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Give XFCE Autoplay (Automount)

Windows users are used to the autoplay feature, a handy bit where you can insert a CD and (hopefully) the correct program runs it. Well XFCE has the same feature, just not fully enabled by default. And sometimes it can be a pain, the automount feature can prevent installation using Ubiquity (the Ubuntu graphical installer). So here's the skinny (and maybe the slightly overweight) on the similar features in XFCE, both through the graphical method and through editing the config file.

This procedure was developed using XFCE 4.4.0.

As always, please be careful following procedures from this or any site as they can leave you with a system that's damaged and a pain to fix if a mistake is made. Make backups of any changes you make as always, if editing config files by hand.

Graphical Method

The autoplay features are handled by Thunar's volume management. Thunar is XFCE's file manager. The graphical manager is located in a place where you would never find it unless you knew where to look already. It's in the Settings > Settings Manager > File Manager and then the Advanced tab. You will see the word Configure is in blue, that's where you need to go. Well placed, eh?

The first tab you will see is Storage tab. This refers to removable memory and CD/DVDs. I can't find much difference between the hot-plugged and removable mounting, so I use both. Choosing to browse when inserted will open Thunar to the mounted drive's directory, i.e. /media/disk in some systems. Auto-run can run an executable stored on a disk or USB drive. Auto-open appears to do the same as browse with the files I'm using, but try it yourself if you wish to see how it reacts with the files you use. The command entry is for choosing what burning software you want to use for CDs/DVDs. This will bring up the program and prepare you to burn a disk when inserting a blank CD or DVD, as in XP for those of you used to a Windows environment.

The second tab is for Multimedia applications. This refers to audio and video CDs as well as DVDs. It even has a feature Windows doesn't, it can autoplay from a portable music player, such as an iPod, flash media players, or the Toshiba Gigabeat line.

The third tab, Cameras, is solely for importing photos from a camera when it is connected. You can either set Thunar to open the directory, if you know what the camera will be mounted as, or open a photo viewer or editor. This is handy for setting a computer up as a picture frame.

Yet another cool feature lies in the next tab, PDAs. The software to sync your Palm or Pocket PC device is included with many Linux distros, including Xubuntu.

The Printers tab has a feature that is normally not enabled, but should be. You can have your Linux distro run a script to install a USB printer when it is plugged in. It's a great feature, and one Linux should always have.

Input Devices allows you to execute a command when a USB keyboard, mouse, or tablet is plugged in. I'm not sure what command you would need to run, but maybe someone does.

Editing the Config File Manually

The file you need to manage is /home/(user name)/.config/Thunar/volmanrc. If it doesn't exist you can create it. At the terminal type sudo mousepad /.config/Thunar/volmanrc and then type your password. Here's what the file should look like:

AutoprinterCommand=gnome-printer-add hal://%h

Changing the options to either TRUE or FALSE will change the setting from being enabled or disabled. If an option is not present in the config file then it is automatically disabled. The options fall in line with the graphical version, in order from first tab through to the last. The Command option allows you to enter a command to be run when the automount occurs, for example when a CD is inserted this file is set to start K3B, a CD burning application.

Hope that helps a lot of you wanting to add or remove some of the drive management within XFCE.


Average Joe Scripting - Introduction

You might be interested in this series of posts if you want to learn more about shell scripting. Knowing more about shell scripting will help you in several areas including how to be more effective with Linux system administration, understanding installation and setup scripts and how to fix them, or knowing what to do when you're having a hard time finding just the right program to fit your need.

One of the main things that I like so much about Linux is the amount of power and flexibility that it gives its users. This is evident in a lot of places on a Linux system, but one of the main areas of interest for me is shell scripting. For the uninitiated among you, the “art” of shell scripting allows you to write a text file that holds commands (like the ones you type in the X terminal window) and then allows you to use a shell to execute them. I'm using the term "shell" here to mean a program that takes text input and then does something with it. Scripting is a huge help in automating system administration tasks, and when coupled with the cron daemon, it takes mundane or repetitive tasks and does them automatically for you. If you're not a hard-core system administrator though, don't lose heart – there are tons of cool things that can be done with shell scripts that all of us can enjoy. Having trouble finding a program that can record your favorite radio show from the Internet to a format you want? No problem, just use a script to combine several programs to get what you want. Setting up several educational computers for your students and don't want to keep doing the same install procedure over and over? Dump all of the commands into a shell script and throw it on a flash drive. Trouble with your droid? Just write a script to...

