Goodbye Fedora, Hello Ubuntu

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 | Gadgets, Linux, Tech-savvy | No Comments

Fedora pretty much blew my mind until recent updates rendered the system unusable. After a kernel update VirtualBox stopped working (had to install recent header files by hand) and my FreeMind had some dependency issues I didn’t even bother to solve. I like to have a system that is as versatile as any modern Linux, yet I need a stable environment as well. So I thought fudge it, let’s give *the* “standard” Linux a try – I installed the recent Ubunutu 12.04.1 LTS and man it rocks! πŸ™‚

    Ubuntu 12 at a glimpse:

  • Unity is a Desktop Environment that is easy and pleasant to work with.
  • The dash is pretty kewl as well. I don’t know how much I like the tight integration with pretty much everything, but it seems to be a nice concept.
  • Terminals come with a decent colour scheme – may sound petty, yet a sloppy set-up terminal is a major annoyance to me.
  • Ctrl-Alt-T – how come it never occurred to me that a terminal shortcut will make life so much easier?!
  • Ubuntu’s default font is a feast for the eyes – love it!
  • bash history size is already set to 2000 (instead of Mint’s 500) – no need to pimp this one as well
  • ls aliases already present, yet needed some personal flavour tweaking

I have to say that Ubuntu 12.04 has been the most flawless and out-of-the-box experience in quite some time. Awesome!

    Brief post-installation task as a reminder to self:

  • fix vim movement issue
  • echo set nocompatible >> ~/.vimrc

  • hide windoze hdds in nautilus @see
  • fix .local name resolution in /etc/nsswitch.conf if you are on a m$ driven network
  • hosts: dns files mdns4_minimal mdns4

  • we like to be united – my wife and me use the same usergroup and still like to have 002 umasks instead of non-username group’s umask of 022 @see for more info
    • all beloved ones shall use the same group
    • sudo usermod -g users username

    • edit /etc/login.defs s/UMASK 022/UMASK 002/
  • install Adblock Plus, Firebug
  • install VirtualBox + extension pack and add users to vboxusers group
  • sudo usermod -a -G vboxusers username

  • install Audacious
  • install TrueCrypt
  • set up ssh environment, keys and the like

I am about to get a new shiny device at work. I am looking forward to see how Ubuntu subsists in every day’s developer’s business. Stay tuned.

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Fedora 17: post installation tasks

Monday, September 3rd, 2012 | Linux, Tech-savvy | 1 Comment

Okay, as promised, my personal Fedora 17 post-installation tasks are:

  1. Change terminal environment
  2. First thing I do is open a terminal and wonder who likes to work on a small piece of paper? This is a terminal, not a word processor. Edit -> Profiles… -> Default, 132×43 size, colour scheme: Gray on black, transparency 10%, Scrollback 5120, done.

  3. Install Adblock Plus
  4. Adblock Plus seems to me like the essential FireFox plug-in in any kind of browsing environment.

  5. Hide unwanted devices in Nautilus
  6. Get rid of windoze partitions and the like showing up in Nautilus. See my previous post on this topic.

  7. Install Fedora Utils
  8. Fedora Utils is a script that lets you install essential (proprietory/closed-source) software. Use it to get access to multi-media codecs and DVD playback or software like Google Earth and Skype. Nice! Save a lot of handiwork. There maz be better alternatives around, but as this is my first Fedora run I cannot say which one does the job best.

  9. Install TrueCrypt
  10. Nice encryption tool. Make sure you disable the requiretty option in the sudoers file for GUI support.

  11. Install Audacious
  12. My favourite Linux Winamp clone. Love it or leave it.

    sudo yum install audacious
  13. Install Nautilus Open in Terminal extension
  14. Fiddling in Nautilus and need a Terminal? Right click -> Open in Terminal. Done.

    sudo yum install nautilus-open-terminal
  15. Install VirtualBox
  16. If you installed Fedora Utils you should already have a current VirtualBox in your repositories.

    sudo yum install VirtualBox

    Download and install the extension pack for USB support.
    Make sure you are a member of the vboxusers group:

    usermod -a -G vboxusers username
  17. Install Thunderbird
  18. Fedora ships with Evolution, I prefer Thunderbird.

    sudo yum install thunderbird
  19. Install Office suite
  20. I guess Libre Office is the suite to go with.

    sudo yum install libreoffice
  21. Install Gimp
  22. What? No Gimp? That@s pretty darn “pure” too me πŸ™‚

    sudo yum install gimp
  23. pimp Gnome
  24. I only install a bare minimum of Gnome Extensions, namely

    1. Windows Alt Tab
    2. A replacement for Alt-Tab, allows to cycle between windows and does not group by application. First I tried AlternateTab, but that gave a small preview of the window instead of the program’s icon. It can be quite tedious to search for a window’s content rather than an easily recognizable icon.

