Xubuntu – Programs I Use (16.04 LTS version)

I use Xubuntu rather than the regular Ubuntu distribution as I like the XFCE system better than most of the others associated with the various distros. I thought I might compile a list of programs that I use on a regular basis, along with the similar Windows application as a point of reference. Note, most programs can be installed by running

sudo apt-get install program-name

After typing several characters of the program name, you can hit the TAB key a couple of times to get auto complete or a list of installables that begin with the characters you’ve entered so far…

  • xubuntu-restricted-addons: easy installation for a number of codecs and useful items that are not installed by default for legal (or other) reasons
  • xubuntu-restricted-extras: easy installation of several items such as cabextract (extract Windows CAB files), Microsoft Core Fonts (useful for many reasons), etc
  • build-essential: if you plan on building any programs from source, it’s a good idea to install this package as it contains a number of essential utilities
  • exfat-utils: if you use any of the newer external drives that include exfat file systems (seem to be taking the place of FAT32), this will install both the utilities and the filesystem driver itself and ease your life
  • gparted: this is a partition manager that can handle gpt, mbr, etc., and is a GUI-based interface to parted and many (many) file system utilities
  • kicad: this is an electronics development system that includes schematic, board layout, simulation, etc. Probably not needed by many users, but for people like myself, it’s very useful
  • librecad: similar to other CAD drawing programs
  • hfsutils-tcltk: for those with Mac HFS formatted drives, etc., this GUI and utilities package can provide some useful functionality
  • hfsprogs: provides additional HFS functionality [NOTE: for both of these, you might have to turn off journaling via a Mac prior to working with these drives under Linux, depending on what you want to do]
  • dia: a diagram program that is similar to Microsoft Visio (but not compatible)
  • gramps: family tree management, very detailed so can be challenging for users that are used to the more user-friendly Windows programs
  • wine: this is a Windows compatibility system (not an emulator) that allows running some Windows programs perfectly, and many others less than perfectly. I recommend downloading and installing from the homepage, http://winehq.org, rather than from the distro as the distros are often behind on updates. Check out the instructions for the Ubuntu distro, it will walk you through adding a ppa repository and other optional/required steps
  • winetricks: this is a package that works with wine to simplify installation of various libraries, runtimes, and general applications
  • VirtualBox: Oracle now owns this program, but it is still essentially free; it provides the ability to run many different operating systems via emulation and has good speed and performance. For high-end data centers, other systems are better but VirtualBox is geared towards testing and development installations (in my opinion, not their official statement). I recommend downloading from the homepage, http://virtualbox.org, as the distros tend to lag behind on this one as well.
  • joe: a very nice text editor that works well from the command line; vim is great for those that are used to its syntax but I was more familiar with editors similar to joe
  • minicom: great terminal program for serial communications, similar to Telix and other DOS-based programs
  • openssh-server: if you want to be able to connect to your computer via a remote shell session, as well as using sftp to transfer files. Many users probably don’t need this, but it’s helpful
  • remmina: remote desktop access if you need to manage Windows machines through RDP sessions

A few quick notes:

  • For serial port access, you should add yourself to the dialout, tty, and uucp groups; I’ve had mixed success depending on the program but adding to all three seems to enable access to the serial ports/serial port converters (/dev/ttySx and /dev/ttyUSBx)
  • For VirtualBox, you need to add yourself to the vboxusers group; otherwise, you can’t give control of USB and other devices to VirtualBox
  • Note that if you install VirtualBox from a package rather than through the distro, you’ll need to do vboxsetup after some system updates to rebuild the drivers; look for updates that affect the linux version itself

TRS-80 Stuff

A couple of very nice lots from Louisville this evening. First, a doctor/gentleman that was downsizing and decided to give up his TRS-80 Model III with various peripherals and software. Includes an SPSS (statistical package clone which he swears could solve a t value in no more than 5 minutes or so), along with printer and various software. He was also kind enough to include a trunk of various software and an external floppy drive, in addition to the 2 installed drives. No time yet to power up the system and confirm memory, graphics, etc., but the machine was single owner and purchased for his dissertation.

Another batch of items included (2) TRS CoCo 2’s and a TRS CoCo 3 (unexpectedly). I’ve been looking for a 3 for quite a while so was definitely pleased with all of this hardware. There were 3 Radio Shack tape units, at least 3 or 4 disk drives, and various other hardware and software.

I look forward to unboxing and playing with all of these items and will post more details as they become available.

