ubuntu

Hello Planet Ubuntu Australia

Last week my blog was added to Planet Ubuntu Australia, the syndication site for Australian Ubuntu LoCo participants' blogs.

I have been rather busy with work and family commitments lately. I am hoping to give my poor neglected blog a little more TLC.

My New Toy - The Nokia N95

About 7 weeks ago I bought a Nokia N95 and I love it. I considered the Neo 1973 from openMoko, a completely open phone platform was appealing, but at the end of the day it isn't certified for Australia, it doesn't have WIFI or a camera nor does it do HSDPA/3G, all things on must have list. The iPhone was never in the race.

I picked up phone for just over 800AUD via ebay, they have since dropped a little in price. It is an Australia version with full local warranty support. The only downside is that it a 3 branded version, not a generic, but hey it works.

The phone got a real work out during my trip to Norway and it worked well. The GPS is a little slow to lock, but once it gets a lock it is right to go. The wifi works well. It is handy knowing if wifi is available somewhere before booting your laptop. I took a stack of pictures with the 5M pixel camera, the ones in bad light or inside aren't fantastic, but when taking shots outside it works a treat. The "DVD quality video" is pretty good too. It makes better movies than our old DVD based handycam. I am planning to use the phone at the birth of my second child (due any day now).

As I expected the phone "just works" as a standalone device, but the real test is how well it works with a Linux desktop. I can report that with Ubuntu 7.10 (aka Gutsy Gibbon) the N95 works well for all the stuff you really need. Below is a couple of quick mini howtos for a few things that you might want to with your N95. Some of the instructions are generic enough that they may work with little (or no) change with other handsets.

Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for any data loss or stress caused by you following these instructions. Also you should carefully check your warranty before trying any of this. That said - "I just worked for me".

Pairing

For the bluetooth related stuff below you will need to pair your phone and PC. The quickest and easiest way to do this is using the bluetooth-applet. Here is how to do it:

  • Install the bluez-gnome deb - sudo apt-get install bluez-gnome
  • Once installed you should have a bluetooth icon in your GNOME system tray, if not just run "bluetooth-applet &" from the console
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • On your phone enter a 4 digit PIN when prompted - it can be anything you like
  • The bluetooth icon will then flash, click on it and enter the same PIN
  • Now your phone and PC should be paired
  • To make sure they are paired we will connect via obex-ftp
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • When prompted on your phone allow the connection
  • Nautilus should now launch and you you 2 folders "C:" (internal phone memory) and "E:" (microSD card)

Your PC and N95 are now paired and should be able to communicate via bluetooth without any problems.

Exchanging Files

Copying files to/from the N95 can be a little slow. Lets go from slowest to fastest.

Bluetooth

Copying files using bluetooth is very simple with a gnome desktop and the N95 using OBEX-FTP. Just install OBEX-FTP support for nautilus - "sudo apt-get install gnome-vfs-obexftp". Anytime you want to access the files on your phone via obexftp, just fire up nautilus and type "obex:///" and wait for a list of devices to be displayed. Double click on your phone and you are right to go. It can be rather slow copying files from your phone to your PC this way, but if you don't want to find cables or card readers it works. By slow I mean 30mins for a 100Mb video to copy.

There is also the gnome-obex-server package, which allows you to push content from your phone onto your PC, but I found this slow and I had to jump through too many hoops on the phone to send a file.

USB Cable

The N95 comes with a USB cable with a mini USB connector for connecting your N95 to your PC. When you plug the cable in the phone asks you which mode you wish to use. If you select Mass Storage it is treated like a usb mass storage device by and gnome-volume-manager, so it is mounted as soon as you plug it in. You are then able to access your microSD card.

I haven't been able to get the "Media Player" mode to work with the desktop music players I have tried it with - Rhythmbox, Banshee and Amarok. When used in "Mass Storage" mode it is possible to use File > Scan removable media in Rhythmbox.

Card reader

This is the fatstest way to read data from the microSD card. On the N95 press the power button for half a second, scroll down the list of options and select "Remove memory card", then remove your card from your phone. Now just put in into the SD card adaptor that came with the phone and use it like a normal SD card. Transfers speeds are quite good using this method.

Sync

Setting up sync with the N95 and opensync was relatively painless. I am syncing contacts with evolution, I have also tried with calendar events, which seemed to work as well, I haven't tried todos as I don't use them.

Start off by installing the bits we need

$ sudo apt-get install multisync-gui opensync-plugin-evolution opensync-plugin-syncml

This should also install all the dependencies needed to make opensync work.

On the N95 go Menu > Tools > Sync > PC Suite > Edit Sync Profile. First start by editing the settings under Applications. Lifeblog, Text messages and Bookmarks aren't supported by opensync, so disable them but setting "Include in sync" to No. You can also disable Calendar, Notes (really ToDos) if you wish.

As I had already transferred contacts from my old SE v600i to the N95 and I wanted to sync with an existing addressbook I had some issues. Namely 2 contacts didn't want to sync - I never found out which ones. So I found the easiest way to setup the sync was to create a new addressbook in evo.

