Monday, 31 January 2011


The swat web interface is a useful way of viewing information about samba: you can access it by typing http://localhost:901 into the address bar of your chosen browser.

However, in order to ensure that you can amend the samba configuration files, access shares, and add resources, you must make sure that you are a member of the administration group and that the group has the necessary permissions. If, when you log in to the swat web page, you only see four boxes (Home, Status, View, and Password), you must change the permissions on the smb.conf file.

Open a terminal and type:

sudo chmod g+w /etc/samba/smb.conf

This command changes the files "mode bits" to execute permission for the group.

sudo chgrp adm /etc/samba/smb.conf

And this command changes the group to Admin.

Now, when you type your user name and password into the login box, you should have full access to samba from the web page. You might even try simply refreshing your browser to see if the changes have taken effect. If you find that your user name still doesn't work, try logging in using root as your user name.

Useful Resources:

Saturday, 29 January 2011

You've Got Mail

Now that I've restored the desktop version of Karmic to the DELL Inspiron, I've also added Thunderbird as my mail client and finally set up my email accounts on my laptop.

One of the nagging problems that I've experienced since opening a Gmail account is that I've only been able to download Google mail to one device. Of course, this hasn't been a problem with my laptop (as I've not been using it to download mail until today) but it has been with my iPAQ. If I download Gmail when I'm on the move, it doesn't subsequently download to my PC so I'm constantly switching between devices (or logging on to my online account) to find messages. Setting up the mail client on the laptop prompted me to explore this problem to see if there was a solution. As usual, it was only a problem because I didn't know what I was doing and it transpires that the solution is quite simple!

Google has a recent mode for its POP3 mail.

In your POP client settings, replace '' in the 'Username' or 'Email' field with ''.

Once you enable recent mode, please be sure to configure your POP client to leave messages on the server...

You can follow the instructions at Google's support page if you're having the same problem.

Of course, I could have also set up the laptop as an IMAP client and achieved the same result! However, I've also learned that my personal email account (IMAP) can be forced to sync a certain amount of days worth of email (rather than the whole account which is several hundred messages and attachments) - amazing what you learn when you indulge your curiosity, isn't it?

Back to the Future

Sadly, the grand experiment is over (for now): Ubuntu Notebook Remix was just too temperamental for my taste and I couldn't find a way to adjust the panel. The problems with the interface and power applet continued to plague the setup and I just couldn't be bothered to try and resolve the issues.

So, despite loving the look of UNR, I have restored the DELL Inspiron to the desktop version of Karmic, but I may just start looking at other open source OS to try out on my Christmas present......

Saturday, 22 January 2011


Ubuntu Netbook Remix is demonstrating some bizarre behaviour!

The gnome-power-manager, fragile at the best of times in the desktop version, has a life all of its own in UNR: on battery power, the brightness is randomly adjusted without warning and my phantom power-cord crash seems to have returned.

The GUI is also a little peculiar! Earlier, I couldn't scroll to the bottom of the Administration tab in the System Menu and the last three icons were truncated.

When I removed the Language Support icon (to makes some screen real estate available), everything returned to normal!

I love the look of this OS but, twenty-four hours in and it's starting to look a little too temperamental!

Playtime - Ubuntu Netbook Remix

Banging on about experimenting with my new laptop is all very well, but installing the desktop version of Ubuntu Karmic is not that adventurous, is it? So, for no better reason than I had a couple of hours to kill, I decided to see how Ubuntu's Netbook Remix would look on the DELL Inspiron 1501.

It's been an interesting couple of hours! Firstly, my initial install disk was corrupted (almost certainly my fault, the burn speed was probably too high) and I couldn't run the live CD. However, burning a second disk did the trick and I confess that I liked the look & feel of the GUI so much that I decided to install it immediately.

I was anticipating a problem with my WIFI card, so I had a wired connection on the first boot. A simple update via the terminal made sure that the driver for the wireless card was available:

sudo apt-get update

Then all I had to do to get the NIC working was to activate the b43-fwcutter driver and reboot - easy when you know how!

However, I was not expecting problems with my graphics! I'd purposely avoided the latest version of the netbook OS thinking that I should be safe with the tried and tested, Karmic. However, turning on the enhanced graphics features turned out to be a disaster: all my active windows disappeared and I was forced to revert to the "none" option in Visual Effects (Appearance), which is easier said than done when you can't see the dialog box!

