Creation Date: 28 Nov 2004
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2004

In December, 2001, I started a blog which was eventually titled Linux & Things. The "Linux" part of the Blog was a description of my installation of Fedora Core 1 and how I got it to behave (mostly) in the way that I wanted it to. The idea was to make an on-line notebook that would remind me what I had done and what I wanted to do to the system. A sort of "mjmlinux" if you will, without making it a formal distribution.

After some time the "Things" part of the Blog started to get larger and larger, and even dominated the "Linux" part. Not to mention the fact that the Blog format means that you are reading backward in time, and that the Blog archive process means that you have to really search for a particular article.

This page is meant to alleviate that problem. All of the Fedora Core 1 posts from Linux & Things and collected here, in chronological order. Formatting changes may have been made to the post. Anything I added outside the blog will appear in color. You can check back to the original blog by clicking on the original link that appears in each entry.

I've since upgraded from FC1 to Fedora Core 3. The upgrade/reinstallation/improvement experience is detailed in Linux & Things, and collected in the Working With Fedora Core 3 page.

And now ...

Working With Fedora Core 1

12/20/2003 12:35:06 PM ( Original link)

I Came, I Saw, I Blogged

OK, you're probably wondering why I called you here today. This is my Linux Blog, an online version of the notebook I've been updating for a few years. It's here because I recently trashed my installation of Mandrake Linux 9.1. (An unfortunate set of events involving rpmdrake deleted.)

I looked through the documentation for several of the usual suspects: Debian, Gentoo, Slackware, and finally settled on Fedora, the brand-spanking-new descendant of Redhat. Three reasons: (1) In the years I've been using Linux, I've mostly used one version of RedHat or another; (2) I'm cheap, and using Fedora leaves no nagging I really should pay them feeling; and (3) Have you looked at the installation instructions for Debian, Gentoo, and Slackware? Fedora comes with the Anaconda Installer, which I'd used before and was comforable with.

When I started using Linux on my home machine (about 1998, it says here), I bought one of those blue-marbled composition notebooks to write down what I had done to the machine (an old 486DX2, as it happens) and what I was going to do with it. You know, programs installed, why the %!$&!ing thing didn't work, how I fixed it (if I did), and where the documentation landed when I threw it across the room. That worked well, but it isn't exactly searchable. This becomes a problem when installing a new distribution, because you always forget how something was installed.

So this blog is supposed to be an extension of that notebook, where I record all of the torture I put this machine through and the tweaks that were needed to get a program to work. Hopefully it will be useful to others, as well, and, even more hopefully, someone will have intellegent suggestions on how I can get things to work the way I want them to.

The Hardware

OK, the (cheap, of course) machine is a Dell Dimension 2350, 2.2 GHz Celeron Processor, 256MB DDR SDRAM (actually paid for the upgrade from 128MB), CD-RW drive, Intel "Integrated" Graphics and Audio, and a 60GB disk (free upgrade). We're connected to the net courtesy of Comcast, which also provides the SciFi channel so that I can watch Stargate SG-1 for me to watch while we're working here.

Half the disk still has XP on it. The partitioning done during the Mandrake 9.1 install was as follows:

/dev/hda1   ~ 31MB: vfat (for Grub?)
/dev/hda2   ~ 30 GB NTFS for XP
/dev/hda3  Extended partition which holds:
         /dev/hda5   ~ 6 GB ext3 root (/) partition
         /dev/hda6   ~ 0.5 GB  swap partition
         /dev/hda7   (remainder) ext3 /home partition

Installing Fedora

Downloaded the Fedora Core I ISO images from Who decided that a Linux distribution should take 3 CDs? Seems to be a marketing thing.

OK, it's about 10 p.m. Power up the Dell, tell it to boot from the CD, and put in Fedora #1.

Asks if I want to do a graphical install. OK, why not.

Offers to determine the integrity of my CDs. Seems like a good idea, because if I have crappy media I won't be able to burn new CDs in the middle of the install. (Cheapbytes is the default option in that case, but it will take a few days.) I assume we're doing checksums here. After about 20 minutes it tells me that the CDs are OK. Insert CD #1 again and hit continue.

Running Anaconda. Sounds good. Correctly fingers my monitor, video and audio card, and mouse capabilities. It tells me I should set up my two-button plus scroll wheel mouse as a Microsoft PS/2 Intellimouse, so I go with that.

Workstation Install This option is supposed to install a graphical desktop, plus "tools for software development".

Disk partitions You still have to tell anaconda where things are going to go. I decide to keep my current partitions, including the NTFS one for XP, at least for now. Tell the installer to format hda5, format it, and mount it at "/". Didn't do anything with hda7, which will come up later.

Boot options Use Grub to boot either Fedora or XP.

Network DHCP connection. Setup the firewall. Nothing gets in.

Packages The workstation install option selects some packages, but there are many more which can be chosen. I add in the entire KDE setup (default desktop is GNOME), delete the DVD stuff, install teTeX (I'm a LaTeX junkie) and docbook, and all of the "development tools", i.e., the header files you need to compile things.

About to Install abandon all hope, ye who enter in. OK, what the heck. It's 10:45 pm

Note that install information will be kept in /root/install.log and /root/anacond-ks.config

The "/" partition is formatted. Bye, Mandrake.

Kernel installed is 2.4.22-1.2115.nptl.i386 (I think, can't entirely read my writing).

Create a boot diskette (strongly recommended)

Load in CD #1, #2, and #3 in turn. It's finished at 11:19pm.

Let's use this thing

Reboot. Don't get the "you passed an undefined Node Number" on boot. This was an annoying feature in Mandrake and in KNOPPIX having something to do with the VGA graphics. RIP.

Fedora has a graphical boot sequence after the first screen. It knows this is a first-time boot, so it asks for

Clock settings It's EST, OK? I also set up NTP (Network Time Protocol) to keep the clock on time. RedHat has its own NTP servers. Nice. Under Mandrake I had to go out into the world to find a server.

Create my user account

Log into the user account. It boots up into Gnome. Where are my files? OK, doing a "df" I see that the is no separate "/home" partition. Realized my mistake during the installation. The fix is relatively easy:

"su" to root edit /etc/fstab to mount /dev/hda7 at /home (see the /dev/hda5 entry)


Try to log onto my user account. Crash in "less than 0.1 seconds". Remember that under Mandrake I ran IceWM as my boot manager. Fix this by doing a "Ctrl-Alt-F1" and logging into my account from the console. All my old /home directory is there, as it should be. Delete the .xsession file. Ctrl-Alt-F7 and try again.

Still crashes. Tell Fedora to log in under Gnome. This works.

su to root, run up2date to get software upgrades. Don't upgrade the kernel just yet, but do upgrade everything else. This takes a while, so go upstairs and continue reading Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, which is really good for times like these. Come back down at about 1:30 am and see that everything is done.

and so to bed.

12/20/2003 06:46:03 PM (Original link)


yum (Yellow dog Updater, Modified) is designed to update RPM files more or less easily, like Debian's apt-get. It seems to work OK, as long as you do

# yum list

as root to get things started. I used it to load up the ttfonts (Asian True Type Fonts) packages. It would have been better doing this from the CDs, as the download was painfully slow.

For what it's worth, here's my /etc/yum.conf file:

name=Fedora Core $releasever - $basearch - Base
name=Fedora Core $releasever - $basearch - Released Updates
name=Fedora Linux $releasever - $basearch - freshrpms
#name=Fedora Core $releasever - $basearch - Unreleased Updates

12/20/2003 06:55:11 PM ( Original link)

Private Eyes are Watching You

One of the things not included in Fedora, or in the yum repository, is the the graphic file viewer ee, aka "Electric Eyes". This is much quicker than the display viewer in the ImageMagick package, so I like to use it.

Found the RPM at There are a variety of distributions, but I couldn't find Fedora, so I used the generic one from SourceForge.

12/20/2003 07:00:56 PM (Original link)

The Heart of the Thing

The Heart of a Linux OS is the kernel. up2date and yum have been prodding me to upgrade, so I loaded in the new (2.4.22-1.2129) kernel and kernel source RPMS. I've had bad experiences with RedHat kernels before, like the updates not having PPP support. Didn't happen this time, of course I don't need PPP support at the moment.

Grub let's you boot from either kernel. That's a good thing.

One day I'll have to learn how to recompile the kernel. Not today, I want to get everything else running first.

12/20/2003 08:55:50 PM ( Original link)

Flash, we hardly knew ye

I'm having great difficulty getting the Macromedia Flash Plugin to work, either in Mozilla or my favorite browser, Mozilla Firebird (which I installed with no problem to /usr/local/MozillaFirebird, with a link to /usr/local/firebird).

There is a discussion of this on The solution seems to be resetting some of the soft library links that the fedora libstdc++ and compat-libstdc++ rpms set up. I'm not sure that I'm ready to do that, yet.

BTW, the main reason to have Flash installed is so that you can watch the new animated Doctor Who adventure from the BBC.

