Recycle your old netbook to a wireless ethernet bridge for your Raspberry Pi

Instructions with more detail and less prose follow below…

In the last few weeks I have been looking for a solution to get my Raspberry Pi connected to the internet without extensive cables trailing around our home. And, as a Yorkshire man, I have been trying to do it on a budget.

As a result, home-plugs or Ethernet bridges weren’t an option. And due to the layout of our house, neither was discreet cabling. Setting up a windows network bridge, or using internet connection sharing didn’t work either, for reasons I don’t fully understand. Trying to follow the readily available instructions on the internet for turning your Linux installation into a router simply hurt my brain.

And then I found that, quite simply, when the Raspberry Pi and Ubuntu were networked, they both willingly worked out IP addresses, and when the wired connection was enabled to be shared, surely enough, it made the internet available too. Beautiful and parsimonious.

So I thought it might be good to have something operating as a permanent server to deliver my wireless connection to hard-wired devices in my room. So I drew my old Eee PC; now 5 years old most modern software is virtually useless. Loading up a terminal only version of Lubuntu and the most basic edition of Lxde seemed to do the trick. Using the terminal I installed Network manager, to share and configure the wired connection, and now with a simply CAT5 cable linking it to the Pi, it enjoys unrestrained access to the net.

But I wasn’t finished there! To get more out of this newly available hard wired connection in my room, I plugged in a router, which took and ip address perfectly from the Eee, and relayed it to my Xbox, RasPi, iPad and Laptop giving me all the connectivity I ever wanted to play about with, having my devices no longer strangled from the internet due to a lack of wlan cards. And it worked fine with our Virgin Media 30meg broadband connection relaying HD video for half an hour on the Xbox.

More Detailed Instructions

1. Download the Lubuntu Alternate Iso here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Lubuntu/Alternate_ISO

2. Copy the ISO to your USB drive following these instructions: http://elinux.org/RPi_Easy_SD_Card_Setup (Scroll down to the heading ‘Copying an image to the SD Card in Linux (command line)’ or find another way of flashing an ISO to a USB stick)

3. Get LXDE by typing:

sudo apt-get install lxde

Note: what I did then was type ‘startx’ at the command prompt which told me another command to type in. This command installed a package to let Lubuntu boot on into LXDE from then on in. I think it was another sudo apt-get install thing. Now it’s done I cannie really repeat it, but it was simple enough.

4. Boot into LXDE, then run from the terminal:

sudo apt-get install network-manager

5. Load LXDE, press the LXDE start button equivilant, select ‘preferences’ and then ‘Network Connections’

Click on your wired connection that will be sending to the Eee PC, click Edit at the right, and click on the IPv4 settings tab. In the Method drop down box, select “Shared to other computers” and click ‘Save’. Note: If you find you cannot reach the save button with your mouse due to the screen being to small, hold down ALT and drag the window up with the mouse to access the button.

6. Connect your Eee PC to your Raspberry Pi, or Xbox or whatever, and reboot it. Once the logon screen is showing, boot the Raspberry Pi. You should then have access to the internet over the Eee PC.

Please note I haven’t yet set up a Gui for the wireless network, it simply loads as the system boots. The details are still stored within from the installation

Do please comment if you have any questions, or to tell us it works. Thankyou!

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The Politics of Modern Computer Software

A few years ago, a handful of capitalists got together and invented Software licencing. Their meeting resulted in some of the largest monopolies of all time. The effects of their restrictions on intellectual property brought us regionalised DVD’s, terrible software drivers, and Windows Vista.

But while Goliath was there, hurling threats at the Isrealites, along came David, with his slingshot. So when little Jimmy had the idea to make a program that, regardless of the incompatibility that was built in to his disc drive, could play the data on a DVD from all over the world, Goliath had been slain, forever.

What I’m talking about here is the positive contribution that open source software has actually made to computer users across the world. Let me give an example. I live in a family, with 4 sisters, aged between 8 and 19. Each one of them has a computer available to them. When I returned from serving a mission for my Church, I found that all of them were broken. One of them had aquired too much junk on its hard disk and couldn’t boot anymore. Another had been attacked by a Trojan, my parents computer was having a civil war between Microsoft and Dell’s software, to decide which would manage the system resources, and the last one had forgotten it had Wireless capability.

Not being the most excited to start repairing them all, I decided to try an experiment, to see how well the machines (and the family) would cope using Ubuntu. I loaded Ubuntu 10.04 on the family computer, and when I had finished, I left it and walked away. I returned a few hours later, to find that my 11 year old sister, had used it to write and print her homework. And this was before I had even set up a printer. Upon deeper examination, I found that it could scan, use bluetooth, and connect to some wireless networks, all before calling upon 3rd party drivers.

We know that Linux doesn’t yet have full support for all motherboards, or parents, but using open source software within Windows XP brought equally impressive results.

For the first time in the last few weeks, I have actually seen bill board advertisements for Microsoft Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, Microsoft could have probably got better value for their money by burning it, because even my fuddy duddy parents now have a better browsing experience using Firefox. As with all Open Source software, it is clean, efficiently designed, with no protectionistic functions sneakily built in.

And this is what said it all for me: a simple HP All in One Printer, which can be installed on Ubuntu by simply plugging it in, required a 50mb download, and a 20 minute install before it would work in Windows – the platform it was primarily designed for.

Why is it then, that the more money you pay, the less common sense is applied?

HP, Microsoft, Dell, and whoever else have two adgendas: to produce the goods, and make money. Jimmy the open source programmer, only has the one. As so as a result, the big manufactures work carefully to make sure that they’re in sufficent control to, at some point down the line, get some more money out of you. If they didn’t, they’d never get any more business.

The open source communities on the other hand, have large resources of people, working for the common good, making valuable contributions to many projects, resulting now in incredibly simple, useable, functional computer systems. This is the first time that communism has ever worked.

What this means, is that if you are getting tired of using Windows, and maybe don’t want to fork out for Windows 7, or a Mac, there is another viable option for you. You can probably install a Linux distribution, with a large range of software, actually fully compatible with your Microsoft Office files. You can look at your email, browse your facebook, play videos and all mannor of other things.

Right now, I’m sold. I’m going to continue to upload my experiences using Linux, and hope that others can benefit from them too.

Related Links:

Ubuntu Home Page

Linux Guide: Fixing the Sound due to incorrect mixer settings

So, if you are new to Linux, like I am, it may just be that you are experiencing the same problem as I have with my sound card. The problem here, since installing Ubuntu 11.04 on a Compaq based system, was that my Microphone Input was not working, and could not be adjusted from the traditional sound set up dialogue box. This was particularly irritating when it came to making Skype Calls.

So, how was it repaired? The answer is, as following:

As with many programs, Linux uses a command line based system for managing the mixer board, and I don’t know yet how to work that. In this case, the Software Centre (sometimes known as the Software Repository) contains a Graphical Interface for the mixer board. It is called “YASA Mixer”. Download it, install it, and then load it up, in Ubuntu 11.04 it should appear the installed app’s.

Alsa Mixer

The ALSA Mixer

Above, you see what the Mixer, when maximised, looks like. Experiment with the board, I found that my problem lay in the “Input Source” drop down menu. Changing it from Line, to Front Mic, instantly enabled my Front Mic, and allowed me to configure it from Ubuntu’s traditional sound options.

Currently, the settings are not held after shut down, but for me it works to just reconfigure the settings each time I make a Skype call, which isnt often. I recommend this as a potential fix to your sound problems you may be experiencing.