How I learned to stop worrying and love the command line

(I was going to title this “Power Overwhelming”, but the blog wouldn’t let me, said I must construct additional pylons.)

I’d like to point you to a series of posts over at Greg Laden’s about the command line. Every OS has one, and they are of varying degrees of power and usefulness, but in every case, the very idea of a black screen filled with nothing but a wall of white text gives “grandma” users the heebie-jeebies. If you don’t know how to deal with a command line, if you are afraid of typing something into a terminal, then you are missing out on most of the best parts of computer use.

Go read now:

Part 1: The Command Line in Linux, Mac OSX and Windows
Part 2: May the force (of the command line) be with you
Part 3: Underlying Power

Flying Trilobites with Failing Hard Drives

Glendon Mellow, the Flying Trilobite himself, is having difficulties with his old laptop’s hard drive. Apparently the laptop died an ignominious death, and a good deal of information that was rather important to him is still locked away on it. To make matters worse, the hard drive was removed and attached to another computer, where Chkdsk failed and froze at about 40% done, which tends to happen if there’s serious hard drive corruption or physical media errors. So, while I’m about to post about some ideas I have to get data off it, it would be fantastic if you kind folks could also provide some tips and tricks. Bear in mind that the drive is obviously functioning or it wouldn’t get to 40% to begin with, and also that Chkdsk is most certainly not the be-all and end-all of computer salvage tools.

The first option we have, obviously, is to boot a computer from a live Linux CD, such as Ubuntu, then either run ntfsck to check the drive and hope for the best, or simply start copying the entirety of the hard drive off onto another blank hard drive of equal or greater size using the dd utility. Then whatever is copied, is recoverable and easily readable from Windows. Whatever gets skipped, assme it’s unrecoverable. If it copies the whole hard drive without error, but you can’t get the stuff off it, and chkdsk freezes at 40% on this new hard drive, then the problem is in the NTFS filesystem and not the physical drive. That’s a good and a bad thing — it means your old drive is still usable, but it also means that a surprisingly large amount of your files may end up scrambled (up to and including everything after that 40% mark).

I’ll post a bunch of links in the comments to commercial and non-commercial sites that may have useful Windows-based utilities once I’m done my posting-dump.

i can haz site bak now plz?

Hostpapa has been having some problems over the past several days due to power outages at their data centre stemming from lightning storms in the area. The site was apparently up last night (as evidenced by the seven new messages in my e-mail, five of which going into the moderation queue from Zdenny), but this morning, as I went to respond to sinned34 in the Linux WoW post, it all fell over again. I’m not pleased, to say the least.

I am, however, more than pleased that multiple folks inquired as to what was going on. I apologize for the inconvenience this has posed to those of you that had ongoing conversations or my site in your blogrolls causing slowdown in your own page loads. I suppose this is what I get for only springing for pretty well the cheapest hosting package ever.

Now, to post the stuff I wrote earlier today in Gedit. Yes, yes, I know, I’m addicted as hell. If there is further spottiness, have patience, my minions.

World of Tuxcraft

Over the past week, I’ve been wrestling with a few computers in an attempt to prove Linux is perfectly capable, with the help of WINE, of maintaining the flow of internet crack into your intravenous drips. A number of people I’ve spoken with regarding their being fed up with Windows, have said unequivocally that “if Linux could play games, I’d switch in a second”.

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It has become aware of its surroundings

Microsoft is reported to have included Red Hat and Canonical in its latest SEC filing, listing them as potential threats to their future solvency. SEC filings require companies to list all potential threats and major competition as a matter of law, so nobody is caught unawares when a company suddenly succumbs to competition from a previously unknown source.

Apparently, when netbooks came out of the blue and Linux was making massive headway on them before Microsoft could get their acts together and strip down XP to the point where it’d actually work on them, it rattled the behemoth and they realized that complacency leads to areas in which they are not dominant. The fact that they had to play a dirty game of catch-up just to make up lost ground proves how vulnerable they are in the realm of early adoption. As though their original stance on the internet — as being “just a passing fad” — wasn’t proof enough.

So, now that they’re admitting Linux is a threat to them, does that mean people will start taking their overtures of friendship with a grain of salt? Distrust of Microsoft has never gotten anyone in trouble, after all. Misplaced trust, however, most assuredly has.

I have an ambitious plan for Sunday

Big plans for this Sunday, all of which revolving around one particular computer. First, we go over to Sara’s mom’s house sometime in the morning. Sam, Sara’s sister, wants to upgrade their Dell Dimension 5150, and also to reinstall Windows to get rid of some long lingering issues. My plan is, first I’ll assess the computer situation, make a quick backup of everything on their desktop’s hard drive, then get caffeinated while this is happening. I’ll also check out the RAM specifications, and make sure that the computer’s capable of installing more, and figure out exactly what kind. Sam and Jodi will likely make a trip to Staples to obtain some replacement / upgrade RAM; I may or may not come with.