  • Go into contacts ([ctrl]-2)
  • From the menu select File > New > Addressbook
  • Fill in the information - Type: "On This Computer", Name: "Phone" (or something else that makes sense for you
  • Click OK
In your GNOME menu under accessories, select multisync-gui. Now we need to create the sync pair.
  • Click the Add button
  • Give the group a meaningful name, such as "n95-evo" and click apply
  • Click the edit button for your new group
  • Tick the checkboxes for those sources which you don't want to use - you must disabled note as this isn't supported by the N95, this list should match the config on your phone
  • Click the Add Member button
  • Select Evolution 2.x from the list of options and Click Apply
  • Select which addressbook you want to sync with - in our case "Phone" (or which ever one you created above)
  • Click the Add Member button
  • This time select SyncML over OBEX Client
  • This where your XML hacking skills come into it (or you can just use my config
    <config>
    	<bluetooth_address>AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE</bluetooth_address>
    	<bluetooth_channel>10</bluetooth_channel>
    	<interface>0</interface>
    	<identifier>PC Suite</identifier>
    	<version>1</version>
    	<wbxml>1</wbxml>
    	<username></username>
    	<password></password>
    	<type>2</type>
    	<usestringtable>1</usestringtable>
    	<onlyreplace>0</onlyreplace>
    	<recvLimit>0</recvLimit>
    	<maxObjSize>0</maxObjSize>
    	<contact_db>Contacts</contact_db>
    	<calendar_db>Calendar</calendar_db>
    	<note_db>Notes</note_db>
    </config>
    
    		
    Change AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE to the address of your phone Note: I have only been able to get the N95 to sync with opensync using bluetooth.
  • Click Close
  • Click the "Refresh" and the sync should start
  • You have now synced your Nokia N95 with your Linux desktop! YAY!
  • All of your contacts from your phone should now be added to your evo addressbook
  • In evolution, copy any contacts from other addressbooks to the "Phone" addressbook
  • In multisync-gui click the "Refresh" button again and wait for the sync to complete

After I make changes to either either my N95 or evolution contacts I sync them. If you are also syncing your calendar you probably want to sync at least daily

Occasionally you may get conflicts. The GUI allows you to choose which one you want to keep. Having merge support in the GUI would be nice, but I can live with one taking precedence over the other on a per record basis.

Firmware Upgrades and Installing Maps

You need a real box Windows XP to upgrade the firmware or install full maps on the phone. I quickly tried using the usb support in qemu to connect the phone to a virtual version of XP, but I couldn't get it to work. It would be nice if Nokia offered firmware upgrades "over the air" so you could just use WIFI to upgrade the phone's firmware.

You can load map data as you move around, using mobile data, but this is an expensive way of doing it. You only need the map loader software installed on the Windows machine and then you can use the phone in mass storage mode of the microSD card to load the map data. I might try loading map data via qemu one day, but I have all the maps loaded that I currently need.

Software

In terms of what extra software you might want to install on the phone, here is a list of what I am using:

  • PuTTY - SSH on the phone, it is handy when I really need SSH and I don't have my laptop with me. Goota love a phone running SSH2 with public key authentication.
  • VNC. There is a Symbian sponsored port of TightVNC now available for the N95 and other S60 handsets. I am yet to get working properly
  • Fring is a free (as in beer) VoIP and IM app for mobile devices. It works pretty well. I have some issues using it with NodePhone, but I probably just have to tweak something there
  • I am also running the Lotus Sametime client, so I can keep in touch with the ReSight team out on the road. Pidgin is still the best Sametime (or general IM) client I have found, but there is no symbian port (hint hint)

Where is opera mini? I removed it, as I found the WebKit based browser on the N95 nicer in the longer run. It might use more bandwidth, but that is fine when using WIFI for most of your browsing anyway.

Overall

The Nokia N95 is certainly one nice handset. The battery life sucks - mine goes on charge every evening. The phone will never win an award from the FSF for freedom, but it never set out to do that. It sets out to be an all in one device and I think it achieves that goal pretty well. It is certainly usable under Linux, even if it does have some distance to go before it can really be considered truly Linux friendly.

About 7 weeks ago I bought a Nokia N95 and I love it. I considered the Neo 1973 from openMoko, a completely open phone platform was appealing, but at the end of the day it isn't certified for Australia, it doesn't have WIFI or a camera nor does it do HSDPA/3G, all things on must have list. The iPhone was never in the race.

I picked up phone for just over 800AUD via ebay, they have since dropped a little in price. It is an Australia version with full local warranty support. The only downside is that it a 3 branded version, not a generic, but hey it works.

The phone got a real work out during my trip to Norway and it worked well. The GPS is a little slow to lock, but once it gets a lock it is right to go. The wifi works well. It is handy knowing if wifi is available somewhere before booting your laptop. I took a stack of pictures with the 5M pixel camera, the ones in bad light or inside aren't fantastic, but when taking shots outside it works a treat. The "DVD quality video" is pretty good too. It makes better movies than our old DVD based handycam. I am planning to use the phone at the birth of my second child (due any day now).

As I expected the phone "just works" as a standalone device, but the real test is how well it works with a Linux desktop. I can report that with Ubuntu 7.10 (aka Gutsy Gibbon) the N95 works well for all the stuff you really need. Below is a couple of quick mini howtos for a few things that you might want to with your N95. Some of the instructions are generic enough that they may work with little (or no) change with other handsets.

Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for any data loss or stress caused by you following these instructions. Also you should carefully check your warranty before trying any of this. That said - "I just worked for me".

Pairing

For the bluetooth related stuff below you will need to pair your phone and PC. The quickest and easiest way to do this is using the bluetooth-applet. Here is how to do it:

  • Install the bluez-gnome deb - sudo apt-get install bluez-gnome
  • Once installed you should have a bluetooth icon in your GNOME system tray, if not just run "bluetooth-applet &" from the console
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • On your phone enter a 4 digit PIN when prompted - it can be anything you like
  • The bluetooth icon will then flash, click on it and enter the same PIN
  • Now your phone and PC should be paired
  • To make sure they are paired we will connect via obex-ftp
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • When prompted on your phone allow the connection
  • Nautilus should now launch and you you 2 folders "C:" (internal phone memory) and "E:" (microSD card)

Your PC and N95 are now paired and should be able to communicate via bluetooth without any problems.

Exchanging Files

Copying files to/from the N95 can be a little slow. Lets go from slowest to fastest.

Bluetooth

Copying files using bluetooth is very simple with a gnome desktop and the N95 using OBEX-FTP. Just install OBEX-FTP support for nautilus - "sudo apt-get install gnome-vfs-obexftp". Anytime you want to access the files on your phone via obexftp, just fire up nautilus and type "obex:///" and wait for a list of devices to be displayed. Double click on your phone and you are right to go. It can be rather slow copying files from your phone to your PC this way, but if you don't want to find cables or card readers it works. By slow I mean 30mins for a 100Mb video to copy.

There is also the gnome-obex-server package, which allows you to push content from your phone onto your PC, but I found this slow and I had to jump through too many hoops on the phone to send a file.

USB Cable

The N95 comes with a USB cable with a mini USB connector for connecting your N95 to your PC. When you plug the cable in the phone asks you which mode you wish to use. If you select Mass Storage it is treated like a usb mass storage device by and gnome-volume-manager, so it is mounted as soon as you plug it in. You are then able to access your microSD card.

I haven't been able to get the "Media Player" mode to work with the desktop music players I have tried it with - Rhythmbox, Banshee and Amarok. When used in "Mass Storage" mode it is possible to use File > Scan removable media in Rhythmbox.

Card reader

This is the fatstest way to read data from the microSD card. On the N95 press the power button for half a second, scroll down the list of options and select "Remove memory card", then remove your card from your phone. Now just put in into the SD card adaptor that came with the phone and use it like a normal SD card. Transfers speeds are quite good using this method.

Sync

Update: I am no longer using OpenSync. I am using Funambol's S60 SyncML app, which works a treat for syncing with my Zimbra server.

Setting up sync with the N95 and opensync was relatively painless. I am syncing contacts with evolution, I have also tried with calendar events, which seemed to work as well, I haven't tried todos as I don't use them.

Start off by installing the bits we need

$ sudo apt-get install multisync-gui opensync-plugin-evolution opensync-plugin-syncml

This should also install all the dependencies needed to make opensync work.

On the N95 go Menu > Tools > Sync > PC Suite > Edit Sync Profile. First start by editing the settings under Applications. Lifeblog, Text messages and Bookmarks aren't supported by opensync, so disable them but setting "Include in sync" to No. You can also disable Calendar, Notes (really ToDos) if you wish.

As I had already transferred contacts from my old SE v600i to the N95 and I wanted to sync with an existing addressbook I had some issues. Namely 2 contacts didn't want to sync - I never found out which ones. So I found the easiest way to setup the sync was to create a new addressbook in evo.

  • Go into contacts ([ctrl]-2)
  • From the menu select File > New > Addressbook
  • Fill in the information - Type: "On This Computer", Name: "Phone" (or something else that makes sense for you
  • Click OK

In your GNOME menu under accessories, select multisync-gui. Now we need to create the sync pair.

  • Click the Add button
  • Give the group a meaningful name, such as "n95-evo" and click apply
  • Click the edit button for your new group
  • Tick the checkboxes for those sources which you don't want to use - you must disabled note as this isn't supported by the N95, this list should match the config on your phone
  • Click the Add Member button
  • Select Evolution 2.x from the list of options and Click Apply
  • Select which addressbook you want to sync with - in our case "Phone" (or which ever one you created above)
  • Click the Add Member button
  • This time select SyncML over OBEX Client
  • This where your XML hacking skills come into it (or you can just use my config
    <config>
    	<bluetooth_address>AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE</bluetooth_address>
    	<bluetooth_channel>10</bluetooth_channel>
    	<interface>0</interface>
    	<identifier>PC Suite</identifier>
    	<version>1</version>
    	<wbxml>1</wbxml>
    	<username></username>
    	<password></password>
    	<type>2</type>
    	<usestringtable>1</usestringtable>
    	<onlyreplace>0</onlyreplace>
    	<recvLimit>0</recvLimit>
    	<maxObjSize>0</maxObjSize>
    	<contact_db>Contacts</contact_db>
    	<calendar_db>Calendar</calendar_db>
    	<note_db>Notes</note_db>
    </config>
    
    		
    Change AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE to the address of your phone Note: I have only been able to get the N95 to sync with opensync using bluetooth.
  • Click Close
  • Click the "Refresh" and the sync should start
  • You have now synced your Nokia N95 with your Linux desktop! YAY!
  • All of your contacts from your phone should now be added to your evo addressbook
  • In evolution, copy any contacts from other addressbooks to the "Phone" addressbook
  • In multisync-gui click the "Refresh" button again and wait for the sync to complete

After I make changes to either either my N95 or evolution contacts I sync them. If you are also syncing your calendar you probably want to sync at least daily

Occasionally you may get conflicts. The GUI allows you to choose which one you want to keep. Having merge support in the GUI would be nice, but I can live with one taking precedence over the other on a per record basis.

