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Topics - ewemoa [ switch to compact view ]

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Has any one noticed oddness when trying to use a HDD sometimes via enclosure and at other times directly (e.g. via a SATA cable)?  An example of oddness is that gparted will show a partition table via one means, but via the other gives errors (sorry, don't have them recorded).

Need to do more testing and research, but came across:

My hunch (and it is just a hunch) is that your problem results from switching between a USB enclosure and direct connection of the disk. Some enclosures translate 512-byte logical sectors on the disk into 4096-byte logical sectors presented to the computer -- that is, the opposite of what the firmware in an Advanced Format disk does. I'm not positive, but I suspect that some enclosures do this only on over-2TiB disks. Both MBR and GPT partitioning schemes refer to data by sector numbers, so changing the sector size invalidates the partitioning data. Thus, if you prepare the disk in a USB enclosure that translates in this way and then try to use the disk directly (or vice-versa), you'll see errors because the partitions (and even GPT backup data) won't be where the computer expects it to be


Is this a well-known gotcha?

Looking for a note-taking Android app with encryption, source code, local backup / restore, and being actively maintained.

Candidates so far (not necessarily fulfilling all criteria):

OI Safe

May be KeePassDroid can be shoe-horned for the purpose via its comment field...though perhaps that's not so great.

Any favorites / recommendations?

Additional things that have turned up:

Secret Space Encryptor
AES Crypt - source for the Android version doesn't appear to be available
Universal Password Manager

Root needed:


Having experienced recurring problems with Firefox, am trying out some alternative web browsers.

Tried midori (feels like needs more polish) and dillo (a little too minimal?) already and am currently trying Luakit and dwb.

Both seem fairly light and configurable -- seems to help to have some vi-background though.

Any favorite alternative browsers?

Developer's Corner / About the Python 2 to 3 Transition...
« on: April 12, 2014, 09:43 AM »
Curious as to the current state, went looking and came across:


Any one seen more recent things?

Non-Windows Software / *NIX: Favorite GUI File Managers?
« on: March 17, 2014, 03:28 AM »
Any favorite GUI file managers?

Until a few days ago, was using PCManFM, but do to certain difficulties, went "shopping" and am now trying out SpaceFM (mentioned a bit back by Steven Avery).

There's a list of *nix-only ones at Wikipedia's Comparison of file managers page but I seem to have trouble linking to it directly :)

Looking for an easy to install (so recognizes hardware well) *NIX -- though light on resources -- to run as a host OS for running VirtualBox guest OSes on top of.

Seen requests like this but usually see suggestions such as "start with some minimal system and just add VirtualBox and a few other things" -- but was hoping that there was an effort that shipped with VirtualBox as am not too keen on maintaining too much of a customized set up and was hoping if it were bundled that it might be better tested / integrated.

Any recommendations / ideas?  Am currently looking through this list but might also consider this list.

Currently trying CrunchBang, but this requires installing VirtualBox after the OS installation.

Apart from search engine queries and using the man and apropos commands, anyone know of a specific site or resource that documents various dot files and directories?

I know of places to share dot files (github,, etc.), but haven't noticed much in the direction of learning what specific one are for.

Non-Windows Software / *NIX: Mounting .vdi Files (Even Dynamic Ones)
« on: February 11, 2014, 11:20 PM »
Wanted to get at a file in a VirtualBox guest OS without starting up the system in question.  The data was stored in a .vdi file (dynamic).  It turns out that one can mount such .vdi files using some qemu tools.

From thkala's answer on serverfault:
First you make sure that the nbd kernel module is loaded with the max_part option set to a number high enough to accommodate all the partitions in your .vdi image:

# rmmod nbd
# modprobe nbd max_part=16

Then you use qemu-nbd to attach the image:

# qemu-nbd -c /dev/nbd0 test.vdi

You will get a /dev/nbd0 block device, along with several /dev/nbd0p* partition device nodes. You use them as any other disk. Once you are done, you unmount everything, and disconnect the device:

# qemu-nbd -d /dev/nbd0

To determine the relevant partition device node I used cfdisk on /dev/nbd0, but it may be that a simple use of the blkid command may be enough.  partprobe may or may not be necessary after the first qemu-nbd invocation.

I first learned about this approach via How to mount a VirtualBox VDI image, but the specific instructions in the main post didn't quite work (though with modifications suggested in the comments things worked out).

