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Bart Verwilst a.k.a Bort :: Blog | Linux, Open Source. That's pretty much it.

Having just purchased a HP Officejet 6500A, the device gives a true plug and play experience on Ubuntu 11.10. However, one thing that did not work right out of the box was scanning one or more pages from the ADF ( automatic document feeder ). Scanning through the ‘simple’ glass scan plate worked fine, but trying to use the ADF did nothing. Ubuntu 11.10 comes with HPLIP version 3.11.7, but this particular issue has been addressed in HPLIP 3.11.10, which was not available as a .deb yet, until now! Just add my desktop PPA to your sources, upgrade hplip, and enjoy a flawless ADF scan experience ;) Here’s the link.

A few easy steps to install Mozilla Thunderbird 5.0 on your Ubuntu 11.04 system:

# sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mozillateam/thunderbird-stable
# sudo apt-get update
# sudo apt-get install thunderbird

On Ubuntu 9.10/10.04, Netbeans freezes when you commit your code changes to Subversion from Netbeans. This happens because of a bug in the Gnome keyring support in Subversion 1.6. We can fix it by added the following line to netbeans_default_options in /etc/netbeans.conf:

-J-DsvnClientAdapterFactory=commandline

Committing should work fine from then on.

I’ve been using Eclipse with Subclipse for quite a long time for my PHP projects, but using the Subclipse plugin had the bad habit of crashing the whole editor. I tried to upgrade the plugin using the built-in frontend, but when that one hung the editor again, I decided to dust off the Netbeans install i had laying around on my system. I installed it months ago, but never looked to it again. One thing that really irks me is that all the ‘good’ IDE’s seem to be written in Java, which I really happen to dislike..

Anyways, to make Netbeans at least reasonably OK in the easy-on-the-eyes dept., I enabled AA. as explained here:

In /etc/netbeans.conf, add the following line: “-J-Dswing.aatext=true -J-Dawt.useSystemAAFontSettings=on” to the netbeans_default_options variable.

Restart Netbeans and your fonts will be AA’ed ;)

Now let’s hope Netbeans is stable..

So I’ve tried the new browser Google released ( as beta ) called ‘Chrome’ on Linux. While I’m more than happy with the speed and cleanliness of my Firefox install, I decided to give it a whirl. While I couldn’t really see a staggering difference of loading times between the two, one thing that really stood out and bugged me ( and caused me to remove Chrome from my system again ) was the “Windows let’s give every god damned application its own theme and color scheme”-approach they took. Windows applications have the habit to look totally out of place, and have no integration whatsoever with the look and feel of the desktop.  ( Yes Steam client, I’m looking at you! ) The blue-ish browser with custom buttons and tool bar seemed to try hard not to blend into my brown Ubuntu desktop, so it’s gone. Let’s hope Google get their heads out of their asses and make Chrome conform to the standards, guidelines, themes and color schemes of the desktop, whether it’s Mac, Windows or Linux!

Update: They seem to have a “Use GTK+ theme” and “Use system title bar and borders” under Options, but that only partially fixes things, turning the blue to purple. Nonetheless, when disregarding the desktop environment, Chrome looks pretty slick, and can hopefully become a worthy competitor for other browsers, which can only be a good thing! :)

One day, you’re happily typing away on a production server. You want to clean up /tmp so you can mount it with tmpfs instead of normal on-disk stuffs. You proceed:

root@ubuntu:/# ls /tmp/
dbconfig-generate-include.sed.fc6130  dbconfig-generate-include.sed.hu7261  dbconfig-generate-include.sed.k26205

Ok, on to the action:

root@ubuntu:/# rm *
rm: cannot remove `bin’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `boot’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `dev’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `emul’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `etc’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `home’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `initrd’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `lib’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `lost+found’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `media’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `mnt’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `opt’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `proc’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `root’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `sbin’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `srv’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `sys’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `tmp’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `usr’: Is a directory
rm: cannot remove `var’: Is a directory

You can summarize the next few seconds as “………. OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG”, while turning pale.

