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Showing posts from March, 2007

One of the most potent zero-day security exploits recorded

If you haven't readthenews already, there's a Windows zero-day security exploit involving animated cursors. Yes, animated cursors. One of the reasons that get thrown at me as to why Windows is better than Linux. Because Windows is more fun. Because it has, among other fun things, animated cursors. I kid you not.

And, of course it effects every version of Windows from Windows 2000 to Vista. Yes, I said Vista. That new and shiny bulwark of Redmond security, the version of Windows that's the most secured to date. The version we can really trust.

Bullshit.

Microsoft doesn't yet have a patch. But eEye Research does. So you can get theirs, or wait for Microsoft. As usual.

Ubuntu 7.04 Beta - upgrading the video card

The Gigabyte GeForce 7600GS card came in the mail today, delivered from Newegg via UPS. And just like I'd threatened earlier, I replaced rhea's 9600 with it. When I pulled out the older video card I re-discovered it wasn't a regular 9600, it was a 9600SE. That's a low-end budget card with a 64-bit memory interface introduced in 2003 that I purchased in 2005 on sale. The 7600GS, a mid-range card with a 128-bit memory interface, was introduced last year. That's a three year difference in architecture, with double the memory channel, double the amount of video memory on the card, and four times the number of processing elements. Not to mention other architectural differences and improvements spanning three years. The difference was quite noticeably better with the 7600GS. Time had indeed marched on.

Updates Before the Upgrade

Before I swapped out the hardware there were 33 new updates waiting for the system. I accepted the upgrades and that started a three-ring upgrade …

The Incredible Microsoft Clusterphuck (IMC)

It takes a multi-billion monopoly like Microsoft to pull off some of what I've been reading the past week, let alone since the first of the year when Vista was released. But I just wanted to catalog some of the not-to-be-believed stranger-than-truth facts that have come into existence over the past three or four months. So, without further adieu, my selection of IMC talking points.
Use Vista and want to access MSDN? Use Firefox! In which the author shows that the best browser to use on 64-bit Vista to access Microsoft's own ISDN network isn't IE7, but Firefox. One reason for using Firefox? The MSDN site is tagged as not secure by IE7. Worse, he can't use Microsoft File Transfer Manager to download CD/DVD images of MSFT applications because "Vista’s enhanced security prevents user from downloading files".Slow Train Wreck. In which Microsoft, in an attempt to treat the world+dog as guilty until proven innocent, has discovered that its anti-IP-copying software ma…

SLED 10 and Google Earth commingle, cause desktop to crash

I was running Google Earth 4 on SLED 10 this morning when I decided to go and 'visit' Denver, Colorado. You can see the screenshot of it below, taken right before the desktop crashed and kicked me back out to the login screen.

Before I get into the gory details of the crash, let me describe what happened up to that point. I'd navigated to Denver and oriented the view as you see above. I had 3D buildings enabled. I noticed that it took 15 minutes for the view to completey render, which was far, far longer than another other city I've been to via Google Earth. While it was rendering is was chewing processor time up like nobodies business (according to the Gnome system monitor). Moving from screen to screen was sluggish, so much so that when flipping to Google Earth's screen it froze for a number of seconds in mid-turn, before showing full on. This, on a machine running SLED for X86_64 using an Athlon FX-55 with 4GB of memory. It has never taken this long to render any…

Ubuntu 7.04 Beta out and about

Ubuntu Beta hit the virtual streets today. Since I've been faithfully installing every update via Update Manager, I don't have a need to download the ISO and do a re-install on rhea. Never-the-less I downloaded the workstation ISO, burned the CD, and used it to boot my Gateway M685 notebook. That machine is notorious for not giving Linux a break, and it proved once again what a royal PITA it is to work with Linux. Ubuntu Beta failed to boot properly just like every other version of 7.04 has. Once again video failed completely. But Ubuntu Beta pulled a big surprise this time. It was able to enable the sound on the notebook so that even though the video screen was black I heard the login audible greeting. No distribution to date has enabled sound on that machine, not even Suse 10.1, which is currently installed. If Ubuntu 7.04 could just get its video issues fixed with the nVidia Go 7800 on that notebook, then it would be a serious winner, possible kicking Suse off completely.

On…

Fun and games with Linux courtesy of Novell

If you're like me you've reached a point of painful saturation with the Apple vs. PC ads that Apple Inc keeps pumping out. Well, Novell has decided they want in on the fun, so they've parodied the whole Apple ad thing with a nice one that promotes Linux. In this ad, it's PC man running Vista vs. Mac boy running Leopard, with sweet adorable Linux just standing there and looking simply beautiful/beautifully simple. A couple of egotistical male dorks being outdone by the beautiful babe without really trying.

