Background Hisssss

Snake Sounds

I was getting background hiss from time to time and instinctively knew there was a problem. Where was the hiss coming from?

I checked obvious inputs, and nothing was connected, so where was the hissing source?

I just knew it had to be on the input side, cos it was not there a few days ago.

I fired up Alsa Volume Control Manager and systematically worked through the inputs. I killed each in sequence.


Microphone and Mic Boost Input was set at 100%.

I muted both and silence prevailed.


Gnome Nautilus Location Bar

Stupid Pathbar
If you ever use Gnome Nautilus, it has an annoying 'Pathbar' utilising buttons to show your present location and to aid navigation. It feels a dumbed down effort to move around using a mouse, instead of the keyboard.

You can switch from the 'Pathbar' to Gnome's 'Location Bar' by hitting Ctrl-L. But it if you hit 'Esc' or open another Nautilus window, Nautilus switches back to the default 'Pathbar'.

The 'Location Bar' allows you to copy your location entry and dump it to an XTerm or another Nautilus window. The 'Pathbar' does not. You can type the full path to a location rather than mouse click there.

If you want to convince Nautilus to retain the 'Location Bar', you make a change in gconf-editor, Gnome's Configuration Editor. Fire up gconf-editor by clicking:

Applications > System Tools > Configuration Editor

Next click on:

Apps > Nautilus > Preferences

In the right hand pane find always_use_location_entry

Click to put a check in the box adjacent. Nautilus will retain the 'Location Bar'.

You can fire up from an XTerm by typing:


If you find you don't have gconf-editor installed, as root user do:

aptitude install gconf-editor

It will automagically appear in minutes.


Create ISO Image

Image Files

Creating an ISO image from a DVD or CD is a pretty simple process. Stick the DVD disc in your DVD drive. Most modern distros will automount a disc when placed in a CD or DVD drive. If it spins up and automounts, you need to unmount it.

Check using the mount command:

$ mount
/dev/sda1 on / type ext4 (rw,errors=remount-ro
/dev/sdb1 on /store type ext3 (rw)
/dev/sr0 on /media/cdrom0 type udf (ro,noexec,nosuid,nodev,user=patrick)

My drive mounts /dev/sr0 on /media/cdrom0. To unmount it, use the umount command and pass its mount point:

umount /media/cdrom0

To create the ISO, do:

dd if=/dev/sr0 of=newfile.iso

Creating an ISO from files on disk is similiar. Create a directory containing all the files:

mkdir ~/isodir/

genisoimage -o new.iso ~/isodir

The ISO image must comply with ISO9660 filesystem.

To create with Rock Ridge extensions use:

genisoimage -o new.iso -R ~/isodir



Not Mis-Spelt

DeVeDe is a pretty cool app for creating DVD videos ready for burning to disk, in Linux/Debian. You can create CDs too, if you want. The interface is clearly laid out, and simple to use.

Many default will work to build an .iso file ready to burn.

For such a simple application, its really powerful.

To install:

aptitude install devede

Click Video DVD to create a DVD for home players

Under Titles, click Properties to change DVD Title. Click OK.

Under Files, click Add to add the files that make up your DVD.

Select Disc Size: 1.4 GB, 4.7 GB or 8.5 GB

Select PAL or NTSC

Click Forward

Go grab coffee, tea or beer while it finishes.

Dead easy to use.

Highly recommended.


.img Files

Not An Image

If you find yourself with a .img file on your hands and your not sure what it is or what to do with it, here's a quick overview.

The .img files are similar to .iso files. They come from the Apple computing world, and contain a disk image, similar to an .iso. They can be mounted as you would a .iso file and the contents accessed as a mounted file system.

In theory you can burn these files as you would any iso. Theoretically, you can rename the .img extension to .iso and use them as an .iso.

That's the theory, anyhow. In practice you may have problems burning the file, dependent on how it was configured, and the settings used when it was created.

Many DVD and CD burning software, particularly in the Windows world, can deal with .img files. Some Linux burning software can burn the .img file to disc without problems.

You can mount an .img using the mount command:

mount -o loop file.img /mnt/newmount

If the img contains video content, it can be converted using software such as Mencoder or FFMPEG.

