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Building a PC for the kids

Last night my 4-year-old daughter Pascale and I assembled a PC for the kids to use. I reused gozer, my former HTPC, along with a monitor given to me by my friend Soren, and a keyboard and mouse purchased for tiny hands. I installed Qimo 2.0, a children-focused Linux distribution based on Xubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”.

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I’ve added several packages to the repository recently. I still use maverick, the last release before Unity became the default. I intend to move to Unity with precise, but until then I’ve been backporting things to maverick.


  1. maverick: fceux 2.1.5, backported from precise
  2. maverick: get-iplayer 2.8.0, taken directly from precise
  3. lucid: logcheck 1.3.14, backported from precise to correct a problem with wildcard globs in the lucid release

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Update 2011-08-06: BackupPC has been removed from the repo. A newer release is available in lucid-backports.

BackupPC 3.2.0 is now in the repository for both Ubuntu Lucid and Hardy. The Lucid version is taken directly from Debian sid. The Hardy version is backported from the same package, with edits to make the graphs’ fonts work (older rrdtool on hardy) and depend on samba-common instead of samba-common-bin (changed after hardy).

This version fixes the “Download Zip archive” issue in Ubuntu lucid. You no longer have to manually install an older Archive::Zip Perl module.

It’s also got a shiny new favicon, courtesy yours truly. That was a hard 10 minutes’ work with GIMP, right there. Astute readers of changelogs may believe that the developers didn’t use the favicon I submitted. But according to md5sum they did, and that is awesome.

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Secure locate with ecryptfs

I use an ecryptfs-encrypted home directory. I also like the convenience of locate, which keeps a database of all the files on my laptop. Unfortunately, these two things are in conflict with one another. The locate database is stored in an unencrypted location, which means the names of my files can be easily retrieved. This is bad, even though the content of those files is still protected. However, it is possible to have both.

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I’ve been searching for a good remote desktop client for a long time. My requirements are simple. It must:

  1. save passwords
  2. manage connections via the GUI
  3. support VNC and RDP
  4. work with our IP KVM

This last requirement is the kicker. When I change hosts on our Adderview IP KVM, it draws one frame at 0x0 resolution, and then changes to the resolution of the new host. This has crashed every VNC client I’ve tried except xvnc4viewer. Which of course, doesn’t save passwords or have a GUI (the raw X menu when you press F8 does not count).

I have tried KRDC, Vinagre, xtightvncviewer, and a number of simpler command-line VNC clients. They all seem to be designed to support the “my Mom needs tech support” problem, not the “I manage remote servers” problem. KRDC won’t even login to my KVM; it just hangs after authentication. I suppose that’s better than crashing, but it is still a show stopping bug for me.

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Last week I upgraded from Kubuntu 9.10 “Karmic Koala” to 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”. The word “upgrade” here is misleading, since I chose to reformat to take advantage of filesystem changes. However, I imported much of my customisations from backup. Here are my notes on Lucid, from the perspective of a long-time Kubuntu user.

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Update 2012-02-28: Consider upgrading to BackupPC 3.2.0 to resolve this.

We recently upgraded our BackupPC servers to BackupPC 3.1.0 on Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx. It’s working almost perfectly. However, the “Download ZIP archive” restore option no longer works. This is due to a bug in recent version of the Archive::Zip Perl module which generates corrupt ZIP archives.

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As of Ubuntu Lucid, the Sun Java JRE has been replaced with OpenJDK. Unfortunately, OpenJDK still isn’t a complete drop-in replacement for Sun Java. For instance, the Facebook “Upload Photos” applet doesn’t work correctly; the photos don’t have thumbnails and can’t be rotated before upload. The solution is to install the Sun Java JRE.

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Update 2010-10-14 – This problem has been resolved since pulseaudio 1:0.9.22~0.9.21+stable-queue-32-g8478-0ubuntu14. You can now play AC3 audio with the Lucid packages.

Since upgrading my media PC to Ubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”, pulseaudio can’t play files with AC3 audio. Unfortunately this includes all of my ripped DVDs, which were encoded with AC3 pass-through audio. If I play such a file in Miro, the video hangs after a few seconds. If I play it in Totem, the same happens but a pop-up is also displayed: “pa_stream_writable_size() failed: Connection terminated”.

I fixed it by downgrading Pulseaudio to the karmic version. Here is how.

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