Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Quickie on Debian (and UBUNTU)

OK so the Fedora thing is flawed, mostly because the live disk not handling dependancies properly I agree, but yet I had to look in another direction.

A felt confident: Fedora7 was only the first of several distros on my desk awaiting to set itself on my new PC; reviewing them & choosing the best fit was supposed to be 80% pleasure and 20% learning interesting things.

Well, I learned some, indeed:

Debian install is exactly the same as the old ubuntu, prior to the live disk with an install icon on the desktop present favored strategy. Debian never reached my network hub, acknowledged only 2 out of three perfectly identical sata drives, and never entered Graphic Mode, saying in an error message that some xorg.conf file was faulty "no screen defined" - so far, OK, lets give it a look: at least I know where xorg.conf is (in /etc/X11), and I had the older desktop with openSUSE to compare with. Well, nothing was missing I am afraid to say, every item being defined & referenced in a seemingly logical way... sure some parameters where not the same, the very name of the items differing but straightforward... then, when it installed GRUB the bootloader on the HDD, it did not spotted FEDORA but only XP that the computer shop installed (for free, hum) on this new machine. Not only did I waste my time, but as well my previous install, grrrrrrrr.

So, we all know that debian is a great tool for others to develop on (and is always slightly late), so lets hop on to ubuntu 7.04, the most modern, up to date thingy, the one that's targeted to dumb users also. ubuntu, in live disk mode, was a tiny bit above: it gave me a graphical environnement, no network and three hard disks at least. Without the network, I dropped the ball since the fedora disk operated perfectly with my integrated network card, I assume it's not _that_ exotic. If ubuntu aims at being the easiest on earth, well, they have some way to go, still.

Enough for today, I am struggling with mounting permissions to be able to write to my other partitions in a fresh Fedora install. I tend to think I'll have to wait for openSUSE 10.3 to be released...

Always ready to try...
Sometimes slightly discouraged.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fedora 7 Gallore - Get Less by downloading More !

Hi there technofreaks that may happen to stumble on this part of the webverse.

We bought ourselves a new machine, which for sure is intended to run Linux. I used my holidays in Europe to buy a good graphic card (they are unavailable in Cambodia) & I simply set up the rest here locally. For the detail-hungry around: dual core 2.66Ghz, 2Gb Ram, 256Mb nVidia 8600GTS, a dvd writer and a reader, 3 sata disks of 160Gb and that's it, if you add the widescreen asus flat monitor. the motherboard came with 5.1 sound and 1Gb Ethernet as standard. But for the graphic thingy, most everything is ASUS, and I am happy with the chinese case slightly bigger than atx format, but bundled with 4 (four!) fans. I added a 650w power supply, from china as well alas but it was the only one to offer a separate 12v outlet for the graphic card as recommended.

While I was in Europe, I toured my friends with highspeed internet to grab the latest in available distros; among them, Fedora now at 7 (got debian, gentoo and slack 12 as well, more on this later).

Let's get to the point: slipping the live disk fired the thing, network recognized, screen def too low but correct in its widescreen settings... and not much more. For the end user that's not completely dumb, while remaining an end user without any other aim in mind, I kept my opinion about one thing: it's definitely the window manager of choice that gives you the taste of a system, and you'd have to dig further than the average normal desktop usage to feel the difference in flavour from one distro to another. In this case, Gnome is the one available, with xfce and kde in need of further download to be available.

Right now, I am on xfce which is definitely sleeker than gnome. But, for sure, I am downloading Enlightenment DR17 as I write.

So, where's the Flavour, the one I read on the Fedora forums as "you'll either Love it or Hate it": well, I don't Love or Hate fedora, and I can at least say that some of the info I found was wrong. I would assume that a distro specificity, the thing that distinguish itself from the others (in my order of preference), are:
- The way you can tweak it's behaviour, it's parameters,
- The workability right-out-of-the-box, then the workability as such, as a production tool,
- The Community around,
- The stability, the confidence it builds with the user,
- It's credible perspective of survival.

