Archive for the ‘F/OSS’ Category

What’s old is new again…

One more thing before I go tonight. I was alerted to the fact that the Jak Attack podcast is being produced and added to again. How exciting! Run on over and make sure to give a listen, They are already on episode 2 for this year! Tell my friends Jon and Kelly Penguin Girl that Linc says hi!

Listen to Jak Attack

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Replace HD in Dell Inspiron N5110

I am no stranger to replacing bad equipment in servers, desktops and laptops, but some laptops don’t make it easy. This was one.

A couple years ago I swapped out an aging hdd in an older Dell Inspiron with a new ssd and, boy, the performance improved drastically. Lately, I have been using a new(er) Inspiron, an N5110 and have noticed that it sure took a while for things like bootup and Chrome to initially load. It was really starting to annoy me, so I looked up the specs on the original hdd and found that there was a squirrel in there pounding out the bits with a chisel, so I decided it was high time for a modern drive and splurged on a 240Gb ssd. I assumed that this was a simple pull the panel off the bottom and swap kind of procedure like the old Dell, so I pulled off the hdd sized panel and boom. The only thing under there was more plastic and a small memory slot???!!

Not to be outdone I turned to youtube, just like an self respecting techie would and was pleased to find some instruction there. You can find the video i used here if you are interested:

That is where is starts to get fun. Apparently you have to disassemble THE ENTIRE LAPTOP to get the hdd out. You have to pull out the battery, memory, all the screws on the bottom, the dvd drive, then flip the machine over and pull off the keyboard, unscrew and pull off the top plate and all the ribbon cables, then unscrew and remove the entire motherboard and one of the monitor mounts. The hdd is underneath the motherboard. Unreal.

Believe it or not, after all that I only had one extra screw(?) and the laptop booted up on the first try. Now came the good part. How to get my existing Linux Mint install onto the new ssd. Normally I would have just used a disk cloning program or dd to do it but the old hdd was 500Gb and this new ssd is only 240Gb. There are also some complicated tutorials on the web on how accomplish this task but let me share with you the easy way.

Do a clean install of your OS. Really. With Linux it takes 15 minutes tops. Don’t bother with any of your configs or personalization. It’s a dummy install to not only get the partitioning correct on your ssd but generate the correct /etc/fstab file (or get the new uuids and make the correct partitions bootable.

Once you are done, boot into your install media again (I used USB because it was faster) and mount your new installation AND your old hdd (I used an external usb drive case for this). I made the directories I needed by doing (as root) “mkdir -p /mnt/newdisk ; mkdir -p /mnt/olddisk” and then putting things in place with “mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/newdisk ; mount /dev/sdc1 /mnt/olddisk”. I should mention here that my partitions were the default Mint layout with a big Linux partition first, then an extended partition, then swap, on both drives.

Once mounted I made a backup copy of the /etc/fstab on my olddisk (the hdd) and then I copied the /etc/fstab from the newdisk to the /etc/fstab on the olddisk. Now the fun part. Go to (cd) the /mnt/newdisk directory. MAKE SURE IT’S THE NEWDISK DIRECTORY, and “rm -rf *”. That is going to delete all the files you just installed. It’ll only take a second.

Next is the long part. I used rsync to copy all my old files over. If you aren’t a hoarder like me with six linux dvd isos in your download directory and 50Gb of music files, it’ll go a lot faster, but all the same, it’s pretty cool to watch. I did a “rsync -rvlpogdstHEAX /mnt/olddisk/ /mnt/newdisk”. Make note of those /’ in there or you’ll end up having to move stuff around afterwards. In retrospect, I think you could use just rsync -av, but ymmv. What you will see is every file on your old drive being copied to the new one. Like I mentioned, this takes a few minutes, just sit back or grab a coffee. Once it’s done you are *almost* ready.

