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VMware: What's in a name?

VMware never ceases to confuse me. Not the program, which is a pretty good piece of software. Just the name of everything. Look at this list of VMware software; can you figure out what any of those things are via their names? The VMware official site is no less confusing.


Hilariously, all of these things seem to be named different things than a year or two ago when last I tried to install VMware. It seems this company, like many others, enjoys renaming everything at random, just to keep you on your toes.

November 26, 2009 @ 2:05 PM PST
Cateogory: Linux


I can pretty consistently crash my X server nowadays just by opening too many programs. I think I need a new computer.

Or maybe my idea of "too many programs" has been warped by how well Linux multi-tasks. Let's see. I'm seeding 20 torrents in KTorrent, I have Amarok playing, Konversation has a few IRC channels open, Kopete is doing some Jabber for me, Akregator is fetching feeds every 10 minutes, Gimp has a dozen PNGs open, Emacs is visiting around 20 files (and running SLIME + Clojure obviously), Squirrel SQL is running so I can peek at mysql, I have maybe 5 or 6 Konsole windows open, and I have four browsers running (Firefox, Chromium, Opera, Konq) for testing my websites while I develop (multiple tabs in each obviously). And so on.

In Windows not only would the single, sucky taskbar be full to overflowing, but all of my programs would be slowed to a crawl. In Linux I somehow get away with this level of activity for days at a time, but eventually I do something wrong and something crashes. Just now, it was opening one Konsole window too many. I think it's KDE4 instability, or else my ancient video card can't handle the screen resolution I'm running. But I get crashes in Gentoo and Arch both so I don't know.

Buying a computer is such a pain. I never know what to get. I don't keep up with hardware news. Every time I turn around there are twelve new processor families. I know whatever I buy will suck in a month. My current computer is from way back in 2006 and I haven't upgraded it since. My geek cred is non-existent if judged by the computer I'm using. It's embarrassing.

September 26, 2009 @ 11:56 AM PDT
Cateogory: Linux

Trying Arch

Thanks to all who gave helpful suggestions about running VMs in Gentoo. The main reason I wanted a VM was to play around with some other distros and see what I liked.

But then I got to thinking, and I realized that I have over 250 GB of free hard drive space sitting around. So I made a new little partition and per Noah's suggestion, threw Arch Linux on there.

I'm fairly impressed so far. The install was easy. In contrast to the enormous Gentoo handbook, the whole Arch install guide fits on one page of the official Arch wiki. Why doesn't Gentoo have an official wiki? I know there are concerns over the quality of something anyone can edit, but in practice is it a big a deal? Is it worth the price of sending users elsewhere, to potentially even WORSE places, when the Gentoo docs don't cover everything we need? The quality of the unofficial Gentoo wiki is often very good but sometimes hit-or-miss, and it also sort of crashes and loses all data without backups every once in a while.

The Arch installer is a commandline app using ncurses for basic menus and such, which is more than sufficient and a good compromise between commandline-only and full-blown X-run Gnome bloat. The install itself went fine, other than my own mistakes. I'm sharing /boot and /home between Gentoo and Arch so I can switch between them easily. During the install Arch tried to create some GRUB files, but they already existed care of Gentoo, so the install bombed without much notification and I didn't notice until 3 steps later. No big deal to fix, but I'd have liked a louder error message right away when it happened. The base install took about 45 minutes.

Another nice thing is that the Arch install CD has vi on it. I didn't have to resort to freaking nano or remember to install vim first thing. A mild annoyance to be sure, but it bugged me every time I installed Gentoo.

After boot, installing apps via pacman is simple enough. KDE 4.2 installed in about 15 minutes, as you'd expect from a distro with binary packages. I found a mirror with 1.5 Mb/sec downloads, which is awfully nice. Syncing the package tree takes less than 2 seconds, which is also nice compared to Portage's 5-minute rsync and eix update times. Searching the tree via regex is also somehow instantaneous in Arch.

Oddly, KDE didn't seem to pull in Xorg as a dependency, but other dependencies worked fine so far. Time will tell how well this all holds up. Most package managers do fine on the normal cases but the real test is the funky little obscure apps. pacman -S gvim resulted in a Vim with working rubydo and perldo, which means Arch passed the Ubuntu stink test.

Another nice thing is that KDE4 actually works. My Gentoo install is years old and possibly crufted beyond repair, or something else was wrong, but I have yet to get KDE4 working in Gentoo without massive breakage. Possibly if I wiped Gentoo and tried KDE4 without legacy KDE3 stuff everywhere it'd also be smooth.

Regardless, it all works in Arch. NVidia drivers and Twinview settings were copy/pasted from Gentoo, and compositing all works fine. No performance problems in KDE with resizing or dragging windows, no Plasma crashes (yet), no missing icons or invisible notification area. QtCurve works in Qt3, Qt4 and GTK just fine. My sound card worked without any manual configuration at all. My mouse worked without tweaking, including the thumb buttons. Same with networking, the install prompted me for my IP and gateway etc. and then it worked, no effort.

