A new OS experience


Ugh, boredom to no end

As I was listening to my professor drone on and on the Rules for Determining Whether Certain Obligations and Interests are Securities or Financial Assets (UCC 8-103) I decided I had enough. Thankfully, today I was late for class so I had to sit in the back row, so I fired up my laptop and began browsing the web, while my Olympus digital recorder kept a record of the professor's lecture. I was checking out reddit.com and digg.com but a lot of the articles and comments were making me laugh so much that I was worried I would disturb the class. There is something to be said about paranoia and the simply ridiculous reasons that motivate people to write the way they people who comment on those two sites do. Occasionally, I do come across some decent and well written articles or comments, which stand out rather clearly because of the prevalence of so much bad writing. But this is getting me off track.

Soon enough I got bored with reddit and digg, so I decided to play with Backtrack 2. Why not, the lecture was pretty boring too? The first step was to bring up my wireless card. As usual this is a point of some consternation for me, not induced by Linux, as my frustration is directed at the reasons behind manufacturer decisions not to support Linux and open source. Yeah, this is rather ironic seeing how I am sitting in Business Law I (see: § 1-103. Construction of [Uniform Commercial Code] to Promote its Purposes and Policies: Applicability of Supplemental Principles of Law. and Patent Law).

Anyways, since I have a Dell Inspiron E1505 (6400) laptop, I know that when the kernel loads it defaults the to the bcm43xx wireless driver. A quick check with lsmod | grep bcm43xx outputs the driver info. Before I do anything I need to find out if ndiswrapper installed so ndiswrapper -v returns the module and version number. Time to remove it so modprobe -r bcm43xx takes care of that, and a check with lsmod | grep bcm43xx returns no values. I already know that my wireless card uses a Broadcom driver and I already have saved the bcmwl5.inf and bcmwl5.sys in a folder called wireless. ls /mnt checks the mount points and cd /mnt/sda2/wireless changes location to the wireless folder so I can copy the files to root directory(~ i.e. tilde) as cp *.* ~. After changing back to root I installed the proprietary driver ndiswrapper -i ~/bcmwl5.inf and then I check to see if the driver is installed ndiswrapper -l. So I initiate the module modprobe ndiswrapper and then check to see if it is installed lsmod | grep ndiswrapper. iwconfig checks to see if my card is present and ifconfig wlan0 up brings up the card.

My college uses WEP encryption so I need to use WPA supplicant; checking to see if installed wpa_supplicant -v I get the module and version number. I already have a wpa_supplicant.conf file available with the network information in a folder on my drive, so I copy it to my /etc folder cp /mnt/sda2/Docs/wpa_supplicant.conf /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf. After that I invoked wpa_supplicant wpa_supplicant -c /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf -i wlan0 -D wext -dd and wait for authentication.

Since my school uses DHCP I force the network to assign an IP to my card through dhcpcd wlan0. Now, I tried pump -i wlan0 and dhclient wlan0 since I used them in Knoppix and Ubuntu respectively which didn't work, but I remembered SLAX, hence dhcpcd. As dhcpcd didn't hang I pinged google.com and packets started streaming. Wifi is up and running.

But here's the stupid thing I did: I closed the terminal window, where I had wpa_supplicant running, so I had to kill all the processes associated with wifi using killall . Yeah, that was fun, and still I am unsure why I had to remove the drivers and start from scratch, but I have to google this.

All in all, this took me about 20 minutes and I am writing this while on Backtrack 2. Yet another thing got me thinking! How do I secure my computer and manage traffic in or out? In come Iptables after some goolging and running into a tutorial for iptables. Alas, time has run out. One thing that I needed to check was how to automatically reinitialize my wifi setup, but will have to check that out later, probably before reading on iptables. Then, using the aircrack tools it might be a good idea in auditing my home network and that WPA encryption I have on. Class is dismissed - gotta go.

The Economics of Linux and Free Software

Today, in a conversation with my Microeconomics professor on profit maximization I raised the question of Linux as a free alternative to Microsoft or Apple OS-es. Assuming a few things constant, such as demand for the products to be equal, it became clear that individual preferences are key as Linux, Windows, and Apple OS-es accomplish the same thing, albeit a few shortcomings. That is, in encouraging a consumer to move up or down the utility curve the OS has to cost less not only in monetary terms, but also in substitution value. Linux lacks the "plug-and-play" of many hardware specifically designed for Windows, but it allows greater flexibility in modifying the OS to your needs and perform various administrative actions with great modularity. In the case of Windows the OS costs quite a bit of money, it is not modular, and it is restrictive, yet for the consumer it is a familiar platform and requires a low learning curve to operate. The Apple OS on the other hand has a familiarity of use but upgrading the hardware is beyond the average consumer's abilities. Once could probably see the merits of predicting the consumer's preferences, say between Linux and Windows, in using game theory and the Nash Equilibrium. It might be interesting to revisit this topic at a later date.