Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Best of 2005: October

Here are the best posts from my personal newsletter for October 2005: * * * * * Steven Wright Thoughts I got pulled over by a cop, and he said, "Do you know the speed limit here is 50 miles per hour?" So I said, "Oh, that's OK, I'm not going that far." My dental hygienist is cute. Every time I visit, I eat a whole package of Oreo cookies while waiting in the lobby. Sometimes she has to cancel the rest of the afternoon's appointments. I have two very rare photographs. One is a picture of Houdini locking his keys in his car. The other is a rare photograph of Norman Rockwell beating up a child. I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died. I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn't park anywhere near the place. What's another word for Thesaurus? When I get real bored, I like to drive downtown and get a great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I'm leaving. When I was crossing the border into Canada, they asked if I had any firearms with me. I said, "Well, what do you need?" I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don't know what to feed it. A beautiful woman moved in next door. So I went over and returned a cup of sugar. She said, "You didn't borrow this." I said, " I will!" When I turned two I was really anxious, because I'd doubled my age in a year. I thought, if this keeps up, by the time I'm six I'll be ninety. * * * * * Late-Night Political News from About.com "Some conservatives are upset with President Bush's Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers because she donated $1,000 to Al Gore's campaign in 1988. In response she said, Come on, we all did embarrassing things in the '80s." --Conan O'Brien "A lot of Republicans are baffled by this choice. You can't really blame them. I mean, think about it. We have a more rigorous selection process on 'The Apprentice' than we do on the Supreme Court. At least let her get grilled by Trump." --Jay Leno "Welcome to the 'Late Show,' ladies and gentlemen. It's like the Supreme Court, anyone can get in here." --David Letterman "President Bush has pledged to grant millions of dollars in tax breaks to national casino companies rushing to rebuild casinos along the Gulf Coast, giving residents who haven't already lost their house a chance to do so." --Daily Show commentator Lewis Black "A White House spokesman announced today that Vice President Dick Cheney's recovery is exceeding his doctor's expectations. You know what that means? He's still alive." --Jay Leno "Pakistan had one of the worst natural disasters ever, up to 50,000 people dead after an earthquake this week. But of course it's not a resort, no supermodels like the tsunami, so it doesn't really get covered. But other nations are trying to help. They've offered food, medicine, corpse-sniffing dogs. New Orleans sent a volunteer team of cops to beat the crap out of survivors." --Bill Maher "You know I love New Orleans, they're vowing to hold Mardi Gras this year come hell or -- no pun -- high water. This is interesting, they've always had a Mardi Gras drink called the Hurricane. They're not going to serve that this year, but they've got a new one called the FEMA. It's strong, it hits you about a week later." --Bill Maher "In the wake of newly-alleged prisoner abuse this week, Senator John McCain said that continued mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners is hurting the nation's image. Also hurting the nation's image: letting people drown when it rains." --Amy Poehler "Have you heard this rumor that President Bush could be drinking again? Yeah, the way things are going for this administration, I'm surprised that Betty Ford's not drinking again." --Jay Leno "I think the President is losing it. The BBC is reporting that Bush told a group of Palestinian ministers that God told him to invade Iraq. You see, that's what happens when you mix the New Testament and Old Milwaukee." --Bill Maher "A former Marine was arrested for allegedly stealing intelligence memos from the White House. How about that? The guy would get into the White House and steal intelligence memos, and I thought, well, at least someone's reading those memos." --David Letterman "No, it's a real mystery, no one knows how he got into the White House, no one knows how he managed to stay in there so long ... oh, no, wait, that's George Bush, I got confused." --David Letterman "Al Gore was speaking at a pep rally in Central Park. Because when you think pep, you think Al Gore. I have to be careful about this, because Al Gore is, uh, not a dynamic speaker. Halfway through his speech, squirrels were climbing on him." --David Letterman "Over the weekend in Iraq, they arrested the Al Qaeda barber. That's right. That's not like a nickname, he was actually the barber. It's an enormous breakthrough, and now we have a lead on Osama bin Laden's aromatherapist." --David Letterman "Former Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards has taken a job on Wall Street. He's with a prestigious private investment firm on Wall Street. Remember him, John Edwards? He's the guy always talking about two Americas? Well, I guess we know which America he picked." --Jay Leno "In a scathing new book, former FBI chief Louis Freeh criticizes former President Clinton's moral compass. You all remember President Clinton's moral compass, don't you? I believe his moral compass was always pointing north." --Jay Leno "Last night was the Clintons 30th wedding anniversary. You know what keeps them together -- spite." -Jay Leno "Last night's game was the longest game in World Series history. It lasted 5 hours and 41 minutes. And as it dragged on and on and on, I began to think it was something George Bush had gotten us into." --David Letterman "The White House remains steadfast. They said they will absolutely not withdraw Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court. You know what that means? She'll be out of there in a week." --David Letterman "Ben Bernanke will be taking Alan Greenspan's place. People say he's a lot like Greenspan, except not as exciting." --David Letterman "U2 lead singer Bono met with President Bush at the White House this week. Bono urged the president to help the world's poor. Bush urged Bono to get back with Cher." --Tina Fey "Saddam Hussein's trial began today, and during the proceedings, Saddam refused to identify himself. Luckily, everyone recognized him from that time he ran the country for 25 years. The trial was televised live throughout Iraq. Yeah, Iraqis were glued to their TV sets, mainly because years ago, Saddam had them glued to their TV sets." --Conan O'Brien "Saddam Hussein went on trial today. See, I didn't even know he worked in the Bush White House." --Jay Leno * * * * * The Ig Nobel Prizes of 2005 The Ig Nobels are awards for research which "cannot or should not be reproduced." This year's winners: Physics: John Mainstone and the late Thomas Parnell of the University of Queensland, for an experiment that began in the year 1927, in which a glob of congealed black tar has been slowly dripping through a funnel at a rate of around one drop every nine years. Peace: Claire Rind and Peter Simmons of Newcastle University for electrically monitoring the activity of a locust's brain cell while it was watching selected highlights from the film Star Wars. Biology: An international team of scientists and perfumiers for smelling and cataloguing the peculiar odours produced by 131 different species of frogs when the frogs were feeling stressed. Economics: Gauri Nanda of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for inventing an alarm clock that runs away and hides, thus ensuring that people get out of bed, theoretically adding many productive hours to the work day. Chemistry: Edward Cussler of the University of Minnesota and Brian Gettelfinger of the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, for settling the scientific question: can people swim faster in syrup or in water? Fluid dynamics: Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow of International University Bremen, Germany, and the University of Oulu, Finland; and Jozsef Gal of Lorand Eotvos University, Hungary, for using basic principles of physics to calculate the pressure that builds up inside a penguin, as detailed in their report Pressures Produced When Penguins Poop - Calculations on Avian Defecation. * * * * * Clippings Swedish researchers showed a pair of female faces to 120 male volunteers for 2 seconds and then asked them to choose which one they thought was more attractive. The researchers then asked the volunteers to explain their choice. In three of the trials the faces were secretly switched after a decision had been made. Surprisingly, not only were a large number of the volunteers oblivious to the switch when ultimately allowed to take a longer look at their choice, they were actually able to gave detailed explanations for why they preferred the face that, indeed, they had actually rejected. Women who have children out of wedlock are about 30 percent less likely to get married than childless single women, according to a new study. When unwed mothers do marry, they are more likely to land husbands who are significantly older and less educated than those of women who don't have children. Trying to counter its reputation as "America's Fattest City", Houston, Texas, put on the "Tour de Houston" bicycle event. The response was staggering: at least 2,300 people showed up, raising $50,000 to upgrade the city's parks and recreational facilities. Organizers didn't time the cyclists, noting it was "recreational, not a race." Another reason for the great turnout: participants were given free beer and tacos. The most extreme [weekend warrior training camp] has to be a week in Scranton, Pennsylvania, with Team Delta ($1,400, www.teamdelta.net). Besides running you ragged, these vets will, for no extra fee, kidnap you, interrogate you, and mkae you run for your life through the woods while their team hunts you down. [D]octors at Yale-New Haven Hospital ... put 90 people undergoing outpatient surgery into three groups: One listened to tunes, another heard white noise, and the third [heard regular operating room] sounds. All 90 controlled the amount of propofol, an IV sedative. The white-noise and OR-sounds group needed twice as much propofol as the music group, 72% of whom didn't use any at all. Researchers found that cannabinoids promoted generation of new neurons in rats' hippocampuses. . . . Chronic use of marijuana may actually improve learning memory when the new neurons in the hippocampus can mature in two or three months . . . . The median earnings of workers age 25 and older with only a bachelor's degree have fallen for four straight years. . . . Over the next few years, more parents accompanying high-school seniors on campus tours will be Gen Xers, born in 1961 and after. . . . Far more than boomers, Gen Xers are likely to recall college in hindsight as a waste of time and money. The price of gold is higher than it has been in 17 years - pushing $500 an ounce. But much of the gold left to be mined is microscopic and is being wrung from the earth at enormous environmental cost . . . . Consider a ring. For that one ounce of gold, miners dig up and haul away 30 tons of rock and sprinkle it with diluted cyanide, which separates the gold from the rock. . . . Some metal mines, including gold mines, have become the near-equivalent of nuclear waste dumps that must be tended in perpetuity. Hard-rock mining generates more toxic waste than any other industry in the United States.

