Scientific Linux in VBox

Out of pure curiosity, I recently downloaded and installed Scientific Linux 6.4 in a virtual machine. My last extended brush with RPM based distros (besides the couple months I spent with Fedora on my netbook) was back around 2005-2006, when I first experimented a bit with GNU/Linux, specifically Fedora and OpenSUSE.
SL was very remniscent of that experience. It appears to be a virtually identical free clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the de facto corporate distro. It is known mainly for stability, which usually also means “being old”. Both Red Hat and SL use the Gnome2 desktop environment (one that’s been deprecated for nearly a year now) and kernel 2.6. Thus SL is not for people interested in the latest packages or bleeding edge software (obviously). Its server counterpart, CentOS, is also known for stability, and is much used in the server world.
I did install the VirtualBox Guest Additions, as I do with any virtual machine that I plan to use for more than thirty minutes. It was a bit of a challenge, but I did manage to get shared folders/bidirectional copy-paste/arbitrary screen resizing working.
I did have to install gcc, make, and kernel-devel$(uname -r), but after that it built the guest modules correctly and seems to be running well.

I have no immediate plans for my SL virtual machine. I may use it for some coding and general goofing around with RPM. Stability is great in a long term machine for this use, and I may even switch to using it instead of my Lubuntu 12.10 VM.

And of course, a screenshot. 🙂

SL Screenshot

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Import MS Outlook mail into Claws-Mail

Having recently converted a family member to abandoning Microsoft’s products for GNU/Linux, I was faced with the problem of exporting email from Outlook ’07 to a format that would at least be text editor readable in GNU/Linux.

MS Outlook stores your email in a .pst file, which appears to simply be a proprietary archival format. You can locate the .pst file by going to the Account Settings.

I found a very handy little utility called readpst in the Debian repositories. I downloaded it, and per some instruction/manpage perusal,  I ran

readpst -D -M -b -o destination_folder Outlook.pst

which unpacked the PST folder into a file hierarchy properly corresponding with the way it had been set up in Outlook. The -D option includes deleted messages, the -M makes sure the proper folder structure is maintained and attachments are placed in the right folder, the -b option specifies not to save attachments for the RTF formatting of the mail (make it plaintext), and the -o option specifies the target directory.

I use and very much enjoy using Claws-mail, a full featured mail client that weighs in at a fraction of the size of the de facto Linux mail client, Thunderbird. Claws mail saves all messages as plain text files in a transparent folder structure (no burying of mail and attachments in odd dotfiles or folders) and therefore all messages are viewable/editable with any text editor and extremely simple to access. HTML and image support is simply a plugin away as well.
To import the messages, I simply created new folders in the Claws-Mail program, and copied the exported mail into those folders in the file manager. Claws updated instantly, and all the mail was viewable along with attachments.
I couldn’t be more pleased. 🙂


Networking with DSL & Linksys NP100

This post will briefly detail my experience setting up the Linksys NP100 PCMCIA 10/100 Ethernet adapter in DSL. It is currently fully functional, and getting networking (even ethernet) on this old beast was a real benefit.

First, I was saved from the trouble I had with TinyCore by the fact that DSL run cardmgr, a utility for interfacing with PCMCIA cards. I plugged in the card and it recognized it at boot immediately- dmesg showed

eth0: Asix AX88190: io 0x300, irq 3, hw_addr 00:04:5A:A5:66:08

This card uses the AX88190 chip, which means that although normally it tries to use the pcnet_cs driver, you must manually bind it to axnet_cs.
Open /etc/pcmcia/config with a text editor, and search for the paragraph on the Linksys NP-100. Change the line that says

bind "pcnet_cs"

to

bind "axnet_cs"

Next open /etc/pcmcia/config.opts, and add this to the end of the file:

card "Fast Ethernet 10/100 PC Card"
  version "Network Everywhere", "Fast Ethernet 10/100 PC Card", "3.0", "AX88190"
  manfid 0x0149, 0xc1ab
  bind "axnet_cs"

After this you should blacklist the pcnet_cs driver by opening /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist, and adding the line

blacklist pcnet_cs

Save and exit.
Now because DSL doesn’t autoconfigure the network (no dhcpcd or dhclient) at startup you need to set it up manually, with a static IP address:

sudo ifconfig eth0 desired_ip netmask 255.255.255.0

Changing desired_ip to your desired static IP.
This got the card functioning for me. If anyone else has any different experience or corrections to make, please leave a comment or send me an email at cortman@ubuntu.com.


Random code snippets

Random but oddly useful code snippets that I use from time to time.

  • To display images as a preview and a clickable link in HTML:
<a href="http://dl.dropbox.com/u/54881717/screenshots/DSL/dsl2.jpg"><img alt="DSL Creeper BG" src="http://dl.dropbox.com/u/54881717/screenshots/DSL/dsl2.jpg" width="400" height="300" /></a>

Width and height need to be manually set.

