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Archive for the ‘Ubuntu’ Category

Ubuntu – good enough for grannies and girlfriends

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on September 29, 2009

I recently installed Ubuntu Linux 9.04 on my girlfriends lovely new EEE Netbook (I highly recommend the 1005HA + EEEBuntu), but left the original Windows install intact, because, well, I’ve always had a need to go back to Windows for 30 minutes at some point for some reason or another.

The one problem I foresaw with this Ubuntu install was that if she ever had to use the Huawei Mobile Broadband modem I have, she’d have to boot into Windows.  I’d read a year ago that Ubuntu supported it, but when I tried with Ubuntu 8.10, it failed miserably.

So today I was using her netbook and needed mobile broadband, and was about to boot into Windows, when I thought “what the hell”, and tried it in Ubuntu first, fully anticipating the same failure as before, or at least 10 hoops that had to be jumped through before I could get it working.

But no – I was presented with a list of operators for my country (Ireland), asked if I was bill pay or pre-pay, I clicked once and I was connected!  No install required, unlike with windows, just enter your PIN and away you go.

The main argument against Ubuntu, and Linux in general, is that it doesn’t have enough driver support, making it impossible for non-computer literate people to simply plug in their devices and do what they need to do.  It’s great to see that the community is adding in new drivers at a great rate, and that things like cameras, wireless (which is also vastly improved recently) and now mobile broadband now “just work”, and in this case work much better than Windows.

My girlfriend, who is in no way interested in computers or open source, now complains about having to use Windows in university, because Ubuntu is so much easier and faster to use.  I can imagine the same story is playing out all over the world.  Hopefully at least 🙂

Posted in open source, Ubuntu | Tagged: | 21 Comments »

Upgrading Ubuntu Feisty Fawn (7.04) to Gutsy Gibbon (7.10)

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on October 18, 2007

Today I’ve begun the process of upgrading my Ubuntu installation of version 7.04 to version 7.10. To see my previous tutorial of getting Ubuntu installed on my IBM Thinkpad X41, see

This post lists whatever issues I found when upgrading, and my solutions to them. For the official instructions, see

Third Party software sources cause problems

My first problem was caused by having links to third party software distribution sites. When running the “update-manager -d” command, I received an error, saying the dbus couldn’t run.

This was caused by having third party software sources enabled that no longer existed, for whatever reason.

To fix this:

  1. click “System/Administration/Software Sources”
  2. Click the “Third-Party Software” tab
  3. Deselect any non-Ubuntu software sources. You can always reselect them after the upgrade

Modifying the software channels gets stuck

When the second step in the “Distribution Upgrade” application is running, that is, the “Modifying the software channels” step, it got stuck downloading files. It would say

Downloading file 36 of 97

and stay at that number for a long time. This was not a bandwidth issue, it simply stopped. To fix this

  1. Click the “Cancel” button.
  2. Run the “update-manager -d” command again.
  3. Repeat this each time it gets stuck downloading files. I had to do this four times for it to work completely.

Dual monitors didn’t work correctly

When booted up with an external monitor plugged in, the desktop was fixed at 640 * 480 pixels resolution. I found someone else with a similar issue at , but their solution didn’t work for me. I solved this by:

  1. Unplugging the monitor.
  2. Restart the machine, and log in.
  3. Click “System/Administration/Screens and Graphics
  4. Click the “Graphics Card” tab.
  5. Click the “Driver” button
  6. From the “Driver” dropdown list, choose “i810 – Intel Integrated Graphics Chipsets
  7. Restart the machine.

Compiz has problems with dual monitors

Compiz (the 3D graphics stuff) causes problems and refuses to work at all if I am using dual monitors. Still working on this one.

Some Eclipse plug-ins no longer work

As a Java developer, I often use the Eclipse development platform. I include some non-standard plugins in the application, like plugins for Subversion support. However, when Ubuntu is upgraded to 7.10, the base Eclipse platform in upgraded, but not the non-standard plugins, which stops some of them from working.

