Friday, November 20, 2009

Time to Give Back

OK. I haven't fully gotten this blogging thing completely squared away, but gather I can rant or post information.

I'm pretty much out of rants these days, but have been working hard uncovering weirdness while trying to configure a laptop for my granddaughter Casey.

I've logged the solutions, but had not yet posted them so that others might benefit. So now I do.

The most fearful are those in the bowels of /bin and /etc because you really need to muck about as root and that can be a dangerous thing.

But I have already reinstalled this thing about three times, so it was the time to go a bit further:

Problem: All of a sudden I get

Permissions on the password database may be too restrictive

su: incorrect password

when trying to change to root with the su - command.

"All of a sudden" because I had not done anything (I swear!) other than restore the root password which had gone south a few days ago.

Googling brings all kinds of interesting stuff, all of which I tried with no success.

This worked:

+ Log in as normal, going to user through the preestablished automatic login.

+ Log out as user and back in as root.

+ Go to YaST > Security > Local > Security Overview. We find Use secure file permissions disabled. Enabled it and set it to Easy.


It's easy when you know how.


Of all the intermediary research and trial and error that I went through in getting here, one source I would recommend is /etc/permissions. I had wanted to find something like this a long time ago without success. This file and its associated ...easy, ...standard, ...paranoid parallels are the basis for the Linux file ownership and permissions system.

You use them (as root in a rescue login) with

chkstat -set /etc/permissions
chkstat -set /etc/permissions.{easy,secure,paranoid}

or call


as YaST does after it thinks that files have been modified in the system.

Hope this helps.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Your mileage may vary, but as of 10/25/09, VMWare is the winner. We have spent several weeks playing with the latest versions of CrossOverOffice for Linux (CXO) and Sun's VirtualBox (SVB). Both are brilliant in their own way. But in the end, you get what you pay for.

CXO does very well with its "supported" applications, but I have found little or none beyond that. The most frustrating part is USB support, which seems to be nil, no matter how many hacks I try.

SVB is much snappier than VMware, but again the USB support is spotty. I have documented all this, it just doesn't work all that well. I've RTFI'd the help file and discovered you need to define at least one "filter" for USB devices. This does not appear after hours of googling. But I have done so for all available devices, but it just works for one, the Nokia phone.

Below is a synopsis:

I've had a very pleasant experience with the latest CrossOver Office (CXO) 8.0.0 for Linux ($70) with the apps that they "support". I can now use Word, Excel, without the huge disk-thrashing overhead of the XP OS.

It Turns Out That both Word and Excel are really quite snappy apps; their generally perceived sluggishness is due the OS,
*NOT* the app. I can prove this by comparing response times on the app on WinXP versus response time on CXO. The difference is amazing. If I were the project manager for either MSWord or MSExcel I would prolly be hugely PO'd by the sluggishness rendered by the underlying OS...

On The Other Hand... :-(

CXO USB support and support for "unsupported" apps are less than marginally acceptable. They need an auto-discovery routine that will bring up
ndiswrapper and prompt for the drivers. Or something. Hey, dmesg and hal know instantly when you plug in a USB device. So it is very doable, but after several hours of experimenting each day for about a week I can only connect to USB memory devices that are recognized and mounted as drives by the host. So this leaves out:

+ Garmin GPS products
+ Nokia phones
+ ICOM radios
+ RayTech products

And a few other programs that are only available in MSWin such as:

+ NLReg
+ AimKeys
+ Adobe Acrobat
+ ...

In short, CXO does not support the only few remaining reasons to use MSWin: niche applications and USB dependent applications.

Graphics, communications, computer admin, media, music, photos, browsers, office apps, finance, all the rest of the mainstream I can do on Linux without even a Whiff of the MS stench.

(Sorry for the arcane allegory: Newport RI has a huge sewage problem that has them tearing up almost every street in the town trying to fix... Huge trenches, beaches closed, overflowing manholes... A third world country. So you spend a lot of time holding your nose...

(But the comparison is valid, be it MSWin or sewage: almost everywhere you go you find this stench so it takes extraordinary effort to avoid it...)

Anything mainstream that MSWin can do Linux can do better. But I need MSWin to run my little toys...