Firmware Upgrades and Installing Maps

You need a real box Windows XP to upgrade the firmware or install full maps on the phone. I quickly tried using the usb support in qemu to connect the phone to a virtual version of XP, but I couldn't get it to work. It would be nice if Nokia offered firmware upgrades "over the air" so you could just use WIFI to upgrade the phone's firmware.

You can load map data as you move around, using mobile data, but this is an expensive way of doing it. You only need the map loader software installed on the Windows machine and then you can use the phone in mass storage mode of the microSD card to load the map data. I might try loading map data via qemu one day, but I have all the maps loaded that I currently need.

Software

In terms of what extra software you might want to install on the phone, here is a list of what I am using:

  • PuTTY - SSH on the phone, it is handy when I really need SSH and I don't have my laptop with me. Goota love a phone running SSH2 with public key authentication.
  • VNC. There is a Symbian sponsored port of TightVNC now available for the N95 and other S60 handsets. I am yet to get working properly
  • Fring is a free (as in beer) VoIP and IM app for mobile devices. It works pretty well. I have some issues using it with NodePhone, but I probably just have to tweak something there
  • I am also running the Lotus Sametime client, so I can keep in touch with the ReSight team out on the road. Pidgin is still the best Sametime (or general IM) client I have found, but there is no symbian port (hint hint)

Where is opera mini? I removed it, as I found the WebKit based browser on the N95 nicer in the longer run. It might use more bandwidth, but that is fine when using WIFI for most of your browsing anyway.

Overall

The Nokia N95 is certainly one nice handset. The battery life sucks - mine goes on charge every evening. The phone will never win an award from the FSF for freedom, but it never set out to do that. It sets out to be an all in one device and I think it achieves that goal pretty well. It is certainly usable under Linux, even if it does have some distance to go before it can really be considered truly Linux friendly.

Ubuntu Gutsy

For the last few weeks I have been running the upcoming Ubuntu 7.10 release (aka Gutsy Gibbon) on my laptop, which is also my primary PC. I know the ubuntu team don't recommend this, but I find it the best way for me to test stuff. Here is a quick run down of the things I have noticed. This isn't intended to be a comprehensive review, just a stuff I have noticed highlights.

Evolution

One of the best features I have found so far is in evolution. When sending a message which contains keywords, such as "attachment" or "attached" and you don't have an attachment, evo will nag you about it. It has saved me a few times already. Evolution warning about lack of attachment screenshot The other feature I like about evolution is that there is finally a panel notification icon, the annoying thing is that clicking it doesn't give evo focus. The xchat (not the gnome version) panel icon (available since Feisty) gives xchat focus when you click the icon - the same with liferea. I plan to file an RFE for this when I get some time. Evolution panel notification applet Another annoyance bug in evolution has been fixed, now when you copy text from an addressbook entry in view mode it only copies the highlighted text, not a whole vCard. YAY!

Desktop Search

The Tracker desktop search tool seems pretty nice. I got sick of beagle about a year ago and ditched it. Initially tracker made my PC unusable as it tried indexing everything in my home directory - including a few gig of legitimately owned ripped music. Tracker seems quicker than beagle and less resource intensive.

Conduit

Conduit finally works for me! The bug I reported was fixed 0.3 and gutsy ships with 0.3.2. I have played with it a bit and like the idea of it. I still need to find a real world useful task for it.

Liferea

Liferea is one of my top 5 apps. There has been no real changes between Feisty and Gutsy, except there are 2 really annoying bugs, feed names keep on being changed back to default and you can no long use "mark as read" for group level folders - I need to check if that one has been reported yet. Earlier builds had problems with recording which posts had been read, which was driving me crazy - I am glad that it has been fixed.

Printers

The GNOME printer management tool has had a facelift or been replaced. The about dialog box says it is called "sysconfig-config-printer.py" from Red Hat. Although I used to like having a "folder view" of all of my printers, the new layout makes it a lot easier to access everything quickly. GNOME system-config-printer.py screenshot showing new layout

Network Manager

I know there are some people who love Network Manager and those who hate it. I am mostly in the first camp, but there are somethings which annoy me about it. I need to file an RFE so you can use a VPN while using a PPP connection - currently you need to use a wired or wifi connection to use a VPN. PPP in general is a bit buggy, when you tell it create a PPP connection it won't try again until you click disconnect then connect again. It also lacks all the options you need for using PCMCIA/USB mobile data modem cards. It still does 80% of what I need. I will get around to reporting all this on launchpad.