Ubuntu and VMware: Summary for Now

This is the final entry in a series of long posts on my effort to make the transition from Windows to Linux. I had gotten to a point with Windows XP where I was able to get a lot of things done, but (a) I was having to reinstall the operating system, and otherwise spend a lot of time fooling around with maintenance stuff, and (b) what I was hearing about Windows Vista as an alternative to XP was not encouraging. So I decided to make the switch to Linux. I chose the Ubuntu flavor. The version I installed was Ubuntu 8.04, also known as Hardy Heron. My initial strategy was to replace Windows programs with Linux programs wherever possible. But after a certain point, I found myself mostly just trying to find some way to continue to use my Windows programs. That is, there were probably some viable Ubuntu alternatives that I did not discover or explore. There were several reasons for that. First, I typically knew what I wanted to do, and I knew how to do it in Windows and didn't know how to do it in Ubuntu. There were some cases where that was not true -- where the Ubuntu alternative was just as good as, or better than, the Windows program for my purpose. One example was OpenOffice Calc, which for casual spreadsheeting seemed pretty much interchangeable with Microsoft Excel. Another example was Ubuntu's Nautilus file manager program, which for some purposes (e.g., obtaining properties of a partition, copying or deleting large numbers of files) performed more reliably than Windows Explorer. Of course, having Ubuntu as the underlying layer was generally preferable to having Windows as my foundation: it so rarely crashed, it shut down and started up faster, its Hibernation feature worked faster and more reliably (so that I could quickly resume, the next day, where I had left off the night before), its program installation and update features were smoother and less disruptive, and so forth. It was also nice to have a familiar, alternative way to get to my files and get work done, at those times when Windows decided to be uncooperative (and of course it was very handy to be able to jump files over to the other computer, or do browsing on the other computer, if I had to reboot or reformat or do other maintenance on one computer). So I was able to make substantial changes in my former way of doing things -- was able, that is, to transition a considerable number of activities to Ubuntu Linux programs. But there were also quite a few tasks for which that wasn't possible, and for those programs I still needed to run the more familiar Windows programs. A second reason why I did not fully explore Ubuntu alternatives was that they required time, interest, and/or expertise that I did not have. I probably could have done more with Wine, for example; there were probably Windows programs that I could have run directly in Ubuntu if I had learned more about Wine and had mastered the possibilities that it, or other programs like it, might offer for my preferred Windows applications. Another example, arising at the end of my effort, was rsync. I needed a reliable backup tool; people were saying that rsync was the one for me; but I no longer had the time or interest to investigate it in enough depth to master its usage. Backup was important to me, and that might seem to imply that I should have been more motivated to master rsync; but my experience with backup is that, unless you know what you're doing, you can pretty much expect to have a nasty surprise at some point, when you discover that the program you thought was doing well really wasn't. So at this point I had to fall back to the inferior solution of doing manual copying of whole folders or partitions to some other location. Certainly this was something that I would want to explore and work out at some point, but I couldn't do it now, and for that reason Ubuntu wasn't really sufficient for me. Another reason for my failure to fully explore Ubuntu alternatives to Windows programs was experience. After trying with a number of programs, my default assumption increasingly tended to be that the Ubuntu alternatives would lack features that I would need. Again, I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew how to do it in Windows, and it was discouraging to invest time in an Ubuntu alternative that ultimately proved unable to do what I wanted. My sense, in this regard, was that maybe a subsequent version of Ubuntu would come closer to providing solutions for these kinds of tasks. A final reason for my failure to fully explore Ubuntu alternatives was that there seemed to be some things that would just have to be done in Windows. There were, at this time, no Linux drivers for my multifunction scanner/copier/printer/fax machine. Unless I wanted to spend a chunk of money and time to shop for and buy a replacement that would work out as well as this one had done, it just made more sense to retain my dual-boot version on my secondary computer and use that as my primary avenue for printing and scanning. That wouldn't have worked so well if I hadn't been free to reboot the secondary computer into Windows pretty much whenever I wanted, or if I'd had a large volume of scanning and printing to do. For my purposes, this approach was good enough. Likewise with my USB devices: most of them (particularly my digital voice recorder and PDA) were not recognized by Ubuntu, which meant I couldn't back them up or transfer data from them to the computer unless I booted into Windows first. VMware for Linux made it much easier to take care of non-hardware Windows needs. That is, WinXP running in a VMware Workstation virtual machine would still not recognize my printer or those other USB devices; but it would run Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, and other Windows-based programs that I needed. So for Windows hardware purposes, I would reboot the secondary computer; and for Windows software purposes, I would run the programs in a VMware VM on Ubuntu. That still did not work for Adobe Premiere Elements -- on my machine, the VMs were just too slow for video editing, and therefore I had to do that work in a native WinXP boot -- but it worked just fine for most other stuff. So what I had, at this point, was a two-computer setup. Using a keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) switch, I was able to tell my keyboard and mouse to work on the primary computer or, by tapping the ScrollLock key twice, I could instead tell it to turn to the secondary computer. (For this and other items discussed in this post, search my blog for the term that interests you. In most cases, you'll probably find a more detailed description.) Using another KVM switch, I was able to punch a button and tell the secondary monitor whether to show part of what was happening on the primary computer (in, that is, a multiple-monitor arrangement, in tandem with my primary monitor) or, instead, to show everything that was happening on the secondary computer. Both of these computers were dual-boot WinXP and Hardy Heron setups. On both, I mostly used Ubuntu to run Firefox for my web browsing. (FF 3 was not working well when I tried it, during this process.) On the primary computer, I used VMware to run nine different virtual machines. Most of them were allocated 1GB of RAM (two were just 512MB) and 15GB of disk space (the smaller ones got just 10GB). I had enough RAM to run four or more of them at once, but almost never did, because the hard drive would just be running constantly, trying to keep up -- and anyway, it was more efficient for me to reduce my focus to just a few projects until I reached a point in my work where I would want to suspend one and resume another. I created those machines in the first place by using VMware Converter to convert my nearly perfect basic Windows XP native installation (hint: don't enable or perform updates) into a working virtual machine, which I then enhanced with updates etc. from within the safety (I hoped) of a virtual machine running on Linux behind a Linux-based router firewall. I hoped, later, to try using VMware Player to run one or more of those virtual machines on the secondary computer, but I hadn't really needed to do that so far. The numerous posts in this series, going back over the past two or three months, mention many problems that I was not able to work through completely, or for which there did not then seem to be a solution. As I become more familiar with Ubuntu, and as new versions come out this fall and next spring, I expect that some of these problems will disappear. I will also probably keep working away at some of these problems on an occasional basis, though I don't know whether I will blog the steps I take to work through them. For my own future reference (and for any other diligent soul who may have been slogging through all this with me), one of the issues that I have yet to resolve is VPN. I need to use VPN to access some websites, and so far I have not been able to make it work in Ubuntu. (Again, a previous post in this blog provides further details.) There were some other problems and needs that I had touched upon previously. Google Desktop did not seem to be working in Ubuntu. I had not yet started trying to figure out how to network these two computers within Ubuntu. The clock within WinXP running in VMware ran at its own hyper pace, maybe twice as fast as reality. I had yet to return to the dual monitor issue, now that I had ordered and installed a video card that seemed more compatible with Ubuntu. I hoped to replace Microsoft Outlook with Evolution on Ubuntu, and I hoped to play around with some VMware appliances (available through their website) and see whether they had anything to offer me. It seemed advisable to figure out a RAID arrangement for the drive that was running VMware Workstation, because hard disk startup and shutdown activity could take a half-hour, an hour, or even more, depending on how many virtual machines I tried to start up at once, and the machine would be virtually unavailable during that time. There were probably quite a few others that I was not able to remember at this particular moment. Suffice it to say that I had spent years becoming familiar with the oddities and workarounds in WinXP, and I expected the same would be true in Linux. The advantage of doing it here was that I was learning things that tended to be on the command-line level; and while that was harder and riskier in some regards, it seemed likely to be much more durable knowledge. Having spent decades using my DOS knowledge acquired in the early 1980s, I felt that this was a good investment of time. Unlike the case when a person had to learn how to switch from one version of Windows to another, I expected my learning in Debian Linux (on which Ubuntu was based) to continue to be useful for years to come. So my present plan, as of the end of September 2008, was to keep fiddling with Ubuntu as time permitted, but not to revisit the matter in a major way until summer 2009, by which time there would hopefully have been quite a few more steps forward in Ubuntu, VMware, Wine, and other programs.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Bailout Sounds Bad

Last December, I observed that it seemed like Henry Paulson had a special ability to say things that were just the opposite of what was actually happening. So I haven't been too excited about the idea that Congress would approve a plan to give him three-quarters of a trillion dollars to spend as he sees fit, in hopes that he knows how to use it to save the U.S. financial system. I was, in fact, aghast at the idea that the Democratic majority in Congress would be remotely willing to do any such thing. I guess the idea is that they don't want to be called the do-nothing Congress. They're going to take action, by God, even if the selected action is to plant explosives under the nation's economy. They're wanting to be re-elected, and then they'll deal with the fallout to the economy after November 4. In saving themselves, it seems they are torpedoing Obama. The economic meltdown is a Republican creation. Now I guess they want to grab some of the blame for themselves. In the process, they will reduce the pressure on McCain, who admits being weak on economics and who has embarrassed himself repeatedly in that sphere. If voters believe that the problem has been solved, McCain's odds improve. There definitely should be a plan to resolve the financial crisis. And there definitely is some time pressure. But this does not logically require that Congress rush to approve a bad plan. Better a slow plan than the wrong plan, for the simple reason that we can't go around spending $700 billion every week or two. It's an unprecedented sum. I don't know of anything that has ever been proposed, in the history of the American economy, that was expected to cost that much. Maybe World War II. The core of American well-being is a healthy and growing middle class, with fewer people at the income extremes. Unfortunately, it seems we've been losing that middle class. That is, the plan should preserve and enhance the financial status of typical Americans. So, for example, in a choice between taxpayers and stockholders, my impression is that the former does include the vast bulk of middle-class Americans, while the latter does not. So I would favor the interests of taxpayers over those of stockholders. And certainly I would favor taxpayers over foreign stockholders, whose financial institutions will also supposedly be able to partake of the bailout in some sense. In short, I would not favor putting taxpayers on the hook. It is the stockholders who wanted more and more profits, the public be damned; it is the investors who brought us fictive finance. It's their problem. It was hard to imagine, but it was possible to swallow, the bailout of AIG. That was enormous. This is ten times that, and much more vague. Before a dollar is voted, the structure of the plan needs to be presented in detail, with justified and specific dollar requirements. I favor the Democratic party, but economic common sense is even more important to me. I liked Bill Clinton, despite his sometimes ridiculous mistakes, because he had his head on straight about the economy; and irresponsible spending is one of my principal problems with George W. Bush. This bailout plan is not common sense. It deserves to die. Democrats who vote for this thing are, in my opinion, not qualified to manage public funds.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ubuntu, GRUB, and Acronis True Image: Restoring

I was in the process of working through my Ubuntu and Windows XP dual boot installation, when I encountered a problem that probably most dual-booters encounter: the periodic need to replace a confused WinXP installation with a fresh new one had incidentally messed up my GRUB bootloader, so that I could no longer choose to boot into Ubuntu Linux. This post describes the steps I took to solve that problem, and concludes with what I learned from the effort. I had resolved this problem once before. I looked at my previous notes and saw that apparently I had used the Super Grub Disk (SGD) to solve this problem. Attempting to recreate that solution, I booted my copy of the SGD and selected Boot & Tools. That didn't seem to have what I needed, so I went back and chose Advanced > GRUB > Restore GRUB in Hard Disk (MBR). That seemed to be the place. On one of its pages, it said this:

Example: ======== Has Windows rewriten your MBR? Now you will be able to boot your Gnu/Linux AFTER rebooting from Grub Super Disk.
