Penguinway http://www.penguinway.net Linux and Tech Stuff Sat, 03 Jan 2009 03:33:59 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.6.3 en CrunchBang Linux Review : Dark, Evil, and it has the Mark of The Beast http://www.penguinway.net/?p=346 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=346#comments Fri, 02 Jan 2009 22:55:28 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=346 This UK based distribution has attracted a lot of attention lately. After listening to both Fab’s glowing review on the Linux Outlaws podcast and the one at the Linux Install Podcast I decided to give this new distribution a try. CrunchBang 8.10.01 is based on Ubuntu Intrepid, uses the lightweight window manager Openbox and has [...]]]>

This UK based distribution has attracted a lot of attention lately. After listening to both Fab’s glowing review on the Linux Outlaws podcast and the one at the Linux Install Podcast I decided to give this new distribution a try. CrunchBang 8.10.01 is based on Ubuntu Intrepid, uses the lightweight window manager Openbox and has GTK+ applications. Right now it is only available in a 32 bit version. However, corenominal (Philip Newborough, the developer) has asked users in the forums if they would like a 64 bit version. For the Asus EEE owners there is also a custom version known as CrunchEee for your platform.

Similar to Linux Mint (here is the Evil part), CrunchBang has a lot of the proprietary stuff included out of the box. Flash 10, MP3 support, encrypted DVD playback and even Skype has been added to the distribution. According to their site, with the exception of a few packages, CrunchBang is built entirely from the Ubuntu repositories. Because of this, you can use apt-get, aptitude or Synpatic to install your Ubuntu Intrepid packages on CrunchBang. The aim of CrunchBang is to provide a easy to use, lightweight, fast distribution of Linux.

I tested out two different systems with CrunchBang. I have a Dell Intel Q6600 quad core system with 6 gigabytes and a 4 year old Dell Inspiron 1150 notebook that has only a single gigabyte. In both cases, CrunchBang was a champ when it came to hardware detection. The Restricted Driver Manager saw the Broadcomm wireless chipset in my notebook, pulled down the firmware and used fwcutter to get the adapter working. I had the same positive experience using my desktop system. My old Samsung ML-1430 laser printer was detected and printed without a fuss.

Dark Background and Theme

As you can see from the screenshots, the look of CrunchBang is very spartan. There is no color whatsoever on the desktop. No icons on the desktop, either. Just a pure black desktop with the CrunchBang logo written in a severely simple font. The distro screams “We don’t like clutter!”. For those who can’t stand this look CrunchBang has included a few colorful macro photo backgrounds that look pretty nice. If the dark theme doesn’t work for you there are also well over 100 themes available in the OpenBox Configuration Manager.

Conky System Monitor

One of the great things I like about this distribution is that they have included Conky. Based on Torsmo, Conky is an awesome system monitor for your desktop. Among other things, it can monitor CPU & RAM utilization, processes running, hard disk space usage, network upload/download activity, wireless signal strength and your notebook’s battery life. It is also a great tool for low RAM systems. If your system slows down you can quickly see if it is due to the OS having to use swap memory. There are even weather and SSL email Python scripts available for Conky. I tried Conky Email out with my Google Mail account and it worked like a charm. It would tell me on the desktop whenever I had mail. Other tools are available to do these things, like Google Desktop Gadgets, Screenlets, or SuperKaramba, but I prefer to use Conky because it’s text takes up less desktop real estate than using graphical widgets.

My first gripe with the distribution is that they didn’t use a more featured conky.rc file. Perhaps it is because of their tribute to minimalism, but they could have added more monitoring features to the default setup. Something that would wow the user during their first impression of the distribution.

If you want to make changes to the conky.rc file like I did it is in the OpenBox menu at Preferences > Conky Config. There are also some nice tricked out conky.rc files available on the CrunchBang forums. I was happy with a modification I did to the conky.rc file that omns had posted. I always forget the key bindings and wanted to add that to the conky.rc file he created. It really impresses me how many tweaks you can do using Conky. A quick note about the symbols you see in the System, HD and Network sections of the Conky configuration I am using. Those symbols to the left are actually fonts. My conky.rc is using StyleBats, Webdings and PizzaDude fonts. These don’t come with Crunchbang so you need to pull down the fonts if you want to use a conky.rc file with them. You can get the fonts by downloading the Conkycolors Tar file and extracting the .fonts directory to your /home/username directory.

OpenBox Window Manager

I dig the way you open up programs up in OpenBox. Right click anywhere on the desktop and you get the menu stucture. Your at the menu faster than in Ubuntu where you have to go to the top of the screen with the mouse pointer to get at it. In CrunchBang you add programs to the menu by editing a XML file. You will find this file in the menu by going to Preferences > OpenBox Config. Adding new menus, programs or seperators is pretty easy in my book. Just like in Ubuntu’s menu, CrunchBang has links in their menu to your documents, downloads, images, music and videos folders for your convenience. They also have links to the CrunchBang About, Forums and Wiki pages under Help in the menu structure. Compositing effects are also available in OpenBox. Just go to Preferences > Compositing to get at them. It’s no Compiz, but there are some nice transparency effects you can add to the desktop.

On the bottom panel they have included a desktop pager, system tray, task bar (window list) and a digital clock. There are about a dozen additional plugins available if you think the panel needs some more stuff. If you don’t like the icons in Thunar file manager, CrunchBang has three different icon themes to pick from; Tango (default), GNOME and Rodent (interesting).

666 Megabytes : The Mark of the Beast

This may have been done to outdo the fine folks at Satanic Ubuntu. The ISO file size of CrunchBang weighs in at 666 megabytes. I wonder how much trouble it took in package selection to get the distribution to this size. I think it will be hard to maintain as CrunchBang’s packages are upgraded with new features (causing larger file sizes). Do you dare refuse serving Satan or bounce Totem cause they grew a couple of megabytes in their latest version? Tough call. Will be interesting to see how this plays out over time. Here is a list of some of the software that Crunchbang ships with:

  • Linux Kernel 2.6.27
  • Firefox 3.0.4
  • Gwibber 0.7 (Microblogging client that can be used with Twitter and Identica among others)
  • Abiword 2.6.4 (Open Office is not included in this distribution)
  • Gnumeric 1.8.3
  • Totem 2.24.3 (VLC is now a QT4 application)
  • Rythmbox 0.11.6
  • Kino 1.3.0
  • PiTiVi 0.11.1
  • Cheese 2.24.1
  • Audacity 1.3.5 beta
  • Inkspace 0.46
  • GIMP 2.6
  • Thunar 0.9.0
  • Skype 2.0

Installation

Being based on Ubuntu, CrunchBang uses the tried and true 7 step Ubiquity installer. I found this to work without a hitch. I let the installer configure my GRUB bootloader and it found my Windows Vista, Ubuntu 8.10, Mint 6 and the CrunchBang partitions just fine. As with the initial bootup from live CD, the hard disk installation was snappy as could be. Although I didn’t have a stopwatch out, I would say it had a good 25 percent faster bootup time than Intrepid. One word of caution. You should watch out for the loud techno pulse sound that plays with the login screen. It’s loud enough to knock you back in your seat.

Stability

This is, as I would expect given it’s Ubuntu base, a solid distribution. It has run without lockups during the past week I have tested it. In fact, I’ve only had two tiny problems running it. First, when I used the shift and number keys on my standard QWERTY keyboard I would not get the symbols I wanted. A shift and number 2 would not produce the expected @ sign. Needless to say, email was going to be out of the question until I got this problem fixed. A trip to the forums revealed that the problem was because the live CD ships using a UK keyboard layout. All I needed to do to fix the problem was type in “settxkbmap us” at the terminal. This gave my system a US based layout and my keyboard then worked as it should. I also discovered at the forums that you should add this to Openbox’s autostart file so that the correct keyboard layout is set when you login.

Secondly, the other small problem I had was with the Restricted Driver Manager. If I clicked the Help button I got an error telling me it could not find the help file with the URL it was using. This was a tiny problem, since, as I mentioned above, the manager still worked and I got a wireless connection. I just thought I would note this small glitch I ran into with the Help button. I have to find out what (if they have one yet) Crunchbang uses for a bug reporting system.

Conclusion

If your looking for a lightweight Ubuntu you should consider this distribution. The minimal configuration is great if you have an older machine you would like to revive. And unlike other mini distributions, it comes shipped with a ton of software so chances are you won’t have to go searching for too many packages once installed. With the GIMP, Inkscape, PiTiVi, Kino, recordMyDesktop and Audacity they already have a lot of tools for creative types. If you find anything missing you can find it quickly using the large Ubuntu repositories. What I like most about this distribution is that it showcases the combination of Conky and OpenBox, two projects that look really good together.

More Obligatory Screenshots

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=346
Linux Mint 6 Felicia Review : It Must Be Christmas http://www.penguinway.net/?p=247 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=247#comments Fri, 26 Dec 2008 06:46:44 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=247 Linux Mint version 6 Felicia came out on December 15th and I have been running it on my Dell Inspiron 530 Q6600 system for the past week. I ran Hardinfo on the system if you want to see the specifications on the box. It is a quad core with 6 GB of RAM, so I [...]]]>

Linux Mint 6 GNOME Desktop

Linux Mint version 6 Felicia came out on December 15th and I have been running it on my Dell Inspiron 530 Q6600 system for the past week. I ran Hardinfo on the system if you want to see the specifications on the box. It is a quad core with 6 GB of RAM, so I was a little disappointed that the 64 bit version of Linux Mint was not released the same day the 32 bit version came out.  Even though they have a 64 bit version of Linux Mint 5 Elyssa available I wanted to try out the latest version. Mint 6 is based on Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex and uses GNOME for it’s desktop environment. For those who prefer a different desktop, community editions of Mint 6 featuring KDE, XFCE and Fluxbox should be out soon.

A minimum of 512MB of RAM is recommended for the live CD. According to the Mint site, once installed the system works fine with as low as 256MB RAM. The installation process deals with 2.5GB of data compressed on a 700MB CD and it can hang or fail on systems with less than 512MB RAM. I have 6 GB on my desktop system, so needless to say, the install was fast. From the time I put the live CD in to the time I had it installed on the hard drive was around 15-20 minutes. I had no problems whatsoever with hardware detection during the install.

Linux Mint 6 Felicia includes:

  • Kernel 2.6.27
  • GNOME 2.24 (Nautilus has tab support now)
  • Xorg 7.4
  • Firefox 3.0.3
  • Open Office 2.4.1 (3.0 was available but not included in the release)
  • Gimp 2.6.1
  • MPlayer 1.0rc2
  • Compiz 0.7.8
  • CUPS 1.3.9
  • Network Manger 0.7.0 (Tools Added for connecting to GSM/CDMA 3G broadband and VPNs)
  • Python 2.5.2
  • Mono 1.9.1

All Proprietary Codecs Included:

One of the strong points of Linux Mint is it’s easy of use. All of the proprietary codecs that people like to use are included in the distribution. You will not have to download anything to playback MP3 files, watch Flash 10 YouTube clips in Firefox, view encrypted Hollywood movies in MPlayer or play Java 6 games in your Firefox browser. This makes the distribution well suited to people who are migrating from Windows or Mac. Most people use a computer as an appliance. They don’t care or have a clue about what codecs are patent encumbered and why they shouldn’t be shipped with a distribution.  They just want everything to work out of the box. So when their MP3 music doesn’t playback in a free distribution, like Fedora for instance, they will assume Linux is “not ready for the desktop” and move back to their Windows or Mac PC. However, it should be said, Linux Mint has not abandoned those who seek a free distribution. They have a Universal Edition that ships without restricted formats, patented codecs or any proprietary components.