root@ubuntu:/# ls
bash: /bin/ls: No such file or directory

It’s a goner. Luckily i didn’t do rm -rf, because that would have FUBAR’ed the server fully. What happened is that /lib64 and /lib32 ( which are symlinks to /lib and /emul/ia32-linux/lib respectively ) got removed, effectively rendering you unable to execute any command ( because everything depends on /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 ). But no worries, there is one thing that is statically linked on your system ( meaning, not requiring any libs from /lib64, thus still working ) and that’s the /lib/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 file. By using this file, you can force your ln command to look into /lib for its libs instead of ( the now missing ) /lib64.

root@ubuntu:~# /lib/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 –library-path /lib /bin/ln -sf /lib /lib64

Which re-creates the /lib64 symlink, reviving all commands! Then you can create the /lib32 symlink again with the normal ln command. Crisis averted ;)

Hopefully this will help others in the same situation ;)

Remember kids, working as root is evil! ( although it couldn’t help me in this situation since i needed to be root to clean the /tmp. )

I’ve been using my iPhone for 6 weeks now.

Long enough to spot some good and some bad things about it :)

First, the good:

  • Very attractive device ( Hardware )
  • It has the same smooth and silky look and feel that we’re used to from Apple ( Software )
  • Standard apps are very easy to use ( as in non-awkward ( think Windows Mobile ;) ) )
  • Multi-touch, rotating pics, … ( yeah others support it too, but they were first afaik )
  • Chat/IM-like interface for SMS ( takes SMS to a whole other level, but you tend to SMS a lot more as a result :) )
  • Frontside glass seems to be very scratch-resistant
  • The virtual keyboard is pretty handy to type on, even with my big hands :)

Now, the bad/ugly:

  • You _have_ to use iTunes to be able to use the device ( activation ) and sync/backup it.
  • You cannot choose what you want to install ( unless Apple said it was OK )
  • Battery life.. with bluetooth and wireless disabled, I can’t even make 48 hours without recharging!
  • No MMS.. I don’t use it, but FFS, every cheapo phone supports this for years..
  • No bluetooth file transfers.. Same comment as above.
  • No Caldav for calendaring. This one annoys me the most. Incredible.
  • 15 EUR for an ‘official’ stupid recharge USB-to-Apple-stuffs cable.. ( $2 on dealextreme.com btw ;) )
  • They don’t allow competitors ( Opera, Firefox, …  anyone? )
  • When calling, I cannot keep the phone to my ear for longer than 5 mins because my head starts feeling very warm. I have to swap sides regularly ( sounds very healthy :) )
  • No access to the source ;)
  • API’s are mostly closed. Calendar API being the biggest annoyancy for me, and the reason why Funambol can only sync contacts through their iPhone app. Calendaring is still impossible because of Apple.
  • Camera _really_ cannot handle any movement :P ( blurry pics as soon as you move )
  • Fanboys that downplay every issue listed here with no technical arguments whatsoever.

I am sure I have forgotten a lot of items ( both pro and con ).

The general feeling I have is that this has everything to be a killer phone. Too bad Apple wastes a lot of opportunities by the vast amount of lock-in they oppose on the device. Let the community free to build/extend it and it would be orders of magnitude better/more attractive. But I guess this is typical Apple behaviour. If Microsoft would have the same behaviour as Apple, it would cost them millions and millions in Anti-trust lawsuites. I hope the EU wakes up one day and starts judging the anti-competative police Apple handles currently.

All in all i really like the device and hope Apple would pull its head from its *** and clean up shop!

I bumped into this blogpost by accident. It suggests that the release quality has been going down for every new release of Ubuntu ( as shown in the graphs ). They come to that conclusion by using the polls on the forums that ask how smooth your install of Ubuntu was. Personally I have seen a lot of users around me that really start getting into Linux just because each release has become more usable and stable. More hardware is supported, more features are in the provided apps.

Sure, it can be that I’m mistaken and release quality is going down the drain. Or it can be that more and more users start using Ubuntu. And it’s mostly the users that are already having problems that come to the forums to look for answers and vote on those polls. Most users don’t start searching through forums when everything works out of the box..

