Getting an iMac

Over the past year I’ve been thinking about getting a new PC for the family.  The current Dell Dimension 8200 (almost 10 years old) was having a hard time running Windows XP and all the patches and security to keep it mostly virus and malware free.  I installed Ubuntu 11.10 server on that Dell PC and turned it into a media server and backup storage device.

So what to get for the family?  I could go with another Windows 7 PC and have the option to have more virus and malware installed every time the kids go to one of their kid friendly sites.  My wife might need Windows 7 for remote access to work, plus it’s a familiar interface for everyone.

I could go with Linux OS such as Ubuntu 11.10, Linux Mint 12 (when it is available), or some other disto.  But the problem with Linux for the family, a whole bunch of kid websites just don’t work with Linux.  For example, Cartoon Network has some pretty cool games, but most of the games will not work in Linux.  Those games require different engines such as Unity (not to be confused with Unity for Ubuntu).  Also, many games that I like to play are not available in a Linux environment.  I tried running Windows XP in a VM, but the performance is terrible and the games require high-end video cards which you never see in a VM.

My buddy at work suggested getting an iMac.  The first thing that went in my mind, “How am I going to afford that?”  Turns out the entry level iMac is within my budget.  So I stopped at the local Apple Store and took a look.  Usually I’m in there for a few minutes with the kids to kill time while my wife is shopping.  Now I had time to shop.  As usual I was assaulted but several employees right away.  But I needed time to look over what they had and get some ideas before I would talk with someone.

Steve, the sales person, saw I was ready to have my questions answered.  After a few minutes of talking about my concerns and what I wanted to accomplish, Steve unlocked the iMac and let me install some of the games from Cartoon Network.  Out of all my years in IT, from selling to support, I’ve never heard someone say let’s unlock the computer and install the web apps you mentioned.  So I played some of the Cartoon Network games. I was hooked.  Just need to upgrade the memory from 4GB to 8GB.  The Apple memory is expensive.  Looks like I’ll be checking on-line for a better price.

Now, what am I going to do about some of the Windows only applications I need?  I will keep my notebook PC as a dual boot between Windows 7 and Linux (not sure about keeping Ubuntu).  Maybe I’ll install VMWare Fusion, VirtualBox, Parallels or Bootcamp for my Windows needs.  I doubt I’ll ever break away completely from Windows.  Too many applications I need for Windows for my job.

So this Christmas Santa will deliver a new computer for the family.  It will meet the needs of my family, address my concerns, and also give me a little education in the Mac world.

Now, what book should I get…

Moving On to a New Job

Today is my last day with my current employer and working for a fantastic client here in Delaware.  I made a lot of new friends in IT and on the production floor.  Some of them I will stay in contact with on Facebook or Google Chat, others I will see in the area.  But now it’s time for me to move on, to take care of my family’s needs.  Sadly the new job will not include Linux work, but there are high profile projects which are scheduled to begin shortly after my start date.

My notebook running Linux Mint 11 and my fart bank

During my two year stay, I really appreciate the client giving me a wide latitude to develop my Linux skills.  When I first arrived in 2009, my cube was filled with twelve PCs all running Windows XP or Vista.  Shortly afterwards I installed Ubuntu 9.04 to learn how to use Linux in a production environment.  Soon, I was running two Linux boxes; one as a personal file server with Samba and NFS, the other as a VM host for multiple Windows XP machines in multiple non-trusting domains.

By the time I left, I had four Linux PCs (one as a Linux Mint 11 notebook with a Windows 7 x64 VM, my original Ubuntu file server, a new Ubuntu 11.04 x64 file server with an external RAID 5 1.3TB disk box running Samba and NFS, plus a Linux Mint 11 PC running a Windows XP VM in the other domain for Active Directory support).  I’ve also deployed Ubuntu 11.04 to my manager’s Dell M4500 notebook, Linux Mint 11 to a colleagues’ notebook, and started training another colleague, on using Ubuntu 11.04 with NFS and Samba.

I also had the chance to deploy RHEL 6 workstation as a host with a disk box for off-site archive, and a introduction to ESX for creating new Windows Server VMs.

I wish all the best to previous employer, my manager, my colleagues (local and other sites through out  the U.S.), and to all the people I supported at the Delaware locations.  I will miss working with you, and hope to see you soon!

