Archive for May, 2011

Ubuntu real-time syslog logging to unused console TTY

Without going into a full run down on Ubuntu TTYs and how they work, there’s a very simple way to have Ubuntu log events in real-time to an unused TTY that you can access with a quick keystroke. This gives you the ability to see log events in real-time for easier troubleshooting.

This probably isn’t news to some. as it’s already written in the configuration file and just commented out, but I always seem to forget how to enable it, and I’m sure some other people would appreciate this.

First, what we’ll do is enable syslog to log events to an unused TTY. Edit /etc/rsyslog.d/50-default.conf and look for the following section:

#       news.=crit;news.=err;news.=notice;
#       *.=debug;*.=info;
#       *.=notice;*.=warn       /dev/tty8

You can use TTY8, but I prefer TTY12 for reasons that involve X. Change /dev/tty8 to /dev/tty12, and remove the # comment marks from all 4 lines to enable it. Save.

Restart the rsyslogd service:

/etc/init.d/rsyslogd restart

You could also use the upstart restart method:

restart rsyslog

Now you’ve got this set up, how do you view it? Press CTRL-ALT-F12 on your keyboard to go to TTY12 and view your real-time log. To get back to your X (GUI) session, CTRL-ALT-F7 or CTRL-ALT-F8 (X usually runs on TTY7, but can be running on TTY8 sometimes.)

Update 4/26/17:

Newer versions of syslogd may require a backslash or pipe symbol like in the two following example configs to work properly:

       *.=notice;*.=warn       |/dev/tty12
       *.=notice;*.=warn       /dev/tty12

Any thoughts or comments on the above? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

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Convert a VMware hard drive image between single-file and split modes

When creating a VMware virtual machine, you have two choices as to the format of your hard drive file: a single expanding file, or split into many 2GB files.

Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. The single file is faster for larger disks, but can’t be used on FAT32 filesystems (4GB file size limit) and can get to be a challenge to move to another system once it starts getting really large. The split-file hard drive type is easier to move around and works on FAT32, but can suffer degraded performance when you get a very large drive of the files become fragmented. It’s also easier to manage backing up 2GB files rather than a single large file.

However, if you have a need, you can convert between the two types fairly easily. The following information is based on from a knowledge-base article at

Before starting, make sure the VM is not running in Snapshot and is powered off.

To convert a single file to a split-file hard drive:

vmware-vdiskmanager -r  -t  

Type is one of:

  • 0 : single growable virtual disk
  • 1 : growable virtual disk split in 2GB files
  • 2 : preallocated virtual disk
  • 3 : preallocated virtual disk split in 2GB files


vmware-vdiskmanager -r winxp.vmdk -t 1 winxp-2.vmdk

Successful conversion gives the following output:

Creating disk 'winxp-2.vmdk'
Convert: 100% done.
Virtual disk conversion successful.

What you’ve just done is make a copy of the disk — the VM is still set to boot from the old disk image. In order to change this, simply edit the .vmx file for that VM in a text editor and change the line that pointed to your old .vmdk hard drive image to your new one.


ide0:0.fileName = "winxp.vmdk"

changes to

ide0:0.fileName = "winxp-2.vmdk"

Now you can save this file and power on your VM.

Please feel free to share questions, comments, or feedback in the comments section below. Thank you.

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Dell A940 Printer on Windows 7

Someone recently asked me about setting up a Dell A940 printer for them on Windows 7.

After seeing that the Windows 7 Compatibility Center lists it as “Not Compatible” for both 32-bit and 64-bit, I wasn’t optimistic that it was going to work at all.

After plugging it in, Windows 7 identified the scanner function but didn’t want to have anything to do with the printer functions of the device.

After some searching, I found a post on the Dell community forums. It says that there are Windows Vista drivers for both 32-bit and 64-bit, which work fine on Windows 7 and fully enable both the scanner and printer functions.

Here’s direct download links for anyone who is looking:

According to the poster there, in order to get this printer to work well, you’ll want to have up-to-date .NET Framework and Java.