Other Applications

There doesn't seem to be any significant changes to the other applications I use daily. Gutsy currently has pretty recent versions of most apps. Here is a list of some of them.
  • The GIMP - 2.4.0-rc2
  • Pidgin (formerly GAIM) - 2.2.0
  • OpenOffice.org - 2.3.0
  • Rhytmbox - 0.11.2
  • FSpot - 0.4.0

Look

Every new release of Ubuntu/GNOME I find myself in 2 minds about the look of it. I am finding it increasingly difficult to find icons I am happy with. For example I liked the look of GAIM far more than I do Pidgin, and this is now the 3rd release where the icons in evolution have changed. Maybe I am just getting old, but I think I liked it more the old way. Then again some of the other new icons look very slick. I plan to try using the Tango icons for a week to see if they are better than the gnome default. I can't run all the Compiz bling on my laptop - damn buggy proprietary drivers. I have better things to do with my CPU cycles anyway. The new appearance manager takes a little getting used, but I think it is better than having 4 or 5 different menu options. GNOME appearance manager screenshot

Overall

Overall I think the Gibbon is shaping up to be a solid release for Ubuntu. The team still have a couple of weeks before the release is due. Based on how far things have come in the last 3 week or so I have been using Gutsy, I think it will be a fine release. Once it goes final I think it is a worthwhile upgrade, unless you are a LTS only user - then you have to wait another 6 months for 8.04 aka Hardy Heron.

The Warm Glow of the Sun

Last week I received an email from Sun asking if I had seen a previous email. The previous email was attached. It almost ended up in the same place the previous email did - my spam bucket. The subject was "CONGRADULATIONS: Open Performance Contest WINNER - Dave Hall Consulting - TBWEBI_<random numbers>", which looked pretty spammy to me, just like the various bogus sweepstakes and the other 419 messages I get all too regularly.

As usual I am straying off topic. Back to the main reason for my post. The message from Sun contained the following text

It has been some time since you entered the Open Performance Contest and although you were not the winner for period XX your entry was included in period YY and has been selected. We wish to congratulate and inform you that you've been selected as a potential winner of our Open Performance Contest! Your entry was well written, complete, and highly applicable. To proceed, we first need to verify your eligibility. To aid us in this process, please complete the attached Affidavit of Eligibility/Liability & Publicity Release, and email it to: <someone>@sun.com within 5 business days.

If Noah wasn't asleep I think I would have cranked up some Infected Mushroom and had a big happy dance. I had to be more restrained and just look extremely happy. Then I printed, signed, scanned and emailed the paperwork back to Sun.

The server that Sun is in the process of arranging to ship to me is a Sun Fire T2000, with a list price of over 21,000 USD (or almost 25kAUD). My entry in the Open Performance Contest has yet to be published along with the other winners on sun's site, but I am not holding my breath.

I am still a bit shocked about my win. I am enjoying the warm glow from the Sun :) I was already convinced that I would be settling for an ubuntu t-shirt (thanks Canonical, even though it makes me look like I have put on 10kgs) and some "Cool Threads" temporary tattoos (which last 2-3 weeks) and be able to say that I had a T2000 for a couple of months or so.

I am now stuck with a dilemma, what to do with the box. Putting the box straight on ebay or Grays Online would be pretty rude. At the same time, the money from selling the box would be make up a significant part of a house deposit.

I would welcome any suggestions for what I can do with a noisy, high end SPARC box.

Update: Sun rang today to apologize for the delay in shipping the box and to advise me that it should arrive Thursday (or Friday at the very latest).

Member's Areas and wget

Earlier this evening I was discussing mirroring restricted areas of sites with wget on #ubuntu-au. The solution is pretty simple.

  1. Install the web developer extension for firefox
  2. Login to the target site
  3. On the webdev toolbar select Cookies > View Cookie Information
  4. For each of the cookie entries add the following to a file called wget-cookies.txt which should be saved in your home directory
<.target.domain.name>[tab]FALSE[tab]/[tab]FALSE[tab]1496836642[tab]<key>[tab]<value>

This is what it all means

  • <.target.domain.name> the domain of the site
  • TRUE the domain wide flag, if the domain starts with . this should be TRUE
  • / the path the cookie applies to
  • FALSE is the cookie secure (or available via HTTPS)
  • 1496836642 the expiry of the cookie (i am using 11:57:22 UTC on 7-Jun-2017)
  • <key> the name of the cookie
  • <value> the value of the cookie

If you just want to pull down a single page use the following command:

wget  --load-cookies ~/wget-cookies.txt <target-url>

Then you should have the target page

If you want to mirror the whole site as an authenticated user try something like:

wget --mirror -w 2 -p --convert-links  --load-cookies ~/wget-cookies.txt <target-url>

I tested this with a couple of my own sites and it seems to work well.

Before doing something like this, check the term of service and the license of the content to ensure that you are not in violation of either.

Ubuntu on Dell PCs and XP License Refunds

Now that Dell is shipping Ubuntu loaded machines in the US, there has been some discussion on the Australian Ubuntu LoCo list about when Dell will be shipping them in Australia. The consensus seems to be, not any time soon. I tend to agree, there are many other larger markets Dell is likely to target if Linux/Ubuntu on Dells takes off.

