Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

December 30, 2009

Getting my HP-Deskjet F380 scanner/printer/copier working on Debian Squeeze

Filed under: Knowledgebase,Linux/Unix Related — Suramya @ 11:20 PM

I have a HP Deskjet F380 All-in-One scanner/printer/copier systems and it is a great machine. I plugged it into my system and started GIMP to scan an image from it. Within about 20 seconds of me powering on the printer I got a popup message in Gimp telling me that my HP printer is ready for use. I printed a test page and it came out fine.

Then I tried to scan an image and I got a message back from SANE that it didn’t find any devices. Checked the system log in /var/log/system and noticed the following error message in the log:

Dec 28 13:36:04 Wyrm python: io/hpmud/musb.c 136: unable get_string_descriptor -1: Operation not permitted
Dec 28 13:36:04 Wyrm python: io/hpmud/musb.c 603: invalid product id string ret=-1

Did a search on the net about the error message and in one of the forums it suggested that I run hp-check to see if I was missing any of the required files. The program gave me a list of missing dependencies that I installed. But the problem still wasn’t solved.

While searching for a solution I found a post on a forum that stated that this person was able to scan an image when running as root but not as a regular user. So I decided to try running xsane as root. When I did that the program ran successfully and detected my scanner. I was also able to scan an image without any issues.

However since its not a good idea to run programs as root, I needed a permanent fix. The same forum gave me a not so elegant but permanent solution to try.

To fix the problem run lsusb and locate the line containing your printer information. On my system the output of the command is:

Bus 002 Device 002: ID 046e:556a Behavior Tech. Computer Corp.
Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 001 Device 009: ID 03f0:5511 Hewlett-Packard DeskJet F300 series
Bus 001 Device 004: ID 0a12:0001 Cambridge Silicon Radio, Ltd Bluetooth Dongle (HCI mode)
Bus 001 Device 003: ID 05e3:0608 Genesys Logic, Inc. USB-2.0 4-Port HUB
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub

As you can see the third line gives the the information for my Printer. Now we need to get the vendor and product ID for the printer. The first set of alphanumeric after the ID is the Vendor ID and the numbers after the ‘:’ denote the Product ID. In my case the ‘Vendor ID’ = 03f0 and the ‘Product ID’ = 5511.

Once we have that information we need to create a new file as root at ‘/etc/udev/rules.d/99-custom.rules‘ with the following content:

ATTR{idVendor}==”VendorID”, ATTR{idProduct}==”ProductID”, MODE=”0666″, GROUP=”lp”

where the ProductID and VendorID are the values we got earlier. Once you make the changes, save the file. Then you can disconnect the printer and reconnect it for the new changes to take effect and your scanner will be ready for use.

Another approach which could have worked was to add the user scanning the image to the group ‘lp’ and ‘scanner’ to give them access to the printer. Keep in mind that I haven’t really tried this approach yet

Thanks to Meson at for the steps to make the printer accessible to all users.

Hope this helps.

– Suramya

December 29, 2009

Using your browser URL history to estimate gender

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 10:33 PM

This is a site that I have been meaning to write about for a while as its been sitting in my Drafts for a couple of months now. So I finally decided that it was about time I blogged about it.

Basically what this site does is that it uses your browser history to figure out the probability of you being male or female based on the kind of sites you visit. The script basically polls the browser to find out which of the Quantcast top 10k sites were visited by the user and then applies the ratio of male to female users for each site and with some basic math determines a guestimate of your gender.

Seems to work quite well too. I have checked it on a couple of systems and it does seem to get the percentages right. According to this system’s history I have a 98% probability of being a guy.

Check it out: Using your browser URL history to estimate gender

– Suramya

December 28, 2009

How to set different backgrounds for each desktop in KDE4

Filed under: Knowledgebase,Linux/Unix Related — Suramya @ 11:52 PM

As some of you know, linux allows you to have different virtual desktop when using either KDE or Gnome (I haven’t really used any of the other environments). Which is quite useful when you are working on a lot of things and want to reduce the clutter on the screen. I usually separate the windows by task type and then put each task in its own desktop. Makes it easier to work.