Slick looking GDM, Ubuntu System Panel and Two Compiz Configuration Tools:

One of my gripes with Ubuntu is it’s rather ugly GRUB menu. Linux Mint has a polished GRUB menu screen that fits the wallpaper and theme of the desktop. One of the first things you notice about Linux Mint is the Ubuntu System Panel (guide to install on 8.10 here). Rather than using the drop-down style menu at the top of the desktop, like you would in Ubuntu’s GNOME, you access the Menu by clicking the button on the bottom left of the desktop. One of the knocks on the USP menu is the amount of real estate it takes up on your screen. This did not bother me too much, but you can make up your own mind if it suits you based on the screenshot. I did like the filter feature of the menu. It allows you to sort your applications quickly by using a search box. I liked the blue theme and grey background that shipped with this distribution. They also have included a nice selection of addition themes (carbon is cool) and backgrounds (liked the swoosh) if the default one doesn’t suit you.

By the way, if your wondering about the writing on the desktop, I used the Compiz annotate feature on some of the screenshots in this post. It’s a pretty cool tool if you want to demonstrate software features in a screenshot. It just one of the many practical features of Compiz. Another feature, known as the the Desktop Zoom adds accessibility to people with vision problems. With the mouse scroll wheel and the Windows key I can magnify portions of the screen many times over. I was really pleased to see that Linux Mint has included both the CompizConfig Settings Manager and a smaller, simplified version so that people unfamiliar with Compiz will not be overwhelmed by it’s features. Unfortunately, Ubuntu does not include either of these tools by default. I think it is a shame to hide the tools that configure Compiz. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not just eye candy, it has useful tools that aid accessibility and productivity.

GNOME-DO and GUFW:

GnomeDo Screenshot

Linux Mint has included GNOME-DO in this release. This tool works much like QuickSilver in Macintosh. You type in the first few letters of the application you want and GNOME-DO tries to figure out what it is that you want to do. If it guesses the right application, just hit the enter key and it will run. I found that it usually guessed the right application. I think it saves the user some time using this tool versus finding the application in the menu structure. With the default key bindings, you use the tool by pressing the Windows and space keys.

Mint has also added a GUI Firewall tool to the CD. Gufw is a front-end to Ubuntu’s Uncomplicated Firewall. UFW’s syntax is much easier than using IPTables, but it is a command line only tool and Windows folks are going to be looking for a Norton or McAffee like GUI tool to setup a Firewall. For a home user, who maybe just wants to open up a ssh or vnc port on his computer, Gufw offers a simple UI to do so.

Mint Nanny and Mint Backup:

MintNanny is a simple GUI tool to block children from visiting inappropriate sites. You simply type in the domains that you want blocked and Firefox will not be able to view them. It works by adding an entry to your /etc/hosts file and defines that domain’s IP address as being 0.0.0.0. An experienced user could just edit the hosts file directly, but for novice users this is a simply interface that is easier to use. If you need a blocker with more features, you might want to try something like DansGuardian.

MintBackup is a simple tool for backing up your home directory. You can choose to include hidden paths in the backup. Also, you can exclude directories/files that you don’t want. It saves the tarred .backup file in your home directory for later restoration. It provides a quicker way than using cp and tar commands on the terminal to make a backup.

APTonCD:

APTonCD is an awesome tool if you don’t have access to the Internet all the time. The program can be found at Applications>Administation>APTonCd. It saves all of the packages that you have installed using Synaptic, Apt-get, or Aptitude to CD/DVD. Essentially, it provides you with your own portable repository. This also works wonders if you have several computers and don’t have the bandwidth to pull down the same packages from the Internet for each computer. Personally, I am out on the road often and pulling down packages with the slow bandwidth of WI-FI is not practical. While at home I can make my own repository on DVD using the great bandwidth of my cable modem. I now have a DVD containing all of the software I wanted to add to Mint and the packages I updated using mintUpdate. This way I don’t have to worry about the WI-FI bandwidth limitations while out on the road. This tool would also come in handy if you were changing your ISP and without the Internet for a while.

MintInstall:

Probably the most novel feature of Mint is their software installation tool MintInstall. It give you ratings, reviews and screenshots of the applications in the software manager. It’s kind of like having your own version of Freshmeat on your desktop. On Ubuntu’s Brainstorm adding screenshots to Synaptic or Add/Remove programs has gotten a lot of support.  I find the screenshot idea really useful, particulaly when looking at games I might want to download. A tool like this could use the work from the Debian screenshot project. For those who don’t know, this community project is trying to get screenshots of all of the thousands of Debian packages. They could use more applications and screenshots in MintInstall. When I ran it they only had about 450 applications in there.  I should note one problem that comes with having screenshots included with the software manager. MintInstall took a good 5 minutes to pull down all of the screenshots of the various applications the first time I ran it. However, I don’t find this to be a major problem since once the screenshots were on my system MintInstall opened up right away. I do think, however, that MintInstall could aggravate dial-up users with low bandwidth that might not appreciate the initial startup time. If you decide you don’t like the speed of MintInstall the distribution has Synaptic available for installing packages.

MintUpload:

Imagine a distribution that gives you your own server space to share files with family and friends. Well, that is what the Mint people have included in their software. Free of charge you get 1 GB of server space at linuxmint.com that lasts for two days. You can access the MintUpload service by doing a right click in on the file you want to send and clicking upload. After uploading, just give the person you want to send it to the URL of where it is and they can download it. One of the recent features they have added is the ability to use your own FTP service. So if you have some server space for your Wordpress, Drupal, etc. blog you can use that space to quickly backup files without opening up a FTP client. I tried it out using my own shared hosting account and it worked like a charm. There is a short tutorial on the Linux Mint site if you want to use MintUpload with your own FTP site. You just need to create a text configuration file that has your FTP server name, username, password and path. Put the text file in /etc/linuxmint/mintUpload/services/ and you will have that server choice in the MintUpload dialog box.

Giver:

This is a neat little tool for sharing files and folders on you local network. Basically, you get a pop-up notification when someone wants to send you a file. The sender gets a pop-up when you either accept or reject the file. The user interface is about as simple as you can get. I tried it out on my own LAN between my Q6600 desktop and my Dell Inspiron 1150 notebook an it worked without a hitch. I prefer this setup versus setting up a shared directory on my system using Samba when I just need to send one file or folder to another machine. Hopefully, being that it is a great tool for novices, Ubuntu will include it when Jaunty 9.04 comes out next year. I would also like to see them include the Gufw utility I mentioned earlier. I bet many new Ubuntu users coming from Windows have no idea that ufw exists. Being that it is a command line only program it is no where in the GNOME menu structure. I doubt many users of Windows are even aware that there is such a thing as the command line. This is why I feel for people migrating to Linux the GUI tools are so important.

MintUpdate:

Even though Mint has an Ubuntu base, it does not use the Ubuntu Update Manager to keep packages current. They have their own update manager known as MintUpdate. It has 5 levels of package status. Levels 1 and 2 tell you that the package has been tested and approved by the Linux Mint team. The lower levels 4 and 5 warn you that the package maybe unsafe or even dangerous to your system. This metering system gives you an idea of how much risk is involved with the installation of each package. You can choose to hide the more dangerous levels if you want to maintain a more stable system. They also have included a history of previously installed packages with MintUpdate. So if your system breaks all of a sudden you can try to use this to see which package might be responsible. You can also set up MintUpdate to use a proxy server to update packages if you are stuck behind a Firewall. I think MintUpdate is a real improvement over what is offered in Ubuntu. Hopefully, some of the ideas they have used here will make it into it’s parent distribution.

Eject CD-ROM Bug and Problems with Changing Screen Resolutions:

When I installed Mint 6 I ran into the same bug with udev that I found in  my review of Ubuntu 8.10. If I try and eject a CD using Nautilus the tray opens and closes immediately, leaving me no time to take out the CD. If I eject the CD using the hardware button on the computer I don’t have this problem. The comments in the bug report at Launchpad said it was a problem with the udev device manager. This proved to be the case on my Mint install, because I was able to fix the eject CD problem by upgrading udev using mintUpdate.

I also ran into a little bit of problems when I tried to change screen resolution. When I booted the desktop I was given a 1024×768 resolution. If I tried to change the resolution either going up or down (keeping the same aspect ratio) the screen would not display the bottom menu bar. A good portion of the screen would be cut off at the bottom. Fortunately, It was not hard to fix the problem. I just did a Ctrl-Alt-Backspace to Kill the X session and logged back in. When I got to the desktop again the screen resolution I wanted displayed correctly and I had no further problems. I thought maybe that it was a problem with Compiz so I tried shutting that off and tried changing the resolution again. Bingo, screen did not get cut off so that is where the problem was. You need to shut off Compiz if you want to make screen resolution changes.

Conclusion: Do you want the Appliance Crowd?

IMHO a distribution like Mint is essential if the Linux community wants to move more people from Windows to Linux. The geeks have long ago adopted Linux as their OS of choice. What we need to do now is convert those people who regard their computer as an appliance. Tools like mint4win and having all the codecs working out of the box is necessary for these folks trying out Linux for the first time. I fear anything less will convince them that Linux is shoddy or somehow inferior in quality to Windows. I think the “it works better” arguement has to come before the “it’s free” argument. Otherwise people will buy the Microsoft bull and Windows will continue to garner it’s 90 percent share of the desktop market. As people gain some experience with Linux I think they will come to appreciate the difference between free and proprietary software.

I should note, however, that while Mint includes proprietary software it is far from being a better looking Ubuntu knockoff with Flash and MP3 working right out of the box. They have, as noted above, made a number of real improvements with mintUpload, mintInstall, mintUpdate and mintBackup. I hope some of their ideas reach the ears at Canonical. If you know someone who has lived their life in Windows this is without a doubt the distribution for them.

Gufw Firewall

GUI Ndiswrapper Tool

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=247
Puppy 4 Linux Podcast http://www.penguinway.net/?p=240 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=240#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2008 05:30:34 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=240 I did my first Hacker Public Radio episode this week. It is episode 249 and was posted on Friday December 12th. The topic is Puppy Linux 4.1.1 and has about 30 minutes runtime. I talk about Joe’s Window Manager, compiling in Puppy, building Puppy .pet packages, Puppy Puplets and other things in this episode. I [...]]]>

I did my first Hacker Public Radio episode this week. It is episode 249 and was posted on Friday December 12th. The topic is Puppy Linux 4.1.1 and has about 30 minutes runtime. I talk about Joe’s Window Manager, compiling in Puppy, building Puppy .pet packages, Puppy Puplets and other things in this episode. I did a review of Puppy 4 a few months ago on my blog. I used Audacity under Puppy Linux for the HPR recording. No, I did not use Windows to podcast about Linux! The mic was a Plantronics DSP-500 USB headset. Hopefully, quality and content will be considered decent. The topic was not a stage one Gentoo installation at 75mph (lottalinuxlinks) , but I got to start somewhere. ;-)

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=240
How Linux Hurts a Child’s Ability to Learn http://www.penguinway.net/?p=237 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=237#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2008 03:32:46 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=237 I wanted to write a short post about an email sent to HeliOS Solutions. For those who don’t know, HeliOS is an organization that tries to get Linux computers and software into the hands of disadvantaged children. The email came from a teacher who saw one of her students passing out compact discs in her [...]]]>

I wanted to write a short post about an email sent to HeliOS Solutions. For those who don’t know, HeliOS is an organization that tries to get Linux computers and software into the hands of disadvantaged children. The email came from a teacher who saw one of her students passing out compact discs in her classroom. The student was distributing Free Linux software that he got from HeliOS solutions. When she saw what was happening, the teacher immediately confiscated the CDs containing the Free software from the student. Her reason?  Because she did not believe there was anything such as software that allowed free distribution. The student must somehow be breaking the law by doing this. In addition, she felt that having anything other than Microsoft products in her classroom would hinder her students’ ability to learn course material. Please read this ridiculous (but also really sad) email at Blog of helios.


]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=237
Password Protect Your GRUB Bootloader http://www.penguinway.net/?p=228 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=228#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2008 23:14:29 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=228 I thought I might write a little post about adding a little security to your Ubuntu box. You can use a program within GRUB called md5crypt for this task. You choose a password and md5crypt will generate an encrypted string hash for you. Plug this into your GRUB menu entries and you will be prompted [...]]]>

I thought I might write a little post about adding a little security to your Ubuntu box. You can use a program within GRUB called md5crypt for this task. You choose a password and md5crypt will generate an encrypted string hash for you. Plug this into your GRUB menu entries and you will be prompted for a password when you try to boot one of those entries.

