From Ubuntu Studio to Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon

Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop overlapping Ubuntu Studio desktop

Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop overlapping Ubuntu Studio desktop

After installing a second monitor on the Ubuntu Studio, the panel or taskbar, as they called it in Windows, loses its transparency setting. It is one of those minor quirks in Linux that you can live with but still I decide to give a check on others. I opt to install Linux Mint Xfce edition since it has the same Xfce desktop environment that by now I am a little familiar with. It seems to be working fine with all the panels transparency in working order.

I proceed to install all the application programs that I require without a hitch until I begin to set the icc profiles for the monitors and printers. That is where I get the first hindrance. Linux Mint Xfce does not have a program to install the profiles for the devices mentioned. Obviously the next step is to install the program for the profile loader, gnome colour manager in this case. It goes along smoothly with no problem at all except that the program is nowhere to be found and I am not able to execute it even in command line. Maybe it is not compatible with the desktop but even the KDE version gives the same result. I am not very familiar with Linux and to save time I ditch it and look for a distro that have a colour manager program by default. I find 3 to start with, they are Ubuntu 14.04, Linux Mint 17 KDE and Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon editions.

The Colour program in MInt Cinnamon to set the icc profiles

The Colour program in MInt Cinnamon to set the icc profiles

Since I am an old-school computer user who prefer the taskbar/panel right down below the screen with the necessary information on it, I skip on Ubuntu and Linux Mint KDE is given the boot, no pun intended. It’s great, very customisable, only to be given away by its menu, it is not to my liking. I am now left with Linux Mint Cinnamon and wow, no wonder it is the most popular distro right now in the Linux world.

Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop and menu

Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop and menu

Now with all the printers installed, dual monitors up and running, profiles and the necessary programs loaded, the computer is now ready at last. One thing that is missing is the network monitor though.  The KDE and Xfce desktop environments have it.  This is to make sure that the computer is not leaking to the net without your knowledge.  I just hope that it won’t be long that someone patch up the KDE or Xfce version into a desklet as they termed it in Cinnamon.

Update 7 Feb 2016:  The problem with network monitoring is now solved.  I bought a used small PC just for Internet.  After installing Cairo Dock, I realised that there is an applet named Netspeed which I never did see before and it can be moved to the desktop.  Here’s the screenshot of the desktop.

Netspeed

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Cloning: Reimage Fails To Load

clonezilla

I have not been keeping myself abreast on the development of the low-level side of the PC, namely the firmware and hard disk partitioning until I find myself facing a wall.  Why?  Because not many sites cover this topic.  If they ever did, then I probably would have missed it or I could have brushed it aside because it is of little concern.  The PC has reached its peak growth so there is not much to write about.  Naturally and gradually articles on smart phones and others appear to fill in the void.  As for my complacency, it is intentional.  I have learnt not to know fully well details of something which will become obsolete in a few years, just enough on the superficial level.

Enough said, now back to the topic.  My recently assembled PC fails to load Ubuntu Studio after reimage.  The program that I used for both processes, cloning and reimaging, is non other than Clonezilla.  Upon rebooting, Grub just could not proceed to load the OS and it duly ends to a prompt.  If I remember it well, I think it says something about missing config file.  I reinstall Ubuntu Studio and repeat the whole process again and the result is still the same.

UEFI bios interface and surprisingly now in GUI

UEFI bios interface and surprisingly now in GUI

My first stop in troubleshooting journey is clonezilla.org.  Here I come to know about EFI which later become UEFI, which gives birth to GPT or GUID Partition Table.  The purpose of their creation is to cater for the needs of future architecture, namely the 64-bit processor architecture.  That is to expand the limitations posed by prior solution (seems that is also contained safeguard for proprietary materials).  After some quick readings, I come to the conclusion that the probability lies in the MBR size in the GPT partitioned hard disk that causes the problem and I am using an old version of Clonezilla.  I then proceed to download the latest stable version of Clonezilla, the Ubuntu-based 64-bit version and problem solved.

Linux: From Toe Testing To Flat Footing

UbuntuSudio Desktop

UbuntuStudio Desktop

I had tried Linux once in a while as time went by and I had seen the improvements made over the years. Still, I wasn’t ready to have a system based on it. Last few weeks I spent trying out a few of the Linux distros to check if it was time for me to have a permanent installation instead of just install and delete. I was in need of another computer and I wanted to know if the time had come for me to have a Linux box permanently.