Actually, I'm not sure that I ever turned on the Extra graphics option when I installed the desktop version and, to be honest, I'm not sure that I miss them that much on the laptop. I certainly have no intention of upgrading the graphics on the 1501, so I'll just leave the eye candy turned off for the time being.

The good news is that all the network shares are all available, but I have yet to turn on the firewall, so I anticipate some modifications to the /etc/default/ufw configuration file, but that is straightforward enough.

It'll take a while for me to decide whether I like UNR or not, so I anticipate a few more posts on the subject. But, for now, it's 03:00 (am) and time for bed!

Fixing Firefox (Again)

OK, this isn't really a fix, more of a tweak!

My recent struggle to find and install an English UK dictionary/thesaurus in Open Office prompted me to pay more attention to the spell checker in Firefox. I have noticed when completing dialog (yes, I know that the English spell dialog as "dialogue" but this relates to computer dialogs!) boxes (or drafting blog posts) that Firefox checks my spelling for me: unfortunately, it checks my spelling in American English and not British English. Not to worry though, it's easy to fix this:
  • Nip off to the Firefox Dictionaries and Language Packs Add-Ons page and navigate to the English (British) Dictionary file link
  • Click Install Dictionary
  • Restart Firefox when prompted
  • In any dialog box, right-click and select Languages and check the English/United Kingdom option
You can also do this from a dialog box! Right-click anywhere in the dialog box and select Languages and then Add Dictionaries.... Then follow the above instructions to install and load your default language.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Here's a Strange Thing

My new laptop has been causing me some trouble!

Like most people (I presume), I like the idea that my laptop is portable (I can use it in bed) and I don't want it plugged in all the time, only when the battery needs to be recharged. Over the last few days I've been getting a weird error whenever the gnome power manager tells me that the battery level is critical. If I plug in the charge cable in while the laptop is running, the system shuts down and refuses to restart properly. Rebooting the machine results in an error message telling me that I have a corrupted file system and opening a recovery terminal (rather than booting to the GUI).

Googling the problem didn't meet with much success. It seems that various problems with the Ubuntu gnome power manager have been reported but I couldn't find either a specific or generic solution to my problem and I started to think that my Christmas present was likely to end up at the recycling centre after all! Then it occurred to me that the problems started shortly after I swapped the cheap crappy battery in the machine at the time of acquisition for a genuine DELL product from my other laptop.

Swapping the batteries back seems to have resolved the problem, but I'm not sure why. What I do know is that I'm glad that I didn't pay nearly £80 for a replacement battery a few months ago!

My Word

If you're a Brit using Open Office, you might be forgiven for wondering why your dictionary and thesaurus defaults to English US.

Open Office installs with the US dictionary as the default language, if you want the UK version, you'll have to download and install it for yourself. I didn't find this as intuitive as I would have liked: mostly because Open Office uses ambiguous titles for its extensions making it difficult to locate them online. However, I recently did some digging and I have managed to find the correct download and now I have a working (and workable) UK dictionary and thesaurus.

The file that you want is the English spelling and hyphenation dictionaries and thesaurus: don't bother searching, it's a nightmare to find! You can download it from here (the file is actually called dict-en.oxt, but, for some obscure reason, the title on the Open Office website is English dictionaries with fixed dash handling and new ligature and phonetic suggestion support).

If you're using Open Office 3:
  1. Download the file from the link above and save it to your hard drive
  2. Open the Extension Manager (from the Tools Menu) and click Add...
  3. Navigate to your download from the dialog box and click Open to install your dictionary
Now you can change your default language to English UK:
  1. From the Tools Menu, click Options...
  2. Under Language Settings, select Languages and set the Default languages for documents option to English UK in the Western dropdown menu
  3. Under Writing Aids, make sure that the Spellchecker, Hyphenator, and New Thesaurus check boxes are all ticked
  4. Restart Open Office
Now you should be able to spell check documents in the Queen's English and use the thesaurus by highlighting a word and hitting ctr+F7 on your keyboard.

Thanks Mum

The Definitive Guide to Samba 3 [Paperback]
Roderick W. Smith
ISBN: 978-1590592779

Sometimes a bargain comes along that's just too good to pass up. This book popped up in my Amazon recommendations the other day (probably after I searched for "Using Samba") and I couldn't believe the price!

Amazon has this available from one of its resellers for £5.47 + p&p so I snapped it up! I have no idea whether it's any good, I suppose that time will tell: but my Mother taught me that you can always afford a book and, at this price, I guess she's right. I ordered it after business hours on 14th January and it arrived in the post this morning - excellent.

