I recently obtained an external USB hard disk, and have been irritated by it ever since I got it. Or rather, I’ve been irritated by the way Ubuntu Hardy interacts with the disk. Half of the time when I connected the hard disk to my computer, I would get the following error messages:

	[ 4159.607574] usb 1-1: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 4
	[ 2079.875502] usb 1-1: device descriptor read/64, error -71
	[ 2080.099379] usb 1-1: device descriptor read/64, error -71
	[ 2080.319263] usb 1-1: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 5
	[ 2080.443858] usb 1-1: device descriptor read/64, error -71
	[ 4161.322029] usb 1-1: device descriptor read/64, error -71
	[ 4161.537896] usb 1-1: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 6
	[ 4161.945615] usb 1-1: device not accepting address 6, error -71
	[ 4162.057577] usb 1-1: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 7
	[ 4162.465330] usb 1-1: device not accepting address 7, error -71

Other than this error message, the device was totally unrecognised. The USB port worked fine, and there were no problems with the hard disk, which I could use without any problems on other computers. Ubuntu’s behaviour was very unpredictable: I could detect no pattern why it sometimes recognised the disk, and why at other times it would ignore it.

An internet search indicated this is not an uncommon problem, and usbcore, which is compiled as a module in Hardy’s kernel, seems to be the culprit. Plenty of suggestions were offered online (including recompiling the kernel) but most of them did not help me at all.

Finally, I found something on an old mailing list that solved the problem. All I needed to do was add the following line to /etc/modprobe.d/options:

	options usbcore use_both_schemes=y

(If you are curious as to why this solved the problem, please read this clear explanation.)

After a reboot, my external USB drive is now recognised without any difficulties every time I plug it in.


Probably more for my own amusement (especially in a year’s time) than for anyone else’s, and in an attempt to document the evolution of my aesthetics, I here give a summary of my own 2008, in screenshots.

The wallpapers I use for my desktops generally reflect my mood, and have some special significance for me at the time. What follows is therefore not just a collection of screenshots, but a reflection of what has been on my mind the last year. Not all the screenshots I’ve taken the past year are here. I’ve left out the odd desktops (like this one or this one) that didn’t last very long.

The screenshots are arranged per computer, roughly chronologically. Yantra is my main computer, on which I do most of my work. Grantha is the computer at my office. Mitra is the old Dell Inspiron 2500 laptop I wrote about earlier.

Most of the screenshots are of Openbox, which I started using in early 2007 (if my memory serves me well…). By the end of 2007, I discovered Pekwm and used that window manager almost exclusively for a few months in the beginning of 2008. In the summer, I started experimenting with Awesome 2.3, which became the standard window manager on one of my computers (mitra), and which I use frequently on another (yantra). All of these screenshots are of Debian or Ubuntu systems. Early in 2008, grantha still ran Windows XP, but that now runs Debian Testing (lenny). One of the early mitra screenshots may be one of Arch Linux, which I had installed on that laptop for a few weeks when I just started using it.

I’ve been using the same themes on grantha and mitra for months now (see the last screenshots for both). The themes on yantra tend to change more often, though I’ve been alternating a lot the last few months between the Children of the Earth themes and the Mythos theme.

I’ve had a lot of dark desktops this year, and have used a couple of dark Gtk themes often (Royalty, Mythos and Eidolon). It really is very pleasant on the eyes, especially at night, even if not all websites go well with it.

For all of you with a slow internet connection: know that this is quite a lengthy post, with more than 40 300×225 thumbnails!

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