Fight for the Internet 1!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Linux Promotional Rant - Windows Recovery versus Windows

I saw this quote in an Ubuntu Forum thread and I felt like making my own reply.

Quote source from

A post by jgalley:
"You are doing an automatic upgrade of your OS and in the middle of the application of the patches the power fails and your system crashes hard. What OS do you want to be running? From my experience if it is Linux then you are about to see firsthand why Ubuntu is free and Vista costs 400 bucks.

If I have to rebuild my worstation and development environment even once then the actual cost of Ubuntu is more that the cost of Vista. In fact, for every extra time my Ubuntu system crashes hard and fails to boot I could have purchased a new Vista system from Dell, thrown my old system in the trash and still come out ahead.

Linux is the best, if what you like to do is rebuild and reinstall operating systems or endlessly search the internet for cryptic instuctions on how to edit /etc files to make some piece of hardware or software sort of work."
Yeah, I know anything from the Microsoft forums is pretty much flamebait, but let's go with this.

This entire speech totally belies the fact that in my experience a Windows Machine tends to bug-out after a sudden power loss, while nothing so palty even shakes a Linux system.

Right off, this guy is not being specific with his arguments. Let's get specific.

Harddrive Hardware Failure
When dealing with hardware failure due to spontaneous power loss, then RAID systems and backups are all you have to deal with. Shockingly those have very little, if anything, to do with the Operating System. The same goes for any other hardware you have die from the experience.

Harddrive Filesystem Failure
When dealing with software file-system problems due to spontaneous power loss, then there is no contest. Linux journaling File-Systems just win.

I occasionally see print claiming that NTFS is a journaling file-system like EXT3/4. To be bluntly honest, I don't know if I would believe ithad journaling even if I saw the source-code myself, because NTFS sure as fuck doesn't act like it has journaling.

At least not journaling like I have enjoyed with Linux file-systems. Of course, that assumes one is using NTFS, which is a fair assumption now days, but again this poster did not mention that. For all we know, there are Fat32 systems involved and let me tell you from experience, doing scandisks on huge Fat32 formated Harddisks takes hours.

Maybe it has been a few years, or maybe Vista has something magically under the hood, but no NTFS file-system I have even heard of makes serious recoveries as quickly and thoroughly as a Linux journaling file-system.

Fixing A Broken OS
What about when the OS is broken and won't boot properly. Of course, exactly *how* broken has an significant impact. Misconfigured files? Broken drivers? Broken kernal? The poster does not mention the specific methods of restoration.

He might mean throwing in some vendor provided disc and hoping its magic works. I would not know, Linux does not need these things. But since he's not specific, let's assume he means doing some manual work on a recovery console. In fact, this is very likely exactly what he means.

I need to stop here for a second and point out something: Is this n00b actually claiming it is easier to do something in the console/command-line in *Windows* than in Linux? ...? The next question of course is WTF? Yeah, let's move on. Alright, so it is safe to say it is going to be easier to do work on the console/command-line in Linux than Windows any day of the decade.

But what kind of work you ask? Well, whatever work you need to do to restore your system. Let's hope you know enough about the clearly documented and well designed Windows system architecture. Let's also hope that you can do all your recover from a console text environment and nothing requires a graphical session. At this point alone, Linux recovery is more certain than Windows, because in Linux literally anything that can be done from a graphical session can be done from a console, while the same is certainly not always true for Windows.

As for what exact work is to be done, I don't know since each situation varies but I'd like to see him edit his registry through a console Microsoft Console and call that "easy." Meanwhile I will just be using my Vim editor to modify human-readable-flat-text-configuration-files and browsing the Internet from command-line via eLinks for further help.

In Linux, one can completely recompile/reinstall anything needed without a graphical session. Debian Software Packages and shell-scripts for the win. That does not happen with all the numerous variety of Windows installer programs.

Using a boot disk, with some careful work, one can even do recompilation/reinstall for a non-booted system. I would like to see any Windows machine compile from command line as easily as Linux. Hell, I would like to see Windows compile ANYTHING as readily as Linux tends to.