After some searching, reading, downloading, burnt a few cds and trying, I must say that now Linux is practically more than ready for the masses. It works right after installation though you still need to install the printer driver which is easy if supported and the proprietary graphics card driver instead of the default driver, if you want the real deal (initially this needs some sweating though).

Graphics card and printers installed

Graphics card and printers installed

There are still some loose ends to be tackled but they are not of great concern. Things like installing application programs and hardware drivers especially graphics cards and printers if they are not in the repositories at hand (the default distro repositories right after installation) which are still quite technical. Thus I hope in the near future, the Linux developers communities could make the installation/removing process of application programs and hardware drivers unified and simple, whatever the variant of the Linux OS that is used. These will entice the application developers and hardware manufacturers to produce products that will also target the Linux OS platform.

I decided to settle for UbuntuStudio because it had groups of programs for audio production, video production, graphic design, photography and publishing. The decision was not hard to make as the new pc was primarily intended for photography post processing.

Application programs

Application programs

Installation was straight forward and fast (without internet connection). At the reboot, it was done, unlike Windows 7 installation that has to go through 3 reboots to get it done. But what is more important is the feeling I get in using it, I must say that it is a pleasure. The booting up process, shutting down process and opening and closing of application programs (same programs used in Windows 7) are fast compared to Windows 7. I am so satisfied that I am now shifting my body weight slightly over to this foot standing on the Linux OS.

Printershelf

Printer shelf

The Ikea rack is good and neat for stacking printers if you have a few of them.  The only problem is that the planks are made from chipboard.  In high humidity climes this does not bode well.  I made a mistake replacing the damaged planks with planks of the same kind.  Apparently it did not took long for the tell-tale signs to appear again.

Humidity

It has not rain for quite a while and this is the humidity reading

Since I had done with the computer table and still in the mood, I decided to give the rack a makeover.  I bought a 3′ x 4′ plywood which was about 10mm thick and made a small cabinet replacing the top shelf for storing the papers and inks.  With the leftover of the plywood, I managed to replace the planks of two shelfs except for one as I did not have a sizeable plywood left for it.  As with the computer table it was a quick one as I did not prime it with skins or lacquer and wood dye. I just went for the raw look.

Hub & Power

A single USB extended into a hub and the power point extension…and no it’s not a pincushion distortion of the lens, it’s the real bending of the chipboard plank

There is space on the lower shelf for a larger cabinet but I don’t have the need for the storing space at the moment though I will do it if the materials happen to be available freely.

DIY: Small Wall Mounted Computer Table

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Prophet Muhammad pbuh 1435 years ago (Edit: Actually this was the time he moved from Mecca to Medina.  He was more than 40 years old then.) according to the muslim Hijri calendar. Sallu Alaih.

Wall mounted small table for PC

The small computer table that I bought was made from chipboard (nowadays woods are expensive, you have to pay a premium for it).  In the high humidity of the tropical area that I’m putting at, it did not last long.   Soon the table top had lost its flatness followed by the chipping of the woods at the edges.  Someone had discarded a plate glass which was just about the size of the table top, so I picked it up, brought it home and replaced the table top.  It was alright for a while.  Then I had trouble cleaning the area around the computer table. Dust seemed to be creeping very consistently underneath the table in just a short while after the place had been cleaned.  It was a hassle.  Not that the cleaning was very laborious but that I needed to shift things aside if I were to clean the area thoroughly.  Since the table was not handsome anymore and I needed the ease in cleaning the area, the idea of a wall mounted table was hatched.

I bought a pair of wall mount brackets and a pair of rollers for the drawer.  I could not get a solid bracket that I once saw sometimes back, so I got the next best thing.  Made from thin stainless steel and rather twisty, I figured that it should suffice to support the weight albeit a little flexing if I were to rest my arms on the edge of the table.  The material for the table was from scrap plywood that I had lying around at the back of the house.  I still retained the glass to cover over the table top and the table is now done and in service.

table done

The finished table. Just 3 components, the table top, drawer and the cage to hold the PC

bracket

Brackets fixed and ready for load (update: ordinary wall plug is not strong enough, I had replaced the topmost wall plugs, where the brunt of the loading occurs, with the much stronger wall anchors)

table attached

The table attached to the brackets

Update 17 Feb 2016

The table had just been renewed and expanded.  I am now using separate PCs for work and surfing.  It just could not cope with two PCs without swapping.  The new table top constructed from scrap plywood, I just bought a few pieces of 3/4″x1/2″x6′ woods for trimming and reuse the old drawer and PC cage.

