Creation Date: 28 Nov 2004
Last Post: 29 Jun 2005

This is a continuation of my notes on Fedora Core extracted from my Blog Linux & Things . The first part was notes on Fedora Core 1 , while this will cover Fedora Core 3. I skipped Fedora Core 2 for reasons of sanity.

Note, as before, the labels Original link take you to the blog, and notes in color indicate things I've added to the entries that are not in the blog.

This is an evolving document, as I put Linux information in Linux & Things I'll add those posts here.

Comments are appreciated. To comment publicly on a specific article, click on the Original Link at the top of that comment, and leave your comment on the Blog. If you just want to tell me your thoughts about this blog, send email to me at .

March 5, 2005: I'll send a gmail invitation to the first ten people who send me a comment via the above address. Unless, of course, you already have a gmail account. Yeah, it's a cheap ploy for feedback.

April 3, 2005: So far, only one taker. Does everyone who reads this file already have a gmail account? Or doesn't want one?

September 3, 2005: Got another request for a gmail account. They're going like hotcakes folks.

And so, without further ado, start reading from the top, or go to the last entry .

Working With Fedora Core 3

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.

(Yes, I know it's a repeat. I like it, that's all. Confound your enemies. Take pride in what they say against you.)

11/13/2004 05:47:09 PM (Original link)

Things Done Today

11/14/2004 10:53:08 PM (Original link)

FC3 delay

Fedora Core 3 upgrade is delayed. I couldn't get it all through FTP last night, in fact I couldn't get the first CD downloaded, even from a mirror. I'll try this week, but I may have to set up BitTorrent. We're going to Kansas for Thanksgiving, so I may not get the upgrade until December. Maybe I should wait for FC4?

11/17/2004 04:48:33 PM (Original link)

As We Wait

for installation people to install a new sliding door to the back porch. They were supposed to be here between 1 and 4 pm. It is now 4:48. I'll keep you posted.

I did manage to download the Fedora Core 3 installation CDs from a mirror . So I'll spend the next few hours burning the iso images to disk and backing up my data to CDs. Tomorrow , with luck, I'll start installing FC3.

11/17/2004 11:43:08 PM (Original link)

Door's Finished

Actually, they got done about 8pm. Did a good job, too. Well, not quite done, something's wrong with the lock so "we'll have to come back."

In other news, Fedora Core 3 is downloaded and burned. I backed everything up as well. And, for added insurance, I downloaded and burned a Knoppix CD as well. I booted it from the CD drive, and it works.

And I backed up my home directory, as well as all the junk I keep in /home/local . We're ready to do the upgrade, which will be tomorrow, if I get enough sleep tonight.

11/18/2004 08:57:23 PM (Original link)

Something's Happening Here

And what it is ain't exactly clear.

What I am going to try to do is install Fedora Core 3 onto my Linux box , replacing Fedora Core 1. If all works well, you'll see it all in real time. If it doesn't work, then you'll get to see me melt down.

So what we have is

Not to mention various bits of software that we'll mention as we go along, or when I find that I've forgotten to install them.

So sit back and relax, and enjoy the show. If, for some strange reason, you're not interested in watching dancing red hats, come back in a few days. There's nothing else to see here for now.

I'm planning on collecting these posts and putting them in sequential order (meaning this post first) on a web page. When I get that set up it will appear on the links bar on the right.

And away we go!

11/18/2004 08:59:48 PM (Original link)

Step One

Reboot Linux box. Get into the BIOS ( F2 key) and set it to boot from the CD-RW drive.

Put Fedora Core 3 Disc 1 into CD drive and begin

11/18/2004 09:03:01 PM (Original link)

Press Enter to Begin

It asks if I should check the CD media before continuing. This is a Good Idea.

11/18/2004 09:10:10 PM (Original link)

While Waiting

It's good to have something to read. I'm reading Patrick O'Brian's Desolation Island .

Which I didn't get to finish, since I couldn't renew it from the library and they only have 1 copy. Well, it will come back eventually. I did finish the next novel in the series, Fortune of War , so I know what happened.

11/18/2004 09:22:16 PM (Original link)

Redo Discs

Oh, dear. Discs 1 and 4 passed the checks imposed on them. Discs 2, 3, and the rescue disk, however, failed miserably. Will have to reburn them. Back in a bit.

11/18/2004 09:43:41 PM (Original link)


A new burn of disc 2 failed as well. I'm going to download another copy of the disk image, and see if that works. If not, we'll try something else, maybe even ordering from CheapBytes . In that case we won't do the install until after Thanksgiving.

11/19/2004 11:31:24 AM (Original link)

That Didn't Work Either

I'm made three copies of disc 2, none of them pass the test. I've downloaded the image from two different mirrors, they agree using the cmp command as well as with the MD5SUM from RedHat.

So what? I'm going to try a "net install" first. If that doesn't work, I'll use the disks that I have, and if that fails I'll order new disks from CheapBytes. Hopefully none of this will be a problem. If it is, we go back reinstall FC1, and think about what to do next.

11/19/2004 11:38:48 AM (Original link)

It Begins

It did recognize my old installation, but I want to retreive the disk space I've had for Windows, so let's install a new installation and hope I can repartition the disk properly.

11/19/2004 11:40:48 AM (Original link)

Installation Selection

For now I'm picking the "Personal Desktop" option. What it leaves out I'll install at a later date.

First try "automatic" disk partioning, see what we get.