Best line: PC: "I'll probably wear this for another six or seven years!"

Google Earth on Ubuntu: Time to replace the ATI

OK. I finally give up. I know when it's time to quit being cheap and at least upgrade the AGP video card on my aging system so I can run Google Earth. When I got home earlier this evening I googled for "r300 xorg google earth performance" and got the all the clues I needed in the first entry. On the Ubuntu forums no less.

Basically the open Radeon drivers don't have all the needed features. In fact, the complaints center around how "the graphics are really slow and choppy." Hey. Just like what I experience. Unfortunately, the solution given by one of the posters doesn't work for me. I have all the latest bits he calls out, and I even downloaded and installed DRIconf. However, disaster struck when I started it and selected "yes" for "Disable Low-impact fallback". When I started Google Earth it locked up the system good and hard. Big Red Switch time.

When I start DRIconf, I get the following in the terminal:
libGL warning: 3D driver claim…

More Google Earth and SLED 10 goodness

I can't leave it alone. The more I work with Google Earth 4 (GE4), the more I like it. What I've come to better appreciate is GE4's 3D buildings and terrain. In the shot that follows I'm looking at the Golden Gate bridge, with some of the higher terrain in the background (basically looking north towards Needles). The bridge itself is constructed from simple 3D elements, while the terrain seems to be molded, perhaps on a classic polygon surface. I don't know enough to say, but I'd sure be interested to find out.

This next shot shows the view down looking south-east at the intersection of Columbus and Kearny. The Sentinal building is directly in front, the Transamerica building is in the background to the left, and the 555 California Street Building is in the background on the far right. All three of these buildings were modeled, not just mapped blocks of grey.


Note the 'flat traffic' on Kearney to the right. It looks weird at first, but you get used to it …

Google Earth on Ubuntu: the real problem

I had to find out why Google Earth was so slow on my Ubuntu machine. Every other application works flawlessly (or nearly so) except Google Earth. I should have figure it out and not blamed Ubuntu, but I have a bad habit of 'ready, shoot, aim'. And it got me again this time.

When I came home I booted up Ubuntu, made a safe copy of xorg.conf, and then fired up the Restricted Drivers applet (System | Administration | Restricted Drivers Manager):

There's only one entry, for the ATI accelerated graphics driver. After clicking the Enable button, Ubuntu, through the synaptic tools, installs the drivers and configures the system to use them. You're then asked to reboot the system to finish enabling the drivers.

When the system came back up it was in 1024 x 768 and 60Hz refresh. There was no higher resolution. I knew then it was coming out, since the non-ATI drivers produce a reasonable 1600 x 1200 resolution. But while it was in that mode I fired up Google Earth, and found it was…

Google Earth on SLED 10: Google Earth the way it was meant to be

In an earlier post I unfairly trashed Google Earth. The problem, as I've just discovered, more than likely rests with my graphics hardware platform, not Google Earth. While I was working with SLED 10 this morning I pulled down another copy of Google Earth and installed it on SLED. When I started Google Earth it was silky smooth in its operations and highly responsive, just the opposite of my experience with Google Earth on my Ubuntu system. This is not a slam of Ubuntu, but a realization that maybe, just maybe, I need to upgrade the video card on that system (at the very least) if I want a good experience running applications like Google Earth. Conversely, I've come to develop an even greater appreciate of Ubuntu's performance on low-end graphics hardware.

I'm going to start these screen shots off with a view above the Earth zooming into the Kennedy Space Center, then a final shot showing a feature I find really useful, 3D buildings.

First we open up the application. The…

Modified Qt-based kernel configuration tool runs on SLED 10

I took a few moments to move the qconf sources I'd modified over the weekend onto my SLED 10 system. I them ran 'make xconfig' and it came right up.


It's running on the KDE desktop. This represents the second distribution I've successfully run my modified code on. More significantly it establishes that the version of Qt I built myself, 4.2.3, can support this tool. I had actually started the migration of qconf on this machine, but stopped because of the nagging core dumps I was getting at the time. I then moved to the Ubuntu system because it had Qt 4 deb files I could install and work with. And, of course, I was successful in finding the bugs and finishing the migration. I was concerned that somehow I had screwed up the build of Qt or had not adequately installed it on SLED (in this case I have Qt 4.2.3 installed under /opt/QT).