NewTable

Dual Monitor Setup

dual

Dual monitor display in extended mode

I have always wanted to have a second monitor for quite some times now so that I can read the tutorial on one screen while practicing the program on the other.  It is much more convenience, I don’t have to flip over the windows endlessly and removes one of the stumbling blocks on the learning curve. Although it is also possible to have both windows cramped side by side on one screen, but then the drawback is that I have to be contented with the smallish windows.

tutorial

Learning a program is much more easier

Just a few days ago, I had purchased a used 17 inch Dell monitor.  This was what I had been looking for, a small 17 inch monitor that could be flipped over to portrait mode.  It was a priority, easy reading on narrow screen than wide and not too tall.  Technology for having two or more monitors on a PC for the masses had been around for quite a while. The setting-up for multiple monitors should be quite easy as of now given the time period for it to mature.  I must say that the installation was quite a breeze except for the initial hiccup.  After attaching the second monitor to the graphics card VGA port (the primary was on the DVI-I port) both screens went blank while the computer did booted up.  This made me frantically searched the internet for the howtos.  From what I read, I had the requirement but it did not explained my problem.  Then it struck me that it could be the bios setup.  A check into the bios and changing the default initial search for graphics card on PCIE bus solved the problem.  The startup process was shown on both of the monitors. For the rest of the setting I encountered no problem at all.

Bios setting

Bios setting

I set the display system to extended mode.  This made the secondary monitor to the right of the main monitor by default.  Then in the “Creating and Arranging Desktop” of the AMD VISION Engine Control Center, I changed the position of the secondary monitor to the left of the main monitor.  That is all about it.  Although I would like to have an individual desktop on an individual monitor (not extended or multiple desktops on a single main monitor), that I found out is not possible.  That is to my knowledge as of now.

Note: It is possible with additional graphics cards and specialised software to have two or more users simultaneously or Multi-PC but that is a different category.

Set to extended mode

Set to extended mode

To summarise, basically the process for setting-up two (or more) displays is as follows:

  • The graphics card must be able to support more than one display
  • Make sure the bios setting is set for the computer to look and initialised the graphics card in the right place (PCIE bus in my case)
  • Once it is up and running, press Windows logo key + P and select how you want your desktop to be displayed
  • Use the utility programs that come with the graphics card to change the position of the second monitor from right to left if you need to (update:  Actually this can be done in Windows “Screen Resolution” by dragging the monitor icon from right to left)
  • Note: The first monitor will be the main monitor with taskbar and all the rest.  The second monitor will be the extended screen.  So if you want whatever monitor to be the main monitor, attach that monitor first and boot up so that the system will recognised it.  Shut it down, attach the second monitor, boot up and set the extended mode.  *I am just assuming this and I could be wrong.  My main monitor was previously on DVI-I port but now it is on the HDMI port.

The downside of using an old monitor is that the resolution is low compared to the high resolution of the new monitor today.

(Update:  The resolution of the Dell monitor is quite okay, 1280 x 1024. But using the analog port of the D connector the max resolution is not possible unless there is a driver for it. Problem solved by connecting it to the digital DVI-I port and the main monitor on the digital HDMI port.  I got away with some mess caused by the cables and just use the speakers on the monitor, not the one shown here.)

Trying Out Windows 8 Release Preview

I had downloaded the installer twice. The first time, I was unable to do a clean install on the striped SSDs. The same thing happened with the second downloaded installer even with the latest RAID driver from AMD. Perhaps the RAID driver was not meant for Windows 8 or that I was missing something.  I did the next thing, upgrade the existing Windows 7 installation. After a few reboots the installer encountered an error and so the installer put the system nicely back to the state it was before.

I was about to give-up this time too when it came to me that maybe one, some or all of the installed programs/drivers were the reason.  Without much haste, I reinstalled the system with the first clone image that I did, the one done right after installation and update. It worked.