[OBTW, what in the world possessed them to totally hose the menu on Office 2007 with eye-candy to completely confound over fifteen years of conventional usage and come up with a file format that is not backwards compatible with said over fifteen years of data?! The menu is just a single layer of eye-candy under which lies the old familiar File>Edit>View menu, but it takes you several days of frustration to figure that out. And the use of XML is just politically correct breast beating. Sure, introduce the new format as an option, but don't make it the default without warning! YOH! I have work to do. Time is money and you are costing me money!!

[Oh, and while you're screwing up my format and telling me that there are four cells whose formats are not backwards compatible how about giving me a [Find] choice instead of playing "I have a secret"?


[But I digress.]

In short, there are only two reasons for using CXO:

+ Snappy performance of "supported" apps on Linux, compared to the sluggish performance on XP, whether on actual or virtual hardware (I can see no difference between the latter two)

+ Political activism for OS iconoclasm. Which I support.

So where does that leave us?


+ Native Win2k/WinXP/whatevah (Have you noticed the quiet death of Vista? Actually, it was stillborn...)

+ CXO for Linux for "supported" Apps

+ Virtual machines with MS Operating Systems for the rest of the niche and USB requiring Windows programs:

- VMWare on Linux Host with whatevah client

- VirtualBox ( Linux Host with whatevah client

AFAICT, mounting WinXP on any of these seems to be about the same. Tons of disk thrashing. And yes, I have googled extravagantly trying to find a solution. It just doesn't seem to exist. Please tell me if you know of one.

My sense is that VirtualBox is cleaner and leaner than VMWare. And it certainly is infinitely cheaper (any number divided by zero goes to infinity...

I know VMWare, VMWare is a friend of mine, but it also is rather dear in this domain and AFAICT no better, and perhaps worse, than VirtualBox.

Except that it works.

You get what you pay for.

Monday, September 7, 2009



I've been struggling for quite some time to connect my Linux machine to the Internet via the cellphone. Today I cracked it.

There have been a several issues:

* SuSE 11.1 Bluetooth is broken, AFAICT. At least I can't get it going right. I had it working just fine on SuSE 10.2 but the 11 series release broke a lot of stuff. I had ppp working over Bluetooth on SuSE 10.2, but haven't yet succeeded on 11.1.

* AT&T pulled the ability to "tether" (connect through a phone) from my plan a year or so. It was working fine (again on SuSE 10.2) and then one day it just stopped. They said it should never have worked, but whatever. So now I have a plan that explicitly allows tethering.

* The newer versions (6.9, 7.0) of Nokia PC Suite just didn't work on my Windows 2000 installation on VMWare on SuSE.

But after returning from a wonderful holiday in Europe and the UK I got to work:

* First I created a new virtual machine and installed Windows XP. Time consuming (about a week) of reinstalling all the software and sorting things out, but it is all working, including PC Suite this time. So I could connect to the Windows instantiation, but still not to Linux.

* Installing PC Suite brought a phone firmware upgrade, so more time adapting to that.

* And then last night I found It is self described as a web community for free software. Well, maybe, but it points you to to buy software, albeit at very low prices.

I registered with the first URL with no problem, although have had some issues with the latter that they are working on. At any rate, I found JoikuSpot. This is a little program that turns your cell phone into a WiFi hotspot! With encryption, no less. And no proprietary tricks. So it works with Linux! 'Way cool.

There are some fiddly bits, but these were resolved with only a few hours of methodical experimentation.

So I recommend it. It has solved a long list of ToDos for me.

Here are the fiddly bits:

* Make sure that you set your WLAN to "AD HOC" mode, NOT "Managed".

* Set the network card to DHCP and add as the explicit default gateway.

* Choose ASCII type keyword, not "Hex" or "Passphrase".

* Choose a keyword that does NOT include apostrophe or quote marks. (/etc/sysconfig/ifcfg files store field values delimited by apostrophes or quotes, so cannot handle passwords with those characters.)

* Choose WEP-open, 128-bit encryption NOT WEP-shared. Ensure the keyword is exactly 13 characters.

* Use ip addr to check the IP address of the client after network setup. Try pinging the host: ping

If it does not respond then reboot the client machine.