Update: actually, this didn’t fix my Eclipse problems, please ignore 🙂

The solution is to upgrade the plugins in the usual Eclipse manner:

  1. Open Eclipse
  2. Click Help/Software Updates/Find and Install
  3. Click Finish
  4. Wait a while…

Running low on disk space after upgrade

My laptop was running out of disk space after the install, as it downloaded quite a few packages. I found a very good blog post on how to clean up your Ubuntu install at

Make sure to read comment #7 also, that alone saved me 1GB.

Some Thinkpad features no longer work

I found that some things didn’t work that did work before, for example the stylus pen and the middle ‘scroller’ button of the mouse.  If this happens, just reapply the settings I describe here, as the upgrade removed them. This solved the problems for me.

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Posted in Gutsy Gibbon, open source, Ubuntu | 28 Comments »

A TortoiseSVN replacement for Ubuntu

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on October 4, 2007

I work on a number of open source projects, and many of them use the Subversion version control system to manage their code.  Before my switch from Windows XP to Ubuntu Linux (which I am still ecstatically happy with btw), I became a big fan of TortoiseSVN, an extremely useful Subversion client that integrates itself directly into Windows Explorer.

TortoiseSVN is simple to use, very intuitive, and does everything I need from it.  You simply right click on a folder you want to store your checked out files in, give it the URL of the Subversion server, and it checks out the code, updates it, checks it back in (if you have permission), performs file diffs ….. basically everything you need to do is integrated right in with your file browser.

So, I miss this in Ubuntu, as TortoiseSVN is Windows only.  However, I recently found a replacement, which integrates nicely with Nautilus, the Ubuntu file browser.  While it is not as slick as TortoiseSVN, it works in a very similar way.  You right click on a folder, and have a selection of SVN operations you can perform.

See for details.

Nautilus Subversion Menu

Nautilus Subversion Dialog

One thing that is missing from this is the display of icons in the file browser (Nautilus) to inform you of the state of a file – checked out, modified, not added to source control etc.  Another person has developed a solution to this, which unfortunately I have not, yet, been able to get working, but perhaps you will have more luck.

See for details on this.
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Posted in Linux, Nautilus, open source, Subversion, Technical, TortoiseSVN, Ubuntu | 8 Comments »

Ubuntu on Thinkpad X41 – Working With Amarok

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on May 11, 2007

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This is one of a number of posts detailing how to install Ubuntu 6.10 (codename Edgy) on a Thinkpad X41. This post focuses on using the amazing music player Amarok. Rather than me going into the many reasons why no other music player even comes close, have a look at it’s website, or read here.


Installing couldn’t be easier. Although Amarok is techically a KDE application, and I’ve installed Gnome on my Thinkpad, it will run perfectly fine.

  1. Click Applications->Add/Remove
  2. Choose Amarok from the list on the right and click OK

Working with Sony Ericsson w810i Walkman:

I own a Sony Ericsson w810i Walkman phone which I’d like to use with Amarok. However, it doesn’t directly support this device, so some slight configuration has to take place.

  1. Open Amarok by clicking Applications->Sound & Video->Amarok. If the application doesn’t show up then it has minimised itself, and you should see a grey/blue circular icon in your taskbar. Click this and the window will show up.
  2. Connect your phone to the computer via the bundled USB cable. It should auto-mount to the two folders /media/disk (the one we’re interested in), and /media/PHONE.
  3. In Amarok, click Settings->Configure Amarok
  4. Click Media Devices at the bottom left of the configuration window.
  5. Click the Add Device button.
  6. From the drop down list, choose Generic Audio Player.
  7. In the middle text box enter the name for your device, e.g. “My Walkman”.
  8. In the bottom text box, enter the mount point for your device, /media/disk
  9. Click OK. The new device should now be listed. Now it must be configured.
  10. Click the configuration button to the left of the Remove button for your new device.
  11. Into the Song Location textbox in the bottom section put the following:
    /music/%artist/%album/%track %title.%filetype
  12. Click OK, then OK again to return to the main application.
  13. Now (and from now on) simply click the Devices button on the bottom left of the window, then the Connect button at the top left. You can then drag and drop songs into the device and transfer them by clicking the Transfer button.
  14. Enjoy the free, open source media player that puts Apple and Microsoft to shame!

