Category Archives: ubuntu

Jack That Shat!

So you just wooted some awesome new desktop speakers for your Ubuntu desktop computer, you plug them into the headphone jack, and you behold the megawatt goodness of thumping 4-inch speakers. But what ho? What’s this? The on-board sound card speaker is still pumping it’s pathetic little pings and bleeps into your otherwise blissful aural wonderland! It’s enough to drive a command line idiot to drink. Well, pretty much anything is enough to drive this command line idiot to drink. Things like “Mother’s Day” and “Tuesday”.

You would think that plugging something into the headphone jack would automatically shut off the speaker inside your box. You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. Not only are you wrong, but it’s such a stupid thing to want that the Ubuntu gods have hidden the setting under like 500 menu levels. Let’s go digging, shall we?

In the upper right corner, you have a volume icon. Click on that, and select “Volume Control”.

In the “Volume Control” dialog, you’ll see all of the volume sliders for various outputs. Select “Preferences”.

Now, you can control which settings show up in the “Volume Control” dialog. About halfway down the list, you’ll find the setting for “Headphone Jack Sense”. Yes, let’s please jack some sense into these headphone outputs, shall we? Check the box.

Now, back in the “Volume Control” dialog, you’ll find a new tab for switches. Our preference for headphone jack behavior shows up there.

That’s it! Now, you perfectly idiotic request to shut down the internal speakers when you plug in headphones (just like every other operating system does) will work with your fancy new speakers.

Now leave me alone. It’s 10am, and this tear-soaked gin & tonic isn’t going to guzzle itself.

show version

Just ran across a very useful little utility called apt-show-versions. It shows you the version installed for each of the apps you have on your server, along with whether or not they are the latest version. Used in conjunction with the apt-cache show command, this makes for a handy little set of tools for working your way through tutorials.

It’s available through the repository on Debian Etch and Ubuntu

sudo apt-get install apt-show-versions
To see everything installed via apt, use the bare command
Or you can use it to check on a single package
apt-show-version nano

apache2, php5, phpmyadmin

So, I solved at least one of my nagging headaches. I ran into a brick wall trying to get phpmyadmin up and running on ubuntu.

The Setup

Ubuntu 7.04, Apache2.2, MySQL, PHP5, running on a VPS from All installed from apt-get, all working fine. Gave MySQL root user a password, the login to MySQL from the command line works just fine.

Installed phpmyadmin from apt-get, everything’s cool, it sets up the appropriate symbolic links so that points the browser to the phpmyadmin login page.

The Problem

I go to, and I get the login page. I enter the MySQL user root + password. Sometimes it logs in. Sometimes it bounces me back to the login with no warning. Sometimes it redirects me to the login page and says “root”@”localhost” not permitted [password=YES]. Sometimes it’s the same warning, but with [password=NO], even though I have entered a password.

Sometimes, if I click login 3 or 4 times after it keeps redirecting me, I actually get let in to phpmyadmin. As soon as I do anything requiring privileges (create new user, create new database), I get bounced back to the login page again.


Here’s what I tried to fix it

1) Tried all browsers at my disposal (OSX: Firefox, Opera, Safari, Camino; Windows: IE6, IE7). Same problem with all.

2) Assumed it was a cookie issue. Dumped all cache and cookies on my browser, reset safari, relaunched apache2, tried again. Same problem.

3) Same as step 2, but also did a shutdown -r of the entire server, just in case. Old habits die hard.

3) Sacrificed male goat by the light of a full moon. Sticky fingers, but still no persistent login.

Nothing worked.

The Solution

Turns out, in order to run phpmyadmin with php5 on a 64bit ubuntu machine, you need to have a little package installed called php5-mcrypt. It’s not listed in the dependencies, so if you just use apt-get, it gets left behind.

sudo apt-get install php5-mcrypt

the conclusion


Let the record show that it was at this precise moment in time that I switched from Ubuntu to Debian for my server needs. If I wanted to shed this much stomach bile on figuring out required dependencies, I would strap on a pocket-protector and go join the gentoo geeks. At least then I know it’s up to me.

at least they promise to upgrade the bag

I decided to go with Ubuntu. Even though I was mocked by everyone on the #linuxstuds IRC channel, I really do like the fact that there is a tutorial published for pretty much anything you would ever want to do. Even if they are written by 12-year-olds, at least you have something to follow.

Now I have to decide if I want to use Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, or Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn. According to my friends on the linx forums, 6.06 was a hand-rolled paper bag of donkey feces, but ubuntu promises to continue upgrading the bag for the next 5 years, whereas 7.04 is a catastrophic collage of completely unworkable dependencies, but you get to install Apache 2.2 without having to compile it yourself.


I’ve decided to upgrade to 7.04 for two reasons:

  1. My computer experience is almost entirely on Mac, which has conditioned me to accept every new upgrade with no worry that it might break anything in my existing setup.
  2. I like watching the little lines of text fly by when you do major package upgrades. I’ll be honest, this second reason accounted for 6 of my 28 rebuilds. I just love opening up every source in the apt-get list, pinging the bejeezes out of them, and upgrading 200MB worth of data.