Non-Windows Software / Android: Multilingual Input Options
« on: December 05, 2013, 05:06 PM »
Any favorite options for multilingual input (vague I know) on Android?

Just found the following page and am trying out Adaptxt -- have used Hacker's Keyboard too but it doesn't happen to support one language all that well I have an interest in:

Non-Windows Software / *NIX; tesseract OCR experiences
« on: December 01, 2013, 10:07 PM »
Recently I've been trying out the tesseract OCR option (both via gimagereader and via the command line) with mixed (but tolerably good IMHO) results at least for English text.

In my usage, I notice occasional recognition results such as:

It seems to me that for some of these cases, there is little point in accepting the results as-is (e.g. "vv" seems like it's seldom used).  I'm about to go through a page with a description of tesseract configuration parameters in hope of turning up something applicable -- but anyone have any relevant tesseract experience to share?

I'm using tesseract 3.02.02.

Living Room / Learn Modern Physics from Leonard Susskind?
« on: September 23, 2013, 11:34 PM »
Came across "Leonard Susskind Teaches You “The Theoretical Minimum” for Understanding Modern Physics".

Screenshot - 9 23 2013 , 11 40 21 PM_thumb001.png

For the past decade, Leonard Susskind, one of America’s pre-eminent physicists, has taught a series of six courses in Stanford’s Continuing Studies program.  The series “explores the essential theoretical foundations of modern physics,” helping lifelong learners (like you) attain the “theoretical minimum” for thinking intelligently about modern physics.

the lectures ... available to a global audience on YouTube and iTunes.

Susskind’s popular lectures found a new home of sorts with the launch of The Theoretical Minimum, a new web site that presents the six courses in a way that’s neat, clean and easy to navigate. The site also offers a short text summary of each lecture, plus related reference materials.

There also appears to be a book -- one reviewer mentioned that getting the errata had been very helpful for them.

Developer's Corner / Book: Masterminds of Programming
« on: September 15, 2013, 05:16 AM »
Has anyone read Masterminds of Programming - Conversations with the Creators of Major Programming Languages?

Masterminds of Programming features exclusive interviews with the creators of several historic and highly influential programming languages. In this unique collection, you'll learn about the processes that led to specific design decisions, including the goals they had in mind, the trade-offs they had to make, and how their experiences have left an impact on programming today.


Languages touched on apparently include:

  • APL
  • AWK
  • C#
  • C++
  • Eiffel
  • Haskell
  • Java
  • Lua
  • ML
  • Objective-C
  • Perl
  • PostScript
  • Python
  • SQL
  • UML

Non-Windows Software / *NIX: Readers for epub
« on: September 11, 2013, 07:57 PM »
Any favorites for reading epubs?

FBReader crashed here and didn't get Cool Reader to display a page with a source code sample so well, but Sigil (though primarily an editor) seems to be working better.

I guess there may also be Firefox plugins (e.g. EPUBReader), but haven't used them recently.

Links to Tested Readers

Cool Reader


Attached, please find Again - a small Android utility to resume / launch the "last" / "previous" activity.


I wanted a quicker way to switch back to a previous activity after I'd interacted with a home screen widget.  This is possible via the Task Switcher, but I felt it took more steps than necessary -- especially when done repeatedly.


When one's home screen is visible and you want to "return" to the previously running activity.


After installation, place a launcher icon for Again on your home screen.

To use, launch Again.


The home screen is also an activity as is the dialog that appears to give one a choice as to what application to launch -- but I didn't want these launched so Again tries to avoid launching these.


Non-Windows Software / Quick Ways to Start Programs in X11 Environments
« on: September 01, 2013, 06:15 AM »
I didn't quite get FARR working via WINE (though it seemed remarkably close to working), so I've been trying out a few alternatives:

kupfer - very similar to QuickSilver -- used this one for a while but am taking a break from it
fbrun - similar to the "Run..." dialog, comes with fluxbox
dmenu-launch - dmenu-based launcher

Anyone else have favorites or things worth pointing out?

From a few years back, but just read through Mixing Games and Applications -- slides from:

talk [was] on building an application that rescued princesses. The goal was to give interaction designers some insight into how game design might be applied to the domain of more utilitarian applications.

Took about half an hour to go through but was quite interesting.

I wonder if anyone who has seen this material has been inspired to apply some of the content to an existing app...



General Software Discussion / Request for Information: EasyUEFI
« on: August 08, 2013, 07:08 PM »
Anyone have experience with EasyUEFI?