12/21/2003 02:53:33 PM ( Original link)

Denial ain't just a river

No other machine needs to acess the "services" we provide, so edit /etc/hosts.deny to read:

$ cat /etc/hosts.deny

12/21/2003 04:49:15 PM ( Original link

Percolating right along

It's useful to have an implementation of java installed for two reasons:

(1) To view java based applications in a web browser using a plugin

(2) To run native applications such as the molecule viewer jmol

In the past I've used Blackdown Java for Linux, and I see no reason to change now. The current version is, so go to one of the download sites and find the JDK-1.4.2/i386/rc11.4.2, and then download the appropriate software development or runtime environment file. This time I downloaded j2sdk-1.4.2-rc1-linux-i586-gcc3.2.bin (SDK includes the runtime environment). Make the downloaded file executable.

To install:

cd to the directory where java is to be installed, and execute the bin file:

$ cd /home/local/share
$ ./j2sdk-1.4.2-rc1-linux-i586-gcc3.2.bin

This creates a directory /home/local/share/j2sdk1.4.2, and puts all the executables into /home/local/share/j2sdk1.4.2/bin. Add the later directory to the path. Test the installation by seeing if jmol runs.

For the plugin, follow the notes in j2sdk1.4.2/INSTALL. For MozillaFirebird use the Mozilla directions, which amount to:

# cd /usr/local/MozillaFirebird/plugins/
# ln -s /home/local/share/j2sdk1.4.2/jre/plugin/i386/mozilla/ .

Test this by going to, say this page describing the cubic Laves crystal structure, and click on the visualize the structure link. If a window pops up and you can move the atoms around, things work. (Note: need javascript and java enabled in MozillaFirebird.)

12/21/2003 06:44:41 PM (Original link)

Flashing just a bit

OK, I'm willing to try this tip from on how to get the Macromedia Flash plugin to work with Fedora.

Basically, after installing the compat-libstdc++-7.3-2.96.118 RPM, we have the following soft links in /usr/lib:

# su
# ls -l /usr/lib/
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root  18 Dec 19 22:48 /usr/lib/ ->
# ls -l /usr/lib/
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root  31 Dec 20 19:17 /usr/lib/ ->

The suggestion is to do

# ln -s /usr/lib/ /usr/lib/
which will put in the link that the plugin expects. Note that at the moment we have
# rpm -qf /usr/lib/
# rpm -qf /usr/lib/
# rpm -qf
# rpm -qf

so is seems to me that we're mixing libstdc++ and compat-libstdc++ in strange and mysterious ways. Anyway, one can hope, let's do it.

Hmm. No luck yet, so I have to restart this browser. Back in a few.

12/21/2003 07:01:21 PM ( Original link)

Juust a little bit off

That is, though Firebird now says the plugin is available, it still won't play the Flash animation of the New Doctor Who adventure. It certainly worked under Mandrake 9.1.

12/21/2003 08:48:23 PM (Original link)

Plugging Along

The standard way to make Linux browsers accept Windows-style pluggins is with Plugger. I downloaded the source for version 5.0, and compiled it to its default directory which is in /usr/local . The plugin itself exists at /usr/local/lib/mozilla/plugins/, so I followed the java example and did

# cd /usr/local/MozillaFirebird/plugins
# ln -s /usr/local/lib/mozilla/plugins/ .

Then went to the Plugger Testing Ground.

Oops, need a video player plugger recognizes. Do

# yum install mplayer mplayer-fonts mplayer-skins
to get one.

Back to the test page. So far, plugger works properly on the Quicktime, AVI and FLI videos, put not MPEG. Some sounds work, some don't. I suppose we'll have to play with /etc/pluggerrc-5.0, the plugger configuration file, to find out what can be made to work and what requires another program.

12/21/2003 10:09:02 PM (Original link


From the little I've played with it, I find I like Xine for a general CD/MP3/AVI/etc. player. Especially since it plays CDs without an audio cable installed (cheap computer, I said).

Installation was simple via yum:

yum install xine xine-lib xine-lib-deel xine-skins
Now to get it to do things. From the GNOME menu, go to Preferences => CD Properties Where is says "Run command when CD is inserted" putting in
brings up Xine when an audio CD is inserted in the drive, but I have to manually click the CD button to get it to play. Should be an auto mount option. From the man page you'd think "cdda://1" would do it, but that just gives you error messages.

12/22/2003 07:26:01 PM ( Original link)

Unplugging parts of Plugger

OK, I loaded up plugger, as I mentioned before. Then I saw that it insisted on loading PDF documents in the browser window, something I don't like at all. No problem, right? Just edit the /etc/pluggerrc-5.0 file, commenting out the application/pdf and text/pdf lines.

Except that didn't work with MozillaFirebird. No matter how many times I restarted it, cleared the cache, etc., when I did about:plugins I saw that plugger still wanted to handle PDF files.

After some scratching my head, I looked in the .phoenix directory, where I found a file pluginreg.dat with yesterday's date on it. That file said the plugger would handle the PDF files. You think this file would be rewritten every time Firebird starts up, but that's apparently not the case. So I deleted the file, restarted Firebird, and, lo and behold, plugger no longer worries about PDF files.

Does this happen in Mozilla? Netscape? Is it a bug, or a feature? Have to do some looking around to find out.

12/22/2003 10:49:54 PM (Original link)

Installing src.rpms

It's easy. It's fun. I'd never done it before, so this is as good a time as any.

I'm a big fan of the old fortune program. You know, the one that does

$ fortune
Didn't I buy a 1951 Packard from you last March in Cairo?

and similar things. But it's not in the Fedora Core distribution. OK, I found a variety of RPMS for fortune-mod at Rpmfind.Net. I actually played with several, but decided on the on labeled

A program which will display a fortune. RedHat-8.0 Sources fortune-mod-1.0-24.src.rpm as the one I wanted. I chose the src.rpm version because I didn't want to run into any dependency problems that might occur when switching from RedHat 8 to Fedora.

OK, how to install the thing? After reading some web posts and the man pages for rpm and rpmbuild, I found it works like this:

  1. su - to get all the path information correct
  2. cd to directory containing fortune-mod-1.0-24.src.rpm
  3. run rpmbuild --rebuild fortune-mod-1.0-24.src.rpm
  4. Look at the log file. It will say something like Wrote: /usr/src/redhat/RPMS/i386/fortune-mod-1.0-24.rpm
  5. cd /usr/src/redhat/RPMS/i386. Yup, the RPM is there
  6. rpm -i fortune-mod-1.0-24.rpm
  7. Log out of root and test it: $ fortune Two can Live as Cheaply as One for Half as Long. -- Howard Kandel
  8. Save the RPM file for posterity

And that's all I know about installing src.rpms.

12/25/2003 07:31:53 PM ( Original link)

Back to making things work

Tried again to install the Macromedia Flash Player for Linux, which has Fedora specific RPMs. To make sure all of the links were correct I reinstalled the compat-libstdc++ and compat-libstdc++-devel RPMs. The Flash RPM found my copy of MozillaFirebird and put a link to the plugin in /usr/local/MozillaFirebird/plugins. Doing about:plugins in Firebird shows the plugin exists. Yet Flash pages don't play, and don't even show up. A continuing puzzlement.

12/25/2003 10:47:04 PM (Original link)


FVWM ("FVWM" Virtual Window Manager) is rather old, but quite useful. It's a lot lighter weight than GNOME (actually sawtooth) or KDE. It is realtively easy to setup and manage by editing the ~/.fvwm/.fvwm2rc file.

You can set up a virtual desktop. I use one that's 3x3, meaning that the desktop is 9 times the size of my screen. I can move open applications between the screens by dragging them with a mouse.

There is a fully configurable button bar. Mine includes a load meter, a map of the virtual desktop, a clock, and quick launch buttons for the fortune program, an xterm, MozillaFirebird, and a kill button.

There is also a configurable Win95-like TaskBar, which shows all open windows and allows quick navigation between them. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get it working here, though it works out of the box in older RedHat versions and in SUSE Linux.

Unfortunately, fvwm is not included in the Fedora distribution. To get it, you must:

  1. Download the program from the Offiicial FVWM Home Page or from another source. The official FVWM page includes RPMs, Deb packages and tarballs. You can also download various themes and icons.
  2. Install in the usual way
  3. Create a file ~/.xsession in your home directory. In it put the full path to your copy of fvwm. If you install from an RPM, it's in /usr/bin/fvwm2.
  4. Run this command from a terminal window: $ chmod 555 ~/.xsession This makes ~/.xsession executable, and insures that it won't be overwritten. (See man chmod for more details.)
  5. Log out of whatever WindowManager you are using.
  6. Before logging in again, click on the Session button on the login screen and set it to default.
  7. Log in. You should be running FVWM. There is a default menu, which will have an option which saves the configuration information into the file ~.fvwm/.fvwm2rc. You can edit this to get the behavior you want. When I get my file satisfactorily adjusted I'll post a link to it.

That should be all you need to use FVWM. Look at the FVWM pages and man fvwm for more details.

12/26/2003 11:14:41 AM ( Original link)

Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring of Fire

Burning CDs is essential for backups, and maybe other things (ahem). When I was running Mandrake 9.1, my favorite CD burning tool was K3b. It's not included in the Fedora Core (perhaps because it's at version 0.10.3), but the download section on the K3b site has instructions on updating /etc/yum.conf to check for K3b upgrades. With that in place installation was easy.

One quirk: when you first install K3b, permissions aren't set for a user to create CDs. The solution is to run K3b in GNOME or KDE, and click on Settings ==> K3b Setup. This will prompt you for the root password, and then (hit return) change the permissions on several programs to allow the user to write CDs. IIRC, the Mandrake version was already set up with user permissions enabled.