The very last thing you’ll need to fix is your grub.cfg file. These days everyone wants to use uuid to assign devices and your boot file is still looking for your old hdd. Open up a couple terminals. In one, vi /mnt/newdisk/boot/grub/grub.cfg and in the other vi /mnt/newdisk/etc/fstab. In the fstab file you will see the uuid for your new ssd drive. It’s the first uuid mentioned and mounted at /. Io You need to replace the old one in there with the new one from your fstab. It’s easier than you think in vi. Just do a “:g/olduuidstring/s//newuuidstring/g” and hit enter where olduuidstring is your old uuid and newuuidstring is your new uuid from the fstab file. Once it is finished replacing you probably need to save it with a “:wq!” because your system will undoubtedly say it’s a read only file. The reboot! You should be greeted shortly with a much faster but very familiar linux install, complete with all your goodies.

One last note. You may want to increase the life of your ssd ehink in vi. Just do a “:g/olduuidstring/s//newuuidstring/g” and hit enter where olduuidstring is your old uuid and newuuidstring is your new uuid from the fstab file. Once it is finished replacing you probably need to save it with a “:wq!” because your system will undoubtedly say it’s a read only file. The reboot! You should be greeted shortly with a much faster but very familiar linux install, complete with all your by adding a couple options to your /etc/fstab file. Those options are discard and noatime. These options deal with extra disk writes that you really don’t need on ssd. Your / line options in the fstab should look something like “ext4 discard,noatime,errors=remount-ro 0 1”.


Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Retro Tablet?

I was on a trip to visit my uncle recently and while there and talking shop (he’s a techie kinda fellow) he started telling me about this old tablet he had that I could have if I could get it fixed. It seems he purchased a tablet years ago, didn’t like it, then the os became corrupt and he just sort of shelved it, probably some 5 or 6 years ago and got himself an iPad instead.

He dug this thing out and it happened to be an Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101, a tablet that I actually had long ago myself. This one was dirty and no charge and badly in need of a fresh reimage of the OS but after that, it’s a perfectly functioning, practically brand new (hardly been used) TF101, now updated to the latest OTA update available for it, 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

So now I have this new old stock tablet and I have decided to get some use out of it (came from my uncle so it holds some sentimental value) and I actually kind of dig it. Of course it is no rocket ship compared to modern android devices but it does chug along and the 4.0.3 OS is still viable in the android store so some apps are still current. I can get my mail and social media and watch videos, listen to music and the like just fine (even netflix). What I like most about it right now is using it as a portable terminal (juice ssh). The included keyboard dock makes that particularly nice.

I have been wondering, though, what else I can do with such a device and am seeking opinions and experiences. I know there are several server suites available for android. I could use it hooked to an external USB drive for a file server or web server, etc.. Perhaps I could somehow shoehorn an actual Linux as a native OS on this thing. Then, there is the possibility of putting custom Android ROMs on it – I think there is one called KATKIT that people are having great success with. Never having installed a custom ROM before on android I am a little hesitant and don’t want to brick the machine. So, what do you think? What should I try first?

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Poof! It’s a Chromebook!

Neverware CloudReady ChromiumBook

Neverware CloudReady ChromiumBook

And that’s just about how hard it was…

A couple days ago as I was browsing my google+ feeds I noticed an article about Neverware’s CloudReady solution for turning aging computing resources into more useful devices. They have put together a good Chromium OS install aimed at older hardware, which for schools and businesses, can be hooked to google management services, which makes it sound pretty attractive to any IT department with a budget. As it happens, my buddy Joel must have been reading about it too, because I saw him post something about being in the middle of creating the boot media. That got me wondering, and with an old laptop to play with, I decided to do it myself.

Many years ago I got a cool new Dell Latitude D630 and I likes it so much that a few years later I picked up a used one. It’s one of my test boxes – 2.mumble ghz and 2gb ram – a perfect candidate for a chrome(ium)book test. I also have the perfect thing to compare it to – a genuine chromebook I bought last year for my wife – who I refer to as the destroyer of laptops.

Anyhow, first I downloaded the software from their site, which is free to use if for home and experimental use. The image is a zipped binary image about 5.5gb uncompressed. Big file so it’ll tale a while to get it. Be patient. There are what look to be pretty good installation instructions on the site itself for Windows and MacOS users, however I am neither so I had to improvise a bit.