If you choose to accept it you can accomplish this mission in eleven easy steps:

  1. At the terminal type in grub
  2. Once you get a grub prompt you need to type in the command md5crypt
  3. Type in the password you would like to use for your GRUB bootloader
  4. Md5crypt will generate an encrypted string/hash for you
  5. Copy this string to the clipboard
  6. Quit the GRUB program
  7. Do a change directory into /boot/grub
  8. Open up with sudo (using gedit or favorite text editor) menu.lst
  9. For each GRUB entry you want to protect go under the initrd line and add the following:
  10. passwd — md5 (add one space and add the hash that was generated my md5crypt)
  11. For Windows entries I have had success adding the passwd — md5 + the hash line to the bottom of the Windows GRUB entry.

That is all you need to do. Once you reboot you will be prompted for a password. I should add that password protecting your GRUB bootloader is only a speed bump to someone with a little hacking skills. In Linux, all you need to do to get around a password protected GRUB is to use a live cd when booting the computer. Once you boot into the live cd you can do a chroot into any Linux installation on the hard disk. The chroot makes you root on that install. Once you have used chroot, from the terminal you just have to do a passwd + username to change the password of any user (including root). With root permissions on the box you can also go into the menu.lst file and remove the password checking features of GRUB.

Hacking Windows is just as easy. You can use a distribution like SystemRescueCD to boot the computer and reset the admin password on the Windows install by using a program called ntpass. I just used SystemRescueCD 1.1.0 and they state on their site that ntpass will even reset a Vista admin password. So basically what I am trying to say is that with the exception of encryption programs, like Ubuntu’s package ecryptfs-utils in Intrepid, any data you have on the box is insecure if other people have some skills and physical access to it. However, password protecting the GRUB does manage to block unsophisticated users from booting the system so it is of some value in my book.

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=228
Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex 8.10 64 bit Review http://www.penguinway.net/?p=154 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=154#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2008 05:00:21 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=154 I waited a few days to let the load on the servers cool down so I could try Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex 8.10 out on my new Dell Inspiron 530 system. Intrepid was released on October 30th and I downloaded it a few days later. With this upgrade I went from an Athlon X2 3800 to [...]]]>


Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex Wallpaper

I waited a few days to let the load on the servers cool down so I could try Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex 8.10 out on my new Dell Inspiron 530 system. Intrepid was released on October 30th and I downloaded it a few days later. With this upgrade I went from an Athlon X2 3800 to an Intel Q6600 Quad Core system. This new system has 6 gigabytes of memory so I needed to move up from 32 bit Ubuntu to the 64 bit version. For those who don’t know, a 32 bit OS can’t address over 4 gigs of memory. So 64 bit is quickly becoming a necessity with the systems coming out today.

Intrepid Ibex is not a long term support release. Support will only last 18 months for it. For those needed longer support, Canonical’s previous release offered it. Ubuntu Hardy Herron 8.04 LTS had 5 year support for servers and 3 years on the desktop.

Software Included in Intrepid:

Linux kernel 2.6.27

GNOME 2.24.1

X.org 7.4

Compiz 0.7.8

Firefox 3.0.3

Gimp 2.6.1

OpenOffice 2.4.1 (3.0 was available but not included in release)

F-Spot 0.5.0.3

Network Manager 0.7.0

Python 2.5.2

Mono 1.9.1

gcc 4.3.1

Hardware Detection:

There is not much to write about here. Intrepid saw everything on the system that I had plugged in. Graphics acceleration, networking, Flash cards, USB sticks, and my Epson CX3800 inkjet printer were all working. The last couple of versions of Ubuntu pretty much has had everything working right out of the box for me.

Creating a USB Startup Disk:

Before I did a hard disk install I wanted to try out one of the new features in Intrepid. Intrepid includes the ability to make a bootable flash drive right from the GNOME desktop. It is located under the Administration Menu. I used a 4 GB Sandisk drive to try this out. I like Sandisk for putting the Tux Penguin on the back of their flash drives. It is rare that I see anything other than Microsoft and Apple logos on computer accessories. The installer gave me the option of using up to 3 GB of the 4 GB to use for saving data leaving the remaining GB for the operating system.

The installation was simple and I was able to boot of the flash drive with no problems. Changes I made to the Ubuntu installation were, as promised, saved to the drive for later use. However, I did notice an occasional slow down on the system. It would hesitate for a few seconds and then be fine. I don’t know if the particular drive I using was faulty or it was because of the slowness of flash drives in general. In the past, I have tried using bootable USB drives with Puppy, DSL, and SLAX. They all seemed to be about as fast as booting off a regular hard drive. But these are smaller distributions that are not as demanding as Ubuntu.

For those Windows users who don’t want to partition their drive the Wubi installer is included with Intrepid Ibex. Canonical has included the Wubi installer on the CD since Hardy Herron 8.04. For those who don’t know, Wubi lets you install Ubuntu using Windows. The whole Ubuntu install is put within a file in the Windows file system (c:\ubuntu\disks\root.disk). You can use the Windows Add/Remove Programs to delete this file later if you want to remove Ubuntu from your system.

Installation:

Before I did the hard drive install I needed to prepare the system using GParted. The Ubiquity installer allows installations using the whole drive or you can shrink a lone Windows NTFS partition to make space for Ubuntu. But I had Vista system that already had 3 primary partitions (Dell diagnostics, Recovery, and the Vista partition) and I need to add a 4th partition which needed to be setup as an extended partition so I could go beyond having just 4 partitions on the drive. So I had to do some prep work in GParted before running the Ubiquity installer. I wanted the Windows install to take up about 200 GB of the drive and leave the rest to Linux. Using GParted, I successfully resized the last NTFS partition down from 640 to 200 GB, but it took over 2 hours. I can’t complain since GParted has been very reliable the many times I’ve used it. I’ve never lost data with it resizing either ext3 or NTFS partitions.

A few things I should mention for those who haven’t tried to move a Windows partition with Gparted before. Make sure the NTFS drive is not too fragmented and that you properly shut down Windows the last time you used it. After you move the NTFS partition in either XP or Vista the Windows OS is going to want to run a chkdsk to check the integrity of the drive. I had to reboot Vista twice for it to go through the chkdsk process and be happy with the drive again.

Once I had the ext3 and swap partitions setup I went and fired up the installer. The 7 step Ubiquity installer looks pretty much the same to me as in Hardy Herron with the exception of a couple things.  They added some pretty color coded disk usage bars showing disk space left on my hard drive. I guess they felt Ubiquity needed a little dressing up. Now if they can just dress up the GRUB menu in Ubuntu. ;) Ubiquity also includes setting up a boot without a login feature. It’s a checkbox on step 5 of 7 in the installer. While this makes things a little more convenient, you obviously need to have a your box in a secure location if you use it.

First Impressions:

Like previous versions Intrepid has a brown look to it’s theme, wallpaper, and GDM logon manager. There were some subtle changes to the looks though. The Human theme (now using the Murrine engine) has had some subtle changes to it. I noticed the GDM logon screen, while still being brown, now has a dark smoky look to it. The wallpaper has changed too. I’ve read other bloggers calling it a coffee table with a stain on it. In my opinion, the Intrepid wallpaper is more neutral and less distracting then the flashy bird in Hardy Herron.

Ubuntu Intrepid has also included a new darkroom theme that looks pretty impressive. I have, however, read other reviews write the darkroom theme makes it difficult to read text. The theme that I really wish had been included is the Dust theme. Check out it’s use with various wallpapers at the Ubuntu Wiki. Maybe they will consider it for addition when Jaunty 9.04 comes out.

Network Manager Improvements:

There are several major improvements for the road warrior in this version of Ubuntu. Network Manager now supports connections to Virtual Private Networks so you can securely login to a corporate network while out on the road. They have also added the ability to use mobile broadband via GSM/CDMA 3G networks. Unfortunately, I don’t have either a VPN or mobile broadband so I could not test out these features. They also have added a tab in Network Manager to help DSL users get online. I either use WI-FI or Cable modem to get online so I could not test this feature. The NetworkManager page has more information on the updates to the project.

Encrypted Folders Added:

Encrypted private folder support is now built into Ubuntu using a package called ecryptfs-utils. Installation and directions can be found here. I followed the instructions and had no problem setting up an encrypted folder on the system. For now, ecryptfs-utils is only a command line based project. Since Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu are newbie distributions I wonder if they will come up with a GUI frontend for this.  I suppose you could argue that when people start messing with encryption they are going beyond newbie status and should know some command line stuff.  Either way it is nice having this feature built into the distribution.

New Guest Account Feature:

New to Intrepid is the ability to open up a guest session using the Fast User Switcher applet. Since the guest home directory is stored under the tmp directory changes made using this account will be wiped out on shut down. This account is well locked down so someone you loan the computer to can’t view your home directory or administer the system.

Nautilus Gets Some Tabs:

The version of Nautilus shipping with Intrepid, version 2.24.1, has full tab support with it. This is something other Linux file managers, like Konqueror, Thunar, or PCMan, have had for some time.  You can create a new tab in Nautilus by hitting Ctrl + T or using the File Menu>New Tab. I find this makes copying and pasting between two directories a lot easier. Also new, the sidebar now includes eject icons of your mountable drives.

Eject CD-ROM Bug:

My system suffers from a well known bug that shipped with Ubuntu 8.10. If I try and eject a CD using Nautilus the tray opens and closes immediately, leaving me no time to take out the CD. If I eject the CD using the hardware button on the computer I don’t have this problem. The comments in the bug report at Launchpad said it was a problem with the udev device manager. They recommended upgrading udev to fix the problem. I can confirm this fix works, because when I grabbed the latest version of udev this problem went away.

Getting Plugins Working:

Ubuntu does not ship with MP3, Flash, DVD playback, and other codecs for legal reasons. There are other distributions, like Linux Mint, if you need that stuff working out of the box. However, It usually easy to get this non-free stuff working in Ubuntu with it’s services like the Plugin Finder and Restricted Driver Manager. To test this feature out, I went to YouTube to playback some Flash clips. On my old Athlon 32 bit system, Plugin Finder was initiated when I tried to play Flash videos and it installed Flash with no problems. For some reason I didn’t have the same luck with 64 bit Intrepid’s Plugin Finder. It did not get activated when I tried opening up a video in Youtube.

Fortunately, adding Flash 10 to Ubuntu can be done easily from the command line or Synaptic package manager. You just need to make sure you have the universe and multiverse repositories enabled. I was able to get Flash 10 working by typing in this line at the command prompt:

sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree

I had a more positive experience when I tried playing MP3 files in Rhythmbox. When I tried to open up a MP3 file Ubuntu asked if I wanted the gstreamer plugin that Rhythmbox needed to play it. This worked without a fuss. I really like the Plugin Finder system Ubuntu has. Using it they manage to ship an almost entirely free distribution while giving people an easy (one click) way to add the proprietary stuff if need be.

Ubuntu also has an automated way to install proprietary drivers using the Restricted Driver Manager. I’ve used this successfully on other systems before. Fortunately, with the Intel integrated graphics on this motherboard I was able to get Compiz working with a free driver.

Synaptic Quick Search and BBC Content in Totem:

A new feature added to Intrepid was a Quick Search box at the top of Synaptic package manager. No need to click the search button any more for you searches.

I also tried out the BBC DRM-free content that is incorporated into Totem media player. The BBC and Canonical have teamed up to add BBC content to Totem. They had a good variety of programs available when I tried the service. You can access the content by clicking on the Playlist drop down box in Totem and selecting BBC. Unfortunately, not all content is available for people outside the UK. If you click on UK-only content in the US you just get a recording telling you don’t have access to it. It would save time if they could somehow filter UK-only content on the playlist to save people outside the UK time. It would also help if they somehow marked or separated audio and video content. All though I have read there is some out there, I couldn’t find any video content when I searched through the programs. The project is fairly new so hopefully user interface improvements and more audio/video content should be available soon.

