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Week of 15 April 2002

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Monday, 15 April 2002

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8:45 - Tax day, and I can take satisfaction in the fact that I finished my tax return and sent it in well before the deadline. It went into the mail on Saturday. Now I need to remember to send in my estimated federal and state tax payments.

Owners of Dell desktop systems made since September 1998 need to read the following, which I sent to subscribers yesterday.

As the old saw has it, I learn something new every day. Today I learned that Dell has been using non-standard motherboards and power supplies, apparently since September 1998. Although recent Dell power supplies and motherboards use what looks like a standard ATX power connector, the pinouts are different.

Replacing a Dell power supply with a standard ATX power supply destroys the motherboard and/or power supply as soon as you apply power to the system. Similarly, upgrading the motherboard in a Dell system with a standard ATX motherboard while continuing to use the standard Dell power supply destroys the motherboard and/or power supply as soon as you apply power to the system.

This situation is particularly insidious because Dell uses what appear to be standard components. For example, they buy Intel motherboards by the million, and those "Dell-version" motherboards resemble standard Intel motherboards in all respects *except* that the power supply connector is wired differently.

Why has Dell done this? There is no technical reason for doing so. The only reason I can think of is that Dell wants to force people to buy upgrade and replacement components from Dell.

I recommend that you avoid buying Dell products. If you have a recent Dell system, be very careful about upgrading it or replacing the motherboard or power supply. If you need a replacement power supply and are certain that your Dell system uses the hacked version of the ATX power connector, you can buy a replacement Dell-specific power supply from PC Power & Cooling. Rather than do that, though, I recommend that you replace the power supply and motherboard together, using industry-standard components.

I can't think why this problem hasn't been common knowledge, except that these non-standard Dell systems are new enough that few people will have upgraded or replaced the motherboards and/or power supplies in them. Obviously, with the oldest of them now passing two years in age, this will become a much more common problem.

Although I don't usually plug the competition, I confess that Scott Mueller (Upgrading and Repairing PCs) caught this one before I did. You can read his take on it at

The last time I bought a system from Dell was in 1997. I had continued to recommend Dell to people who wanted to buy rather than build a system, but as of now I no longer recommend Dell. Using standard connectors with non-standard pinouts violates a fundamental precept of system design. Doing so in a way that inevitably results in system damage if industry standard components are unknowingly substituted for proprietary components is simply inexcusable.

If you have a Dell desktop system made after 9/98 and need to replace the power supply or motherboard, we recommend replacing both with industry-standard components. If you are considering buying a new Dell desktop system, we recommend that you instead buy a comparable model from a company that uses industry-standard components. If you know anyone who owns recent Dell desktop systems, please warn them of the danger.

We will update the web site later today to flag the relevant sections with a warning.

The computer formerly known as thoth (my previous main system) has been reincarnated. It's now known as galileo and is running a kitchen-sink install of Red Hat Linux 7.2.

This is the machine that had started locking up on me for no apparent reason. My guess was that it was filthy inside and was overheating, and that turned out to be the case. From the outside, the system didn't appear that bad. There were a few dust bunnies visible around cracks in the case, on the power supply grill, and so on. But in general the system looked pretty clean.

Until, that is, I opened it up. While Barbara was vacuuming the house yesterday, I carried old thoth into the kitchen and popped the lid. The internal power supply grills were covered solidly with dust, as were the expansion cards, memory modules, and processor. In fact, the processor was covered in so much dust that the CPU fan may have been jammed. It's a slot 1 Pentium III/750 (well, really, it's a Pentium III/733 with a 133 MHz FSB, but it's an unlocked engineering sample, so I'm running it in the 100 MHz SE440BX-2V motherboard with a 7.5X multiplier for 750 MHz). The processor has a heavy aluminum heat sink attached to the case, with a small fan held on by four screws that simply wedge between the fins of the heatsink. I removed the processor from the system and pulled off the fan. There was so much dust in there, I suspect it may not have been able to spin very well if at all. The portion of the heatsink underneath the fan was so clogged with dust that even had the fan been running it can't have been doing much cooling.

So I cleaned everything out, pulled all the PCI expansion cards, and gave everything a good dusting. While I was at it, I decided to replace the memory. I had thought the system had 256 MB, but as it turned out it had only 192 MB, a 128 MB Crucial PC100 DIMM and a 64 MB Crucial PC100 DIMM. I figured those were probably okay, but since I had the case open I decided just to pull them and install two 128 MB Crucial PC133 CL2 DIMMs. I was thinking about installing more, but this system is destined to become my production Linux server, and 256 MB seemed sufficient.

