Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology


Hate KDE Plasma5 on openSUSE Leap 42.1? Me, too.

After severely breaking my well-oiled openSUSE 13.2 installation, and wasting a couple hours trying to fix it (unbootable), I finally bit the bullet and just did an in-place upgrade to Leap 42.1.

Of course, the first thing I noticed was that my display driver was incorrect (max res 1024x768). The second thing was that the desktop was all but unusable.

My first assumption at that point was that it was just the resolution, and that I was indeed missing something which was somewhere off-screen. However, after installing the proper radeon driver, I was left with the same, barely usable desktop. What happened?

Apparently, the openSUSE team decided to switch to KDE's Plasma5 from KDE4 as the default desktop. Not only is Plasma5 unfinished (unfinished=still missing some expected functionality and components common to KDE4), but it seemed (for me) to leak memory badly and do a number of other not-very-nice things when moving windows and such. In addition, the kicker was awkward to use, cluttered to read, and decidedly non-SuSE in appearance.

I tried a few new themes, thinking that perhaps it was just the rather unbranded, default KDE theme which was at fault, but alas, nothing would help.

I stumbled upon this thread in the openSUSE forums, which provided some great links.

Once I got KDE4 back (as well as my old familiar desktop selector menu at login), I discovered that my Apper widget was missing from my panel. I fixed that by downgrading to Apper from plasma5-pk-updater, then uninstalling plasma5-pk-updater and friends (breaking the pattern to satisfy the dep solver), and then marking Apper as locked and plasma5-pk-updater (and friends) as taboo (never install).

Perhaps at some point I'll provide a detailed set of instructions for all of this, but for now, my heartfelt thanks to Wolfgang Bauer (wolfi323) for his wonderful repo and build of plasma5-session (which allows switching back and forth between desktops).


Updating bash to patch Shellshock on discontinued CentOS 4.8

By now, this week's news of the Shellshock vulnerability has quieted to a bit of a rumble. What a mess, and to think that this exploit has been possible for such a long time...

What to do about old Linux distros, then? Yes, the rule of thumb is that if the distro is no longer widely supported, one should move off of it, or at least put it behind something more secure. But what if there is a single application which requires just that particular old distro, and will not play nicely with anything newer, and what if that particular app is proprietary, and no longer available?


Updating the TCPDF library in Joomla! 1.5

TCPDF is an excellent PHP class for creating PDFs from dynamic (or static, for that matter) web content. Unfortunately, the version of TCPDF bundled with Joomla! 1.5 (all 1.5 releases after at least 1.5.8 - someone please correct me if I am wrong - was version 2.6.000_PHP4, dated March 7, 2008. It's also not very PHP 5.3-friendly (there are other parts of Joomla! 1.5 which are not fully compatible with PHP 5.3, but this article will focus on TCPDF). Time to freshen up, methinks.


CRTs vs LCDs in 2011/2012

An interesting thread cropped up on the eComStation Technical mailing list on Yahoo! in the past few days. One of our list members was inquiring about the ability to set refresh rates in the Panorama video driver. Short answer: you can't (well, at least, not yet). This is covered in the VESA FAQ. Apparently, the original poster has a CRT which requires proper tuning of the driver for his monitor's refresh rate. One of the first responses to come back to him (aside from the correct answer, pointing him to the FAQ) was the obvious question: "Why are you still using a CRT?"

I suppose what has amused me the most about this little exchange was the assumption that by now, CRTs have become yester-tech, and that *all* truly modern systems (this was a fresh install of eComStation 2.1) should be outfitted with LCD monitors.

I was going to jump into the post, but instead, I'll just migrate some excerpts here, and include my own commentary at the end.


Ramdom thoughts on the 2011 (and beyond?) Firefox release schedule

As I sit here at Panera Bread, catching up on some tech news, an article caught my eye concerning Mozilla's new approach to updates and, tangentially, the (revised) 2011 Firefox release schedule. This started my own wheels turning, as this has been a bit of an annoyance for me, so I thought I'd just jot down a few ideas...

