News archive 2003
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December 6th, 2003
Folks, I feel the need to tell you a bit about my recent experiences with Knoppix. Knoppix is a Debian-unstable based "live" Linux OS on CD, meaning it can run entirely off a bootable CD drive without so much as touching the hard drive, very nice work, in fact, most excellent work by Klaus Knopper. I've been running the latest Knoppix CD (version 3.3, dated 11-14-2003) on my main notebook for around 2 weeks now, and I am sorely tempted to give up my Red Hat 9.0 and Mandrake 9.0 partitions to install it permanently on my little 4 gig drive. Were it not for the fact that I have a new 30gig drive for the notebook on it's way, I can assure you, I'd soon trade in Mandrake and Red Hat both for Knoppix, yes, it's that good. Windows users, you can try what is, in my opinion, the absolute state of the Linux art with absolutely no risk, I truly recommend you do, and, if Knoppix won't run well/right on your machine, then I say "wait until it will" to really give Linux a try.

RE: Acx100 driver updates
The bugs and fixes to 0.2.0pre6 are coming in at such a frantic rate (well, pretty frantic for driver development anyway) as to make me want to hold off and wait for pre7 before updating any of my pre-compiled modules, however, I've decided to go ahead and put up some pre6 modules, head on over to the howto and check it out.
Knoppix 3.3 users, I now have a working solution for your acx100 card needs, check the howto's Knoppix 3.3 Live CD section for the download and instructions, special thanks to b1smooth for all the help in testing my Knoppix solution, it is much appreciated.

November 14th, 2003
First off, I want to wish a very happy, only slightly belated birthday to my beloved son: Christopher, happy 27th Chris!! and we'll be seeing you for Thanksgiving, get ready, hehe. This would have been on the right day (the 13th) but I fell asleep, DOH!!
As I write this, the first snow flurry of this year's winter is in progress, should be an interesting winter, of course I'll post photos of anything really interesting. This week marks yet another one of my philosophy shifts as I have decided to abandon the forums, physically and financially, better uses of the money present themselves... Basically, my remembrance of Economics 101 dictates that the cost/benefit of attempting to help people who generally don't listen (who knows why), and are constantly threatening to "go back to windows" (why would that matter to me?) is a no-win proposition. Couple that with the fact that some forum posters (and some of the admins also) are barely getting their lives started and thus lack certain maturity factors that are typically thrust upon you during long-term work-experience, marriage and child-rearing, and not to mention my tendency to evaluate the intelligence of native English speakers based on their spelling and grammar as well as technical data they may post and voila! for me, forum participation is a bad idea, I may revisit them again, although I doubt it...takes up a huge amount of time, with little to show for it...
So, for the people I've been working with recently on certain forums that may have been wondering when akaBeaVis will be getting back to them, the answer is: not any time soon. Hopefully, others will step in and you'll get things working.
The most popular acx100 pre-compiled module has been updated to 0.2.0pre5 on the acx100 howto page, the rest are coming soon, along with mandrake 9.2 and slackware 9.1 when I can get a minute to get them installed somewhere. No real secret, Red Hat 9.0 is hands-down the most popular download for all three of the chipsets I attempt to compile modules for.
I want to take this moment to thank all those who have been kind enough to actually email me and let me know that the howto's have helped them: so, here's a big thanks to all of you who have done so, I truly appreciate the feedback. For the folks who don't have their stuff working yet: odds are, you'll give up on it before I do, so let's get it working.

November 1st, 2003
Well, how about this for a milestone, October 2003 marks the first month since it's inception almost 4 years ago, that this site's most frequent visitor was not theCraig himself (forgive me, I have no life...), how about that! Yep, with over 40,000 hits last month (October 2003), I was finally not the most frequent visitor to my own site, I had no idea a couple of pages designed to help fellow linux users avoid the frustration I experienced and get their wireless cards going would generate so much traffic, who knew?
Also, my bud: Greg G. informs me Max Payne 2 has been released!! Without a doubt the original Max Payne is currently my favorite PC game, so I'm drooling (even as we speak) over the prospect of the sequel...