I tested K3b by doing a backup of my home directory. Under version 0.10(.3), you just click on the "Create Data CD Project" button, then drag the files or directories you want onto the CD image that says "K3b data project". I ran the burn at 24X, which seems to be a little fast for this machine, as the buffer would sometimes go down to 10-20% full. Zero, of course, means that you've created a new coaster. Next time I'll try 16X.

To read data CDs from FVWM, you need to issue an explicit

$ mount /mnt/cdrom

from a shell prompt to be able to read the disk, and then

$ umount /mnt/cdrom

to free the disk. If you don't do the later you can press the eject button or

$ eject

as much as you want and the CD will remain locked in the drive. GNOME and KDE don't have this limitation, they automatically mount and unmount the CD. Point for them.

I tested the CD by reading different files off of it from this computer and from an XP box. Works fine.

12/27/2003 10:31:36 PM (Original link)


I quote from the Mozilla Firebird 0.7 Release Notes, in the big yellow box:

PLEASE NOTE: You should create a new profile for Mozilla Firebird 0.7. To create a new profile, start Mozilla Firebird by running MozillaFirebird.exe -p and click on the "Create Profile" button.

You must also delete your old Mozilla Firebird directory rather than just overwriting the files there. Not doing so WILL result in problems and you should not file any bugs on Mozilla Firebird unless you've first done a clean install and tested on a new profile. As Mozilla Firebird stabilizes more this will not be necessary but until then these steps are absolutely necessary.

Yes indeed, when I delete my ~/.phoenix directory, after saving the bookmarks, and restart Firebird, it runs Flash animations. Jeez, you'd think after all this time I'd learn to read.

12/28/2003 01:41:24 PM (Original link)

Weathering the Storm

One of the first uses of the Internet was to get the weather forecast, rather than waiting ten minutes for it to pop up on the radio. If you had telnet, you could do $ telnet 3000 and get a text weather report from Weather Underground.

That ability still exists, of course, but it's easier now. Bundled with the expect package is usually a script called weather. Running, e.g., $ weather bwi gives you the forecast for Baltimore. You can even manipulate this Perl text widget example to pop up the widget on your desktop without bringing up an xterm.

Fedora Core didn't install the expect RPM package by default, but it is included in the distribution. The text widget requires the Gtk-Perl RPM, also available in Fedora Core, but not included in my initial install.

12/29/2003 12:36:58 AM (Original link)

USB Camera!!!

For Christmas, Santa got us an Olympus C-5000 digital camera, 5MP, 3X optical, ~4X digital. It works fine under Windows, so how does it do under Linux? Fortunately, the good people at had already posted what to do. I'll just summarize what comes up in the Fedora Core distribution. I did this under FVWM, working under GNOME or KDE may make things a little more automatic:

Questions to be answered:

I'll have some photos up in a few days, and post a link to them. (OK, it took some months. Here are some sample pictures.)

1/1/2004 01:03:48 PM ( Original link)

Preferred Applications

A quick note because I'm always forgetting this stuff: I use Ximian Evolution as my mail reader, and MozillaFirebird as my browser. Evolution is a Gnome Desktop application. So, to get a clicked hyperlink in Evolution and to pop up in a new tab on Firebird, the following needs to be done:

  1. Launch the Gnome control center (gnome-control-center from an xterm)
  2. Click on Preferred Applications
  3. A window will come up. Click on the Web Browser tab, and then Custom Web Browser
  4. Edit box as you want and click Close.

My "Custom Web Browser" is a little file called newfire, which looks like this:

# From
# open URL in new process if there isn't one, otherwise open URL in a new tab
firebird -remote "ping()" &&
firebird -remote "openURL($1, new-tab)" &&
exit 0
# if we're here, open a new process.
firebird "$1" &
As the comments say, if Firebird is open this opens the link in a new Firebird tab. Otherwise, clicking the link opens Firebird.

Happy New Year everyone.

1/1/2004 04:15:04 PM (Original link)

Fortran Compiler

Every computer needs a good Fortran compiler (YMMV). Fedora comes with the g77 compiler as part of the gcc package, but it doesn't produce very efficient code, though it is useful for checking proper Fortran 77 syntax.

Fortunately there is the Intel Fortran Compiler (and debugger) for Linux. When you go to the site, it looks like you have to pay for the compiler, except for a short-lived demo version. However, if you click on the link that says "Free evaluation download" and scroll down to the middle of that page, you'll see a link that says "non-commercial unsupported version". (There is a similarly-licensed c++ compiler, as well.) You'll see that the compiler is free in that "the non-commercial license means the compiler cannot be used to produce products for resale or commercial use."

Go down to the bottom of the page, take the survey, read the license agreement, and register. Eventually you'll get an email from Intel which has your license code, and will tell you where to download the source.

Installation isn't to hard. The code comes in a tar file with a set of RPMs and installation scripts. Run the installation script as root. It will ask you where your license is. It will also ask for any flags you want to pass to the rpm program to install the RPM files. Give in the flag --nodeps, otherwise you won't get a clean install.

After the installation is finished, take the contents of /opt/intel_fc_80/bin/ifortvars.csh into your ~/.cshrc file, if you are using the tcsh or csh shell, or put /opt/intel_fc_80/bin/ into your ~/.bashrc or ~/.kshrc file if you are using the bash or ksh shell, respectively. This will set up the environmental variables to find the Fortran libraries.

Finally, you can compile your code. I use the following flags to compile the standard "hello world" program: $ ifort -vms -tpp6 -WB hello.f -o hello to compile the executable hello from the source code hello.f. Note that ifort defaults to optimized code, so you don't need the -O flag. To turn optimization off, use -O0. The other flags are what I used for the 7.0 version of the compiler, they work in 8.0 but I don't know if they are necessary. I do know that 8.0 is not as fussy about extensions to the Fortran standards as 7.0 was. 7.0 would flag everything, 8.0 flags nothing, at least with these options.

I'll put up timing information when I get things properly set up.

1/1/2004 08:23:33 PM ( Original link)

The Evolution of MozillaFirebird

When you click on a email address in new copy of MozillaFirebird, you see a message something like mailto is not a registered protocol, i.e., you can't get there from here.

The real solution is to include a set of preferences in Firebird which tells to program what to do when it sees a mailto: link. That hasn't happened yet, so the workaround is to use the Firebird extension program mozex. This lets you tell Firebird how to handle a variety of protocols. You can even reset some the Firebird handles quite well, e.g. ftp.

Installation is almost automatic, just follow the links on the mozex home page. After installation, restart Firebird, then click Tools ==> Options ==> Extensions. On that page, click on mozex and then click Options. Click the Intercept mailto: clicks box, then fill in the proper command for the Mailer:, then click OK. The proper command depends on the mail client you are using. Instructions for many mail clients are found in the mozex FAQ. For Ximian Evolution the proper string is:

evolution mailto:%A?Subject=%S&Cc=%C&body=%B

Now when you click on you can actually send me a mail message, provide you can get it past's spam filters.

1/3/2004 01:13:28 PM ( Original link)

Intel Fortran Options

This seems to be a better option string for the Intel Fortran compiler mentioned previously:

ifort -ccdefault list -tpp7 -W0

where -ccdefault list means ignore old-fashioned Fortran carriage controls in column 1 -tpp7 means optimize for Pentium IV, which seems to include the Celeron (-tpp6 for Pentium III). According to man ifort, -tpp7 is the default. -W0 means ignore warning messages, which tend to be noting that certain features of F77 have been depreciated in F90 and F95.

Changes added in proof: I decided that the Celeron is a P-IV class machine, so I changed the processor optimization flag.

1/4/2004 02:50:00 PM (Original link)

mplayer dlls

OK, I wanted to look at some quicktime movie trailers from As a sample, we'll try the QuickTime trailer from Johnson Family Vacation. With my standard mplayer installation I got picture but no sound, though I get sound with other QuickTime files, notably this King Arthur teaser. Running mplayer from the command line e.g.,

$ mplayer

gives a line which says something like:

qtmlClient.dll not found.

Looking around the web for information on dll files in mplayer, I found that they are to be found in /usr/lib/win32, which doesn't exist on my system. Searching through Google I eventually found several mplayer dll rpm files at, but the first ones I tried didn't have qtmlClient.dll. Eventually I went to the Mplayer Home Page, where I found a set of binary Codecs. I first downloaded the Latest Win32 Codec pack, and put the contents into /usr/lib/win32, but that still didn't have qtmlClient.dll. That file turns out to be in the All in One (aka essential)) package. I loaded qtmlClient.dll into /usr/lib/win32, and now I get sound with the movie.

There are some library files in the "essential" package, and I'm not exactly sure where they should go, so for now I'm leaving them out of the picture. At least, mplayer works for a new set of QuickTime files.

Note: further Googling shows that the essential package exists as an RPM. I may eventually rip out my own installation and put in the RPMs.

1/9/2004 10:46:14 PM (Original link)

Traffic Monitor

When I was running Mandrake Linux I couldn't get (meaning, didn't know how at the time) to get the FVWM window manager to work as I wanted, so I used icewm. Actually, I might still use it, if I could figure out how to set up a giant virtual desktop like FVWM has.

