Sunday, 28 June 2015

A few small updates...

I just realised that I hadn't updated a couiple of posts on here, so now's a good a time as any to do so.

Following on from Thursday, 7 May 2015 ("Oh, pooh. On two counts :-(")...

You already know how the installation of Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS went, but the other issue raised, that of an inability to get the computer and Baofeng UV-5R radio to talk to each other was NOT hardware related: It was software related.

CHIRP, the software I was using to try to talk to the radio from the computer, has two main version: 'Stable', and 'Daily Build'. It turns out that the daily build version is able to talk to the radio, but not the stable build. Go figure.

Anyhow, that's been rectified, and I've been able to successfully get the radio programmed how I want it, which was the aim of the game in the first place. So, job done.

And Chirp is still an excellent bit of kit ;)

Another problem I recently had was with viewing DRM material that I'd bought from Amazon Prime and Google Play (in YouTube) (streaming movies and television shows). They just would not play under Linux.

In order to watch these movies and shows, on Amazon, you have to have Silverlight installed in your browser. Problem the first: It's made by Microsoft, and they don't give a tinker's cuss about support to Linux users, the intransigent wossits.

While Silverlight and Flash are not supported under Linux, there are third party  applications, the first being Moonlight, which is sadly no longer available, the second being Pipelight, which is. Problem the Second: Making it work.

The ironic thing here is that I DID manage to get it to work briefly, then suffered a system lock-up in Firefox, had to perform a cold reboot, and then suffered login lock-up, resulting in my having to reinstall Unity. And after that, Pipelight failed to play, despite retracing the exact same steps to get it playing as before. The various help forums were of no help at all in this regard, and that's not a very good advert for Linux, sadly.

I did however, find a work-around.

Using Wine, I installed the windows version of firefox, then the windows version of Flash. Now successfully watching Amazon instant material. It'll do until Amazon bins Flash, by which time, hopefully more effective HTML5 support will have been generated within Firefox et al.

I really wish it hadn't had to be done this way, as there's absolutely no elegance to it: It's a brute-force sidestep but, on the other hand, it got the job done, so I guess I shouldn't whinge too much.

Oh, and it took a Linux Mint (NOT an Ubuntu one, to my utter disbelief) tutorial to give me this solution. Here's the link, in case you're curious:

Make of that what you might!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend :)

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Next up... the netbook... (Part three)

Well, I've identified a few issues, and solved them, chief amongst them being the keyboard layout and language selection. Ye gods, that was annoying.

Seems it defaulted to the system keyboard layout, with no regional settings. I managed to bumble about in there until I found the right settings, whiuch only to a week or so of on and off prodding, prying, and poking, in between work, sleep, and so on.

So. I've got it working the way I want it working. The next step is to load the essential software on there, and test it again.

Once that's done, I'll have two Linux machines, one for carting about the planet (and emergencies), the other to stay at home.

Can I say that I'm rather pleased with myself?

Yes, I can

Monday, 8 June 2015

Next up... the netbook... (Part two)

OK, part two...

Following the problems with Xubuntu, I looked about, and sought advice. Damnsmalllinux was suggsted, but the information on the current state of the project did not make for optomistic reading. In addition, there was no LTS version of it available. So, no to DSL then. Pity, but that's life.

Lubuntu - yet another fork of Ubuntu - then appeared on the horizon, mostly dut to the listing over on wikipedia relating to lightweight Linux distros ( I decided to give it a try, and downloaded the 64-bit LTS iso, again using Startup Drive Creator to create the live thumb drive; it worked with no problems, and when I tried it in the Acer netbook, WOW, twenty seconds - maybe even a tad less - to boot up into the desktop.

WiFi worked first time, and logged right into the home broadband system.

I've not yet played around with the rest of the nuts and bolts of it, but it was appreciably quicker and more responsive than the existing Windoze 7 installation.

I'll be testing it on and off over the week, but it very much looks like I may well have found the flavour of Linux for my Acer Netbook :-)

More when the testing is done :-)

Next up... the netbook... (Part one)

Flush with my successes on my Toshiba notebook, I dug out my old netbook, with it's catalogue of problems; the ultimate goal here was to replace the pain-in-the-backside operating system (Windows 7 Professional) with a low-overhead version of Linux.