For now, I'm playing around. Before long, I'll be getting serious.


Tuesday, 16 April 2002

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9:30 - I didn't get much done yesterday. We left for the funeral around 9:30 and got home about 1:30. Barbara was very upset, of course, but I guess going to the funeral helped her cope with losing Ann.

I have spent a bit of time playing with Linux. I downloaded and installed Ximian Red Carpet, subscribed to the Red Hat 7.2 channel, and told it to download all the updates available. There are more than 200 of them totaling 358 MB. I'm sucking those down now, at 120 KB/s. I have no idea what most of them are for, but I suppose I need them. The next thing I need to do is get Samba set up so that my Linux system can see my Windows systems and vice versa.

I'm going to keep my main Windows 2000 desktop as a crutch until I'm comfortable with Linux. That'll come as I get comfortable with Linux on my secondary desktop system. As that happens, my secondary system will gradually become my primary system. At some point, I'll also take down the Windows system in the den and replace it with a Linux box.

14:45 - I've said all along that my transition from Windows to Linux would be a gradual process. At first, I'd use my main Windows system 90% of the time and my main Linux system only 10% of the time. Gradually, that proportion would be reversed, and I'd be using my main Linux system almost exclusively. I started working with my Linux desktop system yesterday afternoon. It's been a long struggle, but I think I'm almost ready to make my Windows desktop my secondary system and start using my Linux desktop as my primary system. There are a few things I need to do before I can complete the transition, to wit:
  1. The big one first. I still haven't been successful in accessing my Windows Networking systems from the Linux system, or vice versa. I need to be able to view Windows shares on my Linux box and vice versa . In the KDE Control Center, there's an option called Network -> LAN Browsing, and another called Windows Shares. Can it really be as simple as configuring those dialogs correctly?
  2. I have a DDS-3 tape drive in the Linux box. It would be nice to be able to backup my local system (and, ideally, shares on the Windows network) to that tape drive. Is there a graphical backup application somewhere on my Linux system that I'm missing? I do vaguely remember from the distant past using tar to archive stuff to tape, but I'm hoping there's a tree-structured graphical backup app I can use to archive data to my tape drive.
  3. I know there are front-ends for burning CDs. This system has a 12X Plextor writer in it, but I'm not sure how to burn CDs. Any tips greatly appreciated.
There are probably other things I'm overlooking, but these are the main ones for now. I've loaded Ximian Evolution and am able to send and receive mail. I have my real mail store on a Windows box (using Mozilla Mail) right now, so I've told Evolution to leave a copy on the server. Once I get #1 above resolved, I'll move my real mail store over to the Linux box and import it (if necessary) into Evolution. I haven't downloaded OpenOffice for Linux yet, but I've run it on Windows and I'm sure it'll be adequate for what I need to do. Worst case, I'll always have a Windows system running with Office 2000 on it, so weirdly formatted documents shouldn't be a problem.

It seems that I'm on my way to running a Microsoft-free computing environment. And it seems that it's not as painful as I feared it would be. There are pitfalls, certainly, and things I haven't figured out how to do yet. But I'm confident that I'll work my way past those, with a little help from my friends. And I'll be cheating now and then, when there's something I absolutely need to do and haven't figured out how to do in Linux yet, or when I need to run an application like Cartes du Ciel that is available only for Windows. But those Windows systems are now largely just crutches. I know they're there if I need them, but I probably won't need them much.

Now, where do I get those penguin stickers to put on the front of my computer cases?


Wednesday, 17 April 2002

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9:30 - Caught in the act! I've mentioned before that digital cameras are much less suitable for action photography because their latency is much longer than that of standard cameras, but yesterday I managed to catch Malcolm in the act. He's incredibly crafty when it comes to stealing things, and one of his favorite things to steal is paper products--tissues, toilet paper, or paper towels--which he then shreds.

Malcolm is extremely skilled at picking pockets. He often steals things from my pockets without me being aware that he's done so. Pretty incredible, when you consider the size of his snout. The trick is, he proceeds very slowly and carefully. Yesterday, he made a small misstep. As I was sitting at my desk working, I felt something around the pocket of my sweat pants. Not much, mind you, but something. I looked down, and there was Malcolm attempting to extract a paper towel from my pocket.

