Nov 262013

Note: This article applies to GNOME 3.10 in Fedora 20. You no longer need these steps in GNOME 3.14 in Fedora 21.

I’m setting up an Alfresco server and I need to test some of the tweaks and configuration I’m working with. Alfresco is big; lots of components including Java, an application server, usually a front end server, a database, etc., etc.  In addition, it is certified to work with a narrow set of other software. For example, Alfresco certifies against Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, but my development machine is Fedora 19. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 comes with MySQL, but Alfresco certifies against a much more recent version.

This is the perfect use-case for an Virtual Machine.

So I started virt-manager to get started. I configured a VM, but … failed. It seems that virt-manager wants to place the image for the virtual machine under /var/lib/libvirt/images. However the /var tree on my laptop is fairly small. I don’t have the space to install a whole other OS there. My home directory, on the other hand, has plenty of space.

This is a perfect use-case for GNOME Boxes.

And, in fact, GNOME Boxes is awesome. Setting up the VM and making it run was easy, quick, and pleasent.  Until it wasn’t.

You see, GNOME Boxes uses isolated networking. The Virtual Machine can connect to external hosts, but nothing can connect into it. After 2 days of struggling, here is how to fix it on Fedora 19:

  • Shut down the virtual machine.
  • Get the name or id of your virtual machine. Run, from the command to get the name:
$ virsh -c qemu:///session list --all
  • Edit your VM’s configuration file using virsh as below: (My VM is named rhel6.4, so that’s what I used. You may need to use the ID of the VM, if available.)
$ virsh edit rhel6.4
  • Find the lines that look like this:
<interface type='user'>
 <mac address='52:54:00:bf:c5:97'/>
 <model type='rtl8139'/>
 <address type='pci' domain='0x0000' bus='0x00' slot='0x03' function='0x0'/>
  • Remove those lines and replace them with: (If you are not using Fedora, it’s possible that your network device is not named “virbr0“. You can get a list of all the interface names using ifconfig.)
<interface type='bridge'>
 <mac address='00:16:3e:1a:b3:4a'/>
 <source bridge='virbr0'/>
 <model type='virtio'/>
 <address type='pci' domain='0x0000' bus='0x00' slot='0x03' function='0x0'/>
  • Start the VM, and you should be all set!

Easy, right?

Well, maybe you’re still having problems? Some troubleshooting tips:

  • You may not have bridging set up. Check /etc/qemu/bridge.conf to see that it contains the line:
allow virbr0
  • If you want to run or configure your Boxes VM in virt-manager, you need to connect to the user session, which isn’t possible via the user interface yet. Run:
$ virt-manager -c qemu+unix:///session

If this isn’t working for you, you can request assistance on IRC at: #boxes on GimpNet. If you do not have an IRC client, you can use this web page.

Will this get easier in the future? Absolutely. You can read the discussion and follow the progress on GNOME Bugzilla.

Edits on Nov 27, 2013: Virt Manager and Boxes do NOT need to be shut down while editing the VM details. There is a virsh command to get a list of VM names. Your network interface may not match mine if you are not running Fedora. Add link to the #boxes channel on IRC. Add in troubleshooting section for users without bridged networking configured. You do NOT need to run the VM using virt-manager after this configuration change, Boxes will handle it fine. Add in the Bugzilla link. Thanks to teuf, zeenix, and elad on IRC for the corrections.

Edit on Jan 22, 2015: Fixes and improvements to Boxes for GNOME 3.14 make this article out of date — the changes mentioned here are now the default Boxes configuration.

 Posted by at 2:21 pm
Aug 232012

Just a quick tip for people who use multiple user accounts at once on Fedora. (I test software using brand new user accounts sometimes, for example. I’ve heard of others may use multiple user accounts to try and sandbox applications they expect to misbehave. [I recommend a VM for this, FWIW.])

If you’ve ever switched users in Fedora and couldn’t get sound to work (su - testuser or ssh testuser@localhost) this tip is for you!

First, you need to install paprefs:

# yum install paprefs

Then, as the default desktop user, run the command:

$ paprefs

Papref's configuration screen

Make sure “Enable network access to local sound devices” is checked.

Then click [ Close ] and sound will work perfectly!

Jan 092012

I’ve been a Bank of America customer for 12 years or so, ever since I moved to Boston from New York. I picked them because they were everywhere, and I didn’t ever want to switch banks again. When the big “Bank Transfer Day” came, I decided to switch banks too. I was annoyed about the plans for the new $5/month fee, but I wasn’t all that happy with Bank of America anyway.

I decided on Cambridge Savings Bank because they are close by, they refund all ATM fees other banks charge you, and they pay 2% interest on checking account balances. (BTW — there are many banks that pay more than 2% interest on checking accounts. Check out to find banks near you. Don’t forget to change the filter options to show local banks and credit unions.)

