PCI SATA controller

Have any of you ever tried to install one of these? I decided that my 6-year old Maxtor has had enough of a workout that I probably shouldn't try to rely on it as much as I have been. My old box, paul, has been through a lot and recently got a complete refresh - new, simplified partition scheme to suit its purpose as a backup file-server, a fresh install of the OS, and a new 320GB Maxtor SATA drive. It is my old box, though, so it lacks SATA support onboard. eBay landed me a $16 VIA 6241 SATA II RAID controller - so I just plugged it in and fired it up.

Frustrated that it didn't come up... figured it was a kernel issue, and I was having problems with it - turns out I pulled a recent kernel down 2.6.23, made sure the VIA SATA driver was in, plus the AHCI driver, which was indicated on some forums relating to this device, and ...

... then I saw what I was looking for - /dev/sda, because SATA drives map like that. cfdisk for a single partition, slapped a ReiserFS onto it, edited my /etc/fstab and created a new mountpoint for the current data partition; copied everything over, made sure that rsync handles were working fine - it works like a charm! Actually the rsync daemon method has not worked for me yet - I am just tunneling it through ssh and using directory names - I love that protocol! Tens of gigabytes sync in under a minute!

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

Nobel Peace Prize 2007

Can you believe it? Al Gore! That'll release a bunch more CO2!

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

FreeBSD again

Figured it's been awhile since my last post...

FreeBSD occupied a wee 45 minutes of my time this afternoon - I did a bit of brute force hacking to get X up and running - that required identifying my core pointer (/dev/ums0) and then killing the moused process that caused X to report my core pointer as "busy." Of course I got none other than the famous twm for a window manager, so I ran over to /usr/ports and built fluxbox from x11-wm. That went ok, so I fired up X again and then launched fluxbox from one of the terminals provided. That didn't go so well, and I had to go to class... I'll update this post when I actually make some more progress.

(update 2007-09-20 18:30 PDT)
Well, I have concluded, after a bit more tinkering, that it is probably more worthwhile to just wipe that installation and begin again. One thing that triggered this thought is that the slices seem to have become corrupted - they are not fixed by a reboot, which itself does not even complete properly... then they do not mount properly when I bring the system up again.

I would like to run FreeBSD or PC-BSD simply for greater exposure to "alternative" operating systems (or perhaps the OS's that should be primary ones but are just obscured by that giant in Washington). Also, I would like to become familiar with administration of those systems, and to see for myself the beauty of BSD, as so many fans claim. In my experience, BSD has the aura of being a server-oriented OS, for speed and security.

Another comment to make, after having used BSD from the command-line only, is that certain utilities, like top, take different command-line parameters than their Linux counterparts. Just something to note...

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

rsync speedup

I was curious about this number that is given after an rsync operation completes. Looking online yielded no results, so I hope to be a result that people can refer to here. When rsync runs on a directory, it goes through and builds the file list, then transfers the difference. That's what makes it so brilliant. Because it built the file list of the entire directory, recursively, it knows the entire size of that directory and it also keeps track of how much data it actually transfers. The report may look something like this:

sent 4013337 bytes received 76 bytes 39934.46 bytes/sec
total size is 5171204259 speedup is 1288.48

rsync is telling you that it actually transferred 4013337 bytes (~4MB) from the local machine to the remote machine, and 76 bytes in the other direction. It gives you an average transfer rate, and then the big number, the size of the directory that was just synchronized - 5171204259 (~5GB). The speedup number represents the Total size divided by the total data transferred in both directions (TOTAL SIZE / (SENT + RECEIVED)) = SPEEDUP. This is better termed the "advantage" of using rsync, but the developers chose "speedup" and that's what we got. You could think of it as a ratio/multiplier, since a speedup of 1 would mean that you basically transferred the whole thing with no speedup, as opposed to that example operation, which transferred 1/1288 of the total data to make up the difference.

