Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ubuntu 7.10 our Gateway 200 ARC Laptop

I upgrated to Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon now that the production release is out. The upgrade went without a hitch. The screen brightness still doesn't work. However, I finally RFM'd and WPA2 wifi worked flawlessly using the Netgear 511 wifi card.

This link walked me through getting the machine to recognize the card at all...

This link walked me through actually making WPA2 work...

The main trick to getting WPA2 working was selecting "Connect to other wireless network" off the network manager menu. Intuitively I would thing that network manager would prompt me for a password if it either didn't work or recognized the connection as WPA2.

Ubuntu on our Gateway 200 ARC Laptop

We bought a new fancy laptop so the old model has been left to me to do as I see fit. It's moved from production to dev...if you will.

I will leave Windows XP Pro SP2 on the machine since I'm not a masochist. I have a stack of analog home movies and a Pinacle Studio capture device that I haven't been able to work in Linux. I'm not willing to spend another $100 on a Linux compatible capture device. I also don't want to risk getting stuck and needing access to some Microsoft software immediately. Then later I can figure out how to make it work in Linux.

Laptop Specs
Gateway 200 ARC, circa 2002, purchased for $1,600 from Costco
Intel Centrino, P4 1.6 Ghz
1 GB PC2100 RAM
120 GB HD, 5400 rpm
Touchpad (need more details) - working
On board graphs (Display controller: Intel Corporation 82852/855GM Integrated Graphics Device (rev 02)
14.2" Display
On board audio (Multimedia audio controller: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) AC'97 Audio Controller (rev 01)
On board Intel Wireless card, 802.11b (need more details)
2 USB 2.0
1 1394 Firewire
1 PCMCIA Type 2 Slot (CardBus bridge: Ricoh Co Ltd RL5c476 II (rev ac))
Wireless Card, PCMCIA, Netgear WG511 v2, 802.11g (Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless LAN 2100 3B Mini PCI Adapter (rev 04)) - working
3 "hot keys" (I never used this with Windows but I might find a use for them)
10/100BaseT Ethernet Card, RJ-45
56k Modem (Modem: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) AC'97 Modem Controller (rev 01))

I am installing Xubuntu 6.06.

Prior to installation I used the Gparted Live CD to partition the hard drive as follows. Also listed are the mount points.
hda1 primary ntfs 50GB /media/disk1
hda2 primary linux-swap 2 GB swap
hda3 primary ext3 5 GB /
hda5 extended ext3 55GB /home

Gparted Live CD worked great resizing the ntfs partition from ~120GB down to 50GB. I'm not sure how long it took since I set it up and came back later. I was nervous about the resizing of ntfs but it worked great.

During the installation Xubuntu only gave me the option to "Erase entire hda1" or "Manually edit the partition table." I had hoped for an "accept existing partitions" option, but that option didn't exist so I selected "Manually edit the partition table." I then accepted the defaults.

The next step tricked my up a little. I felt like a noob. Xubuntu asked where I wanted to set the mount points. Xubuntu defaulted to mounded hda1 to /media/disk1. I wasn't paying attention and I erased that selection. Then I didn't have the option on a pull-down to assign hda1 to a mount point. I was confused and Xubuntu would not let me move on. I then hit the Back button and then the Next button. Xubuntu again applied the mount hda1 to /media/disk1 recommendation. That's when I realized my error. Finally I told Xubuntu to mount & format partitions as in the above table. I think there were a few confirmations and installation commenced.

After about 30 minutes Xubuntu asked me to reboot, which I did and all was well.

During the installation automatically configured Grub to allow for dual booting with Xubuntu as the default. It also had Windows XP Pro as an option on Grub by default. Kudos to the team for making Grub configuration painless.

Now I'm up and running but I'm not connected to any network. So, out of the box here's my status.

Touchpad - works
On board graphs - works at the most basic level.
I can only select 800x600 or 640x480, but the default is some other resolution that I don't know how to determine. In XP I could select 1024x768 with 32 bit color. I'm thinking the default 1024x768 but I can't tell.
The brighten screen keys "Fn-Up/down Arror" cause the screen to wig-out and be unusable. The screen goes to a ultra-rainbow-static/snow mode. When it does this I can't even kill X with ctrl-alt-backspace. I have to hard reboot my holding down the power button.
When scrolling an abiword document I get multi-colored streaks on the screen.
Ctrl-alt-backspace also doesn't close the desktop and restart X even when things are working fine.
Clearly I have a graphics driver issue.
On board audio - works
On board Intel Wireless card, 802.11b - can't tell if this works, the little light is on, but I can't connect to the wireless router. I also couldn't connect my router with XP on this machine because of some encryption problem. I think the card does not support WEP2 or something. I don't understand why a new driver wouldn't update the encryption.
DVD-ROM/CD-RW - not tested
2 USB 2.0 - Both worked to automatically mount a PNY Attache 2GB thumb drive.
1 1394 Firewire - not tested
1 PCMCIA slot (Type 2 I think) - maybe doesn't work since the Netgear card didn't get power
Wireless Card, PCMCIA, Netgear WG511 v2, 802.11g - lights didn't come on when I plugged it
in so maybe it's not even getting power.
I also tried an eHome 802.11g card model EH101 and it didn't have any lights come on either.
3 "hot keys" (I never used this with Windows but I might find a use for them) - 2 of the keys didn't seem to do anything. The button with the little check-mark entered a lower-case "e" while using Abiword. This tells me at least that button will be configurable at some point.
10/100BaseT Ethernet Card, RJ-45 - I had to go to Application -> System -> Networking. Then I selected eth0 as the Default Gateway Device, OK. This worked. I might have dorked this up when I attempted to configure the wireless device so I'll call this working out of the box. At least I didn't have to install new drivers or anything.
56k Modem - not tested