Acer C710 ChromeBook with Xubuntu 15.10

Looks like the previous methods to install Xubuntu on the C710 do not properly activate the touchpad. The cyapa module name has changed but doesn’t seem to be the main culprit. There appears to be a more significant change in the modules being loaded (specifically, cyapatp, i2c_i801, and chromeos_laptop) that are causing issues. I have tried a number of combinations of blacklist.conf entries and modules entries and have been unable to get the touchpad to load automagically. However, it works as soon as one or more of the above modules are insmod’ed. I hope to eventually figure out what has to be done, although under most cases it doesn’t really matter to me as I have a bluetooth mouse being used most of the time anyway.

Edit: Successful, but not exactly what I expected. The /etc/modules file doesn’t seem to do anything; I haven’t had time to research as this is all I ever used it for in the past. However, use sudo nano /etc/rc.local (or your favorite text editor) and add the following lines just before exit 0.

# C710 modules for trackpad

modprobe i2c-i801

modprobe chromeos_laptop.

Hopefully, this will solve the problem for you; seems to work fine on my system.

Getting Older

I guess one of the curses of getting older is you begin to lose friends. A co-worker passed away recently, great guy with lots of knowledge and experience. Although he was almost 60 years old, he was only 10 years older than I am. As I get older and begin to lose friends (or, at least, those that I work with or know in some context), life becomes more precious. While I won’t patronize you by saying I’ll keep you in my prayers, I will say that my condolences go out to the families of each and that it was a pleasure to know you.

MacBook Pro 3,1

Purchased a MacBook Pro 3,1 (2008) model via a newsgroup recently that was described as a project machine. It had a habit of shutting down or rebooting unexpectedly. Since it had no battery or power adapter, I acquired aftermarket versions of those as well. When the unit arrived, I found that it still contained a 500 GB drive and had the original 2 GB RAM. I also found that, sure enough, the machine would reboot after a few minutes to a couple of hours. In the process of troubleshooting, I found that both SO-DIMMs were exhibiting faults but a fresh 1 GB installed by itself ran for a couple of days without incident. I went ahead and purchased 2x2GB SO-DIMMs.

While waiting for the new RAM to arrive, I had purchased a second 85 Watt power supply (aftermarket) through eBay. Less than 90 minutes after starting to use that power supply, it popped and took out the MacBook as well. The PS was useless and was severely charred inside; the power/USB/audio board in the MacBook smelled of burnt components, too. I ordered a replacement and installed it when it arrived, only to find that the primary flat connector didn’t seat very well on the logic board, requiring jamming a piece of cardboard on top of it to maintain sufficient pressure at all times.

Lessons learned:

  • Crappy aftermarket PS can kill your MacBook; glad I only had $100 invested in the Mac
  • Green light on cable indicates a complete circuit only to a point; you might still have any number of other problems if the machine won’t boot
  • Three flashes on the white LED on the front of the MacBook generally indicates that there is a RAM fault
  • If green light on cable won’t come on, check that the flat connector from the power board to the logic board is properly seated
  • For some reason, the MacBook won’t run with the keyboard “detached”, although it seems that it should be able to

So far, so good…

OS X hangs on login to iTunes and App Store

I just picked up a MacBook Pro 2008 model and installed Mountain Lion. Everything appeared to be working okay so I upgraded to El Capitan to see how that looked. After the update, trying to login to iTunes or the App Store resulted in the spinning ball of uselessness. However, I was still able to login to Apple’s web site via Safari and Firefox, so I figured networking and firewall were non-issues.

Some research on Google directed and redirected until I ended up at http://rogersm.net/icloud-problems-mountain-lion-serial-number. Turns out this can be a common problem with machines that have been serviced, which can apparently wipe out the serial number stored in the firmware. The solution listed on that site worked like a charm. You can verify this is the problem by clicking on About This Mac from the Apple menu; if your serial number is blank or otherwise appears unavailable, you might give the utility a shot.

A couple of additional notes, however. For those that aren’t really Mac savvy or have been away a while, Disk Utility will work fine for this and can create the serial number utility on a USB memory stick. To accomplish this, start Disk Utility from Applications -> Utilities. Insert your memory stick and if any partitions mount, select the in the list and unmount them (don’t eject the memory stick). Once all partitions of the memory stick are unmounted, click on the memory stick itself and then Edit -> Restore. In the window that pops up, click Image and select the .dmg file described in the above article. Once everything is completed, you can reboot and try the serial number utility. Make sure you read the article completely, however, and that you absolutely use the correct serial number. There is no second chance…

Apple II Cards Purchased

Just purchased 4 Apple II cards through eBay. Actually, I was only after the IEEE-488 card but also included were a Microsoft Z-80 card as well as a couple of other interface cards. Will worry later about the rest, currently want to see what the 488 card can do in a IIGS.