October 18th, 2003
The latest Acx100 release (0.2.0pre4) pre-compiled modules are now available for download over on the acx100 howto page. Versions 0.2.0pre3 and 0.2.0pre2 are there as well, one of them ought to work for any of you that needed the upgrades starting with pre3. Once again I've reversed my position on something, imagine that! But seriously, my own problems with suspend/resume continue with these post-pre2 versions, however since I've been participating a bit over on the acx100 sourceforge open discussion forum I've seen that certain cards need the post-pre2 upgrades to become functional. As for me, I'm now using 0.2.0pre4 and continuing to work on my hack to get around the suspend/resume issue, which at the moment is to not suspend/resume, heh.
acx100_pci 0.2.0pre4 Update: I've solved the suspend/resume problem on Mandrake 9.0 at least, had to add a line to the file /etc/sysconfig/apm-scripts/suspend.d/4pcmcia file to rmmod acx100_pci, that seems to fix it for pre4, when I get redhat 9 to suspend I'll update again. Once again, theCraig is not beaten by a machine!, hehe.
In other non-acx100 related news, (which there hasn't been too much of lately) Got me a bonafide, dedicated print-server box a coupla weeks back, it's a Netgear ps111w with both wired and wireless capabilities, works nicely and allows me to print from both windows and linux clients, a bargain at $42 considering it comes with a coupon for a free Netgear MA401 wireless card to go in it's wireless slot. Coupled with that I also acquired a refurbished Canon i550 printer. I've never had a photo-capable printer before and I must say, the 4x6 prints are indistinguishable from regular film-camera prints, truly impressive output for a mere $46. For my linux clients I'm using cups and the Canon BJC-7100, Foomatic + gimp-print driver. As for the "refurbished" status, I'm guessing someone returned the item for some reason, I couldn't find anything wrong that would account for it being refurbished, saved about $50 because of it, nice!

October 4th, 2003
Version 0.2.0pre3 on the Acx100 project page is out. That said, I've got some issues with this new source and won't be updating my acx100 modules until I either sort them out, or the next version fixes them. There's trouble, at least on my system with suspend/resume.

September 18th, 2003
Got some unexpected time today (off due to hurricane, pictures may be forthcoming) so: new versions of my pre-compiled Acx100 modules for Mandrake 9.0, 9.1, Redhat 9.0, and Slackware 9.0 are available, the howto has been updated as well, folks, please read the howto carefully.

September 11th, 2003
I'm not going to comment too much on this day of remembrance other than to say the families of all those who lost their lives 2 years ago are very much in my thoughts and prayers...
Finally got around to beginning the ACX100 howto page, a work-in-proress, I decided to make it available prior to completion for those of you who are experienced enough, and desperate enough to fill-in-the-blanks, also, right now it's the only link to pre-compiled acx100 modules for mandrake 9.0, 9.1, slackware 9.0, and redhat 9.0, hope this helps.

August 10th, 2003
Acx100 Linux Driver Update
I revisited the Acx100 Open Source driver project for this chipset over on SourceForge this week. It's much improved since I was there a couple of months ago, they're really doing an incredible job. If you own an acx100 wireless card, I recommend you give the open source driver a try.
Now that this driver supports managed mode, it's quite usable. It responds to a few more iwconfig options and it's iwconfig reporting is complete and robust, including signal information, again, these guys have worked miracles. On the down side, it consumes upwards of 450k in memory once loaded. The binary driver, which I thought was pretty hefty at around 250k is very nearly half of that. Correction: v0.1g reports only 85,920 bytes on an lsmod, a nice improvement.
I'm going to continue to test this driver and keep up with it's improvements via cvs as time goes by. I'll post things here as they improve. The latest news I have is that a poster over on (which I haunt quite a bit) has had success with this driver and his D-LInk DWL-650+, this is excellent news.
here's the output of iwconfig for this driver on my SMC 2435w:
# iwconfig
eth0    v0.1e  ESSID:"wireless_hoc"
          Mode:Managed  Channel:4  Access Point: 00:03:2F:06:F4:13
          Bit Rate=22Mb/s   Tx-Power:16 dBm
          Encryption key:xxxx-xxxx-xx
          Link Quality:75/0  Signal level:-178 dBm  Noise level:-253 dBm
          Rx invalid nwid:0  Rx invalid crypt:0  Rx invalid frag:0
          Tx excessive retries:0  Invalid misc:0   Missed beacon:0
As you can see, this is far more robust than the binary driver's reporting, in fact, it sports more info on an iwconfig call than any other card I own, excellent work by the Acx100 team.
One last, and very important thing. Do not fail to run ifconfig <devicename> mtu 576 or make it one of your network settings, or you will be met with mysterious problems, this is documented in the README that comes when you cvs the source code, definitely read it. correction: the mtu 576 is not in the README, it's actually in the start_net scripts found in acx100/scripts, here's an excerpt:
# Finally, let's do some tweaking to make sure we don't have any
# buffer management problems (yeah, it's an ugly workaround!)
ifconfig $DEV mtu 576