Instead of trying to trouble shoot each of these issues, I'm going to upgrade to Xubuntu 7.04 and see how it goes. I used the 'sudo apt-get dist-upgrade' command and automatically updated. The upgrade appears to be ok. However, the 'Fn-uparrow' still kills my display. It's also interesting that Alt-F2 nor Ctrl-Alt-Backspace work to restart X, even when the display is working fine.

Next I installed Gnome using 'sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop'. This also appears to have worked without a hitch. I let the 244MB download go overnight but when I checked in the morning all was well. Except the screen bright still doesn't work.

I'm going to leave the screen bright alone for now.

Next up is the on-board 11b wireless card. Before I had the 11n router I had an 11g router. Booting to the Ubuntu Live CD would allow me to connect to that 11g router using the on-board 11b card. I think I was using WPA back then so I'll try backing down from WPA2+WPA to just WPA and see. This didn't work. I also confirmed that the on board wireless card only support WEP. I'm going to pass on WEP due since it's only a 11b card, plus all the security issue withe WEP. Plus, I've spend good money on 11g cards, I'd like to use them.

I downloaded the Windows drivers for the Netgear WG511 PCMCIA card For some reason I can't find ndiswrapper in my sources...weird.

This is weird, 2 days later my /etc/apt/sources.list file still shows "dapper" with is version 6.06. Also, my Firefox also shows 6.06. The /etc/issue file also shows me at "Ubuntu 6.06.1 LTS \n \l. I'm wondering why I thought I had updated to 7.04 when is looks like I may have not. So now I really want to upgrade to 6.10 and then to 7.04. Using the commands "sudo aptitude update", then "gksu "update-manager -c"", gave me an updated update manager with a big "UPDATE TO 6.10" button. I like easy buttons so I selected it. After this is done I'll update to 7.04.

Update to 7.04 didn't make the Netgear card work out of the box.

I now have the Netgear card working in a none encrypted mode. I used the instruction on the UbuntuGuide ( In my troubleshooting I had misconfigured ndiswrapper. The right term might be I had loaded bad drives.

sudo ndiswrapper -l

This gave me "bad driver" or "error in driver" messages. So I uninstalled the drivers using this...

sudo ndiswrapper -r wg511v2
sudo ndiswrapper -r wg511v2_3_2.exe

I then re-installed the Windows XP driver using this command. I had copied the drivers from the Netgear CD to my deskop.

sudo ndiswrapper -i ~/Desktop/Driver/Windows\ XP/WG511v2.INF

Now Ubuntu was finding my card and the light was coming on. But I wasn't able to connect to my unsecure network. Turns out I had tried configure wireless lan in encrypted mode using this command.

sudo iwconfig wlan0 essid "bignet" key 987867765 mode Managed

So I used this... Then I could connect to the un-secure network.

sudo iwconfig wlan0 essid "bignet" mode Managed

next is to get WEP working...

I used this command and it worked first try. That was easy.
sudo iwconfig wlan0 essid "bignet" key 28469876A26 mode Managed

next is to get WPA working...

This to was pretty easy. I followed these instructions ( and it worked fine. The only gotcha for me (even though the whole process only took about 5 minutes) was that when I was editting /etc/network/interfaces I didn't scroll down to see that wlan0 was already there. I was getting duplicate interface errors on the network restart until I figured that out. Also, the network restart took awhile and I finally did cntl-c to get back to a command line. It still seems to work ok though.

Now WPA doesn't work when I'm on another floor in the house. I didn't try non-encrypted or WEP. When I'm right next to the access point then all is well. I need to find a wifi signal strenght meter.

After using the machine for a while it turns out that my WPA wifi doesn't restart automatically aftet a reboot or coming out of sleep mode. However, a simple "sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart" fixes it. This is annoying but I see that it happens to a lot of people. I tried a couple workarounds I found on the web that tried to automatically restart networking as the machine comes out of sleep, but none of those worked. Maybe 7.10 will fix this bug.

I got a new router from Verizon
First I'll try WEP
sudo iwconfig wlan0 essid "9JZy5" key 18014LP9225 mode Managed

WEP is now not working. I've tried a ton of different things.

I'm going to try 7.10 Beta and see how it goes.

