Amazing what we can do these days eh?

Automation is pretty crazy. As I type this, I’m unsure what is actually going to happen when I hit Publish. You see, up until a week ago, I had a pretty jury rigged system where I posted something to a Joomla based CMS that was rather clunky, and then I twittered about it, and that twitter post went to my facebook status. Along the way a component for Joomla would download entries from my other blogs and Pocket PC Thoughts and dump them into the database. This seemed to work out pretty well, but I thought perhaps a more up-to-date system would be nice. Especially with all the changes coming up in the next few months, why not have a better site?
So I’m typing this in the backend of WordPress (Being on a Linux laptop I’m unable to use Windows Live Writer or Word right now), and I have a bunch of gizmos turned on to do various things. First of all, I’m tagging this with a Twitter tag, which I THINK is supposed to trigger some plugin I have to push this out to Twitter and a bunch of other websites (e.g. statuses on Facebook, Myspace, etc..). I’m not sure if it will work. At the same time, the same plugin should push this out as a note on Facebook, but who knows if it will (If you’re reading this there, then I guess it worked).

Now Twitter poses a bit of a problem for me because when this publishes out, I don’t want it sucked back in. Why would it do that? Well, my status updates need to be archived for glory on JonWestfall.Com, and if my status update advertises my blog item and then the status update actually upstages the blog item, it just creates a self-referential storm of junk on the homepage. So I hopefully found a solution using Yahoo! Pipes that should block from my twitter feed any items with [JonWestfall.Com] in them from EVER appearing back on the homepage. Ugh.

If this sounds confusing, that’s because it really is. All I want is everything I write to A) appear on JonWestfall.Com in some form and B) my friends to know I’ve posted something (in whatever medium they’re using or accessing). I guess those two are mutually exclusive to some extent. So what will happen when I press “Publish”? Who knows, but hopefully something good.

Why So Much Difficulty Outlook?

OK, so today I’m taking a break from the world of Linux to focus on the world of Windows. Windows 7 to be exact, which now lives on my Toshiba L305 alongside Ubuntu (dual-boot). I’m putting 7 through the paces which for me means installing Office 2007 and setting up Outlook 2007. I have a somewhat screwy outlook 2007 setup to begin with since I run my e-mail off my own server with it’s own self-signed certificate. So I did what I felt I had to do: Exported the root certificate from another computer, started up mmc.exe on the Win7 box and added the “Certificates” snap-in (Under the Machine account) and then imported the root certificate to the “Trusted Root Certificate Authorities” folder.

So far so good. Outlook Web Access (OWA) popped up in IE without any complaining about my cert, but Outlook on the desktop (Formerly known as RPC over HTTP, now known as Outlook Anywhere) was being a pain. Luckily I found this page on Technet Social which talks about similar issues. One post mentioned formatting the username as \ which I thought was nuts as I’ve always used my e-mail address. But I tried it and…. amazingly… it worked. So that’s what it took to get Outlook setup!

Strangely enough it now always requires I use the \ format. I don’t know if this is inherent to Windows 7 or what. Not ready to rule it a bug as it may simply be I messed up something on my Exchange server since I last set up Outlook.

Jon’s Linux Experiment – Part 4 – The PPTP VPN Snafu

Well, here is a new problem that I’ve solved, with a little help from a few websites!

Like many people who work on the internet, I need to connect to a VPN from time to time to work. My VPN, a PPTP Windows 2003 Server VPN, is a nice little setup that I use to remote into a variety of webservers. However VPN setups in Ubuntu have always been a bit strange to work with. Here’s what I had to do to get my PPTP VPN connection established:

I largely followed the guide here, first by running sudo apt-get install network-manager-pptp and then by setting up a VPN by using network manager in Ubuntu. I ran into a few problems, mostly because I used a domain name in the credentials box when i did not have to. Clearing that and enabling MPPE encryption (See the guide posted above) resolved a lot of the errors I had and let me successfully connect. Other problems I ran across but were not part of my issue were of firewall irregularities or of a “unique setup” nature. The best advice I can offer to anyone is to just keep searching. Eventually you’ll get your PPTP setup going, and it shall be sweet!

