Helaine And The Penguin: My Wife’s Linux Laptop

To Helaine Ubuntu and Windows are functionally equivalent. To a hacker or virus planter there’s a huge difference. Their voodoo won’t harm her!

Just a few feet to my left Helaine is sitting with her laptop. I can’t see what she’s doing, but whatever it is she’s doing it without complaint. Her laptop no longer runs Windows. She’s running Ubuntu Linux.

After a few pointed questions I’ve come to the conclusion she doesn’t care. That’s great.

To Helaine Ubuntu and Windows are functionally equivalent. To a hacker or virus planter there’s a huge difference. Their voodoo won’t harm her!

The anticipation of this switchover was more painful than the switch itself. I backed up her critical files, inserted the Ubuntu disk and it just installed. Both the sound and WiFi were recognized and proper drivers installed.

Beyond logging onto our encrypted wireless network there was nothing to do. The laptop just worked on the first try!

That’s not to say there weren’t challenges. The current Linux version of Picasa has a well documented glitch that kept it from running. Of course the well documented glitch wasn’t seen by me until I installed it three times!

Some of what I did wouldn’t be obvious to a new user. That’s a Linux problem, though new Windows installation from scratch would bring some similar concerns.

I understood WINE needed to be installed for a few Windows only programs to run. No problem for me, but it must be frustrating to someone who can’t conceptualize why and just wasn’t expecting it.

Converting Helaine’s email files demanded some scrambling. She’s an Outlook Express user. I set up Thunderbird as her mail client because it’s quite similar.

Unfortunately Thunderbird won’t import Outlook Express files natively. There is a separate command line program that does the conversion. Files then have to be manually renamed. Again, not a big deal, but only if you know you have to do it.

I’m pretty impressed with Thunderbird. I hadn’t configured an email program in a long time, but as soon as I told Thunderbird Helaine’s mail address it went into its database and set all the server parameters automatically. Sweet.

The default Ubuntu look is a little utilitarian and dull. The default type is very small. I reconfigured the fonts and colors and even added Helaine’s desktop background from her Windows machine. It’s a little more finished now.

So far it’s running like a champ. It boots quickly. It’s been stable. All the functionality she wants and needs is there.

By the way, all of this is free! Where have I gone right?

I’m About To Perform The Great Linux Experiment On Helaine’s Laptop

I can reload Windows XP and take the chance of it happening again or just maybe I can switch her to the virtually virus free Ubuntu Linux.

Helaine’s laptop is infected again! Though I’ve removed most of the infection her browser is still being hijacked. Google results bring spammy non-Google ‘search’ sites. There’s surely stuff I can’t find. Other functions like sound are no longer reliable.

This virus is so good it managed to shut off Microsoft’s own Windows Security Essentials program! Thanks Bill.

This is not Helaine’s fault! Considering where I found most of the infected files it looks like she was fed an infected Java jar. It probably came from an otherwise trustworthy website via an infected ad.

A day after the infection Java posted one of their ‘too damn often’ security updates. Come to think of it Microsoft was in the midst of rolling out Security Essentials 2 then too. Coincidence? I think not.

I have two choices. I can reload Windows XP and take the chance of it happening again or just maybe I can switch her to the virtually virus free Ubuntu Linux.

She was at first skeptical. OK, she was skeptical at second too. Linux sounds geeky.

Certainly there will be a different look and different programs to use. Her browser will remain the same. Her email program will change.

Helaine is primarily a web browser. She doesn’t run very many discrete programs. Those she does use have native Linux versions or claim to run through WINE the Windows emulator.

Linux comes with a ‘live’ version allowing a quick try without committing to an installation. I loaded the CD and it works.

Tonight I’ll back up Helaine’s files and install Ubuntu. Wish me luck.

Better still wish Helaine luck.

The Penguin And I Are Fighting… Again

You might be wondering why I run Linux if it is sometimes a little difficult to deal with? I don’t know, but I suspect it’s like a geek’s medal of honor.

This will be short. I am not of good spirit. I am fighting with the Penguin–my euphemism for Linux.

Last week I attempted to install a little hardware addition to the Ubuntu Linux computer I use as my desktop at work. It didn’t work and I gave up trying!

Trying to get back to where I’d begun I uninstalled the new software I’d added to the machine. Bad move!

