Lack Of Bins & Placement

In my previous post I outlined in a somewhat comic fashion the note I had found in my bin with regards to its placement on a pavement. The note had been placed there for good reason as a number of bins mine included had been strewn about. Now that was some weeks back and ever since the bin has been moved back and neatly positioned to allow for clear passage. Due to the bins location and the sloped bank and steps at the rear of my property it has not been practical to bring them inside the property boundary for health and safety reasons. I don't want to fall down steps with a heavy bin on me. So they have been sitting there happily until today.

Due to the aforementioned note and with the need to keep bins tidy I have been taking a bag of rubbish up to the bins to both dispose of it and to move the bin off the path. So this very evening I ascended the steps with refuse in hand, unlocked the gate ready to reposition the bin. One problem, actually two problems, no green bin for garden waste and no black bin either. I now have, due to the warm weather and discarded food scraps, a bag of indescribable stench sitting in my kitchen.

This as you can imagine has left me a little unhappy with the bastards at the council. Obviously there should have been some more budget cutting and the offending cretins dismissed and the savings used for something more useful like road maintenance.

Now we shall get on to phase 2 of the irritation scale. The previous weeks refuse collection had been fine aside from the fact that a random bin had appeared at the front of my property and remained there for most of the week waiting to be claimed by whichever neighbour it belonged to. It was finally claimed yesterday I assumed that whoever wanted to put their bins out had discovered it had not been returned and collected it. Or as I now suspect they were a dual bin owner and had previously been making use of the rear bins in addition to the front bin.

I am now without bins, the council website has an online form to complete for a new bin to be provided. Underneath a series of check boxes for what bin I wish to request is a box asking for a reason, this field is required. Needless to say the form has not yet been completed due to the fact I may end up telling them where I plan on shoving my current bag of refuse.

Irritation phase 3. The process of writing this post required the turning on of my PCs monitor. This can generate some heat whilst running. The result is that my sleeping quarters have seen the ambient temperature rise somewhat. Now in cooler conditions this is nothing to worry about but the warm and sticky conditions of recent nights computer usage has been reduced. After a particularly warm day I was hoping to keep the room as cool as possible, not have to vent my anger over the lack of a waste collection receptacle.

Irritation phase 4. It has only been a month since I managed to finally get rid of my recycling due to the wonderful council not being able to publish an easy to find collection schedule. So after thinking everything was moving along smoothly to have this happen has tipped me over the edge. The only thing which may result in a phase 5 meltdown is if during or after the bin replacement procedure they try and charge me for the replacement. Stay tuned, this may get ugly.

Windows 7 + CUPS – Problem Solved

I have been trying to get my Windows 7 (Pro) machine to connect to the CUPS printer on my Linux server. Whilst it used to work with Windows XP (Home) via IPP (Internet Printing Protocol) I was having no luck with Windows 7. One reason for the problem is my network security and firewalls. I lock down everything unless it is actually needed. This means that all the auto discovery services on the network can't talk to each other. Still knowing the IP address and ports of the relevant machine/service to connect to is normally enough to get things working. Not in this case however. For some reason either at the Windows or CUPS end the IP address was causing a problem. The problem being that the it wasn't being resolved to a machine name when trying to setup the IPP connection.

Example:
Machine "Server" with IP "192.168.7.7"

http://192.168.7.7:631/printers/ # Connection will setup but fails to communicate
http://Server:631/printers/
# Connection established and working.

Solution:
The solution to the problem in the end turned out to be quite simple. On Linux machines there is a file /etc/hosts in which you can specify a mapping between IP addresses and hostnames. It turns out that Windows has the same file, its just hidden away in C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts. Copying in the hostname information gives Windows the information it needs which it cannot find out itself due to the network discovery restrictions.

Background Notes:
This has solved my problem but it was useful to be able to connect another Linux machine to the printer first confirming my CUPS setup was initially working. I had also tried disabling the firewall on the server to ensure that it wasn't a bad configuration, when that didn't work it was obvious that the problem was not in my case CUPS related. It is also a good idea to backup any working config files for future reference/use.

Fedora 14 – One Month On

It has been just over a month since I switched my Linux computers from Gentoo to Fedora. I am happy to report that all is going well. There have been a few issues but these are minor annoyances rather than major problems.