Complaints:

One of the first things I downloaded after installation was Compiz Config Settings Manager. It is available in the Ubuntu repositories. I am not sure why they do not ship with this by default. It seems kind of silly to have all the Compiz features built into the distribution and then not include a program to configure it. I know people with lousy graphics cards can’t make any use of the program. But it leaves people who can use the bling with no clue how to use it. It’s features is one of the things that puts Microsoft Vista to shame. I’ve got Vista and Ubuntu on the same box now and having played with both I can say the Aero Glass eye candy can’t compete Compiz.

Starting with Hardy Ubuntu has a easy to configure frontend to Iptables called Uncomplicated Firewall (UFW). Unfortunately, while it’s syntax is really easy, it is a command line only tool. This leaves Ubuntu with no GUI firewall shipped with the distribution. I think this is a weak point for Ubuntu. Even more so with the number of laptops people carry around with them nowadays. Unless you want to pack a router in you laptop bag your going to need a software firewall. A new Linux user (Ubuntu’s claimed target audience) will not see any firewall in the GNOME menu structure. They are not going to be looking for a command line one since most Windows users only live within the GUI. In my humble opinion they should try and add a simple GUI frontend for UFW. Something like Gufw would be a nice improvement. Firestarter might be a bit overkill. If you want to try it out, Gufw It is already available in the Ubuntu repositories.

Lastly, I wish Rythmbox had a way of exporting/importing OPML feeds of podcasts. If one wanted to switch to using Rythmbox for a podcasting client this would make things considerably easier. Manually adding a couple dozen feeds is no fun. This feature is included in other Linux podcast clients like Gpodder and Icepodder. I’ve read Itunes has OPML import/export too although I don’t use Itunes. It would make the migration to Ubuntu easier if this were included. Here is an idea. Maybe Ubiquity could pull your podcast client’s OPML file in your Windows/Linux partition using the Migration Assistant. Much like it does for your bookmarks, wallpaper, contacts, etc.

Conclusion:

I have been running Ubuntu as my primary system since Dapper Drake. It is a fast, stable, and easy to use operating system. I’ve tried many Linux distributions and I find I have the least hardware problems with Ubuntu. There are complaints that I have with it, but they are few. I also appreciate their stance on free software. They run without a lot of the non-free drivers and codecs, but if you want they make adding them easy through applications like the Restricted Driver Manager and Plugin Finder. It is the compromise that is the most inclusive of both views. You get a choice either way. With the addition of programs like the Migration Assistant and Wubi, they also have added tools that make the transition from Windows as easy as possible.

Compiz With Ubuntu Games

Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex Wallpaper

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=154
The Linux Credit Card http://www.penguinway.net/?p=150 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=150#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2008 00:46:19 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=150 I heard about this from one of the Linux podcasts I listen too regularly. I believe it was the lottalinuxlinks podcast. The host Dave Yates was talking about his experiences at Ohio Linux Fest last month. He mentioned that at Ohio Linux Fest there was an organization that offered a Visa Linux credit card. The [...]]]>

I heard about this from one of the Linux podcasts I listen too regularly. I believe it was the lottalinuxlinks podcast. The host Dave Yates was talking about his experiences at Ohio Linux Fest last month. He mentioned that at Ohio Linux Fest there was an organization that offered a Visa Linux credit card. The card offered  was just like regular rewards cards that gives you money, travel discounts, etc. The difference with the Linux card is that it helps support open sources projects instead. You can opt to share the rewards between you and the community. Or, if you want, all points can go to the community.

Who wouldn’t want a credit card with the Tux penguin on it? So far the non-profit organization behind the card, Linux Fund, has donated 500,000 to the open source community. I was really pleased to see one of their support projects was LiVES. Video editing is one of the weak spots in Linux so it is good to see it getting some financial support.

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=150
Xubuntu Intrepid Ibex 8.10 Alpha 6 Review http://www.penguinway.net/?p=131 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=131#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2008 19:04:24 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=131 Alpha 6 is the last alpha release of Xubuntu Intrepid Ibex 8.10. I wanted to give it a try on my Dell Inspiron 1150 notebook to see how far it had come along. My Dell has an Intel Celeron 2.4 Ghz processor, 1 Gig of RAM, and 80 Gigabytes of hard disk space. The Ubuntu [...]]]>

Xubuntu Intrepid Ibex DesktopAlpha 6 is the last alpha release of Xubuntu Intrepid Ibex 8.10. I wanted to give it a try on my Dell Inspiron 1150 notebook to see how far it had come along. My Dell has an Intel Celeron 2.4 Ghz processor, 1 Gig of RAM, and 80 Gigabytes of hard disk space. The Ubuntu release schedule states the final release date for Intrepid Ibex is October 30th, 2008.

Software Included:

Xubuntu Intrepid Ibex uses the Linux kernel 2.6.27, XFCE 4.4.2, X.Org server 7.4, and a much improved Network Manager 0.7.0. For office applications you have Abiword 2.6.4 word processor, Gnumeric 1.8.3 spreadsheet, and Orange 4.5.14.0 Calendar. Graphics applications included the GIMP 2.4.7 and image viewer GPicView 0.1.9. In multimedia Xubuntu uses Totem 2.23.91 for video, Audacious 1.5.1 for music playback, and Brasero 0.8.2 for CD/DVD burning. Xubuntu includes two Web browsers, Firefox 3.0.2 and a lightweight newcomer, Midori 0.0.18. Mozilla Thunderbird 2.0.0.16 is used for Email/news while Pidgin 2.5.1 is your IM client. GParted 0.3.8 is included for you to edit your partitions.

Xubuntu trys to keep hardware requirements lower than it’s Ubuntu or Kubuntu cousins by using the lighter window manager XFCE. They also have rejected the Open Office suite in favor of much lighter office applications like Abiword and Gnumeric. This would be a problem for those looking for a powerful office suite, but for most home users they make a decent enough word processor and spreadsheet. I wish they had put in a podcast client though. On Ubuntu you can use Rhythmbox for automatically downloading podcasts. Even the mini distribution Puppy Linux has it’s own podcast client, PuppyPodcastGrabber. So far as I know there is no way to use Xubuntu’s media player Audacious as a podcast client.

First Impresssions:

On boot of the CD I was presented with the same menu options as Xubuntu Hardy 8.04. I had the following choices:

Try Xubuntu without any changes to your computer

Install Xubuntu

Check CD for defects

Test memory

Boot from first hard disk

I went and chose the first option and booted the system into the live CD environment. During this  bootup I noticed that they had an Ubuntu progress bar screen rather than a Xubuntu bar. I assume they will have this fixed when get to the RC version.

Once I got to the desktop I saw the same Xbuntu-jmak wallpaper that is in Hardy. The wallpaper is an elegant purple/blue gradient with waves it. They also have the Edgy, Feisty, and Gutsy wallpapers on the CD if you prefer them. Their MurrinaStormCloud theme goes well with the Xubuntu wallpaper and the desktop looks much better than the Ubuntu wallpaper/theme combination in my book.

I was also pleased with the speed of the system. Programs opened up quickly even though I was running off of CD. I noticed they have yet to change the help documentation on this version. I clicked the help item in the top panel and got a welcome to Xubuntu 8.04 message. I guess the documentation would be one of the last things completed in a new release.

Getting Online:

I prefer to use a Hawking HWU-8DD Wireless G Dish USB adapter to get online. It’s got better reception than my internal Dell Wireless 1350 Mini-card that came with my notebook. On bootup, Xubuntu saw the USB Hawking adapter, and using the zd1211rw module (included in the kernel), Network Manager saw several wireless signals around me.

I had a little trouble getting the Dell 1350 wireless card working. In Ubuntu Hardy when you boot off the CD the Restricted Driver Manager comes up, prompts you to download the firmware, and then extracts it using fwcutter. I did not get any kind of popup messsage like this in Xubuntu Intrepid. So I went to the Applications Menu and chose System>Hardware Drivers (Xubuntu’s version of Restricted Driver Manager) to try and get the wireless adapter working. This gave me a screen showing me the Broadcom B43 driver I needed and a button to install it. After I clicked the button I still did not have a signal showing up in Network Manager. I went to the terminal and saw that I was getting the same dmesg error I got at bootup telling me I had to go to the openwrt.org site and get the firmware myself. To fix the problem was not a big deal. I needed to do a few lines of copy and paste to grab the firmware and extract it, sudo iwconfig eth1 up at the terminal to bring up the card, and then Network Manager saw my Dell 1350 wireless adapter. It would be nice if they could automagically get this to work with just a one-button click though.

Network Manager 0.7.0 Improvements:

There are several major improvements for the road warrior in this version of Xubuntu. Network Manager now supports connections to Virtual Private Networks so you can securely login to a corporate network while out on the road. They have also added the ability to use mobile broadband via GSM/CDMA 3G networks. Unfortunately, I don’t have either a VPN or mobile broadband so I could not test out these features. They also have added a tab in Network Manager to help DSL users get online. I either use WI-FI or Cable modem to get online so I could not test this feature. The NetworkManager page has more information on the updates to the project.

I did have a bit of a fight with Network Manager on my system. Once I had my Dell Wireless 1350 card working, I had the choice to use it or the Hawking USB adapter when I clicked on the Network Manager icon in the top panel. Both were seeing wireless signals. For some reason, Network Manager would keep reverting back to the 1350 internal card when I chose to use the Hawking USB adapter with the radio button. I fixed the problem by turning off the 1350 internal card.

Logon Screen Problem:

I tried to run just about every program from the live CD to test for bugs. No crashes or programs not opening up while I was using the live CD. However, I did see small problem with the logon screen. The username and password text was shifted way over to the left and not aligned properly. Once I did an install of Ibex and booted the system this problem went away. Apparently, the logon screen is only faulty when running the live CD.

Ubiquity installer:

Given the system seemed pretty solid, I decided to do an install on a spare 5 gig spare partition I had on my hard drive. The first 3 screens of the Ubiquity installer looked the same to me as they did in Hardy, but when you set up your partitions on screen 4 Ubiquity gives you this pretty color coded meter that shows you your partitions. One thing I didn’t like with the meter was the way it listed percentage space available rather than amount in Gigabytes. The absolute space in Gigabytes is far more useful to me in making sure I have alloted enough space for the install. The other problem was, like the logon screen problem earlier, the text was not aligned correctly. The percentage space available icons are sitting on top of the text partition names. I didn’t see a bug like this in Launchpad so I filled one under bug #274115. Other than that small gripe everything worked fine in the installer. Setup of the paritions, formatting, and the migration assistant did it’s job. When I booted the system I saw the it had set up my GRUB entries correctly. The whole process took about 30 minutes to get Xubuntu on the system and this is while I was using the live CD during the install.

I did get one crash on the system. The first time I ran the installer I needed to do something else and I opted to quit the installer.  Fortunately, it was minor and did not lock up X server.  Xubuntu uses a program called Apport to send in system information about a crash to Ubuntu. I submitted a crash report to them so hopefully that helps them out.

Encrypted Folders Added:

Encrypted private folder support is now built into Xubuntu using a package called ecryptfs-utils. Installation and directions can be found here. I followed the instructions and had no problem setting up an encrypted folder on the system. For now, encryptfs-utils is only a command line based project. Since Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu are newbie distributions, I wonder if they will come up with a GUI frontend for this.  I suppose you could argue that when people start messing with encryption they are going beyond newbie status and should know some command line stuff.  Either way, it is still nice having this feature built into the Ubuntu distributions.

Conclusion:

With VPN, 3G GSM/CDMA Broadband, and encrypted folder support the road warrior has some real reasons to upgrade to Xubuntu Interpid Ibex. However, unless you use DSL, for the average home user I did not see any major changes in this distribution. It is worth a try out though. As I said earlier in my post, it functions well with the ocassion (it’s still an alpha folks) crash.