I happened to have the digital camera sitting within easy reach, so I picked it up, pointed it straight down, and took the photo. That's my light grey t-shirt you see at the bottom of the image. The dark bar at the top left is the arm of my chair. The greenish-blue at center-right is the pocket of my sweat pants, and you can see how far in Malcolm has his snout. It's nearly buried in my pocket.

He'd worked so hard at it that I let him get away with the paper towel, which he took out to the den and shredded. He wasn't satisified with just the one, though. A few minutes later, I heard him moving from behind me, heading for the door of my office. Sure enough, he had yet another paper towel in his mouth. That one he'd stolen without me realizing he'd gotten it.

I'm in the process of converting over to Linux entirely. Thanks to Greg Lincoln, who solved my major problem, at least in part. I wasn't able to access Windows shares from my Linux system. Here's what Greg told me to do:

Hi Bob,

Brian and I worked on your big three a bit, and here's what we have so far.

1. LAN browsing in KDE seems to be pretty straightforward. What we've not
figured out yet is how to get write access through KDE's smb browsing. To use
the read only bit, just open a konqueror window and type smb:/MACHINENAME/
This will only work if you have samba-client installed, which I believe is
installed by default in redhat.

If you want write access too, the only way we've found is to mount the shares.
You can make entries in your /etc/fstab file to automate this. Here is the
syntax: (*all on one line, the mail client wraps it*)

//machine/share /path/to/dir/ smbfs

//machine/share = the servername and the sharename
/path/to/dir/ = the directory on your linux machine to which you wish to
mount it (I suggest you create a directory in your home -> /home/bob/share)
uid=local user to whom you want to map the permissions
gid=local group to whom you want to map the permissions

2. The best cd writer front end I've found is part of KDE 3 so it won't be in
your redhat install, alas. gcombust is pretty good. You will probably have to
install some of its dependencies.

3. I'm not sure if it ships with kde 2, but kde 3 has a nice tar GUI called
kdat. It shows up in my k -> utilities menu. It seems to be well documented,
like most kde apps.

Greg Lincoln
Senior Editor,

Which indeed works, but only on Windows NT 4 shares. When I attempt to do that for Windows 2000 shares, I get the following error message, both at boot time and when I try to access the share:

Could not mount device.
The report error was:

mount: only root can mount //messier/messier_c on /home/thompson/share/messier_c

I tried the same thing on other Windows 2000 shares and got the same results. Apparently, Microsoft changed something in Windows 2000 that breaks SAMBA. But that will do, at least for now. I can access my server volumes on theodore, and that's all that really matters.

Right now, I'm running my mail on three different clients with three different mail clients. Until a few minutes ago, I had Mozilla Mail running on messier (my main Windows desktop) set to POP from my server at pair and delete the messages after it retrieved them. I have Evolution running on galileo, also set to POP from pair Networks, but to leave messages on the server. I have Outlook 2000 running on ursa (my Windows 2000 system in the den), also set to POP from pair Networks and leave messages on the server. My main mail store is therefore on messier. I can't figure out how to point Mozilla Mail to a different directory, so I just let it store the mail locally on messier and periodically manually copy and paste the whole mail directory hierarchy over to theodore (the Windows NT 4 Server file server), from which it gets backed up.

I intended to make Evolution my primary mail client last night, and so attempted to import the Mozilla Mail data into Evolution. That didn't work as expected. I ran the import utility and was given the choice of importing all data from an older mail system or doing a file-by-file import. When I chose the first option, I was presented with a blank screen. No joy there. Just to experiment, I told Evolution to do a file-by-file import and pointed it to the Inbox file. That worked fine, so I shouldn't have any problem importing my data, except that I'll have to do it folder by folder (and I have many, many folders). Also, I'm not sure how I'll get my non-mail folders (such as my contacts) into Evolution.

What I considered doing was setting up Mozilla Mail under Linux and then copying all my Mozilla Mail data over from messier to galileo . Presumably that would allow Mozilla running under Linux to see all that data and then subsequently allow Evolution to import it as a batch. The only problem is that I can't make it work. Oh, well. At least I can get my messages over to Evolution, and I should be able to import my addressbooks somehow.

Holden Aust sends me very detailed instructions for burning CDs under Linux. Although it's a long message, there's so much valuable information here that I decided to post his message in full so that I and others can refer to it later.


This is somewhat of a mismash (that I've been meaning to clean up one of these days when I have time, of course) that I've put together from bits and pieces I've run across here and there.