Hmm. The obvious option here is to "Remove All Partitions on the system."

Remove All Data. Yikes

Installing Grub Boot Loader

Make the Ethernet card available at boot-time, using DHCP

Enable Firewall. Not allowing SSH, web service (HTTP(S)), FTP, or mail (SMTP)

The default is to enable SELinux . I may regret this later, but for now let's go with it.

Default to US English, Eastern US Time zone, and put the system clock on UTC

11/19/2004 11:49:28 AM (Original link)

Package Selection

The default packages for this workstation include:

Add a few more with the custom option:

11/19/2004 01:12:16 PM (Original link)

Away We Go

Click the button, everything old goes away...

11/19/2004 01:13:48 PM (Original link)

Asking for disks

It says I need disks 1, 2, and 3. Joy. No option for network install, yet. Probably at start of installation, so if this fails I'll reboot and try again.

11/19/2004 01:15:54 PM (Original link)

Starting Installation Process

This may take several minutes

That would be a definition of optimism.

11/19/2004 01:16:28 PM (Original link)

Now It's

Preparing to Install

The blue bar shifts, and having shifted, moves on

It's gone. Now installing packages off the first disk

11/19/2004 01:18:10 PM (Original link)

Installing Kernel

Kernel is 2.6.9-1.667.i686

11/19/2004 01:24:53 PM (Original link)

Installing from Disc 2

The first Suspect Disk. Cross Fingers and push the OK button.

11/19/2004 01:35:31 PM (Original link)

Disk 2 worked

Maybe something's wrong with the checker program?

On to disk 3

11/19/2004 01:40:35 PM (Original link)

Performing Post Install Configuration

I guess that means it got everything it needed off of disks 2 and 3.

Now I am invited to reboot

Well, it booted.

Got a "First Time Boot" Welcome screen

11/19/2004 01:41:33 PM (Original link)

Fixing Sound

As noted on , for some reason the sound is turned off by default. To fix this, click on the speaker icon, then "Open Volume Control". Turn everything up as far as possible, and unclick all "Mute" buttons. Now the sound works.

Sound fixed, screen resolution fixed, maybe we can make this thing work.

11/19/2004 01:43:15 PM (Original link)

I Agree

11/19/2004 01:53:34 PM (Original link)

Monitor Settings, Upgrades

You go to System Settings => Display , click on Hardware , then Monitor Type => Configure , then click on the arrow to the left of Generic CRT Display . I set this to Monitor 1024x768 , now must restart X.

That works, though of course I have to resize the screen again from the monitor control panel. No flicker, fortunately.

For some reason I'm running KDE, it seems. Up on the top is a big red "!". When I click on it, it wants to run up2date to fix a bunch of stuff. Then it wants to install a GPG key to verify packages. I did that, I think. Click some stuff and off it goes.

11/19/2004 02:36:00 PM (Original link)

Restore Files

At least under KDE the CDs mount and unmount automatically at /media/cdrecorder .

I also created my local user, for programs I don't want in my own user directory but which don't need to run as root.

11/19/2004 03:05:02 PM (Original link)

My files copied

Well, enough of them so that I can run Firefox properly, and have my tcsh shell preferences set correctly.

After I get the local files set up, I'll start looking for things that haven't been installed with Fedora Core. First off, we need mplayer and xine , not to mention plugger , ee . Most importantly, fvwm so I can use the window manager I want rather than KDE or Gnome.

There are probably a few other things, as well. I'll document the installation of each one of them as I go along. Many are in past posts to this blog, so I'll try to reference those posts as well.

11/19/2004 03:50:20 PM (Original link)

An Old-Time Window Manager

FVWM ("FVWM" Virtual Window Manager) is still my favorite . I downloaded new versions of

and used my old version of

all available from the FVWM home page . Using my old .fvwm/.fvwm2rc file makes everything work just fine.

11/19/2004 08:14:15 PM (Original link)

Need Flash

Comcast's Home Page reminds me that I need to install Macromedia Flash here. To get a new copy, a Fedora Core 3 RPM, go to . Then

      # rpm -iv flash-plugin-7.0.25-1.i386.rpm 
      warning: flash-plugin-7.0.25-1.i386.rpm: V3 DSA signature:
      NOKEY, key ID 8df56d05
      Preparing packages for installation...

      Registering flashplayer as a XPCOM component in

      Registering flashplayer as a XPCOM component in
      Setup is complete.

      # ls -l /usr/lib/firefox-1.0/plugins/
      total 28
      lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    37 Nov 19 20:17 flashplayer.xpt
      -> /usr/lib/flash-plugin/flashplayer.xpt
      lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    39 Nov 19 20:17
      -> /usr/lib/flash-plugin/
      -rwxr-xr-x  1 root root 16304 Nov 11 01:18

Restart Firefox

It works

11/19/2004 08:29:28 PM (Original link)

Reinstall Java

Keeping with our theme of fixing up Firefox, reinstall our previous version of Java and connect it to the appropriate firefox directory:

      # cd /usr/lib/firefox-1.0/plugins/
      # ln -s
      # ls -l
      total 36
      lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    37 Nov 19 20:17 flashplayer.xpt
      -> /usr/lib/flash-plugin/flashplayer.xpt
      lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    39 Nov 19 20:17
      -> /usr/lib/flash-plugin/
      lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    73 Nov 19 20:29 ->
      -rwxr-xr-x  1 root root 16304 Nov 11 01:18

11/20/2004 10:16:44 AM (Original link)

Font Fixing

Alas, many sites on the web still think that Microsoft's Web Fonts, which used to be available free from Microsoft, are the best fonts for displaying web content. There are ways around this, but the easiest (not the best, not what's acceptable to RMS, but the easiest) way to get the fonts is, as before , to go to and follow the directions.