Also working on purchasing some other Apple II related items and/or emulation items, including an MFM emulator. Not sure if there were ever any MFM hard drive controllers for the Apple II, but thought it might be an interesting bit of kit at some point…

Eventually going after Ian’s Mockingbird-compatible card, have a bare SDisk2 card, and a couple of prototype boards. Now to find some kit to build from all of this stuff… did I mention that I have around 10 printer/parallel port cards? Must be adaptable to some use.

ADTPro with Xubuntu 15.04 and IIGS ROM01 (Super Serial Card)

This is a duplicate of a discussion item I opened on ADTPro’s SourceForge site. Your mileage may vary but I welcome questions and will try to help.

After several days of combat with ADTPro and my IIGS, I’ve finally managed to get a good connection and create a couple of boot floppies.

One big issue was a lack of a valid DIN8 to DB9 cable. I tried 3 different ones, even hacked a couple of them apart only to find that they only had 4 or 6 of the required wires, none wired to the correct terminals and without enough wires to build the correct cable. Also, make sure you add yourself to the Dialout user group and then restart X or reboot the machine; there are ways around this but this is the proper way to gain access to the serial ports, whether real, USB, or virtual.

I then went through a couple of IIe’s that I had picked up a couple of years back, only to find that one of them actually had a Super Serial Card. Good enough, decided to give that a go. Out of the box didn’t work, though, so found that the modem/terminal jumper block was hosed. In trying to get it out, I broke a couple of pins and hopeless dented others. Using a machined-pin socket, some pieces of leads cut from a resistor, and some more pieces to create bridges, I reconstructed the jumper block. Biggest problem is that the cap from the original was not attached when I pulled the card out so I have no idea whether the jumper is set to the modem or terminal position. However, via 2 different types of USB-Serial converters, it now works… subject to the following caveat:

Each time you power up, you have to go into the IIGS control panel (CTRL-APPLE-ESC), Slots, Slot 2 (preferred) and change to Your Card, Save, then Quit back to prompt. Hit CTRL-APPLE-RESET, releasing RESET first to reboot then hit CTRL-RESET to prevent booting from floppy.

Start ADTPro on the Linux box. I tried several different settings but found that on Bootstrapping tab the defaults work best. One other issue that got me several times is that things appear to work normally sometimes except no transfer occurs. Make sure you type IN#2 and the 14B using the Shift key; even though Apple prints an upper case B when you type the 14B, if it’s not really upper case things will probably screw up. Also, this allowed the Speediboot option to work properly, which is much faster than the regular ProDOS and ADTPro Serial transfers back-to-back.

I’ll try to post pics of the SSC soon. Feel free to post questions.

Also, I’m running Xubuntu 15.04 on an Acer Chromebook with modified firmware. Works great in the small area I have available for testing.

Recent Retro Equipment

So, recently picked up a few different retro computer systems and accessories. First batch was an Enhanced Apple //e with color monitor, duo drive, ImageWriter, and software. Later discovered that the machine had a Super Serial Card, Apple SCSI card, AppliCard, and a couple of other extra cards. I haven’t had time to play with it due to lack of space.

Second batch about 9 months later consisted of a breadbox C64 with (2) 1541 drives, (1) 1541-II drive, and miscellaneous accessories. Also included a rather beat up Apple //e (unenhanced) with several expansion cards, (2) Apple Disk Drives, (1) after market disk drive, and accessories. An Amiga 500 with external 3-1/2″ drive was included (original version 1.2 Kickstart) and an old Packard-Bell 286 machine. A couple of green-screen monitors with composite input completed this batch, along with several books, disks, etc. Unfortunately, no Amiga software at all.

Another score was an Apple IIGS through eBay on the cheap; no cards, but works pretty well and in decent condition. Also, picked up (3) 5.25″ Apple Smart Drives, an ADB mouse and keyboard through shopgoodwill.com. This has actually turned into a pretty good little system to tinker with by combining some cards from the previous batches and one of the 5.25″ smart drives that isn’t as flaky as the others. Unfortunately, the IIGS didn’t include a memory card so I’m trying to find one on the cheap.

Some details of my ADTPro adventures with the IIGS will follow.