Today when the machine wasn’t working quite right I rebooted only to find the Internet was nowhere to be found! I probably had uninstalled the software that controls Internet access. The only way to reinstall is to go on the Internet to get the files.

Oops! no Internet.

My only simple choice is to reinstall the operating system from the ground up.

I backed up my customized files to a pen drive, burned a disk and am in the midst of watching screen-after-screen of Ubuntu promotion as new bits fill up the hard drive. Before I leave work tonight the machine will be up and running again.

You might be wondering why I run Linux if it is sometimes a little difficult to deal with? I don’t know, but I suspect it’s like a geek’s medal of honor.

What’s Up With Stef’s Laptop And Can You Help?

Is is from the infection? Can bad files cause a computer to just shut itself off? Maybe it’s a hardware problem? I’m not sure and that’s why I’m posting it here.

About a week ago Stef’s laptop got infected. I wrote about it and how I fixed it. Unfortunately it wasn’t that easy.

Is anything ever?

Almost immediately after the repair her computer began spontaneously shutting down. It’s boom–lights out for no reason! This happens in safe and normal modes. It just shuts do
and goes silent. Both the battery and AC adapter seem fine.

Is is from the infection? Can bad files cause a computer to just shut itself off?

Maybe it’s a hardware problem?

I’m not sure and that’s why I’m posting it here. Maybe you know?

Here’s my plan to troubleshoot. I’ll download a Linux distribution which can be run directly of a CD. None of what’s on her hard drive will be used. Then I can just let the computer sit and see what happens. If it continues to turn itself off the problem is hardware and on an out-of-warranty laptop that means death!

I’m looking for suggestions, if you have any.

The Penguin And I Are At It Again!

This is hardcore geek work. I’m performing tasks that resemble scenes from “War Games.” I inserted a disk and within seconds the screen was full of scrolling text.

The penguin and I are at it again. This is like Ali-Frazier!

If you missed it earlier the Linux operating system is referred to as the penguin here. My homebuilt DVR runs atop Linux. Unfortunately part of the DVR isn’t working. I am too crazed to allow that.

Mythbuntu is the distribution that’s causing the trouble. I read somewhere (though I haven’t been able to find it since) MythDora supports my capture card and fixes my problem. We’ll see.

This is hardcore geek work. I’m performing tasks that resemble scenes from “War Games.” I inserted a disk and within seconds the screen was full of scrolling text.

Why is it there when it goes by so fast it can’t be read? Got me. It just does.

This is a net install. I burned a smaller file–just enough to get the computer running. My job is done. It will now go online and find whatever else is needed. The autonomous computer is currently installing 194 Mb of “fluid-soundfont-lite-patches-3.1.-4.fc12.noarch.” That’s file 65 of 1457. Isn’t that the one they download to take over the Earth?

This will take a while. I might go to sleep and let it work quietly then pick it up in the morning (by which I mean afternoon).

It partially worked before I attempted this. It’s only fair I get at least that far tomorrow.

You And The Penguin Aren’t Getting Along

I’m like the guys who built hot rods in the 50s and 60s–just with computers. That’s why I’m rebuilding something that worked fine, but could be coaxed to work finer.

“You and the penguin aren’t getting along.” It was Helaine. “I can tell.” She’s psychic about these things.

The penguin is ‘Fox housetalk’ for Linux, a computer operating system that’s sparsely used by folks at home. It is atop Linux that MythTV, my DVR software sits.

I know. This is really geeky. It’s my fun… when the penguin and I are speaking.

It hasn’t been good this weekend. Computers aren’t suppose to give you a different answer when doing the same thing multiple times. This Ubuntu Linux install did.

I’m a scrounger. I’m like the guys who built hot rods in the 50s and 60s–just with computers. That’s why I’m rebuilding something that worked fine, but could be coaxed to work finer.

I’m in the midst of rebuilding my DVR. It moved into a faster box, got a software update and acquired a digital tuner. I should be able to record non-scrambled high def shows in high def.

The problem is none of the digital station recording works! When it’s time to scan for channels it merely rolls through the dial without locking onto one. I can still record ‘old fashioned’ TV, but that’s not the point.

Others have had this problem and solved it. I will too.

At the moment it’s driving me a little crazy.

Meanwhile this newly assembled machine means two very old and now gutted computers will be thrown out. Though both are worthless the act itself pains me. It seems so wrong. It would be like throwing out wire or cable. You just don’t.