Statistics always show what the creator wants you to see ;)

Dell Mini 9

While assembling a new laptop for my girlfriend, i stumbled upon this tiny beauty . Ofcourse this is too small for dedicated work, so i decided on the Dell Inspiron 1525 ( for just 650EUR ) for her, but my personal itch would be scratched more by the mini 9. It’s running Ubuntu 8.04.1, has wireless caps and a solid state disk, and ( duh ) a 9″ screen. All this for only $250! Sweet!

Too bad it costs 454 EUR in Belgium though :( ( What a rip-off! ) and it runs Windows XP! ( ‘WTF’ as my dear pal Raf put it )

Apple lock-in

Dear Apple,

I’m using your highly priced ( but for the most part awesome ) iPhone. When people cash out that much money for a phone, the least you can do is open up your API to allow other 3rd party applications to interface with it. Because of your closed iPhone calendar API for example, I’m unable to sync my OSS Zimbra with my iPhone. Lucky you, Apple, for not being as closely watched on lock-in practices as Microsoft is. Don’t worry, keep up this kind of unethical practices and I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

Greetings.

Just a small note-to-self, this doesn’t work:

to !address@test.com

while this does:

to “!address@test.com”

On a brighter note, now that I have an iPhone ( and I seem to love it! ) I finally found the time/motivation to setup Funambol to interface with my Zimbra server, keeping the Zimbra contacts in sync with my iPhone! A howto will follow shortly!

This might be a no-brainer, but I thought it would be nice to mention it here anyways..

By default, when using English as your Zimbra webclient language, all time notations ( in your calendar or mails for example ) are in AM/PM notation. This can be quit annoying since us Europeans don’t use this system. ;)

The simple fix is to go to Preferences -> General -> Login Options -> Language, and select English ( United Kingdom ).

A simple reload later, and you’re still using your English webclient, but now with time in 24 hour format!

Java LogoWe’ve had the pleasure of using the 64bit Flash player in the last couple of weeks. This week it’s time for Sun to do the same thing! The latest update of Java 6 ( Update 12 ) has a working 64 bit Java browser plugin!

No packages are available yet for Ubuntu/Debian, but they will surely follow soon!

Seems like 2009 will be the year of the 64bit Linux desktop ;)

I’ve never been mr. elite coder. Programming never really was my main point of focus, and spent most of my time focussed on the Linux system level of things.

Over the years, I have coded in various languages, but on small personal projects, without any expert guidance or anything. The lack of guidance might be the reason of my almost complete withdrawal from coding the last couple of years.

I started with VB. Writing an instant messenger for example :) ( with own protocol, just for the fun of it ).

I played with Python. Coded with it for a few years, did some small Portage ( Gentoo ) work, wrote a Kazaa-like client with PyQt, hacked on Anaconda job-wise.. I found Python to be very easy to understand, and had a very low level of entry into code which you wrote like 6 months ago without hardly any comments ( i know, shame on me ), and noticed myself being back on track in a matter of hours!

I’ve done quite a lot with PHP. Wrote a couple of websites with it, webservices for system automation, but found myself using it more on the Linux system level in the end ( php-cli ). I still pretty much like PHP, but i HATE web development :P I’ve used Symfony for quite some time, and really started to like it. I looked at Drupal too, but something about it really turns me off. Can’t say what exactly though..

I’ve used c++ for about 2 years. Mostly with Qt, which i absolutely loved at the time ( been a few years ). The power of c++ with the easiness of Qt. Yummie! I’ve only found the GUI look-n-feel to be… clunky.. Can’t really explain what’s missing, but it just has an awkward feel to it. Gnome/GTK apps for example feel a lot more solid to me for some reason. :)

Then i tried Java for a few months. Never liked it. In my head I never stopped seeing it as an unsurmountable mountain of code. It just looked a daunting task. Not to mention all the .war / .jar crap.. Bleh!