In KDE3.5 you could have different background image for each of the virtual desktop which made it easier to identify what desktop you were on currently. In KDE4 that functionality was initially missing for some reason. (Probably because it had to be coded in). Now in KDE4.3 (Maybe 4.2 also. Not sure) this functionality is available again though its not as easy to find as it was in KDE 3.5.

To configure it follow these steps:

  • Click on the desktop cashew located at the top right corner of the screen.
  • Click on ‘Zoom out’ in the drop down menu
  • Choose “Configure Plasma” from the toolbox that appears on the top right corner of the screen
  • In the screen that comes up check the “Use a separate dashboard” option.
  • Check the “Use Different activity for each desktop” option
  • Click on OK
  • Click on the magnifying glass at the bottom of the applets to zoom back into the desktop
  • Now you will be able choose individual backgrounds for each desktop by Right click on the desktop and clicking on ‘Desktop Settings’ . After that change the background like you usually do. But now this background will only be applied to the current desktop and you can repeat this process on another desktop to choose another background for it.

    Thanks to for the nudge in the right direction.

    Hope this helps.

    Update (12th Jan 2010): Added one step that I had forgotten to include earlier. Thanks to Sebastian for pointing that out.

    Update (19th Sep 2011): These steps no longer work for KDE 4.6.5. New instructions are at: How to set different backgrounds for each desktop in KDE 4.6.5

    – Suramya

    December 27, 2009

    Stop Gnome Applications from looking ugly in KDE4

    Filed under: Knowledgebase,Linux/Unix Related,Tech Related — Suramya @ 3:28 AM

    Since I have been using KDE (even in v3.5) I have noticed that Gnome applications look ugly in KDE. (see screenshot below) In KDE 3.5 I had to install the Gnome theme controller application and apply a theme and it fixed the issue. (I can’t recall the name right now, but it was something gnome-theme-something) but in KDE4 that didn’t work so well.

    Firefox without GTK Themes

    Did a little research and tried various options but none of them worked that well and caused loads of issues. Finally I found a way to get the applications to use the current GTK theme in KDE even after I rebooted the system without any manual intervention.

  • Open a shell prompt or open the Run dialog by pressing Alt-F2
  • Type gnome-settings-daemon and press enter
  • Once you do this all running GTK applications, as well as any more you launch, will switch to your GNOME theme and will look a lot nicer (See screenshot below)

    Firefox with GTK Themes

    As you can see the program looks a lot less ugly with the themes applied. However if you reboot the system without configuring the gnome-settings-daemon to auto start, the applications will go back to the default no-theme state.

    To set the daemon to autostart create a text file called theme.desktop (Actually This can be anything you want as long as you keep the .desktop extension) in the ~/.kde/Autostart directory with the following contents:

    [Desktop Entry]
    Exec=gnome-settings-daemon &
    Name=GNOME Settings Daemon

    Once you create the file and save it, KDE will start the Gnome settings daemon everytime it starts.

    Note: On some systems the autostart directory is located in the ~/.kde4/share/autostart folder.

    Hope this helps.

    Source of the tip:

    – Suramya

    December 26, 2009

    Installing Nvidia Video drives on Debian Testing (Squeeze)

    Filed under: Knowledgebase,Linux/Unix Related — Suramya @ 3:15 AM

    The default VGA drivers in Debian Testing worked fine for normal use, but when I tried to activate some of the effects like Fade, Shadow, Translucency etc the system told me that it couldn’t do it. I thought that this could be because I have an Nvidia video card and hadn’t installed the Nvidia driver yet.

