Category Archives: Ubuntu

Configuring the Plustek Opticslim m12 for Ubuntu

After six months or so of being wowed by a little portable scanner in a doctor’s office, the spouse and I finally decided to buy one.  I wanted one that’s compatible with Ubuntu, since that’s our main OS around home, so I did a little research, and found some info about the Plustek Opticslim m12 (it’s the same model that the “NeatReceipts” company rebrands for their own scanners).

Found one on Ebay, bought it (for 1/3 of the price of a NeatReceipts model), and plugged it in… and of course it didn’t work.  This is the world of Ubuntu with proprietary peripherals, of course.  The “Simple Scan” program that’s built-into Ubuntu recognized the make and model, oddly enough, but it wouldn’t scan, throwing up an error message whenever I tried.

I did a little bit of searching, and found a site that talked about it: http://www.fishandcross.com/blog/?p=844

Apparently, all you need to do is download the driver file mentioned from the site at http://gkall.hobby.nl/gt6816-07b3-0412.html and copy it to your /usr/share/sane/gt68xx folder.  Then, just start up the Simple Scan program again, and scan away!  Works really well — doesn’t auto-crop or anything like the provided Windows software does, but that’s cool.  I’ll take it.

To Visitors:  If you’re visiting this page, trying to find information about how to get this scanner to work, and you’re trying it years after this article was written, I can’t guarantee these instructions will work — if you know Ubuntu, stuff changes from version to version sometimes.  Hacks and fixes that’ll work one year won’t always work the next.

Configuring a Server with Ubuntu Desktop

I’ve been getting an Ubuntu server running recently (FINALLY), and in order to make it run headless (without keyboard, mouse, or monitor), there’s a few things one needs to do:

1) Enable Auto-Logins (optional)

All depends upon how you set things up, but you may want to run everything easily through a default user account — just go to “System > Administration > Login Screen”, and set it up.  (These instructions are for the GUI of Ubuntu, of course — I’m not a CLI-queen, and would rather edit things quickly through an interface that I’m familiar with than search forums for hours trying to find the esoteric commands necessary to do this stuff manually, sorry.)

2) Enabling Networking With Automatic User Login

Now, you may have set up automatic logins, but noticed that you always have to enter in your account password manually anyway once your network tries to connect — took me a while to figure out this one, but just go to “System > Preferences > Network Connections”, and in the type of connection you’ll be using, make sure the option for “Available to all users” is selected at the bottom.  That’s it.  I feel dumb for not figuring this out long ago.


3) Enabling VNC to Run Headless

As per the instructions I found here, you have to

  1. Edit “/etc/gdm/Init/Default” to include the line “/usr/lib/vino/vino-server &” right before “exit 0”
  2. Edit “/etc/gdm/custom.conf” (or “/etc/gdm/gdm.conf” if older than Ubuntu 10.04) and add “KillInitClients=false” — this will prevent any existing VNC clients from being killed if you do login on the server physically
  3. Do a “sudo vino-preferences” and enable the necessary stuff

More to come, including the Minecraft configuration scripts!

Adobe Acrobat Not Printing on Linux?

Just installed Adobe Acrobat on linux and it’s not printing?  Just giving you a crappy error message when you try to print?

When you print, instead of selecting the default printer, just select “custom” and type “/usr/bin/lp” into the box that appears to the right.  Printing will continue normally.

Just one more thing in the list of easy fixes that never make it into releases of Linux.

[via Can print from most apps, but not from Acrobat reader, and not duplex from Evince – Linux Forums]

Installing the Brother HL-2270DW Printer on Ubuntu 10.04

Brother, I appreciate that you at least made an attempt at providing Linux installation files, even going so far as to provide .DEB and .RPM files.

However, none of the solutions works, and even on my version of Linux, Ubuntu 10.04, probably the most common one around, the .DEB files did next to nothing.  They didn’t setup Ubuntu’s printer configuration so that the printer showed, nor did they enable the drivers to be found when I tried to install the printer manually. (The Brother HL-2270DW is apparently so new that Ubuntu doesn’t have any default drivers in its repositories.)

