Skip to main content

The Tinker's Toolbox

I'm going to start this blog off at it's natural beginning. A few posts on the assembly of my arsenal of toys, trinkets, and 007-esque gadgets that I use regularly to get my myriad of jobs done. The software, hardware, and toys that I list here are as unique to me as any mechanic's toolbox is. There's always more than one way to skin the cat, but these are my weapons-of-choice.

First up, the laptop. The box. The deck. The one essential workspace of the Network Engineer. If I were a bank-robber, this is where I keep my shotguns and ski-masks.

I'm a long-time Linux tinkerer, but it's only recently that I've really used it to bear the brunt of my technical heavy lifting.

Ubuntu's 7.10 distribution (Gutsy Gibbon), is the first distro that I feel is robust enough for me to dive in with both feet, and completely abandon Windows.

Now, I have a long-time habit of documenting new computer setups and configurations as I perform them. I can't tell the number of times I've been saved by compulsive note-jotting. I thought I'd translate these notes into an abbreviated guide to getting Gutsy up and flying with all the toys you need to replace your Vista desktop.

Target System:
Stock Dell Inspiron E1505
1.86 GHz Dual Core Processor
Broadcom 10/100 Card
Broadcom DW 1390 WiFi
Nvidia G72 256MB Video
2GB RAM

-----Ubuntu 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon"-----
http://www.ubuntu.com/

First, I started with the Ubuntu 7.10 alternate install. I could have used the live CD, but I feel more comfortable with the old-school text install. I resized the Vista partition of my hard drive without wiping it, which is a miracle in-and-of itself. Here's my usual homage to the importance backups before you try a stunt like this, however. Everything of importance on the Vista side went off to my free Mozy (http://www.mozy.com) account first.

Clickity-click, Next-Next-Next, Ubuntu is up and running with 10 minutes. Upon start, I got 2 Restricted Driver messages. For those unfamiliar with Ubuntu, this is when it warns you that it wants to use some proprietary code for some of it's drivers, as opposed to native Linux kernel code. My video card and my WiFi adapter both needed to grab stuff from the internet (so I plugged the laptop in on the wire). Both were configured in under a minute, and a reboot was called for for the video drivers.

I rebooted, scanned my wireless networks (thanks to the technical arms race between me and my fellow engineer and neighbor) I find no less than 6 WLANs available. I connect to my home network, and I'm off the wire, and on the Internet. I had some automatic updates to do, so I let the system crank those out for me real quick.

Okay, so there's a million guides that tell you how to stumble through all that good stuff if you hit any snags. The real point of this article is to document my must-have apps, and how to get them up and running quickly. I'll provide links to the resources I use to grab them.

-----Tomboy-----
This comes pre-installed. I busted this out right away (and dragged a launcher for it over to my task bar) because it's where I'm jotting these notes down.

----del.icio.us-----
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3615

I had to get the del.icio.us extension for Firefox just so I could get all these bookmarks back. If you use more than one PC, this is essential software.

----Compiz-Fusion-----
https://help.ubuntu.com/community/CompositeManager/CompizFusion

This is so damn pretty, it will make Vista Aero users cry. Crazy music not included. Enjoy this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lawkc3jH3ws

How did I get this? If you know what you're looking for, this quickest way to install apps is to grab them from repositories on the net. In a terminal I typed

sudo apt-get install compiz compizconfig-settings-manager

It dropped in the necessary files, and I could configure it under System->Preferences->Appearance using the Custom button. Have fun!

-----Evolution-----
This one comes pre-installed with Ubuntu as well. Some folks prefer Thunderbird for their e-mail client, but since I need to have complete connectivity with my Exchange server at work, Evolution is the way to go. It's the Open Source Outlook Killer. If you can configure Outlook to read your mail, you can configure Evolution. If your Exchange server supports OWA, make sure to put the deliberate URL in the server address box. ("https://server.domain.com/Exchange/")

-----Pidgin-----
Another pre-installed app. This is my IM client and runs two AIM accounts, a yahoo account, and my Windows Live Messenger account.

