Ubuntu 18.04LTS on the HP boat anchor

Some time ago, we bought three HP laptops. One had a failure we were never able to resolve, and another was replaced by an ASUS desktop. The last was decommissioned back in January. So I decided to try installing the most recent Ubuntu 18.04LTS on one of them. Here’s my notes from the process.

First, re-read this explanation of UEFI Secure Boot and Windows.

download an ISO and verify it

turn the ISO into a bootable USB stick

boot it up and answer lots of questions

wait while everything gets installed

then install Dropbox and Google Chrome

$ apt install ssh # to get the OpenSSH server

$ ssh some-machine # then copy any data not in Dropbox

$ apt install telegram-desktop

$ apt install gnome-tweak-tool  # to enable permanent workspaces

$ apt install colordiff antiword jhead csvtool ffe poppler-utils

$ apt install sqlite3 sqlite3-pcre

$ apt install git curl libreadline-dev

$ apt install vim vim-gtk

$ apt install build-essential

$ apt install libssl-dev zlib1g-dev

$ cd ; git clone git://github.com/sstephenson/rbenv.git .rbenv

$ rbenv -l # to find what version to install

$ rbenv install 2.5.1 # or whatever

Clobbering my Dual-Boot Laptop

I clobbered my dual-boot laptop. I ought to have clobbered it long ago, so it was uni-boot Linux, but that whole secure-boot UEFI firmware business scared me too much to do that without knowing more, and who has time to learn more, or a test-bed on which to make mistakes.

I was running Ubuntu 17.10 for awhile, but [I made, over a period of two months, a long list of trivial changes that made me decide the simplest thing would be if] I decided to reinstall the OS. And that didn’t work. Or, it sorta kinda worked once or twice, then quit working completely.

Did I run into the Ubuntu BIOS bug? I don’t know. But I was installing Ubuntu and I couldn’t get past the BIOS. So maybe I did. But I don’t know.

For the time being, I’m using my Macs and some older (pre-UEFI Secure Boot) hardware. Here’s an article about how to fix the Ubuntu BIOS bug. Here’s some more about the provenance of the bug.

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.

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.

Tech Tab Sweep

It’s time to upgrade your Ubuntu machines.

8 things to do after installing Ubuntu 15.04. One of the items is to add a tweak tool, which reminded me of Unsettings.

I’m working on a similar list for Windows, except (a) nobody gets to install Windows, you have to buy a PC with it preinstalled, and (b) there are about 300 things you have to do next.

Speaking of Ubuntu…. I barely know what a .deb is, so this article was complete gibberish to me, with all this talk about Snaps and Snappy for future releases of Ubuntu.

Bjarne Stroustrup outlines changes in store for C++ in v17. I can barely remember how awesome I used to think C++ was back in 1986. And compared to C, I guess is was, then. Today—forget about it. Just give me a scripting language.

Finally: During the 1990’s I used to be a DIY system builder, but the past decade or two I’ve been too busy and too impoverished. And there’s a lot to be said for buying something small. Still, I might get around to building something again someday. This sounds like fun:

Ubuntu Tips

How to upgrade to Ubuntu 14.10 from Ubuntu 14.04.

Or, how to get an ISO if that’s your preferred way.

What to do when you finish upgrading to 14.10.

How to watch YouTube on your Ubuntu machine.

Normally, I run Chrome and/or Chromium instead of Firefox, but there’s a new version of Opera too.

Here’s some tools for scanning on Linux.

How to create a UEFI bootable Ubuntu USB drive using Windows.

Or you can just get a Mac and run the all-new butt-ugly Yosemite.

Twitchy Mouse in Ubuntu

I have a love/hate relationship with Wacom tablets. They’re awesome when they work, but that’s rare, because the drivers are crap. And that’s on a Mac, where a lot of people actually use them.

I installed one on my Linux machine, and from that day forward, the mouse just lived a life of its own — jumping around and generally acting stupid.

So today, on a hunch, I decided to uninstall the Wacom drivers. It seems to have calmed the mouse down a little, but it still randomly jumps a couple of hundred pixels away from where it ought to be.