Oh, and of course RTFM. It is at User Guide.

Thanks JoiKu!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Audio Fix for SuSE 11.1 and VMware

We are now doing regular meetings on a collaboration site on Windows, so I need audio. I run Windows when necessary in a sandbox (VMware: I was able to hear myself speaking in the headset earphone, I was able to hear a "presence", but could not hear other participants and they could not hear me.

It turns out that VMware runs the OSS (Open Sound System) instead of ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture). The solution to the hearing problem is to patch the basic VMware script to preload an ALSA-OSS wrapper. The solution to the recording problem was to access the Capture module of the sound system and turn it on.

Player Sound
Initially there was no sound, so I went to the Linux audio control (KMix) and found the first control ("Front") muted. Unmuting it now gives a presence, but no apparent control of volume. I tried starting Amarok. It played, but no sound. I then ran

yast2 sound &

in a root terminal to check the settings. The presence disappeared when YaST started up. I reset all the values, restarted the sound system, restarted KMix, then checked it to find the first control ("Front") muted again. Unmuting it restored the presence. Restarted Amarok, now we have sound on Linux.

Now I started VMware as user. It reports:

Failed to open sound device /dev/dsp: Device or resource busy.
Failed to connect virtual device sound.

The link

says that VMware uses OSS, not ALSA. I checked for the existence of all the requisite files following that link. They all exist, so VMware is just not loading them.

recommends patching the basic VMware script. Issshhhh (large sucking through the teeth sound...)

Before taking the plunge of patching the basic vmware script I ran yast2 sound to make sure it is using the cited device /dev/dsp. YaST doesn't say, but I turned on pulse audio, brought up Amarok and the mixer to check things. Amarok was already up in the system tray, so I shut it down completely and ran VMware one more time.

No change, no sound, no connection to the dsp. So bit the bullet:

cp /usr/bin/vmware /usr/bin/vmware.orig
kate /usr/bin/vmware

I added the following comments and command at the start of the script:

# 090811 patch to use alsa sound vice oss exec

# the remainder of the original script

Then saved it and ran

chmod +x /usr/bin/vmware

just to be safe. I then restarted VMware normally as user.

No joy.

I tried starting VMware with the sound card disabled and then activating it after vmware was up and running. No joy.

So shutdown and rebooted the entire system, then restarted VMware without touching any audio apps and making sure that no audio apps were running.

Now it loads!!! WE HAVE SOUND!!! And VMware finds the device and Windows now has player sound.

But no record sound.

Record Sound

The microphone connection is working: I can hear the microphone in the earphone and muting the mike in KMix makes that go away. But KRecord does not record any sound.

First step: Google:

says to try the following to test speakers:

speaker-test -c2 -l5 -twav

This gives five renditions of "Front left" although zero renditions of "Front right" or anything else.

arecord -d 10 myrecording.wav

gives a ten second recording of... nothing. :-(


does a number of tests on the sound system and saves the results in /tmp/alsa-info.txt.
It cites
E-sound daemon: Running - No.

and then a raft of other details, including:

Simple mixer control 'Capture',0
Capabilities: cvolume cswitch
Capture channels: Front Left - Front Right
Limits: Capture 0 - 46
Front Left: Capture 45 [98%] [28.00dB] [off]
Front Right: Capture 45 [98%] [28.00dB] [off]

This implies that KMix should have a module for capture and that it is presently muted.

I added the Capture channel (KMix > Menu > Settings > Configure Channels) and checked its checkbox.

Then tested with KRecord. It works!!!

Now, try on VMware. It works too!

I love it when a thing works out right...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Just the facts, ma'am

These are the distros I have tried and have been unable to get to run on the Fujitsu Lifebook P1630. They all universally display the same behaviour: Regular boot up until X starts, at which the screen cycles through three shades of grey followed by red, green, and blue. All Linux:
* OpenSuSE 11.1
* ubuntu 8.10
* PCLinuxOS 2009
* Mepis 8 (does work but only at 800x600)
Reinstalling the Windows OS does work, so the machine is not defective.

