Displaced Geek

Just a city geek and father coming to terms with being replanted in farm country

Posts Tagged ‘geek

Basic Linux Executable Troubleshooting

Fair warning, that’s the last cute Gabriella picture in this post. Sorry Jen!

If you use a computer, you’re bound to run into something that doesn’t work every once in a while. Even worse is when something fails silently, or almost silently. With no clear error message, you might think you’re stuck, but one of the perks of running linux is that you’re never actually stuck. When something fails silently, you make it talk, see what it says, and fix it. The steps I outline below are not advanced techniques, they’re not mystical greybeard tactics, they’re just the first steps to take when you don’t know why a downloaded program isn’t running on your linux desktop.

Before we get started, a word of warning. Make sure you execute all of the following commands as a regular user, NOT as root. All debugging tools are inherently dangerous, running them as root when you don’t need to is a recipe for mistakes you cannot undo.

Okay, first we need some information


Written by Peter

January 21, 2012 at 015

Posted in geek

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Hey user, here’s 9 things you should know.

Disclaimer: I used ‘guy’ in the following post to denote a person of either gender. I know several “IT Gals”, and would truly hate to piss them off.

Everybody’s got an IT guy. Whether it’s an official “I’m hiring you to fix this” or the much more common, “Hey, you can check this out for me right?”, he(or she) is the one you go to when clicking the mouse button a little harder or smacking the side of your monitor just doesn’t do the trick anymore.
What you don’t realize is that whether he wants to be or not, your IT guy is probably also an illusionist, FBI profiler, and CIA interrogator. And it’s all your fault.

  • 1 – Don’t Lie To Me.

I’ve yet to meet someone who wasn’t guilty of this to some degree. From something as small and classic as “I didn’t click on anything, I swear!” to the bigger and much more aggravating “I must’ve been hacked, I’d never have something like THAT on my computer”, these do nothing but annoy me when I find out. And trust me, even if I don’t call you on it, I always find out. (usually within a few minutes of turning on your machine)

  • 2 – Insulting your last IT guy does not make us friends.

Chances are, I’m already an acquaintance, and so was the last guy. What makes you think I want to hear about what a crappy job he did, and how poorly he treated you? Whether you’re paying me or not, I’m doing the job now. If the last guy really did that poor of a job, I’ll see that, and if he didn’t, well then you probably came to me because you thought you could get the same service cheaper, and I really don’t need to hear about that either. Badmouthing someone whose shoes I’m filling does nothing but sour our relationship, and predisposes me to dislike you as a person.

  • 3 – Yes, you’re probably part of the problem.

I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong with your machine, I’m saying you’re making it worse. Computers do what they’re told. You may not have intended to click that button, or hit that key, but the computer doesn’t know that, and it’s going to do what it thinks it’s supposed to when that button is clicked, or that key is pressed whether you meant for it to or not. So when I tell you you’re causing your own issues, don’t get angry and snap at me – listen.

  • 4 – I can only fix the problem I can see.

It may look like what I do is magic, but I assure you, it isn’t. There is no incantation that just fixes everything. What I’m actually doing is searching through all the places where bad things hide on your computer, and then figuring out how to remove them one by one. If you were having a problem six weeks ago and it’s not happening now, it’s quite possible I won’t see it. And if I don’t see it, it’s not getting fixed.

  • 5 – Look before you click.

The only means of communicating with you available to the computer is the monitor. If it’s throwing up a box asking you a question, there’s probably a reason. No, not all dialog boxes are useful, or even do anything. However, simply clicking ‘yes’ whenever anything pops up, and then complaining about your files being deleted is not going to get you any sympathy.

  • 6 – Obsolescence is a real thing.

There’s only so much even I can do to make the PC your son built eight years ago and now refuses to support (because it’s eight years old) “go faster”. You need a new computer. If that last machine was built with the intent to upgrade, then maybe we can buy some new components, but it’s only delaying the inevitable. Besides, chances are you bought the cheapest thing you could find from Wal-Mart, and it makes an eMachines box look fast.

  • 7 – Toolbars are evil.

Just don't.
I think that about sums it up, don’t you?