Looking at the Metro UI, I sensed the shift to mobile. It was an interface meant for systems toys on the go, tablets, smartphones and probably netbooks and not exactly for desktops and notebooks.  But then different people had different preferences, one man’s meat was another man’s poison.  The desktop and taskbar were still there but not the start menu.  You could execute program by typing the filename on the Explorer address bar,  I never did try this on Windows 7 (update: well it could be done too).   Aero Glass was no where to be found but somehow I knew it was still there.  After some searching and a few tries it was enabled.  So Microsoft, don’t you ever removed it, I’m on a desktop with 8 cores!

Aero Glass enabled

Well, I cannot use this OS for now.  I am working with programs on the computer, not use it just to access information as can be seen with the large icons on the Start. The maintenance tools are all hidden and I have to dig for it.  I am at a loss.  It is becoming an OS for gadgets and not for computers running application programs though it still is.  Let see what will it be when the release version is out.  Maybe it is time for me to get really familiar with Linux.

Making Weather Resistance Outdoor BiQuad

Outdoor Biquad

This is a new biquad to replace the old one that have had a good wallop by the weather. The microwave resistance food container that I encased it with, is not weather resistance. Only left the biquad and the reflector plus some length of kite string somehow got entangled around it.

I have a 14cm frying pan that had its handle burnt at the bracket. I make use of the pan as a reflector and as a shallow waveguide. The biquad antenna itself is constructed from a transformer wire salvaged from a dead switching power supply. Since the old setup had a BNC connection, the new biquad still maintain the BNC connection, although now if I am building a totally new setup, I would prefer TNC. BNC is not up to par but it is almost there and cheaper.

Here is the construction in pictures.

A slightly smaller hole drilled and the BNC panel connector tightly attached for good mechanical and electrical contact

A look behind

A 10mm copper tube cut, shaped and sliced, then wrapped around the thread. A piece of wire wound around and twisted making sure for a good mechanical and electrical connections. Lastly solder applied using portable gas torch to fill in every nook and cranny

Biquad with sides approximately 30.5mm constructed

Biquad was then soldered to the BNC panel connector and copper tube assembly. A 15mm strip of hard paper placed beneath to give the desired distance between antenna and reflector. Not a neat soldering because the iron was not hot enough. Finally paint applied all over

Error Message: License information for TF1Book is invalid

Error Message

I was almost done with installing the programs that I needed on the new PC. Everything was running smooth when after installing SSuite Accel, the standalone freeware alternative for Microsoft Excel, I got a message that said, “License information for TF1Book is invalid.” Searching on the net, I found that it was caused by the ActiveX control file VFC132.OCX. I tried to look for remedy on the FAQ section on the author’s site and it was a known issue. Here what’s been written on the site;

“The error you received is from an ActiveX component that did not register on installation. (The Spreadsheet Canvas)

Simply uninstall the office suite and reinstall it, this should fix the problem (you may have to try once or twice). Microsoft made some adjustments to their system paths and registration procedures.

If the above solution does not work, try the following:

1. Open the run dialog box on the main start menu of Windows
2. type the following command script into the edit box – “regsvr32 vcf132.ocx”
3. click the OK button

If you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7, follow these steps:

Register the component from an elevated command prompt. Right click on the icon for Command Prompt on the start menu and select Run as Administrator. You will be prompted by UAC to approve the elevation. Once the command prompt window is open, run your “regsvr32  vcf132.ocx”command from that window and it should succeed.

This should register the component. The applications using the spreadsheet canvas should run normaly now.”

Well, it didn’t work for me, though I did not uninstall it but just chose the repair option when reinstalling. Ultimately I restored the system with the first backup image (the one right after installation, activate and update) followed immediately by installing the SSuite Accel program. It worked. I then copied the file VCF132.OCX which was found in the C:\Windows\SysWOW64 directory to another location for safekeeping. Next I installed all the other programs one at a time, executing the program after installation followed by executing SSuite Accel. All went fine until the last program DoubleCAD XT 3. The CAD program worked fine but then running SSuite Accel gave me the message. Looking at the file in SysWOW64 folder, it was bigger, newer and had a higher version number. I overwritten this file with the saved copy. To my joy both programs executed just fine.

