Saturday, October 28, 2006

Back to Ubuntu

After the long wait for Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper) the release of 6.10 (Edgy) seems to have come round in no time, bringing raptures to the faithful. Eager to prove my worthiness, I rushed to the Ubuntu website within minutes of the release being announced (multiple times) on Planet Ubuntu.

A short one hour download later (isn't broadband great? I remember downloading Corel Linux over dial-up, it took a full day, good job we had a dedicated phone line at work ;-) ) I was clutching the blessed CD, and rushed to my desktop machine, ready to destroy the foul works of the evil one, and replace it with the Holy Ubuntu (actually I'm dual booting with Windows 2000, couldn't bring myself to delete it entirely, Party Poker doesn't seem to work with Wine).

A very quick installation later (you installed Windows XP lately? What a drag!) I was looking at the new, improved Ubuntu Gnome login screen. Slight change of colours, otherwise, business as usual. Log on, and the usual orange and brown colour scheme, tweaked slightly from the last release, is there.

First order of business, the internet. I access the web via a wireless access point, using a Linksys USB adapter. This had worked easily with Ubuntu Breezy, but with Dapper they completely fumbled the ball on wireless, and to be honest, after a frustrating effort trying to get wireless working on Dapper, I gave up. Initially I thought I was going to have the same problems. Edgy decided to install Prism54 drivers for my wireless adapter. Technically it is correct, it is a Prism chipset, but there appears to be so much messing to make them work, and quite a low chance of success, that I wasn't prepared to persist with them. So, blacklist the modules relating to the Prism drivers, and get cracking with Ndiswrapper. After a bit of fiddling, the familiar wlan0 appears, but no joy in connecting to my wireless access point. Then I remembered that I had become a bit more paranoid, and was using WPA encryption on the wireless network.

Wireless security is a huge weakness of Ubuntu (and I suppose, most Linux distributions). With Windows XP, it just works. Everything you need for WPA is there when you install your network card. Not so with Ubuntu. You have, to my knowledge, 3 choices. All three depend upon WPA Supplicant. Option 1 is to fire up a terminal, and configure WPA Supplicant by hand, editing the appropriate configuration files etc. Sorry guys, this isn't for me. Whilst I am quite happy to use the command line, and frequently it is the most efficient way to do something, I want a nice GUI interface for my wireless settings. This leaves two options - the Gnome Network Manager or WiFi-Radar. Both of these are in the repositories, but neither of them are installed by default. Why not! Come on, with the huge uptake in wireless, there needs to be a decision taken at Ubuntu to have a standard wireless security tool and make it industrial strength, so it Just WorksTM

I tried the Network Manager first. Grabbed it from the repositories, and a little network icon appears on the bar at the top right. Right clicking on this gives me options for setting up the network, including WPA key. After entering all the required information, I am asked to create a password for my keyring, where the WPA key will be stored. Here's the main problem with Network Manager. It is part of Gnome. You have no network connection until you are logged into Gnome and have entered your keyring password. You screw your X Windows setup, you haven't got an internet connection to find help, or to download fixes.

Having decided I wasn't happy with this, I moved along to Wifi-Radar. Once again, installed it from the repositories; no icon on the toolbar this time, but the program was amongst the entries on the menu. Starting it up, I am presented with a number of options. Looks pretty straightforward - network name (ssid) mode (auto, managed, adhoc etc, I chose auto), channel (auto again), key (you'd think this was your WPA key wouldn't you? Well, its not. I assume this is for WEP), security (open or restricted, I chose restricted). Then you come to a line which says "No WPA." Clicking on this changes it to "WPA Options" and you are presented with one option - Driver. I entered ndiswrapper in here, but some googling told me this was wrong, I needed to enter "wext" in here, which apparently is "Generic Wireless Extensions." There are also options for DHCP and Connection commands. I left these alone.

