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September 10, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Rob Echlin

I installed Ubuntu 12.04 on a machine at work, using the WUBI installer. When I did an update, it complained like this:

W: A error occurred during the signature verification. The repository is not updated and the previous index files will be used. GPG error: precise-security Release: The following signatures were invalid: BADSIG 40976EAF437D05B5 Ubuntu Archive Automatic Signing Key <>

It turns out that i was not authorized on the WIFI when I tried to do the update, so of course it failed. The real issue is that it managed to mess up the APT cache, so it kept on failing, even after I had the WIFI running.

The fix, from Ubuntu Forums, was to clear that cache.

cd /var/lib/apt
sudo mv lists lists.old
sudo mkdir -p lists/partial
sudo apt-get update

May 17, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Search in DTD’s on Windows – Fail!

So you have some DTD files: the main DTD files, model files, and entity files, in a number of folders and sub-folders on Windows XP.

They have extensions as follows:

  • dtd
  • mod
  • ent

Search for something using Windows Explorer, in it’s Search pane. Tell it to search all files and folders. Results? Only from some of the files, not all. Why?

Look at the no-search, no-folders mode of Windows Explorer. It offers to help you view videos, but can’t actually find any to show you. Odd, but related. This is because Windows is aware of a video file type with an extension of “mod”. So it won’t search those files.


Let’s try the command line! You can use “find” to search the contents of files, but only in the current folder.


Fix it with GetGnuWin32! And use grep to find your stuff.

Tagged: Gnu, Linux, software, Windows

February 26, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» It’s not the “Sound” app, it’s alsamixer

Finally got the sound working on my laptop, running Mint 12 and Cinnamon.

The fix was to go to the Gnome Alsa Mixer and uncheck “External amplifier”. The “Sound” app on the system bar seemed to allow the same change, but it didn’t seem to stick.

I first tried adding more gStreamer plugins. No effect. There were already some gStream plugins installed, but there are lots and lots of others to distract you!

Tagged: frustration, Linux, Linux sound problem, software

February 20, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» jackd out, sound came back

I have had a real problem with sound on Xubuntu for the last week.

The system says  “Welcome to Xubuntu 9.10″ in the web page reached with “Applications > Help”, and “Update Manager” says “11.04″ is available, so I think this is the system that was originally installed a s 9.10, and upgraded to 10.04 and 10.10.

There was no way for me to get sound out of this system. Many tweaks and such did not help. Windows runs sound fine.

I looked to see if I installed anything recently, and “Synaptic” said I had installed jackd – way back in October. I uninstalled jackd, and now I can output sound. I am able to record from a USB webcam, but won’t use it.

One thing at a time.

Tagged: frustration, Linux, software

February 17, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Your daily tools: Tortoise and ls

Gui is cute, and sometimes productive, but GNU command line saved my sanity today.

Tortoise is a good GUI for using Subversion on Windows. It nicely flags all the files with status symbols on their icons.


Sometimes it gets confused when a change is made 2 or more folders deeper, below the one on display. I don’t know whose cache is causing this – Microsoft’s or Tortoise’s, but it’s a minor issue.

It’s been worse since I upgraded to Tortoise 1.7.5. I jumped from 1.6.x to 1.7.5 the other day while writing docs for some tech writers, including how to install Tortoise.

I have several checkouts (OK, working copies) from the same corporate repository, all checked out in C:\svn. (OK, creativity didn’t seem necessary in this case, OK?)

Today the checkout I am most interested in was mostly not displaying its status icons. Yesterday I wasn’t as worried about it. Usually the entire tree was unaccented. Sometimes a folder would light up until I changed something. Then I noticed that all the “.svn” folders were missing, except in the top folder of the tree. Weird. I checked settings on a couple of things to make sure hidden folders were visible. For a while I had a grain of doubt that maybe the .svn folders were really gone.

So I went to the command line. “dir” didn’t see any .svn folders at all. That was because they were “hidden” by a Microsoft flag on them. “dir /ah” showed them, but not any of the other files/folders. Two dir commands required. Painful.