Theme that I like, nuoveXt-1.6

emelfm2, get deb package from

Updating to 7.10 Beta didn't work. The install got hung up after it asked to transfer setting from my Windows partition. Instead of dorking around with that I just did a fresh install of 7.04.

The fresh install of 7.04 went perfectly. Even better than perfect. Somehow it kept the nuoveXt-1.6 window theme. I assume that's because I kept the same /home partition without reformatting. The weird thing is that wireless networking using the internal 11b intel wifi card worked perfectly without me touching anything. I didn't even put in my WEP key. I'll take it, but that seems very weird. The /etc/network/interfaces is a new file so I don't know where it got the WEP key.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Vista Performance

We bought a new Dell Inspiron 1520 laptop about a month ago and it has Windows Vista Home Premium. Vista drives me crazy because the whole general feel of using it is slow. Maybe slow isn't the best word. Maybe I should say un-snappy...if that's a word. Loading the Control Panel takes 15+ seconds.

I figured I'd investigate why the Control Panel was so slow to open. I opened the Control Panel on other Vista machines at Costco and it opened within 1-2 seconds...that seems reasonable to me.

Several Google searches turned up nothing so I turned to Dell customer service via chat. The tech support guy was very efficient about helping me. He logged onto my laptop with DellConnect (which is Dell's flavor of remote desktop using Citrix's GoToAssist tools).

The tech support guy did the following to fix the control panel slowness...

1) Deleted all the files in C:\Windows\Prefetch

2) Deleted all the files in C:\Windows\Temp

3) Opened the System Configuration tool by runnign msconfig (Click Start-> type in 'msconfig' )

3.a) Selected the Startup tab

3.b) Selected "Disable all"

3.c) Selected the McAfee items in the list.

3.d) Apply

4) Reboot

I say this worked since now the Control Panel opens withing 1-2 seconds (the first time took ~15 seconds...I assume to build the icons initially).

Something in the "Prefetch" directory must have been corrupt, impacting the control panel. I think deleting everything in Prefetch would have done the trick. I think deleting Temp files doesn't hurt, but it was unnecessary.

I am a little annoyed that he disabled ALL of my startup programs and didn't ask me if there were any that I wanted to run at startup. I agree that not loading programs at startup is a good thing to improve "the opening of the control panel" but it doesn't help if I want iTunes running so that it fetches podcasts in the middle of the night. Later, I went back in and told the System Configuration utility to start iTunes automatically. This was easy for me...but it doesn't really pass the Grandma test.

All-in-all I learned about this PreFetch folder and my issue with Control Panel is fixed so I'm happy. Thanks to Dell Tech Support.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

iMac was a hoax

By the way, the iMac I bought on eBay was a scam. I paid but the seller never sent it to me. Luck that paypal ultimately refunded all my money without any fuss.

That twice I've been scammed and both times paypal has made it right. Kudos to paypal.

Big Steve's Trojan Horse

At 10 am Big Steve called me in a panic about some kind of virus that had hijacked his computer. As luck would have it I had installed logmein on that computer so I was able to quickly log into his Vista PC and see what was going on.

Sure enough, something had replaced his Internet Explorer homepage and wouldn't let us change the home page back. Plus, he kept getting pop-ups saying he had viruses along with offers to buy software that would fix it. It was the old break-it and then sell software to fix it scam.

1) When opening IE, the browser starts at about:blank, but they quickly switches to "" along with a pseudo pop-up telling us we have the W32.Myzor.FK@yf virus.
2) Bubbles open in the system tray waying we have a trojan horse.
3) Clicking on the bubble open a window asking us to buy software.
4) OS = Windows Vista
5) 2 Programs; isfmm.exe and isfvm.exe (I think) are running on the PC. If I kick either process, it starts again.
6) The 2 above programs are in C:/Program Files/Video-add ons/ and I cannot deletet them.
7) I cannot delete any IE add-ons.
8) I see an IE toolbar called "security toolbar 7.1" that I can't get rid of.

Step 1. Steve's Norton Antivirus had expired a long time ago so we renewed his subscription to Nortion 360 and did a full scan. This found and fixed 2 "issues" but didn't solve our problem. Worse yet, in the checkout process while buying Norton 360 it tricked Steve into buying something called "Extended Download Service" for $9.99. I don't know what that is, but I know he didn't need it.

Step 2. Installed SpyBot Search & Destroy from Ran it and it deleted a couple of dozen pieced of spyware. But this didn't solve the problem.

Step 3. Downloaded hijackthis from and ran it as administrator by right clicking on the executable and selecting Run as Administrator. In the output tool I deleted all entries with ifmm and ifvm in it. Rebooted and all was well.

Step 4. Deleted the directory C:/Program Files/video Add-ons/ and emptied the Recycle Bin.

All in all it was about 3 hours effort. I tried other things that didn't work and had to reboot about a couple dozen times. I only logged the steps that seems to have some value.

The lesson learned is don't download stuff you arent familiar with, keep antivirus/spyware programs up to date and hijackthis is a great tool.