(The typographical error was theirs, not mine.) I hit Enter and then chose the recommended Automatically Install option. This resulted in a message that looked like one that had flashed past me when the SGD was booting. Here, it said,
Booting 'trying /grub/stage1' findf /grub/stage1 Error 15: File not found Booting 'trying /boot/grub/stage1'
and so forth. It said it was running "setup (hd0)" and then "Checking if [various boot grub stages] exists . . . yes" and then running stages 1.5 and 1, and finally "SGD as succeeded!" I hit Enter again and then kept selecting SGD's "Go back" options until I got options to Quit and then "Reboot P.C." But no, it actually hadn't succeeded. On reboot, the machine again defaulted automatically to Windows. I rebooted, to watch more carefully and see if I had missed an option. Nope. It just went straight to Windows. I found a How-To Geek webpage with instructions on how to reinstall GRUB after a Windows reinstallation wipes it out. It said to boot from the Linux live CD (i.e., the one I installed from). This meant choosing the option that said, "Try Ubuntu without any change to your computer." Before I could proceed with the next steps, I had to figure out where I had installed GRUB during the Ubuntu installation. One thread said that operating systems tend to put it on the first partition of the first hard drive by default. I didn't recall putting it anywhere else. I guessed this must have been one of those options for which I accepted the default value. So I could proceed with the How-To steps without change. The recommended next steps, then, were to type these lines in Ubuntu's Applications > Accessories > Terminal:
sudo grub root (hd0,0) setup (hd0) exit
and then reboot. I started doing that, but when I typed "setup (hd0)," I got "Error 17: Cannot mount selected partition." I typed "exit" and got "Error 27: Unrecognized command." The correct command, I eventually figured out, was actually "quit," not "exit." Next, I went into System > Administration > Partition Editor. There, I was reminded that Ubuntu (or at least Gparted) referred to partitions as sd, not hd, and I also saw that Windows was installed at /dev/sdc1 and Ubuntu was at /dev/sda6. Another advisor seemed to confirm my understanding that these would be translated as hd2,0 and hd0,5. That is, you change sd to hd and then, starting with 0 in both cases, you assign a number to the letter (a = 0, b = 1, etc.) and a number to the number (1 = 0, 2 = 1, etc.). But this didn't tell me where GRUB had been installed, and I wasn't seeing any clarification on that in the several threads I examined. The error messages had indicated that GRUB could not mount hd0, so maybe that meant it wasn't on the drive where Ubuntu was installed. So, OK, I tried the foregoing sequence of commands again, this time focusing on hd2,0, where Windows was installed. When I typed "setup (hd2)," again I got "Cannot mount selected partition." I then realized that, the first time, I had indicated "root (hd0,0)" whereas I had just figured out that Ubuntu was at hd0,5. So I tried again, and this time the results were different. What I typed was this:
sudo grub root (hd0,5) setup (hd0)
When I typed that, it gave me the same sequence of notes as SGD had given me, above. That is, it said, "Checking if [various stages] exists . . . yes," and it ended with "succeeded" and then "Done." So I typed "quit" and rebooted without the Ubuntu live CD. But, dammit! Still no GRUB menu. I found a Fedora thread that recommended steps to take if you were using Vista instead of WinXP and if you wanted to use the Windows boot loader instead of GRUB. That seemed a little bit removed from my situation, so I went to the next post, which provided a solution for those using Gentoo Linux. Another post translated that one, somewhat, into Ubuntu terms. The core of those instructions seemed to be this: (1) Boot with the live CD. (2) Delete the Stage 1.5 files. (3) Reinstall GRUB. To do step (2), in more detail, I went to Terminal and typed "sudo -i" and then nautilus. In File Browser (i.e., Nautilus), I navigated to "36.7 GB Media," which seemed to represent the hard drive where I had installed Ubuntu. Once there, I went into boot > grub. There, I selected all files with stage1_5 in their names, and deleted them. Then, in that same folder -- moving on to step (3), here -- I opened menu.lst and searched for "(hd" (without the quotation marks, but with the opening parenthesis) to find the places where there might be a hard drive command. Not counting the commented lines (i.e., those beginning with the # symbol), there seemed to be a section that designated the Debian (i.e., Ubuntu) GRUB menu items and another section for the Other (i.e., Windows) menu items. I wasn't going to change the ones for Windows, so I focused on the Ubuntu part. It said, in several places, that root was at (hd1,5). Using the approach described above, I translated that as sdb6. I went to System > Administration > Partition Editor and observed that sdb6 did not exist on my system. So there, it seemed, was a problem. As noted above, the Ubuntu location was supposed to be sda6, i.e., hd0,5. Not hd1,5. But I wasn't even getting the GRUB menu, so I thought the advice was probably correct as far as it went: I still needed to reinstall GRUB. The advice seemed to be that this menu.lst file gave me the information I needed for that purpose: it said that GRUB was installed at hd1,5. So I should have typed hd1,5 instead of hd0,5 in the sequence of commands described above. But that made no sense, because there was no such thing as hd1,5. I decided to stick with the installation I had apparently already done at hd0,5, and change those three root references in menu.lst to hd0,5 instead of hd1,5. While I was at it -- relying, again, on the information found in GParted -- I changed the root reference in the Windows part of menu.lst from hd1,0 to hd2,0, because that (i.e., sdc1) was where my Windows program files were installed. In other words, I was basically banking on the theory that what I needed to do, besides deleting the Stage 1.5 files and reinstalling GRUB, was to correct erroneous references in menu.lst. Then I saved menu.lst and told the Ubuntu CD that I wanted to restart the computer. The machine started to shut down, but then just died at a black screen with a flashing cursor. Weird. I tried to remove the Ubuntu CD, but it wouldn't come out. I punched the reset button and removed it. Still no GRUB menu; the machine booted straight to Windows again. I rebooted with the Ubuntu CD. It occurred to me that the computer was automatically looking at the Windows installation, and that that's where I should be installing GRUB. So I went back into Terminal and tried this sequence:
sudo grub root (hd2,0) setup (hd2)
That gave me Error 17 again, "Cannot mount selected partition." So, OK, by this point I was really mixed up. What if I left root (hd2,0) as it was (not knowing what this command achieved) and tried again with setup (hd0), as someone else had supposedly done? But no, that got Error 17 too. Root (hd0,5) and setup (hd0) was the only combination that seemed to work. I looked at menu.lst again and didn't see anything else to change. I tried rebooting again without the Ubuntu CD. This time, the reboot went normally, without freezing up; but it still went immediately to Windows. I needed different advice. I found some Ubuntu documentation that addressed several different scenarios. The first steps were -- you guessed it -- boot with the Ubuntu live CD, go into Terminal, and type "sudo grub." This time, though, before going on to type the root and setup lines, they had me type "find /boot/grub/stage1." The answer that came back was hd0,5. I was instructed to type this (as I had already done) in the root command, so I entered "root (hd0,5)" and then "setup (hd0)." Then I quit and rebooted. As expected, I got the same outcome as before: booted straight into Windows. I restarted the computer. But when I rebooted with the Ubuntu CD this time, after choosing the "Try Ubuntu" option, I got billions of error messages. They were zipping by too quickly to read, but the basic idea was like this:
