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Once upon a time I bought a used workstation from work for 50 bucks. I didn’t want to spend twice the cost of the computer for a legit copy of Windows 7, so I tested out a few Linux distributions on it. I tried Fedora and loved the default Gnome 3 interface, which I found simple, clean, and productive, but discovered that hardly anything worked out of the box. I tried Ubuntu and almost everything worked out of the box, but the Unity interface drove me batty (the Unity bar shows on both screens of a dual monitor setup, with no easy way to disable! Amateurs.) For me the perfect solution was to put Gnome 3 on Ubuntu and now I couldn’t be happier. The workstation has become my main computer. Here are the instructions I followed, they are for Ubuntu 12.04, but work for 12.10 as well:

http://www.filiwiese.com/installing-gnome-on-ubuntu-12-04-precise-pangolin/. (Thanks Fili for that post, you the man.)

I also went to https://extensions.gnome.org/ and installed the “Alternative Status Menu” extension (to make it so you don’t have to press Alt to see the Suspend option) and the “Remove Accessibility” extension (because I don’t need the Accessibility features).

s my trusty (mostly) laptop approaches its 4th birthday, I’ve been thinking about the possibility of finally switching from Windows 7 to Ubuntu on a permanent basis, as a way to get more out of an aging device. This is because I won’t ever be buying another laptop. I buy my gear for the long haul, and don’t see the point in investing in anything without a touch screen, whether it be a tablet or some future tablet/laptop hybrid. Touch tech is mature and useful, and the software to support it has arrived (Android, iOS) and will be arriving (Windows 8).

I tried several ways of testing out Ubuntu: live CDs, virtual machines, and hard drive swaps. I settled on booting off an external hardrive. This gave me the chance to test on my actual hardware, with the convenience of making no changes to my Windows 7 hardrive. I spent a few weeks using Ubuntu as my primary system with my mind open, and have come to the conclusion that although it has come lightyears in usability, Ubuntu still isn’t ready for prime time. The value proposition still lands in Microsoft’s favor: it’s worth 100+ dollars for an operating system that supports my laptop hardware.

Most of the time I was able to use Ubuntu just as I would use Windows 7. The browsing experience in Chrome is the same, and local networking functions well out of the box. What got me was the little annoyances. The things that don’t work that should just work. Here’s my list that I plan to keep updated until Ubuntu does catch up:

  • No Netflix – Ubuntu needs to throw their weight behind this one. Netflix is supported on set-top devices, smartphones and tablets that all run on Linux, so don’t tell me DRM is the issue.
  • Power management issues – Ubuntu won’t automatically dim my screen when I unplug the AC. That’s just one of the symptoms of poor hardware resource management.
  • Battery life – I got half the battery life I get when running Windows. This had to do with the system not managing the display as I mentioned, or managing the CPU. The fan was in operation constantly.
  • No Logitech Setpoint – I use a very common Logitech mouse that has extra buttons. I want to be able to use those buttons, but I can’t.
  • No pretty graphics – Windows 7 Aero Glass looks good, don’t deny it. Ubuntu has some transparency, but still maintains a solid grey bar a la Windows XP for task management. It looks very last decade.
  • Webcam support – I got my webcam working by using drivers that a savvy ubuntu user had packaged and published. I would expect this to work out of the box.

nce upon a time my Ubuntu test machine (with an Nvidia GeForce4 MX Integrated GPU) wouldn’t resume from suspend or hibernate. It would turn back on, but only display a blank or purple screen, depending on its mood, and require a hard reboot (holding down the power button for 5 seconds). Turns out there is a simple fix. Of course I tried all the complicated fixes before finding this one, but let my experience save you time. Add this to your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file in the “Device” section:

Option     "NvAGP"     "1"

This does not work for Ubuntu Natty 11.04, which ignores the xorg.conf file.

To take the edge off of my hard fought victory, I found that when I did successfully resume, the system prompted me for a password to get back in. This wasn’t expected behavior, as I have auto-login turned on, and screensaver password turned off. I discovered that this is indeed an unresolved bug, stretching way back to old versions of Ubuntu. No matter what settings you change in various conf files or gnome-editor, the system ignores them. The only thing you can do is simply disable the lock screen. (I know, for some people that won’t be a good option, but I’m more concerned with convenience than security for this machine.). In the terminal:

gconf-editor

Go to desktop/gnome/lockdown, and check disable_lock_screen.