   Xubuntu Intrepid Ibex DesktopInterpid Ibex GDM logon screenXubuntu Intrepid Ibex 8.10 GamesXubuntuOfficeGIMP Version 2.4.7Xubuntu XFCE Settings ManagerThunar 0.90 File ManagerUbiquityInstallationUbiquity partioner second screenUbiquity PartionerUbiquityCrashApport Bug Reporting

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=131
gOS 3 Google Gadgets Review http://www.penguinway.net/?p=126 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=126#comments Sun, 14 Sep 2008 06:01:53 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=126 This weekend I decided to take the Linux distribution known as gOS 3.0 beta for a spin. The gOS is an Ubuntu 8.04.1 derivative that shows some promise with it’s integration of Web applications. Although they are not affilated with Google, gOS has incorporated many Google online tools into their desktop. First Impressions: Like it’s Ubuntu Hardy [...]]]>

gOS Screenshot DesktopThis weekend I decided to take the Linux distribution known as gOS 3.0 beta for a spin. The gOS is an Ubuntu 8.04.1 derivative that shows some promise with it’s integration of Web applications. Although they are not affilated with Google, gOS has incorporated many Google online tools into their desktop.

First Impressions:

Like it’s Ubuntu Hardy base, gOS lets you boot your system off of live CD. It took a couple minutes to get to the desktop with my 4 year old Dell Inspirion 1150 Pentium 4 notebook. This is about the same with a stock Ubuntu Hardy boot. My notebook has a slower Celeron processor and not a lot of memory, so I didn’t expect a blazing fast boot time. However, once the system booted it was pretty snappy.  gOS has swapped out the Enlightenment 17 window manager for LXDE in this version. LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) uses the same gtk+ 2 toolkit as GNOME and it’s desktop looks very similar to the GNOME desktop on Ubuntu Hardy Herron.

Once you get to the desktop you are presented with a pleasant (in my view) varigated green theme.  You access the menu on the top left corner and you are given two virtual desktops on the top taskbar. There is a Macintosh like dock bar on the bottom of the screen with ten applications. gOS calls this bar the wbar. The wbar is rather slick looking and zooms in to give you a better view of it’s icons when moused over. There is a wbar utility located in the Applications>Accessories Menu if you want to add/remove applications to the doc bar. Firefox 3.0.1, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Documents, YouTube (button did not work) , Pidgin, Skype,  Open Office Writer, Open Office Spreadsheets, and Open Office Presenations are included in the wbar by default.  These applications on the dock bar use a program called Mozilla Prism to give them a more desktop look to them. Prism enables you to use your Web applications without using your browser so you feel like the application is on your system rather than the on the Web.

I found one problem with the top panel settings on the desktop. They have it set to 18 pixels by default. This cuts off part of the Network Manager applet so I upped it to 24 pixels to fix the problem

Another Mac-like feature is the placement minimize/maximize/close window buttons placed on the top left of your windows. This is a little frustrating for someone like me who has rarely used a Mac and used to the buttons being on the other side of the window. I couldn’t figure a way to change the placement so I guess I will have to live with it. It would be nice if this were adjustable.

Software Included:

gOS has jammed a lot of software on one CD. For office applications you have the Open Office 2.4 Suite (Presentation, Spreadsheet, Drawing, and Word Processor). For graphics editing you have both the GIMP 2.4.5 and Google’s Picassa. Mplayer is included for your multimedia and Brasero if you want to burn CDs. Skype is available for VoIP calls and Pidgin is the IM client. For image scanning they have included XSane.

Google Gadgets Added:

Now the reason I wanted to try this distribution is the addition of Google Gadgets. Gadgets add little applets to your desktop that can be shown or hidden with a simple hotkey switch so that they do not clutter the desktop. Clicking on the Google Gadgets button and selecting add gadgets will bring up the the Gadget Browser. Here they have hundreds of gadgets available. Some written by Google and others by community developers. Most of the ones I tried worked without a hitch.

What do the applets do? Well, you can add Google RSS news feeds, a Weatherbug report, memory monitors, Google Calendar, quote of the day, and many more. As a Doom player, I particularly liked the Doom memory monitor. They have a picture of Green Marine that shows him taking damage to his health as you use up more of your system memory. They got a lot of silly things like that in there. The virtual flower pot is another one. You have to water the plant by hovering your mouse over to add water to the pot. The health of the plant and if it grows depends on you remembering to water it.  The wireless signal strength meter, newsreaders, regular battery/memory/CPU monitors, and weather applets obviously have more of a practical purpose. All of these gadgets can be moved and resized to customize them to your desktop.

Adding Google Gears:

OK, so what if you are not online? Does all this Web integration do you any good? Well, with gOS you can install Google Gears as well. It available in the menu at the top left. Gears allows you to continue using Web applications offline. According to their site, “Gears was designed to be used on both Google and non-Google sites. A number of web applications currently make use of Gears, including two Google products: Google Reader and Google Docs. Additionally, Zoho and Remember the Milk have been using Gears since its original launch. If you’re running Windows Mobile on your cellphone, Picasa Web Albums also makes use of Gears.” They are working to add Google Mail and Google Calendar so that you can use these tools offline as well. This will defintely help those who don’t have a permanent connection to the Internet.

Will gOS Become Google OS?:

Personally, I would not be surprised if Google comes out with their own OS within a year. John C. Dvorak of PC Magazine and the CrankyGeeks podcast has claimed this is what they are up to. Let’s see, so far they have released Google Mail, Documents, Calendar, Picassa, Spreadsheet, Reader, Gadgets, Google Gears, and now even their own Web browser, Google Chrome. They are not missing too many components for their own OS. A free (hopefully in speech as well as beer) OS based on Linux with an ad supported revenue model, hence the necessity of taking the user into online applications.  Who knows? Maybe gOS will be it some day.

Some Hardware Issues:

Getting online was a problem with gOS. I have a Dell Insprion 1350 WLAN card in my 1150 notebook. The card needs to use a properitary driver from broadcom.  When I boot into regular Ubuntu Hardy the restricted driver manager pops up and asks me if I want to download the firmware and extract it using b43-fwcutter. Once I say yes it goes out to openwrt.org site and pulls down the firmware, extracts it, and automagically I have my wireless card working. I did not get any pop up message in gOS to do this and so the wireless card was not working.

To fix the situation I had to download b43-fwcutter myself. I went to packages.ubuntu.org and this page to get the package. I installed the .deb package and ran it. Just like in Hardy, it pulled the down the firmware from openwrt’s site and my 1350 wireless card was now working. Fortunately, for me this wireless problem  was only a minor nuisance.  Maybe it is because this is a beta release, but since this is a newbie distribution I hope they get this fixed before final release.

I had more luck with the wireless using my Hawking HWU-8DD USB network adapter. This was autodetected and loaded using the zd1211rw module which is included in the kernel gOS uses, version 2.6.24.

Including WINE 1.0:

One interesting thing I found with this distribution was the inclusion of WINE 1.0. Now that it has finally reached the 1.0 mark I hope other distributions consider it. Many users are going to have one or two “can’t live without” Windows applications on their system. With WINE being as mature as it is I think it would help move some people over to Linux if it were included in more distributions. gOS is targeted at new Linux users, people who are most likely coming from Windows, so I think the inclusion of WINE should be helpful to their transition to Linux.

Conclusion:

In conclusion I think gOS has some merits. Trying to free some of the Web applications from the browser sometimes (like in RSS newsreaders) makes sense. Adding WINE is also a plus for new Windows switchers. Having MP3 playback and Flash working out of the box is also helpful for newbies. Other than the YouTube button not working and the wireless issue noted above I didn’t have any problems running the system and I greatly prefer the theme over what Hardy has. Give this distribution a try and see what you think.

gOS Screenshot DesktopgOS Screenshot with GadgetsgOS screenshot with Firefox 3.0Open Office 2.4 Screenshot

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=126
Zenwalk 5.2 on a Dell Inspiron 1150 Review http://www.penguinway.net/?p=113 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=113#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2008 10:46:12 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=113 Zenwalk is a Slackware based distribution that is aimed at giving it’s users a fast, stable, and to easy to use machine. It has been ranked 18th on Distrowatch for the past 6 months. Zenwalk 5.2 was released this month so I decided to give it a try on my Dell Inspiron 1150 system. [...]]]>

XFCE 4.4 DesktopZenwalk is a Slackware based distribution that is aimed at giving it’s users a fast, stable, and to easy to use machine. It has been ranked 18th on Distrowatch for the past 6 months. Zenwalk 5.2 was released this month so I decided to give it a try on my Dell Inspiron 1150 system. This notebook is few years old so it is a good machine for an agile distribution like Zenwalk. The 1150 has a Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz Celeron processor with 1 Gigabyte of RAM. It runs pretty well under Ubuntu provided I don’t turn Compiz on. Being that Zenwalk is based on Slackware and uses XFCE window manager I was hoping it would run faster. Their site claims Zenwalk has very low system requirements. Their manual states that it will run on a Pentium II with 128 MB of memory and 2 GB in hard disk space. By the way, the manual is very well done. It is something you could give to someone who has never used Linux before. They go through the basics like how to burn and ISO in Linux and Windows. Screenshots and complete explainations of the whole install process are also included.

Installation

Zenwalk has 4 different editions: Standard, Core, Live, and Server. I chose the Standard Edition since I wanted to do a hard disk install on my machine. I did not realize this until later, but even with the Live Edition you can still use it to do a hard disk install. The Core Edition is a minimalist install with no X components. Server is, as you might expect, optimized for running a server.

Zenwalk has a nice looking framebuffered installer. After choosing your keyboard map type, you can use Cfdisk manually set up your boot and swap partitions. If you can devote an entire hard disk over 3GB in size Zenwalk has an automatic installation too. For file systems choices you can format your partitions in ext2, ext3, reiserfs, and xfs. Cfdisk is not as pretty as, say Gparted, but it does get the job done and is not difficult to use.

Once you get your drives set up Zenwalk asks you what you want your fstab to look like. The fstab file controls what partitions are mounted and where they are placed in the directory structure. I chose to add both my Ubuntu ext3 and Windows XP NTFS partitions. I had NTFS read/write support out of the box with Zenwalk using ntfs-3g. After I finished setting up fstab the installer started putting packages on the hard drive. I like how they list each package name with a description as it is being installed. I don’t believe in hiding useful system info for the sake of aesthetics.

Just like Slackware itself, Zenwalk uses LILO for the boot loader. If you want it will automatically setup your LILO configuration during the install. I am more used to and prefer GRUB, so I elected to skip this step and configure the bootloader myself later on. To configure GRUB, you use the menu.lst file in the /boot/grub directory. Basically, you need to edit the file and tell GRUB where the kernel and init.rd image is. One thing slightly different I found with Zenwalk is that the init.rd image is called initrd.splash, not initrd.img. I am used to running Ubuntu as my primary system, so I was perplexed when I could not find the .img file anywhere. A trip to the forums and I figured out it was just a difference of names.

After setting up your hardware clock the installer asks you what services you want to run on startup. The default choices are ALSA, Avahi, CUPS, Inetd, Pcmcia, and Syslog. I left these choices as is and added the selection Wicd Wifi manager since I have a wireless card in my notebook. You can change your startup services later on if you need to by going to the Zenpanel. Zenpanel is the place to go to configure the system post-install. Adding modules, users, packages, services, video configuration, and network settings is all done from this control panel. You can get there by going to System menu on a right click. Once I finished choosing my startup services the install CD ejected and I was told to reboot my system using Ctrl-Alt-Delete.

GRUB succesfully found my kernel and after boot up I was shown the GNU license and asked to accept an Adobe and an Intel wireless card license. This is one problem I got into with the installer. I accidently chose not to accept the Adobe license (licenses bore me and I was careless), insuring that Flash would not work out of the box. The installer has no go back key in it, so if you make mistakes, there is no going back and fixing them. I did not know of a way of accepting the license post install so I just re-ran the installer.

