Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bronchitis and Netbooks

Well, I'm writing this while grappling tiredly with what I guess is bronchitis. I spent the early hours of Thursday (3am-8am) at Kaiser's near-empty ER in Terra Linda doing asthma nebulizer treatments as my inhaler wasn't doing jack. Amusingly, this was the first visit where I had easy bathroom access, which wasn't the case for any of my many lower-GI trips!

Being sick has really increased the pressure to follow through on my gradual plans to acquire a netbook... In the past, when I was unwell enough that sitting at my desk was tiring, I propped myself up in bed or on the couch and used a laptop there. I even picked out a small notebook for my previous system with that in mind, since I was suffering from severe muscle weakness & pain thanks to the Chiari. Now that system relies on an external monitor, and my huge old y2k laptop suffered power jack damage. No portability there! I'm trying out a nifty Zaurus SL-5600, but haven't learned how to get my wireless card working yet, so it's of limited use.

For the netbook, I'm thinking of going with a solid-state (i.e. flash) drive coupled with a used 2.5" hard drive -- either inside if I can modify the netbook, or in an external case I have lying around. I'm hunting 10.x" netbooks right now as well, after researching what all the specs mean for a week or so. I'd much prefer to get one with Linux pre-installed, both to show my support and save me time, but (reportedly thanks to MS pressuring the manufacturers) most are nearly the same price as XP sibling with inferior hardware. Arrgh.

Which brings me to something that has been perplexing and annoying me for a while now... Many newbies switch to Linux after seeing many happy comments about how easy to use, attractive, and stable it is; some are also entranced by a friendly community like UbuntuForums. As far as I can imagine, companies like Dell or Lenovo should want to emulate that approach, educate consumers so they realize that it's no harder or less intuitive for a newbie than Windows or OS X are. Instead, reps periodically trot out to repeat those same old lies, undermining a product line of their own that could offer superior profit margins if handled properly.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Funny, my network isn't set to hidden...

I just spent the evening fighting with a new wireless card in my mother's Dell laptop, which is running Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex... Once I figured out (or rather, remembered) the solution, I felt compelled to blog about it, so here I am.

Recently, I needed a couple of new wireless laptop cards, so I got a pair from eBay for $12 total last week, knowing they'd likely work in Linux but not sure what effort it'd take. Since I couldn't find the info online, I'm blogging it here for others. :) It's Encore ENPWI-G2 802.11g PCMCIA Type II PC Card... They didn't work out-of-the-box with Hardy Heron 8.04, but they are detected & set up automatically by a fresh totally-offline live-CD install of Intrepid in both Xubuntu and Ubuntu. Woohoo!

So where's the problem, you ask?

Upon seeing that the card was detected, I went on up to the wireless notification icon and clicked on it for a list of networks. A nice list of all the neighborhood routers popped up, so I clicked on my own. The icon did the usual little animation to show it was trying to connect, then told me that it had been disconnected. WTF?

I tried again, with the same results. Hmm. Right-clicked on it, picked edit connections, and made sure there was an appropriate entry in the Wireless area. Tried again, no luck. Annoyed, I opened up a terminal window, typed iwconfig in, and verified that the card was in fact properly detected & trying to use the right SSID. Yes, all correct, it was supposedly even connected to the right access point, but I couldn't ping the router or jack else!

This time, I stuck the card in my own laptop, which already has the card's twin set up, to check the hardware angle. (I already knew the Dell's card slot was okay.) The darned thing was immediately detected, accepted by the router & signed on without any intervention or trouble. Put it back in the Dell, and went straight back to the land of the supposed connection that wasn't really there.

I spent a while searching the web using every combination of applicable terms I could come up with -- Ubuntu, wireless, ap, dns, you name it. No luck. I clicked up on the wireless icon again, then decided (recalling this might have been what worked last time) to pick connect to hidden wireless network and give it my router's SSID. It showed the animation very briefly, connected, and had no problem automatically reconnecting after that. On my laptop, which was originally set up that way several days ago now, it has had no problem connecting on its own since then, either.