Jon’s Linux Experiment – Part 3 – Watching DVDs

This last Christmas (the one a few weeks ago), my totally awesome in-laws bought me something every geek should own, Star Trek: The Next Generation – that’s right, all 179 stupendous episodes (Yes, even “The Naked Now” counts as stupendous… just barely). So when I started messing around with my new Linux machine, I wanted to watch my TNG as I had with the old Compaq.

Which brings me to a funny point about Ubuntu: An almost fanatical devotion to Open Source. Open Source means software has to be licensed under particular licenses – and that little piece of software that actually plays back an encrypted (e.g. store-bought) DVD is not under the right sort of license. Therefore, it isn’t available out of the box. Boo! (for the pain, not for Open Source).

Fortunately many  other geeks have had the same desire to watch Star Trek and have put together a plethora of posts like this one explaining what to do to solve the problem. I could post to any one of them, but figured I’d write it up again with the help of two websites I found particularly helpful – this one and this one. For Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) here’s what I did to get DVD playback going as well as playing it with my media browser of choice, VLC.

1. Add the Medibuntu sources to your aptitude sources list:

sudo wget http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/intrepid.list --output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list<br /><br /><font face="sans-serif">2. Run this pretty awesome command line and answer "yes" when it prompts you:<br /><br /></font>sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get update<br /><br /><font face="sans-serif">3. Install the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.videolan.org/developers/libdvdcss.html">libdvdcss2</a> package, which you need to view DVDs</font><br /><br /><font face="Courier New">sudo apt-get install libdvdcss2</font><br /><br /><font face="sans-serif">4. (Optional) Install another package that will let you play non-free codecs that you may want to view if you're coming from a windows world (such as Real player, quicktime, etc...)</font><br />

sudo apt-get install w32codecs

5. (Optional) Install VLC and make it your default video player for DVDs

sudo apt-get -y install vlc

6. Change file associations to VLC (if you installed it in step 5)

a) Edit /etc/gnome/defaults.list  and change “totem.desktop” to “vlc.desktop” in the line containing “x-content/video-dvd)
b) In Nautilus go to Edit, then Preferences. On the Media tab, select VLC as the drop down choice for DVD-Video.
c) Right click on Applications and choose “edit Menus”. Find VLC and change it’s source to vlc %m instead of vlc %f

So there you have it, how I was able to get down to enjoying ST:TNG on my new Ubuntu system. One rather strange caveat though: My DVD drive decided to spin like a freaking monster while playing the first DVD. I realized it was spinning as fast as possible, not spun down when it was just going along at a steady pace. I used the following command to change it to 4x which was fast enough for all my purposes, and made it sound less like my laptop was planning to take off:

sudo hdparm -E 4 /dev/scd0

You can always change it back later by changing the 4 to whatever multiplier you’d like (e.g. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc…)

Jon’s Linux Experiment – Part 2 – The Wireless Snafu

So I’ve been pretty impressed by how much hardware works out of the box with newer linux distributions (e.g. everything built from 2004 on), but one area that seems to still be annoying to deal with is wireless drivers. Between such strange solutions as using ndiswrapper to run your windows drivers in Linux to hacks here and there to native Linux drivers, wireless can be a pain in the @$$! So it wasn’t really suprising when I booted into Ubuntu and wireless didn’t work.

The solution, however, took a bit of digging since everyone seemed to have their own take on how it should be done. for my particular rig, the solution I found was fairly simple – albeit it required a bit of downloading. This should work with Atheros AR5007EG or AR242x cards (and possibly others). Here’s the simple version.

Goal: Update drivers!