The poster mentions "Cryptic instructions." Well, I won't say Linux is easy to use as a Fisher Price toy, but few powerful tools are. Since turnabout is fair play, if he wants to talk cryptic, then let's go all the way and discuss poor instructions. This, of course, leads to Microsoft Help Files/Manuals.

I certainly will not claim every Linux/BSD Man-page ever written in the world is great and has all the information needed. But in my experience, easily 90% of the time, man-pages will give provide most if not all ones needs. I have yet to even hear of a single good Microsoft Help file. (And I have talked with career technical writers on the subject).

Of course, this side-steps the point about the architectures and system designs themselves.

Full OS Reinstall
Now, if the poster is talking about a full OS reinstall, I can fucking-money-back-guarantee-you Ubuntu Linux will be fully installed and have completed any updates with all my software installed well before Windows has the 2nd Service pack installed (if even the 1st), let alone all other personal programs and virus/firewall software.

And that does not even address the issue of live-booting. :P

Development Environment
The guy mentions rebuilding his development environment. ... I am going to assume that means installing Visual Studio, or something of the like, and a train load of additional software libraries.

I got news for the poster, in Linux that is as easy as a few mouse clicks with my package manager, or a single Shell-script execution to send commands to apt-get. In a word: Owned.

Further Laughs
This guy identifies himself as a ripened idiot by going on further to state: "In fact, for every extra time my Ubuntu system crashes hard and fails to boot I could have purchased a new Vista system from Dell, thrown my old system in the trash and still come out ahead."

Even from my longest recovery time, my time has never been equal to the couple thousand dollars to build my new powerful desktop, and certainly was not worth the recovery of my irreplaceable data files. Maybe this guy takes his computer to the Geek Squad and has to wait two weeks for recovery? (Yeah, I know they don't do Linux, but you get my point).

Lastly, what sort of piece of shit computer is he running that is worth less than $400 + New Deskstop that he casually throws away?

Shear Idiocy -- Economics of Morons
"If I have to rebuild my worstation and development environment even once then the actual cost of Ubuntu is more that the cost of Vista."

I really have to address this one. So, "free" is somehow going to become more than $400 through just one occasion? Are you fucking kidding me?

Beyond the fact that the poster is utterly failing to take into account the 10 to 1 ratio of Windows system breakdowns versus Linux, he arbitrarily states that any recovery with Linux will be more than $400. The logical converse of this argument is that any recovery with Vista will be automatically less. (And that does not even address repeated recovery costs, which Linux most definitely trumps Windows on because of better system longevity).

Is he claiming that any recovery done with Vista will be less costly (time and money and effort invested) over Linux? Really? Seriously? ...I actually think this person is claiming exactly that. Well, he's completely wrong.

Situations vary and thus recoveries do. In the 1 out of 10 situations where Linux has a problem like Windows, the situations is going to be specific and relate to the knowledge of the person doing the recovery. I am not going to claim Linux recoveries always cost less than Windows recovery because making such a blanket statement about all situation is foolishness, and the same goes for Windows over Linux.

I will just say this: Linux recoveries happen less frequently... and chances are, you can find the "cryptic" instructions online, and you will be able to access your configuration files through console easily and recompile/reinstall any software necessary. Windows can't claim that people. It just can't.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Move from VMWare to VirtualBox

If you use Virtual Machine software, in particular VMWare, this will be of interest to you. If you use Ubuntu, I suggestion you consider using VirtualBox for your VM needs and here is why. Please note, this is only talking about non-VMWare Fusion products.

I have been using VMWare for about 2 and 1/2 years now, but just recently I have decided to move to using VirtualBox.

