Revisiting Linux on Desktop

February 14, 2008

Two years ago and after five years of frustration I kind of gave up on Linux at home. I use it regularly at work (a rather limited set of Linux server applications), but I decided to eliminate it from my home because after so many years I got sick of its little problems.

Recently I’ve been thinking about resurrecting my old Athlon PC and after a bit of research last week I came across this article. Well, I thought, what the heck – let’s give it a try.

Yesterday I downloaded the latest Ubuntu desktop ISO and today I installed it on the PC. Findings:
o I was able to download the freely distributable MS fonts but a bug in Ubuntu’s (or Debian’s, actually) font manager prevented me from configuring X-Windows to use them
o Since I planned to keep the box on at all times, I downloaded the BOINC package but a bug in the BOINC configuration tool prevented me from using it. (Yes, there are some “try this and if that doesn’t work try that” posts on the forums, but I have smarter things to do, thank you very much).
o For some reason (I spent 20 minutes trying to find out why – no luck) the OS can’t reboot. It hangs on shutdown/restart.
o For some reason the OS can’t switch users – it hangs on X-Windows stop (probably related to above shutdown/restart problem)

One funny thing is that there were over 200 security updates to install (and this is the latest edition of Ubuntu). Remember the days when dozens of Windows updates seemed outrageous?

What’s good? Well, the OS looks prettier, selection of applications is richer (20 chess programs anyone?), but it still reminds me of a pretty Frankenstein – all parts are good but it’s very difficult to get them to form a nice and properly functioning whole.

I think I’ve had enough Linux on desktop for quite some time. Linux on desktop, see you in 2010!


Non-English Vista SP1 RC1 / RTM Build 6001.18000 “Early Release”

February 13, 2008

Today I carelessly applied the Vista SP1 registry patch circulating on the Internet and – it worked. My non-English Vista is being upgraded to SP1 6001.18000 as I type.

Before this I had Windows Vista with a SP1 beta (x86, in non-English language). If you have SP1 Release Candiate now, uninstall it first, then reboot, run the batch file, reboot again, run Windows Update (you’ll need to install some incremental updates and reboot 3-4 times until you finally reach KB937287 (SP1 installer) and finally SP1 RC1 itself).

I had an issue with a failing security patch related to WebDAV (couldn’t install) but it got around it by disabling WebDAV service.

NOTE: Before you save the patch, rename it to *.bat and use it, open it with a text editor and make sure there are no extra spaces or strange characters in it. Also make a backup of your registry and create a system restore point. Use the patch on your own risk.


Convenience over Security – Enjoy Running Unsigned PowerShell Scripts

February 11, 2008

I’ve been very pro-Windows Vista but sometimes it’s just too difficult to deal with its annoyances.

Yesterday I wanted to run some PowerShell script copied from someone’s blog. First, it wouldn’t run ’cause there was no PowerShell installed. What?? Oh, well, I guess it did not ship with Vista. I downloaded and installed PowerShell but – alas! – it wouldn’t execute unsigned code.

Great! Back to Scroogle – let’s look for workarounds and solutions. After a while – bingo! – I landed at http://www.hanselman.com/blog/SigningPowerShellScripts.aspx. That’s some complicated and time consuming stuff! Does it really have to be this complicated?

Oh, well, let’s download the few hundred MBs of stuff we need. At first I got MS Visual Studio 2008 (quite a download) but it didn’t have makecert.exe. All right, let’s try .NET Framework 2.0. As I struggled with the poor download speed, I had to call it a day.

What a waste of time. Things like this make me sick!

Today I continued to waste time on this crap. The makecert utility would fail ( Error: WriteFile failed => 0x5 (5)).

After additional scroogling I found out (http://www.appdeploy.com/messageboards/tm.asp?m=20873) that the stupid error means that I (admin on this machine) do not have the permission to write to c:\. How stupid is that? Changing makecert’s destination to c:\users\admin made it complete without error.

Next, I couldn’t execute Set-ExecutionPolicy AllSigned (mind you, I’m administrator of this computer) because the attempt to modify the Windows registry required was refused. Really smart!

At this point I had enough so here’s my workaround for you:
Run regedit.exe – go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PowerShell\1\ShellIds\Microsoft.PowerShell
and add a “String Value” registry key called ExecutionPolicy with the value of Unrestricted.
– or –
Save this file (click here – this is for Windows Vista x86 – I don’t know if Windows XP and/or Vista x64 have the same key) below as something that ends on “.reg” – e.g. ps_unrestricted.reg and make sure that the file is properly formatted (there are extra line breaks in it right now). Next, if you’re not Administrator, run regedit.exe, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ PowerShell \ 1 \ ShellIds \ Microsoft.PowerShell, right-click on Microsoft.PowerShell (in the left pane) and give your account (e.g. dick) all permissions that can be given. Then double-click on ps_unrestricted.reg and the key should be created in your registry. Now you can remove your account from the list of accounts with permissions on this key.

And I’ve got an enhancement request for the Windows Vista team: I want a “god” account type that has absolute powers, permissions and all.

P.S. The PS script I downloaded in the end didn’t work (many syntax errors in the code). Wonderful…

Update [2008/02/12]: The “god” mode works after one disables user access control.

Update [2008/05/03]: The workaround works for Windows Server 2008 as well. Also I corrected above instructions (I incorrectly stated that “DWORD” should be created which of course wouldn’t work).