Category Archives: Ubuntu

Using DeposZip Under Linux (Mint 11/Ubuntu 11.04)

Our new credit union provides the capability to do on-line check deposits using an application called DeposZip. Of course, their web site only mentions support/instructions for Windows and MacOS, not Linux. Well, the application is actually server-hosted and uses a Java applet (or some ActiveX thing if on Windows) to get things done.

If it goes as planned, the application can work with your TWAIN-enabled scanner to get the check images directly within the application. Sadly, this did not work for me – it produced a pop-up window saying only “SK.gnome.TwainManager.getDefaultSource()LSK/gnome/twain/TwainSource;”. I figure this is refering to a value that is supposed to be defined somewhere (and is not?), but in looking at the file system and googling I came up with nothing. OK, so the application offers two more options under the applet, copying the image from the clipboard (which also did not work – with no error this time) and loading an image file, which does work.

To create the image file, I scanned the front and back of the check separately using XSane and saved each as a .png (or jpeg) image. I then loaded these images as requested by the application. DeposZip took the 200 dpi color scans and further processed them to what looked like high contrast greyscale or B&W images shown in a preview. The rest systematically worked OK from there, the deposit was accepted for processing.

BTW, DeposZip also offers a “zero client” version as a link in the footer of the applet. This seems to load another page totally doing away with the java applet and using instead a standard web form with upload link for the image files. This works similarly to the above, but without the image preview you see in the applet happening until the next step in the process.

So long as you follow the endorsement instructions exactly (which unfortunately require you to write a whole lot of stuff on the reverse of the check) and the check is below $1500, the deposit will go through fine. Nice way to avoid a drive to the bank or ATM!

Linux Mint 11 (was Debian/Xfce) on a HP Pavilion ze4600

My brother’s Win XP laptop died. He has limited computer needs, really just needs to use some web applications like Facebook, Yahoo mail, Hulu and Youtube. In the past he has had significant virus issues under Windows and I’ve been proposing to him for years to move over to Linux. This happenstance caused him to be finally open to it.

This HP laptop is fairly old, it has an old AMD mobile processor, USB 1.1 and no built-in wireless hardware. This meant that the operating system had to be fairly lightweight to make this solution work well. I personally use Linux Mint (currently Mint 11/Gnome) as my own desktop and was aware of the new Debian Edition of Mint, which is available in a version using the Xfce desktop (again, lightweight resource use) which I thought would be very suitable. Plus, I wanted to get more personal experience with Debian. 😉

So I launched a project to install Mint LMDE Xfce edition on this machine. This proved to be quite difficult. For some reason, the installer would run extremely slowly – but curously, would speed up if I kept the mouse moving. But seeing as I only discovered that the second time around, once the installer had run overnight the first time around, that was little help. I ended up installing LMDE twice, because the first time it would not work properly. The second time worked, and the machine was quite nice and snappy, despite the paltry resources of this machine.

So all was good, and I got things set up well and everything he would need to use was working. Delivered the unit, he was happy. Great. Project over…

Not quite. A few days later I hear he is having trouble. It is difficult to troubleshoot remotely because there seems to be some sort of permissions issue that is preventing him from running even the tools I would normally use to connect to the machine from my home. It was almost as if SELinux was somehow in play and blocking stuff, but it had all worked before and I did not create his account with privs to change anything sensitive.

I never did get LMDE back working on the machine. Instead I chose to reinstall from scratch using Linux Mint 11 LXDE. That went smoothly (and much quicker!) and the machine has been running trouble-free since. And I was smart enough to create an image of the install this time as a backup to slap back on the machine should he have any other problems. Everything will be right back to working state in just a few minutes.

In all fairness, Mint LMDE is new and “not for your average user”, so my having trouble is really not that unexpected. I’d hoped to be able to get it running and stable and then lock it down from any changes that would destabilize it, but that proved to be insufficient. I really do want to move to a Debian base to avoid the major reinstalls periodically required with Ubuntu-based systems (Debian systems have “rolling” upgrades which keep fresh without the need to reinstall) but I think that will be best attempted with my own desktop or netbook in the future. Best to keep the others I support on the more frequently traveled path.

Monster Desktop Renewal with Linux Mint 11

I’ve been having a spot of trouble with my Mint 9 desktop machine recently, where something would lock up Gnome/X periodically. Somehow it seemed related to running OpenOffice and Firefox at the same time with something “video” happening. (Now, to be honest, I’d done my Mint 9 installation in a “messy” way — I was too lazy to reconfigure stuff, so I just reused my home directory leaving all the “dot” (configuration) files in place — so I probably caused the problem myself.)

After having it happen to me several times in one day, I decided this was the perfect excuse to upgrade my 5+ year old hardware to more recent stuff. My pals at NewEgg were great in setting me up with some new gear I could swap into my existing box:

  • AMD Phenom II x4 925: 4-core processor
  • Asus M4A78LT-M Motherboard
  • 8 GB G. SKILL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 Memory

I was able to re-use all my other existing stuff, so I was able to jump up to a monster but energy efficient system for less than Netbook dollars.

I ended up choosing Linux Mint 11 (the release candidate version) as my OS to install. The great thing about Mint is their Mint Backup tool. Not only will it allow you to do simple home directory backups, but it provides an easy mechanism to move to a new installation and preserve your installed software packages selection. Even across architectures (which is what I was doing, moving from a 32-bit install to 64-bit).

