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the Life of Zim

13th March
2013
written by dzimney

Originally posted here, the following is an unedited version of a letter to the New York Times from Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The question, “If I were President I’d…” implies that if you swap out one leader, put in another, then all will be well with America—as though our leaders are the cause of all ailments.

That must be why we’ve created a tradition of rampant attacks on our politicians. Are they too conservative for you? Too liberal? Too religious? Too atheist? Too gay? Too anti-gay? Too rich? Too dumb? Too smart? Too ethnic? Too philanderous? Curious behavior, given that we elect 88% of Congress every two years.

A second tradition-in-progress is the expectation that everyone else in our culturally pluralistic land should hold exactly your own outlook, on all issues.

When you’re scientifically literate, the world looks different to you. It’s a particular way of questioning what you see and hear. When empowered by this state of mind, objective realities matter. These are the truths of the world that exist outside of whatever your belief system tells you.

One objective reality is that our government doesn’t work, not because we have dysfunctional politicians, but because we have dysfunctional voters. As a scientist and educator, my goal, then, is not to become President and lead a dysfunctional electorate, but to enlighten the electorate so they might choose the right leaders in the first place.

Neil deGrasse Tyson
New York, Aug. 21, 2011

13th March
2013
written by dzimney

7th February
2013
written by dzimney

THE ISSUE:
Last night I was messing around with SSH and X. Essentially attempting to use a Raspberry Pi as a client workstation to my Xubuntu 12.04 desktop. I played around a bit, shutdown my desktop remotely and went to bed. When I woke in the morning and attempted to log into desktop’s GUI. The screen would got blank, flash the following message and then go back to the login screen.

could not write bytes: Broken pipe
* Starting NFS kernel daemon
* Starting crash report submission daemon
speech-dispachter disabled: edit /etc/default/speach-dispatcher
* Stopping restore sound card(s') mixer state(s)
* Starting VirtualBox kernel modules
* Starting the Winbind daemon winbind
saned disabled: edit /etc/default/saned
* Starting NetBIOS name server

* Starting Mount network filesystems

* Stopping Mount network filesystems

* Checking battery state...

At some point last night, I believe that I also ran an update on Xubuntu. However, I can’t remember if I rebooted the system and had a successful login prior to messing around with SSH and X. That said, it’s possible that either could be the root of this problem.

THE TESTS:
In either case, in an attempt to figure out what was going wrong, I first switched to a terminal over the GUI login. To do this at the login screen press Crtl+Alt+F2. To switch back to the GUI from the terminal press Crtl+Alt+F7. From here I logged in with my normal user and password. I did not log in as root. Once logged in I attempted to start x from the terminal by issuing the following command: sudo startx

This produced the following output:

xauth: error in locking authority file ~/.Xauthority
xauth: error in locking authority file ~/.Xauthority

Fatal server error:
Server is already active for display 0
    If this server is no longer running, remove /tmp/.X0-lock and start again.

Please consult the The X.Org Foundation support at http://wiki.x.org for help.

ddxSigGiveUp: Closing log
No protocol specified
No protocol specified
xinit: giving up
xinit: unable to connect to X server: Resource temporarily unavailable
xinit: server error
xauth: error in locking authority file ~/.Xauthority

With this information my first action was to do what was suggested and “remove /tmp/.X0-lock and start again.” After doing so the problem persisted. I then attempted to start X from the terminal again to see what the output was. This time I got the following:

Fatal server error:
Server is already active for display 0
    If this sever is no longer running, remove /tmp/.X0-lock and start again.

Please consult the The X.Org Foundation support at http://wiki.x.org for help.

ddxSigGiveUp: Closing log
Invalid MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 keyInvalid MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 keyxinit: giving up
xinit: unable to connect to X server: Resource temporarily unavailable
xinit: server error

THE FIX:
Looking back at the orignal output from startx and spending a little time Googling the issue. I decided to try and remove the ~/.Xauthority file. And PRESTO! After a reboot, I was able to log in with no issue.