The first problem was with my laptop. Having started using it with Fedora 13 and all being well it focused my mind on moving over to Fedora 14 when it was released. The upgrade was simple and initially all was working perfectly. Over time though the back-light control has stopped working. I can hit the key combination to alter the brightness and the on screen display shows a reduction in level. The back-light brightness itself doesn't change. So currently I have to force the level I want it set to using the command line. This is an issue for me as I tend to type more on the laptop and its easier on the eye to have a screen that is not brilliant white glaring back at me.

The second issue was with my new server. I had selected an AMD/ATI graphics card to use for its low power consumption and had checked its driver compatibility before purchasing. The open source drivers would do 2D only but the closed source drivers would support 3D. Setup notes for using the proprietary driver for older versions of Fedora were easy to find. However notes on setting the driver up for Fedora 14 have only recently been made available. This was a little disappointing as I would have expected something as vital as a graphics driver being updated a lot sooner.

My third issue is more an observation on the structure of the Fedora community. There is an official website but the forums are not officially linked to the project. There is a link on the site indicating its existence but for me the two need to be brought together and make it a central point of information in the same way Gentoo has. The Fedora wiki is more focused on the running of the project rather than the unofficial Gentoo wiki which is a great source of setup guides and instructions. Fedora has its documentation project but form my point of view isn't very useful once the system is up and running with the major services setup. Having tried to find things on the Fedora wiki I quickly gave up. A simple keyword search resulted in pages of irrelevant information. Using Google suddenly becomes the better way of searching it.

So to summarise my experiences with using Fedora have been generally positive. Updates have been easier to apply and fewer things have gone wrong. The result is I have spent more time using my Linux machines and less time trying to fix them. The minor issues with the software will be resolved at some point but I can work around them. More of a concern long term is the community structure. This I believe may cause me at some stage to begin looking around for another distro to try. Gentoo was difficult to leave having used it for so long. Now however, distro hopping is alot easier.

Experiences with Windows 7 & SSD

This week I took delivery of a 40GB Solid State Drive (SSD) an a copy of Windows 7 Professional to give a boost to my quad core box. Windows XP has had a good run and it is getting to the point where an OS upgrade is needed to get the best out of the underlying hardware. The system has 8GB RAM but the 32bit nature of XP meant that only 4GB of memory could be addressed. In addition Windows 7 supports newer versions of DirectX. There are games on the horizon which I plan on getting which will require a newer graphics card which will use the newer DirectX. So that is the reason for the upgrade, now onto the installation itself.

I had the option to upgrade my XP install but since it has been in use for a few years now it had alot of rubbish on it. So I opted for a completely clean install.
The SSD was installed and set to AHCI in the bios. Putting the installation DVD in the drive on boot and the process begins.

This was the first Windows installation I've done which has gone from start to finish without the need for any extra driver discs needing to be loaded. I was presented with a desktop at the correct resolution with all connected monitors detected and all the hardware aside from the sound card detected and setup. Well done Microsoft, its about time.

Thats the good bit, now for the bad. The formatted capacity of the SSD was around 37.5GB so I expected plenty of room for the OS and programs; I was wrong. I discovered that i had around 9GB of free space, this was a shock. A complete Linux installation with lots of software can fit into 10GB easily. So the task of discovering where all the space had gone began. The first big chunk of space was taken up by the pagefile. Due to the pagefile seeming to be slightly bigger than the amount of RAM there was 8GB of space. Moving the pagefile to a partiton on another drive solved this issue. Disabling the hibernation feature also saved another 6GB or so. I ended up with about 24GB of free space on the drive. A big chunk of the used space is taken up by the Winsxs folder, the purpose of which I have yet to fully determine for its 6.5GB size. This greedy nature of Windows is something that Microsoft should address, just because hard drives are bigger these days doesn't mean Windows should use it.

So now I have some space back on my SSD it is time to move on the the next lot of problems. I use the Synergy software to share my keyboard and mouse between machines. This has served me well for years and I had very few problems with it until Windows 7 is involved. As soon as the UAC dialog box pops up on screen I can't click on it as the mouse is frozen out. Luckily I have a hardware KVM switch but this isn't the convenient option and there is some lag in the switchover. Turning off UAC has solved most of the keyboard and mouse share issues at the moment and everything is usable. There are still things to get used to but it could be worse.