This strikes me as a little curious because Windows Vista and Windows 7 are based on similar driver architecture, and the device should be listed as supported. But, even though it’s not, the above drivers seem to work fine.




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How to check your hard drives SMART status using a Ubuntu Live CD

Checking your hard drive’s SMART status is a good idea if you’re running into issues that make you think the hard drive may be bad. In this scenario, I’ll be showing you how to use a Ubuntu Live CD to check the hard drive’s SMART status. This is good for situations where you either boot to the installed OS, cannot reliably install an OS, or cannot install a program on the installed OS to check it yourself.

This walkthough uses the Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop 32-bit CD to prevent issues that may arise from Unity. Download links:

Assuming you follow only the instructions in this guide, the data on your hard drive won’t be affected by this check. However, if your drive is catastrophically failing, i.e. head crash, any disk activity may lead to further data loss.

First, boot off the CD.

Select your language with the arrow keys, press enter.

Select Try Ubuntu without installing

After a moment or two you will be at the GNOME desktop (Menu bar at the top and taskbar at the bottom). Don’t worry if it’s slow, it’s to be expected — you’re working off a Live CD.

From the System menu, select Administration then Disk Utility.

The Disk Utility window appears. On the left pane, locate and click your system’s hard drive.

On the right page, locate the field that says “SMART Status” — your drives status will appear.

If it says “Not Supported”, your drive (or host controller) doesn’t support the SMART protocol and can’t give you any information. However, it may take a few moments to refresh. You can always run the SMART tests to force it to check the drive again.

Once you’re finished checking the SMART status, shut down by clicking the power icon in the very top-right corner of your screen, or simply hold the power button on your PC for 4 seconds. Eject the disk and your PC will boot to the hard drive.

Questions or comments about using the Ubuntu Disk Utility to check SMART status are welcome in the comments.

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Ignoring hidden directories in CrashPlan for Linux

By default, CrashPlan backs up everything in your home folder including all hidden directories (directories starting with a dot (.). This would include some directories your probably don’t want backed up, such as ~/.local/share/Trash (your trash) and a bunch of other hidden directories.

Fortunately CrashPlan’s file exclusion feature includes a way to specify exclusions by regular expression. Simply go to Settings > Backup and next to Filename Exclusions click the configure button.

Check the box for Regular Expression and enter this:


Click the plus sign, then ok, then save again.

That will exclude all the dotted directories from your backups.

Reference: CrashPlan Support – Using Regular Expressions (regex)

Have any filename exclusions that you use on your backups? Feel free to share your rationale in the comments below!

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How to permanently ignore a Windows XP update

In order to ignore a Windows XP update, you have to make sure Automatic Updates is NOT set to Automatic. Rather, set it to one of the following two settings (in Control Panel > Automatic Updates):

  • Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them.
  • Notify me but don’t automatically download or install them.

Windows will, upon finding updates, prompt you that updates are available but will not install them. This will give you a chance to ignore your selected update. If you want to force Windows to check for updates immediately, open a command prompt and type:

wuauclt /detectnow

Next, once the update is available and you’re prompted to begin the installation, select Advanced. This will show your list of potential updates in a checkbox-list format.

Uncheck the update you do not want to install and click Next.

You will then be prompted if you want to ignore the update. Confirm.

Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome.

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Toshiba L515-S4960 and Windows XP

Windows XP is not officially supported by Toshiba, and they offer very limited software downloads. This guide will attempt to give you the best installation instructions and driver download locations that apply to this model. Also, you may find the detailed spec sheet handy when looking for drivers.


Before installing Windows XP, go into the BIOS and change the SATA Operation mode to “Compatibility.” Read why here.


Insert your Windows XP disc. Immediately after powering on the system, tap F12 repeatedly to enter the boot device selection menu. Manually pick “boot from cd/dvd drive” and follow the on-screen directions.

Post-Installation (Drivers)

The following attempts to list the device IDs and driver download locations for Windows XP drivers. You may want to check your device IDs to verify same hardware.