Before I could do that, though, I had to fix a fairly major problem.

The keyboard was giving me all manner of grief before the machine was retired, and the Toshiba became my main machine. A lot of problems could be squarely laid at the door of a faulty keyboard, but at the time (a few years ago now), replacement keyboards were selling for silly money, so I shelved the idea until prices came down. Well, prices HAVE come down, and looking about, Amazon had them at around £35, and Ebay for less than a tenner. Guess who won ;-)

At £8.45 (including postage and packing), the replacement keyboard was sourced from Ebay. It arrived within 48 hours of ordering, which was a very nice touch indeed.

Removing the old keyboard, however, was... interesting. There are copious videos (you tube excells, of course) on this topic, so I consulted a couple of them, finding the advice to be pretty-much the same. The original keyboard, however, thought otherwise, and was a pig to get out. But, come out it did, and a managed not to damage the netbook in the process, which was nice!

Fitting the replacement keyboard was a doddle, compared to removing the original, and the power-up test of the Acer netbook went fine. It still runs under windoze 7, but at least all the problems I had with it could be safely traced back to the faulty keyboard as the original cause :)

Then, I looked at what flavour of Linux to use. The decision process was fairly logical, for a change (I intuit a lot, I'm not a programmer by any strech of the imagination!)

  1. I already use Ubuntu 14.04 LTS on the Toshiba notebook, and I'm reasonably satisfied with it.
  2. The netbook specs are markedly lower than the Toshiba (Acer Aspire One D255; Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz, 512kb cache, 1Gb RAM, 250Gb HDD, 10.1" screen, 1024x768 screen res, processor "64-bit ready"), other details at
  3. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS will not work properly on the Acer netbook due to these lower specs.
  4. A smaller 'footprint' of Linux, with a correspondingly smaller set of system resource requirements, was therefore required.
  5. Given that I was already familiar with Ubuntu from its installation on the Toshiba, a netbook version of Ubuntu would be preferred.
  6. Problem, Ubuntu for Netbooks did exist, but was folded back into the main development program a couple of years ago.
  7. Ergo: A different Linux product had to be sought.
  8. Research indicated that a distro incorporating the Linux Xfce Desktop Environment would be best for the Acer (specifies very low system requirements, good for so-called 'legacy' equipment), so it maked sense to make sure that this is used in the Linux Distro I eventually selected.
  9. Ideally, any distro should be a Long Term Service version (LTS), for ease of maintenance and support.

As a result of the above, and a litle further research, I came to the interim conclusion that Xubuntu 14.04 LTS ( was most likely to be the best choice for the Acer (and me!).

So, I downloaded an iso of it from, and unpacked it onto a USB Thumb Drive using Startup Drive Creator (a Linux program available from most Linux software repositries). It worked as expected, and the thumb drive was runing a 'live' copy of Xubuntu 14.04.2 LTS.

However, when plugged into a USB2 slot on the netbook, things did not go as expected.

It took forever - almost ten minutes, the first time I tried to boot it up. So, I saved the configuration of the session, and shut it down.

I then booted it up again, to see if this was a one-off problem. It took five minutes to boot that time.

In both cases, once up and running, Xubuntu ran just fine, even if it didn't recognise the correct characters whe  the "|" key was pressed (that's minor configuration issue, nothing for me to worry about at this point).

I thought that such a long time taken in booting might indicate a problem with the thumb drive, so to see if this was the case, tested it on the Toshiba notebook, via one of the two USB2 ports (the other is a USB3 port).

The Toshiba booted up from it in thirty seconds flat.

Hmph. Not the thumb drive, then.

Obviously, the netbook either needs a MUCH lower overhead version of Linux, or there's an issue with it booting from a thumb drive. Or both.

So, however you cook it, I'm only 50% accomplished on converting the netbook to Linux, which is a tad irritating, given how easy it was to switch over to Linux on the Toshiba (a Satellite C855-29M). In fact, "irritating" is not the word, but as this is a family show, I think it best not to use the words I realy think sum up this problem!

So, time to look for a version of Linux with an even smaller set of specifications than Xubuntu.

This may take some time...