Saturday, July 24, 2010

Open Source Rocks !

I love the fact I can take old laptops that are struggling to run other operating systems and install a lightweight Linux distro and have a good running computer. I recently had two opportunities where I was lucky enough to introduce  people to the world of Linux and FOSS. A friend of mine was wanting a laptop to get on the Internet and Facebook. I had an old Dell that I was able to set up with Xubuntu and get him going, that was all he needed was a web browser, he will probably never use any other programs. The second person had a post on our local Freecycle board, asking for a laptop to be able to do his home work and internet access. I was  able to give him a laptop, that could meet all of his needs. I like that since I am giving him a computer running open source I do not have to worry about licenses being transferable or illegal by giving away the software. Which the Freecycle community frowns on breaking license agreements.   FOSS allowed me to share software with him, now he is able to do his homework when he needs to and can check the school website when needed. No waiting at the local library for a turn or having to quit early because the library closes. The FOSS community has opened my eyes to so much, the tools to do the work are freely available. The information is available at forums man pages etc. It reminds when I was younger and learning to work on cars the information was out there. There was always someone willing to help you and share info as long as you were willing to get you hands a little dirty, the FOSS community is the same way.

Mecury spreads like fire, what?

I heard this person use the comparison that "a trace amount of mercury in the human body is like a trace amount of fire in a forest"  I do not understand his point. I do believe mercury is bad for your health, however mercury poisons you. A trace amount of mercury ingested does not produce more mercury. Where if you add a little fire to a forest (combustibles) the fire can spread and consume the forest. Fire is a chemical process, mercury is a chemical element (Hg) it is not a process. I think a more exact comparison would be that a trace mount of mercury in the human body is like a trace amount of oil in the Atlantic ocean.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Failed HDD(hard drive)

A friend of mine had  posted on Facebook that their computer was dead. I contacted them and after talking to him, I asked to take a look at it. I  thought maybe it was the HDD failing, by his description. He took to me to dinner for payment to fix the laptop, which I must say dinner at Coco's was quite a fair trade. I brought his laptop home tried to boot it kept failing, it would post fine start windows then crap out.  I ran a LiveUSB of Fedora to see if it would boot, it did just fine. Fedora gave a warning of a failing HDD. I ran GWSCAN to check the drive, it came up bad. After that I replaced the drive with a new HDD and reinstalled Windows. Now the fun part! I told him I would destroy the old drive.

First thing I did was to remove the case cover

 then had to remove the platters

Then to smash the platters!


I first tried to cut the platters not checking to see if they were glass or aluminum. I thought they were metal, nope they were glass sending little shards around. Change of plans I took a hammer and chisel to them that was more fun anyhow!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

New Power Supply

 I recently built a new desktop computer replacing a Dell XPS400 I noticed pretty soon afterwards that my office was warmer. The new PSU ran fine with no issues except it pushed out some serious BTU's.  I decided to replace it with a OCZ ModXstream from Newegg that was modular. After the install there was a noticeable difference in the temp in the room. The CPU, Motherboard and graphics cards are also running cooler. The inside of the case  looks nicer without all of the extra wiring.  I may miss the the old PSU this winter but glad to see it go this summer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fix:Squeaking Antec Tri-Cool fan

image from Antec site
I have a Antec Tri-Cool 120mm fan that would squeak when I set it on the two highest speed settings. That was annoying, I was resolved to swap it either for a new Tri-Cool fan I would have to buy or a 90mm fan I already own. When I took the fanout of the case to replace it today I inspected it for play or odd wear. I did not see anything, there was not any play on the spindle/axle. I thought well maybe it just needed cleaned or more grease.

I took it apart by removing the Antec sticker on the fan that held a rubber plug in place to retain the grease.

The fan spindle was held in place with a Teflon retaining washer. I removed it by using a x-acto knife to spread the washer wide enough to clear the spindle. This washer had a break in it where I was able to insert the blade.

  After it was removed there was a o-ring at either side of the spindle to retain the grease further.I removed the fan blades and spindle from the  body.

  As I inspected the fan I saw long har wrapped around the spindle and a little dust. I removed the hair removed the dust with compressed air and then a soft rag. To re-esemble it I used a little synthetic grease I had, I probably should have used dielectric grease, but; since I was just tinkering and did not have any on hand. I went with the synthetic because I knew it was good for high rpm lubricant, and it is a fine grease compared to say wheel bearing grease. I put everything back as it was snapped the retaining washer on the spindle. I needed to secure the rubber plug, but; the Antec stickers adhesive was not up to the task anymore. I used the Antec sticker as pattern grabed a vinyl sticker  and cut out a new one to retain the plug.