[ 256.923837] SQUASHFS error: Unable to read page, block 250ab9de, size d104
Something like that, anyway. I found a thread that went through various possibilities; their basic idea was that the CD or the CD drive was screwed up. But I didn't pursue that because, meanwhile, I punched the reset button and tried again. This time, no problem: the CD booted Ubuntu. I went ahead with the next possibility offered by the Ubuntu documentation page: "Overwriting the Windows Bootloader." Here, they told me to type "sudo -i" and then "fdisk -l" (that's an L, not a one) to see where Ubuntu was installed. That command indicated that I had a Linux partition at sdc6. Say what? That would be hd2,5. Next, they told me, type "mkdir /mnt/root" to make a mountpoint. Then mount the partition with "mount -t ext3 /dev/hda2 /mnt/root". But -- what was this "hda2" supposed to represent? Did they mean sda2 (in their example), or did they mean hd1,2? Their "fdisk -l" produced references to hda2 and such, whereas mine had produced references to sdc5, sdc6, and so forth. Confusing! But they said we could try it out and we'd find out if it wasn't correct, so in place of their hda2 I typed my sdc6. (Complete command: "mount -t ext3 /dev/sdc6 /mnt/root".) That didn't get an error message, so I went to their next step, which was to type "ls /mnt/root" and see what I got. I think the idea of this command was to show me what folders existed under my mount point. The folders were more or less like theirs -- I had a bin folder, a media folder, etc. So apparently I was on the right track so far. I hadn't made a separate boot partition -- all my Linux program stuff was in that one partition -- so, as they seemed to intend, I skipped the part about mounting a boot partition if you have one. Next, they said this:
Now that everything is mounted, we just need to reinstall GRUB : sudo grub-install --root-directory=/mnt/root /dev/hda
But since I was replacing their references to hda with sdc, I typed exactly what they had, except the last part of mine was /dev/sdc. That gave me what looked like an error message: "/dev/sdc does not have any corresponding BIOS drive." They said, if you get BIOS warnings, type exactly the same thing but with a space and then a "--recheck" at the end. So I hit the up arrow (to recall the command) and typed that on the end. It said, "Probing devices to guess BIOS drives." Then it said a bunch of other stuff, including "Installation finished. No error reported," along with a list of devices that looked right. That's what the advice page said I should get. So then they said,
Now you can reboot and the GRUB menu should appear. If you see a warning message regarding XFS filesystem, you can ignore it.
So I rebooted without the Ubuntu CD. I got the SQUSHFS error again, but it was different this time: it gave me only a series of errors and an instruction to remove the CD and reboot. I did, but now I booted directly into Windows again. So we had achieved nothing. They offered another approach on the Ubuntu documentation page. They said you could download the Auto Super Grub Disk, run it within Windows, then reboot. When I ran it, it gave me a bunch of options. It didn't do anything for a minute, but then Spybot popped up and told me a command had been entered regarding UNetbootin Uninstaller. I told Spybot this was OK, and to remember this decision. This gave me a dialog:
Reboot Now? After rebooting, select the UNetbootin menu entry to boot. Reboot now?
I clicked OK. The Ubuntu documentation said to do nothing until you see your GRUB menu again. I did see that menu. I let it default into Ubuntu. But this gave me an error:
root (hd0,5) Error 22: No such partition Press any key to continue
So, ah, some of my editing must have screwed up something. I looked for the "Any" key. (Kidding.) I pressed a key, and this took me back to the GRUB menu. By the way, this was a modified GRUB menu; it had options to edit or reload GRUB commands, get a command line, etc. The last bit of Ubuntu advice on this was to say "yes" next time I booted into Windows using this menu, and that would remove this funky little Auto Super Grub Disk installation. But apparently we weren't quite ready for that; I had to figure out how to fix the Ubuntu installation first. I started with "e" to "edit the commands before booting." Since I'd had WinXP highlighted when I did that, it seemed to take me to the part of menu.lst that had to do with Windows. I hit Esc to get back to the menu. This time, I highlighted the top entry, the regular Ubuntu boot line, and I hit "e" there. I typed "e" again there to edit the first line, changing it back to "root (hd1,5)." I hit Enter and that saved it. I hit Esc then, to go back to the main menu, and hit Enter on that first Ubuntu option to boot it. But my change had not been saved. I tried again. This time, after saving the change, I went down to the next line in menu.lst before hitting Esc. That wasn't the solution either. Third time: after chaning it to "root (hd1,5)," I pressed "b" to boot. Hey -- that worked! Ubuntu was booting up! I got a bunch of command-line details that normally would have been invisible, possibly because Auto Super Grub Disk was still doing its job, but otherwise we were OK. I logged into Ubuntu and went back to /boot/grub/menu.list as root (i.e., sudo -i), to change those other two lines back to hd1,5. Obviously I did not fully understand the translation of sd to hd, but whatever. But when I got there, all three lines were still hd0,5. Apparently my change via the Auto Super Grub Disk (ASGD) edit menu did not result in a change in menu.lst. Sooo ... was all this advice about menu.lst a wild goose chase? It seemed that I needed to make my changes for the second and third lines of the GRUB menu via ASGD, not here in menu.lst. (By the way, the stage1_5 files were back, here in /boot/grub. Not sure what part of this mangled process had reinstalled them.) I rebooted and, just for the hell of it, told ASGD to edit the first boot option, the regular Ubuntu thing. Stupid thing still said "root (hd0,5)." So it seemed that I had been able to boot with a temporary override of menu.lst, and that maybe I should have edited menu.lst back to root (hd1,5) after all. I re-edited and booted this temporary fix so I could get back into Ubuntu and do that. I changed the Ubuntu root lines back to hd1,5 and also changed the Windows root line back to hd1,0. When that was done, I rebooted and took another look at the GRUB menu. Now each root line looked right. So far, the moral of the story seemed to be: forget about everything else; just use ASGD to solve this problem. I booted with each line. Regular Ubuntu worked; Recovery Mode Ubuntu worked (I didn't test its dpkg, root, or xfix options); the memtest86 option worked; and the Windows option . . . did not work. I got this:
Error 12: Invalid device requested
Was hd2,0 the correct answer after all? I tried that. No, this time it said, "This is not a bootable disk. Please insert a bootable floppy and press any key to try again." Floppy -- what? Where was Windows? I used a panic-combination of Esc and Enter to bail out of that. Back at the ranch, the question was where I should tell the computer to look next. Or maybe the problem was in these lines:
map (hd0) (hd1) map (hd1) (hd0)
This, it seemed to me, was telling the system to treat hd0 as though it were hd1, and vice versa. Maybe I needed to edit these lines, too, when I was changing the root line to hd2. I tried that, basically changing all references in this part of menu.lst from hd1 to hd2. But no, I still got "This is not a bootable disk." Oh, but now the thing was really fubar: it said "GRUB Loading stage1.5," and it just hung there. I punched the reset button. We were back to the point of editing GRUB for Windows. Whew. Now, I needed outside help. I found a thread where somebody explained those map commands:
Windows will not like being booted from any other partition than the first on the first disc. You should be able to use GRUB to fool Windows into thinking such, by using the map commands.
