Best of Technical Support

Our experts answer your technical questions.

Shutdown Doesn't

I have a dual-OS machine running Microsoft Windows XP and SuSE 8.2. When I do a shutdown in XP my PC powers off. But when I turn off this computer in Linux, my PC does a reboot.

Andre Bouve

This is most likely due to inherent problems between SMP and APM. The two standards are mutually incompatible, apparently resulting from an unavoidable race condition among the multiple processors. In Linux's case, APM is disabled in SMP kernels, even if those happen to be running on single-processor machines. You might try switching to the UP (uni-processor) kernel, or you could compile your kernel with an option that forces the APM power-off feature to work.

Jim Dennis

Try passing apm=power-off to the kernel at boot time.

Usman S. Ansari

Support for ISA Sound Card

I'm having a problem configuring my sound card for my Red Hat 7.2 system. When I run sndconfig, it comes back that I have an ISA PNP card, a SoundBlaster 32 Wavetable card to be exact. When it goes to test the sound I get these errors:

/sb.o : init_module: no such device
/sb.o : insmod
/sb.o : failed
/sb.o : insmod sound-slot-0 failed

When I run dmesg I get this:

sb: No IsaPnP cards found, trying standard ones...
sb: I/O, IRQ, and DMA are mandatory
No detected device

I get that same message when I try any different SoundBlaster card in the list.

Joseph Helton

It sounds like your card is configured with I/O base address, IRQ (interrupt request) and DMA (direct memory access) settings that the kernel can't autodetect. You might have to add a line to your /etc/modules.conf that looks something like:

option sb io=0x220 irq=5 dma=1 dma16=5 mpu_io=0x330

where you replace the numbers with those that your card is using.

Jim Dennis

Keeping Bandwidth Bills Down

My broadband ADSL Internet connection has a monthly fixed fee if downloads don't exceed some maximum limit; at the time of this writing, the limit is 3GB. I'm using PPP over Ethernet to connect to the Internet. I want to know if there is some application that can let me have an account of the transferred bytes over my connection.

Guillermo Gimenez de Castro

There are several. ipac is the IP accounting package. MRTG is the multirouter traffic grapher, which may be overkill for your needs, as it graphs usage rather than simply totaling it. You also can use the ifconfig command and look at the received (RX) and transmitted (TX) bytes. All in all, ipac is probably the simplest package for you to examine. See

Jim Dennis

Also, the sar command can provide you with several statistics about your network interfaces; as root try the command:

sar -n FULL

which will provide you with transmitted/received packets and bytes among other information in a timed table. Do a man sar for further information.

Felipe Barousse Boué

Slackware on Serial ATA System?

I am trying to install Slackware 9.1 on a new system that uses a serial ATA drive. The system uses an Intel motherboard with two two-device IDE ports and two serial ATA ports. I can have a total of six devices set up with this rig. The two IDE ports have two CD-ROM drives and a Zip drive attached to them. One SATA port has the only hard drive, the other is unused. I am booting from Slack's installation CD, and the boot proceeds normally until it gets to the point where the drives are discovered. The system sees all of the ports and sees the SATA drive as hde on IDE2. I have partitioned it so that hde4 is the partition that I want Slack to recognize. The system knows the drive is there, but it stalls at a point with this message hde4: loading IDE drivers. I can't get any further than this. What should I look for in dealing with SATA drives on Linux?

Ren Colantoni

You will find yourself doing some tweaks depending on the hardware and distribution you have. A good starting point to find out more about this is There you will find tips specially related to incompatibilities of controllers, drives and Linux.

Mario Bittencourt

Best Software for Backup?

After I picked up my first copy of Linux Journal on the newsstand, I couldn't believe that I'd found in one issue the answers to several of the problems I've been up against. I immediately bought that issue and subscribed on-line as soon as I got home. After digesting the information on Nagios, I'm now looking to replace my company's current DLT backup solution. Our current environment runs a Windows/Veritas Backup Exec 8.6 solution and we're paying a hefty price for these systems. My question is this; is there a viable Linux solution that supports a wide variety of tape backup hardware? Currently I have four single DLT 15/30GB drives at the office, but I also need to support a seven-tape DLT autoloading library on my home LAN. I'd like something that doesn't require a huge investment in time to learn. After all, it only takes the average user about two clicks of the mouse to lose a file, so I'd like to be able to restore it as easily.

Eric Patat

BRU (Backup and Recovery Utility) is reasonably well regarded. It's proprietary but not very expensive. More information can be found at BURT (BackUp and Recovery Tool) is at the University of Wisconsin,, just as AMANDA was created at the University of Maryland.

Jim Dennis

Two other popular backup programs are Amanda, at, which is free, and Arkeia, at, which is proprietary.

Don Marti

Backup software isn't necessarily the best reason to choose Linux, not because it isn't available, but because it's often the same product. Most of the major commercial vendors of backup solutions now support Linux. There are also mid-range solutions that are more cost-effective but still provide graphical wizards and management interfaces. If you would prefer an open-source solution, there is a wide variety of these options available as well, but you also could simply rely on good old tar and gzip or something more robust, such as cpio. You will need the magnetic tape tools package, mt, and the appropriate driver(s) installed in your kernel. If you do go with a tape library, you also may need to search around for a utility that controls the media loader on the device, so you may want to do some research ahead of time before you buy one.