Eventually, I should settle down and actually build a stable system. Not today though. I’m going to go apt-get my happy place again.

linux users are all crazy fundamentalists

I’ve spent the last two days googling the different linux distributions (or distros, as the too-cool-for-school developers themselves refer to them. distro. rhymes with disco.) to figure out which of the options offered by my VPS hosting company ( I should go with. I’ve been trolling through linux users forums, hanging out in IRC chat rooms, and just generally starting flamewars everywhere I go.

Hint: want to start a flamewar in a linux chatroom? Just casually pop in and ask people which distro you should use. People will light up the channel with everything from the helpful,
Ubu4lif: There are a lot of beginner tutorials for Ununtu, you might want to start with that
… to the passionate,
DebCoreDev: Ubuntu is destroying linux! 4 out of 5 Ubuntu users are baby rapists! Do you love baby rape? DON'T USE UBUNTU!!1
… to the downright insane,
Blwinkl48: I compiled my own linux distro called ScurvyLinux. ScurvyLinux is the only distro that correctly handles packet addressing with Cyrillic text modifiers. You are completely vulnerable to attack from former Soviet hackers unless you use ScurvyLinux!
On the whole, not particularly helpful. Any conversation about linux distributions starts to very quickly sound like a fundamentalist tent revival. It’s all black-and-white, and any new user is a potential convert. The louder you shout, the more right you must be.

I started out on a simple quest: I need a basic LAMP server, capable of running multiple domain names on a single IP address, with some ftp access. That’s about as vanilla a setup as you can possibly get. Based on this simple setup, I sought some advice from the natives on which linux distro would be the best choice for me. I’ve summed up their advice here in this here handy list:


Pros: Debian places a high value on stability. If Debian tells you a package is going to work on their distro, it’s going to f’ing work. Like a Clydesdale. It has probably the largest user base, which just means that when you have a question, there are 50 arrogant pricks to mock you for being an idiot instead of 6. There are no tutorials for Debian. Debian users are too busy working for a living to write tutorials.

Cons: Debian refuses to support the GVideo Awesomo Force GX45800 Accelerator Card! Don’t they know that all L337 GaMerZ use the GX45800? Debian is so dumb for not supporting that card (repeat 50x, insert favorite obscure piece of hardware). Debian is the linux equivalent of your grandpa, sitting on his porch rocker muttering, “I just don’t think this new-fangled Frequency Modulation radio is going to be around for long. I’ll stick with AM. It’s a stable, mature technology …”


Pros: Oooooooh, pretty! Ubuntu is Debian, with support for the GVideo Awesomo Force GX45800 Accelerator Card, and every other thing people complain about Debian lacking. It also includes support for new utilities and program upgrades sooner than Debian does, but sometimes that means they jack up the implementation. There are roughly 19 billion tutorials for how to do anything you would ever want to do with Ubuntu. Unfortunately, they are all written by a 12 year old who knows even less than you.

Cons: Every other distro talks about Ubuntu in the same condescending tone of voice that the Romans used when talking about those silly Vandals, right before the Vandals sacked and burned Rome to the ground. Admitting that you use Ubunutu is the linux equivalent of putting a spoiler on your Hyundai – the only people who think you’re cool are other people with spoilers on their Hyundais. Also, Debian developers keep bitching about Ubuntu developers … something … taking from the open-source community … never giving back … I dunno, I dozed off after a while.


Pros: Apparently, with Gentoo Linux, you have to build the whole operating system yourself. Yes, this is the big upside that every Gentoo user keeps touting. Oh, hooray, I not only have to build the website myself, now I have to handcode the damn OS too. Hang on, let me get my soldering kit and some steel framing and I’ll wire up my own power supply while I’m at it.

Cons: uhhhhh … you have to build the whole thing yourself?


Pros: CentOS is NOT affiliated with any big name corporation. Not in anyway! Not us! It says so right on our website! If you’d like to try it out for yourself, you can downloaded our totally unaffiliated distribution at Not that there’s anything wrong with that …

Cons: Lying bitches. Also, according to one very helpful Gentoo evangelist, people who use CentOS are more likely to have unprotected sex. I am so completely not making this up. There are some batshit crazy ass people out there in linux land.


Pros: see CentOS.

Cons: You remember that asshole who lived down the hall in your dorm, the one with the Che Guevara t-shirt who kept talking about freedom and the rights of the people, except for the right of the people to not have to listen to him playing Bob Marley’s Legends CD all night long? Fedora is kind of like that. It’s all about freedom. Freedom from copyright. Freedom from intellectual property restrictions. It’s all about freedom, until it comes to your own freedom to install whatever the hell you want on your own computer. Then, not so much with the freedom.

concluding thoughts

It’s an operating system, not a religious movement. I’m not looking to become a convert, I’m not going to give my 10%, sing your songs, fly your banner from my rooftop. I just want to setup my blog.

I was amazed at how hard it was to actually get decent, reliable, non-biased information about the differences between linux distros. Why can’t someone just say, “Debian is designed around this idea, Ubuntu around this idea, Fedora does this really well, but Gentoo is better at this.” After swimming through the muck for a few days, I’m left with this thought:

The Linux community needs fewer fundamentalists. I can’t hear you talk above the noise of your shouting.

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