P.S. The fonts are still freely distributable, it's just that Microsoft doesn't distribute them anymore.

11/20/2004 10:22:50 AM (Original link)

Fedora Core 3 Resources

I should point out that the parent link to the previous post, Personal Fedora Core 3 Installation Guide , by Mauriat Miranda, has a wide range of information on installing FC3. Kind of like this, but thorough, thoughtful, and better. I'll even forgive the mjm use.

11/20/2004 10:28:24 AM (Original link)

Mounting CDs

I wanted to look at the Fedora Core 3 Disc 4 , which didn't come up in the installation process. In KDE it was auto-mounted, with an icon appearing on the desktop. FVWM doesn't do that as far as I know. It certainly didn't automount the disk. However, it is set up to mount with the command

mount /media/cdrecorder/

and of course the corresponding umount command works as well.

Not that much on the disk. Extras, such as alternate dictionaries for aspell, the full mozilla browser, etc.

11/20/2004 10:45:53 AM (Original link)

Allowing Sudo Priviledges

I've mentioned it before in passing , put it's possible to set up any Unix-like system so that selected root users can run root-level commands, e.g. ,

sudo yum update

This will ask you to for your password to verify that you are allowed access.

To set permission, one must edit the /etc/sudoers file. Of course, you have to be root to do this, but even then you must use a special command,

visudo -f sudoers

this ensures that no one else is trying to edit the file simultaneously, checks syntax, etc. If you want to allow user dubya to run sudo, then edit the file to look like this:

      # User privilege specification
      root    ALL=(ALL) ALL
      dubya   ALL=(ALL) ALL

where those multiple spaces are actually a tab. Now dubya can do root's work. Interestingly, if now flipflop tries to run a sudo job, he gets a message that the attempt will be reported. To whom? root gets an email message.

11/20/2004 04:23:51 PM (Original link)

Adding freshrpms to yum

yum is one of the package management systems included with FC3. Adding sources to yum other than from RedHat involves editing the /etc/yum.conf or adding a file to /etc/yum.repos.d, and adding GPG keys in the proper place.

FreshRPMs makes it easy. Just download the freshrpms-release RPM file and install it.


When that didn't work, I searched and found that you must then run

sudo yum -y check-update

to get things started properly. Anyway, that works.

11/20/2004 04:39:12 PM (Original link)

Mplayer and Xine Re-install

Just installing mplayer from RPMS leaves a number of dependency issues. However, now that we've added freshrpms to our yum table (see last post), the command

sudo yum install mplayer mplayer-fonts mplayer-skins

takes care of most of that. I suspect that I could now do the full update if needed, all the libraries are present.

And, in fact, to get a proper working copy of mplayer I had to repeat all of the steps I'd done before.

A proper installation of xine requires:

sudo yum install xine xine-lib xine-lib-devel xine-skins

So far they both seem to work.

11/20/2004 05:28:44 PM (Original link)


Web pages occasionally call for plugins , programs that perform specific functions that the browser can't handle on it's own. Many applications, e.g., Helix Player come with plugins. For those that don't, we need to add a plugin wrapper, a program that takes another program (e.g. mplayer) and presents it to the browser as a plugin. For Linux the usual program to to this is Plugger , as I did in FC1 . However, there's also Mozplugger , a "branch" of Plugger. Most importantly, this is available with FC3, you don't have to go out and find copies.

Mozplugger does pretty well on the Plugger Testing Ground , so we'll use it for now.

11/20/2004 05:48:07 PM (Original link)


As predicted, Helix Player did not play some of the files I wanted it to play, so I went ahead and reloaded RealPlayer from the Helix Community download site . Note that this version is a bit larger in size than the one I added in July so I'd guess that it's an upgrade.

11/20/2004 06:58:03 PM (Original link)


It used to take some work to set up a hotplug , that is, to mount an external device such as a memory key or digital camera. No more. Just plug the device in, and do

      $ ls -l /media/
      total 24
      drwxr-xr-x  2 root root 4096 Nov 20 09:58 cdrecorder
      drwxr-xr-x  2 root root 4096 Nov 20 09:58 floppy
      drwxr-xr-x  2 root root 4096 Nov 20 19:00 usbdisk

usbdisk is what's in the USB port, so do

      $ mount /media/usbdisk/

Move files around as usual, and then

      $ umount /media/usbdisk

before unpluging.

11/20/2004 10:12:30 PM (Original link)

Well Wasn't That Fun?

The FC3 blitz is over. There are still a few things to install, like putting back the Intel Fortran compiler and finding out where I can get an RPM for ee (Electric Eyes). In a couple of weeks I plan to put all these posts together in one logically ordered file, along with a list of other RPMs and other files that used to augment FC3.

Tomorrow we're flying to Kansas for Thanksgiving. Be back next weekend. Yes, I know what was on TBS tonight. I've seen it, it's a good movie, but I heard the next line at least 5,000 times, so don't say it. No, I don't care which line it is, I've heard it 5,000 times.