But it does make one start wondering... Conspiracy et al. Is there a chip in the P1630 that prevents you from running anything except Microsoft?

Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get me...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why does it have to be so hard?

It's been a while since my last post. Very busy: work, taxes, summer planning, and ...

Trying to get SuSE 11.1 to work on a Fujitsu P1630 Lifebook.

Or any other distro, for that matter.

OpenSuSE 11.1 works just fine on the two years-old Fujitsu P1610 Lifebook. But the P1610 is getting a bit long in the tooth, so I thought I'd get the latest and greatest.

The machine is not defective, at least not as designed. It runs the M$ native installation just fine.

But I don't want M$. I want KDE-based Linux.

The P1630 comes with
an Intel Mobile GM45 Express Chipset and a 1280x768 display. However, I have not been able to get the video to work except in Failsafe mode, and even then rather tenuously.
The basic issue is that the X system configurator, ''sax2'' hangs, at a point at which the screen repeatedly cycles through:
* Black
* 33% Grey
* 67% Grey
* White
* Red
* Green
* Blue
* I Try Mepis OS, it boots, but only offers 800x600 resolution
* I try PClinuxOS, it does the same as SuSE: flashing screen cycling from black through grey and white to RGB
* I download the latest SuSE 11.1 with KDE 4.1 ISO. No joy.

And of course, in the meantime a host of other issues with CD recorders and other matters.

I really love my P1610. I get a couple of hours of battery life and have two batteries, so plenty for a TransAtlantic. It fits on an airline tray and has 80GB of disk. So it seemed a no brainer to upgrade to the P1630.

But no, they had to go and fix something that wasn't broken...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

If it ain't broke DON'T FIX IT!

KDE 4.1 has a new "feature", a search engine called Strigi. It depends on a service called nepomukservices. The latter consumes about 95% of your CPU time. And there is nowhere that I can find any way to invoke strigi and make any use of it.

So, aphoristically, I am giving away 95% of my computing power to accomplish nothing.

OK, so let's turn it off. Fire up YaST and go to System > System Services (Runlevel). Sorry, no entries for either strigi or nepomukservices or anything like that.

OK, so then let's uninstall it. Fire up yast2 sw_single and find strigi. OK, done, change the checkbox to an X and proceed.

Not-so-fasto. It wants now to also uninstall all of KDE4 and plasma!!

Good grief!

OK, fuggedaboutit, locate strigi and rename the executables to trash_strigi, and then do the same for nepomukservices.


Look guys, I know you want to be creative, but please try to let something be optional until proven worthy and popular. The idea of uninstalling all of KDE 4 and plasma just to get rid of one useless search engine is ridiculous.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

VNC - Virtual Network Computing

I have spent a number of hours over the last couple of weeks trying to work out Virtual Network Computing between two machines on my WiFi LAN. This post summarizes what I have found on my own, compared to what Google has found for me.

The VNC protocol is basic Linux and independent of the GUI software.

There are two ways of connecting: either a Remote Frame Buffer protocol that sends the desktop of the server or the original VNC protocol that sends the contents of an X-session established remotely on the server. While a person at the server display can see what is happening in an RFB session, the workings of the X-session are invisible. provides a good synopsis of the basic commands, but there were some glitches. provides another good tutorial.

This is the original, now TightVNC, protocol that comes with the distribution. Per the ''man'' page, vncserver is a wrapper script to launch an X server for VNC. Running it brings up av Xvnc session that only shows a shell terminal on the server machine.

This is a remote frame buffer GUI that comes with SuSE. krfb sets up a listening session on the server. krdc connects. krdc offers two types of connection: vnc and rdp. The former brings up the server's display. The latter is for remote control of Windows machines.

I have installed SuSE 11.1 (the latest) on both machines.

