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Author: ptheland Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 6623  
Subject: New user Date: 7/6/2012 6:46 PM
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I've been thinking about giving some flavor of Linux a shot for quite some time now, and finally took the plunge. I bought a mini-PC for Home Theater use, and it came with Ubuntu pre-loaded. (A Zotac Zbox ID41 for the morbidly curious.)

I was hoping this would be an easy re-introduction to the *nix world for me. I used a Unix machine many moons ago (about 20 years or so, if I must confess), and taught myself a bit about using it. And since things were already installed, I figured I'd not have to get involved in any of the setup stuff. After all, wouldn't a company at least have their box ready to go so the user would have a good experience?

I guess the answer to that is "no". The initial setup was pretty easy. Just plug in, power on and pick a username and password. But the proverbial *nix stability just isn't there for me.

Perhaps I'm expecting the wrong kind of stability. I'll admit the machine hasn't crashed or done anything like that. But I'm constantly having to fiddle with it.

For example, I get it all set so it plays ripped DVDs with nice surround sound through an optical connection to my audio system. The next day, my son turns it on and has no sound at all. So that night, I fiddle and fiddle and fiddle, and finally get plain old stereo working. Figuring that's good enough to keep the kid happy, I turn it off and go to bed.

The next day, son turns it all on and has no sound. Again. So I fiddle a bunch and get it back. Guess what? Another phone call at work and no sound again. So I ditch the audio system and get a plain stereo cord to run the sound through the TV instead of the audio system. I figure that should cut out a boat load of problems.

So I drop that cable in, fiddle with the system until I get sound going to the TV and then - in a flash of insight - I jot down all of the settings I'm using. For the 3rd night in a row, I drop into bed at 1 am, having spent a couple of hours playing with - and cursing at - the TV and computer.

Today? Yep. No sound. When I get home tonight, I'll take one more look at it. At least the fiddling should be at a minimum, as I just need to check that all of the various settings are where I left them.

But that's what is annoying me. Why don't things stay where I left them? I'm not expecting an answer - as I don't yet really know if anything has changed. But at least this time I have a written record of what was working. If anything has changed, I'll know.

Sorry for the rambling - I really just needed to vent.

But I do have a question that might have an answer. Is there anything out there that would serve to "lock" everything on a Linux system? In the Windows world, there's a handy program called Deep Freeze that locks down an installation. You can make changes, but they're only temporary - a reboot puts them all back. Unfortunately, they don't have a *nix version, just Windows and Mac. I can't guarantee that my son isn't changing things. But if he were, I find it highly unlikely that he'd always be changing the audio system and only the audio system. A kid randomly playing with it would break something different each time, don't you think?

At any rate, so far I'm unimpressed. But I still want to learn and give this a try. I suspect its reasonably likely that the problem is with this user and not the software.

--Peter
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Author: JeanDavid Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 6575 of 6623
Subject: Re: New user Date: 7/6/2012 7:55 PM
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I used to run UNIX in the old days when the source code for the kernel was 6 files of assembly code. And the maximum file size was 66635 bytes or something like that. Later it was converted to C, and when Steve Johnson wrote The Portable C Compiler, it was a relatively simple matter to retarget that compiler for another machine and move the UNIX kernel to a new machine. Not trivial, but relatively simple. I think that was in the early to mid 1970s. I did not like UNIX at the time because it was terrible at doing real-time process control, and that was one of the things I needed to do. I had a DEC PDP-11/45 with 48 KBytes of RAM, and two hard drives that ran about 2500 rpm and held 40 megabytes. Each the size of a top-loading washing machine.

It was pretty reliable.

Around 1996 I got my first PC and it has Windows 95 on it. I did not know I could get UNIX on it, or a $10,000 license for it from AT&T or I would have.

In about 1998, I switched from Windows 95 to Red Hat Linux 5.0 because I just could not stand the terrible reliability of Windows, the awkward development environment, and such. Also incompatibility of various programs all supplied by Microsoft.

At the time, RHL 5.0 was pretty good, but the desktop software did not function fully. I.e., those three little square buttons at the top of each window did not work. Also it crashed once in a while (no where near as often as Windows), mainly in the graphic windowing interface; i.e., the kernel stayed up. Things like that. Things got a lot better with RHL 6.0 and 6.2. By RHL 7.3, it worked perfectly at all times and never crashed. I am now running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (and RHEL 6 is out). It costs about $1/day for a license, but is probably a bit much for a beginner to use. I have never run Ubuntu or any other distro, but my friends who are primarily Apple users, also run Linux and Ubuntu is probably used by most of them..

