Linux Server Diary

The trials and tribulations of a Linux newbie trying to setup a home server.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Works on 12.04 Too!

I'm glad I documented these instructions on using the Broadcom wireless system on my old Gateway laptop with Ubuntu 11.10. They work with my new 12.04 install too.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ubuntu 11.10 and Broadcom Wireless

These commands setup my wireless on the old Gateway laptop:

First, don't use the STA driver offered in the proprietary drivers dialog.


sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install b43-fwcutter
sudo apt-get install firmware-b43-installer


sudo modprobe -r b43 ssb
sudo modprobe b43

Wireless should now be working.

To have it work on future boots:

sudo su
echo b43 >> /etc/modules

Thanks to this post in the Ubuntu forums that set me straight:

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Phasing Out PAL and VPN

I received an email this morning concerning the Purdue wireless network and vpn services. Specifically, the two services I use to connect my Linux laptop to the university network are being phased out. Looks like I'm going to have to find a new way.

You are receiving this message because ITaP logs show you 1) connect to the Purdue network using the old PAL wireless system, or 2) access for virtual private network (VPN) service when connecting from off campus. Faculty, staff and students need to change to alternatives to these services before May 13.

ITaP is retiring the original PAL system and May 13 because they rely on outdated hardware no longer produced and supported by the manufacturer. Both services also are less secure, slower and not as compatible with current equipment as the newer systems available at Purdue for more than four years.

For instructions on how to change to the newer PAL 2.0, and for VPN alternatives:

* Visit the Purdue Gold Answers online knowledge base and sign in using your Purdue Career Account user name and password.

* For PAL help, use the Gold Answers Find Answers box to search for PAL and select the link to the knowledge base article titled "What is PAL 2.0?"

* For VPN help, use the Find Answers box to search for VPN and select the link to the article titled "How do I connect to the Purdue VPN?"

* For further assistance, contact the ITaP Customer Service Center at 44000 or visit them in STEW G65.

For more information see

Gold Answers online knowledge base

Thank you,
ITaP Networks & Security

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Moving iTunes


I've been dual booting my laptop for quite a long time between Vista (for iTunes) and Linux Mint (for everything else). Over time, my Vista install has degraded, and my last attempt to clean it up killed it. Unfortunately, my iTunes library was trapped on that partition.

Sure, I could have backed it up, by I didn't think I needed to. I don't keep music files within the iTunes library, and I knew I could always resubscribe to podcasts if they were lost. However, I learned that I can't sync the iPhone to a new library without basically erasing everything on the phone, including all of the music. It would take hours to reload all of the tunes.

The Solution:

I read many tutorials online that outlined how to transfer the library. What a mess! Each was more confusing and tedious than the one before. Odd that even though Apple does a good job of making things clear and easy, this was not something most people could do. Especially tricky is the proper naming for the media files. Since I am moving from Vista to XP (virtual on the new Linux server), the path to "My Music/iTunes" will be different from one to the other. I did find one little section of a web page that told me that if iTunes couldn't find the media files in the directory listed, it would try in the default location for that install.

Now, it's easy. Using Linux, I copied the entire iTunes directory tree from the ailing Vista partition to the new virtual machine. Took a while to move 5GB+, but iTunes came right up. After a quick once through on the library, it is working fine.

But Can It Sync?


(Before I could use USB on the virtual machine, I had to install the VirtualBox Guest Additions.)

I plugged the iPhone into a USB port on the Linux machine, and told VirtualBox to pass it through, and it worked. This was the first sync in a month, so there were many podcasts to load, and I also added some new tunes.

This whole process was much easier than I thought it would be.

(Because of other problems that have to be cleared up, I won't be able to sync again for a while.)

HTPC #5 - Trouble

This project has gone pretty well. Assembly was easy, software installation was challenging but successful, and setting up the file server functions was a breeze. I was even able to setup iTunes in a virtual machine. This box runs fast and works well.

Well, except for one thing. I've only been able to get HDMI to work one time for about 15 minutes. Every other time I hook it up, either using the HDMI port or using a DVI to HDMI adapter, the resulting picture has been horrible. Very green with shades of pink, and intensely overstaturated. I tried different cables and all three inputs on my television, but no luck. (Using the supplied DVI to VGA adapter, I get a good picture on an old CRT.)

After talking with a friend (who works at Nvidia) and corresponding with the vendor, it has been decided that the motherboard is faulty and should be replaced. I applied to Newegg for an RMA for replacement and it was issued. Tomorrow, I take the whole thing apart and send it back. Then, I wait for the replacement. Wonder how long this will take.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

HTPC #4 - Configuring Samba

This was so easy!

