[ Table Of Contents ][ Answer Guy Current Index ] greetings   Meet the Gang   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9 [ Index of Past Answers ]

(?) The Answer Gang (!)

By Jim Dennis, Ben Okopnik, Dan Wilder, Breen, Chris, and... (meet the Gang) ... the Editors of Linux Gazette... and You!
Send questions (or interesting answers) to The Answer Gang for possible publication (but read the guidelines first)

(?) Themes in Linux

a game of win-upsmanship

From Elliot

Answered By Heather Stern, Jay R. Ashworth, Karl-Heinz Herrmann

Elliot, John Karns

(?) after reading a linux pocket book i found out that linux can have many skins under gnome and kde, i am using mandrake 8.1 and would love to download some like the windows 2000 and the matrix/x men themes do you know of any good download spots thanks,

(!) [star] themes.org
You'll be able to surf from there to themes sub-hosts for the specific Window Manager which you are running; we have several.

(?) ps i want the windows themes as part of a joke to a friend who is running windows 2000, him and i are battling to who has the better operating system i say linux he says windows 2000, he will come to his senses some time soon.

from elliot

(!) [star] The strangest and silliest case of "which OS looks cooler" effects I did was to run a copy of Windows For Workgroups 3.1 under DesqView, with WFW running Norton Desktop for Windows and themed up to look as close to a Mac as I could get. (Which was actually very close, I'm a decent graphic artists and rather sneaky about using my apps' splash screens) I was doing NDW tech support at the time; Linux was so new we were using Soft Landing Systems, and boy, was that a painful download.
(!) [Jay] There is a documented case, somewhere, of someone running 5 emulators deep, though I no longer remember which ones they were. I'm pretty sure it involved a Windows em, a Mac one, and a Commie, but I no longer remember the details.
(!) [Heather] In a later and less silly age I used Fvwm95 to good effect on FreeBSD systems, to get folks with no Linux nor BSD experience to be able to use our systems quickly. All I had to make sure was that "Settings" menu sorted out in the right order. Nowadays better file managers would make faking out the Control Panel pretty easy too. In a modern day I'd probably start with Icewm because someone else already did most of the work, and Icewm works well with K and Gnome.
Ahh, but none of those were Linux. My usual one-upsmanship call for a UNIX derivate over an MSwin derivate, is that the Linux/UNIX philosophy has many small parts that do things by operating together -- even in those cases when things break down fairly badly, it's usually quite easy to slip over to another console and merely 'kill -9' the offending process. The GUI is just one more piece in this sort of puzzle, and in fact X, the graphical system, can be run without a window manager at all if you really need to squeeze those resources.
But the times when I've hung X fairly hard (hey, I was working with some locally built stuff I'd wired up wrong, mea culpa) I was able to ssh in from another terminal, kill -9 the process family responsible, and init cleaned up the memory mess. No nasty reboot necessary :) It's possible to dig yourself into trouble so deep only a reboot would escape, but much more difficult. The principle that not every app gets godly powers on the whole disk helps this out a great deal...
(!) [Jay] The equivalent of the Windows BSOD is the Unix Panic. (Or the Linux Oops...)
In 20 years of working with *nix boxen, I've seen...
10 panics.
5 or 6 of those were my own machine, when the 1.0 kernel proved not to be as resilient as the .99pl12f working with a WD 1007 ESDI controller.
All of the others were bad device drivers or bad hardware; I have never in my life seen a Unix box lock up from userland software problems.
(!) [Heather] I've seen about 12 or 15 "device wedge" conditions. In themselves they don't halt the system, but the wedged driver will never release its resources,
(!) [Jay] Typically, this is a driver for a "fast" device, which turned out to be slow. Slow device drivers are interruptable. "fast" ones aren't.
(!) [Heather] and the condition usually requires an exceedingly careful manual shutdown -- which you want to do, instead of let a UPS discover it can't shut you down correctly. Most especially you want to make sure the wedging condition isn't part of the startup sequence or you are really in hot water. The usual reason for this is when am incorrect driver succeeds in loading anyway, much to its dismay. And mine. (For our loyal readers, if anybody is willing to believe me when I say I have a PCMCIA-LS120 that doesn't work, and willing to help make it work, please let me know. That kind of coding is not my specialty.)
I've seen numerous "fatal embrace" conditions amongst 3 to 5 apps enough times that I don't count them; not because they're common, but because I've been doing this long enough I have better things to count. They can be killed from other consoles -- the main reason X makes things a problem is that it owns display and keyboard control -- thus it straddles userland and driver space. If the X server or the X window manager cannot come to the foreground because other apps are locked up, your directly-connected keyboard may be unusable... whether or not those two are members of the lockup. Thus a quick bout with 'ssh' and 'kill -9' is in order.
Occasional cases of someone passing incorrect hardware information to an app which straddles userland and driverspace (PCMCIA, X, just about any emulator) have led to frankly, expectable results. Debugging the smoking crater in your foot, yes. D'oh!
In the scope of laptops only, poor quality APM or ACPI support on either end of the hardware/driver equation has led many on mailing lists to wail that resuming from suspend is a game of musical chairs for them (sometimes you lose) or worse (tell me again about these journaling filesystems, I think I really need that stuff) but I have only seen that for myself... um, about 7 times. But bear in mind that this includes that I played "musical chairs" with resuming for about a month before I learned enough about APM to use it correctly on my own laptop. Ahh, that was a much younger me. I was so excited about everything else in my new distros.

