Archive for Linux

Everything is a file – including punctuation

Unix, stop messing with my head.

davemc@slarti:~$ which [
/usr/bin/[

Stop it. Seriously.

Okay, so [ is a command. A program. An executable. Not some syntactic massage oil applied by the shell's if and while and such (although the man page hints that in some shells it may well be).

And it has most of the same behaviour as test... that, at least, makes sense. Except that [ expects a ] as its final argument, while test doesn’t.

Huh. Cool.

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SSH and DNS

I just needed to share that, a couple of hours ago, I finally worked out why SSH was slow to connect inside my home network. This has been nagging me for… well, years, probably. It’s one of those problems that I didn’t run into too often, and it only caused about five seconds of inconvenience each time, so it never really passed the threshold of dealing with it. Except today, for some reason.

It turns out that my server (running Ubuntu 9.10) was doing a reverse DNS lookup every time, presumably out of some effort to log the domain name of the machine trying to connect to it. The forum discussion that pointed in this direction is here; below is an outline of what I did to fix it and/or should do to fix it more elegantly, in case anyone’s interested.

Short-term solution: edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config on the server and add the line:

UseDNS no

…so that it doesn’t bother with the lookup. Then restart the SSH daemon:

sudo /etc/init.d/ssh restart

Medium-term solution: add /etc/hosts entries on the server for each computer in the house. Also, get the router to assign them static IPs. (I should probably do this anyway; I’ve just been lazy about it.)

Long-term solution: find out whether my router can work as a DNS server, or, failing that, run one on the Ubuntu box.

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Vye Mini-v S37

So my Vye S37 just arrived. It came with Vista on it; I booted it once (actually about three times, after it did all its setup-reboot-repeat shenanigans… sheesh) to check that it worked, then booted Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix from a USB drive.

Here’s a list of what works in UNR out of the box:

  • Everything.

Okay, technically I don’t know that everything works – I haven’t tried Bluetooth or the card reader or most of the buttons on the display (in fact I suspect that at least the screen rotation button will need some custom fiddling), but the two main things that other people seemed to have trouble with in older versions of Ubuntu – WiFi and the touchscreen – work beautifully. Well, I haven’t tried to use WiFi yet, ’cause all the routers around me are locked, but it can see them.

I am well pleased. I’ll post some thoughts on UNR after I’ve played with it for a while.

Ah… Just noticed that the touchscreen doesn’t quite go to the edge of the screen. I can live with that. If that’s what everyone else is complaining about then, frankly, what a bunch of whingers.

Edit: Oh, I see, menus and whatnot are at the edge of the screen, which makes the touchscreen thing important. Well, I found the touchscreen maker’s site the other day and they seemed to have well-maintained Linux drivers (there’s an installer for the last several Ubuntu versions, including 9.10), so I’ll see what can be done about it later.

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iPad Substitute

I seem to have developed a pattern of buying alternatives to Apple’s flagship products.

Instead of getting an iPod, I bought an iriver. Part of the rationale was that it supported Ogg Vorbis. It also turned out to be chunky and awful and churn through AA batteries, but meh.

I deliberated for a while about getting an iPhone, but on the verge of making the decision there was some controversy or other about the app store, which pushed me over the line to go for the Android-powered HTC Hero instead. The idea of an open platform for app development appealed to me enormously. So far I haven’t actually done any of said development, but it’s nice to know that I could in theory.

I don’t actually have a problem with Apple, and in fact I think their focus on a simple, seamless UI is something that should be imitated far more often. But being a geek, I actually like something with a few visible seams, because they can be picked apart. Like Shamus, I’m not really their target market.

Anyway, less than a week after the iPad announcement, I find myself having bought a Vye Mini-v S37 at auction. Notionally the idea is to have something small and light to travel with, especially on our honeymoon in May – an argument supported by its the fact that it has a CF card reader, will let me dump photos onto it. But really I just thought it was cool. Obviously I’m planning to put Linux on it (probably Xubuntu)… although I can’t find anywhere that explicitly says that someone’s tried that and everything works, which means that it could be… interesting. It’ll be disappointing if I’m stuck with Vista.

So the relevance of this to a blog about software and stuff (other than the fact that I’ve been otherwise occupied with work and wedding plans and the box set of Buffy and am struggling a bit to find something to write to break the silence) is that I’ll be posting some updates on how Linux holds up in the tablet-netbook-thing niche.

Update: Apparently the Vye S37 is also sold as the Kohjinsha SH8. That link is to a blog describing an attempt to get Ubuntu 7.10 working on said Kohjinsha (and I thought this blog was too topic-specific :) ). So it looks like the problems, if I have them, will be WiFi and the touch screen… although I’m also quite optimistic about Ubuntu’s progress over the intervening two years.

Update 2: The Ralink RT73 WiFi adapter allegedly works out of the box in 9.10. Should be okay on that front.

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