...making Linux just a little more fun!


This month's answers created by:

[ Anderson Silva, Matt Woodson, Ben Okopnik, S. Parthasarathy, Henry Grebler, Kapil Hari Paranjape, Mulyadi Santosa, Neil Youngman, Raj Shekhar ]
...and you, our readers!

Our Mailbag

Looking for a Shuttle replacement

Thomas Adam [thomas at fvwm.org]

Mon, 17 Jan 2011 22:14:40 +0000

Hi all,

[This might help drum up conversation here, if nothing else, but I appreciate it's not really Linux-centric.]

Some of you might recall some years ago the following:


Unfortunately, said machine literally went up in white smoke just before Christmas. From what I can tell, an integrated circuit on the motherboard blew, as the PSU is still intact, according to my volt metre, as are the harddrives, etc. The point is, it's something esoteric, and not the usual suspects I would expect to have blown, else I could have replaced those parts.

However, because it's a Shuttle, replacing the motherboard outright is not an option either, as it's an integrated system due to its cooling fans, etc. Not to mention the apparent cost of doing so amounts to an equivalent cost of the Shuttle overall. :) Buying a new machine therefore seems logical.

So, would anyone be able to help me in replacing my Shuttle with a modern equivalent? When I say equivalent, I mean:

* Must be of a similar size to the Shuttle (form-factor). If this implies mini-itx, that's fine. * Should be as low-powered as possible -- i.e., not consuming the planet. Think green. * Would need space for at least two hard drives minimum. * Minimum of two PCI slots (one of which must be an PCI-e slot.) * Support for dual-head graphics a must. * On-board wireless would be nice (without the need for an additional card)

I appreciate some of the above might not necessarily fit any one system, and I'd be willing to sacrifice on-board wireless for one of the PCI slots (as my Shuttle only had two PCI(e) slots anyway), but who knows what's possible? :)

I don't know an awful lot about hardware, so any thoughts/suggestions are gratefully received. Of course, the systems should support Linux/*BSD [1] -- I don't want to have to grapple with anything Windows-specific.

Any help is thankfully appreciated. :)


-- Thomas Adam

[1] I've been using OpenBSD for a long time now, so anything to help further that is definitely a bonus. :)

"It was the cruelest game I've ever played and it's played inside my head."
-- "Hush The Warmth", Gorky's Zygotic Mynci.

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Linux Gazette Facebook Page

afsilva at gmail.com [(afsilva at gmail.com)]

Mon, 10 Jan 2011 23:26:08 -0500

A while back LG created an facebook 'group', but that didn't work out so well. We have now created a Linux Gazette facebook page where instead of 'joining' all you need to do it 'Like' it. Once you do that, you will automatically receive updates from LG on your facebook wall.

I am also linking the twitter account to the facebook page, so updates there will show directly onto facebook (when twitter isn't overloaded :-)).

And finally, through a Linux Gazette facebook you will be able to share our updates onto your wall as well.

Here's the URL: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Linux-Gazette/155446237840163



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Finding duplicate images, redux

Ben Okopnik [ben at linuxgazette.net]

Tue, 28 Dec 2010 12:58:41 -0500

Amusing example of serendipity: one of our readers just sent me an email letting me know that a link to a SourceForge project in one of our articles was outdated and needed to be pointed to the new, renamed version of the project. I changed it after taking a moment to verify the SF link - and noticed that some of the project functionality was relevant to Neil Youngman's question of a couple of months ago.

Pulling down the (small) project tarball and reading the docs supported that impression:

  'repeats' searches for duplicate files using a multistage process. Ini-
  tially, all files in the specified directories (and all of their subdi-
  rectories) are listed as potential duplicates.  In the first stage, all
  files with a unique filesize are declared unique and are  removed  from
  the list.  In the second stage, any files which are actually a hardlink
  to another file are removed, since they don't actually take up any more
  disk space.  Next, all files for which the first 4096 bytes (adjustable
  with the -m option) have a unique filehash are declared unique and  are
  removed from the list.  Finally, all files which have a unique filehash
  (for the entire file) are declared unique  and  are  removed  from  the
  list.   Any remaining files are assumed to be duplicates and are listed
  on stdout.

The project is called "littleutils", by Brian Lindholm. There's a number of other handy little utilities in there, all worth exploring.