11/20/2004 10:51:00 PM (Original link)

Just One More -- installing Electric Eyes (ee)

I couldn't resist. To install "Electric Eyes", aka ee from a src.rpm:

Good night. I really mean it.

11/20/2004 11:10:49 PM (Original link)

One More -- fortune

Same tune, different verse. Install fortune . Get the version fortune-mod-1.2.1-1 from RPMfind . Repeat the process in the preceeding post.

11/20/2004 11:18:42 PM (Original link)

Help!! I Can't Stop Myself!!!

This is getting serious, folks. Fortunately I'll have a week to recover. I need the Gtk-perl package to pop up text windows -- such as the weather forcast. Fortunately, it's available from freshrpms , so a simple
sudo yum install Gtk-Perl
takes care of the dependencies.

11/27/2004 06:07:32 PM (Original link)

Host Issues

We're back. I'll put a trip report (with pictures) up a little later. For now, I want to put fix up a few things involving the /etc/host* files:

11/27/2004 11:44:32 PM (Original link)

Getting Started With Fedora for Windows Users

Found in the Drafts section of Blogspot from way back when. It's still relevant, though: has an article called Fedora Core Getting Started . It's aimed at Windows users who want to set up a Fedora system. Not too bad and article. Way to many screen shots, though. Now if he explained what the user was supposed to do when confronted with said screen shot ...

11/28/2004 07:23:54 PM Original link

Intel Fortran Compiler (8.1)

The current version of Intel's Fortran Compiler for Linux is 8.1, up from 8.0 when we installed it in FC1 . Let's try again:

  1. Go to the compiler ad page .
  2. Click on Free Non-Commercial Download.
  3. Click on Download Intel® Fortran Compiler for Linux . Answer the survey questions.
  4. Click the "register" button and fill out the form. Use an email address which works.
  5. They remembered I have an active registration , but will send me the information I need to download again. They sent me the same license file again.
  6. Download the software (82.2 MB).
  7. Untar the file and visit directory
    $ tar xvzf l_fc_p_8.1.018.tar.gz
    $ cd l_fc_p_8.1.018
  8. su to root, run the install script, answer the questions. Install Fortran Compiler. Accept license agreement, default placement, RPM flags.
  9. Install debugger.
  10. Exit installation program. Put /opt/intel_fc_80/bin in $path . Compile test program:
              $ cat hello.f 
                    program hello
                    write(*,*) 'hello world'
              $ ifort  -ccdefault list -tpp7 -W0 hello.f -o hello
              /opt/intel_fc_80/lib/for_main.o(.text+0x1c): In function
              : undefined reference to `MAIN__'
  11. .

Hmm. The requirements for this version include the use of the gcc 2.3.2 or below, and we're running 3.4.2. I'll have to look into this.

11/28/2004 08:19:32 PM Original link

Apparently All You Need to Do is Restart

When I opened a new xterm window the hello.f file compiled perfectly. I guess just doing a "rehash" didn't initialize everything.

12/4/2004 06:43:07 PM Original link

Does Anyone Need To See This?

If you're dying to see what Fedora Core 3 looks like, but you don't want to install it, then has just what you want: 111 screen shots of FC3 , including Boot, Installation, Desktop, Taskbars, Menus, Configuration, Unique/New Features, and Forum Discussions.

Oh come on, does anyone need to see this? I mean, what is a bunch of screenshots going to tell you. If you want to see how FC3 performs, keep reading this blog.

12/4/2004 06:57:12 PM Original link

So, Is Fedora Core For You?

A friend asked me what kind of Linux installation I would recommend for the novice user, which reminded me that I wanted to address the question:

Who Should Use Fedora Core?

As I think has become apparent to anyone reading this blog , Fedora Core 3 is not for the novice nor the faint-of-heart. The installation process isn't too bad, but the initial choice of software to install wasn't particularly useful for me. Then there is the outdated version of mplayer provided , a lack of certain fonts , sound turned down by default , and numerous other minor irritants. All of which can be fixed, but you have to know what you're doing (or read this blog). If you don't like tweaking, don't use FC3. If you like tweaking, however, but don't want to do the reportedly endless recompiling of Gentoo , and find Debian GNU/Linux too politically correct, then FC3 just might be for you.

What about for novices? I'd recommend Mandrake , from personal experience, but I've heard good things about Ubuntu and even Novell .

The best thing about Linux is that you have a lot of choices. Free-for-downloading choices. Don't like the current version of Linux? Rip it out, try another one.

Of course, the rip it out part of the last line will scare off some novices. Don't let it. Hold their hands, offer words of comfort, help them back up their home directories. And then tell them to try something new. After a few tries, they'll either:

Any of these is a pure win.

12/27/2004 10:28:29 PM Original link

Playing MIDI files

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a standard for transmit information between electronic musical instruments, including your computer. On the Web, MIDI seems to be used mainly to play cheesy background music on certain web sites. Being a glutton for punishment, I installed the Open Source program TiMidity++ to play these files under Linux.

Mozplug has links to timidity in the standard /etc/mozpluggerrc file, but to get Firefox to find the plugin I had to delete the ~/.mozilla/firefox/pluginreg.dat file.

I'd test this setup on the Plugger Testing Ground , but the page has been corrupted. I'll check back in a day or so.

Minutes later: : Found a MIDI Sample Page , which works.

12/31/2004 05:30:58 PM (Original link)

Better Linux Realplayer

As noted previously , in certain cases RealPlayer launches quite a few windows, only one of which works.