What did work?  Selecting HL-2170W from the default drivers list in Ubuntu.  Seems to work fine! :P

Installing Notes 8.5.1 on Ubuntu 10.04

In short: it works, after a tiny bit of extra configuration (of course!). It took me a while to find out the answers about how to get this to work, but here you go, paraphrased from the LDD:

1) First of all, get your Notes .DEB file and install it.  If you get a message about a dependency that can’t be fulfilled, just search for the name of the library on google — you’ll find a link to it right away (usually on Ubuntu’s servers, directly). Download it and install it, and then restart the Notes .DEB.  (In my case it was libgnome-desktop-2 — perhaps Notes 8.5.1 is looking for a few Ubuntu 8.04 libs?)

2) When it’s done installing, download the file from this location, and unpack it:

http://linux-aha.de/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/notes_libs_karmic.tgz

3) There are four files contained therein.

libgdk-x11-2.0.so.0
libgdk_pixbuf-2.0.so.0
libgdk_pixbuf_xlib-2.0.so.0
libgtk-x11-2.0.so.0

Give them root ownership and 755 permissions, and place them in “/opt/ibm/lotus/notes”.  Just a few commands like:

sudo chmod 755 *.so.0
sudo chown root:root *.so.0
sudo mv *.so.0 /opt/ibm/lotus/notes

from inside the folder you unpacked should do the trick.

4) Start Lotus Notes.  No, that’s it — no more steps.

Steps 2 and 3 are necessary because, for some reason, these files aren’t included with the Notes installation, and if you start Notes without having copied those four files over, nothing will display. Not documents, not applications, not your mail file — nothing.  It’s like nothing is being rendered.

At first I thought it may have been a problem with some sort of renderer that Notes is expecting to work a certain way, and since my Ubuntu install was heavily modified and hacked, I figured it was my fault.  So, I started up a virtual machine with a fresh install of 10.04, but no — same problem.

[Related links:]

http://www-10.lotus.com/ldd/nd85forum.nsf/5f27803bba85d8e285256bf10054620d/86db5333ddbe99e985257666003081ba?OpenDocument

http://www-10.lotus.com/ldd/nd85forum.nsf/DateAllFlatWeb/69b50f2db7bb7b0b85257659005ab79e?OpenDocument

http://www-10.lotus.com/ldd/nd85forum.nsf/5f27803bba85d8e285256bf10054620d/303b25b9cfc35789852576620030ae13?OpenDocument

Is a Type of “Uncanny Valley” Preventing Linux Adoption?

I’ve recently been working with a lot of “netbook” based distributions of Linux lately, like Intel’s Moblin project or the Ubuntu Netbook Remix.  In fact, I’m probably going to start doing a lot of my Linux virtual machine testing using these distributions only.  Why?

Because I believe that these types of distributions are the only way that Linux is ever going to get a foothold in the consumer market.

The Facts

The “Year of Linux,” as it’s been thought of for years, isn’t going to happen.  Let’s be honest.  It’s just not.  Not because Linux isn’t a capable operating system — Linux can do everything the common computer user needs to do (which today is mostly just running a web browser).

No, it’s because for Linux to catch on, it has to fill a need — “fill a hole” — and right now there’s no hole for it to fill.  People have been using Windows on their personal computers for years.  Yeah, it’s got its problems, but it’s got loads of support, and it does everything they need it to.

Sadly enough, one of the main techniques that promoters and evangelists of Linux use to increase its adoption is actually the biggest problem — trying to make the Linux “experience” as similar to the Windows environment as possible.  Tools such as Wine, complete Linux distributions such as Linux Mint — they all seek to “mask” the typical Linux environment by either allowing the user to run Windows applications or by providing the same positioning for elements that Windows provides (the main “Start” menu being in the lower left corner of the screen, a task bar at the bottom of the screen).