Concerning Firefox's 2011 release schedule:


We (I say "we" because I do/have contribute(d) from time to time) have some bugs in Bugzilla which date back several years (some to the Netscape Communicator days, inherited by the Mozilla project - no kidding!). These have yet to be quashed, and all the while new "releases" just keep coming down the pike, bringing with them their own share of new insectoids. Wouldn't it make more sense to stay at a reasonable "release" level, and just fix it before adding new features (and after all, isn't the purpose of a new "release" to introduce new features)? We already have a mechanism in place for extending the functionality of the browser through plugins and extensions, anyway, so what's the point? (If Mozilla wants to emulate Redmond, then they should consider that under the hood, Windows 7 is NT 6.1, anyway, and Microsoft got a head start with NT growing out of OS/2 - NT started at version 3.)


The Telltale Hard Drive

And so it came to pass that my 160GB 5400 RPM Travelstar in my ThinkPad T43 became full. In late 2010, finding large 2.5" PATA drives was becoming more and more difficult. Searching, I found that Western Digital had just what I needed: a 320GB 5400 RPM Scorpio Blue.

I ordered the drive from a trusted supplier, never looking to find complaints about newer Scorpio or "Green" models (not that I would have necessarily viewed a Scorpio as a "green" drive, anyway). The price was acceptable, and the shipment was quickly delivered.

Using my favorite cloning utility, DFSee, I cloned much of my trusty Travelstar to the new Scorpio Blue. Some partitions needed changing, though: my handy HPFS eCS maintenance partition, for example, really needed to be migrated to a JFS volume, and my type 35 JFS data volume, consisting of two segments, really cried out to be recreated as a single type 7 JFS partition. As such, these took a little more manual work (read: xcopy /s/e/r/h/t).

Ah, the fun...


Mass renaming files at the OS/2 command line

An interesting head scratcher to which I have been returning almost monthly for some time is the distinct lack of ability to rename files based upon a mask at the OS/2 command line (in a minute, I'll explain why this is a fairly regular occurrence). Of course, OS/2's cmd.exe is not alone in that regard; DOS' COMMAND.COM, 4DOS, 4OS2, JdeBP's 32-bit CMD, Windows' CMD, and even the *nix shells with which I'm familiar don't naturally lend themselves to this kind of flexibility (okay, I lied: you can do it with Bash, of course; see below).

Why a monthly occurrence?

I don't normally send paper invoices to clients anymore. Not only does it kill more trees than it's worth (and no, I'm not an environmental zealot; we grow new trees every day - I'm just the guy who has to buy the paper and the laser toner), but the postage has over the years become a major factor in this decision. Anyone who has to regularly bill clients for outstanding balances knows from whence I speak; send the same client a dunning notice for six months, and that $150 bill has just been whittled down to $147.36 ($0.44 * 6 = $2.64; $150 - $2.64 = $147.36). This just adds the insult to the injury.


Why there’s nothing wrong with NetWare

I'm so tired of hearing "NetWare is dead."

How many years have I heard, "OS/2 is dead..."? More than I care to count. Still, I use OS/2 every day. In fact, I use OS/2 as my normal system on my ThinkPad. I rarely boot to Windows. For Windows applications, I either connect to a Citrix session (which runs a remote Windows desktop) or I use VirtualBox, which allows me to run Windows in a controlled environment...er...in a virtual machine.

The fact is that any operating system which is performing its tasks and running without issue on a given set of hardware is not dead at all. More accurately, it is fulfilling its design requirements, and providing good value for the investment.

So why this big push to abandon NetWare? Because Novell wants to sell more licenses for SLES, I suppose. However, NetWare is still bundled with OES 2. Lack of support from Novell? Who cares? When was the last time any of us really needed engineering support for NetWare 6.5? Surely, we have applied support packs as they became available, but mainly as preventative measures, not because the server was crashing and "this latest service pack was supposed to finally fix it." NetWare simply never shipped in an unstable state, unlike every version of Windows since 3.1.

My point is that if you have a small shop and are using NetWare - and eDirectory - to manage users, files, and print services, what's the point of ripping everything out and replacing it with something - anything - else? Isn't NetWare still getting the job done? Quietly...without intrusion on the important things in life...transparently... Isn't that what an operating system is supposed to do in the first place?

There are tons of scam artists...er...consulting firms out there who are just drooling at the thought of ripping and replacing another NetWare installation, usually with Windows. (I'll have another post on the idiocy of replacing eDirectory with ActiveDirectory in the near future.) All that this type of lateral (or downward) move does is line the pockets of the people selling the bill of goods.

Oh, and FWIW, I happened to look at a client's NetWare 6.5 (OES 1) server the other day. It's uptime was 283 days. No muss; no fuss; just service.