  • 8 – Every system repair is different.

For as much as they all have in common, there are no two jobs that are identical. This means that no, I can’t tell you how long it’s going to take; and no I can’t just do the same thing I did to your neighbor’s machine to make it work; and no I don’t think you’ll be able to “just check your E-Mail for a minute” while I’m dropped into a recovery console. The best thing you can do is leave me alone while I do what I do.

  • 9 – I don’t know what personal data you’re missing.

I can only tell you what data is present and accessible right this minute. I have NO IDEA what data was on there before I sat down. If I see 1500 pictures from the summit of Everest, I have no way of knowing that you actually took 1673. The only person that knows that is you. If you tell me what to look for, I will look for it. But if I tell you it’s not there, I can assure you I didn’t waste any of my time deleting it for kicks.

Written by Peter

October 29, 2011 at 1513

Posted in geek

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Some Hurricane Technology Tips from SANS

With Irene bearing down on a significant portion of my readers, I felt it was appropriate to share the following:

As we are looking at hurricane Irene taking aim at major population and technology centers on the east coast, here a couple of tech tips:

– Cell phone batteries last longer if you turn off non essential services like 3G, bluetooth, wifi.

– keep a hard copy of important phone number[…]

Read the rest of “Some Hurricane Technology Tips” at SANS ISC.

Many and more of these may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget the obvious while we’re all running out stocking up on bottled water, canned goods, and camping supplies.

Written by Peter

August 27, 2011 at 826

Posted in geek, news

Tagged with , ,

hist2bin v0.5

So as well as it passed my quick QA testing the other day, that last version failed in some major ways:

  1. It didn’t work as a cron job
  2. It only worked locally

So I addressed those issues, but to get the full effect I highly recommend you share your history across all terminals by adding this to your .bashrc:

PROMPT_COMMAND="history -a; history -n"

Click for code.

Written by Peter

August 9, 2011 at 1349

Posted in geek

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hist2bin v0.2

The other night I decided to throw together a script that would bring to life a little thought I first had over on reddit.

The thought was that for hard to remember commands you’ll use more than once, to automatically save them before wiping your command history.

Right now it’s sloppy but it:

  1. extracts the commands you want
  2. creates files containing those commands, one per file
  3. names them per your comment when you ran the command
  4. handles whitespace in the data and filename
  5. cleans up after itself
  6. reports the filenames on exit
  7. drastically reduces the chances of a duplicate-named file issue

The code is after the jump
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Peter

August 5, 2011 at 1431

Posted in geek

Tagged with , , , ,

DG on Krebs (on Security)

As I was cleaning up a machine today, I was reminded of a Krebs on Security post from a few months ago, that did an excellent post distilling the basics of online security into three simple rules. For those of you too lazy to click that link and actually read the article, I’ll save you the trouble:

  1. “If you didn’t go looking for it, don’t install it!”
  2. “If you installed it, update it.”
  3. “If you no longer need it, remove it.”

I cannot tell you how many boxes I’ve fixed that wouldn’t have needed fixing in the first place if these three very simple rules had been followed.

Written by Peter

July 23, 2011 at 1526

Posted in geek

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Navy’s Chinese chips not only fake, but possibly trojaned as well?

[…] the chips weren’t only low-quality fakes, they had been made with a “back-door” and could have been remotely shut down at any time. […]
Read the rest @ BI

Given the propensity to get things wrong in favor of sensationalism when it comes to technical articles in the news, this perhaps should be taken with a grain of salt. Especially since the evolution of the story online looks something like this (emphasis mine):

  • 3 days ago on Wired: “the chips could have been hacked,”
  • reprinted on ars: “the chips could have been hacked,”
  • intentionally? misquoted by BI: “they had been made with a “back-door” and could have been remotely shut down at any time.”
  • There’s a big leap from “could have been hacked” to “made with a back-door”. Various news outlets have since picked up the story, each quoting their own preferred source, but the exaggerated quote seems to be sticking.

    Come on BI, you can do better.

    Written by Peter

    June 28, 2011 at 1322

    Posted in geek, news

    Tagged with