Sharing Music with iTunes over a network

If you have two computers, one running iTunes and the other, more enlightened one, running Amarok, it’s possible to share music between them, which should save you the trouble of duplication space-hogging mp3 files.

  1. In iTunes, click Edit->Preferences
  2. Click on the Sharing tab.
  3. Check the two checkboxes.
  4.  In Amarok, click Settings->Configure Amarok
  5. Click Media Devices.
  6. Click Add Device.
  7. From the drodown box, choose Music Sharing and give the device a name, e.g. “Shared Music”. Click OK,then OK again to return to the main application.
  8. Click Devices at the bottom left of the window.  At the top left of the window you should see a dropdown bo – choose “Shared Music” (or whatever you called it) and you should see all shared libraries on your network.

Posted in Amarok, Linux, mp3, open source, Sony Ericsson, Technical, Ubuntu | 8 Comments »

Ubuntu on Thinkpad X41 – Upgrading to Feisty Fawn (7.04)

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on April 30, 2007

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This is one of a number of posts detailing how to install Ubuntu 6.10 (codename Edgy) on a Thinkpad X41. This post focuses on upgrading from Ubuntu Edgy Eft (version 6.10) to Ubuntu Feisty Fawn (version 7.04).

Upgrading from 6.10 to 7.04 is a relatively straightforward operation, however there are a few issues I’ve found so I’ll start with those before you decide whether or not to upgrade.

  1. Ubuntu seems to be running more slowly than before. Applications take longer to start up, with the desktop freezing while they’re loading in some instances. I can’t remember seeing this happen before. Other people have reported the same issue.
  2. The Beryl desktop manager seems to have some issues with the new release. Sometimes when a new application is loaded it doesn’t initialise properly when Beryl is enabled. E.g. an xterm window will load but you can’t type in it, or when I load QuickSynergy I can see the contents of the application window but can’t click on them. In each case, logging out then in again solves the problem, but I’d rather find a proper fix for it, obviously enough.
  3. The update failed the first time I attempted it. I got the following error:
    Could not install ‘/var/cache/cpt/archives/fuse-utils_2.6.3-lubuntu2_i386.deb’
    This package is used to map to the Windows NTFS partition on my hard drive, and this failure caused the upgrade process to fail. However, trying the same upgrade a few days later, the problem seems to have been resolved.
  4. Another problem with accessing NTFS partition is that it seems to have problems allowing me to rename files using the File Browser. It’s not a permission issue, I can rename them just fine using the Terminal (I have the ntfs-3g package installed which gives me read/write access to NTFS partitions).
  5. The Desktop Effects option (aka the Compiz window manager, admittedly it’s labelled as a beta product) seems pretty flaky, displaying many of the same issues that Beryl seems to have with this Ubuntu release. This suggests to me that the 3D graphics drivers for my Thinkpad may be faulty, and it is something I’ll look in to.
  6. Java seems to have gone back from version 1.5 to version 1.4.2. Some applications require Java 1.5 or later, and refuse to execute without it.

Long story short, I’m less happy with Ubuntu now than when I was back on Edgy, and there’s nothing in the new release that makes me glad I upgraded. By far the worst issue is the length of time it takes to start a new application. Pain in the ass. So, if you still want to upgrade, read on!

Update May 3rd 2007: Problems 1, 2 and 4 seem to have gone away after installing the latest updates with Update Manager, so I am now very happy with my new install of Ubuntu

Performing the Upgrade

  1. Click System->Administration->Update Manager
  2. There should be a notice on the top of the window telling you that a new release is available. Click on this button.
  3. Follow the simple steps, essentially just clicking OK at each prompt.
  4. The upgrade seems to uninstall the ntfs-3g package, which allows you to mount a Windows NTFS hard drive partition in read/write mode. Apparently it’s a known problem. To reinstall this:
    1. Click System->Administration->Synaptic Package Manager
    2. Scroll down to ntfs-3g, right click on the check box and choose Mark for Installation
    3. Click the Apply button then close the window.
    4. To mount your NTFS partition (if you’ve already set it up to be mounted at boot time, if not see here), open a terminal window by clicking Applications->Accessories->Terminal
    5. Type sudo mount -a and hit Enter. This remounts all mount points listed in your /etc/fstab file.
  5. To upgrade to Java 1.6.0 from the system default of 1.4.2, do the following (source link):
    1. Open a terminal and type:
      sudo apt-get install sun-java6-jdk sun-java6-plugin
      sudo update-java-alternatives -s java-6-sun
    2. Type: java -version and you should be told that you are using version 1.6.0.