On Linux, once you have the file downloaded and uncompressed (again big file and takes a few mins), you need to write it to a usb stick for installation. For explanation purposes say my usb device ended up being /dev/sdb. I used the dd utility to get the image onto the drive but because the file is so large I wanted a progress indicator for the process so I installed “pv”. Do this – trust me, you’ll want it.

The command line (as superuser) to install the binary installer image to the usb stick is “dd if=/path/to/installerimg.bin | pv | dd of=/dev/sdb bs=4M” and make sure that’s a capital M at the end for a 4 Meg blocksize. Like the download and decompression of the file, this take a LONG time, which is why you will be happy that progress indicator is in there.

In essence, that is all the hard and interesting stuff. The rest of the installation instructions are quick and simple – boot off the usb stick, log in, click on the time bar in the lower right, select install. A few minutes later (minus a couple no-brainer questions) you have, for all practical purposes, a chromebook!

I’ll be darned! I tried a ChromiumOS install several months ago on some even older hardware and wasn’t really impressed. I thought it was a bit laggy and buggy, but this time it works a treat! Multiple accounts work well. All my google settings were imported correctly. The chromebook shortcuts work. It works so well I am typing this review on it right now. I even handed it off to the destroyer of laptops and she was able to successfully install her profile and use it just like her chromebook. Outstanding Neverware, and a lot of fun too!

Although the other articles I read on this glowed and gushed about how well it worked, I have to say I was skeptical until I tried it myself, due to my previous experience. I am happy to find I was wrong. I can really see something like this being able to not only stretch that IT budget a little, but responsibly so, making good use of still functional hardware and keeping the end user experience consistent and manageable at the same time.

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Review: Penetration Testing with the Bash shell by Keith Makan – Packt Pub.

Penetration Testing with the Bash shell

I’ll have to say that, for some reason, I thought this book was going to be some kind of guide to using only bash itself to do penetration testing. It’s not that at all. It’s really more like doing penetration testing FROM the bash shell, or command line of you like.

Your first 2 chapters take you through a solid amount of background bash shell information. You cover topics like directory manipulation, grep, find, understanding some regular expressions, all the sorts of things you will appreciate knowing if you are going to be spending some time at the command line, or at least a good topical smattering. There is also some time spent on customization of your environment, like prompts and colorization and that sort of thing. I am not sure it’s really terribly relevant to the book topic, but still, as I mentioned before if you are going to be spending time at the command line, this is stuff that’s nice to know. I’ll admit that I got a little charge out of it because my foray into the command line was long ago on an amber phosphorous serial terminal. We’ve come a long way, Baby 🙂

The remainder of the book deals with some command line utilities and how to use them in penetration testing. At this point I really need to mention that you should be using Kali Linux or BackTrack Linux because some of the utilities they reference are not immediately available as packages in other distributions. If you are into this topic, then you probably already know that, but I just happened to be reviewing this book while using a Mint system while away from my test machine and could not immediately find a package for dnsmap.

The book gets topically heavier as you go through, which is a good thing IMHO, and by the time you are nearing the end you have covered standard bash arsenal commands like dig and nmap. You have spent some significant time with metasploit and you end up with the really technical subjects of disassembly (reverse engineering code) and debugging. Once you are through that you dive right into network monitoring, attacks and spoofs. I think the networking info should have come before the code hacking but I can also see their logic in this roadmap as well. Either way, the information is solid and sensical, it’s well written and the examples work. You are also given plenty of topical reference information should you care to continue your research, and this is something I think people will really appreciate.

To sum it up, I like the book. Again, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, but it surely will prove to be a valuable reference, especially combined with some of Packt’s other fine books like those on BackTrack. Buy your copy today!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

We’ll miss ya, Steve.