Then i started with Mono ( C# ). I must say i really like the syntax and feel of it, it’s a joy to code in. It’s not really pleasant to see .dll and .exe’s pop up though.. And i have no idea what to think about the whole ethical aspect of it. I like C# as a language, but i hate the Microsoft side of it. Somehow I have this feeling inside that in the end it’s all yet another plan to dominate/break/destroy the Linux environment, first letting Mono be deeply entrenched, and then executing part 2 of their plans. Call me paranoid ;) I also don’t like the Novell boys bending over and taking it like a man on MS’es every whim.

Never tried Ruby, didn’t appeal to me. No particular reason.

Tried Perl for a while, never liked it, too cryptic for my taste. I actually tried to avoid it whenever it was possible :)

Lately however, I started longing for development again. Over time, I’ve become less and less a FOSS contributor, which is really starting to annoy me. But I have the feeling that Linux system skills alone don’t allow you to really make a change in the FOSS world.

So.. what to choose to get into the game? As a Gnome user, my efforts would go to Gnome development. But i really don’t want to learn/code in C. I never liked GTK code-wise either. I know there are bindings for a lot of languages, but that feels so third-rank to me.. I could pickup C# instead, but the whole MS mindset behind it really turns me off.

Now, for the point of this rather long post. :) Anyone more programmer-oriented with any ideas on my dilemma? I would surely appreciate it :) What language/lib do you recommend? Open for suggestions :)

Adobe Logo

By default, Intrepid on both i386 and x86_64 comes with the 32bit flashplayer 10 through nspluginwrapper. A lot of the crashes people see come from nspluginwrapper itself, which is very unstable in Hardy.

A new version of nspluginwrapper in Intrepid fixes a lot of crashes though, so you’re better of with Intrepid in any case.

However, since mid november, Adobe finally came through on one of the most requested feature Linux users around the globe begged for/requested, real 64bit support!

For an alpha version, i must say it is pretty rock solid on my system. Let’s get on and replace the default 32bit flashplayer/nspluginwrapper combo with this new goodie!

First of all, let’s remove any already installed versions of Flash, along with nspluginwrapper.

# apt-get remove flashplugin-nonfree nspluginwrapper

Next up, download the 64-bit Flash plugin from Adobe Labs. Select the tar.gz.

Unpack it and copy the resulting libflashplayer.so into /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins if you want to enable it for all users, or in ~/.mozilla/plugins to enable it only for your current user. Restarting Firefox and browsing to about:plugins should show the newly installed Flash plugin.

Enjoy your native 64-bit Flashplayer :)

Let’s admit, the SSL warnings in Firefox 3.0 are a bit cumbersome. Normal “Joe Schmoe” users just don’t get it. As an example, my girlfriend came to me saying her webmail was broken, while it was just the SSL warning that was between her and her mail. Without my help, she would have just been grumpy, thinking i broke her mail again ;)

I was wondering what the guys over at Mozilla were doing to make the situation a bit more clear. Now that Firefox 3.1 beta2 has been out for a while, i thought i would give it a spin and check out if anything changed since 3.0 in the SSL warning dept.

When you visit an SSL enabled site for the first time, this is presented to you.

In my opinion, this is a step in the right direction, explaining what has happened in semi-bitesize chuncks of text instead of cramming everything in 1 big, daunting blob of text as in FF 3.0.

Firefox 3.1 - Initial SSL warning page

Clicking on “Technical Details” or “I understand the Risks” show more information about both topics.

I really hope this will be fully translated in the users’ language to lower the barrier even more.

Firefox 3.1 - Extended SSL view

This is pretty much the same dialog as was the case in Firefox 3.0.

Although now it seems to get the certificate automatically, making you click only on “Confirm Security Exception” to proceed to the page you intended to visit.

Firefox 3.1 - SSL Accept Exception

All in all this seems like a step in the right direction to make this more userfriendly for the big public!

As this is only the second beta, the screenshots above are subject to change by the time 3.1 final is released.

By default, Zimbra isn’t very good in the spam-handling dept. You just keep on flagging messages as Junk, in the hopes that Zimbra is getting wiser on every occasion. Not really though..