As I mentioned, there are still some issues that I have with the upgraded version, and as (… if…) I solve them, I’ll update this post with extra information.

Posted in Feisty Fawn, Linux, open source, Technical, Thinkpad, Ubuntu | 4 Comments »

Ubuntu Ultimate Edition, with preinstalled coolness

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on March 2, 2007

I recently went through the relatively painless but lengthy process of installing Ubuntu 6.10 on my Thinkpad X41 and getting all the programs I want on it (you can read the instructions I posted based on it here if you like). However, I’ve just come across a distro with pretty all these programs already installed over at It contains loads of very handy programs, and also the very sexy Beryl window manager.

I haven’t tried it out myself, so caveat emptor, but if you’re thinking of installing Ubunty Edgy (6.10) and would like lots of the extras listed on that page, then it could be worth giving a go.  If you have a Thinkpad X41 and want to get it’s pen and screen features working however, you will still have to install these yourself.  I’ve posted instructions here.

Posted in open source, Technical, Thinkpad, Ubuntu, X41 | Leave a Comment »

Linux release of DojoBuilder beta

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on February 19, 2007

The first Linux release of DojoBuilder beta has been released, after my epic effort at getting Ubuntu 6.10 installed on my Thinkpad. DojoBuilder is an Eclipse RCP based tool for generating customised builds of the Dojo Ajax toolkit. It provides a number of useful utilities for working with Dojo, including checking out the source code from source control (Subversion), configuring the build, and running the build. For information on what it can do, check out my first post on the subject.

The following downloads are available:

These previous posts explain further about the capabilities of DojoBuilder.

Posted in Ajax, Ant, Dojo, eclipse, open source, Ubuntu | 1 Comment »

Ubuntu on Thinkpad X41 – Installing the Beryl Window Manager

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on February 16, 2007

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This is one of a number of posts detailing how to install Ubuntu 6.10 (codename Edgy) on a Thinkpad X41.

This post explains how to install the Beryl window manager on Ubuntu Edgy. Beryl is a very impressive window manager for Linux that adds many extremely cool effects and themes to the desktop. These include things like a 3D cube workspace switcher, a tab switcher with window preview, many minimize/maximize animations, and much much more. Watch this video to see Beryl in action.

Source link –

To install Beryl:

  1. First the Beryl repository must be added. Open a terminal by clicking Applications->Accessories->Terminal
  2. Type sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
  3. Add the two lines
  4. deb edgy main
    deb-src edgy main

    Note: If you are installing Ubuntu Feisty (version 7.04), replace the ‘edgy‘ with ‘feisty‘ in the lines above.

  5. Save the file and close gedit.
  6. To ensure that the packages are correct, type:
  7. sudo wget -O- | sudo apt-key add –

  8. Update the package list before installing by typing:
    sudo apt-get update
  9. Enable AIGLX and configure the X server by typing:
    1. sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf
    2. In the “Module” section, make sure that these three lines are included:
    3. Load “dri”
      Load “dbe”
      Load “glx”

    4. In the “Device” section (for the graphics card), add the line: Option “XAANoOffscreenPixmaps”
    5. Search for the section “DRI” and make sure it looks like below, if not then add it:
    6. Section “DRI”
      Mode 0666

    7. Close gedit and restart the X server by typing the line below. This might freeze, and if so, restart Ubuntu, using the power button if necessary:
    8. sudo /etc/init.d/gdm restart