Tom Schinckel mentioned that he is waiting for Dell to offer Window license refunds. I have already obtained one.

About 2 years ago I bought my Dell Latitude D810, which came preloaded with XP Pro. During the order process I asked twice if the OEM copy of XP would run under QEMU (after explaining what it was), I was told both times it would. I was pretty suspicious. After receiving the machine I set it all up, including loading ubuntu on it - I can't remember if I used Hoary or a Breezy Colony. Then I installed QEMU and tried installing XP from the OEM media. So far so good, until it came time to supply the license key. I kept on being told it was invalid and to contact Microsoft. I checked on #qemu on freenode and was told that the Dell OEM version of XP is BIOS locked to Dell kit. No problem, I called Microsoft who (after a 20min hold) referred me to Dell. Another long hold and I was told no go. I started asking for a refund and was transferred to various places. After a while I mentioned that Australian consumer law applied and the product was not functioning as advertised, so I wanted a refund on the faulty part. I was eventually offered a full refund if I returned the whole machine. I wasn't taking that option. Instead offered to contact the media and see if they could be of any assistance, I was then told I would receive a call back in a few days.

About a week later I received a call back from Dell. They made a final offer, I could keep the XP license and they would give me a "goodwill credit" of 150AUD. As I could get XP Pro OEM licenses for about 190AUD, wholesale, I pushed for that. I was told that Dell paid less than 150AUD per XP Pro OEM license, so I could take 150AUD or take nothing. I soon realised that this was the best I was going to get, so I took it. I wasn't required to return the license key as "Dell has no way of cancelling or reusing a license key".

For a bit over 1 hour of effort on the phone, I ended up with an XP Pro OEM license which could be used for dual booting(if I ever wanted to), and 150AUD refunded to my credit card. I am sure Dell doesn't think this sets a precedent, but the NSW Office of Fair Trading might beg to differ. As Dell Australia is based in NSW, NSW consumer law applies to all transactions.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this is not a legal opinion. I am not responsible if Dell (or anyone else) declines your request for a refund/credit based on your use of the information contained in this post. blah blah, you can't sue me :)

OS X and Macs - the Windows killer?

For the last week I have almost exclusively been using a PowerPC Mac - claimed by Apple to be a great platform just a few years a ago. Personally, I think that Mac OS X is an interesting platform. The mac hasn't grabbed me.

On the up side, OS X (and Darwin) is based on BSD, so it has some good security foundations, it also uses many tools common to Linux, such as bash and CUPS. The 3D desktop effects are kinda cool for the first day, but then just become part of the day to day experience. I am yet to see a real advantage to the OS X 3D desktop.

The Mighty Mouse is pretty slick. The scroll wheel feels very nice and is well positioned. The side buttons for expose are addictive on the first day. A let down is that you have to change your preferences to enable the right button.

I don't claim to understand the whole Mac software management system, but from what I do know, you drop a disk image (a dmx file) into the applications folder in finder and it is installed. Want to remove it? delete the folder. This is pretty neat, once you understand how it works. It reminds me of the klik package management system.

The file open dialog is a crazy hierarchical beast, that works. Jumping between levels in a tree really works. Pity more than 3 levels down it can involve some vertical scrolling and you need to select a file to get its full name if it is too long.

Now for the downsides of using a Mac running OS X.

The keyboard feels awful, this is one of the times I would recommend a Microsoft product, but as MS keyboard feels far better than an Apple Keyboard. The standard mac keyboard feels plasticy and the key travel doesn't feel right. I have used a range of keyboards over the years and the Max keyboard feels awful. Maye apple should rebrand Logitech's kit, like Microsoft does.

My next complaint is key bindings. For ever since I remember, [home] takes you to the start of current line and [end] takes you to the end of the current line. Many apps even ignore the [home]/[end] keys. Windows, GNOME and KDE all bind [alt] [F4] to close window - but not the mac. There are many other standard combinations ignored by Apple. Another annoyance is the apple key - for most things it functions like a [ctrl] on a PC, but not in a shell, then it functions like an apple key and [ctrl] functions like a [ctrl] key under *nix - I have lost track of how many windows i have closed when trying to delete a word in the console (bash fiends know what i mean).

Inconsistent use of key combinations. In the console and some other apps, [apple] [arrow] loops through the windows of the application, but not Apple Mail, it has decided that the combo expands/collapses message threads, very annoying when trying to compose a message while trying to copy and paste from another.

The maximise button doesn't actually maximise. I am not sure if it is up to the application or the window manager, but clicking maximise (the green circle) may increase or decrease the width or height of the window. When I click maximise, I expect the window to be maximised - or at the very least increased in dimensions.

The real deal breakers for me are the [home]/[end] keys, the inconsistent shortcuts and other crazy behaviour of OSX mean that I won't be switching to a Mac anytime soon.

Over the next week I plan to load more FLOSS on the mac, such as Mozilla Thunderbird for email, which will join Mozilla Firefox web browser and gvim - my referred text editor. I doubt this will be enough for me to stick with OS X.