That's about it.

StumpWM - The Stump Window Manager

Commands and Keybindings

I previously wrote a couple of posts on StumpWM, the Rodent-Free Window Manager. It does take some getting used to. The key bindings seem so natural if you use Emacs.

Otherwise it might seem unusable if your life is mouse-centric.
I must add, once you break your rodent habit, you will feel an amazing sense of liberation. Well, that's my take on it.

One problem I hit repeatedly was inconsistent application behaviour. I'm sure this will be ironed out in time. I have to say when it is finally cleaned up, this will be one awesome application.

Another problem was using Google-Chrome/Firefox/Opera/Or-The-Other-One-That-I-Never-Use Browser. Browsers are designed around the mouse.

StumpWM is designed to exclude the mouse. Here you have a clash of cultures. Watch the fragments fly.

If you run StumpWM, and I would recommend it to any living hominid, you will not be able to use Google-Chrome/Firefox/Opera/The-Other-One.

That leaves few alternatives.

Top of the tree is Conkeror - The most awesome Keyboard-Centric Web Browser ever devised.

The problem you will encounter is...

You now have to learn lots of key-combos and commands.

If you use StumpWM, and you would be criminally insane not to, you also have to learn and use Conkeror.

That's a steep hill to climb, a challenging learning curve. You may find it too much to tackle both.

Anyhow, lets concentrate on 'The Stump' for now and I'll get back to the 'Conkeror' another day.

C-g Cancel current command. Use if you hit C-t
C-t C-g Cancel current command. Use if you hit C-t

C-t ! Shell command. All output discarded

C-t c Open Xterminal in new window
C-t C-c Open Xterminal in new window

C-t e Open Emacs in new window
C-t C-e Open Emacs in new window

C-t n Go to next window in list
C-t C-n Go to next window in list
C-t Spc Go to next window in list

C-t p Go to previous window in list
C-t C-p Go to previous window in list

C-t C-t Go to last window with focus in current frame

C-t " Go to listed window and take focus

C-t ' Go to window by name

C-t w List all windows
C-t C-w List all windows

C-t num Go to window number
C-t C-numOpen window number in current frame

C-t I Display current window info

C-t Up C-t Dn Shift focus to adjacent frame in specified direction
C-t Lt C-t Rt C-t Up shifts up. C-t Down shifts down, etc

C-t # Toggle mark on current window
C-t l Refresh current window and maximize
C-t C-l Refresh current window and maximize

C-t s Split frame vertically

C-t S Split frame horizontally

C-t R Undo split. If single split, maximize frame take focus
C-t Q Maximize frame take focus

C-t o Cycle through multiple frames, focus shifts to next frame
C-t Tab Cycles to right, then down. Similar to C-x o in Emacs.

C-t f Go to frame number
C-t F Display "Current Frame" in frame which has focus

C-t - Hide frames and display root window

C-t + Make frames same height or width in current frame subtree

C-t k Send kill message to current frame and running program
C-t C-k Kill current frame and running program. Like kill -9
C-t K Kill current frame and running program. Like kill -9

C-t C-g Cancel current command. Useful if you hit C-t
C-t ! Shell command. All output discarded

C-t t Send C-t to frame. Opens tab in browser. Similar to GNU screen C-a a

C-t b Banish mouse pointer to screen lower right corner
C-t C-b Banish mouse pointer to screen lower right corner

C-t a Display time and date. Unix date command
C-t C-a Display time and date. Unix date command

C-t g g Show group list

C-t g n Go to next listed group
C-t g C-n Go to next listed group
C-t g Spc Go to next listed group
C-t g C-Spc Go to next listed group

C-t g p Go to previous listed group
C-t g C-p Go to previous listed group

C-t g N Go to next listed group, take current window
C-t g P Go to previous listed group, take current window

C-t G Display groups and windows in group
C-t g Cnum Go to group number. C-t F1 to group 1, C-t F2 to group 2 etc

C-t g c Create a new group
C-t g k Kill current groups. Windows merge into next group