If you are picking a distro, my suggestion is to pick whatever one is used by most of your friends, or whatever is most used by knowledgeable members of your local computer group.

Your non-repeatable problems you should not tolerate. The Linux kernel is extremely reliable. I have been running RHEL 5 for 5 years or so (soon after it came out); I run it 24/7 and it has never crashed.

Settings tend to be kept in either your home directory (the ones you are having trouble with are probably there), or somewhere under /etc.

You should set up a separate login for each user, and have a separate one for root. Do not tell your son the root password or the one to your account. Then you can be pretty sure your son is not monkeying with your settings.

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Author: Patzer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 6576 of 6623
Subject: Re: New user Date: 7/7/2012 8:10 PM
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Today? Yep. No sound. When I get home tonight, I'll take one more look at it. At least the fiddling should be at a minimum, as I just need to check that all of the various settings are where I left them.

That is odd. A couple weeks ago, I created a dual boot machine with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS as the Linux side. I went along playing with this, that and the other for a while; a few days ago I noticed I had *no sound*.

I have no local support group, so it was off to Dr. Google to figure it out. This can be a puzzle to parse, as some of the stuff the good doctor pulls out of his files applies to old versions of the software and not what I have. Tried this, that and the other from solutions others had found. Still no sound.

Eventually I got around to looking at the sound settings through the Unity graphical interface. Output line was muted. Uncheck the mute button, and I had sound. The sound has stayed around through several reboots made for other reasons.

I would suspect that Ubuntu is shipping by default with the sound muted, which is kind of nice some of the time; but I have no idea why my system should stay fixed while yours goes back to muted when you don't intend it to.

Patzer

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Author: JeanDavid Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 6577 of 6623
Subject: Re: New user Date: 7/7/2012 10:05 PM
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I would suspect that Ubuntu is shipping by default with the sound muted, which is kind of nice some of the time; but I have no idea why my system should stay fixed while yours goes back to muted when you don't intend it to.

I run Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, that may be different from yours. But mine has something that may have an equivalent on your system.

If I select the Red Hat at the lower left of the Panel (what Microsoft calls the Task Bar) and select Preferences->More Preferences and from that, select the menu item Sessions, I get a dialog box that has an item Automatically save changes to session with a checkbox in front of it. If you check it, all changes to your sessions will be saved. Otherwise they won't.

Maybe yours is not checked. I have no idea what the default is, and it may be different on your system anyway. You might wish to find the equivalent on your system and check the box.

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Author: ptheland Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 6578 of 6623
Subject: Re: New user Date: 7/8/2012 3:52 PM
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Eventually I got around to looking at the sound settings through the Unity graphical interface. Output line was muted.

Tee hee hee. Glad to know I'm not the only one doing things like that. I didn't mention it, but I went through that process earlier. The troubles chronicled above were all with the sound on and not muted.

--Peter

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Author: ptheland Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 6579 of 6623
Subject: Re: New user Date: 7/9/2012 7:43 PM
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Just a bit of an update.

After some heavy use of Google over the weekend, it appears that I never really had a proper 5.1 surround sound working. I think it's only supported over an HDMI connection and not over the optical connection. Bummer. My surround audio is through a DVD player and it does not have an HDMI input, so that's out. I may have to give a Windows installation a shot to see if it works there. I do get ordinary stereo out of the optical connection, so it does work to some extent.

As far as the basic stereo audio goes, it looks like the kid may have been playing with some settings in the application program. I didn't think he could fiddle with the underlying Linux stuff, but he's watched me try different things with the audio enough that I think he knows where to go in the application I'm using (XBMC) to make changes.

I've also learned a bit more about the different things in Linux that have to work together to get sound - Pulse and ALSA and something else, probably. It's all still quite confusing to me. But some perseverance might pay off eventually.

My big disappointment here is that it all just didn't work out of the box. The OS and XMBC were pre-installed and this box is marketed as a stand-alone home theater computer. You'd think that they would take enough time to get everything set properly from the get go for their own hardware. Then again, I (or my son) may have screwed something up along the way. Even so, there's no instructions on restoring things. The reinstall instructions are to simply download a new copy of Ubuntu and XBMC and install them.

Live and learn.

--Peter

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