Things I Did After Installing 17.04

Here in one place is my list of things to do after installing a new operating system.

$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt upgrade
$ sudo apt install ssh

Then try to ssh into the computer. If needed, apply the fix to Zeroconf / Avahi / NSSwitch.conf.


$ sudo apt install git
$ sudo apt install colordiff
$ sudo apt install libreadline-dev
$ sudo apt install vim vim-gtk3
$ sudo sudo apt-get --purge --reinstall install ttf-mscorefonts-installer

Then I got things ready for ruby. I prefer rbenv:

$ sudo apt install libssl-dev zlib1g-dev # needed for ruby
$ sudo apt install sqlite3 sqlite3-pcre
$ cd ; git clone git:// .rbenv
$ git clone git:// ~/.rbenv/plugins/ruby-build
$ rbenv install -l
$ rbenv install 2.4.1 # (as of April 28, 2017)
$ hash -r # rehash your environment

P.S. if later on you want a later version of ruby, the way you update the list of installable ruby’s is:

$ cd ~/.rbenv/plugins/ruby-build ; git pull

Then use gdebi to install Google Chrome.

$ sudo apt install gdebi
$ apt install chromium-browser chromium-codecs-ffmpeg chromium-codecs-ffmpeg-extra
$ apt install telegram-desktop

I’d love to be able to pre-populate Dropbox from a local backup when I setup a new computer. But I’m not smart enough, I guess.

$ sudo apt install antiword wv jhead
$ sudo apt install imagemagick poppler-utils

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

The Senate and SCOTUS — A Modest Proposal

Since the nomination of Merrick Garland has been held up all year, and is at this point likely dead, President Trump may nominate as many as three (even 4?) Justices to the Supreme Court.

The Senate, of course, must approve those nominations. Historically, this would have been subject to a 60-vote requirement to overcome any minority-party filibuster. But retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid eliminated that precedent, and, indeed, even two weeks ago sought to permanently “nuke the filibuster.” We may therefore expect that even a bare majority in the GOP-held Senate could approve each of those nominees.

Perhaps today Democrats can better see the folly of Harry Reid. Even some Republicans are uneasy at the prospect of President Trump’s SCOTUS picks.

I believe that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should, in the interest of national unity, allow the Democrats to restore to the Senate the historic protection of the filibuster.

He should announce that he will, in this session, schedule hearings for Merrick Garland on the condition that each member of the Senate — every single one, without exception — go to the floor of the Senate, and make a public pledge of support for the filibuster, along the lines of: “I solemnly renounce and abjure the disastrous and demagogic policies of Harry Reid which so gravely imperiled the historic safeguard that is the filibuster, and put our republic in jeopardy of descending into the ugliest form of mob rule.”

Since no Senate can bind a future Senate, this show of support for the filibuster will be necessary at the start of each term. Incoming Senators should be required to make the same pledge in January. Without such a show of national unity and resolve, McConnell should declare the filibuster dead and delete it across the board from all Senate rules.

Would this be humiliating for Democrats? Absolutely. So it might tempt the Republicans, who, otherwise, will want to wait for Trump’s nominee and those who will come later.

But swallowing their pride would be good for Democrats. Being (sort of) generous in victory would be good for Republicans. And restoring a strong filibuster would be good for the country, and not only in the area of SCOTUS nominees.

If nothing else, the election of President Trump and a GOP Senate should teach us that it is dangerous to take power into our own hands that we would be terrified to see in the hands of our political opponents.

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:

It also brought me to this:, 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.