But I digress. One of the things I liked about icewm is that it had a network traffic meter which fit into the toolbar. This was particularly helpful because it let me know when my Linksys BEFW11S4 (ver 4) router decided that it didn't want to handle downloading that file anymore, thank you very much.

FVWM doesn't come with a traffic meter, but a quick Google search found Roland's software for Linux. Roland created a program called xnetload. It was easy to compile, though I had to hand-change the install location from the default /usr/local to my preferred /home/local location.

And then I was able to get it into FVWM's ButtonBar. After much playing around, I finally decided on an entry that looked like this:

*FvwmButtons(2x2, Frame 2, Title eth0, Swallow(UseOld) "xnetload" 'Exec xnetload -nv -ni -kb eth0 -fg red -bg gray &')

which monitors my ethernet port ("eth0") displays the upload and download information in graphic form only ("-nv -ni"), and logs information in kilobytes.

So thank you Roland, great software.

1/10/2004 10:19:07 AM ( Original link)

Non-root RPM installation

Selected users can install RPMs from their local accounts using sudo, but certain things have to be set up. See How to create rpmbuild directory on FedoraNEWS.ORG for details.

1/10/2004 12:31:33 PM ( Original link)

Entering the Helix -- and getting your toe stuck in the door

The Helix Community is Real Networks attempt to build an open source content production/player for Windows, Macs, and, of course Linux. Though they have taken quite a bit of flack for past practices (which didn't appear in the Linux version), this is in a Good Thing (TM) IMHO.

So let's get the Helix "DNA" player, called hxplay, and run it. Fortunately, FedoraNEWS.ORG has an excellent article which walks you through the steps of building and installing a Helix Player RPM. You'll need to yourself up to do non-root RPM installs, which is the subject of the previous post. Everything else is quite easy.

OK, so we have the RPM installed. Now let's test it. First, do "about:plugins" in MozillaFirebird. No Helix plugins there. Go back and see that the RPM installs links in /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins. Go back and do the same for /usr/lib/MozillaFirebird/plugins/. While we're at it, edit /etc/pluggerrc-5.0 to remove all references to Real plugins from plugger, and delete the ~/.phoenix/pluginreg.dat file so that Firebird will generate a new one. Now "about:plugins" gives me what I want.

Go to and click on one of the set programs. I'm going to look at the 512K RealVideo 9 Sample Clip. Click, tell Firebird we want to use hxplay to see the clip, and go:

The Helix player comes up, but there is also an error box, which says Unexpected error code (0x800400C9) /tmp/realvideo9_512.ram.

OK, somethings a bit fishy. Let's look around: $ cat /tmp/realvideo9_512.ram rtsp:// (with no return character at the end of the line). OK, try
$ hxplay rtsp:// That works. Try
$ hxplay That works, too. But it doesn't work from the browser.

More research is obviously in order.

1/14/2004 04:27:12 PM (Original link)

Fetch, boy

In my eternal search for methods of combatting spam-mail (not the fine product from Hormel), I have signed up for several free POP mail servers. The idea is that I get my newsletters, tips, etc., through one of these accounts, which can be easily dropped if it gets too much spam. (The address filters out some mailling lists.)

This works, but free email popservers are somewhat quirky, and not up all of the time. My mail client, Ximian Evolution, thoughtfully informs you of this.

Every time it fails.

Sometimes, once every five minutes.

At which point it pops up a window to tell you it can't read your mail.

Did I mention the window goes on top of your current window?

Which really messes up your Tetris game.

And, as far as I know, you can't turn this feature off.

The solution, or so it would seem, is to let some other program handle these accounts, and only tell Evolution about it later. Actually, if this program feed its output to the standard /var/spool/mail directory, Evolution could read it automatically, without the regular warnings.

The classic *ix method for reading mail from assorted POP and IMAP servers is fetchmail, written by none other than Eric S. Raymond. There is a fetchmail RPM included in Fedora, so I installed that. But as sometime or other the .fetchmailrc file, which tells fetchmail where to get its mail and what to do with it, became corrupted.

OK, create a new .fetchmailrc file. The easy way of doing this is to run fetchmailconf. Unfortunately, this isn't included in the Fedora-supplied RPM. So go to the fetchmail home page and download the source RPM file, compiling it with the sudo rpmbuild method discussed previously. That works, but fetchmailconf still fails, because I didn't have the Tk GUI toolkit for TCL installed, nor the python interface for Tk. After looking around for the proper source, and by a bit of blind luck, I figured out that the python-Tk interface was in the python-tools RPM included with Fedora. So I did a

sudo yum install python-tools

which apparently installed all the proper python and tk files. At least, fetchmailconf now creates a .fetchmailrc file that doesn't make fetchmail barf.

Unfortunately, I have no real clue if it works or not, because the clunky email servers haven't gotten around to sending me any email yet.

Maybe I should ask Joe Gibbs. He can apparently fix anything, if you read the local papers.

1/14/2004 09:23:43 PM (Original link)

System Services

Something that should be run early on, but I'm just now getting around to: $ redhat-config-services (root password required)

Lets you turn on and off daemons. I'm turning off various things I don't need, like sshd, as I don't need this machine to be an ssh server, at least not at the moment.

If a service is running, you can stop it with an icon at the top of the window. You can also prevent it from starting on the next reboot by unclicking the box next to the name of the service.

1/22/2004 08:12:35 PM (Original link)

More USB stuff

In theory, at least, it should be possible to set up a USB hotplug, so that when I plug my camera into the computer and turn it on its memory is automatically mounted to /mnt/camera. Windows, of course, does this, and so according to this Linux Gazette (.net) tip it can be done with Linux. Reading some of the gphoto2 documentation indicates the same thing. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to work it with my camera.

Searching Google for "linux hotplug olympus digital", I found the article Olympus C-5050Zoom Digital Camera with Linux. OK, I have a C-5000, but what the heck. The article tells how to look in /proc and /var/log/messages to find out if the computer knows about the camera once it's plugged in. As we previously established, that works. Then I found the section called "Mounting the Camera by non-root users". That says all I have to do is edit /etc/fstab, adding the line: /dev/sda1 /mnt/camera vfat rw,noauto,user 1 0 I'd tried something like this before, but now I can do mount /mnt/camera

and umount /mnt/camera

and things work as the should.

Note: As noted in the above article, Never power off or disconnect the camera before unmounting the device. If you do you risk corrupting the camera file system and trashing your pictures.

The next section of the article is "Auto Mounting the Camera", which is what I wanted in the first place. It uses the autofs package, which is already installed on my computer. Of course, the first thing I'm supposed to do is delete all of the /mnt mount points, which sounds vaguely scary. I'll think about it.

2/7/2004 07:11:11 PM ( Original link)

There's another Blog out there

fedora core linux installation adventure is a blog similar to this one, except it's got nice indexing, formatting, and intellegence. Also, it's not so hung up with the current UNC basketball administration.

2/7/2004 07:27:31 PM (Original link)

Truetype fonts

Those that Microsoft used to provide, can be installed by following the directions at Remember to restart the font server.

2/8/2004 02:18:30 PM (Original link)

Memory Key

I added a Fuji USB drive (aka memory stick/key), on sale this week from Best Buy (256MB for $60, after rebate & before taxes). It doesn't show up using the hwbrowser, unlike it did for (search for memory key). Nevertheless, I was able to mount it using the fstab entry that I used for the digital camera. Which means that I read the memory by hitting

mount /mnt/camera

and dismount with

umount /mnt/camera

I could change the mount point, but this isn't all that hard to remember. Conflicts will arise if I try to have both plugged in at the same time.

In other news, KU defeated the Texas Tex (sic) Salad Bar Ragers, 96-77.

2/13/2004 06:59:16 PM ( Original link)

Maybe they could settle on a name?

The browser formerly known as MozillaFirebird (formerly known as Pheonix) is out with version 0.8. This time it's known as Mozilla Firefox.

Installation, at the moment, consists of undoing the tarball in the location you want the browser, in my case /usr/local/firefox, with a link $ ln -s /usr/local/firefox/firefox /usr/local/bin/firefox You can use your old profile, or create a new one. In view of what happened with firebird, I decided to create a new profile. This means, of course, that I have to log in again to all those websites that require registration. I did move my old bookmark file over, but I'll let the cookies and password management files build themselves up as needed.

I took my old Flash and java plugins, which work well. I have yet to install plugger. I may try mozplugger first. Maybe even mplayerplug-in.

The adblock extension got installed with no problem, but the mozex extension wasn't available. Hopefully that will be added soon.

2/14/2004 02:48:43 PM (Original link)


OK, when I installed firefox (previous message) I created a new profile, ~/.phoenix/mike. However, firefox now defaults to ~/.phoenix/default. Which means that I can use the old extensions and bookmarks, and that's OK, I guess, but how do you permanently change what the system considers ``default''?

2/29/2004 04:04:36 PM ( Original link)

Leap Day, When Mike Learns about RSS Readers

Well, he learns a little bit, anyway. As I understand it (and if you want to correct me, hit the email button on the right):

If you go to a page such as, or random other pages, you'll see an orange button labeled "XML".

At the bottom of every Slashdot page, there is a link labeled "RSS".

Click one of these links, and most likely your browser will do something strange. Mozilla Firefox prints the message "This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below." and then dumps the XML source.

