I’ve got two heads!

I’ve been meaning to do it for a while, but I’ve finally bought myself a second head! No, not one to go on my neck, Zaphod style, but another LCD monitor on my computer.

Two heads are better than one!

This means that I now have to monitors side by side, with the ability to simply move my mouse from one to the other. It makes using my computer a lot easier. I can just keep my email and such like open on one screen, and carry on my work on the other. Windows can be picked up from one screen and dragged over to the other, even being left in the middle of the two, tho’ this makes it harder to use due to the surroundings of the monitors.

Both monitors are the same model. I got one last year to replace my old one that seemed to be getting watermarks on it and have been very impressed with it. The model is AG Neovo F419, and I may well be getting another one for full triple header wonderfullness!

Setting this up is very easy, just needing a couple of extra configuration parameters in the X config file. I’m using a GeForce Quadro 4 card with Dual DVI outputs which gives fantastic performance. Running glxgears gives me 1900+ FPS, even when the gears window is moved from screen to screen.

Changes needed to get it working were in the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file under Kubuntu 6.06 in the ‘Device’ section for the graphics card:

Section "Device"
        Identifier      "NVIDIA Corporation NV28GL [Quadro4 980 XGL]"
        Driver           "nvidia"
        BusID           "PCI:1:0:0"
        Option          "NvAGP" "1"
        Option          "RenderAccel" "true"
        Option          "TwinView" "true"
        Option          "MetaModes" "1280x1024,1280x1024;1024x768,1024x768"
        Option          "TwinViewOrientation" "DFP-0 LeftOf DFP-1"
        Option          "ConnectedMonitor" "DFP,DFP"

The magic lines are from the ‘TwinView’ option down. TwinView basically makes the two screens act as one extra long one as far as the computer and the window manager are concerned. The ‘MetaModes’ line then splits the new big screen back into two smaller ones. It does this so that things that know how to handle seperate monitors can program them both seperately such as allowing different wallpapers etc. It also makes sure that 3d games don’t try and use both screens, which with only two monitors means that, for example in FPS games, the view point is right in the middle of the two monitors. The ‘TwinViewOrientation’ simply tells the computer where the two monitors are in respect to each other so that you can place the second one on the left or right of the main one. The last line ‘ConnectedMonitor’ should not really be needed, being auto detected, but I put it in just to make sure. It simply says that the two monitors connected are digital flat panels.

All in all the setup took about 20 mins from getting the monitor out of the box, wiring it up (realising that my original monitor was actually connected to the second output, so had to switch them round), getting the brightness and contrast set to the same on both monitors (quite important to make it look good, and very easy to do with identical monitors) and reconfiguring X.

I’m definately going to look into getting a third one at some point, but I’d then need a second PCI graphics card. Or maybe I’ll take the chance to upgrade my PC and get a PCI-X based system with multiple graphics cards! 🙂 I’ll also have to rearrange my cellar to fit 3 monitors on my desk!

LugRadio Live 2006

As most people know, I’m a linux geek and a member of the Lancaster Linux User Group (LUG). Well, Martyn and I travelled down to the LUGRadio Live meeting in Wolverhampton last weekend. If you don’t know what LUGRadio is, it is a podcast run by four rather funny linux guys. Once a year they have a get together for all their listeners and lay on all sorts of entertainment, speakers, and exhibits. To read about what went on, take a look at the Lancaster LUG website.

We’ve got a library!

Between us, we’ve got one or two books! Too many for the current amount of shelves, so books were starting to pile up everywhere and finding them was getting increasingly hard. I also wanted somewhere to chill, with (nearly) no electronics. The only gadgets in the room are a squeezebox (and speakers) from Slimdevices. Its a fantastic bit of kit, which not only lets me play all my MP3s off my server in the cellar, but also listen to pod casts, streaming radio stations (including Radio 1, 2, 3, etc) and play tetris! It doubles as a handy clock too! The other gadgety type things in the library are a dimmer switch and remote power switch, both using X10, a protocol to control electrical goods over your existing wiring. Eventually, the speakers attatched to the squeezebox will be powered on and off automagically when needed.

Thanks go to my parents who bought me the worlds most comfy chair for my birthday. Believe it or not, it is from Argos, but is exactly what we were looking for. It is quite easy to fall asleep in, as a few people have already found out. Argos number: 6409492

Thanks to the Emilys and co. too for the fantastic reading lamp they bought for Joy’s birthday. It was exactly what we needed, but that could be due to Joy being with you when you bought it!

The room is nearly finished. The curtains went up yesterday and I may (yeah, right) get round to tidying up the network cable to the squeezebox this week whilst I’m off. The only major job left to do is paint the radiator cover, but thats a job for the artist!

Feel free to come round and have a look! Friends are equally free to come and relax if they need to get away and read for an hour or two!


Asterisk and a Linksys SPA-941

Linksys have done it again, produced an excellent product with a build quality to rival Cisco’s main offerings. I’ve just become the proud owner of a shiney new Linksys SPA-941 VoIP hardphone.

Getting it out of the box, it looks like its come from the same heritage as many of the Cisco VoIP phones, which isn’t surprising seeing as Cisco aquired Linksys about 3 years ago. It has a solid feel to it and the buttons respond nicely, unlike by Grandstream BT-100 which feels rather (very) cheap in comparison.