RIP Steve

RIP Steve

I saw the news mere minutes after I got my newest mac. I just picked up a nicely used 17″ iMac. I may even have to name it “jobs”…

Much as many of my opensource cohorts are occasionally at odds with Apple, the company, I believe whole heartedly that we have lost a real visionary. He had a big hand in not only making personal computing a reality, but also beautiful. Apple has always pushed the idea that not only should functionality be a consideration but aesthetics as well. I can only hope that Apple can keep up with his legacy.

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

ESXi and Subsonic

In continuation, somewhat, of my last post and a brief review on the last TechShow, I wanted to jot down some notes about my newest encounter with ESXi and Subsonic.



I wanted to try out Subsonic, so I really needed to put together a new machine to play with it a bit. As a RL System administrator, some things carry over into my home computing environment, and paranoia is one of them. I just *have* to test things outside of my “production” servers at home too. Since I run my servers in a virtualized environment, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

I run ESXi at home for my virtualization platform, and the norm there is to use virtualcenter (or the vic) to create and manipulate VMs. The problem there is I am just not a Windows fan (no kidding). I had gotten around this problem initially by creating a VM on VMware Server (running on Linux) and then using VMware Converter to move that VM to my ESXi machine. This time, I did a little more digging on the subject of using the command line to create those VMs natively and I actually found some great information that let me do just that. What I found was these two links that contain all the information I needed:
ESXi – creating new virtual machines (servers) from the command line

Without rehashing a lot of the detail provided in those two sites, the basics are using vmkfstools to create a disk image for you to use and then building a small minimal vmx file with enough info in it to get things going. To do the install, make sure have your vmx start an iso image from the cdrom drive and turn on vnc for the box. From there it’s quite easy to get an install working.

The server I decided upon installing is CentOS 5.5. I chose the standard server install and the only things that were required to get Subsonic working on it were:
yum install java-1.6.0-openjdk
and then to download and install the rpm from Subsonic’s website. A little later on I found that Subsonic would not stream my ogg files and that was easily fixed by:
rpm –import
rpm -Uvh rpmforge-release-0.5.2-2.el5.rf.i386.rpm
yum install lame ffmpeg

After all that, pointing your web browser to http://:4040 and you are rocking and rolling with the big boys. The thing that really impressed me with the setup is when you tell Subsonic where your music is. On every other music server install this is the part where it takes a while to scan and index your music. With Subsonic this was surprisingly almost instantaneous! You tell it where the music is and *whamo* your music shows up, ready to be played. Fantastic! The other great piece is the ability to add album art. You can just tell subsonic to change your album art and it finds some suggestions on the web and will let you pick the correct one and save it to your collection. It’s very nice and a complete time grabber 🙂

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Amazon Kindle, Subsonic and MusicBrainz

Kindle 3
   Early last week I had another burst of reading activity on my Kindle 3. Reading for me tends to come in spurts when the rest of my life doesn’t interfere and it had been a while. I loaded up the Kindle with some new goodies (Sh*t my dad says is hilarious, btw) and started peeling through not only the books but also the menus, setting things up just the way I like them.

RANT: As a side note here, why the heck are collections so freaking difficult to setup? I mean come on Amazon. Make them work by directory structure or something easy, or at least fix it so that when you add to collection, you are only shown books not already in another collection by default. OK, rant done 🙂

   Anyhow, as I was reading and setting up different collections, etc. I noticed a familiar recurring problem. The short history is when I got my Kindle 3 I noticed every so often the e-ink would not fully display, but only display VERY faintly. I called Amazon and they had me update the firmware but ut was really hard to tell if that fixed it as it was not a constant thing. Queue up last week and I notice this a LOT more. Not only while reading the books, but now in the menus, etc.. So, I called Amazon right up as they instructed me to do the last time I noticed this. They IMMEDIATELY sent me out a replacement. I mean I had it the NEXT day, during a snowstorm. There was no arguing, no listening to some low end tech worker flip pages on the other end of the phone, no shipping or return costs, no hassle whatsoever. THIS is what customer service is all about and it’s easy to see that Amazon stands behind it’s products. This is why I will always recommend the Kindle. I don’t know what the other guys service is like, but Amazon is absolutely tops every time I have had to deal with them.