So what are these pages, and how do you read them? RSS (sometimes) stands for "Really Simple Syndication". As far as I can tell, it's a collection of bookmarks for a website. For example, Slashdot's RSS feed is a list of the current articles appearing on the Slashdot home page. The advantage of the RSS feed, rather than your own bookmarks, is that the page is dynamic, that is, it gives you the current Slashdot home page, not the way it looked the last time you went there and bookmarked every article. The articles don't have to come from the same page, they can be distributed throughout cyberspace.

There's more information on this at and The later link has a bunch of RSS feeds for Yahoo's news service.

OK, that's well and good, but how do you read these things? You need something called an RSS aggregator. Many are listed in that last link.

But, since RSS is essentially a collection of (dynamic) bookmarks to web pages, why not use a web browser to read them? The Mozilla browsers don't support RSS directly, but you access feeds using an extension. (There are extensions for Mozilla itself. Use Google to find them. In Firefox, see "Tools=>Options=> Extensions."

There are several RSS extensions for Firefox. I chose the RSS Reader Panel. You install this in the usual manner, which means you're trusting someone to send you good code. Fortunately, this is in your own file space, so you can't trample on things belonging to root or another user. (Under Linux. In Windows, this isn't true, of course.) The RSS Reader Panel (RSSRP) install itself, and you restart your browser.

Next, create a bookmark folder. It doesn't matter where. I called mine, duh, "RSS Feeds". Under "Tools=>Options=>Extensions" click on "RSS Reader Panel", then on the "Options" button at the bottom. There is a menu which has a scroll button with all of your bookmarks. Highlight the RSS Feed bookmark and click "OK".

Add any XML or RSS feeds you'd like into this folder in the usual way.

Now go to "View=>Sidebar" and click on "RSS Reader Panel", or just hit "Alt-R" on the keyboard. On the left-hand side of the screen, all of your RSS bookmarks will appear in the top half of the sidebar. Click on the one you want. In the bottom half of the sidebar will be the titles currently available from that page. Click on the one you want and it will appear in the main part of the browser window on the right. Get rid of the sidebar by clicking the "X" in the upper right-hand corner.

I don't know if I'll use this all that much or not. Time will tell, I guess.

3/6/2004 02:48:29 PM ( Original link)

And More Stuff About RSS

Slate (from MSN, but I don't hold that against them) has an article on speed-reading the net, which is all about how RSS works. They even have a collection of popular RSS feeds, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, not to mention the Drudge report. This is an OPML file, which means you can't read in your browser. To use it with the RSS Reader Panel, open up the RSS sidebar, click on Tools, click on OPML Import/Export, and follow the directions. All this is to introduce the launching of Slate's own RSS feed.

While following the links in the OPML file, (specifically, Drudge -- you can look up the link yourself) I found a link to, which is a portal that looks the way Yahoo used to look. Clean, no adds, no popups (not that users of Mozilla Firefox have to worry about that). They offer their own webbed based email (of course), but allow you to access any other webmail account with a click or two. Very nice.

Another thing I learned about RSS and the Reader Panel: Many (not all) RSS feeds contain story summaries. Just using the RSS sidebar doesn't show these summaries, but if you click on View => Open in Contents Area and then click on the RSS feed, the summaries will show up in the browser window, with the links still in the lower panel. If tabbed browsing is enabled, doing a middle-button mouse click will open up the summary in a new tab.

3/6/2004 03:13:23 PM ( Original link)

And One More RSS Thingy

Hey, look at this: this very Blog publishes its own RSS Feed. Who knew? Apparently I signed up for this when I created the Blog, but I didn't know what I was signing up for. There's even a summary page, which consists of the first few lines of each article.

3/13/2004 11:46:53 AM ( Original link)

And the Problem With RSS Reader Panel is

You'll remember I'm using the RSS Reader Panel extension to Firefox as my RSS Aggregator. And it works really well.

Except on this Blog. If you add Linux & Things to your RSS bookmarks, and then click on the link, everything looks normal. On the sidebar below the bookmarks you see the article titles. In the "content area" you see the first few lines of each article. However, when you click on an article you get the message

We're sorry but the Username/Password combination you've entered is either invalid or you don't have permission to access this Blog.

I contacted Blogger support, who gave me a nice answer which showed me that they'd really looked at the problem but, unfortunately, their answer comes down to "not our problem, man". :-( It seems that when Blogger produces its Atom-formatted XML file it produces two links per article. The first is an internal link for Blog*splot, and the second is the permanent link to the article. As far as I can tell, Blog*splot is the only site that does this. I've examined some other Atom files, and none of them seem to have more than one link per article. However, Blog*splot does produce proper XML code, according to, so I guess it's legal. The permalink is identified as type text/html, while the other link is type application/x.atom+xml, so it shouldn't be too hard to figure out the correct link.

I've posted a bug report with Reader Panel Support, so hopefully this will get fixed soon.

3/29/2004 07:44:54 PM (Original link)

The Amaya Browser

Amaya is the W3C's Web editor, which supports HTML+CSS and XML applications such as XHTML, MathML and SVG. It's also a good (and free) testbed for your web pages: if they appear correctly in Amaya, they are probably valid HTML or XHTML. (Of course, you can always run your web pages through the HTML validator and the CSS validator to be sure.

There are some binary packages for Amaya, but the best way to get the thing built is from the source. Here's how: In the following I use an account called local which I've created on this machine. It's home directory is /home/local, and it has only ordinary user priviledges. Otherwise, it's set up much like /usr/local. That is, there are subdirectories /home/local/src, /home/local/bin, /home/local/man, etc. I use this account to install things that don't need to be installed as root, but should be accessible to any user with access to this machine. Of course, that means that /home/local/bin has to be in your path. OK, here we go. Assume you're logged in as local, and have downloaded the amay source code, amaya-src-8.3.tgz, into the directory /home/local/src:

  1. $ cd /home/local/src
  2. $ tar xvzf amaya-src.8.3.tgz This extracts the files for the gzipped tarball. Two sub directories are created, Amaya and redland. The later isn't needed for the default installation of Amaya, and I haven't tried figuring out what it does.
  3. $ cd Amaya The following departs somewhat from the instructions contained in Amaya.readme, but things still work:
  4. $ mkdir obj Creates a directory where all the work will be done.
  5. $ cd obj Go to your fine new directory and start the configuration process:
  6. $ ../configure --prefix=/home/local Sets up the makefile which will control execution, and tells it build the files under the /home/local tree. This will eventually create a directory /home/local/Amaya where everything is stored. There will be a soft link to /home/local/bin/amaya to launch the browser.
  7. make Wait awhile. If everything compiles normally you can do
  8. $ ./bin/amaya This should run the browser. If it does, exit and do
  9. $ make install Which puts Amaya in its proper place.
  10. Exit the local account and open a shell under your user account. Assuming /home/local/bin was in your path,
  11. $ amaya will open up Amaya. From there you can surf or edit HTML files.

That's it. If the ../configure script did its job correctly, Amaya will run with all the capabilities allowed by your computer.

4/2/2004 10:01:03 PM ( Original link)

The quickest way to a faster computer

is to add more memory. Proof:

I run some rather large jobs on this computer, which, you'll remember, had 256 MB of DDR SDRAM. Running those jobs made the response of everything else rather slow. That is, if I wanted to switch between evolution, firefox, and the xterm showing my job, I'd frequently have to wait 15-30 seconds for the windows to repaint themselves.

Upstairs, on the Windows XP machine that the family uses, but which is otherwise identical to this one, we had similar slowdown issues.

Finally, with the swiftness of thought for which I am known, I decided "hey, let's get more memory!!!" (Light bulb.) Doing a Google(TM) search on "Dell Dimension 2350 memory". Someplace up at the top of the adds was They were having a sale, which supposedly ended on March 31. (It's apparently still on.) $97 for 512 MB, free 2nd day FedEx shipping. I took them up on it on Wednesday (the 31st).

Today the memory came. The Dimension has two memory slots, but as ordered our machines came with one 256MB card. I pulled the 256MB from this machine and installed the 512MB card. Closed up the box, turned on the computer. The BIOS said that there was a change in the amount of memory on the computer, and then booted. Fedora noticed the change right way. I started up one of my big jobs. Response is amazingly fast. I can Alt-Tab through all my open windows (about 6 at the moment) in five seconds or less. No noticable delay in painting the screen.

I took the 256MB module and put it in the machine upstairs, so it has 512MB as well. It booted up faster, but not as fast as I'd like. So I ran Ad-Aware, a piece of free software which does search and destroys spyware. Found a bunch. Also deleted a bunch of non-essential things that had found their way into the Startup folder.

Finally, I installed the Windows version of Mozilla Firefox. Child #1 is now happily using it, once we figured out how to find the old Netscape bookmarks. Child was also happy to find an extension, Deepest Sender, which helps blogging on Live Journal.

Now, this memory may go up in smoke any time, I suppose. But Kingston's fairly reliable, and it's been 3 hours or more. I think we had a good day, computer-wise.

4/3/2004 10:34:33 AM ( Original link)

Why You Should Be Using Firefox

If you can't believe The Washington Post, who can you believe?

OK, FoxNews hasn't chimed in yet.

4/24/2004 07:13:23 PM ( Original link)

Fixing Netscape ($&#**^ Windows)

OK, most of my family uses a Windows XP machine. That's OK with me, it's their choice, and they like to do some things that Linux doesn't do well yet.