July 26th, 2003
That's right folks, I am actually posting this update via the SMC 2435W card in Linux!. Well, it's only taken what, about 3½ months? but the card is in and functional. of today, I can completely invalidate the ranting I posted on April 13. All 3 cards that I was complaining about now work in Linux. The D-Link and the SMC are in my Mandrake 9.0 machine right now, and the Belkin is working nicely on a different machine running Slackware 9.0. When it comes to Linux, perseverance pays!!
Getting the SMC 2435W card to work was fairly easy and until I get around to posting a howto for it, you can try it out by following these steps: Notice: I am no longer recommending (or making available for download) any of the "leaked" binary driver modules for this card, the open source driver is, in my opinion, far superior. See my acx100 howto page for pre-compiled modules.
Here's the output of iwconfig for this card:
 iwconfig eth1
eth1      v0.9.0.3a 11b+  ESSID:"wireless_hoc"  Nickname:"AP0544D2"
          Channel:4  Access Point: 00:03:2F:06:F4:13Bit Rate=22Mb/s
          RTS thr:off   Fragment thr:off
          Encryption key:xxxx-xxxx-xx Encryption mode:open
          Power Management:off
Here's what the log says about this card:
Jul 26 19:17:06 Thinkpad insmod: Module acx100sta-2.4.19-16mdk loaded, with warnings
Notice the next line, the hotplug system attempts to load 4 more modules for this card that have nothing to do with it, I'm still tracking this down...
Jul 26 19:28:20 Thinkpad /etc/hotplug/pci.agent: Setup acx100sta-2.4.19-16mdk org_8211 usb-uhci uhci neofb yenta_socket for PCI slot 04:00.0
Jul 26 19:28:21 Thinkpad kernel: GSTWLAN0: AP TI acx100_pci.o: Ver -- 2003/04/25 08:06:42 CST Loaded
Jul 26 19:28:21 Thinkpad insmod: Warning: loading /lib/modules/2.4.19-16mdk/kernel/drivers/net/pcmcia/acx100sta-2.4.19-16mdk.o will taint the kernel: no license

May 25th, 2003
It's been over a month since the rant describing my disappointing experiences with the Belkin F5D6020ver.2 and the D-Link DWL-650v2 wireless (802.11b) cards under Linux. Although every indication was that these two cards would not work with linux in the foreseeable future, for some reason i could not bring myself to send them back and give up. About 2 weeks ago i got these cards back out and decided to try again, and you know what? Success!, read on...
Contrary to my last news posting, neither of these cards contain a TI chipset and both of these cards work well with Linux. Yep, in fact i've had both cards working at the same time in my notebook with Mandrake 9.0. did i manage to get these cards working? Well it's a rather long story which i won't bore you with at this time. What i will do however, is to direct you to my brand-spankin' new page entitled: Belkin F5D6020 and D-Link DWL-650 HOWTO for Revision 2 which could be construed as being a LInux HowTo for both of these cards.
Another thing: folks, don't bother buying wireless stuff that claims 22mbps throughput. Why? unless most of what you're doing with your wireless network is sharing large files, the speed differential is not noticeable. What's the downside? even if you can buy one of these "+" routers for the same price as a regular 802.11b router, the extra speed seems to come at the cost of distance. What i'm talking about is the signal level and quality degradation that occurs the furthur you get from the router. At 22mbps PBCC, you're on a tight leash. At 11mbps (no PBCC) you can go for miles! Think it over, which is really more important? a nearly imperceptible speed increase, or a very noticeable lack of mobility.

