Ubuntu- Dell Vostro 3560 wireless problem solved (Broadcom 4365 wireless adapter)

linux

This was maddening.

As a part of a grant project, I purchased 15 Dell Vostro 3560 laptops for use in an open source tech lab for teenagers. My goal was to show participants how to use open source tools to create original art pieces. The first step for the project was replacing the Windows 7 OS with Ubuntu on each machine. After I completed that, I booted one up and found that it wouldn’t connect to the wireless Internet. I tried replacing drivers, editing config files, bothering my resident Linux guru endlessly, and praying to ancient Mesopotamian gods, but nothing worked. I was on the brink of giving up hope and teaching the kids how to properly dispose of bad equipment when the incredibly dumb solution revealed itself to us.

The problem was not with the wireless adapter. It’s a dumb code thing somewhere deep in the computer’s insides. What is happening is that Ubuntu is automatically populating the wireless password with the key ring password. Here’s how to fix it:

First, this is the symptom I was experiencing. The wireless icon indicates that it’s searching for a wireless network. Several show up in the list, but it will never connect to any of them. It just keeps searching and searching.

wireless spinning

Periodically, this dialog will pop up. It’s a trick. Due to whatever internal nonsense that is happening, what you enter into this box is meaningless.

wireless dialog

Now, make sure the default wireless driver is enabled.

activated driver

Click the wireless icon and choose “Edit Connections” from the menu.

edit connections

Choose the “Wireless” tab and click “Edit.”

Network connections

Choose the “Wireless Security” tab and you will be at the root of the problem. Click “show password.” Is it identifying your Ubuntu keyring password? If yes, all you need to do is change the password to match your wireless network.

Edit Wireless Settings

Restart your computer and you should automatically connect to your wireless network.

wireless working

In my research, I learned that the Broadcom 4365 is especially finnicky and there are not a lot of forum answers that are able to actually solve this problem. I’d call it a fluke, but I was in the unique position of being able to replicate the issue fifteen times with the same hardware and software. Hope this helps someone.

How to extend Microsoft Office 2010 trial period with PlayOnLinux

linux

So this was interesting.

I installed Microsoft Office 2010 on my Ubuntu machine a month ago using PlayOnLinux, a process which is pretty simple. During the process, I was never asked for a product key. I thought it was odd, but chalked it up to the fact that I was simply emulating a Windows computer instead of actually using one. It made sense to me that the verification process for Office was probably tied up in the automatic program updates, which don’t work with Linux.

But, like clockwork, after twenty-five or so days, I started getting pop up warnings everytime I opened the program telling me that my 30 day trial was going to expire. That would be no big deal, but I didn’t have my product key handy. It’s lost somewhere in the mess that is my desk.

I had heard before, though, that there’s a way to extend the trial period. I looked into it and, sure enough, it’s as simple as running a program that comes pre-installed in the Office files. You can do it up to five times.

But how to do it in Linux? Well, turns out, that isn’t too hard, either. I opened up PlayOnLinux and selected Office 2010. From there, I clicked “Configure.”

PoL1

Once in the configuration settings, I selected the “Wine” tab and clicked to open the command prompt.

PoL2

From there, I simply typed in the file path to “OSPPREARM.EXE”. In my case, it was:

wineprefix\Office2010\drive_c\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\OfficeSoftwareProtectionPlatform\OSPPREARM.EXE

PoL4

Success. There is, no doubt, a more direct way to run that file from the standard Ubuntu terminal window. But for Linux newbies who aren’t really sure how Office gets installed in the first place, this process is pretty straightforward.

Make Ubuntu 12.1 suspend on lid close (HP and Dell laptops)

linux

The latest quirk in my new Ubuntu system has been a certain unwillingness for my laptop to suspend when the lid is closed. Instead of bedding down to a restful night of counting electric sheep, the poor thing just stays awake, processing and whatnot. I was able to find a bash script that allowed me to put a button on my task bar that I could click to put the computer into suspend. But that’s an extra click. And not very slick.

So I dug around some more. I tried various solutions, such as the obvious commands in the system settings, editing some of the system files, and trying out TuxOnIce (a program that gives greater control over the suspend/hibernate functions), but to no avail. The more I read, the more disheartened I became. This problem of mine is pretty common (with both Dell and HP laptops), and there doesn’t seem to be an apparent solution.

I got to thinking. I already made this button that initiates suspend- why not take that same script and change it a bit so that it’ll automatically execute itself when the lid is closed? It’s not the most elegant of solutions, but it’s no-fuss and happens in the background without my having to to anything.

