I would like to be able to just type
$ libreoffice /path/to/filename.odt
and create as well as open an odt file. This would save messing around with GUI file dialogues.
This is sort of possible.
$ libreoffice newfile.odt
does not work.
$ libreoffice --writer newfile.odt
does not work.
$ libreoffice -n newfile.odt
does not work.
$ soffice --writer newfile.odt
does not work.
$ soffice --writer
$ libreoffice --writer
opens a blank Writer screen but you then have to use the Save dialogue to name the file.
$ touch /path/to/filename.odt $ libreoffice /path/to/filename.odt &
sort of works. touch creates an empty file, which libreoffice (or soffice) will open as a text file. If you hit Ctrl-s within LibreOffice you will have to tell it to save as odt, but you don’t have to navigate to the folder you want.
Sadly, giving an extension (odt, odp, ods) does not help LibreOffice choose the right program to use to open the file. They are always treated like plain text and always opened in Writer, even if you type something like
$ touch test.odp $ libreoffice --impress test.odp
So that’s less than optimal. if one can be bothered, there is a bodge that lets this happen more cleanly. I opened LibreOffice Writer and created a blank file, called blank_writer_doc.odt and put it in ~/bin, and similar for Calc. I don’t use the other tools enough to bother.
Then in ~/bin created the following script, called Writer:
$ cat Writer if [ -f "$FILE" ]; then echo "File $FILE exists. Replace? y for yes, anything else for no." read replace replace=q$replace if [ $replace = "qy" ]; then echo "File $FILE overwritten with blank document." cp ~/bin/blank_writer_doc.odt "$FILE" libreoffice "$FILE" & else echo "Opening existing file." libreoffice "$FILE" & fi else echo "File $FILE does not exist. Created." cp ~/bin/blank_writer_doc.odt "$FILE" libreoffice "$FILE" & fi
And now I can type
$ Writer newfile.odt$
and it works.
The bit with adding ‘q’ to the response means that the response is never empty, so the if does not barf if the user just hits ‘Enter’. (If if is asked to work on an empty response, you get:
line 5: [: =: unary operator expected
There’s a question about what to run on it. OpenVMS on one HD makes sense, just to see what it’s like. Other OSs that are still available include NetBSD, OpenBSD, Gentoo — that’s about it. There’s a Debian community supported option out there http://backup.parisc-linux.org/, which is a mighty effort but which is likely to require some hacking to work. A small group of enthusiasts just can’t be expected to test stuff on all different types of hardware.
Here I sum up my experiences so far, given I am in mid-process.
Debian: Official Debian support for Alpha ended with Debian 5.0.10, the last update to Lenny, in about 2012. That makes it vulnerable to security exploits, though one suspects that anything that depends on a hardware exploit is pretty unlikely — how many nasties are out there targeting Linux on Alpha? If security by obscurity is ever going to work, this is it! On the other hand, once the system is installed there’s no update cycle to worry about, and the software ecosystem is pretty big (no Open/LibreOffice, but that’s about it). I’ve got a whole post on putting Debian 5 on the thing. Short answer: (almost) works right out of the box.
OpenBSD: Installs effortlessly, but lacks an X server, though does have some X tools. I guess that means you could use X on the machine if you had a second machine acting as the server, or maybe try to use the NetBSD ports/pkgsrc route. OpenBSD looks like a good option for a server or if the text terminal is your thing.
NetBSD: Installs just as easily. X is there, just haven’t quite got it to work. Since OpenBSD can be made to play with NetBSDs source packages, it may be possible to get X onto OpenBSD in a roundabout way. Tried to compile X and to install ‘modular X’ (https://wiki.netbsd.org/pkgsrc/how_to_install_modular_xorg/) but compile of the server failed with various problems with the C code which I am not in a position to wrestle with (‘cos I don’t know enough C and I do not intend to spend my time learning it). Looks like the code just does not dovetail with the Alpha. I’ve not given up yet. NetBSD without X seems to work fine, I should add, and X is not everything.
Gentoo: Life is too short for this! Actually, I intend to have a crack. Already tried once and failed but I think that was me not Gentoo — made some mistakes with the (long and arduous) install process and ended up with a broken system. Need to try again.
