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Where Have I Been? and the Summer of Hardy Haron July 7, 2008

Posted by amazingrando in General, Windows-Linux Transition.
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Thanks to all of you that have been submitting comments.  I’ll try to research a few and update the entries.  I think there are a few tweaks needed for Hardy Haron too.  So, where have I been?  Well, it was the first year of my PhD program and I was buried in work and shuttling back and forth between France and Singapore.  It’s finally over and I will be enjoying some of the slower pace of the summer by moving to Hardy and trying out some new stuff: HD video, encryption, WEP cracking, bibliographic databases, etc.  If you have any requests for me to try to figure out, let me know!


Share folders via Samba without a password – easy! June 3, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Windows-Linux Transition.


Coming from the Windows world to Linux, one of the first things I wanted to do was to share directories on Ubuntu with my Windows laptop to easily transfer files. In Windows I can just right click a folder, go to sharing, and enable it. No users and passwords to set up. It goes without saying that this is not secure and you want to be careful doing it, but it’s a great way to share files between computers at home.

Sadly, it’s not yet that easy to do this in Ubuntu (let me know if there’s a simple way to do it with other distros). Ubuntu makes it easy to install the samba server. If it’s not already installed, you can right click on a directory and try to share it. It will ask you to install samba. You can also use sudo apt-get install samba or via the add/remove programs under the application menu.

Ubuntu, however, isn’t able to set it up for anyone to access without logging in, yet. It will only share with a login and password. So, to do this you’ll need to edit your /etc/samba/smb.conf file. Here’s how share a folder without a password or login:

  1. In a terminal type sudo gedit /etc/samba/smb.conf (kubuntu users type kdesu kate /etc/samba/smb.conf)
  2. Find the ### Authentication ### section (might be called Administration in older versions of Samba), where it says security = user
  3. Change it to security = share and make sure the line does not start with a semicolon. If it does, remove it.
  4. A few lines down from that you’ll see ; guest account = nobody Remove the semicolon at the beginning of the line.
  5. Scroll to the very bottom of the file and put in the following, adjusted for your own system[Share name]
    writable = yes
    path = /path/to/directory
    public = yes
    guest ok = yes
    guest only = yes
    guest account = nobody
    browsable = yes
  6. Save the file and quit gedit
  7. In the terminal restart the samba server to reload the conf file sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart

That should do it. If you want to try a more sophisticated way to configure shares, there is a GUI application called gsambad. I’ve found it overkill for just doing a simple share, but for others it might be quite useful. In Ubuntu you can download it from add/remove programs.


Running Windows in Ubuntu part 2 – VirtualBox rocks! May 3, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Windows-Linux Transition.
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Following up on my prior post about running Windows (or other OS’s) in Ubuntu, I kept searching around for something better than VMware server. Why? I wanted something that was:

  • Not only free, but open source
  • Easier to install and configure than VMware
  • Had a GUI for managing virtual machines
  • Fairly stable and speedy

It seems like a tall order, but I found Innotek’s VirtualBox a few weeks back. It’s open source (GPL), easy to install and configure, has a nice GUI for configuring VM’s, virtual drives, etc. There’s no need for serial numbers like with VMware. It offers host accelerator drivers for Windows and other OS’s. Overall it’s been very stable for me. Oh, and they have good documentation! At present this is my recommended choice for running another OS under Ubuntu.

How to install:

  1. Download the .deb file of VirtualBox for your version of Ubuntu
  2. Use GDebi package installer (right click on the package from Nautilus), or you can use sudo dpkg -i *.deb where the asterisk is the name of the package file you downloaded
  3. This should install VirtualBox and any dependencies
  4. When it’s done you’ll need to add yourself to the new vboxusers group
    1. Open /etc/group with GEdit sudo gedit /etc/group
    2. Find the line vboxusers:x:1001:
    3. Immediately after the last colon, add your user name. For example, if mine is rando, then it would now look like vboxusers:x:1001:rando
    4. Save the file
  5. Having done that, restart
  6. Finally you can run VirtualBox from the command line and set up a virtual machine (an icon will also appear under Applications -> System )

I have skipped many options for pre and post-installation in order to give you a quick run-down on how to get up and running. For all the details, check out their excellent documentation.