The next model up, the SPA-942 comes with a backlit display and an extra ethernet port, but neither of these were a major problem for me.

Getting the phone working with Asterisk was a total doddle. I already had a sip account set up in Asterisk, so I simply plugged the phone in to the network and power. The phone got a DHCP address (which you need to lookup what IP address it gets given) and I went to the web administration page with a browser. All that had to be done was set up the username, server address and password, then apply the changes. The phone rebooted and was online with Asterisk ready to make and receive calls.

I’ll write up the configuration at a later date. I’m going to see if I can write up some instructions for doing an autoconfiguration process for rolling them out at a commercial site.

Other Links:


Kubuntu Linux on an Apple G4 iBook

I’ve been using my iBook for nearly a year and a half now with Mac OS X. Whilst the hardware is fantastic, I’m not that impressed with OS X. Hardware support is of course spot on, but usability wise it leaves a lot to be desired. I know a lot of people swear by it, but I still prefer the more classic window systems such as KDE. I even find Windows easier to use!. To this end, I was contemplating buying a new laptop to put linux on as a replacement to the iBook. That was until I happened to notice that there were open source drivers for the Airport Extreme wireless cards that the iBook uses. This is a bit of a god send seeing as most laptops that I have been looking at have either poor battery life compared to the iBook, or are a bit out of my price range.

This entry is my documentation for installing Kubuntu on an iBook, which has given my trusty ol’ iBook a whole new lease of life. I chose Kubuntu as I have recently been a bit of a Debian convert, and I have been using KDE for a long long time and it has now become my desktop distribution of choice (with Debian on the servers of course!)

The first step is to download the Kubuntu 6.06 PowerPC CD image and burn it. This can be found on www.kubuntu.org.

Next, install the standard Kubuntu onto the iBook. To boot up from CD, press the ‘c’ key as the iBook turns on and you hear the gong. Installation is rather straight forward and just the same as installing Kubuntu on just about any hardware. You will need to have the iBook plugged into a network cable during the installation seeing as drivers for the wireless card need to be downloaded seperately.

Once Kubuntu is installeed, all that needs to be done is getting the wireless working. Only two commands are really needed to do this. One to download a package, and one to install it!

wget http://ubuntu.cafuego.net/pool/dapper-cafuego/bcm43xx/bcm43xx-firmware_1.2-0ubuntu1_all.deb
sudo dpkg -i bcm43xx-firmware_1.2-0ubuntu1_all.deb

Hopefully, that should be it. For more information on the wireless drivers, check out the Ubuntu Wiki page for bcm43xx. Reboot to make sure that everything is ok and then you can use all the standard tools to connect to wireless networks. Personally I use KNetworkManager which seems to work fine. I’ve been using my iBook and Kubuntu for a few days now and not come across any major problems. Bluetooth works well, the sound card gets detected automatically, and the function keys work to control volume and brightness.

The only slight niggles I’ve found are that it takes about twice as long to come out of hibernation as it did with Mac OS X (still, quicker than most systems I’ve seen, so not much of a niggle) and I can’t seem to get the wireless to come up automatically after going into hibernation, tho’ I’ll probably be able to overcome that soon. The other niggle is on the hardware… Where’s the right hand mouse button! 🙂 F11 and F12 are set up as middle/right mouse buttons by default under Kubuntu.

there’s still a few things that I haven’t tested on it such as graphics performance and some of the addons, but they aren’t important for what I need it for.

All in all, this has got to be the best laptop system that I’ve owned, and installing Linux onto my iBook has given it a whole new lease of life!

Fast Broadband!

Eclipse Broadband are now offering some fantastic adsl offers. Get up to 8Mb (or as fast as your line can take) for as little as 15 quid a month. This is due to BT’s new wholesale ADSL Max packages. I’m just in the process of getting my connection regraded with Eclipse, so hopefully I’ll be able to give a bit of an idea how good the new products are. In the meantime, if you want to migrate to eclipse for free, and get a months connection free, click on the banner below. When asked for a referer code, feel free to enter mine (DPOULSON).

High Quality Internet Services

Breast Cancer

The Breast Cancer Site

Doesn’t really need any explanation, go to this site and click on the “Fund Free Mammograms” link in the middle of the page to give money for free! Only takes a couple of seconds, and could make a difference!

LocustWorld update

I’m still waiting to get hold of some wifi cards that actually work with LocustWorld, so at the moment I’m stuck with two old laptops with crappy pcmcia cards in them. It works, but I really need more nodes to mess about with.

For now I am working on getting LocustWorld installed onto a Linksys WRT54G. So far I’ve managed to get the routing system working (AODV), and now need to concentrate on getting the auto configuration working! To track all this, and to allow other people to help, I’ve set up a wiki on LancasterMesh website. If you want to help with this, feel free to create an account. I’m also going to set up a CVS repository or something for any code I create, but that’ll probably be much further down the line!


I know its very very geeky, but I’ve just started listening to LugRadio. This is a podcast radio show created by a group of LUG members from Wolverhampton. It is extremely funny, a bit blue in places, and talks about the latest happenings in the Linux and open source world in general. If you are into Linux or open source in any way, it is well worth a listen!