However, I still don’t like switching banks, so I searched around for questions to ask a potential bank before you open an account. Here are the questions I came up with:

Fee Questions:

  • Do you have overdraft fees and how can you avoid them?
  • What fees are there for checking accounts?
  • What fees are there for savings accounts?
  • Are there fees to transfer money to/from my account?
  • Do you charge debit card fees?

Convenience Questions:

  • How many ATMs are available in my area?
    • Which ATMS accept deposits?
    • How long does it take for a deposit to clear?
    • Are large deposits delayed? How much is a large deposit? How long is the delay?
  • When we travel to…  XXX how can we get money and are there fees?
    • XXX == countries and states and regions you typically travel to
  • How do we make deposits?
    • Bank ATMs? Smartphone app? Bank network ATMs? Local branch? Non-local branch? Affiliate bank branch? Computer application with a scanner? Mail?

When things go wrong:

  • What happens if we lose a debit card?
  • What are your procedures if a card is stolen?
  • Do you look out for potentially fraudulent charges?
  • What happens if we become overdrawn?
  • How do charge disputes work?


  • How do I qualify for your best rate?

Anyway, it helped us choose our bank. Hopefully it will help someone else too.

 Posted by at 1:21 pm
Aug 012011

Sometimes it’s easy to see why almost no one uses Linux on the Desktop.

I just got a Spotify invite, so I decided to try it out. Step one is registering at No trouble! But then… how do I use it? Ah! The download link!

uh oh

Spotify for Linux - uh oh

Sweet! A Linux preview! It’s available for Ubuntu and Fedora. Hey! I run Fedora! Awesome. Except, there isn’t a package available. The directory is empty.

Okay. So I download the Ubuntu package and use Alien to convert the file. Amazingly, it installs!

Amazingly, it runs!

Spotify Login Bad Device

Spotify Login Bad Device

Oh. Linux Desktops are considered devices, not desktops. You need to buy an ultra-premium service to use a device. (OTOH, then I could use Spotify on my Android phone as well.) But, since I haven’t even been able to try this service yet, spending $$$ seems premature.

Okay, so the other option is to run the Windows version in WINE. (a windows emulator) Blech. But okay.

I run it, and get myself logged in with a small amount of fuss. Until I try to play some music. Oops! Nothing plays at all! Oops!

I need to read the directions to add a sound device for the Windows emulator. Of course, the directions are out of date on the Spotify web site. I need to add the “PulseAudio” driver with Full Hardware Acceleration. It works!

Until I try to play my own music on Spotify. Oops!

“There is a problem with the sound decoder. Spotify can’t play music”

So look around for solutions and find this page. The instructions are Ubuntu specific (talks about /usr/lib32, which doesn’t exist on Fedora.) The correct command for Fedora is:

$ su

# wget -O /usr/lib/wine/

But it still doesn’t work because the library depends on libmpg123 which isn’t installed by default. We need more software:

$ su

# yum install libmpg123.i686 libmpg123.x86_64

And now it works. Hopefully Spotify is worth it. How many people could have gotten through all those steps?

 Posted by at 11:28 am
May 162011

I’ve been trying to rescue my CD collection for some time. While I like to listen to music, I never listen to my CDs except for the few I bring with me in the car. It’s just too annoying to shuffle music 10 songs at a time and keep track of the disks and their cases.

I just bought a home NAS, the Western Digital MyBook Live.  I ripped all my CDs and loaded the songs onto it.  Then I tried to get the PS3 to play the songs.  Nothing.  They weren’t there.  Or, if they were, the album art didn’t show up.

I just read on a support forum for the drive the answer: On the PS3:
Go to : Settings -> Network Settings -> Media Server Connection.
Set it to Disable.
Set it to Enable.

Perfect. Sorry for the boring post, but this has been driving me crazy. I’ve been reading hex dumps of MP3 files trying to decode the problem.

 Posted by at 11:41 pm
Apr 272011

A few years ago, I stopped running my email and web server out of my house.  I was tired of paying for the electricity and the static IP address.  I wanted to switch to FiOS which doesn’t allow me to host off of port 80.  I was sick of keeping my desktop computer ON ALL THE TIME.  I didn’t like the noise of the computer on.  And the room the computer was in got hot.  (Nice in the winter, but not as nice in the summer.)

So I paid Dreamhost a very small amount of money.  (If you’re interested, I pay them around $150/year.)  But Dreamhost really wants to get out of the email business.

Sending email. Checking Email. Delays. Spam. Filtering. Email forwarding. Mailing lists. Announcement lists. Archiving email. Automatic Emails. Form-to-email. Catch-alls. URGH!

It’s enough to make a poor host want to give up on providing it at all!

In November Dreamhost switched my spam filtering setup which worked nearly 100% of the time to one that doesn’t appear to work at all.  I complained to their support, but got this in response:

The following wiki page has details on how you can edit your spam settings:

From that page I can set blacklists and whitelists.  Ugh.  So I responded back:

Hmm… This page allows me to manage white/black lists for email addresses. But that’s not really going to help at all.