The installation proceeded in a pretty much painless way, and in a short while I ended up with a system that can do pretty much anything I need with all my old files and applications in place. All my old HW worked without issue. Mint 11 includes Firefox 4 and the internet screams on this thing. Hulu/Flash worked out of the box. Only problem was needing to install the Gnome Alsamixer to mute the sound card capture until the TV tuner was started.

I’ll be continuing to make a few tweaks and bring back some of the old dot files for my prior customizations, but it looks like the sailing is going to be smooth. Especially notable given that this is not a final release. Thanks Mint Team!

Update 6/15/11: Mint 11 is now released, and all the packages updated automatically for me from the RC versions. Everything is still working smoothly but for one issue: my new Cyber Power CP1500 AVR UPS is apparently not playing well with the system.

Periodically I get a notification that the UPS battery is low and the system automatically hibernates. The battery is not low, and the UPS knows it based upon what shows on its built-in display. I did not install Cyber Power’s linux software previously because it appeared that everything was already working out of the box (there was an added tab under the GNOME Power Settings for what actions to take while on UPS power). I’ve now installed their SW to see if it makes any difference. My quick work-around was to unplug the USB connection so the system can’t get a power low signal and therefore doesn’t hibernate, but I’d rather use the automatic shutdown capability properly. So far the shutdowns seem to have stopped so the SW seems to be working, will see if it does so from here forward. Their documentation is clearly by a non-native English speaker so it is a bit tricky to understand, FYI.

Disk Partition Cloning with Live Linux Tools

This post is currently more of an in-process note to myself to remember stuff I had to just rediscover. Last time I did this I was going from Ubuntu 6.06 x86 to 8.04 x64. Should it help you too, all the better! (And yes, this will work on Windows files just as well, I used it when moving from XP to Linux originally.)

  • Use live Linux CD to boot system (this time, used an old 5.x series Knoppix CD I had already — the latest Knoppix 6.2.1 seems to have changed dramatically and did not leave me feeling familiar enough to recreate what I’d done the last time, x years ago)
  • Make sure disc partitions to be imaged aren’t mounted to prevent activity changing contents. With this version of Knoppix it was easy, with the disk icons showing on the desktop
  • Use df -h to confirm what is mounted where. I had originally tried doing all this with the SystemRescueCD v0.2.19 but I must have been doing something wrong with mounting the partitions, which I was able to do correctly here
  • Use sudo to mount /media/sdc3 partition (the target destination on removable USB disk) as root, then sudo partimage to start the PartitionImage tool

PartImage’s use is pretty straightforward, but need to be sure to specify the entire path to the image file! Eg: /mount/sdc3/IMAGE-FILE-BASE-NAME . Pretty much all the rest was intuitive and just using the defaults, which produces image files in appx. 2GB image chunks (so a further backup to DVDs for offsite storage would have 2 or 4 of them per single or double layer disk, respectively).

Don’t walk away until you have confirmed the result of the disk check, or it will just wait for you and do nothing more!

Backing up the entire appx. 4GB Ubuntu 8.04 system file set took just 1-2 minutes to create the resulting compressed 1.4GB IMAGE-FILE-BASE-NAME.gz.000 file. Doing the same for the appx. 40GB of /home directories of the same installation is predicted by PartImage to take about 1.5 hours and is well underway. Given it is currently at 37% completion and the image files are now about 14GB, there is likely to be much less compression benefit for these files. This makes sense, as much of the content is already compressed music, photo and video files.

This is a great free (in all meanings) tool set. Once done, I will have great confidence that installing a fresh Linux Mint 9 or Ubuntu 10.04 on my main desktop will be without serious risk to recovery of my precious prior work.

Wireless Woes Resolved

In an earlier post, I’d detailed how Tomato on the Asus WL-520gU brought the internet back to our home in a delightful way. However, there had been an ongoing wireless problem with my EEE PC running Eeebuntu linux 3.0.

I’d been puttering with those issues on and off for a while, having got to a state where things mostly worked, most of the time. My biggest complaint was that I’d have to try multiple times to connect to some access points, but others would work straight away. Unfortunately, the router at the in-laws was one of those, and the new Asus at home turned out to be even worse. All the other clients liked these routers just fine, so I knew the issue was with this PC.

Sooo, long story short, I figured out that there were multiple drivers competing from all my attempts, trying to take care of the same wireless connection. I ended up finally disabling all of them but for the ath5k driver (which connects great, but has a speed fluctuation issue) in /etc/modprobe.d and then forced the connection speed with an iwconfig setting. Now the PC has a great connection all the way to the full extent of our property and streaming hulu is without a glitch.

Another minor irritation apparently solved. 🙂

And Twinkle Takes the Call…

Finally found a reasonably up to date SIP client/VOIP softphone that will work directly under Ubuntu 9.04 on the EeePC:

Twinkle!  twinkle48

Tried many, many alternatives without success (most commercial clients that are otherwise available for Windows or Mac have not been updated for Linux for years, and the GPL/open ones are not so much better).  This one pretty much worked straight out of the “apt-get”/Synaptic box for me.  A little playing with settings to figure out the right places to put in my Galaxyvoice account info and I was off.  Phew, another task checked off.

BTW, I really like Galaxyvoice.  They’ve provided my home phone service for several years now.  Much better call quality than Vonage in my experience.  Billing is weird — the on-line account records never match what my CC gets charged… but since it is never more than $10 in a given month at my usage level, I don’t care.  Sometimes it is as low as $2!  Really, $2 to make and receive phone calls for a month – and they have a profitable ongoing business. And real people in Massachusetts take my calls for service.  You have an alternative…