On tweaking, we are still tied to the window manager of choice, with gnome spreading it's various settings among three sub-menus, with duplicates here and there. So it's a downpoint here, as opposed to openSUSE, there is no Settings Central to be found, unless you opt for xfce which have their own. for looks at least.

Workability: No openoffice, nothing non open source (means my screen looked shit without nvidia drivers). you sure have a software installer, so it's down to bandwith... the YUM package manager is overly simplistic, doesn't give you a clue on the size of the package you attempt to retrieve, nor a timeframe or even a resizeable progress window to help you get the idea by yourself... Waited a bit, crashed it several times by attempting to download in one shot all my usual bundle, stumbled upon unreachable repositories, waited for ages in front of "resolving dependencies" message &, finally, got OpenOffice downloaded and quoted as available. Sure, you even had it appearing in your Menu. Click, nothing, not even an error message; grinning, I fire up a terminal and enter the manual command for the spreadsheet editor "oocalc" - the terminal at least displays messages, and this one told me than some was missing. Downpoint: they do have a problem with dependency calculations in Fedora, if a well documented software fails to install with all it needs. There must be a failure of me somewhere though, I con't believe OpenOffice not to work in Fedora...

More on this later, including:
A Word on Eye Candy, Compiz & looks/speed + which drivers to use:

Thursday, March 29, 2007

More Screen

Hi. Last screen, a minimal-minimal interpretation of E17, over openSUSE10.2.

Dunno how long this one will survive, It's supposed to be my workstation but I got a lot of "hangs" lately, and when you kill the hanging app you can't restart it. No-one can say I didn't wait long enough, Kontact (kmail) crashed @ 11.30am, and I waited (got an outside appointment actually) 'till 2.45pm... It's not a matter of patience, it just crashes. So does Konqueror & Gimp.

Bad day today.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Slackware is Back

Did it: Slack 11, Enlightenment DR17, XMMS playing webradio.

Yes, indeed, Success @ last. Had funny fiddling with the sound: under 2.4.33 kernel, only my first soundcard would work... Twisting Grub for safety, I installed separately the 2.6.18 kernel (And their so called Modules...) and I now use the second soundcard... Don't ask me why, the "first" one is a multichannel Hoontech DSP24, rather specialized tool with way too much configs items for alsamixer to handle confortably. The second is just the built-in AC97 thingy from intel, the one that was always there under all other installs.

Noted, on the verge of bugs:
- "clicking" sounds over WebRadio in High Def Mode (64kbps France Inter),
- Sloppy DVD reading (my xorg.conf reports a Vesa driver while I have an openGL ATI card),
- No good picture viewer (from the original KDE 3.5.4 at least)
- Konqueror doesn't remember folder settings.
- Entrance, the E login manager, doesn't offer me DR16 anymore, while I can start it manually.

- - Can't believe I downloaded-Compiled myself these megs of CVS stuffs --


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Stepping up on the Geek Ladder

Hi Folks

You know what? I'm writing this from a CVS-self build of Enlightenment DR17 WM running atop my sandboxed Slackware 11 install !

I feel good. I should actually feel proud of me or something for achieving running one of the most respectfully regarded distro out there with a self-compiled up-to-date version of the most advanced WindowManager out here, but I do not:

- Slackware is not that difficult to install, and the 2.4.33 kernel does a good job, being the standard Slack one, choose it & it will reward you with a working solution.

- && Slack _is_ indeed the developper/hacker tool of choice: it means that for once, after so many attempt at compiling anything from small to serious, over many distros, I achieved compiling some 140mb of data into one workin' environnement! Try this with ubuntu, suse in any form, xandros wathever: there is so much needed for what is called a "sane build environement" that you can't get them from start on the other OS's.

It's not me, it's _them_, the Slack guy, the e guys, doing a great job, pushing me further up the Geeky Scale of Aristocratic Linux Elite Grounds.