More googling ensued and I found this page that provides a bash script for doing this very thing. However, looking at it, I knew it wouldn’t work for me off-the-rack. My system, for whatever reason, won’t recognize the “sudo-pm suspend” command. But it will work with the “pmi action suspend” command I found in the forum post that explained how to use the suspend script I had success with previously. So I combined them:

#ensures that a closed lid causes the computer to suspend
#! /bin/bash

while [ 1 ]
do
sleep 20
grep closed /proc/acpi/button/lid/LID/state && pmi action suspend
done

To use this, you simply create a new file and name it something (like suspend_on_lid_close). You open the file and paste the above script into it. Save and close. Right click the file and select “properties.” Click on the “Permissions” tab and check the box that says “Allow executing file as program.” From there, go to the “settings” icon in the upper corner of the screen and select “Startup Applications” from the menu. Click the “Add” button, name it “Suspend on lid close” (or something) and click the “browse” button. Navigate to your freshly created file and click “close.” Reboot your system and you should be good to go.

If you’re at your wits’ end like I was, this little script will be a godsend.

Ubuntu graphics distorted upon resuming from suspend

linux

ubuntu-logo217Pssh. As if that title didn’t deter you.

My journey into Linux has been great fun. I’ve learned a lot about the inner workings of operating systems that my time with Windows never offered me. That said, it can be incredibly frustrating sometimes working with something built entirely out of the goodness of others’ hearts that was never specifically designed with your computer’s setup in mind.

Very recently, my brother-in-law needed a computer. My mother-in-law had a sluggish old laptop sitting in a closet and gave it to me to give it the ol’ Linux overhaul. If you’re not aware, Linux almost always runs faster than Windows on old computers. The software is just less restrictive and more forgiving. My own computer, the one I’m typing this on right now, cannot handle Windows Vista (or Windows 7), the operating system it shipped with. But when I first installed Linux Mint on it, it ran like an excited pony through a pasture of never-ending green. Because of Mint, I was able to have a laptop that ran well. For this, I will always be grateful.

So I set about pimping out this computer for my brother-in-law. I headed over to DistroWatch, the best place to find the latest information on the latest Linux builds. I wanted to install the most stable, easy-to-use software available. I decided on Ubuntu, arguably the most popular Linux distribution. I installed it effortlessly and the end result was a slick-looking system that ran circles around the Windows OS that had sullied the hard drive not an hour before.

I liked it so much that I decided I wanted Ubuntu for myself. For the past year or so, I’ve been dual-booting Mint and JoliOS, the latter being a super-fast netbook operating system similar to what one might find on a Chromebook. The systems worked well, but there were features in Ubuntu that really jumped out at me. Above all else, I love the interface. It’s clean and polished, like something Microsoft might put out. One of my least favorite aspects of Linux systems is the boxy, pixely, circa-1993 look that a lot of them are cursed with. They may run like Mercedes, but they look like a Bill Gates’ first Volvo. Ubuntu is the big exception- right out of the box, it looks like an OS should.

The second major feature that immediately stole my heart was the Dash. The Dash is similar to the Windows search feature, but way more intuitive and functional. If you’re looking for something, like, say, a piece of software, it’ll tell you if it’s on your computer and, if not, where you might get it. The execution is slick and it takes a great number of pointless clicks out of the computing experience.

So I took the plunge. I installed Ubuntu on my laptop and booted it up. Everything worked like a dream. I was super excited. It was like getting a new computer without having to pay a cent.

But that joy quickly turned to dread the next day after I opened my laptop’s lid. Instead of the hip and trendy graffiti background I had expected to see, I was assaulted by a garbled mess. Something was amiss. When I restarted the computer, everything would work fine, but if the system ever went into suspend mode, everything got all messed up. It was all just aesthetic, of course, but aesthetics were the primary reason I switched over in the first place. srSIu

So, anyway. I messed with the settings for a few days and tried around twenty or thirty fixes before I found the one that ended up working. It seems that my problem was my Nvidia graphics card. Linux often has trouble with Nvidia, and the solutions can be kind of evasive. In my situation, the graphics issue was resolved by bypassing the Nvidia drivers suggested automatically by Ubuntu and getting the most current one elsewhere. To do this, I opened a command prompt and executed the following commands (instructions for which I found here):

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-current

I rebooted my computer and voila- no distorted graphics. And, what’s more, the display is clearer than it was when I was running the suggested driver. All good things.