Worse then happened, BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). Not once but twice, data being lost in the process. The fault after some searching appears to be the SSD firmware. The Corsair F40 drive decides on occasion to give up being a drive and turns into a lifeless box. Soft rebooting the system the bios had trouble detecing the drive again. Only a hard power reset would allow the drive to boot again. After the second failure I lost all faith in the current SSD technology and moved Win7 back to a spinning drive. Since then all has been stable on the Windows side, just a bit slower on bootup.

So to sum up, Windows 7 is ok but could be alot better and SSD drives are going to be avoided by me in the near future until the technology becomes more reliable.

Thunderbird 3 Bug: A Workaround

I recently upgraded from Mozilla Thunderbird 2 to the new Thunderbird 3 release. For a few days everything was working fine with the new default settings. I have a few email accounts which Thunderbird fetches mail for and I didn't want to use the new Smart Folder mode. So I changed back to not using it. Everything appeared ok, until the next day. I returned home from work to find no new email. This is highly unusual as there is usually some for of advert for an online store showing me the latest offers, especially around christmas time. This lack of email continued for a few days, to begin with I attributed this to my ISP who were reporting problems with the email system. Today after 4 days with no new mail it was time to explore more options within Thunderbird and try to find a solution to the problem.

The solution came about by chance whilst browsing the Account Settings screen. The route to the solution from the main screen is shown below.

Tools > Account Settings > Click 'Server Settings' option under your problem account(s) > Click 'Advanced' button towards the bottom right > Select 'Global Inbox' option and check the 'Include this server when getting new mail' box.

This process should re-enable your account and allow you to get your missing emails.

Thunderbird 3 Account Settings Menu
Thunderbird 3 Account Settings Menu

Thunderbird 3 Settings Dialog
Thunderbird 3 Settings Dialog

Mailserver – Another Stage Completed

Over the past couple of weeks I have been moving the mailserver project closer to being ready for actual use and another milestone has been passed. I have now reached the stage where my hotmail and gmail accounts are collected onto the server and made availiable via IMAP.

This has not been without problems, I experinced a problem with mail not getting through the spam filter when sent from the local machine but working fine for the exernally received mail. This has now been resolved, although I have to admit I'm not sure how, mainly because I never fully isolated the actual cause of the problem. I suspect it was the system calling the spam filter multiple times whilst processing a single email. Now the next stage is to test how things work for a week or so and watch out for any more bugs.

There is plenty more documentation to write, every thing about the mailserver configuration is full of options to configure it and I want to make sure I have a reference for the future. I still might be on target for having all my other email accounts on the server by the end of the year.

Windows Vista – Still Crap

In the past few weeks I purchased some new Anti-virus and Firewall software from ESET to replace my expiring & bloated AVG install. The first machine to get the upgrade was my XP desktop machine; everything went well. I was impressed with the lighter feel to the software and the added fact that it didn't seem to be hogging the system resources quite as much. A weeks trial later I decided it was stable and usable enough to be used on my laptop; running Windows Vista. The install was painless and the software scanned my system and there were no obvious issues.

The problems arose when I came to reboot the machine following some windows updates and some minor web application updates. Continue reading "Windows Vista – Still Crap"

Another One Bites The Dust

It's that time again when another peice of my IT equipment has died. When I say died it's more akin to requiring the replacement of several major organs at the same time. Thurday night I was going about my usual activities of checking email and surfing the web with my windows desktop and 24/7 linux server.

I have been using the linux box alot recently due it collecting my rss feeds for me, the windows box being used for emails and games. The screen for the windows box had gone dark, not a big deal the screen saver kicks in if it's not being used. The discovery of a problem came when it didn't wake up when I moved the cursor to that screen (I use synergy to share kb&mouse across 2 machines). Ok not a huge problem, sometimes an error occurs with the kb/mouse sharing so I used my Belkin Switch2 to connect directly to that machine, still no response.
Continue reading "Another One Bites The Dust"