Then, the plan is to repartition the 230 gig drive. I plan on setting up XP on about 80 gigs, and porting over Sam’s documents and programs (as much as I can manage anyway — with particular focus on World of Warcraft). Then, I’ll be setting up a roughly 100 gig drive for all the Documents and Settings folders for the various users on the computer. This drive will be separate from her Windows drive for a very good reason — Windows needs to be reformatted very often in general, and it would be nice for her to not have to worry too much about losing documents in the future. Also, I will be setting up a Linux on another partition.

Yeah, that’s right. Ubuntu, of course. And this is at her own request, as Jodi did a brilliant job of proselytizing and sharing the Good News about open-source software, winning us another convertee who will no longer go to Blue Screen of Death when she dies. ONE OF US, ONE OF US.


So yeah, Linux. Separate home partition, will also set up WINE and try to get WoW working under it. Back when I played, I had to recompile WINE with a tiny bit of hacked code, to compensate for a minor bug where you couldn’t click on monsters and have the focus follow them. By minor, I mean pretty major. Luckily this is long since rectified, as it’s been about three years since I played WoW and WINE has since had its 1.0 release and subsequent bugfixes even after that.

As I understand, this new WINE even has good enough DirectX capabilities that you no longer have to set it to OpenGL mode, as I did back when I was hooked. Which is good, because OpenGL apparently can’t do the shadow effects in WoW presently. I’m guessing those effects just haven’t been coded for yet, as the same issue exists when running WoW on a Mac. Why they didn’t just code it for OpenGL first, I don’t know. Oh wait, I DO know, it’s because Microsoft makes their toolkit for Windows the de facto standard by making it the best one, and implementing only a very very old OpenGL standard. But I’m not bitter.

So yeah. Ambitious plans. Reformat, back everything up, reinstall Windows, partition, install Linux, and get WoW working on both sides. And all I ask in return is food and caffeine. It’ll be fun!

MS’ duplicitous “olive branch” to Linux is aimed at the backs of our collective skulls

Recently, Microsoft got a good deal of press for having open-sourced its Hyper-V drivers for Linux, releasing them under the GPL v2 even. To anyone paying attention to Microsoft’s earlier rhetoric about the GPL being “un-american“, this is surprising news. To those of us who know what’s actually going on underneath the finely crafted patina of a sudden change of heart, this move is every bit as cynical as every other Microsoft has ever taken.

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How to make the Bible way more interesting

I heartily approve of this use of the Linux swiss-army-knife command, sed, to “fix” the King James version of the Bible so that it reads as though it was written by HP Lovecraft. This stands as a testament as to just how easily one can mix and match terms from one work of fiction with another work of fiction and still have it fit the mythos you’re expecting it to fit — that is, if you’re in the correct mindset and are looking for similarities. You could probably do the same with Greek mythology, replacing Dionysus and Helios with Jesus, and you’d find enough alike that it would seem uncanny.

An example of the output from this script:

And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the madness of Cthulhu appeared unto all the congregation.
And Cthulhu spake unto Abdul Alhazred and unto Aaron, saying,
Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.

You’ve probably already read this as this was just linked on Pharyngula. But roughly half of you won’t be able to do it, as you don’t have immediate access to a Linux box. So, I’m volunteering to take requests. Pick your favorite Bible verse, and I’ll give you what it translates as. For instance:

Ge6:7 And Cthulhu said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Ge28:16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely Cthulhu is in this place; and I knew it not.
Ge28:17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of Cthulhu, and this is the gate of R’lyeh.

Fun for the whole family, until we’re Cthulhu food that is. Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Oh COME ON, Elections Canada!

POST #300! Didn’t even notice until after I posted it! This is like a geek version of a car odometer rollover.

After the results of their latest election post-mortem, in an effort to ramp up the amount of participation in our electoral process, Elections Canada wants to set up voting over the internet. Boy howdy will that ever increase participation. Probably get well over 100% turnout, in fact!
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Lose the CD library, fellow troubleshooters!

One thing I have always hated about being an IT guy is being expected to have CDs on hand for a million pieces of software (Microsoft, especially!), to be ready for any occasion when called on to do some bit of troubleshooting. Partly because CDs are bulky and there’s too damn many of them to have to lug around “just in case”, but mostly because CDs are way too fragile a media to have to rely upon when you’re expected to keep 150+ computers operational. As always, I have a fix for this.

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