Debian unofficial: The 9.0 install media would not boot on my machine. The 8.0 booted and installed but X does not work out of the box and ‘$ Xorg -configure’ throws a seg fault. Lots of ‘unaligned traps’ suggests that a lot of the code base has not been customised for one of the unfortunate quirks of the Alpha architecture. Tried importing the xorg.conf from Deb 5 but it did not like that. May need to recompile X. Experimenting with apt-src, but looks like this is not going to work without a lot of hands-on.
I have 3 SCSI HD I can use. Debian 5 is working well. I’d like to have a BSD for interest. So Gentoo or Debian unofficial? I’m inclined towards having another crack at Gentoo. Especially now that I have increased my internet download limit.
I noted that Dillo often fails to open the page I go to, or renders it as blank or something. A bit more investigation revealed that the search engine choice is key.
This may be well known, but…
…here is my demo.
I open Dillo, click on the magnifying glass and select Duck Duck Go from the list of search engines and search for:
hermes 10 electric typewriter
and get these results:
So I click on the second entry (Typewriter manuals) and I get this:
Not very useful. OK, try the same search with Google. Find the same website (http://site.xavier.edu/polt/typewriters/tw-manuals.html) and yes — I can click through:
It also works through Bing.
Now, this behaviour seems to be erratic. I’ve had other pages that I could not click through to from a Google search. I can almost never click through from Duck Duck Go, and Bing seems the most reliable, possibly related to this here. It’s a bit unfortunate, given that Dillo recommends Duck Duck Go by default…
Anyway, just a little note FWIW.
Had an ancient Creative Technologies SoundBlaster in the shed: Model: CT5803.
Perfect vintage for a box from 1998 running Debian from 2012. Specs of card:
Creative Technology Ltd
Sound Blaster Audio PCI 64 Dell/Gateway
(1) Turned box off and unplugged power cords.
(2) Already had Debian 5.0.10 installed. Slotted card into a PCI slot, screwed it in tight, closed up the case and booted up.
(3) (Re)installed a bunch of sound stuff — libasound2, alsa-utils, alsa-oss mainly. Used synaptic and just asked for a reinstall of anything alsa, basically. Also chose a couple of sound mixing applications. One of their dependencies might be crucial, not sure.
During boot saw: Setting up ALSA … Done
(5) Opened ‘Sound’ on the System/Preferences menu and did tests. Yep, works!
Got to say, it was as easy as that. Did need the reboot, but can’t complain. No monkeying about with firmware or anything. Debian roolz!
Following on from this post.
Booted up to SRM console but when tried to boot from console it said BIOS CHECKSUM error (or something like that).
(Note: If you are in AlphaBIOS and want to switch to the SRM console, press the Reset button, wait 5 seconds, then press the Halt button.)
OK, looks like BIOS corrupted. If it’s a bad chip then it’s bad, but maybe flashing the BIOS would work…
OK, flash the BIOS on an AlphaServer
Some possibly useful references:
The latter has three 3 1.44MB floppy disks as zip files, which are supposed to contain all the necessary files. It says:
Copy the following files to diskette #1:
Copy the following files to diskette #2:
Copy the following files to diskette #3 if you’ll be updating I/O option firmware:
But … these are V6.0 files and according to the docs, that won’t work (yet)
Reading the documents, ones finds out that can only go to versions higher than 5.3 by going via version 5.3, because at that version the firmware gets reorganised (written to different parts of the non-volatile memory) — so need V5.3 images. But where from? Spent ages looking for them. Could only find:
File: as1200_v5_3.exe 2573 KB 30/11/04 00:00:00
File: as1200_v5_3.sys 2574 KB 30/11/04 00:00:00
But these are too big for a floppy. and even if I put on CD, no instructions on how to apply. I don’t want to brick the thing… Asked on a forum but got told to use a MOP server — some kind of network booting thing. I am way too dumb to make that work.
More googling; found a V5.3 firmware iso at http://ftp.uni-bayreuth.de/Digital/alphaserver/firmware/iso_images/:
But it is for the AS4100 not the AS1200. It contains a file called ./AS4X00/RHSRMROM.SYS which is clearly 5.3, and they seem to be very adjacent machines … do I dare use the 4100 file on the 1200? (It would be instead of the TCSRMROM.SYS you can see listed on disk 2 above).