I installed samba:
sudo apt-get install samba

Created the configuration file:
workgroup = MYGROUP
netbios name = HTPC
server string = HTPC
security = share
encrypt passwords = yes
local master = no
guest ok = yes
#===== Share Definitions =====

comment = Files
path = /export
public = yes
writable = yes
guest ok = yes
create mask = 0777
directory mask = 0777
force user = nobody
force group = nogroup

And restarted the daemon:
sudo restart smbd

Now I have a share called files that contains the /export directory. Anyone on my network can read or write files without a login.

See? I told you it was easy.


HTPC #3 - Software

Ubuntu LogoNow that I have the computer assembled, it's time for software. I've been playing with different versions of Ubuntu and Fedora as I wait for Ubuntu 10.04 to be released. It dropped a couple of days ago, so it's time to go!

Downloading the OS way easy. My employer, a major Midwestern research university, keeps a local archive of several open source packages, so the download was fast and trouble free. As usual, the install was quick and without issue.

Next, I installed the restricted extras package to get the various codecs I need for media playback. After a reload of the repositories in Synaptic, the package was in the list, and I started in the install. Since I was competing with a lot of other leading edge Linux geeks, these downloads took a lot longer to download. When the process estimated 4 hours until completion, I went to bed.

The next morning, the install was complete, and I ran the program that sets up DVD playback capabilities. The restricted extras install process is documented in many places, including

Boxee LogoNext, it's time for Boxee. A new beta has just been release that works with 10.04, although not officially. I had trouble with earlier versions on the 10.04 RC not being able to connect, even while running on 9.10 worked OK. Sure enough, after the install, I couldn't login. The error message said "Internet connection not available".

I should mention that I had been seeing some strange behavior with DNS lookups when web browsing. They seemed to take a long time to complete. Could this be the problem with Boxee?

To test my theory, I switched my DNS settings in the computer from the default Comcast settings via my router, to the Google DNS servers. Voila! It worked! Both DNS lookups in general, and the Boxee login in particular are now functional.

Next, I'm going to setup the repository for music, video, and photo files. Stay tuned!


Saturday, April 24, 2010

HTPC #2 - Hardware Assembly

All the parts have arrived, and I'm ready to put this puppy together. Please refer to post #1 for a component list.

This job went quickly, and my biggest problem was identifying the different screws that came with the case. :) This isn't the smallest mini-ITX case out there, so there was a little room to maneuver cables around to get everything in.

The motherboard has everything! There's no way I'll need 14 USB connections, or 7 SATA devices. Nor will I ever use all of the different audio outs. Flexibility is the key here, and I have lots of options.

Note about fans. I wasn't aware that the i3 processor had a fan included in the package, but I'm glad it did. The separate fan I ordered was huge, and it's hard to imagine it fitting in any case, let alone an ITX box. It's going back to Newegg.

I don't think that even this Intel fan would fit in some of the low profile HTPC cases available. An alternate cooling method would be required.

The 2GB hard drive mounted sideways next to the motherboard, leaving room for yet another device under the full sized optical drive.

With everything connected and the case buttoned up, I fired up the Ubuntu 10.04 RC live CD. HDMI video worked fine (no audio yet), and all of the components were functional.

Now I'm waiting for 10.04 to be released in final form before I start the permanent OS install.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

HTPC #1 - The Order

For a couple of months now, I've been researching a home theater PC (HTPC) project. Now that my tax refund is on the way, I finally hit the checkout button on my wish list.

I had a couple of goals for this project. First, I wanted to make this unit small and quiet. A mini-ITX form factor fills that bill nicely. Unfortunately, that also limits motherboard and other component choices.

Second, I wanted a decent processor that would last a few years. An Atom was quickly ruled out.

Next, sufficient onboard graphics. Since I'm using a small case, there isn't much room for extra boards, especially a large and possibly hot video card. Here's where I hit some trouble. The boards with a good system like the Nvidia ION seem to all use the Atom processor. Boards that take a beefier processor don't work with ION. The Intel i3 has graphics processing built in, so I went with that.

Other desired attributes:
  • HDMI Video Out
  • Optical Audio Out
  • Compatibiliy with Linux and Boxee or XBMC
  • DVD Playback and Burn
  • WiFi Networking
Why WiFi? It would be difficult and unsightly to run network cable from the media stand downstairs to the router. Using .11n WiFi lets me transfer what I need from the 'Net. Since I'll be storing my media files locally, I won't need the network for normal playback.

Here's the list of components:Everything will arrive in a few days, and the assembly and software installation begins.