Required Windows Components

The following Windows components are required for some drivers to successfully install:

Ethernet (10ec:8136) – Realtek PCIe FE Family Controller

WinXP, Win2K, Win2003 Auto Installation Program (SID:1453654) [link]

Wireless (Unknown Device ID) – Realtek RTL8187SE

Windows driver auto installation program [link] may or may not work.

This is the device that’s installed according to the spec sheet. However, several of these have the below Atheros chipset device.

Wireless (168c:001c) – Atheros Communications AR5BXB63 (AR5006X) /
WLL3141 (Toshiba PA3613U-1MPC) 802.11bg Wireless Adapter

Driver is here [link], but you will have to use the inf installation method, as there is no exe. Point to the netathwx.inf file in the download.

Video Controller (8086:2A43) and (8086:2A42) – Intel Graphics 4500M

Intel Graphics 4500M [link]

PCI data aquisition + signal processing controller (8086:2932) – 82801I (ICH9 Family) Thermal Subsystem

Seems to be satisfied by installing this driver [link] – Feedback is appreciated.

Sound (8086:293E) – Intel Corporation 82801I (ICH9 Family) HD Audio Controller

Intel® HD Audio Controller – Realtek [link] (partially working – reportedly needs SMbus driver to work)

SM Bus controller (8086:2930) – 82801I (ICH9 Family) SMBus Controller

Satisfied by [linkNote: It seems after running this driver (even though it uninstalled the above Intel HD Audio driver) then running the Intel Driver Update Utility (below) appears to completely satisfy audio drivers.

Modem (11C1:1040) – Modem device on High Definition Audio Bus / Agere Systems HDA Modem

Toshiba Software Modem Driver for Windows XP [link] – But reportedly doesn’t satisfy this device. The Lenovo driver at [link] may work instead.

Audio device on High Definition Audio Bus (10EC:0268) – Realtek Audio

Windows 2000, Windows XP/2003(32/64 bits) Driver only (Executable file) [link]

Intel Driver Update Utility

Available at [link] – May detect some drivers but not all.

It appears that this Toshiba has hardware similar to the Dell Vostro V13 [link] and the Dell Studio 1555 [link]. You may be able to find some drivers to fill the missing pieces by checking the links above. Please let me know what works for you so that I can update information.

If you own or use this model Toshiba laptop and have different hardware, or have a link to a driver not listed above, or even an alternate driver download location, please feel free to leave a comment below. I will be updating this article as I find applicable drivers. If anything here has helped you, please let me know by leaving a kudos!

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CrashPlan backup to Samba share on Linux

For about a week now I’ve been wrestling with implementing a system where CrashPlan would backup to my network drive. I ran into a really bit problem: When you mount a network location in Gnome using the GUI (gvfs), root can’t access it. Since the CrashPlan engine runs at root, it makes the network location unusable as a backup destination.

After a while of working on different ways to solve this rather large hurdle, I came up with the idea of simply mounting the network location using smbmount (mount.cifs). After some testing and tweaking, I was able to get it successfully working and added an entry to fstab to have it mount at boot time. I chose /mnt/mynas as the mount point.

See Synology DiskStation and Samba mount permissions for my method of getting it mounted with the correct file permissions.

Once it was set to mount at boot-time, I can now open the CrashPlan client and set /mnt/mynas as a destination folder, and now I have both local and off-site backups!

Feel free to share your thoughts and/or feedback in the comments below!

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Synology DiskStation and Samba mount permissions

So today I was using smbmount to mount a network share from my Synology DiskStation to my Linux PC when I noticed a rather annoying file permissions issue that I couldn’t seem to fix. Why am I using smbmount and not Gnome’s GUI to mount? Because I need root to have access to the file system as well so that CrashPlan can back up to it.