Much of it is at a fairly elemental level since I give it to friends who are going nuts trying to get their CD recorders to work consistantly under Windows - I've actually had half a dozen friends ask me to setup a Linux dual-boot partition for them just so they could use Linux to make CDs reliably.

I've experimented somewhat with Xcdroast and KonCD, but I'd have to admit that the GUI front ends for the Linux command line CD recording utilities are primative compared to Nero (we should all bug Nero to come out with a Linux version - I'd bet a lot of people would pay for one - I would).

But, once I figured out how to use cdparanoia and cdrdao and readcd and cdrecord, I stopped worrying about GUI front ends, because using the command line utilites is easy and they work really well.

Here begins the mismash:

Some basic shell prompt command line commands (press ENTER to run the command):

pwd Print Working Directory (this shows you what directory you are in)

cd <directory name> Change Directory down the tree to a directory under your current directory that is called whatever you type after cd (don't type the < >, just the directory name)

cd .. Backs you up the directory tree one level (i.e., if you are in /images/Bach and you want to go back to /images)

md <directory name> Make Directory makes a directory under the current directory using the name that you typed after md (again, don't type the < >)

ls Lists the files and directories in and under the directory you are currently in

rm *.wav deletes all files with a wav extension in the current directory

rm *.toc deletes the audio-cd.toc file in the current directory

rd <directory name> Remove Directory deletes a directory (only if the directory is empty)

Depending upon how the rights (permission to use specific programs) are setup, you may have to be logged in as the "root" superuser to be able to run the programs listed below.

Sometimes you may be able to login as your normal user and specify that you need to have the ability to run programs that the root user has. To run the following commands, you need to be logged in as the "super user" with equivalent powers as the "root" user. To do this, open a "Shell Prompt" by clicking on the icon on the bottom of the screen that looks like a computer monitor with a shell (like the Shell Oil trademark) superimposed over the computer monitor. When the "Shell Prompt" opens, type the following:

su (Then press the Return or Enter key - you will then be asked for the root user's password)
(enter the root user's password and press the Enter key again - now you can use the following commands)

In the examples below, where it may say device=0,0,0 or device=0,6,0 those are just examples and may not necessarily be the exact command for your system. To find out what the device number for your own CD recorder is, type this command and read the output on your screen:

cdrecord -scanbus

Also, where the commands indicate a speed, as in "--speed 4", put in the maximum recording speed of your specific CD recorder for the type of blank CDs that you are using (for example if you have an 8x4x32 CD recorder, you would use "--speed 8" if you are using CDR blanks and "--speed 4" if you are using CDRW blanks).


Read audio CDs using: cdparanoia -v -s -B "1-"

Write audio CDs using: cdrdao write --speed 4 --eject --device 0,6,0 audio-cd.toc

(Speed parameter and device 0,x,0 will vary with hardware setup, use cdrecord -scanbus to find out what the SCSI device ID number is)

If your original CD is scratched, you may want to slow down the reading process to try to correct for the errors by including a "-S 2" or "-S 1" on the command line for cdparanoia (-S 2 will read the CD at twice normal playing speed, while -S 1 will read the CD at normal playing speed). Since you are reading at either the normal playing speed or twice the normal playing speed, it will take longer to record a CD to your hard disk than it does using the normal reading speed, but if the CD is defective, you may have to do this to get an error-free read:

cdparanoia -v -s -B -S 2 "1-"

If your CD recorder is a new model, it may use a generic driver, so try one of the examples, below:

cdrdao write --speed 4 --eject --device 0,6,0 –driver generic-mmc audio-cd.toc

cdrdao write --speed 4 --eject --device 0,6,0 –driver generic-mmc-raw audio-cd.toc

Contents of the audio-cd.toc file which has to be in the subdirectory containing the wav files:



FILE "track01.cdda.wav" 0


FILE "track02.cdda.wav" 0


FILE "track03.cdda.wav" 0

Copying audio CDs and creating image files

cdrdao read-cd --device 0,0,0 audio-cd.toc

Copying data CDs and creating image files

dd if=/dev/scd0 of=datacd.img (of = output file)

Use readcd if there are so many errors that dd is not able to finish generating the image file

readcd dev=0,0,0 f=data-cd.img (of = output file)

gramofile is used to copy LPs, cassettes, etc. to an audio file

Use mkisofs to create an image file of any file or directories:

mkisofs -o <image file> -r -T -J <source directories>

mkisofs -o <home.img> -r -T -J /home /etc /usr/bin

Using cdrecord to copy data image files to a CD:

cdrecord -data -eject speed=4 dev=0,0,0 home.img

To use cdrdao to create a data CD, you need to create a data TOC:


DATAFILE "home.img"

cdrdao write --eject --device 0,0,0 home.toc

To compare an image file burned onto a CD to the original file:

dd if=/dev/cdrom test.img
cmp test.img original.img

This should produce NO output, which indicates it is a good copy. Music CDs can produce minor differences, but data CDs should not.