THOUGHTS:
Looking at the errors, it seems to me that I somehow locked up my display in X while doing so. It likely happened when I shutdown the system from SSH — the system shutdown will the SSH connection was active, resulting in the display remaining locked to the SSH session that would have been terminated by the shutdown. Admittedly, this could just be my failed interpretation of things.

I’m also not sure if I only needed to remove ~/.Xauthory or if it was also necessary that I removed /tmp/X0-lock. However, it seemed odd that the message to remove /tmp/X0-lock remained in the output from my second attempt at running startx, while the first and final errors regarding the .Xauthority file were missing. Curious… but not that curious.

NOTES:
Throughout this post, I’ve replaced terminal outputs containing the full path to my user directory with “~”.

2nd October
2012
written by dzimney

So I think this is my third post on setting display resolutions under Ubuntu. I’ve got this Dell P2311H 23″ monitor, which has really been great for what it cost me (around $200, I believe). However, the monitor resolutions don’t get picked up by Ubuntu and after a few restarts of my computer, I end up with 640×480 display, which is really a pain in the ass. The odd part is, that usually during installation and for a few restarts, everything runs fine. Eventually it always gets jacked. It has something to do with the monitor not putting out a EDID. I write a little about it here. Anyhow, I recently updated to Xubunut 12.04 (not a fan of Unity at all). And so of course, here I am dealing with the same issue. Things have changed since 10.10 however.

In Xubuntu 12.04 (which for the record is simply Ubuntu running Xfce rather than Unity), the xorg.conf files are handled a bit differently. Firstly, they’ve moved out of the /etc/X11 directory and into the /usr/share/X11 directory. Additionally, they have become they. In 12.04, and I believe since 11.04, the xorg.conf is now a directory called xorg.conf.d and contains various *.conf files. This is a very welcome change as it allows for the config files to be more organized. In the /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d directory, there should already be a number of files. One thing to not here is the that naming convention is to start with a two digit number then dash then the config file name, such as 10-monitor.conf, which is what we will be using. From what I understand the number at the beginning is used to sort which file gets loaded first. I believe there are also some conventions for the number ranges, such as numbers in the 40s are all for some type of config. I really don’t know, but in case you care, there is a rhyme or reason to it, which you can of course choose to ignore if you wish.


Step 1

Before we begin, there are a few pieces of information we need. Firstly, we need to know how to write our modeline. What’s a modeline? I don’t really know, but we’ll be generating one with the gtf command which takes three parameters, Horizontal Resolution, Vertical Resolution and Refresh Rate. In my case, I will be entering the command like this:

gtf 1920 1080 60.

This will provide a modeline for a screen resolution of 1920px width 1080px high and a refresh rate of 60hz. If you don’t know your refresh rate, you probably want to go with 60, especially if you’re using an LCD screen. Entering the command should output something like this:

# 1920×1080 @ 60.00 Hz (GTF) hsync: 67.08 kHz; pclk: 172.80 MHz
Modeline "1920x1080_60.00" 172.80 1920 2040 2248 2576 1080 1081 1084 1118 -HSync +Vsync

We want the “Modeline” which is including and everything after the word “Modeline”.

Modeline "1920x1080_60.00" 172.80 1920 2040 2248 2576 1080 1081 1084 1118 -HSync +Vsync

We also need the Mode Name. This is the first part in quotes: "1920x1080_60.00", including quotes.


Step 2

Next, we need to know the name of our display device. To retrieve this, enter xrandr into the terminal. This should output something similar to the following:

Screen 0: minimum 320 x 240, current 1920 x 1080, maximum 1920 x 1080
default connected 1020x1080+0+0 0mm x 0mm

What we’re looking for here is the name of the device. This should be whatever appears before the word “connected”. In my case the device name is “default”.