 

  • Main function for a “do something to every file (including those in subdirectories) within specified folder”, written in bash:
#!/bin/sh

echo "Enter target dir"
read -p ">" workdir
while [ ! -d $workdir ]; do
echo "That directory does not exist. Please enter target dir"
read workdir
done
cd $workdir
for i in $(find -type f -name '*'); do
echo "Ho." > $i
done

DSL on the 460CDT

After a long leave of absence, I picked up the old Toshiba 460CDT again, determined as ever to get a working GNU/Linux system working on it. Just so you know what I’m dealing with, here‘s a link to the full system specs.

This time I am happy to report some success, with DSL. DSL (the acronym stands for a somewhat unsavory title) is an old but solid little distro built loosely on Debian and Knoppix. After a hiatus of some years, it appears that the devs are back at work on it, and the latest DSL release (4.4.10) was made available in August 2012.

Because it is partly Debian based it has a lot of similarity with it in regards to how the system is laid out and configured (as opposed to, say Tiny Core). It installs and runs from a computer’s internal HDD, and the base system (on my machine) with no programs running uses a whopping 9 MB of RAM.

All in all, it’s truly a remarkably light and yet functional little system. It comes bundled with many useful applications such as a terminal, emelfm (file manager), and various GUI config tools. Even has a nice selection of games. 😉 I’m really enjoying using DSL, and am glad development has resumed on it.
I have tried countless distros on this machine, and I have thus far only had any luck with three:

  • Slitaz base install (no GUI)
  • Tiny Core
  • DSL

As the most recent attempt at a Slitaz base install failed, and as a Slitaz base install is somewhat useless, my only other option for this computer besides DSL was Tiny Core. Tiny Core is a more up-to-date distro that has (as I’ve noted elsewhere) a strong development team and a helpful and active forums. The trouble I have with TC, however is-

  • Poor/nonexistent PCMCIA support
  • Too much RAM usage

Of course the very nature of TC is that it loads itself into RAM at boot (thereby helping it run very fast on old machines) but with only 64 MB it was too much. The base system with wireless firmware modules used up 57 MB alone, leaving very little extra for any other programs.
But I gave it a try. By trimming down packages loaded at boot, trimming excess kernel modules, and configuring a swap partition, I had the base system down to about 22 MB.
This was satisfactory, but my next goal- get a working network connection going- failed. PCMCIA support seemed lacking, and I kept running into dead ends. Furthermore, my attempts to run some of TC’s SCM (self-contained programs) failed as some packages are too new (based on i686, not =<i586).

So I went back to DSL. I scavenged a replacement HDD for the machine, and boosted my internal storage from 2 GB to 30 GB. DSL is using up about 1 GB and still runs in less than 10 MB of RAM. By dint of a lot of research and some better PCMCIA support in DSL, I even managed to get my (donated by a fellow enthusiast) Linksys NP100 ethernet adapter card working, and the machine is now online and running great.

DSL was an easy installation. It requires pre-made partitions (the installer script wisely avoids any attempt to partition) but it installs quickly and smoothly. The default JWM desktop is very easy to use and very responsive, and I’m eager to try my hand at JWM configuration.

For the benefit of anyone else with a similar machine and/or network adapter, I will be documenting my full experiences getting the ethernet adapter to work in another post.

Oh, and finally, a screenshot. 🙂

World Wide Web Consortium Home


Crunchbang Theme notes

To completely change Crunchbang’s visuals, many tweaks are required. These include

  • Editing ~/.themes/openbox_theme/themerc
  • Editing ~/.themes/gtk_theme/gtk-2.0/gtkrc (unless you change gtk themes altogether
  • Changing/editing icon theme
  • Editing .tint2rc
  • Editing ~/.mozilla/firefox/6ikq0|1s.default/chrome/userChrome.css
  • Create a new Terminator layout, and edit the command to start terminator to “terminator -l “my layout name””. This command needs to be added to both the Openbox menu and the keyboard shortcut in rc.xml.
  • Change some background/foreground colors in Xchat to match.
  • Invert colors in Geany so as to be light text on dark background.

These are just a number of tweaks I applied to achieve the latest look on my main machine. As a note, the separators in the Openbox menu got messed up- were the size of an entire menu entry. Simply deleting them and re-adding them in obmenu fixed it, oddly enough it didn’t affect all separators, only a few on submenus.

For the current theme I used the ACYL icon theme, nice because you can change the color with a simple command-

cd ~/.icons/ACYL_Icon_Theme_0.9.4/ && bash AnyColorYouLike

The icon theme should update automatically. If not a simple login/logout will usually put it to rights, same with GTK themes.

I will add to this page as I continue to tweak #! visuals.