CD Copying

The following command will copy the CD in the source drive specified with option --source-device to the CD-R/CD-RW inserted in the destination drive specified with option --device. Only a single session will be copied which can be selected with option --session (default: 1st session). If you want to keep the session open you will have to use option --multi.

cdrdao copy --source-device 0,2,0 --device 0,5,0 --buffers 64

The option --buffers is used to adjust the ring buffer size. Each buffer holds 1 second audio data. Dividing the specified number of buffers by the writing speed gives the approx. time for which data input my be stalled, e.g. 64 buffers and writing at 4x speed results in 16 seconds.

On the fly copying is selected with option --on-the-fly. No intermediate data will be stored on the disk in this case.

cdrdao copy Copies from the CD recorder to the CD recorder

cdparanoia -v -s -B -S2 "14" Reads track 14 at speed 2x

-d --force-cdrom-device device
Force the interface backend to read from device
rather than the first readable CDROM drive it
finds. This can be used to specify devices of any
valid interface type (ATAPI, SCSI or proprietary).

To solve this problem, instead of two copies of fstabs, simply delete the soft link file /dev/cdrom and type ln -s /dev/sr0 /dev/cdrom. This creates a new link file pointing to the new cdrom device as create under ide-scsi driver. If all you have is one (scsi) cdrom (emulated or real) in your linux system, it usually should be /dev/sr0.

Lilo commands if you have trouble installing Linux: disableapic ide=nodma pci=biosirq hdc=serialize (for old CDROM drives, if CDROM is hdc)

3979: How to Burn CDs With cdrecord
On the Solaris[TM] 8 Operating Environment

You can use cdrecord, a simple command line program, on the SolarisTM Operating Environment to duplicate existing CDs or to make CD data backups of hard disk files.

Burn CDs With the SolarisTM 8 Operating Environment

CD-ROM drives are commonly used for duplicating existing CDs, and for
making CD data backups of hard disk files. This article demonstrates
how both tasks can be accomplished using cdrecord on the SolarisTM
Operating Environment.

A simple command line program, cdrecord, means burning CDs using
Solaris software is quick, simple, and cost-effective. The cdrecord
program, which works for both SPARCTM and Intel Architecture systems,
is included on the Solaris Software Companion CD (Update 2 and higher),
and is also available for free download from

While optional, configuring a cdrecord startup file,
/etc/default/cdrecord, will save time in the future. This startup
configuration file can hold information that cdrecord will need every
time it's used, such as the CD recorder's speed, device name, the
preferred buffer size, and so on. Alternately, these options can be
entered into the command line before every use.

The first step is to identify the cd recorder device name, which can be
found by scanning the device buses. In order to scan the devices,
however, the volume management must be turned off.

- Log in as root

- Turn off volume management by typing /etc/init.d/volmgt stop

- Discover the CD recorder and CD-ROM drive device names by typing
cdrecord -scanbus at the root prompt. The command output should be
similar to:

# cdrecord -scanbus
cdrecord 1.9 (i386-pc-solaris2.8) Copyright (C) 1995-2000
1,0,0 100) 'CREATIVE' 'CD5233E ' '1.00' Removable CD-ROM
2,4,0 204) 'PLEXTOR' 'CD-R PX-R820T' '1.05' Removable CD-ROM

The device ID is the first three numbers listed in each entry -- in
this case, device 2,4,0 is the CD recorder, for example. The
configuraiton file can also include a recording speed (for example, 8
times), and a buffer size (for example, 8 megabytes) to help avoid
under runs. To create the configuration file, located in
/etc/default/cdrecord, type:

# cat /etc/default/cdrecord

The cdrecord program startup configuration file is now set up for the future!