Here’s what happened:

First, I mounted the share (as root):

smbmount //diskstation/mike /mnt/mynas -o credentials=/home/mike/mike.cred,uid=mike,gid=mike

(For more information on the smbmount or the mount.cifs credentials file, see the Ubuntu manpage for mount.cifs)

That worked great, except for when I do this (as root)…

ls -ld /mnt/mynas

… I get the following output:

drwxrwxrwx 17 mike mike 0 2011-05-20 09:25 mynas

I sure didn’t want the directory world-writable. So I tried specifying file_mode and dir_mode as both 0755 using the following (as root):

smbmount //diskstation/mike /mnt/mynas -o credentials=/home/mike/mike.cred,uid=mike,gid=mike,file_mode=0755,dir_mode=0755

Then I checked it:

ls -ld /mnt/mynas

… and got:

drwxrwxrwx 17 mike mike 0 2011-05-20 09:25 mynas

That didn’t do anything at all to help. Why? Because as it turns out the DiskStation is using a Samba server with CIFS extensions and is passing the permissions to smbmount (mount.cifs). The file_mode and dir_mode options are ignored if the remote server is using CIFS extensions.


If the server does not support the CIFS Unix extensions this overrides the default file mode.


If the server does not support the CIFS Unix extensions this overrides the default mode for directories.

Source: Ubuntu manpages.

So there’s a couple of options here. First, I could set it to mount somewhere inside /home/mike, which would generally protect it. But I’d really like to know what’s up with the file permissions. So I did a little more Google-fu.

As it turns out, the CIFS extensions on the DiskStation can be disabled, all it takes is to edit a file. Lepoulpe posted on the Synology forums the following edit:

you can disable “unix extensions” in the ds106’s samba server. To achieve this, you need to add the folowing line in the [global] section of /usr/syno/etc/smb.conf :

unix extensions=no

So, I SSH’d into my DiskStation as root (should be the same password as ‘admin’ if you’re having trouble) and used the vi editor to make the edit. Afterwards, I restarted samba on the DiskStation by doing this:

/usr/syno/etc/rc.d/ restart

Then I remounted the Samba share as root…

smbmount //diskstation/mike /mnt/mynas -o credentials=/home/mike/mike.cred,uid=mike,gid=mike,file_mode=0750,dir_mode=0750

… and checked the permissions:

ls -ld /mnt/mynas

… and got the following output:

drwxr-x--- 17 mike mike 0 2011-05-20 09:25 mynas

Exactly right.

So now I have /mnt/mynas mounted to my share on the DiskStation. If I wanted it to mount on boot, I could add something like the following to /etc/fstab:

//diskstation/mike /mnt/mynas smbfs auto,credentials=/home/mike/mike.cred,uid=mike,gid=mike,dir_mode=0750,file_mode=0750,user 0 0

Questions about my method? Have any feedback or alternate methods to share? Please feel free to do so in the comments below. Thank you!

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How to get Vendor and Device IDs in Windows to find missing drivers

If you’re missing a driver in Windows, it can be extremely frustrating if the manufacturer doesn’t have one listed on their website. That leaves you to go find it yourself on the Internet.

The key to getting working drivers revolves not around matching them to the manufacturer, but matching them to the device IDs. Believe it or not, Dell drivers will run the same device on a Toshiba, on an HP, etc as long as the device IDs on the hardware match that on the driver. You can even go directly to the chipset manufacturer’s (Realtek, Atheros, Intel, etc) website to get drivers from them.

So how do you find the device IDs?

Go to Device manager, then find a device with a yellow exclamation mark (missing driver) and double-click it.

Go to the details tab. The drop-down should read “Device Instance ID”

Below it, read the ID and take the following bold bits from it:


In this case, the Vendor ID is 10EC and the Device ID is 8136. A common representation of this is the Vendor ID and the Device ID seperated by a colon or hyphen, such as 10EC:8136 or 10EC-8136. Running these through your favorite search engine should turn up drivers fairly quickly. If nothing else, it will help you find the full name of the device and help you find it on the chipset manufacturer’s website.

Another thing to note is the subsystem. That’s the part after the SUBSYS parameter. Windows shows it as 8 hex characters (in this case ff661179 but you can also find it represented as ff66:1179. This may be important in driver matching as well.

Be wary though — some sketchy download sites will trick you into giving away personal information (email address, cell phone number, etc) or ask that you install software (toolbar, driver installer) in order to download drivers from them. Avoid these scams!

Please feel free to comment!

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