The AlphaServer 1200 is AlphaServer 4000 electronics mounted in an AlphaServer 1000 enclosure.
OK; should be compatible. Do it. Create two floppies
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 806 Apr 25 18:58 AS1200CP.TXT
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 920 Apr 25 18:56 AS1200FW.TXT
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 1536 Apr 25 18:57 AS1200FW.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 1536 Apr 25 18:58 AS1200CP.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 4096 Apr 25 18:55 TCREADME.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 590336 Apr 25 18:55 TCARCROM.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 806 Apr 25 19:04 AS1200CP.TXT
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 920 Apr 25 19:03 AS1200FW.TXT
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 1536 Apr 25 19:03 AS1200FW.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 1536 Apr 25 19:04 AS1200CP.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 4096 Apr 25 19:04 TCREADME.SYS
-rw-r–r– 1 username username 996352 Apr 25 19:02 RHSRMROM.SYS
Note RHSRMROM on the second disk, copied from the 4100 iso file.
I need to make the lfu utility read the correct SYS file, so changed the file AS1200CP.TXT to call for the RH instead of the TCSRMROM file.
Ran lfu (booted up the AlphaServer into the SRM console and typed lfu ).
Selected dva0 (floppy).
Asked for as1200cp (the modified txt file).
It loaded the files (shows on screen).
l(ist) showed the SRMROM to be correct version
UPD> update srm*
Then I found the V57.iso firmware and burned to CD and repeated the process using that. In that case, started the Alpha and at the SRM prompt typed:
P00>>> b dka400:
and it booted from the firmware CD and I installed 5.7 version.
Just accepted the CD’s instructions and then:
update * -all
from the lfu prompt provided by the CD. It successfully updated SRMROM and ALPHABIOS.
Then used my original three floppies to update to V6.0 of SRM.
Finally seems to be OK.
Some funny business with the IO update (‘not supported under lfu’), but seems to be OK, so will just suck it and see.
Is now able to boot from CD without errors, allowing install of operating system(s).
Google, as you may or may not know, it watching you. They are also watching you when you’re signed out.
OK, so, say you want to sign out of Google. You’re in say Gmail.
You know that if you scroll to the bottom of your list of messages you’ll see a tiny tiny tiny little box labelled (somewhat vaguely, probably on purpose) ‘Details’. If you click it, you get details of all your recent sessions on Google platforms (that’s the right-hand side of the picture).
OK, so you click the ‘Sign out all other web sessions’ button, close the dialogue box and then log out of the Gmail (or whatever) session you’re in. You are now free of Google.
With all your sessions logged out, try going to:
Click on the first entry — Your Google Search History. You’ll see something like this:
So now even though you’re logged out, there are more setting to try to control how your data are harvested. It’s is almost impossible to reduce the amount of data they suck out of you when you go online, but I hope this helps a little. (Note how they encourage you to log in.)
Having bought the AlphaSever 1200 and got it to boot, there were a couple of things I wanted to do with it.
First, I wanted to put OpenVMS on it, which I’ll talk about elsewhere.
Second, I wanted to put something modern on it if possible.
A look at Distrowatch suggested that I had three options, effectively; OpenBSD, NetBSD and Gentoo Linux. A bit of poking around revealed that OpenBSD would work, but without X windows. Now, that’s a perfectly valid option — the machine could actually work as a server. But for me, as a user who wants to monkey around and use the machine for more desktop-y stuff, that was not what I was after.
Since the SRM console can only boot SCSI drives, and the machine had some unused SCSI drive caddies ready to go, I decided I’d have to spend more than the $1 I had so far. I found a chap on ebay who had a couple of 300GB SCSI hard drives — and even better, HP/Compaq ones, the entity that had absorbed Digital. I didn’t need postage and in the end I scored 2 x 36.4GB and 1 x 300GB drives, perfect since I had 3 unused caddies.