    I tried installing it using synaptic but for some reason when I added the nvidia driver it told me that I would have to remove pretty much most of my xorg (the GUI backend) install. So I aborted it. Did a little search on the web and found the following instructions to install the driver at

  • Log in as root
  • Type apt-get install build-essential linux-headers-$(uname -r) (to install the Linux headers)
  • Type cd /usr/src (Change to the source directory)
  • Type ln -s linux-headers-$(uname -r) linux (To create a virtual link ‘linux’ that points to the latest linux-headers downloaded)
  • Type wget (Download the NVIDIA installer)
  • Type /etc/init.d/gdm stop (to stop gdm and drop to a terminal)
  • Type cd /usr/src && sh (to launch the nVidia installer script)
  • I ran all the commands above but the installer kept telling me that the kernel-headers were missing. Tried a couple of things that didn’t work.

    Finally ran –help to see what command line parameters are supported by the installer. Noticed that they had a –update parameter that was supposed to update the installer to the latest version. I ran the installer with –update and it downloaded the latest version of the installer. After the download completed it automatically ran the installer which updated my system without any errors.

    So if you are trying to install the nvidia drivers using the installer and it keeps complaining about the headers missing even though you have them installed try running it with the –update option.

    Now I have all the effects I wanted to enable working fine.

    – Suramya

    Installing Debian Testing “Squeeze”

    Filed under: Linux/Unix Related — Suramya @ 2:55 AM

    As I said in my previous post. I have gotten tired of Ubuntu and am in the process of going back to a standard Debian install. This is the first time after a lot of years that I am installing Debian from scratch on my system, before this the last Debian version I installed from base was version 3. What I have been doing recently is that I boot off a Kanotix CD (Live CD based on Debian) and write that to the drive. Once that was done I would point the system to Debian repositories and then do an upgrade.

    This time I decided to do a plain install, so I downloaded the “Debian GNU/Linux testing “Squeeze” – Official Snapshot i386 CD Binary-1 20091221-04:49″ from the Debian site and burned it to a disk. I downloaded this version instead of the Stable snapshot because I was anyways going to upgrade to Testing so this should save me some time in downloading new/updated packages.

    I hit a couple of issues during the install which might be because I was using the testing snapshot but can’t be sure:

    1. The graphical install didn’t work. If just gave me an error when I tried to run it. So I did a text install, which worked fine
    2. After the install completed, I found that grub was not installed correctly. If kept giving me an error that grub_printf was undefined. To fix this, I booted the system off the installation CD in ‘Rescue Mode’ and told the system to reinstall grub on the main harddrive. That fixed that issue.

    Other than that I had no issues installing Debian on my system. All built-in devices have been working ok so far. Will post more on any issues I hit during customization etc later.

    – Suramya

    December 25, 2009

    A Politically correct Holiday greeting

    Filed under: Humor,My Life — Suramya @ 8:11 PM

    Best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most joyous traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, but with respect for the religious persuasion of others who choose to practice their own religion as well as those who choose not to practice a religion at all;


    A fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions have helped make our society great, without regard to the race, creed, color, religious, or sexual preferences of the wishes.

    (Disclaimer: This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others and no responsibility for any unintended emotional stress these greetings may bring to those not caught up in the holiday spirit.)

    Just Kidding, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all of you 🙂

    – Suramya


    December 24, 2009

    The Data Liberation Front from Google

    Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:06 PM

    The Data Liberation Front is a website started by Google a while ago but I haven’t seen a lot of people talking about it yet. In fact I only found out about it today while searching for something else on another blog.

    According to the site their mission statement is:

    Users should be able to control the data they store in any of Google’s products. Our team’s goal is to make it easier to move data in and out.

    This is an awesome move by Google and one which I would love to have other sites (like Facebook) follow. Right now any data uploaded to Facebook is stuck there and as far as I know not that easy to export to local computers or to other sites. But on Orkut you can export your entire data set (except photos, which is in the works) to your local computer.