Ever since I started programming (oh so long ago), good code “modularity” has been one of the goals of most new programming languages. Modularity is the quality of a language or architecture that allows a programmer to write blocks of code that work well together, but are loosely coupled enough that they can be changed or replaced without breaking anything. Each programming block doesn't care about what another one is as long as it gives the right data. It's kind of like calling the operator two different times in a row to get a phone number. You don't care if you get a different operator each time as long as they give you the number you ask for. Shell scripting gives you the ability to pull together completely different applications written in different languages into one cohesive package that does your bidding – which to me is a great model of code modularity.

There's not much more satisfying to me (in geekdom at least) than taking 15 minutes and writing a shell script to do what a $20 to $2000 piece of software would do. Granted, entering your credit card number on a web site takes less time than learning the basics of shell scripting, but that program you just bought will only solve 1 or 2 of your problems, whereas shell scripting will solve most of them at no monetary cost to you.

In this series of posts I'm hoping to not only give you nifty shell scripts that will help you do fun and useful things, but to teach you the basics of how shell scripting works. Along the way, I'll explain when/why/how things work the way they do in a script and some tips and tricks to make life easier. So, please stay tuned for future installments of this series.

Next time - The Anatomy of a Simple Shell Script.



How do you use Linux?

We're hoping we're helping a lot of you out there with a variety of problems or situations. But we like the feedback, or suggestions. We're especially interested in how you use Linux, and how you have it set up in business or educational settings. So let us know what you like, what you don't, and how you use Linux so we can better tailor our approach. Either comment on the posts or email us at eonsproject (at)

Thanks, and keep enjoying the FOSS lifestyle.

Make any Debian derivative an educational system

Education is crucial to society. Great opener eh? I'm making this post mostly for educators, but it can also work well for a computer at home to help the kids learn. I've tried these myself and had a first grade teacher and high school chemistry teacher look at them as well. These are all packages found in the Ubuntu and Debian repositories. There are a lot of high school packages, so I have my top picks in each lesson area. The package name is listed in parentheses next to the name. I've only tested this in Debian derivatives, but it could work in any distro capable of utilizing .deb packages.

Elementary School Applications

Childsplay - (childsplay) This is a well-intentioned suite of educational software, but with poor documentation and instructions. It's a translation from French, thus causing the English documentation to be lacking. Worth trying, the learning is done through game-like programs. For more games install the plugins (childsplay-plugins). These games are mainly meant for 4th grade and lower. It should work in KDE, Gnome, and XFCE.

Kanagram - (kanagram) This is an excellent anagram game, fun puzzles for all ages. I would recommend it for grades 3 and up, it's a bit much for first and second graders, since it requires a little larger vocabulary and pattern recognition skills. This would be good for older people as well to keep their mind sharp. It works in KDE or XFCE.

Ktouch - (ktouch) This is a typing tutor, and can actually be used for all ages, though I recommend it for kids, possibly even before school age, though hand size may be a factor. It has dynamically updated typing speeds and variable levels of difficulty. It's well written and I wish it had been around in 1988, I might be able to type correctly now. It will work in KDE or XFCE.

Kbruch - (kbruch) One of the things found to be a common problem among students is the ability to manipulate fractions. In Indiana they're taught in 3rd grade, so I recommend using this program for 3rd grade and above, though starting it earlier would be beneficial. This is a fraction teaching and practice program that allows you to manipulate fractions in various ways. It works in KDE and XFCE.

KGeography - (kgeography) A very good geography program with built in quizzing abilities. It has countries by continent and regions of countries as well. Worth a look for all grade levels actually. Works in KDE and XFCE.

Khangman - (khangman) A word game based on hangman, where you guess letters to get the word, and only 10 wrong guesses allowed. It has 4 difficulty settings. I would recommend it for grades 2 and up. Works in KDE and XFCE.

Linux Letters and Numbers - (lletters) A letter and number learning application, and very simple. I recommend it for Kindergarten and below. It should work in Gnome and XFCE, but I haven't tried it in KDE.

Little Wizard - (littlewizard) An insanely cool intro to programming and logic meant for Elementary kids. It uses drag and drop modules so all the work can be done without a keyboard. It takes a bit to learn and I recommend reading the documentation and specializing it to your students style of learning. I wish they had this when I was a kid, I started in BASIC in 1991, actually one of the first books I was reading. It works in Gnome and XFCE.