It is allegedly:

software to manage the EFI/UEFI boot entries. You can use it to create, delete and edit boot entries, specifies a one-time boot entry for the next restart, or change the boot order without entering BIOS setup.

Have not succeeded in turning up much that is relevant on it...perhaps that is not surprising as the first public release seems to have been in May of this year...

General Software Discussion / Rufus: Bootable USB Device Tool
« on: August 08, 2013, 04:37 AM »
Used Rufus successfully in preparing bootable USB memory from ISO images recently.

Seems pretty snappy and source code is available too :)

Specifically had it work for installation media of Windows 7 (UEFI / GPT) and Linux Mint.

Rufus is a small utility that helps format and create bootable USB flash drives, such as USB keys/pendrives, memory sticks, etc.

It can be especially useful for cases where:

    you need to create USB installation media from bootable ISOs (Windows, Linux, UEFI, etc.)
    you need to work on a system that doesn't have an OS installed
    you need to flash a BIOS or other firmware from DOS
    you want to run a low-level utility
-the horse's mouth

Mentioned in passing already by NigelH:


TLDR; Recommendations

See below for background, but the gist of this post is -- If you are interested in installing and using Arch Linux as a host OS on Lenovo hardware with UEFI as of this writing (2013 July):

  • Don't be surprised if there is trouble getting it to work
  • Consider using older installation media if the newest doesn't work (went back as far as 201304 for E130 installation)
  • Consider using more than one boot loader for insurance (e.g. rEFInd and GRUB)
  • Consider USB memory with UEFI Shell
  • Look for and consider trying additional kernel command line parameters (noapic made it possible to boot E130 via UEFI)
  • Consider keeping a second boot device / partition with a working configuration that can be tested when there is a kernel update
  • Consider examining Arch Linux online docs and their forum for hints
  • Read Arch News especially before upgrading / updating

If you would like a trial-by-fire way of learning about UEFI, trying to get a certain subset of recent Lenovo hardware working with Arch Linux might not be a bad choice.   If you're "unlucky" though, certain bugs may get fixed soon and much of what's in this post will be worth far less.   So hurry if you want to learn about UEFI the hard way ;)

The Long Version

Have been using Arch Linux as a base for developing and trying out new software.  Been finding it quite nice for this purpose as there are many programs that are packaged (either officially or in AUR) and for what isn't, it has been relatively straight-forward to do so (far easier to do than put together a .deb for example).

My initial experience with it was as a guest OS via VirtualBox and that worked out quite well so once I felt comfortable enough with it decided to try to get it working as a host OS.

Installation on an IdeaPad Z580 went ok (though as a newbie to UEFI there was a bit to pick up).  For some time things were relatively smooth, but then one day the machine seemed to get struck with:

  Kernel 3.7 doesn't boot using EFI Stub

The short of it is that the machine will not complete booting with certain kernels if using certain boot loader combinations.  My impression is that there's some poor interaction between some of Lenovo's UEFI implementations and the Linux kernel's EFISTUB functionality.  IIUC, there is a participant of the aforementioned thread working with a kernel dev to get to the bottom of things.

In the mean time, after downgrading to an appropriate earlier kernel, installed a second boot loader (was using rEFInd with the kernel's EFISTUB but added GRUB) and this made it possible to boot kernels which wouldn't boot with my original set up.  Booting via GRUB (configured to use UEFI) is successful so that's one work-around...Hopefully there will be some better resolution before too long.

On a related note, had the occasion to attempt installation on a Thinkpad Edge E130 and this turned out to be a bit tricky.  Since the Z580 installation, the installation media has been updated a few times and didn't have success with the three that I tried (201305, 201306, and 201307).  After upgrading the BIOS (2.51 -> 2.52) performed most of the installation steps using the 201304 installation media.  The boot loader steps didn't work fully (but got rEFInd and GRUB files in place and tweaked) as the machine wouldn't boot the installation media using UEFI.  A ciruitous work-around (boot with UEFI shell -> start GRUB -> via its rescue mode start kernel with additional parameter noapic) got the machine booted up via UEFI and this made it possible to complete the boot loader installations.

So it's possible to get Arch Linux up and running via UEFI with some Lenovo hardware, but it may requires some extra steps.

