28 June 2005

Cisco lab support

Most of today has been spent helping Bob to set-up and configure a wireless network to demonstrate to a group of students next week. I've lent him a safecom 54g+ wireless router which he says will be ideal as the students will be able to relate to the sort of equipment available for home users.

We have one machine physically linked via the built-in 4-port switch and three other machines in the middle of the room connecting via USB-wifi dongles. I went through the basic set-up and helped Bob secure access via mac addresses. Bob is not sure if they will get past this stage and on to encryption using WPA but it is possible.

As with all of these tasks, once it's all up and running it makes sense and looks easy. The time consuming part is the intricacies like how to allow students to install drivers without giving them local admin access to the machine. Fortunately LC123 is dual-boot with a second less-restricted image for cisco use (which uses a second network card in each machine so students can change ip settings). Bob seemed happy with the collaboration and has been able to use some screen dumps to produce teaching materials. He has also asked Mick to buy a couple of the wi-fi routers so this can be included as part of the network computer systems module next year.


Once again I've had to set-up the video conferencing equipment in LC101 for a video conferencing session with APIIT in malaysia at 10am tomorrow. I'll be on holiday and it sounds like Mick could be here on his own so I've spent the last half-hour here and in 101, walking back and forth to make sure the audio settings are right and there will be minimal drop-out due to the automatic silence detection in netmeeting. Hopefully it should go ok depending on network availability and traffic tomorrow.

27 June 2005

Slackware 10.1 GNOME fix

Having decided to use my quiet time to learn more about slackware I have installed version 10.1 on a machine. I've discovered that the network fix works fine with 10.1 so I'm not sure what caused it to look into the 2.2.26 directory instead of 2.2.29 last week.

I did however discover a new problem with 10.1. If you log in as root and enter the window environment (linux cmd: startx) you get a strange error message about a settings daemon and some of the icons don't look right. Luckily I managed to find a fix for this on the web and here it is:

Overview: The gnome desktop in Slackware 10.1 includes a faulty gstreamer plugin which prevents the gnome-settings-daemon from starting correctly. This leaves (at least) the root user with several popup error messages and desktop shortcuts without their correct icons.

Fix: Move the offending plugin out of the way. As root, run the following commands:
cd /usr/lib/gstreamer-0.8
mv libgstxine.so libgstxine.soXXX

Now restart X

This works for me so thanks to Aaron who originally posted this fix.

Slackware vs Fedora

Well friday was an interesting day as I was helping a student install Linux on his laptop. I got to see redhat fedora core 3 for the first time and slackware 10.1.

FC3 looks very nice with the anaconda gui-based system installer. Just one annoyance really, it didn't set-up the network card correctly which proved to be a major stumbling block given the lack of documentation.

This lead to the installation of slackware 10.1 instead. Slackware at least has documentation but in this case proved worthless. It had the same problem detecting the network card and the documented solution didn't seem to work. For some reason the kernal still seemed to be looking in the 2.2.26 directory when it should have been checking in 2.2.29 for drivers. I couldn't find out how to fix this from the docs but I suspect it involves recompiling the kernel (something I've not attempted without help yet).

So I went back to Slackware 10.0. Same problem detecting the network card (damn that Toshiba satellite pro 4600). At least with version 10 I was able to fix the ethernet card by editing the /etc/rc.d/rc.modules file (slack cmd: joe /etc/rc.d/rc.modules)

The fix is to scroll down to the ###Network device settings ### section. I wasn't sure which driver to use so I removed the #'s from three lines:

/sbin/modprobe eepro
/sbin/modprobe eepro100
/sbin/modprobe eexpress

After saving (ctrl+k, followed by x) and rebooting, the network card came up with an IP address and I was able to get to google. Good old Slackware 10.0. May not have the fancy bootloader of FC3 but the online docs fixed the problem.

There does seem to be a lack of troubleshooting advice for Linux. I used google to look into these problems and it returned a lot of forum posts about people having the same problem. Ironically the usual reply to these posts is "have a look on google". This is not a helpful reply for us win admins and now I have a better understanding of why staff/students come to us for help rather than wasting time with search engines.


It looks like the only line which actually needs uncommenting is this one:

/sbin/modprobe eepro100

IP settings are set by using the netconfig command and ifconfig eth0 will show whether or not the card is working.

23 June 2005


Ok so which planet have I been on not to know until today that Google provide a blogging service?

Greetings to one and all. My name is Chris and I'm a support-o-holic. Actually I'm a technical-type working at a UK university and I'm a nominated role holder for the national pay framework committee which means I came back off holiday a couple of weeks ago and received a letter saying I'm going to be called into a 1-to-1 interview with some personnell types who want to ask me about what I do (...well what do you pay me to do?).

Since I can't even remember what I had for lunch yesterday it seems like a good idea to keep a blog and so here it is... my first entry.