After upgrading to RealPlayer 10.0.2 , rebooting, restarting Firefox, etc., now RealPlayer works perfectly as a plugin for the NOVA site mentioned in the link above.

1/7/2005 04:56:09 PM (Original link)

Ogg Like MP3

For various reasons, I needed to be able to convert sound files from Ogg Vorbis ( .ogg ) to MP3 . The default method to do this is via SoX (Sound eXchange) , "the swiss army knife of sound processing programs." Say, for example, I had a copy of the Beatle's "Yesterday" in Ogg format. Then I should be able to do this:

$ sox yesterday.ogg yesterday.mp3

Funny thing, though, is that because of some fears about copyright, Fedora Core doesn't ship with any MP3 libraries. So, in this case, we'd get the message:

$ sox: Unknown output file format for 'yesterday.mp3': File type 'mp3' is not known

It didn't take long for Google (TM) to find a solution, in the form of this thread on freshrpms-list , which tells you how to get an MP3 enabled SoX file. Basically

  1. Download and from
  2. Remove the old SoX files. This takes a bit of doing, because there may be some dependencies:
    $ sudo rpm -e sox sox-devel --nodeps
  3. Install the new files (maybe --update would have worked?):
    $ sudo rpm -i sox*.rpm

So far it works.

17 July 2005: This is one of the more popular posts on the blog, it seems. For those of you looking for an MP3-enabled SoX in Fedora Core 4, I have a newer entry which tells you how you can create your own MP3-SoX RPM.

But wait, there's more! We also have an entry on getting Sound-Juicer to rip to MP3.

1/15/2005 08:15:43 PM (Original link)

Kernel Change "Fixes" Sound Card

So I upgrade the the version 2.6.10 of Fedora Core's kernel, and my sound card stops working. Without errors, just no sound. It's been reported by many , so we can hope that it will be fixed soon. The problem seems to involve the interaction of the Kernel with the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA), particularly with our old friend, the Intel Integrated Audio card.

For now, I can get sound by going back to the 2.6.9 kernel and fiddling with the sound settings via alsamixer . This gets changed by 2.6.10, but you can put it back to settings that work in 2.6.9.

1/20/2005 10:29:17 PM (Original link)

Sounds Better

Remember the sound card bug? . Well, it took an update to alsalib , followed by muting the headphone jack sense (whatever that is) option on alsamixer to fix the sound. Funny, with the old kernel I had to turn the headphones all the way up to get sound.

I wouldn't exactly call this a triumph for open source, since I doubt Microsoft would have let something like this ship, but it didn't take too long, and Fedora left the old kernel around so that I could get sound if I needed it.

1/22/2005 11:25:24 AM (Original link)

Another Linux Blog

Just found, via Blogarama :

All About Linux , by Ravi

It's sort of like this Blog, except he actually writes about Linux. It will appear in the Useful Links list and the Favorite Newsfeeds, as soon as I get around to editing them.

1/22/2005 05:00:13 PM (Original link)

What's In A Name?

A Windows machine by any other name would still crash and burn frequently ...

Oh. Hi. One of the things mentioned in All About Linux is how to change the hostname of your machine from the default localhost.localdomain . I knew this was possible, I was just too lazy to look it up before.

Note: Remember to put the new name of the machine in /etc/hosts .

1/30/2005 11:21:54 AM (Original link)

Your Money's No Good Here

Thanks to the College Basketball Blog , we know that the NCAA has signed an agreement with , allowing NCAA Tournament Games "On Demand" for every game outside my region. And, if I sign up before February 8, it's only $9.95, after that $19.95.

Great! Where do I sign up? Oh, wait. There are these System Requirements:

Obviously, the first two of these aren't going to fly here. I did send a email to the company, asking them when they would be able to take my money, but I doubt it will be anytime soon.

On the other hand, if they hear from a lot of Linux and Mac users, all of whom offer them riches, maybe they'll realize that it's possible to make money off of us. If you're interested in the offer, go to , find the "Problems or Questions" link, and tell them that they have a problem.

2/5/2005 01:01:50 PM (Original link)

Firefox Meltdown

So I fire up the computer this morning and click the Firefox button.


Wait some more

Open a terminal window, give the command
$ ps xawu | grep -i fire

nothing running.

Type firefox in the terminal window. Get back a prompt. $ echo status yields 255. This is Not Good. (You want to see a 0 here.) OTOH, at least I know something's wrong with Firefox, not some weird thing with the window manager or something else that's been updated.

Try again:

      $ firefox
      INTERNAL ERROR on Browser End: Expected a version > 5!
      Version = 4

      System error?:: No such file or directory
      $ echo $status

Very bad. No idea what it means. What to do? Panic seems a good option, but let's assume that it's not Firefox that's corrupted, rather something in my Firefox preferences, extensions, or whatnot. So try:

      $ cd ~
      $ mv .mozilla .mozilla_old
      $ firefox

And wonder of wonders, Firefox runs. Of course, now I have to copy my bookmarks from ~/.mozilla_old to ~/.mozilla, and reinstall the extensions, but at least it's running.

It's possible to do things like this in Windows, but I find it much easier to figure out the local settings of a program under Unix -like operating systems. Of course, I don't know what went wrong here, but at least I got things back to work quickly.

2/5/2005 06:42:19 PM (Original link)

Does Anybody Really Know What Day It Is?