The indigo iMac G3 I landed last week is likely to be running Copland (a PPC port of xubuntu) real soon now. I am still trying to work out what I do with Julie's Apple Powerbook G3, which currently runs Xubuntu 6.06.1 LTS, as ubuntu has dropped support for PowerPC in feisy. Maybe I can find other PowerPC machines to install Copland or Debian onto :)

I am yet to see how OS X is more user friendly and and easier crossgrade path for windows users than a Linux desktop.

bye bye PHP 4

I have several servers running PHP 5 already, but as my laptop is my primary phpGroupWare development and test environment, it was running PHP 4.

I knew this day would come, I just didn't think it would be so soon. PHP4 has been dropped from ubuntu. Ubuntu has never shipped php4 in main, but until feisty it has been in available in the universe.This is no more.

The advantage of using PHP 5 on ubuntu is that it is in main, so has full security support.

I started using PHP 3 and I was pretty enthusiastic about making the jump to PHP4, but have held back on PHP 5 due to the problems with running phpGroupWare (and other scripts) under it. It looks like I no longer have any excuses,

Now that all the major distros ship PHP 5 and PHP 6 is around the corner, it is time to bury PHP 4. The world didn't end when register globals was turned off by default. Switching to PHP 5 won't kill us either, but holding back may.

Ubuntu Feisty Released

The Ubutnu team have released 7.04 aka Fesity Fawn. It is a great release.

My top 3 features are:

  1. Gecko is used as the rendering engine in liferea, which is a big improvement
  2. obexftp support available for gnome-vfs, makes moving content on and off my phone a lot easier
  3. Reliable ZeroConf support in rhythmbox, no need to reindex many gigs of music on multiple machines all the time

There is nothing that I really dislike about the release. The minor annoyances so far are, evolution seems less stable than under edgy and my preferred wallpaper was dropped.

I will be playing with new installs of edubuntu and xubuntu over the next week or so. I will post something on them if I get time.

Sun SunFire T2000 rev2 and Ubuntu Dapper 6.06

A couple of months ago I received a shiny new Sun SunFire T2000. It is a monster 1 CPU with 8 core, each capable of running 4 threads each (that is 32 concurrent threads) 8G of RAM and 2x73.4G Seagate SAS HDDs. The 2U case hides the power hidden away inside. Once powered up it sounds like a jet engine, but that is ok it is designed for the data center not a HTPC.

I obtained the box under the Sun Try n Buy Program for testing ubuntu 6.06LTS (aka dapper drake) and some PHP based web apps. I also wanted to play with Solaris and some other OSes on the box. I was also interested in Solaris Brands. I wanted to take Jonathan Schwartz up on his offer of running ubuntu on the box and getting to keep it. As I consider myself a Linux system admin of medium level competence I thought it should be easy enough. How wrong I was.

The first couple of times I tried to install dapper on the server I used a CD. I used both the 6.06LTS and 6.06.1LTS update CD and neither worked. It turns out there was a bug in the iso9660 support which shipped on these CD images. As of the time of writing no new official CD images have been released with the problem fixed, although the nightly build CD have the fix included.

After some research I discovered that "netboot"ing was the preferred way to install ubuntu on these boxes. Again it seemed relatively straight forward, setup rarpd and tftpd, grab the image and away we go. Unfortunately this wasn't the case. After running ethereal (now known as wireshark) on the debian server, I discovered that the T2000s experts to pull the boot image via tftp using the broadcast address (255.255.255.255). I later found out that both tftp and tftp-hpa which ship with edubuntu 6.06LTS and Debian 3.1 (aka sarge) don't like requests being made this way. I tracked down the author of tftp-hpa, H Peter Anvin, and discussed the behaviour I was experiencing. He pointed me to a newer release of tftp-hpa which contains a fix for problem. Peter considers the way the T2000s (and other Sun servers) handle tftp boot to be a bug in Sun's firmware and was rather unhappy about Sun's tftp client implementation. Peter stated "I still think Sun needs to be kicked in the ding-ding for not doing DHCP (or at least BOOTP, it's only a 20-year-old standard) and valid TFTP" [IRC on #syslinux on OFTC discussion 21-Oct-2006 14:17 AEST].

After removing the stock Debian tftp-hpa deb on my sarge box, I downloaded the tftp-hpa 0.43 onto my sarge box and complied it and installed it using check-install. This was a painless process.

I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had RARP and tftp working, the server was getting an IP address, requesting and receiving the dapper boot image. I later realised that the light was actually an oncoming freight train and the T2000, the duck and myself were all heading for a train wreck.

I tried following the official ubuntu on sparc instructions. I found that they were rather light on. The documentation seemed to be written for users with no Linux experience but some SPARC experience. I am well aware that this is community generated documentation and so I should be grateful someone has put something together. I plan to help improve the page a little when I have more time. I have already added a note about the rev2 and dapper kernel issues.

I did manage to get the installer running pretty easily. It is really no different to a normal kvm based install on i386/amd64 based servers, except there are no virtual consoles. This might sound like a minor thing, but in practice it can lead to a lot of frustration. Over the years I have installed various versions of Linux on version machines. From time to time the installer decides it is taking its bat and ball and going home, with virtual consoles this isn't a problem, [ctrl]-[alt]-[f2] (or what ever) and you get the install log or a shell so you can start poking around to see what is (or isn't) going on. On the T2000 you have to watch the HDD lights or try ESP to see if it is still alive. My first few (3+) attempts I assumed that the installer had crashed during formatting the partitions. I assumed this as the screen would just be blue and the drive lights suggested very little disk activity. I now know that this assumption was wrong.

