for different problems and it has yet to let me down.

*Apparently, this is due to change in a future Ubuntu release.

Mini How To… How to get rid of Unity from Ubuntu 12.10!


I’ve never been a fan of Unity, I prefer Gnome 3 so when I found that I was unable to login to Gnome 3 in Ubuntu 12.10 after upgrading from 12.04 and could only login to Unity, I decided that enough was enough and Unity was going to go as it just adds another layer of complication when diagnosing bugs in Ubuntu.

In this particular instance, the blooming useless LightDM display manager was the cause of the problem and after reverting back to GDM I could then login to Gnome 3 and not Unity.

I found this blog post which walked me through what turned out to be a simple task in removing all of the Unity mischief from Ubunti 12.10.

Mini How To… Installing GNOME 3 Shell Extensions


Whilst I like GNOME 3, common with many other Linux users out there, the illogical Suspend option present in GNOME 3 is a real irritation, having to press down the ALT key to get shutdown to display on this menu. 
I assume the GNOME 3 developers/ designers thought this up as a good laugh after a heavy drinking session one Friday night. Well the joke is no longer funny!
Whilst Fedore 16 and Mint 12 have both seen the light and have changed this menu option to Shutdown, Ubuntu 11.10 who’s developers are clearly focused on pimping Unity have not. I really don’t know why Ubuntu doesn’t spin off Ubuntu as Gbuntu, as they did with the KDE version Kubuntu. Maybe GNOME3 would then get the love it deserves in Ubuntu and we can all see how many people are using Unity!
Anyway back on topic, the GNOME Shell Extensions website was launched at the end of 2011 by the GNOME project to make it really easy to install and manage installed extensions in GNOME3. The site is so easy to use a tutorial is unnecessary and although it is still in Alpha, it works really well.
The only noticable absence is the lack of a Search bar, but at present this is not too much of a problem as there are about 130 extensions available currently available, so browsing is feasible for now.
So having banished the Suspend menu option using the Alternative Status Menu (#3 in popularity), I also took the opportunity to add the following, after all Linux is all about freedom of choice!

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MyLinuxRamblings YouTube Channel now available


To make my blogs slightly easier to follow, I’ve decided to do some screen casts for future blog posts. The first blog post to make use of video will be called How to change MythTV Backend from Localhost to a Static IP Address.

I’m using RecordItNow in KDE (Kubuntu 11.10) to produce the screencasts, although due to a bug stopping the recording proved difficult due to this nive little bug . Luckily, a patch in a test ppa fixed the problem.

Unfortunately, there is also a problem uploading to YouTube, which is reported in this Launchpad bug report
Bugs aside, the video got uploaded to YouTube using the web based uploader. It can be found at http://youtu.be/FpGufLPH_jw in 720p HD quality, should such things excite you!
The blog will be appearing in the next few days along with a second video to complete the article.

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2011 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 90,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

KDE GRUB Bootloader Editor


Sometime you are looking through the menus in a Linux distribution and find an absolute gem of a program, in my view this is one of them.

I do not apologies for saying that I absolutely hate GRUB. In fact I’ll be more specific, I hate GRUB2. Just when I had mastered GRUB v1, out pops GRUB 2 and all the rules change! 


Now to be clear, I love what GRUB does and what it does as a boot loader it does really well. What it totally fails at doing is providing an easy to use interface to modify the GRUB settings, without a high possibility of ‘bricking’ your computer!

Well that was until now when I found KDE GRUB Editor in System Settings in Kubuntu 11.10

The editor allows you to change:

  • Menu entries

  • Boot Default Entry delay

  • Background image

  • Hide Boot Menu

You can also:

  • Create, restore and delete GRUB backups using an assistant

  • Install/ Restore GRUB

  • Find out how GRUB names your hard disks and partitions

  • View configuration files

Whilst care should be taken in using this tool, it is an very useful tool to help you manage GRUB.

KDE 4.x has become really polished in 2011, I would strongly suggest you give KDE a test drive in 2012.

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Upgrading to Ubuntu 11.04 – Make sure you have a backup!


Approximately a week after the release of Ubuntu 11.04, I decided to upgrade my five PCs running Ubuntu or derivatives of Ubuntu to the latest release.

  • Mythbuntu 10.10 to 11.04 (two PCs)
  • Kubuntu (32-bit) 10.10 to 11.04
  • Kubuntu (64-bit) 10.10 to 11.04
  • Ubuntu (32-bit) 10.10 to 11.04

I was having a new bathroom fitted at the time so could spare a day to upgrade the PCs, as it turned out it took much longer than I thought!

Unfortunately there was an immediate set-back, the system hard disk on my FreeNAS server failed, I knew things were not right when it started making grating sounds on boot. I’ll be writing a separate article on how I fixed it and on the importance of backing up the FreeNAS config.xml file! So my upgrades were delayed by half a day whilst I sorted out my FreeNAS hardware.

I make it a standard practice to always backup my PCs using Clonezilla before embarking on any distribution upgrade. Although Linux is fairly “bullet-proof” when doing an upgrade, assuming you know what you are doing, there is always a risk of the unexpected happening, as I was about to discover.