Over on Slashdot they're having a discussion of Sunbird , Mozilla's new stand alone calendar program. I downloaded it, tried it, and found:

It can't be programmed to accept the fact that the fourth Thursday of the eleventh month is a holiday.

It also can't figure out when Easter is, either, but I've given up on finding a calendar which will do that. emacs has calendars for every religion and culture known to man, but hey, put that in a modern calendar program? What do you want, anyway?

My favorite calendar program for X was called ical . No, not the ical you're thinking of, this is a different one. It was originally on Sanjay Ghemawat's page , but as you'll see, that page ain't there anymore. Fortunately, Tom Bennet has updated the old RedHat RPMs for ical, and released them to the public . I took the Fedora Core 2 SRPM and got it to install . Of course, first I had to install the tcl-devel and tk-devel packages, but that was easy, as they're in the original Fedora Core 3 installaton and so accessible via yum . Once I did that, the program worked just as I remembered it from old versions of RedHat.

If you need a relatively lightweight calendar program, don't mind that it's format isn't very compatible with anything else, and like the fact that it can figure out that the third Monday in February is President's Day (US), then try this version of ical.

Now could someone come up with a 100-year file of the dates of Easter and the related moveable feasts? You could start here . Or maybe pilfer the code from emacs .

2/7/2005 10:25:29 PM (Original link)

Digging into RPM files

RedHat based Linux systems, and others, use the RPM Package Manager (yes, it's recursive) to package files for the computer. RPMs can come in binary or source (SRPM) versions. We've covered how to compile an SRPM into an RPM. But what if we just want to get at the files in an RPM or SRPM file? Today I was trying to compile ical on a SUSE Linux machine. In order to do that, I had to pull the files out of an ical*.src.rpm file. But how?

Comes the Web to the rescue, in the form of a Bill Kearney article . I'll summarize it here:

Get the RPM or SRPM file to your computer. Then run the command:

rpm2cpio package.rpm | cpio -iv --make-directories

where package.rpm is the name of your file. The contents of the RPM file will be placed in the current directory.

I never did get ical to compile on SUSE. More on that later.

2/9/2005 08:24:24 PM (Original link)

More ical

When we last left Sanjay Ghemawat's ical calendar program, I was trying to get it to run on a SUSE Linux machine, without much success. The problem seems to be the various versions of Tcl and Tk that are to be found in different implementations of Linux.

Fortunately, a new version, ical-2.3.1, is out . This site has bandwidth problems, though. Fortunately, I found John Heidmann's site , which has source RPMs for Fedora Core 2 and 3 . After extracting the source , and looking closely at the spec file , I was able to get ical up and running on the SUSE machine, meaning that now I can get notified before every seminar.

Dare I try compling the Fedora Core 3 RPM on this machine? Not tonight, but maybe over the weekend.

2/9/2005 08:57:45 PM (Original link)

Couldn't Resist

Yes, of course, the new version of ical compiles and runs on Fedora Core 3.

2/10/2005 08:14:09 PM (Original link)

Riding The Bus

No, not Jerome Bettis. The Internet Tourbus has spent years giving tips about where to go and what to see on the Web. Today's issue (which will be in the archives at some point) has two articles of note:

2/11/2005 07:07:00 PM Original link)

Firefox: Adding Search Engines to the Search Bar

One of the great things about Mozilla Firefox is the search box that appears along side the address box. By default, you can search Google, Yahoo,, Creative Commons, and Amazon. Below those is an option to "Add Search Engines". Click that, and you get to a page which lets you add more engines.

Except that it doesn't work for a standard installation, since the default directory for the search plugins is $firefoxhome/searchplugins , where $firefoxhome is the directory holding the Firefox installation. Usually that's owned by root, and you don't want to allow an ordinary user to write to root. Apparently a future version of Firefox will allow you to put the search plugins into your ~/.mozilla directory, but not yet. The bug report above has a patch that implements this feature, but you'll have to recompile the source code to make it work. In the meantime, to add search engines to the bar, go nicely ask your system administrator to do it. If you're the SA this may be a problem, but you'll just have to trust yourself. If you have sudo privileges you can also run Firefox with the

$ sudo firefox

command, add the search engines you want, and quite Firefox. Needless to say, you don't want to run Firefox as root or via sudo for more than the minute it takes to add the search engines.

2/12/2005 05:34:00 PM (Original link)


Remember the fortune program ? Now it's available in Fedora Core Extras so you don't have to roll your own RPM. But you may want an additional list of quotes. has a wide set of fortunes, including Discworld, Hitchhiker's Guide, X Files, and Forrest Gump. Comes complete with instructions and the index files.

2/12/2005 08:27:00 PM (Original link)

More Fortunes has Calvin and Hobbes and Futurama files.

2/12/2005 08:38:00 PM (Original link)

And I Should Mention

That I found out about the fortune files mentioned in the last two messages by looking at Dag Wieers Apt/Yum RPM repository . Many useful files not found in the regular Fedora Core repositories, and, as you might guess, you can install via yum .

3/3/2005 08:20:00 PM (Original link)

Helix/RealPlayer Update

The Fedora Core 3 announcement list mentioned that there was a security update to HelixPlayer . It got loaded onto this machine by yum update this evening. This means, of course, that there is also an update to RealPlayer , so if you use RP download version 10.0.3 from the above link.