April 13th, 2003
Oh, for cryin' out loud, this is getting absolutely ridiculous!!
<begin rant>
The ridiculosity is the fact that I've now been through 3, yes folks, that's THREE different wireless notebook cards made by 3 different vendors...and you know what? None of the three cards will work with Linux!. I'll blame myself for the first one, the SMC 802.11b+ card since I should have known how new that standard is, but the other 2: a D-Link DWL-650 and a Belkin F5D6020 are both listed over on the SourceFourge Pcmcia site as working w/Linux.
You may be wondering then, why neither of these cards would actually work. Glad you asked, the funny thing is that both of these manufacturers have updated the chipset internal to these cards to a TI chipset of some sort, and, as you may have guessed, those chipsets aren't LInux-supported. Sadly, the model number of these cards remains the same, at least as far as the vendors go and so I have to send them back.
This kind of thing is, in my rather-annoyed opinion, the reason why an open-source, free OS will never, ever be able to compete with Windows. Hardware Manufacturers don't see fit to support LInux. Although I didn't try these cards in Windows, I have no doubt they would have worked in every version from 95 to XP.
<end rant>

April 2nd, 2003
da House has finally gone wireless. Yep, with 3 notebooks here, 2 of which actually get daily usage, i finally decided to take the 802.11b plunge. Both the router (an SMC2404WBR) and the wireless net cards (SMC2435W) are from SMC, and as with all my previous experiences with this manufacturer, perform solidly. I should clarify the preceding by stating that both net cards originally were SMC's. Their 802.11b+ card performs quite solidly in Windows, and yet, sadly, there does not appear to be any current Linux support for either this card's new TI chipset or for that matter anyone else's 802.11b+ cards, (the "+" means a maximum of 22mbps as opposed to a maximum of 11mbps). So, i packed back up one of the net cards (always be very careful when opening your stuff and keep the original packing material pristine) and am returning it to (a really great vendor btw, *shameless plug*) Frye's At the same time, i've ordered and should receive a more linux-friendly wireless card from also a great vendor. i woulda ordered it from Outpost, but they seem to have stopped carrying it. The new card will be a D-Link DWL650 which has been reported to work just fine with Linux.
Morals of the story: Do your homework before purchasing anything even remotely recent for use with even a very recent LInux distribution release; always buy online from a well-known vendor.

March 11th, 2003
ThinkPad battery update: here's the contents of my informal "battery log" i made last night to document the performance of the new battery.
Testing done Monday, March 10, 2003
9:32 pm monitor shows 100%, unplugging ac adaptor, let it begin.
9:39 pm monitor shows 3:40 minutes left, we'll see....
9:41 pm monitor show 3:42 minutes left, hmmm, it's learning?
9:44 pm 3:39 minutes left, getting more accurate, i think.
9:52 pm 91% and 2:55 minutes left, significant change
9:58 pm 88% and 2:51 left, again, "we'll see...", heh.
10:02 pm 86% and 2:53 min
10:14 pm 80% and 2:53 min, don't ask me, i don't know...yet.
1 HOUR MARK: 10:32 pm monitor shows: 72% and 2:41 min left
1.5 HOUR MARK: 11:03 56% 1:58, ain't lookin' too bad, ay?
2 HOUR MARK 11:32 pm 42% 1:23, i'm getting excited here...!!!
2.5 HOUR MARK 12:02am (3/11/03) 27% 0:50
	 i'm totally satisfied as of now, 2.5 hrs of constant usage, ie: screen on
	 the whole time @75% brightness, disk-drive on the whole time as necessary
	 even went on dialup for a while, no problems to report, yay!
12:15pm 20% 0:40, coming up on the 3 hours of solid usage mark, this is
3 HOUR MARK 12:32 am 3/11/03 10% 16min, this battery rocks!
12:52am 3% 0:03, cutting it close now...

epilogue: initiated suspend and restored ac power with 2% battery left.
Total battery life = 3 hr. 22 min, wow!