Mythbuntu

MythPC1: MSI motherboard, Athlon 64 Socket AM2 3800, 2Gb RAM

MythPC2: ASUS motherboard, Athlon 64 Socket 939 4200 Dual Core, 2Gb RAM

This is my test Mythbuntu PC (MythTVPC1) and I had decided that I could afford to screw up the hard disk as I had a image on another after a hard disk upgrade.

I was delighted that this actually upgraded okay and the older image was not required!

I’ve since upgraded my main Mythbuntu (MythTVPC2) system and again the upgrade was flawless.

Verdict: 10/10 to the Mythbuntu team this is the upgrade experience every Linux user wants.


Kubuntu 64-bit

ASUS motherboard, Athlon 64 Socket AM2,  5200 Dual Core, 2Gb RAM)

Kubuntu detected that an upgrade was available, but failed to start the upgrade process

So decided to force the upgrade by entering in Terminal

sudo do-release-upgrade -d

This also failed and gave a message advising me to look at /var/log/dist-upgrade/, where I found the message below in red

2011-05-05 10:11:44,850 DEBUG nvidiaUpdate()
2011-05-05 10:11:44,860 ERROR NvidiaDetection returned a error: __init__() got an unexpected keyword argument ‘datadir’
2011-05-05 10:11:44,861 DEBUG Installing ‘dontzap’ (kubuntu-desktop PostUpgradeInstall rule)
2011-05-05 10:14:18,202 ERROR Dist-upgrade failed: ‘E:Unable to correct problems, you have held broken packages.’
2011-05-05 10:14:18,203 DEBUG abort called
2011-05-05 10:14:18,207 DEBUG openCache()
2011-05-05 10:14:18,207 DEBUG failed to SystemUnLock() (E:Not locked)
2011-05-05 10:14:25,471 DEBUG /openCache(), new cache size 32578
2011-05-05 10:14:25,472 DEBUG enabling apt cron job

Searching for “An unresolvable problem occurred while calculating the upgrade”

found http://fossplanet.com/f10/%5Bbug-775040%5D-%5Bnew%5D-update-11-04-failed-without-plausible-reason-148591/

which suggested:

dontzap is holding back python and prevents the upgrade. Please remove it and try again.

So from terminal entered

sudo apt-get remove dontzap

Then did a normal upgrade using Kpackagekit, which part way through crashed out!

Killed KpackageKit using System monitor and reverted to doing the upgrade in Terminal.

Except I could not, so tried

sudo apt-get -f install

Which produced the following


A quick search on dpkg: parse error, in file ‘/var/lib/dpkg/available’ found https://answers.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+question/10265

Entered

sudo dpkg –clear-avail

then

sudo apt-get update followed by

sudo apt-get upgrade

and the upgrade continued.

Then did another

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

then did a

apt-get update

apt-get dist-upgrade

Then got messge “errors were encountered processing” bluefish-data and bluefish-pluginser experience I would score you 3/10 and 4/10 respectively.

entered sudo apt-get -f install and the upgrade continued.

It then crashed out “not using locking for read only lock file /var/lib/dpkg/lock

Tried deleting the lock file using sudo but got error back

cannot remove read only file system. Also could not save screenshots to my home folder, same error.

As generic linux headers had been setup decided on a reboot to see what I got!

On reboot Linux found disk errors which it fixed and then booted into the login screen. [see screenshots].

apt-get upgrade

On login opened up terminal and entered[see screenshots].

sudo apt-get update

which told me that dpkg was interrupted and to run sudo dpkg –configure -a, which I did.

The upgrade process resumed and completed successfully.

Then did sudo apt-get autoremove to clean up redundant packages

Verdict: 3/10 this is the upgrade experience every Linux user could do without!

Kubuntu 32-bit

Dell Latitude C640 laptop, P4M 2.4GHz, 1Gb RAM

Kubuntu refused to recognise that an upgrade to 11.04 existed, so decided to force the upgrade the "old way" by entering

sudo do-release-upgrade -d

then got the error

trying to overwrite ‘/usr/share/kde4/config/khtmlrc’, which is also in package libkdecore5 4

Installation aborted, rerunning KpackageKit caused it to crash had to Kill it!.

And system requested a restart.

Ignored the system restart request, as this is a good way to kill the installation, so instead continued the upgrade using Terminal by entering

apt-get update

apt-get upgrade

Got into dependency problem due to the failed installation

so did a:

sudo apt-get -f install

This resumed the installation

Then another

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

and continued the upgrade

Got the “Configuring ttf-mscorefonts-installer” screen

Left blank, selected OK then enter and nothing happened. Repeated about 20 times before it accepted OK. Weird!

Installation then completed shortly afterwards.

Did another

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

and got message saying 167 packages had been kept back

Entered

apt-get dist-upgrade

The another

sudo apt-get -f install

sudo apt-get autoremove

A reboot later and…….

I had a fully upgraded (and working) system.

Verdict: 3/10 this is the upgrade experience every Linux user could do without!