I had tried several times over the period of a month or so to try and get the install done. I had tried asking my good friend Google for help on getting it all working. I was not getting very far with it. By now Sun was starting to ask for their baby back.

One night I decided I was going to install dapper on the server at any cost. I was prepared. I had a stack of tabs open in firefox with the relevant documentation up. I updated to the latest firmware (again). I had connected to the server. I had cold beer in the fridge. I got very comfortable in the chair. First attempt I tried to partition the disk the way I wanted it, this seemed to fail after creating the /boot partition. I looked into the partitioning more and discovered that the partition table spills into the first 512Kb of the drive, and so you need to keep the first 512Kb (1Mb recommended) of the drive unused. The next attempt I tried again partitioning the drive the way I wanted it with 1Mb (8.2Mb was actually used) free at the start of the disk. I crossed my fingers and went to watch some tv. 20mins later I came back and found the lovely blue screen back and no real signs of life. This time I decided to try with 1MB (8.2Mb) free at the start of the disk and let ubuntu decide how to deal with the rest of the drive. swap and /boot both seemed to be ok about being formatted with the default EXT3 filesystem. Then as usual the screen went blue and everything seemed to have stopped. I took a few deep breathes, started abusing the box and Sun. I did some more poking around and couldn't find any more information.

It was getting late, but I decided no piece of scrap metal was going to beat me. This time I grabbed a new install image, just in case that was the problem. Again I started the install process. Again I let ubuntu decide how to handle things after the first 8.2Mb. I did a few other things while the installer was running, flicking back every minute or 2 to see what was going on. This time was the same as the previous attempts - it looked to me like it had failed. I tossed up between having a beer then going to bed or watching paint dry for the rest of the night, as I didn't have any paint, the beer and bed won. I was too annoyed with the T2000 to shut it down that evening.

The next morning I awoke to an ubuntu installer still running, very slowly but still running. It was wanting me to tell it about which driver to use for Xorg. I didn't care as the box had no video card in it. I decided to go with fbdev. The installer continued to run, albeit slower than I remember RH6 installing on my 486 many years ago. I let it go. It asked a couple more questions about X config along the way, which I just left at the default values. I noticed that the 2 drive lights were always one, except the drive where I was installing dapper, would flicker off for a split second every 3 to 5 seconds. I had read some stuff about slow i/o on these boxes, and assumed that maybe it was meant to be like this. I patiently waited, and waited and waited. Finally after 24hours of waiting, I had managed to install ubuntu 6.06.1LTS on my SunFire T2000. I danced, I was happy - really happy. Then I thought to myself, they can't really expect people to wait this long for an install to work.

As I am a sucker for punishment, I grabbed a new image, checked my notes and started installing dapper onto the other drive too. This time I kept on checking the installer. It had taken about 5 hours and 30 mins to fomrat a 70G EXT3 partition. All up it took around 24 hours to install on the second drive.

I finally decided that it wasn't me, it seemed like it was something hardware related. I logged a ticket with Sun. Then I decided to start digging for answers. Eventually I discovered that the T2000 rev2 uses a different SAS drive controller which isn't supported by the ubuntu 6.06LTS kernel. Fixes are available in newer kernels, but the ubuntu server team have indicated that they will not be backporting the fixes to 6.06LTS and that users should upgrade to 6.10 if they wish to run ubuntu on a SunFire T2000.

To check this was correct I tried installing the 6.10 on the server. I was shocked. It flew. Less than 15seconds to EXT3 format 70G all done in less than 2 hours.

After all this where does it leave people? As I see it you have 3 options if you want to run ubuntu linux on a SunFire T2000 rev2 box. The first is to install 6.06LTS and have it run slow, but this is a huge waste of of money, you would be better off buying a cheap second hand PII from somewhere, so this option isn't very practical. Option 2 is to run the latest and greatest version on it, 6.10 (aka edgy), there are some major downsides with this option, most notably the lack of certification and support is only available for 18 months instead of 5 years. The 3rd option is to wait a while and while you wait, encourage ubuntu, Sun and Canonical (the company that provided commercial backing to ubuntu) to work together to resolve this issue. As it stands at the moment all 3 players have made a big deal about ubuntu on Nigara and so all 3 players stand to face a customer back lash. Bad PR isn't good for any one.

Update: [13-Apr-2007 23:00] I have just got off the phone to Barton George, Group Manager, GNU/Linux Strategy and Product Management at Sun. The phone call follows on from an email exchange that started earlier this week. It seems that Sun and Canonical both want the problem fixed, they just have to work out how best to do it. So they are meeting today (US time) to try and come up with a plan to resolve the issues.

Although not mentioned on their website, as a work around Sun recommends using Ubuntu 6.10 (aka Edgy Eft).

I am awaiting a response from Sun about my request to be able to retest and submit an entry in the CoolThreads Performance Contest.

I will post any more info as I get it.

Disclosure: Sun is sending me a t-shirt, no string attached.