Gcompris - (gcompris) This is a suite for ages 2-10 meant to teach basic skills to kids. It's a nice unified environment, but I'm not a big fan. I recommend trying it out and seeing how it works for your needs. It works in Gnome or XFCE.

High School


Gnome Chemistry Utils - (gcu-bin) This is a package containing a 3D modeler, a chemical calculator, and a digital periodic table. Works in Gnome and XFCE.

Kalzium - (kalzium) A KDE/XFCE periodic table chock full of pictures, atomic data, structures, spectra, and other information on each element. Works in KDE and XFCE.


GNU Solfege - (solfege) An ear training program meant to help musicians and such. For Gnome and XFCE.


Kayali - (kayali) Still in beta, but a good algebraic evaluator. Worth a look. For Gnome and XFCE.


Stellarium - (stellarium) An absolutely amazing program. Gives realistic sky views in real time, from any location on earth. Great for anyone. Somehow still in beta too. It's actually for Linux, Mac, and Windows.

Celestia - (celestia-glut) A universal space simulator that allows you to fly through space. Also allows plugins to add more abilities.


Oregano - (oregano) An electrical circuit designer. Takes a bit to learn, but lots of uses for upper level physics or pre-engineering. Works in Gnome and XFCE.

PCB Designer - (pcb) Ok, admittedly this may be a bit above high school level, but good for those interested in physics and electronics. It works in Gnome and XFCE.


Kverbos - (kverbos) A Spanish verb-learning program designed for KDE and XFCE.

Klettres - (klettres) An alphabet learning program for Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, Italian, and Slovak. Designed for KDE and XFCE.

KLatin - (klatin) A Latin learning and revision program for KDE and XFCE.

Kiten - (kiten) A Japanese learning and revision program similar to KLatin. Also for KDE and XFCE.

Teaching Tools

Keduca - (keduca) An exam writing and recording program designed for networks. Students take the teacher-made exams on the computer. In my opinion there are better FOSS options out there, but this is it in the repository. Works in KDE and XFCE.

For all these programs and more you can go through the Add/Remove utility in Ubuntu, and find even more options not mentioned here.


Linux multimedia roundup

One area we've struggled with, and from what we've seen it's a problem for a lot of users as well, is media support. Linux doesn't natively allow playing encrypted DVDs (because of proprietary coding and moral dismay), though there's a fix. So here is a roundup of our picks for media players. Beside the name of the programs I have listed the repository package name for easy install through apt-get.

Audio Players

There are three great media players, almost all identical actually. I've always been a Winamp fan in Windows, and they make a version of Winamp 3 for Linux. These are three apparent Winamp clones, but all good players which I haven't had trouble with. Beep Media Player (beep-media-player), XMMS (xmms), and Audacious (audacious) are great programs and play mp1, mp2, mp3, Ogg Vorbis, wav, raw, and au file support.

CD Players

Here is one category Jeremy and I disagree on, and it's only because he has had some compatibility issues on his laptop. I prefer KsCD (kscd) for its features and simplicity. It's a very clean program, and I like it for CDs. Jeremy prefers the Free Software Foundation's CD Player (gnome-media). I recommend trying them both and seeing which you like.

DVD Players

VLC Media Player (vlc) is great program with excellent DVD playback. It's also a full media player, though I prefer other programs for other media types, though if you like an all-in-one solution to your media playing needs I recommend VLC.

Photo Editing

Most likely everyone who has used Linux, almost any distro, for a length of time is well aware of Gimp (gimp). Gimp is like Adobe Photoshop, but free. It's a wonderful photo editor and can save in a wide range of file formats. I recommend picking up the gimp-data-extras package as well for additional features, especially for the professional or semi-pro digital artist.


From the weather desk: Blizzard in Hell

Well it happened. The one thing I never thought I would live to see has happened, well aside from Israel and Palestine burying the hatchet for a group hug. Microsoft admitted to slandering competition and lying to cover their tracks, even falsifying "Knowledgebase articles" during this year's CES (Consumer Electronics Show).

The long and short of it is that Microsoft issued a patch for Office 2003 that blocked users from opening previous Microsoft formats and any competitor's formats, claiming the competition's formats were a security risk (because Windows itself isn't, right?). They went so far as to scare the less informed, claiming "They may pose a risk to you." In their defense, Stevie B was jumped by 3 OOXML documents and mugged earlier in the year, but you can't blame an entire format for a few bad seeds.