Kubuntu 11.04 - The Bottom Line

I really like KDE4 and what the developers have done over the past two years. However, whilst it is very user friendly, the upgrade process to 11.04 has been nothing short of a complete nightmare.

Unless KPackageKit can be made to work 99.9% reliably and should it go wrong the user gets meaningful and useful information on how to resolve, maybe it goes off and puts the error message into a web search, then the developers should give up and advise users to use Terminal, because this is the most reliable way of doing an upgrade as it is more flexible when something goes wrong.

It should not be a necessary requirement to have a second computer on standby with access to the internet to find solutions to error messages which are generated as a result of the upgrade and without you are likely to end up with a broken system. If the upgrade fails part way through the system should create a log file, dump relevant information into it and then roll-back to a known working state. The log file should then be displayed to the user so they can establish by a web search what went wrong and how to fix. On restarting the upgrade it should resume the upgrade.This should apply to ALL Linux distribution upgrades, not just Kubuntu.

Based on my really poor upgrade experience to 11.04, all I can conclude is that KpackageKit is really a very poor relation to Ubuntu’s Update Manager and until something is done to make it better, I will be doing all my future upgrades using Terminal, if only to avoid some of this unnecessary pain.

Ubuntu 32-bit

Gigabyte motherboard, Athlon 64 Socket AM2, 5600 Dual Core, 4Gb RAM)

No problem starting the upgrade and it was going well when it totally hung on “Setting up libdu0(2.32.1-0 ubuntu4)"

With no choice available, I rebooted the PC into recovery console and selected repair broken packages DPKG

Logged in from the command line as X had not started.

Did a sudo-apt-get autoremove as suggested as part f the broken package repair

entered startx, which then asked for password for the keyring

The first problem, no menu bar on the Ubuntu desktop and ALT-F2 did not work.

After a couple of reboots, I eventually got a login screen and successfully logged in. I have to say that I came very close to doing a restore!

I then realised that my Gnome desktop had changed, it looked like the new GNOME3 interface, but different!

Eventually discovered it was the new Ubuntu interface, nice to have been told but I assume because of the broken upgrade Ubuntu defaulted to it new desktop interface by default. Now being a former KDE3 user I accepted KDE4 as an improvement to the interface and now a few years on absolutely love it. The new Ubuntu interface is terrible, so after two days switched back to the Classic Ubuntu interface. I don’t mind change but it has to be for a good reason and at this point in time in Ubuntu Gnome is my preferred interface not Ubuntu!

Verdict: 4/10 this is the upgrade experience most Linux users could do without!

Conclusion

Whilst I’m critical of the Kubuntu 11.04 upgrade process, I’m almost equally critical of Ubuntu. I’ve never experienced so many problems across most of my computers upgrading an Ubuntu distribution and I’ve been doing this for over 5 years!

The only Ubuntu variant which has upgraded to 11.04 without any problems is the XFCE based Muthbuntu, on which I run two PCs so this was not a one off but of good luck. So to the Mythbuntu Team for user experience 10/10.

To the Kubuntu and Ubuntu teams if you wish to keep new users using your distribution, this sort of experience is definitely not the way to go!

Finally, if you are thinking of upgrading based on your past experience of upgrading Ubuntu 11.04 then:

1. Think twice!

2. Make sure you have a second PC which you can use to connect to the Internet when things go wrong

3. If you do not normally clone your system before upgrading, think twice! Make sure that on this occasion you backup your computer with Clonezilla or similar before starting the upgrade.

4. When Ubuntu 11.10 comes out proceed with caution. I would like to think the upgrade process will be fixed by then but as they say "time will tell".

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Mini How To: Cloning Hard Disks which fail using Clonezilla


Clonezilla is an excellent hard disk cloning utility for all disk formats, not just Linux. However, sometimes it gets things wrong and fails to complete a clone successfully. The good news is it tells you when things go wrong, but what to do next?

When I first started working in computing I used to provide operational support for IBM mainframes, and to do that you had to know something called JCL (Job Control Language), a mainframe scripting language. The DD (Data Description )command was a core component to this scripting language, so was rather surprised to find it exists in Unix and Linux.

In Unix and Linux OSs, dd it is used to do low level copying of raw data and is actually used by Clonezilla to do a disk copy should all other methods fail. In my case Clonezilla tried to clone the disk using a method it though would work so never got round to trying dd.

To use dd, boot off a live CD, I use GParted as this shows me graphically the disk structure. As with any disk imaging tool, triple check what you are doing before pressing Enter after typing the command, otherwise you may regret being too hasty.

Open terminal and enter the following:

dd if=/dev/source of=/dev/destination

if stands for Input File and sets the source

of stands for Output File and sets the destination

for example if my source disk is /dev/dsa and my destination disk is /dev/sdb then I would enter

dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb

As with any traditional Unix/ Linux command, when you press Enter, nothing is displayed on the screen showing progress. If there is a problem, you will be told via a message. Your only clue that the copy is happening will be the hard disk activity light.

To find out more on what dd can do in addition to disk to disk copies, see this excellent article at backuphowto.info.

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