Non-Windows Software / *NIX: Window Managers and Terminals
« on: June 18, 2013, 09:34 PM »
Had been using dwm and st for a bit, but due to not figuring out a good way to maintain my local installations of them, decided to look for alternatives.

After trying a few alternatives, came across and temporarily settled on i3 and lilyterm.

On the window manager front, was looking for:

- ability to use the Windows key as a modifier for window manager commands
- configurability without having to recompile source
- tiling support (as well as at least some support for floating)
- focus-follows-mouse support
- ability to support some form of "bar" (e.g. for indicating workspace / tag names, display time, etc.)
- multiple screen support
- ability to have certain windows start up on specific workspaces (or be tagged automatically)

Basically something like dwm, except for the aforementioned issue.  echinus came close but I encountered a few issues that kept me looking.

On the terminal front, was looking for:

- dark background by default
- scrollback buffer (along with decent size) by default
- multilingual support
- easy configuration

Tried xterm, uxterm, and mlterm.  terminator might be a good alternative, but didn't try it long enough.

Any favorites and/or recommendations?

For reference, i3 has a Google TechTalk, decent docs, an irc channel, mailing lists,  stackoverflow-like (askbot) support.

Found the following (old!) tip handy:

3. Cut the chase and link to the interesting part

Linking to a video where the real action starts at 3 minutes 22 seconds, wondered if you could make it start at 03:22? You are in luck. All you have to do is add #t=03m22s (#t=XXmYYs for XX mins and YY seconds) to the end of the URL.


FWIW, the collection is from some years back -- and some of the comments suggest that some of the tips no longer work.

As an example of how this might be useful...

The following set of links show a sequence of design diagrams for the Yamba Android sample example application covered in the Android Bootcamp video series:

Didn't figure out how to not have the video automatically start playing though...

Is there anyone here who runs Windows as (non-guest OS) and has their PC's (BIOS or other low-level) clock set to using UTC?


Developer's Corner / Binary Patching for "Similar" Large Files
« on: April 23, 2013, 12:11 AM »
Any recommendations for patching guest OS images that may not differ by much?

I've tried xdelta, xdelta3, bsdiff, and beat so far and discovered that:

  1. xdelta (1.x series) created a very small patch (a bit over 70,000 bytes) when the difference was between a .vdi file and a .vmdk file (vdi being somewhat over 810,000,000 bytes and vmdk being somewhat less than 745,000,000 bytes) -- here the vmdk file was created via conversion from the vdi file.

  2. xdelta3 (without tweaking of parameters) for the same scenario created an enormous file (a bit under 280,000,000 bytes) by comparison

  3. bsdiff exited with a message about not being able to allocate memory...

  4. beat created a large file (I think it was over 500,000,000 bytes) in linear mode and killed my X session in delta mode...(actually, it may have been systemd that killed my X session)

(AFAICT, xdelta3 does not process patches generated with xdelta 1.x...)

Testing out Wine here and encountered a "visual" problem.

When I have multiple displays enabled, starting up applications via Wine can result in black edges/borders/bars (along the bottom and/or right side of an application's window (at least on the larger display):


Actually, where the black areas appear seems to match what would be the edges of the smaller display if its top-left corner were aligned with the top-left corner of the larger display.

Some work-arounds seem to be:

  • Disabling displays so that only one is active
  • Enable "Emulate a virtual desktop" via winecfg
  • Launch an application in a virtual desktop (e.g. wine explorer /desktop=atitle,1920x1080 path-to-program.exe)

(The last two are mentioned in the WineHQ FAQ: "How do I get Wine to launch an application in a virtual desktop?")

Anyone encountered this and come up with a better fix?

General Software Discussion / Simple File Transfer Options
« on: April 13, 2013, 08:40 AM »
The following are some of the simpler file transfer options I've come across.

"Simpler" here is deliberately vague, but the situations under which I've thought to look for these has typically when I want to transfer a file between two machines without much set-up hassle.

  • netcat, sbd, ncat, and friends -- if you don't mind the command line
  • HTTP File Server (HFS) -- easy to start, uploading and downloading, even works under WINE (HTTP)
  • Droopy -- uploading only(?) and needs Python (HTTP)
  • Python 2: python -m SimpleHTTPServer / Python 3: python -m http.server -- downloading only and needs Python (HTTP)
  • mongoose -- cross-platform, no config necessary for simple downloading (HTTP)
  • osws -- one-shot file download and *nix-only(?) (HTTP)

Anyone have any favorites?

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