Installed by SSuite Accel

Installed by DoubleCAD XT 3

There should be no problem in running SSuite Accel except for DoubleCAD XT 3. It is depending on the newer version of the file VCF132.OCX, there might or might not be a problem. As of now, that I do not know as I am yet to use the program. Hopefully there’s none.

Update:

I don’t know, maybe its the nut that holds the mouse, this program could not open an xls file and I don’t feel like finding the reason why. I seldom use word processor, let alone spreadsheet. What I need is a small program to open the respective files. Installation program file for Microsoft Excel viewer alone is 75MB. No can do. In the end I ended up with LibreOffice portable, just another fork of OpenOffice.

Migrating Windows 7 OS From Hard Disk To Raid 0 SSDs

Raid 0 SSDs for System, Hard disk for data

I had recently assembled my work PC based on the new AMD processor, the FX 8120 and also managed to solve the problem of Task Manager showing only four cores instead of eight cores. My intention to have the OS installed on an SSD was dashed when the 64GB Plextor SSD failed to work. Not wanting to be discouraged by the setback, I carried-on assembling the PC, install Windows 7 Home Premium, activate and update it. I was never worried if there would be problems in migrating the OS later on when I got the SSD back after RMA. This was because I thought I could just easily clone the new SSD with the saved clone image. I was wrong because I had a change of plan.

I was getting more ambitious. Instead of waiting for the 64GB Plextor SSD repaired or replaced, I had gotten myself two 60GB ADATA SSDs and another 8GB of ram (16GB total, Pagefile set to None). I had opted for a Raid 0 configured SSDs but unfortunately or fortunately (at least I learnt something) I came to realise one unforseen problem. Clonezilla could not recognised Raid configuration. Thus I began searching for a freeware progam that would do the job and after some searching and reading, I settled for EaseUS® Todo Backup Free. It was a Windows application program that needed to be installed and not a standalone program that booted from a CD or USB flash drive, nevertheless it did the job well. I reimaged the hard disk partition with the first clone image that I had saved (usually I clone twice, one after activation and update and another after fully installed with the required apps). Next, EaseUS Todo Backup Free was installed and with it I did a partition to partition cloning from the harddisk to the striped SSDs. I was able to boot Windows 7 on the striped SSDs straightaway after completion. No problem encountered.

Since the partition size on the hard disk was 100GB and the size of the striped SSD was 120GB, some space on the striped SSDs became unallocated. GParted was used to do the resizing of the partition and to claim back the unused space (Note: In general, cloning is only possible if the target partition is bigger than the source partition). After recovering the space I was still able to boot Windows 7 flawlessly. There was also a small unused space of a few megabytes at the beginning of the partition, I recovered this space too but then Windows 7 could not boot. My first attempt at repairing the boot problem with Windows 7 installation disc (selecting Startup Repair) was unsuccessful. On my second attempt I loaded the AHCI driver and it worked even though I got a message saying that the loading of the driver had failed. Ever since that second attempt the PC was running fine.

The striped SSDs was then immediately cloned using Windows 7 very own Backup and Restore and I had created a System Repair Disc as a companion just in case Windows could not boot. Eventually, as been my habit, after a full install of all the programs that I needed, a second clone image was made. Now I wonder if Windows Backup and Restore could be used for migrating the OS in the first place. Never did I try it before but it seems to look possible.

Windows 7 running off hard disk

Windows 7 runnig off Raid 0 SSDs

Here’s a peek at the desktop. All shortcuts of alike programs were placed in a single folder and represented by a single RocketDock icon as can be seen here, one for CAD programs and another for image processing programs.

The desktop showing the main programs

Note: I am just making an assumption here. I have a feeling that the 6 SATA 3.0 ports on the Gigabyte motherboard with AMD 970 chipset being multiplied from a single channel. The speed of the striped SSDs is about the same speed as the speed of a single SSD if not slightly lower (comparing Passmark results). It seems that I need a true 2 channels Raid 0 controller card on at least two lanes PCIe (x2) card to get higher throughput. The HighPoint RocketRAID 640 PCIe x4 looks like a likely candidate.

Update 27 Dec 2011

System now running at 3.5GHz and after installing the AMD AHCI compatible SATA Raid Driver found in RAIDXpert 11-12 (did not install RAIDXpert), disk performance improved further.

Better disk performance after installating AHCI compatible SATA RAID Driver