    3. Native Window Placement
    4. Arrange windows in overview in a more compact way.

    5. Remove Accessibility
    6. Remove the accesibility button from the top panel.

    7. Status Icon Fixer
    8. Fixes Dropbox, Skype, vlc and others into the status bar; not perfect, but ok
      I like this little devil a lot. I used it to fix Audaciuos status icon to appear where I want it to. Edit ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/ to suit your needs.

  25. increase terminal history size
  26. From a previous post: Remember that wicked command you entered a few weeks ago? No? Increase your history size to something that lives up to the term β€œhistory”. Open your ~/.bashrc and enter something like export HISTFILESIZE=10000

I’d like to point out one more time that Fedora 17 ships with working multi-monitor support and vi movements are working out of the box as well, no more echo set nocompatible >> ~/.vimrc needed. I also already encountered a few problems, like VirtualBox no longer working after Kernel update or FreeMind having some dependency issues at some point. I have to say that it seems bleeding edge comes with a few characteristics that render the OS not work-compliant. Maybe next time I’ll go for a plain Ubuntu LTS and hope it just works…

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Linux Mint 12: More post installation tasks

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 | Linux, Tech-savvy | No Comments

I started to write down my personal Linux Mint post installation tasks as of version 10. After installing a few Mint 12 machines I had to update the list. As always, highly personal, take whatever info might be useful, ignore the rest.

  1. Add favorite programs to autostart
  2. GNOME 3 has no point-and-click tool to add autostart options, at least no default shortcut for it. Alt-F2 and gnome-session-properties does the trick. I have essentials like my browser, media player and ssh-add in my autostart.

  3. Disable extension overkill
  4. Whether you use MATE, GNOME 3 or Cinnamon is up to you. I kinda like the new GNOME, but not all the default “extensions” that come with Mint 12 extend my user experience in a good way πŸ˜‰ I decided the following options work the best for me:

  5. Install VirtualBox with USB support
  6. Well, installing VirtualBox is a little confusing, as you have multiple versions (virtualbox-ose, -nonfree, -4.1) in your available software list. Some people suggest adding new repos and installing the latest version, I just stick to what’s being delivered by the default repos. Makes me feel better for some reason.

    The VirtualBox site states that the “standard” installation names are the ones with the major version at the end, so I just went for the -4.1 (writing this 4.1.14 is the latest stable, the official Mint repos provide 4.1.6, yeah, whatever…)

    If you want USB support you have to add the appropriate extension pack. Go to and get it for your installed version. You also have to make all users that want to use VirtualBox members of the vboxusers group. As there is no GNOME 3 default group editor simply open a shell and enter

    nick $ sudo adduser username vboxusers

    Your group memberships will be updated the next time you log in.

    Finally, add USB devices in your VBox config’s USB section (select the desired machine, click “Change”, choose “USB”). After that you should be ready to go. What a drag.

  7. Use the users group as the default group
  8. I share my computer. I share a lot of files, like pictures and stuff. I don’t like that my user – nick – also has his primary group called “nick”. So ownership of files is nick:nick. This makes little sense to me and I’d rather have it like this: nick:users and nickswife:users so that I can easily access the same files as my picture taking wingman. So issue

    nick $ sudo usermod -g users username

    for each user that should have the “users” group as the default group. (The sticky bit approach cd /our/pics; chgrp -R users .; find . -type d -exec chmod 2770 {} \;; find . -type f -exec chmod 660 {} \;was not sufficient for me, by using the same primary group I hope we won’t have any permission troubles in the future again)

  9. Increase history size
  10. Remember that wicked command you entered a few weeks ago? No? Increase your history size to something that lives up to the term “history”. Open your ~/.bashrc and enter something like export HISTFILESIZE=10000

That’s it for today. Have phun!

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Shrinking a bloated VirtualBox disk image

Sunday, October 9th, 2011 | Misc, Tech-savvy | No Comments

I like to keep my house clean. I was always puzzled by ever growing vdis (VirtualBox disk images). Just today I did a clean install of WinXP Home SP1 and installed SP3 afterwards (a pity the online photo printing software my wife uses is only available for Windoze). After getting rid of everything that bloated my VM in the first place I was still sitting on a 2.6 Gig image. Seemed a tiny bit too much, so I looked for a way to make sure the vdi only holds real data, not “empty” space.

The trick I am about to show you made me decrease the real size of my vdi from 2.6 to 1.5 Gig. That’s pretty neat and you should be able to free up even more space if you already used your VM quite heavily (more fragmented thus more space available to optimize).

It’s simple: first defrag your virtual host’s file system, second make sure the empty space is really empty (I used nullfile 1.2). After that, use VirtualBox‘s command line tool VBoxManage to recompress the image:

VirtualBox 3.x:

VBoxManage modifyvdi WinXP.vdi compact

VirtualBox 4.x:

VBoxManage modifyhd --compact WinXP.vdi

That’s it. This trick may be rather old, yet helped me save some bytes. Not that I actually needed that extra Gig, but hey, why should I waste it? πŸ™‚


Linux Mint 10: Common post installation tasks

Saturday, February 12th, 2011 | Linux, Tech-savvy | 3 Comments

I installed a few Mint boxes lately, mostly due to the release of Mint 10. You already get a lovely OS out of the box, but there are things I like to “fix” after an installation that others may like to do as well. Inspired by urfix‘s “25 command” posts (25 best Linux commands, plus even more 25’s listed in “popular posts”) I collected the x things to do after an initial installation. Have phun!