   Shortly after I got my new Kindle (read hours) I got horribly sick (sinus infection) and have been that way for 4 or 5 days now. During my occasional bouts of lucidity and while waiting for the NyQuil to kick in again I was reading through my facebook posts and noticed Tom Higgins mentioning that he was enjoying using Subsonic, which is a new (to me anyway) software that manages your music collection for you. It’s a server side app with some seriously nifty clients you can run on you android phone, which made it catch my eye. I have (and still do for now) been using Kplaylist for quite some time and I really like it, but, hey, nothing wrong with checking out new things, right?


   Well, the thought of me trying out some new music collection software got me looking at my music collection. You know what this is like. I have been hanging on to my music in digital form for better than 10 years, so, it’s substantial / sizable, in different formats, mixed up, formatted and named badly, bad mp3 and ogg tags, etc.. What’s a guy to do? Well, I searched around a bit and found a whole lot of programs for Linux that will let you manually fix tags. Ick. With thousands to do I kept searching. I found a bunch of programs for windows and mac that will help you reorganize and fix your collection, and, eventually, I found ONE that will do the same on a Linux box. It’s name is MusicBrainz Picard I have been using it here and there (still sick) for a couple days now, sicking it on a directory of my music collection here and there. It sure beats doing this all by hand! It’s not perfect software by any means, but it sure will be a timesaver compared to the alternative and the more people that use it and update those databases, the better it’ll work. Check it ut, I think you’ll like it!

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Epson Workforce 520

Epson Workforce 520

Epson Workforce 520

Some days things just go right. It’s been a while since that happened to me, hence the lack of posts lately. Well, that changed tonight…

I decided it was high time to get a new printer. I have been using used HP LaserJets for years and my last, a LaserJet 5 was finally starting to show some wear, not to mention hogging enough electricity to power a small city. I have also endured about 4 years of complaints that we didn’t have a color printer.

I checked out the stock of some local electronic stores online and spent an hour or two googling whether this or that model printer wold work under Linux. I actually wanted to grab the same printer Dann bought, just because I knew that one would work, however, I couldn’t find a local source. I settled on buying an Epson Workforce 520 from the local BesyBuy.

Setup was an absolute breeze. I unpacked it, followed the setup instructions to add it to my local wireless connection via the printer’s control panel. Then I headed to to grab the driver and installed it. It’s just a deb (or rpm) package so it was a click or two to install. After that I headed to Linux Mint’s printer config utility, told it to search for network printers and it was found and installed automatically with no fuss, no muss whatsoever.

Everything works, and I mean everything. This is one of those multifunction printers that not only prints, but faxes (actually I haven’t tried that and probably won’t), copies AND SCANS! After my initial test print, I fired up Mint’s “Simple Scan” which scanned a document I had on the printer easily and perfectly. I was amazed!

I believe I may have found the perfect wireless printer/copier/scanner to run under Linux Mint (yes, it’s wireless too, did I mention that). I know Linux printing has come a long long way, but this was trivially easy. If you are looking for a great new printer addition to your Linux setup, this is it!

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Linux User Needs Help


Got an email through the FreeLinuxBox.Org site today:


My name is ***** and i a computer science major at the University Of Georgia. I have been a linux fan for about two years now and i am in need of a computer.I really don\’t have enough money right now to buy a computer. I am willing to pay shipping costs. Thanks for considering me.


Obviously this kid is slightly confused on how the site works, but his email is not wasted on me. I understand that he is in need of a machine, a Linux box. He’e even willing to pay shipping. Can’t SOMEONE help this kid out? I am betting there are lots more like him too. Please take a couple minutes to inventory your stash of old computers you know you will never use and put them up on the site for donation to someone needy!

Head on over to and click the “Login/Manage/New Entry” link on the top right of the webpage. Create a new account on there if you do not already have one (new accounts do not put a password – it’ll be emailed to you). Post your free linux box and go about the rest of your day happy in the knowledge that you are doing a good deed for a fellow human and linux user. 🙂

Friday, July 9th, 2010