CD to CD

To duplicate an existing CD, insert the CD into the CD-ROM drive.
(Remember, duplicating CDs might require certain copyright and license
permissions!) Then:

Determine the controller and target numbers. These are listed in the
cdrecord -scanbus output (from before): 1,0,0 100) 'CREATIVE' 'CD5233E
' '1.00' Removable CD-ROM . The first number is the controller number,
and the second number is the target number. In this case, they are one
and zero, respectively. Also note that in the Solaris 8 platform, the
IDE CD-ROM drive device names are very similar to SCSI device names --
both contain target numbers.

Choose an output file with sufficient free hard disk space (at least
700 megabytes recommended). For this example, the free space is located
in the /local file system.

Capture an ISO image file of the CD by typing (at root prompt):

# dd if=/dev/dsk/c1t0d0p0 of=/local/mycdromfile.iso

It will take about five to ten minutes to copy the entire CD image file
to disk. After inserting a blank CD into the CD-ROM drive, burn the
image from disk onto a second CD by typing:

# cdrecord -v /local/mycdromfile.iso

This should take about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the speed of the
CD burner. In the above command, -v displays each step with extra
information, just in case something isn't successful.

Data to CD

Many users also utilize CD-ROM drives to create data backups on CD of a
system's home directory and files. The Solaris 8 Operating Environment
includes a very useful command for this, mkisofs, which creates an
image file when pointed at a system directory. To make an image file of
a home directory, for example /home/neal, type:

# mkisofs -l -L -r -o /local/mycdromfile2.iso /home/neal

This will take all the files in the /home/neal directory and create a
CD-ROM ISO image file at /local/mycdromfile2.iso.

When this is finished, insert a blank CD into the CD-ROM drive, and type:

# cdrecord -v /local/mycdromfile2.iso

This will copy the data image onto the blank CD, and should take about
15 to 30 minutes depending on the speed of the burner. More information
about the mkisofs command, including all its configurable options, can
be found by typing man mkisofs at a shell prompt.

For additional software and hardware information, documentation, source
code, and a list of supported CD recorders for cdrecord (an open source
project), visit the Freshmeat Web site.

Copy a CD by:

cdrdao copy --device 0,0,0


Thursday, 18 April 2002

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9:20 - I'd intended for today's entry to be the first one done completely under Linux, but that turned out not to be possible.

I've made a fair amount of progress. My primary mail client is now Evolution running on my Linux box. It's by no means as full-featured as Outlook 2000, but it seems to have all the essentials. I'm really looking forward to Evolution 1.1 or 2.0 or whatever they call it. There are a lot of convenience features that need to be added, and my guess is that the programmers are working on them for the next major release. But Evolution is Good Enough for now.

Among the features they really need to add is a usable Outlook import facility. Mozilla mail imports Outlook messages and address books, so there's no reason why Evolution can't do the same. It is, after all, aimed at the corporate Outlook market, so it's pretty much mandatory that it be able to import data from the application that it's intended to replace. Instead, the current release of Evolution says that it can't read Outlook files, and actually recommends using Mozilla Mail as an intermediary to get Outlook messages into Evolution.

The Outlook-to-Mozilla part works great. Mozilla's import grabs Outlook messages wholesale and puts them (and the folders that contain them) in a separate set of "Imported Mail" folders in Mozilla. It goes downhill from there, though. As far as I can see, there's no way to bulk import the mail from Mozilla to Evolution. Instead, you have to import it folder by folder. That at least does work properly, but it's quite time-consuming to replicate the Outlook/Mozilla folder structure in Evolution and then import folder by folder into Evolution.

What's worse is that there is apparently no way to import address books into Evolution. The best Evolution can come up with is to suggest mailing your contacts to yourself. I couldn't come up with any convenient way to do that in Mozilla, so I fired up Outlook, selected every contact in my Contacts folder, and sent them all as one huge mail message. That arrived in Evolution fine, but there was no way I could find to extract that data from the message and put it into Evolution.

So I decided to try sending my contacts one-by-one as v-card file attachments. Actually, I had too many contacts, so I decided to use my Subscribers list instead. I tried mailing one subscriber record as a vcard, and that worked fine. I opened the message in Evolution, and there was a button at the bottom of the message that said "Add to Addressbook" or something similar. Fine. So I spent the better part of an hour emailing each Subscriber record as an individual v-card attachment. Only after I'd sent them all and retrieved them in Evolution did I learn that the process didn't go as smoothly with most records as it did with that first test record. Evolution did in fact import the v-card data, but the resulting records were incredibly ugly. Each of them took up a full column in Evolution's Contacts display, with lots of little boxes and strange characters in the Notes fields.

