Showing posts from October, 2014

Quick Fix: Clonezilla Restore Options

A few users of Linux imaging OS Clonezilla have posted questions on restoring partitions/images to their computers. An obviously frustrated user went so far as to go on a racist tirade about the documentation and the software's usability a few years back:

I intentionally removed the poster's name and image because unlike other people I don't act like a dick when using FREE software.

Note: Just because Torvalds often uses abusive language online, it doesn't mean users should forego etiquette, decency and respect when posting comments or questions in forums.

The developers of Clonezilla attempted to make the process simpler a few versions ago and it may have confused newer users. However, users who understand Clonezilla or use the imaging software using the command line rather than the Beginner or Expert Modes didn't notice.

Restore Options

The primary issue is that after creating an image of a partition, users launch into Clonezilla and find out they don't have th…

6 days to openSUSE 13.2; 11 months with 13.1

When openSUSE 13.1 was released last year, it took me awhile to migrate since my openSUSE 12.x KDE portable was set up for all my networking and workstation tasks. However, I eventually did migrate to 13.1 KDE and stuck with it since. 13.2 is 6 days away and as much as I would like to convert to the Factory/Tumbleweed rolling release, I've always been more comfortable with a stable rig and I'm excited about switching to the newest Lizard product.

OpenSUSE 13.1 was a great release and reminded me that no matter how good Android and iOS tablets are, nothing can replace a well-maintained and fully set up Linux system. Although I didn't struggle as badly as others with Windows 8.1, setting up my Windows workstation took some time. The tasks I had to perform with 8.1, however, never crippled my other activities because of my openSUSE 13.1-powered Toshiba notebook.
OpenSUSE 13.1 KDE handily addressed the following needs in my workflow:

1. Local testing web server
2. File server f…

Screenshots in Documentation and Blogs Part 2

Continued from Screenshots in Documentation and Blogs Part 1

The Obsolescence of Documentation

Developers will tell you a good UI or software design obviates the need for any documentation whatsoever. I also agree with this completely even if it means I'll be panhandling on the road next week. To paraphrase the late, great Bruce Lee, the best product documentation is a product that doesn't need documentation. There are signs that industries and tech fields will achieve this unspoken goal.

Man pages for Linux commands have been around for a long time. They are essential to the Linux experience and indispensable to the learner, user and serious IT worker. However, many of the CLI-based commands today are so well-written that a simple look at the 7-14 line --help provides most of what the user needs to know, if not all.

Ubuntu proved ten years ago that Linux isn't that hard to learn.

The second obvious evidence of the obsolescence of documentation is mobile apps. The beauty (a…

Screenshots in Documentation and Blogs Part 1

Some technical writers and members of documentations teams hate adding screen captures of software. Technology changes so quickly that a screen capture today is totally wrong tomorrow, particularly with mobile software or apps. Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Microsoft, Linux, Samsung, Intel and Adobe software change their software user interface regularly. Even when documentation and user manuals are primarily released as HTML or PDF (thereby reducing printing costs considerably), images of the user interface complicate the publishing process because they have to be switched, changed and updated so often. Even using conditions in DITA or XML can cause errors when just plain text and tags would suffice.

Note: A Content Management System certainly helps when updating images in document libraries linked to Arbortext, FrameMaker, InDesign and RoboHelp but it's not very fun for the technical communicator either.

Some writers believe that good writing makes any type of screen caps unnecessa…

Accessing old Backup ISOs in Linux and Windows

A decade or so ago, backing up discs and files to ISOs was a popular archiving method. The Windows world had Roxio, Nero Burning ROM, Alcohol 120%, PowerISO and dozens of crapware, freeware and shareware alternatives. Users downloaded these utilities or found them preinstalled on their desktops or laptops and used these applications to back up their CDs, data files, movies and DVDs. They were considered convenient because it meant you had a second copy of your media and can transfer them to external hard drives (which were expensive back then) or burn them several times.

If you're having problems recovering or accessing old ISOs due to file format issues or just availability of applications, there are still plenty of ways to get that data/multimedia out in Windows and Linux.

Windows 7 and 8/8.1 can mount ISOs from within File Manager, which is pretty handy if you have several dozen ISOs in some external hard…

Unsolicited Question: Local openSUSE Web Page Server

Note: I rarely get any personal e-mails so I was surprised to receive the following missive. The sender agreed I can reprint part of her message and my response.

Q:Hi! Im Rika my mom told me you used to date in 19xx and said to say "Ragamuffin girl" in case u didn't believe me she said u use opensuse and your site is for noobs. im learning html5 css javascript (not php), so can you tell me how to set up a "local web server" for practice just so I can test my stuff...<rest of text removed>

A: Hi Rika, thank you for visiting Unsolicited But Offered. I'm happy to hear you're using openSUSE. I'm not sure if your mom mistook me for someone else but judging from the location of your IP address, it's fully possible. I'll be glad to give you the basic steps to set up a local web server on your openSUSE system.

Note: Before setting up your system, run a YaST online update s…

Ubuntu Birthday and the Ubuntu System Testing Utility

In celebration of Ubuntu's recent anniversary, I put the latest Ubuntu release through its paces on a well-used HP EliteBook 8560w. One of the features I really like on Ubuntu's mainstream desktop is the System Testing utility, which has improved steadily over the years.

