When all else fails, check the system logs

As some of you know, I’ve been using Ubuntu Linux as my only operating system on my personal laptop for about a year now. About a month ago, the wireless stopped working. Our router is a couple years old, so at first I thought that might be the problem. But the wife didn’t have any trouble connecting, and two computers from work could connect, so that wasn’t it. Then I thought it might be the latest Ubuntu kernel update. A few threads on the Ubuntu Forums seemed to suggest that might be the case, but no one seemed to have quite my problem. And then the upstairs neighbor came home from vacation and turned his wireless network back on. I still have his password saved from once when I was borrowing his network while ours was out, and I could connect to that, no problem. So I was puzzled. I posted a few times to the Ubuntu Forums, which usually are very helpful, but got no response. I did a lot of Googling. Nothing. Finally I found something on Google Groups. Someone having an unrelated problem had found the answer in his system logs. System logs? Holy cow, I have system logs! I suppose I should have known about them, but it seems strange that I’ve never seen mention of them on the Ubuntu Forums, or anywhere else. Sure enough, the system logs told me that the stored info that allows the network handshake to happen was bonked. access point 'coatimundi' is encrypted, but NO valid key exists. New key needed. So I deleted the saved connection info for my network and tried to connect again. It asked me for my password, and POOF! Connection is successful. So now I have my laptop back. And all is right with the world. If you are having problems with anything in Ubuntu, or probably any other Linux distro, check your system logs. The answer may be right in front of your face.

Help Firefox set a world record

Download Day 2008 is coming. We’re just not sure when. They’re trying to set a world record for software downloads in a day. Since you should be using Firefox 3 as soon as it comes out, this is a great opportunity. In case you haven’t tried Firefox, it is light years ahead of Internet Explorer. Even IE7, which Microsoft put out to implement a bunch of functionality that’s been in Firefox and other browsers for quite some time, is a steaming pile of crap compared to Firefox. Anyway, join in. It’ll be fun to watch the Mozilla Foundation’s servers melt with the download traffic.

I have powers you can’t even imagine

It’s been about three and a half hours since I complained about the lack of 64 bit Flash for Linux. Just a minute ago, I was checking out the latest on my RSS feed, and there was a Flash video on BoingBoing. Firefox popped up the little message, asking if I wanted to install the plugin. I figured it wouldn’t work, but I did it anyway. The package manager installed flashplugin-nonfree, and it worked! I can watch YouTube videos! I can use Google Analytics! Even MLB GameDay works! It’s amazing! So, I apologize, Ubuntu. You’ve been so good to me, and I nearly kicked you to the curb just because Fedora put out a new distro. But I’m back now. I’m right back on the Ubuntu bandwagon. On a side note, I’m available for freelance complaining. This is not the first time I’ve complained about something that was magically fixed soon afterwards. For a very reasonable hourly rate, I’ll complain about something that you’d like fixed. Results not guaranteed. Nor even expected.

Oh, Ubuntu, you make me laugh

I tried out Fedora for a few minutes. The Gnome desktop looks just like Ubuntu. I’m going to do some research and see what the real differences are. When I rebooted into Ubuntu, I had some upgrades to install, which I did. One of them popped up this message:

A security certificate which was automatically created for your local system needs to be replaced due to a flaw which renders it insecure. This will be done automatically. If you don’t know anything about this, you can safely ignore this message.

That’s pretty awesome.

Is anyone else annoyed by Ubuntu 8.04?

I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by Ubuntu 8.04 – Hardy Heron. I upgraded from 7.10, which I was pretty happy with, and I’d kind of like to go back. I haven’t been getting crashes or freezes or anything like that, but it’s not more polished and stable than 7.10. Also, Firefox 3 Beta is annoying. A couple of the plugins I really like for Firefox 2 don’t work yet, and the new features aren’t cool enough to make it worth the upgrade for me. I also suspect some of my dissatisfaction is not 8.04’s fault – the lack of 64 bit Linux support in Adobe’s Flash is a huge pain. There are some websites that just don’t work without Flash (Some of them, like Google Analytics, are actually useful). And I can’t get Flash to work anymore. But it wasn’t working in 7.10, either. Anyway, I just downloaded and burned a live cd for Fedora 9, and I think I’m going to try it out. I don’t know if I’ll replace Ubuntu, but it’s worth a try. I can still be a smug Linux convert with Fedora. Maybe even smugger because Ubuntu is more mainstream than Fedora.

Dinner and Drinks with Charlie Stross

Charles Stross @ BrickskellerI got to meet Charles Stross! And drink good beer! I dragged the wife down to The Brickskeller last night to meet the author and his wife, and an eclectic group of local fans. It was a little tough for the wife, since they now have a bunch of Bell’s Beer on hand. But it was less tough than it could have been, because they were out of most of it, including the Hopslam they claimed to have on tap. But it was fun. He signed my copy of Halting State. I wasn’t sure which book to bring. I could have done what one person did, and brought everything Charlie had ever published. But really, the marginal utility of each subsequent signature is pretty insignificant. I thought about bringing Singularity Sky, which I really enjoyed. Or Accelerando, the first of his that I read. But I have both of those in paperback. And my favorite of his, Iron Sunrise, I apparently don’t own at all. I guess I must have gotten it from the library. Anyway, I finally settled on a nice hardcover, and I’m happy with my decision. Plus I got this great picture of him. Didn’t get to talk to him much, but that’s okay. Not sure what I would have said. The conversation mostly centered around Charlie, talking about writing and politics. He says he’s not writing any more in the Iron Sunrise post-Singularity universe, which is too bad because I really like those stories. He related some stats on the death penalty that suggest we shouldn’t be killing people. The wife and I talked to his wife about beer – she was looking for weird American stuff they can’t get back home in Scotland, which is exactly my attitude when traveling. I will never understand those who travel abroad and want hamburgers and Budweiser. It was a good night. We got a little wet walking home, but since this was the warmest day we’ve had since last summer, and it didn’t rain too hard, it wasn’t too unpleasant.