March 10th, 2003
Just finished registering my LInux boxes over at the Linux Counter, if you got some that ain't registered, get on over and get 'em registered. i think we all could do with more accurate stats when it comes to OS usage.

Of course, i know you're all dying to know what exactly it is that i registered, so here's the list:

Hostname Distro/Window Mgr Purpose Manufacturer Processor Memory Storage Motherboard
SevenMandrake 8.2/KDE 2.2web and graphics development workstationCraig-BiltAMD Athlon Thunderbird 900mhz384mb20gigGigaByte GA7ZX
TertiaryMandrake 9.0/KDE 3.0.3Apache webserver for the local networkCraig-BiltAMD K6-2 550mhz384mb4gigMSI super7 atx
ThinkPadMandrake 9.0/KDE 3.0.3portable web development workstationIBM Thinkpad 600Intel Mobile Pentium II 266mhz160mb4gigProprietary
ConturaSlackware 8.0/TWMportable email/web clientCompaq Contura 400cxIntel 486 DX2 40mhz28mb¼gigProprietary

ok, you twisted my arm, these are the windows machines:

Hostname Windows Version Purpose Manufacturer Processor Memory Storage Motherboard
Primary98SEC/C++ development, high-end gamingCraig-BiltAMD Athlon Thoroughbred 2100mhz256mb15gigBiostar M7VIP
Secondary98SEDaughter's MachineCraig-BiltAMD K6-2 500mhz256mb20gigAsus P5A-B
VaioMEWife's MachineSony Vaio PCG-FX215AMD Duron 800mhz128mb10gigProprietary

aaahhhh, there, i've finally done it. that's all the most important specs on all the machines currently at the HoC, feels good to get that out, although i've read in more than one place that these kind of specs are a big web no-no. gimme a break, it's a hobby, really!

Not to get too redundant, but how about one last comment on my recent experiences with Ebay? Ok, just received my 3rd purchase from Ebay, a brand-new battery for the aforementioned ThinkPad 600, it's a 3600mah as opposed to the stock 3200mah battery. All i can tell you is: once again, the item arrived exactly as advertised, and, according to my limited research, will have 25% more run-time than the original. i'm keeping a log, and i'll post it at the end of the first run-down cycle, should be interesting.

March 4th, 2003
Wow, i can hardly believe it myself but...theCraig just got his very own laptop! Yep, it's an IBM ThinkPad 600. Got it from a guy on EBay. This marks the first time i've bought anything from Ebay and, I must say, i definitely was concerned about whether the items would be as advertised,whether the seller would ever send them to me, and if they did, how long would it be. If you read their policies, it becomes very clear that they'll comp you at most $75. Well, all's well that ends well and both transactions were totally fulfilled with exactly what was advertised. Based on my first experience i would definitely recommend Ebay. As a matter of fact, i actually bought 2 items from Ebay: one, the IBM laptop, the other: a 24mb ram upgrade for that Compaq Contura 400cx i've made mention of in the past. Folks, let me tell you, it makes all the difference in the world on that little notebook. With 28mb of ram, it's actually quite usable, *smile*.

February 18th, 2003
First off, I can't resist posting a couple of small pictures: Seein' as how we're buried under 24" (yes, that's 2 FEET!) of snow at the moment, i've got some unexpected time here. By the way, you're welcome to use a larger, full-color picture (about 175kb) i shot out the back door during this storm as wallpaper or whatever. For that matter here's another of my favorite desktop wallpapers: a scan i made of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album cover, it's also 1024x768 and only about 24kb. Also thought you all might want a peek at my new setup, with the twin towers.
Speaking of unexpected time, i just finished rewriting both the offset and elbow cheek calculators. My web-host just upgraded (among other things) their PHP installation which finally has the GD image drawing functions compiled in, Yay!! if i could only figure out where they're hiding the TTF files...
Had to temporarily remove the java applet on the elbow calc page because of some sudden incompatibilities between the Microsoft and Sun Java VM's. I'm not sure what the problem might be. The applet was compiled using Sun's tools and of course, runs fine using their latest plugin/vm, under the Microsoft vm the mouse input is broken. This is most likely my fault somehow since i am very new to java, and i'm sure i'll find the error of my ways in time. I fully intend to have *some* kind of viewer that displays the fittings in 3D, both wireframe and fully rendered. it's just going to be a while.
I'd like to toss out yet-another-shameless-plug here: the Phoenix web browser. Based on Mozilla, it has quickly become my favorite web browser on both Win98, Mandrake and Slackware. I really like it's speed, standards compliance and it's cross-platform rendering performance. In my informal testing the pages look identical under windows and linux.
Stumbled across what looks to be an interesting new? linux distribution, it's called Crux, the download is small by linux standards at only about 188mb, i'll let you know how it is.