Another option that some people had was to use rootnoverify instead of just root. I tried editing this portion of menu.lst to that effect. I still got Error 12. Since I had now seen other posts indicating that my understanding of the translation from sdc to hd2, I was more confident that the reference really should be to hd2,0, not hd1,0. So I made those changes again, along with the rootnoverify change. This gave me the "not a bootable disk" error again. I thought I would try to make some of these changes permanent, even though they were not working, so that I did not have to keep re-editing menu.lst here in the GRUB menu. So I selected the first GRUB line and hit Enter to go into normal Ubuntu. But now, what's this? I got "Error 22: No such partition." I edited the line. It was saying "root (hd1,5)," which is what I had said and what had worked, but now it was not working and, in my opinion, it should never have been working. I changed it back to hd0,5 and tried again. But now that got an Error 22 too. Bizarre! The Recovery Mode option was still saying hd1,5, so I tried that. Error 22. Jeez. I hit Reset and booted the Ubuntu CD, to try to figure out where we were now. Then I got the idea to check my hard disks. I had seen some references to differences between the old ATA (or PATA) and the newer SATA drives, and now I was confirming that one of my three drives in this machine was a PATA. Could it be confusing the issue? The system was treating the 320GB PATA as sda. I didn't intend to keep all three drives in the system; I just had not gotten around to rearranging things. So now was my opportunity. I used GParted to make partitions on the unused SATA drive and, after some fiddling around, was able to move my NTFS partition data from the PATA drive over to that SATA drive. I shut down the computer, unplugged the PATA drive, and also switched the cables for the two SATA drives, so that the Windows drive would hopefully now be the first drive in the system. I also took advantage of the opportunity to test Acronis True Image as a restorer of an Ubuntu installation. That is, I inserted the Acronis CD and tried restoring my most recent Acronis True Image .tib backup, to see how well it was working. It was only a few days old, but it would predate the messing around I had lately done with GRUB, so possibly it would get me back closer to a clean slate in that regard. In restoring, I decided not to restore MBR and Track 0; I wasn't sure where those would go or what they would overwrite, and anyway I had now relocated the Ubuntu partition, so I would doubtless have to be editing that stuff. I just restored the Linux partition to the new location. Incidentally, I also made all the new partitions on the second SATA drive to be primary partitions, as were most or all of the partitions on the first SATA drive. I was pleased, by the way, that Acronis seemed willing to try to restore the Ubuntu partition even though the backup had been a 21GB partition and the new one was only 12GB. It seemed to be aware, or at least willing to try, to see if it needed more than 12GB to do the restoration. (It didn't; I had less than 7GB worth of files on the Ubuntu partition.) When it was done, I took out the Acronis CD and rebooted. I got "Error loading operating system." This hadn't happened, the last time I had restored Ubuntu with Acronis. That time, I had gotten a GRUB menu. So I thought what I would do first, this time, would be to boot with my Super Grub Disk (SGD), and see if that would give me back a GRUB menu. There, I went into Advanced > GRUB > Restore GRUB in Hard Disk (MBR) > Automatically Install. It said, "Done. SGD has succeeded!" Now what? There weren't any options. I hit Enter and then kept hitting the Go Back option until I got to Quit > Reboot P.C. I did that and removed the CD. What do you know: it worked. I had my GRUB menu. Now I chose a regular Ubuntu boot. "Error 22: No such partition." OK, how about Windows? The UNetbootin option was still there -- I hadn't uninstalled the Automatic SGD yet -- but by the time I was done typing these notes to keep up with it, it had already decided something and reverted back to the GRUB menu. I tried Windows again, but this time I got "Error 13: Invalid or unsupported executable format." Now what in the world was that all about? I needed to get a grip on what should be happening. I punched Reset, booted the Ubuntu CD, and went into Partition Editor. No surprises there: the Windows partition was now sda1 and the Ubuntu program partition was sdb1. As root, I went to menu.lst and changed the Windows root line to (hd0,0), and commented out the map lines in that section (because now Windows was in the primo position, drive zero partition zero, as God intended), and I changed the Ubuntu root lines to hd1,0. I rebooted without the Ubuntu CD. This time, selecting Ubuntu at the GRUB menu gave me "Error 17: Cannot mount selected partition." Windows was still hung up at Error 13. Gee, a whole new category of error messages to screw things up. OK, what did the authorities say? One source said that, here at the GRUB menu, I needed to press "c" to get a command line, and then type "find /vmlinuz". It said "(hd0,0)." The source said that this was supposed to be the root line for the Ubuntu sections in my menu.lst. So I hit Esc to get out of the grub> prompt (for some reason, "quit" didn't work here) and then "e" to edit the normal Ubuntu boot line in GRUB. And yes, that booted. So I went into menu.lst and changed that for all three Ubuntu lines. Now, rebooting back to GRUB, I tried the Windows option. Still Error 13. My Google search for this one led to a bunch of very confused people who didn't seem to be getting anywhere. I tried commenting out the makeactive line in GRUB for the Windows boot option, but that just provoked a reboot. One of them suggested that you could use Super Grub Disk (SGD) to do a FIXMBR. That was new to me, so I tried it. I chose SGD's Windows > Fix Boot of Windows option. Working through the steps on this introduced me to new information. Apparently "natural Linux" would refer to a partition as hda or hdb, while "IDE Linux" would call it sda or sdb, and SCSI Linux would call it hd0 or hd1. Anyway, after I indicated sda or hd0 or whatever you want to call it, and ran the procedure on that, I had to find my way back to SGD's Windows Basic options. There, I selected "Boot Windows." As the commands flashed by, I noticed that it ran "rootnoverify" and some other stuff and then put me back at the GRUB menu with just two options: Microsoft Windows XP Professional or UNetbootin. I tried the Windows option. Windows booted! Alright. We were getting somewhere. I felt I could probably fix any remaining Ubuntu GRUB problems now. But as I was typing these words, I noticed that time was passing and, you know, Windows was not actually completing the bootup process. It was just sitting there on that black screen with the Windows XP logo staring at me and the little progress bar rolling along. Then, after maybe five minutes, that went away and I just had a black screen. This was not really what I had intended. And there it stayed. Black forevermore. I punched Reset. This put me back at the SGD, which I had forgotten to take out of the CD drive. Reset again, sans CD. I got the normal GRUB menu and, when I chose Windows, I got the normal Error 13. I chose the normal Ubuntu and it booted. I inserted the Windows XP CD, rebooted from the CD, and chose Recovery Console. There, I ran FIXMBR and FIXBOOT and rebooted. Back at GRUB, I chose Windows again. I still got Error 13! One thread seemed to say that FIXMBR and FIXBOOT would have solved the problem, if the problem had been a corrupted NTLDR, whatever that was. So we knew, now, that that was not it. They also said I could type "geometry (hd0)" on the GRUB command line ("c") to get some information. They were right. I got an indication that the filesystem type for partition 0 was ext2fs, which was apparently not the same as ext3. Had GParted screwed this up? Had I accidentally indicated ext2 when I meant ext3? Or was GRUB reporting it wrong? A mystery. But, wait, why was hd0 a Linux partition at all? That was supposed to be where Windows was. I typed "geometry (hd1)." Just two partitions, filesystem type unknown. But I knew I had just two partitions on the Windows drive. Geometry reported the partition type was 0x7, which appeared to be shorthand for NTFS. One possible answer came from the advice to basically put the Windows section of menu.lst back the way it was. I booted into Ubuntu and went to menu.lst. There, I made it read as follows:
title Microsoft Windows XP Professional root (hd1,0) map (hd1) (hd0) map (hd0) (hd1) #savedefault makeactive chainloader +1
This worked. It seemed that the GRUB "geometry" command gave me more accurate information, for purposes of knowing how to edit GRUB's menu.lst, than I was able to get from GParted or whatever other sources I had been using. I tried rebooting with this setup. Selecting Windows at the GRUB menu gave me the option to restart Windows normally or choose Safe Mode. This was promising. And yes! The sucker went right on into WinXP. It gave me the option to uninstall UNetbootin, but I didn't take that option yet. First, did Ubuntu still boot at GRUB? I rebooted to find out. Yes, it did. Back to GRUB; back to Windows; uninstall UNetbootin. Problem solved. Morals of the story: use SGD and especially ASGD; use GRUB's geometry command for information; simplify the hard disk setup if possible. With this taken care of, it seemed I could get back to what I had been trying to do before this GRUB problem came up.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ubuntu and VMware: Miscellaneous Fixes

This is the latest installment in a series of long posts that log my successes and failures in the effort to replace Windows XP with Ubuntu. Starting with several posts in July 2008, and continuing for the better part of two months thereafter, I had developed what seemed to be, for me, the best solution. Introductions to those various posts provide more details of the two computers on which I was making this effort, as well as other aspects of the situation. Briefly, I had a primary computer and a secondary computer. Both were dual-booting Windows XP and 64-bit Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04. I was using VMware Workstation 6 to run Windows programs, when I could not find an acceptable Ubuntu alternative; and my further fallback was to run Windows programs in native WinXP by dual-booting the computers (preferably, whenever possible, the secondary computer). I had now received and installed an EVGA 256-P2-N751-TR GeForce 8600 GT 256MB video card to replace my previous EVGA 256-P2-N624-AR GeForce 7900 GS card. Both, no doubt, were fine cards, but I had invested a huge amount of time trying and failing to get it to work properly with my Ubuntu installation. I had even considered dialing back to the 32-bit version of Ubuntu but, for better or worse, had already spent $170 on the 64-bit version of VMware Workstation. So there was some motivation to try to make it work this way, if possible -- hoping, of course, that 64-bit was the future anyway. This saga within a saga had begun with my attempt to get multiple monitors working properly. I was not sure where to begin, at this point, but the first thing I looked at was Ubuntu's System > Administration > Hardware Drivers, there on the primary computer. I saw, "No proprietary drivers are in use on this system," followed by a list consisting of just one item: "NVIDIA accelerated graphics driver (latest cards)" and an indication that that driver was "Not in use." So, OK, what should I do about that? The truly wise thing, I decided, would be, first of all, to reboot the computer and make a backup of Ubuntu installation as it now stood. The backup tool I had chosen for this purpose was Acronis True Image 11 Home, so I stuck in that CD and did the deed. Acronis had succeeded for me in one recent use and failed in another, so I was not sure I wanted to rely solely on it. But then I thought maybe I hadn't chosen the disk image option for the second one, so I let