C-t g ' Select group by name or number
C-t g " Select and go to listed group

C-t g m Move current window to group

C-t g A Rename group
C-t g r Rename group

C-t g num Go to group number. C-t g 1 to group 1. C-t g 2 to group 2

Info Operations
C-t C-h Help
C-t ? Help
C-t v Print version number

C-t m Display last message. Cycle through previous messages
C-t C-m Display last message. Cycle through previous messages

C-t h k Describe key binding
C-t h f Describe function
C-t h v Describe variable
C-t h c Describe command

C-t h w List key sequences bound to command

C-t ; Input box run StumpWM commands. Cycle through input history.
C-t : Input box to Common Lisp interpreter. Enter valid Common Lisp

About StumpWM
Groups Groups contain Frames
Frames Frames contain windows. All windows exist within frames

C-t v Print version number
C-t m Display last message. Cycle through previous messages
C-t C-m Display last message. Cycle through previous messages

Here's the StumpWM Manual


Debian Nvidia Driver


Nvidia Corp developed a Graphics driver for Linux. Its been out for a while, if you feel the urge to try it, here's a quick install howto.

Reboot to runlevel 3. No X Windows running. As root do:

# /sbin/init 3

If you cannot because of your display manager, login as normal, then kill running X. Normally use 'Ctrl-Alt-Backspace'. If that key-combo has been disabled, switch to a Console.


Login and give password then, switch to root user.

Next, install Module-Assistant

# aptitude install module-assistant

Setup Module Assistant

# m-a prepare

Install Nvidia driver using Module Assistant

# m-a auto-install nvidia

When quizzed on installing additional software, 'Y' for yes.

Reboot system.


Chrome 64-Bit Flashplayer Plug-in

A Pain

After installing Google Chrome 64-Bit Browser on Debian, as normally happens, Flash refused to work. Go to YouTube and read the error message.

When you visit Adobe's Flashplugin website, you're advised that if you run 32-bit or 64-bit Chrome browser, Flashplugin is already installed in the browser. All you need do is enable it.



Only its not there. Its not installed by default.

Instead, go to Flash download and pull down the latest version plugin.

Unzip it the tar file. Once you get the plugin, some manual work is necessary.

Open an XTerm or similar, and create Chrome plugins directory

# mkdir /opt/google/chrome/plugins

Copy to chrome plugins directory you just created.

# cp /opt/google/chrome/plugins

Kill and restart Chrome.



You will see:

Shockwave Flash (2 files)
Shockwave Flash 10.3 d162

Go to YouTube and enjoy watching some crappy vids.



List Processing

There are a number of Common Lisp implementations available, but two that frequently show up are are, Steel Bank Common Lisp and Gnu Clisp. I have used both and often install and switch usage between them.

Lisp is quite an old programming language compared to many newer in-vogue prog-lang.

Installing SBCL is pretty easy if you run Debian. As root open an XTerm and do:

# aptitude search sbcl
p   cl-clx-sbcl - X11 CLisp client library for SBCL
p   sbcl        - A CLisp compiler and dev system
p   sbcl-doc    - Docs for Steel Bank Common Lisp
v   sbcl-fasl-loader-78 -
p   sbcl-source - Source code files for SBCL
# aptitude install cl-clx-sbcl sbcl sbcl-doc

Moments later you have SBCL installed and running.

Installing GNU Clisp is just as easy.

# aptitude search clisp
p clisp     - GNU CLISP, CLisp implementation
p clisp-dev - GNU CLISP, CLisp implementation (dev)
p clisp-doc - GNU CLISP, CLisp implementation (docs)
v clisp-fasl-loader-20080430
# aptitude install clisp
$ clisp

  i i i i i i i       ooooo    o        ooooooo   ooooo   ooooo
  I I I I I I I      8     8   8           8     8     o  8    8
  I  \ `+' /  I      8         8           8     8        8    8
   \  `-+-'  /       8         8           8      ooooo   8oooo
    `-__|__-'        8         8           8           8  8
        |            8     o   8           8     o     8  8
  ------+------       ooooo    8oooooo  ooo8ooo   ooooo   8

Welcome to GNU CLISP 2.48 (2009-07-28)
(c) Bruno Haible, Michael Stoll 1992, 1993
(c) Bruno Haible, Marcus Daniels 1994-1997
(c) Bruno Haible, P.Bernardi S.Steingold 1998
(c) Bruno Haible, Sam Steingold 1999-2000
(c) Bruno Haible, Sam Steingold 2001-2009
Type :h and hit Enter for context help.