After that, I tried everything I could think of, including exporting my Contacts records as comma-separated-value ASCII files. Nothing I tried worked. In each case, Evolution told me that it didn't have an importer for the format I'd chosen.

At that point, I decided to pend getting my contact data over to Evolution and move on to something else. Apparently, I lost my mind, because I decided to upgrade my system to KDE 3. (I should mention here that any bad things I say in this or future journal entries about stuff that happens is not criticism of the people who are helping me. It's pointing out that I do these silly things because I'm silly.) Greg Lincoln had sent me a link to the site where I could download the rpm's for KDE 3 stable for Red Hat 7.2. I went to that site and downloaded, as Greg suggested, every file I found there except the language support files. I don't need support for Croatian or Norwegian or any of the other languages, but I did grab everything else.

I stuck the downloaded files in the /home/thompson/kde3 directory. Once I had them all, I brought up a command prompt window, executed su to make myself super user, changed to the /home/thompson/kde3 directory, and used the command rpm -Uvh *.rpm to install KDE3. Being an optimist, I was at that point expecting the process to complete normally and give me KDE 3.0. Instead, I got a whole bunch of error messages about failed dependencies. Oh, well. Everything seemed to continue working normally, so I assumed that the rpm installer was smart enough to check for dependencies before doing anything to the existing installation. That seemed to be the case, and everything continued working normally.

So I continued playing around with various Linux stuff, planning to ask Greg later what if anything I should do about KDE 3. It was then that I decided I was going to use Linux to do this page for tomorrow (today). Planning to use Mozilla Composer, I fired up Mozilla. Big mistake. It appeared to start normally, although with the ugly old Netscape skin. I clicked on Task - Composer and Composer came up apparently normally. I called up this page, which is located on the Windows server, and it came up, apparently normally.

Then I got to thinking about version numbers. I'm running 0.9.9 on Windows and wasn't sure what I was running on Linux. So I made the big mistake of clicking Help -- About. That brought up a new Navigator window and locked Mozilla up tight. All of the Mozilla windows were still visible, but none of them responded to any commands, including my attempts to close them. I searched in vain for an equivalent to Windows' Task Manager -- End Task command. Mozilla was covering my desktop and wouldn't go away. I couldn't move, minimize, or close the Mozilla windows. What was worse was that if I started another program like Evolution or Solitaire, the resulting program window was underneath the frozen Mozilla windows. I could of course get a fresh desktop by clicking 2, 3, or 4 down on the task bar, but nothing I did would fix the frozen windows in my primary desktop.

Eventually, I rebooted the system. The Mozilla windows were still there, but I was able to close them. So I took the Gone With the Wind approach, and decided to think about that problem tomorrow. As I was using Evolution, I made the mistake of clicking on a link embedded in an email. Instead of firing up Konqueror, Mozilla came up. I'm not sure how or why Mozilla ended up associated with html files and I really wish I knew how to change the association back to Konqueror. Because each time I click on an embedded link, Mozilla comes up and freezes.

So I decided to upgrade Mozilla to the current version. I used Konqueror to go over to the Mozilla web site. I found the rpm for Mozilla 0.9.9, downloaded it and double clicked on it to bring up the GUI rpm installer. I told it to install the 0.9.9 version, but again I got a failed installation due to a bunch of dependencies. Obviously, I needed more than just the one rpm. There were a half dozen or more, but I foolishly assume that just the one 10 MB one would be sufficient. Obviously it wasn't.

There was also a tarball version that was a bit larger, but I didn't get it because I don't remember the procedure for extracting and installing from a tarball. I seem to remember from the hazy distant past that I'd need to download the tarball, run tar -xvf to unzip the files, do a chmod, and then execute an installer executable. Or something like that. But vague recollections from years ago aren't good enough. Come to think of it, it may even have been a .gz file rather than a tarball.

So I went back to download the rest of the Mozilla rpm's. I got all of them downloaded, fired up a command prompt, became superuser, changed into the download directory, and typed rpm -Uhv *.rpm. This time I got only one failed dependency: "mozilla = is needed by galeon-0.11.3-2". So again there's no joy. I can see that failed dependencies are going to be very aggravating.