  10. Install Beryl by typing:
  11. sudo apt-get install beryl

  12. Make Beryl start automatically.
    1. Save the file to /usr/bin
    2. Make the script executable by typing
    3. sudo chmod a+x /usr/bin/

  13. For safety’s sake, so that Beryl can be disabled easily later if it turns out to be buggy, create a new Session. Save the file to /usr/share/xsessions
  14. When Ubuntu next starts up, you will have the option to use Beryl. To do this, in the log in screen
    1. Click Options->Select Session
    2. Choose Beryl
    3. Click Change Session
  15. To play around with Beryl settings, once logged in click the red diamond icon in the top right corner task bar.
  16. To see the cool cube effect, press Ctrl-Alt-Left and Ctrl-Alt-Right keys. you may only have one workspace open, so add more by right clicking on the Workspace switcher at the bottom right of the screen, choosing “Preferences” and setting the number of workspaces.
  17. To edit or change themes, open System->Preferences->Emerald Theme Manager and play around.
  18. To make double clicking on title bars maximise the window, which on my laptop changed this behaviour to the irritating “collapse window” effect, open System->Preferences->Emerald Theme Manager->Emerald Settings->Titlebar Double-Click-Action->Maximise/Restore

Posted in Beryl, open source, Technical, Thinkpad, Ubuntu, X41 | 9 Comments »

Ubuntu on Thinkpad X41 – Installing Utility Programs

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on February 16, 2007

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This is one of a number of posts detailing how to install Ubuntu 6.10 (codename Edgy) on a Thinkpad X41.

This post explains how to install some programming tools on Ubuntu. Since I am a Java developer these days, and also participate in open source projects, I’ll be showing you how to install the Java runtime, the Eclipse IDE and Subversion for working with remote repositories. I also describe installing a tool for uploading to the Flickr photo sharing site, jEdit, my text editor of choice, and WLAssistant, a utility for working with Wireless networks.


To install Sun Java 5.0 and Eclipse 3.2:

  1. Click Application->Add/Remove & search for “Java”
  2. Check the “Sun Java 5.0 Plugin”, “Sun Java 5.0 Runtime” and “Eclipse” plug-ins.
  3. Click “OK”.
  4. If the download fails, try going to System->Administration->Software Sources and changing the Server, and repeat steps 1 to 3.


Subversion is a source control program used by many open source projects. It does not come as standard with Ubuntu Edgy, which is strange enough, but it also seems to have disappeared from most of the software repositories, which is even stranger. To install it:

  1. Open a Terminal by clicking Applications->Accessories->Terminal
  2. Type sudo apt-get install subversion
  3. If this doesn’t work, it means that subversion is not in your selected software repository, and you need to change the list of software sources.
  4. Type sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
  5. Find the URL with “main” after it, and remove the first two characters, e.g.… becomes
  6. Save and close the file.
  7. Click System->Administration->Software Sources and change the “Download From” dropdown box to use the “Main” server.
  8. Repeat steps one and two.


For a good text editor, with many available plug ins, download jEdit from for the stable version,
for the latest development version (at time of posting) as a Debian package. Whichever file you download, double click on it and run it.

Rar Utilities

To be able to extract RAR archives,open a terminal and type sudo apt-get install rar unrar

Wireless Assistant

Wireless networking support in Ubuntu Edgy is pretty terrible – essentially, there is no wireless network browser to show you what wireless networks are available provided by default. However, there is a utility, called “wlassistant”, that you can install that provides similar functionality to the wireless connection tool in Windows.

To install it: [source link]

  1. Open a Terminal by clicking Applications->Accessories->Terminal
  2. Type sudo apt-get install wlassistant
  3. To run it, type sudo wlassistant. You can also run it by clicking Applications->Internet->Wireless Assistant, but the application requires root permission to run, which you don’t get unless you launch it from the command line.
  4. To run Wireless Assistant from the menu with super-user permissions, click System->Preferences->Menu Layout.
  5. In the left menu, choose the Internet button.
  6. Right click on the Wireless Assistant button in the right menu and choose Properties.
  7. Change the execution command from wlassistant to sudo wlassistant. That should do it! You’ll be prompted for the super-user password when executing it from the menu from now on.