Now, indeed, I gained knowledge, and call me the pope if all this went/is flawless:
-I had to edit some config files to get mouse & keyboard,
-I still don't have sound,
-This Slack Install is my third attempt actually,
-During instal, you define your Keyb & mouse, that's useless because it will forget it when logged.
-During instal again, I got a message "disk full" - switching to tty2 and running the "df /dev/hdb2" command showed only 21% used, which makes sense obn a 16Gb partition. I disregarded the message & the install kept on going (but Imay miss some softs from the disk).
-I didn't wanted LiLo, but Grub, so I edited the Grub "menu.lst" to recognise slack. What failed loading modules with the 2.6.17 kernel went right this time, Grub launches the thing without "initrd" file/target && I have all modules loaded by default - network, usb,...

It was fast, all-in-all, istall is about 1.30 hour in "expert" mode. add 15minutes to fiddle with "menu.lst" and "fstab".

Still on the workbench:
-Find a proper, elegant way to start e, rather than using kdm to log to failsafe mode then type "enlightemenment_start". Boring, and it further reveals my lack of skills. Am I ridiculous running such softs without even proper knowledge on how to start them :) ?

-Probe/troubleshoot sound / dvds
-Probe Print / scanner
-Understand how to update / install new softs the Slack Way [yes, ther is _no_ autoupdater in Slack!]
-I am running as root now -baaad-, still have to probe all this as Normal User because the dumb-ass I am ran the entire CVS job as root, while you are suppose to run it as normal user. Welcome the Permissions Issues...

-Run it for one month, then declare it "good" && start using it for 100% work.

Next Sandbox target is Gentoo, or FreeBSD, or ZenWalk.

-Happy *Nixer today. Tomorrow is another day-

Thursday, March 08, 2007

lynx; the workaround

That's a screenshot (again!) of one terminal running two instances of the "lynx" text-based web browser, allowing you to log into multiple accounts in gmail at the same time, within the same window, only one Tab away.

Lynx is truly configurable, supports mouse, scrollbar, bookmarks &, as it's best feature, doesn't display any graphics: you avoid most ads, the things loads pretty quick. Lynx is an especially useful browser if you are over a poor connection, suffer from bandwidth limitation (costs).

The screenshot is taken from my new, fresh install of openSUSE10.2. Lynx is running in a gnome-terminal over the Enlightenment DR17 window manager. The still camera you see in the toolbar is, indeed, the snapshot tool.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Dropped the ball on Slackware

Yep, indeed.

This a real, if unfortunate, Work Story. We are not talking Leisure activity here: I got a quota issue with our mailservers at huge amount of spam, first, and a host that changes your mb-per-mailbox allowance on our website all the time. Currently, down from "unlimited" to 38 megs. bitches.

As I tend to be over-paranoid with stability & safety of work, and I had to re-work all the backup strategy & auto-forwards of mails, I choose to leave my current workstation untouched, and switch to a new install, erasing the current TestBed openSUSE 10.2 with E17 of which you can enjoy the screenshots below. A pity, but openSUSE failed the tryout to become my next workstation distribution, upgrades & general Package Managing System too slow, buggy. And, there is all that fuss about Novell signing a tie-your-hands yourself, buy-the-rope-to-be-hanged-with-yourself with M$, hence being flamed by the OpenSource Community. Not that I have that much of an opinion to that matter, but OK, it stinks & 10.2 wasn't that convincing. A shame for my dependable 9.3 (that actually started to get old & buggy as well).

So, with remote work at hand, emails forwarding, new mailboxes to create, new accounts-rules & filtering to handle, and a workstation that wasn't getting younger, it was time for a fresh install of some dependable, trustable workhorse to become the new core of my mostly-sitting-at-a-desk job. Guess what, I wanted Slackware, one of the oldest distros out there, with a rock-solid reputation & a core of fanatics. With the release of Slackware 11 equipped with an option to handle modern 2.6 kernels, it looked that the time was right. And, given it's developper orientation, I may even Compile myself someday...

This is about work, but I needed to do it all after hours, so I warned the family I'll be handcuffed to my PC for the whole weekend, and started on the Saturday. Plan was one day to install & configure the new OS, and Day Two to get done the online job and its related retrieval-download jobs.

Failed, it's already Sunday afternoon now, and I only sterted installing... openSUSE 10.2!

Target was tu run Slackware 11 with Enlightenment DR16.

