Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ubuntu up and running!

My Ubuntu system is now fully up and running on a used laptop I picked up at the Trenton State Computer Festival. I picked up a Toshiba Satellite (2.4GHz) running Windows XP Home. I need XP for school as they run some odd apps that are Windows executables (grrr). The only problem with the laptop was I couldn't get the mini-PCI WiFi card to work under Windows (???). So once I determined that the system was stable (at least as stable as Windows gets) I installed Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty?). I played real dumb and just answered the install questions (I used a DVD to install Ubuntu). It repartitioned my disk with no problems, Windows still works (except for the built-in WiFi) and Ubuntu is up and running. I also have a Compaq system running Fedora 4 ( also have a Fedora 6 server and a soon-to-be Ubuntu server). I won't be upgrading the Compaq system any time soon as it's now my wife's (dual boots to Windows XP, she needs that for school). On the Compaq system I'm running ndiswrapper with it's WiFi card. On the Ubuntu system I initially had problems with the mini-PCI WiFi card and thought it was dead. So I purchased a Buffalo AirStation (WLI-CB-G54S) PCMCIA card. It works OK with Windows and Ubuntu and I made sure it supports better than just WEP. It works with a native driver under Linux but it's range is limited. I may need to get an external antenna to work better. I'm told that I could have made that card work with the NDISWrapper but I suspect that a future kernel change may break NDISWrapper. Beside I want native Linux drivers not Windows kludges (albeit a very inventive kludge, score one for the real hackers). Some where along the line I decided that I'd give the AR5212 based mini-PCI card another try. At first I was getting: "wifi%d: unable to attach hardware:" (sorry can't remember the full message). I did a quick search and found that either it was a hardware problem or I could upgrade to the latest cvs release of MADWiFi. I downloaded it, did a sudo make and sudo make install. Then manually configured the various parameters (I'm also using WPA_Supplicant for WPA support). I now have a working native Linux driver for my AR5212 card (yes!). I did much less work than I had to do for the Wireless network chapter of my book. I'm pleased to see that this difficult subject is becoming a little bit easier to deal with. I may write this up as an article for one of the Linux magazines or Circuit Cellar, we'll see. Right now it's time for my annual "Longest Day" bicycle ride (200+ miles in one day).

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sounds like Microsoft is going to war.

Looks like Microsoft is going head strong after the Linux and FOSS community. Microsoft has stated that Linux and the FOSS community has infringed on 235 patents that Microsoft owns. It appears that Microsoft won't inform the community which ones. I'd guess that they worry they won't be able to shut us down if we work around the patent issues. At the same time Microsoft has declared "The Free Software movement is dead. Linux doesn't exist in 2007. ...". It appears that Microsoft doesn't understand what the community is. They do understand the business part of the community but fail to understand the rest of us. But it's doing it's best to make sure it attacks us in all directions. On the one hand they say we're irrelevant. On the other they seemed worried that we're a dangerous foe that must be destroyed. Either way there's a storm coming and it's going to be a big one. Microsoft is a control freak and it doesn't like that it's not in full control of everything PC even if it's not their own. They think this is their sand box and that we don't belong there. I hope that the community can stick together on this, what we lack in funds I hope we overcome by the collective ingenuity of the community and possibly other ways. The one thing we can fully expect is that Microsoft will continue to attack and they won't give up easily. They will use what they've learned from the SCO (their sacrificial lamb?) case and try to grind the community into the ground. They will use the court of public opinion, the media (they are the masters of FUD), Congress, the Senate and the courts. They will use their money to their advantage and to the consumers disadvantage. This is not to say that the community should be allowed to blatantly abuse valid (non-obvious) patents. The question is, what are these patents? Are they non-obvious? Are they valid? Microsoft wants reparations and wants the Open Source community to pay.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded Edition

Looks like Ubuntu has a distribution for mobile and embedded devices called Fluxbuntu. I read an article on the Beeb titled: Linux evolves for mobile devices and an article on CRN Australia titled: Intel launches new Centrino, UltraMobile PC platforms. I don't know how this is going to play out for mobile devices (we're not talking moble phones). It seems that when it comes to embedded devices it's Debian and Ubuntu that are the top two distributions of choice (see's article titled: Snapshot of the embedded Linux market - April 2007 for further details) Ubuntu has a good reputation for easy of install and use for new users. It should be pretty much the same for developers as it is just Linux. What we do know is that Ubuntu supports a Desktop Linux and Server Linux. I've never used the Server package as I run Fedora at home but I have worked with the desktop set and it's OK (no distribution really impresses me that much) but I didn't really bang on it. My interests in Linux based embedded systems are basic, no real GUI. The user will either use a Browser or the command line via telnet or a serial port. Currently most of my stuff is using a Debian distribution (N770, NSLU, WRT54G, Netgear WGT634U, and my TS-7200 HA controller) and an unknown distribution on my Tivo and an IP Camera I have. For these embedded devices it's pretty much a Linux kernel, some basic utilities (much which is provided by Busybox), the main app. and it's support files.