Under the hood, Zimbra is relying on SpamAssassin to weed out the pharma mails. This heuristics-based method is pretty 90′s IMO, and while it still catches a lot of spam, rules have to be added/update on a regular basis in order to stay ahead of – or at least on par with – our good friends the spammers.

Enter DSpam. Dspam has a statistical approach to spam filtering. DSpam only knows that something is spam after you repeatedly show examples of it ( in Zimbra terms, mark it as junk ). After a while, dspam knows which words ( and combinations ) are mostly present in your spam and ham mails. Based on that knowledge, it will make educated guesses on what you consider spam and what you don’t. This means that dspam automatically keeps track of the latest trends in spam, as long as you follow up once in a while. Apart from that, dspam is written in C, and is insanely fast, especially in comparison with bloaty old Spamassassin.

One downside of Dspam however is that the project is pretty much euh.. dead or asleep, whatever you prefer. It sure has its share of quirks, especially on larger environments. But it does the job nicely for most people. Zimbra disabled dspam quite some time ago because of stability issues, so your mileage may vary.

By default, running

# zmamavisdctl stop

# /opt/zimbra/amavisd/sbin/amavisd -c /opt/zimbra/conf/amavisd.conf debug

will show you

Dec 11 13:37:42 zimbra01.verwilst.be /opt/zimbra/amavisd/sbin/amavisd[11878]: No $dspam,             not using it

Enabling Dspam in Zimbra is pretty straightforward though.

First of all, edit /opt/zimbra/conf/amavisd.conf.in . Uncomment the following line:

#$dspam = ‘/opt/zimbra/dspam/bin/dspam’;

Make sure the data dir of dspam is fully writable:

# chown zimbra: /opt/zimbra/data/dspam/data/ -R

Then run the amavisd command ( above ) again, or start it the Zimbra way:

# zmamavisdctl start

That’s pretty much all there is to it. You should see some DSPAM headers in every mail you receive ( look in the source of the mail ).

By default however, Zimbra only assigns a very small score to the mail when dspam marks it as spam. ( 0.5 points out of 6.6 required to be marked as spam by Zimbra ).

I put a lot of trust in DSpam, so i change the 0.5 points to 3 for spam, and -1 if dspam doesn’t think it’s spam.

Put the following lines in /opt/zimbra/conf/spamassassin/local.cf

header DSPAM_SPAM X-DSPAM-Result =~ /^Spam$/
describe DSPAM_SPAM Marked as spam by DSPAM
score DSPAM_SPAM 3

header DSPAM_HAM X-DSPAM-Result =~ /^Innocent$/
describe DSPAM_HAM Marked as ham by DSPAM
score DSPAM_HAM -1

And restart spamassassin:

# zmamavisdctl stop && zmamavisdctl start

Please beware that it might take a while for dspam to really start showing results! It needs to examine quite a lot of mails before it will start making decisions. You might want to set DSPAM_HAM closer to 0 the first few weeks..

Enjoy!

Monitorial goodies!

The guys over at ZenOSS were friendly enough to send us some goodies! Monitoring is quite the hot topic these days and although I’m more of a Zabbix “fanboy” myself, I must say others, like ZenOSS, sure have their places in many, sometimes very specific and/or different, areas.

Dressing up the male team members wouldn’t have had the same effect as our female coworkers, so we decided to take some quick pictures about it :)

It looks like the days of the  “You think monitoring so you think Nagios/Cacti” are really a thing of the past!

On a small update, it seems like great minds post alike ;)

Philips LCD TVEven the most fanatical Windows drone will probably be a Linux user as well, since Linux is all around you. I was reminded about that little fact when i found a piece of paper on my desk. It probably fell out of the box of my new Philips LCD TV. On closer inspection, the paper had a copy of the GPL license on it, along with a list of open source software Philips was using inside the TV. I was pleasantly surprised to find out my TV is actually running Linux 2.6.15, along with a host of GPL’ed tools such as libgphoto2, base64, gcc, libc, … Respect ;)