Hopefully you’ll have as much fun with VirtualBox as I have!

How to mount UDF DVDs in Ubuntu May 2, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Windows-Linux Transition.

Thanks to silverkeys for the image

I’ve been mighty ill recently, so it’s been a while since my last post, but I finally seem to be recovering and it’s time for another post.

Traditionally recordable DVDs or CDs were written with the ISO 9660 file system. This made it work with everything from Linux to Windows to your car’s MP3 player. When DVD movies came out they used a new file system called Universal Disc Format or UDF, which is meant to replace ISO 9660. Ten years later people are still using ISO 9660 most of the time. But, that is changing. One of the biggest reasons for this is that ISO 9660 cannot handle files larger than 4GB. If you want to back up anything bigger than that you either need to split it (which can be a pain to split and recombine later) or you need to go with the UDF file system. I often backup files bigger than 4GB, so I pretty much only use UDF on discs I burn.

Ubuntu (and maybe other Linux distros – Debian?) seem to have a problem mounting UDF formatted discs. The solution to this is as simple as editing your /etc/fstab file and restarting. Here are the steps, from the Terminal:

sudo gedit /etc/fstab

Here you should see a line similar to this:

/dev/scd1 /media/cdrom0 udf,iso9660 user,noauto 0 0

The first part (/dev/scd1) is the device name (could be different with your computer), the second part (/media/cdrom0) is the mount point (where you access the disc in the file system). The third part is the file systems supported. This is where the problem lies. It shows UDF and ISO 9660, but if both are there (which is supposedly ok if comma-separated), then one or the other will not work, depending on the order they are written in the line. So the solution is the change both of those to:


Now the edited line will look something like:

/dev/scd1 /media/cdrom0 auto user,noauto 0 0

Now save the file and restart.

When you restart, UDF and ISO DVDs should work just fine!

Where are the Fesity DVD ISOs? On bittorrent only… April 20, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Windows-Linux Transition.
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Where are the DVDs?? (pic thanks to Andrew Mason)
Where are the DVDs?? (pic thanks to Andrew Mason)

Following up on my prior post, if you’ve looked for a DVD ISO of Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn, you might have noticed that they aren’t mirrored and there doesn’t seem to be a way to download them. At first I thought that they might not have been available yet. Fear not, they are available, but only via bittorrent. You can find the official torrents here:

Note that the Ubuntu servers are overloaded and getting the torrent file (even though it’s only 88KB) will probably be slow for a few more days, as will starting the torrent since the tracker is hosted at Ubuntu.com as well. Also, it appears that there is no DVD ISO for Xubuntu, which probably makes sense since it’s supposed to be a lightweight version.

Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn is Released – Get it today! April 20, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Windows-Linux Transition.
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7.04 is here!
7.04 is here! (thanks to Dhjiz for the screenshot)


Ubuntu is unique among Linux distributions in that it has a six month release schedule that includes a long-term support edition every few releases. Ubuntu 7.04 “Feisty Fawn” was released today with some good improvements. If you want a full ISO, you can grab it here, and when you do, please be sure to download it via bittorrent.

Why via bittorrent?

The philosophy

A number of universities and firms are nice enough to donate bandwidth and servers to mirror CD images (ISO’s), but none of that comes cheap. Bittorrent, by contrast, relies on users like you to contribute a portion of bandwidth and storage. This happens because when you download you are also uploading. With everyone contributing like that, the costs are no higher than the Internet connection you already have. Moreover, it reflects the spirit of Ubuntu and free/open-source – we’re all part of a community which is made better by each of us participating. Don’t worry about legality. Bittorrent is legal (downloading copyrighted content is not, however!). In fact, major studios like Warner Bros. and Fox are now distributing their movies via bittorrent.

