Windows, BIOS, and UEFI — Adios!

I had some trouble with the laptop (an HP x360 13-A113CL) upgrading to Ubuntu 17.04. But something I did along the way gave the Windows an opening to screw me up, and it did. (I have Windows waiting to screw things up, like a Virus you have to pay for and then validate with a license key, sitting there in a dual-boot configuration (unseen and unused since sometime last September). The simplest way to straighten things out was to reinstall Linux. But things keep changing in the hardware-meant-to-run Windows world, so…

The laptop was only half the problem. I was doing some other work on a completely different PC and and wanted watch YouTube videos and look at manuals on the computer next to me. But it was a Windows PC (a Lenovo H535), and it had a weird audio problem where two drivers were contesting over who was in charge of sound output, so I could only get sound with the first video. After fighting that for half an hour, I said, okay, then, time to give this machine a real operating system.

So: here are some notes.

First, the way you get to the “BIOS” options is probably F1. Probably. (HP, Lenovo)

But it’s not BIOS, it’s UEFI and no matter what you do, you’ll wish they’d never come up with Secure Boot, especially if you want Linux.

So you’ll probably want to use Ubuntu Boot Repair.

Got the Mac Pro running again

The Mac Pro “Quad Core” (specs here) that I picked up at a surplus sale for $50 just cost me another $15. No, wait, it was $20. The power button was blinking on and off and the machine wouldn’t boot. Supposedly, you can fix certain things just by resetting the SMC. Or maybe the battery is dead. Since the computer is about 10+ years old and probably was still using the OEM battery, I figured I should start there, I started there by replacing it. (It’s a C2032 lithium battery, which is apparently the button battery equivalent of a AA. It cost me $5, because I didn’t  check Amazon, where they run about 80¢.)

But, sorry, no luck with the SMC or battery. That left “bad RAM” as the problem. The RAM is (unfortunately) but exotic and obsolete: PC6400 DDR2 ECC 800MHz in pairs of 240 Pin FB-DIMM Modules.  ECC memory! Can you believe it? I don’t think I’ve used ECC RAM since leaving college and the DECSystem-20‘s core memory. Or, who knows? Maybe I use ECC memory all the time via Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other web-based services. But I’ve never had to pay for it. It’s not cheap, at upwards of $10 per GB from OWC.

How much could I afford? The machine came with 4 MB, but it supports up to 16 GB (or 32 GB if you cheat). It seems crazy to spend money to upgrade a machine today if you’re only going to have 4 GB when you’re done, but who wants to buy $80 worth of RAM?

Finally, I hit on the idea of getting the wrong kind of RAM. Apple RAM has about 4 ounces of head-spreaders per stick. (It’s actually pretty amazing. I guess they figure people who buy a Mac Pro are going to be serious users.) But you can get ECC RAM of the wrong kind directly from China for just $15. So that’s what I did.

It arrived, and I installed it. (What an awesome thing it is to have a computer from Apple that is easy to upgrade instead of a hermetically sealed Batmobile.)

The best part is that it works. It’s probably more failure prone now, I know. But remember, it wasn’t booting at all. This looks better to me:

Mac Pro - working again

Ubuntu 16.10 and Zeroconf

I don’t do enough system admin to enjoy it when I do. (Does anyone?)

When you upgrade Ubuntu, you lose a lot of the software you’d installed. There’s a list of system admin tips that I try to remember here. (Which reminds me, I should find a better home for it for when Twitter dies.)

I couldn’t resolve names of Macs in my local network. I should point out what a shame it is that Mac addresses aren’t the same thing as MAC addresses, since Google as my primary system admin resource.

That’s the work of avahi-daemon and friends (a/k/a Zeroconf and Bonjour). For awhile I thought that something had broken there. But eventually, I figured out that was working, i.e., the problem lay elsewhere.

I wondered if they’d added a firewall to 16.10. They did (or, for all I know, they’ve always had one) called ufw (more here), but it’s (still) not enabled by default. If that ever changes, I can learn what to do about it here.

After about an hour, I found out there is something called nss-resolve. Which is actually a pretty clever idea. Except it wasn’t working. Its configuration file is well documented here. Good luck figuring that out.

Finally, I just compared my 16.10 /etc/nss-switch.conf file with the one from a working installation of 16.04.1. HAH!

Not only was there a difference, it gave me a string I could Google. That brought me to this: http://askubuntu.com/questions/837982/how-to-configure-local-dns-lookup-in-ubuntu-16-10

It also brought me to this: https://github.com/systemd/systemd/issues/4157, which (if I read it correctly) says that I should go ahead and use the string from 16.04.1 that works instead of the one from 16.10 that doesn’t.

ttf-mscorefonts

I had to reinstall Linux on my laptop and ran into some trouble with the ttf-mscorefonts package. (It runs some text-mode click-wrap license agreement, except in my case, there was a problem where it didn’t run properly. I probably hit the wrong button at some point.) Anyway, this is not a new problem:

I picked the latter one because it didn’t involve dpkg.

 

I wouldn’t take it gift-wrapped

Office 2016 for Mac now available as stand-alone software. I’ve been exposed to Office 2013/Windows, and to get anything done, I have to use Office 2011 on my Mac.

I wouldn’t even install Office 2016 on my Mac for $100 even if it left the old version intact. More likely, though, it clobbers the previous version. In that case, I’d only do it for the cost of a new computer—so I could throw out the old computer with Office 2016 on it.

System Admin Notes

Windows 10 is, in some ways, worse(!) than 8.1 was. (Really!)

Since I don’t have time to keep sinking into Windows, here’s what I’ve been doing:

Once you’ve done all that, remember to install an ssh server:

sudo apt-get install openssh-server

Also, install rbenv (and ruby-build) and a ruby or two. Plus your favorite gems.