Monday, October 24, 2016

live linux for rescue and maintenance

In my previous post about Linux live sessions ("low-cost linux, no commitment"), I mentioned that many distros have live sessions that are great for system maintenance, data recovery, drive partitioning, etc. An article at ("Top 5 Linux System Rescue CDs") mentions Hiren's Boot CD, Rescatux, Ultimate Boot CD, Tiny Rescue Kit, and SystemRescueCD.

For partitioning, sometimes I like to download the latest GParted Live.

Quite a few other distros ship a lot of useful tools with their live sessions -- Ubuntu, MX, and BunsenLabs, to name a few.

For example, in BunsenLabs (bl-Hydrogen-amd64_20160710.iso), I find:

defualt file manager: Thunar
default text editor: Geany
default web browser: Firefox ESR 45.2.0
default terminal emulator: Terminator

Also present are gparted and the usual collection of command line tools like parted, rsync, fdisk, cp, dd, nano, man pages, etc.

Some tools under the System submenu:

Some online info under the Help submenu:

With tools like these and more, live sessions from distros like Ubuntu, MX, BunsenLabs, and many others can be very nice to have sitting around on a flash drive for when you need to do some serious system work.

low-cost linux, no commitment

If you want to run Linux on our own computer, without it costing you anything (except perhaps the cost of a flash drive) and without it changing anything on your own system, there are two things you'll have to do first, and both of them will probably require a little research on your part:

1. Get a flash drive, anything 2 GB capacity or higher. Make it into a bootable Linux flash drive, choosing from any of a (very large) number of Linux distributions (maybe have a look at DistroWatch). I use Ubuntu and MX in the examples below, but other distros might be preferable -- Linux Mint, Knoppix, or Puppy Linux, to name a few. You'll want to refer to the specific distro's documentation for instructions on making the bootable flash drive.

2. Adjust the boot order in your computer's BIOS settings so that your computer boots from a flash drive if one's plugged in. You'll have to refer to documentation from your computer's manufacturer for info about accessing and changing BIOS settings.

After that, the rest is cake. Most of the time. Depends.

Anyway,  just turn off your computer, plug in the flash drive, and boot the computer.

If, for example, you chose to boot with a flash drive with Ubuntu on it, and then you clicked on the "Try Ubuntu" button, in a few seconds you'd be running a "live" Ubuntu session:

A distro like Ubuntu should pick up your wifi, or you can use ethernet, whatever. Shouldn't be much trouble to get online. First thing I do, open up Firefox and go to Gmail:

With a live Linux session, you can explore and learn about how things work in Linux.  Here, I've inserted another flash drive (named "ARCH_201311") and I'm viewing its contents with Files, Ubuntu's file manager:

With two tabs open in Files, I can copy the screenshots I'm using for this post to the flash drive ARCH_201311.

Or you can just open a web browser and handle your biz.

A shot of the MX-15 live session in action:

With Firefox, of course, I can access Google Drive and other Google Apps, of course.

Here, I created a spreadsheet in Google Sheets, then saved a copy of the spreadsheet into the live session itself:

Whatever, once you shut down the system and remove the flash drive, you'll be able to boot your computer as normal.

(Also: Many distros have live sessions that are great for system maintenance, data recovery, drive partitioning, etc., but that's another topic.)

Monday, October 17, 2016

the linux filesystem hierarchy

For a description of the Linux filesystem hierarchy, users can refer to the man hier document that's found among the manual pages that come with most Linux systems. This document can also be found online (see, for example:

From the command line:

$ man hier

Sunday, October 9, 2016

after a certain point, what's the point?

Michigan 78, Rutgers 0. Go Blue.

UofM led Rutgers 57-0 after three quarters.

When one football team leads another by 45 or 50 points, what purpose does it serve to further humiliate the other team like that? 78-0? Really? One of the more disgusting aspects of sports, IMO.

According to Wikipedia, college football does have a "mercy rule." Why it wasn't invoked during this game is beyond me, but in any case, it's actually a lame mercy rule, rarely used:

The National Collegiate Athletic Association's mercy rule provides that "Any time during the game, the playing time of any remaining period or periods and the intermission between halves may be shortened by mutual agreement of the opposing head coaches and the referee." (NCAA Football Rule 3-2-2-a)


New Mexico high school football has a 50-point mercy rule: If any team leads by 50 or more after halftime, the game's over. I like that. Elsewhere, they'll either shorten the game by having fewer minutes in the quarters after the game gets out of reach, or by having a running clock.

Many football coaches and hard-core football fans don't like the idea. For example, I don't think Texas has a mercy rule for high school football. I'm not surprised.

Ironically, here's a quote from Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, from back in 2013, speaking against mercy rules: "I think when you're fortunate to be in a game and you have a lead that you feel the other team can't recover form, the next thing you can do that is productive for your football team is to develop your younger players ... It's still game experience against an unknown opponent. When you get your chances, you want to take advantage of it."

Uh-huh. Flood was fired at the end of last season; not sure how current Rutgers coach Chris Ash feels about mercy rules after yesterday's game...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

the prez looks back

Articulate and thoughtful as always, Mr. Barack Obama reflects on some of the key milestones of his time in office:

Five Days That Shaped a Presidency: Barack Obama shares with Jonathan Chait a very early draft of his memoirs.

pale moon, ftw

Over the past few weeks, I've gotten the open source Pale Moon web browser installed on my Linux systems. I haven't seen any reason for not keeping it as my primary web browser.