I have persuaded them that using IE and Outlook is a Bad Idea. Some of them use Mozilla Firefox for browsing, but they all use Netscape to read email.

The problem is that aperiodically Netscape just forgets that they've set up an account. All of the bookmarks are there, but the home page is lost. Worse, Netscape forgets all the information about the email account. The email is still there, but inaccessible by Netscape. This happens to other people, too. It doesn't seem to happen with Linux, at least it never happened to me. The problem seems to be that a file named prefs.js has been corrupted.

There are two possible fixes:

1) Close Netscape/Mozilla. Go to the directory

\Documents and Settings\UserName\Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles\default\somefunnything.slt

where UserName is the name of the account with the trashed files, and somefunnything.slt is an arbitrary name Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox gives the account. (They do this in Linux, too. I have no idea why.) By the way, you can look at this account through the Windows Explorer interface, but it's simpler if you use the Command Window. For one thing, some of these directories are hidden by default.

There should be a file prefs.js and another file prefs.bak. prefs.js is the one that's gone bad. If prefs.js and prefs.bak are different, copy prefs.bak to prefs.js. Restart Netscape/Mozilla. Your problem should be fixed. If not, go to 2):

2) If 1) didn't work, you're not completely hosed. Launch the Netscape/Mozilla Mail client and set up a new account. Open the Browser and set up your preferences as you like. If you are using Netscape remember to set your popup window preferences. Close all Netscape/Mozilla windows.

Now go to the \Documents and Settings\UserName\Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles\default\somefunnything.slt directory again. You'll find a new prefs.js and prefs.bak. They should be identical. Copy prefs.js to prefs.good.

In this directory there should be a subdirectory called Mail. Go there. There should be at least two subdirectories. One is named something like, and another is The second one will have a newer date than the first. If you do a directory listing, the first (which I'll call pop) will have files like Inbox, Inbox.msf, Sent, Sent.msf, etc., which correspond to the names of your mail folders. The second (pop-1) will have some of those files, but they'll be pretty empty. What you need to do is copy the Sent, Inbox, etc. files from pop to pop-1. I say copy rather than move, because that gives you an automatic backup. Don't copy the Sent.msf, Inbox.msf, etc. files. Those are headers, and Netscape will reestablish them later.

OK, now restart the Netscape Mailer. You may have to re-enter your password a couple of times, but you should have access to all your mail files.

What if this happens again?

Simple. First try step 1) above. If that doesn't work, remember that prefs.good file I told you to save. Simple delete the prefs.js and prefs.bak files, and copy prefs.good to prefs.js. If you changed any preferences after you created the prefs.good file you'll lose them, but you'll still have your email account information intact.

4/24/2004 08:01:16 PM ( Original link)

Fixing RSS Reader Panel (Hooray for Open Source)

As you may remember, I've been using the RSS Reader Panel Extension to Firefox to read RSS feeds. Unfortunately, it had a few problems with sites using the atom protocal, including most Blogger sites.

Fortunately, the source code for the RSS Reader Panel is available. Someone with more Javascript experience than me found the problem and fixed it. Details are available at the Reader Panel Message Board. (See message 546.) So far, the fixed version works great. Hope the fix makes it into the next official version.

5/16/2004 11:22:40 AM (Original link)

That Personal Touch

Favicons are those little pictures that show up on the location and tab bar of your browser, that little icon which identifies the site. There's a favicon list here if you want to see some of the more commercial ones.

On my own pages I use a script M, which shows up in Firefox's icon bar but not in the location bar, where they put the Comcast C.

I wanted to personalize this blog with the script M favicon, but Blog*spot, Blogger's free hosting site, doesn't store pictures. So I tried an experiment. I went to Blogger and edited the template for this site. Just before the </head> command I put in the lines

<!-- Add favicon, I hope -->
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="" type="image/x-icon" />

which calls up the icon from my home web page. And it works. Better than on Comcast, as the script M shows up in the location bar as well as the tab bar.

5/29/2004 07:28:08 PM ( Original link)

Graphing with gnuplot

When I first started writing papers, drawing a graph was not too hard. First you sketched out your picture on a sheet of paper. If you were plotting data, you'd used graph paper. For really accurate plots you'd use graph paper with ten lines per millimeter. A photocopy of that would be sent to the journal along with your (typed) manuscript. After the article was accepted, you'd take the figures to the draftsman, who would draw it up with pen and ink, who would send this work of art (and it was) to the camera shop, where they'd take a picture of it and give you a few 8x10" glossies, one of which was mailed to the journal. At the journal they would take pictures of this glossy and send it to their production people, who would get it into the journal somehow.

Eventually computer graphing programs came along. They'd even produce PostScript (TM) files, which could be emailed directly to the publisher. The question was, which program should I use?

I tried a few. We even bought some. But sometime in the early 1990's I found references on Usenet and Gopher to a program called gnuplot. Logically, you'd think this was related to the Free Software Foundation's GNU project, but it's not, the name is a coincidence. In any case, gnuplot was easy to use, had a command line interface that enabled you to use it in script files, and, eventually, came up with an enhanced PostScript interface which let you do a reasonably good job of drawing subscripts, superscripts, and Greek characters.

Oh yeah, sometime after 1995 it also came with a curve fitting routine. Give gnuplot your data an a parameterized function, and it would do its best to find the proper parameters to fit the curve.

I still use gnuplot, but the current version included with Fedora Core 1 is 3.7, released many years ago. Many people have moved to other software programs that I don't understand so well. A popular one where I work is Grace.

So now there's a new gnuplot, version 4.0, released in April. It looks to have more colors, better contour support, etc., yada... I wouldn't know, I just got it installed. I didn't find and RPMs for it I trusted, so I downloaded the source code, and ran my usual
$ ./configure --prefix=/home/local
$ make install

which installed the program in /home/local/bin, where I like to keep programs that don't need to be run as root. And the program worked. Except if I have a selection of gnuplot scripts called, say,
plot1.gnu plot2.gnu plot3.gnu ...
and try to load them using
gnuplot> "plo[TAB]
nothing happened. In other words, filename completion was dead. This works with most older versions of gnuplot.

Turns out that to do this you need the GNU (which is not gnuplot) version of the readline libraries. OK, I have that on this machine, so we try
$ ./configure --prefix=/home/local --with-readline==gnu
$ make install

And this works. Except that there is a bug in GNU readline. If you understand what that message said, don't tell me. Just note that the effect of the bug is that, if you call gnuplot from the command-line prompt from an xterm, have it put up a plot (say
gnuplot> plot x
and then resize the xterm, the gnuplot figure vanishes. Why? I have no clue. Anyway, you can get it back by using the
gnuplot> replot

Is gnuplot 4.0 better than 3.7? I don't know yet. But at least I've got it working.

5/31/2004 11:43:32 AM ( Original link)

Macromedia Flash Update for Linux

Macromedia has released version 7 of its Flash Player for Linux. The official download site is
here at Macromedia,
but there are RPMs available from Rutgers (the State University) at
Note that this is not a Shockwave Player for Linux, which still does not exist AFAIK.

6/5/2004 11:41:50 AM ( Original link)

June Linux Gazette (.net)

Linux Gazette (.net., accept no substitutions) is one of the more useful sites on the web. It only appears monthly, but just about every month there's an article worth reading. This month there are three of note:

  1. John Murray's Bare-Bones Guide to Firewalls tells you exactly what a firewall is and does, gives some hints on what settings to use in your distribution's GUI firewall.
  2. Barry O'Donovan's Firewalling with netfilter/iptables tells you how to set up your own custom firewall. If you are running a mailserver, webserver, or an ftp or ssh daemon, and you want to make sure your site is secure, read here.
  3. Moving off of security issues, Ben Okopnik writes of Plots, Graphs, and Curves in the World of Linux, with emphasis on the features of gnuplot. He mentions several FAQs and tutorials, which I'll repeat here:
    Of course, for notes on compiling gnuplot 4.0 from scratch, see my experiences with gnuplot.

6/11/2004 01:52:34 PM ( Original link)

Nothing To Do With Linux

This one's Mac specific. Specifically Max OS X 10.3 and above:

When you log into a terminal window or (with X11) an xterm, you get your default shell, of course, and it defaults to /bin/bash. In 10.1 you could change this easily, but I had no idea how to do it in 10.3, until I read this macosxhints article. Basically:

Note that there is a command line prompt to do this, but hey, this is a Mac. We don't need no stinkin' command lines.

According to comments to the article, you can now use the chsh command. Again: Hey!! This is a Mac!!

7/3/2004 02:49:33 PM link

Browser Updates -- Mozilla Firefox 0.9

I played with the upgrade to version 0.9 of the Mozilla Firefox browser, but couldn't get things to work the way I wanted. Then a bugfix version 0.9.1 came out. I still waited, but then I found that, like most browsers, Firefox 0.8 was subject to this Frame Injection Vulnerability. (Try the test. It's impressive.) Firefox 0.9.1 is supposed to have this fixed, so it's time to upgrade.

Unfortunately, several things have changed going from 0.8 to 0.9.1. In particular, the way Firefox installs extensions has changed, as well as the default theme. The extensions are particularly worrisome. I've been using:

  1. mozex, to let me click on mailto: links from the browser,
  2. Adblock, to rid pages of annoying graphics, and
  3. a fixed version of the RSS Reader Panel, which lets one read newsfeeds from the browser.