* Ben Okopnik * Editor-in-Chief, Linux Gazette * http://LinuxGazette.NET *

[ Thread continues here (4 messages/5.55kB) ]

Odd system load situation

Ben Okopnik [ben at linuxgazette.net]

Mon, 10 Jan 2011 21:21:19 -0500

Hi, all -

I've got something odd going on, and I'm trying to get some perspective on it. Perhaps someone here can cast a light.

I'm running a long-term rsync job (a full backup, after way too long of a hiatus. I know - really *bad* for someone who hounds people to keep on top of their backups professionally... but you know the saying about the cobbler's kids being the last to have new shoes.) It's copying the files to an external drive, connected via USB. Here's the problem: now that it's running, my system has become extremely "sensitive" to any additional loads - even very light ones. Firing up an xterm visibly spikes the CPU (which, with nothing more than two xterms open, is running at a load average of ~4.) Starting 'vim' takes about 4 seconds. Opening a PDF with the rather lightweight 'xpdf' takes about 9 seconds. Reformatting a paragraph in 'vim' turns the xterm gray for a good 5 seconds and almost freezes the cursor. Opening Firefox does freeze the cursor and prevents me from being able to tab between open applications for a good 30 seconds - and when it's open, the system is essentially useless for anything else. Needless to say, all but the last one are usually nearly instant, and Firefox normally takes just a couple of seconds, and doesn't lock anything up while loading.

Here's the kicker: "top" shows... nothing particularly unusual. vmstat/iostat report essentially the same story.

$ (vmstat -a;iostat)
procs -----------memory---------- ---swap-- -----io---- -system-- ----cpu----
 r  b   swpd   free  inact active   si   so    bi    bo   in   cs us sy id wa
 2  2 492908  15776 580684 341224    3    4    14     9    2   21 17  4 74  6
Linux 2.6.31-22-generic (Jotunheim)     01/10/2011      i686  (2 CPU)
avg-cpu:  %user   %nice %system %iowait  %steal   %idle
          16.70    0.20    3.81    5.71    0.00   73.59
Device:            tps   Blk_read/s   Blk_wrtn/s   Blk_read   Blk_wrtn
sda               3.27       131.12        48.13  219433573   80544152
sdb               0.62         0.85        72.43    1429100  121212480

Memory usage is reasonable, swap is barely being touched, the CPU is spending 3/4 of its time being idle, even the number of context switches is very reasonable as compared to the I/O rate. If I saw this on a remote machine, I'd figure it was being under-utilized. :\

Now, it is true that I'm not running some mad smokin' powerhouse machine that requires a dedicated nuclear power plant:

$ cat /proc/cpuinfo|egrep '^(processor|model name)'
processor       : 0
model name      : Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU N270   @ 1.60GHz
processor       : 1
model name      : Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU N270   @ 1.60GHz
$ cat /proc/meminfo|grep MemTotal
MemTotal:        1016764 kB

It's just a little Acer laptop... but this is usually enough for pretty much anything I need, including serving fairly heavy-duty Perl and PHP scripting via Apache. So... what's going on? What is "rsync" doing that is essentially invisible but is enough to make this thing behave like a 286 with 64k of memory? I thought I understood what the above numbers mean, and could reasonably estimate system state from them - but it seems that I'm wrong.

[ ... ]

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Bypassing GRUB

Dr. Parthasarathy S [drpartha at gmail.com]

Fri, 10 Dec 2010 19:16:43 +0530

I often experiment with multiple distros (for learning/teaching value), by installing them on my machine side by side. I then get to use a specific distro/kernel by selecting it through GRUB, at boot time. Is there some way to by-pass GRUB altogether and boot a specific kernel manually ?

Let me be clear, I want to bypass GRUB and choose the kernel/distro manually. It is not about replacing the sick GRUB by a healthy GRUB.

I would appreciate any clue or pointer.

Thank you,


Dr. S. Parthasarathy                    |   mailto:drpartha at gmail.com
Algologic Research & Solutions    |
78 Sancharpuri Colony                 |
Bowenpally  P.O                          |   Phone: + 91 - 40 - 2775 1650
Secunderabad 500 011 - INDIA     |
WWW-URL: http://algolog.tripod.com/nupartha.htm
GPG Public key :: http://algolog.tripod.com/publikey.htm

[ Thread continues here (5 messages/7.59kB) ]


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Published in Issue 183 of Linux Gazette, February 2011