it slide and moved on with the NVIDIA project. I decided that the driver listed in Hardware Drivers might not be the right one for the new video card. But as I was reading the endless gyrations that I had gone through in one of my first stabs at this problem, I realized that I wasn't exactly sure when I had reinstalled Ubuntu or what screwed-up situation might be left over from that. I decided the best policy might just be the most straightforward one, so I went into Hardware Drivers and clicked to enable the latest NVIDIA driver. It needed a computer restart, so we did that. On reboot, I went back into Hardware Drivers and now it said the drivers were in use. Encouraged, I tried running Second Life again. And, you know, it worked. So changing video cards may have been the answer to the whole graphics hassle. Rebooting also seemed to install the Compiz feature described in the previous post; I was now able to rotate between Ubuntu desktops by rolling the mouse wheel on both computers. The graphics card issue had also been a problem in my previous attempts to install Google Earth and to use multiple monitors in VMware Workstation. But before I could see whether the new card would resolve those issues, I needed to fix something else. I was doing some of my actual work on the primary computer, and I needed to gain access to a university computer via Virtual Private Network (VPN) on the secondary computer. That is, I wanted to be viewing some PDF articles on the right-hand monitor, which I'll call monitor no. 2, which was connected to the secondary computer, while writing about those articles on the left-hand monitor, no. 1, which was connected to the primary computer. This was not the only arrangement I could have used for this task. I could have expanded the Windows desktop, in the virtual machine on monitor 1, to extend to monitor 2 as well. I was running the second monitor through a KVM switch (separate from the KVM switch used for mouse and keyboard), and could thus have just punched the button to bring both monitors within the primary computer's desktop; and then I could have used a web browser within the VM to access the university website via VPN. I had already configured VPN in the VM, so that part would have been easy. The problem with this approach was that it would perpetuate my dependence on Windows. I was not sure whether it would be better from a security perspective, since I did not know the exact security status of Windows within VMware Workstation. It would also have its own complexities, insofar as I had not actually set up the multiple monitor arrangement yet. And in any case, I wanted both of my computers to have as much capability as possible, so that I could sail right on with productive work if one of them was down, going through some maintenance process, or otherwise preoccupied. Another thing I had to take care of was to update the firmware on my router. I had been meaning to get around to it since I had first installed it, because I had the general impression that updated firmware was important in making sure the router functioned effectively as a hardware firewall. I went to the firmware download page for the Linksys WRT54GL router and downloaded the latest firmware. It landed on my desktop. I unzipped it. This gave me a .bin file. Then I looked at the installation instructions. They led me to the page on how to access the router's web-based setup page. For that, I needed the router's IP address, so I went to the instructions for finding that, but they were for Windows. I found some advice that said to just type ifconfig in Terminal. That gave me several numbers, but it sounded like I was supposed to go with the value under eth0. That one said "inet addr:" I entered that into the address bar in Firefox and got "Unable to connect: Firefox can't establish a connection to the server." I went back and looked at the advice again. They said the router would end in either 0 or 1. So I tried Unable to connect. But got me a login dialog. Now I had to remember my router ID and password. But I couldn't. I found some advice that said the default was to enter no username at all, and enter "admin" as the password; and if that failed, use the reset button. But that worked, and I was in. Before anything else, I went to Administration, there in the router's internal website, and changed the password. I went to the Wireless and Security settings and made sure they were saved the way I wanted. Then, under Status, I saw that the firmware version was 4.30.11. The one I had downloaded was 4.30.12, and it had a newer date. I looked at the release notes for my version and saw that they had apparently updated some security stuff, so I decided I had better go ahead with the firmware update. The next thing Linksys advised was to back up the router's settings. To do this, in the router's webpage, I went to Administration > Config Management > Backup Configuration > Backup > Save File. That went to my desktop. The next step was Administration > Firmware Upgrade > Browse. I browsed to the desktop and indicated the .bin file that I had unzipped from the firmware download. Then I clicked Upgrade. This gave me Upgrade Is Successful. To complete the upgrade, the instructions said, I had to close my browser and reset the router by pressing its Reset button (on back) for 30 seconds. But another way to reset, they said, was to go into the router's webpage and choose Administration > Factory Defaults > Restore Factory Defaults > Yes > Save Settings. That sounded easier, so I tried that. It said I would be returned to the previous webpage after several seconds, but instead I got "Unable to connect." It seemed to be trying to reach the router at I typed in the browser's address bar. That didn't work either, nor did or The inet addr value was still the same in ifconfig in Terminal. I was now unable to save these notes on Blogger or to reach Hotmail. I tried pressing the router's reset button for 30 seconds. Still unable to connect to any of those 192.168 numbers. Of course, I was now also unable to reach any Linksys or other webpages for instructions. As I recalled, there was another option for resetting, which involved (if I wasn't mistaken) holding in the router's reset button for 30 seconds while unplugging and replugging the router's power. Before doing that, it occurred to me to try to connect using the other computer. But no, it wasn't just the computer; neither of them could connect now. I tried that alternate reset approach. No joy. The router lights were flashing; I just didn't have any use of the thing. I unplugged its power and its Internet connection and plugged this secondary computer directly into the DSL modem. Now I could connect. I went back to the notes I had kept two months earlier, when I had previously wrestled with this same problem. But it looked like I had done everything I had written there. I wondered if maybe I had to restart Firefox or the computer to make it work. Before restarting the computer, I tried accessing the router using Opera. To do this, as I quickly discovered, I would have to plug the router back in and reconnect it. But Opera got nowhere on this. Next, I tried leaving the secondary computer connected to the router, disconnecting the router from the modem, and plugging the primary computer directly into the modem. Now the primary computer was online. In Firefox on the secondary computer, I typed Now it worked! I got the password screen, entered "admin" as the default password, and I was in. The Linksys instructions now told me to restore the router's settings by going, on the router's internal webpage, to Administration > Config Management > Restore Configuration > Browse. I browsed to the configuration file I had saved on my desktop. They called it a Config.bin file, but Ubuntu had saved it as WRT54GLV1_v4.30.11.cfg. I selected that and clicked Restore and got Upgrade Is Successful. I connected the computers back to the router and the router back to the modem. Now I got "Unable to connect" when I tried or 1.1 or 2.0 or 2.1 on the secondary computer. It also could not access Hotmail. But the primary computer was now able to go online with no problem. I restarted Firefox on the secondary computer. Firefox didn't seem to want to restart right away, so I rebooted the computer while I was at it. That solved it. I got back into the router at Apparently the restored configuration had restored that as its address; not sure why Firefox wasn't able to go to it without restarting/rebooting. I checked the settings I had recently changed, there in the router's internal webpage, and everything looked good. I clicked Save Settings just to be sure, re-entered my new password once more for the road, got back in, and killed that webpage. I was able to browse the Internet once again on both computers. Firmware upgrade completed. I had used dvgrab to capture video from my video camera in Ubuntu. It had converted a 40-minute (or so) tape into ten .avi files, each 1GB in size. After fooling with Ubuntu alternatives, I had decided that I would just continue to do my video editing in Adobe Premiere Elements (APE) in WinXP for the time being. I had found that APE did not run smoothly in VMware, so I decided I would do this video editing in a native WinXP dual boot. I decided to do this on the secondary computer, so as not to interrupt my work in VMware on the primary computer. (I had set up five different virtual machines, each for a different project, and I generally kept four of them suspended at any one time, with Windows Explorer and other programs and documents all set up, ready to go back to work on that project whenever I had the time or other materials or information I needed to advance that project a bit further.) So now it came time to edit some video on the secondary computer, dual-booted into WinXP. But -- what's this? All I could get, from those ten .avi files, was static. The audio was pretty much OK, except for a light, rapid clicking sound, but the video was totally screwed up. It was just static, like you would get if you tuned into a TV station that was off the air. My first guess was that dvgrab had produced the wrong kind of .avi file. I used VirtualDub to patch together those 1GB AVIs into two larger files, and then tried importing the resulting .avi files into APE. But the audio was missing on the first one. So I tried again, converting each .avi separately, without combining. Audio was good for each of these individually. I noticed that the new AVIs were now about 8GB each, replacing the 1GB .avi files that dvgrab had produced. Now the audio was OK and I was able to work with them. This doesn't mean that native Windows was any better-behaved than before. I could run Ubuntu endlessly on the secondary computer without a problem, whereas Windows kept shutting down the system at random. Ah, the bad old days of Windows ... Had a new problem. I was trying to watch videos, from YouTube and elsewhere, on the primary computer. Firefox wasn't playing them because I didn't have the Flash player installed and, at last time I had tried, I could not get it to work. So I had resorted to watching them in Internet Explorer, within a VMware virtual machine. But now I would sometimes get an error message from VMware:

Failed to open sound device /dev/ dsp: Device or resource busy Sound will not be available