First Impressions

Zenwalk uses the latest release of XFCE version 4.4.2 for it’s desktop. I found the simple blue wave theme to be pleasing to the eye. The Tango icons are really sharp looking even when they are made to look big. A bottom XFCE panel provides easy access to browsing (Iceweasel), email (Icedove), multimedia (gMplayer), shell (Terminal), file management (Thunar), system configuration (XFCE Settings Manager), and volume settings (XFCE Mixer). You can autohide this panel if you find it gets in the way by going to Settings>Panel Manager.

Hardware Detection

Videoconfig, the Zenwalk Xorg configuration tool, managed to detect my 82852/855GM integrated graphics card and setup xorg.conf to use the Intel driver. I had a 1024×768x24 resolution screen working right out of the box. I turned on the compositor in XFCE and got some nice effects. No, I couldn’t paint my screen with fire using Compiz, but I got some nice transparent windows and shadowing effects. One side note on using the compositor. I also tried their live CD out on my old Compaq P3 Deskpro with 256 Megs of RAM. Everytime I had the compositor running X would crash if I opened up a terminal window. Some older graphics chipsets don’t play well with the compositor and my card was one of them. Once I turned off compositing the system worked flawlessly and was actually pretty fast for an older machine.

I had no issues with sound or Ethernet networking. Both were working on start up with no problems. The Synaptics touchpad was also detected, it’s driver loaded using xorg.conf, but I had some problems with it. I would get a random clicking action even though I had not touched either buttons. I dug around for a fix for it in the forums. By changing Option MaxTapTime to 0 in /etc/X11/xorg.conf, I was able to shut down the buggy tap to click function of my touchpad. Now it works fine and I really don’t care about not having that feature. I had no problem with USB autodetection. I plugged in my 4 GB PQI Flash drive and it automounted and showed as an icon on the desktop. I also plugged in my Fuji Finepix A700 camera to see if I could pull files from it. Although gtkam did not have a driver for that specific camera (it does for many others), I was able to see and pull down my JPEG pictures using Thunar file manager.

My Dell Wireless 1350 Mini-PCI card was the biggest problem I had with the system. This card works out of the box in Ubuntu, Mint, and even little Puppy Linux, but with Zenwalk I ran into a little trouble. The last couple lines of dmesg revealed that that the firmware could not be found:

b43-phy0 ERROR: Firmware file “b43/ucode5.fw” not found or load failed.

b43-phy0 ERROR: You must go to http://linuxwireless.org/en/users/Drivers/b43#devicefirmware and download the latest firmware (version 4).

So I went to linuxwireless.org and grabbed the latest firmware using these directions for fwcutter . After doing this, I got a number of wireless signals when I fired up Wicd, Zenwalk’s Wireless Manager. Zenwalk also has a nice GUI frontend to Ndiswrapper if you want to use the Windows drivers for your card to get wireless working. In my case I chose to use fwcutter instead. The linuxwiress directions for fwcutter vary depending on what kernel you are using. Zenwalk uses the Linux kernel 2.6.25 so I just followed this part of their page:

Follow these instructions if you are using the b43 driver from linux-2.6.25 or compat-wireless-2.6, or from any current GIT tree.

Use version 011 of b43-fwcutter.
Download, extract the b43-fwcutter tarball and build it:

wget http://bu3sch.de/b43/fwcutter/b43-fwcutter-011.tar.bz2

tar xjf b43-fwcutter-011.tar.bz2

cd b43-fwcutter-011

make

cd ..

Use version 4.150.10.5 of Broadcom’s proprietary driver.
Download and extract the firmware from this driver tarball:

export FIRMWARE_INSTALL_DIR="/lib/firmware"

wget http://mirror2.openwrt.org/sources/broadcom-wl-4.150.10.5.tar.bz2

tar xjf broadcom-wl-4.150.10.5.tar.bz2

cd broadcom-wl-4.150.10.5/driver

sudo ../../b43-fwcutter-011/b43-fwcutter -w "$FIRMWARE_INSTALL_DIR" wl_apsta_mimo.o

Note that you must adjust the FIRMWARE_INSTALL_DIR path to your distribution. The standard place where firmware is installed to is /lib/firmware. However some distributions put firmware in a different place.

Software

Zenwalk has the philosophy of “one application per task”, a good part of the reason the install CD is only 505 Megabytes. For your office applications you have an excellent word processor (Abiword 2.6.3), spreadsheet (Gnumeric 1.8.3), calendar (Orage 2.4.2), graphics manipulation (Zen Gimp 2.4 ), Email client (Icedove 2.0.0.14), Web browser Iceweasel (2.0.0.14), and an IM client (Pidgin 2.4.2). While there is no Open Office here (you can add yourself with Netpkg), the applications included are probably sufficient for most desktop users. The Zenwalk Companion wiki page at their site is good guide to what software can be added to your system. I know it goes against the “one app per task” rule, but I really wish they had chose to include a second command line based editor on the install CD. They have opted to go with Vim which I understand is an awesome tool if you code for a living, but I can’t code my way out of a paper bag, so something simple like Nano works better for me. If X breaks and all a new user has is a terminal prompt he will have an easier time editing configuration files with Nano. Personally, I need a cheat sheet to get anything done in Vim. I don’t think they should drop Vim, I know Zenwalk is used by alot of coders, just consider adding Nano, Gedit, or the like. Just my two cents.

If you need to add applications Zenwalk makes it real easy with their package managment system. That is where Zenwalk shines. You are running a Slackware based distribution, but like using apt-get in Debian, you don’t have to worry about managing dependencies to install software on your machine. A huge range of packages can be added to your system using Netpkg. Just go to System>Netpkg to get there. I like how Netpkg gives you a nice display of package description along with telling you what dependencies are installed or missing. They also have useful New, Installed, Upgrades, and Downgrades filters to sort your repositories.

File Management

Zenwalk uses Thunar for it’s file manager. With the Tango icons it is a sharp looking on the desktop. You have a lot of features available with a right click. Zooming in and out to make icons bigger is great for people with vision problems. You can also search a folder, turn on Samba browsing, create an archive, and open up Brasero to burn files to CD. Zenwalk has an interesting tool called Catfish for file searches. It’s a GUI front end where you have the choice to use find, locate, or slocate to search files. You can also select to search specifically for documents, images, music, or videos by clicking one of the four icons in the program.

Multimedia

I fired up youtube to see if I had Flash working out of the box. Flash worked in the Iceweasel browser with no problems. I also had Mp3 playback working out of the box too. I popped in an encrypted DVD movie to see if Mplayer would work with what Hollywood puts out. No luck. Mplayer would not even open, let alone, show me any errors messages. You need to grab two packages using Netpkg to get this working. The files are libdvdcss and libdvdread. Zenwalk does not include them on the CD because of copyright issues. Some distributions like Mint include these codecs out of the box, but I can appreciate Zenwalk’s stance by not doing this. If you are not concerned about the legal issues getting the files is not big deal. They can be found in the Zenwalk repositories using Netpkg. The legal issues are also the reason why Zenwalk ships with Iceweasel and Icedove rather than Firefox and Thunderbird.

According to this Wikipedia article, “The Mozilla foundation requested that the Mozilla standards for use of the Firefox trademark be complied with by the Debian Project when it redistributed the software. The Debian Project then rebranded the Mozilla Firefox program, and other software released by Mozilla, so that Debian could continue to distribute the software with modifications permitted, without being bound by the use of trademark requirements that the Mozilla Foundation had required.”

Conclusion

I’ve been running with Zenwalk for about a week and am really liking it. I have tried both the Standard and Live versions and they each have impressed me. The Live version has a CD ISO remastering tool so you can make someone your very own custom version of Zenwalk. Hardware detection and configuation was very good with this distribution, the wireless and touchpad issues only being a minor problem. Configuring the system using Zenpanel is a breeze. I like the use of compositing in XFCE. It is used sensibily, rather than turning your desktop into a toy. The thing that most impressed me was the package management. Netpkg is what makes a Slackware based system useable for the masses. Managing dependencies yourself has it’s merits, like understanding your system better, but as more and more software is released for Linux doing this yourself is too time consuming for most people.

XFCE 4.4 DesktopIceweasel2 Web browser.ZenPanel tools to manage services, users, and add remove modulesThunarBraseroTransmission Bittorrent Client and GRsyncBackupZenPanel - The control panel for ZenwalkGood selection of office apps. Gnumeric and AbiwordXFCE has compositingNetpkg Zenwalk packagingHardware info and Ndiswrapper toolWicd WiFi Network ManagerMplayer playing the Open Sourced Movie Big Buck Bunny

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=113
Damn Small Linux 4.4 Review http://www.penguinway.net/?p=103 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=103#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2008 12:12:13 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=103 DSL 4.4 was just released on June 9th, so this past weekend I installed it on my Compaq Deskpro Pentium III 800 Mhz machine. It only has 256 megs of RAM, so a lightweight distribution like DSL is a good choice for it. Their site claims you can run DSL 486 DX with 16 megs [...]]]>

Joe’s Window ManagerDSL 4.4 was just released on June 9th, so this past weekend I installed it on my Compaq Deskpro Pentium III 800 Mhz machine. It only has 256 megs of RAM, so a lightweight distribution like DSL is a good choice for it. Their site claims you can run DSL 486 DX with 16 megs of RAM, so even my old Compaq should fly with what it’s modest specs. A link to the release notes is here.

DSL is an incredibly small distribution, hence the name. According to their site it started as an experiment to see how many useful applications they could fit on a 50 megabyte live CD. Even though DSL is a live CD you still have the option of installing to a hard drive or a USB pen drive. They even have an installation that lets you run DSL virtually using QEMU on a Windows host machine. I chose to install DSL to my hard drive using the frugal install. This creates a Grub menu for you and puts the compressed DSL CD image onto your hard drive. I found it cut the boot time to about 1/3 what is was with the CD.

There are a couple of things done differently in DSL than an Ubuntu or OpenSUSE to get the ISO under 50 megabytes in size. For instance, DSL uses an older 2.4.31 Linux kernel and Gtk1 applications. These use less system resources than a newer kernel and Gtk2 apps do . If you need a 2.6 kernel and Gtk2 applications they have a spin off of DSL called DSL-N.

To save system resources in DSL there is no Gnome or KDE here, either one would use to much memory and computer cycles. Instead you have the choice of Joe’s Window Manager or Fluxbox, either which is a decent windows manager in my opinion. Unfortunately, you will have to look elsewhere if you need spinning cubes or wobbling windows. There is no Compiz in either window manager.

BOOTING THE CD:

When I booted off the CD I was given a prompt with a number of cheat codes that I could use. You can put things in like having DSL load entirely into RAM to increase speed, having the DSL CD copied to you hard drive, or choosing which window manager you would like to use. A list of the cheat codes available are at this wiki. For my first boot I just went with the default and did not use any cheat codes.

Next I was given a choice of what X server I wanted to use, Xvesa or Xfbdev. I chose Xvesa since it supposed to be faster. I used the default resolution and color depth 1024×768x32 and I got a desktop with some funky colors. Fortunately, I could see the screen well enough to navigate to the control panel icon on the bottom. After I clicked the Panel button and then the Xvesa button, I saw that the highest setting I could use was 800×600x16. Once I selected this setting my desktop was normal looking.

I’m going to have to dig around for a better driver for my graphics chipset, the Intel 82815. DSL has other X servers available in MyDSL testing, but I didn’t think any of them would work with my chipset. In both Ubuntu and Puppy my graphics chipset was working at 1024×768 out of the box, but they were using Xorg, not Xvesa.

I booted the DSL CD on my Athlon 3800 X2 System with an Nvidia 7600 card to see if I would get a better result with Xvesa. With the Nvidia card I had a whole range of choices for resolution. The default 1024×768x32 worked right out of the box, so your mileage with Xvesa will vary depending on what graphics card you use.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

Now that I could see the screen I was presented with a nice simple green gradient background with the DSL logo in the center. DSL uses a program called Torsmo, which gives you some handy system statistics in the top right corner of the desktop. How much memory you are using, upload/download speeds, number of processes, CPU usage, and file systems mounted. I was stunned to see that I was using under 20 megabytes of memory while I was running a window manager.