Getting all this to work again is going to require a rather careful upgrade, hence this long post.

First, download the new version from The default version for Linux comes with an installer, but I want to put the browser in another location, so I clicked on the "other languages" link and found the "no installer" version for Linux. This yields a file called firefox-0.9-i686-linux-gtk2+xft.tar.gz.

I could only get firefox to run from my own account or as root. Since I want to let other people use the code as well, I'll put it in /usr/local as root. So su, cd to /usr/local, and run
tar xvzf firefox-0.9-i686-linux-gtk2+xft.tar.gz

Now set up a link to the firefox executable from something in my path:
ln -s /usr/local/firefox/firefox /usr/local/bin/firefox
(the soft link lets Firefox remember where it really lives)

Launch firefox. OK, problem number 1. I use a script which changes checks to see if firefox is already running. If so, it opens up a new tab on the browser, rather than another instance of the browser. Unfortunately, the new-tab/new-window behavior of firefox has changed. It requires a new script. I modified one from the viewall link on Bugzilla. Modified, it looks like this:

# See
# and
# If firefox isn't running, launches it.
# If firefox is running, opens requested page in new tab.
FFOX_REMOTE="${FFOX} -a firefox -remote"
#    $FFOX_REMOTE "openurl($URL,new-window)"
    $FFOX_REMOTE "openurl($URL,new-tab)"
    $FFOX $URL
if $FFOX_REMOTE "ping()" 2>&1 | grep "Error:" >/dev/null; then

A "now what?" box pops up. Firefox 0.9.1 can import settings from the old 0.8 account, but personal settings have moved from ~/.phoenix/default/wierdstring to ~/.mozilla/firefox/default.something. Since I don't want to move all my extensions and everything, I'm not going to import anything. Click that and go. This gets to the firefox home page. Set my home page where I want it, using
Edit => Preferences > General => Use Current Page.
Note that this changed from previous versions, when it was under Tools => Options.

Resize the window and exit the browser. Copy my bookmarks from ~/.phoenix/... to ~/.mozilla/firefox/....



After getting all the font preferences set (now in Edit => Preferences > General => Fonts & Colors), start adding extensions. To do this, go to
Tools => Extensions => Get More Extensions
The page isn't well organized, IMHO, so click on "All" and scroll through until you find what you want. So far I've installed:

Note that you have to restart Firefox before an extension starts working.


Look at the entrees in the plugin directory of Firefox 0.8. Copy those into /usr/local/firefox/plugins. Note that if a soft link was used in the old directory, you have to set it up here, e.g.,
ln -s /usr/lib/flash-plugin/flashplayer.xpt .


Firefox comes with a variety of Themes for changing the look of the browser buttons, backgrounds, etc. The current default theme is rather XP like. I kind of liked the old theme, Qute, so for now use that. Go to Tools => Themes, etc., etc.

Hmm. Changing themes seems to wipe out your windows so that you have to restart Firefox. Hope this is fixed by 1.0.

You can create your own themes, but I'm not going to try to figure that out now.

And Done

At least for now. So many browser options to play with ...

7/4/2004 07:36:20 PM (Original link)


Awhile ago, I tried the Helix Player, an open source version of RealPlayer. I didn't have much success with it.

But now, RealPlayer 10 is out for Linux. It's not free, but it's not obnoxious like some versions of yore. So I decided to try it out. There's an RPM and everything, though for some reason the code goes in the /usr/local tree instead of /usr.

So far it works. I did have to tweak the plugins to get them to run in Firefox, though. The Mozilla Realplayer Plugins are in /usr/local/RealPlayer/mozilla. With my non-standard setup, the plugins didn't get into the Firefox plugin directory, so I did
$ cd /usr/local/firefox/plugins
$ ln -s /usr/local/RealPlayer/mozilla/ .
$ ln -s /usr/local/RealPlayer/mozilla/nphelix.xpt .
This works pretty well. The CBS News site lets me play some content within the browser window. However, for some content it insists on launching Xine, which I use to play .wmv files, and then not playing the file. Even though I've set my preferences to RealPlayer.

7/14/2004 03:47:36 PM (Original link)

The Cookie Machine

When surfing the web, cookies are little blips of information that a web site you've visited stores on your computer. Cookies are good in that they let a site you visit often store your preferences, making it easier to work with. For example, many sites which require registration will save your registration information in a cookie. Cookies are bad because they leave traces on your computer of where you've been. E.g., not that this applies to anyone I know, if you search for some steamy books/videos online, any site which can access that cookie knows what you've been looking for.

Firefox, like all Mozilla (and I suppose all other) browsers, lets you manage your cookies. In Ff > 0.8 you do this by going to Edit => Preferences => Cookies. Here you can examine the cookies on you have stored, delete the ones (or all) you don't like, designate sites which can always leave cookies, and forbid certain sites to leave cookies on your machine.

That's all well and good, but I'd like a slightly better option: There are a list of sites with cookies I'd like to keep, e.g., the Double-Click Opt-Out, various newspaper registrations, SABR, etc. Everything else I'd like to delete just by pressing a button.

And so we have the Firefox/Mozilla extension CookieCuller. It loads just like a regular extension. In Firefox, you then right-click on a blank spot of the navigation tool bar and click Customize. In the box with the icons will appear a large cookie. (It's really too large for the Pinball theme I'm currently using, but never mind.) Drag the cookie onto the navigation tool bar. Now, when you click on the cookies, you'll see list of those on your browser. To the left is a column labeled "Protected". You can toggle the status of a cookie from protected to unprotected. And clicking "Remove All Cookies" does just that -- it removes all cookies you haven't protected. Exactly what I wanted.

8/3/2004 08:37:37 PM (Original link)

RealPlayer 10 Setup

Installed the release version of RealPlayer 10 for Linux. This supersedes the beta version I talked about earlier.

When you download, don't let the name RealPlayer10GOLD scare you, they aren't charging for this player, unlike previous Gold versions.

Had some difficulty getting Plugger to let go of the RealPlayer plugins for Firefox. To do that,

  1. If you set up the symbolic links to the plugins as in the beta version post then they still point to the right location. If you used hard links, then you'll have to delete them and relink.
  2. Edit the file ~/.mozilla/plugins/pluggerrc, removing or commenting out all calls to realplayer (whether all is a good idea remains to be seen).
  3. Delete the file ~/.mozilla/pluginreg.dat. Mozilla/Firefox reads this to find plugins. It only consults the plugins themselves if this file is gone
  4. Restart Firefox

So far everything works. I can even watch CBS News videos, which I couldn't do before, probably because I didn't have the plugins set up correctly.

8/7/2004 10:01:28 PM ( Original link)

Making It Never Exist

Part two of that Slashdot article I mentioned before:

For some reason, this happens most frequently when I go to, but it happens on other sites, too. I click on an article, and get the message

Waiting for

and then the web page hangs for awhile.

What's happening is that the Post is going to and waiting for advertisements to load up. Of course, the net doesn't just go to doubleclick, it goes elsewhere as well. And many of those ``elsewheres'' are nothing but annoying ads.

Wouldn't it be great to get rid of those ads? OK, we can use something like Adblock, and I recommend that, but wouldn't it be wonderful to make your computer believe that places like doubleclick never existed? (And, incidentally, decrease worries about your privacy.) There is a way.

Let's go back to the early days of the Internet. There was nothing like the current Domain Name Service (DNS). Oh, each web site had an IP address, but there were no central directories to tell you which IP address belonged to Google (not that Google existed back then).

So how would you have found Google? In order to find things on the Internet, each computer had a file called /etc/hosts. (OK, each Unix-like computer had such a file. I have no idea what other OS called it.) In the /etc/hosts file was a line like:

which told your computer the IP address of Google. Of course, this file had to be upgraded periodically by downloading a new file from somewhere, and eventually it got so big that the whole thing had to be scrapped and DNS was adopted. But, the /etc/hosts file still exists, and it's read before your computer goes out to your chosen name server!

This is really quite useful. If you use Google a lot, for example, adding the line

to /etc/hosts saves you from having go to the DNS every time you want to do a search. And there's another use:

Near the top of /etc/hosts is a line like localhost.localdomain localhost

This tells your computer where your local computer lives on your local network (even if you don't have a local network). If you try to go to localhost from your web browser, you'll get a message like

The connection was refused when attempting to contact localhost

(Unless you are running your own web server, in which case you'll get your home page.) In this case, localhost and localhost.localdomain function as aliases for the address Any request to go to localhost takes you to, and does whatever you tell it to.

Now suppose the webpages you visit regularly connect you to a scuzzy site we'll call You're tired of these ads and never want to see them again. What to do? Remember that /etc/hosts is read first, before the request goes out to the DNS. So add a line

to /etc/hosts. Now, when that page you are interested in asks send some advertisements, your computer looks up the address, finds that it is, and does whatever you've set it up to do. If you don't run your own web server, it does nothing. It's as if that site never existed.

So, what you need is a list of really annoying sites that should be banned from your computer. Of course, this being the Internet, there are many such lists. The one I'm using is Mike Skallas' Ad Blocking Hosts file. Basically, you add it to /etc/hosts. And, frabjous day, there are instructions for doing the same thing in Windows 2000 and XP.