Step 3

Now it’s time to write the configuration file. As I mentioned earlier, we are going to create a 10-monitor.conf file. To do so sudo an editor of your choosing such as pico or leafpad. If you don’t like the terminal try the command sudo leafpad /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-monitor.conf. Personally, I enjoy myself a little pico and will be entering sudo pico /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-monitor.conf. Either will do.

Type up your config file to look like the following, where <MODELINE> and <MODENAME> are replaced with the modeline and modename you found in the Step 1 and <DEVICENAME> with the device name found in Step 2.

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "Monitor0"
<MODELINE>
EndSection
Section "Screen"
Identifier "Screen0"
Device "<DEVICENAME>"
Monitor "Monitor0"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
Depth 24
Modes <MODENAME>
EndSubSection
EndSection

In my case, the final file looks like this:

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "Monitor0"
Modeline "1920x1080_60.00" 172.80 1920 2040 2248 2576 1080 1081 1084 1118 -HSync +Vsync
EndSection
Section "Screen"
Identifier "Screen0"
Device "default"
Monitor "Monitor0"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
Depth 24
Modes "1920x1080_60.00"
EndSubSection
EndSection

IMPORTANT! READ THE FULL NEXT PARAGRAPH
For the changes to take you’ll need to save the file and restart your computer. If everything was done correctly, your resolution should be set at 1920×1080 (or whatever resolution you’re using) and you shouldn’t need to touch this stuff again. HOWEVER, if you have a typo or anything wrong with the config file you’ve just created, it is possible for you to lose your display entirely. If this happens, wait for the computer to fully boot and press Ctrl+Alt+F1. This should bring up a terminal and allow you to remove the config file you’ve just created. Do so by running the following:

sudo rm /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-monitor.conf

Once you’ve removed the file, restart the computer (this can also be done in the terminal by running sudo reboot). You can also edit the file the same as we did before, although leafpad won’t be an option any more, and attempt to decipher what is causing the problem. It is entirely possible that this solution simply won’t work for your configuration and monitor.

Good luck. And thanks to Samuel Martin for the original post on this.

31st May
2012
written by dzimney

Tags:
2nd February
2012
written by dzimney

I’ve been running Ubuntu 10.10 for a year or so now and there have been a few times, after installing some updates I presume, where I’ve restarted my computer and suddenly my monitor resolution isn’t recognized. Normally I run the maximum resolution (1920×1010) of my monitor, a Dell P2311H. But on these restarts, my resolution is reduced to 640×480. Very annoying. Now, from what I understand, this is not an issue with Ubuntu per se, but rather the monitor’s failure to send the proper EDID or Extended Display Identification Data for the monitor. Essentially the EDID sends information of what display settings the monitor is capable of, such as refresh rates and resolutions. The basic remedy is to manually enter these settings.

Very recently I had this issue occur to me twice for two separate issues, which is really what’s prompting me to write this post. I don’t want to have to dig through the interwebs again to solve this. So, in my case there were two separate incidents with two different resolutions.

Round 1
The first time my screen resolution was all jacked up, it was because of the “Screen” settings in my xorg.conf, which is located at /etc/X11/xorg.conf.

NOTE: be sure to make a backup of xorg.conf before making edits. You don’t want to make matters worse, and there’s no guarantee that this solution is the solution to your problem.

At the bottom of xorg.conf you should see a section labeled “Screen” or something similar to this:

Section “Screen”
    Identifier    “Default Screen”
    Default Depth    24
EndSection

In this section you’ll want to add a subsection labeled “Display” that defines your available screen resolutions, or more importantly a Virtual resolution which appears to server as a setting for the maximum allowable resolution. Edit the “Screen” section to look something like this:

Section “Screen”
    Identifier    “Default Screen”
    Default Depth    24
    SubSection “Display”
        Virtual    1920 1080
        Depth    24
        Modes    “1920×1080 1680×1050 1344×840 1280×800″
    EndSubSection
EndSection

The resolutions you enter should obviously match to available resolutions for your monitor. More importantly the Virtual entry should match you monitor’s maximum resolution, or rather the maximum resolution you intend to use, whichever is smaller.