(?) [John] Any tips for the rest of us out here who would like to do the same? I really don't use the suspend feature on my laptop, as the success rate is only about 30% - 50%.

(!) [Heather] Yes.
  1. I later learned that I succeeded so well at it ... translation, I didn't crash 92.3% of the time... because I had such decently good timing in my BIOS. I love my little blue laptop. It's great.
  2. Once I actually built a kernel for myself with APM support turned on crashes changed from "fairly common" to "rare"
  3. Once I actually loaded apmd as part of normal startup sequence (duh, how silly I feel now) the crashes went away entirely. Nowadays I put it in the load sequence even if I think the kernel has no apm - it's safe to do that, it merely bails out with a note about it.
To expand on (2), there are a handful of minor options that relate to what APM sub-features are turned on, off, or hit over the head with a stick. You may need to mess with some of them until you get a machine that stops being crashy. Or mostly stops being crashy. If it never gets perfect and it's a fairly new box (year 2000+) it may be worth trying ACPI instead.
SMP's APIC behaviors give APM a nasty-bad case of indigestion, and so you should not turn on "APIC for Uniprocessor" even if your CPU can use it, when you stick with APM.
To expand on (3), of course it's this userland daemon that allows things like it turning of the pcmcia ports when I want to go to sleep, so the unpowered ports don't block the interrupt request and result in immediate wake again. Sound can do that too. Heh.
Hope that helps :)

(?) [John] Thanx a bunch. Although I have apmd being called from the init scripts and enabled in the (2.2.x) kernel, I was having a heck of a time with it. However, it's been some time since I've tried it - (probably not since I upgraded to 2.2.20), so it may be time to do some experimenting.