To install Synergy, a useful program for sharing a mouse and keyboard among multiple computers:

  1. Click Applications->Add/Remove
  2. Search for QuickSynergy and click OK
  3. See for usage instructions

Posted in open source, Technical, Thinkpad, Ubuntu, X41 | 2 Comments »

Ubuntu on Thinkpad X41 – Enabling Thinkpad specific components

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on February 16, 2007

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This is one of a number of posts detailing how to install Ubuntu 6.10 (codename Edgy) on a Thinkpad X41.

The Thinkpad X41 Tablet has some very cool features that unfortunately Ubuntu Edgy doesn’t support out of the box. This post details how to get them working.

To get the Tablet Pen working (source link):

  1. You may need your Ubuntu CD, so connect your external CD/DVD drive and insert the CD.
  2. Type: sudo apt-get install wacom-kernel-source xserver-xorg-input-wacom wacom-tools
  3. Restart your computer and log back in.
  4. Next check if /dev/wacom exists using
    ls -al /dev | grep wacom
  5. If it does exist:
    1. type sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf
    2. Check the file to see if InputDevice elements exist with the Identifiers stylus, eraser and cursor. If not, then add the following text to the bottom of the file. Note that pasting this text or editing it directly in gEdit may introduce invalid characters into your xorg.conf file, causing Ubuntu to fail on startup. So you’re better off typing in the text (I know, there’s a lot of it).
    3. Section "InputDevice"
      Driver "wacom"
      Identifier "stylus"
      Option "Device" "/dev/wacom"
      Option "Type" "stylus"
      Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4"

      Section "InputDevice"
      Driver "wacom"
      Identifier "eraser"
      Option "Device" "/dev/wacom"
      Option "Type" "eraser"
      Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4"

      Section "InputDevice"
      Driver "wacom"
      Identifier "cursor"
      Option "Device" "/dev/wacom"
      Option "Type" "cursor"
      Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4"

    4. Find the “ServerLayout” section and add
    5. InputDevice "stylus" "SendCoreEvents"
      InputDevice "cursor" "SendCoreEvents"
      InputDevice "eraser" "SendCoreEvents"

    6. Every suspend/resume cycle drops the wacom, so save the file to /etc/acpi/resume.d/
    7. Run the following command:
    8. sudo chmod +x /etc/acpi/resume.d/

    9. If the stylus still does not work after suspending (even after applying the fix above) try replacing all the “/dev/wacom“‘s in your xorg to “/dev/ttyS0“, and restart Ubuntu.

To get the trackpoint scrolling working, type:

  1. sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf
  2. Find the “Input Device” section whose “Identifier” is “Configured Mouse”, and add the following two lines to the section:
    Option “EmulateWheel” “true”
    Option “EmulateWheelButton” “2”

To get the auto-rotate of the screen working, where the screen switches to portrait mode when in tablet mode, do the following (this is copied more or less directly from here):

  1. Open a terminal and type acpi_listen. This should give the following result:
  2. ibm/hotkey HKEY 00000080 00005009
    ibm/hotkey HKEY 00000080 0000500a

  3. If the results are different, make sure to substitute your values for the values I use here.
  4. Save these two files to the /etc/acpi folder
  5. Execute the following code
  6. sudo chown root.root /etc/acpi/
    sudo chmod 755 /etc/acpi/
    sudo chown root.root /etc/acpi/
    sudo chmod 755 /etc/acpi/

  7. The previous steps define what to do when the laptop screen being closed or opened fires a particular event. Now we must register these scripts to be fired when that event is triggered. Copy the following two files to /etc/acpi/events.
  8. Now restart the daemon that listens for these events. Type:
    sudo /etc/init.d/acpid force-reload
    sudo /etc/init.d/acpid restart
  9. If you would like a virtual keyboard to appear on the screen when you swivel down the screen, type:
  10. sudo apt-get install xvkbd

  11. Swivel your laptop screen to make sure it works, and you’re done!

Posted in open source, Technical, Thinkpad, Ubuntu, X41 | 12 Comments »

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