So now comes the next test; building another kernel on this box and seeing what happens. My final test will be to do this on my other Suse …

Kernel problem solving adventures in Ubuntu Land

Since the weekend I've been playing a bit with the Linux kernel, version 2.6.20.3. I configured it using my hacked copy of qconf, and then went to the trouble of installing it and booting into it. Everything has worked just fine except my USB-based drives, a Western Digital Passport and a Sandisk Cruzer Micro. I couldn't figure out what the problem was until I started to pay attention to the boot messages.

Two that came flashing along at the end of the boot process complained that two devices could not be mounted. The message listed several possible causes, then added this vitally important message at the end of each one: execute dmesg and pipe it through tail for better clues to the problem. I followed that advice right after boot and read this:

wbeebe@rhea:~$ dmesg | tail
[ 97.868878] apm: BIOS version 1.2 Flags 0x07 (Driver version 1.16ac)
[ 97.868884] apm: overridden by ACPI.
[ 103.979609] [drm] Setting GART location based on new memory map
[ 103.979620] [drm] Loading R300…

Google Earth on Ubuntu: a new definition of slow

This post is all Dr. Roger Smith's fault. Roger has been playing with Ubuntu 6.10, and he asked me how to install Google Earth from the .bin file he'd just downloaded. After telling him how to start a shell and set the execute bit, he was off and running. And out of curiosity, I decided to download and test Google Earth on rhea, my Ubuntu 7.04 machine.

Google Earth started life as a Windows-only application. Recently Google has been porting Google Earth to Linux and releasing betas. It was one of those betas I snagged and installed. And before you say it, yes, I installed beta software on an alpha operating system. But it's still slower than Congress in an election year.

Google Earth first opens up with a shot of the Earth in space. It then begins to zoom into the planet, and it will eventually stop at the altitude you see above. On my machine, you can see each magnification step laboriously drawn, one frame at a time.

In this next step I've deliberately started to center…

Digging in deeper with Ubuntu 7.04

I spent part of the weekend migrating the Qt-based qconf, used to help configure the kernel, from Qt3 to Qt4. A screen shot of the final result is below.


The move from Qt3 to Qt4 started when I tried to build the 2.6.20.3 kernel on SLED 10, and I attempted to run 'make xconfig'. I'd already downloaded and built Qt 4.2.3 and I wanted to use it instead of Qt 3. I knew that Qt 4.2.2 was available to Ubuntu 7.04, and a version of Qt 4.2.1 is also available as part of Open Suse 10.2. With KDE 4 to be released sometime later this year and based on Qt4, I thought it might be a good idea to get a feel for how to port an application from Qt3 to Qt4. The astute reader will note that I performed this on Ubuntu, which is Gnome based. Why not just execute 'make gconfig' and use the Gnome-based configuration tool? To be different, I guess.

Observations
As mentioned earlier, Ubuntu 7.04 repositories now have Qt 4.2.3.I installed and used KDBG to help debug some of the core dumps bei…

Suse 10.2, part 14: Even more video playback examples

Here's another screen capture, this time playing back two Quicktime movies of a pair of dramatic virtual flyovers of Mars. One was playing in Firefox, the other in VLC. For more details, read the complete story on New Scientist Space.

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 5+ - Another major update

Another major update came across the wire today: 149 packages downloaded and installed. Observations so far include:
A new kernel update, to 2.6.20-10. The kernel was built using gcc 4.1.2, which is also part of this installation.Gnome is now officially upgraded to 2.18.0. According to the release notes, 180 new contributers were added. Not bad for a project that was recently cited as in decline.Sound is working again. I moved the speaker input from a PCI card (brand unknown at this time) to the built-in sound output, and wouldn't you know it, that's the sound port that's enabled. Which leads to the questions; (1) what is that card, and (2) why was it occasionally enabled in the past? Under Windows that card worked. Hmm...I checked out WMV high-definition clip of Harry Potter, and neither Totem nor VLC play back with sound. But everything else plays back fine. That means there's something special about the Suse installation of both Totem and VLC, since they play back WM…

Suse 10.2, part 13: More video playback examples

Just a quick note about playing back current encoding types under Linux. The following screenshot shows Gnome's Totem (2.17.3) and VideoLAN's VLC (0.8.6) playing back the latest Harry Potter clip ("Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"). Not the exact same clip. Totem is playing back a QuickTime high resolution clip in the upper right corner, while VLC is playing back a Microsoft HD WMV clip below Totem. I haven't resized either application. The desktop is 1600 by 1200 resolution. I will note that Totem can play both clips, but it does not play back the HD WMV clip very well, dropping frames and loosing sync with the audio. VLC plays it back flawlessly.