(!) [Heather] In general anything that crosses the blood/brain barrier, er, kernel and userland space has potential to do "something wicked" (a real error message, I saw it once) or scare an operating system ("Aieee! tried to kill init!").
I shan't count people thinking their screensaver errors represent some dire system failure. ("xplanet not found")
(!) [Jay] Oh. I thought you meant the BSOD screensaver. :D
(!) [K.-H.] I can/could force it rather easily into complete crash (i.e. completely dead: no net, no keyboard, no mouse actions).
(!) [Jay] Eek.
(!) [H.-H.] Just switching fast between different screen resolutions X-screen textconsole etc. will usually lock it hard at some point. Sometimes with running kernel and network, but more often locked solid. Seems to happen with Matrox Mytique graphic cards as well as a variety of more recent nvidia's. When running DOSEMU a long time agro (like 2-3 years) certain programs could also lock me out completely because the keyboard was blocked. No ideas if the net would have been still running.
(!) [Jay] Likely so.
(!) [Heather] While we mention odd documented cases, someone managed to get themselves a situation where the stack was still active after they called for init to halt ... and then abused this to their advantage by using their machine as a router, whose only purpose for a userland at all was to establish his packet filters before "shutting down". Darn near bulletproof. I don't think you can do that anymore without hacking the kernel a teeny bit.
(!) [K.-H.] also starting vmware in fullscreen (with resolution change) locked an nvidia card solid several times on the machine I'm just sitting at.
All of these have one thing in common: direct hardware acess from more or less userspace and hardware and/or keyboard locking going haywire. I try to avoid that if at all possible. I also guess that dosemu by now is lots more stable, but I somehow don't need it anymore.
(!) [Jay] Indeed. Yeah, direct hardware access is the commin factor, no doubt. Userspace people just are not as careful as the kernel hackers in general...
(!) [Heather] Some but not all distros also have some very smooth ways of keeping their packages up-to-date; MS is a little slow on the uptake with security updates, and some of those are worse than the disease since they can't resist adding new functions in with it.
What's more a decent WINE setup can run Windows apps within the Linux kit; Mandrake's "gamers edition" has it all ready to go, plus Transgaming's ActiveX support so most things run straight up.
(!) [Jay] Hey, Heather: is a P266 with X4 and 96M of RAM enough to run Wine at all reasonably?
(!) [Heather] I dunno, I haven't run WINE in a while ... and it's come a long way baby, but I dunno if that means it uses more or about the same resources as it did when I messed with it. Also for the record I've only seeing the Transgaming stuff on other peoples' boxen, not my own.
I used a Pentium II. I'm pretty sure 96 MB is enough if you're the only one abusing your workstation :) "Reasonable" is totally subjective and in my case is skewed heavily -- the only two remaining MSwin boxen around here are a P130 laptop and a VMware session. The VMware session is molasses compared even to the older boxen I was using back in my tech support days. The P130 is reasonable.
What Xfree86 version 4 adds to this puzzle I couldn't say.
(!) [Jay] Cool.
Specifically, I need to run (and find a copy of) Corel Draw/Linux.
(!) [Heather] Run Corel Draw, or read its file format? Important distinction, that.
(!) [Jay] I would, actually, like to run it; I didn't know anything was reading .cdr files these days. There was a tuned port to Wine of either 8 or 9, but it's no longer a product.
(!) [Heather] (back to Elliot here) Which I suspect may answer about half of your other thread... For the other half, run don't walk to your nearest search engine and type "linux 3d gaming". That should get you lots to work with.
On the flip side of one-upsmanship, so what if he wants to run MSwin? I mean, I wouldn't go near that license they've got on XP with a 20 foot pole and hazmat gear, but Win2k might be okay as a desktop system. I woldn't trust it as a server, not because of the OS itself (others in the Answer Gang are welcome to disagree, but I've no quibbles about proprietary bits here and there in my life) but because many of the server apps are bug-ridden. If I'm going to use Apache and Sendmail anyway (they've been ported there long since, and some effort is made to keep them updated) then I'd rather use them on platforms they were built for first. In many contexts the BSD family (OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and for non-PC use NetBSD) can do better than both of us, so it really comes down to what you expect to do with a system, before you decided what OS will be best for it.
Document compatability is a different problem, but Wordperfect, Applix (no wait, that was renamed) Anyware, StarOffice all exist for both platforms.
BTW I've seen Gnome and Enlightenment-looking themes for MSwin. Maybe he'd like to try them. You can both have a contest against the rest of your colleagues to make them have trouble telling which machine is which :) Once upon an age ago I saw a "Windows to KDE theme converter" but I'm pretty sure it was for KDE 1, and may not have been updated. Still, you're welcome to use http://freshmeat.net (A linux applications search engine) to go looking for it.

(!) [Jay] ... and a Commie, but I no longer remember the details.
(!) [Heather] Commodore 64's used hammers and sickles? Oh, now I know what type of terminal is wired up to Ben's dark glasses ... ;)
(!) [Mike] I knew it, I just knew it. Heather, get the car, call the dogs and the SWAT team.
(!) [Ben] The SWAT team is over here, drinking up my best rum.
(!) [Heather] They obviously read the Answer Gang Members' FAQ (http://ww.linuxgazette.net/tag/members-faq.html); they couldn't stick with the beers, you reserved 'em.
(!) [Ben] The dogs have all turned out to be total pet sluts, and are doing that hind-leg-twitch thing while their bellies are being scratched. As to the car, i stole the battery weeks ago.
You are doomed.
(!) [Heather] Ben forgets, I have ways of getting around without cars. That little fellow in Doom could definitely use a boost from a jet pack.
Which leads us straight back to the gaming thread, doesn't it? :D

This page edited and maintained by the Editors of Linux Gazette Copyright © 2002
Published in issue 77 of Linux Gazette April 2002
HTML script maintained by Heather Stern of Starshine Technical Services, http://www.starshine.org/

[ Table Of Contents ][ Answer Guy Current Index ] greetings   Meet the Gang   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9 [ Index of Past Answers ]