They agreed that it sucks:

Correct, blacklists don’t really work well. It’s best if you lower your threshold to 0 or 1, and use whitelists extensively. Make sure you’re using the “reply-to” from a message, and not just the “from”.

So the option is to only receive mail from people I remember to add to the whitelist, or to get spam.  WRONG.

So how do others handle this?  I’m looking for a email host that allows me to completely control my email, won’t advertise to me or track me, and has reasonable spam handling.  Help?

 Posted by at 10:50 am
Mar 312010
Twisties, otherwise known as “Disclosure Triangles” are little triangles (►) that twist (▼) when clicked to hide or show content on the page. I’m working on a web page that has a lot of content, but didn’t want it all displayed all the time. I searched around for a little while trying to find a nice example written by someone else, but came up empty. Probably other people thought this was too simple, or my searching skills failed me. Either way, I ended up writing this myself. These were my requirements:

  • Cross-platform:  It should work on my cell phone, on IE6, and real web browsers
  • Robust: If things go wrong, it shouldn’t break. If the user doesn’t have JavaScript enabled, it should work. No CSS? It should still work. A user script which hides or shows nodes out from under us? It should still work
  • Understandable: It should be easy for web developers to understand and add to their existing pages
  • Small: If this adds lots of code to a web site, it won’t be used and will slow downloads down
  • Attractive: It should “feel” nice. Lots of feedback to the user, and maybe some animation if appropriate. It shouldn’t seem different from twisties the user has seen before
  • Accessible: Should work with the keyboard and with the mouse; printed pages should do the right thing

First, a demo:

Click this title to hide and show a portion of the page

Don’t open me!

Hey! I told you not to open this section!

Name My numbers My letters
Beth 65, 5, 1, 6 y
Andy 21, 12 k,f,s
Fred 9 k
Mary 100,000 r, w, e

To get started, you can simply download the code:

Set Up

If you want the smooth animation, seen above, put the following into your <head>:

<script type="text/javascript" src="twisty3/twisty.js"></script>
<script src="prototype.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="scriptaculous.js?load=effects" type="text/javascript"></script>
<link rel="stylesheet" href="twisty.css" type="text/css" media="screen"></link>
<link rel="stylesheet" href="twisty-print.css" type="text/css" media="print"></link>

If you want a smaller footprint, or don’t like the exposure animation, put the following into your <head> tag instead:

<script type="text/javascript" src="twisty3/twisty.js"></script>
<link rel="stylesheet" href="twisty.css" type="text/css" media="screen"></link>
<link rel="stylesheet" href="twisty-print.css" type="text/css" media="print"></link>

Defining a section to be hidden

Each section needs a unique id, a title, and the content of the section to be hidden. Then, format that section like this:

<div class="collapsible">
  <a href="javascript:toggleTwisty('uniqueid');">
    The Section Title
    <img class="twisty" src="twisty-down.gif">
  <div id="uniqueid">
      Section Content

Hiding sections by default

If you want a section to be hidden by default, add after the section’s <div>:

<script type="text/javascript">
 Posted by at 1:15 pm
Mar 102010

or: making your file uploads work over HTTPS when you are using a self-signed certificate or an authority Flash decides it doesn’t like.

Flash is a popular way to upload files to web sites. This is because you can have multiple files upload at once, give pretty progress bars, and can control the file upload UI. There are some alternatives that don’t appear to be cross-platform, but that seems self-defeating.

But there is a problem; if you are using a certificate that Flash doesn’t like, it doesn’t work at all.  And you don’t get an error message.  In Windows this is solved pretty well.  If Internet Explorer trusts a certificate, so does Flash.  But on Linux, flash only checks the system certificate store.  And on Fedora, it doesn’t even do that.

To fix it until Adobe fixes the bug, run as root:

mkdir /etc/ssl && ln -sf /etc/pki/tls/certs /etc/ssl/certs

Come to think of it, is there a way to tell where the system certs should be found?

 Posted by at 9:52 pm
Jun 222009
Amazon MP3 on the Android

Amazon MP3 on the Android

Amazon claims “We’re Building Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company” and they deliver.  Every time I have had a problem, they jump through hoops to resolve it immediately.

Unfortunately,  I am unable to make myself understood by the Amazon tech support team, which leads to lots of problems.

This weekend I purchased about $6 worth of music downloads from my phone.  (3 tracks, and a CD)  One of the tracks didn’t download correctly, and Amazon incorrectly charged my credit card  and not my gift certificate balance.  I sent this message:

I just ordered a CD and 3 tracks through my T-Mobile Android G1 phone.  The third song, “Crazy Love” did not download.  (The CD was purchased while not on a wi-fi network, so I’m not sure if it worked yet.)

My second problem is a billing issue.  My account has a gift card balance of $29.01, but my credit card was charged.  Please refund my card and remove the balance from my gift certificate.  I would like future purchases to come out of that balance as well.

So what did they do?  They refunded me the full $6 and told me to re-download.  Nice, but not quite right…

 Posted by at 2:11 pm