Tips – HOWTO

  • First, you’ll need a bittorrent client (I suggest Azureus)
  • Next, you’ll need to get the right torrent file from Ubuntu.com or official mirrors
  • Bittorrent is a great way to get the latest release a at the highest speeds. When mirrors are slow and overloaded, you’ll find that bittorrent is substantially faster because the more people who are sharing, the faster it gets!
  • After you’ve downloaded, let it run for a while longer, ideally so that your ratio is >1.000 By doing this it means that you’ve uploaded as much as you’ve downloaded
  • Only get the torrent file from Ubuntu.com or one of the official mirrors. That way you ensure that you are you getting the legitimate (and current) version.

Choosing Linux Distrubitions – Tools to help you April 10, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Windows-Linux Transition.
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Join the revolution! (art thanks to “7 Bits of Truth”)
Join the revolution! (art thanks to “7 Bits of Truth”)

For people like me who are making their first foray into the Linux world, the choices of Linux flavors can be staggering. Each flavor, or distribution (distro for short), has its own unique characteristics. Some, like Gentoo are build-as-you-go systems that give power users lots of options and speed. Others, like PCLinuxOS are geared towards people new to the Linux world. There are gazillions of them, as you can see at distrowatch.com. So how do you choose one over the other? I’ve found three good tools to help you choose.

1. Linux Distribution Chooser

The Linux Distribution Chooser at zegeniestudios.net is a great way to get started. It will ask you a series of questions, even in your native language, about what your needs are. Then it will give you detailed recommendations and alternatives.

2. Distro Comparison at polishlinux.org

After you’ve narrowed your choices, you can use this website to compare two distros side-by-side and compare everything from installation to wireless support. Very handy.

3. Live CD’s – Give it a try before you install

Many of the top distros have a “Live CD” that you can download. This is a full version of the operating system that runs off a CD. You just download, burn it, and reboot. It’s a very good way to try out the distro without having to install it. You can find a great list of them at FrozenTech’s LiveCD List. Many Live CD’s can also be used to install the OS. So, if you like it you can just take the next step and install right from the CD.

Restoring Windows MBR – fixmbr is your friend April 5, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Windows-Linux Transition.

(pic thanks to articnomad)
(pic thanks to articnomad)

Update: These are instructions if you’re restoring under Windows XP.  If you want to restore with Windows Vista, then see my new post.

I’m going to be setting up a new computer with Ubuntu on it, so I want to take Ubuntu off a machine that’s dual boot with Windows and leave that system to just run Windows. Removing Ubuntu is as easy as deleting its partitions (/, swap, etc.). But then you’re left with GRUB. If you want to uninstall GRUB and have it boot into Windows normally, then you need to do the following:

  1. Boot from the Windows CD
  2. Select R for Recovery Console
  3. Type the number of your Windows install (usually 1) and hit enter
  4. Type in the administrator password
  5. Type fixmbr and hit enter
  6. Answer yes when it asks you to overwrite the MBR
  7. Type exit, which will then reboot the system and everything should work
  8. Enjoy!

Just a reminder of the obvious in light of cronek’s experience – make sure you backup before you do this!  Also, if you have anything more complicated than a dual-boot (XP/Linux) setup, you may want to consider something like Acronis Disk Director.

Changing Permissions of a Partition — it’s easy! April 5, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Windows-Linux Transition.
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(pic thanks to articnomad)
(pic thanks to articnomad)

I ran into the issue of a partition that was read-only, and it was the classic issue of permissions. In this case, I wanted to change the permissions to make it consistent with the rest of my partitions. There are a lot of complex ways of doing this, but this is just for everyday Ubuntu use. Thanks to taurus for the tip.

First, check to see what the ownership is by going to /media and doing a ls -la

Second, do the following, replacing “yourPartition” with the name of the partition (e.g. /sdb1).

sudo chown -R username:username /yourPartition
sudo chmod -R 755 /yourPartition

Finally, check to see if it worked by doing another ls -la

From Recovery Mode to Normal — without rebooting April 5, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Windows-Linux Transition.
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So you’ve booted into Ubuntu using recovery mode (command line) because you had some issue. Now that it’s fixed (unless it explicitly requires a reboot), then why reboot? All you need to do is change the runlevel from runlevel 1 to runlevel 3:

telinit 3