According to PinoyTux Weblog, "this means the sound device in your host machine is currently in use and the VMware client is not able to access the device." The solution recommended there was to type "killall esd" in Terminal and then maybe restart VMware. I didn't want to go through the time and hassle of shutting down and restarting my several open virtual machines if I didn't have to. I was running a couple of programs in my host Ubuntu operating system, so I tried closing them down, one at a time, and then checking current status in VMware Workstation. The first program I shut down was Second Life, and that did it. As soon as Second Life was off, I could watch and hear videos in Internet Explorer with no problem. I restarted Second Life while a video was playing and still no problem. The problem seemed to be solved. Next. I had a bunch of MP3s on the secondary computer. I wanted something like Winamp to play songs at random (i.e., "shuffle play") from a songlist or playlist. I found a thread that said Audacious was the closest thing to it for Ubuntu Hardy 8.04. The Audacious downloads webpage said version 1.5.1 was the current stable release. I went to System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager, there on the secondary computer, and searched for Audacious. It was there. I installed it. It appeared under Ubuntu's Applications > Sound & Video. I ran it. It was like other audio players I had seen: nice, streamlined interface with no explanation of controls or options, to be learned on your own time. It didn't appear to be able to recurse subdirectories (i.e., to look for MP3s, not only in the immediately indicated folder, but also in subfolders under that one). So I would have to manually load my 15 or 20 different music folders if I wanted all those songs to be available, which I did. Oh, well. At least I now had a music player. I belatedly remembered that I had already had one, in the form of RhythmBox Music Player. But I couldn't get it to work like I wanted either. This was another one of those things I would have to try to look into later. Next, I had a problem on the secondary computer. For some reason, Second Life kept causing it to completely shut down. I suspected this was a hardware rather than software issue, because it happened when I ran Second Life in Ubuntu too. I moved Second Life to the primary computer and ran it in Ubuntu without a problem. But then the secondary computer also started crashing when I was trying to create MPG files in Adobe Premiere Elements in Windows XP. It didn't crash when I tried to save video as AVI; it just happened when I tried to save video as MPG. Odd, but it happened enough to be predictable. It also happened when I reinstalled an older image of my programs drive and installed and ran Premiere Elements on that. I didn't want to have to reinstall Windows if it wasn't necessary. But then I recalled that WinXP had been kind of flaky on that machine anyway, and I thought I might as well take the opportunity to do a new installation, installing only the essential programs, to see if I couldn't make that system more stable. For starters, I used Acronis True Image to make a backup of my Ubuntu installation. I did that because I had installed Ubuntu on the same drive as Windows, and now, when I tried to reinstall Windows using the Windows XP CD, the installer basically indicated that it couldn't create a WinXP partition on that drive. So I wanted to move everything off that drive, if I could, and start over. I then remembered that it was an older drive, and wondered whether that might possibly be part of the problem. I connected another drive to that machine, but when I tried to boot it, I got "Error 17" from GRUB. From what I gathered, this error would happen when GRUB would perceive your drives in the wrong order, and the best solution (other than just unplugging that additional drive) was to edit the GRUB configuration to make it right. I found what looked like a really good explanation along those lines. But rather than spend the time to work through it, I booted with the Ubuntu CD and took a look at what was on that third (newly added) drive. There were several partitions, but it looked like I had emptied them out (as I would have expected) before setting that drive aside. So I ran the Ubuntu CD's System > Administration > Partition Editor and deleted those empty partitions. Then I rebooted. This time, I got GRUB Error 22. This evidently resulted from GRUB looking for a partition that had been there and wasn't anymore. I found a thread that recommended either (a) running Recovery Console (i.e., boot with the WinXP CD and choose repair) and selecting FIXBOOT and FIXMBR, or (b) using Super Grub Disk to edit GRUB. I was thinking I still had another step to go anyway before worrying about that, and that was to restore the Ubuntu backup to a now-empty partition on the second hard drive, so that I'd have my Windows program files on one drive and my Ubuntu files on another, and I could then reinstall Windows from scratch on that first drive. After wiping out the Ubuntu partitions on that Windows drive, though, I was still getting the same error message from the WinXP installation CD:
Windows XP Professional Setup To install Windows XP on the partition you selected, Setup must write some startup files to the following disk: 305243 MB Disk 0 at Id 1 on bus 0 on atapi [MBR] However, this disk does not contain a Windows XP-compatible partition.
It occurred to me that maybe this was a problem that could be fixed by FIXBOOT or FIXMBR. I rebooted the WinXP CD again and ran Recovery Console. There, I ran FIXBOOT, but it said, "FIXBOOT cannot find the system drive, or the drive specified is not valid." That made sense, since I had deleted the Windows program partition in preparation for reinstallation. I ran FIXMBR, though, and then rebooted with the WinXP CD and tried again to do a new WinXP installation. But I still got the same message: "does not contain a Windows XP-compatible partition." It was described as "New (Raw)" in the setup program, but for some reason WinXP could not install into it. So, OK, I rebooted with the Ubuntu CD and moved all of the data from the other partitions to the other drive, so I could wipe the drive clean and start over. But even then, I still got the no-compatible-partition error. I finally unplugged the other drives and rebooted with the WinXP CD. I was then able to install Windows XP, and when that was done, I shut down, plugged in the other drives, and rebooted to continue configuring the system. The remaining question was whether Adobe Premiere Elements (APE) or Second Life would cause this new Windows installation to crash. I installed APE and tried again to make an MPG from an AVI. Previously, its problem, which occurred every time I tried, was that it would crash during the second pass while creating a two-pass VBR MPEG. This time, it sailed right through, successfully creating several different MPGs with exactly the same settings. But then it crashed on the second pass of the fourth MPG. Shut the computer completely off, just like before. Surely, this was a hardware problem. But which hardware? Nothing seemed to be overheating, and there did not seem to be anything else unusual going on on the computer. My guess was the power supply, but I didn't have time or inclination at this moment to shut down both computers, swap out, and fool around until maybe I could make it crash again. APE tried again to make that same MPG, and on its second pass it ran just fine. Hmm. This made me think that the problem may have been a program conflict between APE and something else. I'd had a number of programs open previously, but could not remember specifically which ones. It wasn't the screen saver -- I had set that to "None." Power settings? Maybe. It was set to shut down the monitor after 20 minutes; but when that kicked on, the computer now kept running. Anyway, now that I was on the lookout for the possibility of a program conflict, maybe I would be able to home in on it in the future. Meanwhile, with nothing else running, it completed the MPGs just fine. I ran the same five two-pass MPGs to test it, and there were no further problems. So that part of my dual-boot scheme still seemed to be working. Once I had WinXP reinstalled on the secondary computer, I went into Computer Management. I think Computer Management may not show up as an option in Windows. I forget how I discovered it. It was available by double-clicking on compmgmt.msc in C:\WINDOWS\system32. For this and other enduring items, I kept a copy of my Start menu (right-click Start and select Explore All Users) on a separate drive, so that I would not lose the links if I reinstalled Windows. Anyway, in Computer Management, I selected Disk Management and selected the first drive on the list. I right-clicked on it and chose Properties > Tools > Error-checking > Check Now > Automatically fix file system errors > Start. I did not check "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors," because doing that would make it run immediately. After checking Start, I okayed through the rest of the messages. The basic idea was that it would run its check when I rebooted. I did this for each drive and then rebooted. This version of CHKDSK ran on each drive. When it got to the external USB hard drive, however, it started giving me this message: "Deleting an index entry from index $0 of file 25." It kept giving me those messages. I went to bed and, when I got up the next morning, it was still doing it. It went on for hours. I Googled this and saw a thread in which someone concluded that Acronis Disk Director or Acronis True Image had caused the problem. In their case, the series of "Deleting an index entry" messages concluded with some messages that prompted them to think the drive was corrupt. In my case, for some bizarre reason my battery backup suddenly shut off -- no reason in the world, out of the blue, just up and died -- so the experiment was terminated. I switched the external backup hard drive to be connected to the primary computer. When I turned the computers back on, though, Ubuntu was not able to mount that drive. I rebooted the primary computer into WinXP and set up each drive there to be checked via Computer Management. On reboot, it started giving me that same "Deleting an index entry from index $0 of file 25" message, but this time it seemed to be doing it during the testing of an internal drive, not the external drive (though maybe it would have done it there too, later; maybe it had only gotten as far as one of the internal drives). I couldn't tell for sure because I wasn't paying attention when it indicated which drive it would be checking next. It kept giving me that message for an hour, at which point I put in the Windows XP CD, hit the computer's Reset button, went into Recovery Console, and ran chkdsk /r on each partition that Windows could see. I wasn't sure what happens to a Linux partition when your computer is rudely shut down by a failure in your battery backup. After I finished running chkdsk /r (repeatedly, in each case where errors were reported), I ran a manufacturer's diagnostic CD to check all the drives that way too. Or at least I tried to. The Seagate drive passed the SeaTools diagnostic, but the Samsung drives weren't even recognized by the Samsung diagnostic CD that I had from the previous year, and SeaTools crashed when I tried to use it to test the Samsung drives. I downloaded and burned a CD with what appeared to be the latest Samsung diagnostic program, but the program did not run. It gave me an "Abort from unhandled exception" error message. So anyway, I booted back into Windows and set Computer Management to check all the drives again, and rebooted. This time, everything went fine. Whew! End of encounter no. 32335 with Windows XP. I rebooted the primary machine back into Ubuntu and tried to pretend that nothing had happened. By this time, I had turned my attention to the secondary computer. I had reinstalled Windows XP, and that had wiped out my GRUB boot manager. So now I didn't get a choice of whether to boot into Windows or Ubuntu; it just went straight to Windows. This launched me onto a whole extended problemsolving adventure of its own. When it was done, though, I had GRUB and Ubuntu working again on the secondary computer. In case I had not previously said so, it seemed appropriate at this point to take a moment and acknowledge how much I appreciated Ubuntu and VMware for letting me freeze a project, or a state of the computer, and return to it later. In Ubuntu, I mean, the Hibernate option actually worked. I had had multiple problems with it in Windows, over the years, and had finally given up on it. And VMware, with its option of suspending a virtual machine, meant that I could get a VM set up to work on a project, and then suspend and resume it whenever I wanted to stop or start working on it again. Next project: Skype. I had used it in Windows, but never in