    This site explains how you can export data from Orkut, Blogspot, Google Calendar, Contacts, Google Docs, Gmail etc etc. Check out the site for a more detailed list.

    I always prefer having my data backed up on a local system even when its uploaded to the cloud. That way I have access and control of it even if the cloud goes down or I loose net access.

    Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

    – Suramya

    December 23, 2009

    Ubuntu 9.10 Clean install and clean removal

    Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:39 PM

    As I have posted earlier I have been using Ubuntu for the past few months and was reasonably satisfied with 9.04. When 9.10 came out in Oct I upgraded to it using the built in upgrade and since then I have been having issues with the install. (Most of them caused by the upgrade process according to forums)

    The first issue I got hit with (which I never really solved) was that my desktop no longer allowed me to put icons on it. Basically the Desktop work area (or whatever they are calling it in KDE4) disappeared. It wasn’t that big a deal because I hardly use the desktop icons anyway (I use the ‘quick bar’ to start most programs) but still irritating.

    The main issue I found really irritating was that the fonts on Gnome applications (X-Chat, Thunderbird, Synaptic) were not controlled by the KDE control panel, plus every time I rebooted the fonts would reset to the default settings (size 6 for the gnome apps) and I would have to run the gnome-control-panel and then click on the Appearance link and then close the application (without making any changes) to set the fonts to a normal size.

    Then I guess I made some changes to the system before my last reboot. The reboot was after 5 days and I had been fiddling with the settings, so I don’t know exactly what I changed but the end result was the the entire display would dance around everytime I moved my mouse (or tried typing). Now since I had been meaning to do a clean install of 9.10 since I had upgraded I took this chance to backup my system and do a clean install instead of troubleshooting.

    However the problem with the fonts is still there. Another irritating thing is the way all the tools/programs (like vim, gcc, ssh server) that I have come to expect to be pre-installed on a system are not installed. So instead of installing all these packages again, then fighting with the fonts issue and then removing all the eye candy and special effects I am going to remove Ubuntu from my system and go back to a plain Debian install. I will be installing the Testing or Unstable version but it will be a plain install.

    I am not saying that Ubuntu is a bad system. Its just not the right system for me because I happen to find a lot of eye candy to be very distracting when I am working. I don’t want the entire window to show when I am tabbing through them, just the name and the icon are fine. Plus the wiggly window border is really annoying for me.

    You might have a different criteria than me and might like it better. Although, for a new user Ubuntu is certainly the easiest to setup.

    – Suramya

    December 22, 2009

    Finally sync’d my Phone to my Google Calender

    Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 3:54 PM

    After reading Vinit’s response to my post about Google Calender Notification (and talking to him) I finally went ahead and installed Mail for Exchange on my N95.

    The configuration was easy, however the interface I got and the settings the system requested were different than what the Google Help site showed. Initially when I was setting up the profile it only asked for my username and password and the domain (which it didn’t let me leave blank as the Google site recommended).

    After I saved this info and tried to exit from the configuration screen that’s when it told me that I hadn’t filled out all the required information and asked me for the remaining information (like the exchange server name etc)

    Once all that was done, I initiated a sync. Even though I had told it to sync calender entries and included events up to two weeks ago it didn’t sync all my events. So I told the system to sync all calender events and that’s when it downloaded all my entries from the Google calender to my local phone.

    The only problem I see is that the events that my phone got from the Google calender don’t have any alarm set for them even though I have an alert set up on the calender for them. Though this could be because I only have the SMS and email alerts configured on all my events but not the pop-up alert. Maybe setting that alarm also will give me a phone alarm. But its not that big a deal.

    Now I have to sit and clean up all the double entries I have ended up on my phone and calender for the same events… Basically on my phone I had the alert configured for a different time than the alert on the calender so I have to sit and clean that out. Will do it when I have some spare time when I am not doing anything…

    Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

    – Suramya

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