Sources: NvidiaLaptopBinaryDriverSuspendDisabling the suspend and hibernate locks via gconf-editor doesn’t do anything (from Intrepid to lucid included)

UPDATE: To also make sure the system will resume by pressing any key, ensure that feature is enable in the BIOS, and then add this to /etc/rc.local before exit 0 and restart:

echo "USB0" > /proc/acpi/wakeup

Source: Ubuntu Suspend / Wake

nce upon a time I had a week’s worth of difficulty getting Ubuntu 10.10 to install on my ancient nforce2 based motherboard (Nvidia GeForce4 MX Integrated GPU). There were two main issues, 1) the installer couldn’t see all of the hard drives, and 2) the system would only recognize 640×480 as the maximum resolution.

Fix #1

Boot into the liveCD (or liveUSB). Open a terminal and issue the following command:

sudo apt-get remove dmraid

Now when you run the installer, it will see all hard drives.

Fix #2

After the install, run update manager to get up-to-date. Then run the Additional Drivers (System/Administration) to activate the Nvidia video driver. After rebooting, edit the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file to look something like the following and reboot again:

Section "Screen"
	Identifier	"Default Screen"
	Monitor		"Monitor0"
	Device		"Default Device"
	DefaultDepth	24
	Option		"AddARGBGLXVisuals"	"True"
	SubSection	"Display"
		Viewport 0 0
		Depth	24
		Modes	"1280x1024"
	EndSubSection
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
	Identifier	"Monitor0"
	VendorName	"Unknown"
	ModelName	"Unknown"
	HorizSync	24.0 - 80.0
	VertRefresh	49.0 - 75.0
EndSection

Section "Module"
	Load	"glx"
EndSection

Section "Device"
	Identifier	"Default Device"
	Driver		"nvidia"
	Option		"NoLogo"	"True"
EndSection

Use the following to get info about your monitor:

sudo apt-get install hwinfo
sudo hwinfo --monitor

Sources: [SOLVED] Display limited to 800×600 screen resolution on Ubuntu 9.04 on LG Flatron L1718S, Installer does not detect hard drive partitions, Stuck in low res after Nvidia driver install (Ubuntu 10.10)

UPDATE: Just as a note to my future self, when you reinstall Ubuntu and are trying to get your 500GB software raid stripe back up and the Disk Utility is telling you “Not enough components available to start the raid array”, just reinstall mdadm (sudo apt-get install mdadm), reboot, and all will be well.

UPDATE 2: This resolution fix will not work on Ubuntu 11.04 because it ignores xorg.conf, and the current Nvidia 96 series driver (GeForce), does not support xorg 1.10.

Source: [natty] nvidia binary packages for older cards – dependencies not met

nce upon a time I got sick of not having a smartphone. I kept my calendar and task list on my laptop, and when I didn’t have it open, I didn’t know what to do next to make the best use of my time. So, I broke down and got a Motorola DROID from Verizon. Before you ask, I never even considered getting an iPhone, because there is no way I am switching to AT&T. On Verizon, we can get away with having the cheapest plan, because almost everyone we talk to also has Verizon, and let’s be honest, they have the best network. BlackBerry also wasn’t an option, because I hate them. The DROID is the first phone on Verizon that I consider a reasonable alternative to an iPhone. Here is a list of the pros and cons I’ve found so far. I’ll try to keep it updated and hopefully it will be useful to someone looking to buy.

Pros:

  • Giant screen (bigger than the iPhone)
  • Integrates well with Gmail (which I use at home and school), and other email sources.
  • Calendar syncs to Google Calendar, and you can also sync with Outlook (you have to install Google Calendar Sync on your PC if you don’t use Exchange, but if you do, Exchange support is native)
  • Task list syncs to Google Tasks (use the gTasks app)
  • Excellent web browsing
  • Wide array of useful apps (I don’t really care that the iPhone has 100,000 apps, most of them are useless)

Cons:

  • No voice dialing through Bluetooth. I’ve read that this is coming in a future software update. Unfortunately though, this feature lack is a dealbreaker for some people that make a lot of calls in the car. (I put in a ticket to Motorola on this)
  • Touch screen can be unresponsive when plugged into a PC via USB. (I put in a ticket to Motorola on this.)
  • No Flash video support. This is supposedly coming in early 2010. You can still watch YouTube though, because they have published an app.
  • Limited video support. It can play MPEG4 and H.264, but not anything fun like xvid/divx. I have read that Divx is planning android support soon.
  • Can’t view email forwarded as attachment
  • The Android Market place needs a lot of new features to be able to find apps you really want, like sorting by rating, or downloads within searches.