And, of course, once you know the trick, you can add your own annoying sites to the list. Parents can add sites that they want to keep their children out of, e.g.

Hopefully no one will add

8/8/2004 06:42:12 PM (Original link)

Firefox Update

Mozilla Firefox is out with version 0.9.3 for Linux and Windows, so I figured I'd try it out here first. These are notes to remind me where I put all the plugins. Everyone else can turn away. Nothing to see here, really.

% su -
$ cd /home/local
# Move the old file out of the way (delete later)
$ mv firefox firefox_91
# Untar source file in appropriate location:
$ tar xvzf /home/local/src/firefox-0.9.3-i686-linux-gtk2+xft.tar.gz
# Fix plugins:
$ ln -s /usr/lib/flash-plugin/flashplayer.xpt
$ ln -s /usr/lib/flash-plugin/
$ ln -s /home/local/share/j2sdk1.4.2/jre/plugin/i386/mozilla/
$ ln -s /usr/local/RealPlayer/mozilla/
$ ln -s /usr/local/RealPlayer/mozilla/nphelix.xpt
$ ln ../../firefox_91/plugins/ .
$ ^D
# Make sure plugins get updated (they should, but who knows):
% rm ~/.mozilla/pluginreg.dat
% firefox &

So far things work fine, except that I don't know what the difference is between 0.9.1 (or 0.9.2 for Windows) and 0.9.3.

A bit later: Apparently this is a security update to fix several bugs which showed up in 0.9.1/2. "Users are strongly encouraged to upgrade." So sayeth Mozilla.

8/12/2004 10:27:34 PM ( Original link)

Get Firefox to "play" WMV files

Took a little bit of doing to get that last link to play WAV files under Firefox. I went to

Edit > Preferences >Downloads > Plug-ins

and found that WAV files were to be handled by a plugin. (Probably Plugger, but I'm not sure.) Whatever plugin it was, it didn't work so I disabled the okygub, and then tried the speach program again. When I hit the link, I got a box asking me what I wanted to do with the file. The default program was xine. I decided I wanted something that actually shut off when requested, so I chose /usr/bin/play, which is part of the SoX package.

So far, this works perfectly.

10/16/2004 11:43:00 AM (Original link)

Fedora Legacy

OK, it's been a while since the last post. Many reasons. Bills to pay, baseball playoffs, football games, and, mostly, computer burnout. When you sit at a terminal for 8 hours a day at work, sometimes it takes a bit of motivation to get back online at home.

Anyway, back to the original purpose for this blog: keeping Fedora Core as an up-to-date OS on this computer.

As you may recall, I installed Fedora Core 1. Several months ago, Fedora Core 2 was released, and now Fedora Core 3 is at the Test 3 level. As a result of all this, there is no further support for Fedora Core 1.

What to do? Upgrade? Well, that's a distinct possibility, but I've waited this long through the Fedora Core 2 cycle I might as well wait for Fedora Core 3 to be officially released. But I still want to keep this computer updated, especially for security reasons.

The solution is the Fedora Legacy Project, which keeps older versions of Red Hat Linux and Fedora alive for some time. Used with yum it's simple. Go to the Download page and find the instructions for updating the /etc/yum.conf file.

OK, I did that, and yum now looks to Fedora Legacy for updates. Except that there have been no updates for a week or more. Maybe FC1 is perfect? Doubtful, I just hope that I've got everything set up to detect new updates when they do come along.

10/29/2004 08:47:34 PM ( Original link)

Almost Ready for Prime Time

A month or so ago, Mozilla put out the ``Pre-release'' 1.0 version of Firefox, the browser for the Internet. I finally installed it a few nights ago. Installation was rather painless, though I did run the installer script as root, as at work we've had problems with the browser when permissions are not set correctly.

As usual, I didn't trust Firefox to remember my preferences, and the instructions say to turn off all extensions before migrating. To get around this, I renamed my ~/.mozilla/firefox directory and let Firefox set me up again. I then copied my bookmarks.html file from my old installation to the new one.

There are 1.0PR versions of the Adblock, Sage, and CookieCuller extensions, so I installed those. I looked around for a new version of mozex, but there isn't one. I did find an article on NewsForge showing how to how to use an old version of mozex. I was going to use that when I realized that Firefox now seems to respect the Preferred Applications in gnome-control-center. Using that, it was easy to set up evolution to use my version of newfire to put clicked-on-links into a browser tab, and to set up mailto: links in Firefox to bring up evolution. Since that's all I used mozex for, I'm not going to install the extension until a 1.0 compatible version comes out.

I should note that newfire has changed along with Firefox. The newest version looks like this:


# See

# Workaround for bug in Firefox script which determines if a window
#  is open


FFOX_REMOTE="${FFOX} -a firefox -remote"

#    $FFOX_REMOTE "openurl($URL,new-window)"
    $FFOX_REMOTE "openurl($URL,new-tab)"

    $FFOX $URL

if $FFOX_REMOTE "ping()" 2>&1 | grep "Error:" >/dev/null; then

Note that Mozilla is really trying to make a big splash when Firefox 1.0 is officially released. There will even be full-page ads in the New York Times. On that same page is an announcement for release candidate 1 for Firefox 1.0. Stay tuned.

10/30/2004 10:44:13 AM ( Original link)

Firefox Search Box Resizing

Firefox comes with a search box to the right of the address bar. Type something in the box, and you can search Google, Yahoo,, etc., depending on your default choice. That's good, but the search box is quite small. Before 1.0PR there was one way to resize the box, now there's another, as revealed in Darrel Norton's Blog. In the Linux version, find the directory ~/.mozilla/firefox/something.default/chrome, where something is a random string of characters. In this directory, create or edit a file named userChrome.css, adding these lines:

 * New way from

/* Make the Search box flex wider */

#search-container {
   -moz-box-flex: 400 !important;
#searchbar {
   -moz-box-flex: 400 !important;

Pick a number that works for you. As you increase the size of the search box, you decrease the size of the address bar, so there's a trade-off involved.

10/31/2004 01:55:57 PM (Original link)

Mplayer Update

Rather than watch the Redskins season go absolutely, positively down the tubes, or contemplate the election, let's discuss mplayer, one of Linux's two video players (the other being xine) that has a chance of playing files made in Windows (a trademark of Microsoft).

This was prompted by a Slashdot posting of a video of the recent lunar eclipse. Unfortunately, the video was made with Adobe's Premiere Pro and saved in a .wav file with some codec that I didn't have, and wouldn't play in mplayer or xine. The Slashdot solution was to download the newest codec tarball and recompile. This seemed like a lot of work. So I went to the mplayer site and found the RPMs for Fedora Core 1. Looking around the site, I finally determined that I needed:


You'll need to search around for all of these. Look under both "essential" and "optional" downloads.

Problem: So of these RPMs conflict with my current mplayer setup. Which I got from the Fedora Core 1 distribution, which isn't supported anymore, meaning that I might not be able to get it back, as it's not included in the Fedora Core Legacy RPMs. At least, I never saw it. But, I went ahead, crossed my fingures, and deleted the old mplayer RPMs, then installed all of the others in one go:

$ rpm -ivh mplayer*.rpm

And it works. I can view the video.

Unfortunately, it's not very good.

11/10/2004 10:13:15 PM ( Original link)

Official Firefox Release

Mozilla Firefox has "gone gold" with the release of version 1.0. I installed it on Linux and Mac boxes with no problem. The installation picked up all of my old preferences without problem. Well, one problem: is very slow, so it's hard to get updates for extensions. This will probably solve itself in a few days as the number of downloads goes down. And some extensions, notably CookieCuller, don't have updates available.

Oh, one annoyance: when doing a "find", Firefox puts the search box at the bottom of the page. There used to be a big "X" so you could delete that box. Now the delete button is there, but it's not visible: you have to search for it with the mouse. This may be a problem with the theme I'm using, and not with Firefox.

Later: Yes, it's a theme issue. I'm using pinball. When I switch to the default theme I get the "X".

Even later: Using the update function under Tools => Themes updates Pinball to show the X. It's black, not white on red, but that's OK.

11/12/2004 10:16:26 PM ( Original link)

Firefox: Some Day, We'll Be Just Like Emacs

Thanks to PC_Freak, who pointed out FireFTP, an FTP client which loads as an extension in Mozilla Firefox.

Long time hackers will remember that you can do just about everything from emacs, including web surfing, gopher hunting, news reading, email, and, um, editing files. It looks like Firefox is going the same way. Well, except that when you want to read mail you use Thunderbird.

11/13/2004 10:38:40 AM ( Original link)

New Firefox Extensions

They aren't really new, but they're new to me. I found them while strolling through the Mozilla Update Extensions for Firefox:

11/13/2004 04:19:51 PM (Original link)

Our Word For the Day

Comes from TK, who forwards

spheniscussionist (sfĕ·nĭs·kŭsh'·ǝ·nĭst)

n. A rabid Linux enthusiast; "penguin-thumper".

[spheniscidae penguin, deriv. percussion]

spheniscussion n.

Wear it proudly. A search of the web finds it defined by Pyrojection, who doesn't seem to like us, does he, precious.

That's All Folks

That's the end of Working With Fedora Core 1. For more on the Fedora Core Experience, see Working With Fedora Core 3.

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