Review and Comments
  • I can connect to "m90" server, but only get an X session
  • vncviewer will only connect to vncserver. It does not connect to a remote frame buffer server (e.g.,krfb)
  • I can connect to m90 server but the presented screen is all patchy and unusable. I have tried all three "Connection Speed"s. The lower speeds end up with a pixellated display, but otherwise the results are the same: the mouse movements are halting and there are numerous different-sized different-colored rectangular patches over any text, and font colors vary. The results are essentially the same in both directions, although the problems while using my "p1610" as a server are not as pronounced as when using m90. This suggests the problem is the server speed. The patchiness is primarily on text. Graphics render fine.
  • |No response. Did various researches, opened firewall ports 5800:5802 and 5900:5902 on both machines. Just no joy. The result is the same in both Firefox and Konqueror. My guess is that this will only render an X session, which is not very useful (I can do as well with ''ssh'' if all it offers is a shell...
realvnc offers a free version for download, which I have done. But it is just the usual vncserver/viewer X-session pair.|

I had earlier succeeded in getting a session with the machine upstairs {{{,}}} using both {{{vncviewer}}} and the HTTP interface http://m90:5801/ on {{{konqueror}}}.

Remaining X-server Issues
The session is rendered as an X-session, not a desktop session, if vncserver is running. Which client is being used ((vncclient or krdc does not matter. You must have krfb up on the server to see the desktop.

With vncserver I do not know how to:
  • Have the client's actions appear on the screen of the X server. All this can carry on in X and there is no indication on the screen. krdc actions do appear.
  • See the existing server desktop. I only see the Xshell that comes up when I connect and any subsequent applications I open from the CLI in the shell. KDE Desktop, icons, etc. are all invisible.I can invoke KDE from the X-session shell prompt, but this then returns the pixellation and patchiness issues cited above, and again are invisible on the server display.
  • Resize the windows in the viewer. I can bring up the menu and select resize but there is still no response. By contrast, krdc does a nice job of resizing the display to fit the client screen.
  • Alt-Tab between the child windows. Again the Menu lets you park an icon manager and select windows there, but the Alt-Tab kind of function eludes me.
  • Allow access to external addresses. This is just a matter of working through the firewall settings and the results in {{{dmesg}}} but at present we haven't gotten there.
  • Allow access on my own machine. I can access M90 but not this machine and there are no messages in {{{dmesg}}} indicating the problem.
  • Ensure your network does not have any IP conflicts. Each machine needs a unique IPA. //Duhhh//...
  • Alt-F8 brings up the VNC viewer menu.
  • Try the {{{-shared}}} option. When you make a connection to a VNC server, all other existing connections to that server are normally closed.
  • You can run the viewer as either //user// or {{{root}}}. The permissions on the remote ("server") machine determine what you can do.
  • You need to open a number of ports in the firewall to allow access here: TCP 5800, TCP 5900 as a minimum.
Here is a checklist of access controls that can prevent successfull VNC sessions:
(With multitudinous thanks to
1. Make sure your router firewall allows VNC. Specifically, it should open the ports 5800, 5900. If your VNC display is on :1, you should also open ports 5801 & 5901. Similarly, if your display is on port :2, you should open 5802 & 5902, and so on.
In Guarddog, create these in the Advanced tab and enable Local to serve to to and vice versa (and the Internet if desired) in the Local section.

2. Make sure your Xwindows has access opened on those displays. To find out, do:
> xauth list
This results in:
P1610:~ # xauth list
P1610/unix:0 MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 5e7c1e8f677366d772374530258c514e MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 5b6a01831f3e58b77218990dd62cdc1b
P1610/unix:1 MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 5b6a01831f3e58b77218990dd62cdc1b
3. To find the external IP address of your linux machine, point your webbrowser (on the linux machine) to
4. Finally, note that you can point your web browser (on your linux machine) to the following website to check if your VNC server is accessible from the external world:
5. And as usual after messing about with a firewall, go to
to make sure you are not showing anything you don't want to show.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trucking Along... VMWare

I've slain a bunch of dragons in the past few weeks. Quite happy with that.

But many others evade me.

One is VMWare's USB 2.0 support, apparently not. The menu states that WorkStation 5.0 series do not support USB 2.0, but I am on WS 6.5.1. Going to tools offers no solution for upgrading, and Googling has not helped so far...

As a result I cannot connect the Nokia E90 nor the Olympus DS-61 to Windows 2000 running on VMWare WS 6.5.1 on Linux SuSE 11.1.

