Find BIOS version in Ubuntu

The dmidecode command line utility dumps a list of SMBIOS specifications to the standard output. In order to get the version number of the currently installed BIOS open a shell and
sudo dmidecode --type 0 | grep Revision

The –type 0 option restricts the output to BIOS specific information and grep fishes for the revision number.

On my X61s Thinkpad the resulting output is
BIOS Revision: 2.19
Firmware Revision: 1.3


MySQL backup

Just for the record: How to combine mysqldump and zip to archive all MySQL databases on the host. I am using a simple MySQL database server on localhost, to organise research tables before analysis.

mysqldump --all-databases | zip -9 -

mysqldump --all-databases writes the content of all databases into the pipe and
zip -9 Filename - compresses the standard input (note the dash ‘-‘ at the end!) to ‘Filename’ (-9 gives maximum compression).

The reverse following the man page of ‘mysqldump’:

You can load the dump file back into the server like this:

shell> mysql db_name < backup-file.sql

Or like this:

shell> mysql -e "source /path-to-backup/backup-file.sql" db_name

MySQL command line with OS X 10.6.

After installing MySQL 5.1.54 on Mac OS X 10.6.6 (Snow Leopard) I tried to access the server in the terminal and got:

-bash: mysql: command not found

Bash could not find the path, so I had to add it. I am not that familiar with the internals of the unix terminal anyway, so I found a highly informative thread on

Especially the post of Jim Logan solved the issue:

Take a look at the file /etc/paths, which is used by /usr/libexec/path_helper, which is used by /etc/profile. For MacPorts, use “sudo” to append “/opt/local/bin” to the end of the /etc/paths file and reopen the terminal window.

So I opened the terminal and used nano:
sudo nano /etc/paths

and appended the line

to the file, saved, exited, restarted the terminal …. and voila, solved.

Using gammu to connect to a mobile phone

After switching between mobile phones several times I always lost some data, contacts, media, so on…

There is a Linux tool called Gammu which allows to connect a selection of mobile phones. It seems that Gammus functionality is maximal for Nokia and Siemens, but I will give it a try on my Sony Ericsson…

The configuration is not trivial and I found some hints on

Install Gammu

Installing gammu is surprisingly easy (once again thanks to the wonders of apt-get), just use the following command:

sudo apt-get install gammu

Hard wasn’t it? 😉

OK now it’s time to plug your phone in and see if we can get things talking. With the phone connected, type the following command:


you should now see your phone listed as a device – for example:

Bus 001 Device 002: ID 0421:0802 Nokia Mobile Phones

if not – make sure your cables and power are all good and try again.

The gammu installation comes with some example configuration files which are worth using as a starting point – if nothing else they help you to understand how gammu can be configured so that you can tailor a solution for your needs. These are located in
(in gZip archives).

Copy the gammurc file to /etc/gammurc :

sudo cp /usr/share/doc/gammu/examples/config/gammurc /etc/gammurc

Now edit /etc/gammurc to specify your port and connection type (this will vary based upon where/how you have things plugged in and what sort of cable/interface your phone is using). The settings for mine are:

port = /dev/ttyACM0
connection = dku5

Save this config and from the shell type:

gammu --identify

you should now be presented with some information regaqrding your phone such as:

Manufacturer : Nokia
Model : 7200 (RH-23)
Firmware : 3.110 T (18-03-04)
Hardware : 0903
IMEI : 353363000813894
Original IMEI : 353363/00/081389/4
Manufactured : 04/2004
Product code : 0514143
UEM : 16

If this is the case then you have got gammu up and running and can send yourself a test message with the following command:

 echo "boo" | gammu --sendsms TEXT [recipient mobile number]

Remove U3 System from SanDisk

Bought a SanDisk Cruzer 16GB and found some smart software preinstalled which did not consider smart at all. Everytime I inserted the drive on any computer a CD drive with label U3 System“was mounted containing some funny .exe files. The whole “CD drive” took several MB of diskspace.

I wanted to get rid of it. Fortunately, I was not the first one beeing disturbed.

Sourceforge has a u3-tool which did the job:

  1. Download the tool to a place where you remember it
  2. Unpack the .tar.gz archive (I just rightclicked it and chose “extract here”). This creates a folder like /MyPathTo/u3-tool-0.3/
  3. open a terminal and type: cd /MyPathTo/u3-tool-0.3/
    sudo make install

    Now u3-tool is installed and can be used.
  4. To remove the CD-like partition containing the firmware crap you need the device name of the USB disk: sudo fdisk -l gives the answer. In my case it is /dev/sdb1. Make shure you remember the right one.
  5. Remove the U3 partition with u3-tool -p 0 /dev/sdb1where /dev/sdb1 is the device name remembered from the previous step and the option -p is followed by a zero.


Xrandr – Manipulating Monitor Setting via Command Line

Usually Ubuntu and all of its derivatives would recognize an external monitor and set it up reasonable automatically. At least all the flavours I tried of Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Linux Mint did that – with Linux Mint most ellegantly – in my opinion.