Now restart xerver. Depending on your default display manager, you can do this by running one of the following commands:

sudo restart lightdm
or
sudo restart gdm
or
sudo restart kdm

You can find out what your default display manager is by looking at the file default-display-manager in the /etc/X11 directory.

After the restart, maybe you’re good, maybe not. On to…

Round 2

The second time my resolution went all wonky on me it was due to the refresh rates. For this edit, we’ll still be working with the xorg.conf file, but we’ll be editing the “Monitor” section. In my case, this section looked like this:

Section “Monitor”
    Identifier    “Monitor0″
    VendorName    “Dell”
    ModelName    “P2311H”
    HorizSync    28.0 – 33.0
    VertRefresh    43.0 – 72.0
    DisplaySize    509.76 286.74
    Option    “DPMS”
EndSection

The two fields in question are the HorizSync and VertRefresh. You’ll want to change these to whatever your monitor’s refresh rates are. You’ll probably have to do a bit of Googling to figure it out. Of course you could probably just enter in these numbers I have below and see what happens. I believe the worst case scenario would be that Ubuntu would restart without any GUI in which case you’d be stuck in the terminal. So if you’re not comfortable with the Terminal it might not be worth the gamble. Also, in my case DisplaySize looked awfully suspicious and so I removed that line completely.

Again, in my case, the final section looked something like this:

Section “Monitor”
    Identifier    “Monitor0″
    VendorName    “Dell”
    ModelName    “P2311H”
    HorizSync    30.0 – 83.0
    VertRefresh    56.0 – 76.0
    Option    “DPMS”
EndSection

Again, restart your display manager as per the instructions from Round 1 and with any luck you should be in business.

31st January
2012
written by dzimney

To quote an email from my father-in-law,

Here in Lawrence Kansas it was 67°F yesterday. December had 12 days 50°F and above, 2 of which were 60°F and above. January had 16 days 50°F and above, 5 of which were 60°F and above. There has been no snow. Our local weather is anecdotal, I know, but this isn’t – watch 131 years of global warming in 26 seconds…

Watch 131 Years of Global Warming in 26 Seconds | Climate Central


Watch 131 Years of Global Warming in 26 Seconds
Climate Central bridges the scientific community and the public, providing clear, honest information to help people make sound decisions about climate and energy.


Thanks for sharing, Rob.

10th January
2012
written by dzimney

This is a bit long, about 90 minutes, but if you can get through it, there’s a lot of really good information. The video is a lecture given by Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, where he explores the damage caused by sugary foods. It’s absolutely astounding how much sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which are essentially the same thing, is found in the products in our grocery stores. Laura and I have tried to stay away from products made with HFCS for the past few years and it really is a difficult thing to do. The argument isn’t that HFCS is worse for us than sugar. It’s that consuming large amounts of sugar or HFCS is bad for us. And that the main problem is that HFCS is in almost everything we buy. Personally I think that we as a society need to pay far more attention to what we put into our bodies. I’m in no way a “health nut”, but I do believe that our quality of life is directly related to what we eat. Anyway, enough of my babbling, watch the video.

13th July
2011
written by dzimney

My wife and I recently switched from T-Mobile to Sprint for a couple of reasons. The first being that T-Mobile is scheduled to be consumed by AT&T and we’d rather get rid of our phones all together than go with AT&T. The second being that we just moved to Lawrence, KS and our T-Mobile service wasn’t quite as good as we’d hoped. So our first reason for the switch was in hopes of better service as Sprint’s headquarters are in Kansas City, not 45 miles away. As it turns out, Sprint service here in Lawrence is questionable. It’s been reasonably decent throughout the area, but that’s about it. The majority of the time we get about two out of four bars. We have service in more places that we had with T-Mobile, but where T-Mobile had service, the service was strong. So, I guess it’s a bit of a crap shoot either way.