Ubuntu. Now I looked around for a way to install it on the secondary computer. They said it wasn't available in any repository and, sure enough, I couldn't find it in System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager. I went to the Skype download page. The Ubuntu download for Skype 2.0 for Linux was actually a Debian .deb file, so I retrieved my notes on how to install a Debian package. It seemed that all I had to do was to right-click on the .deb file and select "Open with GDebi Package Installer." But I couldn't figure out where the download had gone. It wasn't on my desktop or anywhere. Finally found it in the /tmp folder. When I opened it with GDebi, though, I got "Error: Wrong architecture 'i386'." Apparently Skype 2.0 for Linux was not going to run on my 64-bit Ubuntu. So, OK, forget that. I didn't want to have to reboot into Windows just to make calls, so I tried installing Skype for Windows in a VMware virtual machine. It seemed to install fine, but then it turned out my headset was not getting a response from the microphone port. I had had problems like that before. I put a USB headset on my Newegg wishlist and put this issue on hold. Next: backup. I had wrestled with this repeatedly during the Ubuntu transition process, and had decided to try to get rsnapshot to work. It was a hassle to configure rsnapshot, but I could also see that the person who had created it had potentially saved users from a lot of work in trying to configure rsync itself. Rsync just had too many options. Rsnapshot took care of most of the options that would be irrelevant for a user like me, and the comments were generally clear enough. Anyway, following the advice in rsnapshot.conf, I also edited /etc/cron.d/rsnapshot so that rsnapshot would run at regular intervals. I had seen a lot of references to cron as the program that would let you schedule things, but this was my first involvement with it. But now, by the time I resumed writing at this point in this post, my working situation had changed, and I had no time or patience to learn how to write scripts or edit .conf files to make rsnapshot work. So I looked at the several webpages I had opened for rsnapshot advice -- a Debian page, a BackupCentral Wiki page, an rsnapshot page, and a Google search for good measure -- and I shut 'em down. I looked at an sBackup instruction page and decided to give sBackup another try. I searched for it in Synaptic and noticed there was also a program called backuppc, and that one (unlike sbackup) had an Ubuntu logo next to it. I did a Google search for backuppc and found the Ubuntu documentation, but that didn't have quite what I was looking for. I did another search and still didn't quickly see a comparison of the two. Having already fiddled with sbackup a couple of times, I installed backuppc. Someone had said it was better for backing up multiple drives. When I marked backuppc for installation, Synaptic said I also had to install apache2 and a boatload of other programs. I said OK. As it was installing, it gave me some apache options, but the Help said that only plain old apache (not apache2 etc.) supported automatic something-or-other. So I went with that. Next, it said I could manage backuppc through its web-based interface at http://P4-VM/backuppc, where P4-VM was the name of my computer. It gave me a web user account named backuppc and a password to access that interface. Then the installation was done. But where was backuppc? I was searching through the Ubuntu menu, doing "whereis backuppc," rooting around in folders, and then I said, Duh. So I went to the web-based interface page just mentioned and there it was. Not. I got "Not Found." Screw it. Back to Synaptic to install sbackup. I installed it, set it up to Include or Exclude nothing except the one data drive I wanted to back up, and ran it. It said a backup was being initiated in the background. A minute or two later, the light on the external (target) drive started to flicker, and we were off and running (I hoped). Later, I checked out the results. Sbackup had created a folder called 2008-09-29_19.40.12.438074.P4-VM.ful. That appeared to be the date, the time, and the name of the computer, with a .ful extension. In that folder, there were five files. The main one was files.tgz, which (at 31.5GB) apparently contained old copies of the files that had changed. I was not able to tell quickly what files were in that backup; the flist file was empty. Otherwise, sbackup appeared to have preserved the copies of my data folders that I had previously copied to the external backup drive. But not entirely: a comparison of properties for the data drive and these backup folders indicated that the backup was missing almost 600 files that were on the original data drive. Were these files somehow represented in that .ful backup folder, or were they just missing? I did not know of any way to tell for sure. I realized, at this point, that I did not wish to go back to a black-box kind of backup system, where I would just assume that the backup program was doing it right. I had been burned by those in the past. What I wanted was exactly what I had gotten with Second Copy 2000 in Windows: a simple mirroring system that would back up my data drive periodically. I didn't want a RAID arrangement where I would have instant mirroring; I wanted to have the luxury to retrieve a file as it had existed a half-hour or an hour before. I had set up Second Copy to do the backup every several hours, so chances were that it would not yet have replaced the previous version with a newer one. The backup had been a lifesaver on a number of occasions that way. With Second Copy 2000, I could do a simple comparison of properties to verify that what was on the backup matched what was on the original data drive. I posted a question about this in an Ubuntu community forum. What I got back was just some advice to use rsync and cron. By this point, I was running out of energy and time for fixing Ubuntu and VMware. I had a working system with a number of things to tackle at some point in the future. I decided it was time to wrap up this 10-week effort. The summary appears in a follow-up post.

Second Life: Reactions to the Concept

In a previous post, I introduced Second Life (SL), a virtual world connecting thousands of people in various simulated realities ("sims"). This post presents reactions I had as I continued to become acquainted with SL. My first concern was that SL might be counterproductive, from a therapeutic perspective. I had found, during a period of fascination with video games in the 1980s, that they had distracted me from real-life obligations and opportunities. It was frankly just more fun to be in my gaming world. So some important things passed me by. Of course, there may be some kinds of simulations that allow people to obtain training or otherwise work through psychological or educational needs in a virtual world. But just as doctors recommend painkillers and other medications for temporary use, so also I don’t know that I would assume that a targeted virtual reality tool should become a key part of someone’s everyday life. A crutch is not ordinarily supposed to become a permanent attachment. But what if the person has a permanent disability? Even there, I would worry that the cyberworld would become, not a crutch to help the person get around in real life, but an assurance that s/he does not need to get around in real life because the virtual life is just as meaningful and a lot more pleasant. In that case, the disability becomes crippling, not only in its original physical, mental, or emotional sense, but socially as well. Moreover, if I come to think of myself as a person whose physical or other disabilities are socially crippling, there may be a reciprocal effect where the original disability is exacerbated – because, for example, I may no longer even try to get the same level of physical exercise as I would if it seemed essential to treat the real world as my primary or only sphere of activity. Then, too, what should I make of the therapist or advisor who recommends that a person with a disability become immersed in SL, if I am not willing to do so myself? If I do not think it is appropriate for me to spend a large chunk of my life in a virtual realm, because I have too many things that seem important to do in the real world, how can I recommend it for a person with a disability? My view would be, implicitly, that I can write off those who find reality challenging. I can leave them to entertain themselves in their make-believe world, while I go about my daily business. It would be like saying, “I’m too busy to spend my day watching TV, but you probably have nothing more important to do, so please feel free to waste your time that way.” At some point in the future, virtual realities like those depicted in SL will probably have lifelike graphics, displayed on wall-sized monitors or virtual reality glasses. Interaction capabilities will be dramatically improved, to the point that the user’s experience in SL will be uncannily lifelike. How will persons with disabilities use it? If my experience to date is any indication, I expect that participants in that sort of virtual reality will be even further away from engagement with the real world. I notice, for example, that persons with disabilities seem to like to design their avatars as tall, broad-shouldered, handsome men and slender, beautiful women. The message seems to be that we accept that the world will not like you as you are, and therefore you must depict yourself in an ideal form that the world will appreciate. I would think that the real face or body would seem even more ugly or decrepit by comparison. Everything is so wonderful and easy in the imaginary world, and so hard and imperfect in the real one. Again, this is not to deny the possibility of some educational encounters and therapeutic interventions. It might be very informative or uplifting to try on a persona that varies from that of the real world. I wondered, for example, whether I could gain a better understanding of a woman’s perspective if I were to design a female avatar and walk around SL in that guise. In some ways, no doubt, I would. The experience would doubtless become much more realistic if, in some future development, virtual reality could become connected with actual hormones and emotions (as in e.g., Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World). Then, perhaps, I could learn a lot about what it means to be female – or, more to the point, to have a certain kind of disability. As another example, it could be refreshing to be treated as an equal if, in real life, I were an untouchable in India or a woman in a repressive culture or a homeless guy in New York City. Maybe it would be good for me to be exposed, or re-exposed, to what it is like to be treated like a normal human being, without being judged and without having to live up to the same old suffocating expectations. Again, though, this sort of thing cries out for real-world response, and not merely an acquiescence in the use of virtual reality for such a purpose. Before recommending SL for extended use, I would also want to investigate another potentially detrimental side effect. It seems to me that, when I use the computer for an extended period of time, I can easily become impatient with the pace of ordinary human interactions. I have long observed that participants in online newsgroups often become impatient and even angry with one another, to the point of saying things that they would be hesitant to say in real life. I am concerned, in short, that extended interaction with computers can impair a person’s people skills. It could be enormously counterproductive to train persons with disabilities, and those who interact with them, to be less patient with one another, or less tolerant of the constraints of real-life interaction. These, at any rate, were perhaps the principal reservations that I experienced when I began to become more familiar with SL and some of its denizens. As such, I was somewhat inclined to see the use of SL as not merely a tool or solution to some kinds of problems, but also as a potential symptom.