I have GNU Win32 tools installed, which is a port of the regular GNU tools to Windows.

So the answer was “ls -Al”, or “ls -A” for that economical look.

Thanks to all the GNU developers and those who ported and packaged it for Windows. You help me stay sane on the MS platform.

The site to download for Windows is

Tagged: frustration, Linux, software, tools, Windows

February 10, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Numeric-only date output? Fail!

Yesterday, I donated blood again.

They have been asking you questions on the computer for the last year or so.
Example: “Have you eaten any pogo sticks in the last 30 days (since 09/01/2012)?”
The accompanying voice asks without telling you what the date was a month ago, fortunately. It was enough of a distraction that they used a different reader or a different room when they added new questions; a computer generated voice would have been actually irritating.

So there was the date, to me it meant Sept 1, and my fast read of it ignored the year which would have made that a future date. The fact that I can’t read is hardly relevant here. :-) The real point is that they used numeric dates, which are always ambiguous.

Take this home and tell your friends:
Complain when computers don’t display or print dates with a 4 digit year and a text month that is at least 3 letters long. Maybe we can get a culture going that actually communicates clearly.

And please take any managers you know from Canadian Blood Services to CapCHI meetings on the third Tuesday of the month at The Code Factory. then buy them a beer afterwards at whatever pub we go to.

Have you ever filled out a date field  in DYM or MYD order? Shame on you! :-)

Tagged: computer, frustration, humor, software, software humor

January 18, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Wind River layoffs

Sorry to anyone I talked to about working at Wind River.
We were hiring, now we are laying off.

We have all seen that before…

High tech. Gotta love it!

I am still working at Wind River, in the same position.

Tagged: company, computer industry, frustration

November 16, 2010

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Redmine, please copy Bugzilla

And other projects with multiple dependencies that depend on other things, please copy Bugzilla.

Redmine, like Bugzilla, has this library installation problem. I installed Redmine yesterday, and installed it and installed it and installed it.

I had just installed Xubuntu, so I didn’t even have ruby on the system, and then I couldn’t install the gems, until I found out the package name for “gem” is “rubygems”. That was my second guess, so I didn’t even have to go to Google.

You might think that a place like Redmine would have the list of dependencies in order, but no, the installer page lists “gem install rake” and “gem install rails” before they list “Rubygems 1.3.1 is required”. It’s something you only notice when you are new to installing apps for a specific language. (Note to self: set up an account on their bug site and tell them directly. :-) )

Yup, I just said I found the answer on their web page, one inch below the question, or maybe 3 cm.


After only 10 years, Bugzilla finally solved this problem in version 3.2, with a little help from Perl and CPAN. When you install Bugzilla, or update it, it checks if all the requirements are in place. That’s where it used to stop, with a list of work for you. Now it installs them for you. Yup, it asks first, because it wants to know if you want them in the “global” site library for Perl, or the “local” one for the Bugzilla user.

And then it goes off and gets them, and their dependencies, and their dependencies dependencies, and compiles things that need to be compiled and generally works hard while you work on something else, checking for any questions it might have.

Redmine, and many other apps, could learn from this.

Maybe Ruby can go one better, as a community, and create a generic dependency tool that takes your list of dependencies, and calls “gem” for you, installing the rubygem package, if necessary. You could call it an obvious name like “gemcase” if it’s available or come up with something creative.

This may seem obvious, but I will say it anyway: This gem installer thing can’t be a gem. More obvious stuff: The gem installer thing needs to know how to install rubygem on several OSes or platforms, including Microsoft platforms, by whatever name or means necessary on that platform. You should have it available in your top level folder when you untar your new toy, kinda like configure, although hopefully not so slow.

And no, you don’t want me to scratch this itch, or you might end up with a shell script. Although, maybe that’s just what you need here? ;-) Nah, you can assume Ruby is installed.