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

Slackware, revisited, again

In response to a post on linuxquestions.org, in which the writer expressed some concerns about the direction of Slackware based upon experiences with his particular hardware configuration and the new concepts introduced in version 12.0, I posted the following response. You probably have heard similar things before, but here we go again:

I had a difficult time installing 12.0 myself - having to do with the display driver and a couple other things. Having used 11 for so long, I simply reverted and couldn't be happier (well, a few things still leave me booting into Vista for more than patching security holes and updating AV software).

Good point about distro flavors; I don't know how concerned Patrick is about losing users to the Ubuntu/OpenSUSE/Fedora empire, but I like slackware precisely because of the lack of overhead that those distros incur with all of their SELinux and hal/automated hardware tools, not to mention the package managers. Having used Slackware alongside Ubuntu and OpenSUSE for some time, for development purposes as well as routine web browsing and office use, I really appreciate the stability, predictability, and efficiency of Slackware. It boots in half the time, and runs twice the apps, twice as fast. Not to mention that server configuration is a nightmare on the others, and Ubuntu's desktop of choice is Gnome - even with Fedora, starting with Gnome immediately shows some of the dispositions of the distro - KDE is so much more customizable and comes with so many apps. Gnome is a very nice desktop environment and I think the GTK concept has spread in a wider sense than KDE's equivalent. Maybe I'm just predisposed to KDE because Mandrake ran it (my first distro) and Slackware has come exclusively with KDE.

In short, hackers like Slackware for its hackability, and dislike the "black box" (no pun intended) method of other distros. Having not ventured into Gentoo (but a few steps) , I cannot speak for the other distro that appeals to hackers, and Debian never caught my eye for any period of time.

Finally, Slackware is my distro of choice, even if I will practically have my own slackware distro after all the mods.

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)


Try another distro, or a cousin for that matter!

FreeBSD - I had the disks for 6.2 from a while back. That time, I had little anxious luck with post-install config and just decided to let it go for awhile. Last weekend I sat through the installation. The quirky things were mouse and NIC setup. Both worked out ok, but definitely different from Linux; they all have weird names, not tied to a functional use but a physical or even "firm" layer... my nVidia NIC is called nve0 rather than eth0; my mouse is called ums0 rather than /dev/mouse or input0 or even BSD's sysmouse

Of course, you don't get graphical out of the box, and I even had to download my beloved vim. I am in the process of compiling KDE after about 6 hours... the ports system is really a masterpiece, though. It downloads the source, configures it, builds it, resolving dependencies along the way. You can fully customize things, and it will prompt with text-based menus for optional components or add-ons. If the download fails, or your connection times out, just kill the process and begin again - it will zoom ahead to where you were, and even resume your download from precisely where you left off. Nice stats are given, such as percentage complete, file size, speed, and estimated time remaining, so that you can determine exactly what is going on.

I was able to install fluxbox and run my X server, so the graphical side works fine. I will attempt to bring this BSD to the state of productivity of my Slackware box, eventually. It was awesome to compile the BSD kernel... I had my dual-core system compiling the kernel and building a port. Another virtual terminal ran the top monitoring program and I perused some docs on a fourth! A lovely afternoon

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

Ubuntu: Login as root

Many may say that one cannot login as root on Ubuntu. Maybe these have not used Slackware before. Simply run
[user@ubuntu:~]$ sudo passwd
to set a password for root, the super user. Then use that password to login as root:
[user@ubuntu:~]$ su root
and then enter the password you created. It's as simple as that!

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

Ubuntu again!

Same box, same disc, but different results!

Last night I successfully installed Ubuntu Feisty Fawn on my Athlon 64 X2 4200+ system. The grub bootloader did not function, so I went in and found the kernel settings to load it and added those to the LILO entry that I loaded from my Slackware "home" distro. Ubuntu booted beautifully and has been functioning pretty; much as expected thus far. The desktop effects in gnome with compiz are quite nice and add a bit of a sparkle to the desktop.