The Reasons I Left VMWare
  1. Apt-get Availability: VMWare is not available in the Ubuntu apt repositories and I have never found any other Ubuntu/Debian repos to use. It was once available via 3rd party repos from Ubuntu, but not for well over a year and a 1/2.
  2. Compiling: Because there are no easily available apt-repositories packages, I have been compiling VMWare myself for a while. I don't mind compiling (in fact, I think it is a great and powerful feature of Linux) but because VMWare has close ties with the kernel, occasionally I would have to recompile VMWare after a kernel or kernel module update from Ubuntu. In general, the compiling was not a major annoyance but it was not convenient.
  3. Compiling Problems: In Ubuntu Jaunty 9.04, I have not been able to compile VMWare 1.x no matter what I try. I attempted to use verrsion 2.x, but that didn't work out well.
  4. Future VMWare Versions: I successfully compiled and ran VMWare 2.x but it radically fails to meet my needs for a Virtual Machine program. Furthermore, it fails (perhaps even spectacularly) to meet some of my most basic preferences for a program in general. I personally found its interface ridiculously slow, featureless, and extremely unusable.
Reasons I Moved to VirtualBox
  1. Competitors: VirtualBox is the major competitor to VMWare.
  2. Features: VirtualBox actually has a few features that VMWare does not have, such as dynamic virtual harddrive expansion and shrinking and not require full diskspace pre-allocation. VirtualBox also supports limited 3D Acceleration (both OpenGL and Direct3D), with more in development. (This feature VMWare completely lacks). I have yet to find any features missing in VirtualBox from VMWare.
  3. Integration: Though my recent usage experience has not been excessive, the integration of VirtualBox into my host Linux system has been better and smoother than VMWare. In particular:
    • Using VMWare I had network issues when running KDE4 in a VM. VirtualBox has no such issues.
    • After installing the Guest Additions, my mouse can travel smoothly between my VirtualBox guest VM display and my desktop without being stuck/limited to the display area. (Vbox specifically informs you of this capability actually post-installation).
    • Guided steps with the GUI for sharing files between the host machine and guest VM. VMWare required mounting via commandline which worked but was somewhat buggy.
  4. Availability: VirtualBox is available right through the Ubuntu apt-repositories. If I want a more up-to-date version, I can easily find apt-repo at PPA launchpad. (This sort of community is yet another reason why Ubuntu is so great).
  5. Portability: Just like VMWare, Virtualbox runs on every major OS out there.
  6. Cost: VirtualBox is free as you get. While VMWare never cost me anything to run, there may have come a day when I was faced with paying for their products. I won't have to worry about that with VirtualBox.
  7. Performance: Though I have not thoroughly tested the performance, from my own experience and the reviews I have read online, VBox does not perform (process tasks as quickly) as VMWare but it certainly is not casually noticable. I know VBox is continuing to push for improvements in this area.
I have been using VirtualBox for about 2 weeks now and it is exceeding my needs. VBox meets my needs in a more convenient way than VMWare did before, especially after installing the Guest Additions. Though VBox has a different interface from VMWare, I think I actually prefer the organization concept and designs of the VirtualBox system over VMWare's organization, particularly with shared resources. Overall, I think it is a better piece of software.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yet more support for Linux from NVidia and ATI

This was news to me. It makes me very happy to see this. Long story short, Nvidia and ATI/AMD are providing programming API's to allow software in the *nix world (Linux, BSD, Solaris, etc) to utilize GPUs on their hardware. Specifically,VDPAU from Nvidia and XvBA from ATI/AMD are the systems for the X Windows System. They are equivalent of the Microsoft's DirectX Video Acceleration (DxVA) API for Windows.

Those links will give you more information if you are interested. There are several other programs I personally know of, most notable Avidemux's latest development branches, which are working to make use of this new programming API and technology. It makes me pleased to see these systems coming into place in the *nix world, breaking down yet another barrier between competing Operating Systems.

Even though the protocols from Nvidia and ATI are still limited in what they can do, I have little doubt the capabilities will be extended and based on stirrings in the Windows world, I am sure of it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

KDE4 very good but still has some glitches

I really like KDE4 and I look forward to when it is "complete." By that I mean, when all of the features I previously enjoyed in KDE3 are available. I am seriously considering seeing if I can help with a few features I want right now, such as all my Desktop Wallpaper options... and a few extra features I have thought up along the way.

In an attempt to eschew being a Linux Fanboy and merely be a bigtime fan, I will list the glitches I have encountered so far. To be fair, not all of these may be relating to KDE but instead with the current Linux kernel version I am using.

I will list my problems and any solutions or workarounds that I have seen.