February 1st, 2003
Sorry about the lack-O-updates lately, i've been a bit busy. Where do i begin? Ok, the hardware upgrade. Actually, it's probably good that some time has passed since it all happened, allows me to be more objective. Here's the thing: i ordered and received several things over my Christmas break: a Biostar M7VIP motherboard (VIA KT333 chipset), an Athlon XP 2100+ proc, another 300w atx power supply, and 256mb of pc2700 (DDR333) ram. So far, so good. Well, wouldn't you know it, neither my Mandrake 8.2 nor my Windows 98 existing installations were able to fully recognize the new chipset, namely the USB 2.0 interface and most annoyingly the ATA133 disk interface, not to mention the built-in sound 'card'. Imagine the difficulty i encountered in upgrading when the disk IO subsystem itself was unrecognized, i'm talking about the cdrom interface as well.
Perhaps you're beginning to see the problem. No disk IO, no usb, which makes someone who received a brand spanking new MS Office Keyboard and Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer from his beloved son completely outta luck (not to mention Soldier of Fortune 2 from his beloved daughter). Well, to make a very, very long and time-consuming story short, let me just say that now i have 2 machines on my desk, where there was but one. Yep, my primary workstation now consists of my previous hardware ( gigabyte ga7zx, athlon tbird 900, 384 mb ram, seagate 20gig drive) still running LInux-Mandrake 8.2 and my new hardware (outlined above) running a fresh install of Windows 98. Both are on a single keyboard/monitor/mouse via something i stumbled across called RealVNC. RealVNC (Virtual Network Computing) is some very nice work and it's FREE!
I had planned to talk about playing Max Payne under LInux utilizing Transgaming's fine WineX software, and i will touch on it briefly by saying that you get quite a rush the first time you see a Windows-only DirectX/Direct3D game running on your Linux desktop, quite a rush indeed. My hat's off to the entire Transgaming crew. However, there *is* a catch: the framerate is about half of what you get in Windows. Yep, half (or less). Not to take anything away from WineX because I wish the project all the best, and i certainly consider the 5 bux a month subscription well worth it to those die-hard-refuse-to-boot-to-windows-at-all-costs linux people (and you know who you are, heh), but, i personally have no such OS prejudice and as a result, i believe my present solution is the best of both worlds.
By "solution" i mean how to use your Linux desktop whenever you want to and still play Windows games at full speed without tons-O-reboots and get instant switching between Windows and Linux as a bonus. Folks, here's what i'm doing now, and let me say I likes it!: my primary windows workstation runs Windows 98SE with every friggin' security patch ever released installed. My primary linux workstation is still running Mandrake8.2, however, it has no monitor, keyboard or mouse attached to it, just one cat5 patch cable and a 120v power cord. Instead, i fire up RealVNC on my windows desktop and i get my KDE desktop in a window or fullscreen whenever i want it, sweet!. If i want to play a little Max or SOF2 i simply minimize or close my VNC viewer session and when i'm done i can get it right back, since the viewer is "stateless" (ie: it simply views whatever you've got running on it's server) spiffy, ain't it?? you betcha!!

January 6th, 2003
Happy New Year everyone, da House hopes you and yours had a warm, wondrous Christmas and a jovial New Year's. Ahhh, here i sit, first note of the year and news is not so good. Goes to show you if you keep fixing what ain't broke, you'll eventually break it, heh.
News on my latest hardware upgrade is forthcoming, as well as a re-visit of Max Payne with a twist--played in Linux! keep watching this page...