Yep. Sackware, after 1 full day of tampering, left me with no sound, no mouse, no internet, and an US keyboard instead of AZERTY one. But, I did not dropped the ball THAT fast, some edit of config files allowed me to retrieve the correct keyboard, browsing the forums showed me that a lot of knowledgeable people won't post a helping link to assist newbies (typical reply is "google around mate" if not 'RTFM you jerk!". I didn't even post myself, didn't had the time to wait for an answer. Bad vibes from the Linuxquestions/slackware forums, I can tell.

Mouse decidedly did not wanted to move, info on forums where laconic if not insulting, I knew I'll have to address the sound issue sooner or later anyway. I actually dropped the ball when I changed the runlevel to 5 so to speed up the X login, and noticed a bug that locked the ctrl+alt+F1 pseudo-terminal access: can't get out & back to X, can't restart X, have to log onto tty6 to reboot once more, hoping some edits of configs worked this time... Oh, and I forget the Sarting Step: I wanted to rely on GRUB as boot manager, so did not installed LILO, expecting to be able to copy backed-up GRUB files to the right location & edit them. A PITA, when you finish Slack Install, it must reboot, the created-by-slack floppy failed, grub was NOT in place so I had to go again with the install DVD, get out of it, mount manually every partition needed, copy the thing, back off & start again... Pfuh.

End of Day One left me with a command-line boot up sequence, with no X login. No Mouse, no Network, no sound. Dropped by sunday noon.

Now, what else to use ? A fresh SuSE93? c'mon, 93 is really outdated... this EliveCD that runs on Debian & implements DR16 & 17 ? Okay, cool but a bit not on the Most Trusted Distro list, this stuff is confidential, I needed a base system that can switch to E DR16 at will, not that skeleton of a system for all purposes. Sadly, feeling like dropping the ever-broken unuseable Jaguar Type E for a Toyota build-for-the-masses reliable Camry, I shoose to slip an UBUNTU disk in the tray. I run UBUNTU on this laptop, it's great. Just feels like leisure, not work, but the community is great. Let's go down the Build-for-the-masses road then, swallow your technical pride, face it, you are not good enough for slackware (spotted on the forums: "Slackware is for real men"!).

You know what? UBUNTU installer, which is the simplest-fastest to use, wanted to re-format my SuSE93 Swap partition, no way I can get it NOT to touch it & use the former Slackware Swap Partition instead. That's the issue with dumb-user setup systems, easy and fast but they do what they want. One of the main moto in the linux community is the ability to control things, but the way UBUNTU is targeted makes it a winner for most systems, and can lack THIS tiny bit of flexibility you need sometimes. And I don't like their No Root user strategy, it's not safer (you can destry anything with "sudo") and I do like to get Rooted like once a month.

[Funky stuff: on the 6.06 laptop, the non-root policy is broken, YAY! dunno what mistake I did (it was around the time I implemented enlightenment DR16), but I can su to root now, cool]

So, back to openSUSE 10.2 then, the one that WAS on the system before, and its wonderfull installer that's slow, but in full control... I know I will struggle with the updating system, I know I hate the XEN, YaST & other SuSE helping hands, but I know I'll have a mouse, sound & internet. DVD's & mp3's will be for later, of course, time is running & there is no "automatix" script available like in UBUNTU. The real Copy & unpack of the 4Gb of stuff I selected to install is about 80 minutes to get done, that's reasonnable. I will skip the Online Update during Setup though, last time it was 350megs heavy... Yikes.

That's all for today folks, the laptop is gonna do real Mail Admin tasks from now, while I setup the Desktop on suse102 to retrieve & keep safe all our mailboxes: only 20 of them!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Enlightenment DR17 on openSuSE10.2

Hi Community

I gave a go on Enlightenment DR17 lately. Got pros & cons, but on the Look side it's a winner.
[more on the pros & cons later, including comparison with DR16 which is still my favorite]

This is running on openSuSE10.2, using the .rpm package available on the GURU repositories, buid date is 01/01/2007. Not flawless, it's PITA to start, especially if youy want your Flashdrives to show up.

No Scanning & Printing tested yet, just fooled around with these screenshots listening to a webradio, watched a DVD in Borderless mode, fiddled whith this & taht, you see. Pottering around.