After that I placed the plug back in, I used rubbing alchol to clean the surface where the sticker was going to adhere. Then I put the sticker back on reinstalled the fan in my computer and  the noise is gone. Saved my self twenty bucks and the whole process took maybe 10 min.   I was glad to keep this fan I have been real happy with it, it moves a good amount of air and is not to noisy.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why don't I post my Windows fixes?

I was realizing as I was posting my last fix in Ubuntu how I don't post similar Windows issues. Mostly it is because it does not interest me as much as Linux.  Also some of the things I do in Windows have been blogged about many more times and better than I can. In XP so much of it is motor skills I have been running msconfig and other tune up/clean up resources for so long I do not think of it. Many problems are just GUI issues my wife has adjusting from OSX to Windows 7 and my Mom and Step Dad have going from Xp to Windows 7. Backing up my wifes PC I still use Linux, I use a LiveUSB and  use rsync. I install MSE when I can I like the UI it is simple and clean. MSE has received good ratings as a virus scanner, plus it comes from who wrote the code for the OS. Hopefully they can streamline some of the processes better. One other thing I do, which I know annoys everyone is assign a admin account, strong passwords and standard user accounts for everyday use. Windows 7 makes this much less painful than XP.  Another issue I saw was that HP does not have drivers for some of their older printers to run Windows 7. Curiously enough my Mom's HP printer crapped out shortly after a install of Windows 7, that was just dumb luck. I would think I  would have more to blog about since I just finished working on two different Xp machines. Both of which were suffering terribly from a lack of RAM, malware and the usual clean up issues. I do want to learn more about windows networking below the UI where the config files are and so on. As I read more in A+ I learn more about these issues. I also read a good post on using cmd in Windows written by a UNIX hacker. I believe that is all of the rambling I have today.

Work around for a sound stepping issue in Ubuntu 10.04

My computers sound was terrible. It would step from 0, 6, 12, 18 % and at 18% it was at full volume. Bleeding ear drums please, looking around launchpad I found a fix in a bug report.

This is the output of  aplay -l output

**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: SB [HDA ATI SB], device 0: VT1708S Analog [VT1708S Analog]
  Subdevices: 2/2
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
  Subdevice #1: subdevice #1
card 0: SB [HDA ATI SB], device 1: VT1708S Digital [VT1708S Digital]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0

And here is the fix as I applied it:

1) I had to create ~/.pulse/
so I did
cp /etc/pulse/ ~/.pulse

2) gedit ~/.pulse/
uncomment the line#load-module module-alsa-sink
and modify it to be:
load-module module-alsa-sink control=PCM

3) stop any apps playing sound

4) killall pulseaudio

5) run alsamixer at a terminal and adjust the Master and LFE levels.

6) Move gnome sound volume slider: you'll see that now Master and LFE are not touched and that the slider only applies to PCM channel.

The instructions above follow the fix in the bug report, except I found I did not need to edit this line in
load-module module-udev-detect
    and modify it to be
load-module module-udev-detect ignore_dB=1
If you read this bug report it explains further, why I did not need to edit the line. I saw that there are more detailed fixes but what I did above was the quick and dirty. Which perfectly fit my needs of slow steady sound adjustment.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Final step to play DVD's in Ubuntu 10.04

I have recently installed Ubuntu 10.04 on my Desktop everything went well. I installed ubuntu-restricted-extras package so I could play certain restricted formats. I tried to play a DVD the other day I it would not play. I had forgotten  after installing the libdvdread4 package to run in a terminal:

sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/

I had remembered that I had to do this step, because I had done this since Edgy. Not because of the error message I received something like " the data stream was unreadable". I am not sure people would look any further other than thinking Ubuntu was broken.  I would expect that script to be run during the installation of  ubuntu-restricted-extras or libdvdvread4. No, it was a extra step to be done. to be remembered to be done not prompted. I can see this being a problem for the very average user, such as my Mom. Maybe when a DVD is inserted a popup could advise you to install ubuntu-restricted-extras and that this script would be run automatically. It would be similar to the popup that Rhythmbox gives to play mp3's from ubuntu-one or any other source. I believe for some people it could be a deal breaker when there is no reason for it.