----Minicom-----
I needed a TTY terminal program to configure switches and the like at work. I found that the Belkin F5U409 USB-to-Serial adapter works out of the box in Gutsy, which is nice. It mapped it to /ttyUSB0 for me. I grabbed minicom off of Synaptic, and configured it thusly:

sudo minicom -s

This allowed me to configure my settings, most notably the serial port. I saved my config as default, and also created a save for cisco devices.

I run it from a terminal with:
sudo minicom

Easy as pie....

----Super Nerdy Stuff-----
Things that I need, but most don't. If you're an Network Engineer, these are MUST-HAVEs in your arsenal.
I grabbed from Synaptic:

aircrack-ng (Wireless network monitoring and hacking)

kismet (Wireless network monitoring and hacking)

Wireshark (Wired network packet sniffing - formerly Ethereal)

These all came down just fine. If you want to know a little more about them here are some good links that I refer back to:

Aircrack WEP cracking:
http://www.aircrack-ng.org/doku.php?id=simple_wep_crack

Kismet Wireless Monitoring:
http://www.kismetwireless.net/

Wireshark:
http://www.wireshark.org/


So that's it! My toolbox is ready to hit the road with me, and I'm fully functional as an IT professional under Ubuntu. Next up will be a list of Online applications I use to round out my computing experience on any machine.

Comments

  1. I should note that, for you fellow network engineers out there, you may have noticed that my Dell, like most modern laptops, lacks the ever-necessary Serial port.

    My weapon of choice is the Belkin f5u409 USB-to-Serial adapter. It works great with PCs, Macs, and Ubuntu out of the box. Configuring minicom was a breeze, as Ubuntu just discovered it as /ttyUSB0. Set your serial interface to that, and you're all set.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Re-Opening Experiment

We should remind ourselves that, this Memorial Day weekend and the weeks that follow, we are subjects in a grand experiment to see how good we are at social distancing as stay-at-home orders are being slowly lifted. The state's stay-at-home order was never meant to keep you, individually, safe from infection. It was meant to keep hospital's safe from being overwhelmed by too many of us needing them at the same time. In Michigan, the daily new cases of COVID-19 are higher today than they were when we locked down in late March. We are testing whether or not we can open up (with all of our new precautions and protocols) without spiking the rate of spread, but make no mistake: it *is* an experiment, and we *are* the test subjects. Please don't get careless as things start to open up. We need to get our economies back on track, but we are still a long way (and a vaccine away) from being out of the woods. Stay vigilant, folks. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. As has always been the

COVID-19 and the Tools We Need to Re-open Wisely

There's a lot of graphs and stats that the news is throwing at people right now. So much so, that you can get information overload trying to make sense of the statistics that have meaning. To quote my old Econometrics professor, "There are three types of lies: 'Lies', 'Damned Lies', and 'Statistics' ". I should also lead with the caveat that I'm an engineer and data nerd by trade, but I'm not an epidemiologist. I welcome feedback from those who have more experience than I do. The most important question we're trying to answer (at least here in Michigan), is "How are we doing?", and "When can we reopen our economy?". With respect to those questions, here's my take on the most important data, and some caveats about what these data are telling us. The four most cited data in news stories are: Total Number of Cases Daily New Cases. Total Number of Deaths Daily New Deaths This post will talk about #1 and #2

What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?

An old friend recently reached out to me (and presumably others) and asked us what advice we'd give our younger selves, particularly at ages 20, 30 and 40. After writing my response to him, I thought it worth posting myself as well.  The substantive bulk of my response to him follows: ----- The difficult thing is that I really wouldn't change a thing about who I am, so any call for advice feels a bit like a time-traveler scenario where my advice to a younger self would affect the outcome of my present life, and I'm not sure I'd risk it. My experiences shaped me, including the glaring mistakes, and I wouldn't trade places today with anyone on Earth. But, for the sake of argument, let's assume the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics here, and thus assume I won't mess my own (present) life up. Wibbly-Wobbly. Timey-Wimey. It is also important to note that the question is "What advice would you give your younger self?". The a