Deploying Ubuntu 11.04 onto a Friend’s PC

Unity

Last week I received a Facebook message from a friend asking for PC assistance.  Over the last 2 years, they have seen my PC running Ubuntu 10.x and heard me talk about how stable and secure my PC is.  When Ken’s hard drive failed a short while ago, he ordered a new hard drive from Dell (it was cheaper through Dell than other retailers here) and installed Windows XP Home Edition.  Unfortunately Ken was not able to install the drivers for his PC.  Ken brought his PC over to my place, and we talked about Linux while I installed the missing drivers and SP3 for Windows XP.

I had my work computer (Dell Latitude E6400) which runs Linux Mint 10 at home.  The Dell PC and my Sager PC were booted and I gave a demonstration of each OS.  After about 30 minutes, Ken wanted to run Linux Mint 10 on his Dell Inspiron1525.  So I used my Linux Mint 10 USB stick to verify this PC would run Linux without problems for Ken.  Everything worked except for the Dell wireless NIC.  Linux Mint 10 was unable to detect the card, and since I was running out of time and didn’t want to configure it manually, I shutdown the PC and booted from my newly made Ubuntu 11.04 x32 and x64 ISO USB stick.

Ken’s PC is several years old so I tried the 32-bit version.  For once I was pleasantly surprise with Ubuntu 11.04.  Unity worked, and it wanted to install the proprietary drivers for the Dell wireless NIC. So I started the installation as a dual boot system and went back to some house work.  I installed all third party codecs and drivers from the initial installation screen.

Afterwards I gave Ken a quick tutorial on how to use Ubuntu 11.04.  Although I am not a big fan of the Unity interface, I think this might be a great introduction to new Linux users.

So far I’ve nothing but happiness from Ken about Ubuntu 11.04.  He is using Facebook and has access to his e-mail.  I wish I could have installed a client that would allow Ken to use his iPod Touch to connect to his iTunes store.  If anyone knows of an application that will give Ken this ability in Ubuntu without using Wine, I would like to try it out.

Tweaking Linux Mint 10 Menu Buttons

Today at work, I had some free time in the afternoon and downloaded Linux Mint 10 x64 DVD.  Using my bootable PNY 8GB stick, I installed Linux Mint 10 x64 on a HP DC7900 Quad Core E8400 with 4GB of RAM and a ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT video card.  This was a stand install with nothing special.  After installing Mint 10, doing a bunch of updates, and installing the ATI drivers, i wanted to see if I could move the Window buttons to the left just like Ubuntu.

  • Open the Run Application command line (ALT+F2).
  • Type gconf-editor and click the Run button.
  • Navigate to /apps/metacity/general
  • Look for button_layout.  The default is menu:minimize,maximize,close.

The colon separates the left corner from the right.  I changed the value of button_layout to close,minimize,maximize.  You can also add a space between the buttons with the value spacer.

Button layout in gconf-editor

Linux Mint 10 Julia

Linux Mint 10 is here!  I installed the DVD version onto my 16GB Flash drive using the updates Universal USB installer 1.8.1.2.  I had to increase the primary partition to 1024MB (1GB) to accommodate the full DVD install.  I also created a new casper-rw partition on the remain space, plus modified the Shutdown Policy from USB.  I installed Adobe Acrobat Reader 9.4 and chntpw (both of which can be installed from Software Manager), and I still need to install a few other apps like Google Chrome and Filezilla.

I forgot to copy the DVD ISO to my drive last night so I am downloading while writing this post.  I plan on updating my production PC this week so I can run Windows 7 in a VM to provide support to my customers.  I don’t expect any problems with installing the new OS.  Just remember, always backup your data before installing a new OS.

Ubuntu 10.10 on my PC

On October 10th at 10:10:10 AM, I took a screenshot of the date/time of my PC running Ubuntu 10.04 using Shutter before installing Ubuntu 10.10.  I used Vuze to download the BT files for x32 and x64 versions within 15 minutes.  Since I’ve had problems in the past with running Update to install the new OS over the old, I chose to backup my home directory with the rsync command to my external USB HDD.  I’ve read, some people had problems installing Ubuntu 10.10 over 10.04.  So I was glad I backed up and installed from scratch.

My installation went smooth.  I liked the check box to install third party apps (multimedia codeces except for the DVD player).  Because of this one feature, I can no longer tell people to install Linux Mint to get all the multimedia stuff running right after install.  Please don’t misunderstand, I like Linux Mint a lot.  I installed Linux Mint 10 RC1 as a VM on my Ubuntu system.  But that’s a post for another time.