Konsole transparency
  • Description: There is an odd white glow to any konsole color profile transparency settings initially when the konsole is loaded. This glow remains regardless of what appears to be half of all possible colors and is present at zero percent opacity. Even when using my work around, the problem returns if the konsole is resized at all.
  • Number of times encountered so far: This is a reproducible bug.
  • Successful Solution: The glow disappears and proper opacity returns when you cause a full desktop redraw. (I believe actually a full Plasma Desktop redraw, but I'm not sure.) This can be done by going to System Settings -> Desktop -> Desktop Effects -> All Effects and changing or literally toggling an option. As long as you can and do hit the "Apply" button to force a redraw, the konsole will display the proper opacity.
  • Note: There may be other color errors, and I suspect there are, but I have not had time to properly check for them.
Keyboard failure
  • Description: My keyboard stopped working completely, and this was not related to my wireless bluetooth keyboard. I always have an axillary PS2 keyboard plugged in and this too would not function.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 2
  • Attempted (but failed) solutions: X-Windows restart.
  • Successful Solution: Rebooted.
Mouse failure
  • Description: My mouse stopped working completely. I did not attempt to use a USB mouse to check if that still worked.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 1
  • Successful Solution: Rebooted.
Application Menu Shortcut Keys
  • Description: Tried to set Meta+O to start OpenOffice writer, but this did not seem to work. No error message or related conflicts were encountered and everything looked like it should work, except that it never did.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 1
  • Attempted (but failed) solutions: X-Windows restart.
  • Successful Solution: Rebooted.
  • Description: Randomly seems to crash and no noticeable pattern of problems. Unfortunately Kubuntu is not compiled with backtrace abilities or I would provide bug reports.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 3 (which is pretty good since I have used this program probably over 200 times)
  • Description: When selecting "Compress to..." and choosing a specific archive type, Ark seems to crash when you use more than a single '.' (period) character in the file name, especially with .tar.gz.
  • Number of times encountered so far: This is a reproducible bug.
  • Successful Solution: Don't use an extra dot.
Konqueror crashes
  • Description: Konqueror has crashed several times on me randomly and I am not sure what to say about that, since sometimes it just crashes when I'm not even actively using it.
  • Note: Konqueror is usably stable and I expect it to only improve. At the moment, Konqueror is seriously a work in progress, based on the updating of features, protocols, refactoring of features and its unholy union with the file manager Dolphin.
  • Number of times encountered so far: Around 6 times so far.
Monitor Timed Power-off
  • Description: My monitor will not shut itself off after extended use, despite configuring it to do so. Not sure if it is a configuration bug on my part or not.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 1.
Lock Screen fails to engage
  • Description: Could not engage a session lock.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 1.
  • Successful Solution: X-Windows restart.
GTK / QT4 Button Mis-arrangement
  • Description: The Yes/No, Replace/Cancel, Overwrite/Replace, etc. buttons in some applications are in the incorrect order, as dictated by the HID standard (which I believe GTK at least adheres to, and probably QT as well). I have confirmed this in Kate and Firefox at least.
More updates to come as I see them.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Make Kubuntu 9.04 use a single Kate session

I don't know if this was a KDE4 team or Ubuntu change, but somewhere along the way Kate stopped using a single session and started to open an instances of itself for each file. I suspect this is an Ubuntu change.

Anyway, if you want to have only a single instance of Kate running, here is how to fix this. You can edit the Kate menu entry by right-clicking on the K-menu and editing it. Edit the "Command: " line and insert '--use' between 'kate' and the '%U'. It should end up looking like this:
Command: kate --use %U
The other option is to manually open the file in a text editor: /home/user_name/.local/share/applications/kde4-kate.desktop (Where 'user_name' is the target user name).

You want to change the "Exec: " line. Insert '--use' between 'kate' and the '%U'. It should end up looking like this:
Exec: kate --use %U
Test the new configuration in Konqueror. If Konqueror gives you problems about not being able to open /usr/bin/kate, this is to a known bug in the KDE-Libs with DBUS. There is a workaround for this.

Open the file in a text editor (again): /home/user_name/.local/share/applications/kde4-kate.desktop (Where 'user_name' is the target user name).