Steps (Everything in This Font is a command to enter into a Terminal window)

1. Prepare machine to do a bit of compiling:

sudo aptitude install build-essential

2. Download latest drivers from This Website, the file you need is compat-wireless-2.6.tar.bz2 which the following command should fetch, although it gave me errors

wget http://wireless.kernel.org/download/compat-wireless-2.6/compat-wireless-2.6.tar.bz2

3. Extract said files

sudo tar -jxvf compat-wireless-2.6.tar.bz2

4. Go into that directory in the terminal

cd compat*

5. Make something, install it, unload the old stuff and load the new. Run the following commands:

make
sudo make install
sudo make unload
sudo make load

At this point the clouds parted and my frickin laptop could connect to it’s wireless network, my home WPA-protected network. If you would have any problems with this and have to go to another method (such as the others that the page I linked to above shows), simply run the following commands to uninstall:

sudo make unload
sudo make uninstall

So there you have it, my first linux “bump” fixed. Stay tuned for the battle of the DVD Playing!

Jon’s Linux Experiment – Part 1 – The Rig

While I’m a big fan of Linux (and have used distributions on and off since Redhat 4.2), I’ve never run a full-fledged Linux Desktop system. With the aging of my Compaq n800C and the need for a new rig, I have recently taken ownership of a Toshiba Satellite L305 (Not to be confused with my X205 Gaming Rig!). Below are the stats of the new system, which will run Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) and Windows 7 beta (When it’s released to testers, no leaked builds). It shipped with Vista Home Premium, which it ran admirably until I installed Ubuntu!

So I’m off – the first entry in my Desktop Linux Experiment. I’ll be posting a few more rapid-fire here as I discuss a few problems I found on Day 1 (Yesterday) to bring everyone up to speed and hopefully help others in similar situations.

Rig Stats:

CPU: Intel Pentium dual-core T3400 (2.16 GHz)
Screen: 15.4″ WXGA
Memory: 2 GB DDR2
HD: 160 GB

Shared Video, Modem, LAN, WLAN (b/g, Atheros).

Price: $449.99 (On sale last week, this week it has sorta jumped to $549!)

PC Magazine Editor Throws in the Towel on Vista

If the unthinkable is moving to linux, what is dropping back down to XP
then? The unfathonable?
Seriously, Vista will get better people – but to believe that anything
will happen fast from Microsoft is just an expression of deep ignorance.
Sent to you by Jonathan via Google Reader: PC Magazine Editor Throws in
the Towel on Vista via Slashdot by twitter (posted by ScuttleMonkey) on
Aug 18, 2007 MacNN caught this incredible defection and loss of faith
by a former Vista booster, PC Magazine editor-in-chief Jim Louderback,
as he steps down from his position. “I’ve been a big proponent of the
new OS over the past few months, even going so far as loading it onto
most of my computers and spending hours tweaking and optimizing it. So
why, nine months after launch, am I so frustrated? The litany of what
doesn’t work and what still frustrates me stretches on endlessly. The
upshot is that even after nine months, Vista just ain’t cutting it. I
definitely gave Microsoft too much of a free pass on this operating
system: I expected it to get the kin
ks worked out more quickly. Boy,
was I fooled! If Microsoft can’t get Vista working, I might just do the
unthinkable: I might move to Linux.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Things you can do from here:
– Visit the original item on Slashdot
– Subscribe to Slashdot using Google Reader
– Get started using Google Reader to easily keep up with all your
favorite sites

Setting Up Brick Level Backup On Exchange 2007 With ExMerge

Way back in January I attended Microsoft’s Exchange 2007 / Vista / Office 2007 launch event in Cleveland. I sat there with one of my fellow Bug Jr. Executives and marvelled at how PowerShell would change the way we managed our Exchange box. exmerge-splash-computerEagerly, I then Installed Exchange 2007 on our primary mail server back in May, and found out that PowerShell, despite it’s wonderful abilities, was a royal pain to work with for the un-initiated. Sure, I’d used command-line tools before (Heck, I run a linux box for fun, with just Webmin to help me manage it), but I was not ready for PowerShell’s glorious take-over of some very simple Exchange administration tasks!

Continue reading “Setting Up Brick Level Backup On Exchange 2007 With ExMerge”

Ultimate Link List

The Ultimate Link Listing

Ultimate Link Listing Compiled by Jon Westfall (jon@jonwestfall.com) Distribute as you like, yet please keep this note on here so that people may send me more great links!

Continue reading “Ultimate Link List”