Now, the thing that makes no sense here is that not only is my router set to broadcast its SSID for all to hear, the card was seeing it just fine. I remember now that there had been one entry in a discussion forum (I'm not sure which) where somebody with the same situation but another card was given the above advice, with the same kind of inexplicable success. Hopefully this won't be a problem in Jaunty or future releases -- and considering I have another wireless adapter (this one USB) to set up, I hope that goes a lot more smoothly as well.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How to install Xe Multi-System Emulator in Ubuntu/Kubuntu

After slogging through pages of someone else's experience to extract the info I needed, I figured I'd copy a condensed version for others. My instructions are based on Kubuntu/Ubuntu, so if you are using another distro, you'll have to find out what libraries it wants -- but the rest probably is the same.

Let me first explain that Xe emulates a number of rare/unusual old systems. The exciting one for me is that it brings the FM-Towns Marty in English to Linux and Windows. This means that after years of waiting, I can play the massively enhanced copies of the Ultima Series, including Ultima 6 with full speech, often by the very Origin people that the characters like Lord British were based on.

Anyway, you first go to and download Xe. I saved it to downloads and then expanded it so all the files went into xetemp to make it easy. Open up another window pointing to your home directory, and tell it to show you all files, but don't do anything more yet.

Now open up a terminal session, and "cd" to where you unpacked all the files, like
cd /home/YOURLOGIN/downloads/xetemp
Now tell the terminal:
sudo -i
so you stay logged in as root and don't have to type "sudo" every line. (Wish I'd learned that a few months ago, instead of tonight!)

Copy these names (highlight, hit ctrl-c), because they're the libraries Xe will require in order for you to set it up:
build-essential libgtk2.0-dev libasound2-dev libxv-dev libxxf86vm1 libxxf86vm-dev

Type in the terminal:
apt-get install
then hit shift-insert to paste the library list, then enter.
Sit back or go get a soda/beer/milk/whatever you like, while the terminal scrolls lines past too quickly for most people to read as it (hopefully) installs everything you asked for.
Instruct the terminal (you should still be in xe's temporary directory):
If it says you're missing something, go search the web or Ubuntu forums for what library it's in. Otherwise, it's probably going to give you a bizarre error claiming you're not really logged in as root (even though you are) which means you have everything it needs!

Now, the simple part. Bring up those two file windows, one aimed at xetemp, the other your home (with hidden files showing). Your home should now have a folder called .xe -- find it (or create it, if it's not there), and go inside.

Copy everything from xetemp to the .xe folder; if it asks whether you want to over-write newer files, choose No.

Make sure that bios, modules, the rc in both windows have the same files. If the xe version is missing anything, copy it over from xetemp. Once you're sure you have everything in sync, you can probably safely delete the xetemp folder, especially if you still have the original file you downloaded.

Finally, go to the Games area in your main menu (or wherever you prefer; I used the desktop), and create a new shortcut for Xe. You'll have to find an icon you like on your own, but that's it -- the basic emulator is installed. I think we have to find BIOS files for each system we want to emulate, but at least the emulator is there and just need games! (HINT: One good place to start is finding SNESOrama on the web, and going into their forums.)

Now to figure out how to use the emulator...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I've always wanted a fan page...

The last couple of weeks with Linux have been unpleasant -- Compiz was muting out all sound in KDE so I had to disable it, I couldn't figure out how to make any emulators aside from Infocom play games (with Infocom I failed to create a desktop shortcut at that), and finally, despite trying several sites, I could not manage to upload a few large files. Finally did it in XP Friday morning after starting to cry from sheer frustration. :-p

Enough grumbling... A little bit ago, I mentally signed myself up for a little project: I'm going to figure out how to best emulate the first seven Ultimas in Linux, then post a guide for newbies so they aren't stuck with weeks of trial-and-error. Eventually I'll have guides up for every emulator platform (Apple, C64, FM Towns, etc.) and if I'm really really lucky, the best music hardware for each. One of the Ultima Dragons has a page up with .ogg music files demonstrating the difference between each song being played on the most pricy cards versus the standard, and it really is shocking.

Also found another person that is evidently trying to live with the Virtues as I've done for the last 20 years, and signed up for his forum. I'm hoping to convince myself that it's "safe" to communicate there, because anyone else that has been on the same path I am is very unlikely to ever get nasty like many people do. We shall see...