VirtualBox is too clever

I have a desktop machine connected to a Gigabit Ethernet switch, plugged in to my Cisco 1801 router. The switch is dumb and doesn’t support VLAN tagging, which is fine as I have everything in a single VLAN.

My desktop machine works fine with IPv6, however when I brought up a virtual machine on VirtualBox, IPv6 breaks for that particular VM. “ip addr show” tells me that it’s autoconfigured three IPv6 addresses, each on separate subnets – one of them correct, two wrong (but valid on other subnets here).

What’s going on? It turns out I’d set the port to my GigE switch up as a trunk port, with the native VLAN being the user access VLAN, and two other VLANs allowed. What this does is to send frames in VLAN 4 on to the wire untagged, and any untagged frames received automatically drop in to VLAN 4. However, any broadcast frames from VLANs 5 and 6 are sent on to the wire with an 802.1q header – and VirtualBox, being very clever, seems to pass these up to the virtual machine without their 802.1q headers.

I may file a bug – that’s too clever :)

SSL Certificate error whilst using rvm

Given that I have a lovely clean install of Ubuntu 11.10, I decided to use rvm to manage by Ruby installation. The only problem with that is the SSL certificate beginrescueend.com uses isn’t known to Ubuntu.

I’ve seen a post advocating using -k to ignore CA certificate validation, but that’s not the right thing to do. It works, but only by defeating a security mechanism.

Cut to the chase – how to get around it:

  • Read the error message curl produces, which suggests visiting http://curl.haxx.se/docs/sslcerts.html
  • From there, download cacert.pem and copy this to your home directory
  • Create ~/.curlrc, with the single line cacert = ~/cacert.pem
  • Test using curl https://rvm.beginrescueend.com/ > /dev/null – the CA error should not appear

Ubuntu 11.10 for Productive People

Following on from my blog post, “Dumbed Down Ubuntu”, I’ve spent the past 24 hours trying other distributions with varying levels of success.

From reading Mark Shuttleworth’s blog, I’ve found strong feelings out there on Ubuntu’s default user interface. I agree with some of them – that the new Ubuntu UI is not aimed at a certain demographic of people who are power users. Having installed Ubuntu 11.04 for a friend of mine, she loved the Unity interface, and I left her to it.

I’ve played with Fedora 15 and Linux Mint 11, but neither quite worked the way I wanted them to. A specific show-stopper in Fedora’s case was Spotify’s lack of RPM. For Linux Mint, it felt like a reskinned Ubuntu. One really interesting thing I foudn is thatZalman have really cool SATA enclosure which can act as a CD-ROM drive for ISO files, and that’s on my shopping list.

After trying Ubuntu in VirtualBox, and deciding to persevere with taming the UI, I came across a handful of steps to get the interface back to something that people like me will use. Here’s how:

  1. Install Ubuntu 11.10
  2. Install Gnome using apt-get install gnome
  3. Remove the scrollbar eye-candy using apt-get remove overlay-scrollbar
  4. Log in, but select Gnome (Classic) from the gear icon next to your username
  5. Install the Gnome Tweak Tool using apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool, select Fonts and set the text scaling factor to 0.8, and Hinting to ‘slight’, then under Theme, set the GTK+ them to Ambiance, the Icon theme to Gnome and Cursor theme to Adwaita (if they aren’t already)
  6. Alt-Right Click on the bar at the top of the screen, select Properties, Background, and set a solid colour of opaque #3F3E39
  7. Alt-Right Click on the bar again, and select New Panel. Alt-Right Click on the bar at the bottom, then add a Workspace Switcher and a Window List in the bottom right and bottom left corners

Ta-da. That’s a user interface that I’m more than happy to use, and importantly, one I think lots of other non-novices will enjoy using.

Something I forgot in my original post is to say how much I value choice. I tried using Windows over a decade ago as a desktop machine, but quickly became irritated with the way it worked. Slackware served me fine, Debian was great, and I started to use Ubuntu several years after that. I’ve tried a beta of Ubuntu 11.10, and I didn’t like it, so went and tried – for free – two other distributions. Neither quite did it for me, so I came back to square one and found out how to mould Ubuntu’s interface to the way I like it.

I hope some of you find my experiences useful, particularly how to tame the UI.

Dumbed Down Ubuntu

Whilst I am in full support of making computers accessible to everyone, I don’t believe that everyone should have to use them in the same way.

I’ve been an Ubuntu user for, I reckon, three years, and Debian for years before that. In that time, it’s been great to use – install, get on with doing what I do, minimal fuss. But like Windows, the people behind Ubuntu just had to make the user interface ‘easier’ and ‘better’, but they’ve done it at the expense of power-user functionality.

I am a power-user, I know what I’m doing. I don’t think it’s elitist to want to have a UI that lets me get on with my work, one that doesn’t have graphical elements fading on and off the page gently whilst you’re trying to work. One where you can grab the bottom left or right hand corners of a window to resize it, or even one where the close, minimise and maximise windows are in the same place all the time. Ubuntu is no longer that.

I can’t quite put my finger on what’s changed, but it no longer feels efficient. One of the bigger gripes I have is the ‘thingy’ on the left with the large icons. I don’t know the name of it, but it has a set of hideously large icons which come on-screen when I hover near them, and disappear after. I don’t want that – I want to be able to throw a handful of icons in the bar at the top of the screen, and access anything else via a drop-down menu.

I want decent scrollbars back, like in Chrome – not a control that appears outside the window when I hover my mouse in a specific place. My Terminal window is easy to re-size using the top left and top right corners, but next to impossible to resize at the bottom left and right – that’s the way I want to re-size my windows.

Apparently, I can Install the ‘Classic’ desktop in Ubuntu 11.10, but with plenty of caveats. Having done that, my desktop looks even less usable.

Sorry, Ubuntu – I think I’ll revert back to Debian, at least until you’ve sorted yourself out.