As far as hardware support, multimedia looks great and networking is up to par. I was prompted to install 72 odd updates, some of which failed the first time around, but it remembered that and left them in queue after the first batch was completed. With Desktop Effects enabled, the workspace switcher seemed to lag a bit and not show all of the panels, but that's no big deal. Adding packages certainly is a "set it and forget it" process, simply select the package and add it. Dependencies are resolved automatically and any other additional packages are installed as well.

I apologize for any Ubuntu fans out there who may have been offended by my previous posts regarding this distribution; I have now had some success and learned a bunch, and once again witness the ingenuity and productivity of the open source community.

Penguins 'R' Us!

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

Patent Wars

Can anyone follow this any more? It was Open Source software developers being attacked by the Redmond Giant on the grounds that they utilized conceptual design ideas that were proprietary intellectual property of Microsoft in Open Source software, in such a manner that those "borrowed" aspects were key aspects of the open software, which, as a result, became direct competition for Microsoft's products. duh. that's what we're all about, right? Not necessarily. We, as the Open Source Community, seek to keep aspects of the software design process open, freely accessible to the public, to each other, so that we can learn from each others' trials and successes and build efficient and productive software quickly. It also allows multiple contributors to each product. Take Mozilla or KDE or OpenOffice.org. These large products receive contributions from all over the globe. Then think of our core, the Linux Kernel. Same design. and our compiler, the GCC package. Same structure.

Then Microsoft tries to make some money off of us and step on the competition - Novell and Linspire... signed with Microsoft in such a way that they would be immune from lawsuits against the Open Source community in this regard. Thankfully Red Hat and Ubuntu refused to sign such an agreement.

Ok we pay for Microsoft products, big time. You get your new PC or laptop computer. It comes with Vista Home Premium, but you need a little more, so you upgrade to Business edition. more money. Then you must have Office 2007. way more money, possibly half the price of the system all over again. Look at Red Hat and Novell. Each of them has moved from consumer "little people" business design to targeting the enterprise "big people" market. They continue to be the traditional sponsors of their respective free distros, Novell for openSUSE and Red Hat for it's RHEL product. This is where they make their money, from corporations that require such reliable and productive solutions as Linux offers, with the support and maintenance programs that are included with these products. For the little guys, we have the free versions. What about Microsoft? They'll charge you from the bottom up, any way they can. Consider the OLPC project - One Laptop Per Child. Microsoft bid down to $3 per copy for its software to try to get in on the project. OpenOffice.org is free. now what? It just seems ridiculous how Microsoft owns the market and still manages to beat down on the competition that is already squirming on the ground. I would argue that Linux is gaining much speed, especially since the advent of Ubuntu Linux. As a Slackware user, I have coincidentally never gotten any other distro to work quite perfectly, no matter how many I try, I always end up back home with Slackware. openSUSE works quite well, but I have had endless trouble with Fedora and Ubuntu.

Oh well, just don't give up on your tried-and-true penguin rig, and hope that Linus' successor continues the great work with everyone who has contributed so that the Linux kernel can triumph once and for all.

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

Distros again

Well, I had a bad experience with two distros today: Arch Linux, and Ubuntu.

Arch: tried the FTP-based install for 2007.05 "Duke" x86_64 - my home ADSL connection must have been a bit choppy or something; I'd have to kill the downloader, restart it, several times, to get that 100mb of base system down. Then it choked when I tried to go through post-install config; they have you edit /etc/rc.conf, which is their startup configuration script (only one, not like the whole family you get with Slackware). The most important thing in there is the network config, which I even had to edit during install. (Comments explain everything, by the way). What's more, vim started crashing when the target file did not yet exist; the installer was supposed to throw the common settings version of each into your new tree, but that didn't happen quite right, and vim says "/mnt/etc/rc.conf [new DIRECTORY]" or something wrong like that. Then I decided to skip the rest of the config files and set a root password to reboot the thing. Bad idea. I got a screenful of the same error, from chroot, that there was no passwd command. Had to CTRL+C that one, and when I ran the installer again, it kindly formatted my target partition. End of story.