Chad Robinson

We have found that using our own scripts (mostly in Python) for backups (local and distributed), backup verification and validation and restores has been the best alternative so far for the different backup needs we have. We do perform backups into tape devices, CD-based technologies and into other physical hard disks as data and disk backup. A couple of references: has various pieces of information regarding backups in Linux; also look at the book Unix Backup and Recovery, which Linux Journal reviewed a while ago. Although the book is a bit old, it may still be worth reading. The LJ review is at /article/3839. On the hardware side, check the site

Felipe Barousse Boué

Best Tool for a WordPerfect Expert?

I've been using UNIX in some form or other for over two decades. Using Red Hat, I put out camera-ready copy for my latest book, The Economy and Material Culture of Russia, 1600–1725—668 pages, larger format, with 104 graphs produced by Stata from 108,000 records in filePro16. My exceptionally handy word processor was WordPerfect for the camera-ready copy. Now the university is forcing me to upgrade my computer, which will have Red Hat Linux 9 on it. My understanding is that Corel no longer maintains WordPerfect, which won't run on Red Hat Linux 9. What is the most suitable word processing package for this project? What do you recommend?

Richard Hellie

There are many word processors available, and your choice of them depends on your publishing needs. You should begin by examining the ever-present Emacs and the LaTeX and SGML document description languages. Most people find that these are too obfuscated to suit their needs, but it's always worth the examination as these are extremely powerful document layout products once you know how to use them. If you prefer a WYSIWYG word processor, you can install or KWrite, both of which are open-source products. Or, if you need better compatibility with Microsoft Office users, you can try either Sun's StarOffice product, which is with additional fonts and commercial support, among other things, or IBM's Lotus SmartSuite, which is also a commercial product. These are only a few of the options available, and these options do not even include the desktop publishing products. Take a look around—you might be surprised at the variety of options available.

Chad Robinson

Like much unsupported proprietary software, you can keep WordPerfect going by installing old versions of libraries ( If you want to keep the ability to import Microsoft Word documents, you need to apply another fix, too:

Don Marti

Hide That Password!

I know I can't be the only one to exhibit this embarrassing behavior on a semiregular basis, so here goes. For whatever reason, there have been times where I inadvertently disclosed a sensitive password on the command line, mistakingly thinking that my input was going to the stdin of a different program such as ssh or smbclient. I use the bash shell, so this means my carelessness gets written to a history file. Normally, this isn't too big of a problem, but sometimes I end up using a shared account on the system. Needless to say, whoever else has access to this account ends up being able to view my password in the history file. Is there an easy way of telling bash to discard entering a prior or specific entry into its history? I'd rather not have to edit the history file manually, which seems to be the only way I know to cover my tracks.

Chris DeRose

First, if you realize your mistake before you press Enter, simply press Ctrl-U. Doing this erases all of your typing on the current line. This works at the shell prompt (most Bourne-compatible shells), the login prompt and even in vi (while still in insert mode). If you've already pressed Enter, then your fastest, easiest recourse is simply to re-read the history file that's already on the disk. Since the history normally is written only on logout, this will overwrite the in-memory history. Type history -r ~/.bash_history. Of course, this also will wipe all of the other entries from the current session, and it will be as if you just logged in (as far as your history goes).

Jim Dennis

Do a man history to check on the options of the history command:

history [n]
history -c
history -d offset

With no options, history displays the command history list with line numbers. A numerical argument of n lists only the last n lines. The -c or -d options, if supplied, have the following meanings: -c, clear the history list by deleting all the entries and -d, offset Delete the history entry at position offset.

Felipe Barousse Boué

Debian Install for SATA Drives?

Is there a Debian-based distribution that would allow me to install on an SATA hard drive? The hard drive controller is a Micro-Star International RAID Bus Controller, using ata_via per hardware identification by YaST, and/or a VIA 8237 per the MSI KT6 Delta mainboard manual. I want to switch back to Debian, but the installer does not recognize that my system has a hard drive. The same goes for using Knoppix's knx-hdinstall. I understand that I can install a live system on an IDE hard drive, add the modules necessary to get SATA support working, copy the whole thing over to the SATA drive and then run LILO to get the system working on the SATA drive, but that sounds a bit too complicated for someone as lazy as I am.

Nathan Oliphant

Well, you can install Debian on just about anything if you bypass its normal installer and use the debootstrap package. There are some tricks to using that, however. On my Wiki pages I have described a technique for installing Debian onto a set of disks under LVM (logical volume management), using nothing but an LNX-BBC ( and my network connection. So, if you have a rescue disk like the LNX-BBC that can see and access the SATA hard drives, you could follow basically the same procedure that I describe on my pages ( I will warn that this is not easy. It is somewhat laborious and my step-by-step description doesn't go into much explanation. It assumes expertise in partitioning (using fdisk), making and mounting filesystems.

Jim Dennis

Xandros Desktop OS (, LindowsOS ( and Libranet GNU/Linux ( are all Debian-based and maintain hardware compatibility lists. You can look up your Serial ATA hardware on their Web sites.

Don Marti


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