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Installing Ubuntu Linux on HP TX1499US

Posted: Friday, January 23rd, 2009 at 10:45 pmUpdated: Sunday, February 15th, 2009 at 8:41 am

Configuring AuthenTec, Inc. AES1600

Honestly, I thought that configuring fingerprint is much harder. Reality proved totally opposite. I found it ridiculously easy to configure AuthenTec AES1600. (Well perhaps because I was expecting totally hard configuration) I’m sure the technique here will apply to other models of AuthenTec fingerprint readers or perhaps other maker’s fingerprint readers as well. We will use libfprint for our fingerprinting authentication.

Installing relevant packages

Ok so here’s what you do on Ubuntu. Open Synaptic Package Manager (System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manager) search for libfprint. Then install libfprint0, fprint-demo, libpam-fprint. After you installed all 3 packages, your Synaptic Package Manager screen should look similar like below. Restart your system after you installed all 3 packages.
synaptic_libfprint

Registering your fingerprint

Once you restarted your computer, now it’s time for us to register the fingerprint. Click on Application -> Accessories -> fprint-demo. In the beginning, you’ll see that all fingers are not enrolled. Because of the location of the fingerprint reader, I feel that it’s most comfortable to use the left thumb. So I clicked on Enroll button on left thumb. It took me a couple tries to get good fingerprint. What I found most effective is if you slide your finger pretty fast. Try to cover the center of your finger. Here’s how it looks like on my fingerprint enrollment screen.
fprint-demo

Configuring PAM to use your fingerprint

Once you save your fingerprint, I’d suggest for you to go to Identity tab and practice your fingerprint swiping. Once you got a hang of how to swipe your fingerprint, next we need to configure PAM to take fingerprint authentication.

user@laptop:~$ sudo vi /etc/pam.d/common-auth
[sudo] password for user:

Find the line auth [success=1 default=ignore] pam_unix.so nullok_secure. Now, from here, you need to make decission. You can either:

  1. Configure fingerprint authentication as an added security. Thus, one must pass both fingerprint and password to gain access.
  2. Configure fingerprint authentication as a "prefered" authentication and when it fails, then fall back to password.

If you opted for the first option, then add the following line before the pam_unix.so line. Thus, your /etc/pam.d/common-auth looks like below:

# here are the per-package modules (the "Primary" block)
auth   [success=1 default=ignore]      pam_fprint.so             # Add this.
auth   [success=1 default=ignore]      pam_unix.so nullok_secure

If you opted for the second option, then change pam_unix.so line and add a new line for pam_fprint.so. Your /etc/pam.d/common-auth file should look like this:

# here are the per-package modules (the "Primary" block)
auth   sufficient      pam_fprint.so             # Add this.
auth   sufficient      pam_unix.so nullok_secure # Modify to look like this

After configuring PAM, go ahead and logout. On login screen, after you enter your username, normally you’ll see password field. However, for now, it would look like it just hangs there as if it is stuck. Know this: It’s not stuck. It’s waiting for you to swipe your finger..

If you chose option 1 above, then if libfprint fails to recognize your finger, it will go back to login screen and says incorrect login. If libfprint successfully recognize your finger, you’ll be prompted to enter password. So with this option, you make logging in to your computer much secure, I think. I mean one not only have to steal your left thumb (I don’t even want to know how they’d do it), but he also have to know your password.

If you chose option 2, then if libfprint fails to recognize your finger, you’ll be prompted to enter your password. Then you can login as usual. If libfprint successfully recognize your finger, then you’ll immediately logged in and you’ll see your desktop.

Bugs / Limitation / Unusual behavior you need to be aware of

Ok here’s the thing. Libfprint is still in alpha mode. It is pretty usable now, but you can’t really rely on it. On my system here’s the caveat.

  1. If you just tap on your fingerprint reader, it will crash something. I tried while I’m using fprint-demo and it crashed fprint-demo. I tried on login screen and it basically killed and restarted XDM.
  2. Once you have the PAM module installed, libfprint prints prompt to swipe your finger so you know what to do. However, it is only displayable on console / xterm screen. In GUI mode, it won’t say anything. That’s why on login, after entering your username, the screen seems blank. It would be nice when, in the future, libfprint will display a dialog box to scan your finger or something. On console, here’s how it looks like once you got pam installed. libfprint-console
  3. Because of behavior 2 above, when you need to open an application with superuser privilege (like Synaptic Package Manager), once you run it, you won’t see a familiar dialog box for entering password. Rather, it looks like it’s not running. Like on login screen, do swipe your finger.

Turning off System Beep

I often use vi as my text editor. I could have set it to not beep and use visual beep instead. However, there are other places when computer makes a beeping sound. This annoys me as I often use my laptop on public transportations. So to remove the beeping sound, what needs to be done is actually to remove speaker module. So fire up your terminal program (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal) and follow the steps below.

user@laptop:~$ sudo su
[sudo] password for user:
root@laptop:~# modprobe -r pcspkr
root@laptop:~# echo “blacklist pcspkr” >> /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist
root@laptop:~# exit
exit
user@laptop:~$

Next page describes fine tuning the installation and applying eye-candy stuff.

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