Coping With Color on the Linux Console (and XTerm and friends)

In the previous post about ANSI escape sequences, terminfo, and the tput utility, what I did not mention is that even though a given color such as blue or cyan is requested, it is beyond the program’s control the actual color the user will see.  A legitimate question is why would red not be red or magenta not be magenta?  In a word, themes.  Now themes are not a bad thing as they help to give a desktop a cohesive look across applications.  Desktop theme authors desire to extend their creativity to the Linux console and that is where the trouble begins.

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Tinkering in the terminal with tput

While it looks like a throwback to the 1980s or even the late 1970s, the terminal is a very capable way of performing tasks on a POSIX (BSD, GNU/Linux, etc.) computer.  Some tasks are simply better suited to a Text User Interface (TUI) than a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that runs under X or Wayland.  Even better, a terminal application is included as part of the various GUI desktops or for the minimalist, stand-alone terminals such as XTerm or URxvt are available.  On hardware too limited to run a GUI well, the console is always available and TUI and Command Line Interface (CLI) programs are the rule.  I will differentiate between a TUI program that often runs in full screen mode such as top or Midnight Commander or a CLI program that requires various arguments to control its behavior such as ls or cp.  Additionally, TUI programs often display a limited set of psuedo-graphics character such as lines, tees, and corners to draw boxes and such on the screen.

Modern terminals and the console do support various capabilities that provide a visual enhancement to the characters displayed on the screen including multi-language character sets such as UTF-8 (not to be confused with the amateur radio digital mode FT8), color, bold, underline, and italics.  All of these good things do come at a price (don’t they always?) and that price is backward compatibility.  That is where terminfo and tput enter our vocabulary.

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N0NB at 21

Me? No, I’m somewhat older than 21.  Dearie me!

It was 21 years ago today that N0NB became an active callsign in the FCC database assigned to me.  My callsign for the prior 15 years of KA0RNY was thus retired and returned back to the FCC.

About six weeks earlier over the first weekend of November 1998 I had spent the night at the home of my former neighbor John, KA7GLA (SK) in Enid, OK, to attend the annual Enid hamfest.  He had a callsign plaque in his shack (radio room) of W5ACW that had been held by a ham he’d known in years gone by.  He was considering changing his callsign to it at that time, but never did.  Well, that put a bug in my ear and when I returned home I started researching available callsigns to apply for through the FCC’s Vanity Callsign System.

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Running N1MM+ logger with Wine on Debian Buster

I’m certainly not the first to attempt to run the popular N1MM Logger+ contest logging program on Linux through Wine.  I do think that I’m one of the few (NF8M, W2NRL (thanks to both of you for putting your experiences out on the Web)) that has found that this may now be possible after years of frustration.  Wine has clearly become more capable and short of N1MM Logger+ being written to work with Mono, hams wanting to transition away from Microsoft Windows to Linux may well have one less reason to prevent them from doing so.

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A personal milestone and a look back

35 years ago on November 4, 1983 a somewhat nondescript government envelope arrived in the mail box.  It was from the FCC and was the fulfillment of a dream.  It was a Novice class amateur radio license issued in my name and it bore the callsign of KA0RNY.  Here is a scan of that document.

At that time the term of the license was for five years.  When I upgraded to Technician in early 1985, the term was ten years as it is for currently issued amateur radio licenses in the United States.

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4 State QRP Group Bayou Jumper (Paraset inspired QRP XCVR)

Just before Christmas the 4 State QRP Group announced that a new kit is available, dubbed the Bayou Jumper. From its introductory page:

“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear” and build the Bayou Jumper. The name “Bayou Jumper” is a play on “Ocean Hopper”, a famous regenerative receiver of a bygone era. It retains that great retro look but with modernized circuitry. With it’s distinctive panel and wood box enclosure it pays homage to the famous spy radios of WWII. It is designed for the CW segment of the 40 meters.

4 State QRP Bayou Jumper kit.

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Compiling WSJT-X 1.7.0 on Devuan Jessie

The latest version of WSJT-X, 1.7.0, was released on 19 December, 2016.  I found that the available Debian formatted package would not install as it is biult for Ubuntu 16.04.1 (and variants) which has a newer version of Qt5 on it than Devuan Jessie (as Devuan Jessie is mostly a downstream distribution of Debian 8, Jessie, these notes should apply to it as well).

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My first introduction to amateur radio

It was early 1977 as I recall, probably just after New Years, I was 13, CB was big in the popular culture and I wished to be able to take part but a CB at the time was just too expensive for my parents to satisfy my radio curiosity on what they presumed may be a whim.

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Running Electraft utilities on Linux amd64 and multiarch

At this time the Elecraft utilities for Linux are only available as i386 32 bit precompiled binaries.  Other architectures such as amd64 or armhf (Raspberry Pi) must use another means, if possible.  The Debian Linux distribution and its derivatives (Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Etc.) and forks (Devuan which I now run) have the capability to enable “multiarch” which allows running i386 32 bit binaries on an amd64 installation as a native application.

The following is a rough guide to set up an amd64 based installation to run i386 binaries.  The first step is to enable multiarch (if not already done so when the system was installed) by following the Debian Multiarch HOWTO.

After enabling the i386 architecture, aptitude shows about 24000 new packages the reason being is that now there are many packages available in both amd64 and i386 versions.

After some checking with the ldd system utility, I found that the following packages need to be installed:


These pull in additional packages they depend on if a smart installer such as apt-get or aptitude are used.

The help functionality is not available without the installation of the following package:


I currently cannot install this package on my present system, Devuan Jessie 1.0 Beta, due to a dependency error with the libgtkhtml-4.0-common:i386 package being unavailable.

As I use the Clearlook-Phenix theme on my Xfce desktop, I needed to install the following package for the Elecraft utilities to use this theme:


Beyond the Help viewer issue noted above, I cannot view the release notes in the K3 utility but can view them in the P3 utility.  I store the firmware files in custom directories for each, which is odd that the P3 works and the K3 doesn’t.  If it’s any consolation, the K3 utility, Rev, doesn’t show it either on a native 32 bit installation, so I don’t think multiarch is at fault here.


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Enabling sysvinit on Minibian Jessie 2016-03-12

As I was building a very minimal system for running APRX (N0NB-10) I chose to use Minibian as the starting point rather than stripping down the full Raspbian image to run on a Rasberry Pi model B.  Stripping the system to just those things that do their job and then get out of the way, I chose to enable sysvinit.  As I was doing this headless, I found that after installing the sysvinit-core package that I could not log into the system using SSH.  Hooking up a monitor and a keyboard showed that init did not proceed through the system startup.

Looking at /etc/inittab I found it to only have one line! Certainly not enough to properly start the system. As my current APRX digi is running a stripped down Raspbian Wheezy image, I copied the /etc/inittab file from it to the new system. Problem solved and init worked flawlessly as expected. I was then able to proceed to remove the remaining unneeded packages.

The resulting disk image occupies about 525 MB in addition to the boot partition. This is far from the leanest Linux based system, but as I am familiar with Debian tools, this still leaves a useful system that is dedicated to being an APRS digipeater and iGate. It fits easily on a 2 GB SD card. As I have several on hand, I can easily write a new image should a card suffer data corruption.

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