Ubuntu's installer has always been on my nerves. This time on my desktop, I had to change a kernel boot parameter, adding "noapic" because the thing fell apart after 3 lines of kernel messages. So I got the graphic bar running back and forth for a long time... and then it just stopped moving. With no hard drive activity and no way to tell if anything was going on, I hit the little reset button and ejected the CD. End of story.

Sorry, folks, Slackware is my OS.

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

File Transfer

Rsync and FTP, here we come.

Everybody knows FTP, but for the linux user, why not run a server? If you have more than one computer, or more than one user on your intranet, it makes sense to share files via ftp, at times. SCP, the encrypted secure copy program that uses ssh to authenticate, greatly reduces the allowable bandwidth, because of that encryption. With a large file, you could squeeze about 400 kb/s out of a 100mbit LAN connection. Over FTP, you are virtually unlimited, and get about 10-11 mb/s from that same LAN. Basically if your hard drive can handle it and our CPU's not playing with something else at the time, the link is pretty much saturated. (100mbit/(8bit/byte) = 12.5 mbyte) The reason I qualified that speed with "large file" is that with smaller files, you basically transfer it in one second, then the negotiations for requesting the next file begin and use up time, so the reported transfer time is decreased. For this reason, transferring a large number of small files is best accomplished with some sort of archive format. See documentation on the tar command for more information. I can tell you right now that of the archival formats, tar compressed with bz2 is about 80% of the size of gzip compression, which is about 10%-30% of the original. Zip has horrible compression ratios compared to those two.

So which FTP server should we run? There is the infamous tftp server, called by the inet daemon, and proftpd, which can be run as a standalone server daemon or called by inetd, which I used for quite some time. With proftpd, the configuration is somewhat complex, and there is the /etc/ftpusers file that must be examined; there is also /etc/proftpd.conf which contains the access permissions for every directory that you want to open to ftp users. Proftpd becomes slow, however, for handshaking stages of the connection, like the initial connection, and after a while it hangs when your FTP client requests a LIST of the cwd (current working directory). I began to look for another client. Pure-ftpd came up, and I started using it. There is no configuration. If you have a user called "ftp" then it uses that user's home directory as the directory for anonymous connections. All other users are chroot-ed to their home directory (cannot browse above it except by symlink), and to my experience, it is much more responsive than proftpd. Additionally, there is no configuration, and it is recommended to run it as a standalone daemon. Access permissions can be specified on the commandline, such as how many concurrent connections the server will allow, how many from the same user, etc. Watch out though, not all options are available by default. They must be compiled in, so check out the output of "./configure --help" when you go to build the thing.

That's about it for ftp; now what about rsync? rsync is used to synchronize directories and files via the network (even the loopback interface). It uses a crafty technique to only transfer the difference between files and works much better than archiving a large directory into a tarball, sending that, then unpacking it on the other side. rsync is as encrypted as the underlying connection. It can use a simple hashing algorithm that rsync will handle; and it can use ssh. Because the transfer time is greatly reduced anyway, ssh is a good choice because the encryption is better, and the authentication is better. For rsync, you have to set up "shares" just like in samba (which is a beast to configure, btw). These are like pseudonames for the directories that you want rsync to be able to deal with. In the config file, you also have to specify which users are allowed to connect. This can be a username from that remote system, or from the local system that is going to connect to it. Here is the rsync command that I use to synchronize my documents between computers:

rsync -e ssh -a ~pnguyen/Documents/ lilmax88@

On my lan, I have the other box, that is supposed to keep a copy of all of my documents, from this computer. Using ssh ( is configured for pnguyen to connect to lilmax88 with only the public/private key pair and no passwords), everything is brought up to date. It does chew on the CPU for a minute or less while it figures out what needs to be transfered, but then it's all done and ready to go. On the remote system, :Documents means the share called Documents as configured in the rsync config file. This actually points to ~lilmax88/Documents on that system, but you cannot specify an absolute path.

Hit me up with any questions! As a Slackware user, I know my stuff!