Once upon a time, Sony is again being uncool to its customers. Here’s the situation: most of the VAIOs out there right now have Intel Core 2 Duo processors, which have VT-x virtualization extensions built right in. These extensions make it possible to use Windows 7’s new compatibility tool, Windows XP Mode. But Sony disables VT in the BIOS, and provides no updates that give the option to enable. Its stance is that no past or current VAIO models will be given VT support, but that some models may in the future. Here’s the link: Sony promises clarity on virtualization-free Vaio PCs. Man, could they be more helpful? So, there is no easy way to get VT-x support for VAIOs. But as I found by googling around, people aren’t holding their breaths to wait for Sony to change its mind, because let’s be honest, that’s not likely. Sony isn’t the innovative, customer-centric company it once was. Anyway, the existing instructions on how to do this are so good, that there’s no reason for me to write this up, I’ll just link to it: How to Enable Intel VT and AHCI on a Napa/Santa Rosa platform Phoenix BIOS Vaio laptop. The only things you need to know are:

  1. Go here for instructions on how to make your USB flash drive bootable.
  2. Ignore the part about AHCI.
  3. The VT-x code for the CR231E is 05BB.

It almost seemed too easy when I did it, but it works! Thanks to all the people that figured this out.

UPDATE:

The USB boot instructions link went dead. Here’s another that works: http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/46707-ms-dos-bootable-flash-drive-create.html

Once upon a time, I don’t think anyone should waste time reading this post, because it’s really just for me, in case I ever have to rebuild my Media Center PC again. It was a royal pain to troubleshoot the lockups caused by the audio drivers.

System:

  • MSI K7N2GM2 Motherboard
    • nVidia nForce2 chipset
    • nVidia GeForce4 MX Ingrated Graphics
    • Realtek AC ’97 Audio.
  • Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150 Analog TV Tuner
  • Seagate 200GB 7200 RPM SATA HD

Steps:

  1. Install Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.
  2. Install the latest MSI system drivers (5.10) using the Setup.exe.
  3. Install the latest nVIDIA video driver (93.71) using the Setup.exe.
  4. Install the old Realtek audio driver (5.10.0.5990)  using Setup.exe. System will lock up with newer driver.
  5. Install the latest Hauppauge driver (2.0.48.25037) using Update in Device Manager.
  6. Install Windows XP Service Pack 3.
  7. Activate Windows.
  8. Install Windows Updates, including any optional updates for Media Center and .NET 1.1. (Maybe skip Windows Media Player 11, it has caused problems in the past.)
  9. Install decoder.
  10. Run Media Center for the first time and follow setup wizard.

Additional steps:

  1. Install and configure antivirus.
  2. Change workgroup.
  3. Add/remove Windows Components: take out MSN Explorer, Outlook Express, Windows Messenger.
  4. Set Program Access and Defaults: take out Outlook Express, Media Center Radio, Online Spotlight, Windows Messenger
  5. Install TweakMCE, enable My DVDs.
  6. Use MCE Standby Tool to enable standby, remote, and autologin
  7. Set password for main account, disable Fast User Switching.
  8. Turn off Windows startup and exit sounds.

Once upon a time I wanted to put Windows 7 on my laptop, mostly because I hate answering my wife’s questions about Vista when she uses it. I want her to skip Vista entirely. Putting Windows 7 on and getting the laptop fully functional isn’t an easy task, because Sony makes a tightly integrated piece of equipment. All of the little buttons and gizmos are based on 32-bit Vista drivers. But, with a weekend’s worth of time to kill, I googled and experimented a bunch and got it working. Many thanks to the people who wrote the tutorials and tools this article is based on (see Sources links at the bottom). These instructions are specific to the VGN-CR231E, but it should be similar for other CRs and maybe even other VAIO laptop series that run Vista.