I've mentioned before, but one nice thing about Linux is that if you have /home in its own partition, it's no big deal at all to share it between distros. With no effort at all I'm now using all my old files and settings in Arch, and I can switch back and forth between this and Gentoo without any troubles.

So we'll see how this goes. So far so good though. Arch seems very streamlined and its goal is minimalism, which is nice. Gentoo has not felt minimalistic to me in a while. Again, may be due to the age of my install, cruft and bit-rot.

This post is related to Gentoo VMWare Fail
March 31, 2009 @ 5:52 PM PDT
Cateogory: Linux
Tags: KDE, Gentoo, Linux, Arch

Gentoo VMWare Fail

According to this bug, VMWare on Gentoo is in a sorry state, with one lone person trying to keep it going. I can't get vmware-modules to compile on my system no matter what I try, which is depressing. Kudos to all of our one-man army Gentoo devs who are keeping various parts of the distro going, but I wonder how many other areas of Gentoo are largely unmaintained nowadays.

KVM was braindead simple to get set up in comparison with VMWare, but I can't get networking to work. This is because I'm an idiot when it comes to TUN/TAP and iptables. I've read wiki articles that suggest setting up my system to NAT-forward traffic into the VM but I couldn't get that working and don't have a lot of time to screw with it.

On one of the Gentoo mailing lists I noticed that a dev has posted some KVM images of Gentoo suitable for testing. But I'm looking to start up an image from scratch and that doesn't help, and it's not going to help me get networking going any easier.

Why do I feel like this'd take 10 minutes to set up on Ubuntu? Look at this, or search for "ubuntu vmware" and see the hundreds of results. Given that it's a VM and it doesn't really matter what the host OS is anyways, I'll probably do that on my laptop, but it's still depressing.

March 30, 2009 @ 5:59 PM PDT
Cateogory: Linux

Conky Goodness

I uploaded a new screenshot:


The conky with weather pictures in it is stolen from RAMC's conkyrc which you can find on the Gentoo MB and also apparently here. There's a python script there to fetch and display weather info.

Whoever thought up the idea of making a font that consists of little weather pictures was pretty clever. Whoever thought up making a font that consists of Linux distro emblems has a bit too much time on his hands.

Oddly enough, Unicode itself includes glyphs for weather symbols. e.g. this is Unicode character 2603:

If your font supports it, it should show up as a snowman. If your font doesn't support it, it may show up as an ice cube.

March 21, 2009 @ 11:52 AM PDT
Cateogory: Linux

Goodbye, sweet uptime

I finally had to reboot my Gentoo box today. My uptime as of reboot:

315 days, 54 min

Not spectacular, but not bad for a dust-covered desktop machine, and it probably could've gone another 300 days or so. I only had to reboot because I bought another 500GB hard drive.

Funny thing about rebooting after that long, you have no idea what's going to happen. I finally unmasked and compiled a newer kernel, and there were quite a few new options and features in there to root through. My disk hadn't been fscked for 396 days, and after rebooting and 15 minutes of grinding away, it found a few dozen orphaned inodes. A few init scripts having to do with modules gave me some warnings, but I fixed that up.

But I think I can spare an hour every year or two to update my system.

March 19, 2009 @ 11:48 AM PDT
Cateogory: Linux
Tags: Gentoo, Linux

KDE 4.2.... so close

I tried KDE 4 (again) on Gentoo last night. It's unmasked in the tree so it was simple enough to install (if you're willing to use a masked Portage so you can use sets).

You can easily see improvement in KDE 4.2 compared to older versions of KDE 4. Everything generally works now, which is itself a change. Performance issues are almost gone; I can at least move and resize windows now without my system freezing. Delays in rendering popup menus are gone. All the shiny desktop effects worked right away with no hassle and everything looked great. A lot of the little nooks and crannies of previous missing features are filled in.

Some things are still not quite right though. I experienced massive stuttering in mplayer when I tried to watch a movie and do some other things at the same time. I managed to crash plasma once or twice just by resizing the main panel. I'm using two monitors and one monitor went totally blank for no reason I can determine, with only a one-inch strip of blue wallpaper at the top which was still right-clickable, while the other monitor kept working fine.

And other things are still broken beyond belief. All my system tray icons were invisible (reading the Gentoo MB apparently I'm not alone with that problem). Icons were a problem in general; random parts of the kmenu still had question-mark icons. Trying to download new themes of any sort via the "New Themes..." buttons in various system dialogs silently did nothing. When I opened Dolphin, all the menus were labeled "No Text", which was amusing. And I did manage to freeze-crash KDE4 when I tried to quit once, just like old times. Qtcurve wouldn't let me configure itself. GTK apps were themeless until I found an ebuild for a gtk-engines-kde4 ebuild in an overlay.

Installing KDE 4.2 and KDE 3.5 in parallel breaks tons of things in KDE3, e.g. the K menu is missing tons of stuff and has tons of extra KDE4 stuff that doesn't work, KControl no longer functions at all, the splash screen when you start is just a blank blue box, and so on. I'm now in the process of uninstalling KDE 4 (again) and trying to salvage my system (again).