I like the purple color theme better than the orange/brown theme of the past, but I still customized my desktop.  Using Crebs (Create Background Slideshow) I created a nice 15+ Star Trek rotating wallpaper theme.  I also created a Halloween theme too.  Plus with Ubuntu Tweak I changed the GDM wallpaper to a nice artist rendition nebula and changed the Ubuntu logo to a Star Fleet one.  I didn’t bother to change the window colors, icons and sound effects yet, I’m still looking for something that will work well and easy to install or customize.  I also found one thing that has helped me out over the years for reinstalling Ubuntu and Windows, keep a text document of favorite apps and other commands that make installation easy.  For me this includes anything that I need to run at the CLI.  After all was said and done, I had everything installed, configured and data files restored within 4 hours.  No need to go back and install an application or look for a special command that enabled the Ubuntu Menu when pressing the Super key. Its all right there.  Plus I add to this text file if i make a change or find a new application that is a must have for me.

Is this a perfect 10 for Ubuntu 10.10?  No, but it feel like 9.95.  My only grip is the mouse pad stays enabled no matter if I use a USB wired or wireless mouse.  I search several posts about this issue.  And although some people had some terrific answers, none worked for me.  I can’t disable the touchpad in the BIOS either.  With Windows 7, the touchpad can be disabled using Logitech’s application.  Kind of wish Logitech would develop their software apps for Linux.  But I can’t fault Ubuntu for this.

If you haven’t tried Ubuntu 10.10, download a Live CD and try it on your PC.  I think you will be surprised with this OS.  Now if only Battlefield Heroes would work on Ubuntu.

Used Linux Mint Bootable USB to Fix Windows Server 2003

Logo Linux Mint
Image via Wikipedia

Today I was asked by one of our server administrators who was off site, if I knew how to reset the local administrator account on a Windows 2003 Server that was not communicating with the domain.  I said yes, “let me get my Linux Mint USB stick and I can reset the password.”

The server was an old HP ML370 with a RAID configuration and 4GB of RAM.  Once I was in Linux Mint 9, I mounted the local hard drive and navigated to the %systemroot%\System32\config folder.  I right click that folder and selected Open Terminal here.  Here is the reference document I use:

  1. Open Nautilus and mount Windows HDD.
  2. Right click Windows folder and select Open in Terminal.
  3. Type cd System32/config and press Enter.
  4. If account is Administrator enter sudo chntpw SAM.
  5. If any other account enter sudo chntpw -u <account> SAM.
  6. From menu select function.
  7. Write hive files.

After rebooting the server I was able to log in as the local administrator and complete the repairs.  Another justification for every IT Technician (server administrator or on-site workstation support) should have multiple tools to repair any computer on-site.

Modified Linux Shutdown Policy running from USB

Several weeks ago I installed Linux Mint 9 on my 16GB USB Corsair jump drive.  I use it at work when I need to rescue a Windows PC (save a PC running Vista twice this month).  What I didn’t like was having to authenticate my account to shutdown the PC.  The system always displayed the message System policy prevents stopping the system when other users are logged in. I always had to log off first to shutdown the computer.

I found a fix at Len’s site which solved my problem.  I am posting the modified org.freedesktop.consolekit.policy at my box.net as a reference for myself.  Here are the step I used to fix the issue:

  1. Open terminal and type gksu nautilis
  2. Navigate to /usr/share/polkit-1/actions
  3. Right click org.freedesktop.consolekit.policy and open with gedit
  4. Scroll down to section org.freedesktop.consolekit.system.stop-multiple-users
  5. At allow_active, replace auth_admin_keeps with yes
  6. Scroll down to section org.freedesktop.consolekit.system.restart-multiple-users
  7. At allow_active, replace auth_admin_keeps with yes

Now I am able to shutdown Linux Mint running from my USB jump drive.

Thanks to Marilen Aretius Corciovei for originally posting this fix.


Busy IT Month

Well it’s been a busy month for me at home and work.  I migrated my Sager NP8690 to Ubuntu 10.04 and created three virtual machines; Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.  To my surprise Windows Vista SP2 is extremely stable as a VM.  I disabled UAC because I don’t like being asked “are you sure you want to do this” from my PC.  Both Windows 7 and Windows XP SP3 ran well also.  Over all I was pleased with the performance from each VM.  Of course that changed when I tried to run two VMs at the same time,  I was running out of RAM.  I think if I had 8GB installed, running two VMs would have worked fine.