To get this as my workhorse, I need to sort out this automount of Flashes, find an easy way to log in (what I found on the net on this topic is frightening, the kind of edit of Config Files you'll be damned rather than touch them by any means)

As of now, I log as normal user with KDE, check my flashes, then start another session in Failsafe mode in the terminal of which I can then order "enlightenment_start" & get in. Pff...

The image above are some shots of my usual 9 virtual desktop setup. You'll recognize the Baby from previous deskshots, this time inside a gnome-terminal without Toolbar & borderless.

And, these backgrounds: yes, moving, animated ones. Funny, an not that ressource-inetnsive (these one at least, more heavy ones do not run that smoothly on this ol' 1.6 box).

Easiyer to handle than DR16 actually, more feature-packed (so, more confusing at first), it missed the straightforward, sleek & fast look & feel of DR16. My 10-years old daughter favour it, though, as there is proper menu lauch and these so funny backgrounds.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

openSuSE 10.2

I am testing openSuSE 10.2 on a spare partition as of now. Can't determine if it's truly better, it just seems not to share the same bugs with SuSE 93 !

In 10.2 there is serious trouble managing multiple panels - managing them, not using them. It seems that the properties of each panel does not reflects the one you find in "configure desktop" window, and you need to reboot to see the destroyed panels disappear from the said window. Well, when your layout is done, it's not an everyday trouble anymore.

Very nice start menu by the way, clever & fun. Unusual, excellent in KDE, not as good in Gnome.

The main drawback everyone complains about is the software manager, for me it's slow but OK (Using YasT); I've got more inconsistencies with the auto-updater which sometimes throw 32 updates @ me & sometimes Zero. With my connection here in Cambodia, 32 updates overkills the connection anyway.

I may use it for real though, if Enlightenment works: I love this WindowManager, never got it right on SuSE 93.

Improving my Graphic Skills

I did some banners yesterday to advertise our organisation on the web, using The Gimp. Lately, I had a short argument about Win vs Linux, where I stand to the point that Linux is good enough as long as you can do everything you need with it

Isn't that true ? Look at your needs, and then define what you buy/use/promote. If I am not wrong, unless you are desperately a fashion victim, that's the way we do in every other field, buy things, when we can afford them, depending on usage of it. Err, OK, mostly or hopefully, I agree.

So, if that's the way you buy a book, a car, rent a house, shop for food, why not applying the same to software? This Linux box of mine, SuSE93, does it all. Almost:

On the Pro Front:
-No equivalent to Adobe Premiere, so can't edit our promotional DVD's, but given my processor age, it's an issue I can't really address,
-Haven't found yet Animated GIF soft, but sure it should exists somewhere.

On the Leisure Activity side:
-No Easy 3D modelling tool. several available, all a nightmare to use if you are not Milkshape/StudioMAX specialist,
-Not the latest in 3D games, but plenty of them anyway.

Out of this scope, I can't see anything missing: kmail is the best-ever email client I worked with, OPERA & FIRFOX are great web browsers, OpenOffice does the job pretty well if you have not too much of charts in it. Only the equivalent to PowerPoint is under-average in terms of compatibility, but not to the point I can't send presentations to colleagues.

So far, so good: there is actually a lot of different choices out there (where I would not actually recommend anyone going for an OS/2 install).

One small point: it's free. Looking at all I got in my box & in the laptop - what a value here, without license expiration, shareware online payments, secret codes not to loose after install.

And one, main point, that makes the full difference: If you need a soft, you'd usually google it, right ? browse through 1 thousand vendors site, try to find a demo, download & try, get expired, re-install, run into compatibility issues and so on... Given the very nature of Open Source, you don't do that with Linux: You got this "repertoire" of available softs tailor-made for your flavor of Linux, choose them using keywordsearch, the soft then checks compatibility & missing items that are needed; Click start & you got it! Currently, UBUNTU has 17.000+ softs available, not somewhere on the net, not by outside vendors, no, just trough a simple interface which allow you to browse & select!

That Soft-at-hand feature, and the Multiple Virtual Desktops, makes me an addict.