The prompts for real-testing of hardware components such as Firewire, headphones, FN keys, Wi-Fi and media keys are extremely useful for hardware testers. While running the 10-minute or so test, I actually forgot that the Ubuntu utility will place the laptop in Suspend mode during the procedure.

Earlier releases of openSUSE KDE included a utility could Smolt that assessed your openSUSE installation and uploaded the results to an online database. I used to run Smolt on all my hardware whenever openSUSE would have a new release. The utility wasn't nearly as detailed as Ubuntu's System Testing utility and perhaps the lack of use is the reason why the application was eventually removed and the online compat…

Fire Drills and Smartphones

I recently participated in my first fire drill in Beijing. I enjoy these little procedures immensely. Times, however, have changed. I remember a time when employees brought their laptops and ladies lugged their handbags while following the safety leads down the fire exits. I wasn't at all surprised that today people only carry one item - their smartphone.

I actually didn't remember to bring my Lumia 925 as I trooped down cheerfully to the fire safety zone. The photo I include in this article is one I asked from a co-worker.

In a real emergency, will employees follow the safety announcement and leave all their belongings behind before following the safety map? I doubt anyone will leave their iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, HTC One or Sony Xperia behind.

When I was a trainer and served as the safety leader for my class, I was required to wear the dinky fire hat. If I had known Spidey would be wearing one in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) 8 years later, I would have worn the vomit-colored…

Unsolicited Question: Will the NFC feature on my Lumia ruin my metro smart card?

Q: Will the NFC feature on my Lumia ruin my metro smart card?

Let me guess. You watched Sherlock (2014)'s "His Last Vow" and wanted to check if a smartphone can affect an IC card's functionality. The quick answer is yes so you can resume worshiping Benedict Cumberbatch's popular rendition of the classic character. The more accurate answer is "it depends."

The Lumia requires that you actually have Bluetooth and NFC enabled before you can start tapping the phone on sensors (Android Beam and NFC on Android phones). If you enable both Bluetooth and NFC settings and place the contact area close to some contact/contactless cards, what my engineering friend calls "NFC jingle" starts. 

I tested this on a Beijing Subway card and Atlanta's MARTA card. The NFC jingle will also start if you place the contact area close to older fingerprint scanners. And yes, NFC will affect the content in some types of smart cards.

Lumia 925 and a Beijing subway card

Quick Fix: Using the Files app for Lumia 925 Freda and Comicana

The Lumia 925 is a great phone but the lack of memory card slot means that some apps won't be able to access the files stored on the phone. The comic book reading app Comicana, for example, is designed to access files in OneDrive and external memory cards but won't detect files stored locally on the phone.

The Freda app for EPUBs also has an option for accessing any external memory cards but won't locate locally stored EPUBs.

The official Microsoft Files app, which was finally released by Microsoft this year along with Windows Phone 8.1 Cyan, solves some of the file management issues of Windows Phones that don't have a memory card slot. By using Files, you can browse files stored on the internal storage and open the file with an option to select an installed app.

Freda initially crashed after using the Files app to open an EPUB file. Afterwards, however, the EPUB file was now part Freda's library and can be opened like any other EPUB. Comicana performed better and…

A Quick Visit to Ubuntu

I'm currently wading through a few chapters of the 3rd Edition of LPI Linux Certification in a Nutshell from O'Reilly Publishing and decided to use my self-imposed Linux refresher course to download and install Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. I had an emergency Lubuntu LiveUSB always on hand but I hadn't run a full Ubuntu installation for over 2 years.

Although I'm primarily an openSUSE KDE, Knoppix and Fedora user, I can't deny there is a certain pull towards running Ubuntu since the library of applications is immense and official software from developers and companies always include a version specifically for Ubuntu.

Linux was once well-known as a system that is ideal for older hardware and that is still mostly true. However, many things have changed in the last decade and Canonical's popular Linux distribution has attempted to move with the times with mixed results.

If you are residin…

Androids and New Lollipops (Android 5.x)

And just when I had just upgraded to KitKat!

The Vision gets confused in The Avengers Annual #23 (1994)

Quick Fix: Windows 8.1, Lubuntu, an External Display/Projector, and an Nvidia Optimus Laptop

I recently made the mistake of not testing my Windows 8.1 workstation on a Sony external projector before running a training session for technical writers. I ended up popping out my LubuntuLiveUSB stick and playing the audio using MPlayer and LibreOffice for the PowerPoint slide since the projector had issues with Windows 8.1 and my Nvidia Optimus laptop.

A SIM-card size USB stick hidden on a card with Lubuntu loaded - don't leave home without it.

Users more familiar with Windows 7 may encounter issues when connecting an Optimus-powered laptop running Windows 8.1 to an external display due to various reasons. However, it's fairly simple if you are running a laptop with Intel integrated graphics chipset:

1. Connect the HDMI or VGA cable to your laptop.

2. Press Windows+P and select a display setting. You can also keep pressing Windows+P to toggle across the available settings for the external display.

Note: The Windows…