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

Ubuntu Linux

Ubuntu Linux, everyone is talking about it. So why shouldn't I? Having struggled with hardware conflicts, I am not the best person to brag about it. And I of all people realize that operating systems must be compared without regard to the graphical interface. In addition to that, Linux distributions must be compared regardless of the underlying kernel, because that is consistent throughout them all (in varying degrees of conformance to the bleeding edge versions).

Take Slackware Linux. (my distro of choice) Slackware requires much command-line editing of configuration files for system administration. Everything is located in /etc unless otherwise specified by the readily-available man pages. All of the startup scripts are in /etc/rc.d not sorted into crazy categories under /etc/init.d as they are in Debian-based distros

Take Ubuntu now. The installer is a live-cd; their desktop manager of choice is Gnome, which is cute and decently functional. Regardless of that, I had some success doing some rescue work creating a new user from the command-line, using system text files in /etc, but other script-based config that I customarily do on my Slackware systems was necessary yet impossible on the Ubuntu box. The hardware support is wonderful, despite what I said previously. It picked up my volume controls on my laptop, and while it doesn't support the switch to disable the wireless card, there is a system tray app that allows just that. Overall, I think it is a feasible economy solution for a very functional desktop user (laptops, too) but not an ideal for any developers, unless they themselves are looking to learn from concepts deployed in Ubuntu Linux. I myself prefer Slackware over all others.

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

rdesktop - a champion

I stumbled across instructions to connect to the Microsoft Terminal Server at school from a linux terminal and decided to give it a try. Wow! It was amazing, using the standard software tools on the Windows machine from my Linux box - the epitome of geekdom and Linux advocates.

The commandline went something like this:
rdesktop -d cecs

The -d option declares the domain for logon; the IP address listed above is bogus so as not to disclose private information, but it would be information regarding the terminal server.

KDE's remote desktop connection (krdc) client will work as well; simply indicate the rdp:// protocol before the IP address. Note that KDE tries to authenticate using your local username and may prompt you for a password.

Networking is awesome! Samba in the near future...

Registered Linux User #370740 (http://counter.li.org)

OS review

So, what's the scoop on Windows Vista? Fairly stable, strange admin, hardware compatibility issues, and minimum system requirements that seem like maxima. Sure it's pretty. The file manager is revolutionary for M$ but still stands in the shadows behind KDE's Konqueror. The Windows Sidebar is a nice addition that had been implemented by other companies like Yahoo and Google beforehand. (Apple kind of beat everybody to it by like 10 years). Networking support is pretty awesome and the search feature in the Start Menu is a life saver.

My box is also running Slackware 11.0 on the kernel; KDE is my desktop environment of choice; fluxbox reminds me that I'm logged in as root, but that's not very often. Locally running a web, ftp, and ssh server, along with system mail between users, the box is very nicely outfitted. With OpenOffice 2.2, the GIMP, Firefox, and a few other essentials, I have no need for Windows, except for entertainment. As you may know, gaming isn't exactly a Linux concept, although that, too, is changing.

I don't know about my readers, but I certainly despise development using a Windows-based workstation. Sure, PuTTY on Windows works to use a LINUX shell server, but that's pretty pathetic. The Crimson Editor does the job pretty nicely for web stuff; you can make the Windows Explorer roll over, but other than that, functionality is very limited. With Linux, Quanta and Kate become your best friends, and with four Konsole windows open and a couple instances of Konqy, you're all set! Not to mention that even with all of this, both functionality and performance increase! (Now does that make sense???)

OpenSUSE is a nice OS, too. Had some trouble with Ubuntu lately, but between the two of them, there is a definite rival for Windows, gaming excluded again. The GUI interface is wonderful, but in a recent survey by OpenSUSE, 60% of 27,000 users claimed to still use the command-line admin tools. Three cheers for BASH!

Registered Linux User 370740 (http://counter.li.org)


Paul Nguyen's Facebook profile

Nerd Test

I am nerdier than 94% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and talk on the nerd forum!
NerdTests.com says I'm an Uber Cool High Nerd.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

Bloggers' Rights

Bloggers' Rights at EFF