Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) Sound Problem Fixed

Friday, 24. April 2009

I found someone else reporting the same problem here. The problem turned out to be that the PCM volume in the ALSA mixer had gotten muted. I'm not sure if the upgrade to 9.04 caused that or something else did. Whatever the case, the sound is working great and there's no more crackling.

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Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) Upgrade Notes

Friday, 24. April 2009

I upgraded from Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibix) to Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope). It went fairly well but after the upgrade I found three major problems.

No Terminal

When I tried to launch GNOME Terminal from the menu I got this message:

There was an error creating the child process for this terminal

Not good. The first thing I tried was to start Update Manager and apply any patches. Update Manager showed me a list of patches but when I tried to install the updates it failed with the message:

Error failed to fork pty

At this point I wasn't getting warm, fuzzy feelings. Googling for the error messages turned up several Ubuntu bug reports for both problems. Many commenters reported that adding devpts to the fstab resolved the problem for them. So I tried their suggestion and it solved the problem for me as well. To apply this fix you need to add the following line to /etc/fstab:

devpts /dev/pts devpts rw,noexec,nosuid,gid=5,mode=620 0 0

To edit /etc/fstab press ALT+F2 to bring up the Run Application dialog. Then type in either”

gksudo gedit /etc/fstab


gksudo gedit /etc/fstab

After adding the entry for devpts you need to mount it. You can either reboot or you press CTRL+ALT+F1 to temporarily switch to console mode. Once in console mode, login as root and run:

mount -a


After exiting console mode you should now be able to successfully launch GNOME Terminal from the menu. It worked for me anyway.

NOTE: After rebooting, GNOME Terminal would not work again. After running mount -a from console mode it started working. So the problem is only partially solved if I have to manually mount the device after each boot.


After the upgrade my RAID volume would not mount. When I tried to mount it I got this error message:

mount: special device /dev/md0 does not exist

I ran sudo mdadm --detail --scan and it showed the RAID array, but it didn't match the entries in either /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf or /etc/fstab. It turned out that the RAID device had changed from /dev/md0 to /dev/md/d0 in the upgrade. Fixing the problem required two steps:

  • Replace the ARRAY entry in /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf with the output from sudo mdadm --detail --scan.

    NOTE: If the output contains the phrase metadata=00.90, then delete that phrase. mdadm doesn't like metadata format 00.90 and gave me an error message:

    mdadm: metadata format 00.90 unknown, ignored.

  • Change the entry in /etc/fstab to the new device, i.e. from /dev/md0 to /dev/md/d0.

NOTE: The RAID volume does not auto-mount after rebooting. So this problem is also only partially solved.

No Sound

When anything tries to play sound I just get a crackling sound from the speakers. I'm still working on this problem…

Update: Sound problem fixed.

Final Update: All problems fixed.

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Saturday, 4. April 2009

You may notice some missing posts. That's because all of the non-business related and non-technical posts have been moved to my personal web site at deanfranklin.net in order to make this site more focused.

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Taming Word 2008’s Paste Special

Tuesday, 31. March 2009

How I hate Microsoft Word's Edit|Paste Special menu item. Why can't Microsoft assign a keyboard shortcut to it? It is a maddening oversight and it makes me crazy when I just want to past some unformatted text – stop typing, reach for the mouse, click Edit, click Paste Special, click Unformatted Text and finally click OK. Four mouse clicks and one interrupted workflow later I have my unformatted text. Apple applications have a Paste and Match Style menu item with a keyboard shortcut – ???V. That shortcut is a bit of a handful but it still beats the tar out of doing it the Microsoft way.

Today I found a solution, at least for Word:mac 2008. TidBITS published the AppleScript-based workaround over a year ago in Word 2008 and the Paste Plain Text Dance and then updated it with a better version of the script in Updated Paste Plain Text AppleScript for Word 2008. Follow those tips and you'll soon be pasting unformatted text from the keyboard in Word.

I made one small change when I implemented it on my MacBook. I wanted the keyboard shortcut to match Apple's so that I only have to remember one shortcut. To assign ???V as the shortcut instead of ??V as in the tip, change the name of the script to Paste Plain Text\smoV.scpt. Adding the “o” adds the Option (?) key to the shortcut.

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Running vsftpd Behind a NAT Firewall

Saturday, 14. March 2009

I needed to set up a vsftpd server recently but I needed it running behind a NAT firewall. I set up port 21 in the port forwarding table. And it didn’t work. That’s because on Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibix the vsftpd config defaults to passive mode. I tried changing it to active mode but could not get that to work either. Since passive mode is recommended for vsftpd I went back to trying to make passive mode work. I needed to change vsftpd.conf to set the value of pasv_address to my public static IP address. Then in addition to forwarding port 21 I also needed to forward all of the ports in the range between pasv_min_port and pasv_max_port (inclusive) as defined in vsftpd.conf. In my case that was ports 32000-32127.


After adding that range to the port forwarding table in the NAT firewall it works great. You can increase or decrease the range of the passive ports and you can move it around in the port numbering space to suit your needs.