When I went to bed last night, my primary desktop was still cluttered with Mozilla windows-that-will-not-die. This morning, they're all gone. Very strange. At any rate, that's why I'm typing this in Mozilla 0.9.9 Composer on my Windows 2000 system.

13:00 - more stuff going on, including several helpful emails, which are over on the Linux Chronicles page (yes, I've decided to start logging what I'm doing with Linux).


Friday, 19 April 2002

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9:50 - Barbara said that the words I was writing about my transition to Linux didn't tell the full story, so she took this picture.

Actually, I've had that for years. I haven't until now worn it publicly for two reasons: first, I don't speak Japanese. Well, I know a few phrases from karate training many years ago, and I've picked up a few more, mostly rude, in the years since, but I certainly don't read Japanese (assuming that's really Japanese--the package says it was made in Taiwan). For all I know, those pictograms say "The guy wearing this is an idiot" or "Smoke Camels". Come to think of it, the latter is more likely, because it was Suzy Tucker, the wife of my friend Steve Tucker who works at RJ Reynolds, who gave it to me.

The second reason is much more important. I'm wearing this as a joke, but what it symbolizes is no laughing matter. Many brave men on both sides died during the kamikaze attacks on the US Pacific Fleet during the late stages of WWII. Although modern historians tend to write off those attacks as an ineffective and ultimately futile gesture, reality was different. I've known officers and men who were on those warships in those days, and from what they've told me the attacks were anything but ineffective or futile.

US propaganda had it that the kamizaze attacks were the last desperate attempt by Japan to stave off defeat. The truth is that the kamikaze attacks hammered our fleet badly, and were beginning to achieve their intended goal. Had they continued, had it not been for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, kamikaze attacks might well have driven the US Pacific Fleet away from the Japanese homeland. If you doubt that, just consider what damage a swarm of hundreds of Exocets with human pilots might do against even our current fleet. These were incredibly brave men, and I am not mocking them.

Frances, Barbara's sister, is getting married tomorrow. We have the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner tonight. I tried to convince Barbara that Malcolm would be an excellent ring bearer, but she was not amused. At least I don't have to wear a suit tonight. We'll do the walk-through of the whole thing and then go have dinner. I'll come home alone. Barbara is staying over at her sister's house tonight.

As this article in The Inquirer makes clear, Dell now officially admits that they are producing non-standard systems. Although Dell says that this is "well known throughout the industry" it certainly wasn't known to me, to Jerry Pournelle, or to any of the several PC experts I spoke with. Although Dell's response dances around the problem, they do admit tacitly that using an industry-standard power supply with a Dell motherboard (or vice versa) will destroy the system. Their answer is that you should buy your upgrade and replacement parts from Dell. That's unacceptable. We recommend buying your systems from someone other than Dell.

Just as I got Mozilla 0.9.9 installed and running on my Linux box yesterday, I found that Mozilla had posted the first Release Candidate for Mozilla 1.0. I downloaded and installed that on my den system (Windows 2000), where it appears to work fine.

I'm using Linux full-time now, so it's about time to move my Linux box over from the secondary keyboard and monitor to the primary. I miss my 19" monitor and Microsoft Optical mouse, and the sooner I get my Linux box using them the better.


Saturday, 20 April 2002

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12:15 - Busy weekend. Yesterday afternoon we drove down to the Baptist Hospital Chapel, where Barbara's sister is getting married today. Barbara had to put up signs to lead people from the parking deck to the chapel. Then they did the rehearsal stuff. I'm not in the wedding party, so I just sat out in the truck and read. After the rehearsal, we drove over to Mayberry's for the rehearsal dinner. A friend of Barbara's family, Pam Buie, who organized our wedding, is also doing Frances'. Pam's husband Drew, who used to be a wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders, was also there, as were all of Barbara's many aunts and uncles. After I'd eaten, I ducked out and headed home to make sure Mom and the dogs were okay.

This afternoon, I head back down to the Baptist Hospital Chapel for the wedding, followed by the reception. I'll shoot some pictures with the digital camera for Barbara to post on her page and then head back home to take care of dinner for Mom and the dogs. Barbara won't be back until late this evening.

I haven't had much time the last couple days to work with Linux, but I did run into some frustrations getting TrueType fonts to work with Red Hat 7.2. More details over on the Linux Chronicles page.


Sunday, 21 April 2002

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9:25 - Barbara's sister is officially married, and we're all exhausted. Details are over on Barbara's page. Now we have to clean house and do laundry, and then I'm going to relax for a while.


Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.