3/5/2005 01:45:00 PM (Original link)

Bonfire of the Vanities

OK, it's been about a month since I installed Site Meter on this blog. As of this minute, we've had 174 views. That includes 20 or so of my visits. Site Meter allows you to block posts from 2 IP addresses of the form XXX.XXX.XXX.***, where *** can be any number. It took me a few days to learn how to do this, and then we had the time of mourning . When that ended, Comcast logged me onto another location with a completely different IP address, so I had to block that.

Not counting me, then, it's about 5 hits per day. Since I only know of two people that check this blog on a regular basis, that leaves three random ones.

So, where are the random hits coming from? Site Meter has a "by referrer" link, so I can find out ...

Surprisingly, to me, most of the hits to this blog are coming from Working With Fedora Core 3 , a summary of the Linux part of this blog. I remember putting the "Working With Fedora Core" (WWFC) pages onto some directory, but for the life of me I can't find it anywhere.

Anyway, given this information I decided to start another Site Meter for my pages on Comcast, including the Fedora Core stuff. I started it last night, about 6pm EST. So far there are 22 hits, which means over 1 per hour, and yes, I'm blocking this IP.

So where are the hits coming from? Mostly from Google searches. Interestingly, Google can't find any pages that link to WWFC anywhere, but people keep coming.

What does this mean? It means that people are desperate for information about Linux. The link to WWFC is often on the second page of the search, meaning that the searcher didn't find the information in the first 10 or so links on Google. I've had this experience myself, though no so much as when I was starting out. Mostly I can find what I need to know on one of those Linux links on the right-hand side of the blog. If not, I know who to ask.

But it's obvious that Linux needs a more readily available help system than this blog. If anyone's got suggestions, leave them as comments here. I'll put the best links on the bar at the right.

4/3/2005 02:12:00 PM (Original link)

Linux, Firefox, and rtsp://

As I alluded to in the Universe in 60 Seconds comment, by default Firefox under Linux doesn't know how to handle the rtsp protocol. It didn't take long to do a Google search for a fix . The solution is found in the Gentoo Linux Wiki , and goes like this:

  1. Find your personal Firefox subdirectory. After Firefox 1, it will be something like ~/.mozilla/firefox/XYZZY123.default , where XYZZY123 is actually a random string of numbers and letters
  2. As a check to see you are in the correct directory, look for a file named prefs.js , but don't edit it.
  3. Now look for a file named user.js. If present, that's good. If not, create it in the directory where you found prefs.js.
  4. Edit your new or existing user.js file so that it includes the following lines:

    user_pref("network.protocol-handler.external.rtsp", true);
    user_pref("", "/usr/bin/realplay");

    replacing /usr/bin/realplay by the location of your Real or Helix Player client, if necessary.
  5. Quit Firefox, if you haven't already.
  6. It wouldn't hurt to delete the file ~/.mozilla/firefox/pluginreg.dat
  7. Restart Firefox.
  8. Click Here ( rtsp:// )
  9. A warning box will appear. Tell it everything's OK, and don't bother coming back again.
  10. A Real/Helix Player client should appear, and the movie should start.

Caveat : this assumes that RealPlayer can handle all rtsp requests, which may not be the case in the future.

4/11/2005 10:27:00 PM (Original Link)

Linux for Windows Users

As found on Groklaw , the Tom's Hardware site has a detailed guide on migrating from Windows to a real computer. There's a part about preparation for the move and a part about installation and use . The example is an installation of Red Hat 9, but they claim to be general. A detailed site for those of us who need a lot of hand holding. Hey, I'm not afraid to admit it, I was needed a lot of help before I did my first Linux install.

5/9/2005 09:54:00 PM (Original link)

Fedora Core 3 FAQ

Hey! A real Linux post!

Here's the link for the Unofficial Fedora FAQ ( ) .

We now return to our regularly scheduled mishmash.

5/11/2005 08:50:00 PM (Original link)

Making a Linux Computer Talk

I'm back from the trip. I've got a lot of topics I want to post, but first, today I read an article from this month's issue of Linux Gazette (.net) , titled, Shelling your Linux box with Festival , which tells you about a Linux speech synthesis program, Festival .

The article has some neat tricks, such as having your computer read the headlines from the BBC News Feed .

However, what I want to talk about isn't in the article. What I want to do is to create a greeting which can be heard online, such as this one .

It's not too hard. In the Festival distribution is a program called text2wav , which seems to create .wav files. Anyway, this works:

      $ echo "Please reed Linux and Things" | text2wav >

where we have to say "reed" rather than "read", since Festival wants to put the latter in the past tense.

OK, that's a .wav file, which is 66498 bytes. I can compress it into an MP3 file using the MP3-enabled version of sox :

      $ sox plsrd.wav plsrd.mp3

which comes in at 6588 bytes. Of course, I should use a politically correct format such as Ogg , but this way more of you can hear the voice.

Festival has other tricks, including a British accent, but I haven't figured out how to use them yet.

5/28/2005 06:01:00 PM (Original link)

Dehighlighting Vim

Although I'm a big fan of the one True Editor , I frequently use a version of vi for editing small files. The vi editor that comes with Fedora is an "enhanced" version of vim . (Don't worry about what the acronyms mean, I gave up a long time ago.) vim has some useful features that go above and beyond vi . For example, vim supports context sensitive syntax highlighting . Thus, if I edit the prototype Fortran program, using

$ vi hello.f

My xterm window comes up looking like this:






        'Hello World!'