Saving my settings, I was delighted to see my wireless network appearing in the main window. Click on connect however, and I get nowhere. By running Wifi-Radar from a terminal, I see that it is looking for a WPA supplicant configuration file. More googling. I come up with the following configuration file (/etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf - use your favourite editor, I use Vi, but YMMV. You'll need to run the editor with sudu).


#group of users allowed to control the interface

#network options
ssid="your network name here"
psk="super secret password here"

Back to Wifi-Radar, click on connect, and after a short delay, I'm connected!

Now the main advantage of Wifi-Radar over Network Manager is, in theory that is starts at boot time as a daemon, so you don't have to enter passwords once X Windows starts, and you have a network connection independent of X Windows. I've yet to see this. After I've logged on, when I go into the Wifi-Radar gui, the connection hasn't been made; click on connect, and its there. It may be down to the Linksys adapter I am using. It is version 1, and often didn't connect first time under Windows 2000 either.

I'm going to persist with Wifi-Radar, but this issue of wireless networking, and in particular, wireless security, must be addressed if Ubuntu is going to tempt more people into defecting from Microsoft. The average user is not going to bother with all the messing about I've just described, when Windows Just Works!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Party Over?

Over at the Tao of Poker Pauly is lamenting the withdrawal of Party Poker from the US. As he says the fishing was great there.

But, being a privileged European, still welcome at Party (and thanks to them giving me some free money to play with, now playing there), the fishing has got even better. The standard of play in the US must be better than in the rest of the world, because there now are even more fish at every table. The withdrawal of our American brethren has just concentrated the Eurofish in one place for us. I can log on for half an hour, and, playing at the 0.10/0.25 NLHE tables (I know, I'm pathetic, but I am working up the limits!) I can be $20 up without very little effort. Of course, you are still vulnerable to the bad beats, idiots calling your set down to the river with King high and then they river a straight, but, overall, I'm winning.

I'm going to transfer my Mansion bankroll over to Pokerstars - I like the atmosphere and interface on 'stars, though the players are better than Mansion. I'm going to continue to dabble with PKR. Its got a fabulous looking, animated interface, with highly customizable avatars, and I think its great the way the view swings from player to player as they act, with appropriate gestures, selectable emotes and tricks with chips. I know its nothing to do with the actual playing of poker, but it looks great. Population is extremely low at the moment, but I'm sure as word gets around it will increase, and its the sort of site that will pull in the fish. You do need a decent PC to run it though; all that animation takes a lot of resources.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Adventures in Omaha

I tried playing Omaha on PKR last night (more on PKR later). Boy do I suck at Omaha. Due to the low population on PKR, I was playing heads-up, so of course I never got a break from the blinds. Within half an hour I had donked off nearly all of my massive $2.50 buy-in. I did manage to stem the bleeding, and fought my way back up to $1, to achieve a level of respectability. It is such a different game to Hold-em - A pair is just not good enough. I was regularly getting beaten with boats, flushes and straights.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Haloscan Comments and Trackback

I've got Haloscan comments working now, thanks to this blog posting.

I have also been able to apply the same principle to get Trackback working, by adding the following lines after the code given for the comments (replace XXX with your Haloscan username):

<script src='' type='text/javascript'> </script>
<a expr:href='"javascript:HaloScanTB(" + "\"" + + "\"" + ");"' target='_self'>
<script type='text/javascript'>postCountTB('<>');</script>

Bankroll Building

16th August since last post. Really doesn't seem that long.

Anyway, been playing Poker on Mansion recently. I invested a massive $20 to start with, and, after dipping down to $10, I'm up to nearly $100. There seems to be plenty of fish around - all I have to do is wait for the premium hand, raise it up and some idiot calls. As an example, Holding a pair of Kings, I raised pre-flop, and got 4 callers, get a King on the flop, so I put in a pot sized raise, and get 2 callers. Board pairs on the turn, so now I've got a full house. Another pot sized raise, 1 caller. I go all in on the river, and once again he calls. Showdown - he's got the pair on the board plus an ace kicker! I take his entire stack, he rebuys and comes back for more.