Thanks Mum!

Monday, 17 January 2011


I've been enjoying my new laptop: not only is it more convenient to use in bed than my Dimension 8400, but it has also been useful for keeping my newly acquired Ubuntu skills sharp!

Of course, the Ubuntu operating system makes this a fabulous addition to my network and it runs like a champ under Linux. It's a shame then, that the Windows stickers are a constant reminder of the machine's unfortunate legacy - until now, that is!

I've just pimped my ride with some bling to give the laptop a more "open source" feel:

This "powered by Ubuntu" sticker comes from system 76 and can be yours for the cost of a self-addressed (and stamped) envelope! Honestly, it won't cost you a penny (other than the cost of the stamp and the envelope) and it looks so much better than that old Vista sticker. Follow the link for your local office address.

You can, for a small price, buy some case stickers from the Canonical Store.

These do cost £1.75 plus VAT, so it's not as cheap as the system 76 offering and Canonical insist on sending them by registered post, so the cost escalates rapidly! However, you get three sheets and the cost is still under a tenner per order (delivered to me in the UK, anyway)!

If I lived in the USA, I'd also get a sticker to cover the Windows logo on the Windows key but unfortunately, they're not available in the UK. I guess that the legacy will never truly die!

Sunday, 16 January 2011


As always, my intellect has proved to be inadequate for the needs of my ambition!

After weeks (perhaps months) of failing to get my computers to talk to each other using host names (NetBios) and blaming samba, I've finally managed to resolve the problem.

It turns out that samba was working properly all the time and so too was Ubuntu. More importantly, so was my firewall! I could get samba working on my laptop (an old DELL Inspiron 1501 running Karmic) and access everything on the network except my Ubuntu desktop: the reason that samba worked unhindered on the this device and not the desktop is that I hadn't enabled the firewall on the laptop so there was nothing to block the NetBios broadcasts! I use Ubuntu's Uncomplicated Firewall (ufw) on my desktop and enabled it this afternoon, presuming that opening up the necessary ports (137, 138, 139, & 445) would be all that was need to allow host/client communications between nodes.

sudo ufw enable
sudo ufw status

However, enabling ufw on the laptop immediately broke samba leading to the inevitable conclusion that it was a firewall issue and not a samba issue that was causing my difficulties.

It turns out that the "kernel has network connection tracking modules. The module for netbios-ns (UDP port 137) is not loaded by default. You must turn it on for Samba to penetrate the ufw firewall". A simple change to the /etc/default/ufw configuration file (on both laptop and desktop), adding the firewall rules, and restarting samba was all that was required to finally deliver server/client services using host names!

Now for some extra reading to really understand how samba works.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Almost But Not Quite!

Sams Teach Yourself Networking in 24 Hours
Fourth Edition by Uyless Black
ISBN: 978-0-7686-8576-3

Aimed at the entry-level networking professional, Sams Teach Yourself Networking is unlikely to satisfy the needs of readers interested in an introduction to managing home networks. Much of the discussion centres on network operating systems, dedicated servers and keeping system users happy: hardly high priority topics for non-professionals who tend to be more interested in getting (and keeping) a disparate collection of hardware devices working in harmony! However, this observation should not be construed as criticism and Black's treatise is an excellent aid to developing expertise beyond the typical hybrid desktop routers supplied by most ISPs.

Black uses the OSI network model to introduce the concept of layered protocols and it is a theme used throughout the book to describe how data moves through networks. Not only is this model an excellent vehicle for explaining the fundamentals of networking, but it is also useful for understanding how PCs prepare data for transmission and interpret data on receipt: suddenly, those cryptic error messages will start to make sense and troubleshooting errant PCs becomes a little easier.

However, despite imparting some excellent guidance this book does have some flaws. For instance, Black squanders a couple of his “hours” discussing the role and responsibilities of a network administrator: whilst this might be interesting per se, its inclusion suggests that learning about networks requires less than twenty-four hours! Similarly, Black spends the last chapter speculating on the future of computer networks. It is almost as if he has run out of technical advice and resorts to conjecture to fill some space (and the requisite number of hours).

Overall, this book provides a useful insight into professional network management and offers an excellent description of layered protocols. However, the shortcomings diminish the desired effect and, given the relatively high cover price, the result is an offering of questionable value that fails to deliver the promise of the title.