  1. Fix vi movement problem
  2. Having trouble moving in vi’s input mode? Strange characters appearing when you try to move in your text? Try to disable the vi compatibility mode (yes, you are not using vi but vim):

    echo set nocompatible >> ~/.vimrc
  3. Install the nonfree version of VirtualBox (3.x) for USB support
  4. If you need USB support do not install VirtualBox OSE but the nonfree version.

    apt-get install virtualbox-nonfree

    After that, make sure your user is member of the virtualbox group, otherwise you won’t be able to access your USB devices.

    As of version 4 of VirtualBox, Oracle decided to make the main VirtualBox software open-source, and now licenses a proprietary ‘extension pack’ containing the RDP server and USB support. I have not fiddled with this package yet.

  5. Change terminal colour scheme
  6. The default white scheme is not easy on my eyes. Ouch! IMHO a terminal has to have black background (slightly transparent if you like) and grey (for the hardcore: green) text colour. It’s still a computer screen, right? πŸ˜‰

  7. Enable .local name resolution for your M$ network
  8. Trying to resolve some .local Windoze DNS lookalike? Try editing your /etc/nsswitch.conf file, change

    hosts: files mdns4_minimal [NOTFOUND=return] dns mdns4 wins


    hosts: dns files mdns4_minimal mdns4
  9. Enable CP1252 in eclipse for your M$ originated source code
  10. I work at a company that mainly uses Windoze boxes. This is not an excuse not to use UTF-8 as your default encoding, but we have a lot of source code encoded with Windoze default encoding, namly CP1252. Still, its pretty easy to participate in the hacking using a *nix box:

    • make sure CP1252 is available
    • locale -m | grep CP1252
    • open a new workspace
    • close eclipse and edit .metadata/.plugins/org.eclipse.core.runtime/.settings/org.eclipse.core.resources.prefs
    • encoding=CP1252
    • restart eclipse
    • start checking out CP1252 source code

    This may seem a bad way to solve the problem, because you can easily change your default encoding using Window -> Preferences -> General -> Workspace -> Text File Encoding, but guess what, CP1252 is initially not listed here. So you have to tell eclipse the hard way πŸ™‚

  11. Enable (full) localhost name resolution
  12. Sometimes I need more names for my loopback interface than localhost or the real name of my box. In fact, as I am also an OpenCms developer, I have to have multiple localhost DNS names to access my multisite installation. OpenCms maps sites using DNS name. So, if you need to add some names to your localhost for local development, don’t add names using the IP4 loopback but use IP6’s loopback, otherwise you won’t be able access your site with e.g. Firefox (even though a terminal’s ping works flawless using just the IP4 loopback).

    Edit /etc/hosts

    ::1        silentbox localhost6.localdomain6 localhost6 *add-name-here*  silentbox *not-here*

    Only problem: restarting the system the network manager rewrites the file with default settings, thus deleting your precious changes. I still have to figure out how to solve this.

  13. Disable / cripple fortune
  14. Just recently I was told “You will be divorced within a year.” I really don’t need that distraction. Mint doesn’t even bother to separate the offensive ones from the non-offensive ones.

    vi /etc/bash.bashrc

    and then delete the following line or make it a comment


    You could also delete just the fortune files you don’t want to be bothered with, they are located here: /usr/share/games/fortunes/

  15. Use SSH keys
  16. This is so common I almost forgot to mention it. Read about using SSH keys for authentication here (sorry, Andreas, I know you don’t like “here” links).

I know this list is highly personal, talking about colour schemes and pimping eclipse to work with CP1252 code. Still, some may find something of interest in this. Do you think a common set up task is missing? Just let me know, I am always keen to learn a new trick or two that enhances your every day computer work.

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Installing Linux Mint 10 VirtualBox Guest Additions

Saturday, December 18th, 2010 | Linux, Tech-savvy | 3 Comments

I had some trouble installing the VirtualBox guest additions to my Mint 10 VM using the “standard” way (via the “Devices” menu). It failed setting up a proper X driver (Warning: unknown version of the X Window system installed. Not installing X Window system drivers). I was stuck with a 800×600 resolution.

After some research (and a few not so successful hints) I came across a pretty neat solution. Fire up your VM and simply install the guest additions using apt inside your VM:

user@vm ~ $ sudo apt-get install virtualbox-ose-guest-utils

dkms and x11 packages will be installed automatically. Now restart your VM and your guest additions should be up and running … hopefully πŸ™‚

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