However, I was never able to get get Blu-Ray running in any VMs or in Ubuntu.  This bummed me out since I wanted I watch Star Trek.  Maybe I’ll ask Santa to bring a Blu-Ray player for Christmas.  Then I was informed by my wife that she needed Windows in order to work from home.  Plus she was not too thrilled that I didn’t create a account in Ubuntu for her.  Oops!

So I backed up everything (again) and reinstalled the image I took before wiping out my hard drive.  Since I am dual booting between Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.04, I deiced to leave Windows with a larger partition and keep all my videos there.  I can access then easily enough from Ubuntu without much hassle.  I still need to install a few application in Ubuntu (Thunderbird, Filezilla) but for the most part I am finished.

Instead of trying to use Gwibber a buddy of mine said I should look into TweetDeck.  TweetDeck requires Adobe Air to install and run.  Being Adobe has issues with x64, there were no .deb files for my OS.  I downloaded the .bin file and from a Terminal window I typed ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin.  Now I can install TweetDeck and have access to my LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Buzz accounts.

At work, I was asked to test a kickstart install script for RHEL 5.3 (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) client install on a test PC.  I used a Dell Precision 370 which has a Intel P4 3.4 GHz  single core, 2GB of RAM, 80GB Sata drive, Nvidia Quadro FX 1400 card, and a DVD drive.  Installation took about 30 minutes.  I test several applications, accessing network shares, and printing to several network printers.  I still prefer Ubuntu or Linux Mint over RHEL, but it was fun to be part of a Linux project.

I also help with installing a new Dell server this week.  The job required us to install a keyboard/mouse tray, move an existing server and tape library up, install a new IP console KVM, and install the new ESX server.  Due to space limitations, we placed a LCD monitor on the side of the rack.  Because I hurt my back several day earlier I was asked not to lift anything.  So for me it was more of a learning experience.  Hopefully I will be asked to assist with other data room projects.

Right now I’m downloading openSuse 11.3 x64 on DVD.  Maybe this weekend I’ll try it out on a VM to see some of the new improvements I’ve read about.

Issues with VirtualBox between Ubuntu and Windows 7

My Sager NP8690 is one awesome notebook (except for the battery life).   Right now I have it configured for dual boot between Ubuntu 10.04 and Windows 7.  The only time I really use Windows 7 is to watch Blu-Ray movies and the occasional office document that down for display correctly in Open-office.  But rebooting the PC to go back and forth between the two OS’s is an inconvenience.

To resolve this issue I installed Oracle Virtualbox 3.2.4.  Currently I have one VM with Linux Mint 9 x64 which works well.  So I attempted to install Windows 7 x32 just like I did at work on an old HP D530 tower.  When the install reaches the point of Installing Updates the OS fails stating it’s unable to find the hard drive.

I searched for an answer but nothing really fixed my problem.  Then I noticed the HDD controller for my Windows 7 VM was set for AHCI with a blank check box.  Selecting the check box allows the VM to access the HDD controller directly.  Installation of Windows 7 is complete.

Everything in Windows 7 seems stable and running well minus the Aero effects.  I checked for updates and out of 21, only 3 installed.  That’s no good, time to reboot the VM and tried again.  None of the available updates would install.  I found this solution for Windows Vista and it worked on Windows 7.

And since I am setting up VMs, I decided to install my copy on Windows XP and Microsoft Vista.  Why Vista?  Because I got it for free and gives me an opportunity to learn something new.  Plus I have friends and family that run Vista and they call for help on occasion.

Unfortunately I made a small error when I installed Ubuntu 10.04.  Since I chose to dual boot, I kept the Windows partition at 2/3 total drive space.  Since I created four VMs I am down to about 7GB free on my Home partition.  If I can get my Windows 7 VM to play Blu-Ray I will copy off all VMs, backup all data files from both OSs, and then rebuild with Ubuntu 10.04 and import all data.  Looks like I’m in for a long weekend.

UPDATE:

After spending 2 hours reading posts about playing Blu-Ray in a VM, it looks like this is not possible.  I plan on moving forward with the migration since I’m out of drive space.  I read a solution in Ubuntu Forums that might work.