I'm sure we shall figure it out eventually.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Cat Sat on the Hat - SuSE 11.1 & KDE 4.x

Well, not on the hat. But he did sit on the keyboard. I haven't a clue what magic combination of keys he triggered, but whatever, it was a doozy. The video settings were trashed, as was OpenOffice and several other things. So after numerous attempts to "upgrade", restart, re-this, re-that, I bit the bullet, reformatted the partition and started the installation from scratch.

This time it has installed KDE 4.1.9 and OpenOffice 3.0.1. Both, especially the former, are a delight.

KDE 4.1.9 has the touted "Folder View" working nicely. It took me a while to Google and figure out how to show the desktop icons. The key is to right click on the desktop, choose Desktop Settings and then examine the options in the Desktop Activity > Type options. (Yes, I know, this is not intuitive). The first two choices are Default Desktop and Desktop without ... (there is more but it disappears off the screen). The third is Folder View. Apply this and all your icons reappear.

Once past all that Plasma is a delight:

* Run your cursor to the upper left hand corner of the screen and you get a tiled miniaturization of all open windows showing the actual contents of each, making choosing the one you want much easier than using icon recognition (what
is that funny little triangle with the exclamation point...). You just look at the window and know.

* Are you wondering what's underneath your current window? Just click the title bar at the top and hold or move the window. It turns partly transparent, showing whatever is underneath.

Also, delighted to see Input Actions (aka KHotKeys) have returned. I've really missed those.

So, much improved over earlier versions. I still haven't found how to turn back on the button for recent documents on the Start menu. They have Recently installed, but no Recent Documents. But I'm sure I'll eventually figure it out, prolly by adding an icon...

As for 3.0.1, it just generally seems much more complete, smooth, and professional. I'm mostly a Calc guy so have focused there. They have fixed some glitches and given it a new, more professional look.

Initial installation resulted in v., but having read about 3.0.1 I updated the repositories and "upgraded" the components. This went alright, except that there were a number of conflicts between and 3.0.1 components, so I finally just totally uninstalled and clicked one box - - in YaST to install 3.0.1. This went flawlessly, but only installed Calc and Math. So I returned and only clicked four boxes: Writer, Impress, Draw, QuickStart. Again, no problems.

So I figure all those hard working folks have figured out the dependencies, I'll just let them decide what I need to install, instead of crawling through pages and pages of options myself.

Minimalism is a good thing.

So it seems that as, cited by an earlier commenter, the problems were with KDE and other apps and not with SuSE itself. OTOH, the packagers need to temper their desire to get the latest and greatest and not knowingly package buggy software in a release, at least not without some warning.

But, whatevah, I'm a much happier camper now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