  1. Use VAIO Recovery Center in Vista to create VAIO Recovery DVDs if you don’t already have them.
  2. Boot from your Windows 7 RC x86 DVD (32-bit version) and install Windows 7 on your laptop, leaving the recovery partition alone (click the “Drive options” button when the installer asks you where to install to see all partition options).
  3. Once Windows 7 is up and running, use Windows Update to get all important updates, and any optional updates for drivers (most likely for Display and Wireless Network devices).
  4. Download and install Uniextract.
  5. Download these Sony drivers from the Sony support website (or the most recent drivers, if any):
    • Audio:
      1. Realtek High Definition Audio Driver (REDAUD-12959400-US.EXE)
    • Camera:
      1. Sony Visual Communication Camera VGP-VCC6 Driver (RIDCAM-13052600-US.EXE)
    • Memory Card Reader/Writer:
      1. Texas Instruments PCIxx12 Integrated FlashMedia Controller (TIDMSC-13254300-US.EXE)
    • Motherboard:
      1. Intel Chipset Device Software (INDOTH-13563700-US.EXE)
    • Notebook Control and Utilities:
      1. Sony Notebook Utilities (SOAOTH-41700000-US.EXE)
    • System Components:
      1. Sony Shared Library (SOASSL-13410200-US.EXE)
      2. Sony Firmware Extension Parser (SODSNC-10416100-US.EXE)
    • Touchpad:
      1. Synaptics PS/2 Port TouchPad (SPDOTH-12804200-US.EXE)
  6. Use Uniextract to get the setup files from each Sony download (Right click on the files and choose “Uniextract files”).
  7. Install in this order from the folders Uniextract created, rebooting if prompted:
    • Sony Shared Library:
      1. Run [Sony Shared Library]\TEMPEXEFOLDER\setup.exe
    • Setting Utility Series:
      1. Run [Sony Notebook Utilities]\TEMPEXEFOLDER\SUS\setup.exe
    • VAIO Control Center:
      1. Run [Sony Notebook Utilities]\TEMPEXEFOLDER\VCC\setup.exe
    • Intel Chipset Device Software:
      1. Set Compatiblity Mode to Vista for [Intel Chipset Device Software]\TEMPEXEFOLDER\Setup.exe
      2. Run setup.exe
    • Realtek High Definition Audio Driver:
      1. Set Compatiblity Mode to Vista for [Realtek High Definition Audio Driver]\TEMPEXEFOLDER\Setup.exe
      2. Run Setup.exe
    • Synaptics PS/2 Port TouchPad:
      1. Find PS/2 Touchpad in Device Manager
      2. Update driver using [Synaptics PS2 Port TouchPad]\TEMPEXEFOLDER\
    • Texas Instruments PCIxx12 Integrated FlashMedia Controller:
      1. Find Mass Storage Controller in Device Manager
      2. Update driver using [Texas Instruments PCIxx12 Integrated FlashMedia Controller]\TEMPEXEFOLDER\
    • Sony Visual Communication Camera VGP-VCC6 Driver:
      1. Find USB Video Device in Device Manager
      2. Update driver using [Sony Visual Communication Camera VGP-VCC6 Driver]\TEMPEXEFOLDER\
    • VAIO Event Service:
      1. Run [Sony Notebook Utilities]\TEMPEXEFOLDER\VES\setup.exe
    • Sony Firmware Extension Parser:
      1. Find Unknown Device in Device Manager
      2. Update driver using [Sony Firmware Extension Parser]\TEMPEXEFOLDER\
    • VAIO Power Management:
      1. Run [Sony Notebook Utilities]\TEMPEXEFOLDER\VPM\setup.exe
  8. Download and install mod2wim.zip (read Mod2Wim.txt inside the zip file for installation and usage instructions).
  9. Download and install 7-Zip.
  10. Use Mod2Wim.bat to extract WIM files from the VAIO Recovery DVDs (NOTE: be careful not to reboot while a VAIO Recovery DVD is in your drive; it can make your hard drive unbootable and cause you to have to do a repair from the Window 7 DVD to fix the problem.)
  11. Use 7-Zip to extract setup files from WIM files.
  12. Install from the extracted WIM/setup files:
    • InstantON:
      1. Run [InstantON]\1\MOD-InstantON 2.0.exe
    • VAIO Camera Capture Utility:
      1. Use Uniextract on [VAIO Camera Capture Utility]\1\MOD-VAIO_Camera_Capture_Utility.exe
      2. Set Compatiblity Mode to Vista for [VAIO Camera Capture Utility]\1\MOD-VAIO_Camera_Capture_Utility\VCCU\setup.exe
      3. Run setup.exe
      4. Run VAIO Camera Capture Utility update from Sony website
    • (optional) Roxio Easy Media Creator:
      1. Run [Roxio Easy Media Creator]\1\JP_20070611000000000000000000038\setup.exe
    • (optional) WinDVD:
      1. Use Uniextract on [WinDVD]\1\MOD-WinDVD.exe
      2. Set Compatiblity Mode to Vista for [WinDVD]\1\MOD-WinDVD\WDVD\setup.exe
      3. Run setup.exe
      4. Run WinDVD update from Sony website

Hopefully that does the trick.

Sources: VAIO FW Clean Windows 7 Install Guide, Clean Vista install using Extracted Recovery Image ( On a Vaio CS or Others)

UPDATE: These instructions also work for the RTM version of Windows 7.

UPDATE: Windows Update now has the Windows 7 driver for the Sony Firmware Extension Parser, so that step is unnecessary.