        ' Goodbye'

with keywords highlighted. This behavior is default in Fedora, but you can select it by creating (or editing) the file .vimrc in your home directory to include the line

syntax on

This is a good thing. However, there's also an annoying thing in the default Fedora Core setup of vim. I've resently been editing a file with a lot of numbers which include exponents. One way to search for these numbers is to search for the exponent symbol, "E". In that case vim gives you something like this:















Actually, it's more annoying than that. The E is actually highlighted with a yellow background, but I didn't want to figure out how to show that right now.

This annoying behavior can be corrected by adding:

set nohlsearch

to the .vimrc file.

One more thing: I usually prefer case-insensitive searches, so that searching for "bob" matches "Bob" and "BOB" as well. That requires the line:

set ignorecase

There's a lot more you can do with .vimrc . Here's a sample . I'm satisfied with these simple tweaks, however.

6/5/2005 02:02:00 PM (Original link)

Firefox Extensions and Themes

Yesterday, for unknown reasons, Firefox decided to change the fonts it was using to view the web. As I said, I don't know why this happened. At least this time it wasn't a total meltdown . I went through all the usual operations of going to Edit=>Preferences=>General=>Fonts&Colors , and eventually got the screen looking so bad that I could barely read it.

OK, something that's not supposed to be in the Unix philosophy: rip it out and start over. Well, not totally. I kept the current Fedora Core version of Firefox (1.0.4), but ripped out my settings, carefully preserving certain files:

  1. move the ~/.mozilla directory to ~/.mozilla_old
  2. Start Firefox
  3. Set up starting home page
  4. move bookmarks.html , user.js , and chrome/userChrome.css from ~/.mozilla_old/firefox/xxxxxx/ to ~/.mozilla/firefox/yyyyyy/
  5. Reinstall extensions and themes.

Did it help? Not much. I suspect that some upgrade to the Linux fonts wasn't as aesthetically pleasing to me as it was to the author. Eventually, I hope, I'll track down the fonts I want. Strangely, the fonts in other programs, e.g., my Evolution mailreader, weren't affected.

What the exercise did allow me to do was to figure out which Firefox extensions and themes I wanted to keep. As you probably know, extensions add functionality to the browser, while themes change the look of the browser. You can change/add either by going to Tools=>Extensions or Tools=>Themes and clicking the "Get More" option.

I settled on the Modern Pinball theme. As for extensions, I looked over my list and found I liked the following (there aren't any links here, you can find more information on the page which pops up when you want to add extensions):

  1. Adblock : Allows you to delete advertisements (or other content) that you don't want to see. It has a wildcard interface, so you can delete a large class of advertisements. For example, if is annoying, you can use wildcards to delete this picture alone, or*.gif deletes any future annoying ad.
  2. Sage : an RSS reader. Works in the sidebar of Firefox, and uses standard bookmarks to manage the feeds.
  3. Translate and Translate Page : use Google or BabelFish translation services to convert foreign language to something like English. I keep both around as the operated a little differently and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
  4. User Agent Switcher : Makes the website you're visiting think you are using IE, Opera, or whatever. Useful in avoiding some problems associated with using Firefox on clueless websites. However, it won't run Windows programs for you on a Linux machine, so some sites are still out of bounds.
  5. Forecast Fox : puts local weather icons on your browser. Now it even includes a radar icon: move the cursor over it, and you can see a small regional radar picture.
  6. Cookie Culler : Lets you decide to keep certain classes of cookies when you delete the rest. E.g., the cookies that tell Blogger you've already logged in.

OK, I've again gotten things set up the way I want. Except for the fonts, of course. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to fix that soon.

6/11/2005 01:03:00 PM (Original link)

Fixing Fonts

Y'all remember I've been having trouble with fonts in Firefox . After much playing around, I found that had a readable Sans-Serif font. Using View=>Page Source I found

      SELECT {
       FONT-FAMILY: Verdana,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif;
       FONT-SIZE: 11px;
       COLOR: #000000;

Which means that Verdana is the font of choice for this site. Of course, this is one of Microsoft's Web Fonts , but we know how those can be installed.

So then, to finish, go to Edit=>Preferences=>Fonts & Colors and under Sans-serif select Verdana .

Now for a good Serif font. Currently I'm using Nimbus Roman No9 L , but there's got to be something better than that.

6/21/2005 07:41:00 PM (Original link)

Fixing sound-juicer

From our gee-I-don't-have-a-clue-why-it-works department:

I've been ripping my CDs so that I can convert them to MP3s to play on my car stereo system -- OK, I can play the regular CDs, too, but I can pack more MP3s onto a disk, and I can then play the songs in random order if I like.

My tool for doing this is sound-juicer, which comes with Fedora Core 3. Up until last night it worked just fine. Then, for some reason, I get the message:

The plugin necessary for CD access was not found

and the thing refuses to run. So, with a little Googling (TM), I find Sound Juicer... Easy Music, which tells me that

If you get an error saying "The plugin necessary for CD access was not found" when you try to load the Sound Juicer, simply open a console and type in "gst-register" and press enter. That will fix the problem. Restart Sound Juicer and it should load without a hitch.

OK, on my machine the command happens to be gst-register-0.8, which is part of the gstreamer package, for what that's worth. Running the command sets up a whole slew of plugins, one of which (I guess) is for sound-juicer .

And it works. What got corrupted, I don't know, but it works now.

That's All Folks

That's the end of Working With Fedora Core 3. I've started Working With Fedora Core 4, but new posts will appear in Linux & Things first.

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