Tagged: frustration, review, software, tools

October 21, 2010

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» IPv6 lookup pain in Firefox

According to Google, Firefox has been slow for some people for several years, if they don’t set “network.dns.disableIPv6″ to “true” in “about:config”.

Yup, this issue is still a problem for FireFox users. Mozilla has not decided to “check once” for an IPv6 DNS server and use only IPv4 for a while, like an hour, before checking again.

I may also have this problem on my other machine, which is running Ubuntu 9.04. This is on the Kitchen computer, and when my wife says it’s way too slow in Linux and she’s going to boot back into Windows, I had to find out why.

So when we get IPv6 in our house, I will have to switch back.
Aww, who am I kidding – that will be years from now and my 512MB RAM machine will be long gone.

Tagged: frustration, Linux

October 17, 2010

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Firefox sync << Xmarks, so far

I have used Xmarks for a couple of years. I track the same tech stuff at work as I do for my blog and personal research, so synchronizing is useful. With Xmarks about to disappear (not so likely now), I quickly installed Firefox Sync. It seemed to work, at first, but then one of my machines got into a state where all its bookmarks were gone, and it couldn’t get them back from the Firefox sync server.

I eventually fixed it, by configuring a different Firefox instance to push its bookmarks everywhere, then I was able to get the info onto the losing machine.

Xmarks is not perfect either. On my machines with 512MB RAM and one CPU, Xmarks ties down the machine completely while it syncs. Can’t do nuthin!

Tagged: frustration, Linux

October 16, 2010

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Too long is too bad

Long is good. Too long is too bad.

Steve McConnell tells us in Code Complete, that long variable names are good. I think it’s in the section on “Self-documenting code”.

In object oriented languages, you have the object name, the name of a possible sub-object, and the name of a particular field or item in the object, which all add up to a descriptive long name, but split into different parts.

Example: mypack.special-effect.color = chartreuse

However, I have been working in Gnu Make lately. Gnu Make recommends that you only use numbers, letters, and underscores in Make, as other characters may be used for other special purposes now or in the future. Now, in Gnu Make, you don’t have real objects. You do have “constructed variables”. By using recipes with wildcards in them, and constructing variable names with pattern substitution, you can get some of the same effect as objects. However, the variable names look kinda ugly.

Example: testset_special_effect_color = chartreuse

Its easy in make to get a few lines like the following. The intent here is to make a copy of one pseudo-object that will only be used when code coverage is in effect:

# Initial special effect setup
regression_mypack_special_effect_targets = \
  testset_chartreuse \
  testset_bland \

regression_mypack_special_exec = mypack_special_exec

# copy for code coverage
regression_mypack_special_effect_ccov_targets = \

regression_mypack_special_back_color_iterations := 4

My problem was that I copied the variable name wrong. In line 8, I wanted to make a copy of the list of targets, with the names modified to be the ccov version of the targets. The difference is nearly invisible in the middle of the long variable name.

Verbose, clear variable names are an important part of self documenting code. Monotonous names with only underscore separators make that hard. Yet another reason to avoid “make” for complex projects.

Tagged: frustration, languages, software

October 5, 2010

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» WordPress is funny that way

Will their web site ever remember my user name?

March 10, 2010

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Hemingway gone

So I was watching the edit page tune up, taking forever, text instead of icons, and one said “Insert More Tag”. And it did what I wanted and I just had to edit 38 or so posts, waiting for the very slow edit window to tune up 38 or so times. And now you can see more than one post title on the same screen. Woohoo! And the very irritating tag and category links still point to some page so you can find other topics that match this one from all over WordPress, but they’re mostly not on my blog, but the tag cloud works properly, at the moment anyway.

And I might like Hemingway if I could control the colors, but it’s so dark and a bit hard to read and the text on the links on the ‘white’ variant is too light and really, really hard to read. So anyway, here we are at a plainer style, but I think it’s easier to read.

So I hopya likit. :-)

Tagged: frustration, fun, site