I’ve got to hand it to the whole SCSI thing. No setting jumpers, no master and slave, no two only per socket like IDE drives; I just plugged the drives into the cabinet and when I next booted up SRM found them and gave them identifiers — dkb300, 400 and 500, the latter being the 300GB.
I had three disks. My options are NetBSD and Gentoo. Is there a third option? I could try for Windows NT 4.0, which shows up on ebay sometimes. But I’m not really interested in old versions of Windows … but old versions made me think.
I use Debian on my main desktop machine and on my Netbook. I had read somewhere during my recent researches that Debian supported Alpha up to 5.0 ‘Lenny’. With Debian’s relatively long-term support, the last Lenny update (5.0.10) was as ‘recent’ as 2012. That’s a while back, but it’s hardly ancient.
What’s more, Debian might not be considered especially user-friendly but compared to NetBSD and Gentoo it certainly does hold your hand. After too much time looking at NetBSD and Gentoo, I decided I’d start with Debian. If I could get it to work, get a working xorg.conf, for example, then I might find out some stuff that would be useful with the more hands-on installs.
The installer uses a generic kernel, but there’s an SMP one in the repositories.
(1) Hunted around on the web and eventually found the Debian archive (archive.debian.org, oddly enough), and within that CD images for the first 6 of the 27(!) disks that made up the full Debian catalogue for Debian 5.0 (‘Lenny’) on Alpha. Downloaded the first 6 disks using a fast unmetered connection, plus the LXDE/XFCE disk and the KDE disk. Some direct download, some jigdo. Though I had internet on the machine, it is slow and expensive where I am. Also, I don’t need to worry about security updates, since Lenny is frozen, so a static CD repo is fine.
(2) Burned disk 1 and put it into the CD drive and booted into the SRM console. Typed:
P00>>> b dka400:
then at the aboot prompt chose kernel 0.
Soon the familiar Debian ncurses install screens started coming up and filled me with confidence.
(3) Set hostname and decided to install to 36.4GB disk, dkb400, which Debian knows as /dev/sdc.
(4) Created new partition table. Create ext3 root (/) partition of 34.4GB at ‘end of drive’. Then create swap of 1.8GB at end of available space. Then create 180MB ext2 boot partition (/boot) at end of the available 200MB and then in the last 20MB, right at the front of the disk ‘cos we’ve filled from the end forward, 20MB aboot partition.
This structure was chosen because (a) you need a small space at the front to install aboot, the bootloader Linux uses to boot on Alpha (aboot = Alpha boot), and aboot cannot boot an ext3 file system but can boot ext2, Hence the 180MB /boot partition. But I like the journaling of ext3, so I don’t want the whole drive ext2. I did not bother with a separate /home partition.
I considered a complex structure whereby all three OSs (this, Gentoo, NetBSD, should I get them working) would mount the same big /home file system from the 300GB drive, but I’m still experimenting. That could still be possible later, depending on how I chop up the 300GB drive.
Turned on bootable flags on aboot and /boot partitions. Don’t know if must, but did.
(5) Root password added and created my own user account in the usual way.
(6) Scanned in the CDROMs, or at least all the ones I’d bothered to burn — this sets up apt-get to know which disk each package is on, to allow install from CD. I can still set up a mirror for the odd thing that’s not on disk, but I decided not to do that yet. I’d like to keep my internet use down for now.
(7) Selected and installed software — ‘Desktop environment’ and ‘Standard system’ only. Watched it go, reading the files off the (fairly slow) old SCSI CDROM drive. Install needed disks 1 and 2 but no more.
P00>>> b dkb400:
Booted straight into working X login (gdm)! Amazing, Debian is ama … hang on, if I drag a window around the screen it gets blurred out and repeated in random places … uh oh. I hate debugging xorg.conf …
Look at /etc/X11/xorg.conf — it is a bare bones one, with most stuff done automagically.
(9) In the end, the solution was to go into the xorg.conf and reduce the colour depth. I say that in one line but it took me a while to figure it out.