Find the line "X-DBUS-StartupType=Multi" and change the "Multi" to "None".

That should fix your problem.

Ext4 and Btrfs Benchmark tests

While researching EXT4 performance, I came across this website:

They were quite informative. If you are interested in learning how EXT4 compares to EXT3 and other major filesystem competitors of the day (XFS and ReiserFS), have a read. One caution, read their bar graph summaries/legends carefully because the graphs can be misread if you don't pay careful attention.

EXT4 does not win at everything but it seems to hold the best place in more tests than its competitors. Well, at least in these tests.

For those of you interested in next generation filesystem coming our way, Btrfs, they also have benchmarks for the current development snapshot.

Ubuntu brings advanced Screen features to everyday users

If you use terminal to get much done in Linux, you will probably encounter the GNU program called "screen." If you haven't yet, take the time to learn. It is great and extremely useful if you do serious work on the console.

The learning curve is a steep but short. Once you learn about 4 basic commands, you can start working and learn more as needed.

However, the old news is that Ubuntu has once again tried to make another powerful tool of the Linux world more accessible and user-friendly for the masses. Ubuntu by default installs the package 'screen-profiles' which adds a couple of nice text interfaces and predefined settings to help new users learn the tool.

That is all well and good and I applaud this move. However, if you are an old or advanced Linux user, Ubuntu's move might interfere with some of your daily work. The screen-profile's try not to interfere with a ~/.screenrc file, but they still can slightly.

Uninstalling the package will solve most issues, but there is one very VERY important feature that has been changed as a problem prevention step for newbie users. In some shells and within Screen itself the command CTRL-s if used inappropriately with other key combinations can cause your visible text area to halt until CTRL-Q is pressed.

Now, I use CTRL-s for searching my Bash command history and for saving within my Vim session. So I safely use CTRL-s and I want it around and not interfered with their problem prevention. To get around Ubuntu's new default configurations, simply add this line to your ~/.bashrc file, or type it on the command line whenever you open a new screen window.
stty -ixon

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A weird tale of SELinux, Firefox and Jaunty Remix woes

Here is an unusual story I experienced many months ago. First let me tell the reader what you are about to read is not normal. I have never heard of SELinux behaving like it did with me here, and I have used it for several years before and since this incident with no problems. (Though I have switched to using AppArmor based on recommendations from Ubuntu). I have also never had this problem since it happened.

The Story
Back on April 7th 2009, I installed Kubuntu Jaunty 9.04 KDE3 remix.

I did all the update and upgrades and grabbed all the new kernal goodness. Then I installed SELinux and rebooted. Upon reboot, I found something (SELinux I can only guess) had DESTROYED all the Japanese text in my filenames. It turned them into complete garbage and I don't know why, because this has never happened before. (I assume it did this during its scan of my hard-disks.)

In general I favor running SELinux and I don't believe this behavior is normal (especially since I have run it before and since with no more problems). I am thinking it was perhaps a problem with the package of SELinux itself from Ubuntu.

This type of file corruption would be a major catastrophe except that I am such a good person for backing files up, so I was able to recover from most of it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Firefox 3.5's new JavaScript engine to use revolutionary new JIT method

Here is small post for you programmer guys that you may find interesting.

Sure, you know what JIT is and why it makes so many modern interpreted languages actually usable in terms of speed/performance. But you probably have not heard of the exact methods through which JIT is achieved, and much less of a new method called "trace trees."

Apparently Mozilla's JavaScript engine has a new feature called TraceMonkey which is based on this new JIT compilation method and "The net result is a massive speed increase both in the browser chrome and Web‐page content."[1]

Programmers may find reading about Trace Trees to be interesting. I did.

For more detailed information about how this works with Firefox 3.5, take a look here.

More Evidence of Linux All Around You

Here is another story for you readers to remember the next time you see some Linux hater or hear people saying Linux is not popular, or common, or is losing popularity.

I have heard more than once that Hollywood uses Linux a lot, which is to say in a more correct sense, the Entertainment Industry uses Linux. Well, here is a little story about one such company: Walt Disney Feature Animation.