Once upon a time I really wanted to be able to watch Hulu on my Windows Media Center 2005 PC, and control it with my remote. I tried ZeeVee’s Zinc app, but I couldn’t even get it to display, due to OpenGL version issues. Now finally, Hulu has created a Desktop app that supports the MCE remote control, and it works pretty well for a Beta. Here’s how to integrate it with Media Center so that you can start it up and control it from the comfort of your couch:

  1. Make sure Media Center is closed.
  2. Download and install Hulu Desktop. (On Windows Media Center (XP), it will install to C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USER_NAME_HERE\Local Settings\Application Data\Hulu Desktop.)
  3. Open Notepad (Start Menu/All Programs/Accessories/Notepad) and paste in the following:
    <application
       title="hulu"
       id="{1E9EFD13-8440-4af9-A20B-039B07790C32}"
       companyName="hulu"
       description="Watch Internet Television">
       <capabilitiesRequired
          directX="true"
          audio="false"
          video="false"
          intensiveRendering="true"
          console="false"/>
       <entrypoint
          id="{975A008C-BFD2-40bb-984A-4B88BA7613EB}"
          run="C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USER_NAME_HERE\Local Settings\Application Data\HuluDesktop\HuluDesktop.exe"
          title="hulu"
          nowPlayingDirective="pause"
          description="Watch Internet Television"
          imageUrl="C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USER_NAME_HERE\Local Settings\Application Data\HuluDesktop\hulu.png">
          <category category="Services\TV"/>
          <category category="More Programs"/>
       </entrypoint>
    </application>
  4. Replace the instances of “YOUR_USER_NAME_HERE” with your actual user name.
  5. Click File/Save, navigate to your HuluDesktop installation directory if you are not already there, name the file “HuluDesktopMCE.xml”, pick “All Files” from the Save As Type, and click Save. (If you don’t choose “All Files” the file may save as HuluDesktopMCE.xml.txt.)
  6. Download this icon and save it to your HuluDesktop installation directory.
  7. Open a command prompt (Start Menu/Run/”cmd” or Start Menu/All Programs/Accessories/Command Prompt) and issue these two commands:

    cd C:\Windows\ehome

    RegisterMCEApp /allusers “C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USER_NAME_HERE\Local Settings\Application Data\HuluDesktop\HuluDesktopMCE.xml”

    (Insert a “/u” between “RegisterMCEApp” and “/allusers” if you want to uninstall.)

  8. Open Media Center and navigate to More Programs, then click on Hulu.
  9. Enjoy.

Source: Guide: How to Integrate Hulu Desktop to Media Center

Once upon a time I was trying to edit an end of semester group report for a class and I got a little sidetracked. I wanted to install Windows XP in VirtualBox using SATA. Why? Just because. As far as I can tell, there is no appreciable difference between a virtual hard drive attached to a virtual IDE controller versus a virtual SATA controller.

The hitch is that the Windows XP installer doesn’t come with built in SATA drivers for the controller VirtualBox uses, so the installer will tell you that it can’t see a hard drive to install on to. Work around:

  1. Download the Intel drivers and extract the executable (f6flpy32.exe) from the zip file
  2. Download UnZip (choose unz552xN.exe from the list) and run, this will extract a bunch of utilities, the one we want is unzip.exe (you don’t need to use UnZip if you have another program that can get files from within a self-extracting executable)
  3. Open a command prompt Window (preferably using “Run As Administrator”) and navigate to the directory that has both f6flpy32.exe and unzip.exe
  4. Type “unzip f6flpy32.exe” and hit Enter, this will extract the file F32.IMA
  5. Use the Virtual Media Manager in Virtual box to set up F32.IMA as a Floppy Image
  6. Start your Windows XP virtual machine and run the installation CD. When the blue screen prompts you, hit F6 to choose a third party driver.
  7. Choose Devices\Mount Floppy Image\Floppy Image in the VirtualBox windows to mount the image you just set up
  8. When the blue screen prompt you, hit S to find another driver on a floppy, and then Enter.
  9. Four driver options should appear in the list. The second one worked for me, and allowed me to continue with the setup process.

Sources: Intel drivers for SATA and LAN controllersHow to install Windows 2000/XP/2003 guests with SATA supportVista kernel – IDE to SATA conversion VB 1.6.0 & 1.6.2

UPDATE: Once I got XP installed, I also installed the Guest Additions, but the network still wasn’t working, because I had selected the “Intel PRO/1000 MT Desktop” adapter rather than the default AMD adapter. To get this working I found and downloaded the drivers from Intel, and then set up a shared folder and mounted it as a network drive to be able to copy the driver setup file from my Vista host to my XP guest system. Once I ran the Intel driver setup, everything worked great.

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