The old video card (a VGA-plug Matrox Millennium MGA-2064W-R2 from 1995) is actually a pretty good piece of hardware, especially for its time. At a colour depth (DefaultDepth 16 in the relevant Screen section of xorg.conf) of 16 bits, it gives me modes all the way up to a frankly impressive 2048×1152, which is way beyond what is listed in the technical documentation for the card! (1600×1200)
I haven’t tried anything demanding in video terms yet, but all the modes work now. For reference, Debian current (9.4) running on amd64-type hardware and using the DVI-D cable runs at the monitor’s full resolution of 2560×1440. 2048×1152 from a card from last century seems more than I had any right to expect.
(11) Installed the Debian package containing the SMP kernel, updated the soft links from initrd and vmlinuz to point to the SMP versions, and that was that. Hint: before rebooting, make sure that aboot.conf also has entries that point to the previous, working kernel and initrd in case something goes wrong.
Thinking about the Debian infrastructure — the servers, the mirrors, the fact that all these CD images can be reconstructed all these years later and used on what is not a current architecture, it’s all pretty amazing to me. That kind of thing can only happen when enthusiasts are empowered.
To get it all to work and only needing the one fix — the xorg.conf pixel depth — is remarkable.
The next thing I’ll try is the more modern Debian available through the efforts of the amazing people behind Debian unofficial ports. The key website seems to be this one: http://backup.parisc-linux.org/debian-alpha-archive/debian-cd/
My (now aging) desktop machine runs Debian current perfectly snappily. It’s an i7-2600K with 8G RAM and a couple of TB HD. Nothing exotic these days, though when I first got it Debian was not up to date enough and I had to install a backports kernel — far too much work for my liking.
I’ve been having some issues with flaky HD access, and while I think it is a slightly poor motherboard (bad SATA connectors or something — I’ve tried many cables), I figured I was running an oldish BIOS version and a newer one might be better.
Now, flashing BIOS is a bit scary. If it goes wrong you can brick the machine. But when I saw that the newest version (even if 5+ years old) was F8 and I was running F3, I figured it might be possible that there was a bug or something that had been fixed in one of the 5 newer versions.
Read about Qflash:
Seemed OK. Just find the file, copy it to USB stick, reboot, hit ‘End’ while powering on and then follow the menu prompts.
The BIOS image I found on the website was:
(Gigabyte GA-H67MA-USB3-B3 is printed on my motherboard).
Downloaded, copied it to USB and in my ignorance rebooted. First I followed the instruction in the PDF and saved the old BIOS image to the USB stick, and then I realised I could not find the new one.
Exited without making any changes and revisited the website.
Looked closer at the file names in the Qflash examples (in PDF noted above) and realised they look nothing like mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe; took a guess — maybe the exe file is a Windows self-extracting archive. Yes, it’s obvious to you, but I’ve not done this before, not much.
But I am on Debian … not Windows. Tried just unzipping it ($ unzip mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe) but unzip did not like that. Threw errors.
Went to folder where mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe was kept and:
$ mkdir flashbios $ mv mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe flashbios/ $ cd flashbios/ $ wine mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe
Wine (which is apparently not an emulator), ran perfectly (version 1.8.7) and yes some files leapt out of the exe file. So:
$ ls autoexec.bat FLASHSPI.EXE h7mausb3.f8 mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe
Now, there is another option.
These are ‘7zip’ files, so can also type:
$ 7z e mb_bios_ga-h67ma-usb3-b3_f8.exe
where ‘e’ means ‘extract’. Whatever. Both work. I only figured out the 7z thing after first running Wine because it popped up a dialogue box that said ‘7z self-extracting archive’.
OK, so the file I need is h7mausb3.f8 (note it sticks to DOS 8.3 file naming rules).
Copied that file to the USB, rebooted and it all went smoothly.
Whether I have solved the issues I was having I don’t know (and actually I doubt) but the machine’s working, so that’s something.
Ebay for 99¢, though I paid $1. Came with:
Alpha 21164 chip, 2 of
1 GB RAM
35 GB SCSI HD
2 x SCSI CDROM
1 x 3.5″ floppy drive
DEC ethernet card
VGA card (Matrox something or other)
PCI SCSI card (I won’t use) (PCI to UltraSCSI adapter Qlogic ISP10X0)
PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse
COM and PAR ports as usual
1 x IDE PCI card with a 20GB HD attached (not working)
The IDE card is not detected by the SRM console or the BIOS, so cannot be used to boot, but operating systems can find and mount it, so can be used for storage.