Now if you had to make an apology to millions of people, and the CES show, a highly publicised event, is going on right now, you might use your clout to be the bigger man and fess up during the show. Well, Microsoft came close. David LeBlanc made the apology in his Blog on MSDN. Who's David LeBlanc you might ask? Exactly. He's a programmer for Microsoft. Why not have Billy Boy or Stevie B announce it in their flair? Well, for one Stevie B might set fire to the stage and bite the head off of an audience member at random. And secondly it would be admitting they were at fault.

Another issue with this apology is that it isn't much of an apology. They say they were doing what was right, that they were very old formats, you know, like the new Corel formats. In fact, the only time the word apology appears is in the statement "We also recognize that we have not made any of this as usable as we'd like, and we apologize that this hasn't been as well documented or as easy as you need it to be." This is in reference to the file opening fix. Never do they apologize to Corel, their users, or the public they lied to. Isn't that like smacking someone and saying "Sorry I didn't give you ample warning."?

They also state "From the data we have on file opens, very few users open files in these formats, so we decided to modify the default behavior to this safer approach." From the data they have on file opens? This should send up a flag to some Office 2003 users. They're tracking file usage, in some cases at least. That I find a bit bizarre, I can see how it's useful for them when making new formats, but a bit "Big Brother"ish as well.

Good luck finding this story at the top of any major news networks, though we can always hope, right?

You can read the full "apology" here.

Side note: I hope nobody is offended or even believes the statements I make about Steve Ballmer, he's actually a very delightfully insane man and has never, to my knowledge, been jumped by any document or file format.


The Case of the Disappearing CD/CD-R/DVD Drive in Ubuntu (Xubutnu)

You might be interested in this post if you have a Feisty (7.04) version of Ubuntu or one of its derivatives and your CD/CD-R/DVD drive has disappeared. This problem manifests itself in different ways for different reasons and is kind of a pain to stamp out. This procedure has not tested on motherboards with SATA drives, but should solve the problem. In case you're interested, the problem stems from an issue with the libata driver that's built into the kernels used in the 7.04 (Feisty) versions. The libata library has been reverted in the later kernels that versions 7.10 and later have, so the problem has gone away.

This procedure was developed using Xubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn, but should work equally well for any Ubuntu derivative provided you know the locations of the applications (or their alternative applications) that I mention.

As always, please be careful following procedures from this or any site as they can leave you with a system that's damaged and a pain to fix if a mistake is made.

If you're like me, you appreciate a good mystery or magic trick, but not if it involves a vanishing piece of hardware that you use frequently. I've had problems with this for awhile and have just now gotten around to getting a good solution figured out. In this post I'm going to give you 3 different ways to solve the problem, ranging from a simple (but temporary) band-aid that should work, to installing a brand new kernel that fixes the problem permanently. If you're interested in a quick fix without much pain, read the first two sections, and if you're interested in the more involved but clean fix, read the last section.

Method 1: The Band-Aid
This method consists of leaving a CD in the drive every time that you shut your computer down. It's not a guaranteed fix, but it's easy to try. The CD you leave in the drive can be a music CD or a data CD, but I wouldn't use a bootable CD because you'll have to exit the boot menu every time. When the kernel checks the drive and sees a CD, it will recognize the drive and you'll be good to go once your Ubuntu system boots up. Just make sure that the CD is in the drive everytime you start the computer.

Method 2: The System Upgrade
Method 2 requires you to upgrade from Ubuntu (Xubuntu) 7.04 to 7.10. To do this go to Applications > System > Update Manager (in Xubuntu). Once the Update Manager window comes up, you will see an Upgrade button next to the text New distribution release '7.10' is available. Click this button and follow the instructions.

Method 3: The Kernel Upgrade
This method is not for the easiest one here, but is a good option if you have the fortitude. We're going to cheat and borrow the kernel from the Gutsy repository to get Feisty working correctly. Open the Software Sources dialog (Applications > System > Software Sources) entering your administrator password if prompted. Click the Third-Party Software tab and then click the Add... button. Type or copy deb gutsy main restricted into the window that comes up (Figure 1) and click the Add Source button.

Figure 1

Now click the Close button on the Software Sources dialog and click the Reload button on the dialog box that pops (the one that says your software sources are out of date). Once the Software Sources dialog closes, you're ready for the next step. Open a terminal window (Applications > Accessories > Terminal) and type or copy the following commands (you can right click on the terminal window to get the paste option), hitting the Enter key after each line. And yes, the second command starting with sudo is all one command. I would suggest copying and pasting that one.