[1] >

You are now the proud owner of GNU Clisp!


Debian Backports


If you run a stock install of Debian you're guaranteed rock-solid stability, tight-security, software that's been tested, peer-reviewed and guaranteed to be fairly dated.

That's fine for a server, as servers don't need cutting edge software with all its fresh bugs and coding hacks.

If you're running Debian on the desktop, you may want something circa, 2010?

Backports is the answer. Using Debian backports allows you to run a mostly current stable distro, and add the newest coolest elements as you need them.

Getting started with Backports, first add the backports repository to /etc/apt/sources.list.

# deb lenny-backports main

Next, run update

# aptitude update

To install a package from backports, do:

# aptitude -t lenny-backports install amarok

Packages installed from backports will NOT be upgraded automatically. If you want automatic updates, create /etc/apt/preferences and add the following:

Package: *
Pin: release a=lenny-backports
Pin-Priority: 200

If you don't add this, you won't get any security updates. Not a good idea.


Domains And Hosting

Free Advice

Domain Names 

When purchasing domain names find the cheapest reseller you can. Expensive does not necessarily  mean good service.

Check the domain reseller terms before buying, to ensure you are not committed to hosting with them, or any other clause that restrict usage.

If the domain name looks incredibly cheap, there's probably a catch. Read terms and conditions. 

If its an intro offer at a special price, email customer support and ask how much they charge for domain name renewal, before you commit. A year or two down the road you may regret that temptingly cheap price they hooked you with.

Trust me. Read the small print before you pull the credit card from your wallet.


When it comes to hosting your domain, DO NOT host with your domain reseller.


If you have a problem with billing or charges and it results in a dispute, they can hold your domain hostage, lock the account, delete your domain files and put an advert place holder up instead. They earn money from ads on your domain. You get zero. 

A domain name billing or charges dispute, your looking at $10 or $20. You can easily pay that to settle things.

If you have a billing dispute of 100, $250 or more for hosting, you may not wish to pay till matters are resolved. If you continue to contest it, and lose? Consider the worst that can happen.

Always keep your domain and hosting separate.

Make a back up of ALL your site content, and store it on your home or work computer. Try to keep a current copy, if you can.

If the dispute escalates and the hosting company locks you out and deletes all your files / site content. Do you really fancy rebuilding that website from scratch?

In a previous post I suggested doing some research before you commit to a hosting company. Don't just accept the marketing hog-wash. Check other peoples experience. Look at real feedback. Not marketing hype.

Always read the bad experiences people had, and how the hosting company dealt with it. Read the worst cases and see how the hosting company handled the problems. It says a lot about the company and its ethos.


Blekko Search Engine

New Kid In Town

If you have not heard yet, another search engine has muscled its way onto the Web. Its called Blekko, a young contender vying with Google for the search engine crown.

Blekko's stated objective is to provide better search results than Google or Bing. Blekko is headed up by Rich Skrenta.

Blekko intends to differentiate itself from Google and Bing by including people to help improve search results. Blekko also uses what it calls slashtags to further refine and improve your search.

Blekko also intends to filter out spam, SEO garbage, content farms, and other undesirables that pollute search results.

Some info taken from Blekko site:

Blekko - Slash the web!

blekko is a better way to search the web by using slashtags. slashtags search only the sites you want and cut out the spam sites. use friends, experts, community or your own slashtags to slash in what you want and slash out what you don't.

Blekko - Web search bill of rights
1. Search shall be open
2. Search results shall involve people
3. Ranking data shall not be kept secret
4. Web data shall be readily available
5. There is no one-size-fits-all for search
6. Advanced search shall be accessible
7. Search engine tools shall be open to all
8. Search & community go hand-in-hand
9. Spam does not belong in search results
10. Privacy of searchers shall not be violated

I've been using Blekko alongside Google and the returns are different. Run a few searches on both Blekko and Google. You'll see there is difference with the returned results.

Give Blekko a shot and see how you get on.