On the bottom of the desktop you get 5 buttons that will give you a control panel, a terminal, the emel file manager, the lightweight browser Dillo, or Firefox 2.0. Your also given 4 virtual desktops in the center, a DSL Windows-like start button on the left, and and a digital clock on the right. You can set the time on this clock automagically by clicking the DSL>Setup>DateTimeSetup>ViaInternetTimeServer.

Even with it’s small size, DSL has a wide range of applications available. You have a word processor (Ted), spreadsheet (Siag), PDF viewer (XPDF), Calendar (XCalendar), paint program (mtPaint), 4 editors (Beaver, VIM, Nano, and Notepad), an audio player (XMMS), FTP client (AxY FTP), Email client (Slypheed), File manager (emelFM), 3 browsers (Firefox, Dillo, and Netrik), a Web server (Monkey Web Server), and a host of other applications.

HARDWARE DETECTION:

First thing I checked was to see if my Ethernet was working. I opened up Firefox and tried to do some browsing. Fortunately, this was working right out of the box. I’ve got a Compaq EtherExpress 82801 network card. I went to youtube to see if Flash was installed. No luck. Flash is not included out of the box.

Next up I tried sound. I went to emelFM and picked an MP3 and clicked on it. Xmms opened up and it played with no problems. I also mounted a NTFS Windows partition on my hard drive and tried playing a MP3 from it. Again, it worked with no problems so I could read NTFS out of the box too. While working with the sound issue, I did notice one problem with the Dmix sound mixer. It has a drop down box where you choose what device you want to adjust. The font they use is so tiny you can’t see what the device is that your adjusting.

Last thing I tried to get working was my printer. It is a Samsung Ml-1430 printer. To get printing working in DSL you need to go and click DSL>System>Printing>ConfigurePrinter. They use a program called apsfilter to setup your printer. In the setup they had a number of printer drivers available, but mine was not one of them. Since I did not know how to add an additional printer driver to apsfilter, I went to MyDSL and pulled down CUPS. I just got my printer working with Puppy 4.0 last week using CUPS so I thought this would work with DSL the same way. Even though my printer is not included in the default install of CUPS, I was able to pull down the .ppd file for my printer from the linuxprinting.org site. I placed the .ppd file  in my /usr/share/cups/model directory. I started setup and typed that directory in the box where it says location. Setup showed that it was using the ML-1430 ppd file so I tried to print a test page. No luck. I didn’t even get a data light blinking on the printer.

PACKAGE MANAGEMENT:

To add applications go to the MyDsl browser by clicking on DSL>MyDSL>MyDSLBrowser. There is quite a range of selections here. Here you can install the files necessary to get Gtk2 applications. You can get the library by downloading and installing the  gtk2-2.10.9.dsl package. Although this will let you use newer flashier Gtk2 applications, you will be using more memory doing so.

I found a small bug with Joe’s Window Manager while using DSL. As I added packages to the system, JWM would sometimes put double entries for the application in the menu. I went over to Fluxbox to see it was doing the same thing. It was listing each installed application once, not twice. I also had a weird problem with Mplayer. I installed it via the MyDSL browser and it locked up running under JWM, but under Fluxbox it looked loaded fine. I had the same problem in Puppy 4.0 with JWM, so it is a problem with JWM and not something specific to Damn Small Linux.

Since DSL is based on Debian, one of the cool things you can do is use Synaptic to download from the Debian Woody repositories. First, you need to go to MyDSL Browser and install dsl-dpkg.dsl. Next, you will need to pull down synaptic.dsl. Now you can go to DSL>MyDSL>Synaptic and you will find a huge range of packages available.

FILE MANAGMENT:

For an icon based file manager, DSL uses the DFM. To mount file systems in DFM you right click on a file folder and go to mount, then click on the square radio button of the file system you want mounted. It’s just my opinion, but I would go with the better looking Rox for a lightweight icon based file manager. The icons in DFM look pretty bad. Rather than use DFM, I took a liking to the included emelFM file manager. It’s a simple two pane old school file manager with a command line at the bottom. I find it’s setup to be the fastest way to get file management done.

CONCLUSION:

In conclusion, I think DSL is a cool little distribution. DSL is one of the two lightweight distros of choice, the other being Puppy Linux. DSL has the advantage in the range of packages available when you consider you can add Debian Woody repository to the mix. DSL also uses slightly less system resources. It also is a multi-user operating system, so your not running as root all the time. If I were going to run a server I would definitely pick DSL over Puppy.

In Puppy’s favor, you are using GTK2 apps, a Linux 2.6 kernel, and Xorg. The use of Xorg and the 2.6 kernel made Puppy alot easier to run on the systems I have tried. For instance, for better Wi-FI reception I like to use a Hawking USB Wifi Dish that needs a zd1211rw module to work. This module is included in the 2.6.18 and above kernel. Flash was also working out of the box with Puppy. Lastly, I also preferred the Arctic Ocean wallpaper and icon set of Puppy over DSL.

The obligitory screenshots:

Joe’s Window ManagerFluxbox DesktopFirefox20DSL Control PanelEmelFMLowMemoryMyDSLofficeapps.jpg

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=103
Puppy Linux 4.0 on a Dell Inspiron 1150 Review http://www.penguinway.net/?p=89 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=89#comments Wed, 21 May 2008 10:23:29 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=89 I got a chance to check out the latest Puppy release this week. Puppy Linux is a small Linux distribution (roughly 87 megabytes) that runs off of CD. It is ideal for running on older hardware or for people who just want a lean system. A couple years ago I put Puppy on a Pentium [...]]]>

ArcticOceanBackgroundI got a chance to check out the latest Puppy release this week. Puppy Linux is a small Linux distribution (roughly 87 megabytes) that runs off of CD. It is ideal for running on older hardware or for people who just want a lean system. A couple years ago I put Puppy on a Pentium II 233 Mhz computer with 64 megabytes of RAM. I wiped Windows 98 off the 4 gigabyte hard drive and donated the computer to Goodwill. I was sad to see the system go after the Puppy install. The system ran better than it ever had. Not to mention the fact that it was far more secure.

This week I booted the Puppy 4.0 “Dingo” CD on my trusty Dell Inspiron 1150 notebook. The system has a Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz Celeron, 1 gig of memory, and a 80 gigabyte hard drive. I generated a report on the system using Puppy’s HardInfo program. HardInfo is available under the System menu in Puppy. It is nice utility for getting info on your computer.

Here is a snippet of the changes in Puppy 4.0 from the release notes:

  • Puppy 3.01 was built from Slackware-12 binary packages, however to reduce the size 4.00 has been totally compiled from source, using the T2-project. Thus, less dependencies (smaller size) and later versions of packages than 3.01.
  • GTK1 and Tcl/Tk abandoned. The decision was made to go for a totally GTK2-based system. This meant that there could be a consistent user-interface throughout and further reduced the size. It also meant that GTK2 replacements had to be found for some applications.
  • Exciting new GTK2 applications: ePDFView (PDF viewer), Pschedule (cron GUI), Osmo (personal organiser), Pcdripper (audio CD ripper), RipOff (audio CD ripper), mhWaveEdit (audio editor), Pburn (CD/DVD burner), MTR (traceroute), Pnethood (Samba client), Pwireless (wireless scanner), pStopWatch (stopwatch), HomeBank (personal finances), ExpenseTracker (personal finances), ChmSee (CHM help viewer), Gmeasures (units converter), Fotox (image viewer), Gwhere (disk catalogger), Prename (batch file renamer), gFnRename (batch file renamer), Pfind (file search), Pprocess (process manager), Chtheme (GTK theme chooser), HardInfo (hardware information), PcurlFtp (simple network file sharing), Pidgin (multiprotocol chat client), Gadm-Rsync (GUI for rsync), Wireless Autoconnect, Gtkam (digital camera interface), Xsane (scanner interface), Figaro’s Password Manager 2, HotPup (drive icons on desktop). Note, this is not a complete list nor in any particular order.

First off, everything works on the notebook out of the box. I was able to select 1024×768 resolution and X Server started with no problems. My Synaptics touchpad was working with no glitches. I had problems with this touchpad when I installed Puppy 2.14 on this system so I am glad they resolved the problem with Puppy 4.0. My Ethernet adapter was picked up using the b44 module. The biggest concern I had was with the wireless, which can be problematic in Linux because the hardware vendors don’t often support it. Fortunately, Puppy saw the Broadcomm wireless chipset in my notebook and it was able to get the card running using the bcm43xx module. My Hawking HWU-8DD USB wireless dish was also picked up using the zd1211rw module. So I had two choices for getting online wirelessly in Network Wizard. I was pleased to see that the wizard also has an interface to Ndiswrapper if you have a card without a Linux driver.

Puppy uses Joe’s Window Manager (JWM) for the default desktop. It is fast and uses very little system resources. Puppy has a free memory applet on the taskbar and even with several programs running it showed that I was only using 200 megs of memory. This is even more impressive when you realize that Puppy loads the entire operating system into RAM.

I like the Arctic Ocean theme and the icons they chose to use. My only gripe would be that the task bar has a Windows 98 feel to it. JWM was intentionally designed to look like this since Windows 98 users with older systems are likely converts.

Puppy 4.0 uses Seamonkey version 1.1.8 for it’s Web browser. I am not sure why this is, but when you go to sites like Yahoo the page does not look completely right. There is some minor overlap in graphics on the page. My own Wordpress blog has some minor overlapping too. I resolved this problem by going to the Puppy Package Manager and installing Firefox 2.0.

A quick trip to youtube revealed that I had Flash videos working out of the box. Flash games also played without a hitch in Seamonkey and Firefox browsers. I tried a DVD movie with the Gxine movie player and it worked. The movie played but the quality was a little lacking so I went back to the Puppy Package Manager and downloaded Mplayer 1.0rc2. I don’t know if it is because it is a release candidate, but it locks up the system when I run it. I can’t close the 2 windows it opens and it forces me to restart X server with CTL-Alt-Backspace. Fortunately, Mplayer does work when running it at the command line so this is just a minor nuisance.

After a little bit of effort, I made a bootable USB key with the Puppy Univeral Installer. You can get to the installer by going to Menu>Setup>Puppy Universal Installer. I had to use the ComboFormat method to get the key to boot. ComboFormat partitions the drive into FAT16 and EXT2 partitions and is an experimental way of making a USB key installation. I tried the standard way using all 5 bootloader choices and Puppy would not boot off the key. So far with the ComboFormat method I have been able to boot off the key and it is saving the changes with no problems. Changes I make to Puppy are saved in a file called pup_save.2fs. You can store this file on a hard drive as well as a USB key. There is a way to secure this file by encrypting it. Puppy also has a way make your own remastered live CD but I have yet to try that feature out.

For whatever task you have in mind, Puppy seems to have a program for it. Abiword for word processing, Gnumeric for spreadsheets, Mozilla Composer for Web publishing, InkLite and mtPaint for graphics, and RoxFiler for your file management. A software firewall is included in Puppy for when you are out on the road and without a router. It is simple to use and only takes a few clicks to get running. It is a frontend to iptables. You can find it by going to Menu>Network>LinuxFirewall. This version of Puppy even has it’s own Podcast client. To run, goto Menu>Internet>PuppyPodcastGrabber. It uses .txt file to store the feeds which is pretty easy to edit. My current podcatcher uses .opml files so I was not able to do an easy export of my podcasts to Puppy’s PodcastGrabber.

In conclusion, if you are looking for something different I would give Puppy a try. This version is all built from source to maximize speed. Every program on my machine seems to open instaneously. Even with Compiz functionality turned off in Gnome, my Ubuntu install is no where near as fast. There are many features in Puppy that are lacking in other distributions. Installation to thumb drivers, remastering your own custom cd, and wizards to aid new users are just a few.