I'm finding Pale Moon to be faster than Firefox and Chromium. The configuration options suit me quite well. I have not encountered problems at any websites, so far.

I'm using Pale Moon with only two add-ons: Xmarks, for syncing my bookmarks, and uBlock Origin, for ad-blocking.

Pale Moon's default search engine is DuckDuckGo, which is my preferred search engine. Excellent choice. I can use DuckDuckGo !bang codes if I really want to use other search engines; for example, !g if I want to "Google it." (Meh. Instead of using Google, I'd rather go with StartPage, which can be easily accessed via DuckDuckGo using the !s !bang code.) (See for more info about DDG !bang codes.)

I've seen only a few things that I don't like, but none of them qualify as "show-stoppers," in my book. The biggest drawback is that Pale Moon has not been made available in the main repos of any of the distros I use, so I've had to go outside the repos for installation and updates. This has not turned out to be much of a problem; pminstaller, downloaded from the Pale Moon website, works great. That's what I'm using for installation and updates in Debian-based systems, including Ubuntu, as well as in openSUSE. For Arch, I grabbed Pale Moon from AUR, and I've used yaourt to keep it updated.

After downloading pminstaller, I've extracted the tarball to my home directory; I enter the pminstaller directory and run the script from there. In the Debian-based systems, the script prompts for the sudo password, so I had to make sure that the /etc/sudoers file was appropriately configured. Here's a look at Pale Moon for Linux Installer v0.2.2:

Pale Moon's devs prefer to ship the browser with a default set-up that includes a menu bar, tabs placed next to web page content (instead of at or near the top of the browser), a location bar as well as a search bar, and a status bar along the bottom.

To give myself more space in the content window, I get rid of the menu bar and the status bar. The status bar options allow me to "Show status in" a pop-up at the bottom-left corner of the window; I set it to display for only 10 seconds before disappearing.

An option in the Preferences allows me to move the tabs to the top.

I prefer not to have both a location bar and a search bar; I'm too used to Chromium's Omnibar set-up, I guess, which combines both functions. The search bar in Pale Moon can easily be removed by opening up the the Toolbar Layout and dragging the search bar into the Customize Toolbar window. This works much the same as removing items from the toolbar in Firefox.

The location bar works fine for searching, for the most part; in situations where it doesn't, I can go directly to DuckDuckGo in another tab, or even use !ddg right there in the location bar to search with DuckDuckGo.

Tabs in Pale Moon aren't quite as cool as in Chromium, and you can't do all the stuff you can do with Tab Mix Plus in Firefox, but about the only problem I have with the way Pale Moon's tabs work is that I see no way to open a tab next to the current tab, unless it's "related" to the current tab. No biggie. Anyway, here's a shot of the tabs options in Pale Moon:

Pale Moon is, of course, also available for Windows and Mac, for those poor, unfortunate souls who use versions of those operating systems. :)

Pale Moon as I have it set up in Arch:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

just a guessing game

Not even halfway into the season, 10 teams have completely dropped out of college football's AP Top 25 rankings. Already, five teams have dropped out of the "Top Ten."

I know it's all in fun, but please, skip the preseason rankings. They don't mean anything, and all they do is give certain "big name" schools an unfair advantage en route to the playoffs.

And while we're at it: 16 teams in the playoffs. College football fans want real playoffs, not an "invitational." Pffft.

AP College Football Poll, August 21, 2006

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Oklahoma
4. Florida State
5. LSU
6. Ohio State
7. Michigan
8. Stanford
9. Tennessee
10. Notre Dame
11. Ole Miss
12. Michigan State
13. TCU
14. Washington
15. Houston
16. UCLA
17. Iowa
18. Georgia
19. Louisville
20. USC
21. Oklahoma State
22. North Carolina
23. Baylor
24. Oregon
25. Florida

AP College Football Poll, October 2, 2006

1. Alabama (5-0)
2. Ohio State (4-0)
3. Clemson (5-0)
4. Michigan (5-0)
5. Washington (5-0)
6. Houston ((5-0)
7. Louisville (4-1)
8. Texas A&M (5-0)
9. Tennessee (5-0)
10. Miami (FL) (4-0)
11. Wisconsin (4-1)
12. Nebraska (5-0)
13. Baylor (5-0)
14. Ole Miss (3-2)
15. Stanford (3-1)
16. Arkansas (4-1)
17. North Carolina (4-1)
18. Florida (4-1)
19. Boise State (4-0)
20. Oklahoma (2-2)
21. Colorado (4-1)
22. West Virginia (4-0)
23. Florida State (3-2)
24. Utah (4-1)
25. Virginia Tech (3-1)

Completely dropped out from the first poll:

Then #5 LSU, currently 3-2
Then #10 Notre Dame, currently 2-3
Then #12 Michigan State, currently 2-2
Then #13 TCU, currently 3-2
Then #16 UCLA, currently 3-2
Then #17 Iowa, currently 3-2
Then #18 Georgia, currently 3-2
Then #20 USC, currently 2-3
Then #21 Oklahoma State, currently 3-2
Then #24 Oregon, currently 2-3