Starting KDE 3 again after using KDE 4 for an hour, it's depressing how much smoother and more responsive it feels. I have hopes for KDE 4, it's clearly headed in the right direction, but I feel like it's going to be another year before it comes close to catching up to KDE 3.

February 25, 2009 @ 8:31 AM PST
Cateogory: Linux
Tags: KDE, Gentoo

Remote webcam viewing: Ubuntu 3, Gentoo 0

One could argue that boringness is a good attribute for a distro. Gentoo has stayed out of my way for a good long time. I update world once a week and I haven't had a package fail to build or fail to work in a while.

Until a few days ago. I wanted to view video from my laptop's built-in webcam, on my desktop, over my local network. My laptop is running Ubuntu, and my desktop is running Gentoo. One point in favor of Ubuntu, my webcam works without any effort on my fault. It works right on a fresh Ubuntu install off the install CD. I never did get any webcam working on any Gentoo install whenever I've tried over the years. Maybe the situation has rectified itself at this point, but I don't anticipate trying.

Unfortunately, viewing my laptop's feed on my desktop also failed to work. First I tried an X-forwarding SSH tunnel, and running xawtv -remote, but I got all kinds of nasty errors along the lines of

X Error of failed request:  BadWindow (invalid Window parameter)
  Major opcode of failed request:  2 (X_ChangeWindowAttributes)
  Resource id in failed request:  0x1a5
  Serial number of failed request:  55
  Current serial number in output stream:  56

Extensive Googling turned up nothing on this, which isn't surprising given how un-informative an error message this is. Maybe some extension in X needed to be built to get xawtv to work. Maybe it's a version incompatibility. Maybe some hardware thing with my video card driver. Who knows. On the other hand when I tried to view my laptop's feed on another laptop running Ubuntu (actually Kubuntu), it worked fine. Albeit incredibly slowly.

Then I noticed Ekiga comes installed on Ubuntu by default, so I figured I'd try that, in spite of it being a bit overkill. But installing Ekiga on Gentoo died with a build error, because I needed to build pwlib with ldap support. Ekiga between the two Ubuntu laptops worked fine without any effort too, so at that point I gave up on getting it working in Gentoo, since it was no longer worth it.

No big deal, but slightly annoying. Probably could've gotten it to work in Gentoo eventually, but I have less and less patience for fiddling with installation nowadays. This is probably one of the benefits of the sort of mono-culture Ubuntu is turning into. Everyone using Ubuntu has the same basic crap installed. Whereas there's probably no one in the world with a Gentoo install quite like mine.

But Gentoo is still working well for me overall.

January 31, 2009 @ 10:04 AM PST
Cateogory: Linux
Tags: Gentoo, Ubuntu

KDE4 disaster

From reading the bug it sounds like KDE4 is getting close to being ready to hit the tree, which is awesome. Foolishly, I decided to try it early from the overlay last night. It was a total disaster. Things were crashing left and right, panels would resize themselves to be fullscreen (with hilarious results), half of my apps didn't work at all. I found three or four ways to bring down the entire X server. It took me many hours to get KDE3 running again. This is totally to be expected from installing masked packages as I did, so it's my own dumb fault, it was amusing and I wanted to get a taste.

I'm afraid it's going to be inevitably difficult or impossible to migrate cleanly from KDE3 to KDE4. I had the same problem in Kubuntu when I tried a while back. KDE is so huge and so many things link to it or interact with it that it's going to take a year to track down and remove all the cruft after the switch.

I couldn't even import my old KDE3 color schemes or Konsole color schemes into KDE4, which was surprising. QtCurve was un-configurable, dekorator didn't work, and so on. I didn't get far enough to figure out if my preferred icon themes work or not. I didn't realize they broke backwards compatibility to that large an extent, but I maybe it's to be expected.

There were other problems that were seemingly due to the lingering immaturity of KDE4. I can see all the pieces there which are going to allow people to do really neat stuff eventually. In the meantime KDE4 feels horrible.

KDE4 fonts look nice though.

October 05, 2008 @ 6:49 AM PDT
Cateogory: Linux
Tags: KDE, Themes, Gentoo

Gentoo still rules

The version of akregator I have always displays article link text in an ugly dark blue, which doesn't show up well against my dark Qt theme. I can barely read an ebuild to save my life, and the KDE ebuilds are full of all kinds of odd KDE-specific stuff, but it still took me just a couple of minutes to:

  1. Find the sources in /usr/portage/distfiles
  2. Cludgily patch akregator to use normal text color for links (underlines still distinguish them)
  3. Copy the akregator ebuild into an overlay, throw the patch in there and add one line to the ebuild to read it
  4. emerge away

Et voil?, custom-patched, package-manager-managed app. Gentoo is pretty good for this kind of thing, whatever its other shortcomings. Does any other distro make it this easy to do such things? (I'm genuinely curious.)

September 26, 2008 @ 11:56 AM PDT
Cateogory: Linux
Tags: KDE, Gentoo, Linux