I've tried this same experiment with Ubuntu 7.04, with the same two applications and the same two clips, and found that both Totem and VLC play the HD WMV clip without dropping frames. I can't speak to any audio issues, as the audio is broken again on the machine that is hosting Ubuntu.

The clips came f…

Surviving poisonous people

The title to this post comes from a Google talk that I first found linked to by slashdot. Presented by Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian Fitzpatrick, they cover how to handle 'poisonous' participants in an open source development project. And to underscore why it's important to follow their advice comes this high-profile cautionary tale about what can happen when poisonous people do take control; they've nearly destroyed Gentoo Linux, if you can believe the editorial on DistroWatch.

Reality check: Where is embedded Linux?

Found via Slashdot, the New York Times published a story about how mobile operators are complaining of too many mobile phone operating systems, and the hard work of supporting them all. One of the interesting statistics in the story was provided by Canalys, a London-based market research firm. If I can believe the numbers, here's how OS use on smart phones stacks up:
Symbian, at 66.7%Microsoft, at 14%Research in Motion, at 7%Linux, at 6%This only adds up to 94% of the market, which makes me wonder how the rest of the market (6%) is divided up. Whatever.

I say it's interesting because of these numbers supplied in early 2006 by The Diffusion Group:
Symbian, at 51%Linux, at 23% (double its 2004 share of 11.3%)
Microsoft, at 17%
It may be that the TDG report is for all mobile phones, not just smart phones. Again, whatever.

Returning to the first article I find it interesting how some of the major players want to divvy up their supported operating systems. Vodafone wants to concentrate o…

Home networking Linux and Windows

Lately I've been working on enabling network shares on most of the systems that run in my house. They're the various computers that have shown up over the years and are now parked in corners of rooms around my house. With the exception of the iMac and europa, every one came with Windows pre-installed. If they run Linux, it was installed well after the fact.

The three systems I concentrate most of my time on are algol, the Gateway M685 running Windows, rhea, an aging Compaq Presario testing Ubuntu 7.04, and europa, a DIY system that runs Suse 10.2. I've got all three of them sharing folders via cifs. Rhea and europa use Samba, while algol is Windows XP native (Algol spends the majority of its time running Windows).

Algol is a notebook system provided to me by my employer, Sparta. I have two docking stations at my two office locations located in and near to Orlando's Research Park area. While docked algol is hard-wired into a network. At home I have no docking station, so …

DST no big deal

It was interesting to read Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols article about updating Linux to handle the new daylight savings time, specifically older releases going back a ways. I compare that with Microsoft's support of older versions of Windows, which apparently only goes back to Windows 2000 Professional SP4. If you've got older versions of NT or a Windows 9x variant, or even (heaven forbid) a Windows 3.x version, then I guess you're on your own.

But around Beebe Central, all the computerized equipment has been humming right along. Everything that wasn't a literal clock clock stepped ahead one hour like it was supposed to. This included the Ubuntu 7.04 system, the Suse 10.2 system, my WinXP notebook, my daughters iMac, even my Nokia 6133 cell phone. All those little machines are at the right time, and I didn't have to touch any of them. Isn't technology wonderful?

First Amendement Rights

Nearly two years ago I wrote an opinion piece about Groklaw and its editor, Pamela Jones (PJ). Let me quote the pertinent paragraph:
PJ, however, has done more than just report the facts of the case. She's editorialized. She's injected her opinion into the Groklaw documentation. And she's made some pointed observations about the players in this drama, one of whom is our own gentle MoG. I have no problems with PJ voicing her opinions. She has her First Amendment rights just like anyone else. The problem is that she wants to hide while she does it, and that's not right.Now let's quote the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to partition the Government for a redress of grievances.In this case abridging means the act of lessening, reducing, or depriving. I …

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 5+ - Some updated items

As mentioned prior to this, there were a lot of updates coming down the wire this past week; nearly 200 by my count landed on my system. One of the bigger updates was with OpenOffice. It seems to have promoted the OO version number up to 2.2.0. This is even higher than that posted on the OpenOffice website.

I've opened up Writer, Calc, and Impress. Note the version number in the about dialog. The documents being displayed are found in the Examples folder in your Ubuntu home directory.

The next shot is a gratuitous shot of Wireshark, a view into an SMB share being provided by my Suse-based system europa, and several gterms showing basic information. I've got the new wallpaper that came in with the updates, and somehow the window decorations are now blue.