With our new service, I’ve had to rework how I’ve connected Google Voice to my phone. As it turns out Sprint handles Google Voice a lot differently than T-Mobile did. Now, keep in mind, I have the option of keeping my Google Voice set up and how it connects to my mobile phone the same as I had it on T-Mobile. Essentially, I just used Google Voice as a second number that forwarded to my mobile phone and used Voice for my voice mail. The voice mail isn’t the greatest because it depends on a data connection to retrieve voicemails, but you gain Google’s transcriptions of your voicemail messages, which I think is amazing. I barely listen to voicemails any more because I just read them. Setting this up isn’t as simple as it was with T-Mobile (just a setting in the phone’s voice settings). You now have to check the proper settings in your online Google Voice settings and then call *28-XXX-XXX-XXXX (where the X’s are populated with your Voice number) from your mobile phone to redirect calls to voicemail.

But back to what you get with Sprint’s Google Voice integration…

Initially, I was a bit confused and annoyed with the integration. Somehow it just seemed like Sprint and Google’s way of disabling Google Voice calls from the phone, which they really have successfully done. However, I never really used that feature anyway, so I didn’t really care. What I did gain though, which was awesome, was the ability to have my Sprint phone number call in to my Google Chat account. Basically, when you integrate your Sprint and Google Voice accounts, you are given an option to use your mobile number as your Google Voice number. Your previous GV number is removed after 90 days if you do this (unless you pay Google $20 to keep the number, which seems reasonable to me). So, now that I have my mobile number set as my Google Voice number, if someone calls my Google Voice number which is my mobile number, it rings both my Google Chat account and my mobile phone. Why is this awesome? Well, because if I’m at my desk and have my Gmail open, I can answer the call with my computer. This is awesome for two reasons. First, because if I answer with my computer rather than my mobile phone, then the call is running through Google Voice rather than Sprint and so the call does not count against my monthly plan. It’s a free call. The second reason is that if I’m in an area that doesn’t have a good signal, such as my in-laws’ basement (where I’m currently working), I can answer a call with my computer that has a good Ethernet connection over my mobile phone that has a weak signal.

There do seem to be some quirky issues with the integration that I have yet to full figure out. For example, with the integration, my text messages are now sent through Google Voice, which is fine with me. However, having the option to have them run through my normal text messaging service on my mobile phone would be nice. Especially since Google Voice doesn’t support MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service). Now it’s entirely possible this option exists, but like setting up voicemail forward (as described above) it doesn’t seem to be an easy thing to figure out.

So do I like my Sprint service better than T-Mobile? Probably not, but seeing how T-Mobile is going away, Sprint seems to fill in alright.
Do I recommend using the Sprint + Google Voice integration? I think the verdict is still out, but I’m leaning towards yes. I’m still playing around with the new set up and I wouldn’t be surprised if I change things around again. I’ve already changed the set up 2 or 3 times in the past week have had Sprint.

And for the record, in my comparison, I’m using the Nexus S 4G on Sprint and was using the Nexus S on T-Mobile.

28th June
2011
written by dzimney

And so begins our journey to Kansas. Today marks day one for travel. This past weekend was filled with packing, loading, visiting with friends, cleaning, packing, goodbyes to friends, loading and some more cleaning. Follwed up with a six hour drive and we’ve made it to Onterior, OR. Staying at the Motel 6 with the two pups and cat… and we’re completely exhausted.

Leaving Portland today was hard… but not impossible. It’s a pretty bitter sweet experience leaving. Lots to miss, but so much to look forward to. Commencement. Here’s to the next chapter!

So. I’m attaching some photos for fun and stuff but getting delirious, so no more typy typie.

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