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Drupal 6.10

Saturday, 14. March 2009

I skipped Drupal 6.9 because I was too busy to upgrade. I had a few minutes free this morning so I upgraded to Drupal 6.10 which was released February 25th, 2009. The upgrade was incident free but the blog API module still returns “1” in response to an RSD query and expects “blog” when posting. I've just about given up hope that anyone will fix it and have resigned myself to patching that module in every new release. Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software opened an issue report on this bug over a year ago.

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twitterfeed: Tweet Your RSS Feeds

Friday, 9. January 2009

twitterfeed lets you tweet any RSS or Atom feed – a kind of RSS multicasting. Register with twitterfeed, or just login with your existing OpenID credentials, and add a feed.


The main problem with using twitterfeed is that you have to trust it with your twitter credentials. I didn't see any reason not to trust it but given the recent spate of twitter hacking many people will be understandably reluctant. One option would be to set up a separate twitter account just for twitterfeed and let that account do the publishing. The drawback to that is that you would need to get your followers to follow that new account too. Hopefully twitterfeed will adopt something like OAuth in the near future so they don't need your credentials. Ideally twitter will someday introduce a third party application approval mechanism similar to the one Flickr provides.

Once you've decided how to handle the twitter credentials, enter the URL for any RSS or Atom feed – http://www.splatdot.com/rss.xml for example – and then you can control to some extent what, when and how get published from the feed.

  • Update frequency Tells twitterfeed how often to poll the RSS feed for updates – from every 30 minutes to once every 24 hours.
  • Post up to: The number of new entries from the RSS feed to post. This can be set from 1 to 5. If there are more new items than that in the feed they will not be posted to twitter. Ever.
  • Include…: Specify whether to include the title, the description or both.
  • Include item link: Include a link to the item along with the text. I can't really think of a situation where you would not want to send the link but somebody must have or this wouldn't be an option.
  • Post new items based on: Publication date or GUID.
  • Prefix each tweet with: This option lets you add some static text to the beginning of each tweet. I haven't tried it but you should also be able to use this to either send the tweet with “@user” or “d user”. If you set up a second account you could have it direct tweet your main accoount with a feed you don't want your followers to see.
  • Filter by keywords: If you set up filter keywords only items from the feed that match one of the keywords will be posted.

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SSH Weirdness On OS X

Saturday, 3. January 2009

I use ssh all the time, but I rarely use it to connect to my MacBook. Today my MacBook froze hard and I tried to ssh to it from my Linux box in an attempt to recover. The ssh failed with the following error message:

    dean@xbrain:~$ ssh

    Received disconnect from 2: Too many authentication failures for dean

My first thought was that DenyHosts had borked me but that turned out not to be the case. (If you aren't running DenyHosts you should be.) I tried ssh with debug messages turned on and the client was offering the correct public key but the server was rejecting it. I ended up just doing a hard reboot of the MacBook but I still wanted to solve the prolem.

Next I assumed that something in my private or public ssh keys was borked. Searching on the error message I was getting led me to believe that I had file permission problems somewhere but my .ssh directory had all the correct permissions – 0700 for the directory and 0600 for all the files inside. I edited sshd_config with the intention of enabling PAM and password authentication. Instead the following two lines caught my eye:

    StrictModes yes

    MaxAuthTries 1

First I changed the value of MaxAuthTries to 3. I was rewarded with a new error message from the ssh client.

    dean@xbrain:~$ ssh

    Permission denied (publickey).

After that when I turned on debug messages for the ssh client I could see that after the initial public key authentication failed it tried to find other allowed authentication methods and when it failed gave me the error above. Next I changed the value of StrictModes to no. After making that change I could successfully ssh. This confirmed that there was a file permission problem on the server side.


    Specifies whether sshd(8) should check file modes and

    ownership of the user's files and home directory before

    accepting login. This is normally desirable because

    novices sometimes accidentally leave their directory or

    files world-writable. The default is "yes".

I had always assumed that StrictModes only applies to the user's .ssh directory. It turns out that it also checks the file permissions on the user's home directory and will balk if the home directory is writable by group or other (everyone). My home directory was writable by group and this was the root cause of the errors I had been getting. (The default user group is staff on OS X but it varies on different operating systems and distributions.) After removing group write permissions from my home directory and restoring my original sshd_config settings everything started working the way it was supposed to. From a review of my Time Machine backups it looks like some time in December I accidentally (or perhaps even intentionally) changed my home directory to a drop box which turned on group write permissions. Doh!

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Drupal 6.8

Thursday, 18. December 2008

Drupal 6.8 was released December 11th, one day after Drupal 6.7 was released. The update was incident free even though I had skipped 6.7. The blog API module still returns “1” in response to an RSD query but expects “blog” when posting. I downloaded the development snapshot of Drupal 7 to check out the forthcoming changes to blogapi.module. There are a few but they are minor and mostly cosmetic and the RSD query response is still broken.

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Comments RSS Feed

Friday, 5. December 2008

I've been getting a lot of comments on this post and I needed a better way to be notified of comments that I need to respond to than by repeatedly visiting the site myself. A search on Drupal's web site turned up the Comment RSS module. It allows you to subscribe to an RSS feed of the comments on any individual post. Just click on the post you are interested it and look for the RSS feed icon in your browser's nav bar or at the very bottom of the page.

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