I read some warnings that one should be prepared for “regressions” in connection with some development issues in Karmic Koala.


Second (external) display does not work as used to anymore. After Xubuntu Karmic Koala fresh install I found just “Display1” in the Display settings. I could set it to the (higher) resolution 1280×1024 of the external display, but then my Lenovo X61s laptop display (1024×768) would turn black.

A workaround was not so hard though:
in the command line showed that both the laptop display (“LVDS1”) and the external display (“VGA1”) were detected and running; just that the external display was running at laptop resolution too.

Xrandr did even detect the optimal settings for the external display.

xrandr --output VGA1 --auto --above LVDS1
set the resolution and refresh rate of the external monitor correctly and put it as an extended Desktop “above” the laptop screen. Exactly the way I did like it in Linux Mint 7 before…

Xrandr is commandline interface “to set the size, orientation and/or reflection of the outputs for a screen” (from the man page).

In Ubuntu
man xrandr gives a short description with examples. I derived my workaround from one of the examples given.

Managing Amazon S3 Online Storage with S3sync

After trying to use Amazon’s S3 web service to backup files and to get a reliable download area for R functions and stuff which is not allowed to be uploaded to I ended up with some experimental “buckets” (= S3 online directory) and some 100 MB of files in them.

It turned out that it is not possible to delete a non-empty bucket from S3, so one is to required to recurse into the directories and delete all files one by one!

Eric Cheng and other blogs appearing after a google search pointed out S3sync as a suitable tool to remove a non-empty bucket.

So first one has to get Ruby and then also the OpenSSL interface for Ruby: sudo aptitude install ruby libopenssl-ruby

Then download s3sync (to your /home/yourself folder in this case) and unpack it: cd $HOME/
wget tar xvzf s3sync.tar.gz
rm s3sync.tar.gz

This creates a s3sync folder containing the ruby code.

The package ca-certificates includes PEM files of CA certificates to allow SSL-based applications to check for the authenticity of SSL connections. It is needed to have the S3 connection secure via SSL and part of the default Ubuntu installation (at least included in my Xubuntu Karmic Koala. If not: sudo aptitude install ca-certificates

Before using s3sync get your access key and secret access key from Amazon. It has to be included in a file “s3config.yml” which is located in your home folder inside the directory “.s3conf” which has to be created. So:

mkdir $HOME/.s3conf
to create the directory.

Open your favorite text editor and create a plain textfile called s3config.yml inside the “.s3conf” folder which contains: aws_access_key_id: YourS3AccessKeyFromAmazon
aws_secret_access_key: YourS3SecretAccessKeyFromAmazon
SSL_CERT_DIR: /etc/ssl/certs

Prevent others from reading the configuration file containing your confidential access codes by chmod 700 $HOME/.s3conf/s3config.yml

Now you can start to use s3sync and s3cmd to manipulate your S3 storage space with e.g.: ruby $HOME/s3cmd.rb listbuckets

This was the first time I managed to manipulate successfully my S3 account. Ok, Djungledisk under Mac OS-X worked, but it is proprietary, though not expensive.

John Eberly’s blog was an inspiration to get started. Follow the link to his excellent blog post.

Mount a CD Image on Harddisk

A copy of a CD containing e.g. installation software or a game (so called iso image) can be mounted directly from the harddrive. This might be useful to mimic a CD without inserting the CD into the (very slow and power consuming) CD/DVD-drive.

1. Create a mountpoint e.g. in the /media directory:
sudo mkdir /media/iso

2. Mount the image MyCDimage.iso as a CD:
sudo mount -t iso9660 -o loop MyCDimage.iso /media/iso

3. Display all filesystems to check its mounted:
df -h

In order to play e.g. Windows games with wine the mountpoint /media/iso has to be added as a drive under wine.
choose the drive tab and add /media/iso

Installing RODBC with Ubuntu/Debian amd64

Trying to install RODBC in Ubuntu with
failed throwing an error message
ODBC headers sql.h and sqlext.h not found

A glance at the r-help showed that it had to do with something called unixODBC – an ODBC driver manager.

The package was installed, but not the development package and thus not the headers which R complained about.

Again a not-so-obvious-for-the-newbee-Linux-Unix-Shell-goblish thing. The fix is
sudo aptitude install unixodbc-dev

Listing Hardware Specs in the Shell

Just recently found a nice compilation of shell command, listing your computers specs in plain text:

List of hardware:

Linux Kernel configuration (which version of Linux are you using):
uname -a

Hardisk and memory available and used:
free -m

Very nice: Checking the buffered reading speed of your harddisk or whatever device attached:
sudo hdparm -t /dev/sda
/dev/sda is my harddisk in this example and produced 60Mb/s three times faster than my USB-disk /dev/sdb.

To find the names /dev/WhatName of the devices:
sudo fdisk -l

Checking the cache reading speed, which represents well more reading from RAM then from the specified device:
sudo hdparm -T /dev/sda

Checking the write speed (from Ubuntuforums)
dd count=1k bs=1M if=/dev/zero of=/media/HD2/test.img