One other feature which I question the usefulness of. If you go to Control Center (or the Preferences menu), Theme, and hit the Customize button, you pull up the Theme Details dialog. A new tab has been added labeled Colors. This …

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 5+ - Updating experiences

I'm writing about how Ubuntu handled an automatic update the week of March 5, 2007. These days the process of keeping your system up to date has evolved considerably so that it is very easy to stay current with fixes and security updates. Essentially your distribution runs a background process with an associated desktop applet that keeps tabs on any updates to your distribution, and alerts you when updates are available. You can then determine if you wish to install them or not. The most important reason for having this feature is security upgrades. Windows in particular has made the importance of this feature quite clear over the years.

Upgrading is not always straight forward. Again, Windows proves the point, most notably with XP SP2. Many IT shops refused to push out SP2 because it broke one or more key internal applications. As an example of this, up until mid-2005, when I still worked for SAIC, SAIC refused to fully install SP2 (although, oddly enough, Lockheed/Martin, to whom…

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 5 - More Problems, Solutions with Compiz

After getting Compiz to finally work on this modest system, I started to use applications on Ubuntu. The first application I opened was NetBeans 6 Milestone 7. NetBeans presented the first post-success problem I ran into. There is a problem with Java rendering Swing under Xgl/Compiz (bug 6429775). I had already installed Java 6 build 105 via Add/Remove, and was happily using it. However, when Compiz is active, Swing-based Java applications have the same problem with rendering window contents as I noted in my earlier post about Compiz problems in general. The solution is to download and install Java 6 Update 1.

I downloaded the pre-release version of 6U1 from the Java 6 Developer site and installed it in a different location from the stock Java 6 RPM location. On my machine 6U1 is installed under /opt2/java. I then set up JAVA_HOME and modified PATH to point to 6U1 first instead of the stock Java installation. Finally, I modified etc/netbeans.conf (under the NetBeans installation root) …

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 5 - Problems with Compiz Fixed

Wouldn't you know it. Less than 24 hours after complaining about Compiz problems, I get a very nice comment giving me a very simple solution.

iGama said:
just add this 2 lines in xorg.conf , section Device :

Option "XAANoOffscreenPixmaps"
Option "AddARGBGLXVisuals" "true"

Restart your X , and problem with Compiz/Beryl fixed :)I did, and he's right, as you'll see below. Not to bite the hand that feeds me, but I hope this fix is the 'correct' fix, and that it's included in any future releases. It's so simple (at least for ATI cards like mine, a 9600).

Thanks, iGama!


The first screen capture shows three gterms and the system monitor. What's really nice is that the gterms have true transparency. If you enable gterm transparency without Compiz, the gterm simply maps the desktop image into its background. But now I can see everything under the gterm. More than just pretty eye candy, I can keep track of other dynamically upda…

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 5 - Problems with Compiz

The world now knows that Ubuntu 7.05 Herd 5 (Alpha 5) is out. And I've been able to ascertain (to my satisfaction) that my initial Alpha 3 installation has been updated to Alpha 5 via the update facilities built into Ubuntu. Ubuntu, for the most part, continues to perk along just fine. One problem I've hit, however, is activation of Compiz.

Compiz is a windows and compositing manager that provides nominal 3D desktop effects. It relies on 3D graphics acceleration via OpenGL. Ubuntu 7.04 incorporates Xorg 7.2 (at least that's what synaptic tells me), which in turn has open ATI drivers that enable advanced features capable of supporting OpenGL. So, there should be no problem enabling Compiz desktop effects. The problem is that right now there is a problem, a big problem.

What follows are two screenshots, the first with desktop effects enabled, and the second with desktop effects disabled.

In the first screenshot, desktop effects are enabled and three applications have been opene…

NetBeans 6 MS 7 Note: Running Ruby and Rails on SLED 10

I installed the Ruby modules from the update center on NB6 MS7 running on SLED 10. I was able to successfully create a complete Rails project. WEBrick started as well. I also checked the 'native' version of Ruby installed on SLED 10, and discovered it's 1.8.4 vs. JRuby's 1.8.5. My recommendation, for what it's worth, would be to stay entirely within the JRuby/NetBeans environment while on SLED 10. I've tried to find a Ruby update repository for Ruby on SLED 10 and x86_64, but I haven't so far. Frankly, for what I do, it's not that critical. SLED is after all a desktop, and my work so far has been tools and utilities.