I did have to solder a little component, an inductor I am guessing, back onto the PCB of the 20GB IDE HD to get it to work, but work it does. (The IDE HD was in a rubber sleeve. Slipped it out of the sleeve and a little plastic-coated inductor fell out. Lucky it was not lost.) Found a second old IDE HD and put the two onto one of the IDE sockets on the PCI card, one as master one as slave. Not seen by SRM, sadly.
One of the SCSI CDROMs did not work, so instead I put a CDRW/DVDR onto the second IDE port. That gives me one CDROM that the BIOS can see to boot from to install media, plus something that can write data.
It has lots of PCI slots (no PCIE) and one (or is it 2?) EISA slots, which I put an old Ad-Lib card in, just ‘cos I had it lying around. I have no idea if it’ll work or be good for anything if it does.
So now the system has
1 x SCSI HD (35 GB) (plus three empty caddies)
2 x IDE HD (20 and 28GB)
1 x SCSI CDROM
1 x IDE CDRW/DVDR
1 x 3.5″ floppy
No USB; could try a USB PCI card, but can’t be bothered right now.
These machines had no integrated network or sound on the motherboard — they weren’t for desktop use, though they were sold as work stations.
When I got it this one did not boot. Hence $1.
Got it home — weighs a tonne — and plugged in the two power cables (one for each power supply) and a VGA cable which I ran to an old CRT monitor.
It started, the LCD on the front did a couple of checks then complained about power supply 1 (I think it was 1), then shut down.
Removed power supplies, tested fans — one had spider nest in it. Cleaned it, gave all the plugs a good wiggle and drove the fan for a few minutes using an external voltage source (toy train transformer connected directly to the fan inputs) to loosen it up. In my experience, these fans have very little torque, so a tiny bity of gunk can stop the fan spinning up and throw off the whole system. Giving it a clean and starting it with a finger push and letting it run for a few minutes can fix the problem.
And, yes that was enough. It booted up into AlphaBIOS, and then I had to start googling. I got it to boot into the SRM console, which is a sort of Unix-y VMS-y command line environment from which the boot process can be managed. (Note: If you are in AlphaBIOS and want to switch to the SRM console, press the Reset button (middle), wait 5 seconds, then press the Halt button(right).)
When I tried to boot, I got BIOS CHECKSUM error.
So I figured I had to flash the firmware. BUT…
That was pretty tricky. I’ll talk about that next time.
Anyway, in SRM if you type (P00>>> is the prompt):
P00>>> show dev
you get a list of the devices the console can see, labelled in OpenVMS style.
On this machine, it includes:
dka400: the SCSI CDROM ewa0: the ethernet card dkb0: the SCSI HD dva0: 3.5" floppy drive
These are the devices available for booting. It looks like this machine used to have Windows NT installed, which was available for Alpha up to NT4.0. My intention is to install OpenVMS through the hobbyist program and get a second SCSI HD and put Gentoo, NetBSD or OpenBSD on it (these are the only options for Alpha architecture these days; well, I guess Linux from scratch is an option, but I don’t hate myself that much…).
Note that the quote marks work fine if I force ‘straight quotes’ rather than smart ones — the is my mistake, not the font author’s…
Font of the week: Glass TTY VT220, a font to look like a DEC VT220 screen, obtained by reference to how the glyphs were actually implemented by the CRT.
File is: Glass_TTY_VT220.ttf
Available from: http://sensi.org/~svo/glasstty/
Here’s an example, just screengrabbed from LibreOffice — and I forgot to turn off curly quote marks..
Here’s the text:
Hello, here is my amber screen, looking pretty good, eh? The font is Glass TTY VT220, available from http://sensi.org/~svo/glasstty/.
It is designed to mimic what you’d see on the screen of a DEC VT220 serial terminal from about 1985. Not all the characters are available, although everything that could be entered on such a terminal is there.
You’ll note the quote marks don’t quite cut it, but otherwise it’s pretty nifty.
As noted, the quote marks do cut it. Maybe I’ll suck it into FontForge and see if I can come up with some ‘smart’ quote marks that match the spirit of the font.