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-2.6.22-14-generic linux-headers-
2.6.22-14 linux-headers-2.6.22-14-generic linux-image-2.6.22-14-generic linux-restricted-modules-2.6.22-14-generic linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.22-14-generic

If you're reading this quite a while after I've written it, you may want to check which kernel is currently available in the repository by opening a web browser and navigating to and searching for linux-backports-modules - checking the version number. The format that you're looking for should be something similar to the one above (2.6.22-14). Just substitute the version number that you find for the one in the second command above.

The last thing you need to do is to remove the Gutsy repository from your Third-Party Sources. This prevents any Gutsy updates that will break your system from creeping in later. Open the Software Sources dialog (Applications > System > Software Sources) entering your administrator password if prompted. Click the Third-Party Software tab and then click on the Gutsy deb entry (Figure 2) and click the Remove button.

Figure 2

Now click the Close button on the Software Sources dialog and click the Reload button on the dialog box that pops up (the one that says your software sources are out of date). Once the Software Sources dialog closes, you're finished.

You should now be all set. By upgrading the kernel you'll fix your disappearing CDROM/CD-R/DVD drive problem and you'll also get some really nice features like network hotplug too. Reboot your computer and enjoy!


An update

Jeremy made some improvements to the DNS Speedup post, so if you used that you may be interested in making the changes. He noted that there is some "drift" in DNS addresses over time, so this should fix it.

We would like to thank the over 1,500 of you who have visited us in the past 3.5 months. Hopefully we've helped you. We always like feedback or suggestions, you can do so through comments or eonsproject (at)

Happy New Year!


Where does Linux (and its users) fit in?

Happy New Year my fellow Tillamookians! It's been a bit since an update, I've been on involuntary sabbatical and Jeremy has been kept busy with the job(s) that pays the bills. We've kicked around a post like this for a while, but after reading this article from Linux Journal I decided to get on it. Besides, what else am I going to do while watching football?

I use Linux on my laptop, which I use more than my home desktops. I have one desktop with Linux, and one with Windows XP Pro. My parents have 2 computers with Windows 98 and 4 with XP Home. My fiancée uses XP Home on her desktop and Vista (does it matter which version, they're all painful?) on her laptop. So you could say I'm an OS outcast. I set up a desktop for my mom's classroom with EONS on it and she loved it, she preferred it to XP or 98. Then I told her it was Linux and she said she didn't know how to use it. Where is this going? I ask the same of Linux sometimes.

Most average users think they can't use Linux. They already do in a lot of ways though. It's used in car computers, phones, broadband routers, HD receivers, wireless devices, PDAs, and public computers. I've been doing some testing, I let average users try out a computer with EONS on it, and they always like it, they think it's a new version of Windows. When I ask them if they would want a Linux computer they always say they don't know how to use it and don't want to learn a new system. I find that really interesting.

Linux is more secure, so for careless users who are more at risk of getting viruses and spyware it should be advantageous. It's free and so is most of the software for it, which is good for users but bad for software companies. Unfortunately for most Linux distros though, their UIs are poorly designed and unintuitive for even those of us who have been using Linux for a while. That's where Windows, up until Vista, was far superior. My grandparents finally learned to use Windows 98 last year, I'm not about to hand them a Linux distro with a greatly different UI. For Linux to fit in and thrive in the desktop market it must adapt to the well designed Windows desktop and menus, and add built-in Win32 program support.

Where do Linux users fit into the desktop world? As a free software community most Linux developers are unpaid and are working in their spare time. It then falls on the users, not out of obligation but out of desire for better free software, to help report problems and do what they can to help. If a user wants to support a project they don't need to donate money or code, they need to donate documentation and support. Support isn't enough, the documentation needs to be tested and make sure that it is accurate on more than one computer. Linux needs the How-To books and the Quick-Start guides that Windows has had almost from the start. Sure there have always been these guides for server environments, but desktops are where most users are.

So what need does Linux fill now? It gives you all Windows does and more, but for a pricetag of $0, and last I checked that was less than Windows. And where do its users fit? They act as developers, users, writers, and testers. We want to encourage users of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) to always help however they are able, even if it's just spreading the word. Now go do some good and have a safe new year friends.