However, whenever Linux tries to “simulate” the experience of Windows by offering a simular UI or running Windows binaries, instead of actually mollifying the user, this actually has the opposite effect. 

You’ve all seen the reactions.

“It just doesn’t feel right.

“The colors look odd.”

“Can I use the same programs?  What — why not?”

Why does trying to ease the transition to Linux actually repel them in strange, seemingly ridiculous ways?  Honestly, I think it’s because of a little thing called the “Uncanny Valley.”

The Uncanny Valley of Linux

Okay, first off — yes, I know the “Uncanny Valley” is an idea typically used in the field of robotics and other human simulacra (fancy word!) and shouldn’t apply here.

Think about it, though.  Just replace “robot” with “operating system” and “human-like” with “Windows-like,” and it’s basically the same effect.  The more closely Linux distros try to simulate Linux, even if they’re being designed that way for benevolent reasons, the more distasteful they usually seem to someone outside the OSS community.

Mark Shuttleworth, founder and CEO of Ubuntu, understood this when he made his controversial decision not to include Wine with installations of Ubuntu sold by Dell:

“I do not want to position Ubuntu and Linux as a cheap alternative to Windows,” Shuttleworth said in an interview with eWEEK following the May 1 announcement that Dell plans to preload Ubuntu on some consumer machines.

“While Linux is an alternative to Windows, it is not ‘cheap Windows.’ Linux has its own strengths, and users should want it because of those strengths and not because its a cheap copy of Windows,” he said. [eWeek]

And I agree with him!  In order for Ubuntu to be successful, you have to get away from people’s preconceived notions of what an operating system is supposed to do, even if it’s just getting away from running the same applications.

The Solution?

The solution is that image over to the right.  That’s Ubuntu Netbook Edition (9.10) — does that look anything at all like Windows?  There is no “desktop” — there are no “windows.”  Everything you’re doing takes up the full screen, one application at a time.

Combine that with a small netbook or tablet device, and you’ve got a winner.  The user, having bought a small (properly marketed) netbook or tablet isn’t going to be thinking of Windows, since in their mind Windows is “something that runs on laptops or desktops or my work computer.”

Conclusion

This is the “hole” that Linux can fill — a useful operating system for a device bigger than a phone, but smaller than a desktop computer (or large laptop).  Microsoft doesn’t have much to fill this need right now — Windows XP (though still capable) is getting incredibly long in the tooth, and Windows Vista running on the typical Atom-based netbook is… a bad experience, to say the least.

Users today are already used to cell phones with their decidedly non-Windows UI;  they’re already used to their DVR’s with their non-Windows UI;  they’re already used to their car’s built-in navigation system.  Stretching this acceptance for non-Windows systems to netbooks and tablets really shouldn’t be all that hard — hell, even just calling them “netbooks” instead of “laptops” is a damn good start (and that’s why I’ve never had a problem with the name “netbook” like some have).

The New Dell mini10 Prominently Displays Ubuntu

This is the screen you get when you’re buying a mini10 on Dell’s site — some Linux purists may scoff at the side-by-side comparison, but it’s really not that bad.

I’m just amazed it’s so prominently displayed on the main description pages for the mini10, but I’ve always said netbooks are a great market for Ubuntu — people don’t expect a netbook to be able to do everything a desktop running Windows XP can do anyway, and that’s a market where Ubuntu could take hold.

Canonical Certifies IBM Lotus Symphony for Ubuntu Repositories

Lotus Symphony wiki

Well, good job IBM! Bout damn time — not only did it show up right away in the repositories, but it even updated the older Symphony 1.2 installation that I had installed earlier.

One problem, though — when I initially tried to open Symphony 1.3, the program exited without doing anything. Wondering what was going on, I typed “symphony” from the command line to see, and it was apparently IBM’s text-based EULA for Symphony that was failing to show up, and thus not allowing Symphony to start.

IBM really, really needs to change that text-based EULA into something else. :P