SuSE 11.1 - too little, too soon

I'm an engineer, so I like to read the instructions and do my homework before I come to a conclusion. So I have given SuSE 11.1 due diligence. I have spent at least a day with each of the problem areas, some with success, others without. As a result I have come to the following conclusion:
  • SuSE 11.1 is very pretty. The Plasma desktop is beautiful.
  • SuSE 11.1 is a very pretty bimbo. There are a lot of things that just don't work.
As my father said to my sister, "pretty is as pretty does." The SuSE people have obviously spent a lot of time on facepaint, but under that pretty face is a very disfunctional brain. Let me count the ways:
  • Bluetooth does not work on KDE. gives the summary. gives the workaround as installing the gnome bluetooth package, but it only works if you have Gnome as the desktop. On KDE bluetooth does not even appear in YaST, although hcitool does show it exists and it can find remote and local devices. You just cannot assign a password to the local device, so you cannot connect. As a result there is a host of other things that do not work, including:
    • obexfs
    • syncml
    • Bluetooth modem
  • GIMP 2.6.2 scanner support does not work. xscanimage cannot find the scanner even though skanlite and scanimage find the device. We can live with this since skanlite can save a scan to a file that we can then open in GIMP.
  • Audio does not work. We spent hours farkling this.There is a troubleshooting guide for SuSE 11.1 system at but I have been through this in detail without success.
  • File previews in konqueror do not work. The new Plasma interface lets you select or deselect a file by clicking on the icon, but despite settings in Personal Settings you do not get the popup preview with size, date, ownership data.
  • The system will not shut down except by brute force power-off. See
  • khotkeys does not work. As a result I have lost all my quick inputs of the complex passwords we have to use.
  • Beagle is a dog. Duhhh. But it really is. It spends hours thrashing about, but when you ask it something it plays dumb. So why am I wasting all that disk space? So I nuked it.
  • The SuSE firewall is a dog. No visible means of configuration unless you have memorized iptables. Thanks be to God for guarddog:
  • There is no support for mplayer, even though this is the dominant open source media player. I had to revert to learning svn (a step beyond CVS and full of flamers) to get it to work, and the kplayer GUI still doesn't work.
  • The default SeaMonkey email system is definitely a work in progress. I went with it for a week and then trashed it to return to Thunderbird.
SO: pretty well disappointed.
  • Note that:
    • These conclusions are deliberate. I spent easily a full eight hour day on each of these problems
    • I am a real SuSE fan. I prefer the KDE interface as being bright and cheerful and crisp. Everyone else wants fat dull Gnome. I hate it.
    • I'm a certified engineer and geek, so quite adept, and moreso than most, at farkling these problems.
    • And, most importantly, all these things worked just fine on SuSE 10.2. So the operative phrase is: If it ain't broke don't fix it!! Good grief...
My opinion is that the community at large, and Novell/OpenSuSE in particular, would be better off adhering less rigidly to a six-month release cycle and more rigidly to making sure that very much everything works before making a release. Normal people do not reformat their disks and install a new operating system every six months. 'Way too much work. This evolution has easily cost me two months, which thankfully I had available. I'm not going to do that every six months. And releasing buggy software just gives the community a bad name. So take at least a little more time and ensure that it WORKS before releasing it. Especially do not release stuff that the community has already identified as being dysfunctional, like bluetooth on KDE4.

So, despite being a SuSE fan from 10.2 onward, I shall catch my breath, and then try to figure out how to get Fedora or something else to give me KDE. And then, maybe, very maybe, come back to try SuSE 11.2 or 11.3 or ... But again, shall do due diligence first.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


1. Always try to download mplayer using your distribution's software manager:
| Distro | Manager|
|OpenSuse | YaST |
|Fedora | yum |
|Debian |apt|
|Ubuntu | ~|

If these fail then add the "packman" repository

(see that page) by issuing the following command as root (all on one line):
zypper addrepo --repo

and then try again by asking YaST for mplayer. It should give you a host of modules, select them all and click ACCEPT.

If that fails then the best answer is to use the svn repository. svn is a process ("protocol") for frequently updating the status and files of a software project, such as mplayer. Developers submit daily changes to the component files. The files are accessed by using the program svn, which may already have been installed on your machine by your installation system. Type
svn help
as root at a terminal to determine whether or not it exists, and if not then install it.

Once installed, svn uses a unique internet permissions protocol, called a "port", to access the updated files. Your firewall needs to give permission for the port to be seen and accessed by servers on the internet. Otherwise svn cannot find its target.

"Guarddog" from is an excellent tool to configure your firewall. You can add "ports" in the Advanced tab of the program, then tick the boxes in the Protocol tab for Internet, local and your local network.

Check your results with (using the ShieldsUp! option) to ensure you have not exposed yourself by opening this port.

Once past all that housekeeping, simply enter the following commands in sequence in a terminal as root:

svn checkout svn:// mplayer
# This will download the main software and most of its dependencies and associated codecs. It will not get ALL of them... :-(

cd /root/mplayer # This moves you to where the files have been downloaded

./configure # This is the normal start of an installation sequence that creates a "makefile" summary of all the files that need to be installed

make # This uses the results of ./configure to compile the program

make install # This installs the program.

Test your result by typing


as either user or root.

For the explorers among you, this site seems to say it all:,_FFmpeg-PHP,_Lame,_Libogg,_Libvorbis,_FLVtool2,_Mplayer,_Mencoder,_AMR_Installation#Download_all_the_files_needed

If it works, Enjoy!

If it doesn't, then have a nice day. Google is your friend. Consider joining:

"MPlayer usage questions, feature requests, bug reports"

Oh yeh. This is for users of Linux. If you are on some proprietary closed source OS then really have a nice day.