Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A tale of a Sony Vaio and a projector.

I am the proud owner of a Sony Vaio (PCG-V505CP) Laptop. Its small neat and stylish and best of all runs Linux with no trouble. I use Mandrake/Mandriva as I am used to KDE desktop rather then Gnome. Recently I upgraded to Mandriva 2006. It was great as the upgrade seemed to go with no glitches. All my setting still worked and the hibernate to disk now works. Actually I didnt miss it as the battery life is so long on this thing I rarely need it, and it boots up pretty fast. Also the wifi no runs with a linux driver rather than the ndiswrapper I used to use (which uses the windoze driver). I was so happy until I went to give a lecture on the monday morning. Plugged it in the data projector and nothing came out. I rebooted and it came up in some kind of low resolution mode (looks like 640x480) and I had to scroll around the screen yuk.

I can get really worked up about projectors not working. I always try to check the thing before I need it but its not always possible, and I have been caught out by strange old projectors at big conferences. I still have nightmares about it.

Eventually I got around to googling for the bug and its a well known problem with xorg and the Radeon chip set used by the graphics in the vaio. The fix is two lines added to xorg.conf

like this

Section "Device"
Option "MonitorLayout" "LVDS, CRT"
Option "CRT2Position" "clone"

See Bug 19861.

Works on all the projectors I have tried it on now without rebooting.

ps I know Sony have just been elevated to the status of Evil Empire for hiding a rootkit in their music CDs. And I'm not sure I would buy another Sony, although it is harsh to punish the excellent hardware design section for the sins of their music distribution section.
More on the Sony rootkit story on wikipedia.

TuxMobil - Linux on Laptops, Notebooks, PDAs and Mobile Phones

Monday, December 26, 2005

My little proxy...

I work in the Maths department at a large university. Like a lot of universities, the IT department seems to think its primary mission is to prevent everyone else getting on with their job, or so it seems sometimes!

One thing IT did a while back that did have a very positive impact on my quality of life was to implement a web proxy cache, which could be used off campus to access academic journals and databases the university subscribed too. With this together with broadband at home I could work effectively from home (or anywhere else) looking up papers easily. Well it was too much to expect that something so useful could continue for long. They replaced it with a Virtual Private Network. Unfortunately they chose a proprietary one that does not work the the linux implementation on my laptop. Also while you can change the proxy settings on other peoples computers you cant go around installing a VPN client as easily.

Anyway my solution was to start squid on my desktop computer (an old machine running Redhat 7.x) and then using ssh tunneling to connect my laptop to the desktop ussing ssh tunnelling.

Here is the script I use:

rxvt -geometry 40x10-0-0 -title "squid tunnel" -bg black -fg yellow -fn 6x9 -e "ssh bill@mydesktop -p 80 -L 31
28:localhost:3128" &

It puts a little black and green terminal window up in case I want to check its still running. Usually I minimize it. I then change the settings in konqueror (settings->Proxy Manually specify proxy connection, Setup, localhost 3128.

Quality of life restored!

Dan Brown books

Over the Christmas holiday I am reading another Dan Brown book Digital Fortress. Although in some way these books are trashy adventure novels they are strangely addictive. Other books by this author I have read compulsively staying up late at night in long sessions. However this somewhat spoils the experience, as there are plenty of puzzles and clues to work out if you give yourself time to reflect.

One annoying feature is the factual errors -- for example in Angels and Demons Vittoria Vetra practices Hatha Yoga, which Dan Brown thinks is from the Buddhist rather than Hindu tradition (I know about this: my wife is a yoga teacher and a Buddhist). In Digital Fortress he does not seem to have grasped the distinction between a cryptographer and cryptanalyst. In some cases I wonder if these obvious errors are actually clues to some other level of puzzle in the books. If not they seem too elementary.

The most fun I had reading Angels and Demons was sitting on the beech in Cyprus trying to check the formula relating the golden ratio to the diagonals on a pentagon. But what do you expect I am a mathematician!