Update to Post:

A couple people have asked me about security in Puppy. Puppy is a single user operating system so you are running as root all the time. From what I have read this was done to simplify it’s usage. Windows 95/98 single user operating systems are the most likely ones to get changed to Puppy. The transition to Linux is made easier since Puppy, like Windows 95/98, doesn’t have multiple accounts and permissions to to worry about.

In the event your system gets compromised you can start a fresh copy of Puppy by booting the CD with the puppy pfix=ram option. This will ignore your compromised pup_save.2fs file and you can start saving your changes to a new one. For more on why Puppy is always root and it’s security implications you can check out this Puppy forum topic on the subject.

I hooked up my Samsung ML-1430 laser printer to see if it would work with Puppy 4.0. To setup a printer in Puppy you need to go to Setup>Cups Printer Wizard. Puppy uses CUPS to configure it’s printers. My printer driver was not included with the installation, but it was no big deal since I was able to add the driver from www.linuxprinting.org. I pulled down the .ppd file for my printer and placed it in the /usr/share/cups/model directory. I started the setup again and typed that directory in the box where it says location. After that, I was able to print a test page using CUPS. Linuxprinting has a wide range of printer drivers available, so I would check them out if your printer driver is not included in Puppy.

In episode 13 of ProductiveLinux, Nathan Hale does a fine podcast review of Puppy 4.0. It is worth a listen if you want to find out some more about Puppy.

AbiWordGunmericNetworkWizard in PuppySeaMonkey Web BrowserPodcatcherPETget Package ManagerPuppyUniversalInstallerOSMOManagerGraphicsApps

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=89
NASA will send your name to space for free http://www.penguinway.net/?p=87 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=87#comments Mon, 12 May 2008 03:36:32 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=87 In February 2009 NASA is going to launch the Kepler Mission. The mission will use a photometer to detect the presence of extra-solar planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. Basically, the photometer works by sensing the change in light as a planet orbits a star. The planet needs to be line of sight from photometer [...]]]>

NASA Kepler MissionIn February 2009 NASA is going to launch the Kepler Mission. The mission will use a photometer to detect the presence of extra-solar planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. Basically, the photometer works by sensing the change in light as a planet orbits a star. The planet needs to be line of sight from photometer for this to work. According to Wikipedia, Kepler can monitor 100,000 stars simultaneously, giving it good odds that it will be able to find many Earth-like terrestrial planets.

You can get your name sent along with the mission if you like. A DVD is being sent up on Kepler with people’s names and the reasons why they support the mission. You can go to this page at SETI to sign up. In my opinion, this is a great way for people to feel more connected with the mission and NASA in general.

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=87
Importing RAW pictures with Ubuntu http://www.penguinway.net/?p=82 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=82#comments Sat, 26 Apr 2008 21:46:59 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=82 I bought a Canon Digital Rebel Xti 400d recently to take on a trip to the Grand Canyon. One of the things I like about the camera is that it shoots images in Adobe Camera RAW. You have the option of shooting either JPEG or RAW, but RAW gives you the best color depth and [...]]]>

Grand Canyon SquirrelI bought a Canon Digital Rebel Xti 400d recently to take on a trip to the Grand Canyon. One of the things I like about the camera is that it shoots images in Adobe Camera RAW. You have the option of shooting either JPEG or RAW, but RAW gives you the best color depth and by not using compression, better image quality. There are some drawbacks with the RAW image format. The first of is that the image sizes are huge. Fortunately, this is getting to be less of a problem since Compact Flash memory is getting cheaper. The second problem is that camera companies have not been nice when it comes to reading their RAW files. This is a short quote from a Wikipedia article on the RAW file format:

Providing a detailed and concise description of the content of raw files is highly problematic. There is no single raw format; formats can be similar or radically different. Different manufacturers use their own proprietary and typically undocumented formats, which are collectively known as raw format. Often they also change the format from one camera model to the next. Multiple major manufacturers, including Nikon, Canon (company), and Sony encrypt portions of the file in an attempt to prevent third-party tools from accessing them.

Because of the article above I was concerned if my Canon RAW images would play nicely with Linux. I should not have been though, because when I connected the Digital Rebel to my Ubuntu Gutsy notebook it was able to pull the RAW images down using a program called GPhoto2. It turns out GPhoto2 supports 900 different cameras, so more than likely anyone you buy should be supported. I was able to see my images using gThumb, F-Spot, and digiKam. So I had plug and play RAW viewing in Ubuntu Gutsy with no fuss.

However, I ran into a little problem when I tried to edit the RAW files in the Gimp 2.4.2. I got a screenshot of what happened here. It tried to open up the image as a .TIFF file and threw out a whole bunch of errors.

It turns out you need a Gimp plugin called dcraw to import RAW files. The download is available in the Ubuntu repositories. The package you need is called gimp-dcraw. I am not sure why this plugin is not included with the installation of the Gimp. With even the low end digital cameras having RAW capability, everyone is going to be looking to import RAW in the Gimp.

I have put up 32 shots taken at the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona. The only editing I did was with curves in the Gimp. I put up a gallery of the pictures using jigl. Jigl is a simple to use program for putting up an online photo album. It is Open Source Software (released under GPL) and works for me. I am using the default theme with it. They have other themes available if you choose to use on your site and you want a different look.

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=82
Today Ubuntu 8.04 LTS is available for download http://www.penguinway.net/?p=79 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=79#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2008 06:12:39 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=79 For those Ubuntu fans out there, the latest release of Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron is supposed to be available for download on April 24th. This being a long term support release, I would expect it to be more stable than Ubuntu Edgy, Feisty, or Gutsy, which were all non LTS releases. For those that don’t know, [...]]]>

Hardy Herron WallpaperFor those Ubuntu fans out there, the latest release of Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron is supposed to be available for download on April 24th. This being a long term support release, I would expect it to be more stable than Ubuntu Edgy, Feisty, or Gutsy, which were all non LTS releases.

For those that don’t know, Canonical supports LTS versions for three years, hence they call them long term releases. LTS versions are geared more towards businesses where upgrading the OS every six months is difficult when you have hundreds or thousands of machines. The last LTS was Dapper Drake and it was released in June 2006. Dapper was my first version of Ubuntu and it’s simple installation made the transition from Windows XP easy.

I found a useful cheat sheet over at FOSSwire. They have updated it for this latest release of Ubuntu. In my opinion, it is worth printing up for both new and veteran users alike.

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=79
Wordpress Random Quotes Widget http://www.penguinway.net/?p=78 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=78#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2008 07:54:39 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=78 I am trying a new widget out on my Wordpress site. Random Quotes is a widget wrapper for the WP-Quotes plugin. You need to install both to get Random Quotes to work. Installation is pretty simple, instructions are on their sites. Once you complete the install you can have random quotes of your choosing [...]]]>

I am trying a new widget out on my Wordpress site. Random Quotes is a widget wrapper for the WP-Quotes plugin. You need to install both to get Random Quotes to work. Installation is pretty simple, instructions are on their sites. Once you complete the install you can have random quotes of your choosing show up in your sidebar. This is a way to make your site more dynamic without much work on your part, kind of like adding RSS feeds to your site.

After you install and enable the plugins, go to the Dashboard and select Presentation>Widgets to position where you want the quotes to appear on your sidebar. With widgets, it is just drag and drop, no need to edit any php files. Make sure you are using a Wordpress theme that has widget support or this plugin will not work for you.

The author of the plugin starts you out with a couple quotes. To add or delete quotes, go to Manage>Quotes from the Dashboard. If you are looking for some interesting quotes, Quotedb and Brainyquotes have a nice selection catagorized by author and subject. The Wp-Quotes site also has some on it’s own site here.

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=78
Download YouTube videos with QtTube http://www.penguinway.net/?p=40 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=40#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2008 20:51:17 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=40 I have tried a couple of tools to download Flash videos from Youtube. I heard Leo Laporte recommended a web based tool at vixy.net which I could not get to work. I found a program at getdeb.net that worked much better for me. QtTube is a graphical frontend to the command line program youtube.dl. [...]]]>

QtTube.png

I have tried a couple of tools to download Flash videos from Youtube. I heard Leo Laporte recommended a web based tool at vixy.net which I could not get to work. I found a program at getdeb.net that worked much better for me. QtTube is a graphical frontend to the command line program youtube.dl. It is easy to use and lets me play the videos using VLC with no problem. You can get the latest Ubuntu Gutsy and Feisty .deb packages here. If you are running another distribution, the source package is located here.

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=40
Top 25 Linux Games http://www.penguinway.net/?p=76 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=76#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2008 20:00:10 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=76 I found a great list of Linux games at this site. The author has a nice review and sceenshots of what he calls the top 25 Linux games for 2008. Although he missed two of my favorites, Urban Terror and Warsow, the list has some cool new games that I have yet to check out. [...]]]>

I found a great list of Linux games at this site. The author has a nice review and sceenshots of what he calls the top 25 Linux games for 2008. Although he missed two of my favorites, Urban Terror and Warsow, the list has some cool new games that I have yet to check out. There is also an older top 25 Linux games for 2007 that is also pretty good. So far as I know, no one has done a top 50 or top 100 list yet. We are going to need one pretty soon with all of the high quality Linux games coming out.

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=76
Convert Itunes ACC to Ogg or MP3 with Nautilus Audio Converter http://www.penguinway.net/?p=75 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=75#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2008 04:34:56 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=75 There are many podcasts out there that are only available in Itunes ACC/M4A format. I know Apple Ipods are dominate in the industry, but it would be nice podcasters would offer Mp3 and Ogg Vorbis feeds in addition to just Itunes. In case you get stuck with a podcast that is only available in ACC, [...]]]>

There are many podcasts out there that are only available in Itunes ACC/M4A format. I know Apple Ipods are dominate in the industry, but it would be nice podcasters would offer Mp3 and Ogg Vorbis feeds in addition to just Itunes.

In case you get stuck with a podcast that is only available in ACC, there is a nice tool for converting from ACC/M4A to MP3/OGG/WAV directly from the Nautilus File Manager. It is called Nautilus Audio Converter and it is available in the Ubuntu Gutsy Repository. Once installed, you can convert sound files by right clicking on them within Nautilus.

For the installation of Audio Converter, all of the files you need are available in Ubuntu Repositories. To install Audio Converter you can use Synaptic Package Manager or using apt-get:

apt-get install nautilus-script-audio-convert.

You will need to download and install some additional files for encoding/decoding using Audio File Converter. All three are available in Ubuntu Gutsy Repository. Search for these three under Synaptic or use apt-get.

Vorbis-Tools : Ogg Vorbis Support
LAME : MP3 Support
FAAD : Itunes/ACC Support

The first time I used Audio Converter after right clicking the ACC file I needed to point to the program using Opens With > Open With Other Application. I went down to the bottom of this dialog box where it says Use a Custom Command and clicked the browse button. I then went to where the program is located:

/usr/share/nautilus-scripts/ConvertAudioFile.

Now when ever I right click an ACC file I have the option of opening with ConvertAudioFile.

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=75
Linux market share is increasing http://www.penguinway.net/?p=74 http://www.penguinway.net/?p=74#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2008 02:58:29 +0000 David http://www.penguinway.net/?p=74 If you have a web site companies like W3Counter, NetApplications, and XiTi will give you some code to put up on your site that collects information on your users. When someone visits your site their browser gives out what OS it is running among other things. This Wikipedia page aggregated the statistics from these three [...]]]>

If you have a web site companies like W3Counter, NetApplications, and XiTi will give you some code to put up on your site that collects information on your users. When someone visits your site their browser gives out what OS it is running among other things. This Wikipedia page aggregated the statistics from these three companies. It looks like Linux is gaining market share at a brisk rate going by all of the three companies reports. For example, the W3 data shows Linux usage going from 1.21 percent May 2007 to 2.01 percent in February 2008. While this is still a small share, the percentage gained in just 9 months is phenomenal.

]]>
http://www.penguinway.net/?feed=rss2&p=74